Monday, May 24, 2010

Dying of Boredom

The other day, someone mentioned that we don't have to fight for everyday survival the way people used to. Considering my athletic prowess, this is great. Otherwise, I'd probably be eaten by a bear.

But sometimes I wonder if we aren't fighting battles of a different kind. We don't have to think....we can just turn on the t.v. We don't have to cook (or worse, hunt down our food)...we can just order takeout. In our cheery modern world where everything is a click away, we don't really have to try very hard at all. At anything. And we can still pretend to be productive, happy, healthy people living rich full busy lives. Sometimes it's so easy to just choose ease.

And we massage our own self-image and tell ourselves and each other that we're beautiful and smart and fun and great. And meanwhile, beneath the hum of image and and the ring of cell-phones bearing news of the latest social drama and the petty rush of every day, our souls shrivel and die.

Because, in reality, we're narcissistic and dull and we're boring ourselves to death. In reality, we are in a battle for our souls and minds and hearts. In a world where mental numbness is a just a few steps away, we’re fighting for our lives.

Yesterday, for a few hours, I sat in a quiet, sterile world. We relaxed in dark, cool, rooms while a hot sunny day rolled by outside. We talked about petty nothingness for hours and, when I left, I knew nothing more about the people with whom I'd spent the afternoon than when I'd arrived. Shallow jokes aimed at absent people and self-absorbed conversations were batted around. Everything was clean and quiet because there was no one to make a mess or create noise.

God made us creatures of action and emotion. And if we don't create and grow and feel and experience, our souls die. Quiet and clean and sterile and still is nice, but the only place where nothing happens is a place where everything is dead. Cells and plants and animals and landscapes grow and change out of necessity. When action stops, life stops.

We have to get out of ourselves. We need to stare at the sky and realize how tiny we are. We need to be around people better than us and realize how far we still have to go. We need to read the thoughts of people smarter than us because we don't know everything. We need to create because we aren't an end in ourselves.

We need to try things that are too hard. We need to go further than we know how to go. We need to dream dreams that are too big. Because if we don't stretch, we can't grow. If we're not growing, we're dying. And life is too short to waste a second.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rules of Engagement

Etiquette is one of those crazy things, like MLA formatting and state tax laws, that change constantly. Actions considered rude last year may be acceptable today. Many of the traditional "rules of engagement" no longer even apply.

Technology just makes this more complicated. What exactly are the rule about cell-phones, texting, and Blackberries? Furthermore, what does etiquette look like in the realm of the Internet? What is rude behavior on Facebook? What does a polite e-mail look like?

Some thoughtful and brilliant unknown person pointed out that etiquette is the outward action of loving our neighbors. When I feel the tendency to simply write off all attempts to observe etiquette and begin to consider manners as a sort of relative set of rules that no longer apply, this concept reminds me of the underlying heart of etiquette. Loving our neighbors.

It's commonly considered rude to chew with your mouth open. But this isn't some random rule that George Washington's housekeeper invented. It's rude to chew with your mouth open because your behavior will prevent those around you from enjoying your meal.

It's considered rude to call late at night or early in the morning. This isn't some hard and fast "stop at the stop sign" rule. The tradition is in place because it's inconsiderate to simply assume everyone else keeps the same hours that you do.

It's considered polite to show up at a formal party with a hostess gift. This isn't your "ticket in." It's simply a way of expressing gratitude to those who went through the effort to prepare the food and host the gathering.

Loving my neighbor might mean that, while it's acceptable to talk on my phone in a crowded, loud area, I may need to end the conversation when I walk into the quiet library.

Loving my neighbor involves being thoughtful of those around me and aware of my surroundings. Behavior acceptable with one group of people might not be acceptable in another context.

I still want to know the answers. I'd feel more comfortable knowing when it's not rude to answer my phone in public. But reminding myself that the heart of etiquette is outwardly showing love to those around me helps me make judgments about polite behavior.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In Quest of Perfection

I have set out on a quest for the perfect day-planner. When I was in college, I used the Student Planner published by the New York Public Library. The spacious boxes provided me with plenty of space to keep track of all of my academic and extra-curricular events.

Last year, I tried to use the calendar system included in Microsoft Outlook. The problem with using Outlook was that, after carefully uploading all of my events for the week, I never had my calendar available when I was out and about. So I quit planning. This was flirtation with disaster.

I think I could only use a computerized planning system again if I used it in conjunction with a regular planner.

When I searched for "Day Planner" on Google, the results were overwhelming, though inspiring. This forced me to make a list of the things I'm looking for in the perfect planner:

  • Space. If the boxes and lines are too tiny, keeping track of more than one or two events becomes frustrating. So those tiny cute planners are out.
  • Size. The ideal planner would fit in my purse. So although a big binder might be the most effective solution, a typical 3-ring binder is out.
  • Appearance. I work better with things that are pretty. Practical? No. But a reality. I am far more likely to consistently use something that I like to look at. Hey, that's how Apple made it.
  • A variety of planning tools. A planner that displays a week at a glance is a must. But the ideal planner would also include monthly and even yearly calendars. A section to keep track of expenditures is useful. I've noticed that some planners even include sections for prayer requests, reading lists, extensive notes, and grocery lists.
I'm considering simply buying a half-size binder and making my own. I'm also considering just refilling my current planner with customized sections.

Any suggestions? Do you use a day-planner? What are must-haves in a planner?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Linkage

When you have some down-time this weekend, instead of just staring at the Facebook feed, go check out these great resources.

I recently discovered Boundless, a webzine packed with thought-provoking and often convicting articles. If you haven't read any of their stuff, you should.

My favorite article published by Boundless this week was "Trying Patience" by James Tonkowich.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a timely commentary on TIME Magazine's commemoration of May 9: The Pill Turns 50: TIME Considers the Contraceptive Revolution.