Growing up, the notion of becoming a writer never entered Muir’s imagination. Instead, he dreamt of becoming an inventor; then a physician; then a botanist. He took to “the making of books” only late in life, recounting: “When I first left home to go to school, I thought of fortune as an inventor, but the glimpse I got of the Cosmos at the University, put all the cams and wheels and levers out of my head.” ~ Maria Popova, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/10/06/john-of-the-mountains-autumn/
Seems like Winter—meteorological winter starts on December 1st in the northern hemisphere, but the winter solstice is also fast approaching—is a perennial favorite for
talking blogging about seasons. I’m leading with that quote because it’s always great to hear about someone’s journey. When you see what they accomplished, it’s not at all obvious where they started, and very rare that you get to hear them talk about how non-obvious it was along the way. But in some cases, eventually we get this:
Although the dying time, it is also the color time, the time when faith in the steadfastness of Nature is surest… The seeds all have next summer in them, some of them thousands of summers.~ John Muir
A year passed. Winter changed into Spring. Spring changed into Summer. Summer changed back into Winter. And Winter gave Spring and Summer a miss and went straight on into Autumn. Until one day…~ Monty Python from, The Holy Grail
Some things just stick with you. If you know me well, you know I’m particularly fond of linguistic turns where the sarcasm comes back ’round to flip the original. “This is actually pretty good. [said of anything or anyone] It really grows on you.” Me, “yeah, like fungus.” Etc.. Anyway, that line from Monty Python has always stuck in my mind—something to do with the cutesie animation that goes with it, something about the rapid-fire delivery, and probably just mostly how it stomps all over our deep seated human love of the “seasons” metaphor.
“And now for something completely different.”
I was watching a movie about Ip Man last night. (Grandmaster on Netflix; Chinese-language film, it’s a kung fu film. Anyway.) Ip is narrating in various parts as the movie tells his story. At one point he says, “If life has seasons, the first 40 years of my life [where he was happily married with 3 kids] was Spring…” and all of the above popped into my head at, “…and the Japanese invaded in 1930 and things jumped straight to Winter.”
Imagine that you were to sign up for a retreat this month … you put aside your daily life, all your busywork, all your projects and errands and emails and messages … and you travel to another place. In this place, you remove yourself from the busy world and find space for quiet. For reflection. For contemplation, setting intentions, reviewing how things have gone. For gratitude and appreciation for life.~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/december-retreat/
Today, a rare two-fer’…
Not only does hyper-connection alter our social relationships, it also makes us dumber, as pointed out as early as 2005. It threatens our health too. Twenty-first-century afflictions include digital fatigue, social media burnout or compulsive internet use. Cures for these rising internet-related disorders include such radical solutions as rehab centers, or disconnection.~ Antoine Lefeuvre from, https://alistapart.com/column/designing-for-post-connected-users-part-1/
Babauta’s take is from the Zen perspective of simply—as in: this is the only thing you have to do, and don’t overcomplicate it in the doing—creating space in your life. Lefeuvre’s is from a nuts-and-bolts perspective of facts and tactics.
I feel called quite often to take more time to reflect. I was going to write, “sit and reflect,” but it’s not quite always sitting. I believe this is also true for everyone else; some people are early on in their journeys and their need for reflection is small in total, but it is more than they are currently doing. With precious few exceptions, we could all use more time for reflection.
Do you have time for reflection built into your life?
I’m not sure if it’s the silence, or the darkness. Maybe it’s the fact that pre-dawn there are two kinds of people, those who are sleeping and those who are up attacking their day and I prefer to be the later. (Although, it’s a physical fight with my body every morning.)
There’s a time and place for most everything. Writing, for example, seems best done in the early morning. Vacationing seems best done at the end of summer. Hard labor seems best done in one’s 20s.
I wonder when is the best time for introspection?
Now just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games in which conkers succeed hopscotch as regularly as autumn follows summer. Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite, or unrhythmical, change kept up.”
C. S. Lewis wrote the Screwtape Letters from the point of view of a senior-level demon named Screwtape providing instructions to his direct-reports (ie, demons doing actual work) on how to be great demons. The quote above is a wonderful glimpse into just how visionary Screwtape really is.