My friend Nat recently had Lasik which inspired me to be spontaneous and get it myself. Lo and behold, I can still 👀
There’s a quote from Annie Dillard
that has always stuck with me: “how we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
She goes on to illustrate two days. The first, an incredibly appealing schedule from a turn-of-the-century Danish aristocrat:
He got up at four and set out on foot to hunt black grouse, wood grouse, woodcock, and snipe. At eleven he met his friends, who had also been out hunting alone all morning. They converged “at one of these babbling brooks,” he wrote. He outlined the rest of his schedule. “Take a quick dip, relax with a schnapps and a sandwich, stretch out, have a smoke, take a nap or just rest, and then sit around and chat until three. Then I hunt some more until sundown, bathe again, put on white tie and tails to keep up appearances, eat a huge dinner, smoke a cigar and sleep like a log until the sun comes up again to redden the eastern sky. This is living…. Could it be more perfect?”
She contrasts the aristocrat’s schedule with that of Wallace Stevens
, one of the most devoted self-disciplinarians I’ve ever encountered.
Wallace Stevens in his forties, living in Hartford, Connecticut, hewed to a productive routine. He rose at six, read for two hours, and walked another hour—three miles—to work. He dictated poems to his secretary. He ate no lunch; at noon he walked for another hour, often to an art gallery. He walked home from work—another hour. After dinner he retired to his study; he went to bed at nine. On Sundays, he walked in the park.
If you’re like me, your first thought was “I’ll take the aristocrat’s schedule!” but Dillard came to the opposite conclusion, and I now think, rightly so.
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?
The paradox is that a good life is made up of a series of structured days. Perhaps take a moment to ask yourself what your average day looks like, what should you take away, what should you add? After all, we are the sum total of all our days put together.
🍺 to another great week ahead!