Writing 101

writing. living. learning.

Menu Close

Month: January 2010 (page 2 of 3)

ikigai and living to be a hundred

Another fine video from TED came across my desk today, and it struck a chord with me. It’s entitled How to live to be 100+ and the speaker is Dan Buettner–a National Geographic writer and explorer who studies the world’s longest-lived peoples.

Now, I’m not necessarily interested in living to be a hundred. (I mean I guess it would be nice, but I’m more interested in living a life that matters–a quality life for as long as I can.) This is what Buettner is talking about–I think–the quality of life. This resonated with me, as I have for a long time now been trying to make the choices I think will result in a better life for me and my family–and for others in the world. I’ve never been very motivated by money or material wealth, and have made career choices based on doing what I enjoy, doing what I think matters, doing something that will afford me with as much family time as possible–basically doing something that really doesn’t feel like work at all. I’ve seen a lot of people around me dig themselves into holes of despair in pursuit of shadows and phantoms–money, stuff, and status–and I feel lucky that I’ve done a fairly decent job of avoiding such trappings. I’m trying anyway and thinking about it everyday.

Buettner has identified a number of areas in the world that he calls “blue zones.” These are places where people regularly live healthy, happy, productive lives for well over a hundred years. One of the groups he mentions in his study is the Okinawan people. In Okinawa there is no concept and no word for retirement as there is in the United States. Instead, the Okinawan people live by a principle known a ikigai, which roughly translates to “the reason for which you get up in the morning.” One question on a survey distributed by the Buettner’s Blue Zone research group asked these people what their ikigai was. They knew instantly. It is a principle that deeply imbues their lives. From Buettner’s talk, this notion is what stuck with me most–ikigai. I think about it often. Everyday, what am I doing? How am I spending my time? What is my purpose?

People sometimes ask me about work, or about homeschooling our son Aidan, or about any number of other things that occupy my time. Sometimes the conversation goes directly to this matter of time. When do I get off work on Friday? How long does “school” last for Aidan each day? These questions honestly baffle me, and I am hard pressed to find an answer. I do very little compartmentalization when it comes to living my life with my family. We just live each day. We do things. I teach college kids. I think often about ways I can better reach them and better help them in their development as writers and as people. I spend time with Aidan. We go places and learn things. We have long conversations over breakfast and dinner. I love my wife and try to tell her every day. Each day unfolds easily without much planning. Each day is in many ways a pleasant surprise. This feels good. This feels more natural.

If I were asked to tell you what my ikigai is, I guess I would have to think about it–find the words to express it. I’m quite sure, though, that it would have something to do with my family, with curiosity and learning, with being of service to others as I try to be a better person and a better friend to the people in my life.

In all honesty, I do like sleeping in, but when I wake up I do so with a light heart knowing that I am living a good life and will continue to take gentle steps to make it better for me and those around me each and every day.

making changes with the money we spend

Mike gave me a cool little book for Christmas–The Better World Shopping Guide. It’s a user-friendly guide that ranks products and companies from A to F. The ranking is based on 20 years of research and looks at several issues, such as human rights, animal protection, environment, social justice, and [singlepic=540,250,250]community involvement. It’s an interesting little book with some surprising (and not so surprising) information about many stores, products, etc.

The book makes a thought-provoking argument by reminding us that as consumers we have the power to make changes in this world with the money that we spend. As the book states, “every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in!” It goes on to say that the average American family “spends about $18,000 every year on goods and services.” $18,000 every year! That is a lot of money every year! Who exactly is this money going to? And how exactly are these companies who get this money treating our planet and the people in it? These are important questions for us all to consider. Since receiving this book Mike and I have already made a few changes in our shopping habits and we definitely plan to make a few more.

the wisdom of dr. seuss

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” — Dr. Seuss

I have always loved Dr. Seuss. The rhythmic lines, the nonsensical words, the zany illustrations–all of this makes for such fun while reading! Even though I enjoyed Dr. Seuss when I was younger, it wasn’t until I was older that I came to appreciate several of his books for the wisdom that they impart. One such book is The Lorax. [singlepic=539,300,300] The Children with their Truffula TreesThis is a great book about respecting nature, which really shows what kind of devastation can occur when we take nature for granted or let greed overpower us.

We shared the reading of this book on Monday at Earth Scouts. The kids seemed to enjoy the book and many of them contributed nicely to our discussion that followed the reading. The Lorax provided a solid ending and review to our unit on respecting nature, as it brought up many of the same topics that our group has covered these past six months. And it left us with the reminder that even
[singlepic=538,300,300] Aidan with his badgethough our unit is complete we must all actively respect and care for nature every day. As Dr. Seuss states in his book, “UNLESS someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.

In addition to our regular activities at Earth Scouts, Monday had another exciting element–the kids earned their second badge on their unit for Respecting Nature. We have been covering this unit for the past six months and have focused in on a variety of topics such as plants/trees/seeds, endangered animals, recycling, food chains, eco-friendly holidays, composting, etc. Part of our Earth Scout commitment is to partake in action days, and these kids worked hard over the past months doing action activities such as clean-up days in local parks, seed collecting at the Midewin Tallgrass Prairie, and a coat drive for a nearby community shelter. Aidan was so thrilled to receive his new badge, and I was so proud of him and all the kids of our group.

© 2020 Writing 101. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.