Van Gogh prepared his craft to go to Paris where the hub of neo-impressionists had been buzzing. He arrived to have his soul nourished by being in proximity to other painters.

Victor Frankl would say that being in proximity to those in suffering deepens your religious and existential purpose and drive. Freed from concentration camps, he began a psychotherapy practice to get close to the hurting again.

Activists in Richard Powers’ novel, The Overstory, find proximal inspiration from fellow environmental defenders in upstate Washington where the battle against deforestation rages on.

Energy, depth and purpose, inspiration-unity through proximity. We all have a natural inclination toward communities. We can use community for self-gain, status, pleasure, or any other hedonistic rewards, or we can suck the marrow out of those last five letters.


One of the first things you can learn (and clearly observe) about growing grapes is that you need a trellis to bear any fruit. Without this formative tool, grape vines will not catch enough sun light, they will shoot off in the wrong directions, and they will not spread evenly across the area they inhabit.

A trellis gives space to the vine to hang off the wood a bit, but always be kept safe by lines and framework built into the grapevine’s life.

A Rule (or Way) of Life was an early monastic practice of creating a trellis of habits and disciplines by which to live life. Similar to keystone habits, this Rule, to steal the sculptor Elizabeth Kings line, “guards us from the poverty of our intentions.” When committed a Rule of Life protects your daily whatever by reinforcing its integrity to your being.

Practically, this looks like daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual practices that give life, grow goals, and gain purpose.

Now, this is usually the biggest contention point- routine sets free.
There are those who disagree vehemently and those who agree but believe written goals and detailed outlines are taking it all a bit too far.

Re-enter Elizabeth king.

Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.

Like the grapevine that climbs past the trellis to the sun, we desire to rebel from that which is good for us (at least till we re-habituate our desires), but we will find, like Icarus, we cannot leave our “groundedness” without getting burned.

A trellis to put our lives on gives consistent, daily groundedness and fluidity to pursue our deepest desires without the pressure of perfection.


How do we say 16,000 words per day (on average)??
With frivolity (I say, using 0.0001% of my limit).

Aaron Burr may have been onto something with his “talk less, smile more” mantra, as smiling improves livelihood and silence saves oxygen.

I admit many of these 16,000 fall into important categories like encouragement, building relationships, or sharing information.

But how much more conscious can we be of the quality of our words further than the quantity?


At a garden on campus, I see a bluejay pecking at capsules holding meaty pecans high above. She flits between branches to remove her prey from its branch. Nervous, she glances left, right, up, down, seeking out predators with a literal flight or flight response intact and spring-loaded. Her’s is a world of dangers and threats too innumerable to avoid long-term. She and those she nurtures await a life of constant fearing and ceaselessness.

How often do so many of us live this way?
How many of us forget that we are blessed to be able to cease?

cease; v.

Bring or come to an end.


You are a product of your environment…

This is only half a truth.

A truth that allows people to stay shaped by their environment in a vicious cycle of false desires to change that aren’t enough to escape more self-suffering.

The other half of this truth is antithetical and seemingly contradictory.

…who is able to change and grow past your past.