The Gift of Good Books

I love it when what I'm reading all comes together for me, when what I read meets me where I am. I don't have to stretch to reach it, turn over to be touched by it, or look anything up in the dictionary. It just sinks right down into my soul and tweaks it a bit. I'm living in these words from Don Miller's Through Painted Deserts this week:

I want to keep my soul fertile. For the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page reccurently.
I've been thinking a bit about discipline and what that looks like for me. And it's funny because I normally think about discipline as the inhuman ability to do the same thing over and over. Like my father. But for me, I think discipline is more about the ability to change things. Even the things that are comfortable. Sometimes most of all the things that are comfortable. What I'm trying to say is that all our lives, we'll be in the process of changing. I think that's the real discipline: to be able to accept when the time for change comes and to not spend time mourning the death of the things that should die, but to get busy having thing born inside you. I've been changing a few things, small things. But it feels good. Sometimes though, we get all caught up in the changes we should be making, in the life we should be living, and we forget that all the good stuff isn't holed up hiding out in our future selves somewhere. So, to temper this responsiveness in my soul:

You feel like this life is always leading up to something, but it isn't. I mean life is just life. It's all happening right now, and we aren't going to be any more complete a month from now than we are now. 
So, the changes are important. Discipline is important. But it's not like I'm ever going to be a more complete person. I've somehow found myself unconsciously buying into this idea that I'm incomplete. I need to buy things, to subscribe to things, to eat certain things, to acquire certain things to be complete. But really, I'm complete already. As complete as I'm going to get. I just have to LIVE now. And living is definitely NOT the same thing as consuming. Consuming is exhausting work, and I'm tired of it.

And then, after reading this book a few weeks ago, I come across a few passages in Wendell Berry's The Gift of Good Earth, which is beautiful. Never thought I would describe a collection of essays from the late seventies and early eighties on agriculture as beautiful, but so be it. It's also profound.

A second law is that anything diseased is more profitable than anything that is healthy. What is wrong with us contributes more to the "gross national product" than what is right with us.
In a healthy culture, of course, personal health and frugality would not be difficult- they would not be perceived as "disciplines." They become difficult when disease and waste become normal.
And maybe you guys are all rolling your eyes with that "duh" look on your face because you think about these kinds of things on a daily basis. For me, this is not necessarily new territory, but a new way to see things I've been looking at for a long time. And to understand that I'm finding certain "disciplines" difficult not just because I am broken or damaged or don't have enough intestinal fortitude. But because where I live, disease and waste are normal. And rewinding, moving backwards is almost always counterintuitive and hell, it's just hard. Because personal health and frugality are not prized by our cash economies or our entrepreneurial spirits.

I've been valuing indulgence, treating myself, and getting what I want over personal health. I've been valuing instant gratification and the quick-fix or most convenient solution over frugality. And although it feels easier, it's not. Like I said, it's exhausting and I've nothing to show for it. But working hard for health and working hard to live simply- that's worth it. I will always have something to show for it.

So I guess, I'm changing. And then, I'm being okay with the fact that I'm living life now. That when I make these changes, I don't somehow become more complete. But that with each change I learn how to live a little better, a little more fully. And reminding myself what's important: health, simplicity, frugality.

What's important to you? What changes are you making?
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