730. What to think about today

Fall Sky.jpg

This past Sunday our minister's sermon was on this text from Philippians, which gives a gentle push to thoughts of a higher order.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I needed this reminder and perhaps you do too. These words are a touchstone that serve as not only wise guidance, but permission, yes permission, to at least occasionally turn thoughts away from the evening news, away from fears, away from sorrow, away from grievances, away from social media trivialities, away from [fill in the blank], and toward what is noble and right and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy.

This morning I'm blowing the dust off something I wrote long ago. In Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, I launched from this verse in Philippians to write a bulleted list of reasons to stock one's mind well. Here are some of the bullets in that list:

  • To be catalyzed, expanded, and ignited. Those of use who have battled a blah spirit and lifeless mind on one or more occasions won't find it difficult to draw a link between the state of our spirit and the state of our mind.
  • To stay optimistic and not lose hope or vibrancy. The world is full of wonderful things.
  • To link reason and imagination. To see the chasm between what is and what could be. To see possibility. To see opportunities for greatness.
  • To know the richness, vastness, and beauty of that which has been divinely created.
  • To form a solid foundation from which to launch action
  • To provide sufficient mental content of beauty and joy so that we are less likely to gravitate toward content of despair or fear.
  • To be equipped for creativity.

It's always OK to be a student of what you've already learned long ago and have needed to learn again and again. May your day be one of joy and hope. The world is full of wonderful things.


[Photo: taken this week of fall trees and sky.]

685. Think small to think big

Think small to think big.jpg

I rather enjoy abstract questions, giving my mind something big to ponder, but more and more I’ve found that it’s the small concrete questions and observations that are significant and add up to something. The big questions fill in with what's small.

Here’s a wonderful passage from an old book on my shelf: The Art of Clear Thinking by Rudolf Flesch, published in 1951.

“Next time you find yourself wrestling with such a question, stop and translate it into a low-level, concrete question to which you can find an answer. Instead of “What is the meaning of life?” ask yourself “What did I do today, and for what purpose?” Instead of “What knowledge is of most worth?” ask “What did I learn last year and how did I apply it?”
    And when it comes to the question “What is truth?”, remember that our civilization has developed an elaborate procedure to establish the truth about things and events, namely, a court trial. Yet, no witness has ever been asked to answer the question “What is truth?” More likely, he is asked: “Now tell us exactly what you did between 3:30 and 4:30 on the afternoon of August 4, 1947?”


Related post: Isak Dinesen on two courses of thought

[Photo: taken of some cuttings from a spruce tree in our yard, which have been in a vase in my kitchen for nearly a month and are now showing new spring-green growth fluffing out from the tips. There must be some sort of natural antibiotic in them because the water remains crystal clear.]

683. Make stuff, learn stuff

Make stuff, learn stuff.jpg

Film director Pete Docter gave something back to the audience in his acceptance speech for Best Animated Feature for Inside Out at the Academy Awards last Sunday. If you haven’t seen Inside Out, it’s a wonderful film about an 11-year-old girl who becomes miserable after a cross-country move.

Here’s what Docter said:

“Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering — there are days you’re going to feel sad. You’re going to feel angry. You’re going to feel scared. That’s nothing you can choose. But you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It will make a world of difference.”

Adults were listening too.

It reminded me of advice given by Merlyn the magician in King Arthur’s court as told in The Once and Future King by T.H. White.

The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something . That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world ways and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn—pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn anatomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a million lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics—why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough.”


[Photo: taken from a back car window of the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge.]