You Just Never Know

I suppose I could take a StrengthsFinder test. But one of my strengths (ahem) is that I’m a contrarian, so I buck against that. Yet I have been noodling on my strong points lately, trying to line up a vision of dominoes, so to speak, for some things I’d like to do in the second half of my life, which in a very real sense means the person I want to finish up as. My hope being that an “infinitely tender hand” (Rilke) would tip one or two of those dominoes, and a chain reaction would result moving me closer to the man I’d rather be.

My recent noodlings have brought these thoughts to the surface, in no particular order. Trust me, there are more than three, but I only list these today, sort of a two or three gathered together mentality, if you know what I mean.

  1. I’m a decent speaker, as in before a group of people. I’m comfortable doing it, and furthermore I enjoy doing it especially if the topic I’ve been asked to speak on is one of the things I love (faith, family, creativity, the literal creation, writing, poetry, food, music, books, film, CrossFit …the list gets mucho long). And since I am a generalist, I always end up speaking a little about all of those things. Make no mistake, I speak very specifically about things, but I’m not a specialist.
  2. I’m curious about people. I find humanity endlessly interesting. And what I’m mainly curious about is what people love. In fact, that is my favorite question to pose – Tell me, what are the things you love? I’m not much, if at all, interested in what your resume reflects, for that is simply a listing of facts arranged to make us look good or competent or something. Not that facts such as your work history aren’t important, but as a poet I believe facts often have little to do with the truth (Carolyn Forche).
  3. I’m in the middle of life. I haven’t been all the way around the block, but I’ve been halfway around. I’ve seen a few things in my fifty-something years. I’m not the young pup barking at every leaf that falls in the backyard, nor am I the crotchety geezer yelling at the kids to get get a job or turn the music down. I find myself in this wonderful season (and for the record, I adore young pups and crotchety geezers, okay?) best described by a phrase I heard Tom McGuane spout: My give-a-shit is broke. It’s not that I don’t care about anything anymore because I very much care about a good number of things. But there are an equal number of other things, things which society or culture or wonky religious folks or some combination of all three seem to place great emphasis on that, well, I just don’t give a shit about any longer. I can’t. Mine’s broke.

So, I’m not sure what the demand is for a decent generalist speaker whose give-a-shit is broke, but you never know. I’m gambling on the wisdom of speaking/writing these things out loud, and seeing how the universe responds. You just never know.

Oh, and by the way, I just discovered singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz. If you like angelic-voiced-folksy-mandolin-guitarish-wizardy, I’d encourage you to seek out her work, and mercy, ye shall find.

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  1. Paddy Ducklow on February 17, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Hello John,

    Part of your universe is responding. You are a poet and one of my best friends, though you don’t know that. I blogged about one of your poems 5 or so years ago and I read your posts happily.

    I love your 3 notables and my fourth would be “I am good at change making.” I am a generation ahead of you and a Canadian (Vancouver), former pastor, professor and psychologist (current) and wannabe poet, at least I did.

    I love your “stranger interview” question (what are the things you love?) and I used to send students out to ask difficult and important questions to strangers. Changed a lot of lives this way, mostly the students.

    Keep blogging.

    Excuse me, I hear a teenager playing his music too loud. Gotta give a shit about that.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 8:05 am

      Paddy, I love your comment. Thanks for taking the time to respond. Its good to know I’ve a fellow friend and poet a bit farther north, both literally and figuratively. Carry on!

  2. Misty Hassell on February 17, 2019 at 11:06 am

    I am friends on fb and then was lead to poet kind and heard your “protocol son”poem, which was awesome ( shared with my 19 year old son who is taking a poetry class in college ). I like how you tbink. Could you elaborate on your broken give a shit? I too am closing in on 50 – like to hear other views on life. I am a nurse yet have always been drawn to creative writing etc. May have missed my calling lol.
    Misty (Paris,TN )

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 8:04 am

      Hi, Misty. Thanks for your comment, and for reading along. Aw, some of it, as I grow older, is an necessary economy of power/energy/strength…being able to say “these are the things I love,” and then pouring myself into those people, places, and things. There’s quite a bit in this life that’s simply the anxiety of other people…I can honor that, but I’m not called to manage it in any way. Does that make sense? Short answer to a deep question.

  3. Diana Trautwein on February 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Amen to just about every thing said here. Only I happen to be two decades older. Sigh.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:58 am

      Good to hear from you, Diana!

  4. alice scott-ferguson on February 17, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    awesome!!! from one who is almost totally round the block!

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Thank you, Alice!

  5. Nord Eriksson on February 17, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Love reading you…found you recently through my old pal James Smith. It’s like I understand myself better as your words pour out.

    My give-a-shit broke two years ago while doing the Ignatian exercises. Everything looks better since then.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Nord, I’m glad you know James. He is a good man. Thanks for following along.

  6. M Hanks on February 17, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    John, you’re so damn refreshing. This song found me the other day and I thought of you. Don’t know why exactly.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:55 am

      Thanks, Matthew. And that song? Good stuff, man. Good stuff.

  7. Laura Brown on February 17, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Sarah Jarosz is amazing. So is the band she’s in, I’m With Her.

    Lately, I love my biweekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) box, which gives me the challenge of learning to do something with vegetables I’ve never used before (parsnips, turnips, golden beets, celeriac, greens I can’t remember the names of, exotic radish varieties) and always has a lagniappe, such as raw honey, maple syrup, cheeses, cornmeal, apple butter, salsa or some other less perishable good.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:55 am

      Laura, your CSA box experience sounds wonderful!

  8. Rebecca on February 17, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts. I find myself at a similar stage, wondering how to take the next step.

    I love your writing, and have been quietly following along here for some time. I trust someone with your poetic skills must enjoy good music, so I will seek out that recommendation.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:54 am

      Rebecca, it means a lot that you’ve been reading along. Thanks!

  9. Monica Sharman on February 17, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Sounds good, John. Godspeed.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:53 am

      Godspeed. That’s quite the word. Thanks, Monica.

  10. Michael Easker on February 17, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    I liked Mandolin Orange’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather:

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:53 am

      Very nice. Thanks for the recommendation.

  11. Dottie on February 18, 2019 at 4:13 am

    I adore this.

    • John Blase on February 18, 2019 at 7:50 am

      Thank you, Dottie!

  12. Laura on February 18, 2019 at 11:51 am

    I love all of this.

    Not least, that you discovered Sarah. If you haven’t met her friend-and-sometimes-collaborator Parker Millsap, you should check out his music.

    Enjoying your contrarian, shit-broke, second-half reflections. Thanks for sharing them.

  13. Monica on February 18, 2019 at 1:57 pm


    Thanks for your thoughts! This is really cool! Your wisdom and perspective is helpful and refreshing to hear!

    Also, thanks for the recommendation to Sarah Jarosz’ music! Rad music!

  14. Brenda Benedict on February 20, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    I read your devotional in Our Daily Bread today. I went looking for more of your writing and was pleasantly surprised to find this blog. You are gifted and I look forward to reading more of you.
    Thank you for the recommendation for Sarah Jarosz.

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