Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Learning from the Masters: Augustine II

In Accessing the Ancients on January 30, 2009 at 11:46 am

I have found myself nodding off to sleep more and more while reading The Confessions.  At best, my attempt at study is only met with resistance.  I would rather doze off into sleep than keep my mind focused.  My second (and third) sittings with Augustine covered his account of his sixteenth year.  He noticed his own motivations, tedency toward sloth and delight in defining his own paths.  This book (on his sixteenth year) also covered his notorious ‘Stolen Fruit’ passage in which he recounts his stealing from others for the mere thrill, rather than out of want or need.

I remember this passage from my studies at UC Irvine.  I believe it was in Julia Lupton”s survey on Medieval literature.  She drew some analogy from Augustine’s stolen fruit.  I believe it was a reference to Ovid.  (Must have been impressionable – note hear my own tendency to blame my inattention on the teacher…)  This year is interesting because it accounts for Augustine’s teen years.  He acknowledges his willingness to steal the fruit merely in the company of others.  He would not otherwise have desired the fruit.  Sound like teens of our day…very influenced by peers. Read the rest of this entry »


Learning from the Masters: Augustine

In Accessing the Ancients on January 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Have you noticed how oppressive talk about ‘this economy’ can be?  It seems to engulf my very notions of prosperity, wealth and hope.  What hope is there with so much talk about a failing economy?  In the midst of the economic circumstances, I have turned my ear to God’s big promises.  In the Sacred Text, a letter written to a group in the Turkish city of Ephesus, a man named Paul suggests that God has given an inheritance of glorious riches in His Saints.

In this spirit, I have begun to study figures throughout history, that have been honored for their contextual contributions of faith, hope and love.  Augustine, a man educated in Rome and living in North Africa penned a book in the spirit of confession.  The book illuminates his life from childhood through adulthood, as he exercises and develops the discipline.

Context of Grace

Having read about his childhood, there are a few things that I have noticed about the very loaded word of confession.  I would be tempted to think of a Spanish-style mission, a wooden booth, a sacramental screen and a priest whispering.  However, I would argue that a proper view of confession involves seeing rightly events of the past.  That is, acknowledging our past in light of God’s grace and truth.  It is very important that this discipline be conducted in the context of grace.  Discipline without grace and favor can quickly default to a set of rules.

Augustine acknowledges his disregard for his giftings, his casual drifting in an errant cultural current (of thought and action), and his tendency toward apathy and laziness.  As Augustine works through events of his youth — studies, schooling, relationship with parents — he does so basking in God’s favor.  In our context, I notice that self-judgment is the order of the day.  We must literally go ‘against the current’ to believe that we are deeply accepted.  As Augustine says, “Not on foot, and not by distance of place do we depart from you or return to you.”

Being able to see our past rightly, can empower us to move forward into a future worth having.  If we misinterpret the events of the past, we are liable to continue living in them.  My hope for interpreting the past rightly depends on seeking God’s understanding.  I was deeply impressed by Augustine’s intentional leaning toward a right view of God.  In our context, this practice of confession must be accompanied by good discretion and sound guidance.  When seeking to understand our past, it can be helpful to seek out trustworthy, graceful and discerning individuals to partner with us.

Fresh Wind

In Poetry on January 27, 2009 at 11:34 am

Today, new gust of possibility.
Turning toward the hard feedback,
I notice a newness around me.
Unattended responsibility
Disconnected feedback, reconnected
Fluid, finding, opening to light
Wide open spaces,
Flooded with care and hope.

Piercing, I saw their looks
Penetrating deep beyond all
Focused insulation
Thick layer punctured, bled out

Still open resource ever in.
Concrete sounds and stories
Nourishing fuel, rebirthed
Charting out fresh wind in my face
Lungs withstand the splash and force

Made new

Circle of Study

In Eclipse on January 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm

No sooner did I finish Hemingway’s book than I am checking out two new ones today!  Actually, I just finished two books: both The Sun Also Rises and Circle of Quiet.  L’Engle’s book was a reflective and creative book that I enjoyed picking up sporadically.  It was recommended to me by Matt Rogers, a writer that works closely with students on campus at Virginia Tech.  After his recommendation, a friend of mine handed me Matt’s recently published book.  Being that he was published, a man of few words and I had recently finished Madeleine L’Engles Wrinkle in time series, it was a short sell to get me to read about her ‘writing life’.  I found her book at a used book store, at which I have credit from trading in unused books.  (excuse the pun)

Onward.  The two books I picked were Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Kamazarov and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Relato de un Naufrago.  While I am hopeful about the high literary recomendation of TBK, I was a bit daunted by the 750 page doorstop with a tatered book cover.  I will not relegate it to a doorstop.  However, I hope it keeps my attention.  The latter book by Garcia Marquez is a revisitation for me.  I read his works (in English) while in an AP Spanish Lit class in high school.  The class was mostly an experiment with an outstanding teacher, one of my favorites, Mrs. Dogruyusever (Turkish name, in case you were wondering).  I borrowed this book in attempt to ‘brush up’ on my Spanish for the tutoring jobs I have landed.  Right now, I am working with six elementary age students in the Santa Ana district.  Speaking Spanish is a perk, but I would like to refresh on learning that I have formerly invested in.   Here’s to you, Mrs. D!

The remainder of the afternoon, I will continue to compile my information for the Relevant piece on which I have been working.  I am spending some time exploring ‘riches’ in the lives of past saints.  I thought this would be an unlikely reading on the state of our economy.  To what practices, did the ancient masters ascribe?  Right now, I’m going back old school 400 A.D.  A man living in Northern Africa.  To the art of Study.  I am curious, what have you been studying in the midst of these economic times?

Ode to Hemingway

In Eclipse on January 20, 2009 at 12:27 am

In my efforts to expand my reading of the masters (of story), I just finished reading Hemingway’s The Sunsun-also-rises Also Rises.  Not only had this book been recommended to me, but I have never experienced a work by Hemingway.  In college, I may have been ‘required’ to read The Old Man and the Sea, but never completed the act.  The last author I felt compelled to educate myself with was Faulker.  Sadly, I read forty pages of The Sound and the Fury before retiring it back to the library.  Impatient with the commitable, I suppose.

Hemingway’s observational prose wove an interesting narrative.  I was keenly impressed by the way he strung short, simple phrases together to create an overall picture of characters and scenes.  His most impressive were the telling facts.  He gave short snapshots that, at first glance, begged the question, “What more is there that he omitted?”  Truly, omission can be a great tool for spurring the imagination.

On a narrative level, I felt a progression of hope in the book.  Starting in a bankrupt Paris, the main character and narrator, Jake, makes his way toward Pamploma, Spain to see the annual bull fights.  The hope and restfulness of the narrative climaxes in his fishing excursion to Roncesvalles.  From there, Jake and his friend, Bill, progress to Pamploma for the grand fiesta, highlighted with bull-fighting And an inordinate amount of drinking.  Although they was drinking throughout the story, it is depicted with such elegance and almost a harmlessness.  The amount of drinking is simply wreckless; sometimes it was wreck-full drinking.  Spain’s heritage of bull-fighting carries with it a depiction of mystery, honor and dignity.  However, Jake is more at home in France, where people responded more directly to money.   There were no other deeper codes.

Overall, the story left me with a satisfied longing.  The characters avoidance of true depth strikes a chord with me.  I related to their tiresome searching.  Despite all the festivities, libations and relationships, none of the characters seemed fulfilled.  All were left longing.  That is where I was at the end of the story.  Longing for more; more for them.  From Hemingway, I learned that simple observations can be very helpful in creating a scene.  Also, I appreciated the gradual progression or movement of his story that acheived an effect, rather than definite closure.  I must nod my head to his ‘Tour de France’ references toward the end.  It was then, that I wondered about his influence on Dugard, who also wrote a story as an American on French soil.