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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Needing to be Needed, a surprising lesson in Jane Eyre

I just finished Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and have been reflecting on one of the closing dialogues between the protagonist, Jane Eyre, and her unlikely anti-hero, Mr. Rochester. (For those inclined to read the book - and you should (though you can largely skip 50% of the verbiage in the book - Bronte goes on and on and on with 2000-3000 words when 20-30 would do...a bit like me, I suppose :-)

Fair advice... if you are reading Jane Eyre for insights into open source software! We fast forward to the last proposal in the book, and get this interesting commentary:

"...Jane, will you marry me?"
"Yes, sir."
"A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?"
"Yes, sir."
"A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to wait on?"
"Yes, sir."
"Truly, Jane?"
"Most truly, sir." [At this point, Matt is blubbering in his airplane seat - I'm such a softie.]
"Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!"
"Mr. Rochester, if ever i did a good deed in my life - if ever I thought a good thought - if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer - if ever I wished a righteous wish - I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth."
"Because you delight in sacrifice."
"Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms around what I value - to press my lips to what I love - to repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice."
"And to bear with my infirmities, Jane: to overlook my deficiencies."
"Which are none, sir, to me. I love you better now, when I can really be useful to you, than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector." [My fellow Delta passengers are eyeing me suspiciously, wondering why a) a seemingly male personage is reading Jane Eyre and b) he is sniffling as he does so.]
"Hitherto I have hated to be helped - to be led: henceforth, I feel, I shall hate it no more. I did not like to put my hand into a hireling's, but it is pleasant to feel it circled by Jane's little fingers. I preferred utter loneliness to the constant attendance of servants; but Jane's soft ministry will be a perpetual joy. Jane suits me: do I suit her?"
"To the finest fibre of my nature, sir."
"The case being so, we have nothing in the world to wait for: we must be married instantly."

And so (nearly) concludes an excellent novel. And so, in turn, the novel reflects a great truth about people, generally, and open source software, specifically.
The best open source projects are those that invite and facilitate community. I've talked before about
the right mechanics for facilitating communities, but one of the key ingredients - perhaps the key ingredient, is a sense of community within a project. People must feel that they belong. As with the TV show Cheers, "You want to be where everybody knows your name."

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