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Nightmare at the Museum

Grandma's Living Room

Let’s start with a story.

Mrs. Swaim and I had the pleasure of meeting a developmentally challenged couple that married later in life. Unable to attend the ceremonies, we were invited to a private viewing of the pictures of the festivities. The pictures were all digitized and we were able to view them on what we used to call a television. It was winter and cold. And it was Friday night after a busy week. We reached their apartment, probably the first independent living space they had ever occupied, and we were warmly greeted. After being plied with every imaginable junk food item ever made, we were shown the couch, about 3 feet from the TV. The room was warm, very warm. About 85 degrees warm. Apparently they were quite cold or had yet to be educated on interior climate control. So there we were all sugared up, warm bordering on hot, in our seats and ready for the show. Smitten and giggly, they watched as we watched. The slide show began like most, we were asking questions, and they were filling in details. And then, after seeing about eight pictures of the rings, I noticed the picture counter in the corner. You know the one that lets you know what number of picture you are on and how many were left to go. To my muffled horror, I realized we were in for 743 pictures! We were in for the long haul. They needed a curator.

And that is the point of the story. Our friends made the classic blunder, most of us make, of failing to curate.

The verb curate means: to cull, to sift through, to reduce, to select.

A museum routinely curates its collection. Some items make it onto the gallery walls, and many more, most if the curator is good, don’t get displayed. What is displayed is typically of more value because it advances a story. You get the idea, to pare down so that what is valuable is not over run by what is not. Some works may be excellent, and still left out because they do not convey the theme the curator has in mind. What we leave out is as important as what we include.

Where is all of this going, this museum curator jazz?

We are all storytellers. We are all curators. And curators MUST choose wisely if they are to be healthy, have healthy relationships, emotions, and bodies. If we fail to leave things out, if we include too many things, if we are too busy, we typically devalue everything.

Let’s take this one step farther.

In the spirit of the last two blog posts (Be Very Aware, Choose What to IgnoreCan Smooth Really Be Faster?) let us continue addressing busyness, because busyness does not usually take us where we want to go.

Consider this challenging quote:

“Being busy is a form of laziness…of lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”  Tim Ferriss

Ouch! How can this be?

When we fail to curate our thoughts and actions, when we are busy instead of productive, we devalue everything. We don’t move and live smoothly, we don’t ignore things out of our control. Every thought and action is on equal footing with every other thought and action. Because we have not taken the time to curate, to cull, to sift, which is truly difficult work, we have become in a sense, lazy. We act indiscriminately. Every action is viewed as equally important as any other. Every picture in our newlyweds’ album was not of equal value.  Including all of the photos, devalued the whole experience.

What am I suggesting?

In addition to focusing on being smooth, take an inventory of your thoughts and actions. This is hard work. Cull, sift, curate. And then leave things out. Lots of things. So much of our busyness is unproductive and due to laziness. And that doesn’t take us to where we want to go.

Remember your Grandma’s living room?  Failure to curate!

Leave stuff out, your health depends on it.

Art Museum in Denmark



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