Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From Breath to Life

I just hit the "Publish" button on the post called "Aspirations." I clicked "View Blog" to proofread it again, and was struck by that word:


Out of nowhere, its Latin roots assaulted me unbidden:  a meaning "of, from, by, since" and spirare meaning "to breathe."

Aspirations:  Something from which we breathe.

Our aspirations--our goals, our dreams, our desires--are not only what we strive to, but what we breathe from. They aren't just in our futures, they are in us now, motivating us. When we breathe, we breathe because we're working toward something, working to be something.

I got up this morning because I aspire to be an English major. To be an English major, I must get up and read things and write things and study things and drink a lot of coffee (it's in the major requirement. Don't check; it's there)--and breathe. Because I aspire to be an English major.

I'm really starting to love the word "aspire." It is a light word. It's airy and crisp and invigorating--like a breath, I suppose, but a really good one. A breath of cool, sharp air that fills you with energy like electricity and makes you want to jump higher and run faster and smile brighter.


To what do I aspire? From what do I breathe?

I aspire to be a lover of words:  to speak them effectively, read them closely, write them artfully.
I aspire to be a champion of truth, valuing it in people, institutions, and ideas.
I aspire to travel:  to see places that amaze me and meet people who change me.
I aspire to know God and make him known.
I aspire to drink my coffee at a mature pace.

From what do you breathe?


Monday, October 13, 2014


You know how some people--and maybe you're one of them--can make a cup of coffee or a bag of M&Ms last for like hours? The cup just sits beside them on the desk as they attend to their work with focus and tranquility, largely oblivious to the delicacy at hand. Occasionally they'll take a sip. The steam starts to subside, but they don't seem to mind. They have mastered the arts of moderation and indifference.

I am profoundly jealous of this mastery.

I first noted this kind of detachment when I was eight years old. Matt, a first-grader, would come over to our house after school if his babysitter had some other commitment. Sometimes Mom would give us a snack--chocolate chips or something--to eat as we did our homework.

My chocolate chips were always gone within the first three or four minutes. They were delicious, and after a single chip, I became a temporary chocolate addict. I couldn't resist eating them one after another until they were gone, and my homework barely started.

Matt did his homework with the meandering, selective attention of a little boy who does not want to use a number line to practice subtraction. However, he ate his chocolate chips the same way. Every few minutes, he would blink at his snack as if he'd just remembered it, pick up a couple of chips, and then immediately forget his snack's existence again.

How could he care so little about chocolate chips? How was he not driven crazy by their tempting presence until it was fully relocated into his stomach?

As a third-grader, I chalked it up to the fact that Matt had funner food at his house (which was true). He was used to candy for snack; it wasn't a treat for him. It has lost its novelty. I wondered if the same phenomenon would be true for me if I ever became rich enough to have fun food on hand at all times.

To some extent, that philosophy proved true. My family now has orange juice on a regular basis, and I no longer feel compelled to drink it all the time just because it's there. The same is true of cookies, and Cheez-Its, and flavored yogurt. I have risen above the animalistic urge to consume these relatively mundane foods.


With "treat" foods and beverages, the art of pacing oneself is still lost on me. I buy a smoothie, and it's half gone before I'm even back in my dorm room. I open a 2-serving bag of M&Ms, and within ten minutes, it's empty. I grab an iced coffee on the way to work, and I'm sucking at the ice fifteen minutes later.

Meanwhile, I watch people around me exercise this intensely classy combination of absentminded appreciation and tranquil indifference to their "treats." Large iced coffees go minutes and minutes and MINUTES without even being touched, and people don't even seem to be struggling to resist.

Maybe they're just all rich and have treats all the time and the novelty has been lost, like Matt with his chocolate chips? Or am I totally and abnormally self-control-deficient when it comes to delicious things?

All I know is that I envy the air of maturity embodied by people who can resist their treats. It's a level of maturity to which I genuinely aspire.

And I will get there, even if it means drinking steamless coffee and drooling on my keyboard.