August 31, 2015 § 4 Comments
I am a relatively quiet person. I say relatively because when I think of a Quiet Person I always think of my grandfather, who could go hours in your company without saying a word, and who spoke so softly (and so compellingly) that you had to lean in to catch the gravity of his words.
This is not the first time I’ve been driven to write about being a quiet person, or of Daddy Earl as the epitome of the Quiet Person. Several months ago I wrote a (yes, slightly bitter) post about the difficulties of being an introvert in conversations. In recent reflection, I think maybe I have put too much of the onus of my quietness (quietude?) on the bold. Because, yeah, I’m timid. I hold back my ideas and divulge them at a decibel too low to be heard by anybody other than the person next to me, or the person who has kindly tuned into my frequency.
Would it help me if the talkers and the bold asked me for my thoughts and ideas? Definitely. Is that their responsibility? No.
It’s my responsibility to speak up if I feel I have something worthy to contribute. The problem is, sometimes I just don’t know how. It seems too monumental an effort to speak loudly enough to be heard over the talkers, to be seen among the tall people.
My ideas might get rejected, y’know?
I have boundless ideas but they’re not always good ones. So, just in case, I’ll hold back. Someone else will have a good idea.
Surely I’m not the only one with this struggle. Will you speak up about it?
August 21, 2015 § 1 Comment
This post is about being weak.
Weakness, it seems, is the theme of my life lately; being weak and learning to be OK with that. I don’t like to be weak. (Who does?) I like to be strong, I like to be smart, I like to be capable, I like to be healthy.
God likes to remind me: Corinne, you are not sovereign. You are not God.
I’ve been out of the office most of the week, sick in bed at home with…a cold. Just a stupid cold. This is a recurring theme in my life. I won’t go into it now. But inevitably, when I’m laid up in bed with a cold, snorting and sniffling and hacking, I think, “I should be at work. Other people go to work when they have colds.” I start to feel guilty. I feel guilty that my body is weak and needs inordinate amounts of sleep and rest to keep a cold from turning into sinusitis.
Just like I feel guilty when I struggle with budgets and details and staying organized at work. “I should be better at this stuff. Other people are better at this stuff.”
That’s all there is to this post. I didn’t sleep a wink last night (side effect to some medication) so I’m jolly on top of the world right now and groggily sifting through emails and trying to remember,
He knows my frame (he made it)
He remembers that I am dust (he knows my weaknesses)
He heals all my diseases (halle-freakin-lujah praise the Lord!)
He redeems my life from the pit (darkness is temporary)
He crowns me with steadfast love and mercy (he has not forgotten me)
He satisfies me with good (I will be satisfied in him, I will be at rest)
So that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
It’s not what you think.
Though I am perfectly happy to read about earthlings encountering strange fantastical Mars natives, along the lines of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s wonderfully ridiculous A Princess of Mars and its sequels, The Martian is not a book of that kind. Not at all. In fact, I’m reticent to describe it as science fiction, because it’s just so damn realistic.
I mean, why haven’t we had manned missions to Mars yet?
Let me back up. Here’s the premise: a manned Mars mission (think Apollo missions, but on Mars) goes awry and the crew barely escapes, but not before Mark Watney, resident botanist and Mr. Fix-It, gets left behind, presumed dead.
BUT HE’S NOT DEAD.
That’s the book. That’s it.
Really, though, the whole book is Mark Watney trying to be not dead. What makes this book such a fun read is Watney’s – and therefore Weir’s – incredible ingenuity. He’s stranded on Mars with nothing but some random NASA equipment. The setting is very-near-future, humankind’s third manned mission to Mars, so there’s no turning the ship around to pick him up at the Hellas Basin bus stop. HOW WILL HE SURVIVE? And will he ever make it home?
I cannot imagine the extensive research Weir must have done for this novel. For a science lover who knows pretty much nothing about science (I’m talking about myself), the mission and Watney’s survival antics are 100% believable. Maybe an actual rocket scientist or NASA engineer would have a different opinion, but unfortunately I don’t know any of them.
I actually started the book last winter and put it down until last week. It has a fairly predictable pattern of life-threatening-danger, brilliant idea, huge screw-up, another brilliant idea, giant obstacle, brilliant idea, etc etc, which I got a little tired of. But, once you start to notice the pattern, you’re too invested in Watney’s life to not finish the book. And it is pretty darn fun.
That’s my consensus: a really fun, well-thought-out, not masterpiece, summer read. I don’t think all of the science-y stuff makes it too niche. I don’t know anything about science, remember? If you read it, you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t, you’ll have time to read something more life-changing.
Lest I forget, to all of you who have joined my readership since I was Freshly Pressed this week: Welcome! I’m honored that you think my words a worthy read. When I’m back from vacation, I look forward to reading and responding to all of your comments.
July 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
I’m sitting here looking at my most recent read, Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, and trying not to resent it.
It’s a beautifully written book. An excellent book. Hosseini is one of those writers who doesn’t just write a good story (and he really writes a good story), he has that rare and shining ability to craft prose like poetry.
This book will break your heart.
And the Mountains Echoed is an overarching story, spanning 60+ years. Each chapter is a different vignette, a tile in the mosaic. You never go back to the same character’s point of view – you bounce from one decade to thirty years later, then back twenty, from Afghanistan, to Paris, to California, and back again. He even switches unpredictably from first to third person, from present to past tense. You would think that this would make the story feel disconnected, like a jumble of pieces. You’d think you’d get disinterested, or get so involved in one vignette that you can’t move on to the next. But you don’t – with just a couple of sentences, you’re invested. All of the jumping around doesn’t feel awkward, like when you’re dreaming and it’s completely natural to walk out your kitchen door into the Tower of London.
It’s poignant and engrossing. It would have been a quick read, if I didn’t have to keep putting it down to grieve.
The tragedy of ATME is not doomed lovers or terrible battles. Those kinds of things, you can read as an observer. “Oh, so sad,” you say, you sniffle and blow your nose and get on with your life. ATME does not allow such safe reading. Every story within the story is a tragedy of everyday brokenness. There are nine chapters: there are at least nine griefs. At least nine times that I had to put it down and say, “Later.” And there will be a chapter, a character that you identify so strongly with that you have to watch reruns of “30 Rock” to distract yourself.
(Side note: TV may not be the best coping mechanism.)
The characters of ATME are not heroes, they’re normal people, like us. They experience terrible tragedies or maybe just the sad brokenness of time’s inevitable march, missed opportunities, or disillusionment. That’s what makes this book so gripping and so effective. The stories might be fictional but the truth (and the sorrow) in them is not.
I bet you’re getting on Amazon right now to buy it, right?
If I were to recommend this book based on how good of a book it is – how well-written, how powerful, how relevant – I’d say, yes, you should read it. But, with that recommendation comes a big huge caveat. It’s sad. It’s really really sad. It’s all the different kinds of sad. Even the bad kinds of sad. It’s a book of sad, written beautifully.
July 17, 2015 § 127 Comments
We have an identity crisis. Call it what you will, a post-modern, existential, millennial crisis of self, we are all asking ourselves: Which Game of Thrones character am I?
Ok, in all seriousness. The rash of Buzzfeed, Playbuzz, Quizmodo, etc “Personality Quizzes” that promise to tell you who you really are, in terms of your favorite fictional paradigm, is really just the latest symptom of our human desire to know ourselves, to approve of ourselves. “Ugh, I got Pansy Parkinson? Are you serious? I wanted to be Bellatrix Lestrange!”
For those seeking to understand themselves in less frivolous terms, we might seek to discover if we’re Type A or Type B, or which of the four humors we are, or, in terms of the perennial, inescapable, enduring favorite: What’s my Myers-Briggs type?
I’ve long been a fan of the Myers-Briggs. It’s helped me understand certain aspects of my personality (like, why I’m contemplating the archaeological record that will be left by our apartment building while everyone else is talking about what to get for dinner) and also how to better know and love the people around me. For instance, why my dad and I connect over history and science fiction, or why it’s OK for me to want to stay home and read when everybody else goes to a football game.
According to Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTP. There’s parts of that that delight me. I’m the eccentric absent-minded professor? Awesome! But recently I’ve come to a point where I want to say, Enough. Myers-Briggs and I need to take some time apart.
Myers-Briggs is like pointing to a blue-and-green striped shirt and saying “That shirt is blue.”
Ok, yes, there is a lot of blue on it, but there’s also the same amount of green. And, it’s not a solid color shirt – it’s a pattern. Describing the shirt as “blue,” while not entirely incorrect, gives you the wrong picture of the shirt. You hear “blue shirt” and you think of a shirt that is blue, not blue-and-green striped. You could also describe a blue shirt with white flowers as blue. So now you have two blue shirts – that are fundamentally different! And what if the blue shirt with white flowers is a sleeveless chambray blouse and the striped shirt is a longsleeved knit?
Excuse me, I think maybe I need to go to TJ Maxx…
Let me explain to you why being called “blue” when you are in fact, blue-and-green striped, can be a harmful thing. For one, others start to believe you’re blue. “Oh, you know Corinne, she’s blue, so, we should ask her to do this blue thing. She wouldn’t want to do the green thing.” Also, you start to believe you’re blue. “Yeah, I’m a blue person…green? That’s weird. Why is that green? I’m blue. That doesn’t fit, that’s not me.”
Why did I solidly know myself as deeply passionate, adventurous, sensitive, artistic, and empathetic before I learned that I was really an INTP? Why was I wild and emotional for the 18 years before I heard of Myers-Briggs, but now that I’m an INTP I’m Spock, or Data?
Ok, so my identity problems are not Myers-Briggs’ fault. But Myers-Briggs has been my enabler, has been a neat little box that I, so staunchly anti-box, have allowed myself to live in, have slowly shrunk to fit in.
For the time being, I’m saying Bye-Bye, Myers-Briggs. I want to know myself on my own terms, not on someone else’s. I’m on a journey to feel like myself, and you are a big damn suitcase that I am not going to carry around.
July 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
I have a terrible habit of starting books and never finishing them, even though I enjoy them, and want to finish them. With all but a few books, if I put it down where it’s not obviously in my sight, I will forget about it. For months, years even. It’s dumb, because I’m only limiting my own fun by doing that. So I arbitrarily decided (my favorite kind of decisions) to read 4 books in the month of July. Four books I haven’t read before, because there’s another one of my little problems: always rereading old favorites when there’s a mountain of literature out there, just because I know the old favorites won’t let me down.
The first book of the month was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and honestly I really started it around June 29. Grace, people. I saw the movie several years ago on a plane, so I knew a little bit about it, but not much (somehow I never really remember the movies I watch on planes). All I remembered was 1. Depressing 2. The twist and 3. I hate Kiera Knightley’s character.
I chose to read it because a friend was writing a paper for grad school on it and asked me to read her paper. It piqued my interest in the book.
The book is not as depressing as I remember the movie to be. I think this is largely in part because of the protagonist’s narration. It’s as though she’s telling you a story, in a very winding, conversational, and casual tone. So very casual, given the premise of the book. The very casualness with which she, Kathy H, and her classmates regard their lot in life is disconcerting and agitating.
What is it? You ask. What is their lot in life?
Ha! I’m not going to tell you! Read the book! (Or watch the movie.)
I will tell you this: beginning at a school in the English countryside, Never Let Me Go is Kathy H’s recollections of her young life and her friendships with Ruth and Tommy. This little book is a myriad of philosophical and ethical questions, in an intimate, low-key package. It asks REALLY BIG questions in a really quiet way. You will enjoy learning Kathy H’s story, but you will also find yourself ruminating on little affectations, passing mentions, and character traits in order to understand the bigger picture behind her words.
Is this review vague enough for you? I’d love to go into some of my own ruminations on it, such as what Ishiguro might be commenting on with all the euphemistic language – donor, student, complete. But to do so would spoil the discovery for you, much like the movie spoiled the discovery for me. The book is still quite worth it, whether or not you’ve seen the movie. If you like philosophical books, you should read it. If you like to read books that are smart but you don’t have to slog through them, read it. If you want something poignant, read it. If you want to shut your brain off and be mindlessly entertained, watch TV.
June 24, 2015 § 2 Comments
I have several ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. I could probably count the number of ancestors from north of the Mason-Dixon line on both hands. In short, I am just about as Southern as you can get. Do I choose to represent that part of my identity with the Confederate flag?
Just because my ancestors fought for the Confederacy does not mean I choose to identify with everything it stood for. That flag stands for the oppression of whole people groups, for hatred, for death, for standing on the backs of others. Slavery was a horrible, horrible mistake, and whatever you think the Confederate flag stands for, it is still seen today by the majority as a symbol for the right to own another human being. It will never be redeemed from that identity. Until this nation crumbles to dust, that flag will forever be a reminder of evil deeds.
It doesn’t matter what your great-great-grandfather thought, whether or not he owned slaves, why he fought for the Confederacy – maybe he just did it because he was from Georgia and it was Us vs Them – the symbolism of the Confederate flag remains unchanged. The death and hatred it is steeped in remains unchanged. When you fly the Confederate flag, you are endorsing inequality, you are telling Americans that their opinions do not matter because your opinions are More Correct, you are choosing to blindly bury your ancestral shame rather than regretfully remember and move forward in freedom.
I regret that my family may have had a part in defending the enslavement of other human beings. I choose to say “They were wrong.” I don’t have to agree with my ancestors. I don’t have to carry their shame. I don’t have to fly their flag.
I think that maybe we can take a cue from our German brothers and sisters here. A legacy of hatred and death (National Socialism, aka Nazism) came out of Germany in the early-mid 20th century. However, Germans don’t have to identify with Nazism in order to call themselves German. Just like I don’t have to identify with the Confederacy in order to call myself Southern. If it’s possible to be German without being Nazi, it’s possible to be Southern without being Confederate. I would even venture to say that glorifying the Confederate flag is like glorifying the Nazi flag. It’s glorifying a symbol of hate and ignoring the pain it signifies for others.
I am proud of my Southern heritage. I am proud of the effort and toil my ancestors put forth, the generations who first farmed Georgian and Tennessean soil. Because of that, I choose respect and honor. I choose a legacy of hard work and loving God and loving people. I choose to not fly the Confederate flag.