2006-08-23

spinster - sylvia plath

Now this particular girl
During a ceremonious April walk
With her latest suitor
Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck
By the birds' irregular babel
And the leaves' litter.

By this tummult afflicted, she
Observed her lover's gestures unbalance the air,
His gait stray uneven
Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower.
She judged petals in disarray,
The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then!-
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock, each sentiment within border,
And heart's frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.

But here - a burgeoning
Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits
Into vulgar motley -
A treason not to be borne. Let idiots
Reel giddy in bedlam spring:
She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either.

spider - sylvia plath

Anansi, black busybody of the folktales,
You scuttle out on impulse
Blunt in self-interest
As a sledge hammer, as a man's bunched fist,
Yet of devils the cleverest
To get your carousals told:
You spun the cosmic web: you squint from center field.

Last summer I came upon your Spanish cousin,
Notable robber baron,
Behind a goatherd's hut:
Near his small stonehenge above the ants' route,
One-third ant-size, a leggy spot,
He tripped an ant with a rope
Scarcely visible. About and about the slope

Of his redoubt he ran his nimble filament,
Each time round winding that ant
Tighter to the cocoon
Already veiling the gray spool of stone
From which coils, caught ants waved legs in
Torpid warning, or lay still
And suffered their livelier fellows to struggle.

Then briskly scaled his altar tiered with tethered ants,
Nodding in a somnolence
Appalling to witness,
To the barbarous outlook, from there chose
His next martyr to the gross cause
Of concupiscence. Once more
With black alacrity bound round his prisoner.

The ants - a file of comers, a file of goers -
Persevered on a set course
No scruple could disrupt,
Obeying orders of instinct till swept
Off-stage and infamously wrapped
Up by a spry black deus
Ex machina. Nor did they seem deterred by this.

2006-08-22

bye bye... kind of

our dear friend Alina left for Japan today for 3 years.

but we never really leave each other, you know?

2006-08-21

love...

I've noticed that a lot of times when talking with Christian folks about loving people, that they tend to either completely disregard the impact of loving someone, or else they immediately assume that you are one of those "just be a nice person and everything will be ok" people. How did our idea of love get so twisted? First of all, the importance of love is all over scripture - "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." Christ tells us the greatest two commandments - " `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Paul says in Galatians "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

Now, for all of you folks who have read that above paragraph and are now thinking "but you can't just sit around and love people" - you do realize that love is a verb, yes? It implies action, it implies commitment, it implies listening, it implies putting another person before yourself, it implies sharing your life, all of it, and it implies treating another life with all the respect and honor you would have your life given. It is anything but a passive "just sitting around and loving someone." I think often as christians we buy into the "love is only a feeling" idea more than most of the rest of the world. Secondly, since when did love cause your brain and mouth to stop working? Love is something that you can and should do along with EVERYTHING ELSE YOU DO. When you speak, when you act, when you are silent, when you are sad, when you are angry, when you disagree with someone, when you are frustrated, when you are thoughtful, when you are happy - in all of those things you can and should love the people around you.

Christ says several times in the Gospels to love your enemies. This does not mean to feel a nice warm feeling about them. This means to listen to them, to treat them with respect, to give without expectation of return. Because to be truthful, your enemies are not your enemies. Our war is not against flesh and blood. That means that Democrats are not your enemies. Homosexuals are not your enemies. Beggars are not your enemies. Murderers are not your enemies. Pedophiles are not your enemies. Treating them as such is blinding you and hurting them, so please don't do it.

Our views of love in the Christian church seem to me to be severely skewed. It seems that most of the rest of the world, including Christ, Paul, James, several writers in the old testament recognize the absolute necessity of love in everything we do - and yet us in the modern american christian church often look at it as a cop-out or an excuse to be apathetic about life.

Trust me, there is nothing easy about actively loving someone. In his book "The Prophet", Kahlil Gibran says:

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

And this has been my experience as well. Love hurts. It is extremely difficult. It forces you out of comfort, out of yourself. It grinds you down and makes you pliant to be built up as who you were made to be - a sacrifice to God. And there is no more joyful and full life than one which gives itself away. This is Christ's example.

We are changed by giving of ourselves, and giving to others without expectation of return gives them the freedom to respond, to receive freely, and to give back freely, which in turn changes them. I think we SEVERELY underestimate the value of love in everything we do in life.

So, please - let's think carefully about what we believe about love.

2006-08-11

shaken...

today I remembered that a cool breeze or the smell of a flower could shake my soul... and having been shaken, listening to the sweet melancholy peacefulness of Sigur Rós, and walking through the hallways of OHSU... I felt I was.

2006-08-09

everything...

everything matters and everything is connected... let's please live like it!

if you add to the beauty of the world wherever you are, you never know what effect it will have - like Dostoyevksy talks about in Brothers Karamazov, everything is like an ocean, and a movement at one point can ripple and cause movement at any other point.

love, care, experience... live!

2006-08-02

defaming celebrities

why do we have such a fascination with defaming celebrities? for instance, Mel Gibson. so maybe he got drunk and said some stupid things. maybe he's really not a nice guy at all. who knows? but the fact is - all you folks who are so bent on making a scandal out of it have some weird, twisted fascination with making him look like a bad, awful person - and there's some weird expectation that if he did turn out to be not a nice person, it would be a complete surprise, like being a celebrity, he must be enlightened and wonderful and nice. and the same with so many other cases. what the heck? do you realize how many people every day get drunk and say stupid things they probably regret later? you couldn't count them all! but yet for some reason if someone with more public recognition does it, we are shocked like it's something completely unusual.

2006-08-01

the wisdom of the sands - antoine de saint-exupéry

I fell to musing on the savor of the things men make. Thus those in a certain camp made pottery which was good to look at; and those of another camp, pottery that was ugly. And it became clear to me that no laws can be laid down for the embellishing of pottery. Neither monies spent on apprenticeship, nor awards and competitions, would avail. Indeed I even observed that craftsmen who worked for the sake of an ambition other than the excellence of their workmanship, even though they toiled night and day, never sparing themselves, ended by producing vulgar, pretentious, over-complicated work. For those sleepless nights of theirs were put to the service of their venality, their vanity or a taste for luxury - to the service of themselves, in other words - and they no longer bartered themselves, under God's guidance, for a work of art which thus became a source of sacrifice and an intimation of His presence; a work wherein their sighs and wrinkled brows and heavy eyelids and hands that trembled after daylong molding of the clay could merge into the satisfaction of a task well done, the aftermath of fervor. For I know but one act which is fertile, and that is prayer; and I know also that every act is a prayer if it be a free gift of oneself in order to become. Then you are like the bird that builds its nest, and the nest is warm; the bee that makes its honey, and the honey is sweet; the man who shapes his urn for love of the urn and behind that love is prayer. What belief can you have in a poem written for sale? If a poem be an article of commerce, it ceases to be a poem. And if your urn be an article of competition it ceases to be an urn and a likeness of God; rather, it is in the likeness of your vanity or your vulgar appetites.

the wisdom of the sands - antoine de saint-exupéry

I fell to musing on the great example given by courtesans and their commerce with love. For if you believe in worldly goods for their own sake, you are deceived: even as there is no landscape to see from the mountain-top except in so far as you have built one up for yourself by the long effort of your ascent, thus it is with love. Nothing has meaning in itself, but the true meaning of each thing lies in its structure; thus a face carved in marble is not the sum of two ears, a nose, a chin, a mouth and so forth, but the musculature of the head comprising them. Like a fist clenched on something other than itself. And the vision of the poem lies not in the stars or the number seven or the water in a pool, but solely in the harmony I make when I set my seven stars dancing in the mirror of the pool. True, for the nexus to operate we must first have objects to be linked together. But its efficacy lies not in these separate objects. The efficacy of the fox-trap lies not in its wires or frame or any part of it, but in the interlocking of these things into a whole, which is a creative act - and presently you hear a fox howling, for he has been trapped. Thus I, the singer, the sculptor, or the dancer, can snare you in my nets.

So, too, with love. What may you hope to get of the courtesan? Only a tranquilizing of the flesh after your battles in the oases; for, asking nothing of you, she does not constrain you to be. But when you are all aflame to hasten to the help of your beloved, your love is charged with gratitude because the archangel sleeping in it has been roused up by you. It is not the easy access of the one that makes the difference, for if you are loved by your beloved you have but to open  your arms and she will press herself to you. The difference lies in the giving. For no gift can be made the courtesan; whatever you bring her, she regards it perforce as tribute money.

And since this tribute is enforced you will question its amount. (This is the only meaning of the dance which here is danced.) Thus when at nightfall the soldier is allowed to roam the houses of ill fame and has in his pocket but his meagre pay - which he must eke out to best advantage - he bargains for love, buying it like food or drink. And even as food makes him capable of enduring another long march across the desert, so this bought love gives him an appeasement of the flesh, enabling him to endure another spell of isolation. But the man himself, having been changed into a huckster, feels no fervor.

To give to the courtesan you would need to be richer than a king; for, whatever you may bring her, she thanks herself first, flattering herself on her adroitness and admiring her skill and her beauty, which have won from you this tribute. You might pour a thousand caravan-loads of gold into that bottomless pit, and yet you would not have even begun to give. For there must be someone to receive.

This is why my men when dusk is gathering on the desert fall to stroking behind their ears the sand-foxes they have caught, and feel a vague thrill of love. For each has an illusion that he is giving to the little wild creature and experiences a rush of gratitude when trustfully it nestles to his breast. But in the district of the stews far must you seek before you find a woman who nestles to your bosom by reason of her need of you.

Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that one of my men, neither richer nor poorer than the others, treats his gold like the seeds that the tree scatters on the wind; for soldier-like he despises hoarding. Clad in the splendor of his magnanimity, he makes his progress through the stews; as the man who is about to sow his barley walks, taking long strides, towards the red loam worthy of receiving it. And then he scatters abroad his little store of wealth, having no wish to keep it to himself; and he alone knows what love is. Indeed it may be that he wakens love in one of these women, and thus a different dance is danced - a dance in which the woman receives.

But, mark my words, the man who cannot see that receiving is very different from accepting is blind indeed. Receiving is, above all, a gift, the gift of oneself, and I would not call him a miser who refuses to ruin himself with presents; the miser is one who bestows not the light of his countenance in return for your largesse. And miserly is the soil which does not clothe itself in beauty when you have strewn your seed upon it.

Thus even courtesans and drunken soldiers sometimes shed light.