12 April 2008

Re: The weather

Dear Mother Nature,

I would appreciate it if you would make up your mind on all the weather we have been having lately in Happy Valley. These ups and downs in temperature are doing murder to my skin.

Oh, and I would really like to drive home in my new car with the sun roof open, so don't make any sudden changes to the schedule in the next 24 hours, ok? Ok.

~Unfortunate Lilymaid

09 April 2008

Painting pretty pictures

I really don't like the last few days of the school year. They're about as useless as the first few days of school but for different reasons. In my Writing about Literature class right now, we're watching presentations on papers for the next two class periods. I wouldn't go but our professor has given us high-school-ish sheets to fill out in order to rate the presenters. If this wasn't such a load of busy work I'd be more ok with it. I mean, sure, you want people to come. It wouldn't be fair for the people going last not to have an audience at all. But our teacher gives out grades without taking into consideration the views of the class. That's her prerogative, but I still resent the busy work.

Ok. Part of this is that I resent her as well. She flat out refuses to give me an A because she knows it's driving me crazy. She gave me an A- on my last presentation for heaven knows what reason (she only marked off two minor things out of about twenty different categories), and she gave Ms. "I'm going to rock around on my feet and keep my hands in my pockets and make no interesting claims" an A, and Ms. "I enjoy wandering through - oh look a butterfly - I don't know what I'm doing here" an A as well. So irritating.

Rant over. My point is entirely different. But I think I'm allowed to rant because no one really reads this thing anyway, right? Of course right.

Someone said something today in their presentation that really bothered me. Not in an "I'm offended, I'm going to resent you for the rest of my life" kind of way, more in a "no! That's not right," kind of way. She is writing her paper on My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Asher, the main character, is a painter and a Jew. I won't go into all the details, you can (and should) read the book for yourself. One of the main conflicts in the book sits in what art is supposed to accomplish and whether it should be beautiful or not. Asher's mother Rivkeh tells him over and over again to paint something beautiful. "Paint pretty pictures, Asher." Over and over again she begs for him to paint something lovely.

But Asher feels like painting something that isn't necessarily beautiful. At least not by his mother's definition. He draws Stalin in a coffin. He paints his mother on a cross. He paints his mythic ancestor.

The only time he draws something "beautiful" - a brother and sister walking down the road together - he feels as though he's drawn a lie. He hates it.

The commentary that the presenter gave is that Asher can paint "pretty pictures" like his mother wants him to or he can paint the world realistically.

I've written on this before. Last Christmas after the "Scottish episode that shall not be named" (aka. the Robin Hood finale) I wrote about how I don't think that we should consider reality to be bad things. Now I want to expand on that.

I think about my reality. My reality starts between about seven-thirty and nine-thirty every day. I wake up and put on a robe over my pajamas and eat some cereal for breakfast. I watch the news for a while. The news isn't always positive. Rarely positive, really - I suppose this is why so many people associate "reality" with wars and starvation and crime rates. I get ready for school or work and walk to campus. On days when I go to work first I walk along a brick path south of campus that is lined with trees. I love this part of my walk. It is beautiful and gives me a chance to think and enjoy the view of the mountains without the general rush to get to classes. I go to my classes and spend time some of my friends. At night I do some homework, talk to my family, eat dinner and read for a while. It really isn't so bad. It's really great, actually.

People tell me that after I leave school I'll enter the "real world". So what is that supposed to mean? Well, it means I have to get a job. Yes. I understand that, thank you very much. It means I have to be responsible for myself and my finances. Well. . . ok. I was expecting that. Do I think it will be easy? No. It's a different challenge. But I don't expect to be unhappy. I don't expect everything to be to my liking, but I don't expect things to be horrible either. I want to be optimistic about my life. I want to make my world worth living in.

In other words, enduring to the end isn't suffering valiantly. Men are supposed to have joy, yes? "For God so loved the world." God loved the world. Not just the people in it, but the rest of it too.

Not that I promote a completely Pollyana-ish view on the world. There's something to be said for recognizing that the world isn't always fair or kind. I worry about people, for example, who think that BYU is a completely safe place. You have to be careful who you trust everywhere. That being said, I think you can be realistic about your life and be happy about it as well.

I need to refine these thoughts so that the next time I meet someone who says this, I can tell them to be a little more optimistic.

08 April 2008

"I do believe it is tempests"

"This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted." ~A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

I've been thinking.

This is good, you say. A person ought to think. Especially a person who is (gasp) actually going to graduate from college in the next year. Sometimes I think people leave college so disillusioned by things that they no longer think and have simply wasted several thousand dollars and many hours of sleep.

I've been thinking about the different qualities of different characteristics. We had a lecture several eons ago in a British Lit class I took about how the opposite quality to a lie isn't truth, it's a different kind of lie. Take for example these extremes:

You are a blond-haired-blue-eyed Christian in Germany during World War II. Your next door neighbors have been your friends for many years. They happen to be Jewish. Rather than stand and watch them leave for the death camps, you decide to hide the family in your home until you can move them to a safer location. Some of the police come to your house and ask if you know what has happened to your neighbors. You tell the police you don't know. It's a lie.

You are about to marry a really great person. He/she asks you if you have ever had sex with another person before. You have, but you lie and say that you haven't.

Both of these are lies. According to my Book of Mormon teacher from a few years ago, you would probably go to hell for both because lying is a sin. But we don't hold them on the same plane because there are different levels of "lies". Telling your kid Santa exists is different than lying to a police officer, right?

I started thinking about this last night when I was reading my dose of Uncle Jack for the day. A Grief Observed is a seventy-some-odd page masterpiece of sub-conscious thought following the death of his wife. It's started me thinking about the way people sort of look out for each other and do humane things that - under definition - might be less so. Lying to someone to tell them they look better when they don't. Telling your future mother-in-law that you love her food if you don't. The lines are never as clear between "right" and "wrong" as we would like.

The part of that quote that I love so much is that it really allows for someone to love as God loves, mistakes and foibles and all. I think that's one of the biggest problems I see in people who want to plan elaborate dates, for example, and never take the time to be friends with someone. In the recent past I went out several times with someone who - while a really great guy - spent so much time trying to come up with creative activities that the date became the focus of the night and not the "I really want to get to know you" part. People jump right into dating someone before they take the time to become friends. Dating is such a joke, sometimes. It takes forever for a person to really be themself when there's so much pressure to have fun.

You need that time. To go through a period of disenchantment and then realize that you don't care.