Getting Down To Brass Tacks

How many of you saw that crazy ending to the Vikings-Seahawks football game on Sunday? For those who did, I’m sure the last thing you want is to be reminded of the pain of that defeat.

But for me, the pain is indicative of something. And so it serves as a growing opportunity — one I happened to have been corresponding with my brother about the morning of the game.

To my brother I wrote the phrase “getting down to brass tacks.” I was referring to my current process eliminating the preoccupying activities I engage in (killing time on the internet, snacking) as well as ceasing how wound up I become about things that don’t warrant such emotion (social issues…or sports). It’s one thing to watch a contest and appreciate the skill and the drama. It’s another to live through the game, and thus, have one’s mood (even self-worth) determined by its outcome.

So for the last several years, I’ve slowly eased away from sports, usually by planning activities for Sunday afternoons. This last weekend, I was pretty disciplined and just kept the TV off for most of the game while I worked. But then I saw online that it was competitive toward the end. I turned on the TV — to punish myself, I guess.

Ah, those old feelings. I hunched toward the TV with nervousness, stomach tightening, and then…

skepticism: “There’s no way the Vikings are gonna pull this off.”

disbelief: “Oh my gosh, the Vikings are going to pull this off!”

confusion/acceptance: “I can’t believe they didn’t pull this off…”

After the loss, my mind wanted to rerun the ending and imagine it going differently.

Nope. Wasn’t gonna do it.

I turned off the TV and went about my day.

Whether it’s sports, food, a grudge with another person, a political issue or candidate, or just good ol’ fashioned killing time, I (we) can decide to clear all that preoccupation away and get down to the brass tacks of life.

But if I get rid of all the time-wasters and things I get wound up about, what am I left with? Who are we without all that extra stuff we attach to or escape within? The answer, I have discovered, is a deeper self— or perhaps a truer, more loving energy or entity working through me.

Instead of watching football this season, I went to the coffeeshop to write or I took dance classes. One Sunday afternoon last month, sitting in my chair not exactly sure what to do with myself, I simply went for a walk. I discovered an Indian gift shop in my Minneapolis neighborhood, where I bought some Christmas presents. Instead of killing time or getting wrapped up in a game — avoidance and vicarious — I got up and lived.

Thanks for

When I don’t fill my head, heart, and time with noise, I leave room for the music of life to play out — chords of fundamental, rich aspects of living: discovery, openness, generosity. These “brass tacks” produce the moments we’ll look back on when old and grey — and most appreciate as we’re living them.


This article was adapted from my weekly email to family and friends. If you’d like to be included, shoot me an email at brandon@theperiphery.com and let me know. And while you’re at it, tell me a little about yourself:)

3 Responses

  1. Steve

    All you are doing is trading one thing for another. Going to a coffee shop, taking dancing lessons, or shopping at an Indian gift shop is no more living than watching a game. All you’re are doing is changing cultures. Writers like to hang out in coffee shops and talk to each other about how they hang out in coffee shops. Other people like to watch a game and then talk about the game when they get to work the next day. You’re just doing something that fits in with the culture you wish to fit into. One is no more or less living than the other. You aren’t living any more than you used to, you’ve just found a different culture that you are enjoying.

    Personally, I like to spend weekends digging up rocks looking for fossils. It’s not for everyone. In fact, I’ve found most people find it extremely boring and would say it’s a waste of their time. Their idea of living is different than mine. Just because they don’t prioritize the same things I do, I wouldn’t say that I’m the only one living and they are wasting time with whatever it is they are doing.

    1. I tried to personalize it to my own experience. And in my experience, the activities I chose to do were “more living” than watching sports. Though maybe I did make it seem that watching sports = not living, that wasn’t my intent. To each their own. And if you feel more positive and alive watching the game vs. doing whatever, then that’s great. A different perspective may indeed say that they broke out of their shell of dancing and stayed home to watch the game. My experience just happens to be the opposite. And I appreciate your comments to make me clarify this.

      I also appreciate your weekend activity. Where do you dig for fossils? One of my bucket list items is to dig for dinosaur bones:)

What say you?