Posts

Showing posts from February, 2009

Alter Ego

Image
Overheard at the NAC...
(click to enlarge)

It's interesting how carrying a stuffed toy bear around all day makes it easier to behave like a grown-up. Thanks, Bear!--RLF

Bragging Rights

Image
I want to be up there. Someday. No: I want to be up there today, not tomorrow or three years from now. I want to be one of the ones that everyone is taking pictures of and envying. I want to be wearing a medal around my neck and smiling because I know I fenced well. I want to be able to say to everyone who asks me after the tournament, "How did you do?": "I WON!"

I'd tell everybody: my coach, my friends, my mother, my husband. Wouldn't it be wonderful to make that phone call? Not the one that has to say, "I didn't make the cut. I lost my first D-E. I fenced well but I just don't seem to be able to win." But the one that says, "I'm great! I'm the best! I fenced as well as I know I can! I set up my actions correctly. I was patient and didn't rush. But I also kept the pressure on, making her disengage, finishing the attack." Oh, what power! What glory!

And all day and all the next and even into work next …

Hum for the Day

Image
Bear on her way to the NAC in Atlanta...
click to enlarge

With thanks to the Austin Lounge Lizards for the hum.

Fencers, Beware!

"Chapter XIX: Duelling is prohibited under the most severe penalties.

"The detestable custom of duelling, introduced by the contrivance of the devil, that by the bloody death of the body, he may accomplish the ruin of the soul, shall be utterly exterminated from the Christian world. Any emperor, kings, dukes, princes, marquises, counts, and temporal lords by whatsoever other name entitled, who shall grant a place within their territories for single combat between Christians, shall be thereupon excommunicated, and shall be understood to be deprived of jurisdiction and dominion over any city, castle, or place, in or at which they have permitted the duel to take place, which they hold of the church ; and if those places be held as a fief they shall forthwith escheat to their direct lords. "As to the persons who have fought, and those who are called their seconds (sponsors), they shall incur the penalty of excommunication, and the confiscation of all their property, and of p…

Seven Kinds of Perfection

"Willingly without honor,
Willingly unfeared,
Willingly alone,
Willingly quiet,
Willingly below,
Willingly high,
Willingly common to all."

--Mechthild of Magdeburg (ca. 1212-ca. 1282), Fliessende Licht der Gottheit, lib. 2, cap. 12, trans. Frank Tobin (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), p. 79.

Ash Wednesday Eve

I don't want to be like this but somehow I can't help it.

"Patience, Grasshopper. You must learn to walk the rice paper."

"But I want it now! Give it to me now!"

I've worked so hard, and yet the opening does not come.

I make it difficult for my friends because I cannot simply be happy for them when they beat me.

Is this original sin? It feels so petty, not big enough to be evil, just a three-year-old's temper tantrum.

Grow up, already!

I am but a child and cannot seem to put away childish things.

It's the same feeling of frustration that one had when one was three and one could not control things the way that one wanted.

An illusion, being an adult: that it is possible to be in control.

But I've learned to do so many things in these 41 years; how is it that it is so easy to be 3 years old again?

I want a different character, one that is happier and doesn't take things so hard.

But this is the one God gave me. Is it some kind of joke? God couldn…

Other People's Devotion*

This is one of those posts that I've been thinking about for far too long, worrying about whether I could possibly do justice to the topic and waiting until I felt rested enough to take it on. Well, I'm not rested and it's been a long day at the desktop, but this is simply too important to let go and I want to write about it while it's relatively fresh. So here goes.

If you visited my blog on Saturday, you may have been a little surprised to see a photograph of my desk, perhaps even more surprised given that I am a Christian to find an image of the Hindu god Ganesha seated happily in front of the New Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus amidst the inspirational blurts held by the silver torsos. What gives? Well, if you've read my "About Me" sidebar, you may have noticed that I mention Ganesha as one of my patrons, along with the Virgin Mary (whose statue is on the other side of the desk, towards the windows). Surely I do not pray to Ganesha, you ask. Well…

Be a Man

It's one of the catchier tunes in Disney's Mulan (1998)--

"Be a man
We must be swift as the coursing river
Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon"*

--a movie which appeals to me for what should be obvious reasons (and not just Eddie Murphy's voicing of the dragon Mushu). Isn't this what I want, as a fencing bear? To don my father's armor, save the honor of our family and my father's life, join the ranks of those who fight and save my country from invading Huns? Okay, maybe not invading Huns, but what am I doing competing as I did today against all these young men if some part of me, deep down, doesn't want to be one of them?

Or do I? I was sitting on the sidelines watching this afternoon as bout after bout in the open mixed tournament went to the guys. Mind you, there weren't that many women competing today and some of those who were directing quite pro…

Jaya Sri Ganesha Namo Namah

Image
Hold that thought....

[Translation, as given to me by Sandeep Patel: "Hail, Lord Ganesha, I worship thee."]

Artist's Credo

"It can be said that our talents are gifts from God and our use of our talents is our gift back to God. The degree of happiness we experience when working well, the sense of rightness and harmony, all argue that creativity is God's will for us. When we create, we work hand in glove with the Great Creator. Creativity is its nature and our own. We think--and manifest--from the mind of God within us.

"Artists throughout the centuries have known this and said this. They are not speaking in metaphor. Ours [Western, secularized modernity] is one of the few world cultures that does not routinely honor higher forces, and yet, working at our art, we do experience inspiration, although we may call it an intuitive hunch or leading. Something within us leads, and we follow. Painter Robert Motherwell speaks of the brushstroke taking the next brushstroke.

"All artists experience this form of leading when our ego has stepped aside and we follow our inner muse with a chil…

Empathy Fail

Earlier this evening I was going to write about how I couldn't summon the dudgeon to write the post that I've been mulling over today, but that was before my husband and I tried assembling the foil that we rewired over the weekend, only to have it fail. Now it's all I can do to keep from flinging the laptop across the room, so I guess I'm in the right mood now.

While browsing my friends' updates on Facebook yesterday, I was led by way of one link and another to a series of novels, written, you may be interested to hear, by one of my former classmates from high school. "Ah," I thought, finding her publications on Amazon, "I wonder what her books are like. She says she's interested in spiritual warfare; well, so am I! And it says that her books are thrillers and I like mysteries. Maybe a little too intense for me, if she's going into the darker side of spiritual conflict, but I'd like to have a look. Oh, good, there's a preview.&qu…

On Demand*

I've been struggling more this past week thinking of things to blog about than I ever have in the (brief!) history of this blog. It's an important discipline, writing. You have to be willing to write even when you have nothing to say or, rather, feel like you have nothing to say, like doing your scales or rolling that yoga mat out or settling in for just a few minutes to say Morning Prayer even when you don't really want to. If you're not there, nothing can happen. Nor does it help to wait for the right mood. If you wait, the mood never comes; being there even when you aren't in the mood is the trick.

But neither do I want this blog to become a stream of consciousness record of what I've been thinking. I'm not sure you're really interested nor do I think you really should be. Stream of consciousness is---as C.S. Lewis put it so well in his A Preface to Paradise Lost (at work, so I can't check the passage right now)--a fiction, an artifice havi…

Birthday Bear

Image
Age 44 and a day!*

*In human years. I'm still only 5 3/4 in fencing years.

In Praise of the Particular

On why content matters and why I am not writing a book about prayer as a "human" phenomenon, but rather as a culturally specific art. Lewis is talking here about the problem of reading Milton:

"How are these gulfs between the ages to be dealt with by the student of poetry? A method often recommended may be called the method of The Unchanging Human Heart. According to this method the things which separate one age from another are superficial. Just as, if we stripped the armour off a medieval knight or the lace off a Caroline courtier, we should find beneath them an anatomy identical with our own, so, it is held, if we strip off from Virgil his Roman imperialism, from Sidney his code of honour, from Lucretius his Epicurean philosophy, and from all who have it their religion [my emphasis--FB], we shall find the Unchanging Human Heart, and on this we are to concentrate.

"I held this theory myself for many years [me, too--FB], but I have now abandoned it. I continu…

What to Write....

when you've been writing all day and are tired? I was worried this might happen when I started working on my book. There I am, at the rock face (a.k.a. iMac) all day, chipping away at the thing that I hope is The Book and then I come home and need to think about something else to talk about, other than what I'm been writing all day. And there's nothing. Writing is so absorbing, I can't talk about anything else, can't think about anything else. It takes every scrap of concentration that I have just to find that next sentence. Not this one. Or this one. These are easy (not to mention, not all sentences). But the one that comes next after this: "Cathedrals dedicated to the Virgin were rather more open to the adoption of her hours." I don't know; that's the sentence that is going to be waiting for me tomorrow. And what will I say?

I have articles and books talking about how various centers adopted the Office, but I only know what they say p…

Dumbing Down

Today's post was going to be something clever about how in the past week or so I'd found myself the butt of an argument I hadn't encountered since high school: someone berating me for using "big words" and assuming that because I was well-educated that meant that I was incapable of communicating with those less book-learned than myself. Instead, ironically enough, I have a headache--brought on, most likely, by a weekend spent sorting books so as to clear out space on our stuffed-to-bursting bookcases at home--and am reduced to watching Gilligan's Island, now conveniently available over the Internet (ah, nostalgia for when TV was TV!). If I didn't have this headache, I'm sure I could make something of all of this. About the way in which simplicity often conceals complexity and vice versa, or about the way in which the characters on G.I. represent the Seven Deadly Sins (although nobody can really seem to agreewhich ones). Instead, I'm stuck here…

Add as Friend

I was on Facebook all morning today, looking for long-lost cousins, former students, colleagues and friends whom I hadn't been in touch with for years. It's an interesting--and absorbing--exercise. Some of my "friends" are easier to find than others; old classmates, for example. But for those who do not group so neatly by institution and year, it's challenging, a real effort of memory and associative thinking. I've known how many people in how many different contexts over the course of my life (nearly 44 years)? It's as much as I can do to recall the names of all of the students who have done senior theses with me, never mind friends whom I knew in high school. I'm just thankful some of them have thought to look for me!

I have vaguely known about Facebook for a few years now, but only joined this past summer. If anyone wanted to find me, I argued, they could just Google my homepage. But then my sister posted some photos that she wanted me to be…

Prayer of the Heart

[Revised from original post]

I'm not sure what this meter is. It's supposed to be iambic pentameters, but I'm struggling with hearing the beat: da-dum. Maybe it's dactyls. Poetry is hard!

You all know the story, how Descartes read
In Harvey of Caius that the heart pumps blood
And came to insist that that's all it does.
For ages now, we've believed this about
Our hearts, that they were just muscular pumps,
Nothing to do with our feelings or souls.
Now it turns out that patients with transplants
Tend to begin to resemble their donors
Harboring hopes, thoughts, memories and fears
Not their own, almost as if the hearts told
Them their secrets just by pumping their blood.
Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum.
Perhaps, after all, all those pictures of
Christ, baring his heart for love of the world
Are more than just metaphors. What if the
Heart really is the seat of the soul that
Bleeds when we grieve for our loved ones and
Clots when we cut ourselves off from the God
Who is L…

Open Heart

Another exercise in iambic pentameters: Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum.

My father used to say that cutting hearts
Was not an intellectual endeavor.
You'd think to hear him it was easy, standing
Wrist deep in another's blood, holding life
In his hands; nowhere near as difficult
As designing engines for his hot rod.
But then cars are just machines, instruments
Of our own making. Little wonder that
The laws of thermodynamics must apply.
With hearts, there's nothing we can do but pray
That if we break them somehow they will heal.

Groundhog Day

Image
It's sunny today, so I guess that means the groundhog is going to see its shadow and give us six more weeks of winter.* Why is it that we so often take good things as harbingers of disaster? I know I do: something goes right--I get a few pages written, I find just the right sheets for our bed, I listen to a song in the car that makes me feel happy--and I immediately start looking for the catastrophe that is sure to follow. It's as if we feel we are tempting the universe by enjoying our lives. "Oh, don't get comfortable," we hear that little voice saying: "It can't last."

But I think it's even more sinister than this. It's not just that bad times will follow good, but that we think good times invite the bad, like some reverse karma. "If I've been this lucky this far, it's sure to change. The balance must be restored." But what is this balance? Medieval Christians thought in terms of the Wheel of Fortune**: a king si…