April 17, 2014

“Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.”

-Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Mary Shelley herself lived a deeply tragic life, which many people feel led to the very bitter and brutal writing of Frankenstein.  Her mother died when she was very young.  Her husband drowned in a shipwreck and only 1 of her 4 children survived into adulthood.  Although the death of her children and husband hadn’t occurred yet at the time she was writing the novel, I think knowing the tragedy she went through herself gives real depth and meaning to her words.  

April 11, 2014

Words are not (except in their own little corner) facts or things; we need therefore to prise them off the world, to hold them apart from and against it, so that we can realize their inadequacies and arbitrariness, and can re-look at the world without blinkers.”

-J.L. Austin

J.L. Austin was a British professor who dedicated much of his academic career solely to the study of words, how they work, and how we use them, which makes him awesome.  He developed the idea of “speech acts.”  A speech act explores the concept that words are not always just things we use to describe reality; the words can create the reality itself.  He gives the example of times that words speak things into existence.  To say “I promise” creates a commitment that did not exist until those specific words were spoken.  To say “I do” creates a marriage relationship; the marriage is not complete without those verbal words.  Much of his research is based on this idea that words can perform acts on reality based on how we use them, which is an incredibly important thought when we think about our own writing.  The words we choose matter.     

March 31, 2014

I Am Not Yours

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love — put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

-Sara Teasdale

March 28, 2014

I Taught Myself to Live Simply

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life’s decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

-Anna Akhmatova

One of the really smart people I know often says, “The secret to happiness is to learn to live large on a small stage.”  Akhmatova’s poem captures that just perfectly.  Long wandery evenings and fluffy cats are where the good things of life are.  

A really interesting piece of info about this poem is that Akhmatova lived a life of extreme persecution in Stalinist Russia.  Her work was regularly censored by the Russian authorities.  Her first husband was executed by Soviet officials and her son and second husband spent many years imprisoned.  Anna Akhmatova made the conscious decision not to leave Russia, but to stay and write as a witness to the happenings in her time. For a woman fighting to make her voice heard and repeatedly meeting with repression, that she was able to learn to live fully and simply is an incredible thing.  The fact that she chose to capture it in a poem that is able to outlive her and the repressive government under which she lived is beautiful

March 25, 2014

"To subvert is not the aim of literature; its value lies in discovering and revealing what is rarely known, little known, thought to be known but in fact not very well known of the truth of the human world. It would seem that truth is the unassailable and most basic quality of literature."

-Gao Xingjian

Gao Xingjian said this line during a 2000 Nobel Lecture.  He is the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I love how he stresses that the value of literature lies in uncovering the often overlooked.  This is Xingjian’s way of explaining his own search for the right words.

March 23, 2014

It’s been the kind of week or two that you need a week or two to recover from.  Thus the lapse in anything other than strictly necessary activities…

Luckily our church’s recent women’s retreat, aside from reminding me of how exhausting women’s retreats can be, also reminded me of how much I love A.W. Tozer.  So here I have his Rules for Self-Discovery:

“Rules for Self Discovery:
1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most;
3. How we use our money;
4. What we do with our leisure time;
5. The company we enjoy;
6. Who and what we admire;
7. What we laugh at.” 

-A.W. Tozer

I think we would all do ourselves a world of good if we re-evaluated this list every once in a not-so-great while :)

March 12, 2014

“What had the man had, to make him by the loss of it so bleed and yet live? Something—and this reached him with a pang—that he, John Marcher, hadn’t; the proof of which was precisely John Marcher’s arid end.  No passion had ever touched him, for this was what passion meant; he had survived and maundered and pined, but where had been his deep ravage?… The escape would have been to love her; then, then he would have lived. ”

-Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle

March 9, 2014

“Very slowly, he turned a full circle, taking in the nothingness of it all. It seemed his lungs could never be large enough to breathe in this much air, his eyes could never see this much space, nor could he near the full extent of the rolling, roaring ocean. For the briefest moment, he had no edges.”

-M.L. Stedman,  Light Between Oceans

March 7, 2014

So long since my last entry!

I love C.S. Lewis, but I was recently surprised at my lack of fangirl excesses in that I did not even know that he wrote poetry!  Shock and awe; he does!  And it is predictably amazing.

After Prayers, Lie Cold

Arise my body, my small body, we have striven 
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven. 
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go, 
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow, 
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light, 
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night, 
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup 
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up, 
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness 
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness. 
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent 
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element. 
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death; 
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.

-C.S. Lewis

This so eerily captures the post-late-night-prayer catharsis that comes with embracing our own humanity in the face of God’s forgiveness.