Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life as Practice

My resopnse to Jon's post got lengthy, so it's over here instead.

Jon writes about procrastination - check out his post to see the course he's taking. Here's my multi-faceted response, describing how I've decided to approach it.

I'm with Jon on the "live in the moment" part, and at the same time understand how one can spend much time thinking about then or about later. Perhaps one way to go is to give oneself permission to plan, or permission to reminisce. "Okay, I'm going to work on planning out my week, and if I'm not done brainstorming and scheduling in fifteen minutes, I'll give myself another five to wrap it up." In other words, set limits. (This concept is adapted from somebody suggesting giving oneself permission to "be lazy".)

I'm not sure how to address the "I really ought to" part. There's the problem of not particularly enjoying doing some things... I think the anticipation ends up being much worse than the actual activity. That may be something that'll help you. Even going to the dentist, which I did today, was not so terrible. So I try not to adjust my anticipation to be closer to the reality, and try not to spend time anticipating.

But then there's the concept of guilt wrapped into the descriptions - or, I get the sense that there is. Procrastination and guilt can go hand in hand. I think it's pretty normal for guilt to try and creep in, and that the area of advancement is identifying it and chosing how to deal with it. My personal belief is that whatever one does is what's most important. Obviously cleaning the bathtub isn't too important to me, helping a coworker meet a deadline is more important than getting out of work on time. Paying my bills right when they show up doesn't matter, but keeping the hassle down by getting out the stamps and checkbook to do them all at once is (though this has resulted in more than one slightly-late utility payment.) And so on.

Last, I was going to ask Jon why procrastination is a problem? The real problem is that things don't get done on time. Why not? In my way of thinking, because they don't become a high enough priority. So maybe you could tackle the problem as one of priority instead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Chicken and the Egg

The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy - I mean that if you are happy you will be good.
- Bertrand Russell

The classic questions in Christianity - which comes first, man's will or God's grace? But I think Russell has it right, generally speaking.

It's also an indirect support of my preferred priorities - love people first, get that right, leave the judging for later.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


In addition to Trev's latest post:

A really good architect said, if nothing else, to design with care, because even if your talent is nothing spectacular, the care will be evident and it will make the things you touch special.

Or something like that. And I think it's true. And hope that somebody will find it encouraging.

As an architect, I can tell when someone was architecting, that there was thought put into something. And even if it's kind of dumb (not in the sense of stupid, but the other sense) or unspectacular, it's something that I notice, and appreciate that somebody put some thought in, did what they could.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Marking another year

I finally ordered some new books from Amazon, with a gift certificate that was about to expire. They arrived on my birthday:
    The Complete Guide to High-Fire Glazes: Glazing & Firing at Cone 10
    Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
    Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
    Be Here Now
    Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light
Mother Theresa, actually, hasn't been shipped. But it was nice to come home from work and have a birthday present like that. Be Here Now has a bunch of brown-paper pages comprising the middle half of the book, and the book's square rather than the usual paperback size. The glaze book looks fantastic. And Annie Dillard and Kathleen Norris are two of my favorite authors.

A surf over to Exploding Dog revealed images with these captions on my birthday:
    would you if you could?
    i want to believe you
    accept that you're out of your mind
That was amusing. Gravely amusing, but amusing nonetheless. What might it all portend?

Yesterday evening, I went into Borders and learned that Chris Rice would be playing at lunch today. I can't bear his optimism these days but went anyway. It was soothing, and a relief from work. Like they say on the X-Files poster, "I want to believe". But I'm not one to force things.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stoke! Patience and Observation

So I finally have four consecutive days off of work and what do I do? Drive out to the middle of nowhere, sleep on the ground, eat random stuff, and throw wood into a hole.

Well, it was nice to get away. And pretty normal. And amazing in its own quiet way.

On Sunday afternoon I couldn't help but comment, It amazes me that yesterday morning I shoveled embers from Friday's campfire onto a little pile of sticks and grass, and that has turned into this - a 2000 plus degree fire. I mean, it took hours, and I watched it happen, helped it happen, and still, there's something amazing about it.

As my generalized and literal description implies, there wasn't much going on. Once the fire was burning, somebody would be on duty to stoke - add fuel - and they'd sit near the kiln, check a few minutes after the last stoke, gauge the time until the next, check again, check again, stoke. Each cycle takes from 7-20 minutes, depending where we are in the firing. There's an art to patience, which is most of the game. The kilnmaster's done nearly a hundred firings in different kilns, and he's got this one dialed. I manage to ask the right questions, learn what queues him to act or wait, get into the rhythm myself. I peek in the door, he calls "how does it look?" and I respond, "about five minutes". It's been awhile since the last stoke, so he checks for himself. I feel good when he straightens up, saying, "you're right, five minutes". Throwing wood so that it hits the back of the kiln is harder than it looks.

So, yes. Lots of sitting around and doing nothing. Not even thinking. Very relaxing.

Some insight, though not too mystically gained: I learned about a personality test called the Personality Index. It measures one's levels of leadership (v. following), extroversion (v. introversion), patience (v. impatience), and detail-orientedness (v. big-pictured-ness). It also measures flexibility - one's ability to operate outside of their natural temperament and for how long - and happiness, which is the degree to which day-to-day life falls within one's natural methods. It seems really intelligent and useful, as things go, and even learning about the test gave me a lot of insight. Me? Probably patient, a leader, detail oriented, and introverted. The last months of tiredness, for example - part of it is caused by work taking more time than usual (and consequently other things getting less). Maybe in part by not having enough variety in my work. The last couple of weeks have been exhausting - so I would conclude that I've been doing things that aren't the norm for me - and that's true - and they've been wiping me out. Making adjustments to life is hard, and takes a lot of push-comes-to-shove, but it's worthwhile.