Showing posts from May, 2012

One-Talent Wonder

You all know the parable (Matthew 25:14-30).  There's this man, see, who was going on a journey, but before he left, he called three of his servants to him and entrusted them with his goods.  "And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey."  While he was away, the servant to whom he gave five talents used the money in trade and raised five more talents; and the servant to whom he gave two talents did likewise, raising two.  But the third took his one talent and buried it in the earth.  Guess who gets the kudos when the master returns?  Not the one who buried his talent to keep it safe, oh, no!  Rather, the other two who took the lord's money and made more of it.  And so the master took the one talent from the servant who buried it and gave it to the servant who had doubled his five, so that the one who had had five talents now had eleven, while the one who had…

Survival of the Fittest

I've figured out why I am so upset.  You were my friend.  I trusted you.  I believed in you.  I respected you and your work.

And then you turned away from me toward the bright lights and forgot how much I had meant to you.

Or maybe you never noticed.

But I did.

Best Therapy Session Ever

It has been almost three weeks since we last met with our marriage counselor, and I am still trying to process everything that we learned.  I've been trying to write about it off and on, but it all comes out too concentrated, not at all what I want to say.  Partly, I know, because I am reluctant to talk directly about what my husband and I have been going through with our counselor these past two years.  But also because it now seems as if everything I have ever thought about myself and my relationships with others has been blown away.  It is, indeed, a brave new world that I inhabit now.  How on earth can I tell you how I got here?

Perhaps I should just let it be stilted and awkward and (potentially) long-winded since trying to be pithy is just confusing.  Okay.  Okay, okay, okay.  I'll tell you.  Okay.   Here goes.  Okay.

So, every so often, I ask my husband to do something.  For example, just a few minutes ago, I was out on our back porch taking the garbage out and I was th…

Warning Signs

When writing: Thinking, "I need to finish this," rather than just writing for the session and then stopping.

When wondering about how much weight I have lost since I started my low-carb diet: Thinking, "I should weigh myself," rather than concentrating on how my body feels and how my clothes fit.

When someone asks me to do something I don't want to do: Thinking, "I can't say no," or that I have to pretend to want something that I don't, rather than speaking directly about what I do want.

Against Mechanicalism, or Why It Is Utterly Mistaken to Conduct Experiments to Test Whether Certain Religious, Spiritual, Aesthetic, or Pedagogical Practices "Work"

Prof. Delbanco is describing the role of grace in the process of education as it was understood by the Puritan founders of our collegiate tradition, particularly as it is (or should be) dedicated to the psychological and ethical growth of students:

"More than achieving the competence to solve problems and perform complex tasks, education means attaining and sustaining curiosity and humility.  It means growing out of an embattled sense of self into a more generous view of life as continuous self-reflection in light of new experience, including the witnessed experience of others.

"With these ends in view, Puritans spoke almost indistinguishably about teaching and preaching.  Consider John Cotton, arguably the leading minister of New England's first generation...  By his voice and arguments, but most of all by his manifest commitment to the impossible yet imperative task of aligning his own life with models of virtue that he found (mainly) in scripture, he was mentor to his…

Mary & Me

"In the house of Pilate, through the ministry of the holy angels, our Queen was placed in such a position that she could hear the disputes of the iniquitous judge with the scribes and priest concerning the innocence of Christ our Saviour, and concerning the release of Barabbas in preference to Him.  All the clamors of these human tigers she heard in silence and admirable meekness, as the living counterpart of her most holy Son.  Although she preserved the unchanging propriety and modesty of her exterior, all the malicious words of the Jews pierced her sorrowful heart like a two-edged sword.  But the voices of her unspoken sorrows resounded in the ears of the eternal Father more pleasantly and sweetly than the lamentation of the beautiful Rachel who, as Teremias says, was beweeping her children because they cannot be restored [Jeremiah 31:15].  Our most beautiful Rachel the purest Mary, sought not revenge, but pardon for her enemies, who were depriving her of the Only-begotten of …

The Interdisciplinary Illusion, or Why Our Modern Secularized Colleges Aren't Nearly as Hip (or Interdisciplinary) as They Would Like to Think

"The early American college required its students to study not only scriptural texts and commentaries, but also history and natural philosophy--a tripartite division of knowledge corresponding roughly to today's triumvirate of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.  A college aspired to be a place (in [John Henry] Newman's later formulation) where 'all branches of knowledge' are 'connected together, because the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united in itself, as being the acts and the work of the Creator.'  Its subject was nothing less, in [Jonathan] Edwards's words [Yale, class of 1720], than 'the university of things,' a phrase that preserves the root meaning of the word 'university': the gathering of all knowledge into a unified whole.†  Until the last third of the nineteenth century, this effort to grasp to grasp what Frederick Barnard (the man for whom the women's college at my [Columbia] university was n…

“Honey, I shrunk the Middle Ages!"

"An overarching conception of medieval culture has fallen into place since the late nineteenth century, which I will call the diminutive Middle Ages (DMA).  DMA is the internalized and sublimated scholarly consensus of a generation of titanic post-romantic and anti-romantic medievalist scholars, a model that has seeped into and saturated current thinking about the Middle Ages, not only in specialized scholarship.  Like embedded levels of software programs, this model sets and limits what can be thought and claimed about medieval culture, and occasionally overrides empirical observation...

"Viewed through the lens of DMA, the Middle Ages is a period of small, quaint things and people, of miniatures, humble, little, overshadowed by its big neighbors--antiquity in its past and the Renaissance in its future--a conduit between the two; full of ingenious people and little intricate objects; a curiosity cabinet full to overflowing; a treasure trove of folklore, superstition, and we…

And a great clamor went up

I have too many thoughts in my head, some of them need to come out. In the last several days, I have heard papers on magnificence and monsters, statues and stuff, teaching and the trivium, and then some, all of them now swirling around in my head in a great maelstrom of equal parts inspiration, impatience, and fury, while I wonder how on earth I will ever have time to write even a fraction of the things that I can imagine myself wanting to write, never mind say. My voice is so tired after all of the conversations that I have had when not listening to talks, I know that I have been pushing it too hard. Pushing and pushing and pushing, wanting to shout so many things that I want people to hear and having no way to magnify my voice enough to drown out the nonsense that I hear other people saying.

I don’t know which annoys me more. All the limp and ultimately self-destructive arguments about why we should teach the humanities (as if teaching the arts of expression and thought should ne…

Going Social Redux

Okay, right now I am feeling really ticked off at BlogPress. It keeps dropping my posts into the ether. It is a terrible app, don't buy it. It dropped the last post which I tried to upload because it interrupted the upload to ask for a customer rating. Well, BlogPress, you suck. Except I am still using you right now because trying to write directly into Blogger on my iPad is even harder. I suppose if you want (and, as a crappy, hyper-finicky app, can tell when people are complaining about you), you can just make this post vanish rather than posting.

But I hope that you don't. I hope that you let me share my thoughts about what it is like trying to pitch your work to editors and how scary that is. How fake it feels to be talking about books that you have thought about writing, when you know very well that ideas are a dime a dozen and why should any editor believe that what you are describing has any hope in heaven or hell of seeing the light of day as an actual manusc…

Treasure Trove

And I was worried that no one would be able to buy my book at the conference.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Location:Timber Ridge Dr,Kalamazoo Township,

Going Social

I don't, as a rule, like talking about the writing that I am doing at the moment (as if while I am standing there talking I could be doing any writing at all; who's kidding whom?). I particularly don't like talking to people about projects that are years down the road to being finished. It just feels like so much hot air. Anybody can have an idea for a book--I've had at least a solid dozen--but actually writing one, well, as Dorothy Sayers put it so well in The Mind of the Maker, there always still the pain and the suffering of becoming incarnate before the word becomes something that can act on the world. Indeed, it seems faintly heretical (in Sayers' metaphor) to suggest that there is anything like a book to be had when all I have is ideas and plans. Why waste anybody's time pretending that I have something ready for an editor to look at when I know that it is going to take years to get anything down? I would so much rather just stay quiet about my idea…

Camp Medieval

So here I am for the first time in I can't remember how many years. I think five, but it could be six. Certainly, I haven't been here since I started blogging, so at least four. It makes me feel not old exactly, but wistful. Wistful for all the times that I came here when I was a graduate student. Wistful for the excitement that I used to feel at the thought of seeing so many colleagues and friends. Of hanging out with my tribe. Of belonging.

Which, ironically, I actually do (belong, that is) in a way that I could only dream about when I was a graduate. So why do I feel so disconnected? Partly, I know, precisely because I haven't been here in so long. But I have seen many of the people here in other contexts, so it isn't as if I have been completely out of touch. Quite the reverse, in fact. And yet. There is something missing now that I had (or seemed to have) back in the day, back when the only dream I had was to become one of the professors whom I used t…

Testing, testing

This is my third go to try to post something from the 'Zoo. Perhaps it is better that the first one vanished into the 4G ether, but I would like to be able to tell you something of my adventures here in Medieval Land. Let's see if I can persuade BlogPress to post this one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Prof. Boice's Rules of the Road for Writers

1.  Pace yourself.  Work in brief, daily sessions, 10-60 minutes in length, no more than 3-4 hours a day, even when writing is your "full-time" job.

2.  Pause while writing to check for physical and emotional comfort.  Watch for signs of impatience and rushing, particularly thoughts about needing to finish in any one session.

3.  Stop when you get to the end of your daily session limit, preferably in the middle of something (a sentence, a paragraph, an argument).

4.  Spend as much time prewriting (noticing, collecting materials, taking notes, planning, outlining, making drafts)--and rewriting--as you do writing.

5.  Spend as much time socializing around writing (talking with other writers about what you are writing) as you do writing (and spend only moderate amounts of time at either).

6.  Make writing a modest, daily priority, something done routinely but not at the expense of living.  Take regular breaks and avoid working when you are tired, or in large, undisrupted blocks of t…

Teaching Tolkien

These are the comments that I have prepared for the roundtable in which I am participating at the International Medieval Congress on Friday.  Come help us talk about teaching Tolkien!

The title of the course that I teach is potentially a little misleading.  "Tolkien: Medieval and Modern" would seem to suggest that what I am concerned about is demonstrating Tolkien’s use of his medieval sources.  But although I do have students read occasional selections from the works on which Tolkien based some of his most memorable characters (Turin Turambar, Smaug), this is not really the point.  Rather, my goal is to teach students to see how Tolkien was thinking about history and story-telling as an exercise in sub-creation and, therefore, ultimately, as worship.

Two texts are critical to the argument in my course.  The first, which I have students read in class on the first day, is Mythopoeia, the poem that Tolkien wrote for C.S. Lewis in defense of mythology and his idea of sub-creati…

Newton's Third Law of Motion, For Adults

I say something.  You respond.  I wish that you had said something more, something else.   It doesn't seem like you were listening.   I feel rejected, overwhelmed.  I start falling down the rabbit hole of reaction.

"That was so cold," I say.  "Why can't you be more supportive?  Why do I have to ask for everything I need so explicitly?  Why don't you ever just know how I need you to respond?"

You say something else.  It still isn't what I wanted.  By now, I am well on my way to losing it.

"Never mind, I don't need your help anyway.  I can do it myself.  I don't need you.  I don't need anybody.  I'll do it on my own.  I know that you think I'm a burden whenever I ask for help."

Now you're getting angry, feeling attacked.  You start trying to protect yourself.  I get even more defensive, turning your anger back on myself.

"I'm a terrible person, I shouldn't need to ask for help.  I'm so weak.  I'm …

Reforming the Reformation: A Review

This is what I would have said back in January if I had had the time to finish the book then.  We're having a discussion about it here on campus this week, if you want to know more.This is what I'll be saying, more or less.

Comment on Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012).

This is an intimidating book.  It is also a book that is very difficult to summarize.  Not only does it take on the whole of European history from the high Middle Ages to the present; it also critiques the very historiography upon which our narrative of European (and, by the by, American and, indeed, world) history has tended to depend.  Name something—anything—that you know about the development of the modern world and Prof. Gregory’s book will have something to say about it—and then it will show you how everything that you have ever believed about it is wrong. 

The triumph of secular modernity, the abso…

Why paintball is not a spectator sport

Location: CPX Sports.  Occasion: Son's 16th birthday party.  Challenge: Find son.
Hint: He is in only one of the photographs.

Not to overreact or anything

...but isn't it interesting when this concept came into being?  Does this mean that prior to the mid-twentieth century, everyone's responses were appropriate to the stimulus?  Maybe if I had been born before 1965, I wouldn't have had so much trouble learning how to regulate myself.  Sorry, therapist-speak here.  This is a work in progress....

A Little Post about Feelings

When I was little, you used to tease me when I got frustrated and/or upset about something that I was trying to do.

Perhaps you thought it would make me stop crying if you embarrassed me enough, but in fact all it did was teach me that it was wrong to feel threatened or scared at the thought of trying something new.

If only you could have sat down with me and shown me how to break down the new thing into its parts.

Then it might not have been so scary.

Then I might not have been so afraid.

Then I might have believed that it was possible for me to learn to do something new.

Without all the weeping and wailing.

If only.

Mind you, I'm all grown up now.  So you can tease me all you like.  'Cause I know that the teasing says more about you--and your fears--than it ever did about me.