On the Common 075
Daisies and Despair.
It’s May the Fourth, so I give you my favorite Star Wars pie chart:
The Part Where There’s an Essay: The Tiny Habit of Curiosity (I)
One of the most underrated virtues Christians can develop is that of curiosity. Granted, this is not on the list of the fruit of the Spirit told to us in Galatians. But curiosity -- wondering about the world around you -- can go a long way in helping you to develop that fruit of the Spirit. Curiosity helps us appreciate the people and things that surround us in surprising ways. It helps us be grateful. But it takes practice to slow down and be curious.
I know you’ve probably heard it said before, but this world is not about you. The progression from childhood to adulthood is a steady revelation of this truth. Becoming mature is a process of realizing that not everyone has your best interests at heart; that the world exists for a purpose other than your selfish designs; that you are probably the only person who thinks about you as much as you do.
Curiosity About People
If we can reach a point where we are at peace with the fact that not everything is about us, we can be free in a new way. Embracing our smallness in this way frees us up to not have to be the main character in every narrative in our head. Did somebody use a harsh tone of voice when they spoke to you? Maybe it’s because they had a hard morning with their boss, not because there’s something wrong with you. Is someone not answering your text message in a timely manner? Maybe they just got bad news and need some time to process it. It’s not (even nearly ) always about you. Most people are bearing burdens that are heavier than we imagine or even think about.
But once we begin this process of turning outward, our eyes can pick up the glory of the little stories around us. Everybody has a story. Realizing that people around you have tales to tell makes you a far less self-centered person. They might be stories of amazing accomplishments, strange upbringings, unique ways in which they met their spouse, or tragic griefs they’ve endured. All you would need to do is ask.
CS Lewis, in his wartime address “The Weight of Glory,” attempts to awaken us to the sobering glory of this fact: people are wonders. They are not gods, but we underestimate the glory that they hold.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
There have been days when I wish that truth could come home to roost on social media especially. It has now become commonplace to “avoid the comment section,” because the conversation there is so awful. People don’t “talk” to people like fellow human beings on social media or in the comment sections of news websites. They treat one another as grudges to be worked out, as repulsive ideologies to be beaten down.
(Note: I wrote the above in 2019, before a certain mustachioed philosopher appeared in our lives. But my daughter reminded me that Ted Lasso encourages us in the same way: “Be curious, not judgemental.”)
For the Anglophiles
This past Monday was May Day, celebrated uniquely in Oxford. For over five hundred years, the choristers at Magdalen College have welcomed the month of May from the top of the tower. After the choir finishes, the chimes ring out for twenty minutes, and the town celebrates for the rest of the day.
Reads & Listens of the Week
What I Was Thinking as We Were Sinking: This American Life tells us two stories of people's thoughts when the boat was going down. One is the story of an actual boat, the other is the story of the guy in charge of content mediation when Elon Musk took over Twitter. (language)
Here’s a sweet tribute to a show I loved as a young teenager: “The Wonder Years” Captured Youth in Suburbia Like Never Before on TV. I remember racing home from Wednesday night youth group to catch a little bit of this show before it was over.
The Anselm Society interviewed Andrew Peterson recently. Here’s the graphic they discuss from John Hendrix (it’s called “The Pit of Despair”):
(after looking at this for a while, I think John should make one for parents)
It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. - GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy