Friday, March 22, 2013

Drawing Sentences: A Guide to Diagramming

It always surprises me how very little most people seem to understand the structure of language.  More so, it surprises me how little they seem to care about their lack of understanding.  This is not limited to Americans.  I was questioning my Swiss friend about some points of German grammar, and she said that she really did not know how to answer me.  She just naturally speaks and reads it.  Which I suppose makes sense.  That is how most of us interact with our native tongues.  I guess it is just that I enjoy writing.  And, more than that actually, I enjoy reading well-written work, be it essay or story or novel.  My desire both to write better and to grasp why well-written pieces resonate the way that they do has led me to a lifelong fascination with grammar, syntax, and punctuation. And since I am the tyrannical pedagogical overlord of my daughter's education, my obsessions dictate her courses of study.  So, we are going to start diagramming sentences in composition.  Bwha-ha-ha! 
Luckily for me, this modern age of instant and complete gratification almost immediately put into my hands the ultimate sentence diagramming book: Drawing Sentences by Eugene Moutoux.  I promise you: I ordered this book before I even knew that the author was a professor of, among other things, German and Latin (derivatives).  Must be kismet!  We have not started to use it yet (next Monday is the day enclosed with a red heart on my calendar that signals the beginning of our journey); but, after simply thumbing through its awesomeness, I can confidently say that this book has everything you need to learn completely the art of diagramming.  He starts with the simplest sentences (e.g. "Ducks waddle.") and moves you systematically through the swirly-twirly grammar forest to such compositional virtuosity as this gem from Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher": During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. Whoa Nelly!  Could Poe himself diagram that twister?  We ought to be able to by the end of this course.
I am really hoping that this intensive study -- which will probably take us the rest of 4th Grade well into 6th -- will leave Sadie with a thorough understanding of the structural beauty that is possible with our wondrous language.  Also, I hope that she comes away from it with more than a nodding acquaintance with the arsenal of structural components available to writers to enrich and enhance their craft.  Frankly, that is my hope for myself as well. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

2,000 Years

Pie in the Sky!
Heaven.  Such a beguiling thought!  Do you sit and dream about how you will while away the uncountable hours once the shackles of time are thrown off and our tears of sadness are replaced forever by those of joy?  I love to think of Heaven, which is probably why Revelation is one of my least favorite books of the Bible -- too boring and scary.  I acknowledge that that will be the end of our beginning -- the ultimate battles to usher in the Millennial Reign on this battle-scarred earth.  But, one thousand years is nothing to eternity, and I like to focus my thoughts on the great Here-After, when sin and pain are put away, and we are who we were always meant to be.  Jason thinks I'm too pie-in-the-sky with my anticipations of Heaven.  Why, of course there will be pie!  How could our great and good God fashion a paradise that does not include pie?  I think that I am right, and Jason is wrong.  Jesus is our model for what resurrected life looks like.  He ate fish.  I will eat pie.  Ultimately, after the great End and the grand court display with the cherubim and seraphim chanting creepily about, what we will be left with is our Heavenly Father and His family.  And we all know that when family reunions are good, they are very good indeed.  And there is often pie!

I used to think that the line to see Jesus would cost me at least 10,000 years of waiting.  Then, it hit me that Jesus is not like Santa Claus at the Bellevue Mall.  He will be ever-present, because He is welcoming us into His home.  His Spirit will waft about like fresh perfume, no longer contained to the hearts of those who love Him.  And, I will know everybody!  No more lurking in the corner, wishing I were somewhere else, counting the minutes until the party is over.  There won't be any minutes to count!  What a party!

What I love to think of most (and this is where Jason thinks I veer too close to heresy or solipsism or whatnot) is that I will get to be with other people I love who love Jesus.  That is, I firmly believe that there will be firesides in cozy rooms in the mansion that my Father built, with rain pouring down outside the big picture windows.  And by those firesides, there will be glasses of wine and good fellowship with the likes of Flicka, Vermonster, Anita, Jane, Maud, Jack, Gilbert, etc.  And there will be laughter and stories and joy.  Jason seems to think it will be all Revelation all the time.  If it were, then I would want out.  But, I think too highly of my Heavenly Father for that.  He built us for joyful relationships.  He rescued us to be His family.  Every father loves to see his children in loving fellowship; how much more, then, our Father in Heaven?  You simply cannot have relationships within the framework of Revelation.  There is not much in that prophetic book that says "family."  I think that it is a description of a fixed point in Heaven's timeline -- another instance, like that of Creation and the Incarnation, of God's subjecting Himself to the tyranny of time in order to accomplish something important. But, once the end of the beginning is finished, once the Millennial Reign is done, once we truly enter eternity, then it's the biggest, best family reunion ever!

I have already told my friend, Flicka, that I'm counting on at least 2,000 years of drinking wine with her by that glorious fire simply to catch up on all the interrupted conversations and missed opportunities from our fleeting vapor of earth life.  Of course, there will not be such a thing as years by then; but, if there were, I'm thinking that I'm pretty spot on. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Recapturing the True Spirit of the Season

OK, my dad is sending too much good stuff to my in-box lately.
Caesar. The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer. Ay, Caesar; but not gone. (3.1.1) 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Could This Be the BEST News Blurb EVER?

As seen by my keen-eyed dad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As Mr. Bennet would say, "For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"