Thinking about shocking Broca, a marketing ploy to break through the brain function that filters out the predictable and boring, brings to mind Donald Trump.The Donald trumps everyone in shocking Broca. He is building a presidential campaign on shocking his way into the national conscious with outrageous statements. Some of us wince. We grimace and double over in pain. But we all pay attention and do exactly what he wants us to do. We think more deeply about the issues. We participate in a national dialog that forces all the other candidates to articulate their position on the issues Trump feels are important.
Buffoonery is an effective technique. In days of old, every court had its jester. On the surface the jester was an entertaining clown, but don’t be fooled. A physically or verbally dextrous actor on a stage, a jester sometimes offers criticism and advice in the guise of performing silly antics. Of course there are risks. Historically, some jesters went too far and lost their heads.
Writers shocking Broca
As a writer, I am told I must shock broca with every blog, twitter, and Facebook post. A daunting challenge, the call to arm myself with pith and wit and deliver zingers that rip through readers’ filters to pierce their hearts. To shock broca employing SEO searchable key words that appear in the headline and first sentence is even more difficult. But if you care enough about connecting with people, you try. And if you are trying to communicate from a place of authenticity, the challenge is even greater.
Which leads me to wonder, is that why Jesus chose to communicate God’s love by hanging on a cross?
Raw emotions behave like unruly children who burst into anguished howls of disbelief, sadness, and anger when they feel deprived. As children, we find unbearable the injustice of being denied what we rightly cherish–parental attention, a coveted toy, or an experience we were counting on to bring us joy. When we mature, we learn to suppress our outrage and employ patience and understanding. Then something happens. Someone close to us dies. We haven’t been thwarted, we’ve been mugged and left in a ditch.
Death is the deepest deprivation of all. Suppressing our outrage doesn’t work because suppressing grief, the rawest of emotions, encourages despondency, a long-term depression of the spirit.
Grief is a miry clay. We feel stuck in place. Grief is a ball and chain that weights us down and prevents us from moving freely. We don’t want to inflict our grief on others, so we try to put on a pleasant face when what we really want to do is crawl under a bush like an injured dog and lick our wounds.
I find myself wanting to be alone with my grief, even when I am in the midst of others. I think the historical practice of wearing a black armband to indicate a state of mourning is not such a bad idea. It’s a circle of protection that allows us to feel what we feel without the need to offer explanations.
Victorian women wore black to signify spiritual darkness. How true. My spiritual light has dimmed. It is not of danger of going out, but for the time being, there are praise songs I cannot sing. I can affirm what I do not feel in my head, but I cannot sing it with all my heart. My heart is broken. It will heal, but it needs time.
Although I don’t want to break connections, I would like to slip out of my chair and leave a cardboard self to save my place, as if to say, “Don’t forget me. I’ll be back.”
What camp is to kids, a summer writers conference is to a writer. My daughter and I have polished our manuscripts and will meet up in Portland to attend the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.
A writers conference is a mix of relationship building, studying the craft, and learning art of marketing. The experience can motivate you to take your work to the next level, or, despite the best intentions of presenters, it can discourage you.
Like a kid at camp, you may enjoy every minute, from early morning devotions to late Nite Owl sessions. Or you may feel like calling the airlines to see if you can exchange your ticket for an earlier flight home. It depends on how well prepared you are and what expectations you bring with you. These are mine:
- A short list of precise questions I want to ask and appointments with people who may have the answers
- A practiced pitch and a seat in a seminar that will help me improve my pitch
- An expectation that I will be annoyed (but smiling) when I hear things like, “blog your way to success in 30 days,” or “secrets best selling authors know.” Emotionally this affects me the same way as tabloid headlines like “How to Lose your Belly Fat.” If it were that easy, we would all be cashing big royalty checks and shopping for size 2 clothing.
- A plan for dealing with the downers that includes prayer, focus, and perhaps slipping away for a glass of wine in a lovely courtyard, or a walk by the river.
I will have books to sell at the conference, and for you Kindle readers, I’m dropping the price of my first book, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, to $0.99 for the duration of the conference, beginning Monday, August 10.
In times of grief, no words adequately describe the event that has caused our pain and how we are changed by what has occurred. “I have no words,” we say to each other. Then we struggle to find the right words that will help us make sense of the insensible.
Insensible is a good word to start with. On July 4th, our daughter-in-law set herself free from the pain of depression by taking her life. The violence of her unexpected departure rendered her family, friends, and community incapable of perceiving the reality of what she did.
At her memorial service, attended by close to 500 people, friends expressed shock and surprise that someone as loving and giving and seemingly full of joy as she was would do this. What I have heard is that those who suffer from depression may know they are loved, but they can’t feel it.They live with an unbearable emptiness inside that few are willing or able to articulate.
During her service, a theme emerged that Pastor Andy Lewis was able to lay before us: Beauty and Brokenness. In acknowledging what was beautiful about our beloved Victoria, we do not want to gloss over what was broken. It is a brokenness we all share in some form or other.
Every morning my husband and I wake up and check in with each other about how we are feeling. This morning’s conversation started like this:
Me: “I feel like I have broken apart and been put back together, but not everything is in right place.”
He: “Yeah, I feel like parts of me are missing. They are scattered all over the floor.”
Part of the grieving process is to slow down. If you are grieving, allow the adrenalin that has sustained you through the initial days of dealing with the aftermath to dissipate. We notice that we are operating at half-speed (sort of like our internet service on an Energy Alert day). Thoughts don’t come as easily; we search for words; our responses are slower; we drop things.
It seems to me that painful moments give a structure and rhythm to life, like fingers moving across the cruciform beads on the Anglican rosary. (The Anglican rosary was created by a contemplative prayer group in the 1980s) “Have mercy, have mercy,” we cry out or murmur. We are not to seek these moments, but they will come to us. In between the intensity of painful times, the weeks give us interludes of peace and joy. For those, we must look, enjoy, and be grateful.
Be gentle with yourselves, my grieving friends. Allow the Prince of Peace to comfort you and make you whole.
I’m always on the lookout for literary fiction with a Christian theme. To see the world through the eyes of a painter intrigued me. Dissatisfaction with his work and a quest for artistic perfection send the artist on an intense spiritual journey that ultimately brings him to “the poverty of self-awareness.”
At once a spiritual travelogue and a sophisticated fable, the story line grounds us in the everyday (people have to eat), whisks us to exotic locations, and veers into magical realism. The literal circus of characters is highly entertaining and heartbreakingly poignant. Is that how God sees us?
Any spiritually-themed book worth its salt will employ the element of mystery. Dickson gives us layers of mystery, especially in his chilling portrait of a polite killer. The lovely language is only occasionally dense. Gems of realization sparkle that much clearer when the artist manages to unearth meaning in the forest of confusion that grows in his mind.