Sunday, August 22, 2010

“Running to Stand Still” & Living a Life Well-Lived

“Running to Stand Still” is the title of a late-1980’s song by U2. The lyrics of the song itself have no real bearing on what I have been thinking about lately, but the title has been in and on my mind for several days.

We are constantly working and earning trying to do better and provide more for our family; making sure that our children have the things that we never had; making sure that they are involved in the right activities, going to the right school, laying the groundwork for a future that has never seemed so uncertain. It seems that there is less and less time for kids to just be kids or people to be people for that matter!

In my mind, we are running to hold onto our place in the world, to keep our collective heads above water, (hence the U2 song). I wonder if all our stress related angst that stems from jobs and bills and retirement and stock market woes is mostly self-inflicted. I am certainly not going to give up on all of the things that make our lives enjoyable, but are there some (or a lot) of things that can be done without? What are those things? And if those things are truly not needed why do we put ourselves into so much debt to have them right now?

Why? Does it not reason that if we reduce the amount of things that we need then we can reduce the amount of time and energy required to gain those things. And by reducing the time needed to gain our smaller list of needs, will we not have more time to do the things that are truly important in life? Which brings me to the heart of this idea, what is truly important in life?

It is amazing how the loss of jobs and income (not our choice), the stability of a home (our choice) can make you re-evaluate the things that are important. After the loss of all of those things and the loss of my beloved grandmothers in the first three months of this year, Amy and I began to discuss what a life well lived is. Part of this year is to help us identify what that means. We have been able to identify some of what it is not, but the definition must be different for everyone, and we are having a hard time winnowing it down to what it truly is for ourselves. We are hopeful that the experiences thrust upon us this year (mostly by our own choice) will help us to discover the truths of a life well lived; because although we don’t know exactly what it is, we do know that we want to live our lives together and in this way.

A life well-lived is... (for what it’s worth, so far)

1. Having a best friend to share your life with.

2. An appreciation, connection and respect with the natural world.

3. Good wine, good cheese and good friends to share them with.

4. A loving family.

5. Waking up each morning aware and appreciative that we have been given a chance to live another day and then to live it.

6. To live simply and within one’s means.

7. To raise children (one’s own, nieces, nephews, students or unattended wayward adolescents) to find the beauty of this world in themselves.

8. To be passionate about what you choose to do with your life (partner, hobbies, career, whatever)…..just be passionate.

9. to be inspired by the world around you (music, art, good books, nature).

10. To share your life with a furry critter who loves you unconditionally.

11. Thinking. Learning. Repeating often.

12. Asking why.

13. Noticing others in need and offering help.

14. Talking to strangers (at the grocery store, in Sturgis during bike week, on the trail, wherever). You will be surprised what you learn and how even people who look different (and perhaps scary) turn out to be the nicest folks. Thanks Grandma Jean!

15. Not being afraid to go against the grain of society.

16. Not taking planes. It is driving (a green VW van). Not on the highways and freeways, but on rural county roads and stopping to see the world around you.

17. Being spiritual.

We are interested in what you think a life well lived is and if you think that you are living your life in that manner. I know that the list Amy and I came up with is all over the place (it is in no particular order and is subject to change) and that we are definitely not living up to all of our ideas, but this year is an opportunity for us to try and do better. Please share with us your ideas and let us know if this has sparked any thoughts about the direction our society is headed in and what can be done (if anything) to make things better.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The First Day of School

Our colleagues and studetns are back in class. Our nieces and nephews are back in school. For the first time since we lost our jobs, it feels real!
For those who have been following this since May, I apologize for the complete lack of information. It was summer vacation and I just didn't want to do any homework. Now that the school year has started, it is time for us to go back to work, even in this limited capacity.
Because my interests are in the field of science, many of my posts will focus there. Amy will be doing some posting of her own in this space and I will let her discuss that later.
A few nights ago, I was watching the Perseid meteor shower from the ranch. It occured to me that if I was going to be teaching this year, I would talk about how all energy on Earth comes from only 4 sources. The Sun accounts for +/- 97%, followed by the core of the Earth, the Moon and finally space debris that enters the atmosphere. It is amazing to think that the atmosphere is heated ever so slightly by the rock and dust that the Earth encounters as it orbits the Sun.
Which brings me to the stories that I have read this summer about flooding in Pakistan, heat waves across America and Russia that have killed 1,000's of people and the intimation that there is a connection between these events and global climate change.
I hope that students are learning to desconnect scientific reasoning from political scheming and that future generations will be able to sort out the connections between human activity and the changes taking place in various Earth systems.
Please know that I will miss the classroom terribly this year and that through these posts, I will feel more connected to that part of my life. Please remember to take care of each other!