Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Really Not That Important

I used to think there are a lot of things in life that are important. Too many things, maybe. I used to think that it was important to determine what is important, and then to add those things to my priority list. But the list would keep growing, and there would always be something of priority waiting to be addressed. I guess it’s good to pay attention to things, but not necessarily to everything that might end up on the list. Anything, really, could find its way to the list, and then once it’s there it would become a priority, no matter how far down the list it might happen to be. After all, if it’s on the list it takes on the mantle of importance, and that makes it important whether it’s actually important or not. Sometimes my list has been written, and sometimes mental, but a list, nevertheless.

Today I think it’s important to sit on the porch and listen to a baseball game on the radio.
I would never put the game on a priority list, but I will make a point to listen sometimes. There’s something about a time out, time away, a break, of sorts, in the middle of the day. Something I’ve not only come to enjoy, but seem to need as well.

Sometimes all that other important stuff can just wait.
People too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Over the past year my wife and I have spent considerable time cutting in walking trails through the forested land that we are fortunate enough to ‘own’ (as if the earth can actually be owned by someone). But the sections we worked were those that, by virtue of their natural flow, kind of designed themselves. We just had to follow their lead and do the clearing. Of course there was some decision making in the process because there were many junctures where the trail could have gone this way or that, or the other way even. Although most of the options appeared to be good, ultimately, we had to decide on the direction. When those trails were finished we could walk them, pleased with, and somewhat proud of, the outcome because it truly was a partnership with nature. Nature, in a sense, quietly guided our willing hands.

But there is an area of our property that is so thickly forested that I have not even had the inclination to explore it.
Until recently.
We took on the laborious task of creating trails through the thick undergrowth of its secluded beauty, and opening that part of the land for our enjoyment. We are, at the same time, creating better access, and easier passage, for the different animals that traverse the property. It’s different than the previous section that we worked. There is no path of least resistance, there is no natural flow of the topography. We pretty much have had to navigate our way on instinct, but instinct gained by the experience of creating the former trails. Even at that, our best guesswork has been playing an important part in the process.

With the kind of density we’ve been cutting through it has often been difficult to see more than a few feet ahead of us, and consequently almost impossible to know if we’re taking the trail in the best direction, even a good direction for that matter, one that will eventually connect with the other paths we made. Every step of the way has been challenging, but rewarding, as we break into a small clearing, or make a turn that feels like it is in harmony with the land. Starting out it had all been pretty harrowing, and somewhat overwhelming, but retracing our steps on a new path, with increasing distance, back to the starting point has enabled us to realize the beauty of our accomplishment. The walk feels natural, the path does feel like it conforms to the lay of the land, almost as if it were set into the forest from above, as if it were created by someone who could see where he wanted to go, and not by someone simply navigating blindly, or relying only on instinct and experience.
At the outset it would have been easy to face this particular section of forest and conclude that it would be too difficult to tackle, too encompassing of a task, too time consuming, with no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome. It would have been easy to forego the challenge and just enjoy the trails we were already using.
And it would have denied us the enjoyment of this part of our land.

Life brings with it a certain natural flow. Like the first section of forest we worked, life kind of designs itself at times, and in ways that requires very little of us but to follow its lead. And we do so, at least most of us, willingly, and without concern. We ‘fall’ into jobs, relationships, communities etc. Life and opportunities present themselves along the way, but it is up to us to choose the ‘what’ the ‘where’, the ‘when’, and the ‘how’. That is kind of our partnership with life. That is our privilege.
But, as you know, it is not always quite that smooth.

Sometimes the future looks very complicated, it feels unpredictable, confusing, and tangled. We fear it at times, are intimidated by it, and we put off approaching it as if it were that thick forest with dense undergrowth, an as yet unknown part of our lives that might be easier left undisturbed. It feels like it would be futile to engage with it, too much work, or too much of a mystery, a particularly daunting endeavor were we to enter its beckoning landscape. We are often left paralyzed, unable to take a step forward.
But in considering the future, and what it might ask of us, we must understand that there is no qualification necessary for motivation, or for intent. There is no skill required for desire, or for courage. These are internal qualities we can call on to the same degree that we have cultivated them in the past. They are qualities we can wrap in faith to move us in, and through, an otherwise unapproachable future.
Life calls each of us to carve out our own path at times.

I am enjoying our new hiking trails.
What once seemed like an impossible task has now become a source of great pleasure for my wife and I.

It began with our first step into the forest.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Don't Trust Happiness

Unhappiness is something you can depend on. It will never leave you as long as you continue to embrace it. It will be your constant companion, through thick and thin, through brief moments of elation even. It will be waiting to comfort you as those occasional, but fleeting, feelings of happiness return you to its care. Unhappiness takes little effort, and it comes quite easily to those who seek the familiarity of its presence. It can be like a warm blanket, or an old friend. It can be shelter from the world, or from the wind. Unhappiness will follow you like a shadow, without invitation, and without argument or disagreement. It will cling to your soul like molasses.
Unhappiness can find you unexpectedly, like a package from FedEx sent to you by someone you love, or by a stranger. You only need to sign for it to own it. You could turn it away, I suppose, but how many people really do that? Unhappiness is very difficult to turn away, or to turn away from.
You can trust it.

Happiness, on the other hand, is fickle, it is unreliable, and it is cruel. It will tease you with promise, and try to lure you with faith. Every time you think you find happiness it turns out to be a temporary condition. Every time you think happiness has landed in your lap an unexpected trauma, or calamitous event, will visit you like an uninvited neighbor. Just when you get comfortable with it someone will hurt you, something will overwhelm you, or some unforeseen circumstance will arrive to ensure that your happiness cannot be sustained. Someone will acquire the keys to steal your bliss.
Happiness will only disappoint you.

I don’t trust happiness.
You have to work at happiness, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and even circumstantially. You have to work to overcome the natural gravitation towards its opposition. Happiness doesn’t ever just arrive, at least not freely. There is always some deal it wants to make with you. Happiness is sometimes promised in exchange for your soul, but they say the devil is the one who wants to make that deal.
As far as I can tell, God doesn’t promise happiness. I think He just promises to be with us through the struggle.

Unhappiness comes naturally.
But I think happiness is a learned experience.
It’s not for the indolent, or the unprepared.
As I said before, “It never just happens”.

I’m happy. At least for now.
I don’t trust happiness.
But I do trust God.