Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sing - as if no one were listening

A long time ago - back in Dublin, Ireland - when I was a lot younger, and without doubt I'm afraid, a lot stupider, I worked with a young woman who was an excellent programmer. Her work was elegant.

What I found strange was her indifference to what she did for a living. I was, at the time, fascinated by computers (I know, it's hard to tell the difference from today, no?). Fascinated by the challenge of them. Fascinated by all there was to learn.

My work colleague, not so much. What she did was a job. Nothing more. "But", I would say - and my exasperation was, I regret, evident - "you're so good at this. How can you not want to (I didn't say this, such a tag line dates from much later - and not from me) be all you can be?"

How wrong can you get? She was very patient with me. Her work was exactly that for her, work. A means to an end. The end was living, and in particular for her, part of living was membership in the Goethe-Institut Choir in Dublin. She got to sing some of the world's most wonderful music, and in a couple of the world's most wonderful places.

A friend of ours is now doing the same. While she has a career dealing with the abstractness of data architecture, for balance she is a member of a choir here on the San Francisco peninsula.

There is creativity, and elegance when done correctly, to data architecture and to programming. But beauty is a different matter.

It is a truth that a life well spent leaves the world a little better, saner, more beautiful. For those of us whose lot it is to tend the machines, we need to look outside our work-a-day lives for such.

And, speaking of beauty - Happy Birthday Lisa.


  1. Good piece, Kevin. I have a friend who is a wonderful programmer, but it's just her job. Her passions lie elsewhere: in art, and history, and gardening. While she excels at programming the real joy in her life is not met at work.

  2. Thanks Jon. I confess I'm still fascinated by all the pretty lights but most of my creative focus has shifted.
    I take comfort in my father learning to program after he retired, and it not deflecting him from creative efforts. I do recall, however, being much pained by the ease with which he learned to write code! :-}