Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Oh, the Weather Outside...

Winter itself has been acting a little bipolar this year, and so is it any surprise that my moods have daily been following suit? This morning was bright and clear as I woke up with a comfortable kind of stretch and a snuggle back to sleep like a cat in the sun. By the time I opened my eyes again (at 8:00 for my 8:30 class) I was in a bit of a flurry to prepare and (thanking God for my chipper cabby) the wind picked up the snow and blew me right to my seat with a minute to spare. An hour later I was lost in the world of heavy flakes and white skies as the wonderland beyond my desk told me stories of wintry walks in a Narnian kind of place. The parking lot has never seemed so adventurous. Now as I sit indoors, en route to class in a moment or two, I stare out at my peers as they frolic in the fresh fallen flakes with a blended felling of melancholy, envy and contentment that is quite suited to the huge, soppy clumps of snow that are blanketing my northern world. The weather changes quickly – as fast as life itself – and keeping pace can be a difficult thing, even in the simplest of ways.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

B. Ball Academy

Rick, Sam and Alex were three-way best friends and the three best players on their school’s basketball team. Successful sports had been the school’s pride and joy for the past three years and unfortunately for the rest of the school, the athletic program was really the only thing that the school ever put any money into. Before long, the school had an amazing gymnasium, brand new uniforms, a wonderful basketball team and a building full of classrooms that were totally falling apart. After a while the board shut down their school and all of the kids had to find new places to study. Big schools from the city came and collected students for enrolment, and one of these schools was the B. Ball Academy for Boys.
Sir Benjamin Ball, the man that the school was named after, was a huge fan of basketball. Down every hallway of his school there were gigantic trophy cases filled to the brim with all kinds of metals and pictures and awards. Mr. Nezz, the basketball team coach at B. Ball Academy, was always looking for more players to help him win. He had the best basketball team in the whole province and he hadn’t lost a single game all season. As soon as he heard about a school closing its doors, he made sure he was right in the middle of the chaos to scoop up all of the really great players.
Rick, Sam and Alex were at the very top of Mr. Nezz’s list. Before they even realized what was going on they were suited up in the Academy uniforms at their first practice. “Welcome to the team, boys!” said Mr. Nezz as everyone got together before their work began. “As many of you know, this year we are finally in the running for national championships! And this is what we are going to be working for...”
Mr. Nezz unrolled a giant poster of the national championship trophy. It was a huge, shiny, golden masterpiece of metal. “Okay boys, here’s what we’re going to do. Ten minutes before every game we play this season, I’m going to start this CD and for the first three songs we are going to sit in front of this poster and visualize.”
Mr. Nezz explained that visualizing meant that they were going to picture themselves winning the final game and holding this trophy above their heads. Then they were supposed to think hard about how much the trophy meant to each person and to the team as a whole. After the third song was over they would get up and chant “Champions! Champions! Champions!” until the game began.
“Anyone who does not do this as part of the team I will assume does not want to part of the team at all. I won’t kick you off, however you won’t be allowed to play for the rest of the season. Instead, you will become a waterboy and equipment manager, in charge of doing the laundry and washing the change rooms. Make your choice and make it quickly. Our first game starts tomorrow morning.”
The next day the team gathered together in the locker room. The poster of the trophy had been framed and put up on the wall above the drinking fountain. The whole team sat in a circle and ten minutes before the game began, Mr. Nezz started his music. The team closed their eyes and started to visualize.
Rick, Sam and Alex did not shut their eyes or bow their heads in visualization. Instead, they stood up and walked over to Mr. Nezz who was mumbling “championship” under his breath. Alex tapped him on the shoulder. “Umm, sir? We really don’t want to do this... it’s... wrong. Can we please leave?”
Mr. Nezz looked frustrated. “Are you sick? Are you going to throw up?” Rick shook his head. “No, sir. We just think it’s wrong to focus on the trophy like this. We don’t want to visualize. We just want to play basketball.” Rick and Sam nodded.
Mr. Nezz stood up and cleared his throat. Everyone looked up from their visualization. “Well boys, looks like we found ourselves a couple of waterboys already! Let’s get these kids to work!” Two of the older kids got up and grabbed Alex under the armpits and lifted him up off the ground. A few other boys came and picked up Sam and Rick the same way. Then the bigger players carried Rick, Sam and Alex through the locker room and into the change rooms where the laundry was kept. Rick, Sam and Alex were thrown into the bins along with the dirty uniforms and smelly gym socks.
“Have fun cleaning, boys!” Mr. Nezz and the rest of the team walked out to the gymnasium to play the game. All that could be heard was the chanting of “Champions! Champions!” as the door to the change rooms swung closed.
Rick, Sam and Alex climbed out of the laundry hamper. They looked around the room, expecting to see a huge mess but instead they saw sparkling floors and tidy equipment. They looked back in the laundry hamper they had just climbed out of. The laundry was mysteriously clean and folded. They looked towards the door that the team had just walked out of. There, leaning against the wall with a mop in hand was a kid in a strange uniform.
“Enjoy your night, boys! I'm pretty proud of you for standing up for yourselves and for what you believe in. Well done.” At that moment the door opened and Mr. Nezz came back in. He was reaching out for his whistle when he froze and stared at the floor. It was all... sparkly. His jaw dropped as he looked around the room and then up into the faces of Rick, Sam, Alex and the mysterious new kid. He blinked hard and gave his head a bit of a shake. When he opened his eyes again, the fourth kid was gone. “What just happened here?!”
“That kid...” Rick was having a hard time making sense of it himself. “He just... did everything so fast and he saved us like... hours and hours of work! Then he just... disappeared!”
Mr. Nezz was in shock. “Wow, I... don’t know... I mean, that kid! ...You know? Okay, boys. I don’t know what just happened, but if you can clean this fast you must be like Speedy Gonzalez on the court! You’re back on the team for sure. And no more of this crazy visualization stuff anymore. Clearly you don’t need it! It’s probably not a great idea anyway. Maybe it’s even wrong. I’m sorry I tried to force you. Will you come and play now?”
Rick, Sam and Alex played an amazing game that night and Sam was even made captain a few weeks later. The coach made sure they never had to visualize anything about that trophy ever again... and they still won the championship!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Classics Notes...

I'm sure this is bad form but I'm not sure what else to do. Until this evening I've had no complaints about my lovely new MacBook - but now, as I sit in my lecture hall with naught but this computer, I'm at a loss - I do not have my notebook which I didn't expect to be a problem, but surprise! It really is. Why? I have a Mac... and Macs do not have Word.

So, here I am with Internet but without Word and so I'm going to take my notes here, for the world to see. Welcome to CLAS 2146 and forty-five minutes in the academic life of yours truly.

Kypselid Policy

Many tyrants in Ancient Greece funded one of four major, acknowledged Games (i.e. the Olympic Games) to show off and increase their own reputation. They favoured the lower classes over the aristocracy (gain control over and support of the majority of the population) and established their rule by extensive, violent military power.

In Corinth, Kypselos (a tyrant) exiled the Corinthians and those he did not banish he castrated (a generation of eunuchs ends their population). When he finished his rule, his son took over and for a time was not so violent but he ended up being even worse, killing any suspicious or outstanding and potentially threatening people under his control. Together they ruled for about 70 years.

Corinth became a very, very important cultural and economic centre under the Kypselid Dynasty. Why did it end? Basically Periander (the son) ticked off enough of his enemies that they banded together, expelled him and took over, establishing an oligarchy (aristocratic rule).

Tyranny of Sicyon

Reminder: history is sketchy in the archaic period because we don't have any recorded evidence until nearly 200 years later... It's a lot of interpretation and guess work which is what makes it difficult to trust what I'm learning, or personally invest my mind here.

Sicyon was a victor at the Games and expanded them while he was in rule... he replaced the flute-singing competition and added the chariot race. Attaboy, get those horses going and ditch the arts... a macho move, but an effective one for raising his popularity scores.

Polyrates/Samos Tyranny

535 BC(E) power is taken over by three brothers (until Polyrates kills one brother and exiles the other) and the island is set up as a military naval power. He sets up political ties with the king of Egypt and gets building and expanding (plundered and captured a whole load of people - a pirate king of the Mediterranean... and captures the Lesbians?).

Built a huge tunnel/aqueduct on the island (900 feet under a mountain?!) which still survives.

Death of: he was crucified with his men by Magnesia and the Persians free the people (disposed of the leaders) and then take over.

Gela on Sicily

505 BC(E) mercenaries (lead by Cleander) from the outside take over and rule until he was assassinated in 498 and is followed up by his brother (Hyppokrates) who rules in his stead and tries to expand (where he is killed trying to conquer another city). When the city finds out their tyrant is dead, chaos is temoratily restored until Gelon takes over and establishes his tyranny until 478 BC(E).

Gosh this shrinking BC-AD timeline is confusing. And my prof is moving SO fast!!

Herodotus: "Gelon pretends to protect his son but then he basically turned on everyone and took over. When a tyranny is established the polis (city) begins to flourish... but the people are not fond of him and it's a mutual distaste."

Gelon: "You're a jerk, men of Hellas, and I can't trust you. You're asking me to help but last time I helped you you bailed on me hardcore. But I'm better than you and I will help - I will send you men and provisions... but you have to let me be the ruler of everything." (They said "Thanks but no thanks.")

Question to the class: "Is there something about the surviving accounts of Greek Tyrants that causes you to be cautious?" Potential biases of their sources: there are huge gaps (roughly 200 years) between the actual event and the records. They are very similar in pattern and so it is very mythologized: a prophesy of the oracle, come to power with good intentions, suffer from hubris (arrogant pride), they are corrupted and they fall and order is restored by another power.

Tyranny leads to irresponsible abuse of power? Can't be assumed but there sure are a lot of examples. However, "if anybody goes against the demos (people) he is to be overthrown immediately by the boule (judges?) and the tyrant and his decendants are to be stripped of all rights forever," at least in Athens.

The Balanced Perspective

Tyranny is very close to democracy - popular of the common people and takes them into account. Brings a more even distribution of wealth, relieve debt and make improvements to the economy. "You harm your enemies and help your friends."

Euergetism (structural growth of the city, etc) and tyranny go hand in hand... To come? Sparta! Class over! Run away!

Well, I hope you've enjoyed dipping your toes into Ancient Greece. I've learned that it is unspeakably difficult to take notes on the computer and pay attention to the visual stimuli in my lecture. I can't type without my hunt-and-peck when under the pressure of keeping up with someone else's thoughts... so, next class I will be back to my good old pen and pad.

Soon I will write a note worth reading. Until then, I leave you with this one little-known-fact that I picked up in my biblical studies today. When locusts swarm there are as many as 40 million to 80 million locusts in one square kilometre! Makes you think twice about the eighth plague, eh? Not fun for Egypt. Not fun at all.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Lies and Love

My smile is a lie today. Can you tell? I'm not trying to hide it but neither am I broadcasting my soul to the world. If you are looking you will see it but if you choose to pass by once again with a hollow and meaningless "Hey, how's it going," then you will, once again, miss the opportunity to hear my heart and numb my pain.

I woke up ugly today. My mirror was vicious and relentlessly cruel - but I could not cover her mocking face and piercing words. Neither could I please her, though I tried. All of my eye-lining, blushing, curling, straightening and glossing was of no use. My dressing, undressing, redressing, redressing, redressing... nothing could satisfy, nothing could temper. I left the house nearly two hours late and with a very heavy heart. But could you see this?

Even now as I look around at the women in my life - other women sitting at computers so much like this one, other women with smiling faces and bright eyes - I am in a war - a civil war - between my mind and my heart. Ugly, worthless, stupid, lazy, immature, too young, too old, aimless, wandering, free-loading, idle, depressed and depressing to others, loveless, naive, dirty... Truth is trying to fight back but it is struggling to gain ground today. Truth needs reinforcements. Truth needs physical help. But here I sit, avoiding eye contact with my friends, typing silently, hoping against hope that someone will break through the walls I am building and rescue me... which is, I suppose, the purpose of Truth itself.

It seems so unusual that emotion can entirely dominate over what we know. Feelings are overwhelming and disarming, which explains the insufficiency of self-thought and self-affirmation. On good days I can tell myself I am beautiful. On good days I can quote God's love by memory and apply those passages in a practical way... but this is not a good day. This is a bad day and I need to hear those words and feel that love from an external source. But, can you see that? Can you do that?

I think you might be surprised how frequently I battle through days like this. I am incredibly melancholy so much of the time despite my apparent glee and shine but few can recognize the warning signs of such deep, internal shadow. Today I'm counting on those special, loved few to pull me aside and let me cry, to tell me I'm beautiful and smart and to give me a hug from the heart of God Himself. I know He loves me - I know I am loved - but today, knowing is not enough.

Yes Click, No Click

There are many clicks to be clicked in this world, but as with everything the simple fact that you are able doesn’t mean that you should. The click is a very serious thing; it is irreversible as you cannot, however much you might want to, unclick something. Because of this (perhaps obvious) reality, I am taking it upon myself to educate, warn, guide and direct your clicks so that you may discover the wonders and avoid the perils of this oh-so-clickable planet.

The CAMERA: If you’re set up for a photo-shoot with four modest-meets-beautiful-meets-gothic-clown-meets-backcombing-meets-sugar clad young women, I encourage you to YES, CLICK. The opportunity for such joyful fun comes but once in a blue moon and unfortunately less and less frequently as girls grow up up and away – so take advantage of such moments and do all that you can to capture them in time and photography. If, however, you find yourself in a particularly awkward or compromising situation whether for yourself or another, NO CLICK I tell you! Don’t do something you’ll regret. Save face the honest way and close that shutter.

The LINK: These newly invented digital punctuation marks are absolutely brilliant – please feel free to YES, CLICK here for a cool Pomplamoose song (quickly becoming one of my favourite bands), or here to download a free audiobook of nearly any genre, or here to learn a new guitar chord or even here which will just be a mystery unless you try it. But I stretch out my bright yellow reflective caution tape because not all links are good! For example, most of the links that have been showing up in the comment sections on this blog are NO CLICK links! (GAH! I am not popular enough to have to deal with spam!) So, how can you tell if a comment is author-approved? I’ll go on record with my criterion: ads for dieting and weight loss are spam and you are super beautiful, links in Chinese or other character-based languages are spam and I’m almost sure if I could understand what such posts say I would be either embarrassed or offended, and finally links that have anything to do with sex are spam. Sex is for married people, not for bloggin’ so NO CLICKin’ either... but if you want to hit the link below called “comment” and say something encouraging or profound from time to time that would be maahhhvelous and might help to emotionally balance out the spam. Just saying.

The REMOTE: When the television is doing something you don’t want it to be doing (for example, any one of the carbon-copy CSI episodes) then absolutely, YES CLICK to something more interesting even of the same general genre (for example, Castles). The only time you should NO CLICK the remote when there is something less than educational or entertaining on the screen is if someone who you respect and/or is bigger and/or stronger than you has chosen to view it. In such an event I suggest you find something else to do with you time – like find a book or brush your teeth or bake some cookies. (If you do the latter please save me one.)

The RETRACTABLE PEN: I need to be very clear with this one, especially as it is my last: NO CLICK!

And there you have it, folks; the thumbs-up and thumbs-down of responsible button usage.

Just as an addendum to Jami: I know you were hoping for more than a vague nod towards our Christmastime adventures and that being one of four unnamed girls mentioned so briefly above hardly satisfies the efforts you made to “get on the blog,” so this is really only a taste to tide you over until I can come home again – and then the three or four of us girls who are kicking around will have to have an adventure that merits its very own entry. Something with umbrellas, perhaps... and chocolate milk. How does that sound for a deal?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Heart in Hand

I scrape out my heart, and cup it in my hands
Please, won’t somebody take it?
I look down at the blood, the emotion, the ache
Won’t somebody take it from me?

It beats so loudly, it longs to be known
Won’t somebody take it from me?
It cannot keep still, yet it withers alone
Please, somebody, take it.

I stand on the street with my beat up old heart
Tattered by years of distress
I hold it out in the light to the men who pass by
But each one refuses my best.

“I know it looks rough.” I choke back the tears.
“But this broken heart can love.”
Yet one after the next, they walk by and scoff.
Please, tell me I am enough.

Each day it grows darker like meat at a market,
Colder and harder inside...
No wonder they pass by and divert their eyes
And no one will take it from me.

I drop to the ground and lean back to a wall.
My heart feels dead in my hands.
As pulseless as stone, as worthless as ice
As shattered and sharp as glass.

“I will take it,” he said. “I want to take it from you.”
I look up with death in my eyes.
A man. He looks down at my shredded, gray heart
And stretches out his hand.

I scramble up to my feet and hold my heart out
“Please!” I beg, “Take it from me!”
“What is the price for this heart?” he asks.
“Nothing, just love, just love...”

His eyes grow heavy in memory of sorrow.
“No, not nothing,” he said.
“But it was paid for by Great, Incredible Love.”
And again reaches out his hand.

There was already blood on his palm.
Each finger stained.
Dark red scars wrapped up the length of his arm.
And his eyes... His eyes...

He cupped his hands over mine and
My heart lept. It was newborn:
No hardness, no bruises, no cuts, no gray.
Reborn, both tender and strong.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove your heart of stone
And give you a heart of flesh,” He said slowly.
“And I will put my Spirit in you.”

He did not take my heart – He filled it.
He planted it back in my chest
And sealed it there, with Love I can’t understand
And he held my hands.

“Your heart is exceedingly precious to me.
Do not give it away.
It is filled with My Love, and that you must share,
Openly, every day.

“But your heart as a whole is mine to keep
And mine is shared with you
So do not fear, but rejoice and draw near.
Because you have got work to do.”

And His Spirit remains, holding my heart in hand
And His eyes watch over me.
As I move through my life I will share out His Love
That fills and overflows my soul.

My hands are now empty and lifted to Jesus
The replacer and healer of hearts.
They are Yours as I am Yours, stained with Your Love.
Use me. Fill me. Take me.