Wednesday, July 2, 2014

what matters

Lots of reading today and here is Marilyn McEntyre on Alternatives to Organization.

In my wiser moments I know I have two practical choices: organize or simplify. And these are not only practical, but psychological and spiritual choices.

1) When you’re in a hurry, stop. For a whole minute. Shut the door and breathe deeply. Let go of what you’re clutching at; literally open your palms to receive energy and grace. Remember Ambrose Bierce’s cynical but oddly practical observation, “Few things matter very much and most things don’t matter at all.” Especially institutional drivel. Give yourself merciful permission to cut a corner, be five minutes late, leave something till tomorrow. Recite a short list of what matters most and put those things back in the center.

2) Attend to the call of the moment. The idea of “vocation” or “call” is a spiritual idea that serves me as well in thinking about the moment at hand as in thinking more largely about how to use my life. To discern what one is really “called” to do in response to any of the multiple demands a day brings involves some test questions: What is really being asked of me here? Is it appropriate? Is it proportionate? Is it important enough to lay aside other obligations? Can I respond out of peace and interest with real assent, or would my “yes” come out of guilt or fear of disapproval? If the demand passes those tests, it deserves my complete attention, not for five distracted, preoccupied minutes, but for five whole, undivided minutes.

3) “Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.” This is one of many useful admonishments in Wendell Berry’s poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” which I reread often and recommend highly to the busy, the distracted, and the dutiful. Real laughter that starts in the belly and comes through the heart requires a healthy distance on the preoccupations of the present moment. The wisest people I know have these things in common: they’re compassionate, they can keep their peace, they can keep their own counsel, and they laugh.
These practices, I think, don’t depend on organization. They depend on giving oneself liberal permission to stay tuned to what’s up, what’s needed, where the surprises are. When I manage to remember them, the day is more like a dance than a march; priorities keep rearranging themselves, plans get reframed, and life leaves room for the unexpected. Some things don’t get done. Others get postponed. But, more often than not, what matters gets attended to.


Carol said...

“Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.” Interesting that Chesterton links laughter to humility. Thanks for your comment on my post & mentioning the Marc Chagall book.

Gail said...

love this post Bonnie. It's like a "woman visit." Know what I mean?