Exploring where life and story meet!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More lazy blogging

Here is a really good article for all you Lewis/Tolkien fans comparing and contrasting their view on the genre of fairy stories or fantasy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking greatness for granted

I just cannot find a living author I really like.  I have read a few books that I have enjoyed but nothing that draws me back again and again like my old favorites.  I keep searching for something akin to Jane Austen, but all of her imitators and heirs leave me dissatisfied.  I have read some of the books proclaimed as 'the best work of this generation' but find them but wan shadows of the truly great works of literature.  Is it that modern writers are less talented, less creative, less dedicated or is it that the truly great books are remembered because they are great and we need not sift through the dross of books published at the same time because our reading ancestors have already done the work for us?  It is probably the latter, and to complicate matters, anyone can publish a book in this day and age so there are exponentially more books today than there were when Miss Austen had to write her manuscripts by hand two hundred years ago.  There are probably modern Austens, Dickenses, and Shakespeares writing at this very moment but their amazing works are lost in a veritable flood of other literature and it will take time, luck, and effort before their works receive their due, and it may even mean they will not be discovered until after the demise of the author, as was often the case with the greats in any field, be it painting, writing, or music.  Hindsight is 20/20 and our literary, musical, and artistic heritage is the result of those who laboriously sorted the wheat from the chaff and passed on what was good and allowed the bad and mediocre to be quietly forgotten.  So I suppose we owe it to posterity to continue the process of weeding out the good from the pathetic that our own decedents can take our efforts for granted and complain about the dearth of quality in the distant future.  Read on then, good bibliophiles, read on!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On strangely addictive autobiographies

I do not read biography (or its self-generated cousin) unless I absolutely have to, which means I have not picked up such a book since my grade school days, at least until I started reading C. S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy.  I have not finished yet, in fact I have barely survived his dreadful school days and the Great War, but though his early life was, well dreadful, things seem to be turning towards a brighter direction.  In general I am not a nonfiction or biography reader, but anything by Lewis I have found to be extremely rewarding.  After beginning this volume, I feel like a literary pygmy, the man is a genius!  I already had some inklings in that direction, but reading his own account of his education is stunning and makes me feel as if I am still struggling with Dr. Seuss.  His life minds me very much of the Apostle Paul, an extremely brilliant man who wants nothing to do with the cross of Christ and yet he ends being one of the most effective evangelists of his day, and for all generations to come.  I love seeing God's hand at work in their early lives to prepare them for the tasks He has set them.  The same is true for every life on this planet.  God calls each of us to do something, perhaps not to be world renowned apologists or evangelists, but to do something very specific and unique, combining our skills, experiences, interests, and personalities.  He has used every tool at His disposal to shape us into the individuals He wants us to be and prepare us for the job He intends for us to do, the only questions is, will we say yes?  He stands at the door and knocks, is anyone home?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reader beware

Recently I have taken to quoting a little from Francis Burnett's The Secret Garden as I am very much in the thrall of spring fever and looking forward to working my own, 'bit of earth,' but I was a bit surprised as I picked up the book again and read it through for the first time in twenty plus years.  I must admit I had not remembered much of the story from my 'wee girlhood,' but I remember liking it, especially the idea of a secret garden and a strange, old house and the descriptions of the English moors, but I was a little disturbed as an adult to discover that was not all it contained.  I am very fond of some of Burnett's other works, including Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess, but alas I cannot include The Secret Garden among my literary treasures.  I scanned through the introduction to my copy and saw something mentioned about theosophism and its beautiful portrayal in this particular work, but paid it little heed…oops!  There is a scene where the children march around the garden, calling upon 'the magic' to make the garden grow, heal body and soul, etc. like a band of ancient pantheists and later on we learn that 'Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,' are just other names among many names for 'the magic' or 'the Good Thing' or 'the god within,' or whatever you wish to call it.  

Ms. Burnett is certainly free to write as she feels she ought and believe whatever she prefers and we, as her readers, may choose to read her books or not, and agree with her or not.  I am just as guilty in my writings as she in this matter, it is just that we believe quite different things.  It was just a bit of a shock to discover this worldview in a book I had read as a child and apparently just thought it a bit of childish nonsense on the part of the characters in the book and thus forgot all about it, and never encountering such a scene in her other works, it also caught me off guard.  Besides for the jaunt into the esoteric, I also found the story as a whole to be less captivating than her other works.  It is always a sad day for me when I find some beloved treasure of my youth has lost much of its luster when I see it anew as an adult, but that is the price of wisdom I suppose.  But then, it is a happy day when I realize not all of my childhood favorites are actually dross; some of them are still truly dear and I have discovered other treasures I never knew in my youth but have discovered in my 'declining' years.  The same can be said for our spiritual and moral development as well, what we loved as children and rambunctious youths later becomes 'silly,' 'stupid,' or downright 'scandalous,' when viewed from our later years.  I know my own son often wonders why he cannot do certain things that would be quite thrilling and is quite distressed to learn that he cannot quite do as he pleases.  

So to all my dear readers (if I have any), let this be my apology to you in recommending what I thought was a charming read from my youth but which turns out to be rather disappointing.  Of course, if you want a nifty little story and an exercise in comparative theology, it is still worth a quick read.  But the 'magic' of the children in the garden cannot bear the names of the Trinity for as we are reminded in Acts (4:12): 'And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'  There is magic in a garden in spring, there is magic in a healthy child, but it is not a thing in itself to be called upon and worshipped like the old gods of wood and field.  It is the very magic of creation, a gift of life from He who called the worlds into being and Who keeps them spinning.  It might be His voice and breath that gives us shape and life and being, but we are not gods nor is the essence of the gods found in all things.  We must look to the Creator rather than worship the created.  It is a nice little story but for theological confusion.

Monday, March 10, 2014

To work and to keep it

"..might I have a bit of earth?"  Mary in the Secret Garden.

'The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.'  Genesis 2:15 (ESV)

Humans are fascinated by other living things, thus our obsession with pets, gardening, keeping fish, breeding race horses, showing cattle, going to the zoo, watching nature shows, raising orchids, or whatever your favorite hobby or past time might be.  There is some innate part of our natures that is not happy in a sterile box.  We must have life, change, growth, expectation, and struggle if we are to flourish.  I am as eager to try dabbling in my garden this spring as I was back in elementary school when we planted beans in a milk carton.  There is just something that fascinates us about life, our own and our fellow creatures.  We were made that way.  Whether you watch your own children grow, are breeding guppies in your aquarium, or are simply growing a bean in a milk carton on your windowsill, there is a simple, childish glee and delight in watching, nurturing, warding the 'creatures' in our charge. We see it in the youngest children, they are obsessed with cats and dogs, cows and horses from the day they first encounter them.  They find no greater thrill than planting seeds and watching them grow.  And most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, will admit we never outgrow the wonder.  Why else do otherwise sane and well-adjusted people post countless videos of their cats on the internet?  Why does anyone else care to watch said 'cat videos?'  A bit of earth and a bit of story are about all we need to be content, or should be!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gone and done it

Yes, I have gone and done it.  I have finished the Jane Austen canon, I have finally read Emma.  I am certain the book has not changed, so I suppose that means I have changed as a person/reader.  I once tried to read it and gave up in boredom, but I went back, persevered, actually enjoyed it splendidly, and have completed all extant Austenian works.  Strange that we can despise a work at one point in our lives only to turn around and love it at some point in the future.  I never read Anne of Green Gables as a girl as I thought it would be tedious and boring, but it is one of my favorite books!  Of course, there are books that are just awful, tedious, poorly written, or incomprehensible so there is certainly a place for taste in literary aspirations but it seems that some works are just more mature than we are at the moment we encounter them, much as I hated dark chocolate as a child but it is one of my favorite treats in my 'over the hill' years.  I wonder if I need to go back and look at some of those old 'classics' they forced us to read in school, in which I had little interest at the time.  Great Expectations I thought was terrible, but perhaps it deserves a second chance.  Treasure Island was unremarkable now and then.  I'll skip the anti-utopian novels thank you very much.  I will never be mature enough for Ulysses or perhaps that should be insane enough.  To think that there are so many books in the world to read, and some of them require a more refined reader than others.  I would have never thought there was a taste for books as one might have for wine, but it makes sense.  No wonder certain poor quality books become popular as do certain cheap vintages only to make true connoisseurs roll their eyes in disgust at the hideous taste of the masses.  Book snobs indeed!  We need more of them.