Monday, May 21, 2012

meaning of life and stuff

When we are busy, we don't think about the big picture so much but it is worth asking ourselves every now and then. Author Paulo Coelho gives his take on it here and I at least partially agree with him:

 I remember getting up before dawn and walking to the bus while the sun was coming up to go to hospital for a minor operation (sinus op in case you really wanted to know!) and I remember thinking that people have actually died on the operating table- not the chances were that high, but it does happen know...heart attacks...allergic reations to drugs and all those spiffy things. Suddenly a thought came to me "what has - my - whole life meant?" and I've got to be honest with you - I could only think of a twisted mess of experiences great and low that didn't really 'mean' anything in particular. I remember thinking, I hope it isn't finished yet because there is still a lot to I wanted to do and be around for.

My next thought was of those I love and who tolerate and love me. I also had a background sense that God was there and would be there and that he cared; whatever he is up to in the big scheme of things.

Part of being a Christian for me is accepting the - mystery of life - and not being overly concerned about it - because if you believe that God loves you (as is demonstrated through Christ), then the whole of life doesn't have to make sense  - it's about a relationship. Healthy relationships are not neat and orderly but they often have meaning. Again,as a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ - it is primarily about our relationship with our Maker and with those around us in the context of the created world we live in.

I think God only knows ultimate meaning for our lives, there is a lot in our lives that doesn't make sense but we are part of a bigger plan. On a personal level...I would dare say that to live in a loving relationship with God and with other people (as much as you are able to) sums the meaning of life as we walk on this dusty but beautiful world. If you think this is wishy washy clap-trap - think again. People on their death bed don't say "I wish I'd spent more time at work", "I wish I was dying with more money in my bank"..instead...they often talk about people they are going to leave behind, whether they felt they achieved their life goals, or if in achieving there goals they felt they had wasted/made something of their life. The 'God' question is often big on many people's hearts too. So, let's start on important things before the deathbed.

On the next level - and it is connected to the above - I agree with Paulo Coelho that we need to search out our 'calling' and passion, seeing the big picture of what we are doing in the world - none of us is an island - and living a life of care for those around us. All of these things we have to keep coming back to - it is not a 'once off' and then everything is alright. That is why repentance is important too.

Jesus said: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

To sum up; as we live in the light of God's love, use the gifts that God has given us to be helpful and useful to those around us, then we are on our way to purpose and meaning. It may not necessarily be the path that you are on- or it might be outside of your paid work - but it's part of  answering the 'meaning' question.

What do you think?

getting things done

"A Little at a Time"  John Erskine written in 1941 - but still true today

"I must have been about 14 then, and I dismissed the incident with the easy carelessness of youth.  But the words Carl Walter spoke that day came back to me years later, and ever since have been of inestimable value to me.

Carl Walter was my piano teacher.  During one of my lessons he asked how much practicing I was doing.  I said three or four hours a day.
"Do you practice in long stretches, an hour at a time?"
"I try to."
"Well, don't!" he exclaimed.  "When you grow up, time won't come in long stretches.  Practice in minutes, whenever you can find them--five or ten before school, after lunch, between chores.  

Spread the practice through the day, and piano-playing will become a part of your life."
When I was teaching at Columbia, I wanted to write, but recitations, theme-reading and committee meetings filled my days and evenings.  For two years I got practically nothing down on paper, and my excuse was that I had no time.  Then I recalled what Carl Walter had said.
During the next week I conducted an experiment.  Whenever I had five unoccupied minutes, I sat down and wrote a hundred words or so.  To my astonishment, at the end of the week I had a sizable manuscript ready for revision.

Later on I wrote novels by the same piecemeal method.  Though my teaching schedule had become heavier than ever, in every day there were idle moments which could be caught and put to use.  I even took up piano-playing again, finding that the small intervals of the day provided sufficient time for both writing and piano practice.
There is an important trick in thins time-using formula:  you must get into your work quickly.  If you have but five minutes for writing, you can't afford to waste four chewing your pencil.  You must make your mental preparations beforehand, and concentrate on your task almost instantly when the time comes.  Fortunately, rapid concentration is easier than most of us realize.
I confess I have never learned how to let go easily at the end of the five or ten minutes.  But life can be counted on to supply interruptions.  Carl Walter has had a tremendous influence on my life.  To him I owe the discovery that even very short periods of time add up to all the useful hours I need, if I plunge in without delay."

brain stuff

I recently read a book by Professor Ian Robertson ( PhD in neuropsychology) called "The Minds Eye":

The basic thrust of the book is that we in 'the western world' are educated in a very 'wordy' way but may be under-educated in 'picture thinking'. I first thought this was another of those '10 secrets of success' books that only succeeded to line the pockets of the author - but this one actually had more substance and clinical research to it. I also appreciated his style of writing which didn't make assumptions about the readers understanding of weird sounding brain-parts such as 'hippocampus', 'cerrbellum' and 'cerebral cortex'

His main point, he states on pg 3 " Imagery is important, but in western culture, language is king. In school we steadily wrap our children's brains in a cool web of language - it would be terrible if we didn't, but there is a cost to everything. By neglecting imagery we risk the withering of a whole set of remark mental capacities"

So what is his main points about imagery ?

Imagery =  creativity. Not just the  'arts' but in better thinking in the sciences
Imagery = management of memory. Tying new information onto mental images makes it easier to remember points for exams and so on
Imagery =  management of stress. Exercising a change in imaginging 'fail' outcomes to imaging better outcomes lowers stress and helps us think more healthily
Imagery = can help with health and immunity issues. He doesn't sell snake oil here - no promises - but there are experiments that show the mind can be disciplined to help in recovery
Imagery = sports management. Well documented that elite sports people imagine their event before they do it.
He also discussed the use of imagery in hypnosis, what is happening in dreams and touches on images in religion (I gather he is agnostic)

Why have I posted this here?  I thought it was an interesting and thought-provoking book and worth sharing.

Here is his blog: