Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Connecting the Dots of Your Life

Life today is compartmentalized; it has become second nature to separate personal life from professional concerns, family from friends, work from fun, learning from school. We are trained from toddlerhood to see life in these categories. In education, the ancient Greeks studied three subjects: astronomy, music, and rhetoric. My 4th-grade daughter gets grades for phonics, reading, English, handwriting, vocabulary, math, science, history, P.E., art, and religion. These divisions promote specialized knowledge, but I think the human heart yearns for a more complete existence.

I run into this in my studies. My work on Chavez draws from history, sociology, political science, rhetoric; my favorite sources are generalized intellectuals like Kenneth Burke and Carlos Rangel. Yet I know to get published in an academic journal, I am supposed to narrow my approach to suit a particular journal's interest.

This compartmentalization is what drives people either to other activities, or to despair. The latter choice emerges when a person is totally exhausted from a job or activity that pays the bills and is somewhat fulfilling, but leaves the person with no energy to pursue more creative interests. That person is heading toward professional burnout.

Christine Kane hit the nail on the head when she compared a rich life to a musical composition; there must be rests between the activities. I read interesting way to do this in a book, The Artist's Way at Work by Mark Bryanm, Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen. It is a valuable resource because it applies Cameron's innovations in creativity development to a specific context - the office. A man named Roger, wanted to take two weeks off from work for a retreat, but was unable to do so. He took initiative, however, and worked his retreat into his daily schedule.

He set three 10-minute reading breaks and a 20-minute walk at lunch. He kept a meditation book in his desk drawer and listened to inspirational music or talks on his Walkman (this was before the omnipresent Ipod!) What a useful way of scheduling breaks into the day, rather than waiting until the very end, when we're exhausted, to try to get creative.

If you look, you will see ways to do this in your own life. Daily writing first thing in the morning really helps you clarify what your mission, what is working and what isn't. You will see solutions on the pages.

While you're writing, send a post mixonian@gmail.com by April 30. You could win $50.