A New Way of Life

The Intellectual LifeAs we mature we learn more about ourselves, if we are careful.  I know the weaknesses of my natural disposition, so I diligently pursue the cure.

Thinking is effortless, but writing takes courage, and it is all too easy to fall back on lesser goals and dreams.  It is not that the fight is too difficult, or the labor too intense, no; it is the thought of what lies ahead, the task as envisioned by my imagination that hastens my first step down a path that is much less formidable in reality than in my mind. And so I delay.  I check the news, see if the Irate Gamer has posted a new video on YouTube, check the news again, get some tea. I cannot be defeated if I never begin, and it is easier to put off beginning if I know I don't have time to finish.  So day after day slips by without engaging the dream.

I have found a quick antidote to fear: pressure.  I will not learn Greek on my own, but I will learn it for a grade.  I won't learn how to build a store for my website except I need to eat.  Necessity is the mother of invention and the slayer of that dragon, Fear.  But alas, some dreams cannot be forced in this way for they produce no income and have no external pressure pushing us forward.  Here is the abiding dilemma, fear must be conquered from within.

After sufficient struggle I take that first step, and even as the journey begins I find myself too easily swayed by my timid heart.  I would rather live in my former delusion that my work is too laborious to complete, that my heart and mind are not up to the task, than accept the facts that what I am doing is not as difficult as I thought. So that I might not be proven wrong I work half-heartedly.  As a half-man cannot hope to accomplish anything he sets out to do, I soon discover that the work really is too much for me.  But in a strange turn I do not find myself comforted in being right, but angered that my dreams have over-reached my abilities.  This fury, while achieved through much wasted time and psychological self-deception, is the elixir I have earnestly sought to overcome my fear.  Fury to fight, fight to battle, battle to tears, tears to perseverance; all in a lonely room in front of my computer screen.

The Intellectual Life is a book that has confirmed my suspicions about how I should live. It has brought order to the chaotic musings of my mind and has given practical direction for ordering a life devoted to study and giving. In light of my reading I have come to some idealistic conclusions for ordering my time.  As life changes I will need to adjust, of course, but for now this small schedule might help tame the dragon within.  So here it is:

I have discovered that 5 hours a day is more than enough time to accomplish all the "work" I have to do.  This includes school, web design, King's Yomen details and house management.   I have also seen that 12:00 to 5:00 is the best time to accomplish these things.  Consequently, anytime before 12:00 can be spent on other things.  I have decided to devote 8:00 to 10:00 to reading (never school reading as that falls under my work time).  This is because I need something to stimulate my mind in the morning and it is the most enjoyable and least fearful task before me.  I say "8 - 10" and not "two hours" because this motivates me to be use that time for that task, and I cannot just put it off until later.  Between 10:00 and 12:00 I eat and write (hence this blog).  If this regiment is successful I may be blogging more, or perhaps I will spend more time working on the various projects I have considered since finishing my former work.

This schedule makes all the time Chrissy is at work (8-5) valuable and helps curb some of my tendencies to put things off or to grind everything to a halt while I attempt to complete a "prioritized" task.  I know this regiment is idealistic, but idealism is a good motivator for me and this will help me accomplish all the things I love, reading, writing, and finishing my work.  I highly recommend The Intellectual Life to anyone who hopes to write or influence others through the accumulation and exposition of knowledge.  It is written by a Catholic monk so it is both thoughtful and holistic, that is, it considers the entire person and their relationships when teaching about truth and life.  I haven't enjoyed a writer this much since Lewis or Dallas Willard.

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  • This sounds great, and I hope the formula you’ve worked out really works for you. I find myself in the same dilemmas, but I really cannot apply what you’ve come up with (or read about) to my life directly at this time. I am in school as well now and am remembering the irritations and stresses I always carried while in school. As you said, procrastination, working below what I know I’m capable of, half-hearted work and study.

    I have had some ideas for scheduling myself, but they have all proven to be too fragile and come crumbling down in the event of any change in life or schedule from without.

    It’s a whole new game when you’re trying to work full-time and go to school. Work takes more out of me than I realize and it shows in my work habits. On top of that, going to school and working full time ultimately causes me to hate my friends because they become these needy, time stealing imps that I’m, constantly battling and trying to get rid of.

    School also seems to have the same pattern it always did, that being slow in the beginning, then mid terms (so I disappear) and from there I roll into project time (where I disappear again).

    I’m not sure what the answer is and I keep seeing people load their schedules far more than I have and they still find time for social events, or at least go out, which is when I see them and at which point it may slip out just how much they’re doing. Of course, a common theme among these people is a lack of full-time job, but some of them work full-time as I do.

    Sometimes I think I am not cut out for school, other times I think I’m just not cut out for school and work at the same time. Little by little I guess.

  • Eh, full time and school. I have never attempted it, nor do I want to. I have seen these madmen that can handle all that and more. The guys here are often in full time ministry (which, as we all know, is a lot more than 40 hours a week) and they are taking more courses than I am. Not sure how that works. Right now I am devoting 10 hours as a TA for a teacher, and that is maxing my schedule out (at 5 hours a day mind you). The book I mentioned has shown me that I need not apologize for working less and having a smaller course load than my colleagues as long as I am devoting my free time to thinking and writing and do my work with humility and integrity.
    I know that I am not cut out for school and work, but little by little I learn to be more disciplined and can handle more than before. Even still, to do what I need to do the best I can, I don’t think I could ever work full time and go to school.

  • MOM

    Adam,
    I think that you have been doing plenty of things right. Your book is wonderful. Every chapter gives much meat for thought. I love it. It is very stimulating and answers questions I forgot I had. You have done a great job. I will start chapter 4 tomorrow. I can’t wait!!! Keep up the good work!!! I’m very proud of you.
    I ofter have to schedule myself in order to get things done. It works out fine for a while until Dad says, “Wanna go to McDonalds?”. Then the rest of the day is shot. Oh well.
    Love ya,
    Mom:)

  • Yeah, what she said, there’s always someone asking you if you want to go to old McD’s.

  • Jenny “Z”

    I have really enjoyed stumbling upon your site (admit to recently “Googling” old friends). Heard about a class reunion coming up next month, but probably cannot attend b/c we are traveling to my sister-in-law’s home for Thanksgiving. Anyway, I am very happy you and your family are well. Same personality as Lewis, eh? I can imagine that, but wouldn’t have guessed you were a food snob:) Still embrace nerdiness, and jello still makes me smile. I’ll continue browsing your site and keep my eyes open for your book. Warm regards, -J

  • Jenny,
    So wonderful of you to grace my blog! Send me an email sometime, I would love to hear all about life since Science-O. Just a few days ago I was reminiscing about our former glory in Picture This!

  • Stephen

    Were you talking about me?

    You left out one thing that seems to be powerful enough to push us over the edge to productivity – a fellow adventurer.

    It is a book I will have to borrow or pick up.

  • One of the chapters in the book suggest finding someone who is like-minded or at least sympathetic to your mission to be with you while you work. He couldn’t be more right!
    Yes, you will borrow this book when you return.

  • Mary

    Oh how TRUE. It’s comforting to know someone else is struggling with the same anxieties as I sit in front of my computer, willing myself to be productive and to suddenly manifest the ideal vision that annoyingly plays in my mind as I, in real time, burrow down in fear and procrastination. Of what? Yeah… what you said.

    Thank you for reminding me of that book. I will move it up to the “must-read” category. After your book, of course.