I’ve been thinking a lot about how most of what ends up in my facebook feed these days is some type of article with a headline that sounds far more exciting than the article turns out to be. I’m pretty skeptical by nature anyway, but I’ve grown to completely ignore anything that promises to blow my mind or change my life. If I have a piece of mail that says “urgent,” on it, I’m likely to throw it away. I was standoffish when the lead singer from one of my favorite 90s bands opened by telling us they were going to play music that would “expand our minds.” If someone in a worships opens by telling me how I will or should feel, I am motivated to prove that person wrong. And, I don’t think I’ve ever read one of those “only people who _________ will understand,” articles, but I really don’t believe that all those people are so misunderstood it would be impossible for anyone else to empathize. I think most people reading this would tend to agree with me, yet I bet we all find ourselves tempted to read these articles. Something about the way they are titled is incredibly tempting for the impulse click. So, here’s my tribute to the top 5 list that magically summarize any issue imaginable into a tidy little list:
Top 5 things on my mind from this week
1. Exercise for Deceased Friend
As I mentioned last week, the 13th Annual Mark Wiggins Soccer Classic is this weekend, which always carries lots of reminders. First I remember my good friend who passed away living his dreams, traveling in Costa Rica. It’s also a reminder of my huge circle of friends and their growing families, as it is often the only place I see some of these people each year. And, it is also a reminder to me that I need to get into shape if I expect to make it down the field more than 2 times in the hot July air without begging for an oxygen tank. So, I’ve been running, hiking long stretches, and trying to eat fairly decently, so I can fool myself into thinking I can still hang with the 20 year olds who will also be there. It’s delusional, but when I somehow manage to juke past a defender like it was planned once or twice in the game, I’ll feel this sense of accomplishment and hope Mark is somewhere nodding with his thumbs up, even if it is a bit patronizing.
2. Italy goes down/Pigeon babies get names
The Wiggins Classics are always even more enjoyable in World Cup years. Mark died in a World Cup year, and that probably helped motivate us to begin the Classic in the first place. Like Mark, I am an Italophile, loving all things Italian–even the parts that aren’t so great. Even though Brazil was Mark’s favorite nation to root for, I root for the Italians anyway, and this year I’ve followed Italian soccer enough to recognize the names of most of the players. Unfortunately, though, the Italians didn’t make it out of their group stages, falling at the hands of the cannibalistic Luis Suarez and Uruguay. I check on the baby pigeons, mentioned in the past few posts, each day, and they are progressing nicely. These birds are not pretty to look at, and really most baby birds are pretty ugly at first. They started out this greasy yellow color, and they are in the middle of the transition from yellow to pigeon dark gray. It is an awkward time for them, and to complicate it, they are sleeping in a nest surrounded by their own feces. But, even though they look like some kind of weird animatronic dodo bird blobs, I knew them when they were eggs, so I can’t help but be attached to the little guys. In honor of the country I can’t help but be attached too, I’m calling them Pirlo and Balotelli after two of the stars from the Italian soccer team who are flying back to their nest now.
3. Visit to Great-Grandparents’ house to interview great aunt
In anticipation of an upcoming family reunion I was asked to make a video slideshow with voiceover, telling the story of my great-grandparents and the generations following. To do this, I’ve been requesting interviews from my great uncles and aunt. This week I drove up to my great grandparents’ old house in Springville, Tennessee to video the old house and talk to my great aunt, Linnie about her life and theirs. It’s such and interesting project to begin learning about your family. It’s part detective drama, part mystery, part an exercise in storytelling. And, I find, the more you learn about your ancestors, the more mysteriously their lives become. You wonder what it must have been like to be them. You can almost hear their voices and feel the air that looks slightly different in old pictures. These days we have videos, so our descendants will be able to look on us with a slightly more complete piece of the picture. But still, I think you always wonder about the holes in the story. You wonder if they thought the things you think. You wonder what they know that you still have not learned. Their ghosts sit right next to you, and you sense it there, but you can’t touch it. It’s always just out of reach.
4. Allyson is about to return/Long Hug
My wife Allyson has been putting in a month’s worth of hard work for the Commonwealth Honors Academy, a program for high school students at the University. Allyson has moved into the dorm and works through the day and night. It’s very similar to the work I did at camp. This week is the last week, and Allyson is tired and excited about coming home. I’m looking forward to having her back too, and relaxing back into the comfort of having a companion who knows me and matches me so well. I look forward to having dinner with her, taking walks, and settling in for bed at night, knowing I’ll wake and leave her sleeping soundly when I go off to work. We were able to meet up for just a few moments the other day. She had a gray sweater on and blue jeans rolled up because it had been raining. She looked so pretty, and I thought about how after seven years of marriage I still don’t tire of looking at her and the feel of her back and shoulders to my arms as I’m pulled up hugging her. We stood for a long time, our arms locked around each other, and it was like holding a breath in when you see something in the sky that you’re taken with. We will certainly be able to see much more of each other soon, but in that moment, we were soaking in as much as possible to hold us over.
5. Walking in a drizzle
It has been bouncing back and forth this week between humidity and dry air. The dryer moments make the warm temperatures pretty bearable, but they are difficult to predict, sometimes changing several times in a day. Plus there have been all these pop-up showers that are really hard to anticipate. Today I was out walking, and a drizzle came out of nowhere. This would be easy to take as an annoyance–my socks could get soaked and my pants might not dry off for hours. But then, I thought of how nice it felt with the cool rain falling and how it made this particular day stand out more than the rest. Here I was, walking through the rain, knowing what it felt like, letting it cool me off. All my clothes would dry, but I would still have that feeling, knowing what it sounded like, feeling it on my face. So, I picked my head up and looked into those gray and blue clouds a little more at wonder of how water just comes to us from out of the sky.
And so, you’ve almost finished yet another blogpost that you probably found through facebook and twitter. I doubt I tricked you into reading it with my condescending spoof of pretty much every article that shows up in feeds these days, but I hope you share my frustration with this mediocre way that we have fallen into sharing our feelings. I understand why people read and share these articles. We want something quick and organized, because we worry about wasting too much time (even though we’re already on facebook). We want something that will totally change our outlook on something–we want to be blown away (even though an internet video is highly unlikely to do that), and we want to feel special enough that only a unique group of people will be able to get what we have been through (even though top 25 lists can hardly look deep into our souls).
I’m not saying stop reading and posting stuff. But, I am saying lets tip the balance back towards something more personal. Instead of sharing something that marginally gets at what you’re saying, just tell us yourself. Share a story with us about something that touched you. And, don’t feel the need to never be the same again or make someone else that way. Let’s be honest, how long has it been since something on facebook completely altered our universe. Really the biggest way it alters our universe is giving us a pile of so-so articles to trudge through because it’s easy to do. Go out and live a life for yourself. Even your regular day has elements that are fantastic. Be ready for them. Be ready to be awed then, not from some viral youtube video that will be forgotten in a week. Go find these moments yourself. Then, come back and write about them, and I promise there will still be people around to read about it.