Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley
Published 1965

I am not going to water this down: this book made me furious.  For sixteen out of nineteen chapters I was raging MAD.  Up through that sixteenth chapter, this was the most hate-filled, racist book I had ever read - even more than Mein Kampf.   This book is burning with hatred for whites, Christians, America, successful blacks, and even women.

Malcolm X was born in Nebraska, 1925, and life for him and his family was clearly unjust from the very start.  However, he was intelligent, sharp, quick-witted, and at the top of his classes; but when a teacher discouraged him from a career in law, he discarded his dream.  After moving to Boston to live with his older half-sister, he quit school (15-years old) and worked numerous jobs, some of which he lost due to his hot temper.  Instead, he invested in his social life, personal appearance, music, drugs, and eventually hustling.  He even had a white girlfriend as a status symbol.

Soon, his hustling and house burglary caught up with him, and he was sentenced to ten years (but served seven), although he said his harsh punishment was really because he had a white girlfriend.  It was in prison that Malcolm X transformed himself.  He copied the dictionary, teaching himself to read and write, and spent the remainder of his prison term self-educating by reading books from the prison library.

During his time in prison, Malcolm became a follower of Elijah Mohammad, "a Messenger of Allah," from the Nation of Islam, a man-made religion and forgery of the Arabic Islamic religion.  I am just going to say this plainly: the Nation of Islam is definitely of Satan.  This hate-filled, racist, rebellious movement against white Christian America was very attractive to broken men like Malcolm X.

The Nation of Islam relieved blacks of any responsible for their lives of poverty, crime, drugs, drunkenness, or prison.  The devil race (white America) designed the system so that black Americans had to depend on them. The devil race made it difficult for black Americans to get out of poverty or the ghetto or into business or worthy careers.  Yet, if a black man or woman was educated and out of the ghetto, they were called Uncle Toms, seeking approval from the devil race.

While in prison, Malcolm maintained correspondence with Elijah Mohammad, and when he was released, they worked together, opening temples all over the nation, reaching black Americans with the message: embrace your black identity, know your black history, stand up for yourself, and stop appeasing the devil race, your enemy.  Because of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam spread rapidly and grew strong, but Malcolm always gave credit to Mohammad.  He worshipped the Messenger.

Imagine his shock and dismay when he learned that the "innocent, harmless, gentle little infallible lamb," "the Messenger of god," had several adulterous affairs and fathered four children.  Yet, the man who punished other NOI members for their adultery would not be rebuked himself. Furthermore, Malcolm X began receiving rumors that Mohammad was speaking disrespectfully about him, and even threatening his live.

About the same time, three chapters to the end of the story, Malcolm pondered the simplicity of pure Arabic Islam, and he decided to take a pilgrimage to Mecca.  His life changed drastically. Being a black Muslim from America, Malcolm X was treated like royalty.  He met heads of state and world leaders.  Everyone wanted to meet him and talk to him.  He was a novelty.  Meanwhile, he was shocked to find Muslims of every color worshipping together, as race was not a concern or issue.

In Mecca, he began to understand that race was not the problem, but American society made race an issue.  In other words, (and this is what REALLY upset me) Malcolm had wrongly believed that white people were automatically racist, and he could not accept or understand whites who wanted to join the movement to end racism.  He rejected them assuming they were inherently racist. Now he came to see "it isn't the American white man who is a racist, but it's the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes racist psychology in the white man (and I would add today, in everyone)."  He agreed,
American society makes it next to impossible for humans to meet in America and not be conscious of their color differences.  And [he] agreed that if racism could be removed, America could offer a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings.
It was because of what he experienced in Mecca that softened his heart and opened it to all people of different colors and different religions and no religion at all.  He found his new mission was "to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete" (which sounds like a hippie utopia to me, but it was a lot better than what he was spewing).

When Malcolm X returned from his very long pilgrimage, he officially left the Nation of Islam and started his own Black Nationalist organization, keeping his Muslim religion.  (Of course, the NOI website claims that Malcolm X separated from NOI over "confusion" of Elijah Mohammad's "private life;" and that the U.S. government played a role in the assassination of Malcolm X.  - They are so full of it! -  The killers were from NOI, sent by the wicked corrupt man who called himself a Messenger of god.)

Malcolm continued to build up and encourage the black community, although he still expected government to deal with some race issues.  He also believed in violence, if other options did not work, even if others were harmed in the process.

At the end of his biography, he talked of his readiness to die, and I suppose that was heavy on his mind because, like I said, he heard the rumors and knew his life was in danger.  So it is eerie that  in 1965 he was assassinated during one of his temple meetings.  He was shot 21 times by three men, and died probably before he arrived at the hospital.

Keeping Racism Alive in America

Racism is big business in America.  Maintaining an emotionally charged, agitated, and divided electorate over race is what garners votes and keeps one major political party in power.

Malcolm X touched on this briefly toward the end of his autobiography.  One political party panders exclusively to black Americans, keeping them dependent on government; yet, they never make their lives better.  This party tells black America that their socio and economic problems are not their fault or responsibility, nor can they help themselves.

If you didn't know better, you would think slavery ended yesterday and America was still segregated. Selfish, greedy self-interest groups, and the aforementioned political party, use hatred and division for political purpose and power.  Racism is conveniently applied to all areas of American culture and society.  It is as if racism has gotten worse; but if you examine it, you will see that it is devised, exaggerated, and unfounded.

Life for black Americans has drastically changed for the better since Malcolm X's time. Unfortunately, racism is still used for political gain, and, by design, has generated resentment and restlessness, further perpetuating hatred and violence, preventing Americans from moving forward and realizing the ideal that Malcolm X imagined for America:
a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings.
"The Ballot or the Bullet"

On April 3, 1964, Malcolm X gave his famous "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech, on the upcoming election.  Here is a portion of that speech:
The government itself has failed us, and the White Liberals who have been posing as our friends have failed us.  Once we see that all these other sources to which we have turned have failed, we stop turning to them and start turning to ourselves.
Your are the one who sent Kennedy to Washington.  You're the one who put the present Democratic administration in Washington, D.C.  The Whites were evenly divided.  It was the fact that you threw 80% of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House.  When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor.  And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it? 
Democrats have been in Washington, D.C. only because of the Negro vote.  they've been down there four years and all the legislation they wanted to bring up they brought up and got it out of the way, and now they bring up you.  You put them first and they put you last, cause you are a chump.  A political chump. 
The party that you backed, controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate and still they can't keep their promise to you, 'cause you're a chump. 
After Malcolm X left NOI, he recommitted to the task of teaching black Americans to work for themselves and help each other in their communities. He believed the race problem in America was not a Civil Rights issue, which the government could fix, but was a human problem that needed black people everywhere to organize and be involved.   Only they could solve their own problems.

Racism is not going to totally disappear anywhere on earth unless it is dealt with at the heart of the problem - in the heart of individuals and families and communities.  And it will never go away so long as political parties continue to use race for gain, and - in America's case - black Americans continue looking to a political party to provide for and lift them up.  Instead, they must believe in and do for themselves.

On a Long Personal, Political Rant Note

The reason I bring this up is because I see the destruction that greedy perpetuation of racism causes. It angers me that the Democrat party in America has gained from its deception about race and the Republican party.

Racism is illegal in America; all discrimination to prevent anyone from education, employment, housing, and other benefits has been removed.  All Americans have access to free public education. Lower economic classes may apply for financial aid to attend community colleges, universities, or trade schools.  One may even work hard in high school and earn a scholarship for higher education.

Every American has a right and obligation to do something.  Don't just sit there and be a victim. Go out and find work or start a business.  Work hard.  Be a leader.  Stop complaining. Stop making excuses.  Maybe it's not someone else's fault; maybe you need an attitude adjustment.  Stay away from drugs and alcohol, don't have sex out of wedlock, finish high school, and contribute to society. For a long time, this was the message of the Republican party - a message that was deemed racist by Democrats and other groups that benefited from crippling black America into another form of slavery.

Black Americans were Republicans since the 1860's because Republicans ended slavery and encouraged black Americans to fit into society.  But blacks switched parties during the Great Depression, even though FDR's policies coaxed peopled into dependency on government. (Once you get on government, it's hard to get off.)  The Democrat party has benefitted from continuing these policies, and much of black America is still dependent on that party to make something happen.  My argument is, black America must stop looking to government, period, and make changes themselves. I believe this is part of the message Malcolm X had, as well.

Honestly, I can't speak for today's Republican party anymore because it has morphed into the Democrat party. By the way, that guy Donald Trump is NOT a Republican, either.  The Republican party is not very conservative now.  All I know is this: if I lived during the Civil War, I would have been a Radical Republican, a proud Abolitionist!!

All men are equal in God's sight, and skin color has nothing to do with race.  We are all one human race.  The most important human traits are your character, how you treat your neighbor, and what is in your heart.

P.S.  And my message to anyone (Hispanics, too) who thinks he is not considered American because he is not white: that is a lie, too.  Dump it, and don't let it define you.  If you are a legal American citizen, that is enough. Your skin color does not determine if you are American.  If you even love this country, you are American, in my book.

P.S.S.  If you are curious how it came to be that we are different skin tones, here is a video (Answers in Genesis) that provides a biblical explanation on how this may have occurred.  It's short and interesting. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1937

I decided to listen to this book while cooking dinner or driving in the car.   Cherry Jones performed my edition.  Who is Cherry Jones?  Apparently, she is an American actress, but I had never heard of her; however, she can perform my books for me any time. I don't care what it is because she knows how to read a book aloud.  

The dugout

On the Banks of Plum Creek rejoined Laura and her family in Minnesota.  Kansas did not work out, so they traveled northeast, landed in Plum Creek, and sold the wagon and horses for a dugout, a small wheat field, and oxen.  I think Laura was seven or eight.  

Pa is truly an optimist.   He was so confident of his decision to move to Minnesota - that the land and weather were optimal for crops - he foresaw an excellent future for them.  He told Caroline and his girls three or four times that they were going to be rich off of the crops that he had not planted, yet. Laura imagined that they would be so rich; they would have candy every day.  Pa told Caroline they would have beef every day - "anything they wanted."   Talk about speculation.  They forgot that God is in control of all things.  

It is almost impossible to believe what happened next.  The week Pa planned to reap the little wheat field that the original owner had left, millions of grasshoppers arrived and ate every living green thing as far as they could see.  It was like Armageddon.  Everything was gone, except the grasshoppers; they remained for awhile, and even laid their eggs for the following year.  Laura does such a good job describing this nightmare, you will want to look around for any that may have escaped the pages of your book and showed up in this present age.   

This reality forced Pa to walk 200 miles east to look for work.  When he realized they would have to postpone those plans to be rich, he pulled on his old, hole-y boots and decided to go where the work was.  This demonstrated true perseverance, resilience, and resolve.  By the way, Pa would need those traits later, when a little walk into town turned into a blizzard, and he disappeared for several days.  That was an anxious time for Ma and the girls.  

Besides the apocalyptic grasshoppers, Ma and Carrie in a runaway wagon, Laura almost drowning in the angry Creek, the mean brat Anna that commandeered Laura's rag doll, and Pa being swallowed alive by the blizzard, this is one of my favorite books from the Little House series.  This story is how the season spring feels.  I can feel the warm sunshine and breezes and hear the rustling of the tall grasses and the the roaring of the creek.  Plum Creek is a place of curiosity and exploration for Laura, though it almost gets her killed.  We get to know Carrie a lot better, who is developing a little personality.  Mary and Laura go to school for the first time, and we finally meet the infamous Nellie Olson.  In this book, we discover how much Laura loves horses.  After meeting her future husband in Farmer Boy, is it any wonder that God brought them together?

Christmas at church

My favorite line from Laura: 

On a hot Sunday with nothing to do but sit in the stifling house: 
Carrie wanted a drink, but she pushed the cup away and made a face and said, "Nasty!"
"You better drink it," Mary told her.  "I want a cold drink, too, but there isn't any."
I wish I had a drink of well water," said Laura.
I wish I had an icicle," said Mary.
Then Laura said, "I wish I was an Indian and didn't have to wear clothes."
"Laura!" said Ma.  "And on Sunday!"
Plum Creek, Minnesota

Now that the Ingalls family is so close to town, they can go to church.  But Laura's thoughts reflect her free spirit.  While everyone inside church was listening to the preacher, she was staring out the open windows "at butterflies going where they pleased."   

Do you get the feeling that Laura wished she were a butterfly free to go where she pleased, too?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas
Published 2011

Powerful, shocking, inspiring I am still reeling from this book.  A story is best if it leaves me stunned for a while.  This one did.

When a friend posted an anti-abortion quote on Facebook by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man I had never heard of, I figured he was a Christian who stood up for righteousness in the face of difficult opposition.  I was in search of stories about Christians who lived through persecution because in America we hardly know real persecution - at least for now.  This book title was listed after the quote, and I added the book to my TBR list.

Wow!  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew about or assisted in planning the assassination of Hitler.  How does a Christian reconcile a scheme to murder when Christians are not to take God's law into their own hands?  This question remained with me, and it would not be answered until 3/4 of the way through the 500-page biography.

Paula Bonhoeffer and her eight children (She is looking at Dietrich.)

Naturally, the author began at the beginning of Bonhoeffer's life, in Germany.  He was not raised in a strictly religious household, but he was exposed to Christian teachings.  Eventually he decided he wanted to study theology and become a pastor; yet, even before he was ordained, he was fervently teaching and writing about Christian principles.  He was asked to teach throughout Europe and in America.

After the rise of the Nazi party and Hitler as Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer was immediately vocal about his opposition.  Since Bonhoeffer had friends (and family) in high places, he received low-key details about Nazi plans and crimes against the Jews (and other classes of people deemed inferior) long before the German people and world could believe was happening. He was infuriated, and expected the Christian church to speak out publicly.

Unfortunately, Hitler already had his claws on the German Church.  You see, the German people, including those in authority, like Army generals and church leaders, did not believe what was happening right before their eyes; they could not foresee how badly it was going to become.  They did not believe this hothead Hitler was serious or that he would be successful; they figured he would calm down eventually.  But Bonhoeffer did see, and he knew from the very beginning: This madman must be stopped!

Either the clergy agreed with Hitler or they lacked courage.

Bonhoeffer was instrumental in dividing the Church - that is: he caused the Protestant church to decide where it stood on the issues at hand: either they were with Hitler, or they were against him. And because Hitler was reforming the nationalist German Church - because, you know, he was so righteous - Bonhoeffer helped start the Confessing Church in opposition.  Because of this, Bonhoeffer was deemed an enemy of the State, or pacifist, and was prohibited from public speaking, teaching, publishing, or preaching; he was on the run from the Nazi government, teaching or preaching underground in his own country.

Meanwhile, Bonhoeffer became actively involved in a German military intelligence organization named Abwehr, a resistance group.  The group shared information with the Allies.  With his numerous contacts abroad, Bonhoeffer acted as a messenger, in addition to helping Jews safely escape Germany.  The group was also involved in or had knowledge of numerous missed opportunities to assassinate Hitler and several of his top aids, including the July 20, 1944, plot.

Eventually, when Bonhoeffer was arrested, it was assumed it was due to a misuse of currency exchange.  He remained a year and a half in prison and was never clearly charged or given a trial.  As the war dragged on, Bonhoeffer thought for certain Hitler would eventually be successfully assassinated, the war would end, and he would be released.  After all, the Allies were closing in, and Hitler was faltering.

Unfortunately, in the last year of the war, the Nazis uncovered documents that connected Bonhoeffer to Abwehr and his involvement in and knowledge of assassination attempts and many other anti-Nazi plans.  In a fit of furious revenge, Hitler demanded that all those involved, waiting in prison, be executed immediately.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged with nine other members in April 1945. Three weeks later, Hitler killed himself, and the war with Germany was over.

Not very convincing salutes; they probably were terrified not to.

That question I had about Christians taking God's law into their own hands was also on Bonhoeffer's mind.  Basically, he believed he was a sacrifice.  He believed "one must be more zealous to please God than to avoid sin.  One must sacrifice oneself utterly to God's purposes, even to the point of possibly making moral mistakes."  He said,
Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behaviour.  The Christian is called to sympathy and action...
He thought Hitler so evil that human rules could not stop him:
The evilness of the Nazis could not be defeated via old-fashioned ethics, rules, and principles.  God alone could combat it.
Bonhoeffer likened the human condition to the character of Don Quixote: "in our efforts to do good,"
...we think we are doing good and fighting evil, but in fact, we are living in an illusion.  'Only the mean-spirited can read the fate of Don Quixote without sharing in and being moved by it.'
The author Metaxas explained:
The solution is to do the will of God, to do it radically and courageously and joyfully.  To try to explain right and wrong - to talk about ethics - outside of God and obedience to His will is impossible.  'Principles are only tools in the hands of God; they will soon be thrown away when they are no longer useful.'  We must look only at God, and in Him we are reconciled to our situation in the world.  
Bonhoeffer knew "that apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know what is right or do right."  Hence, he believed he was being used by God to do His will (to work against Hitler and the Nazis) by sacrificing his own life in order to save others.  God was not interested in success; God wanted total and complete obedience, even if it meant death.

While none of the assassination attempts were successful, Bonhoeffer and the Resistance did much good, especially because they worked against evil.  In addition, the times shaped Bonhoeffer's theology, and he left us with important written Christian works, such as Ethics, Life Together, and The Cost of Discipleship.  Gratefully, I did learn about courage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who knew first hand what it meant to stand for righteousness and his love for Christ, in the face of fierce opposition. He gave his life for it.

On a Personal Note

My most treasured line from Bonhoeffer is about marriage.  Let me explain why: a friend of mine and I were talking about our teenagers and sex.  My friend argued that unmarried sex is ok if you love that person, while I insisted that we should teach our children that sex outside of marriage is wrong. It wasn't until later that I realized why I now personally believe that.

Given that I have been struggling with my own marriage, I have learned this important lesson: love is not enough to keep people together, but marriage is necessary to make love mature; it is marriage that supports love - not the other way around.  There will be times when you won't feel like loving your spouse, but it is the covenant of marriage that will preserve your love nonetheless.  (Yes, I know people divorce all the time, but that is a completely different post for another day.)

What I want to share is this:  Bonhoeffer wrote a sermon from his prison cell for his niece and her fiancĂ© for their wedding day.  He esteemed marriage as "more than your love for each other," and "a higher dignity and power for it is God's holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time."  And he added (my exact sentiments),
It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
Yes!  I concur.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Related Sources You Should Visit, if you haven't already

Hot Dudes Reading
Facebook    Instagram    Blog

Isn't he adorable? With that textbook he could be studying,
or maybe he's just casually teaching himself to code.
Either way, he looks like a man with goals.
I bet his mother is so proud. In fact,
he's probably on his way to see her now.

#futureinlaws #hotdudesreading

Hot Dudes Reading is an entertaining bookish outlet, featuring candid shots of men caught reading in NYC.  Well, the impromptu captions are entertaining, though sometimes maybe a little suggestive, IMO.

Facebook    Instagram    Blog

A favorite, one-stop place for all bookish news and entertainment.  These people know books.

The Imaginative Conservative

This site is more like an online journal "for those who seek the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  [They] address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, and the arts and the American Republic..."  A great source for classic education and literature-related essays.  


Most book bloggers know Goodreads, right?  Well, if you don't, you need to.  I especially appreciate how I can scan my books onto my shelves right from my phone.  Then when I am out and about, I can check to see if I already own a particular book before I buy a second copy for the third time.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
Published 1927
Woolfalong Reading Challenge, The Classics Club II

I am having a really difficult time composing a post for this book, and it is taking too long.  I rarely do synopses of books, and I definitely cannot do one for To the Lighthouse.   It is not a typical novel. The only thing I can focus on is my READING EXPERIENCE.

Reading To the Lighthouse is like . . . 
my eccentric work as an art student in college, 
or the psychedelic music of Bjork 
or the strong lyrics of Liz Phair.  
It is deeply emotional or extremely abstract. 

Reading Woolf is truly an emotional experience as opposed to a collection of hard facts or certain truth.  To the Lighthouse is altogether an emotive inner journey.

Should you be surprised?  There is very little foundation or structure to the story; instead Woolf tells different versions of stories from the perspectives of the characters by exposing their private, personal judgments, fears, vulnerabilities, and opinions.  This enables the reader to feel empathy toward any or all of the characters, which is not a terrible outcome.  It is a benefit to the reader.

There are themes, yes -- of course!  Themes of time, memory, traditional roles of men and women, life, and death.  Everything is familiar to the reader because these are all ideas that humans experience and think about.  But everything is fluid and vague and formless.  Woolf explores these themes in a very emotional sense.  You just have to go with the flow.  You just have to enjoy the journey for the feelings and the visuals that you may experience while reading it.  I don't know how else to describe it.

If you have not read Virginia Woolf, understand that she experiments with narrative techniques; you will find that it is a completely different experience than reading traditional novels.  When I first read Mrs. Dalloway, I did not like it.  I survived it only because someone told me to read it like there was no plot.  That is how I had to read To the Lighthouse.  Since I am now familiar with her style and know a little about her personal struggles, I like to read her books.  I find that reading Woolf magnifies my own contemplations and sentiments, especially if I can relate to her characters.  If you want to start reading Woolf, you may want to begin with The Voyage Out, which is more traditional.

Well, sorry I cannot make more sense of it, but nonetheless, I am excited to move on to another Woolf: Night and Day.

A Young Virginia Woolf

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, by C.S. Lewis

Surprised by Joy
C.S. Lewis
Published  1955
The Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge (biographies)

It is not settled happiness but momentary joy that glorifies the past.
If you are a C. S. Lewis fan, Surprised by Joy is essential reading.  Don't you like to know something personal about your favorite author?  Having only read The Chronicles of Narnia, I wouldn't call myself a Lewis fan; but I do hope and plan to read a lot more from him in the future.  I certainly appreciated being introduced to part of his early life, as told in this book.  It was enlightening and at times entertaining.
Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for joy.  I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.
In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis described his desire for and discovery of Joy in his life.  Beginning in his youth, he had a difficult relationship with his father, which negatively influenced him.  He considered his older brother a blessing; while the death of his mother to cancer was a grief-stricken event.  He admitted to having no real religion growing up, and he lived a life of solitude, which was very normal and natural to him.  He had an astounding imagination and a love for creativity, writing, and books.
For eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.
But back to his discovery of Joy, he named three episodes from his youth that initially brought joy to his attention: a memory of a feeling, a book about a season, and finally, poetry.  For the remainder of Surprised by Joy, he searched for understanding of this emotion, and ended up discovering more about himself along the way.
To "get [Joy] again" became my constant endeavor; while reading every poem, hearing every piece of music, going for every walk, I stood anxious sentinel at my own mind to watch whether the blessed moment was beginning and to endeavor to retain it if it did.
C. S. Lewis was unsparingly truthful about his gloomy expectations of adulthood and his rebellion and hatred towards authority.  He also explained his false conversion to Christianity in boarding school, and then later his falling away from faith, calling himself an apostate, Pagan, and atheist.  He struggled with his unbelief and sinful behavior for a long time.  He also loathed the public school system, which he found to be a place loaded with social struggle, competition, snobs and bullies.  But probably worst of all, he lost his connection to or sense of joy.
I maintained that God did not exist.  I was also very angry with God for not existing.  I was equally angry with Him for creating a world. 
Good news!  Life changed for C. S. Lewis.  He developed some intimate friendships and gained several great mentors along the way.  His opinions about God and religion were evolving, and he rediscovered memories of joy through music and mythology.  But was it all that he made it out to be?
The things I assert most vigorously are those that I resisted long and accepted late.
Long story short: C. S. Lewis humbled himself before God and became a Christian.  And since becoming a Christian, he lost interest in his obsession with Joy.  In the end, he determined that his "experience, considered as a state of [his] own mind...was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer."  And once he found that "other and outer" he no longer felt the need to frantically pursue the elations of Joy.
I saw that all my waitings and watching for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could lay my finger and say, "This is it!" had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed.
I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself.  Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all.  All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Read Recently

Via Broke and the Bookish
Ten (or Less) of the Best Books I've Read Recently

If I consider only what I have read in 2016, then I definitely do not have ten.  It has been a slow go this year.  However, there are a few that have remained in my memory or were great experiences:

Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and Farmer Boy - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well, of course these three make my list.  The first is pure joy, the middle is pure anxiety, and last one is exhausting, in a good way.  Nonetheless, all are wonderfully written, express truth and liberty in youth, and paint a portrait of wild America in her infancy.

The Institutes of Christian Religion - John Calvin

I really have no interest in Christian-themed literature, non-fiction or fiction-based, especially self-help books.  Blah!  But if a work is written by an early Christian theologian, philosopher, or leader, then it is sufficiently classical to me, such as Calvin's.  I read an abridged version of this.  

The Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton

This recent autobiography reminded me that I really love reading about the lives of other people, even of people I know nothing about - such as Thomas Merton.  I especially enjoyed his journey all over Europe and his interest in solitude.  I was living vicariously through him.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas - Gertrude Stein

Again, just a biography, and such a strange one; however, it was a lot of fun to travel all over Europe with Gertrude and Alice.  I think I gave this book a few stars on Goodreads, but it has been growing on me since I read it.  

To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

 I think I have a special place in my heart for Virginia Woolf.  She speaks my language, even though sometimes I do not understand her.  I think I relate to her emotions, as seen through the thoughts of her characters.  To the Lighthouse is no exception.

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

This one I hesitated to add to my list; however, because it redeemed itself at the end, I was able to appreciate it.  Even in my genuine struggle, I have to admit it was effective.  Maybe I will try to read it again another time.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Farmer Boy
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1933
Little House Read-Along

The third book in the Little House Read-Along was Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder's retelling of about one year during her husband Almanzo's childhood.  It is sweet to imagine Almanzo sharing his stories with Laura, as she collected them in her heart, until one day she decided to tell this story. 

Farmer Boy provides ample lessons in idleness, waste, cheating, lying, prudence, diligence, financial responsibility, independence, self-sufficiency, entitlement, and accountability.  But (not surprisingly) Farmer Boy is mainly about farming (which is hard, physical labor) and good food.  Little Almanzo thought of food a lot, and no wonder!  With the work he and his family were required to do daily to maintain their farm, they developed mighty appetites.  (I once read that families like Almanzo's ate well over 1,200 calories at each meal.  God help me if I surpass that caloric intake in one day.)

Look at this passage:
In just a minute Mother's candle-light shone on the stairs and she was calling.  Another day had begun.
There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play.  The life of the earth comes up with a rush of springtime.  All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree, are trying to take the fields.  Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly.
Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle.  From dawn to dark he worked, from dark to dawn he slept, then he was up again and working.
Farming was in Almanzo's blood.  When a shop owner in town asked Almanzo's father if he may apprentice Almanzo, we are reminded of why Laura titled the book Farmer Boy.  After Father shared the news with Mother, she exploded!  (I totally love this woman.)
"Well!"  Mother snapped.  She was all ruffled, like an angry hen.  "A pretty pass the world's coming to, if any man thinks it's a step up in the world to leave a good farm and go to town!  How does Mr. Paddock make his money, if it isn't catering to us?  I guess if he didn't make wagons to suit farmers, he wouldn't last long!"
"That's true enough, "  said Father.  "But - "
"There's no 'but' about it!"  Mother said.
Later on in the conversation...because Mother was not done...
"I feel the same way you do," said Father.  "But the boy'll have to decide."
And later still...
"He's too young to know his own mind," Mother objected.
Almanzo took another big mouthful of pie.  He could not speak till he was spoken to, but he thought to himself that he was old enough to know he'd rather be like Father than like anybody else.
Before Father asked Almanzo what he wanted to do, he explained to him both sides of being a Farmer, good and bad.  He said,
A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather.  If you're a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber.  You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come.  You'll be free and independent, son, on a farm.   
My favorite illustration of Almanzo.  Always thinking of food.

On Independence Day, Almanzo asked his Father,
" was it axes and plows...made this country?  Didn't we fight England for it?"
"We fought for Independence, son," Father said.  "But all the land our forefathers had was a little strip of country, here between the mountains and the ocean.  All the way from here west was Indian country, and Spanish and French and English country.  It was farmers that took all that country and made it America."
"How?" Almanzo asked.
"It was farmers that went over the mountains, and cleared the land, and settled it, and farmed it, and hung on to their farms."
"It's the biggest country in the world, and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America, son.  Don't you ever forget that."
Almanzo James Wilder

 And as you may well already know, Almanzo did choose farming for his livelihood.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Announcing Another Reading CHALLENGE

I am a nutcase.  I do not know how I find the time to read, but I somehow finish my books. Usually, when I put my mind to something, I do not like to fail or give up (although sometimes I have to admit defeat).  When I commit to something, I just do it.  So this is what I have gotten myself into now:

To spare you my crazy life details, I will only say that I am preparing myself (mentally, physically, psychologically, hysterically) for this read-along.  Unfortunately, I do not remember how it all happened; all I know is that it had something to do with Cleo at Classical Carousel, and Bam! now I have committed myself to reading ancient English, or something like that.

My attempt at copying art after reading Book One

But in all seriousness, here is the truth: several years ago, I developed a curious interest in The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, after reading Book One to my children.  It was all about knights and dragons, and it was exciting and familiar.  Of course, I had to use outside resources to help comprehend it; but I hoped someday to read the entire work, even just to myself.

Then I found out about this read-along, and I was sucked in.  Now I am finally going to read the entire thing.  It's a little intimidating because of the language; however, I am more concerned about keeping up because lately I have witnessed my reading time being depleted before my eyes for baseball games, practices, lessons, recitals, school commitments, personal obligations, and a million other responsibilities.

So I am hoping that by the time the end of April comes, some of life's pressures will abate; then I may breathe easier and focus on something deep and complex, and be able to contribute to this little read-along.

Here is a reading schedule:

April 25 - May 1 - Book I
May 2 - May 8 - Book II
May 9 - May 15 - Book III
May 16 - May 22 - Book IV
May 23 - May 29 - Book V
May 30 - June 5 - Book VI
June 6 - June 12 - Mutability

If you are interested, Cleo has more info.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

Overflowing Pile of Books on My Spring TBR List

Can I get through this pile before summer?
Some of these are leftovers from winter that I did not finish or get to.

Surprised by Joy - C.S. Lewis (still reading now)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Journal of a Solitude - May Sarton 

Farmer Boy - Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek - Laura Ingalls Wilder

By the Shores of Silver Lake - Laura Ingalls Wilder

To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (still reading now)

Night and Day - Virginia Woolf

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God - Jonathan Edwards (may have to wait until summer)

The Faerie Queene - Edmund Spencer

Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak

Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (may have to wait until summer)

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen 

Bonhoeffer - Eric Metaxas (still reading now)

Amazing Grace - Eric Metaxas (may have to wait until summer)

P.S. I almost forgot: I am also beginning The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens