Archive for the ‘reflection’ Category

More Ferocious Than Any Crocodile: The Wrath of an English Teacher. Alternate Title: If You Are Small and Are Playing a Fun but Grammatically Incorrect Game, I Will Probably Make You Cry.

September 10, 2008

I made a little girl cry yesterday. I felt pretty bad about it and I didn’t mean to do it but I just couldn’t help it. You see, Kindy and Year 1 Kids were playing ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’ in the sandpit before school and I was the teacher on duty. The little ones were all hanging off the playground equipment singing,
“Crocodile, Crocodile, what’s your favourite colour? If not, why not? Your favourite colour is?” and the ‘Crocodile’ would shout “GREEN!!!!” and everyone wearing green had to run to a new part of the playground and get there without getting tipped – which incidentally was no one since the school uniform is red, blue, grey and white. However, inevitably some child would run anyway and someone would chase. I explain all this so you get some idea as to the seeming disregard for ‘correctness’ of play.

Anyway…I sat there watching this game, making sure they didn’t turn on each other as crocodiles do, or stand on top of the monkey bars and jump off expecting to fly away from the terrible crocodile, and the longer I sat the more unsettled I became.

You see, what these little ones were saying MADE NO SENSE! It was grammatically incorrect in a big way! Gah! I had images of these sweet little things growing up to be Year 10 students in my English class, writing atrocious sentences all because they became accustomed to bad grammar through ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’. Not only that but also enjoyed bad grammar because of pleasant childhood memories of ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’.

But they are just children and they’re enjoying their game, and it’s only a game and there is plenty of time for proper grammar, I thought as I sat there listening, every repetition slicing through my English teacher tolerance like a crocodile’s jaws through tender flesh. I wanted to scream in pain.

Then another image hit me. It was an image of me standing out the front of a class full of these delighted children, 8 or 9 years from now, looking at them, trying to correct their grammar as they all pointed their sweet little fingers back at me in blame saying,
“But Miss! You used to watch us play ‘Crocodile, Crocodile,’ and we always said it like this [insert a choir of Year 10 students singing their grammatically incorrect taunt] and YOU NEVER corrected us!”
It was more than I could bear. To turn a blind ear to such a desecration of language certainly left me culpable. They were right. Not only would they grow up to be illiterate but arrogant too. I had to do something.

I walked hesitantly to the edge of the sandpit and called all the little ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’ players towards me and as they looked at me with their perfect shining faces, I explained how what they were saying really made no sense. The shine dulled. Their now matt faces fell and the once happy ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’ players shuffled their feet and looked at the sand. Quickly I tried to replace the words I had taken with new, more correct syntax. I explained that when Iwas their age I LOOOOOVED to play ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’ but I played it a different way *ahem a way that made more sense ahem*. We recited the new words,

“Crocodile, Crocodile, may we cross your golden river? If not, why not? What’s your favourite colour?”

We repeated them. Then I released the students from my generous tuition to play a new, more fun, grammatically correct game of ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’.

To my surprise, my little scholars didn’t thank me. They dispersed looking somewhat bewildered and uncertain of how to regroup and begin the new improved – really tried and true, old school – version of their beloved game. They wandered aimlessly looking lost like intrepid explorers who had set off excitedly in search of new land but instead lost their way in a dark swamp and were now being devoured by all manner of marsh flies and mosquitoes. Then some brave soul tried to begin the game again but became self-conscious under my expectant gaze and abandoned the sentence like he had stumbled upon a river infested with crocodiles. I sighed. Meanwhile, one young child ran off crying inconsolably to her mother and I assure you, these were no crocodile tears! I cringed. I had killed ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’. I was a meanie.

New images flashed hauntingly into my mind. The sandpit became my classroom, a dark dank swamp infested with the miserable shadows of these children nine years on, faces haggard with despair and a deep hatred for grammar. What have I done? I thought. This must be how martyrs feel.

I wanted to be fed to the crocodiles.

I wanted to be fed to the crocodiles. 

Then, a lone voice rang out, “Crocodile, Crocodile….What’s…May we cross your golden river?…”

I held my breath…

“If not, why not?…”

So far so good…

“Your favourite colour is?”

 

 

It was a compromise. With the right inflection it made sense. Phew. Slowly the little ones joined back in. Hesitantly at first, then as delightedly as they had been playing before my intervention. The bell rang and I returned to the Senior School to await the repercussions of the many parental complaints I expected to receive, completely convinced of the many reasons I would suck at being a Primary teacher.

Since then I have been pondering the following questions:
1. How far should one go in defense of grammar?
2. Is the scorn received when issuing benevolent correction part of the price one pays for standing up for that in which one believes?
3. Has anyone else ever made someone cry when correcting grammar? (Please tell me I am not alone!)
4. Whatever will I tell the parents when the call up? *gulp*

All responses welcome, especially if they are in my defence.

Here Ends A Small Forever

August 24, 2008

It’s been a small forever since I last updated this blog. Sorry about that. I have missed you all. Much. And much has happened, so this will henceforth be known as ‘the catch up post’.

Lidia Update:
Lidia has returned to school! It is sooooo completely amazing that the doctors, who told Lidia’s parents 10 times that she would surely die, are describing her recovery in terms of a miracle. And it is. We know it. We see it as she swings upside-down on the monkey bars, as she draws us pictures and writes ‘I love you. Lidia’ on the bottom of the page. As she talks and laughs and runs and skips and plays, our hearts do likewise and we know this is a miracle performed by our Almighty God. Our God who cares and loves and never ever withdraws. Praise Him!

In other news,

I crashed my car last week.

It was rather spectacular. I was tired, sick and stressed and as I approached a row of cars banked up at a set of traffic lights I made a very bad braking decision: I accelerated. Hmmm. Not the best choice to make but despite my repeated attempts to find the brake, I just couldn’t and only ended up planting my foot more firmly on the accelerator, the result being my car ploughing into the nice new Mazda in front of me to the accompaniment of a cacophony of grating metal and smashing glass. Our cars ended up entwined in some kind of grotesque embrace, causing passers by to slow and stare, creeping by as if tiptoeing through the shards of metal and glass littering the road.

I was on my way to a meeting I was dreading and found the crash somewhat satisfying. The noise, the impact, the disruption all seem a fitting reflection of how I was feeling, of how I felt the meeting would go and to have it played out so graphically outside my tormented heart was comforting. It was a good crash. It felt like, in some Shakespearian sense, the world understood and empathised. The crash is a symbolic marker ending a significant time in my life. I feel like now, a new episode has begun. I emerged whiplashed but fine.

The people at the accident were lovely. So nice and gracious.
“Don’t worry about it. You’re ok, that’s all that matters,” said the guy whose nice new car was now a mangled remnant of its former self.
“It was an accident,” comforted the smiling woman in the car in front.
Their grace too is like a harbinger of the good to come, a peaceful ushering in of a new time.

I’ll keep you updated.
How have you guys been?

An Artful Disorder: Symmetry is for Faces not Vases!

April 18, 2008

As I was arranging a bunch of flowers tonight, the following passage came to mind:

There was really no point trying to arrange wild flowers. They had tumbled into their own symmetry, and it was certainly true that too even a distribution between the irises and the rose-bay willow-herb ruined the effect. She made some minutes making adjustments in order to achieve a natural chaotic look. While she did so she wondered about going out to Robbie.

These are the thoughts of Cecilia in Atonement, a beautifully written novel – which has also been adapted into a gorgeous film, as you probably know – by Ian McEwan. A novel overflowing with evocative description and vivid characterisation.

As I arranged my flowers I thought of symmetry, life past and future, that which is determined and a man I long to see. I thought of my life. My day. My tomorrow.

Like Cecilia, I have never liked symmetry – except for in a face. It’s far too ordered, predictable and balanced. It’s so balanced it makes me feel…well, unbalanced. If I see something symmetrical I have to fight the strongest urge not to rearrange it. Unless it is a bunch of flowers, then nothing can hold me back!

The flowers fell into a unsettling symmetry before me tonight and as I swiftly rearranged them I wondered at my abhorrence of that which is uniform because, you know, it extends to more than just floral arrangements. I have a terrible feeling that the way I like my flowers indicates some deeper darker truth about who I am, what I think and how I want to live: I think I’m pretty much inherently rebellious. But for now all I want to say is, Cecilia is right: symmetry is for faces not vases. What do you think?

Btw, have you read Atonement?! Every word is soooo very delicious!

reclaimEd

February 28, 2008

roses tipped with pink

grow new days

& smell like freedom,

making her heart

shine like the sun

glistening on the ocean

outside his window.

que cherchez-vous ?

January 28, 2008

“L’homme est fou par ce qu’il cherche, et grand par ce qu’il trouve”

-Paul Valéry 

 I read this quote today and have been pondering it ever since. If we are considered insane for seeking grand things but great if we finally find these things, what does that say about our dreams and dreaming them? What about those who seek the seemingly impossible? Are they insane or are we for not trying? 

What is it you seek? 

lifeblood

November 27, 2007

I am dead tired!

Yesterday I donated blood. I took a group of Yr 10 students to the Blood Bank in what we affectionately called ‘The Vampire Bus,’ and we all donated 470mls to help save a life or two. It doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice, 470mls is not that much blood, but today I’m really feeling tired. Soooo tired. Like I could just fall-asleep-anywhere tired. And this has got me thinking…

Isn’t it amazing how God says the life is in the blood of every living creature? I love how the Bible shows us that God has life all figured out well before scientists and doctors know much about it. This whole “life is in the blood” idea has really got me thinking about the significance of Christ’s death, the shedding of His blood to give us life, and His words at the Passover meal he shared with his disciples before going to the cross. It’s so significant…but right now I’m way too tired to take my thinking any further. But I’d love to hear what you’re thinking…

Isn’t it incredible that blood saves lives and God uses the blood of His Son to save us spiritually?

Isn’t it amazing the way blood works? It really is the life force! No wonder I feel dead tired with less of it!

Blood is amazing! That Jesus blood brings us real life blows my mind.

On Order & the Bible

November 2, 2007

I’m feeling kind of ripped off. Yesterday I discovered that the books of my Bible are in the wrong order!!! Can you believe it?!

Our lecture yesterday touched on the order of scripture and noted that while we, as Westerners, tend to approach things quite chronologically, the Hebrew people historically approached things more thematically. The result of which was that the scriptures were reordered to reflect a chronological rather than thematic focus. This, my lecturer argued, has lead to us failing to make connections that the original audience would have made quite logically. It also means we diminish the unity of the scriptures. He gave numerous examples – at which point my head exploded – one of which was that traditionally Chronicles was the last book of the Jewish Scriptures. This is significant because Chronicles begins with a genealogy that is then continued in Matthew and this is only the beginning!!!

Did you know this?

Do you feel as ripped off as me?

This revelation made me wonder about the role of man in recording and passing on God’s word. It’s such an important thing! How could we get it so wrong at times? And then I wondered, if God is in control of this, why did he allow the books of the scriptures to be rearranged? Especially if it means we are missing out, or at least working very hard to get back, significant connections. If the changes happened way back at the completion of the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts, was the reordering part of God’s plan in reaching those outside the Hebrew communities? Those who think chronologically rather than thematically.

What do you think?

Do you feel as ripped off as I do?

Where can I get my hands on a Jewish Bible? I want to read that Bible cover to cover and see what I find.

The original order of the scriptures:

The Torah

1. Genesis [בראשית / B’reshit]
2. Exodus [שמות / Sh’mot]
3. Leviticus [ויקרא / Vayiqra]
4. Numbers [במדבר / B’midbar]
5. Deuteronomy [דברים / D’varim]

The books of Nevi’im

6. Joshua [יהושע / Y’hoshua]
7. Judges [שופטים / Shophtim]
8. Samuel (I & II) [שמואל / Sh’muel]
9. Kings (I & II) [מלכים / M’lakhim]
10. Isaiah [ישעיה / Y’shayahu]
11. Jeremiah [ירמיה / Yir’mi’yahu]
12. Ezekiel [יחזקאל / Y’khezqel]
13. The Twelve Minor Prophets [תרי עשר]
I. Hosea [הושע / Hoshea]
II. Joel [יואל / Yo’el]
III. Amos [עמוס / Amos]
IV. Obadiah [עובדיה / Ovadyah]
V. Jonah [יונה / Yonah]
VI. Micah [מיכה / Mikhah]
VII. Nahum [נחום / Nakhum]
VIII. Habakkuk [חבקוק /Khavaquq]
IX. Zephaniah [צפניה / Ts’phanyah]
X. Haggai [חגי / Khagai]
XI. Zechariah [זכריה / Z’kharyah]
XII. Malachi [מלאכי / Mal’akhi]

The Ketuvim

14. Psalms [תהלים / T’hilim]
15. Proverbs [משלי / Mishlei]
16. Job [איוב / Iyov]
17. Song of Songs [שיר השירים / Shir Hashirim]
18. Ruth [רות / Rut]
19. Lamentations [איכה / Eikhah]
20. Ecclesiastes [קהלת / Qohelet]
21. Esther [אסתר / Est(h)er]
22. Daniel [דניאל / Dani’el]
23. EzraNehemiah [עזרא ונחמיה / Ezra wuNekhem’ya]
24. Chronicles (I & II) [דברי הימים / Divrey Hayamim]

Infant baptism…

August 6, 2007

Yes or no?

Why/why not?

A Lesson from Lawn Bowls

July 19, 2007

If you know how to use it a little bias may serve you well.

Searching for the Truth in a World of Crime

July 19, 2007

I’m currently trying to develop a Biblical Perspective of Detective Fiction. Here are my thoughts so far: (sketchy so bear with)

  • The genre/text reflects the creativity of God because He made us in His image as creative beings and gave us all gifts to use. Even non-Christians are given gifts by God. Their use of these still brings glory to Him because they are a reflection of His goodness and self.
  • Crime is part of the result of the sinfulness and fallen nature of humanity. It is a distortion of God’s creation and damages our relationship to God and others.
  • The detective genre gives us insight into our need for salvation. We need someone to intervene and save us.
  • The detective figure represents a saviour intervening in the world to bring justice and eradicate evil.
  • The detective is a reflection of a person who uses God’s gift of reason for the good of others. S/he shows a Biblical care/love for the wellbeing of others and glorifies God in his/her use of reason and love.
  • The detective genre is in some ways a response to the dualism with which we see the world as being separated into material and spiritual realms. We now, in our humanistic society, hold a much more deistic view of the world – the spiritual realm is removed from us or irrelevant, or, if we are Christians we may think God is outside His creation (He isn’t by the way! it’s just we often think He is) – and feel the need to control evil. The detective genre is a response to this and acts as an expression of our need to contain evil and feel safe. The detective genre makes readers feel safe knowing a rational being can solve and contain crime/evil.

And this is about as far as I have gotten.

Any more ideas?
Here are more questions I am thinking of:

What should the Christian response be to crime?

Considering the Bible says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” (Phil 4.8) should we, as Christians, read literature which takes for its subject crime?

In what other ways does Detective Fiction communicate Biblical truths or grand narratives?

If you have the answers to any of these questions, have more of your own or think my points [above] are dodgy and off track, please let me know. This is a real work in progress and I’d love to hear your ideas, especially from a Reformed Theological perspective. If you can support your ideas with the Bible, even better.

Also, let me know if you have any great Detective Fiction texts you love. What do you love about them and what do you learn from them?

Don’t you love how literature helps you think about the BIGGER things!

Life Coram Deo

July 18, 2007

This week I have been privileged to sit under the teaching of Michael Goheen from Trinity Western University, BC, Canada. If you have the opportunity to study under him do so! He has been speaking to us about the importance of Christian Education and teaching from the view of the gospel, working back to creation. One of the most poignant lessons for me has been in Mike’s challenge to abandon our often very deistic approach to life and education and become aware of living life before a God who saturates His creation with his presence, continually.

Mike’s teaching has been reinforced by many things – as well as the Bible – around me this week. For example, my oldest little man had a dream a few nights ago. In his dream, my little man says, “God came back to earth but he didn’t take us to heaven, he just made everything new.” Then, in his dream, he saw God’s arms stretched out in the corner of his bedroom. “Everywhere I went, mama, I could see God’s arms and I knew he was always with me,” explained my little man. I have to admit to being surprised at this dream. God has not ever revealed Himself to me in my dreams but the content of this dream is very Biblical and I am struck by what a beautiful gift and assurance it is to my son. God is good!

As I was sharing with my little man what I was learning at the conference, he said to me, “Mama, that’s like my dream. I know that God is in everything. He is everywhere and that’s what it meant when I could see God’s arms stretched out everywhere.”

My little man has a great awareness that God is present in His world, in His creation and he knows that God is actively involved in his life. I forget more easily. I often fall into the trap of thinking that, as Mike describes deism, God is like some master watchmaker who has created a grand work in such a way that it no longer needs his intervention to run. It can function independent of him. But the Bible paints a very different picture of God. He is not a creator who is removed from His creation. He is in it. He creates and sustains it by his word. He is actively involved in everything that happens. I need to remember this and live my life corum Deo! Before the face of God for His presence is everywhere.

complikate

July 16, 2007

I said I’d post in my holidays and now they are over and all I have posted is two memes. Sorry. I’ve had blogger’s block. Not because I haven’t had anything to write about but because I think I’ve had too much to write about and all my thoughts have been too complicated to express succinctly. This is the catch up post. If you can ride out the tumultuous waves of my thoughts here, you can wade out anything! Game?

Ok. So, there is absolutely heaps I have been thinking about lately. Some of it personal, some political. I’ll start with the political cause it’s easier to express. For those of you who hate political debate, know that I’d appreciate your thoughts and ideas anyway and that I do not intend for this to turn into an argument – although you can disagree with me – , it’s a reflection of my thoughts and an expression of ideas. 🙂

In teaching Studies of Religion to Year 12 last term I have been researching Islam. In the syllabus we are to study a person significant to the development of Islam and the impact of their ideas on the religion. We studied Sayyid Qutb.

Qutb is an intellectual who is interesting for many reasons. His ideas have been said to have influenced fundamentalist Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda. Australians may also be aware of recent claims that Qutb has heavily influenced the controversial Sheik Hilali, ex Grand Mufti of Australia. Yet Qutb’s writings contain a desire for morality that I know many Christians would agree with. For example, read the opening introduction to his book Milestones, the manifesto he was executed for writing:

Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice, not because of the danger of complete annihilation which is hanging over its head-this being just a symptom and not the real disease -but because humanity is devoid of those vital values which are necessary not only for its healthy development but also for its real progress. Even the Western world realises that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind. It knows that it does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence.

I do not know a Christian who would disagree with this. Qutb’s assessment of Western society is spot on. We are materialistic and immoral. Qutb is right. He is a very intriguing character. Intriguing but wrong.

Qutb’s soloution to the immorality and materialism of Western society was to establish an Islamic State governed by Sharia Law established through jihad if necessary. Despite many arguments as to what true Islamic jihad may mean, – namely a personal striving in the way of Allah – Qutb’s writings do define jihad in militaristic terms.

Knowing this caused me to think that we are really waging this ‘war on terror’ in precisely the wrong way. Any military attack on an organisation which adheres to Qutb’s philosophy is destined to make fundamentalist Muslims fight harder. It is clear that this is a war of ideologies. If we are to have any impact perhaps we need to develop ideas and philosophy that address the criticisms Qutb had of Western society. But we’ll never do that because we, in the West, love our materialism and immorality too much. So much that we’ll fight to maintain it. And sadly, we fight for the right to choose how we live our lives thinking we are free when really it is these very things that enslave us. Ironic.

What Qutb failed to note was that we are all immoral, East and West alike because this comes from within us not society, and no amount of military might can save us from this. Nothing can save us from this but the intervention of God Himself, not Allah because he offers no assurance of salvation, but Christ and Christ alone. Knowing this raises this question for me: What as Christians should be our response to the Sayyid Qutbs, Sheik Hilalis and Osama bin Ladens of the world? Is it worth engaging in a philosophical or militant battle? Should we simply recognise that this is a spiritual battle and pray? Should we do a combination of these things?

(I was going to go on with other complikated thoughts but I will leave them for later as this post is arduous enough, I’m sure.)

There Are Too Many Chairs

July 1, 2007

The other night I went to a… actually, I’m not sure what you’d call it but it was a birthday for a magazine. An artsy event in which you stand in a mostly blank space amid piles of artistically placed newspapers, rub shoulders with artsy people and eat cheese by the wheel with big chunks of bread torn off freshly baked loaves while trying various wines,  scoring numerous freebies and generally congratulating editors etc on how fabulous their magazine is 12 issues in. At least, I think that’s what you’re supposed to do.

I was there with a couple of friends listening, looking and wondering what it all meant and as confessional presentations were given in the dark, I came to see that as well as being a celebration of the magazine, this was a celebration of philanthropy.  Many of the people speaking had given up their fancy pants jobs in fancy pants places where they earnt enough money to buy fancy pants so that they could make a difference to the world beyond. In the words of one of the speakers who was a furniture designer, he had come to realise that “the world really didn’t need another chair.” And you know what, it is true: there are already lots of chairs.

I wish I were a fir beetle

April 21, 2007

Why? you may ask…Well, because they have little piles marking their entry into logs and the like and their little marking piles are cute. See:
1678045.jpg
Cute.

But I have big piles of marking marking my entry to Term Two and these are not very cute.

Oh, to be a fir beetle!

Sometimes I think God has very large bottles

April 19, 2007

glasfl.jpg

[God,] You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.

from Psalm 56

In which I scrutinise media representations of the Virginia Tech shooting & call us all killers.

April 19, 2007

I am kind of, no not kind of, absolutely sick of the media depiction of the Virginia Tech shootout already. The event was terrible! Yes! The whole incident is absolutely tragic! The magnitude of the event is horrific! We recognise that. We grieve.

What I don’t like about the representation of this event is how Cho Seung-Hui is represented as some kind of heartless killing monster. Okay, now this is the part where I don’t necessarily win any friends…Yes, his deeds were awful, abominable, reprehensible but I can’t help thinking that somehow, we failed him. I mean, to be that tormented, to be that angry…what had he seen, what had he read, what had he experienced to make him feel so desperate that killing became an option? An heroic option.

I am in no way saying that what Cho Seung-Hui did is okay. It is not okay. Ever. But I recognise in Cho Seung-Hui’s eyes a hopelessness that, but for the grace of God, I would feel every day. Every single day.

This world is pretty messed up. It’s not how it’s meant to be. We are not meant to hurt each other, lie, cheat, steal, live in selfishness…we’re not meant to. God created us for more than this.

I don’t want to see the NBC news footage, I don’t want to see videos of the event, I don’t want to get inside Cho Seung-Hui’s head and figure out why he did it. The images of his face are enough. Looking into his eyes I see the pain, the anger, the hurt, the utter hopelessness and I know there have been times when I have felt it too.

The cover of The Sydney Morning Herald today depicted passport type photographs of each of the victims placed over a picture of Cho Seung-Hui’s face in the background. The visual representation graphically showed how we view perpetrators and victims: the victims are innocent the perpetrator is guilty; the victims are human – they smile – the perpetrator is inhuman – his face is contorted with anger and hatred. Sure, the victims were killed while innocently going about their daily lives, while the perpetrator committed a terrible crime. I acknowledge all of this but still I wonder… what if we’re not all that different to Cho Seung-Hui? What if we all kill things we love every day maybe not with 30 bullets but with words, looks, actions and intentions.

I think this is how God views us. Actually, I don’t think it, I’m pretty sure of it. We’re all closer to Cho Seung-Hui than we’d like to admit. After all the Bible tells us that we are responsible for Christ’s death…but fortunately we can be forgiven and escape the anguish of a lonely hurt filled existence. I know that my life has changed because I now know that God takes seriously the suffering we feel in this world. It was such a big deal to Him that He, in His goodness, stretched out His own arm to save us by subjecting His Son to a death that should have been ours. Through this God shows His amazing love for us – all of us.

I know we mourn and grieve and this is right – we should. But as we pray and grieve for the victims and their families, can’t we mourn for Cho Seung-Hui too? Can’t we pray that God have mercy on his tormented soul? As well as on ours?

This is not how life was meant to be.

the reward is in the task

April 7, 2007

…is what I’ve been told my whole schooling life. The reward is in doing a task and doing it well as if serving the Lord not men.

I went to a school in which awards, rewards, merit and demerit certificates were not given. We did not have school captains or prefects. We were not encouraged to compete with other students – unless competition was intrinsic to the task, such as it is in playing sport. We were not rewarded for achieving or performing well.

The rationale behind this was that all our gifts and abilities come from God and our purpose in using them should be to glorify Him. Also our motivation in doing things should be to serve and become more like Christ. Jesus is our motivation and serving and becoming like Him is our reward. As such the reward is in the task.

It was also argued that rewards could not be justified from a Biblical perspective. In God’s treatment of us we never get what we deserve. We always get far more than that. Far, far more. We ignore, despise, reject and scorn God by trying to live life our own way and He gives us a pardon that costs us nothing and Him everything! Even when we do try to please Him the Bible says that all our righteous acts are as filthy rags. Yet we are constantly given more grace, more love, more peace, more life, more joy.

Knowing that this was how I was taught for 13 years will help you understand the angst I felt at being given a ‘Thinking Blogger Award‘ by Rebecca. I don’t think I’ve ever received an award before – even when my professor wanted to nominate me for one at uni he rather amusingly missed the deadline – so I have never had to face this dilemma before. I have never had to ask myself, do I accept an award knowing that I don’t believe in them? or do I turn an award down on principle and shun the generosity of my awarder? No. I can’t. I don’t think I can do either.

I was reflecting on the content of my blog the other day, before the award was given, and I was thinking about how little I really post of any intellectual or spiritual quality. My blog is a place where I post my random, often angst ridden, and almost always trivial thoughts. The time I spend composing posts is minimal. The effort I actually apply in trying to write beautifully, reflectively and with quality is so minimal I think my name a joke. I considered stepping up the quality and content of my blog but dismissed the thought realising the commitment needed to turn this blog into one of quality was way beyond that which I am willing to invest. Sad really. I chose mediocrity.

In light of this, Rebecca’s award is truly undeserved- especially as it has been given to me by her; she received the award four times over and would be so worthy of a fifth nomination! even her post was metacognitive! – truly gracious and truly an example of how God treats me – with undeserved goodness & generosity. With grace. For this I am thankful and would like to say “thank you, Rebecca!”

Thank you for recognising the moments – as brief as they are – when I do actually think before I post. Thank you for generously giving me an award I don’t feel I deserve. And thank you mostly for reminding me that I should be doing all I can to use my gifts and abilities to serve God in everything I do, for the reward is in the task – it is in getting to know other bloggers with a heart for Christ and Christ-likeness, it is in learning more about God through them, and it is in becoming Christ-like in everything, even blogging.

Thanks to you for reminding me of all this, Rebecca! I will gladly accept your award as a token and reminder of grace! And I will graciously pass the baton on to 5 more thinking bloggers to do with as they please.

To the Dekker’s, John and Radagast – you often make my head hurt with all your thinking. That deserves an award.

To ish – your poetic word play always gets me thinking in new and creative ways about faith, life, the universe and digging holes. Thank you!

To Island Sparrow – your reflections on life are always so thought provoking, inspiring and uplifting. Thank you.

To Candy – you make me think often by being real about your life and faith both on your blog and via email. This has saved me from making some foolish decisions and is worth much more than a Thinking Blogger Award, so please accept this a a token.

And in the true spirit of unbounded grace I am exceding the 5 person limit – ’cause God always give us more than we are entitled to – in order to nominate more people:

Paul (probably – maybe liz) – if you want to think about the God delusion,who invented paediatrics, the meaning of U2 lyrics, Schaeffer, Christians and slavery, global warming and a plethora of other topics often presented from a Christian perspective with keen scientific insight, then Paul’s your man. He’s a thinker.

Lastly, but by no baffling means least, Andrew of A. Stark Place and A. Stark Magazine. I don’t think he stops thinking – ever. The best thing about Andrew’s thinking is that he thinks in often obscure and extremely funny ways which is just plain brilliant. For this I award and thank him.

Phew! That task was rewarding. I think I’m done.

Oh, apparently there is a button thingy you can put on your blog if you want to. I’ll put it in the comments for you to pick up if you wish.

Another question…

April 6, 2007

At his blog today, John Dekker answers a question that perplexed me when I was younger:

Why is it called “Good” Friday, my religious education students asked me. If it’s when Jesus died, it should be called “Bad” Friday…

It’s a good question, but the answer is much better!

on Ulysses & omnitemporality

March 23, 2007

Rebecca is considering the meaning of the word omnitemporal. She is wondering if omnitemporal means “in all times at the same time” and “time [is] a succession of moments, how can something be in all of a succession at one point in the succession?” It is a good question. I think perhaps Ulysses has the answer. Actually, I don’t think it does at all but it reminded me of an essay I wrote a couple of years back on aesthetics and the transcendence of time through art and it made me think, since, as Rebecca Writes, everything’s coming up Irish, I guess omnitemporality must come up Irish this month too. So, by way of killing two birds with one stone, here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote which I am now using to express my take on omnitemporality in Irish literature. It’s a longbow, I know.

 

“The Homeric parallels, and in fact all mythic parallels in Ulysses, contribute to the aesthetics of the text in which a continuum is created enabling the past, present and future to continually influence each other. The effect adheres to the aesthetic theory T.S.Eliot deems essential to the creation of an immortal work which is not static but constantly changing in relation to past, present and future works of art.[1] In this way, Ulysses has relevance to society at all times in history: it is universal and immortal: it is art…

“…Homeric parallels and symbolism in the Cyclops episode enable Joyce to depict the action occurring in Barney Kiernan’s pub on 16th June, 1904, while simultaneously transcending this temporality to make references to future events in Ireland, namely the Easter Uprising of 1916. The action is simultaneously reflective of the past, present and the future; however, the representation and achievement of such is anything but simple. Consider the Homeric parallels within this episode: The characterisation reveals the first, perhaps most obvious, parallel, for on entering Kiernan’s pub, the reader is confronted with the grotesque gargantuan form of the citizen.[1] The citizen parallels the giant one-eyed Cyclops of the Odyssey; yet he is also representative of a Nationalist Irish consciousness and the historical figure of Michael Cusack, founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association.[2] Into the cave of the one-eyed giant walks Bloom, Joyce’s Odysseus, and without delay he finds himself in conflict with violent one-eyed nationalism as embodied by the citizen. The image is powerful and the complexity profound; for in such a seemingly simple allusion Joyce represents ancient, contemporary, and recent historical eras in simultaneity. We must observe that the parallels between the Odyssey and Ulysses are not literal. Bloom is not heroic in the same manner as Odysseus: he does not slay his aggressor; he is not even proficient with a red hot poker;[3] yet Bloom, like Odysseus, escapes the savagery of the Cyclops. The futility and barbarity of the Nationalist ethos is revealed as the grotesque citizen espouses violence as a remedy and defence against English imperialism.

While the mythic parallels are part of Joyce’s aesthetic technique, they also serve to further meaning through allusions to ancient and contemporary myths. Time and space are transcended as the ancient and the modern converge in moments located within the experience of the characters on June 16, 1904. In these moments, the mythic and the modern reciprocally comment upon and interrogate each other through allusion, symbolism, paradox and parody. For example, the Jacob’s biscuit tin in the Cyclops episode, is a symbol, which when placed in the hands of the citizen – who is simultaneously Irish Nationalist consciousness, Michael Cusack, a plethora of Irish heroes,[4] and the Cyclops – gains greater significance than is first evident; for it symbolises the Jacob’s biscuit factory in which insurgents in the Easter Uprising of 1916 barricaded themselves in rebellion against the English and their occupation of Ireland. The climax of the episode in which the citizen hurls the biscuit tin at Bloom contains many references drawn from myth which shape and bring significance to past, present and future events. Firstly, the action mirrors that of the Cyclops in the Odyssey who throws a rock at Odysseus as he escapes the island. Secondly, the action reflects Michael Cusack’s skill as a hurler,[5] his desire to revive hurling as a national sport,[6] and the association of sport with warfare[7] which is also addressed earlier in the episode.[8] Cusack also drew upon mythology and mysticism in the founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association when he sought to re-establish hurling as a notional sport.[9] Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the action reflects the association between the Jacob’s biscuit factory, the Gaelic Athletic Association’s Fenian ties,[10] and the violence of the Easter Uprising. It is all three of these allusions together which contribute to the meaning derived from the Cyclops episode. Further, the meaning is derived from many myths – ancient Homeric myth in the Odyssey; contemporary cultural myth surrounding national figures such as Cusack; and ancient Irish myths – which though spanning many eras, blend in a contemporary moment situated on the 16th June, 1904. When we are aware of these multiple allusions, it is impossible to read the episode as being representative of one particular moment in time. The representation clearly scrutinises the events of the Easter Uprising of 1916 by associating them with the barbaric brutality of the Cyclops in the Odyssey. As the events of the Easter Uprising have not yet occurred in the Dublin of Ulysses in 1904, Joyce’s representation of Bloom’s interaction with the citizen is at once prophetic and reflective. Joyce has effectively used myth to transcend time and space and manipulates “a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity”[11] in which the meaning derived from allusions to myth in Ulysses transcend the time of the events represented and produce a relevance to the past, present and the future.”

Mellifluous, M., (UNSW, ©2005)

Clearly Ulysses is omnitemporal.

If you have a clearer example of omnitemporality why not go and join the discussion at Rebecca’s blog. I’m sure she’d appreciate it.


[1] Eliot writes “ No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere is not onesided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.” ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent,’ in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Vincent B., Leitch (Gen. Ed.) New York: W.W.Norton & Co., 2001,p1093

[1]Joyce, Ulysses, p284

[2] Notes on Uysses in Ulysses, 281.33, p885

[3] Joyce, Ulysses, p318

[4] As signified by the images of the heroic, and not so heroic, Irish and not so Irish, characters on his belt. Joyce, Ulysses, p284-285

[5] Mandel, W.F., ‘To Test the Pulse of a Nation,’ The Gaelic Athletic Association & Irish Nationalist Politics 1884-1924, Dublin: Gill & MacMillian, 1987, p1

[6] Ibid

[7] Hurling “was an aristocratic, even royal, game, always associated with violence and death.” Ibid, p15

[8] Joyce, Ulysses, p305

[9] “’In my dreams,’[Cusack] later wrote, ‘I was living with the men of Erin of pre-Christian times. Inspirit I hunted and fished with Fionn’s invincible hosts from Antrim to Kerry. I hurled with Fenians of sixteen centuries ago from Tara to Killarney. Iresolved to bring back the hurling.’” Mandel, p2;

“The boy Setana became Cuchulain by driving a hurling ball into the mouth of Culann’s monstrous hound and killing it.” Mandel, p16;

“Many traditionalist argue that the origins of the [Irish] games stretch back into the depths of time, and sit in the long history of Ireland alongside such legendary figures as Cú Chulainn (who was reputed to have been a useful hurler).” Cronin, Mike., ‘Gaelic Games,’ Sport & Nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic Games, Soccer and Irish Identity Since 1884, Great Britain: Four Courts Press, 1999, p70

[10] “In time, and a very short time at that, the IRB was to take open control of the GAA,” Mandel, p10

[11] Eliot,Ulysses, Order, and Myth,’ p27

 


 


 

March 20, 2007

I cried and cried and cried myself to sleep the other night. I usually save my sobbing for the shower where I am surrounded by millions of drops of water so that my tears do not feel quite so out of place – in some strange way it is like the shower cries with me – or as many, or as overwhelming. Sobbing in the shower is better than sobbing in bed because it doesn’t matter if your cheeks and hair get soppy and wet in the shower whereas a soggy pillow is not much fun. The pummeling water, as well as being therapeutic, also drowns out any desperate gasps or sighs and thus shelters other house dwellers from the discomfort of being confronted with unrestrained emotion. Sobbing in bed is reserved for moments of desperation, exhaustion or times in which you are simply overwhelmed.

I am not sure which of these situations it was that brought me to be sobbing in my bed instead of the shower, probably exhaustion or maybe a mixture of all three, but there I was, sobbing against my better judgement when I should have been sleeping blissfully.

Lately I feel like all my hard work at uni, getting trained to teach so I could be a good mum to my children and be available to look after them and earn money to support them on my own while doing something that I love to do, has been a stupid waste of time. I don’t have any more time for my children now than when I was at uni. In fact I have less. I do have more money which allows me to send my boys to a private school where the teachers have the same vision for education and life that I have and want to pass onto my children, but I don’t think I care about the money right now. It is important to send my children to a good christian school but I miss them when I am working all the time to do it. I miss them. I don’t know if teaching is actually what I like to do either. It’s a lot of hard work, hours and hours of preparation, marking – especially in English – and coaching that just takes me away from my little ones.

I miss being at home with my boys.

When I married all I wanted to do was be a wife who served her husband through doing all those mundane things women are expected to do but are meant to hate. I didn’t hate it. I loved it. I was married to a violent barstool and still loved it. I loved the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, the shopping – well not so much the shopping- the mothering. I loved it. I loved my family.

I am angry at my ex. I’m angry because he stupidly wasted what was meant to be good. I am angry because now I feel like I have to be a mother I never wanted to be: a working mum who spends more time away from her children than with them. A mum who is busy working even when she’s at home. A mum who feels guilty skipping on class prep to play with a Thomas the Tank Engine train set, or watch a dinosaur movie, or look at a cool butterfly emerging from a cocoon. How did I become this mother I never wanted to be?

I was feeling all sullen and woeful on Sunday when I stumbled across CoffeeSwirls, a brilliant-every-word-is-gold kinda blog that I hadn’t read for some time. And this is some of what Doug had to say there:

“Have you ever felt that your life was getting out of control?…How you you view the trials of life? Do you gnash your teeth at them and strive even harder to overcome them [I was gnashing and striving!] or do you thank God for His work in your life, bending your stubborn will to Him? When you pray do you ask God to lift these trials or do you ask for the grace to look beyond this vapor that we call life and look to the joy that God has set before you? God is our reward.”

and I was reminded that what I really have to do is enjoy what I do have. Re-prioritise. Give God and my boys more time and keep on because, for whatever reason, this is God’s plan for me. Sigh.