Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Insecurity Finds a Voice

In this sardonic, but insightful little article, technology is described as a mirror-it reflects our lives the way we wish to see them. We groom ourselves to look as sleek and as perfect as we can be, and then indulge in the narcissism through technology.
But sometimes what you see in the mirror hurts. But even then we can't bring ourselves to look away.
Case in point: Formspring.
That trend had a shelf life of maybe all of two seconds. As it should, of course. Good gracious, what on earth could anyone see in a website that exists so that people can anonymously ask you any question that they want.

In what universe would that lead to any sort of positive interactions?

Questions on Formspring inevitably fall into four categories:

1)The Love Life Variety: "Who do you like?"/"Do you have a crush on _[Fill in the Blank]__?"/"What's going on with you and __[Fill in the Blank]__?"/"I've liked you since middle school, and I'll always be in love with you and you're the most beautiful person in the world?"
2)The Hate Speech Variety: "You're ugly."/"No one likes you, you have no friends."/"Why are you so mean?"/"Are you from a different planet?"/"Do you even go here?"
3)The Pointless Flattery Variety:
"I'm jealous of you, you're really cool! lol"/"I want to be just like you, what makeup do you use? lol"/"Your boyfriend's hot, can I have him? lol"/ "What do you do to be so pretty? lol"
4)The Wannabe an Insider Variety: "Why am I not included in your clique?"/"Are you mad at me?"/"Why do you never say hi to me in the hallway when you pass me on the way to lunch?"/"You and your friends think you're better than everyone else, but you're not."
Oh my.

In the article I linked to, the author discusses how Formspring users kept their profiles, even after being exposed to such hurtful and pointless questions that were asked. The question I was left asking myself was: why? Why would we expose ourselves to that sort of negativity willingly? What is the point in holding an open panel discussion on the oh-so-fascinating topic of yourself?
To paraphrase the Bard:
Lord, what fools we mortals be.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"I believe we have different paginations"

I was walking out of the shower this morning, when I got engulfed by a sweet wave of homesickness.
I love autumn. And all things fall-ish.
I love the bright colors and the beautiful everything. And I love the smell of the air during fall-it smells crisp and bright.
And the thing is, the air feels cold. There's a difference between autumn air and spring air. Spring air is filled with smells-sweet, springy, budding, new life smells. But autumn air is pure and bright, and filled with crinkly, leaves-are-falling smells.
I like the feeling of cold air, especially when the warm sun is shining, because the warm sun toasts your face, but the cool air keeps you from getting all sticky and sweaty. You're surrounded by the cool, refreshing air. It's really the perfect weather.
And the colors are brighter in the fall-the reds are redder and the sky is bluer, and it's just beautiful. Fall weather is bomb.
And I love all the trappings of fall. I love apple pie and pumpkins and Halloween and the first hot cocoa of the season, and pumpkin-flavored everything. And the ruby reds and brilliant golds and all the colors that fill the world like a flame.
And nowhere is fall more beautiful than at home. Nowhere.
Minnesota-in-the-Fall can't be beat.

Monday, September 26, 2011

La Vie Est Bella

How shall we sing this love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
That every life is noticed and is cherished,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.
--Madeleine L'Engle

I'm partaking in a Gospel of Life seminar at the moment, and we had the great joy of having Professor John Cavadini, head of the Institute for Church Life, and resident Theological Bad-Ass come lead our class. 
We had an been assigned an incredibly interesting article for our reading this past week. This article addressed the new procedure available to pregnant mothers: twin reduction. I have never been so saddened and distraught after reading an article. 
Hearing the stories of a mother who coerces a hesitating physician to consent to the procedure by threatening to abort both children, a father who wants to keep both babies, but his wife only wants one, parents who choose which baby to keep, and parents who can't bring themselves to choose, and leave it up to the physician, was saddening.

One of the mothers reasoned that her pregnancy was so "consumerish" already, choosing to abort one child just seemed like another consumer choice she was making. It is so heartbreaking to see one of the most intimate relationships--the bond between mother and child--reduced to a consumer-product relationship. 
How impoverished we are. 
Professor Cavadini described the two commitments that are culture has made that has effectively crippled our society:

1) We have embraced Having over Being.
We're a society that is obsessed with having. We need to have a nice house, have a good education, have all the right clothes, have the right cars, and have children. You can't "have" children. Once you move away from the idea that children are a gift, that people are a gift, that each human life is a gift of infinite wonder and gratitude, says Professor Cavadini, then you've made the first step towards seeing human life as a commodity.

2) We place an over-emphasis on efficiency.
In our society, if there's a problem, we want it gone, and we want it gone now, and we don't want it to inconvenience us in anyway. The idea of suffering or waiting, or self-sacrifice are concepts that don't resonate with value for modern ears.

Moral of the story is:

Life requires Faith. Get you some.
Life requires Joy. Make it happen.
Life requires Thanksgiving. Lemme see your Attitude of Gratitude.
Life requires Wonder. Look at the stars. Look at the person sitting next to you. What a work of art! What BEAUTY.
Life requires Self-Sacrifice. Go love something. It just might save your soul.

Life is not a product. Life is beautiful.

we are not accustomed/To witness voices

Dear 24-hour lounge,
Hi. I'm going down to the basement. It's not me. It's definitely you. I'll see you later-as in when that couple decides to stop smooching on the sofa.
PLS Student

Dear Lucretius,
Hi. So, please clear this up for me (still not sure where you stand on this...) Something can come from nothing, right?
From the void,
PLS Student

Dear Sunday Night,
Hi. You are tough and I'm not a big fan. Like on a scale of one to big fan I come in at a 2.5. My soul is kind of hurting right now. Please be over soon. #sleeplessnights
Sleeplessly yours,
PLS Student

Dear Starbucks,
Hi. You are a life-saver. Literally. Thank for you being so delicious. And for being the perfect place for heart-to-hearts to happen. Not a bad Sunday night after all.
Caffeine and café,
PLS Student

Dear Squirrels of Notre Dame,
Hi. Please don't be scared. I just want to be your friend!
Love 'n' Hugs,
Disney Princess (masquerading as a PLS Student)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Open Letter to Facebook

Dear Mark Zuckerberg and/or Facebook (oh wait. you're the same thing, aren't you?),
Hi. My Name's Ren--oh wait. You already know my first and last names, don't you? And my middle name. And my hometown, place of current residence, all my friends' names, where I go to school, all my places of employment (past and present), what kind of dog I have, and whether I prefer the Backstreet Boys or NSYNC.
Seriously. This is getting ridiculous. I mean, I absolutely adore the fact that I have a public platform where I can peacock around, parading profile picture after pretty profile picture in front of all my friends and acquaintances. And I'm tickled pink to have a venue where I can grace all my family and frenemies with my delightful witticisms in the forms of hourly statuses. But still. Enough is enough, right? Facebook, you've reached new levels of creepyishness/invasive-ivity. That little ticker on my homepage? Yeah? That's just uncomfortable/nervewracking/makes me squeamish. Because I know that anything, literally anything I do will show up on someone's ticker a.k.a. their Stalker Station. No thanks.
Plus also, I've had no less than four friends "suggest" that I add my college location to my profile. Oh, Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg, I see the game that you're playing. I see it. And I quit. Facebook, you are a narcissistic waste of time, and although I may be slightly addicted to you, I see right through you to the disgusting, voyeuristic soul underneath your sleek, sexy and shiny exterior. If I had slightly more will-power I might walk away from this relationship all together, but I just can't quit you.
One day. One day I will.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Total B.A.

My major may prepare me for nothing more than to be an intellectual starving artist. You know, the really annoying kind that's always making obscure platonic jokes about universals, Forms, and pre-socratic sophists.

"Ever try having a "define the relationship" talk with a socratic?"


Oh wait. No one else is laughing.
That awkward moment when you realize that each language has untranslatable words in its lexicon, and apparently your jokes are just as universal. Welcome to my life.

However, there is one thing I know for certain.
A) If speedwalking while drinking coffee ever becomes an Olympic sport, I will dominate.
I will. Mark my words.
I will be the international champion. I'm talking gold medals across the board. Don't even. If you feel like contesting that statement, consider this blog post your challenge.
This plan comforts me. I will not be relegated to the ironic-yet-economocially challenging position of starving-artist-hobo-bohemian-friend.
How to get speedwalking-coffee-drinking to become an Olympic sport:
To make it onto the Olympic programme, a sport first has to be recognised: it must be administered by an International Federation which ensures that the sport's activities follow the Olympic Charter. If it is widely practised around the world and meets a number of criteria established by the IOC session, a recognised sport may be added to the Olympic programme.
(From the official website of the Olympic games. I decided I should research how to create an Olympic sport rather than work on French homework.)

B) Being a PLS major will get me free coffee and tea. How do I know this?
This. Just. In:
As of today we have a Keurig coffee/tea/hot beverage maker in the PLS office.
Pardon me while I die of happiness.
This is what college is all about, peeps.
Sign up for our major, get some free food!
All in all, today's been good to me.
To recap:
A) Back-up plan for my life: Become an Olympic Coffee-drinker/Speedwalker. Achieve fame and riches. Check
B) Free coffee for PLS majors. This may or may not seriously impair my ability to critique the program impartially.

Happy Dance

This was stuck in my head all day after professor played it in psychology class.
Roomie and I were both singing it right before bed, too. One of us would sing or hum a line, and then after a few minutes, the other one would sing a bit.
It's just one of those happy songs that make you want to dance. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Feel it in My Fingers

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Voluntary Insomnia

Dear Sleep,
I'm sorry.
I never thought it would come to this.
Please don't make this anymore difficult than it has to be.
I didn't come home last night.
That's because I've found a new lover and its name is 5-hour energy.
I met him through my mother. And since she introduced him to me, she really can't chastise me about my new lifestyle, because she is technically the instigator.
We are running away together and will have an insomniac life full of adventure and excitement.
Please don't try to find me.
I'll be in LaFun with my new love, drinking the night away while reading Plato.
I will always remember you kindly, and I will continue to think fondly of our time together.

My Darling Renée,
I can't bear these endless hours and days without you-please come back to me. I beg you to return. I spent all last night tossing and turning. My every heartbeat was pounding out the rhythm of your sweet name, each intake of air and sigh of breath whispered it me. My dreams were filled with phantom visions of your face. I will wait here for you forever, my love, for I know you will return to me.
Ever yours,

I can't do this anymore. I'm coming home. Get ready.
With much much love,

Friday, September 9, 2011

dangers of bunkbeds

Let's talk about things that are a bad combination.

A two-year-old and a Kitchen aid mixer are a bad combination.

A teenage girl and a tub of Ben & Jerry's is a bad combination.

Running into friend crushes when you're rocking the classic sweats and hair-in-messy-bun bad combination. Rookie mistake.

Middle-schoolers and cellphones are a bad combination.

Gasoline and fire are a bad combination.

Iced coffee and uneven table surfaces are a bad combination.

Free Wifi EVERYWHERE, Facebook, and homework hanging over your head are a bad combination.

Carrots and peanut butter are a bad combination.

And klutzes and bunkbeds are a bad combination. It's like basically asking for an injury. Like that one time I woke up early in the morning and was peacefully was climbing down my ladder until I promptly fell off of it. Because I'm graceful like that.
Also, what makes me more than slightly nervous is the sad fact that my mattress is taller than my bed's guardrail.
Take a moment.

Think about it.

But despite all these bad combinations, there is still hope, because there exist in this world some things that are good combinations:

Running into Old Alumni (class of '62!) while on a run around campus is a good combination. Add in a half-hour conversation about Notre Dame, and you have a great combination. And a new friend on top of that!

High-heeled brown boots and anything is a good combination.

Heart-to-hearts/meltdowns/sleep-deprived rants in the basement with friend is a good combination.

Sisters and random late-night run-ins are a good combination.

Beautiful fall days and weddings are a good combination.

Singing and smiling are a good combination.

Candles and the Grotto are a good combination (there was a candlelight procession last night to commemorate 9-11. It was absolutely beautiful, and so moving to see all those thousands of students lined up to go to the Grotto.)

Funny people and great books are a good combination.

Long telephone convos and friends are a good combination.

Life is so full of multitudinous wonderful things. I feel like I should blog about them more often. But sadly homework>blogging. Thus, homework has been literally eating up all my time. Thus, blogging doesn't happen.

School+blogging is a difficult combination.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

get their hands on gold

"One problem with the word 'work' is that is has come to be equated with drudgery. Now some work is drudgery, though it is not always degrading. Vacuuming the house or scrubbing out the refrigerator is drudgery for me, though I find it in no way degrading. And that is drudgery is lack in me. I enjoy the results and so I should enjoy producing the results. I suspect that it is not he work itself which is the problem, but that it is taking me from other work, such as whatever manuscript I am currently working on. Drudgery is not what work is meant to be. Our work should be our play."--Madeleine L'Engle

I was talking with a friend yesterday about her summer. She's a pre-med major, trying to make her way through the drudgery of orgo II. But this summer when she was interning at a hospital, she came to realize that the work of a doctor was exactly what she loved. And it order to make it to that work, she had to make it through the seeming drudgery of tough science and chem classes. The summer helped her see past the endless parade of science and hard work to the larger goal: the work that she could do as a doctor-the people she could help, and the lives she could change. And that, of course, excited her.

Work should be fulfilling. Whatever you do should make a difference in some way. Even if that's just flipping burgers at McDonald's, you can still smile at a random guest, or ask them a sincere "How are you today?" and you may just touch someone's life. Working at the Mall for the past three summers, (which on the scale of one to "watch-me-work-my-saving-the-world-one-day-at-a-time-job" registers at around a "this-job-is-the-most-useless-job-ever") I had to find a way to make the work meaningful. Otherwise it becomes drudgery. And when your job you work every day becomes drudgery, then your life becomes a nightmare. And working at the Mall is basically working to bring a little happiness into people's lives. Which means you have to shake off all the grumpy mothers trying to wrangle their children, and the weird teenage boys who punch you, and just try to brighten the day of each person who walks by.

So that's all well and good, you can bring meaning to your work. But it's another thing entirely to find work that has meaning. To find a calling and a vocation that ignites that fire within you, that makes your soul say in a small, certain voice: "This. This is why I am here." And when you see someone who has found that work, it's awe-inspiring. When with my friend was talking about becoming a doctor, her heart was in every word she spoke. She wanted it. She found a vocation that she wanted and that wanted her.
Disclaimer: yes, yes, okay okay okay, Vocation is different than a career. But there are many parts of our overall vocation, and I think a calling to be an artist, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a counselor is part of your Vocation. These are callings that certain dispositions are naturally suited for. Not everyone can be a teacher, or has the temperament for for it. And not everyone who has the calling to be a teacher teaches at a school or a university. But in their life, God calls them to be a teacher in some way. Not everyone who is an artist paints a masterpiece or stars on Broadway. But God calls them to live their artistic vocation to the fullest in whatever way they can. Your calling is the Work that you were created for. A career-a job-is a way to support your life, and when your calling is your career, then you can count yourself the luckiest of men.

L'Engle was not created to vacuum floors (although that is part of her Vocation as wife and mother, but we won't discuss that now...), she was created with the desire to write in her soul. She had the disposition and talents of a writer and storyteller, and so she wrote, because that's what she was called to do.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend it's whole life believing that it is stupid."--Albert Einstein
Don't be a fish in a tree.
That fish was not born to climb that stupid tree-it was born to frolic in the ocean waves, explore the secret passage ways of the coral reef, and to swim in its little corner of the vast ocean contented and free.
Find your ocean.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet

Within my chest gold leaves crumble to dust,

Autumnal joys escape through leaking cracks,

Familiar sights and sighs of ruby russet

Tease aching hearts, which yearn for what they lack;

Recalling where thou were when thou were not

So far removed in spirit and in flesh,

Too sweet the mem’ries of thy lessons taught

By bitter teacher, rend’ring old pain fresh.

Yet in due time do fading blossoms bloom

Loud whispers in my stronger soul doth grow;

Braver new life will rise from seeming tombs,

Triumphant spring conquers tender old woes.

Sweet sadful joys discovered and newly written

Thy shade dispersed, thy gentle spirit risen.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Biggest Cup

aka the Procrastinating Post...

Etiquette for a Lady is making my heart feel super happy. I'm sitting in a comfy re-vamped Lafun armchair with two options:
Read The Republic.
Read Etiquette for a Lady.

Is that really even an choice? I think my course of action in such a situation is clear. And then, I found all these beautiful little snippets of wisdom that reflected perfectly what I've been thinking about and pondering recently.

My challenge this semester is to find out what I want to major in. And it's a struggle. There are just so many possible majors, it can be downright overwhelming, and all of them sound marginally interesting. It's just hard to find the major that pops out at you, screaming, "ME! Pick me! You won't be able to live without me!" Scratch that, I've found that major. It's called Theatre. But I'm in the throes of trying to decide what my second major should be.
I just read what I wrote, and it sounds absurdly ridiculous. I'm agonizing over what my second major should be.
Good Grief.
Only at Notre Dame.

What it boils down to is that it's really an exercise in trust. I waltzed into college thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to do. But God really does enjoy pitching us curve balls, which, while semi-annoying/frustrating, serve to keep us on our toes. If you never know what's coming next, then you really do have to trust God.
See what He did there? He's so creative at finding ways to get us to let go and trust in Him. He's a sneaky One.

Nice is not a virtue. My dear Sister of the Heart and I discovered this tonight as we were hashing out how to find the balance between kindness and charity and strength and confidence. C'est très difficil, as our French brethren would say. See, Mama T says "The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness." The world is starving for want of Christ's sweetness, and we're called to spread His sweet fragrance everywhere we go.
But I think we all instinctively spot the emptiness of niceness. We know the difference between kindness that springs from the fire of Love and ambivalent niceness.
Charity that doesn't spring from God is an empty sort of charity.

Sister of the Heart was talking about the cheap imitations that our world offers. In so many ways, the world takes the gifts God offers us, and then just modifies it, twists it, and separates it from its context, making it a sad little carbon-copy of what God has to offer. (We were originally thinking of how the hook-up culture is a sorry substitute for real love and genuine relationships, but people settle so easily for the knock-off version instead of seeking the real deal. So that was our original point, then I realized her thought worked well for this post, so I decided to work it in there.) To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, niceness is the world's substitute for charity, just as passive unselfishness is its substitute for active love.

We're not called to be doormats. No, no, my friends, we're called to be Lovers of the deepest, most real variety. We're not called to be small little shot glasses, but great large goblets. We're called to expand ourselves, expand our souls to be the greatest version of ourselves that we can be. God is constantly pouring out His infinite grace, and the biggest cups will be the most filled with His love. And once they're full, they will run over, pouring out to others the love they've received.

Don't settle for the small, constraining version of reality the world offers. There's a rich life of beauty and magnificence God has in store for you. Seek that life-the real reality.
Go further up and further in.