Doing things halfway.

There is a Jewish concept called the yetzer hara. I’ve written about it before but there’s more I want to say.

Sometimes it is translated as “the evil inclination.” It is the thing in your head that says if you can’t do something all the way, don’t do it at all. It is what stops you from doing good deeds and from making positive contributions.

The idea is to catch it in the act and do something good anyway. It is better to do part of a good deed than nothing at all. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing the whole thing – at least you did something.

The part that I’ve just realized is that too many of us think that just doing that little something is enough and we stop there.

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not being able to do all of the good deed, but we also shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for doing just the minimum. There has to be a balance somewhere. Do what you can, and then try to do a little more.

The value of slow.

I’ve realized I’m trying to write a blog in a time where people can’t even take the time to write out what they are saying. We have acronyms for everything. I just learned a new one – “tltr”. This means “too long to read.” I’m part amused and part saddened that we don’t even have the time to write out that something is “too long to read” but have to have an acronym for it. We don’t have time to have time.

I could change how I do things. I could shorten everything down to small digestible chunks. I could distill out the essence of the thing. I could write it out, but post the synopsis at the beginning so people don’t have to wade through to the end. I could post just two sentences, or a paragraph at most. Or I can keep doing what I am doing. Sometimes you have to go through the whole thing to get it. The Cliff’s notes may tell you what happened, but you’ll miss everything else.

I’ve learned that if you really want to see something, you have to draw it. Go find some paper and a pencil. Draw one thing. Pick something that you look at all the time or that you’ve seen every day for years. When you draw it, you’ll notice it for the first time. You’ll see lines and curves that you’ve never noticed before. You’ll notice blends of color that you’ve never seen. Did you know that a fig has a bit of green in the purple? Did you know that there were five washing machines in a row at the laundromat you go to, not four? When you take time to draw what you see instead of what you think you see, you start to notice other things. You start to wonder what else you’ve missed because you’ve assumed something about it.

We often want to get to the punchline before we’ve even heard the joke. We want things to be fast. We don’t want it now – we want it yesterday. We think that we have gained an advantage by making everything fast.

We want to blast through our emotions and stop feeling sad and go straight to happy. But how can we appreciate the mountain top unless we have been in the valley?

We want to have labels for people and put them in boxes. But how can we really get to know someone if we assume they are the same as everyone else of that race/gender/nationality/creed?

We want to have our lives prepackaged. We want to be told what to do, to eat, to think. Until we don’t. People are starting to wake up to how much power we have given away by letting others make our decisions for us. It isn’t that long ago that major life events were done at home. Now we are born in a hospital, get educated in a school, and when we die we are taken to a funeral home. Strangers take care of us our whole lives. And because they take care of us, we don’t know how to take care of ourselves. The old knowledge is fading away. We barely know how to feed ourselves – everything is prepackaged.

Fortunately, there are people who are realizing the danger in this prepackaged, convenience-store life. The more we give away, the less we have. The more we let others do for us, the less we know how to do.

I’m grateful for the upsurge in crafting. I’m glad that people are relearning how to sew, knit, crochet, quilt, and embroider. I’m grateful that people are taking the time to paint and bead for fun. I’m grateful that people are starting to appreciate the value of slow.

People are taking the initiative and not only learning how to cook their own food but how to grow it as well. They are learning the value of taking care of their bodies instead of getting a doctor to treat the symptom rather than the cause. They are exercising for health, not weight loss. They are looking at the long term rather than the right now. They are starting to question everything that they have been told – education, government, religion – nothing escapes their scrutiny. “We’ve always done it this way” no longer stands as an excuse for ignorance.

Slow down. Slow down, because you might miss something. And the thing you will miss the most is your life.