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11.30.2008

the first sunday of advent

'a nation' - czeslaw milosz - 1945

The purest of nations on earth when it's judged by a flash of lightning,
But thoughtless and sly in everyday toil.

Pitiless to its widows and orphans, pitiless to its old people,
Stealing a crust of bread from a child's hand.

Ready to offer their lives to draw Heaven's wrath on their foes,
Smiting their enemy with the screams of orphans and women.

Entrusting power to men with the eyes of traders in gold,
Elevating men with the conscience of brothel-keepers.

The best of its sons remain unknown,
They appear once only, to die on the barricades.

Bitter tears of that people cut a song off in the middle,
And when the song dies away, noisy voices tell jokes.

A shadow stands in a corner, pointing to his heart,
Outside a dog howls to the invisible planet.

Great nation, invincible nation, ironic nation.
They know how to distinguish truth and yet to keep silent.

They camp on marketplaces, conversing in wisecracks,
They deal in old door handles stolen from ruins.

A nation in crumpled caps, carrying all they own,
They go west and south searching for a place to live.

It has no cities, no monuments, no painting or sculpture,
Only the word passed from mouth to mouth and prophecy of poets.

A man of that nation, standing by his son's cradle,
Repeats words of hope, always, till now, in vain.





11.29.2008

reflections on a tome


Reading Les Miserables (very slowly), I am fascinated by the Bishop's encounter with the dying revolutionary in the first book. The revolutionary, named only G--, debates the justification of the French Revolution with the uncharacteristically indignant priest:

'Monsieur, forget not this; the French revolution had its reasons. Its wrath will be pardoned by the future; its result is a better world. From its most terrible blows comes a caress for the human race.... Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over, this is recognised: that the human race has been harshly treated, but that it has advanced.'

Strange words, looking back. The wrath of the revolution has never been pardoned. We have only condemned it more and more ardently as time has passed - even though we would have condemned the persistence of the monarchy just as vehemently had it not been cut short. The French revolution had its reasons; so did the gulags; so does the Sudanese government. Cruelty often has its reasons. It doesn't matter if the cat is rude; you don't go round burning its tail. It is worse by far when madness takes compassion for its mantra. How do you argue against that? I am glad it is God who must distinguish between the compassion of the individual and the terror of that individual's army - who must distinguish and then mete out justice. I am baffled by it all.

11.27.2008

last year i thought about making this and didn't. this year i really am. rock on.

this is also, as far as i can remember, my first self-referential hyperlinked blog post.

thanksgiving

thankful for the taste of coffee new each morning
and for clementines and oranges, citrus in each varied form

thankful as my sister sits upon my slumbered feet
thankful as my brother barrels through the sea to me

the clouds lumber bustling barrels across the sky
grace, expanse, and breath, and rain - stupify

(my mother used the word flummoxed in a sentence)
(and chris discusses agave nectar across the table)

big dogs and bad cats - cornucopia hats
apples for candles - bottleneck handles

blankets on my angled bed
bobbypins netting across my head

wind for weather, walls blow down
merry and honesty rebuild the town

thankful for pages for binding and books
for worlds that remind me how he looks

when he offers saving grace with his eyes
love with his smiles, patience with sighs

in this world it comes in the clouds and the rain,
the bad cats, big dogs, and citrus the same

love in measurable things, in weights and in flavors
the tangible kisses of the concrete saviour

11.25.2008

forgetfulness

I need to work on capitalizing in my blog posts. When and why this started to slip, I don't know. But I correlate the disappearance of capitalization with an increasing self-consciousness about my own words. A sort of 'please don't take this seriously or hold me accountable for my words' approach to blogging. Rather like my actual speech - when I start thinking that I'm not saying anything important or interesting, or if I think my words might be easily contested or disapproved of, I let them mumble away into silence. Let's not do that here.

I know I'm always hyperlinking over to firstthings, which is silly since anyone actually interested in their articles would just read them regularly all by themselves. But yesterday, Reno was discussing this British band Show of Hands and he said something that seemed to clarify what I was frustrated about in previous post. (Removing random articles is not the same as uncapitalizing. It's more cute than careless. At least, that's my contention.)

He writes this about the direction of their lyrics: 'The minor premise is implied: England now encourages cultural forgetfulness rather than memory.' And that's just what irks me about our time. Intentional forgetfulness. We look back at the past and see only the mistakes of our parents and ancestors and nations and churches. And we condemn the whole of history for what we perceive as unredeemable error - then have the audacity to assume we can do better! Audacity is just another way of saying 'boldfaced arrogance' and there's nothing hopeful in it. I've never once seen arrogance produce anything beautiful or true. Arrogance and ignorance about the past has, as far as I can see, never produced any kind of wisdom.

It is another symptom (or is it the cause?) of our youth-centered society. We think of old age as a shame rather than a glory, and old age gets younger every year! despite our desperate attempts to cheat death with more and more years. This seems directly related to our contempt for our grandparents' ethics, our great-grandparents' traditions, our great-great-grandparents' faith. Nothing old can stay. We have forgotten that the test of time is the most reliable of all filters - because we are impatient - because it is an old test - because we are audacious. and foolish.

11.24.2008

i figure, if i don't check this for several months, i can spend a nice chunk of time reading nothing but its sweet, cynical pages without the inconvenience of realizing 'i read this already. why doesn't he post more? grr...' yes, 'grr' can be a realization, too. anyway, i am interested in the bit about white people in harlem objecting to the churches. the anti-religious tendencies of our po-po-mo america (that should be a new word. popomo. 'we get there fast and then we take it slow...' ahem... anyway) are really getting to me. i'm not offended or surprised. it just seems like someone, somewhere would recognize that it's just not very smart. maybe it's because my faith has always been so deeply entrenched in the process of enlightenment (not the 18th century kind), transcendence, exploration, mystery and revelation, inquiry, discovery, translation. there's nothing impulsive about it, nothing irrational - though much beyond explanation - and there's so much that's irrational about this present season. more than irrational. mob-driven, frenzied, hateful. it seems stupid to me. and i hesitate to call important things stupid. my cat or a song might be stupid, but a social emergence? a cultural movement? not usually. there's just so little actual consideration and conversation going on here and so much mania.

speaking of mania, i spent the afternoon watching this, and i must apologize for previous post suggesting there could be some casting improvement. thank you, deb, jen, and mary. i am humbled. i also wish that rob pattinson was not famous. for his own sake as well as for mine. i wish he was a tweed-wearing theatre kid at some dinky college somewhere being brilliant and making fork towers in the dining hall. i would want to be his friend. we would joke about being famous someday and be relieved when fame didn't find us. such is not life.

11.21.2008

'Have no fear of robbers or murderers. Such dangers are without, and are but petty. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. What matters it what threatens our heads or our purses. Let us think only of what threatens our souls.'

- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

11.18.2008

better edwards

To begin with, I should clarify that I rather like Rob Pattinson. He seems like a good actor - from the little one can tell in Harry Potter - and I cringe inwardly at the simultaneous fandom and hatedom he receives from Twilight. There are two camps, and people tend to shift back and forth between them. The first is relatively predictable: he's the newest hottie, and everyone wants a poster of him on their bedroom wall (their are thousands available in various newspapers and magazines distributed over the course of the last week, so this is easy to accomplish). Cringe. The second is like it: he is NOT hot, not like Edward, not in the least, what are they thinking, he looks creepy not dangerous, he's supposed to be like a god, what are they thinking. Cringe. Poor fellow.

Here are some alternative casting options. Too late, I know, but we all love airing our opinions regardless (and be sure to check out the photos before you assume):

Jensen Ackles

Ben Barnes

Lee Pace

11.17.2008

i really need to stop posting other people's posts of other people's posts, but in this case, i just can't help it. i laughed.

11.10.2008

I-1000

Think of it as a symptom rather than a cause. The euthanasia movement reflects a profound nihilism that has been spreading like a cancer throughout the West for the past hundred years.
The extent of our societal illness was described succinctly several years ago by the Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne. Writing in the wake of widespread public support for Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan farmer who murdered his twelve-year-old daughter Tracy because she was disabled by cerebral palsy, Coyne wrote: “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.”

-Wesley Smith, First Things

11.09.2008

i let other people do my thinking

studying marxist literary theory in a classroom in scotland has little to do with understanding the workings of a socialist society, especially one that exists solely in the minds of the riled and disgruntled masses who have been raised so closely to the fat and mead of capitalism that they cannot tell where the good and the bad really come from. (long sentence with hazy meaning, i know.) so i like it when other people talk about it realistically and thoughtfully. it's refreshing.
to whom it concerns,

i'm so small and square and awkward
i have never once considered telling you what i think
or h0w i feel
in my mind there is no room for wondering
over your response
what is worse
i know you'll never read this
even though every post
is a post-it sized hope
for your distant attention.

remember the dream
with you at the top of the stairs
or the one where you dove
and washed me over with the wave
of your weight against the water?

please note, this is no poem
but prose with a twitching return
my insecurities.

i wonder what i would write
without wishing you for my reader
knowing i would never
dare to ask for your attention
let alone affection.

my imagination
is just not that elaborate.

11.04.2008

the crazies are slowly starting to sound more credible to my tired ears.

home in the heather: a song, set in scotland

i've wandered and wandered far over the bens
and wandered still further through cavernous glens
because i was told with enough fortitude
that you would find me
or i might find you.
but i've waded through rivers and drunk from the ponds,
i've hunted with wolves and i've sifted through loam
for my food and my bed -
and then came the rain, that soaked me right through
till the sun blazed again.
once my skin shone as pale as a moon or a rose -
now i'm burnt to the marrow, i am red to the bone.
and all for a promise i could not achieve,
you'd no power to keep, they'd no right to give.
these twenty-five years of growing steadily wild,
i know i should've spent some as a child,
but i had no borders, no frame to stand in -
no walls to define - no skin determined.
now i hide and i hedge. i shift and i skulk.
when hungry, i forage. when tired, i drop
right where i am.

take this heather off,
this heather off of my lap.
i'm tired of trying to find a softer way through the wilderness.
take this heather off,
this heather off of my lap.
i'm tired of trying to find a softer way through the wilderness.
oh, all of my loneliness is just waiting for you.
all of my waiting's merely loneliness
without you.
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