Resolutions in Context

January 15, 2015

Considering the Past & Resolving for 2015.

Yes, here I go again. My life revolves around self-examination and reflection, desires and ambitions – all of it very conceptual. These endeavors aim at accomplishing something of greater than ordinary importance even though I know by now – the year in which I turn 75 – that I seldom achieve what I set out to do.

I am always looking for context and how I might fit in or differ from what is ostensibly going on around me. Coincidentally as I went about my annual mulling of time and the attempts it offers us, Parade, the Sunday supplement (January 4, 2015) came to the door. This issue features the talkers on the Today Show as though I am supposed to know them, but I do not. Firstly, I do not watch commercial television and have no time for what is “popular.” I have seen spots of Today when someone else is running it at Snap Fitness or in the Toyota of Maplewood service waiting room. Normally, I am focused at that time of day on one of my endless projects and turn my attention elsewhere.

Nevertheless, here fell another chance to checkup on myself for comparison’s sake. Today’s people offer their thoughts on resolutions, expressed in positive terms (“Do” this) and negative ones (“Don’t” do that).

Savannah Guthrie says practice gratitude and don’t lose perspective. Lately, I’ve noticed in church and elsewhere the brain research people find that by routine expression of gratitude, people become more grateful in thought and action. Seems like a case of res ipso loquitur to me. For sure, gratitude is not automatic; we have to appreciate good fortune and seek to share it. I learned gratitude mostly from my parents. Mother continued stalwart in unending support of the family. Dad gave much of his time to public causes and shared the fruits of a disciplined life with  others. I grew up aware of many relatives, teachers, neighbors and other church and community members who made my life better. Thereby, becoming the same kind of transmitter seemed natural to me. A proper sense of perspective – an accurate recognition of the beneficent surrounding world – sets us up for gratitude.

I have long practiced a sense of gratitude, one of the drivers of my life. I live each day for a fuller perspective on my own operations and my place in the wider world.

Matt Lauer says enjoy today and don’t delay adventure. I’m glad he said “enjoy.” I have a low opinion of fun, something I regard as inferior to enjoyment. Games may be fun, but not to me. I go for a greater range of deeper emotions brought on by artful music, arresting art, and skillful literature or their human equivalents. So I bond with his use of enjoy. By adventure, Laurer indicates the exceptional, such as Machu Picchu and Easter Island, seemingly adventures of the spirit that take some effort and depth of experience. For myself, I get as much adventure out of planning to visit a place as actually going there. The adventures, I favor, are in ideas and representations, identities that I can travel to any time I want and which I find especially rewarding.

Contemplation including the experience of the arts are my regular enjoyment and have been for decades. These same enjoyments I take as my adventures.

Al Roker says feed your passions and don’t fuss over setbacks. I gather he means pursue what keeps you going without being thrown off track by any obstacles, whether or not you anticipated them. Sounds like solid everyday advice: he is, after all, the weatherman. My passions mostly revolve around learning – both an everyday and long-term commitment – and pursuit of the conceptual subjects that feed learning for me. Philosophy takes the forefront in my hierarchy of passions as well as religion, psychology, culture, history and their theoretical aspects as well as those of the social sciences, education, the arts, communication, literature, and science. My professional core, the organization and use of knowledge, threads through all these disciplines.

Natalie Morales says take time for yourself and its converse – don’t overtask. Such retreats intend to be holistic, wholesome, and renewing where our refreshments enhance without self-exhaustion. While I spend most of my time alone and largely focused on myself, I never feel that I have enough time and I feel guilty when I take a break and want diversion. I berate myself for my slow rate of progress towards my goals and the failure to prepare ahead and complete assignments: the world’s deadlines turn all other interim stuff into daily priorities. Worst of all, after nearly 60 years of trying I have yet to complete a novel to my satisfaction and thereby dread that I have wasted my life in this pursuit when I may not have the right psyche for novelizing.

Today’s other hosts advise on the more mundane aspects of our lives – our stuff, our email, our fitness, our diet and nutrition, our finances. Yes, these facets are important, and I could do better in these areas. However, I remain focused on the more transcendent, not the everyday.

How did I fare in 2014 and what will I do in 2015?

1. My Time. As the year progressed, I attained habitual time blocks for writing and pre-writing. I’m still best in the early hours and now wear out in the later afternoon unless highly motivated. It is not unusual for me to spend at least 8 hours a day at my computer. I try to get up and move around at least once an hour, but often whatever I do engrosses me. I even forget to set the timer that enlivens my attention when embedded in some routine entrapment. I feel I am in a better place now as far as time use. Because of certain health issues during the year, reality has hit – I may not live as long as I thought and ought not waste time.

2015: Stick to work habits that perform. Keep priorities. Monitor events and deadlines.

2. The Company of Seidor. As I got busy on Company, I discovered numerous problems in the writing. Although I developed a detailed character description of Seidor, other questions bothered me. I do not have a complete sequence of plot elements; story tensions evade me; the environment that ought to exemplify the Vennosi people remains underdeveloped; the time shifts of the story require distinct differences in tone and narrative style while remaining integral to the story as a whole; typical with me empathy never gains the foreground over idea. Mostly, I could never wrestle my lack of confidence to the ground. I never stop thinking about Company, but I have recessed the story in order to work on the background as I keep reaching for detail insted of the story. I am trying to calculate how much more groundwork I have to do before I confidently return to narrative.

2015: Bring background up to story timeline. Write first draft by the parts that work.

3. My Reading. It suffers. I seldom complete anything anymore unless it is for book club, grabs my attention, or becomes necessary for some presentation. I have identified priority lists of things to read necessary to enlighten inquiries and to propel me towards deeper thinking and writing. I have also identified some non-fiction work I want to do this year: Aristotle, library philosophy, essays on the first century, Magna Carta. I gave up wanting to write something in response to the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth, but found him more majestically important, complex, and elusive than I could manage to resolve.

2015: Identify the best reading times. Read every day.

4. My Blogs. I have done more with my Ceptsform library-related bloging than anything else. Also, I have tried to revive my bibliography, indexing, and poetry work by publishing them in blog format.

2015: Finish Ceptsform inventory.

5. My Work Environment. I started the year well by reducing clutter by at least a few inches each day up to a foot. I did establish more convenient filing systems to bring order to utter randomness, aka known as piles of stuff. Except for book acquisition and organization, I seem to be falling farther behind in all the other areas. All in all, my archival mentality keeps me fighting for “file, don’t pile” and losing.

2015: File every day so as not to lose ground. Take advantage of down times.

6. My Exercise. I managed a little stretching, some walking and a fair amount of bicycling, but have gone a whole year without weight resistance exercise. I have reduced to 150 pounds but lost a lot of the muscle tone I had developed. I am once again enrolled at Snap Fitness and expect to resume a regular schedule.

2015: Exercise every other day – 3 or 4 times per week. Bicycle in good weather.

7. My Stories. I have some story concepts and experimented with various story techniques of little literary value, but quickly stalled. The thought of a literary retreat intrigues me.

2015: Work on at least one good story possibility. Investigate retreats as The Clearing.

8. My Gardening. I enjoyed the patio once again though the summer was never as warm as I wanted. I did most of the gardening at the Heinseens and got a lot of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and green tomato pickles out of it. I am at my worst coordinating the Pilgrim Garden and must give up that.

2015: Quit coordinating Pilgrim Garden. Do the Heinseens’ again.

9. Language Learning. Totally postponed, but I have another year to get ready for Norway.

2015: Start on Norwegian with Nancy Arsvold’s book.

10. My Money. I am hopeless at saving money. I have contributed $50.00 a month towards taxes, but saved nothing from month to month thanks mostly to purchasing books, office supplies, and lunches with a discussion group and friends, primarily Beverly Voldseth when we get together for reading Poetry each month.

2015: Spend on magazine subscriptions instead of browsing for books. Use library loan more. Aim for saving $30 per month.

All the above follows the view that I am grappling with reality and the limits of endurance and must gain control and confidence in my life over my options.

© Copyright 2015 by Roger Sween.

I welcome comments on blog posts. Send personal comments to me at my email address.

Resolutons for 2014

December 26, 2013

Once more into the breach.

Revised 28 December 2013.

Perhaps I have learned from my 2013 attempts as reported in Static State 2013. Since I have a long history of not achieving what I set out to accomplish, I do ask myself why another attempt at priorities should make any difference. After all, I quit full time employment after June 2000 in order to devote more time to reading and writing. After twelve and a half years, the results in those two areas are minimal. Look at my journal and it chronicles one failed year after another.

Nevertheless there is one major difference. I now feel my mortality and realize not much time remains for me. Hence projections for 2014 appear stated in a more cautious or careful mode, trying to focus on more limited and obtainable objectives.

1. My time. Determine each day the priorities that are actionable that day based on what it will take to accomplish them. My habits derail me. I have this great tendency to immediately go to my computer and launch into a set of friendly and familiar routines most of which I can justify as ground work for my aims. Nevertheless they are time consuming and do not result in much that is public. I need to first look at the primary building block obligations for the day.

2. The Company of Seidor. Make daily progress towards completion. Daily progress means some part of the story. All I have is a sketchy beginning, a vague idea of sequence, and some ill-defined themes or motifs. I need character definition, setting outline, and story development.

3. My reading. Continue in the manner that has been most effective in 2013. I was most pleased with my accomplishments here, but I need to do more. Everything I read should contribute to story logic.

4. My blogs. Put reflective communication with myself first and let those findings guide the blog work. Let me learn from Herring to what I intended for my journal in the first place.

5. My work environment. Tackle the clutter by organization of one linear foot of paper every week. Right now I think I can accomplish a foot a week if I attend to it. Some of the stuff will go into files; some will be thrown away. Some goes to other locations such as the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society. I will need to buy at least two four-drawer filing cabinets to facilitate organization and reduce the piles and boxes.

6. My exercise. Get back into regular therapeutic exercise besides more bicycling than in 2013. Basically, I want to look better and feel better.

7. My stories. Pursue the story most likely of publication. I must become more familiar with what is current in the imaginative literature field and address the genre with what is peculiar to me and my thinking.

8. My gardening. Enjoy the patio in bloom; help the Heinseens with vegetables. I have deliberately cut back to devote more time to other areas, recognize my physical restraints, and basically enjoy what is most easily done.

9. Language learning. Work on Norske. By May 2016, I may not be fluent but I will not be at a total loss when in Norway.

10. My money. Save $100 a month for the Viking Homeland Cruise, May 2016. My major expenditures have been for books, lunches with friends, and office stuff. I also intend to contribute monthly to the campaign fund for legislators who voted for marriage equality.

All this takes is focus and self-monitoring, conscientious use of time to meet goals, selection of concrete tasks, addressing the necessary parts first, concentration on the hard parts when I am at my best.

Copyright 2013 by Roger Sween.

I welcome comments on blog posts. Send personal comments to me at my email address.

Resolving to Resolve

December 15, 2013

Reflections on Resolutions Made for 2013

2013 closes: ten resolutions for the year stare me in the face. For some reason – a possible swell of optimism at the end of 2012 – I held a positive view that I could and would accomplish a lot in the new year. How did I do?

To begin, I was very good about documenting what I attempted. Accordingly, I perused the list from time to time in hope that the challenge and inevitability of deadlines would encourage attentiveness. I admit to difficulty. My journal, spotty in itself, grows large with mea culpas for lack of accomplishment as I berate myself. Compared to my ambitions, I remain a slacker.

Here goes.

>1: Be more discerning in use of time.

Proficient use of time remains the essential challenge. I finish most days with regret. I have been lazy, foolish, misdirected. I moan as I retire to bed, chastising myself for falling behind schedule. I realize now that this primary resolution is vague, imprecise, and therefore without measurement. At base, I have a tendency to do the easy and habitual things before the ones that require more application. At least, I finally realize I am running out of time and may not live to be 100 as expected.

>2. Finish writing at least one novel to my satisfaction, likely The Rodi first.

With the online writing class that I took December 2012 into January 2013, I felt a new urgency to complete one of the novels I have left adrift. A couple years previous, I identified drafts of 12 novels in various stages of incompleteness. The Rodi, the story of the early life of Vodarodi up to the founding of Loria, exists as I left it in 1980-1981. I had tried a trilogy, composed of his whole life; unfortunately, the latter two parts lack dramatic impact. Still, the first story would work with benefit of close editing. Also, it stands first in a long series of projected novels that pivot the history of Loria. Unfortunately, as is often the case with me, I started wandering through the earlier background and suddenly found myself working on The Company of Seidor. Seidor is the founder of the culture from which Vodarodi and Loria are the primary inheritors. Of course, rooting Company becomes in itself a mammoth task that requires me to invent, discover, or conclude the pre-existing situation and in sufficient detail to furnish the story. I am once more thrashing about. For more background, see Loria Series.

>3. Read more books, at least 20 works of literature.

I am perpetually curious, usually about the fundamentals of issues and other subjects that help me to grasp why we are in the midst of situations as they presently daunt us. I have about 6,000 titles in my personal library that constitute a reference resource when I suddenly have to know something more profoundly and readily than I can find by other means. Mostly, therefore, I read many books only in part for aspects pertinent to my questioning. Otherwise, for  literature I want to read entire works. I thought 20 a doable number because in practice I read 11 issues a year of Poetry magazine and ten novels in the book club Classics for Pilgrim. I also read the plays we see at the Stratford (Ontario) Theatre Festival. I might manage a few other titles besides. This year the novels, plays and poetry books in the order read are:

Penelope Lively, How It All Began. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. Grahame Greene, The Power and the Glory. Robert Penn Warren, All the Kings Men. William Golding, Lord of the Flies. Tom Hennen, Darkness Sticks to Everything. Robert E. Hanson, Warrior Poets. Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot. Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit. Fredrick Schiller, Mary Queen of Scots. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure and Othello. Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems; v.2. Owen Wister, The Virginian. Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio. Sinclair Lewis, Main Street. Edith Wharton, Age of Innocence.

I also read entire two short non-fiction books: Antonio Maldo, Do You Believe? Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak. Also a major biography by Anne C. Heller, Ayn Rand.

If I manage to better superintend my life, I expect to read more in 2014.

>4. Write more blog posts for Classics, Books Read, Marriage Equality, Highlights.

Again, I have not made the progress I wanted. After a major endeavor to chronicle my online writing course experience a year ago, I have not finished that article. I have failed to update the new listings for Classics. I did review the two short non-fiction books read. (See Read in 2013.) And I did evaluate the plays seen at Stratford. (See Stratford Theatre Festival.) Mostly, I faithfully update the year’s additions to my library. I have spent time on a new blog, Marriage Arguments, without really moving on from the flooring. Neither have I organized all the clippings I gathered over the last three years. At least our efforts for marriage equality in Minnesota came to a successful conclusion. (See Marriage Arguments.)

>5. Get all of my papers out of the jumble of boxes and into organized files.

Despite minor progress, the jumble remains. I can organize a whole box of stuff when I push myself, but progress is painfully slow. I throw away a lot of debris in the process but mostly lack empty file space to place the desired records. I am saving for a couple more 4-drawer file cabinets. I need to explore going to digital files specifically for the stuff I create.

>6. Ride my bicycle every week when the temperature is above 50°F.

Hardly enough. I rode more for the few days I visited Robert Hanson in Wisconsin and when we were together at our 55 year high school class reunion than biking the rest of the year. Pathetic!

>7. Write 3-4 short stories and send them out.

I made a start. I have ideas for stories of imaginative fiction and identified The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as a possible place to send them first.  Capsule descriptions follow. People have become used to everything “In the Twinkling of an Eye.”  What explains the rise in retirements (suicides) among those living “More Abundantly.” Adolf Hitler and Franz Kafka meet one night in “Coincidence.” Nietzsche’s sister Elizabeth encounters the descendants of Frankenstein’s creature and wife in “The Overman.” An author’s dictation machine makes suggestions how his stories will be improved in “Vox ex Machina.” In “Franklin DC,” the future is different since Benjamin Franklin lived to become the first U.S. president.

>8. Cultivate a 12×15 foot garden plot to grow vegetables and flowers that resist pests?

We did not have the Asian beetles of the previous year: the lot produced salad tomatoes and red onions in abundance plus one squash. Assorted marigolds and dusty miller sets did well. It took a lot of weeding and watering and time away from the preceding endeavors. I decided not to do it again. Because of three weeks away in August, I failed to make green tomato pickles this year and am now out. Curses!

>9. Brush up on my French and Latin and make a start with German.

Alas, only a wish. Future travel plans require an intense effort in Norwegian instead.

>10. Keep my pledge not to serve on committees.

More good intentions. I see I can no longer chair Pilgrim’s garden committee since I do not live close enough for regular supervision. I do answer every call to facilitate Bible reading and conversation plus other special events – a Lenten reflection, St. Paul Area Synod Assembly, Pastor Carol’s 25th anniversary of ordination, and likely organize Classics for Pilgrim book club the rest of my life. MACAE successfully dissolved this year, then held a luncheon reunion of past members. I did take on the AAUW Minnesota Nominating Committee and subsequently agreed to chair.

So what have I learned? 10 is not a magic number. Prioritize. Focus. Improve habits. Attend. Chunk. Keep to schedule. Reflectively journal more.

What’s next? See Resolutions for 2014.

Copyright © 2013 by Roger Sween.

I welcome all comments on blog articles. For personal comments to me, send to my email.

Rules of Life

January 5, 2013

Corrected and clarified, 1 March 2017.

Lately, postings of “7 Cardinal Rules of Life” seem to engender responses of general agreement.

That attention invited me to examine the seven statements and their propositions. I always wonder where these quotations come from and how their context or background might illuminate the intended meaning and potential use of such grand guiding statements. As a matter of course in this blog, I question them for how they fit with my own thinking and priorities in life, especially as they relate to my personality type.

My clue here was the attribution: Dr. Stephen R. Covey, born in 1932, founded and chaired Covey Leadership Center described as “an organization devoted to the development of principle-centered leadership.” That practice relates directly to his best-selling and highly influential  book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). Covey died July 16, 2012 and the Facebook page began shortly after. As far as I can figure after scrolling through multiple screens in Pinterest-style posts of inspirational sayings, I found the presumed original cardinal 7. Catherina Chia posted them August 22, 2012, “To our profitable growth in happiness, health & success.” I did not find them on her own page. The tribute posting has the same punctuation style and wording as the secondary postings of it. In the following quotes, I have followed my own punctuation and corrected the spelling of all right. The originals are numbered as they appeared; my responses follow each numbered entry.

1. Make peace with your past so it does not spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.

Naturally, if something bothersome intrudes into an ongoing life, the sufferer needs to find some way of dealing with it. Often when I think about the day just past as I begin to quiet myself for wanted sleep, I regret things that I did or said that day, often also the way I said them, and vow not to make the same errors again. Obligations not yet fulfilled that have a longer or greater nagging power than the momentary or daily mistakes may also trouble me. They remain the most anxiety producing regrets of my life until I resolve them. Often these bedtime reviews become a simple  “to do” list of immediate tasks; otherwise, I try to buckle down and preclude my desire to mull and procrastinate, removing the obstacles to decision and action.

I have a highly developed historical consciousness, not just as an academic matter. I actively consider that the long past as well as our personal past shapes us in major and significant ways. I do not say that the past defines us; rather it contributes mightily to our being. Since college I have pursued the expression “history is our nature,” likely an idea I formed from reading Christopher Dawson and Ortega y Gasset. The more we recognize the historical aspect of life and the more we take advantage of an understood inheritance, the more we recognize the spheres open to our strength and potential. Accordingly, we  make choices in what to think and believe and do. As far as I am concerned, we inextricably relate to the past, one we cannot set aside but need to ascertain and utilize. So understood, the past does not determine us but equips us. We take charge rather than let the past dominate us. Besides, much of the critical past comprises our own developmental progress toward what we want out life. When not self-directive, we live stuck in a world we never made. Why would we allow that?

2. What others think of you is none of your business. It is how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.

What does “your business” mean? People can think what they want; we have little influence upon other’s thinking and almost no control, perhaps none. Nevertheless, we want to be well thought of, chiefly by ourselves and correspondingly by others. Realistically, not everyone will mean as much to us as do those who are closest – family, friends, colleagues and other associates. Our lives mingle in all kinds of ways and we want to be on good and productive terms with one another. Those we closely associate with give us clues, advice, or tell their expectations. We want to share with them as long as we want the same things or we want to please them out of a sense of mutuality and togetherness.

Self-esteem is a value to be highly prized by each person and a major contribution to our overall health and productivity. We are mainly responsible for ourselves in the long run and need to acknowledge both our achievements and where we can do better. An honest and penetrating self-examination is the key to evaluating, comprehending and improving the self. Our own self-importance is vital to our continuance throughout the life we have to live. However, in reality, it also exists relative to how we find ourselves in the run of history and the domain we have chosen to fill with our own life.

3. Time heals almost everything; give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and who we are; they challenge us and force us to be strong.

As stated this “rule” contends with #1 by which we are to step aside from the past and the passage of time. Does #3 mean that some happenstance of the past is too determinative, that it scars and mars us? Are we to submissively accept such a rule as working automatically or do we have to do something to wrest control for our more positive and beneficial lives? Doubtless terrible things can happen to us; sometimes we suffer horrific events or cause undue harm ourselves, and we have to pay costs or penalties. The mere passage of time may be palliative, but is passive waiting enough?

At basis, this “rule” is a bromide, a matter of sentiment and without actual guidance especially regarding what I have said above about the necessity of self-direction in our being human and further becoming a human being to the  full of potentiality.

4. No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.

I wonder at the word “reason” here. Perhaps use of “reason” intends something foundational – the essence, the cause, the condition, or perhaps the focus. In close relationships, one factor of our own happiness is the happiness of the other in our lives. We are not or never fully happy unless the others we value are also happy; correlatively, we have a lot to do with their happiness in these connected relationships.

Yes, happiness is an internal matter in what we find that gives us happiness, and that is not always the same thing for all people. I am happy with solitude; many require company. Intellectual and artistic pursuits delight me; they bore others. Games, sports, and violence bore me: I do not understand their attraction. We live in such a loud and noisy civilization; silence heals just as sleep does and makes us fit for another day of happiness. Still, no human being gains from total and everlasting isolation.

5. Don’t compare your life with others’; you have no idea what their journey is about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.

Our journeys do differ even among colleagues and close couples. These differences do not preclude comparison with one another, even with anyone. The lives of others broaden, correct, and inspire us. They shower us with reality checks. Parents, teachers, mentors, a host of professionals and other contacts made and make numerous differences in our lives. We are in the debt of so many who have gone before and contributed to our own path. To be human is to share in community; this is why we have language. We communicate, we research, we learn – all in comparison with what others do, know, think, and achieve.

By coincidence, I am currently reading Penelope Lively’s How It All Happened (2011). Her novel unravels how a incident to one person has a rippling effect on the lives of others, many of whom do not know one another. We need to realize the first sentence of the acknowledgements in Covey’s 7 Habits – “Interdependence is a higher value than independence.”

Although among close connections we may know some few as intimately as possible, we will never know them completely. So? That is not to say others have no effect upon us. Saying we might exchange problems with one another is a situation contrary to reality (though thanks for the speculative idea). How true that we have our own problems and must deal with them! Thanks be that we have the experience and ambitions of others to help us apprize ourselves and enlighten us as to our requirements and choices.

6. Stop thinking too much; it’s all right not to know all the answers.  Sometimes there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on. Next!

Thinking – I am proud to affirm – is our chief method of living a fulfilled life, that and learning which to a large measure involves thinking of a critical manner. I doubt it is possible to think “too much.” Thinking instead is the most useful path to a productive decision unless we cannot readily reach a decision and require more thinking until we do. If “too much” means that thinking is going over the same ground again and again, then the advice to get out of a rut that is less of thinking and more of ruminating becomes helpful.  Of course, knowing “all the answers” is ipso facto impossible, but knowing, however related, remains distinct from thinking. Thinking productively in all likelihood requires reviewing what we know and if our own fund of knowledge is not sufficient, thereby seeking new information. We never have too much knowledge; rather being comfortable with only what we know or think we know is a major problem in human existence, leading to ideology, prejudice, and divisive contrariness.

True, not everything is answerable: I learn that truth as I age and have medical problems for which no answer is discovered or conclusive. We live with inexactness and uncertainties; many of our issues are dilemmas if not otherwise complex. The importance of any problem relative to an individual’s priorities causes each person to either persist in searching for an answer or quitting. As an information professional, I find too many quit too soon and persist instead in ignorance or error. Giving up on answers is nevertheless often required in the face of new concerns and the ongoing attentions demanded of us in living a fuller life. I think I am better able to accept uncertainty and ambiguity than many other people can. In my case, I retain the thought that I have knowingly made my acceptance but may return to the quest some time later. In the meantime I remain bound to keep thinking.

7. Smile; you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn a life around and set everything straight.

Smiling or not smiling hardly relates to all the problems of the world. Rather I regard it as a personality difference. I knew someone who I found to be a continuous optimist. His profession required him to deal daily with a host of complex issues, problems, and competitive factors. Yet, he was always buoyant and wanted others to feel the same. Even when he sat alone at his desk working on the stack of papers before him, he had a smile on his face. I am not like that, primarily serious, stoical, burdened by philosophical and social issues, and retaining a low opinion of fun and all other distractions from what is important and gives meaning to our human existence.

I would like to smile more: I am even flattered that I look more attractive when I am smiling. Unfortunately, it does not come automatically to me. When I smile on demand, I have the idea that I am faking it. In pictures of me, even from childhood, I look solemn. Consequently, the advice to smile seems completely simplistic and second-hand to me. Smiling does not so much brighten the dark day or turn life beautiful. Rather it results from what is bright and beautiful: good conversation, excellent entertainment, personal achievement amid the successes of others, the promise of early morning, flowers in bloom, peanut butter cookies, and all other wonderful things, ways, people and their creativity.

These seven rules as offered appear to me to have a common hub of self-centeredness that borders on exclusion of or distancing from others, contrary to Covey’s acknowledgement of interdependence even while concerns move us to recognize our global propinquity. While it is common to be self-absorbed focused on me/my/mine, our contemporary and historic challenge is to live amicably and profitably with one another in association.

If I were to list seven essential guides to a fuller life, they would be something like this.

1. Learn all you can. Learning is our fundamental vocation as human beings and the foundation of all that we are and can become. Some learning comes autonomously by being alive; depth of learning depends upon the desire to learn and the committed drive to keep learning.

2. Practice self-examination. Develop a healthy respect for your strengths as well as needs in order to develop, improve and be open to the promises of being alive. Self-examination is a prerequisite to authentic change.

3. Think for yourself. Couple a desire to know what is true with a critical approach to pertinent evidence. Be skeptical of received “truths;” keep up a curious questioning.

4. Exercise your will. Will achieves its effectiveness through intention and attention; that is, deliberately wanting to do something and focusing on achieving it. We may be free to choose, but will entails work.

5. Make choices in your best interest as a human being. Effective choices are the best guarantee of a productive, fulfilling, and happy life. Recognize the choices for self that intrude on others.

6. Test yourself against experience living with others. Ask yourself assessment questions. Is this situation what I really want? Is this choice working for me? What life-skill could I do better?

7. Continuously relate 1-6, each to the others.  Ultimately, each practice is a deliberative aspect of pursuing life in full and of integrated consciousness.

Such is the kind of basic advice you get from an INTJ developed over a lifetime (now age 72).


© Copyright 2013 by Roger Sween

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March 28, 2011

Moving to Maplewood has led to a lot of re-examination.  I need to set priorities about my study, writing, and activities.  Though efforts to control chaos obtrude necessarily at this time, I endeavor to be more practical than ever I have been.  That means becoming focused: I must narrow my attention and time to what is most important to accomplish at this moment.  I have to quell my interests to a precious few contrary to my whole 70-plus years of past meandering history.

Right now my daily tasks richochet between organizing the baggageof my life, setting up my library, concluding disposal of several hundred books, preparing the Red Wing house for sale, and tabulating the fiscal minutia our tax accountant must have.  These burdens short change the time I have for thinking, reduced to fleeting flashes: reading – finished the second Coetzee memoir – and writing – mostly Facebook status reports, email exchanges, and these scriblings. I did accomplish a longish and overdue letter to my neglected brother whose birthday comes up April 1.

What I must do when all this turmoil settles is research my grandfather, K. K. Berge and his building, being rennovated in Granite Falls to meet federal flood code to become a community center.  That ought to come first because of set deadlines.  Then I have the big intellectual issues to tackle – our vocation as learners, AAUW’s grasp of the relationship between its aim of equity and its membership eligibility requirement of a degree, and some basic philosophy of librarianship.  My fiction writing, unfortunately has to slip in priority until I clear my mind on these other issues.

I look forward to the blessings of April and the comming of Springtime.