Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Continuations on a theme - the theme of simplicity. It has been said that life is a zero sum game. We cannot give or take from life. It is what it is. No matter how much we may desire it, we cannot add minutes to the day. What is spent on one activity - mindless, fulfilling, or otherwise - is forever spent. We cannot regain used time. Nor can we, in our futile efforts, cause time to stand still. In D&C William McClellin was admonished, "Seek not to be cumbered." The same was Martha's subtle offense, as she was "cumbered about much serving." Often when we are rushing around, busy being cumbered, we miss the whole point. We miss the beauty that is to be had in even the most mundane actions. We bustle along, forgetting that joy is to exist in the process and journey.

Barbara Kingsolver said: "Every minute I save will get used on something else... On the other hand, attending to the task in front of me - even a quotidian chore - might make it into part of a good day, rather than just a rock in the road to someplace else." She tells a story of a farmer who decides to use draft animals instead of tractors to turn his fields. When countered with the idea that turning a field with horses takes an eternity, he replies that it indeed does. "Eternal is the right frame of mind. When I'm out there cultivating the corn with a good team in the quiet of the afternoon, watching the birds in the hedgerows, oh my goodness. I could just keep going all day. Kids from the city come out here and ask, 'What do you do for fun around here?' I tell them, 'I cultivate.'"

Running around, trying to "use our time efficiently" often times burns us out, so that we are more inclined to spend those extra minutes saved on vapid activities. If we could learn how to capture that eternal mindset, no matter what we were doing, we would feel more joyful, more fulfilled, and more connected as cognitive beings. I'm not necessarily referring to finding happiness in every moment. I think that joy has to do with acute self-awareness and connection on a spiritual level. As we focus on the moment, we begin to feel alive and aware of our own presence. Then we can glory in that life that we feel - we, as living, deliberate actors - choosing to live and act.


micah e. said...

I'm trying to do my laundry by hand to give Mother Nature a little help. It's the pits. It's not that I don't enjoy doing the laundry by hand—I actually find it quite invigorating. But my life isn't structured such that I can easily spend as much time as I need to get all Maverick-y with my laundry in the bathtub.

I look at the "important" things that I'm doing in life and often wonder whether I'd be better off with less "important" things and more things that make me feel fulfilled by connecting me with the world around me. I really would like to feel that I have time to dedicate to doing my laundry by hand, but I've been convinced that laundry is a mundane task that's somehow doesn't deserve my attention. Thus machines have been created for convenience that allow me to dedicate as little time as possible to the task. And then I can use my time somewhere else—for the "important" things.

But all this comes at a cost. Obviously there are reaching impacts on the environment due to the huge amount of energy involved in doing laundry by machine. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, I lose something by dismissing this activity as mundane. I lose a connection with the labor that's involved in situating my life as it is situated. I mean, it's MY laundry. Why shouldn't I be more involved in the process of maintaining my clothing each week? Especially if it results in a less negative impact on the world.

I sound like some outlandish hippy. I'm not. Well, kinda. My point is that there's lots of costs in my life, either to me personally, to the people around me, or to the environment, that I've justified because there's just not time. Convenient technologies that supplant whatever personal efforts are necessary to free up my time for other things... well, there just so darn convenient that it's easy to see them as a necessary part of my life.

As Kingsolver said, my time's going to be used up anyways because that's just how time is. So maybe doing my laundry by hand isn't efficient because there's more effective ways to check "do the wash" off my list for the week. But doing a non-efficient load of laundry might prove to be the best use of my time because of the benefits (as you say, the "acute self-awareness and connection on a spiritual level") are great to me.

Brian and chelsea said...

My comment will be much shorter and far less profound than that of "micah e.'s" because I have a diaper to go change and a babe to feed. But thanks to you (and to ME for taking the time to read it) I will savor every little wipe on her bum and every green bean thrown across the room. For in time, when she wipes her own bum and eats solo, Im sure I will regret all the time I spent trying to multi-task in effort to be as efficient as possible in my little world. I hope I don't look back and realize that I missed the most important part of my little world.

Smeaths, you are my heroine.