Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


To be spontaneous or systematic, that's the question. Or SOS, as the Police sing. Within me these two opposing characteristics are ever at war. I suppose we're all born more of the former. What child is not up for a trip to the candy store on a whim? But our educational system drums in the systematic approach to problem solving. You must progress from number 1 to 10 on your test. Each class is 50 minutes long. Etc. And indeed having a schedule and being methodical can lead to greater material success. If you only do what you feel like you may never study math, or organize your closet. But enslaving yourself to a ritual can suck all the fun out of life. To reconcile the two approaches we've evolved the weekend, which is basically a short vacation from the rigid workday, a time to play in an unstructured way. The athlete has his rest days, a time away from play. The family has the trip to the Bahamas. There are semester breaks in school, though having an entire summer off is sadly on the wane. 

To determine whether you are more of a planner or an impromptu, ask yourself how you would spend your ideal day. Would you prefer to chart each activity to the last detail, or let the experience unfold? I, who love mostly to do if not nothing then as little as I can get away with, am somewhere in between. I'll make a short mental list of things I must get done today, but the when and in what order I'll leave to my fancy, which may involve washing the windows naked. 

Another question: Is it  better to observe yourself throughout life, to become the witness as Eastern spirituality urges, or to lose yourself in the moment (as Eminem sings)? Both approaches have been advocated by self-help gurus. The detached perspective allows you to rise above the lower self, the little ego with its wants and whims. But anyone who has ever become so absorbed in a puzzle or a piece of art or a workout as to become self-forgetful and lose track of time, knows the satisfaction that can be derived from sinking yourself into something you really dig, or someone.

As with most things, the happy medium is the best approach. The middle road. A compromise. On my day's to-do list was this essay. Glad I can check that off. Next up: find someone to sink my lower self into. You may prefer to recreate with impressionist paintings. I am more of a realist myself. As they say, different strokes for different folks.

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