Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Choices, choices, choices.

'k guys. I'm trying to decide which poems to declaim for the Fair. They have to be related either by topic or author. Last year I did Scottish poets. This year I'm loosely using the topic of "Poetic Reflections on Character" (made by me).

I know I want to declaim:
How did you Die?

Those are the first three poems below and require about 5 minutes. I could fill two minutes more, but I can't decide which poem to add of the ones I've typed out below. My least favorite of the options below is Be Strong and I figure that Not in Vain is probably pretty 'run of the mill'. But I can't decide between Polonius' Advice to Laertes and Waiting. I like Waiting a little more, but I don't know whether good ole Polonius fits with the topic better. I need some advice.

So please speak up and declare to me your wisdom!

How Did You Die?
Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that!
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there--that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight--and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Alice Cary
True worth is in being, not seeming,--
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good – not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.

We get back our mete as we measure –
We cannot do wrong and feel right,
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

‘Tis not in the pages of story
The heart of its ills to beguile,
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile.
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas! it is only to prove
That nothing’s so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world, early and late,
No jot of our courage abating –
Our part is to work and to wait.
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth;
For he who is honest is noble,
Whatever his fortunes or birth.

Not in Vain
Emily Dickenson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Be Strong
Maltbie Davenport Babcock

Be strong!
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift;
Shun not the struggle – face it; ‘tis God’s gift.

Be strong!
Say not, “The days are evil. Who’s to blame?”
And fold the hands and acquiesce – oh shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.

Be strong!
It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day how long;
Faint not – fight on! Tomorrow comes the song.

John Burroughs

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind nor tide nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my hast, I make delays –
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me,
No wind can drive my bark astray
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own, and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.

Polonius’ Advice to Laertes
(from Hamlet)
William Shakespeare

There, -- my blessing with you!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. –Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice:
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But no expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy:
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
Ad it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adolescence of the Adiaphoron

My dearest reader,

You've stuck with me for a year and a half now. I've rambled, ranted, philosophized, picturized, and poeticized. After writing 245 posts, a fraction of which I've actually posted, over two years of intense personal change between the ages of 16 and 18, it is time for my blog to come of age.

Up until now, I've written pretty much whatever I wanted in whatever form at whatever time with no obviously intended purpose. Sometimes I've been pretty childish about it, and I'm not proud of it all. On the other hand, I've stayed within a fairly narrow range of topics which I guessed would be acceptable to those who might read the blog and refrained from those which might provoke disagreement or antagonism. It's time for both of these to be revisited.

I'm about to create guidelines for myself and my reader pertaining to the writing and reading of this blog. Once these are in place, I plan to launch a series of blog posts dealing honestly with thoughts on Feminity, connections between thought, act, and spirit, and other topics I've previously been hesitant to comment on. At the same time as I allow myself greater freedom topically, I'm going to reign in a bit of the disorganized ranting, steam-blowing, and emoting - at least channel it through more orderly expression.

The Adiaphoron is growing up, just like I am. It's a slow evolution, but necessary. I need discipline and so does my writing. Greater freedom calls for greater restraint and guidelines to employ that freedom properly.

Let's see how this experiment works!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lithuania: Part I

Laubas, people!

At the beginning of our European adventure, I halfheartedly attempted to journal about the happenings each day, but our host packed things so tight that I had absolutely no time to record everything properly, nor energy after the day finally ended.

So, with Elle’s help (who, by the way, journalled very faithfully) I assembled a brief sketch of our doings here in the beautiful land of Lietuva. I’ll add random commentary also, but there’s no way I’ll be able to set down things as they were or do justice to them.

Monday, June 29th – Day of Endless Airplane Surprises

We were supposed to fly out from O’Hare, Chicago Airport to Warsaw, Poland about 5:30pm. But we packed early and were waiting around taking care of last minute things when the telephone rang. Our flight had been delayed 7 hours at least – not what we wanted to hear. However, there was another route which might just get us to Warsaw in time for our connecting flight to Vilnius. We would have to be at O’Hare in 3 hours. Could we do it? Mom’s never been one to delay. We called Grandma and Grandpa (as it was far too late to take the South

Once in O’Hare, we checked in, etc, only to find that our flight to Frankfurt, Germany was over-booked by 100 some passengers. Some-how, we managed to be among the persons assigned seats (Snap got upgraded to Business Class – lucky duck!): Thank God! Then the plane was delayed. And delayed some more. After an hour or so we boarded. Once on the plane, we settled in for a looooooong ride. 9 hours. I read some Lithuanian history, slept, edited some writing, read some Touchstone Magazine, talked with the Guatemalan lady on the other side of mom (practiced my Spanish), ate the food they gave me, and in general was immensely uncomfortable because they build seats for people taller than 5’ 1.”

Tuesday, June 30th – Continuation of Airplaneness and Commencement of Jet-lag

Once we landed in Frankfurt, we immediately sped across the airport to find our connecting flight to Warsaw. We had a slight problem, you see. When our tickets were printed, somehow, we didn’t receive my ticket from Warsaw to Vilnius. In Chicago we were told that they’d print it for us in Frankfurt. In Frankfurt they said to wait until Warsaw. I was a little worried. :P
Anyway, we noticed that this one family that had also taken our Chicago flight to Frankfurt boarded our connecting flight to Warsaw. Snap and I joked that perhaps we’d follow them, or they’d follow us, all the way to Vilnius. We shouldn’t have laughed – it happened. :D

When we landed in Frankfurt, Mom was in a bit of a panic. Our flight came in late, and there was only about half an hour till we were to board the Vilnius flight. We couldn’t read the signs very well, nor speak Polish (though English was spoken too [ish –as Snap says]) and we still needed a ticket for me! Needless to say, we had a rather frantic 30 minutes weaving our way through the airport and arrived barely in time to board the bus for the plane. (We probably would have missed it if Mom hadn’t sent Snap on ahead to let them know we were coming.)

On the plane, I read some more Lithuanian history and found out that the Millennium Celebration of Lithuania as a historically mentioned entity is connected with the Lithuanian’s martyring St Bruno. You’d probably know him as St. Boniface.

(Ironically, the Oak is symbolic for Lithuania. Snap: I thought St. Boniface cut down the Oak. TQ: And the Lithuanians cut down St. Boniface... [Yeah, I know. It’s pretty lame.])

Lithuania (Christianized by that time) also finally defeated the Teutonic Knights, ending their era of power, at the battle of Zalgiris or Grunewald under Grand Duke Vytautas. I also found out something very, very, very interesting. Apparently, at the time of Luther, the Grand Master of the weakened Teutonic Order corresponded with that reformer; the outcome being that both he and the greater portion of the Order became Lutheran and the former head of the Teutonic Knights swore allegiance to the Grand Duke of Lithuania as – guess what! – the Duke of Prussia! (That explains alot!)

Anyway, we landed in Vilnius, claimed our baggage, and were greeted by our hosts. (No customs, no passport checks.) They dropped us off at the flat which their friends had kindly agreed to let us borrow and left us to sleep for a few hours (after the mistress of the flat fed us well!). At 7pm, they picked us up and took us to see a bit of the city of Vilnius.

First we visited a cemetery in which rested a monument surrounding the graves of 14 persons killed by the Soviet tanks in an attack on a TV tower guarded by the Lithuanian nationals. Then we walked through Cathedral Square (past the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Cathedral) and took pictures of the statue of King Gediminas – the first king of Lithuania. We climbed a hill above the Square, overlooking Vilnius, whereon were planted three immense white crosses. As our host told it, the original crosses were pulled down by the Soviets, but buried by the people before they could be destroyed so that after re-independence they could serve as a model for the present monumental crosses. (We saw those original pieces also). Finally, we left one of our newlywed friends with her husband of a few days (they were so beautiful together) and went with the other to meet his family and have dinner.

The family is lovely. The boy is one of those young men who just capture a place in my heart on first acquaintance. He’s witty, charmingly unembarrassed, yet sensitive and comical. Of them all, he spoke English the most fluently. The girl is wonderful as well, sweet, and very helpful. It was so nice to have another female to hang around with and to help translate despite age differences.

Wednesday, July 1st – Museum and Concerts, Concerts.

In the morning, our host took us to an open air museum of historic Lithuanian life. Traditional farmsteads from each sector of Lithuania form replicas of small settlements in the countryside. Interpreters in traditional dress explain architecture and traditions. (unfortunately, not in Anglishke) We had a lunch of traditional Lithuanian food at a small cafe in one of these villages, and our host suggested we try a certain drink: Gira. He explained that it was made with bread dough left to sit for three or four days in water with sugar. (Snap and I grin at each other.) It was served us in a bottle; this was not the real gira, said he. Someday we should try homemade gira. (Snap drinks and whispers to me, “Do you think it is...?” I nod. “I kind of like it,” says she. I grin.)
We made it back to Vilnius just in time to catch the first festivities of the Millennium Celebration of Lietuva. First we watched a ceremony by the riverside which we couldn’t see much of because of the crowd. Monks from the Franciscan Monastery were chanting (I think they were real monks??) and girls in traditional costume were putting wreaths of flowers on the water. (No, Nick, we didn’t participate. :D) Then we ran to a Franciscan church (much defaced by the Soviets and still in the process of restoration) for what our host called “a concert” (I think that this term meant pretty much anything musical performed by one or two groups indoors. I’m still not sure) in which songs were sung by choirs – apparently songs about St. Francis (?). Then we ran to the Vilnius University church to hear a concert by the Lithuanian Boy’s Choir and another choir after them. Then we found our way back to Cathedral Square for a televised National Signing of Millennium of Lithuania Document thingy. Since it was all in Lithuanian, I’m not actually that sure what was going on, but different Lithuanian important figures spoke and choirs sang songs, and bands played, and people were honored, and video clips on the history of Lithuania were shown, and I saw REAL LIVE MONKS! (they were barefoot too...) We didn’t get “home” until very late.

During our entire first week in Vilnius, Snap and I discovered that (very unfortunately) whenever we sat down for more than 15 minutes, we would find ourselves struggling against an overpowering urge to sleep. It was rather unpleasant because we were in constant fear that our host would think we were bored and be hurt.

Thursday, July 2nd – Day of Churches, Song and Dance

We spent the first part of the day with our newlywed hostess visiting churches in the Old Town of Vilnius. They were all beautiful. It saddened one to see the destruction wrought by the Soviets still awaiting repair. Many churches had once been covered with beautiful frescoes where now only bits of colored plaster still suggest the artwork. Most of the churches we saw were Roman Catholic, but we saw a few Russian Orthodox as well. I found the Orthodox churches artistically a bit surprising. They differed from all the other Orthodox churches I’ve been in (in my vaaaasst experience of a grand 2!) and the Eastern art I’ve seen. Large western looking paintings graced the walls in some, even forming part of the iconostasis. Many of the icons were westernized and lacked the unique form and perspective of the eastern icons. Often I saw a mix of western paintings and eastern icons in the same space, right next to each other. In one Orthodox cathedral, I saw relicts of several saints (from the area) preserved and housed in an elaborately roofed box. I eyed some of the icons for sale a bit wistfully too. At one of the churches, a lady took us to a table, and through our translator told us to take one or two of the pieces on it. Most were paper copies of icons, but in addition to one of those, I was given a necklace pendant of Christ with the Theotokos and Snap received a miniature icon of St. Valentine. Awesome! (Now I have both an RC “dogtag” and an Orthodox one. I plan to wear the Orthodox one as there’s nothing theologically wrong with it that I can see. (And my Protestant friends might ask questions. [Naughty me]) The RC one (from a Baptist School’s Garage Sale :P ) petitions the Blessed Virgin to pray for us, which I am uncomfortable with. )

After lunch, we climbed a hill (in pouring rain) to Gediminas Tower, a tower preserved from the wall of the castle that once overlooked the center of Vilnius. For the slightly romantic girl who loves knights, armor and chivalry, the little bit of brick and stone was immensely exciting. I loved every bit of it, especially the view over Vilnius from which I could imagine how I would defensively and offensively arrange an army around such a fortress. Afterwards, we were handed over to our other host who took us to the National Philharmonic to hear philharmonic choirs from all over Lithuania and Lithuanian choirs from other countries. I’ve never heard anything like it. (The hall was packed, but our host somehow worked us in after half and hour or so of waiting on the steps. It was so worth the wait.)

But the day wasn’t over yet! We missed the final half hour of the Philharmonic Orchestra concert to run to the Song and Dance Festival (part of the Millennium Celebration) in an outdoor amphitheatre snuggled in a deep valley in a Vilnius park. People lined the hills to watch. We heard folk songs and watched folk dances (in traditional costume) till late into the night. (actually early morning) At the end of the Festival, the musicians played traditional polkas from each of the four provinces of Lithuania and our host dragged me and Mamita down for a dance. It was awesome!

Friday, July 3rd – Swimming and the Children’s Festival

In the morning our hosts drove us to a small inland lake to swim. It was quite cold, yet desire to be good guests proved a strong incentive. Once accustomed to the water, the swim was pleasant and refreshing. Falling through the floor of the changing booth was not. (I wasn’t hurt, just a bit scratched.) Afterwards, we went to the Children’s Choir Festival in which over 16,000 children from all over Lithuania sang for hours and hours and hours. It was also amazing. (Our host’s children sang and played in one of the orchestras.) After this even was over, we went to eat and then walked along Gedimino parkway, near the Parliament building. Our host’s wife related to us how she and her husband had stood at that very corner not so many years ago with many other Lithuanians, forming a living barrier around Parliament to protect it from Soviet tanks. (This occurred the same night as the assault on the TV tower.) She also showed us an exhibit with remnants of the blocks and barricades surrounding the building.

Saturday, July 4th – Genocide Museum, Mass, and Opera at a Castle!

Mom managed to use the internet to contact Daddy, courtesy of our flat hostess, before our host picked us up. The order of the morning was to be the Museum of the Lithuanian Genocide (Nazi and Soviet), situated in the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius. Cold stone speaks louder than anything our host could have told us. Upstairs we saw offices, displays on the Lithuanian Partisan resistance, the deportees to Sibera, the KGB infiltration and police rule. But downstairs we encountered the cells; cells for solitary confinement, water treatment, some padded to prevent suicide by tortured prisoners, the execution chambers. I had heard the tales, but had never seen. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Our host didn’t say much, but he didn’t have to.

After that, we went to the Cathedral Square. Because of the Millennium Celebration, a media trailer had been set up at one corner of the square. Mom had been eager to use the internet to contact Dad, and Elle and I likewise wished for a clue of what was passing at home. Our host said that the loudspeakers had announced that everyone was invited to use the resources within the trailer (including computers with internet access). Nervously, with much glancing around us, Elle and I followed her into the booth. I managed to glance at my inbox and answer two emails, when all of a sudden I heard the televised microphone announcer behind me. I heard some sort of question, and turned just in time to see the announcer stick the microphone in front of Snap’s face. She turned bright red and whispered, “I don’t speak Lithuanian.” I heard the announcer chuckle and say something about “American” as he turned away. Mom totally missed the whole exchange, and we couldn’t convince her that we wanted to get out of sight NOW! Accordingly, Snap and I beat it out of there, leaving mom to spend another few minutes emailing.

Once Mom had finished with her internet communications, our host and we walked through the booths in the park next to the Cathedral square. It was full of various performing groups in traditional Lithuanian costume (singers, demonstrators, smiths, cooks, dancers, etc), vendors, and children and spectators of all sizes. Elle took pictures. At 5:00pm, we went to Mass with our host and his family (it was a special Mass that they had to be present for) and then drove to Trackai. Trackai is home to the best preserved medieval castle in Lithuania – a castle on an island. And as if that weren’t enough, we were going to see an opera – an famous Lithuanian opera staged in the castle. Several friends of our host’s son came along (they were hilarious and interesting. One looked like Prince Caspian while another spoke fluent English and looked like a Rohirrim from the LOTR movies.) We ate a light supper together at a cafe which included something akin to Pasties and a whole tall mug of gira! (I look at Snap and whisper, “It comes in pints!” She nods.” However, Snap did not like the homemade gira because of the pellet looking things floating in it.) I drank ALL of mine, pellets and all.

Unfortunately, it was raining when the opera began and we could barely see anything through the mass of umbrellas (the audience sat in the courtyard and the opera was staged upon the walls and on a platform in a corner. Even though it was in Lithuanian and I could understand none of the words (excepting a few names), I could follow the general storyline and I enjoyed the performance immensely. Our hostess also found a plot synopsis in English for us to read which greatly illumined the musical goings on. The Teutonic knights plot to take the castle, one princess marries her love, while her “sister” is deceived and seduced by the Teutonic envoy into betraying her people, is verbally chastened by her Lithuanian prince, and is murdered by the Teutonic envoy before reaching the castle. The Lithuanian warriors lose the battle and die in a burning castle rather than surrender. It was all very dramatic, including real fire! *eyes widen* Ooh, aah!

We took pictures in the dark in front of the castle.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Two items

Two small items.

I copied down the following from an excellent and much loved (and worn) shirt of a friend in Vilnius. It was accompanied by illustrations:

Optimist - The glass is half full
Pessimist - The glass is half empty
Realist - The glass is.
Idealist - The glass should be full
Feminist - His glass seems more full than my glass.
Environmentalist - Save the water!
Anarchist - Let's break the glass!
Capitalist - Let's sell the glass!
Chemist - The glass is... (proceeds to list the chemical formula of glass which I failed to copy down)

Also, on the way home from the SB airport, Grandpa bought us Burger King. I was appalled (though quite humoured) at the message on the paper cups:

Maybe you want a lot of ice. Maybe you want no ice. Maybe you want your top securely fastened, or maybe you want to go topless. Hmmm? Maybe you want to mix COKE and SPRITE. Maybe you want to let your cup runneth over (we wish you wouldn't). Whatever you do, make sure to have things your way.

Note to self: Why a Biblical allusion?