Friday, 30 November 2012

A Determined Sluggard

Not wanting to do something is a vice.  It is hard to force something to do something it simply does not want to do.  Lately, all that’s wanted to get done is writing, but one can’t just spend life writing, unfortunately.  While thinking of all that’s yet to be done, or even what is yet ahead of me, I was reminded of Proverbs 6:6; “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.”

I do not think many think of themselves as “You sluggard!”, but I found it is actually a good motivator, especially when there is so much to do and even more to be started.  (I am not advising you to start calling yourself a sluggard).  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, ignoring that feeling, and then writing what I want to feel productive, I have to die to flesh and those ‘feelings’ and put the energy God has given me into what I should really be doing.  I should not be doing this now, actually, except that when I finish something, my reward is to write.  One still can’t spend life writing, though, unfortunately. 

Two weeks: Two weeks until we are free.  School seems a fetter when it drags out and does not say goodbye when the courses are over. Then again, if it were not as tedious, winter break would not be embraced as readily, and it would probably not be enjoyed to the fullest.  In a sense, the mindset that the break has to be worked for to such an extent makes it even more worth the efforts of being a gracious host to the assignments that need extreme attendance before the dinner is over. 

So what? I call myself a sluggard when I start to lag.  You can do better than that.  God’s the one behind you. You do not have to give in to tiredness.  I do not want to ‘fall asleep’ with a little folding of the hands (Proverbs 6:10). (How eery!) Thinking of me as a sluggard is not so I may mourn the fact while the courses draw out their leave, rather, I think “sluggard” because there is always room for improvement, and there are always bad habits to break. Especially for these two weeks, even though all the ants are under and hiding from the cold, I will go to the ant and consider her ways, for she is wise: Even if there is something in her way, she finds a way around it, and nothing smashes her determination. 

Thank goodness for Proverbs; thank God for determination.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Literary Analysis: Watership Down

This piece is one I truly enjoyed working on because of the exquisite flavors in Richard Adam's novel.  Rabbits and regimes, warrens and wires, and yes, bucks and battles, join creating a wonderful story. I won't give an abstract...

An Insightful Message: Rabbits and a 20th Century Preoccupation with History and Politics

          “All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, Prince with swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed” (Adams 29).  The story of a group of rabbits (led by one named Hazel) that leaves their Sandleford warren to embark on a journey to found their own, new, warren is none other than Richard Adams' Watership Down.  This is no tale of The Velveteen Rabbit: These rabbits had their share of enemies, and though the author claimed it to be only a child's story written about the British countryside that he loves, his novel displays certain weighty subjects of importance (Adams “My Brit”). The people of the Prince with a Thousand Enemies were rabbits in the center of southern England within a real world to illustrate the importance of running, fighting, and overcoming evil.  Placed in the world and not a fictional other-world, the rabbits possess their own vernacular as well as stories and tales passed down as proverbs.  Richard Adams' tale of lapine comrades was written and published in 1972, after the world recovered from World War Two, a recovery during which the world experienced another explosion: One of popular culture amidst the modernist movements in art, music, and literature, forms people use to express their individuality (Spielvogel 628).  During this time, authors explored new themes and ways to emphasize their messages, and one trend was to write free-form poetry (such as T.S. Eliot's “Prufrock”) or novels from either a futuristic mindset or nature's point of view while being “mediators of insight” in order to display themes of political conflicts (Tarka).  An example of modern literature with a futuristic mindset is George Orwell's 1984, while one with animals basking in the spotlight is Animal Farm, also written by Orwell, who skillfully combined political messages in a future context or in the context of a group of animals.  With Watership Down, however, although Adams’ 20th century novel may appear to be simply an imaginative tale about rabbits in order to elevate environmentalism, it clearly demonstrates the preoccupation 20th century literature possessed in relation to history and politics by using epigraphs, parallels to Greek literature, and themes of political and socialistic regimes.
          The novel may lend the impression that it supports every aspect of ecological care and consideration because the main character is taken by visions of trouble, prophesying that the warren will be destroyed because man has visited and doom of the warrens' destruction by man impends (Adams Watership 9).  To be certain, the description of the extermination of those who remained at the Sandleford Warren, which Captain Holly relates to Hazel's troupe, is not for the faint of heart, as big men with white sticks (cigarettes) in their mouths gas the rabbit runs, resulting in screaming, hallucinating rabbits (154). These devastating effects, written in such detail and expressed by the story teller so horrifically, seem to elicit the inspiration to protect the environment. However, it is not the cry to protect all rabbits; rather, it is a part of the story Adams employed to endear his characters to his readers.

Watership Down, England

          The chapter in which Captain Holly explains the events of the annihilation of the Sandleford rabbits begins with an epigraph from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  The function of an epigraph is a form of literary strategy in which the author selects passages, quotations, or colloquialisms to set a stage or mood for the section following the epigraph.  The epigraph Adams used for this particular passage appeals to a reader’s sense of emotional sensitivity, for when a Russian states that man should love the animals and not cause them unnecessary harm for the sole reason that they are gifts from God, it is an impressive imperative that causes the reader to discover how and in what way the epigraph will tie into the following events in the story.
          Epigraphs were common during the Romantic era (of poetry especially), and employed most often. In 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge used a Latin passage to preface “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and even years later, T. S. Eliot used an epigraph from Dante's Inferno to further his point in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (Greenblatt 443, 2524).  When Adams inserted epigraphs for his novel, he did so not only to set a stage for the readers' imagination, but also to tie the context of his modern tale in with those of the literature preceding his novel, illustrating how 20th century literature was occupied with somehow combining a political or historical theme into a work.  Adams did both, and, in a sense, this act (incorporating epigraphs) is also a symbol of appreciation for pieces written before his novel, as he is giving them honor and recognition.
          The multiple ways the world has developed owes much to the Greek leaders, historians, and philosophers, and again, Adams gives honor to the preceding (or ancient) literature in that he employs parallels between his characters and those in Virgil's Aeneid, in which a young man, Aeneas, returns from the Trojan War and is determined to found the city of Rome.  Like Aeneas (the main character in the Aeneid) the rabbits break away from what they have been used to for years in order to create a new warren and are constantly met with numerous obstacles, some of which (such as Cowslip's warren and the lotus eaters) mirror the obstacles encountered in the Aeneid.  In doing this, Richard Adams creates a story that is looked upon as a great epic because it possesses the themes of this famous Greek poem (Anderson).
          Themes of the Aeneid include those of fighting for freedom and founding a new city, avoiding obstructions or obstacles that deter from the goal, and lastly, enduring anything that came across the traveler's path whether it was a challenge or the loss of a friend.  Aeneas, like the rabbits in Watership Down, had to fight to found and maintain Rome.  A similar obstruction the rabbits and Aeneas encounter are seemingly seductive areas, that is, places that have allure but are actually full of danger and death, such as the lotus eaters and Cowslip's warren (Anderson).
          Enduring hardships and bearing grief is also a theme in both tales: In the Aeneid, when Aeneas relates the horrors of the Trojan war, he is heartbroken as he tells of the woeful events of the war while Bluebell and Captain Holly (two rabbits who had remained at Sandleford) speak of the dreadful events of the extermination and utter destruction of the Sandleford warren.  While Aeneas moaned that none could retell the woes to give them justice, Captain Holly “looked sad and dark” after he related that his tale would “strike frost into the heart of every rabbit that hears it” (Adams 148).  The “death agony” Aeneas recalls the women mourning over in courthouses synchronizes with the instance in which the men gassed the Sandleford warren runs and the does screamed in agony over their death and the death of their kittens (Adams 154, Anderson).   Another parallel to the Aeneid that Adams adopted is that of the prophetic rabbit, Fiver, and the Aeneid’s Princess Cassandra, a young priestess who foretold the unfortunate fortune of Troy if the Trojans were to accept the horse left by the Greeks.  Like Cassandra, Fiver has physical fits and is captured in an other-worldly trance when he foresees the destruction of Sandleford after observing the signpost (Adams 7).
          Though the signpost set in Sandleford's warren signified the coming of men and the destruction of the warren, each warren in the novel signifies three political regimes.  When the rabbits followed Hazel and stopped at an eery warren (seemingly managed by a distant, detached, character named Cowslip) on their journey, the Sandleford escapees sensed a danger that persisted even when all seemed safe. True, Cowslip's community possessed the same vernacular, as well as poetry, proverbs and tales, but it was eery.  Fiver felt the entire aura of the place unnatural, as if death was hanging over the warren like a mist. When a native rabbit finished reciting a poem, Fiver absorbed it with absolute horror, and, stricken with fear, he came to his senses and realized what the mist was (Adams 103).  The oppressive mist Fiver sensed was the fact that Cowslip's warren was not free, it was run by fear of death.  The apparent leader, Cowslip, treated everyone as equal, and because he did not view himself as a spokesperson or even true leader, the warren suffered because of its socialistic regime. Adams' lapine characters knew that socialism was not what they had left Sandleford for, but by inserting the element of a regime that the rabbits fled from in order to establish their own, Adams suggests countries should flee socialism and found governments that encourage independence.
          When the independent rabbits continued their journey, they found a beautiful down to claim as their own, but there was one problem: There were no does, and no does meant no continuation of the new warren.  When this problem was addressed, the second political regime entered the stage.  Several rabbits from Hazel's warren made a trek to Efrafa, a militaristic, suppressed, not to mention depressed community of rabbits.  Efrafa is the supreme dictatorship. The leader, General Woundwort, is bent on system, control, schedules, obedience from his Council, and that every rabbit coming in to Efrafa “will find [them] perfectly friendly and helpful to rabbits who understand what's expected of them” (Adams 238).  Citizens are given no free choice of when to silflay (eat) or even when to pass hraka, because man may come and inflict harm or cause disease: “You can't call your life your own, and in return you have safety” (233).  In this dictatorship, the Efrafan council police “demonstrated the power to ferret out and punish every individual...engaged in or...suspected of political opposition” (Hallagan).  Adams’ colorful picture of a disgusting way of life in which citizens were limited in so many areas of life is a powerful one that makes readers appreciate freedom, because freedom to be able to live, eat, sleep breath, mate, and love is the most important of all.  In the end, the dictatorship crumbled for many reasons, but Adams' intention was not to allow this warren to prosper because it was a dictatorship that did not allow citizens to truly live.
          Adams' novel ends with a solid, peaceful, and well established order of rabbits who not only have room to breath, but room to live.  With Hazel, Fiver, and the singular character of Bigwig, the rabbits were able to be represented.  Watership Down and the rabbits therein were content; they had escaped certain death more than once and were now upon a down with leaders they could not be more grateful for, leaders who had led them through the dark mist, away from predators, and out of reach of the Efrafan clutches.  By ending on the note of a warren in the hands of a healthy democracy, Adams gives a subliminal message that democracy leads to peace and a secure, satisfactory homeland.
          Creating a phenomenal conglomeration of themes, morals, and characters, Adams chose rabbits with a peculiar vernacular, history, and mythology of their own to write a story that warns against the evils of supreme control.  The 20th century novel certainly displays the era's slight engrossment with history and politics, but Richard Adams wrote a story with insight.  More than an environmental promoter, the novel's epigraphs set and influence moods.  Profound comparisons and parallels to the Aeneid, Virgil's epic, give the book a flavor that is not reproducible, and the examination of political and socialistic regimes proves this book to be more than a tale of fluffy rabbits. These rabbits had to fight for their freedom, even when seductive warrens, predators, and other obstacles stubbornly stood in their way.    All the world was promised to be their enemy, and whenever they were caught, they were promised to be killed. “But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, Prince with swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed” (Adams 29).  While the novel, like others during the 20th century, is most definitely preoccupied with history, politics, and other interesting themes, Adams' insightful message to remain free from political and relational evils rings true:  Because of their bravery and endurance, the people of the Prince of a Thousand Enemies consistently came out as the victors no matter how dark the tunnel or how suffocating the run.

 Works Cited:
Adams, Richard. "My Bit of Britain." In Britain 4.1 (1994): 53. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 19    Nov. 2012.
---.Watership Down. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.
Anderson, Celia Catlett. "Troy, Carthage, and Watership Down." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 8.1 (1983): 12-13. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.                                                                                                           
Hallagan, William. "Corruption in Dictatorships." Economics of Governance 11.1 (2010): 27-49. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: A Brief History. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011.        Print.
"Tarka the Otter, Ring of Bright Water, Watership Down." World Literature Today 82.6 (2008): 4. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Late Musings: Gladdening Pieces of Doom

I should not be up at the moment, but after triumphantly finishing analyzing twelve pieces of modern  poetry, I needed, or perhaps wanted, a reward. So I write.

All the pieces (save George Orwell's amazing essay entitled Politics and the English Language) were adamantly proclaiming that life has no meaning because it is cyclical: We are born, we live, and guess what? We die!

Frustrated after analyzing these pieces, I asked a very wise person what he thought.

"Well," said my Dad, "that's only true if you're an animal."

I smiled.  He always puts things so simply, like Corrie ten Boom's father, carrying the heavy watch case.  I am not an animal, and neither are any other human beings.  Death is inevitable, but babies being born are not just another baby, despite any of Phillip Larkin's ideas.

I did laugh, however, when Larkin did and could not understand why people still believe in God. In "Church Going," he writes about how church does not satisfy any of his needs (of course it won't; one needs the personal relationship with Christ Himself.)  A few lines later, Larkin imagines what would happen if going to church went "out of style," but he is dismayed when he realizes people going to church will never be out of style because humans have an innate need to worship something above them, whether it be literally above them or above them in authority.

All the doom-sayings each piece shouted actually made me glad. It made me glad because it helps me be even more thankful for the fact that even though I will die someday, I am owned by a higher authority I worship and have a wonderful relationship with.

Instead of becoming depressed late at night by reading modern poetry chanting that all things are meaningless because they are cyclical, I was made joyful. Just because life is cyclical does not mean I have to mourn its cyclical character.  I am not an animal with a depressing fate of complete non-existence after death but a human with the purpose of worshiping and glorifying my higher authority.

God is our higher authority, and the modernistic pieces and ugly things in life should sober us (gladdening pieces of doom), but most of all make us more grateful for the love Christ has for his children.

The end.

Works Cited
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. Print.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Saturday Shoot//ambulans in nix

A walk in the snow, 
Not below zero,
Rather just above.

A frosted thistle
Bedecked with crystals
Brittle to beauty.

A driveway and grass,
The fun times that passed
And those yet to come. 

Grass out of season 
Lost all its reason
When weather moved in.

Though lacking a lens
 I shot geese in tens...
They soon dissapeared 

Thorns and red berries
(Nothing like cherries) 
Bring Snow Queen to mind 'til

A cold blast of pine
Shows that it's alive,
And I don't mind the tales anymore.

Over and out, done for the day,
A locust leaf in the road lay.
Such an oddity, glad I'd spotted it, 
And with that I was glad I had abulans in nix.

In Watership Down, one of the characters stated that "many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it" (Adams 464).  I am not completely sure that statement is all true, but in a sense it is.  We feel proof against the cold sitting by our fire, but having a warm fire is completing and makes for a wonderful place to read together.  

Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Word So Freely Given: Count It

After attending the needy element assigned the name of school, I am finally out of the tunnel and running the home stretch. Running is quite exhilarating.

Although I do not get a break, did not fly out of state immediately after my British Literature class, and must continue through the week as if there was nothing to celebrate, I realized that even the thought of a holiday spent with family for Thanksgiving made me feel at ease.

Perhaps it's because my analysis is finished, or perhaps it is because I actually did well on a music history test. Who knows.  In short, I welcome the thought of Thanksgiving. How often is it that we actually count our blessings and name them one by one?  Some of the basic elements to be thankful for are parents, siblings (yes, even if they drive you crazy at times) the life lessons God is always teaching, and the word he so freely has given us.

Just think:  If a friend wrote a book or letter to you as large or lengthy as the Bible, that would show some serious dedication.  I have written letters, but none that match that length.  God is all about dedication, and we can show him our dedication to him by thanking him for all the blessings he has given us, especially His word.

Count your blessings. If you can't name them one by one, make an effort to do so, for it is all too often those blessings will be far too numerous for any numerical system.

Happy Thanksgiving!
(Literary analysis will be posted within the next week.) 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Snowflakes and Study Breaks

To commemorate the first official snow fall (for snow that falls and melts once it lands the upon the ground should never count; it was faint-hearted) the swing was given honors.

As the snow blustered about the trees and fell on my hair, it stood out on my red wool jacket, and I was reminded of how individual the snowflakes are. No two are alike, yet thousands fall; they fall alone or land in clumps to congregate where the wind chooses.  Appreciating God's creation for just moment is an excellent way to break a study rampage, for sometimes, sitting too long with one thing can be counter productive.

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The beginning of this poem (The Tables Turned) by William Wordsworth is carefree and appealing, but the rest of it states that one should not have to learn from books simply because Nature (...with a capital N, mind you) has all the answers.  Nature does not have all the answers to life, and it is not going to ever answer the question of why students must learn Math, as it is a created entity.  God is in control of created entities, and he did not create nature as a teacher.  It is a part of his creativity and glory, which is seen even in the tiniest, most delicate of snowflakes observed on a study break.

The Tables Turned

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Windows that Expose the Soul

Through the windows of your soul
The world is looking in to know
If love is is your eyes
Because love can't hide!

Through the weary world of lies
The world is looking in your eyes
If love can't be denied
Oh love, don't hide! 

Doesn't matter what you do, 
Your windows will expose you.
Love shines through the pure, love can cure!
Hearts to love and lights to feed,
The world is crying out in need,
For love to be in your eyes; with love, I cry, stay true.

People think I listen to weird music, but that really depends on what their definitions of "weird" are.
It is true that the word love is mentioned a bit much in Annie Herring's song "Stay True," (while I am actually listening to the amazing Rimsy-Korsakov's exciting "Festival at Bagdad") but the song's message is much more than a rant about staying true to love.

The eyes of a person never look or grow old. Granted, they may wear out or become blind, but eyes hold something important: Windows into souls. Eyes are the small physical element God gave us that does not, in a sense, age with a person.  Of course eyes decompose when a person leaves this earth, but this vital pair of organs remains expressive, twinkling, sharp, soft, mesmerizing.

God's love for others should show through our actions as well as our eyes, for we are called to feed His sheep and tend His flock.  No wonder eye contact is so important.

If you truly love Christ, that "stay true" love will not be able to hide: Your windows will expose you, your soul.  The world is starved for God's love; let it be communicated through your eyes.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Running on Three Cylinders

"There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all."

Well, thank you so much, Mr. Wilde, but what defines something well writ?

Someone gushed to me once that the Hunger Games were "so good!!"  Sorry, but was I the only one who was bothered by the awkward present, first person tense?

Is a book simply "good" when it is capable of holding and capturing attention long enough for someone to finish it? Today, attention spans are so short it is almost embarrassing to humanity.  Exercising the brain makes one feel so invigorated, like reading philosophy and then practicing piano while thinking and criticizing Socrates because he was bullying Euthyphro. That's an extreme example, I will admit, but it works.

As for Wilde, he distorted something very important. Everyone has a worldview, and it usually seeps into an author's, artists, or creators work.  Wilde could just say that an immoral book could be written well, or a good book could be written badly (but then it would not really be a good book).

That is sometimes is true, but to state an absolute that is debatable is so very egotistical it suppresses even the natural inclination to discuss: The 'that is all' ending to Wilde's phrase simply crushes any want to dissect the phrase.

Wilde states it does not matter if a book is moral or immoral, it only matters if it was written well or poorly. That's like saying something (or worse, someone) immoral could be good if crafted well, like Iras in Ben-Hur. True, she was captivating, maybe too much so, but she was not consistent on the inside.

In doing school and reading assignments with a glazed, sleep deprived look, it's good to catch these things, especially if you're only "running on three cylinders."

Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
"Running on three cylinders" is in reference to James Herriot's book, All Creatures Great and Small