Everyday Beauty III: Dreams of Beauty

I spent a fascinating hour discussing the function and definition of beauty with someone who is a philosophical follower of Ayn Rand. Now, I am an admirer of but no follower of Ayn Rand on the subject of Beauty, being that I am of the philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand, Saint Josemaria Escriva and Saint John Paul II.  I see beauty as the reflection of the creator, thus as a higher good. Ayn Rand’s is a view that true beauty has no aesthetic beyond the mechanical function; I argue that beauty is more than but includes that function.

My parents have a very old rocking chair. It is beautiful. The beauty is in how well it scribes a lovely slow arch when rocked, the color of the wood used, the patina of age, AND the carving.  It has a flat panel showing field workers socializing quietly over mugs of beer. I spent many a happy childhood hour sitting in that chair studying the carving.  My co-conversationalist claims the art is a waste of effort and that if the maker had made the panel, sold it, and put the money into two plain chairs of equal design but lacking the carving, he would have done better.  He argues that the true beauty of the chair is in its functionality and not in something unrelated to function.  Again, I have no disagreement with the view that the functionality of the chair is beautiful in itself, but I insist that the carving adds to that beauty in a way no less valuable.

Beauty is more than mechanical function.  The panel of carving on my parent’s old rocking chair is for beauty, interest, and pleasure, and this aesthetic function is as much a part of beauty as the mechanical function.

Dear Lord, please help us to recognize that beauty includes but is also more than the mechanical function of an object. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home III–The Kitchen

Once more, I visit the topic of visualizing my space. This is supposed to help me learn the mind-set that will make keeping a tidy home possible. I am getting these ideas from the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo.  Today, I am visualizing my kitchen more fully.

I have a lovely huge kitchen. It has granite counter-tops which are pretty. The backsplash is white tile with colored tile here and there in a random pattern. The cabinets, a bit battered, are cherry. The appliances are a mix. There are black and white and stainless finishes on them. The longest stretch of counter-top faces a wide window. The other counters are shorter. A peninsula divides the kitchen from the entry and gets light from the tall entry windows. The peninsula is a low breakfast bar that allows seating on both sides.

Right now, the lovely long counter is buried. The breakfast peninsula is buried under tools and supplies. And there is a HUGE table filling up the middle of the kitchen, turning a spacious kitchen into a very crowded space. Furthermore, I can hardly find the table under all the things.  The remaining counters are cluttered, bottles and jars sit out, making cleaning the surface difficult. The sink is large and deep, a very nice sink, but the space is cramped by the addition of two upright freezers.

I visualize the kitchen as it ought to be! The table in the middle is gone! The many things on the long counter are also GONE. The bottles and jars on the counters have found a place to be, either in a bin on the pantry shelf, or in the cupboards.  The pots have been sorted into those that work with the current cooktop, in the drawers below the cooktop, and the rest disposed of in whatever manner I decide on that step.

The long counter is empty, a lace curtain filters the light and lends a degree of femininity to the space. Several large colorful pots line up against the backsplash, otherwise, the counter is empty.  There is a small sink with a short counter space, the coffee maker is there. This location is conveniently situated near the entry to the kitchen. Sodas fill the small under counter refrigerator, and make this a great spot to grab a beverage. Glasses fill the cupboard above on one side and mugs on the other. The mugs are mis-matched and cheerful.

Dear Lord, help me to put the kitchen to rights. Help me to be absolutely firm about what belongs in a kitchen and what should never be left in the kitchen. Please help me to have a clean kitchen because the counters can be seen and easily cleaned. Thank you for the abundance that the kitchen represents and help me to keep it appropriately. +Amen.

Everyday Beauty II

People in our culture are starving for beauty.  I remember when Trudy Krise, a wonderful woman, would bring her deserts to class for the snack.  Those days we had standing room only! People stood around the table exclaiming over the beauty of her deserts. They were indeed a work of art, and what is more, they tasted BETTER than they looked! People are so starved for beauty that knowing her art would be at the next class was all it took to get standing room only.

Why the popularity of the Extraordinary form of the Mass? We often call it “the Latin Mass”. Why do people drive extra distance to attend?  When asked, the answer is very often the beauty of the extraordinary form. People are starved for beauty. If the Ordinary form of the Mass were beautiful, it would draw people equally well.

Making your own beauty used to be expected and common. Carving, furniture making, crafts, cooking, sewing, MUSIC, dancing– these were all activities people tried and if you had a knack or just loved it, you did it.  You did not do it to make money (although you might use it to save some) you did it for love of making beauty.

Our culture does not value beauty made by people purely for the enjoyment of good work. Our culture tells us from childhood that your PAY is what determines the value of your work.  That is a LIE because that is not what God tells us!

Saint Josemaria Escriva envisioned Opus Dei as filled with laypersons, everyday people, whose everyday work served both to sanctify themselves and the world around them. God measures work not by pay scale but by the love and attention to detail with which it is done. The making of beauty is a labor of love.

Dear Lord, help us all to recognize the beauty in work done well and with love. Please help us to recognize the beauty in work no matter its pay scale or lack of paycheck. Help us to value beauty.+Amen

Visualizing A Tidy Home II–The Entry

Continuing with visualizing my home as directed to in the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo, I am thinking only of the front entry, the first view visitors have of my home, and my first sight each time I return home.

Right now, the front door bumps up against some things my husband has stored there. When the things that do not belong here first arrived, it was supposed to be temporary. I can do with anything temporarily. I have, sadly, had to face the fact that what I consider temporary and what my husband considers temporary are NOT the same thing. This has led to some strife that is unhealthy for the relationship.

I am now visualizing how I WANT it to look.

First, I approach the doors and the wide entry of windows and glass doors are welcoming. I step inside and the entry is spacious and uncluttered. The piano is on the facing wall, and to my left is a nice bench with places for shoes or boots. A wicker basket next to the bench holds children’s shoes, folded umbrellas, and a couple of jackets.

To the Right of the front door as I close it behind me, are two nice chairs, matched in size but not in color. It looks like a welcoming spot for two people to sit and chat, or watch someone at the piano. There is even a tiny table that is perfect for holding two drinks.

The right hand “wall” isn’t really a wall at all. There are three glass cabinets dividing the entry from the living room. In the glass cabinets are antique type-writers, no two alike. They say, “this is the home of a writer.” In front of the glass cabinets is a tiny table just large enough to hold one old type-writer for children and curious people to touch and explore.

Directly ahead, the archway to the left of the piano goes to what you can see is a very tidy library.

Further left, there is a clear view into the kitchen. It is uncluttered as well, and quite open and large.  Everything is bright and cheerful. A little robotic vacuum is making its way about the space working to keep it tidy.

Dear Lord, thank you for such a nice entryway. Thank you for the things I already own that belong in that entry. Thank you that soon the things that do not belong there will be gone. +Amen.

 

Prophet, Priest and King: The Christlike Roles in Fictional Characters By Karina Fabian

Today’s post is a guest post by Karina Fabian, writer of the Mind Over trilogy and other marvelous fiction and a member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild. 

Karina Fabian headshot Aug 2013              SliderMoA                                                                                                                 

When I’m around Catholic writers, they sometimes ask me why I write Catholic fiction. Truth is, although I brand myself as the Catholic Geek, I don’t normally set out to write Catholic fiction. I just want to tell good stories about moral people having exciting adventures. The Mind Over trilogy is a good example. It’s about Deryl, a young psychic whose ability drives him insane. In the course of the trilogy, he fights his way back to sanity, teleports to another solar system, stops a war between two planets and harnesses his psychic abilities to put the planets into safe and hospitable orbits. There is a Catholic character and some pro-life themes in the subplots, but I didn’t give conscious thought to putting my faith in the story. However, looking back, I can see how my faith has informed my imagination, even in ways I did not expect.

I had the pleasure of attending Joe Wetterlings’s workshop on the Catholic Imagination at the Catholic Writers’ Conference-Live in July. He spoke of the many factors that make good fiction and especially good Catholic fiction. One of the things he listed as a quality of Catholic fiction is that the heroes take on the roles Jesus called us all to take – priest, prophet and king.

The king, of course, is a leader. The prophet is the wise man, and the priest makes a sacrifice. These can be carried by one or more characters. In Lord of the Rings, of course, you have Aragon as king, Gandalf as prophet, and Frodo as priest. These have long been the heroic archetypes, although Joe asserts that much secular literature has forgone the priest role for “the fool” instead. It’s a loss he’d like to see remedied, especially in Catholic fiction.

I’ve long asserted that much of my fiction is not Catholic, but has some Catholic elements – a worldview that there is such a thing as evil and that Good can overcome it, for example – as well as characters. The Mind Over trilogy, for example, is not written to be a Catholic story, per se, but the main character, Deryl, does take on the roles of priest, prophet and king.

 

King is an easy role to see. While not royalty, Deryl is considered a leader on both Kanaan and Barin, and as a leader, he brings peace to both worlds. He sets a plan into motion and people go along with it. He consults with his advisors, but in the end, he makes the decisions. As a prophet, Deryl not only has visions that propel him to take action, but he also carries knowledge others do not possess. That knowledge, however, can save them all. Finally, as a priest, he’s willing to make any sacrifice not only to save his family but both of the worlds he’s been involved with. He is even willing to let go of all the pain of his past to rescue Alugiac, who has for the most part been the villain of the trilogy.

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What surprised me is that I didn’t think about Deryl in this way. I just knew the kind of man he’d grow into in the course of the trilogy. My faith worked in the background to induce my imagination to build him in such a Christ-like role. This is one of the wonderful things about our faith; if you let it fill you and you remain open, it will fill you in all aspects of your life, even your secular writing.

Beauty Of the Everyday Kind

Beauty is missing from our culture. Oh, there are still a few beautiful buildings put up, and you can buy pretty things, and you can find artists making art, but the everyday making of beauty is missing.  We have devalued it until it has almost completely vanished. The mentality that if your work is not producing a paycheck then your work has no value is killing off everyday beauty. Home making is both work and an art form that is almost dead from neglect because it does not bring in a paycheck.

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Few are those who knit or crochet beautiful things for their homes. Most are now in the workforce doing jobs that bring paychecks. Few are the seamstresses who could make clothing for their families, and covers for chairs, and draperies–all things to make beauty–most of them are out in the workforce getting a paycheck. The person who created a beautiful table set, and home made beautiful food, is out getting the paycheck and hasn’t the energy for the niceties that make beauty happen.

Some amazing people manage to balance working for a paycheck and creating beauty, but far more cannot. The result is a loss of everyday beauty– the kind a parent at home with the kids was expected to at least try to create. My mother’s work could be seen in the afghan on the back of the couch, the needlepoint in the frame on the wall, the arrangement of furniture, the pillows, draperies,  and table settings(chosen or made), cleanliness, and meals. Our whole family benefited from her work.

Everyday beauty is created in the course of the work we call home-making.  Home making used to be considered a full time job, and women learned from childhood how to be good at it and bring their own unique touch to doing it. This effort takes TIME and ENERGY apart from the time and energy spent on the children and the marriage.

The hours reserved for the work of home making have been reassigned to the making of a paycheck because our culture chosen to demean all work that lacks a paycheck.  Everyday beauty is an art which our culture has deemed unfit to exist.  We need to see the sin in this, repent, and VALUE the making of beauty again.

Dear Lord, please help us to realize the value of beauty and the value of the person whose work creates it for us. Help us ALL come to the recognition that work worthy of doing sometimes has no paycheck attached and is still of great value. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home I

Reading in the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo has gotten me visualizing my space and life as I would like it to be.  I am visualizing my house.

I can actually see it. I can see the entry, with the piano and two chairs with a tiny table, and the glass cabinets displaying that gorgeous type-writer collection of mine. A bench to the left as you come in to catch coats and shoes.

I next enter the Library. The walls are full of books, and in the center of the room is a round table with four chairs, ideal for school-work, or other study.

Turning the other direction, toward the kitchen, I see a wide open space with empty counters. I mean EMPTY. The beverage center has the coffee pot, clean and ready. Nothing else. The section of counter with the microwaves is EMPTY, clean, waiting for you to need it. The long counter under the window is EMPTY, clean, waiting. All needed tools and appliances are inside the drawers. There is only a lace curtain at the windows, letting in as much natural light as possible.

The living room is set up with my sewing machine, and the supplies and projects neatly on the shelves. Musical instruments in their cases sit also on the shelves. Long lace curtains give privacy without decreasing the view or the natural light.

My husband’s office has a closed door.

The air conditioners are working and the place is cool and dehumidified!

Upstairs, the children’s rooms are simple. Bins line the walls for toys and cleaning up is tossing toys into bins.

The master bedroom is also tidy. My side has book cases, my chair, and the baby swing. The TV is on the table which is empty otherwise.

I can see this book will be quite useful, but the exercises are not easy because they bring me up against the problems of shared space.

Dear Lord, please give me patience, with myself and with my family, as I struggle to change how I relate to our home. Help me to become clear in my mind and diligent in action to make what I visualize come to pass. Please help me as I work to master keeping a tidy home. +Amen.

Tidying Up

A friend recommended the book THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. It only took a few clicks of the mouse for me to locate and purchase a used copy off Amazon. So here I am, as always, looking at the disaster that is my home, wanting it to be much neater and easier to keep nice, and as usual, I have NO idea how to begin. Or perhaps it is more the whole idea is terrifying to me.

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I have no clue why it is terrifying, but it is.  My first exercise, according to the book THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, is to visualize my living space and life in that space. I have been doing that and plan to blog on various spaces as I visualize them.  I cannot see how this will make me able to keep my home tidy, but I am willing to do the work in the hope that a permanent change is possible.

My vocation includes making our house into a home, and I have never been very good at it. I WANT to be good at it. I believe my time writing will be freer if our environment is less cluttered. I believe everyone will benefit if our home functions better. I believe change is possible because God tells us that nothing is impossible with Christ. I also believe that God wills for me to keep our home well.

I intend to follow this author’s advice.  She says that it should be a six month process and that one should sort by category not by location. So while visualizing is about spaces, the step that follows is by category.  I think I can do that.

What concerns me the most is the problem of getting other members of the family on board with this project. I hope she deals with this issue somewhere in the pages of her book.

Dear Lord, please help me to make our home look the way I visualize it. Please help me to wisely declutter, keeping only those things that have a true use and are beautiful to me. Please help me to save and spend wisely. +Amen.

Patron Saints for Writers

I saw a wonderful blog post about Patron Saints of Writing Professionals which lists 7 excellent patron saints and tells a bit about each one. Noting that not one of my favorite Saints were on the list, I decided that I needed to do my own blog post about my “7” patron saints for writers. Each of these Saints were writers who left behind a body of work that has had a deep impact on me. Their books are cherished volumes on my shelves and their prayers I request every day.

Saint John the Evangelist: writer credited with the gospel I love re-reading the most, the gospel of John, a couple of letters and Revelation–some pretty amazing books of the New Testament. One of the original twelve. The words of his gospel are so deeply amazing and beautiful. I wish every child would memorize it so that they could carry those incredible images inside them their whole lives.

The Three Holy Hierarchs: Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nissa, and Saint John Chrysostom. Yes, this is a group, that is because in the Orthodox Churches, with whom we share these and other patristic Saints, these three Saints writings are often grouped together for study.  I get a thrill out of reading anything from the patristic period, but these three in particular I ask to pray for me.

Saint Benedict: Founder of the Benedictines; wrote THE RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT which is still read daily by many people throughout the world and when they finish it, they start over. He understood work, and the need for it to be dedicated to God.

Saint Teresa of Avila: doctor of the Church, Carmelite reformer and foundress, and the writer of a whole lot of books, every single one of which is worth reading more than once! Top it off, she did all this writing while founding monasteries all over Spain and suffering a debilitating illness. She understood offering the writing up to God.

Saint John Paul II: This amazing Saint and Pope, wrote in all forms! He wrote poetry, plays, encyclicals, documents of all sorts, works of philosophy and theology, defender and preserver of culture, and an actor and lover of the outdoors and young people. I want him praying for my writing!

Saint Josemaria Escriva: again, this man was a writer. He fit his writing in around all his other ministry (like the founding of Opus Dei). He wrote extensively on offering your work to God, and letting your work, being well done, to be sanctified and sanctify. He taught about vocation, and as a writer, I have a vocation and I want it to be done perfectly and to be pleasing to God.  This man understood writing and vocation.

Saint Edith Stein: philosopher and carmelite. This Saint wrote a LOT, and the books she left behind are deep and profound and amazing. She offered it all up to God. Every bit of it, and even her sisters in the monastery did not know that she was a world class scholar and writer.  I want her praying for me too.

Beyond the Saints I ask to pray for me, there are others, who I do not include but perhaps ought to include. For example:

Saint Paul: who, while traveling, preaching, and spreading Christianity in a hostile culture, still found time in his busy life to write a huge percentage of the letters in the New Testament of the Bible. He clearly had a gift for writing, and the ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to produce writing that was worthy and pleasing to God. I won’t ever write scripture, but who better to be praying that my writing please God?

Saint Thomas Aquinas: another brilliant writer whose works are read today. His “Prayer Before Study” has long been a favorite of mine. The worth of his writing is unchallenged and ought to be studied by everyone. He wrote hymns and theology that are unsurpassed.

Saint Ephram the Syrian: poet, hymn writer, theologian,  lived during the patristic period. His poetry is worth taking a look at, and such skill ought to make him a good patron for a writer.

I suspect I could find MANY others, but these are all Saints, and all writers whose work has lasted and who offered their gifts and words to God for His pleasure then shared them with the world. I pray we do the same.

Dear Lord, thank you for the many writers who are Saints; may they pray for those of us who are writers too, that our work be of the highest quality and please You oh Lord. +Amen.