Saturday, April 30, 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
100 True Facts You May Not Know About Sojourness
1. I have been writing poetry since I was young, and about 90% of it is crap.
2. Throughout my childhood I have had 3 dogs, 9 cats, 2 hamsters, 2 crabs, 2 turtles, and many fish.
3. My favorite color is blue.
4. When I was in eighth grade, the boys in the class called me Mama Smurf because of it.
5. I think they meant Smurfette, but they weren't too bright.
6. That same year, I borrowed a mannequin from the art room to be in our English class group presentation of the death scene in Romeo and Juliet, and as I carried it down the hall, its various extremities fell off.
7. There were two girls in the group, and I wound up having to be Romeo.
8. I recently began keeping a dream journal, inspired by The Dogs of Babel.
9. I have noticed that in many of my dreams, I am angry and yelling at people. But they always start it.
10. Either that, or I am waiting and waiting for someone who never comes.
11. My last boyfriend was from the Caribbean, and was very superstitious.
12. He seriously believed in dreams, and got worried when he had certain ones.
13. My co-worker dreamed that I had a baby with someone who looked just like him, and she didn't even know he existed.
14. He thought it was a glimpse of our future.
15. Ha ha ha.
16. I was obsessed with the Beatles in high school.
17. My best friend and I met both Paul and Ringo.
18. We cut school and waited on line for 30 hours to meet Paul.
19. It was one of the best times of my life.
20. When George died, I was inconsolable for days.
21. I had appendicitis when I was 17.
22. The doctors were convinced that I was pregnant and lying about it.
23. After the operation, they told me that my appendix had been in the middle, enlarged, flipped over and leaning on some other organ.
24. I was born that way.
25. For a Get Well present, my best friend made me a Ringo teddy bear by buying hair extensions and gluing them onto the bear's head in the shape of a moptop.
26. It is the best gift I have ever received.
27. I was a tomboy as a kid.
28. My favorite T.V. shows were Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Incredible Hulk.
29. I also used to write plays and persuade my friends to star in them.
30. But we never got around to performing them for anyone.
31. My favorite toy was my TalkBoy.
31. My friends and I used to record radio shows on it.
32. My car is 17 years old.
33. It looks like me.
34. I never want a new one.
35. I have 988 e-mails in my inbox because Hotmail made the limit so high that I don't have to delete anything ever again.
36. My cat had kittens yesterday.
37. She had four, but one died.
38. My sister called me on my cell phone last night to tell me that.
39. I cried on the bus.
40. My sister is not as sensitive as I am, and she does things like that without realizing how I will take it.
41. When we were teenagers, my Dad took us out to dinner for Valentine's Day. Right in the middle of dinner, she casually mentioned that my favorite 7th grade teacher died.
42. I wrote a letter to her family to tell them how sorry I was and how much she meant to me.
43. I'm an English major.
44. I changed it to history in January.
45. I just changed it back.
46. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.
47. Then I wanted to be a singer.
48. I sang in a church talent show once but my stage fright was so bad that I almost hyperventilated.
49. I sang Love Song by Third Day.
50. When I was in high school, I was also obsessed with Newsies.
51. My friends and I performed The World Will Know in the school library for the Read Aloud.
52. Dressed as Newsies.
53. Everyone loved it.
54. My teacher wrote about it in my recommendation for college.
55. Which was kind of embarrassing.
56. I got interviewed on the news when I cut school to meet Paul McCartney, and my English teacher saw it.
57. He was such a big Beatles fan that he made me get up in front of the class and tell him all about it the next day.
58. I almost always read while I'm walking.
59. I have been doing it for so long that I am able to avoid tripping or walking into people.
60. I have a lot of strange things committed to memory.
61. Like all the books of the Bible.
62. And Psalm 1.
63. And the Preamble to the Constitution.
64. And Shakespeare's Sonnet 18.
65. Which I had to memorize for an audition for the school play during freshman year of high school.
66. I played General Cartwright in Guys and Dolls.
67. They made me dance on a giant die on stage (to go with the whole gambling motif) and I'm afraid of heights.
68. I was supposed to be a really stern character, but opening night while I was saying my lines, I looked out in the crowd and noticed my Dad wearing a really proud, goofy smile.
69. And I smirked.
70. My mother made a joke of telling my father that the cat was pregnant by first telling him that he's going to be a grandfather.
71. I predicted that he would guess that my sister was pregnant before he would guess that I was (even though I'm older).
72. Because I'm "the good one."
73. I was right.
74. Although my sister is pretty good too.
75. Maybe it's because I've been dubbed a man-hater.
76. I'm not.
77. But people get a kick out of it, so I let them believe it.
78. I have been in three minor car accidents.
79. But none while I was driving.
80. I did have an altercation with a fence at a construction site when I first got my license, though.
81. Long story.
82. No, just an embarrassing one.
83. I curse while I'm driving.
84. I need to stop that.
85. Especially if I'm listening to Christian music at the time.
86. But I never honk my horn at other drivers.
87. Because I just figure the stupid thing was done already, so why harp on it?
88. I have flat feet.
89. I once danced on stage in front of 700 people at a youth retreat.
90. Which was quite out of character for me.
91. On average I sleep eight hours a night.
92. Which is way too much for a college student, in my opinion.
93. Last night, someone told me I read too much.
94. My favorite actor is Cary Grant.
95. I have never flown in a plane.
96. The best place I have ever worked was in a museum.
97. Even though a security guard stalked me.
98. I started avoiding Ancient Greek and Roman Art, because that was where he was stationed.
99. But he found me in the cafeteria and I had to suffer through the most awkward lunch of my life.
100. That was two years ago, so I can laugh about it now.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
I was thinking recently that I really need to get my relationship with God together because I need a refueling station. I know that's a really selfish reason, but let's be perfectly honest: we're humans and we're selfish. How many people turn to God after having catastrophic experiences when they need comfort and an assurance of the afterlife? How many look for Him when their lives feel hopeless? It's what we do. I remember bringing the subject up to Cool Aunt when I was a teenager, and she said, "Yes, it's selfish, but He accepts us anyway."
So anyway, a refueling station. Someone to go to when I just can't take everything anymore. Before everything hit the fan, I was reticent about returning to Christianity. My life was okay, so I didn't need to worry about pleasing God. But when my life is not okay, I do. I can't face these things on my own. I know how selfish that is. But I would rather go to God because of selfishness than not go to Him at all, and I'm sure He feels the same way about it.
I'm not saying I'm going to use God or religion. I'm not. I'm in this for the long haul - good days as well as bad, sunny skies as well as thunderstorms. The point is, I need God. I'll keep searching and questioning, and perhaps I'll alter some old beliefs and ideas, but that basic fact won't change. And if, as Cynic says, that makes me weak, then so be it. If a need for meaning makes a person weak, then most of humanity throughout history has been weak. I don't think it's about strength or weakness... I think it's about being humble enough to acknowledge that we don't inherently have everything needed for a fulfilling life.
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
'For in him we live and move and have our being.'
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Yesterday I read Mark Twain's short story entitled The War Prayer. It's about a church service that is going on while the country is at war (I don't know which country... I would guess America but it's from the work Europe and Elsewhere). Everyone is extremely patriotic, and the minister prays for victory. A bearded, robed stranger enters and stands up at the podium. He says that he is a messenger from God, and the congregation has just prayed not one, but two prayers - one was spoken, the other not. He says that it is his duty to let them know what the other unspoken prayer was. The prayer is that the soldiers on the enemy's side would meet bloody, painful deaths, their widows filled with grief, their country destroyed. After he articulates this, the story ends with no one paying him any attention because his words do not "make sense."
This story reminded me of the religious right in this country. I'm not posting an anti- or pro-war opinion here, just speculating on something. I wonder why many American Christians have been so gung ho about the war. I thought Christians were supposed to be pacifists. I live in a fairly liberal city, and I remember being in a Christian bookstore and hearing a gentlemen inquire about where the anti-war books were. When he was informed that there weren't any, he asked, "No anti-war books in a Christian bookstore?" And he made an interesting point.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Cynic concocted a theory that I became a vegetarian in order to get on God's good side. Oy vay. How do you know me for over seven years and not understand that I'm a spiritual person? It's not about getting on God's good side; it's about wanting to know if there is a God and who He/She is and how to relate to Him/Her. When I told him I was a vegetarian, he said, "I think I liked you better when you were a devout Christian." I said, "I still am, it's just... different." I am, aren't I? I can see what he means - I'm not how I was when I was in high school. But that doesn't mean that I'm not devout anymore, and I haven't abandoned Christianity. He doesn't read this blog because, in his words, he doesn't care about my spiritual journey, but if he did I think he would understand me a little better.
The lost Buddha has returned! During the summer, Fellow Seeker, Skeptic and I were out and about and we happened upon an Asian man selling little figures and statues. I bought a miniature jade Buddha and put it on the desk in my bedroom (it's covered with things like that: a small medieval knight, a toy trolley from San Francisco, sculptures I've made). The folks were a little weirded out by it. I told them I'm not praying to it, so what's the difference? It might as well be a bust of FDR or something. Then it mysteriously disappeared. I suspected my young siblings. Couldn't find it for months. The family joked that it disappeared for a reason, like it wasn't supposed to be here. One of the kids uncovered it the other night; it had fallen and landed somewhere where I couldn't see it.
Speaking of which, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one crazy book. It describes death as this psychedelic experience with colored lights and gods flying at you. Very entertaining. Not sure that I'm getting much spiritual nourishment from it, but it is definitely interesting.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I am involved in a secular book club apart from the church one I attend. We read works of fiction every month, usually novels. When we first started a year ago, we were all throwing out suggestions for books. I mentioned The Screwtape Letters because I thought it was more fiction than apologetics (I was mistaken). Someone in the group liked that idea, and ever since has been bringing up the suggestion again and again. I had forgotten about it, but she didn't. So this month we read it. I was sick and consequently missed the meeting, but after speaking to the other members, I discovered that two people found it boring (but one said she was glad she read it anyway), the woman who re-suggested it enjoyed it, and the others didn't read it. This outcome was better than I expected. It is not a religious group like the other, and I was afraid they would be angry with my selection or think I was proselytizing.
I enjoyed the book very much and got a lot out of it (as I usually do with Lewis's work). For those of you who don't know, the book is a collection of letters that Screwtape (a veteran devil) writes to his nephew Wormwood (a novice), and they are full of advice on how to tempt the human he is assigned to. Here are some quotes I liked:
"Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. [...] Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment" (29).I like that he makes devils responsible for society's unrealistic standards of beauty (a.k.a. super thin types). That gave me a good chuckle.
"There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them" (34).
"He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles" (42).
"The Enemy will also try to render real in the patient's mind a doctrine which they all profess but find it difficult to bring home to their feelings - the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the colour of their hair" (60).
"We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the Future every real gift which is offered them in the Present" (62-3).
"Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is "finding his place in it," while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on Earth, which is just what we want" (101).
"In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them" (104).
As I was reading it, I was wondering, "What would the letters on tempting me look like?"
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Those were the words I e-mailed to Best Friend this morning when she asked me why I asked her if she eats gelatin. She has been a vegetarian since she was a kid. I always admired her for it but never thought it was for me. Now all of a sudden it's on my mind a lot.
A couple of years ago she was working on something about Christianity and Vegetarianism and she asked me if I knew of any biblical references she could use. All I could find was when God told Noah, "The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything" (Genesis 9:2-3). So I told her "I guess God said it was okay" and figured that was all. She came back to me with a website called JesusVeg.com that argued that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were vegetarians. Only after the Fall did God let them start killing animals for food.
As you know, my book group recently read The Problem of Pain, in which Lewis addressed the issue of animal suffering. He didn't argue for vegetarianism, but he did say that God didn't intend for animals to prey upon each other. That was a result of the Fall as well. My group leader raised the question, "If we're supposed to be trying to get close to perfection like in the Garden of Eden, should we be vegetarians?" A legitimate question. We just looked at each other like "Yeah, we probably should," but that was the end of it.
Lately it has been resurfacing again and again. The few times that I have eaten meat in the past few days, it's not the same. I don't feel like it's a good thing to do. It's not like I couldn't live without it, and I don't need to be perpetuating violence in the world. I haven't made any definite decisions yet, though.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
I had to read excerpts from Paternal Tyranny by Arcangela Tarabotti for class. Tarabotti was a 17th century woman who wrote treatises. I sped through it because it's so unlike the female Renaissance writers we have read thus far.
After the Lord had created the universe and all the animals - as I have just said - it is written, "And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good" (Gn 1:31). He then set about shaping the proudest animal of all; but when He had finished, He did not deem His work perfect and so did not recognize it as good. For this reason, Genesis does not add the same words as before; but foreseeing that without woman man would be the compendium of all imperfections, God said after some thought, "It is not good for man to be alone, let us make him a help like unto himself" (Gn 2:18). Thus He willed to bring forth a companion for man, who would enrich him with merits and be the universal glory of the human race (46).It gets worse but I have omitted many things so as not to offend my male readers :) Don't complain, though. This is nothing compared to the plethora of misogynist literature out there, especially from this time period.
As soon as His Majesty said the word "help," He immediately added, "like unto himself," implying that woman is of just as much value as man (50).
If he alone had the grace of free will and was superior to Eve, she would not have sinned at all, despite the serpent's promptings and insinuations, for the simple reason that she could not have made choices without her husband's consent (51).
Eve is deceived by the serpent's cunning, and you place all the blame on her. Adam falls for a charming request, and you excuse him. He knew he was offending God; he was not deceived by cunning, but beseeched by an innocent and sincere creature. Have you ever heard of greater wickedness than shielding yourself against your own faults with another's innocence (52)?
Our ancient mother set us a true example: as soon as she was created, she used her free will given by God; her first act was to gaze upon the tree that would bear the fruit of knowledge. Desire pursued her eye; overcome, she aroused the same desire in Adam. It was his excessive gullibility that deprived the whole human race of the happy state of innocence (109).
Adam alone, not Eve, was commanded not to eat the forbidden fruit - which means that his sin, not hers, brought ruin to the world. [...] and for that reason the apostle Paul says, "Through one man sin entered the world [...] (122)."
I found the whole piece fascinating. I think I will buy the book. You always hear about it being Eve's fault, and whether you find the argument convincing or not, it is interesting to read. I don't know how she got away with writing this.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
As I previously mentioned, Future Priest gave me "The Passion" for Easter. I have been sick in bed for two days so I finally got a chance to watch it. My goodness... it really was something. It was graphic but not as graphic as I expected it to be. I was deeply affected by it. I watched it last night, and when I woke up this morning (and all through the day) I couldn't get it out of my head. Not the violence of the crucifixion - more like my impression of the entire movie. The impression lingers still.
Now, what I am about to say must be read with the understanding that I am, at bottom, a Christian after all. While I was watching the movie, I was thinking about Buddhism and all the other things that swirl around my brain and I found myself asking, "What did Buddha ever do for me?" I mean, he had some great thoughts, but that was mainly because he wanted to figure things out for himself, no? Even if he did do it for others and not himself, that simply lumps him in with every other great teacher. In Christianity we are presented with the idea that God Himself is so intensely interested in my welfare (and yours, and hers, and his, and so on) that he would be willing to be crucified. It's mind-blowing. I also kept thinking that as bad as my current situation is, I have no idea what real suffering is. The trial I am dealing with is a joke in comparison to the suffering of Christ. (I understand that the only way anything I have just said makes any kind of sense is if you believe in the divinity of Jesus, and as I've stated, this is the case with me. So pardon me my bias.)
I don't think Future Priest realizes how much of a blessing he is in my life. Hopefully he does now.
Note: I will keep my question of why Jesus is always portrayed as a white guy to myself. Come on, Mel, you were all for accuracy when it came to language...
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
I have subscribed to an Ancient History newsletter, and today's issue reminded me that Buddha's birthday is celebrated in April. Last year I inadvertently attended a Buddha birthday celebration during the first week of May. I am going to try to find out when they are having it this year.
So, I read up a little bit on good old Siddartha. I will probably skip to The Tibetan Book of the Dead in God's Breath so that I can focus on this religion a bit. There is a Museum of Tibetan Art in my neighborhood; going to check that out as well.
The little reading I did this morning was on Buddha's life. I also started reading the Four Noble Truths. I haven't gotten very far, but I am already hitting a roadblock with this. The first Truth is The Noble Truth of Suffering, which states the obvious: we suffer. The second Truth is The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering. The origin of suffering is "that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and, bound up with pleasure and lust, now here, now there, finds ever fresh delight." This craving is threefold, including the Sensual Craving, the Craving for Eternal Existence, and the Craving for Self-Annihilation.
Here is where I have a problem: "But, where does this craving arise and take root? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving arises and takes root. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, are delightful and pleasurable: there this craving arises and takes root."
That's all you got? What kind of an explanation is that?
I have not encountered an adequate explanation of the existence of evil in any religion. Even in my own faith, it's pretty shabby. If God has no evil whatsoever in His nature, and He created everything and everyone, where did it come from? People argue that free will allows for the possibility to choose evil, but how was it even a choice unless it existed, even if only on a theoretical level?
The Eight-Fold Path:
Hold the right views.
Have the right aspirations.
Use the right speech.
Show the right conduct.
Pursue the right livelihood.
Expend the right effort.
Maintain the right attitude.
Practice the right meditation.
Sounds easy enough. I wonder how you're supposed to know all these "right" things. I had better keep reading.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Last night Fellow Seeker, Expert Seeker, Devout and I went to a meeting of the C.S. Lewis Society. F.S. and I had gone twice before and really enjoyed it, so we asked the others to come with us. Last night the speaker discussed the various ways in which Lewis addressed the ups and downs of faith. How pertinent.
He brought up many points that Lewis had made in letters he wrote, which is always interesting because I haven't read any of his letters yet. He also brought up The Screwtape Letters, and A Grief Observed. It was very interesting, and he referenced so many books that I have a new to-be-read list.
F.S. and I have a policy of passing notes when we go to these functions. Last night we got E.S. and D. involved too. Whenever the speaker brought up a good point, we discussed it amongst ourselves. We got into silent discussions on logic (Is God above logic, or bound by it?) and the nature of good (Are good things inherently good, or are they good because God deems them good?). The speaker made a wonderful point: some people make believing seem too easy, and Lewis didn't agree with that. No pat answers, my friends.
Afterwards, while we were standing around with cake and coffee, F.S. and I got into a debate. I brought up the point that I believe there is a God because throughout human history, mankind has always had a sense of God, or worshipping something bigger than themselves (whether it was the sun, or some other deity). I feel that this is something ingrained in humanity. F.S. said that he feels it's natural, not supernatural. I said, "Yes, natural, but natural because we were created that way." He said I was presupposing that we were created. I said, "I'm presupposing that because I feel that our continuous desire to reach out to a God suggests that we were." He asked, "Then why do some people not do it?" I said it was due to pride; there are plenty of times when I'm not fond of the idea of Someone keeping track of everything I do. D. agreed with me because I was presenting a typically Christian argument. F.S. is the proverbial thorn in my flesh, in a good way :)
I also said that I feel that faith is based on one's personality. There are some people who can just believe and don't analyze every little thing to death. That's their type of faith (like D.). I have a faith that needs constant probing. F.S. said that he feels that it is all personality, and for that reason, God is accepting of atheists because there are some people who are so staunch that their personality would not allow them to believe in God. I said, "Like C.S. Lewis?" with a smirk.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Today we continued the discussion by asking questions about the racism inherent in N.O.I. ideology. Was it okay for them to be racist against whites? Would it benefit them? Professor H. asked us, "Have white people benefitted from racism?" Most of the people who answered agreed that whites have. I said that there are two ways of looking at it. Obviously they have in economic/political/social terms, but ethically, they have not. Consequently, racism is not beneficial to anyone or to society in general. Smarty Pants (I don't mean that in a derogatory way, I really think this kid is brilliant) countered my argument by saying that ethics are set by society and therefore are subject to change at any given time. For example, when slavery was in place, it was socially acceptable and unquestioned (for the most part). We got into a debate over it (which seemed to amuse the professor) because I told him that I do not feel ethics are relative. There are certain things that may be accepted by society but are still ethically wrong. He said that he learned in his philosophy class that ethics are relative, and I told him that was merely an opinion, not a fact. Professor H. then asked Smarty Pants, "Can you give me an example of a society in which patricide was/is acceptable?" No one could. The point: we have never, in the history of the human race, seen killing our parents as an ethical action. Boo-yah.
This is somewhat philosophical, but I feel it is spiritual as well. Are there absolute truths in life, or is everything relative? Does God demand that we follow universal do's and don't's, or merely the ones society imposes? I have heard it argued that Christians should not abide by laws that contradict the Bible, yet look at what the Bible says:
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been
established by God."
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Dry spell, dry spell! I have several things coming up in a day or two, so I'll write, I promise.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
I need to be stimulated. I have been so busy reading for classes (The Heptameron by Marguerite de Navarre, African American Lives by Clayborne Carson) and my own personal obsessions (Harry Potter, Queen Elizabeth, the sequel to Politically Correct Bedtime Stories) that I haven't been reading my spiritual books. I have been reading The Screwtape Letters for a book club other than the church one (long story) but I'm waiting to post on that.
So... *twiddles thumbs*
I have been contemplating turning this blog into a normal blog where I write about everything. Sometimes I feel limited by the religious discourse. There's plenty of feminist discourse and literary discourse and you'll-never-believe-what-happened-to-me-today discourse, but I'm refraining because I feel that the people who read this blog aren't interested in that. If you want to cast your vote, I'd appreciate it :)
Sunday, April 03, 2005
I was thinking about death today as we drove past a cemetery in the rain. I asked Mother if she had ever read Catcher in the Rye, and she said she hadn't. I started telling her about that unbelievably moving scene in which Holden describes all the cemetery visitors going inside when it begins to rain, while all he can think about is his dead brother Allie getting rained on.
Death is terrifying. Does anyone else find it terrifying? I suppose some people are so sure in their beliefs that they don't, but no matter how much I try, there is still such an uncertainty. If you're going to be absolutely honest (many won't), no one knows what happens after death. When religious people say to me, "I know..." I say, "No, you don't know, you believe. There's a big difference."
"We're Late" by W. H. Auden
Clocks cannot tell our time of day
For what event to pray
Because we have no time, because
We have no time until
We know what time we fill,
Why time is other than time was.
Nor can our question satisfy
The answer in the statue's eye:
Only the living ask whose brow
May wear the Roman laurel now;
The dead say only how.
What happens to the living when we die?
Death is not understood by Death; nor You, nor I.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
My Thursday book group is starting A Grief Observed by Lewis this week. (I know, I know, and there's more of him to come. I can't help it; it just worked out that way!) We were supposed to read Chapter 1. I started it yesterday and have already finished it. It was that good. He really is, as Andi put it, my favorite dead guy :)
A Grief Observed is quite possibly the most honest Lewis work I have ever read. This is not to say that I don't find him honest elsewhere; on the contrary, I do. But he is usually quite matter-of-fact with his beliefs. It's as if he's saying to the reader, "It's so logical; don't you see?" This book was written after the death of his wife, and he is broken and uncertain. I have never seen that side of him before. He actually asks, "[W]here is God?" and says that when he needs God the most, he finds "[a] door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside" (4). I could hardly believe it. But, you know, that's how you feel. I may not be dealing with the death of a loved one, but much of what Lewis wrote about grief resonated with me.
"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer" (9).
"By writing it all down (all? - no: one thought in a hundred) I believe I get a little outside it" (10).
"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? [...] Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief" (25).
"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand" (28).
"Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can't escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. [...] I am more afraid that we are really rats in a trap. Or, worse still, rats in a laboratory" (32-3).
"The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which 'took these things into account' was not faith but imagination (42)."
"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. [...] He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down" (61).
The book is really a journal he kept, and he seems to have worked it all out through writing. In the beginning he rages against God and can't see the answers, but towards the end he answers his own questions. Wonderful.
Friday, April 01, 2005
What a lovely precursor to my meeting. We discussed Chapter 4 of A Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. I had read it before, and I reread the chapter for last night. It was good and I brought up some discussion points, but I decided not to be a troublemaker for once, so I didn't bring up too many pointed questions. I decided to tell anecdotes instead - the Biblical legos and the crazy-Christian-on-a-bus story were my main contributions to the meeting.