Posts Tagged ‘reading right now’

  • June 18, 2011


    in my hiatus from blogging I was not, in fact, hiatusing from inspiration. there was a ton of inspiration to be had. more than I can even list. but here are just a few things that have done the job over the past few months.

    1. weekend vacations – often times, being what some might call an “adult” is overwhelmingly hard. sometimes you just feel inadequate and ill equipped to rise to the challenge. but the good thing about being what some might call an “adult” is that in these moments you also have the ability to step away. to get out of town just for a weekend. to give yourself a break. to remind yourself that your heart is beating and pulsing and regenerating. to think and imagine and create. and it is really great when being what some might call an “adult” means you can rent a hotel room all by yourself. and wander around annapolis. and write. and take pictures of people resting and breathing just as you are resting and breathing.

    2. let the great world spin by collum mccann – how wonderful to find a little book that makes you happy you are alive and know how to read. the images he paints with his words are just incredible. and for a little while his characters became my best friends. only the greatest of books can do that.

    3. fear – it seems antithetical. but sometimes the best inspiration for action is fear. fear of things changing. of things staying the same. fear of loss. of gain. fear of God.

    4. helplessness blues by fleet foxes – I can’t stop listening to them. it is a problem. their harmonies are perfect like simon and garfunkle. their lyrics are indelible and raw and honest. and all those instruments being traded around the stage and played impeccably by any one of the six members? I just can’t get enough. I am pretty sure I need to move back to the pnw as soon as possible so I can increase my chances of meeting robin pecknold.

    5. the bay bridge – so long and high and suspended in that beautiful, impossible way. it goes on forever in a way that makes you think that if you just keep driving straight you will drive right out into that hazy sky above the chesapeake bay. not to mention that I have now been on a bay bridge on both coasts of this country. something about that feels a bit “full circle” to me.

    6. the year of magical thinking by joan didion – never before have I experienced grief and mourning so clearly articulated in a matter-of-fact and yet achingly beautiful way. the ordinary instant…

    7. an empty house – I was so sad when betsy left for the bright lights of nashville. but the idea of an empty house seems somehow refreshing and revitalizing. like a blank sheet of paper. a box waiting to be filled. a body ready for new challenges. a mind ready for new ideas. a heart ready for new experiences. I think I like that.

    8. tapping keys – what a lovely sort of music, the sound my fingers make on the keyboard as I type out my imagination onto a white screen. what a lovely sort of music, the ping of the letters moving up and down. the thoughts flowing from brain to fingers to keys to screen. what a lovely sort of music.

    9. thunderstorms – lately its just been so hot. and humid and suffocating. but every once in a while those clouds roll in. and the sky opens up and lets all that humidity turn into what it is meant to be. every once in a while the clouds break open and the rain falls in heavy sheets. steaming off the hot asphalt. every once in a while everything gets washed away in a flash of thunder and lightening so bright night seems like day. and I am reminded that there is always a respite. if only for a moment before the heat begins again.

    10. smiling – sometimes I wonder what would happen if I smiled at everyone I made eye contact with. on the train. walking down the street. at the bagel shops and coffee shops and grocery stores I frequent. I worry that they would think I am silly and dumb. or would they appreciate someone noticing? would they smile back?

    11. listener – this should be somewhat obvious based on this. he inspires me with his passion and honesty and slight melodrama because let’s face it – we all wish we could be a bit melodramatic every once in a while. he inspires me with his words in songs like this. and this. and of course, this.



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  • November 19, 2010

    fear and trembling

    I just finished reading fear and trembling by soren kierkegaard. full disclosure: I understood about half of it. maybe less. but one part I think I got was when he was talking about what a great life looks like and what it takes to make a great life happen. it takes a lot of effort to live in a way that is working with God to build an awesomely beautiful end scene. and I cannot skip to the end. I cannot steal the lesson or somehow buy greatness. if I really want to learn something and learn how to live, I must begin at the beginning. I cannot expect to know the outcome first, “for one knows the result only when the whole thing is over.” God has saved me and bought me and, for no other reason than his grace, I will get to spend eternity with him. but I still have to do the work to make my story great while I am in this present reality. when everything is said and done, and God asks me what I did with this body and mind and heart that he entrusted to me for a little while, I want to have something interesting to tell him.

    in his book, kierkegaard wrote that our lives become great, “not, by being relieved of the distress, the agony, and the paradox, but because of these.” and I think I am starting to understand that part more and more. that the tests and the trials and the struggles that I live through only make my story better. that if I want to live a great story, I have to do the work to make it happen. that joy costs pain and greatness takes a lot of risk and a whole lot of work. I think I have finally come to a peace with this. but the part that has proven to be harder for me to grasp is how my actions must speak louder than my circumstances. kierkegaard wrote, “it is not what happens to me that makes me great, but what I do.” put another way, in one of my most favorite books, donald miller says, “the only way to know the truth is to make choices under pressure, to take one action or another in the pursuit of desire…the idea that a character is what he does remains the hardest to actually live.” it seems so simple. if I want my story – my life – to be great, it is not just that I need to be able to deal with hard things. I need to be able to act differently in the face of them. I need to be able to love people well despite how I feel. I need to be able to live so that my words are not void. that is a whole lot harder than it seems. and I don’t have a lot of answers at the moment. maybe tomorrow.

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  • November 24, 2008

    Reflections on "Reflections…"

    I am reading (or trying to read in the midst of finals chaos) this phenomenal book called “Waiting for God” by Simone Weil right now. Her insight into how we approach God and our relationship to him in the midst of this crazy world is proving to be vital in my search to understand and develop my own perspective and worldview. One essay I read was called “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.” I have already read it twice. Here are my reflections on “reflections”…
    Everything I do is an exercise in paying attention. From the books I read as a student of literature, to the dates I memorize as a student of history, to the theories I thoughtfully consider as a student of critical thought. But it is not only in my studies that I am practicing attentiveness. Every day, in the aspects of my life that I choose to devote my time to, I am learning how to pay attention. It is what I choose to pay attention to in which the question of my heart lies. Do I pay attention to that which will feed my soul or do I simply spend my time with things that are convenient and easy? Then the question arises: will my perspective of the world ultimately by dictated by what I pay attention to as well? Of course it will be! My worldview is created by the countless episodes of Friends that I watch just as much as it is created by the books of Christian apologetics and history and philosophy that I read.

    I must learn to understand that every action is part of the greater whole of my understanding of the world.

    “When we write, we draw the shape of the letter on paper, not with a view to the shape, but with a view to the idea we want to express.” I do not write letters on a piece of paper in order to express the letter, but to express the idea. The end goal is the idea…but the means to this end must first begin with my knowledge of basic principles like the alphabet and phonetics. In everything that I learn, I must realize that although it may not seem like it directly affects my life, in the end it will all contribute to the whole that creates my worldview. So I must constantly be striving to pay attention. I love that idea, by the way! Such a great analogy (the letter in the word on the page makes the story) for a pretty complex thought!

    But what does it mean to truly pay attention? In my desire to learn how to do this, I have to remember two things. Firstly, too often, I do not pay attention as intently as I think I do. I am not paying attention, only “concentrating on nothing.” Simone Weil writes, “We often expend this kind of muscular effort [instead of true attentiveness] on our studies. As it ends by making us tired, we have the impression that we have been working. That is an illusion. Tiredness has nothing to do with work.” Even if I enter into the act of paying attention (to what I am studying, what I am doing, or what I am praying) with good intentions, this act produces no end except my own exhaustion.

    Secondly, and probably more difficult, I have to learn how to let go of expectations and assumptions about what I should be thinking or feeling or learning. I always go into thigns expecting to get something out of it; assuming that I will leave with some specific goal accomplished. It kind of relates to Gregory Bateson’s idea of purpose driven thinking. He writes that because we have gotten so used to a formulaic way of thinking (A+B=C), we have missed all the answers and truth that goes into the formula. If I always have an end goal of what I want to learn or know or grow in, it is so easy to miss what God is trying to do. I love it when Weil writes “The soul empties itself of all its own contents in order to receive into itself the being it is looking at, just as he is, in all his truth.” So often I miss all the wisdom that can come out of an experience because I have gotten so used to going straight to the solution, while not always paying attention to how I got there. There is wisdom in the journey, not just the answer right?

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