Information Age

I wonder…

Our input, our field of vision, has never been so wide and so detailed until now. The “Information Age” has brought that to us and evolved so quickly. But human eyes can only see and human brains can only process so much.

Can we continue attempting to use all that input without the capacity to digest it? Is that what is causing all the recent strife and anxiety? Or has the strife always been there and only the anxiety has arrived with the increase of information?

If we let them, will younger people adapt and be able to thrive under these conditions far better than those of us that grew up with only network television as our window to the world? I think so. Humans have a tendency to do that.

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Take Care of Yourself

“Take care of yourself.” You always hear people saying that, but yet we ignore it. “I am taking care of myself!” we cry, and we continue on our way. We rush through the market, we snap at co-workers, we ignore family, and then we collapse into bed way past when we are tired. Our excuse is typically that there is just too much to do. If we don’t do all these things first, who will? Things won’t get done! So? So they don’t get done. Maybe they weren’t as important as we thought they were.

I’m still re-reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective” people and I love the way he makes things so clear. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” What is most important to me? Those are the things I put on my schedule first. And those things aren’t items but feelings. I want to be close to my children and a loving wife, things like that. If I run out of time, the other things just don’t get done, but the things I needed most did get done and that is enough. It’s like that visual representation of filling the jar with the big rocks first, then the smaller, and then the sand. You get more in the jar that way, instead of filling the jar with sand and then piling the rocks on top.

Another gem came up in the audio book I’m listening to while I do the dishes, “12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson. “Treat yourself as you would someone you are responsible for helping.” That just stood out to me like a billboard. I dried my hands quickly and wrote it down on my dry erase board before I forgot the words. I help my husband, my children, my friends. I drop the laundry, the vacuuming, etc., because their need is more important that the little things. Their need is a rock. Why aren’t my needs big rocks? What about my need for sleep? What about my desire to reflect and sip tea to calm my mind before running out for the day?

That’s where the scheduling of priorities comes in. Yes, if I stop for thirty minutes and sit on the porch with a cup of tea, I may not get the living room shelves dusted, but what is more important? My mental peace, my needs, are a priority to me. It’s like putting my oxygen mask on first. The bottom line is that one person cannot do it all. We need to define our roles and our priorities and schedule our days accordingly. If we don’t, we just burn out early and get nothing done in the long run.

Playground Rules

Sitting across the table at the mall from my world-traveling seventeen-year-old son, I’m complaining about the words some people in an online group are using. “It’s not just online,” I say, “it’s at park days too. What’s wrong with these people?” My son reads what I’ve shown him, “I have no comment for that.” “But how can we combat this? How do we get people to understand they are hurting others and not being the ‘inclusive’ and ‘tolerant’ people they claim to want to be?” My son looks at me, “If you don’t like those people, if they are hurting you, don’t play with them.” My playground advice comes back to me like a boomerang, ten years after I said them.

He reminded me of other “rules” just before he left on his first trip last year. I was becoming more and more worried about sanctioning this solo-trip to Europe. He would only turn seventeen while he was there. What was I thinking? I was looking at my son, the one sitting in front of me for the last (nearly) seventeen years. I knew what he was capable of and his personality. He’d be fine, but as the departure date grew closer, I began to doubt. I had started to give him pointers. Funny, coming from someone who has only been across our own border once, with her mother, when she was eighteen and never left again. “If things don’t seem to add up don’t go, ok? Don’t be so trustful of people. If you get confused or scared, just ask an employee of the airport, or security, for help. They want to help you, it’s what they are there for.” My baby (that’s what he looks like to me) looks up at me, “You mean don’t take candy from strangers and look both ways before crossing the street?” Crap. Yes. I guess so.

It never occurred to me as I coached my sons on playground etiquette and personal safety walking home from the park, that they would use those same rules in their adult life as personal principles. I just thought I was trying to keep them from fighting or getting hurt while they grew up. Everything we do with our kids is training for the adult world, when they will be out there on their own without us guiding the way.

I’m happy we spent so much time together. I’m happy we never sent them to school. I’m content knowing they may have received a better academic education somewhere, but they couldn’t be better people, more human, than they are today.

I’m reminded of “Star Wars” as I enjoy my son’s company while he visits for a couple weeks before heading back to Europe for a few more months. “When I left you, I was but a learner; now I am the master.” The roles have reversed. My sons are my teachers. They reflect the world back at me in ways I never dreamed possible.

Liberty vs. Freedom

Words are funny things, aren’t they? I had a thought to expound upon this morning and went to look at the definitions of the two words I was thinking of, liberty and freedom.

Liberty: the power or scope to act as one pleases.

Freedom: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

The online dictionary says they are synonymous, but they definitely mean something different in context with other things. Take for instance, “I’m not at liberty to say.” What does that mean? When I say it, I mean, “I have the information and maybe even the right to say it, but I’m choosing not to at this time for some outside reason.” Maybe I’ve been asked not to or I’d be breaking a law or contract if I did.

The key is that it is a choice. Freedom is in your head. I have the information I need to change my circumstances, but I’m using my free will to limit myself for some reason. Even when I’m not “at liberty” to move across the country because the law restricts my movement, I still have my freedom of thought and choose to obey.

When we think to ourselves, “That man with a gun says I cannot, so I can’t.”, we have lost our freedom. You do have a choice. You’ve chosen to obey because you value your safety more than your liberty. That is a logical choice sometimes. And when that man with a gun, or any other implement of force, says to you, “You must injure that other person because we say it is right, we have voted on it, it is the law. You have to, or you will be punished.” You do have a choice, you have the freedom in your heart. You can choose to disobey. You can value your principles over the threat of violence.

We may not always have the liberty to do as we please, but we can always have the freedom to do what it right.

Dependence

“Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent people combine their efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” From “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

I think I just discovered something profound in this statement. We all are supposed to move through these stages, from dependent to independent and then interdependent. You can’t be interdependent with someone that has never been independent.

We have way too many dependents in this world. They wait for others to do for them. And we discourage people from being independent in unregulated ways. We also have way too many practicing independent people as well. They’ve been trained to rely on and only work for themselves. They are immature and doing the best they can in a world full of dependents, probably stretched too thin and feel surrounded by people who can’t do for themselves.

What we need is more people that have passed through the stage of independence and have moved on to interdependence. Those that know what it is to do things on their own, but if they only had someone with them that had been there too and can help work together toward a bigger goal, they could do so much more.

But we prize the independence as if it is the ultimate goal or give up working on ourselves completely and depend on others for our existence. It’s sad. We could be so much more.

Peace

I’ve found that respecting people’s way of doing things, whether I believe it is right or wrong, has brought me a lot closer to others. Respect for everyone’s autonomy, that they are a whole human being with the same rights as I have, puts me in a position to learn from them and puts them in a position to learn from me. This goes for everyone around me; children, elderly, homeless, poor, different races or creeds, anyone that is different from me. This has made it easier for me to be content and happy and I believe it does the same for the people around me as well.

I Keep Working On It

I don’t have much to time to sit and write today. Someone needs me this week, so my personal time is limited. I do have one quote from a book I’m reading that I’d like to share though. It’s from “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. Hmmm…do all authors prior to 1900 have three names?

Government “does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more if the government had not sometimes got in its way.”

And that’s what we lost since the early 1900’s, American character. We sit back and do as we please, and charge the government with doing what needs to be done. But what is government but other humans? Do we really believe that just because we put the title of “government” on any person they will act any better towards our fellow man than we would ourselves? Do we think when we create restrictive laws and higher taxes that those same laws will never influence our own lives?

I’m also reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain and she talks of the shift from an emphasis on “character” to an emphasis on “personality” that occurred around the turn of the century. Just another piece of the unending puzzle.