Allowing Mystery

Richard Rohr, among others, says we live our lives three steps forward and two steps back. One of my big do-si-dos is forward to allowing and back to control. As you may have guessed, the last week or two have not been forward steps.

Among other really clever and subtle methods of control—such as interrupting people to show them I’ve already figured out what they’re going to say—I returned to confusing my to-do list with my life, or perhaps more accurately my self. Because everyone knows that if you can figure out, keep track of, and do everything that needs to be done—and do it well of course—then you are a good, worthy, and fulfilled person. You might even be qualified to run the universe.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, recommends aimlessness instead of striving. “There is nothing to do, nothing to realize, no program, no agenda….Your purpose is to be yourself.” It reminds me of the Tao Te Ching’s “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

I don’t think either of them is encouraging my reluctance to wash the dishes. Rather, they’re suggesting letting life unfold according to its plan rather than ours. My to-do list is my plan, and while it’s certainly useful, when I forget that it’s a tool and assign it self-worth-measuring-meaning-of-life status, things go downhill fast.

The more life-giving not-plan is to allow ourselves to be brought into existence, to allow the divine to express what it has in its heart as it continually loves us into being. When I focus all my energy on getting stuff done, it’s as if I’m hoping these things I do will create me, but there’s no room to become anything wider or deeper than I already am, no room for mystery.

Mystery is both what we are and what we are living, what we come from and what we are becoming. We need a good deal of aimlessness to stay in touch with that.

Entering Triple Digits

This is post 101, which means it’s time to pause for some reader appreciation. Without you, Being Finite would never have reached a milestone worthy of a Disney movie title.

A friend said we’re never so happy as when we’re accomplishing something that’s meaningful to us, even if the something is standing still and enjoying a tree whose leaves are bursting forth after a long winter.

It’s often hard for me to remember this at the beginning, though, whether I’m staring at the blank page or trying to convince myself to roll out of bed to exercise in the morning. Even if I will likely enjoy the activity—or the results of the activity—my mental inertia wins. I feel confident I could place in the top five if anyone ever held a mental inertia contest.

Most of the time, other people help with this. If I’m meeting a friend to run, my odds of actually putting on my shoes increase a hundred fold—if that’s a number odds can increase by.

And many Tuesday nights, I sit down in front of the computer, lock the cat out of the room, and ignore his destruction of the door because by some miracle, you all have been kind enough to let me know that these musings are helpful to you. You’ve given me an astonishing gift.

I know some of you but not others. Some of us are alike, and some of us couldn’t be more different; yet we share enough of being human that a few words about life’s ups and downs can connect us. Miracle indeed. Thank you for reading, for liking, for commenting, for expecting me to show up, and for sticking with me.

This particular entry was finished early Wednesday morning, and a tree full of songbirds greeted me as I opened my laptop. They were surely singing for you.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

There are some really efficient people in this world, but I am not one of them. I am slow—at just about everything—and yet I want to be one of those people who gets a lot done.

I probably should not answer the “how am I doing at this life thing anyway?” question by counting tasks accomplished because the result will not be pretty. For other people, this approach might really work. Martha Stewart is probably a kick-ass list-item crosser-offer.

hummingbirdMy measurement system, on the other hand, needs to include such things as, did I notice the hummingbird hovering near the bottle brush tree? Did I taste my food rather than just gobble it down so I could go to the gym at lunch? Paying attention to these details makes me feel more alive and, as Howard Thurman says, “What the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Now you might say, doesn’t everyone want more hummingbirds in their life? If so, then the joy and peace quotient can only increase if people hang feeders and spend their evenings watching the little guys buzz each other.

But maybe not everyone is interested in hummingbirds. Not everyone wants to write—some people really enjoy being accountants. I am not making this up, though it is as incomprehensible to me as my voluntarily choosing to write a blog is to them.

Is it cheating to pick the indicators that will reveal we’re all doing a great job? Maybe, but would you choose an architect based on what kind of omelet he makes? No, so if you’re a born omelet-maker, why judge yourself on the kind of blueprints you draw just because the society you happen to live in thinks blueprint drawing is really cool?

It’s often hard to discern whether we’re omelet-makers, lawyers, or musicians, but if we measure our accomplishments in units of liveliness, we will head in the right direction.