Monthly Archives: June 2013


More Than Dates & Dead People – Part 2

That’s right. There was another ship, one that set out from the very same port in Southampton nearly four hundred years earlier and was bound for the same land. This ship also bore many who wished to find new hope in a new land, but there were some differences. Instead of Titanic’s two thousand passengers, this ship could handle barely over one hundred, and instead of elegant ballrooms and wide promenades, this one offered little space for its crew and passengers. In fact, this ship would have fit inside one of Titanic’s many spacious rooms. And far from unsinkable, she leaked profusely and stood a good chance of sinking during the dangerous Atlantic crossing. But the fate of the Mayflower was quite different. After sixty-six difficult days at sea and against the odds, she safely reached her destination. The journey of the Mayflower made headlines as well, but they were of a different nature than Titanic’s. They had voyaged, they wrote, “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” and to be “stepping stones of the light of Jesus” in this new world.

One ship was confidently hailed as the glory of a new age and man’s achievements. The other set out for the glory of God and the benefit of future generations. The first sank after three brief days of ease. The second arrived safely after sixty-six days of arduous labor and difficulty. Titanic’s name has come to be synonymous with an age of decadence, pride, and folly. The small band aboard the Mayflower helped found a nation.

 


More Than Dates & Dead People – Part 1

A little over one hundred years ago, she was the talk of Europe, and the newspapers claimed she was the “promise and pride of a new age,” a century still fresh and full of hopes and dreams. She was a marvel to behold. The largest moveable object man had ever made, she was over eight hundred feet long and more than eleven stories tall. She had to bear a name worthy of her stature, and so she did…Titanic. Those who boarded her in Southampton were a sort of cross-section of the age, from the super rich and famous to mere commoners. There were movie stars, government officials, criminals, and those heading west to find a new life in the new world. Anyone nervous about the long voyage might be assured by the architect and builders that this ship was unsinkable, and at least one man boasted that God himself could not sink this ship. And if God can’t sink the ship, you don’t need many lifeboats. There were barely enough for half of the passengers. We all know the rest of the story – the iceberg, the gash in the side of the ship, and how this modern marvel along with over 1,500 of her passengers sank into an icy grave in the North Atlantic.

In the wake of this disaster, pastors seized the opportunity to preach against the pride and arrogance of the age and to call for national and even international repentance. There were lessons to be learned from this disaster. Through books, plays, movies, games, articles, and museums the story of the sinking of HMS Titanic has been told and retold for a hundred years, and the lessons from this story are as relevant today as they were in 1912. That age of decadence, overconfidence, and self-indulgence is not so different than our own.

But did you know that there was another ship?


Fleet of Foot

A huge (belated) congratulations to Will Young, Miranda Kunk, and Aaron Bryant, who competed at the TAPPS State Track Meet at Baylor University in May.

Sophomore Will Young placed third in the 3200m while struggling with the pain of tendonitis – Will was definitely the “iron man” of the meet! Junior Aaron Bryant placed 2nd in both the 800m and the 1600m – 1A state runner-up in two events! Senior Miranda Kunk competed in the 300m hurdles and placed 7th in the state. We are so proud of their accomplishments!


Fine Arts Students of the Year

In past years Regents high school students have won the TAPPS 1A Male or Female Fine Arts Student of the Year award.

But this year is a first!

Regents students won BOTH the TAPPS 1A Male AND Female Fine Arts Student of the Year awards. The TAPPS staff names these student winners each year based on student performance in state-wide Speech and Academics and Music competitions.

Miranda Kunk was named Female Fine Arts Student of the Year after winning the state championship in Original Oratory, second place in Persuasive Speaking and Literary Criticism, and fifth place in Current Events and Issues. She also earned a “1” and gold medal in violin at the TAPPS Music State competition.

Sam Alders was named Male Fine Arts Student of the Year after winning the state championship in Calculator, third place in Advanced Math, and fourth place in Literary Criticism. He also earned a “1” and gold medal in viola at the TAPPS Music State competition.

Great job, students! And congratulations to the whole TAPPS Speech and Academics and Music teams, who won the Speech and Academic 1A State Championship and the 1A Music State Runner-Up. If you asked Miranda and Sam how they won these awards, they would certainly say that their teammates and coaches made them better — this was a win for our whole team!


“The Great Books”

Here is another fine example of a Reflective Essay, this time by Aaron Bryant. Aaron decided to reflect on one of his favorite pastimes — reading. I’m happy to share it with below.

The Great Books

By Aaron Bryant

I have been reading for as long as I can remember. I have never been an extraordinarily fast reader, I have never read a Dostoyevsky in a sitting, nor do I blaze through several books all at the same time. I take a long time with good books. Cornelia Funke, one of my favorite authors said, “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” Some books ought to be just tasted, not read as ravenously as any of the “greats.” What makes these books so good though? What makes those books I have chewed and digested truly worth reading?

I once compiled a list of some of my favorite books, though I am afraid that list would take far too long to read, so an abridged version would include Ready Player One, Ender’s Game, The Thief, Plugged, Insignia, Pathfinder, The Dragonback Series, The Harry Potter Series, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy not to mention some 20 odd others. These are books that have great characters, perfect dialogue, and astoundingly realistic worlds, or else they have confounded me with an amazing plot. One of my favorite books that does just this is Ender’s Game. It is set in the war-ravaged, post-apocalyptic future, where a brilliant ten-year-old boy joins a school that is engineered to produce commanders for the ongoing war against an invasive alien race that threatens the Earth’s very existence. The “Buggers” have sent their final fleet and Earth is scrounging a force together to counter it. Ender, the main character, is to be one of the grand commanders of this fleet, but far in the future when the Bugger fleet actually arrives at Earth, right? Well, I am not going to ruin the end for any prospective readers, but I will say that it completely blew me away.

The Thief is definitely another one of my favorite books. One reason I really enjoyed this book is that I really relate to the main character, Gen. He is a sarcastic, smart-mouth thief that boasts at a local tavern of his ability to steal anything. He is then imprisoned for showing off an important object that he stole from one of the lords of his country. He was, of course, immediately silenced, but word of his boast got around. He eventually was summoned into the queen’s presence and commanded to steal something very important from one of the hostile neighboring countries. This book also has a stunner of an ending that made me reread the book from the start to try to see it coming. These plot driven books are rather like the Inceptions of the reading world. A good one can fry your brain. So be careful.

My other favorite books like Ready Player One, Plugged, Pathfinder, The Dragonback Series, and the Harry Potter series are some of my favorites because they create amazingly realistic worlds along with some seemingly living, breathing characters who can almost jump off the page. I have also enjoyed books that make me think about myself or the future. They have made me question what I would have done if I was the main character, or what the future will look like. Will it be like Rot and Ruin or The Enemy, that have the world ending in the zombie apocalypse, or more like 1984 or The Hunger Games with a terrifyingly oppressive government and an underground rebellion. What about the distracted future of Ready Player One, in which almost all human contact is made through a virtual-reality videogame, or the future of The Dragonback Series or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which humans are but one of the vastly inferior alien races in outer space? In his novel A Dance With Dragons, author George R. R. Martin says through his character Jojen, “‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. . . . The man who never reads lives only one.’” With books, we can live through the lives of other people in situations that are impossible for us to experience otherwise.

A good book is a rare thing. A book that is truly great, however, is even rarer. Any book hoping to be recognized as one of the greats, though, will find itself hard pressed unless it has an incredible plotline or great characters. I agree with C. S. Lewis when he says, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” The tea would have to be East Texas sweet, but I would read for the rest of my life if I could.


“Finding Strength to Focus on Fear”

Each spring the Regents juniors and seniors write a Reflective Essay, or a Reflection. The students write essays all the time, but the Reflection is different. While most essays the students write are analytical, highly structured, persuasive, and reason-oriented, the Reflective Essay is speculative. Its aim is to ponder, to play with an idea, to share a conclusion after bringing the reader along on the journey toward that conclusion. If a Reflection makes an argument, it is because the author feels strongly about it more so than because the author is convinced of its truth.

I am particularly proud of Haley Duke’s Reflection, which is an essay-length meditation on her experience of fear. Haley is one of our rising seniors, and she always does fine work — but this essay is an especially striking creation. As I share it with you below, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Finding Strength to Focus on Fear

By Haley Duke

Fear is like a fire. Something sparks it into existence, but unlike a fire, a fear is not meant to be extinguished immediately. It could be a chemical fire that burns forever or maybe just a grass fire—small, hidden, but still there. That fear may even be a forest fire that consumes everything in its path. Or maybe it is a combination of all three. The worst fears, though, are the ones we fail to recognize even as the smoke fills the sky.

I used to be afraid of bad dreams. Many nights a particular nightmare clouded my sleep and I had to endure disturbing images of spiders amidst a deserted town. I was always alone in this frightening place when the most comforting thing would appear: my mother. Then she would disappear; quickly ripped away and replaced by something horrifying. When I felt I could no longer stand this haunted loneliness, the town would flood. The water would rise and rise and rise until I felt it envelop me. Then I drowned. The next morning I would wake up early and trudge down the stairs. I never made it very far though. I always ended up sitting at the bottom of the stairs, staring out the front windows of my home and watching the sunrise. I remember the sunlight streaming through the glass, pushing away the darkness of the night and the darkness in my heart. I saw specks of dust floating in the air and imagined they were my fears flying far, far away. I haven’t had that nightmare in over five years, but that doesn’t mean I never feel like I’m drowning in my fears. For they are my fears. Mine to control. They are a part of me just like my strength is a part of me.

Most of us are eager to show our strengths, but whether we like to admit it or not, we all are afraid of something. And I bet we all have more than one fear. I once read a book in which a group of people, called the Dauntless, were the risk takers of society. They were brave, but not truly fearless. Each of them had to go through a drug induced simulation in which they discovered and tried to overcome their greatest fears. Most people had somewhere in the range of twenty to thirty fears, but one boy only had four. I’ve always envied his lack of fear but I’ve also wondered what I would encounter if I took that test. Would I be able to narrow my fears down so that all I needed were my hands to count them? Let’s see: zombies, sharks, broken bones, handcuffs, serial killers, failure, depression, betrayal, death, and loneliness. There… ten of my greatest fears. I have recognized them.

After we recognize our fears, we become so worried about overcoming them, that we rarely realize how they change us. My dad is a big believer in recognizing fears and observing how they affect our actions. Whenever I am ranting about something, he calmly looks at me and asks, “What are you afraid of?” Most of the time, I find this question annoying; however, I come to realize that at the heart of my anger or sadness or pride, is a fear. Fears do that… they hide themselves. They sit in the eye of your storming emotions, surprising you when you least expect it. Perhaps I was angry because I feared being wrong. Or maybe I was sad because I was afraid that something horrible might happen. Maybe I was prideful or mean because I feared my own inadequacy. Whatever the situation, I find fears affecting my life. I am not a coward, though. My fears are natural insecurities experienced by any human being. My dad says that it takes strength to admit your fears and recognize the fears of others. It’s a superpower of sorts. We can use them for good or they can become our kryptonite. Everyone has these superpowers, so if you understand the fears, you understand the person. What I have finally realized is that there is nothing wrong with being afraid and I should use fears to my advantage.

Brave people feel the fiery heat of their fears, accept it, and move on. I don’t know if I’m one of those people, but I do know that the first time I ever acknowledged that my nightmare frightened me, was the first time it no longer scared me. If we thought of our fears as a part of us—a part of our strengths—maybe we could better understand not only ourselves but others.