Tkadleček and the Limited Restructuring

Recently, my friend Camille Gatenby shared an article with us, titled “Leaving Cisco… Why You shouldn’t be Bummed If You Got Laid Off Last Week.”

Camille points out, quite correctly, that change is opportunity. She reminds us that embracing change with the right mindset can benefit us greatly in the end; and, that sometimes we remain in place too long, making a good shove out the door just the thing we need. Camille generously offers us some great advice on how to make the best of the change.

Being in that particular situation from that particular company, I agree with Camille.

But — and there always is a dangling conjunction in sentences like that one — I think Camille missed the best reason not to be discouraged by the limited restructuring. For that, I point to Tkadleček (The Little Weaver), who gave the answer a long time ago.

Tkadleček is a great mystery, dating back to the early 15th century. We’re not certain who wrote it or when. It’s similar to other stories written about the same time, but we don’t know if these stories share the same root or if Tkadleček is a satirical response to the others. I’ll leave out the scholarship that explores these questions, but I will say, like all good mysteries, it’s a captivating investigation with a number of twists and turns. What we know for certain, however, is the text, and that’s enough.

In the story, the Little Weaver (Tkadleček) loses his wife. Angry about this, the Little Weaver vents his rage at Misfortune. Misfortune appears before the Little Weaver and — in parlance of our times — lets him have it between the eyes.

Misfortune challenges the Little Weaver to imagine a world filled with people who never knew unfortunate events. These would be people who never knew humility. They would be cruel and callous to one another. They would have no fear of the dangers around them and others. They would have respect for the needs of their neighbors. They would be isolated, indifferent, and cold. Misfortune tells the Little Weaver that people who do not know him do not know compassion.

You might think that people who find themselves without a job would be in a heated competition with others, jealous of their leads and secretive with their opportunities. You might think they would attack the job search as a zero-sum game, using tactics and ploys to cause other job seekers to fail so they might better succeed.

You would be mistaken.

What you actually see is a wellspring of kindness and compassion. Job seekers are quick to connect other job seekers to members of their network who might be helpful. They share knowledge and experience with each other. They celebrate each others’ successes and energize each other after set backs. Job seekers come together as a community, lending their strengths to bolster one another.

Losing your job to the economy is a burden, filled with worries about the future and a lot of difficult work to find another job. As Camille points out, there is opportunity in this, if we seek it. And, as Misfortune points out, we have an even greater opportunity to be the best we can be in a community of people whose light shines so brightly around us, it illuminates the spaces between us.

Or, Evgeny Hulz bluntly puts it in a song much more recent than Tkadleček:

“Sometimes when facing common trouble / When whole town is screwed / We become actually human / Act like Prometheus would

Suddenly there is more humor / And a party tabor style / People ringing one another / ‘Yo man, how’s your blackout?’

Suddenly there is more music / Made with the buckets in the park / Girls are dancing with the flashlights / I got only one guitar!

And you see brothers and sisters / All engaged in sport of help”

– Gogol Bordello, “Oh No.”

(If you are so inclined, you can find out more about Tkadleček  in The Czech Reader: History, Culture, Politics By Jan Bažant, Nina Bažantová, and Frances Starn. You can find “Oh No” on track eight of the Gogol Bordello release “Underdog World Strike.”)

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