Reading a biography of Woodrow Wilson, several aspects of life in the late 19th century caught my attention:
- Football was popular, comparable in roughness even then to the British game of rugby. Wilson, who was decidedly not athletic, coached the Princeton football team for a couple of years during his time as a professor at that university. He, like many of his contemporaries, regarded sports as affording participants the benefits of competition, physical exercise, and spending time outdoors. In contrast to the semi-pro status of modern college athletics, a majority of 19th century collegians participated in at least one sport. Similarly, Wilson occasionally took cycling holidays of several weeks duration.
- Doctorates, at least in the humanities, represented mastery of an entire discipline, not merely a tiny subsection of a discipline.
- He wrote thousands of letters, e.g., sending a missive to his wife each day they were apart. Unlike phone calls, text messages, and tweets, Wilson's epistles were lengthy expositions of his thoughts, feelings, and ideas gleaned from lectures, readings, and conversations.
Admittedly, Woodrow Wilson was an exceptional individual. I suspect, however, that he offers an example we would do well to emulate:
- Choose to spend time outdoors in vigorous physical activity. Research confirms what Wilson seemed to know: exercise, even moderate exercise, eases stresses, improves weight control, and extends longevity.
- Look at the trees, but also survey at least one forest.
- Writing affords an opportunity to organize one's thoughts, to identify one's feelings, and to reflect on the ideas, events, and people that one encounters.
In the US and some other places, New Year's brings with it a cultural expectation of making resolutions, that is, setting goals for the next twelve months. The first Sunday of Advent marked the beginning of a new Christian year. Both Advent and Lent are traditional Christian seasons of self-examination.
Pause for a few moments during the last remaining days of Advent. If your Christmas preparations are done, then you deserve a refreshing break. And if you are way behind on completing your Christmas preparations, then you're unlikely to finish them, probably feel overwhelmed, and need as well as deserve a refreshing break. The joy of Christmas is lost when one collapses from exhaustion (or near exhaustion) on Christmas.
Pausing affords a valuable opportunity not only to re-energize but also to begin assessing the past year.
- Did you take care of yourself? You only have one body.
- Have you kept your priorities in order, taking care of the important items and dealing with the other stuff, no matter how urgent it may seem, only as time allows?
- What have you learned in 2015? How have you grown?