Friday, May 25, 2012

Is This Anything?

David Letterman amuses me.  Maybe because he seems to have an Indiana sense of humor; I'm not sure. But the man keeps me laughing.

Several years ago (when I was keeping odd enough hours to see Letterman on a regular basis), he was doing a segment called "Is This Anything?"  He may still be doing it from time-to-time.  I'm not sure.  But the premise was this: behind the big curtain was someone doing something.  After a few seconds of the person's demonstration, the curtain closed and left Dave and Paul (his band leader) to discuss whether or not what they saw was anything.

What amused me the most was that whoever stood behind the curtain had the most over-developed, over-stretched attempt at "anything."  It was never just a juggler.  It was a juggler with 17 flaming bowling pins and one chainsaw for good measure.  It wasn't a person balancing fine china on a pole.  It was a person balancing fine china on a pole on their forehead while standing on a ball.  It wasn't a hula-hooper.  It was a hula-hooper times twenty, with two or three hoops around each body part capable of a swivel.

Yes, I'm amused by watching people try so hard.  It was the overdone nature of the acts, the way-out-of-proportion-ness that got me chuckling.

But I get it.

For some reason, we're primed to believe that unless it's extravagant, it isn't anything.  We can see it in the ways we push ourselves - to fit in another meeting, to pull longer hours at the office, to have another kid in another sport or activity or league, to train harder and do more cardio.  We can see it in the way we tell our stories, trying to one-up each other and straining to have an experience to answer any experience anyone else may have had.  If we don't have an extreme, we don't have anything.

Then we're standing there behind a curtain, almost in the open but not quite, spinning as many plates, as many hoops, as many pins as possible and the curtain opens, someone gets a glimpse of what we're doing, and the curtain drops again.  We can only hear them now, asking "Is this anything?"  

And the answer is no.  This isn't anything.

A few times, Dave would have the performer make a second appearance, near the end of the show if they had a bit of time to waste.  Then they'd close the curtain, Dave would look at Paul, and they would agree, "No.  It still isn't anything."

To the woman circled in hoops, drenched in sweat, and standing on ten years of faithful practice, it felt like something.  And it was something but it was...nothing at the same time.  It was just wasn't anything.

We are so needlessly busy.  We are pushing ourselves to the extremes, thinking that the grander the display, the more likely it is that it is anything.  I think a lot of us would be disappointed to find out, when the curtain closes on our lives and we're hidden away, that those left standing on the outside look at what we've done and say, "No.  It isn't anything."

God has blessed us greatly.  I know He has me.  What I fear is that in my attempt to have something that is anything, to do something that is anything, to BE something that is anything...I'm over-developing my business, over-stretching my limits, over-doing my efforts until it kind of looks like it might be something but isn't anything.

What I'm finding is that we have to make the conscious decision to slow down, to contemplate what we're doing.  Not to the extent of not doing anything, but toward the goal of actually doing anything.  Our something becomes anything when we focus on the discipline of doing one little thing right.  It's impressive to stand behind the curtain, poised to make a visual display of it....but there is something captivating about honing your craft to the point that doing one simple thing very well makes a more powerful statement than looking busy.

It's what we enjoy about concerts - watching the band play a set.  We're not waiting for them to also carve a guitar out of a hunk of wood, build a stage, pop the popcorn, and peddle hot dogs.  We enjoy them because their passion bursts through in their music.  It's the same with a stand-up comic.  We expect him to make us laugh.  But we're not holding our breath for magic tricks and we don't expect him to also be taking our ticket at the door.  We want to see him on stage doing what he loves, what fuels him.  Taking in his show fuels us.

The same is true with anything we do.  Whether you're a nurse, a teacher, a fireman, a mother, a father, a burger-flipper, a student, a cashier, a laborer, or something so mundane as a writer - pour your heart into your passion.  Put your energies into doing one thing - that one thing, your one thing - very well.  It will hone you.  It will drive you.  It will fuel and feed you, and in turn, you will fuel and feed the world.  Maybe it won't be as shocking and stimulating to look at as flaming bowling pins or hula hoops with sparklers all over them, but you will know that what you're doing is more than something.

It is anything.

Take an honest look at what you're doing.  Is it anything?

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