“After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too—‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.”
Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”
Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden
East of Eden is my favorite book of all time, and I knew the moment I first read these three paragraphs that I had encountered something profound. I think the words “thou mayest” are emblematic of the balance of free will, equal parts all-encompassing possibility and personal morality, and that’s an emblem I don’t mind having on my body forever. 2012 was the year of no regrets, and getting my first tattoo hasn’t upset the year’s theme: I love my tattoo, and I’m glad I did it. Now, on to the next.
My tattoo was done by Chris at Liberty Tattoo in Seattle, Washington.
Posted in 24 Before 25, Literary Giants, The Life de la Kendall
Tagged 24 before 25, east of eden, free will, freedom, john steinbeck, liberty tattoo, morality, possibility, regret, tattoo, thou mayest
As I may have mentioned before, I have a bookshelf that is entirely dedicated to the books I own that I haven’t read yet. And because it’s impossible for me to go into a used bookstore without coming away with at least one book (if not several books), the amount of room on this bookshelf is constantly decreasing. In an attempt to make some room (and to just read some good books), I’ve decided to try to read all of the fattest books on my to-read shelf. It’s so much fatness. Just to give you an idea of how tall this stack is:
I’ve already finished East of Eden by John Steinbeck and am about 150 pages shy of finishing Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, but here are some of the other books I’ll have my nose buried in:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (recommended by my boyfriend’s grandma)
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Ulysses by James Joyce
Song of Solomon/Tar Baby/Sula by Toni Morrison
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky
You Will Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Of Human Bondage by M. Somerset Maugham
The Flounder by Gunter Grass
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Oh, boy, do I love books.
Posted in Literary Giants, The Life de la Kendall
Tagged aleksandr solzhenitsyn, anna karenina, ayn rand, barbara kingsolver, betty friedan, books, dave eggers, demons, dostoevsky, east of eden, ernest hemingway, for whom the bell tolls, gunter grass, herman melville, james joyce, john steinbeck, kathryn stockett, leo tolstoy, m. somerset maugham, moby dick, of human bondage, song of solomon, the bonfire of the vanities, the brothers karamazov, the feminine mystique, the flounder, the fountainhead, the gulag archipelago, the help, the poisonwood bible, tom wolfe, toni morrison, ulysses, you will know our velocity
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught–in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity, too–in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well–or ill? …
We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden
senior year. who would have thought i would ever make it? it’s strange to know that i’m one of the elders on campus, and even more strange are the lightyears of difference i perceive between myself and the incoming freshies. you can always tell who the freshmen are (and this is especially true of freshmen girls) by their social uneasiness, like every interaction with every person could alter the cumulative value of their college careers depending on the words, tone, mannerisms etc., that they use. very strange.
and, as strange as this may sound, i feel like i’ve outgrown college. like i’m too old to be there, and am thus glaringly out of place. maybe that feeling stems from the fact that i didn’t spend the summer at home and that i worked full time and had to play the part of the adult (for the most part) in my own life, or maybe because i’m two quarters away from being done, but the feeling has been overwhelmingly present all day and it’s kind of throwing me for a loop. regimented schooling has ruled my life for as long as i can remember, and now that the summer has shown me what else is out there and given me time to grow accustomed to it, i’m left in a weird place.
i had three classes, one of which i dropped. it was a printmaking class, and i decided that i would rather have free time to be creative at my own pace (among other things) than be on deadlines to produce forced and rushed art. it will be much better that way, and i’ll have more time to focus on getting an a in shakespeare. best story ever: my capstone professor, who was also the professor of my very first college class and who i’ve remained close with throughout my years at spu, told a story in class tonight about a career project he had to do when he was in 8th grade. the assignment was to decide what you wanted to be when you grew up, and then find someone who had made a career of what you wanted to do and to ask them what an average day of work looked like for them. dr. thorpe wanted to be a writer, and since he was a big fan of john steinbeck’s, he wrote to steinbeck and asked him if he could write him back and tell him what a day in the life of a writer was like. and steinback sent him back a postcard that said something to the effect of ‘thank you for your letter. if i replied to every letter like yours, i wouldn’t have enough to time to write the books that you enjoy so much, but you should show this postcard to your teacher anyway.” he got a postcard from john steinbeck, great american writer and nobel prize winner! incredible. and i believe it, because from what i know of steinbeck, that sounds like something he would write to a fan. but what an amazing thing to possess!