Archive for the ‘Personal Perspectives’ Category

389. Ten Million Tasks

Life is always busy, but it’s especially busy during the holidays when a million new tasks are added to the ten million already on our to-do lists.  The demands of life can sometimes seem overwhelming, yet most of us somehow manage to get everything done (though often at the last minute).  But it’s never easy to stay on top of everything.

Book stores are full of guides to organization and time-management.  They advise one to arrange tasks according to both importance and urgency – important tasks can often be put off when less-important but more urgent tasks arise.  There’s always something urgent that needs to be done, though, and one must be careful not to neglect important things for too long while dealing with the more mundane variety.

Though it seems like we’re busier every day, having too much to do isn’t a new problem.  Great minds have been concerned about this for a long time, including Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who addressed this issue back in the first half of the 1800s. Having to constantly deal with competing urgencies, Kierkegaard realized, keeps people scattered and out-of-focus in life.  Kierkegaard observed that this constant busyness too-often keeps people from doing the things that are really important, like developing their own true selves.  He even went so far as to suggest that always having somewhere to go or something to do keeps people mired in a form of ‘existential’ despair.

As a philosopher, Kierkegaard understood how important it is that we find what is unique about ourselves and lead our lives accordingly.  He felt that being constantly pulled in ten million directions causes our souls to disintegrate.  To combat this we need to focus on the things that are important to us as individuals.  Truth, Kierkegaard realized, is subjective – we each see the world with unique eyes and thus only we can ultimately assign meaning and value to things.  Faith, to Kierkegaard, included faith in ourselves and our processes, and he maintained that we must carefully balance our own needs with those of the world around us.

Kierkegaard understood there will always be outside demands that must be addressed.  But we must remember to value our own talents and sensibilities, tastes and perspectives – these personal qualities define who we are as individuals.  As the self-help books warn, it’s all too easy to let the constant stream of small but urgent tasks prevent us from taking care of what’s really important.  And nothing is more important than being who we really are (in positive ways, of course…).

A friend once observed that by rearranging the letters and adding an “e”, the word “react” becomes “create”.  By rearranging our priorities – like rearranging the letters in these words – we can become more creative, become proactive in the ways we live our lives and interact with the world.  We are all different, all unique, and this uniqueness ultimately defines who we are.  Yet we are often too busy to pay much attention to what it is that makes us special.

What would happen if in the coming year we could carve out a little more time to be pro-active rather than re-active?  What if we did more things to express who we are as individuals, even when the world says we should only be concerned with mundane things?  There’s room in life for both outward responsibility and personal development.  By better balancing these competing demands we might well live more authentic lives and become less likely to lose ourselves in the ten million tasks forever insisting on our immediate attention.

382. Doomsday

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but the world will end this Saturday.  That’s because the moon will pass beneath the feet of the astrological sign Virgo that day.  The sun will likewise be in Virgo and the planet Jupiter will have been passing through Virgo for around nine months by then.

Why is this important? Because, according to Christian numerologist David Meade, these are the celestial signs foretold in the Book of Revelation as signifying that the End Times are upon us.  Revelation 12:1–2 states “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”  This is taken to mean the astronomical proximity of the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter in the constellation Virgo.

Meade bolsters his claim by noting also that the pyramids of Giza somehow indicate that Sept. 23, 2017 will be the end the world.  And he points to the solar eclipse and hurricanes Harvey and Irma as proof that the process of destruction has already begun.

According to proponents of this theory, the planet Nibiru – an outer planet with a very eccentric orbit that occasionally carries it into the inner solar system – will come so close to Earth that its gravity will cause earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

People have long been predicting the end of the world based on their interpretation of the Bible, the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, or the Mayan calendar. Ancient Sumerian texts are where the planet Nibiru comes from – its existence was first proposed in 1976 by writer Zecharia Sitchin who claimed that the inhabitants of Nibiru created human beings as slaves for them.  Sitchin also claimed that on a past visit to the inner solar system Nibiru destroyed a planet between Mars and Jupiter, thereby creating the asteroid belt.

Never mind that there is no scientific evidence for any of this – a lot of people believe in Nibiru.  And never mind that if another planet were drawing close enough to destroy the Earth we’d be able to see it by now – there are people who apparently believe a collision is imminent.

Author John Steinbeck once described a character as being ‘one of the few men who didn’t believe the world was about to end’ and maybe he was right – maybe most people do think the world is about to end.  Remember Y2K? The world was supposed to end on New Year’s Day 2000.  When that didn’t happen, attention turned to the year 2012, based on a cycle of the ancient Mayan calendar.  And if, by some miracle, we survive Saturday, a new date for our collective demise will no doubt surface soon.

In his recent book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, writer Kurt Anderson explores America’s history of deluded thinking.  Anderson traces it back to the Pilgrims, “a nutty religious cult” who believed that feeling something made it true.  Anderson believes that the “find-your-own-reality” approach of the 1960s fertilized the soil for Sitchin’s and Meade’s ideas, arguing that our culture has “lost its grip on reality.”

If the world ever does end, some doom-sayer may accidentally gain enormous – if brief – vindication.  But for now I’m going to go ahead and pay the bills lest Meade’s prophecy become self-fulfilling – for me, at least.  And if the world does end Saturday, I’ll just stop payment on the checks…