I listened to a podcast recently where the tagline was "Sit Coortum Proelium," or "Let the battle begin." (Podcast here). Well, that basically screamed at me, "MAKE THIS!" So I did.
It's about 3.5x5.5 inches, so not a large one. Just a prototype. But if I can keep the chaos to a minimum today, I'll be making the bigger version (5.5x8.5).
Here's the write-up from the store:
Me: I have GOT to get to my To Do list today.
Also me: Hey, how about if I make some things nobody asked for?
A certain phrase has been rattling around in my head for months now:
Motivation is merde.
I first heard Gary Vaynerchuk (GaryVee) say it in one of his billion or so videos, but I like the French-ish version better. You can use it in polite, monolingual company, AND it's alliterative. ;-)
When I say that "motivation is merde," I mean that BY ITSELF, divorced from action, is garbage. It's planning with no action. It's planning to plan, actually. I'm not totally discounting the sometimes incredibly helpful phenomenon of motivation, but without action, it's incomplete.
For Eastern Catholics, Lent began last night with Forgiveness Vespers. For roughly the next 40 days we'll be in a season of repentance, fasting and abstinence. ("Abstinence" here means abstaining from certain foods like meat, dairy products, eggs, milk, cheese and butter.) Perhaps for the first time in 40+ years, I see this less as a time of deprivation and more of a time of spiritual warfare.
In fact, if I count the last 40+ years of Lents as battles, then I've been soundly beaten Every. Single. Time. Perhaps more on that another time, though.
The mindset change began when I saw the icon of St. Theodore the Commander at the local Greek Orthodox church a couple of weeks ago. (As Eastern Catholics, we are a bit like pilgrims in a strange land here in Tulsa, so we found ourselves at the closest equivalent.) During Divine Liturgy I noticed this icon of a soldier - a man in armor who carried a sword, spear and shield. I'm used to seeing St. Michael there, but this was...a human. Seemed odd. And since I'd never heard of St. Theodore before, I was intrigued. Turns out he has an amazing story. You should definitely check it out if you're interested in such things.
I think what struck me most about St. Theodore (aside from his cool armor, which I'll be making after a few level-ups), is his mastery of his situation. I mean, as an icon of spiritual warfare, he looks the part, but his story, his control of his own soul as his world was coming to an end, is most inspiring. In a situation where most people would be tempted to succumb to fear and terror (and most people would), he trolled the Emperor Licinius.
Licinius: "I hear you're a Christian who won't worship our idols."
Theodore: "I'm not NOT a Christian..."
Licinius: "I need you to come see me."
Theodore: "Can't right now. Busy. Could you come to me?"
Licinius: >< "Fine."
Theodore honored the emperor with a feast at which Licinius requested that he publicly worship the idols. It didn't go so well - for the emperor.
You have to admire the chutzpa it took for the saint to hold the line while the walls were closing in around him. How did he do it?
It's safe to say that St. Theodore was already an experienced spiritual warrior in addition to being an actual warrior. He first maintained control of his mind and soul. Oddly enough, I did a bit of reading on that this morning, and three consecutive passages all pointed to the same absolute necessity to bring your body and mind under control.
"Leading the repentant man to undertake spiritual work, the Holy Spirit, who called him to repentance...Then the body will become obedient to the dictates of the mind in all things, and the mind will masterfully determine its food and drink, its sleep and its every other action, constantly learning from the Holy Spirit to keep the body under control and bring it into subjection."
- St. Anthony the Great.
"Let us conduct this mental war in the following order. The first thing is attention; then when we notice a wicked thought draw near, let us wrathfully hurl a heart-felt curse at it. The third ting is to turn the heart to the invocation of Jesus Christ and pray Him to disperse forthwith this phantom of the demons, lest the mind run after this fantasy like a child attracted by a skillful juggler."
- St. Hesychios of Jerusalem
"Be attentive to yourself, then, to yourself, that is, neither to what is yours nor to what is around you, but be attentive only to yourself, that is, to your soul. Adorn it and take care of it...Examine what sort of being you are. Know your own nature, that your body is mortal but your soul is immortal.
- St. Basil the Great
As anyone who's ever tried to master one's thoughts and actions knows, it's a battle. "Discipline = Freedom," to quote Jocko Willink. Discipline starts with mastery of the mind.
What does any of this have to do with leatherworking custom notebooks? Well, for me, everything. I don't make these things just because they're pretty. (Definitely a part of it, though). I am obsessed with carving out mental space within which people can unlock...themselves. For me, that means the written word - the literal written word. A "think space," to quote a phrase from my least effective marketing jargon. Haha.
But also, I'm working on a St. Theodore-themed notebook. Keep an eye out for that if you're interested.
Anyway, this Lent is definitely going to be a battle for me and my family. We've moved to a strange new place and all of our comforts, our "support systems" (blech) are gone. Or at least only accessible digitally, which I'd say is one step above "non-existent." I can already hear the sounds of marching coming from Mordor. It's only a little while now before I hear an Orcish, "Look at them - what are they doing? Praying? Get 'em, boys!"
St. Theodore the Commander, pray for us.
The other day I asked Shannon at Authentic Masculinity if he could elaborate on the "Prince" part of AM's "5 Privileges:"
Prince, Priest, Prophet, Provider and Protector.
I thought I could suss it out, but I wanted to know what he thought. The following is his reply, which I think makes for a great Valentine's Day reflection...
"Hey Chris, here's a run down... but the Prince is essentially Man as Leader... we must study to lead... and in our marriages we must lead as equals to our wives, which is tough and I compare it to dancing. Neither a man nor a woman is above the other on the dance floor, but the man leads and the woman follows but she must know he is able to lead so he inspires confidence in her. If he does that, then she is a complement to him and her own confident femininity is stronger... in a marriage our wives allow us to lead if we earn that privilege... and they can rescind their willingness to follow if we fail to earn their confidence each day... that kind of approach."
Something to think about...
Last week the guys at Authentic Masculinity invited me to their podcast for some reason or another. Must have been a slow week. Lol.
If you'd like to check it out, here you go: https://authenticmasculinity.libsyn.com/am38-the-journey-with-chris-jolma
We went to a few different places, including entrepreneurship, family, marriage and virtue. I'll be honest: it was a blast being interviewed as though I have definitive, actionable thoughts on these things, but I consider myself in no way an expert. I'm still figuring everything out. Maybe that's why they called it "The Journey."
Speaking of journeys, I'm writing this in a hotel in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. I'm moving my family to Oklahoma for a variety of reasons, chief among them employment more along the lines of what I want to do with my life. (More on that later). So, if you want to place an order, or if you have an order in progress, please be patient as I reset my entire life with this project that is...ah...far larger than I thought it would be. I should be up and running again around Wednesday of next week. Cheers!
No, really. 2020 was the kind of teacher whose class nobody wanted to take, but years later, you'll remember what you learned. You'll still be talking about Mr. 2020's horrifying class ten years from now.
At least that's how I'll choose to remember it. But don't worry - this isn't a "positive vibes only" kind of post.
For us, it started out as a year full of opportunity. We went all-in on our homeschooling business. It limped along. It's still a thing, but our circumstances weren't optimal, you might say. We were still digging out from the crash of the business before that, underemployment, and then, you know, the international pandemic...
Like I said - not optimal.
But there at the tail end of it we had lots of opportunity to reflect on the why of it all - why it was so hard to work together. Why certain efforts seemed to go nowhere. Why other (surprising) things seemed to work so well. And for me, what keeps me pushing through what seemed like the impossible.
You can't pay for that kind of experience. I'm grateful.
I don't do New Year's resolutions. I used to, but now I see every single day as an opportunity to improve, and more importantly, to practice virtues like patience and forgiveness. I'm terrible at it, but that's the point. Until I'm animated totally by grace, I resolve every day to do better.
I will say this, though - I'm going to focus on time management more in 2021. One of the biggest revelations of the last year was how grotesquely easy it is to let time (and therefore opportunity) slip by. "I'll get around to it" is a great way to lose days, months or even decades. No more. We always hear people say, "Live in the moment," but I wonder how many people actually do that. I wonder how many people put everything they have into every action of the day. Given how difficult that really is, I doubt it's many.
So, even if I have to call it a New Year's resolution, I'll be claiming my time this year, and, God-willing, every year going forward. For me, that's going to mean a lot more scheduling (sigh), and a lot more summoning energy when it feels like there's none left. And most of all, it means giving everything I have to those I love and those who are depending on me.
I honestly don't know if I'd have felt the bone-deep necessity of this calling if 2020 had been the success we'd hoped for (and worked our butt off to achieve). So, that's why I can say, in all honesty, that 2020 was awesome.
Hey stranger - Thanks for stopping by! Right now, this website is a little bit like a trading post far out in the unexplored wilds of Ontario circa 1701. There are no roads, no trails...and yet, in the midst of a clearing, there's a cabin with buttery light emanating from the windows and a lazy question mark of red pine smoke hovering above the mud chimney...
And do you smell biscuits baking? Maybe...
Until I wrote that, I hadn't consciously associated my intentions with such an image, but it's...curiously apt.
This project comes at the end of, and maybe because of, a long road. More on that later, but let me toss this to you: The world is in a bad place right now. Particularly our country (I'm talking about the United States right now, just to clarify for my inexplicable visitors from the 'Stans). To be as non-partisan as possible, let's just say there's a veritable archaeological table of BS covering everything, it's rising by a foot a day, and it was up to our eyeballs about four generations ago.
Everything is fake.
I've done a long tour through all of it, and dear reader, I'm tired of treading in it. Even at my professional peak, I made nothing. I produced nothing. At the end of a grueling day, when the mission was accomplished, there was nothing to point to, or to hold, and say, "I made that."
Later, as my career went a very different direction, a successful day might be measured by a modest number of new signups to a monthly plastic toy subscription service. "Look at these numbers," I might say, "They're...modest."
Five or six years ago I picked up some scraps of leather from Michaels along with some tools I had no idea what to do with, entertaining the idea of starting a hobby just to mollify the now-powerful desire to do something real. Then life happened some more, and then again, and then again...
Long story short, I finally decided to explore this weird desire to make real things. To call it a "disruptive" decision would be an understatement.
So here we are. I make things. Primarily notebooks for now, because a routine meeting in a conference room sparked that first impetus to get moving. A colleague showed up with this gorgeous, mocha-colored notebook with a wood backing, held together with hand-cut and hand-ground copper rings.
"Where on earth did you get that?" I asked.
"I made it," she said.
Watch Roger Rabbit to get an idea of what my googly-eyes looked like in that moment.
"YOU CAN DO THAT?"
Evidently, you can. So I did. And now I do.
More on my philosophy of the hand-written note later (I seem to have a philosophy for everything), but for now, suffice it to say that this didn't start as an opportunity for market penetration, but as a calling.
Right now you might be thinking, "Why is this barista talking to me?" I get it. No worries. I'm glad you stopped by. If you like what you see, feel free to support The Calling(TM) with a purchase. Or, if you'd like to see what I might be able to make for you, click here. But that's my story (for now.) More soon.
Maker of Things, Eastern Catholic, family man, experimenting with entrepreneurship. These are my opinions. Feel free to disagree, but you don't have a right to my compliance. ;-)