The Contemplative Capitalist: Spiritual Hacks for Meditation and Making Money.
It’s time to finally unearth the true riches from my years of contemplative study and practice.
You may have thought that the “true riches” of contemplative prayer are related to experiencing the peace of God, but that’s just the beginning of a path to peace and prosperity that goes far beyond anything that Jesus ever talked about, considered, imagined possible, or inspired his disciples to write about.
In fact, Jesus never said anything about the real links between contemplative prayer and financial prosperity…
The REAL SECRET of financial prosperity is found by applying contemplation’s ancient, time-tested practices to American ingenuity.
The contemplative tradition of the Christian faith is an untapped gold mine of capitalist potential that we shouldn’t be ashamed of using in order to meet our financial needs. In The Contemplative Capitalist you’ll learn how to:
End each day with a Budget Examen (TM): “When was my budget most present with me today?”
Use a sacred word to ignore your children’s pleas for budget-busting toys.
Walk out of debt labyrinths in contemplative silence.
Light a Contemplative Capitalist Candle (TM) for each credit card debt payment.
Use the power of contemplative silence to get your way in meetings and price negotiations.
Endure bull markets by passing through a dark night of the investor’s soul.
Celebrate paid off debt with a pleasant “Ommm” (Contemplatives never scream).
These are proven strategies that the desert fathers and mothers developed in part but foolishly never monetized while sweating alone in their caves weaving baskets (and think of the time they could have had for prayer if they had outsourced those baskets!). Don’t bury the wisdom of the contemplative tradition in the ground. Put it to work for you, and you will see an increase in financial prosperity for you and your family.
How to Purchase “The Contemplative Capitalist”
This book is usually priced at $24.99, but if you act now, we’re going to gut that price like oligarchs are gutting the middle class, and drop it to three easy installments of $7.99.
But that’s not all…
If you purchase this book now, share it on social media, change your profile picture to the book’s cover, take a picture of your child/pet/dinner plate with the book, email it to 20 of your closest friends, review the book (it doesn’t have to be glowing, but remember I meant well with this book AND WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME!), and make a Spotify playlist based on how the book made you feel, I’ll throw in exclusive video content of me reading contemplative classics and offering my highly refined insights that seamlessly build on the foundation laid by these masters.
The ACTUAL RETAIL PRICE of these videos is $499, but I’m giving them to you for FREE.
This offer is a limited time deal for TODAY ONLY.
Do you hear that sound?Of course you don’t, you’re not an expert contemplative like me.
You can’t hear your money practically draining out of your bank account.
You can’t fully integrate all of your investments because you aren’t spirituality integrated.
You haven’t learned how to use the power of silence to crush your competition at work.
This rock bottom price of 3 installments of $7.99 each is going to give you so much value and save you so much money, that you’ll stop talking, just like a true hermit, because you’ll be thinking of all the ways to invest and increase your money. You may even need to build bigger storehouses to hold everything you can buy. In fact, get working on those storehouses tonight.
Your life is about to change. You have no idea what you’re in for…
[Wait, was this an April Fool’s Day joke?]
Yes. I do write books about contemplative prayer, but not about making money from contemplative prayer. At least, not yet…
Each year I try to write some kind of parody of myself and the Christian subculture. I aim to be as over the top as possible. This year I thought of all of those business books I used to shelve in Borders (legit!) that praised Jesus as a great CEO/manager/stock broker/general/fax machine repairman… you get the picture. Going corporate with contemplation seemed like the ticket, even if parodying evangelical Christianity is getting harder with each passing year because many of the parodies I considered were too close to the truth.
While I hope that the jokes aren’t subtle, I also hope that this parody can help us consider the far more subtle temptations to twist Christian spirituality, and many other aspects of the faith, into tools that serve our own interests over the call to sacrificially love God and neighbors.
Are you tired of winning with President Trump? I bet you’re not. Now it’s time to start winning for all of eternity with my new book: The Art of the Seals: How to Profit from the Apocalypse, releasing April 1st. It’s going to be beautiful. You’re gonna love it.
I’m a smart guy. I know things about the Bible. I’m going to tell you about them so that you can become rich before the world ends. It’s coming. Believe me, I know. If it’s not, Trump’s going to make it happen.
Want to become rich before the millennium hits? You’ve gotta know where to invest, who to know, which seals to open, and which properties are far away from the beasts rising from the sea.
Everybody’s telling you the end times is going to be a mess. Blood moons. Death. Plagues. Wars. Frogs. They’re wrong. Those people aren’t smart. They don’t know how to make deals with the AntiChrist. They aren’t winners. They’re losers. Losers end up in the lake of fire.
This is the book that will get you a prime spot in the New Jerusalem. You’re going to love it. Just follow my simple plan for reading Revelation, and you’ll be a winner. You’re going to make the Apocalypse great again.
Evangelicals helped make Donald Trump president by huge margins. Biggest inauguration ever. A bigly victory. Democrats are embarrassed. Sad.
America’s government is a mess. We can’t even figure out how to give rich people tax breaks any more. It’s terrible. We’ve got terrorists and bad people pouring over our borders. And worst of all, our president, who won by huge margins, hasn’t even started a war yet.
I’m telling you, the end of the world is coming. It’s going to be huge. Explosions, fire, and monsters. The smart people are going to cash in on their knowledge of the Bible while they can.
Don’t miss this opportunity. Be smart. Don’t settle for less, like having Schwarzenegger hosting the Apprentice. Bad host. Not a ratings machine.
The smart people are going to read the book of Revelation to cash in before things get really bad. This book is going to show them how to do it. Don’t miss out.
Christianity is a disaster. Christianity will get all five stars in its Amazon reviews because of me. We’ll make it happen, believe me. I’m going to win.
You’re going to win too. My new book is going to show how Revelation can make you rich. It’s simple. Anybody can do it, but only winners do it because losers don’t do it. Losers lose. Winners are smart. They do things. Like me. I do things.
TRIBULATION OF LOVE The Beginning of the End Is the End of Her Love’s Beginning
Fiercely independent, wise beyond her years, and strong beyond the boundaries imposed by patriarchy, Rachel’s decision to remain with her Amish community hangs in the balance when a mysterious stranger arrives in her small, rural, bucolic, quaint, buggy-friendly, and ravishingly-named community of Intercourse, PA. Jacob promises everything that she has longed for: freedom, power, and a really, really nice front-loading washing machine.
As Jacob sweeps Rachel up into a whirlwind courtship that gallops rapidly from hand holding to heavily petting her knee, Rachel becomes alarmed by Jacob’s statements:
“We’re going to make the world great again…”
“It’s just a tiny barcode on your hand…”
“Just wait until my friend rises from the ocean for our wedding…”
“What are your thoughts on global plagues?”
Rachel begins to fear that her courtship with Jacob is doomed to perish in the eternal flames of a fiery lake of unrequited passion. She’s also a little sad that the world is about to end.
Should Rachel leave her community behind for the love of Jacob, even if he is evil-incarnate?
Is Jacob the Anti-Christ?
Will Rachel wish we’d all been ready?
Is there any time to change your mind?
Can Jacob make the tribulation great again?
Will anyone be surprised by the choices the characters make?
Why do otherwise rational people listen to pastors who write books like Four Blood Moons?
Do you realize that today is April 1st???
You’ll not answer those questions in Ed Cyzewski’s fake new Amish end times romance:
Tribulation of Love: The Beginning of the End Is the End of Her Love’s Beginning
Surprise! I’m celebrating Father’s Day by announcing my new book that’s “due” on July 14th and offering a $.99 pre-order on Kindle.
First Draft Father: An Anxiety-Ridden Writer’s Unedited Introduction to Parenthood
After a lot of promptings from friends and family, I converted my popular First Draft Father blog series and related posts into this book. I’m releasing it on July 14th in both print and a variety of eBook formats the ($.99 pre-order ends on release).
About First Draft Father
The only thing author Ed Cyzewski feared more than a rejection email was parenthood.
After struggling to establish himself as a full time writer in his 20’s, he began his 30’s with more questions about his career, more anxiety about parenthood, and a baby on the way. First Draft Father documents the rough draft of a new father’s experience working from home through a weekly journal. Along the way his faith and writing career were revised in ways he never expected.
Note to Readers: See disclaimer at the end of this post!
Jesus said that unless we become like little children, we will not see the Kingdom of God, and yet how many of us have failed to apply this biblical principle to our meal times?
In fact, Jesus commands us to give children exactly what they want. If a child asks us for bread, we should give the child bread—every single time.
These are direct commands from scripture. We need to stop picking and choosing which parts of the Bible we’re going to obey, and start picking and choosing—compulsively even—from our dinner plates.
My next book offers the definitive biblical dieting solution you’ve been waiting for:
The Toddler Diet:
Lose Weight and Gain Faith by Eating Like Little Children
Releasing April 1, 2016
Our culture worships at the altar of diet gurus and health “experts” with degrees from godless universities. Christians live under the bondage of bestselling “Old Covenant” dieting books. It’s time to return to the biblical blueprint for eating.
Jesus told us everything we need to know about eating properly: become like little children.
When you think about healthy eating, it should be obvious that toddlers are programmed by God to eat properly, and we only lead them astray with our fallen dieting principles as they grow up. Toddlers only eat when they’re hungry, manage their portions properly, and toss unnecessary food to the floor—scraps which come in handy for feeding people from Syro-Phoenecia who may be hanging out down there.
Toddlers are always in great shape and have excellent will power when it comes to fasting from meals. If a toddler doesn’t want to eat, that’s the end of the matter. They model will power that would make John the Baptist choke on a locust.
If only we trusted that the words of scripture—inspired, inerrant, and magically able to partially vanish when we discuss politics or poverty—we would certainly not struggle with obesity or place our physical well being in the hands of the dieting industry, which clearly has an agenda. Shouldn’t we trust Christian authors, like me, who clearly DON’T have an agenda?
If you want to be among the healthiest, happiest, and, most importantly, most faithful followers of the HOLY BIBLE, sign up for my newsletter today to pre-order The Toddler Diet, and you’ll get these added benefits:
A Toddler Diet Exercise DVD full of fun, effective, Biblical exercise activities like “running to the garden tomb,” 40 days of wandering in the wilderness, and dunking yourself (or others) in water.
A Toddler Diet Recipe Book full of fun, effective, biblical recipes such as locusts and honey, seafood on a sheet, and the fattened calf.
Toddler Diet Smocks that will protect you as you throw food on the floor but also double as a prayer covering.
A Toddler Diet Certificate that lets the world know you’re the most biblical dieter ever.
Don’t submit to the heavy yoke of Old Testament-based “Christian” dieting books. We have been set free to eat like little children. The road to life is narrow and lined with smashed bananas.
In order to prevent the sudden spike in unsubscribes that happens every April 1st, I need to offer this disclaimer: This blog post is an April Fool’s joke. You won’t get any of those fake benefits if you sign up for my newsletter, but you will get two free eBooks that are NOT about dieting!
Are You New to my Blog?
I just released a new book: Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together.
Learn more here. (Whether or not you buy it, I offer a bunch of prayer and writing resources on that page.)
I’ve been blogging since 2005, and that means I’m sort of an expert… at least an expert on what not to do. As I’ve tried to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, I’ve seen that I tended to make some really big, terrible, stupid mistakes because I fancied myself a pure, idealistic writer who does not bow to the conventions of the blogging world.
After changing a few things in my approach to blogging, I thought I should confess my mistakes so that you can avoid making them too.
Titles Don’t Matter for Blog Posts
I used to think that writing was all about writing amazing stories and sharing super-helpful ideas. If you spelled out the basic ideas clearly, the discerning reader would SURELY recognize my genius, brilliance, and value. These savvy readers don’t demand click bait. In fact, they’re most likely sitting by their computers right now just waiting for me to post something amazing.
But oh gosh, if Buzzfeed has taught us anything, which I highly doubt, it’s that people LURVE click-bait headlines. I should have totally titled this post: “You won’t believe what I used to do on my blog!” or “I teared up after reading the second sentence” or “This is better than tap dancing kittens on YouTube.” You get the idea. You were probably clicking all over those fake headlines just now even though you knew I was making them up and they didn’t have any hyperlinks. Admit it.
While we don’t have to give in to the Buzzfeed headline writing buffoonery that is ruining the Internet for the sake of advertising clicks, titles still matter a great deal. Every serious blogger I know spends a lot of time on their titles. These days I begin my blog posts with a title that plainly states the focus of my post for the sake of personal clarity, but then hack it to pieces and work through a bunch of different options before picking one.
Here’s the thing, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the Internet, and you really, really can’t afford to put up a bland headline that’s something like: “Musings on Stuff I Like.” First off, never, ever use the word “musings” ever again on your blog. In fact, WordPress developers, we need to add a mandatory plugin to the next build that automatically deletes blogs that use the word “musings” in contexts other than Greek mythology. But back to my point, please, for the love, spend some time writing a good blog post title. If you love your little blog posts as much as you say you do, then you need to give them good titles. Otherwise, very few people will be tempted to read your precious little posts.
I Don’t Have to Be Vulnerable on My Blog
Blogging used to be about ideas for me. In fact, it was all about ideas for about the first six years or so. I’d rant and rave about things from time to time, but I spent so much time believing that people just wanted to read my little nuggets of wisdom that I rarely inserted myself or my “feelings” into my posts.
I don’t know how I could have missed this for so long. I mean, yeah, people want to read smart ideas, but it would have helped if I wrote with the voice of a real person and share a little bit from my life.
Having said that, I also feared being one of those bloggers that shares all the things from his/her personal life online. I’m not quite in the Ron Swanson school of personal privacy where I’m tossing my cell phone in the sewer and burying gold bricks in undisclosed locations, but I find it really hard to determine when I’ve crossed the line from being authentic and real (in the sense of, “Keepin’ it real… yo”) into overdramatic over-sharing that violates the privacy of my family.
I can see now that vulnerability is essential for writers. Writers really do have to face our demons and set down at least part of that battle on the page.
Writers have to take risks. We don’t have to over-share or compromise the privacy of ourselves or loved ones, but we have to take big, vulnerable risks if we want people to care about our work. We have to work on stepping up to that line that divides authentic vulnerability from over-sharing, wherever it is, and give it a firm poke—just like old school Facebook.
And even if you aren’t particularly vulnerable, you have to at least care a lot about your topic. I’ve labored for hours over posts that I thought had tons of great ideas, only to see a passionate post I’ve dashed off in 20 minutes become the most popular post on my blog for all time. I’ve you aren’t personally invested in your writing, then your readers probably won’t be either.
Announcing “Here’s My New Blog Post” on Twitter
No one cares that I’ve just posted a blog post. No one. Probably not even my mother most days, especially if my titles are terrible. And yet, I used to complement my vanilla blog post titles with tweets that I plunked down like dry, crumbly, bland wafers.
One day I saw someone quoting from my blog post on Twitter, and I was like, “That’s awesome! I should try that!”
Now, some bloggers go a bit overboard with the Twitter quotes. They highlight the tweetable parts of their posts in bold, set up “Tweet this” links on their posts, or create little lists of tweetable quotes.
OK, I’m not here to judge anyone. This is personal confession time, and I’m confessing that I’m terrible at tweeting from my blog. Do whatever you like. I’ll just say that I saw some folks doing that, and I was like, “Oh come on! Just write something good!”
What can I say? I was born in the wrong age. I’m all “Get off my lawn!” with these new fangled marketing tactics. Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days. But back to my main point about the Twitters…
TWEET THIS –> “Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days.” @edcyzewski
I’ve still seen that people want to share helpful little quotes. Even if I tend to think in 1,000 to 2,000 word chunks, it won’t kill me to share a quote or two from my latest blog post if folks could find it helpful. Mind you, I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do. I’ve just realized that my resistance to posting a blog post quote on Twitter wasn’t all that smart of me
TWEET THIS TOO!!! –> “I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do.” @edcyzewski
In conclusion, I’ve made some really huge, terrible, stupid mistakes as a blogger. These are all pretty basic, simple, run of the mill blogging tips that you can find all over the Internet. And still, there are tons of bloggers like myself who have resisted them. It’s time to get with the program. Adopting a few best blogging practices won’t hurt… too much. We may even get a few new readers along the way.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a blogger?
In order to strategize for the penultimate visioneering plan in the new year that will optimize your influence, capitalize on your goals, and lead you to ultimate career, life, and family satisfaction, there’s nothing more important than opting to organize your priorities around a generalized but internalized missionally rooted strategic plan.
Put simply: PLAN.
Do not proclaim your strategic plan from the street corners in your fine suits.
But go into your office, close the door, open your planner or Evernote app, and then ideate in private where the great organizational strategic mastermind of the universe will see your bullet points and transform them into clear, actionable, measurable goals. (May you fulfill them with purpose, passion, and excellence. Amen.)
With a clear plan for the new year and your actionable, measurable, boast-able goals in hand, you’ll be prepared to lead a meaningful and fully synergized life. You’ll have more energy, more focus, more clarity, more insight, and more free, unsolicited advice to offer. And if you’re lucky, people will start to pay you in order to offer unsolicited advice based on the massively incredible, life-altering success, wealth, influence, and power that you have amassed because of your fully synergized plan for life that comes with executed, actionable, measurable goals.
Your life simply won’t be the same without a solid, crystal clear, ready-to-execute planned out life strategy.
Unless your planned out life IS exactly the same as any other year… THAT is where the upsell comes in to bump your self-indulgence, I mean life planning, to the next level.
Yes, you should probably see that up-sell coming.
You see, if you life plan strategy fails to synergize to its full potentiality and your best ideation can’t get you optimized or capitalized, then it’s time for a big change.
And by big change, I mean that it’s time to spend some big change on some overpriced eBooks and online courses. Don’t worry, you won’t think they’re overpriced. You’ll get all kinds of amazing website badges, new jargon to use, and exclusive video content that promises more synergizing and strategizing (which are really just upsells for more exclusive, premier, secret, members-only content, but don’t worry, YOU’LL LOVE IT). The actual “value” of these planning, visioneering, and ideation courses and eBooks are far beyond anything you can comprehend in your deficient, un-synergized, poorly strategized brain.
Believe me, if you’re frustrated and unfulfilled, the LAST thing you should do is sit alone in a quiet room and pray. Do you think the prophets in the Bible knew how to create an actionable vision statement for one’s personal goals? Did Jeremiah accomplish any “actionable,” “measurable,” and let alone “fulfilling” goals?
Jeremiah couldn’t strategize his way out of a well.
And sure you could pray about big life decisions and even ask God to bless your plans, but we all know that it’s action and synergizing that gets things done. Just look at the most successful business leaders and stop there. God and family are important, but when it comes to systematically prioritizing your life for maximum fulfillment, accomplishment, and self-actualization, you need to focus on visioneering a strategic plan.
If you talk to someone about your goals and strategic plans, look for people who are successful, powerful, influential, and barely have a moment to spare for you. In fact, don’t talk to them. Just tweet your questions at them. Wait for their replies, which are rarely longer than five words. Then thank them profusely for being kind, authentic, and “personable” despite being media titans who could destroy you on Twitter if they deemed you a nuisance—which you most likely are by the way.
Don’t seek out people who lead quiet, prayerful, un-synergized lives that have fallen together because of divine happenstance rather than human-directed strategic plans. These people who wander at the seeming leadership of the wind speak of an unquantifiable, unmeasurable influence from the Holy Spirit who would most assuredly never provide enough measurable goals for even a child’s 5-year strategic plan (You are helping your children set and meet goals by the way? No? Stay tuned for the “Visioneering for Toddlerhood and Beyond” eCourse that I’ll be offering at an EXCLUSIVE discount just for YOU).
As a final exhortation for your strategization, let me ask you two simple, provocative questions that will no doubt spark your ideating immediately:
Are you happy with your life today precisely as it is? (If you answered “Yes,” then take some more time to imagine the best possible future imaginable. There must be something else you want.)
If you aren’t happy with your life as it is, and of course you aren’t, then have you ever tried strategically visioneering a fully ideated life plan to chart your future with clear actionable goals? (Don’t bother asking if you’ve ever tried praying, fasting, practicing the Examen, receiving spiritual direction, centering prayer, or having someone lay hands on you. Everything about the Holy Spirit and prayer in the book of Acts was just a lucky break).
I hope that’s super duper crystal clear for you. Your only hope of having a meaningful, fulfilling, happy, and completely capitalized new year is to do the hard work of strategic planning for your day-to-day life.
Stop delaying your potential synergizing and ideate the ultimate vision and plan for your life TODAY. Get down on your knees, open your smart phone or iPad, and start planning.
I noticed you weren’t steaming the milk with the same vigor this morning. In fact, you didn’t swish my coffee mug enthusiastically as you filled it up, the half and half is empty, and the dishpan is a mess of piled porcelain. I can only deduce that you’ve been reading books or listening to podcasts where successful entrepreneurial older white men are telling Millennials like yourself to fulfill your dreams and to pursue your passions, and now this cafe isn’t cutting it for you.
Stop it. Stop listening to them. Stop dreaming. STOP and listen to me.
It’s clear to me that these experts have found a way to exploit your generation’s obsession with following your passions and pursuing your dreams. I mean, you could try to do these things, but I assure you that this will only result in more news stories and advice columns chastising you for being the world’s most selfish, narcissistic, unrealistic generation. Besides, you will most likely fail at pursuing your passions, so why even bother any way?
I know the business entrepreneurs, gurus, and “ninjas” are telling you to quit your job and pursue your dream and that it worked out for them and “why not you?” Well, here’s the thing: that was OK for them. They weren’t selfish, unrealistic Millennials raised on the hollow promises of a purple dinosaur telling them they were special. They are realistic, generous, and non-stereotypicalGen X’ers and Baby Boomers. I mean, look at them! These business experts left stable incomes to make thousands of dollars telling dissatisfied people how to be like them! That’s about as selfless as it gets! You, on the other hand, are an entitled, starry-eyed egomaniac who can only think about getting what you want… and then taking a selfie when you get it.
Look, serving coffee is a pretty great gig. It’s better than breathing in toxic dust in a mine, losing a finger in a factory, or skimming slag in a steel mill. Do you know how bad a selfie turns out in a mine when you’re wearing a headlamp? Can you imagine texting without a few fingers?
Right, you can’t imagine any of this. You can only imagine sitting in a palace where servants snap selfies for you and money magically appears in your bank account every time you tweet. At least some of you tweet as if that’s what happens.
So here’s my advice:
Don’t take any risks.
Don’t set aside time for self-reflection or prayer.
Don’t ask friends for advice or counsel.
Don’t read any books about things that interest you.
Don’t consider going back to school.
Don’t seek out mentors who could help guide you.
Don’t pursue any kind of professional training.
Don’t learn how to manage your own business.
Don’t downsize your possessions.
Don’t find a more affordable place to live.
Don’t change how you eat or what you buy when you go out.
Don’t cancel your cable service or limit your mobile data usage.
Don’t even think about trading your car for a bike or public transit.
Don’t look for a flexible job that can pay the bills while you try something new.
Give up on your dreams and passions. Stop paying attention to that nagging feeling that you should try something else for your career. These are just trademarks of your selfish entitled generation. The people who came before you could ask those questions and take those risks, but that’s because they weren’t Snapchatting with their shirts off and Instagramming their meals.
Your generation is a lost cause. Take a good look around this coffee shop. I hope you like it. This is probably as good as it’s going to get. Every other generation had the ability to consider ways to advance themselves, to escape the drudgery of cubicles, and to build a career of their own choosing. That stops with you.
You Millennials don’t get to make the same choices as previous generations because you’re not just self-absorbed, you’ve painstakingly documented your selfishness in unique ways that no older generation can replicate or relate to. We can hide our own self-centeredness and avarice behind your massive social media profiles as we convict you of being the worst generation ever.
And if you want your tip to stay at $.50, I suggest you “chop chop” and fill that half and half when I’m ready for a refill. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a number of freelance writing projects to work on with that cup of coffee you just poured. Pursuing my dreams of becoming a writer takes a lot of caffeine, and I need you Millennials to keep serving it.
For further reading on this topic from a non-sarcastic perspective:
I had big plans to write blog posts throughout our three-week research trip to London, but my limited work days really cut into my blogging time. Rather than sharing several reflections from my time in London, I’m going to rattle off a few observations and share a some of the big feelings I had over there…
Roaming the streets of London with Ethan over the past three weeks has felt good and familiar. There have been many other aspects of this trip that have been incredibly hard, especially my wife’s long workdays in the archives and Ethan’s difficulty settling down at our flat. However, the walking about part brought it’s own pleasant surprises.
Having grown up on the edges of Philadelphia, there’s a familiarity to the city of London: as if Philadelphia is a small, rougher version of it. At one point in the history of the British Empire, Philadelphia was only second to London in size, so that makes sense. The architecture in particular reminds me of home, even if the accents I hear and the absence of decent drip coffee drive home just how far away I am.
Wandering London for three weeks has also been a study in prosperity and affluence. I’m surrounded by go-getters and game changers: people who are on their way up or at least fighting for a place at the big tables of global finance, government, and business.
The current is strong. At times I felt pulled out to sea with them into their ocean full of big fish. As a work from home dad who makes as much in a month as some of them make in a day or a week, it was easy to feel insecure and aimless in life.
What do I have to show for my labor?
What kind of position and influence do I have?
It’s been a rubber meets the road moment for my theology. Do I truly believe that the writing I’m doing is worth anything in the grand scheme of things? By developing the gift of writing that I believe God has given me, am I seeking first his Kingdom or longing for the same stuff everybody else has?
It’s been a heavy three weeks at times. But then I have my beautiful little boy who often reminds me that I’m using the wrong markers for my success.
My time in London wasn’t always full of existential angst and anxiety over my work…
For instance, it was pretty hard to find my way around at first because of the location of street signs. The street signs languish on the sides of buildings so that you have to wander a bit until you find them. Seriously Brits, how hard is it to stick a pole in the ground near the corner?
It goes without saying that my instincts were complete rubbish at crosswalks or “zebra crossings” as they call them here. I knew which way to look for cars—the opposite of what I expected. But once my feet hit the street, my instincts kicked in and I was inevitably the only person crossing to the other side looking to his right.
The bus system has been glorious. I mean, really. You can’t get better than this bus system. We can get anywhere across town and treat the ride as a site seeing tour—which in Ethan’s case is merely spotting more buses and traffic lights or “Eeeee-yo’s” as he calls them. When I bought him a toy bus, he said the word “bus” continuously for fifteen minutes while pointing at it.
The coffee situation was quite rough. Most English cafes serve up a more Italian style of coffee, meaning that you’ll be hard pressed (pun intended) to find drip, filter, or, as I like to say, “REAL” coffee. The best source for real coffee was Pret a Manger, where I could buy a cup of “filter” coffee for a pound. Every other source of coffee was disappointing.
Americano’s were too watered down and weak. I would have asked for a second shot, but we were already in the two pound neighborhood for a drink that I didn’t particularly enjoy, so I ended up planning my day and then locating a Pret a Manger where I could pick up real coffee after getting off the bus.
At one point I stopped by Starbucks for an overpriced cup of their horrible Pike’s Place roast, and I asked for “filtered” coffee. The guy looked at me confused. I was hungry, tired, and, as one may imagine, in need of caffeine. I wasn’t in the mood to say the password for “coffee.” I snapped a little: “I don’t know! Drip, filtered, whatever you people call American coffee.”
Ethan didn’t have to worry about coffee, and he found the streets of London endlessly fascinating. Between the buses, trucks, and traffic lights, he found something to amuse himself wherever we went.
We spent a good bit of our time at St. James Park, which had a sand pit, fearless ducks, and close proximity to the soldiers. He loved pushing his stroller along the paths, and I enjoyed the amazing gardens and crowds of tourists who gathered around squirrels to take pictures.
I’m not sure which countries don’t have squirrels. As an avid gardener, I have a white, hot hatred of those long tailed rats. They’re always digging up our plants and flowers just for the pure joy of destruction.
You know who else enjoys destroying stuff? Satan. Think about it.
On a recommendation from Preston Yancey, we also spent several days at Coram’s Field, which had a variety of age-appropriate playgrounds, sand pits, and animals. The chickens, rabbits, and goats were a huge hit. Ethan would still be there if I hadn’t dragged him away.
When wandering around Bloomsbury, we also stopped at a lovely little playground in Bloomsbury. I got to people watch as tourists strolled by on their way to the British Museum, while Ethan went up and down a slide for a solid hour.
As much as I loved wandering the streets of London, especially the Bloomsbury neighborhood, I got the same eerie feeling that I get in Philadelphia or any other city in the northeast U.S. with ties to shipping and trade during the colonial period, let alone southern cities with ornate exteriors. Much like the colonial cities in America, a great deal of the wealth that has poured into London over recent centuries arrived because of the systemic exploitation of colonies and slaves.
That isn’t to ignore that some people have worked and are working to right these wrongs. It’s just an uneasy feeling I get around anything majestic and beautiful around here. There were plenty of monuments to people who were moral monsters—some being moral monsters who also called themselves Christians. There were a few cringing moments
Perhaps the funding for certain buildings was all gained through ethical industry and hard work. However, if history is any teacher in this, it’s most likely that many of the fine homes I passed each day had one kind of connection or another to the exploitation of colonies.
And while we’re talking about things that make me uneasy, let’s talk about all of the soldiers in downtown London. Ethan couldn’t get enough of the marching bands serenading us during the changing of the guards. He heard the pounding drums and started pointing in their direction saying, “Solders! Solders!”
We would walk alongside them as they marched ahead of about four companies of guards.
This was a wonderful event and spectacle for kids. The soldiers marched in a tight formation keeping crisp time. The bands played peppy songs that have been stuck in my head ever since.
However, there’s something very uneasy about the pageantry of war. Sure the bands help everyone march in time, but then a drill sergeant plays the same role. The dress uniforms, the coordinated marches, and the festive bands all add an appeal to something that is otherwise horrible: war.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that these soldiers, who were on leave from deployment, have been exposed to some of the worst conditions we could imagine. What we see of war is the marching, parades, and festivities. It’s brilliant propaganda.
As a follower of Jesus I can’t say I’m a 100% pacifist, even if his command to love our enemies hounds me. That being said, the pageantry of the guards left me as unsettled as it left Ethan delighted.
Perhaps the fancy uniforms and bands don’t have the same appeal as in times past. However, the reminder of their past roles haunted my mind.
My misgivings aside, it was hard to leave London. Our neighborhood felt very familiar to our own. It was filled with people our age and delightful, family-friendly pubs where friends gathered to talk and the beer held secondary importance.
I made a point of sampling as many local dishes as I could, such as meat pies, fish and chips, bangers and mash, a full English breakfast, and buttered bread pudding. It wasn’t the diet that leads to a long life, but meat, fried food, and bread worked for me.
Almost to a person, the English were friendly people, but they were more like New England friendly than the bouncing, in your face friendly you may find in the American south or west coast. When the airlines lost our bags on the way over, the man behind the counter quickly took our information and said, “Not to worry. We’ll sort it out. Should have it to you tomorrow at the latest.”
His calm and simple assurance helped me calm down as I feared the worst for our bags. True to his word, our bags arrived by noon on the following day.
I also need to make a confession of sorts. It’s not that I had preconceptions about English men, but when we arrived at the airport, I kept noticing that many of the English men I saw were tall and “solid.”
I took an inventory of the English men I knew of: John Cleese, Mr. Bean, and Wallace (as in Wallace and Grommet). Not exactly mountains of manhood. I didn’t expect all English men to be small or thin, but they just tended to surprise me on the average with their size. However, I’m 5’5” and weigh about 160 pounds, so my opinion on anyone’s size is a bit skewed. Come to think of it, my size pretty much explains all you need to know.
Even with the large men, the parading soldiers, and the spoils of colonialism surrounding me, I look forward to returning to London. It was like being at home while in a foreign country. I didn’t have to think too hard in order to communicate with folks, and the weak dollar against pounds meant that everything in stores appeared to be really cheap—whoops.
Having said that, traveling with a toddler is a tremendous amount of work. I don’t think I’ve ever been so consistently drenched in sweat. Maybe when Ethan is a little older we’ll venture back for another research trip.
He’ll learn about the dangers of militarism as a national policy, the virtues of pork sausage, and the delight of proper English chips. I’ll just work on not being an idiot who assumes that every man in England looks like John Cleese.
I had a cross-cultural experience of sorts a few weeks ago during a theology conference. We had about 45 minutes to kill, so I suggested we walk over to my favorite brew pub that happened to be right across the street from the convention center hosting our conference.
The brewpub was wall to wall people, so we slipped a few doors down to a legit, gritty bar.
I think I’ve been to a legit, gritty bar once before. Maybe. Unlike the brew pub where folks order a flavorful, fresh beer on tap and enjoy it over a rich appetizer, many of the gritty bar folks hauled fists full of Bud Lights in wave after wave. I have no idea how many people walked past our table with 3 Bud Lights in each hand.
I’m sure people drank other things at the gritty bar. I’m sure some of the Bud Light drinkers even branched out. Perhaps they tossed in a Coors Light too.
Whatever they added to their epic beer consumption, I soon caught on to the goal. This was not about “enjoying” the beer. The beer was a mood enhancer, a mechanism for partying. You didn’t need the beer to taste good. You just needed to get drunk enough to lose your inhibitions without vomiting or passing out.
I presume bar fights sometimes enter into the picture as well.
This was a fun night out for many folks.
Needless to say, I couldn’t relate. Call me a killjoy if you must, but I’d rather think of my own jokes rather than relying on the booze to do the heavy lifting.
Later that evening I walked out of our final plenary session for the conference, longing for the quiet of my bedroom, snuggled up next to my wife. However, many people in downtown Columbus were just starting their evening. Some may have still been at the bar.
If I pulled over and told the people waiting in line at the night club about my ideal evening that involves reading a book on the couch next to my wife, many of them would probably give me a thumbs down or sneer, shouting, “Boring!”
I didn’t think for one moment that I was missing out. Booze and booming music? No thanks!
That brings me to parenting and “fun.” There’s a book out about parenting called All Joy and No Fun that addresses the demands and limitations of parenting.
I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read articles about it and have heard some lengthy interviews about it. I have participated in conversations about how parenting changes your life and the limitations it places on you.
I’m not an expert by any means. We only have one kid with another on the way this July. So perhaps take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.
However, I think the all joy to “no fun” ratio for parenting will be REALLY different for everyone. It’s really tough to come up with a hard and fast rule about what kinds of joy and fun you’ll have as a parent because we all have different needs and expectations about what is “fun.” In addition, our conceptions of fun may change when kids are in the picture.
On the one hand, my wife and I relish a quiet evening at home. Having a kid asleep upstairs isn’t a major burden. We’re not fans of the times that he wakes up screaming, but for the most part, we’re not missing bars, clubbing late at night, or cruising the city after midnight because that wasn’t our lifestyle to begin with.
It would be nice to go out more often for artisan NY style pizza, but for the most part, having a kid hasn’t been the kill joy that it may be for those who want to party all night—Whether that’s clubbing, lengthy bar outings filled with cheap beer, or leisurely sipping a Saison at a brew pub.
There’s no doubt that one must reign in the bar hopping and beer guzzling in order to be a responsible parent. You need to be present. And if you hire a baby sitter, you can’t ask the baby sitter to come scrape you off the pavement outside the bar after last call.
Look, parenting is tough. You will be super sleep deprived for the first 6 months, if not longer.
You will have your patience tested by toddlers who would rather die than put on shoes.
You will be pooped on, peed on, and spat up upon over, and over, and over.
You will repeatedly ask, “What’s THAT smell?”
It’s not convenient. It’s almost always messy. We all have to make sacrifices. We all face limitations because of kids. Life changes.
And yes, there are many joyful, wonderful moments.
I watched my son take his first steps. We play together with his stuffed animals each day, and he’s kicking his imagination into high gear. Peter Rabbit has attempted to eat just about every object in our living room at this point.
My son loves digging in the dirt of our garden, and he can haul his wagon down the sidewalk on his own. He can wiggle to music, and there’s nothing better than sweeping the floor with his very own broom.
There are daily interruptions and tests of my patience. There are incredible joys and accomplishments. Every parent knows that. Every expectant parent can at least imagine that as well.
However, when it comes to the all joy/no fun balance, remember that every person has different needs.
The extroverted mother will hate being stuck inside all winter with her kids. The introverted dad will wince at the thought of going to story time with ALL THOSE PEOPLE.
The beer-guzzling champion who wants to settle down will have to give up on a particular version of “fun,” while the quiet bookworms will eventually figure out time to read and drink tea as is their habit, but they’ll never have enough time to read all of the books.
All parents need to make sacrifices for the sakes of their children, but those sacrifices will be different for each of us.
Some will sacrifice more fun than others. Some will find more joy in the daily ins and outs of parenting than others.
In my own case, I’ve found different fun and different joy in being a parent compared to when we were childless. It’s not like the fun stopped with kids or the joy only reached epic levels when we brought our son home from the hospital.
Yes, we don’t hang out with friends as often as we used to. Yes, our lives look quite different than before parenthood. There are times when the all joy/no fun mantra feels accurate.
At the same time, our son has redefined joy and fun for us. However, I can say without judgment that other parents have found that transition to be far more difficult.
I spent most of my adult life fearing parenthood. Seriously. Straight up anxiety attacks and all. Now, I can’t imagine a greater joy than parenting alongside my wife. Our family is evolving and changing, and for the most part, it’s changing for the better, even if we had something pretty awesome to begin with.
My wife is my favorite person in the world, and having a child together has added more than it has subtracted.
It would be presumptuous to suggest that every family’s transition to children will be the epic win we’ve experienced. It’s going to be different for everyone, even if I can guarantee that effectively parenting will most certainly require passing on the gritty bars where people walk around with three Coors Lights in each hand.
Then again, I can’t imagine getting much joy or fun from slamming back six Coors Lights in a gritty bar to begin with, so what do I know?