Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Virgil, Goats, and The Woman Warrior

In battle, Camilla cuts down man after man, blood splattering her face as she sticks a spear straight through a soldier. Meanwhile, in a small pack of goats, the she-goats are granted beards to show that they too can be just as manly as the men. The male goats do not appreciate this degradation of their status, for they think that beards should only be on real men. These two pieces of literature seem entirely unrelated. One is an epic battle from an epic poem by Virgil; the other is an obscure fable from an often over-looked collection by Phaedrus.
Virgil and Phaedrus represent opposing sides of the debate on female warriors during the time of the early Roman Empire, pointing to a greater cultural debate on women’s valor. Virgil represents the side of culture who sees female warriors as heroic. Phaedrus represents the side of culture who sees them as fraud. These two literary portraits of female warriors are a part of a social conversation on the status of women seen prominently in female gladiators, female Roman citizens, and the presence of women in folklore.
In his Aeneid, Virgil describes a battle of the famed female warriors, the Amazons, whom he presents as heroic. This puts him in a literary tradition of females in war lore. Virgil’s character Camilla, a courageous victim, is typical to Italian invention.[1] In the section of Aeneid about the Amazons Virgil focuses almost exclusively on their Queen, Camilla. He places Camilla in a heated battle scene with many descriptions of her armor, weapons, and the violence of her actions.[2] Camilla’s warrior handmaidens follow her to battle. At one point a young soldier challenges Camilla, taunting her to dismount her horse and fight him face to face.[3] Camilla leaves her horse promptly and he, realizing his mistake, turns to run in fear. She then precedes to chase the youth down and slay him on his horse. She not only faced him evenly but also gave him the upper hand of being on his horse. It is only when a man prays to Apollo for help in battle that Camilla is killed. Virgil refers to the slaying of Camilla as sacrilege. Virgil draws out the drama of her death as he describes the color leaving her face, and her last words rally her handmaiden troops. The man responsible for her death shows equal remorse with his pride of victory and seems scared by the death of Camilla with all her glory, beauty, and valor. Her sisters in battle weep over her as she dies a hero’s death.
Camilla’s heroic battle does not appear until book eleven of the Aeneid, an important note to a book that is often studied only up to book six. One scholar says, “We may ask why Camilla is introduced at all. Her contribution to the plot is nil;”[4] she is introduced with glory and dies only a few pages later, Aeneas is not even in her battle. Virgil is talking about much more than just a character. His motifs go deeper than just a story; they are tied to concepts that need to be discussed, “…the Aeneid is, among other things, a document of imperial propaganda in the best sense of the word…”[5] The Aeneid is considered “the national Roman poem,” and shows the greatness of Rome and embodies civic and individual virtue.[6]  More specifically, in the case of Camilla, the concept of how the female warrior is perceived, and in turn the power in the Roman woman. Not everyone is sure that Virgil presents a positive view of the Amazons. The classical authors originally described the Amazons as an example of how bad the world would be if women were put into major political power.[7] One author talks about Camilla’s distasteful upbringing, how she is described as horrenda or dreadful.[8]  If Virgil does see the Amazons as negative characters, he agrees with Phaedrus. However in looking at the death of Camilla, we can see that Virgil did not portray Camilla as only horrenda. He talks of the gods mourning her death, along with her sisters in arms; he refers to her beauty as goddess-like.[9] Throughout the narrative on Camilla she is the protagonist.[10] Camilla is heroic. Virgil seems to say that female warriors are heroic and to be revered.
“De Capris Barbatis” or “The Bearded She-Goats” tells a much different story. It is about a pack of male goats who complain because the she-goats ask and receive beards from Jove, by which they can claim to hold the same office as the male goats, even though they are not males at all. Jove replies to the male goats saying, “Let them revel in their empty splendor and adopt the adornment that was distinctive to you, so long as they can't compete with you in courage.” [11]    
This fable is baffling without first understanding the construction of a fable and then the historical context of its author. Phaedrus’ fables all contain three layers: a story layer, a moral, and a political satire of an actual event. It could be argued that Phaedrus only points to people who are faking their position and it could have nothing to do with women. But this seems an unrealistic expectation for a fabulist. Phaedrus chose the she-goats specifically, we can see this by looking at each layer of the story and by adding knowledge of other fables. First look at the story layer, he chooses to stick with only one type of animal. It is common in fables to have more than one type of animal. In “Graculus Superbus et Pavo” or “The Proud Jackdaw and the Peacock” Phaedrus shows a difference in status, similar to the moral of “De Capris Barbatis,” but instead of just one animal he tactfully uses two different animals to convey a slightly different moral. The Second layer, the moral, is normally easy to find in a promythium or epimythium.[12] The epimythium of “De Capris Barbatis” says “This story teaches you to tolerate it when those who are not comparable in character or capacity assume the same uniform as you.” [13]  Phaedrus explains that though it is tolerable for people to be imposters, it is common knowledge that imposters are fake. Finally, a fable is commonly satire on a current event.  Here it gets tricky, Phaedrus is a problematic author to analyze since there is little to no commentary on his fables (except those copied from Aesop) giving little proof of what event Phaedrus harkened to. But because we know he was tactful to choose a she-goat it is fair to assume he was talking about women. Further, because he talks about adornments and valor it is fair to assume he was talking about military status. Finally, Phaedrus would not have written about it if it were not a current event.
This debate on who the female warrior is, is shown clearly upon examination of some of the women during the early Roman Empire. One prime example is that of the female gladiators. After all, gladiators are known to be heroic. However, modern scholasticism has some interesting points to bring up on female gladiators. We know that female gladiators exited, however we have no knowledge of how many or if they were at all prominent.[14] Women were initially banned from the games, starting in 22 B.C., and so “gained” the right later when in A.D. 11 when only freeborn women under the age of twenty were banned.[15] This further shows that while Virgil wrote on the Amazons, females were rising in war culture. However, we find that there is little evidence about the female gladiators.[16] Many of the mentions of female gladiators are mere mentions in passing. However, there are a few that expound on female gladiators, these works highlight the disgrace and frivolousness of female gladiators.[17] The lack of discussion and the negativity of that available lends itself more then to Phaedrus’ view that while existent, they are unimportant and little to talk about.
The female gladiators did not appear until after Virgil’s time, so it could be that Virgil was just drawing from different examples. However real-life female warriors before Virgil are far and few between, the Spartan women lend themselves as one of the only historical examples. There were however many female warriors in lore and religion. Athena is a prominent example, as well as Diana, whom Camilla promises to serve. Therefore, while it seems there are few historical examples for Virgil to draw from, we do find them numerous in lore. Such prominence in lore and religion leads us to wonder if there are real people behind these figures. Unfortunately, there is not a good way to tell since many of these stories stem from an oral tradition. The prominence of fictional and the lack of historical examples point to Phaedrus’ view that the female warrior is mere fiction.
Another example is that of women in the Roman Empire. Freeborn women in the Roman Empire were counted as citizens, but they did not have the right to vote. It seems that they wore the uniform without performing the duties—as Phaedrus would point out. Male Roman citizens had the right to vote, hold public office, own property, be legally married, have citizen children, and to utilize the judicial system.[18] Female citizens were deprived of two of these rights, voting and holding office. This also shows the conflicting views of women in the period, since they were counted without being counted. To add yet another layer, the Senatusconsultum Velleianum was law and put a few caveats on a woman’s right to own property. The first required that women have a guardian their whole lives, and second that this guardian must sign off on the woman’s transactions.[19] Property ownership only gives social power if you can use it in trade or inheritance. While they ‘owned’ their property they had little to no dominion over it, this takes another citizen’s right away from women. This made the female citizenship even more of a ‘uniform’ and less of a reality. It seems that the Roman Empire wanted their women to look strong without having any strength. They wanted women like Phaedrus portrays, women in a high uniform and a low status.
Phaedrus and Virgil would also disagree whether the wearer of a ‘uniform’ could portray bravery. If Virgil did portray the disaster of female power, he still made Camilla heroic in action, even if she is not the victor. Virgil idealizes the female warrior. Phaedrus states that female warriors are tolerable so long as they do not compete with men’s valor. Phaedrus belittles the female warrior. Virgil not only makes them imitators of, but even competitors with men’s valor, even when they do not win. Phaedrus states that female warriors cannot compete with men’s valor, they are neither capable to nor should they.
Virgil’s female warrior represents the idea of the decorated female gladiator, the free female Roman citizen, and female prominence in war lore. Phaedrus’ female warrior represents the idea of the rare and unpopular female gladiator, the female Roman citizen without rights, and the war lore that is nothing more than a tall tale. It is no wonder that Virgil and Phaedrus’ characters show female warriors in opposing light when their culture is so confused about what valor looks like in a woman. Virgil and Phaedrus each portray a female warrior, and each mirrors culture in their portrayal.

[1] Alexander G. McKay, Vergil’s Italy (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society LTD., 1970), 45. 
[2] Virgil, Aeneid, 11.648-.663. 
[3] Ibid., 11.705-.708.
[4] Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, “Virgil and Heroism: Aeneid XI,” The Classical Journal 55, no. 4 (Jan. 1960), 159, access November 29, 2017.
[5] Rosenmeyer, 164.
[6] J.W. Mackail, “Literature,” in The Legacy of Rome, ed. Cyril Bailey (Oxford: The University Press), 339.
[7] Anita Frasier, The Warrior Queens (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), 22.
[8] Rosenmeyer, 160.
[9] Virgil, 11.657.
[10] Rosenmeyer, 159.
[11] Phaedrus, The Bearded She-Goats, bk. 4, fable 17, lines 4-6.
[12] A promythium is a moral that introduces a fable or story. An epimythium is a moral appended to the end of a fable or story.
[13] Phaedrus, 4.17.7-8.
[14] Anna McCullough, “Female Gladiators in Imperial Rome: Literary Context and Historical Fact,” The Johns Hopkins University Press, Vol. 101, No. 2 (Winter, 2008): 198, accessed November 6, 2017,
[15] McCullough, Female Gladiators in Imperial Rome: 199.
[16] McCullough, 201.
[17] Ibid., 205.
[18] J.A. Crook, “Feminine Inadequacy and the Senatusconsultum Velleianum,” In The Family in Ancient Rome, edited by Beryl Rawsom: 84.
[19] Crook, 84.

Crook, J.A. "Feminine Inadequacy and the Senatusconsultum Velleianum." In The Family in Ancient Rome, edited by Berly Rawson, 83-92. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1986.
Fraser, Antonia. The Warrior Queens. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
Mackail, J.W. “Literature.” In The Legacy of Rome, edited by Cyril Bailey, 325-350. Oxford: The University Press, 1923.
McCullough, Anna. "Female Gladiators in Imperial Rome: Literary Context and Historical Fact." In The Classical World (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 101, no. 2 (2008): 197-209.
McKay, Alexander G. Vergil’s Italy. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1970.
Phaedrus and Babrius. Babrius and Phaedrus. Edited by T.E. Page, E. Capps, W.H.D Rouse, L.A. Post, & E.H. Warmington. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1965.
Rosenmeyer, Thomas G. “Virgil and Heroism: Aeneid XI.” In The Classical Journal (The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc.) 55, no. 4 (January 1960): 159-164.

Virgil. Aeneid. Translated by H. Rushton Fairclough. Vol. II. II vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Turning Summer

If you get the timing right, you can take row covers off and then have a break under the Mulberry tree. This happens rarely. But when it does, you can eat the berries and wipe the juice on your work jeans. You can idle and watch the piles get turned. The piles stand as tall as a pick-up bed, short enough to see the top, but difficult to reach over. They are about the length of a basketball court. They have just enough space between them for our small tractor to go through. When the tractor goes down the rows, we lower the turner and flip on the PTO to get the beater turning. The beater, a horizontal shaft with teeth, catches the compost and throws it to the next spot, mixing air back into it. You turn the compost so that the microorganisms in it can catch their breath before they go back to eating away at the hay (compost is made mostly of hay). People worry that it’s going to smell. It only smells if it’s wrong. Compost done right smells first like sourdough bread, then like fresh earth.
           Compost is consistent (or, at least it’s supposed to be). Every morning for the first two weeks you have to turn it: roll off the tarps, test the temperature and the CO2, pull out the tractor. My fingers dig away at the top layer of soil and, finding the moist layer beneath, feel the heat of decomposition. When I dig, I let the heat escape and wait for it to cool so that the dirt doesn’t burn me. Grass grows, but dirt burns with life. Soil is like morning sun through the window: subtle, sweet, still.
            When you work compost you do it mostly alone. There are people around, but it’s too loud or you are working too fast or there are too many jobs. Alone is a good way to watch dust spin on the road, to listen to semi-trucks use engine brakes, to smell the summer ripening the peaches; to think.

When the afternoon gets too hot and the compost is covered, we move to the shade of the shop. Afternoons are meant for work— but not on the dry flat used for compost. My sisters and I push brooms, shuffling down the slab to make room for whatever project my Dad pulls up: welding jobs, washing trucks, destroying whole corners of the shop so we can re-organize. My sisters and I joke, and laugh, and sing to the radio. The way we dress tells about what jobs we do. Martha paints, she wears bandannas and tank tops; Cora welds, she wears old jeans and t-shirts; I run errands, I wear button downs and a belt: to pack when I work the gun store, to clip a tape measure to, to keep shirt tails from showing. We each start out the day, our hair braided and pinned away; but end it with frizz and pins falling in our faces. When you adjust your baseball cap every half hour, the pieces begin to slouch— not just the hat. We think about tomorrow, another early morning, when we will roll out of bed, put on boots and turn the pile again.

My face felt sunburnt; it probably was, but I was too tired to look. I plopped down on the couch and our dog Clyde bounded over to get in my lap. Clyde lay his head on my earth-stained jeans. I folded into the purple couch. The microwave hummed as it thawed hamburger behind me in the kitchen; Mom was making tacos. Dad untucked his shirt and took off his belt; he wasn’t planning on getting anything else done. Martha called the shower first; she claims to be fastest but we know it will be a while. Cora hid in her room; she, being the introvert that she is, wants only her chair and Minecraft. I close my eyes and pet Clyde’s velvet ears.
 It’s different being home. I feel my palms: once soft with books, now harsh with a rake handle. Callouses build on your palms and fingertips as you pull tarps; I can feel the motions run through my muscles as I lay on the couch. Hands clamp tight and you pull with all your weight, like a rocking chair rhythm. When you’ve gotten a good partner to flip the tarp, you can get going steady and fast doing a whole row in about seven minutes. Martha and I had a system, so that if no one else got involved we could man the tarps while Cora ran the tractor: then, turning three rows took an hour. But when I fall on the couch from a full day, it’s never just the tarps that you feel changing you. It’s time picking through bolts, it’s your knees pressed against pallets when you shove them onto the forklift, it’s a broom handle, a wrench: the things making you tired. In the works of summer you can feel your mind change. Iron sharpens iron and the hands sharpen the mind.
Clyde poked my hands with his nose; he didn’t care how they felt. Whether there was dirt under my nails or greases stains on my palms. He didn’t care about frizzy hair or sunburnt cheeks. About muscles worn out or a mind wandering.

If you get the timing right you will have dirt by the end of the summer. The once tall rows of hay will compress: they will keep their mass, but their appearance will morph. The summer heat will bake more than the grass; it will ripen the sweet corn in its husk, and turn blooms into peaches. The morning will be young enough so that you won’t have to work in the sun. The radio will play a good song while you sweep. Callouses will build and won’t blister or break. Time will fix and grow. If you get the timing right; if you get the timing right. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Hand Me an Impact!" (Personal Essay, 1st Term Sophomore year)

When I was four or five my dad started a project. We went to my great uncle's house, cut down a tree and pulled out the frame of a 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser. I only remember looking at the stump and thinking, "That's a car?" Later, we found parts in our favorite junkyard. I would take crushed cans for a quarter while my dad would find parts. We would go to Carquest and he would ask about whole engines, while I looked at the different displays on motor oil.
My favorite memories are making chai; I would get the ‘little-dipper’ bear cup, and Dad would take the ‘Big-Dipper’. Then we would head out to the garage and I would learn the names of the tools as I handed them to Dad, "10mm wrench." "Philip's head screwdriver." "Impact." We spent many nights like this, Dad on the creeper, with engine oil on his forearms, and me on the concrete and parts everywhere.
*   *   *
When I was 11, my family moved to Mason City, Nebraska. A skeleton of a house on one side of the tracks and our tin-building shop on the other. Dad was going on an entrepreneurial adventure, and bringing us along for the ride.
Dad would work around the clock, there were nights when he would just run across the tracks to eat supper and then dart back to do maintenance. If I wanted to see Dad it meant I had to be in the truck or in the shop with the tools. I chose the shop, or rather Dad forced it on me. The shop had cold concrete, and the walls were coated in welding burns. When the train rushed past the rafters would shake, and dust would fall like rain from the ceiling. My legs would ache from standing, and the ache would amplify the cold. Some days I would be covered in icy water, from washing trucks, and other days I would have grease up to my elbows, adding to my freckles. You start to wonder if it’s a curse, but everyday looking back, it’s a gift. Dad gave me that shop. Soon I was in charge of fixing grease zerks and air filters and oil changes and my own Swede speed.
In high school Dad gave me a 1984 245 DL Volvo Wagon, it was free from a salvage yard and didn’t even start. But it was my first car, the love of my life, the car of my dreams. It was tan, with brown seats, a knob radio, it also, smelled strongly of mouse pee and had mouse remnants on all the upholstery and needed a new fuel system and wiring harness, but that was mere detail. 
The Volvo consumed my junior summer, free time was spent just sitting in the car, cleaning the interior, propping open the back hatch and sitting in the folding rear seats, tuning the radio just right, imagining the place we would go. Someday I could cross the country, Moscow, San Francisco, Main, The Smoky Mountains, The Grand Canyon, all in this first car. But the car wasn’t meant to be. It was a high school class; I drove it all of 48 miles and sold it because it could never take me cross-country. Not even nostalgia could save a car that weary.
After that first car, Dad gave me something a little more reliable, a 1995 Toyota Pickup. I didn’t think it was my dream car, but after 10,000 miles, it holds part of my home. It was my last project with Dad hovering over my shoulder. I pulled the hubs apart on it, my senior year. When you take apart a hub, you start by pulling the wheel. Just five lug nuts zipping off. From there you take off the brake caliper, disconnect the propeller shaft, and go for all the seals and bearings. You can slide your finger around the cone’s edge, like around the top of a glass, and feel the ball bearings spin beneath. Blue grease coated my fingertips as I packed it back together, filling all the crevices. I broke open the hubs so that I could replace them with lockout hubs. Dad explained why I needed them, “So you can get two more miles to the gallon.” When the wheels were disconnected from the shaft they could move freely, making my 4-wheel drive, real 2-wheel drive. When winter comes, Dad laughs proudly as I tell him that I get to turn on my hubs.  
*  *  *
The ‘Big-Dipper’ mug sits next to the ‘little-dipper’ mug on the brown rollaway. Those nights we would listen to the radio, and I would adjust his old stereo so that we could get just the right rock station, other nights we would only listen to the crickets in the backyard or the neighbor kid skateboarding. The garage was small, and my Dad didn’t quite have all the tools. But we still managed to get the work done. I couldn’t reach all the drawers in the rollaway, and if I could most were too heavy. My Dad still made me try. When it would get late, we would go into the house and wash our hands with orange soap in the kitchen sink.   
Now we mostly drink coffee. I still adjust that radio. Sometimes we still listen to the sounds outside, but now they are mostly trains and June Beetles. Now my Dad has all the tools, a mill and lathe, and two rollaways. I can find every tool, and now the hired men ask me where things are. The shop is still too small, even though it’s grown. It seems that some days I spend just as much time on the creeper as my Dad. Now we stand together over the stainless steel sink and scrub our greasy arms up-to-the-elbows together. The dark 90 weight blends with my Dad’s dark arm hair, smudging, turning to suds, while the extra freckles of my arms slowly wash away.

Poems 1st Term Sophomore Year

Wintering In The 1970’s Camper

We crammed so we could be free.
Yellow aluminum was the shell,
six weeks inside, while snow
fell. My mom’s boots clicked
linoleum. We slept on plaid pillows
for a bed, a table, a couch. Fifteen by six,
I didn’t move, so Mom could turn
a circle to cook. Coffee in hand-
keeping her warm- black long johns,
green sweater, copper shavings
in her hair. My little sister’s laugh
held us through, as we watched
the house grow. A cat, a dog,
three sisters, a mom, my dad to come.
We waited for the house that wasn’t yet.

Slaughtering the Pig

Rock, paper, scissors, bang. The boys
play this game. Who shall hold the dark
wood gun? The younger gets the bid,
the older a knife, watching his father cut.
Blood drains thick in a bucket, like the pudding
it will become. The younger takes the saw
through bone. White grout beneath the skin, peeling
away to warm lines, the pig hangs, rope tight,
tattered like the mountain tiers of the hard
Wyoming sage. Firm is the knife that cuts, firmer
still the reason. Sunlight trickles over the mountains
soft like the leather that once held breath.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Shepard's Pie

There are three first steps. All revolve around death. The cow already gone to slaughter and made to hamburger and the potatoes uprooted. Jesus breaking bread and marching off to death. An art lost and dead in society. To understand one you must understand the other. Bear with me as I tear each apart separately to bring them all back together.   
At the last supper, Jesus took bread and broke it. It pointed to the further brokenness of his body. This is the greatest mystery of our culture, death leading to life. What an even greater mystery this must have been for the disciple who were the first to see this. Even in bread breaking, Jesus showed them what would happen, the decomposition of food that leads directly to nourishment and energy for life laid before them. In Jewish culture, specifically Biblical time Jewish culture, it was common to fast in a time of mourning.[1] [2]  It was also common to fast in time of threat.[3] Two things that happen to the disciples, Peter denies because he is afraid, and each disciple flees. All of Jesus’s disciples fall into despair and mourning as they watch him die. As a Jewish people, it is not stated, but implied that the disciples would fast. When Jesus feeds them the last supper, I believe that it is literally their last supper until he returns; making the last supper and even greater sign of Jesus providing for his disciples even as he goes to the grave, showing he will always be with them. They do not see this mystery, because there is death.
When an animal is taken to slaughter, it can be hard to see the end. A splattering of blood. The breaking of bones, and muscles once strong. When your fingers break hamburger into bits, what end does it have? In our culture, it is easy to forget that the pink pulp beneath your fingers was once living. A body without beginning or end; only brokenness.  The brokenness in our culture is deeply reflected in the way we make food. Food is not only important for our survival but for our souls. In a world where the only thing standing between you and supper is the one-minute button and a Hungry Man or 3 minutes in line at McDonald’s, we have lost the art of cooking. There is no mystery, no connection of ends. We must bring back the art of cooking, so that we can bring back the connections our culture has lost, we do not want to see these connections, because there is death.
When you thaw the hamburger, and start it to brown in the pan, see what it once was, the strong legs of a black angus cow, grazing in the rolling hills of Nebraska, and feeding in the feed lots, gaining the marbling in its muscles that it needs to make your perfectly balanced hamburger. See the butcher standing over it and the hide peeled away. As you peel the potatoes, know that once they were connected to massive green bushes and purple flowers in a field in Idaho, watch as the fall comes and the brown leaves wither and the flower fade, look because there is death.
When you stand it the middle, it is hard to see the beginning and end. When Christ hung ready for burial, the disciples did not see much more than a dead body. It no longer seemed that this is our savior; it was only this is the man we love, beaten, and no more. But there is no grace without death.
When our culture “cooks”, it does not see the middle. All the falling to bits. How much nutmeg should we add? A kitchen covered in cream, and disaster in the sink. What is satisfaction without work? Little more than substance. What is Jesus without three days in the grave? Little more than a man. Without the spices of death? Without a sharp knife cutting into the skin of an onion? Without the fragrance of a busy kitchen? Without dishes and slime and hands to share? What are we without our life in the middle? Little more, little more. There is no grace without death.
Think of the middle, think of the spices and add to your browning cow, the spices that heal death: Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary and Sage, with some salt and pepper to taste. Find the pain in the middle and make them flourish, mash the potatoes, which are now soft and add the milk, butter, and sour cream; watch as God feeds his people with milk. See the grace, as you are dying.
Why does God use bread and wine to show who he is? The grapes squashed, fermented to death, and raised to greatness. The grain ground, yeast eating away at it, and raising to greatness. Christ lay in the grave and death ate him. A gash in the side with flies happily feeding, and holes his hands where bacteria might live. It does not take long for rot to set in. Death ate away at Christ’s body, just as yeast eats the grain and grapes. In communion, we often forget that death has eaten away at our bread and wine as it ate away at our savior. The grains and grapes of the field transformed for greatness. Christ’s beaten body lay in the grave to rot, and raising to our salvation and the right hand of God. Christ’s body with the marks of man to show he was transformed.
How can a society that ignores all the steps see a transformation? It cannot. As Christians we need to bring back the art of food so that we might once again see the ends and means. Food is at the very core of Christian culture. From the very beginning God fed Adam and Eve in the garden, He fed his people in the desert, and he feeds His disciples in the Last Supper, over and over again. God feeds us, and we are to follow and feed others. We are to care for those in need, not only in spirit but in food. Deuteronomy 10:18 says, “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.”[4] With every art lost, people lose a little of their souls, and a little of their brother’s. The refreshing gift of a meal is often equal to its cooking counterpart. Food is important to theology because it shapes our relationship with Christ and affects our view of the world and future. We are called to both glorify and glory in the gift of food. Christians must learn once more to love the art of food. We must be a people who understand journeys, paths, beginnings and ends. We cannot do this without the art of food. We cannot see Christ’s gifts without seeing how he gifted his disciples and never for a moment stopped caring for their physicality. We cannot remain a culture that forgets to care for our brother’s physicality.
The meat by now is ready, and needs only a little cream of mushroom to complete it. Leave it in the big cast iron and add the mashed potatoes on top. Put it in the oven and watch the tips turn golden, raising it to the greatness of a meal.
The disciples knew Jesus most loved them at the table, in the making of the food, and in the time in between. When God tells us to feed his people, might he mean literally feed? Culture comes from the Latin root, cultura, which means ‘to tend’, if we are going to be culture builders we must tend. Tend to souls, to beauty and to people. Making food that truly nourishes, in flavor and content. So for now, enjoy the Shepard’s Pie.


Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of The Lamb. New York: The Modern Library , 2002.

Julius H. Greenstone, Emil G. Hirsch, Hartwig Hirschfeld. Jewish Encyclopedia. n.d. (accessed May 2, 2016).

[1] 1 Samuel 31:13 (NKJV); 2 Samuel 1:12.

[2] Julius H. Greenstone, Emil G. Hirsch, Hartwig Hirschfeld, “FASTING AND FAST-DAYS,” Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d., accessed May 2, 2016,

[3] 2 Samuel 12:16; 1 Kings 21:27.

[4] Deuteronomy 10:18.

Looking at the Desk

When was the last time you looked at your desk? Not the stuff on top of it, but the actual desk. Do you appreciate it? Is it just some bent aluminum or handcrafted wood? Did you make it or your grandfather or was it some chines shop? Are you looking at the desk, or sitting at the desk? Because it makes a lot of difference. Have you done both lately?
I come from a family firmly planted in creating. My grandma is an artist, one of my grandpas is a carpenter, the other an inventor, my uncle a mechanic, my dad an inventor and engineer, my mom a graphic designer and water color artist, one of my sisters is a seamstress and mixed media artist, my other sister a fort master, weaponry designer and artist. There is a lot of creation in our family. And this is only the start. I also have family members who own a construction business, a costume and tailored clothing company, and one who sells her art as post cards. With a family so tightly wound with creativity, I find myself often thinking about why these things are so important to society. You find yourself constantly thinking about improving systems and making things look better. With a heritage of inventers, we tend to go from greasing 54 grease zerks on a spreader truck to one panel of ten and our own system of grease lines. In farming a community, we refuse to back up and invent bale accumulators that move forward.[1] We fail a lot, we improve a lot. We dream often, and work hard. But why? Why do I find pleasure looking at the guts of an engine, and breaking apart bearings? Why do I want so badly to make things? Why am I obsessed with writing? With paper collage? Why is there value in the dye, water, and paper of my mom’s watercolor? Or any watercolor? Why is creation in our hand so important to our world?
Eighty percent of Americans hold desk jobs.[2] Which means most of that 80% does not do anything with their hands for at least 8 hours a day, probably closer to 10 hours. Which means you are not using much of the right side or your brain the whole day.[3] The right side of your brain is also the side in charge of your emotions, which means that your creativity is linked to your emotional state. Most American’s are not happy where they work.[4] I think there is a correlation. When I’m talking about creating, I’m going to be focusing on creative enterprises in the broad spectrum. Focusing mainly on things such as carpentry, construction and art, but not disregarding architecture, engineering, or other desk jobs that do interact with artistry.
With so many people unhappily working a desk job I think we should reconsider where we put our worth. Quality creations influence who we are and why we are here. We have all heard, from neighbors, parents, relatives, and friends, that what we should do is get a good education, and settle for a nice desk job with steady pay. You will be happy once you get there, even if you do not thinks it is the right place for you. In my paper I will address, why our culture should be more interested in hands on work. First, I’m going to talk about why as Christians we need to realize that we are created to be creators. Next, I will explain the importance of harnessing this and doing greatness. Finally, I will talk about the benefits of this. After establishing why I think creating is important I will talk on some of the arguments, such as our speed culture, why it does matter what you leave behind, and our ‘thoughtful culture’.
As Christians we should be eager to create. We are made in the image of God. Someone once said to me, we aren’t so much made in the image of God in physicality, but in creativity. Look around, and you can see it, God is defiantly creative. Look again and we are too. Since God is creative, aren’t we also called to be creative? When Jesus preformed miracles he did not just change people’s intellectual thoughts, he healed physicality, and transformed the fruits of the world. He made wine, and fed people. He made things. What better way to follow him than to make things?
Further, Christ did not only create, he created greatness. He made the best wine.[5] He fed people and they were no longer hungry, and there was left overs. We should make the best wine, and do good carpentry and make things to last. There is not only a call for creation, but a call for quality. How we create things now effects how we view creation, and the rest of life. If we are respecting creation we should fully harness what it is made for and how it is made to last. Quality should be our books that do not fall apart after one read, our houses that can last more than a generation, our teapots that do not dribble. It has to be found in the art of our hand, the pages we print on, the angles we cut, the bricks we lay, and the clay we hold. If we value, we will create quality.
This will not only effect the future of our world but how we function as people. Peter Korn says that “Where they pay it little attention, my experience has been that the effort to bring something new and meaningful into the world- whether in the arts, the kitchen, of the marketplace- is exactly what generates the sense of meaning and fulfillment for which so many of us yearn so deeply.”[6] You function better as a person when you do things that are meaningful to you, and when you do them well. I believe that creating with quality will improve our lives, and influence us.
Nevertheless, it is easy for people to undermine quality, because all they want is fast. We live in a world of speed and often forget that you can make popcorn on your stove, or clean a rabbit, or bake for hours. Instead, we push a microwave button, run to the story for packaged chicken, and buy a batch of cookies. We forget the quality, because we think the time is more important. Sometimes the time is more important, but we cannot always forfeit it to the time. Like Matthew B. Crawford says, “Such failures get internalized, and give rise to both pessimism and self-reproach. Not only do things tend to go to hell, but your own actions contribute inevitably to that process.”[7]
Our culture focuses much on ourselves. We often forget that there is a generation that will follow in our footsteps. As Christians we can’t forget this! I’ve watched pained generations teardown the barns that their grandfather built, wouldn’t it be nicer if they could keep using them? We worry that we will be a forgotten generation and leave nothing but destruction for our children to deal with. If we want so badly to be remembered, we should make houses that last, and barns that they can keep keeping their horses in. We should write books and bind them in a way worth rereading. Remember that you are not the last, and that what you leave does matter!
“But,” you say, “I’m really more of an idea person.” What are our ideas without the making? As Peter Korn says, “This was the philosophy of Cartesian dualism, which formally divided mind and matter into separate and unequal camps. Art happily snuggled into the category of mind, while all other types of object making were associated with the body, branded as “applied arts,” and banished to lesser estates.”[8] What is a society without makers? If we only had architects and no builders, where would we be? You cannot remain only a thinker, you must be a maker.
Father Capon says, “A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job.”[9] We cannot just think, quality creation effects all we do. Our moods, our outlook, our treatment of generations, and our relationship with God. We must be creative, we must make the desk so that we can sit at it, and understand why things are important. We must be creators!


Adams, Susan. Most Americans are Unhappy at Work. June 20, 2014. (accessed May 8, 2016).

Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of the Lamb. New York: Modern Library, 2002.

Cooper, Greggory and Ernes Bruha. "Bale Handling Implement". U.S. Patent No. WO 2010019581 A8,               filed August 11, 2009, and issued October 14, 2010.

Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soul Craft. New York: Penguin Book, 2009.

Korn, Peter. Why We Make Things and Why It Matters. Jaffrey: David R. Godine Publisher, 2013.

Left Brain vs. Right Brain. n.d. (accessed May 8, 2016).

Mandell, Lisa Johnson. America Becomes a Desk Potato Nation. 27 2011, May. (accessed May 9, 2016).

[1] Greggory Cooper and Ernest Bruha, "Bale Handling Implement" (United States, 2016).

[2] Lisa Johnson Mandell, “America Becomes a Desk Potato Nation,” Aol, May 27, 2011, accessed May 9, 2016,

[3] “Left Brain vs. Right Brain,” UCMAS, n.d., accessed May 8, 2016,

[4] Susan Adams, “Most Americans are Unhappy at Work,” Forbes, June 20, 2014, accessed May 8, 2016,

[5] John 2:1-11 (NKJV).

[6] Peter Korn, Why we Make Things and Why it Matters (Boston: David R. Godine Publisher, 2013), 13.
[7] Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft, (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), 203.

[8] Peter Korn, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, (Boston: David R. Godine Publisher, 2013), 34.

[9] Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, (New York: The Modern Library, 2002), 4.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Oh For a Man Who Will Stick it to Big Brother

“Oh for a man who is a man.”[1] Many have said it, but how many people actually know what Thoreau is getting at here? What of his cry for a real man, who will stand up for real things, not lay down, and submit to fraud against him? Is civil disobedience the answer, so that we might ‘stick it to the man?’ So that we might not be ‘another brick in the wall?’[2] So that we are no longer watched by ‘big brother?’[3] Can, and more importantly should, we as Christians use civil disobedience?
Civil Disobedience has a broad history, everyone from David to Thoreau, Martin Luther to King Jr. have used it. It is deeply rooted in the history of Christian Revolt, and still we use it all the time, protesting abortion, ‘gay marriage’, government spying, and even public education. Along with its broad use, it is broadly debated. Some Authoritarian Christians argue that there is never a time when it is right to disobey leadership. God, being all controlling, has placed authority over us, but does this mean that it is always wrong to disobey? I will be focusing on whether Christians should be using peaceful unarmed civil disobedience as a means to argue with authority. I will be focusing on why peaceful civil disobedience is a Christian tool.
John M. Frame believes that civil disobedience is a great Christian tool.[4] I will be expanding on his, and giving some of my own, thoughts about civil disobedience. First, I am going to explain how Civil Disobedience can be a great way to respect authority while disobeying. Next, I will talk about tact. Third, I will give a rooted answer on why this is a Christian’s best friend when it comes to holding against authority. Finally, I will address some of the main arguments against Christian Civil Disobedience, showing why I think Christians should participate in Civil Disobedience.
Civil Disobedience is one of the few ways that you can disagree while showing respect. Frame says “[In some instances] Such test-case law breaking is not a violation of the overall system of law, but rather attempts to purify the system by eliminating inappropriate legislation.”[5] When you sit down and simply say no, you are not ignoring or damaging, you are simply not participating in hopes to refine. The true mark of civil disobedience is being able to speak rationally and graciously to your opposition. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out major flaws in our country, and he did so always respecting authority. He is a prime example of respectful disobedience, of breaking the law so that it could be purified. Martin Luther King Jr. directed his words in a way to be listened to, he pointed out the truth with grace, and in that, he could not be in the wrong. To point out someone’s flaws with love and truth is what it is to be a true brother in Christ! Galatians 6:1-2 says “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Those who should be listened to, those who are wise authority will hear this, and they will know that you respect them by your wise disobedience.  
So it is acceptable, but is it profitable?[6] Frame says, “Less dramatic activity might have been more effective in the long run.”[7] I believe that this is another call for wisdom. Frame has 5 main reasons for using civil disobedience[8], but I’m going to just focus on two that correlate directly with disobeying government authority; first disobedience in the instance of government vs. biblical rule, and next in the case of a political leaders disobeying the law. These are two of the clearest reasons to use civil disobedience. The hardest part of using civil disobedience is knowing when to use it, when it is not worth the battle, and when it calls for more than just civil disobedience. For instance, I believe that as Christians, we should withhold from taxes because a portion of our pay is going towards education that promotes un-Christian ideals, and because another portion is going towards abortion, two causes that I believe Christians should have no part in. But I also weigh that while my doing that would clear my conscience, I also note that if I am the only one holding out the government will ignore my arguments and throw me in jail, giving me no voice and covering any progress I might make. Therefore, I must weigh the argument on each side and participate on other fronts. There is a call for balanced disobedience.
The Bible has some great examples of wise and balanced civil disobedience. In Exodus 1:15-19 there is the example of the midwives who will not kill the new born baby boys, for they feared God more than the pharaoh, as it should be! In 1 Samuel 19 Jonathan is ordered by his father to kill David, but instead he warns David so that he may flee. Jonathan directly disobeys his father and does the right thing. He does not harm his father in doing so, but neither does he obey. Matthew 10 talks about sons being turned against their parents, and against their nation, for the sake of belief in Christ, this is another great example of civil disobedience! In the Bible not only is it accepted, but commanded! In modern culture, there are instances such as Christians refusing to serve gay customers[9] or Hobby Lobby’s hold out against federally funded abortions[10] these things call for the same type of civil disobedience. 
I think the biggest point of discomfort and disagreement about this particular issue among Christians is this question: When is it okay to break the law? There is a fine line between naïve revolt and wise civil disobedience. Some will argue that there is never a time to go against authority, God has placed it and we are not to question that. But, what about David, hiding from authority, disobeying the law, and yet he was ‘a man after God’s own heart.’[11] Martin Luther! Hammering a thesis to the door of his church, because the leadership was going against the word. I argue that wisdom is the line here. While the bra burning feminists were naïve, the suffragettes were wise. The suffragettes went peacefully and spent their time, while the feminists promoted only chaos. Showing that there is no reason not to use civil disobedience but only a huge chance to exercised wisdom!
As you can see, Civil Disobedience is one of the best ways for Christians to interact with authority in a productive, respectful way.  We can avoid tyranny and acknowledge that who God has placed in control is worthy of our respect. We can point out flaws in a way that prompts growth and do so holding up authority’s dignity. We can be civilly disobedient.

[1] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and On Civil Disobedience (New York: The New American Library, 1960), 227.

[2] Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall,” by Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, recorded November, 1979, Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd, in Columbia.

[3] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (London: Secker & Warburg, June 8, 1949).

[4] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of The Christian Life (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), 619.

[5] John M. Frame, 619.

[6] 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NKJV).

[7] John M. Frame, 621.

[8] John M. Frame, 619.

[9] Todd Starnes, “Texas bakers face threats after declining to bake gay wedding cake,” Fox News, last modified February 25, 2016, accessed February 28, 2016, opinion/2016/02/25/texas-bakers-face-threats-after-declining-to-bake-gay-wedding-         cake.html.

[10] “Hobby Lobby v. Burwell: The Dangers of Protecting First Amendment Rights of Corporations and the Rapid Expansion of ‘Corporate Personhood.’” Jurist, last modified February 17, 2016, accessed February 28, 2016,

[11] Acts 13:22.

Pink Floyd. Another Brick in the Wall. Recorded by Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd, November, 1979. Cassett Tape.

John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Christian Life. Phillipsburg, New Jersy: P & R Publishing Company, 2008.

Jurist. “Hobby Lobby v. Burwell: The Dangers of Protecting First Amendment Rights of                             Corporations and the Rapid Expansion of "Corporate Personhood.”” Jurist. Last Modified               February 17, 2016. Accessed February 28, 2016.     katharine-suominen-religious-freedom.php.

George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London, Secker & Warburg, June 8, 1949.
Todd Starnes. “Texas bakers face threats after declining to bake gay wedding cake.” Fox News. Last modified February 25, 2016. Accessed February 28, 2016.           opinion/2016/02/25/texas-bakers-face-threats-after-declining-to-bake-gay-wedding-cake.html.

Henry David Thoreau. Walden or, Life in the Woods and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. New York and Toronto, The New American Libary, 1960.