Tag Archives: God

Sylvia Plath

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“Great wits are sure to madness near allied, And thin partitions do their bounds divide…” -John Dryden

A fine example of this is found in the poet, Sylvia Plath. Her life was scarred from the beginning by the death of her father. He died from complications relating to the amputation of his leg. Plath blamed her father for his own death, claiming that his carelessness about his health was the same thing as suicide. Upon first receiving news of his demise, young Sylvia proclaimed “I’ll never speak to God again” Interestingly, one of her most famous works was entitled “Daddy”.

As she grew up, she used writing as a way to express her emotions, mostly through journaling. It wasn’t until college that Plath began to find her voice. During this time, Plath found moderate success publishing her work in magazines and newspapers.  A series of incidents including a rejection letter from a writing program, severe insomnia, relationships with abusive men, and a panic attack all led to a severe case of depression. She was treated with electroconvulsive therapy, which only made things worse. She attempted to kill herself, but was thwarted. She spent several months in a mental health facility. This pattern of feverous spurts of writing followed by severe bouts of maniac depression was one that followed her throughout her entire life. Prior to her death, Plath had written about 40 poems in 4 months, often writing 2 a day. She killed herself at the age of 30.

Speaking of suicide, Plath said “If you have no past or no future, which, after all, is all that the present is made of, why then you may as well dispose of the empty shell of present and commit suicide. But the cold reasoning mass of gray entrail in my cranium which parrots, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ whispers that there is always the turning, the upgrade, the new slant. And so I wait.”

Now, obliviously I disagree with Plath on…well, most fundamental issues. However, she truly was a brilliant writer. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her poetry as well as from her book, The Bell Jar:

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”

“Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it, or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to.”

“I must be lean & write & make worlds beside this to live in.”

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”

“There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction–every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.”

“That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”

“I want to be important. By being different. And these girls are all the same.”

“I knew chemistry would be worse, because I’d seen a big card of the ninety-odd elements hung up in the chemistry lab, and all the perfectly good words like gold and silver and cobalt and aluminum were shortened to ugly abbreviations with different decimal numbers after them.”

“I have done, this year, what I said I would: overcome my fear of facing a blank page day after day, acknowledging myself, in my deepest emotions, a writer, come what may.”

“Living with him is like being told a perpetual story: his mind is the biggest, most imaginative I have ever met. I could live in its growing countries forever.”

“There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone. There is an off-focus light cast by the moon, and the streetlights are part of the spotlight apparatus on a bare stage set up for you to walk through. You get a feeling of being listened to, so you talk aloud, softly, to see how it sounds.”

“Now I know what loneliness is, I think. Momentary loneliness, anyway. It comes from a vague core of the self – – like a disease of the blood, dispersed throughout the body so that one cannot locate the matrix, the spot of contagion.”

“…we shall board our imagined ship and wildly sail among sacred islands of the mad till death shatters the fabulous stars and makes us real.”

“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head. Love is an illusion, but I would willingly fall for it if I could believe in it. Now everything seems either far and sad and cold, like a piece of shale at the bottom of a canyon – or warm and near and unthinking, like the pink dogwood.”

“I love him to hell and back and heaven and back, and have and do and will”

“I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.”

“With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can’t start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead. It’s like quicksand … hopeless from the start. A story, a picture, can renew sensation a little, but not enough, not enough. Nothing is real except the present, and already, I feel the weight of centuries smothering me. Some girl a hundred years ago once lived as I do. And she is dead. I am the present, but I know I, too, will pass. The high moment, the burning flash, come and are gone, continuous quicksand. And I don’t want to die.”

 

 

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What is Christmas?

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Is Christmas about…

Snow, sleigh bells, Santa Clause, and shopping all day?

or that sense of wonder at the beauty of our world?

or the relationships that we form with one another?

or the celebration of the birth of a single child who changed the course of history?

It’s interesting, but you can learn a lot about a person by how they view Christmas.  We see it as the season of giving, but I think that it should be renamed the season of revealing.I think that this is because everything changes.

Family dynamics are a lot more complicated, and parents sometimes feel like politicians playing to the desires of the ever changing hopes and desires of their children for the ideal gift. We paint a picture of a perfect holiday, and become the Griswolds in Christmas Vacation in our quest to craft the perfect memory.

Lovers look at each other and wonder if they’ll be together next Christmas. Kids look around and see the magic of Santa dissolving into the revolving doors of consumerism.

That’s the bad. But it isn’t always that way.

Sometimes, the season brings families together in the reading of stories and legends of a saint who gives presents to all the children in one nigh t. Truth is told in the eyes of friends who marvel at the wonder of finding someone they can’t wait to make snow angels with. A boy and girl hold hands as they walk down the frozen streets gleaming with lights. After all, the dark of winter makes the light of their hope that much brighter.

And somewhere, someone looks up at the stars and wonders at their majesty, and how an infant king, fully God and fully man, gave up his glory for you and me.

In my own poor way, what I’m trying say is that Christmas is about love. Not the cheesy Hallmark holiday love, but the kind that means viewing someone else as more important than yourself.

I know I’m just a drop in the sea of Christmas messages preached out from all around you and you may be skimming through this, tired of another voice going on and on like a broken record. That’s ok.

All I ask is that you take a couple of seconds to ask yourself what Christmas means to you. Really think about. If you want, you can post it as a comment. I’d love to read it.

Merry Christmas to you!

William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

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Alright, so I know that this speech was delivered in 1950, but I wasn’t alive then. As a writer, though, I can’t help but appreciate this speech by Faulkner. It’s inspiring, it’s heart felt, and it’s just as true today as it was 60 years ago.

“I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work–a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

      Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed–love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

      Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

What You Deserve

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Speaking theoretically, what do you do when something really good comes into your life and you don’t deserve it?  For me, I appreciate it, enjoy it, but deep down inside,  I just find myself wondering how I ended up with it. In fact, I almost feel guilty.

This is probably because I like to earn things myself. I love getting presents of course. However, I think the things I’ve had to work for are the things I truly treasure. I like to know that I have a right to whatever I have.

The problem is, life doesn’t always work that way, for good or bad. Because life is unfair, good things sometimes end up in the hands of people who really don’t merit them. You and I will undoubtedly have good things fall into our lives that we had nothing to do with.  The true test is our reaction.

I think this is where a lot of people have trouble with Christianity (by which I mean the belief that Jesus died as the ultimate sacrifice for all the terrible things we did, do, and ever will do). It’s unreasonable. It isn’t what we deserve. After all, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that our lives have been a whole lot of garbage. We’ve done things we shouldn’t have. We have things we regret. There’s no way that we can deserve or earn a free pass. It’s just given to us.

But I have to wonder what life would be like if we could let go of our self-reliance just a bit.  We want to deserve things, and that’s great…for the most part. It’s just impossible to live life completely on our own.  We can’t deserve everything we’re given.  But we can appreciate the gift and live our lives to be worthy of it.

Sorry if it seems like I’m preaching. It’s just a series of thoughts in my head today.