Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Temper, temper

TEMPERANCE was the inspirational word I chose for 2014, Not in the abstain-from-alcohol meaning, though I generally do not partake. I have maybe a glass of wine or two a year. I just don't care for the feeling, and since the last time I had two glasses of wine with one meal I got a whopper of a migraine, it reinforced my general very-little-alcohol habit.

I chose Temperance because I noticed a pattern in my life of going from extreme to extreme and finally, at 42, I realized that this was an exhausting way to live.

I painted this.
It's nothing spectacular.
But I have looked at it a lot this year and it made me think.
The idea was that somewhere between the extremes (the blazing sun and the frozen mountains)
was the green valley of moderation and contentment.
Deep, huh?

One thing that I came up with over the year of thinking about moderation was this phrase: "I refuse to be shocked by some things or outraged by almost anything." This new mantra of mine was in response to observing the never-ending cycle of provoking news stories. Unaccompanied children at the border, terrorists beheading Americans, the persecution of mid-east Christians, the Ferguson death and riots, Kim Kardashian's scandalous photos...the list goes on and is added to weekly, if not daily.

Random vacation photo.
Was it only a few days ago I was enjoying 80 degree weather for the holiday? 
Who has time to pay adequate attention to all these stories, even the worthy ones? Who can care about all of it and still function in their daily life?

My son's school has a behavior program that talks about being proactive versus reactive (it's a Stephen Covey thing). Why spend all my mental energy and hours of the day reacting to the news? I am not a paid journalist. I can moderate my consumption of news. I try to pay attention to the news that is most important to me here, now, locally, immediately, rather than getting caught up in the national or international outrage of the day. Temperance.

Still not Winter, but feels like it.
This is supposed to be a mild and warm winter according to the almanac.
"Moderation in all things," is attributed to Aristotle. Be temperate in your eating, your shopping, your emotions, your physical pleasures, thinking of others before your self, have balance of work and leisure...the earthly loves and pursuits. The modern amendment is "moderation in all things, including moderation." I can see the point of that. There are some things you just have to throw yourself into. Don't be lukewarm in your love of God,

Temperance comes from the verb "temper," meaning to regulate, rule, govern, manage, and also from the Latin noun "tempus," which is time or season. As in, "to everything there is a season." Unlike the 19th Century temperance movement, which called for all alcohol to be removed from public society, true temperance is about allowing all things in their proper place, time, and quantity. Moderation requires self-control, which is harder than going to the extremes.

For instance, you could simply give the cake to someone else
rather than going to the extreme of throwing the hated cake into the frozen lake.
I just love Edward Gorey.
Despite avoiding following the news too closely, I do enjoy reading the daily newspaper (or at least skimming it) and check out various news sites for interesting news. Here are two New York Times articles I found really enjoyable about two subjects I find fascinating, miniature houses and store window displays.

This man has a fascinating collection of Architectural miniatures all throughout his home, most of them displayed on columns of some type. I would love to see them in person, but failing that, I might buy his self-published book about his hundreds of tiny houses. If I had the room, my house would be filled with miniature houses. Maybe my grown up kids will return some day to find their bedrooms all converted into museum-like display spaces.

Speaking of miniatures...any excuse to share a new photo of my own humble doll house.
This room was originally a bathroom, due to the high window for doll bathing privacy.
As there are only 4 rooms in the house, I didn't want to waste one on a toilet, so it's becoming a nursery.
I just bought this tiny japanese dressing cabinet and lamp from etsy.
St. Elizabeth and baby John are waiting for the cradle and change table to arrive.
The red wooden couch and chair were meant for the living room, but turned out to be 3/4" scale,
so I will move them upstairs to the tin dollhouse that is not an heirloom and the right size.
Some day I would love to travel to NYC to see the spectacle of  the New York department store holiday windows. The one I enjoyed most is not pictured in this article, but is at Bergdorf Goodman's display of Arts themed windows. It's just so fascinating that humans spend all this time creating these elaborate, yet very temporary, works of art.

MUSIC at Bergdorf Goodman, 2014
This is certainly an example of excess. Art maybe is one of those things that can portray excess without making us indulge in it. Every one who looks at it gets to enjoy the beauty of this exercise in over-the-top fabulousness. There's some correlation there to be made about the type of gluttony that has to do with hoarding food for one self...but I'll just let the thought dangle and move on. Kids are coming home soon and you get the picture, right?

Finally, The Power of Delay is an article by Leo Babuta that I found very helpful in describing something I have been learning over the past year of cultivating temperance. Sometimes, the best choice is to wait, to let the situation lie alone for a bit, see how things shake out, rather than feeling pressured to react quickly, do something now. This has been useful in dealing with both demanding kids and irrational adults. I have spent less energy trying to correct a situation right away and things worked out as I thought they would all along. In short, I gave up some anxiety over others making the decisions I wanted them to.

Other things shouldn't be delayed, like charity and showing love for God.
There's a fragment of a carol stuck in my head,
"Make haste to the stable now."
I can't find the exact tune, but this is similar.

O come, little children, O come one and all,
To Bethlehem haste, to the manger so small,
God's son for a gift has been sent you this night
To be your redeemer, your joy and delight.

He's born in a stable for you and for me,
Draw near by the bright gleaming starlight to see,
In swaddling clothes lying so meek and so mild,
And purer than angels the heavenly Child.

See Mary and Joseph, with love beaming eyes,
Are gazing upon the rude bed where He lies,
The shepherds are kneeling, with hearts full of love
While angels sing loud hallelujahs above.

Kneel down and adore Him with shepherds today,
Lift up little hands now and praise Him as they
Rejoice that a Saviour from sin you can boast,
And join in the song of the heavenly host.

A time to delay and a time to make haste. 

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