This is what our first drafts do to us

A friend once told me he wanted to write a book about marriage. He described each chapter in detail and told me his three keys to a successful marriage (sex was #3). I thought it was funny because he’d only been married for one year.

It’s thrilling to write what you care about. Some stories should probably wait to be written, allowing experience to sharpen the narrative. But then again, some stories need to just be written, to go through the process; to take in life, to possibly die and rise again.

I hope my friend writes that book and I hope he’s been writing it in the first years of his marriage. For when the story is ready and ripe he’ll see so much more of reality.

That’s what our first drafts do–our throw away and deleted paragraphs–they shape the way we see.

Creatives are catalysts for violence

In a park two strangers sit on a bench in the dry heat of the afternoon. Beads of sweat gather on the their foreheads and upper lips and they stare off into the distance when one man says to the other some bit about his life, some small nugget of truth like, “I miss my daughter,” or “It’s hot,” or some other kind of cliched phrase one stranger might say to another.

To which the other replies, “Word.”

And here we’ve come into some kind of agreement, a pact, if you will, of two men saying truth has just spoken and we align ourselves with this truth. Hence the phrase, “Word,” which moves in and out of fashion (probably out by now), but which stays with me because of it’s irony, that “word” in its literalness is also truth, “Word-up,” or “For sure,” which is just music. We’re singing to each other now. We can say any number of variations which is all lyrical and musical and essentially poetry speak that’s created a reality between two people. Something that did not exist is now fully alive, yet, invisible.

Or we can answer silently, by nodding our head or in our hearts confirming, thus we are always creating new realities in twos and more, that interaction is based upon acceptance and rejection, deflection and disagreement.

We speak poetry to each other every day. In the mundane and unmemorable moments we’re singing poetic connection.

“The relationship between the poet, the poem, and the reader not as a static entity but as a dynamic unfolding. An emerging sacramental event. A relation between an I and a You. A relational process,” (Edward Hirsch). Like how reading Scripture places us within this process with our Creator. Or hearing the stories about a spouse’s day connects one to his/her feelings and emotions.

Roy Peter Clark expands on the idea of twos in connection:

The secret knowledge I seek, I now believe, is embodied by and embedded in the number two. Just as two defines the information coding of computer science and genetics, two has become in my mind the essential number to create meaning in all texts, most visibly in short texts: Jesus wept. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…

We may have the analytical skills to slice a long work into several parts. But when we seek the sources of energy, again and again it seems to resolve itself to two.

Here is the idea of noun and verb colliding and connecting the way a reader connects and collides with stories and poems.

Creatives are catalysts for violence.

We Don’t Have to Make Ourselves into Mysterious Gifts

As Emily Rapp faces her son’s inevitable death, she realizes how little she once understood grief, or how to help a person in pain.

Stories: the only thing we’ve got, the arbiters of this human process of rocketing between hope and despair, and it’s why every person’s is vitally important. It’s why it doesn’t matter if you’re a mess, or put together, or even a success according to arbitrary standards; what matters is that you are conscious of the world around you, in all of its terrible beauty…

The world can be a horrible place at times, but we don’t have to participate in this, we don’t have to harden our hearts as we’re taught and told to do, in order to survive or be sexy or attractive lovers or perfect parents or interesting people. We do not have to make ourselves into mysterious gifts, waiting to be chosen or read or understood by those who will earn us, unwrap our secrets, and then what? We can be something more authentic, and speak from a different place, a different planet. This is why I like being a writer, because what it demands is both simple and incredibly hard. To be a human being. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Why don’t we allow for mess? Why are we so afraid of it? What do we expect from the veils we pull down over our eyes, our minds, our hearts? How can we possibly connect if we never let people see what we truly are and what it would take to make us free? Now, when I can’t fake a single emotion I don’t feel (or at least not for long), I wonder how I’ve lived this long being any other way. Maybe it’s that I haven’t really been living, and that now I am like Adam, like Eve, my feet still wet from being newly created, awkwardly learning how to walk on dry land.

(via Salon: “Someone to Hold Me”)

Sigur Ros and Justice Make Annoying Music

I didn’t know this, but somehow music is mathematical. The song that hits the spot, somehow hits the spot mathematically. And then there’s music that just gets on my nerves. It’s annoying.  But sometimes I wonder if it’s not the math or the music that is off. Maybe somehow I’m off. Maybe it’s not the music that is annoying or loud or obnoxious or terrible. Maybe I’m not ready for the music. Maybe I’m too loud or obnoxious or terrible.

And then I wonder what other things I’m not ready for. And what does it take, not for me to understand the math, but to accept the solution? To lose myself in the beat, and the rhythm, and the melody. Essentially, I guess it’s coming in tune with the world around me. And that takes looking to its Creator and its Savior.

(Here are some examples of bands whose music might get on your nerves initially, but then you learn to like it: Sigur Ros and Justice.)

The Southwest Community Connection Faith Forum Update

Since I don’t get the chance to pick up a copy of Christian News Northwest anymore I have to switch my local newspaper update to The Southwest Community Connection. I want to point out the Faith Forum articles in the October and November issues.

October featured Scott Kolbet, the pastoral associate at St. John Fisher Catholic Church. He talked about the word mercy and its Latin root misercordia which means “taking the misery of others into one’s own heart.”  Kolbet writes, “A merciful God takes our miseries into his heart. If we are merciful, we are taking the miseries of others into our hearts…It is about God being present in my life and taking my life, my miseries and my joys into himself.” 

On the complete opposite spectrum, the November issue featured Andrea Furber, a certified Pranic Healer, who talked about moving our hands in long circular motions and “removing energetic blockages that are hindering the flow of fresh, clean energy into the energy field of the person who came for healing. This fresh energy allows the body to do more rapidly what it always does–heal itself.”

I would much rather have the mercy of a loving God then me waving my hands around trying to heal myself. What about you?

Moralism in Christian Fiction

The fantasy author L.B. Graham has a short blog (here) about Moralism in fiction and what makes Christian fiction. I’ll have my own response to it, but not right now. In the meantime you should read it.

Moralism is the Downfall of Christianity

A lot of my friends aren’t Christians, but we tend to have a lot of talks about God and spirituality, usually over cigars on the back patio. I never know quite what to say and always end up feeling like an idiot for what I do. I read this blog by Matthew Raley titled “What’s Missing From the Needy Self.” Here’s the passage I liked:

But moralism has been the downfall of contemporary Christianity. The precepts of godly wisdom nurture life in those who already have life; but among the legions who do not, the Get a clue! method of preaching doesn’t edify. The “practical applications” of moralism merely compound people’s guilt.

Moralism has been the downfall of Christianity because it is not the gospel.

Why Playing is Biblical


Jesus loves me when I'm playing.

I saw this picture in the school bathroom and liked it. I liked it enough to take a picture of it which isn’t a smart thing to do. That is, taking pictures in a school bathroom. I’d advise against it, but I made sure the bathroom was empty.

I don’t like that the picture is sexist. Two girls and only one boy. But to that boy I’d say “Play on playa.” The picture is also racist. Two white kids and one black kid. There are no Asians, Middle Easterners, Aborigines, or Canadians included in the picture. The picture is also bourgeoisie propaganda. Do you know how many children in the world have a swing set to play on? Not many. So this is obviously a rich country like England or France.

Regardless of all that, the picture says that God loves us when we play, and that is often opposite of what church people say. There’s this hidden, subtle thinking error I see in many Christian that says if we aren’t constantly working and staying busy and going to church then we’re letting God down or we’re not pleasing him. They say things like fishing or sports or watching football are distractions and we should instead be going to church. And it’s true that those things can be a distraction but no more then something like church can be a distraction.

We have a God who loves to play and loves it when we play and loves to play with us. So play on playa.

Rob Bell Likes Art Chocolate

Jake Dockter talks with Rob Bell about art and faith (here). Here’s a quote from Rob:

People have to ask themselves questions about what they even want or desire. Because it all begins with a deep dissatisfaction of how things are. And we do not change without pain. So a person would have to be in enough pain and despair to say “I do not want to be a part of this anymore. God, please show me another way of understanding things.” As far as people who are in systems that don’t work, like a religious system or a church, then you have to leave it. Because it’s destructive and it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to give you life.

Writers, Readers, and Everyone Else 010

Larry Shallenberger has interesting article “When I Become Autistic” over at the BWC. He discusses William Stillman who has Asperger’s Syndrome and is a speaker and author about autism. Stillman says that the autism experience seems much like a paranormal episode. “For Stillman, autism is not a disease needing a cure, but an alternate human experience.”

Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book Outliers will be out in November. Here’s the Amazon description:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.