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and there are a lot of leaves already.
I could rake and get a head start.
The boy’s summer toys need to be put
in the basement. I could clean it out
or fix the broken storm window.
When Eli gets home from Sunday school,
I could take him fishing. I don’t fish
but I could learn to. I could show him
how much fun it is. We don’t do as much
as we used to do. And my wife, there’s
so much I haven’t told her lately,
about how quickly my soul is aging,
how it feels like a basement I keep filling
with everything I’m tired of surviving.
I could take a walk with my wife and try
to explain the ghosts I can’t stop speaking to.
Or I could read all those books piling up
about the beginning of the end of understanding…
Meanwhile, it’s such a beautiful morning,
the changing colors, the hypnotic light.
I could sit by the window watching the leaves,
which seem to know exactly how to fall
from one moment to the next. Or I could lose
everything and have to begin over again.

Philip Shultz

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“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Thoreau

One day a man was walking along the seashore. He noticed that during the night many seashells and starfish had washed upon the beach. Thoroughly enjoying the morning sun and cool sea air, the man walked for miles.

As he strolled along, he noticed a small figure dancing in the distance. It made him chuckle to think of someone celebrating life in such an uninhibited way. As he drew closer, however, it became apparent that the figure was not dancing. Instead, she seemed to be repeatedly performing some ritual.

He drew nearer still and noticed that the small figure was a child. She was methodically picking up starfish and tossing them into the surf. He paused for a moment, puzzled, then asked, “Why are you throwing these starfish?”

“It’s high tide,” she replied, “If I leave them on the beach, the sun will soon dry them and they will die. I am throwing them into the ocean so they can live.” The man considered her actions, impressed with the child’s thoughtfulness. Then he motioned up and down the miles of the beach. “There must be thousands of starfish along here,” he said, “you cannot possibly make a difference.”

The young girl stopped. Her face darkened. She chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, “You’re probably right,” she said softly. She looked down at the sand. Then she leaned over, carefully picked up another starfish, pulled back and arched it gently into the sea.

With a tone of gentle defiance, she said, “But I made a difference for that one.”

A story originally described by “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley

Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.

Henrik Tikkanen

Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth, ‘You owe me.’
Look what happens with a love like that… it lights up the whole sky.

-Hafix, a persian poet of 1300

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”

Ayn Rand

I mean, it seems so obvious (to me) sometimes just how much happier we might be if things were a little more simple. Less stuff, less food, less mess, less surface area, less shit to clean, less small talk, less distraction, and, most importantly, more attention focused on to what brings value to our lives.  Not subjective value–better cars or clothes, better beer or restaurants–but real value that creates a sense of warmth somewhere deep within.  Is it family? Is it exercise or yoga? Is it a companion? Is it freedom, curiosity, and imagination? Is it a new business idea? Is it a grand piece of abstract art? Is it a super computer held in the palm of your hand that instantaneously connects you to the world? Or is it all of these things?

What is that warmth somewhere deep within? Deep within where? The brain, the gut, the spine? The nervous system gives us a lot to work with–sensations from the entire map of the body, mixed with sound and visuals–but is that feeling visceral first, or is it part of our internal monologue creating a physical response. Just a thought–but  I feel as though thinking about the origin of these kinds of deep feelings of value would be great insight into what we might want as individuals.  Most of us don’t know what we want–stronger relationships, travel, simplicity, rewarding careers, academic success, relaxation, invention, hedonistic experiences, children, money. And most of us don’t know where to start.

As I listen to more speakers on TED.com and lecturers within a variety of departments, there is a general  trend observing that intrinsic self-value is residing in “belongingness.” The longest living people on earth have stable support networks. Huge successful companies work with tight knit teams. The moderately poor with big and loving families report unexpected ratings of complete and utter happiness. Fashion/nationalism/political affiliation functions on the fact that a certain style of dress/flag/party associate an individual with a larger group–all generating this apparently satisfying experience of “belonging.” Belonging to a network, a club, a team of researchers, a religious faith, a family, a business, a friend group.  And even greater than ‘belonging’ it seems to be, ‘connected,’ or communicative, or open and free, but needed.

So, what next? I say (to my future mes, and maybe you)–start over if you don’t have direction, start over if you are unhappy, and start over if you feel overwhelmed. Start small. Start with less. And start now. Coner Oberst said, “Everything, it must belong somewhere.” And he’s pretty much right about everything.

"You want to exercise your will, bend the language your way, bend the world your way. You want to control the flow of impulses, images, words, faces, ideas. But there's a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger. The best moments involve a loss of control. It's a kind of rapture, and it can happen with words and phrases fairly often-completely surprising combinations that make a higher kind of sense, that come to you out of nowhere." Don Delillo, in an interview