War & Peace Notes #2

Well, writing every day hasn’t been going very well lately! How can I make sure I leave time for this? I’m overwhelmed with what I want to do and need to schedule the time and stick to it.

I’m still madly in love with this book! Not since “Pride & Prejudice” have I yelled out loud while reading a book. I’m amazed that everyone has not read it. On to my notes!

Page 155 “you think it’s very easy to capture marshals while sitting on a sofa in front of a fireplace.” That needs no explanation.

Page 156 Prince Andrei is starting to see what a little part he plays in the grand scheme of things. He comes to Brunn to report about his troop’s victory and finds that no one really cares. There are bigger things going on. Lost in our own world, we tend to forget that the world is large. In the grand scheme of things, no one cares or is affected by your taxes going up or your voting in a new mayor. It’s only important to you.

Page 174-175 “The further ahead he moved, the closer to the enemy, the more orderly and cheerful the troops looked.” “All the faces were as calm as though everything was happening not in view of the enemy, prior to an action in which half the division would be left in the field, but somewhere in their home country, in expectation of a peaceful stay.” When I read this I noted that maybe just how we all react in a crisis but reading farther on, I believe they are calm because there is no question about what they need to do. Further from the front line there is less to do and more time to kill. The soldiers are most comfortable when they have no choices to make.

Page 178 “I say that if it were possible to know what there will be after death, none of us would be afraid of death.” My thoughts exactly. I also heard that it isn’t death we are afraid of but dying itself because it might be painful. We’re really afraid of pain. They were talking about it in “All’s Quiet On the Western Front”.

Page 190 “…the thought that he, an exemplary officer, with many years of service, to blame for nothing, might be blamed before his superiors for negligence of inefficiency, struck him so much that, at the same moment, forgetting both the disobedient cavalry colonel and his own dignity as a general, and above all totally forgetting danger and the sense of self-preservation, he gripped the pommel, spurred his horse, and galloped off to his regiment under a hail of bullets…” Not a very noble picture of war. I’m starting to get the idea that Tolstoy is not a big fan of war or the military.

Page 199 Prince Andrei is becoming disillusioned with the military service he dreamed about. Officer’s lying to save their hides and throwing subordinates under the bus. It’s so sad to watch his feelings turn. You can almost touch it.

That’s all I have today since I’m rushing. Sigh. I need to block my time better in the morning but my son is sick and wanted to watch a movie and make cookies. How can I refuse my giant teenage babies?!

“War & Peace” – Part 1

I started reading “War & Peace” by Leo Tolstoy on December 18th. It’s been on my reading list for years but I’ve been putting off because, well, it’s Tolstoy and it’s 1200 pages long! I’ve been so pleasantly surprised since I started reading it. It’s wonderful and I’ve been sucked into the story, not wanting to put it down. The thing that has really helped me most is the list of characters and their relationships at the front of the book. I keep flipping back to it to remember who is who. Keeping track of who is doing what in a book this long and with each character having several names, has been the hardest part of reading it, but the story is amazing!

I’ll be writing about the book all this month but I thought I’d start now with a couple of very interesting quotes.

Here’s the first one! It’s from Volume One, Part One, II. They are at a party.

“For Pierre, brought up abroad, this soiree of Anna Pavlovna’s was the first he had seen in Russia. He knew that all the intelligentsia of Petersburg was gathered there, and, like a child in a toy shop, he looked everywhere at once. He kept fearing to miss intelligent conversations that he might have listened to. Looking at the self-assured and elegant expressions on the faces gathered here, he kept expecting something especially intelligent. Finally, he went up to Morio. The conversation seemed interesting to him, and he stopped, waiting for a chance to voice his thoughts, as young people like to do.”

I can see my older son doing just this at a party. I only hope he gets the chance to move in circles where the topics range farther than how many times the mailboxes have been broken into and what new fast-food chain is opening in town.

Natasha is a young girl with her doll who enters the party chased by her sisters and brother into her mother’s arms. A woman speaking with her mother asked her a question about her doll.

“Natasha did not like the condescension to childish talk in which the guest addressed her. She made no reply and gave the guest a serious look.”

I’ve gotten this look from one of my nephew’s. Children don’t appreciate being talked to differently than adults. I’ve learned my lesson and never assume anything. I treat children as I would any adult that came into my presence.

“Up to now, thank God, I’ve been a friend to my children and have enjoyed their full trust,” said the countess, repeating the error of many parents who suppose that their children have no secrets from them.”

Of course, they do! No matter how close you are with someone, you always have secrets. Some things are just private. We need to respect that, even with children, and know they will have some secrets but be there when they want help with them.

I’m loving this part of the book. You could call it “Parenting With Tolstoy”!

“Well, so you see, if I were strict with her, if I forbade her…God knows what they’d do on the sly…”

and

“One is always too clever with the older children, wanting to do something extraordinary,”

And here’s one that makes me think of “A Thomas Jefferson Education”. It’s a dream I had when my boys were little that never manifested itself other than the reading aloud part.

“On entering the drawing room, where the princesses were usually to be found, he greeted the ladies, who were sitting over their embroidery and a book, which one of them was reading aloud.”

And how’s this for an attitude to have?

“I’ve got four sons in the army, and I’m not grieving. It’s all God’s will: you can die in your sleep, and God can spare you in battle,”

That’s the attitude I try to have about my sons. You have to do what you love, what fuels you. You can’t just hold them at home and keep them safe forever.

There’s so much humanity in this book that never changes. It warms my heart to read about society, politics, wars, and families from the distant past. It shows me that there is continuity. It’s not currently the end of the world.

Here’s some from Part Two.

“The halted infantry soldiers, crowding in the trampled mud by the bridge, gazed at the clean, foppish hussars going past them in order, with that special feeling of ill will, alienation, and mockery with which different branches of the military usually meet each other.”

I’ll leave you with this because it’s just so classic. It could have been written in a modern novel about politicians.

“Bilibin’s conversation was constantly sprinkled with wittily original and well-turned phrases of general interest. These phrases were manufactured in Bilibin’s inner laboratory, as if intentionally of a portable nature, so that society nonentities could readily remember them and pass them on from drawing room to drawing room.”

You know, stuff you can share on Facebook!

Longing for Real Education

When I was in college at the University of LaVerne, we did “The Threepenny Opera”. I remember building the set and painting it. I was very proud of that set. There were some catchy tunes in the show as well, that I still hear once in a while and smile at the memory of the production. But I don’t remember learning anything about the play, its authors, or its history. I remember learning about production work; designing, painting, lighting. I remember hearing the performance classes in the hall as I painted and set light angles. But I don’t remember really reading the play and understanding where it came from and what it was meant to portray. It came up in a book I’m reading today and it sounds so fascinating. I’m a tad disappointed at my short college experience once again.

I wasn’t planning on going to college but during my senior year of high school, our theater department participated in a university contest of sorts. Everyone brought their best work and entered it in several different divisions. This was the first one I’d been to that had a division for “design” which was what I was primarily interested in. I won first place that weekend and fell in love with the campus and the theater department there. The next year I was enrolled and looking forward to “real” education far beyond the boring and repetitive stuff we were learning (again) in public high school.

One year into university life and I was bitterly disappointed. The same old “general education” classes, taught the same way. The only good part was the freedom I had in the larger theater realm. I went for one more semester and dropped out when I got a part-time job at Knott’s in their Entertainment Department. That proved to be a great move on my part, contrary to the naysayers around me.

What I did miss was the chance at a “liberal education”. I wanted to read philosophy, learn more history, biography, and art. I wanted to read the classics and discuss them with people that were yearning to learn more about the world as well. All I got was training. Theater was a great creative outlet and we did have some awesome discussions in my theater history class, but other than that I was stuck in math, grammar, and basic history filled with dates of wars and political wins and losses. I was bored, so I left.

Here I am twenty-five years later just scratching the surface of classic literature and philosophy with no one to sit and talk to about it. I think that’s the one thing I’d love to snap my fingers and have in my life; a community of open-minded learners to sit and discuss books and ideas with over coffee and pie.

Family

From “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom

“In family questions, inasmuch as men were understood to be so strongly motivated by property, an older wisdom tried to attach concern for the family to that motive: the man was allowed and encouraged to regard his family as his property, so he would care for the former as he would instinctively care for the latter. This was effective, although it obviously had disadvantages from the point of view of justice. When wives and children come to the husband and father and say, “We are not your property; we are ends in ourselves and demand to be treated as such,” the anonymous observer cannot help being impressed. But the difficulty comes when wives and children further demand that the man continue to care for them as before, just when they are giving an example of caring for themselves. They object to the father’s flawed motive and ask that it be miraculously replaced by a pure one, of which they wish to make use for their own ends. The father will almost inevitably constrict his quest for property, cease being a father and become a mere man again, rather than turning into a providential God, as others ask him to be.”

He’s also not saying we should go back to the idea of women and children as property, but he has a point. They system worked in its way. It satisfied one natural need and we can’t just discard it like rubbish and expect to have the same outcomes of secure families. I guess what people think is that secure family attachments aren’t necessary. Mother’s aren’t exactly necessary to children to grow up in the world and become functioning citizens. Father’s aren’t necessary. It all seems so bizarre to me really because I’m a Mother and Wife. I don’t feel owned by my husband as property. I feel protected and respected for my role in our family. I don’t think my husband feels used as a provider of income. I feel like we work as a team. Hmm…Something is wrong in this world, though. Families aren’t the strength they used to be. We keep the older generation out of the current and the younger generation away from the home. Husbands and wives act as independent machines. It all seems to be going nowhere and no one is happy anymore.

This chapter has been very good to read. There is a lot about the equality of men and women, how things have changed (up until the late 80’s when this was written), and the political/social forces behind the change. Reading it I wonder if things are different now in the colleges and universities. Are entering students worse or better off? From what I see around me, I think it’s worse or at least things have run the natural course they were taking 30 years ago.

What will happen to humanity if we keep insisting that biology doesn’t exist and that we must all be independent citizens of a state instead of interdependent members of a family? It brings to mind the other book I’m reading at the moment, “Kallocain” by Karin Boye. The family situation in that dystopian novel is frightening.

Another Book Started

I started reading “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom this morning. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years along with several others and I’ve finally had the self-control to stop buying new books that draw my eye and read the ones I’ve already got on my “to -read” shelf! As I started to read it I wondered if I really should right now. Will it only depress me? Or will I be inspired to continue my own education further and encourage my sons to do so as well by my example? I’m going to go with inspired for now and see what happens!

The book was written in 1987 and I wondered two things as I read the preface. First of all, I wonder if any of our politicians today have a real “liberal education”. It seems to me that college no longer has the goal of making better people and has become a job training facility. We have children raised in institutions from near birth, completely cut off from the real world, that are now continuing on into college that they believe should be paid for by the government to get good jobs. Few, if any, even ask the question “What is man?” in any serious way. It’s so sad to me because we live in a time when free access to literature and classical writing, along with easy access to conversations with others about those topics is at its height. We don’t really need to spend a ton of money to become liberally educated but yet no one really wants it. Instead, they want free job training, which they could have gotten for free by just picking a career and interning while they learn it.

It all seems so backward. Will this book help me to learn how it got that way? Or whether or not we can change it?

Book Use

I’ve a lot to write about but I got a bit behind this past week and haven’t been putting aside time to write each day. I get sidetracked by life and then give up on everything for a bit. I’m back and I’m not going to beat myself up about taking a break from my routines. I’m just going to go back to it, like the breath during meditation.

I started reading “The Anatomy of Peace” yesterday. I read it four years ago and was pulled to the title on my shelf again, so here I am. I’m so glad I am. The book was an assignment when I was taking a “Classic Mom’s” online class and I really liked it. When I pulled the book off the shelf again I couldn’t have told you what it was really about. As I started to read it, it all came back to me. I’ve loved reading the notes I made in the book last time I read it. In all my books I mark them where I find something interesting and write about it on a folded piece of copy paper I keep in the book as a marker. That paper goes into a file when I’m done reading the book and I write the date I read the book on the inside cover. If I want to see my notes, I just need to go to the file and find it. I’m glad I did this time! Much of what I’m reading now I wouldn’t have been able to tell you was in the book but I have incorporated many of the ideas into my life the past several years and now the ideas are fairly obvious to me. When I read it the first time, I tended to scoff at it when I started the book but could see where the ideas would be helpful by the time I finished it and the discussion afterward.

The basic premise is looking at people as if they are people, not objects to be manipulated. When someone drives up behind you and then passes you, do you wonder where that person is off to in such a hurry and hope they get there safely? Or do you shake your head and be angry that they made you slow down before the turn? Are the humans that live in your house with you people with their own needs, wants, and desires, separate from yours? Or are they tools to get the housework done and boost your ego? The best part of the book is that it isn’t written like a typical help book, with diagrams and inspiring quotes. It’s written as a story about a group of people helping their children through some tough times and getting through some of their own. I love reading it not only because of the useful message but because it has reminded me that the books I read every day aren’t lost just because I can’t remember the details, or even that I’ve read them sometimes. Their message has changed my heart and mind, and I use those ideas even though I can’t point out where I got them. It makes me think of what my children learn and use every day without anyone teaching them and making them take tests to prove what they have learned.

A Woman’s Role?

Yesterday, I started reading a very interesting book I found at the used bookstore in town. I love books about science and the bible, trying to reconcile spiritual matters with the physical. They intrigue me and this one has not disappointed me! It’s called “The Genesis Question – Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis” by Hugh Ross.

Here’s what I came across today that I really found fascinating and then had to go dig deeper online…well, as much as I could today anyway. I tend to get very excited about some topic and spend about thirty minutes googling and reading, but then have to get back to taking care of my family. I’ve got housework to keep up, people! Can’t just sit around reading all day!

Concerning Eve’s designation as “helper”, “’Ezer is the Hebrew word for “helper” in Genesis 2:18, 20. The Hebrews used this word with reference to a military ally (see, for example, 2 Chronicles 28:16 and Psalms 121:1-2), and all that is essential for victory.”

“Together, Adam and Eve, men and women, can conquer. Divided and embattled, they fail.”

And it’s true. 2 Chronicles 28:16 is when King Ahaz sends for help (ozr) and Psalms 121:1-2 is “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help (ozr) come? My help (ozr) comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” After a bit of research, I found that ozr and ezer are the same thing. It just depends on who’s writing it since it’s a transliteration.

Interesting. Right? So what happened? How come our Bibles say “helper”, “helpmeet”, or “similar helper”? Why do they not say “an ally”? It just means something totally different. Then I wonder well, if you really study it and cross reference like this guy did, then you’d see that the word is used in other contexts to mean “an ally” not just a “helper”. But then I wonder why the pastor wouldn’t fill us in on this instead of telling the congregation that wives are only “helpers”, not that that isn’t a pretty important role! But “ally” kind of implies a bit more, doesn’t it? So I Googled again and found another interesting read.

It’s called “Eden’s Mystery Job Description” I like this guys style, probably because it’s written like a train of thought but with more details. It’s something I aspire to do! He pointed out that in the Hebrew, Genesis 2:18 has another word after ozr that isn’t in anyone’s translation. It’s transliterated to mean “in front of him” but then it’s just dropped off in everyone’s translation. Why? What happened? When I say “God created a helper for Adam.” it seems to mean something completely different from “God created a helper in front of Adam.” Sounds weird but it could mean a lot of things.

I’ve got more reading to do about this and I’ll probably come back to it in twenty years because that’s how I do things, but I have to say right now, what better way for Satan to divide God’s creation against itself than to get someone to drop a few words out of a translation and put one conscious part of His creation above another and tell that part that God says you have to be submissive and take your husband’s lead in all things instead of partnering and becoming his ally. Sounds a lot like what Satan did in the garden. God didn’t really mean you’d DIE if you ate that fruit, did he?

Look where we are now. I know so few people that are actually partners with their spouse. They mostly seem as though they only tolerate each other at best, even Christian families. Was this Satan doing?