Friday, September 30, 2022
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost - 1874-1963
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
About the Poem
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” is one of Robert Frost’s very simple seeming poems, but holds much greater depth than you might think at first glance. However, it’s a beautiful poem for fall, especially as the leaves are beginning to turn to those beautiful autumn colors that the state is known for.
When it comes to understanding this poem, there can be a lot of pretentiousness in the analysis. Take for example these excerpts of reviews that are included on Wikipedia:
Alfred R. Ferguson wrote of the poem, "Perhaps no single poem more fully embodies the ambiguous balance between paradisiac good and the paradoxically more fruitful human good than 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' a poem in which the metaphors of Eden and the Fall cohere with the idea of felix culpa."
John A. Rea wrote about the poem's "alliterative symmetry", citing as examples the second line's "hardest – hue – hold" and the seventh's "dawn – down – day"; he also points out how the "stressed vowel nuclei also contribute strongly to the structure of the poem" since the back round diphthongs bind the lines of the poem's first quatrain together while the front rising diphthongs do the same for the last four lines.
In 1984, William H. Pritchard called the poem's "perfectly limpid, toneless assertion" an example of Frost demonstrating how "his excellence extended also to the shortest of figures", and fitting Frost's "later definition of poetry as a momentary stay against confusion.“
In 1993, George F. Bagby wrote the poem "projects a fairly comprehensive vision of experience" in a typical but "extraordinarily compressed" example of synecdoche that "moves from a detail of vegetable growth to the history of human failure and suffering."
I have almost always found literary analysis to be mostly pretentious with the experts using “big words” to say something (such as paradisiac) that could have been said in simpler language. It’s a fault with most academics. If they can use $100 words and sound smart, they can fool people into believing that they really are smart. While a lot of them are, it’s still a whole lot of pretension. I had a literature professor once tell our class that William Faulkner stopped a sentence in one paragraph of the book we were reading and picked up the sentence a hundred pages into the book. How he knew this, he could never explain, nor could he actually make the two sentence “fragments” actually make sense together.
I’ve always believed it was much better to say things in plain language so that more people could understand. Education and academic pursuits are not meant to see how smart you can sound while trying to show your audience just how dumb you think they are. If you’re ever in an art museum in which a group of art historians are in front of you (this actually happened to me at the MFA in Boston) each trying to show the others that they know more than the next. It was a constant game of one-upmanship in which they all just came off as pompous asses.
With that rant being given about pretentious academics, I will say that “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is one of my favorite Frost poems. As the leaves turn a myriad of autumn shades in the next couple of weeks, they’ll soon fall to the ground and turn brown before being covered in snow a few weeks later. Autumn is beautiful in New England, especially Vermont, but it doesn’t last very long. One good rainstorm at the peak of the season can end the season in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. Back in Alabama, the leaves won’t begin to turn for many more weeks, but even then, there is not the rich variety of collars found in Vermont.
Sunday, September 25, 2022
But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.—Hebrews 10:32-35
George Orwell (1903-1950) said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Orwell also reportedly said, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” With American politics the way it is right now, everything conservatives don’t like is “fake news” and political ads for Republicans are filled to the brim with lies. Orwell could have just as easily said, “The further Republicans drift from the truth, the more they will hate those that speak it.” I’m afraid if the Republicans regain a majority, there will be persecutions and retribution against all those who tell the truth and try to do what’s right.
Paul the Apostle describes persecution with an eternal perspective in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Paul explains in 2 Timothy 3:13-17, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
At times in each of our lives, we have had to endure hardships. Whether it’s money issues, relationship woes, loss of a loved one, or hating our job, no matter the reason for would pain, God will get us through the toughest times. How matter how good we are, or how godly a life we live, we will still face hardships. As many of the people who call themselves Christians increasingly embrace hatred, greed, and sinfulness, we have to fight even harder to preserve the loving relationship that God has for us. We can’t let hate drive us away from God. An increasing number of people consider themselves non-religious. Even those raised in a Christian household are turning away from God because of the bad example that many people set in the name of Christianity.
Jesus warned in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” Although it is often suppressed by the news media, the persecution of true Christians is proliferating throughout the world. In times like these we need endurance. People who claim to be Christians are the ones causing the most harm. They are driving people away from religion by their own intolerance and hateful views. They turn their backs on Christians who actually follow the teachings of Christ.
We are tempted to become weary in well-doing. Galatians 6:9 reads, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Life may look hopeless, but there is always hope. God offers us hope, love, and eternal life. We may have times that are so bad, we don’t think we will ever get out from under that dark cloud, but we will. God will shine his light on us and show us our path, our destiny. Things will work out in the end, we just need the endurance to get us there.
Saturday, September 24, 2022
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Fire and Ice
By Robert Frost - 1874-1963
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
About the Poem
"Fire and Ice" was written by Robert Frost and published in 1920, shortly after WWI, and weighs up the probability of two differing apocalyptic scenarios represented by the elements of the poem's title. The speaker believes fire to be the more likely world-ender of the two and links it directly with what he has "tasted" of "desire." In an ironically conversational tone, the speaker adds that ice—which represents hate and indifference—would "also" be "great" as a way of bringing about the end of the world. There are two reported inspirations for the poem: the first of these is Dante's Inferno, which is a poetic and literary journey into Hell written in the 14th century. The other is a reported conversation Frost had with astronomer Harlow Shapley in which they talked about the sun exploding or extinguishing—fire or ice.
According to one of Frost's biographers, "Fire and Ice" was inspired by a passage in Canto 32 of Dante's Inferno, in which the worst offenders of hell (the traitors) are submerged up to their necks in ice while in a fiery hell: "a lake so bound with ice, / It did not look like water, but like a glass...right clear / I saw, where sinners are preserved in ice." In a 1999 article, John N. Serio claims that the poem is a compression of Dante's Inferno. He draws a parallel between the nine lines of the poem with the nine rings of Hell and notes that, like the downward funnel of the rings of Hell, the poem narrows considerably in the last two lines. Frost's diction further highlights the parallels between Frost's discussion of desire and hate with Dante's outlook on sins of passion and reason with sensuous and physical verbs describing desire and loosely recalling the characters Dante met in the upper rings of Hell: "taste" (recalling the Glutton), "hold" (recalling the adulterous lovers), and "favor" (recalling the hoarders). In contrast, hate is discussed with verbs of reason and thought ("I think I know.../To say...").
In an anecdote, he recounted in 1960 in a "Science and the Arts" presentation, the prominent astronomer Harlow Shapley claims to have inspired "Fire and Ice." Shapley describes an encounter he had with Frost a year before the poem was published in which Frost, noting that Shapley was the astronomer of his day, asked him how the world would end. Shapley responded that either the sun will explode and incinerate the Earth, or the Earth will somehow escape this fate only to end up slowly freezing in deep space. Shapley was surprised at seeing "Fire and Ice" in print a year later and referred to it as an example of how science can influence the creation of art or clarify its meaning.
About the Poet
Robert Frost most likely needs no introduction, but in case you don’t know, he is one of the most celebrated figures in American poetry. Frost was the author of numerous poetry collections, including New Hampshire (Henry Holt and Company, 1923). Born in San Francisco in 1874, he lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont. Frost is one of my favorite poets. The simplicity of his poems often hides a much deeper meaning. He wrote some of America’s best-loved poems: “The Road Not Taken,” “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” and one of my personal favorites, “Mending Wall.”
Frequently honored during his lifetime, Frost is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He became one of America's rare "public literary figures, almost an artistic institution". He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 for his poetic works. On July 22, 1961, Frost was named poet laureate of Vermont. Frost died in Boston in 1963.
Monday, September 19, 2022
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
— Exodus 20:16
I was trying to come up with an LGBTQ+ Pride topic for this week's Sunday post. I decided to write about being our "authentic self." Isn't that a large part of coming out? We want to be true to ourselves and to stop lying to others about who we really are. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is the ninth commandment (the designation varies between religions) of the Ten Commandments. According to the New Testament, Jesus explains that obedience to the prohibition against false testimony from the ten commandments is a requirement for eternal life. According to Jesus, false testimony comes from the sinful desires of the heart and makes people unclean.
However, when I googled “the bible and authentic self" most articles are about how Christians should resist being their authentic selves. One piece said, “To those who are of the world, ‘be yourself’ means speak your mind, don’t hold anything back, love yourself more than anyone else, and openly reject anyone you just don’t like. The advice to ‘be yourself’ can quickly turn into an excuse to be unfriendly and overly blunt." The problem with this is that this statement is only valid if you are a terrible person. "Love yourself more than anyone else, and openly reject anyone you just don’t like.” While that sounds like a lot of Christians I know today who reject those who aren’t like themselves, it is certainly not in the spirit of the Bible.
Another article Sue Bohlin, a speaker/writer and “webmistress” for Probe Ministries, lays out precisely why so many Christians fear authenticity, “In today’s culture, coming out and admitting you’re gay is applauded as ‘being authentic.’ Claiming you are a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa, is ‘being authentic.’ But refusing to accept such labels means you’re inauthentic.” The Bohlin goes on to say:
More and more Christians are throwing in the towel in their fight against unholy sexual and relational temptations, claiming to follow their “authentic self.” Even worse, a growing number of churches are doing something similar by embracing same-sex marriage. I have a question for them. If God really created them to be gay and blesses that identity today, what will happen a hundred years from today? Will there be homosexuality in heaven? There will be no sex in heaven because the only marriage will be between the Church and the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. If one’s identity is wrapped up in same-sex attractions, as it is by those claiming to be “gay Christians,” who will they be when all sexual and relational brokenness is a thing of the past, a mere memory of earthly life?
I suggest that a believer’s true and real and lasting “authentic self” is all wrapped up in not who we say we are, but who God says we are: His beloved child, redeemed and purified and made holy as He is holy. Chosen, accepted, and included a citizen of heaven and a member of God’s household. Belonging to Jesus because He bought us with His very lifeblood. Sealed with the Spirit, made brand new from the inside out.
There is a MAJOR flaw to her argument. When she says, “A believer’s true and real and lasting “authentic self” is all wrapped up in not who we say we are, but who God says we are,” is her fatal flaw. Our authentic self is who God says we are. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image.” John 1:3 says, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” God made us. He made us in his image. Therefore, if we are gay, God is also gay. God is also straight, bisexual, transgender, asexual, etc. He represents all things because he created everything; therefore, he is every part of every aspect of the spectrum of sexuality.
The most significant issue is that most Christians are closed-minded and narrowly focused on their beliefs. They pick and choose what Bible verses they want to follow and ignore those inconvenient for them. For example, they condemn LGBTQ+ people, but they do not condemn divorce of which Jesus does condemn in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, what is most curious is that if homosexuality was so wrong (an abomination), why did Jesus never mention it, not even once? Furthermore, LGBTQ+ issues are not discussed anywhere by any of the New Testament authors. Yes, there is a verse that is often misinterpreted in Leviticus to condemn homosexuality, but if Christians follow that one verse from Leviticus, then shouldn't they also follow all of the other prohibitions from Leviticus?
Leviticus 18:22 prohibits male same-sex intercourse, and Leviticus 20:13 prescribes the death penalty for violators. But Christians have never lived under the Old Testament law. The Old Testament contains 613 commandments for God’s people to follow. Leviticus includes rules about offerings, clean and unclean foods, diseases, bodily discharges, sexual taboos, and priestly conduct. But the New Testament teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled the law, which is why its many rules and regulations have never applied to Christians. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Hebrews 8:13 says, “In that he saith, A new covenant [New Testament/Jesus’s Teachings]*, he hath made the first old [Old Testament/Laws of Moses]*. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
Even greater than cherry-picking verses from the Bible, many heterosexual Christians often still claim that sexuality is a choice. Because of their close-mindedness, they cannot understand that LGBTQ+ individuals are born this way. They were created by God in his image, in all the various degrees of sexuality. They are often so small-minded that they cannot imagine being born anyway other than cisgender heterosexuals. They do not want to open their minds to God’s true words because then they may have to look at themselves and see their own flaws. The only choice we have about our sexuality is whether or not we choose to be our authentic selves the way God created us.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community, so many of us for so long have been taught to be ashamed of who we are because we do not fit the predominant image and standard profile of acceptable persons. We have been taught to look at ourselves through lenses that cannot see our true beauty and essence as citizens in society, as people of God, and as children of the greater universe. When we look at ourselves, we must try as best we can to see everything there, but this is sometimes hard to do without a genuine desire to take a hard look and see what's there, to view ourselves clearly, squarely, and freely. The beauty and goodness of what we see sometimes give way to the not so beautiful things that we see, say, and do. We must cast aside all fear in taking that honest look if we are to grow into a greater awareness of who we really are and what we can ultimately become as genuine persons of promise and value.
*Added for clarification.
This post is a repost from June 2021. I’m reposting it today because today is Vermont Pride.