for the next month or so our community will be endeavoring together to practice the discipline of simplicity. we've decided to strive together toward the Lord through the practice of one additional spiritual discipline or practice, along with our regular practices of prayer, bible study, and community meals.
starting with simplicity is a bit of a challenge, because it is easy to turn into an abstraction if left without examples but can easily become legalistic if you try to establish concrete actions on a regular basis. there are also many ways that one can seek to pursue simplicity. it becomes difficult because simplicity is a discipline that has both inward and outward implications. richard foster describes it as “an inward reality that results in a changed lifestyle,” emphasizing that it must begin inwardly and express itself outwardly. perhaps this chart is helpful (though i'm not sure i like the use of the word "offbalance"):
so how do we, as a community, seek to pursue inward simplicity first and then outward simplicity--especially in a collective and concrete way? well we talked a little about pursuing inward simplicity individually, but then thought it would be best as a group to pursue the outward things together that we all already had a bit of an inward reality towards. after several options we decided that a helpful way to practice simplicity would be in area of technology. technology can certainly be a blessing in a lot of ways, but it also has the ability to suck away our time and constantly take our focus away from the things we really need to be devoted to. and that is the heart of simplicty--to be singularly devoted to the Lord and his life for us.
so our collective idea was to spend one night a week removing ourselves from technology--an "amish night" if you will, as it has been deemed. we even refrained from turning on the lights, resorting to candles instead. we did keep the heat on, considering the weather and that we are ill-equiped to light fires in the church with no wood-burning stoves (though if someone has an extra we'd love to put one in our great room!). for dinner we ate red beans and rice, and afterwards we spent much of the evening praying in the chapel--which we usually do on monday nights already.
last night was the first, so i am a little hesitant to come to any conclusions. i'm not so sure that the practice led me to a greater pursuit of inward simplicity and less of a desire to engage with technology (which ironically i'm now writing about on my computer). it was good not to deal with technology for the evening--but then did i just have to catch up today on the things i missed last night? would it be more helpful to commit to practice this discipline on a larger scale? what about an amish week? unfortunately there are things like school that require some degree of technology--but certainly those things could be accounted for. are we selling ourselves too short? trying too little?
well those are things we will discuss as a community, and perhaps make adjustments. but also we need to pursue things individually. i am trying to cultivate silence today as a means of pursuing inward simplicity--though i can't say it's going all that well though so far. what are some ways you think simplicity needs to be pursued, in our culture and in your life? is simplicity something you think about ever?
i'd be interested to hear your thoughts if anyone would like to share. thanks.
two weeks later
another morning not quite so soft,
i had my same perch--
though my eyes given to pages
telling of crosses:
people and losses.
a woman walks in alone
with a flyer for a found dog.
not particularly striking,
her small moment in the cafe
blows simply away--
outside a smile to the passing old man,
through the glass i saw this all.
as one barista quips the trash,
another allows for slight hope--
though the paper set with all the day's sections,
won't last through tomorrow's edition.
my reading halts,
and i can't get past this scene.
it was the smile at the end;
something in her eyes--
let through from far below.
or maybe it was the simple act of kindness,
trying to return a beloved pet
where so many others had just driven on.
i catch myself romanticizing the scenario--
making this woman lonely and tragic,
so kind and caring
and perhaps my storytelling does her a disservice;
perhaps she is quite happy and loved.
i don't really know.
so why does my intuition so strongly disagree?
how can so much be caught in just an instant
and thousands of unseen memories?
can we be seen in only a moment?
or are those just illusions
until we are one day completely known?
can the eyes truly tell so much?
the soul's jalousie
or our programmed tv?
needed a new post if anything just to get past that last one. man i took some heat for that! thank you all for your gracious and caring responses in return for my forthright confession. see if i ever do that again!
well i suppose all i can do is try to redeem myself a little. this is another recent discovery for me, though their last album was 3 years ago. i am really enjoying this. but can you guys listen to this? i am having trouble playing these now--don't know if it's just my computer or something with the website. let me know please if you want. if you can't you can hear it on their myspace, so go have a listen. i think it's worth it--and not only so you know my musical tastes aren't a complete disaster!
ok, ok. this one is bad. sometimes these are little more than joking confessions and i don't really feel all that bad about what i have to share. but this time. oh, this time. this time my words will drip with shame. i am not standing in this corner whispering into the cold dark of the internet. no, i am cowering in shame, hoping that i can in some way be pulled up out of this place of filth and disease, hoping redemption is still possible.
but i get ahead of myself.
those of you who know me well know that i can be pretty opinionated. this is a fact that i've often tried to hide or at least subdue a little bit, though mostly to no avail. let me explain why i have tried though. my family on my dad's side is a heavy mix of italian and irish. it seems that the result was the opinionatedness of the italians with the bull-headedness of the irish. get my dad's siblings together and they will argue for hours about the smallest minute useless point. and not debate. argue. because each one knows without a doubt for certain that they are right. i would give an example if they weren't all so pointless that i've forgotten every single one of them. politics excluded.
this has so scarred me that i deeply fear that i might one day become them. so i try to somewhat subvert my strong feelings toward my opinions when i have them. those of you who know me well might laugh at that statement--but really it could be a lot worse. you don't even know. anyway, i try to limit my strong opinions toward things that don't really matter, usually matters of taste and personal preference. for example--restaurants, books, movies, and quite often music.
music. let's talk about music. for no reason in particular. well, perhaps because the grammy's were just this week. i don't need to go into how terrible the grammy's are, both in award catagories and in selections of artists. it really is a joke and so arbitrary. but that's not the point. the point is that there is so much good music out there and usually very little of it is reflected at the grammy's. it's much too difficult to judge objectively like you can with movies anyway.
but judge we still do. and judge i do. i am something of a music collector. if there is any part of me that you could call "hipster," it would be by music. i don't do it to be cool though, i just really like music. and i am usually less than hesitant to decry horrible music and belittle those who listen to it. don't get me started on country and that distortion you try to call music. and unfortunately the whole world decides that they want to listen to pop so the most overproduced and unoriginal shite goes to the top of the charts and lands on the playlists of millions of teens ipods. i try to catch these poor high schoolers and show them the error of their musical ways, but they rarely listen. sort of like the time i tried to tell middle school boys not to douse themselves with axe body spray. they give you that look like you don't know anything.
which brings me to my confession. it is to my great shame and dismay that i have to admit that i have fallen prey to liking one of these pop monsters. and not just any one, but one of the biggest. i don't even know how it happened really. i read an article that linked a video and i watched it and was hooked. i can't get away from the song. and i'm sorry to say that song is "bad romance" by lady gaga.
i know i know! it's horrible. i actually subjected myself to checking out the rest of the album--both discs, which is complete and utter crap. except maybe poker face, which incidentally sounds like essentially the same song with minor changes. so no i do not like lady gaga. i do not like her album. i just happen to love one of her songs. and i hate that i do. and i'm sorry. and i beg your forgiveness.
the thing is, i want to try to analyze it and somehow justify my liking by seeing some social commentary she's making. i mean, say even her name. lady gaga. it is a baby's cry. she is commenting on society that she can put out the most infantile music and people will run to pick it up like a wailing baby. but she's a lady too, because the themes of her songs are all about being a lady. a lady who has a lot of bad relationships and a fair amount of sex. well crap, i guess that doesn't really work. never mind. i'll accept it. there's no getting around it.
i realize this leaves me with little to no musical credibility. and any time i try to tell someone the music they are listening to is terrible, they will always have this against me. tragic i know, but i must come clean. and in that interest i have to also admit that she is a decent looking lady. no really, she has a nice face--when she actually has all that makeup off and isn't wearing ridiculous hats. and with that, i depart in shame.
i never really conceptualized that phrase before--"a hard winter." usually it was in conjunction with pioneers or little house on the prairie or something. now a days it usually means having to bundle up a little more to go out and shovel the driveway for an hour a day before returning to the heat. or having to deal with snow and ice on the roads. but hey, throw in a snow day and it makes that hard winter just a little bit easier.
now it's different. i am learning firsthand what a hard winter is really like. for the first time in my life i look forward to spring, not just with slight anticipation but now like a kid pines for christmas morning. "oh won't it be so great when we can take the plastic off these window and it won't feel like we're living in a milk craton!?!" "man it will be nice to not have my feet go numb when i walk to the bathroom in the morning!" "i can't wait till our gas bill is under two thousand for the month!" "it will be great to not need to wear 5 layers when i'm sitting in my room!"
smart wool socks have pretty much now become a permanent part of my feet.
i now know what it feels like to yearn for spring. to fight through a hard winter. and there's part of me that really likes that. the other parts of me are just cold. i don't know how pioneers did it. i mean i know how the pioneers did it--i just don't know how they managed to survive all the complaining from their wives! just kidding--mostly. girls complain about the cold a lot more! i think it's cause they're smaller and can't grow beards. yeah, that probably has something to do with it.
another thing about winter is that as our pastor says, "our folk ain't made for this kind a weather." well probably as a general rule most people don't enjoy this weather. and as a common result people don't like to be outside. our neighborhood just sort of shuts down in the winter. maybe you see people passing every now and then, but just about the last thing they want to do is stop and talk to you and spend one more minute than they have to in that bitter cold. life around here goes into a form of hibernation.
experiencing the seasons seems natural though. it seems somehow closer to reality. we live our lives largely independent of the weather, though we focus on it so much. i don't think there has ever been any culture so concerned with what the weather was going to be than ours is now. why is that? because we are also maybe the least affected by it. we manipulate our crops to survive more and more independently from the way the weather goes. we have waterproof and windproof and coldproof jackets. we have insulation and heaters and fireplaces and space heaters. we have air conditioners and fans and breathable clothes. we adjust our temperatures against the season with tons of money into heating and cooling devices. and that's not a bad thing--a lot less people die now.
but we do all that we can to function as if weather did not exist. we are so inconvenienced when it snows and we can't make our appointments. or rather sometimes we are relieved. but life goes on usually. and it is mostly unaffected.
it is kind of nice to have life affected by the seasons. it forces us to wait. it takes some things out of our control. and that makes us do some other things--like use this time to devote more to prayer, or to playing games with each other, or to working on things indoors. it brings us closer together. and it probably gets us more ready to get out and away from each other as soon as it gets warm!
it's this season. and though we look forward to spring, we can't make it spring any sooner than it comes. it's not worth wishing it was some other time. it is now. and so we live how we can now. and that helps us realize our limits. and maybe that's worth being a little cold. the girls may disagree with me, but i think it's worth it.