Cause and Effect: A Response to the HuffPo Blog

What’s the motivating force?¬† Physics, chemistry–this is why we had to learn the stuff in high school; now, in real life, we make analogies about the motivating force of our lives from the principles we learned in physics (and we accuse our chronically-late husbands of being a limiting reagent in our effort to get out the door ūüôā ).

Yesterday afternoon, a fellow Dukie, Miho Kubagawa, wrote on Huffington Post about her approach to resolutions in 2013.¬† She and a group of friends had undertaken a sort of Happiness Project–making monthly resolutions instead of a year-long haul.¬† Miho narrated how her group’s google doc and update emails inspired and spurred each other on, “[w]e are more vulnerable and courageous, and we are taking more risks with each other’s support. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the resolutions are; what is more telling is our reflection on how our previous month’s commitment went and why.”¬† She goes on to share a resolution that she had trouble completing–unplugging from electronics for 4 consecutive Saturdays; an experience she saw as a “wake-up call.”

She’s got the motivating factor wrong.¬† What is most telling isn’t the reflection on a previous month’s commitment, nor is it the daring and creative things that people choose to pursue–did you see how she started each of her tips?

“We…”–Miho, and her friends.

Miho reveals that the google doc group don’t even all know each other, but committing to each other by joining the listserv and encouraging each other in their individual efforts has had both corporate and individual results–drawing them close to each other and empowering each of them in their daily lives.

The motivating factor of Miho’s resolution-success is relationships with other people; it’s not the 30-day timing.

Our problem is that deep, sustained relationships with other people, especially in large cities (Miho lives in NYC), and especially amongst young, transient demographics, is difficult if not impossible.¬† Significant relationships produce conversations, perhaps especially around this time of year, that often lead to a resolution, goal, or intention for the coming months.¬† Those same relationships (the ones which are made up of people with whom you live, or work, or see on the street every day) are the ones who are best equipped to assess your progress, and to encourage you on your journey.¬† But the point isn’t the resolutions.¬† The point is the relationships.

People, and the relationships we have with them, aren’t simply an ingredient in the compound of better life (a difficult concept in this market-driven age); relationships with people are the whole solution.

Changing Seasons; New Year’s Challenge

As the days of Advent dwindled this year, I saw myself grasping–begging it not to go. ¬†There’s something sweet about the way nights have been dark and quiet with hot tea, a fire in the ‘place, and a craft project in hand. ¬†It almost feels like we’ve been building a ship, lovingly sanding the boards, carefully melding them together, adding sail and rudder and varnish. ¬†Now, though, the dry dock about to be filled and the supports are ready to give way, and it’s time to test all the preparation we’ve made. ¬†We’re going into the fray, the incarnation is coming; just when waiting and preparing got really comfortable, the adventure begins.

I think I sort of forgot about the adventure, the incarnation–I preferred to ponder the waiting. ¬†There’s not much you can do when you’re waiting, you just keep your head down, say your prayers, do your work. ¬†When the water rushes in, you suddenly have to swim, to put to the test all the pondering, learning, and preparing you’d done.

Many autumn days (long before Advent began) felt like this, too. ¬†There was too much that threatened to push in and change things–to make me into a new kind of person; exhausting me out of bad habits and shoving me into good ones. ¬†I resist. ¬†I cling to tv shows and drag my feet to yoga class. ¬†I lie in bed in the early morning, willing myself back to sleep, though my journal, and books, and coffeemaker all lie ready to be used. ¬†Just keep your head down, do your work, say your prayers, don’t look around.

Christmas is here, and even now (especially those of us in clericals), we begin to look forward to Epiphany, which pushes in on us with great, blinding, demanding light.¬† Epiphany’s a little like New Year’s–it says to us, “Here’s an enormous, dizzying, life-changing gift…¬† What’re you going to do with it?”¬† As W.H. Auden said in the poem I read in church last Sunday,

…Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

For a month in 2013, I had no job, no contract to promise a job, no illusion of my independence from God (my husband is a Ph.D. student, no real income there, either).¬† It was the most peaceful, joyful month of my entire life.¬† I knew in the deepest way possible that God was truly our only hope and foundation–my paycheck, my functioning as a parish priest, my local support network (largely), had all been asked of me if we were to continue following God’s call.¬† So we prayed, and we plunged.

We’re called to live in a way that our lives look insane if our triune God does not exist.