Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds: Empowering our Children with Ways to Protect the Environment while Cultivating the Earth

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Learning to Let Go

As John McPhee describes him, Charles Fraser is a control freak. The creator of the prestigious housing development on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Fraser requires all those who build on his property to sign a 40 page agreement overflowing with demands and limitations. He describes his control of the island as a dictatorship, and demands the right to make all important decisions alone, without the consultation of anyone else. Such personal freedom and power enables Fraser to make manifest a beautiful, comparatively sustainable development unlike any made before in which houses melt into the environment and the community is built around, rather than on top of the original landscape.
Reading McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid, I was struck by how similar my attitude is to that of Fraser. Like him, I have the tendency to quest for absolute control. Typically, I hate group projects because I feel they require a sacrifice of vision and quality that is painful for me to concede. Of course, I am capable of completing things quickly, or haphazardly; but this is only possible if I do not really care about what I am doing. If I have determined that the goal that lies before me is an important one, I luxuriate in perfectionism and strive to make my end-product attain the high standards of my original conception.
Thus, when our professor for this course, Environmental Literature, Ethics, and Action informed me that we would be completing group projects, I was very disappointed. At the time, my mind was full of already extensively developed plans to initiate a composting system in the college dining hall, and to encourage other students to compost their own foodwaste within their dorm rooms, and I didn't really want to be flexible or to change my plans because I felt they were worthy and could be successful. However, taking a great breath and forcing myself through the discomfort, I allowed myself to be paired up with first one and then three other students and to develop an entirely different sort of project, one involving environmental education for grade school aged children.
I am so thankful that I allowed myself to be challenged in this way because, really, I think that I am now learning so many things from my group-mates that I would have been ignorant of if I had worked alone. Although there have been innumerable set backs, clashes of ideas, and points of contention, I believe that we have finally attained a skill in communicating with each other that is allowing us to make concrete and viable plans for the implementation of our project. My groupmates are laid-back but earnest, funny but intelligent, and I look forward to every Monday at 11, when we meet in the student center and discuss our ideas.
Thus, although I admit that I can be a controlling individualist as Fraser is, I have now realized that I am capable of being something else, too; I can be a part of a cooperative unit like my group, I can make compromises, and I can allow the occassional concession of my own plans so that someone else may have their way. I don't think that groupwork is necessarily a better system of accomplishment; but I am glad to know, now, that I can be successful and feel satisfied by both means of work.

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