There Will Be A Test

Well this is disconcerting. I thought we were still in practice semesters, but it turns out, according to author John Green, there is a test. In fact, if I understand what he’s saying, we’re already taking it.

The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged and productive citizen of the world and it will take place in place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that when taken together make your life yours. And everything, everything will be on it.

Well thanks for the heads up. I don’t have a #2 pencil. I did, however, remember to pack a lunch.

Here you can watch John debunk 10 common misconceptions about life, the universe, and everything. It’s funny!

Do You Know a Quiet Place?

I want to share with you a podcast I listened to from Public Radio. The guest was Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, writer, and producer of recorded quiet. Not silence, mind you, but quiet. I suppose collector of sounds would be an apt description of him as well.

Quiet, as Hempton points out, is becoming almost impossible to find on Earth. He defines a quiet place as one in which it’s possible to find natural sound, uninterrupted by noise, for at least 15 minutes.

Hempton’s recordings of natural sound are very nice. I’m listening to one as I write this post, of surf pounding down a secluded beach in Washington State. I found it on, a 99 cent Mp3 download.

I am profoundly impressed with the man’s insights and enjoyed the interview very much.

Hopes and Dreams

Do you ever try to write something from the intimate inner life of a character not of your gender? I mean really try to approach that person’s looking glass, turn your back to it and back up suddenly until you’re inside looking out? It’s hard enough if that character is merely fictitious, of the same gender, and you can lacquer on your own emotional reality without losing verisimilitude.

I’ve been working on a flash fiction piece called Monologue of a Woman Grieving. It’s about an older woman who has lost her husband, and how she’s faring in a vastly different emotional habitat. Adapting, or not.

Easy writing, it’s not.

Published here tomorrow (Wednesday), probably. With an audio reading, perhaps. In the mean time, here’s something to tide you over.

“In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism

A Call to Celebrate Sanity

Robert Bly is one of my favorite poets. He has shared the top of my list since probably 1985. I love his poems. I love his delivery. I cherish his sanity. It is so with all of those who inform our lives.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence?

Watch and listen to this.


What is it about the ones whose lives are meaningful to us? What do they have that we need, and need to emulate? I propose that we are seeking clarity, a sense of our place and time, perhaps a tesseract to who we’ll be and to those who’ve raised us up.

I’ve always loved the first sentence in the anonymous book, The Way of a Pilgrim. “I am by the grace of God a Christian man, by my acts a great sinner.” That’s clarity.

My grandfather used to tell me, “stay in the boat,” and that was clarity.

John F. Kennedy said,

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

The passage of a half century has turned that inside out. It’s not that the government is afraid to let us see the truth. It’s that the people are afraid to face it. We are a nation afraid of each other, not to even mention everybody else. We are afraid of the religions of our neighbors. And fear is not the opposite of courage. Indifference is the opposite of courage. Fear is the opposite of clarity, of truth, of sanity.

I am a Christian, not afraid of Muslims, or Jews, Buddhists, or Hindi. I love them and wish them peace. I’m not even afraid of the Westboro Baptist Church, though it makes me sick and I promise you it is no real church at all. I know this by a simple shibboleth: there is nothing in what they do or say that points toward Christ.

This week we have, many of us, been fixated on the personal implosion of a man who has lost his mind. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of this group of audacious lunatics, whose greatest and most ardently held tenet of faith is that they’ve figured out who and what God hates. Those people are insane. They have forgotten the face of love.

There are two things I know about God. First, that there is a God and I’m not Him. Second, that God is love.

With that I invite you, gentle reader, to join me in a search for simple clarity, whatever it looks like to you. Let’s choose one word, then another, and put them in their order. Let’s remember the faces of our loved ones, thankful that someone held our hand when we cried, hopeful for someone to do it again when we die. Because another favorite poet, William Stafford, had this moment of clarity:

Your good dogs, some things that they hear
they don’t really want you to know —
it’s too grim or ethereal.

And sometimes when they look in the fire
they see time going on and someone alone,
but they don’t say anything.