Breathing is a two part process: breathe in. breathe out.
What would happen if we only did one of the parts? What would happen if we only breathed in, and forgot to breathe out?
I like to sing, and in singing, the intake of too much air is called stacking. It usually happens when the singer knows some long phrase or really high note or some other intimidating portion of music is ahead. To be prepared, the singer wants to have enough air - enough 'breath support'. But what often happens is that the singer takes a sip of air here, a gulp of air there, and doesn't let it back out in proportion to what she took in. Instead she just fills her lungs, stretches her ribs and her back, fills every inch of herself up with air. But finally, when that long phrase or tricky note comes up, what do you think happens? I mean, she's got air to last her for days...
But actually, all that air has lost its freshness. It's become old. Stagnant. Stuck. And guess what?
She croaks. She squawks. She chokes.
It's a real thing. It's not comfortable. It's certainly not pleasant for anyone to listen to, and mostly it's really embarrassing. Even the best singers experience it, usually when tension is high or there's some other big shot singer in the room that they want to impress, or when they just lack confidence in themselves. It happens.
Normal life can be like this too. Normal life is sort of like breathing, with two parts: First, we consume. Second, we contribute.
I think consuming is the easier part. Indeed, we live in a 'consumer culture', where transactions happen rapidly and anonymously. Images, ideas, and opinions permeate our lives through all sorts of screens and media outlets. It's hard to avoid all the stuff.
And it's fun too! The images are pretty. The ideas are dreamy and exciting. The opinions are stimulating. But if you're like me, you have a tendency to want to stockpile all the pretty images and clever ideas. I know Pinterest helps keep that clutter organized, but I still find myself taking screenshots and rarely looking back at them. Like old air, they just start filling up my life (and my phone storage), without actually helping me do anything. But like I said, consuming is only half of the process. We also need to contribute.
This is where things get tricky. Contributing is scary. Contributing to conversations, dialogue, public opinion, work, art, culture, whatever it may be...takes so. much. courage. When we decide to put ourselves 'out there', we open ourselves up to criticism, correction, and embarrassment. Those are tough things to swallow.
Not only that, but discerning how to properly, modestly, and virtuously contribute is so difficult. As a business owner, I often wonder if I am actually just perpetuating the cycle of needless consumerism. I wonder if I'm somehow convincing people they need something that really they'd be fine without. Let me tell you...that is not my intention. But that fear creeps into my head and into my heart nearly every day.
There's a fine line to walk when you want to say something, contribute something, but are also very aware of the clutter and noise that already exists in the world. Even with these blog posts, I often wonder, 'Am I just adding to the noise?'
Gosh, I hope not.
We shouldn't merely add to the noise. Instead, we should contribute with purpose. We should take time before deciding to say something (or write or paint or dance or sing or whatever) is necessary. But thoughtful consideration is not the same as 'NO! DON'T DO IT! SHUT YOUR MOUTH!' Yes, we need to weigh the pros and cons of contributing, specifically on social media, but we shouldn't necessarily let that fear stop us. We also shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Boo reminds me of that all the time. I get stuck on the little details, wanting to make every Instagram post or blog post or change to my business thoughtful, useful, pretty, and real (ALL AT THE SAME TIME). But the thing is, my life is rarely all of those things at once. Does that mean my life -my thoughts, opinion, art, time- somehow isn't good enough to share with others?
No way! Even at our very lowest, hope can still shine through us. Even at our worst, our messiest, our fluffiest, we still have the ability to extend a hand or a kind word or a humble prayer.
How we are right now is good enough. We don't have to wait until things are 'just so' to speak up and share our lives with others. We can begin now, with small steps and humble hearts, to purposefully contribute truth and goodness to a world especially in need of those things.
I'm going to keep this theme of contribution going over the next couple of weeks and months. I have some special and very exciting projects in the works that I can't wait to share with you. And, I'm checking one of my 25 While 25 goals off this list THIS THURSDAY (eek...tomorrow...) by contributing my singing skills at an open mic night. Come see me at Michelangelo's Coffee in Norman at about 6:30!