Too good to be told

September 27, 2012

I recently discovered the wonders of scanning! So I have been scanning collages lately, some old some new. I made this one a couple summers ago, I think. My love for tacky rainbow color schemes still runs strong.

 “Syme remembered those wild woes of yesterday as one remembers being afraid of a Bogy in childhood.” The Man Who Was Thursday

Last week for my Mysterious Fiction class, I re-read G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. And this time, I was even more struck by the “things are not what they seem”-ness of the story, and, more precisely, the “things are not nearly as terrifying as they seem”-ness.

Over and over, Gabriel Syme’s worst enemies take off their masks and become friends, and over and over, he reflects on how silly he was to ever have been afraid.

In a lot of ways I am still in the “yesterday” portion of the above quote, and still afraid of a few Bogies (bogy plural?) myself. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see beyond disguises, but every now and then I get a glimpse.

This Tuesday my priest drove to La Mirada to meet me for coffee, and I asked his advice about all this. I told him that I am afraid of a lot of things that I don’t need to be afraid of (and some things I’m just not sure if I need to be afraid of), but I don’t know how to stop. I went into our meet-up thinking that maybe if he just told me the right thing, or reminded me of a truth that I had forgotten, then I could stop being afraid.

But to my surprise, he told me that he wasn’t going to try to convince me that my Bogies weren’t real monsters. Instead, he told me to ask God for the gift of faith. He said it is very important for me to know that this is a gift–this faith, this ability to believe that things are not as they seem, even when we can’t see behind the disguises–and that asking God for it everyday is not the same as trying to muster it up everyday. My only task is to ask and wait.

Maybe the answers I want will come, and maybe something else will instead.

At the end of The Man Who Was Thursday, Chesterton leaves his readers with more questions than answers. Unlike the Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories we read earlier in the semester, the mystery in this book isn’t really ever solved. There are intricate hints, but I think one reason I love the book so much is that I am left with a sense that the mystery is too big for my small head.

A few weeks ago, my teacher read us an excerpt of an essay Chesterton wrote about the ending of the book of Job (where, instead of answering all of Job’s questions, God asks Job His own questions). Chesterton writes:

“Job has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design.”

I think this is why Chesterton’s idea of a good mystery is so different from our classical idea of mystery. For Sherlock Holmes, reason correctly applied solves everything. For Chesterton, reason can only go so far before things start getting strange. But a good sort of strange, because the One behind the strange is good. As Chesterton says later in his essay,

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.



Saturday

September 23, 2012

Yesterday Christian and I explored Malibu Creek State Park for the first time. It was hotter than we expected, but the dry kind of heat that is alright. Along the trail, there were lots of lizards, one very fast baby snake, and, to my relief, no mountain lions.

We spent the first half of our hike looking for the lake, but we found a dam instead. Christian swam to the edge, and I took pictures of him and scanned for alligators.

After Christian got out of the water, we thought we needed to climb a fence to get to the lake. This fence happened to be right on the edge of the dam, and it was a biiiiig drop (maybe that’s why the fence had barbed wire on it?). I was terrified, and then it wasn’t even the right way, so we had to go back over the fence of doom. For the rest of our hike I couldn’t get out of my melodramatic/existential/panic-y funk about how weird it is that you can slip off of a mountain and die (yeah… I was REALLY scared going over that fence), but I also didn’t want to leave, because everything was so beautiful. (I don’t have the brains/guts to say much more about this [I wonder what good old Ralph Waldo has to say about slipping off mountains?]…I just didn’t want to be all “our day was sooo gorgeous and serene” on here when really, it was more “gorgeous and strangely scary.”)

Once we found the lake, we stuck our feet in and watched people cliff jump for an hour or so. I wasn’t going anywhere near the edge of any cliffs, but it was nice to see people laughing and screaming and okay when they jumped off.

On our way out, we walked along the dried-up river, this time of year just a winding trail of white rocks. That was my favorite part, I think.

September 20, 2012

in our backyard.

from my walk home.

also from my walk home.

a surprise package from my sister kelsey!

I am going for some fall vibes with the above pictures… if only the weather would agree. This past weekend was the hottest yet (107!), but hopefully it’s all cooler from here on out.

Tonight I led my Torrey group’s Emerson session, and gee whiz am I glad to be done. It’s hard to stay on the ball for three hours straight… my body doesn’t know how to handle the nerves. Last time I led, I felt like my tongue was numb or something so everything was coming out strange, but this time I wasn’t nearly as nervous. Mostly because I knew that even if my opening question/following statements were awful, my group would graciously compensate for me and it would still be a great discussion (by the way, I chose to ask “what have we lost, and how can we find it?”). The feedback I received was thoughtful and kind…it’s one of those nights when I am so grateful to be part of a program full of people that are smart and articulate and honest, but most of all loving.

In other good news:

– I bought my first pair of Crocs recently. Not the ugly hole-y ones, but flats. Christian has been bugging me for years (literally) to invest (i.e. spend more than $12) in a comfortable pair of shoes, and I do have to admit…I’m kind of loving them.

– there is a Biola student on Survivor this season! My housemates and I watched an episode tonight and it was so weird/exciting. (Also, some more TV trivia: one of my housemates was on Wheel of Fortune a few years ago and won a vacation to Hawaii and lots of money! AND a girl in my Torrey group recently won a car on a game show…maybe I should get in on this?)

– no more tennis class until next Monday.

:), :( & :/

September 15, 2012

“We see the world of mankind to be exceedingly busy and active; and the affections of men are the springs of the motion: take away all love and hatred, all hope and fear, all anger, zeal and affectionate desire, and the world would be, in a great measure, motionless and dead.”  – Jonathan Edwards, ATCRA

Our theme this semester in Torrey is America, and our first text was a selection of Jonathan Edwards’ sermons and letters.

When he wrote A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Edwards was writing to a post-Awakening crowd… people who had seen their neighbors wailing before God one month, and maybe drunkenly screaming at their wives the next (his letters make it clear that the backlash of the Awakening hit his hometown especially hard.) He was talking to people who probably felt manipulated, and many that wanted nothing more to do with emotion.

I think there was a point in my life where I thought that mustering up lots of emotion about God and the Bible meant I was making things more true. And when I came to realize the flaws in that theory, I started rolling my eyes at most emotion-based sermons or prayers or worship and labeling them as “sensationalist.”

Partly for good reason (some of them are sensationalist), but I think I mostly do this because I am so mad/embarrassed/annoyed with my former self for misunderstanding so much. It’s easier to be condescending towards my past self’s “phases” than to do the work of figuring out what was good about how I thought back then and what was not.*

Even though Jonathan Edwards saw everything his audience saw–he rejoiced as people converted in droves, and then watched too many spiral into depression or mania later–somehow he had the clear-headedness to see that throwing out the baby with the bath water wasn’t going to solve anything. He says, very simply (in fact, maybe the simplest sentence of the whole piece…):

“If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.”

Of course this is true. To think otherwise seems to neglect who we as humans are, and what we are made for.

So this week, Jonathan Edwards reminded me that even though emotions are not everything, they are not nothing either.

Not the most precise conclusion ever, but hey, a lot more than I could say after reading Sinners At The Hands of An Angry God my freshman year of high school…

* But who are we kidding…I still cry at the drop of a hat. In fact, this week my Senior Thesis class I cried. Not because I was sad, or happy, or anything really. My teacher just asked us to share our thoughts on some Bible meditation we had done over the weekend, and I started blubbering before I even spoke! Luckily, there are only five people in the class and they are all sweet/laughed with me.

A surprise

September 13, 2012

One night last week, Christian said he was up for any sort of after-dinner adventure I could think of, so I putzed around my computer and ended up settling on Turnbull Canyon,  a “pretty drive” about 15 minutes from where we live. It was a pretty drive. But then we parked on a dead-end road and decided to keep walking, and found all this.

Emerson & the LA Arboretum

September 12, 2012

This week I am preparing to lead a Torrey session on Emerson. We were assigned a few of his essays to read, and I am expected to ask the “opening question,” which our group will discuss for our 3-hour class time.

Sometimes when I am reading the classics,  I think I focus too much on what I want the author to be talking about (as opposed to what they are actually talking about). This week, I have been wanting to agree with Emerson (probably because he is a genius, and an every man’s man, and some of his little snippets about the earth are just so darn beautiful), so I am tempted to simplify what he is really saying (i.e. just labeling him a “nature boy” like I did in high school) into something I can agree with.

I actually do think that the real Emerson has a lot to teach me, but I know I won’t get there by picking and choosing small quotes and taking them out of context (which is a REAL temptation because again, HIS WRITING IS SO LOVELY). I think I will get there by actually working through his worldview–one that, I am learning, starts with very different assumptions than my own–and then going from there? I’ve usually found that route to be a good one, but it does take some amount of faith.

In the meantime, one little quote couldn’t hurt : )

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Christian & I are convinced that turtle on the far right must be HUGE, but we never saw much more than its head. The water was too murky and it was not at all moved by my pleas for it to come out and play. [Also, I probably would have screamed if it did.]

Still probably my favorite plants in the whole place, found in the parking lot. I know these guys are common, but they never get old to me. The colors are so tacky/so me.

Getting settled.

September 6, 2012

This time around, it has taken me a little bit longer to adjust to California living than usual. Maybe it’s because our house, like a lot of others around here, doesn’t have air conditioning? (I only now realize how spoiled I have been the past 3 years…) I remember writing a post last year about how in California, you never have to adjust to the weather. Well, I take that back. These days, I try to avoid being home between 3-6pm because that is when the sunlight reaches our windows and our poor little fans are just no match.

But mornings are wonderful.

Chelsea, my sweet roommate & friend

our tiny room, from my bed

And lately, when it cools down in the evening, Christian and I have been going on walks. California sunsets are fantastic (even though most of the time smog is gross, it does add this strange fuzziness to sunsets that I love).

But just in case anyone gets the wrong idea about these walks (i.e. I am trying to be more “healthy” or “active”), let it be known that (on more than one occasion) these walks have been followed by dinners consisting of cheeze-its dipped in red pepper hummus and for dessert, extreme air heads. (What can I say…one of us IS still in college…)

My favorite night so far was last Friday, when Christian and I went to see Shakespeare in the Park with our friends Joel and Angi. Christian and Joel planned the whole thing, including a fancy picnic beforehand. The play was A Comedy of Errors, and it was so so good. We also saw a minor celebrity in the crowd (so minor none of us knew his name, but we all recognized his face from commercials)…oh LA.

Speaking of Shakespeare…classes have been great so far. I am really excited about my Creative Nonfiction class (I’m thinking of doing my semester-long project on teen girl-hood) and my Mysterious Lit class (which I actually haven’t had yet, because Monday was Labor Day…but our first book is one of my favorites of all time, G. K Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday!). I am so grateful to have another year at Biola, and another year in good old Cafilornia…even if it will be a year lacking in air conditioning.