Friday, September 28, 2012

Dylan on work and calling

     In the last issue of Rolling Stone there was a lengthy interview with Bob Dylan. In the midst of it,  I was fascinated to hear him talk about about work and calling. It seemed very insightful which really shouldn't be surprising.

Rolling Stone: So live performance is a purpose you find fulfilling?

Dylan: If you’re not fulfilled in other ways, performing can never make you happy. Performing is something you have to learn how to do it. You do it, you get better at it, you keep going. And if you don’t get better at it, you have to give it up. Is it a fulfilling way of life? What kind of way of life is fulfilling? No kind of life is fulfilling if your soul hasn’t been redeemed.

You’ve described what you do not as a career but as a calling.

Everybody has a calling, don’t they? Some have a high calling, some have a low calling. Everybody is called but few are chosen. There is a lot of distraction for people, so you might not never find the real you. A lot of people don’t.

How would you describe your calling?

Mine? Not any different than anybody else’s. Some people are called to be a good sailor. Some people have a calling to be a good tiller of the land. Some people are called to be a good friend. You have to be the best at whatever you’re called at. Whatever you do. You ought to be the best at it – highly skilled. It’s about confidence – not arrogance.

Bob Dylan
     Way back when, when Denis and I began thinking about what in the world “Jesus is Lord over all of life” meant, we wondered how that could be as we cleaned dental offices for a few years while finishing up school. How could God be just as pleased with us doing that as when we were practicing a spiritual discipline like prayer or Bible reading. We had enormous barriers that kept us thinking that a call to “The Ministry” was a higher calling than the poor sot who goes to a JOB every day. It took time, reading, and lots of discussion to move us to a place in life where we could say, yes, this menial labor, this repetition of vacuuming and emptying, day after day, returning exam rooms and lobbies to clean orderliness – this is what God has called us to do for now. And it is good. As good as being a missionary to the homeless. We learned to honor God with our brooms and dust cloths, like Dylan does with words and guitar.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Longing for wholeness


Bumble bee visiting a giant zinnia
     Today while I was in the backyard admiring the zinnias once again, I caught this bumble bee visiting one of the blossoms. I’m certain their season is nearly over, as fall is here. We almost turned on the furnace this morning. I know these gentle, bumbling pollinators are becoming less common as their environments become increasingly toxic. It was odd to come across a woman from the tenth century who teaches us more about caring for God's creation.
     Hildegard of Bingen’s (1098-1179) term for the grace of God inherent in all living things was viriditas, or greenness … Hildegard’s holistic approach to God and humanity is relevant today, particularly to those longing for wholeness and healing for all of creation.
She wrote, “we shall awaken from our dullness and rise vigorously toward justice. If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion.”

Resource: Common Prayer by Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, & Okoro.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Writing that soars

Gabby Douglas Women's Gymnastics Olympic Gold Medalist

This summer, we were entranced by the U.S. women’s gymnastics team as they competed at the Olympics. Yes. When aren’t we entranced?  Watching Gabby Douglas soar through the air was rapturous. She made impossible moves look so easy, for a fraction of a second I imagined I might be able to do that, too.

Of course, that’s ridiculous and not only because of my age … we know it takes years and years of practice and pain for a gymnast to make something so difficult and precise look so grace-filled and effortless.

I’m not saying writing is exactly the same, but it’s similar. A good piece of writing, a good story makes you forget the work it took to write it. It carries you away. For example, Cormac McCarthy’s work does that to me – some of his dialogues are so finely crafted they take my breath away. You don’t think about the author sitting hour after hour, drafting, deleting, staring out the window, percolating words and phrases as she chews eraser heads.

I strive for this sense of ease and flow in writing, but it is not automatic. If my work merely approaches this standard, barely touches it, like I’ve maybe placed in a local gymnastics meet, then I am pleased. The endorsements from folks who’ve read The Exact Place humble me. I rejoice in them, and yet I’m afraid. I wonder if it’s okay to fall off the balance beam once in awhile.

(This was first posted to Kalos Press Blog.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Promiscuous Reading

     So I don't really need to finish that book.
 "I often feel as though I’m a bad reader, an unfaithful reader, a reckless literary philanderer. But I can usually assuage this guilt by reminding myself that if I were to impose some sort of embargo on starting a new book before finishing a current one, I would end up reading fewer books. I would be a more methodical and orderly reader, certainly, but a less varied and prolific one. There’s a bit in Boswell’s “Life of Samuel Johnson”—a book that I started but never finished—where Johnson gives amusingly short shrift to the notion that you should finish reading any book you start. “This,” he says, “is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through?” Well, when you put it like that, then no. It’s always reassuring to have Dr. Johnson on your side, and he makes an excellent point—that we don’t necessarily have to think of books we are reading as relationships, that they can just as well be casual acquaintanceships—but I’m still only ever half convinced of the virtue of my ways."

Mark O’Connell (via Writing in the Dust)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Honeysuckle's revenge

Naughty bunny.
      This morning Anita’s Honeysuckle jumped the three steps down and over the dirty laundry basket barrier and into Anita's studio. In a matter of seconds she nipped a Mac power cord into six pieces. It was plugged into the wall at the time. Rabbits love live cords. I don’t think there’s been actual research on this, but it is a phenomenon common to lagomorphs, they seem to love the tingly jolt of live wires. You can give them a special extension cord for their chewing pleasure (which we HAVE done: on the floor, in the hutch) and they will ignore it, but plug it in and they are right there ready with their incisors. We do know this, which is why she is banned from spaces with cords on the floor.
     The last Mac cord Denis repaired caught on fire, a little bit. Maybe safer to buy a new one?

     Pets and babies. Babies and pets. They create a lot of expensive shenanigans and we (especially grandparents) happily afford them. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Happy Chair

     I finished renewing the chair this morning. Once it was bare bones and ready to be rebuilt, it was hard to leave it alone. So it has been steadily coming together. This morning I awakened at 5 am with an idea for my next Notes From Toad Hall. I know from experience that ideas fly right out my nighttime window if I don’t write them down immediately, after that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I could hear the chair whispering down in the dining room where my upholstering mess was festering away. I only had a little bit more to do, so armed with a cup of tea and still in my pajamas, I began padding the back of the back and attaching the back piece onto the chair back, thinking I’d be done in no time. When the project is finished, all the inside work should be invisible with none of your tacks or staples showing. There are some tricks to this and my mother has been coaching me over the phone. 

Chair back

Happy Chair
     By 11:45 I was finally done. I guess most meaningful things, including people and God, require more bits of flesh than I plan to give. I hammered my thumb twice and nicked my wrist once with the fabric cutter.

     It’s been worth some cussing and pain. Inspiration for this project came from Shawna Robinson’s website. She refashions old chairs with complete disregard for convention or color and calls them Happy Chairs. She is more than a designer: in a delightful twist of calling and giftedness, she’s also NASCAR race driver. I couldn’t be happier with my Happy Chair. It punches up our living room. Not to everyone’s taste. Denis sent a pic of it to a friend last night who diplomatically replied: “Well, that’s different.”  Which is the same thing as saying I’d rather have a dead chicken hanging around my neck. That same person’s daughter said: I would TOTALLY, immediately buy that if I saw it in a store.