Friday, September 30, 2005

Thoughts while writing a paper

I forgot how much I love footnotes. MLA style calls for parenthetical citations: they have become almost second nature to me, but Turabian footnotes have a stately charm that parentheticals lack. Parentheticals force efficiency, but with a footnote, anything can happen.

It's depressing to discover that one gets more passionate about grammar than foreign aid. Probably then it is good I intend to go into English and literature rather than the State Department.

I must be getting old. Midnight comes and I conk out; I can't write papers till all hours like I used to be able to.

Green tea is a good blessing, but the night sky is a better one. There's something so utterly, happily, deeply joyful about going outside with three friends or so, and watching stars! It was a chill, clear, crisp night, dry and still, and there were as many stars as ever I've seen in Virginia. One friend made Charles Williams references, another recited "The Lay of Earendil" at my request, and the third located constellations and identified planets. And then, to come inside and make a cup of tea--

life is good. Even if it does require one to be up late.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I saw something tonight at dinner that made me happy.

The new issue of Ecce, one of the school literary publications, had just come out, and the usual bunch was sitting at the table reading it. A guy from my year, but not one whom I often talk to, wandered over and sat with us.

The issues were going around; you’d read an article and hand off your copy to someone else, and then snag another from someone. Well, this other guy acquired an issue and soon someone else picked it up from him.

And then a girl sitting next to me noticed that his copy had been taken and quietly handed him another. It wasn’t a big deal; it wasn’t flashy; it was kind.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The most recent battle in the war of the couches

The Battle of September 24, 2005

And it came to pass in the great War of the Couches, being prosecuted by the valiant men of the two Hills, Oak and Red, that exhilarated by the joyous occasion of a bobtism, the men of Dorm Five undertook a great battle. So those of the Dorm Five mustered their forces from wing and from lounge, eschewed the domestic pleasures of movies and computer games for the sterner joys of battle, armed themselves with pillows, and gathered in the central hall. The great leaders Jonathan Kanary and Joshua Dispenza, having in their persons no less cunning than those leaders Jonathan and Joshua of Scriptural fame, ordered their troops to complete silence on the journey from one end of the dorms to the other. The weapons ranged from War Leader Dispenza’s huge pillow, covered in leopard spots and so large only a man of his vast strength could lift it, to a wide selection of well-used and even almost-new pillows, and one of a bright turquoise shade belonging to his roommate. The soldiers also wisely removed their glasses, handing them to a trio of noncombatants and war reporters, namely Onomatopoeia, Paronomasia, and Chuckles.

So a great army passed along the road. They paused in front of Dorm Four, then charged. It took the men of Dorm Four some time to respond. Eventually they gathered themselves and great was the fighting. The main battle raged on the tile; it was fought up the stairs, step by whacking step. Strategist Jonathan Bales held the top of the stairs against the enemy for no brief time, and at another point Kanary engaged in single combat with Tobin Duby the Valiant, whose exploits as the Vagabond will be remembered from last year.

But soon the fight died down. Dorm Four was subdued, and Dorm Five withdrew at their leisure. They returned halfway to their dorms and stopped before Monticello. They turned and charged back to Dorm Four, thinking Dorm Four would return the favor, but Dorm Four’s defenders melted into the dorm as mist before the sun.

Dorm Five returned and made preparations for the retaliation. They cleared all breakables from their central hall and stood guard. But to their dismay, the mist of Dorm Four refused to congeal.

They sent messengers to Dorm Four, requesting their presence. The messengers were rebuffed, their credentials demanded. The messengers pointed out Dorm Four’s cowardice and gave many excellent reasons to do their duty. Dorm Four claimed to have won and refused to continue the battle, as they were outnumbered. The messengers, puzzled but remembering their duty, returned to Dorm Five.

So the War Leaders of Dorm Five took counsel, and all their forces were divided into three parts. The first consisted of the strategist Bales, wily as Odysseus, and Daniel Turner, who balks at nothing, and the three messengers. The second group, led by Jeremy Croft, stood guard at their own citadel lest Dorm Four send a sneak attack. And the third group under the War Leaders Kanary and Dispenza went behind the dorms and came to the great front entry of Dorm Four, gathering there.

In this second battle, the men of Dorm Four were again defeated. There was a great melee and the outcome was in doubt, when Aaron Carlson burst in. The men of Dorm Four took heart and a great shout arose, and they resolved within and amongst themselves to drive them out. Everyone joined the battle with renewed vigor. The defenders in Dorm Four were promptly driven back to their own lounge, where the contested couch (that piece of spoil being granted thereto by the Authorities, never to be removed again) resides. War Leader Dispenza, with his leopard-spotted weapon, took out Aaron Carlson. They both fell out the front door, Dispenza getting Carlson in a head lock.

Jeremy “The Hammer” Hamrick came late to the battle, but entered it with full vigor. Unfortunately, he misidentified some of his cohorts as enemy combatants and accidentally laid into them. His error was soon discovered, and he became a great asset to Dorm Five’s side.

The war was still going with great oomph and valor when Security Guard Matt Roche came. Tidings of the battle had reached the nearby village, and lest we disturb them in any way Roche demanded that the battle proceed in silence. The fulfillment of his duty—and, indeed, the justice of his order—filled every soul with appreciation. Both sides laid down their weapons and applauded one another, and the men of Red Hill returned to their own place, still victorious.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Cognitive research begins to catch up with St. Augustine

I believed Dr. Bates and Augustine, but I guess I didn't believe that other people would say the same thing. I was wrong.

Yesterday was the school's first Faith and Reason seminar, in which Dr. Bates read a paper on Augustine of Hippo on the relationship between love and knowledge.
All objects that are known are both known and loved. Indeed, the perfecting moment of the mind is love, and true knowledge comes in proportion to the love of what is known.1
That thought took some digesting, but I now opine Augustine is on to something. Nevertheless, love was the last thing on my mind as I read my text for tomorrow morning's Nonfiction class.
Cognitive research indicates that humans remember best what enters the brain in an envelope of "emotion." If it is true that facts and details are stored along with attendant emotions in a system of cross-files throughout the brain, we writers must recognize it and use it to our advantage.2
Love isn't precisely the same as emotion, but there's a distinct similarity there. I do like seeing him vindicated. :-)

1. Dr. Todd Bates, "Duplex Cognitio: What I Need to Know and How the Liberal Arts Can Help Me Know It," Patrick Henry College, September 13, 2005, page 3.

2. Theodore A. Rees Cheney, Writing Creative Nonfiction, Ten Speed Press, 2001, page 37.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The chain of being

The medievals had this concept referred to as the "chain of being." It was part and parcel with their delightful tendency to categorize absolutely everything they could get their paws on. The chain of being had God at the top: He alone possessed being in and of Himself; all else is "contingent," or dependent for their existence on God's good pleasure.

Next in the chain come angels, which are pure spirit.

Next comes man. People have both spiritual and physical aspects; they are also in the image of God, which includes several things, but almost certainly reason.

Animals come next. They are physical but with the breath of life.

And living plants are below that, and unliving things below them.

All of this has a point, which I am now coming to. I was on my way to church on Sunday and we were at a stop sign behind a car. It was a Spirit, a Ford I think. It had two bumper stickers: "Little Devil" and "Animal."

I am reasonably sure the car was being driven by a human. The car is physical, not spirit; the human in it was almost certainly neither pure spirit nor lacking spirit.

That car was CONFUSED!

Monday, September 05, 2005

On coloring

As I write this post, I am coloring.

I am coloring a sign that says, "The Haunt of Macbeth: Macbeth hath murder'd sleep."

It is for my door.

I am just tired enough to wax philosophical about coloring. For instance, it's rather pleasant the way a paper can first be empty, quite blank, a tabula rasa if you're feeling Latinate, and then it has meaningful black lines on it. Deciding the black lines are good but there's more to do, rather like creation after the first day, I pull out a box of colored pencils. Art is a form of subcreation, after all.

I decide to start on the fourth word: "Macbeth." Red is a good color for Macbeth; he was, as Malcolmn put it, a brutish murderer. Red is a good color anyway, but particularly appropriate for one who sheds blood and comes himself to a bloody end. Literally. His head gets chopped off and dragged back onstage. "He who sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." I've never quite understood how it is red is such a contradictory color. Red is the color of blood. The life is in the blood, which is good; but shed blood is bad. Red seems to be the color of passion. I clicked on red on a "shortest personality quiz in the world" and it gave me some sort of nonsense about repressed instincts. Or something. I remember being unconvinced.

Slowly the letters fill up with color, as if they were glasses and I was pouring them full of some juice. Paler than kool-aid, lighter than cranberry juice, redder than grapefruit juice.

I move on to the second word, "Haunt." It's a bright, living green. Green is another contradictory color. Green is for life and leaves and vivacity, but also for envy and illness. Jealousy used to be orange; why it switched I don't know. It's like that line in Much Ado: "He is neither sad nor sick, nor merry nor well, but civil, Count, Seville as an orange, and much of that jealous complexion."

The haunt turns green. I go ahead to a slatey blue pencil for the in-between words. It's almost a thundercloud blue, suitable for the impending doom that impends and looms over Macbeth. Serves him right for believing witches and sorcerers. "What! Can the devil speak true?" Even the devil quotes Scripture when it suits his purpose, and if it can kill dozens of innocents and drag him and his wife to hell, he might think it worth the effort.

The words "Macbeth hath murder'd sleep" yet remain their natural ecru color. But even worse than Macbeth murdering sleep is a blog and a sign. While the Greeks search for wisdom and the Jews seek a sign, this girl types blog posts abour coloring signs. It's not the same.