"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

31 December 2013

A Blessed New Year to All

A simple prayer as 2014 rapidly arrives:

Whatever suffering -- small or great -- may come our way in this broken world, may we always be alert to the beauty that God places in our way to remind us of His continual love and grace.  

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

20 December 2013

The Earliest Foundations

It is the wont of youth to live in the present and to value over highly all that is modern, new, to their inexperienced thinking different.  But nothing is good merely because it is new, and often what is old has stayed with us not because it is mere tradition but because it has been tried and found consistent with inalterable truth.  But the past also is of great value because, for better and for worse, it has formed us, it is why we are who we are today, and on it is built all that we call new.  Without the past we would be utterly adrift, living in a vacuum without purpose, value, or coherency.

In Patricia McKillip's The Bards of Bone Plain, Jonah Cle lives as an archeologist in the ancient city of Caerau, seeking and uncovering its centuries of history.  Princess Beatrice is drawn to this work, and when she explains why, they are words we would all be wise to take to heart:

I like recognizing -- I mean finding -- what's lost.  Or rather what's forgotten.  Piecing people's lives together with the little mysteries they leave for us.  I like seeing out of earlier eyes, looking at the world when it was younger, different.  Even then, that long ago, it was building the earliest foundations of my world.  It's like searching for the beginning of a story.  You keep going back and back, and the beginning keeps shifting, running ahead of you, always older than the puzzle piece you hold in your hand, always pointing beyond what you know.

The bard to whom she's speaking, himself more ancient than she knows, agrees:

That's what I feel when I come across a new ballad [. . .].  I keep listening for the older forms of it, the place where language changes, hints at something past, the point where the story points even further back.

We are historical beings, bound in our place and time, yet with the potential to transcend (at least some of) its worst faults because we can know our past and draw on its lessons and its wisdom to see our present more clearly and what we might do to try to shape a more beneficent future.  

But only if we stop and listen, reflect and understand, act with wisdom and not mere wit.

18 December 2013

Unreality TV

I rarely watch even milliseconds of Nikita, but I caught the first scenes of the latest episode this evening.  And I found that she talks like too many of my students write:  in vague generalities that tell the listener nothing of value.

Man whose people have multiple machine guns trained on Nikita and crew:  "You have 10 seconds to give me a reason not to kill you."

Nikita:  "We're not here to interrupt your opium smuggling.  We're here to make a deal, but we need to be here temporarily." The end.

If I am the man governing the machine guns, they are now dead.

Not here to interrupt my operations?  Words are cheap.  How do I know this is true?  Why should I believe you?  How did you even know I'm a smuggler?  Who else knows this now that you know it?  Who -- the law or other smugglers -- might have followed you to this location and right now be moving in on my territory?  What is any reason whatsoever that I should trust you on this?  Here to make a deal?  What kind of deal?  With whom?  For what purpose?  What's in it for me that you need this location and no other?  Need to be here temporarily?  Why here, specifically?  Why not any of the other airports you could have chosen?  What's so important about this location for you?  In what way does it serve your purposes -- oh, and what, again, were those purposes?  Why in the world should I believe anything you just said, as it tells me exactly NOTHING OF ANY SUBSTANCE?

Yeah, dead.  Time's up and I didn't hear a single actual reason not to kill you.  Sorry.