Prior to the green chili peeling we celebrated the Birth of the Theotokos, the first great feast of the liturgical year, which started on September 1st. The second feast follows closely, with the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross this coming Saturday. Father John gave a homily referencing several of those given by Byzantine saints. I can’t remember for certain which ones. Here’s such a homily by St Andrew of Crete, which may of may not have been among those mentioned. Just in case you’re interested.
I also got to meet up with a fellow Teach and Learn With Georgia English volunteer, which was lovely.
I read about half of Rachel Held Evans’ blog posts, because she has a nice writing voice, and talks about things I understand, even if I’m not much involved in them. Today she posted an extremely favorable review of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint. I have no intention at all of reading it, but did enjoy watching the author, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, present her testimony. She’s an engaging speaker, and I was struck by how much easier it is to enjoy hearing other people’s life journey tales when one isn’t preoccupied with feeling terribly boring for never having even wanted to rebel in the ways described (and mostly repented of) by the speaker. I like that I can disagree with her on a lot of things, and that’s alright — I don’t have to, and am not expected to, especially as our churches aren’t in communion — and I don’t think she would be upset about that in the least. I especially liked her description of her introduction to Lutheran liturgy.
Things look different mostly because I’m trying to be more tablet friendly. Not that anyone is necessarily trying to read this on a tablet, but I tried a couple of times on an e-reader, and it was tiny and caused errors. Should be better now, though the other theme was rather more attractive in general.
On Friday St John’s had a lecture on Solzynitzen and the need to actively and even violently resist “radical evil.” The quotes are there because everyone’s thinking about Syria at present, and the awful mess they’re in, and also how both sides in the conflict apparently have a fair amount of evil to them. The Christians I met there preferred President Assad, because at least he didn’t want to harm the minorities that presented no threat to his power, as the Christian communities don’t. Which certainly isn’t a hearty endorsement, but the fear was and is that the opposition could be far worse. And their actions haven’t done anything to suggest otherwise. In any event, at the lecture I learned that Solzynitzen wrote a 5,000 page book in multiple volumes on the theme of the Russian Revolution, called The Red Wheel. ‘Tis a metaphor. I’m supposed to be on the lookout for metaphors, for poetry class. The book is still being translated into English and is not in print yet, because… 5,000 pages. The image is apparently one Lenin used, of an accelerating train wheel; Communism with the weight of history and inevitability behind it. The speaker contrasted Tolstoy’s belief in the inevitability of history, which had largely been adopted by the Russian court, and which led to innervation in much of the Czarist army, especially its commanders, and Solzynitzen’s critique of that mentality, personified in The Red Wheel in a great Russian General who was assassinated before the revolution, but whose name I didn’t write down.
Saturday morning I went to an educational training at a small school and tutoring center where I would like to tutor if I can. It was good. Three hours long, sensible, with some interesting information. They specialize in teaching students with “learning differences,” specifically in the core studies of reading, writing, and math, especially dyslexia. That is indeed a euphemism, but may be a helpful one. My favorite part was about how some students need to be explicitly taught “executive functioning skills,” like planning with a calendar, keeping track of time on a clock, organizing their backpacks, flagging their planners, and so on. It reminded me of being an extremely unsuccessful study skills teacher, because I didn’t have anything explicit to teach or insist on. In general, I like their insistence on being very explicit, systematic and concrete with students who are struggling, and not trying to be innovative in unhelpful ways. I have often felt at educational trainings that “research,” usually poorly described, is being used as a bludgeon or an extra burden on already overwhelmed teachers, and was pleased to find that while neuroscience and educational research underlies many of their strategies, they take responsibility for translating that into concrete lessons, rather than using it to imply vaguely that you’re a bad teacher, and therefore a bad person, for not doing so yourself. As has often happened to me before.
Leslie Hansard has written an article about this year’s trip to Moldova (the same one I went on last year), which I would recommend, if you’re interested in that kind of thing. It’s well written and not hyperbolic.