Sunday, March 26, 2023

Enjoyable + Creative

Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars
They need work.
My mother was non-traditional. She did not fit into a predetermined mold. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry were activities everyone could and would do. Of those tasks I gravitated toward cooking. Maybe it came from my desire to eat, but I also enjoyed the creativity and experimentation associated with cooking. The machinery and mechanics of the farm held little interest for me. Cooking? Yup, I could do that and enjoy it! Rarely did I throw my work into the trash. Even if it did not come out as intended or look like the picture attached to the recipe, it could usually be consumed. 

The enjoyment of cooking continued. It cycled from creative to common. With the arrival of a family there were times when basic foods needed to be prepared. The reality of places to go and activities to attend meant that culinary creativity was shelved for the sake of consuming calories and sating hunger. Added to this was the 
Prehistoric pressed chicken
changing palate of the children. Dino Nuggets, mac and cheese, and tots were in the rotation along with corn dogs and frozen pizza. Creativity crept into the corner and covered its eyes!  However, it was enjoyable to be with my children. Creativity transferred into the art of parenting.

Currently there is a push for perfection in many aspects of life. Restaurant quality, chef curated cookware is promoted. Subscriptions to meal services provide gourmet ingredients and instructions. Competition, whether it be on a cable channel or social media is normative. Unique, one-of-a-kind adventure vacations need to be a part of family life. If not, we run the risk of just being ordinary. The mantra which is not subtle is, "Live your best life." I see this in part as capitalism working its magic. Without projecting a need which has to be filled or a deficiency for which restoration is necessary, products would not be sold. We are prodded and brainwashed 
Cover of my calendar 
into believing that our best life is a few purchases, a few experiences, or a few investments away. I believe the questions need to be asked: When will the illusive best become reality? Who decides what is best for me? How will I know when I have reached my best? What if my best already occurred? Is the concept of best meant to be a fluctuating destination so that feelings of inadequacy drive me to increase spending? Can the best be purchased? 
I believe there is a marked difference between stagnation and activity. Does improvement in education, salary, housing, and possessions with the increase in activity which is necessary for these things to occur provide the measurement toward becoming my best? I also sense there is a belief that acquiring and strictly following formulaic instructions will provide the desired outcome. All of this striving, all of this vision narrowing is performed at the expense of enjoyment and creativity. I ask myself often, "Tim, did you experience some enjoyment today?" Creativity, in my opinion cannot be stringently defined. However, it can be applied to all activities. Creativity and enjoyment are intertwined. I enjoyed the process of attempting to layer caramel over a bed of cookie dough and covering it with cookie dough topping. The outcome was not what I anticipated. It was an experiment. If attempted again I will change a few things. However, it was enjoyable on many levels. One of which is a dentist's dream whether it be producing cavities or pulling loose a filling! The infusion of sugar into the blood stream has some enjoyment, too. I chose not measure this baking venture in terms of my best. It was simply an enjoyable and creative enterprise. 

I may be more like my mother than I care to admit. I have no desire to fit into a "best" mold. I would much rather enjoy the journey while being creative in the process.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

HELL - Yes & No

High Plains Drifter
Most of us have a concept of Hell. It is a place of eternal punishment and unquenchable fires,with wailing and gnashing of teeth. This image was actively taught and vividly described in my early years of Christian Sunday School. Or we became familiar with Hell through reading Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri's epic poem Divine Comedy. Another lasting image of Hell came from High Plains Drifter, a movie (1973) starring Clint Eastwood focused on the beneath the surface cruelty of the people in a mining town named Lago.

Over the years the concept of Hell has changed from a place of eternal confinement to a current condition of life. I have experienced any number of soul-sucking situations in my life. There have been short-term summer jobs, especially one with an asphalt roofing company which lasted six hours.  A couple of pastoral ministry settings, that at first glace appeared exciting which quickly became an abyss of despair. Feeling confined by the expectations of my peers and profession, as well as needing the benefits provided for my family, I allowed creativity and appreciation to trickle out of my life. It was not a massive, consuming fire, but the ever increasing flame which deadened by spirit. There have been personal relationships in which I could not muster the energy nor face the perceived consequences of "ripping off the band-aid." My lack of action kept me enclosed emotionally and spiritually. The relationships were not physically harmful, but there was no enthusiasm or exploration in them. 

What has occurred cannot be changed. Reliving the past does not serve the present if it is only a
Late Night - Seth Meyers
rehashing of guilt or "should haves." I have realized that "hell no" is a response to be used frequently. It is in the action of "Hell No" that the freedom of "Hell Yes!" can take root. Daily life does not have to be routine. Discoveries, as well as diving deep into activities that provide perspective furnish opportunities for personal productivity. The willingness to take a risk while enduring short-term pain keeps me out of the pervasive and periodic entrapment of a lived hell.  

If a sign is posted to indicate my life, I have not formulated the words to attach to it. However, if it had to be done today I want "Hell Yes" listed first and "Hell No" directly underneath it. These words express freedom in my current setting, not eternal confinement. All I have are the choices I make today, eternity can wait!