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Showing posts from 2013

Who Is That Masked Bear?

Five years and four or so months ago, I started this blog with a prayer.  "O God, hasten to my aid!"  I had never written a blog, and I had no idea what I was going to say.  I only knew that I wanted to write and to say something about the process of writing.  I knew also that I wanted to think about prayer and hoped that I might find others who also wanted to think about prayer.  I had an inkling at the time that I would be writing about fencing, thus the title of the blog, but I needed a persona other than my professional or private self through which to explore whatever it was that I was going to be exploring, thus my Fencing Bear mask.

For the first few months, I kept my proper name out of my posts, although almost immediately I realized that I wanted other people to know that I was keeping a blog, even when things started to get, shall we say, a little embarrassing, especially those posts that I wrote that summer at Nationals.  By the middle of the summer, when my famil…

Sister Mary, the Devil, and Me

Well, that didn't take long.  Here I have been biding my time, looking forward to the day when I could start blogging again, planning all sorts of re-entry posts about who I am now, how I have changed over the course of the year, what it feels like to have almost a complete draft of my book done, and BANG!  Here I am writing about being attacked by the devil again.  How apropos.

It happened to Sister Mary of Ágreda, and she is a much, much more gifted writer than I will ever be.  (Mainly because she understood the true nature of her gifts--they came from God, as she well knew; I still have the presumption to imagine that what I write somehow depends on me.)  As she tells it in the introduction to the second part of her masterpiece, The Mystical City of God (Mystica Ciudad de Dios, firstpublished in 1670):
1.  When I was ready to present before the throne of God the insignificant results of my labors in writing the first part of the most holy life of Mary, the Mother of God [which …

Table of Contents

THE VIRGIN MARY AND THE ART OF PRAYER The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought
Invitatory: How to Read this Book, The Virgin Clothed with the Sun[5,000 words]
Chapter 1 The Hours of the Virgin [20,000 words] A Little History of the Office Symbolism and Structure of the Hours
Chapter 2Ave Maria [22,000 words] Saluting Mary Naming Mary
Chapter 3Antiphon and Psalm [60,000 words] Mary in the Temple The LORD and the Lady of the Temple Miriam, the Mother of Jesus the Son of God Most High Mary, the Theotokos, the Living Temple of God Mary in the Psalms The Night Office or Matins First nocturn, on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday Second nocturn, on Tuesday and Friday Third nocturn, on Wednesday and Saturday The Seven Hours of the Day Lauds, sung at sunrise Prime, sung at the first hour of the day Terce, Sext, and None, sung at the third, sixth, and ninth hours Vespers, sung at sunset Compline, sung at bedtime
Chapter 4Lesson and Response [48,500 words] Richard of St. Laurent and the things in heaven …

In case you're wondering...

I'm still here, just lying low for the moment.  Work on the book is proceeding apace, but I am finding it harder and harder to write about anything else.  This is a good thing, I think.  As the Preacher says, "for everything there is a season,"* and this is the season for me to finish the draft of my book.  I don't want to say much more just now, lest I scare away the Muse.  Let's just say it's going well...better than I ever dreamed possible.**

*Ecclesiastes 3:1. 
**Meanwhile, the Dragon Baby is snoring, probably dreaming about that squirrel she caught yesterday.***
***Yes, that makes twice she has counted coup on the rodentia of the trees.  We're both having quite a year!

After

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Heh.  Not bad for a couch potato, eh? Posted with Blogsy

Before

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Seeding is based on results from the past three national events: Summer Nationals 2012, December NAC 2012 and March NAC 2013. It's been a good year! But I've also spent the past seven months sitting on my couch, writing. And I've had the flu for the past month. Last night I woke up coughing again, and my energy is really low. It is going to be a tough day today. Posted with Blogsy

Practice Tip for the Week

"Adults can hamper progress with their own perfectionism: whereas children throw themselves into tasks, adults often agonise over the mechanics of the movements, trying to conceptualise exactly what is required.  This could be one of our biggest downfalls.  'Adults think much more about what they are doing,' says Gabriele Wulf at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 'Children just copy what they see.'

"Wulf's work over the past decade shows that you should focus on the outcome of your actions rather than the intricacies of the movements.  She applies this finding in her own life: as a keen golfer, she has found it is better to think about the swing of the club, for instance, rather than the position of her hands.  'I'm always trying to find where best to focus my attention,' she says.  Similarly, if you are learning to sing, then you should concentrate on the tone of the voice, rather than on the larynx or the placement of the tongue.  Study a…

Sitzfleisch

Everything hurts.  My back hurts, particularly a point over my right shoulder blade.  My hands hurt, particularly my right hand if I try to clench it.  My feet hurt, particularly the top of my left foot, where the tendons are.  All of my joints are stiff, particularly my right wrist and ankle.  All this after getting a massage on Tuesday and spending the week doing something other than sitting on my couch with my laptop on my lap, writing.

Talk about Sitzfleisch.  I looked it up on Wiktionary: "The ability to endure or carry on with an activity," from the German for "the ability to sit still."  I have another definition: "The way your body feels after you have been sitting still for five months working on your book manuscript."

It creeps up on you.  Back in the winter, when it was so cold that it took a full five minutes to get the layers on before taking the dog out for her midday romp, I just thought I felt stiff because I had so many clothes on.  Then …

The Mighty Huntress

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After three-and-a-half years' constant practice, the Dragon Baby caught her first squirrel this week.  There we were, almost home from our lunchtime walk, and one minute she was next to me on the sidewalk, while the next she was emerging from the other side of a tree with a young squirrel in her mouth.  It all happened so fast, I wasn't quite sure what to think, never mind do, so I stood there, entranced, as the squirrel squeaked and the Dragon Baby tried to shake it just as she has her toys so many times.  But squirrels, unlike stuffed hedgehogs, have teeth and claws and muscles with which they can fight and move.  Just as quickly as she had caught the squirrel, suddenly it was away back up the tree, barking and looking down at us as the Dragon Baby, undaunted, settled back down on the sidewalk so as to keep an eye on her prey.

And I thought it was bad when she ate the baby mouse!  When she caught the squirrel, my first thought was that she was surely going to kill it--the s…

Medieval Morality for Modern Sinners

As promised, my new blog.  Comments welcome!  Check out "About" as well as the first post on "Getting Medieval."  "Sources" will be added as they make themselves useful.

In the Pines

I had a(nother) breakthrough this week thinking about what it means to practice playing my fiddle.  Let me see if I can describe it for you.  You see, I suddenly figured out how to get inside the music. 

Does that make any sense?  There I was, trying to get the last turn of phrase in Old Joe Clark down, playing it over and over again, and still tripping up the same place every time, and it occurred to me that I needed to break it down even further.  Not C#-B-A-G-A-A, but just the transition from A-G, that is what I needed to practice.  I could do it fairly cleanly if I was doing a downstroke on the A, followed by an upstroke on the G, but if I hit the A on the upstroke, I invariably fumbled the G on the downstroke.  I'm just doing saw strokes in this piece, which means I am not able to keep the same bowing pattern from repetition to repetition (unlike for In the Pines, in which we learned a bowing pattern that maintains the same strokes from repetition to repetition), so I needed …

A Taxonomy of Otherness

You.  No deep philosophy here, simply the ordinary observation that human beings are creatures with consciousness of self who see other human beings as likewise possessing consciousness, but a consciousness distinct from their own, thinking its own thoughts.  That is to say, I have an "I" who sees "you" as distinct from myself, but I also believe that you have thoughts about yourself just as I have thoughts about myself.  I'm not sure this is worth belaboring, but it is important to remember where we start from.

Them.  Again, a neutral term, simply to say that human beings, while seeing themselves as distinct individuals, are also prone to identify with other human beings in groups.  Those of us standing over here are different from those of you standing over there.  Groups form and dissolve all the time: we are the ones who arrived early, they are the ones who arrived late.  We are the ones who have seen the movie, they are the ones who haven't.  Dr. Seuss …

A Theory of Demons

Demons are devious.  They disguise themselves as angels of light, perhaps even friends, but underneath they are nothing but liars.

Demons are rational intelligences, which means, like angels, that they are capable of logical thought, but because they are fallen, their reason is corrupted so that it cannot lead them to understand the good.

Demons hate confession because confession leads to repentance and doing penitence for one's sins.  They will do anything they can to prevent us from confessing; above all, they will try to shame us (by, for example, calling us names like "petty, envious, and self-pitying") when we do.

Nor can they understand the desire to make a confession.  As my own personal demon PapaFreeak put it: "I think you fascinate me because you provide access to a mentality that is genuinely foreign to me."  Being fallen angels, demons cannot themselves admit to having sins; they cannot confess their own sin of turning away from God.  Rather, in th…

What Now?

I think I overdid it a little bit on the blog posts this weekend, thanks to my demon PapaFreeak's calling me such lovely names.  But it is a good thing (I said he was my friend!--ahem): it has helped me clarify a number of things that have been rattling around in my head these past several months as the work on my book has proceeded apace.  I really meant it when I said this morning that I have now confessed all of my deepest, pettiest, most envious thoughts.  My therapist and I have been working on the biggest, scariest ones over the past couple of years, including several that are still (and will remain) TMI for such a public confession (ha! Take that PapaFreeak--I'm even worse than you think!), and I find myself suddenly at something of a loose end having told you yesterday about the oldest, deepest, and ugliest of my sins, my envy of my sister's physical beauty.  I rather suspect I am not yet done with that one, but of the others that I have been working on, well, ther…

Miserere mei

And that's it, I've told you everything.  All of my deepest, pettiest, most envious thoughts.  All of my weaknesses, all of my sins.  And you, Lord, have washed me clean.  Even in my darkest moments, you have been there, whether I believed it or not.  Guiding me, loving me, making manifest "the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom."

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity,  and cleanse me from my sin,  for I know my iniquity  and my sin is always before me.
Truly, you have been here with me, in ways I could never have dreamed five years ago when I began this blog.  Then, I was but a little bear, still so full of fear and anxiety.  Now I am an older bear, older but thanks to you wiser.  You have guided my footsteps into the desert and been with me as I wrestled with my demons, making me clean.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop,  and I shal…

The Picture of Bearian Gray

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(This one is especially for you, PapaFreeak, 'cause I know you have no idea what it is like to be so "astoundingly petty, envious, and self-pitying" as I am.  Enjoy!  For all my other readers: this was a post that I had been mulling over for the past several days, before I got interrupted by the News of the Week last week--as didn't we all?  It was meant, contrary to PapaFreeak's inability to read my "self-pitying" for what it actually is, as a way of working through some of the issues that I still have with my self-image, most particularly of myself as a woman.  Feel free to give me a shout-out if anything I say here sounds at all familiar from your own experience.)

My sister, age 45, is expecting her first baby within the next week or two, just in time for her 46th birthday.  And, yes, I'm jealous (I told you you'd enjoy this one, PapaFreeak).  Partly because a small part of me still wishes that my husband and I had had at least one more child…

A Demon of My Very Own

I've been thinking about it, and I'm not sure my husband and son were entirely right in suggesting that my reader PapaFreeak is simply a common or garden-variety troll.  Consider the comments that he has left me over the past several months.

First, there was one on my thoughts about how I feel uncomfortable at times saying "Merry Christmas":
Do you really believe that you are prevented from wishing people Merry Christmas? Really?

How about one of these options:

Option A:-Wish people Merry Christmas. If they respond positively (as 99% of them likely will) then all is well. If they respond negatively, then you can still feel that you acted according to your own conscience. It isn't exactly a martyr's torment and death to do so.

-Option B:- Why not take it one step farther? Why not say, to everyone you meet, "Merry Christmas! And if you celebrate some other holiday, I *don't* wish you any happiness at all. If you don't celebrate Christmas,…

“Don't Feed the Trolls!"

It's been hours and hours and hours since I posted the first of my responses to PapaFreeak--and he hasn't written me back!!!!  I told my husband and son about the things that he said about how much he enjoyed reading my blog (he only hates 75% of what I post!), and they immediately said, "No, no, no!  It's a troll!  Don't feed the trolls!"  But PapaFreeak is MY FRIEND!!!!  HE LIKES 25% OF WHAT I POST!!!! That's, like, one out of every four posts!  I'm not even sure I like that many of my posts.  How could he possibly be a troll?!!!!

I feel sad.

MetaConfession

I blame Augustine.  If it wasn't for his writing his Confessions way back when, none of us (including me and Elizabeth Gilbert) would ever have had the idea that it was a worthwhile, perhaps even healing thing to confess our sins publicly before our fellow human beings and God.

I can just hear Augustine's original readers: "Who does he think he is, this professor of rhetoric, complaining about how he feels guilty for stealing a couple of pears?  It's embarrassing, doesn't he realize how privileged he is, what with his education and prestigious career?  And all those details about doubting himself and his inability to stay chaste!  You'd think he'd have better things to do than to whine about why it took him so long to find God.  And blaming the Manichees for misleading him, that was just uncalled for."

It couldn't have been easy reading then, just as for many it still isn't now, and I'm not talking about having to read through all ten book…

“No complaints, please. We're privileged!"

I'm sorry, this is so great, I just have to share it with you.  In the comments for my last post, PapaFreeak has just paid me an enormous compliment.  He reads my blog, get this, even though, he says, "I find about 75% of what you post to be odious."  ODIOUS!!!!  Isn't that the best thing you've ever heard?!  But wait, there's more: "This [he explains] is why I return: I don't understand why someone with your advantages--intelligence, health, a supportive family, good income from meaningful work in a prestigious job--is so astoundingly petty, envious, and self-pitying.  I think you fascinate me because you provide access to a mentality that is genuinely foreign to me."  Gosh, what can I say?  A FAN!!!!  This is what Elizabeth Gilbert must feel like all the time!

But PapaFreeak only finds "about 75%" of what I post to be "odious".  Which makes me wonder: what 25% could he possibly like?

Could it be that, having the "prest…

Media Matters

It's been a rough week out there.  The Boston Marathon bombing, the Senate defeat of the President's gun-control bill (okay, it wasn't technically his, but he reacted as if it were), the fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX (a town I didn't even know existed until it showed up in my mother's church's Facebook feed), the on-going trial of Kermit Gosnell for mass-murdering babies--all the subject of lots of commentary from the folks in the media (except, interestingly, the last).  I'm in the media (sort of).  Shouldn't I have something to say?

Well, maybe, but on what basis?  After all, like most of us, the only thing I know about any of these things is what I read in the papers (actually, online, mainly still at NRO, 'cause, you know, there are only so many hours in the day and I am supposed to be working on a book on medieval prayer), so what could I actually add to the conversation except more rampant speculation based on my own personal convicti…

Why People Do Evil Things

Hard as it may be to believe, the answer is horribly simple: because they think that they are right.

It does no good to spend any time at all wringing one's hands over the "mystery" or to attempt to understand why they thought that they were right.

Why?

Again, the answer is horribly simple: just because they think that they are right, doesn't mean they are.

Nor does it mean that their victims in any way "deserved" the evil inflicted upon them, whatever reasons those who thought they were right might give for the evil that they have done.

Evil is a failure of the will to distinguish good from evil; thus evil always justifies itself to itself.

The only answer to evil is judgment, but the only way to judge is to know the difference between evil and good.  The only thing "beyond" good and evil is evil.


Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to…