Peter David

I love the toward-set sunspill, slipped past silver, leaning into gold.

Category: Essays

Grandma

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Ascension Day Sermon

Preached on June 2, 2011 at Redeemer Church in La Mirada, CA.

There are no floating angels in the Bible.  The whole hovering angel with billowing skirts thing: it isn’t there.  There are hardly any flying angels.  They stand and sit and walk.  They are often fairly easily mistaken for your good old everyday human being.  They can sometimes be wrestled or given food.  When they fly (if they fly) they fly with big, weird wings, often in clusters of six or covered with eyes.  Or they are (you know) giant, spinning wheels hurling lightning.  Monstrous beasts.

But mostly they just look like guys.  Shiny guys, sometimes, yes, but guys.  On the ground.  Solidly on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

After The Thin Red Line

The credits started rolling and my roommate and I switched the lamplight on mechanically, under duress.  We sat there nervously, both wanting the other to help us come to an understanding of the film, but feeling like anything that could be said would inevitably be crass, would be a violation.  Josh made an attempt at talking, but I don’t think he managed a complete sentence before he tossed the conversational ball: “W-What did you think?”  I just stood up and cleared away our dishes.  Incomplete pass.  Within a few minutes, we were sitting across from each other on the floor, crying, crying, crying.

I got in late for work the next morning.  Josh and I – we hadn’t been able to stop talking.  Bedumbed the night before, now we were bursting.  We stuffed hours talking.  My shower, my breakfast, exercise, devotions: gone.  I did manage to get dressed.  (Praise be.)  The rout continued: within three days I found myself referring to The Thin Red Line as “my favorite film.”  In three days it had supplanted a favorite of nine years.  I was capsized. Overthrown. Demolished. Smitten. Trounced.

It feels like that experience is the best argument I can offer for this film’s sublimity.  It is sublime.  I felt it.  In my gut.   I have never reacted to a film like I reacted to this one.  Not even close.  I know, though, that we could bandy “I loved it”’s and “I hated it”’s forever (and that TRL has gotten plenty of the latter), so I’ll try recommending it with slightly more universal tools than my upturned innards.

I’m going to say two things here: that Line’s departure from genre norms is a good thing, and that its contemplative indeterminacy is timely and wholesome.  If you don’t have much time to read right now, skip to the second section.

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Recognizing Home

for Pacifica and for La Mirada

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After Alice in Wonderland

I discovered something important after Alice in Wonderland.  It is this: Movie-watching-wise, I am an old fart.  I have not seen a new movie recently but I’ve commented on how unnecessarily fast-paced and unattractively chock-full-plotted it was.  (With the exception of Babies.  Babies allowed my apparently dawdling narrative clock to tic away at. its. own.. sweet… rate.)  I finally noticed my trend after watching Alice, and my noticing it as a trend makes me suspicious whether I’ve applied it appropriately to any given movie.  Like this one.  But it was still there, and in force.  “Too many things not well enough connected happening too quickly only keeping my energy and attention peeled by means of cheap spectacle much like this sentence does!” my soul cried, in an effort toward representation.

And so Alice would have sat dusty, perjured, and categorized in my mind as nothing more than yet another aesthetically stimulating, enjoyable spectacle.  Bang. boom.  Yet, wonder of wonders, it’s stayed standing toward the front of my mind and is proving to be downright meditatable!  comtemplatable!  scrutinizable!  And I have.  Here’s what’s come of it.

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My Name: It’s Tops.

No, that was a predicate adjective, not a predicate nominative.  If you apply it like a predicate nominative, you eliminate the import of its serving as a predicate adjective.  So you can just get that idea out of your head right now.

Let me restate myself: In the nominosphere, my name, among all the other names, is simply tops.  It’s eminent, elegant, and sturdy.  It’s one of the things putting me squarely and unabatingly in my parents’ debt.  It’s marvelous.  It’s great.  I like it.

Just feel that cadence!  Two trochees with a stressed foot closing them off!

Just hear that movement! It begins on the highest vowel sound, ‘ee,’ and ends on the lowest, ‘oa!’  An ‘ai’ serves as a perfect mediating third!  The unstressed feet preserve their simplicity with the more neutral “er” and “i!”

Not a single consonant interferes with another; consecutive articulation is kept in radically different locations!

How expansive!  How orderly!  How comfortable!

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I Just Don’t Like Things..

..as much as what’s between them.

I love transitions.  I’ve always loved transitions.  I’m infatuated with transitions.  Allow me to sit down and arrange things, and I am happy.  Ask me what those things are, and I may be lost.  I love theories and systematic or synthesizing such-and-suches.  I live for metanarratives, structures, form.

This is often inconvenient.   Read the rest of this entry »

You Ought to Love Poetry

I’ll admit it: I’m not great at reading poetry.  I didn’t grow up reading or listening to anything more than the indomitable Dr. Seuss or one of my dad’s limericks (There once was a cucumber, Phil/ Who wanted to go to the hill… & etc.).

Sure, “He clasps the crag with crooked hands” made something of an impression on me in high school, but anything that was significantly more abstruse than prose was lost on me… and even if it wasn’t more abstruse, “Why not, then,” my mind wondered, “just make it prose?  So much simpler.”

It wasn’t until college that I found myself floored, awed, mesmerized, overcome, and, well, you get the idea, with a poem.  It was “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and it was wonderful.  Since then, I’ve become such an advocate of the art that I’ve heard friends call me the “poetry guy.”  I’m sure I’m the most uneducated, under-read individual to get the name yet, but when I’m feeling particularly pretentious, I’m happy with the moniker.

All that to say, I’m a poetry convert, and think that you should be too.

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Learning to Describe Things

I just finished reading The Last Battle to Joey.  We loved it.  I cried; he warbled jovially and begged for more.  Actually, the response he gave to my reading that struck me most wasn’t vocal at all.  My hand was resting on the bed where he was sitting when we finished.  He put both his hands below mine, lowered his cheek onto it, and smiled so that I felt it.  It lasted only a moment, and was, I’m sure, completely un-premeditated – as graceful and un-self-conscious a movement as I’ve ever seen, springing simply from the need to share his feelings.  It was beautiful; a pure moment of clarity in relationship.

After we finished celebrating together, we got to talking about it.  We decided that we both needed to practice describing things better, so that we could tell stories well when we were older.  Lewis was inspiring us to work hard toward the perfection of the art of the use of language.

So we sat down in front of the Christmas tree, and I pulled out my laptop and asked Joey to try describing it to me.

This was his first attempt:

“The tree is great, beautiful, and has the look of a perfect tree.”

Attempt.

I asked him to close his eyes, and try to forget about our Christmas tree.  Then I read his sentence back to him and asked whether the image that popped into his head was like our Christmas tree.  It was not.  Without prompting, he very shortly blurted out with almost exactly what follows:

“Every branch seemed perfect.  Every ornament and every bead was hung beautifully, and the star on top was shining brightly in the light.”

The only change between what he said at first and the above is at “hung beautifully.”  It only said “beautiful” before, but after discussion, we decided that descriptor was just a little too vague.

“Every branch seemed perfect.  Every ornament and every bead was hung beautifully, and the star on top was shining brightly in the light.”

*sigh*


Praise God…

My little brother Joey has, since he’s prayed out loud, prefaced his prayers with the words “Praise God” as follows: “Praise God, thank you for this day,” and so on.

I have a theory about how the habit developed.  I think he must have learned “praise” before “pray,” and then heard it (or what he thought was it) applied over and over again night after night to call our family to bedtime prayers.  What were we doing?  We were going to praise.  Later, when the phrase “Praise God” started showing up in his collection of usable phrases, it made perfect sense to apply it during the beginning of his prayers.

Or something like that.  I don’t suppose it matters all that much.  Now it’s stuck, and at eleven years old, it’s stuck with him longer than I expected it to.  The pleasant thing is that it’s stuck even as his prayers have tended toward more and more varied and original content.  I like it.

Of course, it has its fair share of inconvenient linguistic ambiguities.  Is it its own clause  (Praise God!  Thank you for this day…)?  Is it a direct address (Praise-God, etc.)?  Is it a single-word sentence leading into an address (Praise! God, etc.)?

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