west tx

West Texas grass is not beautiful until it’s laden with frost.

Greens and yellows and brown all coated by a sheet of white to birth a silver gleam. Bermuda grass, totally out of its element, is tested by the burden of a snowy glacé. A weighted blanket on leafy tundra, a winter’s night unveils the true character of the frozen turf beneath.

A person is not beautiful until we see their resilience under the pressure of life.

Back straight and dimples high flying in the face of pain and the admission of uncertainty. It’s not denial of the weight, but acceptance of the hope. Having suffered the trials of this world (and expecting more to come), the faith-filled wanderer is able to stand with a renewed spirit, fully recognizing a new truth:

Snow will always be melted by a new sun.

//

I still remember the day I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Thirteen. Fingers trembling over our family’s white-polycarbonate, 2006 MacBook. I wrote one sentence.

As Sean walked, he could hear the pounding of his metallic boots through the gravitized hallway.

I’ve remembered that sentence since the moment I wrote it. I ran to my sister, pushed her face to the screen, and witnessed her reaction.

We still reference it today in jest, and after years of denying my creative yearnings, masking the art I always meant to create, I cherish this sentence so closely as inspiration and the purpose for my life and the work I want to do.

I believe I was designed- created for this, as I believe that every person was designed with a primal, distinctive purpose and work.

Victor Frankl wrote it better than I ever could (but I still write…):

Everyone’s task is as unique as his opportunity to implement it... In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his life.”

counterintuitive

How does one learn to draw with their non-dominant (ND) hand?

If you thought, “the same way as learning to draw with their dominant (D) hand”, it’s actually more complex than that…

When we have been inundated in a complete way of thinking and doing, our options are to either to force the alternative (we sometimes call this ‘rote’) or to lay new pathways.

We learn to write with our ND hand the complete opposite way we learned with our D hand. If you started by picking up a pen, make that the last step. If getting ink to paper was how you reached excellence, think before touching down your quill.

The mind is slow in unlearning what it has been long in learning.

Seneca

In neuroscience, discoveries have molecularly proven that our brain’s are shaped by what we learn and do. Solve 2+2 to =4, and our brain trains that equation to be sorted into our “data base” that consists of all the learning we have ever done. It becomes what we call, “a neural pathway”.

What’s fascinating about these pathways is that the more we train and leave unquestioned the inputs into our brain, the deeper in our brain these pathways become carved. This is wonderful for automating tasks like the sum of two basic numbers or texting with eyes closed, one-handed (possible if you’re under twenty).

Where this becomes a problem is when we need to unlearn things about the world and reframe our social, theological, or technological context.

We live in a time where information should be taken with a full shaker of salt. The process for seeing the world in new ways complicates our understanding of learning.

Let’s choose to lay new pathways, not force an alternative ideology, lifestyle, definition of love (etc.) onto our preexisting frameworks.

When training your ND hand to draw, here are some practical, healthful tips:

  • Learn (relearn) how letters are shaped by your ND hand.
  • Do hand/brain exercises (brush your teeth and comb your hair at the same time)
  • Do many, varying activities with your ND hand (texting, using a fork, opening doors).

In the same way, don’t pick up the pen and start writing a manifesto on racial reconciliation or vaccine nationalism without getting out of yourself and away from the unrefined, derivative beliefs we all commonly hold undisputed.

Then, when all of the pathways are carved, pick up a pen- start writing.

reintegrate

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you…

When (not if) you crash and burn due to crippling fear and anxiety, unrealistic expectations, a callous word, resurfaced trauma, or the weight of our sinful, messed-up world, take a day off.

Stop work; stop your side-hustle. Stop vying for attention in whatever social sphere you’re orbiting in an attempt to reach the center.

Recuperate. Restore. Revive.

You may find the world will still be intact when you return, usually in a better state because of your restart.


Anne Lamott, almost everything

clichès

Clichès make up a majority of our speech from day to day. We cast about expressions looking for meaning amidst these recurrent phrases. Take a look at your last essay from high school or college and see how prevalent these “stereotypes” are in our speech and writing.

Even Homer partakes in this convention:

“Joy, warm as the joy that shipwrecked sailors feel / when they catch sight of land… their bodies crusted with salt but buoyed up with joy as they plant their feet on solid ground again, spared a deadly fate.”

Odysseus’ reunion with Penelope, from ‘The Odyssey’

Notice the amount of imagery that does well to paint visuals in the listener’s mind. “Warm as joy”, “catch sight of”, “on solid ground”, “shipwrecked sailors”.

Poets and orators coined so many phrases we still use today because our brain needs shortcuts to make speech easier. *I can write, “read between the lines to see the truth that only time will tell how every cloud has a silver lining“, without much imagination or effort because of how familiar with these cliches we have become

(*While this isn’t the most powerful sentence written, it shows how easy it is to write using clichès- I count 3 words of originality).

Let’s look at origins. The phrase “full circle” was created by the progenitor of 1700 words in the English language, William Shakespeare. The reason Shakespeare coined a phrase like this could have been rooted in its “insidious memorability.” Plays and poems of the day were recited orally, and without notes. Having to memorize copious amounts of lines for scenes leads to the necessary evil of creating highly memorable “catch phrases” (or clichès) to insert into a script.

This is not a bad thing- to the contrary, it frees our mind up for problem solving or other kinds of creative thinking- but it is something we need to recognize. Language exists to create relationship.

As we drift farther out from our roots in classical education, into a world of digital connection and untempered social skills, we need to be conscious of how our words deepen or shallow relationships. We can reclaim language and begin to plant a trellis of intentionality.

Speaking words in a vacuum does nothing; you must garden with your words. You must live in the flower bed if you want to grow something there.

Redeeming How We Talk, AJ Swoboda and Ken Wytsma

timely article // the Chicago Tribune on COVID-19 philology

previous read // but, so, i mean, as far as