29 April, 2008

a clanging cymbal

As children, we had to memorize 1 Corinthians 13 and I’m sure I’ve heard it repeated a hundred times since then, but this week it blew me away, as if I was reading it for the first time. I am astounded with so many different aspects of this chapter, but the last few days I’ve been especially fascinated with the idea of love being patient. (It is such a crushingly beautiful word, isn’t it?)

Patience seems like such an arbitrary quality to ascribe to love, of all the virtues to choose from. Loyalty or trust or gentleness seem like more apparent first choices. But patience starts off the list — patience is where Paul starts.

The more I consider it, the more I think perhaps this was proper, that maybe patience starts the list because patience is where everything else starts as well. If we do not have patience with one another — patience for one another’s sheer humanness — then no love can be exchanged at all. I must be patient with you so I can love you. And you must be patient with me before you can begin to love me at all.

In concert with these musings, God has been laying down these very tangible chances for me to exercise love as patience. It’s so hard and I wish He wouldn’t. Trying to keep back the barbed words of disdain that are just itching to spring from my tongue, trying to act with generous kindness instead of anxiety or self-promotion… when, really, I’d just rather act without any consideration of others, without any reservations about whether or not I’m being patient. But I don’t want to live that way anymore.

Last Thursday I was lying in the grass with Betsey and Emily and we were talking about the fruits of the spirit and which fruits we especially wanted to exemplify. (I think the two of them are already exceedingly fruitful and so it was difficult to imagine them lacking anything. Really.) As we talked, I realized that I would really love to be known as a gentle and patient woman. Those are such lovely characteristics, such beautiful virtues that I do not naturally possess. A quiet spirit. To be continually wrapped in peace and existing in peace. Soothed.

I feel peaceful now: my hardest exams are over and I don’t have another one until Monday. This afternoon I’ve had the time to do the things I love to do but don’t get to during the semester: like play guitar, solve the New York Times crossword puzzle, actually read The New York Times, lie in my bed and do nothing but listen to music, read smatterings of novels, even try writing.

In a bizarre burst of inspiration, I took up rewriting my feeble short story that has been a long time coming. I started it in June and rediscovered it this afternoon and thought, I need to just DO this and finish it, regardless of how awful it will inevitably be; the mere act of finishing will be an accomplishment and even if I never write another one again, I can at least say I’ve tried.

Reading: The New York Times Book Review, Cry, the Beloved Country
Hearing: “Simple X” by Andrew Bird and “Stay” by Alison Krauss
Thinking: but where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled…

27 April, 2008

the best gesture of my brain

Good things this weekend:

Aaron Copland!
Overusing the word “tremendous”
Sunshine and balmy weather
Being done with classes
Excellent food and conversation with Mr & Mrs Pratt
Finally playing the campus disc golf course with Guion
The grass
“Mad Mission” by Patty Griffin
Forest Theater at midnight with the Druids
The gradual threat of rain
Contentment and peace

This meager update is all I have time for now; big exams on Monday and Tuesday. More to come if and when clarity is resurrected. (But I am happy, so happy!)

since feeling is first
who pays any attentionto the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry—
the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

- e.e. cummings

14 April, 2008

a ruined vineyard

She bent down and took my plate. “Thank you,” I said, smiling. She met my eyes and did not smile back. How she must hate me, hate us all, I thought, leaning back in my plush chair, watching the light of the chandelier glint off the wall. She must loathe us. Posturing privileged white people talking a mix of money and theoretical nonsense. I felt guilty sitting there. As I watched her walk back to the kitchen with my plate, I wanted to escape that room and find some way to make it right. (I thought we were past the era where one race of people serves another. Guess not.) But I don’t know how. Profound guilt and the inability to express it or escape it.

So I’ve been frustrated lately. Not just by this sense of pervasive social injustice, but also at the terrible devasation of sexual violence (thoughts resurrected by the AIDS talk last Thursday and watching "The Kite Runner"). Traces of God’s mercy on earth have been hard for me to find. Listening to the Lord’s Prayer last night at Compline, I had a hard time believing that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Sure, it’s done in heaven, while He’s up there chilling with the seraphim, but what about all of us down here? What about this deeply screwed up world? And where do I fall?

"How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, 'Violence!'
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me:
there is strife, and conflict abounds."
- Habakkuk 1:2, 3

Skipping unrelated stones:

This morning in news writing we had another journalist come to speak to us about our soon-to-be obsolete careers. Two thoughts: what this woman, an editor at The Washington Post, said about her job made me excited and tremendously eager to start my life as a reporter and then eventually follow that to grow up into a book critic. But then she said, “No one wants to read anymore. People don’t sit down and read the paper these days. Soon The Washington Post will be just a Web site.” My blood ran cold. Particularly because I realized she was right. I am going into a dying industry—the business of word-making. Paper subscriptions are dwindling, YouTube is booming. Is there no one left of our breed? Of pen and paper readers? Whom will I review books for if no one is reading books at all?

Essentially, it all boils down to these tenets:
1. I have no skills and the skills I am developing (writing, reporting) will be useless in a matter of years.
2. Americans are stupid and growing stupider by the day because they don’t read.
3. I am powerless to stop this trend.
4. (And am I grossly hypocritical for posting this on The Internets? Yes.)

And here we come to the farthest reaches of my mind today.

How long until this is true? Will it ever be true here?

Justice will dwell in the desert
And righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
The effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
In secure homes,
In undisturbed places of rest.
- Isaiah 32:16-18

08 April, 2008

for very Lunacy of Light/I had not power to tell

People have been full of grace for me this week. I am ineffably grateful.

I want to weed out all of the ugly, slanderous, cutting words from my mouth. They are poisonous weeds. I realized that the people I admire the most are the people with gracious tongues: people who are deeply honest and yet never speak ill of others. What an admirable way to be!

When the sun broke through that obdurate sky today I considered singing out loud as I walked to class.

I thought tonight, while we were mulling over a myriad of issues in Hosea 10, how the women in my small group are tremendously important to me. They remind me of simple and lovely truths. Par ex., tonight Linda reminded me that we are slaves of Christ but it is not such an unpleasant burden because He enslaved Himself to us first; and Brooke reminded me that shame and guilt are only a part of the process of repentance--not the final result. It's hard to believe we've spent almost a year together. Our time has slipped by swiftly but it has been so rich, so rewarding.

In Lit. Theory today we were talking about the problem of conveying your sublime experience with a work of literature. (See the Dickinson below.) How do you tell someone about how this string of words transformed you? A memory came quickly: deep in the sand at the edge of the beach. Hot day. I was reading The Waves and there were grains of sand in the creases of the pages. I watched Nick and Cara riding the tide; the afternoon sparkled on the sea. And it was as if everything converged: Woolf's narrative, the skipping from one thought to the next, the actual waves I heard, the perfect lightness, the steady rhythm of her prose, of the ocean itself! as if I could barely breathe, barely do anything at all. Carried away. Nick came back, salty, wet, and I could not speak to him even though I wanted to; I could not tell him what I felt. Language failed. He sat on the towel and looked at me and I looked at him and could not speak. He looked up at the sky. "I had not power to tell." It is for this inexpressible thing that I keeps me returning to literature, to Woolf, always.

I am wilting for lack of time to read the things I want to read, all of the great books I have acquired lately: the Hemingway, the Steinbeck, poetry from Wendell Berry and Robert Haas and Seamus Heaney. Finals will be here soon and then I will spend all of the time previously spent in classes reading outdoors, in the grass, under the blue sky.

Once upon a time I was a responsible, driven student...

I think I was enchanted
When first a sombre Girl—
I read that Foreign Lady—
The Dark—felt beautiful—

And whether it was noon at night—
Or only Heaven—at Noon—
For very Lunacy of Light
I had not power to tell—

The Bees—became as Butterflies—
The Butterflies—as Swans—
Approached—and spurned the narrow Grass—
And just the meanest Tunes

That Nature murmured to herself
To keep herself in Cheer—
I took for Giants—practising
Titanic Opera.

- Emily Dickinson, poem 627

Hearing: "Metal Heart," Cat Power and "Gone for Good," The Shins
Reading: my Basho script; articles and books about Asia; not the things I want to be reading
Drinking: Earl Grey tea from Alpine
Thinking: about the allure of contentment and I think I know a portion of it