The Greatest Contribution to Happiness

The pursuit of happiness has become a multi-billion dollar endeavor with everyone from Oprah to Joel Osteen doing specials and writing books to help increase your happiness. Turns out it much simpler than that. Check out this video from the awesome people at SoulPancake to see what I mean. It’s pretty incredible.
.


.

Who would you call if you were in this video? What would you say?

Think about it as you enjoy the rest of your Friday! Have a great weekend.

Cheers,
Eric

Advertisements

The GOP & the Perils of Talking to Yourself

When I was in college, I was firmly convinced that the Dave Matthews Band was the greatest musical act of all-time and that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road should be canonized as the Great American Novel. Many of my friends agreed with me and we would spend countless nights into early mornings defending our position and expressing our incredulity that anyone would dare think otherwise. We’d whip ourselves up into passionate frenzies and then go out into classrooms where we were shocked and horrified to find that not everyone thought that way! (I’ve eased off my Kerouac claims, but I’ll still put up a lukewarm battle for pre-Everyday Dave Matthews Band.)

I was thinking about this the other day as I was scrolling through tweet after tweet of conservatives who are so passionate about defunding the Affordable Care Act. Just yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz ended his 21 hour filibuster which originated in an attempt to defund or at least delay the implementation of the law.

As I watch conservatives whip themselves in a frenzy over healthcare and liberals do the same over the [deplorable] cuts in SNAP benefits, I’m reminded of my friends and I sitting in a coffeehouse on campus late into the night debating the nuances of Kerouac and Dave Matthews. And here’s the thing that keeps coming up.

It is pointless to even attempt meaningful conversation when we remain staunchly opposed to what people who may think differently are saying.

This is true no matter what side of any debate we’re on. If our only conversation partners are people who agree with everything we say, then we become convinced that everyone thinks like that. They don’t. It’s why Karl Rove had that embarrassing election night meltdown over at Fox News. Everyone he was talking to thought that Obama would lose. So he refused to accept anything else.

But it’s not just with politics that this is the case. This happens all too often in the church as well. Within world religions or Christian denominations, we spend so much time talking to ourselves — or to people who think like we do — that we can become disconnected from the broader public conversation.

In these big conversations about things that impact public life, we need to make space for all people to express themselves and their opinions, and then wrestle through these issues together. Otherwise we become so entrenched on “our” side — which is almost always synonymous with the “good” side — that we not only lose touch with the broader conversation, but we lose touch with our neighbors, friends, and those in our community who may think differently.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have this figured out. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. My main sources of news are the Huffington Post and Jon Stewart. I need to remember this just as much as everyone else.

But in light of the big conversations that are happening in our culture right now — healthcare, government shutdowns, military intervention in Syria, how we fight poverty and hunger — we need to make space for everyone in these conversations.

Otherwise we risk whipping ourselves into a frenzy only to be disappointed by, and ultimately alienated from, the people in our lives who think differently than we do.

Instead of only talking to people who agree with us, or demonizing those who think differently, we need to turn our attention to positive, constructive work in our world. It no longer works to sit by and simply tear things down. It’s time build bridges across our diverse ideologies and opinions, so that ultimately we can spend our lives building a better world.

And not simply talking to ourselves.

Cheers,
Eric

Your Saturday Dose of Mary Oliver

100_0158

Watching the sunrise over the mountains on Mt. Sinai, Egypt.

It’s been a bit of a tough week. So when I read this poem from Mary Oliver yesterday morning, the words immediately grabbed me. I hope that no matter what mood you’re in on this beautiful Saturday morning [or whenever you’re reading this] they grab you too.

Here’s to Mary Oliver and beautiful fall mornings.

Morning Poem by Mary Oliver
from Dream Work (1986)

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Cheers,
Eric

When Comparison Kills Your Creativity

It’s been a bit of a weird week. I hadn’t posted anything on here in a few months because I was feeling in a bit of a creative drought. Then I felt pulled to comment on the whole VMA thing and touched on something pretty big. Over 900,000 hits in five days was completely unexpected — mind-blowing, actually. As soon as I started to see that post go crazy on Facebook and Twitter, I had two simultaneous, and equally frightening, questions pop up in my mind: 1) Why is this happening? and 2) What am I going to do next?

I’m sure I’ll go into the first question on many future posts, but for now we’ve arrived at the answer to the second question. What’s next? For me, it’s an exploration of comparison and creativity. I have been fervently reading through some of Brené Brown’s work and was reading up on this very topic.

As I was doing this, I received an e-mail from a woman named Kayleigh who wanted to share an article that brought up similar issues as my VMA post and, with it, she dropped some pretty incredible insight along the way. She said this:

“It is hard to be anyone in these days since comparison and the pursuit of ‘being worthy’ have become a blood sport.”

I’d never thought of comparison and the pursuit of being worthy as a blood sport, but she’s spot on. Comparison and countless attempts to prove our worth can easily draw blood and wound us. And with creative work, this is especially true. But the thing that’s different with creative work is that so many times our struggle is with self-comparison and attempts to prove our own worthiness to ourselves.

I was listening to an episode of the NPR show On Being where Krista Tippet interviews Brené Brown and a lot of this stuff comes up. Brown describes comparison as the thief of creativity. Comparison is the wet blanket that gets thrown over our creative fires — often of our own doing.

Any time we do anything creative, we put ourselves out there in a very tangible way. We write a play. We paint a portrait. We build something new. And we take a risk. Someone might look at it and reject it. And, in doing so, reject us.

How many times have you read a book and thought, “I’d love to write a book someday, but it’ll never be as good as this.”? Or listened to a song and thought, “You know I’d really like to write a song, but there’s no way to top this one.”?

As soon as we start that comparison game, our creativity starts to take a hit. Brown asserts that this is a primary entrance for shame. A lot of times our sense of self-worth can get tied into what we produce.

The adage goes like this: We’re worth something when we produce something. And not just anything, but something good. What we produce has to be worthwhile in order for us to be worthwhile. Sound familiar?

As a pastor, I feel this all the time around the sermons I write. If the sermon was really good, I think “I’m doing really great at this pastor thing.” If it falls flat, those voices of shame and inadequacy are right around the corner. And they get personal.

So how do we get out of this comparison spiral?

Make things. Build things. Create. Do.

Don’t let comparison get in the way of building what you yearn to build.

I posted a video of Ira Glass giving advice to creative people a while back. And it speaks so well to this conversation around creating outside of comparison. Check out the video here.
.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/24715531]
.
Ira was particularly speaking to video producers, but it translates into any area of creativity. Build stuff. Do things. Write stories. Paint paintings. Put yourself out there. Create a HUGE volume of work.

Don’t listen to the comparison demons. Remember that creativity is a journey we’re all on in one way or another. Your creativity belongs to you and only you. So let’s get to it!

Oh, and be sure to check out Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection for so much more good stuff. A lot of the ideas in this post are derived from Guidepost #6 of this book. But the whole book is so worthwhile.

Cheers,
Eric

P.S. For those of you who are like me and interested in nerdy studies, check out a paper called The Mindlessness of Social Comparisons and its Effect on Creativity by Harvard professor Ellen Langer, Stanford psychologist Laura Delizonna, and Fordham professor Michael Pirson.

%d bloggers like this: