Disorder Is In The Eye of the Orderer

A squirrel inside on a tableI went to lunch the other day and, unknowingly, locked a squirrel in my office. For those following this blog you may know that offices in our Department — which resides in a late-19th century 3-story building that was originally a residence, among other things — all open onto balconies. So, with no public interior space (aka hallways), the elements are right outside your door.

And in Alabama that means heat, humidity and the ever-present squirrels who inhabit our quad.

Oh, did I mention that I feed them?

Last summer we put down a camera and they sure were active.

So, like I said, I went to lunch the other day and, without knowing that a squirrel was in my office (I had left the door open when I went to the bathroom), I locked it in there for almost an hour.

The reason I’m writing this is because when I returned it was obvious to me, as soon as I opened the door, that a squirrel was in there.

No, not just because I saw a squirrel dart to the back of the room as soon as I entered (and then patiently perch, like a gargoyle, in that photo above) but because the place was a mess. It had obviously been trying to get out of the two back windows, climbing along bookcases and ledges, knocking mugs and framed photos all over the place, breaking glass, and generally causing havoc.

My window sill filing system was all over the place.

But the interesting thing is that the havoc was more than likely apparent only to the trained eye — only to someone who might use a window sill to store file folders.

That is, my office was a mess to begin with.

But it’s my mess. And so it makes sense to me.

I can easily imagine someone unaccustomed to my particular brand of disorder walking in instead, and, if the squirrel hadn’t darted, then they’d likely never know one was in there — because they’d probably not have any expectations of this framed photo being there and that book being here, since the whole place sort’a looks like squirrels live there year ’round.

A work desk covered in papers and books

The moral of the story?

Well, there’s several:

One person’s disorder is another person’s order.

Chaos and order are rhetorical terms not descriptors of actual states of affairs (as our colleague at the Edge knows full well).

Change is not judged relative to a universal, static standard — rather, the reference point itself is always changing, relative to whomever makes the claim.

It’s not evident from the outset what gets to count as a difference worth paying attention to.

Oh, and one more: incorporate a relatively large rock, or maybe even a brick, into your window sill filing system. Just to keep things in their place.

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