One of my core values is to enjoy the simple things of life. One such fairly recent thing is the world of fountain pens. Friday’s will be devoted to all things fountain pen related. Many ask me questions, and so I’ll dump such answers here. … Continue reading Fountain Pen Friday
5th year of blogging & learning
It is hard to believe I started this blog 5 years ago! For all those who regularly read this, that you! Here are key lessons learned over the last 5 years in relation to writing:
- Writing is hard work. Even harder when leading a church. I wanted to write a couple of times per week, but a few times per month is a challenge. Writing is worth it because it narrows your thinking and your focus.
- No matter how hard you try, people will misunderstand or take something differently then intended. Write anyway. Conversation and conflict is good.
- It is hard to avoid writing about something you’re walking through. Ron Edmonson advised to not write about current leadership situations until they are well in past. This is VERY prudent advice, and hard to follow. The practice of self-control is worth it. (Oh, and so is Ron’s blog!) That said, many articles were not written because it would not be wise.
- Controversy spikes, humility does not. We gloss over topics concerning character, especially humility. Topics on a controversial topic will swoon with ratings. Perhaps the problem with the state of media is us.
- Skepticism is real, and I think we as the church can do a better job interacting with those challenged with skepticism.
- There is a deep yearning for classic church. In a real sense, I wonder if the church’s focus on reaching the unchurched has missed something. People expect church to be church. Tradition is not the problem, apathy is.
- Educators feel like they’re in a corner and not many speak out for them. As a culture, we are very detached from public education even though we use it.
- My Boyz are MUCH bigger now, and being a dad is simply awesome. (As is the stock value in Advil.) On a serious note, my kids bring much joy and it’s fun giving a small glimpse into their silliness at times.
Again, thank you for being a reader! I look forward to what the next 5 years will bring as we learn, dream and live.
Manic Monday: On fountain pens
Apparently, I have raise a lot of eyebrows by saying I would prefer a fountain pen over an AppleWatch. Let me briefly explain why, as some who asked had a defibrillator in hand.
They write smooth!
I LOVE the way a fountain pen writes. Seriously, I would have worked harder on penmanship if I knew that a pen could be smooth, elegant and classy while writing. User experience matters (2 Jobs 1:9). The device is so simple, and profound with its understated elegance (Ives 3:16).
I noticed a lack of mental sharpness in some areas and reflected back on where it was coming from. I went a year almost exclusively paperless. Nearing the end of the year I noticed a sharper drop. In researching possibilities, I found that the physical act of writing helps lodge things in your brain better than typing. I normally wrote out or sketched before using confusers in the past.
Sometimes being a nerd is being low tech. A fountain pen is to writing what a light saber is to battle: A civilized device of a more civil era. More seriously, it’s a fun hobby built on a technology that may be old but has the ability of tinkering for a better experience. (Ok, Jobs & Ives would hate that, but my computer building Lynux friends will like it.)
The bottom line:
I’m finding a pattern in life that a good “user experience” cannot be rushed. It takes time, sometimes is messy, takes more work, and endures longer. Fountain pens may not be the quickest tool for writing, but the user experience is fantastic. I’m liking things that help me to slow down and enjoy regular tasks instead of ‘quick to finish onto the next thing’ methods. To use a word from my wife: I’m learning to savor things more (chocolate chip cookies not withstanding. I’ll inhale those!)
Don’t try to be clever…
A retired pastor gave me this advice: Don’t try to be clever, you can make things worse and people won’t hear what you are saying. This post is part confessional. When you’re involved in teaching, communication and writing you crave being unique. Given our culture, cleverness seems more a vice than a helpful tactic. I’m not saying cleverness is wrong. I am saying the tactic is overplayed. What I’m writing is easier said than done.
Delivery vs substance: Democracy in America (Published 1835-1840)
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America about his observations and predictions of America. One key prediction as I read is book was this: Soon the appearance or things will be more important than the quality of things. This prediction has very much come true. The vice of cleverness is the appearance vs substance. In the end substance endures. Cleverness, once figured out, carries potential to be dismissed.
Action vs silence: The Pensées (Published 1600’s)
Blaise Pascal wrote The Pensees near the end of his life and did not complete it. We often think of his wager, but the central focus of his apologetic was silence from distraction. Pascal endeavored to bring people to the point of silence where they would be forced to listen to their soul and deal with aspects of life that one would rather avoid. We fear solitary confinement for this reason, he states. In America, our greatest fear is being bored, for in boredom we are forced to think and listen. Our thirst from cleverness comes from this.
Complexity vs simplicity: The Scewtape Letters (Published 1942)
C. S. Lewis described in The Screwtape Letters that distraction and complexity is one of the best tools and tactics against people. My wife brought this up to me as we discussed the protection from leaving and acting with simplicity. This theme is prevalent throughout church history and too often is ignored. Business is the vaccine against intimacy. Cleverness often takes what can be simple and makes it overtly complex.
Captivating vs seriousness: First Corinthians (Published 1st century)
Saint Paul in First Corinthians juxtaposed man’s wisdom vs God’s. Paul’s focus was to speak the Gospel with clarity. He was not defending being uneducated. Things of a serious nature are best spoken with absolute clarity, leaving as little room for misinterpretation. Clarity sometimes is quite complex, as in the book of Romans, or simple an in the letter to Philemon. Cleverness distracts one to the speaker instead of engaging one in the message.
Fleeting vs steadfast: A friend (Still being written)
Harold H. Comings delights me with his wit. Is wit a form of cleverness? Yes. What surprises me about my friend and others who have wit-ability, is they mastered the art of substance, silence, simplicity and seriousness. The foundation of these things lend itself to being witty, and the discernment on how to engage in proper discourse. The question of discernment is this: How can I say something in a way that it will withstand the test of time? Cleverness often focuses on the now at the cost of life down the road.
The bottom line:
Focus on substance, silence, simplicity, seriousness and steadfastness. These will carry you to the finish-line. You do not need to be a salesmen or a showman to be an excellent communicator. Enduring works and messages contain most of these elements. If God graced you with the abilities of cleverness, humor, charm or the ability to be poetic- use it to glorify God. But, don’t try to be these things and let us not make them the standard of good vs bad discourse. Perhaps conflict in public discourse would be more civil if we ceased trying to be clever. This would allow us to listen to and hear each other.
Why not Wednesday? Cursive vs Typing
“This report is not acceptable,” said the teacher.
My heart sank quickly. Not acceptable?! My little heart started to pound. I was frustrated. I took the time to jump through all the hoops: brainstorm, rough draft (mine were epic in rough) and final copy. I asked why.
“This paper was typed on a computer,” explained the teacher. “You need to learn how to write effective reports in cursive for college and jobs.”
“But I can’t write neat, I can type faster, and it uses up less paper, saving trees,” I replied quickly. “I don’t understand why my paper is not ok.”
“You must learn cursive. It’s what we use in the adult world,” said the teacher.
New ideas or the start of a paradigm shift is often given the label “not acceptable.” The teacher’s reply was not acceptable to me. Of course, dad took the teacher’s side, I ended up having to write that paper. Now and then I would attempt the type-written paper, followed by the “please write in cursive” comment. such was Elementary school.
7th grade is a new start, so said the teachers. Great, I thought. My first assignment I walked up to the teacher and handed her two versions of my paper: one typed the other written in cursive.
“I was told in Elementary school reports had to be written in cursive. Which would you prefer?” I asked politely.
“Good, Lord, please type,” the teacher replied.
Legibility is more important than form. I printed my papers, or on tests I used print instead of cursive. The battle was being won. It was a happy day in my life.
At this point in my life my writing would not improve. I did not give my teachers the option, I typed and handed in my reports. Thanks to my English teacher, by typing I could focus more on form, grammar and creativity. Reports during our studies in Shakespeare I wrote in Iambic Pentameter.
This turned into another opportunity. Given my computer usage, I became a part of the “Citizens Technology Forum.” The goal for the group: develop and recommend a plan for technology usage in Middle & Elementary schools. (The High school was not included because of a pending building improvement program that was about to be voted on. It was voted down. Welcome to politics, but that’s another post.)
At the end of the meeting I was allowed to make some comments or observations. My other speaking allowance was to ask questions that did not make sense. My biggest comments was this:
- Typing will become more important than cursive.
- We should think multiple computers per classroom, not one.
- Long term, we should think a laptop per student.
The rebuttals were:
- Learning cursive is essential for college and the workplace. (sigh.)
- Computer should be for teacher use, and internet may not catch on.
- The wiring required for each desk would be prohibitive, not to mention cost per laptop.
The team recommended a solid and helpful plan. It moved the ball forward. The biggest high light for me was a thank you letter sent by my Elementary principal. One summer I ran into him during winter break from college. We laughed at the paradigm shift.
The bottom line:
1) Don’t cringe when the new idea is said to be “not acceptable.” In college & seminary I used a laptop. The biggest statement by all places I’ve worked for: typing & technology ability. Being cutting edge is hard, often considered unacceptable, etc. In time things will come around.
2)Don’t ignore things you say are “not acceptable.” New ideas or breaking into a new area is often unrefined, rough and edgy at first. (This is often from lack of support or advice.) Andy Stanley put it best: “You can fight it, or you can fund it.”