Further In and Further Up

I have a(nother) decent idea for a creative nonfiction memoir/self-help type book kicking around in my head.  I get those a lot.  Unsurprisingly it pulls together a lot of themes that I’ve blogged about over my 3(ish) years here at All Growing Up: coming of age, navigating the jump to web 2.0 and the idea of digital bilingualism (different from digital natives or digital immigrants), the importance of values, millenials, the frustration of not knowing what to do with your life… and so on.  I’m working slowly on refining the overwhelming amount of material I’d love to include in it.

One crazy thing I like to think about a lot is how deep life can be. My sister came up a couple weeks ago and asked me what life is like at 28.

Paraphrased conversation: Her “So besides take care of E what else do you do?” Me: “Oh you know, go to grad school, work part time, belong to a church community, hang out with my friends, volunteer with SalemRecycles. read a bunch.” Her: “That’s it huh?”

I’m 7 years older than her… which is a significant difference in terms of life experiences in your 20s.  But one thing I kept trying to impress on her is that the deeper you choose to know something, the more avenues it opens up – not fewer.

 

Tardis

(Okay. I know almost nothing about Dr. Who. But even I’ve heard about the TARDIS – where the inside is bigger than the outside).

That was a huge paradox that I didn’t get for a long time.  I’ve always prided myself on having a wide range of interests, being, as St. Paul says “all things to all people.”  I like to know a little bit about a lot of things: farming or philosophy – the Cartesian coordinate system or the digestive system. I think the current way of the world (ie: let me google that for you) is made for people like me. It brings me pain when people bring up a topic and I have nothing to contribute to it – with google, I can make and form an opinion in the space of three articles.

I didn’t want to choose one thing to pursue – because I was afraid that this would somehow limit my options. However, I’m getting older and the truth is, you have to choose. Well, you have to choose if you want to contribute meaningfully.  An introduction to a topic may make for good cocktail conversation – but won’t serve you in making a significant impact.  Perhaps it’s my own subjective growing older experience… but I want to make an impact.

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Time is a River, an Ocean

May was a busy month, but honestly – they all are.  I found myself learning to give up more quickly on things when I hit a brick wall, and allowing myself to rest more often.  This is partly because I did my Time Inventory, searching out wisdom related to what makes a good time manager, and what little tips and tricks can help us make the most of each minute –  those elusive building blocks of life, those fleeting drops of water.

In the journey to discover these things I spent long moments in solitude and reflection.  At times I was so exhausted from digging into my brain that I fell into a near stupor on the couch reading dystopian novels about virtue and valor.   The more of these inventories I do, the more I realize the process of taking stock is two parts theoretical and two parts practical. What do I believe about time?  How does time work? (Very old questions, Plato wrote whole books about them, Augustine too.)  And then, How do I already manage my time, and how can I do it better?

In that quiet space of discovery and self-examination I learned that if your brain is ordered (or your heart, or your gut, or your soul, or whatever other body part you identify as the control center of your actions) then you will find your time management to be easier.  That week I took Proverbs 4:23 into my brain and made this little collage to serve as a reminder of what I was reading.

I also made this little sign to put on my desk table, where I do my work.

How do you order your brain?   I sorted through my priorities.  They are simple ones if you put them broadly enough: Taking care of my body and soul through healthy living, good relationships, and placing myself in a zone of proximal development as much as possible.  It is focusing on my family by extending grace, hospitality, and a listening ear or good lunch.  It is participating in church, community, prayer, and Bible Study and spiritual growth.  It is looking forward to making a small mark on the world though a not-yet-realized career.

Choosing what to pursue isn’t a matter of separating bad choices from good choices.  It’s a matter of discerning the best choices in an ocean of good choices.

These were some of the theoretical implications of time management.   The pragmatic?

There are only so many hours in a day.

And sometimes, you are too tired to do what you want to do.  As always, the key is balance, but the ability to gently say “No” to the things that don’t match up with our priorities helps too.  So does focusing on one task at a time or doing your hardest work when you’re freshest.  It involves deciding sometimes to do standing work, and other times to do sitting work.  It involves delegating some tasks to others more suited, or simply being content with something the first time you do it.

Reading in the New Year

What are the first books I’m reading in the New Year? Nothing cheery I’m afraid.

At our New Year’s party the hostess asked everyone, “How do you visualize time passing?”  A good question to consider, and my answer was – like a tortoise crawling forward into the horizon and never looking back.

Well, the image of that plodding tortoise, scaly feet trodding the earth, is pretty hard to reconcile with the idea of a fresh new page.  Excellent. Because I’m still plodding through Harry Braverman’s 460 page tome on Labor and Monopoly Capital.  The good news, I’m five pages away from finishing.  Sad news, It’s one heck of a depressing book.  Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in later ’cause a lot of his thoughts have to do with some pretty current events and growing up in these turbulent times, that and because misery loves company.

Meanwhile, these are my other reads of the week.

To be honest, they are hardly less depressing than Braverman (who, in fact, looks positively giddy compared to Bill McKibben these days.)  So, I’d take a few suggestions for lighter reading to balance out these more sobering reads.

How many Communities can you join?

It’s kind of like that question, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Well… it depends.

I opened up every page of internet community that I could remember joining in the last five years right up until August 15th.  In chronological order they are: Xanga (x2). Livejournal, 43Things,  Facebook. Youtube. Last.fm. Blogger. WordPress (x5). Twitter. LinkedIn. Meetup. Patch. Tumblr. Google+ Goodreads.

Good. Lord!  Continue reading “How many Communities can you join?”

Fruits of our Labor

There’s something different about the “office gossip” when you’re tied to a piece of land you’re cultivating.  Especially if cultivating is your livelihood, but also, it seems, when it’s your hobby.  It’s like that phrase, “getting back to the land.”   Certainly when I hear it, I think, ‘this person means to invoke a hint of nostalgia to the conversation, to celebrate simplicity, to champion physical labor.”

I don’t often think of another associated meaning also deeply rooted in this aphorism.  Smaller Social Circles.   I consider myself an urbanite, a city dweller, an appreciator of fine culture (often as handed down by bigger cities and corporations), aware of some, but not all, global trends. To get back to the land seems to imply that I’m going to eschew certain New Yorkers with their television shows as my neighbors, and certain residents of Hollywood are no longer worth my notice.  I don’t know if it’s conscious, what these cultivators are doing by rejecting some of their broader context, but it seems to be a prerequisite for creating something that grows from the ground.

What they’ve got on their minds takes up more of it, and there aren’t enough extra fields left over to plants seeds of gossip about music, fashion, celebrities, cinema, and art into the ground.  Not when there must be concentration on planting, sowing, harvesting, the weather, and thirty or so varied crops.  (If you’re a small farmer, like the ones I’m basing my observations on.)  And once the last crop is plucked from the ground, there are irrigation systems to remove or rework, there’s pumpkins waiting to be pureed and preserved, and there’s peppers waiting to pickle.

Their after-work business isn’t finding out about gossip, it’s saving what they’ve made.  There’s only so long a tomato can hold before it starts to mold.  There’s also a more intimate connection to be made with a jar of homemade sauce than a computer article (the kind I will admit, I get sucked into frequently), about who wore what to New York Fashion week.

When the hard work of the farmer is done for the winter, they are left with jars and cans and tangible results.  When I’m done with my articles there isn’t much left.  Vague feelings of being connected, but not to anyone who knows me, still linger in my brain, and a round of conversation starters.  I don’t want to say that one is “better” than the other, only that they are different.  Only that it seems like choosing to follow the land results in actual fruit for your labor, or at least jam, and that choosing to follow a virtual connected world leaves you with intangible produce.