Friday, February 29, 2008

C.S. Lewis: Universally Applicable

I've been reading The Screwtape Letters with a discussion group. I was impressed from the very beginning with the book's creative premise (letters of advice from a senior to a junior demon), its wit, and its perspicacity. Every chapter seemed to strike home in some area. But I've only recently been realizing the degree to which Lewis's insights, delivered via Screwtape, have stuck with me. In particular: it was several months ago that we read a chapter dealing with the impact of humans' physical bodies on their emotional and spiritual state, but its point--that humans drastically underestimate the impact their physical state has on their mood--has been echoing in my mind ever since. To be still more particular: I am (still) extremely sick, and it is doubtless because of that entirely physical malady that I keep feeling like the world is a dreadful place that I would rather not bother being part of...

But "why are you so downcast, o my soul? I will yet praise Him, my Savior, my King."

I just hope that being so ill doesn't have too adverse an effect on my coding ability (midterm in an hour). Yick.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Epiphany of the Day

Well, it may not really qualify as an epiphany. Nevertheless, it's a realization about myself--namely, that being sick renders me extra argumentative. Of course, another possibility is that I'm always this argumentative and contrary, and being sick just brings it to the surface, via the general weakening of my body and consequent weakening of my judgment/sense of perspective/verbal-filtering system... The latter is probably the case. (You may also notice that being sick has a tendency to make my syntax more convoluted, or, alternately, make me more precise/persnickety.)

Whence came said realization? From the two classes I actually went to today, English and seminar.

I had intended to minimize my participation since my voice is rapidly deteriorating, but "the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry," and we were discussing a religious poem in English, which is pretty much a recipe for controversy. You will be pleased to hear that I did not pick a fight about religion, relationship to God, etc. My judgment didn't fail me that badly. I will confess to asking what the professor meant by saying that "When we pray, we don't command God," given the preponderance of imperative verbs in the psalms. Ok, fine, maybe I sort of picked a fight on that one. But I smothered the vast majority of related comments I had on that generalization of his, even when he said that the Psalms were in the New Testament (!) and were all laments about Babylon's oppression of Isreal (!!). Somebody's chronology is a little confused...

Anyway, the huge discussion I did end up getting into was on grammar. Yes, that's right, grammar. Not a "this is bad grammar" argument, mind you, but a "is this verb in the imperative or the indicative?" argument. Oh dear. My argument rested on inversion and lack of direct object (i.e. grammar/syntax/linguistics), while his rested on the emotional arc of the poem. I tried to restrain myself, but ... well, grammar is my thing.

You should be really proud of me for not calling him out when he said that "in Latin and the Romance languages, to make the passive voice you just make the verb reflexive." Ok, so, that may be true in Catalan (which is the language he chose his example from). However, it is patently false in Latin, and not true in French, either (though making that mistake in French would be more understandable). What the heck.

If you're curious (for whatever reason): The poem was John Milton's "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont," and the verb was "sow" on the 10th line.
And to clarify: I actually really like both my English class and my English teacher. He's extremely smart and has wonderful diction.

The other episode, that of the seminar, is less dramatic and not worth explaining.

Hopefully such incidents will not be repeated, since I am self-medicating with curry, lemon tea, and boiling showers.

Post script: It seems ironic that I am trying to remedy the state of my throat feeling as though it's on fire by means of eating spicy "hot" curry.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"These are a few of my favorite things..."

There are a couple things that always improve my mood. Y inclu sont: eating an orange (ya gotta peel it into a single beautifully-scented spiral), sitting in the sun, staring at the sky, various enthusiastic people, singing, large quantities of granite, trees. . .

It being February in New York, sun is scarce. Trees, however, remain plentiful, if leafless. There's something amazing about the naked branches stark against a cloud-white sky, the graceful black tracery and occasional shine of a bulging drop of water. . . It's a good thing crowds of people weren't rushing along the Tabler steps at the time, because I stared at the tree/sky juxtaposition and walked with my face skyward for a while.

The professor in Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles would be pleased with me. (I think I need to re-read that book.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feeling Petulant

Today's post probably belongs in a category labeled "Complaints." Or maybe "Querulousness," because that word is more fun, and it reminds me of Ms. Besse. (NOT because she was querulous, but because she really liked that word, and got really excited when it kept showing up in Ethan Frome...)

I have a cold, and a cough. I had forgotten how icky sickliness is. Somehow I always manage to forget how physical discomfort feels. In particular, I had forgotten coughing (which is not one of my usual symptoms)--how you get that trickling sensation on your throat, an itch somewhere in your breathing pipe, then germ-filled air explodes out of your mouth, blasting your throat on the way out and shaking your body. Blargh.

I drank at least 5 cups of tea today, and now I'm popping menthol cough drops. These have oozing honey-centers, which make for a rather odd juxtaposition of flavors and textures (menthol/mint/fresh/cold/hard/crunchy vs. sweet/soft/gooey/comforting/warm). After a few minutes of attempting to let the thing "dissolve under the tongue," I end up giving way and crunching it against the roof of my mouth, so the amber-colored, menthol-flavored encasing cracks and the honey oozes out... Sadly, it then runs out before the rest of the menthol-ness does, leaving my tongue rather forlorn. I am not all that fond of mint. They should make chocolate cough drops. (Kidding, kidding.)

On a completely unrelated note--The Canada geese were wandering through the woods I pass through on my way to class today. They are rather oddly proportioned. I think it would be interesting to have a neck that long and flexible. Imagine being able to curve your neck so it lies along your spine, and still have enough left to double it back and lay your chin basically on your chest. Also, imagine having over half your height be from your neck.

(Sheri: I did not walk around pretending to be a goose, if you were wondering. Hehe.)

Monday, February 25, 2008


I'm writing an essay and feeling bored of it. Question is, do I feel more bored of something when I devote less than my full attention to it? Is there a direct correlation between concentration and interest, or an inverse one? Which direction does the causation (if any) run?

It's obvious that not focusing decreases efficiency. I am beginning to think that not focusing also decreases my enjoyment. Now that the music is off and the online conversation is at a lull, concentration comes easier and I feel a bit less antsy.

Then again, now I'm writing a blog post instead of the essay.

But the fact remains: When I was focusing on the writing, I enjoyed it more. Maybe it's because I do it better when I focus, or because I have to pass some "interest threshold" to enjoy writing at all, or because...

Anyway, the essay is calling me back. I shall immerse myself in the world where "beautiful hidden things scrol[l] to the horizon" (Colson Whitehead, Apex Hides the Hurt, 35). Concentration. Sixty-four. No repeats. Or hesitations. Category is. Names.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The name of the blog

sums up its expected contents. I have long been fond of the word "sundry." People don't use it all that often, so it has a bit of an exotic flavor, but it's not Latinate so it doesn't strike me as overly pretentious. Also, it resembles some nice words: sandy, sun-dried, sunny, etc. And of course, its meaning is relevant: I probably will be writing about all sorts of trivial and barely related things.
Verities: Another little-used word. This one has a lot of personal connotations for me: my semi-twin (LMV), the gospels in the KJV ("verily, verily I say unto thee..."), all the synonyms of "verily" and the boy I shared that joke with (forsooth, indeed, etc.; my high school boyfriend). Meaning-wise, I am using Tim O'Brien's sense of truth, as defined in The Things They Carried, i.e., encompassing both literal truth and "story truth."

I think this description/analysis of the name says a lot about me, both by its actual content and by its sheer existence.