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September 29, 2016


A Prayer for Owen Meany


OwenmeanyThis is one of the my favorite passages from the book, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

It's a book that delves into the topic of The Vietnam war, but also topics related to friendship, baseball, love, and faith. It does this as deeply as an author might feel allowed to do, when the particular literary pond for the story is 543 pages-deep. Certainly a deeper pond than those that I wade in in this modern day ... where I wake up in bodies of water so shallow that the liquid feels evaporated before the sun fully rises. Simple sentences everywhere that boil down complexities within 4x4 inch graphics that bottom line it for everyone. No need for critical thinking or in-depth journalism or robust discussion about the ironies, the wit, and the true conundrums of life.

Yesterday, I heard a podcast about research that points to how contrary to the popular notion that  stating our intentions out loud and publicly might help make that intent come true, there is research that points to the opposite. That is, when a person states that "In one month I am going to become healthier" that the brain sometimes tricks that person into thinking that just by having expressed that intention out loud, they actually think they ate healthily and took brisk walks around the block. And because of this phenomenon, the research shows that the person who declares a plan out loud has a less likelihood of doing anything to make that plan come true, compared to the person who just does the plan and declares nothing beforehand.

This particular passage by Irving presents so many non-simple facets with that war ... including those who protested it. Which makes me think of modern times ... and how our brains trick us into thinking that by declaring that "I am against" or "I am for" X, Y, or Z, that not only do we not do anything in support or against it, but that just that lofty utterance can add fuel the fire for the opposite thing to happen. 

I also heard an interview with journalist Bob Woodward who points out how shallow our ponds of discourse are really getting. And that as a journalist, even if he spends any time feeding the simple sentence platforms, it is the responsibility of journalists and writers and thinkers to continue doing in-depth work and presenting deeper ponds of thought ... regardless of whether a single person steps foot in it.

 

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