Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for February 2005

Remembering a Magic Moment

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Last night I was listening to the soundtrack of Into the Woods, a musical by Stephen Sondheim, which my high school produced my senior year. Despite a valiant singing audition that spring sung in hopes of landing part with a line or two I was ultimately cast as the stage manager. Even so, as I think about it, the months preparing for and performing Into the Woods were my favorite part of high school.

As I was listening to the soundtrack last night and playing solitaire I came back to a vision of Cinderella. I remember peaking out from behind the deep, black folds of the curtain where I sat during the performances like awed child and watching Cinderella pace across the stage in her blue gown, illuminated by the warmth of the incandescent spotlights, and gliding against a background of 600 captivated faces which were lit only by the glow of her presence.

In that moment that 17-year-old West High junior ceased to be Emily and to the 601 of us watching her she became Cinderella, transfixing us in the complexity of the choices she faced. I can still close my eyes and see her blue glow gliding to and fro, finally becoming still to the wild applause of the crowd. For that moment, three nights in March of 1996, Emily was transformed from the semi-ditzy daughter of the home-economics teacher into a fairy-tale princess in a sparking blue dress.

The West High spring play sold out each of the three performances that year. Nine years hence I still remember the drama teacher, Mrs. Davis, in her speech to the cast and crew on opening night, telling us that Into the Woods had a lot to say to us and to our audience about our world and about ourselves. As I have continued to listen to the soundtrack over the years I have found her words ringing true again and again.

I think what amazes me about those performances is that such insightful art was presented at West Henderson High School that spring and that it was preformed by such a diverse conglomeration of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, including me. At least one cast member went onto an acting career but many of the leads left theater behind when they left West High to join the Marines, marry young or go off to college.

That our bunch of high school students from Western North Carolina entertained, challenged, and moved our peers, parents, and (perhaps most importantly) ourselves with such a thoughtful and honest piece of theater still amazes me. I know that if I went back and saw the video of our production it would not be as shimmering as it is in my memory but, at least in my mind, it was transcendent.

Written by furthermusings

February 27, 2005 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Reflections

Numa Numa!

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Last week a friend from campus emailed me this video of a kid from New Jersey lip-syncing to a Romanian pop song. My roommates and I have played it and the actual video by the Romanian boy-band O-Zone quite a few times since. Beware, the tune is very catchy.

I admire the guy in the video. It might not be high art but I would be hard pressed to be as amusing as he is. I think his unabashed exuberance is pretty cool. Go Gary!

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February 23, 2005 at 2:07 pm

So you’re thinking of starting a long distance relationship?

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Charity just sent me her phone record for our usage last month.

Any guesses to how many minutes we spent on the phone?

(You are only allowed to guess if you do not have access to our phone records!)

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February 21, 2005 at 9:27 pm

Posted in General

The Construction of Knowledge?

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I had an epiphany while talking to a professor yesterday: humans really do create knowledge. I know that most people probably got this a long time ago but it hit me with force for the first time yesterday as we discussed a book I’ve been reading lately.

As I sat there in Dr. M’s office it occurred to me that she knew things about international finance and perhaps another professor knows things about English social history and another has crucial insights into Indian development and unless someone could see and tie the trends together then knowledge might go uncreated . . . unassembled . . . wild.

When I came to UNC our PhD program was presented as a place to learn how and what to teach and to create knew knowledge (hence the point that your dissertation should be a substantial addition to the field). Ever since I arrived I have pooh-poohed the idea that the university is a place where knowledge is created (especially in the social sciences) but after yesterday I’m scratching my head a bit. I think I’ll take a tour of the philosophy of history and see what that has to say to this idea.

This seems to be a continuation of an idea I’ve had in my mind ever since I went overseas: almost everything about our world is constructed and there is very little in this world that is “natural.” People don’t naturally watch Carolina basketball nor do they naturally go to school. They don’t naturally wear jeans and t-shirts or eat sandwiches.

The Great Transformation is a historical study of the emergence of the ideas and practice of economic liberalism. It is showing me how English society organized itself and thought about its relationship to the economy before and after the industrial revolution. It’s extending the idea of our society being constructed to the economic principles we shape our lives around. It is dense as all get out, but very, very interesting.

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February 21, 2005 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Political Science

Musings on My Musings

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After returning from Sarajevo two summers ago I received compliments from different folks about my writings over that summer. Before I came to Chapel Hill two falls ago I was talking an acquaintance about the process of how I wrote the descriptive narratives from that summer. The original impetus was that I needed to write “update letters.”

But I found when I sat down to write them was that I couldn’t write in that style with its constant call for reflections on how I was doing spiritually and what I was doing physically. Honoring itch inside me, when I sat down to write I would instead sit back in a desk chair and think about my days in Bosnia. When I did that I found things that needed to be written about, needed to be honored, and they pushed aside the thoughts of writing “an update letter.” Whether they needed to be written about because I needed to write about them or because the memory needed to be written about, I couldn’t say. What I remember is that when I sat down to write I found thoughts that gleamed out from my days with a poignancy of joy or sadness or wonder that drew me back to them.

I would end up in the office after my English classes ended in the evening and type myself into a haze of hunger and tiredness, closing my eyes to find the memory, passing the descriptions from my mind to the keyboard and onto the screen, reading them over and over again to see if the shape and flow of the words mirrored the picture of the objects in my head and the feelings that came as I stepped back into my memories. It was strange and new experience.

The acquaintance smiled, nodded, and said a few brief sentences about the muse . . . “sometimes the muse calls and you just have to write and it almost doesn’t seem like it’s you that’s writing” . . . “instead you’re discovering the words and the nuances of detail” . . . “sometimes the muse disappears”. . .

Lately I have been struggling to find things that the muse is calling me to write about here on the blog. Blogging has provided a unique venue for me to gaze off beyond the glowing computer screen in front of me and to wrestle with the words to describe a moment and the thoughts that it conjures.

For some reason those moments that feel so brilliant and clear that they demand to be written about for their poignancy or their beauty or their sadness have been harder to find over the last couple of months. As I walk through my days I look around for them, but lately, when I pick them up, what has the promise to be a geo turns out to be a lump of soil that breaks into clumps of sod as I role it between my fingers.

Perhaps the pressure I feel from school prevents me from having the ears to listen to the softly ringing moments that buzz with meaning around me as I pass through and by them during my walks across campus. Perhaps living in a house with three other human beings and spending the end of each evening reaching across the country to connect again with Charity has left me with less silence in my days, and perhaps it is silence that lets the moments worth examining bubble back to the surface as my rambling thoughts sort through the bustle of my days.

Written by furthermusings

February 12, 2005 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Reflections

Chinese Checkers

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game anyone?

Over the last week the roommates and I have taken to playing chinese checkers at night with two, three or four players, depending on who is at home. Perhaps to relieve the stress of trying to plan your moves in advance, each of us has developed a repertoire of sound effects to accompany our jumps.

Jamie introduced a new rule last spring that has brought made chinese checkers seem complicated enough to justify multiple adults playing it. If (1) your marble has X number of empty spaces between it and the marble your jumping and (2) there are an equal number of empty spaces on the far side of the marble your jumping; then you may jump both distances.

Playing chinese checkers and cribbage over the last couple of nights makes me wonder how bachelors and families used to spend their time before there was internet and TV in every home. I wonder how many nights I would playing games or perhaps of reading novels or writing letters.

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February 9, 2005 at 6:26 pm

Posted in At the House

Keeping My Options Open

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Neon Ian

I like this shot of Ian on his birthday. With all my wonderings about political science and the future it is good to be tuning up my haircutting abilities.

Anyone else need a mohawk?

Written by furthermusings

February 2, 2005 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Pictures