Monday, January 30, 2012

What's a Girl to Do?

Have really been chewing on the question of when enough is enough. And wouldn't you know it, in the midst of all my considering, observing, deliberating, pondering - I came across two seemingly opposing points of view.

The first, on a tv show on the local education channel. The topic - simplification. The premise - that we have too many choices, more choice with less available time. The solution - reduce the number of choices by resisting advertising, shopping where there are fewer choices, and creating and following few and simple routines.

The second point of view, from a book titled life is a verb.  The topic - living more intentionally.  The premise - that we limit ourselves by doing and thinking the same things, playing it safe.  The solution - every day for 37 days do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. See a movie you wouldn't typically consider, listen to music you wouldn't typically choose, try a new restuarant, learn about a topic that challenges your current thinking, etc., etc.

Too many choices? Not enough? What's a girl to do!? Well, I really hate either/or. So in the spirit of both/and, my solution (at least for now) is to significantly limit the number of choices related to material "stuff"  by simplifying our environment, limiting spending, developing simpler household and personal routines...while ALSO listening to music I'd never entertain before, taking a drawing class, reading genres of writing I've avoided in the past, trying out alternative routes, even cooking occasionally! far, so good!

Monday, January 16, 2012

So Many Questions, So Little Time

        "Judge a man by his questions, not his answers."   -  Voltaire

Love this quote, and love a good question.  One that provokes deeper thinking, a challenge to static opinions, a quest for new possibilities. Especially, of myself.  Questions that further understanding and new learning.  Sometimes I go in search of them.  Other times they pop up at unexpected times and from unexpected sources.  Usually, they serve me well.

So, I find myself pondering several questions regarding this issue of considering alternatives:
  • Why can/do I generate alternatives more easily in some areas of my life than in others?
  • Why is the generation of alternative approaches or possibilities so satisfying in itself?
  • Do I/when do I hang out in possibilities to avoid a difficult decision or to avoid having to take action?
  • What criteria can I use to judge when/if I have too many alternatives to consider, or, conversely, too few?
  • I dislike, even distrust, either/or thinking - is this at the heart of why our political "debate" infuriates me so much?  Why I also see the polarization as frightening, rather than merely frustrating? 
  • Under why conditions am I willing to consider alternatives (whether opinions or recommendations) posed by others?  Under what conditions do I shut down or dismiss outright?  What are the implications - for me, for my relationships?
I want to hang out with these questions for awhile, just pay attention, notice, reflect.  Not settle for the obvious or easy answers.


Monday, January 9, 2012

When Is Enough Enough?

Normally reflective, I become even more so over the holiday and this year, having a nasty head cold, confined to bed or huddled under an afghan in my favorite recliner, I have given a lot of thought to this seemingly need/drive I have to create alternatives, to consider options, to seek other possibilities.  Some of what I have to share will probably make anyone who knows me say "DUH, that's obvious! You haven't known this before?!" I have, but I don't know that I've considered some of the implications that have become clearer - and that I want to address. So, here goes:
  • Being raised by strict parents and educated by even stricter nuns to think and behave by limited rules and imperatives, I resist anything that smacks of 'because I said so.'  I particularly resist dogma and polarized options.  Either/or, right/wrong, good/bad, all/nothing - too simplistic, too limiting. No wonder I have so little patience with our so-called political debate. Why I am close to despair about the lack of public discourse. Why I can't bear the talk shows, the political pundits.
  • Conversely, my experience in the 60's, meeting foreign graduate students for the first time, exposed to alternative cultures, differing opinions in an atmosphere of challenging thought and long-held beliefs, I developed a deep appreciation for learning from and with others that persists to this day. Aha - so that's why I'm so pleased with the little book club I've found. The discussions there remind me of these earlier conversations.
  • Later,trained in skills of critical thinking, committed for years to teaching youngsters to think critically, I love open-ended, provocative questions. I enjoy the process of examining issues from different perspectives, and see the cost to our reluctance to doing so in our public life.
  • And, seeing alternatives and having several choices before making my own decisions has become my measure of personal success and independence.
All understandable, benign, certainly has served me well in difficult times. But I am seeing some of the I declutter, remove 15 books on the same topic, toss projects begun but incomplete, donate clothes I've rarely worn, contemplate yet another diet.  And in the midst of it all, I came across this little quote, "Happiness is a place between too little and too much."  So I leave this entry with the questions foremost in my thoughts right much is too little"?  How much is too much?  When is enough enough?