Monday, April 29, 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Joy of Things

De-cluttering seems to be all the rage these days. Writers and practitioners are becoming wealthy helping people conquer their "stuff."  The Swedes have their death cleaning, the Japanese keep only what gives them joy, and my favorite habit and happiness author Gretchen Rubin writes about Outer Order, Inner Calm.

I admit that both the act of de-cluttering and the end result provide a sense of accomplishment and, yes, joy.  But I have a dirty little secret.  My "stuff" brings me joy, too.  Often on our adventures, our fellow travelers will say, "I'm not buying anything.  We're downsizing.  I don't need any more stuff." Meanwhile, I'm busily filling my suitcase with the perfect picture or knick-knack to commemorate the trip.  And I seldom stop at just one.  

Our house is filled with mementos from our journeys, and they bring us genuine joy.  They help us remember where we've been, what we've seen, and the people we've met.  They are great conversation starters.  And they just make me smile.

But as we travel more, it is becoming a bit harder to remember the stories that go with the things. Even worse, I sometimes can't remember the place -- was it Guatemala or Bolivia? Laos or Myanmar.  And our kids say, "I hope you are writing this down so someday, when you're gone, we'll know where you got all these lovely treasures." What a great sense of purpose to reinforce my renewed habit of writing -- tell the tales of all those things we love and why they give us the wonderful joy of memories.

Quote of the Day -- Scott Turow

Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?
-- Scott Turow

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Sometimes You Just Have to Start ... Again

I've always intended my blog to be a personal journey, more than a publication. In the early days, right after I retired, I penned entries fairly frequently.  Then my efforts dwindled and ultimately disappeared.  I started again, stuttered, and grew quiet. And for the past several years, I have mostly collected wonderful quotes.  I take great pleasure in paging through and reading them, but quoting others is not a replacement for writing. 
Writing, like almost any endeavor, requires commitment and practice. No one expects you to play a musical instrument without practicing. No one expects you to play the cello just because you can play the piano (although being able to read music does give you a bit of a head start). Why is it hard to accept that writing takes practice, too?

I play the piano regularly, with only the occasional hiatus. I take lessons because it gives me structure and the pleasure of playing duets with my teacher Barbara. And I'm noticeably more accomplished than I was 8 years ago when I resumed playing regularly.  My technique isn't as strong as it was in my youth. Alas, my fingers will never be that agile again, but I make up for it with more mature musicality.  Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but it definitely contributes to incremental improvement. So, why is it so hard for me to translate that lesson to the art of writing?

My study of the piano has no objective other than pleasure. Although I have occasionally played in public and have contemplated putting together a small recital for friends and family, I am my own most important audience. I do it for myself. I enjoy the effort and the results. Writing should be the same way -- mostly just for me.I read widely and eclectically.  One area I've explored is the study of habits -- both making good ones and breaking bad ones. A lesson I've oft heard repeated is that once you have interrupted a desirable habit, it is even harder to re-establish it than it was to build the good habit in the first place.  Hard, but not impossible. You just have to start.  Take a step.  One day at a time, one line at a time, one blog entry at a time.  

One of my favorite books, back in my technical writer days, was Writing to Learn by William Zinsser.  The subtitle is "How to Write -- and Think -- Clearly about Any Subject at All."  Zinsser's premise is that the act of researching and organizing your thoughts to write clearly is the best kind of learning.  He also posits that the best material is often produced by writers who are initially ignorant about their subject matter, giving them the ability to explain most clearly.  I need to take Zinsser's ideas as my new mantra as I try -- once again-- to build the habit of writing regularly.  I'm writing to learn.  I'm writing to organize my thoughts and think clearly.  I'm writing for me.

Quote of the Day -- Plutarch

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.
-- Plutarch

Friday, April 26, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Robert Louis Stevenson

The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the dominance of outward conditions. 
-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Wendell Berry

Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.
-- Wendell Berry

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Quote of the Day -- George Eliot

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come visit us and we only know them when they are gone.
-- George Eliot

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Rick Steves

I travel around the world in a way that tries to open my mind and give me empathy and inspire me to come home and make this world a better place. 
-- Rick Steves

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quote of the Day -- C.S. Lewis

What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are. 
-- C.S. Lewis

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Seth Godin

Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We're proud of you for having them. But it's possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that's really frightening you—the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.
-- Seth Godin

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Bertold Brecht

What they could do with 'round here is a good war. What else can you expect with peace running wild all over the place? You know what the trouble with peace is?  No organization.
 -- Bertold Brecht

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Eric Roth

I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. 
-- Eric Roth

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Pat Conroy

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers, that the mind can never break off from the journey.
-- Pat Conroy

Friday, April 12, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Hegel

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
-- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Omar N Bradley

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Friday, April 5, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Marcus Aurelius

A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.
-- Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him. 
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Quote of the Day --- Epictitus

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. 
-- Epictitus

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Agnes Repplier

Democracy forever teases us with the contrast between its ideals and its realities, between its heroic possibilities and its sorry achievements.
-- Agnes Repplier

Monday, April 1, 2019

Quote of the Day -- Neil Postman

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. 
-- Neil Postman