magic.

Magic.

*I feel it to be my civic duty to warn you that this post contains excessive use of the word “and”.


When I was in college, I had this amazing professor, the Dumbledore to my HP if you will, and she taught one of the best classes I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing: Rhetoric & Style.* We did so many unexpected things in this class, and while we learned a lot about Rhetoric and a lot about Style, I feel that what we learned the most about was our place in the universe.

I remember one day she got carried away on what seemed like a tangent, which generally would give my sweet little structure-craving temperament a bout of the anxieties, but on this particular occasion I still remember feeling drawn to the dialoguelike something inside of me was reaching out for something else, like part of me was already expecting it. She went along this path that transitioned from English majors to journaling to list-making to poem writing to sound and color observing to rhetoric to our creative muses to unity within the universe. (this same teacher who in another class that same semester would settle in with “The center cannot hold/ all things fall apart” as our lens for analyzing all the works we studies those 4 months) Later we watched Elizabeth Gilbert deliver this amazing Ted Talk about all the things we had been discussing and I teared up as I felt myself recognizing the magic that lies in being present to all the things that are endlessly working together to create…magic. Then we walked with the Victorians as they struggled to understand how and why the center cannot hold; we sat in the sadness that their revelations mandated. Then we in our present day held their works to the light and saw the beauty they held, and suddenly there it was again, that magic—that stuff that presented itself in the midst of seeming dichotomies and sadness and pieces of a fragmented humanity. Peace-bringing, soul-shaping, life-giving magic.

And then the semester ended and I didn’t feel the magic any more. So, I chalked it up to superlative teaching and mutability and carried on.


Fast forward to a while back when I started going to therapy and doing yoga and meditating, all things that force you to look inward and be present to what’s going on. One day I saw this phrase “create space for magic” that someone had put on their yoga mat, and while what they meant by “magic” probably had more to do with executing a solid King Dancer pose, I decided to adopt the phrase as my mantra. I wrote it down and began to use it to set my intention for my yoga practices; then I found myself referencing it during trying times at work; before long I realized this wasn’t just some trite phrase, it was a way of living, it was the way back to that wonderful indescribable soul medicine I experienced that first time with Rhetoric & Style.

Recently I’ve been listening to some new podcasts, reading some new authors, and I swear for every single thing that has made me say “YES!” or “Me too!” there’s been a reference or tie to another thing that also made me say “YES!” or “Me too!”. I’ve started listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast titled “Big Magic” (right?!) and in the first episode I stepped into, she had Rob Bell (episode #4) on who talked about living as though “the action is here” and being present for what’s already happening in us and through us and around us. Just today I had an issue with my library account, so I called them and had the loveliest conversation with the lady working the circulation desk who said it was a system error then remarked on one of the books I had checked out (which is a phenomenal book about a certain personality trait that apparently we both have), and we bonded briefly in solidarity over our DNA-based compositions. Then she, without any prompting from me, remarked on how our conversation must be why the system gave me an error message even though it was working.

It would take me days to tell you all the ways everything is cross-referencing and things from one area keep filling in the blanks for things happening in other areas and everything is clicking together and connecting and making sense and it’s wonderful. That semester in college, I recognized that something was speaking to my soul. Somehow deep down I knew a part of the core of who I am had been reached and its thirst had been quenched, but when I lost it I failed to relegate any responsibility to myself.

Now, I know that it’s up to me, and you, dear friends, to create the space for the magic in our lives. If you create space, if you show up, if you truly believe that the action is here, with you, right where you are when you are where you are, then magic will find you. And man, it’s something spectacular to behold.

*I know I’ve talked about her and probably this class before, but this my friends was a game-changer, a turning-point, one of those people-shaper things we all have along the way.

nerdville.

One time several months ago, a friend asked me what my Top 10 MUST READ books were. I felt (and still feel) like it was a super somewhat unfair request to make, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since and have comprised a list I feel pretty ok about. (I do however remain of the opinion that you should only ever ask people to answer that question if you allow them 10 favorites per genre, and yes that means you will probably eventually get a different list of my Top 10 Poems. And Graphic Novels. And maybe even Dramas.)

I’m going to start with my MOST favorite, but after that (and I mean JUST after that [as in the difference between my most favorite and next most favorite is about as slight as the difference in the Olsen twins’ faces]) are my next favorites.

*for those of you who’re already debating closing this window, you can scroll to the bottom for the brief synopsis of my favorites.

  1. Anna Karenina.”He was nine years old; he was a child, but he knew his own soul.“-Leo Tolstoy y’all. this book is so phenomenal. and insane. i love russian lit so much because they (authors and characters alike) are so honest. they feel deeply and talk plainly. they infer; they develop. this book made me cry and laugh and scoff and think; it’s all about souls-finding them, growing them, understanding them. and now they’re making a movie (score!) just don’t ruin this for me, Kiera Knightly.
  2. Counterfeit Gods. “Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares.”-Tim Keller this book was one of several of keller’s that we did in my bcm small group in college. not only did those girls (we somehow cheated our way into only having three of us in our group) and i become super close through our studies, but the way he described counterfeit gods and the measures we can use to extract them from our lives so practically really changed my life. it made me think differently and that’s what it’s all about.
  3. Pride & Prejudice. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.“-Jane Austen i know, i know, i’m a girl…and i love P&P, you’re shocked. but for real. her writing is genius. it’s funny, it’s descriptive, it’s beautiful. jane is the sister I want to be, but lizzie is more of who i am i think. no matter though because both bennet girls teach their own lovely lessons and i love them all.
  4. Blue Like Jazz. “I was talking to a homeless man at a laundry mat recently, and he said that when we reduce Christian spirituality to math we defile the Holy. I thought that was very beautiful and comforting because I have never been good at math. Many of our attempts to understand Christian faith have only cheapened it. I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me. The little we do understand, that grain of sand our minds are capable of grasping, those ideas such as God is good, God feels, God loves, God knows all, are enough to keep our hearts dwelling on his majesty and otherness forever.”-Donald Miller big quote. big meaning. i chose this book because reading it is when i understood a lot of things that i really just didn’t get at all. at first his tone and stories made me feel a little uncomfortable (again, what good books do…), but when i realized that was the point, and decided that maybe that’s what life’s really all about-living in the tension-that’s when blinders started flying.
  5. The Awakening. “She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining. ”-Kate Chopin sometimes i feel a little guilty for loving this one so much because there’s so many sad unsavory bits to it, but it really is just so beautiful. i love the language, the freedom it represents, the art, the everything! i’m cheating a little because it’s actually a novella, but i could stay lost in this one.
  6. Celebration of Discipline. “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”-Richard Foster i just read this book last year, but it is certainly a have-to-read for all christians trying to grow and understand their faith. it’s practical and painful at times, but it’s great.
  7. Outliers. “Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from. “-Malcolm Gladwell i first read this in my Rhetoric & Style class in college and for good reason because his style and rhetoric is so powerful and compelling that you forget you’re reading statistics and theories and only hear a story. i love that not only is the message optimistic, but it’s done well. i want to live life like he writes books.
  8. Night. “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. “-Elie Wiesel from another favorite (but extremely disheartening) college class. this book is important because as he says himself, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere,” and not knowing is just as terrible as not caring. i cry even as i type about this book because it’s so powerful, and as horrifying as it still is, the kind of blatant honesty Elie writes with is what we need today. this book will forever remind me that forgetting isn’t a gift, but a curse.
  9. The Brothers Karamazov. He spoke of many things, he seemed anxious before the moment of death to say everything he had not said in his life, and not simply for the sake of instructing them, but as though thirsting to share with all men and all creation his joy and ecstasy, and once more in his life to open his whole heart.”-Fyodor Dostoyevsky back to my russians y’all. i firmly believe that this book is necessary for every christian to read. if nothing else, at least book V, chapter 2 “The Grand Inquisitor. you. will. think. and think. and think some more. in true russian fashion everyone has 80 names, everyone is wild and unpredictable, honest, and fully engaged. i loved and loathed the characters all at once and that my friends, is a sign of true love.
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird. “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”-Harper Lee this book makes me proud to be a Southerner. and not because the theme’s racism, because i don’t even think it is. it’s because as Lee says it, “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” i love hearing the story from an innocent and i could easily, easily be persuaded to name a child Atticus because we could all use more Atticus-es in our life.

*Summary. If it has stellar character development, makes me cry, makes me think, or teaches me something practical, it’s going to be a favorite. In fact if you didn’t read the middle, don’t sweat it because now that i’m done composing it i’m unbelievably dissatisfied with how inadequate it is at representing my loves. c’est la vie.

it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.

it’s always so hard to figure out exactly what to blog about post-blog neglection. i mean, along the way i’ve had all these wonderful ideas and exciting possibilities, but since i woefully didn’t write any of them down, they’re lost somewhere in the back of my mind.

it’s also challenging because even if i could remember them i wouldn’t want to overwhelm you with weightier issues and thoughts (yes, i have them from time to time) when you would surely be unprepared due to my leaving you in solidarity for so long. so here’s where i’ll start. i’m going to give you a short list of some of my MOST favorite newly-ish discovered blogs and since almost all of them can be used as a segue into those unnamed “other things” i haven’t told you about recently, i think it’s a good plan.

#1 GOODREADS.

it’s in all caps because it’s so awesome. my new friend anna (click her name for her blog) introduced me to it, and since i have committed to a slightly ambitious reading plan for the year, it’s phenomenal and perfect.

#2 bookmania.

i know two in a row is revealing my geek nature hard core, but this blog is just SO wonderful. inspiration galore and it’s not just words; they post pictures too, so now you have no excuse not to go.

#3 The Blog.

designer Jon Contino. his tumblr is fun, but his portfolio is where it’s at. it makes me drool. (click here to swoon alongside me) also i really love it when people put articles in front of words and thus create a definitive tone. fun.

#4 Nerd Boyfriend

they take fun pictures and literally show you how to dress like the nerds in them. it’s awesome! and there’s a girl version too. clever, clever.

i’ll stop there because 4 is my favorite number, and i also think that gives you pah-lenty to enjoy for now. i promise to come back soon and debrief the Lord of the Rings series with you since i finally processed through finishing it.

-j

Beautiful.

I just sort of fell across this essay (titled as its first sentence) by Rosemary Urquico, and fell in love. Enjoy.

“Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”