Monday, February 19, 2007


My sister posted an interesting comment to my last blog entry, offering one of our favorite hymns to the discussion. “Be Thou My Vision” is a hymn that we made sure was sung at our father’s funeral, as the prayer expressed therein interpreted his life.

I’m thinking a lot about vision this week, as I have just finished the eye chapter of my studies. I learned, by the way, that the pupil does not increase and decrease in size - it is the iris which opens and closes, making it appear that the pupil is getting larger and getting smaller. Even studying about the eye, you can’t always “see” the truth easily!

“See” is one of the first words we used to learn. Remember the Dick and Jane books - See Spot run! Run, Spot, run!” See this, see that. Seeing is believing. Seeing your way clear. See what I mean?

The eye is a most intricate instrument. As I understand it, the cornea bends, or refracts, the waves of light, then the light is focused on the retina (the nerve layer), which in turn sends impulses to the brain through the optic nerve. Of course, many of us have defects in the ability to properly focus images, resulting in vision correction in one form or another. Add to that diseases of the eye, such as glaucoma, and sometimes we really can’t see clearly. But in essence, the eye “sees” and the brain “understands.” That’s the kind of clarity I’m looking for.

Coincidentally, as I was studying the anatomy and function of the eye, I was reading an article by Steve Pavlina called “The Power of Clarity.” Mr. Pavlina is CEO of Dexterity Software, and he is writing mainly to people in business, but his thoughts apply to us all, I think. We all want to have clarity in our lives - some kind of vision that directs our lives in such a way as to reach our goals and give our lives some significance.

Here are some of the things Mr. Pavlina has to say:

Bunker Hunt, a man who rose from a bankrupt cotton farmer in the 1930s to a multi-billionaire when he died in the 1970s, was once asked during a TV interview what advice he could give to others who wanted to be financially successful. He responded by saying that it’s not terribly difficult to be successful and that only two things are required. First, you must decide exactly what it is you want to accomplish. Most people never do that in their entire lives. And secondly, you must determine what price you’ll have to pay to get it, then resolve to pay that price.

First, I want to thank Mr. Pavlina for modifying the word “successful” with the word “financially.” As I mentioned before, there are lots of different ways to be successful. I would also add a phrase to his last sentence, “ must determine what price you’ll have to pay to get it, then resolve to pay that price or decide if that goal is worth that price.” Some people would love to make a few million dollars, but an 80-hour (or more) work week and no family time is not a price they are willing to pay, for instance. Or maybe you want to lose 100 pounds but realize that you aren’t willing to commit to the level of exercise or food intake that that goal would require. Clarity can help us set reachable, sustainable goals, and clarity can help us sometimes find the wisdom to redefine, adjust, or even relinquish those goals, if their price is just too high.

The whole idea of goal-setting can be overwhelming. I once had a goal software program that used an outline form. I had major goals, then minor goals under those, then goals that were “activity” goals under those, and so on. Then I had to decide whether to work on one or two goals first, or try to get a little done on every goal at the same time, or adopt some other method. There were even built-in reminders that would pop up on a calendar, detailing my “activity goals” for the day. The whole thing got to be too overwhelming, and I just dropped it.

To set goals for our lives, we have to have clarity, seeing the world through wisdom’s (God’s) eyes rather than the eyes of the marketing industry or the latest celebrity’s idea of fulfillment. It’s very hard to tune out all that cultural noise in order to concentrate on what direction we want our lives to take.

As if that weren’t enough, Mr. Pavlina even says the just choosing a life direction isn’t sufficient:

Many people assume that because they have a direction, they must therefore have goals, but this is not the case and merely creates the illusion of progress. “Making more money” and “building a business” are not goals. A goal is a specific, clearly defined, measurable state. An example of the difference between a direction and a goal is the difference between the compass direction of northeast and the top of the Eiffel Tower in France. One is merely a direction; the other is a definite location.

In other words, you know when you get there.

He goes on:

Every day is a mistake if you don’t know where you’re going. You’re probably spending most of your time working to achieve other people’s goals. The local fast food restaurant, TV advertisers, and the stockholders of the businesses you patronize are all very happy for that. If you don’t decide what you really want, then you’ve decided to hand your future over to the whims of others, and that’s always a mistake.

I think some goals that just function as directional goals are necessary. Not all goals can be measured. How will I know that Ed and I have raised responsible, kind, loving kids? It’s not something I can pinpoint in a single moment of awareness, but as I see our kids live their lives, raise their own kids, and interact with others, I am assured that we gave them a solid foundation and they are developing as we would have hoped.

Likewise, our journey to simplicity requires some directional goals and some measurable goals. How are we spending our money? How are we doing on controlling waste (not only of trash, but of food, money, time, energy, and our gifts)? Am I achieving the goals I wanted to achieve after we moved - like spending more time out in nature? Taking time to exercise? Taking time to quilt and to play the harp? Spending more time with Ed and less on the computer? Learning to live in the moment? Having a grateful attitude? Paying attention to my priorities?

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

No comments: