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Monday, September 28, 2009

Journal Entry September 9 at 12:12pm

I don't often have such vivid dreams as the one last night. My Uncle John was driving my father and I home and I could see a scary storm on the horizon. Maybe being in Iowa where you can see storms coming from many miles away because it is so flat here? Oh well, praise God that He has promised to see us through to the other side (Mark 4:35). I won't dwell on it, I just think it's interesting.

Of This God on September 11 at 6:49pm

He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the Living Water, He is the Bread of Life, He is the Mighty Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace... If I had ten thousand tongues, I still could not utter enough praise to do justice to the Lord, God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. He is preeminent, pre-existant, totally self sufficient, and worthy of my complete adoration. He is as holy as He is benevolent; beautifully perfect in all His ways. He created the heavens and the earth by His great power and outstretched arm and there is nothing too hard for Him. Not unlike Abraham, I am fully persuaded that, what he has promised, he is able also to perform from everlasting to everlasting. I just want to praise Him. Hallelujah! He is just that good to me, praise God! Maybe other people are able to create their own oxygen and they don't need God. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7)... I have encountered this great God, Jehovah. And, He has done great things for me. He has made a way for me when there was no way and I couldn't even have told you which way was up. He took me out of a life of misery and shame and set my foot upon a ROCK. Now I glory in nothing except the fact that in Him I live and move and have my being. You cannot make me doubt Him - I have encountered Him - I have tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:2, 3). Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together! I will not apologize for this joyous outburst. My name is Brian L Hunter and I approve this message!

Journal Entry September 22 at 11:25pm

John 4 - When I reach for my beloved, I am digging deeper and loving even as I am loved by Him. Oh, the living water and how my soul thirsts for Him. I just can't tell it all, but I know I had to tell somebody about my Lord and how His mercy endureth forever! I am going to praise Him for an eternity, so I may as well start now. Hallelujah! ... Something is flowing out of me. Hallelujah! I've got a river of life... Hallelujah! Bless His holy name. I'm trying to let it go and shut my mouth, praise God. Mmm mmm good! That's what Jesus is to me. I'll take this over antidepressants any day. Hallelujah!

“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” by Emily Dickinson

I have just a few thoughts on “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” by Emily Dickinson. It is lighthearted yet not irreverent. It leaves me with the impression that death is not some far off evil in the night, but rather a gentle personality who leads us from one state to another. Now, as Christians we know that death, though our enemy, has been conquered by Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Nonetheless, I appreciate this poem for depicting a woman’s calm acceptance of death. She even appreciates the personification of death just as she might embrace an eligible bachelor she could marry and be content with. Each quatrain lightly skips along like a child on the way to school on a brisk autumn morning, unencumbered and sure of the destination. “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me;” – Who would choose to die? And yet, since we must all die, why not envision death as a friend who will not let us forget our inevitable appointment. I love the fact that this poem can evoke thoughts of death and mortality that are neither depressing nor morose. “The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality.” This causes me to see death as encapsulated by something larger than itself which makes death not as scary and makes me somehow equal to it since both death and I are both held in a carriage with Immortality. The entirety of this poem leaves me with a sense that death is something we must be comfortable with since it is a natural part of nature’s course in this sin sick world we live in. I am absolutely convinced that this was the author’s intent.

Two Brokers of Freedom in Poetry

I would not say that American literature has progressed to show a better way of life, but rather a steady decline in morality and ethics in American society. Why are irreverent comedies and reality shows now all the rave on television? They begin as screenplays and scripts, albeit not on par with Samuel Beckett. Is there any correlation between the women’s rights movement and the increase in pornography as well as other violence against women in our society? I enjoy the poetry of Dickinson and Whitman. I also see artistic merit in the works of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, novelist Arthur Miller, and painter Georgia O’Keeffe. In fact, I struggle now in my personal life with a penchant for vampire movies even though I am spiritually opposed to the very premise of such lore. I believe that all art merely shapes the natural experience, the very real nature experienced by the artist, into something that naturally resonates with those who enjoy that work of art. I keep in mind that we live in a fallen sinful world and that our flesh naturally enjoys the pleasures of sin, self-destructive as they may be. We have to be careful about what we allow into the ear-gate and the eye gate. As artists, being Christians, we have the added responsibility to be careful what we allow to come out of us, whether it be verbally, literarily, musically, or through visual arts. Whitman was instrumental in freeing the heart of the human animal in the art of poetry. No more need expression be limited to the confines of rhyme or meter. With her more richly arcane poetry, Dickinson demonstrated that no matter how dark or unsatisfying the reality we experience, we should dare to express it as honestly as we are able. Whitman and Dickinson both seem to make poetry more approachable, perhaps even a gift of which we are all more capable.

A Few 19th Century Feminist Ideals in Literature

My critical response for this week focuses more on the concepts of human nature, individual, and community as they relate to feminist ideals in literature. These concepts are in the forefront of literature that considers key feminist issues as experienced by individual women in the context of American society. I will discuss here "The Revolt of Mother" by Mary Freeman Wilkins, although "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin deals with similar issues. I believe that both these works have enjoyed more acclaim in modern times since certain socio-economical and political realities have come to pass than perhaps they had enjoyed at the time they were first published.

Adonirum uses silence as an act of violence against women which makes it as appalling as rape or any other violent act in my eyes. How many suicides born of despondency resulting from such insensitivity might have been prevented by the mere effort of meaningful communication? This gruff man’s auspicious gift of a sound “almost inarticulate as a growl” in response to anything Sarah requests while she works like a slave to provide a home for him and his children is nothing short of evil and, like any evil, his violent disrespect and disregard would take advantage of the situation just as long as it was allowed to continue unchallenged. How sad that this had gone on so long until for Sarah it had become “her most native tongue.”

I see the motivation for the actions of Sarah to be concern for the mental health and well being of her family, as evident from the passage, “Nanny she can’t live with us after she’s married. She’ll have to go somewheres else to live away from us. . . . She wa’n’t ever strong . . . ‘an she ain’t fit to keep house an’ do everything herself. She’ll be all worn out inside of a year.” Sarah was artfully blameless, “a masterly keeper of her box of a house.” This gives some insight into who she was as an individual.

How did Sarah’s seemingly inevitable act of rebellion relate to the community? “[A]ny deviation from the ordinary course of life in quiet town was enough to stop all progress in it.” 40 years of broken promises and despair, not unlike Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness, had culminated in this shocking testament to Sarah’s resolve in an act of rebellion that anyone righteous of heart would have to deem necessary and justified. Adonirum had refused to allow any normative discourse. He had refused to engage in the decency of open communication with Sarah, a hard working and just woman who had to express the injustice she not only felt, but really witnessed and experienced. The only response to silence for a sane person is action, and the sole purpose of any action is, using God’s example, to accomplish that which is intended by the communicator. Defeated by the righteousness of the act, Adonirum could only be transformed by it and moved to tears as he responded with, “I’ll — put up the — partitions, an’ — everything you — want, mother.” Sometimes a man must be forced by a seemingly insane act to think sanely and soberly afterall.

A Few Thoughts on Whitman

Progressing from transcendentalism and the trend to have man supplant God in literature, we find that romanticism and modernism seek to fill the subsequently dark abyss of America’s intellectual soul with a shocking infusion of raw, lustful, sensual experience and far removed allegorical descriptions of natural life. Whereas authors in earlier periods sought to explore the mystery of life and man’s relationship to God, romantic and modern authors seemed to have an urgent curiosity about their own place or worth as individuals in the natural order of the universe. I am reminded of Proverbs 14:12 which says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Unchained from religion and social mores, free to roam the landscape of issues from emotional health, human sexuality, base instinct, and vitality, Whitman and his beneficiaries wrought a treasure chest of aesthetic observation and suggestiveness. I , personally and with no documented support, see Whitman’s direction heading towards the sublime and maturing in the works of Herman Hesse (1877- 1962), D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Henry Miller (1891-1980), and Ana├»s Nin (1903- 1977), progressing with more and more evil concupiscence until romantic and modern artistic expression gave way to the sublime depths of base carnality, violence, and intellectual erotica. Would realism swing the pendulum back in the other direction, and, if so, how far? The Transcendentalists had let the genie of man’s self-sufficiency out of the box and now the prodigal son was dining with the type of swine representative of the least discriminating beings in Orwell's barn of human experience in the allegorical Animal Farm. Coincidentally, swine most often symbolize devils in the Bible and swine was considered to be an unclean animal by the Israelites under Mosaic law.

This critic is led to consider that, if such developments in literature are indicative of a decline in morals and integrity in American society in its relatively brief history, symbiotically, such developments in literature must have significantly contributed to that historically documented decline. It has been said that Whitman was suspicious of classrooms, and his great poem "Song of Myself" is generated by a child's question; "What is the grass?" ( He would have done well to open a Bible, turn to John Chapter One, and meditate on the fact that “All things were made by Him (Jesus); and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3 KJV)

A Critical Analysis of Edward Taylor’s Preparatory Meditations - Poetry

A Critical Analysis of Edward Taylor’s Preparatory Meditations - Poetry 

Taylor’s Preparatory Meditations, poems composed prior to administering the Lords Supper, seem to me to be quite doctrinal or theological in nature and reveal Taylor's complete emotional investment and devotion to a very relational though transcendent God. Rich with expressions of personal insufficiency and longing, Taylor's imagery at times makes evident a love for the pure sound of lexical expression. The best poetry seems to me able to sing itself. Edwards effectively uses extended metaphor and biblical allusions in Meditation 1 when he writes in stanza one, “What hath thy Godhead, as not satisfide Marri'de our Manhood, making it its Bride?” This makes reference to both the hypostatic union of Christology and the Church as the bride of Christ. Such poetry invites the study of the structure and content of word forms as well as theological inquiry. "Preparatory Meditations before My Approach to the Lord's Supper, " is a collection of 217 poems written between 1682 and 1725 and they are, so far, my favorite of Taylor’s poems. His use of metaphor is at times even sensual. I notice the use of strong action words in Meditation 1 such as Confinde, Conjoyn’d, Marri’de, filling Heaven to the brim!, O’re running it, Overflowing Hell, rose a mighty Tide, though thy Person bleed, To quench those flames, feed, etc. Coupled with a relentless cadence toppling forward with powerful imagery not unlike a freight train wherein the glorious supremacy and sovereignty of God as themes are centrally delivered. Most of the meditations seem to include some expression of inadequacy by Edwards, as if he were not up to the task of expressing accurately anything about this infinite, omnipotent, preeminent God who has created Heaven and earth and all that therein is. “My Fireless Flame! What Chilly Love, and Cold? In measure small! In Manner Chilly! See. Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love Enflame in mee.” But this inadequacy seems to then give way to the anointed preacher in Taylor who will sing a mighty song of worship, praise, and prayerful request to the Almighty triune God with fervor and zeal that could not be contained. In Meditation 1 especially, I find Edwards’ exuberance to be sincere and infectious through the sing song musicality of his verses. These poems do not strike me as having been written to achieve critical acclaim. Similar to the work of Anne Bradstreet in a sense, I believe Taylor’s poetry to primarily be genuine and natural acts of worship; simply doing what his Creator designed and destined him to do. Meditation 1 is introspective and conveys the personal and private relationship of a man born into sin with a very transcendent, holy, and infinitely loving God. 

© 2009 Brian L Hunter 

Emersonian Afterbirth and Depression

The enlightenment wanted us to believe that the lack of reason was pure madness, intellectual overload, and empty religious dogma. Romanticism wanted us to believe that madness was the posterior of reason. Both ideologies seemed to exalt reason and the need to place every experience into a box, even if that box was found to contain nothing more than raw emotion. So long as we could define a response to an experience, it seemed as though all was in order, even if our faith in the individual and moral enthusiasm rendered us a bit like Pollyanna. There, nevertheless, seemed to be an urgent need to predict and control man’s neurosis. I might even go further and say that all science holds to this rather mundane purpose. If there is no God, per se, then the universe will experientially prove to be hostile to man. If nature and the trees are the sole source of goodness, then why do tragedies and injustices exist? I propose, for the sake of argument, that theories and conjecture about the nature of reality began to supplant God, Scripture, the centrality of God’s benevolent sovereignty, and the simplicity of Man’s relationship, in order, to his creator. Is there any wonder why there is an epidemic of depression and other mental illness since the Transcendentalist movement? "We have met the enemy and they are us" (Churchill or Pogo?). When we place all of our bets on Man, there is no hope. Sorry Emerson and Thoreau. No God, no peace. There’s no bread, let them eat cake is a moving argument for revolutionaries. However, a reprobate mind is the cunning reward for opening the Pandora’s box of human self sufficiency. Next week's collage opens with the statement that poets Whitman and Dickinson marked the close of the Transcendental Movement. I had not previously considered them in the same boat with Emerson and Thoreau, so I am anxious to examine the continuity of thought amongst the authors and how, collectively, the ideology relates to the Christian world view.

On Being Real, Bretheren

Sticks and stones, Saints. Judge, point the finger, and completely disregard what Jesus commanded. Call people crack heads, communists, and whores. Call me what you will. I understand you because every one of us was shapen in sin, in fact, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. (Psalm 51:5) For your sakes, I pray you repent while there is time because Jesus promised, “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36) So, what of all the negative things spoken? In the words of Jesus in response to Pontius Pilate’s accusations, “Thou sayest.” As for what is said of me by relatives, friends, and enemies, so hard it is to differentiate between them all while their mouths are open, I say, excuse my French, “il n ya pas de quoi.”

God said “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isaiah 51:12, 13)