Unnecessaries, Treachery, and Idiocy

There was snow on the ground, several inches, when I returned to Michigan. And in the ensuing days, more snow has accumulated. Because. So temperatures are cold and snowfall is yes; it must be January.

In other news, the earth is still round and the sky is still blue.

I do not have overmuch to share this week, as happens sometimes, and I struggled to come up with anything at all worth writing about. Throughout the day today, I had an odd song stuck in my head, as I often do, and I thought I’d share it with all of you. Not sure it’s actually worth writing about but it’s happening so you know, whatever works.

It isn’t really a song, even, it’s a weird remix of a portion of a newscast that was a little bit viral while I was in Ireland. And it’s really not that funny except I just rewatched the video and I still find it unaccountably hilarious. So here, watch it.

Get ready for it, because I’m gonna bring you three takeaways from that song/broadcast and they’re going to be wildly outsized philosophical musings for something that is barely humorous to most people.


“Don’t make unnecessary journeys.”

I’m not sure how I feel, philosophically, about this line. Because when I was in Korea, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones you didn’t mean to take. Letting your feet run away with you is a great way to experience new things, meet new people, and grow in ways you could not expect. Variety is the spice of life, as I’m fond of saying, and sometimes you should balance out planning and necessity with spontaneity and unnecessaries. Like chocolate. Chocolate for me is often a spontaneous, unnecessary delight.

On the pro side for this quote, though, is the idea that on other occasions, we are not equipped or prepared to make any other journey than the one that we are already on. When we’re tired and just slogging onward through the Dead Marshes, as it were. Muddling along with enough oomph for one journey and that journey alone, no side quests. Wisdom may be knowing how much oomph we do or do not have for unnecessaries.

“Don’t take risks on treacherous roads.”

I am likewise on the fence about this one. When things are looking grim, it’s often best to buckle down and just survive. Whether it’s stress or crises of a more overt sort, getting through it is sometimes the best you can manage. That’s certainly true for literal, actual treacherous roads.

But also, I feel, if you’ve been trying to solve a problem and you haven’t yet met with success, usually what’s needed is another approach. Something you haven’t done before, something that may be more or less ‘risky.’ Hard to say. Wisdom in this lens, I guess, is knowing which kind of road you’re navigating: is it treacherous, brooking no room for risk and error, or merely difficult, in which case risk may be the very thing that helps you break through.

“Their actions are idiotic.”

I don’t really have anything for this line, I just felt like I should probably mention the President’s national broadcast. Nothing to add that hasn’t been said really, just reiterating that it’s idiotic. Here, I suspect wisdom is at once simple and unachievably mysterious: don’t be an idiot.


Anyway. I’m driving to Chicago today, for a non-spontaneous but unnecessary journey that I think may brush the edges of difficult but should mostly just be enjoyable. The roads themselves, given the weather of late, may be a little more treacherous. But I scouted out a little yesterday and they seemed well-cleared already and the forecast is on my side, so I don’t anticipate any shenanigans in that department.

Here’s hoping. May we all have such balanced, three-pronged wisdom.

 

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Such Sunrises as Have Not Yet Been Seen

Happy New Year! It’s 2019, for good or ill. I had a pretty low-key celebration but I’m all about that so it worked. I hope the year is off to a good start for you but even if you’re in a tough place, it’s only January– plenty of time for things to turn around. See what I did there? Best of both perspectives.

The past year, as I said a bit last week, has been a bit of a whirlwind. It didn’t usually feel like that–the pace often seeming to be more like molasses–but I was on three continents! Two of them for quite extended periods. Five countries. Two jobs. There was a lot going on. I don’t really feel the need to reflect on it all that much again but I couldn’t avoid having a bit of a new year look back.

And once again, not a particularly clear idea of where I’ll be this time next year but whatever. It’ll be fine.

Before I go any further, it is of course important to start this twelvemonth with some very cute cats. Taking advantage of their uncle and aunt cats’ tree gifted to them.

Now that you’ve gotten a bit of a kitty fix, I will also share my baking adventure. Didn’t do a whole lot this Christmas but I did, just on Monday, make my first Yule log. Simple conception, kinda tricky execution, wonderful finished product, if I may say so. The recipe told us not to worry about the cracks, they add character, and I concur. A definite snow-dusted log of happiness. Such a lovely, airy, seasonal kind of dessert. I’d strongly recommend giving it a try. So long as you’re game to get stiff peaks in your egg whites.

Yes, it was very delicious.

I’m flying back to Michigan tonight, ensuring an adequate buffer between my return and the return of students on Monday. Plenty of time to readjust to Eastern Time, reacclimatize to the cold, and mentally prepare for the next six months. Yech, let’s not think that far ahead yet. June, what’s that.

Anyway. I’ve said before that I’m not really into resolutions and, surprise, I remain uninterested. All I’ll say, I guess, is that I hope each day to love more people more.

And this title, what’s with that. I don’t know, it sounded kind of poetic at the time and you know I’m a sucker for the poetic. But it’s true: each day is a day that has never happened before. Every moment of a moment of fresh opportunities.

Even when life is pretty mundane and pretty monotonous–that precise moment has never happened before, if only by reason of the date of its occurrence. And shouldn’t that be something to savor? I’m no advocate for change in life because change is hard but newness, that’s something I can get behind. Not necessarily to do new things or go new places, though those are good as well. But to do the same things in the same places and still feel that they can be new.

It is good to cherish the new, I think, and good to recognize the new in the familiar. Value time itself; it will not come again.

The sunrise can be beautiful for its color and majesty, of course. And there’s something incredible unique about each one, from each place you may stand to view it, for each second it lasts. Not something that can truly be shared, even with the most talented photographer.

Time is a weirdo so we should probably live and love in the moment. Each one is precious and can take you anywhere. I’ve no idea what adventures may await me but I’m confident that they are indeed awaiting. I’ll keep an eye out and let them take me by surprise all the same.

Fast Away

I hope you all have enjoyed your Christmases, if that’s your thing. I certainly did. Plenty of running around and about but also plenty of time together and hope and joy and love. Obviously, lots of singing of Good King Wenceslas, especially yesterday. It is just the end all, be all of awesomeness that God is with us. How neat is that? Yay Christmas.

Important gifts received include several books that I’m very excited for, you know how I do. One of them is the final installation of a trilogy, so I obviously have to reread the previous books and so it’s really like a gift of three books in one. Yay books. But also, of course, the love language I like to receive is quality time so that was the most precious gift to have.

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The Princess on the Feast of Stephen

Being home has been really nice. First, just to get away from Michigan and work for a sec. Green. My home is green. Second, to relax in a place that I just know. There’s a certain level of know that comes from just being in a place for years and years and, for right now, Gig Harbor is the only place I have that with. I can remember the turns to a house I haven’t visited in ages with a spare moment’s thought–even with my disastrous memory. I can sit on the couch and exist in a place that I’ve existed in for a long time before.

It hasn’t even been that long since I was pining for a way–any way–to get out of here. And Michigan is not that far away. Even so. There’s a special joy in leaving but there’s also a special joy in coming back. Even back to places you don’t want to stay.

But New Year’s, wow, 2018, am I right. This year has dragged on for ages, let me tell you, but the end of it has snuck up on me rather abruptly. A lot going on in the world but let me have a sec to make it all about me. It is hard to recall that I was in Korea, went to the Olympics, went to Australia and New Zealand, spent a long time living at home, then moved to Michigan all in the first eight months. That’s wild. My year-in-review thoughts are honestly all over the place. But I guess I don’t really need a year in review at this juncture. This time is ending.

The old year passes. Greet the new.

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And Bubba all curled up

I’m not sure what to expect for the coming year. I’ll be in Michigan to June, at the very least. So that’s about six months settled. But after that, it’s all fairly uncertain. Again. It’s a state that I’m kind of uncomfortable with–generalized uncertainty–but also at home with.

I’ve done a lot of relatively short stints in fairly diverse places since high school. And I just don’t really mind it, as much as I’d like to find a place I love and put down roots. It’s mostly been routes thus far. I may be staying in Michigan for another year. I may be elsewhere in the US. The dream, of course, would be another intercontinental move. Europe, maybe Oceania. Hard to say.

In the midst of uncertainty, the few things that are sure increase in value. And those things, for me, are the things I’ve been celebrating all week. Friends and family who love me and whom I love. The comfort and position that I have been blessed with. The consequential, profoundly true knowledge of an unconditional, boundless love from a perfect, omnipotent deity.

Some people live lives that are more predictable than mine but, in the end, precious little is truly certain. So I’m greeting the new year in a spirit of adventure, as every day should be met, because possibilities are endless when every moment is a moment that has never come before.

Anyway. Happy New Year. Fa la la la la la la la la.

Alter

I don’t really have much to put into this post. I usually have lots of good ideas (or “good” depending on your perspective) for Christmastime blogs but this year, it seems, festive ideas are just out of season for me. Genocide was a real heavy hitter to start of with. And, honestly, I’ve been very tired this week. Not anything in particular, just not sleeping well.

But, in the spirit of combating the vibe of recent weeks, I have this inspirational quote for you, from someone who would know. Samantha Power said, “It is easy to get used to the morning news, habituated. But don’t. The morning news is yours to alter.”

The big question, of course, is how. And, like I said, I’m too tired to tackle that. Even so, I can know that it is possible to change the world. Somehow. Things are not set in stone. Or, if ancient Egypt can teach us anything, it’s that even if things are set in stone, they are not unchangeable forever. As I book I read recently put it, stone crumbles.

I want to offer you Christmas cheer. And I do have plenty to share. But I’m writing this late Wednesday night and the words just aren’t happening. Awake until 1 am on the reg is not my optimal sleep cycle, no matter how late I’m able to stay in bed. Nothing life-threatening, just not ideal. Psh, what’s ideal. I know that many are feeling it, this time of year. Tired, that is. Lots to do and high expectations of doing it all and doing it right.

So here’s my thing for today, I guess. It’s okay to do little, and it’s okay to do it half-bad. It’s okay to have some meh in your life if it means that you have some space where you can just kerflump when you need to. Worry less, rest more, relish calm when you can. We can alter the course of the world. But take care of yourself, too.

A Love of Books

I have found another link in the chain of my past lives in the person of Richard de Bury (24 January 1287 – 14 April 1345). He seems to have been an exceptional man and I can only hope to approach his love of books as epitomized in his grand work, The Philobiblon. Writing and subsequently reading this work, which I’d like to discuss at some length, appears to be about the best possible use of anyone’s time in the fourteenth century.

I just need you to be prepared for what will follow. I will elaborate upon that volume and that is all that the rest of this post contains.

First, I would like to share with you the titles of the twenty chapters because each and every one is so wonderful and delightful.

  1. That the Treasure of Wisdom is chiefly contained in Books
  2. The degree of Affection that is properly due to Books
  3. What we are to think of the price in the buying of books
  4. The Complaint of Books against the Clergy already promoted
  5. The Complaint of Books against the Possessioners
  6. The Complaint of Books against the Mendicants
  7. The Complaint of Books against Wars
  8. Of the numerous Opportunities we have had of collecting a store of books
  9. How although we preferred the Works of the Ancients we have not condemned the Studies of the Moderns
  10. Of the Gradual Perfecting of Books
  11. Why we have preferred Books of Liberal Learning to Books of Law
  12. Why we have caused Books of Grammar to be so diligently prepared
  13. Why we have not wholly neglected the Fables of the Poets
  14. Who ought to be special Lovers of Books
  15. Of the advantages of the love of Books
  16. That it is meritorious to write new Books and to renew the old
  17. Of showing due Propriety in the Custody of Books
  18. Showeth that we have collected so great Store of Books for the common Benefit of Scholars and not only for our own Pleasure
  19. Of the Manner of lending all our Books to Students
  20. An Exhortation to Scholars to requite us by pious Prayers

This guy seriously loved books and, therefore, is a hero. Loving books was neither a common nor a generally acceptable pastime in medieval England.

I must confess, I have not read The Philobiblon in its entirety. However, I have perused a large number of quotations and have found them, one and all, to be exceedingly correct and meaningful and wow. I will not here present all of them but I do want to call a couple to your attention.

How highly must we estimate the wondrous power of books, since through them we survey the utmost bounds of the world and time, and contemplate the things that are as well as those that are not, as it were in the mirror of eternity.

The chapter goes on to relate how, in books, the whole of the world is opened to us, from digging minerals and jewels from the earth the the North Pole to the Milky Way. Through history and the lessons of those who came before; through  science and a growing understanding of the world around us; through diligent study of literature and scripture–a mind and a world are opened.

An argument oft repeated in his work is that the whole of wisdom is contained in books, and thus the title. You may know that philosophy comes from the Greek for love of wisdom and, accordingly, philobiblon is the love of books.

This second quotation, which I encountered via a picture of the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library as inscribed over an entrance, inspired my journey of getting to know the venerable Richard de Bury. It says,

Books alone are liberal and free, they give to all who ask, they emancipate all who serve them faithfully.

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Books cannot give you everything in life, I confess. But what they can give, they will provide without fail. The freedom of the mind is the freedom of the soul, and books are one of its favorite tools. A love of books has always served me well. In times of loneliness or companionship, melancholy or joy, faith or doubt; reading has seen me through. May we all be grateful for the gift of books without which life would be that much darker. Books are not perfect but they are, I think, perfecting. They continuously add to the global body of knowledge and they lift us as a society when we need lifting.

They give to all who ask.

He Was My North

Once again, Tuesday proved to be my adventure day. Adventure in the relative sense, of course. I went into Traverse City and wandered around the “Commons” which appeared to be a really cool insane asylum repurposed as a hip shopping center. Anyway, I went to a brunch place and had red velvet pancakes, which are Important. Cream cheese in addition to whipped cream. Very Important. Obviously tremendously delicious.

After wandering around for a bit, nosing through the shops, I found out that it was, in fact, an asylum! The location was a state hospital and everything, very creepy. It didn’t close until 1989. Still, it’s a cool place now. Lots of interesting shops, chic hipster kind of vibe. Yes, I did have to look up how to spell chic again, I still think chiq or chique are better options. Anyway.

On my way driving back, I decided to just meaner around because I figured it was the likely last day of warm, sunny, pleasant weather until spring. I ended up going the opposite direction of Empire to Leland and the little historic district of Fishtown. Basically little shacks on the water, very destitute-fishermen-turned-touristy. Then I had the best sandwich of my life from the Village Cheese Shanty. Which, obviously, was Even More Important. I mean, a place called the Cheese Shanty. We were destined to find each other.

Just to be clear, the sandwich was the day’s special: turkey, cherry goat cheese, kream mustard, sunflower seeds, cucumber,  and lettuce on homemade pretzel bread (different from pretzel buns which I’m not wild into). Life changing. Such. A. Sandwich.

Moving right along. On Wednesday, I took a sec to do nothing (as per usual) and watch a couple movies that I’d been meaning to check off my list. Namely, Trolls and Moana. The first was alright, pretty nice. The second was marvelous. Moana in particular I enjoyed. The whole wandering over the horizon just to see what’s on the other side thing. That’s kind of my scene.

There’s really not much else to report for this week, just work and life and stuff. I like having thoughtful thoughts to think for you, but I feel kinda like I’m fresh out. I did really have a pleasant day on Tuesday. And Wednesday was plenty nice as well.

I was just thinking how I didn’t really have any existential angst nor contemplative philosophizing for you this week. I’m feeling pretty good, which is nice. But, as I was wandering through the internet as I wrote this, I encountered afresh the wonderful poem by W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues. Which is also a lovely jazz number and also an amusing satire on dictatorship–at least, according to the play that he originally wrote it for. So I’ll leave you with that thought. Tyranny is satire, doves can’t wear mourning, and compasses aren’t attracted to human beings.

The View from Empire

Greetings, friends. Thank you for taking a sec to read this, even if it’s just the preview on Facebook. I appreciate you.

Now that I’m feeling more settled in my job and its happenings (though by no means totally on top of things), there’s really not a whole lot to say. It’s hard for me to gauge whether there ramblings of the life updates are more interesting to you. Obviously, the cats are Reason #1 for reading so over included a couple later in the post. I thought for today I’d mostly just describe one afternoon for you. Kinda cheesily poetic and kinda combining philosophising and daily life.

On Tuesday, I drove down the road a ways just to explore a little. In the next town over, there’s a little park on Lake Michigan and I stopped to read there for a while before getting dinner. It wasn’t quite blustery and it wasn’t quite chilly but it was windy and cool cloudy and the first day that really felt autumnal.

I walked along the beach a while but mostly I sat in the car and read. I had parked right in front of the water, maybe ten yards away. The sky slowly darkened as the clouds went from lightly overcast to a duller blanketing. My windows were cracked so I could hear the water with its steady white noise. The sea grasses trembled in the wind and the trees shivered with the first oranges and yellows of the season.

I don’t know if I’ll return here often, but during my time there I certainly thought about it. It’s only fifteen minutes away from school on a relatively flat drive (I’m constantly evaluating topography from a driving-in-snow perspective). Coming here in winter with no other visitors, sitting in my car by the water, reading contentedly before heading to dinner in the village. It sounds very appealing. I just might make a habit out of it.

 

 

How, I ask you, am I supposed to deal with such cute cats.

Anyway. One other note. On Wednesday, I finally went and got my Michigan drivers license. And, because it happens at the same time, I registered to vote. So that’s handy. I reflected to the coworker I went with that voting in Leelanau County, Michigan is going to feel very different for me from voting in Pierce County, Washington. Things will not be nearly as aligned to my preferences. Here’s hoping with that, I guess. At least I can vote on some statewide stuff as well. Votes always matter but I guess I’ll feel like my vote will count more here, if that makes sense.

Good luck this week, have a happy equinox. Register to vote, if applicable.