The opening of the novel Ulysses by the Irish literary giant James Joyce is an artful description of a man shaving. The hot water. The soap and brush. The careful scrape of a sharpened razor on skin. Some men hate to do it. For others it is a luxury, almost prayerful in how it is done. Consider me in the latter camp.
It is good to have habits like these, at least a few. They are centering activities that keep one focused. It might be the weekly round of golf, tooling in one’s workshop or garden, or in one’s sewing closet. It might be a few hours of fishing, a five mile run, twenty miles on a bike, concocting something new in the skillet, or the morning cup of coffee on the front porch. They clear the head and often provide the needed solace to help one consider solutions they could not see before.
If one has too many, however, they become distractions that prevent us from doing what needs to be done. These artful, nearly prayerful routines become barriers against tackling the big uglys that are staring at us. As an example, an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon showed young Calvin trying to get a better grade on an awful report he had written by decorating his cover page more ornately. His doodling had gone from a means to focus to becoming a distraction all its own.
Cell phones, facebook, Linked In, computer screen savers, Ipods, e-books, and the like all provide electronic means to work more productively and creatively, or simply to distract us further from what matters. The solution I’m trying out is to take an inventory of what helps me focus and what distracts me. This includes listing those things I once enjoyed but now simply get in the way of real life. I intend to reduce and eliminate the distractions.
Consider it my Lenten discipline.
I already know that shaving with mug, soap and brush remains on the list.
-mark l vincent