I’ve recently been told that I don’t deserve what I have.
Standing right behind that, I believe, is a condemnation that I don’t practice religion the way I “should.”
I have heard any number of fine sermons in my life, and I have known any number of deep souls. I am well aware that people find fault, but it seems to me to be presumptuous to judge the authenticity of anyone’s religion, except one’s own. And that is also presumptuous. (p. 173)
This has prompted a lot of self-reflecting and a search for understanding on my part. That search has led me to realize some very important things about the wretchedness of cruelty people visit on each other. It’s so difficult to see the good in others when one only looks for faults.
Let me say first of all that the grace of God is sufficient to any transgression, and that to judge is wrong, the origin and essence of much error and cruelty. (p. 155)
While all this happens, I read a book called Gilead. It’s written by Marilynne Robinson, an Iowa author. In the book, a kind, gentle, old man — a preacher — writes a last letter to his young son. Unintentionally, he also speaks to me when I am in desperate need of kind words.
When I read books is almost as important as what books I read. Reading is not just about content but also context, and it’s not just the context of the words in the books. It’s the context of my life. Seemingly unrelated books I read in sequence often fit together in unforseen ways. I often find myself reading a book at a time when I need those stories or information most because of what’s happening in my life.
It seems to me there is less meanness in atheism, by a good measure. It seems that the spirit of religious self-righteousness this article deplores is precisely the spirit in which it is written. Of course he’s right about many things, one of them being the destructive potency of religious self-righteousness. (p. 146)
And so it is with the old man in Gilead. He’s taking stock, looking back on his own life and looking ahead to his son’s life without him. He’s trying to tell his son what’s important. In doing so, he speaks to several things that have been on my mind lately — understanding the differences of others without mocking or ridiculing the very essence of who they are.
In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable — which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. (p. 197)
Some people believe the only way to hear the voice of God is to sit in a church or cathedral and listen to the voice of someone who preaches.
I hear the voice of God in a brilliant sunrise.
I hear it when I look into the depths of my husband’s or my children’s eyes.
You see how it is godlike to love the being of someone. Your existence is a delight to us. I hope you never have to long for a child as I did, but oh, what a splendid thing it has been that you came finally, and what a blessing to enjoy you now for almost seven years.
And I hear it in the words of books I read.
Posted by Becky @ 12:03 am
I just started reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I think I’m going to like this author. Food for thought already.
There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn’t really expect to find it, either.
My point in mentioning this is only to say that people who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you’re just quietly going about a life of your own choosing. They make you doubt yourself, which, depending on cases, can be a severe distraction and a waste of time. This is a thing I wish I had understood much earlier than I did.
Posted by Becky @ 10:06 am
Blogland quotable quotes
“You know what, Devon? You know that band you were listening to earlier? Sublime?”
“Uh-huh. He overdosed on heroin in some motel in 1996. They wheeled Tom Petty and his oxygen tank onto the stage at the Superbowl and he rocked the fucking house. Who’s the loser, now?”
Read the whole post here.
Posted by Becky @ 11:38 pm
(Guest Post by Todd, The Bullshit Observer. How I know Becky: I’m just another blog-mirer.) New Years day, My 5 year old and I took a break from watching college football to play wiffle baseball in the back yard. At one point he had a little tantrum and threw his bat. As is my fatherly duty, I scolded him. “OK, not cool. You don’t throw your bat when you’re upset, Nick,” He picked up the bat and hit a few. Then he threw his bat again and I immediately barked, “Nick, that is unsportsman-like conduct,” somehow expecting him to know what that means. “What does that mean?” he asked. “It means that it’s….not cool….and….not how you are supposed to behave when you play baseball,” I said, somewhat feebly. “It’s not respectful of the game or your fellow players,” I added. Then I thought, “Well, what the hell does that mean?” Then I started thinking. Where has the idea of sportsmanlike conduct gone anyway? I just watched at least a half-dozen college football players get busted for late hits, pushing opponents, and celebrating in their opponent’s face. That kind of behavior seemed normal. Even routine. Then it occurred to me that the ideal of gentlemanly conduct (which “Sportmenship” is based upon and which can be defined as acting with an acute sense of respect and propriety), is one that is in dire need of a revival.When I pledged a fraternity in college, the active members made us “poopies” (pledges) memorize a poem by John Walter Waylen entitled, “The True Gentelman.” It goes like this:
The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.
The idea of this passage was clearly too good for the fellows that made me memorize it in the back of a station-wagon at 80 miles per hour with a hood over my head and then recite it while a match burned down to the tips of my fingers. Oh precious irony. Oh precious Neosporin. As we hop back into our lives this January 2nd, let us take a moment to absorb this ideal. Ladies too, for this is surely a gender generic idea with a gender specific name. Unlikely though it may seem, especially during an election cycle, it is possible for this true gentleman/gentlewoman ideal to make a comeback. Let us resolve ourselves to expect nothing less that this. Because if we start expecting dirty, underhanded behavior from those around us, above us or in the spotlight, then we will have accepted it and we will have succumbed to it and then the new ideal will more closely resemble Machiavelli’s The Prince. In a sense, that’s really what this blog, Deep Muck Big Rake, is all about. Isn’t it?
Posted by Todd @ 2:43 pm
Books: Interesting quotes
We interrupt this book, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, to share a few quotes.
When you get born your father and mother lost something out of themselves, and they are going to bust a hame trying to get it back, and you are it.
But the best luck always happens to people who don’t need it.
They say you are not you except in terms of relation to other people. If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is what you are, only has meaning in relation to other people.
Posted by Becky @ 8:44 pm
Books: Interesting quotes
We interrupt this book (The Manchurian Candidate) to share a couple of my favorite quotes so far.
Raymond stood as though someone might have just opened a beach umbrella in his bowels.
Quite a picture, eh?
The conception of people acting against their own best interests should not startle us. We see it occasionally in sleepwalking and in politics, every day.
OK. Back to reading.
Posted by Becky @ 10:55 pm