Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not yet.

I feel as though I have been absent from my life for a few weeks. I'm definitely moving forward (this is the weekend of apartment, new borough, a wedding, new school year) but I feel so busy that I haven't really stopped to think about much.

In light of that I've been amusing myself with a little Young Adult fiction. For those of you not in education, those are books written specifically for middle/early high school students. (I did read "Everything is Illuminated" but I need a bit more time to think through that one...please read Jonathan Safron Foer, I beg of you)

The 8th grade distraction is called "Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow CIty." It's about six 12 year old girls who stumble upon a secret city that is far underneath Manhattan. They are smart, adventurous and confident...

"To those of you who are sticklers for safety and approach life with all the caution of amateur beekeepers, I can offer no excuse for what I did then. I'll admit that a more mature human being would never have let her curiosity take control."

...exactly the kind of girls I want my students to read about, rather than all the "Clique" trash they usually read. I cannot wait to recommend it to my students.

Give me a week or so for some real thoughts. This weekend I'm travelling to Wyoming and I've packed "King Dork," "Swallows and Amazons" and Harry Potter en espanol, all young adult titles. Am I trying to avoid real life for a while? Yes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

And the greatest of these is love.

I finished two books this week and they have unintentionally had a lot to do with each other.

"The Known World" by Edward P. Jones an epic of sorts that follows the life of a slave owning, black, plantation owner and all of the people connected to him directly or indirectly. The most interesting aspect of the craft of the writing is its lack of linear form. The 3rd person narrator is like a god of sorts, who can see the past, present and future and tells the reader about each in no particular order. Beyond that, the most interesting aspect of the story itself is the complexity of morality and what motivates people into action. The reader is given a glimpse of the sacred humanity in each character as well as the broken, sinful darkness. There is at once incredible artistry within these characters, pivotal misunderstandings and a lack of eyes to truly see outside of what the culture prescribes. Tragedy litters its pages as a result, in large and small ways.

"The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne is nonfiction and basically calls the Christian Church to take a solid look at how Jesus lived and begs them to do likewise. He presents the values of Christ that are completely upside down in comparison to the western world and challenges people to take them seriously--to step out of complacency and comfort zones to simply love; to look our fellow human beings in the eyes and actually see them rather than looking at life through the lens of ourselves.

I have been wondering why Jones called his book "The Known World." One conclusion that I have come up with is that maybe wanting the best for ourselves only is all that we know. It broke my heart to read about the characters who killed without thinking, enslaved without thinking, belittled without thinking. But then I have to turn and look at myself in the mirror--what kind of world do I want to know? Am I living in a way that shows love to the people I encounter? Am I pointing the finger at others? Am I turning my eyes from injustice in the name of comfort? Am I accepting of apathy?

Claiborne's book has challenged my thinking in an incredible way. All I can think about now is rereading the gospels and looking for the Truth. What was Christ about? And what am I justifying in my life so that I don't *have* to be about those things? So please, read "The Irresistible Revolution" and read the gospels. Look at the world around you. I am hungry for your thoughts and conversations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reading Without Words: Why I Love the Midwest.

Last Sunday I drove south on 71 for a few hours, on my way to Louisville from a 40 hour trip to southwest Ohio. Being a subway rider, the tiny gas station I stopped at seemed like a novelty, with its four pumps and view of a dilapidated clapboard house. I do confess that I'm a Louisville fan, where my parents have moved, but there is something about those pockets of rural Ohio. Somehow the fading evening light and lightning bugs and overgrown grass just feels so comfy. I stood at the gas station for a few minutes just looking and decided to drive back with the windows rolled down so that I wouldn't miss out on breathing in the cornfields and woods.

Just outside of downtown Cincinnati, I glanced over and the moon caught me by surprise. It wasn't quite a harvest moon, but golden orange that seemed to announce the arrival of high summer. It fell behind the bars of the bridges and a few buildings, but sunk elegantly into the landscape of Northern Kentucky. This combined with the piano and mandolin on the stereo, and you can understand the sweet melancholy running through me.

But what made the drive even better than all these atmospheric invocations was thinking about the people with whom my path crossed who are the truest essence of why the Midwest is best. (Yes, I believe that rhyme is sweet.) So here is my list of highlights, in the hope that one of them might read this and know how awesome I think they are and how much I appreciate them carving time out of their schedules to hang out:

Alison. Talk about the joys of having a kindred spirit who is also a Miami U English major. Coffee with you is always the best.
Abby. There is no one better to talk about Harry Potter with. You are a constant reminder of the Kingdom to me.
Jenna. Sigh. What more can I say?
Julia. You were a beautiful bride. What a blessing to watch you get married. And Arnie's pretty great, too.
Mark. One of my most favorite co-leaders. Always a pleasure and a challenge to my thinking.
Melissa. Saralyn. Missy. Your faith inspires me.
Kyle. There is nothing better than laughing with old friends.
Jana. Katy. Lal. Jill. Annie. Liz. How I long to visit the days of living in the House of Mud. Your conversation is so refreshing and encouraging. And the brunch was ok, too:)
Kendra. My visit would be incomplete without eating ice cream at the K with you. I adore you.
Mom. Dad. Frankie. I love our deck and Kentucky's not bad, either.

If you made it this far, I commend you. There are a few more things besides the residents that make the Midwest an amazing place, despite the disagreements that may come from those unfortunates who have never experienced it:

1. Mom and Pop Ice Cream, i.e. The K and W in Springboro and The Dairy Shed in Bellbrook.
2. Cornhole. Glorified bean bag toss that, yes, really is entertaining.
3. College Football Fans. They're everywhere.
4. Hometown Football Fans. Go Elks.
5. Corn and Soybean Fields.

So, needless to say, I didn't read words too much while I was away, (excluding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, of course) but I did read. And I highly recommend.