Let there be lit

I read.  I collect books and I read.  I don’t read as often as I should nor as ravenously as I did when I was 11 but I can do, when I want to and when I tell the outside world to carry on without me.

I am an email subscriber to LitHub, the online literary magazine that promotes reading, thought, ideas, literature, all the good stuff.  I read it, if not daily, then sub-daily, weekly, and in great chunks.  I wish I read it regularly, in the mornings over coffee.  Do people do that?  Or is it a situation of my imagination?   I hope they do.  I hope that there is in the world someone wo reads LitHub over coffee every morning; to know that there is in this slightly-off-kilter world a place, even if it is just one desk in one home, where someone opens the laptop lid, takes the coffee cup in hand, and enjoys both, simultaneously, enriching soul and caffiene habit.

But today this article, entitled ‘The Truth of Ray Bradbury’s Prophetic Vision’ appeared in my FB LitHub news feed and struck me as something I ought to have read and ought to have known before now.  And so it is with so much: I feel I ought to have known it and then the shame of not knowing it and then ensues the not-very-subtle argument with myself about becoming a better person.  But what a hubristic approach to literature and learning.

This article intrigued me not because of its Science Fictional leanings (I confess I have never given William S. Burroughs his fair due) but because of what it says about reading.  As a teacher I promoted reading in every way I could, including the subversive ways, which included condoning Harry Potter at the Evangelical School and turning a blind eye when students underlined passages in school copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby.

I miss the classroom and what I miss most is the discussion and the critical learning brought on by critical mass: that series of moments in which no one knows what we’re talking about and then, suddenly, we all do.  It’s a wonderful thing and while it cannot be entirely planned, it can be sculpted, it can be drawn out when conditions are right.  It is akin to using one’s sail: it is impossible if there is no wind, but when a wind arises, do not expect the sail to do any of the work: it is the sailor’s job.  So the teacher’s when the students are alive (to the wind in their cognitive sails).

The line in the article of most rich significance, in my view, is this, the last one:

Why bother to ban books when people voluntarily ignore them? Books don’t have to be hunted to extinction. Books die as a result of our taking them for granted. As the world of books steadily shrinks publisher by publisher, shop by shop, library by library and reader by reader, the result is the same. Only here and there, powerless to resist the general momentum of society, do a few people remain who love literature enough to try somehow to preserve it. So perhaps Bradbury suggests, at the end of this dark fable, all is not lost. Not quite.

I want to believe that there are more than a few of us left, but I know enough about humanity and the difficulties of literature to believe there is a great readership out there–especially in America at this moment.

The article is pinned below, and I encourage you to peruse it, if only to buck the trends that say our reading habits are confied to social platforms and easy news.  And if you want to grab a cup of coffee, you just go right ahead.  LitHub away.

https://lithub.com/the-truth-of-ray-bradburys-prophetic-vision/

 

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Sweetie Darling/Cheers, thanks a lot (part 1 (probably))

 

I don’t know, somewhere, in this blog is a post about how we discovered an Abbey called Downton.  It was about 6 1/2 or 7 years ago when the blog was new and I had nothing else to write about or put in it and also, we were living in remote Alaska where things like Internet and shops were unknown.  At that time I believe Internet was in existence in the village, actually, and we were pirating it from across the marshland or bay, probably, and pre-loading Netflix episodes of Lady Mary Crawley while we made dinner and looked at our fabulous view of Lake Iliamna.

But those days are past and we can neither recover nor fully remember them, and so we move on to greener or at least funnier (sic) pastures called Absolutely Fabulous and Gilmore girls (no ‘The’ and lower-case ‘g’ as per A Year in the Life–look it up).  This video, below, correctly expresses all the funny I have hoped to convey over the course of my life but, not being a comedienne, was unable to.  So I leave it to the professionals, like Jennifer Saunders and, in part 2 of this blog entry, Lauren Graham/Lorelai Gilmore.  I think Jennifer Saunders is simply hilarious and she is simply hilarious because she is all (or at least many) of the things I love in a person: humble, intelligent, kind-hearted, supportive of friends and realistic about family, interested in learning and interested in other people and not afraid to take what she’s been given (by God, from birth, etc.) and make what she can of it. She is also articulate and generous when it comes to compliments.

In this interview–all of which is worth stopping whatever you are supposed to be doing and watching–at around minute-marker 34, she gives an account of the time she (almost) misplaced their baby, going so far as to quetsion whether or not said baby had actually been born.  I am, as many of you know, no prude when it comes to parenting because I have never been an official parent (no matter what you say, step-parenting, albeit complex and rewarding, does not involve the same collection of sacrificial emotions as the other kind of parenting, and that is just the way it is).  So to laugh at what can only be a sleep-deprived moment in this woman’s life is to show solidarity as a human being, not a form of mockery of mothers.  But even so, Saunders doesn’t seem to leave any room for that sort of uppityness.

But if you’ve already begun watching this slightly saucy, very endorphin-inducing (through hearty side-splitting laughter) video, you may as well either just keep watching or, if you’re pressed for time, kick over to minute 40 and watch to the end.  Because unless you’re interested in all the French and Saunders skits, the Absolutely Fabulous stories and the Interesting Youth (not a comedy sketch title, just a period in the comedienne’s life), there’s really nothing here that can’t be summed in the last 6 minutes.  But who am I kidding?   Nobody needs to be reminded that life is tough, fashion prevails and we all need each other as much as each other needs us.

So, cheers, (and) thanks a lot.

What we may have left undone

Forgiveness is the perfume the trampled flower casts back upon the foot that crushed it.

-Attributed to Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and a variety of clueless blog writers

For many years this quote, several poems, an oil-pastel portrait of our Scottish terrier, and a string of daisies adorned our upstairs bathroom.  These gems, the first of which appeared circa 1986, were drawn directly onto the original 1963 yellow-and-white wallpaper by my sister and myself as a protest against the paper’s perceived ugliness.  The bathroom has long since been updated and stripped of its character-filled wall adornments but this particular quote–provided, I believe, by my friend Jill–is one of the few that remains for me, to this day, a source of humility and something worthy of my consideration.

We have all done selfish things, naughty things, things we wish we hadn’t done and hope will disappear, but few of us have learned the solidarity of forgiveness that must needs follow these behaviors.  We have all lost our tempers, we have lied and stretched the truth to fit our needs, we have ‘left things undone’, so to speak, and we have very often shirked what little responsibility we have truly been given on this earth.

Most of us, if not each of us, barring the psychopath or the deranged, have felt remorse, sudden and uncomfortable, creep up on us as we shoulder the guilt of an unwise action. That sense of righteousness or pride that led us to our un-right action is, if we are fortunate, followed quickly by a flash of despair over what we have done.  We wish it were not so and, instead of begging forgiveness, often we follow the lie or the theft or unkindness with yet another round of the same.  We long to ask forgiveness but our pride prevents us: we do not know where to begin because we think we are still the flower when really, we are the foot.

And because we have deceived others, we know what it is to sit at the receiving end of such unpleasantness and even cruelty.  We have been stood up, we have been dumped, we have been lied to or stolen from or hurt by someone–likely many someones.  We have been broken into, in one way or another, and we have not always acted in accord.  That is, we have indeed acted in accord–but not like the flower.  For when a foot, shod or bare, tramples a flower, breaks its stalk, and removes its petals the flower does not and cannot trample back.  The wild exception is the blackberry cane, but even then the fruit it bears is sweet, purple and forgiving.  No, the flower bends and is sometimes broken, but it often will, when carefully and curiously examined, cast upon us a fragrance.  This is what is meant by in accord.

So often the inclination of our heart is not to release anything akin to perfume when the boot comes down upon us.  Instead our first response is to weep angry thoughts and sharpen hardened words and to be, in a sense, the blackberry vine sans fruits.  We dagger our feelings into each other and into ourselves because we have been wounded and we want to wound in return.  When hurt by someone’s selfishness, unkindness, lack of thought, or lack of understanding we weep, and we also harden.  Soon we are behaving unkindly ourselves and crushing the beautiful blooms around us, simply because we reacted like a blackberry vine and not a flower.  If forgiveness is the perfume then peace must be the fruit.  And it is for these fruits that we work and are known, as the disciples of the Christ who called us be in the tiresome, troubling world, but not of it; to be, as it were, the flower and not the foot.

Good Works in Green Bay

 

In this video you will see Katie Stockman advocating for the creative powers, stories and beauty of women everywhere–but particularly these refugee women in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It’s never a bad idea to share the good works of another person.  By Good Works I mean the work of another person that promotes Goodness, one component of the trivium–Truth, Beauty and Goodness–that points to God.  (The other two components have been and indeed will continue to be discussed on this here weblog.)

My neighbor’s daughter is part of the Good Work featured in this video and I am so proud to say that I know her and that my life somehow intersects hers, for Christ calls us to surround ourselves with others who do His work and to learn from one another how to discover and use the Gifts He has so generously given us.  Not everyone can be an organizer or a motivator or an advocate, but neither can everyone be a lawyer, a teacher, a lineman, a chef. And so when we see others using their gifts, not afraid or held back by fear, challenges or social constraints, we must thank God, both for the gift and the recipient of that gift.