Sunday, November 4, 2018

Oops!


Oops! I didn’t mean to publish that last post — I actually didn’t think I had. I wrote it very late at night, re-read it, decided it wasn’t good enough, and figured I’d work on it again the next day. Which I didn’t, but life. So I just went to try to improve it and I see that it published. So — sorry for the mediocre work. Or maybe it’s always that way...

A long time ago — more than ten years — I was living in Michigan with a dog and a cat, trying to sell our house. Alex and Bruce were here in Alabama in an apartment that didn’t allow a dog and a cat. So I was coming down to visit them and I sat next to this guy on the airplane.

You know how it is — you’re stuck on a plane with someone and it could be fine, it could be not fine, so you kind of ease into any talk and keep it light and surface-y in case they’re someone you don’t want to be talking to for the next three hours. So I don’t know how I got to talking with this guy, but I did. He was a businessman, flying from Toronto to I-forget-where — but his plane stopped in Detroit (where I got on) and he was stopping in Memphis, where I was changing planes (maybe he was flying to Memphis, which seems right now that I think about it.

Anyway, we talked about lots of stuff. LOTS of stuff. He asked me how old I was going to be when I die and I said “eighty.” Then he said, “Imagine that you’re on your death bed, looking back at your wonderful life. What is different about the vision you have of that life and the life that you have now?  What are you doing today, this week, this year to move your life closer to the vision that you have?”

He showed me a series of spreadsheets. His “life goals” were things like providing a good living for the people who work for him, having a good marriage, spending one-on-one time with each of his children every year (they were older — he did weekend getaways with each of them), and to play the saxophone well enough that he could do it in public. He divided his life into three parts. The first part was the things that were actual revenue-generating activities that he did for his company — like the meeting he was flying to Memphis for. The second part was all the “overhead” things that he had to do to make the revenue-generating activities possible — like the airplane flight he was on to get to the meeting. And the third part was everything else — all of the non-work activities. The important things. He told me that his goal was to, first of all, reduce the time spent on the second category as much as possible. He did this by delegating as much as he could to his secretary and other assistants. The second goal was to get to a place where he could minimize both the first and second categories, so that the important things got the bulk of his time. To do this he had goals that he created for the week, month, year, five years. Each of these sub-goals had to be focused on helping him to reach his overarching goal.

I think about that conversation a lot (there was more — a lot more — and it’s amazing how much I remember about it). My takeaway is that I have an idea of how my life should be and it differs from the reality in which I exist.

Two things: first, I’m very happy and content with my life, don’t get me wrong. And second (but more important), God is in and around and through all of these ideas of mine. In fact, every single goal, every idea, relates back to God — even things like diet or exercise or cleaning house, because God gave me my body and I should take care of it and he blessed me with this house and I should take care of that.

The funny thing about all this is that it’s been weighing on my mind for most of the last year. I listened to a podcast by Matt Chandler on something called “Rule of Life.” Your Rule of Life is unique — tailored to your circumstances. And it can be set up in different ways. For instance, you can set it up by time. You can say “Every day I want to read my Bible joyfully and I want to pray. I want to get 10,000 steps each day and every week I want to go to the gym at least three times. Every month I want to read through the book of Psalms and I want to check to see how I am doing in adhering to my Rule of Life. Every month I want to spend conscious (intentional) time with friends, rejoicing in the blessing of the dear friends God has given me. Every year I want to take a vacation with my husband.” And so on.

Or you can arrange it by area — what you want to accomplish in your work, church, family, and life with friends. And your items don’t have to be anything like what I wrote except that your goal is to list things that draw you closer to God and eliminate (as much as possible) things that come between you and your relationship with him.

So I need to spend a little time thinking of how I want to lay out my plan and what items I want to include in it. We had talked — some friends and I — about going on a retreat and doing our own life plans, but the main person we were going to do this for couldn’t go, so we canceled. But maybe that was all a part of the plan, too — I need to think about it and work on it myself before I try to share the idea with others (except here, of course — this blog is a space to work things out). I’ll be wrestling with this for the next couple of weeks.

More later...

Friday, November 2, 2018

Answer to Irene, Part Last


Finally. Well, finally, I have other things to talk about besides just books. Books are important, but so are a lot of other things. I wish I had 30 hours in every day and more talent and then I could do everything I want to do (and I’m sure I’m the first person who’s thought this).

I did just finish reading something, though. It was by Tom Wolfe and the title is Radical Chic & Mau -Mauing the Flak Catchers. Awesome title, right? The title alone made me want to read this.

Y’all know Tom Wolfe. He’s probably best known for writing The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities. Always wore a white suit. He reminded me of Hal Holbrook, for some reason (although Holbrook is more handsome). Anyway, he died last May at the age of 88. 

This book is actually a pairing of two long-form articles that Wolfe wrote. The first, which appeared in New York Magazine in 1970 was called “These Radical Chic Evenings” (Wolfe coined the phrase “radical chic” in this article). It was about a party thrown by Leonard Bernstein and his wife for the Black Panthers and is amazing because he rips just about everyone who was at the party to shreds. Halfway through the book I was amazed I’d ever heard of Tom Wolfe — this article had to have made him a ton of very important enemies. 

Basically, Wolfe describes the “radical chic” — the guests at the Bernsteins’ party. These included  people like director Otto Preminger, Barbara Walters, and a host of wealthy socialites. They were meeting with a leader of the Black Panthers to discuss ways to help their cause. White liberal guilt, you see.  Wolfe is an amazing writer and I had to laugh out loud at the way he describes the party goers and their bizarre form of virtue signaling (a phrase Wolfe should have invented).

“Mau-Mauing the Flak catchers” describes the goings on at the Office of Economic Opportunity ain San Francisco. “Mau-Mauing comes from the Mau-Mau Rebellion in Kenya and basically means intimidating. The flak-catchers are the mid-level bureaucrats whose main function is to take abuse from the young blacks and Samoans who are supposed to benefit from the economic programs administered by the flak -catchers.  It was good, but I liked the first article more — because it was so shocking, I guess. I don’t know if Mau-Mauing the Flak Catcherswas shocking in its day but it’s kind of accepted practice these days.

The book is not too long — about 150 pages — and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think I would have wanted to know Wolfe — he obviously was not shy about putting his cquaintances into his writing — but I did enjoy reading him. This was the second Wolfe book that I’ve read — he wrote a few novels and I read one: A Man in Full — I wasn’t really a fan. I do want to read some more of his nonfiction, though.

And I want to write about contemporary Christian music lyrics, too. Maybe tomorrow.

More later...


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Answer to Irene, Part 2


I figured I should take advantage of the Halloween filter because it probably won’t be around tomorrow. Hence the purple hair and Gene Simmons lipstick. (Okay, his was black, but you get the idea.) And by the way — every picture you will see of me on this blog has been filtered up the wazoo and then some.

Part two of whatever-this-is is about podcasting.

A few years ago I read an article by Nicholas Carr called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” . It’s about how digital media change our reading patterns (and our brains) — particularly how they inhibit our ability to do long-form reading. I won’t go into the whole thing here (it’s a really interesting article, so I’ll link to it — he’s written more about this subject since, but this was, I think, his first). I recognized that my ability to sit down and read for an hour was basically nonexistent. This worried me, but in his article he assured us that we could regain the ability (and I’m happy to say I have).

Anyway — this renewed my interest in reading books. I have yammered on in other places about my infamous reading lists (note to Bruce: print them out and display them at my funeral because I hate to think that my beautiful, wonderful lists will never be seen by anyone except me) and I wanted to attack them in a more serious, concentrated way.

One thing I’ve also yammered on about is that the more you read “good stuff” the more you want to read good stuff (GS). I have little patience these days for mediocre books. So I’ve been reading GS. Tons and tons of it. Last year I read more than 104 books — a little more than two books a week. Most of them GS. This year, too — not as many, but just as worthwhile. All sorts of books — fiction, biography, theology, history — you name it.

I have a lot of friends who love to read and a lot of friends who love to read worthwhile books. David is foremost — I talk with him about books more than I do anyone else. But — of course — he doesn’t read like I do because no two people like the exact same things. I would finish a book and feel frustrated because I didn’t have anyone with whom I could discuss it — and that’s when the idea of a podcast about books popped into my head. I could read whatever I wanted and talk about it for half an hour.

At first it went well — I had fun, anyway. But by the end (it lasted almost six months) I was noticing that it was affecting my reading. I have been hesitant to read long books — especially Proust — because I wouldn’t have much to talk about when it comes to books that might take me a few weeks to finish. I don’t get paid (obviously) for doing this podcast, so if it is going to affect my ability to read what I want it becomes a less desirable effort.

So the other day I thought I might not keep doing the podcast thing...but I might go back to blogging. Because if I blog I can write about what I read, but if that’s not all that interesting I can write about something else.

More later...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Answer to Irene, Part 1



There’s so much I want to say that I’ve been putting it off for a week now; I’m not sure where to begin. So I think I’ll just start and maybe ramble a bit, but if I start writing I’ll eventually say all the things I want to say. And I have to go way, way back — so this might take a few days.

There are three parts to this...this...whatever this is. The first part is the blogging part. I can’t even remember how long ago I started blogging — but it was so long ago that I had to explain that the word blog came from “web log” and still people weren’t sure what that was. I started on Live Journal, but moved to a blogger/wordpress site for no particular reason. It’s like how when someone gives you an AOL email address and you’re kind of shocked that folks have that still. Live Journal was where you started blogging, but then you moved to a more advanced, sophisticated, anything-but-Live-Journal site. Whatever.

When I first started blogging it was to keep track of my diet and exercise programs. That’s it. But when I lived in Michigan I didn’t have any friends, so blogging became a way to stay in touch with...something. There was no Facebook, so faraway friends could read and comment on my blog and I could know that someone, somewhere, remembered me. So I expanded my repertoire.

Lots — lots — of politics. I used to be addicted to politics. Trump knocked it out of me, so I have him to thank for that at least. But I went on a plant-based diet binge, too. An everything binge. I have always leapt from passion to passion and I probably won’t ever change. And what I was passionate about I wrote about.

Here is the embarrassing secret. I used to think that my blog would fill some void in the universe and it would grow and become a financial thing. I don’t mean I’d be rich — that was never a serious thought — but I would make a few extra bucks from blogging. I am not, however, that good. (If I AM that good I’m really lousy at publicity.)

Then I decided to use my blog to talk about my faith. A better aim for sure. But the problem was that with a Facebook outlet (and real, live, present-with-me friends) blogging became less of a necessity for me. So I was not consistent and each attempt died on the vine.

I’ve had at least four blog incarnations. No — five. Five names, five purposes. Some lasted for years, some days. I think it would probably be a good thing for it to last for a consistently long period, but who knows. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

So we are at the sixth version of my blog. Numero six-o. As always, I hope to blog often. As always, we’ll see.

More later...