Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering Lewis

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”- C.S. Lewis

Today is an extremely sobering day for America and any of those who were alive at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. Obviously, I wasn’t even a thought in anyone’s mind at the time, so I can’t fully what it felt like to experience the shock of JFK's murder on that day. However, what I can speak about is another man whose death often gets looked over on November 22nd, a man I consider equally as impressionable and inspirational as JFK.

That man is Clive Staples Lewis. 

If you have read any of my blog from this past summer, you would know that I had the privilege of intensely studying the life and works of CS Lewis for 6 weeks. I can’t describe the incredible encouragement and growth I gained from that experience as an individual, a scholar, and most importantly, a believer in Christ. I learned to not simply take situations or experiences at face value, but to contemplate every word, every punctuation, every possible underlying meaning of one of Lewis’s articles. Therefore, I have no other option but to thank this man in the only way I know how for all that I learned from him.

It always amazes me that a man who can write an article with such gravity as The Weight of Glory (I HIGHLY encourage you to read it by the way) can take his wisdom and inspiration and transform it into a children’s series about a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe. How can a series touch the life of both a 7 year old and a 50 year old man? It all comes down to the fact that it isn't the series touching the people. It's the meaning behind it and the realization that we are all so hungry for our own Aslan, our own Savior. 

I am incredibly thankful for Lewis because of how many lives he’s touched, and literally saved through his own criticism and writings. It always astounds me that he tried to disprove the reality of a higher being, because he couldn’t understand why a God would love something so unworthy as the human race. He tried to use the concepts of logic, naturalism, and realism, but all ultimately failed to live up to the reality that there is no other explanation for this crazy thing we call life but God and his unconditional, never ending love for us.  How many people had the same criticisms as Lewis, and because of his writings and the will of God, were saved from an eternity of hopelessness?

I can never really express how grateful I am for the wisdom of Lewis, but I had to give it a shot. Because of him I have come that much closer to realizing that while I am so helpless because of my sin,  I am redeemed by the hope that lies in the unconditional love of Christ. I know that we Americans celebrate the inspiring figure that JFK was on this sobering day, and rightfully so. My only hope is that we wouldn't discount the memory and inspiration of the man behind Aslan. 

“To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son-it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”-C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Retrospect Assignment 5: Things I'm Already Missing About Oxford

(photo by Megan Bean)

#1. Our last two weeks in Oxford were probably my favorite, simply because we had finally been there long enough to get in a routine of daily living, learning how to juggle reading and writing for tutorials along with exploring Oxford and all that incredible city has to offer. One of my favorite memories of my time in Oxford has to be Monday nights at what we consider the best Italian restaurant in Jericho, Mamma Mia.
No idea who that guy is, but that's our little table with the six place settings by the door!
It was basically a place of complete relaxation to look forward to after long hours of studying and reading in Jericho cafe. I can't quite find the words to explain it other than I never felt more at home than in those moments of laughter sitting around that table, gorging on cheesy garlic bread and  Carbonara pasta (I still think it's the best even though everyone else disagrees with me), half bottle free wine night and just enjoying each other's company. I tried to ask the waitress to take a picture of us, she awkwardly turned me down, which resulted in the group selfie of all selfies. Sorry bout it.

Told you it was bad.

#2. Oh Jennykins.

Even though we're about to live directly next door to each other in the same house next year, Oxford wouldn't have been the same without this little bundle of sunshine! We've come a long way from me refusing to sleep in the double bed with you at the beginning of the trip. Any of you that know me well know that I have some SERIOUS sleeping quirks. Jenni put up with every single one of them! She's helped me a lot with becoming more of a morning person too, considering whenever I would wake up before her I would try to be quiet so I wouldn't wake her up. Just when I thought I had made it to the bathroom, she would always turn over quickly and yell, GOOD MORNING NETTHHYYY!!!! Whether it was pranking Mary Lowry with moldy bread in the bed, or listening to weird British radio in the morning, I'll always remember our roomie times together, and you having to start my laundry every, single, time.
Our friendship, in a picture.

#3. This, my friends, is Port Meadow.

This was my first real discovery while out running along the canal one day in Oxford. I went over a bridge and found myself looking out along the yellow-covered oasis of Port Meadow. It goes as far as the eye can see and is home to cows and horses of local farmers, and served as a bit of a place of relaxation for me when I was overwhelmed by tutorials. A typical afternoon consisted of walking along the River Thames, watching houseboats leisurely drift by and rowers from colleges practicing their skill. One day while exploring we even came upon some old remains of Godstow Nunnery, a monastery that was destroyed during the dissolution under the reign of Henry VIII.
I'll never forget the memories I have here from swimming in the freezing water of the Thames, running with the cows, and walking to the Trout for dinner.

Still can't get enough of this picture. 
This place served as my little paradise when I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford life, and I hope that I can come back and visit one day!

#5. Speaking of the Trout, one of my favorite memories from the trip will forever be our last meal as a group together at the Trout Inn, one of Oxford's most famous pubs. This quaint little place is set on the opposite side of Port Meadow, so we decided to hike out there since we didn't have a car and are cheap college students who don't want to pay for a taxi and would rather walk in the dark. Naturally. Just to give you an idea of the walk....
See those white buildings at the top left hand corner waaayyyyyy far away? That's Oxford, and that's where walked from. This doesn't show the Trout but is fairly close. Here it is from the bridge.

Anyway, one night after a lovely dinner at the Trout, Jade and Jenni realized that they had to make a bus at 1:00 in the morning and it was currently 10:30 at night with that long walk still ahead of them. So they left with DJ and his friend while Clayton, Steven, Mary Lowry, and I stayed behind for a few more minutes. As soon as we left the restaurant, we walked across a bridge and heard the most horrendous, frightening, piercing scream I've ever heard in my life. The four of us literally jumped on top of each other we were so scared. Then, Mary Lowry discovered the culprit. 

That black thing on top of the chimney was in fact, a peacock. A peacock in Oxford England???? Who would have thought? After about ten minutes of Clayton mimicking the squawk and trying to get it to come down we decided to leave. Little did we know that as all of this was happening, Jade Jenni DJ and his friend (I am SO sorry DJ I can't remember his name! Ah!) were having an experience of their own. Walking past Godstow at 11 at night can be really scary, considering Lady Rosamund's ghost supposedly wanders the ground at night, and we had seen a group of seancers (spelling?) heading into the chapel that same night. They said that when they walked past the chapel a huge burst of incense hit them but no one was around. They ran all the way back to the apartments, and people, that's a long run. We were pretty freaked out walking back too but thankfully we had Clayton and Steven to protect us (HA.) Here is a random video I found from this dinner. I think we were testing out the new Instagram video feature haha. 

#6. New Challenges

This trip was one of the most mentally and physically draining things I have ever done, but I could not be more grateful for it. Being challenged weekly by Dr. Ward was an incredible learning experience that will forever be unmatched. I can't describe to you how much pressure it is to sit in front of an Oxford genius, read your 8 page research paper TO HIM, present him with your findings on CS Lewis (as if he doesn't already know, it's not like he's the foremost living scholar on CS Lewis or anything), and then have an intellectually stimulating discussion for the next 45 minutes. I'm tired just thinking about it now! After this tutorial I have learned to look at people and situations in a new light, questioning things for what they really are, and trying to figure out answers for myself. So often I would simply just accept a book or politics or religion simply for what it is and what I have been taught, but not really do any research for myself on the matter. I realized how much I am missing out on life and its little nuances that I would have noticed if I had simply taken the time to ponder it just five minutes more. 
(photo by Megan Bean)

If any of you are fans of CS Lewis and are familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, then please take the time to read Planet Narnia by Dr. Ward! It's basically a book that he has written about his theory that the seven books of the Narnia series represent the seven heavens in every essence. His theory is iron clad and actually really creepy how accurate his proposals seem to be. I'm so thankful to have experienced the opportunity to get even a little bit of insight into the mind of a true genius. 

#7. I'm so glad that I participated in this travel blog, it's a really freeing way of telling people all of your adventures, but still feeling like you're writing "Dear Diary" every time. I'm so excited for the day that I can give my kids this url address and boy will they be in for a surprise. Just like we've been talking about in the MSU led Objects of Travel class, I've collected so many memories through pictures, this blog, souvenirs, and stories that I will forever hold dear. I came back from this trip truly feeling changed. It may sound cliche, but I really believe those six weeks were a time of unique growth and maturity that many people cannot say they have experienced. I'm thankful for being able to share in this experience with this awesome group of people (picture provided by MSU photographer Megan Bean, she's legit). It's really neat to be able to say that we all experienced this trip together, soaking in a new culture and appreciating this adventure we were granted. From meeting new friends both from MSU and other colleges around the US, to being led to amazing museums and palaces by Dr. Ben Harvey, to conquering the sights and sounds of Oxford, London and Paris, it's hard for me not to think that this was all one incredible dream. 

(photo by Megan Bean)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Last Weekend in Oxfordtown

As I found myself nearing the end of my Oxford trip, I realized there were so many things left that I needed to do! One weekend when Jenni and Jade went to Scotland, Mary Lowry, Steven, Clayton and I stayed behind to do a little bit of exploring parts of Oxford we hadn't "conquered" yet.

Surprisingly we had only been to visit a few other colleges so we decided we would visit Magdalen College (C.S. Lewis was a tutor there, it was also the place where he converted to Theism). The college was beautiful, but even more fun was the little nature trail we took in Magdalen meadows. It was a peaceful little escape, I felt like I wasn't even really in Oxford anymore. Clearly, we had a lot of fun exploring!

Next, we went over to an exhibit that the Bodleian was putting on called "Magical Books". We had seen signs all over Oxford advertising for it, but didn't realize how amazing some of the things actually were in there! They had Tolkien's original drawings of Middle Earth, his first drawing of the inscription on the inside of the ring, as well as other drawings from the scenes in his books. There was also a page from Wagner's book that was the very picture that evoked Lewis's awe of "pure northerness" that he references as his inspiration for imagination in Surprised by Joy. It was amazing to observe the very picture that spawned the creativity and imaginative genius of this man I had so intensely been studying for several weeks. Obviously, one of my personal favorite finds was Lewis's original drawing of Narnia. I stood in awe in front of it for about 10 minutes just trying to take it all in. We weren't allowed to take pictures and I could probably go to jail if I put the pictures from the internet up on this blog, so you'll have to be satisified with this link to the website if you want to go check out what exactly I saw!

After Magical Books we decided there was one thing that we HAD to do before we left Oxford: swim in the River Thames. Yes, it was probably 50 degrees out and yes, the water was nasty and murky and we might have had a hard time deciding if it was home to leeches. But hey, we had to do it! As you can see, we had a little trouble actually getting to the rope swing, but once we did it was a blast! Jumping into the water completely knocked the wind out of all of us, and Mary Lowry may have picked up a few diseases after cutting her hand while trying to get back up on the bank (one of the ONLY times I have every seen Mary Lowry ungraceful, ever seen what a beached whale looks like?). She wouldn't mind me telling y'all about it though, she thought the pictures were pretty hilarious herself.


The following Sunday we made our second trip to London and met Jenni and Jade at the Tower of London! This place was so steeped in history, I was completely awestruck by all of the awful executions and stories about the Tower. One of the stories we heard was about James Scott the Duke of Monmouth who led a rebellion against King James II in 1865 and was ultimately caught and executed. It was said that it took eight blows for his head to finally be cut off. Yeesh, talk about a bad day. 
Also, we found the spot where Ann Boleyn was beheaded. 

 Here are some awful torture tools, like this one that would stretch a person's body until all of his joints were pulled out of socket. Yah.
After crossing the Tower Bridge we headed off to our main event of the day, visiting Warner Brother's Harry Potter Studios!

Can I just point out that at one time we were being those classic Americans running to catch the train to Watford (cleverly stationed between Platforms 9 and 10. Coincidence? I think not!) one of the attendants must have noticed our frantic looks and yelled out "'Arry Pottaaaaa???" and directed us to the correct train. It was classic.

I can't really put into words how amazing touring the Harry Potter studios was, so I'll leave you with some pictures. All I know if the movie series isn't simply a multi-million dollar franchise to me anymore. I have the utmost respect for every singly person that put so much work into every detail to make the movies what they are today. And all I know is that by the time the tour spit me out into the gift shop I was ready to buy every single wand and candy I could.

Butterbeer was so. stinking. good. 

Family photo op outside of Privet Drive!!! Love them. 

Model of Hogwarts. Erected in 40 days. 

Gryffindor Common Room.

Sorry we're not sorry. Had to. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Objects of Travel Assignment 4: The Museum of the History of Science

The Museum of the History of Science is located in west Oxford, conveniently next to the infamous Bodleian Library. Opening in 1638, the ultimate theme of the museum is that of science, housing a variety of significant scientific instruments dating from hundreds of years ago up to the early 1900s. The museum is often referred to as the “Old Ashmolean” and was the first museum in the entire world to be opened to the general public. Elias Ashmole contributed his collection to the museum which was housed there until the collection expanded into what is now the Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street.

The layout of the museum itself has an interesting history, considering the basement was first used as a chemical laboratory, and the middle story of the museum was used for lecture rooms and demonstrations.

In 1924 the museum became a primarily science based museum and has been such ever since. Upon climbing up the steps the doors open into a surprisingly (but pleasant) single room divided into two halves. The outer wall of the left side of the room is lined with mathematical and astrological instruments. There are about six centerpieces that serve to present a wide range of the museum’s objects, something to give the visitor a taste for what they are in for. Within a showcase, there are three tiers, each with very distinct objects. Here is an example:

When glancing at the top shelf, you probably wouldn’t realize that it is actually a silver microscope that was made for George III in about 1770. The middle shelf contains some Persian astrolabes, a common astrological object found throughout the museum. The bottom shelf contains a drug jar from the seventeenth century, originating in Italy. The layout of the tiers doesn’t necessarily represent what types of objects are found on each floor, but instead shows the wide range of countries represented in the museum, as well as the types of instruments that contribute to the museum as a whole.

The right side of the floor contains a wall of microscopes and sundials all contributed by Dr. Lewis Evans. This collection was deemed the “foundation collection” of the museum that made it into the science-based museum that it is today. 

Travelling down into the basement seems to suggest the passage of time as the light gets darker, and the stone walls turn into wood. I felt like I was really travelling into a medieval lab where weird, sharp objects made me feel like I was walking into Frankenstein’s lab.

This turned out to be my favorite floor by far, considering there were objects ranging from horrifying medical instruments all the way to the evolution of cameras. There was an entire cabinet that paid homage to Louis Pasteur’s discovery of penicillin, a drug that saved so many lives during the World War and continues to show its significance today.

 Another amazing piece is a blackboard with Einstein’s equations of the expansion of the universe, written during a lecture he gave in Oxford. Winding around the basement, a very different tone presents itself as the visitor walks through a room of ancient clocks and models of the planets until coming upon a passageway that traces the evolution of insects and bugs. The theme of the passage of time at this point is almost awkwardly obvious, but necessary to the basis of the museum. 

The third floor is arranged very different from the bottom two floors, not only spatially but also within the types of objects presented. The cases are not nearly as cramped as the basement and middle floors. The level of scientific achievement is much more elevated, consisting of astrolabes and sundials, suggesting a calculating atmosphere and a higher level of scientific genius. The walls are lined with glass cabinets, chronologically oriented and categorized by country. The countries presented are from the Islamic world, Renaissance Europe, Nuremberg, London, and Paris.

Overall, the theme of the museum is clearly and effectively presented with a wide range of objects that were all significant contributions to the world of science. From the basement to the top floor the visitor experiences the passage of time from hard labor in a laboratory to sophisticated scientific instruments on the top floor. Being a biology major, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing firsthand several objects that were essential to the development of modern science and research. 

Objects of Travel Assignment 3: Collecting Doors

Throughout our class in Objects of Travel we’ve been discussing many different themes of collecting. Some people collect books, some collect figurines, and some collect packs of cards (like me!) It’s been difficult to fully express the scope of what all I have learned on this trip, but the blog has been a great way to keep a collection of those memories that will sadly soon begin to fade.

Following along with the theme of collecting, we were challenged to collect pictures of objects that are characteristic of Oxford and hold special value in the objects themselves. After doing some thinking and exploring, I kept finding myself standing in awe of doors. It might seem ridiculous, but every single door that I have crossed paths with has a different personality, flavor, and story behind it. I’ve even said a few times that I would love to come back to Oxford in about 10 years, pick out my favorite door in the whole town, ship it back to the U.S. and then build a house around that door. Might be wishful thinking, but hey, a girl can dream right?

Each of these doors either holds a special memory of my time in Oxford, or has a certain air of mystery that grabbed my attention.

 First up is a church door found during our time at Stratford upon Avon. The first thing that caught my attention was the shade of blue, something of a mix between cobalt and navy, as well as the curvature of the iron on the long wooden beams. It almost gives it a fairy tale like quality, something you wouldn’t think would normally be associated with the entrance of a church.

The teal rustic door with the chips of paint and hole in the bottom suggests a sense of wear and tear. From what I could figure out, this was a simple door for a simple house. Yet it was this simple characteristic that seemed to draw me in and demand a sense of respect. For me, this door represents the locals of Oxford, shaped by their history but also a distinct element of that history.

When this picture was taken, the grounds of Christ Church were buzzing with the excitement of the Summer Eights, a rowing competition held every year between the 38 colleges. It looked like Christ Church might be taking home the trophy, and the students were clearly excited about the possibility of returning glory to their college. This door is the entrance to one of the men’s dorms in Christ Church, as can be noted by the seal of the college on the right hand side. Along the left hand side you can barely make out how many bumps were made by the team. The person with the most bumps wins the competition. Not only is this door the entrance to students’ living quarters during the term, but also a way of showing their pride for their school and accomplishments.

This door caught my attention because of its distinct medieval flair. I came across this door when I walked into an old partly ruined Norman medieval castle (Oxford Castle) in the western part of the city. In the 14th century it was turned into a prison and now, oddly enough, is used as a hotel. The studded door, great iron hinges, and bars across the bottom capture the history of the castle quite well. Something that also intrigued me about this particular door was that it was one of the few white doors I came across in Oxford.

These two doors serve as a memory our tour of the Churchill War Museum in London. Clearly, the first was the entrance to a map room and the second, a door covered in keys that unlocked all of the other doors in the war rooms. I chuckled a little when I thought about the fact that this door’s sole purpose was to gain entrance to all of the other doors.

This door might seem a little familiar after taking a closer look, because it is the entrance to Hogwarts! We traveled to Warner Brothers Studio in London to take a tour of the set of the Harry Potter movie series. We had just watched a short film, narrated by Daniel Radcliffe himself, and in the film he beckons everyone to follow him into Hogwarts. The screen lifted up and there stood this door. It was made of real wood and opened up into the set of the Great Hall. 

Last Wednesday we took a tour of Blenheim Palace, and this magnificent door was our first greeting to the palace. The intricate detail and golden designs are indicative of what was to come on the tour, and it ended up being our favorite palace of all.

After exploring along Port Meadow and the River Thames we came upon the remains of Godstow Nunnery. The first picture serves as an entry way into the chapel of the nunnery, one of the last remaining visible buildings on the site. The second door (archway) was found along the wall of the ruins. The story behind this place is that when Henry II’s mistress died he originially buried her at the high altar at Godstow. The bishop of Lincoln did not like this and dug her up and buried her at the cemetery, which was destroyed due to the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign. She is now said to roam the grounds searching for peace.

Not only do these doors serve as entryways to destinations, but they ultimately serve as a collection of some of my best memories from my time here in Oxford. Here are a few more that caught my eye that you all might enjoy.

This door was teeny tiny. I deemed it he "Hobbit" door.