Less and more.

9/9/11: I had to revise this post…when I’m tired I find myself defaulting into hyper-critical preachy mode, which is exactly what I DO NOT want to do…or be. Romans 12:21 says to overcome evil with good. This sounds simple enough, but I’ve developed the bad habit of responding to evil (or my perception of evil) with sarcasm, which often devolves into outright contempt. Not good. And certainly not conducive to overcoming evil.

So here’s the new version. A little less sarcastic and a little more good.

*****

I flew into DC from the West Coast early this morning under the wispy remains of Hurricane Irene. While she has caused havoc elsewhere, Irene (whose name means peace) has singlehandedly driven out the oppressive heat and unrelenting humidity that has been hanging over the Capital for months. I am grateful for this silver lining.

When it comes to extreme weather, I firmly believe less is more. As Thomas Paine said, “Moderation in temper[ature] is always a virtue.”

Summer in DC creeps up on you. First you’re enjoying the balmy evenings and the fireflies and then you’re emptying the five-gallon tank in your industrial strength dehumidifier twice a day.

But today fall is in the air and everything just seems more normal…more tempered. Of course in DC, “normal” is a relative term. So if normal means being inundated with seventeen different issues in a single afternoon, then today is about as typical as it gets.

Sometimes I think people here take themselves way too seriously – myself included. I’m getting ready to leave my job of five years as a congressional staffer and I am astounded at the piles of paper I’ve produced – not to mention a hard drive full of assorted documents and thousands of e-mails. These all represent projects I invested my life in that are now, for the most part, forgotten. A few have been completed and celebrated, but so much of what I’ve done will be relegated to the recycle bin.

I’ve been through three congressional election cycles and each time I watched as the staffers whose bosses lost their seats had to clear out their spaces to make way for the new representatives. Huge trash and recycling bins would be parked outside the offices, filled to overflowing with suddenly meaningless work product. Endless hours – entire lives – reduced, reused and recycled…or hauled off in some dumpster to a landfill. Sobering.

Other times, I think we don’t take ourselves nearly seriously enough. We are human beings made in the image of a creative, passionate, awe-inspiring God. Yet too many of us wind up in a work environment and routine that is demeaning and demoralizing. I spent most of the last five years working in a cubicle. I don’t get cubicle world. I’ve said this before but couldn’t we come up with something more outside the box than…a box?

Taking your life – my life – seriously means taking the time to think…and pray. You may disagree with me on this, but I believe we are wired to be in constant communication with the One who made us. He is the Server and we are the workstations…or something like that. While Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, you have to have something objective to examine your life against – some standard or ideal that exists outside of your own mind. A fruitful thought and prayer life isn’t the product of a five-minute daily meditation or even fifteen minutes of morning “quiet time.” As my best friend often says, “there’s just no substitute for taking time to think about things.”

During my tenure as a staffer, I heard lots of complaints that Congress doesn’t do enough. I disagree. Congress does plenty, but people here simply don’t have the the time to fully contemplate what – and why – they are doing. It used to be that gravitas was a virtue. Now we’re all about momentum and efficiency. Decisions are made and legislation is drafted, passed, signed and enacted…often without reflecting on the full scope of consequences.

If less really is more, than maybe Congress should start doing its fair share.

By the way, my favorite bill ever was last year’s H.Con.Res. 155: the “Complaint Free Wednesday” Resolution, which asks Americans to refrain from complaining on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so they can reflect on the maxim that “having a positive life begins with having a positive attitude.” Yes. And maybe we should ask Anthony Robbins and Deepak Chopra to solve our national debt crisis and authorize a defense budget.

Okay, a little sarcasm leaked out there. I’ll work on getting gooder.

In the meantime, I’m going to follow the path of Irene and downgrade my activity. It is time for me to learn to do less…and become more.

“If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.” Samuel Adams