Kenning the Body

“If you treated anyone else as you have treated yourself during the past six hours, you would be guilty of assault.  This will cease.  From this moment on, you will show your body the respect it deserves as God’s creation.  You will allow your arms to heal and then you will embark on a sensible and moderate course of physical therapy.  You will eat regularly.  You will rest properly.  You will care for your own body as you would for that of a friend to whom you are indebted.  …During these months and for all time, you will cease to arrogate to yourself responsibility that lies elsewhere.  Is that clear?”

– Vincenzo Giuliani in The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell


Your fleshhouse and bones-chamber
is the hall of your soul.

Vessel of clay it may be,
but by God
its contents are precious:
your sinew and skeleton garment
is your spirit’s place.

Do not destroy the potter’s work.

Stop fretting on all those slender jars
and their busy shining use;
be emptied, be filled,
emptied, filled,
to glorious ends.

Fill your heart’s coffer
and mindhoard
as filling the home
for your friend
and your lord.


Alphabooks: Q is for Quote

Q: Quote From a Book That Inspires You / Gives You Feels

I think it would be fair to say that feels have been dealt with at least once or twice before, leaving me pondering what book quotation or quotations inspire me.  What words quicken me?

Paradoxically, perhaps, this triad of Anglo-Saxon lines (which I read in Bradley and Fulk, though both are just the presentation of an anonymous poet’s work):

Sare ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed,   hnag ic hwæðre þam secgum to handa,   eaðmod elne mycle.
Sorely I was with sorrows afflicted,   but I bowed to the hands of the men,   submissive with great zeal.
– “The Dream of the Rood

Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg.
That was overcome; so might this be.
– “Deor

Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,   frofre to Fæder on heofonum,   þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.
Well it is for him who seeks mercy, comfort from the Father in heaven, where all our fastness (security) stands.
– “The Wanderer

These might not look like the stuff of great inspiration; it’s no St. Crispin’s Day speech, no Shakespearian exhortation unto the breach once more, much less a modern approach to exhortation a la Carnegie, Peale, Carlson, or Covey.

But together, these words exhort me to go and meet the daily slings and arrows. The Rood-Tree is an example of zealously submitting oneself to suffering and sorrow: an approach almost as paradoxical as the crucifixion itself, a victory that so resembled defeat. Deor indicates that whether life is full of delight or dejection, it will pass. And then the Wanderer takes that a step further: he recites all that he’s suffered (anxiety, loneliness, loss of his kin, loss of his lord and his lord’s protection) and ponders how everything – wealth, friends, kin, merriment – is lent to us, is passing, is transitory. The whole foundation of the earth shall stand empty but the one who seeks mercy (or grace, or peace, or honor) should find comfort in our heavenly Father. That is the one place of rest that endures.  And so I keep going, persevering until I reach it.

Authors: Write with Deliberation.

For several years, Terpsichore and I have been coaching semi-finalists in Athanatos Christian Ministries’s novel competition. We spend 3 months or so working with authors on revisions, polishing and working on the art of story  telling. We work one on one with each author to provide specific criticism and advice. At the end of the revision period, authors re-submit their revised work and some hard working chap wins and has their book published by Athanatos. Pretty sweet, eh?
Well, every year I write a wrap up email with advice for how to keep working to be the best author possible, and every year the general advice is the same. Terpsichore has also found some patterns, so we thought we’d share the more universal advice. Here’s mine. Pursue your writing with deliberation and purpose. How?
Read books about writing. Style guides like Strunk and White go a long way, but a book like John R. Erickson’s Story Craft make a big difference to seeing how to apply the ideas. I’ve also heard that Stephen King’s On Writing is insightful.
Write every day. Pout. This stinks. Finding time, being disciplined, focusing on something! For pete’s sake, we’re not medieval monks! But, there is good news here.
You don’t have to write for hours, or entire chapters. Set manageable goals for yourself. Got 15 minutes? Write for 15 minutes. Can you reliably write 250 words before dinner? Do that.
Also, you don’t have to write NEW words every day. Nor must you sit down and write the very next 250 words in your current project. Re-write yesterday’s words. Plan a different plot that’s been niggling you. Write about how you’re going go berserk if your upstairs neighbor slams the door and wakes the baby one. more. time. Just remember to file everything carefully, and never, never delete anything. You never know when you’ll need those loose words.
(oh, and, this isn’t a salvific matter. you ain’t going to hell if you miss a day or 9, so just pick it back up.)
Be a picky reader, in order to train discernment. Pay close attention to what you’re reading, and if it’s not very good, stop reading it. Is the plot flimsy, or only carried along by sensational occurrences? Are the characters boring or implausible? Is the prose itself varied, interesting, and stylish? If the answer is no, the book is not worth your time. You must give yourself the very best examples so that your “ear”, and “eye” for what is valuable and good is trained to judge between good and bad. When you can trust your well trained instincts, you will find the whole process easier.
And read Egotist’s Club! We’ll turn you towards those good books and share our thoughts on writing.