Around the sun

A year ago I had just graduated from college and started a job at Starbucks. Now I’ve seen my friends graduate from college and I’ve finished a job at an art museum and a university. In that year I edited a novel, wrote half of another before realizing it was wrong and I’d need to rewrite it; wrote a decent short story; read over 70 books, all of Shakespeare’s comedies and a good chunk of the histories; watched at least 70 movies and countless Star Trek episodes; began learning Latin; helped with the play Sleeping Beauty; worked three jobs; planned/curated a medieval exhibit; experimented with cooking; traveled to TX, NM, CO, AL, SC, and PA; applied to and was rejected by 6 PhD programs, accepted into three Masters programs, accepted the offers of two of them; cultivated six very precious relationships. The past year has been busier than I thought!

Last year I worked at Starbucks on my birthday; this year I packed most of my earthly belongings into the back of a van and said good-bye to the Cooks as they moved away. But, I also had lunch with my dad and spent the rest of the day with one of my favorite people, with phone calls from others, which in the end made it a very good birthday indeed.

Future-minded

I think I’m ready for it to be next March. By then, I should be well-adjusted to Scotland. Mainly, I don’t want a transitional four-month-long summer. Ugh. Let’s skip limbo, shall we?

For lack of other things to say, a few pages pulled from my journal. From August 2007 [Kali’s comment points out that I need to add the disclaimer I had decided not to put after all: The first statement is a prompt that I made up for myself to journal from, it is by no means what I actually believe, as indicated through my criticism of it through the rest of the entry.]:

So long as we have diversity, we will never have peace. There is only one way to have peace and that is for everyone to be the same. To agree, always, and to never see anything differently. There are a number of ways to achieve this… to have such an oppressive government, such as in 1984, that it crushes all opposition… to have such a liberal government, à la Brave New World, that the populous is too distracted to revolt… humanity has to be reduced to the lowest common denominator, studies of the humanities and liberal arts must cease, knowledge for the sake of knowledge must be stamped out – in essence, the defining qualities of the human race, curiosity, intellect, thought, diversity, individuality, must be erased. Widespread peace – meaning the absence of war, pain, and suffering – would come at the cost of what makes humanity human. Culture would end. Faith. Story-telling. Imagination.

By requiring everyone to be the same, and by removing pain, the human race would be stunted toward failure. Life is not worthwhile without love, without something to live for, and both of these things are tied up with heartache. To be denied the imagination, history, love, and pain, is to be denied humanity. The end result would be a world populated with one more race of animals incapable of imaginative independent thought.

This leads to some startling conclusions. As one who abhors the hate and horror of war, of the death and waste it causes, how do I reconcile this with my belief that pain defines life? Are casualties of war, though unfortunate, the necessary sacrifices for the survival of the human race, not merely the DNA code that defines us, but of a race that retains its self, its humanity?

Are peace efforts in vain, or even wrongful? Should I, as a self-proclaimed Christian, really hope for the day (or a day) that all people would bow and confess the name of Christ as Lord? Wouldn’t that make us all the same? I find the diversity of faiths a beautiful thing. The prospective loss of quiet Buddhist meditation, colorful Hindu festivals, the steadfastness of Islam, saddens me.

Is there any way at all to have widespread peace and maintain our diversity?

If we all become hermits, but then that ceases to be “life” also, for humanity is also defined by its community. Interaction between human beings, love, friendship, working relationships – even hate? Discord? Enemies? – are essential to life, for a human cannot reach its fullest potential in a vacuum. The few ascetics who do choose such a life do so for the sake of spiritual enlightenment, or as intercessors for their community, but not so that they themselves can be fully human. Community, then, in addition to diversity and imagination, define the human race. So is it possible to have all three of these things and have widespread, or even “world,” peace?

“Only by divine intervention,” I want to say. That again raises the question of religion, and reminds me of something Gandhi said:

“I came to the conclusion long ago […] that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu […] But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”

So, where does that leave us?

Spinning about

I’ve realized my last few posts have had more visual substance than written. I’m mostly in denial that I should be packing up my home and preparing to leave. The next stage of my life is finally here and I’m surprised to find that there’s something I want to hold onto here. This space, these four walls of the Red House, my dear, dear friends here, I am reluctant to leave. But, I suppose it is a good thing for me to leave: as a true vagabond, I should not be attached to the things of this life.

The past few days have whirled and spun about. Honesty really is a powerful thing, and I’m learning to temper my stubbornness with love. Or, trying to.

Why are American/Western Christians so afraid of suffering? I remember the early Christians and the saints of old, and wonder when it was we surrendered to fear. I have spend the past several years in the shelter of my Christian brethren and am about to be thrown out into the world again, and just in the nick of time, too, before the blade becomes too dull to be of use.

Hilarity

Marmaduke is Marduk’s second cousin on his mother’s side, the one you don’t hear about much. He’s a vegetarian and a proponent of free love, and he likes Great Danes. At the top of his ziggurat (he only has one), they keep a fire burning, in inspiration from a solar eclipse. His followers climb to the top of the ziggurat on their knees. He likes apples, figs, and palm trees. (This all began as I tried to make my doodle not remind Kelly of Wedding Cake #215.)

Also, Kelly and I spent three hours at Panera bread planning a really fun novel. I’m quite excited to write about the Arkadian Queen of Bede and how she and the magician try to overthrow the Caspar invaders.

An ordinary day

And then there were two.

Yesterday we took Kali to Clare’s, who would take her to the airport this morning. It’s just me and Kelly now. It makes me sad.

The people from the Museum of the Red River came today to pick up one of our mummies, and several newspapers also came to cover the event. I welcomed the reporters and took pictures of the goings-on: opening the crate to see the sarcophagus, lifting the sarcophagus to see the mummy, answering questions, carrying the crate out to the hearse parked out front. It was all very exciting. Apparently transporting the mummy by hearse was the cheapest way for the other museum to do so, not because of any human remains regulations in Oklahoma. We have a joke that I’m moving to Scotland to escape the mummy’s curse. I have a good job here. I’m going to miss the museum.

When I came home, Philip was there with Anastasia, Kelly & Philip’s new ferret. She is absolutely adorable and bendy and inquisitive. They will be moving to McKinney, which won’t be too far from San Antonio. I hope to visit them at least once before I leave the country.

I will be glad when Joel and the Cooks return from TX, even if it will be only for a week.

Crumbs from the table

   Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
   Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
   He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
   The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
   He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
   “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
                        –Matthew 15:21-27

So often I feel like the Canaanite woman in regards to my friendships: so particular am I in choosing my friends, and so fiercely do I love them (the handful of friends I have here in Shawnee I proudly claim as “family”), that I will take what I can get. I love them so much that I will take even the crumbs that fall from their table. I hope for more, I desire more, but if that is all they can offer, I will gladly take it.

Live Long, and Prosper.

(Amanda, Kristen, John, Joel, Me, Brent, and Kali)

Congratulations, OBU Class of 2008! Now we scatter across the world, but may our friendships never cease. As Dr. Hagen said in my commencement address last year, “The things that matter never really conclude; they change as they continue.”

If I had a magic wand…

I created this blog in part to have a venue for some off-line things that I’ve written. From July 2007:

As much as the stability of a suburban, middle-class life is tempting, there is something deeper in me that stirs for fantasy. For a quest, for glory, and grandeur. For a struggle between good versus evil, where the sides are clear. This is the part of me that identifies with Éowyn, with Lír, who wants an Order of the Phoenix that she can join to fight against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. This is the part of me that “fears a cage, a life behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.” To stand beneath trees and actually hear the whisperings I fancy I hear. To see things. To know things. To do things. To feel the weight of responsibility that comes with power. To have an end for which to use that power.

The enemies today are political and corporate leaders, acting out human rights abuses and what have you, and the only way to fight them is on their political playing field. I have no heart for politicking. I have already tried. I would rather a sword, or a staff, or my voice with which to inspire others, and have my own grit and worth determine success, not the system.

I have to hope for the potential of mankind, in our ability to love and work toward the best of things. Yet every day I encounter utter selfishness in the people at work and just in normal people—well, they just don’t care. Maybe they’re jaded. Maybe they weren’t raised and instilled with the belief that we should be considerate and kind to all people simply because they are people, too. Fellow human beings. And not to be nice just because someone is making us or for our own self-interest. I care so much about having a purpose or doing something great—not for my own sake, my own glory, but just to do something for the greater good. But my hope that there are others like me is dashed every day.

What creature is man? So like an angel, so like a god, but so like a devil and beast as well. That we have such capabilities and potential for goodness and kindness, but how many of us choose selfishness and apathy instead. I see the rampant disease of apathy and it causes me to despair to the point that I become apathetic, also.

I firmly believe that the best heroes—Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, Lír and Molly Grue, Ender and Valentine—did not ask to be heroes. It happened. The circumstances were set and they had to make a choice. They could only make the best choice from what they knew at the time. That is all I can hope to do, too. If what I do helps to steer the world in the right direction, ever so imperceptibly, well, that is all I can hope for, isn’t it? And I will ever have an unrequited love for the glory found in fantasy novels.

Much farther to go

Take a ticket from who you can,
And then drive that train.

     -“Railway” by Dispatch

And I have much farther to go
Everything is new and so unpredictable.

     -“Much Farther to Go” by Rosie Thomas

Tonight I had dinner with the Bylands, because Sarah was in town and Hannah was back from Oxford. After dinner we watched a slide-show of Hannah and her friend Emily’s trip around the Continent. Like Sarah and I two years ago, after her time at Oxford she took three weeks to tour the Continent. Hannah and Emily took a different route, visited cities we didn’t, but it was amazing to see where our paths did cross. We sat on the same bench outside the town wall in Rothenberg, Germany, watching the sunset and journaling. We stood on the same bridge in Venice, walked through San Marco’s insane plaza. We ate lunch near the same tree in the park by the lake in Geneva and walked down the Champs d’Elysee in Paris.

Afterward, we went to Starbucks to catch up and share our reminisces over tea and mango juice. It was a perfect trio: two sisters, two medievalists, two travel-companions, all overlapping. We understood what it was like being an American in the Oxford system and excelling in it, of what sorts of adventures you have when you’re back-packing across a continent in three weeks (being hit-on in Italy, pushing yourself to impress a terrifying tutor).

I had been apprehensive about my decision to move to Europe for three years. Hannah’s return could not have come with better timing. Reliving my trip through hearing about hers, remembering the UK, seeing pictures of familiar places, have reignited my wanderlust. I can’t wait to go, to be back in my Gothic element of cobblestones and castles, to walk into a pub that will have Strongbow, to buy my groceries from Sainsbury’s and a lunch from Boots. To live in the library and speak in Middle and Old English. And after that, to return to sunny Spain with baguettes and orange juice and a style of architecture I can’t describe but makes me smile in recollection. Not to mention the friends I’ll have in Oxford, the Lake District, Sweden, Germany, and Portugal that I intend to visit. We talked about how I could go to Oxford for my DPhil, and be a Junior Dean at CMRS or SCIO, or I can go to TASIS in Switzerland and teach. The possibilities are endless.