Legacies and Honeybees

I want to do something that may last beyond me.

I doubt my writing will.

Maybe it will, if I get much better at it than I am now.

But I think the world has moved on, and is moving faster.

I do not think many people alive today will “last” the way their creative ancestors did.

The world is so different now, and it will be so different.

There are so many voices saying so many things, and that will only grow.

We are no longer great marble statues, enduring through the ages.

At best, we’re a good meal: enjoyable, healthful, giving both pleasure and sustenance

Living on, if at all, in the growth and strength we give to those we nourish.

 

Perhaps I will plant some honeybee-friendly flowers on the edge of our yard,

Far from where my daughter likes to play,

Where their buzz is faint, and their stingers out of reach.

Perhaps I can give them some sustenance, some strength

So they can hold on as a species

Beekeepers struggle to sustain their numbers, often failing

Wild bees dwindle

The species skitters across the slippery slope to extinction

If the bees go, a million plants go with them

 

Perhaps I’ll do the same for butterflies.

But these flowers I’ll plant in the heart of our yard

So we can see their stingless beauty up close

Perhaps this means I’ll write less

But create more.

And I am at peace with that;

A life lived wholly before a screen

Is no life at all.

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It Felt Like a Feast (Wrestling with Joy, Pleasure, and the Distractions of Modern Life)

people doing kettlebells exercises

I tried my first kettlebell swing workout tonight. My body gently aches from the back of my neck, across my shoulders and arms, down to my thighs and calves. Not two hours after I did the set, I found myself standing straighter, taller.

Maybe I really am 6’7”, and I’ve just been slouching.

But how did it feel? When I think back on my first, unimpressively weak (20 pound weight), slightly awkward experience with the kettlebell, what washes over me?

It felt like a feast.

Not just a buffet, or a coincidentally large meal. A feast, full of foods I really wanted, foods I only taste a few times a year. It felt like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Exercise has hardly ever felt like this before. Usually it’s drudgery in progress and pain and soreness following. But this felt like a feast. I’m beginning to understand people who love exercise.

Even putting aside sex totally, our bodies are meant to feel pleasure. Our bodies are meant to desire it.

But it seems like in my sedentary postmodern life, that sense is somewhat lost. Too much is buried in the screens: the gray of the office computer, the distracting static of the television, the infinite insignificance of the web, all exacerbated by long commutes and short nights.

The very technology and modernity that allows so many of us to live so comfortably, when in the past we might have died in the cradle, stands between us and the experience of joy.

We develop a disconnect with our bodies. We no longer stop and feel the rain, as we did in our youth. We no longer run for the joy of running, as we did as children. We no longer stop to let the wind rush over us.

Our pleasures are limited to our sex lives, the manufactured adrenaline of our media, and our food. And too often, that gets us into trouble. Because just as the media we consume is manipulated and processed to provide the fastest bang, the most addictive return on investment, so is our food.

And sometimes, this artificial intensity even spills over into our sex lives, in various forms of objectification. But that’s a topic for a different post.

Our bodies are meant to desire pleasure. Not manufactured, processed, white-sugar-buzz pleasure, with its dizzy intensity, inevitable crash, and empty hunger for more.

We are meant for spontaneous, genuine delight, like a child chasing leaves in an autumn wind. Like a young man running to meet the train that brings his beloved back to him. Like the sheer joy of feeling your body push its limits just far enough that it doesn’t verge into pain and damage.

It’s strange that a simple kettlebell swing reminded me of this. And stranger still that I went to a computer screen to share it. But such is the age we live in.

Time doesn’t run backward. Turning back the clock just breaks your hands. But who we are hasn’t changed, and the genuine joy we need is still available. Just look beyond the static.

Habits, Plans, and Wasting Time

Distracted Bunny

Drawing by Nuraska, Creative Commons

I’ve cursed the day we got a DVR. I’ve cursed my own short attention span, my ability to be drawn into the limitless flood of information on the Internet, pulled by one current and then another, until my mind is as muddled as a dry-season creek bed.

But I haven’t really stepped up and made those changes. You could switch that paragraph with one about serious regular exercise or half a dozen other things, and it would be the same lame story.

Today I’m going to try.

I’ve been reading about habits, and how out ingrained subroutines shape our behavior far more than our intentions do. Though I’m not finished with it, Jeremy Dean’s Making Habits, Breaking Habits has so far proven to be well-written, accessible, and research-based.

It’s been eye-opening, reading the results of study after study that says we don’t even really know what we’re doing when we act according to our habitualized patterns. And actually studying what we do, disrupting our habits by recording and understanding, is an important first step to breaking them.

So, I’m going to attack my wasting time habit first.

My plans are

Write down all the TV I watch for a week or three. Hopefully just seeing what I watch will help me stop watching stuff I don’t really care about just because I’m tired or bored or want a distraction.

Use Randall Munroe (writer of xkcd)’s trick to break the web-distraction habit. He explains it here in some detail. To make a long story short, he breaks the “novelty” feedback loop by powering down his computer after each task. If he checks the news on CNN, he powers his computer down.

He can turn in back on immediately, and go on to whatever else he wants, but the delay breaks the little addictive kick you get from moving on to the next link, the next story. He said it worked better than all the “focus” programs he tried.

I’m going to try the same thing, and see how it works. I like to read, but honestly, I get a lot more good out of reading a book than reading ten times as much material on the web.

Time is about to become far tighter with the addition of a daughter, and I already feel stretched thin. I’m going to have to become better at managing my life. And I think this will be a good first step.

Wish me luck!

 

The Broken Masses

Flinch not from the pain

Let your heart be wounded

Join the broken mass

 

Drink not the numb wines:

Despair, Internet, TV,

Distraction, Blame, Rage

 

Tear your finest robes

Wrap your flesh in sackcloth and

Your soul in ashes

 

Lift your voice and let

Your songs, your screams, your curses

Join the broken mass

Weekly Web Wows

Dew on a Spider Web by Luc Viatour

Image by Luc Viatour http://www.Lucnix.be, Creative Commons

Emily Maynard (not the one from The Bachelor) gets to the heart of the lustful eye with “Modesty, Lust, and My Responsibility.”  I was really impressed by her insight that lust isn’t about sexual attraction, but about control, even dehumanization.  It really hit home as deeply true.  You should definitely check this one out.

Ron Goetz explains bigotry, gay rights, and Christian politics much better than I ever could.

There aren’t many places on the web to read about Body Acceptance and Health At Every Size from a Christian perspective.  Check out Abi’s blog, Adipose Rex.

Most conscience-prickling.  Grace Biskie’s plea for racial reconciliation at Rachel Held Evans’s blog.  

Most heartbreaking:  Getting Tested for HIV.  Sometimes the consequences of infidelity go beyond social, beyond emotional, to the very edge of life and death.  And it’s not God’s punishment on the guilty.  The innocent suffer, too, as they all too often do.

And the “Where did THIS come from?” Award goes to David Weigel’s massive, ongoing history of Prog Rock at Slate.com.