No School Today 2-1-57

2-1-57
Friday

Dear John,

It was so good to get your letter yesterday and quite a surprise. I had schooled myself not to even look for one so soon as I knew what pressure you were working under. The first week is about over — only five more then a new start, eh?

There is no school today, so we have a lot going on around here. I don’t suppose that I will get much written as there are too many interruptions. Norma and Lola are here today. They expect Hesper home tonight. Her mother broke her leg before Christmas and they are just going to get the cast on her leg this week. Danny gets even more attention then ever with the extras here. Last night he wanted to sleep with Dorothy and so I yielded and let him. When I went to bed I took him out of his bed and put him in his own. He woke up during the night twice calling for Dorothy and going to go back to her bed. It was really on his mind. Roy brought over some chuck roast today since the girls are going to be here and so we are having that for dinner. Smells real good.

I must write the letters of acknowledgement today. I put it off as long as I can as I dread doing it for some reason. I never seem to sound the way I want it to sound.

Dorothy is making some molasses cookies. David pasted flannel graph pictures for me and the others have been playing games and taking turns typing. I put the machine in the kitchen where I could keep an eye on it. It is my turn now.

I have been having trouble getting the car started. Even when it is not very cold. If it keeps up I guess that I’ll have to take it to a garage. Mary pushed me Monday and Marv did on Wed. Yesterday afternoon I got it started when it was above freezing. Snowing again today.

Dale Sowers was here yesterday and I ordered a brush for you and some more wax. He brought up the subject of you teaching and marveled at you doing that. And then he asked about what we thought of smoking at the chapel and one thing led to another. We talked about an hour. He bought a $30 Bible at the fair that has lots of questions in the front and he has been reading them. He says “It tells all about the signs of the Lord’s return — and that the nations are going to line up – probably Russia against the others which the United States will be in. I don’t know what kind of Bible he has, but that interested me.

I asked him, “How does that make you feel, believing the signs are pointing to the soon return of the Lord?”

“Oh,” he said, “we’ll just take our chances whether we go to one place or another. But I believe that if you believe in something hard enough you’ll get what you want.” Sort of a psychology.

I said, “I was brought up to believe that there came a day when I had to make a decision.”

He didn’t believe that. So I asked him to finish quoting John 3:16. He had quoted that first part once trying to show that God was higher than the Lord Jesus and if God so desired he could destroy the Lord Jesus. Rather implied that Christ is God, but a secondary one. I believe it boils down to evading the fact that he is a sinner in need of a Saviour. He accepts that Christ died as the Saviour of the world – but doesn’t see that that brings the dividing line between people. Going back to John 3:16 – I tried to show that it was a personal thing – whosoever hath or hath not. A Jehovah Witness is working hard on him now. Let’s pray. He said he would read some more and talk again. Somewhere he says the Bible says we are all the sons of God. I asked him to look that up again and mark down the reference for me. Don’t know what I’ll get! Next time you are home to preach we’ll have to give him a special invite to come over. He goes to the Pres. but he says he doesn’t think much of the pastor.

Now I must close,
Lovingly, it already seems ages since you left.

Nellie

Listening In on Grownup Conversations

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When I was a child, my bedroom was an upstairs windowless closet with a slanted roof. There was barely room for a bed to the left and a dresser to the right. A lonely light bulb hung from the ceiling. My dresses floated from a pole across the ceiling. Don’t think Dickensian: I loved my own cozy cocoon.

The room was at the top of a stairway that had two ninety-degree turns. As the youngest in a home where parents sent their littles to bed at 8:00 p.m., I often sensed that I was missing out on the important stuff of life. I’d hear the murmur of conversations that I wanted to be part of. I would tiptoe out of my bedroom and down the five steps to the landing where the stairs turned. As close as could be and still remain out of sight. Hugging my benightgowned knees, I would strain to hear the grownups talk.

Even when I didn’t understand the talk, I enjoyed the aura, the camaraderie. When laughter erupted, I sat in the darkness and smiled.

That, my friend, is how I feel reading C.S. Lewis’ academic work The Allegory of Love. I’m sitting in the dark, listening to the adults, not quite understanding all the fine points, but basking in the atmosphere. Smiling when I grasp a point, soaking up the delicious banter.

Happy to be in the company of such witty erudition.

Like that little girl long ago, I need patience. Lewis quotes Latin, Greek, French, Old French, Old English without translation. He writes about writers whose names I’ve never before heard. He uses words that have never come close to my radar.

Sometimes the words are clear. It was the misfortune of Jean de Meun to have read and remembered everything: and nothing that he remembered could be kept out of his poem.  Yeah, I think, I’ve heard sermons like that.

So I will continue sitting in the dark, craning my ear, hoping to hear something wonderful. Why? Because I’m stubborn; but mainly to be in the delightful company of CSL.

 

Reclaiming Conversation

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Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation was one of the most important books I read in 2015. Her book distilled to three sentences:

This is our paradox.
When we are apart: hypervigilance.
When we are together: inattention.

I believe it. Sherry’d make a point and I was a one-woman gospel choir, swaying and amening. “Solitude is important,” she calls and my response is Yes, sister. “Support unitasking and deep reading.” Deeeeeep reading, I sing. “Continuous partial attention is the new normal.” Say it isn’t so, I moan. “Make sacred spaces where no devices intrude.”  Not in the kitchen, not in the bedroom, not even in the car, I harmonize.

What Ms. Turkle did not say, however, has reverberated through my brain. She never framed it this way, but I think we are simply selfish. We have zero tolerance for boredom, for discomfort, for anything unpleasant. We now have devices that we can take refuge in rather than discipline ourselves to wait through the boring bits.

Last May, my niece graduated from a large university in California. I’ve been to a handful of college graduations recently, but I’ve never seen the rudeness that I witnessed that morning. Rudeness I participated in.

A thousand names were called and a thousand graduates walked across the stage to shake the Dean’s hand. People pulled out their phones; some teachers graded papers. I, cough cough, tried to get my seating on Southwest Airlines, even while part of me looked upon myself in astonishment.  My husband assumed the tilted coffin pose and took a nap. This wouldn’t have happened ten years ago.

Conversations take work. Conversations take energy. Conversation require me to reveal myself to my friend.

Some of the wealthiest moments of my life have been three recent reunions with childhood girlfriends. We spend a weekend practically device-free. We don’t watch movies. We talk. We listen. We experience deep, focused conversation. (Once, a friend apologized for keeping her phone nearby. She hadn’t heard from her daughter who was living across the world in a country buffeted by a typhoon!) The time and attention is a treasure, all the more so because of its rarity.

Turkle has two time-honored commands to help us out of this murky mess.

Use your words. (what she told her young daughter)
Look at me when you speak to me. (what Grandma always said)