The Book Whisperer

A book hasn’t whipped me into a fervor of action like Book Whisperer in quite some time.  But I’m glad it did.  And the thing is, it’s not like the author, Donalyn Miller, has presented me with some unknown truth.  Instead, she’s asked some tough questions and challenged me to get down to the heart of the matter.  To teach reading, students have to read. Truth bomb.

Of course by now you’re thinking, Chancellor, that shouldn’t be a surprise.  You’re an English teacher after all.  And you’re right.  I should’ve known this.  But I’m going to let you in on an industry secret (we sometimes overcomplicate things because then we can prove to ourselves that we’ve “taught” something).  But the honest truth is that reading can’t be taught through worksheets and other “activities” that we’ve constructed to convince ourselves that this is what “teaching” reading is all about.

The Book WhispererMiller is a very approachable voice in this book because she started out like a lot of us.  We are passionate to instill a love reading with our students.  We want them to feel the thrill of the plot, to miss the characters like good friends, and to hunger after the next book in a series.  But the problem is, we forget that reading isn’t something that is taught.  She noticed, like I have, that what I’m “teaching” isn’t inspiring the students to read.  Instead, I’ve noticed that students come expect worksheets and packets and projects and they do the work because they want to make me happy.  But I’m a reader.  And successful at it if I may say so, but they aren’t.  So pleasing me isn’t going to make them better readers.  Miller argues that if we give responsibility to the students to find out how important reading is, they will demonstrate to us how they are reading.

Fundamentally, it’s like this.  In gym class, the teacher asks you to do twenty push ups in a certain about of time.   If you can’t do the twenty push ups, the teacher doesn’t give you worksheets to fill out.  She probably tells you that you need to practice.  And the more you do push ups, the better you’ll become.  It might take you all year, but by the end of the class, if you keep at it, you’ll be doing twenty more push ups than you could at the beginning.

I understand this isn’t a perfect metaphor, but at the same time I think that we’ve complicated reading for a lot of students.  Miller challenges how we teach reading by asking us in primary, secondary, and in college, how much reading in school did we actually do?  The sad truth is that I probably did more reading in college than in did in primary and secondary, and I probably did the least amount of reading in high school.  The irony should be hitting you right about now.  If we are “teaching” reading in primary and secondary, why are students doing so little of it?  And how can we fix it.

Miller offers an example of her own classroom and how she’s structured it.  I’ve taken to heart her philosophy, but I’m struggling to understand how I can make it work in my high school class.  I don’t have the time she does to let the students read.  And when you have a class called “American Literature” for juniors, you can’t just let students read just anything.  However, after reading the Book Whisperer on the heels of The Reading Zone, I think the best compromise I can make is to allow time in class to read the assigned novels, have one day dedicated to the students reading their own choice of novels, and have some writing workshops sprinkled in between.  Ultimately, I want my students to start learning the habits and traits of authentic readers.  When they are in their professions, they are going to have to be literate.  Some of them may have professional readings they have to complete.  And, while I’m not a betting man, I doubt any boss is going to have them fill out worksheets and complete diorama of what they’ve just read.  So here’s to a new school year with more reading and more authentic assignments!

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The Reading Zone

Nancie Atwell was mentioned in several books on reading in the English classroom.  She has done a lot of writing on reading workshops and how to get our students reading and falling in love with reading.  My wife happened to have this book from her teacher preparation program days and a gladly lent it to me.  I’ve really wanted to get my students to fall in love with reading again.  It seems like there’s a sad break in reading in our national educational system.  In elementary, they get specific time dedicated to reading and reading instruction.  But once they get to high school most of that reading time disappears and is merged with langauge arts and curriculum instruction.  It’s really up to high school teachers to carve out time to read in class.  But one thing that is really lacking in high school is how to motivate students to read books that they choose and enjoy, not just the teachers’ choices.  Usually, once students get to college, they have free time to read for enjoyment.  But sadly, many who were good readers in Jr. high have lost their joy of reading after going through grueling high school programs.

This is what I’ve been trying to work on over the last several years.  I want to bridge the gap between preparing my students for college while still fostering a love for reading. Studies have shown over and over that good readers make good writers.  And good readers and writers do better on state and national tests.  Which makes me wonder, do any of the assignments we giThe Reading Zoneve students, like the book reports, projects, speeches, etc. actually do any good?

This is what Atwell addresses in The Reading Zone.  She sets out her program in her 7th and 8th grade classes for how she fosters reading.  There was a lot of good information, but as a high school teacher, I don’t have the same time or curriculum that she does.  But thankfully, she included a chapter for high school teachers.

It was tough hearing what she had to say.  Tough because I know that we fail our high school students by killing a joy of reading.  Instead of letting students read in class or outside of class we fill their lives with so much meaningless homework.  It’s sick but sometimes, high school teachers seem to pride themselves on how much homework they have to grade.  As if more homework was actually an indicator of a good teacher.

Having already begun my journey to make reading enjoyable, create authenticate homework and projects, and now with Atwell’s suggestions, I think that I can actually craft a quality English curriculum that can continue to foster a love of reading and writing while still preparing them for the rigors of college.  Let’s just hope my colleagues and administrators don’t think I’m a slacker because I can actually enjoy my weekends!

Caribou

I don’t usually read collections of poetry, but since I’m going to be encouraging my students to read poetry, I figured I should get into the practice as well.  Plus it will give me some recommendations to give them.  And it doesn’t hurt to have a variety of books to review for Cannonball Read either.  So far this year I’ve only read few of Wadsworth’s poems including my favorite, Evangeline and now Charles Wright’s latest poetry collection, entitled Caribou.

CaribouIf I’m being honest I didn’t pick the book because it was poetry, it was mostly for the title.  There’s something attractive about the word “caribou” and I think the animals are awesome.  So as I browsed my library’s “New Titles” section I saw Caribou and I pulled the book off the shelf.  Once I saw that it was poetry, I decided to keep it and see how it would go.  Having never read anything by Wright before, I thought it would be a good idea to expand my poetical palette.  This collection turned out to be Wright’s way of processing the end-of-life blues and pondering what life means and where we head after life is over.

It doesn’t get too dark.  In stead it ventures into the morose and blues-y realms.  Some of the poems were just so depressing I couldn’t really relate but there were several that I connected with in their questioning the value and purpose of life.  One in particular, “Ducks”, resonated with me.  I love the lines, “Acceptance of what supports you, acceptance of what’s/ Above your body,/ invisible carry and chop,…”. I’ve never thought about whether ducks accept that they are just going to float or whether they will drown or not.  It shows a strong faith on their part and an unwillingness to always question their surroundings.

Not that I’m going to phase into a more animalistic period, but I do think that maybe I question too much around me instead of just living my life.  Plus, as a Christian, I think that I should be reminded that faith is what sustains me from day-to-day and like the ducks relationship with water, I need to have faith that God will help me “float” no matter what.

All in all I enjoyed Wright’s collection.  He played with the arrangement of the lines and broke up any rhyme or rhythm very similar to Emily Dickinson.  As my favorite poet anyone who can pull off Dickinsonian arrangements is ok in my book.  If you interested in a short collection of poetry that may challenge you to consider the meaning of life and what’s the phase after death, than I highly recommend Caribou.

Deeper Reading

Finally, a book about teaching English by an actual English teacher!  OK, hyperbole aside, I do value the insights Kelly Gallagher put into his book, Deeper Reading.  He addresses many of the issues that I have had with teacher preparation programs.  The colleges and universities give you tons of theory and concepts, which are valuable and give teaching a credible background of research and knowledge,  but it doesn’t tell you what to do when you’re faced with teaching The Scarlet Letter to Juniors on Monday.

Gallagher, a hDeeper Readingigh school teacher in Anaheim, takes that challenge and breaks down what teachers need to do to make sure their students are scaffolded to understand the context of the work and move them from comprehension, to analysis, to interpretation.  And he does it with examples that I can use in my classroom.  He basically gives the theory and concepts in college a practical application.  Most importantly, he makes sense doing it.

One of the issues that I’ve struggled with as an English teacher is that many of the books about teaching English are for Elementary and/or Middle school.  Focusing on these levels usually means that they will address reading skills rather than reading, literary analysis, and real-world application.  That’s usually thrust on us secondary teachers like your older sibling’s old jacket.  The problem is many high school students don’t like reading, don’t know how to move beyond barely comprehending what they read, and don’t know what to do once they’ve read it.  Most high school teachers weren’t given the same training to teach reading comprehension like our elementary colleagues were.  So there ends up being this education gap between Elementary and Secondary and the students are falling through it.

It’s been my goal to address these needs even if it means adapting some of the lower grades’ resources.  But thankfully, I came across this book (I don’t even know where now) and I’m glad I did.  Gallagher sees the same problems and has taken the steps to outline how to take reluctant and struggling readers and make them literate in order to be successful in life.  I appreciate that he also doesn’t take literature too seriously. Like he says, what’s the importance of teaching Hamlet, if students can’t see false advertising and skewed statistics in order to identify the best cell phone plans for them?  It’s a tall order for teachers, but those that are truly passionate about teaching will appreciate the value of Gallagher’s insights and will finally be able to relax on Sunday evenings because now they’ve got a solid unit plan in store.

Sacajawea

I first came across Sacajawea living in Washington state.  Of course it was her name in a textbook, but I thought it was intriguing that a woman would be willing to travel with a group of men to places she had never been.  And not only was she the only woman, she was the only Native American in that group too.  Sadly, I never encountered her again outside of textbooks and museums.  Living in the Northwest you come across a lot of Lewis and Clark (in fact, they even have towns named after them).  So in part to read some new literature in preparation for the upcoming school and in part to keep my cannonball read list growing, I picked up this book by an author I’ve read before, Joseph Bruchac.

I didn’t enjoy the first book I read of his, so I didn’t have high hopes for this one either, but I’m not sorry I gave Sacajawea a chance.  As I’ve explained in my previous reviews this has been my summer to find some good literature to bolster my American Literature course’s reading list.  And I’m particularly looking for some good Native American literature, written by Native Americans.  So this is how I arrived at finding a book on Sacajawea.  I was looking for something that was historical but also literary so historical fiction is where I was looking.  Plus my childhood interest in her were calling and I wanted to scratch that itch.

Bruchac does a good job of telling the account from both Sacajawea’s and William Clark’s points of view.  I think it fleshes out the narrative and it also gives perspectives on similar events.  Sacajawea brings not only a more feminine view but a perspective that Lewis and Clark didn’t always think about.  I enjoyed the times Sacajawea is confused why Lewis and Clark are namiSacajaweang rivers, flowers, Native Americans, and mountains when the Native Americans have had names for them for centuries!  This just reveals the European-ness of Lewis and Clark’s journey.  Just like Columbus, Lewis and Clark must’ve thought, since no one has written it done, it must not have a name and since I’m the “first” to be here, I get to name it.

But Clark’s voice is important too.  I can’t imagine the intense courage it took to set out into literal no man’s land where the only people are Native Americans and French and British trappers.  What’s interesting is that Clark brings up the point that the French were more apt to assist the expedition since they didn’t have any claims to the territory, but the British trappers stirred up several of the Native American tribes, because England was still wanting to claim much of North America.  It dawned on my too. They must’ve been pretty angry too.  The Revolutionary War had just been fought about 15 years earlier so for many of them it was fresh in their minds.

I’m also inspired by the story of Lewis and Clark because in spite of their renamings, they didn’t set out to conquer the Native Americans.  Instead they tried to be respectful to them and recruit them as allies against the British.  And they were amazed at the different cultures, languages, and customs.  I’m said that as a nation we moved from respecting the Native Americans to seeing them more as bothersome and a nuisance.  After all, if it wasn’t for Sacajawea, the U.S. might only have moved as far west as the Dakotas.  I hope that as we progress as a nation we can be more respecting and less hostile towards those cultures around us that we don’t know.  We are all here and frankly, we’ll be better off learning from one another rather than fighting against each other.

Only the Names Remain: The Cherokees and the Trail of Tears

As I’ve mentioned in several of my previous posts, I’m trying to read more works that are written by or feature Native Americans.  The latest book I read is a brief history of the Cherokee nation.  Even though it’s brief it’s packed with facts that I never knew.  And once again I’m disappointed that my education never told me such facts as the Cherokees actually had a capital city, were the first to have a written alphabet, and developed a political system based on the U.S.’s style.  The most I learned about the Cherokees is that they were driven from their lands and forced to march west.  Along the way many died due to the elements and starvation.

What continues to frustrate me is that I’m starting to see an echo between the past and the present due to the immigration conflict developing on our southern border.  A lot of people are using the thousands of women and children from Central America who are fleeing violence and crossing illegally into the United States as some sort of “invasion”.  They make it sound as if these individuals are going to drive us from our homes.  And while I do have some concerns about how our infrastructure will handle the influx of immigrants, I do not see this as a threat.

I get frustrated that these same people who are crying out over this “invasion” are the same “patriots” who are lampooned in one of the best satirical films I’ve seen, with puppets I might add. But I think these “patriots” are forgetting that we are a nation of immigrants, and Lady Liberty, whom they appropriate quite freely, stands for the “huddled masses yearning to be free”.  And most of the “patriots’s” family trees were immigrants fleeing violence and political unrest in their respective countries.  Clearly there’s a difference between legal and illegal immigrants, but the principle is that we are a nation built by and for immigrants who are escaping oppression.

Only the Names RemainAnd this idea of “invasion” is preposterous.  No one is going to show up on my doorstep and demand that I move because they need to house some Nicaraguans here.  But might I remind our dear “patriot” friends that their same ancestors who fled oppression turned to the people who were already living here, ahem, the Native Americans, and drove them off their land with violence and oppression.  Yes, it’s a long dark period in our history.  It’s uncomfortable to talk about and it certainly taints our soapbox of the land of the free and home of the brave, but it’s something that we have to acknowledge and learn from.  And to acknowledge it we have to accept that it happened and share it with each succeeding generation so that they will learn how we arrived at this point in history.

So while the “patriots” continue blocking buses full of young immigrant children, I’ll be shaking my head and telling everyone that I can that we don’t have a lot of room to stand on and cry foul when it comes to “invasions”.  Because we were all the invaders once and it’s up to us to help those who are fleeing oppression.  And maybe we need to change our infrastructure in order to help speed up the immigration process.  There’s many solutions but crying and sending people back into the violence doesn’t seem like the best solution.

I know this is supposed to be a book review, but good literature should cause readers to reflect and connect what they’ve read to their lives.  Thank you for your patience in reaching this point so far.  Hopefully we can develop a generation of true patriots who can understand the tragic events that occurred in the past and who work to make sure they don’t happen here in the future.

Evangeline

I don’t know when it started really, but I’ve always had a fascination with the Cajuns.  The music, the food, the language, the history all of it has intrigued me.  Maybe because they are one of the last links between Europe and the U.S. that we still have and maybe it’s because they’re the “underdogs” of the colonial struggle between France and the U.K. in North America.  Actually, I think it’s all of the above.

The name “Cajun” is a shortened version of the French pronunciation of “Acadian”.  Acadia was what we now consider Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  It was one area, besides Quebec, that the French had settled.  However, in the colonial wars around the French and Indian war the French lost many of their smaller colonies and Acadia was one of them.  The British being the colonial master-builders, kicked the French out of this area.  Many Acadians went to the French colony in Louisiana, but many were sent on ships that landed at ports all up and down the eastern seaboard.  The story of Evangeline is based on actual people but of course the events have been altered due to artistic license.  The gist of Evangeline’s story is that she is separated from her fiance, Gabriel, when they are exiled from Acadia.  She spends the rest of her young adulthood looking for him, ranging from Philadelphia, to Louisiana, to Michigan.  She certainly got a taste of the wild, American frontier!  Ultimately, the true Evangeline and Gabriel have been mythologized and are part of the Cajun folktales. There’s even a reference to Evangeline in the movie “The Princess and the Frog”.  The Cajun-accented firefly describes his crush on the star Evangeline and later explains the myth and why it’s important to Cajuns.

After watching the movie and learning more about Cajuns, I was informed by my very thoughtful wife, Queen Bess, that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had written a poem about the Evangeline story.  So of course I read it.  And now I’ve read it again in preparation to share with my students.  When I first read it about six years ago, it was the first time I had read Longfellow’s works aside from “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”.  I was amazed that I actually made it through the poem seeing as how most of my poetry reading was limited to Dickinson and Whitman.  But I connected with Longfellow’s descriptions that he paints with simple words.  It was almost as if the poem disappeared and I was seeing one painting after another.   I was also drawn into the tragic love story.  Deep down under my icy veins I do have a romantic side.  And being a good melancholy German, I enjoy stories that are true-to-life in that they don’t always have a happy ending.  (Sorry for the spoiler).

But reading it the second time I was struck by something else.  Maybe it’s because I’ve become more of a feminist over the years (thanks again to Queen Bess).  But I also think it’s because I’m now filtering what I teach through the lens of how-will-this-impact-the-students’-pointsEvangeline-of-view.  And I’m not sure what to do with the character of Evangeline.  On the one hand, her journey to find Gabriel demonstrates loyalty, tenacity, and pure survival out in the American wilderness.  She’s certainly one of few women who are featured as the protagonist in her own story.  But the feminist side of me wonders if she isn’t defined by her relationship with Gabriel?  After all, the entire poem is focusing on her finding a man, and her sadness at not being married to him.  Right there it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test.  And while Gabriel is described as heartbroken over not finding Evangeline, he manifests his feelings by joining the trappers and voyageurs and basically disappearing into the wild.  But then the literary side of me wonders if she and Gabriel aren’t a metaphor of the Cajuns.  Gabriel is the land and Evangeline are the people, ever searching and longing for the “good ole days”, yet not able to recreate what they had.  If any of you have read this I’m curious to know what you think.

As a footnote, I read the critical introduction to this piece and found out that Hawthorne had originally come across the story and instead of novelizing it or turning it into a short story, he gave it to Longfellow instead.  I’m quite disappointed because I’m sure Hawthorne would have made a wonderful, intriguing narrative version of this story.

God + Excercise = Success?

Ever since reading, The Shack, I’ve been challenging myself to get to know the Holy Spirit more and incorporating Him/Her into my prayer life.  So oddly enough the opportunity arose today as I was preparing to work out.

I like to workout at best six days a week which means in actuality it’s closer to five days and four days on a bad week.  For whatever reason, this summer I’ve completely fallen off the band wagon and haven’t really worked out at all.  But the summer isn’t over yet and I’m the type of person who chases after the band wagon, hops aboard, picks up my instrument and continue where he left off.  Except this terrible habit I have.  It’s called procrastinating.

Procrastinating as it manifests itself in my life looks something like this:  I should work out soon, but you’re supposed to wait a few hours after eating to get the best carb burn.  So I’ll do some work instead in the the mean time.  Hmmm, before I work I REALLY need to clean off my desk.  And since I’ve organized all these papers, I really should pay the bills and then file them.  And before I work I should make a playlist to help motivate me.  So three-four hours later I’m done playlisting, cleaning, working, and ready to workout.  Except I keep finding myself doing little things to keep me from working out.

Suddenly I’m checking Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook, MSN, Pajiba you name it.  I finally turn the computer off, head to the living room (the only large enough space to workout) and just as I’m ready to work out I have the compulsion to clean off the stack of DVDs by the TV, go check on my plant outside, clean off the couch, and vacuum.  It began to make me feel a little manic, all the things that kept popping into my head.  And I got the feeling like it wasn’t just me not wanting to work out.  It felt like someone/something was purposefully keeping me distracted.  Like I kept hitting a wall every time I was ready to work out. 

So I prayed.  I asked to the Holy Spirit to help not be distracted, kick the manic out of my head, and let me focus on the workout.  As soon as I prayed those words the distractions went away, I felt calm and grounded, and I got right to working out.

I’ve never prayed to God in an exercise context before. But I believe that God wants to be involved in all aspects of my life.  And working out/health is a big deal to me because if I’m the temple of God then I should keep myself as healthy as possible.  And the Holy Spirit is the comforter, the God-within all of us, so I figured I needed some action and motivation and boy did I get it!

I’m glad I’m on this journey to figure out the Holy Spirit.  The more open I am to her influence the better my life will be.  Plus I need help finding the motivation some days to start working out, to push through the last miles, to do the full set, etc.  And to have God with me will make the working out that much more fulfilling.

This probably won’t be the last time I blog about the Holy Spirit.  I’m thinking this might be my next series of blog posts.  So any feedback you have feel free to leave in the comment section.  I look forward to dialoguing on this topic.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of those books I’ve only read three times, but I feel like I know it so much better as if I’ve read it twenty times.  Maybe it’s because I’ve read it that many times and seen the movies (which are not an improvement on the books).  But I think it’s because Tolkien does such a good job of opening up this world to the readers and keeping the plot simple enough that we have time to stop and smell the roses along the way.

The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo, a Hobbit, who is hired by a company of dwarves to accompany them on their journey to their former kingdom under Erebor and reclaim it from the dragon, Smaug, who drove the dwarves out.  The trouble is, Bilbo has never left home and ends up in many life threatening situations along the way.  He’s forced to face these challenges even while all he wants to do is be back home in his arm chair.The Hobbit

Because this is the first time Tolkien has taken us into his world, called Middle-Earth, he does an extremely good job of painting a picture of what the world looks like, who lives in it, a touch of history, and a whole lot of culture.  He uses the classical style to tell the tale and by that I mean he uses lots of poems and songs to convey characterization, culture, and response. The first time I read the book these poems and songs were annoying; I wanted to get back to the plot.  But now that I’m older and wiser (ha!) I’ve learned to look into the these lyrical devices and think about what they say about the speaker/singer and why Tolkien would use these devices.  I think he’s doing it on purpose to connect his story to the epics such as Beowulf where there are several poems and songs strung throughout the narrative.

He also uses a narrator who utilizes an informal tone almost as if your grandparent was telling you the story.  I feel that this keeps the plot from taking itself too seriously.  However, it does give the story a very naive and innocent feel even while people are dying in battle, dark lords are trying to bring down good, and spiders are running rampant.  This is also a different narratorial voice than Tolkien utilizes in Lord of the Rings.  I think he used the more informal, grandparent-type voice for The Hobbit because he wants to convey the innocence of Bilbo and of Middle-Earth at this period in history.  I also think it was his first book and he was experimenting with it.  Because Lord of the Rings is a much more dark and mature novel, the more formal voice matches with the content better than a more informal voice would.  I also think that his writing style matures between the two books and, thus, his narrator reflects this maturation.

I used to not like Bilbo.  But after this third reading I can see a bit of myself in him. While I don’t panic at the thought of going on an adventure, I do like to be home.  My home is comfortable and it’s routine.  But I always enjoy traveling and the challenges it brings.  I’m never the same person coming back home from a trip.  I think, like Bilbo found out, that it’s hard to go on a trip and not be changed the events and by your reaction to them.  Good travelers throw themselves into the challenges and, like a crucible, are molded and changed and become stronger versions of themselves.  So even while I may never meet Elves or see the Arkenstone, I can still hum Bilbo’s song every time I step out the door and encourage myself to let the journey mold me.  “The Road goes ever on and on…”

Beowulf

It’s sad to say that as an English teacher, I’ve never made it all the way through Beowulf.  My first encounter with Beowulf was the movie with the gold-dipped-naked-animated Angelina Jolie Beowulfversion (late 2000’s?).  It was a laugh.  Not because it was a comedy, but because it was so over the top.  Campy, poor writing, melodramatic, you name it.

So when I started teaching, I just used an abridged version of the epic. But anyone who’s ever read something that’s been abridged knows that there’s always something that feels like it’s missing.  So I switched to a full length version…that was terrible!  It was like reading the King James Version of the Bible.  I hated it and my students hated it.  I decided that this summer I had to find a version that I enjoyed reading and would approachable by students as well.

So thus I met Seamus Heaney’s translation.  It was a match made in heaven.  The undergrad language major loved having the original Old English across the page from the Modern English.  It was fun to try to see what words were similar.  It was like seeing the birth of a language.

The most important part was the translation. Heaney kept the translation simple. And by that I mean that he didn’t complicate the syntax or the word usage.  Anyone could read this translation.  But he didn’t compromise much of the original artistry.  Many of the names and the kennings were kept in tact.  Thus, I felt that this was a very good way to bring an old story into the hands of contemporary readers.

And it also opened up Beowulf, the character.  For once I could relate to him, sympathize with him, understand him.  And I began to see why this epic is still around and why I need to teach it.  For those who haven’t read it, it’s basically the only epic that the English language had until modern writers tried their hand at it.  But the difference is that this epic was unique to the Anglo-Saxon culture found in the British Isles.  Maybe I’m just geeking about but history, language, and literature sort of unite around this work and it’s important that we remind ourselves where we come from and why this piece is still relevant.

Even in our world today we struggle with good vs. evil, doing the right thing no matter the personal cost, and facing down our doubters.  In fact, I think we can remind ourselves of this fact too.  I think we’ve lost a little of the honor and loyalty of eras gone by.  Not that we shouldn’t question these or blindly follow people.  But we should remember that we are all in this world together.  If we leave people to fight their own battles, who’s going to help us when no one is left?