Sunday, September 26, 2010

the old lady in Cana

I've had some time to do some leisurely reading today for the first time in weeks. I picked up Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Here is a line from the book spoken from an old woman in Cana as young Jesus runs away to join a monastery in the desert:

“…Don’t you know that God is found not in monasteries but in the homes of men! Wherever you find husband and wife, that’s where you find God; wherever children and petty cares and cooking and arguments and reconciliations, that’s where God is too. Don’t listen to those eunuchs. Sour Grapes! Sour Grapes! The God I’m telling you about, the domestic one, not the monastic: that’s the true God. He’s the one you should adore. Leave the other to those lazy, sterile idiots in the desert!”

-Nikos Kazantzakis

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nugget Of Wisdom

"Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attach otherwise impossible."
-C.S. Lewis

I have forgotten and excluded the principle of trivial sacrifice for the Lord. When I got back from my mission, I would make little sacrifices daily from me to the Lord. I would turn off a show I was enjoying and read a verse. I would close my computer and go on a prayerful, meditative walk. I would consecrate an act to the Lord. I don't find myself doing that much anymore... and I miss it.

"Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will... He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not:
It is not wearied by our sins, or out indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."
-C.S. Lewis

"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" -Romans 12:21

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Do you ever miss that feeling of first knowledge? You know, where your mental eyes open to a concept or where something you heard on Jeopardy finally makes sense? The older I get, the more my education progresses, the less I get that transcendent feeling. It is an absence of wonder, of surprise, a difficult quench to the thirsting for something intellectually stimulating.

I felt it in high school in an AP Biology class, in each and every philosophy lesson from Mr. Meyers in my last block class senior year, from Professor Pope in American Heritage lectures, and I miss it desperately. It seems a bit tragic that in my few years of schooling there have been few classes, fewer moments that have inspired and fed me intellectually and philosophically. Moments that have brought me closer to the "good".

I have had glimpses of it this year, seen it through the windows of the passing semester, and mostly it has come from chemistry and philosophy classes. I have been reading Socrates the past week:

Euthyfro: You understand what I said perfectly.
Socrates: That's because I am eager for your wisdom, and give my mind to it, so that nothing falls to the ground.

I think that's what makes the great writers the great writers: They open our eyes to the 'good'. They show us something real, and we become a little bit more in touch with reality because of their unique perspective.

So what do I get when I read Socrates? I get a meal. He devoted his life to wisdom and the obtaining of it (though he wouldn't say he obtained any). He doesn't ever really create a theory and then press it on others, he asks questions and discusses with others until a new idea is born out of reason.

"And now we go, I to die and you to live. Which of us goes to the better lot is known to no one but the god."

Monday, September 13, 2010

As Dawn's Fingers Rose

An epic metaphor:

"Joy, warm as the joy that shipwrecked sailors feel
when they catch sight of land--Poseidon has struck
their well-rigged ship on the open sea with gale winds
and crushing walls of waves, and only a few escape, swimming,
struggling out of the frothing surf to reach the shore,
their bodies crusted with salt but buoyed up with joy
as they plant their feet on solid ground again,
spared a deathly fate. So joyous now to her
the sight of her husband, vivid in her gaze,
that her white arms, embracing his neck,
would never for a moment let go. . ."
Odyssey, bk.23, lines 262-272

Penelope and Odysseus embrace after 20 years of absence; after wars and storms; after broken ships and conquered beasts; after even doubt of his return. After our discussion of epic metaphors in class I highlighted this passage mentally in my book. Isn't it kind of climactic? Here is Odysseus embracing his wife after 10 years of war, followed by 10 years of being tossed about on the sea and lost on land; After being shipwrecked multiple times and fighting the swells to regain his footing on land, and here comes a metaphor describing Penelope's (his wife) state the past 20 years as being emotionally ship-wrecked--clawing and fighting for air and land. Oh man, I loved it.

Oh, and not to mention the scene of blood and gore that came about 2 books prior as Odysseus, his son, and his cowherder, slaughtered all of Penelope's suitors.

Perhaps my tenderness towards this quote was due to yesterday's CES Fireside by Elder Scott. As is common among CES Firesides the address was centered around marriage. The Odyssey is basically a story about returning home to one's family and doing everything in one's power to get there. I guess I just haven't reached that point in life where I can relate entirely.

Here are some notes from the fireside that I wrote down:

2 Vital Pillars that Support Heavenly Father's Plan:
-the Home

"The adversary destroys these pillars by promoting promiscuity."

-Make where you live the embodiment of a clean, righteous living.

-Marriage will help you find out who you really are. It is a perfect arena for overcoming all tendency to be selfish. (Remember Matt. 16:25)

-The best way to live life is to seek the will of the Lord as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


. . . who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself.

~Miguel de Unamuno

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Appropriate

So, for my Philosophy 201 class I am required to write about my experiences with the weekly reading assignment in my journal. I choose to fulfill that requirement here on blogspot. I apologize for any inconvenience this may subject you to.

I did come across a laughably appropriate bit in the reading this week, which comprised books 5-8 of Homer's Oddyssey:

Around line 220, Odysseus is having a conversation with the goddess Calypso, who has kept Odysseus captive on her island for seven years--her love for him being the cause. Odysseus does not love Calypso. He has a wife back in Greece and "...[pines] all [his] days" for her. Hermes is sent from Zeus to Calypso to argue for Odysseus' freedom and safe return home. Since Zeus is never to be disobeyed, Calypso agrees, but first extends Odysseus, the great grecian Warrior demigod, an invitation and a warning:

"But if you only knew, down deep, what pains
are fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore,
you'd stay right here, preside in our house with me
and be immortal.." (lines 228-231)

She goes on to ask if her beauty is any less than Odysseus' wife's--and in his cunning response replies:

"Ah great goddess,"
worldly Odysseus answered, "Don't be angry with me,
please. All that you say is true, how well I know.
Look at my wife Penelope. She falls short of you,
your beauty, stature. She is mortal after all
and you, you never age or die. . .
Nevertheless I long--I pine all my days--
to travel home and see the dawn of my return.
ANd if a god will wreck me yet again on the wine-dark sea,
I can bear that too, with a spirit tempered to endure.
Much have I suffered, labored lone and hard by now
in the waves and wars. And this to the total--
bring the trial on!" (lines 236-248)

What a great response. He compliments the goddess and declares his love for his wife, Penelope, not because her beauty and comparison exceeds that of the Gods, but because she is his wife! What more is there?

Our professor made a point before the end of class ended our discussions. He asked whether we think Odysseus meant what he said (about desiring only to return home to Penelope) or whether he used what he said merely as an excuse to get out of Calypso's imprisonment, thus embarking again on epic and awesome journeys. This is the point that I find appropriate and applicable. The search for the next adventure... how inebriating the adventure potion can be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thoreau Today

Here is a little refresher from Thoreau:

"There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust." -From Economy, p.17

"The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment!...Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" -Economy, p.14

"But men labor under a mistake. The better part of a man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before." Economy, p. 9

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In Bonn, Deutschland

Once upon a time there lived a young missionary in Germany, who wanted to be good. He lived in the ward boundaries of a member who was wise beyond her years. This ward member had a quote book out of which a young Elder Williams read the following:

Are you wandering or being led?

I have been thinking a lot lately why life feels off. Recently, things just seem to be harder--like trying to run in molasses, or trying to see far-off without glasses. I am straining. I am strained. I was reading out of my past journals (an activity I practice when looking for solutions to current problems), and was surprised again how much I learn from what I wrote. A journal is a godsend. A bible.

I didn't ask the Lord about any of the decisions I made this fall. Not where I live, not what classes I am taking, not what clubs to join, what sports to play, what activities to fill my time. I did it all by myself and it is starting to show. Do we ever really know what is good for us? I am starting to doubt it.

I realize now that instead of being led to where the Lord wants me this semester, I was wandering to and fro, searching for where I thought I would be of most use and happiest. Wandering, Searching, Testing. These are all good methods and sometimes God will send us down those paths--give us time to think about what we've done or where we need to go. But to embark on a stint of wandering without direction is just dawdling life away. There is such a thing as happy diversion, or needed sauntering. But those are afternoon pursuits only valued when their length allows for a return to the paths of progression. Right?

Am I wandering through life or being led?

Perhaps I missed a chance to do something great this fall; To grow from a class I should have taken, to serve in a capacity I might have been given, or to simply be at peace with the world around me.

The story continues: After having forgotten the source of his happiness, the next time this former young missionary was faced with a decision, he turned and asked God, "What wouldst thou have me do, now?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Dream Within A Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

-Edgar Allen Poe

Hesiod Selections

My Philosophy 201 professor assigned this reading for last night. I was amused by this passage:

“And he gave them a second evil to be the price for the good they had:

whoever flees marriage and the sorrows made by women

and will not wed, reaches deadly old age

with no one to tend his years, and though he has no lack of livelihood

while he lives, yet, when he is dead, his kinsfolk divide his possessions

amongst them. And as for the man who chooses the lot of marriage

and takes a good wife suited to his mind,

evil always contends with good;

for whoever happens to have mischievous children, lives always

with unceasing grief in his spirit and heart within him;

and this evil cannot be healed.”

It sounds like a lot of grief and sorrow and suffering. Sounds like fun.