Further Musings

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

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Lenten Prayers

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The time change this week means that I’ve snuck in a few fixed hour prayers before the boys wake up.  The week’s appointed prayer is one I want to keep praying this week:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who cares for us: Preserve me faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirt, one God, now and forever.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Amen

Written by furthermusings

March 15, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Reflections

For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

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I heard this quote the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it as my two 1-year-olds do laps with their walkers for as long as we can bear it:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

G.K. ChestertonOrthodoxy

Written by furthermusings

November 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Laughter, Reflections

Conversations

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It’s almost October and the semester is officially in full swing.  Practically this means that I’m grading or prepping several nights a week in addition to the full work days of office hours, classes, and meetings.  This has the predictable effect of plummeting my personal reading.  In July I read a book a week, now I’m averaging about 1/3 or a 1/4 of that.

Reading fewer books worries me for a couple of reasons.  I’ve been reading, listening, and thinking more about how the internet shapes the brain.  I find that the longer I spend on the web fighting through my inbox, reading Feedly, and skimming the Times and ESPN for a break the more frantic and scattered I feel at the end of the day.  I long to be focused for long periods and to hear other people’s well crafted, well curated thoughts.

Another reason I’ve been wanting to read more books is that I’m interested in having more conversations with people worth conversing with.  We’ve yet to make fast friends here in PVD.  Lots of good people, lots of fun people, but few people we hang with regularly and fewer still whom we talk deep into the night with.  But I’m realizing I need and want those conversations.  Our year in SC Wendell Berry and I talked deep into the nights as I read through his fiction.  I’m wondering now who I should listen to.  Eugene Peterson?  Some classic writer?  Contemporary economists?  Probably not economists as they are more work related, though it would be good if I could carve out some space for learning at work, rather than just teaching.

Explicitly spiritual?  Implicitly so?  Keen observers of the human condition?  I miss this type of reading….

Written by furthermusings

September 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Reflections

My life verse about the internet

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As I talked with a dear friend tonight about the perils of the internet I was reminded of this quote that I used to keep taped to the top of my computer screen.

“Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is took weak and fuddled to shake off.”  C.S. Lewis

It’s strange to me that when I was in college the people whom the internet ate were almost entirely men who got sucked into computer games for semesters on end, emerging only for class and brief visits to the dining hall.   Perhaps they were online because they were bad at relationships… Perhaps their relationship skills were bad because of how much time they spent online.  Either way it was hard to watch.   I did that one semester too, and it was fun.  I can still taste the adrenaline of playing Half-Life or Team Fortress.   But I left, and I don’t have gaming systems because they are too sweet.

Today the internet eats women as much as it eats men.   The social aspect, the mirages of connection, that tell people they have friends even when the don’t.  It twiddles away good years that could be spent in conversation and love on Instagram posts and status updates.  All the while the internet provides a flow of a constant, unmonitored, and unedited social pressures into homes that were once havens from the pressures of the world.

This all makes me sad.  And it grieves me to see how it is eating young women now as well as young men.

Written by furthermusings

September 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Reflections

Dust to dust

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Tonight, as Charity and I comb through a treasure chest of art prints, I emptied out an old frame we picked up several houses ago.

As I emptied it I wondered who these people are and what it is that brought them together. Who cared enough to have it framed and protect it many years? I wondered if any living soul knows who these nine people are and if there exists another picture of them in the world.

And as I picked it up it began to crumble into dust in my hands, early images fading away. What little knowledge of them in the living further disappearing…

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Written by furthermusings

September 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Pictures, Reflections

From Persuasion

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“He shewed himself so intimately acquainted with all the tenderest songs of the one poet, and all the impassioned descriptions of hopeless agony of the other; he repeated, with such tremulous feeling, the various lines which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness, and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood, that she ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry; and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry, to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely, and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly, were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly. ”

Jane Austen, Persuasion, Vol 1, Chapter XI.

 

Written by furthermusings

December 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Reflections, Reviews

What I Learned About Myself at Ikea

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This weekend, much to my surprise, I came face to face with a few realities about myself.   What brought on this bout of self-realization?  Ikea.

There’s a lot that’s changed since we’ve come to Providence.  One important change is that we’ve graduated.  Technically we graduated a year ago, but moving here feels like we’ve graduated from grad school/post-doc world.  We’re not students any more.  We’ve left Chapel Hill and the meager pay of a TA.  We’re professionals now, with professional salaries.  Two professional salaries with no kids.

And so over the weekend we went to an Ikea for the first time.  It was so enormous.  There were maps and arrows to follow so you won’t get lost.  As you followed the black arrows you went past and into rooms and small apartments decorated to give you a sense of how it all fits together: the comfy sofas, the cool wall hangings, the sleek chairs.  When you sit in them you temporarily move into a world where everything matched and nothing is sagging or grimy.

And as I walked around with the masses (and ate Swedish meatballs with them in the dining hall) it tapped something inside of me and I responded viscerally.  A switch flipped.  Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted.  Nothing crazy.  Nothing more than what I deserved: a headboard and frame for our bed with distressed side-tables that match, laundry hampers with canvas liners, and sturdy book shelves cut and finished to match the bedroom furniture.

And it’s time to buy nicer things.  We have a hodgepodge of furniture.  Five mismatched dining room chairs isn’t going to cut it.  We shouldn’t have throw covers over multiple pieces of furniture to hide the stains and the ugly upholstery.  The only pieces we’ve bought new were the coffee table and love seat Charity bought a decade ago.  The rest is a mishmash of hand-me-downs and Craigslist.

It’s time.  It’s time to be like our friends and peers who had kids late (either by choice or not), who have enough money to buy a nice house, to buy new furniture, to upgrade from their beater car.  As we rode home Charity summed it up by saying, “I can’t think of a single piece of furniture that we own that I like.”

That feeling, that certainty, that surety that it’s time to do these things feels like the swells of the ocean… like a wave that lifts you off your feet and deposits you gently down again.  It feels exactly right…  and tonight I’m wondering where that feeling comes from.  I’ve never thought of myself as some who wants things… who wants objects, not just because they’re functional, but wants them because … because what?

Because I want to be a grown up and this is how I show that I’m no longer a child?  Because I want to be respected as a professional and these are the accoutrements of being one?  Because I deserve some luxury after all those years of sacrifice?  Because I can show my wife that the risk she took in marrying me finally paid off as now I have the money to buy her fine things? Because this is what normal people do when the leave grad school? Because we haven’t been able to have children like our friends?  They may have kids but they can’t live like we do… perhaps they’ll feel jealous of our stuff and that will salve my jealousy of their families?

And to my astonishment I’ve realized there’s an element of all of these ugly motivations that lurk around me.  They don’t dominate, but they’ve all flashed through me and several are remarkably ugly.  Did Charity marry me because she thought I’d be rich?  (I hope not!)  Do I really begrudge my friends the blessings of their children?  (When I do, I need to repent.)

This bout of self-realization has made me ask: who I am?  All those years in grad school I was happy to have the mishmash.  I’m a little dense about decorating but I knew it was mismatched.  I said it was sacrifice to live like that, but it was sacrifice with large dose of whimsy.  After all, part of the point of grad school is to be poor… of course you decorate with Christmas lights… but did you do it because you like them or because you can’t afford nice lamps?  How do you know if you’re thrifty if you don’t have a choice?

What I didn’t catch about the thrifty ethos of graduate school was that it’s really a contradiction… part of the point of grad school is to become a professional.  And part of being professional is the salary, which (as in my case without little ones to feed and cloth) means that you can start buying like one. You don’t need to live on hand-me downs and old things.  You can start buying nicer things… a new car, new pots and pans, and not feeling guilty when you buy the premium version of a product in the box store instead of the standard one.

This isn’t who I thought I was.  I thought I didn’t care about these things, but a big part of the truth is that I couldn’t care about them.  I didn’t have the money to.

Now I do.  Now I’ve been to Ikea and heard the Siren’s call.  Can Pandora go back in the box?

This is all tempered by the hope that we won’t have two-incomes and no kids for much longer and will need what money we have.  Function matters as well: it would be nice to have enough seats to seat four guests at the table for dinner.  It would be nice to have a sofa that didn’t make our backs ache after an hour or two.  And Charity is right when she says that beauty is a virtue worth pursuing in the way we decorate our home.  And yet I want to be honest about the Gollum like flash I’ve seen of myself.

So how does this end?  How do you know when you should buy something when you have enough money to the things you want without going into debt?  Should we start in on the $12,000 wish list we assembled that evening?  Should we buy on an as needed basis when we spot a deal on Craigslist?   I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know myself a little better.  And for that, I’m grateful to Ikea and this process.

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Written by furthermusings

August 21, 2012 at 8:17 am

Posted in Reflections