Humble simplicity is the gateway to God’s infinite, profound, beautiful Truth. This truth, as all truth, holds fast across all disciplines, endeavors, and creation.
Take Farley Mowat and his study of wolves which (eventually) revolutionized our understanding of wolves, hunting, people, the critical role of natural predators, and eco system interconnectivity. Once circumstance encouraged his abandonment of the arrogant and certain “knowledge” that wolves were blood lusting, savage, wanton killers, Farley “went to the wolves,” living like them in every way he could figure out: claiming territory, hunting their prey, eating their prey, and other scientific hilarities, his humble simplicity opened the ability to see the truth — wolves as a stunningly cooperative, familial group that are an integral part of God’s engineering.
The book is well worth reading and will leave you gasping for air, stitches in your sides, with tears down your cheeks. Required reading in our home.
God’s engineering. The simple idea that God made the world and it thus contains spectacular design, intelligent design, to apply properly a term that has come to mean precisely the opposite, given creation itself readily shows the world is older than Adam and Eve by more than a few days. God’s creation is intelligent. This bears repeating. God’s creation is intelligent.
This foundational understanding of the world is clarifying and humbling for us humans. Yes, humans are a part of creation. Yes, humans are uniquely made in God’s image and each person has a soul. Yes, humans have been given dominion over the world (and a corresponding responsibility for the world). But we are not God, nor even gods. Things go best when we cooperate with God’s engineering rather than defying it. Like with the wolves. Human over hunting caused a rapid decline of the caribou. Our less than human response? Blame wolves for our blood lust, thus utterly missing the truth and the opportunity to better the world, our lives, and co-create with God.
Why so much theology in a post about clarity of thought and (eventually) invisible pencils, notebooks, and sloping desks? The principle of God’s engineering is one way I approach and evaluate how I live life. Because of my bludgeoned brain I have constant, dual matrices neurological vertigo, yet I run and bike mountain trails. How? Accessing God’s engineering.
Specifically, I discovered that going barefoot frees my feet and body to function as God intended. My feet strengthened, connected with my brain and muscles throughout my body, and now my body knows where I am in space though my brain hasn’t a clue. That single act of removing my shoes led to amazing discoveries and improvement in my and my family’s quality of life.
I’ve long sought to free and strengthen my thinking.
Things I’ve discovered (some of which may be universally true for all of us, but that’s beyond my scope):
- I need to move every 10–30 minutes. I floor live, so write at a kneeling desk and this greatly aids in moving and shifting naturally through out the day (no numbing cushioning or poor posture).
- I need focus and thus no distractions. All of us have ADHD if we admit it. Brain injury magnifies this significantly. I think best in God’s remote “Highland Cathedral” or in my sound proofed “hobbit hole” study. Pencil and paper promote my thought, computer detracts and distracts my thought (despite maximal minimalist writing apps and all notifications off). My thoughts flow through paper, not electrons.
- I think best when my tools vanish, becoming an invisible (to me) part of my flow of thought. Any time they call attention to themselves it is like a clogged artery to my thinking.
- Cursive writing promotes thought (yes, the science backs this up). Printing introduces speed bumps on otherwise smooth road.
- Quality of tools matters greatly. The better the quality of a tool, the less it makes its presence known and thus the more it allows me to accomplish. I take great notice of tools I don’t notice when using.
That’s a lot of lead in to discuss a desk, two notebooks, and a pencil as tools of thought — but context is required to fully appreciate the gift of their simplicity. I will cover them from the ground up: desk, notebooks, pencil.
Attributes common to them all: they meet the needs I just described above. They are of such quality they disappear in use, becoming an invisible part of the flow of thought. This means they have exactly what is necessary for the job and little to none of what isn’t.
Writing pencil (or pen) to paper is greatly promoted by writing on a slope. Earliest monk scribes knew this and all desks were sloped. No more. Flat. Ergo Desk’s offerings acknowledge this modern reality and change it by adding a sloped desk atop your flat one. Easy, simple, economical. Quality craftsmanship, sturdy, hearty, solid, and words great with even a thin Apple Magic keyboard and trackpad, when I am using them (as now to type this in from my notebook). My iMac sits behind my desk so I can easily place my notebook on the upper reference desk and type my pencil scratches into electrons without a crick in my neck.
Ruled, soft cover. Unlike sloping writing desks, there are a plethora of notebooks for thinking, writing and sketching. Everyone will have their preference and doubtless many will dain disagree with mine, but this is why I love this relative newcomer to the notebook party. Essence of quality, affordability, and simplicity. Rules lines on a page of excellent weight and feel, bound within hearty kraft cover with glued bindery craftsmanship to lay mostly flat (unheard of in less expensive glued bindings). Their hard cover is delicious too, but slides easily on my tilt desk, drawing undue attention to itself. 5”x8” size is large enough to hold significant thoughts without always shifting to the next line, but also small enough to fit within one writing position so I needn’t adjust my paper constantly or lean sideways. It is also a width the eye comfortably reads. Value comes with the wise choice to not perfectly align lines or grids or dots (and thus waste paper and increase labor and costs). They are “good enough” to not attract attention while not increasing the cost significantly. I appreciate that. Simple shouldn’t be pricy, but, as we’ll see, it sometimes seems to be. I use ruled lines because blank aren’t structured enough and dot or grid are too structured.
Too small to write in as my main notebook, the 3”x5” is perfect for side notes, insert earlier or later notes, or include this notes. Keyboard and trackpad on my desk but I need to write something down? No need to move keyboard and trackpad for my large notebook (which is too large for wee notes anyway.) Tucked away beneath my sloping desk when not needed. Beautiful.
My latest discovery and, though only days in, an evident and surprising lynch pin tool to my flow of thought.
I’ve tried nearly every pen out there. I find pens fussy, each in a unique, cantankerous way. They always draw attention to themselves. Not so the humble pencil. Even its need for sharpening every page or so promotes the flow of my thought — a pause to sharpen my tool and in the process unwittingly reflect on the big picture of what I’m writing, where I am, and where I’m going.
If there’s lead showing, a pencil will write. A pencil is unaffected by wet or cold. Pens may skip, spurt, stutter, or blot. Not so the humble pencil. Even a dull pencil is a needed break and requires a meditative removal of 1/32nd” to be sharp. To be sharp, I need that too from time to time.
So far I’ve recommended every pencil out there, including the gutter stubs outside the elementary school, save pencils at the local mini-golf (fingernails on chalkboard is a better experience). Yet I’m celebrating a pencil that not only isn’t free (as is the gutter stub), nor even 20 or 40 cents, but a whopping 180 cents. What gives? Wasn’t value part of the “simple” proposition? Yes. Indeed. Please, bear with me.
Could the 602 be more humble yet greater for it? Absolutely. A buck eighty a stick is pretentious. A glossy finish on the wood and shiny, fancy ferrule and eraser are all unnecessary distractions (never use the eraser — destroys the flow of thought. Cross out and move on.). Do not let poor choice in outward accoutrement deter or detract from the elegant simplicity of the essence awaiting beneath — a pencil’s pencil. The 602 is:
- So smooth it writes like a gel pen (in the off moment when a gel pen works).
- Hard enough to hold a tip for a page (with proper rotation), soft enough to be clear and dark. Writers take note, there may be room for a firmer writer’s pencil (their #24 special edition is just such a beastie — hopefully one that leads to a better writer’s pencil).
- Invisible to use, once the beautiful and distracting ferrule and eraser are summarily decapitated.
I keep a dozen sharpened, ready to go, but find I prefer the gathering of thought encouraged by using a single pencil and sharpening it along the way, 1/32nd” at a time.
Accessing God’s engineering often takes at least three months adjustment as the body shifts and strengthens for proper function. This is true of going barefoot, living with wolves, and taking up writing with a pencil.
An indication of the combined efficacy of these thinking and writing tools is that before this synergistic union I hadn’t hand written more than a full 5x8 page in a sitting since elementary school, yet in the last week have written more than that each day. This post alone was written in a few hours and is over seven pages. In pencil, in a paper notebook, on a sloping desk. Total cost of pencil and paper used, $0.90 (3/4” pencil, 8 pages). God’s engineering. I’ve discovered my barefoot of thinking.
May God startle you with joy!