Friday Link Love: Flying Houses, Being a Mystic, and Mighty Girls… One of Whom with Toilet Covers on Her Head

First, if you haven’t already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books.

Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we’re not FB friends!

Lots of images in Link Love this week, and a few meaty quotes. Onward…

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere — Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

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Top Read-Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls — A Mighty Girl

This is one I shared on Facebook. Great list! I want to read them all.

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Christian Wiman on Faith and Language — Andrew Sullivan

Another one I shared earlier this week, but dang, I like it:

To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn’t mean that the words and symbols are reality (that’s fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can ‘no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general’ (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it’s your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended.

This is true of poetry, too: I don’t think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent. – Christian Wiman, “Notes on Poetry and Religion,” from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.

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Stoic, Addict, Mystic — Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

We are rarely presented with an authentically fulfilling trajectory for our desires… If we are created for infinite satisfaction, we really only have three choices about what to do with our desire in this life: We will become either a stoic, an addict, or a mystic. The stoic squelches desire out of fear, while the addict attempts to satisfy his desire for infinity with finite things, which, of course, can’t satisfy. That’s why the addict wants more and more and more. The mystic, on the other hand — in the Christian sense of the term — is the one who is learning how to direct his desire for infinity toward infinity,” – Christopher West, whose new book is Fill These Hearts.

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest — National Geographic

A cat picture won! Sort of. Go to the link to see the grand prize winner, as well as all the other top picks. My favorite in the “people” category:

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Unleash Your Unconscious: How Switching Tasks Maximizes Creative Thinking — 99U

Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task – in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.

Highly recommend running, for people with the knees for it.

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Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices — Christian Valters Paintner

Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along.
Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.

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Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits — Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

Nina Katchadourian whiles away long plane journeys by locking herself in the lavatory and pretending to be a 15th century Dutch painting. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing…

I do think about the line forming outside the door while she’s doing this, but:

lav3

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Have a wonderful weekend!

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Sabbath “Try-its”–In Honor of the Girl Scouts

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts! To celebrate and have a little fun, I had the Young Clergy Women design a Sabbath “merit badge” during our time in Chicago.

The brownie badges are called “try-its,” which is a name I like because it’s about invitation and not mastery. (And that was the spirit of the assignment, rather than making Sabbath yet another thing we must “achieve.” How can we invite people into deeper Sabbath-keeping?)

Try-its are triangular though, which I find a harder shape to work with, so we went with the traditional round badge shape. I gave people a large circle and invited them to work in groups to make a design and/or a list of suggested activities. I remember the Girl Scout badges I earned as a child had lists of activities with lots of choices, e.g. “complete one task from group A, two from group B, etc.” So I encouraged people to include some margin and grace in their lists.

There were some great ideas and designs. Here is a favorite:

One side of the badge is an image that represents “avoidance” or saying no to certain things, and the other side is an image of “engagement” or saying yes to our hearts’ yearnings.

I also like that each list has people choose 4 out of 7 of the activities. You don’t have to do it perfectly. Sabbath isn’t about a checklist.

What do you think? What would you include?

Incidentally, Chalice will be setting up a site for Sabbath in the Suburbs in the coming weeks, and I’ll be blogging there a couple times a week as well as here at the Blue Room. I’ll include some of the other badges on that site. Stay tuned.

Friday Link Love…On Wednesday

I leave later today for a big honkin’ gathering of Presbyterian Women (that’s the organization and the demographic), where I will be leading a workshop on Sabbath-keeping. I’m bringing Margaret and James with me for some fun time with the Florida cousins. Meanwhile Caroline heads to Chicago for a choir camp, and Robert dances around the empty house in his underwear. Or something.

Since I’ll be out of pocket through the weekend, why wait on the link love? Here you go… for all your hump-day procrastination needs:

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My First and Perhaps Only LOLcats Link

This puts the LOL in LOLcats:

h/t to Kathryn Zucker Johnston, who knows from humor.

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11 Ways You Allow Your Life to Suck — Inc.

I can’t recall which Facebook friend posted this, but it’s a pretty good list:

5. You’re looking for a big idea.

Stop trying. You won’t hit the big idea lottery.

And even if you did come up with the ever-elusive big idea, could you pull off the implementation? Do you have the skills, experience, and funding?

Me either.

But here’s what you do have: Tons of small ideas. You don’t need to look for a big idea if you act on your little ideas.

Happiness is a process, and processes are based on action.

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Big Campaign Spending: Government by the 1% — Atlantic

I get a lot of my links from Andrew Sullivan and this one is no exception. This installment of link love is full of pep, so I’m sorry for the poop in the punchbowl, but as I’ve written before, the campaign spending issue drives me nuts:

Because of the way we fund the campaigns that determine our elections, we give the tiniest fraction of America the power to veto any meaningful policy change. Not just change on the left but also change on the right. Because of the structure of influence that we have allowed to develop, the tiniest fraction of the one percent have the effective power to block reform desired by the 99-plus percent.

Yet by “the tiniest fraction of the one percent” I don’t necessarily mean the rich. I mean instead the fraction of Americans who are willing to spend their money to influence congressional campaigns for their own interest. That fraction is different depending upon the reform at issue: a different group rallies to block health-care reform than rallies to block global warming legislation. But the key is that under the system we’ve allowed to evolve, a tiny number (with resources at least) has the power to block reform they don’t like.

A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.

Some call this plutocracy. Some call it a corrupted aristocracy. I call it unstable. Just as America learned under the Articles of Confederation, where one state had the power to block the resolve of the rest, a nation in which so few have the power to block change is not a nation that can thrive.

Sigh. Movin’ on…

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A Girl and Her Room — Brain Pickings

A photographer captures images of teenage girls from the United States and around the globe, all in their natural habitats:

I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge between two worlds, trying to come to terms with this transitional time in her life and adjust to the person she is turning into.

Amal, Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon 2010
© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ai, Boston, MA 2009
© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

I agree that the images are “visually stunning and culturally captivating.”

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The Perfect Compliment — Esquire

The author sets out to compliment as many people as possible, to parse out what makes for a good compliment. I love the reckless joy and whimsy in this practice:

One rainy afternoon, I went to a crowded street corner in Manhattan and started again. The landscape of the city looked sturdy and polished, my heart was open, my head right. I walked the box of crosswalks at that intersection for two hours, waiting at each corner for the light to change, looking — really looking — at the people around me. I poached them across the street, crossing perpendicular to their approach, sidling up as they watched the light change. I abandoned simple and direct, gave up on the humble declarative expression. A true compliment is a complex expression of unrequired appreciation — how could three words do the job? It worked better when I grew more audacious:

“You seem really happy. That’s a pleasure to see.”

And more concrete:

“All I can say is, that is a classy umbrella. It looks old-timey and right for you.”

And unafraid of a little complication:

“My mother always wanted me to wear a corduroy coat like that. Now I see why.”

People responded. Sure, some passed without acknowledging what I said, but most smiled, thanked me, gave firm little nods. I could sometimes see them stand up a little straighter. One guy told me a story about where he got his tennis racket, and a woman noted that the purse I liked was a knockoff but that her cousin Celine had an even worse one. A kid told me his watch was his grandfather’s and asked if I wanted to see the inscription. Some of these people turned to me and waved when they left. They locked eyes.

Much, much more. Open heart. Clear head right. Audacity. Yes.

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What Does Space Smell Like? — Science Soup

It’s strange to think that the near-vacuum of space could have a smell, and stranger still that humans—atmospheric creatures—can actually experience it. Astronauts have consistently reported the same strange odour after lengthy space walks, bringing it back in on their suits, helmets, gloves and tools. It’s bitter, smoky, metallic smell—like seared steak, hot metal and arc welding smoke all rolled into one.

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Since it’s only Wednesday, feel free to add your own links in the comments. I’ve also written a guest post on Sabbath for Jana Riess’s blog Flunking Sainthood and I’ll share it when it goes live.

Friday Link Love

The First Supper by Jane Evershed

Perhaps the World Ends Here — Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

Susan Olson recently linked to this poem and it’s been echoing in my mind. Reminds me of Bruce Cockburn’s song “Last Night of the World”:

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do?
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you?

I’m thankful that our family is in a season in which all five of us eat together at least six nights a week.

It will not always be thus.

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The Most Astounding Fact — Neil deGrasse Tyson

This has been making the rounds, but if you haven’t seen it:

Bonus link: Listen to physicist James Gates’s interview on On Being. I didn’t understand a lot of it. But I liked it nonetheless.

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The Six Secrets the Girl Scouts Have Kept for a Century — WSJ

How is this single-sex organization based on principles begun before the first World War able to remain vital in the twenty first century? How much of it would Juliette Gordon Low recognize? What are the secrets to the continued success of Girl Scouting?

One thing that was not mentioned in the article is that the uniform is updated regularly. I’m not kidding. That seems very superficial but it is a huge symbolic statement that the Girl Scouts are not stuck in the past.

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Do As Franzen Does. Do What You Like — Roxane Gay

Alas, there’s been yet another installment of Famous Author Disparaging Social Media. I love this response:

Is anyone really using Twitter to craft complex rhetorical arguments? What does responsibility have to do with chattering online? It’s like Franzen is saying, “I cannot swim in my car and therefore my car is not useful.” He doesn’t understand what Twitter is for. Of course he dislikes it. He’s working from a place of profound ignorance. His stance is one of those things where you have to say, “There, there, Mr. Franzen, here is your Ovaltine.”

Heh.

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And lastly, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, my friend Stacey posted this recipe to Facebook earlier this week:

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

I’m still not eating dessert during Lent, but o frabjous day, every Sunday is a mini-Easter! And Oh Em Gee:

These cupcakes consist of a Guinness-chocolate cake base, which has a wonderful depth of flavor and is also supremely moist. The centers of the cupcakes are cut out and filled with a chocolate ganache that has been spiked with Irish whiskey. And to top it all off, the frosting is my favorite vanilla buttercream that has been doused with a serious amount of Baileys Irish Cream.

I’m eatin’ that.

May you too have a delicious weekend.

On Disney Princesses

My friend Jan posted a great reflection on the Disney Princess phenomenon today. I too have been hearing about Peggy Orenstein’s book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Of course our house was hit by the Disney Princess mania—twice. I’m happy to say we are on the other side of that, though some princess detritus remains in our home, along with a Disney Fairy poster on the girls’ wall. Like most things, I feel OK with the middle ground we sought in that whole deal.

Jan was interested in the fact that the DPs never look at each other in the posters and marketing. Rest assured that the dolls, when in the hands of actual girls, do not remain so segregated. But her post prompts me to share this bit I wrote back when the DP craze was at its most fervent in our house.

Disney Princesses

Disney princesses
have no mothers.
They have dwarfs in a frat-house,
mice in hats,
a tiger, a dragon,
a Jamaican lobster,
and a fairy godmother
oblivious to child-labor laws.

But no mothers.

Let’s swoop in
and do the job:
teach Cinderella to kick down the tower door
or Snow White to sing “heigh ho,”
pack up Belle’s books in heavy trunks
for a semester of study abroad, where
she’ll room with Jasmine.
Help Ariel keep her voice.
Who knows? They might still live
happily ever after; they might even look
in that mirror mirror on the wall
and see the ones they love most.