Sunday, July 08, 2007

Things That Matter

Yesterday I enjoyed some quality writing, studying at thinking time at our public library. Near the end of this gift, I had the spontaneous brainstorm of jotting down a list of the things that "give lasting pleasure," the true drivers of sustainable contentment and satisfaction.

I narrowed the list down to three key umbrella items:
1. Intimacy
2. Creativity
3. Learning

I did not begin with any particular end in mind. In an almost-free-association mode, I first jotted down all of the pursuits that ostensibly give satisfaction--at least for the moment. Eating a great meal. Physical pleasure. A new car or house. Getting married. Having children. Getting some cushion in your family budget. Going on an awesome vacation. Making others laugh. Gaining the admiration of another.

I also wrote down items such as vital relationships; powerful conversations; great stuff to read; being interesting to others; helping others in ways that make a difference. Of all the items on my list of what gives satisfaction, these last several were the ones I identified as providing that sense of lasting pleasure. And from here I synthesized them into those three categories of intimacy, creativity and learning.

If you think about intimacy, it is all about vital relationships. Knowing and being known--whether in relation to God, a spouse or significant other, a child, a sibling, a friend--or even a stranger. Some of my most meaningful conversations have been with so-called strangers, moments in time when you realize there truly are no strangers. We have many connections with others in our high-tech culture, but little real intimacy.

Creativity is indigenous to each of us, not just the skilled artists, writers, singers, Web designers, etc. It is about tapping into part of our wiring that enables us to feel most alive, offering contributions that are unique. Too much of our cultural habits rob us of the gift of our own creativity. We sacrifice it on the altar of adulthood, maybe even at the threshold of adolescence, for the sake of being "practical."

Finally, learning. Once we stop learning we start dying emotionally. When we take permission to learn deeply in the areas that most interest us, the daily drudgeries become far more tolerable. We as a society celebrate passivity far more than active learning, and I think this holds us back from meaningful living.

So when I pinpoint anything that gives me lasting pleasure, it tends to fall into one of these three categories. Looking at it from this perspective lessens the intensity or stress I devote to all of these other items of need than in the moment seem so essential.

I wonder how organizations could transform if they were composed of individuals--and they are--who personally were living an inspired life hinging on a few key essentials that have sustainable relevance.

What kind of a different impact would that enable each of us to have on our families, our communities, our companies, our non-profit organizations? So much activity is constantly abuzz everywhere; everybody is so allegedly "busy." But only a precious few may be spending the bulk of their energy on the things that truly matter.

What truly matters to you?

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At 5:16 AM , Blogger Jared B. Tremper said...

This post brought to my mind the life and wisdom of Solomon. He could certainly boast that all three items were in his umbrella of experience. Yet his concluding wisdom statements are curious:

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 (HCSB)

In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd.

But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

The WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM asks "What is the chief end of man?"
Answer: "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."

This is what truly matters to me.

Jared B. Tremper
Chicago, IL

At 5:16 AM , Blogger John Michael De Marco said...

Well said, my friend. I would expect nothing less from you. Solomon surely learned at the end that intimacy with God mattered more than all he had temporarily gained.


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