Just Another Love Affair

One of my oldest memories is planting sunflowers and pear tomatoes at the bottom of a steep hill where my parents had built a garden. Everyday I would climb the fence (because gates are boring) and run down the hill to see what had happened since the night before. I loved the dirt squelching through my toes, under my nails, and seemingly embedded in my scalp. I would go inside after a day of mud houses and reading in trees to hear, “Kate, did you roll in the mud or are you just magnetically attracted to every floating piece of dirt?”

As I grew older things didn’t change. In school I was the first one with my shoes off running through the fields of weeds during recess. I could never stay clean. A smudge of dirt on my face, streak of mud on my knee-highs, and busted knees constantly betrayed me. In high school, my teachers realized that it was better to just let me study and write outside on sunny days than to watch me pine for the fresh air and fidgeting in my seat. I would stand in the rain, read in the tallest trees, weeded the wildflowers in April, and picked them all in May.

And I read – Caddie Woodlawn, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and many biographies about prairie wives, missionaries to India, and adventures. When my body wasn’t having adventures, discovering Jerusalem crickets and rattlesnakes, my mind was surviving in the arctic tundra or saving slave girls in the slums of India. I never wore shoes and built worlds of my own in dugouts where I would spend afternoons reading.

Wild, idyllic childhood gave way to a more calm adolescence. I spent most of my time reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. I loved the outdoors and spent much of my lunches reading outside, but the pull of words was too strong. Fortunately, my English teacher understood my thirst for knowledge coupled with wanderlust. He expanded my mind with a biblical perspective in every area of writing – theology, history, philosophy, literature, science, and the arts. This was what drove me back outdoors.

I found myself needing space to think and absorb the knowledge my teacher and parents had given me. I could sit outside for hours dangling on our tire swing watching the world spin around me, completely lost in thought. I would read and then go outside and think. Sometimes I would walk around the school grounds alone or hide in a tree during breaks just to process. The land became my sanctuary.  I would read and think and read more. I loved hammocks, porch swings, grassy hillsides, and high rocks.

Then I graduated.

I had worked since junior high, so I knew the reality of getting more work was coming. I dreaded being locked indoors for days on end, limited on reading time, and slowly losing my mental agility. I drifted from job to job enjoying aspects of many and being mostly miserable for a solid year. Then, on December 14, 2010 one of my best friends and I decided to go on a mission’s trip. We worked on a farm for three months which I loved. I thrived there – Learning a new language, working with in dirt daily, walking miles daily, and focusing on others.

I came home and thought I knew my direction – dirt. I started working towards my degree in Anthropology and soon after got a job on the farm I work at now. I read as voraciously as ever and the hours of silence in the field gives me time to think deeply about everything.

My writing is just a by product. In my case: Reading + Dirt = Grounded Thought

Its a system that characterizes me. I am so grateful for it because it not only brings fulfillment but peace, a peace only found in dwelling on God’s Word, the framework and foundation of my world. I work the land He created and think about what he created it for.

Thats my secret to happiness.

-W

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Why Anthropology?

At first it doesn’t seem very important. After all, who actually works in their degree? This is fantastic for microgeneticists and the millions of English majors whose degrees are either too particular or very general. I actually considered English and Physics and Philosophy and every other degree like the unsure college kid I was.

Anthropology was an afterthought, but a very good one it turns out. My interest antrho4_finalhas always been worldviews, theology, and overarching trends in every aspect of life: biology, literature, nutrition, education, religion, chemistry. I love how everything is interrelated. The holism, interrelatedness, of anthropology is what got me in the end.

I love being able to look at diseases among the Inuit or African tribes and have the perspective of the culture, history, and religion of the area to help understand the full situation. As a Christian, this gives me an opportunity to see into the world of the people living in lands I may never visit, understand the needs and the troubles they face daily, and be able to explain the best way to approach them with the Gospel.

Anthropology asks, “What does it mean to be  human?”

As a Christian, I have a completely different perspective from my atheistic counterparts. While this does mean that 95% of my course work is utter hogwash, I know their arguments better than they know them. Nothing is being shaken in me, but I am seeing more and more facts that easily slip into a Christian worldview without having to stretch or ignore them.

I love my degree and I will always use it because it is another discipline in worldviews.

-W

Lent: Signs of Life

Ash Wednesday brings pictures Bead-are-Collected-by-Front-Loaderof  trashed streets in New Orleans, fish crackers, sixteenth century flagellants, dower pious matrons looking forlorn to draw attention to their sacrifice,  and the disquieting annoyance of finding nothing but tiny fibers in your jean pockets.

Lent has a really bad rap with almost everyone. Catholics seem to dread the forty days before Easter and over the years have slowly  loosened the restrictions until it is considered more of a show than a time of preparation. Modern Christians  see it as legalistic and restrictive, secularists think any show of religion is foolish, and Muslims look down on Lent as a shadow of Ramadan which they celebrate through fasting and feasting daily.

Lent has become a wasted opportunity. Originally a time to reflect on personal spiritual growth and draw closer to the body of Christ through a mutual time of fasting, it became little more than a forced duty, penance for sins with interspersed acts of charity when you mess up.

Easter is a time for rejoicing and we find none of that in orange eggs, sugar chicks, and bunnies which are actually hares. The fullness of Easter is found in the culminating work of Christ’s ministry, the fulfillment of prophesy, the redeeming act of the Messiah. Rejected by those he came to save, rejected by those who were closest to him, rejectedby God, His Father, he died a literally heartbreakingly agonizing death. Left there, he is nothing, but another good man who died unjustly in an unjust time. We are nothing, useless delusional fools still damned to an eternal death.

Then, conquering death Christ, the Lord of Death and Life, rose from the grave to free those who believe in him from eternal death. Now, the One who defeated death guides us through that last journey into a life more full than can ever be known here.

That is what we are celebrating. It makes everything else sound trite.

Lent, literally meaning spring, is a time to prepare to celebrate that truth. In contemplation, fasting, and prayer we can draw closer to Him, know Him better, so that this Easter we can celebrate a little more fully in preparation for that day we will feast in Heaven. Spring is the time when life starts peeping out of the seemingly dead ground. Beautiful, fruitful things pop up and fill the air with good smells. Death is used to bring life.

draw-nearIt is not a burden or terrible duty, but a time of honest assessment.

Maybe giving up something is the best way to see what has become an idol in your life and free up time to spend with God. It is always very revealing. It isn’t necessary to let others know you observe Lent, but it may be useful to go to those you respect, who know you, and ask for an honest assessment of areas you may be blind to.

It is hard,  you will not always like what you see, and I can guarantee that you are going to have a couple disappointing and possibly mean days as the novelty wears off, but the growth is worth it.

The best part is that is takes thirty days to make a habit. If you practice seeking God and putting aside an idol during Lent, you might have broken a habit that has prevented you from drawing near to Him and made a valuable one that will help you grow further in the next year.

If nothing else, I hope that when you hear about Lent this season, you think about your walk with God. If you do practice it, I hope it prepares your heart for whatever trials you will meet this coming year in drawing you nearer to God.

-W

Beginnings

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde

For those who have ever tried blogging in any form, you probably remember the moment when you had to chose your title.

You probably had atlne-page1 brilliant idea, but when you typed it in discovered, to your horror, that someone else had used it and not even posted anything or it is blocked for users. In my case the perfect name was The Road Goes Ever On which referred to J.R.R Tolkein’s famous poem in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.

When my wonderful name was viciously taken away from me, I did the only thing I could think of. I started skimming through websites of quotes.

Oscar Wilde has always struck me as more cynical than anything else with phrases like, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” and, “One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.”

Everything has a twist or a punch to it. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely enjoyed the Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde had a rare gift with the written word. He wrote an essay called, The Soul of Man Under Socialism. It is considered one of the most ambitious works on anarchism and reasserts Wilde’s claims to be a proponent of anarchy.  The basic concept is that societally mandated laws and expectations prevent the individual from developing their soul through meaningful creative pursuits and realizing talents because they spend all their time trying to fill impossible goals.

To remedy this Wilde advised embracing socialism and the opportunity it afforded,

“With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.55.24 AMYou may notice a familiar phrase in there. To answer your next question: No, I am not a socialist or anarchist. I’m too lazy to try to get all mankind to work against their nature and share. I can’t even get a couple two year olds to share a toy, Why would the most powerful men in the world consider giving all that up for the Greater Good on my say so.

But he did have a point, people commonly get so involved in purposeless busyness and don’t live up to their potential. Mediocrity is encouraged just by the failure to encourage people to think and develop themselves outside of those pursuits that entrap them. People don’t ask why or how they would even start to change.

So, I took a line from a self-proclaimed anarchist to form a blog that would be about living fully in a world that constantly tries to prevent you from doing more than just functioning to get by.

I want to thrive.

-W

 

Discipline, Always Discipline

Currently I’m building a museum, observatory, and small complex of buildings in a gated community. Fortunately I get to cut through all the red tape, no permits, no contractors who don’t return your phone calls. After all extensions on your mind are usually little more than time consuming. I have talked about mind palaces before, mine happens to be a books store about ten times the size of Borders. The problem is while cataloguing short term memory is easy enough, things I’ll need to remember in detail for longer periods of time need their own place.

Underconstruction2

Why am I bothering you with this? Because it happens to gowith my goals to meditate more on God’s Word. I know bits and pieces, some large chunks, and the general construct of most of the Bible, so I sat down yesterday to figure out a better way to memorize. I realized rote memorization doesn’t work for me and after a little consideration I realized the loci system would work in principle.

During my Quiet Times I have been going chapter by chapter inductively extracting story lines, theological principles, and such. Every book is relatively simple to break down this way, so with this basic structure I built a housing unit on a mountain. Each book of the Bible has its own building and every chapter has a story, so the structure of the building tells you a lot about the Book.

Psalms is a little Dr. Seusical.

The outside decor and landscaping can tell you everything you need to know about the background and history of the book. For example, Genesis is fifty stories, but there was no history before it so its a ziggurat like the tower of Babel and the address has the dates…

Every floor is a chapter and every room is a verse, so ideally, when I’m done I could walk into a building in my mind, go to a floor and room and give you reference and the verse. Whats better is that as I learn more, I’ll be able to reverse the process like a hotel manager knowing who is in each room.

It’s going to take a couple years, but its possible.

The best part is that the more I work on it, the more I will have to meditate upon and memorization does need review to keep it fresh.

-W

 

A Castle in the Clouds

Sometimes my mind connects with people and I can understand more than what they say. I can understand their perspective, the world through their eyes, how their mind perceives other people and events, and their reactions. It can be anyone from an acquaintance to an author. It is like empathy, but deals with the more rational side of things. These people are my mind mates, like soul mates of the mind.

Ayn Rand is one of these people. Her books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, are two of my favorites and while her rationalism and objectivism does not work in the real world, the worlds she created fascinate me.

 

I went to Hearst Castle this week. It was built by an up and coming architect who no one thought could do the job. Hearst was a publishing mogul who owned the known publishing world. This reminded me so much of Rand’s Gail Wynand and his architect Howard Roark. Apparently , Hearst was the target of Orson Well’s Citizen Kane and several pointed remarks from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath,

“They’s a fella, newspaper fella near the coast, got a million acres.”
“Million acres? What in the worl’ can he do with a million acres?”
“I dunno. He jus’ got it. Runs a few cattle. Got guards ever’place to keep folks out. Rides aroun’ in a bullet-proof car. I seen pitchers of him. Fat, so’ fella with little mean eyes an’ a mouth like an asshole. Scairt he’s gonna die. Got a million acres an’ scairt of dyin’.”

I have one question, How can a man with so much, still seem to have left so little?

-W

 

My Mind is A Bookstore

Have you ever read Cicero’s Rhetorica ad Herennium? Probably not, it is over 2000 years old and there are many modern renditions of the great orator’s words.

The thing that stuck with me in this book is a memory system based on loci, the plural of locus, Latin for place. The idea is that the mind is made to remember spaces. Imagine that data is a raw file, but in order for it to fit on your hard drive (or brain) you have to convert it into a compatible file. Raw data is incompatible with the way normal minds worked. By converting it to a different medium (or file type) it will slip in easily. These mediums can be songs, rhymes, or spaces, but it is best to combine them.

For loci, you have to chose a place you now well or imagine vividly. You place all your memories there in different rooms, streets, or generic sections.

My first instinct was a fortified Medieval keep complete with an outer moat, two story ramparts, barracks, inner moat, fortified inner keep, two drawbridges, and barracks. I think a psychiatrist would have a field day.

Next, I tried the things I know well. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t sketch my house, school, or church even though I literally lived at all three of these places. Finally I just started sketching.

I ended up with a detailed blueprint for Borders, a bookstore that went out of business over a year ago. Detailed, as in, aisle by aisle, bookshelf by bookshelf, subject and genres. The best part is that it was all alphabetized.

My mind is a bookstore, an obsessively alphabetized and cataloged bookstore.

The funny thing is that I have a very good memory. If I hear something, I can repeat it almost word perfect. This was just practice for storing mass amounts of data and I discovered I already had a filing system.

-W