December 5, 2013 at 7:11 pm (Education, The Whim) (, , , , , )

augustinescribeI had great plans for the year 2013.  I do every January.  I make lists, I plan reading schedules.  I try to join way too many book clubs.  I set unreachable goals.  More specifically, this year I wanted to read through Susan Wise Bauer’s Autobiographies and Memoirs list.  It’s about 25 books long, I think, starting with St. Augustine’s Confessions.  It is December.  I am still reading Confessions.

I’ve read Confessions before in college.  It’s not a difficult read, just an important one.  It’s the book I save for early mornings as I watch the sunrise with my coffee.  Sometimes I read it aloud to my daughter over breakfast, a lot of times I hunker down in the early light and keep it to myself.

I’ve been keeping a lot to myself over the past few years, which goes against the very core of my being… or the very core of who I am told I am.  Throughout my life I have been compared to a babbling brook.  Information, life experience, anything goes in… and out it babbles in the blink of an eye.  I come off extremely extroverted to people who know me least.  I find this ironic because I have so much that I don’t share.  I am so back and forth with what feels the most natural (hold it in or spill the beans?) that I have a hard time deciding what teachings are right (hush up and keep it to yourself or Confess?).

After reading The Sparrow and re-reading Augustine’s Confessions in the same year – in the same month, really.  You’d think I’d have something deep and eloquent to say about Confession.  Or, perhaps, you’d think I’d spill out a confession of some kind in this blog post…

All I’ve got for you in the form of a confession is that the first time I read Confessions was during an all-nighter 12 hours before a test for my literature class at a Baptist college.  Note the sarcasm when I tell you the experience was so enriching.

Instead of a true confession, I am reminded of a previous post in which I determined I was not very thoughtful.  Instead, I sit here lamenting the fact that I have hardly accomplished anything I set out to do in January at all.

I console myself by saying, hey at least I got published this year! (Which seems very anticlimactic when your book is not a Steinbeck level masterpiece.)  It might not be the stunning work of art I dreamed about writing since childhood, but people seem to like it and… there’s always next year!

Again, I say that every year.  And thus starts the cycle all over again: A January list of books to read and goals to accomplish.  Stepping stones that I believe will turn me into a scholar with at least half a brain.  I have a feeling I will lie on my death bed at 105 and say to the heavens, “No, not yet! I’ve learned nothing! And I haven’t figured out how to be thoughtful!”  We’ll see.  Visit me when I’m 105 and I’ll let you know.  Even though I’m a woman, I suspect I might have a beard like this guy by then…


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The Sparrow

December 3, 2013 at 10:50 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

the-sparrowTitle: The Sparrow

Author: Mary Doria Russell

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Genre: Literature/ Philosophical Fiction

Length: 431 pages

In 1996, 2019 must have seemed so far away.  Now, in 2013, while reading Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow I am struck with the oddity of dates in science fiction novels and the disadvantage of time.  Then again, Russell’s novel isn’t science fiction so much as philosophy and a study of human nature and peoples’ thoughts on God.

It is like 1984 that way, a study of the world as it is and always will be, not just one particular society.  And like 1984, The Sparrow is timeless.

More than God and philosophy and all those huge thoughts I’m supposed to have about the book – you know, the ones you discuss in Book Club and during literature courses in college – I was stunned by the humanity of it all.

Quotes about relationships like,

“The antagonism he sensed but could not understand.  And finally, ending at the beginning, the almost physical jolt of meeting her.  Not just an appreciation of her beauty or a plain glandular reaction but a sense of… knowing her already, somehow.”

Russell’s work is full of those moments.  Those gut reactions, nuances, and descriptions of sensations everyone has had at some point in their life – or if they haven’t, they will.   Those epic feelings of “knowing,” the ones people adore having in movie-like surrealism, but are completely caught off guard and unprepared when they happen.

Russell has written something uniquely philosophical and thought provoking, but amidst aliens and Christian theology, atheism, Judaism… in space travel and anthropology, I was caught off guard by the sensation of understanding these characters so completely that I felt like they were my own.  If not my own, a part of me… or maybe, just me.

I am riveted by the emotional anorexic.  I am captivated by the seduction of doing God’s purpose. I am amazed by their choices.

More than that, I wish I could write something like this – something so thoughtful.  But I suppose the reality of my life is that I am stubborn and obedient, curious and creative, but not thoughtful.  No, I am not that.

I seem to be lacking the thoughtfulness and critical thinking skills, the ability to really pursue enlightenment.  Instead, I find myself caught up in the safety and the dogma, and more than anything in the whole book, the innocent friendship between Sofia and DW – that was my favorite part.  How simple of me to read something so profound and I just want to bask in a cozy friendship.


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