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The Book of Na'Lon

or rather, Inane Ramblings of an Expatriot

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On making an effort
Recently I asked my flist how they felt about parties. The results of a poll were quite mixed, and most of the comments about the poll suggested that people often stick with people they already know and that enjoyment of parties depended on the situation and upon how much one is willing to put in.

This willingness to put something in is something I have been aware of for a while and I have often made such an effort in a very purposeful manner - offered to run something, sing or perform something. Having a task helps me cope with a party. But even if there is no actual task, I can - by making an effort - have a better time than if I just sat back and let the party go on around me.

The Marquis was rather shocked initially when I said I had to make an effort to enjoy myself - he wondered if it meant that I didn't really want to come along to some of the events that we attend and was just doing so out of a sense of duty to him. I, in turn, was startled by his response, and quickly reassured him that it wasn't like that at all; I freely chose to come along, but found it hard work. But hard work isn't something I mind.

So the upshot of the Marquis and my conversation was that we have rather different connotations for the phrase 'making an effort'. His are fairly negative and tinged with having to do things one would rather avoid. Mine are neutral or even positive - making an effort to me connotes simply a truth of life; the things I enjoy require me to put something in. Like writing, like my job on the good days, like the garden and the making of things. The effort I make pays dividends, though - the things I make are appreciated by others, the work helps my students and sometimes colleagues, the garden is getting ever more beautiful, and so on. Thus when I say that I have to make an effort it is a descriptive phrase - I take an active part in something, it's tiring, but often ultimately satisfying.

So generally I would say that I am happy to make an effort on may occasions, even if it means energy expenditure, because usually such effort pays off and one can always rest afterwards.

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The Anglican liturgy phrase springs to mind, "my duty and my joy". I've never seen any contradiction between duty and joy, but I know many people do.

Well put, and worth keeping in mind, especially when one's dedication is being questioned.

Seconded. What specifically did you have in mind with the bit about dedication being questioned?

My thoughts were eve-of-bedtime ones and it's difficult to recapture them in this lunchtime state, but I think that I was considering that dedication from a sense of duty isn't often understood these days; and the idea that one might actually get some sort of reward from it that includes enjoyment doubly so.

I didn't remember that particular phrase, but I agree. Like you I don't see a contradiction. (Only on occasion, when I have to do marking for example. ;-))

Two interesting ways of looking at a single turn of phrase. I must say that my idea of 'making an effort' follows closer to the Marquis' than yours -- to express how you view it, I'd probably say something more like 'gave it my all' to give it a more positive touch.

(In Japanese, oddly enough, I can express it better -- I'd use the turn of phrase isshoukenmei, which means pretty much what you say when you speak of 'making an effort'.)

In psychology, one of the big questions is about whether language shapes thought or thought shapes language - this springs to mind whenever a word is described to me that expresses neatly a concept that English has not got a simple expression for.

I spoke to my mother about the issue of effort making yesterday, and she reminded me that the particular German phrase I used to translate 'making an effort' had two very different connotations depending on whether you used it in the passive or active tense: 'Ich strenge mich an' (roughly 'I am making an effort') is very positive - it's a good thing to do, but 'es strengt mich an' (roughly 'it wears me out') is negative and implies that it is not enjoyed or is a chore.

I am with you here - I was quite recently at a party of friends where the people split into two groups - one was trying to play a rather complicated card game (not proper cards, but some kind of fancy variety where every card tells you what to do etc.) The other half were busy talking about American TV - something I know nothing about and am not particularly keen to find out more. I found myself unable to make the effort either to learn the rules and play the game, or to change the subject (or to modify it so that it moved to the area I feel more affinity with). So I chose the 'run away' option - and went home instead... :)

I think the people talking about American TV were talking about broadcasting in general, and the impact of the computer - and one of them was trying to work in a reference to his experience of watching 'Vremya' when in St Petersburg in 2001, but couldn't... sorry that you felt excluded.

I hope I didn't offend you by my comment! Belonging to group of people that one has known for a while gives one this sense of security - like 'the conversation wasn't going my way this time, no worries, it'll go my way some other time'.

You didn't offend me at all! I was happy to be there - it's been a while since conversations in certain quarters have gone my way, so I was perhaps a bit too glad to be in areas where I felt more or less at home.

Don't start feeling self-conscious about enjoying it now! We can all take it when you're glad to join in. Sometimes we even enjoy it.

Thank you! ;) A lot depends on the combination of people, and there can be some aggressive conversationalists around whom I don't like talking with.

Belonging to group of people that one has known for a while gives one this sense of security - like 'the conversation wasn't going my way this time, no worries, it'll go my way some other time'.

Nicely put! I sometimes find it hard to communicate that sense of confidence in them to others.

It's good sometimes to have that third option and to be able to 'run away' as a positive choice. I have certainly done that in the past.

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