Saturday, October 31, 2009

HAPPY HALLOWE'EN!!!!!!!!!!!!!


My *favorite* holiday of the year. No, I'm not actually up right now. I'm setting this post up Friday afternoon to post early Saturday morning. :)

I'm going to be at my friends house all day and night, setting up and then having the World's Best Hallowe'en Party!(tm) So I decided to get this out of the way and I'll talk to ya'll on Sunday.

For this most wonderful day, I give you an urban legend, an old school fairy tale! :)

First, the Urban Legend:

Two sisters fall in love with the same man. They vie for his attention, and eventually the man asks the younger sister to marry him. The older sister is angry over this, and heartbroken, but there's nothing that she can do.

As the date of the wedding approaches, the bride to be falls ill, and eventually dies before being able to marry. Her last wish is to be buried in her wedding gown. The older sister, still bitter and jealous, and still determined to marry the man of her dreams, arranges with an employee of the funeral home to remove the dress after the viewing.

She gets the lovely dress, and through manipulation of the grief stricken fiancee, her 'man'. On her wedding day, everything is perfect. Just as she'd always dreamed. The day is hot, and everyone is sweating. As the day rolls on, she begins to feel ill, but pushes on, determined to be wed! Suddenly, the bride collapses, dead on the spot!

Later, the mortician discovers that she was poisoned by formaldehyde. Her dead sister's wedding dress had absorbed it, and when she wore it on that hot, hot day, and she sweat, it was released into her system, slowly embalming her alive!



Next, classic fairy tale! (*NOT* the Disnified version!)

The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen:

Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above. There dwell the Sea King and his subjects. We must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow sand. No, indeed; the most singular flowers and plants grow there; the leaves and stems of which are so pliant, that the slightest agitation of the water causes them to stir as if they had life. Fishes, both large and small, glide between the branches, as birds fly among the trees here upon land. In the deepest spot of all, stands the castle of the Sea King. Its walls are built of coral, and the long, gothic windows are of the clearest amber. The roof is formed of shells, that open and close as the water flows over them. Their appearance is very beautiful, for in each lies a glittering pearl, which would be fit for the diadem of a queen.

The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore twelve oysters on her tail; while others, also of high rank, were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her care of the little sea-princesses, her grand-daughters. They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all; her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as blue as the deepest sea; but, like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish’s tail. All day long they played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked. Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. The earth itself was the finest sand, but blue as the flame of burning sulphur. Over everything lay a peculiar blue radiance, as if it were surrounded by the air from above, through which the blue sky shone, instead of the dark depths of the sea. In calm weather the sun could be seen, looking like a purple flower, with the light streaming from the calyx. Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as his rays at sunset. She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. The shadow had a violet tint, and waved to and fro like the branches; it seemed as if the crown of the tree and the root were at play, and trying to kiss each other. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.

“When you have reached your fifteenth year,” said the grand-mother, “you will have permission to rise up out of the sea, to sit on the rocks in the moonlight, while the great ships are sailing by; and then you will see both forests and towns.”

In the following year, one of the sisters would be fifteen: but as each was a year younger than the other, the youngest would have to wait five years before her turn came to rise up from the bottom of the ocean, and see the earth as we do. However, each promised to tell the others what she saw on her first visit, and what she thought the most beautiful; for their grandmother could not tell them enough; there were so many things on which they wanted information. None of them longed so much for her turn to come as the youngest, she who had the longest time to wait, and who was so quiet and thoughtful. Many nights she stood by the open window, looking up through the dark blue water, and watching the fish as they splashed about with their fins and tails. She could see the moon and stars shining faintly; but through the water they looked larger than they do to our eyes. When something like a black cloud passed between her and them, she knew that it was either a whale swimming over her head, or a ship full of human beings, who never imagined that a pretty little mermaid was standing beneath them, holding out her white hands towards the keel of their ship.

As soon as the eldest was fifteen, she was allowed to rise to the surface of the ocean. When she came back, she had hundreds of things to talk about; but the most beautiful, she said, was to lie in the moonlight, on a sandbank, in the quiet sea, near the coast, and to gaze on a large town nearby, where the lights were twinkling like hundreds of stars; to listen to the sounds of the music, the noise of carriages, and the voices of human beings, and then to hear the merry bells peal out from the church steeples; and because she could not go near to all those wonderful things, she longed for them more than ever. Oh, did not the youngest sister listen eagerly to all these descriptions? and afterwards, when she stood at the open window looking up through the dark blue water, she thought of the great city, with all its bustle and noise, and even fancied she could hear the sound of the church bells, down in the depths of the sea.

In another year the second sister received permission to rise to the surface of the water, and to swim about where she pleased. She rose just as the sun was setting, and this, she said, was the most beautiful sight of all. The whole sky looked like gold, while violet and rose-colored clouds, which she could not describe, floated over her; and, still more rapidly than the clouds, flew a large flock of wild swans towards the setting sun, looking like a long white veil across the sea. She also swam towards the sun; but it sunk into the waves, and the rosy tints faded from the clouds and from the sea.

The third sister’s turn followed; she was the boldest of them all, and she swam up a broad river that emptied itself into the sea. On the banks she saw green hills covered with beautiful vines; palaces and castles peeped out from amid the proud trees of the forest; she heard the birds singing, and the rays of the sun were so powerful that she was obliged often to dive down under the water to cool her burning face. In a narrow creek she found a whole troop of little human children, quite naked, and sporting about in the water; she wanted to play with them, but they fled in a great fright; and then a little black animal came to the water; it was a dog, but she did not know that, for she had never before seen one. This animal barked at her so terribly that she became frightened, and rushed back to the open sea. But she said she should never forget the beautiful forest, the green hills, and the pretty little children who could swim in the water, although they had not fish’s tails.

The fourth sister was more timid; she remained in the midst of the sea, but she said it was quite as beautiful there as nearer the land. She could see for so many miles around her, and the sky above looked like a bell of glass. She had seen the ships, but at such a great distance that they looked like sea-gulls. The dolphins sported in the waves, and the great whales spouted water from their nostrils till it seemed as if a hundred fountains were playing in every direction.

The fifth sister’s birthday occurred in the winter; so when her turn came, she saw what the others had not seen the first time they went up. The sea looked quite green, and large icebergs were floating about, each like a pearl, she said, but larger and loftier than the churches built by men. They were of the most singular shapes, and glittered like diamonds. She had seated herself upon one of the largest, and let the wind play with her long hair, and she remarked that all the ships sailed by rapidly, and steered as far away as they could from the iceberg, as if they were afraid of it. Towards evening, as the sun went down, dark clouds covered the sky, the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, and the red light glowed on the icebergs as they rocked and tossed on the heaving sea. On all the ships the sails were reefed with fear and trembling, while she sat calmly on the floating iceberg, watching the blue lightning, as it darted its forked flashes into the sea.

When first the sisters had permission to rise to the surface, they were each delighted with the new and beautiful sights they saw; but now, as grown-up girls, they could go when they pleased, and they had become indifferent about it. They wished themselves back again in the water, and after a month had passed they said it was much more beautiful down below, and pleasanter to be at home. Yet often, in the evening hours, the five sisters would twine their arms round each other, and rise to the surface, in a row. They had more beautiful voices than any human being could have; and before the approach of a storm, and when they expected a ship would be lost, they swam before the vessel, and sang sweetly of the delights to be found in the depths of the sea, and begging the sailors not to fear if they sank to the bottom. But the sailors could not understand the song, they took it for the howling of the storm. And these things were never to be beautiful for them; for if the ship sank, the men were drowned, and their dead bodies alone reached the palace of the Sea King.

When the sisters rose, arm-in-arm, through the water in this way, their youngest sister would stand quite alone, looking after them, ready to cry, only that the mermaids have no tears, and therefore they suffer more. “Oh, were I but fifteen years old,” said she: “I know that I shall love the world up there, and all the people who live in it.”

At last she reached her fifteenth year. “Well, now, you are grown up,” said the old dowager, her grandmother; “so you must let me adorn you like your other sisters;” and she placed a wreath of white lilies in her hair, and every flower leaf was half a pearl. Then the old lady ordered eight great oysters to attach themselves to the tail of the princess to show her high rank.

“But they hurt me so,” said the little mermaid.

“Pride must suffer pain,” replied the old lady. Oh, how gladly she would have shaken off all this grandeur, and laid aside the heavy wreath! The red flowers in her own garden would have suited her much better, but she could not help herself: so she said, “Farewell,” and rose as lightly as a bubble to the surface of the water. The sun had just set as she raised her head above the waves; but the clouds were tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. The sea was calm, and the air mild and fresh. A large ship, with three masts, lay becalmed on the water, with only one sail set; for not a breeze stiffed, and the sailors sat idle on deck or amongst the rigging. There was music and song on board; and, as darkness came on, a hundred colored lanterns were lighted, as if the flags of all nations waved in the air. The little mermaid swam close to the cabin windows; and now and then, as the waves lifted her up, she could look in through clear glass window-panes, and see a number of well-dressed people within. Among them was a young prince, the most beautiful of all, with large black eyes; he was sixteen years of age, and his birthday was being kept with much rejoicing. The sailors were dancing on deck, but when the prince came out of the cabin, more than a hundred rockets rose in the air, making it as bright as day. The little mermaid was so startled that she dived under water; and when she again stretched out her head, it appeared as if all the stars of heaven were falling around her, she had never seen such fireworks before. Great suns spurted fire about, splendid fireflies flew into the blue air, and everything was reflected in the clear, calm sea beneath. The ship itself was so brightly illuminated that all the people, and even the smallest rope, could be distinctly and plainly seen. And how handsome the young prince looked, as he pressed the hands of all present and smiled at them, while the music resounded through the clear night air.

It was very late; yet the little mermaid could not take her eyes from the ship, or from the beautiful prince. The colored lanterns had been extinguished, no more rockets rose in the air, and the cannon had ceased firing; but the sea became restless, and a moaning, grumbling sound could be heard beneath the waves: still the little mermaid remained by the cabin window, rocking up and down on the water, which enabled her to look in. After a while, the sails were quickly unfurled, and the noble ship continued her passage; but soon the waves rose higher, heavy clouds darkened the sky, and lightning appeared in the distance. A dreadful storm was approaching; once more the sails were reefed, and the great ship pursued her flying course over the raging sea. The waves rose mountains high, as if they would have overtopped the mast; but the ship dived like a swan between them, and then rose again on their lofty, foaming crests. To the little mermaid this appeared pleasant sport; not so to the sailors. At length the ship groaned and creaked; the thick planks gave way under the lashing of the sea as it broke over the deck; the mainmast snapped asunder like a reed; the ship lay over on her side; and the water rushed in. The little mermaid now perceived that the crew were in danger; even she herself was obliged to be careful to avoid the beams and planks of the wreck which lay scattered on the water. At one moment it was so pitch dark that she could not see a single object, but a flash of lightning revealed the whole scene; she could see every one who had been on board excepting the prince; when the ship parted, she had seen him sink into the deep waves, and she was glad, for she thought he would now be with her; and then she remembered that human beings could not live in the water, so that when he got down to her father’s palace he would be quite dead. But he must not die. So she swam about among the beams and planks which strewed the surface of the sea, forgetting that they could crush her to pieces. Then she dived deeply under the dark waters, rising and falling with the waves, till at length she managed to reach the young prince, who was fast losing the power of swimming in that stormy sea. His limbs were failing him, his beautiful eyes were closed, and he would have died had not the little mermaid come to his assistance. She held his head above the water, and let the waves drift them where they would.

In the morning the storm had ceased; but of the ship not a single fragment could be seen. The sun rose up red and glowing from the water, and its beams brought back the hue of health to the prince’s cheeks; but his eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his high, smooth forehead, and stroked back his wet hair; he seemed to her like the marble statue in her little garden, and she kissed him again, and wished that he might live. Presently they came in sight of land; she saw lofty blue mountains, on which the white snow rested as if a flock of swans were lying upon them. Near the coast were beautiful green forests, and close by stood a large building, whether a church or a convent she could not tell. Orange and citron trees grew in the garden, and before the door stood lofty palms. The sea here formed a little bay, in which the water was quite still, but very deep; so she swam with the handsome prince to the beach, which was covered with fine, white sand, and there she laid him in the warm sunshine, taking care to raise his head higher than his body. Then bells sounded in the large white building, and a number of young girls came into the garden. The little mermaid swam out farther from the shore and placed herself between some high rocks that rose out of the water; then she covered her head and neck with the foam of the sea so that her little face might not be seen, and watched to see what would become of the poor prince. She did not wait long before she saw a young girl approach the spot where he lay. She seemed frightened at first, but only for a moment; then she fetched a number of people, and the mermaid saw that the prince came to life again, and smiled upon those who stood round him. But to her he sent no smile; he knew not that she had saved him. This made her very unhappy, and when he was led away into the great building, she dived down sorrowfully into the water, and returned to her father’s castle. She had always been silent and thoughtful, and now she was more so than ever. Her sisters asked her what she had seen during her first visit to the surface of the water; but she would tell them nothing. Many an evening and morning did she rise to the place where she had left the prince. She saw the fruits in the garden ripen till they were gathered, the snow on the tops of the mountains melt away; but she never saw the prince, and therefore she returned home, always more sorrowful than before. It was her only comfort to sit in her own little garden, and fling her arm round the beautiful marble statue which was like the prince; but she gave up tending her flowers, and they grew in wild confusion over the paths, twining their long leaves and stems round the branches of the trees, so that the whole place became dark and gloomy. At length she could bear it no longer, and told one of her sisters all about it. Then the others heard the secret, and very soon it became known to two mermaids whose intimate friend happened to know who the prince was. She had also seen the festival on board ship, and she told them where the prince came from, and where his palace stood.

“Come, little sister,” said the other princesses; then they entwined their arms and rose up in a long row to the surface of the water, close by the spot where they knew the prince’s palace stood. It was built of bright yellow shining stone, with long flights of marble steps, one of which reached quite down to the sea. Splendid gilded cupolas rose over the roof, and between the pillars that surrounded the whole building stood life-like statues of marble. Through the clear crystal of the lofty windows could be seen noble rooms, with costly silk curtains and hangings of tapestry; while the walls were covered with beautiful paintings which were a pleasure to look at. In the centre of the largest saloon a fountain threw its sparkling jets high up into the glass cupola of the ceiling, through which the sun shone down upon the water and upon the beautiful plants growing round the basin of the fountain. Now that she knew where he lived, she spent many an evening and many a night on the water near the palace. She would swim much nearer the shore than any of the others ventured to do; indeed once she went quite up the narrow channel under the marble balcony, which threw a broad shadow on the water. Here she would sit and watch the young prince, who thought himself quite alone in the bright moonlight. She saw him many times of an evening sailing in a pleasant boat, with music playing and flags waving. She peeped out from among the green rushes, and if the wind caught her long silvery-white veil, those who saw it believed it to be a swan, spreading out its wings. On many a night, too, when the fishermen, with their torches, were out at sea, she heard them relate so many good things about the doings of the young prince, that she was glad she had saved his life when he had been tossed about half-dead on the waves. And she remembered that his head had rested on her bosom, and how heartily she had kissed him; but he knew nothing of all this, and could not even dream of her. She grew more and more fond of human beings, and wished more and more to be able to wander about with those whose world seemed to be so much larger than her own. They could fly over the sea in ships, and mount the high hills which were far above the clouds; and the lands they possessed, their woods and their fields, stretched far away beyond the reach of her sight. There was so much that she wished to know, and her sisters were unable to answer all her questions. Then she applied to her old grandmother, who knew all about the upper world, which she very rightly called the lands above the sea.

“If human beings are not drowned,” asked the little mermaid, “can they live forever? do they never die as we do here in the sea?”

“Yes,” replied the old lady, “they must also die, and their term of life is even shorter than ours. We sometimes live to three hundred years, but when we cease to exist here we only become the foam on the surface of the water, and we have not even a grave down here of those we love. We have not immortal souls, we shall never live again; but, like the green sea-weed, when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish more. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, lives after the body has been turned to dust. It rises up through the clear, pure air beyond the glittering stars. As we rise out of the water, and behold all the land of the earth, so do they rise to unknown and glorious regions which we shall never see.”

“Why have not we an immortal soul?” asked the little mermaid mournfully; “I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.”

“You must not think of that,” said the old woman; “we feel ourselves to be much happier and much better off than human beings.”

“So I shall die,” said the little mermaid, “and as the foam of the sea I shall be driven about never again to hear the music of the waves, or to see the pretty flowers nor the red sun. Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?”

“No,” said the old woman, “unless a man were to love you so much that you were more to him than his father or mother; and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you, and the priest placed his right hand in yours, and he promised to be true to you here and hereafter, then his soul would glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish’s tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they call legs, in order to be handsome.”

Then the little mermaid sighed, and looked sorrowfully at her fish’s tail. “Let us be happy,” said the old lady, “and dart and spring about during the three hundred years that we have to live, which is really quite long enough; after that we can rest ourselves all the better. This evening we are going to have a court ball.”

It is one of those splendid sights which we can never see on earth. The walls and the ceiling of the large ball-room were of thick, but transparent crystal. May hundreds of colossal shells, some of a deep red, others of a grass green, stood on each side in rows, with blue fire in them, which lighted up the whole saloon, and shone through the walls, so that the sea was also illuminated. Innumerable fishes, great and small, swam past the crystal walls; on some of them the scales glowed with a purple brilliancy, and on others they shone like silver and gold. Through the halls flowed a broad stream, and in it danced the mermen and the mermaids to the music of their own sweet singing. No one on earth has such a lovely voice as theirs. The little mermaid sang more sweetly than them all. The whole court applauded her with hands and tails; and for a moment her heart felt quite gay, for she knew she had the loveliest voice of any on earth or in the sea. But she soon thought again of the world above her, for she could not forget the charming prince, nor her sorrow that she had not an immortal soul like his; therefore she crept away silently out of her father’s palace, and while everything within was gladness and song, she sat in her own little garden sorrowful and alone. Then she heard the bugle sounding through the water, and thought—“He is certainly sailing above, he on whom my wishes depend, and in whose hands I should like to place the happiness of my life. I will venture all for him, and to win an immortal soul, while my sisters are dancing in my father’s palace, I will go to the sea witch, of whom I have always been so much afraid, but she can give me counsel and help.”

And then the little mermaid went out from her garden, and took the road to the foaming whirlpools, behind which the sorceress lived. She had never been that way before: neither flowers nor grass grew there; nothing but bare, gray, sandy ground stretched out to the whirlpool, where the water, like foaming mill-wheels, whirled round everything that it seized, and cast it into the fathomless deep. Through the midst of these crushing whirlpools the little mermaid was obliged to pass, to reach the dominions of the sea witch; and also for a long distance the only road lay right across a quantity of warm, bubbling mire, called by the witch her turfmoor. Beyond this stood her house, in the centre of a strange forest, in which all the trees and flowers were polypi, half animals and half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms, with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from the root to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they seized upon, and held fast, so that it never escaped from their clutches. The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she saw, that she stood still, and her heart beat with fear, and she was very nearly turning back; but she thought of the prince, and of the human soul for which she longed, and her courage returned. She fastened her long flowing hair round her head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. She laid her hands together across her bosom, and then she darted forward as a fish shoots through the water, between the supple arms and fingers of the ugly polypi, which were stretched out on each side of her. She saw that each held in its grasp something it had seized with its numerous little arms, as if they were iron bands. The white skeletons of human beings who had perished at sea, and had sunk down into the deep waters, skeletons of land animals, oars, rudders, and chests of ships were lying tightly grasped by their clinging arms; even a little mermaid, whom they had caught and strangled; and this seemed the most shocking of all to the little princess.

She now came to a space of marshy ground in the wood, where large, fat water-snakes were rolling in the mire, and showing their ugly, drab-colored bodies. In the midst of this spot stood a house, built with the bones of shipwrecked human beings. There sat the sea witch, allowing a toad to eat from her mouth, just as people sometimes feed a canary with a piece of sugar. She called the ugly water-snakes her little chickens, and allowed them to crawl all over her bosom.

“I know what you want,” said the sea witch; “it is very stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your fish’s tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul.” And then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling about. “You are but just in time,” said the witch; “for after sunrise to-morrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you.”

“Yes, I will,” said the little princess in a trembling voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.

“But think again,” said the witch; “for when once your shape has become like a human being, you can no more be a mermaid. You will never return through the water to your sisters, or to your father’s palace again; and if you do not win the love of the prince, so that he is willing to forget his father and mother for your sake, and to love you with his whole soul, and allow the priest to join your hands that you may be man and wife, then you will never have an immortal soul. The first morning after he marries another your heart will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the waves.”

“I will do it,” said the little mermaid, and she became pale as death.

“But I must be paid also,” said the witch, “and it is not a trifle that I ask. You have the sweetest voice of any who dwell here in the depths of the sea, and you believe that you will be able to charm the prince with it also, but this voice you must give to me; the best thing you possess will I have for the price of my draught. My own blood must be mixed with it, that it may be as sharp as a two-edged sword.”

“But if you take away my voice,” said the little mermaid, “what is left for me?”

“Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your expressive eyes; surely with these you can enchain a man’s heart. Well, have you lost your courage? Put out your little tongue that I may cut it off as my payment; then you shall have the powerful draught.”

“It shall be,” said the little mermaid.

Then the witch placed her cauldron on the fire, to prepare the magic draught.

“Cleanliness is a good thing,” said she, scouring the vessel with snakes, which she had tied together in a large knot; then she pricked herself in the breast, and let the black blood drop into it. The steam that rose formed itself into such horrible shapes that no one could look at them without fear. Every moment the witch threw something else into the vessel, and when it began to boil, the sound was like the weeping of a crocodile. When at last the magic draught was ready, it looked like the clearest water. “There it is for you,” said the witch. Then she cut off the mermaid’s tongue, so that she became dumb, and would never again speak or sing. “If the polypi should seize hold of you as you return through the wood,” said the witch, “throw over them a few drops of the potion, and their fingers will be torn into a thousand pieces.” But the little mermaid had no occasion to do this, for the polypi sprang back in terror when they caught sight of the glittering draught, which shone in her hand like a twinkling star.

So she passed quickly through the wood and the marsh, and between the rushing whirlpools. She saw that in her father’s palace the torches in the ballroom were extinguished, and all within asleep; but she did not venture to go in to them, for now she was dumb and going to leave them forever, she felt as if her heart would break. She stole into the garden, took a flower from the flower-beds of each of her sisters, kissed her hand a thousand times towards the palace, and then rose up through the dark blue waters. The sun had not risen when she came in sight of the prince’s palace, and approached the beautiful marble steps, but the moon shone clear and bright. Then the little mermaid drank the magic draught, and it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body: she fell into a swoon, and lay like one dead. When the sun arose and shone over the sea, she recovered, and felt a sharp pain; but just before her stood the handsome young prince. He fixed his coal-black eyes upon her so earnestly that she cast down her own, and then became aware that her fish’s tail was gone, and that she had as pretty a pair of white legs and tiny feet as any little maiden could have; but she had no clothes, so she wrapped herself in her long, thick hair. The prince asked her who she was, and where she came from, and she looked at him mildly and sorrowfully with her deep blue eyes; but she could not speak. Every step she took was as the witch had said it would be, she felt as if treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives; but she bore it willingly, and stepped as lightly by the prince’s side as a soap-bubble, so that he and all who saw her wondered at her graceful-swaying movements. She was very soon arrayed in costly robes of silk and muslin, and was the most beautiful creature in the palace; but she was dumb, and could neither speak nor sing.

Beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, stepped forward and sang before the prince and his royal parents: one sang better than all the others, and the prince clapped his hands and smiled at her. This was great sorrow to the little mermaid; she knew how much more sweetly she herself could sing once, and she thought, “Oh if he could only know that! I have given away my voice forever, to be with him.”

The slaves next performed some pretty fairy-like dances, to the sound of beautiful music. Then the little mermaid raised her lovely white arms, stood on the tips of her toes, and glided over the floor, and danced as no one yet had been able to dance. At each moment her beauty became more revealed, and her expressive eyes appealed more directly to the heart than the songs of the slaves. Every one was enchanted, especially the prince, who called her his little foundling; and she danced again quite readily, to please him, though each time her foot touched the floor it seemed as if she trod on sharp knives.

The prince said she should remain with him always, and she received permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion. He had a page’s dress made for her, that she might accompany him on horseback. They rode together through the sweet-scented woods, where the green boughs touched their shoulders, and the little birds sang among the fresh leaves. She climbed with the prince to the tops of high mountains; and although her tender feet bled so that even her steps were marked, she only laughed, and followed him till they could see the clouds beneath them looking like a flock of birds travelling to distant lands. While at the prince’s palace, and when all the household were asleep, she would go and sit on the broad marble steps; for it eased her burning feet to bathe them in the cold sea-water; and then she thought of all those below in the deep.

Once during the night her sisters came up arm-in-arm, singing sorrowfully, as they floated on the water. She beckoned to them, and then they recognized her, and told her how she had grieved them. After that, they came to the same place every night; and once she saw in the distance her old grandmother, who had not been to the surface of the sea for many years, and the old Sea King, her father, with his crown on his head. They stretched out their hands towards her, but they did not venture so near the land as her sisters did.

As the days passed, she loved the prince more fondly, and he loved her as he would love a little child, but it never came into his head to make her his wife; yet, unless he married her, she could not receive an immortal soul; and, on the morning after his marriage with another, she would dissolve into the foam of the sea.

“Do you not love me the best of them all?” the eyes of the little mermaid seemed to say, when he took her in his arms, and kissed her fair forehead.

“Yes, you are dear to me,” said the prince; “for you have the best heart, and you are the most devoted to me; you are like a young maiden whom I once saw, but whom I shall never meet again. I was in a ship that was wrecked, and the waves cast me ashore near a holy temple, where several young maidens performed the service. The youngest of them found me on the shore, and saved my life. I saw her but twice, and she is the only one in the world whom I could love; but you are like her, and you have almost driven her image out of my mind. She belongs to the holy temple, and my good fortune has sent you to me instead of her; and we will never part.”

“Ah, he knows not that it was I who saved his life,” thought the little mermaid. “I carried him over the sea to the wood where the temple stands: I sat beneath the foam, and watched till the human beings came to help him. I saw the pretty maiden that he loves better than he loves me;” and the mermaid sighed deeply, but she could not shed tears. “He says the maiden belongs to the holy temple, therefore she will never return to the world. They will meet no more: while I am by his side, and see him every day. I will take care of him, and love him, and give up my life for his sake.”

Very soon it was said that the prince must marry, and that the beautiful daughter of a neighboring king would be his wife, for a fine ship was being fitted out. Although the prince gave out that he merely intended to pay a visit to the king, it was generally supposed that he really went to see his daughter. A great company were to go with him. The little mermaid smiled, and shook her head. She knew the prince’s thoughts better than any of the others.

“I must travel,” he had said to her; “I must see this beautiful princess; my parents desire it; but they will not oblige me to bring her home as my bride. I cannot love her; she is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble. If I were forced to choose a bride, I would rather choose you, my dumb foundling, with those expressive eyes.” And then he kissed her rosy mouth, played with her long waving hair, and laid his head on her heart, while she dreamed of human happiness and an immortal soul. “You are not afraid of the sea, my dumb child,” said he, as they stood on the deck of the noble ship which was to carry them to the country of the neighboring king. And then he told her of storm and of calm, of strange fishes in the deep beneath them, and of what the divers had seen there; and she smiled at his descriptions, for she knew better than any one what wonders were at the bottom of the sea.

In the moonlight, when all on board were asleep, excepting the man at the helm, who was steering, she sat on the deck, gazing down through the clear water. She thought she could distinguish her father’s castle, and upon it her aged grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, looking through the rushing tide at the keel of the vessel. Then her sisters came up on the waves, and gazed at her mournfully, wringing their white hands. She beckoned to them, and smiled, and wanted to tell them how happy and well off she was; but the cabin-boy approached, and when her sisters dived down he thought it was only the foam of the sea which he saw.

The next morning the ship sailed into the harbor of a beautiful town belonging to the king whom the prince was going to visit. The church bells were ringing, and from the high towers sounded a flourish of trumpets; and soldiers, with flying colors and glittering bayonets, lined the rocks through which they passed. Every day was a festival; balls and entertainments followed one another.

But the princess had not yet appeared. People said that she was being brought up and educated in a religious house, where she was learning every royal virtue. At last she came. Then the little mermaid, who was very anxious to see whether she was really beautiful, was obliged to acknowledge that she had never seen a more perfect vision of beauty. Her skin was delicately fair, and beneath her long dark eye-lashes her laughing blue eyes shone with truth and purity.

“It was you,” said the prince, “who saved my life when I lay dead on the beach,” and he folded his blushing bride in his arms. “Oh, I am too happy,” said he to the little mermaid; “my fondest hopes are all fulfilled. You will rejoice at my happiness; for your devotion to me is great and sincere.”

The little mermaid kissed his hand, and felt as if her heart were already broken. His wedding morning would bring death to her, and she would change into the foam of the sea. All the church bells rung, and the heralds rode about the town proclaiming the betrothal. Perfumed oil was burning in costly silver lamps on every altar. The priests waved the censers, while the bride and bridegroom joined their hands and received the blessing of the bishop. The little mermaid, dressed in silk and gold, held up the bride’s train; but her ears heard nothing of the festive music, and her eyes saw not the holy ceremony; she thought of the night of death which was coming to her, and of all she had lost in the world. On the same evening the bride and bridegroom went on board ship; cannons were roaring, flags waving, and in the centre of the ship a costly tent of purple and gold had been erected. It contained elegant couches, for the reception of the bridal pair during the night. The ship, with swelling sails and a favorable wind, glided away smoothly and lightly over the calm sea. When it grew dark a number of colored lamps were lit, and the sailors danced merrily on the deck. The little mermaid could not help thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen similar festivities and joys; and she joined in the dance, poised herself in the air as a swallow when he pursues his prey, and all present cheered her with wonder. She had never danced so elegantly before. Her tender feet felt as if cut with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang had pierced through her heart. She knew this was the last evening she should ever see the prince, for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home; she had given up her beautiful voice, and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him, while he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry sky and the deep sea; an eternal night, without a thought or a dream, awaited her: she had no soul and now she could never win one. All was joy and gayety on board ship till long after midnight; she laughed and danced with the rest, while the thoughts of death were in her heart. The prince kissed his beautiful bride, while she played with his raven hair, till they went arm-in-arm to rest in the splendid tent. Then all became still on board the ship; the helmsman, alone awake, stood at the helm. The little mermaid leaned her white arms on the edge of the vessel, and looked towards the east for the first blush of morning, for that first ray of dawn that would bring her death. She saw her sisters rising out of the flood: they were as pale as herself; but their long beautiful hair waved no more in the wind, and had been cut off.

“We have given our hair to the witch,” said they, “to obtain help for you, that you may not die to-night. She has given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince; when the warm blood falls upon your feet they will grow together again, and form into a fish’s tail, and you will be once more a mermaid, and return to us to live out your three hundred years before you die and change into the salt sea foam. Haste, then; he or you must die before sunrise. Our old grandmother moans so for you, that her white hair is falling off from sorrow, as ours fell under the witch’s scissors. Kill the prince and come back; hasten: do you not see the first red streaks in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise, and you must die.” And then they sighed deeply and mournfully, and sank down beneath the waves.

The little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the tent, and beheld the fair bride with her head resting on the prince’s breast. She bent down and kissed his fair brow, then looked at the sky on which the rosy dawn grew brighter and brighter; then she glanced at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes on the prince, who whispered the name of his bride in his dreams. She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the hand of the little mermaid: then she flung it far away from her into the waves; the water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up looked like blood. She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam. The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continued to rise higher and higher out of the foam. “Where am I?” asked she, and her voice sounded ethereal, as the voice of those who were with her; no earthly music could imitate it.

“Among the daughters of the air,” answered one of them. “A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread health and restoration. After we have striven for three hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.”

The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. On the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether.

“After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven,” said she. “And we may even get there sooner,” whispered one of her companions. “Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time of trial!”

We don't get Trick or Treaters out where I live, so I have to go to other peoples' houses and do door duty to get my Trick or Treat fix for the year! I'm going as a vampire....:) I'm gonna cause some kids some trauma, and then, when the Trick or Treat time is over, have grown up party time!

There will be no pictures. :p

Friday, October 30, 2009

B&W, W&O: Chapter 5 - The Sanctification of Time

"A man was sent to prison for seventy years. He spent his days standing on tiptoe, trying to look out the window of his cell, through which he could just catch a glimpse of the sky.

"Looking at the sky, he thought about what it would be like to be free. In his imagination he used to go on long journeys. Sometimes he went into the future and thought about what life would be like after he had finished his time in jail. Some of these thoughts were pleasant. After all, freedom looks wonderful to anyone who does not have it. But sometimes his imagination would take him to places that terrified him. Life in prison certainly has it's drawbacks, but at least you do not have to worry about feeding yourself or how to organize your day.

"Looking into the future, the prisoner was obsessed with 'what ifs.' He worried about growing old and being lonely, about getting sick and having no one to care for him, about being scorned or rejected. Often he feared he might not get all the benefits of life that so many other people seemed to have. Feelings of failure, fears or not living up to his potential - whether in his own eyes or in the eyes of people whose approval mattered - formed a major part of his outlook.

"Looking into the past was not much more promising. There the predominant thought tended to be 'if only' - if only he had not pursued the course of action that had led to his imprisonment. He experienced a certain amount of nostalgia, which gave him feelings of warmth and happiness, but most of the time he felt only regret.

"Thus, he spent his days dreaming and remembering, fantasizing and worrying. He felt alienated when he was wither others, and completely alone when he was not.

"It happened that the day the man was due to leave prison, he had a heart attack and died. In due course, he arrived at the throne of God.

"'Where were you when I needed you?' he demanded of God.

"'I longed to see you,' replied God, 'but every day when I came to visit you in your cell, you were not there.'"

This parable is how the fifth chapter starts. I absolutely love it. It (to my mind) brings in what the author has been saying, in one form or another, throughout the book thus far - we must exist in the present moment, because that's all that really exists. It's only when we can quiet our minds and get down to the moment by moment existence of our hearts that we can encounter God. And He's been there they whole time, waiting for us. The past is gone - it cannot be taken back or changed. The future is always just over the horizon. Forever coming, and never here. The present is the only moment that we can effect. In the present, we can choose, we can move, we can love or hate, forgive, laugh, cry. We *choose* how we spend the moment.

The mind blocks the present moment because it cannot control it. It doesn't trust it, because it's not quantifiable like the past, and it's not fantasy like the future. So, as far as our mind is concerned, it would rather the present moment not exist. The minds refusal to acknowledge the present forces us to act on an unconscious level, so that by the time the present moment is registered, it has already passed, and is now a part of the 'past', where the mind feels comfortable dealing with it.

The 'sanctification of time' that the author refers to in the title is the offering of the present moment to God. *Every* moment. God exists outside of time, so our time, our days and nights, weeks, months, years, decades, etc. mean nothing to God. While He did choose to enter time, He is still not held by it, like we, as humans, are.

The rest of the chapter is devoted to a brief explanation of time cycles within the church.

1. The liturgical day does not begin at sunrise, but rather at sundown the previous day. And each day has a cycle of prayers. So the days first prayer is said the evening of the previous calendar day.

2. The week - Sunday is the eighth day of the week, as well as the first. Don't ask me...the author says it 'exists within time and outside it.' Sunday, of course, being the Lord's Day, is the most distinctive, with Saturday following, and Wednesday and Friday following that - they each have their own patterns and particular prayers.

3. An eight-week cycle called the Ochtoechos or Parakletiki, which is the series of hymns that govern the tenor of services of each week - one for each of the eight tones of Byzantine music.

4. An eleven-week cycle of the Gospel at Matins, the author says that this is a cycle only reflected on the Lord's Day, and only to those who attend this service. It is a series of readings (eleven) 'that bring us back, time and time again to the central even of our faith, Christ's Resurrection, regarded in eleven different ways.' Hymns accompany these readings, bringing depth and clarity to that significance.

5. A cycle based on the 365 day year is almost entirely devoted to the memory of the saints. Each day commemorates multiple saints, and there's apparently a special book in the Orthodox church called the Menaion for each month which governs the hymns and prayers for that particular month.

6. Pascha - 'This great day, this Feast of Feasts, like a huge comet traveling through the solar system, bends and distorts time like nothing else. Its presence in the year, weaving in and out of ordinary time based on factors which include not only the movement of the moon, but also the religious observance of the kinsmen of our Lord, attracts a number of other important days to its wake. Dominating the year, yet in many ways independent of it, Pascha stands as a fanfare of God's majestic entrance into the realm of humanity, sealing and enlivening the Incarnation of Christ in order to transform and transfigure the lives of men and women with the intensity of His Love.' For those who don't know, Pascha is Easter.

The author, to help illustrate a point that while we may think time is constant, it doesn't actually act the same all over the planet, tells a couple cute stories about how time is perceived in different cultures or parts of the world.

For instance, he tells of how he was serving at a parish in London. Most of the parishioners were from Cyprus. At the small parish, there were often three to four baptisms, and two or three weddings on a single Sunday afternoon. So, of course, timing was critical. Apparently, the Greek Cypriots 'tell time' differently from the English friends. Invitations to the weddings were often printed out with a time about an hour before the wedding was actually supposed to start, to get the Greek's there on time. However, the issue arose when English friends were given these invitations. They would show up at the time on the invitation, often early, because that's the way time was understood in their culture. Meaning that, more often than not, they showed up at the wrong wedding! :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do You Have a 'Good' Conscience or a 'Clean' One?

Another tiny pearl of wisdom from OLiC:

There's a difference between a 'good' conscience and a 'clean' conscience.

If you have a clean conscience, all it means is that you don't feel guilty. It doesn't mean that you didn't do anything wrong, it just means that you don't *feel* badly about it - which could just mean that you've become numb to the wrongs that you've committed.

On the other hand, a good conscience is a conscience that informs you when you're about to do wrong or have done wrong. A good conscience is one that is active and sensitive enough (not numbed by repeat offenses and trained by knowing God's 'rules' - right from wrong). You may not always feel like you're a shiny, perfect person with a good conscience, but it's more likely to keep you out of trouble than a 'clean' conscience.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

B&W, W&O: Chapter 4 - Askesis - Making the Sanctified Effort

Fasting. How we all *love* that word. It brings to mind deprivation. Monks and nuns and 'crazy' religious zealots starving themselves for God.

But, in both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches, fasting is a cyclical requirement of the faith. (In Orthodoxy, however, there appears to be a lot more fasting, and it seems to be much more complicated than it is in the Catholic church, but I've not gone into details, so I'm not clear on how and when and what.)

Archimandrite Webber, in this chapter, attempts to explain (briefly) the purpose behind fasting - it's not because our bodies are 'evil' and need to be smacked into submission, by the way.

The Greek word askesis (which apparently gives us the English word ascetic) means 'exercise'. It typically refers to the practice of prayer, fasting, making prostrations, and in other ways modifying out behavior to bring it in line with the spiritual life. This should *never* be an attempt to please God with our pain, or even just the effort that we're taking. If that's your intent, you're reducing God to an overseer - the projection of human characteristics and motivations onto God is something that should be avoided, as it creates unrealistic ideas of how to relate to God.

Rather, askesis is a matter of exercise, like an athlete preparing for a race. There can be no resentment, in the end, for all the work done in preparation for the race, because it is being done for a good reason. Likewise, we are all 'in training' spiritually, and the rhythm of fasts and feasts (remember that this is in the Orthodox church) allows us to intersperse rigorous periods of training with other times that are more relaxed. Lent and Holy Week are the 'training period par excellence' within the Church. This period of intense fasting is preceded and followed by weeks wherein there is no fasting at all, but the opposite of fasting is *not* self-indulgence, and feasting need never be an occasion of decadence.

'Fasting is like that balance that God puts into creation. Restraint and fasting characterize the lives of those who enjoy life to its fullest. How can someone be really contented who has not known hunger? How can someone really experience the joy of Pascha without having fasted during the weeks of Lent?'

Fasting is a therapeutic tool used to help bring us closer to where we need to be, physically and spiritually. It is not a punishment, it is not a matter of self-control or self-discipline. Those elements turn spiritual fasting into something ugly - as if our grim determination would make us more pleasing to God. It's also not meant to show the world that we can bear pain and hardship. We're not meant to fast so that others can see we're fasting. We're not meant to fast and make everyone miserable with our self suffering for God. That's not the point, and it doesn't please God.

Fasting is meant to help us learn the value of relying on God. The Orthodox apparently fast from midnight before Holy Communion in order to heighten their awareness of the desire to be united with God in Holy Communion. This should be the utmost theme in our lives. Fasting helps remind us that we are creatures in God's world, not above it.

The Orthodox church's setting of specific days and ways of fasting is meant to sort of regulate it - because if people were free to set their own fast days, a certain amount of pride would set in. Someone would always be fasting more than the next person, and feeling 'holier than thou' about it - thereby negating the usefulness of their fast, and possibly harming others if they slip and condemn the other person, judging them because their fast isn't as good or strict or what have you, as theirs. Fasting should be done 'in private' without a bunch of hoopla. No one should make a show of fasting - of going out to a restaurant and grill the waiter about the food, making sure they know you have to be very careful what you eat because you're fasting.

The physical aspect of worship is also briefly covered. As the author says, the body is not an 'optional extra' in the spiritual process. The body is a part of us, and the expectation is that we will be resurrected with the body, in some rarefied form.

'The act of prostration (metanoia, the same word Greek uses for 'repentance') in prayer is an extremely important one, and one we need to rediscover. It reminds us of the importance of the human body in prayer. The body participates as much in our path to God (which is not particularly obvious) as it does in any sin we may commit along the way (which is sometimes very obvious indeed- it is difficult to gossip when you have no tongue).

ETA: I forgot to mention, but Alana kindly reminded me, that the infirm, elderly, infants, ill, pregnant/nursing women are not required to fast. Also, a persons spiritual director (father) may modify their fast for personal reasons, so an individual may not be fasting from everything that others are. Which is yet another good reason not to go around judging others' fasts. You don't know their situation.

The Kinder Report Day 7

Fun was had by all. One of the girls brought in popcorn, so we had that for snacks.

Deb found a handout that we gave the kids, about forgiveness, it's meant to start them on the ideas of Reconciliation and Penance. The Bible verse in the handout was Luke 15: 4-6 (the lost sheep). And our Gospel was Mark 10: 46-52.

The kids ask *lots* of questions: is there anything God won't forgive? what if you forget you did something wrong? can a priest tell somebody what you confess? why do some people eat monkey brains?

Our 'word' was Commandments, so we went over the Ten Commandments again.

We're focusing on respect and *quiet* while other people are talking, reading, etc. They're six, so they have trouble with this. But we're working on it. :)

And here's our wall of colored pictures:

ps, LK, I got the game, thanks! I gave it to the DRE so she can 'approve' it, but I anticipate being able to use it next class. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's not paranoia if it's true...

Yes, hello, probably going to creep people out again. Sorry. But this creeps me out, if it makes you feel any better.

I love horror movies, ghosts, ghoulies, you name it, I love it. I've kind of gotten inured to even really being scared by them.

However, one thing that still creeps me out and makes it hard for me to sleep:


Not the mean, nasty kind from the movie Aliens, or even Predator, or the Blob, but real, true, 'based on an actual story' aliens. Alien abduction.

The movie Fire in the Sky? I still can't watch it alone.

This new movie The Fourth Kind? The commercials creep me out! (Yes, I'm going to go see it, because it's *true* and I have to know what happens, but I'm not going to sleep that night.)

I have to have curtains that totally cover and block sight through my windows. I *don't* look out my windows at night (because I just know one of these times there's going to be an alien looking back in at me...).

So there you have it.

Aliens terrify me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

B&W, W&O: Chapter 3 - Distraction & Prayer

Distracted Kitteh is Distracted. :)

'It seems odd that during much of our lives, most of the time, we seek distraction. Any sort of distraction seems to do, anything that takes us away from the present moment. The mind gravely distrusts the present moment and will do almost anything to get us away from it. This is all the more puzzling when we realize that the present moment is the only moment we have.'

Distractions are our attempt to find meaning outside of ourselves. This is true of *all* distractions, even the ones that seem to be harmless (collecting first editions, Hummel figurines, etc.) or 'good for us' (the author uses the examples of good music or a moving sermon). Distractions, while they seem to make us think that we're 'truly ourselves' when we're into them, are actually taking us *away* from our true selves (by taking us away from being present in the moment) and deluding us to this fact. Tricky buggers.

Archimandrite Webber says that even the drive to be 'totally free of distraction' can be a distraction. 'Distraction that we don't recognize as a distraction is still a distraction. Distraction that we attempt to reject is still distraction. However, distraction that we both recognize as distraction and accept, without any sort of reservation, is no longer a distraction.'

'If I am a monk and I stand in church day in and day out feeling resentful, though not quite sure why, then I am being distracted by my feelings. If I am a monk and I stand in the church, day in day out, next to a monk who always sings flat, and I am annoyed by that fact, then I am distracted. However, if I am that monk and I simply accept that the monk is beside me singing flat, that he is not going to stop singing flat, and that his singing is actually every bit as important as my own, then I am no longer distracted. I can enter into the silence even when surrounded by noise.'

Cutting out distractions doesn't work because we just replace them with other distractions. The idea is to accept the jackhammer working down the street, the guy in the pew singing off key, the crickets, the rock poking you in the back, the heat, the cold, the noise, the smell, etc. and acknowledge it, and not care.

When we're no longer distracted, the mind is quiet, and the heart (nous) can operate. It begins to recover, and we become ourselves, even for just a little while. In this space is where we can meet God. When we cease doing and *be*, we can meet God.

'In the world at large, there is a silence which is simply the lack of all noise. This is a negative silence, a silence waiting to be filled. However, in the spiritual life we discover another, much more valuable sort of silence, and that is the silence which is the voice of God. The two sorts of silence sound similar, but they are not the same. The silence sought by hesychasts is the voice of God. Within this silence we are bathed in the goodness and love of God.'
'Silence is the language of God. Everything else is a mistranslation.'

He moves on to 'intercession', saying, essentially, that in praying for others, we should simply say, 'Lord, remember ______' (persons name &/or situation). We should *not* tell God what to do. We should just ask that He remember them, that His Will be done in a situation.

The author says that in the Divine Liturgy the church engages all of the senses of the worshipers in order to help them get into the present moment. To not allow their minds to wander here there and the other place, but to concentrate on where they are. He also covers language used in church, and how (sometimes) it's not one that we understand. His point here is that we can use that, as well, to ground ourselves. That rather than focusing on the words, we can make ourselves 'more physically present' in our bodies by concentrating on the movements, and the rhythm of the words, even when we can't quite understand them all.

He also mentions that if you're sitting in church judging everyone, you've missed the point, and wasted all your time there.

The last section was Bible Reading. Mainly, how one should read the Bible daily, and that it must be understood in the *context* of the time at which it was written! Shock!

What I found most interesting in the last little section is that the Book of the Gospels is (according to the author) given more weight in the Orthodox church that the rest of the Bible. Not that the rest is not held in high regard, but that the Gospels are the 'main event', if you will.

And, to make up for the creepy picture a few posts ago, I bring you cuteness that has nothing to do with the post:

OLiC - Brief things in re: Baptism & Confession

Sadly, the OLiC Archives don't have production notes on everything, so the posts I wanted to do aren't going to happen, because I can't refer to their notes. :p

Anyway, two of the interesting points that stuck in my head:

1. Baptism - specifically, infant baptism. The assumption of Protestants is that below the 'age of reason' children can't sin, so God loves them and should they, God forbid, die, they'll go to Heaven because they weren't yet capable of sinning. However, at the moment they hit the 'age of reason', they're sinners, and are suddenly told that they can't be in God's love until they've made a rational, reasoned decision to love God back. The hosts likened this to a family having a baby, raising it for seven years, and then putting the kid on the curb and telling him that he can come back and be a member of the family when he can make a rational, reasoned decision to be a part of the family. It's...kinda crazy sounding, yeah? They also made arguments for the baptism, chrismation and communion all occurring at the same time, as opposed to being spread out over years as they are in the West. If I'm remembering it correctly, the argument was essentially that the first thing you do with a baby is feed it - you're not going to deny a child food until it's seven or so and can rationally ask for it. You're going to feed it because it needs it, and the child will grow stronger because of this food. As children in the Church (specifically infants here), they need the spiritual food of full communion with the Church. So why wait seven years to chrismate (confirm)? Why wait for communion? Because the parents want to be able to have photo ops? Doesn't seem like a very good reason to me...

2. Confession - Interesting things, interesting things. Apparently (according to the hosts), confession in the Orthodox church is made facing an icon of Christ, not the priest. The priest stands *beside* the penitent to hear the confession, but the confession is made to Christ Himself. (It can also, apparently, happen in front of the whole church, but nobody hears what's being said, or in private). Also, the 'Penitent's Prayer' (which I haven't been able to find on the net as of this moment) doesn't begin like the one in Catholicism (Forgive me Father, for I have sinned...) but rather is directed, again, to Christ. Sadly, again, no production notes, I can't recall the exact wording, but the one they read was from the Antiochian (sp?) tradition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Floating Down the Orthodox River?

I could listen to Our Life in Christ all day. I have, actually, and when my mp3 player died (forgot to plug it in for recharge last night), I was very disappointed.
I *like* learning about Orthodoxy, funnily, I'm enjoying it more than I did learning about Catholicism. With that, it was sort of frantic. I *had* to know everything so I could be right and be knowledgeable and *understand* these things. Transubstantiation and confession and celibate priests and...and...and... And if something didn't quite click, I assumed that I was wrong and shoehorned it into my brain.

With Orthodoxy, it's more like floating in water. I'm (mostly, I still have moments, we all know) not frantic about it. I'm not sure where the current is going, but the ride is peaceful and somehow comforting.

(cool thing about this pic? I've been to the springs/river where it was taken - Weeki Wachee)

Take that as you will.

Star Trek funnies!

Quick! Dive! Dive! Go watch it before Youtube yanks it again!

Name Changing...

So, as some might be aware, the man I call 'Dad' on here is not, in fact, my father. He's technically my step-father.

My Baby Sis and I still have the last name of my adoptive father (who I refer to as step-father or giant flaming jackass, depending on my mood...) who is her natural father.

My mother has brought up that she would like us to change our last names to Dad's.

Now, I don't really have any problem with that, I've been trying to get rid of G.F.J.'s last name for *years* but Mom asked me not to because she wanted my sister and I to have the same last name.

I'm you think it's weird? She wants to do this as sort of a surprise 'Christmas present'. So, of course, in that vein, we can't *ask* him what he thinks, or it'd stop being a 'surprise'.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Very Important Lessons Learned From 'Paranormal Activity'

Right, so, I actually knew these before, but this movie is like a run down of a list of things one should not do.

1. If things start moving around on their own in your house, do not treat it like a party trick.

2. If you're hearing a phantom growl? Seek help, of the priestly variety, if you please. (Or pastor, if you don't have priests...)

3. Video taping to try and catch the phenomena for proof is okay, but trying to encourage the activity is a no no.

4. Do not, under any and all circumstances, bring a Ouija board into the house!

5. If you happen to have one, don't use it! As a matter of fact, get it out of the house!

6. Don't *talk* to the entity.

7. For the love of all that is good and holy, DON'T TAUNT THE ENTITY! Don't dare it, don't egg it on, don't stand in any place near/in/around your house and shout, 'Is that all you got?' or any variation thereof. Because the answer is no, no, that's not all it's got, and it will proceed to chuck you down (or up, as the case may be) the stairs for your temerity.

8. When a psychic you've hired to 'take care of the ghost' (cause you didn't listen to point 2 about the clergy) tells you it's not a ghost, and gives you the phone number of a demonologist, TAKE THE HINT!

9. Don't burn religious items in the house. I mean, you shouldn't do that ever, at all, but, y'know, timing, really?


Okay, so, this's a fictional movie, obviously, but all the stuff that happened in it? Real phenomena. All the mistakes made? Real mistakes. Seriously. There are certain things one does not wish to fuck with. This'd be one.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Kinder Report Day 6

*sigh* Okay, just a quickie because I'm on my way out the door to see a movie with a friend. I feel bad updating and not responding to comments or other peoples new posts first, but I want to do it before I forget and I promise to respond to everybody later.

Class went well, we read the Gospel which was Mark 10: 35-45. Our word was 'faith'. :)

I did not screw up anything, thank God. I had the kids pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary without their sheets (mostly). We need to work on silence and respect and the proper way to behave when someone else is praying out loud. Crossing ourselves also needs to be addressed. The kids rush through it. We did our letters, and went around the room for 'best things of the week'. It was a little more chaotic than normal because (I think) having a temporary teacher distracted some of them.

At snack time I handed out the coloring sheets I'd found, it was Jesus stopping the storm, and that took us to the end of class. I am tired and achy, but the ache is from over doing it in the yard yesterday, and so's the tired, cause I kept twinging my back in my sleep and I don't take pain killers soooo....

Anyway, typing it out it seems like not much, but really, we fill an hour and a half with learning!

Off to see Paranormal Activity. The reviews tell me that it will make me pee my pants and be afraid to sleep and shower alone. If it does not deliver, I shall be miffed. (Less so on the peeing of pants thing...)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hijab, Cars, and Class - What Do These Things Have In Common?

So, I was thinking. Shush. Don't act so shocked.

I have a passing familiarity with this thing you people call a 'speed limit'. It's not that I'm a bad driver, certainly, I was taught to drive by my grandfather, who was a cop and worked with the FBI. I'm a *good* driver. I've been in one accident, and they hit me while I was sitting still. However, I do tend to drive at, what has been called, 'ludicrous speed' as opposed to 'light speed' ($20 of imaginary money if you get the movie reference).

When I moved, I had to start taking a different way to work, and this involved a windy road. I slowed down. I was scared, a little. I could feel the car shifting under me, and was convinced that I was going to flip if I went even a little over the limit. That was...two years ago? I speed on it now. (Note: I'm not encouraging speeding. I know I shouldn't, and I try to not go as fast as I used to, but it's *hard*.) I'm not scared anymore. It was new, I had to adjust. And I did.

Same thing with hijab. I was nervous, I was twitchy, I talked myself out of it a couple times. A little less than a month later, I'm not nervous.

I'm actually sitting at work, in my hijab.

I'm still not full time. I wear it when I feel the need, and cover in other ways other times.

People've been *friendlier*, which is weird. And work people just joke. They all agree it looks lovely. (Of course, my one friend insists that I need to walk ten paces behind him now, but he's kidding, really.)

Now, this Sunday is my first day teaching the class without Deb. I usually let her lead since she has much more experience with kids, but she has to attend a meeting for her kids who are in pre-Confirmation classes. So it's me and a 'temp' who works in the front office. I'm nervous. I'm afraid she's going to think I don't know what I'm doing.

Soo....that's where I'm at.

Sitting at work in hijab, worrying about teaching class. *sigh*

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 2: Orthodoxy- A Relationship With God

Christianity is not a philosophy, not a doctrine, but life. - Archimandrite Sophrony

So, in the first section of this chapter the author asserts that in the beginning of life a person has an impersonal relationship with God. Simple identifying characteristics: Creator and the created. Nothing else. At baptism, the relationship becomes personal. 'In a personal relationship, each person has a name and is recognized when called by that name....just as the person dies and rises again in the water, God's name is revealed, but so too is the name of the person being baptized. God now has a way of getting out attention: He can call us by name.'

Since, in Orthodoxy as well as in Catholicism baptism is likely to occur in infancy, awareness of this relationship comes as the child grows. It's (in an Orthodox household) something that one grows up with. Mom, Dad and God. (How awesome is that?) The relationship ebbs and flows with each persons life. Sometimes its smoothe, sometimes we make progress, sometimes we fall down flat on our faces. But the end goal is always the same. Union with God. Theosis/deification.

From there the author wants to define 'identity'. In the fallen world, the mind is (mainly) the thing we hear the most. Identity is a form of labeling. The mind loves it, and starts doing it very early on. 'I' am not 'other'. 'I' am this storyline that I perceive. 'I want' - we don't like to share, at two or forty two. We want it because we desire it - it'll add to our experience, to our story. Give our minds something else to go on about.

But the heart, the heart neither wants nor fears. As opposed to 'I want', the heart exists in 'I am'. 'People who are able, albeit briefly, to live in (or through) their hearts, rather than their mind, experience life from a place of great stillness. They find their feelings of alienation, loneliness, and the desperate need for certainty which accompanies their normal life just drop away.'

As we grow, we continue to relate in 'me' 'not-me' terms. However, we also realize that there is something else, something greater and stranger than all the 'not-me's out there. That, we identify, as Creator/God - a simple Power. So far beyond 'not-me' that comprehension fails. It's a Mystery.

The author then goes into relating to God as person or Power, which I covered here. The end result is this: we cannot relate to God simply as a Power for long. It's not a relationship which can be sustained. One must either move past this simplistic understanding of God, or live in fear of the Power forever.

Without quoting the *whole* next section, here's something that I think illustrates the point: 'The man and the woman rejected relationship with God as a person and went into exile. They forced God to become an impersonal power, a demand, a commandment, just as a rebellious child forces a parent to become overpowering, impersonal, and free from dialogue when the child presses beyond the limits that have been provided for its safety and nurture.' Our rebellion in the beginning forced God to change our reality (or perception thereof) so that we'd be *aware* of our wounded nature, so that we would desire to correct this - move back into God's Grace.

The next section contains the 'fox and boy' metaphor, in which I still maintain that God is the boy and the fox is a person. God is patient, knowing what we need - waiting for us to approach. Because, while He is God, and *could* simply take over, that's not what He desires. That would take us back to the Power and subservient dynamic, where what God desires is a relationship. He wants us to come to Him.

And as we grow, we desire more and more a relationship with Him. Through living our *lives* in Orthodoxy, that is how we grow closer to God, closer to the place where He desires us to be - what we would have been before the fall. It's a lifelong process - but, as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do These Bible Passages Refer to Muhammad? *I* Don't Think So...

So, LK did a post called Biblical Translations and Muhammad (AS) that's a reference to another post. It's about how the translations of the Bible have changed through the years, essentially. Without getting into who decided what books go in the Bible when and where and who changed what, because that's an ongoing scholarly debate for the most part, all the passages quoted are ones that Muslims like to use to point to Muhammad being prophesied in the Bible. I'm talking about this here because that's not the point of her post. :)

Preface by saying, as always, I'm not a professional or even an exceptionally learned lay(wo)man. My opinion is my own, and subject to change. If I was quoting Church (or other) Law, I'd say so.

Some, like Deuteronomy 18: 18-19 come down to a matter of interpretation, almost. Who's a 'prophet like unto Moses'? To Christians, it's clearly Jesus. Muslims argue no, it's Muhammad. And each has their reasoning. (Clearly I come down on the side of Jesus here...)

The two passages in John listed (John 14: 16-17 & John 16: 7-14) are understood by Christians to refer to the Holy Spirit. Muslims see Muhammad. (And I obviously fall on the side of the Holy Spirit here. I see no reference to Muhammad in the Bible, really.)

Now, the other two verses mentioned. I can see, yeah, if you just read those, you could go, 'Oh My Flying Spaghetti Monster! Muhammad!' - but the fact is, they're single verses taken out of the whole passage. No reference to what else is written. Just, 'plop'. 'Lookit this! Even though your Scriptures are corrupt, here's our prophet! Follow meeeeeeeeee!'

So, here's the first one: Jeremiah 28 (the relevant verse is verse 9):

1 That same year, in (the beginning of) the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah, son of Azzur, from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and all the people:
2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.
3 Within two years I will restore to this place all the vessels of the temple of the LORD which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took away from this place to Babylon.
4 And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah, son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,' says the LORD. 'for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.'"
5 The prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people assembled in the house of the LORD,
6 and said: Amen! thus may the LORD do! May he fulfill the things you have prophesied by bringing the vessels of the house of the LORD and all the exiles back from Babylon to this place!
7 But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing and the hearing of all the people.
8 From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms.
9 But the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the LORD only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.
10 Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, broke it,
11 and said in the presence of all the people: "Thus says the LORD: 'Even so, within two years I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of all the nations.'" At that, the prophet Jeremiah went away.
12 Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
13 Go tell Hananiah this: Thus says the LORD: By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke!
14 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: A yoke of iron I will place on the necks of all these nations serving Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and they shall serve him; even the beasts of the field I give him.
15 To the prophet Hananiah the prophet Jeremiah said: Hear this, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, and you have raised false confidence in this people.
16 For this, says the LORD, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth; this very year you shall die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.
17 That same year, in the seventh month, Hananiah the prophet died.

Reading the whole passage, it's clear that Jeremiah is speaking to Hananiah and his false prophecies. He's basically saying, 'Look, you're saying the exact opposite of what the prophets have said before you for hundreds of years. We've been proven right. As soon as *your* prophecy comes true, we'll acknowledge you as a true prophet.' peace. Really, if you know the history and have read Jeremiah, you know peace didn't come. Hananiah *was* a false prophet. I'm not sure, if I were a Muslim, I'd want to put Muhammad in this passage. If you hold him up to the standard set here...did peace follow him? *glances over at Middle East*

And the next one: Isaiah 29 (relevant verse: 12):

1 Woe to Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped! Add year to year, let the feasts come round.
2 But I will bring distress upon Ariel, with mourning and grief. You shall be to me like Ariel,
3 I will encamp like David against you; I will encircle you with outposts and set up siege works against you.
4 Prostrate you shall speak from the earth, and from the base dust your words shall come. Your voice shall be like a ghost's from the earth, and your words like chirping from the dust.
5 The horde of your arrogant shall be like fine dust, the horde of the tyrants like flying chaff. Then suddenly, in an instant,
6 you shall be visited by the LORD of hosts, With thunder, earthquake, and great noise, whirlwind, storm, and the flame of consuming fire.
7 Then like a dream, a vision in the night, Shall be the horde of all the nations who war against Ariel with all the earthworks of her besiegers.
8 As when a hungry man dreams he is eating and awakens with an empty stomach, Or when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking and awakens faint and dry, So shall the horde of all the nations be, who make war against Zion.
9 Be irresolute, stupefied; blind yourselves and stay blind! Be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from strong drink!
10 For the LORD has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep. He has shut your eyes (the prophets) and covered your heads (the seers).
11 For you the revelation of all this has become like the words of a sealed scroll. When it is handed to one who can read, with the request, "Read this," he replies, "I cannot; it is sealed."
12 When it is handed to one who cannot read, with the request, "Read this," he replies, "I cannot read."
13 The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men,
14 Therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion: The wisdom of its wise men shall perish and the understanding of its prudent men be hid.
15 Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the LORD! Who work in the dark, saying, "Who sees us, or who knows us?"
16 Your perversity is as though the potter were taken to be the clay: As though what is made should say of its maker, "He made me not!" Or the vessel should say of the potter, "He does not understand."
17 But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
18 On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,
21 those whose mere word condemns a man, Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.
22 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham: Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.
23 When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, They shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.
24 Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.

Some of the more cheerful stuff in the Bible, yeah? It's God telling Israel that he's punishing them. He's taking away the ability to understand for a while, *because* they've already turned from Him. This was God going, 'I'm gonna spank ya'll, hard. But it's for your own good.' I see where the Muslims are going, 'see!', I just don't think they're taking into account the whole passage and intent of the book.

Isaiah and Jeremiah are all doom and gloom, written while Israel was getting their collective butts kicked around.

All my quotes are from the NAB Catholic edition found nyah: USCCB.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Star Trek 2009 Gag Reel - All the Funny Spock Can Deliver

Okay, first one got yanked from youtube. Found another one and it won't let me embed it. So, here's the link. Hurry and watch before it gets yanked again!
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