7 Takes In A Tragic Time

7 Takes In A Tragic Time August 9, 2019

Kelly isn’t doing links today, but I thought I’d have a whack at them, since my summer is flying towards its inevitable and frantic close and my vacation is already completely forgotten.


As those of you hooked into the strange world of social media saw yesterday, my husband Matt was kicked off of twitter for—as is his wont—rather bluntly calling a predatory man who masquerades as a woman what he really is, a man. I say this perfectly understanding that transgender issues are complicated and painful and that in some cases a different approach, or even tone, might be warranted, while, of course, never skimping on the gospel. But this is not that time. If ever there was a moment for the obvious thing to be said, this is it.

Honestly, I am so steamed about this. I had a hard time buying into the long-abandoned “war on women” rhetoric that flew around however many decades ago. The freedoms enjoyed by women in this culture always seemed to me rich and astonishing. I was so grateful to go to college and to be taken seriously as a person. Even the occasional moment of condescension or misogyny (often conflated with my height—my minuscule stature makes it easy for tall people, which is almost the whole world, to forget that I am there or mistake me for a child) never for a minute diminished my unfettered joy at getting to explore a fascinating intellectual and spiritual world.

What clued me into its possible reality was (and I said this at the time) Bruce Jenner getting to win the Woman of the Year award in some magazine or other. If women can’t even win the Woman of the Year award, I don’t see any point in even trying.

Now, of course, I think we can safely say that classical liberalism and feminism are both dead. If you are on the side of the immigrant, of the woman, of the girl, of the person who has no voice—those, in other words, through the 90s and early 2000s we were constantly being lectured that we needed to be most anxious about, that civilized culture and decency depended on their full inclusion in every facet of public life—and yet believe that this guy should be allowed to harass women and girls, and remain on a public platform of any kind…I dunno, I think you are naive and confused. By which I mean, twitter. Twitter’s War on Women and Immigrants is sickening and I am utterly dismayed and appalled.

Anyway, if you are feeling on the down and outs, read the New Testament, it will make you feel better.


On a charming note, we discovered yesterday that we have the same entryway as a house in a village inhabited by Jane Austen. Look at the pictures of the house here, which is for sale if you are rich, particularly this one. Ok, now, here are some bad photos of my entryway. The only difference, besides the quality of my photos being utterly subpar, is that my entryway is better because my wood hasn’t been painted over and I have preserved a more old-worldy charm. If you are wanting to go on a Jane Austen pilgrimage, you might as well just come to Binghamton. I don’t have the view, but I absolutely do have the entryway.


Part of August, of course, is quietly freaking out about the upcoming school year without actually doing anything about it. My homeschool life has changed so much over the past few years—mostly since getting to be in this glorious house. I moved in here and immediately made myself a schoolroom and carried on as I had been doing for what seemed like an eternity. But even before the end of the year the shifts and changes of growing children made the room ill-fitting and cumbersome. And then, one by one, they have climbed onto the new way of education, which is to put in their earbuds, prop their cheap little chrome books on their laps, and disappear into another world for a couple of hours. They have such great teachers, and are learning such interesting things, and so I am wandering around this vast house with two littler girls, trying to establish for them whatever it was I did for the others. The schoolroom is going to be a library, I think, and most of my minutes are going to be divided between the kitchen, the living room, and my own glorious new desk. Change is always awful, I think, until you have become used to it and can’t remember what it was like before.


Spent some time reading about Toni Morrison this week, who, as usual, I didn’t know anything about. Read snatches of her writing online, trying to steer clear of what made her famous because I know I would never be able to sleep again at night ever. But the clear, precise, beauty of her phrasing is astonishing. Wish I were a better person and could read real books, but I’m not, and I just have to cope with that reality.


Witness that I recently reread Green Dolphin Street which I would place in a number of contradictory categories. First, that is not really a real book in the way that Beloved or any of Morrison’s work is. Second, that it is, however, beautiful and necessary, at least for me. Third, that any Christian who is ever going to get married or who is already married or who knows anyone who is married should read it because, though she descends occasionally into too lyrical and too long descriptions of New Zealand, and sometimes you feel that she can’t remember how to end one thing and begin another, and on the whole the book is probably hopelessly old fashioned, YET, it is the best picture I have ever seen painted of what salvation in marriage truly looks like. And, even though it is not a real book, I sobbed like a baby because it was so painful. I am going to make my teenagers read it soon.


I should say, I know that all books that are on paper or even on the internet are “real” in that they exist. I think most people would differentiate between “good” and “bad.” But I prefer “real” and “not real.” “Real” books are those ones that look unflinchingly at the dark sickening side of human nature. So that Silence book which I will never read, and Eli Wiesel’s Night, and The Heart of Darkness, and everything by Flannery O’Conner, and Toni Morrison, and really, everything that makes a book probably really good by unflinching literary standards. Those are all “real” books and I cannot read them because I can’t climb back out of the worlds they create. I am too close to living in those worlds without any help from other very brilliant people. “Not Real” books might sidle up to those worlds, but they never go all the way in. They might give a glimpse, but they immediately make a way out. I have to live in the world of Pym, Wodehouse, Durrell, Goudge, Waugh, et al, because then I can go on with my life without descending into psychological and spiritual madness. It’s my truth, don’t you know, and I won’t be shaken off it.


Honestly, that is my greatest sorrow over this particular historical moment. It is better for everyone when reality is acceptable. This was always the task of being human—to bend and shape oneself to the order and truth of the cosmos, to find transcendence through honesty, to accept the limitations of one’s material and spiritual nature and find the strange, haunting beauty of creative synergy that comes only from living truthfully and faithfully inside the box. When you break the box apart and trample it down, a perverse, course ugliness results.

Well, I guess I will go fret over the Apocalypse. Have a lovely weekend if you’re into that sort of thing!

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