741. The joy of making lists

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Marilyn McEntyre has a new book out about the joy of making lists, Make A List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts. You may have read an earlier book by McEntyre, including the wonderful Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. I’ve been reading her new book, after seeing an ad for it (some books do still get advertisements!) and ordering it. The topic grabbed me from the start. I’ve made plenty of to-do lists and to-buy lists and to-write lists but have seldom made a list that could possibly achieve a higher purpose, such as spiritual practice, as suggested by McEntyre.

There was a list I made in high school as part of an assignment in chemistry class to make 100 observations about a lit candle. There was a list I made as a young woman of things about which I needed to keep reminding myself. There have been lists for prayer. But overall, I have very few lists of substance to show for my life to date.

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McEntyre suggests that we should make lists freely and joyfully, even playfully; that we should add to them with anticipation and excitement about what may be discovered as the list evolves. According to McEntyre, indeed something worthwhile is usually is discovered. She writes,

“In the process of making a list, I generally find that I can, as a therapist used to advise, ‘go to the place in me that knows.’ Line by line, I can take myself there. It’s a place of deep, lively, somewhat amusing, sometimes daunting encounter with the self and, often, encounter with the indwelling Spirit who is more present, available, reliable, and forgiving than we may think.

When you make a list, if you stay with it and take it slowly, take it seriously but playfully, give yourself plenty of permission to put down whatever comes up, you begin to clarify your values, your concerns, the direction your life is taking, your relationship to your inner voice, your humor, your secrets. You discover the larger things that lists can reveal.”

The book is loaded with ideas for things to think about via lists: things to let go of, how to enjoy what I have, what gives me joy, what comfort might look like, and so much more. I’ve got some new lists underway


[Photo taken of a beautiful scene in Gulfport, Florida.]

734. Progress report

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Those of you who receive my newsletter, Dear Reader, may have already read this, but I wanted to say it here as well. I've recently made some changes to the website I started when my book Finding Livelihood was coming out. A couple months ago I changed the name of the "Finding Livelihood" website to "The Livelihood Project." I think that name is like a dome over the topics I've written most about in books (work/leisure, thinking as spiritual practice) as well as the newer topic of hope, which is my work-in-progress. I also reorganized the content on the website so as to feature those topics, including sorting contents from this blog along those themes.

One of my goals is to start to share more about my current work-in-progress on that website as well as on this blog and others place where I’m online. Back in October I went to a one-day workshop led by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew on the topic of her new book, Living Revision: A Writer's Craft as Spiritual Practice. Andrew is a beautiful writer who lives here in Minneapolis, and I’ll post more about her book another time. One of her encouragements to us was to write out a key description of what our book-in-progress is about and post it on a bulletin board or tape it to the wall so that it's visible while working. Change it as needed. Keep it in one's mind, particularly when making decisions about the writing. She had us do this exercise during the class. I picked a section from my hope manuscript and I've since posted it at The Livelihood Project website along with a hope-related essay, "Knotted Gossamer," first published at Art House America. Perhaps you will want to take a look. My progress on this manuscript has been slow and often unsteady, but I'm very much trying to give it a significant push forward this year, hopefully to completion. Stay tuned!


[Photo: taken of the fresh snow outside my window this morning]

733. The power of a letter

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An editorial in this past Sunday's New York Times by David Kamp (Guess Who's Coming to 'Peanuts'), a contributing editor for Vanity Fair who is currently writing a book about children's culture in the 1960s and 1970s, told the story of how the Peanuts cartoon strip came to be racially integrated, by the introduction of Franklin, just a little over 3 months after Martin Luther King was assassinated.

It's the story of Harriet Glickman ("mother of three and a deeply concerned and active citizen") writing a letter to Charles Schulz, the strip's creator, 11 days after King was killed. She pitched the idea of adding "Negro children" to the regular Schulz cast of characters. Schulz wrote back to her within two weeks, declining with a considered reason. She wrote back and he wrote back again and then she shared his correspondence, with his permission, with a friend, Kenneth C. Kelly ("a black father of two"), who came up with the idea that became the character of Franklin. While this addition may seem small and unnoticeable today, it was a very big deal in 1968.

How great is this story! First, that a regular person had an idea of something that could help a very bad situation. Second, that she pitched her idea in a letter. Not a tweet or a post or an email. Of course, those weren't available in 1968, but something tells me this wouldn't have ended the way it did had the communication been electronic. Third, the famous person answered with something more than a generic form response. Fourth, a conversation developed. Fifth, the input of two regular people guided the action of a famous creative individual. Sixth, the famous creative individual *allowed* himself to be guided by regular people.

Ideas. Actual correspondence. Respect. Humility. Ongoing conversation. More respect. More humility. Action. The world changes, for good.


Last Sunday, I sent out a new issue of my newsletter, Dear Reader. If you subscribe to that, which is different than this blog, and didn't receive, please look in your spam folder (or your "promotions" folder if using gmail). You may need to add it to your address book or change an email rule for where your email goes.


[Photo: taken of an apple pancake my son made for us over the holiday.]