Friday, July 05, 2013

"human flourishing": or enjoying life, appreciating the little things, and being together

This week I read an interesting article by Karen Swallow Prior; I've mentioned her memoir Booked:  Literature in the Soul of Me a couple of times on this blog already (see here and here).  Her article, "How Reading Makes Us More Human," emphasizes that reading is more than just an intellectual activity:  "there is something profoundly spiritual -- however one understands that word -- about the human ability, and impulse, to read." 

Then, in an interview on Amy Julia Becker's "Thin Places" blog, Swallow Prior expands on this relationship between reading and being human.  She emphasizes that she isn't suggesting that the ability to read is a requirement for full humanness (after all, millions of people around the world cannot read), but that it is one means of enhancing our humanity.

The part of her interview I appreciated the most was this statement:  "As one reader of my article commented, the distinction is between human dignity and human flourishing. Reading is one means of human flourishing; imago dei [the image of God] is the source of human worth and dignity." 

I found this distinction helpful and reassuring, because I know that Jonathan will probably never experience reading in the way that Swallow Prior is talking about (or in the way Allison, who was reading Beatrix Potter at age 3-1/2 and is now an avid reader and writer, can) -- yet he can still flourish and have a full life on his own terms.

As I thought more about this concept of human flourishing, I realized just how many different aspects of our lives contribute to it.  So I thought I'd provide this little photo essay of some of our recent extended family get-togethers, to show some examples of what this human flourishing can look like in practice.

Megan and Jonathan:  cousins, age 11 and 10, reading Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever.

Cousins enjoying some basketball.  Someone appears
to have an unfair height advantage ... but they won't let that spoil their fun.
Jonathan (10), Levi (12), Josh (23)

Carolyn and I singing worship songs together in harmony:
a little taste of heaven on earth.

Celebrating a cousin's Grade 8 graduation -- a special milestone!
 (Cara and Allison)

 Grandma's (Audrey's) birthday -- another milestone.  
(And the obligatory ice-cream cake makes any occasion more special!)

Corey, Jonathan, and Doug, just ... laughing together.  
What's so funny?  
I don't know -- but does it really matter?


Finally, brothers [and sisters, and cousins, and aunts, and uncles, and grandparents...], 
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, 
whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8


  1. You're right, Jeannie, there's flourishing in every photograph. Thank you for sharing your family times with us.


    1. You're welcome, Tim. There are some great memories there. Thanks for commenting.

  2. This post feels like food for my soul today. :) Thank you for sharing these thoughts and happy moments. ♥ I've been thinking a lot about my great-grandmother lately -- how she quilted, gardened, cooked huge country meals, and rocked a lot of babies. She helped people flourish through gentle love and nurture. And now that I think about it, I never noticed her reading anything -- not even a recipe!

    As for me, books are a part of what I need to be whole, but I recognize that my great-grandmother was spectacular without them! I will do well in life if I can be as great as she.

    1. I got the "photo essay" idea from you, Adriana!

      Yes, I think I need books to flourish too -- and I only hope that if ever that faculty is taken from me, something else will take its place or I'll be given grace to accept that....

      I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures; I wasn't sure of the best way to publish them here and then suddenly it all came together! Thanks for reading & commenting - have a blessed day.

    2. It came together beautifully. Love it. :)

    3. I've told my family that if my ability to read was taken from me -- say a coma or something -- I want them to play the Little House audio book series read by Cherry Jones! What a treasure!

      Oh and I'm flattered that you got the photo essay idea from me. I've learned it from other blogs I love such as Like Mother Like Daughter and Rambling Tart.

  3. This just makes me smile:) You have painted a wonderful picture of human flourishing at its best: family, books, music, and obvious love.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Judy. I appreciate it!


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