Monday, April 25, 2016

Moving to Squarespace

Dear readers, after a dozen years here I am moving this blog to my newly redesigned website hosted by Squarespace at Thank you for all of your support and please follow me there.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Wayfaring Life

It may have been the author Ernest Hemingway who coined the phrase “a moveable feast” for the title of his memoir but it can also apply to what I am calling “the wayfaring life,” or the journey on which Linda and I have been since selling our house and furnishings almost five years ago. To quote the German architect, Rohde-Liebenau, “Just as we ourselves have become mobile, we must have movable possessions.”

Since that fateful day a neighbor’s tree landed on the roof of our beloved cottage, home has become more a state of being than a fixed address for us. And our journey has been as much a spiritual and philosophical one as a physical and structural one. As writer Tom Robbins is quoted as saying, “Any half-awake materialist well knows that which you hold holds you.”

To bring readers up to date on our continually evolving journey, an opportunity too-good-to-pass-up has befallen us in the form of an invitation from a relative to lease a charming cottage [including furniture and utilities] for the winter on the coast of Maine. While we had entertained notions of settling here in Middle Tennessee for the foreseeable future, the prospect of needing to procure more furnishings as a result weighed on us, and so the journey continues!

During our monastic retreat this summer I came upon some insightful thoughts in a library book titled Wayfaring: A Gospel Journey in Everyday Life by Margaret Silf. As she writes, “Ways are made very simply. We don’t have to accomplish some feat of heavy engineering. All we have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and walk them...It is an invitation to become a wayfarer, who, simply by walking the way alongside the One who is the Way, and in loving relationship with fellow wayfarers, will also become a waymaker for others.”

And lest the author’s intentions be misinterpreted, she reminds readers, “This is a pilgrimage journey, not a tourist outing. It is a journey that changes the traveler, a process that shapes the soul in ways we cannot predict. In my diary I have a slip of paper with the following text: ‘The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the making of those pathways changes both the maker and the destination.’” For those wondering how we merry wayfarers are faring, all I can say is that we are enjoying the moveable feast.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Learning From the Shakers

Linda and I recently returned from a wonderful two-week vacation in New England and one of the highlights of our journey was a visit to the last community of Shakers, a grand total of two women and one man, located on a bucolic village farm called Chosen Land in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. I even had the opportunity to chat briefly with the lone male, Brother Arnold Hadd, whom I had corresponded with earlier.

Shakers are often confused with Quakers, from whom they are descended but who may marry, and the Amish, who eschew modern technology to live separate from the world. Yet even as Shakers embrace technological tools, their future existence is limited by their celibate lifestyle to converts from the outside world. Suffice it to say that they have their work cut out for them.

In her book God Among the Shakers: A Search for Stillness and Faith at Sabbathday Lake, author Suzanne Skees also visits the Maine Shaker Village and writes: “Current society loves what we perceive as the simple, pure life of Shakers because it stands in stark contrast to everything we have become.” In other words, people settle for admiring the Shaker lifestyle rather than adopting it.

And she continues, “Shakers seemed beyond the reach of attachment, while we other Americans lived immersed in material goods that lost their value almost as soon as they were acquired, scrambling in a flurry of activity that amounted to less than nothing at death.” As the Shakers love to sing, “Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free.” That is simply the truth.

Finally she concludes: “Our entire culture has been built upon the material. The ‘pursuit of happiness’ usually means money, property, food, and romance—the whole lot of which the Shakers have tossed out their two-hundred-year-old farmhouse window.” While converts to the Shaker lifestyle may be lacking, the rest of us could stand to learn from their simple ways of being and operating in the world.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Life Is But a Dream

We may be landlocked here in Middle Tennessee, but I am in a nautical frame of mind, as Linda and I are planning our upcoming vacation to the New England coast, our very favorite place to visit. And while I was preparing this post I was reminded of the nursery school rhyme we all learned as children: “Row, row, row your boat, Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.”

Not all of life is dreamy, of course, but what I’d like to think this rhyme is about is adopting a merrier attitude as we row our boat called life. And one way to travel “gently down the stream,” as the song says, is to pack lightly. Paula Wallace, co-founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, puts it this way: “The allure of travel lies in the freedom of a suitcase—taking only what one needs and leaving room for serendipity.”

And in her book Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter author Elaine St. James shares this fun quote attributed to the cleverly named Jerome Klapka Jerome: “Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing.”

Personally, I could do without the cat and dog, or even the pipes, but I agree with the rest of Jerome’s pithy perspective. The lighter we travel through life, the less baggage we need to lug with us. By keeping it simple, we save ourselves the trouble of toting more than we need on our journey, which any veteran traveller will tell you is the key to enjoying the trip from here to there. Remember, hearses are the great equalizer between the haves and the have-nots. Living lightly on earth helps prepare us for the hereafter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Lease of Life

As I mentioned in the interview with the New American Dream Center linked to a couple postings ago, Linda and I love how the leasing lifestyle allows us to fix our overhead costs, especially when it comes to big-ticket items such as housing and transportation. So in the meantime we returned our Nissan Altima a couple months ahead of the lease expiration to lease a Nissan Rogue [pictured here]. Suffice it to say that we enjoy driving a fully warrantied vehicle that costs us less than owning one.

And vehicles are not the only parts of our lives that are leased. If you think about it, our very lives are leased, or on loan in other words. Once my wife and I realized that truth we got a new lease on our lives in the form of freedom from conventional thinking. Until we are challenged to change our minds about things, none of us are likely to live the type of life we dream about. Leasing is one result of rethinking our lives.

As another example, during our retreat last month at the nearby monastery we learned that the monks work part-time in the mornings and are free to explore personal hobbies, such as printing and photography, for the rest of the day. One thing that stood out to me about the monks’ lifestyle is how apparently content they are living so simply, with all their physical needs met and ample time to grow as people.

To the contrary, Margaret Silf writes of herself and a busy friend in Wayfaring: A Gospel Journey in Everyday Life: “We discovered something inside us that suggested we were only worthwhile, as human beings, if we were constantly pleasing people. We found that we felt guilty if, at the end of the day, we had nothing to show for our twenty-four hours’ lease of life. We realized that we felt that we were only entitled to occupy our little plot of earth on the condition that we earned our rental” [emphases mine].

There is much that is sad about the above quotation but I think it describes many of us at times, even to the point that we feel we need to justify our very existence. Let’s face it: there is something about a rainy day that sort of gives us permission to putter around the house, even when none is really needed. What will help us to overcome such faulty thinking is that while our lives are indeed on loan, we are designed to delight in them.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Retreat Reflections

My wife and I recently returned from a silent retreat to the oldest monastery in America, the Abbey of Gethsemani, located on Monks Road in Trappist, Kentucky. We heard of it last year after visiting the nearby, and also very quiet, Shaker Village, the largest restored such site in America and the place where the late monk and bestselling author Thomas Merton used to retreat to when the monastery got to be too much.

One detail worth sharing is that our retreat was over Independence Day weekend, which also happens to be just after our wedding anniversary, but before whisking my bride off to the monastery, we did spend a couple of nights at a nearby bed and breakfast to celebrate. For the record, we were allowed to communicate with each other, simply not publicly. While we understand the reasoning and we enjoyed the retreat overall, the enforced silence kept us from engaging with our fellow guests, which we found limiting.

Another quirk of our retreat experience was round the clock ritualization of all activities by, you guessed it, the omnipresent clock. Ironically, it was medieval monks who concocted clocks to regulate the routine of daily devotions at monasteries. And the unintended consequence of the innovation was that the very contraption designed to draw people toward the divine instead became the means used to manipulate life as we know it.

To that point, here is an excerpt from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: “In [Lewis] Mumford’s great book Technics and Civilization, he shows how, beginning in the fourteenth century, the clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers. In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded.”

Postman adds, “With the invention of the clock, Eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events. And thus, though few would have imagined the connection, the inexorable ticking of the clock may have had more to do with the weakening of God’s supremacy than all the treatises produced by the philosophers of the Enlightenment; that is to say, the clock introduced a new form of conversation between man and God, in which God appears to have been the loser. Perhaps Moses should have included another Commandment: Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Redefining the Dream

More than five years ago a neighbor’s tree catapulted my wife and I toward a different lifestyle. As longtime readers may recall from my post titled “Celebrating Life,” the aforementioned tree [a massive water-logged oak] landed on the roof of our dream house and consequently launched us on our journey toward a minimalist mode of living. With this defining moment came the realization that we wanted to live less tethered to one place by trading our picket fence version of the American Dream for a more mobile one.

So we methodically pared down our possessions, including our carefully curated library of more than 1,000 books. And in less than a year we were blessed to sell our renovated home for cash at the asking price even in the depressed market of Central Florida. Since that time Linda and I have lived in some very special places, not the least of which is the antebellum mansion we call home here in historic Franklin, Tennessee. Without exception, everyone we have shared our story with has said how much it resonates with them, whether or not they are willing to try it themselves.

And thanks to the good people at the Center for a New American Dream, we are able to share our story with many others. As of yesterday, we are being featured in the latest installment of the center’s Living the Dream series under the heading of “Living Large With Less.” We are very proud to be a part of the center’s Redefining the Dream program, “inspiring, engaging, and challenging Americans to re-examine their cultural values on consumption and consumerism and initiating a new national conversation around what ‘the good life’ and the ‘American dream’ mean.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Path of Least Persistence

It has been said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. And I know from personal experience as well as observing the lives of others that the same can be said of the creative process. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, “the best laid plans of mice and men” often come to naught if we are not willing to press past the resistance to creativity. So I have identified at least three characteristics that pave the path of least persistence: perfectionism, procrastination and people pleasing.

Of the three, I think the most insidious one is people pleasing, because it masquerades as a positive attribute but corrodes our relationships and contributes to the other two issues. Chances are that if we strive to please people it also will lead to procrastination and perfectionism, which feed off each other as well. All three are part of a negative feedback loop that threaten to mire all of us—but especially creative types—in the paralysis of analysis, and result in a state of inertia.

In an effort to create art, whether through writing, photography, music or another medium, it can be tempting to procrastinate in the form of “waiting for the muse,” but that is a recipe for regrets. And insisting on perfection before releasing our art into the wild is likewise not helpful. We may fancy ourselves geniuses but unless we reach our audiences we are simply legends in our own minds. As the saying goes, if no one is following our leading, then we are simply out for a stroll.

So what are the antidotes to people pleasing, procrastination and perfectionism? I have found that affirmation, action and acceptance help to counter each of these enemies to the creative process. Affirmation from loved ones inoculates us from the need to please other people. Our action by very definition neutralizes the power of procrastination. And the acceptance of progress rather than perfection saves us from striving after an impossible ideal. Only by defining success on our terms can we truly succeed.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Pocket Supercomputer

I don’t have many regrets in life but a professional one is that I opted not to cover the unveiling of the original iPhone [pictured from my archives] for my journalism clientele despite being in the area. My wife and I were new Apple devotees and wanted to visit San Francisco, so to celebrate my birthday that year we flew from Florida to California to attend the annual MacWorld convention, where then Apple chief Steve Jobs was doing the honors.

There were actually a couple of good reasons I didn't attend the festivities that historic morning. For starters, I wasn’t keen on waiting outside for hours in the pre-dawn chilly weather [a record cold snap hit the area] and I didn’t want to leave Linda back at the hotel to navigate the several blocks to the convention center by herself. But had I realized how historic an event it was I might have been more motivated. The iPhone is the biggest selling electronic device in history, with better than 700 MILLION sold to date, or more than twice the population of America, and it has revolutionized life as we know it.

Venture into public almost anywhere across America, or the world for that matter, and you are likely to find a multitude, if not a majority, of people using the almost ubiquitous smartphone. The iPhone has become so popular that people forget the sophisticated technological breakthroughs it introduced, including touchscreen navigation among others that we now take for granted. It is no exaggeration to consider it the original pocket supercomputer.

No less than renowned venture capitalist Marc Andreessen is quoted as saying so in the recently released book Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. “That iPhone sitting in your pocket is the exact equivalent of a Cray XMP supercomputer from twenty years ago that used to cost ten million dollars. It’s got the same operating system software, the same processing speed, the same data storage, compressed down to a six-hundred-dollar device. That is the breakthrough Steve achieved. That’s what these phones really are!”

According to an article by Joshua Brustein in a recent issue of Bloomburg Business titled “Inside RadioShack’s Slow-Motion Collapse,” “The cell phone also helped kill the rest of the retailer’s business by destroying the market for so many of the gadgets RadioShack used to sell, such as voice recorders, GPS devices, answering machines, and camcorders. Early last year, Steve Cichon, a writer for the website Trending Buffalo, sifted through a RadioShack ad from 1991 and found that his iPhone had negated any need for 13 of the 15 products being sold. The listed price on those items: $3,054.82.” Supercomputer indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Sense of Belonging(s)

My wife and I just returned from visiting our families in Florida during our annual migration to thaw out from the winter weather here in Tennessee. It was a good trip overall but not one without its own need for relational thawing. Suffice it to say that while we may be part of our respective families, we do not always feel extremely close to them. Linda was the late arriving baby in her family and I was adopted into mine so each of us occasionally feel like outsiders at a party to which we were belatedly invited.

Adding to our sense of detachment in life is the radical downsizing we embarked upon a few years ago, whereby we not only sold our beloved home but the bulk of our possessions also. We may not regret the move but it has been a monumental one nonetheless, a fact often downplayed or dismissed by loved ones. Despite giving many of our very favorite items to family and friends, some fail to appreciate the act of sacrifice it represents, no matter the love behind it.

Belonging can refer to a possession or a feeling and I think the two are interrelated. As Lucinda Fleeson writes, “That’s why we call them belongings, because they give us a sense of belonging to something when we’ve left behind one life and have no compass to guide us through the next.” Belonging is in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and as such serves as the link between being and becoming. Here physiological and safety needs may be met but self-esteem and self-actualization hinge on one’s sense of belonging.

While our stuff is not meant to define us it may yield clues to what we find meaningful. Oprah Winfrey popularized the term “favorite things” and thinking about ours can be a helpful exercise in identifying what we value. For example, what would you try to rescue in the event of a fire? Or want to pack on a dream vacation? Or be marooned with on a deserted island? All of these are ways of selecting some of our favorite things.

I created a digital file of pictures representing several of my favorite things in addition to a thorough inventory of all our belongings. The process was not only a fun exercise, but also helpful preparation for an emergency. Many people do not even realize all they own and therefore often buy unnecessary duplicates of things, only adding to their accumulated clutter. But once you identify what belongs in your life and what does not, whether people or possessions, you are better positioned to move forward in your life, both physically and emotionally.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Phones, Drones and Automobiles

A summary of trends from the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that I read in USA Today identified the very issues I planned to blog about so I thought I’d share some of them here. Trend Five is “Don’t Ever Lose Your Smartphone” because so much other tech is tethered to it. Trend Three is “Drones Are Kind of a Big Deal” because like it or not flying robots are here to stay. And Trend One is “Cars Drive You” because self-driving cars are moving ever closer to reality.

In a play off the popular holiday movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” I am titling this post “Phones, Drones and Automobiles.” Each of these technologies offers not only a promising upside but also a pernicious downside that we need to reckon with before we all plunge headlong into using them without exercising due diligence. Some personal exposure to the downside of each of these technologies has caused me to pause and reflect about their respective uses.

I must admit that I love my smartphone but thoughtless use by people so addicted to the device’s charms that they can’t keep themselves from abusing it is downright scary. From distracted driving to sexting selfies, many people apparently think they are the center of the cosmos and act accordingly. For example, selfish people have so spoiled the theatre experience for my wife and I that we have all but quit going to movies and other public gatherings. Even church has become a chore.

As for drones, Linda and I encountered one at, of all places, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, the site of some of the Civil War’s bloodiest fighting. The event featured a grand illumination of 10,000 lights to remember the fallen and yet hovering overhead during much of the evening was, you guessed it, an annoyingly buzzing drone. It was ostensibly there to document the event but it had the effect of dampening the experience for us.

And when it comes to self-driving cars, I can’t help thinking of the law of unintended consequences and the resulting chaos that such vehicles are likely to cause on our roadways. Personally, I am hoping that they receive as unwelcome a reception as Google glasses and Segway transporters, both of which may have been promising in theory but unpopular in reality. Technology is only as intelligent as its users and unless we can harness our humanity to serve the greater good it is an exercise in futility.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Esteeming the Essential

As it is New Year’s Eve and the clock is counting down to the magic hour I simply want to close the year with a brief reminder to esteem the essential and eliminate the nonessential. So many truths are reinforced for me via my reading and this topic is no different. I recently read Old Songs in a New CafĂ© by Robert James Waller and he shares some timely insight that can help us move forward into a new and better year ahead. For when all is said and done, no matter how manicured our lawns or how spotless our homes, for example, we need to make time for each other.

“There’s also the problem of doing away with the clutter. Like good composition of any kind, coming to grips with life requires a certain elegance of lifestyle, not in the sense of being fancy, but rather a consideration of what can be discarded in favor of simplicity,” writes Waller. “I propose there is an insidious plot to steal our time in the world we have created, and it’s important to get rid of as many encumbrances as possible, including lawn care and excessive housekeeping. The sign my wife posted a long time ago says it rather nicely: ‘Today I Cherish, Tomorrow I Dust.’”

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Place Called Home

I have been thinking a lot about the place called home lately. And as a sign I saw at Cracker Barrel the other day eloquently states: “What I Love Most About My Home Is Who I Share It With.” As I have written here before, home to me is wherever my wife, Linda, and I are together. And for the time being, that is an antebellum house we are leasing here in Middle Tennessee. Yet travel writer Pico Iyer has written, “Home is the place where you become yourself…Heaven is the place where you think of nowhere else.” And lately I have been thinking of the sea.

For all of Middle Tennessee’s charms, and they are many, one thing it cannot supply is the beach vibe we love and were blessed to experience during our sabbatical on the island of Nantucket a couple of years ago. As blessed as we are here, I cannot help but reflect fondly upon our time spent enveloped by the sea. Even when we lived for several years in Central Florida before heading to Nantucket we furnished our Cape Cod style cottage with nautical prints of lighthouses and ships. And some of my favorite books include such titles as Gift From the Sea, Return to the Sea, and A Year by the Sea. I guess one could quip that the ocean “floats my boat.”

And so it was with much interest that I read this passage from a thought provoking book titled On Moving: A Writer’s Meditations on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again by Louise DeSalvo: “[The poet] Elizabeth Bishop loved to live in ‘temporary homes by the sea.’ They brought back the ease she’d sometimes felt in Nova Scotia. She liked the simplification, improvisation, and community these places could provide. ‘You live in this Robinson Crusoe atmosphere,’ she wrote, ‘…contriving and inventing.’ It is just such qualities that I find myself craving anew. So we shall see where all this carries us. But in the meantime, I am making myself at home for the holidays and hope you enjoy yours also.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Intentional Technology

Writer Pico Iyer, author of the new book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, has this advice for all those who think they are too busy to tame their use of technology: “It’s precisely those who are busiest who most need to give themselves a break.” According to Iyer, the World Health Organization has stated that “stress will be the health epidemic of the twenty-first century.” And he adds that a third of American companies now have “stress-reduction programs” to help alleviate it.

Iyer, who does not use a cellphone or social media, also shares the story of how his friend, technologist Kevin Kelly, “had written his latest book about how technology can ‘expand our individual potential’ while living without a smartphone, a laptop, or a television in his home. Kevin still takes off on months-long trips…without a computer, so as to be rooted in the nonvirtual world. ‘I continue to keep the cornucopia of technology at arm’s length,’ [Kelly] writes, ‘so that I can more easily remember who I am.’”

It is remembrance of the essential that people frequently forget. So easily distracted by digital devices, people ignore those present in the name of being connected to ones absent. It grieves me to observe groups of people together in public yet glued to their screens instead of paying attention to one another. The saddest occasions are the ones involving families oblivious to the obvious: that each individual is neglecting their loved ones for the fleeting attention of so-called friends, fans or followers.

Digital distraction has grown to the point that it has gotten difficult to enjoy simple pleasures like going to a movie or concert due to other people’s rudeness ruining the community experience. And the deadly driving of texting twits endangers all of us on a daily basis. All of which reminds my wife and I to be even more intentional about our own use of electronic devices, including not using them on weekends, or at least on the Sabbath. Gadgets are designed as useful tools but are not meant to be our gods.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Nantucket Project

It has been a couple of months since I last posted here as I am in the process of transitioning my websites but I thought I’d go ahead and share a somewhat time-sensitive update. Late last month my wife, Linda, and I volunteered at The Nantucket Project (TNP), the fourth annual thinkfest held on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, where regular readers will remember we lived for several months during our sabbatical of a couple years ago.

As it turned out, we were already set to visit the island for a vacation through the good graces of friends who invited us to housesit their place while they were off-island. It was only after booking our flights that I realized the good timing of our visit coinciding with TNP. I applied for a fellowship since attending the event cost about $4,000 but did not get one; however, I was invited to volunteer and quickly signed up Linda also.

The theme of the conference explored the intersection of art and commerce and its resulting values. In addition to some cool, free shirts (pictured above), we also got to attend several of the sessions, including a surprise visit from Secretary of State John Kerry (who has a home on-island), and a surreal appearance by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange via hologram in real time from his asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

I also got to meet some very interesting people, including influential tech columnist Walt Mossberg (formerly of the Wall Street Journal), documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (who interviewed Assange live), founder of the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences Richard Saul Wurman, copyright activist (and a founding board member of Creative Commons) Larry Lessig, and several others. Linda helped with event registration, I assisted with video production and we both had fun.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Too Much Information

No, I am not referring to oversharing during conversations here. What I am alluding to is the deluge of data that can make daily life like drinking from a fire hose. While we all may be inundated with media messages from sunup to sundown, I suggest that we not simply accept it but instead actively resist its onslaught. It is an illusion to think that information necessarily leads to illumination. As Herbert Simon says, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

In Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write, “If information is coming quickly and overabundantly, knowledge, paradoxically, is harder to come by. When information is in greater supply, knowledge is harder, not easier, to create, because we have to sift through more facts, more assertions, more stuff, to arrive at it. An abundance of information often means more dissonance, more contradictions.”

And according to The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin, a study by the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California, San Diego, found that Americans consumed information for an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totaled 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on a typical day. With all that consumption comes overload so we’d do well to listen to William James, who wrote, “Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

I am a lifelong learner and love reading so I must continually discipline myself to practice what I am preaching here. One tip I can share that has helped me is to limit the flow of information into my life by getting off virtually all online and other mailing lists, including magazine, newspaper and newsletter subscriptions. As a result, I no longer spend countless hours perusing said materials and am instead free to create my own art. Consider only consuming media that adds value to your life so you can create some meaningful stuff of your own.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

No Place Like Home

As I shared earlier, my wife Linda and I have done a little traveling this summer and it has been fun. During Memorial Day weekend we visited Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky and to celebrate Independence Day (and our wedding anniversary) we visited Sewanee in Monteagle, Tennessee. And at each place, we were treated to classical music concerts, which we loved.

Yet as nice as each place was to visit, we nonetheless found ourselves uttering that familiar phrase, “be it ever so humble, there is no place like home,” which has gotten me to think about the meaning of home again, particularly since our one-year lease has expired and we are living on a month-to-month basis. The virtues of our present place are many and so we are content to continue living here.

For friends and family who have followed our journey these last three years since we sold our house and furniture to explore a more location-independent lifestyle, the question may arise, “so do thoughts of home mean you are thinking of settling down again?” To which we’d reply, “uh, no.” I’m not sure I even know what settling down would look like for us, but it definitely does not include buying another house. It even feels a little funny staying in the same area for the last couple years, even though we changed addresses.

As regular readers may recall, I posted an entry titled The Meaning of Home about a year ago but here are more thoughts about it. Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness: The Secret Art of Furnishing Your Life, “Those places whose outlook matches and legitimates our own, we tend to honor with the term ‘home.’ Our homes do not have to offer us permanent occupancy or store our clothes to merit the name. To speak of home in relation to a building is simply to recognize its harmony with our own prized internal song. Home can be an airport or a library, a garden or a diner.”

And Kirsten Chapman adds in The Way Home, “We are imprinted with an eternal sense of ‘home’—no matter how far we wander. Home can be found in a place, a person, a book, a melody. When we feel it, we know we’re there. It is that safe haven where we find comfort. Where we feel anchored. It is a lifeline.” So for the time being, we are at home here, and if that changes, I will write about it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Celebrating Interdependence Day

As it has been awhile since I posted here I’ve got some catching up to do. I’ll start with an overdue post about our visit to Monteagle, Tennessee and the University of the South, better known as Sewanee. Just a couple hours’ drive from the Nashville area, our holiday trip transported us a world away, which is exactly what we wanted as we celebrated our wedding anniversary, or Interdependence Day, as it is known in our house.

We had heard what a beautiful campus the college had and it was that and more. But it was a series of serendipitous experiences that combined to make our adventure so memorable. Upon arriving for our first night at the luxurious new Sewanee Inn we learned that the college orchestra was performing a free concert of classical music at the nearby Monteagle Sunday School Assembly (MMSA) and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our visit.

According to the sign at its entrance, the purpose of MMSA is “the advancement of science, literary attainment, Sunday School interests, and the promotion of the broadest popular culture in the interest of Christianity without regard to sect or denomination.” It is patterned after the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York and is similar to the Methodist campground that we visited at Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

It was a slice of our beloved New England here in the South and the weather even turned quite a bit cooler for us, adding to the irresistible ambience of the idyllic retreat center. Back at Sewanee, we bravely (and successfully) rode the tandem bike the inn provided for guests, toured the gothic-themed campus of the university and visited several of the neighboring scenic spots, including a giant-sized white cross on the mountainside and the stunning library of homegrown investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton.

Capping off our relaxing visit was the complimentary upgrade upon our request to a spacious upstairs suite overlooking the golf course. Our stay not only refreshed our bodies but also our spirits and reminded us anew of how much God cares for us and delights in giving us the desires of our hearts. This Independence Day we celebrated our interdependence on one another and on God and yes, there were fireworks!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Less But Better

I am reading an insightful book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and its main point is that “less but better” is an idea whose time has come. The author touches on what has widely come to be known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, which I blogged about earlier in my post titled Living the Edited Life. As he reminds readers, our focus needs to be on the 20% of our efforts that produce 80% of our results.

McKeown also shares how uber-investor Warren Buffett—who famously said “Our investment philosophy borders on lethargy”—owes 90% of his wealth to only 10 investments, which got me thinking about what I’ll call the Tithe Principle. As anyone remotely familiar with the scriptural concept of tithing knows, a tithe represents a tenth, or 10%, of one’s wealth. And as a believer myself, I can attest to a higher standard of living with the 90% left after tithing than the alternative of not tithing.

The book even delves into what is called the power law theory, whereby certain efforts actually produce exponentially more results than others, as in 10X, or 100X or even 1000X. The thinking here is that it pays to leverage our assets in such a way as to optimize our endeavors; in other words, work smarter not harder, or exercise what I call the Eagle Ethic. While eagles are powerful birds of prey they conserve their energy by being very strategic in their hunting, to the point that some may consider them lazy. Their motto could easily be: minimum effort, maximum effect. Less but better: what a concept.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Road Less Travelled

I am reading a book called The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kienan, a travel writer who rarely if ever flies because he prefers more pedestrian modes of travel, such as walking. The book is all about taking the road less travelled, which the famous Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” suggests makes all the difference. And I agree, so much so that I carry a copy of the poem in my Moleskine.

Speaking of roads and notebooks, fellow travel writer and user of Moleskines, Bruce Chatwin, is quoted by Kienan: “Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, and life itself is a journey, to be walked on foot.” While I don’t know if I want to walk everywhere on the journey of life, there is much to be said for slowing down long enough to savor the stroll.

Kienan also quotes my favorite travel writer, Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” And the author suggests that what Thoreau may mean by “music” is an alternative concept of time, namely celebrating the present.

“The thrill of living in the moment, which is the real destination of all journeys, is what the greatest travel writers are revealing in their meticulous descriptions of the places they go and the people they meet,” writes Kienan. Wherever we are on our own travels it helps if we move more slowly and read the signposts along the way so we can make detours if necessary. Here is to enjoying the journey!