Le pleuvoir and other things

18 August 2012 § Leave a comment

18 August

(First thing first: a good rainy day song.)

The faithful has faded; the blog-fog has cleared.  All that remains is scattered notes from too many books (an impossibility, yet there it is) in notebooks strewn in the visible and invisible worlds.

Oh, really. Must it keep raining?

A few snippets from To the Lighthouse:

“ ‘It’s odd that one scarcely gets anything worth having by post, yet one always wants one’s letters,’ said Mr Bankes.”

“. . . for what could be more serious than the love of man for woman, what more commanding, more impressive, bearing in its bosom the seeds of death; at the same time these lovers, these people entering into illusion glittery-eyed must be danced round with mockery, decorated with garlands.”

(Chesterton agrees that what people make light of in mock desecration is what is most sacred in life.)

“Who could tell what was going to last—in literature or indeed in anything else?”

I’m only halfway finished with the book, yet they still have failed to make it to the lighthouse.  The weather simply refuses to cooperate.

It appears that they do eventually make it to the lighthouse

Today is the second (consecutive) day of rain in Nairobi.  It’s probably the third time I’ve seen rain at all here.  What is happening?

I’m not sure, but I do know what is resulting: bliss.  Rain is one of the sublimest mystery-delights.

If all the raindrops were lemon-drops and gum-drops . . .

So much of Bonhoeffer and Niebuhr beg adequate thought and analysis . . . yet there is simply too much work to be done before I leave—and books that demand finishing because they live here (a non sequitur, to be sure, yet nonetheless convincing for all that).

To the orphanage
(A theological companion)

In one week, I shall be . . .

(the suspense is unbearable)

. . . packing for school.

An unexciting prospect.  The exciting part is that I shall be home with my parents and Heidi.  Hurrah!

To find your way home, follow the yellow light.

The impossibility of taking all of one’s good books to school: a grand silent tragedy of life


Of letters and trains

15 August 2012 § Leave a comment

15 August

I just received a pleasant note that my post box has been reopened.  It actually fills me with joy.

Look at that forbidding sign. No picnics?

I just read Chesterton’s Heretics (which I enjoyed as much as Orthodoxy), and he has a word about letters, for all of you unbelievers: “Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable.”

I also discovered that one of my favourite professors is at Yasnaya Polyana.  My mouth actually fell open in awe/happiness/jealousy/excitement when I read what she wrote.  It is one of my dreams to go there.  If you want a good idea of it, read Sophia Tolstaya’s diary or watch The Last Station.

“What’s that smell?”
“Voltaire No. 6.”

Last night/this morning (no one could stay awake), Sara and Anna and I watched The Darjeeling Limited.  I would make a profession of love that would be no exaggeration, yet that sort of thing simply cannot be disclosed.

Only joking. I confess my love

Of bats and men

7 August 2012 § Leave a comment

7 August

Two nights ago, Sara and Anna and Dr Mary and I sashayed au cinéma to see the new Batman film.  It was my first Batman experience; I admit that I was sceptical, for customarily action films constitute the double-edged sword of being long and having little to compel in their stories.  This, however, made me think.  The portrayal of Americanness in Batman occupied my mind for a bit, yet the struggle between good and evil soon trumped it.  The tribunal set up to try Gotham residents made me think of a certain revolution (oh Robespierre, merci beaucoup for ensuring the public safety and killing Lavoisier), and it also provided a sort of case study of the responsibilities that come with citizenship.

Time to string up some evil forces

At the end, a good-evil blurring of sorts arose and left me with a distinct sense of unresolution; one character who appeared evil loved sacrificially, yet he was still evil.  I do not know about that, yet I enjoyed the ending nonetheless, mostly because it had clear tinges—a paradox, as everything in Christianity—of the Gospel.

The rumour flying round the house is that Ratatouille shall begin playing soon.  I must away.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!

7 August 2012 § Leave a comment

7 August

Happy happy birthday to Kristen!

I was going to post a photograph, but all of the ones I have of her are the two of us making faces while decorating Christmas cookies, and I think I was ordered to delete those . . .

…so here’s a flower instead. I took this in the gardens two years ago

Russians can run?

6 August 2012 § Leave a comment

6 August

I just watched a Russian girl win the steeplechase.  That is the first time I have ever seen a Russian female run.  She must have grown up herding reindeer in Siberia.

Yuliya Zaripova

Also, the rumours are true: Michael Phelps is indeed a monkey.


5 August 2012 § Leave a comment

5 August

Last night, Sara and Anna (her friend and business partner who is in Nairobi for a few weeks) and I watched Atonement.

Only imagine . . . how imagination and falsehood together wreak disaster

I loved the story, the cinematography, the music, James McAvoy’s acting.  Near the end of the film, Briony, the girl who years ago accused her elder sister’s beau, discusses how she wrote a happy ending into her autobiographical book.  Yet writing in a happy ending where none exists is untrue.  It sketches a false idea of atonement.  Reconciliation never happened for Briony and her sister, and her sister and the beau never had time together.  It is an entirely hopeless situation (although it did not have to be).  Writing alternatives redeems nothing and atones for nothing.

Off to war

Thinking, thinking about atonement . . .

Augury of valuation

4 August 2012 § Leave a comment

4 August

What have I been doing lately in unwork time, aside from watching deadlines for sending in essays for scholarships fly by fleetly and attempting to catch their tails and soar along with them?  Do tell me.

I have only half an answer: thinking.  Why do I like certain people more than others?  Everyone does; one cannot deny it.  There must be some system of (e)valuation that every person has in his mind like fingerprint-scaffolding through which each new person falls down, here and there, a curious Goldberg wonderland of ladders and tubes and chutes and stairs and cogs that arises from an unconscious and seemingly arbitrary amalgam of values.

A person who knows everything about something might fascinate another person; but take away the schooling that the first person has that engendered his knowledge, and all that remains is a plain human, an unformed mind.  A person who can run quite fast, when put some place where he cannot run for a month, becomes slower.  A person who can sing magnificent songs with great skill could not before he had training.

In any of these cases, a sudden injury—to the brain, to the legs, to the vocal chords—decimates what one might call natural ability.

These are isolated (and unsophisticated) examples; usually the characteristics to which value are assigned abound in a great muddle.  Two people like each other because they eat the same food, share a certain sense of humour, agree on certain unspoken rules about personal hygiene and personal space and personal nonsense.  These cultural things bind people together—for people cannot ultimately know one another—yet, in consideration of the disappearance of all of those things, one is left with nothing.  The value of one’s friend suddenly becomes arbitrary.  Enjoying someone’s company has value in itself, yet one enjoys a friend’s company because he has first placed value on something (which seems intrinsic) in his friend.

When one makes a friend in that way, one is in grave danger of reaching disillusionment that exceeds that of even a misanthrope.  Yet when one sees the ultimate poverty of his friend in the first place, his absolute powerlessness and lack of anything that really merits value, one can love his friend in a different way, a better way.

Stripped of all accomplishments, physical beauty, philosophical positions, enthralling ideas, endearing habits, peculiarities, attitudes, potential, intelligence, courage, commitment—stripped of everything—the only value a human has proceeds from his being made in the image of God.

It is bare.  It is no system, no structure, no collection of preferences—it is a distinct lack of these things.  It is a sudden understanding of what is really meant by equality.  We are all equal in our spiritual poverty.  Everything extraneous to that is unequal and thus cannot be used for constructing the unconscious conviction of the motivation and sustaining of love and friendship.

This line of thought produces a strange feeling that one must conjure love from nothing.  An impossibility!, protests the mind.  True, ’tis impossible, for nothing comes from nothing, yet Someone has created something out of nothing.  This something is marked with mystery—the mystery that Someone casts a tiny reflection of Himself into myriad little ones.

The only reason I can find to love others—if I choose not to love them because of something they are or have or have done—is that tiny grain of otherness in them, the tiny piece that has the amazing possibility of infusing the rest.

Ah—to see a world in a grain of sand—to see the grain of sand in another soul—

A dream I found two summers ago

Where Am I?

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