Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Which I Mention a Fantastical Creature

Hay Caramba.  It has been muy dificil to sit down and write my weekly 'Monday' blog. This has been a theme lately.

Today, I think my problem is writer's brain. I've been writing all weekend, working toward a couple of rapidly approaching deadlines. Which is to say I've been staring at my computer, pacing to and fro, and gazing out the window for days.  Fortunately I managed to get a really bad first draft on paper, too.

Writing, for me, is an idea generator.  After a particularly good session of staring, pacing, and gazing, ideas start ricocheting through my brain like elves in a bounce house.

This is not nearly as fun as it sounds, because by the time I'm done with my writing task I've reached my weekly word quota and I can't put any more of my noisy, flailing ideas to paper.

Bounce on, little elves; bounce on.

Teaching does the same thing: it provokes thought, but drains my words.  This is probably why I am known to stop lecturing in the middle of an impassioned sentence, my arms in the air, my face flushed, my eyes utterly blank, and my tongue totally tied.

 Come to think of it, walking tends to do this to me, too.  And eating.  And reading.  And sitting.

So if you shout 'hello!' to me on the street and I respond by walking mutely past you with glazed eyes and no signs of recognition, you know why.

Blame it on the elves.

Sometimes, though, something happens that brings my thoughts to a screeching halt. Elves freeze mid-flip and mid-yelp so that another fantastical creature can walk to the center of the bounce house and make an important announcement.

This is what happened yesterday when one of my students sneezed.

These sorts of earth-shattering occurrences are usually what trigger my epiphanies.

It wasn't a particularly grandiose sneeze, I'll admit.  I've heard better.  But it sure got my attention, because, although I was in the middle of explaining a writing workshop, I was overcome with the impulse to stop everything so I could bless him.

It was a strong urge.  Almost a temptation-like urge. An elf-freezing urge.

This is an interesting cultural phenomenon.

Someone publicly discharges the dust and mucous in their sinus passage, and what do we do?  We bless them.

This 'wishing well' is so important to us that we teach our young to do it.

We emphasize its importance in our school curriculums.

We clap and cheer when our toddlers say 'bwess you' for the first time.

We do everything we can to make sure that for the rest of their lives their brains will hear a sneeze and stop.everything. to wish the sneezer well.

I like this.

I think it's marvelous that we can train our brains to make blessing someone's involuntary 'discharging' so instinctual.

This has me wondering: what would it take to develop other sneeze/blessing-esque brain pathways, so that our positive responses to people became instinctive—not robotic (because our soul gets to choose what it will do with our brain's recommendations), but natural?

Like what if every time I saw a human face my brain sent me a strong signal to treat that person like they were my long lost friend from camp?

Or what if every time my brain heard someone offer up a personal idea or observation it instructed me to praise their creativity and originality?

Or what if every time country music came on in a public setting my brain commanded me to line dance, right then and there?

The world would be a much better place.

Our lives would be richer.

Our souls sturdier.

This brings me to the part of this blog where I tell you I don't really have anything more to say about this.  No conclusions, no helpful ideas.  I'm still waiting for that fantastical creature in the middle of the bounce house surrounded by frozen elves to tell me something important, something life-changing I can latch onto.  But I think the fantastical creature is a purple, musical sloth.  She is quietly humming to herself while she creeps sloooowly to 'center stage.'  So I'll end with this: I'm not sure how to create these positive impulses—to train my brain to instinctually affirm and dignify—besides lots and lots of practice.  But I'd like to create them.

I'd really, really like to.

© by scj


  1. The other night we caught a segment on 60 Minutes about face blindness -- a condition in which people cannot recognize faces, even the faces of loved ones.

    One of the sufferers interviewed says he manages it by being nice to *everyone* and by greeting *each face* with a bright smile. Because you just never know who it might be. Can you imagine what this world would be like if we all did this?! :)

  2. Julianna, what a tragic condition. This is, I think, a metaphor for life before Christ. When we step into his divine life he gives us 'faces'--an understanding of who we are--and the ability to see other people for what they really are: souls being remade, on their way to being godlike.

    The sufferer's approach to living with his condition reminds of me of the biblical exhortation to be aware that angels are in our midst...:) You never know to whom you are speaking!

    Thank you for sharing this!