Just now, there is a big stink in New Mexico over all of the testing that kids in public schools are being required to do. The teachers end up "teaching to the test", and the results (scores) of the process are how the teachers are being evaluated. I thought it was kind of humorous when it was announced in the news that state legislators were unable to finish the fifth grade level tests! The maintenance, the routine of life (teaching in this instance) is one thing. The exceptions to that rule of "normalcy" are another. We keep finding an odd thing in life, and in brief; we try to escape routine and normalcy so to discover the exhilarating and jazzy. Yet, in escaping routine, we only establish another "same old, same old".
Mrs. Sanchez sets out to teach history, math and spelling. She is interrupted from doing so, by the novelty of standardized testing. Yet, that new-thing which we imagine breaks routine, only generates a new (and worse) rut which both she and her students are eager to escape. Chasing the new and improved, so to escape the dull and known, tends to yield nearly backward results. It makes a guy wonder if perhaps we ought rather be in hot pursuit of the regular, the expected and predictable?
The list has already been written down for Saturday. Buy that birthday card, make this appointment on the phone, do those dishes, mow the yard, do the laundry. The regular ritual, the 85% of what we were attempting to get done today, was "what we intend". Nobody is crazy-eager to do chores, and everybody feels that they "deserve a break" in any case. You might imagine thus, that we would be glad to deal with the novelty of a flat tire, the dog getting lost, and coming down with the common cold as ways to avoid routine "just this one time". But, no. The reality is that the replacement for routine is (normally) worse than the regular, with it's demanding "priority", the net result is that we just end up crowding more things in on Sunday in order to compensate (and grumble about) for a wasted yesterday. We intended to continue with the routine; so to wrap up the regular details of life. The sucker blowing up in your face (again) so to steer the day into a "vacation" from the normal drill, is usually worse, not better than you predicted the day would be. Tomorrow then, keep up with the thousand and one details which we tried to pound into today's schedule. The schedule keeps falling apart, it's expected!
Our words; "maintain, continue, keep-up", might be parallel enough in usage, but when we ask Mr. Webster, he throws us a curve ball. The Indo-european root of "continue" links to "preserve and retain" sure enough; but the root word of continue itself is "ten", meaning "to stretch". And it isn't much of a stretch here ("ten") to note the english word tent.
Here's an odd idea, when was the last time we considered the routine of tent-people, those nomad and roving temporary dwellers? Or, how about our modern day "stretch" folk, the homeless? What sort of regular and maintained normalcy do they have? What do they routinely do? Let's us just forget the hurry-scurry rat race mentality for about ten seconds, and think!
Maintenance of herds and flocks comes to my mind. Aren't they continuing the repair of tents, retaining the edge on weapons and the tools of life, as a regular thing? Let's not forget keeping up on alliances, traditions, and family histories. Passing on of wisdom to the young, arranging marriages, gosh those guys are busy!
Now just what sort of daily and expected routines our modern tent people expend their energies to establish, might well be similar. Weapons, food, alliances, passing on "tips" to the inexperienced, much of the pattern crosses over, but with one striking exception. I am not aware of anyone who envies the life of native nomad peoples, whereas, most Americans at least think homeless people "have it made"!
No bills, no responsibilities, no scheduled deadlines, the homeless are thought by many to be on a rather nice unpaid and extended vacation from the humdrum. But they have their own set of ritual and expected, and it's worse! "Tenting" helps remind that life, however it is lived; is a routine maintainence. We keep wanting to devalue one leg of things, in order to favor the other, except that when we do so, it's wobblier than the first.
For instance, in the routine of life, the "bored 14 year old boy" in me rises up to object! He denounces the old usual, the repetitious, and the dull. The "dull" is the 85% we have been discussing here. Visiting relatives? B-o-r-i-n-g. Chores? Dull. The grumble and complaint I hear within me, upon having once again to do the "tent people drill", appears to subscribe to an oddball theory. Apparently, I both believe it, and doubt it simultaneously?
Life was "supposed to be". . .something-else, except when it is something else, it was supposed to be the regular? Was that something "a rush", was it that things were to have been "invigorating and fresh" perhaps? And whatever life was "supposed to be", clearly is was to be otherwise than it actually is. Maybe he presumes things were to be just terribly, terribly funny and exciting, not to mention; just wildly interesting? The inner 14-er cannot precisely say what was expected of life, but he would very much like to file an objection to the actual, the as-is routine. This is uniformly true until something new does arise, and then he finds that more objectionable than the first! The perpetual slouch, the acting all glum and surly over "being forced to dull stuff", is what we might reasonably expect of a teen-aged boy. It's not nearly so charming as all that when it shows up in a 50 something "adult".
Adults prefer (I think) to ditch the unseemly surliness and tend to "store up" the fun, the excitement of life, and schedule that into routine! However managed, the inner divide, the vote against routine remains, but is reassigned. Weekends, vacations, and retirement are those time chunks which are set aside, as better than, (and frequently proving worse) than the routine. How many people have you heard say; "I need a vacation from the vacation!". We don't have the time today to discuss the minority position on the topic, but I will only mention it.
Some folks "maintain" that washing dishes, and giving the cat her medicine really really "can be made fun". That is to say, the entire discusssion of the topic is moot, in that there is only one category to consider. I consider those people insane. Follow the money!
A whole industry exists out there on how to put the zip back in your life, how to restore zest, and put the spring back in your step. The "desirable break from routine", whether a Coca-Cola, a cruise in the Caribbean, or an excercise program "sells". The ideas of youth, of interest and excitement, these "sell". Essentially, the product or service does not make you young again, but you knew that! So, it offers the next best thing, a product your neighbor cannot afford. The high dollar resort/spa world wherein one is "rejuvenated", the crappy looking plastic surgeries, appear (to me) to be an attempt to silence the inner 14 year old complaints over "dullness", by catering to his whims; and making believe at being adolescent all over again. Gadzooks, what an awful idea!
The premise within us then, that dullness is a problem to be "solved", that routine and ritual are "bad things", moreover that the tiny element of excitement (usually chaotic) in our daily schedule, was somehow "supposed to be" in the time majority is our inner teenager grumping as he always does. Selling is directed to him. But I'd guess; that to view the deficit as an "out there" rather than an "in here" type of thing forces us to lie about both.
Just how many dollars are spent annually by adults who set aside time in their routine to go spend their wages in a large city in a blazingly hot desert is noteworthy. Amid the heat and lack of water, are other adults in glitzy costumes. Singers wearing too much make-up, standing next to under-dressed dancers, all in the environment of gambling and illicit sex supposedly "restores". People come back exhausted! Is it the city of Las Vegas itself which is so terribly fascinating, or is it the inner freight within us which "demanding" fun and excitement; gets to gloat some when we report back to neighbors who cannot afford to go? Which better satisfies?
The dissatisfaction with the been-there, done-that type of same-old, same-old is supposedly "why" we waste money in the desert. But isn't the actual value that we had fun, and you didn't?
And it's this business of thinking that life is designed, such that skipping eighty five (plus!) percent of it, in order to "enjoy" the fractional minority as the real, makes me wonder. If we correctly guessed that the "stunning, stellar and wonderful" are what makes enduring routine "worth it", are we thereby "waiting around to live"? Our quitting paying attention to the "dull", our grumping about being "stuck in routine"; plus our pricey excursions into "the officially fun", all point the same direction it appears. More money, a Corvette, a trip to Vegas, a new girlfriend; something somewhere is supposed to "make up for", to compensate us . . . for routine! But what if the point was to "learn to wait. . . (well!)"?
We (apparently) don't know what life really is, and yet assume that we do. We strongly disagree with ourselves. . . in principle! We try to squash routine with zest, and find that we can correctly identify neither. The irresponsibility of demanding an "all fun and no work" ethic is itself work to maintain, and no fun! The way out of our mess, it seems to me; is to somehow learn to "dive into" routine. To see from the inside that which we reject from the outside, to with fresh eyes see what routine really "is". I infer, for this; we would clearly require aid. We need a school of life.
The lessons we are here to learn, constantly being overlooked in the press of the urgent, that is us! Due to unforeseen emergencies, we do not have the time to attend to our lessons. I think to "dive into routine" we might best first notice, that routinely, the unexpected, the (usually nasty) surprise shows up just on time. Frustration at not being able to get things done, IS "the ritual". Therefore, our goals are unreal. School is teaching that there is something very strange about this place, and about ourselves; thus the lesson is about a home elsewhere. The class time includes a learning to deal with the hostility and anger within, plus the warfare we observe. It is informing that we are in some type of war zone then?
Looking about us we note that man is opposed to man, and internally he is opposed to himself, this can only further mean that we (as a race) despise the Author and Maker for doing such a terrible job of running reality. Ordinarily, these things go unsaid. Mrs. Sanchez is teaching us to verbalize our thoughts, however ugly and irreverent they be.
So then, the school is about words, about how to speak, yes the frustration, anger and desire inside us. More routinely however, we are to learn to say new things. But there is none to hear, for we are all wrecked in much the same fashion. The goal of life is to see speaking with Another as goal. We usually assume the goal of life is me; and the straightening of my conflicting opinions.
Therefore, the school of life is about prayer. We are to learn to shed the dualism of our own inner lives, and likewise in the polar scheme of opposites which we find in the world, we are to speak a new, and a third thing. We are to say to Him; "You, not some mere "it"; not some abstract "thing" are, and always have been the true goal", routine says so! One day, school will be over, and we shall see the Headmaster in Person.
By your words, you shall be justified! We ordinarily fear judgement. Have we forgotten? Those then justified, began speaking aright in this life, and in this body! Across the age, and around the world, One Righteous Man is found. One! We speak of, and to that One.
The lessons learned, to wait, and to see ourselves as nomads, to not let anger conquer us, in that the High Holy One has come to find, and to buy back His folk. These point forward in the true hope, and warm us in that the process of life is begun! We didn't think these things up, He spoke them.
From our perspective, I suppose we might deem Him; "The One Sane Man", or perhaps "He Who Talks Right". Speak on Sir! I'm all ears.