Potomac sunset

Peter Atkinson and I were able to catch up last night in Georgetown at The Tombs over dinner. I hadn’t seen him since his performance in Ah! Wilderness in New York earlier this year, and it was a gift to spend the time with him in advance of his birthday and the start of his final year at Columbia University in their MFA program.

We enjoyed a great walk through the neighborhood and then across the Key Bridge into Virginia toward sunset. The skies were more vibrant than I remember ever seeing them—beautiful.

Playing the long game

Shane Parrish writes on the long game:

The long game is the opposite of the short game, it means paying a small price today to make tomorrow’s tomorrow easier. If we can do this long enough to see the results, it feeds on itself.

From the outside, the long game looks pretty boring:

  • Saving money and investing it for tomorrow
  • Leaving the party early to go get some sleep
  • Investing time in your relationship today so you have a foundation when something happens
  • Doing your homework before you go out to play
  • Going to the gym rather than watching Netflix

… and countless other examples.

In its simplest form, the long game isn’t really debatable. Everyone agrees, for example, we should spend less than we make and invest the difference. Playing the long game is a slight change, one that seems insignificant at the moment, but one that becomes the difference between financial freedom and struggling to make next month’s rent.

The first step to the long game is the hardest. The first step is visibly negative. You have to be willing to suffer today in order to not suffer tomorrow. This is why the long game is hard to play. People rarely see the small steps when they’re looking for enormous outcomes, but deserving enormous outcomes is mostly the result of a series of small steps that culminate into something visible.

Late summer thunderstorms

I lived for this kind of weather as a kid—those cracks of thunder that made it feel like the sky was opening up, and the rain to cool down a humid afternoon. The later the summer gets, the louder the insects get and it seems like the more dramatic thunderstorms like these get.

Enjoying this thunderstorm from my front window.

Attachment styles

I was listening to Lila Rose’s “The Lila Rose Show” today, and she and her guest were talking about personalities and temperaments. At one point “attachment styles” were brought up, and that led me to Elizabeth Grace Saunders, who writes on the four “attachment styles,” relating to our personalities:

Your better mind knows exactly how to manage your time better at work but a primal, seemingly uncontrollable urge to do the opposite overtakes you.

You know you should say no when you’re asked to take on that new project, but you say yes. Or you know your boss said your report was good enough, but you work until midnight perfecting it. Or you’re just stuck — wanting to do better but unsure that trying will help — so you do nothing.

If you are frustrated with your seemingly irrational behavior, the root issue may be deep subconscious programming known as your “attachment style.” Your attachment style dictates how you relate to other people, particularly in situations that trigger stress.

Attachment style discussions typically arise in relation to the bond between parents and children or romantic partners, but in my work as a time management coach, I’ve seen that individuals can also “attach” differently in the workplace. Here’s how to identify your attachment style, and take control of how you manage your time.

She addresses anxious preoccupied attachment (fear-based), dismissive avoidant attachment (arrogance-based), fearful avoidant attachment (compounding-fear-based), and secure attachment (healthy).

Let your hand be ready to help me

I’m sharing something from today’s Magnificat, which I was able to pray with someone who has, in ways I don’t fully understand yet, changed my life:

Lord, let my cry come before you:
teach me by your word.
Let my pleading come before you;
save me by your promise.

Let my lips proclaim your praise
because you teach me your commands.
Let my tongue sing your promise
for your commands are just.

Let your hand be ready to help me,
since I have chosen your precepts.
Lord, I long for your saving help
and your law is my delight.

Give life to my soul that I may praise you.
Let your decrees give me help.
I am lost like a sheep; seek your servants
for I remember your commands.

Magnanimous, ‘great-souled’ people

I walk at a fast pace. But John Cuddeback warns against being in a hurry without good reason:

As is often the case, these words of Aristotle must be carefully considered. “The man who takes few things seriously” can sound like a man who doesn’t really value things—as though he were excessively nonchalant and under-estimates the worth of things. From the context it is clear that Aristotle rather is pointing to the man who properly judges things: a man who has recognized the few things that are really important in life.

So the man who judges things well, seeing things for what they are, is not in a hurry. Indeed, he usually walks with a measured, peaceful gait.

I had seen this text long ago, and I didn’t really make much of it. Then last week I was on retreat, and I kept catching myself rushing, bounding up and down stairs as though there wasn’t a minute to lose, when in fact there was no real need to hurry.

… I let myself get in a hurry, even though there isn’t a pressing need. An example comes to mind: how often have I gotten angry at my children when I go to pick them up somewhere if they so much as linger an extra moment to say farewell to their friends? “How dare you keep Daddy waiting!” As though the standard assumption is: Daddy has way too much to do, and you’re holding him up! Let’s get on with this! …

I’ve decided to start by slowing down my gait. It’s been hard. Even harder will be to learn really and truly to put first things first, to recognize what really matters and what doesn’t, and to act like it. The magnanimous man, which literally means the ‘great-souled man,’ takes seriously what he should. And for that very reason he is careful not to be in too much of a hurry.

John Cuddeback is consistently thoughtful. It’s worth receiving his emails.

Scenes of Washington in August

I’ve been running a lot lately. I tend to run more often in August, probably because you start to have that sense that summer will end sooner than you’d like and that you should be outside as much as possible. Yesterday had a great nine mile run through Georgetown and then past the YMCA in Arlington and back. Today, I’m looking back on these scenes from the past few days.

This last photo is the facade of the National Press Building on F Street/Pennsylvania Avenue earlier this morning.

‘The things they did together’

I’m at Nationals Park this afternoon for Atlanta v. Washington. And I’m reading David Mills, who writes about masculinity and virtue:

I don’t disagree with all the talk about the challenges men face. Some writers may carry the idea too far, but our society offers no clear guide to what a man does and is. It speaks more clearly about men’s failings and sins than about men’s virtues and calling. Of course some men will feel lost without more guidance, especially if they grew up in a broken family. People sneeringat male insecurity are both uncharitable and unrealistic, and often trying to gain an ideological advantage, and often weirdly dependent on stereotypes. …

Better, I think, to find out what being a man means through friendship with other men. To do guy stuff not because you want to act like a guy, but because guys do guy stuff without thinking about it when they’re together. To find when doing men’s work with other men — to a great extent unconsciously — what a man does and is. …

This requires some care in making friends, of course, and in choosing the common interest which leads to standing side by side with your friends. The more virtuous and wiser the friends, the more they will show you about being men. The better and higher the common interest, the more pursuing it with them will show you about being men. …

The soon to be sainted John Henry Newman gives us a very good example of this. He was the virtuous and wise friend other men sought out, but he looked for religiously serious men and then carefully cultivated deep friendships with them.

The things they did together were worthy enterprises, beginning with he and his friends’ effort as young Oxford dons not only to teach but (because they were ministers as well as teachers) to form their students. Then came the Oxford Movement Newman helped lead, which tried to recover and invigorate what they thought was the Church of England’s essential Catholicism. A worthy work, one into which good men could throw themselves, if one he came to see was misguided.

You can see something of the effect of friendship in Newman’s final Anglican sermon, preached when he’d decided to enter the Catholic Church. It was a move that would separate him from many friends, such was the feeling about the Church in the world he was leaving.

He ended “The Parting of Friends” with a moving request. It indirectly says something about how a man may help another man be a man. [Newman writes:]

“O my brethren, O kind and affectionate hearts, O loving friends,” he begins, should you know any one whose lot it has been, by writing or by word of mouth, in some degree to help you thus to act; if he has ever told you what you knew about yourselves, or what you did not know; has read to you your wants or feelings, and comforted you by the very reading; has made you feel that there was a higher life than this daily one, and a brighter world than that you see; or encouraged you, or sobered you, or opened a way to the inquiring, or soothed the perplexed; … remember such a one in time to come, though you hear him not, and pray for him, that in all things he may know God’s will, and at all times he may be ready to fulfil it.”

Riffing off of Philip D. Halfacre’s Genuine Friendship, it can be tough to remember that it’s in the doing of things together that we have the chance to demonstrate virtue. In the real, concrete, and particular.

Walking, habitually

Amy Fleming takes a walk with Shane O’Mara, a neuroscientist who reminds us that walking—and specifically making walking a habitual part of our lives—is both good and healthier than many alternatives:

I witnessed the brain-healing effects of walking when my partner was recovering from an acute brain injury. His mind was often unsettled, but during our evening strolls through east London, things started to make more sense and conversation flowed easily. O’Mara nods knowingly. “You’re walking rhythmically together,” he says, “and there are all sorts of rhythms happening in the brain as a result of engaging in that kind of activity, and they’re absent when you’re sitting. One of the great overlooked superpowers we have is that, when we get up and walk, our senses are sharpened. Rhythms that would previously be quiet suddenly come to life, and the way our brain interacts with our body changes.”

From the scant data available on walking and brain injury, says O’Mara, “it is reasonable to surmise that supervised walking may help with acquired brain injury, depending on the nature, type and extent of injury – perhaps by promoting blood flow, and perhaps also through the effect of entraining various electrical rhythms in the brain. And perhaps by engaging in systematic dual tasking, such as talking and walking.”

One such rhythm, he says, is that of theta brainwaves. Theta is a pulse or frequency (seven to eight hertz, to be precise) which, says O’Mara, “you can detect all over the brain during the course of movement, and it has all sorts of wonderful effects in terms of assisting learning and memory, and those kinds of things”. Theta cranks up when we move around because it is needed for spatial learning, and O’Mara suspects that walking is the best movement for such learning. “The timescales that walking affords us are the ones we evolved with,” he writes, “and in which information pickup from the environment most easily occurs.” …

Some people, I point out, don’t think walking counts as proper exercise. “This is a terrible mistake,” he says. “What we need to be is much more generally active over the course of the day than we are.” And often, an hour at the gym doesn’t cut it. “What you see if you get people to wear activity monitors is that because they engage in an hour of really intense activity, they engage in much less activity afterwards.”

But you don’t get the endorphin high from walking, I say. “The same hit you get from running is what you’d get from taking morphine? We simply don’t know that’s true,” he says. “People who study this area don’t go on about endorphins and there may be a reason for that.” Not that he is opposed to vigorous exercise, but walking is much more accessible and easily woven into everyday life: “You don’t need to bring anything other than comfy shoes and a rain jacket. You don’t have to engage in lots of preparation; stretching, warm-up, warm-down …” O’Mara gets off his commuter train a stop early so that he can clock up more steps on his pedometer. To get the maximum health benefits, he recommends that “speed should be consistently high over a reasonable distance – say consistently over 5km/h, sustained for at least 30 minutes, at least four or five times a week.”

It’s the simple things…

Meritage vineyard walk

This Napa Institute Summer Conference is the largest I’ve participated in, but it’s also turning out to be the most “comfortable,” as I’ve learned, more or less, how to approach what can be a very demanding week.

On Friday afternoons there are activities that participants can sign up for, ranging from horseback riding to tastings at Napa/Sonoma wineries, to painting, etc. It’s been a spiritually powerful week, but also an emotionally difficult week. I spent the early afternoon in prayer and meditation in the vineyards above the Meritage’s Estate Cave, where Masses are being celebrated this week.

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Time is passing both very quickly and very slowly.