Expecting Life To Be Fair Leads to Persistent Unhappiness

Shane Parrish recently wrote, “Expecting life to be fair leads to persistent unhappiness.” I think he’s right. The unfairness of life is difficult for some of us to deal with.

I don’t know why I think life should be fair. My theory is it’s because of my upbringing in Christian churches. Hearing about the Gospel of Jesus. Always thinking about how people should live, how the world should be. Could be.

Churches do their kids a disservice by talking so much about the shoulds. They should talk more about the way things really are and how one is to navigate a cruel and dangerous world.

Better yet, they should talk less and put more effort into showing by doing. Seeing someone live a happy, loving live while embracing noble and honorable values goes further than listening, especially when deductions of hypocrisy are inevitable when observing the gaps between words and actions.

There is a lot of unfairness and cruelty in the world. You even encounter it a lot among churchgoers. Perhaps it’s an essential element of being human.

Martyrdom is one answer of course. And the church talks a lot about its martyrs. But most people aren’t martyrs. Most of us don’t have what it takes. Church should talk more about the ways the rest of us are to navigate an angry and selfish world without allowing it to get us down.

Some religious folk deal with this by hanging out primarily with their own. Take the Amish. Or Bruderhof. Or Mormons.

That works for some, but others either don’t have that option or haven’t realized the risks associated with living in the midst of rampantly individualistic capitalists who have no pretense of fairness or common good.

The problem isn’t them. The problem is us, that is, if we think they should behave as we’d like them to behave: fairly and with respect and concern for the community and others.

If I had life to live over, I’d try to have no expectation or illusion of fairness. I’d try harder to accept the world for the way it is and not the way I (or anyone else) think it should be or how we want it to be.

That doesn’t mean I’d forfeit fairness as a value. Rather, it means I’d forfeit expectations of fairness.

Why? It’s simple and selfish: greater happiness.

I think Shane is right.

Place Matters: Today I Became A Hoosier

At the risk of laying claim to a derogatory term, today I embrace Hoosierism. Well, maybe.

What’s inarguable, however, is that, today, I became a Hoosier. We closed on the purchase of a house in Carmel, Indiana this morning.

But part of me knows that I’ve always been and always will be a Pennsylvanian. It’s the land of my and my family’s roots. Every time I think I’ve shaken it, I return home to the Commonwealth to visit friends and relatives and realize it’s not something one can shake. It’s in my bones.

But on the surface, I am now a Hoosier.

I came here after living the past five years in a blue state: Colorado. Indiana is a red state. I take a tiny bit of solace in knowing it’s just a bit less red today than it was yesterday.

Hoosiers are friendly people I’m told. However, I’ve learned over the years that friendly comes in different packages, some more authentic than others. I hope Hoosiers are authentic people. I find authenticity to be far more valuable than friendliness.

Regardless, I am so lucky to be here. We came here to be near you, Vera. That’s the power you possess. Try not to let it go to your head. Or to take advantage of your grandparents.

There are collateral benefits of course. We’re near your parents, too. And nearer to the rest of our family (sans your uncle on the west coast).

And we finally live at a place that’s within walking distance of just about everything we need in life. And we’re a stone’s throw away from a trail that will take us, by bike or foot, to downtown Indy or north into the countryside.

My goal is to burn as little gas as possible. And to walk, hike and bike as much as possible.

So now we go about the business of nurturing place.

Place is something that resides in our subconsciousness more than our consciousness, which is odd considering how important it is.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the importance of place. I lived not in a place but in a cutthroat world — a world of competition, domination, discontent and violence — primarily violence against oneself and one’s soul.

I now think place is paramount.

The place we envision will be an enclave of love, peace and grace. Our home will be your home, Vera. And your parents and uncle’s home. And a home for friends and family to commune. A place to laugh. A place to cry. A place where precious memories are created.

Outside, your grandmother will take the lead in creating a tribute to nature and humanity’s connectedness to the earth. She will play in the dirt, as angels are inclined to do. It will be a place of peace and tranquility. And of beauty. I’m looking forward to seeing it unfold. It will be glorious.

Beyond the borders of what we naively think of as “our property” will be the larger place. My place in that place is yet to be defined. I’m counting on the rhythms of life to show me the way. Some people call it “the hand of God.” I’m no longer sure I believe that. But I don’t disbelieve it either.

I try not to delude myself however. I know that, for many, place is hell. Daily, some are forced to walk into or through the valley of death. It’s hard to create place when confronted by harsh realities.

Perhaps my place will nudge me forward, to hold their hands, to carry their loads, to help create place in the midst of pain and suffering. Perhaps my place will go with me wherever I may go.

Place can do that. Place has incredible power. But only if we allow it. Only if we allow place to thrive and become a living force within us.

On my journey, I have been blessed to live within the beauty and grandeur of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and, now, Indiana. I have absolutely no idea where my journey may take me in the years yet to be lived. But, for now, I am attending to important work. Holy work. I am allowing place to do its work.

Walk

Looking back, I realize I didn’t walk enough. I should have walked more.

We chose our new house primarily because we can walk. To many things. Stores. Coffee shops and restaurants. The post office. Doctors and dentists’ offices. Barber. Parks. Farmers market. Entertainment venues. A trail that runs from downtown Indy far into the northern suburbs.

My goal is to use the car as little as possible. And to walk or ride my bike just about everywhere I go (locally).

For most of my life, I spent too much time in a car, especially commuting to work. What a waste of time. If I had to do it over, I’d live within walking distance of my work. Or biking distance. Or at least live where my commute was as short as practicable.

Walking is a healthy endeavor. Sitting in a car isn’t. Plus, it’s the time. I can’t imagine many worse ways of spending my time than sitting in traffic. Or spending an hour or two a day commuting. Or more (as many people do).

Do the math. It adds up. I wish I could have those hours back. I wish I’d spent them differently.

I walk more today than I have at any time in my life. Rarely a week goes by that we don’t take quite a few long walks or hikes. Or long bike rides. Usually, a day doesn’t go by without a walk or ride.

It’s possible because I have more control over my time at this point in my life. But it’s also because it’s something I want to do. And because I value my time more than I used to. And because it’s important if one is to age gracefully and try to forestall physical decline. And because outside is simply a more wonderful place to be.

I realize my body eventually will fail. And that it may shrivel up before succumbing. I’ll get shorter. And weaker. But I have no intention of cooperating. In fact, I plan on resisting. Walking is resistance.

There is a reason there are fewer obese people in Colorado than most places we’ve lived. People walk and hike more. And ride bikes. I suspect they have healthier diets, too. I plan on taking a bit of Colorado with me to Indiana.

One thing that concerned me about moving to Indiana is the way people back East hibernate in the winter. I don’t want to revert to that lifestyle. I can’t import Colorado’s sun to Indiana, but I can ensure I don’t hibernate.

If it requires spending some winter months in Florida or Arizona, so be it. Or some summer months in the Rockies.

Yesterday, we took three walks, Vera. You initiated one or two of them. That’s an encouraging sign. Keep it up. Don’t stop walking.

Cars aren’t inherently bad. They’re only bad when they’re overused. Try not to overuse yours, Vera.

Keep on truckin’.

The House That Fails to Excite

I think our builder thinks there’s something wrong with me. We’re buying a brand new house in a wonderful town. It’s a nice house. He thinks we should be excited. I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong: it matters. If I had to live in poverty, or in an apartment with noisy neighbors, or beside barking dogs, or next door to a dump or chemical plant, I’d be even less pleased.

So what’s wrong with me? Why am I not excited by the privilege of moving into a new house? Continue reading The House That Fails to Excite

From Mile High To Sea Level

 

For the past five years, I’ve lived a mile above sea level: 5,130 feet to be precise. Living at altitude is different. Blood oxygen levels are lower. Sleep can be impaired (not good for someone with sleep apnea). But you’re closer to the sun, which is out most of the time. And the humidity here, in this semi-arid high plain, is low.

I’ve made no secret of how much I love this place. I wish I’d moved here years ago. I can’t think of a better place to live. Yet today I leave my mile-high home.

There is a lot about this place I’ll miss, but perhaps I’ll miss the skies the most. The two photos were taken at Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park. I can’t find an adjective to do the Colorado skies justice.

Vera, your grandmother said she’ll miss the mountains the most. I can’t argue with that. Seeing the magnificent Rockies every day is an indescribable blessing, and climbing over them has been an inexperience unlike any other.

But today we leave our mile-high home. Soon, we’ll be living near you. That will make it a very, very special place.

The anticipation of the next excites me. I always look forward to turning the page. So I will travel down to sea level or something close. And as I do, I will turn the page in the book of life.

I don’t know what I’ll find in the next chapter, but I’m sure it will be new and interesting. I like new.

I’m an incredibly fortunate guy, certainly more so than I deserve or have earned. I’ve had the good fortune to spend the past five years in an amazing place. And now I get to spend the next few years in a place that’s even more amazing, because that place is your home.

My life reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Babette’s Feast. Following the feast, one of the town’s men looked up to the starry sky and remarked, Hallelujah!

Hallelujah indeed!

Perhaps it’s a good time to listen to this.

Simplicity

The lesson of simplicity was taught to me by two different people or movements: i) people of a certain element of Christianity and ii) the CEO and my boss at Arkema (the CEO who preceded me there). It’s a hard lesson to learn though.

On the face of it, there is no inherent validity to the principle; there is no reason to think simplicity is preferable to complexity. Yet I believe it is preferable. I’m come to believe it’s a superb guiding principle for one’s life. Continue reading Simplicity