"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Notable Quote: Emily Dickinson

I'm working on a couple of pieces that are not quite ready to put out yet.  One of them is on an Emily Dickinson poem, and so since I'm not ready and didn't have the time for a new Matthew Monday I decided to put this little poem by Dickinson out.  This little poem is not very complicated, or even feel very artsy, but it's humorous and charming and has the feel of a notable quote.

I'm Nobody! Who are You?

by Emily Dickinson

 I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Whoever may be reading this, are you as much a nobody as me?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Prayer For Religious Liberty

The American Bishops have called for a Fortnight For Freedom prayer and fast to correspond with the two weeks leading to July 4th, the conitnued HSS Mandate that forces religious institutions to violate their conscience on abortion and contraception, and now the undermining of marriage with recent Supreme Court Decisions. 

The prayer:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.


We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.


Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


We ask this through Christ our Lord.



This also coincides with the feast day of St. Thomas More (June 22), the patron saint of religious liberty, who was executed on July 6th,1535 for refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII’s illegal marriage and for naming himself the head of the Church in England, essentially splitting England from Roman Catholicism.  Here is a clip of his beheading from a dramatization the miniseries, The Tudors.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Matthew Monday: Moving Up Day

Matthew pre-pre-school had a completion of the school year day (even though he'll still be going to the same class until September), a sort of promotion day.  They called it a "Moving Up Day."  The teacher put together a little class show, mostly class singing.  I took the day from work to attend.  Not only did I enjoy it and be there for Matthew, I got to see Matthew in a class atmosphere.  Here are a few observations and some pictures.


Matthew is more well behaved in school than at home.  At school he pretty much listens and is not overly boisterous.  At home he's running all over the place and constantly tugging me to do something or other.  At home he's such a chatterbox, never having a minute of silence.  At school he was more reserved.  What am I doing wrong at home?

Matthew loves his class.  If you remember this blog, we had to pull him from his first class.  He had grown to not like his classmates (they made fun of him) and lost confidence in the teacher.  He adored his new teacher, Miss Vickie, and listened to everything she said.  The switch was the perfect move.

Matthew remembered all the lyrics to all the songs.  The other kids seemed to stumble here and there, but Matthew knew the melody and words.  I've mentioned he seems to have an aptitude for music, and he displayed it again.

Matthew is on the smaller side of kids his age.  I think he was the smallest except possibly for one girl. 

Matthew is very friendly with the other children, and seems to make friends easily. 

Here are some pictures.  Here he is singing and clapping to a song.

Here's a close up.

Here he is after receiving his diploma and bucket full of gifts. 

The bucket full of toys was important...lol.

And finally one with Mommy and Daddy. 

Yikes.  I need to do something about my grey hair.  I was the oldest father there!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Audio: The Waste Land Read by Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins

I must tell the world about this recording.  It’s a BBC production of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, The Waste Land read by Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins.  It is not only the best reading of The Waste Land that I have ever heard—and I’ve heard a few—but it might be the best reading of any poem of considerable length that I have ever heard.  Run, don’t walk, to this BBC site and, not just listen to, right click and save the recording to your computer.  I don’t know how long the BBC will keep this available to the general public.  Many of their recordings become CDs that you will have to purchase.  If you have an interest in literature, you will want this forever.

 First, I must give a hat tip to Joseph Susanka of the blog Summa This, Summa That for bringing itto my attention. 

Second, read along with this hyper linked with split screen notes, internet posting of The Waste Land.  One of the things that make this poem hard to understand is the many cultural and literary allusions, both explicit and furtive, that lend meaning to the line and to the larger themes.  The notes and hyper links help identify and clarify the allusions.

The Waste Land (readthe Wikipedia entry) is the single most important poem in English (possibly in the world but I can’t speak for other languages) of the 20th century.  I’m not going to expound on the poem here.  I’ll save that for next year (my readings have already been planned for this year) where I plan to post several detailed blogs that will provide my thoughts and understanding of the poem.  For now, let me say that the poem emerged from the horror that took Europe from World War I (the poem was written in 1922 but was worked on for several years prior), the culture (especially the loss of religious faith) that developed during and as a result of the war, and the fragmentation from the western historical identity.  WWI became a fracture point between modernism and a historical past.

The introduction provided by poets Jackie Kay, Matthew Hollis, Sean O’Brien and the former Arch Bishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is interesting, though not all that penetrating.  Several points they bring up may need a little elucidation.  One is the motif of multiple voices within the poem.  The multiple voices is the key aesthetic of the poem and reflects the theme of fragmentation, the apparent lack of coherence.  When a work of art’s aesthetics are integral to the theme, that’s when greatness is achieved.  No one did it better than Dante in The Divine Comedy and why I consider that the single greatest work of literature ever produced.  But Eliot does it here too.  I would say that Eliot is the Dante Alighieri of the 20th century.

Another obscure point in the introduction is the reference to the poets Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams in relationship to The Waste Land.  Ezra Pound, also a great and influential modernist poet, was Eliot’s friend, and he edited the original Waste Land manuscript.  He didn’t add any lines, but he did cut a lot of extraneous passages that clarified and crystallized the poem.  The original manuscript would not have been the great poem it has turned out to be, and Eliot recognized it.  The poem is dedicated to Pound: “For Ezra Pound/ il miglior fabbro” (Italian for “the better craftsman”). 

The William Carlos Williams reference is harder to explain.  He too is a great modernist poet, but he hated (and that’s not too strong a word) Eliot’s style and a lesser degree his themes.  Williams, who wrote in the Walt Whitman tradition of poetry, was a very harsh critic of Eliot.  The allusions and the heavily cultural identity of Eliot’s poetry was anathema to Williams.  By the way, the other great poet of the early modernist period, Wallace Stevens, kind of splits the difference from the Eliot (with Pound)/Williams spectrum of modernist style.  There must be a book on the relationships between Eliot, Pound, Carlos Williams, and Stevens—the four great modernist poets, all Americans by the way—but if there isn’t it would make for a great PhD thesis.  I think I would explore that myself if I were to ever go for a PhD.  [Disclosure: I do have a Master’s Degree in English Literature.]

What was remarkably missing from the BBC introduction was pointing out how central to the poem is sexuality.  The crisis of modernity, as portrayed in the poem, is the severing of sexuality with the divine.  The operative word is sterility, sexuality without love, without birth, without regeneration.  So much of the poem deals, both direct and implicit, with an unholy sexuality that has resulted from that severed relationship.  Loose sexuality, meaningless and loveless sexuality, abortion, rape all figure in the poem.  The several song allusions scattered about the poem are from songs of his day that had sexual innuendo of a vulgar nature.  Would Eliot, with today’s sexual music, today’s hookup culture, today’s millions of abortions, feel he was prescient or be further shocked?  I don’t know.  We are still in a waste land. 

Let me give a couple of my favorite passages.  This passage is a voice that I take to be that of God speaking:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?  Son of man, 
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A  heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, 
And the dry stone no sound of water.  Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
(ll. 19-30)

And then towards the end, the rain over the wasteland finally comes in a redemptive baptism of water:

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light  
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.
  In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico   
In a flash of lightning.  Then a damp gust
Bringing rain
(ll.  377-94)

Listen to Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins perform the poem.  I was skeptical before hearing it that two voices, a man’s and a woman’s, would sound correct.  After listening to it, I think for many reasons it’s inspired.  I can’t rave enough about it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Music Tuesday: Refuge For You by Annie Karto

Back on May 20th right after the first of two tornadoes to hit Oklahoma in the span of a week, this one causing its powerful destruction in the city of Moore, my friend and fellow blogger at J's Cafe Nette, Jeanette put up a blog post in sympathy for all those effected. 

The next day it was with great surprise that the Catholic Contemporary singer and songwriter, Annie Karto stopped by that blog to offer a prayer and post a link to one of her songs, "Refuge For You."  I was in complete shock, and I think my reply to her was rather overly gushing in adoration.  Now I don't get excited when I see a celebrity in real life, but this one caught me by surprise.  At first I didn't even think it was really her, but after thinking about it, I don't see any reason to discount her. 

In honor of her stopping by, I'm going to post that very song she linked.  I do have a couple of her albums, and I did post her song on Divine Mercy a few weeks back.  She's got a very delicate voice, like a cicada wing, transparent and gentle.  I certainly recommend her music.  I suspect I'll be posting more of her works. 

Thank you Annie for stopping by, and of course for your blessed music.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Matthew Monday: Father’s Day Weekend , Two Quick Takes

Well here are two stories that show that I might not be the best father in the world.

Take 1:

Saturday Matthew woke up with red spots all over his face and body.  I was the first to notice it.  I told my wife to look at it and she took his temperature.  We suspected mumps or chicken pox.  He had no fever.  I told my wife he needs to go see a doctor nonetheless.  Matthew started whining.

“I don’t want to go to the doctor,” he cried.

“You need to,” I said.

“He doesn’t have fever,” my wife put up the opposing rationale.

“Mommy, I don’t want to go to the doctor,” Matthew appealed.

“We don’t know what this is.  It doesn’t look right.”  I replied to my wife.

 “Mommy, I don’t want a shot.”

“You’re not going to get a shot,” my wife reassured him.

“Mommy I don’t want any shots.” 

This back and forth between them went on for a few times.  Finally in my full ogre father persona I said, “Hush up.  If the doctor says you need a shot, you’re going to get one.”

“No, no, no!” he screamed.  “I don’t want a shot.

I got on the phone and called the doctor’s office and got us in for 12:30. 

 “No, mommy, no, I don’t want to go.  I don’t want a shot.”

My wife tried to tell him he wasn’t going to get a shot.  His whining was just too much.  I took my pointing index finger and simulating a needle poked him in the leg and said “shot.”  That’s when he really cried and my wife said something nasty to me. 

“Come on,” she said to him.  We’ll call grandma and have her come with us.”  After a little more reassuring Matthew finally said, “Oh alright.”  But then he pointed his finger at me and loudly said, “But Daddy doesn’t come.  No daddy.”


[To conclude this story the doctor said it was probably related to the fever he had last week (I blogged it here) and it was nothing to worry about.  Still I have to say that the diagnosis wasn’t satisfying.  What exactly was this?  My wife posted it on FaceBook and her cousin replied that her daughter gets that all the time after taking antibiotics.  It goes away in 3-5 days.  Now that made sense, but now I worry about whether I have a good pediatrician.  She’s very experienced and highly recommended, but why didn’t she tell us this?]

Take 2:

I wanted to take Matthew to the zoo for Father’s Day, but unfortunately the weather was expected to rain and with Matthew with all his spots on his body we figured let’s stay home and do something.  My wife suggested we “go camping” in his room.  It was a pretend camping.  She set up a structure with sheets over it to crawl into as a tent.  We used a battery powered lantern to pretend it was the campfire, and we had these two (not exactly sure how to describe them) light sabers that lit up as sticks to pretend we were roasting marshmallows.  We ate a few “marshmallows” and then I said let’s go into the tent and tell scary stories.

Ok, we crawled under and I thought about a story about a man who buys a house and he hears a cat screech every night.  I think I must have merged a couple of different Edgar Allan Poe stories to come up with this on the spot.  Well, the man investigates every corner of the house and can’t find the cat.  He goes through all the closets and the basement and nothing.  He goes to sleep and he hears it again.  He goes through the house (and I take Matthew through the closets and basement again) and still finds nothing.  Finally he just goes to sleep but every night the same thing.  The cat screeches and the man concludes it’s a ghost cat.  Matthew then volunteered, “Maybe the cat was outside?”  Smart boy with good visual skills I thought.  Well, the man looked out the window and still no cat.

This goes on for a long time and finally the man gets scared and leaves the house to live in a hotel.  After a while he’s running out of money and needs to go back home.  So he comes home but the cat screeched is gone.  No more.  (Mind you, I’m making this up on the fly.)  After a long time he decides to get  married, and the wife comes to live with him.  That first night the cat screech is back.  “Wheeeow.”  What’s that she asks?  Oh no, the cat is back.  And so the wife goes investigating the house, all the rooms, the closets, and the basement.  Nothing.  And the cat keeps screeching. 

This goes on for a few nights.  Finally the wife says I hear it inside the wall.  The cat is inside the wall!  We have to cut a hole in the wall.  So they get a saw and they cut a big hole in the wall.  The man is scared but the wife is not.  He tells her to look in the hole.  She sticks her head and looks back and forth, back and forth and sees nothing.  So the man looks in the hole, and that’s when I took my hands and formed a cat’s claw and clutched Matthew in the face, screeching “Wheaooow.”

And that’s when Matthew jumped out of his skin and screamed!  LOL!!  He screamed and started to cry.  I had to take him out of the “tent” and hold him to let him know it wasn’t real. 

So no kudos for Father’s Day.  I’m not sure I was that good a father this weekend.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cicadas on Staten Island

On Staten Island, cicadas only make their presence every seventeen years.  I had no idea they were native to this place when I first moved here.  I had heard of cicadas in poetry, but when I came across one on a page I read right over it as another of the million insects I had no real knowledge of.  There is the ancient Greek myth of Tithonus, a musician who is granted eternal life by the Aphrodite but who forgets to give him eternal youth with eternal life, and so forever grows older and older until he is transfigured into a cicada.   I knew the insect were associated with music or sound or such but I had no idea when in 1996 they came out.  I was overwhelmed with the sound.  I went out to learn about these creatures, which after birth hibernate for seventeen years (less in other parts of the world) and come out to sing their mating song and then die.  And then not heard of again for seventeen years. 

2013 is my second cicada cycle.  I have to say I was disappointed at first this year.  It seemed like a dud of a cicada year, but this has been an unusual spring, cold and rainy.  I remembered from the previous time the sound being louder than an orchestra.  This year for a while it sounded like tweets.  The newspapers had written them off as they write off losing politicians or injured or aging athletes.  Apparently the weather delayed the cicada peak, and so they have been in full song now for two weeks.  I can’t say they are as loud as in 1996, but either their habitat has shrunk or the weather has staggered their lives for a more muted crescendo. 

Staten Island, despite being part of New York City, still has a good portion of green area, not just as parks but as natural wooded habitat.  It’s protected as part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, a preserved natural landmark that keeps kinship to our past and is more than three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park.  It’s ideal for the cicadas if not to thrive to at least survive.  They must have been at one time throughout the land masses that comprise New York City.  Over in Brooklyn where I grew up I had never heard them or of them.  I assume they’ve been pushed out of the city, though I wonder if in some of the other large parks they may still subsist.

The past few weekends in the early mornings when I take the dog out for an extended walk, I hear their choric chant, a rhythmic mantra of “ahhh—uum, ahh—uum, ahh—uum.”   The Greenbelt woods are just a couple of blocks from my house, and as I walk up to the perimeter the sound doubles in intensity.  How do people that live right here deal with this, I wonder?  Scattered on the street are a score of dead or dying cicadas.  Their wings are transparent, like angel’s wings.  A host of them is flying, ungainly and bumbling, out of the woods and into trees, houses, and parked cars.  They are klutzy flyers; one flies into my head, and I watch him collapse to the ground like a stalled airplane falling out of the sky.  He is on his back, wings and legs flailing, trying to flip himself over as if he were a tortoise.  The dog approaches him with caution, extending her neck and bringing her nose to him.  He is buzzing.  Up close his buzz is conspicuous to the whole.   They are harmless; they don’t bite nor sting.  I bend down and with my flinger flip him over so that he stumbles to his legs and regains flight. 

There is a feeling of pathos for these little creatures.  As insects go, they are not ugly.  Actually I find them gawkishly cute, sort of like the chubby shy girl in class who has a handsome look to her.  They buzz and stumble, gather and disperse, blossom and die.  They live too short a life.  Their sonorous chant, their dead bodies on the ground, the fact that they are defenseless creatures that harm no one, the sense that they will not return for another seventeen years like clockwork, like from a divine command, makes this moment feel holy.  I mutter a Glory Be and walk the dog home.

Here are a couple of educational videos on cicadas.





Friday, June 14, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

This hymn never caught my attention until last night while working out at the gym and listening to my religious music play list on my ipod.  Yes, I listen to religious music while working out!  And I've got 844 songs on that play list, and throughout the grunts and heavy breathing of the workout I feel God's grace with heavenly prayer.  Singing hymns as St. Augustine says is praying twice.

Colin Raye does a magnificent job singing it.  That's the version I have that came up on the play list.  Unfortunately his version is not on Youtube, so I can't post it here, but you can hear 30 seconds worth on Amazon here.  It's most definitely worth 99 cents but actually get the entire album, His Love Remains.  Every song on there is a brilliant version of a classic hymn.  I recommend it.

According to Wikipedia this hymn is ancient:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence is an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion based on words from Habakkuk 2:20, "Let all the earth keep silence before him". The original was composed in Greek as a Cherubic Hymn for the Offertory of the Divine Liturgy of St James in the fourth century AD, with local churches adopting arrangements in Syriac.

The fourth century is 1800 years ago!

The best version I could find off Youtube was this by Robert Kochis, also a very beautiful version.  Ignore that last twenty seconds at the end of the video.  Not sure why it's there, but I really wanted to keep this version. 

What's different on the Colin Raye version is that unlike most of the versions on Youtube which feature a piano as the principle accompaniment, Raye's version uses a violin, and I think it complements wonderfully.  I must say that a male vocal contrasted against a solo violin really captures me.  There's an added tension which I can't explain that a piano just doesn't provide.

Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Free E-Book: Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life.

I thought many of the people who follow my blog might be interested in this free E-Book: Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life

The author is Connie Rossini and she blogs at Contemplative Homeschool.  I haven't read the book, so I can't give a review, but I have frequently visited Connie's blog, which I've found informative and up beat.  Plus how can you go wrong with a free book.

I decided to buy the Kindle version for 99 cents.  It's convenient for me since I have a Kindle and find it convenient to store books on it.  I told Connie she could keep the royalties, but not spend it all in one place. ;)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Matthew Monday: Strep Throat

Matthew has been remarkably healthy since he’s come home to us.  In the two and a half years he’s only had a couple of mild instances of fever, and nothing else.  These past few days he got strep throat. 

We sensed there was something going on in the middle of the night on Wednesday, going into Thursday morning.  He was in bed and I downstairs and I heard what sounded like crying sounds.  Of course that had to be Matthew so I went upstairs to his room and found him on the floor beside his bed crying.  At first I thought he had fallen out of bed, but he said he didn’t.  He asked if mommy was going to leave him, so I suspected he had a bad dream.  He kind of nodded he had a bad dream and went back to sleep.

My wife also had walked in to his room in the early morning to find him crying.  At school Thursday he wasn’t right, she said.  He didn’t feel he had fever, but something was going on.  He kept whining and wanting his mother.  That night he finally got a mild fever.  My wife handled it with children’s Tylenol.  It helped but boy was he whiny and crying.  He normally attaches himself to me when I’m home, but not this time.  It was mommy for everything.    My wife called the doctor’s office and they had an opening right then.  She got him over and the doctor diagnosed Strep Throat, and he said it was going to get worse before getting better.  He prescribed antibiotics.

He was right.  Fever went over 104F (40C) and Matthew was either crying non-stop or laying on the couch like a half dead animal.  We tried to get him to drink fluids and all he wanted was chocolate milk.  I don’t think that was a good idea.  I tried to sooth him at one point and the chocolate milk expectorated out of his mouth as if it were a garden hose.  It was a whoosh, like that child in the vomit movie scene in The Exorcist, only it was chocolate brown instead of green.  And guess where it propelled to?  You got it, all over my shirt…lol.  Yuck.  But what are daddies for?

Well, at least it didn’t hit me in the face.
The antibiotic worked marvelously.  His fever came down that night and then gone in the morning.  He spent the weekend inside and he still whined for his mommy the whole time.  But the fever never came back. It passed remarkably quick.  So even with this illness, he seems remarkably healthy, healthier than I was as a child. 




Saturday, June 8, 2013

Book Excerpt: The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy, Part 3

You can read Part 1 of Book Excerpt: The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy here and Part 2 here. Excerpts taken from etext from Wikisource Library through Classic Literature By Great Authors ; translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude.
In the first blog on The Cossacks I delineated the central character Olenin, an overly sophisticated, disillusioned, even cynical young man who decides to leave his Moscow life for a military stint in the wilds of the Caucasus.  On the second blog I delineated his contracting character, Lukashka, a young Cossack man who is heroic and at one with the nature of his upbringing.  Both these characters fall in love with the beautiful Cossack girl, Maryanka, and so the novel forms a triangle.  Lukashka and Maryanka are betrothed by their parents in a traditional arrangement, but besides the arrangement there is a true, youthful attraction, and they are presented as a natural and likely couple.   Olenin is the outsider, the rich man from Moscow, from the big and sophisticated city.  He has denied that love is possible or even real, but once in contact with the natural elements and natural people, his outlook is challenged and he starts to change.  He becomes drawn to Maryanka, at whose parent’s home he is a lodger.  Here is a passage when Olenin first meets Maryanka.

Olenin ran up the steps of the porch and pushed open the door of the hut. Maryanka, wearing nothing but a pink smock, as all Cossack women do in the house, jumped away from the door, frightened, and pressing herself against the wall covered the lower part other face with the broad sleeve of her Tartar smock. Having opened the door wider, Olenin in the semi-darkness of the passage saw the whole tall, shapely figure of the young Cossack girl. With the quick and eager curiosity of youth he involuntarily noticed the firm maidenly form revealed by the fine print smock, and the beautiful black eyes fixed on him with childlike terror and wild curiosity. 'This is SHE,' thought Olenin. 'But there will be many others like her' came at once into his head, and he opened the inner door.  [chpt 10]
Love at first sight, love from contact through the eyes is a motif in several of Tolstoy’s works.  (It happens with Lukashka and Maryanka later on as well.)  There is a magic when Tolstoy brings two people’s eyes in contact as they fall in love.  Such a moment happens here to Olenin: “'This is SHE,' thought Olenin.”  But notice how in the very next thought that moment of love becomes warped: “'But there will be many others like her' came at once into his head.”  He has choked off the feeling of love with the thought of sexual objectification.  It isn’t the “she” he embraces, but the sexual object.  Let’s compare Lukashka’s interaction with Maryanka.  A group of girls including Maryanka are talking about the lodger at Maryank’s house when Lukashka walks over and listens.  Finally Lukashka feels a pang of jealousy.

Lukashka rose and raised his cap.

'I expect I had better go home too, that will be best,' he said, trying to appear unconcerned but hardly able to repress a smile, and he disappeared behind the corner of the house.

Meanwhile night had entirely enveloped the village. Bright stars were scattered over the dark sky. The streets became dark and empty. Nazarka remained with the women on the earth-bank and their laughter was still heard, but Lukashka, having slowly moved away from the girls, crouched down like a cat and then suddenly started running lightly, holding his dagger to steady it: not homeward, however, but towards the cornet's house. Having passed two streets he turned into a lane and lifting the skirt of his coat sat down on the ground in the shadow of a fence. 'A regular cornet's daughter!' he thought about Maryanka. 'Won't even have a lark--the devil! But just wait a bit.'

The approaching footsteps of a woman attracted his attention. He began listening, and laughed all by himself. Maryanka with bowed head, striking the pales of the fences with a switch, was walking with rapid regular strides straight towards him. Lukashka rose. Maryanka started and stopped.

'What an accursed devil! You frightened me! So you have not gone home?' she said, and laughed aloud.

Lukashka put one arm round her and with the other hand raised her face. 'What I wanted to tell you, by Heaven!' his voice trembled and broke.

'What are you talking of, at night time!' answered Maryanka. 'Mother is waiting for me, and you'd better go to your sweetheart.'

And freeing herself from his arms she ran away a few steps. When she had reached the wattle fence of her home she stopped and turned to the Cossack who was running beside her and still trying to persuade her to stay a while with him.

'Well, what do you want to say, midnight-gadabout?' and she again began laughing.

'Don't laugh at me, Maryanka! By the Heaven! Well, what if I have a sweetheart? May the devil take her! Only say the word and now I'll love you--I'll do anything you wish. Here they are!' and he jingled the money in his pocket. 'Now we can live splendidly. Others have pleasures, and I? I get no pleasure from you, Maryanka dear!'

The girl did not answer. She stood before him breaking her switch into little bits with a rapid movement other fingers.

Lukashka suddenly clenched his teeth and fists.

'And why keep waiting and waiting? Don't I love you, darling? You can do what you like with me,' said he suddenly, frowning angrily and seizing both her hands.

The calm expression of Maryanka's face and voice did not change.

'Don't bluster, Lukashka, but listen to me,' she answered, not pulling away her hands but holding the Cossack at arm's length. 'It's true I am a girl, but you listen to me! It does not depend on me, but if you love me I'll tell you this. Let go my hands, I'll tell you without.--I'll marry you, but you'll never get any nonsense from me,' said Maryanka without turning her face.

'What, you'll marry me? Marriage does not depend on us. Love me yourself, Maryanka dear,' said Lukashka, from sullen and furious becoming again gentle, submissive, and tender, and smiling as he looked closely into her eyes.

Maryanka clung to him and kissed him firmly on the lips.

'Brother dear!' she whispered, pressing him convulsively to her. Then, suddenly tearing herself away, she ran into the gate of her house without looking round.    [Chpt 13]

Their courting is youthful, natural, even impulsive.  Lukashka’s jealousy sets up the love triangle, the conflict, and the narrative tension.  Olenin, on the other hand, courts Maryanka at Beletski’s party.  Prince Beletski is an acquaintance of Olenin’s from Moscow society who is a rising officer in the army and has arrived during the summer to participate with Olenin’s troop.  While in the Caucuses he arranges evening parties, a sort of meat market gathering where Beletski lures women and then brags about his conquests.  He has brought the Moscow sophistication to the country, and when he hears about Olenin’s attraction to Maryanka, he brings them together at his party.  Here Olenin notices Maryanka at the party. 

Olenin noticed Maryanka among the group of girls, who without exception were all handsome, and he felt vexed and hurt that he met her in such vulgar and awkward circumstances. He felt stupid and awkward, and made up his mind to do what Beletski did. Beletski stepped to the table somewhat solemnly yet with confidence and ease, drank a glass of wine to Ustenka's health, and invited the others to do the same. Ustenka announced that girls don't drink. 'We might with a little honey,' exclaimed a voice from among the group of girls. The orderly, who had just returned with the honey and spice-cakes, was called in. He looked askance (whether with envy or with contempt) at the gentlemen, who in his opinion were on the spree; and carefully and conscientiously handed over to them a piece of honeycomb and the cakes wrapped up in a piece of greyish paper, and began explaining circumstantially all about the price and the change, but Beletski sent him away. Having mixed honey with wine in the glasses, and having lavishly scattered the three pounds of spice-cakes on the table, Beletski dragged the girls from their comers by force, made them sit down at the table, and began distributing the cakes among them. Olenin involuntarily noticed how Maryanka's sunburnt but small hand closed on two round peppermint nuts and one brown one, and that she did not know what to do with them. The conversation was halting and constrained, in spite of Ustenka's and Beletski's free and easy manner and their wish to enliven the company. Olenin faltered, and tried to think of something to say, feeling that he was exciting curiosity and perhaps provoking ridicule and infecting the others with his shyness. He blushed, and it seemed to him that Maryanka in particular was feeling uncomfortable. 'Most likely they are expecting us to give them some money,' thought he. 'How are we to do it? And how can we manage quickest to give it and get away?'    [Chpt 24] 

It ‘s in that setting that Maryanka, now become mesmerized with the social scene, and begins to feel tempted to Olenin’s entreats.  It comes to a head one day when Olenin is drunk. 

Olenin drank with Eroshka, with the other Cossack, and again with Eroshka, and the more he drank the heavier was his heart. But the two old men grew merry. The girls climbed onto the oven, where they sat whispering and looking at the men, who drank till it was late. Olenin did not talk, but drank more than the others. The Cossacks were shouting. The old woman would not let them have any more chikhir, and at last turned them out. The girls laughed at Daddy Eroshka, and it was past ten when they all went out into the porch. The old men invited themselves to finish their merry-making at Olenin's. Ustenka ran off home and Eroshka led the old Cossack to Vanyusha. The old woman went out to tidy up the shed. Maryanka remained alone in the hut. Olenin felt fresh and joyous, as if he had only just woke up. He noticed everything, and having let the old men pass ahead he turned back to the hut where Maryanka was preparing for bed. He went up to her and wished to say something, but his voice broke. She moved away from him, sat down cross-legged on her bed in the corner, and looked at him silently with wild and frightened eyes. She was evidently afraid of him. Olenin felt this. He felt sorry and ashamed of himself, and at the same time proud and pleased that he aroused even that feeling in her.

'Maryanka!' he said. 'Will you never take pity on me? I can't tell you how I love you.'

She moved still farther away.

'Just hear how the wine is speaking! ... You'll get nothing from me!'

'No, it is not the wine. Don't marry Lukashka. I will marry you.' ('What am I saying,' he thought as he uttered these words. 'Shall I be able to say the same to-morrow?' 'Yes, I shall, I am sure I shall, and I will repeat them now,' replied an inner voice.)

'Will you marry me?'

She looked at him seriously and her fear seemed to have passed.

'Maryanka, I shall go out of my mind! I am not myself. I will do whatever you command,' and madly tender words came from his lips of their own accord.

'Now then, what are you drivelling about?' she interrupted, suddenly seizing the arm he was stretching towards her. She did not push his arm away but pressed it firmly with her strong hard fingers. 'Do gentlemen marry Cossack girls? Go away!'

'But will you? Everything...'

'And what shall we do with Lukashka?' said she, laughing.

He snatched away the arm she was holding and firmly embraced her young body, but she sprang away like a fawn and ran barefoot into the porch: Olenin came to his senses and was terrified at himself. He again felt himself inexpressibly vile compared to her, yet not repenting for an instant of what he had said he went home, and without even glancing at the old men who were drinking in his room he lay down and fell asleep more soundly than he had done for a long time.  [Chpt 34]

And so what Tolstoy has set up through the triangle is a decision point for Maryanka, and then the culmination of the struggle between Olenin and Lukashka.  You would expect the resolution of that struggle, perhaps a life and death fight between the antagonists, to be the climax of the novel.  However, it isn’t, and it never takes place.  Maryanka, in effect, does make a decision, though not a considered choice.  Tolstoy projects a culminating conflict but it never happens.  An event, which I won’t spoil for the reader here, occurs that changes the trajectory of the narrative. 

To be forthright, I can’t claim I understand why Tolstoy ended the novel in this fashion.   I can’t say if it holds together.  Intuitively it seems off.  But I’ve only read this once and I would need at least another reading—especially now that I know how it ends—to see if Tolstoy has found a sparkling and fitting, though original, ending or one that is forced and flawed.  Perhaps in the future I will read this novel again.  It’s worth a second read.  This is definitely an enjoyable novel, especially if you like Tolstoy.  In the meantime, anyone that has read the novel, I would appreciate your thoughts, especially on the ending. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Feast of the Sacred Heart

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most wonderful concepts within Catholicism.  It’s a rather complicated, and you can read the doctrinal explanation from New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia.  But I was rather surprised it’s not just a Roman Catholic notion, as you can read in the Wikipedia entry on the Sacred Heart.


There are three reasons that come to mind that makes the Sacred Heart of Jesus special to me. 

First, my blogger friend Ros, otherwise known as Shadowlands, who I gave a little memorial blog entry after I found out she passed away, once said something that has since stuck with me and which I do myself now.  She said that whenever she felt a particular deep hurt, a hurt that stings to the heart, she envisions herself physically with her hand taking that hurt out of her heart and placing it in Jesus’ sacred heart.  There it would get soothed and withered and disappear.  It really does help the hurt.


Second, one of St. Catherine of Siena’s mystical experiences, which I recounted in my second blog on her biography by Sigrid Undset, was having her heart replaced with Christ’s heart.  Here’s the key passage from the bio.  
A day or two later Catherine had been to Mass in the Capella della Volte and remained in church to pray along after all the others had left. Suddenly Christ appeared to her; in His hand he carried a human heart, deep red and sparkling with light. When Catherine saw how it shone she fell on her face. But again Our Lord opened her left side, and put the burning heart into her body. “My dear daughter, the other day I took away your heart. To-day I give you My heart, which will give you eternal life.”

That experience has special meaning to all of us.  We are all called to have our hearts replaced with Christ’s heart.  This journey in life is a process where our prideful, self-centered hearts are transfigured into Christ’s ever-loving sacred heart.



Third, whenever I think of God the Father’s love for his creation, and especially me, I envision beams of light going through Jesus’ heart out to the world and ultimately to me.  And I envision a reverse light emanating from the world and me back through Christ’s heart to God.  Christ’s heart then becomes for me the intermediary between where love flows both ways up and down.  Here’s a fragment of one of my prayers.

Precious God, I love you with all my heart, with all soul, with all my being, as I know you love me through the Sacred Heart of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Matthew Monday: Truck Heaven

I've been tied up with work lately and it's not going to get better.  I have a very important review (perhaps life and death of the project) scheduled for Thursday.  Those kind of reviews bring on a lot of stress, especially when you don't have good news to tell.  I'm also going to have to see if I can reschedule for the following week since I don't have all the information I need for a proper review.  That's only going to add an additional week of uncertainty, which is more stress.  Engineering is a stressful occupation. 

Which in a odd way ties in to today's outing.  There are two skills that I perceive that Matthew seems to have.  Since I don't have any other experience with children, I don't know if Matthew excels at them or he's just normal.  One is music; he just seems to have a great recall for the melody of a song, and he'll even create his own lyrics to common children's songs.  The second is a mechanical ability.  He's watched me assemble household items and can put things together himself if their simple, and he loves cars, trucks, trains, his pedal wagon, his bicycle.  He's always asking to drive my car, and I've put him behind the wheel with the car in park, and he plays with the steering wheel, the windshield wipers, the blinkers, the power windows.  He's fascinated by the mechanical devices.

Today they had a "Touch A Truck" day at the local ball field.  It was an collection of real trucks, and children were able to climb in, sit at the driver's seat, and play with the various trucks.  They had them all: steamrollers, garbage truck, cement mixer, fire engine, ambulance, dump truck, police van, backhoe, and so on.  There must have been one version of every kind of truck.  Well Matthew was in seventh heaven.  He loved every single second of it.  I think we have a budding mechanical engineer here.  He could not get enough.  Let me share some pictures.

Here he is in a backhoe with a plastic hard hat.

I don't know which truck this is, perhaps the dump truck, but he's certainly trying to do something...lol.

 He really enjoyed the cement mixer.  It had an air horn and it was really loud. 

Inside a military truck.

And finally he's really trying to start this antique delivery truck.

He's my little boy!