Near UNLV, Thursday, December 11, 2014.
“The Integration of Temples and Families: A Latter-day Saint Structure for the Jacob Cycle” was published on Friday. This is my first peer-reviewed, academic article, so I’m pretty excited. Anyone with an interest in Biblical literature, or its temple and family themes, would likely enjoy it.
I did have to order it. Here are the passages I marked:
I don’t know what it is, but there is something about steady manual labor like this, alone in the fields, that gives one a curious deep satisfaction. I like the sense of doing hard work that is also useful work. One’s mind at first drops asleep, except for the narrow margin relating to this or that repetitive process. One lets go, calms down. For hours, sometimes, while at such work, I came near the point of complete mental vacuity. The mind sets itself the minute task it has to do and goes off somewhere to its own high pastures, serene uplands, to rest and play. The hours pass magically: the sun that was low when the work began rides high in the heavens—and suddenly the mind comes home again. It comes home refreshed stimulated, happy. I always know the exact moment of its arrival. Yesterday it did not return until I had nearly finished my work in the field. It seemed to cry out: “What, asleep! Listen to the bobolinks.”
I straightened up quickly and realized that I had been working for several hours without hearing or seeing much of anything—this literally. The whole world now became flooded with delightful sounds, not only the bobolinks, but a hundred other voices both of nature and human nature, so that I had a deep and indescribably friendly feeling towards all things. I thought it good and beautiful to be there and to be alive. Even the grass clinging wetly to my legs as I walked seemed consciously holding me close to the earth; and the shovel held warmly, even painfully in my blistered hands, was proof that I had at last become part of a universal process. These sensations, even as I set them down, seem difficult to express, but they were there, and they were true and sound. (11-12)
Steve had been working all day, harrowing and fertilizing his tobacco land, and should, I suppose, be properly tired. But the weeds in the onions are growing! Down on his knees he went and began weeding. A moment later his wife was at his side. The children cried a little, for they were tired and hungry and wanted to go home, but soon whimpered down. I wondered what an American family I know of, which keeps a nurse for each of their weakling children and a second girl to help the nurses, would say to this way of “raising” children! These two little Poles are magnificent physical specimens, and the boy, when clean, is really beautiful. At eight-thirty when it was too dark to see, the family trailed homeward, Steve carrying the little boy in his arms. Can these people be beaten? (86-87)
The best thing about the new Star Wars teaser trailer is how thoroughly cinematic it is. Most trailers, especially teaser trailers, are just a lazy mess of spotlighted clips. This one, though, was clearly constructed with a specific narrative arc in mind.
It naturally falls into three acts:
Act I: Establishing character and setting
First we see Tatooine, then we see a hero. The hero is tired, sweaty, and scared. And alone. That’s how we know he’s a hero, despite the Stormtrooper uniform–villains never appear so beleaguered in Act I.
The soccer ball droid reassures us that two big mainstays of the series are still present: innovation and whimsy.
The next shot reaffirms the first: a panicked, lone hero in a hurry. No coincidence here: clearly, we’re meant to know that this film will show our new protagonists in a fractured, oppressed state, desperate to escape a threatening presence. This, of course, is highlighted by the gravelly voiceover.
The fourth “scene” reaffirms the second: a reassurance here, not of innovation and whimsy, but of action and equipment. Few series are so rooted in their weapons and vehicles as Star Wars, and this part of the trailer shows us J.J. Abrams doing what he did with Star Trek: preserving the bets of the old while updating its peripheral elements.
Took several of my children hiking at Red Rock Canyon this morning. My favorite pictures of the landscape are these two, showing mid-morning sunbeams streaming down over a lush desert vista, rolling out in layers. This view is facing southeast from the highest point of the Keystone Thrush Trail.
Of course, the whole family’s favorite view of the hike was this little critter. I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is actually the first tarantula I’ve seen out in the desert:
Last month as I was walking across the UNLV campus one afternoon, a former high school student of mine crossed my path and stopped to chat. She got excited and said she was happy to see me because she wanted to thank me.
For some amazing lesson we’d once had in class? No. That Spring I had been doing some decluttering, and had brought several boxes of old books to class. I told the students to just take what they wanted.
She took a few books and promptly forgot them in some hidden corner of her room. She found them over this last summer and read them. One in particular became her favorite book, an energizing window into a great new branch of literacy for her.
The book was W. Sommerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, by the way. It’s one of my favorites, too, and we talked about it for a while.
Funny how often the biggest effects we have on people’s lives are from the little extra things we do.
This essay will turn eight years old next week. In the age of constant bombardment by media content, we’re lucky to remember anything specific from last week, but I think about this one essay all the time. It is that important.
My title comes from this quote: “My grandfather was born in 1888 and he didn’t have a lifestyle. He didn’t need one: he had a life.”
Among the many other great parts:
I suspect that my grandfather’s life was real in a sense that my father’s life hasn’t quite been, and my life is not at all.
The crucial difference is my grandfather’s lack of self-consciousness, and that self-consciousness is a hallmark of the perpetual, infantilised adolescents we have all become, monsters of introspection hovering twitchily on the edge of self-obsession, occasionally aware that the life that exists only to be examined is barely manageable; barely, indeed, a life.
Note that the article ends with some very sane–and therefore radical–truths about adulthood.
Some of my favorites as I review the contents of my tablet from the last two months:
I’ve always said this: teachers don’t leave because of bad pay, they leave because of poor working conditions.
I suspect I find this funny for reasons other than those the artist had:
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
Gioia’s intro to Finnegans Wake
Fun parkour video.
I’m a sucker for great astronomy photography.
Beautiful photo of contrasts.
Sunset AND a castle? Wow!
Here’s a chart I found online with some good productivity ideas:
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
“Ten Ways Mormons Can Celebrate Independence Day” Good advice for all of us, for every day.
Great essay about defining conservatism–required reading for all poli-sci wonks.
On conservative literature–a good start.
The complicated politics of Shakespeare.
On ostensibly conservative college students being intellectually stunted:
“They cannot think with a conservative worldview because they have had limited exposure to conservative values. Children spend thirteen years in a school system which was founded upon progressive ideals about education and which increasingly promotes statism. For eighteen years the entertainment industry communicated to them an equally progressive worldview. From all sides children are taught to believe in the inherent goodness of humankind and to cherish the values of tolerance and diversity. There is no good and evil; there is just diversity. There is no justice and truth; there is only tolerance for other opinions. Democracy has become a good in its own right instead of being founded upon virtue. When democracy becomes its own end, any atrocity can be justified by a majority vote.”
Great comment on an Instapundit link about politically biased professors:
I noticed that back when I was in university: the liberal students were so used to everyone around them validating their opinions that they didn’t learn to make good arguments; the conservative students knew they needed good arguments, so they learned to make them,
The unfortunate part comes when these liberal students go through many years of schooling, get loads of validation for twittering about the talking point of the day, and then turn into incredulous, raging jerks when an adult conservative makes a point contrary to their ideology.
Two great quotes I picked up on earlier this summer when I read Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness:
I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe, and is disappointed when anything is less than best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods.
So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. ‘All is vanity.’ ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;—not that man is fitted to sit down on tombstones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.
But even Solomon, he says, ‘the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain’ (i.e. even while living) ‘in the congregation of the dead.’ Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.
–Melville, Moby Dick, ch. XCVI
From chapter 5 of the autobiography…
On happiness through ignoring yourself:
On finding enjoyment in simple things:
On poetry (and mountains):
I’m getting a lot out of Mill’s autobiography. From the end of chapter 3, wise advice:
I learnt how to obtain the best I could, when I could not obtain everything; instead of being indignant or dispirited because I could not have entirely my own way, to be pleased and encouraged when I could have the smallest part of it; and when even that could not be, to bear with complete equanimity the being overruled altogether. I have found, through life, these acquisitions to be of the greatest possible importance for personal happiness, and they are also a very necessary condition for enabling any one, either as theorist or as practical man, to effect the greatest amount of good compatible with his opportunities.
And near the end of chapter 4 Mill details the casual self-improvement programs he and some friends conducted, mostly as a sort of intense book club. They studied languages, read and discussed serious works, and debated issues. Where are such groups today?
Every July for 40 years, the North Las Vegas Stake of the LDS Church has put on a Pioneer Day celebration that has become legendary. Here are the fireworks from the end of last night’s festivities. Yes, they are close to the crowd, and yes, this is done with the permission and supervision of the fire department! Sorry for cutting off the first bit of the first song.
- List of technology-enhanced activities for secondary English classes.
- Examples of worthwhile technology-enhanced lesson plans.
- Quick thoughts from the Hardings, homeschooling parents of ten who have sent seven kids to college by age 12.
- Recently found this silly video I made for a class I was taking two years ago. Amusing.
- Instapundit nails it: the humanities lost relevance when they decided to preach that nothing has intrinsic value. It’s been my experience that students (yes, even at-risk, underprivileged minorities!) appreciate the classics. Everybody likes the egalitarian ideal of participation in the uniting, universal canon, rather than manufactured niche curricula that only panders to trends.
Language & Literature
- Great WSJ essay on one of my favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces.
- Cute chart collects insults from famous authors who hated each other’s work.
- Fascinating memoir of writing the script for Star Trek: Insurrection. Included here because it shares so much about that specific writing craft. Also, Insurrection is often over-maligned—it is not great, but not nearly as bad as many say. This long essay shows how it could have been great.
- Long lost introduction by Anthony Burgess to Dubliners.
- Interesting city photos from around the world.
- Beautiful music and images celebrate the wonder of God’s creations.
- Basic training ideas for half marathons, with more resources.
- 101 running tips from Men’s Health