Monday, April 12, 2010


As we try to make sense of ourselves and our world it’s those “why?” questions that seem most compelling, most crucial. Maybe, if we could get answers to those, those answers would be key to it all. Yet I’m coming to believe that with complicated systems, we can’t answer those “why” questions satisfactorily. Or at least that accuracy and clarity are usually inversely proportional.

In other words, if someone gives you a short, simple, astounding answer that seems to explain everything, they’re probably missing the mark. (The charms of Twitter, the beauty of brevity, etc. notwithstanding.)

Still I keep asking, and the answers, if not complete, at least shed some light on the issues raised by the questions. One of my big questions is, “why haven’t I figured out how to manage my life by now?”

Oh, it’s not a total mess, but as I’ve slowed down and used the time and space on my hands to take a closer look at how I live and how I feel about it, I’m not too impressed with myself – and I wonder how I got this way. I’ve come to realize some of the reasons that the coping strategies that once (sort of) worked no longer do: (1) I’m a different person than I used to be and in a different place in life, and (2) the world continues to change rapidly and throw new challenges at us, challenges my old strategies are not sufficient to overcome.

Two books that have been helpful in reframing my questions and providing some partial answers. “The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live within Your Limits,” by Richard Swenson is helping me understand why people like me live the way we do, and “The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We are In an Age of Self Obsession,” by Mark Sayers, is helping me understand why we think about ourselves the way we do. Both offer some helpful prescriptions, alternatives, solutions. But at this point I think what’s most helpful is just seeing someone put these struggles into words and show me I’m not alone.

The next couple of blog posts will explore what these two books have to say.

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