Thursday, September 19, 2019

What is your Natural Default Setting?

Strangely, I recently noticed that I begin each day, even and especially at work, relatively happy and content. While work awaits and challenges arise, and while I admit that many early Monday alarms leave me staring at the ceiling thinking, "No, I don't want to do this today and again," I must concede that my smiles and "Hellos" to the kids and teachers in the hallway are authentic expressions of joy and comfort with my existence. And, I'm fairly certain that my relatively new attempts at beginning most days with about ten minutes of meditation are a key factor in my general ease with the struggles of dailiness.

That's probably a bit surprising for people who know me, for I tend to operate on a fairly intense level, and it wouldn't be wrong to admit that "drama queen" and  "neurotic princess" have been uttered in reference to me, including by myself. My Natural Default Setting, a term I'm borrowing from David Foster Wallace's brilliant graduation speech entitled "This is Water," given at Kenyon College's commencement in 2005, is "on edge" and in fight or flight mode. It's certainly not a calm demeanor at ease with the world. And, to clarify DFW's term, it is the belief that I am the center of the universe and my beliefs are the only true ones and my needs and desires are the only thing that matter. I tend to come from that viewpoint.

But I'm getting better, I think.

I am moving, hopefully, in the direction of greater awareness and, perhaps, closer to my goal of "living deliberately," a reference from Henry David Thoreau from Walden about living simply and authentically. And, it's so strange that DFW's speech has come back around to me this week because I've honestly been thinking about general contentment and meditation and understanding people in ways that enable me to feel less angsty and intense about traffic or grocery store lines or people I disagree with. For, "The true freedom acquired through education is the ability to be adjusted, conscious, and sympathetic." And that idea reminds me a bit of the insight from Patrick Deneen who challenges our contemporary notions of freedom and reminds us that  early thinkers actually intended the sanctity of freedom not as freedom to do what we want but actually freedom from the most base instincts and qualities that compromise our happiness and contentment.