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Showing posts from March, 2009

Slacking Off

I'm home this evening instead of at fencing practice because I can feel a cold coming on and don't want to make it worse. Should I have gone to practice anyway? I don't know. I'm fairly crabby right now (and wish a certain someone weren't looking over my shoulder as I type; and, no, he's not a cat*), so it's probably doing my clubmates a favor to keep my grouchiness at home, but one of the reasons I'm grouchy is that I haven't been to practice since Tuesday a week ago, thanks to the excitement of the medievalists' conference towards the end of last week. And yet, I know that it is foolish to push myself when I'm feeling like this--just dizzy enough not to be able to think clearly (note the syntax of this post!), plus a little itch in my chest and throat that could, if I push myself, turn into a full blown sore throat and (possibly) laryngitis. What to do?

My mother sent me a video link a few days ago that I only just watched this morning…

Preaching to the Choir

This had better be good.

As many of you know, I have spent the past three days at the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America here in Chicago (where, as of this morning, we are now under, yes, snow!). Indeed, some of you may even be reading this now only because at some point in the course of the meeting I managed to press one of my blog cards on you. What on earth was I thinking?! [Gasp] Our outgoing president Pat Geary encouraged us as scholars and medievalists not to cloister ourselves behind inaccessible speech, Latinize ourselves into irrelevance, as it were, as did (at least, in Geary's view) the late medieval scholastics. I have not yet written for TV (shades of Michael Wood and Terry Jones), but, well, here I am on the blog trying to write for a larger audience. So. Um.

I'm feeling a bit shy about this. What do I have to say (here, on my blog, or in my scholarship) that will excite even my colleagues, never mind readers who are not already caught up in th…

Ave, Maria

I can't believe that I had forgotten: today is the day of the Annunciation, the day on which God entered into the womb of the Virgin and brought the work of salvation to earth. And all I can do is sit here feeling sorry for myself that I have not yet written a book adequate to her praise. If only I could pray to her with all the devotion that she deserves, that young woman of Nazareth who surrendered herself so utterly to the power of God, welcoming Him not only into her heart, but into her very body, allowing Him to dwell within her for the full nine months of a human pregnancy. This is the mystery, the only mystery, worthy of such contemplation. How is it possible to do anything but to rejoice and wonder?

My Protestant self rebels. To worship, even revere Mary is wrong, it tells me. She was simply the vessel, not the agent of Incarnation. But would God do this to His own Mother? Rape her (as Mary Daly insisted we must read the story), impose Himself upon her without her c…

The One True God

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Counting Sheep

It was that second glass of wine that did it, I'm pretty sure. Or maybe the excitement of seeing so many of my colleagues and friends after being in hiding for these past eight or nine months. Or possibly the exercise of tidying up before and after. Or maybe again the after-effects of finishing the draft of chapter one this past Wednesday and the encroaching horror of the thought of starting on chapter two (What if I can't think of anything to say? What if I haven't read enough? What if I don't have the sources? What if...?), albeit not for a week. Be that as it may (and would I ever say "Be that as it may" without being seriously sleep-deprived?), here I am, still awake, watching for the morning.

I've done everything I could to help myself feel sleepy again: washed the dishes, surfed the Internet, read a bit more in Post Captain, fed the cat, drunk several glasses of water and tea, rearranged the furniture, fed the cat (oh, I said that). But nothin…

Cap'n's Log

An exercise in attention. In answer to the question: what's on your mind right now?

Rules: Record what you are thinking about every hour on the hour. No cheating: it really has to be what you are thinking about on the hour, not what you were thinking over the course of the hour. 150 words or fewer per entry (or thereabouts).

6 a.m. What a vivid dream! That's going to haunt me all day. I wish I could write a poem about it.

7 a.m. I wish my right hip weren't so stiff. Breathe. Has it been 2 minutes yet?

8 a.m. 'Then it is with present happiness that you are drunk. Well. Long, long may it last.' 'Ha, ha, ha! That is exactly what Parker said. "Long may it last," says he; but envious, like, you know --the grey old toad.'*

9 a.m. Is it silly to want a cover for my prayer book? Should I try to make one myself? I don't know if I like any of the ones I've seen on-line.

10:00 a.m. It's funny how there are so many books about piety and…

The Price of Prayer

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Fair to Middlin'

Mondays in Lent seem to provoke these stock-taking reflections. Last week it was fantasizing about all of the things that I wish I could change about myself. This morning, I found myself musing on how bad (or good) it would be if nothing ever changed. For example, with my fencing. I think, by now, I'm actually pretty good--pretty good, that is, not great--as witnessed by my finish in both Div II and Div III at the Atlanta NAC: spookily, indeed, near prophetically, exactly middle in both. I'm not great, but neither do I stink. This seems to be a pattern in my life.

My BMI, for instance: right at the top of what counts as "normal" for someone my age and height. Which makes me neither fat nor, frustratingly, thin (although I worry that even being here on the upper range of "normal" puts me, according to this calculator, in the 29th percentile of the population; can everyone else really be that much heavier than I am?). Or my rank: Associate Professor. …

Jump, Fools, Jump!

Our preacher Peter gave a very interesting sermon this morning. The text from was St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 1:18-25, where Paul cites Isaiah 29:14: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." "I hate being the fool," Peter opened. "I never want to be overdressed. I try never to sound pompous. I would rather be too little than 'too much.' To accomplish that, I have adopted something that I call the 'White Man Can't Jump' fool avoidance strategy."

You remember the story, right? I'm not sure I do (it's been awhile), but from what Peter said, I recall this much. Woody Harrelson's character would come to the basketball court pretending to know nothing about basketball and to do so, he dressed the fool: "random shoes, backwards baseball hat, ratty clothes. He [as Peter put it] made a calculated decision to lower expectations." This, Peter went on, …

Real Life

It's addictive, using these posts as a way to warm up for my writing each morning. I feel like I should be doing my morning pages--more private, less structured--but there is something about putting words on the page that you know others will read that makes it more vital, if nevertheless rather more constrained. If these were morning pages, I might start by writing about people with whom I am frustrated or things that I wish I could change about myself, but here, on the blog page, I am doing something different. Trying to communicate with you, my blog readers. Who are you?, I sometimes wonder. It is comforting to know (thanks to my sitemeter) that you're out there, but, no, it's not necessary that I meet all of you (although I am very grateful for all of your comments!). Reading someone else's words is at the same time a very public and a very private experience, something to be shared but also something to be cherished (or grimaced over) in solitude.

One of my f…

The Fool in Her Heart*

I am angry with God.

If He (if He is a he) exists, why doesn't He make it clearer to everyone? Okay, okay, He has: the revelation of Scripture, the beauties of Creation, the mercy He showed in becoming incarnate, the witness of the faithful, the rapture of the mystics. But, come on, we can rationalize all of these things such that they are no longer evidence. Scripture is literature, a work of the imagination, a cultural artifact, the longings of a people for meaning. Nature simply is, without need of a Creator. Who says that He became incarnate other than a few dozen lunatics of two thousand years ago? People make stuff up all the time that they would like to believe. Biopsychology can explain everything that the so-called mystics experience. And so forth.

Not that I accept these arguments. What bothers me is that they are so easy to make. "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 13:1 [14:1], 52:1 [53:1]) See? Even the psalmist knew …

Place of Work

I have no idea why it bothers me so much, but there you go, it does. I work in my office on campus. Most of my colleagues do not. Mind you, I have a fabulous office--cathedral style window, view over the Midway, comfortable furniture, all my books, a kettle for tea, artwork, toys--which, I know, is a great luxury and somewhat unusual, albeit not necessarily on our campus. But even those of my colleagues who have even more luxurious offices than I do (more space, better air conditioning, less noise from off campus) do not typically use theirs other than to hold office hours. And this bugs me. The thing is, why?

I was thinking about this yesterday when a woman from computing services came by, wanting to check the back up software on my desktop. "Oh," she exclaimed, "I didn't think you would be here. They said you were on leave." As if that meant I wouldn't need my computer. "When would be a good time to come back?," she asked. "Never,…

In memoriam

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Robert L. Fulton, M.D. (April 11, 1938-March 10, 2005)

My father was not yet 67 years old when he died. He was in the hospital, recovering from surgery from a stroke that he had had the week before. The plan was for us to go visit him the following week, once school was out. I still have on my voice mail the last message that he left: "Hi, Rachel, this is your Dad [as if I wouldn't know!]. I'm doing okay. The surgery went very well. I've still got a terrible cold [cough], but other than that it's progressing nicely. Thanks for calling." The next day, he was dead, from an embolism in his lungs. I remember my husband coming to find me and my son at fencing practice, saying, "The hospital is on the phone, they need to talk to you. Your dad has collapsed and they're not sure how much longer he will live." By the time I got to the phone, he was gone.

How many things are wrong with this picture? I wasn't there with him when he died, but …

Fantasy

One day...

I will never get angry at myself or my loved ones again.

I will never eat more than I need to satisfy my hunger.

I will practice simply in order to practice, not in order to win.

I will focus only on the good things in my life, not dwell on the things that I wish I could change.

I will pay as much attention to the people I love as to the novel I'm reading.

I will not be bothered by mess.

I will send properly handwritten thank-you cards for presents and dinner invitations.

I will visit my family more often.

I will smile at people on the street even when I'm not feeling particularly extroverted.

I will not feel jealous of colleagues who have published more than I have or who have been promoted ahead of me.

I will do my yoga every morning, not just weekdays.

I will stop worrying about the way I look.

I will become more active in my community.

I will stop wishing I had more money.

I will not panic when I have something that I want to write.

I will accept criticism gracefully.

I will nev…

TGIF

The end of an exciting week and I'm celebrating by sitting here with a cat by my side, wondering how long my foot is going to keep hurting and thinking about what to say. Should I tell you about the conversation I had this afternoon with one of my colleagues about what it is that makes fencing "physical chess" or should I share the reflection I had yesterday, driving to fencing practice and listening to a recording of Kirtan as sung by the swamis of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers? It was a beautiful day here in Chicago today, warm and sunny with only a little bit of wind, but it's cooling down this evening and looks like it's going to rain. My husband spent the last three days at a meeting in NYC and by accident the DVD of the movie that I was thinking about watching this evening is with him, still in his laptop. This would be an excellent time to write, but I am still so tired from my adventures in Atlanta, it's hard to think about anyt…

Day Four, Weapon Two*

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**Dancing Badger, Top Secret Dance Off, DQ4--Badger Dances on Top