A paradox occurred to me some time ago. In a way, it relates to the old computer-programming adage “garbage in, garbage out.”
I’m not often at rest. That is to say, I’m not often simply relaxing without doing something else—or thinking about getting up to do something else—in the next 3 minutes. I’m often concerned with having relatively high-quality input and will actually consider which pieces of mailed propaganda to take with me on a drive or a walk, if indeed any of it has any redeeming qualities. I think about whether the piece will have anything to think about, anything I might need X (the number I expect to have) minutes to take in or to understand. I think about the value and my state of mind and whether in a five-minute walk to “town” on this or that day I might be able to be thoughtful, or merely of a business mindset.
I kept a couple of library books around the house for more than a year because I believed they were of sufficient quality to warrant revisiting/completing. My reading material is almost all nonfiction and ranges from biblical hermeneutics and church history/issues, to a neurologistic look at the effects of the internet, to exhortations from well-known conductors and other musicians.
In sum: it’s important to me to have good input for my head and heart.
Leaving alone the question of input quality (assessment: am I really feeding myself well, or fooling myself?), the output of late has been less than usual. Part of the reason for that was the different, lesser opportunities I had in the summer. But one element of output—prayer—had been more lacking than usual, and more difficult, at that.
I’ve been told before (being kicked when I was down, I felt at the time) that when I’m struggling spiritually, I need to spend more time in scripture. Earlier this fall, I was doing a fair amount of that. So far, though, this increase in spiritual input has not led to more, or better-quality, output in the form of prayer.
The word “balance” comes to mind.
I once replied on someone’s Facebook wall that I tend to prefer movies known as “chick flicks.” There are too many fights and sirens and gunshot wounds in “action” movies that males are supposed to like, and so much sci-fi is just stupid. Someone else responded to the effect that a good street fight or gunshot wound is normal. Then someone else wrote something about balance, as if to say “one chick flick, then one shoot-em-up Bruce Willis movie is healthy.” The point here is not to comment on movies. (If either of these folks had seen parts of “The Untouchables” that I saw the day before I started writing this post, I don’t think they would have responded with any interest in shoot-‘em-up movies.)
On the other hand, I think the Monty Python In Search of the Holy Grail scene in which body parts are being slashed off of an armored knight is hilarious. The torso alone ends up on the ground, bobbing and hopping around, saying things like “it’s only a flesh wound” and “come back here … I’ll bite you, you pansy!” The over-the-top “violence” of this scene is more along the lines of televised pro wrestling, making it more fictional than truly violent. I definitely don’t mean to get all self-righteous here; my standards are doubtless impeachable, and the input I experience is anything but consistent.
The paradox is that even when I’m most engaged in tremendously filling, nutritious input (read: seriously involved in scripture), for some reason the output has not seemed to come in a balanced way. There are more ways and means of output than prayer, and for me, thinking and writing/blogging is one important type of output, and musical compositions and arrangements represent another.
Maybe I’m more balanced than I realize. Or, maybe not. (Is there an emoticon for feigned diabolical laughter?)
 Dealing entirely in nonfiction printed matter is one reason I fail to comprehend the proliferating desire for so-called “reality” TV shows. When I sit in front of the tube, I want fiction. This is not necessarily an admirable quality, and I have difficulty imagining Jesus needing fiction, but I want to be “taken away” from reality. Even baseball games, which I love on one level, are hard for me to sit in front of sometimes, because they don’t engage my mind enough that I’ll get a reprieve from pressing realities.