Showing posts from April, 2013

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 nee

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.

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

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

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 w

The Picture of Bearian Gray

(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 ch

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 Chr

“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.


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 te

“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 "

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 convi

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 swe

Right Focus

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting very much lately.  This is a good thing, really, although the Super Woman in me would say I've just been lazy.  I haven't, not really.  I've just been concentrating on other things.  Notice that I didn't say , "I've just been busy."  That's not it at all.  I'm not busy , I'm focused.  More focused than maybe I have been in my entire life.  So focused, in fact, that I have a hard time taking a break from the schedule that I have given myself, not because I am working "all the time," but precisely because I am not. Oh, but there are temptations.  "Are you coming to the tournament on Sunday?" one friend asks.  "Please join us to celebrate the retirement of our colleagues," invites another.  "So-and-so is coming in from out of town and would very much like to meet you," yet another entices.  "It's only an afternoon," yet another pleads.  B

Fiddler's Jaunt

Just when our hero Charlie Moon doesn't know how he is going to escape not dancing with the woman whom he intends to ask to be his wife,* he makes a strategic retreat to the stage, and takes banjo in hand... Now firmly in the groove, the Columbine Grass** settled down to do their thing, which was to pick, pluck, and sing and create quite a big commotion that would compel even shy, uncoordinated folks into high-gear locomotion.  All over the ballroom, chairs were shoved away from tables as the happy crowd got up to kick heels and stomp and shout. Oh, and did they dance! In the entire history of Granite Creek, Colorado...there had never been such a rip-tootin' celebration.  Not even that time when they hanged Big Sam Carp from a cottonwood limb for shooting the mayor's brother in the...But that's another story, and one best forgotten. Now it just so happens that the leader of the band is a natural-born traveling man and Charlie Moon likes to ride the rails, which

Old Joe Clark

My recording debut! Here is me on the fiddle with my husband on the guitar, playing "Old Joe Clark." I was pretty pleased with this when we recorded it on Saturday.  Pleased because we (I say we, but it was really my husband) figured out how to make GarageBand work on my iPad.  Pleased because I have only had my new fiddle for a few weeks, and I managed to hit all of the notes without the help of the tape that I had on the fingerboard of my rental.  Pleased because I was able to play along with my husband without losing my place in the song (although I suspect he was helping me a bit there). Now, listening to it again in the sober light of Monday, I am feeling more and more embarrassed about how plodding I sound, my bowing so stiff, with almost no sense of rhythm.  This, on the other hand, is what I imagined I sounded like as we were recording: Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle .  If only.* *Mind you, I think it is pretty cool that I am able to play this tune at all after pick