Incurable Curiosity

In-cur-able: (adj.) Not likely to be changed. Cu-ri-os-i-ty: (n) A desire to know.


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Spot the Difference

Below are 2 pictures. They are identical except for 1 difference. Can you find it? (Click on or hover over each picture to zoom in.)

        

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not in the picture of the dandelion or the spelling of ‘Incurable’.

Still can’t find it? Look in the top half of the screenshot.

Think you’ve found it? Here’s the solution:

My new Feedback Page!

The latest feature of Incurable Curiosity: a feedback page!

On this comments-only page, you can let me know what you think of the site as a whole, not just what you think about individual posts.  All I ask for is the honest truth. Like the photo theme? Great! Didn’t think that article series was up to par? Be the critic and tell my why! Have a suggestion for a better blog layout? Give me an idea of what you’re thinking.

And how do you tell me all of this?

Too much? Oh well; I was having fun with all of the screenshots. Anyway, don’t think you’ll be writing into a brick wall. I will take every comment into consideration, and I will do my best to answer each comment and question.

Feedback is very important here. If this blog were just for my benefit and enjoyment, it would all still be on my laptop’s hard drive. But I don’t just want feedback, I want to start conversations and get ideas rolling. If you read something that inspires you to write, or do, or think, let me know – I’d love to get some guest posters on here. But that’s another post. Go check out the new page, say hello, and carve a virtual “(your name) wuz here”.

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The Book Sale: Supporting My Local Literacy Foundation and Building a Library for Next to Nothing

A building full of thousands of books, arranged on tables by genre, author, and type. People everywhere, moving in tides between the volumes, pulling in and out of the crowd to scour the selection. Some search for quantity, taking advantage of the cheap prices. Others look for gift potential. A great many look for school materials. But there are a few that look for that one table of books. Whether it holds classics, sheet music for mandolins, or anthologies of German short stories, it is their table; the table where they zone out the chaos around them as they search for that one book. Maybe it doesn’t even exist. Maybe it hasn’t been written yet. But if it has, surely it’s here, somewhere in the boxes, or underneath the table, hidden until more room is made. The crowd shifts again, around and behind and beside the searcher, unspeaking, their focused eyes looking only at the books. The searcher looks at every title, picking one or two or three volumes up, wondering if one might be the book. But none are. Then, as books are shuffled, something new comes into the picture. Is this it? Look at the cover, turn it over to read the dust jacket. Flip through the pages. A little bit of penciled writing, a few dog-eared pages, not bad on the whole. This is it! Look at the cover again, find the colored sticker. What does the sign say that color means? One dollar! Is that all? But there can be no doubt that the sticker is blue, and why question the sticker-placer? The searcher has become the finder, their bag one book heavier, and their day that much better.

As you can guess from that short vignette, I went to a book sale yesterday. Quite a large book sale, put on annually by the area literacy foundation. It’s really a win-win situation: you can literally build a personal library in a few hours for less than $50, all while supporting a good cause. It was the first time I’d gone in several years, and it was much bigger than I remembered. I spent most of my time hovering around the classics table, and I got 14 books in all:

To list:

  • A collection of 63 short mysteries compiled by Alfred Hitchcock ($1)
  • A book of classical music for piano (for when I finally learn to read sheet music) ($1)
  • The published journal of Philip Vickers Pithian, written in the 1770s ($1)
  • ‘The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney’ (replacement for a copy I previously had in my collection) ($3)
  • ‘Edda’, a Norse book on writing poetry ($1)
  • ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, a classic tale of seafaring ($.50)
  • ‘Ivanhoe’, a story I only know of because of Wishbone ($.50)
  • A compilation of various Oscar Wilde works ($.50)
  • A paperback copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ to take a heavy editor’s pencil to ($.50)
  • A paperback copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ to make notes in ($.50)
  • ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ ($.50)
  • ‘The House of Seven Gables’, because I’ve never read it before ($.50)
  • A pocket-size hardback edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, to replace my falling-apart paperback ($1)
  • A matching copy of ‘Jane Eyre’, because it was the only other pocket-sized hardback in the lot ($1)

Unfortunately, unlike my searcher, I did not find exactly what I was looking for (paperback copies of my favorite Agatha Christie’s). Instead, I found several books I didn’t know about and picked them up on a whim (the anthology of mysteries, ‘Edda’, the journals of Mr. Pithian, and ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’). I might not like them, but they’re worth a try, and I’ll at least see examples of different writing styles (and maybe get ideas for this year’s NaNoWriMo).

If you hear of such an event close to you, I would highly recommend braving the crowds. It’s is a great way to find new inspirations: in the books, the crowds, and in the experience.


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A Positively Negative Book Review

I don’t like the writing, the characters, or even the story – what I do like is the framework behind it all. And that might make me the only positively negative reviewer of Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games trilogy has made quite an impression in teen literary circles. Not as much as Harry Potter or Twilight, perhaps, but an impression nonetheless. I think the reason for that lies in the lack of upfront appeal: you don’t read about adorably awkward characters learning how they’ll save the world, nor do you find a story of pathetically obsessive romance starring the undead. No, readers of Hunger Games find themselves looking into a bleak future that twists past horrors into new and vile tortures.

Physical and mental deprivation at the hands of the government. Forced viewings of murder. Merciless reminders of an enslaved culture on an everyday basis. The theft of human dignity. Hope abandoned.

Not exactly a love triangle or school bully (even one with a magic wand).

And then there are the characters: you’ve got a taciturn teen with superior survival skills, yet unaware of ‘the effect she has’ on others. A blonde baker boy, shy, with a heart of gold and some stalker tendencies. An aging drunk with secrets. A slew of empty-headed but well-intentioned fashion models. And a government full of liars and demons, each one the epitome of evil.

But even they wouldn’t be so bad if they were written better. Opportunities for development as bright as a neon sign, somehow ignored. Dialogues more suited to wooden mannequins. Inner monologues to compete with soap operas. Really? And the grammar was so bad at times that I had to wonder if the editing team (or should I say prep team?) had fallen asleep.

Underneath it all, if you mentally correct the questionable writing style, wipe through the grime of dusty character stereotypes, and silence the burning question of Gale vs. Peeta, you can wander your way through a very interesting framework of imagination. There’s just enough history to set up a believable time frame for the major cultural shift, just enough similarities to our own world to make a personal connection, and enough of an idea of a political system to play with.

Inside these boundaries, hundreds of stories could be written. There are plot holes and loose strings to tie up, back stories and empty history books to fill in. Kind of like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but the reader has the opportunity to supply the information. Not that that’s actually suggested by the author, publisher, or general public. But the editing team might just be nodding their heads and cheering wildly – hey, you never know. Why did the people submit to slavery after the destruction of District 13? If the people were smart enough to send phony messages by jabberjay, why couldn’t they come up with a means of secret communication among themselves? What happened to religion? Had anyone tried to infiltrate the government? Had anyone tried to escape the country? Did foreign governments know what was going on? Had the country become entirely self-sufficient? How could such small districts supply an entire nation? If Ms. Collins won’t answer these questions, I’ll have to do it myself.

Final thought: Have fun with what you’re reading. Odds are, the author didn’t think of everything. Since there’s no rule saying you have to take the book as it is, why not re-write, revise, even reinvent?

Do you agree, disagree, or have something you’d like to add? May the comment moderation be ever in your favor!


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MBTI Primer Pt. II: Cognitive Functions (Re-Post)

When I was first studying up on MBTI theory, I shared it with a friend to get some feedback on an idea of my own. Since then she has written a few blog posts about it herself. This post is probably the clearest explanation of cognitive functions I’ve read yet, and Hattie has given me permission to re-post it here. You should check out Hattie’s blog, The Leaves That Are Green, to read about MBTI, fashion, photography, history, craft ideas, and small-town Southern life. Her writing never fails to give me something to think about and makes me smile. So without further ado, I share with you an understandable explanation of cognitive functions:

The Myers-Briggs Part II: Cognitive Functions

In Jungian Psychology, the cognitive functions are the foundation of one’s personality and the basis on which the MBTI was built.  Many internet and literature resources on this topic are overly complex I think, so I’m going to do my best to give a more straight-forward description of cognitive functions.

Each MB type is made from four functions – one of which is the dominant function.  The dominant function, in a nutshell, is simply the strongest aspect of your personality.  If someone were to hand you a pencil and ask you to quickly take a note, you’d reach for that pencil with either your right or left hand.  You’d pick the one which felt natural to you.  It’s the same way with dominant functions – there’s one that you feel most comfortable using, you rely on it by default, and it is the major governing force in your personality.  It’s so basic, like the way you hold a pen, laugh, or even breathe, that you probably don’t realize you’re using it most of the time.

There are eight functions according to Jung: extroverted intuition, introverted intuition, extroverted sensing, introverted sensing, extroverted feeling, introverted feeling, extroverted thinking, and introverted thinking.

One of those is your dominant function, but it doesn’t stop there.  After the dominant comes your auxiliary function.  It’s your second strongest personality preference and helps in assisting and balancing the dominant function.  The tertiary function is next in line – this function can be a handicap early in life, but as you grow into a psychologically healthy individual, it should develop into a helpful and eye-opening asset.  Last but not least is the inferior function.  This function is likely your biggest weakness; it’s your Achilles’ heel, the Sauron to your Frodo, the rain to your parade.  You get my drift.  It is mostly unconscious and often the cause much misunderstanding and stress in your life.

So, how does this work when we put it all together?  Let’s use my little brother as an example – he’s an ESFP according to the MBTI.  His dominant function in extroverted sensing (Se as it’s abbreviated).  Se focuses on the experiences and sensations of the immediate, physical world. With an acute awareness of the present surroundings, it brings relevant facts and details to the forefront and may lead to spontaneous action. This is what comes naturally to him, it always has and always will – it’s the primary filter through which he sees and interacts with the world.

His auxiliary function – the second strongest aspect to his personality – is introverted feeling (Fi).  Fi filters information based on interpretations of worth, forming judgments according to criteria that are often intangible. Fi constantly balances an internal set of values such as harmony and authenticity. Attuned to subtle distinctions, Fi innately senses what is true and what is false in a situation.

Next to last is the tertiary function: extraverted thinking (Te).  Te organizes and schedules ideas and the environment to ensure the efficient, productive pursuit of objectives. Te seeks logical explanations for actions, events, and conclusions, looking for faulty reasoning and lapses in sequence.  Since my brother is only 12, this isn’t a strong part of his personality… yet.  As he grows, however, this extraverted thinking should mature and become a handy tool in life.

Lastly is his inferior function: the introverted intuition or Ni.  Attracted to symbolic actions or devices, Ni synthesizes seeming paradoxes to create the previously unimagined. These realizations come with a certainty that demands action to fulfill a new vision of the future, solutions that may include complex systems or universal truths.  And that’s his Achilles’ heel (I could go into in depth examples of why, but for simplicity’s sake, just know that those things which pertain to Ni are very uncomfortable and almost foreign to him).

Hopefully this has been at least a somewhat clear introduction to functions.  For more information, a Google search of Jungian cognitive functions should give a year’s worth of reading!


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Introverts in Church: We Exist, We Really Do!

For people who have known me for any length of time, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m an introvert. (An expressed introvert, according to Myers-Briggs testing. Ironic, huh?) I enjoy solitude, am reserved in group interaction, and am quite singular in thought processing. I’m also a Christian. For a while now I’ve wondered about my place in ministry – it’s always seemed like the only options for introverts are child care, food service, setting up/tearing down chairs, making coffee, and being a silent part of the body count. There’s nothing wrong with those options, necessarily, but can there be more?

In his book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, Adam McHugh examines just this question.

The Short Summary: An insider’s look at life as an introvert in ministry. Written by a pastor who struggled with extrovert expectations for a long time, Introverts looks at historical perspectives on introverted traits, breaks down ways in which introverts interact in community, highlights positive examples of introverted Christian ministry, and suggests ways of making peace with our extroverted counterparts.

The Long Version:

Historically, introverted traits have been respected (even idealized) by the Church: chiefly, contemplation of ideas, preference for solitude, the ability to concentrate for long stretches of time, and having the gift of listening. Reading the Gospels, these are traits easily identifiable in Jesus himself. Wonderful traits, but not ones that pull in large numbers of converts. And so, over time, the evangelical movement turned from the thought-based traits of introversion to the speech- and people-based traits of extroversion. I can understand that, but is there a reason why the gifts of each can’t work together?

One of the keywords of Christianity these days is Community, also called Doing Life Together and Sharing the Journey. Ideally, this would bring personalities together, but more often than not brings challenges and highlights differences. For extroverts, community is a social outlet in Christian context. For introverts, it’s a crowd of extroverted brothers and sisters in Christ to tolerate in short spurts. Where extroverts can jump right in and get involved in service opportunities, introverts tend to start on the fringe, working our way in slowly, stepping back occasionally to regroup before going deeper into social circles. That makes committing to long-term ministry difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

Turns out there are places for us reserved folks who don’t thrive in crowds and who die on the inside cringe at the thought of door-to-door witnessing. With our processing skills, introverts can make excellent teachers, either alone or as part of a team. Others have a heart for one-on-one counselling or mentoring. Some find fulfillment in administration and planning. Some introverts even find their place leading congregations as head pastors. The options are as varied as the church body. Reading about the variety got me thinking more creatively. I now see idea development, copy writing, and small group leadership as possibilities for service. If those don’t fit, there’s I can always work on my coffee-making skills. Anyone looking for a ghost-barista to serve during social hour?

There are skills to be honed and gifts to be found, if only we look for them.

When it comes to working with extroverts (who tend to dominate most church ministries), the main idea is communication. Generally, extroverts speak where introverts think – that’s not the question. The question is how to cross the boundary and avoid all manner of stress and drama. To introverts: talk to the extroverts. Let them know what you’re thinking. Evidently our silence makes them nervous. Explain (or try to explain) the way you work through ideas and get to doing things. To extroverts: try listening sometimes. We have ideas, too – just give us some word-space to transfer our thoughts to our mouths. Then you can talk it over.

My Thoughts: This is a book I plan on sharing with a lot of people. I like the historical perspective and personal anecdotes (though they get a little repetitive). There are good ideas in here, ideas that I’d like to see explored in a lot of churches. I wonder how much more effective and authentic church ministry could be if we looked at the quieter facets of service.

My only complaint is that the book is written primarily to pastors, more to feelers than thinkers, and leans strongly in favor of intuitive personalities. A little imagination can bring in a larger audience, however.

Conclusion: This is a great resource for church libraries and ministry personnel. It raises awareness for members of the church community who want to serve but don’t know how in a world of noise.

Bonus Thought: I’m thinking about making awareness bracelets for introversion. They would have to be be invisible, though, wouldn’t they? Maybe with text that becomes visible only after time in solitude and fades as the day goes on – a reverse glow-in-the-dark kind of thing.  What do you think?


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Toms Creek Falls

It’s summer. Where’s the best place to go when it’s summer in the south? The mountains. It’s been awhile since my family has gone waterfall hunting, and this past weekend was perfect for a road trip, so we looked up some spots in North Carolina and planned a morning venture. This lovely waterfall is hidden away in the mountains of western North Carolina. There are a few write-ups about it already (this one is very detailed), so I’m just going to post pictures from our .5-mile trek along the trail.

I actually took over 100 pictures during the hour we were at the falls. Hey, you can’t expect me to go somewhere so pretty and not be snapping pictures every 5 seconds. Not if there’s life in my batteries and room on my memory card, you don’t. And believe me, I have enough extra batteries to last a while.

How far will you travel to escape the heat?