The Long View

Living intentionally requires some new skills. One of them is the ability to take the long view.

I used to think this ability was a natural result of maturity. I thought simply living through many experiences would change my perception of what is possible over time, just like the hymn that proclaims “We’ll Understand it Better By and By”. I was certain that  my understanding of what is important would change just  like my eyesight: a slow, imperceptible shift that would one day surprise me with a new-found focus on the long arc instead of the urgency at hand.

Instead, I’m learning  that this existential hyperopia is a matter of choice, not a fact of longevity.  After all, there is plenty of evidence around me of fully grown folks who have  little capacity to see beyond fufilling their most  immediate desires. (I am unsure when this became a qualification for celebrity or public office.)

Today is a good day to choose to take the long view. It is the first day winter and the beginning  of a new year, at least as far as my part of the planet is concerned.  I think of the time from winter solstice to vernal equinox as The Season of Faith: a long, dark season when I must trust that things are being slowly warmed and prepared to grow, even when there is no evidence of it that I can see.

I used to hate winter, with its seeming endless weeks of gloom and bone-deep cold. My first glimpse of ice split open by the slow, invisible thaw seemed like a spring miracle each year. But in the long gaze of earth time, this season is a just blink.

So, I cultivate the long view by watching my window for signs. I work and read and sew by day. By night, abundant night, I cook and dream.  I watch songbirds huddle in the sumacs, and know it won’t be long until I hear the surprise of maples dripping their sweetness into steel buckets. Even while mired in my winter funk, I trust that some change is coming because it always does, and I must be prepared. Like the stream beyond my window, I feel frozen. But the long view tells me that I must  be ready to be broken open, too.

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  • Sue B  On December 23, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I too expected the long view to just awaken within me…and to some extent it has…but I have also cultivated it a great deal. Mostly by sitting still and really watching how things are. Some call it meditation. I still think Dr. Barnwell and Birago Diop said it best, “Listen more often to things than to beings.”

    Love being able to read your writings! Keep it up.

  • jude angelo  On December 23, 2010 at 3:14 am

    years ago when it became clear to me that i would be less and less able to muster the details that allowed me communicate about books, writers, themes, actors, directors in the way i used to, a friend of mine suggested that now that i could not share from my head as much as i used to, perhaps i could pay more attention to feelings – mine & others.

    The long view has not been hard for me to find – but remembering to do so in the moment has been and is. So it is easier to see it for someone else than myself ;-> Which means i do talk less – and look less to others – about current personal challenges; and at the same time feel more comfortable with my perspective and insights about others when asked.

  • Intentional50  On December 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    It’s so good to be on this journey with long time friends.

    Both of your comments point to an important practice for cultivating the long view: time spent sitting quietly, and keeping my own peace. The merciless chatter of details is a familiar distraction!

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