Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mud, Blood....and Anan's Birthday.

I have not time to do this post justice, but I'll do the best I can.

Happy Belated Birthday, Anan! "Oh, mighty Anan......" (forgive the pun)

Informal birthday celebrations are always a blast. Especially when they hail the birthday of terrific, fun, but down to earth people like Anan. And when they include a little bit of dirt, sweat....and blood.

Actually, I say the last sentence only half jokingly: I really enjoy getting dirty in a good tussle. Pity those poor dignified adults who dare not soil their clothing in innocent fun. :P

So by the end of a vicious, rule-less game of something slightly akin to volleyball (which, by the way, is the only real way to play with a volleyball) Anan, Eric, Magsplat, and I were mud-spattered (some of us more than others). How Snap's clothing managed to remain somewhat immaculate is a mystery to me.

Eric, of course, was the victim of the brawl - but only by his own doing. If the lad had not clutched the ball so tightly, it would not have been as much fun wresting it from him.

And the "poor, weak girls" would have enjoyed their triumph a lot more if, just as Eric capitulated in exhaustion, a laughing Mostly Harmless had not swiped it and carried it off in spite of Anan's best efforts.

At the end, I was left with Eric's blood on my skirt. Yep. I guess that's better than his blood on my hands or head. :P

Mud and blood and sweat. That makes any party wonderfully fun. The skirt will bear a couple more washings before it regains it's former state of health. I suppose Eric's elbow would benefit by a little more skin growth too! The mud was wonderful! I mean that. There is really no better place for a volleyball net than mud. We really should have had mud for the tug of war game. That would have been awesome!

Voice switches were, um, pleasantly and hilariously interesting. "Manly grunt: Ugh!" "Girly squeal: Eiiiii!"

Happy Birthday, Anan! Can we rewind the tape and do it again? Please?

A Time to Embrace.

I really wasn’t expecting admirers to proceed so swiftly and passionately, so I was somewhat caught off guard by the young man’s advances. I was engaged in considering a very, very, young man’s eating habits combined with smiles when he sidled up and wrapped his arms around my waist. Those deep blue eyes confidently gazing into mine, he whispered, “I love you” (or something equally romantic and unintelligible). Smiling somewhat shyly, he whispered into my ear, “I want to stay with you forever!” subsequently smothering the side of my neck with kisses.
After a few minutes: “Let’s go get some ice cream!”

Now that you, dear reader, are thoroughly scandalized by my tolerance of such behavior on the part of the young gentleman, I must reveal three critical pieces of information:

First, the young man was a pastor’s son. (Ok, so that isn’t all too comforting a thought.)
Second, the described events took place in the church basement with plenty of onlookers. (Even more disturbing!)
Third, the gentleman in question is only six years of age. (Ah! That should allay most of the worries.)

Tinny wouldn’t have had access to my ear into which to whisper his “sweet nothings” if he had not already been riding on my hip.

One kiss would have been sufficient; eight or nine made me wonder where he learned to give kisses. (Dare I speculate?) I’m sure that I was beet red at that point, but I’ll have to admit that some small section deep within my heart was “strangely warmed” by the little boy’s actions. It truly is heartwarming to receive admiration from little people – yes, even kisses – mostly because I remember when I was the little admirer. I remember the awe in which I held the fourth graders when I was six years old, and the high-school students – goodness! They normally didn’t even notice us wee ones, but when one did, his or her attention was craved and the class practically worshiped at his or her word.

Back then I felt so small, so insignificant. I can remember the exact feeling so clearly because it is often the same feeling I feel today. And in feeling so small and insignificant myself, I have, over the years, lost sight of the little people. Yes, I still admire the “big people”, and seek their conversation and attention and that of my peers (which are generally people over the age of 13). But in doing so, I have forgotten the little ones. It never even occurred to me that I’m one of those big people who always seemed so absorbed in their own world and whose deigning to descend to the small is heralded with such affection.

A couple weeks ago, I discovered this fact of my aging for the first time with a shock and almost with tears. The Grobien youngsters were visiting. To kill a little time, Mrs. Grobien and her girls took a walk through our woods. As I met them returning from their tramp, Kimberly handed me a bouquet of wildflowers she had picked. That small action fairly stunned me. The gift tasted so sweet that it hurt to realize that I mattered to one of these little ones. The possibility had never crossed my mind.

That admiration is a little bit like the Gospel. I don’t deserve it. I didn’t do anything to get it. So, why? Why do they love their elders in this way? I won't even try to answer

This is one of those things which are so hard for me to accept, but impossible for me to deny. I guess I’m just used to measuring everything which comes to myself by the strict scales of the Law. In a way, I share a lot of similarities with Inspector Javert when it comes to myself, and Valjean when it comes to others. In the past, I’ve tried my hardest not to expect much from anybody – that’s why the kindness of others always touches a painfully sweet chord in the depths of my heart. Ya’ll are people: you’re not infallible and I don’t expect you to be. I love you all dearly – warts and all! I do expect others to at least put a teensy bit of effort into doing a good job, however. But for some odd reason, I can’t allow myself the same. As far back as I can remember, I’ve tried to force myself to be perfect: dare to make a mistake, Sarah, and see if I don’t beat you up for it! No warts allowed! As a consequence, it’s hard for me to accept even the admiring, sweet, little, love of a six-year-old. I know I don’t deserve it and it always just irks my sinful pride to receive something I don’t feel I merit. (That’s one reason I used to, and still often, flounder around trying to find a response to a compliment. Compliments are very, very sweet, and are rarely surpassed in their value to me when sincere, but while I want so much to pour out heart-felt thanks to the giver, I never feel as if I can take a compliment without guilt. I know that I don’t deserve it.) But six-year-olds won’t take no for an answer. They wouldn’t even listen if I were to try to explain that I don’t deserve their love. They’d just keep coming back and piling it on – eight kisses and all.

Six-year-olds just love. Unconditionally. It’s irresistible because it’s real. I can tell it’s real because it’s tangible.

If one of my siblings had declared to me, “Justinian admires you,” I wouldn’t have believed it. Sure, it would have felt nice for a moment, but just as quickly doubt would dissipate the seeming illusion.

But words from Tinny’s own lips aren’t fake and the kisses most definitely aren’t! (Again, I wonder where he learned. The little guy was quite adept!)

So, the point I guess I’m driving at is that God is a lot like Justinian. (Tinny, please don’t laugh at me for saying so.) It doesn’t really matter to him that I said a lot of stuff I maybe shouldn’t have said today or that I didn’t help my neighbor near as much as I should have, or that I probably hurt my dear friends, or that I’ve been a selfish pig about certain things …or even that I’ve prided myself on my own self-righteousness – disgusting though that is. For some reason, (my baptism into Christ), God doesn’t even see all that rubbish (goodness, do I have a hard time believing that though!). He just loves. And he keeps piling it on: eight kisses and all!
He wraps his arms around me and says, “I am going to stay with you forever.”

And in case those sweet words of the Gospel seem to dissipate far too quickly (and sadly, often they do) Christ does give me tangible evidence. He washes me himself; He feeds me His own Body and Blood; He puts His own words in the mouth of a man. That unconditional love is hard to believe, all the same, but He just keeps coming to me, week after week, and He shows no sign of heeding my protesting, “You can’t do that! I don’t deserve it.”

{Grrr. I always hop off on a tangent. I’ll try to hook back up to the original train of thought.}

Poor Justinian! I’m much too old for him. I guess he must have realized that, for after a nice plate of ice cream together (duly chaperoned by two “mature adults”) he informed his mother of his plans to stay with me “forever”, commenting to her that,“You can come too!”

After a few minutes he told me (at least this was what I managed to understand) that he and I and Mrs. Stuckwisch and I think a few of his siblings and some of the youth could live together, and I would be Mommy and he would be my little boy, and a few other things like that. I had to explain to him that I couldn’t be a mommy until I had children of my own and that couldn’t happen until I had a husband which wouldn’t happen until I got married which would be (likely) many, many years away. Tinny thought that over for a moment, sorrowfully, then declared, “Well then, you have to name one of your babies, “Justinian”.”

I told him that he would have to remind me, to which he promptly replied, “Ok. I’ll tell you at your wedding.” Just when he thinks that will be, he didn’t reveal.

There is “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” Tonight was the former. But for pretty much every other young man but Tinny, now is the latter. Someday, by the grace of God, the time to embrace will come for one young man in particular - my Father knows who he will be. I must admit, I haven’t a clue. But considering my own youthfulness, that is likely just as it should be.

And this was a really weird post. I just read it again, but am almost afraid to post it. Ah, well. That's what happens when you start writing a post at 11:30pm on May 26th and end at 1:15am on May 27th!
And I wax poetic.
There is something about poetry that draws me and touches a chord in my soul unreached by prose. Lyrical rhythmic messages, what is it about these words which so deeply communicate? At any rate, I’m going to try to share a few favorites with you, dear reader. Along with comments. Indeed, it does seem that I can’t read, hear, or see anything without commenting on it!

For A’ That and A’ That

Robert Burns

Is there for honest poverty
That hings his head, and a’ that?
The coward slave, we pass him by;
We dare be poor or a’ that!
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Our toils obscure and a’ that;
The rank is but the guinea stamp –
The man’s the gowd for a’ that!

What tho’ on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden gray, and a’ that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine –
A man’s a man for a’ that!
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, and a’ that;
The honest man, though e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men, for a’ that!

Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that –
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that;
For a’ that, and a’ that,
His riband, star, and a’ that;
The man of independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a’ that;
But an honest man’s aboon his might –
Gude faith, he mauna fa’ that!
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their dignities and a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, and pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may, -
As come it will for a’ that, -
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
May bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, and a’ that,
It’s comin’ yet, for a’ that –
That man to man, the warld o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Yep! Good Scotch disdain for rank. I love my kin. And Burns. He usually has some fairly good stuff. But I’ll let him speak for himself on this one. No, I didn't misspell anything...

Holy Trinity.

This should have been posted over a week ago. Unfortunately, my internet time has been greatly diminished.

So, it never really “clicked” before. I’m externally processing: feel free to offer corrections and counsel.
Three persons. One God. One substance of divinity. And that substance of divinity is love. Love for me. Love for all sinners.
Three distinct persons but not different in substance from each other. That is why Jesus can say, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” and why Paul (I think it’s Paul?) talks about the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of Christ, for the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and is of the same substance of love.
So it is not as if God the Father really is out to get me but the Son stands in His way to save me. Rather all Three Persons love me and act for my salvation.
Pretty neat. Ya'll probably knew this already - and maybe I knew it somewhere up in the mangled mess of neurons between my ears - but it never really hit home till now.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

PC: too late at night.

I can't sleep. Not yet. I know I'll lie awake thinking far into the wee hours.

I can't comment: first of all because I haven't internally processed enough to externally process, secondly, because my family has not seen "PC" yet and I have been requested not to spoil anything.

What I will say (though I am no judge of films, despite revelry in their pleasures) is that, if I knew not the book, I would consider this one of the better fictional films I have ever seen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

And life goes ever on and on.

I'm trying to moor my tiny boat of personhood before the great rivers of time and life carry it off downstream. Unfortunately it's not working.

Our internet access has been down for almost a week. Finally it is working again. But we must be cautious to conserve.

The urge to blog overtook me over the weekend, so I "blogged" several items in word processor, posting them in the last half hour.

Sometimes I don't know why I bother, but I bother anyway. Wait! I do know why I bother. (see two posts down)

Life is turning upside down. It's very evident that I'm not in control and that life is not at all like fictional tales. In works of fiction, the peasant ultimately marries the prince, the little boy gets the bike he wants so badly, and even in tragedies everybody dies and gets put out of their pain. At the end of such tragedies, nobody lives on in torment.
But that's not how reality works.
I guess I'm looking at it all wrong; Kind of self centered and subjective. Mom had some great wisdom for me. I was feeling moody, staring out the window at the birds, "Who am I?" I mused, feeling sorry for myself. "It would be better to ask, 'Who is Christ?'" my mother responded.
She's right, though. Ultimately, it doesn't matter who I am because of who Christ is. That puts my little "ouchies" of the heart in perspective. Jesus cares for me. He won't hurt me. The little pain I experience now is for my good.
Knowing that doesn't make any pain or frustration go away, but it does dethrone despair and crown hope in his place.

Capture the Flag

Since when is a group of eight frightened of two? It almost makes me angry….it did make me angry! Before we even began to play the game, the enemy outnumbered us in number and height (ie: Nick and Elle). In spite of the sad disproportions, my men boldly rushed the enemy again and again, spying out their stronghold, and being captured and cast into prison for their noble bravery. Once I rescued them, but after that, it all fell apart. Our well laid plans, alas! were not carried out quite on the timetable necessary for their success; I am to blame for parts of that tragedy (“It is all my fault”) but certain young men just did not seem to understand what we were attempting and how. In the end, six of our eight team members were held captive, leaving only two of us to both guard the home front and rescue our compatriots. Determined to abandon neither, I laid a plan for which execution I depended on my “trusty” brother in arms. Unfortunately, he seemed to be more interested in corn-nuts. The plan might still have worked had it not been for the COWARDICE of the opposing team. :P

Instead of charging our territory, in which case I certainly could not have opposed all nine of them, they simply lined up along “no-man’s land”. When a few members of their party tried to sneak over and spy us out, the opposing general called them back. They just STOOD THERE waiting, as if I was likely to try to break through their line! No way! I may be an idiot at times, but I was not about to abandon our territory and our only chance of rescuing the rest of my team. “McClellan’s” timidity just about made me boil with frustration. The cries of my captured team-mates seared my ears, pleading for deliverance, but though they tore at my heart, I determined to plant my feet on my own land and not budge until the aggressors crossed the border. But to my shock, the cowards made no move. I am firmly convinced that even had Matt Ha alone been left to withstand them, incredulous as it may seem, not one of that immense opposing militia would have plunged into our neck of the woods. Overly cautious is indeed a possible state; in fact, it would be hard to exaggerate the timid caution of that team.

And to make matters worse, my last “trusty” henchman deserted me, waving his white shoe as a sign of truce, attempting to surrender our territory to the enemy (for corn-nuts I presume). When I confronted him, white hot with rage, he protested, “We don’t have a chance anyway!” I threatened to have him flogged for desertion, mutiny and treason. (Not really of course!) I could have added some more colorful forms of outdated military corporal punishment to the threat, but thought that really quite unnecessary.

Playing ‘capture the flag’ always makes me extremely sympathetic for all military commanders past and present. You’re responsible for what happens to your boys, but often you don’t have any choice but to abandon them for a time. You know that if you as a group are to succeed, everyone must work as a team, not as individuals or splintered fragments. But that means that everyone must follow orders implicitly, without reconsidering or deciding whether they really agree with the plan at the last minute. This requires a lot of trust. Men must trust their commanding officer; trust that he actually cares about them, that he won’t risk them unnecessarily, trust that he knows what he’s talking about. If this trust component is absent, operations fall apart.

In my opinion, the bravest man is not necessarily the one who carries out the most daring forays and single-handedly drives back the foe at the risk of his life. Don’t misunderstand me – this is a courageous thing. But the bravest man is he who surrenders his life, placing it in the hands of his commander. That man risks the most. That man is the most vulnerable. This man willingly undertakes to obey at all costs, orders be what they may. A man who commands himself looks out for his own interests. He knows that his “boss” will look out for him, because he is his boss. Nobody likes pain, and no one seeks out pain for himself. (If a person seems to seek out pain, it is because that pain brings him pleasure, strange as it may sound.) But a man who has bound himself to obedience, commits his life and binds his will to his superior. He must trust that the commander will treat his life with as much care as the soldier himself would.

In a way, (now that I’m already off on a MAJOR tangent) this is the same trust and vulnerability as a child toward his parents….and as a wife toward her husband.
Yes, I’m not joking, but I don’t treat this as derogatory either. If I remember correctly I once wrote that those who we love best are those who hurt us the most because for them we open ourselves up. That opening of ourselves is essentially equal to entrusting to the other that which we hold most dear. Often it is even our own lives. When a woman marries, she places herself under her husband’s authority. She entrusts to him her life in a very real way. He ought to recognize the confidence and realize that she trusts him to “look out” for her interests as his own.
But back to the soldier. When one commands, one must be familiar with the character and tendencies of his subordinates. A person who tends to ignore directions because of perceived risk, should NOT be assigned to participate in operations whose success depends on co-ordinated movements. I seem to forget that too often. There is a sort of initiative which is helpful and appreciated by the superior officer, but that initiative is prudent, decisive, and responsible.

I had one young man, let’s call him “Ivan” for anonymity’s sake. From the beginning of the game, I knew I could depend on Ivan. He was bold, willing to risk a term in jail, and full of great strategy. But at the same time, he recognized the need to work together and respected my authority as team captain. He submitted his plans, I approved him, and basically gave him free rein; I knew that if circumstances dictated that he amend his plans, he would act with decisive prudence. Unfortunately, I failed him. Or rather, his team mates failed him. In order to maximize the success of his mission, several other team members were SUPPOSED to charge enemy territory and specific places and times REGARDLESS of the opposition. They had been very plainly informed that their charge was suicidal but they had insisted on their willingness to complete the operation as explained. But they hesitated. Instead of “going” when ordered, they checked themselves at the border. Irritated, I instructed them to rush in as soon as the slightest opportunity showed itself. But they hesitated too long every time. By the time they had worked up the courage to halfheartedly and conspicuously make their way across the border, their other teammates had been captured.

How discouraging! And yet, and yet….I had given the order. Whether they obeyed or not, as their captain, I had bound myself to support them, not risk them unnecessarily, and to rescue them when captured. Mayhap I have read too much Henty; at any rate, my “honor” clearly seemed bound up with the fate of my trusting little team mates. The little (and not-so-little) ones never would have hazarded 15 minutes or more of sitting in jail if they thought I would abandon them.

This is why so many “capture the flag” games consist of random players loitering in the vicinity of the border, tiptoeing over – and tip toeing back. No one is willing to risk themselves for team mates who don’t care about their welfare. Every person wants the glory of finding the flag, but they know that it is extremely likely that they will be thrown in jail. And they suspect (to the shame of the team, quite accurately) that nobody else really cares as long as they themselves are free to continue playing.

But players are willing to take a little more risk, if they are confident that they will not be abandoned in prison. When team-members are abandoned, their trust dramatically falls off. They begin to look out for themselves alone once more.

Where was I? Oh yes, military commanders. In order for any operation to succeed, there must be a well networked hierarchy of authority PLUS firm trust in the authority. This puts a lot of pressure on the authority. A general must balance sincere care for his men with willingness to risk for the good of the entire army. On one side of the ditch falls McClellan. Into the other stumbles Grant. If you sacrifice your men without cause, they lose their trust in you. If you behave with so much caution that nothing is accomplished, they become dissatisfied and label you incompetent. Such is life. Such are life’s cares. Ick! (A good “Ick” seems refreshingly out of context in such musing.)

I know I meant to say something else in there, but that was such an unstructured rambling that I might as well close it with an unstructured ending.

Note to all involved: I am not angry at you; really! I was just a bit frustrated. :D I know you guys are brave and I guess in some circumstances the siege trully is the most effective strategy. :p

Please Understand!

“Please understand.” “Don’t misunderstand me.” Humans desire almost more than anything to be understood and to understand. As a very wise man I heard put it, humans fear loneliness more than anything else. Loneliness is not merely being alone. One can be excruciatingly lonely in a room full of people. Loneliness is rather an unfulfilled longing not to be heard, but to be understood – and that with at least a little bit of affirmation. It is almost as important to a person to understand other people; to know, “Why?” To understand another person gives a sense of “closeness” with that person because you recognize the very things he/she is trying to communicate. You have a deep experience in common. Not only that, but you as the listener realize with relief that others have undergone the same emotional torture, joy, love, thought - the whole gamut of feelings and experience.

I am firmly convinced that a mutual understanding is pretty near the most blissful experience on earth. When two people understand each other there is a feeling (false and deceptive though it prove) of security, worth, ecstasy – oh! I can’t even explain it. To have another person communicate their thoughts to you without restraint, as though they wanted you to understand – oh! It is joy to drink in. You just wish from the depths of your soul that they would continue, keep going, not cap again the well of delight. And when another person, especially if it is that same person, will listen to you, and not simply listen but truly understand what you attempt to communicate, there is such a sense of value – they value what you say, they want to hear you say it, whether you are perfect or not makes no difference. Perhaps I am hallucinating to think that such a relationship could possibly exist between two mortals on this fallen earth. But this is a longing, a craving of humanity: understanding.

Considering the cry of the human heart for understanding always brings to mind a scene from Fiddler on the Roof, though it’s been many years since we rented the film. The (I think) third eldest daughter dared to marry a Christian Russian Gentile and is consequently shunned by her father. As he reviews memories alone in a frozen, wind-swept, muddy field, he hears a timid, “Father?” Glancing up, he sees his daughter standing there, a plea for forgiveness, understanding, and reconciliation plainly written across her anxious countenance. I can’t remember exactly whether he makes any response, but I do remember that instead of reconciliation, he rouses himself angrily and turns his back to his once beloved daughter, leaving her alone. Her anguished, longing cry of pain, despair, and love rends through the night as she sinks on her knees to the frigid earth, broken and shattered by a rebuffed plea for understanding.

This concept makes Christ’s agony on the cross all the more frightening and excruciating. When Christ was forsaken he was bereft of understanding. At the very moment when he longed to pour out his soul – to express the pangs he underwent, and be understood – to his Father, his Father turned away. So we hear the agony of his cry, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Why? I don’t understand! You’ve left me. I want so much to be understood! This is often our cry too; at times when we despair of comfort and understanding and we feel as if God has abandoned us. Wherever we grope, we cannot seem to feel His presence, yet He is near. He has never left us, nor will he. For all our struggling to search Him out, we cannot. He searches us out and gathers us in his arms. For He forsook His own Son so that He will never forsake us. We may cry, “Why have you forsaken me?” but the reality is that God has not “left us as orphans” – He comes to us. In spite of our sense of abandonment, in spite of our failure to understand, He comes and he understands. He understands better than any sinful man could ever understand.

When comes the intense, soul-wrenching longing to understand and be understood, I can cling to this – there’s really nothing else to cling to. For as another very wise man has said, Christ may act as though he is going farther so that we will beg him to stay. And he does stay. He will not leave us. He enters our house and becomes host and meal, serving us with himself. For he took upon himself, all our sinful misunderstandings and hurtful, painful words by which we have wounded our brothers and have ourselves been wounded. For these he suffered separation from his Father – a rift in the mutual understanding the Trinity shares from the beginning. By this soul-searing wound I am healed: both soul and body. And all longing of my heart will finally be fulfilled at the marriage feast of the lamb when I will understand even as I am understood. “I am my Love’s. My Beloved is mine.” He is the bridegroom, and I, by his grace, by the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, am his radiant bride, free from all spot and blemish that so mar and disfigure me and the rest of the Church in the sight of the world.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Throwing away my life.

I began writing this post almost 2 weeks ago. Then life happened and our internet services shut down. Since then I have changed - in many ways. But there is not time to enumerate the changes or even to finish this post. So I will publish this post with the intent that it serve to inform the reader about who I was 2 weeks ago.

I am busily throwing my life away - Pun totally intended.

Old papers, college advertisements, 4H correspondence - every superfluous scrap of paper is headed for the garbage bag.

What cannot be thrown away is being packed away - childhood mementos, textbooks, clothing to be handed down or passed on, pencils, stationary, yes - even books pile nicely into a box for archiving. My room is a collosal omlet of accumulated "treasures" over 17 years of packratting. In desperation, I've stripped my bed and have taken to spending the night wrapped in a quilted cocoon so that in the morning, I can roll that cocoon into the corner and transform my bed into a sorting table again.

It doesn't help matters that for the past month I've been so busy that I began making stacks. Stacks of clothes baskets, stacks of homework, stacks of books, stacks of trash, stacks of things to deal with later, stacks of applications - the list goes on and on. A little path between the lightswitch, the bed, and the desk chair allowed habitation of the dormitory to continue.

But now that finals are over, I'm faced with the realization that soon I must vacate this room and take up life elsewhere. This is a realization that carries with it a plethora of implications and emotions - emotions which surge and fall. During daylight, as long as I keep busy (cleaning my room of course!) I'm all right. But as soon as night falls and I slow my routine, my mind begins to clean up its own little piles of accumulated junk, and I inevitably plunge into ...into...I don't know what it is...I don't know what it is except it is a piercing, aching, throbbing pain, but sweeter the deeper it cuts, almost as if with every turn of the knife a drop of honey were dispensed. A honey which instead of satisfying, craves more. A wild honey which inspite of its sweetness is bitter as well. Ah! Now I can identify "it". It is a craving...yes, a craving - but a craving which knows not for what it craves, nor could understand why it craves if it were able to find the object of its craving.

There is fear. There is joy. There is longing. There is shame. There is bewilderment. There is a strange ambiguous condemnation mixed with absolution. There is sorrow. There is an imminent future rushing on uncheckable and a past quickly slipping through my fingers. There is paralysis. There is complete freedom. Yes! It is like complete freedom - but with your feet and hands pinioned together. But yet, it is not so. It is rather as if you are suddenly freed, but in that instant realize that that freedom is deadly. The bonds you once struggled in are your life, your joy, your protection. But now they are cut - and not by you! - and firm hands propel you out of the prison house; though you beat on the door and tearfully implore readmittance the iron gate will not open.

Such is life. But what is one to do? I wish it were even that easy! But the flown bird now finds that though none will allow him to resume his fetters, his every action is still governed by the proprietors of that selfsame institution which he cannot again enter. Well and good. He does not wish to be governed otherwise. But the proprietors do not give orders anymore. But in fact they do. They cloak their orders under veils of suggestion and comments which might or might not be advice. And though officially, there appear to be no consequences for breaking these disguised "orders", there really are. Disapproval shows itself very plainly. A disapproval that is a thousand times, nay, a million times worse than the scaffold.

I am writing foolishness. Hallucinations. There is no prison house. There are no jailers. There is no sprung bird. There is no bound felon. What is it then? What is it? What is it at night that squeezes the soul in an iron grip and wrings the last tear out of it in the darkness?

Good grief! I always do this. Grr! Instead of writing what I plan to, I intead get off on a tangent. Ah, well.

Humans change. Yes, they really do; and yet they stay the same, for there is nothing new under the sun.

People change in the same way that the humans before them have changed, yet there is a different sequence to the change so that no two humans change in the exact same manner.

I am a different person than I was yesterday. I'm even different than I was an hour ago. And by the time I have finished typing this blog post, I will have changed from what I was when I began.

Yet, though what I am has changed, who I am has not - if you can even separate those two; I do it simply as an illustration. For I am Sarah - God's own child (I gladly say it!) and that fact will never change. But other aspects of me fluctuate, disintegrate, slough off as a snake sheds it's skin, and are acquired or mature through exposure and practice.

At least to me, it has become increasingly obvious how different I am from the person I was a year ago. But to be honest, that change came in increments, in little moments, in quiet opining, not all of a sudden. These past six or so days, I noticed seemingly tiny events and thoughts transform my thinking (and I pray, my behavior.)

intermission: taking a break from packing and cleaning

Wednesday I was swamped, rushing frantically to catch up with the last wave of finals, essays, and debate speeches. And I missed a final.

Yes, in the midst of my rush, I somehow missed the fact that SPEE 104 had a final at 10am instead of 1pm. I arrived at the classroom at 12:50 to find the lights off and no-one in the vicinity. Knocking at the door of my professor's office I was greeted by an exclamation, "Are you ok?"
That took me completely aback. Of course I was ok.
"You missed the final!"

Some other sagacious person has confessed a tendency for tears to flow too easily. I also confess the same. It is especially difficult to hold back the tears when one is nervous, anxious, exhausted, and still thinking of all the work that has yet to be done.

Thankfully, Prof. DesRosiers was extremely gracious and merciful, allowing me to take the test then and there. So once more this year I had to swallow my pride and receive grace which I had done nothing to deserve. (Professors at [my school] are alot like Christ in their kindness and mercy on their students. This is not the first time I've received mercy where I expected law.)

On arriving home, already shaken, I witnessed Fenella Vevina chase a visitor and actually nip at her. That shook me even more; I don't know why that doggy is so protective, but that frightening incident displayed more clearly the necessity of getting Anna and Fenella trained. And soon. There is a professional training center not too far away and not too expensive. Fenella needs to learn that our friends aren't going to hurt her "special people," ie: our family. I know it is a herd dog instinct to protect her territory, but she must learn that some people are allowed on her territory. Anyway, the dog was sentenced to her kennel for the remainder of the visit.

Wed. night I faced both an essay and a monumental debate due in the morning. An hour of tea partying with my sisters and Juliana really relieved quite a bit of tension.

That evening, my debate partner came over (again, for the third time that week) and we carved away at our speeches and evidence. Certain that the negative team would literally cream us, we plugged away together until nigh on ten thirty or so, then worked away at our respective homes late into the night. In the morning, we called each other (after I returned from my last voice lesson) and worked at our computers over the phone until barely minutes before leaving for the co-op. Tina printed our material (as our printer had malfunctioned) and we used our study hall session to frantically write one more construction and a rebuttal speech.

As it turned out, this debate was the best (I think) that we have every done, even though the evidence was against us. We did well for two reasons. One: the negative team did not begin working on their debate until 11pm the night before, and Two: instead of merely presenting our case in the first construction and "winging" the rest of the speeches, we organized our information, structured our speeches to logically flow, and rather than incorporating all of our evidence into the constructions, we purposely left holes in our arguement for the negative team to ask us about during cross-examination. It worked! Another new thing for us was the fact that we had all but one speech written out ahead of time. That greatly aided our presentation and our confidence. The mere experience of being prepared was exhilarating!

And I was able to laugh. A true laugh. It's been a long time since I've been able to laugh till my sides ache and I can hardly breathe - to snort, and cry and roll with the hilarious irony of a situation. It finally happened Wed. night during debate prep; I think I can go a long time on the power of that laugh.

Thursday night I finished up my essay for Essay Writing class. (My teacher allowed me to email it to her that evening instead of turning it in, in view of the wildness of the previous portion of the week.)

And we were expecting babies. Yes, baby goats. Caprina, my precious girl, was due and in the evening began to show some vague signs of imminent labor; heavy breathing, tightly bagged udder, tail head and hip ligaments loosened to the point where I could wrap my fingers around her tailbone, digging "nests" in the bedding, crying when left alone. I stayed up, checking her every half hour or so, until 2 am. Then I finally turned in to bed, though still awakening to check on Caprina about every hour. And that, that goat didn't have her kids all night!

Friday was strangely serene. And in that sereneness I could finally think. ( In light of the week I decided not to even attempt putting together an illustrated talk for the State Caprine Expo.)

I can't even remember what I did Friday morning - perhaps I began packing away my college texts - by lunch time, Caprina's condition had not changed and I worried that Juliana might not get to witness the birth at all. We lunched with Mrs. Grobien and her lovely children who had arrived to claim their sister. After lunch Brigitta and I walked about the farm, looking at goats and cows and what-not: tails especially. Brigitta loved tails. I made the mistake of absent-mindedly pulling a long tender shoot of grass and holding it between my teeth as I normally do when contemplative. Bergie immediately decided that she wanted to do the same.

Despite my general disorderliness, I have my personal "germ" peeves, and this applies to grass too. One cannot stick any old blade of grass in one's teeth. One must find the right stalk and gingerly, ever-so-carefully, pull it out of it's sheath. When one does the thing properly, there remains a small, tender, clean section on the proximal end where the stalk was tucked deep into the rest of the grass plant. Only this "sterile" end (as it were) can be placed in the mouth.

Brigitta, of course, did not understand this concept, and as I felt that the exact mechanics were perhaps beyond her grasp though I couldn't kindly deny her request, I proceeded to pull ten or so stalks (consecutively) for her. Upon receiving each one, she stuck it between her teeth, grinned disarmingly at me (quite a pretty picture she made: grass in her teeth, boots on her feet, and cow in the background.) sucked/chewed her grass quite properly and proceeded to feed each one to the juvenile bovine, promptly demanding another one.

Finally, I informed her that this was the last grass. After that I wouldn't pick another one. She chewed this for the longest time, petting the cow off and on. Finally it appeared that she would feed her grass to the young mammal. She allowed the cow to lick the end of the grass (the chewed end) but then snatched it away and ...tried to put it back in her mouth! Fortunately for her, I stopped the little hand just in time. Children should not share saliva with cows! Although I explained this to Bergie, she didn't seem to get it. But she was very, very disturbed that the calf didn't have a mama at our house. And she seemed quite perturbed that we couldn't go into the pasture to pet BDub's tail. Most of all, she wanted to know, "Why?" Why didn't we have the cow's mama? Why couldn't we go see the house being built at the neighbors? Do goats have blood? Where is it? Why can't I see it?

I know this is unfinished but, Oh Well!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Snowball Throwers

An essay on the Second Amendment? Isn't that supposed to be a scholarly sort of paper? Well, um, probably. But it is the end of the school year, I'm brain-fried, and I really can't bear the thought of another high-sounding, scholarly production. So, I decided to make it children's level, throwing in some ten-dollar words every so often. Here it is, for what it's worth.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

What does that mean? Like all legal documents, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is a challenge to decipher. Despite its puzzling wording, this amendment serves to safeguard the rights we enjoy as citizens of the United States by defending our country from invasion and protecting us from our government. A “well regulated militia” includes all able bodied citizens capable of bearing arms in the defense of our country. The militia is you, me, and everybody else born or naturalized in the United States. We, the militia, are “necessary to the security” of our nation – we are a critical protection of our “free state”. The phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” allows us to keep and carry a weapon – a practice critical to maintaining our country’s freedom.

Imagine that you are constructing a snow fort with your friends. All morning you work, rolling snowballs, struggling to stack them, and filling in cracks. Finally, the frigid walls stand chest-high, though the structure is far from perfect. As you all pause to admire your handiwork, a normally quiet friend comments, “I think we all ought to be allowed to make and carry snowballs.” Silence ensues as the group turns to stare in astonishment at the speaker. No one ever prohibited the manufacture of snowballs, and who really cares anyway? What’s the big deal with snowballs?

There are two “big deals”. The first “big deal” consists of the neighbor kids who admire your fort a little too much. In fact they’d be thrilled to take over your fort and turn you out on the street, figuratively speaking. If you are interested in protecting your carefully built castle, the marauders must be driven away with snowballs. If you can’t make or carry snowballs, your neighborhood bullies may easily capture your snow fort, coercing you into obeying their commands. At the onset of the fort’s existence, it is only logical for all of your friends to make and carry snowballs just in case the neighbors attack. Everybody is part of the militia.

But after awhile, you observe that it is very inefficient for every one to drop their work and come running whenever the neighbor kids approach the fort. You also notice that a few of your friends possess a lot more skill in the art of snowball throwing than others, to the point that they alone are fully capable of driving off the hooligans without the rest of the group’s assistance. Based on this observation, your friends collectively come to a conclusion. One third of your friends continue to practice throwing snowballs, remaining in the vicinity of the fort to chase away any assaulting neighbors, while the other two thirds work on building additions to the fort and snitching cookies from the house kitchen for all to enjoy. Now instead of a militia you have a standing army.

Now you also need a manager to run all the different divisions of labor; the builders, the cookie lifters, and the snowball throwers. Accordingly, the group selects three friends to be “organizers”. The “rule maker” composes rules based on the majority opinion of your friends. The “judge” decides disagreements and enforces the rules. The “boss” double checks the rules before they’re enforced as well as commands the company of snowball throwers.

For a while, this arrangement works fairly well. The cookie lifters and builders occasionally toss a few snowballs around just for fun, but most often leave the icy spheres to the snowball throwers. But unexpectedly an enraged builder hurls a snowball at a mischievous cookie lifter, badly injuring the trickster and frightening you and all of your friends. The “judge” rules that the culpable builder must undergo a day of cookie withdrawal and face a more severe sentence on repetition of snowball throwing. But the many of your friends, including the “rule maker” think differently. Why not prohibit cookie grabbers and builders from making or carrying snowballs altogether? After all the standing army of snowball throwers are the only persons employing snowballs for a useful purpose.

You might remark, “That sounds great! What’s wrong with prohibiting snowball manufacture?” Well, nothing, until the professional snowball throwers under the command of the “boss” decide that since they alone possess snowballs, you must obey whatever they require. Rather than enjoying the fort, you must now build ceaselessly. Instead of sharing in cookie plunder, the confections you snitched fresh from the baking sheet will be consumed by powerful snowball throwers. If you attempt to halt your work, pilfer a cookie or desert to the neighbors, you’ll face a shower of hard-packed snowballs hurled by a squad of trained throwers. That is, if you’ve relinquished the right to make and bear snowballs.

With the ability to bear snowballs, you are capable of resisting coercive actions on the part of your governmentally run military. You can fight back with your own snowballs, forcing tyrants to allow you your rights, or expelling them from the fort altogether. This constitutes the second “big deal” concerning snowballs. Once you surrender the right to keep and bear snowballs, your fort does not belong to you any more.

The right to keep and bear arms is important because a “well regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free state.” History and experience taught the American states that in order to maintain freedom, and consequently the other rights of citizens, a country must possess a “well regulated militia”. Since militia is, by definition, self arming citizens, the populace of a “free state” must be armed. A “free state” which disarms her people is easily overrun. A weaponless citizenry offers an easy target for aggressor nations even if military personal carry weapons.

Most importantly, the Second Amendment defends citizens of a democracy from tyranny. A weaponless people are a powerless people. Without the means of defending themselves, citizens are easily reduced to dumb obedience. A democracy cannot survive when its people are helplessly subjugated because a democracy “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” The power of a democracy is directly proportional to the power of the people who compose it. If power is denied the people, a democracy ceases to exist.