Carrying Stones – Page 49 – moving a mountain one stone at a time

Rands In Repose: Up to Nothing

I always enjoy what Rands offers up to us in his blog and, for me, this is one of the best posts he’s written yet. He talks about the art of doing nothing and the discoveries that come from just wandering around and letting your mind go…

The moment I walk into a bookstore I remember what I love about them. They are an oasis of intellectual calm. Perhaps it’s the potential of all the ideas hidden behind those delicious covers. Or perhaps it’s the social reverence for the library-like quiet — you don’t yell in a bookstore, you’ll piss off the books.
A bookstore is where I rediscover that while I might be addicted to the non-stop calorie burning Silicon Valley lifestyle, I also need the serenity only found in the deep quiet of the consideration of nothing. Considering nothing takes work and practice, and the act contains a contradiction: the more I think about what I need to do, the less I’ll discover the thing that I don’t know that I’m looking for.
It’s confusing, but you need these skills because you have days full of somethings. Your day is probably spent at one of two sides of a spectrum. You’re either reacting to whatever is showing up on your doorstep or you’re proactively looking for new things to place on your doorstep so you can figure out what to do with them. Reactive. Proactive. It’s how you spend your entire day.
Excursions to the bookstore are essential exercises in inactivity where the whole world stops being a thing to do.

via Rands In Repose: Up to Nothing.

Shifting focus


Meg. Painting.
Meagan paints some holiday art on Thanksgiving Day.

 
My original goal was to limit this blog to writing about the South and Southern literature, but I’m easing that restriction on myself. This blog will be my general outlet for creativity in general. It will include my photography and other types of work, too.
I hope by easing the parameters I set for myself I will actually post something here for you to read. I also hope that you enjoy the direction I’m taking this blog.

Still kickin'

Sorry guys. I know it’s boring here. I don’t blame you if you’ve moved on, but I’m still kicking. I’ve had a ton of work projects on my mind lately and not a lot of time leftover for fun reading.

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Go do some work!

Most of my reading has been from magazines. I did read Hugh MacLeod’s “Ignore Everybody,” which was an amazing read and hugely motivational for me.
Last night I bought and downloaded a dedicated blog editor, MarsEdit for Mac, and I love it! One of my hopes in buying it was to put some of the fun back into posting blogs. I’m also trying to kickstart some of my fictional writing. Gotta get the fingers moving again.
So much of my career has been firmly grounded in fact. Journalism and public relations help me produce a lot of writing but and some leeway allowing for creativity, but I haven’t been able to cut loose for a long long time and my brain struggles to work that way any more.
I’m trying to revive my imagination.
Hopefully, this will translate into finding more time to read for pleasure and more time to write for myself and for you. My hiatus was unintentional and regrettable.
We’ve gotten a lot of rainfall in northwest Georgia this year; enough to offset several years in a row of dry hot summers and water restrictions. I hope this post marks the end of a dry spell and the beginning of a more fruitful season of writing—for my sake as well as yours.

Finding joy in the ordinary

Relaxed in Recliner
Taking time to relax and just be.

Life isn’t always exciting and sometimes you’re better off kicking back and finding joy in the ordinary.
Sometimes our lives are stimulating and filled up with trips to the beach and amusement parks. More often than not, we stick closer to home or just stay at home.
Life is better when you can find joy in the peaceful moments. Joy abounds in the pews of an empty sanctuary, in the quiet dark belly of a cave, beside a running stream in the woods, or in a recliner with a fan spinning lazily overhead. If you can latch onto those peaceful moments—really take the time to suck them into your being and let them fill you up—they can bring you immense satisfaction and inspiration.
I find joy in stillness and think everyone can benefit from just being. Stillness is the basic ingredient of so many things; prayer, meditation, yoga. Being idle doesn’t necessarily mean you are being lazy or slothful. It just means you are open to your surroundings and allowing your mind time to make random connections.
One well-documented source of joy is found in spending the day reading. Books can take your imagination from the steppes of Russia to another galaxy and everywhere in between. You can live another person’s life or watch strangers live their lives. You can learn about the latest breakthroughs in particle physics or new ways to prepare meals.
Tomorrow, we are going out as a family to have some fun. We were going to take an expensive day-trip to fill our lives up with excitement, but instead we’re going to dial it back a notch. We’re going to go to a park or to the woods. We may carry a picnic basket or we may just enjoy each other’s company.
I think we’re just going to roam and see where the winds take us.
We may look for life’s answers in the bark of a gnarled tree, or listen for God in the running water. I’m taking us on a quest to find joy in the ordinary.

Community

The evolution of community, and the occasional need to go back to the old days, has been on my mind lately. To help my thoughts percolate, I began by taking a look at the definition of Community, courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition (courtesy of the iPhone application iTunes link):

Community:
1a.A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government
1b. The district or locality in which such a group lives
2a. A group of people having common interests
2b. A group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society
3a. Similarity or identity
3b. Sharing, participation and fellowship
4. Society as a whole; the public
5a. a groups of plants and animals living and interacting with one another in a specific region under relatively similar environmental conditions
5b. The region occupied by a group of interacting organisms.
from Latin communitas, fellowship, from communis, common

Community is basically a gathering of beings, be they human or beast. With the scaffolding built by that definition of community, I now wonder how many people must be together to comprise a community? Can a couple be a community? Does it take three or more people? Ten or more?
By definition, most people encounter dozens of communities every day whether it is at a family picnic or with parents and children at the baseball field on a cloudy Saturday morning or at Sunday School on a sunny Sunday morning, but do we appreciate or take advantage of these communities?
I have a tendency to avoid community. I like to hole up in my compound and stay there because I don’t much care for people. I choose where to shop based on the store that draws the fewest people through it’s doors (i.e. going to a small grocery store for a few things rather than fighting the crowds at Wal-Mart). When I end up with good friends though, I enjoy a good conversation.
Before the Internet, friends used to meet for dinner and maybe play cards or just to hang out and talk and share ideas. The history of the salon goes back for centuries. This, from Wikipedia:

A salon is a gathering of stimulating people of quality under the roof of an inspiring hostess or host, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings, often consciously following Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse est”). The salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical salons of the 17th century and 18th century, were carried on until quite recently in urban settings among like-minded people of a ‘set’: many 20th-century salons could be instanced.

For many years, and many years ago, I was an active part of the Internet community. I spend a lot of time on the Net now, but I use it to read and learn more than to interact with others. I spent a lot of time in newsgroups and IRC, but have drifted away from those forums. Sites like Facebook represent the Internet community now and I’m beginning to seek out some connections there now. It’s not the same as chatting with friends all over the U.S. as a group on IRC, but it’s definitely more convenient.
But the Internet has broken down community in many senses. If someone pulled the plug, would you be able to reach many of the people you are familiar with? The people you follow on Twitter. The people you friend on Facebook. Would your contact with them be completely cut off? Do you have their phone numbers? Do you even have their e-mail addresses? Do you know how to find them, shake their hand, and say “Hello?”
Tangent: Think about when the word “friend” became a verb.
I would like to reinstate the salon, to have friends over to the house for coffee or a couple of drinks and just be together. Maybe we could discuss the books we’ve read or share items we’ve written.
As much general dislike I have for people—I cannot abide stupidity, and there is a lot of it in the world—I love my friends and would like to see a handful of them more often. It may be time to send out some invitations and entertain a bit this summer. It may be time to fire up the grill, cook some meat and vegetables, and just be together with others.
This blog gets a few thoughts out of my head, but there is still a lot banging around up there in my brain. There may be more on the modern sense of community coming from me.

Laugh Live Learn Love




Laugh Live Learn Love

Originally uploaded by beelers

I have this piece of art crafted of ceramic and clay that I bought a local gallery. It has four great lessons burned into it.

Live
You can’t help but live until you die, and if you aren’t busy living then you’re busy dying. At least that’s what Bob Dylan has to say on the matter. Living should come as the most easy and natural thing in the world to do. Your body just does it, it lives, for good or ill and whether you like it or not.

Learn
Learning. Now that is more of a choice, isn’t it? Maybe it isn’t. Learning is a part of evolution (whether you believe in it or not). Fight or flight, you learn from your environment if nothing else. Sometimes, you may make an enlightened decision to continue learning in order to continuing growing professionally or spiritually.

Love
Ah love. Love is lot like learning. Sometimes love grows on you and sometimes love is learned. I know I didn’t love broccoli as a child, but it grew on me. I suppose I don’t really love broccoli now, but it’s a means to a metaphor.

Sometimes, though, and this is the sweet love, love just grows on you as naturally as your hair and fingernails keep growing. You just can’t stop it. That’s the special kind of love you have for your family. That’s the special kind of love I have for my family.

Laugh
I remember having Readers Digest around the house and one of the first things I would flip to was “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” I think the publication offered $100 for jokes that made it into that section. Some were funny and some weren’t, but that title says a lot, doesn’t it?

Sometimes, I find it difficult to laugh. Sometimes, I can’t even summon up a chuckle. Those are dark times. When I finally lighten up and crack a grin across my face, and sometimes I mean to and sometimes it just happens, well, things feel a little bit better.

Conclusion

This has been a rough week. I’m going to reflect on the lessons engraved in this little work of art. Four simple lessons — Live, Learn, Love, and Laugh. After all, laughter is the best medicine, and when the laughter stops there may be nothing left to do but cry.

Seeking sociology

I recently enjoyed reading “Blink,” a book by Malcom Gladwell. I’ve been reading similar books for professional development at work and I’m finding how much joy any writing even distantly related to sociology brings to me.
A guilty admission: I never really understood what sociology was when I was considering what to major in at college. Even I had grasped what it was, I never would have chosen that as a major at that time in my life. Looking back, I wish I had put more focus on sociology and listened a little more closely during my introductions to philosophy and psychology during my freshmen year.
The courses I was interested in when I was in college, such as math and chemistry, are subjects that draw my attention any more—I actively avoid those subjects now—and the ones that pushed me away are what I am drawn to these days. Funny how life works.
So now, I’m finding in interest in the study of people. I should have known. In my younger days I would enjoy going to hang out at the mall. Not to shop, but to wander around or sit in the food court with an obnoxiously large Coke and maybe some fries and just sit and watch people. Sometimes I would do it to make fun of them. Sometimes I would look at them and try to figure out what their lives were like based on their clothes, their hair, the way they carried themselves. I tried to figure out if they were happy or sad, on a mission or killing time. My best friend in I would watch people walking along and recreate their conversations, each one of us taking a part and just running with it until the giggles brought our project to a temporary halt.
Sociology is one of those degrees similar to the major I pursued, English, in that there is no defined career that follows earning a diploma. They are both useful in so many areas, but you don’t major in English to be a professional book reader and paper writer per se. Chemistry majors become chemists. Engineering majors become engineers. MBAs work in business. CPAs become accountants. I reckon English majors become dreamers on a path to somewhere. I suppose I majored in English 1) because I enjoy(ed) the subject materials and 2) to follow the romantic notion of becoming a writer. I succeeded in becoming a writer, but it wasn’t nearly so romantic a life as I once thought.
Another recent influence combines the two subjects I’m rambling about now, the late David Foster Wallace. I’ve only just begun soaking up his material and haven’t tapped into his life’s masterwork “Infinite Jest,” but I’ve found his writing to be extensive and methodical and in-depth and it carried with it a keen insight into human interaction as well as human reaction.
Come to think about it, I’ve always been drawn to writers like Chuck Klosterman and Hunter S. Thompson with their observational reportage; their sharp analysis of the situations they are watching.
So maybe I, too, can someday mix my longtime love of reading, writing, and watching with my new personal study of sociology. In fact, I think my journey has just begun with this post.