31 October 2009

Day of Rest. An idea that works

  I have always embraced technology, and still do, but I also understand that the manic connectedness spreading through American culture is not always health. E-mail, cell phones, texting, and social media connects people to work, family in friends around the clock, seven days a week. Yesterday Maria and I took a one-day sabbatical, something we are thinking of doing for one day every week. We didn't check e-mail, answer cell phones, go on Facebook or Twitter. Maria doesn't do too much of this anyway, but the nature of my work and life bring me into contact with more new media.
  We had a wonderful day off. We had dinner, took walks, read, slept late, talked, visited with friends. It was our own version of the Sabbath, a non-religious foray into a day of comtemplation – and connection – with people and our lives, rather than other people and theirs. I notice that many of the people I work with are abandoning personal contact – they use e-mail only. And they have the expectation that I will be online all of the time checking it. I love this blog, and the amazing opportunities the Internet offers for new kinds of communities, new ways to connect and get my story out. But we also loved a day off from it, and that requires thought, discipline and planning. It was a great idea. I'll write more about it later.

30 October 2009

Day Of Rest. Getting Yourself Back

Izzy, waiting for me

  October 31, 2009 – I was born and raised in a Jewish family, but Judaism never quite took for me. I converted to Quakerism when I was  a teenager, and have since drifted, going to church much more often than any temple, but never quite landing anywhere. Faith is a puzzle for me, a personal as much as an institutional thing, and I am not sure I will ever quite resolve it.
  One of the Jewish ideas that intrigued me was the Sabbath, a day of rest, a compelling break in always chaotic
 and stressful lives. My quarrelsome family never observed this ritual, but it caught my imagination.
   On the Sabbath, observant Jews stopped working, and spent the day with family and in contemplation. It seems this is an idea of special relevance in our hyper-kinetic lives. A friend contacted me recently and left a message that offered as many ways of contacting him – e-mail, cell, landline, Facebook, Twitter, blog – than the Pentagon. He seemed stressed. No wonder.
  In an age of sometimes mindless connection, disconnection is important. Maria and I are taking a non-religious day of rest, starting this afternoon. We will stay off of e-mail, away from work, the phone, blogs and read, talk and rest.
  I realized in the last few weeks that I am tired. I want to learn how to rest, be still, at peace.
  The last year or so has been the most intense of my life, and as I break away from a lifetime of fear and manic energy, I am more intrigued than ever with the notion of rest, withdrawal, and contemplation. I have a bottle of red wine, some cheese from Vermont, fresh fish to cook, and three good books in urgent need of reading. And a wonderful person to share all of this with, and to talk.
  I haven't done anything like this in years, and I am not entirely sure I cannot do it. Can I stay off the blog? Away from photos I'm not sure about taking a break from photos), not write or research my books? I already avoid TV and radio pretty much, so that will not be a problem. I think it's important. I'll report tomorrow on how it goes.

Posted in General

Optimism. The greatest form of courage?

  A friend of mine steered me to a quote by Arctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton, who survive a horrific and potentially catastrophic expedition and wrote that he thought sometimes that optimism was the greatest form of courage. I thought that quote especially relevant. The balance between being positive and being myopic is hard to find sometimes. We drown in a sea of hostility, negativity and bad news, and when we seek to comfort ourselves and others, we are sometimes accused of being indifferent to the horrors of the world, ostrich like and unthinking.
  I am keenly aware of the bad news in the world, and have experience a bit of it, but I like Shackleton's idea. It takes courage to be optimistic as well as realistic, positive as well as fearful, determined as well as resigned. I deal with some kind of fear almost every day, and I have challenged myself to be brave enough to be optimistic about my work, my life and my life. It is a form of courage in our culture.

Hmmmm. Rancid Wet Leaves

  Lenore's favorite new treat is rancid wet leaves, scarfed up from the bottom of a mud bog and eaten fresh. Ah, the palette of a
Lab.

Troubled Potholder. The Controversy Rages.

   Actually, it isn't all that much of a controversy. I wrote yesterday about Thursday's Daily Potholder (above) from Maria that I thought this mix of Pink and Green was a bit bilious, and I have been roundly thumped by nearly everyone. People like the mix, like the colors, like the potholder and seem united in the notion that my taste isn't all that great and I have no idea what I am talking about. I suspect, although I don't know, that many people have offered to buy Maria's potholder. When I showed her the post last night, she just laughed and said she would have to write something about it on her website. One faithful blog reader wrote that she had just bought sweaters for her daughter that were pink and green, and I should stick to photography and writing.
  Hmmmph. But probably a good point.