21 June 2011

My Time is Not My Own: Belonging to Others

I have a very bad habit of reviews. I love them. They have to be pithy, critical and informative. I sometimes even read reviews for books I have no intention of reading simply because I enjoy the clever commentary that swirls around them.

One such book touted a number of interesting themes and I was considering reading it. But I began to wonder if this book was for me when the many reviews talked about the heavy central theme spoken through the mouth of the book's protagonist to the effect of: "I am my own" and "Above all else, I must retain myself"'

There are so many directions from which I disagree with this theme. It's supposed to mean independence and all that jazz. But it doesn't. Not in the long run. I have a couple of examples for why:

In Dance

There is a scene in the film Center Stage (yeah, I know...poor acting, but great dancing) when one of the dancers--who has been trying so fiercely to maintain her independence--is told by an instructor to let her center go and the movement will flow naturally. She does. And it does. Her unwillingness to yield herself fully to the dance, by not being humble and yielded to anything around her, impeded her ability. When she gave that up--or, in other words, got over herself--she was finally able to reach her potential.

Perhaps I've read into it too much, but she didn't give up her strength, skill or convictions. Just herself and any damaging notions thereof.

In Song

"You can't break that which isn't yours"

This line, from the Regina Spektor song titled Apres Moi, has always struck me entirely independent of its context. I love the song as a whole (which is dark and foreboding) but this line is something other.

It's true. It's such a terribly basic principle. Brittle grips break. The more tightly and desperately you hold on to something, the more it slips through your fingers. The best friendships (as my mom has often advised me) are the ones that you hold with open hands.

Same, then, with yourself. When your sister calls, you belong to her. When someone asks for your help on the street you belong to them. In those five minutes you are paying for groceries, you have been effectively given to the cashier. You're theirs, whether you like it or not.

Rest assured that we all end up belonging to many things and people. When we do it willingly, instead of doling out ourselves like a favor, it coincides with a level of freedom that those clutching to themselves with both hands can't have.

I suppose I can see how 'self' is an appealing anchor as opposed to 'others'. But it's all going to get tossed and battered in the wind unless you have an anchor that's better than either of those options. In case I sound coy, I mean God precisely. Attached to him, we don't ever have to worry about running out of ourselves on behalf of others.


No. My time is not my own. I am not my own. That's the goal, anyhow. I like rough goals. As Anne of Green Gables would say, they give me a thrill.

18 June 2011

The Weight of Words

The modern mentality worries me. And by modern, I mean post-modern. I know it's perceived to be accepting and open-minded, but I find its wateriness more than a little disconcerting. Not least because much of post-modernism accords no concrete meaning to words.

As a translator I find words that oftentimes have such a concrete meaning that they are too weighty to move easily from one language to another.

Based on what I have gathered so far, I have put together some definitions--which I believe have some staying power--for the following words:

Post-modernism: A philosophy in which the self is the source, interpreter and purveyor of all and in which nothing can be weighed against anything else, for nothing is accorded weight.

Pluralism (particularly religious pluralism): Homogenization; more specifically, the imposition of Western Academic values upon the religions of the world. See post-modernism.

17 June 2011

Pervasive Language

A defense for the love of language, with the second of my three brothers, on a given day...probably Sunday. Because that's when we always got into these kinds of discussions.
My brother (and him paraphrased): Science is awesome. It is absolutely the most compelling thing. It explains and contains everything.
I (and myself paraphrased): Well. Yeah. Science is a thing of beauty...don't get me wrong...but it does not contain everything. It is one way of explaining a thing.
My brother: It is the way of explaining any given thing.
I: Ah. No. You can say "Look! A beautiful, bright star!" or you can give its scientific explanation. But language and context is what tells you that I may have been talking about a movie star.
My brother: But even language can be explained with science: speech, sound waves, biology of the voice box and mouth.
I: But science is itself a language through which you communicate.
My brother: Science encompasses language
I: Backwards. You just used language to describe science. I win.

Why post this conversation, other than to show that in my family we often arbitrarily declare ourselves the winner for reasons such as "I'm older" and "I'm taller" and "We're at an impasse, but I've taken the last word"?

Because---Next Post---definitions of post-modernism and pluralism