Sunday, May 31, 2009

Refined Home

Sorry Ju, I waited and waited and waited but then I had to post. I STILL want to hear what YOU have to say though, so no copping out on me. Congrats to Brooklyn though--that's awesome!!

I had numerous thoughts as I read through the Refined Home article, but when I got to the end all I could think was, "Wow! How timely, how needed, how important, and how inspirational." I also thought that a whole lot of people were going to be offended--but that seems to be happening with increased frequency when the brethren lay it on the line. Or maybe my hopeless naivete is rearing its ugly head again and people have always been offended when the brethren laid things on the line.

First, I have to agree with Elder Maxwell as quoted in the talk, "We . . . live in a world that is too prone to the tasteless" (57). Amen and amen. My students used to try and convince me that the Simpsons was humorous because I had a "no talking about the Simpsons in my classroom" rule. They didn't manage it. Mary Tyler Moore was asked once why she had stopped acting and she replied that she would love to be involved but had chosen not to because the shows were no longer tasteful and that "television no longer knows how to be funny." Turning off the television in our home (we don't have access to any sort of television, although we watch movies) was a no-brainer for us. Although some shows like Frazier had elements of true humor (word play and irony), most current shows rely on non-humor (bodily functions, crude situational humor, slapstick violence) to get ratings. If these shows are getting ratings as can only be assumed by their continued existence, then Elder Maxwell's stinging rebuke about tastelessness is proved without additional evidence.

Of course, if we examined many popular music styles and hit songs, the tasteless argument would be underscored and solidified. It was with some regret that I stopped listening to current country music, but the genre that had always emphasized lyrics and story-telling had become reliant on blasting instruments and loud-volume singing--not to mention that frivolous increase in swearing and songs like "I'm just talking about tonight" and pimp songs like "whose your daddy?" (Yes, I think Toby Keith killed country music.) There are still some great songs, but far more that hinder the Spirit and make me feel attacked. (Kami is going to mock me here because I've always been an old lady about loud music--I just have no tolerance.)

In short--tastelessness abounds. Elder Callister offered some valuable remedies and counter-actions we can take to prevent our own homes from harboring and fostering tastelessness. I thought it especially appropriate that he starts off by discussing how we speak. And yes, I'm opening myself up to mocking again because I don't care how accepted it has become, the words "suck" and "crap" still make me shudder. I love that in my home, the worst word my children say is "stinkin'" and I've already tried to repent and stop saying it. Truly, what the parents say the children imitate and the cleaner we keep our language the more pleasant our home environment.

Granted, Elder Callister was talking about more than just clean language, he was also talking about expressing ourselves clearly and eloquently. Language has always affected me deeply and I often thrill when I read words put together beautifully. For that reason I love collecting quotes that express great ideas in beautiful language. Truly, a person's language greatly reflects their level of refinement.

Literature (you all know I would love this part) was my favorite section in his talk because this is something that has mattered to me all my life. I buy books so my children will be surrounded by the highest quality of reading material. I won't for a second lay claim to knowing what entails a "classic" other than my own definition, but we all know which books have affected us in positive ways. I know libraries are around and that's great, but I feel passionate about having many (hundreds) of quality books in the home so when a child has a hankering for a book and the library isn't an option, that child has access to the best books. Even the beauty of the book sometimes has an effect. For Mother's Day, Timothy started my collection of beautiful hard-back Austen novels (the cheap Barnes and Noble versions) by getting four of them. There is something about picking up a beautiful copy of an Austen novel that does something for my soul. The same with the exquisite hard-back copy of Leaves of Grass Timothy gave me early in our marriage. Beautiful books promote a bit of reverence in handling them.

Music is one area where I haven't always had very refined tastes. I thought most classical music was boring and only old country worth listening to. I have greatly revised my opinion in the past two years. Two years ago the cd player in my van broke. Rather than singing children's songs together, we listened to mom's (my) country station. That lasted for a day before I got tired of flipping the channel due to inappropriate language. The Imagination Station that played children's music when I was little and lived in Provo no longer existed. Irritated, and a little bitter, I turned to a classical station. The kids and I have fallen in love with classical. We've practiced identifying instruments (and improved greatly--at first all we could pick out were violins and trumpets . . . although we could easily be mixing up violins with violas), Miriam can pick out a lot of the Nutcracker music, we seat dance, we lead the music. Most important, and surprising, is that my children make up stories to match the music. We identify mad music versus happy versus sad. One day we were driving and all the music played that day had an animal theme so we happily guessed which animal was being represented by the music. Slowly, over the last two years, I've lost my ability to listen to any other kind of music for an extended period of time (except Willie). It's just too . . . frenetic, or something. It makes me feel agitated. My children and I have exprienced tremendous benefits from listening to classical music.

I had Timothy read the article with me tonight and we talked about sloppiness. He said the article made him want to replace our front door even more (it's falling apart and cracking and just looks awful). President Kimball used to talk frequently about beautifying our homes. It really does make a difference in how we feel when we maintain ourselves and our property. Timothy and I also talked about how long it takes to really make your home nice--time and money are not always immediately available. We talked about setting a good example for our children in our own deportment--making sure we cultivate refinement in our own home so it becomes second nature to our children.

Most interesting was our discussion of refined conversation--how we can teach our children to converse about a variety of topics in an intelligent and interesting manner. In Austen's day, "conversation" was one of the critical skills a young lady developed in order to be accomplished. We've lost that art. I'm not sure if we're afraid of offending or we're just boring that so many conversations tend to end up at movies. Is that really all we can talk about? We came up with a few ideas for ways we want to increase the refinement in our own home (Timothy thought the article was great, by the by).

To sum up, amen Elder Callister and thank you for the fabulous article.

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