on revolutionaries

I’ve been a little bit obsessed with revolutionaries since seeing Les Mis, and although it’s waning now, I still wanted to examine why I felt so strongly for those who give their lives for what they believe in.

The revolutionary is otherworldly.  Men rarely follow mere mortals into death, but they will fight for stronger and more lasting things – ideas and the Divine.

I know that the trope of the revolutionary isn’t realistic, that revolutions today are bloody and futile and rash when there are other ways to revolt.  They’re desperate. But still I think that there is something attractive in the strength of ideals, because we are drawn to those who know for what they fight.

They have to be fighting for the right things, of course, because when you’re a revolutionary, you lose yourself almost entirely.  You become a man consumed, and at such a price, you’ve got to be sure that what you’re fighting for is worth the toll that it will eventually take on you, even demanding your life.

Something had unsettled me about Enjolras’ appearance in the Les Misérables movie, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I realized the last time I saw the movie that Aaron Tveit’s (marvelously acted) Enjolras was both the youngest and the oldest looking that I’d seen.  His extreme youth reminded me that the Revolution of 1832 was indeed a student’s revolution where the boys who died for their beliefs were hardly older than I am now.  It also contrasted so heavily with the ancientness of his spirit that it shocked me.  Enjolras is a tired old man in a young man’s body, and sometimes, as the revolution consumes him, his weariness begins to show through the cracks, and I began to fear that revolution would rip him apart and burst through those seams.

In The PreludeWordsworth speaks of this same condition in his friend, Michel Beaupuis, the pre-Jacobin revolutionary in the French revolution of the late 18th century:

“His temper was quite mastered by the times,
And they had blighted him, had eaten away
The beauty of his person, doing wrong
Alike to body and to mind”

Wordsworth notices that the revolution has stolen his friend’s youth.  And yet,

“a kind of radiant joy
Diffused around him, while he was intent
On works of love or freedom”

This is why we love them.  We admire the ones that turn their words into actions, whose lives are so transparent that there is no discrepancy between their beliefs and their deeds – a life without hypocrisy that seeps from the heart to the external.  When someone can live their beliefs out, as Wordsworth would say, “truth is more than truth”.  As a side note, we want to love someone like that, too.  Love isn’t really love when it exalts the other into an obsession; instead, we want a partner in a shared love, someone that we can love as we are both consumed by a greater passion.

The revolutionary, in his purest form, rejects himself in order to serve others and even to die for them.  In order to create a better world for his people, he gives his own life to make theirs worth living.

I know that this is a common theme with me, but I don’t think there is harm in repeating it: we are all men consumed.  The question is, by what? And is it worth the toll that it’s going to take on us?

If we’re truly living out our faith, we should be as radiant as the revolutionary, and the love of Christ should be ripping out of our hearts in order to touch those around us, breaking us apart in the process.  We look to the most revolutionary act of history for our hope – Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8)  He gave his life to redeem ours and to change the fabric of our world from that moment on.

And that’s something worth both living and dying for.

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Read this: all aforementioned works.

Hear this: In a bout of revolutionary fervor, I unashamedly give you this: SING

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keats, classes, and the future

So this morning, at 8:30, I signed up for classes for next semester.  Translation: I had freaked out about it all day yesterday, talked to several professors and parents until I finally had some semblance of a schedule… So I woke up at 8:25, clicked some buttons on my laptop while still in bed, and went back to sleep instead of going to Calc.  Uh…

Basically, I’ve decided to take Chem next semester, just to keep my options open.  And… well, lots of angsty feelings and miniature crises.

I rediscovered John Keats a few months ago, when I found a book of his poetry in a bookstore and bought it on the spot.  He has a marvellously sad and beautiful story (let’s add him to the list of my historical crushes who die young…).  Basically, he was a doctor, and he was torn between practicing medicine and writing poetry.  The enormous amount of time he spent being a doctor meant that he didn’t have time to write, and eventually (and scandalously), he left his career in order to pursue poetry.

Thank goodness he did, because he didn’t have much time to do so.  He was engaged to Fanny Brawne when his tuberculosis worsened, and because of his medical training, he knew that he was going to die.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking.  He died in Italy in the arms of his best friend.  He was only twenty-five.  Twenty five!

But as I sit in my MedPrep class (which basically tells you what it’s like becoming a doctor), I feel like Keats.  Okay, no, I’m not an amazing poet who will forever be remembered by history.  But I understand why he felt the way he did.  I understand feeling split between two very different things, feeling like that Raskolnikov, like a split soul.  I understand worrying that writing isn’t a real job, that I don’t have anything good to say.

Honestly? I hate making decisions.  Thinking about my future makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.  And I’m just tired, and burnt out, and just focusing on getting through finals and to summer.  But that also means another year passing, getting one step closer to making a dreadfully important choice.

And I don’t want to choose something, because I can see myself doing so many different things.  My problem? I love everything.

Alright, that’s a lie.  I don’t love diseases, or ants, or not sleeping, or being sick, or mosquitos, or homework, or fatty foods, or people reading over my shoulder, or getting bad grades, or axe murderers (oh… wait, also a lie… see Rodion Romonovich Raskolnikov…).  I don’t love decisions.

But you know what I mean.

My friends call Wednesdays, when I have MedPrep, my existential crisis days, which is pretty accurate.  It’s frustrating, because it reminds me of all the reasons I wanted to be a doctor in the first place and shows me how hard it is to balance medicine with anything else.

I love problem solving, people, helping others, learning new things, and seeing the beauty of the human body.  I love the logical side to it, the fact that it’s a puzzle with a solution.

But I don’t love how much time it takes.  It’d be years before I became a doctor, and then once you’re there, it’s so time consuming.  Medicine takes over your life, and I don’t know if I could deal with that.  That and people dying.

So, I’m struggling with this.  And thinking about it terrifies me.  Honestly, I just want to go and travel the world or live in a big city where I can learn and meet new people and collect their stories as I go.  I love meeting people and talking to them about the things that really matter.  The eternal things.

I’ve tried to give it up to God but a) I’m very good at worrying and b) I don’t know what He wants me to do.  Honestly? I just want to do whatever He would use me best in.  I know that He’ll use me in whatever I do… but still.

I want to do something that matters.  And sometimes I don’t know if that’s fueled by my own selfish desires for greatness or for the right reasons.  But I don’t want to waste my life.

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P.S.  I’m terribly sorry for the poorly-written, intensely personal post.  I don’t think I was very clear and or insightful.  Excuse me while I melt into an awkward puddle of feelings.

EDIT:I just got back from my meeting with my Christian group, and we talked about… worrying.  God is good, all the time, and He keeps reminding me to trust in Him and find my worth through that.

a confession

Hear this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpI5tJoncS0  <<Pertinent and on repeat.

Okay.

Lately…

I’ve been feeling a certain unrest in my soul.  By lately, I don’t mean the-past-week lately, although it’s certainly been resurfacing within recent weeks.  I want to do something important- something that matters.  I was talking to my friend about this, and she pointed out that that unrest wasn’t necessarily a bad thing- that in those moments, we don’t become complacent, but instead notice the things that we need to change and fix.  And I completely agree.

But I’ve been entirely too hard on myself.  I beat myself up all the time for not doing anything important, for not doing as well in school as I think I should do, for being less than others are.  I want to be great, and that sounds terrible as I type this, but this is a confession of sorts.  As I read these fantastic authors’ work, Dostoevsky, Keats, Joyce, Dickens, Shakespeare, Eliot, Donne, Lewis… I can’t help but want to join them in some way.

Is it bad that I yearn for greatness, to make a difference, to be known or remembered?  Not necessarily.  But my motives bear an explanation.  What has been driving me to such distress?  Do I crave this because God has placed it in me and because I want to say something important, change people’s hearts, and speak his truth as an instrument of his will?  Or do I simply want to make a name for myself, draw attention to my own talents and abilities, and be remembered by humanity for my skills and intelligence rather than the Holy Spirit inside of me?

I want to know I’m doing something important.  I want to have a purpose in this life.  And yes, I know my purpose is to praise God in whatever I’m doing, but it’s frustrating not knowing what he’s created and formed me for.

Comparing myself to others to gauge my own worth or progress isn’t helpful, either.  In fact, it’s terribly detrimental.  Whenever I try to measure myself off of others, which is something I struggle with every day, I can never come close.  I end up feeling stupid, out of place, and worthless, and that’s certainly not a good place to be.  I read the work of these beautiful, fantastic, amazingly brilliant authors and think to myself almost every day, I will never measure up.  I could never create such a thing of beauty as they have already, so why try? 

I focus in too closely on myself and let this selfishness grow until these worries consume me, pull me down, and pull me away from the problems of other people.  I could be showing them the love of God, but instead, I tear myself down from the inside out with worries about the future, about my calling, and about what I do with myself right now.

And… here’s the thing.  I’m not writing the next great American novel right now.  I haven’t produced anything radically world-altering or brilliant.  I don’t do something every day that would be considered successful in the eyes of the world… and that’s okay.

Trusting that God will guide me is hard, because I’m fallible, and I’m human, and I doubt and forget what he’s done for me every single day, getting mired down in stupid things.  But I’m trying.  Scratch that.  I don’t have to try, because nothing that I do could get me any closer to God.  He’s already done and given it all for me.  In my weakness, I rely on His strength.  And I’m not saying that I won’t relapse, or that everything will be fixed tomorrow.  I will, and it won’t.  These are things I struggle with all of the time, doubting and idolizing my intelligence or personal glory above God and His power and plans.

But He is changing me, and will show me what He has planned for me in His timing.  That’s a beautiful thing.  And although it’s dreadfully hard to rest in this uncertainty, He makes it a possibility.

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Read this: “Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop a beer barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.” Hamlet, V.i

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will” V.ii

We’ve been in Hamlet for my Shakespeare class (it’s GREAT, I have a minor crush on him… problematic?), and he’s got a lot to say about fleeting greatness and God as the orchestrator of fate.  Well, he gets there.  Eventually.

john donne

XIV

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Oh John Donne.  You cad, you.

You should know that Donne is one of my favorite poets.  I feel like I’m ruining his poem with these comments below it.  But something about this poem thrills my heart and fills me with a totally unknown feeling.  The flutter of some magnificent bird rising in my chest… It’s agitation and peace sharing my soul at the same time.  And it’s absolutely… well, ravishing.  This is God’s love: violently strong, beautiful, and life-changing.

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expatriates

Sometimes, I kind of just want to be an expat.  I don’t want a “real job”.  Not really.

I just want to sit outside of a Parisian, Sevillan, or Venetian café, sipping tea and scribbling things into a notebook as I watch the people pass me on the sun-inundated streets, laughing with each other and babbling on in the Romantic cadence that these languages possess.  I want to look at cobblestones, and old architecture, and great stone edifices and feel a connection with the past and the people around me, thinking of who else walked those same streets before I did.

I want to sit nestled in the corner of some Irish or English pub as the rain drizzles on outside and talk about life with locals, or talk literature with the Inklings.  I want to be a part of something like that where I can listen and contribute, mentor and be mentored, and be in the presence of great minds.

I want to experience different cultures, and travel, and live somewhere entirely different, and meet people as I travel.  It doesn’t matter where, really.  Or for how long.  I’ve never been somewhere that I didn’t like in its own unique way.  I dream of far off markets that bustle with the life of a different group of people, museums of art and history where I can wander for hours, and quiet moments shared with friends in front of the ancient and the modern.

T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound and Henry James were all expatriates from the early twentieth century, when that sort of thing seemed to happen quite frequently.  I’m sure there are thousands more, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

I feel like all of these famous authors were male, though, which could pose a bit of a problem, but no matter.

I suppose I don’t have to be an expat to be involved in a literary discussion group or salon (in the old French sense), though.  Something like the meetings of the Inklings shouldn’t be something that has become outdated and extinct with the advent of the Internet, modernity, and everything else.  I could still discuss fiction, life, God, the eternal, and writing with people here.  Any takers?

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Read this: just because I’m a little obsessed with Holmes: http://www.online-literature.com/doyle/study_scarlet/

fall and fractals

fractal (ˈfræktəl) —n : a figure or surface generated by successive subdivisions of a simpler polygon or polyhedron, according to some iterative process

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“Malcolm’s voice was no louder than a whisper.  “Everything… looks different… on the other side,” he said.

Harding leaned close to him.  “On the other side?” He thought that Malcolm was talking about dying.

“When… shifts,” Malcolm said.

“Shifts?”

Malcolm didn’t answer.  His dry lips moved.  “Paradigm,” he said finally.

“Paradigm shifts?” Harding said.  He knew about paradigm shifts.  For the last two decades, they had been the fashionable way to talk about scientific change.  “Paradigm” was just another word for a model, but as scientists used it the term meant something more, a world view.  A larger way of seeing the world…

“No,” Malcolm said.  “Not… paradigm… beyond…”

“Beyond paradigm?” Harding said.

“Don’t care about… what… anymore…”

Harding sighed.  Despite all efforts, Malcolm was rapidly slipping into a terminal delirium.  His fever was higher, and they were almost out of his antibiotics.

“What don’t you care about?”

“Anything,” Malcolm said.  “Because… everything looks different… on the other side.”

And he smiled.”

 

I absolutely love Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park (the book, of course!)  He talks quite frequently about fractals, chaos, and [you guessed it!]… paradigm shifts!  Yeah, that was him.  🙂

God has made amazing things. I’m in awe of His creation. The simple idea of fall itself, with its changing leaves and fractal-ridden bare trees, is fantastically glorious and made just for us to enjoy.  Every time I see a fractal in nature or think about it, I’m completely overwhelmed at the power, glory, and love of our God.  They’re everywhere, too, in trees, rivers, lightning, and snowflakes.  The dazzling iterations repeat themselves with such perfect mathmatical precision that I cannot help but stand in amazement.  And God just slipped them right into nature, right under our noses, if only to point toward himself and allow us to delight in the beauty that He has created.  He made fractals for His glory and for our happiness.  And that is astounding.

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Read this:  You can read the entire book on the internet!  :O  http://books.google.com/books?id=I79dV_HQvykC&pg=PA384&lpg=PA384&dq=jurassic+park+paradigm+shift&source=bl&ots=3_lzmjKKsw&sig=MzmeB5qoiiWsfoaruKuaq8EiUjI&hl=en&ei=ssPATorgOYzsggfa6My0Bw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CGgQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Look at this: http://webecoist.com/2008/09/07/17-amazing-examples-of-fractals-in-nature/

newest obsession

Harry Clarke.

You’ve never heard of him.  I know you haven’t.

But he was an Irish illustrator/ stained glass maker.  Now how cool of an art form is that?  If we’re being honest here, I just spent the last hour or two researching his work (which I’m going to use on a project).

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And that’s not even any of his illustrations.  SO GOOD.

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Read this:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Clarke