Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beware of the Leaven....

Half-term - that which universities euphemistically term 'reading week' - has once again holed the work schedule beneath the water line. The SS Good Intentions is slowing slipping under the waves of lassitude, with all hands shrugging their shoulders and the captain picking her nose vacantly at the helm.
Well, it's maybe not quite that bad: although I've not churned out that many words this week, I've nailed a number of very satisfying references in the original Greek or Latin. This has proved quite a task, quite akin to detective work and has necessitated a few leaps of imagination and pretty inspired guesswork (though I say so myself). It's also something that I can do whilst nominally tending to other things i.e. the children, so I don't feel too guilty on either the work or the parenting count. What I really should be doing at the moment is writing up a piece of on Gunter Grass for my German reading skills class which, whilst not being compulsory to my studies, seems to be taking up an inordinate amount of time. I've translated the poem and all I need to do is string together a few observations backed up by textual evidence. Yawn.

Lent having started, I've decided that I'll try to be a bit more committed to the whole process this year. Things started badly last year as Ash Wednesday coincided with one of my day-long trips down to university and I was unable to make any of the Impositions of Ashes. So having been sealed yesterday with a sooty blob on the forehead, I feel that I have made a 'proper' start. No more wine or chocolate for the next forty days, and an attempt to be kinder and a bit less judgmental.

The first two (wine and chocolate) will torment me for the first week or so but, when determined, I can usually stick to this sort of regimen. To be quite honest, my wine consumption was getting a bit out-of-hand, and chocolate is an indulgence that is predicated on boredom. The second two (kindness and being non-judgmental) will not come easy at all. I am supremely intolerant and have a tendency to form initial opinions based on nothing more than gut-reaction. Not good. And I've noticed that I'm getting worse as I'm getting older so, not wishing to end up a bitter and friendless burden, I'm going to try and knock it on the head, using Lent as a kick-start.

I've also gone through my blog list and deleted a large number of blogs that have become increasingly stale - purging the old leaven, if you like. Many of them speak with such staggering arrogance and hostility about their fellow man that I am amazed that they have the gall to trumpet their Christian affiliations, yet they do, and trumpet it as the sure and correct framework for life and religion. They're gone, so their hatefulness can't spread in my direction any more.

Kindness is a much underrated virtue in the modern world. I don't mean the sentimental treacly sort of self-congratulatory kindness that would, say, put money in a charity box or help an old lady across the road, but a more wholistic appreciation for another person's feelings.
Empathy rather than sympathy. The latter is an 'external' sort of thing that allows for less involvement with the recipient, the former requires a great deal more effort to put oneself in their place (it's all to do with the Greek prefixes, but I won't bore you) and internalise their feelings. It's something that I am signally not very good at (not surprising given my childhood, but that's no excuse) and have noted with alarm the small pains inflicted on (mostly) my family with what I thought were smart and witty observations or ripostes, but in fact were unkindnesses and failures of imagination on my own smug part.

It's going to take some serious governing back -having modelled most of my adult conversational skills on either Oscar Wilde or, more worryingly, Dorothy Parker - but I'm going to give it a good go. Charity, in this case the good leaven of loving-kindness, really must start at home.

No comments: