art of the dragonfly

“Art of the Dragonfly” is an idea I’ve clung onto to make sense of my life. Although, it keeps seeming more like an ideal, an unattainable fantasy, than a reality I can build my life around.

At the start of this year, I was challenged in a way I had never been before. My entire life philosophy was challenged. By someone I love and respect, I was pretty much told, “You’re doing too much, and you are destined to fail if you keep this up.” Obviously, I didn’t take that sitting down. I spent weeks in a meditative existential crisis until, “hmmm nah I disagree.” And thus, “Art of the Dragonfly” was born.

There’s something beautiful about dragonflies that I admire. They have a unique flight pattern in which they seem to float mid-air, then they dash to another spot and linger, then another spot and linger. One of them snuck on a tour bus Shelby and I were on in Vietnam, and I had an interesting revelation. To many people, maybe to other bugs, the dragonfly’s flight pattern makes no sense. It’s erratic. Without direction. Aimless. Yet, if you know the dragonfly, you know it’s all calculated.

The first component is “focus.”

There’s a method to the madness.

The second, most integral component of the “Art of the Dragonfly” is what I call “circling the light.” How do you determine what’s worth pursuing? What’s fruitful and productive? By looking towards God of course. Insects are naturally drawn towards light – they flutter and dash circling it. I saw the same thing with following Jesus.

There are good things worth your time, and there are bad things (or perhaps, it’s more accurate to say “unproductive”).

Fundamentally, this philosophy can be broken down simply: “Do more good, do less bad.” Figure out what is productive in your life and do it better. Cut out the fluff. Use your 24 hours wisely.

In practice, I found I was constantly leveraging my time and energy with God: I have 3 spare hours today. If I buckle down and read the Bible for one full hour, pray for 20 minutes, work on my business 40 minutes, then I can do whatever I want for the last hour. I can play games or maybe watch a movie. I’ve deserved it.

God, I’ve done enough for you today, haven’t I? It’s me time now.

Yet, that isn’t what the Bible teaches. Not at all. Jesus doesn’t call us to invite Him partially into our lives. He isn’t satisfied with just a couple of hours. He wants to be a part of it all.

One of the the most profound revelations I’ve had this year is that of the Pharisee. The Pharisees are referred to by Jesus as a brood of vipers. As self-righteous hypocrites who love to be praised. Who define themselves by their works and leave no room for God. I would always read these as examples of what not to do. I would imagine myself as Jesus admonishing and rebuking the people. When one day, it hit me. Jesus isn’t talking about someone else. He’s talking about me. I am the Pharisee.

This idea that I need to do more “good” things in my life is completely missing the point. God isn’t some boss that I need to impress and hit a quota for. He isn’t more or less satisfied in me based on how much I’ve done that day. I don’t deserve more free time, I need to completely rethink free time.

Circling the light is not a zero sum game. It is not cutting out the junk food and eating wheat and berries. Rather, it’s a full reorientation. A complete surrender of our lives to God. Jesus wants to be with me when I’m playing video games. He wants to be a part of my naps, my walks in the park. The moments I feel ashamed and unworthy, lazy and unproductive, He wants in on all of it. The moment I begin to try to polish up my life, to be worthy by my fruits, I’ve lost. And it wasn’t until I let go of everything, until I surrendered fully to my Maker, did this all become clear.

The idea of the “Art of the Dragonfly” is not a lost cause. It’s just a little off. Because, in a sense, it is doing more “good,” but it’s finding the good in a different place. It’s redefining and reimagining what good means. Anything with God is good. Eating dinner with family is good. Texting your friends is good. Watching Netflix, playing games, shopping, napping, it can all be good. Just like caring for the poor, volunteering, building your business, can all be bad. It’s all about your perspective. Your heart. Where are you placing your identity? What are you doing this for?

On that note, I’ve changed this blog’s name lol. As much as I love “Art of the Dragonfly” and built a strong case for it, it just doesn’t resonate as much for me as “joy of josh.” Joy encompasses a lot more of who I am and who I want to be, but it’s getting a little late so I’ll get into that another time haha.

Much love.

Josh Swanson