Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Tag: writing

344. Suggested Reading: Wild At Heart and Captivating

One of the books that most impacted me was Wild At Heart by John Eldredge, and eventually the companion book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge.

The first is written to men, but is quite eye-opening for women as well. Its premise is that men seek three primary things: an adventure to live, a battle to fight and win, and a beauty to rescue. This is seen in movies, business ventures, sporting events, and the art forms we are surrounded by, as well as by the lives of men everywhere.

These are the things that motivate him so if one of these aspects is taken away from him, he will begin to fade. He may cover it up or ignore it as much as possible, but like a shell on the beach he will feel drained of all life. So use the thrill of the journey, the satisfation of success, or the mystique and transcendent nature of beauty to both your benefit, but never as manipulation. Hard work is a great opportunity, but a man whose heart is alive is better than a man who just works. This book resonated so deeply that I made reading it one of the things your mom had to do before we got married.

Captivating was released a few years later and balances the equation from the woman’s side, with the understanding that a woman always feels that she is “too much” and “never enough” simultaneously. A woman wants to be the beauty and be swept up into an adventure with her great love.

Do yourself the favor of not speeding through them just to check them off the list, though. It’s worth it.

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343. Quotes: Steve Turner’s Poem, “Creed”

“Creed”

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes, UFOs, and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man, just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher, though we think His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same — at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors.
And the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

—Steve Turner’s (English journalist) satirical poem on the modern mind

341. Quotes: Arthur Quiller-Couch on Written Style

“For — believe me, Gentlemen — so far as Handel stands above Chopin, as Velasquez above Greuze, even so far stand the great masculine objective writers above all who appeal to you by parade of personality or private sentiment.

Mention of these great masculine ‘objective’ writers brings me to my last word: which is, ‘Steep yourselves in them: habitually bring all to the test of them: for while you cannot escape the fate of all style, which is to be personal, the more of catholic manhood you inherit from those great loins the more you will assuredly beget.’

This then is Style. As technically manifested in Literature it is the power to touch with ease, grace, precision, any note in the gamut of human thought or emotion.

But essentially it resembles good manners. It comes of endeavouring to understand others, of thinking for them rather than for yourself — of thinking, that is, with the heart as well as the head. It gives rather than receives; it is nobly careless of thanks or applause, not being fed by these but rather sustained and continually refreshed by an inward loyalty to the best. Yet, like ‘character’ it has its altar within; to that retires for counsel, from that fetches its illumination, to ray outwards. Cultivate, Gentlemen, that habit of withdrawing to be advised by the best. So, says Fénelon, ‘you will find yourself infinitely quieter, your words will be fewer and more effectual; and while you make less ado, what you do will be more profitable.’”

—“On the Art of Writing,” Chapter 12: Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge, 1913–1914, by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944), published in 1916 by Cambridge University Press

336. Helvetica’s Use

If you must use the Helvetica typeface, don’t use it in paragraphs; that’s not what it was created for. (And don’t even mention the pariah, Arial.)

Helvetica’s character forms are not distinct enough, the shapes are pushed toward the outside of the space they hold, which makes them oddly squat, and the leading (fixable) and counter spaces (unfixable) are too tight in automated templates where the point size is small. These problems start getting reduced only as the words get into heading and display sizes — around 16 points or so. But, then use it for headings and not for text; and feel free to use all caps here. That’s where Helvetica can shine.

333. Quotes: Hal Riney on Committees

“I would rather deal with a tyrant any day than a committee. Committees, as a general rule, aren’t willing to take chances, which is why you have a committee in the first place — so you can share the blame.”

—Hal Riney, interview from the documentary Art & Copy (August 2009)

318. Website Background

Black backgrounds on websites are usually very bad, especially when it comes to generic blog templates.

312. Inspired

When you’re inspired, get the idea down into a more solid form. Whatever that means — pen and paper, an instrument of choice, a bit more time awake than usual, a weird experiment — just go with it. It’s worth it.

306. Essay: Love’s Singularity

Love has a singularity as its object that is not seen in other qualities. Unlike most other qualities, love is focused on one, not on many.

A diluted focus is seen in negative qualities such as selfishness and pride. The selfish “mine” feeling is against everyone else. Pride also is against the masses. It is the belief that you are better or greater than most others rather than just one other.

A diluted focus is seen on the positive side as well. Think of peace. It is not singular in its expression, but corporate. You may desire internal peace, but world peace seems a more noble idea. When we opine, “He is the most humble man I have ever met,” we are comparing the one against the many. Humility seems best recognized when compared against the backdrop of groups, not primarily in comparing two people. And trust is a quality an individual might have, but it is toward most things, not one thing. We trust gas stations to have the kind of fuel our vehicles need. We trust grocery stores to have the staples of diet. Though we may prefer one station or store over another, that does not affect the basic element of trust.

Love, though.

It’s undeniably different. To say, “I love all cats or all cucumbers,” is misguided; no one has experience with every living cat or harvested vegetable. Saying love is aimed at a singular object or person seems pointless to even state. We intuitively understand the singular focus of love. Of course you love that person. How else could you love? Could you love all people? No, because love requires a deeper commitment, a more thorough understanding, and a greater connection to one than all others. That is love’s meaning.

Love carries a singularity within it. Just think: If your beloved were to pass from this life, would it suffice to replace them or to love all people now? Tell the parents who have lost a child that they can just have another. Will that work? Tell a seventeen-year-old whose father was killed by a drunk driver that there will be no difference during his high school graduation because his uncle will be there.

Replacements make love beggarly.

The singularity of love is so natural to us, I feel I have too much belabored the point.

300. Quotes: Donald Miller on Wonder

“There is no up and down. There has never been an up and down. Things like up and down were invented so as not to scare children, so as to reduce mystery to math. [. . .] I think we have two choices in the face of such big beauty: terror or awe. [. . .] We are too proud to feel awe and too fearful to feel terror. [. . .] Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little time is spent allowing our our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.”

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, chapter 17, pages 204 and 205

296. Essay: My Theory on Recollection

Fill in these sentences with whatever phrases you want:

  • My time in high school was:
  • My relationship with my mother when I was in elementary school was:
  • My relationship with my father when I was in elementary school was:
  • The first sporting event I remember attending was:
  • What I remember about the first time I performed in front of others is:
  • I do or do not want to spend time with my parents because:

I haven’t seen this psychological theory out there anywhere, so I’m going to spell out my theory here. I believe our individual history is inscribed and recalled primarily in emotion rather than in fact.

When we think back over our life, it seems we can recall many facts, but not with absolute clarity or without bias. We collect various series of events, package them under a heading, and assign an emotional descriptor for them.

It strikes me that this is the opposite of a computer system. A computer requires a name for a folder, a photo, video, or file. You can tag it with facts: geolocation, year, name of the person in the picture, title or main subjects of the document. In human interactions, these facts are taken for granted. We can tell that picture was a night wedding with our daughter as the flower girl, this document is about current trends in whatever subject, this slideshow is for chapter 18. But we don’t take pictures to keep facts straight, we do it to relive the emotions of the event or those related to that person.

We name files by facts. When someone asks about the wedding or how our vacation was, we answer with an overall feeling: “It was beautiful . . . so much fun . . . the best vacation ever . . . the most romantic and joyous ceremony I’ve been to.” We are using emotion to recall how the expectation matched with the actual experience. Computers can’t determine whether something is funny, pitiable, wretched, fair, or inspiring. And neither can anything else in nature. Emotional recollection is one of the astounding things that makes us human.

This emotional recollection theory becomes even more clear when we think back over significant chunks of time in our life. Junior high, high school, college, those few years in the military or in that other state. What immediately comes out is an overarching feeling of that time in our life. “It was horrible . . . I had so much fun with all my friends in school . . . most embarrassing years of my life . . . exhilarating to see him play one of the best seasons of his career . . . I was lonely because I didn’t have many friends.”

What we’ve done is opened the file in our head for that time in our life — and we’ve felt it all over again. That’s the primary way we connect with our own history. We don’t list off facts as much as we recall how that time felt overall and then back it up with selected experiences correlating to that main feeling.

It’s easy to see how one reinforces the other, facts and feelings working in tandem to get a more complete picture of each significant season of our personal history. We go through a week and stamp an emotion on it: great week. The next week: great again. The next two weeks: also great. So that month goes in the “great” pile. A few more like that and we can check off those six months as a really good stretch. It works with negative seasons of life as well.

Overall, how were your interactions with me as your dad? If you felt loved, taken care of, special, the top on my list, secure or safe, and that you could trust me, then you will probably have a positive recollection of me. If you felt you were not loved, not worth spending time with, unsafe or insecure with me, or that you could not trust me, then you will probably have a negative recollection of me. And your emotional recollection of our past will determine how you interact with me right now. You may remember a few instances of things that did or did not happen, but it will largely be based on your feelings — those tangibly intangible guides of our actions.

So, that’s my theory: Our individual history is inscribed and recalled primarily in emotion rather than in fact, and those emotions guide our current and future interactions.

And this is sobering.

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