Snooze buttons

I don’t think the problem with snooze buttons is the buttons, or that we’re pressing them. It’s that we’re not getting enough sleep.

This is related to the idea that, “Everyone wants more time, but few of us know how to spend it when we have it.” It speaks to how difficult it is to do things with intention or even clarity about why we’re doing something other than ritual or habit.

Rituals and habits are important when they’re repetitions of the right things. But even the right things can grow stale after a while, and in those times we need to reassess. When it comes to sleep, I think it’s fine to sacrifice sleep for limited periods of time if we’re sacrificing it for a good reason.

Watching another episode of some television show or binging on YouTube or beating the next game level? Those are bad reasons to wake up groggy and reluctantly, smashing the buttons on your alarm machine and cursing the world.

When you find yourself in that place, it’s time to reassess and make a change.

EWTN

I spent yesterday at EWTN, Mother Angelica‘s “global Catholic network,” near Birmingham. I visited EWTN almost exactly a decade ago on a road trip, but this was the first time I had a real reason for being there. We celebrated 7am daily mass with Archbishop Chaput in memory of Terri Schiavo, which was broadcast a few times later in the day. The homily is available below:

Afterwards Archbishop Chaput, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, and Bobby Schindler, who I work with at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, sat down for an hour-long conversation that will air later this year. It was a good, wide-ranging conversation about the best way to honor the dignity of our brothers and sisters throughout their lives.

I was supposed to fly out of Atlanta last night, but my Delta flight ended up being swept up amidst hundreds of cancellations and delays; some of the people at the airport have been there for days waiting for a flight. After Ubering into downtown Atlanta I stayed the night at the Inn at Peachtrees and am now at the airport ready to fly out on American, since my rescheduled Delta flight wouldn’t have left until early Sunday morning.

This was a good and worthwhile trip. We’ve got to do more to speak coherently and comprehensively about human dignity from the beginning to the end of life, as well as throughout life especially for medically vulnerable, disabled, elderly, and other persons who are victims of indifference.

Anticipating the Hyperloop

I’m writing this while standing in line for my zone to board a Delta flight. I’m in Atlanta, connecting to Birmingham. The flight’s been delayed more than an hour, and now a hundred or so passengers are standing in their line because an optimistic gate attendant thought their administrative problems were going to be fixed in short order. They’re still not fixed, and now dozens of people ate getting edgy because they were delayed and now they’ve been standing a while.

First world problems, but that’s not the point. Delta flights have been cancelled and delayed across the country this week—3,000 or more. Why? Thunderstorms and wind grounded Atlanta flights earlier in the week and the ripple effects of that are playing themselves out as planes have been separated from crew members necessary to fly them. 

I know the data says something like 90 percent (or more, maybe) of domestic flights are on time and have no problems. But even a small percent is still millions of passengers. I’m not particularly bothered by it—I’ll still get where I need to be with plenty of time. 

All of this does have me realizing how likely it is that the Hyperloop (whatever it ends up looking like) will very likely replace huge swaths of demand for domestic travel—an incredibly fast, ground-based, and weather immune transport system that will be fast than flying in most cases. 

I hope it arrives in earnest in my lifetime.

Created from nothing

I screenshot this photo a few days ago from Snapchat, where someone I followed was visiting Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. I’m not sure what this was called (and a cursory search of the gallery’s website didn’t produce an obvious result), but it was so arresting that I wanted to share it here.

When I saw this, I looked at it for a few minutes on end. I was totally captivated by it, not simply for its excellent craftsmanship, but more for how perfectly it embodies the story that all creation has come from nothing—ex nihilo.

If a human being can create something like that arm and hand, with its delicate features and subtleties, from that wooden block, it seems so clear that the sometimes-whispers-of-the-heart that our silent God is simply a fiction have to be themselves the fiction.

It’s too much to say that art like this can be proof of God, but it is proof of transcendence.

Kodachromes

I think it was about 18 months ago that I scanned more than a thousand of my grandfather John Shakely’s Kodachrome color slides from the 1950s. After finishing, I thought I had scanned all of them. Then, around this past Christmastime I was exploring in his old home and discovered thousands more. I was thrilled with the discovery, even though the scanning process is a manual, one-by-one process. It’s extremely tedious work.

But when I see photos like the one here, scanned into Flickr and captioned (thanks to Pop’s meticulous, craftsman nature), it makes the time spent well worth it. The caption for this photo: “Fishing boats, Wreck Bay, San Cristobal, Galapagos – 10 June 1955”.

Not sure when I’ll finish this side project, but I’m hoping before the start of summer.

Financial to do/not to do list

Charlie Bilello:

What matters more – your personal savings rate or your investing rate of return?

Your instinct is probably to say the latter, as that is what gets far more attention. We are often thinking about how we can make a higher return; we rarely think about saving more.

In reality, though, saving is far more important for the majority of Americans.

The 5.5% is an aggregate number. Most Americans fall far short. Some startling figures:

  • 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account. Even at higher income levels of between $100,000 and $149,999, 44% had less than $1,000. See here.
  • 66 million Americans have zero dollars saved in an emergency fund. 47% of Americans could not afford an emergency expense of $400. See here
  • 43% of working-age families have no retirement savings at all. The median working-age couple has saved only $5,000 for retirement. 70% of couples have less than $50,000 saved. See here.
  • 65% of credit card users carry a balance (don’t pay off their bill every month), paying an average interest rate of over 15%. The average credit card debt for households that carry a balance is $16,048. See here and here.

He includes this chart which encapsulates it well:

savings1.png

Do the opposite of what most people are doing.

Penn State Greek Corps

As a follow-on to yesterday’s Vision for Penn State Greeks, I wanted to clarify some things after speaking with some who read it. I also want to offer a practical idea for how we might start addressing the problem of “spiritual meaning” I identified as the underlying problem beneath the surface of fraternity and sorority challenges.

First, a basic history of the fraternity and sorority system is worthwhile for getting a larger perspective on this topic. What’s relevant to note is that fraternities and sororities developed from something, and that “something” was often informally/organically organized literary and civic/rhetoric clubs. These were students who started with a shared interest in what we would today call a “special” interest, like oratory or singing or dancing or political debate. That’s why I pushed back yesterday against the idea of lofty and abstract language. Young men and women will only develop authentic relationships if they are together for practical purposes like singing together. We want practical relationships.

Second, the history teaches us that change must occur organically. It almost certainly can’t be viola’d with a sweeping “reform program.” And it can’t be the result of nostalgic alumni wishing to simply recreate the Greek system of their own time. Whatever happens, it should be something new.

Third, and relatedly, I have no specific plan in mind. There’s no program. I view the Greek issue as fundamental as “Will these places be vehicles/excuses to learn how to be human beings?” If not, can we find some other way to do that within the university structure? All that “other half” stuff that Cardinal Newman talks about in his book, The Idea of a University.

Fourth, because everyone wants a program even though I think a formal initiative would be foolhardy: Why not try something like a “Penn State Greek Corps” that would seek to “enlist” about 200 people. It would seek Greek alumni, but be mostly non-Greek. It would be diverse in age, gender, professional background, etc. These corps members would be asked to build a relationship with their designated fraternity or sorority, and encouraged to experiment. It wouldn’t be a one year tour, but something closer to a decade-long commitment—real relationships. That would be the only real deliverable, and I think it could produce significant positive results. These corps members would be honored at Homecoming. they’d be invited to meet the trustees and star professors at special events. They’d be shown love in various ways for their extraordinary commitment. Penn State would build a relationship with them, too.

After yesterday’s piece was cross-posted to Onward State it picked up 500+ Facebook shares and I heard back from many people who said it got them thinking. If nothing else, I hope that it helps Penn Staters think less tribally and with more heart.