Click

I am extremely envious of my wife, who is able to achieve a moderately high level of productiveness, constantly, all day long.  She gets up at seven and works steadily all day, and then crashes precipitously exactly twelve hours later, leaving me at my own recognizances for putting children quietly to bed. The next day, same results.  My own productivity runs more like those Halloween costume stores you see in October.  No one knows where they came from, but they do a bang up job for an extremely short period of time before disappearing into the night.

I have to wait for the click.

Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a surprisingly useful piece of literature for reflection.  In it, Brick Pollitt spends the majority of the play drinking, in pursuit of “the click,” a certain peaceful state of mind.  Fortunately, alcohol has nothing like that effect on me, but I find I am only really productive after a similar click, where I enter in to a flow where I become insanely productive for several hours.

What gets me there is quiet meditation, so it’s something like a Zen state.  Only thinking about nothing is not a valid kind of meditation.  Prayer works, and singing.  But mostly for me it’s reading.  Especially when I’m stressed, I wake up and it hurts.  Nothing physical, but my mind is out of joint.  Mentally, I’m thirsty.  I need to read.

Reading scripture is best; it leads to praise and prayer, but I usually start with popcorn text: Facebook, Twitter. Thoughtful articles on various blogs.  Long-form investigative reporting. Then scripture.  Then Bible commentary.  Slowly inching up, widening my aperture for thought.  Then: click.  I can think.  Widely, broadly, productively.  Occasionally, practically.

Under stress, from a hard start, it’s a process that can take 3-4 hours.  I don’t usually get 3-4 hours. But I get what I can with the time that I have, hiding in a makeshift study somewhere, building up reserves until I’m interrupted by some event, called upon to react.

I don’t like being reactive; much better to wait for the click; ten times the productivity.  But so hard to get together the necessary blocks of time.

Caffeine helps, of course.  It kind of jump starts the entire process.  With a sufficiently large dose of caffeine, I can skip straight past meditation into 2-3 hours of reactive productivity.  Very useful in my line of work.  But there are diminishing returns.  Too much caffeine and the mind is dizzy the next morning.  Always better to wait for the click.

Sometimes I think that I might get similar results from a few hours of intimate conversation, but it’s been a very long while since I could test it.  So many conversations are… reactive instead of meditative.

So there it is.  Is this introversion?  I’m not really hiding from people.  The need to be kind draws me out.  But I’m thirsty for the flow state, always waiting for the click.

Driving Through the Irish Mountains

I do not care to travel much.
It’s not so much that I don’t like
To see the sights and feel the shock
Of fresh experience. I do
Enjoy that rare experience,
But in my mind these things take time,
And time is rare on trips like this.

We rush so fast from place to place
That all we really see is our
Reflections on each other. We
Can survey our environment;
The study is what we perceive
The clearest in our chartered screens.
And in this rush, the mountain view,
Its waterfalls and craggy peaks,
Is vanished in a vasty green
That blurs the glints of treasure far beneath.

My inclination then is just to run
As quickly as I can — to hide
In some secluded, quiet place,
Far from the madding crowd, and hold me still —
To mine for what is hidden, what is real.

I often fail to find it, whizzing down
The mountain roads, but always there’s
A hint of something beautiful:
The way the pubs all close at ten,
Or how the Irishman says, “now,”
To mean a process is complete;
The sight of all the hills denuded of
Their trees and filled instead with sheep.
The sight of barebacked mountains has
A holy feel to someone raised
On tufts of grass and clouds of dust
That stretch beyond the skyline.
Plains! they call them.
Furling out another world away,
And furling always in my heart and mind.

And so it always shocks me, when
I see variety. It feels
Just like my first time driving through
A city filled with trees. The things
Amazed me, how in just a little time
Abandoned plots could be transformed
Into a checkered wood, and grow
So thick and lush with pines and firs
And vines of every species. Trees
Were everywhere, and everywhere I looked,
It seemed so deep and rich, enfolding you
The way a mother holds her child.
But once a little time had passed,
The trees grew old on me. Eventually
I longed to see the sky again.
I have no way to tell the sense I have
for going home: again to feel the wind
And gaze into a great big sky.

And this is how I come again
Upon these mountains jutting up against the bus,
My window sometimes flecked by giant ferns.
The road seems almost out of place
So smooth and even is its keel.
The clouds are flowing rapidly,
A breath above the mountain peaks.
I like to think that from those points,
My eyes could grace a hundred vales
And see a thousand stone-walled fields,
Littered full of grazing sheep.

I lift my eyes, and looking up,
I feel myself surrounded by the heavens:
Bits of home inside me, reaching out to every place.

Guaranteed income

 

Swiss proposed bill for guaranteed income

I’m actually in favor of this. It’s a pretty big improvement on a network of programs you have to qualify for and which have to be administered by bureaucrats. It’s also a lot more fair, because it goes out to everybody, whether they need it or not. The big mistake here is that they’re shooting too high for an initial program. A monthly income of $2600 is just a couple of kilocreds more than the Swiss median income, which means the proposal will shock people into opposing it who might be interested in supporting it at a lower dollar amount. Why not start with a guaranteed income of $50?

In the US, of course there are other complications. No not socialism. We’ve already got that, with the earned income tax credit, and the standard income deduction. I mean, federalism, what little there is left of it. It’s bad enough having a personal relationship with our savior the IRS, in which they giveth and taketh away, and nobody can say to them, “what have you done”. At least most everybody knows the tax man is scary: He can garnish your wages, put liens on your property, and freeze your bank account (abolish the 16th amendment!). What happens to poor federalism when Uncle Sam starts moving in from his avuncular role and starts applying for custody? Do the kids want him? Well, yes. He gives them candy. But where does he get the candy? Well, he steals it from the states.

I’d like to see a rudimentary guaranteed income. It’s an interesting idea. But let’s have a city try it, a county; maybe a state. The fed doesn’t have to adopt us for everything, does it?

Adding to the Cacophony

Apparently #NeverTrump is the new Ross Perot: preemptive scapegoat in case the Democratic Party wins. Let’s be serious for a minute. Say there are 300k political Puritans who are so heavily invested in liberty that they couldn’t vote vote for Trump if he picked Calvin Coolidge for his running mate. (Actually don’t say it. If Coolidge could run with Trump, I could vote for him.) Three hundred thousand is less than one tenth of a percent of the population, and less than the margin of error of any election in living memory. So what?

It’s always been my pleasure to be a member of an elite minority, and frankly, I doubt there are that many highbrow sons of Liberty among us. But even if there were 3 million of us, that’s hardly all the fish in the sea. If Trump fails, it will be because he was a poor and unpersuasive candidate, like every political failure before him.

If you think Trump should win the election, kindly make arguments in his favor, or at least help me to distinguish positively between him and the candidate to his immediate political left. It’s really tedious to hear you blame me because I’m still waiting to be impressed.

If Trumpublicanism is so wonderful, what it needs is momentum, not a movement to circle the wagons. Even now he pivots left. By all means pivot with him. Help him build the momentum he needs to beat the dreaded enemy. I will stay over here, quietly being a wet blanket. It’s really not helpful to attack the blanket; that’s not the direction your presumptive leader wants to go.

To add to the cacophony of metaphors, #NeverTrump is now a very tempting tar baby. It’s not going anywhere; you’re not going to change its mind; and it can really gum up your program. The fact that there is a tar baby at the right end of the political spectrum is not much of a narrative. Picking a fight with the tar baby – now that will make a story. It may be the story the tar baby wants to tell, but it really isn’t the story that will win an election.

If you actually want Trump to win, help him woo the middle. If you don’t like to see him flirting with the middle, come sit down next to me and this tar baby.

Oh for Hands That I Might Draw

Coming home from work, just down the street from my own church, is a little Disciples of Christ church with a single word on it’s marquee: “Indeed.”  Now, of course, we just passed Easter, so that is the final word of the famous Easter greeting:
“Christ is risen.”
“He is risen indeed.”
Probably what happened is that they had the full phrase up on Easter morning, and that since then either wind or hands have taken down all the other letters.  But it occurs to me that, in the right context, one word is enough.  Is Christ risen?  Emphatically: “Indeed.”
Now, if if I had hands that could draw, this would be the time.  Otherwise I can only wish for a T-shirt: One large image in a line-art style, of the empty tomb, dust still rising from a cracked and fallen Stone. Below, in bold letters, just the word: “INDEED.”  If any clarification is needed, the image could be on the back, with two lines of text on the front, above the heart: “Christ is risen./ He is risen”
I know I have friends that can draw…. ?

Love vs. Comradeship

Both sides are essential to life; and both are known in differing degrees to everybody of every age or sex. But very broadly speaking it may still be said that women stand for the dignity of love and men for the dignity of comradeship. I mean that the institution would hardly be expected if the males of the tribe did not mount guard over it. The affections in which women excel have so much more authority and intensity that pure comradeship would be washed away if it were not rallied and guarded in clubs, corps, colleges, banquets and regiments. Most of us have heard the voice in which the hostess tells her husband not to sit too long over the cigars. It is the dreadful voice of Love, seeking to destroy Comradeship.

– GK Chesterton, What’s Wrong With The World 

CS Lewis says similar things, but I think he uses friendship instead of comradeship, to oppose to romantic love.