Don’t make the bed.

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One of the many things I don’t understand is my culture’s rabid obsession with making beds.

Of course linens sales people or decorating professionals being hipped on it, that makes sense.

I can even work up a rationale for the average person being sucked in: we are creatures of habit, socio-environmental sheep, and some of us  grew up in fancy show homes.

But one specific subculture that has gotten the bug really confuses me: Minimalists.

I like a lot of the Minimalist concept; I have reluctantly decided it probably isn’t for me, but still, it’s pretty cool.

If you are not familiar with Minimalism, my very, very stripped-down, only semi-knowledgable concept of it is that you eliminate extraneous things from your life to free up time, energy, money, etc.

Minimalists are big on ditching clutter, and downsizing their possessions. Some even downsize their houses, ditching the huge Buyer’s Remorse Mausoleums in favour of small apartments, or other innovative home options.

Some Minimalists go a year without buying new items, others quit their jobs after they pare down so much that that don’t need a big pay check anymore.

But pretty nearly all of them also say that decluttering should not just be about physical stuff, but about every aspect of our lives – 

  • don’t commit the 6-year-old to ten after-school obligations,
  • don’t take on commitments you’d rather not have,
  • don’t spend all your time organising the garage or washing the car instead of playing with the kids or running in the park or travelling the world.
Do not, in short, fill your one wild and precious life with trivialities.

Yet over and over I see even Minimalists write, sometimes ardently,  about how the first thing you should do every single day is make your bed!!

Now, let me be clear: while making your bed is a bit unsanitary, we‘re definitely not talking public health crisis levels, so if you just live for hospital corners and plumped pillows, by all means go for it.

However, if you are old enough to be reading Minimalist blogs and you still need a writer urging you to make the bed, then, going out a limb here, I’m guess this is not something you’re doing out of love!

And if this unnecessary, unhealthy, DAILY chore isn’t something that really matters to you, why on earth would Minimalists, of all people, be pushing you to add it to your life?!?!

For me,  the bed gets made when I’m going to have people in who are new to the house and merit a tour of it. If you’ve been here before, odds are good: no bed making for you.

And no amount of ‘minimalism’ is likely to change that: I have FAR better things to do with my morning than make beds! Even if I didn’t think it was icky. 

I have pretty enough blankets and sheets, but they are not showpieces, their main value is in being deliciously soft and cozy. And they do that just as well after being pushed to the other side of the bed as they do after the rare Made Bed Occasion. (I’ve checked.)

This isn’t to pick on Minimalists, who, as I said, I respect in many ways.

But it is one of those key areas where I see us building into our lives  – or worse, trying to build into others’  lives – rituals that serve no intrinsic purpose, even as we struggle to build lives of purpose.

And EVEN those of us who have made a life commitment divest ourselves of the meaningless!

I am certain that those writers who harp on bed making truly find value in it; they mean well.

I just want to make the case for investing your one wild and precious life even more carefully.

For not taking ANY custom or ritual for granted, but instead learning, or relearning, what brings value to your own day.

Maybe it will be making the bed! If so, make it with delight! 

But if not, if your highest priority for the morning is a long walk, or a slow cup of coffee, the Times crossword puzzle, more sleep, a Boot Camp class, or just defying arbitrary cultural norms, then let the bed alone and squander those first precious moments of your day on something else. 

With abandon.

 

Monday Survival: Just START

tree-trunk-569275_640     Happy Monday!!

I hope that your weekend was delightful and your week is starting well.

I mentioned a few weeks ago a book I’m going through in my small group, The Artisan Soul. In the back of the book is a section for each chapter with ideas on how to take action on the concepts in the book.

One I just fell in love with was:

“Make a list of things in your imagination that would make the world better if they became a reality.”

Mr. McManus doesn’t specify this, but I suggest writing them in the present tense, as if they have already happened.

(There are related actions in the book, but Monday is definitely not a day for homework; so take a look at the book if this sparks a strong interest!)

I don’t know about you, but I had never done that exact exercise. I’ve dreamed things. I’ve whined about things not being how I KNOW they should. I’ve even set written goals for what is ‘possible’.

But I had never sat down and said, “Possible or not, this is something I know would make the world a better place!” then listed that down.

Just as with our goals though, once we have paid attention to those dreams or inspirations, and written them down, we are in a better place to start making the world better.

It doesn’t require all our time, or a billion dollars, or even the favour of the rich and powerful to START, and it isn’t necessarily any one of our jobs to FINISH changing the world.

We could take the simple step to begin praying for these changes in the world. Or change one aspect of our lives or attitudes to make us a better part of the world!

No matter if you make an effort to create the change or not though, take a couple minutes to make the list. It tells you a lot about you, and it can be pretty encouraging!

 

Be well. 

 

Why I am not an ist. 

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I saw a headline recently to the effect of “Can you vote for someone other than Hilary Clinton and still be a feminist?”

I was completely appalled.

I’m not even a feminist and the very existence of this question offended me for every woman alive.

Sure, I think it would be great to have a woman president, for many reasons,  but to vote for a presidential candidate simply because of her sex negates the whole principle of equality!

I should vote for a female presidential candidate ONLY because I feel she will do the most good (or the least harm; I’ve mentioned my views on politics tend toward a slight cynicism) in the role. I should think this would be all the more true for a feminist.

(Just for the record, if you’re new here, I do not think Ms. Clinton is the best candidate for this role. I would vote for her if I found myself with no more viable option, but at the time of writing I’m doing all I can to ensure the one candidate who I actually feel merits the role becomes our next president.)

The absurdity of the question though, brings up my problem with ists, and isms.

I have a lot of strong opinions, and I work to support progress on many issues that I feel are important, but I am not an ist.  I also avoid isms to the best of my ability.

Let me explain.

There is a difference between being a strong and independent woman, and being a feminist. I certainly believe that women deserve rights equal to men, I believe that women are just as capable as men, I know many women more capable than many men, but I am not a feminist.

The reason for that is simply that to me, being a feminist obligates me to make too many decisions not on merit, but on gender.

It shifts the focus from what I value – equality, merit, truth, objectivity –  to a narrow, and easily exploited paradigm I don’t necessarily value.

This is the essence of ism, and why am not an ist.

‘Ist’ Defined

Added to words to form nouns denoting:

  1. a person with a particular creative or academic role (eg artist, one who makes art, violinist, one who plays a violin, botanist, one who studies plants)
  2. one who subscribes to a particular theological doctrine or religious denomination; (eg Calvinist, Baptist, deist. Note, these are related to -isms: Calvinism, deism)
  3. one who owns or manages something (eg capitalist; industrialist. Note, these are related to -isms: capitalism; industrialism)
  4. one who has a certain political tendency (eg Marxist, fascist, pacifist, activist, environmentalist. Note, these are related to -isms: Marxism, fascism, pacifism)
  5. a person who holds bigoted, partial views. (Eg Sexist, Racist) [note] Abridged slightly from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ist [/note]

It’s those last four that tend to get us into trouble. And any of the first four combined with number 5 is a recipe for disaster.

Because, just as there’s a difference between supporting the equality and value of women and being a feminist, there’s a difference between being Muslim and being an Islamist.  Or between being black, or white, or Hispanic, or Asian, or gay, or straight, or pro-life, or pro choice, or having family values, and being an activist in one of these themes.There is obviously a difference between belonging to a race and being a racist.

Men and women, just folks, we primarily focus on living our lives: our day-to-day activities, our families, our friends, our work, our hobbies, our concerns.

Ists focus on The Issue. Whatever The Issue is for them.

And dedication to an issue, while certainly valuable and often even commendable, necessarily involves a difference from simply living one’s life and interacting with The Issue as it happens along.

Once you become an ist, you run a great risk of losing freedom, and objectivity –

Can you vote for what your family really needs if it happens to come in a different package than your ism supports?

Can you wear the clothes you really feel comfortable in, if they don’t fit the ist image?

What about sharing a lunch table with that kid from the other ism? Or, God, forbid, falling in love with a Capulet!

I feel very strongly about many issues, but I value freedom and objectivity too highly to be an ist.

Ists get a lot more attention than just folks, however, which creates some confusion. It’s easy to assume that the most vocal ists speak for the whole ism.

It’s easy to assume that the well publicised views of ists, represent the real people for whom the ists claim to speak.

And that risks our no longer seeing those real people as fellow beings, valued neighbours, image bearers of God.

It’s easy to hate a vast and dangerous ism; to forget that isms are built up of a great variety of INDIVIDUAL human beings.

And that the declared stance of the ism, declared usually by Activ-ists, or Someone With Something To Gain, doesn’t necessarily represent the heart of those individual people.

Sure, just folks can get caught up in their ism.

I’ve been there. I’ve tried to bend what my heart knew was right to an ism that should have been about right, but wasn’t. I’ve gotten too caught up in an Issue and become an ist, instead of a person. I’ve caved in to the ism against my values and understanding.

And of course that happens to other people too.  And people in dire circumstances with nothing but their ism to hold onto – whether that ism is a religion, a culture, a gang, a political view or a government – may not even know that the ists represent only one small, and perhaps even incorrect, option in the world.

But most of us, most of them, most of the time, are just folks, trying to figure it out, trying to do it right, trying to get by.

So, I for one, reject istism.

Some people should be ists. Not me, because I’m too naturally suited to autocratic dictatorship, but we do need people out there standing up for the rights of those unable to stand up for themselves.

It’s just important to remember People first; THEN ism.

Truth first; then ism.

To remember that the views of the ists are not necessarily the views of the neighbours.

Or the strangers.

And it’s super important to not confuse those views with the voice of God.