Monday, October 29, 2012

The Value of Time Keeps Inflating

You think the value of gold is going through the roof? Well, also inflating like crazy are the value of leather, silver, diamonds and almost everything else that’s considered luxurious or rare. For me, it’s the value of time. It gets more and more precious as it goes by.

Mankind has made some feeble attempts to understand time. But Stephen Covey, the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, didn’t attempt to understand it. He just attempted to use it well. He came up with a way to divide your time into parts and make use of each part thereby becoming one of “the highly effective” people he so admired. I love his choice of words. Not successful people, not lovable people, not admirable people, not compassionate people but “effective” people. We all want to be effective or do we?

I’m not sure I want to make maximum use of every minute I’m given. When I’m busy, time goes by at break-neck speed. I like to slow down and be aware of its passage. Please, God, just let me enjoy it. I love it so.

Stephen Covey, as much as he thought about and valued time, ran out of it recently as we all will. We can divide it, we can analyze it, we can parse it, we can regret it, but we can’t stop it. It goes and soon, we go with it.

Another Stephen, Stephen Hawking, used his enormous IQ to try to figure out time. He wrote about it in A Brief History of Time, which I read some time ago and pretended to understand. I think he basically said that time is a boundable thing that had a definite beginning and will have a definite end. Do you buy that? Because I don’t. My IQ is probably half of Stephen Hawking’s but that doesn’t make sense to me. If space is infinite, and I’m sure it is, then time is infinite. The Big Bang happened an infinite number of times and will go on happening. There’s our time and there’s God’s time.

Here’s what I know about time. On a summer evening, I can sit out on my patio and watch the thunderclouds building in the distance. The setting sun turns the tops of them a stunning peach color and makes the sky look aqua by contrast. I can sip my ice tea and watch the deer foraging for food in the meadow and hear the pigeons cooing in a nearby tree. That’s not one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s just a good way to spend time.

I guess you can know more about time by just spending it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't Be So Careful

Careful is dull. Careful is insipid. We don’t listen to or feel inspired by or follow careful people. Maybe we don’t even like them.
President Obama can tell you about being too careful. In the first presidential debate, he played it cool. He was really really careful. He was so careful that he sat with his head down and took careful notes so he wouldn’t forget anything. Mitt Romney wasn’t careful. He was almost jumping out of his skin, he was so anxious to put his foot in it. Sure, Romney said some things he probably regretted but at least he said something.
As an editor, I had to teach myself to listen to that small voice in the back of my head that says things like “slow down” or “is this really true?” or “go over it again” or “what will people think?”. But as a writer, I have to kill it. Periodically, I smash it and send it to hell but it keeps coming back.
I’m trying to learn to “throw caution to the wind.” I love that phrase because it paints a perfect word picture. You reach inside and ferret out all that is holding you back and toss it into the wind and let it blow away. Dictionary writers define the phrase as being reckless but there is definitely an upside to throwing caution to the wind.
Some of the most un-careful writers of all time were honored last week at the Austin Public Library’s Banned Books Bash. Such notables as Sara Hickman, Jake Silverstein and Amy Cook read excerpts from many of the most careless, incautious, subversive and offensive books of all time. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which was actually banned by our government; Ulysses, that wonderful Irish passion eruption by James Joyce; To Kill A Mockingbird, a banned book that was once subversive but is now read in public schools.
The emcee was Owen Egerton, who himself is an outrageous storyteller and the author of The Book of Harold, a religious satire. He bemoaned the fact that all of the banned books on the event’s list were at least twenty years old. He urged everyone present to write some books worth banning. “Let’s get out there and offend the next generation,” he said. He wasn’t joking.
That oppressive yoke of conformity is so heavy to carry around and yet so hard to take off.