Monday, April 25, 2016

Medieval Mystics

It's a long story, but sometimes one reads an assignment incorrectly.  In a nutshell, that's how this post was born.  Hope it's of some interest!

Between Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich definitely was my favorite.  Both her style and content were much more palatable for me than Margery Kempe’s writings.  I’m personally inclined to discount the latter writer’s work…but what do you think?  Was she playing with a full deck?

Here’s one passage from Julian of Norwhich that caught my attention, because it reminded me somewhat of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, which is included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  If interested, I’m copying Norwich’s passage first, followed by the ancient homily excerpt.

Also God shewed in part the wisdom and the truth of her soul: wherein I understood the reverent beholding in which she beheld her God and Maker, marvelling with great reverence that He would be born of her that was a simple creature of His making. And this wisdom and truth: knowing the greatness of her Maker and the littleness of herself that was made,— caused her to say full meekly to Gabriel: Lo me, God’s handmaid! In this sight I understood soothly that she is more than all that God made beneath her in worthiness and grace; for above her is nothing that is made but the blessed Manhood Of Christ, as to my sight.

Norwich, Julian of (2015-06-10).  The Showings of Divine Love (Kindle Locations 95-99). Wilder Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who ever slept ever since the world began.... He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him He who is both their God and the son of Eve.

(The Lord’s descent into hell from an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday.)

I’ve not led an academic discussion for a very long time, so forgive anything I’ve overlooked!  Please select one or two questions from the following six to start our week’s discussions.

1.  Do you have any thoughts on possible literary or religious influences with regards to Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe?

2.  How would you compare and contrast this week’s selections? In what ways are Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe different in their approaches?

3.  Which writer spoke to your heart the most eloquently, and why? 

4.  What did Margery Kempe mean by referring to Mary as the “Empress of Hell?” In Book 1.79? 

5.  Do you have any thoughts on the following quote from Chapter 3 of Julian of Norwich’s book?  Does she have a different concept of heaven than you may personally hold?

And being in youth as yet, I thought it great sorrow to die;— but for nothing that was in earth that meliked to live for, nor for no pain that I had fear of: for I trusted in God of His mercy. But it was to have lived that I might have loved God better, and longer time, that I might have the more knowing and loving of God in bliss of Heaven. For methought all the time that I had lived here so little and so short in regard of that endless bliss,— I thought [it was as] nothing. Wherefore I thought: Good Lord, may my living no longer be to Thy worship! And I understood by my reason and by my feeling of my pains that I should die; and I assented fully with all the will of my heart to be at God’s will. 

Norwich, Julian of (2015-06-10). The Showings of Divine Love (Kindle Locations 60-65). Wilder Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

6.  While this week’s texts are inherently religious in content and scope, is there perhaps a more secular message that can also be taken from one or both of these works?

     7.  What did Julian of Norwich mean by the vision of the hazelnut in Chapter 5?  What does this passage seem to mean to you?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Good Day at Once!

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Good Day at Once!

On this, the 400th anniversary of the passing of the world's greatest bard, I thought it was only fitting to say hello to all of my faithful readers! You've perhaps noticed that this is the first e-mail like this in about half of a year.  Well, as some of you already know, I'm busy finishing that English degree that I began in 1987 at Seattle Pacific University.  I'm happier than a clam on a beach to be attending Marylhurst University in Portland now.  While I've temporarily suspended "book promotion" efforts while in classes, I did want to wish you all well and draw your attention to several pieces you might enjoy.

I know that writing about places and trips is looked down upon by some of my writing friends; it's not intellectual enough, you know.  I beg to disagree.  As a fellow who grew up in Eastern Washington and has lived in Seattle, Whidbey Island, Bellingham, Dallas (TX & OR), Lawrence, KS, Redding, CA, and now Oregon's beautiful Willamette Valley (since 1996), I am fascinated when discovering new and unique places.  (If you've read my last novel, you can probably tell how critical a solid sense of place is to me.)  The Wallowas are a particularly strong case in point.  I'll never forget the first time I visited northeast Oregon; I was totally unprepared by the majesty I discovered.  I hope I am successful in conveying a little sense of that wonder in this recently published article from Travel Oregon.  As an added "bonus," I am including a couple paragraphs immediately below that we decided not to include in the published article.  It might just bring a smile...

Of course, if you annoy the locals, you may find yourself taking the longest "short cut" you can imagine.  One local confided that a sweet old lady she knew had finally lost patience with an out-of-towner bearing a laundry list of complaints: the mountains weren't that special, the weather was too hot, there were no stores in which she cared to stop, etc.  Having finally had enough, the old woman carefully gave the complaining visitor detailed instructions to Hwy 3 out of Enterprise to Lewiston/Clarkston.  She explained that this route might offer her exactly what she was seeking.  Now, as someone who accidentally took this frightening little stretch of asphalt (again, thanks go to Google Maps) back in 2007, I can understand the humor here.  Still, I have to say I feel a little sorry for the complainer, too.

Imagine a narrow road weaving steeply towards the hilltops, and you have some inkling of the drive.  There was beauty, too, of course: wild deer and a huge owl to name a couple examples.  As I recall, when the road began to feel more like a paved walking trail, I remember my wife asking me to drive slower and slower until we were inching along at less than 20 mph.  When I expressed concern about traffic, she insightfully pointed out that no one else was stupid enough to take that particular road.  Enough said.

I also invite you to read two pieces associated with my educational venture.  First, here's an article concerning the importance of continuing education (and completing what one begins).  Second, here's a page created for a digital humanities course that you might also enjoy.  Truth be known, my selection of Stafford and Roethke probably has a lot to do with that sense of place element again.

As Shakespeare might have said, had he done online newsletters, Adieu!

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