How to build a life worth living

Eliza Anderson, Deseret News
Eliza Anderson, Deseret News

This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

Each weekend, my husband and I take turns putting our toddler down for his nap. When it’s my turn, Mike enjoys his extra free time by playing a video game, going to the gym or doing some yardwork. When it’s his turn, I generally sit on the couch staring at my computer.

My husband has repeatedly pointed out this habit of mine and questioned whether there’s something else I’d rather be doing. Why not walk the dogs, watch a movie or even take a nap of my own? he asks.

In response, I typically mutter something about having some work I want to get done and then turn my attention back to my laptop screen. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve probably spent around half of my son’s naps over the past 2.5 years wasting time on my computer.

That bad habit flashed into my head last week as I read a new book from some of my former professors at Yale Divinity School: “Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most.” Something told me they wouldn’t think much of my penchant to read emails and refresh Twitter in the few spare hours I have on Saturdays and Sundays.

What Miroslav Volf, Matthew Croasmun and Ryan McAnnally-Linz would have me do instead is think about what shape I want my life to take and what significance I want it to have — and then act accordingly. Their book urges readers to live with intention, rather than to mindlessly drift through week after week.

If you, like me, are in a very busy season of life, then I don’t blame you for rolling your eyes. When you’re juggling long to-do lists and especially when you’re parenting cute-but-challenging small children, you don’t need someone telling you that you should spend your free time thinking about the meaning of your life.

But as I read “Life Worth Living,” I had to admit that Volf, Croasmun and McAnnally-Linz weren’t trying to take readers on a guilt trip. They provided a road map toward a new, more fulfilling style of living, while encouraging people to follow it at their own pace.

So what would it look like for me to lead a “life worth living” as my son naps? I think that would mean doing something that recharges me and helps me chase my goal of being the best mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend and worker I can be.

So, yes, taking my own nap could be great sometimes, but so would spending some time out in the sunshine or baking brownies or reading a good book. All of those things fill up my cup faster than scrolling through my Twitter feed.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the poet Iain Thomas that rattled around in my brain as I thought about crafting a life worth living:

“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’”

Fresh off the press

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Term of the week: Codex Sassoon

Have $30 million to spare? Consider putting it toward the purchase of one of the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, called the Codex Sassoon.

The Codex Sassoon, which will be up for auction in May at Sotheby’s, is “a leather-bound, handwritten parchment tome containing almost the entirety of the Hebrew Bible,” The Associated Press reported. It’s about 1,100 years old.

“There are three ancient Hebrew Bibles from this period,” said Yosef Ofer, a professor of Bible studies at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, to The Associated Press, noting that older manuscripts, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls, are incomplete.

The Codex Sassoon is expected to be sold for between $30 and $50 million.

“If the target price is realized, the Codex Sassoon could not only eclipse the most expensive Jewish document ever sold. ... It also could break the record for the priciest historical document ever sold at public auction. That honor is currently held by a 1787 copy of the U.S. Constitution sold in 2021 for $43 million,” The Associated Press reported.

What I’m reading ...

Few things are worse than rowdy neighbors. Just ask the Carmelite nuns of Cypress Hills, who decided to leave their home in Brooklyn after the police failed to do anything about chaotic late-night parties taking place outside their windows. “As much as they tried, the sisters of the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph, devotees of silence and prayer who rarely left the confines of the cloister, could no longer ignore what was going on outside. The loud celebrations in an adjacent park became a bit too much,” The New York Times recently reported. The nuns moved together to rural Pennsylvania.

On the occasion of Ramadan beginning last week, Dilshad Ali reflected for Religion News Service on what it means for the holiday to now be widely recognized by non-Muslims. “Ramadan is at last becoming baked into American life, and yeah, it feels good,” she wrote.

Odds and ends

Public Religion Research Institute released its latest look at Americans’ views on LGBTQ rights last week. Among many other findings, the survey showed that 10% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ.

Utah State University in Logan, Utah, is hosting a Jewish inclusion seminar series this week to educate the community about Jewish identity and rising antisemitism. Here’s the registration information if you’re interested in attending.