Thursday, February 20, 2014

Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

Clarissa  Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

In January I started reading Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa" as part of a real-time read along organized by author Lynn Shepherd. The 1,534-page behemoth is the story of virtuous Clarissa Harlowe and Richard Lovelace, who is described on Goodreads as "easily the most charming villain in English literature." Set in the mid-18th-century, their story is told through letters that run from January 10 to December 18. As Ms. Shepherd describes in her blog post, the real-time aspect of the project is accomplished by reading each day's letters on the relevant date and sharing your thoughts on Twitter as you read, with the hashtag #Clarissa. Ms. Shepherd is also keeping a running summary of the letters we've read on her blog, so if you come in a little late, you can quickly catch up.

This is just about the only way I can conceive of tackling this doorstop of a book! Anyone want to join me?

"Upon my word I am sometimes tempted to think that we may make the world allow for and respect us as we please, if we can but be sturdy in our wills, and set out accordingly. It is but being the less beloved for it, that's all: and if we have power to oblige those we have to do with, it will not appear to us that we are."
-- Miss Clarissa Harlowe, to Miss Howe Jan. 20

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tea Time Too

Last week we did some artist study, but this time we just enjoyed each other's company and discussed the restorative properties of warm chocolate chip cookies paired with tea or a glass of milk.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what's the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What's for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting to-day?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It's the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy

Well, I've got some weeds in my garden, no doubt. I learn this and then I forget it. And then I re-learn it. And forget it again. As my husband is fond of saying, "Repetition impresses the dullest of minds."

This is the time to dust off that gratitude journal and pull some weeds.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tea Time with Edouard

After 90 minutes of shoveling snow, a break for tea and chocolate biscuits certainly hits the spot! Some art by Manet rounded out the afternoon.

Manet is one of my favorite artists. I love his stark contrasts. Rarely have I seen black hues in any other artist's work that could compare to the luscious depth of his.

And, I learned something new this afternoon about Edouard. He was a dandy.

He was famous in his circle for his fashion-conscious appearance. Some critics took this, unfairly, to be a mark of his lack of "seriousness."

His "circle" included Degas, Mallarme, Morisot, Proust, and Zola. So Manet was no slouch, even if he lacked seriousness.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

OK, You've Got My Attention

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

The Wisdom of the Myths: How Greek Mythology Can Change Your LifeThe Wisdom of the Myths: How Greek Mythology Can Change Your Life by Luc Ferry

Within the space of several hours this morning, I've read the following from a shoot-from-the-hip writer/research professor and a French philosopher/former Minister of Education. The emphases are mine.

'Practicing critical awareness is about reality-checking the messages and expectations that drive the "never good enough" gremlins. From the time we wake up to the time our head hits the pillow at night, we are bombarded with messages and expectations about every aspect of our lives. From magazine ads and TV commercials to movies and music, we're told exactly what we should look like, how much we should weigh, how often we should have sex, how we should parent, how we should decorate our houses, and which car we should drive. It's absolutely overwhelming, and, in my opinion, no one is immune. Trying to avoid media messages is like holding your breath to avoid air pollution--it's not going to happen.' --Brene Brown, "The Gifts of Imperfection," p.67

'Let us avoid misunderstanding: I have no intention of indulging in yet another neo-Marxist diatribe against "consumer society," even less of trying my hand at the now ritual critique of the publicity machine. It is not at all clear, to my mind, that the suppression of advertising would in any sense change the underlying problems. Quite simply, as a father and a former Minister for Education, it has seemed to me crucial for us to put the frenzy of acquisition and ownership in its place--secondary, despite everything--and to make our children understand that acquisition is not the alpha and omega of existence: that it does not remotely begin to map the horizon of human life. To help children resist the pressures imposed by advertising, to allow them to free themselves or at least establish some inner distance, it is essential--perhaps even a matter of survival, if we remember how addiction is sometimes fatal--to provide them as early as possible with the elements of an interior life that runs deep and is lasting. To which end we must, I think, hold fast to the fundamental principle I have just outlined, according to which the more that individuals are endowed with strong values (cultural, moral, spiritual), the less they experience the need to acquire for the sake of acquisition and to press the "buy" button for no reason; the less, accordingly, will they be weakened by the chronic dissatisfaction created by an infinite multiplication of artificial needs. Put differently, we must help our children to accord greater importance to the logic of Being as against the logic of Having. It is in this spirit that I dedicate this book to all parents anxious to make a true present to their children--one that accompanies them on their search and that is not discarded on Christmas morning as soon as the wrapping has been removed.' --Luc Ferry, "The Wisdom of the Myths," p. 41

Now, I'm going to put this in my philosophical pipe, and smoke it.

The Wisdom of the Myths

The Wisdom of the Myths: How Greek Mythology Can Change Your LifeThe Wisdom of the Myths: How Greek Mythology Can Change Your Life by Luc Ferry
It is easy to hire someone else to do work for us--someone to clean, someone to tend the garden--but no one can take our place along that road that leads to the conquest of our fears, so that we can adapt to the world and find our right place in it. The ultimate end, in general terms, is indeed harmony, but each individual must find his particular way of achieving it: finding one's own path, which is not the path of others, may become the task of a lifetime. (p. 29)
About a week after I started an online group read of The Iliad, I saw this book on the shelf at the library. The subtitle "How Greek Mythology Can Change Your Life" sounded like a bit of an overreach until I reflected that in our culture energy drinks give you wings and sugary breakfast cereals support children's immune systems, so why not give this book a shot? I'm just starting the prologue this morning, but already find it thought-provoking while grounded in common sense. Philosophy and common sense? Are they supposed to be in the same room?

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Found Inside The Eyre Affair

Putz Alert! Think before you deface a library book to "correct" a published author's grammar. And perhaps consult a dictionary, too. Thought + dictionary = amazing.