What We Fill Our Day With: The Choice is Ours.
In just a few feet or so it will fade away—the serenade from the teenage girl I just walked past along the campus edge.
Happy as can be, she goes walking along Main Street either to or from class. All by her lonesome, singing joyfully at a just-right volume. This singing appears to be an intentional thing. Her ears don’t look to be obstructed by buds of any sort. She is perfectly aware of her volume and of the fact that others will hear.
How cute is that? There is music traveling through her, and out it must flow. She may be having a good day or not, but the very act of singing out loud on a public street implies some degree of cheer on her part.
The “performer” probably has no idea she has an audience in at least me on this Monday morning.
As my strides make distance, those common sounds of the street return to the foreground—the rather tart horn of a passing car, a pick-up accelerating as the light turns green, the “walk sign is on for all crossings” message speaks out from the street light.
Still, my thoughts wander back to the student singing out loud on her way to or from class. It makes me smile to think of someone so in a moment and so uninhibited that they should just break out in song while ambling down the street. I think I’ll keep her song, whatever it was. I can’t help but bring those notes into my day.
Unsustainable. It’s a word liberally tossed around these days—generally in regards to the swell of information chasing us at every angle.
I recently read a newspaper chat with a high ranking member of the clergy, in which the official was asked, “What are you listening to?” It was one of those inquiries where the interviewer is looking to get into the heart of their subject’s iTunes library. The Bishop’s reply? “Well, actually, I try to bring as much silence into my day as possible.” No Tony Bennett, no Bach cantatas, no Jay-Z. As I read the gentleman’s response I thought to myself, bless him for his choice of words.
Such an elegant manner for illuminating the excess of our existence these days. It reminds me that each new sunrise gifts us each a (mostly) clean canvas—a canvas upon which we do have considerable authority over what gets placed. Of course there are certain unavoidable paints which are instead brought to us and will color the white space of a new day whether we like it or not. But, to some extent the choice is ours as to just what and how much we splash onto that canvas.
Like curators in a museum we have an opportunity to exercise selectivity—to tend to the integrity of our days.
A gallery cannot hold everything. Consider the mindful manner in which a curator builds his or her installation. The process begins with a statement or intention, and then the exhibit’s content is chosen and placed to complement that spirit. It’s a useful pilgrimage to explore a typical day and reflect on those sights, sounds, people, commitments and experiences we habitually allow into our precious twenty-four hours.
If we were to regard even a few hours of each day with the discerning eye of a curator, perhaps we would begin to lay some tracks towards a more sustainable existence.
For the majority, the day tends to just spill out. We follow the hands of the clock in a habitual fashion fielding whatever gets tossed our way.
Before we know it, it’s lights out, and the patterning begins all over again. We can start to lay the groundwork for a filter and reclaim some oversight by simply brining a greater level of awareness to the experiences we admit into the course of our day. That attention alone might induce a natural pivot where we begin to on occasion decline certain social and other experiences, thus dialing down the volume on the commotion.
It demands some swimming against the tides. Saying “no thank you very much” certainly takes some guts. But, in such curating, we make the canvas that is our day more available to those experiences that best serve us. Remember Sundays? If I listen closely, I can still faintly hear those chimes of freedom of an earlier chapter.
A day made all one’s own.
This brings me back to that little concert as I rounded the bend on Main Street. That joyful noise is just the type of thing I personally would like to make my senses more available for during the course of any given day. The pedestrian’s act was genuine.
Her authenticity invoked cheer, and that happy distraction evoked me to gather some energies that were scattered at that moment we crossed paths. On that particular morning, I was making some sacred time for myself in the form of a long walk outdoors. I elected not to limit my sense of sound with a gadget.
These conscious choices so too created the conditions for me to catch an unexpected pleasantry and preserve the majesty of my day.
And to think that all it took were the simply phrased words of a stranger and the unscripted creative expression of another to remind me that I do have some say in what I consume over the course of twenty four hours.
It’s been raining now for three or so days. I’m back out on foot.
As I walk up the hill on this Thursday morning, a gray pallor hovers east, west, north and south. The pavement remains dampened and the trees are still soaked. A truck with eighteen wheels shifts gears as it climbs by my left shoulder. Its back hatch calls out for my opinion on its driving. I dial all that down a bit. Enough.
In that same moment a splendid fragrance from above wrestles my attention and my gaze. My eyes cast up to the source – a just-blooming honeysuckle weighted down to nearly the level of my baseball cap. A perfect landing.
I close my eyes and fill my lungs with its perfume.
I think I’ll usher that right in.
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Assistant Ed: Andie Britton-Foster/Ed: Bryonie Wise