I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I shall not use it to kill him–only to bring him to life.Innocent Smith in Manalive, GK Chesterton
The priest at Mass the other day posed the question: if it was possible to know, would you want to know when you would die?
As a melancholic, death is never too far from my mind and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While I don’t have strong feelings about the question one way or the other, I was thinking of some of the benefits of knowing when I would die, even if there is wisdom in not knowing. Sometimes, when death is clearly imminent, it compels us to truly embrace living. When our time is definitively short, we can move from passive existence to passionately experiencing life.
Is that type of wholehearted living reserved only for those who know death is at their door? Could I do that now? If people are able to live more when death comes close, could we just do now what we would do if we knew?
It made me consider how I would change my life if I knew the times of other events. Besides death, there are many other things that seem to be unknown yet shape how I live. For example, if I knew within the next year I would meet someone I would marry, would it change how I live? I believed that I would. What if it was five years, would that change how I live now? Yes, it would. What if I knew I would never get married? Again, yes.
And then I asked myself an important question: why?
Continue reading “Only to bring him to life”
School was called off for today before I even went to bed last night. It meant that my sister and I leisurely watched a movie and then talked for a while before curling up to fall asleep. This morning, the snow hadn’t started yet so I went out of the house for a couple of hours, returning as the snow began to lie thick on the roads. Ideally, though, I would have been still tucked away in my bed or perhaps snuggled on the couch with a cup of coffee as I turned through my latest book.
In high school, I was surprised when I heard that on snow days kids went to go hang out at the mall. For me, it was an unthinkable action. Why would I go out into the blustery weather when that was the exact reason I wasn’t at school? I also was gifted with a father who would have unquestionably smacked me with a hearty dose of common sense if I would have even asked to drive to town despite the weather. Being at home was actually what I wanted to do anyway. While I liked school, I didn’t mind a day of sleeping in and being home. The same still holds true as an adult.
I grew up slow.
By that, I mean, as I grew up, we moved slowly.
I look at the schedules my students have or the schedules of kids and it looks so different from my youth. In elementary school, I usually rode the bus home and I was there until the next day when I left for school. My mom made supper and we all ate together. Sometimes the older siblings were running off to practice or games, but we almost always ate supper around our dining room table.
My summers were quiet, too. Sometimes we explored the farm or watched too much TV or read book after book. But it was slow, with plenty of time and space for us to play in the hay loft or read through book lists with forty to fifty titles. It wasn’t perfection, although my memory tends to cast an overly rosy hue on the days of my childhood. However, it had the great beauty of not being rushed.
Continue reading “I Had a Slow Childhood”
For this last stretch of Lent, I’ve been trying to grow in patience in a few small key ways.
I started to limit tracking things.
I noticed that I would unnecessarily follow things and that my time and mental energy could be better spent elsewhere. For example, when ordering packages online, I like to daily track their progress so I can see when they ship and when they should arrive at my house. That is entirely unwarranted–seeing where they are doesn’t make them arrive any faster and it isn’t crucial to see how long it took to transfer from one shipping carrier to another.
Or blog stats. When I post a blog, I like to monitor it to see how many views it gets and when they come in. Which countries are viewing my blog? What website leads them to my blog? All of which is unnecessary to follow so diligently. Occasionally looking at it is one thing, but semi-obsessively checking it in the first few hours or day after posting isn’t helpful.
I even noticed that I will habitually check my tire pressure, percentage of oil remaining, and battery life as I drive between work and home. Sometimes I do it so absentmindedly that I have to check it again because the numbers didn’t sink in as I reflexively scrolled through the stats. Over the past few days, I have found my left hand nearly twitching to see the various car facts appear on the display screen.
Continue reading “One small step for patience”
I spent thirteen hours in an airport a little over one week ago on an unfulfilled quest to conquer “Winter Storm Grayson” for the sake of a friend. During my hours of meandering around the airport and having my flights rescheduled time after time, I saw one person who seemed to be on a different schedule from the rest of the masses. Although I only saw him for a minute, I couldn’t help but notice he was passing his time in a slower, more intentional way than others.
Generally, I’m not that person who is clandestinely taking pictures of other people. But something about him captured my attention very quickly. He slowly walked the long corridor and stopped briefly in front of each picture, taking it in and considering it. I understand the rush between flights and short layovers that prevent others from taking in their surroundings. Yet it wasn’t as though it took him twenty minutes to look at the pictures. He was in my line of sight for only a couple of minutes. Continue reading “Airport Intentionality”
As I walked the Camino, I found within myself a longing for beauty. Mile after mile passed beneath my feet and I made commitments to myself about how I would like to live my post-Camino life.
Read poetry every day.
Look at new artwork.
Listen to classical music.
All of those commitments and ideas didn’t translate as neatly into my reality as I had hoped. In the rush of the daily grind, it is difficult to intentionally set aside time to experience beauty. Most days, my taste of beauty happens when I remind myself to take in the fall foliage before winter sets in. But an intentional pursuit of beauty? Generally, that is non-existent.
Last night, I flipped through a book of poems entitled Poems You Ought to Know. My English degree (with a concentration in British and American Literature) meant that I recognized most of the names in the table of contents. Some of the poem names even sounded familiar, but few were ones I could stop and say, “Oh, I love this one!”
Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” was there and I recalled that in college I taught a lesson on this to a classroom of high schoolers during an education class. It is a beautiful poem, I think, even with the natural morbidity found in Poe’s works. The poetic devices that I had reviewed with the class came to mind dimly.
It makes me wonder why I don’t read poetry like my heart desires. Why do I not sit down and read a Shakespearean sonnet in the evening? Why don’t I learn about the famous classical composers? Why don’t I use the gift of the internet to virtually explore art museums and learn about the different periods in art history? I desire it. Why don’t I do it?
Because it is easier to not. Continue reading “A Beauty Filled Life”