Taking the longview in an instant-feedback world

Every blogger knows the experience of posting what you think is the best blogpost you have ever written, only to get exactly zero comments.

And every parent knows the experience of sharing something you adore with your kids and thinking it’ll transform their lives, only to be met with an utter lack of visible enthusiasm.

And every English teacher knows the experience of teaching that poem that you love with every cell of your being, only to look out at a sea of students who appear to be counting the seconds until lunchtime.

As a blogger, mom, and teacher, I’ve had all three experiences.  And while they are a bummer in the moment, I’ve learned that I have to take the longview.  Ideas are like seeds: they have to germinate, and they’re slow to sprout sometimes.  And sometimes what we put out there into the world touches people deeply without our knowing it.  There’s a form of trust that goes into all of these activities, I believe — trust that what we share will find a home, will reach the people who need it, even if we never ever hear about it.

Just the other day the boys and I were going through the huge overstuffed bookshelf in their room, weeding through the board books they no longer read and figuring out which to give away and which to keep (they have their mom’s inability to get rid of books, alas).  In the process of doing so, we came across a few treasures we haven’t seen for a while, including this book.  It was mine when I was a child (that dirt in the right-hand corner is about three decades old).



I read through the book again, for the first time in a long time, and came across this poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It’s a gem, and  a potent reminder that we all need to keep on singing and taking the longview.

The Arrow and the Song

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Amen to that.

3 responses to “Taking the longview in an instant-feedback world

  1. Such a good point/poem. I KNOW this to be true because as a parent I have reflected on things that my parents said that specifically did NOT resonate at the time they said them, and yet how much their comments or behaviors urged me on toward right behaviors later. From the mundane (“I always feel better when my sinks are clean”) to being considerate (“cheer for the newer girls on your team, ” which I otherwise might have been to shy to do), to the most meaningful (“the time when my kids were young was the best time in my life”), their advice certainly informs so much of what I do. Important to remember when my own advice with my kids seems contradicted by popular culture or otherwise dismissed. And also important in many other ways…

  2. Great post, Ginny! I like the poem you chose and its arrow metaphor. Parents and mentors ARE the archers of life and culture for the next generation – the intended target. Your long-view philosophy for us, the senders, sometimes requires courage and patience, as you say. Would that there were more acknowledgment forthcoming, in general, from those who have been touched by the archer’s efforts and are now mature enough to provide acknowledgment. As your dad, I so appreciate that you have always been cognizant of the importance of doing so. Would that more of humanity would display that level of maturity and grace. It is, after all, the ultimate form of saying “thank you” for caring and sharing to those who do.

  3. I really relate to what you say, Therese — there are so many things I do/believe because of things my parents told me once upon a time. I too wasn’t aware of those lessons sinking in, but clearly they did. And it is gratifying to recall that in my own role as a mom.

    Dad, I really like what you say about how acknowledgement is the ultimate way to say”thank you.” It doesn’t cost anything but it gives so much.