Friday, November 18, 2011

Undepressed

A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly realized that I am not depressed anymore.

It was an amazing realization.  I had been living with a chronic moderate-to-low level of depression for so long that, within it, I had lost a sense of what an undepressed life feels like.

But on this particular day, I was walking home after a busy day at work that ended with a long and intense meeting.  I was tired, in that way that people are tired after a long and intense day, but happy.

"Wait, happy?!" I asked myself.  "How can it be that I am happy?"

Then I noticed that there had been this sense of happiness at the background of my life that had been gradually increasing in strength over the past weeks or months.  And I remembered that this is how my life used to be.  There was a time in my life when my friends called me "Mellow Happiness."  With a jolt of surprise, I realized that this meant that I was no longer depressed!

Another way of describing the difference:  I no longer felt the sense that I was constantly swimming through mud.  Ordinary things were no longer extraordinarily difficult.  And a lot of things were actually becoming fun again.  My sense of enjoyment was coming alive again.

I am not sure exactly how this has happened.  I was in counseling with an excellent therapist for a time, and that certainly was helpful.  When he retired last spring, I did not feel ready for the loss of that support.  Even though I had been making great progress and was feeling a gradual sense of dealing better with my life, once he retired I felt I relapsed a bit for a time, but at least that relapse was understandable.  I was in mourning.  But I was also committed to proving how helpful he had been by taking to heart all I had learned and seeing if I could fly solo now.

As I started the academic year, I adopted two mantras.  One was "unfailing love."  The other was "solid gold."  Both indicated that I was resolved to live up to a way of being in the world where, in all my relationships with everyone, I would be noble and gracious, respectful and caring, no matter how I felt about how others treated me.  I knew the year was going to bring situations in which I would be taking bold but controversial stands, and I knew from past experience that this kind of leadership leaves you often feeling exposed and alone.  You may sense that there are those who support you, but what is most visible is the push-back.  You have to stand strong, and I was committed to maintaining the highest standards of respect towards those who disagreed with me or opposed me.

That day that I left the meeting happy was a day when I felt a strong sense that my efforts really were making a difference:  small but real.  We need to matter in each other's lives.  And maintaining respect in the face of difference and even opposition is a particularly strong version of "mattering."  If that struggle is held with integrity, something new can be born that is even better than what either party individually wanted.  It is a creative opportunity.

And we humans love connecting and creating.  These are two of the most fulfilling experiences of our lives.  In depression, you feel profoundly disconnected and discouraged, and too much discouragement dries up creativity.  Looking for connection, and finding ways to nurture creativity, can be helpful in coming back out of depression.  I know that this is easy to say but hard to do.  "This I know experimentally."  But what else is there to do but try?  For a long time you may not see/feel the results (which can be discouraging, and therefore which can reinforce the depression), but in my case, with patience and persistence, this really did eventually help.

So, anyone reading this who may still be swimming through the mud that is depression, please don't give up.  When the mud thins, the swimming eases, and the light starts to shine through, then you will find yourself "remembering" how beautiful life really is.  Until then, ride every inkling of joy that manages to burst through.  These are your lifelines.  These are what show you the way out of the mud and into the light of the fulfilling life you truly deserve.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Perfect Ministry

Yesterday in Meeting for Worship, someone spoke and gave perfect ministry.

He spoke of his own journey with spoken ministry.  He said that he finds himself speaking a lot in Meeting when he worships with inmates at a nearby prison.  He feels that they find some spoken ministry helpful.  Usually in life, he said, he finds he wants to stay in the background, trusting others to step forward into more visible roles.  But this experience in the prison ministry, of feeling responsible for ministering to others, has brought out something in his soul -- he speaks out more in life in general, and in our Meeting, and he has been writing and having his writings published.  "I know that preparing heart and mind does not mean that we should specifically plan to speak in Meeting, or plan not to speak.  But we can get into habits of silence in Meeting," he said, in conclusion, grateful that he had pushed himself out of his own comfort zone and has come into a new way of experiencing Meeting, and ministry, and life.

This message really spoke to my condition.

I felt called out and criticized myself, but felt joyful about that rather than ashamed.  I thought, "that message was for me, and he is right -- I have stepped back in life, I have fallen silent, and this silence has now turned into a bad habit.  I need to push myself, even at risk of potentially getting it wrong sometimes.  I have ideas, but my not acting on them is not virtuous humility -- it is a habit of fear."

What amazed me was how joyful and released I felt.

Often, criticism makes me feel bad.  I can get beyond feeling bad and still perceive the value of justly-earned criticism.  But I paused to reflect on why I didn't at all feel bad this time.  In part, it was the gentle, humble spirit of this Friend's ministry.  He spoke out of his own personal experience, from such authenticity that it presented a message of value to all of us.  He never once suggested that he was criticizing any of us.  In fact, I am sure he was not.  He was simply sharing a realization so powerful and liberating for himself that he he felt moved to share it.  He was not at all presuming to know what God wanted from any of us.  I think he genuinely likes all of us and appreciates exactly what we each give, never asking for anything other than what we already offer, but always accepting what we offer as gift.

So, his own humility kept the message pure and clear and easier to accept than if it had been laced with specific criticism toward any of us.  But the other part of why I received it so well was because it did speak a positive truth, not a negative one.  The way I heard it was not about how I had failed, but what I have yet to do.  It was a gentle invitation to step more fully into saying "yes" to life, to engaging life more directly, more "experimentally."

I call this Friend's ministry perfect because I think it genuinely reflected something important about God's love.  When God pushes us, it is never that God wants us to feel bad for the ways we fall short.  God wants us to live freely and creatively.  God's deepest hope for us is that we willingly respond to God's call, accepting the unutterable joy that this brings.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Updates

Sorry that it has been a while since I've posted. Since it has been a while, I thought I would share a few updates.

Work

The past academic year went pretty well.  I did manage to keep the research momentum going quite well in the spring, and feel glad about that.  I then presented on my current paper in a conference in June, and am trying to finish writing the paper this summer.

Not being chair of my department has made a huge difference in my work life.  I still feel my administrative duties are a bit too heavy (coordinating our Peace Studies program), but way has not opened for me to let this go.  I am still discerning what exactly my role should be.

Music

My musical life has really picked up.  I did a lot of performing during the academic year, and now this summer too.  This summer I am part of a recorder group, a concert band, and an orchestra, with performances scheduled for all three groups.  After the recorder concert and the band concert, things will lighten up.  I had committed to those before the orchestra opportunity appeared.  But now that I am in this orchestra, I think I might drop my participation in the concert band.

Being relatively inexperienced in orchestral matters, I handed over first flute part to the other flute player (who used to play regularly in another local orchestra).  The second flute part was nice, and relatively easy, giving me a chance to work further on performance nerves. 

Just when I was congratulating myself for not letting pride overcome common sense, making my life more stressful than it needs to be (I am at last learning!), I found out that the first flute player cannot make one of our concerts, and the conductor wants me to play first flute for that one.

Then I realized that this meant that (a) I have to learn both parts, and (b) I have to perform first flute in a concert without any opportunity for rehearsal on this part first!

So, instead of taking the "easy" way out, it turns out that my choice led me into a much more challenging and stressful situation than if I had just accepted first flute to begin with!  If I had, I would only have had to learn one part, and would have had ample rehearsal time before performing.

This is what my life is like.  Even when I try to be good and actually make things easier for myself, this sort of thing happens!

It may sound like I am complaining, and maybe I am, a little, but I am also laughing (ruefully, though).  Although I was initially stressed about this, I have come to accept the challenge and will make the best of it.

It helps that I've been reading the book, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, and one of the points he makes is that those who are regarded as "talented" are those who continually challenge themselves beyond their comfort zones. 

I have been thinking a lot about this in my own life.  People have told me that I need to be easier on myself, and I know they are partially right.  But I have also suspected that there is something important to the ways I challenge myself.  I didn't want to let go of this completely.  So what I have been trying to do is find the right balance: enough challenge to keep me learning and striving and seeking, but without overwhelming myself.

Gardening

I heard something on the radio about the dangers of giant hogweed, and saw something similar in my own garden -- a huge weed I had let go because it was kind of interesting and very scary.  Closer inspection revealed that it was cow parsnip (a relative of giant hogweed).  Both can cause burns upon contact, though those caused by giant hogweed are much worse.  I carefully covered myself up, and removed the cow parsnip, and succeeded in not contacting the plant in the process.

Meanwhile, neighbors have been impressed that I still  mow my grass with a non-gasoline-powered push mower, and one even wanted to try it.  She said she would get one when her current mower dies.  I feel like in my own small humble way, I have fulfilled George Fox's advice to:  "Be patterns, be examples . . . wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone."  If my "mowing cheerfully over my lawn" inspires others to make more sustainable choices themselves, then this is a good way of being a "pattern and example," I should think!

Quakerism

I am feeling concerned about the state of Quakerism today, and am feeling stirrings to do something about it.  But I'm not sure what...

State of the World

I am also feeling concerned about the state of the world, in many respects, and am feeling stirrings to do something about it.  But I'm not sure what...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

In 2006, 2007, and 2008, I posted some numbers for Memorial Day, and wish today to continue in that tradition.

Number killed on 9/11: 2996. Wikipedia breaks this number down as follows:
"There were 2,996 fatalities, excluding the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims.  The victims were distributed as follows:  246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed in the attack on the Pentagon. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center." (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11)

Number of U.S. military killed as a result of U.S. military activities since 9/11: 6049


1595 U.S. military killed in Afghanistan
4454 U.S. military killed in War on Iraq


Source:http://www.antiwar.com/casualties/

Iraqi Deaths


The previous source estimates 1,455,590 Iraqi deaths due to the U.S. War on Iraq.

A different source counts 101,081-110,405 Iraqi civilian deaths since the U.S. War on Iraq began.
(These figures are critiqued by many as being low estimates. See the Iraqi body count webpage, linked below.)

Source:
http://www.iraqbodycount.net/


If you find figures that you believe are more accurate than the ones here, please let me know in "comments," and please cite your sources.

Some additional context:

Wars apparently are becoming more and more deadly for civilians. Of the deaths caused by each of the following wars, here are the percentages of those deaths being civilian deaths:

World War I: 14%
World War II: 67%
Wars of the 1980's: 75%
Wars of the 1990's: 90%

http://webarchive.afsc.org/youthmil/html/news/feb99/askus0299.htm

(The book those statistics are from is: WAR AND PUBLIC HEALTH, edited by Barry S. Levy and Victor Sidel, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.)

War on Iraq (based on above numbers using the lower Iraqi Body Count numbers): 96% are civilian deaths.  (Using the higher estimate, it is over 99%)
 

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A New Movement I Would Like to See

I find it hard to listen to the news these days, because I get so upset at so much that seems to be unraveling.  I cannot believe some of the things that some of our political leaders are trying to do these days.

But I realize that the context is that people are getting desperate as governmental budget crises loom, at both the national level and for many of the states.  When there is a budget crisis, there are two possible responses:  cut expenses, or raise revenues.  Doing both would have a bigger effect than doing just one.  But for some reason, most politicians seem dead set against raising revenues, because that means raising taxes.

All of this happens at a time when the gap between the rich and the poor has been growing.  A blogger I follow has posted about this on his blog, and he included a graph that visually shows the growing gap.

This got me to thinking:  it may not really be that there's less money, as such.  It's just that over time it has become distributed in a way that fewer people have it.  And those few have a lot.

Wouldn't it be great if the super-rich started a movement advocating higher taxes for themselves?  If they started saying that, by virtue of controlling so much money, they have a greater responsibility to attend to the public good?

And, in truth, I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes, myself.  But my own income is such that that would not have a very big impact.

Here are some more illuminating graphs:  this graph shows federal tax rates historically.  And this one too is remarkable:  tax revenues recently have been declining!

And finally, what are our major expenses at the federal level?  Wars.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Focus

I came across the book Focus by Leo Babauta, and decided to assign it to all of my students this semester (as supplementary reading) to help them think through their relationship to technology, and also their approach to their own lives and work.  Every now and then I open up some time for us to talk about this.  My students' reactions (not surprisingly) are mixed.  For some, these ideas are a welcome revelation.  Others resist tremendously.

Babauta discusses how our technological connectedness can be addictive.  He also points out how the addictive effects can distract us from focusing our energies well on the projects that may be the most meaningful to us.  Creative work requires times of solitude and sustained deep attention.  He is not against technology.  He is just aware of how technology can take over our lives and start to control us, and his book is largely about how we can regain control of our technology.

A lot of what he discusses about how to simplify and focus are principles I have been discovering and implementing in my own life, and so I appreciate the book for the support it offers as well as the new ideas I have been trying.  He advocates single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and enjoying each moment.  "Practice stillness, and the stillness becomes a canvas upon which you can paint the masterpiece of your life."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More on Burnout

As I prepare for the start of a new semester, I have mixed feelings. I do love teaching and have some new ideas that I am excited about. But I also feel a sense of trepidation, in large part because I feel increasingly intolerant of being too busy.

Last semester, as I felt myself starting to worry about burnout again, I had a new insight about burnout.

I think that one of the causes of burnout is when we put extraordinary effort into achieving what is merely ordinary.

Now, the merely ordinary is a fine accomplishment--I’m not denying that. If our lives are spent achieving the ordinary things that contribute meaningfully to the functioning of the world, that is a life well-lived. We can derive a great sense of satisfaction from such work.

But when we continually push ourselves beyond the limits of personal health and well-being to do so (which we are doing when we are chronically “too busy”), our lives are out of balance. We suffer; those around us suffer--the cost exceeds the benefit.

There are times when it is noble and heroic to put forth great effort. Those times are times of crisis, and responding to crises is extraordinary. Those times, then, are times of putting forth extraordinary effort to accomplish something extraordinary. The cost is proportional to the benefit, and so, while tired and depleted after it is all over, we still are likely to feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that aids in our healing and recovery.

But those times are rare, intense, and relatively brief.

When extraordinary effort becomes a way of life, the norm instead of the exception, that’s a problem. It is not really a sustainable way of life. You work too hard without time for recovery and renewal. And while you are accomplishing something, your accomplishments are not extraordinary enough to result in either social appreciation or a sense of satisfaction proportional to your effort.

If you are a humble and modest type of person, you may say, "I don't work hard in order to gain appreciation from others, anyway," and that's commendable, but this is not a question of the purity of your motivations, but rather almost a physics question related to the law of conservation of energy. We cannot keep putting out energy without renewing our energy as well. And so if our efforts are extraordinary, our ordinary methods of taking care of ourselves will no longer be enough to keep us going. Net result: burnout.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Day

I was recently in a conversation with someone about the problems of the world. Even though we both care very much about the problems of the world, and were looking for real solutions, the conversation did not connect. I tried to stay focused on the problems themselves, but the person I was talking with kept attacking me. I kept trying to find common ground, but the person I was talking with kept trying to exaggerate every difference into good vs. evil, with my position being characterized as representing the "evil" side. It was only later, when I had a chance to reflect on the conversation, that I fully grasped that this was the dynamic that made the conversation so frustrating.

Once I realized this, I was genuinely puzzled. First of all, why blame me for all the problems of the world? I am nobody. I have no real power. Secondly, I care about solving problems. I devote my life to teaching and writing about philosophy and peace, and, on the side, I try to create beautiful music to uplift people's souls. Why blame someone who is trying to live in a good way? Even if I am not very successful at addressing problems or even uplifting people's spirits, the worst that one can say about me is that I try in a pathetic sort of way and fall well short of my idealistic vision. But I don't do any damage. Rather than being a grave source of danger in the world, in truth I'm pretty harmless.

So, why was this person attacking me?

I realized that this person was highly influenced by much of today's media, especially certain well-known talk-show personalities. Their style is exactly this: to draw sharp enemy lines and attack. Fellow Americans who disagree with them are characterized as dangerous, even evil. I have trouble grasping what they think is gained by such an approach.

When the shootings of January 8 transpired, I, like the rest of the country, was horrified. But in the days that followed, I was glad to see that part of the response was to question the tone of political discourse in our country today. I welcomed the calls to civility, even though I knew it was unrealistic to think that things would change that easily.

What I would like to do to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is reflect on some of what I have heard in the ensuing discussions of civility and violence.

In particular, there are two strange objections to the call to civility that I have heard a lot that I wish to respond to. A third point I wish to respond to has to do with gun laws. While this third point seems to shift from questions concerning verbal violence to questions related to physical violence, it is still a point about communication, and represents a strategy that stifles conversation instead of facilitating it.

Three Strange Objections to the Call to Engage More Productively in Debates

Objection 1. Criticizing language use is a threat to the right of free speech.

My response: No, criticizing uncivil language is to question why people wish to use the right to free speech in this way. It is to ask: what is the aim of hateful speech, and does it accomplish that aim?

If the aim is cathartic venting, then maybe it accomplishes this aim, but probably only temporarily.

Isn't the deeper aim some kind of real improvement? Isn't it that we want to solve real problems in the world? If so, then it is highly questionable that hateful language ever actually accomplishes improvement. Instead, it draws and reinforces enemy lines, which tends to exacerbate (rather than resolve) conflict.

Martin Luther King, Jr. has said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that," and also: "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."

Objection 2: Those who blame those who use hateful language are just as hateful.

My response: There is an important distinction to be made between language that attacks the being of a person or a group (either by wishing them dead or eliminated, or by casting them as irredeemably evil), and language that criticizes specific actions as being either morally wrong, or pragmatically not likely to achieve their intended effects.

The latter: the questioning or criticizing of actions, constitutes the critical inquiry that is crucially important to a well-functioning society, and is why we value the right to free speech.

It is only the former -- attacks on people or groups of people -- that can be called "hateful." I doubt that it ever accomplishes anything good.

Objection 3. Because people are mourning, this is not the appropriate time to discuss gun laws.

My response: That's like saying when someone dies from cancer, "because people are mourning, this is not the appropriate time to talk about the urgency of finding a cure for cancer."

But if not now, when? Some mythical time in the future when everything is going swimmingly well? Some unbelievable time in the future when people lovingly treasure their guns for their aesthetic beauty and for the fun of shooting at tin cans, and no one ever shoots other people with them (even accidentally), and no one is still alive who has ever suffered the effects of gun violence? Then finally it is appropriate for people to "objectively" decide whether it is appropriate for ordinary people to have their own assault weapons? And until then -- during this time when people do in fact kill other people with guns -- it is "inappropriate" to bring up the question, and the default should be to just let people have their guns? Why? Do we really think that gun owners' fears and insecurities (and gun manufacturers' desire to make money selling guns) are more important that gun victims' desire for safety?

Related: I am increasingly amazed at the mythology of guns. While the reality of the situation of January 8 was that (a) the gunman failed to kill his main target (even after succeeding in shooting her through the head), and (b) the gunman was taken down by unarmed civilians, we still hear people surmising that the whole incident could somehow have been prevented if only more ordinary people happened to have assault weapons handy!

I think it is highly unrealistic to assume that there was time for a person to identify what was going on, pull out a gun, and manage to kill just the person responsible (without accidentally hitting innocent bystanders) before the first gunman had managed to kill all six of his victims. I've seen estimates that it probably only took 6-10 seconds for him to shoot that first round. But, even if a second gun-wielder managed to shoot only the first, now imagine how this looks to everyone else: there are two gunmen shooting. In the chaos and confusion of the moment, is it realistic to assume that people can tell who is the "good" gunman and who is the "bad" gunman? Now imagine even more people with guns, all increasingly confused! I cannot believe that a situation of several gun-wielders shooting at each other in a panicking crowd would have been "safer" and would have resulted in fewer deaths!

But my main point here is that incidents like this should inform our discussions of gun laws. We need to consider the actual data of how guns are used. We need to take into account the fact that the United States has one of the highest rates of per capita gun murders in the world. This is relevant information that should inform our discussions. The claim that it is "inappropriate" to talk about this now is a rhetorical strategy intended to stop conversation at a time when gun-rights proponents are (rightly) worried that this latest incident raises important questions about the wisdom of our current laws.

Lessons for MLK Day

Martin Luther King, Jr., had a vision of not only racial equality and justice, but a wider vision too of economic justice and of people respecting each other across all lines of difference. He had a methodology of bringing this vision to reality by engaging the power of love -- a power superior to hatred and violence. He could see that hatred only creates enemy lines, which foster resentment and inspire violence. He could see that violence creates more problems than it ever solves. If we are serious about addressing problems and creating a better world, we cannot indulge in the temporary catharsis of hatred and violence while hiding in the illusion of safety created by walls and guns. That does not really solve the problems. It does not really keep us safe.

To solve problems, we must do the hard work of building bridges, crossing those bridges, and genuinely meeting those who are different from us. To solve problems, we must engage in the intellectually and emotionally demanding work of trying to understand issues and situations from multiple points of view. To solve problems, we must be willing to admit we might be wrong. But we also must be willing to stand up for what we believe is right. We must be willing to admit that others may be right. But we also must have the courage to respectfully call others out when we feel they are wrong.

Above all, we must listen, in an unending search for common ground, using that as the foundation from which to build new solutions -- new and better ways to live together and work together. Above all, we must look for the best in each other, and try to draw that out, and give it strength, for that is the material out of which we build a truly just world.

Happy MLK Day, everyone!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On Workaholism

I came across some articles on workaholism, and read them, in part because I am sometimes accused of being a workaholic. I am not sure that I am a workaholic, though. I think that there is a difference between a positive way of having a strong relationship with one's work, and a negative way of having a strong relationship with one's work. The articles I have read seem to support such a distinction, to some extent, and yet still lean heavily on the side of being suspicious of those who work long hours.

If I am honest with myself, I must confess that my own relationship to my work is mixed. On the positive side, I like my work and am devoted to fulfilling its ideals. I try to do a good job, not for problematic reasons (wanting praise, esteem, power, or money), but because I care about the actual effects on other people: I want people to learn, and through their learning, become happier and better people in the world.

On the negative side, I realize that I do have pathological tendencies that I must constantly be on guard against, especially a tendency to feel I have to prove my worthiness as a human being by doing good work. That's there, but while I do have to struggle against it, it's not the sole motivation for work. I also have to make a living, but that is not my sole reason for doing this work, either. Related, I have deep-rooted fears of letting people down. So my work can get a bit fear-driven if I am not careful to watch this as well.

But, I try hard to keep the good reasons in focus, and front and center in my daily consciousness.

I tend to regard workaholism as a compulsion-driven addiction. If I were primarily driven by esteem or financial considerations, or fear, I would confess to being a workaholic.

But because I do have positive reasons for devoting myself to my work, and try to prevent the more problematic reasons from controlling me, am I right to conclude that I am not really a workaholic?

How do you define the term?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy New Year!

A somewhat belated Happy New Year to all of my readers! (At least it is still January!)

My last posting was about my research plan to write at least 200 words a day. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep that up through the fall, not so much because I was too busy, but because I floundered a bit in finding a good schedule of times each day to work on my writing. Then my schedule sort of settled, but time for writing remained unresolved. Can I learn from that experience and do better this coming semester? We shall see!

Three additional factors inhibited my efforts last semester: (1) I had more students than usual (larger classes); (2) I had someone working on a translation project for me, and so every time I did have time for research, I found myself proofreading versions of the translation, and (3) my music schedule unexpectedly became very busy.

What makes me more optimistic about the spring is that: (1) I'll have smaller classes again.

And (2): the good news about the translation project is that it's pretty much finished now, and so I've been working this January break on following up on the research I intended to do with this document now translated. I'm hoping that the enthusiasm and momentum I have generated will carry me through to a productive writing schedule through the upcoming spring semester.

Regarding (3), I do have performances again in the spring, but I think not as many. I really love music and am glad that I have had so many opportunities to perform again. Just when I was starting to worry that maybe it is taking too much time, I came across this interesting article noting that a large percentage of "geniuses" have serious artistic hobbies.

What is encouraging about that article is its suggestion that having a serious hobby can be good for your main work, because making connections across different areas of interest enhances creativity. I already realized that having two main strong interests makes me happy and makes my life feel better balanced. But the thought that the two strong interests might be mutually benefiting each other removes all lingering traces of guilt about how much time I do put in to my music.

Yet, if I face the full complexity of my life honestly, is it really just two main interests? That is, is it:
  1. My intellectual work
  2. My music
Or, is it:
  1. Philosophy
  2. Peace Studies
  3. Music
Or:
  1. Writing
  2. Teaching
  3. Administration
  4. Music
Or even:
  1. Writing philosophy
  2. Teaching philosophy
  3. Writing peace studies
  4. Teaching peace studies
  5. Administration of peace studies program
  6. Music
The last one expresses best why I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the complexity of my life.

Right now, in January, my life feels ideal, because it is simplified to:
  1. Writing (philosophy)
  2. Music
This, for me, is the perfect life.

What is your perfect life?