Two men, their bodies building triangles on the slab of concrete: foreheads to the ground, pointing toward home. The center is outside the self. This is something they have realized, perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously, as they arrange their lives out of a gravitational necessity. At this time and this time and this time, we orient ourselves in recognition of an external, eternal order of things. I bend, I am flexible, I am made to be the supple mover, it is how we function in a world that is not our own. 

I wake up in the morning and, being made in the image of God, I create the world with my opening eyes. I wake up in the morning and, being born into the limits of man, I cannot share what I create. Leibniz's lonely monads in their unimpressed cosmic harmony. If only you could touch me, maybe we'd both feel something. Instead, we are helpless, we take charge by, bowing to the truth. That there is something merciless that mercilessly refuses to be defined. This is justice: to give the unheeding its due. 

If only it mattered that we are shaking our fists. But the Stoics knew it, the Epicureans knew it, the Buddhists know it: we cannot affect, so let us not be affected. Causation is a category we cannot think outside of, and an illusion we should not believe in. All the world is hollow: we are reaching out to fill the void with interlacing of hands; we are reaching out into a void that forever separates us. Divided by infinity, "we" do not exist. Divided from us, "I" do not exist. And so, through simple arithmetic, the only thing left is mathematics.



"And is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths? That her father and Etienne and Madame Manec and the German boy named Werner Pfennig might harry the sky in flocks, like egrets, like terns, like starlings? That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listened closely enough? They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, and pass through the other side, the air a library and the record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it."
{Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See}


I'm thinking this morning that...

We don't need our friends to be perfect; we just want them to be present.


Turning Liquid Sunshine Into Wine

It takes a coffee tree five years before it bears fruit. If it bears fruit at all.

We cannot live outside of the present moment, and as such, we feel it with an intensity that dulls our powers of choice and of reason to the compelling arguments of the past and the urgent concerns of the future. We may try to shield ourselves from a particularly painful present by dwelling mentally in the past, or we may have so much fear of the future that we project ourselves--not into the future, but into myriad possible worlds, any one of which could be (but will never quite be) the one in which we ultimately live. Still, we live and move and have our being... now.

We cannot know the fruit of our choices in the present. We cannot evaluate our lives solely in light of our present circumstances. We can only make choices, somewhat blindly, somewhat cautiously grasping toward where we think our best good lies.

I want to live with a firm sense of the arc of my life. That doesn't mean dwelling on the past or prognosticating the future. Rather, I think of it as a recognition of where I am coming from, with both the tools that supplies and the limits it imposes, as well as an idea of not only where I would like to be and what I would like to do, but also what life I would like to look back on from the penultimate point in that arc.

The present can be every bit as much a burden as the past or the future. We have to be able to see our way clear of the problems that beset us in the moment, or we despair and cannot move forward. We have to find a way to balance ourselves amidst these points: to be nourished and supported by what we know, to be inspired by our goals, and then, with faith, to "act! Act in the living present!" 

The fruit our labors bear is not visible today--may never be fully visible in our lifetime. So don't judge the present or hinge your feelings of success on some nebulous benchmark. There is no time for that. There is only another choice to be made, for better or for worse.


Making Moonshine

Distillation. What happens when you don't have time or energy? Two options. You're tired and you let your "down time" be down time. Tune out, turn off. Second option: you hoard that precious time to do something that you care about enough to ignore the exhaustion. 

It's easy to tell someone that they have the time and they're just not using it. But let's give them some credit: how much can they accomplish in those scattered hours?

Not too much credit: how much can they accomplish if they don't use their scattered hours?

We do not primarily build our dreams in the midst of a spontaneous break from or leveling of our lives as they currently stand. We build them slowly, one cog at a time, in the moments that we can separate from our lives of being committed to other people's projects (which is not all bad--you love your family, your friends, and so you are happy to help them along their way).

But to return to my first word, this reduction, this paring down of our time, forces us to grapple with the question of what is most essential. To get from point A to point B, what must I do? And before that, what do I care about most?

See also: the enormous number of things that I was able to pursue over the past few months because I had few commitments and no money. See now: 55 hours a week spent between full-time job and contract work. 

If we want to distill our interests down to the things that we ultimately care about most, we can do few things more effective than to reduce the time that we have to do them in. Hopefully the result will be a clarity of mind, a sense of focus, and a concentration of purposive action.