The Little Prince had two main things to worry about on Asteroid B-612.
One was to uproot baobab trees. And the other was to tend his rose.
If he didn’t uproot the baobab trees, the results would be a catastrophe for his small asteroid.
And if he didn’t tend to the precious rose, fragile thing, it would die.
The asteroid wouldn’t be destroyed of course if the rose died, but the poor prince’s heart likely would be.
So there were two main responsibilities of the Little Prince: Keep the asteroid in tact by uprooting baobabs and tend to the rose so that the asteroid was worth living on.
If you haven’t read The Little Prince, it’s a very tender and interesting piece worth reading. What I want to talk about today, though, is progress. I think everyone in some form or another wants progress. And, with New Year’s Eve a day away with a pretty insane 2016, I’ve been thinking a bit about what progress I want to make in 2017. There’s a categorization of progress that was helpful to me in making goals and I think it merits sharing.
I believe there are two main types of progress to be made in this world: Baobab uprooting and Rose planting.
Baobab uprooting are the things meant to fix broken things and make sure the lower end of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are being met. Here we battle famine, social injustice, cancer, poverty, pain.
Rose planting is introducing new things as improvements and gets at the upper levels of Maslow. Here we attempt to flourish in creative arts, self-care, theoretical research, space exploration, personal goals, happiness.
It seems like these are often taken in a very binary this-or-that way. Being in the business of theoretical research, I’ve heard many stories of battles (and have participated in some small ones) between these two sects. Baobab uprooters berate, say, NASA for exploring space when there’s so much poverty and hunger on Earth while rose planters wax poetic (justifiably) about the importance of exploration and discovery to the human spirit (and how sometime rose planting leads to baobab uprooting). And, in general, I hear this recurring scuffle of each side talking about how important their notion of progress is and how silly it is to waste time on the other’s goals (or they, at the very least, implicitly put themselves into one category or the other, to never consider that they could help in both).
But with a very unpredictable 2017 around the corner, I think it’s worth making this distinction. There will be enough fighting in the coming year. For now we all want the same thing: progress. Let’s look at it’s two faces clearly.
For me, this categorization makes it easier for me to make New Year’s resolutions as it allows me to attempt to make goals in both categories. Without acknowledging both of these as valid and important parts of progress it makes me feel guilty on both ends: If I focus on rose planting it makes me feel privileged to be able to do so and guilty that I’m not doing more to help the massive amounts of pain in the world. And if I focus on baobab uprooting I feel guilty in graduate school that I’m not accomplishing what’s expected of me and what I’m getting paid for and that I’m not keeping up with my peers; it also neglects myself even though I know I need to be happy on my own end and do things that make me fulfilled.
Making these two notions of progress to be sections that I populate with New Year’s resolutions helps on both ends of this guilt.
One reason I’m writing this is to maybe help alleviate some guilt of the hardcore baobab uprooters. Keep doing your thing. But don’t feel guilty for making your own personal asteroid worth living on too. It’s necessary.
The larger reason I think this matters, though, is for the rose planters: You have time for some baobab uprooting. Even just an hour a day (which is often more than Facebook steals from me) accumulates to quite a bit (see Vi Hart for more inspiration). You learn a lot along the way, it’s important, and it doesn’t stop you from planting more roses. Just a little bit more scheduling. It’s necessary.
So all of us resolution writers, lets try to get some goals for baobab uprooting and rose planting. 2017 is finally here and we’ve got some Little Prince-ing to do. We’re gonna need it.