Friday, December 25, 2009

Boldog Karácsonyt!

Last night after Christmas Eve Liturgy, I asked Gyorgy, who is from Hungary, how to say "Merry Christmas" in Hungarian.
The answer? Boldog Karácsonyt!

So may I wish all of you
Boldog Karácsonyt!
Or Feliz Navidad...or Buon Natale...or Joyeux Noël...or Bon Nadal...or Zorionak Zuri...or Boas Navidades...or Natale Hilare...
or a very, very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review: The Idiot

It's actually been almost two weeks since I finished it-but I recently finished reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot. I started reading this book around October 15 and it took me until December 8 to finish it. It is the second work by Dostoevsky that I've read (my first being The Brothers Karamazov when I was in my late teens at the recommendation of my brother's friend, Mark) and it will not be the last. I do enjoy Dostoevsky-even if my friend Katie calls him "The Russian Virginia Woolf."
My reading of this book was born out of a conversation with my friend, Kyle, while looking at classic literature at Barnes & Noble back in August. He had just finished The Brothers Karamazov and had loved it-like I had a few years earlier-and was looking for more works of classic literature to read. And we saw The Idiot on the shelves. Neither of us had read it but since I had more experience with Russian Lit (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Pasternak) I told him I would (eventually) read The Idiot and let him know what I thought of it. Well, it took me forever to read it (mostly because I was busy with school) but I finished it and I'm ready to say what I thought of it.

To best explain my reaction to this book, I have to explain how I evaluate a book:
  1. Is this book interesting?
  2. What is the author's main theme/message?
  3. Was the main character likable?
  4. Do I agree/accept the message the author is trying to get across?
  5. How does the author's background/historical context affect this novel?
So to review this book, I'm simply going to answer those five questions.
  1. Yes, this book was interesting; as most Russian novels are, the plot dragged at times but for the most part it was pretty great.
  2. Beauty will save the world; the main character (Prince Lev Nikolayovich Myshkin) actually says this at one point.
  3. Yes and no-Prince Myshkin (aka The Idiot) was likable sometimes but other times I wanted to punch the guy in the face for making (what I deemed to be) dumb decisions.
  4. Yes, I believe that beauty (if we identify Christ as the source of all beauty) will save the world. Dostoevsky was a Christian, as I recall.
  5. Dostoevsky strongly disliked Roman Catholicism, the Jesuits, and the European nations and their inhabitants. And this leads to my main gripe with the book. I was loving and enjoying the book until shortly before the end when Prince Myshkin goes off on a rant against Catholicism, the Jesuits, and the Pope. And later on, Madame Yepanchina rants against how horrible and uncivilized Europe and Europeans are. I find some of this logical due to Russian history. But a lot of this is Dostoevsky's personal opinions/dislikes/grievances/biases. For me, these rants kept the book from becoming a personal favorite.
So I give this book four out of five stars. It was good but it could have been better.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

But I DON'T want a snow day

So it's snowy out here in West Michigan. And we're under a winter weather advisory. So all the freshmen and sophomores (and some upperclassmen too) are clambering "SNOW DAY! SNOW DAY!" for tomorrow or Thursday or Friday...since we're expecting a lake effect blizzard indefinitely.
I don't want a snow day. I'm a senior. I have several large papers/projects due between now and this coming Monday. One of them is due tomorrow. In two other classes, tomorrow is the last chance I really have to see/talk to my professors before large papers (and a final exam) are due. I need classes tomorrow.
Plus, there's this whole momentum thing. I'm basically done writing the papers; I just need to turn them in...and in one case finish writing once I get the edits from the professor-some time tonight. But I'm on a roll. I'm ready to deal with that paper and just push through until Thursday when I get the exam question bank for my American Lit final and then turn in a final and a paper on Friday. And then I have the weekend to relax and study for American Lit and put the finishing touches on my Spanish Lit paper due on Monday. I'm on a roll; I'm ready.
But a snow day? All I'd do tomorrow is lie around, watching movies and reading books. Trust me; I do not need or want a snow day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Some Like It Hot

So today I was bored. I have at least one major assignment due every school day this week except Thursday. And I was bored. Go figure. This boredom led me to decide that I would make my own pasta sauce. This way I would have something to do that had nothing to do with "the Christian family as social foundation in Uncle Tom's Cabin" or my ten-minute play or philosophy AND I would have yummy pasta sauce for the next couple of days.
I went to the grocery store and bought sausage, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes (and cereal and tricuits but those are irrelevant). I went home, did more homework, and went into the kitchen to cook. I diced garlic and onions and cooked them up with the sausage. Then I opened the can of diced tomatoes and smelled something spicy. So I looked at the can. I had bought diced tomatoes WITH GREEN CHILIES. Crap. But I poured them into the saucepan on the stove, added tomato paste and water, and then turned on the heat. Then I liberally added parsley and fresh basil (from the basil plants growing in my window sill). When the meat, garlic, and onion were done cooking, I mixed them in with the tomatoes and spices. Then I cooked up my spaghetti and mixed some pasta and some sauce together.
It was spicy. But it was good.
Verdict? I never would have thought of this on my own. But it was good. I'd probably do it again-on purpose.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Are you being served?

Are You Being Served? was a 1970s BBC comedy show set in a department show. It is now in reruns on late-night PBS.
It's also a question to which I can answer "yes."
My left knee has been bothering me a lot lately. So this morning I was on crutches. I'm actually using them in general except when going to class and to work right now.
This morning, I went to UCO Foundations with my crutches. I drove to the women's household and then drove to the class with them. They helped me carry my things around and blessed me with their willingness to help me. Lauren even helped me take my shoes off when we went inside the house.
Service is a huge part of being a Christian. We are called to serve our neighbors and put their needs ahead of ourselves. But learning to be served is also a part of our calling. This past August, I spent four days on crutches and spent that time learning to ask for help and to accept service even when it required admission of weakness on my own part and allowing myself to be humbled.
But I'm getting better at asking for help and accepting it when it's offered. This morning, I trusted someone else to pour me a cup of coffee and put creamer in it. And I let someone else get my breakfast for me.
I think that I'm not the only one who has trouble with this. But I think it's important to allow ourselves both to serve and be served. We have to be able to both humbly serve others and accept service humbly.
It's not about us. It never was. It's about Him. And He lived humility in action.