lenten journal: searching


I saw an article several weeks ago that said a study had shown that people who surround themselves with books they have not read are better adjusted because they are continually reminded of all they do not know.

I didn’t even have to finish the article to feel vindicated in my life choices.

Right now, one of the books I am reading keeps me quite conscious of all I do not know on its own: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. And I’m only on Chapter Six. Much of what he has discussed so far has to do with the impact of technology on our lives, both in ways we understand and in ways we don’t. He says, for example, “We no longer search for information, we google it.”

The sentence took me back to Moody Library at Baylor, where I sat with a couple of the drawers from the card catalog looking for articles to help me break down “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” for my freshman English research paper.

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

One person wrote about it all having something to do with the solstice, since it was “the darkest night of the year;” another talked about solitude; and another said they thought the person was contemplating suicide. My discovery only went as far as my search. I had to rely on the card catalog and then whatever combination of circumstances that led me from one thing to another. Harani is right: searching is not the same as googling. There’s more to discovery than clicking the link in front of me.

The dictionary definitions for search (which I looked up online) are:

try to find something by looking or otherwise seeking carefully and thoroughly;
examine (a place, vehicle, or person) thoroughly in order to find something or someone;
to explore or examine in order to discover.

The dictionary says our word has its origins in the Latin circare, which means “to go round” and also comes from the Latin word circus—circle. When we go searching we go wandering in circles, trying to find what we are looking for. Maybe, sometimes, we just go wandering. I can picture afternoons I sat paging through the World Books we had just to see what I could learn about everything that began with E. It became my mission to turn every page of every volume just to see what was there. Googling finds its origin in the company that makes money when I click on a link. And I spend a lot of time clicking links. I also just noticed that my spell check thinks “googling” is a real word. I suppose it is. But it is not a replacement for searching, for wandering in circles.

Our church year goes in a circle from Advent to Advent. The labyrinth, a long-time physical representation of faith, is also a circle filled with a path that moves in unexpected ways, calling us to be thoughtful as we walk. When my mother would lose something in the house and would search everywhere she could think of, she almost always asked the same question when she found it: “Why is it always the last place you look?”

One day, I replied, “Because you found it. Why would you keep looking?”

We keep searching because we are not looking for answers. What I learned from my research paper was how to love poetry, not how to explain Frost. Every time I come back to those woods, I find something else. So it is with our circles around the sun, or around the labyrinth, or around the liturgical year. We search in order to discover.

One of the best discoveries of this week came from my friend, Billy Crockett, who circled back around on a song we wrote many years ago and gave it new life. The song, “The Question Pool,” grew out of a conversation about the questions we most needed to ask to make the most of our lives. We wrote some friends and asked for their input. Here is what we came up with.

where did I leave my plastic halo?
why can’t I speak to my good friend?
am I sleep walking through the best years of my life?
how long is too long to pretend?

what do I owe my parents’ generation?
what do I want and who would know?
can I live on answers that were handed down to me?
do I lust hold on or just let go?

I am drinking from
I am drinking from
I am drinking from the water blue
I am drinking from
I am drinking from
I am drinking from the water blue
down at the question pool

what is lying over my horizon?
what am I afraid of going through?
if whatever happens comes to push me past the edge
will all I believe in still be true?

I am drinking from
I am drinking from
I am drinking from the water blue
I am drinking from
I am drinking from
I am drinking from the water blue
down at the question pool
I wonder what it all comes too . . .

why am I moved by the story of Eden?
what does its lovely sadness mean?
am I a traveler who cannot remember home?
why do I cry sometimes in dreams?

I am drinking from
I am drinking from
I am drinking from the water blue
I am drinking from
I am drinking from
I am drinking from the water blue
down at the question pool

I google when I can’t remember who sang a song from years ago, or I need a recipe. I search because I want to see who’s there.



  1. Because of the ease of “Mrs. Google” I probably go there much more readily than the World Books of yesteryear. One place leads to another, so in a since maybe searching is an inevitable and required part in our lives. Thanks for your thought provoking words.

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