817 - Feelings

Love is an action before it is a feeling.

Feelings are invaluable friends, but treasonous masters. To rely on them for direction is to guarantee the failure of intentions. They are unreliable motivators and ephemeral rewards. A life built for them, out of them, or on top of them, is a life of chaos and destruction.

But without these same feelings, life is hardly worth the effort.

So what do we do?

We take action. Deliberately, consistently, we try to make decisions based on our best understanding of truth. The best community of feelings are the consequence of this kind of living.

In short, all feelings are byproducts of actions. That might seem intuitive, but if it was, then we wouldn’t so often let our feelings dictate our actions.

815 - Flexible

Is there ever a situation in which rigidity would be better than flexibility?

Even in the case of moral action or response, being flexible is a better default posture. Things that won’t bend will almost always break, and it is better to be bent than broken.

And if your posture is unbendable, and does not break, it’s a good bet you’ll break something else, or someone else, instead.

On the other hand, too much flexibility isn’t flexibility at all — it is structureless, like a body without bones, or support beams made of rubber.

The right amount of flex is a constantly shifting value, which is why most people default to a posture that is either rigid or rubber. In both cases, the complexity is reduced to zero.

Whenever someone asks, “How much should we bend?”, rigid responds “not at all,” and is comforted by the beguiling simplicity. Rubber, fearing any opposition at all, refuses to even answer the question.

Don’t be lazy, and don’t be afraid. Figure out what’s right, and flex.

814 - Cliches

Cliches are an issue for us because they're true, but hard to live by. We hate hearing them because we've heard them so often.

Here's a neat trick, if a cliche annoys you, but you know it’s true…it’s probably because you haven’t absorbed it yet. If we don’t live by a thing we know is true, hearing it ALL THE TIME is insufferable.

The moment we fully integrated a so-called cliche into our beliefs and actions, it stops sounding like a cliche, and starts sounding like our own thoughts.

And no one likes anything better than hearing their own thoughts spoken back to them.

813 - Present

The hardest thing to remember is that nothing I've done or haven't done actually matters to the present moment. In other words, my past actions or inactions do not actually dictate my next action. Not that it’s easy, but it’s certainly possible to untether a present decision from any number of past ones.

This is why regret is so destructive. It tricks the mind into wasting the present moment with rumination on what is past and unchangeable, and, even worse, suggests an inevitability in how an hour, a day, or a year will go, which can never truly be known with any kind of certainty.

If the future is unknowable, and the past is unchangeable, then what is the present?

The only time that matters.

This is not a new concept, it's just hard to hold on to. Gee, I wonder when would be a good time to practice?

812 - Waiting

It’s easy to wait for something when you know exactly how and when it will arrive. In those cases, it hardly feels like waiting at all.

Not knowing, though...

It doesn’t take much of a move down the scale of ignorance to turn waiting into almost unbearable torture.

But the torture can be useful. It really depends on your posture: are you reactive, or are you mindful?

Being reactive means, for instance, too many follow-up emails or phonecalls that can preemptively squander a potential creative or professional opportunity. It also means letting the stress of waiting explode outward as abuse of friends, family, or self. It means self-medicating with liquor or Facebook.

Being mindful, on the other hand, means becoming aware of the challenge waiting poses, and choosing to let it refine the virtue of patience, and attain greater heights of emotional maturity by constantly asking these two, binary questions:

  1. What is within my control?

  2. What is outside my control?

No matter how much or how little information you have about the thing you’re waiting for — whether it’s a job offer, the response to a college application, the acceptance or rejection of a book proposal, the verdict of a lawsuit, or the results of a medical test — those two questions will lead to answers that aren't always intuitive.

After all, nothing compromises intuition like stress, and nothing is more stressful than waiting.

811 - Sabbath

I was raised to treat Sunday differently than other days. There was a lot of cultural and religious weight behind the encouragement, to the point of loosely formulated rules about what our little family should and shouldn’t do on “Lord’s Day.”

As a kid, I regarded these rules as annoying and restrictive. All they meant to me was that Sunday was a more boring day than other days. No going out to the mall or the movies, no rock music, no parties.

My mother wasn’t terribly strict, though, so as I got older, the rules became more and more relaxed, and by the time I marched into legal adulthood, I had mostly abandoned the formalities of setting apart Sunday as much different from any other day of the week. I kept going to church. That’s about it.

Over the years, though, I’ve learned that the deeper spiritual purpose behind the religious injunction to “keep the Sabbath Day holy” has less to do with obedience and sacrifice (both of which are exceptionally popular Biblical principles, and neither of which seemed to stick very well to my incorrigible soul), and much more to do with the training of a person toward self-kindness.

Because life is exhausting. No matter what, your life will exhaust you. It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, what you do for work or play, or who you spend your time with. Whether your exhaustion follows the righteous satisfaction of honest labor or the dark listlessness of indolent hedonism. You will become very, very tired.

Sunday, then, can be a break from whatever you’re doing. For six days a week, you live a certain way and do certain things. On the seventh day, pause them all and take a breath.

Thats what it’s for. You can attach whatever other religious or philosophical significance you want to it, but whoever you are, and whatever you believe, we all need a break.