Tuesday, February 26, 2008

motivation

I’ve been advised that, until I am writing at least a page a day, I’ll not be considered a writer. I want to be a writer, to some degree anyway. However, for the past year and a half, I have been committed to a few pages a week at most. Much of it has been in the form of this blog. I’ve had all kinds of excuses for not being more prolific in what I have set in my heart to be more involved in. No doubt you use the same excuses in your lives just maybe for different activities. It all really comes down to time, which I believe to be allotted by motivation. I need to be motivated to live my life in some form other than its default setting of busyness.
Consider me motivated. The one page a day thing has taunted me for the past few months. Every time I have the urge to consider myself in part a writer, this haunting reminder comes back and whispers, “How about today? What have you written today?” I hate whispering. It’s rude, especially when it’s a disembodied voice whispering in my own ear. Anyway, today will begin the grand experiment. For the next month I will write at least a page a day. For me that will mean about 500 words each day through March. It won’t all be here in this blog, but I’ll keep an honest update going here.
I’ll have to admit that I was tempted to just begin at the end of the week. It is, after all, the first of March coming up. What better landmark to begin with than the first day of a new month. It’s just another distraction though. I have been motivated today, so I shall start today. I have no guarantees that I’d be driven to begin anything new by the time the end of the week comes. There are too many distractions.
This week alone, I have a conference to be at, a wedding to perform, a teaching time to prepare for and a message to write from the “book of books”. I have meetings, I want to spend time with my wife, I have a daughter to be available for and I have a recently smashed car to continue to repair. I have people who want to meet with me, staff meetings, and of course lunches to fit in somewhere. Did I mention coffee? I need to spend time dreaming, I have a studio with unfinished work lying on a bench, and of course I only survive each day with an early afternoon nap. Let’s see, how much time for a page of writing I wonder?
The previous paragraph may have described your life as well. If it does, even just a bit, I’d invite you to join me. Fight the urge to live according to the urgent. Pray for the motivation to at least alter course for a critical point in time. Pray and then keep watch for a way up and out of the pit of urgency. Your motivation can come at anytime. It can be found in the face of a child. It may appear during a phone conversation with a friend. It may be drawn in an ad for a play or an art opening, or a concert. It’s there somewhere. Look for it and when it appears, fight the urge to put it off for another more convenient time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

signposts

I’m feeling a bit like Bilbo Baggins this morning. I’ve just completed a “There and Back Again” kind of experience. I’m home again, by the water, fog rising, espresso hiss in the background, and the distinguished Starbucks aroma filling the air. It’s a long drive from Boise where I’ve spent the past few days on a teaching assignment and watching my daughter tour her Fall choice for academic furtherance.
It’s a long drive, there and back again. Although I’m sure I had it better than Bilbo with a Mazda 6 to enhance the journey, it was long and grueling at times just the same. I would imagine that the mountains that we crossed would rival his Misty mountains as well. In case you’ve not experienced it, let me share with you that this country of ours still holds a great deal of desolation. You could still die, frozen and alone in the mountain passes, and rest areas don’t always appear on demand. I did wonder at times why we have spent so much time and money investigating whether or not life could be sustained on Mars when we obviously have enough of a challenge sustaining it along many of our own freeway systems. I am sure that I passed parts of our country where no man has ever stepped foot before, as well as others where man did once dare to tread only to be soundly beaten back.
Let me, while it’s still fresh in my mind, offer up a tribute to those individuals who were relentless in their drive to construct these roadways where it is obvious that the rest of us wouldn’t even stop to relieve ourselves. I hope that they were paid well. I’d move that Bud light would commission one of their “great men of genius” commercials for the mileage sign post guy. I would have to say that at times when all seemed lost on our journey, the often ignored signpost with the mileage reflecting off of it would encourage and spur us on. You may think that I’m using a bit of pastoral exaggeration here. You make the drive and then, if you survive, tell me your thoughts. I’m sure that you’d agree, especially if the mileage were reducing, telling you exactly how far till the end of a particular section of the journey, that these markers are critically important to ones sanity.
During one of my wife’s shifts behind the wheel, I was contemplating these signposts, urging them on, anticipating every last one, when the thought occurred to me that, sometimes, this could be a metaphor for my life. If I’m not careful, I could get into the “when I retire” mindset that leaves me in a holding pattern. I could easily find myself just marking time until the next big moment comes along instead of creating moments all along the way. Too many signposts have already gone by and unlike Boise, I can’t revisit them. I remember thinking “I can’t wait until I get my license”. Then it was graduation and college, and marriage, and babies, and school, and graduation, and college, and marriage, and college again (two kids). They’ve all flashed by much quicker than the drive to Boise and I’m all too aware of the ones still coming. The most sobering thought in all of this is that the signs are counting down, giving me some indication that the end of the journey is always approaching.
Encouragement for me comes knowing that I did not just let them pass. I am blessed with a family that, for the most part, has wrung every ounce of mileage out of every single sign. I intend to keep that streak alive. For any reading this, it’s never too late to take advantage of the moment. Live in each one and experience all that they have to offer. Even as we drove through some of the most desolate areas I’ve ever encountered, I found that it was at the same time breathtakingly beautiful. All I had to do was to look beyond the signposts.

Monday, February 11, 2008

improv

This is week two of car-lessness. While my wife and I were blissfully and mindlessly enjoying the World of the Mouse, my daughter was rear ended in our car by an individual who has remained, nameless due to privacy laws. It took ten days just for him to decide who he was insured by, but that’s a story for another day. As a result I have taken up residence in yet another caffeine establishment. Fortunately for me, here in the promised land, I have no less than eight others within a two block walk. So here I am, another morning, another corner window seat, with another view of life.
It’s just as well that I’m walking more as I have not been to the gym in about three weeks now. Walking a thousand miles with the Mouse, I haven’t yet felt compelled to go back yet to the tread mill or stair monster. I’m sure they’re not alarmed though as my payments are still automatically withdrawn. So I‘m improvising.
It’s been good for me really. It goes against my nature, to improvise I mean. I personally think it really goes against basic human nature, unless of course you’re an artist or a musician….or my wife. For her, life is improv. You merely play off of whatever comes along. I admire the ability to wake up each day and to have no idea what is going to take place. I mean really, who of us actually knows what is going to take place anyway. We’d like to think that we know or that we can control it. In reality though, life happens much closer to improv than to plan. The artists and the musicians, and my wife are just ahead of the curve. It feeds their creativity. They’re flexible. They’re fun. They’re interesting. On further examination, I have come to realize that the energy spent trying to live in the moments as they come is much more rewarding than the energy trying to direct them. It’s great exercise really…better than the gym.

Monday, February 04, 2008

details

I’m glad to be home….sort of. It’s not that I’m not happy to be here in the land of good coffee and bad traffic. It’s just that it is a bit difficult to compare this to my last two weeks in the World of the Mouse. And it was a different world. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had this experience, but let me just tell you that you haven’t really experienced the Magic of the Mouse until you’ve gone to his place in central Florida. The, wedged into the middle of, Anaheim version isn’t the same. Disneyland is a great diversion, but I’m telling you Disney World is truly an experience. I would never recommend it though during Summer or Spring breaks. Then it’s merely sweat, exhaustion, frustration, crying (probably yours), and just about everything that is wrong with mankind, along with a very large price tag. Who would pay for that? I’m referring instead to an offseason, beautiful weather, less crowds, shorter lines, experience of the off season. What really interests me is that I ultimately paid less for a better experience. I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the American consumer.
I know that there’s some who will read this and dig in with an indignant attitude. You would never stoop so low to be seduced by the great capitalist, elitist, extremist and whatever –ist I’ve forgotten to mention, mob mentality that would invest so poorly and superficially in such a frivolous waste of time. Whatever…. I’ll be considered guilty as charged. I consider it a tremendous investment into one of the greatest psychological and sociological experiments ever undertaken in the history of man. I challenge any individual with an ounce of concern for humanity to experience the magic that happens there and not be amazed at how people are affected and influenced and directed and otherwise coerced into taking part in exercises that defy explanation.
Here’s just one illustration of what I’m referring to. When one thinks about Disney, the first thing that usually comes to mind (outside of expense) is “lines”. I witnessed people of ever tongue, tribe, and nation, as well as EVERY economic means, pay big money to stand in long lines. The lines are legendary. Waiting in lines go against every fabric of the American being, and yet people will invest life savings to do so, perhaps waiting hours for a 3 minute experience. What student of humanity cannot be impressed by their ability to do that?
After having spent 10 days this trip and a number of days during my lifetime I can tell you this. Their secret is in the details. While I was there I purchased a book about the life of the great visionary who originated all of this. He has a remarkable story really and through it all and in the creation of these other world experiences that he inspired, the secret is in the details. It is the details that turn a wait into an experience. You don’t merely wait for an hour for a 3 minute ride. The 3 minute ride is just the culmination of an hour long experience. The details are in the wait themselves. Every ride is a virtual Hollywood set with things to see and touch and smell and hear. The ride is just the dessert at the end of the meal. When I go to Six Flags Over Whatever, all I get is a high price tag, long lines, and a 3 minute ride. On a busy day, maybe a grand total of 30 minutes on rides can be accomplished along with 10 hours of standing in line. With the Mouse, I get hours of experience to go with the rides.
All was not utopia though in the land of details. I did find one glaring detail that was omitted…. Decent coffee. In my personally biased opinion, good coffee is almost a deal breaker. Being as the Mouse has never really been to Seattle, they have this odd idea that Nescafe makes coffee and that it is worthy of being marketed as their official substitute for real coffee. Actually I honestly believe that they think that it is coffee. Even in Animal Kingdom, at the little quaint African coffee hut, Nescafe was being offered. I doubt any self respecting African would try to pass this stuff off as being grown on their continent. I intend to write a “strongly worded letter to the company”. Good coffee is an essential detail. For good coffee, I am happy to be home.