Tuesday, June 4, 2013

meet me in a different place

Well, this blog is officially closed! I started it during my brief dramatic phase in high school - then went to college and "time is undone" and "remember you will die" seemed awfully melodramatic, especially for a prosy little thing like me, now that I'm done. So here's a link to my new blog, At the Still Point, for anyone who might find this old place.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Faring Forward

After a wonderful, wonderful vacation with my family after my graduation from PHC a couple weeks ago, we came back and I've spent the last two days cleaning out my room and making it post-PHC mine again :) Dr. Libby's books have been added to my collection, I have a desk space of my own, my clothes are all hung up. The last thing I had to do was sort out the papers, syllabi, cards, and other mementos I'd brought back with me over the years. I left it for the very last thing--I procrastinated until I couldn't anymore, because I didn't feel emotionally up to revisiting everything. A couple hours ago, I heaved a sigh, planted myself on the ground next to my three piled over boxes, and got started.

It's amazing, the accumulated miles of ink traveled the past four years. I went all the way back to freshman year (my printed Spinney lectures got my special folder--the Avengers one). I found the first thing I got back that year: the 1st Spinney exam, and I still remember how stupefied I was at my grade - the lowest grade I'd ever gotten in my life. But then I pulled out the only A Spinney paper I wrote: the Sowell paper, and felt the same rush of exhilaration I did when I pulled it out of my mailbox. There was growth, in the space of a year.

I found my PBR presentation on Rand, which also earned an A. I loved that paper, because then I began to learn that one can show compassion to an angry nonbeliever and still maintain the integrity of your faith.

I found my Junior year papers from Dr. Libby, and teared up a bit at those--those gentle words that praised unreservedly where it was deserved, and gently pruned and shaped where needed. I loved her, because she showed me grace and strong womanhood and gentle intellect--and told me I had those too.

And then there was all of senior year, which is still a little too close for comfort. All the things from Dr. Libby's passing are right next to my knee, propped up against the foot of my bed--the Herald article, the program from her memorial, and underneath all the cards and papers and grades I'd gotten from her. There's the folder from Dr. Mrs. McCollum, picking up the pieces of the Faith and Reason paper I'd begun and helping me tie them back together again in the light of who Dr. Libby was. There's Dr. Mrs. McCollum herself, whose unabashed integrity, fearlessness, graciousness and confidence in my abilities had me moving forward again as a scholar and a woman when I had been really vulnerable and shaken. There was also that delicious Faith and Reason paper that taught me about beauty and grace together, in the holiest sense.

And now I'm back in my little purple room again, back in California with my charmer of a cat looking warmly at me from his perch on my bed. I'm surrounded by physical manifestations of God's love in every one of these papers and syllabi and all the cards I have from all of my dear friends--Lauren, Emily, Meredith, Lacy, Tatum, Ali, Hannah, Anne, Nicole and others--and I'm shaken all over again at all the things He's done. It's a new page, yes, but every page has to build on the one before, right?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What I read in 2011

De Tocqueville
Selections from important American Founding documents
Philosophy and epistemology readings
Anna Karenina
Brothers Karamazov
Eugene Onegin
Fathers and Sons
A Day in the Life
Gogol, The Coat
The Seagull
And Quiet Flows the Don
The Bedbug and other Short Stories
Selected Poems – Akhmatova
Doctor Zhivago
Poetry Handbook
La Vita Nuova
All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing
Poetic Diction
Norton Anthology
Selected poems / poems by Yeats
Toward the Gleam
Catherine of Siena
Remember You
Lord Attenbury’s Emeralds
Faerie Queene
Complete English Poems, Herbert
Pilgrim’s Progress
Poems and Prose, Hopkins
Man who was Thursday
Great Divorce
Descent into Hell
Holy Sonnets, Donne
Hollow Men, Four Quartets, and other poems by T.S. Eliot
Violent Bear It Away
Power and the Glory
Norton Anthology of English Lit, selections
She Stoops to Conquer
Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous
All Hallow’s Eve
Screwtape Letters
Out of the Silent Planet
Till We Have Faces
Harry Potter 6
Harry Potter 7
The Hidden Hand
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Abolition of Man


Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
Reviewed by Mary Sue Daoud, 12/30/11

Corporate espionage, libel gone wrong, sociopathic heroines with a penchant for hacking…and two villains so heinously evil and insane that they take on the exaggerated feeling of caricatures—that is the bulk of Stieg Larsson’s first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage Crime, 2008).

          With all the hype surrounding the series and the movies, I ordered the book from the library and settled in. I had hoped it would be an intriguing read and a pleasant way to while away an evening.

          The book opened intriguingly enough. Journalist and magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist was just sentenced for libel against bigtime financier Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Found guilty, he was given a whopping fine that cleared him out and took with it quite a bit of the magazine. Burned out, he left on a leave of absence in order to take a break, do his jail time, and write the family history another bigtime CEO and patriarch, Henrik Vanger, hired him to do, mainly as a cover for the main reason Vanger hired Blomkvist: to take one more go at the mystery that had dominated Vanger’s life—the forty-year-old case of Vanger’s missing niece. In exchange, Vanger would give him the information and evidence Blomkvist would need to take Wennerstrom down.

          Just as in any big family, there are lots of interesting characters and subplots whose stories thicken and enhance the plot as Blomkvist uncovers their stories and motivations and dialogues with them. To help him along, Blomkvist hires Lisbeth Salander, a troubled and abused punk with a gift for research in the way of massive hacking. Together, they uncover the horrible skeletons in the Vanger family closet—graphic, violent beyond description, involving rape, incest, kidnapping, torture, murder (several actually), and a variety of other obscenities.

          It’s at the climax, when Blomkvist is in the heinous clutches of the villain, that the reader realizes that the plot has suddenly taken an extremely ridiculous twist. Such villains are far more suited to horror stories than this pseudo-realistic mystery story. Never mind that Larsson felt driven to think about and write up such dark characters—what possessed him to write a story with such believable, complex characters like Blomkvist and Salander, then saddle it with such grotesque villains? What could have been a fairly good story lost its unity and turned into a lumpy, uneven, out of proportion story with all the steam gone out of it.

          Does evil have to be so grotesque for us to realize, Oh look, that is, without a doubt, evil? What about the things the other characters do—things that are morally questionable and, in some cases, remarkably stupid, like Blomkvist having three affairs through the course of the book, one of which was a longstanding one with a married woman (and the husband knows about it and is totally fine with it.) Why is this book so popular?

          The book ends relatively happily, with the loose ends more or less tied up, and the mysteries satisfactorily solved. It could have been a believable book, too, if the antagonist’s story had matched in tone and in context. But with such disproportionate evil, the story has the feeling of being written around the antagonist, and the rest just window dressing to set him off. As he wrote two other books based on Blomkvist and Salander, that was obviously not intended.

          I don’t think I’ll be spending more time with Larsson’s stories—where is my Eliot?!

Ogma: After W.B. Yeats

I wish you peace—           
The peaceful solitude of hard study by lamplight,
Time passing quickly as the beauties of the Rose increase,
And Elysium breaks into your sight.
I wish for you its ancient days
To catch you in the Druid tune,
To mire you down in temple clays
So the light of the lamp becomes the moon
Of ten thousand years ago,
When the wind was cold and we who are old still lived on earth below.

I wish you peace—
The mournful peace of ancient splendor lost,
Robed in the Druid mist,
Of sentinel trees embossed
With an ancient script and an ancient tongue
To welcome you home when your heart is great enough to fit to mine
And the soaring final song of peace is sung,
And the notes mixed into the firmament of dark wine,
And the Danaan kind have brought you into Faerie for me, to my throne,
Where the wind is cold and we who are old now dwell in Danaan land, alone.

I wish these things for you, my love,
Because you’ve wandered long.
My wine tastes much like you, my love,
And like you, it is strong.
The song burns in my veins, my love,
The song of your new-learned tongue.
For the wind is cold and you who are young will dwell in Danaan land unsung.

So drink to all you’ve lost, my love,
For so do I.
Sing for all you’ve gained, my love,
For so do I.
For the wind is cold and we who are old now dwell in Danaan land below.

written for Poetry Class, Fall 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Pantoum

The danger of memory is that it never dies.
I was ten and still remember America’s shocked face,
And the smoke and the ash covered the skies
On the day the towers fell from grace.

I was ten and still remember America’s shocked face,
And for a time the rain meant what the poets said,
On the day the towers fell from grace
And war and dissension wed.

And for a time the rain meant what the poets said—
Complacent ash falls ghostly, thickly gray,
And war and dissension wed.
And spectral figures loom in the smoke of dead Pompey.

Complacent ash falls ghostly, thickly gray—
Obscuring the memory of the past ten years
And spectral figures loom in the ruins of dead Pompey:
The mournful strings behind the keening of our tears.

Obscured the memory of the past ten years—
And this land has written on the wall:
The mournful strings behind the keening of our tears
Still cry defiance. Hell was paid; there was no fall.

And this land has written on the wall,
And the smoke and the ash that covered the skies
Still cries defiance. Hell was paid; there was no fall:
Because the danger of memory is that it never dies.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Logic of the Bible: Creation

After twenty years, I think I'm finally beginning to get the silvery outline of the supra-rational logic of the Bible in my mind.

On the one hand, it's very exciting to know that twenty years (nine of which, I've lived consciously Christian; meaning, I know I'm under grace :) ) still isn't enough to comprehend the Word of God. Which is exactly as it should be; there's a reason why people don't worship something they totally understand. 

On the other hand, it's awe-inspiring. I love the order God has set up in the world.

I started to see it several months ago, during a philosophy class. I don't remember who we were studying, but the general gist of what we were discussing was (I think) whether it was possible for God to do something wrong. If not, we couldn't say that He could do anything; if He could do something wrong then He wouldn't be a perfect and holy God then. Of course, theodicy quite rightly was brought up.

The revelation I got was that God created the world.

Some revelation, hunh? Something I've had driven into me only since before I can remember.

But...I don't think it was ex nihilo. Or at least, out of nothing has a more limited meaning than I ascribed to it. I think creation is more properly thought of as out of God. 

Creation stemmed from the nature of God. 

An issue I suppose I have to face is how to define nothing. No thing. The absence of anything -- material and immaterial, I suppose. Physically, that makes sense. God needed no physical thing to create the world. Hence ex nihilo

But God couldn't have created the world without creativity, which implies an ability TO create, which implies an active mind and nature. In order to be created, the world NEEDS God (and of course, this is assuming Genesis). Even if before Creation, the world could somehow have existed as a nebulous floating idea (which is Platonic, perhaps, but rather unfeasible), there would have been no way to pull it into reality without the mediation of Christ.

As I believe God is sovereign, I think He did much more than just pulling it into reality. I believe HE CREATED IT. 

I have no idea how to explain what I mean, so I'm going to revert to Tolkien. In "Tree and Leaf" he wrote this:
"Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light 
through whom is splintered from a single White 
to many hues, and endlessly combined 
in living shapes that move from mind to mind. 
Though all the crannies of the world we filled 
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build 
Gods and their houses out of dark and light, 
and sowed the seed of dragons, 'twas our right 
(used or misused). The right has not decayed. 
We make still by the law in which we're made." 

He calls man a Sub-creator, through whom the characteristics of God are separated through the prism of mankind and combined again in different threads, shapes, forms, colors to create "new" things, but within the framework/structure of "the law in which we're made." That law is God's nature, out of which we and the whole world were created.

So when David in Psalm 68 asks the many-peaked mountain of Bashan why it fumes with envy, or when God asks Job in Job 38 if the rain has a father and who has put wisdom in the mind, when Jesus didn't quiet His followers from glorifying Him because the stones would cry out---it makes sense. 

I'm not suggesting some nebulous pantheistic idea here, note. All the world is NOT God (heavens to Betsy, if it was! Why put God in a box, even a very pretty one!). But how much more wonderful is the world when one looks outside and sees why the sun must rest on the trees as a benediction, and why the wind in the leaves sounds the happiness to the peace of the waves on the lake! They can't help it - they were made by a perfect God - "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." (I had to get to Romans at some point :D)

As breathtaking as that is, though, it still doesn't approach human limitations of logic. God created the world and, yeah, creating it out of Himself is jaw-dropping...But, it's not a perfect world.

Achingly true, that.

to be continued.