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I found this video of the world’s largest radio-controlled airplane. It’s a magnificent display of hobby, passion, engineering, and design. The liftoff and landing are spectacular.


What an awesome title for a book: “Between the dreaming and the coming true: The road home to God,” by Robert Benson (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996).

This book leaped off the shelf while I leisurely browsed for books at the library. The jacket cover doesn’t do the book justice, mainly because the book is so intimate, so quiet and intelligent, so eloquently poetic. The jacket cover makes it sound like a self-help book, when it really isn’t, at least in my opinion.

The book is about one man’s life/spiritual journey, and how he chooses to see God in the most minute or simplest details of everyday life. More importantly, for myself that is, he tries to define that sense of longing for home that I suffer from. Well, suffer might not be the right word. I wrestle in many ways with the entire notion of home, and what constitutes a home, and how I might be defined or not defined by my home.

I’m going to copy out an excerpt that illustrates Benson’s beautiful writing when he describes his home (I apologize if I’ve broken copyright laws by typing this out, but it really needs to be out there).

“We had been traveling for a while, one of those seasons where you are home just long enough to repack and leave town again for a few days, and I was awakened one morning by the suddenly unfamiliar sounds of my own house. They were simple sounds, in their usual pattern, generally unnoticed and unremarked. I lay there in the darkness, trying to decide how quickly to move out of the bed and into the day, and suddenly the chorus began.

     The coffeemaker switched on in the kitchen, and I heard the water bubbling its way up and into the basket and down into the pot. Old and heavy cats dropped to the floor in the room where they sleep, and then came the sounds of their pwas softly brushing on the door. My bare feet brushed across the hardwood floor, and the doorknob clicked as I opened it. The bedclothes rustled and the mattress squeaked as the lady I share this home with rolled over and snuggled down into the covers as I left the room.

     I heard the first cup of coffee being stirred with a tinkling sound. The sound of cars going by in the semidarkness, carrying those whose livelihoods depend on their arriving at some appointed place hardly before the day has begun. The rustling of pages in a book, the sound of a pen scratching back and forth across a page I am trying to convert into a reasonable facsimile of the story of yesterday’s portion of my own journey. The chatter of birds at the feeders that surround our house, chatter that removes any doubt that God has let there be light and this day is now to be entered into in full measure.

     Later there is a set of sweet sighs and murmurs and the first whispered greetings shared between me and another in the Eden into which we have been born this new day. Later there will be the clatter of dishes and the zipping up of clothes and briefcases and purses and coasts. There will be snatches of conversation about yesterday and this afternoon and what we are going to do a wekk from Thursday. And the sound of a kiss and a little giggle and the closing of a door and the sound of a car in the drive.

      It is a three-hour symphony that is repeated almost every day of my life. And when I will let it, it reminds me that I am home, that I have a place, that a world that is mine to wander and wonder through has been created out of the darkness and the void and the deep once again.

     The Reverned Buechner implores us to listen to our lives, to the very sound of them, for that is where, “if God speaks to us at a ll in this world…it is into our personal lives that he speaks.” We need only listen to our own lives, I think, to hear the sond of creation and compassion and companionship. It is in our lives that we can hear that there is a place for us among the many rooms of the Father’s house. It is in our lives that we hear that God is with us still, and speaks even yet.” (pp.52-54)

I loved the way Benson described this symphony of his everyday life, the very delicate sounds of an old cat’s paws, the bubbling of a reliable coffeemaker, or the sound of a car leaving the driveway. These are familiar sounds in my own life, and the way he amplified these common, everyday sounds, into beautiful prose made me read and re-read the passage again. And as I re-read the passage, other sounds filled my own personal symphony: my son’s early morning sounds and words from his crib, the quick steps and stomping of feet as he races into our room, or the gentle murmurs that translate as answers to routine questions we ask him each day.

I love Buechner’s quote that by listening to these amplified sounds in our lives (though not exclusively), we might hear God’s voice. I don’t know about the theology of this, but I do think that God’s presence is probably more pronounced in the common, rather than in the sudden. That is to say, we might find more of Him by looking at our personal, daily lives, than by rearing our heads at distant signposts or sudden miracles.

Another point that needs unpacking is the title, and how it relates to the (long!) passage I just quoted. In his introduction, Benson uses an African parable to illustrate the polarity embedded in the title: “There is a Dream dreaming of us.”

For Benson, the Dreamer is God, who had us his mind, who brought us into creation, and in a sense, to make us come true. So in asking one of the deepest questions of humankind, “Why am I here?” Benson has woven this African parable into the biblical answer.

Benson reveals to us his fears: “What I fear now is that I will somehow miss what it is that I am supposed to learn here, something important enough that the Dreamer dispatched me, and the rest of us, here to learn. What I fear now is that I will somehow miss the point of living here at all, living here between the dreaming and the coming true.”

This seemingly ethereal notion of living somewhere in constant flux–between the dreaming and the coming true–struck me as vitally important in my personal quest to define a home and to define a purpose (which both relate to a definition of work). Thus, it makes sense to say that I share his fear of missing out on His purposes, or that missing the boat. I fear that the everyday sounds of my life, the predictable rhythm and warm, cozy patterns of my life, are somehow outside of His purposes.

This goes further to suggest that we might see God’s care and grace in our lives in the smallest details. We might see Him in a smile, in a gesture, in an action. We might confuse seeing with looking, for many can look, but few see, which adds to the enigmatic flavor of the book.

War Photographer is an incredibly moving, challenging, and intelligent documentary film by Christian Frei, and it provides intimate micro-footage of James Nachtwey, the reknowned photographer. Attached to Nachtwey’s camera is a tiny camera that films not only what he sees through his lense(s), but also how he frames his shots through his paces. The intimacy is eerie at times, and Frei often switches between showing the micro-camera’s “in-production view” to the finished prints that Nachtwey has achieved.

The film is intense. I have no other way to describe it. If you’ve never seen a real war zone, the footage and prints that Nachtwey has produced is probably the closest you’ll (need to) get to seeing the aftermath of war. There is so much suffering in the film, an unimagineable kind of suffering and pain that shatters us. A static picture is no longer static in Nachtwey’s work; when juxtaposed with the micro-camera and additional footage provided by another cameraperson, we see how Nachtwey’s immensely important pictures transition into a seemingly different realm of photography.

What struck me most about Frei’s documentary was how Nachtwey was depicted as a quiet, introverted and single-minded. One could sense, in both his interview monologues and in watching him shoot, that Nachtwey’s career has profoundly affected his sense of self, for who would not be affected by the hundreds of thousands of images taken in hundreds of locations? His quiet, intelligent choice of words and post-production details gives us such a deeper understanding of the person who brought the warzones to us in the relative comfort of our living rooms or libraries. The pain that he has witnessed through his lense and as a human being is seemingly taken in, processed, but never lingering too long to create a deeper psychological wound that would never heal.

I watched him move through a warzone with the stealth of a lurking cat, but with a calm that not may humans would have under similar situations.

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What I’m reading now

"Wanderlust: A Social History of Travel," by Laura Byrne Paquet (Fredericton:Goose Lane Editions, 2007) "The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping malls, and the Search for Home," by Pico Iyer (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2000). "Outliers: The Story of Success," by Malcolm Gladwell (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2008).

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