Archive for June, 2012

Making It Count

Today’s world spins on returns.  What will you get back from what you invest?  Is your profit margin high enough?  Can you administer yourself and continue to proliferate on your current ratio of input to output?

I’m sick of all these questions.

I spent much of my evening giving meticulous methylene blue swabs and dips to an ailing gourami fish, my Rochester, and working on water quality for three guppies and two snails—Aramis, Porthos, Athos; Hikaru and Kaoru.  All of the above will die at a ripe old age within the next 24 months.  Each will have cost me an average dollar amount that is astronomical in proportion to physical size.  And yet, I find it worthy.

There’s a generosity of spirit and selflessness that comes with keeping pets.  And believe me, this is not me tooting my own horn: at quarter past midnight, measuring pH and mineral content isn’t what I’d call exhilarating.  But it is peaceful in a way because it frees one from the stress of self-performance and into something grander than the webs we humans spin.

And I’m thankful to be untangled once in a while.

Piccolo the Algae-Eater's perspective on my life

Piccolo the Algae-Eater’s perspective on my life

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Bundling Smalls

My family watches this lovely show on the History Channel called American Pickers.  In short, I greatly admire the show’s premise: assigning value.  It’s a positive practice, assigning value.  Antique shops have the right idea when they describe their activity as “appraising” or “appreciating.”  Reinforcing the elements of worth in an item and its history brings a sense of respect and meaning to pieces of our lives that can easily be overlooked or forgotten.

While I’ve certainly grown in appreciating objects around me, I’m going to take a moment and bundle together the smalls (seconds) of my day into a package deal that I think is worth celebrating 🙂

  • waking up to the sun shimmering through my blinds
  • small little chirps of my parakeets, unsure if I’m awake yet to hear them
  • sitting down on  a hand-embroidered seat cushion made by my grandmother to write a letter at a ladies desk I inherited from her
  • wishing my dad a happy fathers’ day
  • sealing a letter with a heart-shaped sticker
  • getting sweaty on the badminton court
  • diving into the pool, even though I knew it would be a shock of coolness
  • slobbery kisses by my friend’s dog
  • laying on my back on concrete, staring into a sky with flitting bats and the fading sun
  • rescuing a toad from the puppy
  • a game of Twister
  • riding home in my dad’s pick-up with all the windows rolled down
  • hair that smells like curl cream, sweat, bug spray, chlorine, and sunshine
  • snuggling into bed for a good night’s sleep

Sweet dreams!

enjoy the shining moments

enjoy the shining moments

Just Keep Living, Just Keep Living

Finding Nemo was never my favorite movie, but I must admit that I loved Dory.  There was something so genuine about her embrasure of the moment.  Surely no one else can claim to live so “in the now”!

Her little sing-song phrase “Just keep swimming” came back to me today as I watched my gourami, Rochester, picking through the aquarium rubble for his dinner.  He’s battling a pretty serious bacterial infection at the moment, one that his species is particularly susceptible to.  It attacks even in the best of circumstances, with ideal water parameters.  That’s what happened to Rochester.

But despite the agonizing medicine baths to which I’ve been subjecting him, he’s hanging in there.  He just keeps living.  Animals are like that: they don’t just give up.  Life is the imperative, the absolute before which everything else must bow.  They have to silly pride to hold them back from being fully invested in the simple 60 seconds of a minute.

Dory and Rochester just keep living–and that clear, perhaps sentimental, idea is what makes it worth coming home to an aquarium at night.  I will get up in the morning and just keep living, just keep living…

Living for More Than Profit

On Facebook today, the Shakespeare Tavern drew my attention to a recent article by Susan Booth, artistic director of the Alliance Theater.  (And there you have some of the most important hyperlinks you’ll ever need, all in one sentence 🙂

In her article, Booth articulates that funding for the arts has largely failed since we’ve moved to a consumer-centered capitalist bottom-line ideology because the arts are not about profit of a material kind but about profit of an essential, unquantifiable human kind.

The supply-and-demand question isn’t really about a supply of cultural organizations and a demand for the arts.

And as long as we keep arts-funding relegated to that small definition, we will always have cries for financial help and imperiled institutions.

But were we to acknowledge that our shared need for introspection and empathy flows through every facet of our daily lives and is therefore essential for us to support, then perhaps we’d stop talking about arts funding and start talking about humanity funding.

I think that Booth has not only diagnosed the cyclical nature of the annual funds and desperate direct mailings that theater-lovers receive on an ever increasing basis, but she has also discovered how America has impoverished itself.  Defining our lives by the cruel rigor of supply-demand excises us from the source of life.  

My seventh grade science book defined life as the ability to:

  • grow
  • respond to surroundings
  • reproduce
  • extract energy from the sun (or food)

In my marketplace mire, I often see death:

  • one routine that never changes or offers incentive for improvement
  • inability to react to people, events–internal or external–in deference to the “professional” determination to ignore everything that doesn’t contribute to scanning at a register, checking out online, or sealing the deal
  • strict limitations on how much or how little of another individual’s ideas, personality, etc. I can incorporate into something new that combines with my ideas, personality, etc.
  • discouragement to engage with spirituality, Nature, feasting, partying, dancing, laughing, music, or other food for body, mind, soul, and spirit

So I take up Booth’s challenge and snowball it into my own: I WILL LIVE!  Not only will I make it through the day, but I will decay a little less.  A plant or animal expends all its energy on those four characteristics of life; I will quit hoarding the precious little I have in the hope that it will suddenly expand into a never-ending, self-sustaining supply for which there will be eternal demand, but I will give my time and energy to growth, reaction, reproduction, and sustenance.  Like Booth explained, communities that are culturally impacted by the arts are compassionate and vital (alive).  Maybe America would have more personal improvements, more interconnectivity, more happy babies and creative masterpieces, more girth––all because of a little more of a fiscally silly thing: funding humanity.

Life should be a crazy ride that you just hold on and enjoy.

Life should be a crazy ride that you just hold on and enjoy.

Responsibility and Reward

I’ve been contemplating–crazy, I know–the difference between facing life as if it is a responsibility and facing life as if it is a reward.

I recently got to travel for a long weekend, and even though I was very busy throughout my vacation–even waking up earlier than I get up at home!–I felt immensely refreshed.  Each day was like an exquisite gift; I didn’t mind expending my energy on it because I knew that I would never have another day quite like it.  And although I “earned” the reprieve by my hard work and frugal planning, it was also something made possible only by the generosity of those around me who opened their homes and wallets to give me a fantastic holiday.

And honestly?  Each day that I work hard is made possible by the generous support of the One Who loves my soul.  (And, no, He doesn’t do it for a cute tote bag as a thank you for His donation.)

Life isn’t easy, and there are strings tied to every fiber of our being that the world around us likes to pull and stretch, sometimes until the line just pops and you know a great thing is gone forever.  But each string doesn’t have to dictate the way I move; I can muscle my way into a dance, a rejoicing in the day that fills my soul with delight and liberates my heart from the oppression of puppeteering.  And with each struggle to find the giggle (or grimace) that my heart feels in each dawn, my strength will grow and my dance get longer, more fluid, and more sure.

So, here’s to tomorrow: may it be a joy set before me!