Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Failure of the Search for Truth

We no longer seek the truth.  Or perhaps, we no longer have a stomach for it.

The concept of absolute truth - that something is true and therefore other things are false or, to quote an ancient philosopher. "A is A.  A is not B"  - is something that we seem to seek achieve less and less in our culture, let alone the world at large.  The search for truth - or at least "True Truth", as Francis Schaeffer called it - has morphed into something much less.

Truth is now nothing more or less that what one feels that it should be.

People take and select the "truth" that suits them, even as they seem to call upon some general cultural shared "truth" to cover those areas which they do not have particular feelings or axes to grind in.  There is  no longer an absolute "right" or "wrong"; instead there exists only the truth for what one  feels should be true, not necessarily what is true.

It becomes even more concerning in that we seem to have surrendered the search for truth in the first place.  This has become nothing a search for the justification of the position's one holds.  Anything contrary to this is either to be buried or simply ignored.

Examples?  There are plenty throughout the entire cultural landscape - but to select them is not the point of my writing on them.  The simple fact that we no longer seek to pursue actual truth is the matter that concerns me the most.  Why?  Because the longer we seek to not pursue the truth, the more susceptible we become to lies.

Historical example?  The Third Reich.  Observer over a relatively short period of time - say 1932 to 1938 - how a culture and nation could turn its back on the truth of the historical Christianity they claimed and a 200 year history of arts and literature into a culture that ultimately supported (directly or indirectly) the extermination of  groups of people based purely on ancestry or physical appearance.  There are many reasons (obviously a great deal more than my short paragraph) but one of them, I would argue, was their abandonment of the continual seeking of the truth in a time of great personal and national strife in search of what fitted their needs at the time.

The bigger question, I suppose, is how to combat this.  To this, I wish I had a better answer.  We currently face a culture and a way of thinking that rejects (by and large) any concept of absolute truth except in the most specific of cases.  And how does one meaningfully combat behaviors that practiced by one's out group are beyond the pale and worthy of protesting but when practiced by one's in-group are hardly worthy commenting on and perhaps okay?  If a thing is truly wrong then it is truly wrong, not just when it is not our in group practicing it.

I wish I were more hopeful than I am.  But day by day, week by week, I become less and less hopeful.  We seemingly continue to abandon any search for truth for the comfort and security of the truth that pleases us most.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Slow Plunge

I have been following with a sort of sick interest - as I am sure many folks have - of the slowly unfolding saga of GemanWings Flight 4U 9525, in which 148 people died in a fiery crash in the French Alps.   The horrible nature of any flight crash is enough to boggle the imagination; the thought that (as is the thought at the moment) this was the result of a conscious decision is horrifying.

The picture that has been painted through the recorder - the initial knocking at the door, followed by a harder knocking and pounding, then by more and more determined attempts to break down the door in front of the passengers as the plane inevitably descends to a fiery doom - is the stuff of horror movies.  Were it a brilliantly done suspense movie, it would win awards.  The unfortunate truth is that it was all too real.

My thought in writing this is not on the where or whys - it is on the nature of someone making a decision to execute an action, something which impacts the lives of everyone bound up in the circumstances.

One man - so far as we know - made a decision that affected 147 other lives.  For whatever reason, 8 minutes of slow descent were decreed as a required action.  Did the co-pilot know the ramifications of his actions?  Based on what we know now, probably.  That makes the issue even worse.

The reality is that we find ourselves in such positions regularly

Not with the same horrible results, no.  And not (perhaps) with the same sense of sickening realization that we are being plunged towards a doom that we cannot escape.
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But the reality of the individual - or group or culture or religion or government or company or nation, take your pick - so intent on an action that the drag down many others with them is too real to ignore.

Any of these may see the consequences of their actions - indeed, we may see the results of such actions in our own lives.  yet we cling to the course of action long after it makes sense or even if we realize the ultimate outcome of it.

Why is this?  Stubbornness?  Pride?  A sense that our purpose, our mission, our goal exceeds all other considerations?

As this happens - as the slow sickening plunge continues, as the relationships crumble, as the money flies away, as the consensus that holds any sort of group together falls apart - do we ever question the validity of that which we are so set on achieving?  Or is the last second simply the culmination of what we have sought to achieve at any cost?

And as this happens, do we hear the tearing of the frail bonds of human relationships and emotions and polity around us as those we have brought with us fall too, or do we just count this as the cost that must be paid to advance our vision or goal or perceived need?

Have we become so self absorbed and self centered - as an individual or group or culture or religion or government or company or nation - that our universe is completely absorbed in us?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wind and Prayer and Church

The wind was blowing heavily when I woke up this morning, raking through the trees and creating a rushing sound as it blows through the streets and over houses.  It reminded me to simply sit before God.

My prayer life is not what I want it to be or what it needs to be.  It staggers back and forth between a rote series of requests that I make or a semi-conscious attempt to stay awake as I stumble over the things that I think I should be praying about.

The wind this morning reminded me I should simply sit before God.

And so I sat.  I would love to report that the experience was such that I had a profound religious awakening, that the presence of God was deeply felt as I simply sat before Him and waited.   Alas, the opposite was true:  I struggle both to not pray rotely and to simply stay awake.

It did reveal one thing to me as I sat there though:  how truly distant I find myself to be from God.

I feel it in my soul. It haunts me as I go about my day.  I have seldom felt farther from God than I do on a daily basis right now.   Why?  Legitimate question.

I have felt for some time a growing disconnection with my church.  Part of it, I suppose, is simply that church is a greater struggle than it was in the past:  older children often mean more activities on the weekend.  But what I have found is that even when I go, I have no real sense of going to meet God or even being fed by His Word.

In a lot of ways this is the least I have been involved in a church life - I go on Sundays.  That is all.  I do not really do anything else with the church - part of this is due my schedule (I cannot do most meetings due to work and taxing Na Clan), and part of this - frankly - is tied up in an unfortunate incident where the involvement I was doing was terminated with no explanation.  This is a great change from where I - and indeed, my family - was six years ago when we moved where we were heavily involved not only in church on Sunday's but church throughout the week.

But that is what changed.  What needs to change?

A new church? Probably, for the sake of myself if no other.  This attendance because I have to and no other reason is making church a great deal like work, with all of the attendant issues of resentment and disconnection I have with my current career choice.  And that is certainly not the point of church - it is to become involved in a community and to worship God and live out the Gospel.

And my internal life, my prayer life?  Alas, no easy answer here.  A simple thought to "Prayer More and Harder"  does not change the facts.  There is something here, some impediement or block, that is keeping me from speaking to and hearing from God as I need to.

The wind is undoing all of the work I spent in the yard two days ago raking up leaves - this I know without sticking my head outside of the door.  Would that God's Spirit would do the same in my own life, stirring the dust that lies over my soul.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Worn

There are just moments that life seems to wear me down more than I can bear.
This is not so much depression - An Moddey Doo, The Black Dog - that is an old if somewhat unwelcome friend - as it is a bone-wearying sense of exhaustion with the matters of life itself.

Is it any one thing?  Not particularly that I can think of - sure, there are particular things that could be contributing to it - the issues with getting the Van fixed of course, or another week of trying to stem the leaking dam that I call work, or 10 other things that I could point to and say "That is it.  That is the thing that is bringing me down" - but that would simplifying the issue and even in a sense misrepresenting the issue.

It is that moment when one is over-run by the need for tears and one has no idea why, that the world seems incredibly sad although nothing sad has happened, that a certain hollowness about one's life and what one is doing - and there is no definable reason why this should be so.

Cause and effect.  I live and work in a world of cause and effect, of root cause and actions that correct and prevent the root cause.  Yet here there seems to be no readily defined cause or action that can be taken.  Just the sense that something is not right with one's world and there is no discerenable reason or answer for it.

Were I to look down deep enough I think I would find a cause for this feeling - but looking down deep enough almost entails a certain requirement to take action.  And I do not know if I have the spirit  for that this day.

The day is coming of course, so I will tuck my worn down feelings and sense of sadness into that convenient pocket where I store such things while I get through my day.  But even as I get ready to do this, there is that sad and somewhat wistful feeling that these are not going away, that no matter how I try to pretend they do not exist they are still waiting to be recognized and moved forward with.

We cannot always address such things, but neither can we pretend that they do not exist.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Van Saga II

So the Van Saga continues.
The cause of the problem, came the analysis, was a bad cell in the battery - a little surprising to me because that battery is less than a year old and would not take a jump when I tried on Sunday.  The suggestion was a new battery - I deferred initially because it was under warranty and I thought I would just get it replaced.

Then the next line of business.

The valve gasket was leaking pretty badly, they said.  Needed to be replaced.  I first had to ask what it was and, then with the answer, take it back for conference.  The conference essentially became a question of "Well, what do you think?"

I hate to be put on the spot like that - especially with automotive items, about which I know so little. I am not able to assess what is "not quite major" and what we can live without for a while.  In the end the decision was to replace it - which of course did not settle well with me (being as how I like to avoid decisions all together), but the alternative was to do nothing and we need the van for at least another year.

Stopped by and picked up the battery to take it back for the return.  Now the second item raises its head:  the battery is kicking out the required amps.  And if it is working properly, there is no way they will take it for a return.

So here is the current dilemma:  I have a battery which is claimed to be good and cannot be returned at the moment in my garage.  In order to get the replacement, I will need to have it put back into the van and run it until the battery fails (if it does) - which I am sure will happen at a most inconvenient time.  No idea what we will do at this point.

What this experience has taught me to date is three things:

1)  How utterly dependent we have become on two autos.  Trying to co-ordinate everybody's schedule based on one car has proven very difficult indeed.  I had no idea that our lives had become so complex - and so dependent - on the availability of two autos.

2)  The reality is that we need to begin the process of saving for a replacement automotive.  Planned obsolesence if you will.  I would love to pretend that the van will last forever but the reality is it is 15 years old and has 230,000 miles on it.  If we can get through this year with no major trips, that would be a blessing - but it will need to be replaced.

3)  I am not quite sure how one becomes a bit more familiar with autos and functionality but this is something I need to add to my list of learning. I need to have some level of assessing the true nature of issues rather than just relying on the opinions of professionals.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Frustration

The van died last night.

As one would expect, it came at a most inconvenient place and time:  7:30, at the grocery store, on the way home.  The call came - not the call I was expecting, something along the lines of "Can you start the oven" or something like that, but "The van will not start".

Muttering under my breath, I got into my car and headed over.  My mind was not in a particularly good place at the time - 6 months ago we had the alternator replaced.  One likes to believe that car problems are few and far between (and generally, they are) - but every time they happen it seems like they have just piled on top of one another like leaves on the lawn, growing in a pile more quickly than they can be raked up.

As I was driving over the list of the day started to bubble up in my soul:  frustration over future plans, frustration over everything I should have gotten done which I did not, frustration over last minute items that suddenly needed to be dealt with, frustration with elements of my life.  A cauldron and pool of frustration lurching towards someone who themselves was frustrated with a car that did not work.

By the time I had reached the van - not more than a 10 minute drive - I was in full upset mode, looking for a place to affix all of my frustration and anger at things beyond my control.  The trouble, of course, is that this is simply impossible to do at things and situations beyond one's control.  It is like to trying to throw water into the wind:  it merely comes back on you immediately and you are simply wet.  You cannot be upset at people as mechanical issues are not their fault.

At moments like these I tend to spend a lot of time in silence, both because I have nothing useful to say and because I know that I am likely to say things which I will later regret.  So it was a quiet ride home followed by an evening completely thrown in chaos ( we did not eat before 9 PM last night) while I simmered and stewed and argued with myself.

So here is the funny thing:  to what purpose?

The van is not working any better before than it is now.  All the other issues of my life are no different for having been frustrated - because frustration not resulting in useful action merely burns energy and time instead of solving anything.

I am frustrated because I had an illusion about my life and my time and how I thought things were supposed to go.

John MacArthur has a philosophy about that:  We are disillusioned because we had illusions in the first place.

Makes sense to me.  We start with the illusions of something or another in our lives, some control we have or some fantasy of life we are clinging to.  When this fails - as it almost always eventually must - we are stripped of the illusion of the thing.  Our typical, human response is to become frustrated or angry.

But angry with what?  A situation we never controlled?  A thing that was never truly ours to begin with?  The Circumstances of Life that do not bend themselves to our will?  Ultimately, of course at God, because He did not work out circumstances to our pleasure or convenience or desires?

I would love to say there is a happy ending to this story.  There is not, however.  I am sitting here, gearing up for the day of co-ordinating school and work and car repair and figuring how all of this comes together.  The frustration is there in my soul, running in circles like a dog chasing its tail, trying to find something to attach itself to.

The disillusion is there; it is just that I still cling to it too tightly.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Purposeful

Based on my thoughts yesterday, I found this about a week ago (who knows, it may have started the whole thought process).  It is something I need to remind myself of more:


If I think about the people and friends who I admire most in my life with what they are doing in their lives - some of theme that post here like Preppy and Kymber and others - like Miss Moonlight and Nighean Ruadh - that seem to have found their way into removing the non-essentials and leaving the essentials, thereby ensuring everything they do will be purposeful.

I need to become better at this.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Need to Do, Have to Do, Want to Do

Need to do, Have to do, Want to do.  These are the three types of things in life.

Need to do are those things that, simply put, must happen.  They are things that are required for continuing to live and breathe and maintain us and ours, be they as simple as eating and breathing or as complex as a series of tasks that must be accomplished in order to keep the house standing up.

Have to do are those things that we feel we must do, even if they are not something we need to to or really want to do.  They are as  varied as going to work at a job we do not particularly care for because we have to pay bills to going to the event that we do not really want to but someone feel it is important to do so.

Want to do are those things that we love to do, that fill us with the joy or reward or have a benefit that is clearly defined and enjoyed by us.  This is anything from going to the job we enjoy to our artistic ventures to planting a garden.

Part of my own problem is I have these categories mixed up in my life.  My have to's are often my need to's in my mind:  I have to paint the trim, I have to train, I have to organize.  In reality most of these are need to's:  the house needs to be maintained, I need to exercise to maintain my health and get better, I need organize what I have and get rid of what I do not.

And I do not believe I am the only one that has this issue.

For many years I unconsciously split these categories into three equal pieces of a pie.  I am having an epiphany in realizing the fact that this is a mistake:  in fact, there are really only two pieces of the pie, Need to do and Want to do.

Have to do?  This is something we put on ourselves that we do from a dragging sense of obligation or responsibility with no joy or willingness to do it.  And these things, if we examine them closely, are not things that we really want to be about.  Is it something necessary?  Then it should go into the Need to column.  Is it not necessary?  Then it should be considered to see if either it can be modified into a want or eliminated as a required task.    Having thought about it, our lives should be really be divided (so much as is possible) into two categories:  Need to do and Want to do.

Let our lives not be held in the chains of the Have to do.  Let us seek to make them full of Need to do and Want to do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tempest in a Teapot

Rolling into work yesterday following what was arguably a wonderful weekend spent with friends and throwing was a stark contrast in the realities of my life.
I had fair warning from Fear Beag before I got in:  he texted me and let me now that something - an issue I had thought we had left in good shape on Friday - was simmering again.  Fair enough - I got my attitude together and headed in after a good night's sleep and leisurely breakfast.  And found exactly what I had anticipated -low level chaos.

As a course of action got sorted out and various people were negotiated with and all was set back in order, I suddenly realized that this was a great deal of my life - and has been for almost my whole time at my current employer:  a series of emergencies that needed to be dealt with or immediate needs that had to be completed because this was "The Next Big Thing" that was going to make the company great.

You will note I use the word "emergencies" and not "challenges".  Emergencies are things that need to be solved right now regardless of whether or not that they have any importance or benefit; challenges are things that need to be solved but ultimately result in something better coming in to our lives.

I realized that my life - at least my work life - has become a tempest in a teapot.

A tempest in a teapot.  A consuming storm of fearsome wrath that consumes all in its path - in the confines of a pot of tea, which one can put the lid on and pour out.  Maelstroms of wrath and import that really have no importance at all.

Which is seemingly what my life has become:  emergencies that need to be addressed now over things that mater not one year later, let alone five.  Personnel conflicts and struggles for power that all occur not on a national or world stage but rather in the confines of a small group of people.  Like lemmings on a small island in the Arctic, we struggle and fight for dominance over a tiny piece of rock, never realizing that the world is out there.

The realization certainly changed my attitude yesterday - I went from cringing and trying to please to a sort of non-nonsense swagger (let us be fair though - this weekend left me feeling fairly awesome).  It did not change the emergencies or the things that needed to be done - but it did change my attitude about them.

Perhaps this is the thing that I need to fix about my life:  dealing with things of substance and import and lasting value instead of fighting over that which has no great impact and struggling with many whom I will not see two years hence let alone five.

Perhaps it is time to simply pour the tea out of the pot, set it down, and walk out the door into the real world.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Off to Throw - Results

So how did I do in throwing this weekend?

A lot better than I expected.  I got two PRs - one in Heavy Weight for Distance (18' 6", previous record 18' 4") and a giant one in Light Weight for Distance (30' even, previous record 28' 3").  I also got three moral victories - a throw of 20' 6" on a Braemar with my record being 20' 7" on a much smaller Braemar, 2 picks and pulls on a 15' 9" caber for 20 degrees and 34 degrees which completely confounded me a month ago, and shooting for a 20' sheaf and getting close to 18' (my record is 16', so I was trying for 25% above what I have done before).  Open Stone was consistent, and Weight Above Bar - well, I got a mark but the less said about that the better.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend - got to see a ton of people that I like and be useful in helping.  I also got the privilege - once again - of actually being part of something much grander than myself.

The best moment for me occurred during throwing on Sunday, when, as I was making a trip to the bathroom, a young woman caught my eye and said "You guys are really cool".  I thanked her.

Be thanked for being a Heavy Athlete - good heavens, for being an athlete at all - and bringing joy to others.  I never thought I would see the day.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Off to Throw

Off to throw this weekend.

I am excited.  This is a games in memory of my friend Rocky, who passed away last November after a valiant battle with cancer. I only knew him in his latter stages for a little over a year, but he turned out to be one of the great influences - not just in throwing, but in life.

For me, this is actually a pretty big deal.  I leave today and drive about 6 hours to a part of the state that I have never been to.  I am going by myself and will be gone all weekend - and in an almost unheard of liberality, got myself a hotel room.

But the best - and most interesting part to me - is that I am simply going as myself.

I will be alone.  No Ravishing Mrs. TB.  No Na Clann.  No getting up early to drive all day and then driving the same amount of time back.  Just me, staying for the weekend, getting to visit with my friends and watch them, and getting to throw.

No roles as father, husband, caregiver, chore doer, employee manager.  Just me, hanging out with friends and throwing, enjoying their company, remembering our friend Rocky, throwing heavy things, and living in the moment.

I cannot wait.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Day of Those Needing Answers

Yesterday was a day of those needing answers.

The entire day felt like one long stream of individuals in and out of my office and e-mail, everyone with questions:  What do we do about this?  How should we handle that?  Do you have this for me yet?  When do you thing you can finish that?

I find the whole thing exhausting.  By the time I left my head hurt and my anger level had risen through the roof (and I left almost 45 minutes after I had intended, which did not help my frame of mind when I went).  It took me almost the entire drive home to pull myself back to a level of equilibrium.

This is everything I hate about human interactions.

I suppose on one side it could be said that this is the logical outcome of the fact that I am in a position where I answer questions all day because 1)  It is my job to help make and execute policy and 2)  I encourage people to ask questions instead of just acting (and a larger problem occurs on the back side).  I should expect that people ask and need information because that is the nature of my job (actually, a much larger nature than most people think, given what I do).  And I guess, if I am honest, that this is not really the issue.

The thing that really brought me to a state of agitation was the sense of neediness that exuded from people.

It is not that they are conscious of this or even that they do it in a rude or demanding way.  But underlying all the interactions is the sense that the need presented is the most important thing that is going on right at the moment and it needs to be resolved right now, no matter what I am doing.

I am sympathetic, of course.  They have their own schedules and tasks to complete and I can provide some level of assistance in doing that.  It is just that it sometimes feels like it is precisely when I have the least amount of time to offer that such things are asked.

I do not know what to do about this, really.   People's questions are not going to go away and the pace of work is unlikely to slow down at all.  And the nature of what I do is not going to change in the least.    How then do I manage to manage the needs of others?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finding Time to Read

A Nighean Ruadh has encouraged me to make time to start reading regularly again.
It came up innocently enough in a conversation:  when asked about my reading patterns, I commented on the fact that I had not been taking as much time to read as I had in times past because I was "too busy"  (whenever something is in quotes, you know it is going to go badly) with work or something else.  I simply had lost the time.

But in responding I suddenly realized that I was depriving myself of a great reservoir of my thinking and energy.

I like to read - not only for the gathering of knowledge but simply as an activity of relaxation.  Not only that, but reading is the basis for a great deal of my reading and thinking and learning.  I become deeper with the books I read (it depends on the books of course, but I have the area pretty well covered).  Given the correct amount of attention and time, they are a wellspring of ideas and inspiration.

And it turns out that I have been depriving myself of this.  Oh sure, I try to pack in reading where I can, especially when I have to travel by plane - I suppose I justify it by thinking that it is my alone time and there is little else that I can do.  But in point of fact if I am only limiting my intake to my infrequent trips, I am denying myself the full impact of reading.

So that needed to change.

I have made the commitment to read 30 minutes a day.  The condition that I have placed upon myself for this is that the books I read cannot be anything which is modern (not cutoff at the moment, but maybe mid-1800s).  The hope is that I can begin to reconnect with the great thinkers of the past and confront the great thoughts that have inspired and molded Western Civilization.

The first book?  The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.  It is a book that I love and is easily accessible and has any number of great lessons in it, lessons about war and peace and making decisions and unintended consequences.

I will start there. But I will certainly not end there.

All it took was someone suggesting that I really did have the time, I just was not using it correctly

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Not Spending The Time on What I Love

I am not spending most of my time on that which I love the most.

This is a bit of a puzzle when I think about it for a minute - after all, it time is a resource and there is a limited amount of it, it would stand to reason that one should spend it in such a way as to maximize its value in my life.  In a sense it is like money - there is only a certain amount of it that (or most of us, honestly) will make so we should use it it the ways that benefit us the most.

But that is hardly the way it seems to work - really with money, either.  Instead, the bulk of it goes to the necessaries of getting by and the small fringes go to the things that I truly love.  The reality is that I often have no time for that which I love - or honestly, what truly helps me - and more time than I would like dedicated to things that at best keep me in the same place.

 I suppose that I have had some sense of this preciousness of time and the dichotomy of its use versus my preferences for many years now, having (at least since college) some sense of needing to be doing something important or useful with my life.  Even that has become a struggle as I look at the general shape of my life and question how the time spent is truly doing good.  Add to this the fact that most of my time is hardly spent doing the meaningful activities that contribute to my life and my problem becomes magnified.

The single biggest issue for me is that the time invested in my "daily work" is what I love and one does not become truly good at what one does not love.  It is just not possible.  One can become competent, one can become "good at", one can even become "skilled" at some level - but true mastery (and enjoyment) is derived when one puts in the time at something that contributes meaningfully to one's life, not just something that one has to do.

A puzzle, is it not?  How does one convert the time towards what will actually allow one to move one's life forward instead of treading water?

The only immediate fix I can imagine - because large changes usually do not go well - is simply that of starting to learn to manage the time I have better and stealing small chunks of it back.

Manage the time - If time is a resource, then treat it as such, not as some endless things I can spend and spend as if there was going to be an infinite supply.  Manage my time, especially at the things I like less, better. Do what I have to do - but be sure that I do not spend more time than I need to.

Stealing small chunks - Begin to take back small chunks of the day to reinvest in the things I do love to do.  There are small amounts - five minutes here, fifteen minutes there - that I can begin to take back and make my own.  Yes, maybe they will not be spent precisely on everything that I love, but I can begin to fill my life a bit more with the other things.

Ultimately there is only so much time.  My job - all of our jobs - is to use it in the best, most productive way possible.  We just need to accept the fact of its limited nature and act accordingly.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Plateaued

So I have plateaued in virtually every aspect of my life.

It is true in everything that I am doing, be it relational, professional, personal, artistic, athletic, intellectual.  It does not matter the activity or thing, the simple fact is that I no longer seem to be making progress in any of these areas.

Having realized this, it bothers me.  One of the underlying assumptions of life is that over time, we get better at things from doing them more.  This, apparently, is not always the case - which adds another splendid layer to my general malaise about the condition of my life.

What to do about this situation?  There is the rub, of course - it seems like just more effort doing the same things is not going to result in improvement becomes, at some point, a waste of time.  And books that tell you "how to" do not seem to address this particular impediment to further progress.  The assumption - and I have read a number of them - simply seems to be that you will continue to get better as time goes on.

Which means, of course, that I have to examine what and how I do things.

The main thrust of most such things is that you need to spend more time doing such things, or do such things "smarter".  I am not sure what "smarter"  really means other than do not repeat the things time after time hoping for a different result.  Which, of course, may be my problem as I tend to do things by rote time and time again, because that is what I was taught to do.

How do I shake free of this plateau?

If I am perfectly honest with myself, there is actually a two-fold path here.  The first step is to find a way to vary the things that I do in support of the activities.  This actually looks like two things - on the one hand, continue to do the work, spend the time. On the other, change up the activities that you are doing.  Be original, for goodness sake:  develop some drills for basic activities and just do those instead of grinding through the whole practice, or making up a novel way to keep my engagement and do things in a different way that entertains, or even (Heaven forfend)  just doing a part that you really like doing occasionally instead of "eating your broccoli" all the time.  The danger of plateaus are not just that we stop growing, but that we lose interest.

The other path?  This one will seem exceptional foolish:  sleep more and eat better.  Part of any loss of energy (at least for me) is specifically sleep and (to a lesser extent) diet related.  To get better one needs to keep their energy levels up.  Much as I hate to admit it, for me that means close to eight hours of sleep a night and probably a good deal more protein that I am currently eating.  Physical drives performance.

We will see if this strategy works.  All I can say at the moment with definition is that what I am currently doing is not getting the job done - and I need options.  I still have too far to go to be satisfied with how things are now.


Friday, March 06, 2015

How Long Does It Take You To Write A Post?

"How long does it take you to write a post?"

No, no one has asked that question, but it is kind of an interesting concept that folks might like to know - after all, I would assume that at least some of my readers do not blog on their own.

The answers, of course, is that it varies.

My writing time is usually around 0530 in the morning.  Sometimes when I sit down to write I have a very definitive idea of what I am going to write about, a thought or incident that my brain has already started working on for writing.  At other times I just sit there and watch the cursor blink as I wait for an idea to come, or maybe even just starting typing only to delete the sentence after I type it.

It is very exciting when a good idea comes to fruition.  The words seem to fly through my fingers onto the screen as the idea takes shape. These sorts of postings take the least amount of time - in some cases, I can be done in 10 minutes with a very full page.

It is less exciting - but more common- that the ideas take longer as I have to struggle a bit more to write.  The subject may not motivate me as much or the thoughts do not easily connect together.  Here writing can take a great deal longer as I have to search for the words and connections - perhaps 20 minutes, perhaps more.

Sometimes, of course, I simply have no idea what to type,  In times like these I may default to a haiku - which can actually take more time than one might think if an idea has not presented itself - of break down and type the "second-best" idea as no "first-best" idea can be found.

Example:  this post, a post about posts, has taken about 10 minutes.  This is one of the mornings where the idea did not leap out me.  

Do I mind that ideas do not always leap out at me?  Not so much as you might imagine.  Sometimes something will take fire the midst of a very ordinary article.  And having worked through 6 years of regular writing on all kinds of things has certainly given me the ability to be confident that when I sit down to the keyboard I can type something, even if it is not always world-class literature.

But arguably the best sensation is still that of the idea which is engaging and exciting, that flows (as Ray Bradbury would say)  "White Hot" from your brain through the fingers, the one where all you can hear is the steady stream of clicking keys like the chatter of sparrows in the morning.  Like the birds greetings the morning, it is the sign of a good idea taking form.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Winter Delay

Today's blog post is brought to you later due to storm delay.

School here has been completely canceled for the day.  Even my own work has been delayed by an hour or so.  I stuck my head outside to see what the weather was doing - fortunately no ice that I can see, but definitely not ideal weather for commuting - very breezy, 30 F.  Still a chance of freezing rain this morning.

I do not think I have ever been so cold before we moved here.

In one way I am fortunate:  I do not have to work outside. I cannot imagine having to face the weather outside with the idea that I was going to work meaningfully in it.

It does bring up two interesting points, however:

1)  How does one plan realistically for emergency situations in climates that have a spectacular switch in climates?  We can get down to below 30 but can pop up to over 100 in 3 months from now.  We do not have to manage for one climate but for two.

2)  This would point out some of the benefit of a home based business. I will still have to go out today, even if delayed.  Would it not be more wonderful if I was able to do something from home?

Not that I expect to resolve anything, mind you.  I am just going to drink my coffee and watch the e-mail and glory in the fact that I live somewhere that things like snow days still happen.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Face Smashed Against The Work Ceiling

The moment that your progress has stopped.
It hits you one day as you are sitting at your desk, maybe thinking, maybe working.  You get an itch to look up a friend or co-worker - given the Internet, it is not all that difficult these days.  You go to the social job-media site and look up one person, then you flip to another.  You keep looking at them and their careers and then it comes to you in a flash of light:  you are stuck.  Stopped.  Mired in your career at the place you are, perhaps never to move out.

You realize that those higher in the food chain have moved on almost unaffected by events - and in fact, may be doing better than ever.  Those that you knew have gone on in their own careers for the most part, slowly climbing the ladder of industry to your equivalent level or beyond.

And yet you have stayed where you are, frozen in time like a fossil.

I know, I know. I hear your comment already:  "It does not matter.  Everyone is different and besides, you can tell nothing about a person's life simply by looking on a website.  People talk themselves up all the time."  And that is true, of course.  People seldom post their actual selves in a forum that really reveals what is going on their lives and titles and companies are as fluid an interpreted as running water.

But herein lies my concern and my issue:  at some point a hard eyed look at the situation must be taken.  Just because not everything changes does not mean that change never occurs.  And if change in others occurs but it does not for you, notice must be taken.

For me, this is my reality:  I have held the same title for 12 years, half of those at my current employer.  While colleagues and friends have changed, moved, and been promoted I have been in place, a barnacle on the reef as the ocean goes in and out.  The calls I have had are seldom or never for steps up but rather lateral moves or even different positions.

In other words, I feel stuck.

And time is not one's friend at this point.  The longer one stays, the more one appears to have maxed out their limit - after all, if one was actually skilled one would have moved up long ago.  There must be something wrong with one, some reason that the move up has never happened.

And you are not precisely young enough to be just out of college either.

How does this end?  I am truly not sure.  But there is a sense that I am face-planted against a ceiling I cannot see but is definitively there, a ceiling that refuses to yield but I am continually compressed against.

Where is the hammer I need to break through?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Taking Things for Granted

A friend's dog died last night.
She was a Golden Retriever, a very sweet and well balanced dog.  She had come over a few times and had play dates with Syrah the Mighty and (for the most part) everything had gone well.  She was bred last year and had five super cute puppies.  They had taken her in to get spayed - a very common operation - and apparently there were complications.  She passed last night.

I know.  It is a dog.  These things happen.

But it points out to me today the fragility of life.  And how much we take it for granted.

Think about it.  A spaying is something which we virtually take for granted now as a common operation for animals, almost like getting a nail clipped or stitches done. I am sure the vet had done hundreds of them.  And yet for some reason, a very common (but not simple.  Never is any intrusive surgery considered simple) event did not go as planned.

I look at Syrah the Mighty.  We love her, of course, but she is a dog.  Sometimes she can be annoying with her insistent behavior.  Sometimes walking her feels like a chore instead of a privilege.  Sometimes the responsibility of another living creature is an inconvenience to what we think our lives should be.

And yet I was count on her being there when I wake up in the morning.

Perhaps we take things for granted too often.  We assume that things will always be as they have been and so we come to value them all the less for the seeming ordinariness of them.  And then, in the ordinary events of life, we suddenly find that they are unexpectedly gone.

Take time today to value the ordinary things of your life, the things or people that always seem to be there - because life is a great deal more unsettled than we like to believe.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Power of a Simple Thank You

One of the things I did last year was to go find somewhere to volunteer.

I am not much of a volunteer - I will volunteer for occasional specific events or needs but have never been much of one to dedicate a regular portion of my time to somehow serving.  This is a flaw in my nature, and something that I have been seeking to correct.

Where I came down is a local animal shelter, specifically a rabbit shelter, that takes in and cares for surrendered and abandoned rabbits and finds them homes.

The work itself is not terribly demanding:  a couple of hours a week, I go and do what needs doing:    most of the time it is changing litter pans and throwing away the garbage, though at times I have packaged food, sanitized cages, fixed things, cut mats, or whatever else needed doing.  The work is never taxing and the bunnies always seem happy for the help.

What is gratifying and somewhat surprising is how often they say thank you.

They say it every week.  Every one.  I am surprised at how regular and often the thanks are.  It is not as if I am doing something particularly difficult, yet they are consistently thankful to have me come and work there.  It seems a little silly to me at times, since I feel like I should be the one thanking them for the privilege of coming and working there for people that are doing good things for rabbits.

The comparison between this and the rest of life often seems stark.  If I perform an immediate comparison to the large portions of my life - work, for example, or even home - I find that both the thanks I receive and (honestly) the thanks I give are not nearly so present.  We wander through the day, doing what we need to do and getting others to do what we need or expect them to do, too often without the vaguest hint of gratefulness about our persons.  We have become a society of exchange, a society that seems to believe (by its actions) that behavior and effort are just one more thing that we are paying for in the exchange of time for money, and that expressions of gratitude are at best quaint and at worst not given because we are paying for the actions anyway.

But we miss something, I think, when we approach human relations this way.  Surely pay in the pocket speaks, but the sincere thanking for a task or effort has the multiplying effect of expanding that effort into true service.  A simple actual of gratitude - even just saying "thank you"  and actually meaning it - gives the sense that the effort to do something is recognized, even if it cannot be rewarded any other way.  It surely makes people more willing to do more and bear burdens.

I will go in next week to the shelter, change my pans and hurl trash, and be back to help because I know I make a difference - and am told so.  Sad to think that for most of us that same feeling will not be propagated through the rest of our activities.