773. Lifted Faces and Flashing Eyes

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From the blog archives (February 11, 2016), a post about the human spirit:


I’ve been reading a book by Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility. Trueblood, a Quaker theologian, wrote the book in the late 1940s in response to the prevalent sense of futility in society around him despite the end of World War II. In many ways he could have been writing today.

This paragraph jumped off the page at me:

“Joy has gone out of much of our lives. Millions go through the motions as though they were waiting for a catastrophe. What we miss, almost everywhere, is the uplifted face and the flashing eye. Men [and women] cannot live well either in poverty or abundance unless they see some meaning and purpose in life, which alone can be thrilling.”

Trueblood goes on to describe societal ways in which the human spirit can be renewed. While some of his suggestions and ideas are a bit dated, this key – and timeless– theme emerges: the need for communities to be a place of renewal for each other.

In a chapter called “The Habit of Adventure.” he wrote:

“Here then is our clue. The method which succeeded before must be tried again and we must not be dismayed by its amazing simplicity. The best chance for the renewal of the human spirit in the twentieth [read: twenty-first] century, as in the first, lies in the formation of genuinely redemptive societies in the midst of ordinary society. Such fellowships could provide a sense of meaning for the members within the societies and, at the same time, maintain an infectious influence on the entire culture outside.”

Through my little blog and my little books, I’m trying, in a small way, to offer this to you. A space of community and camaraderie in which we lift our faces and not only open our eyes, but flash them, as Trueblood wrote. I like that image of emanating light. It’s my hope, and assumption, you have other real-time spaces in your life for this renewal: churches, family, friends, book groups, special interest groups, and so on. There are also opportunities for such spaces online, and I hope you’re finding what you need wherever you can. Please consider letting me know how I can do better at providing such a space. Also consider letting me know where else you find community and and camaraderie that encourages you to lift your face and flash your eyes - if I get enough response to this I may include them in a subsequent newsletter or blog post.

Thank you for taking the time to read. As always, I appreciate it so very much.

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[Photo: taken of a new walkway along a nearby creek. I love how the sun is flashing off the metal coils.]

766. Thinking in Private

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In the current issue of Comment magazine (Summer 2019), Hannah LaGrand, in her piece “Tiny Mind,” writes about the role of thought in a world where we put so much of ourselves online for others to see. How much of one’s thought life should remain private?

Lots.

Drawing on the writing of Hannah Arendt, LaGrand writes: “The public world of appearances must be rooted in something that does not appear.”

LaGrand goes on to make a critical point, that it’s not only how much of ourselves we put out there, but how much of what everyone else puts out there do we take in? How much opportunity do we give ourselves to think our own thoughts? How much time do we leave “to spaces of unproductivity and wasted time and quiet. It is these dark and dingy spaces in which might find depth.” Her thinking goes along with my thoughts about leisure in Finding Livelihood.

I hope you’ll read the full piece, also online at the Comment website.

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[Photo: taken on Lake Sagatagan at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN]

763. The Prophetic Imagination

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A few nights ago I was talking with some writer friends about our respective works in progress, and I mentioned that one of the sections in my hope manuscript draws on Walter Brueggemann’s writing in his books The Poetic Imagination and Reality, Grief, Hope. One of the friends told me that she had recently listened to Brueggemann being interviewed on the radio program “On Being” and sent me the link (“Walter Brueggemann: The Prophetic Imagination”). I listened to it while taking a walk a couple mornings later and again just this afternoon. Although recorded in 2011, and re-aired last December, the content is just as relevant today. I encourage you to listen as there is much wonderful wisdom here on hope, the use of metaphor and poetry in understanding God, and the mercy of God.

Here’s a small section:

The other text I’ll read is Isaiah 43. It’s a very much-used passage. “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” And apparently, what he’s telling his people is just forget about the Exodus, forget about all the ancient miracles, and pay attention to the new miracles of rebirth and new creation that God is enacting before your very eyes. I often wonder when I read that, what was it like the day the poet got those words? What did it feel like, and how did he share that? Of course, we don’t know any of that, so it just keeps ringing in our ears.

I first read Brueggemann when I was at St. John’s Abbey Guest House in Collegeville, Minnesota (6 years ago?). I was in the library writing when a book on the shelf, The Prophetic Imagination, caught my eye. I took it down and read it nearly nonstop over the next day or so. I hope you’ll take a listen.

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[Photo: taken on the Detroit River Walk in Detroit, where we were for a wedding several weeks ago.]