Friday, July 14, 2017

A Good Year

I was dreading the year 2017 last year.

Now I think it's the best year of my life (so far--hope that changes).



The year is more than halfway over now, and there's still a bit of waiting for some of what I had been hoping for for months already (and which I've put on this very blog).  Still, while it need not have been today in particular, I think I can say it's been a good year so far.



I might have considered making a blog entry about July 8, but Internet problems prevented that, and as it turned out it might have been premature anyway (meaning that, while I might not have taken such a blog entry down, I might have had to change it).

On that day, Saturday, July 8, 2017, I was gifted with the idea to do a project (whenever I have the resources, the time, and the opportunity): an anthropological study on oral storytelling traditions across times and cultures, with a report and a persuasive essay on what the results mean and what ought to be done about it (and what can be done about it).

I'm not sure that I want to get a degree in Anthropology at this time, though (or even to minor in it): I've looked at the required courses, and I would have to take at least one class that would teach something that I believe is false.  And as charitable as I want to be, I doubt that I would get any kind of accommodations or waivers on that basis.

Still, such a project does sound like it belongs under the category of Anthropology, and theoretically I could take some Anthropology courses even if I didn't major or minor in it.  I don't plan to do it as soon as this fall, but it's something to consider for later down the line (after the year 2017 is over).



Tomorrow I will do the Epistle Reading at my church for the second time (and I'm already scheduled to do it again in two more weeks), and so I feel like I can really say now that I am not only one of the cantors, but one of the readers, at my church.  I pray I may do a good job.

In particular, I pray that because today I looked up a few parts of Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae that I didn't know about, which is prompting me to learn more about the faith than I have retained.  In this way, this year is going to be even more comparable to the early part of this decade for me as far as the faith is concerned, because I made myself read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church for my Confirmation courses in 2011.  It's time I re-familiarized myself with my faith, especially if I'm going to be a cantor and reader.

I thank the Lord for that, and I thank Saint Thomas Aquinas for his intercession and prayers.



I've also discovered the "Good News" segment of the Fox News website, which I didn't know existed before today.  And I recognized that the Lord sent me to that site because my friend Eric was in a bad emotional state, and needed cheering up--so I read to him some of the headlines from that.

On the off chance that anyone from Fox News is reading this blog, thank you for that!

(How could I forget?  I'm going to be visiting my friend Eric soon, another reason to love this year!)



Otherwise, I'm thinking about how much has happened in such a small time period.

Exactly six months ago today (January 14, 2017), I went to Liturgy and barely recognized myself--in a good way--because I was happier (smiling "with glee", as a religious brother put it who had never seen me smile that way before), and I was socializing more.  I had felt my Prozac start to kick in by that time (that was about a month after I was put on Prozac).

Exactly one year ago today (July 14, 2016), I had not yet heard back from any agents whom I'd queried with what I had of my story Young Blood (though I had sent five query emails).  And I had just recently recovered from pneumonia, and come to believe that Saint John the Baptist had interceded on my behalf at that time.

And weeks from now, we'll be coming upon the seventh anniversary of the day that we moved into the house I currently live in.

Around that same time, it will have been eight years since the first school year that I was NOT in school since I was very little.



It's also occurred to me that I haven't been to any formal educational institution since I've been on Prozac.  The last time was when I took a few weeks of Advertising and Public Relations courses, which I quit because I found them lackluster, and I found the bus ride home stressful (and while I was open to considering medication by then, it was months before I could even see a psychiatrist and be told whether I would be prescribed medication or not).

Since I've been on Prozac I've considered some things, but made no final decisions.  I'm hoping that McDonald's Archways to Opportunity might have some advice to offer in that regard, but it's still going to be weeks before I can apply at McDonald's at all, and I'd like to have been working there for a good amount of time before I think about things like that--both out of respect to an employer and that I might save up some money before I spend it.



Likewise, I've been considering lessons in other things (outside of a scholarly setting) but not begun with those: things like tap dancing (which is a combination of dance and percussion--sort of an extension of body percussion), and playing the tambourine (which etymologically is simply a frame drum, with zills attached.  (Those are the jingles on the edges.)

I've also become interested in learning (of all things) how to fall.  You read that correctly: how to FALL.  I've looked on YouTube and discovered videos on both judo and clowning, and found that their techniques for falling (to minimize the possibility of injury) are very similar, and so are probably rooted in the science of the human body--just finding different expressions, in a martial art vs. in physical comedy.

I've definitely considered clowning in the past, and a couple years ago I dressed as Harlequin for Halloween--and did some physical mime comedy for my parents, who laughed.  And I've enjoyed watching this video on how to be a clown.

As for judo, what got me thinking about that was the "Look Inside!" feature on amazon.com for The Mime Book, by Claude Kipnis.  By coincidence (or a higher design?) I happened upon the page for falling, and it mentioned that the first lesson in judo is how to fall.  What got my attention was that it talked about how we tend to go from a lying down position to a standing position (or vice versa) awkwardly, even though we take the floor for granted since we walk on it (and certainly we aren't born knowing how to fall and avoid injury).

That got me to thinking that it might behoove me to learn how to fall, so that I could avoid or minimize injury in the event that I were to fall down (which I have done in the past).  And while I don't necessarily intend to take judo lessons just to learn how to fall, and then quit, I want to keep an open mind: I took tae kwon do (another martial art) as a kid, and advanced to a red belt, so I'm not unfamiliar with Asian martial arts; I need exercise; I need discipline; it might be good for me to have an idea of how to defend myself--and "judo" literally means "gentle way" (it involves throws rather than punches, kicks, or chops).  Indeed, I took tae kwon do as a kid because I saw the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and wanted to learn what the turtles were doing.

It's probably too early to say whether I intend to make the full commitment to judo that I originally meant to make in tae kwon do--still, not only are there the above reasons why I might consider it, but if I turn out to have any particular aptitude or passion for it, there again might be another way in which various parts of my life fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  After all, I can't ignore my tae kwon do classes in talking about the main "storyline", if you will, of my life story--the reason I quit when I got my red belt is the same reason I didn't consider a job teaching until after I graduated college with my Bachelor's Degree.

So while I don't know for sure, I want to be open-minded and consider taking a leap of faith, taking the risk, and possibly learning judo at some time in the future.

If any readers have taken judo, please comment and tell me something about it.



Finally, of course, this is the 100-year anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima--and October 31 will be the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Even if nothing supernatural (or even natural but radical) happens this year (as I thought it would last year), it's a significant year in Catholic history.

(And in American history, as I'm not sure I've been aware of the United States being this divided outside of the Civil War and the 1960's-1970's.  I'm certainly not aware of anything like this having happened previously in my lifetime, although it may still be early to tell yet, and I've decided to stop trying to predict the future.  Clearly I didn't learn the lesson of Jurassic Park until months ago: unpredictability in complex systems because of tiny variations vastly affecting the outcome.)



Thank you very much for sharing part of your day with me.  God bless you.



P. S.  The main thing that made me uncomfortable posting this today was the fact that it's Bastille Day, and it might be easy to think that a positive blog posted on this date might relate to positive sentiment about that day.

As a Catholic Christian I cannot consider Bastille Day anything to celebrate, as the French Revolution was against the Church as well as the French monarchy and aristocracy (whose realm had been called the "Eldest Daughter of the Church" anyway).  It was openly anti-Christian, even going so far as to change the calendar so that the years weren't marked from the birth of Christ, and so that the "weeks" lasted ten days, to preclude the possibility of a Sabbath.

That being the case, I consider it fitting that it's on a Friday this year, the traditional Catholic day of penitence.  It isn't common knowledge even among Catholics, but while "meatless Fridays" are no longer required as such outside of Lent, we are still required to do some form of penitence every Friday of the year (unless a Solemnity falls on a Friday, because penitence is not appropriate to a Solemnity).  And I've chosen to do my penance in honor of those who were killed by the French Revolutionaries.

Saint John Vianney, pray for us!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Good Day

This morning, my friend Eric (quite without meaning to) prompted me to realize something about myself that it was important for me to know.



Recently, I'd said both to him and to my parents that I don't like being a "telephone" between people, especially when they can communicate with one another directly.  On the one hand, it's indirect and might inconvenience me in a way that I consider unnecessary; on the other hand, I am paranoid about being the proverbial messenger being "shot", even when I don't need to worry about that.



But then I thought about Saint Juan Diego.  Our Lady of Guadalupe could very easily have appeared to the bishop directly with her message, bypassing Juan Diego entirely.  But she didn't.



I came to the realization that my dislike of playing "telephone" is just another example of my own pride talking.  (I've come to realize that things I say in hostility and that almost feel "squeezed" out of me are often signs of pride.)  Aside from the fact that I don't want to cooperate (there's my pride), it also means that I'm not taking the trouble to listen carefully (so as to make sure I get the message as the one who conveyed it to me wanted), to communicate it effectively (so as to prevent anything from getting lost in translation)--and I'm excessively afraid of what other people will think of me and how they will react to what I said.



...and it's just occurred to me that this last part is in line with the Gospel Reading and homily today!  It was from the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ said not to worry about the future, because God knows what we need and because He takes care of the mere birds and flowers, who are of less value to Him than us.



To top this off, what better day for me to learn such a lesson than on the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, known for his humility--even unto baptizing Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ said to?

And it's also the one-year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with pneumonia--after I very grudgingly gave in to the advice of my entire family (for two days) and saw a doctor about my illness.

Because of that, I was prompted to believe that Saint John the Baptist had interceded on my behalf, and I have been asking for his prayers and intercession since: I don't want to forget that, especially since pneumonia can be a fatal disease.  And the priest at my church said he wouldn't doubt this.



And now I believe that Saint John the Baptist has interceded on my behalf again today.  It is becoming a lot easier for me to have faith, and so I hope and pray, through his intercession, that I might be able to continue with this, and become ever more faithful: both trusting and trustworthy (loyal)--not only of God but of my neighbors.



And lest I be tempted to think that humility means self-deprecation, I received many compliments today: in confession the priest said I was making a wonderful improvement, and many people complimented me on my cantoring.  Also, many people (including the priest and deacon and head cantor) are looking forward to when I do the Epistle Reading next week.  I intend to take that seriously: to practice beforehand and to do my best when it happens.

And yet I'm not worried.  I neither intend to take it for granted that I'll do a good job, and so fail to practice--nor do I intend to fret about stage fright and "what if I make a mistake?" and "what will they think of me?"



...in fact...it's just now occurred to me that that effectively is being a "telephone" between God (and Saint Paul) and the parishioners!  Alleluia!



I've always loved it when seemingly disparate things come together to make a clear whole, a la puzzle pieces coming together and revealing the picture they depict.  That's why I considered April 4, 2017 to be the best day of my life when it happened, because my entire life now seemed to be depicting a clear picture (even if I'm only slowly putting more of the pieces together and am still a long way from finishing it).

And now the same thing is happening with regard to what's happened to me today--and also, again, linked to this very date last year.

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As a sort of epilogue, one thing in particular that caught my attention today also seems to fit into this idea of not worrying--especially since, until a few months ago, I had been prognosticating something awful for years (including on this very blog).



One of the blogs that I frequent compared American history to Roman history (albeit going through the periods a lot faster)--but what most captured my attention was the blogger's claim that Donald Trump's presidency marks a turning point in United States history.  More specifically, the claim being made was as follows: since the Civil War, we have had an "imperial" government (the blogger defined this as easy to join but hard to leave), but the president wasn't the true "imperial" power (rather it was a plutocracy of bankers and businessmen) until World War II; then, gradually, the presidency has become more "imperial", until now with Donald Trump as our president, he comes the closest to being a true "imperial" president in every sense of the word, with the power to control the bureaucracy (though the blogger acknowledges that it's too early to tell if that will actually happen under Donald Trump's presidency).



This is the same blog that prompted me (note: without the prior knowledge and consent of the blogger) to add to the future narrative that I concocted, especially with regard to the next few years.  That blog is what clued me in to the blood moon tetrad of 2014-2015, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri's "prophecy" and the place of Ariel Sharon's death therein--and later to the idea that the economy of the United States and Mexico are founded upon illegal immigration.

That being the case, if not for Father Chris's email to me telling me to ignore a completely different blogger (one who suggested that the entire air and space program was grievously sinful), I might simply have used the above to add to my future narrative--postponing the events I thought would happen this year to a later date (not like I haven't done that since 2013).  Certainly I do see circumstantial evidence for why the blogger said what he did, that might have convinced me.



I'm still not entirely sure that my predictions won't come true (the closest that I can think of to compare today to is Abraham Lincoln's presidency), although I'm not going to worry about it or act on desires that oppose the First Commandment (and today's Gospel message).

In fact, before I went to Liturgy today, I thought about how, had I continued in that vein--even if I'd turned out to be right--I might have wasted 1/3 of my life (the second 1/3, actually) worrying, and not be able to get those years back, but only knowing this once I was in my fifties!  And I said a little prayer thanking the Lord for saving me from such a fate.

Since December and January in particular, God has saved me from two sides of the same false dichotomy: I was at one until the early 2010's, and at the other starting in 2012 and continuing until 2016 ended and 2017 began.  And I'm all the more grateful.



I'm still not even close to where I need to be, but I feel all the closer than I've ever been in my life, and I couldn't be happier about that.  It gives me hope for the future, which again was the message of today's Gospel Reading--far from the first time it's been just what I needed to hear at any given time!  It gives me hope not only that I might overcome my deep-seated flaws of the past (as there was once a time when I didn't have them at all), but that I might grow in all the virtues (however slowly and however crooked the path) and just maybe be able to go to heaven when I die.  Maybe.

And what a loving and forgiving and compassionate God, to make that a possibility when I've committed so many grievous sins (including some I knew were grievous) for so many years of my life!  Amen!

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Thank you for sharing part of your day with me.  God bless you.



P. S.  And don't forget: tomorrow is at the exact opposite end of the calendar from Christmas Day, the Nativity of Our Lord!  And tomorrow I'll have had my trumpet for six months exactly--and I had a good trumpet lesson on Thursday this week, too!  I'm going to try to practice every day, not only playing but also holding it (to build up my arm muscles).  I'm so grateful not only for meeting people who can teach me things I didn't know but that are good for me to know, but also for what I figure out with no help except from God.



P. P. S.  Forgot to mention: today my patience was rewarded as well!  For the last three weeks, my bus trip home from Liturgy has been late (and it's uncommonly hot here at present)--but not today!  Today, the bus actually came early to pick me up!

This fact also gives me hope that just because things are hard now doesn't mean they're not building towards something wonderful, if we're patient and can endure--to put it another way, "Whatever doesn't kill us only makes us stronger."



P. P. P. S.  And I've just now practiced the trumpet some more and successfully played higher notes (sounding clear and good, I mean) than I'd been able to make at my lessons!  I didn't realize just how wonderful a day it was until I did this blog entry!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Words, Words, Words

On the night of June 11 (it began that night but carried on after midnight, to June 12), I found out about a book called The Gospel According to Tolkien by Ralph C. Wood.



I am truly blessed with being aware of that book, and being able to see some sneak previews of it on Google Books, because I now finally think I have a better handle than ever before on what J. R. R. Tolkien knew, and what he tried to do about it, and I think it's giving me a better handle on what I'm for, and what I can do.



To sum up the main points that interested me from that book, as well as my own thoughts on the matter based on those (because once I get inspired to think, sometimes I lose the exact boundaries between the two--hence why I'm not quoting):



While it is the glory of most material creation, including that of animals, simply to be what they are and to do what their instincts tell them to do, the glory of mankind is to make (I would also add knowing, borrowing from Mortimer J. Adler's Aristotle for Everybody).

It is clear from Chapter 1 of Genesis that God took His time making His creation: He could easily have done it instantaneously, but He didn't.  144 hours is a long time for us, but it's all the same to Him.

What's more, God clearly wants us to be sub-creators (as close to "co-creators" as it's possible for mere creatures to be), since a Mass is only valid if it has pure wheat bread and pure grape wine--two things that do not exist in nature but are made by human hands from the wheat and grapes that the Lord provides.

This is certainly not to suggest that God "needs" us in any way, nor that we mere creatures are capable of doing anything "better" than our Maker, only that He chose this of His own free will.  It is a sacrifice on His part, akin to giving us free will as persons, to becoming incarnate as Jesus Christ, and dying on the Cross to save us from sin.  He desires cooperation rather than rivalry.  Hence He provides raw materials and leaves it to us to combine them to make new things that He could have made Himself just as easily as what He actually did make, but that He chose not to.

All of creation began in God's mind as ideas, but He made them with words ("Let there be light", Genesis 1:3).  And in Chapter 2 of Genesis, God leaves it to Adam to name the animals, rather than God telling Adam what they are called--there is cooperation.  The Creator of the entire universe isn't naming His own animals, but is leaving it to one of His creatures, Adam, to do it instead!



Which brings to another point in Wood's book: that making things begins with naming things.  That is, making sounds (and later, strings of visual shapes, letters) that we associate with the things we encounter.

Like God, we can have intellectual ideas, but if they are to leave our minds and so be known to anyone else other than God Himself, we must communicate them to others--and "communication" is related to "community" and "Communion".  We can do this by taking raw materials and making them--and even drawing a design counts, since we need something external to ourselves to do that (even if it's just a patch of sand that we draw on with our fingers, which doesn't last)--but otherwise we use language, and before language is written (akin to drawing), it is oral, spoken.

Only God can bring His ideas into material reality through His Word, Jesus Christ, and through His words, but we can do one or the other--and we can put the ideas into other people's minds, at least, even just by using our words.  And the sounds that make up those words are the only raw materials that we have from our own bodies, that we can recombine into new forms, without needing any tools external to ourselves.



But even though that's the case, language cannot be part of our corporeal makeup--otherwise, there wouldn't be more than one language, and it would never change (which would make it effectively a 1:1 allegory, and therefore superfluous).  The only alternative would be each of us having our own unique language--but that would prevent communication.

And the former would enforce one particular idea on other people, preventing them from co-participating, which is hardly godly.  This makes sense, because God has only one Son by nature, Jesus Christ, so there is no 1:1 comparison between Him and Adam, or between Him and anyone else--nor even between Adam and any of his children.  If it were so, we would be replaceable, and therefore disposable--unloved.  Thank God it isn't so!

Therefore, while our words are partly raw materials from our own bodies, sounds that we produce with our heads and throats, and the various organs therein, there is some aspect to words that is not essential to the corporeal side of our nature.

And here's where I really began to get fascinated, as I thought along these lines.



In order to exist, sound depends on vibrations, which requires something corporeal to vibrate--and so sound depends on the material universe in order to exist.  However, sounds that aren't associated with concepts (sounds that aren't words) therefore "mean" only themselves, and nothing more.  Otherwise, you'd have to consider every sound that exists in nature to be a genuine "language", rather than saying this metaphorically.

I'd already concluded this, but only now was I starting to piece together what I already knew into a greater whole.  Sounds resemble corporeal animals in that regard, whose glory is simply to be what they are.  Even music is simply sound that is orderly, pointing to the divine order that the universe was founded upon.  Plus both the universe and music require time in order to exist, where ideas don't.

But even oral language (the first language) isn't just sound.  It is sound tethered to ideas, to concepts, and those first form in the mind.

God was not compelled to create any of the ideas in His mind, otherwise He would Himself have made things like bread and wine, rather than leaving it to us to do so.  Some of His ideas He did not create: He chose which ones to create and which ones not to.  Likewise, because we have free will, we are not compelled to sub-create, nor even to give voice to, all the ideas that ever enter our minds (and indeed, we shouldn't, since unlike with God, some of our ideas can be terrible).

The point is, ideas relate to the mind, the intellect, and that relates to the spiritual side of ourselves, not the corporeal, as sound does.



...And language unites the two, just as human beings unite body and soul!



In other words, language has a lot to do with what it means to be human.

And things are always better when they are orderly and beautiful, and (as I've known certainly since 2014, if not earlier) orderly and beautiful language, whether spoken or written, is poetry.  (There's no point in making up languages unless others learn what the words mean--then it's not a language but a code--but we can make up our own poems from real languages.)

And language is spoken before it is written, which means there is sound involved--and since music is sound that is arranged in a beautiful order, mirroring the divine order on which the universe is based, musical language, or song, is superior to mere speech, even spoken poetry.  This is why we're taught that "he who chants his prayers prays twice."  God already knows everything, but He made us to acknowledge Him, and He made our voices, and so He wants us to use our voices to pray to Him.  (Likewise, saints in Heaven will only be complete when their bodies join their souls in immortal life, after Judgment Day.)



This I already knew, but Wood's book made clearer to me something else, and this is really what I'm grateful for learning, as it really points to what J. R. R. Tolkien knew, and why he was serving God and Church in doing what he did.

Poetry is orderly and beautiful language in either spoken or written form; when oral, song is an even greater orderliness and beauty than spoken poetry.

But what about the other aspect of language: ideas, concepts, the things we actually communicate?



According to Wood's book, J. R. R. Tolkien noted something else: just as language is oral before it is written, it is also rooted in experience (sensory input) before it is abstracted (conceptual philosophical ideas).

We have plenty of evidence of this, and I was already aware of that, though I wasn't quite aware of its full implications.  Children find it easier to learn a lesson by experience (their own or someone else's, directly or indirectly) than by memorizing and repeating platitudes (just look at Thumper in Bambi with regard to "eating the blossoms and leaving the greens").  Also, we date philosophy back to the Axial Age, to the 500's BC in ancient Greece, whereas mythology has been with us from the beginning.

So another way of putting it is that language is mythological before it is philosophical.

We best understand the orderliness of God's creation through experiencing it; otherwise, why do we have bodies that take in sensory input at all--and that use sounds to communicate, or else external objects?  And if that experience cannot be direct, it can be vicarious, through hearing of someone else's experiences: and what is that but story, whether true or fictional?

Therefore, the best use of language is not only song, but song that communicates story.  Of course the best of all is the prayer of the Mass, which includes readings from the Bible that tell salvation history, but outside of worship there are, for example, folk songs that communicate folk tales.  And so it's a blessing that we still have this even in our modern Western culture that tends to relegate much of our old traditions into the two "ghettoes" of children's entertainment and comedy.

And of course, since we are meant to be sub-creators, cooperating with the Lord, we can actually compose these songs, not just sing them.  Therefore being a folk singer-songwriter is one of the most important jobs, even if they don't have the same role in our culture that traditional oral storytellers did--after, of course, being a cantor and lector in Mass (and in the Byzantine Rite, all Readings are chanted, so lectors have to be able to sing well).



But also, because language is communication, the most superior form of it is when there is back and forth, where at least two people are participating.  God is Three Persons and so never gets lonely, but when we are "alone" God is still with us, hoping we will talk to Him.  (I know I have a long-ingrained bad habit of talking to myself, which I haven't completely gotten over yet--if I could, not only would I pray to God more, but I might also be silent more often, and therefore better able to hear Him speak back to me.)

That being the case, then, the most superior form of language is not just singing stories (especially true stories of salvation history), but one that everyone can co-participate in--which means singing live in front of an audience.  Certainly there is a part for everyone in the Mass.  (Because of this, I welcome comments.)

This relates to what Aristotle said (as Adler wrote about in his book) about teaching being one of the "cooperative arts", merely directing and facilitating what happens naturally (people learning things).  True teaching is cooperative between teacher and student; and since we're all finite, everyone has something to learn and something to teach, whether we're formal teachers and/or students or not.  Indoctrination is talking at people, as though they were blank slates to fill up, and inasmuch as it is depersonalizing, it is not true teaching and so it is not as good as teaching.

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Now, given all of the above, the most inferior way to use language would be the opposite of all the above:

Written philosophical prose written entirely by one person with no possibility for anyone to co-participate in it (especially if the letters aren't calligraphic and there are no illustrations, so that it's just plain text).

That's not to say that such language is wrong or evil, just that all other forms are better (and that's part of why I welcome comments, because otherwise this blog would be an example of that).

Even the Bible isn't like that: it has many authors, and it has plenty of room to speak to readers and listeners; also there is poetry in the Bible, including prayers, and it speaks of "singing" frequently; and it tells of salvation history rather than getting overly philosophical.  Many philosophical concepts like transubstantiation and the four causes were adopted after Biblical times, in order to understand the faith, but aren't part of the revealed faith themselves--and Christ Himself didn't get into a lot of technical jargon, but spoke plainly (sometimes in parables, which are stories, even if they are more allegorical than most myths).

Other than God being the "one Author" (which I don't count because that's true of all true, good, and beautiful language, plus God is three Persons and not just one), the only way in which the Bible resembles this most inferior form of language is that it is written down--and even there, the Mass has Bible readings which are read aloud to the parish (so that even those who are illiterate or who can't read in the language can still know their Scriptures).

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This makes sense out of J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, both internally and in terms of how he wrote it.

On the one hand, his languages bred the sub-creation, reflecting God's words (and His Word, Jesus Christ) breeding the true creation.

On the other hand, he didn't enforce particular meanings onto his stories and readers, but rather "discovered" them and so puts himself more on the same level as his readers.  Particular sensory "experiences" that entered his mind were usually kept throughout different drafts; what changed was the meaning behind them.

The Lord of the Rings even has the literary conceit that he is simply translating into English texts that date back thousands of years in an extinct language, about real non-human races that existed in mythological times.  In that sense, then, the story is coming through Tolkien to us more than it is coming from Tolkien to us.  And that gives us the freedom to imagine it in our own unique ways, as well as to let it inspire us in different ways--much like the oral storytellers of old did.



This is the exact opposite from how most of us are taught to write today.

On the one hand, I think most novelists tend to want to say a particular thing, and so as they do different drafts they tend to change the particular vicarious sensory experiences to better reflect their ideas, rather than the other way around--which enforces one particular interpretation on people.  (And when the alternative is claimed, all too often it's just slapdash that anyone could do, or showing off--so that there may not even be any true meaning at all, which is bad communication and therefore bad language.)  And they tend not to put themselves on the same level as readers, which maybe turns many readers off.  (I'll never forget two cases in cartoon TV series where someone said "Ha ha, you read books", as if that were something to be ashamed of.)

On the other hand, even when invented languages exist in fiction, as with fantasy fiction, usually the stories come first, and the languages are invented to fit the invented universes, rather than the other way around.  Certainly "fantasy author" is a formal occupation in a way that I don't think "conlanger" is (when I wrote it in this blog entry, a red underline appeared, indicating that the spell checker doesn't even recognize "conlanger" as a real word).  So how often is it that conlangers end up generating invented worlds and therefore invented narratives from their invented languages, especially if they aren't fantasy fiction authors by trade?



But according to this blog entry ( https://notionclubpapers.blogspot.com/2009/11/creative-method-fo-jrr-tolkien.html ), poets do compose their poems that way.

And while that blog entry doesn't mention examples, having read it made me think of Robert Frost's poem "Design", which has an earlier draft called "In White" that I've read (I read both in school in a literature course).  Given my knowledge of both I can definitely vouch for the poet Frost having written that way: he kept the image of the white spider holding up the dead white moth on a white heal-all (a kind of flower that's usually blue), but the significance of it changes between the earlier draft and the final poem into one of greater irony.

And while J. R. R. Tolkien isn't usually thought of when we think of names of poets, Robert Frost certainly is (though probably "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" are better known than "Design").  So if he is typical of poets, then the aforementioned blog entry's claim is correct, and this would explain why J. R. R. Tolkien wrote as he did: he wrote and published poems years before he ever tried his hand at prose, and I think The Hobbit (which he wrote decades later still) may have been his first published novel-length anything, with The Lord of the Rings being the only other example.



In short, J. R. R. Tolkien was NOT a novelist, and wouldn't have considered himself so.  In the first place, he was a poet first--and so it isn't doing justice to his works to skip over the verses therein (plus, if no one did skip them, J. R. R. Tolkien would be the most read poet in the English language).

In the second place, "novel" means "new", and is short for "novel romance".  But The Lord of the Rings is in an older tradition of "old" romance, and "romance" (in the older sense of brave and heroic deeds of self-sacrifice, not merely courtly love between a man and a woman) is the word he would have used for it.

Honestly, the closest thing I can think of to something "new" about The Lord of the Rings is this: since it is an original story, no one was already familiar with it before the mid-1950's, and so J. R. R. Tolkien had to introduce it to his readers gradually.  Hence beginning with hobbits, which didn't originally exist in his invented mythology at all: for while hobbits were unknown to the public before 1937, they are a sort of temporal anomaly, an anachronism in their own world, more closely resembling somewhat more modern English country gentry than the more ancient and pseudo-medieval setting of Middle-earth at large.  Therefore the hobbits' reactions thereto are most akin to the readers' own reactions.  (I daresay The Lord of the Rings could have been shorter if its mythology were that of a real-world nation--in one of his letters, J. R. R. Tolkien himself indicated as much, that it could have been shorter if he could have published The Silmarillion first, as he'd wanted to.)

But again, hobbits weren't originally in his invented mythology: The Hobbit began life as a story that J. R. R. Tolkien didn't even plan to publish (at least not so early, not when it would be his first published novel-length work of prose fiction), but rather made up to entertain his children.  It's a children's story, and therefore a medium that the post-Age of Reason West could better accept for this kind of genre (which probably accounts for The Hobbit's popularity at first but without its being the phenomenon that The Lord of the Rings would become).

It seems to me that, in this day and age, especially if the story isn't set in an existing universe but is new to readers (which a lot of high fantasy is but traditional mythologies were not), the main way to get across this particular genre and have it succeed is to have it be a serious example of the kind of story it is (and one that adults can get something out of)--but to market it as either 1) a children's story (and all that implies for what can and can't happen in it), and/or 2) a comedy (in written form, for example, a satire)--and all that implies for what can and can't happen in it.



(Side note: I've come to notice that a lot of short oral stories these days are either narrative jokes, or else they follow a similar pattern even if they're not funny.  That is, they come to a "punch line" that makes sense out of the rest of the story, that lays out what the story is about, and that is often ironic whether it makes us laugh or not.  I've come to the conclusion that even the Mystery genre is akin to this--and that's new, dating back I think only to the 1800's, partly because detectives are new in history, but perhaps also for this reason.  But myths aren't like that: a lot of the time they aren't resolved by answering a question that tells us what the story is about.  The myth is about itself.)



Indeed, precisely because high fantasy tends to be set in invented universes, I no longer think the genre is as akin to mythology as I used to: "urban fantasy" might be a closer modern subgenre, but even the term "fantasy" suggests that certain supernatural or preternatural entities or events are only meant to be thought of as "real" within the context of the story, and not in the world of the readers.

Therefore I personally think other genres do it better, most especially (when done well) Religious Fiction and Horror (and to a lesser extent--again, when done well--Romance and the Thriller).

Religious Fiction is meant to inspire, and you can't inspire with stories of a God you don't believe exists in the real world (even if your characters and what happens to them are made up); likewise, horror isn't truly scary without the least hint of doubt that maybe such preternatural evil powers might just exist in the real world and might just be after us (and wouldn't be defeated by conventional methods like mere criminals).

Even Romance and the Thriller appeal more to emotions and therefore a visceral experience rather than the intellect.

********

I've kind of gone off on a tangent, but getting back to the original point: Wood's points about what J. R. R. Tolkien knew and did also make some sense for me in terms of what I might be called to do.

As of now, I'm a cantor at a Byzantine Catholic parish, and starting next month I might be chanting Epistle Readings as well (which is solo work, although it isn't exactly telling stories--outside of the Easter season, when the Readings are from the Acts of the Apostles).



Since perhaps before the turn of the millennium (when I was a teenager), I've enjoyed making up stories, and after the turn of the millennium I've enjoyed doing it in different media.

I first noted my singing gift in late August 2010 (nearly seven years ago now).

I don't know exactly when I first had a love of languages, or a skill in it, but I took my first foreign language course (a Spanish course) in my junior year of high school, so it was in the late 1990's that I was taking Spanish.

As for poetry (outside of song), while I've tried writing poems for years, I first noticed a gift for composing verses probably around 2015, which is certainly when I first put up my poetry blog, "One Verse".



Now, I'm coming up with my own mythos and I want to finish it and publish it in some form: maybe not just one form, but I think the best form might be a song cycle (like on an album that's a recording of a live performance of it), especially since I have a gift for singing and I'm no longer hiding it under a bushel.

Lately I've been noticing etymological connections between words, to where I guess at their histories and exact meanings--and turn out to be right!--and not just with real words in English and foreign languages, but also with J. R. R. Tolkien's invented languages (until recently I was reading The Silmarillion to my friend Eric).  That combined with my having read this article ( http://www.unboundworlds.com/2017/05/names-arent-neutral-david-j-peterson-on-creating-a-fantasy-language/ ) lead me to conclude that I both can (especially now) and ought to invent at least what the author calls "naming languages" for the mythos I'm composing, even if I don't go anywhere near as far as J. R. R. Tolkien did with Quenya and Sindarin.  (I don't plan to: again, language is communication and others need to know what the words mean in order for communication to happen--and I have no interest in writing dictionaries for languages that I made up.)

And of course, I have written poems that I am pleased with and that others have suggested deserve to be published (plus, when I tried writing "first sentences" for fictional prose stories, I ended up writing more poems than I meant to or expected to)--and I've found that I love alliterative poetry, and I would like to write the central myth of my mythos in that form.



In short, I think I'm starting to become ready to tackle these disparate parts.

I don't know if I will go back to college--certainly I don't know about doing so as early as this fall of 2017--but if I do, I'm now seriously considering majoring in languages.  In particular, going for a Bachelor's in Romance Languages (not only to become more advanced in Spanish and French than I already am, but also to learn about how they developed from Latin), and perhaps minoring in Music with an emphasis in Voice (since there are songs in foreign languages like French and Italian as well).

I might change my mind: the Lord certainly knows that I have done that enough times even in short periods of time.  But I'm considering it now.  And I'm enjoying attending the storytelling guild meetings I'm attending, and I want to continue with those.  (And my trumpet practice can only help me with my singing, since both require breathing and lip movement to produce music.)



I haven't changed my mind about McDonald's (though it may be another month and a half before I apply), and I might try to make use of Archways to Opportunity once I've established myself as an employee there (in addition to getting more spiritual guidance from priests and religious), especially since I still don't have a full-time job (but I am fascinated by McDonald's for what it is, not solely as a means to an end), but I do want to be thinking about my future beyond that.

********

Finally, of course, all words emulate the Word of God, which is Jesus Christ, as identified in the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

Therefore to be a Christian is to be a "philologist" (a word that J. R. R. Tolkien used to refer to himself, usually meaning historical and comparative linguistics--study of languages in context rather than out of context) in the most literal sense: a lover of the Word, of Jesus Christ and of Holy Scripture.

And J. R. R. Tolkien's patron saint was Saint John the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel that bears his name--and Tolkien's first name was John (the "J").

********

Thank you for spending part of your day with me.  God bless you.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thanks be to God!

As of now, I am a cantor at my parish.



I have so much to be grateful to the Lord for.  Not only did I finally register at the parish that I've been attending for so long, and say that I was interested in cantoring on the registration form, but last Saturday I was inspired to be more proactive than I have a habit of being.  I was kind of hoping that someone would see what I'd written on the form and that I would be approached with the idea, but that didn't happen--not in the two weeks since I registered.

So last Saturday I approached the head cantor and now, just yesterday, I was one of the cantors in my parish.  I was comfortable, and I received many compliments on my voice after the Liturgy was over.  In addition, in a few weeks I'm wanted to do the Epistle Reading, so I intend to prepare for that.



I've known I was a good singer since three months before I even began going back to Mass regularly, which was almost seven years ago now.  I had been asked more than once after Mass if I was a cantor, which I took as a compliment considering I'd never had formal singing lessons (outside of what all kids get in elementary school, which I don't count)--and I'd even said that maybe God was telling me something.

But it's only now that I've actually acted on it.  As early as 2015 I considered singing in a more formal capacity, but aside from the fact that I didn't try out cantoring, two things: 1) I still thought of singing as just one skill among many that I might use for telling stories, rather than as a primary passion of mine; 2) I thought I ought to learn how to accompany myself before singing professionally, and so (since I was already a good singer without lessons) I took up guitar lessons at that time.

But only this year have I really listened to the Lord's call.  This year, with my trumpet, I've come to realize that music is more of a primary passion for me than writing original stories, and I've also come to realize that some of the same skills are needed for singing or for playing a brass instrument.  And it was that which prompted me to finally register at this parish, something else I'd been putting off for a long time (I've known it existed since 2012), so that I could be one of the cantors there.



I'm also hoping that this new responsibility will distract me from thinking about bad things that have haunted me for many years, and that it might be something to add to my resume (since I still haven't applied for a full-time job yet--but within weeks I hope to do just that).

And of course, I pray that I do my best to glorify the Lord with my voice.

Saint Cecilia, pray for me!



Thank you for sharing part of your day with me.  God bless you.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Silmarillion

I first read The Silmarillion years ago and didn't care for it.  I found it hard to follow.



Now, however, I think I simply wasn't ready for it yet.  I've been reading it to my friend Eric on Skype, and it really gets me emotionally, not unlike how Dante's Divine Comedy did.  It's been awhile since a story has captivated me in that way, and I'm very grateful for the experience, and I would like to capture the same feel with my own mythos.



I think part of it is that J. R. R. Tolkien was NOT a novelist.  He would have considered The Lord of the Rings a romance, not a novel: a "novel" is a "novel romance" or "new romance", but Tolkien wrote in an older literary genre, the "old romance", before there even were such things as "new romances" or "novels".  ("Romance" here refers to epic tales of heroism, not necessarily to courtship.)

In addition, The Hobbit and all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings were the only novel-length anything that J. R. R. Tolkien ever published during his lifetime.  Everything else he published during his lifetime (barring three short prose stories) fell pretty much into two categories: academic scholarly works, and poetry.  So it really isn't doing him justice to skip over the verses in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  He even apparently wrote his stories more the way a poet would than the way a modern novelist, according to Professor Bruce G. Charlton on his blog notionclubpapers.blogspot.com.  So aside from being an English professor, I think "poet" would be a better term for his literary output, even though we don't usually think of J. R. R. Tolkien when we think of poets and poetry.  (Dante was a poet as well.)

The point is, he had an appreciation for older traditions.  He didn't just love them because they were traditional or even because he found them beautiful: he knew why they were as they were, and he perceived the substance in them, hence why he was so able to reproduce that with his own legendarium.  That's why imitators, popular though they might be, don't manage that same thing.  And I think poetry might be more up my alley than novels as well.

C. S. Lewis was a novelist, writing seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia, and three in The Space Trilogy, for example.  Nor were these as mythological as what J. R. R. Tolkien attempted, as Tolkien would have been the first to say (he didn't care for Narnia, considering the worldbuilding to have too much inconsistency, put together too slapdash).  But J. R. R. Tolkien was not a novelist.



Talking of The Silmarillion, I'm coming to appreciate it better for another reason, which is one that honestly surprises me to admit: a purist would reject it.

The published version of The Silmarillion (1977) is effectively a posthumous collaboration between J. R. R. Tolkien (who died in 1973), his son Christopher Tolkien, and Guy Gavriel Kay (who would later go on to write fantasy novels himself).  In particular, Chapter 22, "Of the Ruin of Doriath", is nearly an original writing, as it was based on older and conflicting notes of the elder Tolkien--and Chapter 23, "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin", was reconstructed from two of the elder Tolkien's versions of the story (one outdated and one incomplete).

The same cannot be said for any other work by J. R. R. Tolkien that I can think of, barring The Road Goes Ever On (1967), most of whose tunes were composed by Donald Swann (and I haven't been able to find a copy of that easily anyway)--and even there, Donald Swann only composed tunes, not words, all of which were Tolkien's.

I used to think of myself as a purist, but now I think that's just the wrong attitude for mythological tales.  The key part of "folklore" is "folk"--plural.  They weren't composed by just one author, but belong to an entire ethnicity of people, an entire nation.  As long as the essence of the tales remain, I don't see that there is anything innately wrong with others contributing to it (note I said "innately": copyright laws are always to be followed).

And yet, the closest that I can think of to anything else consistent with J. R. R. Tolkien's final intent that was in any way a collaboration was the posthumous volume The Children of Hurin (2007).  Even there, for the most part, all Christopher Tolkien did was cobble together texts from different sources (mostly The Silmarillion and "Narn i Hin Hurin" from Unfinished Tales), edit them so that they were consistent throughout, and otherwise just add transitional sentences here and there where they were necessary, in a way that didn't intrude upon his father's words and intent.  So really, the closest thing to original content from Christopher Tolkien (besides putting his fathers words together in the right order and publishing them in one volume) are occasional transitional sentences, and cases where he made changes simply because certain words in the original text didn't make sense (e. g., geographically).  And that was minimal, and deliberately so.



Certainly Christopher Tolkien didn't make any kind of storybook of Beren and Luthien, which was just published on June 1, this past Thursday.  He indicates that his father had a final intent in terms of the narrative structure, but not the actual wording--and so in theory he or someone else could take that narrative structure and put it to words and publish Beren and Luthien in some form (if copyright law would allow this, if the Tolkien estate would permit it--I don't know that this would be the case).  It might be that one could only tell it orally without infringing on anything (and J. R. R. Tolkien might have appreciated that, as he did with his poem "Errantry").

But Christopher Tolkien did not do that.  The only complete version of the story (published in that new volume) is "The Tale of Tinuviel", the earliest version which is no longer consistent with his father's final intent--other than that, there is the shortened version (nearly a synopsis) that serves as Chapter 19 of the published 1977 version of The Silmarillion.

But there are no other complete versions.  The closest thing to one is the long poem "The Lay of Leithian", which is incomplete--stopping right at the climax (and possibly having some later verses after gaps, and certainly having revisions).  And the volume published as Beren and Luthien doesn't even have all of that: I think the entirety of what J. R. R. Tolkien wrote of that poem can still only be found in The Lays of Beleriand (1985), volume three of The History of Middle-earth.



So really, the closest thing to any complete, final intent versions of Middle-earth published after J. R. R. Tolkien died are The Silmarillion (published in 1977) and The Children of Hurin (published in 2007).  Even there, there is some inconsistency: Gil-galad's family in the published version of The Silmarillion has turned out to be inconsistent with J. R. R. Tolkien's final intent.  In the 1977 version of The Silmarillion, it says that Gil-galad is the son and only child of Fingon (older brother of Turgon of Gondolin); but later notes say that Gil-galad is the son of Orodreth (Fingon's first cousin once removed), who also had a daughter, Finduilas (who comes into the story of The Children of Hurin).

And yet, some inconsistency is to be expected in true myths anyway, as they change over time, just like languages.  We can't even understand the first language called "Englisc" anymore, so what's wrong with that?  You could say that these differences are like "dialects" of the same "language"--different and inconsistent, but similar enough to qualify as the same "language" anyway.

For that matter, apparently The Children of Hurin as published is inconsistent with the website tolkiengateway.net, as the book lists Orodreth as Angrod's brother (and therefore Galadriel's brother), but the website lists Orodreth as Angrod's son (and therefore Galadriel's nephew).  But again, so what?  I can think of at least three family trees of King Arthur, none of which are consistent--so that there's no way of reconciling them.  But what does that matter?  Besides, none of these characters of J. R. R. Tolkien really ever existed anyway, so there is no "right" or "wrong" in that sense, only consistency (and even then, not necessarily 100% consistency).



But Christopher Tolkien seems to be mostly a purist.  (I say "mostly" because he hasn't "corrected" The Silmarillion nor pulled it out of print.)  He doesn't seem to desire to put the tale of Beren and Luthien to words even as he believes he knows his father's final intent for the narrative structure, and I suppose he doesn't desire anyone else to--and I suppose the same for other tales, such as "The Fall of Gondolin" (the third major First Age story besides Beren and Luthien and The Children of Hurin).

But as long as that remains the case, these tales will belong only to one man (barring The Silmarillion and, if you want to count it, The Children of Hurin)--and so they won't truly resemble myths in that regard.



Instead, the closest thing to their resembling myths will be the film adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as J. R. R. Tolkien sold the film rights to those while he was alive, and those adaptations are clearly different versions of the same stories.

There I do take some issue.  Even if you accept the fact that film is recorded, so that it is set in stone (notwithstanding the Star Wars movies), I don't think that all of the changes made to the Peter Jackson movies in particular (the most visible ones that have displaced previous versions in our culture) were within an acceptable margin of error.  That's as close to purism as I want to get with these tales.

There is certainly greatness to be found in his trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, but a lot of that has less to do with the script and story than with more superficial elements: the New Zealand scenery (and the constructed scenery), the performances, and the special effects (Gollum being a combination of both Andy Serkis's performance and WETA's special effects)--and of course, Howard Shore's musical score.  I don't even care that Howard Shore's score is inconsistent with the kind of music you'd expect to hear from Middle-earth, that's how excellent it is.

While I won't say those things are nonexistent in The Hobbit trilogy (and I've only seen the first of those anyway), I feel that the bad parts intrude upon the good parts to a greater extent, to the point to where I didn't want to see the other two movies on principle, having read Steven Greydanus's reviews of them (and being underwhelmed by the only film in this trilogy that I have actually seen).

Which is a shame, since it's unlikely that they will be remade anytime soon (If I'm not mistaken, The Saul Zaentz Company still owns the film production rights, and United Artists still owns the film distribution rights to The Hobbit).  And again, if the changes had been within an acceptable margin of error, I wouldn't be complaining.  In some cases I might even appreciate some of them.  But why not trust J. R. R. Tolkien to have known what he was doing, and why not try to find out just what he was attempting before making the movies?

But while I don't have to like them, those are the main film versions we have so far, and part of myth is that you have to give it up to others, whatever they do with it.  And there are people who have done worse to the Bible, God's actual holy Word--compared to that, what Peter Jackson and company did isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things and doesn't really deserve complaint.



At any rate, I'm coming to want to read more not only of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth works, but also some of his inspirations (especially Grimm's Fairy Tales and The Kalevala), in hopes that this might help me to write my own mythos.

While I don't plan to give up the idea of publishing these tales in print, part of me would love to see them become a song cycle on an album, so that you could listen to them rather than just read them.  That would come closer to the old oral storytelling tradition.  We'll see what happens, though.



Thank you for sharing part of your day with me.  God bless you.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Transformations

Today being Pentecost, the last day of the Easter season, I thought I'd look back at how much has changed for me since February 12, the first day of Carnivale (the season ending in Mardi Gras, just before Lent).



On February 12, I hadn't yet begun my trumpet lessons, and I hadn't yet stopped with my guitar lessons.  (I don't remember if we'd gotten in touch with my current trumpet instructor yet.)  Now, as of June 4, I'm doing chromatic scales and reaching nearly a fifth above the low octave--which my trumpet instructor says is a good range and opens up several tunes for me to be able to play.

On February 12, I wasn't considering singing as predominantly as I am now, or as I was considering playing the trumpet (or at least brass of some kind)--and I hadn't yet registered at the Byzantine parish I've been attending.  Now, as of June 4, I am registered and have spoken to the head cantor about my cantoring at that parish.

On February 12, I hadn't even been to McDonald's in years--although by that time I had seen the movie The Founder, had discovered a McDonald's within walking distance of my house, and was seriously considering going back (as a customer only).  I hadn't even considered working there.  Now, as of June 4, I am seriously considering working there, and have learned so much about it and am enthusiastic about the idea.

On February 12, I had been blocked on my mythos-in-the-making for literally months, although I had decided that, with how much I loved the trumpet and wanted lessons, it was okay for me to take a break from it.  Now, as of June 4, I've seriously rethought that mythos in ways that I think will make it better, and have ordered some books that I think will help me even further once I've read them, so that I can finally rewrite what I hope will be the final form of this mythos.



On February 12, I hadn't quite integrated my life in my head--that is, seen it as a cohesive whole with a point.  And even though I had already concluded by then that drawing cartoons and writing stories were not my primary passions, I hadn't quite seen that this had been the case all my life, even when I had thought otherwise.  Now, as of June 4, not only does my life feel less like individual jigsaw puzzle pieces, but I'm starting to have a clear plan for my life, and to become more proactive and less afraid.  I hope by mid-summer, if the Lord wills it, to have made considerable visible progress.



In sum, on February 12, I'd had my trumpet for 1 1/2 months, and was enthusiastic about playing it (the only times I didn't practice it were times when I had a legitimate excuse as to why)--and I was seriously considering going back to college this coming fall and majoring in Music with an emphasis in the trumpet.  At least, I wanted to try other brass instruments to be sure that this was the one I wanted, before I tackled such a big project as going back to school (again).  And at minimum, I wanted to wait until the second half of August this year (closer to when the semester begins, but still before it begins), to see where I was at and where the world was at, and so to see if that was still what I wanted to do.

Now, as of June 4, I'm seriously considering entering the workforce first, at McDonald's, and worrying about college later, if at all.  And even if I do go back to college, and even if I major in Music, I no longer think I need to emphasize it in trumpet.  Aside from the fact that I'm planning on cantoring as well, that fact plus the fact that I already have a trumpet teacher seems to me to preclude the need for private lessons in the same thing--suggesting that I might in that event look to a different musical instrument instead.  And that's if I majored in Music at all, as I'm thinking of other possibilities now too--but I want to talk to someone, and I now know that McDonald's has "Archways to Opportunity", so maybe I can ask for some advice in that regard.



It may not be as dramatic a change as things have gotten since December of last year, but it's still a major change for me.  And I've had more dramatic changes years before, in 2012 and especially in 2010.  I never would have predicted that I would become who I am now.

And yet, for all that, I still recognize myself as the same person I was at each stage of my life that I can remember (and I can remember back to when I was about three years old, give or take a few months).  I haven't lost myself; I'm finding myself, I think, and it's a lovely feeling.  I wanted to share that on this day, the anniversary of the founding of the Church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles for the first time.



Oh, good grief!  Now I'm seriously thinking of something else: one thing that I was considering earlier today was learning new languages, and perhaps having that be my major if I went back to college....

...and today, Pentecost, is the day that the Apostles spoke in tongues, so that all could understand what they were saying no matter what languages those people understood!



Lately I have seriously been considering languages, for a number of reasons:

First, a lot of my main interests and skills (outside of visual designs and manipulation of mechanical and electronic objects) seem to be in two major categories: ideas (philosophy and history--true and fictional) and sounds (music), especially as I'm an auditory learner with a strong memory.  And those two things combine in words, in language.

Second, I'm coming to recognize certain etymological roots in languages, to where I can guess at the history of the word--and be right very often.  That's true both of real languages and now also of J. R. R. Tolkien's Elvish languages.  And that's probably how he was able to get a mythology out of his artificial languages.

Third, I've been interested in languages before.  I took four years of Spanish and one year of French, and I thought that those were the exception to one major unfortunate trend I was noticing in higher education: classes weren't as fun as they'd been in elementary school.  But with language classes it was like being in elementary school again, fun and all, the only difference being that it was a different language than English.

Fourth, I've come to the conclusion that if I can know more than one way to say something, I truly understand the underlying concepts, rather than just relying on one way to say it and repeating that, as I might for a script or a song.  And the biggest way to know more than one way to say something is to say it in different languages.

Fifth, related to this, that might make it easier for me to communicate with other people, not just in terms of understanding what the words mean, but in terms of how they understand concepts differently from a native English speaker--so that I could use different ideas, not just different words, to communicate my meaning.  Different philosophical concepts, different metaphors, different story parables, etc.

Sixth, related to the above, I consider language and music to be particular ways in which to make historical cultures come to life for me, because they aren't static (like still visual arts), nor are they merely simulated (like dramatic arts).

Seventh, I used to think that my interest was in making up stories in different media (I thought that back before I had any college degrees).  Well, different media are translations of the same story being told, just as much as different languages are.  Different media are nonverbal languages, after a fashion.

Eighth, I'd already concluded as early as the fall of 2015 that some of the things that matter most to me are communication and logic--so that if either seems to fail, I get frustrated and upset.  And I already have a logical/mathematical/spatial mind (that even applies to my drawings), but I don't know as many languages as I might.



So maybe I could consider that as a possibility.  Certainly being multilingual would help me in any kind of service job where I'd have to interact verbally with someone--and I know from experience that even now I've been able to keep up a conversation in Spanish with someone I didn't even know.

Plus, of course, each language has its own folk music and folklore, so I could communicate that way as well, singing in different languages and maybe telling folktales in different cultures.

Only God knows for sure.



Thank you for reading, and have a happy and blessed Pentecost!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Boldness

I'm honestly surprised that President Trump hasn't been regularly making headlines on wikipedia, given the mainstream media's unhealthy antipathy towards him.

But now he has, with his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.



All I can say is, bold move, Mr. President.  You don't mess around.



I'm not going to address his action, which I admittedly know little about, so much as the reaction to it.  Oh WOW, is there a lot of unnecessary hostility over this!  Not just from Democrats, but from people all over the world.

If proponents of "climate change" are going to react this way, that's how you react to someone who has rejected your religion, not to someone who has rejected a scientific claim, whether that claim is true or false.

And given that, it bodes well for President Trump's decision.  If something is not innately evil, but it earns the ire of the world (the prince of whom is the Devil), that is at least circumstantial evidence that the thing is particularly good.



Perhaps we could have a legitimate discussion over whether we think President Trump's decision was right or not.  These days it's seeming like there's less and less room for such a thing, but it's at least theoretically possible.

But whether President Trump was right or not, one thing seems clear to me: the mere act of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement does not pollute anything, does not put anyone in immediate danger, does nothing other than having the United States cease to be a member of a group of nations that didn't even exist before two years ago.  That's literally all it's doing, and a sovereign nation has the right to choose to do that.  Suppose he were to continue with all the same regulations that the Paris Agreement supports, just not as a member?  Then where would be all the hostility and scaremongering?

Phobia of the head of state and government of a sovereign nation exercising a right, which in and of itself does no harm to anyone, can only be bred in mistrust, which is poison to all societies and breeds either anarchic chaos or totalitarianism.  It cannot help doing so.

I could understand people acting that way if President Trump had said that we were going to go full blast on all kinds of CFCs or whatever, but I am not aware of his having said any such thing.  All I know is that he withdrew from the Paris Agreement.  I don't even see how that qualifies as news unless, again, "climate change" is part of your religion, and you're offended by someone not going along with it (and if the Paris Agreement is your "church").



One thing I'm curious about is how the mainstream media's reaction to this is going to impact their claim of a connection between Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year and Russia.  I admit I know almost nothing about this, but from what I understand, Russia has NOT withdrawn--in fact, apparently Russia supports the Paris Agreement!

I would think that wouldn't bode well for the idea that Russia wanted Donald Trump in the White House, and therefore it wouldn't bode well for the idea that Russia colluded with Donald Trump last year to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected.

Then again, I see so much arrogance from mainstream media and political sources these days, trying to fit the facts into their ideologies instead of the other way around (and ignoring or denying the facts when they can't manage this).  And I know from firsthand experience that it's possible to believe two things simultaneously that contradict each other--and thank God I finally realized that they were incompatible, but for awhile I didn't.



I still think, as I did last year, that President Trump must not be idolized, and I do think there's a danger of that given all this hostility towards him (he is not part of my religion either, as he is not even Catholic, much less the Pope or a bishop).  And I do not deny his flaws, nor what he's done in the past that I didn't like.

Nevertheless, little by little I'm coming to warm up to at least his courage in standing up for what he believes in.  People used to applaud those who did that--now it seems people only do that when it's "safe".  That is, when what the individual believes in conforms to what the mainstream society already believes in, so that there is no conflict with that mainstream society at all.  And yet people still say, and even think, otherwise (I should know, as I did that myself until a few years ago).

I don't say, at this point, that I wish I had voted for Donald Trump last year, nor that I regret not returning to the Republican Party.  But I am coming to better appreciate his presidency.  And I am at least considering the possibility that I may just come around to such conclusions, depending.  We'll see where we are in 2020.

I just hope President Trump will continue with similar boldness on matters of even more fundamental urgency--and that he won't appear to prove his enemies correct by being idealistic where he needed to be more practical.



Please try not to be run by irrational emotions.  I've let that happen to me way too often, including today (over this very issue, in fact).  It doesn't help anyone, and in fact it only hurts yourself and others.  Let's simply pray that the Lord's will be done.

God bless you, and thank you for reading.