Archive for the ‘personality’ Category

I’ve just taken a fancy to write a relatively pointless and highly uninformed post. Meaning, I read a ponderable, I decided I wanted to ponder it, and I decided I wanted to have an opinion on the matter, even though I’m highly unqualified to do so. It’s Saturday, a day for relaxing, and as an introverted feeler, thinking about things that make me feel good is, well, relaxing and makes me feel good. I also like to think in details and it is fun just to think of a thing from different angles, considering a variety of possibly relevant details. It makes me happy to think about things I know nothing about and think of questions that might be relevant to learning about the topic, if I so decided, or, If It Tickled My Fancy, which leads me to the point of the post.

Chuck Grantham, in talking about something that didn’t tickle his fancy, wondered out loud “where the fancy is located on the human body”.

Hmmm, good question. I have a very emotional memory, so I started thinking about it from different angles, based on a variety of things I felt when I considered the issue (just in case you wondered and are thoroughly confused now about why a feeler is talking so much about thinking–Feelers Think. We really do. It’s just that thoughts that don’t somehow either stir up feelings or aren’t driven by or at least connected to a feeling don’t go anywhere and don’t make any sense. So, every time I say I’m thinking about something, I’m also (and primarily) feeling it. And now the thinkers in my audience–are there any?–are cringing, I’m sure, as I return to the questions that the original ponderable let me to ponder):

1. What is the opposite of a fancy being tickled? Of not taking a fancy to do something?

2. What part of my body feels what when something tickles my fancy and I want to do it (which made me think about the connection between ones fancy being tickled and motivation. How are the two similar, how are they different? Is a fancy being tickled a subset of the bigger issue of motivation.

3. Is there a difference, perhaps, in the fancy-tickler location between thinkers and feelers? Or is the possibility of doing something because it tickles ones fancy absurd to thinkers, say, as opposed to feelers (I ask that, because I know some thinkers who cringe at the possibility that I would do much of anything based solely on it tickling my fancy. Yet, we all, I must believe, do that, in different ways and to different degrees.

4. What is the difference between a decision we make because it tickles our fancy and because we reason out that we need to or want to do something (which ties into my previous number–is doing something because it tickles our fancy more of an emotional thing, tied into emotional centers of the brain vs. reasoning centers? or is “the Fancy” something that is somehow related to both sides of the brain, and can both (a) be tickled by either emotions or reasoning and (b) motivate emotional or reasoned activity.

5. Hmmm, the majority of these ponderings are focusing on the brain rather than the rest of the body for locating the fancy. I suppose it could be someplace else (which is why I was thinking about where I FEEL whatever it is I feel in my body, when my fancy is tickled. So, is the fancy someplace in the body that can be tickled or tripped by some brain activity in a particular region or regions? Or is it actually a place in the brain.

The answer, I have no idea. But it tickled my fancy to think about it, and I enjoyed looking up brain maps as I pondered the question. I couldn’t even make much sense of most of the brain maps. I found these particular images, with words I actually understood, but I’m still a bit confused about what does what where in the brain, because parts of the two images overlap, and because for every thing I think I understand, I have more questions (which shouldn’t be hard to imagine, if Chuck’s simple comment, in just a few minutes drug me relentlessly through all those questions above).

Still, given as I’m just speculating here, I’m going to take a tentative guess and say whatever that part of the brain is that they’ve labeled, “Imagination, Creativity, Yes”, is where the fancy might be found. If it’s the part of the brain where I’m thinking perhaps possibility meets creativity meets motivation meets decision making and everything lines up so that I go, “Oh, yes, I think I’d like to do/try that”, then that seems pretty close to me to what I picture the fancy being.

brain right

brain left

I just love the brain! I don’t come close to understanding much of anything that goes on in there, but it sure is one fascinating array of beautiful complexity!

Read Full Post »

I checked out a book from the library that I’ve not really been able to get into reading. But it was not a complete waste (checking out a book seldom is, even if I don’t actually read it), because I found this quote at the beginning, which reminded me of some thoughts I was trying to develop several months ago:

History begins only at the point where things go wrong; history is born only with trouble, with perplexity, with regret. So that hard on the heels of the Why comes the sly and wistful word If. If it hand not been for… If only… Were it not… Those useless Ifs of history. And, constantly impeding, deflecting, distracting the backward searchings of the question why, exists this other form of retrogression: If only we could have it back. A New Beginning. If only we could return…

To get the technicalities out of the way, the quote is from Evening is the Whole Day, by Preeta Samarasan, and she is quoting Graham Swift in Waterland.

I don’t think I’ve completely sorted out all the complexities of that quote, which is no surprise, because I often enjoy reading things that I only understand 15 to 25 percent of. It stretches my brain, it makes me think, it makes me think outside my own natural box and ponder things from different perspectives, and sometimes it makes me think of things that weren’t exactly the point of the quote.

In this case, the quote served as a trigger to my previous thoughts on regret. My life has taken some pretty rough turns and gone down paths that I’d rather not have gone down. But I end up a bit baffled sometimes because it seems like people expect me to have more regrets than I do.

I find that often there is a tendency for people to want to analyze every single decision and find “the thing” that they (or I) did wrong which could have prevented the outcome that happened. There is a sense in which the regret that comes from that seems to be therapeutic. If I can find something to regret, I can place guilt (or perhaps shame) someplace/anyplace and make some sense of what happened, and maybe over assure myself that I won’t let THAT happen again. I don’t know for sure. I think those are a couple of the functions and benefits of regret. Perhaps you can think of some more?

As a disclaimer before I get where I’m going with this, when I talk about not really giving much space to regret, I’m not against looking at cause and effect and making connections. We learn that way. We run by the pool, slip on the slippery surface and back up in our minds and come to the conclusion that we could have likely avoided that skinned knee by being a bit more careful on a slippery surface. A lot of wisdom is gained by looking carefully and reflecting on the past, and then learning from it.

But, if we make regret carry more certainty that it should, I believe we make a grave error.

I was thinking that regret is often to the past what fantasy is to the future. A big picture imagining that becomes realer than real.

The problem about regret is not what it does know–I did this and this happened–but the confident assumptions and assertions of what it doesn’t know–if I’d have done this other thing, things would have been much better.

But regret, unlike what really did happen, (and like fantasy) is created in an ideal, imagined world. The alternative possibility(ies) that make up regret, were they lived out, though, would have been lived out, not in that ideal imagined world, but in just as complicated, complex and often messed up world as the original action/choice.

I’m not against being sad about choices made and actions done which caused pain. I’m just against letting the fantasy reality of regrets fuel the sadness and grief into some sort of absolutely certain, “Things would have been better if I had done this other thing.”

That kind of thinking feels very similar to the fantastic thinking of fantasies: Things would be absolutely wonderful and certainly infinitely better than they are now, if only THIS were true.

It’s just not realistic. And neither, I’m thinking are regrets the way I mostly hear them used. Give me grief and sadness and when I really see that I have certainly blown something, repentance. Regret, though, does not feel productive, in that it purports to know with certainty what can’t be known and longs for the changing of a past in ways that can’t be changed. Regret doesn’t even seem to honestly accept or reflect reality.

“The useless Ifs of history…” I’m all for learning from my past. I’m not for trying to reinvent it. I’d rather allow the past to be what it is. Remembering the past accurately is important to me. It is what it is. It’s what has made me who and what I am today–all of me the good, the bad, the traumatized, the confident, the strengths, the weaknesses. To try to imagine, with the help of regret, how things could have been different, immediately begins a hugely impossible task. There are too many variables too complexly intertwined with each other to say with certainty “If I had done this differently” or “If so and so had done that differently” X would have happened. I am not even convinced we can say with certainty, “If…. then Y would NOT have happened.” All we can say with certainty is X happened. And grieve it or rejoice in it, or, usually, some difficult combination.

What I know is, This is what happened. This is Who I am. There is a lot of happiness and there is a lot of grief in the past. It most certainly continues to affect me and shape who I am, but I cannot live in the past, trying to make it more palatable or rework it like a video game where I get a second chance to make it work out differently. I can live in the present, remembering and making space for the past–the good, the bad, the ugly. But I cannot live in the past, and usually I think that is what Regret does.

What are your thoughts? As definitive as I sound, I’m still thinking through these things and open to the possibility that I’m making more of the semantics of “regret” than is really there.

Read Full Post »

Learning to Follow

Ann Patchett has some interesting thoughts in a little book called “What Now?” which was originally a graduation speech she gave at Sarah Lawrence College.

Receiving an education is a little like a garden snake swallowing a chicken egg: it’s in you but it takes a while to digest.”

I always appreciate a fun metaphor, and that one made me smile. I don’t know that that actually reflects my experience with education. I found that, regardless of what I specifically remembered from college, it changed me just hearing it and considering it.  So, there is a sense in which the impact was immediate, rather than something which came to full fruition later. But, in any case, the metaphor the author gives lays a nice groundwork for what she talks about next.

She is referring to her 12 years at an all girls’ Catholic school.

At the time, I thought that mine was the most ridiculous, antiquated secondary education in the history….I learned modesty, humility and how to make a decent white sauce. The white sauce I probably could have done without, but it turns out that modesty and humility mean a lot when you’re down on your luck.

Ann Patchett ended up waitressing for a long time between her graduation and actually beginning her successful career as a writer. At college and at writer’s school, her “specialness” had been emphasized.

I’m not knocking being special, it was nice to hear, but when it was clear that I was just like everybody else, I was glad to have had some experience with anonymity to fall back on. The nuns were not much on extolling the virtues of leadership. In fact, we were taught to follow.

Taught to follow. Is that taught very often? Does it seem hideous to even think about such a thing?

In a world that is flooded with children’s leadership camps and grown-up leadership seminars and bestselling books on leadership, I count myself as fortunate to have been taught a thing or two about following. Like leading, it is a skill, and unlike leading, it’s one that you’ll actually get to use on a daily basis.

My personality bent probably leads me more towards following or at the very least cooperativeness, rather than leading. Sometimes it has looked like something is wrong with me (or I’ve felt that way) because I just didn’t care about moving ahead when moving ahead meant getting to the top or taking charge. I appreciate what the author is saying here because it presents following as something other than a character flaw to be fixed or trained away or overcome.  And really, she does have a very good point:

It is senseless to think that at every moment of our lives we should all be the team captain, the class president, the general, the CEO, and yet so often this is what we’re being prepared for. No matter how many great ideas you might have about salad preparation or the reorganization of time cards, waitressing is not a leadership position…. You learn to be helpful and you learn to ask for help.

Ah, these words feel like a drink of refreshing water to me.

It turns out that most positions in life, even the big ones, aren’t really so much about leadership. Being successful, and certainly being happy, comes from honing your skills in working with other people. For the most part we travel in groups–you’re ahead of somebody for a while, then somebody’s ahead of you, a lot of people are beside you all the way. It’s what the nuns had always taught us: sing together, eat together, pray together.

It wasn’t until I found myself relying on my fellow waitress Regina to heat up my fudge sauce for me that I knew enough to be grateful not only for the help she was giving me but for the education that had prepared me to accept it. (quotes from pages 60 to 67)

These words made my brain go in at least two different directions: thinking about the surprising and unexpected ways that education affects us, and the whole concept of learning the skill of following. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these quotes. Are you naturally a leader or a follower? Have you found yourself in positions that require the opposite of your natural bent? And, if so, what kind of things have you found helpful for training you, either in leading or following?

It was just very nice to me to think about developing the skill of following. That feels like a whole lot less pressure to me than to try to figure out how to be the leader that I’ll never naturally be. Part of it, I think, is that we equate being a leader with influence. But, I think followers can be people of great and positive influence, too.

(This is one of many books I checked out this past weekend while visiting the library with a friend. I’m going to update my “To Read” page to reflect my current reading options.)

Read Full Post »

(for lack of the creative thinking skills needed to come up with a better title)

I suppose my blogging habits of late fit me in with this predictably hyperbolic description, courtesy of David Ker:

the rest of the blogosphere has rolled over on its back and feigned death

I’m supposed to be keeping my word to write a post based on a children’s book or series. But every time I start, I stall. Maybe I’m stuck in the Doldrums (my kids and I are reading The Phantom Tollbooth. What a fun book, and what a delightful description of the Doldrums.)

The reality is that every time I try to put my feelings about one of my favorite books into words, it feels either too pedantic or ends up spoiling the simplicity of the story by making too much of it with my words.

The other thing is that every time I start to write that post, I keep veering off course, and it’s always in the same direction. Today, while reading a book called The Gift of Fear, I found some words that got at the feelings my brain kept veering off to:

The great enemy of perception, and thus of accurate predictions, is judgment. People often learn just enough about something to judge it as belonging in this or that category. They observe bizarre conduct and say, “This guy is just crazy.” Judgments are the automatic pigeonholing of a person or situation simply because some characteristic is familiar to the observer (so whatever that characteristic meant before it must mean again now). Familiarity is comfortable, but such judgments drop the curtain, effectively preventing the observer from seeing the rest of the play.

What I’ve been thinking of is how hard it is for me when people I love experience other people I love (or even God, whom I love) in ways that sort of make sense to me (meaning I understand where they are coming from), but at the same time seem to miss so very much.

Sometimes I think I’d like to be a mediator and make a job of being able to say, “Yes, I see it that way. But what do you think about looking at it this other way, too?”

I read a book about autism and I think I’d like to take what makes sense about autism and people with autism and sit down with other people who just write an autistic person off as strange and say things like, “But, look, see how this makes sense? See why so and so can’t look you in the eye? It’s because he can’t filter things out too easily, and so your eye movements distract him.”

I hear someone disregard a person who is obsessive compulsive and I find myself (compulsively) wanting to explain that from a different perspective than the observer might ever have considered it from.

I hear someone knocking someone for being down and out and I want to let them know the therapeutic value of being depressed sometimes.

I hear someone understanding an outgoing, vivacious person as “shallow” and I want to say, “No, no. It’s not necessarily so. Look at it this way.”

I hear someone making sense of a quiet person as unsocial and friendly, and I want to say, “No. Quiet is not unfriendly. Lack of smile might just mean that they are concentrating hard on what you are saying.”

It’s not that I always have a certain answer for “how people are”. It’s just painful to me to watch people come to rock solid certain conclusions about things which they are only seeing (perhaps are only able to see) from one angle.

I see people highly offended by the “way so and so is” and I want to step in and say, “But look. If you really understood this, that would make sense. At least a little bit. Or maybe it’s just that your assumption would make less absolute sense.” And sometimes getting people to see that their assumptions don’t make absolute sense feels like it would be good progress in the right direction. But…sigh…I don’t think many people agree with me that it would be progress for them to move into the direction of LESS certainty.

I also find myself caught sometimes between people who I love and admire deeply but who stand out as so different, and others who write off those people as weird, or crazy, or ridiculous, or… And I, who loves not standing out, wishes there were a way to be unique or different and not stand out. Wishes, at the very least, that more things about the gloriously varied ways that people are and do made easy sense to other people and didn’t seem strange, odd, or even wrong, just because it (or they) are different.

You know what? The problem isn’t so much, I think, that people don’t understand other people. It’s more that people are quick to understand people only in the categories they already know or understand. They take what, in reality they don’t understand, and make sense of it in ways so that they think they do.

Sometimes I get weary of seeing people pigeonhole other people or situations–making sense of them because that’s easier to do than living with tension or not being able to make sense of. Sometimes I don’t mind trying to cross that gap and help people see what they might be missing by dropping the curtain early.

But, sometimes it’s just easier to live in my own world–seeing what I see, enjoying what I enjoy, loving who I love and holding on to the tensions of people and things I don’t understand. I’m not willing to default to making sense of the tensions just for the sake of my relieving the tension. But I don’t always find it easy to communicate that to other people. And so, sometimes it’s easier just to sit with the different angles I see things from, than trying to talk about how differently I see or understand people or situations that other people have pigeonholed. It’s easier than trying to explain. It’s easier than trying to put into words “another way of looking at it.”

Sigh. Does that make me an introvert?

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about God, either, for the same reason that I don’t always want my friends from different circles to get together (at least not if I’m going to have to hear about it afterwards). It’s not hard for me to see how differently (and why) people see God (or my “strange friends”) differently from how I do.

What’s hard is to try to put into words something bigger or different than the pigeonhole that people put God or some of my friends into, when I see how automatic and easy and firm the pigeonhole is. Sometimes the pigeonhole makes so much sense, in and of itself, and the way I see it–bigger than and outside of the pigeonhole–while it makes sense to me, is admittedly not nearly as satisfactory to other people as the pigeonhole is.

I’m not a debater and I’m not a defender. I know who and what I love. And I feel deeply why I do, and why I can and do still love and admire the people (including God) I do for all of their complicatedness. But sometimes it’s too hard to try to help other people see something else outside of their familiar judgments, which make so much sense to them. Does it matter? Is it even my business to try to clarify or explain or bring to light another perspective than the obvious pigeonhole? Sometimes it feels like it does and is. But I’m not always sure.

What do you think about that above definition of judgments (and is it just me, but does anyone else think “judgment” needs an “e” after the “g” to make the “g” say it’s softer sound? Or am I trying to pigeonhole English writing to make it more comfortable for me? And if so, what am I missing out on seeing here 🙂 ):

Judgments are the automatic pigeonholing of a person or situation simply because some characteristic is familiar to the observer (so whatever that characteristic meant before it must mean again now).

So what do you think when you read that? Agree? Disagree? Does it make you think of a story in your own life or experience? I love stories. Stories help me sort out my own thoughts better (and right now, you can probably tell, these thoughts aren’t too well sorted out, being pretty much on the emotional soapbox level). And stories give me hooks. And, finally, stories are the best ways I find to think about things from other perspectives (because even in this, I’m sure there is more than just the way I’m looking at it, to look at it.)

In any case, whether you have a story to share along these lines, or any other form of comment, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Read Full Post »

Have you ever heard that statement? I don’t really disagree, even though I don’t exactly agree either (e.g. it operates on a false assumption pointed out on a great post at Beyond Words that worship = music.) It’s a good post and I’m still thinking through all of it, but, for the moment, let me focus less on the metaphor itself or the semantics of “worship”, but more on the underlying assumption that being a “spectator” in worship (as in “corporately worshipping with music”) is bad. Which leads me to ask this question:

Who defines “spectator”?

I have at times felt very awkward because, when that statement was announced from the pulpit, it seemed like the admonishing one (usually a worship leader) was looking straight at me.

I have recently been realizing that, as an introvert in church, I look most like a spectator when I’m actually most fully engaged in worship.

This is not only true of me with regards to musically connected worship. The more engaged I am in any activity, the more serious I look. The more totally enraptured I am with someone or something in a given moment, the more still and silent I become.

I really like attending churches that leave space for emotions, for emotional expressions and for my emotions to be spoken to and delighted by the Holy Spirit. It is in those same churches, however, that I have sometimes felt the most awkward and the most stared at because of how silent and still I can be in worship. In those places, I may very well be the only one not clapping.

I may not, heaven forbid, even be smiling. Because another thing about me is that, sometimes when I’m very happy, I look very serious. (I just found this quote from one of the first blog posts I ever wrote: “But in some of my happiest, most contented moments, I have also been awed into facial blankness.” The post, incidentally, was called, “Being Happy and Not Smiling”. )

I was recently thinking that perhaps I’m a Quiet Charismatic. I have been called a Quiet Renegade before, but that’s a little bit different 🙂 .

In any case, as a quiet charismatic, it’s not so much that I need a quiet church as it is that I long for a place where a quiet expression of emotions is not looked down on or judged as “falling short”.

I have been in quiet churches, where it felt like there was no breathing space for emotions, or for me as an emotional person. I have also been in more lively churches where “emotional expression” was so loaded with expectations of how that is supposed to look, that I also felt like it was hard to breathe.

This is not about trying to create a fantasy ideal church–the ME church that works, first and foremost for me. (Click “preview” to see a miniature version of the complete video)

It has been helpful, though, to think about how to begin to be comfortable with being myself and with making myself at home wherever I worship and with whomever I’m worshipping.

Just admitting that some of these things are hard for me helps me feel less on edge when I’m in a situation that is not totally comfortable or where I feel conspicuous because my silence or stillness seems to be rather loudly drawing attention to me. And perhaps even causing me to look unspiritual or unmoved by the Spirit, at the times when I am most moved or touched by the Holy Spirit. I’m learning to be okay with that being between me and the Holy Spirit, and not concern myself so much with what other people may see or think they see. (I’ve got a long way to go, still, though 🙂 )

Read Full Post »

…You called him an old dead English guy, and he certainly is that. But he’s not just difficult language, and he’s not just elaborate plots that could never really happen. He doesn’t live in my brain. He’s not a man of ideas. He’s a man of feelings. I love him because when I am sad or lonely, or feeling brave or scared, I can always find a character or a play that will talk to me about what I’m feeling, that will help me do a better job with my place in this world.”

(from Set Me Free, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, p. 190-191)

Shakespeare doesn’t do that for me. But Langston Hughes does. And the United Methodist Hymnal. And some really good fiction authors. And the book of Job. And Isaiah. And Jeremiah. And Psalms.

Once again, I wonder, if I didn’t have books, if I didn’t live in a world full of literature, where would a visual learner introvert like me find the words I need to connect me to other people, to give expression to the things I feel deep inside of me? Where could I learn and hear things at a pace where my brain can process them without all the other overwhelming social things that interfere with oral learning?

Do I just feel this way because I grew up in a literature-driven culture? Or would I still be the same way–but a little bit lost and a little more out of it and not knowing exactly what it was I was missing–if there were not so many books available for me? Or maybe none at all.

Read Full Post »

Serotonin is my friend. As is acetylcholine (which, if I remember right from The Introvert Advantage is the neurotransmitter that introverts use a lot more of). All those neurotransmitters that let me feel so deeply and variably, alternatively fascinate and frustrate me.

I enjoy learning about the neurotransmitters, how our brains regulate them, how the things we do (as well as things done to us) affect them.

If you want more dopamine, all you have to do is play a computer game for several hours. You’ll feel great the whole time (though, often, pretty miserable afterwards when you come down off that dopamine high.)

If you want more endorphins, some of your options are to (a) get hurt, (b) go running, which to me feels like only a slight variation of option “a” or (c) I just learned last night, keep a lot of change happening in your life. Apparently, the brain processes change in the exact same place and way as it does pain. For some people, change would be a relatively pain-free way to get the same endorphin rush without the pain. For others, like the ISFJ that I am, change is, well, extremely difficult and I’d be hard pressed to think it’s worth it for the endorphin rush in exchange. (This new information I heard makes sense in connection with Lingamish’s post on the new nomads and how nomadism can increase productivity and also become a type of addiction).

And serotonin, we all know, can be helped along by various types of anti-depressants, most commonly these days, by Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs). But those come with their own set of side effects and complications, which may or may not seem worth it to any given person.

However, I was happily surprised this past weekend to discover a rather nonconventional and quite charming (literally) source of neurotransmitters:


While I was in research mode, I was also happy (ha, I think research gets some of my happy neurotransmitters going) to discover the contribution theobromine, a molecule, which is found in chocolate, makes towards feeling good.


Here’s the explanation from Think Geek, the website which sells the above theobromide-in-chocolate t-shirt:

Caffeine is our favorite stimulant. It is easy to get and comes in many forms. But did you know that Caffeine has a sexy younger cousin. Her name is Theobromine, and she’s the tasty little number who puts your mind in a happy place while you are eating chocolate. Molecularly similar to caffeine, but with just enough differences to make her a much smoother date, Theobromine is slower to burn out of your system and induces gentle, sensual stimulation to your muscular and cardiovascular systems.

Although I don’t understand all the technicalities, the Wikipedia (reliable resource that it is 🙂 )article on theobromine, filled in a few more gaps in my knowledge as they explained that this molecule does something to stimulate serotonin.

Something else I learned is that:

theobromine has an antitussive (cough-reducing) effect superior to codeine by suppressing vagus nerve activity. In the study, theobromine significantly increased the capsaicin concentration required to induce coughs when compared with a placebo. Additionally, theobromine is helpful in treating asthma since it relaxes the smooth muscles, including the ones found in the bronchi.

Chocolate just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

And it sure is a lot cheaper than the above jewelry. Still, if I had enough money and felt comfortable spending it on indulgences like jewelry, my Made With Molecules design of choice would be the endorphin necklace:


That is incredibly and amazingly beautiful. Chocolate might make me feel good, but I look at that endorphin necklace and think two things (besides how beautiful it is, but I experience that as more of a feeling than a thought):

(1) how unbelievably creative the designer of the jewelry (a molecular biophysicist turned artist named Raven Hanna) is, and

(2) how amazing the Designer of the real-thing-endorphins is. I mean, that’s just one of the neurotransmitters, and it is so incredibly complex and beautiful and fascinating AND, wow, does it come in handy when I’m hurting.

Since $640 is hard for me to come by, however, I’m thinking I’ll just have to stick with one of these next time I’m feeling the need for a neurotransmitter boost:


(Perhaps I could set up a “contribute” button like Lingamish has on his site, only mine could be for chocolate instead of cash! )

Read Full Post »

One of the more bizarre things about how people perceive me is that I can look both (1) like a pushover and (2) obstinately stubborn.

The first observation is explained, I think, by the fact that I have a very wide tolerance for things and so there are many times I just don’t care either way. When it looks like I’m giving in, I’m really not. The question or issue at hand just doesn’t matter enough to me to exert the energy to come up with an opinion or preference.

The second observation about me is explained, I think, by the fact that I am…

…actually stubborn when something does matter to me or when I believe something strongly.

In a profound and thought-provoking post, Codepoke discusses how physics and the science of light gives him permission to be theologically stubborn in his viewpoints concerning Calvinism and Arminianism.

As a person who seems determined (or is it predestined?) to live most of my life holding opposite tensions in each of my hands (perhaps on each side of my brain), this post put into words why I am not able to resolve such tensions by compromise or camping out in the middle ground.

It articulates why I like theology and listening to people at the extremes, even while I feel myself pulled between the extremes, neither really in either extreme nor hanging out somewhere between them. Perhaps I’ve made my home in the No-Man’s Land of cognitive dissonance. It’s not always fun. It sometimes feels insane. But reading this post, I’m reminded again of why I don’t feel like I can maintain my internal integrity and “pick a side” on a lot of theological issues.

Even when I speak with conviction from the perspective of one side, I don’t find myself able to actually argue against “the other side” in a way that seeks to dismantle it as pure error, through and through.

I’m not waffling on there being truth or not. There are teachings which I believe are erroneous, and which stand in contrast to The Truth. I’m not talking about that in this post, but rather the kinds of things that theologians have argued about, fought about and excommunicated opponents over for centuries, without ever being able to satisfactorily resolve once and for all what is The Truth of The Matter. The kinds of things that both sides use the same verses to prove their points with.

Funny enough, reading Codepoke’s post I realized how much I actually like being able to say “we’re both right.” That’s why I’d never be a very good debater. I really want to be able to hold firmly to what I see as true and right, while being able to make space to hear and understand things just as strongly from your perspective. Somehow, what sounds like the opposite view doesn’t so much water down my own, but holds it in a realistic tension that I think is important (perhaps even essential) in the context of my limited understanding.

Well, I’m rambling and struggling to find words for the very thing that I think Codepoke has already articulated so well. I hope you’ll go read his thoughts.

Read Full Post »

Because if I had to reject everyone whose brain thinks and communicates in ways that are different than mine and which are hard for me to understand, I’d miss out on gems like this post from Ancient Hebrew Poetry, “Why I am Not an Atheist”. The whole post is brilliant, and I hope you’ll go there to read it. But, since I find through blog stats that few links are consistently clicked onto, let me highlight this one small selection:

I see a rising tide of evil, and hope against hope in God’s superabounding grace. I see baseless fears everywhere: they just have new names. I see an abundance of racism, and especially classism, wherever I look. It is simply put to more ‘refined’ uses. I see no more wisdom in the current arrangement of roles and time management as it is distributed along gender lines, than was true in the past.

Oh, yes, it is wonderful to hear someone presenting reality as reality, side by side with the hope of God’s superabounding grace, without trying to reconcile things by diluting or denying either how bad things still are in spite of all of our progress or how superabounding the grace of God is. The reality John points out here makes me think and puts words to things I see and feel.

My point, though, is not primarily how much I liked this particular post, as much as it is what I’d be missing out on if I wrote John off as a “hopeless intellectual” just because he often writes about things my brain can’t begin to comprehend in ways that are quite complex.

I subscribe, via Bloglines, to Ancient Hebrew Poetry. Perhaps 80 percent of what I read there goes over my head. I can imagine some of my friends looking at me and asking, “Why bother?” Well, partly it is because the part I do get enriches my life so much. But, another part of it is that I enjoy getting to know and hear about life through John’s eyes and mind. I enjoy having friends, even blogging friends, who make life so interesting because they are so different from me.

If I see a brilliant intellectual, and let that aspect of the person’s personality be all I see, and if I write off that person because of what I don’t understand when they speak, I will have missed that person as a whole person, who is intellectual, but not only “An Intellectual”. I also will have missed the opportunity for my life to be enriched, for my faith to be challenged, for my heart to understand things from perspectives I’d never have arrived at myself.

Aristotle’s Feminist Subject is another blog I follow, but do not often understand. I’m glad I stumbled on the blog and hung around, because I’ve met another nice and interesting (and I mean both of those words as compliments, in spite of how they are often twisted, semantically, to mean other things) person in J.K. Gayle and gleaned so much of value from the small percentage that I do understand of what he writes. It was on that blog that I was introduced to a biography, Same Kind of Different As Me, which has impacted my life and thinking profoundly. It’s the only book I can think of that I found myself weeping after I finished reading. It shook up many of my presuppositions about life, about class, about change, about how God works.

Sometimes I’m intimidated by highly intellectual people. Okay, I usually and almost always am. But I don’t want that intimidation to get in the way of connection with people. The conversations I’ve had with both John and J.K., while only a small part of my whole life, are ones that I am so glad I didn’t miss out on. I treasure these connections and online friendships. And I find that once I get to know the person behind the intellect, the intimidation either goes away or at least becomes not so big of a deal.

And while I say that my life has been enriched by the things I do understand that John and J. K. write, it’s not nearly as utilitarian as it sounds. Mainly I’ve really enjoyed getting to know, however remotely, two interesting people whose amazing intellects happen to be just one part of what makes them interesting and nice people.

Connection in the body of Christ is supposed to cross over barriers. If you can run intellectual and academic circles around me, and I use that as a reason to disdain you, then I’m telling you I can only connect to you if you stop thinking and talking the way God made your brain to work. To me, that is sad and would be a great loss all around.

What do you think? Is there a difference in disdaining people because the way they think is complicated as opposed to any other reason that we disdain people who are different from us? Is it okay to disdain an intellectual, but terrible to disdain someone who is mentally retarded? I see that as highly inconsistent. I would daresay we deceive ourselves if we think it’s acceptable to disdain someone who has more of something than we do–whether it be money, intellect, popularity, etc.–but appalling to disdain someone who has less of the same thing than we do.

If I think I can disdain or write off someone who has “more,” then I have to wonder if my “acceptance” of someone with “less” is really acceptance or merely patronizing? Lately I’ve been thinking that “patronizing” is just the dolled up, socially acceptable version of disdain.

Read Full Post »

I ended up at this post by Spiritual Tramp in a very round about way. The author made me smile when he talked about another site and said that it “makes me wish I were geekier than I am.” It also reminded me that I have had my scores from the Nerd Test sitting in draft for a while now.

The analysis of my nerdiness came back as:

“Not nerdy, but definitely not hip.”

60% scored higher (more nerdy),
1% scored the same, and
39% scored lower (less nerdy).

I guess  nerdiness dilutes the hip factor more than I would have imagined. I mean, 60 percent of the people taking the test scored higher than me, and that doesn’t make me a little bit hip? Why didn’t they say, “You are MORE hip than you are nerdy?” instead of emphasizing that I am definitely NOT hip?

I can see how these results fit with my personality. I don’t like to stand out. I don’t really have any desire to be popular or “in”. In all honesty, I really don’t want to be like “everybody else”.  But at the same time, I don’t like being so different as to actually be noticed or stand out. 

I was also thinking that while I don’t want to be an obvious nerd or a geek for the sole reason that I don’t want to stand out, I’m always delighted when I have a few  people who others label as geeks or nerds among my close friends. These are the friends who don’t tell me I think too much. These friends give me lots of cool things to think about from a variety of interesting perspectives.  I like variety and I’m glad my friends are scattered all across the spectrum (any spectrum/whatever spectrum).

As a sort of highly educated redneck, country bumpkin, I think I do feel most self conscious around people who might be labeled hip. Even so, I’m grateful for the more “with it” friends I’ve had as well, who haven’t  looked down at me, just because I’m NOT (with it).

Distinctions like this can be fun when they help us describe what is, and maybe even help us laugh about those realities and different takes on life.  I can’t stand a focus on distincions, though, when it is prescriptive or isolating, for example, when there is either an air of intellectual superiority or anti-intellectual superiority about a person and that is used to place a wide gulf between any two people.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »