May 28, 2006

The Frivolous Cake

A couple of years ago, I was just arriving in chapel when Young Master Moore read for me a most glorious poem entitled “The Frivolous Cake.” The poem struck me as one of the most deliciously funny I had ever encountered, though most of that, I’m sure, was Moore’s superb delivery. I didn’t remember the name of the book he was reading, and never thought I would encounter the poem again. Yet now I have. He was reading Titus Groan, the first book in the Gormenghast Trilogy. A friend of mine from work is loaning me the books. I am finding them ... interesting, shall we say.

The books are unquestionably, undeniably brilliant. The author, Mervyn Peake, has a command of the English language one encounters only rarely. However, he has up to this point in the book (87 pages in) used that power to create the most grotesque, hideous, wretched imagery I can recall ever encountering. It’s also quite dense, though probably not so bad as Charles Williams. The book has been — until the last few pages — a nightmare. I read on in hopes that one who can conceive of such phrases as “stenching cherubs,” “belching angels,” “creamy faces,” “ghastly little ineffectual fillets,” etc., can also use that talent to create something beautiful. I’m continuing to read on in hope of finding something good (to help wash away the foul taste of the previous 87 pages).

Maybe this just isn’t my kind of writing. Maybe I’m simply too unenlightened to appreciate it. Maybe it’s all rot (though I doubt it).

But regardless, at least I like this poem. I like it very much, actually.

The Frivolous Cake

A freckled and frivolous cake there was
That sailed on a pointless sea,
Or any lugubrious lake there was
In a manner emphatic and free.
How jointlessly, and how jointlessly
The frivolous cake sailed by
On the waves of the ocean that pointlessly
Threw fish to the lilac sky.
Oh, plenty and plenty of hake there was
Of a glory beyond compare,
And every conceivable make there was,
Was tossed through the lilac air.
Up the smooth billows and over the crests
Of the cumbersome combers flew
The frivolous cake with a knife in the wake
Of herself and her curranty crew.
Like a swordfish grim it would bound and skim
(This dinner knife fierce and blue),
And the frivolous cake was filled to the brim
With the fun of her curranty crew.
Oh, plenty and plenty of hake there was
Of a glory beyond compare—
And every conceivable make there was
Was tossed through the lilac air.
Around the shores of the Elegant Isles
Where the catfish bask and purr
And lick their paws with adhesive smiles
And wriggle their fins of fur,
They fly and fly ’neath the lilac sky—
The frivolous cake, and the knife
Who winketh his glamorous indigo eye
In the wake of his future wife.
The crumbs blow free down the pointless sea
To the beat of a cakey heart
And the sensitive steel of the knife can feel
That love is a race apart.
In the speed of the lingering light are blown
The crumbs to the hake above,
And the tropical air vibrates to the drone
Of a cake in the throes of love.

Peake, Mervyn. Titus Groan. © 1967, 1968. pp. 85–86

Posted by Leatherwood at 08:58 PM
This post has been classified as "Soliloquy"

May 27, 2006

Changes and a Game

I’ve been messing around with the HTML on this site for the last few hours. The changes I’ve made to the main page should be mostly invisible, but I’ve done a lot of revamping of the individual pages. If you want you can take a look at an example; I’d appreciate your feedback on my putting comments in the sidebar instead of beneath the post. I’ve also added the validation links, but I’ve discovered that getting the HTML right for the page is going to be a little tricky ... you see, the HTML for the comments needs to be correct as well. So in the future, I may be performing minor editing of comments (nothing that should be visible) to fix HTML bugs in them. I’m actually one of the worst offenders, with my style of putting my comments in enclosing <p> tags. Moveable Type automatically puts comments in enclosing <p> tags, and that tag shouldn’t be nested.

I’m far too lazy to go back and correct every single comment on this site, so I imagine you’ll find lots of pages that don’t validate correctly. If you care and bring them to my attention, I’ll fix them (or try to). If you don’t care (and I sincerely doubt that it matters greatly in any situation you might encounter), then don’t bother.

Now for some happier news: I’ve written a game that you can try if you’re interested. Yes, I know it’s rather lame; yes, I know that this game is way better; but it’s mine. I wrote it. And I thought it was fun, both to play and to write.

I found out about the game at work; one of my co-workers brought it. For lack of better things to do (and because I actually like this sort of logic game), I played it rather obsessively over the next few days until I had it solved. You’ll need JavaScript enabled in order to play.

Posted by Leatherwood at 03:55 PM
This post has been classified as "Public Address"

May 20, 2006

Ramblings on My Daily Devotions

I can think of no better way to start this post than to quote from Charlie Jones’ book Peculiar Favor:

If you’re a member of the Evangelical subculture (conservative brand of Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Bible Church, etc.) then you are well aware of that sacrosanct ritual called the Quiet Time (QT) or Daily Devotions (DD). I will be spending a great deal of time talking about this ritual. I believe that for many Christians it has become one of the primary stumbling blocks to exercising true faith.

Most of us have heard numerous talks, sermons, and bits of advice on the importance of having a daily QT. So for many of us, the QT has become the lifeline that both establishes and maintains our Christian life.

Jones, Charlie. Peculiar Favor. © 2003. pp. 59–60

My “QT” has been a key element of my Christian life for a long time. Its power is weakening, and I’m not sure how hard I should try to resist that trend, or it its hold on me is something I need to let go of. Musing on that subject (and on the value of the QT in general) is the purpose of that post.

First, a little necessary background on my Christian life. I was “saved” at a very young age — somewhere around the time I was five or six years old. My parents had a comic-book Bible that did a very good job (as I remember it) of going through the Bible and telling the stories by means of comics. I pored over this book for hours when I was little and could quote large sections of it verbatim. I wish I could find this Bible again; I’m sure it would have a whole lot of memories in its images.

Later (between eight and nine years old, I think) I started realized that I ought to start reading the “real Bible,” so I petitioned my parents for one. My first Bible was a little red Children’s Bible. I liked the book itself very much; it had a nice cover and it was very thrilling to hold and think that this was my very own Bible. I was, however, very disappointed by the translation; it talked down to me too much. For the next few years, I slowly worked my way up through translations, from the Children’s Version to the NIV to the KJV (very briefly) before finally getting the version I’d sort of been hankering for all along — the NASB. I think this version appealed to me most because it was the version my father read (my mother is a NKJV partisan) and because it had the word “American” in the title. I was a very patriotic (in a rather confused way) boy.

In the interval of upgrading Bibles, when I was eleven, I had a “Teen’s Study Bible,” a NIV with a few color pages with wise advice. It had a Bible reading plan for a year that suggested reading three chapters every weekday and five on Sunday. I set my mind and determination on reading the Bible through in a year, straight from Genesis to Revelation. I actually accomplished it. Ever since that year, the QT has been a part of my life. I was never again consistent enough in observing it to make it through in a year, but I have toured my way through the book three or four times and have made at least as many failed starts (generally bogging down in Leviticus or the minor prophets).

At the moment, I’m midway through Job. I have an HTML file with my daily record extending back a little more than a year to May 7, 2005. It is a measure of this past year’s struggle that I was nearly through 1 Samuel last year. In a year, I have only made it through eight and a half books. At the present time, it’s been slightly over two months since I’ve made any progress at all. I think that’s the longest single break I’ve had in the last decade.

In rather scary (and possibly enlightening) ways, this erosion of my QT parallels my depression. As I have been consistent in observing the ritual, so I have generally done well in the rest of my life. As I have been inconsistent, my life has generally had more imperfections in it. Part of me wants nothing more than to zealously re-dedicate myself to perfect observation of my QT, and part of me holds back. This split in myself is a large part of the whole psychological morass in which I find myself. I feel deeply shamed by my mistakes, be they massive holes in my QT observance, missed homework assignments while I was in school, or wasted days and weeks now. Part of me wants nothing more than to dedicate myself to fixing my record, making it spotless again ... something of which I can be proud.

Then another part of me is shamed again by my pride and perfectionism and speaks against trying to be perfect again. Another voice speaks, one that is deeply tired of trying and failing to get things right, trying to be perfect again. This internal argument has been going on for years, and I know I’ve written about it before, so let’s move on.

I’ve always seen my QT as the cornerstone of a perfect life. If I can just be perfect in that way, it has been my general observation that everything else runs smoothly. By “smoothly,” I mean that I get my homework done, pass my tests, do my chores, and generally get everything on my internal “perfect observance” list done. I’ve spent most of my life in service to this list of things I ought to do. A few years ago, I started to see this tendency as something bad in me that needed to be resisted. To this day, I haven’t yet managed to fully let go of my desire for a perfect record. I’ve managed to let go enough to start an internal civil war that’s thrown me into disarray and uncertainty, but haven’t managed to finish letting go.

I think a big part of the reason I’ve failed to let go is that I’m not sure that I ought to let go ... or even more crucial, that I want to let go. Can I really let go and lay down the dream of being perfect? And, if I do, what then do I do with the rest of my life? If my life isn’t about crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is, what is it about?

It’s not enough to see my drive for perfectionism as a bad thing and try to stop it ... that’s just like trying to grab the wheel from the driver and twisting it sharply in any other direction than the one the driver is heading for. Do that and you’ll wreck the car (or the life). You must not only oppose the driver, but you also need a new direction to go. If I’m not going to live to be perfect, I need another reason ... and I think I’m still looking.

Posted by Leatherwood at 11:02 PM
This post has been classified as "Musings"

May 17, 2006

Yay! This Page Validates!

I've been tinkering with the HTML on this page for the last little while, trying to make it pass validation tests for XHTML Strict (well, I went for Transitional first and then for Strict). As you can see from the nice shiny new image on the end of the sidebar, I succeeded! Clicking on the image will run's validation service on this page, so you can keep me honest. :)

One could say that my time would have been better spent writing an entry than fiddling with a few bits that almost all browsers easily compensate for, but I've always had a perfectionist streak in me.

Of course, fixing all my other posts and other pages (like the categories and monthy pages) would be another thing entirely ...

Posted by Leatherwood at 07:22 PM
This post has been classified as "Public Address"

May 16, 2006

Visiting for Graduation

I got to go back to LeTourneau a week and a half (already so long!) ago. I really, really enjoyed it. I’d been away for nearly a year; Nikki and I left Longview in late May last year (2005). In that time, I hadn’t exactly pined away for LU; I missed my friends, certainly, and I certainly wasn’t overjoyed to have left, but I didn’t really spend much emotional energy missing it. But going back reminded me of all the people and places that I knew. Little waves of gladness lapped at my soul all weekend as I would see something or — much sweeter — someone I knew and hadn’t thought about in a long time.

It just struck me that it’s similar to one of the hidden pleasures of wearing glasses — cleaning them. You see, one doesn’t really notice one’s world getting steadily dimmer and dingier as one’s glasses accumulate dust. The process is too gradual. Yet when one takes them off and cleans them, the world that greets the eye when they’re replaced is renewed. Colors are vibrant, people’s faces are clear, and the whole world looks newly created. In the same way, I didn’t really realize how much I missed the people I knew at LU until I returned and saw them again. It was so good to see you all! You really are a beautiful set of people — a treasure indeed.

I made it to Jared and Rachel’s wedding, though I managed to run out of gas en route. My room-mate assured me that when his gas gauge read “empty” it didn’t really meanempty.” I discovered his gas tank really does have a bottom when his car died at the intersection of the Loop and Gilmer, about a mile away from the wedding. I was sitting at the intersection waiting for the light to turn green when the car died. Just like that — no sputtering, no fuss. Just died. And refused to restart. I went “Uh-oh!” After determining that, no, the car would not start just long enough to get me through the intersection, I switched on my emergency lights, shifted into neutral, hopped out of the car when the light turned green, and pushed with all my might and main. I actually made it across before the light turned red again (yay!). A policeman on a motorcycle materialized out of nowhere and helped ward off traffic so I could steer the car out of the road (I was in the left-hand lane) and into a parking lot. It is nice to be reminded that the police can actually be helpful — that they have a purpose in life beyond catching me speeding.

Fortunately for me, there was a gas station on the other side of the road from where I turned in. I dashed across the road, purchased a 2-gallon tank, filled it with gas, dashed back and poured in it, skinning my knuckles and spilling gasoline all over my hands as I did so. I had terrible visions of static electricity setting my hands on fire when I slid into the car, so I wiped on my hands off on the grass as best I could. I then made it to the wedding without further mishap at approximately 1:01 (or :02), a minute after the wedding was due to start. After washing my hands to get the blood and gas off, I saw the bridesmaids giving Rachel her finishing touches and slid into the last pew, directly behind Dr. Batts and Dr. Solganick.

The wedding was beautiful. It was more than beautiful ... it was ... the kind of beauty that cuts to the heart and brings tears. Watching the bridesmaids and groomsmen walking up to the music (played most wonderfully by Ziggy) touched something in me. Rachel and Jared looked genuinely good together. It was a good wedding ... a very good wedding. I’m so glad I could be there for it.

There were many other sweet things about being back. My shutterbug instinct reawakened and I snapped three full rolls of film between the wedding and graduation. I (sadly and unfortunately) do not yet have a digital camera, but I hope to be motivated to scan in some of the best images and post them here some day soon.

Let’s see ... what else did I get to do. I was able to sword-fight again, thanks to Miss Tucker and Master Flenner. I got to talk to my room-mate. I got to eat steak. I got to visit with some of my professors (very briefly). I got to see the formula car. I even got to see my cousins in Dallas (missing the plane back to Bellingham gave me another day I wasn’t expecting). I got to see Chicken Little (great movie, BTW).

I also got to see the SC again. That was very good. I’ve missed you guys. A lot. And it meant a lot to see that you were glad to see me as well.

It was good. God bless all of you. Thanks for reading. Sorry it’s been so long. I hope it won’t be as long before my next.

Posted by Leatherwood at 06:15 PM
This post has been classified as "Autobiography"
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