Friday, January 29, 2010

Musings on the 29th.

I am a master of filling my time with good things that ought to be done rather than the things I need to do. I am proficiently skilled at skirting uncomfortable issues rather than addressing them, and can aptly procrastinate even the things I want to accomplish. For example, instead of writing my papers, reading for class, or even replying to the emails in my inbox, I've been enjoying our brief beautiful weather and accomplishing house-keeping errands. (shrugs) C'est la vie. Here are some musings from today (really, they're not about the 29th as much as they merely happen to be on the 29th).

"It is, I think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most self-concious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief that the other nations of the world are in a conspiracy to under value them." -Henry James 

 Perhaps, back in Henry James' day, this was more true. I would argue that now that America has become a leading nation, we don't suffer from this lack of self-awareness. We know what it is to be an American and we're darn proud of it.  Rather, it seems to me to be an apt description of the Canadian search for national identity. Interesting to consider, anyway. 

On a rather different note, I just learned the origin of the word "sabotage". Apparently, factory workers in the Netherlands, afraid of what the industrial revolution would bring about, took to hurling their wooden shoes (sabot)  into the machines so they wouldn't lose their jobs. Unfortunately, this did lead to them losing their jobs, but it certainly makes for an interesting story. 

(Where was I going with all this? Oh, right! Nowhere. How refreshing.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"High Hopes, Low Expectations"

Funny how that works. If you're one of "those" students that normally do well on tests, there's really little thanks for doing well. But the worse you normally do, the more you seem to be rewarded for putting in a little effort. Working in a group with two particularly lazy guys for an assignment, I can't help but sympathize with Susie's exasperation here (rant finished).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Fruits of an Absent Mind

Yes, I doodle on my mousepad. Thank God I don't have to rely on my drawing skills (or lack therof) for an about starving artist. English pays far better. ;)
And here's a quote I've been musing on since I read it this afternoon, "The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." It's given to the main character in J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" by a teacher in the attempt to inspire the young man to work harder in school and do something with his life. Interesting.

What a Morning at Waves!

In support of our new cafe's "grand opening" (I only mock it because this is the second grand opening), some of our musicians from the school are playing, so we decided to brave the thickly falling snow to come early to stake out some good chairs. Because we were too early for the free drinks (not to mention taking up prime space with our laptops) we decided to at least buy drinks. As I paid for mine, the cashier handed me a voucher, "free rose at the Springborough florist". So, I paid $5 for a drink, some wonderful fresh biscotti, and a fresh red rose. It's amazing how a blooming flower in the midst of a winter storm is so beautiful, so hopeful. And the live music is lovely. A wonderful place to catch up on some reading for class...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things that have struck me this last week, of differing levels of seriousness:

-Assisting in communion at the last "Beggars Feast" at school meant I got to spend about an hour singing worship songs while holding a bowl of grape juice and serving people. The symbolism really struck me afresh. Really, at times, it was easy to imagine that I was holding a bowl of blood, which disgusting as it sounds, served to really awaken a much deeper appreciation for the blood that was spilled on my behalf.

-While musing on words, I realized that one could get a run in one's stockings while running in one's stockings (or, as anyone who's worn hose knows, doing just about anything...).

-I really hate being sick, and I think it has to do just as much with the fact that I can't control my sickness as the actual discomfort of illness. Congestion while making phone calls at work is just miserable (or rather, congestion while doing anything is just miserable). Singing in choir without being able to breathe through your nose is hysterically tragic.

-As one of my English profs likes to say, "you can hardly throw a rock in the art world without hitting a gay person", and literature is certainly no exception. I'm slowly becoming convinced that nearly every author alive was queer (or at least wrote about it). Possible exceptions might include Dr. Seuss.

-I am highly fascinated by little things, especially in nature. I'm afraid that without this affinity for the mundane, my life would seem rather boring and tedious. Really, I don't get that bored, there's always something or someone interesting to observe.The iridescence of a peacock feather, for instance.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On the meanings of words...

Today as I was clearing my table in the cafeteria, I got to overhear a rather interesting conversation. It went something like this:
Guy 1: "I'd love to have a nightgown."
(snickers erupt from the table of guys he's sitting with)
Guy 1: "What?! They're classy! "
After several minutes of trying to defend his seemingly effeminate choice of pajamas, the other guys realized that when Guy 1 said "nightgown" what he meant was "bathrobe" (or dressing gown, or house coat, or whatever they say where you're from). Silly as it may seem, this got me thinking about the meaning of words, the significance a certain utterance carries and the power it has to create specific images and impressions in our minds. While to most of us, the word "nightgown" produces the image of a frilly, victorian sleeping frock, clearly this fellow saw rather different picture. The words we choose to use are perhaps more important than we may think them to be. Or, to use official terminology, the paradigmatic and syntagmatic relationships of the signifiers we utilize in speech can carry extreme significance.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ever notice patterns in your life? As believers, we're called to identify and (with God's grace) change patterns of sin in our lives. But what about the things that come as second nature, the habits that aren't really sinful? Ever notice that you seem to end up having frustratingly similar conversations with people? That regardless of your efforts to change, things just keep repeating themselves? It's frustrating. Just another reminder, I suppose, that I really can't do things on my own. (End of rant.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm a sheep! (or wheat?)

So my 20th Century Novel class begins with the famous "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf, said to be the most complicated book we will cover in the class. Really, it's fascinating. Some literary genres have aimed to make literature more accessible to the masses, while others argue that removes the true value of the art. Modernism leans towards the former, intentionally complicating concepts, deconstructing norms in the hopes of reaching a new and objective way of viewing our world. It's very introspective and self-centered, often sacrificing the traditional concept of plot for pages that merely follow the scattered thoughts of various characters. This is one of the reasons people have such a hard time reading these authors, though arguably, most of us think in seemingly random trains of thought rather than distinct story-lines. As my prof. has mentioned, these kinds of books tend to separate the literary wheat from the chaff (or sheep from goats...she's used both). If you can survive the classics, you've got a good chance of surviving the program. I made it through Woolf in a couple hours. Yes, it's going to be a hard semester, but this is at least encouraging. I can sympathize with that lamb...there's a lot of uncertainty, but ultimately, I'm secure. It would just be nice to know if I'm going to fall on that rock. ;)

Yet another work blog...

Hopefully, this one will actually work:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Home, sweet, Res.

The main vibe I've heard most from people returning to residence is, "Man, it's good to be back". Granted, there are some who would have liked a longer break, or who are very sad to leave their families. But most of us were itching to get back to school. Everyone knows the old adage, "home is where the heart is"; when you leave part of your heart with your family and part of it at school, it's just as refreshing to get back to school as it is to be "home". Being in residence without everyone being back just feels lonely, and each time someone else arrives, it's like Christmas morning all over again. I can't wait until everyone comes back (and normally, I'm not the sort of person who feeds off social interactions). Admittedly, I was excited to hear that my classes begin tomorrow rather than on Wednesday...sitting around isn't what I came here to do. And now that I've unpacked and gotten all settled, I'm excited to get back into the full swing of things.
All these musings to say, it's good to be back.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Praying for more brokenness...

There have been a lot of decisions to be made these last few weeks in my life, and in many of my friend's lives. The new year brings a sweet and challenging season of reflection on the past and planning for the future, and we're all going through it in our own ways. Last night, as I headed to bed, I decided on a whim to ring in the new year with the Word. So, I pulled a "flip the Bible open to a random spot and see what the Spirit shows you", and I ended up reading Isaiah 30-32. The opening words hit me like a train, " 'Ah stubborn children', declares the Lord, 'who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my spirit..."(30:1). Have we been seeking God in our planning, or have we just been making our lists, weighing our pros and cons and forgetting to live life in light of the reality of eternity? Are we leaning on Him to provide for our needs, or are we proud, trusting in our skills or strength to bring us through? As westerners, especially Americans, we're so prone to believe that if we just work hard enough, everything will work out. Isaiah goes on to say, "Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; it's breaking is like that of a potter's vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is to be found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern...'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength'" (30:12-15). I need constant reminders that I can't do it on my own, and God has done a wonderful job this year of exposing my own dependence and daily need for mercy (not that he's ever not done a wonderful job). The lie that I can do things on my own is oppressive and burdensome. Finding out that it's a lie is painful, and requires a breaking of my prideful will; a smashing of what I think is my identity until it's so minute I realize I can't even use the shards to "dip up water" from those broken cisterns that I think will satisfy the longings of my heart. It's then, and only then, that I can turn to Christ. We talk a lot about how Christ heals our brokenness; Praise God, He does! But I think we forget the beauty of brokenness. We need the pain that the truth brings. If we spend our lives praying that God will make us comfortable and keep us safe, we'll be devastated and confused to find out that our God is not just some benevolent grandfather that gives us everything we desire and glosses over the reality that we're sinful and fallen. I thank God that he's gracious enough not to let me continue in my stubborn independence. But he doesn't just break us to show us that we're sinful and leave us there to wallow in our nothingness! I love the beauty of that promise, "in returning and rest you shall be saved". What's easier than resting? Seriously. It's such a sweet image of a simple kind of faith. Children have to rest all the time, they trust without foolish anxieties about what exactly their next year will look like, what they'll do for the rest of their lives. We have a sovereign and loving Father in heaven, let's rest in the knowledge that he has a plan. Let's be still and know that He is God.
"Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait on him" (30:18).  Friends, what better thing can we know that all it takes for God's blessing in our lives is to wait on and follow him?