1Q2016 Review

On New Year’s Day I wrote a post laying out some paths I expected to follow in the year to come. Three months have gone by, so I thought it would be good to take time for an update.

My word for the year is still integrate, and much of my time has been spent doing that. I’ve been reviewing what I’ve learned over the years, identifying what appears to be valuable, filling in gaps, and working to match theory with practice.

Studies. I wrote that I expected to focus on

  • Zen and Christianity (especially presence and mindfulness)
  • disciplines for building Christian character
  • non-sacramental approaches to Christian living

That has happened, in large part because one item on the list leaped to the front and absorbed most of the time I’ve had for study. Looking more deeply into mindfulness ended up bringing the rest along with it—presence, disciplined character-building, non-sacramental aspects of Christian life—by pushing me to understand and digest what Buddhists have known about life and the mind for 2500 years, much of which is poorly addressed in Christian writings, much of which is not in conflict with Christian beliefs.

At some point I’ll put together a short list of resources that can take Christians on a fairly safe tour of Buddhist thinking. This is a good example of content I would like to populate my braindump website with. So far, however, I’ve spent very little time developing the site itself.

Writing privately. I’ve done very little of this, mostly because I don’t know yet how to approach the task. I’ve kept a journal, starting out with daily entries but recently moving to less frequent updates because so far it is almost strictly a record of what I’ve done, something I’m only mildly interested in having. Since I’m writing in the journal regularly but not at any depth, at least I know there’s nothing burning to get out! At some point I will think about ways to actively dig for such material, and whether I should make the effort or not.

Handwriting. This has gone surprisingly well. I haven’t had the time or the urge to practice it daily—the explicit lessons, I mean, which take 30-45 minutes—but often I will do several days in a row, and if I miss more than a couple of days I will feel (and succumb to) an urge to get back to it. I’m practicing italic script with an edged pen now, what Fred Eager calls calligraphic script, and and am close to embarking on what he calls cursive script, a smaller hand with connected letterforms that can be used for everyday writing.

Copywork. I’ve done a little bit of this, but since I’m using calligraphic script right now it takes quite a while to get a little done. (Mostly what I’ve copied is some excerpts from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations.) Once I get cursive italic script under my belt I expect to do much more, some combination of scripture and good writing that I’d like to emulate.

Health. I continue to eat well, and feel now that my routine is the new normal. I’m now down 95 pounds, with another 5 or so to go—I’m guessing, since I don’t go by the number on the scale but the remaining areas of flab on my body. And I reintroduced walking, starting with a daily hour-long walk during my last visit to El Paso, then continuing at a local church walking track when I returned in mid-February. And now that the weather is better I’m walking the neighborhood again.

Garden. More ambitious this year, but still not extremely so. Last year was primarily tomatoes, plus garlic over the winter. This year the major additions are potatoes, both in the ground and in barrels, and greens (lettuce and kale). Chris has taken charge of planning and execution, though we’re all pitching in. The plot is expanded, but still right out the back door to serve as a constant reminder. One priority this year is to enrich the soil, so we’ve begun composting in earnest. We save kitchen scraps and add them to a compost barrel. Chris has found a source of horse manure only ten minutes from home, as much as we care to haul. And since our home-made compost won’t really be available this year, we bought a pickup truck load of already-composted racehorse manure.

Board games. True to my word, we’ve played them every Sunday afternoon this year. For the first two months it was Catan after lunch and Carcassonne after supper. Then in March we added Ticket to Ride to the mix, alternating it with Catan.