The Old Dominion State

Four hundred and five years ago today, three small ships sailed into Chesapeake Bay.  From that beginning we have the founding of the first colony to survive in the New World.  I must say that I am biased towards my home state, but I have lived in a few states out west and traveled all over the country in a car and I can tell you quite honestly that Virginia is by far my preferred place in which to stake my claim.  Here are several things I love about Virginia.

 

1: I love the land.  Virginia is a nice combination of many different landscapes, but where I live, we have gently rolling hills.  The land has character.  There are slopes and valleys, little gorges and hilltops, and perhaps the most important factor, small creeks and miniature rivers all over the place.  I also only live a short ways from the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail.

 

2: Here in Virginia, we have seasons, and these seasons are not marked by words on a calendar and a slight variation in the thermometer reading.  Usually we have a very distinct summer, fall and winter.  Our springs tend to be warm, but this year has blessed us with wonderful weather.

 

3: I love the history, and Virginia is overflowing with history.  It has been the homeland of such illustrious names as George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson…and the list can continue.  Virginia is also the home of numerous historical sites.  I live less than 30 minutes from where General Lee surrendered to General Grant ending the Civil War. There is also Williamsburg, the states original capitol, both Monticello and Poplar Forest (Thomas Jefferson’s two homes), Mount Vernon, Red Hill, Norfolk Navy Yard, Yorktown, and of course, Jamestown.  It’s a great place for those who love history.

 

4: Virginia is very wooded state.  I tell my relatives in California, where there aren’t trees there were trees, and where there aren’t trees there will be trees unless you do something about it.  I love woods and the country area.  Where I live, we have trees and fields with an occasional house for a couple miles in every direction.

 

5: Virginia is filled with wildlife.  I guess most states can say that, but Virginia is the kind of state where wildlife seems to just flourish.  We have deer, bear, the stray elk in the western parts of the state, turkey, bobcats, beaver, doves, quail, and much more.  We also, unfortunately, have coyote, and I think cougars, though the state claims we don’t.

 

There are many other things that I could mention about Virginia, but I am sure that you are probably tired of hearing me praise a state that you may not have any interest in at all.  Suffice it to say, I am happy right here and can only imagine a few places that would be better.  (And you’re not allowed to live in those places anyway.) 🙂

Wyatt Fairlead

Why Books Are Dangerous

I love books.  I’m not sure why I love books, but I do.  I could easily tell you what I love about books though.  To me, books are the realm of story and ideas.  Probably every book ever written is telling some kind of story, it is just easier to see it in some books that others.  (Lord of the Rings vs. your Algebra text book for instance.)  Obviously I like some stories better than others.  (Lord of the Rings over Algebra for example again.)  But all the same, every book is a story and has potential to be meaningful.

The most intricate and interesting plots ever devised in the human mind seem to inevitably end up on paper.  When I find a good book and have the time I can sit and read for hours on end.  In the fall, I enjoy hunting.  But after sitting in a tree stand for twelve hours in one day, enjoying the outdoors gets old quickly.  So I sit outside in the beautiful woods or on the edge of a frost covered field and read…and read…and read.  I turn a lot of pages during hunting season, and it is by far my favorite time of year.

But there is more to books than interesting stories.  Books for some reason have the unusual power to change our view of the world.  They can change our ideas, our interests and even shape who we are.  A somewhat trivial but relevant example is my interest in ships.  I am convinced that my interest in ships, especially sailing ships, was begun when I memorized the Bill Peet book Cyrus The Unsinkable Sea Serpent at the age of three.  Here are some of the illustrations that grabbed my attention.

Moving on to the more profound influences, think about most world religions and ideas.  The vast majority are based on written documents.  Almost all religions have holy writings, and some of them began with the alleged fining of some sort of writing.  (Mormons and Muslims for example.)  Now think about forms of government.  There are many sources that helped shape the way American government was formed, among them the writings of Montesquieu, Locke and others.  Communism and Socialism are based on Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.  The way the world is viewed scientifically was changed, for better or worse, with the publishing of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species.  The list goes on and on.

The written word has power that many other mediums don’t have.  Hence the proverb, “The pen is mightier than the sword”.  Because of this, I view books as an important form of freedom.  Freedom can be abused, but in the end it is a freedom I would never willingly do without.

Wyatt Fairlead

Who Chose the Classics

Here is my dilemma, I am doing a class on American literature and naturally I am going over the plot summaries of most of the American classics.  I can tell you right now I have officially had enough of the words affair, mistress, promiscuous, lover, run away with, etc.

While some of the classics are interesting and insightful, and while some of them may not be particularly wholesome but they made a mark on society, I can understand their rank of classic, but that is not what I’m finding for the most part.  I will give you a prime example.  Here is the summary of Wallace Stevens, “Anecdote of the Jar”

It speaks of a jar in Tennessee that subdues the wilderness.

It is obviously figurative language, but no one agrees what it’s supposed to mean.  It is possible that it is an imitation of Keats’, “Ode to a Grecian Urn”.

Perhaps it is considered a classic because it is utter nonsense. (I don’t know.)  But that is poetry.  Now I turn to prose.  While there are no examples of whole books that make no sense, one can still easily ask the question, “Why in the world is this considered meaningful?”  Sure you can follow the plot but just because something is understandable doesn’t make it meaningful.  For example, the “Rabbit” books by John Updike, which are a four volume series following the character from one repulsive, immoral action to another.  I fail to see how these books hold meaning, except possibly reflecting the culture that they were written in.  (Which is unfortunately not something that is really worth spending four volumes reading about in detail.)

And so I struggle on and continue to ask on a regular basis, “Who in the world chose the classics?”

Wyatt Fairlead

Humility as a Shield

Nothing sets a person so far out of reach of the devil as humility.

-Jonathan Edwards

Humility is modest or low opinion of one’s own importance, or abilities.  I read this quote today and really liked it. As soon as I read it I thought, if you can’t do anything in and of yourself, can’t do anything outside of God; what can the devil do with you?

Wyatt Fairlead

Escaping Bad Luck On Friday The 13th

Today causes many people to worry.  It is the subject of much superstitious belief.  Today is Friday the thirteenth.  What many people don’t realize is how easy it is to avoid bad luck on such days as this.  Here are some practical suggestions as to how to increase your chances of having a good rest of today.

1:  Break your mirror so that you won’t have issues with bad hair days, not looking good in your outfit etc.

2:  Give every black cat you see a good rub down so they won’t follow you around, and get in your way.

3:  Try to shoot all the magpies in your yard because they make a mess and are incredibly obnoxious.

4:  Make sure you invite enough people at dinner to fill thirteen places at the table.  Thirteen is just he right number for good table discussion.

5:  Yawn without covering your mouth.  Contrary to popular opinion, ghosts are scared of nasty human teeth.

6:  Refuse to eat fish today.  All fish have an internal clock that tells them when Friday the thirteenth is and they release toxins onto their blood streams.

7:  Wash your sheets today.  I don’t know why.  It just seems like a good idea.

8:  Walk under as many ladders as possible.  The angled and slatted design is excellent for shedding falling objects while still providing reasonable visibility.

The last and most important way to avoid having bad luck is to realize that “luck” doesn’t exist.  It is as impossible to not have something that doesn’t exist, as it is to have something that doesn’t exist.  (Or to have bad something that doesn’t exist, depending on how you look at it.)

Hope you find these helpful little tips to be useful and have a great rest of today, now that you’re safe from nothing.

Wyatt Fairlead

On the Celebration of Mediocrity

In today’s world we are obsessed with personal fulfillment.  We are always looking for the things that will make us feel happy, the things that make us think that we are special, fit in, or whatever outside pressures are telling us that we ought to be.  There are many things that cause this to happen, not the least of which is the ability of marketing to reach into every aspect of our lives and have a presence almost everywhere we go.  This goal towards personal fulfillment, I believe, is the main cause for today’s acceptance of mediocrity.

            You might be thinking, “If we are looking to be fulfilled than why would we be excited about mediocrity?  To be mediocre is to be of marginal quality or not very good.  Most people feel a sense of achievement when they do something well.”  This is true; however, we live in a time when tasks take increasingly less effort to accomplish.  In general, we as humans are not fond of hard tasks.  If there is a way to avoid a hard task we try to find it.  How many of you leap for joy when you run into a roadblock during your everyday activities?  My guess is not very many.  Now I’m not saying that at this point everyone says, “Oh, I don’t want to do it.  It looks tough so I won’t even try.”  What I am suggesting is that society, as a whole will do less when it is an option.

            For many people, it is more gratifying not to do anything that is difficult than to have to struggle through something.  It is also more immediately gratifying to get something that is of less quality now than it is to save and get something that is top quality later.  We will accept mediocre products for the right price and have them now so that we are happy instead of depriving ourselves for the little bit of time that it will take to get something of real value.  We value immediate gratification, even if it is at the expense of quality.  Personal fulfillment and making oneself happy is the driving force behind so many of our actions today.

            The above are just examples of two areas in which we are beginning to accept mediocrity.  I believe that it is a much more endemic problem.  Here are some more examples.  Most people have more mediocre relationships.  Family relationships are breaking down, and many friendships are becoming more and more superficial with the way social networking is being used.  We accept mediocre entertainment.  We watch movies that have very little or no real plot and are just one special effects show after another.  We watch comedians who rely on shock value instead of true wit and cleverness.  We watch the same reality T.V. shows over and over again with a different name and just a slightly different twist. (Which are usually voyeuristic and dehumanizing.)  And as a Christian I see the modern Church accepting mediocre Christianity from its members and no real call for life changing belief.  The list goes on and on.

            What we should be asking is if the cost is really worth what we are getting.  It is a funny question because the cost I am referring to is the easier way.  Most would not consider it a cost.  But I believe that it is a cost and it is a cultural tendency that is detrimental to society as a whole.  We are a people that have become unwilling to sacrifice for something and who will settle for less in order to “sort of” achieve our goals.  This is a dangerous place to be.

Wyatt Fairlead

(P.S.  this is an opinion post.  If you have thoughts, please share them and let me know if you disagree and why you hold that position.)

 

How Did You Die?

Today has actually been a very nice day for me.  My studying went well and I can’t complain about anything else, but you know as well as I that nice days are not every day.  (And for me, nice days are greatly outnumbered by days that have been frustrating and tiring in some way or another.)  I get discouraged and my problems in life are so insignificant that it’s pathetic!  This is a poem that I have always found encouraging.  It is stuff that we have all probably heard before, but it’s still nice to hear again.  Hope you enjoy it as well.

How Did You Die

Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way

With a resolute heart and cheerful?

Or hide your face from the light of day

With a craven soul and fearful?

Oh, a troubles a ton, or trouble’s an ounce,

Or trouble is what you make it,

And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,

But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to Earth?  Well, well, what’s that!

Come up with a smiling face.

It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,

But to lie there – that’s disgrace.

The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce’

Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts,

It’s how did you fight – and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?

If you battled the best you could,

If you played your part in the world of men,

Why, the Critic will call it good.

Death comes with a crawl, or it comes with a pounce,

And whether he’s slow or spry,

It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,

But only how did you die?

Wyatt Fairlead