As I’ve mentioned, That Hideous Strength dealt with a number of things, and there is one of them I’d like to explore more in depth, as it is a topic that interests me a lot and is relevant to the general enjoyment of literature and other of my favorite works such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Arthurian tales such as The Once and Future King by T.H. White and the more recent Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which I hope to begin soon.
Through the character of Arthur Dimble, a professor of ancient languages and mythology, C.S. Lewis speculates on the role and place of magic in ancient times as contrasted with its place today. Here is an abbreviated version of the discussion on the subject between Dimble and his wife:
“Everything is getting more itself and more different from everything else all the time….[For a man like Merlin] there were still possibilities for a man of that age which there aren’t for a man of ours. The Earth itself was more like an animal in those days. And mental processes were much more like physical actions. And there were–well, Neutrals [spirits] knocking about…A conscious being is either obeying God or disobeying Him. But there might be things neutral in relation us [humans]….There used to be things on this Earth pursuing their own business, so to speak.”
“I think there was room for them then, but the universe has come more to a point.”
“In Merlin’s time…though you could still use that sort of life in the universe innocently, you couldn’t do it safely. The things weren’t bad in themselves, but they were already bad for us….Like polygamy. It wasn’t wrong for Abraham, but one can’t help feeling that even he lost something by it.”
“Merlin…is the last vestige of an old order in which matter and spirit were, from our modern point of view, confused. For him every operation on Nature is a kind of personal contact, like coaxing a child or stroking one’s horse. After him came the modern man to whom Nature is something dead–a machine to be worked, and taken to bits if it won’t work the way he pleases.”
(from That Hideous Strength, p. 284-285)
Lewis, who like Dimble, was an expert in languages and in English literature especially would have encountered this issue theologically and in explaining the value of the myths from various cultures that engrossed him so much.
His answer regarding the status of pre-Christian or early post-Christian magic is that the world was a bit different back then, when distinctions about power and agency were perhaps less clear. It was a time, he says, when angels or other spirits may not have had a position towards humans and when the spiritual, even animal, realities of nature could be tapped into innocently, though he adds not safely. Continue reading →
I wrote this article before the election but never posted it here:
This is why I am truly glad that Mrs. Clinton did not win. However, it is hard to be happy about a Trump win, and there are so many other causes for concern with his behavior. People keep reassuring me that he won’t actually do any of the things he proposes, but that’s a different topic.
Leaders of black churches have questioned Mrs. Clinton specifically about concerns for their own religious liberty. In an open letter signed by twenty-six pastors and leaders of African-American churches, including Jacqueline Rivers of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies in Boston, they called attention to the CAGC comments by John Podesta;
“Key players on your staff have sought to subvert Catholic teaching on sexuality by planting externally funded groups in the church to advance a politically correct agenda,” they noted. “What would you do as president to guarantee that religious freedoms are balanced against civil rights rather than being trumped by them?”
They show respect for their fellow faith communities and go on to explain the central role their religious beliefs play in their ministry, particularly in poor communities, where the church is only institution well-placed to access the population, both spiritually and materially. In Christianity, beliefs are not meant as cudgels with which to bludgeon opponents; beliefs are guides to goodness, to recognizing the inherent dignity of our fellows, of striving to live well both today and forever, individually and as a society.
While Christians can and do fall short of our ideals, we seek freedom of conscience for the sake of authenticity, not hatred. Religion, despite its present unpopularity in elite circles, was once an uncontroversially protected category of conscience and identity. The drafters of the Bill of Rights thought as much.
Something of interest to book readers in the area or perhaps even in general, the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival is happening here in Washington DC on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Washington Convention Center.
Stephen King will be speaking, and Marilynne Robinson will speak and receive an award. My good friend and fellow reader, among other honors, Meg, had this to say about the latter:
“Marilynne Robinson wrote Gilead, a really beautiful book. It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and was notable for prominently featuring faith as its theme. It is written from the perspective of a Midwestern pastor. She once said that authors today are afraid of writing about faith, but she finds that writing about it, authentically, produces some of the best writing there is.”
The book festival is free, features dozens of authors and will have children’s activities and appearances by children’s writers.
There will be also be poetry readings and poets. 😀
It’s Friday morning and there is coffee brewing in an unused classroom at St. Philip’s Parish in Falls Church, VA. Christina Landauer sets out donuts and stirring sticks while her two year old son plays with a Lightening McQueen riding car. Her infant is asleep in his stroller, and the two older children are in school. She is setting up for the moms group, which she founded.
I attend this group, and I’ll admit, it can be terrifyingly isolating to embark on the path of stay-at-home mother, particularly for those among us who did not grow up with sizeable experiences with young children. The endless, sleepless nights and the stresses of finicky napers and picky eaters can be enough to set anyone on edge. In these times, a welcoming home of women who are traveling the same road or who have traveled it is a comfort unlike any other, akin to the ugly duckling reuniting with her family of swans.
As Mass ends, other mothers slowly trickle in, some holding the hands of preschool aged little ones, some wearing infants or carrying them in a car seat. Some moms have both with them. There is an option for babysitting in the next room so that the women gathered can relax. A few kids go over to play, a few stay with their mothers.
As the group settles in, everyone introduces themselves: newcomers and old friends alike. They begin in prayer and Landauer shares a reflection on growing in holiness as a mother. There is an option for Confession and the chance to share, bond and grow as mothers.
I for one have been tremendously impressed by the kindness and warmth of the women in the St. Philip’s moms group. This is not a high school clique, but a community of folks who care, who are earnestly striving to follow Christ and are who are grateful both to help and to be helped along the way.Continue reading →
I was snot-faced in high school. I loved to sneer at novels in english class and say, “if the meaning is so deep and hidden, maybe it’s not really there. Maybe it’s just a story.”
Well, if myself today could teach a lesson to myself back then, it would be that “yes, it’s really there, and probably more than you think.”
Having written myself a good bit, I know that no one bothers to concoct a whole story and characters and plot points for no reason at all. Whatever conflicts and relationships the author finds compelling and powerful will be the plot and choices available to the characters. Writing a novel, play or movie is hard work, and no one undertakes it just for the heck of it.
Every choice of clothing, setting, tone, obstacle is selected to have a certain mood in order to create meaning and connection in the reader’s imagination. An author tells a story because he or she deeply believes that it is worth telling. And the things that we think are worth telling others are the most significant facets of reality. Continue reading →
In 2015, I picked a theme for the year instead of resolutions. For us, it was Farm Year: we planted a vegetable garden, learned about tractors, plows and combines, visited farms, learned about farm animals, sang Old MacDonald had a farm, read books about farms and animals, talked about where our food came from.
Farm year wasn’t remotely stressful; it just provided inspiration for activities. Since it was such a success, I’ve decided on a new theme for 2016.
We will learn about and visit streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and the ocean. We will learn about the animals that live in them and the vessels that travel atop or within them. Connecting it to farm year, we will talk about irrigation and the importance of water for food production and human life.
I don’t expect my one year old and three year old to fully absorb all this, as I am still absorbing it myself, but it is part of their foundation.
I like the themes concept. It has proven more transformative and less stressful than “resolutions,” which just seem like one more thing on the to-do list.
What else for me in 2016?
Keep writing; keep the articles coming, and post at least one blog post per week.
Finish first draft of a longer project
At least 5 minutes of Scripture or spiritual reading per day
Participate in Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy by making a pilgrimage (albeit a small one) to the National Basilica in Washington DC (more info on this to come)
Focus on kindness and generosity especially with my husband and children and in general
Run my home more like a monastery or try to. Read The Rule of St. Benedict
Whelp, there are more detailed things that I have in mind, but those are the basics.
What are you thinking for this year? Did you make any themes or resolutions?