24 August 2016

You Are Still a Kid

Happy are they who still love something they loved in the nursery: They have not been broken in two by time; they are not two persons, but one, and they have saved not only their souls but their lives.    -G.K. Chesterton

The idea of keeping the child alive in my spirit is a very important one to me. When I look around at the adults with whom I have a lot of contact, one of the things that I see regularly is that those people who are letting life bring them down tend to also be the people who don't have the ability to see the magic and wonder of the world, those people who show absolutely no indication at all that they've actually been children. They've fully and completely "grown up," and they're now serious people who have nothing to do with the things that children love.

But as children, we loved more purely--until a certain point, we were able to love things just as they were, not for what we could get out of them. That point was different for each of us, that point at which we started to love things for the benefits they could bring us. Those benefits could have been status, other people's admiration, money, clothing, or whatever--we learned that the world wasn't magic, that it was something we could manipulate for our own good. And we stopped seeing the world as a magical place once we decided to use the world to help us to "get ahead," which in reality was actually falling behind.

That's why it's so important that we pay attention to that part of us that was a kid--so that we don't fall behind any further, so that we continue to be able to love things purely for what they are, not for any benefit they can provide for us.

The adult doesn't have to be a different person than the kid was--there are many, many aspects of ourselves when we were kids that can help us to be happier and healthier people. When we were kids we were more easily satisfied and we didn't think nearly as much about what other people thought about us, and both of those traits are generally regarded as traits of people who tend to be happier than others. I'm sure you can come up with more of them. And that kid is still an important part of you--perhaps it's time that you uncovered that child that you were and allowed him or her to see the world and revel in its wonder and magic, instead of constantly seeing the world through jaded and disillusioned eyes. Let the kid do the seeing for you, and you'll be amazed at how beautiful the world and everything in it can be.

And an important first step may be to love something from the nursery again, be it a stuffed animal, a bouncing ball, a favorite toy, or anything else that elicited sincere, loving feelings. Don't allow it to remain buried under the years of crud that other adults told you was important. Your life and your happiness are too important for you to allow that child to remain out of your life--bring him or her back into your life, and enjoy his or her company!

14 August 2016


I have quite a few weaknesses. More importantly, I have no problems admitting that I have them. I remember names and faces very poorly; while I'm a decent runner, I'm very poor at running on trails; I judge people rather quickly based on superficial evidence; I'm not good at putting stuff away in its place; I'm good at organizing but poor at writing things down; and I could keep going on and on, but it would serve no purpose, really. To me, the most important thing is to be aware of my weaknesses so that I can try to compensate for them in other ways.

For example, even though I judge others quickly, I also have developed the habit of recognizing my judgments and then asking myself if that judgment is justified. So almost as soon as I find myself judging someone else, I also find myself thinking, "But wait a minute. . . is that actually true or justified?" While I have a hard time writing things down, I also have developed the habit of having index cards and pens with me very often, which allows me to write things down more often than I would otherwise. It's not a perfect solution, but I've tried others and it's what works the best.

Knowing my weaknesses helps me to know when I'm going to have to apply extra effort, such as in my teaching--keeping track of grades is hard for me, but setting up a system in which it will be easier is a rather simple thing for me to do--a bit time-consuming, but not difficult. Because I have a hard time putting stuff away, I try to have at least one or two places where I can drop everything and then later sort through things.

These are simply ways to compensate for some of my weaknesses. These "weaknesses," of course, are more a result of societal norms than they are truly weaknesses--in a different culture, they might be considered very normal traits. Being a poor trail runner only affects me if I run trails; otherwise, it's a completely unimportant element of who I am. But knowing this weakness helps me to decide not to run with some friends who are good at it when they're going out for a long trail run--I would slow them down and probably be miserable myself if I were to go with them.

There's absolutely no problem with having weaknesses--we all have many of them, and that's fine. Problems arise when we ignore or deny them, when we pretend we don't have them or we don't admit to them and commit ourselves to do something in an area of weakness. Then our stress levels rise and things become less enjoyable to do, and that's never a good combination.

What are your weaknesses? If you know them, you can compensate for them or simply avoid having to do things in those areas. And if you're able to do that, you can concentrate on your strengths and get even better at those things--and that's always something very positive.

05 August 2016


I just was fortunate enough to be able to do a relay with some very incredible people on a team. The relay was just over 230 miles, and it took three days. We had a team of six, so each of us ran about 40 miles over those three days, through mountains and valleys, past lakes and rivers, in the heat of the afternoon and the cool of the pre-sunrise morning (on one day we started at 4:30). It's obviously an endurance event to a certain extent, but it was also much more than that--it was six people who supported each other, encouraged each other, helped each other, and did the job that they had committed themselves to do in order to help the team.

Relays are a great exercise in letting go of any sort of need to control things. While I was doing my legs, I had control over what I did, of course, but as soon as I hit the hand of the next runner, I was simply an observer, and I had to trust that person to do the best that he or she could do at that time. Usually, that meant a couple of hours of spectating as I waited for my next leg to come up, but it also meant getting to the next exchange zone so that the current runner wouldn't reach it with no one there. And yes, glitches happen sometimes, but for the most part what we learn on a relay race is that we can rely on one another--that we can let go and trust that others are going to come through on what they've said they're going to do.

And even when the glitches do occur, they happen because of honest mistakes, not because of any other reason. A mistake doesn't mean that you can't trust a person any more--a mistake means simply that the person made a mistake and is hopefully a bit wiser now because of it. But mistakes on the part of others are often good because they force you to find a way to compensate or to find out how much you have in you. For example, when my teammates weren't at one exchange zone when I finished a leg, I just had to keep on going. They had misread the directions and ended up at the following zone; my choices were to stop and wait for them or to keep going, and I kept going. They realized their mistake rather quickly and came to me about a mile later; I got in an extra mile of running and it was no big deal.

But for 99% of the time, things went really, really well. We helped each other; we encouraged each other; we ran for and with each other. We enjoyed our surroundings and each other's company, and we kept on racking up the miles as the hours passed.

Over the course of three days we covered just over 230 miles as a team. I ran about 40 miles, and for the other 190 miles I had to trust my teammates to do the best they could do--and they did so. It's nice being in a situation over which I have no real control except for my own contribution--and in which it's necessary for me to trust others. Our society tries to tell us that it's important to trust only yourself and to take care of everything you need yourself, but our society is wrong. Independence can be important sometimes, but interdependence and cooperation are much, much more important to our world and to our spirits.