A drop in the ocean

UN classifies rape as a ‘war tactic’

Huzzah! It’s a step in the right direction. I don’t even know how many petitions and letters over the past… well over a year, I’ve signed to get that passed.

A difference in perspective: on our way home from dinner, I was driving so we were listening to NPR, and the announcer was highlighting various news stories. After one about gas prices and the current state of the U.S. economy, my mom said, “Well that’s annoying.” Meanwhile, I was inwardly seething that the present administration, which has so verbally committed itself to the promotion of democracy, seemed to be doing little to promote democracy in Zimbabwe, when Mugabe is clearly going against the democratic process by vowing that the opposition would not win the run-off, charging the opposition with treason, and already announcing that there would be “war” if the opposition did win. I held my tongue, for a variety of reasons. Maybe I shouldn’t have.

My copy of Utopia by Thomas More has a sunflower on it. I took it out to read a quote from it to Brittn and now it’s on my desk. I want to reread it… Such a good book.

Sundry

I think I’m finally getting used to being back in South Texas. The fact that it’s going to get to 101 F, that there’s 80% humidity despite that it hasn’t rained for weeks and probably isn’t going to rain anytime soon, is becoming normal again. Stunningly blue skies. Sunsets like fireballs and huge full moons suspended on invisible strings. There’s a park/land reserve near our house. Walking through the scrubby desert landscape felt like releasing a long sigh. Knee-high grasses, rocks underfoot, live oak trees that don’t get taller than the phone lines, cacti, cacti, and more cacti. And sunflowers everywhere! That’s my favorite part. I used to consider South Texas ugly, but now that it is familiar, it is welcome. I’ll miss the birds of Oklahoma, but there are deer here, and I can identify most of the wildflowers by name.

New job this week: getting used to working near-full time again. 8:30-5:30, I hit rush hour traffic both ways. Corporate offices are one of the most bizarre things we humans have come up with, I think.

Choir rehearsal was last night. The librarian was glad to hand me my new folder, and apparently she had gotten it mixed up and was telling people I was going to Oxford for my masters. Oops. Well, it’ll get ironed out eventually. Not a big deal. I’m already planning on skipping the July 6 service because it’ll be “Patriotic Sunday.” I could barely sing “America the Beautiful” in rehearsal, I know I won’t be able to sing it for real. Though oddly enough I had great fun going through the military anthems: “and the caissons go rolling along!” and “Anchors aweigh my boys” and “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder!” and “From the halls of Montezuma to the hills of Tripoli…” I have no problem at all singing praises to an entity that deserves it (i.e. God), but I’ve studied U.S. history, I’m not a fan of manifest destiny, and we’re fallible nation like any other. The military songs are about going off and being brave and honorable–I can support that, but “alabaster cities gleam”? Come on!

Anyways, off to finish getting ready for work.

Sci-fi Meme!

Because my last two posts have been Much Too Serious.

Fandom
Favorite SF shows: Firefly, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise (Seasons 1-3)
Favorite SF films: Serenity, Star Trek: First Contact, Gattica, Star Wars
Favorite SF books: The Sparrow, Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed, Ender’s Game, Dune
Favorite SF ships/pairings: Simon/Kaylee

Misc
Favorite constellation, planet, or moon in our solar system: Orion, the Summer Triangle, Venus, Europa
Favorite planet in a fandom: Annares/Urras, Vega Terra
Favorite alien/alien race in a fandom: The Runa and Jana’ata, or the Hainish, the Shinrá
Favorite spacecraft in a fandom: Serenity, Artemis
Time travel or space travel?: Space travel

THE VERY SRS FINAL QUESTION
Star Trek or Star Wars?: Star Trek–exploration!

A Higher Love

[I issue a warning before a rather long post, largely due to quotations, but only because Mr. Lewis supports his claims better than I could.]

My parents were watching television in the den and on my way to the kitchen I overheard one of the characters asking, earnestly (though poorly acted), “Did you ever love us? At the end of the day… did you ever really love us?” She went on and on, and I don’t quite remember what the context was, but I was struck at how empty her life must be if whether or not that other character loved her (and whoever “us” were) was the highest meaning in her existence.

Not to be harsh, or to be read myself out of context, as I have just finished reading C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. The purpose of this book, and of its delineations between Need-love and Gift-love, natural loves and love by appreciation, Affection (familial), Friendship, Eros (romantic), and Charity, is to point out that all earthly/natural loves are finite, limited, and unable to achieve their fullest potential without appealing to a Higher Love, to Love Himself, and, as Lewis begins and ends with: God is love.

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More than ‘just semantics’

Words have worlds of meaning behind them, and often it seems that words are thrown around too easily without any consideration for their connotations as well as their denotations. I am advocate of precise language: use the best word possible for what you mean, do not settle for synonyms that are left grasping at your intended meaning. For instance, “compassion” may be a synonym of “mercy,” but mercy connotes action, compassion feeling. Another synonym is “pity,” but that connotes condescension.

To some, this is splitting hairs over words that have more or less the same meaning. “Just semantics,” they would say.

It was brought to my attention yesterday that C.S. Lewis insisted upon the archaic spelling of “abhominable” in Prince Caspian, when Edmund brings the challenge of mortal combat to King Miraz. I wouldn’t be surprised if most readers thought Lewis was just keeping up the chivalric atmosphere, or was using a quirky British spelling, and that what he really meant was “abominable.” Yes… and no.

abominable (adj.) – repugnantly hateful; detestable.

abhominable (adj.) – obsolete, from ab homine, or inhuman.

“Ab,” out from, or to be cast out, and “homine,” man/mankind. When High King Peter and King Edmund describe King Miraz’s actions — regicide, usurpation, oppression of the Narnians as well as his own people — they are not merely saying that he has done something detestable. No, his actions have been so counter to the accepted chivalric code that he has effectively made himself an enemy against humanity. He has rejected what it means to be human; he has cast himself out from humankind.

In an increasingly postmodern and “anything goes” Western world, do we have the ability to make such judgements anymore? Do we have a clear sense of what it means to be human, to be a part of the fellowship of humankind? With growing awareness of human rights and social justice (another example of similar things, but with differing shades of meaning), should we not reclaim this word, lest we lose the ability to define certain acts as being truly abhominable?

Returning home

Today I walked into church not knowing which Sunday School I should go to. I found myself in the Young Singles class, where I was attacked from behind by my mentor and like-a-sister Pami. Although many faces I didn’t recognize, and some did but I couldn’t remember names, still there was a welcoming and homecoming that enveloped me into the fold. The lesson, fittingly enough, was about the purpose of the church: to glorify God, in part by being a community, a body, fellowship.

This Sunday we had two services (once a month we have a contemporary service in the other chapel), so I went to the contemporary one. I stepped into a room full of people I remembered. I knew I was home when I could exclaim “John Wilson!” to the booming enthusiastic response of “Chera Cole!”, a hug, and a “So what’s this about Scotland?” and “What’s this I hear about Peru?” When I turned around and little Anne-Marie isn’t so little anymore. When, even in a “proper” setting, a traditional chapel with everyone in their Sunday best, it was perfectly okay to clap and dance and be joyful. When I would trade grins with Julie, who was in the band, like we would do in youth group. When afterward as we chatted, she said in response to my grad school plans, “You’re crazy Chera Louise, but you’ve always been crazy!”

I knew I was finally home when after dinner I tapped my pastor’s shoulder, politely interrupting his conversation, and he did a double-take when he saw me. “Mercy!” he exclaimed and gave me a great big bear hug. When he lifted his eyes to heaven in thanks that my arthritis has gone to remission, when he laughed with pure joy that I’m going to Scotland. He hugged me again and said, “Always remember where your church is.”

A non-PhD alternative…

In the process of discussing what Kali should do to determine what she could do after grad school (because both of us are realizing that we might not want to spend our entire lives in academia after all!), we decided that it would be really, really cool if someday we started an NGO of some sort. This idea for a possible future is exciting. It would utilize my talents because, as has been pointed out to me often the past few weeks, and because Kali and I came to this conclusion, my forte is remembering. If I worked with administration or management, I would be able to remember that old lady who called two weeks ago who said X and though it didn’t seem important at the time it’s pertinent now. Or I would remember that so-and-so put down that piece of paper (that turned out to be an important form) on the table next to the plate of day-old cookies, and on the back they had written the phone number to this other place that we need to call. And I can write just about anything. I can write letters or edit proposals, etc. Basically, if it has to do with words or details, I can do it. With or without Kali, I would love this.

Circumstances have allowed me to go to Scotland and Spain for masters’ degrees in medieval literature and American & English literature, but I think I’m going to those places more to keep my eyes open for what other opportunities may come my way.