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Showing posts from 2010

Snake Oil

I wonder if this is what Luther felt like on first making sense of Romans 1:17 and realizing that he didn't, after all, need to do any works in order to be saved.

I have spent more or less my entire adult life feeling like there was something wrong with me.  No--make that my entire conscious life. I can barely remember a time when I was not convinced that there was something that needed fixing. My weight, my appetite, my eating habits, my temper, my choice of a career. I've been melancholically counting calories since I was seven; telling myself I was a terrible person for feeling what I did since I was five; convinced that if only I could find the right piece of advice I would be able to fix everything and become a new person since I could read. Okay, at the very least since I started subscribing to Seventeen back when I was eleven or twelve.

Decades of diets and advice books later, what do I realize at long last?  I never needed any of them in the first place.   I was f…

The Great White Irony

No white person wants to be famous just among white people.

Most of the things that white people do* are only interesting to other white people.

Which means the only way that a white person can become famous is by impressing a lot of other white people.

Which no self-respecting white person would ever want.

QED, it is pointless to worry about being famous. In fact, it would be better not to be.

Whew! I'm glad that I finally understand this now. Maybe now I can get back to work, secure in the thought that practically nobody understands what I am trying to do.

And that I never really wanted to be famous in the first place.

Also that it only makes me pathetic to be hanging around wishing that I were one of the popular kids. I'd rather still be a geek.

So there.

Now all I have to do is convince myself not to worry about getting a promotion--and I'm free!

Okay, that's still a hard one. Perhaps there's something I'm still missing.

*Like liberal arts degrees. …

The Joy of Catch

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The Dragon Baby practices for the big leagues--when not distracted by squirrels.   (Sorry about the video quality, but note the great camera work by my son!*)
*Who will insist that it is mediocre, but I disagree.

“How To": A Curriculum

A short list of some of the things that I have books (and blog posts) about "how to", as well as I can remember without looking at the shelves:
Do yogaFenceWriteTeachOvercome creative blocks (lots of Julia Cameron here)Do calligraphy (the real reason I study medieval history?)KnitCookRead tarot cardsBe happyDo mehndiGardenPractice centering prayerHave great sex (!!!)Do feng shuiWrite comic booksDo chakra workLove what isEat (like a French woman, thin person, slim person)Write poetryDrawHomedecorateTrain a dogBlog (actually, no, I tore that one up)Write romance novels (just ordered)Do witchcraft (mostly from college, mostly unread; I'm not sure Terry Pratchett counts)Play chessStudy history ImproviseCompete

Root Work

Undoubtedly the best gift (okay, one of the many great gifts) that I got from my husband this Christmas is a banner of the seven chakras which I have seen every Monday for the past six or seven months at the coffee shop where he and I go after our counseling session. How did he know that that was the very thing that I most wanted this Christmas? A sign of his and my continuing commitment to work on being together, as well as a sign to me to allow myself to continue my spiritual exercises, beginning, as we must, with the ground.

I've been thinkinga lot about things that I need to do in order to help balance my muladhara chakra, wondering how I ever allowed myself to get this badly out of balance while at the same time trying to learn how to recognize the signs of further things that I need to work on with respect to my feelings of stability, grounding, prosperity, right livelihood and physical health (as per another of my "Christmas" gifts to myself, Anodea Judith and Se…

All Creatures Great and Small

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My family and I spent the greater part of Christmas day today waiting at the emergency room for the doctor to see...our cat. Who hadn't pooped in over a week and hadn't peed properly in several days. I took her to our local vet on Wednesday, and he gave her some Catlax, but still by this morning, nothing. And she wasn't eating any more. Time to take more serious measures.

Who works at the animal hospital on Christmas? I'm not sure about the nurses and techs, but the doctor whom we saw mentioned that he was Jewish.* But we were hardly the only ones there bringing animals to be cared for. There were old dogs and puppies and several cats. Nor was our cat considered to be in the most desperate straits. Part of the reason that we had to wait so long (nearly three hours) before the vet could see her was that the other cases coming in were considered more immediately serious. But when she finally was called in, this is what the vet saw:

All the poop from the past week…

The Incarnation, Chakras and God Talk

I wish that I felt comfortable writing more about God. I believe in Him (now, there's a loaded statement!), so why don't I? I've certainly read a lot about God or, rather, about what others have thought about God. And it's not like I don't have my own opinions. So why the silence? Why the fear?

Pride, I suppose. I don't want to sound simple, and yet I know I do. I'm not a theologian, I don't seem to have that calling. How could anything that I say about God hold a candle to the great meditations of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, von Balthasar--to name only a few? I am, as Hildegard herself often protested, but an unlearned woman. Who am I to try to play with the big boys deciphering the mysteries of the divine?

But nor am I, as a woman, interested in developing a peculiar "feminine" theology. In part, because I don't really think it is necessary. More important, because I think it would be wrong: God created human beings mal…

Brave New eWorld

I just discovered that Google eBooks just released* an iPad (and iPhone and iPod touch) app that allows you to read eBooks on your device. Just like Kindle books. Just like pdfs. Which means...

I can now sit at home reading Jon Mombaer's Rosetum exercitiorum spiritualium et sacrarum meditationum (Milan: H. Bordonum et P.M. Locarum, 1603) without having to go to the Newberry Library to read their (admittedly older) copy (Lyon: Scabalerius, 1510).

From which I was only able to request 30 pages in photocopy the week before last.**

And now I have the whole thing, all 784 pages (in the 1603 edition), right here on my iPad.

I am in shock. On the edge of a whole new world of scholarship. Suddenly, all of those early modern printed editions (provided the libraries of the world are willing to scan them) are available to me.

I wonder if this is how the first subscribers to Migne's Patrologia latinafelt when his presses started churning out their editions of the works of the Fathers of t…

Waiting for the Incarnation

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There are so many things that I've been thinking about and wish that I could find some way to write about, but they're all swirling around in my head in a sort of vaporous chaos, everything connecting to everything else, no place to begin. This is somewhat the state that I've been in for some time with my academic work, plagued with big ideas that seem to want to be expressed, each one a book, each one bigger than I feel like I have time in this life or even multiple lives to explore. Possibly a good thing, but frustrating nevertheless. Where do I begin?

My first impulse here is to want to make a list, but curiously I am resisting even that. What if I make the list and the ideas collapse? Worse, what if they sound silly? Or, once articulated, feel no longer worth pursuing? Perhaps I am enjoying having them floating around in my head taking no definite form, full of possibility but immune from critique. Ha. I am thinking now of what Dorothy Sayers says about the here…

Ngrammatic Exercises

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So there's this new toy out on Google that everyone's talking about that allows you to track the occurrence of words and phrases in some millions of books published over the past 508 years. Clearly, this is the engine we've been waiting for to answer the mysteries of the universe. Or, at the very least, history.

For example, I have to write a paper on spiritual exercises for a conference coming up in January and I'm wondering when "spiritual exercises" actually became popular as a way of describing methods of contemplation and/or devotion. So I searched on the phrase, and voilà:

A clear peak in the seventeenth century, just as you would expect with all those Jesuits running around, with a precipitous drop-off after 1700.

But we are going to be talking about spiritual exercises as something that concerns people now as well, not just historically. What do with do with the fact that there are so many fewer references to spiritual exercises in the modern period?…

About How I Feel About Academia Right Now

Objectivism and postpatriarchial axiomatic theory*

S. Paul Kreuzberger
Department of Future Studies, University of Massachusetts

1. Postpatriarchial axiomatic theory and Debordian image
If one examines axiomatic narrative, one is faced with a choice: either reject postpatriarchial axiomatic theory or conclude that consciousness is capable of truth, but only if culture is interchangeable with reality. Therefore, the subject is contextualised into a neocultural paradigm of concensus that includes culture as a whole. If Debordian image holds, we have to choose between structural discourse and Sartreian absurdity. Thus, Žižek uses the term ‘prepatriarchialist appropriation’ to denote the common ground between sexual identity and art. The paradigm, and some would say the economy, of postpatriarchial axiomatic theory which is a central theme of Ulysses is also evident in Finnegan's Wake, although in a more self-referential sense. But the primary theme of Finnis's[1] model of Debordian i…

Job Assessment

I hate my job. No, I don't. Well, not really. Just parts of it. Okay, big chunks of it. More than I would like.

I've been wanting to write this post for days, but I held off. Because I had work to do that I didn't want to do but that needed to be in by the deadlines.

Is it that I hate deadlines? Partly. They make me anxious because I don't want to let people down.

BTW, I figured out why I still haven't written those book reviews: the deadlines aren't really real, not in the way that deadlines for letters of reference or grades are. Nothing will happen if I don't get that book review in now or even this month. Or even this year--except that eventually I'll have to give the book back or, if I've already read it and marked it up intending to review it, pay for it (as I finally had to do with one of them just this past week).

Actually, part of me really appreciates deadlines. They help me get over the Great Hump of Fear. That anxiety that I g…

First Chakra: Body Work

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Just as last month's self-help flavor was learned optimism, so this month it looks like it is going to be chakra work. Appropriately, I kept myself up until 3am this morning denying my body the sleep that it most definitely needed and instead reading in a book that my sister recommended, Anodea Judith's Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self (revised edition, 2004).

Based on what I have read thus far, I am (as, it seems many of us in the modern world are) most definitely blocked in a number of ways in my first chakra (the red one at the bottom). According to Judith, this chakra is located at the base of the spine at the coccygeal plexus and is typically associated with our physical identity and feelings of self-preservation. When it is open, we feel ourselves grounded, comfortable in our bodies, and able to relax and be still. We trust the world to provide us with the things that we need to exist and generally feel safe and secure…

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I wonder what it would be like not to dread having your picture taken. Not to dread looking in a mirror for fear that what you saw would fail to match up to the way that you hoped you might look. Even better, to live in a world in which there were no photographs, no mirrors, so that the only way that you would know what you looked like was from the reactions of other people around you. So that you would never know whether you were ugly or beautiful as such, but only whether people were happy to see you, which they would be, because you'd be smiling at how happy you were to see them.

I have this image of myself that I carry around in my head. Well, actually two images. One is the image of myself the way that I know I would look if only I could always look my best. That is, the best that I have ever been in my life, not fat, not tired, my hair styled nicely, perhaps wearing make-up, nice clothes, definitely cool shoes. I don't know if I would need to be any other age than t…

Shaming the Drunk

Guess what? You can't. They're already there. Whatever you can come up with to say, "Look, this is why I am upset with your behavior and the way you have been interacting with me," they will be there first, telling you how they are working on things and you should stop badgering them and putting them on the spot. Even if you've known about their drinking for years, going on decades, without having said anything (although they often assume that you have because they know you know and are there to accuse you of trying to shame them before you even open your mouth). Even if you've heard from people close to them about how they've come home drunk, wrecked cars, missed appointments, gotten into fights, and have never said anything (out of cowardice, not wanting to interfere, feeling yourself part of the problem). They will be there to tell you that you are the one with the problem because "can't you see I'm busy trying to save my life and my…

Scare Quotes

You say you want me to invite you in, that you are put off by my use of the title "Our Lord" when talking about the way in which medieval Christians saw Jesus of Nazareth. But I have invited you in and you say you don't want to come. "Imagine," I asked you, "what it would be like to pray." You say, "No! I'm an atheist, I don't want to learn to pray. You need to accommodate me if you want me to listen." Then I say, "Perhaps there is something that only those who have had this experience can understand." And you say that I have shut you out.

Are you angry because I invited you in or because I have suggested that you can't know everything from your outsider's perspective? Would it have been enough to put "Our Lord" in scare quotes so that you could comfort yourself with the thought that I wasn't serious about the invitation--that it was just an academic exercise, never intended to have anything but…

Joy & the Possum

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This rather what I feel like after this afternoon's seminar. Energized and excited, but with my goal still out of reach, and frustrated because I don't know exactly why what I am trying to do is so wrong.

Life & Work

OMG, it's been a whole week since I last posted! I have no idea where the time has gone. Okay, so I've made it through, let's see, several more levels in Angry Birds. And, okay, there were those episodes of Castlethat we just had to watch (which you will too if you follow the link because it will open the trailers--oooh, Nathan Fillion!). And there have been a number of long phone calls with my family, thanks to the ongoing crisis we're in. But surely there should have been time to post something, anything, in the seven days since I last wrote.

But, no. I spent Sunday morning commenting on my students' blog posts about animals and Sunday afternoon (after church and grocery shopping) marking papers for my course in EuroCiv. Monday morning, there was the EuroCiv staff meeting to prepare for, Monday afternoon I had to take notes for Tuesday morning's class on the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu before going to a department meeting, by which time it was …

Random Thoughts About Stuff

You will have doubtless gathered from my previous post that my (extended) family is experiencing something of a crisis this season. There have been phone calls and emails and txts, but few real ideas about What Can Be Done other than to Stand By Each Other In These Difficult Times. How interestingly hard it is to be of help to one another when someone is in pain, whether from illness or emotional distress. As always, I wish I could write about what we're going through because writing always helps me make sense of things or at least put things in perspective. But when others are involved, I find I simply can't. And yet, ironically, or so it seems to me, if only I could write about it, I might be of help. More help than I could ever be just getting upset over the phone.

Some of the things that I might say, if I were asked, not necessarily to any one person, just generally. Don't be so hard on yourself, it isn't all your fault. I know it feels bad now, but what eve…