745. Patricia Hampl's new book on leisure

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Two friends recently gave me a copy of Patricia Hampl's new book, The Art of the Wasted Day. It's a memoir about Hampl's lifetime desire for leisure, meaning not passive entertainment but rather "the life of the mind." (Hampl's book A Romantic Education, first published in 1981, is considered the start of the modern memoir.) A couple weeks ago the three of us had intended to go together to hear her read and speak at Macalester College in St. Paul, the city where she's from and about which she has often lovingly written, but I had to back out because of an evening work conference call. It seemed ironic to pull out of a reading about leisure due to work, particularly because the last book I wrote had explored the conflict between leisure and work. My friends went, however, and gifted me with the book. 

Hampl posits an interesting question: Does leisure suggest a life in which you stay put, "lie low," or one in which you "journey"? It's an interesting question and she structures her book along these lines in three sections: Timelessness, To Go, and To Stay. I am still reading it but wanted to already share a section:

But if leisure (the leisure that promotes the life of the mind) is what’s missing from our overamped world, if the rich multi-tasked life is the problem, shouldn’t a person stay put, lie low? .... This is the dilemma, my dilemma, maybe an essential contemporary middle-class dilemma: To stay? Or to go? Be Pascal? Or be Chaucer? ....

If you’re a “seeker” (and who, opening a book, is not?), isn’t the open road the only way, paradoxically, to find the lost life of daydream where all the rest–wisdom, decency, generosity, compassion, joy, and plain honesty–are sequestered?

If life is a journey, has it just become a getaway to somewhere warm on JetBlue?

I'm sure I'll post more about this book when I've finished.


ps. I've written a couple other posts about Patricia Hampl: click here to find.

[Photo: taken of emerging fiddlehead ferns.]

744. I was younger yesterday

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Today I have something fun to tell you about, a blast from the past. A new and ambitious friend, Greta Holt, has started a blog about courage, but not the kind of courage that sends you parachuting off a plane or climbing Mount Everest, although I suppose it could. The courage she's writing about is "mostly the quiet kind," meaning the courage that can fill any ordinary day for her readers. As Greta puts it, this courage is "the listening, helping, working and thinking kind." Greta recently read my first book, Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, and asked if she could include one of its section as a blog post. Of course I said yes. Please please click through to her blog, "Courage and Humility: Explorations" and read "Math, Wisdom, and White Sand" ("I was Younger Yesterday" was its original title in JT). While you're there, I hope you'll dig into some other posts in her brand new and very thoughtful blog.


[Photo: taken last fall at an exhibit at the American Swedish Institute here in Minneapolis: "100 Days of Creative Balance" by designer and artist Tia Salmela Keobounpheng. To see many more photos of this exhibit, click through at the link to go to her page at MN Artists.]

743. Reading Mystics and Misfits: A Communion of Saints

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In her new book Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, author Christiana Peterson writes about her life in a Mennonite intentional community and also shares a few letters she wrote to Saint Francis. And a letter to Simone Weil. And to Clare of Assissi and Margery Kempe and Dorothy Day. These weren't fan mail letters, nor were they just a narrative device in a beautifully written memoir. She wrote to these Christian saints and mystics, whose own works she'd been reading, out of a need for companionship on the journey through life, out of a desire for mentoring, out of a longing to go deeper with God. Of course, no return note landed in her mailbox, but I imagine an outside-of-time-and-place thing going on, an authentic communion of saints that helped shape and buoy her.

Here's part of her letter to Simone Weil on the topic of attention:

"Maybe that is why I'm not so good at this yet, Simone. I am digging up the darkness inside me, uncovering my shadows, looking at them one by one, and am trying to see that God loves and accepts me even there. I want so much to love others well, but it takes energy and a kind of discipline, yes, attention, that I never anticipated.

Your words have been discomfiting. But I see now that in many ways, you understand more than I do. And I confess that I am defensive because you have poked at my weakness.

Still, I wonder what you would do if you appeared in our community...."

After reading Christiana's book I've started to think about writing a letter of my own. I have someone in mind. To whom would you write?


[Photo: Taken of a page from Mystics and Misfits.]