The Jury

I don’t recall exactly the first time I heard the phrase “the jury is no longer out” in the figurative sense but I’m pretty sure it was in Ms. Kurtz’s AP Lang class junior year of high school.

I think of three questions to ask about books–particularly when reading ‘literature’: Did you enjoy it? Do you appreciate what it has to say or how it says it? Can you understand its broader importance?

You can enjoy a book, or not, solely based on your own tastes and understanding. You can appreciate a well-crafted book, even if it’s not really your cup of tea. And you can acknowledge a book’s importance in a cultural and historical sense even if you didn’t enjoy it and don’t think it’s all that well done.

But the point is this: you can’t really say that a work of a major literary canon isn’t good just because you didn’t like it. The jury is no longer out. People have spent decades, even centuries, by and large in agreement that certain books have got it, whatever that may be. Some may fall in and out of favor with English teaching or academic regard but I doubt the consensus will ever say, “Charles Dickens and all his works are unmitigated trash.” Even if people no longer support it, they’ve got to admit that his writing had a huge literary and cultural impact for a long time.

And so I have been making an effort to train myself to present my opinions as they are, that is, as opinions only, without particular weight in any area, lacking any personal authority. I try not to say “it is bad” about a book or movie or whatever that I don’t like and instead say “I don’t love it” because it may well have weight beyond my enjoyment of it and I don’t need to yuck your yum all the time. By the same token, I’m also wishing that some people could be more able to acknowledge things as well-done or important even if they personally didn’t enjoy it.

The thing is, this mindset is transferring to other areas as well.

Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz around the US about postal voting. People are having arguments about it. As though it’s a new thing. And it is not. The jury is no longer out on voting by mail. We’ve been there, done that, it’s fine. Haven’t received a million complaints, haven’t had our elections thrown out. There is literally no defense for people trying to limit voting by mail.

I truly do not understand it. Multiple states have held entirely mail-in ballots for years. Not a word was spoken against it. No one has claimed that all of Washington’s elections for the past several cycles have been illegitimate, massively tampered with, or somehow undemocratic. I didn’t vote in person until I lived in Michigan and I honestly thought the whole experience was a waste of time.

And let’s be clear, it’s not some liberal plot, either. You can find basic information here. The five states that currently do postal voting for everything all the time are Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, and Utah. Let’s hear your argument about how the Utah State Legislature is part of the deep state conspiracy about… literally anything. It’s Utah. Further, there are three states that permit counties to decide to conduct all elections by mail (this is how Washington arrived at its current mode) and they are California, Nebraska, and North Dakota. The list of places that sometimes allow postal votes for some things in some places is actually pretty long.

I’m reasonably confident that I’m preaching to the choir here. I imagine that most of my readers don’t mind postal voting, and may even have been doing it for years. I just needed to have this little moment here because I see on Facebook plenty of people–who I would generally consider left-leaning–doubting the security of voting by mail. As if we don’t have any data about it. As if it’s an unknown quantity, an untested method. It drives me nuts.

We don’t need to eliminate in-person voting, though I think it’s a huge expense without many advantages. But the possible shortcomings of postal voting could be addressed on a local level within a context where postal voting is default and then circumstances for individuals or communities could be addressed by special dispensation. Unlike now, where postal ballots are special dispensation and the standard is waiting in line on a non-national holiday and all that.

Bah. There’s a lot to it. To make us feel better, here is a calming nature cat.

A Slow Flower

What a tremendous sin impatience is. It blinds us to the moment before us, and it is only when that moment has passed that we look back and see it was full of treasures.

I am bookending this post with a couple quotations from a book I finished a couple days ago. They were such great lines that I really wanted to share them, though I couldn’t bring myself to offer much commentary on them.

Both of them strike me as particularly topical, relevant, and encouraging but at the same time, I promised myself that I wouldn’t keep hounding on the same old themes that I’ve been occupied with lately. I just need something else going on, as I’m sure you all understand. So while their content is really something I think we need to hear right now, I’m going to spend more time talking about their source.

I have finally read a book! The past couple months, I have been reading essentially not at all. No motivation to read, even things that I knew I’d enjoy. No drive to find something new, no yearning to refresh something old. Just general listlessness of the worst kind. But last week, I sat down, checked out an ebook from the library (that I had actually gotten by hold a couple months ago and eventually returned, unopened) and just started reading. I don’t know what switch flipped but I’m happy that it did.

I finished it altogether too quickly but I’m grateful that I at least had a couple days back in the enjoyment of reading a good book. It was the final book of a trilogy that I have quoted on this blog before, this entry being City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett. And what a wonderful conclusion it was.

Each book of the trilogy focused on a different main character, all three united in the first and then the following only having relatively small appearances by the others. Normally, this is a format of multi-book writing that I really dislike but these books made it work.

More on that in a sec but first, cat gallery. Lots of cute moments captured this week. And I’ll reiterate to whomever of my friends do read this: please always send me cute cat pictures. I may post them here, with your permission, but I will cherish them regardless.

Gah, I love them so much.

Anyway, these books were so interesting. Such a fascinating look into the way we construct our worlds, the agency we do and do not have, the faith that drives us–whether divine or wholly personal. I enjoyed the way the fantasy world was constructed, and how it held together in view of a number of existential plot-driven crises. There was a cohesive structure to it all, even if that structure was, by nature, bound to change.

It reminds me of something I often say in defense of reading fantasy and, particularly, young adult fantasy (which this was not, but the idea still applies). Regular fiction is great, no problem, but I love having the questions raised be not only vital to a person or a family or maybe even a town. The scale of fantasy novels tends toward the dramatic: the fate of the world, the universe, time itself.

When you raise questions with stakes like that, your answers may be a little less personally applicable but I think they’re a lot more clear. Fantasy can give an opportunity to ask big questions, provide small answers, and urge us to seek the rest in our own lives. That’s kind of what these books did.

I was particularly interested in the big questions because they’re ones I’m interested in with regard to this world. Questions about colonization, race, and governance as much as faith, sorrow, and personal agency.

This final book in particular sought out the hows and the whys along with the whats, perhaps even more so. In many ways, for example, it concerned itself largely with the question not of ‘what does a just society look like’ but ‘how can we begin a change from an unjust society toward a more equitable one?’ The status quo is a powerful thing but it is not permanent. We can always strive.

Change is a slow flower to bloom. Most of us will not see its full radiance. We plant it not for ourselves, but for future generations. But it is worth tending to. Oh, it is so terribly worth tending to.

Story

Books about books is one of my favorite genres. I immediately feel an intimate kinship with the bibliophile main character, almost as though we’ve talked through many late nights together reveling in the power of stories. And I semi-secretly semi-suspect that all lovers of books semi-wish for miraculous, mysterious, magical things to happen to them because of their deep and loyal affection for books. I know I do, at least, and most book-centered stories I’ve read agree. We want the magic we know exists on the page to leap out and become manifest and tangible.

I read a fantastic book this past week. It’s a new book by Erin Morgenstern called The Starless Sea and I so enjoyed it. Ten out of ten would recommend to fantasy-minded book lovers and also anyone who can appreciate the interweaving of stories. A couple quotations and a moment of thinking about them.

Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words in the pages become so precious that they feel like a part of your own history because they are.

There is a certain joy found in kindred spirits who have loved the same stories. With Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and others, there is an enormous group of people with whom I share an immediate bond of a sort. At the very least, some conversational common ground. By the same token, how much more delightful is it to share a corner of my heart with another by discovering that we have treasured together a much more obscure title; relived the same scenes, adored the same characters, gazed upon the same landscapes in the mind’s eye.

I think the best stories feel like they’re still going, somewhere, out in story space.

This is at once the best and most difficult part of being a book lover. When I get invested in a story and/or characters, I always want more. Sometimes it’s because the story ends before all of my questions have been answered (which can be frustrating when done poorly but can be done well, too). Other times, it’s just because I’m so in love with the setting or the characters that I don’t care if the story is all wrapped up, I just want to hang out in that place with those people more. And so this makes me feel better, imaging the story ongoing, even after I’ve read every word.


There is a second reason I wanted to talk about stories this week. Last Thursday, I headed up to Seattle for the Reformation Project‘s Reconcile and Reform Conference. If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, they’re definitely worth checking out. In brief, they’re an organization that advances LGBTQ inclusion in the church and is particularly interested in the bible-stuff relating to that mission.

It was much smaller than the conference I went to in Chicago last January, through Q Christian Fellowship, and it was a lot more focused. The historical, social, political, linguistic, cultural foundations of many of the conversations the church is having (or not having) around this topic. Much of what was covered through the speakers and sessions was information that I was already familiar with but there was a great deal of new as well.

It’s been difficult to decide what I want my post about that conference to talk about because so much ground was covered. Every time I’d hear something that I wanted to share, I’d think about how I really wanted to do a whole post just on that particular thing. And, to be clear, I thought that for a whole host of things (maybe a series of posts in the future, we’ll see). But I really wanted to see if there was a way for me to kind of give a singular summary, or one particular thing that I want to highlight.

And so, having finished The Starless Sea and dwelling in that feeling for a little while, I decided to tell you about my experience through the lens of stories. In particular, three kinds of stories: those we tell ourselves, those we tell others, and those we hear from others. Just a couple thoughts for each. Distilling the conference is hard so we’ll just have to let be whatever word-vomit comes next.

First, the stories we tell ourselves. How does our interior monologue talk to us? Who do we think we are? Why do we treat ourselves the way we do? I know some people are uncomfortable with the idea but it says it right there–if we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, the implication is that we must love ourselves. If God loves each of us–completely, unconditionally–then so too ought we love ourselves. We are all of us flawed but we are also all of us inextricably bound up in bearing the image of God.

Second, us to others. By this, I mean two things: what we say to others about ourselves and what we tell say to others about themselves. For the former, I’d like to just focus on one thing, honesty and authenticity. Growing up in Christian circles, lots of people love to talk about authenticity. And if you want me to be authentic but don’t want me to marry a man in your church, that’s a big yikes. For the latter, unsurprisingly, is also about love. I mean, Jesus literally told us to love our enemies.

And third, the stories that we hear from others. Again, thinking about two aspects of this. Hearing and understanding and empathizing with queer stories changes things. When you learn about another’s life–their struggles and the ways in which you, personally or corporately, have been complicit in those struggles–it should change how you live your life. But you have to listen to people who don’t often get listened to. The corollary to that is, being intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually honest enough with ourselves to a) challenge what we hear and evaluate it for ourselves and b) know when we are wrong, apologize, and change. Because changing your mind happens sometimes when you genuinely seek the truth of a question.

I really feel like I’m not doing the conference (or the book, for that matter) justice but that’s what I have for the moment. I really do strongly urge you to read the book, if that’s your scene, and to investigate The Reformation Project whether it’s your scene or not. Much of the conference was recorded and you can watch parts on their Facebook page.

One final thought on stories, to conclude. As many have noted before, stories are powerful. They have their fingers in pretty much every pie of human existence including, importantly, faith. And because they are powerful, we must think about them critically, with our minds and our hearts.

Do not believe a story that has been told to you; believe a story that you have heard, evaluated, and lived in. We can all be a part of the great, ongoing story of love, reconciliation, and reformation.

Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone

This is a very disjointed post, I’m not sorry. I will never get over the horizontal line feature. Anyway. We’ll start with cats (a very good place to start).

They are still, as ever, very cute. And I’m so pleased to have gotten a semi-decent picture of Bubba sitting still.


Events this week have included not a whole lot, other than the relatively unsurprising but still very disheartening news that I will not be moving to New Mexico any time in the near future. It was a distinct possibility, and one that I had staked rather a lot of hope (of necessity, since I have had no other leads), but it all proved to be in vain. I’m not utterly broken by the news but it was hard to hear all the same.

I had already started planning a little bit about what I would do if it didn’t come through but those plans are still very nascent and so who really knows what’s coming. It’s scary and uncomfortable and I hate it.


I was reminded of a series of Tweets I saw on Facebook (social media, what have you done). Someone named Julia Rodgers was responding to Christians who asked whether/how they can love queer people without being fully affirming. She responds, in part, “Love draws us outside of ourselves and moves us to think of other people first. If we keep returning to questions that are about our beliefs or our experience of them, we might ask whether we truly love them or are just trying to manage our anxiety about them.”

I don’t disagree that sometimes loving people means choosing for them something they would not choose for themselves–helping someone recover from addiction may be a good example of that. But imagine being told that, though all sin, you are so uniquely sinful that you are prohibited from falling in love. Not with a specific person or in a specific situation, just ever. So while choosing good for someone else is a thing, how do you know what the best thing is for someone? What does the fruit (to speak a little Christianese) of those choices have on the people you’re choosing for?

I’ve also never gotten the whole concept of considering homosexual acts different from simply existing as a homosexual person. God looks at the heart, I think it’s pretty clear: looking lustfully is the same as committing adultery, being angry with someone is the same as murdering them. My heart is so very gay. Either it’s a problem or it’s not, regardless of how I act.

I’m not expressing myself well here at all, alas. I just wasn’t expecting to be in this place again this week but, as I have seen and been told, you never finish coming out. Sigh. I am not perfect at love, so forgive me. But also, if you’ve asked the question above, please listen.


I read a new book this week (sorry, Far from the Madding Crowd, you’re on the back burner already) and it’s pretty good. It’s City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I want to share with you three quotations, all from the same chapter, in fact, around one third of the way in. The first two are from a Buddhist monk-type guy who is talking with the main character about why he still performs acts of charity when his god has been dead for decades. The last is a while later, from the main character to an old lady from an opposing ethnic group.

“I never saw a country before […] All I saw was the earth under my feet.”

“Good can be done at anytime, anywhere, to anyone, by anyone.”

“I don’t have the time or the energy to hate. I only wish to understand. People are what they are.”


I would like to conclude with a poem by Mary Oliver (who sadly died earlier this year) that one of my correspondents sent me in a letter this week. It ends with a sentiment that seems to me–at least in my current state–both haunting and hopeful.

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Care about People

As a quick follow-up to last week’s post, I encountered a quotation recently which was super relevant but I forgot to include. No commentary, just a line from the writer James Baldwin who said, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

What a beautiful thing unconditional love is.

Anyway, we’re in this week now so we’ll move on. This week has held… not a whole lot for me. Surprise. I have fallen once more into the unemployed, unmotivated bleh of nothingness that has become a bit of an annual affair for me. Still applying and things but it’s a big yikes. Whatever.

I have also been reading in the sun, one of my favorite things in the world, as you know. I have been trying to have friends, as you know, and trying to balance being honest about my needs with listening and honoring their needs. It’s hard to do both simultaneously, work in progress.


Because nothing is happening in my life, I would like to talk for a moment about the world and the people in it.

I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it on here before, but I have been to Russia. Twice, in fact, in the same summer. First, I went on tour with my university choir and then, only a couple weeks after our return, I went to study in St. Petersburg for six weeks. It was such an experience.

It is not my place to give you a rundown on recent Russian political history, current events in Russia, or the geopolitical dynamics involving Russia. Though, if you’re interested, I would encourage even a cursory look into those topics (as long as you remain humble about it; a cursory look isn’t going to make you any kind of expert). But those things are on my mind because things are happening and they matter to me because I’m interested but they also should matter at least a little to you because you’re a part of this world.

I do keep up on world news, because I find it interesting and I have some higher-level background on the subject than others may. And I like to pay special attention to a few places that have grabbed my heart in often random but definitely meaningful ways (see: Croatia).  But I bring up Russia as a place to start because I have several memories, specific and vivid (at least relative to my memory) memories, that speak so loudly to the kind of international understanding and across-boundaries/through-barriers camaraderie that is possible among people who are so very different and whose countries are not, shall we say, supposed to be particularly friendly.

Two fictional moments that I ponder often:

  • in The Phantom Tollbooth when one of the princesses says “Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy.”
  • in The Two Towers when the ents refuse to act and Pippin says “But you’re a part of this world! Aren’t you?”

We cannot all be responsible for keeping track of all that is going on in the world. And we should not be condemned to perpetual sadness because people somewhere are sad. That is not what I am advocating here. We have to live our lives, as they’re the only ones we’re able to live.

Acknowledging that, however, I think we do bear two responsibilities when it comes to thinking about issues in the world on a global level. First, though we don’t need to keep up with every single thing that is going on (as much as I am an advocate for reading world news), we ought to be aware that things are tough in the world. That we are blessed. That problems exist in other places, for other people, and those problems matter.

Second, as obvious and ridiculous as it may sound, we need to remember that the world is populated by human beings. Some would try to tell us that certain people–from a certain neighborhood/region/country, with a different sexual orientation or gender identity, who speak a different language, who are differently abled, who are otherwise overtly different–are distinct on some fundamental level and that they are not like you. This is a lie. Our differences matter but they are not fundamental. We are we.

I read yesterday that Americans are much more supportive of dropping nuclear bombs on people than I thought. When asked why, many respond that it is a quick, painless death and a sure way to achieve the desired results. But when people are given information about the actual effects are–the horrific, grueling, gruesome effects that nuclear weapons have on the human body–support drops dramatically.

So please. I know that you have to live your lives, that we are all inevitably trapped in a sphere that, on some level, we cannot make any larger. We simply don’t have the capacity. But please, please, care for your fellow people. They are facing problems, too, and they are, deep in their core, exactly like you.  Refuse to believe that any human being is less worthy of love, safety, provision, or life.

Loving your neighbor isn’t about who your neighbor is. It’s about who you are.

There’s Only One Way to Find Out

I contend that one of the chief pleasures of life is reading in the sun. For me, it is a joy and satisfaction that few activities can achieve. A uniquely gratifying way to pass time, and an occupation which I treasure long after it is finished.

I know I’ve talked about it before but somehow I’m startled over and over again. There is a true contentment that settles deeply in my inmost parts when I am reading in the sun. A park, a bench, some shade, some breeze… It’s almost more happiness than I feel a right to. Profoundly pleasurable.

It has taken longer than it should have, but this week spring finally got itself together enough to allow that and I am all over it. I was so all over it on Tuesday, in fact, that I got pretty sunburned. Which isn’t ideal. But it was a cost incurred in the course of a supremely good pursuit, so I’m dealing just fine.

I do not know what I am doing with my life. Pretty much everything about my future is currently up in the air. But then I have a day like Tuesday, when I spend most of my hours engaged in what some might describe as frittering but I would describe as necessary. Yes, there were more productive (essentially so) things that I could have done. Should have, even.

But I will not apologizing for frittering away my time in such a fashion, even though I am in a bit of a press.

Putting in the effort is necessary. Things generally haven’t just happened to me, I’ve had to go out and see what there is to see, and I expect that trend to continue since I would like to have another job (sooner rather than later). However.

Some opportunities should not be missed. A Tuesday afternoon getting sunburned while reading. A Wednesday evening baking cinnamon raisin quick bread. A Thursday morning publishing an obscure blog. Without these things, even in the midst of the urgent press of ‘what I’m doing with my life,’ I think the uncertainty of it would all be a little too much to bear.

It’s true that I have no clue what is coming down the track at me, a few short weeks away. But, as I am often fond of saying, there’s only one way to find out. Stride into the future and live it.

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Carpe archa, seize the box.

Good Laws under a Free Government

This week, I’m just going to do a reading and explication for you, everyone’s favorite pastime! The text is George Washington’s farewell address, when he declined to put himself forward for a third term as president. It is quite lengthy, and written in the high formal style of it’s time. Today, I will quote it liberally and offer my humble thoughts and layman’s translation of sorts. I’ve never tried anything like this, and it’s a weird turn of events for this blog but hey. I will be using the copy of the text from the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale, since they have it online and it was a top Google result. Bear in mind that this truly is very long; I preserve a great deal of block quotes because I love the language, it’s so beautiful.

The first president of this country was a man of his time. There are plenty of things about him that I’m not wild about, to say the least. He is problematic, as is idolization of all founding fathers. However.

He had some excellent ideas which he believed, as far as I can tell, with deep fervor and expressed with timeless eloquence. He sums up what he thinks about the country he helped birth and gives some warnings that everyone promptly ignored. But, as he himself says, they are warnings worth reviewing periodically across the span of history. Here is my attempt to highlight a few of his points.


  • He begins by saying that he’s really pumped to retire and almost did before his second term, but decided that things were in such a delicate state that, when they asked him to stay, he thought he ought. But wow, he’s excited to get out of town.
  • He then proceeds (as, in fact, he does throughout the speech) to indicate that he knows how flawed and imperfect he is saying, “I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.”
  • He thanks the country for all that it has given him and hopes that whatever good has come out of his presidency, it will be helpful for all future Americans

If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.

  • When things get tricky, and people aren’t thinking clearly because everyone’s so worked up, the support of the people made sure we came out okay

…that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

  • He hopes things go well for the country and that it inspires great things in all countries around the world–to support freedom, wisdom, and happiness
  • He decides to give some advice and hopes people will listen since, as he’s retiring, he doesn’t really have a stake in things
  • He says that unity of government is absolutely essential, and he knows that internal and external forces will work to attack that unity for unsavory reasons. Therefore, we need to keep an eye out and always return to unity as our foundation

watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

  • Citizens, “by birth or choice,” must identify as American over regional identities
    • The North, South, Atlantic, and West are all bound together for each others’ good, don’t let politicians exacerbate/exaggerate/make up regional differences for political gain. National unity is in everyone’s interest
  • The Constitution is great and should reflect, at any given time, the people. The people can and should change it when necessary.

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.

  • Obey laws. Parties are a “fatal tendency” and obstruct law. Party interests are not the people’s interests. And when parties change power, they disrupt the orderly function of the government.

[parties and factions] put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

    • They may be popular for a moment, but they are never good in the long run

…cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion

  • Be careful about changing the Constitution, but also make sure that the government doesn’t become weak. Liberty requires a government strong enough to make sure that it can protect rights, maintain law, and combat factionalism

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.

  • Parties are bad and, in the end, lead to dictators, basically, because people get tired of the back and forth and grow distrustful of the mechanisms of government
  • Parties might be kind of helpful in monarchies, as people can express themselves, but are entirely bad in democracies
  • People in power need to respect that power and make sure not to expand their spheres beyond their constitutionally designated areas (checks and balances)
  • Government requires morality and morality requires religion
    • This isn’t really a thing but whatever
  • The “general diffusion of knowledge” is absolutely essential. People need to know things to participate in government.
  • Public credit is precious. Use it, but use it wisely

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.

  • He’s really big into neutrality, other than time-limited alliances as necessary.
    • Don’t have countries you hate, don’t have countries you love. Both will make you do stupid stuff. Just be nice to everyone.
  • Be super wary of foreign influence
  • Don’t get involved in foreign wars
    • I’m neither here nor there on this

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

  • I’m going to retire and it’s going to be great

Bringing up Trump and Congressional Republicans at this point seems a little on the nose. And besides, pretty much our entire governmental system would probably be pretty disappointing to President Washington. Like I said, I’m not 100% behind all of his thoughts and everything, but I like much the above. I guess we can only shrug and, to paraphrase another president I like (Teddy Roosevelt), do what we can with what we’ve got where we are.

The Oozy Emerald Frog

One of the things that I can see as publisher of this blog is how many people click the links that I include. Typically, I will get 0-1 clicks any given week that I include one. This week’s title is such a lovely phrase and most of you will just go into the rest of your day never knowing where, exactly, it comes from. Just saying.

Surprise, I don’t have a whole lot to share this week. No trips to Chicago, hardly any trips at all. Because of the snow. Not feet upon feet but enough to make me increasingly wary of driving. And though for the moment, temperatures are maybe around the mid-twenties, there were a few days where the high barely made it into double digits, if at all. And there will be more such days shortly forthcoming.

And, as I wake up this morning, apparently we have a winter storm warning in the area. Several inches of snow to come this afternoon. Not quite a blizzard but very wintry and snowy and Narnia-y (pre-Pevensie, of course).

Quite cold, no matter how you slice it. Some small comfort, however, that I do not live in Yakutsk. I implore you, look up Yakutsk weather if you’re reading this in the northern hemisphere’s winter. In fact, I’ll include it for you here. (Though if you have a lot of money and are willing, I would gratefully accept a trip to visit Yakutsk because how interesting).

Anyway. I’ve not been up to much this week. Reading, of course. I was reading a book and it got to an emotional moment that was not a good kind and I needed to not continue for a while, so I started another book that I had just gotten off hold from the library–and that book very quickly gave me an emotional moment of a gross kind so that I needed a break from that one too. Frustrating. Not even the good, heartstrings bits that thrill me even as they tear me up inside. Just gross, hurtful, sad times that weren’t even morosely fulfilling. Ugh.

So I didn’t do a whole lot of reading yesterday, maybe today I’ll be in a place to pick them up again. We’ll see. If they were cooler emotional moments, I might tell you about them but mostly they’re just lame. Alas.

The plus side of all of the weather, if I may backtrack for a sec, is that I’ve seen some lovely winter sights. Snow-laced trees and ice-crusted stream and whatnot. This campus does have its moments.

I have spent a great deal of time inside, as one might imagine, but rest assured that I have enjoyed the snow in person as well. It is very beautiful, even if the very cold weather is not my strong suit. The snow lends an element of happiness/peace/something good that the bitter cold I had in Seoul last winter lacked most of the time.

Just a quick thought for you here at the end. Kind of totally unrelated but also kind of very relevant.

You may know, in a three way tie for my favorite poet is Edna St. Vincent Millay. She wrote a poem, [Still will I harvest beauty where it grows], that I’ve been thinking about this week. The thrust is mainly, I think, that beauty can come from anywhere–including places others may find gross. Very Ratatouille; not everyone can be a great chef but a great chef can come from anywhere kind of vibe. But tonight, writing this, I find myself thinking about the first word, primarily.

Still. In the midst of all that is going on. Though there is so much ugliness in the world. Despite the general state of things, as I see it. Even so. Still will I harvest beauty. Nothing will dissuade me from finding what is beautiful, even when others tell me there is no beauty to be found. The world may be hurting but it is still beautiful.

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.

LAlibrary

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.

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.