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Thoughts on Going to Europe

In case you are not aware, I will be studying in Europe next semester, along with a group of other students from my university. The other day we had another meeting about it, and after each of these weekly meetings I always leave with much excitement and anticipation. This time I had just turned in a sheet of paper which I will receive back after we return, on which I had written the reasons why I wanted to go to Europe.

I did not put a great amount of forethought into what I wrote on that sheet of paper, but as my thoughts flowed into slanted italic letters, I noticed that each of my reasons had to do with two main ideas: people and culture. You see, my impression of the past groups who have gone to Europe is that they went, they saw, and they came home. Granted, there are many amazing things to be seen on that continent, but I want more than that. I want to get to know the people there, their languages and their cultures.

Our home base will be Verviers, Belgium, a decently sized town in Wallonia. When I get to Verviers, I want to explore. Read More

Carrying on the Tradition

QuillThere are many characteristics that could be said to define this time in history, but one that stands out to me in particular is that of communication. In the twenty-first century, more than ever before, much of mankind has access to technology that aids in long-distance communication. We have advanced from the telegraph to e-mail and Facebook, and although telephones are still in use, their functions have been both augmented and changed by the passing of time. We have Skype now, as well as texting and instant messaging. And as the number of ways to communicate through electronic devices increases, I fear that more traditional communication methods are being minimized. Why should I walk down the hall to ask someone a question, when I can just text them? Why write a thank-you note, when there are equally delightful e-cards? Why write letters to your mother back home if you can just call her on your cell phone anytime you like?

Much could be said about electronic vs. written modes of communication, but I want to specifically focus on letter-writing, since this is something that I enjoy and that I am trying to carry on.

It is a tradition, after all. My mother, when she was in college, regularly wrote to her mother out of necessity, I suppose because it was expensive to make a long-distance call home. Some may consider this burdensome–“What? Write whole letters? Calling is so much easier and convenient. I don’t have time to write!” Indeed, at times I feel this way. But letters can provide things that phone calls cannot, nor ever will. My mother today has that entire correspondence between mother and daughter, chronicling that period in her life along with the emotions, questions, and general news about what was going on in their lives. She continued this correspondence even after marriage, although at a certain point it ceased because their physical distance was decreased when our family moved to Fort Worth.

It may also be noted that much of the world’s known history has been preserved thanks to letters that have survived, which tell of events and circumstances that would otherwise have been forgotten forever. Much of inspired scripture also appears in the form of letters. I do not say this because I think that my mundane correspondence will someday be highly regarded by others, but I do think it important for young people to have a concern for preserving their early years in some sort of written form. True, many memories may be preserved (or rather, invoked) by photographs, but letters are a much less superficial type of personal history.

I write letters home not only because it is a medium in which I am comfortable conveying my thoughts and feelings, but also with an eye to the future, knowing that many years hence I will be able to look at these letters and see where I was in life at that time; to reminisce and see how far I’ve come. It is somewhat difficult. Sometimes I want to tell my mother something right that minute, and I am tempted to call her instead of writing, knowing that a letter would take several days to reach its destination. But I want to continue with this tradition, and Lord willing I will write plenty more letters in the future, and have plenty to write about.

Of Luck

Following in the footsteps of such esteemed scholars as our friend Sir Francis Bacon, I have decided to write an essay upon a topic which has been present in my mind for some time now, though it has been shoved aside repeatedly by the pressing responsibilities of my university studies.聽 Indeed, these still remain, but at this moment they are of such a nature that I feel I may neglect them for a few moments in order to write something that is neither required nor subject to grading, and I sincerely hope that these writings will make the reader think about something he may never have thought about before, and perhaps even challenge his usage of the English language.

We often speak of luck.聽 鈥淲hat is luck?鈥 one may justly ask.聽 Luck is an abstract thing that is apparently believed to work in the life of every person either for good or ill, depending on its whim at the time.聽 It may also be observed from usage that luck itself is neutral, for we speak both of good and bad luck.聽 A certain dictionary describes luck as a 鈥渇orce.鈥澛 I believe many people would not describe it thus, such as they might the 鈥渇orce鈥 of the Star Wars legendarium, but if I were to take a survey of English speakers I believe it would become evident that most agree that luck is more the manifestation of random chance.聽 The adjective 鈥渓ucky鈥 is applied to such serendipitous situations such as walking through town and discovering that a new ice cream shop has been opened, and is offering a free ice cream cone to whosoever may desire one, in celebration of their grand opening.聽 It may also be used to describe one who barely misses a dread accident, such as a man who, while telling of his recent visit to a swamp, says that it was lucky that he wasn鈥檛 bitten by the many unforeseen alligators that he encountered.

Another oft-encountered phrase involving luck is heard when one person encourages another with the words 鈥淕ood luck!鈥澛 Assuming 鈥渓uck鈥 is the action of random chance upon one鈥檚 life, is this phrase as uplifting semantically as the well-wisher intends?聽 Probably not.聽 If I am going out into a dangerous part of the world to teach the good news of Jesus Christ, would you rather tell me that you hope things will work out in a mysterious, random manner, or would it be more effective for you to express your wish for God to bless my endeavour?聽 If I am about to take an exam upon a difficult subject, I would much rather you wish me a clear mind and Godspeed than for you to say 鈥済ood luck.鈥

I do not know how God works.聽 As the esteemed poet Mr. Cowper wrote, 鈥淕od moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.鈥 However, I most definitely believe that He does act in the lives of men through His providence, and with the knowledge that all good things come from God, credit should be given to our Creator when something we may call 鈥渓ucky鈥 happens in our lives.聽 鈥淕od bless you鈥 carries so much more semantic and spiritual weight than 鈥済ood luck.鈥

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:6)

Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
(Psalm 68:19)

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
(Isaiah 40:29)

Musical Adventures

As you may or may not be aware, I have begun my time in college as a part of the University Chorale. I am still getting used to the rigidity of choral singing, but I am having a blast and I look forward to the day when it becomes old hat and I don’t have to focus on the mechanics of it all.

Today we started learning a piece that is very unique, to say the least. It’s called “Water Night,” and it is a loose translation of Octavio Paz’s poem “Agua Nocturna” set to music. In case you haven’t read Octavio Paz, he wrote some pretty vague stuff, and Eric Whitacre (the composer) is a “20th Century” composer, as our choral director put it. So the product of these two singular people is this song, which will be quite difficult from what I judge (perhaps more for some parts than others).

The harmony (or shall I say, dissonance?) of the piece is really odd, and jarring to the ears in certain places. One chord is made up of 14 adjacent notes, and were it not for all the pretty voices, my consonance-loving ears might just rebel.

So this is my most recent adventure. The song is not particularly horrible-sounding like some “modern” music, but it will be challenging. Fortunately iTunes had a recording for download, so I got that to listen to to help me along.

That ain't a word!

Actually it is. Unfortunately, some words in our language have faced great discrimination because of certain persons advocating a supposedly “purer” version of English, popularly known as “proper.” However, as a person with linguistic aspirations, I understand that there cannot truly be a proper dialect of a tongue, though through history many have esteemed one so highly as to consider it so, but this does not make it any better than the language of the old farmer out in the boonies.

But enough of this discourse. The purpose of this post is to inform you that it is indeed right and fitting to use the word ain’t in your everyday speech and writing. While many would consider this high treason, it really is logical if you consider it a contraction of am not. Think about it for a moment. He isn’t, you aren’t, and they aren’t are perfectly acceptable contractions. But how might you contract “I am not” after the same fashion? I ain’t, of course! Hopefully this satisfies those of you who would never utter the word, but I would also venture to say also that using ain’t with any subject is just fine, as long as you’re not trying to impress anyone.

So does this mean that now you’ll be hearing me say things like “I ain’t hungry”? No, it simply isn’t how I talk. However, I do not condemn any man who wishes to speak thus, and I hope that our tolerance in linguistic matters may expand as we realize that language is, after all, in continual development.

Many thanks to Dr. Goodword for his excellent article on this subject.