Summer: Take Three

It’s amazing how quickly my work ethic goes out the window as soon as I have no more pending assignments.

Case in point: on the third day of being college-free, I decided that, instead of sleeping until noon again, I would get up at nine thirty to make it to a ten thirty cycle class at the gym. I made it on time, but there was no one in the class, probably because most people actually, um, work during the day. Not me, of course. I’m not an adult yet. But instead of using the machines, I decided, well, I gave it the old college try (pun intended), so I may as well go home, which is exactly what I did. I came home, put my pajamas back on, and got back in to bed where I belong.

Can I just point out how giggly it makes me that I can use so many commas and conjunctions and not get penalized for them?? Hah! Take that, college.

While I was lying in bed at 11 am, I had the divine inspiration that I should start blogging again, because I just have so many thoughts that it would be a shame not to share them with my four blog readers (who may or may not be related to me and thus subject to all my insane ramblings anyway…) I have about seven weeks vacation where I have virtually no obligations (minus a few fun projects and some less-than-amusing paperwork jobs), which reminds me of that sacred time two and a half years ago when I took a semester off of school and got really into blogging, reading, and cooking, which I’m still really into but less devoted to these days. That happens when you live in a place with no an oven and you have research papers to write that end up being really God awful. But that’s another story.

So, I thought I would kick-start this vacation blog adventure with another summer reading list. You may (but most likely won’t, because you didn’t know I had a blog) recall that two summers ago (yep, two summers ago…wow…) I made another reading list¬†that I almost successfully finished. I gave up on Crime and Punishment, not because I don’t love Doestoevsky, but because I couldn’t stand getting inside a criminal’s head like that. I suppose this is why I also despised Lolita and I hate watching CSI. Just seems too real. But I made up for it last summer by reading The Brothers Karamazov, which I recommend to everyone and your little dog, too.

So, what’s on the agenda for the next seven weeks? My mom gave me this book, The Reluctant Tuscan, because she is obsessed with Italy and I am obsessed with food. It likens itself to this book, Bella Tuscany, sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun (which I’ve never read), and a million other books on the glories of Tuscan living.

The Reluctant Tuscan reads rather quickly, which is great, because I’m still exercising my attention span. On top of that, I want to finish the books I started over winter break:

Cooked, the newest Michael Pollan manifesto
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Pickwick Papers by good ole Mr. Dickens

Additionally, I really hope to merge this blog into a new host site, because I must continue to chronicle my life. As the days pass on, I will explain more what my future holds. But for now, I leave you with this promise, that I shall sleep till noon, read till five, and drink till nine. And blog about it ūüôā

-Mel

P.S–What are some of your favorite summer reads? I am always looking for suggestions.

Summer Reading

When I was in grade school, there was nothing I abhorred more than assigned summer reading. I’m not even sure why, though I think it has something to do with the fact that I don’t like being told what to do. It could also have stemmed from the complex that my mom loves to call “expecting to be a¬†prodigy” without putting in the time, which is completely true. But more than anything, I avoided summer reading like the plague. I remember how sweet those first few May days of freedom felt, when school was done and I could wander about the house completely weightless, turning on the television or rolling around on the carpet or sitting on the balcony for hours with my stuffed animals. Ah, summer!¬†
And then inevitably, a few hours later, came that infamous complaint: “I’m booooooooored.”¬†
“Why don’t you start reading one of your summer reading books?”
……
“Just kidding, I’m not bored anymore.”
And the cycle continued, through June and July, through picnics and summer camps and family vacations and car rides. 
“Mel, why don’t you do some reading for a few hours.”
“I can’t, I have to perfect my witches broom” or simply, “No, I don’t want to” without any better excuse.
I still don’t understand why I was so obstinate. I was a fairly imaginative kid, and I did read a lot, but I read a lot of fantasy and then as I got older, that horrible bastard child of fiction, Teen Fiction. I wish I had had better taste as a youngster!

All this is to say, that when I spent last semester off, I essentially forced myself to read, because I was convinced that nothing could be a more productive use of otherwise useless time. And I still believe that. And now I’m in love with reading. (Hear that, Papa!)

And so once again, I find myself with very few responsibilities, something that I don’t handle very well. And once again, I said my prayers, read Psalm 103, took a shower, and remembered that God is in control…I am not. As obvious as it seems, for me it is very easy to forget that God is ultimate and I am small. For a long period of time, when I was coming back to Christianity and Orthodoxy, I immersed myself in philosophy and theology because I needed to logically arrive at the paradoxical conclusions of Christian faith. And I have grown stronger in my faith, much stronger, and I feel completely¬†overwhelmed¬†with love and gratitude for that faith that God has given me.
But now comes another challenge, less philosophical and far more practical (which I have trouble with as is): how does one carry this faith in one’s heart inside a world as bent and broken and narcissistic as ours? Essentially, how does one keep the faith? I hear in my head the usual responses: prayers, fasting, alms giving. It seems so simple. But how can one remember one’s own limitations when this world is choking us and pleading with us to become larger than life?
Once again, I turn to CS Lewis. The Screwtape Letters became my mantra for getting me through last semester, and now I find Perelandra a beautiful, if not horribly authentic, painting of our own God-complexes:

“‘But how could anyone love anything more? It is like saying a thing could be bigger than itself.’
‘I only meant you could become more like the women of my world.’
‘What are they like?’
‘They are of a great spirit. They always reach out their hands for the new and unexpected food, and see that it is good long before the men understand it. Their minds run ahead of what Maleldil [God] has told them. They do not need to wait for Him to tell them what is good, but know if for themselves as He does. They are, as it were, little Maleldils.'”¬†

The more I read of Dr. Weston and he egoistic God-complex, the more I shudder and become¬†nauseous, not because what he is saying sounds so foreign, but because it sounds so real! I can’t stand the fact that I understand exactly what he is saying.
But I suppose this is one of the many, many beautiful gifts we receive as readers. We go outside of ourselves and enter the worlds of others, and inside those worlds we find wonders and parallels that we otherwise would never have known. And there is no better way to go on adventure without ever leaving your back yard. 
So, with that, I list my own, slightly grown up summer reading list, to the perseverance of knowledge and hopefully humbling of self:

Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, books two and three of The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, recommended, ironically, by my English professor

I also have several books on the history of Israel as well as a Go Israel tour book that will make for some delicious twelve hour plain reading.

Praise ye the name of the Lord. All ye works, praise the Lord. Alleluia!