Saturday, April 12, 2008

Once, once again; Book Reviews

What more can I say?
The movie captivates me.
Actually I can add a couple more descriptions that make the movie mean so much to me.
  • unpretentious
  • subtle
  • organic
  • vehemently opposed to cliche
  • beautifully and simply crafted
  • characters that are likeable, true-to-themselves, yet willing to grow and take risks -- and, to quote Eugene Peterson, just damn ordinary. (although we come to see their true talents as extraordinary).
Someday -- before this year is over -- I will hold a "Once" party and the price of admission will be a handwritten song. (just like the party -- full of candlelight and long neck bottles - that Guy and Girl attend together; it really depicts one of my visions of Heaven.)

Book Review: A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink

Good news for all you conceptual people out there...appearantly we're going to rule the future! If you're currently working toward your MBA switch to a MFA; if you're updating your resume with programming and engineering skills, get to your community college ASAP for a creative writing or video production class. We are in the high-touch, high-concept age and it looks like we'll be here a good while.
Computers bring us more and more automation. Cheap labor overseas brings us more and more abundance. What the world needs now is creative thinking. Pink makes these arguments and more. With only a little bit of bias, I found myself totally agreeing with him. It's time to shake off the test-happy, metric and IQ-driven age and invest some time and energy into our EQ's (that's emotional quotient for all my engineering friends). Our culture is craving -- and willing to pay good money for -- meaning and experience.
Pink lists six R-Directed (as in right-brained) aptitudes we will need to master in order to complement the glut of L-Directed (as in left-brained) reason of the Information Age.

1. Not just function but also DESIGN (beauty and whimsy have value!)
2. Not just argument but also STORY
3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY (analysis alone is no longer the hot commodity, rather what's the BIG picture?)
4. Not just logic but EMPATHY (those who thrive will be distinguished by their ability to forge relationships and care for others)
5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY (good news for all you gamers out there!)
6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING (who knew happiness isn't just found in stuff??)

Pink takes the rest of the book to help his reader envision this list. And, joy of all joys for this concept-girl -- lots and lots of links and recommended reading abound at the conclusion of each chapter. My absolute favorite recommendation was found at Somehow and someway, I will be working that concept into my future.
Because Pink is cautious to not throw the baby out with the bathwater in encouraging not a cultural shift to Right-Brain dominance but, instead a Whole New Mind (a symphony of both, if you will) I can totally recommend this book to every one I know.
Don't feel like reading the book but would like to know what to do when you grow up? Pink says the careers to be in for this age -- Design (of any kind, from furniture to graphic to product innovation) or Nursing (remember empathy?).
Interesting, eh?

Book Review: Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith by Luci Shaw

I had never heard of Luci Shaw until I read the collection of essays called The Christian Imagination (Ed: Leland Ryken) a few years ago. The time was a summer month shortly after one of my greatest adulthood epiphanies at a Willow Creek Arts Conference...I loved art and was about half a lifetime behind in my understanding of and discpline in this role. The essay I read by Luci Shaw was titled "Beauty and the Creative Impulse" and was located on page 81 of a 462-page collection. After reading Shaw's essay I'm not sure I ever read further. And it wasn't just because of the wisdom and realistic view of the purpose of beauty in a broken world that is embodied in this statement:

"We were each, in the image of our Creator, created to create, to call others back to beauty, and the truth about God's nature, to stop and cry to someone preoccupied or distracted with the superficial, "Look!" or "Listen!" when, in something beautiful and meaningful we hear a message from beyond us, and worship in holiness our Creator who in his unlimited grace,
calls us to become co-creators of beauty."
This paragraph deeply impacted me. But it is not what stopped me breathless in my tracks.

Luci Shaw is a poet. For that reason, it only makes sense that a poem would so infatuate my mind that I was no longer able to process prose.
See what you think...
The Foolishness of God
Perform impossibilites
or perish. Thrust out now
the unseasonal ripe figs
among your leaves. Expect
the mountain to be moved.
Hate parents, friends, and all
materiality. Love every enemy.
Forgive more times than seventy-
seven. Camel-like, squeeze by
into the kingdom through
the needle's eye. All fear quell.
Hack off your hand, or else,
unbloodied, go to hell.
Thus the divine unreason.
Despairing you may cry,
with earthy logic - How?
And I, your God, reply:
Leap from your weedy shallows.
Dive into the moving water.
Eye-less, learn to see
truly. Find in my folly your
true sanity. Then, Spirit-driven,
run on my narrow way, sure
as a child. Probe, hold
my unhealed hand, and
bloody, enter heaven.
(from Polishing the Petoskey Stone, Shaw Books, 1990, 198)
I bought this book, Breath for the Bones, about a month ago in preparation for the Transforming Culture Symposium I planned to attend April 1-3. I knew that Luci Shaw would be one of the breakout presenters and very much hoped I'd be able to sit in her session. I figured reading the book before seeing her in person would somehow prepare me to be that much smarter. As if an invisible gold star would gleam off my nametag or something!
As it turned out I read the book on the plane all the way there and then all the way back home. It is a good book that I have filled with dog-eared corners (i'm too lazy to hold a highlighter AND a book!). Paragraphs like this one budge their way into my dull and unbelieving thought patterns:
"Does art impact our spirituality? Does spirituality affect our art? Yes. And yes. The two seem symbiotic, each feeding on and in turn nourishing the other. They work in tandem; it is hard to imagine an aritist who is totally unspiritual in the sense of being out of touch with both created and unseen worlds. And it is hard to imagine a person full of Spirit who is not in some way creative, innovative, world disturbing." (page 78, )
But, once again, it is Ms. Shaw's first-love, the poem, that elevates my heart and mind:

What We Say We Want
What do we say when
that hunger harrows our bodies?
I desire you. But it's not
that, or not only that.
Desire is the word we use as an excuse
for all the pain, a white flag
dropped into the battle that rages
between urgency and fulfillment.
A time of exhaustion comes
when nothing is left to want;
or when what we still want
is too large to name.

And, maybe it is because of her brilliant almost-naming of that which is unnamed in me -- with the skillful use of brilliant language and metaphor -- that I am so drawn to this poet. It is perhaps, why I sat three feet in front of her podium and swiped liquid streams from my cheeks with small wadded up balls of tissue as she read her new work freshly typed and laid onto an overhead projector.
Desire almost-named is an achy kind of thing.
I'm aching all over.
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