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Showing posts from September, 2012

Absence of Presence or Presence of Absence?

I've just spent the weekend on retreat with twenty or so women from my church (a.k.a. "St. Paul and the Redeemers," as the retreat center signs identified us).  I wish that I could gush about what a moving experience it was for me, but truth be told, I don't feel "moved," just calm (as well as tired!).  It may be in part that I managed to volunteer myself to lead one of our discussions (on "decluttering," no less; our theme was "abundance"), so more or less by default I was less likely to be surprised by what we talked about as such.  But I am not sure that this is the most important lesson here.

I could have been "moved" by having to lead the discussion and, this time a year ago, most likely would have been.  But in a bad way: moved to anxiety about whether what I said was important, or stirring, or challenging enough.  Moved by my ego to worry about the impression I made.  And yet, while I do have some regrets about how I han…

Autumnal Abundance

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The Holy Couple in the Mind of God

"In the eighth chapter of the Proverbs, Wisdom says of Itself, that It was present in the Creation, ordering all things conjointly with the Almighty (Prov. 8, 30).  And I said above that this Wisdom is the incarnate Word, who with his most holy Mother was present, in spirit, when God resolved upon the creation of the whole world; for in that instant the Son was not only coexistent in divine essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but also the human nature, which He was to assume, was foreseen and conceived as the prototype of all works in the divine mind of the Father.  Conjointly with Him was also foreseen as present the human nature of his most holy Mother, who was to conceive Him in her most pure womb.  In these two Persons were foreseen all his works, so that on account of Them (speaking in a human way) He overlooked all that could offend Him in the conduct of the men and angels that were to fall; for the conduct of the latter was an inducement rather to desist from the …

Progress Report

I had a bit of a glitch in my BDS* towards the end of last week when my new laptop came in and it took the College IT guys a good two days to get all of my old data and settings transferred.**  But I got back to my practice on Monday and have been making good progress this week on the cover letter for my proposal.  Excellent progress, in fact.  I have a good 2000 words on top of the 3000 or so words of notes that I took last week.  In real terms, I am romping along.  So why am I still feeling like I am not getting anything done?

Patience, patience, I know.  But it's hard.  Why?  After all, I'm writing.  A good 500 or so words a day, which in academic prose is pretty amazing.  It's as much as I was ever able to write on my old schedule of "working" from 9am to 5 or 6pm every day (if I was in fact working that whole time, which I now very much doubt).  But now I finish around early to mid-afternoon (depending on how long of a break I take between sessions to walk t…

How to Begin, Step One: Finish Something

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My first knitting project since the year my son was born, finished last night while watching vintage episodes of Miami Vice.*  Okay, so it's a scarf, the needles are huge, and I haven't blocked it yet.  But it's off the needles and that's something, particularly given that I started it over a year ago.  (And, no, it didn't take me that long to make; I knitted most of it in the past week or so.)

*Which, given that I did not have a television for most of the 1980s, were entirely new to me.  To think that they were considered gritty in their day!  Television has definitely changed since.**

**Mostly for the better, but it's fun seeing so many greats (Bruce Willis, Ed O'Neill, Edward James Olmos) early in their careers, before anybody had actually learned to act.

Ecclesiastes 12:12

"The passion for reading which many pride themselves on as a precious intellectual quality, is in reality a defect; it differs in no wise from the other passions that monopolize the soul, keep it in a state of disturbance, set up in it uncertain currents and cross-currents, and exhaust its powers.

"We must read intelligently, not passionately.  We must go to books as a housekeeper goes to market when she has settled her menus for the day according to the laws of hygiene and wise spending.  The mind of the housekeeper at the market is not the mind she will have in the evening at the cinema.  She is not now thinking of enjoyment and dazzled wonderment, but of running her house and seeing to its well-being.

"The mind is dulled, not fed, by inordinate reading, it is made gradually incapable of reflection and concentration, and therefore of production; it grows inwardly extroverted, if one can so express oneself, becomes the slave of its mental images, of the ebb and flow of…

A Father's Dream

Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100 per cent of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.  Assuming that development and the achievement of a high per capita income is a benefit to society as a whole I do not see why the government cannot tax those who have more and syphon some of these revenues into savings which can be utilized in investment for future development, thereby reducing our reliance on foreign aid.

--Barak H. Obama, "Problems Facing Our Socialism: Another Critique of Sessional Paper No. 10," East Africa Journal 2 (July 1965): 31.Call me naïve, but I fail to understand how if the government took all of my income in taxes it would be able to provide "benefits...commensurate with [my] income which is taxed" and still have anything left over to "syphon...into savings" to be spent on something (or someone) else.  Surely if the government g…

Introducing the Book Book

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How's that for not being able to judge a book by its cover?  Is that beautiful, or what?!  (Go on, you know you want one, too.*)

*And, yes, you do.  Twelve South really knows how to accessorize a Mac.  Just saying.

Mrs. the Lord Jesus Christ, a.k.a. Mary, the Virgin Mother of the Lord

Because truth is always (and I do mean always) stranger than fiction...
The Apocrypha about the assumption is omitted for the sake of brevity

Art teaches us to summarize in an order opposite to the treatises
of the prophets: thus my pen narrates great things briefly:
when Christ ascended with a company of cloud, he alone
was the virgin lover and guardian of the Virgin.
When it pleased the bridegroom to assume the bride from the world,
as I believe, he raised his temple to the stars:
the temple of purity, the bedchamber of divinity, the court
of honor he enriches with the honor of the celestial home.
While it is foolish to define rashly and pious
to believe, that she reigns intact I however believe:
Enoch and Elijah were taken from Earth into the joys
of Paradise and the delights of God;
because heavy sin did not weigh them down, as it pleased
the author himself, holy life is lifted up into the air.
Who would deny therefore that the wholly pure mother
and bride of God not be assumed, w…

Progress Report

So it's been about a week since I started working on the proposal for my translation.  As per Prof. Boice's advice, I have been working in brief, regular sessions of forty-five minutes at a time, cumulatively no more than three or four hours a day.  I spent the first several days reading over the only other major study of the text that has been written in English (the other is in Italian; I haven't tackled that one yet) and taking notes about what I might want to say.  I started "writing" yesterday; rather, putting my notes into outline form.  By the end of the second day (i.e. today), I had a draft of some 2000 words, in part still notes, but at times already shaping itself into something approximating prose.  I can't quite say how long it will take to turn the outline into text, but curiously, I am not worried about it.  The ideas are there; I am making good progress taking notes from the scholarly literature and working them into my argument; and I can alr…

Warning Signs

"Hypomania provides an ideal ground for testing prevention and moderation.  But hypomania has garnered only a small, scattered literature related to writing.  Where we had hoped to find treatments, we uncovered little more than explanations.  Even these, however, prove fascinating.

"The bulk of writing in this area comes from romantics who see the mania of manic-depressive illness as the fount of creative genius.  Somehow, these accounts proclaim, the most original artists and writers are visited by sporadic states of creative madness, almost as if by Muses.  Well-publicized fund raisers are held with the naive goal of honoring manic-depressives, much as though preserving an endangered species; well-known inquiries into mania repeat the misinformed worry that its cure might drain our society of creativity.  What the romantics miss seeing, though, is the real horror of mania as a chaotic, delusional, terrifying condition.  Truly manic states do not permit coherent writing.  I…

Time to Stop

"Time management, done well, means allotting no more than the necessary time to any one task per day (even reading this book) and then, while still energetic, stopping and moving on to other important activities including rest.  In the case of writing, limiting ourselves to brief, daily sessions of, say, no more than thirty or sixty minutes (or to three or four hours maximum for professional writers) means that writing cannot interfere with more important responsibilities such as social life and exercising....

"1.  Timely stopping keeps us from staying with a project too long, until it takes on fatigue and the excesses of hypomania including rushed and nonreflective thinking.

"2.  Timely stopping permits us to move on to other planned tasks and, so, reduces feelings of busyness and overscheduling.

"3.  Stopping on schedule, compared to persisting in binges, produces far more quality and quantity of writing in the long run.

"4.  The habit of timely stopping, ag…

Horse Sense

"Learning to stop is an ultimate exercise in patience; the urge to continue includes a big component of impatience about not being finished, about not being productive enough, about never again finding such an ideal time for writing.  Stopping is also an exercise in building confidence and trust; without establishing enough self-esteem to stop midstream we deprive ourselves of chances to find confidence and control.  And, finally, learning to stop is a fundamental exercise in time management.  The most difficult but fundamental lesson about time use is learning that important tasks (especially those we tend to delay) can be carried out most efficiently in brief, regular periods."

--Robert Boice, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994), p. 33.

Wild Horses

This is the hardest lesson I have ever had to learn: trust that working in brief, daily sessions will mean more pages written, more manuscripts accepted and published, than working in great binges, hours and hours at a time, ever could.  It is like trying to drive a chariot, keeping control of the horses, who all the time want nothing more than to be given their heads to run and run and run until they drop with exhaustion and die.*

Let's name the horses: Impatience.  Intolerance.  Perfectionism.  Pride.  
Impatience wants everything to be done now; she is fixated on closure.  She hates taking the time to settle into a project, wants to see the book on the shelf before she has even started writing.  She is convinced that she needs to work as fast as possible just to keep up with everyone else, but of course what she really wants is to be ahead and finished, not running in the race at all.  Intolerance hates feeling unsure of herself.  She gets anxious when she doesn't have all o…

Haiku for the Day

A badger's challenge
Work within gentle limits
Poetry for bears.

The Magic of Decluttering

"My advice is: Clear Your Desk!...  A clear desk means a clear mind, and a clear mind has vision and perspective.  If you are bogged down in paperwork, that's exactly where you'll stay.

"Working with a clear desk increases productivity, creativity and job satisfaction.  An excellent habit to acquire is always leave your desk clear whenever you finish.  It is psychologically far more uplifting to start with a clear desk rather than with mounds of paperwork, which make you feel defeated before you even begin.

"So begin now by removing from your desk absolutely all paperwork that is pending your attention and all objects that are not absolutely vital.  I'm talking here about leaving only real essentials, such as a computer, telephone, pen and notebook.  Keep other extraneous equipment such as staplers, pots of pens, paper clips, fluffy toys, bags of munchies, and so on, on a nearby shelf or in your desk drawer."

--Karen Kingston, Clear Your Clutter with Fe…

Splendor elephantis

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Vote Mitt

There, I said it.  Let the ridicule (alarm, horror) begin.

Saved by the Bell

It is time.  The book reviews are done.  The office is decluttered.  The books are reorganized.  The files are in folders.  It is time to start writing again.

And I'm terrified.   Yes, of all of the usual things: not having anything to say, not having enough time to say what little I might have to say.  But thanks to Prof. Boice, I now understand that these are not the real causes of my writing block.  (Read, anxiety.)

Rather, I have plenty of time.  And I will have plenty to say.  If only I don't try to push it.  If only I can learn how not to write.  More particularly, how to stop writing at the end of the day.  "But you've had writer's block," you might be thinking.  "Surely stopping is the last thing you should be worried about."

Ah.  Well.  In fact, no.  Stopping is the first step towards writing with comfort and fluency, because stopping means no longer bingeing.  No longer giving in to the hypomania of writing to the point of exhaustion in th…

T.G.I.S.

Thank God it's September!  Because I really, really hate August.   I don't know why, but somehow August always makes me crazy.  Perhaps it's the promise, perpetually unfulfilled, of vacation, of having all of the time that you need to get everything done that you put off during the school year.  Perhaps it's simply the lack of external structure, leaving you free to become obsessed (read, binge).  Perhaps it's just the heat.  What I do know is that this year at least, it left me paralyzed. 

Not--let me hasten to add--that I have been doing nothing but sitting on the couch these past four and a half weeks.  Just look at the list of books I've been reading (although, to be fair, at least half of those were July's; okay, and I sat on the couch to read them, but still, it's a lot of books!).  Not to mention my Writing Time: see, at the bottom, how I finished my translation!  (Well, the revised draft.  It still needs polishing.)  And I finished three book re…

Summer Reading

Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Doubleday, 2007).

Michelle Karnes, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Dennis Prager, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (New York: Harper Collins, 2012).

Michael Coren, Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2012).

Mark Steyn, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2011).

________, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2006).

David Gelernter, America Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats) (New York: Encounter Books, 2012).

Edward Klein, The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2012).

Hugh Hewitt, The Brief Against Obama: The Rise, Fall and Ep…