The Power of Doing Nothing

Busy, purposeful, efficient, enterprising — these are words of excellence and worth in American culture.

When you think about it, the U.S. doesn’t actually have a culture, unless you consider going to work, thinking about ways to get rich, spending money, and losing ourselves in TV, movies, and social media a hallmark of culture.

summer breeze country boy flying kite freedom steve henderson art painting

No place to go, no homework to complete — a young boy is content with simply doing nothing. Summer Breeze, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

The imaginary Christian heritage many ascribe to this nation (which Kevin M. Cruse excellently discusses in his book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America) adds to our enslavement to work, money, and commerce. Too many people who consider themselves Christians quote Proverbs (“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” — Proverbs 13:4) than they do Jesus (“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” — Matthew 5:5).

If you’re poor, they sniff, it’s because you deserve to be so. Nothing is said about many being poor because wages are low, so that corporate business profits remain high.

The result of this culture of ours is that we’re chronically busy, incessantly pushed to do more with promise that we will somehow be more: richer, smarter, faster, more powerful — virtues of the modern business world.

The artwork, Summer Breeze, encourages us to step out of this mindset into a place of quiet, reflection, imagination, and freedom. A young boy — unbound from the confines of the schoolroom — walks with a kite in the breeze. (Think of it — he’s not even flying the kite, and isn’t that the purpose, the very reason of existence for the kite? So thinks the person shackled by U.S. cultural norms.)

Perhaps he sees himself as a sailing ship, his kite the sails. Maybe he’s a bird, high in the air. Or maybe . . . he’s just feeling the tug of the kite against the wind and glorying in the strength of his arms, holding on.

It matters not. He is alone, free with his thoughts, away from schedules and tasks, obligations and lessons, goals and duties. In doing nothing, he has time to think, and in thinking, he is doing much indeed.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

When You Live Smarter, Harder, Faster — You Don’t Live

Insist Upon Living Your Life

How the Corporate World Infects Christianity

Desperately Trying to Fit In

 

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God Made the Boat. You’re the Boat. God’s Not Going to Burn up the Boat.

The American Evangelical “Christian” church has much to answer for in people’s confusion about God. After all, their central tenet is this:

God made you.

You’re a sinner.

Because God is perfect and you’re a sinner, He can’t stand you and recoils at your presence.

zephyr sail sailing boat vessel schooner sea ocean steve henderson art

Because God has an investment in the boat, He is intent about making sure it does not capsize. Zephyr, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

The only way He can tolerate you is if you ask Jesus to step between you and God. If you don’t, God will send you to eternal hell. If you do, God will accept you and you can live with Him for eternity.

This is how God loves you.

It’s no wonder people find difficulty with a God like this — no decent human parent would treat their own children this way because unconditional love doesn’t . . . place conditions. And yet American Evangelical Christianity thrives upon them.

The artwork, Zephyr, is a visual example of one way God, the true God — the Father who reaches out to His children and calls us through eternity to be a part of His household — works with us. It looks like this.

Our life is the boat.

God made the boat. (He knows, when He made the boat, that it has issues, but He made it anyway. To destroy it afterwards because it has issues is foolish on the part of the person building the boat.)

God owns the boat.

The boat needs a captain, and the Owner’s choice is Christ — because, being in close connection with the boat’s owner, Jesus knows all about how the boat runs.

The boat also needs a First Mate (that’s us), working closely with the Captain and the Owner of the boat with the joint goal of sailing the boat through many seas — stormy ones, calm ones, on sunny days and rainy ones, in and out of ports, all around the world. Now the First Mate could choose to act as Captain (and many of us do), but without training and teaching from the Captain, we probably won’t do so well. After all, we start out as babies, with little physical or intellectual ability to sail a boat. We need time, and teaching. Unless that teaching comes from someone who knows and understands the boat, we’ll falter.

The Owner of the boat isn’t going to burn it up because the First Mate won’t recognize the Captain. The Captain isn’t going to throw the First Mate overboard for taking over. Rather, the Owner of the boat and the Captain — because they are sensible, intelligent, and compassionate people —  will keep trying to connect with the First Mate to build a cooperative relationship.

What matters is the boat, and that it sails successfully.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Three “Christian” Teachings That Jesus Didn’t Teach

Kicked out of the Group? Take Time to Think

Is Jesus the (American) Way, Truth, and Life?

 

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Sunlight: Still Free, Still Available to All of Us

Sunlight is a gift given to all life on the planet. So far, the few humans whose goal is to own everything, control everything, and take everything from everyone else, haven’t managed to limit the supply of sunlight, package it up, and sell it at a profit.

So far.

bathed light bath bathroom spa woman figurative nude beauty luxury steve henderson art

Like a contented cat, a woman stretches in the sun and toward the light. Bathed in Light, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Throughout history, sunlight has shone on the good and the evil, the wise and the foolish, the plants and the animals and the people and the sea. It adds warmth in both temperature and emotion, and one of the most important things it does is dispel darkness.

Because sunlight is just that — it is LIGHT. And light has the unique and extraordinarily valuable ability to shine through darkness and cut through the shadows. Where it is dark and no one can see, bad and wrongful and evil things can be, and are done.

But wherever light reaches, those deeds are exposed like cockroaches, scurrying across the floor to hide in the cracks and crannies. Rare is the roach who stands nobly and proud in the middle of the floor, facing the eyes of the homeowner.

The artwork, Bathed in Light, celebrates the beauty and warmth of the sun and its light. A young woman stands in a glass-enclosed room, perhaps high overlooking the city. Wherever this room is, though she can see everything, she herself cannot be seen.

She is alone, and content in that aloneness, because it allows her time to think, to dream, to be in a time and place of quiet where there is peace and truth. She exults in the light — its warmth and its glow — and freely receives this incredible gift.

Walk in the light. Find truth where it shines. And know that darkness cannot overcome it.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Movies Aren’t Real, but Life Is

Choose Wisely Who Influences You

Why Your Life on This Planet Means Something

 

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Kicked out of the Group? Take Time to Think

It’s difficult to think deep, serious, life changing thoughts in the middle of a rock concert.

Obviously, rock concerts aren’t set up for deep thinking and meditation — so why try? But, in a sense, we do.

shades turquoise lake alpine mountain hiking camping wilderness steve henderson art

High in the mountains, far from the noise, we are able to think. Shades of Turquoise, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

In the American corporate/entertainment society, being alone in a quiet place is an oddity, and for this reason, we are constantly encouraged to be part of a group: church is a big one, but the office, schools, political arena, sports, and community service sector try to fill in our time. Lately, social media plugs the gaps, demanding that we interact digitally with clumps of people we really don’t know — because somehow, their opinion of us matters.

It’s as if we live in the midst of a parking lot during a massive, unending tailgate party, and our success in life is determined by how many people we eat with.

But sometimes we find ourselves standing outside the group, watching all the activity, no longer invited to be a part of it. In any group, this generally happens when an individual questions the accepted rules and regulations, the overall belief system, the authority of the leader. Anyone who has ever attended a church, for example, and found themselves at variance with the protocols of its human leadership, knows how very quickly one can be isolated from what one had been taught was their “family.”

It seems like a very bad, lonely thing, but in the end, actually it can be a good thing — if we use our time alone wisely.

The artwork, Shades of Turquoise, gives a visual example of what this time alone looks like. If we walk out of that parking lot — which we’re no longer welcome to be in for some reason — and keep heading up into the countryside, into the wilderness, into the mountains, we find ourselves in a far more beautiful place.

You bet it’s quiet and isolated, and looking around from our campsite we don’t see anyone else around. But it’s time to stop thinking about how alone we are and focus, instead, on brewing something to drink on the camp stove. Then, we sit at the banks of the cold, clear lake and look up into the peaks of the mountains.

And in the silence, in the peace, we can think.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

It’s Not Abnormal to Want to Be Alone

Alone Does Not Mean Lonely, and Lonely Does Not Mean Loser

Walk Away from What Doesn’t Work

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Insist upon Living Your Life

Time and money — these are two things that most people feel they never have enough of.

Well, there’s not a lot most of us can do about making significantly more money — high taxes and fees on ordinary people and low wages for honest work are the hallmarks of a “free market” capitalistic economy.

afternoon tea party mother child country family steve henderson art decor

Time isn’t money — it’s far more important, and lasting, than that. Afternoon Tea Party, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Time, too, is something that the grasping mega-corporate culture can’t take enough of. We live under the constant pressure and propaganda to work harder, faster, smarter and constantly. Despite this, however, there are still 24 hours in each day, and while “they” fill our hours with incessant demands, they do not yet own every one of them.

(Incidentally, it’s worth looking at our free time and addressing how many thinking moments we give to work, mindless entertainment, social media, “news,” politics and other mental drains that produce little but worry, anxiety, insecurity, and discouragement.)

The artwork, Afternoon Tea, focuses on one of the most important things we can do with our time: we spend it — invest it, really — into the people we care about. And these people tend to be our family (one of the richest, most valuable resources humanity has), neighbors, and friends. As we see the value of these beautiful people and bask in their company, we grow in depth and wisdom. Soon, we find that have more love to give, and extend beyond our smaller circle to a larger one.

At the tea party, a little girl, a trusted adult, and pink teddy bear spend an afternoon “doing nothing” (when we think of it in corporate America terms). But when we think of it from the perspective of truth and reality, they are doing much indeed.

They are together. They are sharing not only watery tea but stories and companionship. And they’re having fun.

Aren’t these some of life’s most precious gifts?

Indeed they are. And they are worth taking time to live, and enjoy.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

When You Live Smarter, Harder, Faster — You Don’t Live

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It’s Not Abnormal to Want to Be Alone

The American corporate/entertainment society has a difficult time with people who want to be alone.

“It’s abnormal to want to be alone!” we’re told. “You’re introverted and shy, anti-social and afraid of people.”

incandescence country field rural meadow landscape steve henderson art painting

A long walk in a country field gives us time and space to think. Incandescence, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

(It’s odd how the opposite is considered normal. People who always have to be the center of attention, in the middle of a crowd, their every word hung onto by the acolytes buzzing around: these people are considered not only normal, but leadership normal. Other cultures might consider them attention seeking.)

Wanting to be alone makes sense in a society where we are surrounded by constant noise and traffic. Ask any clerk in a retail store if, after an 8-hour shift of being on their feet, dealing with customers who range from polite to downright rude, they feel like going straight to a demo derby, then after that to a bar, and then onto a crowded grocery store having a midnight madness sale.

Some people will like this. We have become so accustomed to clamor and commotion in our lives that, when we do find ourselves at home, we turn on the TV to avoid any form of silence.

But others want to get away from the tumult and commotion. They want to find a place of silence where their thoughts are not drowned out by bedlam.

The artwork, Incandescence, represents such a place. It is a country field in the hills, with a well-used pathway leading through broken down fences.

(“Ah, but you’re trespassing!”

So many limitations we place upon ourselves, so many barriers to freedom and thought. This particular country area welcomed hikers.)

In such a quiet place, not only one’s ears, but one’s eyes receive rest. The grass, gently waving in the breeze, is mesmerizing, and our thoughts flow with its wave.

It is in times and places of silence that we do our best thinking because, realistically, our thoughts are distracted by noise. Those who never seek silence, who never spend time alone, who surround themselves constantly with activity and movement and buzz do not think deeply. They are unaware of their own thoughts, own ideas, own creativity, own dreams, because they do not explore them.

And that’s not normal.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Is It Too Noisy to Think?

Thinking Christians: Let’s Be Those People

Group Think: It Doesn’t Necessarily Involve Thinking at All

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Are You Important?

Important people get their portraits painted. That way, we get them on postage stamps (once they’re dead), or buy a print of their face to put in our home. And there are always the history textbooks and pop culture magazines, ready with their sanitized information on why this president or that CEO, this royal personage or that knighted singer, is so very, very important to the rest of us.

A medicine man of the Navajo People in the late 19th and early 20th century, Nesjaja Hatali, was not a president, not a CEO, not a Silicon Valley billionaire. He was a man who loved and worked with his people. Art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Regular people, if they want portraits of themselves, go to box stores and buy a photo package. And those portraits stay in their home or that of relatives, because those are the only people who know them and care about them.

Isn’t it intriguing the distinctions between the very very rich (the “important”) and the ordinary, regular people? It’s vital to recognize these top-down created distinctions so that we can identify their deception, the deception that some people are worth more than others for no other reason than . . . money, lots of it, which buys power and “fame.”

The artwork, Nesjaja Hatali, is a painted portrait based upon the historic photo taken by Edward Curtis, a photographer of the 19th and 20th century who was commissioned by financial magnate J.P. Morgan and President Theodore Roosevelt, among others, to document the American Indians before they completely disappeared. In the minds of these “great” men, that’s what these real, ordinary, incredibly unique people — the Native Americans who simply wanted to live their lives and watch their grandchildren grow into adulthood — would and should do: disappear, so that progress could be made.

Because Nesjaja Hatali was not important in the world of Morgan and Roosevelt, we know little about him, but his face shows a man who has lived through and seen much — a face of experience and wisdom, of great thought. It is not a face that thinks about how much money he has in the bank, nor how to exponentially increase it.

It is a face that thinks about the future of his grandchildren, and the grandchildren of his people, and wonders what kind of life they will have. This is the focus of the regular person, the ordinary person, the everyday person who does not get their presidential portrait taken and distributed to the masses.

This is the face of the person who is important enough to have their portrait painted.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Choose Wisely Who Influences You

Skip the Trends and Be Yourself

Who Cares Whom You Voted For — Whom Do You Love?

 

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Movies Aren’t Real — But Life Is

Because we are surrounded by movies, it’s tempting to feel that our lives should look like one.

In a way, we are force-fed an entertainment diet– cinema, TV, “reality TV,” Instagram stars, YouTube luminaries, music videos, “news” — the way ducks and geese are forcibly fed, via a tube to the stomach,  to produce the oversized liver necessary for foie gras.

film movies oscar pretend world

The more enmeshed we are in the entertainment culture, the more likely we are to confuse it with reality.

And in the same way that the fowls’ livers become grossly oversized and swollen, so do our expectations of life become unrealistic and delusory, to the point that regular, real, ordinary life seems boring and unfulfilling.

Most of us aren’t fabulously rich. Many people who live in New York do not do so in spacious, luxury apartments. If we post a YouTube video of ourselves singing, we don’t become an overnight sensation. Our Facebook posts don’t go viral.

We don’t tell off our boss and through that, change him or her for the better. We don’t wow the judges with our comedy act. Our books aren’t made into movies.

We can’t fly.

In a continuous, unending stream of cinematic propaganda, we get the not so subtle message that, because our lives don’t look like what we see on screen, then they’re boring and unfulfilling.

Not so. Not so at all.

Real life, our lives, are beautiful, because they are real and genuine and good, and we are surrounded by a unique array of real, genuine and good people — our family, our friends — that we know uniquely, deeply, intimately.

twilight romance love dance romantic couple fiddler steve henderson art painting

The love between a man and a woman is unique to each couple — a story that is both timeless and distinctive. Twilight Romance, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

The artwork, Twilight Romance, touches upon this concept. And while the image is surreal, magical, a touch fantastic, it draws upon emotions that are so grounded and real that they are a bit surreal, magical, and fantastic themselves. Love, true love, is fantastic.

When we look into the eyes of a person that we know deeply and well, we see beyond the surface — we see the experiences we’ve shared, the laughter and the sadness, the hope and the grief. We see a fullness of life lived side by side with one another as an adventure — exciting because we never know where it will go, tempered by the ordinary, almost prosaic, cup of coffee over the breakfast table.

That’s real life, and it’s worth living.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Choose Wisely Who Influences You

The Walt Disney World of American Christianity

If He’s Famous, and He Says It, Do We Believe It?

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Be Cool, or Happy — You Can’t Be Both

Being happy and looking cool are distinct from one another.

People who are “cool” are sophisticated, savyy, polished, worldly, suave, and  bit . . . bored.  A smooth sense of ennui pervades every action, and they never look clumsy, awkward or unsure of themselves.

brimming over woman laughing basket fabric coast beach ocean steve henderson art

The fabric is escaping from the basket, there’s nothing she can do about it, and it’s definitely not a time to worry about looking cool. Why not laugh? Brimming Over, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

(In the animal world, “cool”  animals are cats — that’s why we find it so outrageously funny when they leap for a shelf and miss. With dogs — which are decidedly uncool unless they’re Dobermans or German Shepherds — we expect uncool. Interestingly, we also consider dogs to be friendly, and cats to be distant.)

In the American corporate, entertainment-dominated society, cool isn’t so much next to godliness (since God isn’t cool) as it is just The. Way. To. Be. In order to be truly cool, we focus intently on how we come across to others, which necessarily mean that we focus a lot on ourselves.

True happiness, however, gets in the way of being cool — because when we spontaneously laugh at something, or . . . an amazing thought . . . are willing to laugh at ourselves, we don’t look cool. (Many people hate the way they laugh, and think it makes them look like a dork. So they’re always keeping themselves in check, controlling their emotions so they won’t haw haw haw and draw attention to their lack of svelte urbanity.)

The artwork, Brimming Over, shows a woman in a moment of true happiness, of laughter, of joy. Why she is standing at the beach with a basket of fabric we don’t quite know, but because this is a work of representational art, we are invited to make up the story and add to it as we please.

What we do know is that the fabric is burbling and bubbling and spilling out of the basket, resulting in a situation totally out of the woman’s control. But rather than drop the basket to stroll pointedly, coolly away, the woman simply laughs — at the situation, at herself.

That takes confidence.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Think Like a Child

Blessed Are the Rejects

Skip the Trends and Be Yourself

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Choose Wisely Who Influences You

I remember the first time I ran into the word, “Influencers.”

Something about it provoked a reaction of distaste, this idea that some complete stranger expected to  shape the minds, beliefs, development, and character of others simply because they spoke or wrote. And “they” had the right to speak because . . .

reading novel book woman thinking thoughtful literacy steve henderson figurative drawing

Through reading, we are able to access the thoughts of many others — both wise and unwise. The more we read, the better able we are to discern. Light Reading, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

they were rich.

they had a million followers (how? why?).

they were a celebrity.

they knew how to write computer code (or said they did).

they sold ticky tacky home decor items.

they analyzed the “news.” or they presented the “news.”

they lip synced on cool music videos.

Influencers are everywhere, available to mold and guide our beliefs in everything from politics to our eating habits, and if we’re not careful, we’ll let complete strangers who have absolutely no interest in us, but every interest in promoting their own belief system and that of their corporate masters, to formulate the very core of our being.

(“Drink this!” “Wear that!” “Drive one of these!” “Treat people this way to get what you want!” “Vote!” “Hate him!” “Love her!” “Watch this show — smart people do!” “Match your artwork to your rug!” “Go to church!”)

Obviously, we are all influenced by somebody, or a series of somebodies. And when the people who influence us are good and right and true, honest and compassionate and generous, caring and thoughtful and wise (this kind of sounds like . . . good parents), then their influence inspires us to be better, wiser people.

The artwork, Light Reading, encourages us to read — read often, ask questions, think deeply — as we move forward in our lives to achieve not only knowledge, but the wisdom to use it. People who regularly read are less likely to be blindly influenced by media influencers, more likely to say,

“Hmm. That seems kind of simplistic. After listening to you, I don’t feel so much inspired as overwhelmed, so much hopeful as despairing, so much creative as kind of . . . unimportant in the light of all your glory and fame.”

When we are wise about choosing who influences us, we may find ourselves to be an influencer — ordinary, regular, normal, good — ourselves.

It’d be nice to have some good influencers out there.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

When You Live Harder, Smarter, Faster — You Don’t Live

Mind Control: The More You Read and Question, the Less It Happens

Your Name Matters to God

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