Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christmas Lights

In our household we are pretty enamored with christmas. My wife and I point out christmas lights to one another whenever we are in the car. Driving the other night with the grizzly in the back seat, I pointed out some christmas lights almost out of habit.
"Hey bub, look christmas."
"Ohhhhhhh Bee-YOU-ti-FUL!"

First, that is the best response ever.
Second, it gave me pause. I looked at the lights with a new perspective. They are beautiful, aren't they. Intellectually I knew they were just some LEDs covered in colored plastic wired up, and stapled to the front of someone's house. Kind of gaudy, and silly. But when you look at it from the kid's perspective, who the hell cares? they're shiny and bright and colorful and lovely. It's one of the few altruistic things people do these days. Spend an afternoon on a ladder stapling gaudy lights to our house for the enjoyment of others. A gesture of kindness.
I began to think of all of the other moments of beauty and kindness we overlook simply because they are so readily and often available to us. This lack of mindfulness is terrible.
Our experiences are finite. We don't go on forever. To look past these moments is to look past our own lives. We live in a time of incredible availability. The food, art and knowledge we have available to us at this time in history is incredible, and yet most people don't appreciate any of it. We blindly trudge through our lives.
I am asking you not to just stop and smell the roses, but to appreciate the beauty of the rose, and the thorns. To marvel at the diversity and similarity of all the roses. To think about your interactions with people.
This is one of the greatest vices that I have, and is the source of my greatest problems. I have pounded down food like it's an unpleasant chore. I have neglected books, and overlooked moments of beauty to get somewhere or move on to the next whatever. Living life like a skipping stone. I am breaking these habits. I eat slower. I walk slower with my head up. I stop and breathe deeper. What's more I pay attention to what I feel. When I talk to someone, how do I feel in their presence? Do I really want to have this conversation? If not, I don't. If so, why?
I've always been a good observer of the behavior of other people, but now I'm turning that lens in. Focusing on myself. It's not easy.
I am not suggesting you dive headlong into your own navel. To become absorbed with the patina of our interactions, but to actually seek some depth of your own experience. Sitting there right now, how is your posture? How are your feet positioned? What was the last book you read? Did you read it or skim through it? What was the last thing you ate? How did it taste? What did it feel like in your mouth? To whom did you last speak? Did you listen, or wait for your turn to ejaculate words at them?

I am not suggesting that I am a leading example of how to behave in this respect. It is something that I struggle to do, but it's one of the best lessons I've learned as a parent.
The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced.
-J.J. Van der Leeuw

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