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Thursday, January 27, 2005

A post about too many different things.

(But the ending is good.)

Yesterday was the first day back at class that I didn't have knots in my stomach the whole time, wondering if Olivia was dieing, or worse. The anxiety that a mother feels is like nothing I've experienced before.

But it's good to be back in the classroom, and reading with an instructor. There is something inspirational about having an older and wiser person reading with you. Especially one who gets up and acts the texts out with themselves in order to create a better understanding for their students. Both of my professors do this. It's really hilarious to watch an overweight man run up and down the rows of a stadium seated lecture hall, waving his arms wildly, while explaining the battle scenes in Beowulf. It makes the old epic style come to life. Maybe when the semester is over I'll finally feel bold enough to tackle the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both of which I am ashamed to admit I have been avoiding since my freshman year of high school.

Also, studying the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) period is doing wonders for my understanding of Tolkien. Where I once saw the style of Tolkien, and thought, "Well, that's an interesting way of describing things." I now recognize that he is inspired by a whole period of literature that reflects the way of life of a brave, and heroic people that we would do well to learn from.

There is something to be said for putting your life on the line for your people. It is a concept that is lost among our post-modern, individualistic age. The Anglo-Saxon Warriors valued valor and courage above all other traits. The code of the warrior demanded that your protected your lord, and your people, or else you'd better die trying.

In the last battle of Beowulf, his men deserted him, and left him to fight the dragon alone. One man, Wyglaf, remained to aid his lord. When Beowulf, who'd lead his nation to victory many times past died in battle with the dragon, Wyglaf was given rule over the tribe for his valor. But he feared that they wouldn't last long once word got out that they were divided, and the best men fled the fight.

The battle-tribes of the first century knew how important it was for the nation to stand together. Their safety and freedom relied on it. And when that unity failed, they knew that their tribe would soon fail with it.

I just found that prophetic of our time. We study history and literature to learn from others' mistakes. Beowulf is a fictional poem in so much as it deals with a demon named Grendel, and a treasure hoarding dragon. But, there is nothing more true than the vulnerability of a nation divided.

It would do America well to learn from the Anglo-Saxons.