2011/12/27

The Face of Fear

Something terrible happened today... and as the day goes on, it feels more awful. I am not a large person. I am quite thin, not terribly tall... adjectives used to describe me tend to be synonymous with small, or scrawny. I tend to think of myself as a small person... rather insignificant in this world and I tend to think of myself as in some ways non existent in the lives and the world around me. If I think of myself at all and my affects on others, I tend to think of myself in either positive or neutral terms. I know that I make mistakes and I know that in many ways I am not a strong or a wonderful person, but I know that I try and I truly want to love everyone... even those whom have caused me the greatest harm. I am not strong enough to not feel the pain they have caused or to pretend that it hasn't happened... especially when my life has been so drastically altered. I do not feel like I really recognize my life anymore. I am not sure that I even recognize myself. I wish for much, but all who see and feel these hard times in their lives wish for something else. But it is not for me to decide. All I can decide is what to do with the time that I have been given. And what happened today was awful.

It doesn't sound like much. It doesn't actually really sound awful. But when I was out today a woman saw me. And her response was fear. Even in a public place, she feared me and my reaction to her presence. After a few minutes, she gathered enough courage to scuttle like a bug across the parking lot to the store... her discomfort and fear evident in her movements and posture. I have been told that I am vindictive and that my anger is terrible. I have also been told that this person feels she has done nothing wrong and has had no part of my current pain. She has severed her relationship with me and appears to have been successful in taking everything of value that I possess... So why does she fear me? I do not believe I am vindictive. I have accepted so much more pain in an attempt to spare her family and to spare others from the choices that were made. I feel like I have suffered so much more in an attempt to protect and to give homage and respect to our past relationship. But I think I am truly saddened and humbled to see this. I take no pleasure... only pain and grief that no matter how positive my actions, one of Heavenly Father's children feels so much fear. I don't think I have anything left to give and what I have given hasn't been accepted or worked really.

I just feel so tired of the struggle. It is starting to feel too hard and too long... but I am grateful. I think that I am starting to see light in the journey forward. May God bless us all... that his children feel less fear. For faith cannot live in fear. There is too much fear in this world. I pray that someday I will not hear of someone in fear of me. Even though I think the fear is not justified, I pray that it diminishes and is conquered. I know of nothing else at this point that can rid all of us of this horrible fear. Maybe as a new year comes, fear can diminish as well. I pray for this to come to pass. I do not want another day like today.

2011/12/03

2011 Poetry Corner # 4 : Insight

What do you see
fear
need
hope

A person who strives
Who struggles and falls
A person who stands
beaten but sure
That the struggle is glory
That the fear can fade
That hope is eternal
and love is the way

2011/11/12

Napoleon and His Effects on Revolutionary Ideals

At first blush, Napoleon appears to have left the ideals of the 'Revolution' in the dust behind him as he moved forward towards his goals and desires. However, it would be remiss to make this statement without actually discussing what some of the ideals of the revolution were... and it appears that in some ways, we are still discovering some of the smaller pieces of knowledge that gives us new ways of looking at the actions, ideals, and desires of the major and minor players in the revolutionary process. Without a long discussion, most of the ideals that were hoped for with the French revolution and its 'creators' can be seen in its motto of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” The idea that people were and should be treated equally, that people had inherent rights to be protected from their government and have representation in that government, and that class and rights to only a few in a stratified society should be abolished. Other reasons for the revolution were problems with severe poverty, lack of safety or protection for the majority, and the inability for most of the individuals living in France to have any real way to take care of themselves or to be self sufficient... let alone able to advance themselves or their children.

Many of Napoleon’s ways of expanding his power, controlled territory and, of course, his ambition can be seen to be directly scaling back the benefits and rights that the Revolution had been 'fought' to win. Women had been granted through the revolutionary government equal rights to divorce and to help control or make decisions on their children and family property. With Napoleon, many of these protections were scaled back... and women found themselves once more with restrictions on their desires for divorce and their rights to make any decisions in equality with their husband on children of property. Males were once again legally and socially over women in even these private family matters. Women could even lose their French citizenship if they married a male that didn't have French citizenship.(This is a bit remarkable to me. As Americans, we require other people to give up their citizenship to become an American, but many other countries allow you to hold citizenship of more than one country. A friend of mine was born in Australia and has citizenship for both England and Australia. She married an American and so her children have access to citizenship to all three countries, but only if she continues to keep a green card and never becomes a American citizen. This experience was one I thought about when I read about this restriction and thought about how it limits her choices if she wants to expand her offspring's choices in this world.... and I wondered how much more it was limiting for women in the time frame of the early 1800's...? The revolutionary law that required equal distribution of property to children upon parental death was abolished, allowing male parents to distribute property to their children as they wished which was very likely to cause the traditional problems of disinheritance of daughters and even younger sons. (I am certain that kind of tradition dispersment also limits woman’s choices and makes the majority far more likely to live in poverty.) A true irony is that truth, wisdom and many virtues in French society are portrayed as women.

Other minorities also found their rights and new-found protections were curtailed of removed as well. The few rights that some group of Jews were given were pretty much removed. Napoleon, like many in his society... and even today if I think about it, really mistrusted people who formed Jewish groups- no matter what “Jewish” group they participated in. In one stance, Napoleon passed a law giving amnesty to peasants who owed members of the Jewish population money.... but he stood by and did nothing for peasants who owed other populations or people money -clear discrimination. While law had abolished slavery, blacks now had the misfortune to no longer have that protection... and Napoleon even went out of his way in some attempts in re-enslave black populations in colonies and have free blacks in France register with the police – again, clear discrimination.

Other freedoms that had been extended to all and not just to minority groups were curtailed or removed all together. Censorship became the norm not only for newspapers and other forms of entertainment like the theater, but also in relation to free speech. A secret police force was developed and funded to hunt of dissidents and the vocally 'disgruntled' and its existence must have made people much more wary about expressing themselves to others. Plays and other entertainment eventually had to be approved through the police/ government before any attempt at public performance could be had. There is documentation that Napoleon would 'edit' even specific lines in stories, articles, plays etc... to be sure that things read or were seen the way he wanted them to be. He also moved religious freedom back a little bit and while he allowed the worship of other religions in many ways, he put the Catholic religion at the top of governmental support and, as before, all clergy and other religious leaders were paid by the state to assure their loyalty to the state... and not to the Pope.

Lastly, one clear ideal of the revolution was representative government. Napoleon clearly had no wish to have any kind of representative government... unless it represented his view only. :) Bureaucracy was set and controlled in such as way that over time, Napoleon become the only leader and even other 'leaders' must get his approval for everything... and anything! In many ways, he was to return France to the form of government it had been following for hundreds of years – a hereditary absolute monarchy. His relatives and children were given territory and ruling positions over much of the conquered territory of Europe and it appears that his relatives in many ways answered to him as well. This was clearly not the ideal situation that most of the revolutionaries had fought for.

When we look at France through these ideas, it seems clear that Napoleon is a man that could be classified along with other 'enlightened' despots in history. Many of the changes that had been won through the costs of fear and blood were carefully and strictly removed. That said, he didn't disagree with or change all of the hard won changes of the revolution. The achievements of personal and private property were kept so that people could be assured that the government couldn't just swoop in and take their land... there had to be a good and lawful reason (which he only ignored in some instances). Religious freedom was still kept... OK, freedom of 'Christian' religions were kept... but that was certainly an improvement. :) Feudal rights continued to be abolished and were not reinstated... except for a few situations which again Napoleon conveniently ignored for his gain. A constitutional monarchy- even if in name only- was still a small step forward towards democracy. And certainly, one consequence of the revolution and its other great leader was control and terror. This standard and form of rule Napoleon would continue. With censorship and a virtual police state, Napoleon may not have used the guillotine to achieve his ends in the same way that Robespierre did, but he too used his intelligence, his oratory and persuasive abilities, ambition, and the addition of his military prowess to create a country in his image... and to take that image and use his armies to paint it across the entire European continent. Thankfully, life had in many ways improved for his constituents and they were able to have a chance at a more satisfactory life.

2011/11/07

Attila the Hun and the Rise of the Catholic Church... and a Touch of 'Vandal-ism'

When the Huns and the Vandals came upon the Roman empire, a few changes had happened from the beginning of the Empire. The Roman empire had been too large to control between one person in the form of an Emperor and so it had been divided into two sections – the Eastern empire and the Western empire. Rome had also changed its major religion and the pagan religion had fallen slowly from the top of the heap to be suffocated by Christianity. The Huns offered other groups the opportunity to live in a society that was similar to the Roman past of a few generations previously. They offered a society that was rich in wealth, militarily strong, and a culture that still worshiped Pagan gods without harassment or trouble. It seems that the Huns could be seen as a different political group than the Romans and charged no taxes. So many people and groups would join this 'anti- Roman' alliance even though this lifestyle was tougher in theory. It is beginning to be thought that there was no actual “Hun Nation', but there were groups of Huns... and so you could join the 'group' but it wasn't the same thing as the leadership under the Roman empire (it sounds sort of like converting to Judaism... it gives you a new culture and lifestyle, but not necessarily a new land. However, if you were already pagan, then the Huns allowed you to practice the religion that you had been practicing anyway.) At first, the Huns lived peacefully in the lands near Rome and in Rome. Sometimes, Roman officials would pay for the use of the Hun's military groups in their own boundary battles. Under the reign of Attila the Hun, this relationship changed and this leader used the Hun armies to devastate and take power of many cities in the Eastern part of the Roman empire... causing enough devastation and fear that the Roman leaders agreed to pay Attila the Hun 150,000 solid gold coins a year if he would stop the military campaign. This gold payment kept Attila as the leader of the Huns and he used the gold to pay his armies and warriors and to also help his groups and their cities/civilizations thrive- Attila had developed a system in which he could profit from Rome whether they were at war of peace and he depended on the constant supply of Roman gold. Attila took great care to stay out of the Roman empire and he took great pains to keep his people out as well. One Roman diplomat, Priscus, was sent to negotiate with Attila the Hun at one point and he has given us a good description of the Hun court. His description included his difficulty in actually finding the Huns because of the 'one hundred mile dead zone', a camp that was surrounded by polished wood that was clearly for decoration and appearance, wonderful feasts where individuals drank out of gold goblets and used silver plates (although he states that Attila used wooden dishes and that Attila seemed to be a soul of 'temperance'), and the enclosures had bath houses. Attila also unmasked a Roman assassination plot and instead of killing the individuals that were involved, he gave them their freedom and sent them back to Rome.



There is some evidence that members of German tribes imitated the Huns in their culture. In a graveyard that was found in Hungary, many bodies were found that 'looked' like the bodies of Huns due to the elongated heads, but all the artifacts and evidence around the bodies was German. This evidence helps to suggest why we cannot find huge areas of Hun artifacts... as the culture and society of the Huns was assimilated into the groups who already lived in the lands they conquered – in this case the Germans. In essence, the Huns didn't slaughter everyone around them and built up their groups by assimilating nearby groups of people that were willing and interested in joining- Germans, Goths, Iranians and even disaffected Romans.

Attila the Hun, after finishing up with the Eastern Empire and was collecting an obscene amount tribute, he turned his attention to the Western Roman Empire and attacked the land of Belgium. With the legitimate excuse of trying to rescue a (Roman) emperor's sister who had written for help, he attacked and quickly took over large cities in Belgium and Italy as well. It was at this time in 452 CE, a Pope of the Catholic church negotiated with Attila the Hun and ended the fight. Pope Leo I negotiated a peace and Attila and his armies withdrew- it has been suggested in some sources that the negotiation probably also came with a large sum of gold and other tribute- other sources suggest a combination of events including food shortages, plague, other military actions, and that Attila was already overladen with plunder and this strategy would allow him to take it home and save face … and then come back and fight. (It should also be stated that this was a 'temporary' peace and that Attila agreed to a basic 'ceasefire', but was quite open with the fact that if he didn't have all of his demands met, he and his armies would be back.) Because of the successful negotiation of the Pope with Atilla (and a good deal of wonderful traditional propaganda about the angel/apostles Peter and Paul coming to fight against the Huns who then promptly turned tail and ran), the Pope gained more political clout than the Roman emperor. For the next 1000 years, the Pope became the unquestioned leader of the Roman Catholic church and a real political force that had to be reckoned with by all secular leaders and rulers of European lands. Pope Leo one became the first pope to be called 'the Great.' It can be stated that the creation of the Pope and his 'power' was, in essence, created by Attila the Hun and is Attila's only lasting legacy to our modern world. A few years later, Pope Leo I tried to negotiate with King Gaiseric... with less success (I guess the angels were busy that day...? ; ) The Vandal King refused to leave, but he did agree to keep the bloodshed and destruction low. He conquered Rome and returned to North Africa flush with treasure and plunder.

It must be stated that the Roman empire's collapse was really caused by quite a few factors, including the political prominence of the Roman Catholic Pope, the actions of Attila the Hun... and the actions of Gaiseric and the Vandals. King Gaiseric was born around the time of the birth of Attila and his childhood was spent living as a refugee in these tough times. He rose to rule his community which were called the Vandals- which meant the wanderers. Eventually the Vandals arrived in southern Spain and in 429 King Gaiseric and his followers numbered at 80,000 people sailed across the sea to Northern Africa. Once there, he and his army conquered these rich, fertile lands from the Roman empire and these areas included Carthage... which was the city that the Romans used to transport all the riches, growth, oil and wheat grown in Africa to the rest of the empire. Much of this grain was given to the male citizens of the empire for free to keep them from revolting against the emperor. By taking over Carthage, the vandals found themselves in a land that was plentiful and had huge political ramifications. It gave the Vandals almost full control of the Mediterranean Sea. Roman lost the fertile lands of Africa as well as the huge tax moneys and it was this loss that caused the already cracking empire to crumple into the dust. The Catholic church survived and thrived and the Latin language is the language in which we get most of our history. As the winners of the 'battle', all other groups became monsters and barbarians in their eyes....and these thoughts and 'truths' have been passed down to us today.

The Vandals were considered worse than the 'pagan' barbarians (by the rulers and members of the Roman empire) because the Vandals were 'Christians' but the wrong sort of Christians. Roman Catholicism believes that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father were equal in status and both of the same essence. Vandal groups tended to believe in a form of Christianity that was known as Arianism- developed by Arius who taught that Jesus Christ was subordinate to the Heavenly Father as the 'son' was created by God... so they in necessity must be distinct and different. The Pope also saw himself as God's man on earth and in many ways equal to God. So if you are Catholic, you know you need to follow the Pope because he is God's man.
Being a member of Arianism, you are stating that not only do you believe differently but you are probably not following the political rules as set by the pope and his allies as well. One Roman bishop described the Vandals as 'worse than Jews and pagans; inspired by the devil', but most North Africans saw the Romans/ Catholic church as 'corrupt and vicious.' King Gaiseric gave freedom of religion to the people in his lands for everyone except the elite of his government- which were required to follow Arianism. He was not know for torturing or prosecuting people of different beliefs and when Catholic members were looking for ways to complain about King Gaieric's ill treatment toward them, one of the few ways they could find was to complain that the King would not allow them to sing their hymns.

2011/11/05

Building A Support Team.....

Do you have a support system? After doing some study this week, I pretty much realized that I do not have a solid support system and I need one. The ability to learn how to develop one is not only a much needed skill, but something I truly want. I want to not only have a support system, but to be an intricate part of other support systems. So I took the time to make two lists. One list was of current important relationships and one was of past important relationships. And there came the challenge. My most important relationship is with my husband and even though that relationship is changing, it still is my most important relationship and has been for almost two decades. But I will say that I am not sure how supportive it really is. I don't think that any relationship can be strong and supportive if only one person is interested in that and is uncommunicative. Rob is important to me for so many reasons. His strength and positive energy I have found supportive in times of trouble and confusion. His smile has always been a constant and it has never failed to give me a joyful lift every time I see it. I look to him for someone that I trust to talk to, to help solve problems, and as a friend. That relationship is clearly changing as we go through the beginning process of divorce and my husband works on changing the relationship. So I am at the beginning of developing a new life path and I have the wonderful opportunity to be able to learn and actively develop a new support system to help with that. What a cool thing!

My family of origin has had a lot of influence in my development as a person and as a leader. How much of my emotional and physical development that can be easily pushed onto my family, my original personality, society, etc... I do not know and I don't think that really dissecting it in the past has really done much but cause blame and anger. Needless to say, I left my parent's (almost said mother's -that' blaming I think :) home at eighteen years old with very little confidence in myself and with few marketable skills besides the motivation to please and a high energy level that allowed me to perform work faster than the average bear. I think that I carry almost literally the heavy burden of emotion and experience of the past on my shoulders. If I was to try and decide the role that my family played in my growing as a leader, I think that I would need to re-frame it. I think what I can do is to say that I learned to survive and to depend on myself. I learned to appreciate caring friends and I learned to understand and be more tolerant of differences and mental illness. These skills have served me well in my life and have really taught me an understanding, compassion, and service for other people that I think I wouldn't have gained any other way. A diagnosis is no longer something to fear... it's just a silly label and it doesn't change who the person is, what they think and feel, or in most ways what they need. So I am willing to step forward to help others that many people do not feel comfortable spending time with and I can laugh and become friends with someone and not focus on their 'labels.' One thing that I learned from my family is to please others and I am trying to find a medium ground where I please others, but I do not harm myself in the doing. I think that my genuine understanding and re-framing of my past family experiences can show me the positive aspects of the skills that I learned and help me to also grow and learn from the difficulties that I see people still struggling with in my family.

This might sound a little bit of a cope out, but I do not feel like I have any really important relationships in the past that was truly influential over a period of time in a positive way. I can think of many people that had influenced me for short periods of time and mostly in positive, 'friendship' ways. Maybe in some ways I am still seeing the term leadership in too rigid a construct. Friends do help me to learn how to be a better leader by being a leader in my own life. My friend Katey has been very influential in helping me to be introspective in a way that is positive and can sustain growth. She has helped my confidence and she always is willing to say the hard things- if she needs to tell me something hurtful that is useful, she will do it. How many people have such a real true friend? Katey has been instrumental in helping me keep my mental health in my current life situation and my ability to laugh and see many things in a positive light. I think that she will be an important part of my support system as I move forward.

I have mentioned before that I do not think I have really had any mentors... at least not in the sense of what the word means to me. One person that pops into my mind is a friend of mine who died a few years ago. Her name was Sarah Drew and she was sixty years older than me. I met her at church and she became my closest friend and confidant for many years. In some ways, I think she does count as a mentor as I did tend to take her advice when it was given and she also taught me how to survive through really difficult situations. She was a child of divorce and the Great Depression, had three divorces herself, four children and a nursing career. She was a wonderfully caring person. She would let me know that I needed to stand up for myself... and she was willing to stand up to people a lot bigger than her to protect me. She could be quite fierce when people were intolerant and mean and I will always miss her... and I wish I could have been closer to her age so we would have more time together. I think there are a few ways that she helped me develop important skills. She helped me to develop strength and stamina in adversity and there were many times I might have stopped coming to church without her loyal and calming influence. She helped me to learn that family was what you made of it and not necessarily what you were born with – my son still misses Gram Sarah. She would listen to me, give advice, and support me in my trials.... and I would give her rides to church and to appointments and help her to accomplish the things that mattered to her... but she wasn't physically able to do anymore. Our relationship has ended in this life and I will not see her again in the flesh, but I still find that some of the things she told me still inspire me today. I sometimes modify my behavior remembering things that were important to her and how she would want me to behave. It helps me to look stronger in my difficulties and helps me to find humor and joy in even the really yucky things.

I am not sure I would still be alive much less still be in college and working without my friends. I know which friends I can count on now due to my current situation and yes, my list has definitely whittled down and has fewer names on it. But those friends have been tested through the fire of my current challenges... and have stayed. I think I can depend on them for anything. While there are only five of them (and they know who they are :) A few of them will give me honest feedback and I can share everything- I will say that while I know I can share, I find it difficult to do so. It's truly a flaw in me and not my close friends. One of my close friends has been close to me for six years or maybe a little more. Some of the qualities that I think I bring to that relationship are compassion and love, energy, a blending of strengths and weaknesses and personalities that really seem to crave each other. I am a lousy cook and she is not and loves to cook. I love to weed... and she doesn't really find that really enjoyable. We can discuss the really hurtful things in our lives and know that neither of us will be rejected no matter what. She is safe in so many ways and has made my life more full and joyful. I can think of a friendship with someone else that did not work out for me and has in fact changed my whole life. I can think of a few things that I would have done differently. I do not think I was tolerant or understanding in the way I needed to be. I think that I needed to understand that she just couldn't trust anyone and so I shouldn't have felt so threatened. I should have believed in myself more and understood. I also should have helped to keep rigid boundaries so that the friendship could continue to thrive. That said, I learned a lot and it appears that no matter what I gave that relationship, my friendship was easily thrown away... so I don't think that it was a good friendship no matter what I did or did not do. But it was a lesson learned and I learned it in a big way. :)

I have never had or thought about having a personal support group. I will say that I think I need to contemplate it. It sounds like a great idea in my current situation. My son had a support group at one point and I will admit that it didn't really work... but I am not sure that was the group's fault. If I had a support group, I would run it in many of the same ways. I would have five members and I would have us set goals for myself over the next few years. We would meet and work together to help me move forward through my current trials. I would like to potentially add a few members that do not think exactly like me so they could have a different perspective on my situation. I have so much going on in my life right now- it would be nice to have others to clap me on the shoulder and help me with confidence and with making priorities. Being surrounded by people who genuinely want me to succeed and were willing to help me work towards it would be quite a gift.

I am currently actually working on building a professional support network in the job that I just managed to land/get hired. I am now working on developing relationships with other postal employees so that I can call when I have questions and hopefully increase the amount of hours that I can get. I have been driving to close post offices to introduce myself and I have been working hard to show my flexibility and to develop relationships that are positive with my co-workers. The relationships are not close, but I am hoping that they will become a good network that I can receive help from, but I can also provide help for. I would include the few employees in my post office but also a few employees for the other close post offices. I am also a BLS instructor and I have been trying to figure out how to develop a network that can make that job more stable and consistent for me. Figuring out how to network this job is really hard as it really is a lot like self employment. I need to sell myself against other people in the same job with very little work available in my area. What I have been doing is making fliers and hanging them up and faxing the fliers to a list of businesses that I have slowly accumulated numbers for and sometimes that is helpful and people call me and I get work. I would love to get a networking group together where we could work together to help each other get business. I will admit that I am not sure how to do that- I have been working alone for quite a while. But I think this is a good idea... and I think I need to try it! I would need someone from my training center as they could help me find clients, someone who works in the school system and maybe even someone who works for licensing for the state. Seems like a tall order but I do think it is doable...

I am not really sure about the idea of a board of directors for my personal life. Would it make my life less chaotic and crazy? : D Anyway, I guess I do not really understand the question because I am not really sure that I understand how a board of directors is really a lot different from a support group. Is it basically that a board of directors has more authority to get things done. So if I thought something was good and the rest of the group didn't... they could overrule me whereas a support group can give advice but I can totally ignore it...? It that was the case, I think there would be many positive and negative experiences with a board of directors. If I was too focused on something and couldn't see the pitfalls, the board members could actually force me to look at other viewpoints which might be good... or bad if they were wrong. Other good points would be the variety of experience and backgrounds that could bring more ideas and diversity to my life. I have closed so many aspects of my life up and having a group of people that could in some ways force me to be more open would be horribly scary... but I might really find that it would be positive for me and my life experience. I think that I would like to have a group that is stronger than a support group, but has a little less power than a board of directors. We could work as a group to help me move forward, but everyone could agree to some work or tasks and would be held accountable to the group... but mistakes or life happens and the accountability would be personal and in the group. I wouldn't want harsh accountability or authority because that might make people feel like they should be more accountable to my group then those other people and trials in their lives. That is why (in my opinion) corporations have a board of directors and the rest of us have support groups. Because corporations out of necessity try and get their employees to give everything to them... and that the employee's personal life is very much second. In a support group, everyone is important and your presence and how you feel and your experiences matter. If you are having personal problems that interfere with your attendance or participation in a support group, people are concerned and will try to help. In my experience, if your personal problems affect your job as a board member, you have very little leeway and you are very likely to lose your job or other negative consequences. The idea of creating a unit with traits of both groups is very attractive and I will take some time to think about it.

2011/11/04

The Decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Franks and the State of France

The early relationship between the rulers of the Roman empire and the 'Franks' was not positive- many of their leaders were given to the 'beasts' by the Roman emperors as a lesson and a warning to other Franks who might wish to raid Roman lands. In some of the lands that are now known as the Netherlands and Belgium, the Romans 'gave' the Franks this land to help the Romans protect their borders. For a thousand years there was peace between the Romans and the Franks, but difficulties arose over religion and neither side was willing to compromise. The Franks were pagan and happily so... and as the Roman empire started to collapse, the Franks began to move south in groups to live. When the Roman's needed to find armies to fight Attila the Hun and his armies, Roman leaders happily accepts the Franks and uses their armies to push the Huns back. The Franks help the Roman armies win the war and expect deference and appreciation from the Roman government. Unfortunately, the government seems to have taken the service of the Franks as their entitlement as governmental rulers. Later the Franks and their leaders will simply slowly conquer the Romans as the western empire collapses and take over their lands.

Merovich was a Frank leader (one of many leaders) who led his army of Franks against the Roman's military. He is said to have been descended from a sea god per legend to help give him a more noble and substantial genealogy. He became the first ruler of what would later become known as the Merovingian Dynasty. Merovich was the first leader to help pull several diverse groups of Franks together; to work together, fight together and to ally themselves with each other against other groups such as the Roman empire. Merovich led his army against the Romans at a battle in Tournai and he negotiated a treaty that allows his people to settle into new areas – new to them, the areas had belonged to the western part of the empire. Merovich is able to win more land and more power over time with his armies and, in agreeing to fight Attila the Hun alongside of Rome, King Merovich gives himself and his men an inside view of the Roman armies, better training and equipment and the knowledge and confidence needed to fight the Romans themselves in the future.

The relationship between the Franks and the Roman Empire under Childeric was a little cimplicated? Childeric, also said to have been descended from a sea god, became a king of the Franks and was able to unite a few of different groups of Franks.... despite himself and his poor behavior (he was banished for a short time due to poor behavior with young, beautiful women.) It is not known whether Childeric I was a son or a relative of King Merovich (although the documentary states that Clovis is a grandson of Merovich which would make King Childeric the son of Merovich.) Childeric I becomes a great chieftain and he is seen by Rome as a great ally. The Franks would take over certain areas that were good for growing food and producing stock/animal husbandry. He would fight as an ally with Rome in their continued battles and even though there are a few rulers of the 'Franks', Childeric will stand out from the others by courting Roman favor. He would help Rome fight other barbarian groups to keep the land of Gaul under Roman control and it was Childrec's armies that made it possible for the Rome to beat the Visigoths and keep most of Gaul... just as his father Merovich gave Rome the ability to beat Attila the Hun. Childeric died in 481 after a rule of 24 years. His burial place was discovered in the seventeenth century with lots of objects, jewelry etc... unfortunately, most of the items were stolen and later melted down.

Clovis is the son of King Childeric and he becomes the king upon the death of his father. It must be stressed that even though he received the royal title, there were many groups of Franks and Clovis was only one of many rulers. Clovis was full of ambition and he was truly a traditional Germanic warrior king- his goals were to get treasure and land, gain honor, and subdue people to his will. At the beginning of his rule, Clovis would get along with the Roman government and would curry favor. However, after gathering military and diplomatic ties with other groups of Franks, he would attack and takes over parts of the crumbling Roman empire. Clovis was willing to deal with Roman and Catholic bishops with diplomacy... sometimes using Catholic bishops against Rome itself. Later, he would attack other Frank groups and assimilate them as well as other Roman groups into his control. Clovis gains his eventual one man rule position by carefully eliminating his enemies, using his bravery in battle, and using deceit and treachery to trick others into removing his competitors... he was able to keep his hands clean of those murders and take over leadership of those groups. At one point near the end of his life, Clovis gave a speech lamenting his lack of close loyal kin... he seemed to forget that he had killed or had murdered as many of them as possible to control things himself and to name his own heirs unconstrained. Clovis also recognized that he must build unity in the diversity of the Franks and he was successful in that. Clovis gave those he conquered equal status with the franks giving the 'conquered' good reasons to like him, to fight in his armies, etc... In a sense, he helped to blend the cultures of the Romans and the Franks. He became a Christian and converted the Franks from paganism (there is some debate about this and some historians believe that he originally converted to Arianism from paganism... and then to Catholicism later in life and maybe only three years before his death.). By converting, he brought his new Roman subjects into his rule more cleanly and gained their loyalty faster and he continued to expand his kingdom until his death in 511 CE. His one major mistake is that he didn't spend enough time working on his succession. He ordered his kingdom that he took so many years to gather and unite, divided into four pieces and given to each of his sons in his will.... where the separated pieces fell into civil war, fratricide and bloodshed. His name becomes the early derivative to the name 'Louis' which became the principle name of most of the kings and rulers of France since his time.

There is a saying about this time : “The Franks took a rib out of the old Roman corpse and gave Western Europe its backbone.” This statement describes the consequences of the rule of Clovis and his ambition and success of his legacy. He becomes the founder of the modern French state and his capital is Paris- when he dies, he is buried in Paris at the Church of the Holy Apostles that he had built (an ironic end-note: his sarcophagus was left alone until the time of the French revolution in which it was opened and his ashes scattered to the winds... I find this ironic due to my current studies of the French Revolution. It is like a common 'loop'. :). King Clovis was in many ways a pioneer- he built up the area of Gaul in Europe that(an area that encompasses was is now France as well as parts of modern day Belgium, Italy and Germany) was once one of the most prosperous areas of the Roman empire. By gathering and conquering large areas and claiming it into one single 'state', Clovis and the other early members of the Merovingian dynasty may have been quite violent and in so many ways, terrorists in their time, they were able to gather many people together in a solid group. These people were held together by their leader and by Christianity. This group gave the land a solid and secure status- as much as could be had at that time- giving the people common goals, common religion, and common needs. This solid kingdom would be held together for the most part over the next several decades and centuries.

2011/11/03

“La Revolution Devore Ses Enfants” - The Revolution Devours Its Children

Living in the time and space of a revolution is always a dangerous business. There is the difficultly of picking the right side (which tends to be the winning side), surviving through the death, destruction, and mayhem... and of course figuring out all the new rules and changing your lifestyle and mindset to suit. However, some revolutions last over a period of time that allows the combination of anger, fear, desire for change, passion and blame to spiral into a level of violence, death, and fear that is more than the average war, revolt or revolution. I liken it to a small candle, beautiful and glowing in a light wind on a dry night... and then you throw a few gallons of gasoline on it- not a good idea! :) This was the path that the French Revolution took in the desire for 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.' The candle was lit and gasoline was poured on slowly until the inferno was difficult to control. I would like to analyze the process by which the French Revolution became so radical that, as the saying goes, it “devoured its own children.”

If the process of radicalization must be described in two words, it would be 'fear' and 'anger.' And this emotion touches over all aspects of the revolution causing more and more extreme reactions. While some historians have blamed Enlightenment writers (or 'radical critics' of society) for some of the more extreme behavior, modern historians see these works as only a small piece of the puzzle. Another piece of the puzzle is governmental censorship. In France, censorship was a bit more lenient than other countries and so many documents could be written that criticizes the government... as long as nothing was named and it was discussed as metaphor. This got the majority of French readers studying and discussing 'forbidden' topics which also helped radicalize the very thoughts in the heads of the populace. Paris and the country of France were really at the heart of Enlightenment thinking due to some basic differences between France and the other states of Europe- some differences include religious differences (France had more control over the Catholic Church in its borders than other countries which interesting enough caused only the most extreme and radical forms of Protestantism to come to France), class differences (France was more stratified in class than other European states and the stratification was beginning to weaken and crack), censorship, etc...


When the nobles pressed the king to call for the Estates General to assemble, about 1200 deputies arrived in Versailles for the event. Some of the deputies were already radical and were articulate on the wish for a huge transformation of public life. Deputies from the Third Estate were fearful that they would have no say due to the tradition rules of voting so all members of that caucus as well as a few members from the other estates joined together to stop any discussion unless the the voting rules were changed. Fear of the Third Estates actions by the monarchy and the nobles caused King Louis XVI to lock out the rebelling deputies. Anger at the king's response caused the outside deputies to get together and swear to not leave or be sent home until they had helped France get a new constitution. The delay in getting a new constitution and agreement at the National Assembly caused unrest and frustration in the rest of the country. This frustration bubbled up and with some unknown event, riots broke out and within a month or two, the famous 'storming of the Bastille' in Paris... and the revolution had begun! Riots and uprising in other cities forced local officials to follow the wishes of the rioters... not the king. Royal authority, once it began to dissolve, diminished quickly and the National Assembly held a special session to abolish feudalism and do away with all privileges from that institution. They also wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and set up a constitutional monarchy. Violence would continue as the 'extremes' in the country continued to mistrust the other extremes- Catholics against Protestants, peasants against nobles, etc.... And as violence was 'accepted', it became acceptable. As with all boundaries in life, we as humans push those borders of acceptable behavior... and when a boundary falls, we are more likely to push against the next boundary if we do not acknowledge that a boundary has disappeared. And so, violence not only happened more often, but became more brutal and almost inhuman (the September massacres entered my mind as I thought about this.)

King Louis XVI tried to run with his family to another country to safety, but was unsuccessful. This action broke apart the constitutional monarchy and was the beginning of the end for the National Assembly. Election brought in more of the bourgeois members and fewer nobles and those new members were more likely to want more radical reforms. As more people started to feel that the revolution hadn't actually worked and started pro-royalists groups as well as counterrevolutionary agitation in public, both sides became more and more polarized. The Revolutionaries became fearful of the future of the revolution itself and moved more to the fringes. Unrest in the country stepped up, the National Assembly voted to declare war on Austria, and so any internal descent was now seen as treasonous. Emergency measures were set up, and a new form of government was born called the National Convention. The King was put on trial and the decision to execute him was made- by executing the king, the convention was making a clear statement to the opposition... there was no possibility of compromise. The Montagnards ruled in the Convention, Maximilian ruled the Montagnards and after the development of the Committee of Public Safety... the Reign of Terror had begun. The fear, passion, and anger that the revolutionaries in the National Convention felt towards anyone who might possibly be against the Revolution was focused and turned against the perceived enemies of the state. Anything, any disagreement or difference of opinion could be seen as treasonous... and it is now that the revolution began to 'devour its own children'

In the country, there were many counterrevolutionaries in different cities.... and many people who were tired of the violence, hungry and wanted things to go back to a better space. But at this point, the revolution had lost control. In the National Convention, the Montagnards led by Robespierre and another highly ranking member Georges-Jacques Danton had a difference of opinion. Danton was one of the original revolutionaries and was considered quite the hero, but he was too moderate in the end. He gave a speech in favor of ending the terror and restoring regular legal and civil procedures in January 1794. This disagreement cost Danton his life one month later and gave us the quote mentioned above: the full quote is “the Revolution may soon, like Saturn, devour its own children.” No one was safe once the revolution was out of control and Danton and many of his followers were only the first of the 'children' to be fed to le guillotine. Ironically, Maximilian Robespierre's death on the guillotine was one of the few things that ended the Terror... and help stabilized the revolution and its violence a little bit.

There are quite a few ironies that can be found in the study of the details of this long event. The largest irony is that this movement which was begun in the name of freedom and individual liberty caused so much death and destruction. Another irony is that Maximilian Robespierre, who was an intelligent, passionate advocate of human rights... could have become the main advocate of the Terror (which caused such a large amount of unnecessary bloodshed.) While some things did change for the better, this period of time was a time of fear, anger, terror, passion and bloodshed. Until the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, it would continue.

2011/11/01

2011 Poetry Corner # 3 : The Journey of Recovery

Why so many challenges
I think as I fall
The fall doesn't hurt
The impact breaks all

I struggle to stand
The earth starts to shift
My heart feels torn
My mind feels adrift

How to recover – I do not know
This massive pain
Will it help me grow?

As I recover and life goes on...
Will I feel safe?
Will I ever feel strong?

I will stand up and try to pray
To think nice thoughts throughout the day
And watch for the light that shows the way
To charity, to life, to love secure
All I need is to but endure.

2011/10/27

Social and Political Consequences of the French Revolution

The act that we call the French Revolution was truly a world changing event with both social and political consequences. Attempting to determine whether the revolution was political with social consequences or vice versa can be difficult depending on what you study and whose viewpoint you look at. I really feel from my studies this semester that the French Revolution was a revolution that had both social and political consequences, but wasn't necessarily a political revolution or a social revolution either. There are a few reasons that I believe this to be the case which I will carefully outline. Looking back at the revolution and the changes that it inspired and propelled forward, we can see how some of the changes were quite revolutionary and how many changes were in some ways not really a change at all.

The revolution changed France in some ways politically and in some ways kept a bit of the status quo... just under different labels. Early supporters of the revolution did use an excuse that was political in nature for the revolt: that excuse was that power was monopolized in the form of a king and a corrupt and despotic system of government. This really appears to have been either an excuse or an incorrect perception as the reality of the governmental system was not that clean cut. Centuries before the revolution, the poor and disabled had been taken care of by the Catholic church. Many local governmental functions and education of those born to the upper and middle classes was also usually paid for by the church. In the years preceding the revolution, many of those jobs began to be taken on by the French monarchy instead of the church. This brought not only extra expenses, but with the ever growing and expanding populations... even more people who would need relief in emergencies such as famine. The government already had huge money issues due to costly rivalries with other countries (which included funding the American bid for Independence against England) and the monarch's inability to budget the governmental finances appropriately. The royal government had really developed a centralized administrative system that in theory was more streamlined than any other European countries, but in practice it was not smooth and didn't take into account laws from the smaller areas which might not agree with the 'national' laws. Before the Revolution, the monarchy had absolute control over the use of the military, development and implementation of law, and the collection and spending of public money.

With the coming Revolution, the monarchy was gradually removed from power. The National Assembly in 1791 set up a new regime which was a constitutional monarchy- this lasted only ten months. The next governing group was the National Convention whose members were called Jacobins, but that particular group splintered into other groups of like minded individuals that formed their own 'political parties'- the Montagnards and Girondins and also the San-culottes. The king and his family were imprisoned and then in late 1792 King Louis XVI was convicted of treason and executed early in the new year. The new government was now fully run by the National Convention... which was controlled by its largest and most powerful faction called the Montagnards... which was lead by Maximilian Robespierre. The country was then ruled by this man and a 'committee' that Robespierre and the Convention developed to attempt to stop the counter revolution... because by this time not everyone was satisfied with the path that the government was starting to tread. This group, known as the Committee of Public Safety, was charged with setting up revolutionary courts and executing criminals and anyone deemed treasonous or disloyal to the French state and/or the Revolution. This began the Reign of Terror and around 40,000 people were put to death by the guillotine- this included governmental leaders from the convention that didn't agree with Robespierre, women, and simple dissatisfied citizens. By 1794, the policy of 'Terror' had alienated so many people and Convention members that their leader, Maximilian Robespierre, was convicted of treason and, after a failed suicide attempt, he was put to death in July 1974.

The government was then run by the Convention which put down more uprisings with the help of the Army, tried to end the country's war with Spain and Prussia, produced a new constitution and developed a form of leadership called The Directory-it was a five man executive governing council. A two house-legislative assembly was developed and democratic elections were set up, however, the National Convention set up some rules in the new system to favor themselves and rioting began again. The government was ideological divided between members who wanted to bring the monarchy back and those who wanted even more democracy.
When The Directory realized that royalist supporters were becoming the majority in the government, they turned to a general named Napoleon Bonaparte for help. After elections, Bonaparte with the help of another general and large forces of soldiers, helped to take over the government. In this forced takeover, two members of the Dictators were removed, most of the election results were annulled, and power fell literally into the hands of a few members of the National Convention. This led to a fairly ineffective dictatorship until 1799 when a few members of the Convention chose Napoleon Bonaparte to be their leader- when a large amount of Convention members resisted, Bonaparte used the army to effectively take over and become the dictator of France.

So politically, many things didn't really change if you look at the situation with a wide angled lens. The Revolution threw out the absolute monarchy and executed their king... and then accepted Robespierre as almost a one man leader. Robespierre, known as 'the Incorruptible', was eventually thrown out and executed... so that power was transferred to a group of five called the Directory. When the five members of the Directory couldn't agree on public policy, Napoleon Bonaparte was brought in and two members were thrown out. Then, after some time and more infighting, Napoleon Bonaparte effectively took over and became a one man leader- by 1804, he was named hereditary emperor. No matter who was in charge, the government tended to be in many ways reactionary and would perform actions that were some of the people's biggest complaints under the governmental system before the Revolution; arrest warrants of any one without meaningful trials, government appointed and not
democratically elected leaders, special privileges to small percentage of the population, etc... So, while some things changed politically in France, many things remained close to the original status quo... only changing slightly as time moved forward and the society and government was stabilized.

French Society changed a bit in its social structure and culture with in the revolution. Before the revolution, every citizen from the poorest peasant to the wealthiest noble believed that they had rights and privileges that should be defended and this view was strengthened with the behavior and beliefs of the members of parlements... behavior that was unable to be controlled by the monarch due to the permanent circumstances of the parlement judges. Some of these thoughts came from ideas that became popular during the Enlightenment- a period of time where ideas on tradition, science, human reason and ability as well as religion changed and shifted in the minds of many. (And Paris was said to be the 'heart' of the Enlightenment movement.) Education became more important and more and more people were educated, literate and able to better participate in the world and politics around them. In short, most enlightenment thought was based on differing ideas of freedom and liberty... and was fairly secular in nature. French society had social divisions based on class as well as special privileges that came with belonging to different groups; the clergy and nobility enjoyed exemption from most taxes and many positions in the government were reserved for those of noble birth... or those who were wealthy enough to purchase a title.

With the beginning of the revolution, many changes to French society were attempted. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was discussed and written by the National Assembly. This document was an attempt to write out the hoped for rules for the new government; they included man's natural rights to their liberty, personal property, security, equal treatment under the law, etc... All of these ideas were revolutionary for their time. The privileges of special groups, such as the nobles or the clergy, which had been hereditary and traditional, were attacked and changed under reform. The laws of property ownership were changed and idea of private property was more respected and protected by law from extra fees and eminent property rights. Women, who had been excluded from politics in pre-revolution days, became open participators in political groups and societal change in the beginning of the revolution. Voting rights were given to all citizens by the Declaration. Divorce and marriage became state institutions and were no longer governed fully by the Catholic Church. Numerous constitutions were written to protect people and property from the government by guaranteeing rights, elections, etc... The Declaration also included the right of Freedom of Speech which was supposed to help end censorship and fear in oral and written expression.

However, many of the above mentioned changes were not necessarily constant or unchanging in themselves. While the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen declared man's natural rights to many things, the document was vague enough that its interpretation was actually quite limiting over time. The word 'man' in the document was usually interpreted to not include women and any gender minorities (Africans and Jews). This interpretation was so consistent that it caused on female writer to 'rewrite' the declaration and title it The Declaration of the Rights of Woman. Women were later excluded from much participation in politics by government bans on the ways they participated. Voting rights quickly became exclusive and limited to the small majority of property owners- Robespierre was quoted as saying “Can the law be termed an expression of general will when the greater number of those for whom it is made can have no hand in its making?” The National Convention and The Directory would openly violate the constitutional protections many times over their rule. Robespierre and the beginning of the Terror would put a large damper on all rights to free speech or expression... unless you were willing to die for your words.

So the revolution started with the dissatisfaction of the nobles which caused the King to call the Estates General into session, but then the revolution left the hands of the aristocracy and titled elite and the leading roles in events were handled by the bourgeoisie and the lower classes. With the dissatisfaction of the Third Estate and the King with the Estates General, the general dissatisfaction became a bit of class warfare and distrust. The appearance of the monarchy siding with the noble classes made the break between the groups even more hostile. Add a famine, rising bread costs and riots began to break out. Then the Bastille was rioted and captured by members of the third estate and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was completed. A constitutional monarchy was set up, abolished and then governmental rule by the National Convention and the 'Committee for Public Safety'- or, in actuality, rule by Maximilian Robespierre. After his 'overthrow', governmental power was held in the hands of five men who were known as the Directory and the National Convention, but in a short period of time we see power moving again to one man in the form of Napoleon Bonaparte. France had gone through many attempts at political and society change, but few were immediately lasting. Most social and political change really took time-such as decades- to really cement themselves into the culture, mindset, and behavior of the people of France. Some of these 'revolutionary' changes appear to have only really been possible to thrive in an environment that was not 'revolutionary'- i.e. an environment that was stable and relatively constant. The only thing constant about the politics and the society of the French Revolution was its inconsistency, reactionary manner, and fear. The National Assembly, National Convention, the several Constitutions... all of these were born in crisis and finding the way out of crisis seemed nearly impossible. Only with the coming of some forms of governmental stability did France have the lasting change that it had wished for early on causing the French Revolution.

2011/10/26

C.S. Lewis : A Life Comparison

While thinking of leaders that inspire me, I immediately thought of many popular ones- Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela... the current leaders that have a great deal of well deserved good press. When I caught my thoughts, I laughed that I had thought of only well known and popular leaders... and then an image of Tiger Woods flew into my head and I started to giggle- I think that he left his 'moral compass' a few times in a hotel room. :D I decided that I really needed to step back and instead of just looking for someone in a 'leadership position' that inspired me, I needed to think about the values and principles that inspire me and then take the time to think about specific individuals. During this mindful process, only one name really came to mind. For this exploration into my leadership skills and values, I wish to explore and examine the life story and values of C.S. Lewis.

Once the image of this person entered my mind, I will admit I couldn't imagine using anyone else. C.S. Lewis had been a part of my life through his written works- from the age of eight when I began devouring the 'Chronicles of Narnia' and really building an understanding of my world... to my current life experiences where I am studying and discovering ways to understand the current fear and grief that I feel in my life by studying his work 'A Grief Observed.' The more I learn about him and his life story, the more opportunities that I have found to really look at myself and how I view the world. I agree very untruth to state that in many ways over the years, his writings have shaped my thoughts and beliefs. (That said, Mr. Lewis says almost nothing that doesn't agree or fit in with the religion I grew up with... so where that religious training and his (Lewis) influence begins and ends... I cannot really be sure.) This assignment seemed like an excellent excuse to study more about C.S. Lewis... and about myself. I intend to discuss parts of his life story and values and then describe how and what they mean to me and what I have learned from him and his story.


Mr. Lewis didn't have a idyllic childhood and he had a bit of difficulty with trials when he was growing up. He was close to his mother who died of cancer when he was nine years old. His father then immediately sent him to an English boarding school that he hated. This was a struggle for him especially as a young child to basically lose both of his parents- his mom to death and his father to distance, broken trust, and anger. While my experience was different in the physical details, many of the emotional details are similar. Both of my parents are still alive, but in many ways they might as well be deceased. I was born to deeply religious parents and I am the oldest of five children. Things were never very good in my childhood memory as my mother was always frantic, angry and things I cannot adequately describe. For six months when I was twelve, my childhood was good... or at least calmer and different. My mother was diagnosed with XXXXXXXXXX and was on heavy tranquilizers for that time (I know the diagnosis from the whispers- I can not swear it's correct. This was a time when lots of stuff had that particular label) She was kind and she smiled a lot and I only remember feeling fairly safe and sort of hopeful. When it comes to my family I have not felt that since that brief period of time. After six months, my mother decided there was nothing wrong with her, stopped the meds and has continued on an angry, manipulative, controlling manic path ever since. My father appears to have avoided the house and the family like the plague and so I felt trapped, angry, sorrowful, and I learned to hide, push back, and struggle on my own. I learned to lie, and do what ever it took to survive- within reason as I never tried prostitution- I think that requires a level of confidence and trust and a little more self disgust than I actually have. :) In many ways, C.S. Lewis took the right path- he believed in himself and found it acceptable to question everything. It didn't hurt to question, it didn't make him feel weak to question... he used it to build himself up, to improve his mind and confidence in his abilities and understanding of life and himself. What I can learn from him is that you can allow yourself to grow from adversity, you can be successful and a good person no matter what the trials of your childhood. He was able to build a relationship with his father over time that wasn't perfect, but was 'good'. That took risk, tolerance and an understanding of himself and human nature that wasn't his alone. I can have that gift too- I just need to want it, to actively work towards it, and to cut myself some slack when I stumble... because if I don't, I will continue to be unwilling to take risks and will only continue to be scared, confused, and closed up. Listening and reading about his early years inspires me to try and rework my story and to discover the good depths inside my early life, even if it is only the understanding of it and the hope for better and the drive to find joy now... and to give joy to others.

When C.S. Lewis was a young man, he studied and discovered his Christian faith. Because of his intense and questioning journey to faith, his faith became quite strong and became a part of everything he did. His faith infused all aspects of his life, including his quiet works of charity, his writing and his married life. I admire his intense struggle to find faith as many people do not or are not able to struggle enough to find this. I admire his openness about his beliefs and his religion- his 'no fear' attitude about sharing it with not only close friends, but anyone. As I have looked at his example and been able to really explore and learn about my faith, I have become braver about expressing my faith in ways I didn't feel comfortable doing before. An example is that I feel comfortable telling people the truth about why I do not drink alcohol now - that it's against my religion- and not just try to deflect the question or attempt to make sure I am never in a situation in which the question might come up... or even pretend to drink some so that I look like everyone else. His example has helped me to feel more motivated to learn about my faith so that not only do I understand what I believe in, but I feel more secure and confident in living what I believe. Both Lewis and myself believed in charity and service and that is an aspect of my life that is very important to me. While Lewis usually gave money and gave about 50% of all of his book profits to charity, I will admit that I tend to give 'sweat'... as I do not have a lot of money. I volunteer for the local animal shelter once a month, the local food bank twice a week, and I help people who ask for it during other times, including free babysitting, church volunteer work, and rides and shopping for people who are in need. This is a very important aspect of my life and I think that I wouldn't be a very good person without these opportunities. I learn so much about other people and I gain access to information and understanding that you cannot just get from a book or from chatting with someone. Service is something that feels good and feels even better if people do not know about it... it becomes a pearl of joy and a smile in my heart. So while I cannot give in the same way that he did, I have discovered that I can give... and I do have lots to give! I have learned more about my faith, gained understanding of other human beings and tolerance in general. I have also learned an important lesson from him in that when he taught about Christian ideas, C.S. Lewis stayed with very basic doctrines and didn't get political or so specific that people could feel angry or offended or left out. I think that this is a really important concept and few people are able or have been able to accomplish this when discussing divisive topics. He was able to work to bring people together in faith... and not just become another individual whose works divide and hurt people. Learning from him- even though he is not of my particular sect- has made my journey more fruitful, gives me ways to understand others and an example of how to work with people better; to find the common ground with others and to work from there. Even in as divisive a topic as Christianity and religion, he was able to do this... so there is no reason that I cannot. I just need to keep working on the idea and how I approach and see others in body language and in speech.

It probably comes as no surprise to many that C.S. Lewis was a prolific writer. However, while he wrote Christian apologist works, he wrote pieces and books that were successful in many different genres. (Some of his popular books actually started out as speeches that he gave.) However, his dream was to write poetry and that was how he started his writing career. His poetry was not popular and few people read it today. However, he didn't allow the disappointment of his career in poetry to hold him down. As he also liked writing, he dabbled his hand in that- and no one can truthfully say that he was unsuccessful in that regard! I really believe that his writings have literally shaped and changed my life. I love writing and I hope that I am pretty good at it, but my first love really is poetry and while I write it... I am not very good at it. Something that Mr. Lewis and I have in common... along with the fact that we are both horrendous at math. :) Over the last two years, I have tried to share my writing talents with others in a way that felt 'safe' for me and I have done that by blogging anonymously as 'Badgerdown'. I started my own blog and I think it is unique from many blogs in the way that I write about almost everything and anything- I have even shared my poetry on it. I measure success a little differently than the writing success of Mr. Lewis... whose novels, nonfiction and even the mass of correspondence with friends and fans are almost legend to those who knew and study him. I am writing which is something that I really enjoy. And, by blogging, I am learning to express myself not only through my writing but how to express myself to others. I have tried to write about things that I don't understand and learned how to research so that I do develop some true understanding. And in learning how to research I too have really been able to explore my faith and what I believe... and really determine why I believe what I do. Writing has helped me to be more successful in my self introspection and in learning to communicate better with other people. And seeing someone be so successful at writing and in living his faith is inspiring to me and makes me feel motivated to try harder to be successful myself. I want to write a book and I have started collecting research on the Spanish Civil War which is a topic that I am interested in – not sure how many other people are interested though. :D I feel successful at writing because I feel more confident as I continue, my blog gives me an unknown audience from around the world (literally), and I learn so much which is a joy for me and is part of what makes me feel like I am successful. Writing was not something I imagined that I could do successfully as an adult and while I may never really make money from it, this author's example and dedication have shown me that I can but try. And while trying, I think I have done a pretty good job!

One last similarity that I have found and thought I would discuss was the loss of of marital partners. C.S. Lewis married Joy Gresham and when they were married he knew she was dying of cancer. That didn't change his grief and anger at her death. In his struggle, he wrote a journal that became a book about grief. That book has really helped me to find a voice and an understanding of my current grief. I have not lost my husband to death or to cancer- I have lost him to his depression and through the stresses of raising a special needs child and my failures. I have found that many of my feelings seem to be the same as the ones that Lewis describes.8 I feel anger at the unfairness of it all, grief for my loss, fear over the future, uncertainty about how to precede... and a discomfort around others who do not understand. His words, while making me cry, also lift me up. I feel so much less alone and I see that it is possible to get through grief... it is simply a stage of life and a growing experience. Time does go on and it is possible to work within my self and my faith to rise to the challenge. I feel less alone as others have tread the path of my emotions (which at times lately feel bi-polar) and they have survived... Lewis describes getting through grief as a person who has lost a limb- even with help they will not be the same ever again. And I agree with him. I will never view life or its challenges in the same way that I did before. In some ways I feel like I have lost the most important part of myself and I do not see that any replacement could be as good or even as wonderful as my original 'limb'. But I will still have enough to move on with... I will still have the capacity for joy... I will still have the world and my friends and my faith to sustain me.

In conclusion, I think I have shown many of the reason that C.S. Lewis has been such an inspiration and motivating force in my life. While I have not taken the time to show all the parallels I saw between the two of us, I have tried to highlight the most important ones to me. This exercise was helpful to me in a few ways. One way is that I was able to articulate some things that I do not chat about with almost anyone... that is a different experience for me. I also enjoyed the opportunity to really study someone that I admire and to learn more about his life and not just 'selfishly' stick to contemplating, devouring and consuming his thoughts. Thank you for this assignment and I hope that I have completed it well.

2011/10/25

Highlights from my Summer

Boy, this has been a crazy year... for me at least. But even with the yuckiness and the trials that have caused me much distraction and grief, I have had some brief moments of awe and joy. I thought I would share a few and it comes as no surprise to me that most of these moments contained animals or nature in them. So here they are:

1. I got to spend a bit of time weeding this summer for some extra money. The time out in the sun was wonderful and I got to really see a few fun things. I got to see a monarch butterfly,







The longest worm ever!





Small juvenile foxes running along the road looking for food....











Frogs with amazing voices- loud and clear!












Large spiders just hanging out in midair....











Huge amounts of ants and pupae moving along the ground....












Tiny toads in the grass.










Newts hiding in the grass and the wet












And the smallest slug I have ever seen in my life!













A few things were really memorable and remind me why I live in a rural area. I saw:

a hidden duck nest















huge blossoming plants of daisies... they are my favorite flower!











Seals near the shore where I was working. They would come several morning in a row and just play in the surf and the shallows. It was beautiful and I am sorry that I wasn't able to get a picture except for the disturbance in the water after the seal have reentered the water.












The pasture that I have been trying to grow is doing very well... almost too well as the plants grow so quickly and thick that I do not keep up and I end up with grasses and flowers as tall if not taller than me.











I had some of the priesthood over to cut wood late this summer and it was such a blessing. It was also amazing to see how much wood so many of them would carry at once. It makes me smile. :)













Bug had a great summer. Our blackberry bushes were abundant and he enjoyed filling large containers of berries.
















Bug also experimented with making donuts and I was the happy recipient of his labors. He happily fed me donuts until I didn't feel like I could eat any more. It was wonderful!









How was your summer? Do you have an experience that was wonderful and inspiring that you would like to share? What blessings did you have?