In the past two weeks, I've seen several interesting articles/essays on whether people are too busy, and whether there's anything that can be done about this.
The first piece, titled "The 'Busy' Trap," comes courtesy of Tim Krieder in the New York Times, who writes that everyone he knows constantly complains about how busy they are. Or is it a complaint? Krieder suggests that it might actually be a boast, a way of demonstrating how important and full their lives are, in a world where the number of activities and distractions at our disposal seems to be increasing. He also hits upon one of my big pet peeves: friends who are too busy to do anything. He writes:
"Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it."
I agreed with most of Kreider's essay. I know plenty of people whose kids are enrolled in numerous activities by the time they're in kindergarten, and who think their jobs are far more important than they actually are. And when there's an emphasis on organized, planned activities, for both adults and children, the simple act of hanging out and catching up with friends inevitably falls by the wayside.
Krieder's essay is interesting, as far as it goes, but it doesn't address one big reason why people are so busy: Their jobs demand it. And at a time of great economic anxiety, few people feel they can ditch their responsibilities to clear their minds of clutter and white noise.
When I was in college, I talked to my parents once a week. I went home on breaks, and spent part of the summer at home, before my summer camp job began. I love my parents, but I did not feel the need to talk to them five or six tiimes, or see them all that much.
Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Terry Castle writes about how the Millennials are tethered to their parents, and why this is bad. She makes the case for orphanhood -for separating from your parents, and becoming your own person. I think she's right, and that this is an essential part of growing up, but recent trends - helicopter parents, college students who talk to their parents five or six times a day - suggest that maybe this changing. Castle asks:
"So where are we today? Are we in the midst of some countertransformation? A rolling back of the Enlightenment parent-child story? Are we returning to an older model of belief—to a more authoritarian and "elder centric" world? The deferential-child model has dominated most of human history, after all. Maybe the extraordinary Enlightenment break with the age-old commandment—honor thy father and thy mother—was temporary, an aberration, a blip on the screen."
Anyway, the whole essay is interesting, and you can read it here.
Salon has an interesting interview with the author Jonah Lehrer about his new book "Imagine: How Creativity Works."
Lehrer refutes a lot of myths about creativity, including the theory that artists need a visit from the muse to produce something special. I've long believed that being creative takes work, and if you sit around saying you don't have any ideas, well, you'll never have any.
I really hate the expression "love the sinner, hate the sin."
Whenever I hear this expression, I always feel like going out and doing something positively sinful. Which is not, I think, the speaker's intended effect. Regardless, the expression seems to tap into my contrarian side.
Lately, I've decided that the best way to deal with "love the sinner, hate the sin" is to give it a slight alteration. My preferred expression: "love the sin, hate the sinner."
I've written about being an introvert before, and how at times it's like being part of a poorly understood animal species. (Much like cats, introverts resist overbearing efforts to befriend us and draw us out of our shells.) For some reason, people are often perplexed by by the fact that introverts have filters, and don't feel the need to tell everyone on earth everything we're thinking.
Now blogger Carl King has helpfully listed some of the biggest myths about introverts.
Click here to read them.
Philosophers have long debated whether free will exists, or is a complete illusion, but now scientists are getting in on the act.
Their conclusion: Free will is an illusion.
Check out this interesting USA Today article to learn more.
It’s a weird claim to fame, really, but I used up the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol told us we’d all have in the future with laundry art. Yes, laundry art.
My photographs of clotheslines have been published the world over. I’ve been interviewed by international news outlets and The New York Times—all for photographs of hanging laundry.
When I was interviewed by the reporter at The New York Times, I remember her asking “Why Laundry?”
Like any story, it’s complicated, but the short version starts with a college friendship with the soon-to-become founder and chair of Project Laundry List, an organization that promotes, as its sole function, the hanging of laundry, as well as my own convictions that hanging laundry is a moral good.
I explained to The New York Times reporter that I’d grown up in a household where laundry was hung, and while I wasn’t always a huge fan of it (especially in those surly teenage years), I came to appreciate its practicality.
My friend Shirin has written a piece on yoga and the winter solstice over at blisspassport.com.
In her essay, she explains that "yoga studios often make an event of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the summer and winter solstices. The number 108 is considered significant in Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism."
Click here to read the entire piece.
In my weekly column at the DG, I share my thoughts on Christmas, and the alleged war on Christmas.
Here's an excerpt:
"My friend Hanna recently sent me an email with the subject 'Question for a Christian.'
Hanna, who is Jewish, often comes to me with questions about why Christians do the things they do. This time, the question concerned Christmas food traditions. A food writer, she was looking for fodder for her blog but coming up empty.
'I’ve just visited three dozen local church websites and it sounds like the heartiest meal on the community calendar is a cookie tray served after caroling,' Hanna wrote. 'Do churches not mark Christmas in some edible way? Do most families eat their geese in private?'
I hit reply and typed, 'We eat Chinese food, just like you!'
Since Hanna wrote her master’s thesis on why Jews like Chinese food, I assumed she would appreciate this joke. In college, she taught me that many Jews mark Christmas by eating Chinese food because Chinese restaurants are among the few places open that day; when Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was asked what she did on Christmas during her confirmation hearing, she said, 'You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.'
Anyway, back to Hanna’s question. I had no idea how to answer it. I wracked my brain trying to think of a Christmas-related food tradition observed by virtually all Christians and soon concluded that there wasn’t one. So I suggested she focus on Christmas cookies. 'There are about 1,001 kinds of Christmas cookies,' I wrote. 'My mom makes at least six different kinds, plus fudge.'"
Click here to read the whole thing.
I've stayed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City two times, through a program called Nightwatch, which opens the church up to Christian youth groups. During the day, we explored New York City, did some volunteer work, and returned to the cathedral at night, for activities, worship and a hard sleep on a gym floor. One highlight was a nighttime tour of the cathedral that brought us up to the building's ledges, and even outside onto balconies, for close-up views of gargoyles and such.
Anyway, I have fond memories of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which might explain why I enjoyed this piece in The Morning News.
I've been known to be somewhat free with my use of the word hate, prompting my father to once observe, "We didn't raise you to hate."
Last year, after I declared my hatred of the Miami Heat, a reader informed me that "hate is a very strong word." Which is true. I guess. Anyway. Rather than change my ways, I decided to write a whole column about all the things I hate. This list included Bed, Bath & Beyond, colleges and universities that pay their presidents $1 million or more and people who stop to answer their cell phones in the middle of doorways.
But it's unlikely I'll ever change.
In Pursuit of the Good
Courtesy of Gizmodo, a rant called "Generation X is Sick of Your Bullshit."
In the Boston Globe, Gareth Cook suggests that there's a dark side to the pursuit of happiness.
Which comes as no surprise to me. I've long thought that people who are always happy are deluding themselves, turning a blind eye to some ugly truths.
Here's an excerpt from the Globe piece:
"Now, though, there is gathering evidence that happiness is not what it may appear. A string of new studies suggests that the modern chase after happiness--and even happiness itself--can hurt us. Happy, it turns out, is not always the way you want to be. To be happy is to be more gullible. Happy people tend to think less concretely and systematically; they are less persuasive. A happy person is less likely to discern looming threats.
And the chase itself can backfire: The more you value happiness, it turns out, the more unhappy you will become. The problem, a team of psychologists reports, is that when you focus too much on happiness, you are disappointed when happy events--your birthday party, say--don’t deliver a bigger boost. Which makes you unhappy. Reach for happiness with both hands, and it will abandon you.
'We have put happiness under the microscope just like we do with every other mental state,' says June Gruber, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, who coauthored a recent review of happiness research, 'and we see that there is this dark side.'"
In "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible," writer A.J. Jacobs spent a year trying to follow all of the rules and guidelines he could find in the Bible - more than 700, it turned out.
Now an evangelical Christian and writer named Rachel Held Evans has attempted something similar. In her year-long Womanhood Project, she tries to follow all of the Biblical rules and guidelines for woman - foregoing haircuts, making her own clothes and camping in her front yard when she had her period. Her project has attracted attention and proven controversial, and this week the Public Religion Research Institute provided an interesting summary of her thoughts, feelings and the reactions to the project thus far.
To visit the Womanhood Project, click here.