For those of us who enjoy going to a museum, what draws us there? It could be the works of a particular artist we appreciate, the style or type of art that is on display, the era that the museum pieces represent, or any number of reasons. Perhaps the less obvious reason is that we can be fascinated by the stories the art tells of not only the artist but also the subject created and what era it represents. Those who love visiting museums will often be seen standing or sitting without distraction focusing on a piece of art and few are rushing from room to room or display to display.
This type of behavior itself is unusual. We are oftentimes interested in a story and yet are challenged to stay focused on it. Sadder still, we take little notice to our own story that is being added to day-by-day, moment-by-moment that shows we are present in the story because we are so distracted by the smartphone in our hand. This one little device has stripped too many of us with being present in not only our own story but also the BIG story we have all been a part of since the beginning of time.
Last night my husband and I were enjoying dinner at a restaurant that was also the choice of dozens of young high schoolers celebrating their fall homecoming. Each girl, couple, or group came through the door dressed in every color of sequined dress you could imagine with shoes boasting six-inch heels in colors to match. Some guys came with a tie or flower matching the dress of his date. Some of those who entered were giggly, uncertain, and unaccustomed to the attire that was too short, too tight, or too cool for the very chilly night as well as the protocol of a restaurant that required reservations and a modicum of decorum. Others had a bit more confidence as they strolled in and walked to the person at the reservation podium.
It was a special night for these revelers and the first homecoming celebration for some. Most were clearly headed for a dance somewhere after dinner. And nearly everyone was having a hard time being fully present in the story of the evening they were living in. Each carried a smartphone he or she was staring at instead of enjoying a friend or the restaurant. And if we are not present in these moments, how can we figure out how to live out our own story and grow to understand more about who we are? These devices can and will tell us how much time we spend using them each day or week, but most of us ignore that. But perhaps that’s where we need to start to pay attention to how much time we have spent staring at a screen instead of reading a book, visiting a museum, noticing the beauty of the sunset or the shape of the moon as it pops over the horizon.
Every museum has a curator and the task charged to them is to select, organize, and look after items on display to convey the story being presented. A curator knows there is limited space so they must assess what is most important and precious. Perhaps we each (no matter our age) need to become curators to keep in mind that we are finite, and time is slipping through our fingers every day without us noticing much until we are aging and recognize how much less time is ahead of us in this life. Maybe we do less of this all along because we cognitively know we have limits, but emotionally we really aren’t eager to look at limits or recognize their value. We want to experience so much, do so much sometimes.
“The good life doesn’t come from the ability to choose anything and everything; the good life comes from the ability to choose good things by setting limits.
Limits are where freedom is found. We don’t need unlimited choices; that actually limits our ability to choose well. We need a limit on our choices, which actually empowers us to choose well.”Justin Whitmel Earley
In Justin Whitmel Earley’s book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, he suggests we use those curator skills to stop our fascination with our devices and other things that do not allow us to be fully present in our own story unfolding each moment.
When did you last enjoy savoring moments choosing an actual book in a library or that bookshop you used to visit? You used to love browsing and looking at all the stories full of adventures that were waiting for you to open the pages and enjoy. When was the last time you took a walk to simply enjoy the beauty around you instead of to gain the number of steps you needed or get the exercise you wanted to get in that day? Those walks (if we get them done) are needed, but too often they are hurried with little notice of the colors of the sky, the cloud formations, the breeze caressing our cheek, the sounds that the birds or leaves are making, and so much more. Why do that? Because our hearts and souls are refreshed and replenished with the beauty around us. Our Creator’s handiwork is everywhere if we take time to be present and see and hear it.
Since none of us are likely to throw away our smartphones or other devices, we need to consider how we curate (select) what we take in from them and how much time we spend with them.
“An art gallery has limited space on the wall, so its curator creates shows to make the best use of that space according to a vision of good art. I suggest we have a vision for good stories, and we curate accordingly.”Justin Whitmel Earley
How can you grow a vision for a good story and curate for it this week?