Reason for Horror

We have just returned from a 32-hour trip to OKC. I left Roots in Tulsa, both because I knew there would not be time to read and to allow myself a brief reprieve. I have, however, continued mulling the story. . .and the comment to my previous blog. . .over in my mind. Why do I read this stuff? In the case of Native Son, I did not realize what I was getting into until it was too late. If I had it to do over, I do not know if I would read it again. In the current case, although I have not yet finished the book, I would. I would readily read it again. I would readily teach it in a class. I would readily share it, albeit not with just anyone. Why? Although Roots is a novel, it is based upon historical events. It is not gratuitous sensationalizing. These things really did happen. People really did--and do--treat people this way. I do not want to forget. I do not want our culture, our children to forget. Someone must remember if we are to resist repetition.
It may be argued that we can remember the facts without the graphic details, but I must disagree. While I would not consider myself an intellectual, I am an educated person. I know the basic historical facts of the Atlantic slave trade, of American slavery, of World War II, of Vietnam, and of other horrors in history. Yet they are not real to me until I have some personal experience with them. With World War II, it was the grandfather of a Jewish classmate who came to school to share about his time in a Nazi concentration camp. I remember the number tatooed on his arm, his inability to restrain the tears as he related his experience, his grave demand for quiet, for respect. For the evils of slavery and racial discrimination, it is, in part, books such as this. I am an avid and vivid reader--avid in that I can read almost anything, vivid in that what I read becomes very real in my imagination. It becomes a part of me. The horror and ugliness of treating another human as an animal is now a part of me. Yes, I hated slavery before. I have fought back tears when discussing subjects related to racial discrimination with my students, because it is so odious to me. Now, there will be a new passion in my voice, because I have had what is, for me, a very personal brush with slavery. I have come as near to a first-hand experience as I hope I ever do. I may not be able to hold back the tears the next time we discuss America's past in my classroom. Students may see me cry. And that is okay. Somebody needs to care enough to cry, even for sins that were committed 200 years ago. Our nation is still suffering for those sins. There is no magic solution to make them go away, but there is the hope of continued repentance and rebirth.
I do not think everyone should read such books. There are too many books for everyone to read them all. We must, to some degree, accept a differentiation of tasks and skills. For some, remembering is a task; remembering evils of the past to fight them in the present. Fighting racial bias, racial prejudice, racial ignorance is a task that I accept with gravity, but also with some anticipation. I delight in the particolored beauty that rises out of such motley ashes; it is for that joy that I wished to teach where I do. What might my beautifully diverse students say to see a white teacher cry for our ancestors? Would it make a difference to some, to one? Would it impress upon a single youth the need to remember, to repent, to reach higher?


Coping with Horror

With a three-day weekend and a sore mouth that inhibits communication, I have settled into several hours worth of postponed reading this evening. I started Alex Haley's Roots weeks ago, but had not progressed very far. I am now about 1/3 finished (it's quite a long novel) and have stopped to assimilate.

I am feeling a deep and justified horror. It is not the same horror as when I read Richard Wright's Native Son a couple months ago. . .the horror that drove me to tears of revulsion and disbelief during a sleepless night. I will not share the too-vivid images that caused my insomnia; I will only say that I knew the general events of the book, but was not in the least prepared for the specific and brutal depiction. It was days before I recovered, and I have not before now visited the memories to evaluate what I took away from the book. Thinking about that for the first time, I want to claim a deep--as in deeply rooted, not profound--understanding of the consciousness of an oppressed people, even as I know there is no outside understanding of such a thing. I sense and pity the bewilderment and confused anger that created Wright's main character, even as I am reviled by the result. I blanch from the idea of a similar working upon any of my students, even with mitigated circumstances and outcomes. The horror is still very real--real enough to draw tears now.

This horror, however, is somehow different. It is still characterized by some revulsion, but the main parts are shame, disgust, and pure grief. I have reached the point in the story where Kunta, the main character, has been captured by slave traders, has survived the hellish voyage to America, has recovered through the punishment of 2 failed escapes, and is recovering from the permanent punishment of a 3rd. His punishment? He had a choice. . .to lose a foot or what, at least in his eyes, makes him a man by enabling him to father sons. He is only 17. Now, without his right foot, he is struggling to learn the use of crude crutches on a strange farm (he did escape a good distance from his owner), still unable to communicate anything of substance in English. The author is graphic in his recounting of the voyage over. The images and sensory details are horrific--more so, I believe, than they would be in a movie. I find my muscles tensing as I read and hold back tears of anger and grief. How, in the sight of God whom they claimed to serve, could these men treat other men as they did? What kind of man takes a sadistic pleasure in offering such a choice to a teenager already frightened out of all reason? I cannot find it in me to admit I am connected in any way to these creatures. I know I am man, and therefore I am depraved, but I shudder at such a clear picture of man's depravity. I shudder with the unadmitted knowledge that, inevitably, there is such a story somewhere in my bloodline. Whatever form it may have taken, there is such sin somewhere behind me. And, God forbid, even in my own life. Was I so different as a child, when I painfully remember joining 4 of my peers in making one poor boy's life miserable for an entire school year? Was I any better, because I did not have a knife or a whip in my hand?

Faced with the horrors of the past (blissfully ignoring the similar ongoing horrors of many places today), I am without excuse or ability to deny the overwhelming consciousness of my own fallen humanity. I am. . .awed. . .by a grace that reaches so far and stoops so low to save any wretch born thus.
Amazing Grace
How sweet the sound


Stubborn Canker Sores, Ogres, and Oars

Yes, my canker sore is alive and well. It hurts. And it makes talking miserable, which makes teaching miserable. Thankfully, it's a 3-day weekend.

We were reading "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in my junior class today. One of the stanzas begins, "Then I heard the dash of oars." I stopped right before this stanze to check for comprehension, then asked them to look ahead and see what noise the mariner hears. After about 20 seconds and several wrong answers, one girl finally says, "Oh, oars?" Beaming (as much as possible with my huge canker sore, which is not at all), I excitedly affirm her response and ask what oars are. She, having been encouraged, confidently continues, "Like those things on Shrek." Puzzled and with a bewildered look, I frantically comb my memory for the 1 time I've seen the movie, desparately trying to remember a scene in a boat. She, seeing me confounded, clarifies, "Isn't that what he is? An oar?" The girl next to her laughs and says, "An ogre!" *sigh*


Canker Sores, Spiders, and BB King

The very nature of the word "blog" seems to me to be indicative of randomness and spontaneity. So, items from mi dia. . .

I have a canker sore in my mouth, on the inside of my cheek right next to my back molar. It was a bit sore this morning. Then I read 2 chapters of Huck Finn aloud to my 1st hour, which caused intense soreness. I didn't want to talk, much less smile. Thus, 3rd and 4th hour got to listen to their literary selections on audio. Thank goodness for CD players.

I killed 2 spiders today. There was a medium-sized one on the bathroom floor before I got in the shower this morning. I killed it with tissue and flushed it down the toilet. Not my favorite morning greeting. Then there was a large-sized one in my classroom. I took my shoe off and killed it, then threw it in the trashcan with a napkin. Very gross. And I can't be girly and helpless, because there are students around. I'm supposed to be the mature, responsible monster-slayer. Waah.

We're on our way to OKC for a BB King concert. More on that afterward. . .I'm not sure what to expect.


True Womanhood

I must credit where credit is due. In the past couple of weeks, I've been semi-steadily working on memorizing the latter half of Proverbs 31. It began with a verse of much-needed inspiration for the high school English teacher (She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.), progressed to equally-needed inspiration for the newlywed homemaker (She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness), and continued from there. It is an ongoing struggle--not the memorization so much as the putting it into practice (what's the word that means that?). As one who did complete 4 years of "Christian" college (rather resentfully) with all its social activities (well, if "all" means as few as I could manage) and related issues, I admit to being envious of those who have the wisdom and support to utilize the available time in pursuit of truly important subjects. I admit to being vociferously defensive of the wise friends I am privileged to know when said methods are questioned by others. My hat is off to you. . .with all the respect, sincerity, and admiration I can muster. Thank you.

Oh, implementation. That's the word I couldn't think of.

(This entire blog was prompted by the article at the following link: "Make for the Higher". I have read the article twice since finding it in the middle of this afternoon and shall certainly revisit it, I know.)



According to the pastor in service this morning, "enthusiasm" comes from the Greek words meaning "in God." I find this. . .inspiring. Care to comment and/or expound (Naomi)?

Pachabel's Canon in D

I fell in love with this classic piece the first time we played it in Orchestra. It's the song you always hear at weddings--the one that isn't The Wedding March. As of this weekend, I have now had 2 dastardly experiences in which this beautiful work was tragically misused.
The first was during my tenure at ORU. It was a video in some class depicting parts of Aztec history. In one scene, they were depicting an Aztec man being prepared for human sacrifice. The music was dark, suspenseful, forboding. Just at the point when the captors swung a blade to kill the sacrifice, the music abruptly switched to the most upbeat section of Canon in D. I was traumatized.
The second was Friday evening at an otherwise lovely graduation. During a slideshow, there suddenly came a song I struggled at first to place. Smothered beneath a heavy drum beat and watered-down rap lyrics, there it was. Pachabel's masterpiece. I do not know if I shall recover from this travesty.



Novalis was a 18th Century German Romantic, admired and respected by thinkers such as George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis. Here are some lovely quotes. . .

A character is a completely fashioned will.

Only as far as a man is happily married to himself is he fit for married life and family life in general.

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.

Our life is no dream; but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.

Corn - the place, not the food

Tomorrow I’m going to a graduation in Corn, Oklahoma. Find it on a map. . .it’s about an hour and a half west of Oklahoma City. In other words, it’s mostly nowhere. In spite of that, I’m quite excited. The graduate is a girl I haven’t seen in several years, but someone for whose family I hold the utmost fondness and respect. I got her 2 sets of poetry magnets and a metal stand to arrange them on last night. . .I hope she agrees with me on the necessity of impracticalities.

With Naomi’s help, I have also been formulating a few words of limited wisdom – not so much advice as reminders from our own exigent college experience. It's a frightening experience, wanting desperately to save someone a bit of your own growing pains, yet not truly knowing if they are subsided enough to produce something of value.


Celebrating Absurdity

At times, and sometimes more than others, life is absurd. For example. . .

Last Thursday, I had dirty fish water leaking through my classroom ceiling from a broken fish tank in the classroom above mine.

At dinner with some TU people Friday evening, a guy I'd never met called out, "Hey, baby" to a random girl walking by. Thankfully, she did not respond.

At TU Commencement on Saturday, I happened to notice a great lack of overweight graduates. . .compared, that is, to ORU, with all its physical education regimen.

Adults fighting like 5-year olds. . .the equivalent of "I won't be your best friend anymore."

Schools that arbitrarily take students' word and attempt to hold accused students accountable for vandalism without evidence, especially when said snitches had the motivation of free rent for turning in "guilty" parties.

Sometimes absurdity is hilarious, sometimes is horrific, and sometimes it is heavenly.

It is absurd that anyone, especially one blameless and divine, would sacrifice His own perfect life for any number of foolish, selfish, headstrong individuals who will never be able to fully grasp the enormity of His gift. Yet He did.


Strength and Dignity

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
She laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31 - I've decided I should memorize it for inspiration in my (ever so brief and ever so few) dark moments. Strenght and dignity are the catch-words of the day, at least for this week.

Naomi coined a new phrase—“epic mercy”—and wants to use it in poetry. I’m going to beat her to it. . .and write something more on the light side of the dark tunnel than my previous poetic attempt.

There are epochs in each life
When events transpire as designed
When tasks are all completed
When spirits consistently shine

There are epochs in each life
When things don’t go as planned
When jobs are left undone
When emotions get out of hand

Epochs of felicity, Epochs of fear
Epochs of peace, Epochs of pain
Epochs of darkness, Epochs of dawn
Epochs of rainbow, Epochs of rain

Though epochs ever rise and fall
As kingdoms and rulers of Earth
One epic forever continues
Of divine mystery and mirth

A cosmic epic directed by God,
An epic universal, reigns above
Epic justice, Epic redemption
Epic mercy, Epic love

I don’t particularly think I’m a brilliant poet, but I do love words.