Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Very Mary Sunday

First off, (I mean after the usual Sunday stuff, like translating for Natalia, a Russian sister in the family ward Relief Society), I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting. Don't get me wrong--not a problem. I love public speaking. This time, though, in addition to just mulling and then writing and outline and then winging it from the pulpit, I decided to try something new and actually write the talk down. Once, when I was a sophomore, someone asked me for a copy of my talk and I was obliged to admit that it was notes on a napkin. Not that I'm cocky enough to expect my 10 minute talk to go into circulation, but I wondered if I might experiment with the Spirit and seek the right words at my kitchen table in front of a computer, instead of the chapel in front of the congregation. Granted, this took a lot more time, hemming and reading aloud, trying to figure out the correct diction, but the plus side was, when, after the first speaker rambled just a little, the second speaker (who was actually quite remarkable and--I might add--working from an outline on a scratch piece of paper) went and then we sang all verses of "I Believe in Christ" and there was a high councilman on the stand who might be announced as a surprise speaker at all times, I was glad to have an excuse to stick to the length I had prepared.

It went well. I tried not to just read, but look up, and I did almost cry, but hopefully I didn't come across as overly emotional and afterwords, everyone told me how much they liked it. I never know what to say. "Thank you," of course, but then, I prayed a lot and I care about the subject--home and visiting teaching. So I tried to say something like, "Well, I worry about it." Home and visiting teaching, that is, and not speaking in church. Of course this leaves all my visiting teachees to feel like now I need to deliver the goods.

Then Sunday School where I tried desperately not to talk too much without looking like I wasn't supporting the teacher. Hard balance to walk.

Then Relief Society, where I wasn't anxious at all about the long announcements--for this one, too, I had prayed and prepared, but I was expecting plenty of sharing. Mostly we just read the story of the creation, shared what things we had done this week that we could "see it was good," and then I read a quote from Elder Holland's most recent conference address. I gave them a handout with "homework" encouraging them to see what they're doing right and not get overwhelmed and bore the testimony I had, although a little conscious of how often I've done this already. Then we moved the chairs back out of a circle and went home.

I don't teach again for 3 weeks. Hopefully by then they have regained their taste for me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aunty Mary's Guide to Being Sick

1. Stay home.

2. Sleep a lot.

3. Drink tons of fluids. (what else can you drink? morphasolids?) I favor hot herbal tea, crystal light, a couple of those truly nasty Airborne things.

4. Get better.

(5. Play four hours of Plants vs. Zombies.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In Praise of "In Praise of Folly"

I remember Erasmus as an European-history-question answer, but I had never really read his stuff until this last week. And now I have another dead man crush. As you might suspect, In Praise of Folly praises folly. (Well, aside from a side-jot to satirize religious hypocrites.) But folly's become a bit of a bosom-pal of mine recently, now that I'm letting myself be foolish in important ways. Erasmus I ain't, but here's my own addendum to the praise of folly.

1-Folly makes me audacious.

It's folly that keeps me from "keeping my fool mouth shut" when meeting influential people. It's folly that made me track Walter Benn Michaels to where he was eating lunch and folly made my little first-year-graduate-student self challenge his economic assumptions. Folly made me submit to journals way above me, conferences I don't belong in, contests I can't win, and positions I'm not qualified for. And though there's been plenty of falling on my face, now and again folly makes me more successful than I could have foolishly imagined.

2-Folly makes me happy.

I'm weird, but I like me. Yes, maybe I whistle a little when I walk to my car. Maybe I spent $20 and a weekend to paint the classroom I'll teach in for one semester. Maybe I went swimming at 10:00 pm in October, trying stunts like an underwater cartwheel or keeping one foot aloft, like a mast to the stars. Maybe I dissected an owl pellet on my lunch break, cutting it open with a plastic fork to look for the small bones of animals. But you know what? I had a good time. Folly might not be suave or graceful or societally normal, but I got joy from it.

3-Folly gives me room for faith.

"Choose faith," Elder...who? Cook? Christofferson? One of them...said. Sometimes it doesn't make sense right now, but choose faith. Erasmus gets at this at the end of his book: the wisdom of men is foolishness to God, but also the seemingly foolishness of God (I mean, "love your enemies"--really?) is actually the wisest thing men can think. My criticisms may yet prove foolishness, so allowing myself to be considered foolish may create future, eternal wisdom.

All of this is to say, I'm trying not to take myself so seriously here. Sometimes, as a first-semester PhD candidate, and as a new member of a single adult ward (with plenty of Mormon Venuses and Mormon Athenas), I wonder if I don't come off as ridiculous, as utterly foolish even. Erasmus suggests that's not such a big deal. And that's why I love him.