Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Great Cosmic GRE

All bold quotes are excerpts from Dr. Frank Crane's essay "Personal Influence":

"Of all the forces that drive human beings, the greatest is personal influence.
By personal influence, I mean the driving force that goes out from you, simply by virtue of what you are. It has nothing to do with what you do or say or try, except as these things express what you are."

So, I had a bunch of thoughts about what makes a person what they are. There was a lot of thinking that I had to do on the matter, and all those words were part of the process, but as I listen in to God more and more, today I am at the point of believing that who we are consists of what we worship. That's it, plain and simple.

Idleness The Mother of Progress

All bold excerpts are from Dr. Frank Crane's "Idleness the Mother of Progress":

I thought that this title was especially fitting for my current state of life. I hope that progress can be made in my idleness! I think many can relate, as many are unemployed in this economy and I hope that this blog will lighten up someone's day who is unemployed and has some spare time laying around.

"Idleness is the mother of progress. So long as men were busy they had no time to think of bettering their condition.
Idleness is the mother of art. It was when men had leisure from the chase that they decorated the handles of their hunting knives and the walls of their cave-dwellings.
We talk of all men's right to work. There is a deeper right than that. It is the right to idleness."

Ah! What a refreshing thought! There is indeed a season for all things.

"The value of what we put upon the page of life depends upon the width of the margin."

How many employers could profit from this idea! Think of all the corners that are cut trying to reach deadlines, and how many people who say, "oh well, we just don't have the time, this'll have to do."
The margin of my life is very large at the moment, but I am still affected by the fast pace of work from my seasons of business. It is in my blood to hurry up and finish this blog, make it something that'll be decent enough to post, and move on to the next one. (However, this seems to contradict the claim that I am a perfectionist, and I'm not sure what to respond to that thought. Moving on...)

"The curse of America is its deification of labor. Our little gods are the men who are ceaselessly forthputting.
Most of all we deify capital, which never rests, but goes on producing day and night.
We are so occupied in getting ready to live that we have lost the art of living."

Woa. That's a powerful claim. "We are so occupied in getting ready to live that we have lost the art of living." I had to repeat it to let it sink a little deeper. Is it really true? Who is it true of? How much of it applies to me? It's easy to make claims of everyone out there in society, but it quite another to ask to what degree they are true of yourself.
I think that I go through seasons of getting ready to live. I am constantly thinking about having kids in the future, and many times I find myself reasoning, "We need to do this before we have kids, we need to do that before we have kids." I find myself wanting to prepare, and prepare for a career that will carry me till retirement. It's like I want to come to a place where the job is secure, and the kids are on the way, and then I will live. But what is the point of all my days till then? If they are only but preparation, what if kids never come and I never have a career? Have I failed? My conclusion is no. I have realized that while I must prepare to live, I cannot forget to live. It is in the balance of the two that I find my life.

"With us a man is a fool if he sets about to enjoy himself before he has laid up a fortune. We count the woman happy when she has married money, and the child accursed when he has no inheritance.
Every morning we arise from our beds and charge bloodthirsty into the struggle. We all do it, millionaires and paupers. 'Rich and poor alike, you know nothing of the joys of leisure.'
There ought to be two leisure classes, yea three: all children under twenty-one, all women, and all men [and women] over sixty.
The work of the world could easily be done by males between the ages of twenty-one and sixty. There would be plenty of work for every man to keep him from want, and plenty of leisure for every man to preserve in him a living soul."

What a balance there must be for leisure to be a noble endeavor and not an evil one! I like the idea of spreading out the work. Do people really need to work as hard as they do? I think that I am not working now because I have realized the answer is no. In some ways, it is hard to find work because I am an honest, very honest, open-book person. They can see right through to the fact that I value my leisure time, and they view that as a threat. I think many work places are terrified of people who enjoy leisure, because they fear the overspill to laziness. They are attracted to the workaholic, eager-to-please, over-the-top, I'll-come-into-work-at-any-hour, you-name-it-I'll-do-it, hard worker. Because this is what the work places hire, this is what people in society turn into in order to get work. Work places need not be so scared of the man [or woman] who enjoys his leisure. For the best worker is a balanced soul, one who works hard, and then is able to drop work and rest.

Being a woman, I especially like these last thoughts shared by Dr. Frank Crane. While in this generation, some may point to him as anti-feminist, I embrace him as the epitome of a person fighting for my feminist rights. The right to choose to work, but not to have to work, is the best place for women. Women want to be viewed as equals in the work world, and granted that is a good thing. However, I also want men to fight for my right not to work.

"If I were czar of the world, no woman would work except as she might elect for her amusement; no child should do aught but play.
Among savages the women do all the work. In the coming civilization they shall do none. The progress of the race is the progress of the female from toil to leisure.
Every woman is a possible mother. She should be the real aristocracy, the real Upper class, to give culture and beauty to life.
As for man, little by little, he also would lift himself from the killing grind of monotonous exertion. for he would make Steam and Electricity, and other giants not yet discovered, do the dirty work."

I'm always impressed at how much I underestimate thinkers of the time period of Dr. Crane! This was written at the turn of the 20th century, and yet he hit the nail on the head with "giants not yet discovered" that would do the work that men used to do. He just assumed that we would discover new technology-- yet I think he would nevertheless be blown away if he were alive today. We have so much technology now that does so much work for society. One computer can do the work of what several workers used to do. The ironic thing is that rather than decreasing a man's work load, it can put him out of a job altogether, which is not a healthy thing for society. There are more leisure jobs in this century, more travel agents, and more entertainers, more cruise lines, etc, than 100 years ago, however, those jobs are the first to go in a down economy. Sometimes I feel we need to view leisure activities as much of a need as we do buying food, not for any benefit of my own want, but for the want of society to keep men of all jobs employed. (I do want to qualify this statement with a fact that I believe only in supporting leisure activities that uplift the moral fibers of society.)

"To bring all this to pass, you do not need to devise any cunning scheme of government, nor join any party or specious ism. You need only do one thing.
And that is establish justice.
The end of fraud and wrong is fevered toil. The end of justice is the superior product of skill and genius, and their mother, leisure."

The Inward Song

all quotes are excerpts from Dr. Frank Crane's "The Inward Song":
"It would be interesting to have the statistic of what number, out of all the human stream that pours into the city every morning coming to their work, are singing inwardly.
How many are thinking tunefully? How many are moving rhythmically? And how many are going, as dead drays and carts, rumbling lifelessly to their tasks?"

A question for my own soul: Am I singing inwardly?
These words were written before movies were made with sound; so it is much easier for us to picture the cliche of background music because we are used to hearing characters inner song played out for our ears.
But, there is an inner song of the soul that can be likened to background music. Sometimes, it feels like mine stops. I know that's a depressing thought, but it's true. It's only when I am dreaming and excited for the dream, reaching for the vision, or even just have a little inspiration that the song turns on. The song means it's time to dance, time to get work done, time to learn, grow, and live righteously.

"This world is an insolvable puzzle to human reason. It is full of the most absurd antinomies, the most distressing cruelties, the most amazing contradictions. No wonder men's minds take refuge in stubborn stoicism, in agnosticism, in blank unfaith.
There is no intellectual faith, no rational creed, no logical belief. Faith comes only through music. It is when the heart sings that the mind is cleared. Then the pieces of the infinite chaos of things drop into order, confusion ceases, they march, dance, coming into radiant concord."

I often think that non-Christians today are unique, and have their own set of unfaith philosophies that no one in the past has ever seen before. How I learn from reading essays from 100 years ago! There will always be people who cannot have faith because they crave reasoning. Faith doesn't reason. It can be reasoned about, it can be learned, it can be shared and discussed, but ultimately, it is felt. I love comparing faith to music and dance, because I am a dancer who loves to moves to music. I get it. I feel the rhythm, and my body just wants to move. I can help others learn to feel the beat, but in the end, their own bodies must feel the rhythm and they will dance their own dance.

"What a drop from such a level to the place of the mad sensualists and pleasure-mongers who only knew
'To seize on life's dull joys from a strange fear,
Lest losing them all's lost and none remains!'
What a whirl of cabaret music, what motion and forced laughter, what wild discord of hot viands, drugged drinks, and myriad-tricked lubricity it takes to galvanize us when our souls are dry and cracked and tuneless!
Whoever does something that makes the souls of men and women sing within them does more to make this earth habitable and this life tolerable than all the army of them that widen our comforts and increase our luxuries."

Yesterday, Matthew (my husband) and I went out for a walk downtown to stretch our legs and breath the fresh night air. The bars were packed full of people. While I do not believe it is wrong for a Christian or anyone to go to a bar, neither is it wrong to drink, the bars nevertheless serve as the meeting place for souls who are clinging out of fear to what little bit of soul music they can, no matter how contrived. I see wild parties as a place where, more than any other place, its filled with people who fear being alone, fear facing God, fear facing themselves, and are clinging to luxuries rather than soul satisfaction. When my soul is singing, I do not want to drink for drinking alters the tune. No, when my soul sings, I want to stay sober and dance to the rhythm of the song.


God has brought me to a place in my life where I have an abundance of free time. I wish to fill my time with some enriching, something thought-provoking, in other words, something that is so the opposite of everything I am tempted to reach for first to fill my time. The idea came to me this morning:

I have always enjoyed reading from a collection of four minute essays which my grandmother, Jeanne Beaumont, (author of the Christian devotional "I send it to you free" ) gave to me. These essays are no longer in print, and I think that most people would pass over them on first glance because they are getting to be nearly 100 years old; the author uses language of his time that is not politically correct in our current society. But these essays, by Dr. Frank Crane, in many ways, remind me of classics such as Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, or My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. There have not been many in this category, and I have been disappointed by the books of our generation that have been undeservedly compared to these classics.

I have decided to blog about these 4-minute essays by Dr. Frank Crane. I like the fact that his books would not necessarily be labelled as Christian. His topics dwell on daily life, perceptive observations about society, and thought-provoking ideas on "how the world can be made a better place." However, through his writings, God's wisdom shines through. I want to ask hard questions of myself, and figure out more about what I believe. This is an exploration into faith, one that will hopefully grow good fruit in myself and anyone who reads this.