Monday, July 28, 2008

The Four Loves: Sequel

When I told the Cobbler that I was reposting The Four Loves (in two parts) and mentioned how the things I wrote about romantic love amused me in hindsight--reading them, I cannot help thinking about the fact that he and I started courting all of twelve days later--he asked, "Are you going to post a sequel, then?"

Yes, I am. This sequel draws on Lewis' book, but not the chapter on eros. Instead I'd like to highlight the disctinction Lewis makes in the first chapter between need-love and gift-love. Gift-love, he says, seems more Godlike because God's love, after all, is purely a gift. He doesn't need us. Need-love is a very creaturely thing, and yet at the same time Lewis questions whether a human is really closer to God when his love is more gift-love than need-love. After all, need is the proper response of a creature to its Creator. We need God, plain and simple. Without Him we are nothing.

It wasn't until after the Cobbler started courting me that I had a thought about this. What if, I wondered, need is not an imperfection? I'd always assumed that feeling incomplete, feeling needy, was a symptom of the Fall. Only imperfect people need. Yet...Adam needed God just as much as I do.

Then something else occured to me. Adam needed Eve.

God looked upon this perfect, pre-Fall man, the pinnacle of His creation, and said, It is not good. Never before had He called something not good. Adam's aloneness was not a good, and therefore not a proper reflection of God who is all good. So God created Eve, and then all was good. Adam was complete.

It was so strange for me to think that needing another human being was a good, was the way things ought to be. So strange to think that the fact that I need the Cobbler is not a sign of weakness on my part. There is a lot of gift-love in my relationship with him, but from the beginning there was also need-love. I was incomplete. I was in a state that was not good. Then he came along, and now things are good.

The disctinction between need-love and gift-love is, in humans, something of a false dichotomy. With God there is pure gift-love. But with us the gift is never entirely free of need. We need to give of ourselves in love like we need to breathe. It is simply the way our souls are wired. If we don't love our souls die as surely as our bodies do when put in a room with no oxygen. Yet at the same time our need is a gift to the other--we say to them, "Yes, I need you, please love me," and they do, thus fulfilling their own need to give.

We are not meant to be alone. We could never learn how to love if we were alone. There is a certain absurdity in the idea of us giving ourselves to God, for we have nothing that He needs. There is no absurdity in us giving ourselves to another person, for we have something that they need; they, likewise, have something that we need. That is real love, to respond to the need of the other and accept the gift of the other. There is no shame in that, no brokenness. It is this community, this becoming one with the other, that God looked upon and said, It is very good.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer Reading Update

Nine days ago I posted on what books I want to have read by August 24. I have since finished two of them. I had just started The Good Earth that morning and finished it the next day. I found it an excellent read, although that doesn't mean I was in tingles of literary delight all the way through. I was in tingles of literary delight for the first third of the book, spent the second third wanting to bludgeon the main character about the head, and the final third realizing that Pearl S. Buck is a better author than I. The ending is not one I would have liked even two years ago, but I'm starting to learn that just because a book doesn't end the way I would have ended it had I been writing it doesn't mean its ending isn't entirely appropriate. There are plotlines that are simply beyond my skill to craft. Admittedly my writing abilities have grown in leaps and bounds these last six years, and while I think the period of explosive growth is largely behind me, by the time I'm 35 (to choose an arbitrary number) I might have honed my skill enough to create a novel worthy of being considered a classic.

Today I realized that I had made no progress in my reading list in over a week, so I sat down with my long-neglected copy of Till We Have Faces. I have developed a method for reading Lewis' fiction, which was confirmed by my experience with this book: 1) Consult the back page (without reading it!) to ascertain the page count 2) Mark the halfway point of the book 3) Depending on the book's overall length (longer books have more leeway in this) count 5 or 10 pages past the halfway point 4) Tell yourself that you cannot give up until you have reached this page. I warn you, however, to approach the halfway point with caution. Unless you have a stronger will than I, you will reach a "point of no return" after which you cannot put down the book until you have finished it. So if you reach the halfway mark at midnight, don't blame me if you stay up until 4 am finishing the book.

I was somewhere around Page 90 when I last put down Till We Have Faces. The copy I have has 309 pages. I picked it up sometime after 3:45 (I was on Skype until then). I put it down at 6:05. That's 219 pages in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I had rather a headache by the time I finished, but I couldn't have put it down for anything. You don't even discover what Till We Have Faces means until 15 pages from the end, but it is well worth the wait. The ending was so beautiful that it very nearly made me cry. Admittedly, I cry rather easily over books--I was once reduced to tears over a book in which an old man had to kill his cow. Still, it's no small praise of Lewis that he can get me that emotionally involved in a story.

Quote of the Day, Sunday Edition

Dad [holding up Third Day Holiday Edition]: "Should this go in 'religious' or 'holiday' music?"

Me: "Aren't the holidays inherently religious?"

Dad: "Not necessarily. I mean, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Quote of the Day

Mom: "If the priest is in the person of Christ, and I'm older than he is, does that mean I'm older than God?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

To my sister

Today is my sister's birthday. She's 21. I can't say much about the first three years, but I can say something about the seven years of sharing a room (and sometimes a bed; one of us was scared of the dark), five years of fighting like cats, one year of judiciously ignoring each other, and five years of being best friends. Without my sister, I would have been involved in far fewer knock-down drag-outs over whose turn it was to control the remote; but I would also have spent far fewer evenings in the living room, eating pizza and watching chick flicks. So, Sis, on your birthday I would like to say two things.

For all the times you punched me in the face: I deserved it. Let's face it, I was an obnoxious kid.

For all the times you made my life incalculably richer: Thank you.

Happy birthday. I love you.

Falling in Love

A while ago I was sitting with my head on the Cobbler's shoulder and thinking what an incredible, gratuitous gift love is. God doesn't just say, "Yes, the world is a dark and scary place, but if you survive it you'll be happy in Heaven." Instead He says, "Yes, the world is a dark and scary place, but I'll give you someone to be with you in the midst of darkness."

As I continued pondering, I found myself suddenly frightened by the very fact that love is a grace. I am able to love and be loved purely because God gave me that gift--but often God's gifts last only as long as you need them. It is not necessary that I have somebody on this earth who loves me, and who satisfies my need to love someone else.

It would be far more reassuring if love weren't a choice, if it were an irrevocable law like the law of gravity. If you toss a rock, it falls to the ground because that's simply the way things work. It's the nature of rocks to be drawn to the earth.

Then a novel idea broke into my thoughts: What, after all, is the purpose of a rational soul? My reflexive response to that is usually logic, but what if it's not? What if the purpose of having a rational soul is love?

If that's the case (and I have a growing conviction that it is), then love is certainly still a gift (just as life is a gift, just as everything is a gift) but it is a gift which is as necessary to our souls as breathing is to our lungs. The law of love is as irrevocable as the law of gravity. We should be as shocked by a soul that does not love as we would be if a rock were to suddenly fly upwards in defiance of gravity.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How to Turn a Bad Morning into a Good Day

by Megan
[some events are left out due to irrelevance]

1:00 pm-2:30 pm: Sleep
2:30 pm: Eat chocolate
2:30 pm-4:30 pm: Weed the garden (getting dirt under your fingernails is therapeutic)
5:30 pm-6:00 pm: Talk to boyfriend
6:00 pm-7:30 pm: Eat dinner
7:30 pm-8:30 pm: Talk to boyfriend
8:30 pm: Get kicked out of the house because you talk too much
8:30 pm-9:30 pm: Sit on grass, watch sunset, and talk to boyfriend
11:00 pm-9:00 am next day: Sleep

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Six Quirks

When I checked my Gmail account after lunch Saturday I thought somebody had actually left me a real comment, but it turned out to be the Postmodern Papist just letting me know that he'd tagged me in a meme.

Although I like real comments (*cough, cough*) I like memes too. Here are the rules:

1. Link the person(s) who tagged you
2. Mention the rules on your blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

1. When I'm driving, the first thing I do upon getting in the car is put the seat all the way back. I will then adjust it forward by increments until it's where I want it to be. I never move it backwards by increments.

2. I have a five-step process for eating Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. When I was 9 or 10 I had a mental block against eating them any other way. I can eat them the "normal" way now, but I much prefer my way.

3. According to one of my cousins, I hold my pencil funny when I write. What do you think?




















4. I am usually aware of the fact that I'm dreaming and can wake myself up if I don't care for the direction the dream is taking.

5. When I want to concentrate on something I'm reading, I'll push on the bridge of my nose, even when I'm not wearing my glasses.

6. I wear a lot of blue. I have testimony to support this. For instance, Scott once said, "Sometimes when I see you I get disconcerted briefly until I realize that you're wearing a yellow shirt instead of a blue one." If that's not enough, I was on the Facebook page of a girl who is a friend but not a close one (as in, she and I didn't see each other regularly even when we were at school together) and on the Interview application she had the following:

If you look at the color blue, what does it make you think
of?
Depending on which shade of blue; the sky, water, heaven, blue
paint, or Megan [Lastname]


I tag the Three Anachronisms (hah, one comment takes care of half), Emily, Rebekah, and Andi.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Reading Challenge

Yesterday I realized that I have less than 6 weeks left in my summer vacation. This has several implications, not the least of which is that I cannot have a rotating collection of about 10 books out from the library while I'm at school. Therefore, I have told myself that I am not allowed to reserve any more books, and other than the 2 I currently have on reserve I can't get any more books at the library (must...resist...new items shelf...)

I've also told myself that I need to get serious and finish at least some of the books I have out so that I'm not halfway through all of them come August 24.

Here are the books currently in my to-read stack:

The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
Emma, Jane Austen
Brideshead Revisted, Evelyn Waugh
Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis
The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Black Stallion, Walter Farley
Big Red, Jim Kjelgaard

Here are the two I have on reserve at the library:

The Art of Love, Ovid
Kristen Lavransdatter, Singred Unset

The only two that are low-priority are The Black Stallion and Big Red. I've read The Black Stallion probably 3 or 4 times, the first when I was in second grade. Big Red was a later find--I read it first in middle school, I think, and then again in high school. So I think I'm going to put those at the bottom of the stack, or use them as light reading if I get tired of the other books.

So...7-9 books in just over 6 weeks. Think I can do it?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Domestic Conquest Continues

I think that blogging break I took last month must have worked...I looked at the date on my last post and was shocked that it has been almost a week since then. Before, if I went more than two days or so without a post I would start writing one in my head just to "fill the gap".

But I digress. Today, dear readers, you get a special treat: Pictures of dirt.

A few days ago Mom offered me $5 to vacuum the hallway. Now, for five bucks you can't just run the vacuum down the middle and call it done. You have to be thorough. My mother suggested getting some of the dust off the vent that runs along one side of the hall.

A few minutes later, I came downstairs and said, "Mom, I need a screwdriver."

(Things get interesting whenever you mix screwdrivers with common household chores.)

"Why?" Mom asked.

So I could do this:




















I don't think anybody had unscrewed the vent in a long time, given the fact that there was a thick coating of dust on the threads of the screws.

Exhibit B: The screws and the dust I pulled off them.




















And, because all that wasn't fun enough, a close-up of the innards of our house's ventilation system:




















In related news, Project Domestic Conquest has in general been going well. I've cooked dinner several times, cleaned floors, scrubbed bathrooms, and otherwise done domestic things. I've even broken new ground and started helping Mom make the weekly grocery list. I think I do a pretty good job, too, except that I get sick of list-making after about half an hour and need to take a break. Perhaps this is the sort of thing one builds an immunity to--in a few years I might be able to spend a whole hour at a stretch on the grocery list. Perhaps someday I'll actually be able to stand clothes-shopping for 10 seconds instead of 5 seconds. One day I might even be able to step into Bath & Body Works without feeling like I'm going into anaphylactic shock. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Safety

The other day Melanie B. linked to this post. Although the post is about politics it goes deeper than just commentary on current events. One paragraph in particular struck me:

Who amongst us would have saved the world by dying on a cross? And not
saved us in sensible fashion, making everything clear and easy and genuinely
safe? But rather saved us by giving us the choice to become like God through
accepting something that isn't at all clear or easy or safe (at least not our
definition of safe which includes not scary), accepting the cross? Who amongst
us wants the cross? Who believes it actually does save? Isn't that one of the
hardest things to believe?

I've had a very rough twenty-four hours (starting with not wanting to go to sleep because I didn't want it to be dark and quiet enough for me to think) which are the result of a rather rough week. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that God's idea for how the universe ought to be run is not matching up with my idea. I told Him so this morning, in a manner that probably isn't suitable for addressing the King of Kings. Instead of smiting me off the face of the earth God brought the above paragraph to the forefront of my mind, reminding me what kind of safety He promised me when I chose to believe in Him.

I wanted (okay, want, present tense) to reply to that with, "Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn't previously aware of."*

If I did, I wouldn't be wrong. (At least not factually, though there's something wrong with getting snarky with God.) The Cross redefined a lot of things. The Cross, in fact, transformed everything about the world. The Cross is the foolishness of God which is wiser than human wisdom.

God never promised me that life would go the way I wanted. He never promised that I'd be safe. Life isn't safe. It's the price of living in occupied territory. If we're going to take the risk of love we're going to take the risk of attack by the enemy. I knew that, dimly, when I first chose to believe in God. I've been learning it more clearly in the last few years, most especially one day a few months ago when a certain choice was presented to me in this way: Are you willing to take the risk? I was, and am, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It doesn't mean I'm not going to get scared.

The only safety God provides for us is the safety to stand with the Cross at our backs, facing the enemy and all his minions (including Fear, and Despair) with the knowledge that they cannot win in the end.

*Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Legend of Antaeus

In the summer of 2007 I went raspberry picking with my mother and sister. It's quite enjoyable, raspberry picking. Nothing but you and green growing things and sunshine and fresh air. The mind seems to grow broader just from being away from the noise and worry of everyday life.

As I picked berries, I went off into a philosophical mood (I do that) and found myself thinking of Antaeus--a fairly minor character in the legend of Hercules, one who could be defeated only if he was unable to touch the earth.

I wonder if we aren't a little like Antaeus ourselves. Maybe one of the reasons our society has lost its direction is because we're never able to touch the earth.

Now, I'm not in favor of going back to the 18th century (I'm rather fond of indoor plumbing, for one thing) but I do think that we as a society have become unhealthily obsessed with technology. Yes, our cars and dishwashers and internet connections make things go faster--but faster to what purpose? What are we going to do with all this spare time we're accumulating? I don't know about everyone else, but I don't notice any great vistas of spare time in my life. For all my technology I often do homework on Sundays because I don't have any other time to do it--and then I wonder why I get burned out by the end of a semester.

There are things you rediscover in a field of raspberry plants that a lot of people have forgotten. Silence, for one. No television going in the background, no radio, no recorded music. Just you alone with your thoughts.

Work, for another. Very few people I know have jobs that require actual physical work. Your stereotypical American sits in an office for 8 or 10 hours a day, then comes home and eats his carefully balanced dinner--every now and then he might run on the treadmill to stay in shape. But he's flabbier than his grandfather who came home at the end of the day and sat down to beer and bread and sausages. There's nothing wrong with having a desk job but the relation between our bodies and the work that we do and the food that we eat is very tenuous indeed. We don't grow the food we eat--we get it at the store in nice tidy little packages that we buy using the money we made typing ciphers all day.

I could go on, but sometimes length does not equal insight. In fact, the Cobbler managed to sum it up in about two senteces, which I paraphrase here. The distinction we have lost is that between the earth and the world. Just contrast, "God created the Heavens and the Earth" with the famous phrase, "the world, the flesh, and the devil."

Nowadays being stewards of the earth has simply become another facet of our convoluted world. I'm not saying that environmentalism is all bad (although certain strains of it are) but I want to know where the earth is in all this hype about global warming and ozone and endangered species. I want to know how often Al Gore takes off his cell phone and watch and goes for a walk in the woods.

Friday, July 11, 2008

?!

Unfortunately, this post is not about Cow Shea's blog. Rather, the title is meant to represent, in his words, "an abrupt quizzical squeal".

Today the womenfolk of our family went grocery shopping (our resident representative of the other half of the species was at work). While getting lightbulbs I saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like a rosary. Naturally I turned to investigate, since most grocery stores don't just sell rosaries.

It was an air freshener. For your car. Designed to look like a rosary.

Words fail me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Overanalyzing PBS

The little boy whom we watch some days was watching TV a little bit ago. I didn't catch the name of the show but I'm assuming it was meant to be vaguely educational since they characters regularly sang a little ditty about building! a! word!

So, the crisis today was the fact that Mr. Shark wanted to dance with his friends, but all his friends are land animals and Mr. Shark has trouble dancing on land.

Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but as the cartoon animals are lamenting this fact I'm thinking, "Mr. Shark ought to have bigger problems than that on land--like not being able to breathe."

Eventually the animals solved the dilemma by having their little dance performance underwater. Where all the land animals could, of course, breathe just fine.

Educational television my foot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Maker of All Things

I feel like wasting a little time and this will be easier now that I actually have iTunes and can do Party Shuffle--when I did this for Facebook I spent 3/4 of the time devising an elaborate random-number system.

1.Put your music player on shuffle.

2. Press forward for each question.

3. Use the song title as the answer to the question.

What does next year have in store for me?
One Trick Pony (MercyMe)
Ooh, do I get a pony???

What does your love life look like?
One-Winged Angel (Nobuo Uematsu)
Hahaha. I swear this came up randomly.

What do I say when life gets hard?
One-Winged Angel (Nobuo Uematsu)
Yes, I have two versions of this song. And yes I do listen to Uematsu when I'm stressed.

What do I think when I get up in the morning?
Something About You (MercyMe)
That works.

What song will I dance to at my wedding?
3:42 AM (Writer's Block) (MercyMe)
As described when I heard this at a concert: "This is a song about nothing, but it's fun to dance to."

What do you want to do for your career?
I Would Die For You (MercyMe)
Ummm...

Your favorite saying?
No More No Less (MercyMe)
Dear iTunes: Why does my party shuffle take 90% of its songs from the same album? I have 17 hours of music, for Heaven's sake.

Your favorite place?
Aerith (Nobuo Uematsu)
With Scott?

What do you think of your parents?
Last One Standing (MercyMe)
Hahahahaha.

Where would you go on a first date?
Where I Belong (MercyMe)
That one works quite well.

Drug of choice?
Hold Fast (MercyMe)
This one not so well. Unless loyalty is my drug of choice.

Describe yourself.
Coming Up To Breathe (MercyMe)
Unforunately, that one is rather appropriate.

What is the thing I like doing most?
Hello, Goodbye (Michael W. Smith)
First part accurate, second not.

What is my state of mind like at the moment?
Jesus, You Alone (Tim Hughes)
I wish this was my state of mind more often.

How will I die?
Come to the Water (Matt Maher)
Note to self: Avoid water.

The song that will be played at your funeral?
Word of God Speak (MercyMe)
Hmmm.

The song you'll put as the subject?
Maker of All Things (Tim Hughes)
Okeydokey.

The song that describes my friendships?
Responsory: Obviam (Monastic Choir of the Angels)
I'm not sure what to make of this one.

The song that describes my future marriage?
I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (Delirious?)
Awww.

The song that describes my future children?
Jesus, You Are Beautiful (GlassByrd)
That sounds pretty good.

The song that describes what this winter will be like?
Antiphon: Hodie 2 (Monastic Choir of the Angels)
Um. Okay.

The song that describes what people think of me?
Forever With You (Fr. Stan)
That's sweet.

The song that describes how I will do in school?
Love Me Good (Michael W. Smith)
I find that rather unpromising, since this title has poor grammar.

The song that describes how nice of a career I'll have?
Immaculata Reprisa Suprisa (Fr. Stan)
Note to self: Learn Latin.

The song that describes my personality?
Redeemer (Tim Hughes)
Flattering, if inaccurate.

This thing lends itself to being a meme, but I hate tagging people so if you feel like it, play, if not don't.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rearranging the Furniture

My mom has this habit of moving all our furniture around every year or two. She also likes to reorganize the kitchen cabinets. That frustrates the life out of me--I can usually find the chair if it's on the other side of the room from where it used to be, but if the blue spatula (which is the only one I will use, because I am OCD that way) is on the other side of the kitchen I have to howl for assistance.

But I digress. This post is to announce that after 8 months (give or take) of blogging I am rearranging my digital furniture.

The most important part of this is to say that But I Digress... is going to be password-protected starting August 1. If you know me or have someone who knows me who can vouch for you, feel free to request access to my private ramblings.

Meanwhile, for those of you whom I wouldn't know from Adam, I'm hoping to post some deep and thoughful stuff over at my new blog, Thinking of Things Aloft. Those of you who link to me might want to note the change; those of you (hi, Rebekah) who have me on feed reader will probably want to update, unless your feed reader is awesome enough that it can update password-protected feeds.

I hope to update this blog fairly often over the next three weeks, but I'm not promising anything.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Things that made me laugh

1. Sunday, Scott came over and I took him to the big, sprawling park that's down the hill from my house. We walked down a little road, and then down a smaller road, and then Scott wanted to go along a tiny dirt path and I wasn't too sure about that because I didn't know how we were going to get back after all the turning we'd been doing. He said, "Oh, we'll just go the rest of the way around the lake." Huh?

Sure enough, a few yards of additional walking revealed that we were on the opposite side of a narrow lake that bordered the Little Road mentioned above. After a while we crossed a bridge and got right back where we started. I was awed and amazed. Yes, I know. How many times have I been in that park? A few dozen. How many times has Scott been in that park? Counting Sunday, once.

It's a good thing one of us has a sense of direction.

2. At work today (I work at a pizza factory) we were cleaning up and I noticed that the rack for brooms and dustpans had a sign saying "INEDIBLE BROOMS/SHOVELS". The "Inedible", of course, refers to the bits of pizza that end up on the floor, either because they fall off the conveyor belt or becuase the workers notice some defect and toss them on the floor. For a moment, though, I read that sign as "These brooms and shovels are inedible."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hi

How have you been, dear readers? I've still got some things I want to do before I go back to blogging regularly but I just thought I'd draw everyone's attention to one of the things on my sidebar. I have this little page element that provides a month-by-month word count for the novel that I'm writing.

13 hours ago, the novel had 61,480 words. By the time June turned into July, it had 66,100 words and I was finished with Chapter 25. (Actually, I call it Chapter II-12 because the book has two parts [so far], but that's not important.)

I wrote roughly 8 pages between about 7:20 and 10:10 last night, with various interruptions so that I probably was actually typing for only 2 1/2 hours.

4,620 words in a few hours isn't bad at all. I'm rather proud of myself.