Friday, May 20, 2011

Quiet

I had to perform a difficult piece of Jewish-Christian Relations in action this past week.  It took a lot of time and energy I wasn't very thrilled to give, but the end result was tolerable and my supervisor took mercy on me by way of a 15 pound "thank you" gift card to a bookstore down the street.  The gift was extremely generous, and I wanted to spend the money wisely.  I spent multiple hours at the bookstore today, pouring over all my options.  I had almost completely decided on Dracula and Crime and Punishment to add to my classics library (I've heard Dracula is one of the best books ever written.  Who knew??), along with a biography of the skeptic philosopher Montaigne (who played a large role in my senior capstone paper).  However, I walked out of the store happily carrying the following instead:




And my favorite:


These are very British children's books.  I decided that I could get Dracula in any bookstore, anywhere.  But I'm fairly certain that "Stick Man" is unavailable in the US.  I am very excited to add the four books to my other British classic: "The Gruffalo."  And all for only 98 pence of my own money :)  


Today has been a quiet day.  My thoughts have been drifting from the very mundane tasks of student life to the questions and yearnings of eternity.  I have learned today how life speeds on, even when a light has left it.  As I jogged next to the Cam river this evening, watching the sun glinting through the leaves onto the water, feeling the blisters forming on my feet, feeling the warm air puffing by my cheek, I felt so, so grateful to be living.  I have confidence in the peace, rest and reunion of the next life, but today I was overwhelmed by how good this life is.  I felt so grateful for a healthy body, for a husband who will soon be with me again, and for this place, which has become such a sweet home.  

A reminder from my daily scripture study that God is all around us, evidenced by this glorious world:
"The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God....Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power."  (Doctrine and Covenants 88:45, 47)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Musings

I can't claim that today has been ordinary, but you may have noticed from my lack of posts that life has been far too ordinary to write lately.

Today began with a reality check: living with roommates can be (hopefully only) occasionally frustrating.  The morning routines of the four girls who share my flat differ in all the right ways.  I have only rarely had to wait for the shower and only once had to leave the house without showering because of uncoordinated bathroom use.  When I headed downstairs for the first time this morning, though, I saw the light on and the door closed.  I climbed back upstairs.  Oddly, this gave me just enough time to have a Boggle date with my husband, even though it was 1 a.m. his time and 9 a.m. mine.  David and I often play Boggle when we're together, but this was the first time we ever tried it apart.  I'm not sure it worked, but I did have to skive off early to try to reclaim the shower after a twenty-five minute wait and a very quickly approaching lecture.  This time I knocked, and entered disgruntled when I realized that the bathroom had been empty the entire time.

I must have beautified myself well enough in the twenty minutes I had to get ready because as I was walking to class, a good-looking chap on a motorbike flashed me a thumbs-up and a big wink when he drove by.  I am madly in love with the better-looking chap who married me, but I admit I enjoyed the attention a bit.  Even so, I was well aware that the unknown guy probably would have winked at any girl walking by.  I felt so grateful to be a woman who has confidence enough in herself not to need the affirmations of the men around me.  As long as Dave believes I'm beautiful, I feel happy and strong as the woman I am, in the body I have.  I know that so many women struggle to find that confidence and need to seek the attentions even of strangers to find any semblance of self-worth.  

After lecture, I helped show the BYU London Centre students around Cambridge.  I enjoyed talking with them and explaining the story of how I ended up here and what attending Cambridge University is like.  Of course, with all of that also came frequent rehearsals of my separation from Dave.  That was not so enjoyable.   Good thing I was in a roll-your-eyes-because-your-life-is-currently-ridiculous mood today, and not a lonely and desolate mood.  We went to the Wren Library, which, sadly, I had never been to, even though it's one of Cambridge's treasures.  Brother and Sister Tanner joined us there (apparently they are vacationing in England this week!), and I stood next to Sister Tanner as we looked at Newton's first edition Principia - important in one of my very favorite books - along with a lock of Newton's hair, his walking stick, pocket watch and his Latin notebook.  We also saw an original Winnie the Pooh manuscript and letters from Tennyson and Wordsworth.  Later, I was able to tag along in one of the nine punts the centre rented for their students.  There was a lot of horizontal floating down the river with our inexperienced punters at the helm, but we managed to have lots of fun anyway.  I was again astounded by how absolutely stunning Cambridge is.


This evening, I went to a lecture called "Good without God?: A Christian Philosopher Probes the Foundation for Ethics."  It was given by Professor Oliver O'Donovan from the University of Edinburgh, and he addressed the following questions: What difference does Christian theology make to ethics?  Is a theological foundation necessary for ethics?  To what extent can there be a fruitful dialogue between Christian and secular ethics?  He defined ethics as "a disciplined reflection about thinking towards action."  According to him, action depends on 1) humans as responsible agents (individually and collectively), 2) a world of value and goodness, and 3) time which affords us opportunity to act.  On the goodness of the world, he said: If the goods (not material goods, but things which are innately good) I see around me are not actually goods, but only reflections of my wants or aspirations, then those cannot surprise me, form me or shape me.  Possibility for human growth is removed.  Also, many goods cannot be claimed, only admired (like the beauty of the Backs I admired from the punts today).  That experience of admiration becomes good also; in a way, we become "indebted to the goodness of the good." From the fact that I can appreciate the good, I find myself experiencing gratitude. He quoted a secular businessman: "If I believed in God, I would feel thankful." One gentleman challenged him during Q&A.  He passionately proclaimed all of the terrible things he perceived about the world around him, especially relating to religion (violence in the Middle East, homophobia, etc.). He challenged Dr. O'Donovan's emphasis on goodness, asking how religion could uphold any claim of goodness.  I thought Dr. O'Donovan's answer was interesting.  He said, Yes, you bring up all those bad things.  But in your list, the categories naturally assume hope for a better world (peace in the Middle East, acceptance of homosexuality).  "Why should I think or hope for a better world?" he asked.  "The world is disappointing because it actually offers so much.  Why this presumption of goodness on which one can build a platform for disappointment?"

After the lecture, I found my dear friend Ardis sitting with Kathryn in the living room.  I pulled up a bowl of Shredded Wheat and chatted casually with them for a while, watching the sky grow pink behind the evening's dissolving rainclouds.  Most recently, I have spent the last hour reconnecting with Dave, as I do every day.  Now, I think it's time for bed.




One final note:  Earlier, in the back corner of Sainsbury's (the local grocery store), I found my end-of-term reward: a tub of Clotted Cream and Honeycomb ice cream.  Sounds like a dream.    

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Epic Day in Missionary History

Today was Mother's Day in the U.S., which means lots of love for the mothers in our lives and, for thousands of LDS families, missionary phone calls!  The Hill family initiated possibly the most epic missionary phone call in the whole history of the world.  Thanks to the brand new Skype 5.0, video conferencing is now available for free (or at least mostly free - 7 day trial required) to family computers all across the world.  We enjoyed our 4-way video conference call tonight from 11:30 pm to 1:30 am my time.  There were seven on couches in the Provo Hill basement, Jordan in Oscada, Michigan, David in Tempe, Arizona and me in Cambridge, England.  Granted, my view wasn't quite as cool as that broadcasted over the massive family room TV screen in Utah, but it was a happy sight nonetheless:

Problems with Jordan's Microphone (See the Phone)

Fixed and Happy!

I love you so much Mom, for all you do, for the advice and counsel you give and for the way of life you have taught me.  And I love you too, bro, for all your love and faith, both for and in God and for the people you serve every day.  May Michigan listen to the message of joy and peace you bring, that they, too, can look forward to being reunited with their families in God's kingdom forever.