Sunday, February 24, 2013

Know Thyself

This is Me.  The Real Me.
Photo by Anna Reavis

"Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City." Mrs. March in Little Women

I've had cause this week to contemplate judgement, forgiveness, and condemnation among people.  I was in the midst of thinking through the issue of why people are so willing, eager even, to tear other people down when I happened to catch Justice Sonia Sotomayor say to Gwen Ifill:  "If you try to find the best in people, they'll usually rise to your expectation.  If you try to find the worst, you'll find it."   Often, the people who are the most judgmental and critical of others are those who are unwilling to see and accept their own faults.  Condemnation is a fool's game, though, for we are all transgressors, only the details differ.

During the week, while I was considering this pervasive judgment of others and attempting to comprehend its appeal to so many people,  my daughter and I began another co-reading project, this time of Little Women.  Toward the end of Chapter One, the girls and Mrs. March discuss dealing with one's own personal burdens.  Mrs. March reminds the girls of their old habit of playing Pilgrim's Progress wherein one's burdens are in bags on one's back and after much trudging through "extremities," those bags full of burdens slide off and fall as they climb up the stairs toward "heaven."  

I think probably one of life's most important lessons, but also one of the hardest to learn, is to forgive yourself.  Refuse to carry your faults around as burdens.  Acknowledge them and let them go. Deal honestly with yourself.  Life is a beautiful mess.  Wade through it as best you can.  You may end up dirty and rumpled, but dirty and rumpled is when authentic people are at their happiest.  At the end, you want to be content to claim your life as your own beautiful mess and to feel as though you lived your best possible life.  Let those bags fall off.  Better yet, burn them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Various and Sundries

Windows in Paris
photo by Amy Brandon

I've read three books and made headway in three others since I last blogged.  I don't find that I am able or willing to write an entire post about every book I read.  Number one, this would take away too much reading time, and number two, not every book deserves a post.  I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley because I liked the title and because I'd seen other bloggers reading it last year.  Almost the entire time I was reading it, I was trying to figure out when the story was actually going to begin, even at the end.  Not one of my favorites.  I followed that up with The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin, which I so thoroughly enjoyed that I ordered the sequel from Amazon as soon as I read the last (infuriating!) paragraph.  During the weekend that I was reading The Winter Queen, I watched North Carolina Bookwatch with DG Martin and caught his interview with Sheila Turnage, so I ordered her new book, Three Times Lucky.  It's marketed for kids, and it's definitely an easy read, but it's worth any adult's time who needs an afternoon's entertainment.

For the last several months, I've been picking up and putting down and plowing my way slowly through Les Miserable.  I first started the book on Kindle because of its physical size and the difficulty of holding up the novel, but I found that I had trouble getting swept up in the digital form, so I ordered the beautiful Penguin cloth-covered hardback classic and am now reading it.  Since I've switched, I've discovered that part of the problem with the Kindle version I had was the clunky, unappealing translation.  The Penguin, while causing carpal tunnel, is much more appealing all the way around.  The shocking news is that I am a 45 year old literature major who loves musicals, and I DO NOT know the plot of Les Mis at all!  I know, I know... where have I been?  It's fun to read it for the first time at this age, though.

I am also reading Natasha's Dance:  A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes, in preparation for some more Russian reading, which I am loving, and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, to which I am having a mixed reaction.  Franzen can definitely write, and Freedom grabs you on page one and doesn't want to let go, but I get overwhelmed and impatient with whiny, self-absorbed navel-gazers in my every day life, so I have to take this one, which seems full of these people,  in small doses.  It feels a lot like reading the thoughts of too many people I know and don't like.  Franzen does have that uncanny ability of good novelists to suck you into his time and culture, which unfortunately is also my time and culture.   As I said, his writing is really the star of this one.

So, with all that covered, back to Les Mis and the Battle of Waterloo.  Reading time, finally. Yay!