March 2008

On How Things Are

It is quite true what philosophy says: that life must be understood backward. But then one forgets the other principle: that it must be lived forward. Which principle, the more one thinks it through, ends exactly with the thought that temporal life can never properly be understood.

– Soren Kierkegaard, quoted by Joseph Bottum in “The Judgement of Memory”

other people's words

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Book Review: On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

book cover

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about this one. Andrew Peterson is high on my list of favorite singer/songwriters, but I wasn’t sure that his considerable talent would translate well to the novel format. After all, you need more than a couple verses and a hooky chorus to make a storybook sing.

But aside from a few reservations about the sheer ridiculousness of some of the character names, I loved it. I found the book to be really enjoyable, suspenseful, quite funny, and possessed of its own unique voice.

The story follows the fantastic adventures of three children–Janner, Tink, and Leeli–as they look for treasure, hide from the bad guys, and try to unravel the mysteries of their own past. The pace and tempo are similar in some ways to the Harry Potter books, but with much more fun and much more hope.

Along the way, they are chased by all manner of strange creatures, including toothy cows (which are hilarious to imagine, but not to meet in person) and the Fangs of Dang (which are smelly, ill-humored villains with a taste for maggotloaf.) They explore Anklejelly Manor. They end up in the Fang dungeon twice. They narrowly escape certain death numerous times. In the end, they…well, you’ll have to read it, I guess.

For me, what made this book more than just light entertainment was the presence of two deeper themes. The first–a fierce love of family–was a refreshing departure from the dysfunctional relationships and remote or absent adults of so many other modern children’s stories.

The second theme, which gave this book its heart, was the acknowledgement of and longing after something deeper, some mystery beyond understanding. To quote Frederick Buechner quoting Rinkitink, the king of Oz, “Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.” After a day of near disaster, little Leeli sings a song of sadness and hope that makes even the dragons fall silent. And then the moment of beauty passes without explanation and we never understand what really happened there on the rock overlooking the Dark Sea. But in the gloom a light shimmers and brings hope of something bigger, some deeper magic. Despite the danger and doubts, still we discover a world full of wonder. As far as I’m concerned, that, and a toothy cow or two, is all you really need for a pretty good adventure.

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Patrick Oden on Knowing Who You Are

“If you aren’t being creative, then you have no idea who God has made you to be.”

– It’s A Dance: Moving With The Holy Spirit by Patrick Oden

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The Bank Of Zippy

I’m not much for proselytizing, but this is a pretty great thing that I think most of the people (all 6 of you) that read this blog would be interested in…

Yes, that’s right, people, we are now open for business here at the Bank of Zippy. Get your microfinance loans here today!

Maybe some background would help: A friend of mine recently brought to my attention a website called kiva.org. The site basically links funding sources (that’s me) all the way through a tangle of connections to individual entrepreneurs in the third world.

This is starting to sound like some sort of spam email…let me start again.

Here are four people:

Nasihat Toshmatova Hafiz Allah Tahar Nighat Bibi’<p>s Group Mohamad Maki

You can read more about each of them by clicking on their picture.

For example, Nasihat (on the far left) was looking for a loan to invest in her fruit and vegetable stall in the market in the Asht region of Tajikistan.

Next to her is Hafiz, who lives in Kabul in Afghanistan. He’s starting a little grocery store to make money to care for his wife and child. His loan request was posted to the kiva.org site on Mar 11. By March 14 it had been funded by donors ($25 from the Bank of Zippy!). On March 15 (that was yesterday), in the 15th district of Kabul, he got his money in the form of an 18 month loan.

Then there’s the group of women in Pakistan and the 22 year-old guy from southern Lebanon.

They are all now in my loan “portfolio”, which was pulled from some money I had stashed in my Paypal account. Today I got an email that said that Nasihat got her money ($25 more from the bank of Zippy). She’ll be paying it back monthly and in 9 months I’ll have my money back and she and her three kids will be better off because of it. As time passes, I’ll get updates on how things are going with each of the four loan recipients. How great is that!

I feel like I’m sounding a little like an infomercial here, but I’m just trying to say that this is pretty cool and it seems like an amazingly simple way to have a profound impact on someone’s life. You can find out more here.

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The Story of Stuff

home-digger3.gifIf you saw the post from a couple weeks ago on plastic, you know that I’ve been thinking about my own consumption habits. I keep seeing plastic everywhere I look and thinking about the fact that it will last pretty much forever. That seems like a high price to pay for that plastic bag and the 45 seconds it takes for me to move my groceries from the checkstand to the trunk of my car.

So I’ve bought a couple cloth bags and have decided to be that slightly strange guy who brings his own bags to the grocery store.

In addition to that, I’ve been thinking about the things I buy, my addiction to gadgets, my storage shed full of junk. So this morning I ran across this video on Susan’s website and once again I’m going to steal and repost (I don’t think she’ll mind). It’s called the Story of Stuff and it outlines the consumer process in an interesting, funny, challenging way and gives a condensed overview of this monster we’ve created. It takes 20 minutes to watch but I promise you it will change the way you think.

The Story of Stuff

other people's words

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Gallery: Prehistoric Days

Prehistoric Days: Climbing Rocks In Joshua Tree

One night a couple years ago we drove out to Joshua Tree late at night. We arrived after dark under a bright moon. Standing in the warm night, we gradually became aware of a deep droning sound that seemed to be coming from everywhere, or nowhere. The rocks themselves seemed to be singing. We walked in circles for ten minutes before we finally discovered the source: someone was playing a didgeridoo in the darkness. I know it was just some guy with a hollow stick, but I think I know a little bit what Jesus meant when he said the “rocks would cry out.”

So, anyway, my brother and I went out there last week and the week before. We climbed the rocks and otherwise entertained ourselves (I tried flying a kite at around midnight when the wind picked up, but the tail kept catching in the sagebrush so I stopped). Here are some pictures.

Oh, and the music is by Nathan Larson from the soundtrack to Palindromes. I’ve been hearing this piece around recently and I can’t get it out of my head.

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