In the Davis household, we celebrate space!  We have shuttles, rockets, glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars, planets hanging, YouTube channels of NASA launches, you name it.  Why?  Well, we’re not Trekkies and not into Star Wars (confession: I don’t think I saw the “last” “first” SW prequel or whatever that was).  I think, ultimately, we do it because space is stunning and we need to be there, at least as a nation, and it’s the perfect analogy to doing something big for its own sake – because it’s good and beautiful and the cultural and spiritual wake is immense.

But we stopped dreaming.  As a people.  As a nation.  And this spiritual atrophy is one of the leading factors, in my opinion, of why so many young men today especially are lost.  We are built to go, as CS Lewis put it, “Further up and further in.”  And there’s no better place to do this than the stars.  The further we go up to the heavens, the further we go into that place in our hearts where God’s creativity, wonder and brilliance intersect.  Neil deGrasse Tyson highlights this well:

 

 

macarthur

General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) was an outstanding figure in the events during and after the Second World War.  He had his issues.  But he could rock a corncob pipe like no one else. In early 1942, when leading outnumbered United States forces in the Philippines, General MacArthur prayed this prayer for his son Arthur many times during his morning devotions.  I pray the same for  mine:

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.”

 

Mr. Wright’s Law

Posted: January 8, 2013 in Inspiration
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Mr. Wright’s Law.  Wow, so worth the 10 minutes to watch:

 

wordsmithypic

A condensed version of a blog written by my man David Mullen:

An Outline of Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson.

Chapter 1: A Veritable Russian Doll of Writing Tips

Know something about the world, and by this I mean the world outside of books. This might require joining the Marines, or working on an oil rig, or as a hashslinger at a truck stop in Kentucky. Know what things smell like out there.

1. Real life duties should be preferred over real life tourism.

2. Authenticity in writing will only arise from authenticity in living.

3. Always remember that your writing will have a message.

4. Use your conversations to hone your writing voice, and not the other way around.

5. When you are out and about, you are watching the gaudy show called life and are trying to learn from it.

6. Live an actual life out there, a full life, the kind that will generate a surplus of stories.

7. Enjoy yourself.

 

Chapter 2: Read Until Your Brain Creaks

Read. Read constantly. Read the kind of stuff you wish you could write. Read until your brain creaks. Tolkien said that his ideas sprang up from the leaf mold of his mind. These are the trees where the leaves come from.

1. The first thing is that writers should be voracious readers.

2. Read widely.

3. Read like a reader and not like someone cramming for a test.

4. Read like a lover of books and not like someone who wants to be seen as knowledgeable, or well-read, or scholarly.

5. Pace yourself in your reading

6. As a general pattern, read quality literature, and go “slumming” occasionally to remind yourself what quality is and why quality matters.

7. Read widely enough that you are not provincial, but not so widely that you become some sort of deracinated cosmopolitan.

 

Chapter 3: Word Fussers and Who-whomers

Read mechanical helps. By this I mean dictionaries, etymological histories, books of anecdotes, dictionaries of foreign phrases, books of quotations, books on how to write dialog, and so on. The plot will usually fail to grip, so just read a page a day. If you think it makes you out to be too much of a word-dork, then don’t tell anybody about it.

1. Read boring books on writing mechanics.

2. Collect and read dictionaries.

3. Read books of complaint about the decline of our language by the word fussers and who-whomers, and read the hilarious refutations of those word fussers by word libertines.

4. Read etymological histories, histories of idioms and phrases, and dictionaries of word roots.

5. Read books and manuals that help you gain mastery of your word processing program, whatever that is.

6. Read books of quotations and anecdotes.

7. Read wordcraft books.

 

Chapter 4: Born for the Clerihew

Stretch before your routines. If you want to write short stories, try to write Italian sonnets. If you want to write a novel, write a few essays. If you want to write opinion pieces for the Washington Post, then limber up with haiku.

1. This helps to keep the content vibrant.

2. If you are in a position to do so, which usually means that you are young enough, make sure to get a thorough and broad liberal arts education.

3. You may discover that your wordsmithing gift was centered in the wrong spot.

4. Trying your hand at different forms helps to fend off flattery.

5. The gift of language is one of the most versatile tools imaginable.

6. Allusion is lovely, and experience with other forms brings the ability to use that device persuasively.

7. I have long said that good teaching consists of loving the subject you are teaching in the presence of students whom you also love.

 

Chapter 5: The Memoirs of Old Walnut Heart

Be at peace with being lousy for a while. Chesterton once said that anything worth doing was worth doing badly. He was right. Only an insufferable egoist expects to be brilliant first time out.

1.  Practice.

2. If a striking expression hits you, don’t hold back because you are writing an email to your sister.

3. Make sure you don’t have a faulty and deterministic view of talent.

4. If you are good with practice runs, if you are okay with not being as good as you are going to be, if you see the need for playing in the minors, then it should follow that you are emotionally prepared for negative feedback.

5. Speaking of criticism, your enemies will sometimes be more accurate, more perceptive, and more to the point than your mom.

6. Openness to criticism is not the same thing as that faux-humility that prepares to inflict itself on everybody with absolutely no reason to do so.

7. Remember that relative competence cannot be universal, and that this applies to your critics, reviewers, editors, and publishing houses as much as to you.

 

Chapter 6: Ancient Roman Toddlers

Learn other languages, preferably languages that are upstream from ours. This would include Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon. The brain is not a shoebox that “gets full,” but is rather a muscle that expands its capacity with increased use. The more you know the more you can know. The more you can do with words, the more you can do. As it turns out.

1. God approves of translation, and by this I am referring to the process of translation.

2. Learning languages is a very good way to learn your language, even if you don’t go on to speak fluently whatever language it was you thought you were learning.

3. Learning different languages helps a writer get a firm grasp of grammar in the abstract.

4. At the same time, be judicious and thoughtful in what you transfer from one language to another.

5. All this is being recommended as an aid to English.

6. One key to good writing is to have a wide-ranging vocabulary.

7. This certainly involves extra work, but it doesn’t take up extra room.

 

Chapter 7: Uncommon Commonplaces

Keep a commonplace book. Write down any notable phrases that occur to you, or that you have come across. If it is one that you have found in another writer, and it is striking, then quote it, as the fellow said, or modify it to make it yours. If Chandler said that a guy had a cleft chin you could hide a marble in, that should come in useful sometime. If Wodehouse said somebody had an accent you could turn handsprings on, then he might have been talking about Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Tinker with stuff. Get your fingerprints on it.

1. The writer’s life is a scavenger’s life.

2. It is dishonest to take the wit and wisdom of others and represent it as your own.

3. These concerns have led to the saying that if you steal from one person, it’s plagiarism, but if you steal from many, it’s research.

4. Having a commonplace book does not mean that you will use everything in your commonplace book.

5. Don’t be afraid to learn from your own typos.

6. Don’t shy away from a striking phrase, even if it has been promoted into a cliché.

7. When you collect phrases, points, metaphors, and what-not in this way, you are, as Cicero used to put it, loaded for bear.

By now many of you have seen this 2012 year in review video from Google, but if you haven’t, it’s a good reminder of all that transpired this year.  And best of all, we’re all still here…until the next apocalypse anyway.  Happy 2013!

Loved this stand-up bit from Steve Harvey introducing Jesus Christ – the message of Christmas.  Enjoy!

newtown

Like most of you, I haven’t said much about the tragedy last week at Newtown.  I think part of the reason is the disgust of the motto of most news agencies (“better to be first than be right”) and the biblical principle of being silent when devastation happens (“Job’s friends sat with him for 7 days. No one said a word because they saw his great suffering.” – Job 2:13).

“I don’t know” is perhaps the best and only phrase to use when it comes to circumstances like these.  Just being there to show solidarity is our only choice.  “I don’t know” is the conclusion to the book of Job – we never get a clear answer for why he goes through those horrendous circumstances.  “I don’t know” is a powerful moniker not only in theology, but science.  It admits our limited mental bandwidth and provides a solid starting place for us to see if we, at least, can come to some understanding.

The closest biblical example I could think of relating to the Newtown tragedy comes from Mark 5:

22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him…

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

…38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Astonishing story.  What was the little girl sick with?  Dysentery?  Smallpox?  Why did God allow that?  “I don’t know.”  But Jesus raised her, as He will all the precious Newtown souls.  We may not know, but we are known.  And have the staggering promise that He will put everything right in due time.  Until then, we grieve.  And are quiet.