31 March, 2008

i will show you fear in a handful of dust

Sometimes I wake up singing songs and I’m not sure where they came from. This morning it was “Sycamore” by Bill Callahan. It’s a pretty song and I didn’t mind having it linger in my head all afternoon.

There's sap in the trees if you tap 'em
There's blood on the seas if you map 'em
Christian, when I see your papa

I'll tell him you love him
And remember to love in the wild and
Fight in the gym

Thanks for the deluge of birthday wishes; I felt very loved this weekend. It is a nice thing to no longer be a teenager. When I was younger I assumed I’d have my life and career all lined up by this point, but I realized Saturday when talking with Guion that I am actually less sure about all of that than I’ve ever been. But perhaps it’s okay to let God take the reins? I’m still not so convinced, but I think I have to be.

This weather today is a special kind of miserable.

Because I have absolutely no self-control when I see a used book sale, today I bought a rain-flecked copy of Steinbeck’s The Winter of our Discontent. I have no idea what it’s about, but I generally like books with titles lifted from Shakespeare (three points to whoever can name the play). So I figure it’s a safe bargain.

I wanted to memorize the first lines of “The Waste Land” today and so I wrote them down on a slip of paper and read them as I walked to class in the light, cold rain. Catherine asked me what I had to memorize them for and I said for my own personal pleasure. “Oh,” she said, “because poetry’s so awesome?” Yes. Because poetry is so awesome. Rather appropriate lines, though. April is the cruellest month…

Cheney’s such a genius. In one word he captured the entire spirit of the Bush Administration:

- Our vice president, when told that two-thirds of Americans do not support the war in Iraq. (Quoted in this week’s issue of Time.)

I think God is more than happy to keep me feeble.

Hearing: “House Carpenter,” Nickel Creek, and the rush of rain
Reading: The Road, McCarthy; Hemingway’s short stories; Cummings and Levine
Smelling: the sweet and majestic lilies from Guion

27 March, 2008


Listening to "Close Your Eyes-We are Blind" by Alaska In Winter, a song we'll play when we are clubbing in Iceland with Bjork. It's 10:45 pm. I am on a couch in the unusually still Joyner lounge with C.Sted, who is looking cute and checking Blackboard and Facebook and probably her Fug bracket. We went to a crazy Modern Latin American concert by the orchestra tonight and then laid in the dark grass and talked of love.

And now here I am wondering if I made a mistake in deciding to do my Japanese presentation on the 17th-century haiku master Matsuo Basho.

Haiku is wonderful and generally very basic. Except when it's written in 17th-century Japanese, which I apparently don't understand. You'd think it be easy enough; haiku has only three lines with a total of 17 syllables. But no. Nothing in Japanese is easy. Especially not when it's written in 1689.

Still, here are a few of my favorites from Oku no hosomichi ("The Narrow Road to the Interior"), Basho's travel journal which has prose entries sprinkled with random haikus.

Several to whet your appetite:

Spring is passing by!
Birds are weeping and the eyes
Of fish fill with tears.

How still it is here--
Stinging into the stones,
The locusts' trill.

The peaks of clouds
Have crumbled into fragments--
The moonlit mountain.

I love how minimal and smooth it is. Japanese poetry, at least in the haiku tradition, is grounded firmly in nature--自然--and how it leads to the transcendence of emotion. Come to think of it, the Romantics would have gotten along quite well with Basho and his crowd. Anyway. I like haiku and I like knowing that it makes a lot more sense to write it in Japanese than in English. The feeble translations are frustrating, though. So much really is lost in translation. I just don't know enough of the Japanese spirit and language to understand its poetry. Deep down, I don't really believe in translated poetry; I don't think it's possible. Only cheap replicas.

(I am excited and terrified about living in Tokyo for two months.)

This is all I have tonight. I am not very good at this blogging business anymore. Tonight Bill Schneider, senior political analyst for CNN, said in the 2008 Nelson Benton lecture that blogging was "the gutter of journalism." Probably.

Watching: Catherine read French with a serene face
Hearing: "He Lays in the Reins," Calexcio & Iron and Wine
Reading: Hemingway's short stories, e.e. cummings's poems, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and おくのほそ道 by 芭蕉.

22 March, 2008

"I hate watching movies with you, actually."--Kathryn

Blogging? What? No time for that stuff.

I am sitting at home on my couch, listening to Bach and Beethoven, distracted from schoolwork as usual. Kathryn came home with me for the weekend and we've had a lovely time buying bras and pashminas, getting stuck in classic I-77 traffic, watching "Cold Mountain," scavenging for food, and arguing hotly about the Bush Administration. She loves me about 50 percent of the time. But I think I love her 98 percent of the time. (That lacking two percent is when she's talking about Bush. Or putting peanut butter on tortillas, which may or may not be the most disgusting thing I've ever seen.)

She is a good roommate and I don't want her to leave me for Sevilla. But at least she's going to get married in Davidson (something she decided this weekend) and I'm going to throw her a kicking bachelorette party at our house.

Things worth mentioning:

So... courtesy of a scholarship, I'm going to be in Tokyo this summer. And I couldn't be happier or more bewildered that my childhood dream is finally coming true. (I have no idea what to expect! I am going to be living with a Japanese family and taking classes at Japan's equivalent of Stanford University! And I can only read at a second-grade level because I only know 1,000 of 6,500 kanji! Whee!)

Even though I've never owned a Polaroid camera and never planned to, I'm still very upset to hear that Polaroid is discontinuing its film. Polaroids are among my favorite photographs. And soon they will be a distant relic. More information at Save Polaroid.

Got two great books yesterday: 100 Selected Poems of e.e. cummings (the same copy that J.Hecht has, actually; I've been coveting that volume ever since I saw it on his bookshelf) from my parents and then a collection of Ernest Hemingway's short stories for a quarter at the library. If I have nothing else on earth, at least I have my books.

Speaking of Hemingway, you have to read what he has to say about NCAA men's basketball.

My faith comes back in spurts. On Thursday night, after my pre-birthday dinner, Mom, Kathryn and I went to Summit and drank chamomile tea and talked about God. I was very angry with God at the beginning of the hour, but as I listened to them talk (they are both far wiser women than I am) and they let me verbally untie my frustrations with faith, I left feeling hope pulsing back. I still do not have answers, but I have a keener sense of God's goodness. Returning to the elementary things we know about Him, Kathryn says.

Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man's behalf!
He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the river on foot--
come, let us rejoice in him.

09 March, 2008

thin blue flame

Home. (What deserves to be retold.)

It was hard to leave a grieving campus and yet I was eager to. The reminders of sorrow—the senselessness of it all—the garish contrast between that beautiful spring afternoon and the chancellor’s words, “Eve Carson has been murdered”—all of it was too much, in pieces, in moments. While he spoke, I cried quickly and selfishly—because of injustice, because of a promising life cut short, because nothing can prevent this same thing from happening again. I was thankful for Catherine’s arms wrapped around my waist.

Another day, another chip off my trust in God. But how do you prevent evil—life—circumstances—from eroding faith? If I was isolated from the rest of the world and lived in a tower, perhaps, my faith would be very strong; nothing would touch it; no horrible events could ever shake it because I wouldn’t know about any horrible events. They say that adversity pushes you to God but lately it’s just been pushing me away.

Josh Ritter says,

“If God’s up there, he’s in a cold dark room
The heavenly host are just the cold dark moons.
He bent down and made the world in seven days,
And ever since he’s been walking away.”

I don’t believe that, but sometimes it is a very tempting idea. I am still clinging—with white-knuckled fists!—to a Living God, a God that lives and breathes and moves among us. I want to know that God. And I like Jesus a lot. I’m not always so sure about God. But what it comes down to is that I don’t know how to obtain faith. Struggles and evil don’t give me more faith. Prayer and Scripture don’t seem to give me more faith. What will?

Coming home is always a little trying and I commonly feel lazy and irritable here. I don’t know why. It’s such an icky feeling and it just breeds wells of self-hatred. And I am always cold.

The sun is still out and I am happy for an extra hour. Life really does seem to renew itself in the spring. Sam is upstairs playing with our cousin Emily; they laugh breathlessly and stomp around without even trying to muffle the noise. Dad is drilling and hammering things somewhere. The day fades.

"In darkness he looks for the lights that have died;
You need faith for the same reasons that it’s so hard to find.
And this whole thing is headed for a terrible wreck—
And like good tragedy, that’s what we expect."
- Josh Ritter, “Thin Blue Flame”

05 March, 2008

how precious did that grace appear

My head has felt so fuzzy for a week and true things have seemed very distant. This is probably because I’ve been feverish and ill, coughing and hacking (rattle and hum) since Thursday. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick.

The sickness seems to have shot all of the worthwhile things I thought I had to say. But they probably weren’t worth hearing anyway. I can’t write brilliant prose like Rachel or craft clever questions like Brittany or create parodies and hilarious metaphors like Jonathan anyway.

I know two things about God:
1. He is stronger than the stone of the chapel that kept us from the tempest last night
2. Jesus’ blood never failed me

I took the Myers-Brigg again tonight for the IV leadership application and was reviewing my results, consistent to the last time I took it, which label me as an ENTJ, or a Fieldmarshal. I’ve always balked at defining my life around this combination of letters, which I know some people do, but reading the description of the type was kind of eerie—it so accurately described the story and frustrations of my life.

“Hardly more than two percent of the total population, the Fieldmarshals are bound to lead others, and from an early age they can be observed taking command of groups. In some cases, Fieldmarshals simply find themselves in charge of groups, and are mystified as to how this happened. But the reason is that Fieldmarshals have a strong natural urge to give structure and direction wherever they are -- to harness people in the field and to direct them to achieve distant goals.”

It also said somewhere that Fieldmarshals are notably poor at actually carrying out the goals they advocate. And this is woefully true.

I haven’t read anything good in such a long time.

This is all I have tonight. Except, KELSEY, I LOVE YOU.

Reading: All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy, and Real Sex, Lauren Winner
Hearing: “Amazing Grace,” Sufjan Stevens and “Guyamas Sonora,” Beirut
Thinking: I really should study some literary theorists now.