25 November, 2009


“The whole trouble is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Inanimate objects may be dealt with without love: we may fell trees, bake bricks, hammer iron without love. But human beings cannot be handled without love, any more than bees can be handled without care. That is the nature of bees. If you handle bees carelessly you will harm the bees and yourself as well. And so it is with people. And it cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life. It is true that a man cannot force himself to love in the way he can force himself to work, but it does not follow from this that men may be treated without love, especially if something is required from them. If you feel no love—leave people alone,” thought Nekhlyudov, addressing himself.

-- Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy

21 November, 2009

drive-by evangelism

I read the story of Pentecost this morning and my mind hinged on this: "We hear them telling in our tongues the mighty works of God!" I began to wonder what it would look like for me to learn how to do that--to speak others' languages, to talk to them in a way that actually meant something to them as people. The gospel was suddenly personal and accessible.

Verses like this just further reinforce my dislike of drive-by evangelism. I was the target of one such effort a few weeks ago. A middle-aged man came up to me and asked me if I could fill out a survey for him. I knew exactly what he was doing. I said I would and looked over a check-list that asked me for my name, e-mail, address, and phone number (none of which I gave), and then proceeded with a litany of questions that included "Who is Jesus?", "What are your psychological problems?" (really!) and "Do you go to church and if so, why not?" After I finished checking the boxes, the man asked me if I was a Christian. I told him that I was, and he proceeded to ask me if I "evangelized people regularly." I asked him to define it. He seemed taken off-guard. "Well... it's telling people about Jesus." I said that I did, but then qualified my statement by saying--perhaps too quickly--that I felt that evangelism required real relationships and investment of time.

I told him that I had to go (which I did), but left feeling disproportionately angry. I know he was just out there doing what he thought was right, but I had a hard time imagining anyone coming to know the grace and mercy of Christ through filling out a survey from a random man who accosted you in the middle of the quad. Or, like the poor freshman Emily and I saw a few weeks ago, who was double-teamed by two men and interrogated about why he was Hindi and why that was wrong.

The gospel takes more time than that; the gospel takes more effort than that. It's not enough just to pass out a survey and feel like you fulfilled your evangelism quota for a week. It's not enough to shout at students about damnation and masturbation from the Pit. It's relationships. It's getting to know someone beyond their label as a "convert" or a project. True evangelism is what Jesus modeled and the disciples propagated: it's Tyler Jones moving his family into a lower-class district of Raleigh and caring for his neighbors. It's Betsey asking the socially inept girl from class out to dinner every Tuesday. It's Alex and Emily giving up their Friday nights every week to pick up food donations for St. Joseph's. It's seeking out the unlovable, the ignored, the needy.

"It is like the surfacing of an impulse, like the materialization of fish, this rising, this coming to a head, like the ripening of nutmeats still in their husks, ready to split open like buckeyes in a field, shining with newness. “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” The fleeing shreds I see, the back parts, are a gift, an abundance. When Moses came down from the clift in Mount Sinai, the people were afraid of him: the very skin on his face shone." -- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

On a different note, Guion is here this weekend and that means happiness, particularly now that I've finished drawing 50 costumes for an imaginary production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." I do not want to grow up and be a costume designer.

15 November, 2009

paper dinosaurs

For some reason, this little fleet makes me think of dinosaurs.

After a week of rain and misery, the golden sun finally came out to remind us that there may be no place on earth as beautiful as Chapel Hill in the fall.

To my surprise and delight, my orchid has produced one budding stem. No flowers yet--and none, I expect, for a month--but there are signs of life!

I need to read more. I need to. My dire lack of free time during the week has made me a very poor reader this semester; it's taking me forever to finish Resurrection, even though it's very good and deeply enjoyable. I'm hoping to read Absalom, Absalom! next, and then a non-fiction book--either Self-Made Man or In Our Time: A Memoir of the Revolution. Dillard compels me to read more non-fiction.

There is likely a connection between the historical stifling of women's creativity and men's violence against women.

Guion and I sat on the front porch after church and lunch and read from the Psalms, Proverbs and Ephesians. We're trying to catch up after a long spell of spiritual laziness and I can't tell you how light it makes my heart, to return to this place of belief with someone. I need to be reconciled to God and to make much of him. I need to remember that there are no minor characters, as Woolf has taught me, and that everyone is an image bearer. I need to stop saying catty things with my housemates. I need to return to the basic truth of the Gospel. That's all, really.

10 November, 2009

coming back

West End Bakery in Asheville. The three of us did our respective creative work here.
Essentially, it comes down to this: Asheville was hard to leave. Rachel was a fabulous hostess. Downtown Asheville is incredibly charming and independent. "Wives and Daughters" was fulfilling in every way that a five-hour BBC epic ought to be fulfilling. Cider has bizarre compulsions. Emily and I conquered most of our costume design work. We talked of many things and pretended to be lovers, although I guess we really didn't have to do much pretending. It was just the perfect escape and exactly what I needed. Thanks again, Rachel; you're superb. (And yes, you should go back and get those round glasses in red. It would behoove you to do so. And then go write around town in your fingerless gloves.)
I think the Shoebox is about to be blown over by these torrential winds and rains. The spiders are taking refuge with us. (I killed one this morning that was literally the circumference of a quarter. I considered how Annie Dillard would be ashamed of me, and then I smashed it with the toe of my tennis shoe.) Going to class in the rain is such a miserable business.
Caroline played the role of the Heroic Roommate today by helping me jump the Papa John in the cold rain. It's not working again and that's a pain.
It is perhaps an unacceptably plain-faced statement for a blog, but my heart is very full of love for Guion.

04 November, 2009


I'm off to Asheville this weekend with Emily! We're going to go stay with Rachel and Cider and read and paint and hike and snuggle in blankets and drink tea and watch BBC films. I'm thrilled.

Also, tonight I am full of NERVOUS ENERGY about the FUTURE.

01 November, 2009

women and spatial privacy

This afternoon, I read some criticism on "A Room of One's Own" while sitting in a room of my own. It's like I'm trying to actually live out my thesis. And everything was making rapid connections and I began to consider a few things, which I will meagerly parse out here before Guion and I go on a double date with Kemp and Rose.

- As I have mentioned before, having this little closet to myself lets me also have my sanity. Without it--a place entirely my own, with a door and a little desk and a hibernating orchid--I would not be able to think, recharge, recuperate. It is essential to me.

- As Woolf mentions frequently, both in "AROO" and her autobiographical essays, women have historically never had a space to call their own. The places that women could inhabit--the kitchen, the drawing room, the living room--were all open, permeable areas. They could be interrupted at any time and were at everyone's disposal--particularly men's. To escape, therefore, women developed the ability to retreat into their minds to experience some sense of privacy. I remember my mother doing this at the table when we ate (something I've written about before); she'd space out in the middle of her sandwich and we'd jolt her back into reality with a barrage of demands.

- But escaping mentally is not true privacy. Actual space is necessary for a person to actually think, to recover, to create. Traditionally, it is not acceptable to let a woman have a space of her own. Men have had their studies and their separate dominions, where they may think and work and write, but such was not the case for women. As the modernists began to insist on a new conception of the domestic, however, women began to demand that they too had a right to privacy.

- What amazed me, however, as I considered all of these things, was how little has actually changed since 1929. I thought of my mother. She never had a room to call her own. She was with us every minute. My father, on the other hand, had a study with French doors that locked and his workspace in the garage. He also had an assortment of hobbies (every imaginable sport, piano, guitar, fishing, model airplanes, carpentry), while my mother had none. We were her hobby. As not only our mother, but our teacher and a businesswoman as well, she literally did not have time for anything else. I'd never thought of this before and I marveled at how she maintained her sanity.

- So it remains that, in 2009, men get to have their hobbies and their rooms. Women, perhaps stay-at-home moms most of all, still don't get that luxury. Why?

- I began to think of other wives and mothers in my life and whether they were allowed to experience any form of privacy. My grandmother had a sewing closet upstairs that she used. I don't know how often she was able to escape there, but at least she had a very small space. I think of Mrs. Steddum, who only recently acquired a room of her own. After years of raising children, she decided to go to law school and has commandeered Catherine's old room as her own. It is very welcoming and clean and inviting. She has a handwritten sign on the often-closed door that reads "Falls Lake Center for Social Justice." She was delighted to show it to us, her little sanctuary.

- The denial of a space to which one can retreat indicates a lack of value for that person's individuality and capacity for expression and creation. It insists that a woman be constantly available, usable to others.

- Can you be a stay-at-home mother, especially one with young children, and experience spatial privacy?

- The older I get, the more I read and think, the more respect I have for women.

"Women never have an half-hour in all their lives (excepting before or after anybody is up in the house) that they can call their own, without fear of offending or of hurting someone." (Florence Nightingale, "Cassandra")