When I was staying home with our infant son, he and I spent the Chicago winter by listening to a lot of audiobooks. Among them was Walter Issacson’s biography on Steve Jobs.
The audiobook clocks in at just over 25 hours. That is about three workdays of audio.
That is to say, almost everything of his life is left out. Even under this constraint, Isaacson weaves a masterful, productive whole.
We make choices, too, about which stories of our lives to rehearse to ourselves and to present to others. This choice matters a great deal for who we become.
Our lives, no matter how messy in the moment, can become a productive whole.
Rare is media that can entrance and teach both adults and children.
For books, the master is Mo Willems. For television, a show called Bluey sets the curve. I do not remember who turned us onto the program, but our family owes them big.
Though ostensibly for children, I am certain that this show, in its 7-minute episodes, makes me a better human being.
I fear to over explain it. It is best to just to experience the genius. So, go beg someone’s Disney+ password and treat yourself tonight. Especially brilliant episodes are: “Omelette”, “Dance Mode”, and “Hammerbarn”.
The people who produce the show are masters – in illustrating the depth of the interior lives of children, in shepherding parents toward courageous light-heartedness, and helping us all see how wonderful it is to live on the earth and attend to simple things.
Finding and protecting time for meditation, prayer, and the cultivation of solitude is serious business.
It is quite likely the best way* to begin to take ourselves and our stories less seriously.
*okay – maybe it is tied with raising children.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the daily emails I read went from two to three (when I signed up for The Daily Difference, a source of reliable and easily understandable knowledge on climate change.)
A few people asked me about the other two. Here they are!
The Daily Meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation: Most of the meditations are adapted from the writings of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. They translate the depth and challenge of the Christian tradition in a way that is consistently inviting.
Seth Godin’s daily blog: Godin riffs on marketing, empathy, being a human today, and the endurance needed to make a difference.
Most days, I marvel that they give all of this away for free.
Our sons wanted to practice some German songs that they were learning at school, so I found them on YouTube, set the playback speed at one click under full-speed (75%), and we all sang along.
It was (and is) great fun.
One time, though, when queueing up the songs, I forgot to set the speed at 75%, and the songs began at full speed. Both of them immediately protested.
Whoa! Why is everything going so fast! Turn it back to how it was!
“Normal,” it turns out, is way too accelerated.
And in our lives, too, it may be that we are going way too fast, but have only ever considered it to be normal.
What would a test run at 75% look like this week?
The strain of caring for a young person through a trying stage.
A disorienting heartache.
The pain of having let someone down.
This, too, shall pass.
And yet, do I truly want to wish it quickly away? If I do, I very well may miss the meaning of the experience. I may short-circuit the work it wants to achieve in me.
So, yes… this, too, shall pass… but before it does, I promise to be present with it.