Reading Challenge; Jan. 7th, 2017 (Part 1)

Sunday, January 1, 2017; 364 Hours to go per Subject this Year

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: In my first hour of reading I covered only 22 pages. My goal is to cover at least 50 pages an hour in this book.

Reflection: I’m only a chapter into this book and, I must say, I’m really enjoying it.

It begins with a brief history of Archimandrite Tikhon’s journey to Orthodoxy and his becoming a monk. It is a truly inspiring story that reaffirms my belief in works of art (in this case, specifically writings) that are deeply theological, but not obviously so. For these are the works that will remain as a guiding light to the lost, despite the world’s best efforts to eradicate Truth. As his story proves, these will remain even when the obviously Christian works have been destroyed, because the world will not correctly identify them.

This is true because those who are blind to light have chosen to be so; and thus, do not, in reality, expend any internal effort to find it. They do this because if they looked for more than the obvious they would have to open themselves up to the Truth, becoming vulnerable to it, causing conviction and the drive to put forth effort in favor of their souls. Something that they do not want to do.

The following is an excerpt from this lovely first chapter that stood out to me (Archimandrite Tikhon has just related to us the story of his first visit to a monastery and is now talking about the events and thoughts that immediately followed): “Indeed, everything was different now. I didn’t know what had happened to me, but suddenly the world had lost all its attractions, and ceased to be interesting. All that yesterday had seemed desirable and valuable to me was now revealed to be not worthless (I certainly wouldn’t dare to say that) but irredeemably alien. I didn’t recognize myself. And my friends didn’t recognize me either.

When I came home to Moscow, suddenly I realized with surprise that throughout all those past ten days, not only had I not smoked, but I had not even thought about my incurable habit of many years. And this was despite the fact that until that time I had normally smoked not less than two packs of cigarettes a day.

Now the only place where I felt normal was in church. Neither my friends, nor my pastimes, nor the work I had once so strived for – none of it touched my heart any longer. Even my books, even my beloved Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, somehow no longer held my attention. I understood that I had completely changed, and that in fact I was now hopelessly lost to this world that had once been so dear to me. Another life beckoned me, next to which all my prior experience of twenty-four years paled in comparison.

Of course, I did love that past world, and I was sad for it and felt compassion for it from the bottom of my heart! But that was just the point – my heart! It already belonged not to my old world and to my old goals, but to a new world that had mysteriously and unexpectedly revealed itself to me, a world devoted not to fleeting things, but to an unbreakable covenant between man and God.”

I believe this passage truck me so because it was so poignant to my current attitude. I have had many opportunities, even in my short life, to change the disposition of my heart as Archimandrite Tikhon did, and I have said no. Indeed, after leaving monasteries, or meeting an enlightened person I have felt the call strongly and have turned away. There have even been times when I move my heart to the proper disposition for a few hours, or even a day, only to talk myself out of it.

The horrible truth is that I don’t want to change. I don’t want to take that chance on God, not really; because I’m afraid of being bored and I have a hatred for work. Even though I have seen and experienced the grace and joy that God gives to those who wear down their physical bodies and minds in His name and pursuit, I deliberately turn away.

I must change, and since God never gives us more than we can handle, I know it’s possible. I just have to want it…but how do I make myself want it?

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I read 25 pages in the hour.

Reflection: Firstly I’d like to stress that I am not blogging about EVERYTHING I read in the books I’m using for the challenge. That would mean that you, the reader of my blog, wouldn’t have to buy the book yourself if you were interested, and I am in no way trying to hurt the Authors’ royalties. If you find what I’m blogging about interesting, know that the books contain FAR MORE information; and it would be a benefit to your interest if you were to purchase them to read yourself.

My intention is that this blog be a place of reflection and discussion. That said, let us continue.

Antiquing for Dummies covers SO MUCH information. It’s wonderful and insane all at the same time. When they tell you about the different eras of furniture making, for example, they detail what woods were used, how they were commonly finished, and the methods and materials used to assemble them. It all feel terribly overwhelming.

But then, I’m finding Antiquing to be rather overwhelming. Not in a bad way, I’m still terribly fascinated. Indeed, that seems to be the trouble. There is an incomprehensible amount of categories, and genres to be interested in! It seems every page I turn I see a new category that I crave to know EVERYTHING about. I’m even picking up on such things in my everyday life! For example, after only just starting this book, I was listening to the song Sleigh Ride; one of the lines goes, “It’ll nearly be like a picture print from Currier and Ives”.

I have listened to this song at least 200 times in my l life, I know the lyrics essentially by heart, and up until reading this book, my brain completely passed over that line as if it were gibberish. But now…now my interest is peaked! Who are Currier and Ives? What do their prints look like? What price do they sell for? How do you appraise quality? Are there prints that are worth more than others? Why so?

To add to the overwhelmed feeling is the fact that Antiquing is truly subjective. This is a point that irritates me to no end. My interest in antiquing started because you have the potential to not just buy a piece of furniture to use and then eventually discard, but to have a piece that is truly worth something, and that is even appreciating! Something that is truly worth passing on to the kiddos. A legacy of functional taste, if you will. But the truth is that that isn’t entirely how antiquing works. As I said before, it is terribly subjective. Something that was worth $100 yesterday could suddenly sell at Christie’s Auction House for $1000 today or vice versa.

And it’s not even that straightforward! So let’s say that the item was a vase, and that vase has been appraised at $250 and is being auctioned off at Sotheby’s. Some person wins it for $2000. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the value of the item has actually gone up. It could simply mean that there were a couple inexperienced bidders there, who don’t know what to look for in an antique vase of that period, and thought it was worth more than it was, so they drove the price up! But their lack of knowledge will not necessarily change the value of other vases from that time up.

It’s all about supply and demand. That may sound obvious to you, and, indeed now, I chuckle at myself for having thought otherwise; but before starting this book I really did think that a renaissance vase in pristine condition had a (relatively) set value.

If your head is spinning, I totally understand, and I’m right there with you. I’m reading so many new words and having many more merely eluded to, that I wonder how I could possibly ever keep even the most basic in my mind. At the moment I am consoling myself with the thought that after seven years of reading about this field of study, I will know something. Some number of terms will mean something to me for forever. I don’t yet know how many that will be, but by the end I feel I will certainly be able to tell you thoroughly about one period of furniture styles; from the woods they commonly used, to the method of assembly.

Today, I learned something about Dovetail Joints. This may sound a very mundane topic, but bear with me. I truly enjoyed it. You see, there are many things you have to know in order to date a piece properly, and most of them are not only complicated, but also highly subjective. Meaning that what you’re looking for can be faked. But the dovetail joints are simpler method, it seems to me, in comparison. The book defines them as, “the corner joint that brings two perpendicular pieces of wood together.”

It is not guaranteed, but rather, widely accepted that the less dovetails used in a joint, the older the piece (Of course you have to employ many other methods of age assessment to be sure, but this is the one that is sticking in my brain for the moment). As time went on furniture making techniques changed, and so, in pieces made a little later on you will see more dovetails in a joint. The book says roughly 3 to 5. The key here, is that you are looking for dovetails that are irregular, because this proves they were carved by hand, and can indicate age.

Later furniture that was/is made with a machine, has a greater number of dovetails, and they are more uniform.dovetail-joint

Example Sketch of a Dovetail Joint

The Psychology of the Child by Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder –

Report: I have read roughly 4 hours of this book this week. I was supposed to read 6 but for various reasons was unable. I predict I will finish this book by Tuesday, January 10, 2017 as it is only 150 pages long.

Reflection: It is important to note that this book is written in Scientific Essay format. Meaning that it is written by scientists, for other scientists. As a result, I am finding it a difficult read; so my notes will be different than what I wrote for the others. Mainly, I will write this one entry about portions of the entire week, instead of hour by hour. The book is a terribly good one, chock full of information. But such an intense volume of data can be wearing on an unaccustomed mind, so I find myself needing more breaks than with the other books, as my brain becomes extremely fatigued.

There are a couple main ideas that I was struck with.

First, I have heard many people (and it annoys me to no end), say that their children, some as young as a couple months old, are trying to manipulate them. This distresses me from an emotional stand-point since the vast majority of parents in our society are neglecting their children’s emotional needs. In another book, it is presented that children need loving contact with at least one of their parents (and it must be their parents or guardian, not a sitter, other relative, friend, or sibling) once every interval of minutes equaling their age; i.e. a four year old needs to have loving contact with one of their parents every 4 minutes to keep their love tank full, and a 16 year old needs it every 16 minutes.

Obviously you can let time elapse, but know that children’s love tanks (yes that is the technical term) empty quickly (the younger they are, the faster it empties), and that is when you see behavioral issues. So if you are away from your child for an hour, you need to expect that their little emotional tanks are empty and they will act up if you don’t fill them. People don’t give their kids enough grace. I have witnessed parents make the change to this method, and, as magic, the problems disappear, because the child feels loved.

All this to say, when I hear people say their kids are being manipulative trying to get their attention, my heart bleeds for the child. This is because it isn’t the child’s fault. It’s the parents. If the parents were loving their children the way that God intended, and yes He intended for it to take up ALL of your time and emotional energy, then the child would not be behaving this way.

Now, through reading The Psychology of the Child, I have found out that not only is it wrong, emotionally speaking, to accuse your poor children of this, but it is wholly ignorant from a psychological standpoint!

You see, babies actually lack the comprehension to be manipulative. In other words IT’S IMPOSSIBLE for your baby to think, “Hm, I want mommy. So I’m going to cry even though I don’t need anything, so that she’ll come running.” This statement is false on so many levels! To begin with, if your child wants you, no matter what age, no matter how often, then they NEED you. It doesn’t matter if you think they should or not, the fact is that God gave you kids so that you would change, not the other way around.

Furthermore, if a person has children that are no longer babies, and thus have the mental ability to be “manipulative”, so what? If their child is trying to “manipulate” them it means that they are not giving their child what it needs. God never gives people more than they can handle, which means that every need or wound that child gets, He has given the parents the ability to, not crush or get rid of the need or wound, but to fill and or heal it. People need to approach their children with complete humility and shameless love.

There are 3 analogies I am very fond of that illustrate my point:

Our lives are like roads on which we ride bicycles. When we are born, the road before us is straight, and God has given our parents the ability to pave them through love and humility. But, they also have the ability to tear them apart, filling them with potholes and ruts. A child whose parents destroy their road will have a hard time riding their bike without going into the holes and ruts; it is possible, but ridiculously improbable. So at the end of times, who will answer for these falls? The parents or the child? Would it not be the parents? They were the ones charged with paving the roads, and indeed they were given every ability, but instead they chose to destroy it.

There is a man on an elevator. The elevator breaks, leaving the man stuck. First he looks around, stunned. Then he calmly calls, “Hello? Anyone there?” When no answer is received he tries again, “Hello? Can anyone hear me? I’m stuck!” The next time he calls he becomes louder, and, when there is no response, louder still; until he is in a panicking, fuming, fit. When we see children that are “out of control”, we ought to feel badly for them. They are stuck in an elevator, their parents are the only ones who can get them out, and they are refusing; turning their backs and leaving them helpless.

A woman is with her toddler, who is afraid of heights. They are outside of a skyscraper, on the ground. At the top of the skyscraper is something that the woman NEEDS to get. The woman knows the building. It is a sound building. If they go inside, nothing bad is going to happen. She kneels down and explains to the child why they need to go to the top and that it is quite safe. The child begins to cry, they are afraid. The woman thinks for a moment…there is no one she can have watch the child while she goes to the top; so, she picks up the child and carries them kicking and screaming into the building, all the way to the top floor. Is she a good mother?

No, she isn’t. What she did was horribly wicked and selfish. For starters, she asserted her own needs over her child’s. For though the fear was unfounded in her eyes, that is beside the point. In taking her child where the child is horribly afraid she has told the child she doesn’t care about it. She has damaged their trust. It is not for her to decide how her child should feel, it is for her to accept and love. Lastly, her “need” that was at the top of the tower, was only a “need” because she decided it should be. As I’ve said before, God never gives us more than we can handle, which means that even if there is something that a parent desperately, direly thinks is necessary to life, if their child needs the opposite, then God will either show the parent how their “need” was fictional, or give them another way to fill it.

When people conceive children they enter into a promise. A promise that starts the moment of conception. It is the promise that the child comes first. That they will, from that second forward, deny themselves every desire and apparent need, to fulfill the needs of their child.

This all probably sounds very bleak and impossible, but the good news is that children don’t need perfect parents. If that were true God wouldn’t give them to any of us. But they need humble parents, who are willing to be merciless with themselves, repenting and taking complete responsibility for EVERY hole and rut they create. It is humility that fills holes. It is love that paves them. God gives everybody who conceives the chance to have plenty of both. He never sets us up for failure. We choose that ourselves.

Second, play is important to a child’s development. And as I type that I’m aware how obvious it sounds, but let me elaborate; it is generally agreed that play is vital to a child. However, it is not as universally accepted/known that it is not vital because the child desires it, but rather because the child’s brain needs it. And it doesn’t need it simply as a diversion, either. It NEEDS it to process the world. According to the book, children are learning to cope and understand the world around them by playing.

I bring this point because it is so misunderstood. How often have I seen parents chastising their children for the way they are playing? By that I do not mean when they correct a selfish or violent act, but rather a benign act that, because they don’t understand it, bothers them. There is an example that the authors give, of one of the children they observed during the study. This child imitated both a church bell, standing there “gonging”, as well as a dead duck that they had had for dinner.

The parent of the child became annoyed at her “gonging” because he was trying to work and she was doing it right beside him. But she was merely developing her brain and understanding of the world. She NEEDED to play the bell and she NEEDED her father to participate in this learning experience.

Similarly, when she was playing the dead duck; I know parents, who, if they saw their child lying on the sofa playing a dead duck, would “correct” them, saying that that’s morbid and we don’t play that way or some such. They have just shut down their child’s learning process because it makes them “uncomfortable”.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not advocating for a world without propriety. But playing a dead duck hurts nothing and illustrates a need to understand. To stop the child’s play, when it isn’t hurting them or anyone else, is sending a message that they have done something wrong when they haven’t, and it stunts their understanding.

A child’s development is not done by the clock, nor by an adult’s sensibilities. By that I mean that it happens exactly when it needs to and how it needs to, whether it’s convenient or not. And parents are called to drop everything to do what’s necessary. That is part of the conception promise.

Third, during their studies, the authors conducted experiments in which they asked children of different age groups to do the same tasks. The younger group, whose brains were, naturally, not yet as developed, completed the assignment in a very different manner than the older group. So the presiding scientist showed the children what method was expected of them, versus what they had done. The children did it again, this time how he had just shown them, however, in further testing it was discovered that they had done so, not because of a new understanding, but rather because he had made them.

In other words, when a young child is doing something in a way that doesn’t make sense to their parents, and the parents “correct” it (i.e. show them how to draw properly or color inside the lines), and then INSIST upon it, the child will do as they are being forced. But the parent should make no mistake, they have not “educated” their child, they have simply forced them into outwardly performing. Their brain and way of thinking about that particular activity has not changed. So would it not be better to let them continue in their own way?

Monday, January 2, 2017; 363 Hours to go per Subject this Year

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: In my second hour of reading I still only covered 22 pages.

Reflection: The second chapter of this book is about Archimandrite John Krestiankin, Archimandrite Tikhon’s Spiritual Father. I’m going to do some research, in the hopes that he has written something that has been translated to English. From what I read, he sounds a true inspiration and motivator.

He was known for his unerring wisdom and compassion. The chapter was full of examples of this. The interactions he had with all were so touchingly beautiful. But one story seemed the best to write about (Archimandrite Tikhon is relating a time when Archimandrite John is crossing with courtyard of the monastery with a parade of pilgrims, seeking his advice, on his heels): “ …Suddenly a woman in tears, holding a three-year-old baby, threw herself across his path.

‘Father, bless my baby before his operation – the doctors demand that it be done immediately in Moscow.’

Father John stopped and told the woman something that utterly shocked the pilgrims from Moscow: ‘Under no circumstances! He’ll die on the operating table. Pray, and take loving care of him, but do not do the operation under any circumstances. He will get well.’”

Archimandrite goes on to say that the woman followed Archimandrite John’s instructions and all went well, just as he said it would.

This story strikes me so much because of what he says. He doesn’t just tell her not to let her son be operated on, but he instructs her to pray and love him so that all will be well. To me, this makes a very striking point that I see most of our Society missing from their lives.

The first is the instruction to pray. In order to pray, truly pray, we need to be humble. The second is the instruction to love. How often, when we see others in pain, instead of seeing how our selfish denial to give them the love of God has created these problems in them, do we look for other Earthly causes for their problems? This is especially true with our own children. I don’t know the backstory to this antidote, so I don’t know what was wrong with the boy or what condition his relationship with his parents was in. However, it puts me in mind of a lot of other situations that look similar (a parent frantic over an “ill” child) and merely require the parents to exercise humility and Godly love to make everything ok again.

Instead of wanting the easy way out, instead of wanting there to be something really wrong with our child that requires a doctor, why don’t we take responsibility for the fact that our pride and lack of love are what have forced our children into this corner, and actually change??seeker-of-the-lost

Archimandrite John’s “beloved” Icon of The Mother of God: Seeker of the Lost

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I read 25 pages in the Hour.

Reflection: There seems to be information that you have to know before you can even start learning about Antiques. Like, there’s a safe with just the basics, but you have to have the combination first. Thankfully, this book gives you the key code so that you can open the safe. Now, the safe, it appears, is usually a person, and you have to know the right manner and verbiage with which to approach them in order to get the answers you need.

As far as I can tell from my reading, you want to go out antiquing, without actually buying anything, A LOT. And you want to go to a variety of places, i.e. antique shops, flea markets, auctions, estate sales, garage sales, etc.

But before you can even go into these places there is some basic etiquette, “Don’t bring in food or drink…Don’t smoke…” You don’t want the establishment to deem you a hazard to antiquity before you even get into the door.

Once inside, look for the owner or manager of the establishment. Be honest and straightforward with them that you are new to antiquing and wanting to learn. This seems counterintuitive to me because they are there to do business, right? So why would they want to talk to me if I’ve just said that I’m just looking; and not only just looking, but I’m asking them to essentially “donate” their time and knowledge?

That part I’m just going to trust them on and do no matter what.

Now, just a few more tips for while you are perusing. “Don’t open a closed display case…Ask for help before you handle fragile items…Pay attention to any Do Not Touch and Fragile signs…Don’t pick anything up by its top or handle alone…Ask permission before taking photographs…Ask for permission and help when using your antique sleuthing skills.”

The last thing I’m going to leave you with here is a phrase that I found most intriguing and potentially useful; when you see an item you like, whether you know anything about it or not, you can ask the dealer, “Can you explain the price on this _____?” Not only could they tell you much about that piece and why it’s worth what it is, but they could potentially sidetrack into telling you about the genre as a whole.

 

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