Musings on “Copy, Paste and Share”


My first thought when I saw the Bible passage from my daily reading schedule was that it was rather irrelevant to my life:

Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. 33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.

34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them. Joshua 8:30-35

As I read it, my second thought was, “How incredibly tedious that must have been!” Imagine having to write on stones a copy of the law of Moses! I pictured all the people standing around while Joshua carefully chiseled the Ten Commandments into stone. I wondered what the letters looked like, whether or not he was tempted to use abbreviations, and whether he lightly scratched the words in first to make sure he had room for all ten commandments on his stone. Did he make mistakes and have to start over?

As I read further, though, I saw that “there was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly…” Whoa! That’s a lot of words, way, way more than just the Ten Commandments. While I might read the Ten Commandments carefully, I tend to skim over much of the law, because of how much of it there is and how many details. It can take me days just to read through it all.

The process of writing a copy of the law of Moses on stones must have taken a really long time. And then he read the whole thing to the whole assembly, including women and children… Tedious indeed, both for Joshua and for all the people in whose presence Joshua did the writing. How many days did it take? Maybe weeks? How in the world did they keep those children occupied while Joshua chiseled words into stones? And how did they keep the children quiet while he read the whole thing? We sure do have it easier, being able to simply copy, paste, and share… Or do we?

Yes, it certainly is easier to copy, paste, and share. After all, I copied and pasted the passage into this post, rather than type it all out, to save time. But what if I had typed it out? Or what if I had hand written it? When I’ve written out Bible passages or a poem in careful calligraphy to give as a gift to someone or to have in my sketchbook, I dwell on and in those words in a way that sinks into my soul, rather than simply skimming across the surface of my consciousness. Then when I go about my day, those words remain with me, shaping and enriching my thinking in a way that copying, pasting, sharing, and saying I’ll ponder them never does seem to.

It’s the same idea as when I sketch a scene, rather than simply snapping a quick picture. When I see a tremendous cloud formation and snap a photo with my cell phone, I might remember to look back at it. But when I stop, settle on a stone, and slow down to sketch the sky, I connect with the clouds and with the world around, and especially with myself and God in a way that I never do when I am rushing through my day, saving time.

Yes, it does save time to quickly skim a passage rather than dwell in it; to snap a photo rather than sketch it (or take a carefully studied photograph); to quickly copy, paste, and share an interesting meme; but to what end and at what cost?

Darkness and Dawn hi res

The Best Words

I wrote in a Wallkill Valley Writers workshop last week, and one of the prompts was the poem “The Machinery of Evening” by Tracy K. Smith. I took a couple of lines as my starting point.

“I am looking for my best words… If I find them, I will understand…” 

I am on a search for understanding. Understanding where truth lies.

Where truth lies… There are two ways those words could be understood. And somehow that brings to mind the title of a book I haven’t yet read: Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. How does one care for words? And what are the best words, the words which tell the truth and do not lie? Words wherein truth lies on a firm foundation of reality?

  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
  • Speak the truth in love.
  • Let your words be few, for when words are many, sin is not absent.
  • A word aptly spoken is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver.

These are a few loose paraphrases from Proverbs and other books of the Bible. A few years ago I read through the book of Proverbs in the Bible and underlined in red all the admonitions about how not to speak and in green all the exhortations about how to speak.

  • Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

That one isn’t from Proverbs, but maybe it gives a clue to how understanding may come. Perhaps the best words could be the ones I listen to, rather than the ones I speak.

I want to listen, and listen well and deeply to all there is to hear. To listen to the words others speak and to hear in some way beyond their words to the words they haven’t spoken. And to hear the speech without words of the rocks and trees, the skies and stars, the wind and the sea. To the songs of the birds that speak of the joy of this moment and of their zest for life. To the buzzing of cicadas, serenading all with ears to hear of the beauty of a simple summer day with sun warming meadow grasses and wildflowers. To the purring of my cat speaking peace and love and comfort. To the night song of the cricket, telling me I am not alone in the dark. To the call of a Loon echoing through early morning mist on a mountain lake, proclaiming that a new day is dawning.

These are the best words, the words that give understanding. I am listening.

Hope and Gratitude

House Finches and Goldfinches sing; a gray squirrel churrs in the silver maple tree; a Downy Woodpecker taps, finding life and hope in a dead tree; the brook babbles as it flows with renewed energy after yesterday’s rain; a cool breeze ruffles my hair, soothing my soul.

Sunlight dapples woods and grass with myriad shades of green, all signs of life, of spring’s hope fulfilled, yet not yet fulfilled, as seeds still silently grow, ripen, and mature—promise and hope for next year, for a new generation.

A male Robin searches the dappled grass for worms, feeds his fledglings over and over—a dad nurturing his young, while his mate warms the eggs of their second clutch, soon to hatch. Hope fulfilled yet not yet fulfilled.

Black walnuts, already round but still small, swell and grow with promise and hope. Some lie in the grass already, fallen too soon, now food for the churring squirrel’s furry young with their hope for a life of leaping through sun-dappled trees, feeding on walnuts large and small. Hope fulfilled yet not yet fulfilled.

The blue of the sky, the chorus of birds and burgeoning brook, sunlight and breeze, squirrels and walnuts—hope for today and promise for tomorrow. For all this I am grateful..