When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be…
I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it…
… Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.
My son, do not busy yourself with many matters; if you multiply activities you will not go unpunished, and if you pursue you will not overtake, and by fleeing you will not escape.
— Sirach 11:10, RSV
I need to rethink my life now.
He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits has no sense.
— Proverbs 12:11, RSV
Do not hate toilsome labor,
or farm work, which were created by the Most High.
— Sirach 7:15, RSV
I was listening to the Art of Manliness Podcast #204: How To Be Miserable and got inspired.
Not to try to be miserable – guest Dr. Randy Paterson’s advice is to find ways that you are already making yourself miserable, and stop doing those things. At least, not do them as much.
After all, there is no magic pill or psychological technique that can take anyone from “black dog gnawing on my soul” to “move over, Pollyanna!” in one giant leap. On the other hand, it is possible to make small, incremental changes to make tomorrow suck 2% less than today. String enough of those days together and… suddenly, life may not be awesome but it can be a lot better than it was before.
One of the ways to make yourself miserable is to set VAPID goals. Paterson created VAPID as the opposite of SMART goals. If SMART goals are
then VAPID goals are
- Pie in the sky
I know I’ve set VAPID goals for myself before. Paterson is right, they are a great way to be miserable. I recommend avoiding them.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport is two things:
1. A thorough debunking of the “passion” hypothesis (“follow your passion”, “do what you love the money will follow”).
2. An alternative approach summed up by the title, which Newport calls the “craftsman” hypothesis.
This is a simple but powerful change of perspective.
As Mike Rowe says, “just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.”
Newport’s advice is instead to first, stop sucking at what you do. Then you may have a passion worth following.
As someone who has struggled with the question of mission and meaningful work, I wish I had found this book ten or even twenty years ago.
Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
Suffyce unto thy thyng, though hit be smal…
However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup
— Wendell Berry
“Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not.”
― Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength
Overstated? Of course. Virtue in this life and eternal life in the next are more important. (But note: “virtue” was originally just Latin for “manliness.”) Rippetoe has clearly heard this objection before:
“A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.”
― Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength
It’s working for me. As an allegedly intellectual and spiritual person, life does feel better as my squat number goes up.
Am I a great lifter? No. See this blog’s tagline. I’m happy because I passed a milestone this week, and got my squat to pass my bodyweight. Rule of thumb is that a “good” squat strength should be 1.5 times your bodyweight. As long as I can keep progressing I should get there. Eventually.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?