Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's been a while...

...since I last wrote. There are a few in the works. Until then, here are some of the joys of life I've been spending time with in between posts.

(Comiendo con mi madre y mis amigas favoritas de Nueva York en Tribeca. Mis amigas mejor de Centerville en la jardin de Brooklyn. Comiendo la comida muy muy buena de la taqueria con Beth, Liz y Amie en Nolita. Necesito practicar mi espanol, si, pero lo amo)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Let's Be Honest.

I couldn't sit here and be ok with myself leaving you with winter poetry (see below). Here's one from Pablo Neruda. sigh.

Stop cursing the cold and breathe this in and think about summertimeeveninglight--yes, that's one word. My picture is of summertimeeveninglight in Hardington, England. Enchanted is the most perfect word for this. And an overflowing glass a water? There isn't a more accurate description. So read at your own risk, I guess. It just might affect you that much. Especially if you are living in the April freeze like I am. And for those of you who lived through the last round of cicadas, just imagine he's talking about crickets.

Ode To Enchanted Light

Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,
like a green
latticework of branches,
on every leaf,
drifting down like clean
white sand.

A cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air.

The world is
a glass overflowing
with water.

So Beautiful It Hurts.

The irony in the poem I am about to type out for you by Gwendolyn Brooks is that it encapsulates the beauty of...snow. Yes, it is April. Yes, my insides have been screaming for the long days and flip flops and hyacinths of spring. But somehow on a day of 30 degress in April, a poem about snow brings out the phrase 'it hurts my heart." I have been criticized in the past for using these words together--people claiming that the verb needs to change; that hurt is all wrong for beauty. But I cannot. I wrote on Thursday about the longing feeling that grabs my heart...and a beautiful ache is the only way to describe it. Something that reaches so deeply into who I am or things I love that it literally does hurt.

And I love when I come across people who get that. Who have felt it, too, and don't think I'm crazy. And today, a day that I want to shove my winter coat in the garbage can, i a poet writing winter got it. I suppose it is beautiful sometimes, afterall.

Cynthia in the Snow

It hushes
The loudness in the road.
It flitter-twitters,
And laughs away from me.
It laughs a lovely
And whitely whirs away,
To be
Some otherwhere,
Still white as milk or shirts.
So beautiful it hurts.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

On Faith and "East of Eden"

Liza Hamilton: immigrated with her husband to the Salinas Valley of California from Ireland, bore a huge family, the epitome of the “no nonsense” woman. She pursues her life with militant regularity: cooking, cleaning, reading her Bible.

Samuel Hamilton: a thinker. Cheerful. An animated storyteller with a listening ear. Samuel laughs loudly and feels the life in his bones deeply. The only regularity in Samuel is that neither his land or his brilliant, patented ideas are fruitful.

When one of their daughters dies, each one reacts in a completely different way. To Liza, death is a part of life. She feels no true attachment to anything on earth. Though naturally sad, she continues her life the way she always had: people still must eat, and they still make messes. Samuel is completely wrecked. He has no idea how to handle or comprehend the loss. From this time on, he is a little less himself. Though an old man, he starts to “seem” old. He laughs only for others’ sake.

At my book club, we were discussing our initial hatred of Eliza and how cold her laughless, practical life seemed to us. But at the end of the conversation, it turned to admiration and a declaration of her amazing strength, in light of her daughter’s death. My friend asked, “well, isn’t that what great faith is? Not having any attachment to this world?” We all slowly nodded our heads. Walking down the street afterward, though, I couldn’t get Eliza as the model for great faith out of my head. All I want is faith that runs deep, but I want nothing to do with her passionless life!

In “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis wrote: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This concept changed my life. The deep longings that I feel to be—quite literally—a part of the beauty I find in front of me or to draw the depth out of some piece of music or to live inside a great story I’ve read show me that I am longing for things unattainable in this world. I learned I am not longing for the travel or the sunset or trees—not the thing itself, but for eternity: all its beauty and fullness and depth that are completely satisfying. This alone completely reordered my life. So, yes, Liza. Heaven is home.

Why, then, am I so drawn to Samuel? I think it’s because he exemplifies what Jesus meant when he said “Thy Kingdom come.” Samuel brings Life (with a capital “L,” my dear Springboro ladies) into his corner of the world. Samuel draws out the laughter. He draws people into the story. People walk away different. Samuel listens. He calls people out to be better versions of themselves. Yes, hope in eternity. But listen. It on the wind here.

I want faith that incorporates both of the Hamiltons.
I want to place my hope in heaven. I don’t want to be completely wrecked when the world breaks my heart.

But at the same time I believe that the story of redemption starts here.

I want to be a part of that.

I want to see more of the Kingdom in my corner of the world.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I Heart Atticus.

There are certain books that everybody probably "read" in school (as tragic as the idea of "reading" in quotations is to me) that they need to take a second look at as adults. Today I am plugging "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee for the following reasons:

1. It is the most beautiful rendition of growing up...especially if you were the kind of kid who sought high adventure in the creek by your house or made up stories to make life more interesting.

2. Published in 1960 and taking place in the 1930s, its treatment of civil rights and justice is poetic.

3. Atticus Finch is my hero and maybe he should be yours, too.

Anorexia of the Soul?

It is always interesting to me when all sorts of texts in my life start overlapping.

This morning I read an article in the New York Times called “For Girls, it’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too.” The article chronicled the lives of a few girls who live just outside of Boston in a prestigious community and have the luxury of attending one of the best public schools in the country. The premise of the article is that girls now have a freedom that wasn’t open to even just the previous generation of women. This freedom has opened up so many opportunities for young women to explore and pursue, but also begs the question at what cost?

The girls in the article are juggling AP classes, extracurriculars, community service and social expectations. The message that is understood, the title of the article, is that they should be themselves—pursue what moves them and excites them—and at the same time make sure that they land A’s in all classes, nail the SAT’s, and have all the right extra activities that will bolster their resume for college application. On top of that is the message that being pretty counts. Aye.

One of the mothers made an extremely interesting comment: “You just have to hope that your child doesn’t have anorexia of the soul.” That idea is devastating—to starve the part of you that makes you truly live; to push that part of your identity to the side in the name of success or achievement or acknowledgement.

I also had the privilege of watching many of my seventh graders perform Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” this week. I studied this book in college, but forgot how powerful a metaphor it was. Victor Frankenstein dedicates his entire life to studying science, forsaking relationships to the point that he misses his mother’s funeral. Eventually, he is on the brink of his educational quest: to bring to life a creature made from various parts of dead bodies. Disgusting, yes. But so is the way that this parallels so many lives. The creature becomes the physical manifestation of Victor Frankenstein’s inner life. The moment it comes to life, he is so disgusted by it that he wants to kill it. The creature gets away, and despite its desire for comfort and love, does not know its own strength and becomes responsible for the deaths of many close to Victor. By the end, Victor’s entire family is lost, including his fiancĂ©e. Victor then dedicates his life to chasing down his monster, only to realize that he himself cannot kill it. Then he dies.

The final link in all of this is a question that my pastor, Tim Keller, repeatedly talks about in his sermons: What is your ultimate identity?

This is where the phrase “anorexia of the soul” sticks the most. Am I living in a way that is taking the literal life out of me? Am I pursuing things that will ultimately have the metaphorical equivalent of Victor Frankenstein’s creature?

Jeremiah 17: 5-6 Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

This is where I picture Victor Frankenstein. This is a visual of anorexia of the soul.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8 But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

This is where I want to find my ultimate identity. In something that gives life that is truly life.