Believing What We Want

I once read a fascinating story about something that was said to the magician Houdini. According to the book The Secret Life of Houdini,

In February, both [the actress Sarah] Bernhardt and Houdini found themselves playing Boston at the same time. She invited him to visit her at her hotel, where Houdini entranced her with more than a half hour of close-up magic. The next day, she rode in a car with a magician and watched him free himself from a straitjacket while being suspended sixty feet in the air. The previous year had been rough for the French actress; ten years after a serious injury, her right leg was finally amputated and she was continuing her stage career with the assistance of a wooden leg.

On the way back to the hotel, the Divine Sarah suddenly embraced Houdini. “Houdini, you are a wonderful human being,” she purred. “You must possess some extraordinary power to perform such marvels. Won’t you use it to restore my limb for me?”
Houdini was shocked when he realized that she was dead serious.
“Good heavens, Madame, certainly not,” Houdini sputtered. “You know my powers are limited and you are actually asking me to do the impossible.”
“Yes,” she said, leaning closer to him. “But you do the impossible.”
“Are you jesting?”
“Mais non, Houdini, j’ai jamais ete plus serieux dans ma vie.”
Houdini’s eyes welled with tears.
“Madame, you exaggerate my ability,” he said.

This is such an interesting response to Houdini’s magic from someone who got to experience it more intimately than most. Yet how would we describe Sarah’s question to Houdini? Was it childish, or naive, or ignorant? Perhaps, but I think something more simple is happening: Sarah believed what she wanted to be true.

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Van Gogh

Earlier this year Michelle and I saw the Van Gogh exhibition when it was in town in Phoenix. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. We stuck around and “watched” the show nearly three times that day, each time from a different vantage point.

After that experience, I decided to dive into a massive book on the artist called Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh (see: Amazon link). This sucker is 976 pages or 45 hours of audiobook. This allows an extreme level of detail throughout his life and I’ll be honest, it’s a bit of a depressing read. Vincent was not the guy anyone assumed would make it and he dealt with massive challenges and failures for almost his entire life.

I’ve never spent much time painting, but it’s obvious that Van Gogh took liberties with the images he created. One of his explanations why was fascinating to me. “In drawing a wall, he said, ‘the artist who must copy every small stone and each stroke of whitewash has missed his calling: he should have become a bricklayer.’” I think this applies to artful storytelling as well. A good story is more than a retelling of the details and events that took place.

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How to Get Better at What You Do

I’m back! You may or may not have noticed I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks as my site has been down (thanks to those of you who reached out with concerned text messages). Turns out GoDaddy launched an updated and crashed a few things on the backend. Thankfully I have a friend who helped get it back and running faster than before.

In the meantime… I started making TikToks.

No, I’m not dancing, and I’ve yet to make videos where I’m multiple characters. But I’ve watched this platform for a while and decided to challenge myself a bit and go for it. I’m still reinventing myself these days and trying to figure out the best ways to pursue the things I’m passionate about doing.

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4 Responses to Declining Christianity

I recently read two different articles that revealed some shocking numbers about the state of Christianity, especially in America. Christianity Today recently reported that “Around two-thirds of people who usually attend church at least monthly said they were back in the pews in March (67%), roughly the same as in September 2021 (64%)” (source). That means that a third of church-goers who attended before Covid had not yet come back last September and this hasn’t changed up through last month either.

In addition, the American Bible Society recently shared that people are reading their Bible significantly less than before. “In 2022, Bible users in the U.S. accounted for just 39% of the adult population, the lowest in more than a decade” (source). They refer to this as an “unprecedented drop.” The numbers show that people are attending church less and reading their Bible less.

I have a few thoughts as to why.

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2022 Reading List – 1/4

2022 Reading List – 1/4

We’re a fourth of the way through 2022 which means it’s time to check in on my reading list for the year. So far I’m slightly behind schedule. Here are the books I’ve read since January with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher.

Click on any of the titles below to get to a link to buy it. (Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com).

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Perfectionism is the Voice of the Oppressor

In her book on writing, author Anne Lamott says that “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft” (Bird by Bird).

I think this applies to far more than early drafts of things we write.

We’re all tempted to appear as if we’ve arrived at some perfected version of ourselves. This is the version we project of ourselves on social media and online. This is the version of ourselves we usually show professionally. This is the version of us that people who don’t really know us believe.

The problem with playing this game is that it leaves you no room for growth.

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