Monthly Archives: December 2007

Asking the next question

Theodore Sturgeon, science fiction great and an old friend, used to wear jewelry that bore his personal symbol. It was a Q with an arrow through it, and it meant “Ask the next question.” To Ted, “What if?” was the only question a science fiction author needed to ask.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about asking questions. Keeping the dialogue going.

A rabbi spoke to our class last weekend about how Jews argue the Talmud. To me, and I daresay most Christians, once a religious argument begins, it marks the end of a friendship and the beginning of a new religious splinter group. But the Jews have been doing it successfully for years. When I asked him about that, he said, “If you stop asking questions, if you stop the dialogue, then you stop learning.”

A thunderous comment.

I’ve lived a lot of years, and done it successfully. Therefore, I think I know how to do life pretty well. This was the hardest part of learning to live with a new husband, as he had done life pretty well, too, with methods that are different from mine. His methods, in fact, are just as good as mine, and many of them are superior. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that, acknowledge it and respect his ways of doing things, as he has come to respect my procedures.

But for many things, I have to say, I’ve stopped the dialogue.

What a larger world I would have if I continued to dialogue about things I seem to have made my mind up about! What mind-blowing things await me, if only I will listen instead of speak.

I heard “Listening is love” the other day. Bumper sticker philosophy to be sure, and yet…  I like to be listened to. I like my unconventional ideas to be heard. I like to talk about my religious beliefs, my ideas for social reform, my political opinions. I would like to change a few opinions around me, yet I am unwilling to have my opinions changed. 

The very definition of stopping the dialogue.

If I want to continue to learn, then I need to engage in the dialogue. Today, tomorrow, and forever. I need to be open to having my opinions changed if I want others to be open about changing theirs.

I need to remember that we’re all made differently by design. If we all believed the same thing, there would be nothing to talk about. We’re different so we can engage in the dialogue.

Good for us.

Let’s do it.

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My office

My office is a mess.

Not only is my desk piled high with junk, but my office is ugly. I’m going to change that.

It came to my attention yesterday that our homes and spaces should be beautiful. A refuge. A place to go to feel good about ourselves, to relax in warmth and comfort, a place to be intimate, and have intimate conversations.

We’ve been working on the house we bought less than two years ago, and it is coming along. Al is a fabulous craftsman, and piece by piece, we’ve been painting and upgrading, and soon the whole house will be a beautiful place. Starting in January, we’re completely gutting and renovating the main bathroom, and with Al’s facility with marble and granite, I know it will be a showplace when he’s finished. A showplace and a wonderful, comfortable place to be and to bathe.

Our bedroom is fabulous. It is perfect. Well, maybe I’ll get an ottoman for the corner chair where I read.

But I’ve never had a beautiful office. My office, always in a spare bedroom, is utilitarian. Al gave it a fresh coat of paint, but still… mismatched things hang on the walls in confusion, the ugly rug on the floor is strictly for acoustics, the dust is thick on top of the institutional black file cabinets, even the dog’s bed in there is nothing pleasant to look at… and my desk is always a mess, as is my bookcase.

And yet, I spend so much time in there, it ought to be a thing of beauty and comfort.

So this winter, I’m going to make a few changes.

I am going to put art on the wall that makes my heart sing. I’m going to make a dog bed that makes my pup smile. I’m going to clean out a filing cabinet, consolidate everything into one and get rid of the other. I’ll put a nice rug on the floor. I’ll frame photos of my family and keep them in my line of sight. I’ll bring in a candle.  

I’m going to turn my workspace into a place where I will enjoy the ritual of work, of writing, where I’m happy to lose myself and concentrate on greater things.

I’m going to look at all the spaces of my life in a different light, and spend the time, money and energy to make them right.

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Filed under office, Possibilities, Writing

Three beautiful things

My friend Mike Sack looks around every morning and finds three beautiful things.

Yesterday in our morning ritual at school, there was a presentation about ordinary things, and the extraordinary thing about them, then we each shared one ordinary thing that happens in our lives that is, in reality, a miracle. Like the purr of a cat. Or the warmth of a favorite quilt. Or simply hot water out of the showerhead at the mere turn of a handle.

Yesterday we talked a lot about religious ritual. The instructor said that the purpose of ritual is to lose yourself, speaking, I assume, about mantra or meditation, or just taking the focus off our selves and our petty stuff and dedicating a few moments to something else. I like this idea.

I woke up this morning thinking about three ordinary things in my life that I am grateful for. Things that bring me joy. Like setting the alarm clock a half hour before I get up so there’s good cuddle time. The delicate sound my dog makes when she laps water from her small stainless-steel bowl. Knowing that my commute to work on Monday morning will be a non-polluting thirty feet from my bed.

My world is filled with ordinary miracles, and I so rarely take the time to appreciate them. But now, every day, I hope to begin my day with this attitude of gratitude. Of appreciation. Of joy. Every day I hope to wake up and think of three new, ordinary, miracles in my life and be grateful for them.

I hope to lose myself in this tiny daily ritual, if only for a few moments.

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