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.