Society has any number of pressing needs that are crying out to be tackled. But there’s a need that everyone can start addressing immediately — no experience or Kickstarter campaign required: regularly showing more human kindness.
~ Brett McKay
Many years ago, my mother bought me a little metal rectangular paper weight which says, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” The type is laid in lines, and the, “no matter how small” is teeny-tiny so each time I read it, I have to look closely.
It also helps me remember to look a little more closely throughout my day.
Paring down one’s possessions and schedule are go-to ways to seek simplicity because they are outward, accessible, concrete actions that produce fairly immediate results. Their weakness, when practiced as their own ends, however, is that they lack a set of overarching criteria for how they should be carried out, as well as intrinsic motivation for following them through.
Practicing outward moves towards simplification, without this set of criteria, is like placing spokes in a wheel, without connecting them to a hub.
Simplicity needs a heart, and its center must be this: having a clear purpose.
~ Brett McKay
Throughout 2017 I’ve been slowly paring down. Fewer physical things sure, but also changing out some things and hobbies and projects and people. Can I eliminate one? Can I replace two of something with a simpler one?
I’m a “systems” person. I get things done via the observe, orient, decide, and act loop. For 2018 I’ve no delusions of rewiring my brain and kicking all my systems and processes to the curb.
I’ve realized, (far too recently,) that I need to take more time to “zoom out” and to take the time to consider how the really big things in my life fit together. Do they fit together? What if some really big component of who I am — even if it’s a great, fine thing — doesn’t fit with the rest of everything? What should I change; everything else, or that one great, fine thing?
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do love to spend the indoor, chilly, winter season thinking about the big picture — and now, perhaps a bit more of the really big picture.
Goodbye 2017! I will look back on you fondly.
The need for silence and solitude obviously seems incredibly relevant to the over-convenienced citizens of the modern world who feel saturated with the ceaseless noise that issues from every corner of their lives. But as mentioned at the start, men have in fact craved these states for thousands of years, long before anything digital, or electronic, or urban ever existed.
What accounts for the timeless, seemingly universal appeal of quiet seclusion?
To develop this trait favorably one should stick to a job until it is done. Form the habit of staying, not quitting. And when you do feel like quitting think of Joe who trained for the distances, or Daguerre who spent fourteen years to get a photographic image to stick on glass. Don’t be a putter-off.
The problem with human nature is that we are all prone to what might be called “virtue forgetfulness.” Our principles and values – our vision of the men we want to be — do not stay at the forefront of our minds at all times, ever at the ready to sway our choices. Instead, our craniums are so busy processing our day-to-day issues and concerns that more philosophical data ends up stored in the reserve trenches rather than the frontlines. It is for this reason that moral reminders are so effective and necessary in our lives: they act as cues in our environment that summon thoughts about our values from the back of our minds to the front, where they can influence our behavior and be brought to bear on the temptations before us.
Seeing Gen Y as “heroic” may seem like quite a stretch to some. But as Howe pointed out in my interview with him, “Remember that no one said anything about the GIs being the Greatest Generation until the very end of the last fourth turning.” No one thought the last Hero generation was anything special at the time either; it was only in retrospect, after they had fully risen to the challenge of their age, that they were venerated.
The linked article is rather long and covers a wide variety of sources and ideas — some I’d venture most “modern” people won’t be interested in. BUT, the thread running through this is very real, so I’ve pull-quoted a very useful bit for your consideration.
These days, cues on living a virtuous life are virtually absent from school or popular culture. And there are thousands of other stimuli vying for your attention. What this means is that you can’t hope to accidentally bump into cues every day that will help you remember the things that are most important to you. Instead, you have to purposefully plan for your regular exposure to those cues. You do this by regularly reading your scriptures, or personal manifesto, or books on philosophy and development, and doing other things which continually pull up all your past feelings and insights into the man you want to be, bringing them to bear on your present challenges.
Despite of all this seeming weight, a certain part of ourselves remains unmoored. We don’t lack for tasks, but we do lack meaningful ones. We haven’t made any goals since college. We don’t experience the tension that emerges in “the gap between what one is and what one should become,” because the gap simply doesn’t exist – at a certain point we stopped aiming for anything above paying the bills and checking off to-dos.
We think we want rest and relaxation – the absence of all labor and responsibility – but what we really crave is the presence of meaningful work and interests. We don’t want a complete lack of tension, but a different variety of it.
We don’t need less stress, but more of the right kind.
This piece is a clear manifesto that coincides with my efforts of the past couple years: “Load the arch intentionally!”
Always, in any government, among any people, there are certain forces for evil that take many shapes, but which are rooted in the same base and evil characteristics of the human soul, in the evil of arrogance, of jealousy, envy, hatred; and to certain people the appeal is made to yield to one set of evil forces. To some it is made to yield to another set, and the result is equally bad in each case. The vice of arrogance, of hard and brutal indifference on the part of those with wealth toward those who have not, is a shameful and dreadful vice. It is not one whit worse than the rancorous hatred and jealousy of those who are not well off for those who are. The man, who, either by practice or precept, seeks to give to any man or withhold from him any advantage in law or society or in the workings of society or business because of wealth or poverty, is false to the traditions of this republic.
Wether you love it, or hate it, we get the government we deserve — the government we collectively earn. Each individual one of us, through our minute by minute actions, contributes to the fabric of our society.
If not “I”, then who? If I “check out”, ignore it all, or bury my head in the sand, then that is exactly my contribution to society. “NO!” I say. I’ll stand up for Morality. Ethics. Philosophy. Principles. Rights. The Rule of Law. My goal is not to “rage quit” from this Republic. I will not bitch, moan nor leave. But rather, my goal is to speak up when I’ve something positive to say, to contribute positively to society, and to engage others in meaningful discourse.
Men and women may in the end be forced to admit: “I made a fool of myself,” and still be fairly happy. But no one can possibly be satisfied, and therefore no one can in my sense be happy, who feels that in some paramount affair he has failed to take up the challenge of life. For a voice within him, which none else can hear, but which he cannot choke, will constantly be murmuring:
“You lacked courage. You hadn’t the pluck. You ran away.”
And it is happier to be unhappy in the ordinary sense all one’s life than to have to listen at the end to that dreadful interior verdict.