This morning I decided to get out of the house and went to a local bistro for a breakfast suffle and a little sunshine. It is interesting watching how people relate and communicate. In the seating area next to me two ladies were there for a friendly personal meeting.

I found it interesting that for the majority of time that they were there to meet with each other they were on their cell phones talking to people from their office, their kids, social commitments, etc. They only spoke with other about 20% of the time.

It makes you wonder.

It’s amazing how little things can start long time traditions.

About 10 years ago my wife was ill for several days during the second week of February. On February 14th that year she finally started feeling a little better but still not very good. Cabin fever was setting in and if she didn’t get out of the house we’d all regret it.

Not feeling up to a “nice” dinner out she opted for cheap hamburgers at a local stand. Not having a sitter we had to take the kids with us. They sat quietly at a nearby table and Lisa and I had a chance to enjoy some conversation.

Ever since then our traditional Valentine’s dinner has been cheap burgers at some local joint. Sometime we’re alone but often we’re accompanied by children, friends, out of town guests, or other people.

If you listen to the morning radio shows on any given February 14th you’ll hear how people are planning huge romantic celebrations…expensive meals…jewelry…or other ‘traditional’ ways of demonstrating their love for their chosen ‘valentine.’

As for me - I’ll gladly settle for cheap hamburgers and quiet conversation. Truth be known, maybe we’re not the ones settling.

The last few days I’ve been working on some paperwork for our “friends” at the revenue service. It’s never fun and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid it. Believe me…I’ve tried.

The amazing thing is that once you get it over with you feel so much better. It’s one of those necessary evils and the price we pay to live within our society. I guess compared to most of the rest of the world we come out ahead. Like most Americans I complain about taxes but I also realize that they are a necessary part of our culture. We could do without them…but then we’d eventually become like many of the third world countries. No resources…no infrastructure…none of the benefits that we’ve come to depend upon in our world.

This [preparing my tax return] is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher.
Albert Einstein

It’s amazing how often we get things reversed. So often in life we find ourselves concentrating so much on the expedient that we forget the important.

Life seems to be full of conflicts and pressures that it is easy to overlook the critical issues in life. The constant pounding to produce…earn…bring results…finish…excel can easily replace those thoughts in our mind that encourage us to create and seek out efforts of lasting importance.

Most of the time the really important issues are not shoved in front of our faces every few minutes…rather they promoted by that still, small voice in the back of mind that, at best, we struggle to hear through the grind of daily life. Learning to be concious to that whisper is difficult. It is easy to allow the drone of normal activity to make us lose our focus on the valuable and important things.

It is very similar in concept to what I teach in my photography classes. I always tell my students that there are thousands of incredible photographs all around us everyday. We have to learn to develop an eye that is constantly seeking out those images. I find the best way to do that is to regularly reexamine all of those mundane items that we walk past everyday. Learn to see them in new light and from new angles. Learn to appreciate the beauty that is found in the familiar. Actively seek out those items that have become so commonplace to us and spend some time getting reacquainted and energized about them. When that happens suddenly you become aware of wonderful things around you and the world takes on a new shape.

Seeking out activities that are important enough to you to trade your life for takes that same kind of creative searching and constant examination of everything around you.

Is it hard?….yes. Is it time consuming?….somewhat. Is it important?…well we’ve all got only so much time on this earth and we need to realize that we trade some of the time for every activity that we do. I find that thinking along these lines encourages me to spend time wisely and it encourages me seek out functions and activities that have a sense of purpose and value.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Sir Winston Churchill

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