Even at the grave we make our song . . .

. . . but not during the Paschal celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ–at least in the Episcopal Church.
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A Hot Dog Is a Sandwich

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), 1903-1950

Every semester, staff and instructors at FTCC are allowed to take one class free of charge, and I almost always try to take advantage of that wonderful opportunity. This semester I am taking a class in critical thinking offered by the humanities department. Since learning to think critically is essential to the process of persuasive writing, I chose this class as part of my annual professional development to assist me in improving my English composition classes.

I wrote the material below in response to one a homework assignment in that class. After completing an assessment of our individual learning styles (no surprise: mine was verbal/linguistic, with musical as a close second), we had to answer questions in which we discussed and analyzed our specific results. The final question for the assignment read as follows: List no less [sic] than five reasons why a hot dog in a bun is not a sandwich. Explain your answers. This is my response:

This is a game I won’t play. Continue reading

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Wonder: My New Year’s Resolution

Among the saddest lines in literature are the ones with which Nick Carraway describes his last glance at the sprawling estate on Long Island from which Gatsby watched the green light on Daisy’s dock:

As the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

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What We Have Lost: Our Stories Make Us One

“Thanksgiving lessons jettison pilgrim hats, welcome truth”
This headline from the Associated Press exploded inside my skull when I saw it three days ago, and in the dust that settled, I read an important lesson about what has been lost as the enemies of American culture have whittled away at the stories that once united us in the effort to make us hate ourselves and apologize for our glorious history. Please have patience, and follow me as I trace the path by which I reached some fresh but troubling insights into our current moment. Continue reading

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Phone Fun

The day was Friday, November 13. The time was 1:15 p.m. The occasion was my online-scheduled, social-distanced, not-so-express pickupped iPhone 12 Pro Max. With the alternating frenzy and lethargy of the last two weeks, I was uncharacteristically and unapologetically eager to let myself go and have a real treat. And so it was. Below, I am sharing a few carefully curated photos from an afternoon of fun with my new phone–and with Pavel’s version of fun, a few brewskis.

Click on the photos below to witness some of the features of this new marvel of technology and art all in one:

Waiting at the Apple Store, Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh

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Dostoevsky in Beulah Land

Despite the glorious, almost too-warm temperatures for a day six weeks into autumn, I took off for my late-morning walk with a heavy heart. I was depressed, outraged, and frightened over lost hopes for a return to American values, a stolen election, and Soviet-style intrusions into the lives of patriots only one day after the election has been called. I remain so after my return. However, the catharsis of a brisk walk, the dark tale of The Idiot that I listened to on my AirPods, and unique sights of autumn on Old Beulah Road  gave me a needed reminder of my own smallness in this magnificent universe. I realized–nay, I experienced–that there are still moments of startling beauty on the Earth, that there are minute ideas to be examined closely, and voluminous philosophies to be pondered endlessly.

I am posting this photo gallery, largely unedited–the day presented raw–to remind myself and to reassure my readers of the important lessons in our tempestuous times. Continue reading

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COVID Masks and Comma Splices

For me, the cruelest part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been its stultifying and probably irremediable effects on education at all levels. Exactly at the middle of the spring 2020 semester, all our classes were switched to online-only instruction. I had a small but vibrant American literature class whose nine members provided me–for eight weeks–with the most delightful, stimulating, and challenging experience I have ever had from behind the lectern. Actually , there was no lectern because I pulled together two tables in the back of the classroom, and we sat around them together, seminar-style, all equals, as we discussed such topics as proto-existentiaism in”The Open Boat,” religious imagery in “The Hollow Men,” and blame and forgiveness in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Suddenly in mid-March, that time of wonder was over. Yes, they continued to be just as curious and creative and insightful, but even when we had a few virtual discussions, we never again achieved that chemical reaction that occurs a few few inches above the heads of engaged scholars sharing their ideas around a table and momentarily illuminates the entire space. Continue reading

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My #WalkAway Story

As I write, the Presidential election of 2020 is ten days away. I agree with those on both sides of the aisle that it is the most important election at least in my lifetime (which is long); I will not, however, be so hyperbolic as to include all elections since 1788 in that pronouncement. In any case, most of my life I have been (t0 a fault, perhaps) transparent and forthright about my views on all range of topics–until this year. Oh, I have spoken out about specific subjects that touch me deeply, but I have hidden my deepest thoughts and fears about the direction of politics in the United States. It has been difficult to see myself betraying the values I embraced at the University of Arizona in the early 1970s as I transformed from a naïve and conservative girl from a mining town in the West to an in-your-face and almost knee-jerk liberal who went to graduate school (twice!) at that bastion of Southern liberalism in Chapel Hill. Moreover, I have been embarrassed to have to eat the words of forty-plus years and even ashamed to confess my current thinking to my friends.

However, I have recently realized that I am in good company, growing every day, with the members of the #WalkAway movement–now almost 500,000 strong. With that throng of all ages, races, creeds, and sexual orientations, I am finally willing to confess–nay, proclaim–my developing political ideology. Because I believe that the most meaningful ideas are transmitted though narrative, I am going to collect here the stories of my initially tentative self-revelations over the last two months.

I realize that what I have written is long and tortuous (but not, I hope, torturous). I don’t expect many will have the patience to get through it all . . . but I have been voting since 1972. It’s a long story!

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Everything Not Forbidden Is Compulsory

When I first passed this sign yesterday morning on the way to class, I thought it was an instruction in etiquette: “Don’t sit here because this is a table, and sitting on tables is rude.” Silly me.

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The Common Cup

Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1547)

This post has been germinating almost as long as we–human beings, Americans, North Carolinians, Christians, Episcopalians–have been altering the patterns of our lives and our relationships with one another and with God in response to the novel coronavirus. Other preoccupations, however, pushed it aside. Preparing online instruction for six classes and then conducting office hours and presenting lectures in cyberspace took up most of my time. When I came up (down?) for air long enough to make a post on my blog about the effects of COVID-19, the concern for lost freedom momentarily overtook the more pressing concern for lost faith, and I wrote instead about arbitrary lockdowns, malleable truths, and an eroding Constitution.  Continue reading

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