Alexandra the Great's Private Papers

September 18, 2007

The Mad Rush of Time

Filed under: Living,Tyranny — Alexandra The Great @ 9:26 pm

Time is the one commodity we seem never to have enough of.  In fact, our lives are sometimes measured by our shortage of it.  How many of us when asked, “How are you doing?” respond with, “Busy!” 

In an age where information is sent around the globe in seconds, work is done mainly by machine, and people routinely travel at speeds undreamed of in other centuries, one would think that we would have an abundance of time for leisure, relationships, and rest.  On the contrary, we are arguably the most enslaved generation of freemen ever to walk the earth.  Our backs are bowed under the tyranny of expectations other generations had not the luxury of facing. 

We work harder and faster to gain more, the obtaining of which pushes us further into debt causing us to stretch even farther and suffer the anxiety caused by overextended finances.  We submit to the many social pressures that at one time would have been viewed as leisure for the wealthy but are now viewed by many as inescapable necessities.  I think of mainly of children’s sports.  Many families commit to sports all year round and devote two to three afternoons a week and every weekend to the pursuit of their child’s participation in this social requirement.  And to think that Caesar only required a pinch of incense….

Apart from the countless (and costly) events we parents are required to sign our kids up for, our lives are also hijacked by our own set of social necessities that require full allegiance in return for acceptance or respectability or a place in “Who’s Who of the Pond,” whatever the agreement was when we pledged our soul to the good cause. 

I just wonder what possesses is to over-extend ourselves so far that the only thing we can say in response to a polite “How are you,” is, “Busy.”  Is it possible to cast off the demands of others and reel in our lives just a little bit?  Perhaps if we could, our answer would transform from “Busy” to “Satisfied.”  Satisfaction, after all, is not offered to us by the mad rush of time, but by the slow enjoyment of things worthwhile, by a job well done, and by the investment of ourselves in relationships with others and with God. 

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September 11, 2007

Toadstools

Filed under: God's Help,Living — Alexandra The Great @ 6:44 pm

Have you ever noticed how toadstools seem to spring up overnight?  One day the newly mown law looks almost perfect and the very next day its appearance is marred by brown growths.

Just today my daughter pointed out to me a colony of toadstools growing in our front lawn.  I hadn’t noticed them before, but that is no proof they hadn’t been there for a few days.  Looking at the intruders made me think of the unseemly things that spring up in our lives when we’re not looking; things that grow best in the dark, out of view, out of the sunlight.  Things like envy and resentment that start out small, but if allowed to grow will eat away at our soul and destroy our health.  In the same way that toadstools look like edible mushrooms, some things look healthy but hold a secret poison.  I’m thinking of pride, the very thing we’re told we must possess, yet the biggest barrier to experiencing the presence of God.  Does He not oppose the proud but give grace to the humble?

It takes a lot of diligence to keep a lawn free of dandelions and toadstools, but it is something we have to do if our lawns are to be healthy and presentable.  It takes even more work to keep our lives free of such toadstools as pride and the love of money.  Yet without diligence and great care our lives will easily and quickly be overrun by such things because they come so very naturally.   

But how are we to see clearly what’s growing our lives?  How are we to know a blemish from an adornment?  The only honest mirror we can turn to is the Word of God.  Any mirror of our own making will only deceive us because we will see ourselves as we want to, not as we really are.  Do we want the exposure?  The conviction?  Are we willing to part with our toadstools?  Are we willing to entrust ourselves to the Master Gardener?  He will cultivate better things in us than destructive fungi and weeds.  He said he would.

August 22, 2007

A Cupboard Full of Flashlights

Filed under: Ironies and Disapointments,Living — Alexandra The Great @ 10:12 pm

We all have things in our lives that don’t go as planned or even remotely like they ought to have gone, or even the way they could have gone if only….

We have a situation at my house that seems symbolic of such things.  At my house we have a cupboard full of flashlights and none of them works.  It appears that the battery elves, (malicious elves, not the benevolent kind) have stolen all our batteries.  We don’t have the dead batteries that most people possess, we have no batteries at all.  This means that we have a cupbord full of empty flashlights.  At least they have bulbs.

I find that what is and what happened often bears little resemblence to what ought to be and what ought to have happened.  This is such a common state of affairs that we have a saying that summs it up: The best plans of mice and men. Most of us have probably used that phrase at one point or another because most of us have felt at some time that we have no more control over our lives than has a mouse and surely the trap awaits us.

Life is full of ironies such as the cupboard full of flashlights with no batteries, or the large yard that can’t be enjoyed because the dogs have destroyed it digging after gophers, or the drawer full of socks that don’t match.  And then there’s my wonderful husband’s recent favorite: using up a perfectly good Saturday fixing the dryer.  Or perhaps that doesn’t actually qualify as an irony.  Either way, it certainly is a disapointment which is really what these ironies are all about.

Despite life’s setbacks we must all be optimists at heart, intent on prevailing over our disapointments because we continue to replace batteries we know will only disapear and we continue to buy more socks even though we know the dryer will eventually eat half of them.  We keep on loving the garden-destroying dog and persevering husbands will give up more Saturdays to fix dryers for their wives because they love them. 

Life may not be what we expected, hoped for or worked toward; but somehow, despite the potholes and detours, life is good.  Would we really want it any other way?

August 14, 2007

The Sabotage of Destiny

Filed under: Destiny,Living — Alexandra The Great @ 10:44 pm

 In the heart of all men is the desire for greatness.  For some this desire is manifested in an overwhelming compulsion to achieve success and a name for themselves.  Some, like Alexander, settled for nothing less than conquering the world while others, like Achilles, sought immortality.  History is the bestower of the kind of immortality Achilles sought and the men like Alexander obtained it.

The uncountable others, though, desired and desire an un-named greatness; something abstract that they can’t quite define.  They don’t know what it is, they only know that they want it.  This desire doesn’t take the shape of a larger-than-life goal, it is vague and abstract; and they know somehow that, though lacking an objective, what they want is larger than life.  Perhaps what they yearn for is not larger than life, but simply a larger life.

The society of our day has offered us an ease and prosperity no other civilization thought to dream of.  The average American today enjoys greater access to comfort and convenience than the royalty of any other age.  We’ve come to hunger for so much and are able to indulge so many wants, yet we expect so little and our desires remain unsatisfied.  We are a culture of consumers, wanting quantity of possessions while forgetting to expect quality of life.  We buy kitsch, forgetting to expect beauty.

We all know that man is more than a glorified ape.  Glorified apes can not long for greatness.  Yet we sabotage our destiny of glory when we settle for so little.  We pursue things rather than God. Rather than forming our minds and attitudes with the great books that have survived for millennia and fueled the imaginations of great men and women, we settle for sitcoms.  We’ve exchanged heroes for the-flavor-of-the-month actors or actresses.  Rather than seeking the glory of a virtuous life, hard won by discipline and self-control, our society settles for the passing mores of the day.  It takes very little energy after all to develop a weak character.

There is more to life than the practicality that wears us down.  There is truth, beauty, and goodness; the required elements of a life well lived.

August 11, 2007

The Enjoyment of Childhood

Filed under: Living — Alexandra The Great @ 3:40 am

I took the kids to the pizza place for dinner and gave each of them quarters for the machines.  While I sat in the booth enjoying food I didn’t have to prepare, the wrinkle-free little people, or not so little anymore, wandered around the restaraunt investigating all the machines.  Some contained candy or gum, or perhaps small toys while others promised a prize on the condition that after investing too many quarters, one navigate the metal claw in just the right way so as to grasp an item and drop it in the hole before simply dropping it in vain which is the usual and frustrating outcome of this challenge.  This outing seemed a simple enough treat to me, but to the girls it brought great pleasure with the obtaining of bouncy balls and sticky plastic centepedes as an added bonus.  Later at home they busied themselves with making a tent from bed sheets in which they could enjoy a “high tea” of salted almonds and strawberry lemonade served on miniature dishes.  It was truly a meal fit for a queen, or rather, queens. Oh the joys of childhood.

But what about the rest of us?  What happens to us when we become adults that causes us to leave that wonderful world of imagination and enter the world of “reality” where we stare mindlessly at ball games on TV while eating instead of feasting?  Is it really necessary to leave behind the magic of childhood?  It can’t be necessary and not every adult has committed such folly of forgetfulness.  The evidence of this is that a full grown man wrote The Chronicles of Narnia and his close friend wrote The Lord of the Rings.  Lewis and Tolkein didn’t forget about magic. The questions for the majority of us is, How can we who live in forgetfulness of enchanted worlds recover our lost imagination in order that our own world can again become enchanted?  If we can manage this recovery then our grindstones will be transformed into sword stones and our enslavement to the practical into kingdoms where we are kings and queens.  I am not suggesting that we enter a world of unreality, but that we return the lost color to our lives and stop living and seeing in shades of gray.

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