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Archive for August, 2013

On Monday, my primary focus was getting the kids ready for their first day back at school. I organized the arts-n-crafts drawers, put back-to-school supplies in their backpacks, decorated their lunch bags, and set out their clothes. My next focus was an editing job I needed to finish. The house was full that day, and one of the kids was extra testy.

All things considered, I finally began my homework (due the next morning) at about 10 pm. After reading a few short stories and poems, I wrote the following analysis. (In other words, blame the scattered thoughts thrown together on the late hour and weary mind.)

I got it back on Thursday from the English professor, with an 80%. He said it was a marked improvement from my previous short analysis (for which I got 70%) and that I need to delve into the poem more and expound on my analysis. I didn’t tell him how mortified I am at my grades in his class thus far. Grades aren’t everything (although something in me is shouting out, “Yes they are” and I’m telling that something to please be quiet so I can hear myself think enough to write something relatively cohesive here).

I’ve actually never gotten a final class grade lower than an “A” and although I know there’s gotta be a first time for everything (and a friend on FB told me I should be shot on the sole basis of my GPA), I’m hoping that this won’t be the first time. A “B” or “C” in English for an English major? Definitely not acceptable. But I’m rambling.

Here it is, my too-short short analysis on “The Wanderer”:

Reading “The Wanderer,” a phrase that comes to mind is that of another poem in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books: “Not all who wander are lost.” This epic poem sets the character in the midst of nowhere; the ocean surrounds him on every side. He is alone, and throughout the poem, his loneliness is his only companion – a fact that brings him great sorrow and seems to take him almost to the point of insanity time and again, where he remembers fondly friends and feats and almost sees them there before him, yet with the break of day on the lonely sea, the images disappear in the fading mist:

“Then through his mind pass memories of kinsmen

joyfully he greets them, eagerly gazes

his fellow warriors, the floating spirits / fade on their way” (ll 51-54).

It is clear that “The Wanderer” is on a journey to which he sees no soon end, a journey where at times it seems he scarce remembers its beginning. He laments at length, remembering days gone by, heroic deeds performed by even more heroic men. Even his surroundings – endless sea – bring to mind a cold, gray sky that blend at the horizon with colorless waves. Although he states that he is wont to keep his sorrows and heartache deep inside, it is apparent his extreme mental struggle and the fight within himself to maintain both sanity and hope.

We read how, “Often the lone-dweller longs for relief /the Almighty’s mercy, though melancholy / his hands turning time and again / the ocean’s currents, the ice-cold seas” (ll 1-4), and are struck by the contrast, even at the beginning of the poem, of the wanderer’s belief system and his current situation. The tension grows. Which mindset will prevail? Will he give in to the hopelessness that surrounds him? Will his wanderings prove vain in the end? Or will he find an inner strength that will buoy his spirit in the midst of the drab ocean waves?

Time and again, this contrast between faith and fact is brought to the fore, even to where near the end of the poem, he speaks of what appears to be almost the end of time, yet he refers to it in past tense: “Mankind’s Creator laid waste this middle-earth / till the clamor of city-dwellers ceased to be heard / and ancient works of giants stood empty” (ll 85-87). As readers, we are brought low by his hopeless and barren descriptions.

Yet the writer ends the poem with hope, though distant, saying, “All shall be well for him who seeks grace / help from our Father in heaven where a fortress stands for us all” (ll 114-115). Like the waves of the sea, the poem tosses us back and forth, between despair and hope, yet through it we get the overall picture that, though he – the character – wanders, he is not lost.

This poem – alive with analogies and a message that obviously confirms the belief system of the writer – conveys significance similar to that of J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings:

All that is gold does not glitter

Not all those who wander are lost

The old that is strong does not wither

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken

A light from the shadows shall spring

Renewed shall be blade that was broken

The crownless again shall be king.” 

Both poems speak of a hope that does not die, in the dead of winter or in the midst of stormy seas.

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so·ci·o·cul·tur·alLast week I blogged about a writing assignment in one of my classes. I used the thoughts I had written down and posted in my writing response … and received feedback today.

The professor gave the class some overall input about using quotes properly within text and the format he wanted us to use for future responses. As a side note afterward, he added that the textbook is written from a sociocultural perspective, and that is also the perspective he is using to teach. He asked the students not to write from any other viewpoints or too delve too much into the religious aspects of the stories we read, as well as to avoid writing in an editorial fashion. Although he spoke primarily on religion last week, as I mentioned in my blog post, I suppose we are now sticking so a sociocultural worldview.

I looked up the above word, which I have never before today. Following are two definitions:

Of or involving both social and cultural factors.

Of, pertaining to, or signifying the combination or interaction of social and cultural elements.

I’ll need to memorize at least one of those definitions to ensure that future writing responses are in line with my professor’s expectations. It’s the editorial issue I might have a difficult time with. Having been blogging for a few years now, I have developed a fairly distinctive voice, one that is in keeping with my worldview and faith. It might prove to be a challenge to tone that down to a degree with which the professor will be satisfied.

Will I be able to stay true to my voice and still fit into the somewhat narrow parameters of these writing responses?

I guess that remains to be seen. Once again, I’ll let you know how it goes. My next assignment is a writing response on either “The Wanderer” or “Lanval.” Any thoughts on which one I should choose? Feel free to comment if you would like.

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After praying with the kids for the night, my youngest, Aiden, asked me to lie down with him for a little while. So I did. And, as kids often tend to do at night, he asked me a question.

“What if Jesus went to college?”

I thought for a moment and told him, “Well, I go to college and he’s in my heart, so I guess he goes too. Every day I pray that he will be with me and help me be a good example and a blessing to others.”

“And help you listen to your teacher?” Aiden asked.

“That too,” I assured him. He seemed satisfied with my answer. But I wasn’t. I thought about it and realized, I don’t pray specifically for that. I’m not exactly a morning person so my prayers as I wake up and leave the house barely post-dawn are more along the lines of, “Help me be awake enough to drive safely and not cause any accidents.”

So as I lay down next to my son and he drifted off to dreamland, I prayed.

Father in Heaven

you know my heart, so easily affected by things I read and people I meet

you know my mind, so full of ideas and thoughts

about me

about others

about you

 I think I see so clearly

but I only see you as through a glass darkly

and others through my own colored lenses

opinions, fears, assumptions, impatience

all these cloud my view

 Clear my eyes, dear Lord

wash them with your love

that I may see others as you do

talk with them as you would

…and listen too

so that when others come to know me

they will see at least a glimpse

of you

 That,

through me,

You go to college,

to the store

the park

and at home too – where I often need your love and grace the most

in Jesus’ name, for whose mercy I plead

Amen

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Not all those who wander are lostI have a small writing assignment for Tuesday. The professor has asked us to write a two-page response to the poem “Beowulf.” I haven’t read it yet, though I read the first few hundred lines in class today. The professor doesn’t want  a response on the poem in its entirety, but asked us students to choose a certain aspect or concept of it to expound and comment on.

He gave a few ideas of what angle to come from:

  • Contrasting the depiction of “hero” versus “king”
  • Looking at the concept of heroism and what it means to be a hero
  • Judging the depiction of women and the contrast between “good” and “bad” women
  • Contrasting the spirits of men throughout antiquity and men today; what has changed and what is the same

The professor then spoke for a while about the strong Christian message in the poem, bringing in the point that the story was not originally a Christian story yet was written down by a monk and therefore a Christian angle was forced into the story. In a half-hour period, the professor ridiculed the concept of good and evil, pointed out the hypocrisy of Christianity, and stated that the story of Cain and Abel was a mythological tale based on the age-old conflict between herdsmen and agricultural peoples. Every time he read a part of the poem that mentioned God or the main protagonist being sent by God or endowed by God, the professor’s voice and inflection bore strong mocking undertones. It was obvious by the end of my second class where the faith of this teacher rests … or rather, where it doesn’t.

I’m not “dissing” my professor, and actually I thought his point of view helped me realize a few insights about the poem. He mentioned the strange angle where the hero was bold and brave and strong, yet still claiming he would only win because of God’s power and anointing upon him. It seemed almost a false humility – a hypocritical one – where the hero stated his faith in God, yet his actions were different. Time and again, the professor spoke of the blatant, yet insincere Christian mores throughout the poem.

I wrote down a few thoughts while he was speaking. This is “raw” and unpolished. I might use some of it in my response on Tuesday:

Although it is meant to be a Christian poem, with the mores of Christianity and good versus evil, even back then the concept of true Christianity had been butchered – the depths or truths wrested and remolded to suit the belief system and culture of that day. The glory of war and bloodshed, feuds and fighting are placed on a pedestal, when the Founder of real Christianity stated, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” They place emphasis on pride and honor and strength and might when Jesus hung naked, beaten and humiliated, on a tree. The “rood” spoken of in the other poem [The Dream of the Rood] was not glorious; it was a symbol of ultimate sacrifice.

Then, as now in many places, Christianity was warped to suit the culture, belief structure – and ultimately the nature of man.

One part of the poem shows the hero bringing a veritable army with him, remarkable armory, amazing weapons to where someone stated he had never seen such an impressive sight. Whoever “changed” this story when they tried to make it a “Christian” tale might have done better to just start over with a whole new concept … because again, it doesn’t fit with the true (though often overlooked) concept of Christianity. Jesus did not come with armies and glory to impress and bring honor upon Himself. He came alone. Unarmed. That was true humility, rather than false humility. God and Creator taking on the form of man, weak and frail, to bring hope to mankind.

I didn’t have time to write more, but I’ll post my actual response when I complete it. It might have some from what I came up with today, or I might feel led to go in an entirely different direction. As you read this, feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

Oh, and when I got home, I checked Facebook and a good friend posted this quote from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. For some reason, as I read, it clicked and connected with the frame of mind I was in after writing about “Beowulf.” We are impressed by gold and glamour, by strength and might … all the while the crownless King wandered unnamed and unknown. But one day, one day that will change in the twinkling of an eye, when “The crownless again shall be king.”

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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This, my original blog, hasn’t received a lot of attention lately (from me) due to my focus on my newest writing project, A Purposed Life. For some reason, though, I’m thinking it’s about time to start writing in here again. As is often the case, even as I write, I’m still not sure what the focus will be … but I know it will come.

I started a new semester of classes today, 13 units. It’s my fifth semester at college; the four previous semesters I’ve taken between seven and ten units, and I’ve survived … more or less. I’m leaning towards blogging about classes and college, classmates and credits, etc. over the next little while, since it will take up a fair bit of my life for at least another year.

The thing is, up until now I was hesitant to write about being “back in school.” As a writer and editor, I wondered, What would people think if they saw I don’t even have a degree yet? How’s that supposed to help my credibility? It’s not that I’ve misled clients about my educational background. If anyone asked (and few did), I just told them the truth.

I was homeschooled and graduated from high school at 14 with a 4.0 GPA. From the time I was 12 I knew I my life was meant to be lived in service to God and others, so once I finished high school, I went straight into full-time service. I felt the “call to India” at 15, moved there at 16, lived and worked there for the next 12 years, and started a family over that same period of time.

We moved back to California three years ago, and after about six months, I started getting the feeling that maybe I should continue that education I forfeited in exchange for experience. It’s a decision I will never regret, because the things God has blessed me with on the road I’ve taken are unmatchable. I might not have gone the usual route of: school, college, work, marriage, family. In my case, the order was mixed around a bit, but that’s okay.

Now I’m 30 (turning 31 in five days), a wife and work-from-home mother of three, an aspiring author, and a full-time student. And life has never been better. Because when you know God is leading you, even when things are hazy or hectic, misty or muffled for a time … the skies always clear and you figure out He’s known the way all along.

So over the next little while, I’ll be writing a bit about my college experiences and insights (and fumbles and blunders), and maybe posting some of my writing assignments (I’ve got over 15 of them this semester). You’re welcome to come along on the journey.

Any parenting posts I write will still be on my parenting blog, http://positiveparentingblog.wordpress.com/ and of course, posts and quotes on writing can be found on my writing blog: http://awordfitlywritten.wordpress.com/

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