How to Admire God in French

One of my favorite passages from Gertrude Stein’s memoir Paris, France is the excerpt attributed to, I believe, Jean Jacques Rousseau. In this passage, Rousseau explains the greatness he feels in the presence of God, and I love his flow of thought as he describes both the existence of God and the response he, as a human, feels in His light.

Translated from Paris, France:

The Eternal Being is not seen, or heard; it is felt; he speaks neither eyes nor ears, but in the middle we can compete well against his infinite essence, but not the failing to recognize good faith. Unless I see it, the more I love it, I humble myself and said: Being [of] Beings, I am because you are, it is rising to the source than to meditate ever more worthy use of my reason is to annihilate before thee: my rapture of mind, it’s the charm of my weakness to feel overwhelmed by your greatness.

If I take any of this into my life, I would bow before God and say, “‘Being [of] Beings, I am because you are.’ I attribute my being to You.” I love that I am made because of Him. I love that the French are lyrical and flowing in their poetry.

Whenever I think of God, and whenever I hear about Rousseau, I can smile and imagine that God is felt in the words of my friends, family, and pastor. That when I see the kindness of people, I can imagine He is there. Truth is found in more than just words; it is both the action and the words of people that show how God can live.

And I also smile knowing that is found in great French literature.

How to become an English scholar without really trying

Photo Courtesy of ToemLondres
Photo Courtesy of ToemLondres

So you think you want to be an English scholar? You love fantasy, you smell books when no one looks and you kind of like Shakespeare but don’t really know why. Join the club. We’ve got a bunch of people who’d love to assimilate—I mean, welcome you into our coterie. And if you’re not really sure it’s the right fit for you, it’s no sweat at all. Just follow this pattern, and you’ll be thinking, talking and eating like an English major.

Freshman year: It all starts at the English department barbecue. You mingle with the professors and talk about English-y stuff. Your professor happens to have a collection of Shakespearean quotes made entirely of magnets, and you geek over the Shakespeare mug your mother just bought you from Stratford-on-Avon. Next, you start to think like a poet and compose a mental poem about hot dog mustard dripping down your professor’s sleeves.

Now it’s time for the test. You’ve taken your introductory class and figure out the many ways how to not make sense when analyzing literature. You read Shakespeare’s sonnet about his wife’s bad breath and realize that there’s more than three ways to look at it. But if you have the faintest clue what psychoanalytic critics are saying, you’re onto your next step in becoming an English scholar.

Sophomore year: You’re introduced to more obscure literature. The building blocks of your freshman year are becoming cemented in your brain, and you start to read things like Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” or Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” things that don’t seem normal in daily life. But you don’t start becoming an English scholar until you learn Middle English. It’s a combination of Norse and German, spoken with a Scottish accent. It sounds brilliant, especially when your fellow English majors have no clue what you’re saying.

Junior year: You start to notice things. You prefer to watch “Dead Poets Society” over “The Hunger Games.” You quote Jane Austen’s infamous first line from “Pride & Prejudice” in daily conversation. You start to get crazy over Colin Firth as Darcy. And if someone—especially an English major—hasn’t read Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” you seriously judge them.

Senior year: Things start to get a little weird. You start to see things like “homoeroticism in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’” or the “political sexuality of Ichabod Crane.” You obsess over things like iambic pentameters and fuss over trochees or dactyls. But if you’re a true English scholar, you’ll know for certain whether Robert Frost’s poetry is actually blank verse or free verse. But when you start to see “The Psychological Ruthlessness of Peter Rabbit,” then you know you’ve gone too far. There’s no return for you now. You’ve now officially become an English scholar.

But don’t say we didn’t warn you. Sure, it seems glamorous—the books, the fame, the Shakespeare—but all in all, it’s really a bunch of people who think they’re smarter than they really are.