Friday, July 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 38)

1. Last week was a rollercoaster, academically. I got the only A on the test in one class, and then a D on the test in my other class (and that was after a curve boosted my score). One of the pitfalls of summer school is two tests a week. As someone who has never really had to study, trying to be more studious is difficult.

2. I’ve also been trying to get some reading done. So far, I’ve started seven books and only finished one.

3. I read The Giver for the first time. All of my friends had read it at some point in elementary/middle school, so I’m not really sure how I avoided it. When I read the back cover, I realized it was dystopian, so I was optimistic, but I must say, I was disappointed with the story. It had potential but just left me blah.

4. I’m currently working on Flatland, and so far, I find it really cute. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi because I usually get lost in the techno-babble, but perhaps nineteenth century sci-fi novellas are more my style.

5. My mom made some curtains for my apartment. She also got me a small sewing machine. I’ve always wanted to be able to sew, but every time I’ve tried a sewing machine, the results have been less than decent.

6. All summer I had been commenting on how it wasn’t really that humid (for summer in Tennessee). Well, we’ve had lots of big storms in the past week. The stickiness of my skin and the epic frizziness of my hair say the humidity has arrived.

7. My weekend plans:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hunger Pains

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." -Ecclesiastes 3

When I first learned about Ramadan a few years ago, the holy month fell in November. I imagine it’s easier to be Muslim when Ramadan is in the short days of November than when it is in July with 14 hours of daylight. In any case, I’d admire the concept of Ramadan, even if I have issues with the theology. It’s kinda like Lent, only more hardcore, and you don’t get the glory of Easter after.

I admire the observation of the cosmos, following a religious lunar calendar and using sunrise and sunset to determine the perimeters of the fast. With technology it’s too easy to ignore to the calendars and clocks nature as already given us, a rhythm beyond the counting systems we’ve devised.

I admire the focus on community. Breaking the daily fast together shows that penance can be communal and the burdens of suffering lightened when shared. All in this together. Anyone can take some needed time to fast and pray when their spiritual needs demand it, but there is something about going through it as a community that has different benefits.

And of course, I admire the fasting itself, the forgoing indulgences and counting blessings. Fasting is a way to strip down, remove the distractions, and hone attention to God.

One thing I believe appears in every religion is the need of confession and purification, the desire to break bad habits and signal a fresh start. Expressed in vastly different ways, the desire is still the same. We reach out for some better version of ourselves. 

I think my admiration of Ramadan is really a twinge of jealously. Christianity has its times of penance, but so many Christians simply overlook it, thinking them unnecessary liturgies. (I’ve met many Christians who don’t even know what Advent and Lent are, much less what they mean.) They don’t know what they’re missing. And since Ramadan has started at the same time that my annual “ready for Christmas in summer” feeling as set in, I look at the Muslims celebrating their most holy month and think that Ordinary time is feeling, well, ordinary (I know it's not!). I’m ready for Advent and Lent, a time that requires an extra step, a time that says, “You can, and shall, do more.”

[P.S. I have had "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" stuck in my head all day.]

Friday, July 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 37)

1. I went in search of a particular book from a bookstore this week.

2. Two days, three bookstores, and about $20 worth of unrelated purchases later, I got the lone copy on the shelf.

3. I realized that if I had unlimited money, I’d spend so much on books.

4. I would also have to build a house with a huge library to store said books.

5. Instead, I spend rainy afternoons roaming bookstores, trying not to spend too much, but still spending more than I should.

6. I find the process of finding, purchasing, holding, and owning books almost as enjoyable as reading. Reason #1 why I don’t even consider getting a Nook or Kindle.

7. Reason #2 is that I was profoundly influenced by 1984, and I’m afraid information in digital form will be altered and by hoarding hard copies I will be able to retain the truth. I’m weird like that. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Don't Want to Know You

Let me introduce you to the two teachers I have this summer:
I already know a lot about my accounting teacher. He’s Baptist. He’s Republican. He thinks the progressive tax “punishes the rich for working hard.”  In nothing related to accounting, he challenged us to name one thing where government involvement helped, with the clear implication that we shouldn’t have an answer, so I kept “interstate system, national defense, national guard, NASA, public education, etc” to myself.

In a refreshing contrast, my economics teacher told us, “I won’t tell you what I think, even if you ask. I’m not paid to think. I’m paid to make you think.” And this was during a lecture that actually lent itself to stating opinion (distribution of wealth that best benefits society and our progressive tax). It’s not that I’m against getting to know teachers over the course of a semester, but I appreciate one that focuses the class on class material, rather than making friends with those who agree with him while alienating the rest. 

Noticing the contrast of these two just reminded me that it’s that time of the election cycle to start blocking people with political opinions on Facebook. I don’t mind the occasional political posting. Sometimes the resulting exchanges are quite good, or at least entertaining. But the hype of election year turns nice, normal acquaintances into angry, pushy, uncompromising bigots.

It comes from both sides (though amongst my Facebook friends, there does seem to be more from the conservative side): Misinformation and snarky comments that demean anyone who thinks differently. I’m pretty pro-social networking, but sometimes it’s unsettling to learn the extreme positions people have. And it’s depressing to watch people bicker, more intent on proving someone else wrong than actually defending a belief.  It seems the more posts I see from some people, the less I like them. 

Without Facebook, I’d barely know these people. They’d be someone I say hello to at church in passing, someone I might pick for a group project in class, and someone I remember from summer camp and haven’t seen since. If their names came up in conversation, I’d say I know them and have a generally positive view of them. But I’ve seen too much. I know too much about their weekend binge-drinking, revolving relationships, hatred of gays, hatred of Christians, willingness to post inflammatory things while being unwilling to listen to those who disagree. 

I’m not afraid or ashamed to discuss my religious or political beliefs. But I think those conversations have to be done in context. They are not something you throw out on the first day of class. Personal beliefs make instant friends or instant enemies. Especially during election year, everyone’s a little on edge. No need to fuel the fire. 

Generally, I believe it’s important to get to know people, learn where they are coming from. But when I see so much that I don’t like, I think differently. It’s a lot easier to love those whom you don’t know. You can pretend they are innocent and loving. It’s a lot harder to love someone once you know their prejudices. That’s the hardest part about being commanded to love: we're not commanded to just love blindly, but to know the person, and love him anyway.

Friday, July 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 36)

I actually got a lot of writing done this week, so I thought I’d promote some of my recent posts. Please read and follow!

1. I try to be patriotic during the Fourth of July, but sometimes the holiday gets me thinking about turkey, Emily Bronte, and a church in Yorkshire.

2. I’ve learned that unless I have commitments forcing me outside, I will become a hermit

3. Younger me reminded current me of the reason I started blogging in the first place.

4. Can't we be both smart enough not to fear God and faithful enough not to fear science?

5. If you don’t want my church in your state, keep your state out of my church.

6. It’s only been a year since the desire to become Catholic terrified me so much, I couldn’t even say the word. 

7. And it’s only been three months since I did become Catholic, but I already can’t imagine any other path for me.

Check out others' Quick Takes here!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why I Blog

While writing my post about Haworth, I pulled up the journal I kept for class when I studied in Manchester a couple of summers ago. I found this from July 17, 2010:

…The only time we can see reality for what it is, is when we witness it and don't label it. Standing at the edge of the ocean and inhaling its largeness, enjoying the touch of a lover's hand, seeing the smile of a child. As soon as we try to express it, however, the moment diminishes. "The ocean is expansive.” “His touch is tender.” “She had innocent eyes." Words diminish the experience and never fully encompass the moment. Silence is the only language that expresses truth. As Annandine says in the book [Under the Net], "It is in silence that the human spirit touches the divine."  And yet, language is necessary, for Tamarus says, "But life has to be lived, and to be lived it has to be understood. This process is called civilization." Man must be able to express his divine moments to other men, so language, however apart from the real experience, is needed for communication and community. Instead of humans constantly seeking a truth that doesn't exist, they merely struggle on how to relate their truths to others in order to form kinship. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by T.S. Eliot: "It's strange that words are so inadequate. Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath, so the lover must struggle for words." 

And really, that sums up this entire blog. I’m struggling for words, because my experiences with the divine are beyond words or explanation. And yet, I have to find words so that I might understand. I write, and I read other people’s writings, and I find kinship in everyone trying to put their stories into words.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Accidental Experiment on Being a Hermit

My introversion got a little out of control last week. With the exceptions of sacraments and a quick phone call with my mom, I went an entire week without conversation. I went on morning walks before the sun was up, and then stayed inside for the rest of day, interacting with nobody. Cyber communication was minimal, but face-to-face was nonexistent. And I loved it. 

I didn’t plan it that way. Simply, if left to my own devices and a week without any social commitments, I will hole up in my apartment, existing in a universe of one. Looking back, there is some guilt. I could have used the time better. I should have volunteered. I should have explored campus. I should have written more. I should have called up some friends.  And if I were going to spend a week in silence, there should have been more prayer.

I knew I liked being alone, but I didn’t realize I liked it so much at such lengths. I sort of hated having to crawl out of my hole to go to a meeting and buy groceries, even if I was glad to see that I could still function in society. 

If I were to overanalyze it, I could see that it’s not really healthy. It’s a waste of time. It’s a sign of how I like to control things. It’s a sign of my insecurities in dealing with others. But instead, I’m going to find a positive in it. It’s a sign that I’m ok on my own. It’s a sign that I can find contentment being single, and probably a sign that I’m not ready to make commitments to a romance and family, because those commitments take selflessness, and I’m just too darn selfish. Not that being selfish is good, but recognizing that about myself and knowing I’m not at a place to make selfless commitments is. 

I remember hearing that some nuns would live in tiny rooms attached to the church and spend all their time locked away praying. Is it odd that I find that more appealing than having children? I mean, I still want to be a mother, but only off in some distant-but-not-yet-infertile future after I’ve worked off some of my selfishness and need for control.

Sometimes I see my introversion as a weakness, stopping me from going out in the world and doing something, affecting people, making change happen. And I’ll feel guilty that I don’t have the drive to do so. But maybe my introversion isn’t a weakness at all. Maybe it’s just the personality I’ve been given, useful to God in its own way. He loves introverts just as much as extroverts. He hears the whispered prayers of the girl on the back pew just as loud as the boisterous preacher up front. There is a time for everything, and there is a use for my introversion. I just need to learn how to offer up my aloneness and silence to God.