Thursday, February 28, 2013

Telling secrets

I’m just lifting this post below straight off Alistair’s blog, and returning the link. Because I like it, and so it is going here in Ali’s collection of things I like, in the hope that some readers might like it too. I have only read bits and pieces of Frederick Buechner and never an entire book, but he is added to my dream list.

Years ago I went away on a church camp (except we don’t call them “camps” here in the city I’ve discovered – they are called “weekends away”, just so everyone knows exactly what it is and snoots don’t have to go on something called a “camp”), and found myself in conversation over lunch with someone I had never spoken to before. After that conversation this person, who has spent many a year talking to people, told me I had been “breath-takingly candid”.  Few people would be more surprised at that description of myself than me, because I often feel somewhat tormented by my own reserve, and plagued by things I wished I'd said in conversation long after the conversation is over. I have attempted since to understand how such candour came about. It actually wasn’t that the other person told me their story first – not at all – they just had a way of asking about mine that made not telling it almost impossible. It’s a rare gift that I would like to possess, not just to gather up stories about others, but (and I think emanating this is part of the secret to eliciting candour) to truly know the other person and understand the place they are talking to you from.

Telling Secrets, as per Alistair, is an autobiographical work by Frederick Buechner in which he attempts to explain and then come to terms with the dark secret which is his father's alcoholism and suicide. This is part of the introduction:
I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell.

They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.

It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.

It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.

Shakespeare, 28th February

        O, that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.
              Julius Caesar, Act v., Sc. I.

Let us not burthen our remembrance with
A heaviness that's gone.
                     Tempest, Act V., Sc. I.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frederick Buechner and the gladness in the gospel

Last night I all but fell asleep trying to read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, drifting in and out of prayers and thoughts on the couch, before shuffling off to bed, so I didn’t manage much else. But I thought I would share this video. I was having a conversation with someone recently, to the effect that while growing up in a Christian home and always knowing Jesus is a great blessing, I am fascinated to hear the stories of how God got the attention of people who had no such background. So here is Frederick Buechner, telling of some of the “stirrings in the wings of my life”.

Justin Moffatt posted a quote from Buechner on facebook yesterday, that has in it echoes of this "great laughter".
Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all. ~ Frederick Buechner
(There is a long version and short version merged together, and I am not always getting the long version, so if all you get is the short version click through to youtube. H/T The Rabbit Room)

Shakespeare, 27th February

All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
Teach thy necessity to reason thus;
There is no virtue like necessity.
Think not the king did banish thee,
But thou the king. Woe doth the heavier sit,
Where it perceives it is but faintly borne.

King Richard II., Act i., Sc. 3.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More on those good things

Well, last night’s lecture at the Centre for Christian Living on 'Love One Another! - 'Was Jesus too much of an idealist? was excellent. I am hoping it was recorded, because Andrew Cameron talks fast but it was gold. We were given an exercise we could do at home, so I think I am going to have a go at it and blog it (there, I’ve said it – now I will have to). For the second part of the evening Andrew asked questions of Jenny Brown, a family systems counselor, about how we go about loving one another. Jenny also gave us some diagnostic questions to ask ourselves. Lord have mercy! - did I (and all the people murmuring around me) feel screwed up.

Jenny mentioned how our anxious brain gears us to see threat everywhere, and so we hear negative criticism, and how often when we try to help others we are really driven by a desire to relieve discomfort and transfer the anxiety and tension (or something like that - I am hoping she was recorded also). Jenny’s book Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life's relationships was on sale – another one to add to that ever-growing must-read book list.

It just made me ponder again how amazing heaven is going to be. It’s not just that physical sickness and death and tears and pain will be gone, but everyone will be psychologically well also. Imagine what it is going to be like to wake up one day and be all sorted emotionally and mentally?! We will perceive everything correctly, and be able to act rightly on our perceptions (but we won't even really need to, because other people's words and actions won't be all complicated by their own stuff), and we won’t be messed up by our family systems and past experiences, and relationships won’t suffer from communication problems …

Then yesterday in the mail at home, as part of the same indulgence that saw me buying Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, I also received Molehill, Vol 1 in the mail, from The Rabbit Room. This too looks fabulous, from the quick flick I managed to do last night, and is one more thing I can’t wait to read.

Shakespeare, 26th February

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!

Hamlet, Act ii., Sc. 2.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Good things

I just received Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, by ND Wilson, in the mail. Woot! This is what is written in the Preface:
Here’s how it happened: Philosophers of various sizes and shapes and flavors and ages crowded into the saloon of my skull and began throwing elbows to make some space. Poets and preachers piled in with them. John Donne said some zippy things about Kant, and the ancients wouldn’t stop snickering at the moderns. On top of that, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (that fabulously large Catholic writer) overheard someone making fun of Milton (it didn’t matter that the insults were all true). 
Doesn't that sound grand?! I love a bit of John Donne, Chesterton and Milton, with some theologians and philosophers thrown in.

Tonight I am going to the next Centre for Christian Living lecture on 'Love One Another! - 'Was Jesus too much of an idealist? and having dinner with a girl I don't yet know very well from church beforehand.

I am looking forward to all of the above.

Shakespeare, 25th February

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms infold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll'd.

Merchant of Venice, Act ii., Sc. 7.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shakespeare, 24th February

    But 'tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.
                      Julius Caesar, Act ii., Sc. I.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On writing in my journal

The irony isn't lost on me that I am copying out portions from Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges — in which God sovereignly working for our good is a major theme — into a journal that has this written on the front cover.

Shakespeare, 23rd February

That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours.

Much Ado about Nothing, Act iv., Sc. I.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shakespeare, 22nd February

I know you have a gentle, noble temper,
A soul as even as a calm.

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

The sweetest lady that ever I looked on.

Much Ado about Nothing, Act i., Sc. I.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Try a little tenderness

I quite liked this article by Gordon Marino in The Stone, over at the New York Times Opinionator, on the neglected emotion of tenderness:
While I have all the respect in the world for respect, it is a chilly sort of feeling — if it is a feeling at all. Respect is a fence that prevents us from harming one another. But strengthening the ties that bind and make us human requires something more pliant, more intimate. We need to be visited by that weird and neglected angel that is the feeling of tenderness.

Shakespeare, 21st February

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smoothe the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
                      King John, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A trick for every man

Heh heh. I spotted these t-shirts in this fabulous Jane Austen inspired etsy store, via a blog post of gifts inspired by classic literature, and thought them quite hilarious. And how great are the mugs? You can have Mr Darcy's declaration on a mug, a scarf, a sweater, a notebook, a tote, a tea-towel ... Or you can opt for Captain Wentworth's "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope ...".

Shakespeare, 20th February

My crown is in my heart, not on my head;
Not deck'd with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen: my crown is called Content:
A crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.

Third Part of Kind Henry VI., Act iii., Sc. I.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl #2

Sometimes you order something from overseas on the internet, and you just want it now. It's why I reckon buying things online from overseas is the new delayed gratification.

Last week I splurged and ordered the book and DVD of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, by ND Wilson. I feel like I am behind on all of this already. How did I miss this when it came out?

I have since discovered that the author, ND Wilson, the son of Douglas Wilson, is a Fellow of Literature, and a Professor of classical rhetoric (I don’t really know what that means, but I like the sound of it). You can read Justin Taylor’s thoughts on the book and the movie (you can read other endorsements there too), and a review on the gospel coalition blog. Tony Reinke has this to say about the book:
Notes is interesting as an autobiographical sketch, capturing the complexity of the inner life in short and clean sentences.

Notes is good as Theology, singing a song of praise to our sovereign God who created the wonder and majesty before our eyes.

Notes is very good as literature, featuring stunning metaphors that pile and build as the book develops.

Notes is a good example of how to develop from general revelation towards the substitutionary death of Jesus for sinners.

Notes is a very good apologetic. It may be, in the words of my friend Justin Taylor, a gospel tract for postmodern times. It will prove valuable when discussing the gospel with skeptics, atheists, or even Christians who are not running barefoot through fields of God’s creative wonder.
Doesn’t that sound like it's, well, good? I’ve got plenty of other things to read at the moment, but I am looking forward to this book. And here is the trailer for the movie.

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl Movie Trailer from Gorilla Poet Productions on Vimeo.

Shakespeare, 19th February

Lay aside life-harming heaviness,
And entertain a cheerful disposition.
          Kind Richard II., Act ii., Sc. 2.

A friend should bear his friend's infirmities.
          Julius Caesar, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The silence of God

I have been flipping through youtube at work today listening to tracks by Andrew Peterson, after that song I posted on Saturday. I remember a few years ago a number of blogs posted Dancing in the Minefields, a marriage song, so I did some listening then, but he is my current artist obsession.

There's that thing where you quickly find a song and hit play, then flick back to your work, and this jingling music starts playing and you think 'no, no, no, this is not sounding promising at all', but then you realise it's an advertisement at the beginning of the video. Good.

Here's one I really like.

In praise of sensitive people

There is another short article by Eleanor Robertson in the latest Frankie magazine, called An Ode to Sensitive Friends, that I appreciated. What I appreciated about this article, apart from the fact that it made me chuckle, is that it recognises that there are people with talents and gifts and capabilities, necessary to the survival of the human race, for which they are never going to receive accolades or good grades or financial reimbursement. Here is an excerpt from it:

Picture from here.
The work of the sensitive friend is hard to value objectively, because there is no yardstick for harmony or wellbeing. My sensitive friends can’t front up to the Senate Committee For Generally Feeling Loved and Taken Care Of to deliver a submission outlining quantitative improvements they’ve made in the fields of Neurosis Husbandry and Setting of Personal Boundaries. Nobody’s going to give them a bravery award for digging me out from a pile of coats and pep-talking me through a break-up. They’re not going to get a High Distinction or a pay rise for listening to me make sad little “merrhh” noises whenever I have to make a grown-up phone call; and there’s no professional recognition available for having an emotional first aid kit comprehensive enough to handle death, disease, and the destruction of favourite items of clothing ...

By comparison, my feelings toolkit consists of one slip of paper bearing the instructions: ‘1. Apply alcohol; 2. I’m sure you can take it from there, chief.’ ... Sometimes I supplement this strategy by clumsily hugging them, or telling them that they are undoubtedly ‘a good egg’. I haven’t yet resorted to, ‘Chin up son, tomorrow’s a new day’, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. It’s in these moments that I truly appreciate the existence of people with a more empathetic understanding of humanity. People who know the difference between lilac and mauve, people who have more than one godchild, people who send thank-you notes. Bloom on, you delicate flowers.

Shakespeare, 18th February

         If thou art rich, thou 'rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear'st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee.
Measure for Measure, Act iii., Sc. I.

No legacy is so rich as honesty.

All's Well that Ends Well, Act iii., Sc. 5.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Shakespeare, 17th February

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

Merchant of Venice, Act v., Sc. I.

What poor an instrument may do a noble deed!

Antony and Cleopatra, Act v., Sc. 2.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God's sovereignty over people

I spent some time in a café this morning reading Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. This is such a good and encouraging book. I grew up in a reformed church, and God’s sovereignty over all things is not news to me, but I do need reminding. Here is just one small part I have underlined in this book (I’ve underlined a lot of it), from the chapter on God’s Sovereignty over People:
Confidence in God’s sovereignty in the lives of people should also keep us from becoming resentful and bitter when we are treated unjustly or maliciously by others. Bitterness usually stems not so much from the other person’s actions as from the effects of those actions on our lives ...
Now God sometimes allows people to treat us unjustly. Sometimes He even allows their actions to seriously affect our careers or our futures viewed on a human plane. But God never allows people to make decisions about us that undermine His plan for us. God is for us, we are His children. He delights in us (see Zephaniah 3:17). And the Scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). We can put this down as a bedrock truth: God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His will for you. And His will is always directed to our good.
... God is sovereign over people. He will move their hearts to cause them to do His will, or He will restrain them from doing anything contrary to His will. But it is His will, His agenda for our lives that God will guard, protect, and advance. We must learn to live by His agenda if we are to trust Him.

Many roads to a hutchmoot

I watched this video on What is a Hutchmoot? (I so want to go on a Hutchmoot - they are for people who have not forgotten the way to fairyland I believe), from this blog post. I liked the song playing near the end of the video so I went in search of it and found this. I like it.

The other weekend I drove out to Thornleigh to catch up with some kindred spirits, because it is worth driving a long way in search of kindred spirits. While there we were catching up on news, and when I mentioned our new church minister, I discovered he was groomsman for these friends, and there he was in a photo on the wall. So, then later I mentioned this evening to our new minister and we fell into conversation. During this conversation he asked me if I have ever heard of George MacDonald. Have I ever heard of George MacDonald?! Then we talked about the power of "story". Yes, yes, yes. There are some conversation topics that make a person an instant kindred spirit, and George MacDonald is one of them. These hutchmoot people know about George MacDonald. (If you have never heard of George MacDonald you need to read Phantastes. I have blogged about it here. And if you don't have time for a whole book, read Chapter XIII online.)

Shakespeare, 16th February

             Time is the king of men,
He's both their parent, and he is their grave,
And gives them what he will, not what they crave.
                           Pericles, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Let the end try the man,
       Second Part of King Henry IV., Act ii., Sc. 2.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shakespeare, 15th February

I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride,
Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Do not extort thy reasons from this clause,
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause;
But rather reason thus with reason fetter,
Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.

Twelfth Night, Act iii., Sc. I.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Busting the myth on romantic love

And here is an interesting article from The School of Life on Romantic Love: Busting the Myth, in which, despite the fact that it references Plato and doesn't reference God at all, is not altogether dissimilar to the idea of Christopher Ash in Married for God, that love it too look outwards, not sideways.

God's love, wisdom and sovereignty

After that Valentine's Day drivel, here is something I have been reminded of and encouraged by:
"God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about."
Quoted, from an unknown source, in Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges, Ch 1, which I found on our church book store on the weekend.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Card from here.

Yes, forget it. Let's call today Thursday. I’m not really into Valentine’s Day. It is possible this is because I have never actually received anything on Valentine’s Day. Except from my sisters. They used to feel sorry for me, because I was the sister who didn't get asked out or received Valentines, so they’d post me anonymous gifts, but the handwriting always gave it away. I’ve kept this one Valentine teddy, not because I actually want Valentine’s teddies, but because my sisters gave it to me. (I actually have a little collection of random stuffed toys, because my sisters or my nieces gave them to me, and what's a girl to do.)

Then there was that one year that I received an electronic card from a guy I’d never met. The story goes that a group of friends of mine were together talking about me, and how poorly I’d been treated by a certain fellow (they’d all apparently observed this, and sometimes it’s nice to know these things aren’t entirely in your own imagination) and this other chap was there and listening, and so decided to send me a Valentine’s card. I never did find out how exactly he got my email address. That was nice. However, an electronic card from a guy you’ve never met, who probably feels sorry for you, is not my ideal Valentine. I don't really count that one.

There is this one other time, though it wasn’t on the 14th of February, that I received a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates from a fellow. I thought this was reasonably unambiguous. Then I found out later that he was engaged to someone else. So I don’t really know what that was. A version of nothing.

And that is the sum of flowers or chocolates or signs of affection that have ever come my way.

I have been silly enough before to do something on Valentine’s Day myself. I decided it might be worth a go. But I was completely ignored, received no acknowledgment and nothing in return. So the lesson from that inexorable hand of experience (H/T Emily Bronte) is not to do that again.

The truth is (and I hope you have now all risen and taken out your violins), in all of this quagmire of relationship beginnings, I feel like "the woman that men don’t take seriously".

Here endeth the Valentine confessions of Ali.

Shakespeare, 14th February

       One fire burns out another's burning,
One pain is lessen'd by another's anguish.

Romeo and Juliet, Act i., Sc. 2.

I must have patience to endure the load.

King Richard III., Act iii., Sc. 7.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shakespeare, 13th February

Our praises are our wages: you may ride 's
With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs, ere
With spur we heat an acre.

Winter's Tale, Act i., Sc. 2.

Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shakespeare, 12th February

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
                 Romeo and Juliet, Act i., Sc. 5.

Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.
                        King Lear, Act i., Sc. 4.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shakespeare, 11th February

Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.

As You Like It, Act ii., Sc. I.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Heart-felt music

Last week came the latest Frankie magazine in the mail, which is something nice to find in it. I was flicking through it and came upon an article with the name Peter Jensen in large type, and thought ‘oh yeah, what’s he writing about', but then had a second of confusion while I thought ‘oh wait, where am I? – what magazine am I in?’ (I also get The Briefing in the mail). This was actually an article called Lady Killer, about this fashion designer. Hah.

In this issue there is an amusing short article by Eleanor Robertson (she is so hilarious, though a teeny bit towards crass at times) on pets and music. However, it contained an interesting little piece of information:
Lots of animals (us included) are attracted to sounds that match their own vocal ranges, hearing abilities and heart rates ... A British study found dogs are most relaxed and well-behaved when Beethoven or Vivaldi is on the stereo, ignore Top 40 pop music altogether and get angsty when they hear Metallica. Actually, pretty much every animal music study confirms critters of all kinds hate metal. Monkeys in particular.
Let the reader understand.

But I was curious about this notion of music preferences matching heart rates. I like this theory. It works for me. I prefer quieter, more folksy music. I also do have a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure than some, and this, folks, is unarguably a good thing. But how might this actually correlate with fitness? Are the techno-freaks on the verge of heart-attacks? And all you people who like dancey-pop, maybe you need to get up and do some aerobics to it, which, happily for you, it is well suited to. Then I wondered whether this could mean a person’s music preferences might change as they got fitter and their resting heart-rate lowered? And that maybe this is why the folksters are the predominant wearers of skinny jeans. The implications are far, far-reaching ...

It’s possible, of course, that I am reading too much into this, but I now have a good defence for my music preferences.

Shakespeare, 10th February

Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,
When our deep plots do pall: and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.
                        Hamlet, Act v., Sc. 2.

Mine honour is my life; both grow in one;
Take honour from me, and my life is done.
                   King Richard II., Act i., Sc. I.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Poetry Day - Old Libraries

I’ve spent the day quite entirely by myself today, not speaking to anyone except people at checkouts up the road (my flatmate has stayed out at her parents place in the suburbs, which she often does on weekends). You know how it is sometimes, when you had asked someone if they want to catch up, they don’t get back to you, and when you realise they aren’t going to get back to you (and you should maybe take a hint and quit asking), you don’t have the time (or maybe the energy or enthusiasm) to find anyone else to do something with. So I have wandered my local strip, browsed second-hand books and thrift stores, sat in a café with a book because “we read to know we are not alone” (CS Lewis), pottered around at home.

I quite enjoy those things, mostly, and I like a weekend with some of them in it. But the last week was rather discouraging, and I did have moments of misery and took it upon myself to ask God why my life is such a mess. I didn’t actually get an answer to that (except the one inside my head telling me it’s because I've messed it up), but I did then read this encouraging post, once again an excerpt from Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God Even When Life Hurts. (I thought I owned that book and might have even read it years ago, but it turns out I have The Joy of Fearing God instead, so I am going to get it soon.)

I have my doubts that writing blog posts when you haven’t spoken to anyone in real life all day is a good idea. That might not be good for either of us. So I thought I’d post a poem, in praise of libraries and second-hand book stores. (I found and bought an old biography of portraits on the life and work of Francis Schaeffer today, published the year after his death, which looks good!)

Old Libraries

Shelved quietly out of sight and mind,
The dog-eared, the foxed, the uncut, unread,
The sagging, slipped, asleep, inclined
On the shoulders of stiff volumes no one reads.
Pressed between their pages, wedding flowers,
Fingerprints, last will and testament,
Letters of longing, love, condolence,
A final note before the long descent
From a bridge over black water
Far from home in someone else’s town.
And maybe once the scarcely legible lines
Of longhand like veins on the crumpled wings
Of the emerging moth, a lost sonnet soars
On one unfolded wing to the world’s applause.

Gillian Clarke (National Poet of Wales)

P.S. I’m 236 pages into The Brothers Karamazov, but it’s 985 pages, so I’m just getting started really.

Shakespeare, 9th February

What stature is she of?
Just as high as my heart.
                As You Like It, Act iii., Sc. 2.

He hath an excellent good name.
        Much Ado About Nothing, Act iii., Sc. I.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday fun

You have to watch this. A flash mob, with knitting! Apparently, since 1955 a lady by the name of Loes Veenstra has knitted over 550 sweaters and stored them in her home in Rotterdam. The sweaters had never been worn. Until this day.

Loes and her decades of sweaters were 'discovered' by Museum Rotterdam, where they were recently on exhibition. You have to see these sweaters. Cliff Huxtable eat your heart out!

Shakespeare, 8th February

                      Firm of word,
Speaking of deeds and deedless in his tongue;
Not soon provoked, nor being provoked soon calm'd;
His heart and hand both open and both free.

Troilus and Cressida, Act iv., Sc. 5.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Shakespeare, 7th February

         Shall we serve Heaven
With less respect than we do minister
To our gross selves?

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

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrown upon them.

Twelfth Night, Act v., Sc. I.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

I stayed home today. There is something freakish happening on my face, which I have now smeared with cortisone cream from the chemist. I look like a red panda with big red puffy bags under my eyes. An old red panda actually, because these unattractive bags also have unattractive creases in them. The chemist seemed to think I might be reacting to something, but I haven’t done anything differently on my face lately, so I need to try to work out what that is.

Despite the urge to rub my eyes it has been nice to be able to stay home. I have been seeing to my mental and spiritual health, reading, working on the next crochet rug (yes, I am into the next one for the last niece at the moment) and I even sorted out the plants on the balcony on a whim. This involved busting up a dead umbrella tree I inherited from some friends who moved to Canberra a few years ago and stuffing it into the bin (I tried to keep it alive, jammed into the shadiest corner, but on our western-facing balcony a plant that really should be inside didn’t ultimately stand a chance, so eventually I just gave it up to the elements), throwing away some faded plastic pots that once housed plants that met the same fate and were just hanging around looking derelict, and then repotting some strange succulent thing from the same friends that I figured deserved to live because it has survived the years of neglect in the western sun out there. The only problem is that I feel like the smell of potting mix is now following me around the house (you know that horrible blood-and-bone fertiliser kind of smell? – I can’t get rid of it!).

Right now I just wanted to tell you about Georgianne’s blog. If you are anything like me the last thing you need to do is keeping adding blogs to your google reader, but Anne’s is worth it. She reads books. Good books. Lots of them. I have been encouraged lately by her excerpts (like this one from Jerry Bridges). And she is having a giveaway of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, by N.D. Wilson, which is going straight to the wish list. Go and read that extract.

Shakespeare, 6th February

                     We are not ourselves
When nature, being oppress'd, commands the mind
To suffer with the body.
                      King Lear, Act ii., Sc. 4.

           Do as adversaries do in law,
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
              Taming of the Shrew, Act i., Sc. 2.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Shakespeare, 5th February

Make of your prayers one sweet sacrifice,
And lift my soul to heaven.
                  King Henry VIII., Act ii., Sc. I.

              I have heard you say
That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
If that be true, I shall see my boy again.
                          King John, Act iii., Sc. 4.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Shakespeare, 4th February

I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:
I am no orator, as Brutus is;
But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man,  .   .   .
For I have neither wit, nor word, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men's blood: I only speak right on.

Julius Caesar, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Shakespeare, 3rd February

'Tis beauty that doth oft make woman proud;
'Tis virtue that doth make them most admired;
'Tis government that makes them seem divine.

Third Part of King Henry VI., Act i., Sc. 4.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me.

Julius Caesar, Act iii., Sc. 2.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The one and the many

While I was reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, I came across this quote, from Dag Hammarskjold, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations, who died in sinister circumstances in a plane crash over Africa on his way to negotiate a cease-fire, and is the only person to have been posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize:
Dag Hammarskjold, past Secretary-General of the United Nations, once made a profound, far-reaching statement: “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”
I have pondered that on a couple of occasions since, and the fact that such an illustrious Secretary-General of the United Nations said it.

Stephen Covey goes on to say that what he understands this to mean is that we can devote many days and hours to projects and people “out there”, and yet still not have deep, meaningful relationships with those around us, and that it would “take more nobility of character—more humility, courage and strength—to rebuild that one relationship than to continue putting in all those hours for all those people and causes”. I believe he’s right, and we are more vulnerable and tested in deep, close relationship to one person than if we keep our distance as an ambassador for the good of the masses.

A few days ago as I slogged on through the The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky, I read this passage, which reminded me of the above. It is one of the Elders from the monastery, quoting an aged physician:
‘That is almost precisely what a certain medical man once told me, long ago now,’ the Elder observed. ‘The man was already quite advanced in years, and of unquestionable intelligence. He spoke just as frankly as you have done, though also with humour, a rueful kind of humour; “I love mankind,” he said, “but I marvel at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love human beings in particular, separately, that is, as individual persons. In my dreams,” he said, “I would often arrive at fervent plans of devotion to mankind and might very possibly have gone to the Cross for human beings, had that been suddenly required of me, and yet I am unable to spend two days in the same room with someone else, and this I know from experience. No sooner is that someone else close to me than his personality crushes my self-esteem and hampers my freedom. In the space of a day and a night I am capable of coming to hate even the best of human beings: one because he takes long over dinner, another because he has a cold and is perpetually blowing his nose. I become the enemy of others,” he said, “very nearly as soon as they come into contact with me. To compensate for this, however, it has always happened that the more I have hated human beings in particular, the more ardent has become my love for mankind in general.”’
It is laughable really isn’t it, when articulated in such a way. I’m not sure that there is much more to say, but that there is a caution to remember that the sniffing, slow-chewing individuals are intrinsic to whatever may be our glorious labours for the good of all, that they aren’t irritating obstructions to that higher cause, and to keep in mind the nobility of giving yourself deeply to those in your sphere.

One can’t help but think of Jesus, as the man who did go to the Cross for human beings, but who also walked many a road, and rowed in many a boat and wept in a garden with a few, who well and truly got his hands dirty with individuals, who used his spit to heal the blind and spoke to outcast women.

Shakespeare, 2nd February

Words are easy, like the wind;
Faithful friends are hard to find.

The Passionate Pilgrim, XXI

He is as full of valour as of kindness.

King Henry V., Act iv., Sc. 3.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Shakespeare, 1st February

She taketh most delight in music instruments and poetry.

Taming of the Shrew, Act i., Sc. I.

All the courses of my life do show
I am not in the roll of common men.

 First Part of King Henry IV., Act iii., Sc. I.