Yeats in the Offing

It may only be week 5, but I feel like my brain has left town, with the eagerness of a Labrador at the beginning of the grouse shooting.

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Is anyone else’s brain smashed?

No! Wait, I don’t mean literally! But that sense of ‘Oh dear, everything inside my head is turning to moosh, and I don’t like it.’

To put it another way, I am glad that my skull is made of bone, therefore, is unlikely to combust into thin air. The result is, which to my great excitement includes a word I never knew existed before, a ‘quaggy‘ mess.

It may only be week 5, but I feel like my brain has left town, with the eagerness of a Labrador at the beginning of the grouse shooting. Please do excuse any mixed metaphors. They are floating about my head for a somewhat, understandable reason: this semester has seen my almost-full-body submersion into poetry. Therefore I grant myself full liberty within any metaphorical landscape from here on in.

At the present moment in time, I am supposed to be writing an essay on the symbolism of W.B. Yeats; one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, among the top Irish, and international, writers that we have ever produced, or as I now call him, ‘The-Reason-For-My-Head-Being-In-A-Quaggy-Mess’.

 

William Butler Yeats

 

To be fair, it’s not all of his fault.

I did sign up for this.

Yes, I am a class-A idiot. Specifically, an ENG531 Class-A idiot.

Let me explain.

wooster is miffed at jeevesWhen I started looking at the module selection for third year, I noted that there was a module devoted to ’20th Century Irish Writers’. Smiling with the certainty that some type of Wodehousian-fate would love, I passively acknowledged that it looked good, but I would never take the class. Another bout of Irish literature? Please, let’s just not.

Yet as online enrolment loomed around the corner, and I had little-to-zero interest either of the modules I was considering as a third option, I could almost hear P.G. Wodehouse narrate this paragraph of my biography:

‘Despite the quiet reluctance of a cat on a hot tin roof, Nesta saw that she either had to brave the fray, or spend the next semester knee-deep in Knitters Digest in a last ditch move towards sanity. After all, when one puts these things into perspective, some writers from the motherland couldn’t damage her as much as an accidental prod of a knitting needle to the chest, in an attempt to alleviate the boredom.’

Yet, it was not as hum-drumly practical as this alludes to. Ulster may not be the forefront Irish university, nor may it shine the brightest on the world’s stage, but it is an Irish university. As such, I thought that I had better commit myself to a semester of Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett, as a slight penance for not biting the bullet in previous years. In an odd sense of patriarchal nationalism, I felt that it was almost a duty to spend time looking into Irish writers.

After my A-Level experience (which had no marks, or tarnish left from a totally joyous experience of school, where everything always went the right way), I had walked away believing Irish writers to be self-obsessed, and narrow minded. Self-obsessed, as most of the work was personal to their own circumstances and opinions; narrow minded, as they constantly referred back to Classical literary tropes, which I then had to learn off my heart to include in essays that used as much brain power that would power a G-Wiz for 15 minutes.

Needless to say, I was bored, stressed, and unhappy for these years.

The last thing I wanted to do during the last year of my undergrad, was to relive all of those experiences. Uni has been my best experience of education; one that has not helped in the total decline and demise of my mental faculties.

Entering Lt10 on Thursday morning of week one, was the closest I have felt towards dread (concerning my studies) than I have felt in a long while. As I sat down, lifting my file-block, pens, and endurance onto the table, my brain clocked out. I sat like this for, roughly half-an-hour, when suddenly, something the lecturer said, caught my attention;

‘It’s important to look at Irish writers, for not only have they shaped the international literary climate; they have also shaped the perception of Ireland. Yeats may as well, could have worked for Sligo’s tourist board, Joyce Dublin’s, and Beckett, a particular view on a very Irish mindset. They helped put us on the map: I [the lecturer] therefore think that every student from Ulster, or another Irish university, should spend at least one semester looking into their work. Not only is the writing to an international standard, but these writers helped to shape the world in which literature is alive in the modern age.’

That may be paraphrased, but it was the jist of my struggle: overlooking my prejudices, and accepting that maybe there is something more to Yeats than his Leda, Joyce’s all-over-the-show-formwise masterpiece, and Beckett’s streams-of-consciousness. I needed to build a bridge, have some patience and compassion, and get over it.

A few weeks later, I still am wrestling with Yeats. I still am rolling my eyes to 360-degrees whenever someone talks about ‘the symbolism in Yeats’ poetry on loss/Ireland/women etcetc’; but I am beginning to have respect. Not just for what Yeats achieved in his lifetime, but what he achieved in his poetry.

It’s self-focused because poetry is allowed to show the soul of the poet, to be the external-processing needed whenever tragedy strikes, and to give himself focal points to immortalise into epochs in the narrative of Irish history.

And Yeats isn’t narrow-minded. At least, not in the ways in which I used to think he was.

So now, as my quaggy mess of a brain starts to churn back into it’s working mode, and as I delve back into my work, I just want to encourage you to be open minded to the things that you’ll learn. Guard your heart (Pvb4:23) defiantly, but be wise. Don’t shut doors because of bad experiences: don’t close down a chance because you’re afraid of the consequences: don’t stop learning.

It’s how we grow up.

 

Love,

Nesta

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Did You Just Assume My…

In our world today, we want to know the depths of everyone, including ourselves, as an individual. This is manifested in many mediums – social media, blogging, our jobs, hobbies etc – yet all comes down to one thing…

I wonder what your personality type is? According to the Myers Briggs model, there are sixteen combinations in total. Each Type is labelled under a Role of similar personalities. For instance, the Role that my Type belongs to is called Diplomat and within that, my Type is the Mediator. The personalities of the Diplomat Role are; INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, and ENFP.

When I first did the Myers Briggs test, I didn’t think that anyone had ever explained myself to me, in such a empathetic, logical, informative, and accurate way. Introverted didn’t come as a surprise at all. It just means that I recharge my batteries on my own, away from loads of people, rather than the common misconception of introverts: which is that we don’t like people.

Intuitive (the N of INFP), basically means that in most things I face, instinct will kick in. Coupled with strong Feeler and Perceiver traits, this means that there’s a lot going on under the surface, especially when it comes to the imagination. It also means that I enjoy people watching and reading body language. Don’t be freaked out if you catch me staring at you, and don’t be surprised when I will sometimes jump to the wrong conclusion if signals are mixed.

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Myers Briggs 16 Personalities

So basically, you now know me.

Or do you?

In our world today, we want to know the depths of everyone, including ourselves, as an individual. This is manifested in many mediums – social media, blogging, our jobs, hobbies etc – yet all comes down to one thing: identity.

We love to label ourselves with our different identities:

“I’m INFP.”

“I am female.”

“I am tall.”

“I like reading.”

“I like boys (preferably grown up ones).”

“I am musical.”

Get the picture? Our likes become who we are, or who we want to be seen as, or associated with. And so often we allow these things, these single attributes, to become our whole identity. For example, based on these statements, this is how I would dress with identity in mind: comfortable – because I can see that other people find it easier to be around someone who is comfortable #INFP – feminine, yet with that cool, basic edge that shows I think for myself (#bookbaes) and sure, I’ll grab that beanie to protect the headphones I’ll be wearing for most of the day, as it helps me to study/hide from the world.

It’s a lame example, but you should get the picture. We identify with the things we like, are or are talented in. These then, become our identity, and that is quite stressful when

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Y’all know I love to read, right? 

you think about it. When you tie up who you are in the ideas you have, you begin to lose yourself. It’s metaphysics; once you take away the possibility of the physical and solely push into the meta, you begin to lose the thread of reality. You lose the thing that was definite and wander into the surreal.

Also, whenever we try live in one identity, life itself becomes blinkered. You don’t want to see anyone else’s point of view because what if it changes you? You’d then be back to square one again: minus the identity you had idolised without realising it.

It’s easy to idolise an identity. To put all we have into it.

Personally, it’s really easy to clip a ‘English student’ tag onto my jacket as I run into uni every day. Frankly, because I am not your average person, I could go so far to idolise my course, living from one day to the next excited to be there, thrilled by my work (I do love it and I know that’s not normal, let’s move on), and stressing in the library at how much hasn’t been done that week. It is an idol which I have had to hand back to God, over and over and over again because while it is a good thing, uni isn’t god. I don’t get peace, love, provision, or identity from my university, or my course.

As a Christian, as a son and heir, as a daughter, as a lost sheep, I know in my head that God gives me all the good things I have and am. But I struggle in my heart to realise that my identity is not in the things I can see on earth; it’s in Him. Hebrews 11 says that faith is the ‘assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.’

So, my identity is in Someone, Something, that I can’t see?

OK. Cool.

This idea of identity has been coursing through my head for over a week now. I can’t seem to get away from it. This post feels different to other ones I’ve written on here in the past months, as I am using it as a processing station. I have thought and talked it out to myself, walked, pondered, and prayed. Still I struggle to work out how to fathom it. My identity is in God, in the Trinity, in Christ’s death on the cross. What does that mean? What does it look like?

I know I need to spend more time reading about this and praying about it too, but for now, here are just a few thoughts. It’s Friday night and this may be heavy, but bear with, it can all be done with a cup of tea to take away the blues.

Sonship: For years, I struggled with Paul’s letters in the New Testament. I constantly thought ‘why is he so down on women all the time? Cultures may be different, but you can’t say “love others” and just ignore women, or say that they aren’t as important as men.’ This opinion was truly overhauled this summer.

Paul was being radical in the use of the word ‘sons’. Sons could inherit all that their fathers left for them; sons owned the promise they had received and they worked hard in preparation with the Father for the time that the land would be theirs. When Paul, throughout his letters to the early church, referred to sons he wasn’t over-looking women: he was setting a new precedent in society. Women were equal to men in the promises God had given through Christ; salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, love, to name but a few. Women could inherit. Women could be in a relationship with God as their loving Daddy, who would leave them everything, give them anything, provide what is good eternally.

In such a gender-fluid society of the 21st century, this concept should still be as radical as it was then: our gender doesn’t change, we don’t become men. But as sons in the kingdom, we have a place. We have an acknowledged place beside Jesus in heaven. We are above angels. We are inheritors to the kingdom. Both genders, equally. And this equality doesn’t come down to how strong we are, or our careers, or how much better one sex is than the other. This equality is founded on the fact that we were all lost. The Bible doesn’t say the opposite to ‘saved’ is ‘unsaved’: the opposite to saved is ‘lost’.

sheep

We were lost. But God wanted us to be found. He went looking, and looked everywhere for us. He adopted us into His family. We are no longer on the outside looking in, but with Him, looking out for others who are lost. We were full of sin and now, through Christ’s death and resurrection that paid the wages of sin for those who are now found, we can stand as equals as sons in the inheritance of God. This inheritance can mean different things for different people, I think, as the relationship between God and individual beings is different. It’s personal, it’s a relationship. So, we are sons.

Daughters: We’re also daughters and I want to be bold in saying this; girls and boys can be daughters. If ‘son’ is a word synonymous with inheritance and provision in the Bible, then with ‘daughter’ it should be with ‘protected,’ ‘cared for,’ ‘prayed over,’ and ‘surrounded by God’s love.’

I myself am a daughter. It’s actually a beautiful thing to be, when you think about it. I’ve never been one of those girls that is soppy in the relationship with her Daddy. In fact, we are the same person. He just happens to be male, a physicist, and twenty-seven years older than me. This sparks some embers when we are tired, or having an argument, but it also means that we understand each other pretty well. I know that if I am in trouble, one way or another, I’m good to run towards him, and know that he will help in any way he can. It means too, that as his daughter, he prays for me; that I’ll keep walking with the Lord, that He will help me when everything gets hard, and that I’ll keep dancing with Him in the Spirit. As his daughter, as Philip’s daughter, he will be the one walking me up the isle someday, to hand me over to a guy who is up to his standards (and they are high standards) and as his daughter, I know that I am loved by him, no matter what I do. Doesn’t God do this with all of us? Doesn’t He protect, love, care, surround, and defend us? If sonship is radical adoption into the family of God, then being a daughter is the reality of that radical adoption: once adopted into God’s family, you are loved and protected.

Sons and daughters of the King of kings.

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Gender is a big conversation at the minute. Not one that I am comfortable talking about, but nonetheless, I go into uni every day and someone wants to talk about gender. To be honest, and half of the two-people reading this will be cross when I say this, but I think that if you’re born with the equipment, then you can’t change it. But that doesn’t mean that I hate anyone who does struggle with their gender-identity. The total opposite. Because I have been radically loved, I want to love radically.

Can I leave you with one final, random thought?

Sons and daughters, male and female, both are universally ‘lost’. You can’t find yourself when you are lost. One is not more lost than the other, as both are lost. There isn’t a scale of ‘lost-ness’, nor will the person who is least lost will be found soonest. Lost is a state of being, as is found. Once found, there is nothing that you can do, or I can do, to make you more- or less-found. So, can we stop taking each other down? We are equal in our lost-ness and our found-ness.

We both have individual qualities, and we both are human.

We both are being called out too, and we both don’t want to hear what our rescuer is shouting.

We both can choose to remain, and we both can choose to be found.

We both can love. Because we have both been loved, radically.

 

Love,

Nesta

Tick Tock

There is a famous line in the history of American television drama; ‘Decisions are made by those who show up’. This show talks about freedom of speech, how we as a people in a democracy have a responsibility to take actions that determine how our country functions and especially, how we are privileged that no matter what our gender, colour, beliefs, ways-of-life and education are, we are each given the use of our voice and a vote.

Of course, I am talking about The West Wing.

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As I am home from uni and with some time on my hands, I am reacquainting myself with Josh, Toby, Leo, C.J. and President Bartlett, along with John le Carré’s exquisite work, The Night Manager. Nothing like a bit of light reading and entertainment to get you into a summery mood. Yet, they both have been excellent food for thought during this never ending, voyeuristic experience of the lead up to the EU referendum.

Don’t worry, I am not here to scare monger, nor am I here to reveal to you my vote, thanks to the 1872 Secret Ballot Act. This is for two reasons: frankly it is no-one’s business to pry or poke anyone into revealing their voting tendencies. Feel free by all means to shout your allegiances from the roof tops if you’re comfortable with that, but there is no longer any legal requirement to do so. Secondly, I love having an impartial debate and forum to discuss ideas, so let’s just bear this in mind as we continue on from this preamble.

The line ‘decisions are made…’ has several roots, Truman being one.

Harry_S._Truman
Harry S. Truman – 33rd President of the Unites States of America

I however am not going to get into the particulars of it’s source. As far as this is concerned, Jed Bartlett, a fringement of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant mind, said it. It is one of the most relevant points that was ever made regarding voting, not only in The West Wing but in the whole of democratic politics, in the west, over the past twenty years.

In my notes for this post, I ended up comparing the function of the quote in a democracy, with going to the local deli to choose a sandwich. Bathos? Yes. Relevant? Of course.

Bearing in mind they were written around 11pm last night and I was rambling to myself, this next bit may not make much sense. Bear with me though.

If you are in the middle of a hard day’s work and you fancy some food, do you go to the deli and choose what you want or ask someone who is already going to pick you up something. The chances are that you will go, pick, choose and eat the sandwich you decide upon, if you’re anything like me, because sending someone else to pick out my food is a big risk. What if they get you a sandwich with white bread instead of brown? Or instead of mayonnaise they use margarine to compliment your salad sandwich? Would you be happy enough if the order you placed, or the food you wanted, came differently to what you had imagined? I know that I wouldn’t.  As my mum has always mentioned whenever I didn’t do a job she needed done to the standard which she expected, ‘if you want the job done, do it yourself.’

Now, I am not blaming anyone for getting me the wrong sandwich, neither is my mum after I didn’t do the job correctly. Sandwiches and odd jobs can be remade or done over. This EU referendum cannot be ‘fixed’ in three weeks, three months or thirty years time.

What get’s my goat with elections, especially in good old Northern Ireland, is that there are so many people who think that we, the electorate, are never heard. Until recently there was no opposition in Stormont and this complaint was (and can still be) relevant, as there is hardly any major news about the daily goings on in the NI assembly due to a lack of debate, oppositions and frankly, arguments within the chamber. However this is different in the case of June 23rd, 2016.

In this referendum, all of our votes matter.

Every.

Single.

One.

Whether you’re black, white, Christian, Muslim, man or woman, what you have as a British citizen is a right and an obligation to get down to the polling station, make a decision and then cast your vote.

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This is the biggest political decision that all of us will ever make and especially us ‘millennials’ who were born from the 1980’s up to 2000. We are the generation that will be most affected economically, politically and socially from this vote. Whether we remain in the EU or leave, our jobs will be affected, for better and for worse on both sides of remain and leave. Our children will be affected, our healthcare will be affected, our education will be affected, our student loans, our bursaries, our social lives and our pensions will all be changed whether we remain or leave the EU. How do I know this? Because we live in a democracy  and this is what it does.

Evolving. Changing. Growing, shrinking, emerging, surging and so much more.

Our country, the whole UK is crying out for involvement from all of her citizens. Not just the Young Democrats or the Labour Youth movements, with their selfie sticks and internet savviness. Not just the local representatives, who frankly have no idea about what they stand for part of the time because their constituents only kick up a fracas whenever there is something that they don’t agree about happening in government.

This is why the referendum is good for the country. It has generated debate among all social positions, races, genders, ages and many more. Maybe it is because there is a Presidential race happening over the pond from us, or maybe it is because this is an issue that people genuinely have an interest in. It doesn’t really matter why we are talking: what matters is that people are talking.

There are debates outside of the TV studios and debate societies, people are reading about the short and long term impacts of the leave and remain campaigns. For the first time in years, people are taking an interest on what makes the patchwork unions between the countries in the UK work. Well, not really the first time, Scotland started the debates last year with their vote to leave or remain in the UK – thanks for getting the ball of democracy rolling on that one guys! Not even a peep for major calls of violence and bloodshed from over here in Norn Iron along with the debates, proof that we all must be growing on from hitting the nearest person to us, when they knock us over or tell us off. Good job humanity.

‘Decisions are made by those who show up.’6b17292c07c50f50ecb8ad8133d38565

The Telegraph has just released a poll this afternoon with the remain camp up two points on the leave camp. They’re predicting that there is a 51% remain vote tomorrow with a 49% leave vote. However, I have not sat here for the past day and a half thinking about what to write in this post about who you should, or should not, be voting for. There are really more pressing matters that I need to deal with, like doing the laundry, vacuuming the house or getting up to my meeting in Ballymena that is starting in twenty five minutes. This lecture, that sounds like a poli-sci talk from someone who has only read about such matters, is to encourage not to preach.

Your vote matters.

Your vote counts.

You have to make a choice about what you think is right and if you decide that not voting tomorrow is right then you cannot, will not and shall not be allowed to complain about how the election turns out.

Going back to my sandwich analogy, if you get the wrong sandwich because you didn’t want to get up, then what is the point of going over to your mate who made the call with the bread and mayo, to demand why on earth they got the two things that you didn’t want? You may as well walk into a factory, go to the manager and say ‘Hey! Excuse me! Yeah this product, it doesn’t work for me, can you just go to customer service and they can fix it for me,’ instead of picking up the phone to call the number, be put on hold for most of the day and finally get your problem sorted out.

It’s nuts! This country, no sorry, this culture in the west of throwing your hands up and complaining as soon as the going gets tough with calls of ‘I didn’t even vote because it’s nothing to do with me’ does not make up a useful democracy.

imgWinston Churchill once said that democracy was the best of a bad lot. It’s the only one that works, unless you think that the Soviet’s hit is bang on with communism and that Terrorists who rule with religious zealous tendencies, that are as far removed from their actual religion as the KKK were from ‘real’ Christians in America, set a brilliant example of living in terror and fear of what their government will do next, you’re disagreeing with quite a clever man who helped the UK through two world wars. That was diplomacy in itself.

Another poll was run in The Guardian in April, asking how likely would you be likely to vote on a scale of 1 to 10 and they answered as follows:

52% of 18-34 would vote,

66% of 35-54 would vote,

81% of 55+ would vote.

No harm to everyone over a certain age, but the changes will impact the next thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years. I am pretty sure that of that 81% they are thinking about what we will be facing when they are our age. You can’t even argue that the 66% and the 81% are larger numbers of electorates because they have free time, what with retirement and days off. Last time I checked unemployment between 16-24 year olds is up 16% and there are a good lot of students out there will beautiful summers like mine, reaching from May to September. There is literally no excuse not to vote because anyone is ‘too busy’ (I apologise to anyone who actually is too busy, but you had a chance to postal vote so I take that back.)

Everything will change. You have to go with what you think is right. It’s your decision, make it count. Read, listen, watch, hear, talk and discuss to help evaluate your stance. Don’t just go with who your family is voting for. They don’t have to know. Look up the Leave and Remain websites and look at their arguments. Become an active voice in the country because whether we remain in or leave, tomorrow your voice will join history.

Do you really want to be left out of it because you couldn’t be bothered.

‘Decisions are made by those who who up.’

 

Nesta