Well, I just had one of those "Isn't the world odd" moments. I feel a little Proustian in my desire to unravel the many threads of this one moment, but my posts already take far too many paragraphs than are approproate for the genre, so I'll ty to keep this short (and I will fail).
But anyway, I'm currently reading Kathllen Norris' "The Virgin of Bennington". I had heard about the book when I was still a student at Bennington, because I think it was published around 2000. Kathleen Norris, is a name I'd heard bandied about from time to time, as a "Christian" writer (those quotation marks relfect the tone people used when they talked about her, not my own opinion- meaning she is indeed a Christian, but writes frankly about the reality of sex, drugs, rock n' roll and other things that Christian bookstores often feel uncomfortable "promoting"). Well, she'd sort of been on my radar, but the ephemeral criticisms that had seeped into my psyche, kept me from picking up any of her books while I was in my reading binge of 2003-2006. Until, about a month ago, when Carl Raschke quoted her in our Philospohical Inquiry class. And suddenly, I had a burning urge to read her, almost like I'd forgotten to turn off the stove or something. And I knew without a doubt that my first venture into her work would be her memoir of college and post-college life in New York City: "The Virgin of Bennington". The title is genius of course, because the words Virgin and Bennington are quite paradoxical when put together, as were I and a few other gals who graduated Bennington in 2002. We had heard the book title when it came out and wondered how someone had managed to write a book about us without our knowing it.
Anyhoo, I'm reading the book, and loving it. It's mostly about the challenges of transitioning into adulthood out of shelterd college life (though, as one would expect, her Bennington College life was not sheltered in the traditional sense of being innocent of depravity and temptaion, but more of the womb-like atmosphere of progressive liberal arts education) as well as trying to make a living off of poetry. The book is the second in my current Intertextual Reading Project (as I've named it) where I'm trying to interject non-school reading materials into my studying, which basically means keeping a book in the bathroom. I'm sure Gene Wilder wouldn't be offended that I read his autobiography on the toilet.
But back to my "Oh Yeah...weird" moment. I was scanning over the names of Bennington's 75th Anniversay committee, which I am on, even though I can't actually go to the reunion which is happening, like now, I think, and as I was looking at the "Honorary " Committee members (famous alumni who won't be at the reunion either, but who lend their names to lend status to the event) when it suddenly dawned on me that Kathleen Norris would proabably be on the comittee. And "Oh Yeah" there she was, four people down from Alan Arkin, and three people above Tim Daly, and 73 people above Kj Swanson. It just struck me as very eerie, wierd and kind of serendipitous that I'm sharing letterhead space with Kathleen Norris at the same time I start finally reading her books. Though I expected to find much more of myself in her memoir of Bennington life (she was way more shy and reclusive than I am capable of being), it's nice to find my life connecting to her in this way: that we both have a lot to love Bennington for, and are willing to have our names appear advertising an event we will neither us of attend. It's a small, small world.
I'm not usually a picture-only post-er, but here's 3 nice close ups from the day-long sand castle fortress project of a few weeks ago. I'll get some more up here soon, and give some explanation. And the answer to your question is "Yes, we are so awesome." Props to Cabe for the fine photography.
Yesterday, my awesome and greatly respected friend Niegel emailed me a Fox news correspondant's blog regarding a much pubilicized joke made by commedian Kathy Griffin. There's a lot to unpack here, but rather than forming a well thought out blog post, I just want to get this out there, so I'm posting the email discussion I had with him about it. Love to hear different reactions people are having,. So, first, here's the clip of Kathy Griffin's award acceptance speech that is causing such a stir. Followed by a link to the blog post that Niegel and I are writing about. Then a clip of Fox News reporting about the joke and blog response (you could host a whole blog on this clip alone). The issue we're really discussing, isn't so much Kathy's joke, but the way people are reacting to it, but feel free to react to whatever part of this cornucopia seems most distasteful.
"I didn't hear anything about the original remark, but my sense is that Kathy Griffin seems less offensive than this correspondent does. Kathy Griffin saying "suck it Jesus, this award is my God now" is a self-effacing, self mocking statement that points out both the absurdity of basing one's identity on the awards one is given but also the insincerity of so many people who haphazardly thank God or Jesus when they're handed an award.
whereas, i couldn't even make it through this woman's article- who was so quick to be offended by A COMEDIAN (who's job, like Shakespeare's fools, etc, is to reflect our ridiculousness back to us by putting it on themselves) then goes on to try to teach church history. i just wonder what Jesus would have done. i think he would have understood Kathy Griffin, had compassion on where she's coming from (she's winning an award for how successful she is at making fun of herself and how disregarded she is- its gutsy to make a career of laughing at how people see and treat you- but that doesn't come without having to harden yourself to not be as hurt as you actually should be), --Jesus would not try to shame her further with an irrelevant history lesson. A lot of what "offends" people in general seems to be about their own self-involvement and an inability to look at where words are actually coming from or trying to say. Maybe there was humor meant in the way the correspondent is trying to prove that Jesus gave Kathy her award- that would be funny (and a great starting point for dialogue)- but the article comes across as over-earnest and self-righteous. But i'd love if it wasn't meant that way.
I've often thought of myself as someone who's difficult to offend- and to a large extent I think that's true. But where I do get hurt is when my humanity or personhood is trampled on. And in Kathy's statement, that did not happen to me, so I was not offended. She's trampling on her own personhood- and maybe it's good to be offended on her behalf. But I think she's effectively offending people who need to be shaken out of thinking that God gets offended the way we do. I don't think God does. God was probably more hurt at how Kathy sees herself and is able to joke about it, than in her laughing at how people receive awards which mean very little in the scheme of things.
what do you think about this article?
did you hear the original remark? how did you receive it?"
"I too was struck by the journalists lack of awareness for Kathy's form. Kathy's comments I thought were in a self-mocking vain. Her statement definitely doesn't offend me! If anything, it forces me to consider my relationship to God and to objects and to vanity.
Unfortunately, I only think this writer knew how to 'react' and to 'respond' with emphasis on the prefix "re." She would have a much stronger argument if she had actually had a dialogue with Kathy's words. If she had engaged with the statement that Kathy is trying to make, the writer might actually get away with giving us the history lesson too. I think that lesson is exciting, though a bit naive, the line she draws from the fulfillment of Jesus to modern American democracy.
In general, I thought this article just represented the reactionary politics and journalism that we all need to be aware of and challenge. We need to demand (through user comments, letters to the editors, conversations with each other and purchasing power) more complex writing and sharing."
"There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation." -Madeleine L'Engle
A significant event happened less than a week ago, which I was unable to mark at the time, and that is the passing of Madeline L'Engle. Known mostly for her brilliant contribution to juvenile fiction (A Wrinkle in Time, etc) L'Engle wrote a great deal of non-fiction which explored the profundity and simplicity of being an artist, a Christian, a woman, a wife, a questioner, a rebel and a lover of words and mystery. I don't remember exactly how it became important to me upon graduating from college in 2002, to purchase "Walking on Water: reflections on Faith and Art" with some of my graduation money, but I spent that summer after college, both revisitng her most famous children's series, and starting to navigate my way through her highly theological-creative-memoiresque reflective writings. In fact, it was something I read in her reflections on the narratives of Genesis, that inspired me to write an exegetical paper this summer on the event of Israel's first born Rueben, sleeping with his father's concubine.
L'Engle's gentle insights and bold embracing of truths, enlarged my faith with a sense of generosity for questions and demoninational differences. She taught me a lot about how better to think about art, others and Jesus, and for that, I am very grateful. I was also proud to have her serve as Secretary on my Fantasy Board of Trustees for five solid years. This is the first board member to pass away, and she will be hard to replace.
But enough about my thoughts on her, I'll leave with Madeleine in her own words.
"Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth; can be, in fact, icons. It’s no coincidence that Jesus taught almost entirely by telling stories, simple stories dealing with the stuff of life familiar to the Jews of his day. Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.
God asked Adam to name all the animals, which was asking Adam to help in the creation of their wholeness. When we name each other, we are sharing in the joy and privilege of incarnation, and all great works of art are icons of Naming. When we look at a painting, or hear a symphony, or read a book, [we] feel more Named…"
There's so much I want to write about- so much that has happened in a very, very long week. There are pictures I want to post, poems I wish I could put here but cannot, annecdotes I think would be funny to share, but in the midst of how busy I still am, how full I feel of complex and rich emotions, all I can really do right now is acknowledge that I am eating the best sandwhich I've ever had in my life.
Getting off the bus today, coming from therapy, and heading to school to do about five hours of research for a paper before I begin a class on attachment theory in psychotherapy, and having today be the day that I finally pick up my student loan check which I've had nightmares about opening and finding only $500 there, when I need it to be $2000, and after an exhausting and immense week of working to welcome the new class of students to Mars Hill, and trying to dive into what it means to be part of student leadership now---all that stuff caused me to take a drastic turn across Wall St and walk into the French bakery I've been eyeing for months. Sometimes you know you just need a baguette. And I did. And this turkey, havarti, dijion, romaine and pickles on crusty baguette for less than $7 is like a tender love song to my stomach and my soul. Thank you God, thank you french bakery, thank you sandwhich-- it's been a long week. And for the moment, my hunger is more than satisfied.
It was three years ago that the continual use of over-the-shoulder messenger bags culminated in back spasm, causing me to make an emergency purchase of a small, black backpack named Clive (his brandname). Clive was the least-backacky backpack I could find to satisfy my back's need for dual shoulder straps, and my own need to not look like an eighth grader wandering the streets of New York City. I purchased tiny Clive in 2004 because his small size prohibited me from carrying too much stuff, and making my back go haywire again.
Well, now that I'm back in school and needing to carry large tomes, folders, and my Macbook, I've spent the last year with Clive on my back, and a shoulder tote cutting of circulation to my right appendage as I schlep pounds of media from bus stop to bus stop. But still, I was not ready to purchase a "real" backpack. My middle school hermeneutic was still too strong to let me cross over to backpackland.
But Clive's zippers have started to fray, and after my first real venture with taking notes on my computer turned out so incredibly well last week, I knew that with the new term starting, I was going to be bringing my laptop to school a lot more often and I would have to make a change.
Clive's small size also prohibited me from purchasing a Nalgene water bottle, which has been on my list for a while but certainly since I've heard such convincing arguments about the unnessescary evil that bottled water is (it's a free resource that we pay tons of money and destroy the environment for) I knew I needed to get one. But would I have to carry it by hand all the time? Would I stick it in the ever-expanding tote bag on my shoulder?
Then, a delightful trip to Portland, Oregan last Saturday sealed the deal. No sales tax, and two days before I start needing to drag my computer around, and my mind was made up. The obliging North Face store (which I think I once vowed never to go in after living in Vermont and being sick of everybody's puffy, black ski jackets) even threw in a free Nalgene bottle (a $12 value) as part of their Back to School thing. (This made me feel even more 8th gradey though, since you only got one for buying a backpack.) But I'm very pleased with Isabella, my new, "real" backpack. I'm gonna be blending in much more to my Pacific Northwest surroundings now, though I still swear I will never ever wear polar fleece!!!!