Friday, November 30, 2012

Shakespeare, 30th November

'T is not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball,   .    .    .
The inter tissued robe of gold and pearl,   .    .    .    .
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
Who, with a body fill'd and vacant mind,
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread.
                             King Henry V., Act iv., Sc, 1.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ministry in the military and beyond

I’ve written about folks who do ministry to/in the military occasionally here on the blog (there was this post, once upon a time, which turned into this article in The Briefing), and how I used to be involved as a “civilian” anchor in a military bible fellowship. Well, I was encouraged this afternoon to watch this little video, of one of the people I met in those spheres, who is moving out of military chaplaincy to plant a church in Geelong, Victoria.

I first became quite good friends with Andrew’s brother, Matt, through a church in Toowoomba, where Matt was stationed as a helicopter pilot in the Army, then met Andrew on a conference for Christians in the Military, then went on a ski trip with some folks from that conference and the other brother Nathan (who went on to be a Rhodes Scholar and is now a doctor in India) and his wife came along on that. (All the brothers are a little bit extraordinary. Recently on Facebook I noticed pictures of the Governer-General on their family farm – I don’t know what she was there for, but no doubt someone has been remarkable.) But, all that aside, watch this video and be encouraged by the work that God is doing in places you might not be so familiar with, including Kapooka.

More on loneliness

I have actually gone and listened to the interview on All in the Mind with Emily White on Loneliness (you can listen here, or read the transcript here - apologies that the link wasn't there earlier). It's really very interesting. It doesn't matter which statistics you use, apparently about 10% of people are lonely, and one possible reason given for this is the diminishing depth of people's emotional lives and also a reduction in "passive socialising" (see below). The interview also contains some discussion about the stigma attached to loneliness; how these days most people accept that depression is not a person's fault, but that is not how loneliness is viewed (lonely people are seen as somehow pathetic), but that ultimately, you can't overwhelm loneliness by yourself. I was particularly intrigued by this section on precursors to loneliness, and what loneliness best responds to:

Natasha Mitchell: One thing that you did investigate was ... this notion that it [chronic loneliness] can perhaps it can become a habit brought about by a kind of disrupted sense of attachment that we come to rely on ourselves and that feels like a safer thing to do than to rely on others. Tell us a little bit about this relationship between loneliness and attachment?

Emily White: One of the key ideas in loneliness research is trust and what they have found is that the more trusting you are as an individual the less likely you are to have problems with loneliness and the opposite is also true: the more distrustful you are, one researcher used the word automatic, you will automatically start having more problems with loneliness. And you can take that back to childhood where you can learn a trusting way of being with your care giver or you can learn perhaps that your care giver isn't someone you can fully trust. And if the latter scenario was true for you you're going to be less and less trusting, not just of your care giver but of the other people you come across in life. That's usually referred to as anxious attachment, and if that is the situation you're facing, if you've grown up rightly or wrongly thinking the only person you can truly rely on is yourself, you will definitely be a good candidate for loneliness. Because what loneliness responds to best is a deep and secure sense of trust and faith in another person, a very, very deep sense of emotional intimacy. I use the word attunement in the book and I think that's a lovely word, referring to the sense in which we can feel psychically and emotionally connected to another person in a sort of wordless way.

That's what loneliness responds to. But if you have grown up feeling that trying to achieve that sort of relationship with another person is risky, or if you've sort of been batted away as you've tried to achieve that sort of relationship, loneliness is going to emerge as a problem.

Natasha Mitchell: Chronic loneliness is on the rise, this is a very potent analysis that you offer us in the book. Internationally it's on the rise, this is slowly being documented now as partly now being seen as not just a health issue but a public policy issue. Part of it, you suggest, is the diminishing depth of people's emotional lives and I guess we could point to urbanisation, we could point to single person households, the rise of those and all sorts of things and yet you come back to this idea that there's a diminishing depth of our emotional life that might be part of this too.

Emily White: I think we're being encouraged to see relationships that are in some ways superficial and you can think of that in terms of Facebook friends with Twitter followers, you know, insert your social media here, as real relationships and what a lot of people within the loneliness research community are trying to impress upon us is that that doesn't give you what you need to fend off loneliness. It's not to say that Facebook is a bad thing, it's to say that what we need to fend off loneliness - and I'm speaking from personal experience here - you don't need a lot of relationships but you need a few relationships that run really deep, that make you feel fully known, that help you understand yourself. And increasingly we're not finding that. People are spending more and more time alone and researchers don't know why that is and it's not a cohort, they're not finding it within a specific age group, they are finding it across the board, people are spending more time alone, people are living alone.

And what struck me was an interview that I did with a researcher in Toronto named Glen Stocker and we were talking about this increase in time spent alone and he said, you know, when people are with other people there's been this shift in how we're spending our time. In the past there was more of what he called passive socialising and he described that in a way that I really liked. He said that's time spent with someone else when you don't have to say anything. You're cooking and somebody is reading the newspaper at the kitchen table, there is someone there with you in a sort of deep and quiet way. So what we have increasingly today is active socialising, meaning you're out for dinner, or you're out to a baseball game ...

Shakespeare, 29th November

              Were 't not madness, then,
To make the fox surveyor of the fold?

                          An empty eagle set
To guard the chicken from a hungry kite.

Second Part of King Henry VI., Act iii., Sc. 1.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cute story: a small boy reads Jane Austen

I sent the Cozy Classics Pride and Prejudice to my niece for her first birthday, but one person who is rather taken with it is my four-year-old nephew. He has his own funny version of the story, and he read bits of it to me on the phone the other day. He is also rather taken with pirates at the moment, and so he comes to the page where Lizzy is reading Darcy’s letter and makes up a scene where Lizzie is reading a “treasure map”.

I thought, well, that could be a nice metaphor really couldn’t it.

“I read your letters like a treasure map.”


(I've actually got the Cozy Classics Moby Dick for him for Christmas, just because it's cute and even though it's not about pirates it's got a ship and a whale, so I am looking forward to him "reading" that one.)

The hipster in all of us

I liked this article at the gospel coalition about the hipster in all of us (which includes some fascinating observations on television from David Forster Wallace). I live in one of the hipster capitals of the country, and while I don’t call myself a hipster, there is a lot to like about this part of the world. From my observations, I reckon the weirdest people on the continent walk down King St, Newtown, and that’s OK. I’m pretty sure some of them dress up just to parade down the street being a spectacle, but many are genuinely just a little bit different. There’s an earthiness and social conscience in the atmosphere, with a culture of recycling and fresh produce that can remember where it came from (you can go into Alfalfa House and buy ingredients most people have forgotten about) and buying local and, OK, so I know vintage bikes and fixies are hipsterish, but people are riding bikes! There’s something of a revolt against materialism and here it’s cool to buy your clothes at the op shop (this is not so cool on the lower North Shore); there are more independent shops along the street (though the franchises are encroaching), at least five book shops, and is an appreciation for handmade and homespun items and living in smaller spaces - the real estate costs a fortune, but that is forcing people to live smaller, and I see this as a good thing. (Australia has one of the highest housing footprints in the world, but it’s not coming from here. I have friends who have three kids in a small two-bedroom terrace, and good for them.)

All, the same, there are some good criticisms made in the article, about the cynicism that can infect hipsters (though it sounds to me like American hipsters are slightly different breed), and their exclusiveness and scorn. I consciously try to avoid such things as coffee snobbery (because I do think it’s a little bit ridiculous -- though I’ll have a teabag thanks if you’re offering instant). Here’s a quote:
Christian participation in culture should be warm, generous, and sincere. We worship a God who made the world and made it profoundly good. Our God is not a cynic; he takes pleasure in his creation (Genesis 1), and he invites us to share in his joy.

Embracing mere goodness in the world around us---good food, good conversation, and good leisure---could be transformative. By that I mean mere goodness. Life doesn't have to be full of the best of everything, and good can certainly be good enough. Especially if we lower our grandiose and idealized expectations and simply determine to enjoy what God puts before us.

Shakespeare, 28th November

            Methinks it were a happy life,
To be no better than a homely swain; .    .    .
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle,
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade,
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys,
Is far beyond a prince's delicates,    .    .   .
When care, mistrust, and treason waits on him.
                 Third Part of Kind Henry VI., Act ii., Sc. 5.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another wisp of fog

It seems I’ve dropped the ball lately. On Saturday we had our next markets at church. I beavered away last week making crochet stars in yellow and grey (aka gold and silver, if you please). I thought I should add in the grey for those who have a David Jones style Christmas tree in pink and purple, or something else that doesn’t lend itself to retro yellow. (Let’s face it, those trees probably don’t lend themselves to crochet of any sort, but grey might have more of a chance.) Here’s a phone picture from the day.

Then yesterday I actually stayed home. I just felt “weird”. I got up and dragged myself around getting ready, then was sitting there eating my breakfast like it was slow motion take, and decided to stay home and go back to bed. The truth is, I am the office legend at the moment anyway. Several weeks ago, when it looked like we were not going to make the budget for the final quarter, I was actually named in a meeting in front of the CEO as someone who could make up some of the shortfall, by sending four extra publications to press. I pulled that off, then voluntarily sent two additional parts to press, so then was actually asked last week to stop working on my own products to assist on some others that were “at risk”, so I helped a team member who was drowning and sent two of their publications off to press. Consequently I figured I could go back to bed and the world would carry on. I actually had quite a nice time once I did get up, and mustered up the energy to clean up the disgrace that was the zone on top of and around my desk and actually put some things in the filing cabinet. Then I sat on the couch and picked up where I left off on Violet's rug, practiced my guitar, read my bible more slowly than usual ... I have a dream about working four days a week.

But the rest of the blogosphere has been interesting. Tim Chester has been brave and created a model of godly manhood and womanhood. Simone has also been brave and started a series on the problems with women’s ministry (see here, here, here and here so far, and Jean has also responded here and here).

And if you need a handmade idea for Christmas that is doable for everyone, how great is this idea of making your own vanilla extract, from vanilla beans and vodka (H/T Just B). I knew vanilla essence was high in alcohol (some of my previous colleagues and I have done experiments with essences, because you use them to trap wild animals, namely bettongs, that dig for truffles), but never thought about how you'd make your own. Personally, I reckon school teachers might appreciate this. I am a fan of rooibos and vanilla tea, and recently Cath gave me a cup of rooibos tea and added vanilla essence herself. Brilliant! (I hadn't thought of that either.)

Shakespeares, 27th November

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.

Much Ado About Nothing, Act vi., Sc. 3.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shakespeare, 26th November

If lusty love should go in quest of beauty,
Where should he find it fairer?     .     .     .
If zealous love should go in search of virtue,
Where should he find it purer?
                          King John, Act ii., Sc. 1.

Full oft we see cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
                          All's Well That Ends Well, Act i., Sc. 1.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shakespeare, 25th November

              The antique and well-noted face
Of plain old form is much disfigured;
And, like a shifted wind unto a sail,
It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about,
Startles and frights consideration,
Makes sound opinion sick, and truth suspected,
For putting on so new a fashion'd robe.
                                  King John, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shakespeare, 24th November

Show boldness and aspiring confidence.
.     .     .     .     seek the lion in his den,
And fright him there? And make him tremble there?
.     .     .     .     .     forage, and run
To meet displeasure farther from the doors,
And grapple with him ere he comes so nigh.

King John, Act v., Sc. 1.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shakespeare, 23rd November

Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,--
Their virtues else--be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo--
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault.
                              Hamlet, Act i., Sc. 1.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

I’m a little early perhaps, but I have pulled out some Christmas music (though this one is not strictly for Christmas). So, here is an old classic of mine, that never gets old and comes out every year.

You needn’t watch the video. But make sure you are still listening and ready to rise up out of your chair and begin to conduct your imaginary orchestra at about 1.42. Then I love the section from about 3.22 onwards. It’s pure Christmas euphoria. And the brass from 4.00.

Shakespeare, 22nd November

                               O, let not virtue seek
Renumeration for the thing it was;
For beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of love, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating time.

Troilus and Cressida, Act iii., Sc. 3.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Introverts and the loneliness loop

This article is quite interesting, and is perhaps something it's worth being aware of for us introverts.
We know loneliness may or may not be related to being alone. Introverts can be perfectly happy alone, or terribly lonely in a crowd. But if introverts are at any particular risk for loneliness, it could be because we set a high bar for friendship. We desire and require deep connections and would rather be lonely alone than in a crowd. But realistically, those deep connections are not easy to find, and if we get caught short and our only choice is superficial socializing or nothing, we can get lonely.
It might seem a no-brainer to speculate whether introverts are more prone to loneliness than extroverts, except when you separate loneliness from solitude. But is it possible that our comfort in solitude brings about an increased risk of loneliness because we get caught in the loop?

Australia's vanishing mammals - a glimpse into my past life

I was saddened to read this article, about the escalating extinction of Australian mammals the other day. Once upon a time, when I was doing wildlife research up in Far North Queensland, I had dinner with Tim Flannery – before he was Australian of the year and the face of climate change and was simply an exceptional mammalian biologist. Over dinner he regaled me and a few others with tales of his adventures hunting for tree kangaroos in the jungles of Irian Jaya. His monograph on tree kangaroos is still one of the most beautiful books I own.

While I was up in Townsville I was doing research on one of those small-medium herbivorous, critical-weight-range marsupials he mentions in this article. From there I went to Toowoomba, where I researched and wrote recovery plans for two endangered species (the Bulloak Jewel Butterfly and the Julia Creek Dunnart, if you are wondering), and also went out to Idalia National Park to monitor the Bridled Nailtail Wallabies. Then the funding disappeared with a change of state government (perfect example of the bureaucratic problems he discusses also) and I had to get another job. The lack of research funding within the agencies that manage Australia's biodiversity is one of the reasons I am no longer working in that field. So everything in that article is close to my heart.

Shakespeare, 21st November

The jewel that we find, we stoop and take't
Because we see it; but what we do not see
We tread upon, and never think of it.
          Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. 1.

Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders.
          King Richard II., Act v., Sc. 5.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The one about sentimentality in art

I came upon this quote on sentimentality in art, over at The Happiness Project, and it has to go here as a quote for keeping. How about the second paragraph. And The Mill on the Floss. Yes. The first four books within that book might be the slowest thing I've ever read, and required a dictionary, but I was up till 2.30 am with the tears raining down my face for the last two books.
Sentimentality is a flaw in a work of art, certainly, but the word is often thrown at great and overpowering works of art that embarrass critics who live, emotionally, in St. Ogg’s, though intellectually they have journeyed south as far as Cambridge. The ending of The Mill on the Floss moves me to tears, though I am not an easy weeper. It is not the immediate pathos of the death of Maggie and Tom that thus affects me:  it is rather that a genuine completion of human involvement has been attained, but attained only through Death. A happiness beyond mere delight has been experienced – a happiness as blasting and destroying as an encounter with the gods.

To my mind, this is anything but sentimental. People who prate of sentimentality are very often people who hate being made to feel, and who hate anything that cannot be intellectually manipulated. But the purgation through pity and terror which is said to be the effect of tragedy is not the only kind of purgation that art can bring. The tempest in the heart that great novels can evoke is rarely tragic in the strict sense, but it is an arousal of feelings of wonder at the strangeness of life, and desolation at the implacability of life, and dread of the capriciousness of life, which for a few minutes overwhelms all our calculations and certainties and leaves us naked in a turmoil from which cleverness cannot save us.
–Robertson Davies, “Phantasmagoria and Dream Grotto,” One Half of Robertson Davies

Shakespeare, 20th November

'Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop, and weed up thyme, ... have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry, why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills.

Othello, Act i., Sc. 3.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why do I always see the sadness in life?

I love this closing few paragraphs from this five part series by David Powlinson, over at the CCEF blog:
There is an unspeakable sorrow at the heart of the world. All the Bible writers know that. All the great saints know that. All the great novelists and poets have known it. All honest men and women have known it. Only the self-deluded, who pursue their schemes for earthly joy, who expend their lives in climbing ladders to nowhere, fail to recognize the obvious. In the end, all is loss. And, whether the effects are subtle or grotesque, a madness of evil blinds the human heart (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

There is one more thing that needs to be said, and said again. We are surprised by joy, as C. S. Lewis put it. Life wins, gladness wins, hope wins. Death dies, sin disappears, all tears are wiped away ...

The mercies of God in Jesus Christ give certainty that sadness does not get last say. The past grace of our Father's purposes and the self-sacrificing love of Jesus provide the indestructible foundation on which to build your life. The present help of Christ through his Holy Spirit works with you so you increasingly find the balance point between joy and sorrow. And the future hope of Christ promises that joy will sweep away all sorrows.

An adoption story

Want to get your tissues out? Here is the second part of the adoption story of a couple I used to go to church with. You might have even seen it on TV last night (I can't work out how to embed it - it's 3.20 minutes). The first part of their adoption story, detailing their move to America where the adoption process is easier and quicker, is here.

Shakespeare, 19th November

So rest may he; his faults lie gently on him.
          King Henry VIII., Act. iv., Sc. 2.

An habitation giddy and unsure
Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.
          Second Part of King Henry IV., Act i., Sc. 3.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can a person be judged by their bookshelves?

I enjoyed this post yesterday on what you can (perhaps) learn about a person from their book shelves. It's funny, because I have two book shelves in the living area of our flat, which I notice many people glancing through when they come over, but I always feel like saying 'all the most interesting books are in my room', where there are two more shelves of the books, and little piles of books in other odd places, that don't get as far away as the living room. Maybe I need to move some of them out to where the sorts who peruse other people's bookshelves can see them ...
All of these words and phrases — alterbecome part of yousoul-widening, and cut — say something about what books do to us. They make obligations on us. They force certain reckonings, and we are different after the encounter, sometimes only marginally so, other times substantially.

Shakespeare, 18th November

Let not the world see fear and sad distrust
Govern the motion of a kingly eye.
Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire;
Threaten the threatener and outface the brow
Of bragging horrow: so shall inferior eyes,
That borrow their behaviours from the great,
Grow great by your example.
                              King John, Act v., Sc. 1.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shakespeare, 17th November

True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings;
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.
          King Richard III., Act v., Sc. 2.

A maid of grace,
And complete majesty.
          Love's Labour's Lost, Act i., Sc. 1.

Friday, November 16, 2012

For a granny chic Christmas

One of the things I have been up to this past week is this; a crochet Christmas project.

We actually have another Made Fair Markets at my church next weekend (24th November). It was one of those things. I actually didn’t know about it, neither did others on the team, and it wasn’t in the church calender, but somebody somewhere knew of it, and some ladies from the morning service have been busy making things to sell to raise money for some of our link missionaries. So, we wouldn’t want to stand in the such of such a goodly endeavour and are going to run a market.

Initially I thought, bother, I don’t have much time to make more stuff, but then I decided that if we were going to do markets at the end of November I need Christmas decorations. Preferably something simple and not too time consuming, given that lack of time. And so here it is. The granny star!

Just quietly, I am rather taken with it. Besotted actually. I think it could be my new thing. I don’t care if nobody buys them, because I am going to give them to everyone, everywhere. I’m already thinking one for each of my team at work, one for each of my family, stars adorning presents, stars hanging off trees ...

This one pictured is even made with some “vintage” yarn I bought on ebay a while back. Very 70s yellow and retro.

Then I decided that since these things are all about packaging, and it being Christmas and all, I should include a Bible verse with the stars. So I looked up all the verses around the Christmas story containing the word “star”. None of them stand alone all that well. So then I turned to the Christmas carols. None of the starry Christmas carol fragments work so well either. I didn't want to leave people with a weird, vague "guided by the stars" idea. So I think I am going to go with a slightly altered phrase from O Little Town of Bethlehem. I changed “thy” to “the”, which means it’s no longer referring to Bethlehem (but I'm contemplating putting "thy" back in, to personalise it, maybe), and added "Christ", but I think it works. Something like this, only once I get a new ink cartridge I'll actually print it.

For some reason I'm all enthused right now about little packages containing a crochet star.

(As with a lot of creative efforts, you make something up, then google it and discover tutorials for how to do it all over the internet. I just made this based on a picture I’d flagged once, which is actually now gone. (Note to self – if you really like something on the internet you should print it out, because sometimes things disappear.) Then over here I found a tutorial for something very similar. Don’t tell that nice, creative, generous lady I said so, but I like mine slightly better, because I don’t have that big chain gap on the points, so the points are pointier.)

Friday funny - in the balance

Snuggle up in a rainbow

I've got nothing, but because it is grey and wet and cold here for November, how about this crochet rainbow rug. My goodness! It looks so amazing!

(But it would cost and bomb with so many colours, and yes, you can buy a kit here for $780.)

Shakespeare, 16th November

Well said; if speaking truth
In this fine age were not thought flattery.

First Part of King Henry IV., Act iv., Sc. 1.

Most excellent accomplished lady, the heavens rain odours on you!

Twelfth Night, Act iii., Sc. 1.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shakespeare, 15th November

Patch grief with proverbs.
          Much Ado about Nothing, Act v., Sc, I.

Sweet recreation barr'd, what doth ensue
But moody and dull melancholy,
Kinsman to grim and comfortless despair,
And at her heels a huge infectious troop.
          Comedy of Errors, Act v., Sc. I.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The best of stories

Speaking of good stories, on Sunday night we had a sermon on one of the greatest stories ever told, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We are having a great short series on the topic of 'Grace', to coincide with the opening of our newly renovated building. Rarely is it not worth listening to a sermon on the Prodigal Son, and here is a good one from Paul Dale.

Shakespeare, 14th November

O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Second Part of King Henry IV., Act iii., Sc. 1.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shakespeare, 13th November

We at time of year
Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees,
Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
With too much riches it confound itself:
Had he done so to great and growing men,
They might have lived to bear and he to taste
Their fruits of duty.
          King Henry II., Act iii., Sc. 4.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Living a good story

The movies I like best are the slow literary movies that don’t seem to be about anything and yet are about everything at the same time.
... most of our greatest fears are relational. It’s all the stuff about forgiveness and risking rejection and learning to love. We think stories are about getting money and security, but the truth is, it all comes down to relationships …
Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years 

I've had this book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, for quite a while, after recommendations from writing chums (one of those books I bought before I had time to read it). But on Sunday I was catching a train into the city to meet some old friends and needed a book to read, so I took it. Somehow, even though I did lunch with friends, other things at home, then went to Church, I'm already half way. If you know anything about Donald Miller you know he wrote a memoir of sorts called Blue Like Jazz (to be read with discernment, as all books are). Well, he was then approached by a couple of movie directors, who wanted to turn the book into a movie, and in the process of doing so he got to participate in editing his own life, for real. And through that process he learnt something about how to actually live a good story. Now he runs Storyline conferences (the path of inspiration in one's life is a curious thing in itself).

I am actually rather interested in the Storyline material, particularly the elements of "embracing conflict", because all good stories need conflict, but I loathe and detest conflict (incidentally, here is a good post on The Key to Resolving Conflict), and I've tried to overcome some relational fears and the results were unsatisfying, and wouldn't make a good scene any kind of movie. It's all very intriguing, and now I want to go and edit my life. But recognising that it all needs to be kept in the perspective of God's sovereignty, acknowledging that the best-laid plans might not actually be the best plans, and that no matter how hard we try some things are not within the realm of our control.

Shakespeare, 12th November

To say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days; the more the pity that some honest neighbours will not make them friends.
          Midsummer Night's Dream, Act iii., Sc. 1.

The time of life is short!
To spend that shortness basely were too long.
          First Part of King Henry IV., Act v., Sc. 2.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Violet's birthday rug

It's actually my niece's first birthday today. As has come to be expected I haven't quite finished the rug I was making for her yet (they all seem to blow out on the time line, and I had to pause and make some things for our church markets the other weekend), but I have started roughly blocking some of those scrumpled Briar Rose squares I blogged here. So, now they sit nice and flat and look prettier.

Shakespeare, 11th November

Believe me, sister, of all the men alive
I never yet beheld that special face,
Which I could fancy more than any other.
          Taming of the Shrew, Act ii., Sc. 1.

Sweet is zealous contemplation.
          King Richard III., Act iii., Sc. 7.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The science of crying and of making eye contact

This post is a little repository of information that Ali finds note-worthy, for a Saturday.

Picture from here.
I’ve done a little more than my quota of crying lately (ladies on average cry about five times a month, apparently), just because that is the season I am in. But I was reading a little article in Frankie Magazine Vol 50, by Jo Walker, on the science of crying, which provides the comfort of explaining that all the sniffling is good for something. Here is a piece of it:
There are three kinds of crying: basal tears that lubricate and protect the eye, reflex tears that flush our irritants like smoke or onion vapours, and emotional tears triggered by anything from weepie films and ads with puppies to pain, grief and despair. Of all life forms, only humans produce emotional tears. Streaked mascara and red-ringed eyes are what separates us from the animals [but human babies don’t cry emotional tears until around seven months old, from later in the article].

Having a good cry can be an emotional release, and research shows it’s a chemical one too. When you’re stressed your body produces substances like prolactin and adrenocorticotrophin, both of which show up in large doses in emotional tears. So crying is your body’s blubbery, damp way of dumping stress hormones where they can’t cause harm: your cheeks, nose and sleeve. Turning on the waterworks arouses the sympathetic nervous system (that’s your fight-or-flight responses) and sedates the parasympathetic nervous system (your rest-and-digest activities) – but the second is activated for a longer time. Which explains why you can feel so calm after bawling your eyes out. Your body is basically forcing you to chill.
And the biggest triggers for crying? According to the Dutch [some of the research in the article was done out of Tilburg University in the Netherlands] they are feelings of rejection or inadequacy, or fear of being separated from a loved one.
Then, on a slightly related (well, it’s not actually, but just run with it) topic, the other day I read a fascinating little post over at A Cup of Jo, about why children think they are invisible when they cover their eyes. This is what some Cambridge researchers discovered (via Jo):
In both studies so far, when the children thought they were invisible by virtue of their eyes being covered, they nonetheless agreed that their head and their body were visible. They seemed to be making a distinction between their 'self' that was hidden, and their body, which was still visible. Taken together with the fact that it was the concealment of the eyes that seemed to be the crucial factor for feeling hidden, the researchers wondered if their invisibility beliefs were based around the idea that there must be eye contact between two people—a meeting of gazes—for them to see each other (or at least, to see their 'selves').
Another paragraph from that research notes:
"... it would seem that children apply the principle of joint attention to the self and assume that for somebody to be perceived, experience must be shared and mutually known to be shared, as it is when two pairs of eyes meet," the researchers said.
That is all very interesting, is it not.

Shakespeare, 10th November

                               Though perils did
Abound, as thick as thought could make them, and
Appear in forms more horrid,--yet my duty,
As doth a rock against the chiding flood,
Should the approach of this wild river break,
Stand unshaken.

King Henry VIII., Act iii., Sc. 2.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday funny - The ordering of books

I pinched this from the Marilynne Robinson Facebook page. It's, um, sort of funny ... (I've tried to rationalise my book-buying tendencies, truly I have.)

Shakespeare, 9th November

God bless your highness!
            King Henry VIII., Act iii., Sc. 2.

                             May he live
Longer than I have time to tell his years!
Ever beloved and loving may his rule be,
And when old time shall lead him to his end,
Goodness and he fill up one monument!
           King Henry VIII., Act ii., Sc. 1.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Shakespeare, 8th November

Those wounds heal ill that men do give themselves:
Omission to do what is necessary
Seals a commission to a blank of danger;
And danger, like an ague, subtly taints
Even then when we sit idly in the sun.

Troilus and Cressida, Act iii., Sc. 3.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A poem on the writing of letters

The other day someone (thanks Chris) posted a quote from John Donne on facebook that said "letters mingle souls". Being a lover of both John Donne's poetry, and of letters, I had to go away and look this up. I certainly concur that there is a particular closeness developed through the writing of letters, though perhaps that depends on the nature of those writing and how they express themselves by that means, and of course it only mingles souls if one receives a letter in return, otherwise reaching out to someone and being ignored only increases the distance, not lessens it. My highschool best friend and I were perhaps a tad ridiculous, in that for a while there we'd go home and write each other letters, after being at school together all day, but I am sure that what was written in those letters was different to what was said in the school common room (aside from the fact that we wrote each other in Runic for some of those letters, and I can't even read them anymore).

But where was I? The rest of John Donne's poem heads off into unexpected places, but I do like this beginning. You can read the rest here. (And how could I not illustrate this with Darcy and Lizzie from the Pride and Prejudice Cozy Classic by Jack and Holman Wang).


by John Donne

SIR, more than kisses, letters mingle souls,
For thus, friends absent speak. This ease controls
The tediousness of my life; but for these
I could ideate nothing which could please;
But I should wither in one day, and pass
To a bottle of hay, that am a lock of grass.
Life is a voyage, and in our lives' ways
Countries, courts, towns are rocks, or remoras;
They break or stop all ships, yet our state's such,
That though than pitch they stain worse, we must touch.

Shakespeare, 7th November

                             O, but man, proud man!
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

Measure for Measure, Act ii., Sc. 2.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Pride and Prejudice in fuzzy felt

Remember when I posted about the upcoming Cozy Classics, by Jack and Holman Wang? Well, today in the mail I received three copies of Pride and Prejudice, off pre-order. It’s so adorable! These are all gifts for people, who might think I am wee bit crazy for giving them board books (except my baby niece – she will think I am perfectly reasonable – only she might not be so crazy about the story), but you have to get into the Jane Austen and felted figures spirit of it. I love it!

I just put it on the floor and took some pictures. Would you like to see? I read in the blurb before buying it that the book had been reduced to just twelve words, and I was sceptical, but I think they have done quite well, don't you? It requires filling in some gaps, but that is all the more fun.