The WordPlayers Present: Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork Jane Eyre is something most of us read in grade school. We remember the gilded Victorian prose laid over absolute reams of paper. We remember, perhaps, vaguely liking parts of it—the curious figure flitting about Thornfield Hall, the fire, the mystique of the rolling moors—but having rather a difficult time with the pacing and the oppressive atmosphere. I may have to revisit the novel, though. Firstly, of course, I’m older. Secondly, I spent a delightful afternoon viewing the WordPlayers’ rendition of Paul Gordon’s and John Caird’s musical stage adaptation, playing this coming weekend at the Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville.

The cast gives life to the characters in such a way that I wish they had been there for me in high school Senior English. After leading last year’s Little Women to great effect, Casey Maxwell returns now to play the steadfast, stoic Brontë heroine with evocative depth. Coke Morgan’s Mr. Rochester is the perfect cynic, giving you just enough reason to dislike him even while drawing on your sympathies.

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Self Love: A New Gospel

It has occurred to me that in a lost culture that largely doesn’t know where else to place its faith, self-love campaigns, inspirational memes, and the self-empowerment movements have become our new gospel.

I wake up in the morning and scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, which are littered with political commentary and hatefulness in a culture that claims to love. I suppose to reverse the effects of all this negativity, inspirational memes like these are created to spread positive vibes and cozy thoughts. I understand where these inspirational thoughts are coming from. And I would much prefer to see this positivity on my news feed than all the hateful and destructive things going on in the world. Understanding who you are and how to interact with life is important. But from a spiritual standpoint, in these inspirational memes, sneaks an underlying falsehood that is oh-so-well disguised. These inspirational ideas that our culture is coming up with are being cultivated from a ground that is human powered and self-focused. A ground that does not recognize the joy of God as a savior or a place to find solutions.

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In Praise of Climbing Mountains

“So there I was,” halfway up a frozen headwall, skis slung over my shoulder, praying the 40 mph winds don’t throw me off balance enough to send me sliding into the heap of jagged boulders far below and over the precipice. My partner was below me somewhere, I hoped, trudging up the same slope toward the small ledge that promised a modicum of shelter. The snow washed past my headlamp, rendering any sight of him impossible, and the wind quickly engulfed my calls. We were all alone, together, working toward a goal that could certainly get the better of us.

“Why climb?” That question has been asked of everyone who goes vertical more than once. George Mallory famously responded, “Because it’s there…”; a seemingly flippant reply from a man who would eventually end his climbing days forever on the side of Mt. Everest. In reality, that was the only response he could muster for those who had no experience of what he did. Why take the risk? Why choose misery over comfort? Why push yourself to such limits when it could end so badly? Because, once you’ve been there, you’re fundamentally changed.

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