Rabbit Holes: Historicism

It’s Lent.  I meant to talk about the simultaneity of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, but this column is a better treatment of the topic than I could give.

So.  It’s Lent, time of penitence and discipline and observances.  One of my disciplines for this Lent is the study of Isaiah.  I hope to find and commit to a particular theologian’s commentary on it (please leave any suggestions or recommendations in the comments), but in the meantime, there’s the simple act of reading it, of pondering the text itself.

Isaiah’s prophecy and visions regarding the nation of Israel being taken into captivity concern a specific event (or events, as sections of the prophecy point directly to Christ’s birth and his death).  I haven’t actually studied theology in great enough depth to tell you much more than that.

In my reading about God’s judgment of Judah, I came on this verse:

Isaiah 5:7:
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
but behold, an outcry!

When you read this in the wake of children being shot at a school in Florida, the bloodshed and outcry of the present day seem inextricable from what war and wickedness went on in Judah.

I got a bit concerned about myself, and whether I was being heretical by applying this scripture to the present concerns – concerned enough to try categorizing it, which meant my brother got a charming e-mail with the subject line “Heresy question.”

He categorized it as personal judgment, and potentially premillennialism.  Reading up on premillennialism suggested that the doctrine to avoid was historicism, which made me wonder if my favorite Lutheran blog had written anything on the subject.

Searching for the term brought this post to my attention.  It’s not actually focused on historicism, mentioning it once and moving on, but examines several other matters worth rumination.

Trent’s discussion of students properly being eager and earnest, of the proper wonder for the world as God’s creation, and of a joy that is serious, have all highlighted to me how I have lost my own zeal, my own earnestness, and thus my own joy:

Joy is not the opposite of seriousness. Joy is rather its concomitant, arising only from that which seriousness alone affords, for joy is the saved soul’s perception of God in His works, which are the good, the true, and the beautiful. The eye of faith takes joy in the good creation of God which it espies beneath the marring of sin, the good world which the fire of heaven will, at the last trumpet, purge and make new. Joy is the highest transfiguration of wonder. It is a deeply serious affair.

I feel convicted, that in the stead of true joy or delight, I might have instead been merely flippant.  But it is my hope that the study and discipline of Lent will pave the way for a wholly joyful Easter.

 

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Joy’s Joys

Back on Dorothy’s birthday, I spent the day sharing quotations of hers on Facebook. They came from her fiction, her non-fiction, and, in at least one instance, from her letters. Among these choice bits was the beginning of “The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers” – better known here as her description of the Egotists’ Club:

The Egotists’ Club is one of the most genial places in London. It is a place to which you may go when you want to tell that odd dream you had last night, or to announce what a good dentist you have discovered. You can write letters there if you like, and have the temperament of a Jane Austen, for there is no silence room, and it would be a breach of club manners to appear busy or absorbed when another member addresses you.

Somehow, the idea of announcing one’s dentist, of all things, captured my imagination the most.

In the spirit of sharing one’s humblest joys, one’s most quotidian triumphs, one’s practical delights…here are my joys of late:

– Yesterday I bought a MacBook Pro. Not without trepidation, mind, as I have always been a PC user. But after my beloved Samsung fried, and my far-less-beloved Asus came to have an inoperable wireless card and tracked poorly…well, I basically went without a home computer for a year, using my smartphone instead, and growing steadily more frustrated by my lack of keyboard.  The new model glows with promise: the promise that updates will not overwhelm me, that I need not pay a subscription to store my own documents, that I might go forth to join others in sub-creation.

– Not unrelatedly, having obtained the equipment to do it, I have started learning about the nuts and bolts of coding in HTML.  My programming brother recommended this course of action to me, and it is perhaps the closest a Muggle gets to reading a book of spells: when you assemble the necessary elements (be they ever so boilerplate) and press “Run,” behold!  These curious ciphers and characters LIVE!  If you did it properly, anyway.

– I have been getting so much delight from the Ann Arbor District Library Summer Game.  But that’s a whole other blog post, it turns out!
AADL summer game top graphic

– The people around me have reminded me of delightful things.  My flatmate reminded me of how delightful Brideshead Revisited is, by preparing a picnic for us to eat on the solstice while reading excerpts of “Et in Arcadia Ego.”  Emily reminded me about that most adorable composition tool, Written? Kitten!   Katherine and Ike, friends from Hillsdale that I hadn’t seen since 2012, drove through the UP before meeting me in Lansing for lunch and a good few hours of catching-up.

There have been other delights this summer – volunteer dill, stars-and-stripes pie for Independence Day, reading Gaudy Night aloud, brunch at Aventura, the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter coming out, revisiting The Great British Bakeoff, and watching The Tempest in the Arboretum.

Truly, these be joyful days!

Latin Word of the Day: A Story

I have been ridiculously jealous of my northern sistren who are enjoying the beauty and grandeur of Winter’s Blessing: SNOW.

I might not miss the driving conditions or the car troubles, but I miss the tingling feeling of life and beauty and purity that cold and snow inspire. While I have been trying to sympathize with all the winter mishaps that Thalia and Terpsichore have, I have been heartsore and homesick for a good, old-fashioned white snow.

This week Dallas has been enduring a cold and wind like the harbinger of an apocalypse. By which I mean, 30 degrees with a wind chill of 12. Weather Channels warned that there was a slight chance of precipitation, (around 13%,) and that precipitation might turn into snow.

Yesterday, my 7th graders asked if I would let them play in the snow. I laughed, and promised them that if it snowed, I would require them to make snow angels. They cheered.

Guess what was happening this morning?

SNOW WAS COMING DOWN IN DALLAS, TX.

Even before classes, my 7th graders were trying to catch my eye and mouth, “SNOW! Outside, right?” I just grinned at them.

By the second period, the snow was sticking and word had spread about my rash promise, and I had to strike a deal with the Freshman Latin Class: if they finished correcting homework sentences and reviewing vocabulary, they could have the rest of the period to play in the snow.

I have never seen them work so hard or fast. Usually I draw random names for boardwork translations, but today almost everyone “volunteered as tribute”. A few even had to fight it out (with rock-paper-scissors) over doing a sentence. They had a good 20 minutes of skating around the frosty parking lot and trying to throw powdery snow at each other.

My 7th graders were next – and they finished the classroom work in under 20 minutes. Of course, few of them had not thought to wear appropriate coats, so they had a strict if-you-get-wet-you-will-not-complain warning. They didn’t mind.

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For kids who have never played in snow before, they got the idea of it pretty quickly! The first 5 minutes or so were spent marveling at the perfect shapes of the snowflakes. Seriously, every single one cam running over to show me a big fluffy flake and gasp over the beauty, and wonder over the incredible detail that God put into each snowflake. (Their words, not mine.) I love these kids.

And then the snowball fights and snow angels and snow-skating began in earnest. The sheer joy and exhilaration was contagious. One of the girls ran up proudly to show me the snowball that she had made, and then earnestly asked my advice on at whom she should throw it. The boys proceeded to chase after each other like middle school boys.

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By lunch the roads were so bad that we had early dismissal. On the 7 miles between school and home, I slid into two intersection and passed three accidents. Winter Mishap Quota: check.

Right now I am curled up with a mug of soup, enjoying the sensation of cold toes, and watching the light reflected off snow shine on my ceiling. One of my students did give me fuzzy socks for Christmas . . . where did I put those?

But before leaving, I gave my students one last thing: a Latin Word of the Day.

Nix, nicis


SNOW

No Safe Investment

This is a poem I wrote a few months back.  It patters in anapests, and sermonizes a bit, but as I needed a bit of self-admonishing didacticism today, I thought I’d share it ’round.

Chasing the sunset

A Paradox

Chase after delight ‘til the setting of sun:
You never shall catch it, for all that you run;
Your eyes seeking happiness day and all night
will only grow sore, for it flies far from sight.
But keep your eyes up and your hands stretched to help,
and seek truer joy in forgetting yourself.
Just as seeking your own good keeps happiness hence,
so you do yourself danger in building a fence.
There is no such thing as a love that plays safe,
only very complex forms of envy and hate –
though it tempts, you must not keep your breast-coffers shut;
there are worse fates than heartbreak, heartburning, heartcut.
It crumbles to dust when you keep it from day;
who would have a whole heart must hurl safety away.
No joy will lay siege to that dark citadel,
so cast off the armor that holds you in hell.
*

As ever, I am indebted to Lewis:  There is no safe investment.  …The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.