Monday, July 12, 2010


I've been reading this amazing book, "Writing to Change the World", by Mary Pipher, for about a week now. Its incredible. My fiancee was mad at me for underlining in pen last night, so I've switched to pencil, but that doesn't stop me from underlining!

Mary Pipher is a professional therapist and psychologist as well as a writer. Her writing topics have mostly been activist topics and she gives examples of her activism throughout her career. My desire would be to write more fiction topics than anything else. Whats amazing is reading her insight into human emotions and also some observations about linguistics.

I'm going to re-post all the underlined things and write a little about them.

"Whereas writers of propaganda encourage readers to accept certain answers, writers who want to transform their readers encourage the asking of questions". p 23.

That quote is great insight into the difference between the two.

"Once I articulated all these aspects about myself to myself, I tried to write as close to a unified conceptualization of myself as I could". p43.

What is my own tone and voice?

"Our lives are journeys toward a certain kind of wisdom, which is a love and appreciation for all living creatures". p58.

"We experience our lives as lived events, but also as material to be carefully examined later for richness and meaning. Just as meditation makes life more aware and joyous, so writing allows us to live more deeply and fully. Both involve the sanctification of time". P83.

I'm glad I've been writing for some time now and categorizing some things in my life. Must do them all!

"...that the way people enter into a conversation influences its outcome and that true change occurs only in the context of relationships". p 85.

this seems very true, and the first thing that popped into my mind was the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

"With our presence and attention, we suggest that honest exploration of issues is healing and that hiding from them is toxic...linguistic determinism that naming determines action and that which is unnamed is ignored". p86.

Some of my own experiences mirror this quote. Its better to figure out what you are feeling and why than keep plugging away at life without asking the questions.

"this nuanced use of words is evidence of a clear thinker" p90.

Perhaps my favorite quote so far.

"never underestimate the reader's intelligence or overestimate his information level" p90.

I should apply this to my classes.

"lets put this in the context of the larger patterns of your life" p91.

Hilarious quote, almost made me laugh out loud.

"Black and white thinking in others is unlikely to be changed if we employ the same thinking ourselves" 91.

George Bust.

"Churchill once defined fanatics as people who won't change their minds and can't change the subject" p91.

Who doesn't know a few fanatics??

"Unacknowledged emotions do not disappear; they fester. Ignoring dark emotions leads to addiction and violence." p95.

Addiction, the greatest of them all.

"Often, in the real world, people who behave badly or disagree with others are shamed or made to feel guilty. However, shame and guilt are poor motivating tools. They sap energy, and lead to rigid thinking. They may work short-term, but long-term they almost never sustain good behavior" p96.

Can I apply this to my teachings??

"appeal to clients' better selves" p96.

This to my teachings as well?

"Cynicism is a form of resistance, a walling off of the possibilities for transformation. At its core, it is a response to learned helplessness, a defensive strategy. Scratch every cynic and underneath you find a wounded idealist. For therapists and writers alike, the best treatment for cynicism is healing stories" p96.

First thought in my mind was I guy I knew once named Kevin C.

And finally...

"English does not include many words to describe mixed emotions--"poignant" and "bittersweet" are the only two that come to mind. German strings together adjectives to label complicated emotions; Japanese has many words to unsnarl such feelings" p105.

It would be delightful to read a book about the differences between the different languages of the world.

So where do I go from here? I want to start writing some sort of part time fiction stuff. Perhaps a modern day science fiction type novel, based in our society but with larger than life characters.
Thinking about these quotes and the larger context of the book, my first thought is about the moving starring Tom Cruise and his "pre-cog crime unit". The film, Minority Report, felt more like propaganda than a real movie trying to raise questions.

I'm sure Tom Cruise knew this, which raises more questions. Do most people prefer to be told what to think rather than do it themselves?

Contrast this to the success of the Matrix Trilogy, despite having one of the most boring and lame actors ever in Keanu Reeves. Perhaps it was his dead-panning of lines and general emotionlessness that allowed people to push past the human acting and superimpose themselves and their own questions on the movie.

Minority Report felt so contrived and the actors were very one-dimensional. Aside from the super cool graphics and cutting edge ideas, it was basically very limited and ended with a conclusion that felt forced. Most movies of that genre seem to feel forced with no real consideration and the villain always, always loses.

That is another major disappointment of mine with the Bond series. The bad guy always loses. For once I'd like to see a major movie where the bad guy wins, where people root for him despite his evilness, despite his flaws, and he emerges as a hero despite being bad at heart.

Perhaps a villain who at the most crucial part of the movie shows some sort of human side, makes a small concession, lives to fight another day, survives because of a scrap of goodness inside of him. Like Darth Vader versus the Emperor.

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