20 March, 2001

Welcome to my world.
. . . In my world, choosing among possibilities requires experience, discipline, inspiration, and so many other virtues that I can't begin to choose which one to talk about without feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.
. . . This happens every time I write. It's a blessing. Feeling over-whelmed and inadequate means I move forward in faith. I put down one word after another, wondering where they will lead, trusting.
. . . This isn't a unilinear process; that is, I take lots of false steps, back up, and try new directions. As I write these letters, I'm constantly deleting words, sentences, and entire paragraphs, then continuing afresh. For example, I almost deleted the word "unilinear" at the start of this paragraph because it's a tad pretentious. But I like its shape -- the symmetrical grouping of the letters "nilin" sitting off-center in the word. What a beautiful arrangement of letters!
. . . If I didn't delete the above paragraph, it was to show you an example of the many turns these letters could take if I didn't keep them on track. Otherwise, I'd start a letter talking about choosing among possibilities, veer off into a discussion of dynamic symmetry as a form of beauty, briefly consider the best way to eat ice cream, and end up talking about polygamy and the number of gods in the universe.
. . . No, we're going to stick to one subject -- choosing among possibilities -- and, while it is a subject that would take several books to examine superficially, my hope here is more modest.

Sometimes I think my desire to pursue all possibilities is greed, pure and simple. Other times, I think God is offering me everything I could wish for, that he's plopped me down at a table with one delicious dish after another stretching to infinity, offering me the choice of whatever I want. If all possibilities are offered, is it wrong to taste them all?
. . . Well, it may not be wrong, but it is kind of stupid. Most ice cream boutiques give customers the chance to taste all their many flavors, but who's content with tasting? It's better to get one, maybe two flavors in a bowl and savor them completely, to get down to the bottom and scrape the sides with your spoon until every last smidgen has been savored.
. . . That's my highest aspiration for these weekly letters, to make each one as satisfying as a cup of Chocolate Calliope ice cream with whipped cream and a cherry on top. And that means sticking to one topic, not mixing everything together in a grey slurry.
. . . So while other writers aspire to offer their readers a full course meal, or a restaurant, or a chain of restaurants, my ambition is to be a soda jerk among wordsmiths.

Sticking to our one subject -- choosing among possibilities -- let me top off this letter by noting that sometimes a choice is not necessary. If two possibilities are offered, sometimes you can do both.
. . . For example, by putting these letters on my website and illustrating them, I've been able to combine four activities I love -- writing, graphic art, photography, and web design. What? Web design is a form of graphic art? Okay, so I'm only combining three activities. What? You say photography is also a form of graphic art? We'll have to argue about that.
. . . My point is that one choice does not necessarily preclude another. Choosing one delicious word doesn't mean you can't use another equally scrumptious word later on, even in the same sentence. Learning to paint in one style doesn't mean other styles can't be incorporated. If you want to see five different friends in the same evening, invite them to dinner!
. . . How far can this be taken? Does having one spouse preclude having others? Some religions and anti-religions allow many. Of course, this usually translates as one guy with several wives. For a humorous view of polygamy, I recommend Mark Twain's satire of Brigham Young in Roughing It. Similarly, some religions say you can have as many gods as you want and encourage recognition of them all. Of course, pleasing many jealous, demanding gods is as difficult as pleasing many jealous, demanding spouses.
. . . In truth, there is only one God, who is pleased with us. There are no others to choose from, only lesser powers and dominions not deserving worship. And, in truth, I can have only one spouse. There are no other possibilities. How do I know? I just asked Barbara, who is pleased with me (at least at the moment).

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Tuesday, March 13, 2001.

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Text and images copyright 2001 Danny Nelson Schweers