April 17, 2011

Outlet

What if I wrote until 9?
The mall outside my art history building is my favorite place on campus, I think. It's a mall in a Washington DC sense, not a shopping sense - just to clarify.

The sky was dark blue, and turquoisey. The petals of the saucer magnolia are starting to fall off (already!) but their pink is still very lovely. It surprises me how very green the grass has been, this entire week. It reminds me of the passage in Downright Dencey where you learn about Dencey's love for vibrant colors.

Today at my CS Lewis society, we were discussing the last few chapters of the Ralph Wood book, The Gospel According to Tolkein. Somehow we started talking about how stories teach hope. (It surprised me, because those are the very words I used to think about it to myself.) But I had a hard time thinking about how books really have given me hope. I can think of ways books teach you things about living and human nature and suffering. I think that fantasies or allegories try to tell truth on an even larger scale - to say not only "this is the way particular people act in certain situations" but "this is the way life is." I think the idea of fantasies is the whole dragon-conquering business, about showing us that stories, and life in general, really ought to end well.

I haven't read a work of fiction for months. I wonder what it is doing to my soul. There's a whole lot of things that are important for life. Today in the CS Lewis Society meeting, I got the sense of having come upon something else I had forgotten that I knew once: the sense of clarity or narrative in living. Stories have themes. This time last year, at Regionals, I remember I had a story to tell. It was a story about redemption and about learning how to desire God alone, and not competitive success. It was a good story to live.

I had this idea in my graduation speech that childhood was a time for stories, and in being grown-up the stories would get larger and we would have to be more patient to see them completed. I know I have neglected to read stories this semester. I hope I have not also left out living a story. But the themes are less clear than they used to be.

When I write about practices (like blogging, or vlogging, or reading, or engaging in discussion) that I think are valuable, I can't just muse upon their benefits, like I might talk abstractly about how running is a good thing to do, or how it's good to watch movies for leisure every now and then. I don't want just another way to spend time (though my older sister and mom are running for a bunch of very good reasons, and I enjoy watching movies with my family - nothing against my examples), I want to know if I am living well and truly. I think the examined life is an ought, not just a "if you feel like it." But self-examination doesn't have to happen in one set way.

When I'm writing this now, I know I am not doing justice to the ideas I am touching upon. I think I am writing because I want an outlet. I am attempting to understand and explain.

It's nine already. There is still so much I don't understand, but I will rest.

April 10, 2011

so my soul longs

This was done with ink wash and a pen and nib.

Story behind the artwork:
I'm coming to the end of my art course; the last lesson is to compile a portfolio that showcases the skills I've learned, from figure-drawing to animal art, from working in paint to ink to pencil. I've been given five projects, but they are all fairly open. I'm so excited about getting to work on them! The first of the assignments was to create an ink piece that studied an animal. I appreciated the chance to refresh and refine my abilities in dealing with ink, as well as to research in order to find reference photographs.

When working on it, I thought of a quote from Eric Fortune, an author on an art blog I read called Muddy Colors:
I've had people approach me with their portfolio and show me work that was definitely not at a professional level. When asked how much time was spent on the work I've heard "about 10 hours". It makes you wonder why someone is trying to be in the field if 10 hours is the limit they've devoted to a "final" piece of art. Are people interested enough on a personal level to put in extra hours and to refine their work beyond what is necessary even when not asked or to pour themselves into a personal piece they aren't getting paid for?
There is a danger in talking about art instead of just letting it speak for itself. It's the risk of claiming more than it really deserves - putting thought and time into making something doesn't ensure that it is good art. When I was studying for the AP English Composition exam two years ago, I read a short passage from Emerson, a complaint against the misuse of books. He wrote, "The poet chanting was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also." And because "the poet chanting" is such an uncommon phrasing, I remembered it.

But back-stories can be worthwhile for people who are interested in the life of the artist, and not just the meaning in the art; they are also enjoyable to recount. I will add that some types of art historians put a great deal of significance on interpreting the artwork considering the artist's own life; maybe the expressive power of art cannot be separated from its historical and personal contexts.

I like deer because of their beauty. I'm not a driver or a landscaper, so instead of roadkill or munched vegetation, deer make me think of Psalm 42 and spotting them in the park at night.

April 7, 2011

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find"

“He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.”

Note: This post is a progression of thoughts. If the beginning sounds disconnected or detached, it's because it is.

Writing is such a worshipful experience, that I feel poor to not have written for a while.

[there’s always the pulling on things to try to transition, and to connect some past thought with where I am now, or to draw my thoughts into a narrative for others to understand]

I guess I could try to cite my sources, in a sense, to compare my thoughts to things I’m studying in comm class or reading – I hardly feel as if I have any of my own thoughts. My comm professor would say reality is socially constructed, but I would say that words need spirit behind them, and life is in being connected to the vine, not in withering away in my own head.

I wonder if I think too much about what it means to present myself to the world. Here in this I’m writing now I have a tendency to want to solidify some idea, bring unity, etc etc. And yet I also want to experiment with talking from the place I am now. But I can’t help but think about my audience, [how we communicate ourselves depends on who we’re with] so as soon as I realize who is reading this, my internal dialogue changes to an attempt at connecting.

Where I am – how I spend most of my time – right now seems to make my mind kind of quiet. Maybe spending time with different groups of people changes the overall mood of your presence and existence. I don’t know if I should try to describe it. I suppose I will try:

Today the sky was gray, but light as I come out of class. The air is quite cool, and I am standing by the side of the road, waiting for my bus to come. The ticker informs me there are six minutes to wait, and the people around me are waiting too. I can hear two guys by my left talking to each other about when test scores will come in. Most people have earbuds in their ears and are in their own worlds. I girl turns to me to ask about something our professor mentioned, then after I give her my answer, she returns to her music.

I thought then about talking to her more, and striking up a conversation. She’s in my class, after all, but I haven’t ever seen her before. The class has a hundred and fifty students. Earlier in the day I was thinking about what a pleasant mood I was in. I think we all notice how spring is here. But this includes the April showers.

Maybe it’s too simple, too satisfied, to go about my day in placidness like this. I occupy my mind with brief observations about the world, or try to think through something I need to plan for later in the week, or text people, or make conversation with the person next to me. I hope I am describing it well enough: I just wonder about this feeling of normalcy.

I have a short speech I’m working on for tomorrow about becoming a cultural communicator.


Oh praise God!
It’s already almost written, it’s … a wonder

I didn’t want normalcy, I didn’t want to recycle old ideas to parrot them without meaning ….
It all seems to relate to my day, what I was attempting to describe, with the seeming lack of my personality being there. I don’t know if this makes any sense at all. If it’s incoherent, I apologize. But in general I feel like I don’t post enough of what I’m actually thinking on here. To put it in other words, I was thinking earlier today how unlike myself I felt, how I did not feel like my discussing-ideas-with-friends self, or how I didn’t feel particularly led by the Spirit, or like a possessor of some truth to impart.

But speaking, and life, is not contrivance. The Spirit speaks to hearts in a way that is deeper than external ideas from society acting upon your mind. To say a true word is not to use your own judgment to reorganize and rearrange the thoughts you’ve gained from others.

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”

So can’t I simply begin to speak, believing that God will let me go forward in his own Holy Spirit? It means asking God to make my words true, seeking out what He would have me say, and rejoicing that He has already answered.

What this means for life:
Over the past few weeks, God has kept answering my prayers in surprising ways. It makes me so delighted and pleased and whole. So I will keep asking, because I believe that he loves to bless us, he loves to accomplish good by his Spirit working within us.

I’m really happy right now. And every answered prayer is a miracle.