Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Listening to Thunder

Homo sapiens have been tinkering for time eternal; it's how we learn, it's how we play. If we know how something is going to turn out, it is not so interesting. The interesting part IS the process. If we skip the journey and go straight to the post cards, we land directly on boring. Instead we dabble, whittle, hum, goof around, and doodle. Eventually these beginnings push us toward bigger stakes, higher waves; we get serious and we start planning, examining, probing.

Sometimes, we get busy or lazy. We want to know how the story ends, what happened to the twins, or who won the game. These superficial markers of a good story are the sound bites that smack of a feast but they are really just fast food. Expect gas in some form to be lurking nearby.

My reading life has been in decline since the birth of my children. Some how I manage to read Facebook and email, sometimes I even read blogs and magazines, but my consumption of books is way down. I'm stewing on this thought: What if we are living off the dregs of knowledge- the quotes of the day, Cliff Notes, the movie version, the top ten, the highlights? What if no one actually reads the fine print anymore? What kind of intellectual structure or rigor do we create by scaffolding across big ideas or small ideas? Do we need depth? Why do I want to mine the depths? What the hell is down there and why are so many afraid to open up?

My children are fascinated with magic, fairies, and monsters. Their imagination is rife with stories, fairytales, folktales, and things they learned at school. "Are there really little men making all that noise up there?" the Moose asks in reference to the sounds of thunder booming in yonder sky. "Yeah Mama, are there really fairies?" the Mule seconds staring out the window at the raindrops falling.

It's the wilds, the frontiers, the great unknowns that beckon us forward, make us consider our fears, and call upon us at unsuspecting moments. I don't want to dismantle too much too soon. In a small question the world has the illusion of being obvious and clear. 

If I map it all out for them, if I kill off imagination and fear in one fell swoop, they might not pay attention to the thunder and the rain. If they didn't believe that God would pull out their tongue for telling a lie, the stakes might not be so high for being honest. Let's face it, being honest is tough-- it's hard to stand against the tide, it takes nerve to tell someone you love them, and it isn't easy to point out overlooked facts when everyone is happy with their conclusions. 

It's a good thing to sweat in life especially if it raises our awareness of the world outside of ourselves or helps us see where we can make a difference. I want my kids to care, but I don't think caring comes from just knowing how things work. I think caring comes from watching, doing, and spending time on something. 

Parenting involves a great deal of labor in cleaning bottoms, in feeding mouths, and in repairing spirits, but in the end it is all this doing and being with each other that gives us great passion and empathy for each other. The parent who shows up with a gift once a year or rescues a grand occasion, or maybe doesn't, teaches with absence and neglect whatever thought that is connected to them and their absence. The unknowns haunt.

The kiddos need more questions. 

I had a writing prompt today: Why do you write? Substitute anything here that you love to do and wish that you could spend more time doing. I got cold feet in trying to name that which is unnamable. It is sort of like dismantling the Santa myth- to what end does it serve to rid the world of magic and fairies? 

I write because I don't know what will appear on the page. If I knew, I wouldn't be interested. The trick is to bring a reader along on the adventure.

We all hunker down into journeys not just the big life one, but smaller ones. Do you run? Do you cook? Do you write? Do you play an instrument? Do you make things? Do you play games?

Physical exertion that sucks every thought out of your head breaks up the perilous thought journey. Meditating on nothingness creates brain vibes in different patterns. Activities that can be done without thinking, after a bit of mastery like cooking, dancing, or playing an instrument, can take us somewhere unexpected. What taste will it all create? Which move will flow? Which song will our fingers play? 

The thing is, web surfing, skimming the book, watching the ad, they are shallow. That twenty minute cardio on the step machine is not the same thing as pounding the trail-- you can stop but you still have to walk all the way back home. Microwaving prepackaged frozen dinners is not cooking. Zip zip shortcuts to food, to health, to knowledge is a recipe for fluff. 

The problem with knowing a little bit about everything is that you end up with nothing to push against. 

The places, the ideas that we go into without knowing, all by ourselves, and experience immersion and that practically consume us, this is where the journey gets interesting. Don't tell the ending, don't let the cat out of the bag, dig around instead for another question, and go exploring. Make 'em sweat.

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