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Grendels

I have of late been reading (well, listening-to via Audible) many of the science fiction classics from yesteryear, by authors I missed out on in my youth (in those days mainly reading Van Vogt, Moorcock, Herbert, Harrison and Heinlein).

The most recent of these books is The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven et al.

The book has been described as “reworking the Beowulf legend in science fiction”. Niven amplifies Beowulf’s antagonist, Grendel, into a whole species of pseudo-reptilian super-monsters. Without revealing the whole plot, suffice to say that these creatures are portrayed as solitary, voracious, cannibalistic, and murderously territorial.

Whilst reading (listening), I’ve been struck by the parallels between these “Grendels” and prominent figures in the software community (individual consultants, opinioneers, etc.):

Solitary

I see many such figures (including but not limited to folks in the Agile space) ploughing their own furrows, ignoring others of a similar ilk, minimising productive interactions and community.

Voracious

Niven’s grendels are forever eating, and looking to eat. Eating is their core driver. The folks I have in mind seem likewise voracious in their hunt for revenues and clients (prey).

Cannibalistic

I see many such figures taking the ideas of others, retreading them, and selling them on as original and even proprietary. Analagous to intellectual cannibalism.

Fiercely Territorial

The grendels in the book each assiduously guard their own stretch of water (being basically amphibian), murderouly opposing any intrusion into their territory, with the utmost prejudice. I see parallels with (some, most?) of the aforementioned members of the software thought-leaders and opinion-makers “community”.

Upshot

In the book, the human colonists eventually triumph over the grendels, through a combination of technology, self-sacrifice and strategic thinking. “They’re just animals” the colonists remark, by way of explaining their victory.

I’ve long sought to reach out and connect with our grendels, in an attempt to further the collective knowledge and impact of the software community at large. To little or no avail. Maybe our grendels’ fate is predicted by the fate of the grendels in the book – irrelevance and extinction.

– Bob

Reflective Questions

At this time of year, it seems customary to take a moment to reflect on things. As an aid, please allow me to invite you to reflect on some or all of the following questions, either by yourself or in the company of others:

  • How relevant has joy (and flourishing) been in your life in the past year? Is that something for just yourself, for your loved ones, or for folks more widely?
  • What was the biggest source of joy in your life in the past year? Does that suggest any kind of change of focus from where you choose to focus you attentions presently?
  • Who matters to you (including yourself)? And how much are you in touch with these folks’ needs?
  • How often in the past year have you made some kind of (refusable) request of people around you in the pursuit of getting some of your needs met? Did you feel able to explain your needs in any detail?
  • What groups and/or communities have you felt an affinity for? How in touch are you with the collective needs of these groups or communities? Are you moved to attend to those needs?
  • Can you recall any specific instances where you were the victim or perpetrator of violence (in the broadest sense)? How did that make you feel? Did the violence achieve its intended result? Were there consequences?
  • Can you recall any occasions in the past year where you felt some special or peculiar empathy with other(s)? Did you have the opportunity to express or share that feeling with anyone?
  • In the past year, how often have you really talked (spoken openly and listened fiercely) with others?
  • Did you experience any epiphanies in the past year?
  • Do you feel you found some answers to questions that have long been nagging at you, in this past year?
  • What part has spirituality played in your life this past year? Do you imagine you’d be happier with more (or less) spirituality in your life in the future?
  • Do you recall occasions in the past year where you’ve acted from the heart, out of non-judgemental (and non-romantic) love? How did that go?

I wonder how you respond to these questions – I’d love to hear about those responses.

– Bob

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