Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

Instead of trying to clear the decks, reach inbox zero or check every errand off your to-do list, acknowledge that you lack time for even a fraction of the things you want or need to do. Learn to tolerate the feeling—sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes anxiety-provoking—of having a lot clamoring for your attention, he says. And then: “Do the most important things.”

What those important things actually are has grown clearer, one silver lining of the turbulence of the past two years—war, gun violence, the virus. Joe Holt, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame and former Jesuit priest who splits his time between South Bend, Ind., and the Chicago suburbs, spent parts of 2020 and 2021 volunteering in an intensive-care unit as a nurse’s aide.

“They make me relish time,” he says of his days assisting patients suffering from Covid. He delights in tiny things: the ability to get out of bed, to walk in the sunshine. Never a big planner, he’s started setting goals, like completing an Ironman triathlon.

“Part of it is, my body is working right now and who knows if it will be in a year or two,” he says. “I’m more deliberate and determined when it comes to things like that.”

It can still be hard to know what to say no to and what to prioritize. Procrastination and decision fatigue kick in. Try to imagine what choice you’d approve of in a year or decade, recommends Alan Burdick, the author of a book about the biology and psychology of time.

Time is weird, amorphous and elastic, he says, with the ability to speed up or slow down depending on everything from how much we like something to how busy we are. At its core, he says, time is really about memory and what you’ll take with you after the seconds have passed…

“It was in the quiet…that I figured out how to reprioritize my time.”

—  Rachel Feintzeig, You Have Only So Much Time. Are You Using It Right ‘When you do the math, it really hits.’ After two life-changing years, decisions about how we spend our hours feel even weightier (The Wall Street Journal June 13, 2022)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

That is the very essence of what it means to be mortal, yet it is difficult to fully imagine, let alone accept. Our lives are literally everything to us, and they feel so brimming and momentous while we are living them that it is hard to grasp how fleeting they are compared to the whole of human history, to say nothing of the vast sweep of space and time. This radical discrepancy between the scale of our own lives and the scale of the rest of existence can leave us feeling two different ways. One of them, akin to the feeling of losing something, is that the universe is dauntingly large and we are terrifyingly insignificant. The other, akin to the feeling of finding, is that the universe is dauntingly large and yet here we are, unimaginably unlikely and therefore precious beyond measure. As with so many other contrasting feelings, most of us will experience both of these eventually. It is easy to feel small and powerless; easy, too, to feel amazed and fortunate to be here.

Kathryn Schulz, Lost & Found: A Memoir (Random House; January 11, 2022)


Notes:

Sunday Morning

My father had died in a single-vehicle accident in California, far from those who knew and loved him. As I grieved, my father’s death brought a certain clarity about my calling as a husband and parent. If my relationship with my dad had been marked by brokenness, I wanted my relationship with my wife and children to be marked by healing. It also forced me to re-evaluate my career. Impressing other writers and academics ceased to be my goal. Instead, I would focus on using my words to find beauty and hope. I couldn’t write a different ending for my father’s story, but I could show that a different ending was possible for others.

Over the past year and a half, many people have experienced something similar to what I did when my father died. I am not the only one who has received a terrifying call that wakes us from our slumber and changes us forever. It may have been a notification about a loved one going on a ventilator rather than dying in a car crash, but the trauma is the same. This pandemic has left conversations and lives cut short…

All these changes that people are embarking on during the pandemic make me think that we weren’t that happy before the pandemic. What about our lives prevented us from seeing things that are so clear to us now? When I talked to friends and neighbors about this, two themes emerged. The pandemic has disabused us of the illusion of time as a limitless resource and of the false promise that the sacrifices we make for our careers are always worth it.

Before the pandemic, we knew we were going to die, but we did not believe it. Maybe we believed it, but considered it a problem to be dealt with later. In the meantime, exercise and a reasonable diet was the tithe we paid to our fears. We believed we had time…

We have had to consider our collective mortality. And we are now faced with the question of meaning. Like the biblical psalmist says, “We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” (Psalm 124:7). Covid-19 threatened to capture us in its snare, but thus far we have eluded it.

What shall we do with this opportunity?

Dr. Esau McCaulley, from “We Weren’t Happy Before the Pandemic,Either.” Dr. McCaulley is a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois., (NY Times, August 21, 2021)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. Here’s one way of putting things in perspective: the first modern humans appeared on the plains of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, and scientists estimate that life, in some form, will persist for another 1.5bn years or more, until the intensifying heat of the sun condemns the last organism to death. But you? Assuming you live to be 80, you’ll have had about 4,000 weeks.

When I first made that calculation, I felt queasy; but once I’d recovered, I started pestering my friends, asking them to guess – off the top of their heads, without doing any mental arithmetic – how many weeks they thought the average person could expect to live. One named a number in the six figures. Yet, as I felt obliged to inform her, a fairly modest six-figure number of weeks – 310,000 – is the approximate duration of all human civilisation since the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. On almost any meaningful timescale, as the contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, “we will all be dead any minute”.

And so distraction truly matters – because your experience of being alive consists of nothing other than the sum of everything to which you pay attention. At the end of your life, looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been. When you pay attention to something you don’t especially value, it’s not an exaggeration to say that you’re paying with your life…

—  Oliver Burkeman, from At best, we’re on Earth for around 4,000 weeks —  so why do we lose so much time to online to online distraction? (The Guardian, August 7, 2021)

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

When I was younger I thought my knowledge would increase with years, that it was steadily expanding like the universe. A constantly widening area of certainty that correspondingly displaced and diminished the reach of uncertainty. I was really very optimistic. With the passage of time I must admit that I know roughly as much as then, perhaps even slightly less, and with nothing like the same certainty. My so-called experiences are not the same as knowledge. It is more like, how shall I put it, a kind of echo chamber in which the little I know rings hollow and inadequate. A growing void around a scant knowledge that rattles foolishly like the dried-up kernel in a walnut. My experiences are experiences of ignorance, its boundlessness, and I will never discover how much I still don’t know, and how much is something I believed.

Jens Christian Grøndahl, Silence in October.


Notes:Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels). Portrait of Jens Christian Grondahl via Nuevo Periodico

Miracle. All of it.

All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life – just imagine that
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
still another.

– Mary Oliver, from “To Begin With, the Sweet Grass” in Evidence: Poems


Notes:

  • Poem – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Art print: Heart of Aspens by Michael Zheng
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

And what a bargain it is…

Suppose you found a bargain so incredible
you stood there stunned for a moment
unable to believe that this thing could be
for sale at such a low price: that is what happens
when you are born, and as the years go by
the price goes up and up until, near the end
of your life, it is so high that you lie there
stunned forever.

~ Ron Padgett, “Bargain Hunt” (jacketmagazine.com, April 2005)


Notes:

T.G.I.F.: When?


Source: Kelsey MacDonald @writeskelsey

Running to 2018. (Not.) Grounded.

It’s the morning weigh-in, the same weigh-in that takes place every morning during the prior 365 days, but there are differences. Major similarities and major differences. A few notables.

It’s New Year’s Day.

It’s early morning, and I’m in the bathroom.

For the pre-weigh-in ritual, I prepare. I sit on the toilet and drain every ounce of excess weight. Every ounce counts.  And then, I strip the body of all clothing. Socks. Undershirt. Undershorts. And, Smartwatch. Yes, I sleep with to measure sleep time, even though measuring the inverse, insomnia, would be a more useful and interesting data point for researchers.

While I’m sitting pondering life on the toilet, I admire the new scale sitting on the floor in front of me. A Xmas gift from the Kids. An electronic scale from Nokia, the “Body Cardio.” It has a smooth, gunmetal finish, and was manufactured by some craftsman (craftswoman?) in Espoo, Finland. You step on the scale and its gremlins beam your weight, heart rate, fat mass, muscle mass, water and bone mass, directly to your Health Mate smartphone app. A miracle, really, all of it.

I reach for the counter to raise myself ever so gently from the toilet, trying to avoid ripping the sutures. The eyes skitter frantically trying to avoid the midsection. But as hard as they try, they can’t: Unavoidable. From the waist down to the upper thigh, the skin is discolored, a dark, deep purple – Skin’s way of saying: “Listen Pal, while you were resting peacefully under anesthesia for this ‘routine’ surgery, I was getting chopped up.” And if that wasn’t enough, there was swelling, significant swelling around the incision and freakish skin discoloration of all of Man’s reproductive organs. And this swelling is not that which you find part of the normal, reproductive process. Routine surgery? Will this all work again? A nightmare, really.

The heat is turned down overnight, I’m standing on cold floor tile, I shiver. Can’t bear to look.

I look back up.  I take a deep breath, and deliberately take one step and then the other to stand on the cool metal scale. The eyes are panicked, doing everything possible to bypass the midsection carnage and focus on the digital readout.

The scale recognizes the weight, which triggers a digital read-out: “Happy New Year David.” The ‘Happy New Year’ is wrapped in beautiful white fireworks. Nice touch. I hope the Happy part commences soon. The scale mechanically proceeds through its sequence of weight (including day over day up/down change), my heart rate, BMI, muscle mass, water and bone mass. Then it offers up the previous day’s step count. And, shares today’s weather, the high and low temperature.  Miracle, all of it.

So, we can stop here. Breath deeply and say, ok, life goes on.

But there’s more. A wee bit more to this story. [Read more…]

That’s when you want something a little milder, don’t you?

I’m not very interested in my school days and feel no special nostalgia for them. But I remember Sixth Form. In those days, we imagined ourselves as being in a holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment would come, we would be at university. How were we to know that our lives had already begun, and our release would only be to a large holder pen. And in time, a larger holding pen. When you were young, you want your emotions to be like the ones you read about in books. You want them to overturn your life and create a new reality. But as that second hand insists on speeding up and time delivers us all to quickly into middle age, and then old age, that’s when you want something a little milder, don’t you? You want your emotions to support your life as it has become. You want them to tell you that everything is going to be ok.

And is there anything wrong with that?

~ Tony (Jim Broadbent), A Sense of An Ending (2017)


Notes:

feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity

From Greek, Zeno is derived from Zeno’s Paradox, which asks how a person can walk from one point to another if they must first carry out a series of ever-shrinking steps, + Mnemosyne, the personification of memory in Ancient Greek mythology. How can we live our lives while each passing year feels shorter than the year before?

[…]

But soon you feel the circle begin to tighten, and you realize it’s a spiral, and you’re already halfway through. As more of your day repeats itself, you begin to cast off deadweight, and feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity, the ballast of memories you hold onto, until it all seems to move under its own inertia. So even when you sit still, it feels like you’re running somewhere. And even if tomorrow you will run a little faster, and stretch your arms a little farther, you’ll still feel the seconds slipping away as you drift around the bend.

Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.

This morning I’m thinking of recounting mine

heart

I heard on the radio that
we creatures have about a billion and a half heartbeats to use.
Voles and birds use theirs fast…
while whales and elephants are slower.
This morning I’m thinking of
recounting mine to see exactly where I am…

~ Jim Harrison, from “Sunday Discordancies” in In Search of Small Gods


Photo: Cover of Pijn via amespeciale

Running. With Beats.

landscape-sunset-sunrise

It’s all incomprehensible, really, including my pitiful attempt to explain it, akin to Brickell’s grasping of a single drop of rain in a thunderstorm.

The tide rushes in under the bridge. The moon, while aging on its 4.5 billionth birthday, remains stout in its efforts and its consistency. It leans in causing the oceans to swell – high tide here, low tide below me on the other side. The other side that is, China. Digging to China with a plastic shovel, scooping wet dirt on a beach in August, so many years ago in youth, yet the cool gritty sand remains on the fingertips.

A brilliant October sunrise. Mechanical in its efficiency, spectacular in its beauty. None exactly the same, this one never to be seen again.

The wind gusts. Leaves scatter from a large red maple, burning, on fire. Seasons pass orderly one after the other, slower than page turns, but they turn, ever so gently one to the next. [Read more…]

If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons

One world trade center

If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons. Some come in winter and you trudge out into the deep snow to stand beneath their glow. Others come to you in the city and you take an elevator up to the roof of the highest building and set out a couple of folding chairs to watch it glide across the sky. Or the moon finds you along a foreign shore and you paddle out in some dingy and scoop its reflection from the waters and drink it down. The moons of your old age are the most potent but seem few and far between. They make their way into your marrow and teach it how to hum. When your final moon arrives, it’s as if youth has come back to you. Though instead of flaunting its yellow hat, now it’s dressed in black.

~ David Shumate, “An Inventory of Moons” from Kimonos in the Closet


Notes:

So fresh, so fleeting

dew-light-green

Dew evaporates
And all our world is dew…so dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.

~ Issa, 1763 – 1828, on the death of his child

 


Notes:

He went and said goodbye to the trees in the yard, one by one, embracing them and crying

jose-saramago

It was only many years after, when my grandfather had departed from this world and I was a grown man, I finally came to realise that my grandmother, after all, also believed in dreams. There could have been no other reason why, sitting one evening at the door of her cottage where she now lived alone, staring at the biggest and smallest stars overhead, she said these words: “The world is so beautiful and it is such a pity that I have to die”. She didn’t say she was afraid of dying, but that it was a pity to die, as if her hard life of unrelenting work was, in that almost final moment, receiving the grace of a supreme and last farewell, the consolation of beauty revealed. She was sitting at the door of a house like none other I can imagine in all the world, because in it lived people who could sleep with piglets as if they were their own children, people who were sorry to leave life just because the world was beautiful; and this Jerónimo, my grandfather, swineherd and story-teller, feeling death about to arrive and take him, went and said goodbye to the trees in the yard, one by one, embracing them and crying because he knew he wouldn’t see them again.

~ Jose Saramago, (1922-2010), excerpt from his Nobel Lecture, December 7, 1998


Notes:

Far from the metallic fever of clocks

birds-fly-pair-two

I hope to define my life, whatever is left,
by migrations, south and north with the birds
and far from the metallic fever of clocks,
the self staring at the clock saying, “I must do this.”
I can’t tell the time on the tongue of the river
in the cool morning air, the smell of the ferment
of greenery, the dust off the canyon’s rock walls,
the swallows swooping above the scent of raw water.

~ Jim Harrison from “The Golden Window” in In Search of Small Gods

Jim Harrison passed away on March 26, 2016


Notes: Photo – Your Eyes Blaze Out. Poem: Thank you Rob Firchau @ Hammock Papers

2:38 am: A little closer to the edge

gif-screens-technology-sleep-insomnia

1:14 a.m.

The digital fluorescent clock leaves its reflection on the night stand. What a pretty color! What is wrong with you?

Turn pillow. Adjust. Hot. I skootch Zeke over.  I get up. Cup hands, slurp water. Then to Toilet.

Switch on iPhone. And then there was Light.  I flip through emails. Blog posts. Morning papers.

1:43 a.m.

Close eyes.

Replay Message on answering machine from a week ago: “Tests good, But”…and a long pause. But, What? “Cholesterol a problem.” Cholesterol a problem. WTH is that? [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With Little Lights.

martin-stranka-birds-road-silence

6:14 am. 28° F. Friday morning.

You push the start button, the engine fires.  The heater begins to blow.  The wipers clear the morning dew. The transmission slides into reverse.  Sirius beams down from the satellite circling, silently, way above.  You turn the dial and it’s Seals & Crofts. “Summer Breeze” fills the cabin and you mouth “makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”  It fills you like Guskin’s current of heat running through your body, as if you’ve swum into a warm patch in a cold lake.  Your eyes scan the traffic in the right lanes, orderly, flowing. They shift to the horizon, the sunrise burns amber into the light cloud cover.

And there it comes. Heart-side. A morning rush of sorts.  The cables affixed to the poles – a mild current jumps and sparks, stops and starts up again. This continues for two to three minutes, a morning call in recent weeks.  This intermittent squeeze, a crack in the earth, the bedrock shivers. [Read more…]

Everything feels as if it is painted in bright colors. I am seeing my world without the Instagrammed filter of breezy certainties and perfectible moments.

kate-bowler

[…] Cancer has kicked down the walls of my life. I cannot be certain I will walk my son to his elementary school someday or subject his love interests to cheerful scrutiny. I struggle to buy books for academic projects I fear I can’t finish for a perfect job I may be unable to keep. I have surrendered my favorite manifestoes about having it all, managing work-life balance and maximizing my potential. I cannot help but remind my best friend that if my husband remarries everyone will need to simmer down on talking about how special I was in front of her. (And then I go on and on about how this is an impossible task given my many delightful qualities. Let’s list them. …) Cancer requires that I stumble around in the debris of dreams I thought I was entitled to and plans I didn’t realize I had made.

But cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive. Even when I am this distant from Canadian family and friends, everything feels as if it is painted in bright colors. In my vulnerability, I am seeing my world without the Instagrammed filter of breezy certainties and perfectible moments. I can’t help noticing the brittleness of the walls that keep most people fed, sheltered and whole. I find myself returning to the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard. […]

…I find the daily lives of its believers remarkable and, often, inspirational. They face the impossible and demand that God make a way. They refuse to accept crippling debt as insurmountable. They stubbornly get out of their hospital beds and declare themselves healed, and every now and then, it works.

This is surely an American God, and as I am so far from home, I cannot escape him.

~ Kate Bowler, 35, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. She is an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School and the author of “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel.”

Don’t miss Bowler’s full essay here: Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me


Source: Thank you Susan.

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