See? Facebook is good for something. These three recent articles — all found linked on Facebook — have all encouraged me and made me think.
1. My Mother Practiced the Piano — from StoryWarren. This is a great article about creativity and motherhood. I especially liked this passage:
You can tell a child a thousand times to go make the world beautiful, but I don’t know how he is to believe you without watching it done. Whether your art takes a traditional form like music or painting, or whether you are an artist in chemistry, cooking, gardening, politics, or befriending the lonely, that part of you still matters. It matters for your children to see that it matters, too.
This is a helpful way to frame thinking about pursuing your own hobbies and passions as a parent. Modern-day motherhood is fraught with the expectation that we need to be all things to our children, and provide them with precious memories and enriching, entertaining activities every day of the year. A good mother is one who martyrs herself for the sake of her children. But there’s a backlash against that attitude nowadays, which I’m glad to see, and this article is the latest (and least hysterical) one I’ve seen. It’s worth a read.
2. The Moral Bucket List — by David Brooks in the New York Times. This article has been all over the place recently, and for good reason.
About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.
When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.
It’s my goal in life to be like the person David Brooks describes above, but I often get caught up in how that person looks and acts on the outside, rather than allowing myself to grow into compassion and wisdom on the inside. It’s not cute.
In his article, Brooks brings up the concept of a person’s “core sin” — your primary weakness — and in the interest of completing my own moral bucket list, I’ve been thinking about how I too can defeat my own weaknesses. (See my previous post, on not making the perfect the enemy of the good.) The lesson here, too, is that this is a lifelong learning process, not necessarily something I will master in a week, but that that’s the point. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.
We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.
Another point for homeschooling?)
3. Your Predisposition is Not Your Future — from Becoming Minimalist. This article is in response to Brooks’s article, but it gets into the concept of self-defeat on a deeper level. I especially liked this suggestion:
Intentionally pursue the opposing behavior. Even for just a short while, cultivate the exact opposite behavior [of the behavior you want to change]. When I decided I wanted to become an early-riser, I challenged myself to wake up at 5 am for 29 days straight. And you know what? It worked.
I … might need to do this in some areas of my life. Just as a temporary experiment. Maybe one a month? Early rising one month, cutting out sugar the next, striving to be early for everything the month after that … Eek. But I do love a good personal challenge.
Anyway: happy reading! And if you’ve read anything good lately (or anything deeply stupid), share the links!