Saturday, April 25, 2009
In morning History class, I have been learning about the six Stoic virtues, which are:
My word is my bond.
I seek to limit my desires in order to control them, so they do not control me.
I seek good, hard work.
I practice thrift.
I practice non-boasting and non-complaint.
I practice mercy and non-retaliation.
If I follow these virtues, I can earn group esteem and self-esteem, because I will be known by others and myself to be trustworthy. I will be bringing out the best in others, and I will be bringing the best into my life.
I will do the good (in accord with reality,) hard (pushing past just good, into what I fear) work necessary to become virtuous. To be this person I must not focus on the wrongs of others, and I will not hold their mistakes against them. Instead I will remember and use them as a guide. As Mr. Kevin says, “If you stoop as low as a mud-slinger in order to get back at him, how can we tell you apart?”
I will not complain about anything; I will get to work fixing it.
Following the Stoic virtues appears simple, but virtue means strength. I will need to be strong in order to follow them, rather than just doing what is easiest or most fun. In order for me to be strong and to have a good character, I will practice virtue. I will never be perfect, but I will seek, strive, and progress.
When I have the strength of character I am seeking, I will not have to say what I believe or what my character stands for. It will be shown through my actions. As John F. Kennedy said, “If we are strong, our character will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.”
I used to think that being beautiful took work: careful study, saying all the right things, being everything for everyone.
Then I saw a picture of a fish, which lives in the depths of the ocean. It was the most beautiful fish, all purple, green and yellow.
I thought, "What is it being beautiful for?" I am still thinking, "What is it being beautiful for?" I guess, it's because it is in its nature to be beautiful, even at the bottom of the ocean, with no one to see.
I thought the same of the stars. They are so far away, but they are so beautiful. Way up there, they have their own purpose, but what purpose do they serve for us down here? Down here, they are only beautiful.
Maybe it is simply because it gives us a more beautiful place to live. So, the question is, "What is our purpose?" If we take this beauty, and put it in our lives, maybe we can learn to be beautiful for the sake of ourselves. Even if no one is looking. Like the fish. Like the stars.
(Thank you to Mr. Ronn for sparking the idea.)
Questioning the opinions of others, instead of rejecting them out-of-hand, or believing them because it's easier than thinking or arguing, is very important. I have learned this lesson at FMA, and, now that the year is about to end, I’m finally starting to get it.
Sometimes I get annoyed, or even enraged by someone else’s opinion. I really have to calm myself down, especially at FMA, because the instructors don’t put up with angry remarks. Mr. Kevin is one of the people here who has helped me learn to consider what someone is saying, respectfully. We may not agree a lot of the time, but he has taught me patience and understanding. I may not like something he says, but he has taught me to think about it, even question it, rather than rejecting it or accepting it unthinkingly.
Questioning has also taught me to think before I act. I can question myself before I act on impulse, and ask myself if what I want to do in the moment is really the best thing I can do.
Whether it’s my own beliefs, or someone else’s, questioning helps me arrive at the truth.
Going into our last full expedition my feelings were a mix of sadness and joy. Sadness, because we will soon be going our separate ways, and joy, because I know how happy I am to have accomplished so much.
The first day was sunny and nice, but word was that weather, maybe rain was coming. The hike along the Appalachian Trail was nice, not bad at all, despite some annoying bugs, like the worm that fell on Mr. Dan’s face.
Day two began with a cold morning, but soon we were hiking on the AT again, alongside a raging river. As we came around a corner, we saw the start of what would be the worst traverse I have ever faced. It seemed to never end, but when we finally reached the top, we were at my favorite camp spot of the expedition, Saunders Shelter. From a stream nearby, I took a cold bath under the hot sun. Midway through the night, however, I woke to the sound of rain on my tent.
The rain had stopped by the time I got up on day three. We left the AT, and hiked to a great, gorgeous camp under a towering trestle along the Virginia Creeper Trail. There, the rain turned into snow. At about 3:00 a.m., Jessie and I woke up to find our tent caving in under the snow, literally on top of us.
Later that morning, we packed up and hiked through the falling snow to our next camp. There, the snowfall increased dramatically, so we jumped into our tents for a nice 14 hours of sleep.
On day five, the sun came out just for us. The hike was wonderful, up and up, past beautiful views of the snow covered valley, to the Tri-State marker, where Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee converge. This brought me full circle to my first expedition, back in January, when we also hiked to the Tri-State. This time, it looked different, because I was able to see it as a part of something incredible that I have done. We camped just below the Tri-State, where the snow had given way to grass, and we were finally able to dry out our gear.
On the sixth day, which was also my 18th birthday, we hiked our last hike together. This was our “first last” which, for me, marked not an ending, but the beginning of a new and amazing journey of growth toward developing the strength I am discovering in myself.
I want to give a special, “Thank you,” to Mr. Mike who has taught me so much about life, and the amazing outdoors.
Throughout the year, as I came in from a long afternoon of work chores, and walked to my mailbox, my heart would skip a beat when I saw I had a letter. Who was it from? What’s it about? Who loves me enough to spend time writing? I’d take the letter with my name on it, and rip open the envelope like a ravenous scavenger into a carcass. Every single scrawl, whether on fancy stationary or a napkin meant the world to me.
News from home, and news of my friends’ lives, who aren’t at home (Toni in California), was like a cold drink on a hot day. It allowed me to remain focused on what I truly want.
Although I loved every letter, I’m afraid I wasn’t as good at writing as everyone else was. In fact, for a vast majority of this year I only whined and moaned. Thanks for putting up with that, and writing back with encouraging thoughts.
Thank you so much for keeping me in the loop these last eight months. Thanks for the numerous letters that have consistently arrived, and that I hope will continue to arrive until I leave here. I want to give special thanks to my Mom, whose love and support, allowed me to make as much progress this year as I have. I love and miss you all, and again, thank you for making me a priority.
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett is a 600-page epic about a small town trying to create a better church, while struggling to adapt to the ever-changing world around it. This book is quite a page-turner, thanks to Follett’s detailed portrait of the era, excellent storytelling, and dramatic and exciting action.
When the story begins, Tom Builder, a master builder, was seeking work so he and his family would not starve. They ended up in Kingsbridge where he found work at the priory rebuilding the church. Meanwhile, William Hamleigh, one of the novel’s primary antagonists, and his mother were trying to gain earldom over William’s ex-fiancée Aliena. A tragic series of events led Aliena and her brother to Kingsbridge, where she met Tom and his adopted son Jack. As first Tom, and then Jack, worked on the building of the church, it grew to symbolize the tension between characters as well as the town becoming united, stronger, and bigger.
As each character’s story was developed, it was incorporated into the main narrative, leading to a multi-character climax in which even the distant back-stories played a vital role. As the book comes to a close, the cathedral is completed and all of the characters get the ending they have earned.
The Pillars of the Earth is a remarkable story that is well worth reading.
The classic film, The Sound of Music, became famous and captured audiences' hearts because of a character, who spread beautiful music to the people around her. Maria was a woman who knew little of the outside world, yet, as governess to the children of the formidable Captain von Trapp, her spirit changed their lives.
She brought music and life back into the cold and empty house, where Captain von Trapp only connected with his children through stern military procedures. Against difficult odds, Maria shaped her role in this family into that of a joyful "breath of fresh air."
Watching the movie, it was exhilarating to see the youngsters emerge as their own true selves instead of as their father had tried to shape them. As they grew, they thawed his heart as well, and the whole family was healed.
The music, by Richard Rogers, is now deservedly considered classic, and the poetry of Oscar Hammerstein, which is sung beautifully, is exemplary. This film impressed me in the same way it has inspired all kinds of audiences for the past 34 years.