Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

Counting on lightning
     Surprised by insight


In medieval Europe, people believed that ringing the church bells during bad storms dispersed evil spirits seeking to destroy God’s house. In a thirty-year period in the 18th century more than a hundred French bellringers were killed by lightning running down bell ropes. Finally, the custom was outlawed. The ancient Romans believed that lightning moving from right to left was a good omen while energy moving from left to right was a sign that the gods didn’t like what was happening politically. A leftward movement required that all public assemblies be canceled.

Probably the Romans were no closer to the truth than the medieval Christians, though both positions still claim adherents. It’s easy to misread the meaning of things.

For me, lightning is one window into the way of things. There are illuminations that occur suddenly. Unseen patterns connect and the darkness explodes in brilliant skeletal patterns, and I see.

There are slower ways of learning, of course. Some things we learn gradually, a little here and a little there, something like the way a coral reef is built up from the remains of innumerable individual polyps. This learning is vast and solid, forming the experiential base of all our knowing. 

But I have come to count on lightning. Living in a dry climate where lightning is rare, I know that conditions need to be right. Lightning forms in thunderstorms, and thunderstorms are brewed out of heat and moisture. So I read and observe and make notes, bringing the needed ingredients to mind. I am drawn outside at night when the sky is alive with tumultuous changes.

Sometimes, it’s true, the darkness returns so swiftly that we are little more than confused by enlightenment too brief to stick. But sometimes, we really do see and in seeing we are changed.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

Living or artificial?
     Are Christmas trees green?

A few of us head out in search of the
perfect tree. This year, all five of children
managed to make it to this annual tradition,
along with their spouses and seventeen
of the eighteen children. The eighteenth
grandchild is fifteen, so sometimes other
obligations seem more important to her
than yet another family gathering.

Sometimes I’m even more glad than others that years ago Valerie and decided to live in a small town near family rather than near career opportunities. This morning I came across an article in the
Washington Post pondering whether people should put up living Christmas trees or artificial ones. Well, “pondering” is actually too impressive a word. Fiddling with the concept would be more accurate.

I do worry though that such fiddling too often passes for thinking among many of us--judging by the detritus of modernity that fills my own inbox each day. There seem to be a lot of people quite busy with not much.

At a superficial level, the question might seem a touch one. On one hand, a living tree gets chopped down. But on the other, most artificial trees are made of nonbiodegradable plastics and metal in China. Cutting a tree. Oh my! Contributing to nonbiodegradable mountains. How awful!

From where I live, no such dilemma appears. Each year, my family gathers to cut our trees on a piece of property purchased by my wife’s father decades ago. The land is in the foothills of the Mission Mountains, more than a mile above the nearest county road. Some years, just getting in there is a challenge. This year there was snow, but it was a sunny day with temperatures above freezing. Stunning.

If any of us had more time or resources to devote to managing the forty acres, we would somewhat aggressively thin the trees, cutting thousands of competing fir and pine and spruce and leave healthy trees spaced every fourteen feet or so. We’d select the trees we left for general health and to preserve the mix of conifers that have grown there as long as anyone knows. I’ve done quite a lot of such thinning in the past, in much the same spirit as I thin carrots once they have sprouted, leaving only as many as can flourish. In any case, we don’t imagine our taking of a few trees is harming the planet.

Many years ago I cut some trees to sell at this same property. I was a first year teacher and Valerie and I were quite poor. It seemed we could either tighten our belts at Christmas or do something to get some more money. We drove a few hundred miles home, spent one day cutting and bunching 500 trees to load on our 1956 4x4 GMC (I loved that truck) and then we drove back to eastern Montana where I worked (and where trees were more scarce). We sold all the trees out of our front yard, charging $1.50/foot. Most trees were seven or eight feet tall.

The removal of 500 trees wasn’t noticeable, but the little difference it made was an improvement, helping the forest renew itself more quickly. Crowded trees can’t grow very fast.

None of which interests me much.

What interests me is the family tradition of going to that place to get our trees each year. We do it on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We started when Valerie and I had three small children. We’ve done it every year since. This year, there were twenty-seven of us. For a few hours we spread out through the mountains, the toddlers staying near parents and the older kids going sledding on the ungroomed hill that bounds the property on the north. Our kids, who are young adults with families of their own can’t remember not doing it, and their kids experience it as a huge festival involving all their cousins who, for these kids, are nearly as well-known as their siblings.

As it gets dark, we leave the hills and gather back at the homestead for chili. Well, this year it was clam chowder. I usually make the chili, but my son-in-law, Dev, made chili for everyone the day before to serve at his oldest son’s birthday party, where we all gathered. So, chowder. The key to keeping traditions going is being flexible. In fact, several people didn’t even get trees this year. My youngest son cut some fire wood, which he needed at the moment more than a tree, and my oldest daughter, who had a two-month old baby riding in a pack, seemed content to just wander through the woods with us, enjoying the day.

Until a few years ago, most Christmas trees were harvested from wild forests. Today, nearly all commercial Christmas trees are grown on tree farms, where trees are continually planted and harvested. Buying all those trees keeps the land planted to trees, albeit small ones, and it keeps a lot of people working on the land, which I take as a very good thing.

It seems sad to me that about half the trees out there this year will be fake. Perhaps the time will come when my family, too, will switch to synthetic trees, which will for a while try to create echoes of the sort of memories I am rich with. If that time comes, I will indeed face a dilemma, but it won’t have much to do with worry about landfills.

Instead, I will be thinking about how to create new traditions that link family members across generations in reliable moments of togetherness. What else is Christmas for? (Hat tip: Garden Rant)

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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

Gardeners understand small solutions to big problems
     A Gardener's Duty

People are funny, often going to great lengths and enormous trouble to do the wrong things, when doing the right thing would be easier and more enjoyable. The school I work at has tried several things to boost student reading scores. Simply allowing people enough time to read doesn’t seem complex and substantive enough, so instead of reading we plan more meetings.

For lunch today I read a few blogs while enjoying a bowl of raw tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and carrots that I sliced up before going to bed last night. It was delicious, inexpensive and healthy. Not many years ago I would have filled up my limited lunch “hour” with a rush to a fast food place, spending most of my time in traffic so that I could pay too much money for food high in carbs and fat.

Lily in my secret garden.

I think of people on a hectic thousand-mile weekend, packing and driving and spending to enjoy their free time, when a few quiet hours in a nearby park might have done the trick better, if they could but relax and pay attention to what is at hand. Gardeners know better than many others that it isn’t necessary to travel to the Amazon to view the wonders of nature, that a lily near at hand is as wondrous as those the king keeps at his estate.

I doubt we will solve the world’s most serious problems until we accept the wonderful news that real solutions require free people making good decisions for themselves. Those who understand this readily see that the the best way forward has more to do with education than with control. It’s easy to fall for the delusion that widespread problems requite large-scale solutions. Such a way of thinking comes naturally to kings and others who dream of being in charge.

Wild Flora points out in a “gardener’s duty” that many of our environmental challenges are best dealt with by individuals who have a refined sense of duty and self-interest:

Well, not to let the big corporate types off the hook--but the choices made by millions of individuals have emerged as one of the major causes of planetary degradation. Choices made in the way we manage landeven if itגs a half-acre back yardaffect the quality of our air and water, species diversity, and a host of other matters of more-than-passing interest to a lot of creatures for a lot of reasons.

And it’s not just environmental problems that require millions of people making better choices. Though it would wreck the economy in the short-term, the worldwide consequences of people just keeping the Sabbath would be enormous. Not only would people find it a joy to step aside from so many concerns that seem so awfully urgent until they are put aside and one learns that they can be put aside, but fuel consumption would decrease as people stayed home more and stores closed, lonely old people would get more company, and a few people here and there would be tempted to read the great old poetry, finding themselves contemplating their own character and how they ought to live.

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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

No time to garden
     You can't lose when you play an infinite game

I don’t have time to garden well. I garden anyway.

Gardening is one of those activities like caring for children or learning about the past that rewards you for every little effort, no matter how small. It’s an infinite game. We never have enough time to do all that we would like, so we do what we can. I don’t have enough time to teach as well as I would like or to do what could be done with my grandchildren. Still, I teach and go cut Christmas trees with my grandkids.

Near where I live, I sometimes walk through a housing development where almost nobody gardens. The houses have no foundation plantings, no shade trees, no flower beds, though they do have satellite dishes and those portable basketball hoops sitting on the street. I know quite a few people who live there, and I don’t think it has occurred to most of them that they can simply dig a hole or a bed and plant a few things and their life will slowly start filling with more grace—the grace that is always here, flooding by us and through us with the sunshine.

It’s sad not to live in a garden, even a garden as unfinished and in need of care as mine. Having a garden is, to me, mostly a way of paying attention to the grace that dazzles and reassures, a way of aligning one’s small efforts with something so vast and good that we slowly learn we really do have nothing to fear.

Most years we have a late winter/early spring snowstorm that drives hordes of robins to my unmanaged apple trees. With no worms or caterpillars anywhere, the robins eat last year’s apples, withered but still hanging to the bare trees. I have a lot more apple trees than I can use. Some are just volunteers from old apple cores thrown along the creek. Some are ornamental crabs that I planted specifically to feed birds. Some are cultivars I planted, knowing I don’t have time or need for them now, sort of waiting for a time of famine or for new friends who would like free apples.

In the meantime, it’s a pleasure to see birds flocking to this bounty that they did not earn and cannot understand.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

Reading at the end of the world
     The New Dark Ages?

The NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) recently published a report that documented a precipitous decline in literary reading among Americans. Chairman Cana Gioio found the news grim:

“This report documents a national crisis,” Gioia said. “Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy. To lose this human capacity - and all the diverse benefits it fosters - impoverishes both cultural and civic life.”

This follows, somewhat tardily, an earlier report that took a somewhat worse view of the state of literary reading among Americans:

The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for only great poets can read them. They have only been read as the multitude read the stars, at most astrologically, not astronomically. Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I began my teaching career hoping we might get nearer Thoreau’s ideal—that more of us might read “as a noble intellectual exercise.” The schools I’ve worked in, however, have increasingly seen reading mostly as something in the realm of accounts and trade, as part of the world of occupations and money. One studies mostly so that one can later make money. This is in harmony with the therapeutic tone of these student-centered schools, which also teach young people that “what’s in it for me?” is the fundamental question that remains when an ethic of self-fulfillment is taught in a narrative environment where ultimate, which is to say religious, concerns are avoided.

Who would expect many people so educated to be drawn to the sort of reading Thoreau is talking about, when videos are more titillating and require less effort? Expecting a nation of readers at this stage of the game would be foolish, as would be expecting any real educational leadership from our official leaders, who did not get where they are by giving long hours to the best that has been thought and said.

As with all reports based on survey data, we have willful readers who point out the numbers may not mean what it is claimed they mean. In this case, the critic ignores the important point that the NEA is talking about literary reading, and not merely scanning the sports page or the twitterings of friends. Nevertheless, the constant disagreement and argument over virtually all the education data we have gives us a great variety of possible opinions with no certain way of knowing the truth, and so our plight is that we remain quite free to think whatever we want, which is much of the reason these reports seldom have much impact.

My biases, based on my experiences, lead me to think that if we are talking about literary reading, as the NEA says it is, things are quite dismal. The time is long past when I’ve been tempted to support a point with a quote from Donne or Blake. It would sound alien and odd to most listeners. Our literary culture is not really our culture any more.

By 1984, Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the more important moral philosophers during the second half of the twentieth century, observed in After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory that it was too late to avert a new dark age:

What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. . .This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.

The first time I read that, I thought MacIntyre was speaking hyperbolically. Now, reading with more experience, I think he was only saying aloud the obvious. Though the NEA does its best to sound the alarm, I find its warning far too mild. One way I read the history of the 1930s and 1940s is that the poetry of totalitarianism, with its grandiose vision of individuals sacrificing to the common good as defined by a ruling elite, clashed with a centuries-long tradition of English poetry in the form of a people whose characters had been influenced by visions of hearth and home, of the essential dignity of every person, and of the sacred duties of liberty.

Today, the poetry of totalitarianism is again ascendant—one hears it at home and abroad—but the cadences of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats have gone mostly silent. For those who cannot or do not read them, they might as well have never existed.

Most public schools are now attended by some young people whose plight is similar to that of the urchin in Auden’s great poem ”The Shield of Achilles”:

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

Such urchins are what I see beyond the NEA’s numbers.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

     Late night notes toward a sense of place

“I have always been here,” I was tempted to say to the journalist, a young Indian woman who had just told me that “Whites are mobile. They don’t care where they live.” She seemed angry that people of my race lived on what she thought of as her reservation. We were in Pablo, Montana, at the offices of the newspaper I edited that was published by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of western Montana.

The Flathead Reservation was opened to nontribal homesteaders in 1910. My family arrived fifty years ago. Nowhere else has ever been home to me. I was surprised by her outburst, which she seemed to have been waiting for some right moment to make. I was struck by how little she knew my heart, and so I thought it probable that I knew hers no better. I held my peace and said nothing and got back to my work.

In truth, I have never been here, though I was something of an early adopter of Thoreau’s ethic:

Think of the consummate folly of attempting to go away from here! When the constant endeavor should be to get nearer and nearer here. Here are all the friends I ever had or shall have, and as friendly as ever. . . Here, of course, is all that you love, all that you expect, all that you are. Here is your bride elect, as close to you as she can be got. Here is all the best and all the worst you can imagine. What more do you want ? Bear hereaway then! Foolish people imagine that what they imagine is somewhere else. . . .

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, November 1, 1858

I had made a pilgrimage to Walden Pond one summer when the air was fragrant with sweet pepper bush, looking for whatever wisdom I might find traipsing the paths once walked by a man whose writings and reputation made his world more real than mine. I stood at the replica of his cabin built up the hill from the lake and looked back toward the waters, as though I might see as he saw. I dove into the lake and gathered five small stones from the bottom—one for each of my small children—the only souvenirs I collected on that trip. I did not want something purchased, probably from a workshop in a distant country, but something authentically of that place. Quite hopeless.

I’ve been asked several times by editors to write this or that about my “sense of place.” Once, as I sat at my desk gazing out the window at the orchard I had planted and thinking about such things, or maybe just gazing out the window, my two-year-old grandson, toddled up and pulled on my sleeve. I looked down at him. He fully understood that people his size only need to be adorable, and he turned his begging eyes full on me. “Campin?” he asked, reaching up with both hands.

It took me a moment. Then I made the connection. The week before he had come with us on a three-family camping trip. We stayed up late talking around the fire while he wandered from person to person, lap to lap, waving a willow sticky with marshmallow. He had associated the “camping” he heard us talk about with what was most memorable about the experience: being surrounded by people who loved him. “Campin” had become his word for sitting on laps and getting hugs. He liked it.

The place we had camped was an unmarked patch of grass along Wounded Buck Creek not far from Glacier Park, just above the little town of Hungry Horse. I had gone there with my parents when I was not much older than my grandson was now. His mother had gone there with my wife and me when she was his age. We usually went there to pick huckleberries in late July. Sometimes we camped there and spent the days in the park. It was a short drive and we avoided the hassles of camping inside the park: full campgrounds and surly grizzlies.

Most people would pass it by without considering it a place at all. It was just a spot along the road. It was only a place because we knew good times there. The places we have in mind when we talk about our sense of place are those intersections of landscape and memory we know as narratable moments. If I had taken my grandson back to that place it wouldn’t have satisfied him. It wasn’t the place he missed so much as what had happened there. It is the memory of a lived story that matters.

I logged off the computer and picked up my child.

We know something is wrong with our lives because we remember our childhoods, when the world was full of hugs and we lived under clouds, seeing the pure blue of sky and smelling grass as we rolled down hills. We knew time then by changes in place—the swelling of willow buds or the waning of the moon or the return of geese. Time was a local matter of sunrise and sunset, of the coming home of cows, of the pink warmth at dawn, of wood smoke in the cooling, shortening days. The world was inexhaustibly present so we didn’t think much about loss and never about death.

We no longer live there, most of the time. We are displaced. We feel the places we live as being less the intersection of nature and history and culture, less a storied context that allows us to think and feel together.

For centuries the Salish who lived here had organized their lives as traditional mountain folk do, moving through a landscape mosaic constantly shifting in time. In late winter, grizzly bears came out of caves in the high country, ravenous and searching the lower slopes for winter-killed carrion. In early spring, camas ripened in valley bottoms and sunflowers bloomed on south slopes. In mid summer, huckleberries ripened on foothills in the mottled light of Ponderosa stands. And as summer days lengthened, antelope gathered into large herds, posting sentries and grazing on the golden grass, and, as the air became cold, bull elk became belligerent and reckless, descending from high ridges, bellowing challenges.

Most of that is gone, and my young journalist senses the loss, and in her personal story I am implicated through my race into the blame. The rhythms and movements of the old Salish were aspects of mind, as transient as the seasons. When they got their first horses around 1730, their sense of place was changed. They began to leave the mountain valleys to hunt buffalo on the Great Plains around the headwaters of the Missouri. They reorganized their lives around a spring hunt and a fall hunt. They adopted the portable teepees of the nomadic tribes. They became skilled warriors to hold their own on the contested plains. They became horsemen and breeders of horses sought by other tribes. They lived in a new place, with new opportunities and dangers. They told their children new stories that included insights into horses, buffalo, the enemy Blackfeet. Their minds were shaped by a larger geography of possibility. In changing the way they related to space, they changed their minds.

Places are places in part because they are haunted. There is a two-mile stretch of road along a canal that I used to walk with a friend who has been gone from here for years. I no longer walk there and I can’t pass by without a dual feeling of remembered good times and sorrow that they are past, never to return.

We don’t become or stay human by ourselves. Place is mostly mind, a level of narrative perception somewhere between molecules and stars. When today’s Salish gaze at the uninhabited mountains, they are gazing into the past, and so the wilderness that enchants with its beauty in the same instant saddens by evoking an awareness of loss. This is the nearest I can come to a definition of “sense of place.” It seems to me that it resonates from loss, intensifying our need for joy. It is part memory, part longing.

We know that we cannot stay more than we know where we really are. We are, as Walker Percy put it, “lost in the cosmos.” A sense of place grows out of a longing for family, for a place in the vastness of time and space at a scale and in a key where we might be understood and loved.

A few weeks after my grandson came into my study, I was there again reading a work of popular physics, something about the illusoriness of time. I went to my window and looked out at the winter night into the thick swirl of snowflakes. In the near distance I saw two cars moving slowly, as it seemed to me, through whatever night they encountered. Matter was, I had been told, vastly different than it seemed. The empty spaces between protons and electrons were a million billion times bigger than the particles themselves. The apparent solidity of things was an illusion created in part by the poor resolution of my eyes but more by the force fields within which the particles existed. Nobody knows what such force fields really are. The electrons and protons themselves were made of smaller particles which emerged from waves of something more original than energy flooding into the universe and pulsing throughout being.

My grandson appeared beside me tugging at my pant leg and looking up, his two-year-old eyes pure with pleading. “I want to see.” So I lifted him to the window where he could gaze at the swirl of flakes and the mystery of light.

A sense of place is a sense of orientation. It is the beginning and end of knowing.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

The world becomes what we want
     A sense of place with a side of longing

If you land at JFK airport and come through Terminal 8 or 9 you may notice that the 60 or so shops food courts, kiosks, newsstands, duty-free stores, etc., etc.—aren’t quite the same as those in, say, New Orleans or San Francisco. You see, these shops are “visually related to each other through design elements inspired by the 1930s New York streetscape.”

This provides a “sense of place,” the designer said. So between the taxi lanes and the portable tunnels to climb aboard planes, this corridor is given the atmosphere of a recognizable time and place. Though the terminal as a whole is designed to sort us and move us like so many widgets past uniforms and signs through a total administrative state of loudspeakers and smokeless fast food joints, the murals, signs and plastic cutouts promote a feeling of ease as we negotiate the minimum security nowhere to which we have consigned ourselves. This noisy chute to anywhere offers the stylized charm of a retail environment complete with the comfort of familiar brands.

The plan worked. The decor increased per passenger spending by fifty percent, the designer said. This, the designer said, was because it gave passengers a sense of place.

A sense of place. Not a sense of a real place, but a sense of it like the image of a candle just blown out. A sense of London haunts the Pizza Hut, evoked by wallpaper images of nineteenth century England.

To my way of thinking, the designer thinking about how to make more people spend more money isn’t a problem. Really, the New York streetscape is an improvement over Soviet cafeterias designed by political appointees who don’t care what makes us happy.

It’s only a small example of a large trend: the world is being redesigned toward what we want. Increasingly, the world is what we collectively want it to be.

Almost a century ago John Dewey observed that the highest outcome of a good education was intelligent desire. This would be a good time to talk about what desires are intelligent and how they might be taught.

This would be a good time.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

How to proofread
     Simplifying the complexity of writing


A story told about Einstein has it that he once met a student on the Princeton campus and asked, “Excuse me young man; can you tell me where the faculty dining hall is?”

“It’s right behind you, professor.”

“Then I must have already eaten lunch.”

The absent-minded professor is a stock character in our culture—someone whose mind is so busy with loftier matters that he forgets his immediate surroundings.

The French physicist Andre-Marie Ampere, who contributed to the discovery of electromagnetism, is said have been walking the streets of Paris with his mind on a problem and to have mistaken the side of a horse-drawn delivery wagon for a chalkboard. He began some calculations on it. When the wagon started to move, he started walking, and then running, continuing his work. More dramatic was Thales of Miletos, who is said to have fallen down a well while walking along contemplating the stars.

Unfortunately, you needn’t be a genius to suffer from absent-mindedness. I myself often find mistakes in my own writing that I routinely correct in the novice writing of my students—"there" when I meant “their.” I make these—and worse—mistakes because I don’t have enough attention to focus on all aspects of writing at the same time, so while I’m trying to get my meaning clear, contemplating the stars as it were, I sometimes fall in a well of sorts and write a verb that disagrees with its subject.

The problem is that when we focus on one thing other things go blurry. When we deal with phenomena that are very complex—that is, that have many levels—we do so by focusing on one level at a time. When a patient tells a doctor that he is feeling lethargic and apathetic, the doctor is confronted with a complex phenomenon. The cause of the trouble might be bacteria that have invaded the body at the cellular level. To look for the problem there, the doctor might take a blood sample and peer at it through a microscope. But the trouble might also be at the level of the organs—a heart that is beating too slowly—or at the level of emotions—a recent betrayal by a friend.

To explore any one of those or other levels the physician would need to, at least momentarily, ignore all the other levels. The human organism is complex.

So is writing. It exists simultaneously on many levels. We can pay attention to the level of ideas and meaning—the “big picture” and how the telling is organized. We can think at the level of style—such things as parallel structure and figurative language and active verbs and precise nouns. Or we can focus on the level of conventions—all the rules about capitalization and spelling and grammar. It’s difficult or impossible to do all these at once.

If a text really does have three levels (levels are actually features of our perceptions rather than of the phenomena perceived, but that’s an issue for another day) then we would need to read the text at least three times to proofread it well. Each time, we would consciously focus our attention on a different level.

In fact, careful writers often proofread many more times—focusing sometimes on the consistency of metaphors, sometimes on the verbs, sometimes on the nuances of a particular idea—and sometimes on commas and dashes.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2007 Michael L. Umphrey

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