Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

maybe we try too hard to be
remembered, waking to the
glowing yellow disc in ignorance,
swearing that today will be
the day, today we will make

something of our lives. what
if we are so busy searching
for worth that we miss the
sapphire sky and cackling
blackbird, what else is missing?

maybe our steps are too straight
and our paths too narrow and
not overlapping…

— Naomi Shihab Nye, from “Suggestion” in “Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25:


Notes:

  • Photo: Daybreak. 5:36 am, May 22, 2022. 64° F. Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk, CT. Other photos here.
  • Poem: Thank you Whiskey River

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

December 29, 1941.

I’m at the age where I cease to reform my tastes:

I accept what I find—within—without shame.

Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)


Notes:

  • Side Note: Patricia Highsmith was 20 years old when writing this in her diary entry. 20 years old! And here I am…still workin’ it…
  • New York Times: 9 New Books We Recommend This Week
  • Photo credit

Black Friday

Elissa told me the story: After leaving India the year before, she decided she had enough stuff, or too much stuff. She made a pledge that for a year she wouldn’t buy shoes, clothes, purses, or jewelry.

I was impressed by her conviction, but she shrugged it off. “It wasn’t hard.” After that, I did some small-scale experiments of my own, giving up shopping for Lent for a few years. I was always surprised by how much better it made me feel. But it wasn’t until New Year’s Day 2017 that I decided to follow my friend’s example. At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionairedom that kept me up at night. I couldn’t settle down to read or write, and in my anxiety I found myself mindlessly scrolling through two particular shopping websites, numbing out with images of shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry. I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is What do I need?, but I didn’t need anything. What I needed was less than what I had…

My few months of no-shopping were full of gleeful discoveries…Once I stopped looking for things to buy, I became tremendously grateful for things I received…

It doesn’t take so long for craving to subside. Once I got the hang of giving something up, it wasn’t much of a trick. The much harder part was living with the startling abundance that had been illuminated when I stopped trying to get more. Once I could see what I already had, and what actually mattered, I was left with a feeling that was somewhere between sickened and humbled. When did I amass so many things, and did someone else need them?

If you stop thinking about what you might want, it’s a whole lot easier to see what other people don’t have…. “I realized I had too many decisions to make that were actually important,” she said. “There were people to help, things to do. Not shopping frees up a lot of space in your brain.” …

The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: we can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss too many of life’s details. It’s not as if I kept a ledger and took the money I didn’t spend on perfume and gave that money to the poor, but I came to a better understanding of money as something we earn and spend and save for the things we want and need. Once I was able to get past the want and be honest about the need, it was easier to let the money go. It was like Elissa had told me when she first explained the benefits of not shopping: “Our capacity for giving is huge.”

Ann Patchett, from “My Year of No Shopping” in “These Precious Days: Essays” (Harper, November 23, 2021)


Image: Los Angeles Times: Best New Books to Read November 2021

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime – by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?

— Sam Harris, Free Will


Notes: Quote via themindmovement. Photo: Crystal Green

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Outside I could hear a spring robin, a melancholy sound more searching than song to me.

~ Jessica Francis Kane, Rules for Visiting 


Photo: Robin singing

It’s been a long day

patty-maher-after-the-fall

I have been thinking how the body
is a vulture—all avarice and need.
How longing creeps up, stalking
for days, catches with such force
it leaves you breathless.

Carol V. Davis, from “Need” in Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg


Notes:

Gotta have these boots. Now. Right Now.

Dianne Alfaro sat in a pew in the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, her head bowed during Mass on Sunday morning. She cast her eyes down as the hymn “Jerusalem My Happy Home” swelled around her.

As the words “Hosanna in the highest!” echoed in the cathedral, she never looked up. That is, until she finished buying a pair of black boots off the internet on her iPhone.

“At some point, the priest during the Mass says, ‘Lift up your hearts.’ He does not say, ‘Lift up your cellphones to take pictures,’” Pope Francis said last week during a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, where he urged Catholics to leave their phones home.

But during Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it seemed either the pontiff’s message had not yet reached across the Atlantic or the churchgoers were not listening.

Beside a font of holy water, tourists took in the Mass via the screens of their phones, some mounted on selfie sticks. By the entrance, devotees stood praying, but every so often phone-holding hands would pop up above the crowd to snap a picture. One man stood in the back, hunched in what appeared to be deep devotion — to select the perfect photo filter for his picture of the cathedral’s eaves.

In the pews, most people pored over the missals. But a surreptitious few checked email, planting their phone between the pages of the Psalms. One woman strode boldly through the nave as the organ played, her earbuds in, video chatting all the while.

“It’s probably a trend they should embrace,” said Edward Zhong, 25, a doctor visiting from Australia with his brother Mark, 21, who spent much of the homily taking pictures. Dr. Zhong suggested the church might go so far as create an app for use during Mass. “They probably could access a greater demographic — people who are born with an iPhone in their hand.”

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said that some churches already offer apps, a trend he does not approve. “There are enough occasions for our mind to wander during Mass; we shouldn’t be using these artificial things that take us away,” he said. […]

But as the Mass ended, Ms. Alfaro, shoes newly purchased, was unrepentant. She finds her connection with God, she said, on her own time, in her own way. And as for internet shopping in the pew, she added, “It’s not a sin.”

~ Sarah Maslin Nir, excerpts from Pope Says No Phones in Church. Parishioners Keep Scrolling. (NY Times, Nov 12, 2017)


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: Thank you Karl Duffy via Mindfulbalance: “How much does a person lack in him or herself who must have many things?” by Sen no Rikyū (1522 – 1591)
  • Photo: Nordstrom

But I’m starting to believe that this is all madness and that we’re already in way over our heads

IMAGINE IF there were a law decreeing that every citizen had to carry a tracking device and check it five times an hour. This device was to be kept at hand at all times. The law also decreed that you needed to place this device on your bedside table at night, so that it was never more than two feet away from your body, and if you happened to wake up in the middle of the night, then you needed to check it. You had to check it during mealtimes, at sporting events, while watching television. You even needed to sneak a quick peek at it during plays and weddings and funerals. For those unwilling to check their devices at the plays, weddings, and funerals, exceptions would be made—so long as you kept your device on right up until the moment the play, wedding, or funeral was beginning and then turned it on again the second the event was over, checking it as you walked down the aisle toward the exit. Imagine, too, that whenever you went to a concert you weren’t allowed to view the actual concert but instead had to view it through your device, as though every concert were a solar eclipse and you would go blind if you stared at the thing itself. Only if you were holding your device in front of your face and viewing the event on its small screen would you be allowed to experience heightened moments of artistry and life. Such a law would be deemed an insane Orwellian intrusion into our daily freedom, and people would rebel—especially when the law went even further. Imagine that the law decreed that it wasn’t enough to check your machines; you needed to update the world on your activities on not one but several services, posting text, pictures, and links to let everyone know everywhere you went, and everything you ate, and everyone you saw. And when you weren’t posting, the device would be tracking your movements and recording on distant servers where you were, whom you called, and what information you searched for. Of course, these laws aren’t necessary. We do this to ourselves. So we now have to come up with elaborate ways to stop ourselves from engaging in this behavior. There are the restaurant dinners during which everyone puts their devices into the middle of the table, and the first person to reach for hers or his gets stuck with the bill for the whole crowd. There are programs you can buy that allow you to set a timer that keeps you from checking email or using apps or searching the Web for a certain period of time. One of these, in a truly Orwellian turn of phrase, is called Freedom. […]

We also check them too much because we are addicted to them…

We check them because we feel the need…

We check them because we don’t want to miss out. On anything…

I find my little device incredibly seductive…

But I’m starting to believe that this is all madness and that we’re already in way over our heads…

After each one of those tiny dopamine bursts comes a tiny dopamine hangover, a little bit of melancholy as the brain realizes that the thing we crave—to connect—hasn’t really happened at all. It’s like the feeling you get when you anticipate ordering something you love at a restaurant, and do so, and then are told that they just served the last one, and you will need to order something else. A little lift—they have lemon meringue pie—followed by a little fall: not for you. Our technology gives us the simulacrum of a connection but not the real thing.

George Orwell correctly predicted much about our world today.

~ Will Schwalbe, from “1984. Disconnecting.” in Books for a Living


Notes:

It’s been a long day


How strong they could want something and how dissatisfied they were with having.

Why was having never enough?

And why did wanting always feel so real?

~ Catherine Lacey, from “The Answers: A Novel” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 6, 2017)
 


Notes:

they get a lot of pleasure simply from shopping and buying things

Excerpts from How to Raise an American Adult (wsj.com, May 5, 2017) by Ben Sasse:

…Our nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis. Too many of our children simply don’t know what an adult is anymore—or how to become one. Perhaps more problematic, older generations have forgotten that we need to teach them. It’s our fault more than it’s theirs…

My wife, Melissa, and I have three children, ages 6 to 15. We don’t have any magic bullets to help them make the transition from dependence to self-sustaining adulthood—because there aren’t any. And we have zero desire to set our own family up as a model. We stumble and fall every day. But we have a shared theory of what we’re aiming to accomplish: We want our kids to arrive at adulthood as fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves as called to love and serve their neighbors. Our approach is organized around five broad themes.

Resist Consumption…In a 2009 study called “Souls in Transition,” Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and his colleagues focused on the spiritual attitudes and moral beliefs of 18- to 23-year-old “emerging adults.” They were distressed by what they discovered, especially about the centrality of consumption in the lives of young people. Well over half agreed that their “well-being can be measured by what they own, that buying more things would make them happier, and that they get a lot of pleasure simply from shopping and buying things…But consumption is no route to long-term happiness … Although we often fail at it, Melissa and I aim to imprint in our children the fact that need and want are words with particular and distinct meanings … Parents can impart such lessons many ways. The occasional camping trip, off the grid, can teach the basic definition of shelter—and make the comforts of home look like the luxuries they are. You can shop differently too. One of our daughters is a serious runner, so we purchase high-quality shoes to protect her developing bones—but most of her other clothes come from hand-me-downs and secondhand shops. We want our children to learn the habit of finding pleasure in the essentials of life and feeling gratitude for them. We’d like to think that, when they strike out on their own someday, they’ll have a clear sense of what they really need… [Read more…]

It’s been a long day

I have been thinking how the body
is a vulture—all avarice and need.
How longing creeps up, stalking
for days, catches with such force
it leaves you breathless.

Carol V. Davis, from “Need” in Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg


Notes:

The Yin: “I want to” and “I need to”. Now to the Yang.

wind-wheat-back-woman-portrait

What I want to say to you, my dear, is this: Just for today, live the passionate truth of who you are. Stop looking at what is undone, what you haven’t achieved, where you’ve fallen short. Look, instead, into your own full heart…Your own strong roots are in place – in your own body, in the earth, in the ongoing story of your life, just as it is. Put your faith in those roots, and allow yourself to go with the flow. Let go and breathe into the goodness that you already are. Move with the current, not against it. Resist nothing. Let life carry you. You have work to do. Begin it.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment


Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Photograph: mennyfox55.

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