Let me present to you a list of the things you’ve chosen to chew on in the last two days: pacifier, used sock, flip flop, broom handle, exercise band, table, chair, finger (regardless of owner), crackers, cheerios, rubber ball, and Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories. You avoided the slightest hiccup, plot twists and all.
Here is a list of the things I have chewed on in the last 48 hours: The relationship between directors and father/son combo Ivan and Jason Reitman, the merits and (alleged) dangers of child vaccination, the probabilities associated with the nerd card game Netrunner (thanks Ryan), the categorical shortcomings of philosphical fiction, the humility and shame of the human foot, and the low brow hilarity of the 1990’s Cartoon Network star Brak (whom your sister has discovered with unstoppable fits of laughter).
I will grant you that we did not chew on these in precisely the same fashion. However, I believe there is a shared experience hidden in our actions. You crawl with eyes wide, scanning for your next target. You pass through your familiar surroundings examining the offerings in a hunt for the next treasure that will face your slobbery jowls. You wander, sample, taste, discard, and repeat looking for that one object that will satisfy your gnawing curiousity.
While your incessant need to orally fixate will hopefully diminish, your mind is just gearing up. It will crave to be occupied, stimulated, challenged, pacified, shocked, calmed, teased, delighted and otherwise engaged in a perpetual ebb and flow of thoughts and actions. The moment of discovery, when a mental thirst is quenched, is every bit as good as when you discover your frozen rubber teething toy and gum it into submission.
Here is the thing to keep in mind. Not everything you chew these days ends up in your stomach. That would be disaster. Digesting dusty gravel would be a painful experiece. In the same way, not everything that pops into your head belongs in your heart. The heart is a tough thing to fully know, but you can be sure that whatever you spend consistent time turning over in your mind will eventually make it’s way there.
Sometimes what happens in your heart gets buried under the weight of what is happening in your head. Could be the stress of a million things on your plate. Could be that one embarassment or failure that stings like a splinter. Perhaps it is the weight of hundreds of e-mails, images, comments, and articles that the screens flash in front of your face. Sometimes that is what it feels like to be a Dad. At least, that is how it feels to me.
How can we engage the wealth of experience, opportunity, and information that the world has to offer without being buried? How can we foster inspired curiousities without drifting into aimlessness and idle appetites? How can we thirst and find joy in our search? I think the only answer is to chew wisely.