685. Think small to think big

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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.]

671. Isak Dinesen on two courses of thought

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"There are only two courses of thought at all seemly to a person of any intelligence. The one is: What am I to do this next moment?–or tonight, or tomorrow? And the other: What did God mean by creating the world, the sea, and the desert, the horse, the winds, woman, amber, fishes, wine?"

Isak Dinesen, from "The Dreamers" in Seven Gothic Tales


[Photo: yet another taken recently at the American Swedish Institute, from the ceiling of a playhouse set up for children. This photo reminds me of this companion post from nearly a year ago, "Beyond the Roof of the Stars." I hope you'll click and add that to your day's reading as well.]

Questions about work, faith, and livelihood – Two interviews and an excerpt

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I'm grateful for two recent opportunities to talk about Finding Livelihood and some of the complex issues of work and faith: with Lisa Ohlen Harris at Collegeville Institute's Bearings Online magazine and with Stan Friedman at COV magazine online. While at the COV interview, you can also click through to read a book excerpt.

The interviews have some overlap in a couple questions – both want to know where the book started and what's my quibble with the famous Buechner line ("“the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet") – but both spread out in different directions and cover unique territory. 

Both interviews ask questions about things that perhaps you've been thinking about also, such as keeping your eyes open for the movement of God in your work life, even in, and maybe particularly in, work's shadow side.


[Photo: taken at our favorite Dunkin Donuts rest stop between here and Chicago. My husband noted the incongruity of the people in the wall mural and the people sitting below it.]