Notes from 2000 and 2001

Recently I was glancing over a personal journal I kept in 2000-2001. Here are a few unconnected passages that struck me as culturally unpopular and therefore worth reading.

Intellectual ground was safe and easy. Sincerely believing I had discovered a formula to unravel the mysteries of the world, I had in fact concocted a witch’s brew of rationalism that would long divert me from the problems that truly thwarted my ability to understand anything.

Being caught in a traffic jam is an opportunity to relish the fact that you are wonderfully alive.

Reasoning and analysis lead to confusion and uncertainty; observation and awareness and mindfulness are what is needed for a harmonious spirit.*

One thing I’ve noticed about being more mindful … I ask better questions when making any kind of conversation. Asking more questions to get at details.

A few days ago I drove to [a business] in Itasca with only vague directions from Frank W. I didn’t look at a map, but “felt” my way there. Similar to what I’d done on the bike trail. Finding destinations intuitively. I’m used to equating intuition with risk. Perhaps that is wrong. Perhaps avoiding risk turns out to be the riskiest course of all, in that it prevents you from realizing your potential and discovering the real joys in the world.

Balancing  the scales of what I give and receive is beyond my control. Becoming angry at a perceived deficit neither helps nor hinders. It only leaves bad feelings.

Parents are the ultimate teachers.

The Third Temptation, by William Blake.
The Third Temptation, William Blake

Father Fritz delivered a lecture starting with the temptations of Jesus in the desert: Jesus answers Satan’s taunt to jump from the parapet by using a line from the Old Testament: “thou shalt not put your God to the test.” The perfect response. Satan tempts us subtly, probes for our weak points, and attacks. God versus Satan … with modernism we have internalized our struggle: it is no longer acceptable to attribute good and evil impulses to external sources, much less to God and Satan.

[About office politics.] Never have I seen so much emotion being so misdirected.

Actually all the books [of the Old Testament] are amazing in some way. Reading Lamentations last night, I was struck by the connectivity of the ideas and events in the Old Testament, as if the passage of 1500 years didn’t exist. Always, you see the relentless consistency of God’s grace, and the relentless consistency of the “stiff-necked” people who refuse to accept his supremacy, who repeat the same sins over and over. No wonder the Bible touches people today—the passage of time doesn’t change our natures. Inside we’re no different from the Jews in Jerusalem who worshipped Baal …

I developed a habit of conversation when talking to store clerks, parking attendants, waiters, waitresses, receptionists, and any other service people I encounter. When they say, “How are you?” whether mechanically or with interest, I earnestly reply, “I’m wonderful. How are you?” The responses reveal a great deal. Whether the person is attentive and friendly or dripping with apathy, he almost always gives me a startled look, so infrequently does he experience genuine human contact during the day, so often merely serving people who wander about in trances of self-absorption. After this flash of surprise, the person will usually smile, his face will brighten up, and if I am very lucky, he will say, “I’m fine. Thank you for asking!” I always hope the person will remember this brief exchange and perhaps carry its spirit into another, more important, conversation.

*I will come back to that bit about reasoning and analysis leading to confusion in an upcoming review of Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.

(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)

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