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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, February 11, 2011

LIfe is Not a One-Page Book (revisited)

Sometimes something I wrote a couple years ago comes back into my life, and to my surprise, I can read the words as if they were not my own and be helped by them in reading as I was in first writing them.... If that makes any sense.

A couple nights ago, I was really missing my parents, missing their counsel, missing their voices, missing the sense that they are praying for me and my family. (Strange that at my age such needs are still inside me. I suppose to some extent they always will be.) Thinking about these things that night, I realized that when I took a year of late-nights to write about the years we cleared the land and built the house, it was a form of useful grief.

So anyway, this chapter from February 2009 came back to me, and  I thought I'd repost it. Maybe it will be of help to someone else.

Life Is Not a One-page Book

There is a word that repeats itself in my writing and in my conversations with people. It’s not deliberate and hopefully not too obvious, though once I mention the word, it may seem blatant, considering the title of my blog since 2004.

The word is PATTERNS. It’s a good word, and the meaning behind how I typically use it is good for tracing and tracking the human condition. We understand the presence of patterns in art and music but sometimes overlook them in life.

Sometimes when I talk with the faculty and staff at school, I remind us that, beyond the books, we are working with the home to help students form good patterns of life (and avoid getting into bad patterns). This simple reminder helps moderate our responses to the routines (and, yes, rules) we are expected to follow. Anyone can be tardy, but is it a pattern? Anyone can not complete an assignment, but is it a pattern? Anyone can say a cross word, but is it a pattern. When we choose to focus more energy on patterns than on single incidents, we become people who RESPOND to incidents rather than REACT to them.

This does not mean that single events don’t matter, they do, but they deserve far more attention when they become patterns. Determining whether or not something is a pattern requires the passing of shared time and space and the passage into relationship, which is the context for the best kind of learning. Shared time and space and the assumption we will meet again tomorrow is the essence of relationships that matter. Life is not a one-page book.

Let me say that again because it hit me as I wrote it: "the assumption we will meet again is the essence of relationships that matter. " When we assume time is shortly shared or that we'll never meet again (even if it's true) we diminish the importance of current interaction and its impact on our future. I'm sure the percentage varies from setting to setting, but relationships dictate much of perspective and productivity. The more we observe patterns of life rather than snapshots in time, the more inclusive the context of our relationships becomes. The more inclusive the context, the more thoughtful the response; the more thoughtful our responses, the more pleasant and productive the patterns of life. [This paragraph added 2-20-09]
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Our goal as a school is to maintain not a problem-free setting (no such place exists) but a setting in which the "problems" that are to be expected in a fallen world are responded to appropriately. .


Nobody likes “gotcha” moments. You know what I mean: those times when you get nailed for doing something that is not typical of you, not a pattern of behavior, and yet you did it and the one time you did--GOTCHA!--comes from someone who has the power to make you regret it. Whether it’s a referee on the basketball court, a policeman at a speed trap, a teacher at the door when the tardy bell rings, a boss who watches the staff parking lot ten minutes before quitting time... GOTCHA is an unpleasant world to live in.
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We’ve all heard the term “knee-jerk” reaction, which refers to actions that by-pass the brain. A knee-jerk reaction is fine on the doctor's examination table after that little red-triangle hammer taps the knee. It means the patient is alive and well. Dealing with the human body, however, is not the same thing as dealing with human beings. Knee-jerk reactions when dealing with people are never helpful. It’s never good when a “REACTION” to people by-passes the brain (or heart).
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We've all knee-jerked before, and we all know people who tend to be in such patterns. Sometimes they've learned to excuse it with statements like "Well, at least people know what I'm thinking," but reactions typically reflect impulse rather than thought. Or "Well, at least people know how I feel," which should never trump how what was said makes others feel. Given the chance, most people would rather learn from thoughtful "responders" than impulsive reactors.


Even in an emergency, a quick-thinking mind and body that RESPONDS appropriately is a better bet than mere REACTING. Well-trained emergency professionals, heroic pilots, or Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks may look like they’re reacting without thought, but they are more likely directing their agility and intuitive responses in patterns they've repeatedly practiced.


Understanding the patterns of life and of people is one of the best ways to avoid knee-jerk reactions in a GOTCHA world. To whatever extent I model these thoughts in my dealings with students, parents, and the teachers I serve it reflects my understanding of God the Father. Oh, how I'm glad He does not run a GOTCHA world. He is long-suffering. He sees the big picture and the road ahead. He is far more concerned with the direction of our path, than a slip along the way. His path for us is not random; there is a plan; there is a pattern to follow.


My parents were far from perfect, but in the shared time and space God granted us as a family, I learned to sense the rhythms of life, the ebb and flow of events, the patterns of meaning, and the meaning of deviations from those patterns. The following chapter is just one example of such a lesson. 

The line "Stuck in reverse" from this Coldplay song subtly foreshadows the second link's events.



If you would like to read the chapters from "Unsettled" that followed these thoughts entitled "Life is not a One-page Book," CLICK HERE, and after that chapter CLICK HERE.
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