“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful”
Margaret J. Wheatley
The New Year is a beautiful, symbolic holiday. We use the New Year to kickstart healthy, life-changing habits. To form new friendships. To celebrate the upcoming year and the hope that next year will yield fruit and prosperity in some way. In all of our anticipation for the New Year and the fresh start–planning resolutions, buying gym memberships, cleaning attics–I think that we miss something vital.
Did we ever take the chance to reflect on the past year?
What is the good of setting goals and resolutions when we don’t take the time to enjoy the discipline we put ourselves under? When we don’t take time to appreciate the fruit of our labor for the year and the yield of our efforts? I promise you, this past year was great. In some, maybe tiny tiny way, there was greatness from the year.
Sometimes as a society we are so fixated on changing ourselves and constantly improving, that we forget to slow down and love ourselves and each other. We forget to slow down and be thankful. Slow down and reflect.
Gratitude. Bam. Full circle. (If you read my last post, you would get this reference).
In Russia, there is a tradition of celebrating January 14th (more technically, the lead in to January 14th) as the Old New Year. A day when Russians get together as a family or with friends and celebrate the yield of the previous year, and the accomplishments of the previous year. A time for reflection and gratitude.
I think this holiday is just as important as New Years. Reflection should always follow goals.
So I urge you this year, join me and our Russian friends in celebrating Old New Years with the New Years.
“There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge…observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination”.
Peace and Blessings,
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
Ultimately, happiness is relative. For me, happiness is sitting with my chescas (authentic handwoven Turkmenistan house-slippers that were gifted to me by a dear pal) propped up on a footrest in the lobby of our floor with my beautiful residents who for some reason have decided to unconditionally show love to me always. Happiness is writing this blog while sipping Mint Rose tea from my dark blue handmade ceramic mug with ABC family playing softly in the background. Happiness is waking up early naturally this morning without the assist of the demonic alarm, and going for a 9.8 mile run in the brisk, uninterrupted December morning air. Listening to podcasts on How Chili Peppers Work and The Time The Nazis Invaded Florida narrated so masterfully by the team on Stuff You Should Know (http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/, I highly recommend it). Happiness is being surrounded by people who share the same passion of worshipping God as I do as we fellowship and lift each other up. Happiness is the breathing in the aftermath of deep cleaning my room; scrubbing the floor with Clorox Bleach wipes, doing all of the dishes, wiping down surfaces that don’t get attention, finishing all the loads of laundry that I have neglected to attempt to start this past week. Oh my gosh, happiness is vacuuming the carpet and then slipping off my socks.
I have been very blessed in my life to be afforded many, many opportunities to do things that make me happy. Things such as living in Glasgow, Scotland for a spell or getting to spend my summers program directing and counseling at a bible camp or the chance to be a Resident Assistant and form new relationships. I’m not saying these things to boast about how easy life has been to me and how lucky I’ve gotten. How fate loves me more and how blessed I am. I’m citing these examples to make a point:
Upon reflection of what has actually attributed to my happiness levels, I have found that it isn’t the fact that I’ve been given opportunities or that I’ve taken chances or that I’ve gone out of my comfort zone as much as possible. The events that one can write down in a planner…those aren’t what make me happy.
Happiness has not spawn from people giving me gifts, or from people paying me compliments. Happiness has not come from winning things or being the best at anything.
No, for me, happiness has come from gratitude.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
Happiness doesn’t come from stuff. Happiness comes from being thankful for the “stuff”. Happiness is produced by mental reflection on our part. If someone handed me a new pair of gloves as a gift, the gloves themselves do not release endorphins or serotonin or dopamine. The emotions come when I reflect upon the gift. I have a couple of options upon reflection, I can chose to ask:
- Is the gift useful to me? (I already have a good pair)
- How much do I like the giver personally? (she can sometimes be obnoxious)
- What is the quality of the gift (they were obviously second-hand)
or I can change my reflection habits entirely. I can ask better questions.
- How much effort did this giver go through to secure this gift for me? (Even though they might be second-hand, she still wrapped them well and took time to approach me to give them to me)
- What else has the giver given to me in this gift? (Even though she is obnoxious to me sometimes, she is also giving me the chance to think about her differently, in a new light)
- What makes me so special to have deserved this gift? (Even if I already have a good pair, perhaps she has taken the time to want me to be able to replace my pair if need be)
The idea of gratitude doesn’t have to always apply to gifts. It definitely doesn’t mean posting a thank you card and calling it good. It can apply to life. Ultimately, taking the time to reflect upon gratitude and what one is grateful for is like taking the life you have now and squeezing as much happiness as possible from it.
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson
I can tell you from personal experience that gratitude is almost the single-handed reason for my happiness. Every morning, while I savor my cinnamon honey oatmeal and sip on my dark roast, fresh brewed cup of magical coffee, I take the time to journal. I use the beautiful, wonderful Moleskine journals (pronounced Mol-ay-skeen-ay, in case one wondered) that my father has purchased for me every birthday (I go through about one a year), and I take about 10-20 minutes to half-pray, half-write down what I’m thankful for.
It usually begins with being thankful for coffee.
But it’s simple, and it’s positive reflection, and it reminds me of the people who are beautiful and who are around me. And I have found that gratitude doesn’t come from being happy, happiness comes from gratitude.
Gratitude does not spawn from being happy, being happy spawns from being grateful.
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Why does the simple act of thinking about who and what I’m grateful for make such a big difference in my life?
One of the best blogs for always inspiring me in some way is Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. I highly recommend it, he focuses on gratitude and also simplicity. The above question comes from his post on “Why a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy” (http://zenhabits.net/why-living-a-life-of-gratitude-can-make-you-happy/), and he provides a four-fold answer that I would like to share with you on the question of why gratitude makes such a big difference.
- Because it reminds you of the positive things in your life
- Because it turns bad things into good things
- Because it reminds you of what is important
- Because it reminds you to thank others
Gratitude also works to combat some things that inhibit happiness. Things such as selfishness, discontent, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.
It combats selfishness because reflection swivels the focus of the reflector onto other people and other things outside of themselves. When I am truly grateful for something, I am so wrapped up in the emotion of it that I want others to share the same feeling.
It combats discontent because it reminds me that I have enough, that I am enough, that I have done enough. I think the tendency to underestimate how fortunate you are is extremely prevelant, and is honestly cured by reflecting. When you reflect upon how actually fortunate you are, you then realize you’ve left out some things.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
It combats fear because it reminds you that there are people in your life who have your back. You reflect upon these people and the past things they have done for you, and you feel secure because of the support they have offered you in the past and will undoubtably offer to you in future if the need were to arise.
It combats uncertainty because you are able to reflect upon prior periods in your life that were also uncertain, but that you emerged from successfully (I say successfully, because you’re here, aren’t you?).
It combats anxiety because happiness is a stress-reliever. Truly. My anxieties wash away when I flood my stress with the emotion of happiness.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne,
So I emplore you. If you are struggling with a lack of happiness, if you are stuck in selfishness, focused on discontent, drowning in fear, lost in uncertainty, consumed with anxiety…try it. Just try it. Try writing down a gratitude list, try reflecting on what you are grateful for.
The more you do it, the more you practice gratitude, the better you are going to get at it. The more naturally it will come. The more gratitude will slip subconsciously through the shadows and be applied to all areas of your life.
Gratitude doesn’t involved comparing yourself to anyone else. Find solace and relief in that, because too much of life seems to involve comparisons.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
What better opportunity to practice gratitude and purposeful reflection than the holidays?
Peace and Blessings,
It is a cause of concern for many that some parents raise girls to be self-aware of the consequences of food that they are consuming while at the same time seem to encourage boys to consume as much as they can. This raises gender equality issues and concerns; “Why can’t a girl eat as much as a boy? How fair is that?” or, “I will never discourage my girl from eating to her heart’s content, that’s wrong and unfair”. These concerns are justifiable. There many trends in our society that yield inequalities to women, that every issue seems to be able to be fixed with complete gender equality. With so many issues and so many concerns, a blanket solution has been laid out and is expected to fix the problems.
I understand the feminism movement; I definitely did not used to. I was under the assumption that feminists believed that women had such an amazing potential and are such a deeply complicated and underrepresented member of society and have the ability to be superheroes. Men are men. But women are the true heroes of our day, with their hidden and unappreciated strengths and gifts and talents. Boys will be boys. But women…
And so on.
This is not the feminist movement.
The movement is for gender equality. For equal opportunities for both genders. It is silly and it is petty to not pay either gender the equivocal amount of salary for the same job. It is silly and it is petty to deny either gender opportunities to succeed based purely on the biological or social gender they represent.
The purpose of the feminist movement is to bring to light how ridiculous it is to undermine the talent of any individual and the passion of any individual based on something they had no part in deciding for themselves. We lose as a society when we categorize people and inhibit their potential.
This all being said, there is a substantial however. Now, bear with me. Sometimes, sometimes, gender equality is not a good thing. Because sometimes complete gender equality inhibits the opportunity for gender equity. And ultimately, it’s gender equity that the movement is pushing for. Equal treatment for all to afford equal opportunity.
I am a believer that in some situations, gender equality must be sacrificed in order to pursue equity.
Such situation includes nutrition and diet.
Now, back to the parent example. This situation can be perceived as purposeful inhabitation of gender equality, but I believe it is also a way of parents identifying that metabolisms are different for boys and girls, and this is a way that they are training their female children to be aware of this before they are faced with the consequences of this unequal metabolism.
Gender equity won’t be afforded if gender equality is pursued; because the issue is unequally represented between the genders to begin with. So, naturally, the individual must be addressed instead of lumped together.
Is it actually true that the metabolism is different between the genders?
Short answer: yes. Alright, you can stop reading now.
Longer and more interesting answer;
Chantal Vella and Len Kravitz, Professors from the University of New Mexico, presented research titled Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism, and essentially supported my hypothesis on metabolic rates being gender dependent.
Vella and Kravitz studied hormones, particuarily sex hormones and the effect they have on lipid storage on various parts of the body. The results yielded that, “Estrogen has been found to inhibit the hormone LPL which is responsible for the breakdown of TG in the blood stream for storage in adipose tissue or fuel for active tissues”.
Because the bodies of women and males have evolutionarily, physiologically, naturally, any kind of “-ally” suffix one might attach, different “purposes” for life (women to carry and support a child and men to do whatever they do), it is only natural that the woman functions gastronomically different than a male in order to support this functioning.
Estrogen, the female-specific hormone, naturally instructs the body to store a higher amount of fat in the female in order to increase the chances of reproductive success in a woman. Estrogen does this by enticing fat storage in the hips and thigh regions of the woman, as opposed to the abdominal regions that are targeted by fat in males.
This is because it is more difficult to burn fat in the hips and thigh regions, and therefore the likelihood of the fat being protected for longevity sake is greater than if the fat were stored in the abdomen such as in males.
One might argue that then this isn’t an issue of metabolism as much as location. However, because the fat that is stored in a woman remains for longer because of location, it is easier to build up.
Therefore, Vella and Kravitz state that “although the mechanisms are unclear, the findings suggest that a lower resting fat metabolism may contribute to the increased fat storage in women as compared with men”.
Summary: they hypothesize that Estrogen and lower fat metabolism rates go hand in hand in order to promote more storage in women than in men. “The bottom Line: There are distinct differences in the mobilization, metabolism, and storage of fat between genders (summarized in Table 1).”
Perhaps we accredit societal influences on the ideal body type for a woman with having the most impact on women consciously not eating as much as men. Perhaps we disregard the fact that the body of a woman is not made to support as much food as the body of a man, and it is hard on the body if the genders were to consume the same amount of food.
I believe that those two concepts go hand-in-hand to influence the food awareness that is more prevalent in females then in men.
Discipline is something to be respected, and discipline can extend to food consumption. There is a greater risk for excess food consumption in females than males due to metabolic rates differing, and because food is something that increases Serotonin levels, it is an engaging experience to consume food. Therefore it takes discipline to eat the correct amounts of food for the body, and deny the promptings of Serotonin.
So instead of solely attributing food-consciousness in females to the societal normatives of the “perfect body type”, it can be positive in that it shows discipline. I do acknowledge that media has a great and profound impact on women body perception; but I am also suggesting that perhaps food-consciousness for females is not entirely a negative concept.
In order to promote this equity over equality, I have formulated a sample 7-day diet plan for a woman and a 7-day diet plan for a male. They both follow vegetarian diets.
First: some basic nutrition.
Carbohydrates: the body’s most efficient way to get everything it needs. It is produced by plants through photosynthesis, and is made of compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen called sugars. These compounds attach together and create chains of carbohydrates, referred to as “complex carbohydrates”.
They are better known as “starches”. During digestion, enzymes break down the complex chains back to simple sugar, which are then able to pass into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall for distribution to the body. The metabolism kicks in and transforms the simple sugars into energy.
Fiber: suuuuper long chain of complex carbohydrates that do not fully get digested due to the length. They eventually make their way down to the colon. Dietary fiber is present in all plant tissues.
Fats: a major source of long-term energy that do not get metabolized as fast as sugars.
Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature and are more commonly located in animal tissues. These are the “bad for you fats”, because they tend to clog arteries and yield no energy advantage.
Unsaturated fats, the “good for you fats”, are liquid at room temperature and are found in plants. I promise this isn’t a ploy to get you to become vegetarian, it’s just fact. Our body is able to synthesize most of the fat it requires form carbohydrates, allotting them the term “nonessential fats” because they don’t need to be eaten to give us what we need.
Proteins: they provide the foundational support for the structural parts of our bodies. They are built by combinations of the 22 animo acids, and are gathered from all foods including both plants and animals. Many of these amino acids our bodies can make from scratch. Only 8 of the 22 are essential amino acids and must be obtained through gastronomic ingestion.
Water: yields no caloric energy, but actively participates in cell formation and is the environment in which the cells live. So…pretty important, yeah.
Vitamins: they are organic compounds that are made useful only by plants and bacteria (excepting vitamin D, which can be metabolized by mammals with the assistance of sunlight).
Minerals: they come from inorganic matter, namely The Earth. Metabolic reactions take place in the thousands to yield these minerals; the most common of which are iron and calcium.
This is a pretty widely-accepted chart for men and women that would effectively deal with the metabolisms on a individual basis:
This is my proposed, samply 7-day plan for a female. The brunt of this comes from https://happydietitian.wordpress.com/category/nutrition/, so take a look there for more information. I used MyFitness Pal to calculate the nutrition values for each food.
This is my proposed plan for the 7-day diet for Males. This plan is based on information gather from the website https://www.eatthismuch.com, which I highly recommend as a good resource for meal planning and diets.
More protein is required for males than for females because of the nature of the male metabolism. The muscular system of the male is more engaged in activities than the system of females, and thus more compromised, and because of such, the foundational protein is needed in a greater quantity for males than for females.
Male metabolism also requires more fat, because the fat storage tends to be in areas of the male body that burn fat easily. Female metabolisms store fat in hard to burn places so as to prepare the body for reproduction and supporting life for two.
Therefore, less fat is necessary for females, because it doesn’t burn as fast as for males. Carbohydrates should make up 70-80% of the diet for both males and females, and is therefore higher for males naturally to compensate for the increased need for fat and protein.
Yes, gender equality is very very important. It leans toward naivety to believe otherwise in our modern society. In the past, when societal duties required more physical labor or riskier tasks, it made sense to divide jobs by gender and allow the more naturally physically inclined male gender to take the brunt of these tasks.
Our society has moved toward the white collar jobs now, the tasks that require more intellectual effort than physical. This is something that can be applied–and should be applied–equally to both genders.
But gender equality at the expense of gender equity? It’s counterproductive. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the task of trying to make everything equal and become offended and defensive when things are not.
Concerning diet and nutrition, it’s going to be very difficult to work against nature and biology. Metabolism is something that cannot be guilt-tripped into changing.
“A Lesson in Nutrition.” Dr McDougalls Health Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
Berglund, Anders, Angelo Bisazza, and Andrea Pilastro. “Armaments and Ornaments: An Evolutionary Explanation of Traits of Dual Utility.” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 58.4 (1996): 385-99. Web
Shields, Stephanie. “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women.” American Psychologist30.7 (1975): 739-54. Web.
“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give”.
1. beyond what is normal or natural.
Guess what November 30th (tomorrow) is?! It’s the birth date of the great Winston Churchill, born November 30th, 1874 in Woodstock, UK.
For some reason around 8 or 9 years ago, I chose this man to be my hero. He was little more than a name to me after spending a year living in Scotland and learning about the Prime Ministers, and then studying the two World Wars in school.
I can only assume that at the time I was attracted to the idea of having a hero, and I took a fancy to the regal name “Winston Churchill” and the fact that not many people know much about him. I like to be different, it’s one of my favorite things in life.
It is a common practice to learn about a hero and his or her moral standings and then adopt him or her as a life hero, not the other way around. Again, I like to be different.
Since choosing Winston Churchill, I have read a good amount of his biographies, personal accounts, diary entries, speeches, letters to Clementine, documentaries, and blog posts. And let me tell you…I could not have chosen a better hero.
This man inspires me beyond all imagination.
When people ask me why I love Winston Churchill so much–why my phone background is Winston, why I have a massive poster of Winston Churchill front and center in my room, why his name finds a way in every meaningful conversation I ever have, why he is the subject of my phone case, why I blush when people bring him up–I get so flustered because it’s such a hard question to answer these days. I want to reply:
How many hours do you have?
I wanted him to be the feature of my post for this Sunday first because his birthday is tomorrow and this is me “pre-gaming” for the great day, and also because he has added so much to the quality of my life that I want others to be inspired by him as well.
Why do I love and respect and revere Winston?
1. Winston Churchill was a hard worker.
Winston was born into the wealthy Duke of Marlbourough family to Lord Randolph and Lady Jennie Jerome Churchill. His father, Randolph, was a politician, and his mother was the daughter of an American millionaire. Although he could be considered by some as “lucky” to have such a “stellar family”,
Winston was far from fortunate in childhood. He was sent to a boarding school early on, and did not have a good relationship with either his father or his mother, or really a relationship at all. He repeatedly wrote to his mother, imploring her to come visit him in school. She never reciprocated. His mother. Bless his heart.
Winston was independent and rebellious growing up. More accurately, he was exceedingly stubborn. If he couldn’t see the benefit in doing something, he wouldn’t do it. School was a bit rough for him with this attitude, made even more difficult by his childhood speech impediment.
Winston learned early that no one was going to come and save him or protect him from the cruelty of humanity; he learned how to stick up for his beliefs despite the consequences, and he learned that if he wanted to be someone than he would have to work hard. So he did.
One of his most notable accreditations is his reputation as being one of the greatest orators of all time. He wrote all of his own beautiful crafted speeches, yielding quotes from “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life” to “to improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often”. He did this by putting in an extraordinary amount of practice working through his speech impediment.
2. Winston Churchill was adventurous.
He had a great interest in the wonders of the world, and traveled often by joining the British military. He participated in a number of fascinating military adventures which lead to his career in newspaper reporting, launching his success as a writer.
He never liked vacationing, which he considered to be “a pointless waste of time”; instead he preferred exploring, being productive in travel and not wasting time deciding where to go next. He wanted to go places, not to just visit them.
3. Winston Churchill never gave up.
His love for his country caused him to arrange meetings at all hours of the night and morning, to be found constantly working and composing great speeches, and to even write a 6-volume history of Britain.
This lead to him winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even though he was immensly successful as a Prime Minister during the second World War –resulting in allied victory–, Winston lost the election for Prime Minister in 1945 because Britain needed a change from a wartime minister.
But did this failure result in Churchill giving up? Absolutely not. He stayed on as the leader of the opposition party and became Prime Minister again in 1950.
4. Winston Churchill was the same person all the time.
This is a quality that truly is lacking in contemporary society. If you are able to meet two people in your entire lifetime that you can genuinely describe as “the same person all the time”, then you, my friend, can count yourself lucky.
There are all kinds of excuses for why it isn’t beneficial to be the same person all the time; one wants to be respectful around the elderly, seemingly powerful around employees, or perceivably intelligent around professors.
We smile like we pretend we always smile, we use big words to which we do not know the definition, we hold ourselves erect in a postures we all know aren’t present when watching Netflix.
What would happen if we were the same people all the time? It would take a lot of self-confidence, that’s for sure. And humility. Pride can easily eat away at friendships if one is not careful.
Winston was the same person all the time. He possessed enormous levels of self-confidence and self-assurance. He wasn’t afraid to show the qualities that people choose to attack.
He was very interested in painting, fine spirits, smoking, gambling, and lounging around Downing Street (the Prime Minister headquarters) in the half-nude and he wasn’t interested in hiding any of these quirks.
Indeed, when visiting President Roosevelt in America, Winston actually flashed the President claiming that “he had nothing to hide”.
After World War 1, when the people of Britain wanted nothing but the absence of more war, Winston Churchill held his ground and urged his people to not appease Hitler. Even though it turned public opinion against him, he held true to his belief that Britain should not accept peace with the dictator.
After World War 2, when the people of the world wanted nothing but the absence of war, Winston Churchill held his ground and urged his people not to appease Stalin, not to accept communism to spread.
He was the one who coined the term “The Iron Curtain” and spent his post-Prime Minister days enlightening the people of the world against the horrors of communism.
We owe Winston Churchill potentially the success of World War 2.
If Winston Churchill had not been Prime Minister during World War 2, Halifax would have been and the Liberal Party of Britain would have reigned in Parliament. Halifax, like Neville Chamberlain, was very very much for appeasing Hitler. Most likely, without Churchill’s voice in Parliament, Britain would have given in to Hitler’s demand; they would have lost control of the powerful navy and a sizable chunk of British forces.
America would not have been drawn into the war until much later, when Hitler eventually moved to attack America, and probably would have been defeated by a British-German alliance of forces.
“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
Peace and Blessings, and a happy birthday, Winston Churchill.
I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
George Bernard Shaw
Being a Resident Assistant this year at my University has been an immense blessing in my life, and one of the greatest opportunities afforded to me thus far. I have never appreciated how valuable the art of a good conversation was until I was handed 21 residents with whom to converse.
Although I consider myself an introvert–disregarding outgoing tendencies–I find myself gratified when ending the day with good conversations tucked snuggly in my mind.
Having a good conversation is like reaching the peak of a high mountain; the view from the top is both immensely humbling and offers vast amounts of perspective. The girls that I have become friends with over this past year humble me daily. They are beautiful, thoughtful Creations who put pressure on my own way of thinking, blessing me with new perspective. This is done through the many good conversations I been fortunate to share.
A good conversation is also one that takes effort to reach.
You and I can agree that there is a great difference between a hill and a mountain, and indeed the summiting of a grand Mountain yields much more satisfaction than the Hill at the end of the street. Climbing the pavement Hill leaves one maybe a tad sore and feeling some way depleted in effort and energy. The summit of the little Hill is neither magnificent nor inspiring, and the energy exerted in order to peak simply was not worth the time.
So if the end goal is to be inspired with either humility or perspective, how does one go about hosting a “good” conversation?
It begins with the foundation; it begins with thought. One must actively decide to make the conversation either a Hill or a Mountain before the conversation ever begins. A Mountain conversation often begins with forethought.
Now, do not limit this analogy. I agree with you that there are cases when good conversations begin as hills and take an unexpected turn up Kilimanjaro. Sometimes the intentionality is more subtle, even subliminal. Perhaps the forethought required in beginning a Mountain conversation is deciding to oneself to not let the conversation be limited to a Hill.
That being said, how can one have the ambiguous good conversation?
I am sure there are many techniques for how converse well and I consider myself in no way a master of any of them. At the heart of it, I am not much of a good conversationist. I am still very much a pupil. This is my musing over a technique that has been successful in beginning good dialogues:
I talk about something that interests me.
I think people are very gifted at discerning authenticity from “fakeness”. They are very adept at pointing to when someone is being genuine and when someone is being fraudulent. Therefore, I have found that the best conversations occur when I am the most genuine. Unfortunately, I am not a good actress. It’s difficult for me to convey authenticity if I’m not truly interested in the conversation topic.
So I begin conversations on topics that interest me.
I intentionally choose to begin a path up a Mountain than a path up a Hill.
I say that a good conversation for me requires forethought. Just as it is difficult for me to have a good conversation with someone if I am uninterested in the topic at hand, it is difficult for someone to participate genuinely on a topic with me that they are uninterested in.
The forethought required is observation.
I want to have a good conversation with you. I want to emerge from this conversation with humility, perspective, and some personal development on my own end. I want you to see that I am genuine and I want you to be authentic with me, as well.
So I am going to observe. I am going to observe what you enjoy, what you would want to talk about. Then I am going to match your passions with mine.
I am going to begin the conversation with a topic that interest me.
I am going to maintain the conversation with a topic that also interests you.
And then we will summit.
A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.
“I was running away from the work that needed to be done to move my business forward. I was waiting for some magical beam of motivational light to come down from the sky. But what I found was that motivation isn’t a feeling…it’s a choice.” Josh Pigford
Running yields no obvious point in the modern society we live. Physically, it creates lactic acid build up in your muscles that disable the potential for optimal bodily comfort. Running wears down on bones and joints, creating unpleasant things like shin splints that take seeming decades to heal. It sucks time to run, and the more one runs the more time it takes for the run to be effective. The activity of it costs us money. We have to buy shoes, we have to buy seasonal running gear, we have to invest in the proper nutrition.
It doesn’t even really benefit us on an evolutionary basis to practice running. Except for rare, dire circumstances, there will not be a need to run away from a predator that is chasing me. Why wake up an hour earlier to the cold, frigid early-November morning to pull on my running shoes and subject myself to sixty minutes that I know will consist of pure, physical movement, when I could just as well utilize that hour to catch up on the sleep I already don’t get enough of? Why spend up to $150 on a quality pair of running shoes that will maybe last me a year at most, when I could just as easily devote that money towards something that matters? Like 10 pairs of actually cute shoes? Why should I ever blow $45 on a 13.1 mile race, when I could just torture themselves through 13.1 miles without spending money, or better yet, not ever run that far to begin with?
I use running as an example, because I am a runner, but these questions apply to almost any form of discipline. Any form of activity that requires intentional and uncomfortable effort. This can be practicing music for band or painting for art class. I hear these questions a lot, and often the source is my own head. Because they are valid. Exercise doesn’t really make sense…not really…
But it only doesn’t make sense if one skims the surface of discipline and never delve into the deeper point of the practice. So what would happen if one took the time to find the point in discipline?
Can’t I see? Exercise, in whatever form, does hold evolutionary value for us as a human species.
Our predator–the large, powerful animal that is chasing us through the woods trying to drink our very life–is still very much present in our society. Only it no longer exists in the form of a physical animal. Our contemporary predator has become instant gratification.
Our society has turned into a hungry culture that demands the pleasantries of life as soon as possible. We are a microwave-loving, Netflix-consuming, delivery-ordering world. I want to be full now. I want to be warm now. I want to be sleeping now. I want to be entertained now.
Honest, I’m not here to dog on microwaves (I cave at the smell of microwave kettle corn), or Netflix (O Glorious Parks and Recreation, when will your last season become available?!), or the blessed Jimmy Johns. I’m not here to insult comfort or say somehow that I am better than the rest of the consumerism world. I love all those things, too, and I want all those wants daily. The problem is not with wanting to be comfortable, because wanting to be comfortable is natural and understandable. The problem is that we as a society has begun to become so consumed with the desire for instant gratification that it has turned us mean. It has turned us rude. It has turned us selfish.
That’s the problem. That’s why this instant gratification is our slow-moving, sneaky, contemporary predator.
I have found myself very willing and ready to serve myself first in food lines or at the dinner table in lieu of serving someone else, because I am hungry and I desire to be full now. I have found myself getting angry and upset when the Netflix browser is “experiencing unexpected technological errors” and snapping rude comments at my family in order to express my frustration. I have found myself asking for someone else’s coat when I am cold, even though it is at the expense of their own warmth.
Do you see a problem?
My desire for instant gratification has overridden my sense of servitude, kindness, and selflessness. Instant gratification has caught up to my slow jog and begun to feast on my moral flesh. Guys, it’s bad. And it’s so subtle. And when so many aspects of society reinforce instant gratification it’s all too easy to buy into the lie;
The lie that true gratification can even come instantly.
And for this very reason do I run.
I run to practice delaying instant gratification, because true satisfaction will never never come instantly.
I have reached the point where I genuinely do enjoy running, even the looming “during” part. I look forward to the times when I get to lace up Paula (my beautiful Pearl Izumi running shoes) and explore my town on foot. I love setting up a No Meat Athlete or NPR: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! podcast in my ear, and being alone with my thoughts for a solid, uninterrupted hour. And this feeling that has blossomed, this feeling of getting actual joy out of running…this is so much more satisfying than sleeping in for one more hour that one morning.
Before you dismiss me as some overexercising loon with no concept of what “having fun” actually means, bear with me.
By no means have I won the victory over desiring instant gratification in my life, and that pertains to running, too. There are so many slow run workouts that I want to run fast for, and so many fast running workouts that I would rather run much, much, much slower. Sometimes when I’m wrapping up my scheduled 5 mile run, I feel so good that I want to run two more miles. There are times (a lot of times) that I would rather only run 4×400 speed intervals on the boring, circular track than the 6×400 speed intervals I have scheduled for myself. It’s just two more miles…it’s only two 400’s less…
Yeah, I feel good enough to run two more miles on top of my 5. But tomorrow, when I run 6 miles, I’m going to probably want to run two miles less because suddenly I don’t feel as good. Sure, it’s just two less repeats, but what happens next Wednesday when I go to do 7×400 intervals?
It’s going to be easier to run 6 miles when I haven’t strained myself running an unnecessary and unplanned 7 miles the day prior. It’s going to be easier to add just one more interval than three.
I run to practice delaying instant gratification. And boy, do I really need the practice.
This applies to so many other areas in my life. Doing my homework even though I would rather be watching a movie with my residents; going to that pointless class when I would rather be doing the homework I didn’t do when I watched a movie with my residents. Going to Church service on Sunday mornings. Taking 20 credit hours. Eating a salad. Not eating all the chocolate (definitely working on this one). Heck fire, even doing laundry (which I’ve let build up over the week and am currently suffering through doing 6 loads. Like seriously, Sundays are popular days to do laundry, and who in the name of all that is good and glorious is taking up 6 flipping washing machines?!?! It’s me).
These things, difficult to motivate myself as they are now, would be so infinitely more difficult if I didn’t practice delaying instant gratification.
So instead of letting those “what is the point…” thoughts ruminate in your head and infiltrate your thoughts…instead of resorting to the easy way out for life’s many discomforts….
Why not go for a run?
“Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and the ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.” ~Stephan R. Covey
…who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox…
Ginsberg explained that the hydrogen jukebox signifies a state of “hypertrophic high-tech, a psychological state in which people are at the limit of their sensory input with civilization’s military jukebox, a loud industrial roar, or a music that begins to shake the bones and penetrate the nervous system as a hydrogen bomb may do someday.”
“Ultimately the motif, the underpinning, the secret message, secret activity, is to relieve human suffering by communicating some kind of enlightened awareness of various themes, topics, obsessions, neuroses, difficulties, problems, perplexities that we encounter.”
That’s the Hydrogen Jukebox.
Turning the world upside down and shaking out all the pockets. Channeling curiosity, observation, adventure to explore truth and authenticity.
John Steinbeck wrote, “No man knows about other human beings. The best he can do is suppose they are like himself.”
I don’t know much about you. I don’t know your experience, your hopes, your dreams. I don’t know what scares you, or what lights you on fire.
But it is my hope that as I explore the world around me, and the world within, that what comes resonates with you.
This is for those who believe they are ordinary.
May they find that they, too, are mistaken.
Peace and Blessings,