how to read - part 3

I believe any healthy marriage includes a healthy amount of messing with each other. 

I don’t know if that stands up to therapy, but there it is. 

My wife and I do this often - she’ll buy new little decorations, put them in plain sight in the house, and see how long it takes for me to notice. On average, 2.3 weeks.

When we first got married, I’d turn one of the teacups in the glass-front cabinet so that the handle was turned in the opposite direction from the others. Again, this was to see how long it would take her to notice. On average, about 4.2 seconds. 

Oh, love. So good. 

Yet there is a certain rightness buried under our practical jokes (aka mind games). Something good and helpful is going on. It has a name.

Noticing is an act that helps us make sense of life. What we see, what we don’t see, and the ways in which we are the biggest obstructions to our own sight. 

In this series of posts, we’ve talked about how reading things like books or the various texts that come through our lives mirrors the way we live our actual daily lives. Nothing, in my mind, is more critical today to our reading than noticing

When reading a book, whether it’s Aristotle or Barbara Kingsolver or the Bible, noticing is a critical practice.

Noticing is the way in which we find the threads underneath the words.

It’s where we see the little life giving rivers that flow under nouns, verbs, conjunctions and clauses.

It’s where we see ourselves in a character or piece of wisdom, and either squeal with delight as we’re encouraged or wince with the sting of conviction and correction. 

Noticing is being vulnerable with the texts - whether printed or lived in front of us - so that they read us as we read them. 

From the Christian tradition, the Bible stands up to this kind of reading. When we read the teachings of Jesus, it’s important to notice poetic and revolutionary themes and let them sink in. 

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never talks about Hell (Gehenna, to be specific) with people who are considered pagans, or irreligious?

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus talks about faith it is typically connected to action?

Have you ever noticed that the stories of Jesus healing tend to revolve around blindness, paralysis, demon possession, and death? (Did he never heal a person of a common cold?)

Have you noticed that Jesus’ healing acts bring people from the margins back into relationship with the larger society? 

What do we do with all of that?
We read it. We bring it to mind. We sit with it. We let it change us. 

These are just a few examples but what I can say is that noticing is not an accident. To notice well we must also learn to cultivate a small patch of our hearts and minds for quiet. The common language today is mindfulness, being aware of our own thoughts as well as the thoughts and actions of others and the greater world. 

Whatever name we give it, the point is that much of what we fail to do in our lives and much of the damage we cause in our relationships and culture as a whole comes from one simple concept: noticing. 

What are you reading today? What texts? What life stories? 
What are you noticing? 

Take 5 minutes today and write a note or two about the things you’re noticing. Sit with them. Let them haunt you for a bit and see what comes of it.