Category Archives: books

intellectualism + christianity

God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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“naked and shivery and without any bones”

A collection of Willa Cather’s letters is soon to be published. Here’s a beautiful excerpt:

In other matters — things about the office — I can usually do what I set out to do and I can learn by experience, but when it comes to writing I’m a new-born baby every time — always come into it naked and shivery and without any bones. I never learn anything about it at all. I sometimes wonder whether one can possibly be meant to do the thing at which they are more blind and inept and blundering than at anything else in the world.


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“Well, that was terrifying,” she cried.

On the night of March 30, two hours after I fell asleep, I woke up and suddenly realized Several Key Facts about my circumstances.

  1. I was at work at Payne’s.
  2. My name was Arthur Conan Doyle.
  3. Mark Gatiss and Mycroft Holmes were sitting in booth number 13, and I need to bring them their coffee immediately.

I set out from my bed to do so.

And then I stepped on Jessie’s neck.

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In Which Skiles and Hannah Assess England’s Psychological Health through Dancing

In doing research on the Kinetic Family Drawing for my Psychological Assessment class, the world’s largest library catalog sprung this glorious surprise on me:

Dear Skiles Howard, I want to meet you

The Politics of Courtly Dancing in Early Modern England by Skiles Howard.

Hey, thanks.

I have a multitude of thoughts on this.

  1. [the obvious] WHAT EVEN THE HECK. How does this relate to my search for psychological assessments? (I also got results for a book about Mickey Mantle and one about Gas Service Technology.)
  2. I need to inter-library loan this book and find some obscure way to incorporate it into my paper.
  3. This is an extremely specific tome.
    • Courtly dancing does not seem to be an expansive field for research. Oh, but you are much mistaken. Sorry, then. So not only must we deal with courtly dancing, but the interpersonal intricacies found therein.
    • Can this courtly dancing and its politics have occurred anywhere in the world? No, I dare say, most emphatically notPerhaps we shall narrow our scope to the European front? Never. This is heresy you speak. Let’s pick England, then.
    • Surely one book would suffice for an exhaustive history of such elite dancing wars. I can’t believe you and your simple mind. Know you nothing of the politics of courtly dancing? Apparently not. Shall we then restrict this treatise to the modern period in England? No. There is too much to say. How about the middle of said modern period? Ah, you jest. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. What do you think of Early Modern England? All 222 pages support this final thesis of yours. And to whom am I speaking? Hello?
  4. What the heck I don’t even understand.

I just have to include the Amazon summary.

Scholar Skiles Howard examines the social and semiotic complexities of dance in Renaissance England as it changed over time and performed different work in court, city, and playhouse. Interdisciplinary in its approach, this well-researched study explores issues of power and the body, gender and rank, popular culture and European expansion.

Dearest scholar Skiles Howard of the University of Massachusetts, how narrow and impractical are your erudite pursuits.

However, do congratulate your parents on the brilliant first name with which they endowed you.

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On Falling in Love with a Familiar Story in an Entirely New Way

I sometimes endlessly ingested Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and grew up falling in love with Christian Bale & Winona Ryder’s movie version.

But the ending, whether print or film, always left me dissatisfied. Why, oh why, did spunky Jo, my idol, my model, my heart, why did she settle for an old geezer like Bhaer? He was nice, for sure, but with a niceness that seemed to fall into the realm of someone’s grandpa. Not a heartthrob like Teddy. I mean, come on.

Old and decrepit man, or . . . vs. total hottie? This should have been the easiest decision, Jo.

No contest, right?

I had a dream in high school, or middle school, I think, in which I ended up marrying Professor Bhaer. I found myself in the same setting as the movie, in pouring rain, under an umbrella . . . either that or in a school hallway. Anyways, I kissed this man I knew I was going to marry, and looked up, and it was Professor Bhaer. I woke up horrified. Never would such a thing happened to me.

Then this morning, I realized, as the anvil fell on my head, that Jo was on to something. She wasn’t settling. Not at all.

I realized this morning that Professor Bhaer is my ideal man. Behold:

  1. An older man. When Bhaer and Jo get married, he is around 40 and she in her mid-twenties, leaving an age-gap of 15ish years. My current ideal age for a man is 35, which leaves an age gap of 13 years. (Although I did just realize that this means he would be closer to my mom’s age than mine. Details.) Men mature at a slower rate than do women, so at this age he would likely be more wise, as well as have more life experience.
  2. European. I really don’t know what else I need to say to support the validity of this point.
  3. Professor. My current dream job is to be a professor and author. My current favorite men’s fashion look is professorial. I love academics.

There it is. We are destined for each other, Professor Bhaer and I, whenever we find each other.

I’ve always identified with Jo, and in fact last year that was my apartment’s nickname for me. And finally I can identify with her choice of Bhaer.

Meant to be. That’s all I’ve got to say.

True happiness right here . . .

On a Contrary Note

I really don’t want to be doing this.

I don’t want to be studying for two more years so I can get a higher paying job.

It’s one of these moments again where I remember that all I want to do is open a haven of good coffee, used books, and local art, and/or start it all over again and become a potter or a linguist.

I don’t care about those high-power jobs lurking in the future. I don’t mind being broke. I just want to revel in the simple things.

And right now, I am, honestly, perfectly, happy.

I like living in my tiny apartment with three other women, with light switches and outlets and thermostats all hung at crooked angles, cranking the heat down in the winter to save electricity and walking around wrapped in my blanket toga.

I’ve got a kettle for my tea, a press for my coffee, and loads of British TV on youtube. I’m unsure what else I could need.

I’m worried that my aspirations for the future will be far below my pay grade, and I’m worried that I’ll mind.

It might just be one of those cold days where drinking tea seems like the world’s best occupation, and the 2×4 of reality will hit me upside the head tomorrow.

In other news, I have just burned a second batch of rice.

So Here’s the Problem.

So now, for those whom I haven’t alienated by seeming exceedingly arrogant, I’ve got thoughts on education.

I’ve always been a good student, and I like learning. Yeah, I’m one of those. Now one of my part time jobs is being a classroom aide, and I get to see my own high school teachers’ perspectives on educating. The English teacher I work with says that it’s so much more fun and rewarding to teach students who may not get the best grades but who are engaged in the material, as opposed to kids who put forth effort only to get the grades, putting no heart into their work.

As an obvious college expert (having graduated two months ago), I’ve seen this same attitude in the typical undergraduate’s approach to college, especially general education classes.

I don’t mean at all to place myself outside of my scathing comments, having made many of these remarks myself, doubting the value of a class, bemoaning the ineptitude of a boring professor.

But what’s got me thinking recently is the common expression, “Why do I need to take [Class X]? It has nothing to do with [Profession/Major Y]!”

I can see two problems with this line of thinking. First, career paths change, and many graduates follow completely different paths than their majors would suggest. So it’s not too far to suggest the possibility that a class will have bearing on a future profession. Still, it is a stretch to imagine that Finite Mathematics will come into play much in the life of a studio artist, and that’s where my second point comes in.

It seems to me that we’ve lost the desire to become Renaissance men and women. We’ve gone so deep into our specialties that it’s no longer valuable to have a breadth of knowledge or skills. Our view focuses so much on what I want to do but forgets that that’s not the only element in who I want to be.

I often mention what I would have done in my “other lives,” interests I would have pursued if I weren’t going into counseling. These include photojournalism in dangerous/obscure locations, potter/hermit, teaching literature, and linguistics.

The difference between these pursuits and gen ed classes is the fact that I’m actually interested in these while the typical student wants nothing to do with “pointless” classes. But they’re similar in the fact that both are completely unrelated to my future profession.

Part of education’s purpose is to give us tools for our professions, but there is so much more to it than that. We are being equipped to be better, well-rounded people, members of community, citizens of the world. It saddens me to see that in so many ways we have lost the love of learning, only seeing it as a means to an end.

But without more than a basic understanding of science and math, I could not appreciate books like these as fully. Not that I’ve read that book specifically. That’s definitely beside the point.


I began reading Radical by David Platt this morning, and although I’m only five and a half chapters through, I’m about ready to recommend it as required reading for every Christian. This message is needed and gives me courage. More thoughts later, when I’m more fully informed.

Also, I have been woefully remiss in my gratitudinal posts. I’ve decided I need to keep a gratitudinal journal and keep myself committed to this. Recently, however:

#32 – Provision of part-time job opportunities.

#33 – Opportunities for trust (also known less thankfully as “WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON IN MY LIFE?”)

#34 – Espresso. More specifically, Americanos. However, as I found out just this morning, not particularly from Starbucks. In this regard, I prefer the Lone Star Coffee Bar.

#35 – Unspeakable, unrealistic peace.

#36 – Friends who were given me by an all-merciful God.