Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hesse on trees.

(And also on life.)
For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow. 
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. 
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live. 
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all. 
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother. 
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.
*h/t Miss Pinborough

Friday, November 16, 2012

Been talking bout the way things change.

My family lives, in a different state.

Rivers and roads. Rivers and roads. Rivers til I reach you.
Rivers and roads. Rivers and roads. Rivers til I reach you.

(Family/Utah, I will reach you tomorrow. And for that, I am thankful.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Colbert on grief.

INTERVIEWER: Your father and two brothers died when you were just 10.

COLBERT: That’s right.

INTERVIEWER: They were on a commercial airliner that crashed while landing in thick fog. Your brothers were both teenagers, and your father was taking them to Connecticut to enroll them in private school. How did you make sense of their deaths?

COLBERT: Things didn’t seem that important anymore. Nothing seemed that important anymore. My mother said to me—and I think she said this to all my brothers and sisters—she urged me to look at everything in the light of eternity. In other words, it doesn’t matter what I wear. I just wear the uniform of my youth. I wear an oxford-cloth shirt and khakis. What does it matter? What does it matter what I wear?

INTERVIEWER: As a 10-year-old boy who just lost his dad, that advice helped you?

COLBERT: Sure, absolutely.

INTERVIEWER: It’s been almost four decades since it happened. Does the grief dissipate?

COLBERT: No. It’s not as keen. Well, it’s not as present, how about that? It’s just as keen but not as present. But it will always accept the invitation. Grief will always accept the invitation to appear. It’s got plenty of time for you.

INTERVIEWER: “I’ll be here.”

COLBERT: That’s right. “I’ll be here when you need me.” The interesting thing about grief, I think, is that it is its own size. It is not the size of you. It is its own size. And grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I’ve always liked that phrase He was visited by grief, because that’s really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It’s not like it’s in me and I’m going to deal with it. It’s a thing, and you have to be okay with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at your door.

INTERVIEWER: It’s a loud wolf. It huffs and it puffs.

COLBERT: [Laughs] It does, doesn’t it? It can rattle the hinges.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I always want to hear the same old song.

These days it is First Aid Kit's "I Met Up With the King." (Thank you E.P.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Religious Test.

A week or so ago I got to watch an interesting documentary for free, see two old friends (one who happened to produce that interesting film), and eat good snacks.

The film was The Religious Test, the friends are Eleanor and Michael Potter, and the snacks were plentiful. All three things took place at my beloved Claremont Graduate University.

The movie centers around a statistic in a specific that said 1 in 5 individuals in America would not vote for a Mormon president. I know that the election is over. And that the Mormon candidate conceded. And that Mormonism may have played a bigger role in the primary election than the general. And that many (if not all of you) are political-seasoned-out, but (and this is a big But), I still think this film is worth watching. It asks important normative questions about how religion should be related to politics, and offers descriptive data about how it is.

This documentary also included nearly every person I would have liked to see interviewed about this subject, that is, Laurel Ulrich, Kristine Haglund, Joanna Brooks, Kathleen Flake, Richard Bushman, and so forth. As one person in the question and answer session with the producer, pointed out, while it lacks a certain narrative, as you watch it, you feel like you are in a room with a bunch of smart people, just talking, and like you are part of the conversation. Kudos, Michael!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On voting.

Yesterday marks the first day that I have voted for someone other than Ralph Nader for President of the United States. And also the first day that I have voted in a place. Before, I was always absentee. I must say, it felt pretty great to bike to a local polling venue, hand my already completed mail-by-vote to the appropriate volunteer, smile at the other voters, and receive my sticker.

Just before voting, I sat in a class called "Women in American Religions," and heard my professor, Patrick Mason, tell a story from the previous presidential election. At that time, four years ago, he was living and teaching in Egypt. Most of his students were not American, but he held a mock vote, just for fun. Afterward he was back in his office, and one of his colleagues thanked him for the opportunity to vote. She got a little bit misty eyed, as she explained that she knew that it was not real, and would not have a bearing on the election, but that it was the first time in her life that she had ever had a choice. She said it it made her feel like she mattered, as a person.

That choosing, that mattering, was meaningful to her, as the retelling was to me. I also remember the first women who had that opportunity to choose in the United States, and they were not the Suffragettes or women's rights workers we often think of (though I remember and revere them too): they were Mormon women from Utah, in 1869, fifty-one whole years before the 19th Amendment passed.

America is beautiful, and our right to vote is one of the strongest things that makes it so. As per the results, I am mostly excited for Elizabeth Warren's senate win. Just knowing she is part of congress makes me feel that much better about congress. I am especially happy for all of my loved ones in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville.

As for Mitt Romney, I wish he gave the speech that Joanna Brooks recognized he never gave. I think it might have helped his cause.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mock debate. Mock vote.

Last Thursday my Mormonism and Politics class held a mock vote, as per my suggestion.
Because it was my suggestion, I got to tally the votes.

6 Romney. 6 Obama. 1 Jill Stein.

Can you guess which one was mine?

I am feeling a tad bit anxious this morning.

To be fair, it is hard for me to tell how much is inspired by the election, and how much by my morning's impending presentation.