Thursday, October 03, 2002

Thought of the Day: Is life urgent?
How urgent is life? "Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow," as the procrastinator's credo declares. The problem with people today is that they scurry about with no firm purpose, no broader vision, no sense of peace and balance in their lives. Fewer and fewer roses are getting stopped for and smelled. But what about goals? You gotta have them, right? Aren't they a casualty of my nihilistic generation, which deems nothing worth striving for, idealizing, hoping for?

I'm not nihilistic, but I do wonder how timelines work. I want to be a better writer--more passionate, more poignant--I want to do less newspaper fluff and more soul-piercing pondering. I have 10 important areas in which to improve as a writer. I want to be more intellectual in my work, and yet regain the smoother writing voice I had as a sportswriter in college. I need to write with more metaphors and irony. I want to write my book. (Oh, and top of that, I want to roll up my sleeves and become an activist for public housing and other social causes, partly to prevent becoming an ivory tower hermit.)

What I can't figure out is, do I have 30 years to do all this, or 3 months? Should I spread it out over the forthcoming decades as I mentally project my life? I have to be reasonable and live with as-yet untackled lifelong goals. But at the same time, I have to seize the day and not let dreams wither. I could be back in the workplace within weeks or months, and then I'll feel affixed to the career ladder, so focused on the narrow duties of the day that the larger dreams slip away. A friend of mine and his wife just got pregnant. I wonder how I'll live with unfinished business (as petty as it will seem by comparison) if and when that blessing arrives in my life. In a blend of providence and coincidence, I've achieved, at age 23, many of the goals I set for myself in college--live in Chicago, write about society for a major publication, get married to a smart, beautiful woman, write my book, which I hope to start this month. The dizzying and surprising pace with which this has all happened has me (elated, yes, but) confused about how life works. Is it a sign to keep my foot on the gas, or a sign that what I thought for so long was important, and assumed would consume my first 10 or 20 years out of college, was miscalculated? It's not carpe diem, it's carpe vitam--seize the life.

Footnote: In the New Testament Martha comes unglued (v. 38-42) when Mary sits with Jesus instead of helping her get the food ready in the kitchen. I see this as a validation of feminism--a woman's destiny is not necessarily in the kitchen, no matter the social custom. But the broader point is Jesus' priorities--he's more interested in our company than our casseroles, the attention of our minds than the work of our hands. A pertinent point about priorities in today's overworked capitalist society (see this too) (which is again why I think it's so odd America calls itself a Christian nation--the economic machinery it so religiously developed is corroding our souls...but that's a thought for another day). We pour ourselves into our work, but we're nothing if we don't pour ourselves into people (as with Paul's clanging cymbal warning of 1 Cor. 13). So my goals, dreams, ambitions, as inspiring as they may be to me, are cold and dead without love, without Christ, without an equally zealous commitment to, unlike Martha, leave some things uncooked.

Earlier thought: Would we be better off if everybody voted? Or, as this week's Onion suggests, would that make us geeks? Seriously, the more I think about it, the more I think it's the responsibility of politicians to communicate something worth our responding to.

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