Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Lowell’

Under No Delusions

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When I’m involved in a writing project, or preparing for a speaking engagement, I’ll try to find time to do a very worthwhile psychological and spiritual exercise.  I’ll do “a personal gut check.”  Because I want my motives for doing what I do to be as pure as they can be, I want to determine what’s going on in my heart.

This idea of the personal gut check comes to us from Ancient Greece.  According to Pausanias, the following aphorism (short, pithy truthful saying) was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and this aphorism is attributed to at least six ancient Greek sages (but the one I lean toward is Socrates).  It says:  “Know yourself” (Greek: γνωθι σεαυτόν).   In Latin, the aphorism is generally given as nosce te ipsum.

In a discussion of moderation and self-awareness, the Roman poet Juvenal quotes the phrase in Greek, and states that the precept descended de caelo (from heaven) (Satire 11.27).  I think it’s a heavenly idea, too.  I think God wants us to engage in self-examination from time to time.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul wrote that we should “examine” ourselves before we take Communion.

The saying “Know thyself” may refer by extension to the ideal of understanding human behavior, morals, and thought, because ultimately to understand oneself is to understand other humans as well.  However, the ancient Greek philosophers thought that no man can ever comprehend the human spirit and thought thoroughly, so it would have been almost inconceivable to know oneself fully.  Therefore, the saying may refer to a less ambitious ideal, such as knowing one’s own habits, morals, temperament, ability to control anger, and other aspects of human behavior that we struggle with on a daily basis.

One year ago I was sitting on Alii Kahekili Nui Ahumonu Beach, near Kaanapali.  You can see why most of the non-Hawaiian locals call it Airport Beach.  Alii is a beautiful stretch of sand on the island paradise of Maui, and while I was sunning I was reading The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis.  

I was doing some research for the book I’m writing (“Dancing With the Healer;” see DWTH references in this blogsite), and that day I was comparing my writing with that of Lewis’.  I did some self-examination – a personal gut check that I referred to earlier.  Was I setting out to write a best seller, or produce a work that would elevate me in the eyes of people?  Was I writing for money?

That why I wrote the following in the flyleaf of Lewis’ book:

I’m under no illusions.  What I have written so far is not profound.  You want profound?  Read C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed or Kurtz and Ketcham’s The Spirituality of Imperfection.

What I have written is a story, told by an average storyteller.  My preferred style of storytelling is verbal, but because I’m producing a book I’ve tried my best to write like I talk.  

Because I try to keep my audience with me when I’m speaking, I pause from time to time so those listening can catch up.  How do you do that – pause for effect – when you’re writing.  Ah!  I’ll adopt a style, well-spoken of or not, that will cause the reader to hesitate for just a moment so I can catch my breath.  I’ll use ellipses … those magical three dots that allow the reader to take a break, mid-thought.

What I like about writing stories as opposed to telling/talking a story is the opportunity to rewrite.  A rewrite is an author’s “do over.”  It allows the writer to edit, to clarify, and to amplify his thoughts.

The goal of the storyteller, I am told, is to engage the listener, or reader in the case of a book, and hold their attention until they “get it,” that is, they GET what you’re trying to say.  I want my readers to understand, to grasp my meaning.

But here’s the rub:  no reader can fully understand the writer’s meaning.  Not fully.  That’s true in the case of Dancing With the Healer.  I’m endeavoring to tell two stories, actually – my story and Vicki’s story.  Our stories interwoven.  And both stories are complex.

Vicki died.  She’s gone “to be with the Lord.”  She can’t tell her story verbally, except in bits and pieces via a few MP3s, CDs, and DVDs.  And yet she left behind some remarkable “things” that help her tell her story.  These things are proof that she truly (and fully) LIVED.  

Brandon and Chris, our sons, are proof that she lived and loved.  And then there are photos, and friendships.  And there’s me – a man changed and enriched by her life and love.  

And there are five little booklets.  Journals.  Beginning in 1982, Vicki faithfully recorded her experiences, thoughts, and prayers.  Her journals are very intimate, and they are proof that she truly lived.

Vicki eventually decided that she wanted her journals shared.  In 1982 she didn’t write for anyone but herself, but as her life was coming to a close she and I talked about not only sharing her thoughts and experiences with our family, but with friends … and then with anyone who would care to hear what she had to say.  

My role, as storyteller, is to stay true to the promise that I made to Vicki in the Winter of 2002.  She asked me to help make sharing her journals possible.  She asked me to “fill in the blanks,” comment on the context of her journal entries, and put it all into a readable format.

Humbly, I’m trying to keep that promise.  I’m doing my best.  I’m trying to tell the story … our stories … as honestly and transparently as I can.  If anyone chooses to read Dancing With the Healer, my hope is they come away from the reading sometimes challenged, sometimes refreshed, and always a little closer to God.

Aloha From the Three Amigos!

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Some friends have been asking about an update on the whereabouts and activities of my sons, Brandon and Chris.

Brandon is continuing to live on Maui, Hawaii – working for a roofing company five-plus days a week, and a restaurant two nights a week.  He’s never had a problem with work, always willing to do whatever it takes to put bread on the table and keep the rent current.  He’s got a ton of friends (as you can see from the photo at right),img_0152.jpg and when he’s not camping around the islands he’s surfing.  One of my favorite things to do is meet up with him at one of the awesome surf breaks on the island (Honolua Bay, Ironwood, S-Turns, etc.), and while I’m watching the sun set I’m also watching him catch wave after wave.  I try to photo and video every time he’s up.  I’m making a short DVD for him – I’m taking it to him on March 18th.  He’s a blast to watch, and the smile on his face after an hour or two of surfing can light up a room.

Chris is still living in China – Beijing actually.  He’s continuing his studies in Mandarin.  His loves include camping and riding his motorcycle off-road (it doubles as his daily mode of transportation).  He’s super active in the “ex-pat” community (ex-patriots – people from other nations – living in and around Beijing).  Beijing continues to prepare for this summer’s Olympics, so it’s bustling with construction and modernization projects.  When the Chinese government encouraged the nation to become the next economic super-power (surplanting the US and the EC), the people took to the challenge in amazing ways, and with amazing results.  It’s incredible, watching this country of 1.5 billion people change from crippling communism to energized Chinese-style capitalism.   Chris is right in the middle of all this growth and change, and he loves it.

img_0296.jpgOne cool thing that Chris told me and Brandon about recently was one of his off-road adventures in north-central China.  Two of his buddies were traveling with him; the three were traveling pretty close to the Great Wall, taking in the sights.  Suddenly they stopped dead in their tracks!  They had inadvertently trespassed onto a military base.  They were surrounded by soldiers with AK’s, being asked what their business was.  Since they were foreigners, the soldiers weren’t kidding around.  They were let go, a little shaken but with an awesome adventure story.

I’ll be seeing Brandon and Chris again soon, and I’m really excited about it.  The boys are meeting me in Barcelona, Spain – and we’ll be together for about three weeks, exploring the Mediterranean, and ending up in Prague (the Czech Republic)!  We’re planning the last part of the trip now, going from Venice, Italy, through Austria, to Prague.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?