Mind Act Upon Mind {The Grove: Read}

I bought toilet paper at the supermarket when I lived in NW China. That sounds like a funny thing to say, but it’s a distinction. I did not buy toilet paper at the mom-and-pop store on the corner (except in a pinch), or at the open-air market where I bought my vegetables. No, for such an important purchase, I went to the heights, riding the ascending moving sidewalk – picture an escalator, but without stairs – to the top floor where the toilet paper fraternized with the mops and paper cups and toothpicks.

The English translation of my favorite brand was rendered Mind Act Upon Mind. It entertained every time because I attempted to decipher the original intent of the label. Mind Act Upon Mind. The phrase was a joke among foreigners when we spotted it in another’s home, which was common, because it was a respectable toilet paper. Not only was each square perforated, but it was also fairly soft and decently plyed.

In the same year I bought Mind Act Upon Mind toilet paper, I also taught EFL intensive reading for sophomore college students. I led drills to increase word count read per minute, practiced strategies for getting the gist without a dictionary, and taught how to identify the main idea by skimming. This is reading as a consumer. As native speakers, it’s often how we read the news, or an instruction manual, or this blog post. We consume a text to get more information faster.

Mind Act Upon Mind reading is different. Author David I. Smith calls this kind of reading “charitable.” The “greatest of these” kind of charity – LOVE. It’s reading with soft and vulnerable receptivity.

Nancy M. Malone writes in Walking a Literary Labyrinth: A Spirituality of Reading about the sustained intimate exposure of one mind to another. This clearly counters the dumb dichotomy that an individual is either a people person or a book person. What else could writing and reading be but interpersonal connection? And reading should be anything but inaccessible. We are all both book and people people.

Eugene Peterson calls it spiritual reading in Eat This Book. The goal is “seeking after wisdom, becoming a mature person…true and good.” We’re likely to conclude then that spiritual reading is limited to scripture or at least religious writing, but it isn’t so. Peterson reminds us of this in another descriptive title, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

Here at the halfway point of 2016, in addition to the above, these are four minds that have acted on my mind.


Sue Monk Kidd in The Invention of Wings. This novel tells the parallel story of a slave and her owner named Sarah Grimke who becomes an instrumental abolitionist and early women’s rights activist. Sarah Grimke is a real-life historical figure, and this story is accurately set in Charleston in the early 1800’s. The book is a breathtaking blend of rigorous research and the height of imaginative story telling.


Forrest Pritchard in Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm. This was the 2016 selection for One Book, One Community: Our Region Reads where I live. It’s as much about becoming as it is about producing food. Mr. Pritchard is like E.B. White’s Charlotte, a true friend and a good writer.

Kathleen Norris in Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. I read this book for the first time in college when it was newly published. Eighteen years later, this vocabulary permits a grown-up conversation about an evolving faith.


Wendell Berry in This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems. Mr. Berry makes my point better than I do when he offers this collection of 34 years of poetic work with the “hope that the reader will read them as they were written: slowly, and with more patience than effort.”

Whose mind has acted on yours so far this year?


This is The Grove.  It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments.   Link up your own blog posts or Instagram posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions

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  1. Elizabeth June 30, 2016

    I love the toilet paper story! Just last week I read about how many trees have to be cut down to make all of our TP, and I thought, maybe the Asian way of no toilet paper really is better . . . for everyone and everything. Oy. But I love that phrase — “mind act upon mind.”

    So interesting about the fast reading — I was reading the book club book out loud to myself, for the fun of it, and then I read (or heard? can’t remember) that speed reading experts tell you that if you can hear the words in your heard, you’re reading too slowly. But proponents of slower, more thoughtful reading encourage reading out loud, because then you don’t skip things, and you absorb the full weight of the words as they were written by the writer. That really stuck with me. I’m all for getting in as much reading as possible, but it made me think twice about any more speed reading (not that I was very good at it anyway).

    1. Kimberly Todd July 1, 2016

      It makes me happy that this started a conservation conversation! Elizabeth, your comment reminded me of this commercial: https://www.ispot.tv/ad/7l9E/scott-brand-naturals-tube-free-toss-the-tube-for-good =)

      1. Elizabeth July 2, 2016

        Love that idea! Had never thought of the wastefulness of the inner roll, either.

        But confession: my daughters use our leftover TP rolls for art. The TP is so sparse here that between my husband, my two daughters, and I (the four of us share the same bathroom), we go through at least one roll each day. Each night in the shower, my girls wet the rolls, unroll them and separate them into parts, and paste them on our plastic shower door with water. They arrange them differently each night, sometimes saving up rolls for a few days (or even a week) to make different and better designs than before. Then I go in for my shower and admire their art work. Sometimes we even take photos. In the morning everything has dried, and the cardboard has fallen to the ground. It seems extravagant and wasteful from a conservation perspective, but from a made-in-the-image-of-the-Creator-creativity perspective . . .

        1. Kimberly Todd July 2, 2016

          Reusing is also conservation, and that’s an amazing destiny for a tp roll! I still buy tp with rolls, too, because my boys craft. They are always in the recycle bin scrounging for materials! We have a tp roll creature displayed on a bookshelf in our living room. =)

          1. Elizabeth July 5, 2016

            Thanks Kimberly! That’s such a good way to look at it. I guess the saying does go, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” not “recycle only.” 🙂

    2. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

      This struck a chord with me, Elizabeth.

      I’m with the proponents of slower, more thoughtful reading.

      Even though

      I read fast.  Really fast.  I don’t think it’s actually speed reading, but still, fast.  This is convenient – dare I say it? because a lot of what I need to read isn’t really worth spending a lot of time on.

      But.  The things I read fast?  I remember them vaguely.  Sometimes all I remember is that I did read it.  Sometimes i don’t even remember THAT.

      So when I really want to hang on to what i’m reading, I have to take notes, or read small parts at a time so I can think over them before I’ve read half the book and can’t remember what I want to think on (the book club is a great help with this – pondering before moving on) .  I just have to slow down.  Reading out loud or hearing the words in my head, like you said,  is a great way to slow down and really let the book sink in.

      And – if I’m reading it fast because it’s not really worth reading (at least for me, at this time) – then – I’m reading it to check a box and – what’s the point of that?

      So – I would agree (from one who reads fast) that speed reading is a sort of dubious skill. Unless maybe one has a photographic memory.

      1. Elizabeth July 2, 2016

        Michele — yes! I find when I read more difficult material, like science or history or theology, I tend to go more slowly, just so I can comprehend the material. And I take notes. The fun thing about that, though, is that I start making connections all over the place, ancient history connects to Bible stories, scientific discoveries relate to theology, etc etc. It’s more rewarding, but takes more effort.

        1. Michele Womble July 2, 2016

          I love making those connections – it’s so much fun!  My kids roll their eyes, though, when I start getting excited and saying “oh, isn’t this cool!” .  I think I get way more out of our lessons than they do.  🙂  (They’re teenagers)

    3. Elizabeth October 16, 2016

      Here’s a picture of some of my girls art. My husband just blogged about it and shared other pics too. Sometimes comments don’t get approved if I include a link, so I’ll try in another comment to share the actual link. 🙂

      1. Kimberly Todd October 17, 2016

        That is so excellent! Love the post and the pictures.

  2. Michele June 30, 2016

    I am loving the posts in the Grove this week! I joined the book club this month because, as someone else commented, I needed some fiction and some humor about now. I enjoyed the lighter stuff, but am also feeling drawn to this slower reading, really pondering as I go. I love all the suggestions coming through. I just read a short novel called, ‘The Maytrees’ by Annie Dillard. It’s a beautiful story of love and forgiveness, one of the few novels I’ve ever read that made me want to stop and pray and meditate as I went.

    1. Kimberly Todd July 1, 2016

      Oh, Annie Dillard is wonderful. Sounds bandwagony, but I really was just thinking this week about which book of hers I should read next. ‘The Maytrees’ it is. Thanks for the signpost, Michele. And I’m so glad this theme this week hit the spot for you!

    2. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

      Hi fellow Michele-with-one-el- every time you post I think you are me, and I do a double take, thinking “I don’t remember posting yet!”  🙂

      I love Annie Dillard.  The kids and I read “Teaching a Stone to Talk” this year as part of our literature…it ended up being a little abstract for them, yet, but I loved it.  I get what you say about wanting to stop and pray and meditate as you go – I did, too.

  3. Monica F June 30, 2016

    Oh my word, Mind Act Upon Mind… this is my favorite TP in China… perforated, thank you VERY much!!!

    1. Kimberly Todd July 1, 2016

      For reals! Tears without having to stretch it like silly putty first.

    2. Emily July 3, 2016

      Yes, Mind Act Upon Mind!! One of the first brands we became loyal to, partially because of the quality of the t.p. and tissues, but also because the English name made me laugh.

  4. Amy Young June 30, 2016

    Kimberly, you know I love books and could talk them all day :). So, let’s talk TP. Your post brought back many memories! When i first went to China there was really only pink kind of crepe paper like stuff for you. As a special treat, I’d pack one “soft” roll in my suitcase. I’d pack more than one book . . . so, bringing this back to the theme, I did value books more than TP when it came to precious luggage space 🙂

    1. Elizabeth June 30, 2016

      You’re making me laugh Amy! Books are a better use of trees than TP!! Agree! It’s kind of wild how fast things change — 4 1/2 years ago when we first came to Cambodia, pink TP was all your could find; white was hard to find. Now I find white everywhere (alongside the pink of course).

      1. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

        ok, ok, I have to join in here.  20 years ago or so, where we were in Siberia tp was not soft, not perforated, a light tan color, in rolls, only without the middle insert roll thingy (no toilet paper holders or anything), was sold by the roll (not a package) kind of rough on the skin – but, it did the job.  And we did have it.  Some were better than others but none was soft or perforated.  I don’t know if this is the way it always was, or if it was because they were having a severe economic depression at the time.  Now you can find both – the old kind and the soft perforated kind – the old kind is still cheaper, but not significantly cheaper, and many people (some expats included) prefer the old kind because – it uh, takes less to do the job and does it more reliably.  I’m not sure when the soft perforated tp became available (so can’t include history on that)  .  Like Amy, I preferred to bring books in my luggage – so – I don’t think I ever packed any tp with me.  I would have had kind of a defeatist attitude about that, anyway, “why pack something that’s going to be gone in a week or so anyway?” While a book – well, it lasts.  And can be read over and over….:-D

    2. Kimberly Todd July 1, 2016

      And I could listen to you talk books all day. That tickles about packing toilet paper because it makes perfect sense! Wouldn’t it be cool to wander through a museum of luggage – how and what people have packed over the years to go from country to country? And is there any crew for whom e-books have changed the game more than for overseas workers?!

      1. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

        Love it! A museum of luggage!  I think it would be awesome to wander in one and see what people have packed – what does that say about us?

        And oh, yes – e-books have changed everything for us – that’s a good question, who else have they really changed the game  for and why…That question fascinates me, Kimberly – I wonder if we could google it….

  5. Spring June 30, 2016

    I also have a favorite brand/type of tp it doesn’t seem as deep as yours though. Ours was named softy.

    I love the idea of finding deeper spiritual wisdom in books of all types. I feel God sometimes speaks to me through books. He isn’t limited by human concepts of it only being through the Bible or spiritual books. I am really interested in reading the book Eat This Book

    1. Kimberly Todd July 1, 2016

      Softy! How perfect.

      You won’t be disappointed by Eat This Book. In the later chapters, Peterson chronicles how The Message came to be, and that’s a cool story.

      1. Michele July 1, 2016

        Eat this Book is on my list now too!  Okay, it’s a long list.  And you guys, I’m in the States for the summer and I just got a LIBRARY CARD!!!  I haven’t had one since… I don’t know, college maybe?  So 20+ years ago.  I had to get help with the self check-out thingy.  But American libraries are truly amazing places.  I love that we can now download books and don’t have to use half our luggage allowance to bring over what we’re planning to read for the next two years or however long.  But I do love the feel of a real book in my hands, and there are so many to read for free!

        1. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

          a LIBRARY CARD!  🙂  I haven’t had one in forever, either.  But I have always loved libraries.

          Oh, and I totally agree – I thoroughly appreciate e-readers and read most of my books this way anymore -and it’s not just luggage and money but also shelf-space –  but I still love the feel of a real book – and it’s also easier to find things in it when I want to flip back –

        2. American Librarian July 1, 2016

          Your library card is probably good for a couple of years- so long as you maintain access to your library account and have internet, you can likely keep on borrowing e-books even once you’re not local anymore.

          1. Michele Womble July 2, 2016

            I didn’t think about that!  It’s one of the reasons I haven’t bothered to renew a library card while in the states, because I figured, I can only use it a few months anyway – didn’t even consider that libraries have e-books that we can borrow…(I was aware that a lot (all?) of libraries had e-books, but I just hadn’t made the connection…Thanks for pointing that out.

          2. Michele July 2, 2016

            I didn’t think of that! Awesome, thanks for the tip!

          3. American Librarian July 2, 2016

            Happy reading your e-books! I hope that service works out for y’all 🙂

    2. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

      I relate to God speaking to you through books.  If we read them ‘with Him’ I think He can speak through or at least ABOUT any book we read.

  6. Grace L July 1, 2016

    Kimberly, as I used my roll of Mind Act Upon Mind toilet paper today, it did get me thinking about that strange saying on the packaging. I had thought it was just nonsensical Chinglish and had never paid it much attention. But then I thought, yes, when we read a book, it is the writer’s mind acting upon our mind. And I love it. What a blessing to be able to spend time in a world that the writer has written about, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. It does also speak to me about my desire to “trust” the writer and where he/she will take me. When I delve into a book by a new author, I am exploring whether I want to spend time in the realm where they might take me.

    Another word on TP… I do love the Mind Act Upon Mind TP we have here in this country, and when we spend time in the states, I am horrified when I am at someone’s house or in a public toilet and the TP is so thin and flimsy. I grumble and complain and wonder why a person would choose to buy that when there are better quality choices. Haha, you’ll laugh at this. I even bought a thicker brand I like while in the states and packed some with me to travel with (in the States, that is). As for the books I was taking with me… they were all on my Kindle.

    1. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

      I like how you put that, Grace, exploring whether you want to spend time in the realm where the author might take you – also – seeking to understand what the author is trying to say through that realm –

    2. Kimberly Todd July 2, 2016


      I really like the way you said that about trust and exploration, Grace. The quote Joyce added below from Francis Bacon connects really well. I would add that there are books not to choose, not to read past the cover. I’m thinking of a book that was recently offered to me as a gift, but in reading the description on the cover, I felt my heart snap shut, so I found a graceful way to say, “No, thank you.” I don’t want every mind acting on mine. =)

      1. Michele Womble July 2, 2016

        oh, yes – there are some books that are definitely for not choosing.  And sometimes it isn’t obvious from the cover and description.

      2. Michele Womble July 2, 2016

        “I don’t want every mind acting on mine” – well said!

        Fortunately it was obvious for you (like how you put that, your heart snapped shut) – sometimes it’s not so obvious at first that’s it’s not a book that you would want to choose – I’ve been part way through a book before and before realizing suddenly – wait, where are they going with this?  (before my heart snapped shut)

        if I’d been reading the book “with Jesus” I might have heard Him pointing out way earlier that I should close the book – OR, I could have been discussing the book with Him up to that point and so it wouldn’t have seemed like such a complete waste of my time to have invested several hours in a book that I ended up not being able to finish.

  7. Joyce Stauffer July 1, 2016

    So fun talking about TP stories!  Kim, I bought mine at the little shop located at my gate. It had deep blue hearts and bands on the wrapping.  It worked for me.  The shop only had a few brands to choose from and I didn’t have to walk far to take it home. Funny, I can picture it but don’t remember the writing on it.

    All the chatting about books made me think of Francis Bacon’s quote from “The Essays”:
    “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

    Couldn’t have said it better.

    1. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

      Thank you for sharing the quote, Joyce, I love it.  Read to weigh and consider.

    2. Kimberly Todd July 2, 2016

      I think I know which tp you’re talking about. =)

      That’s a great quote from Francis Bacon! I like the way it connects with what Grace wrote above about trust and exploration.

  8. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

    So – this is going to be random, but why did they name the tp Mind Act Upon Mind? Is it possible that this particular tp is made from…recycled books? (I mean, it’s all paper.)

    1. Kimberly Todd July 2, 2016


      I can’t remember the Chinese precisely, but I think it’s something about making a good impression.

  9. Michele Womble July 1, 2016

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about this week (it’s reflected in my link up on the Grove this week – another poem) is seeing it as a spiritual discipline to invite Jesus into the books I’m reading WHILE I’m reading them – I think what I mean is to see myself reading them with Him – being more purposeful about being aware that we are reading it together – including Him in the journey of the book.

    maybe that seems like it goes without saying, and it probably should, but too often for me it doesn’t.  I don’t mean reading ungodly things, things that wouldn’t please Him –  what I mean is – I can read a really good book and…just leave Him out of it.  Not on purpose, but just because I didn’t think to include Him.

    I mean conversing with Him while I read about what I’m reading so that we’re doing it together – I’m more likely to talk with Him about it after, and kind of forget that He’s with me while I’m reading and we can..well, you know, read it together as we go. Like everything else.

    I do that SOME, but I want to be more purposeful about it.

    1. Michele July 1, 2016

      I love that, t Michele with one ‘l’. I sometimes do this automatically, and sometimes don’t. I think I’ll join you in being more purposeful about it!

      1. Michele Womble July 2, 2016

        Sometimes I do it automatically, too  – and some books just lend themselves to it, like Annie Dillard’s, as you mentioned above, and I suspect our next book club book  –  but I won’t blame not doing it on the books 🙂  Just prayed for you and I to be more purposeful about it this week.

    2. Kimberly Todd July 2, 2016

      I love the idea of making that invitation an intentional practice! I can’t think of a better way to enact spiritual reading than keeping company with Christ while reading. Your poem makes a wonderful invitatory prayer, Michele.

      1. Michele Womble July 2, 2016

        Especially since I read so much – Would be quite a quantity of time spent with Him.  I take walks with Him, why not read with Him, too.   Thanks, Kimberly!  I’ve loved this post, btw, it’s been fun and challenging at the same time.

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