Sunday, November 4, 2018
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.
Friday, November 2, 2018
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.