Wednesday, May 30, 2018

There be dragons

There is a new facsimile of the first edition of The Hobbit. It appears to be boxed and comes with "an exclusive CD of archive recordings that capture Tolkien reading from The Hobbit, a special copy of Thror's map which reveals the secret moon-runes when held to the light, and an accompanying booklet that relates the history of The Hobbit, and includes connected writings by JRR Tolkien." One of the "connected writings" is a previously unpublished lecture about "Dragons" that Tolkien delivered to a group of children in 1938. The essay has been excerpted at a couple of Tolkien related sites:
But though the dragon might be of a primordial and immeasurable size beyond the power of hero, his real dread did not lie in his armour, or his teeth, or in his size. The dragon may have been ‘founded on worm’ but he was more terrible than any dinosaur. Because he was filled with a terrible spirit. The legend-makers put it in him. He was filled with malice. Not only the mere animal fierceness that fights for food and mate, or to defend a coveted hole, but with hatred of other living things as such. A dragon made a desert. He rejoiced in destruction and his wicked heart was fired by a smouldering and envious guess at the work of the things destroyed. Legend had filled him with evil, and he grew strong on that terrible gift: he was cunning, deadly, bitter and piercingly keen …. His glance has a terrible effect if it holds yours. He may seek to bind your will. At least that was the way of old dragons, who had lived long in wickedness. Also he will probably try to find out your name. For dragons also deal in evil magic, and even when defeated may (if they have your name) curse you as they die.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Remembering

Posted previously on or near Memorial Day.



From James D. Hornfischer's reflections on interviewing veterans of World War II:
.... About 1.8 million World War II veterans remain alive today (2011). That's less than half the number of 2003. When these voices go silent, those of us who write about the war will lose the benefit of living engagement. We will work as our Civil War colleagues do: from documents and recordings and nothing else. What will be gone when these are the sole primary sources is not the facts themselves but the spark that can bring them to life. Diaries and oral history transcripts can let us know a man's thoughts and deeds. But truth is also revealed through tone, emotion and context—and it can be plumbed responsively in real time to discover what was most important.

For those of us who have never served in uniform, it's easy to see World War II as a grand, sweeping drama, featuring actors large and small driven by a sense of overriding mission, all sins and failings vindicated by victory. Yet for the veterans I meet, the war is often about something else entirely. Any talk of it brings them back to a single, pervasive memory sequence: a moment of impossible decision or helplessness when, through their action or inaction, they believe, a comrade paid the eternal price. They can't talk about the war without reliving their powerlessness to influence its predations, without revealing how it changed them. ....

Those veterans who stand away from the crowd or shun the opportunity to speak are of special interest to me. The distance in their eyes shows that they're still in the grip of what they've seen. While talking to them can be like trying to squeeze water from a stone, if you stay with it you can tap something deeply revealing. "The thing that comes out of it is, if you survive, there's a purpose," Bud Comet told me. "You see why you survived. I feel like maybe God had other purposes for me." There was nothing trite in the manner of his expression. This was the considered conclusion of years, the product of the horror of survival at sea. .... (more)
From the preface of Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac (1962):
...[O]nce, ages ago, they had been everywhere and had seen everything, and nothing that happened to them thereafter meant anything much. All that was real had taken place when they were young; everything after that had simply been a process of waiting for death, which did not frighten them much—they had seen it inflicted in the worst possible way on boys who had not bargained for it, and they had enough of the old-fashioned religion to believe without any question that when they passed over they would simply be rejoining men and ways of living which they had known long ago.

.... A generation grew up in the shadow of a war which, because of its distance, somehow had lost all resemblance to everyday reality. To a generation which knew the war only by hearsay, it seemed that these aged veterans had been privileged to know the greatest experience a man could have. We saw the Civil War, in other words, through the distorting haze of endless Decoration Day reminiscences; to us it was a romantic business because all we ever got a look at was the legend built up through fifty years of peace.

We do learn as we grow older, and eventually I realized that this picture was somewhat out of focus. War, obviously, is the least romantic of all of man's activities, and it contains elements which the veterans do not describe to children.  ....

Yet, in an odd way, the old veterans did leave one correct impression: the notion that as young men they had been caught up by something ever so much larger than themselves and that the war in which they fought did settle something for us—or, incredibly, started something which we ourselves have got to finish. It was not only the biggest experience in their own lives; it was in a way the biggest experience in our life as a nation, and it deserves all of the study it is getting. ....
A Memorial Day Look at the World War II Generation - WSJ.com, Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1962.

Friday, May 25, 2018

With pugnacity but without animus

...Lewis would not allow disagreement to become personal. He could always distinguish the man from the man’s opinion, and he knew the difference between an argument and a quarrel. He would not allow himself to be betrayed into aggression, but would, where necessary, draw rein on a dispute with a wry smile and an agreement to disagree. ....

Watson again: “His twin passions...were people and arguments, but he did not often make the mistake of confusing them. Good people can believe in wicked things...like race war and class war. Lewis could be polite, even friendly, to such people. What aroused his trenchancy was evil opinion. A capitalistic robber baron, he once told J. B. S. Haldane, the Communist scientist who had acclaimed the Soviet Union for abolishing Mammon, is at least better than an Inquisitor, since greed is easier to satisfy than dogmatic certainty.... He had once lived unhappily as a school boarder, he told Haldane, in ‘a world from which Mammon was banished’ and where favours were gained by cringing servility or brute force. ‘It was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known.’ The analogy between communism and an unreformed boarding school is instructive, but the point is potent without being offensive; it is about communism, not about a Communist called Haldane.”

Lewis reviled many dogmas but seldom...those who held them. He had “vigour without venom; he was generous.” ....

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Have you been "called"?

As the Just Do Something guy, it will come as no surprise to hear that I think the language of “calling” is vastly overdone in Christian circles. Here’s what I find in Scripture:

We have an upward call in Christ to be with Jesus and to be like Jesus (Phil. 3:14). We have been called to freedom, not bondage (Gal. 5:13). God has saved us and called us to a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9). He has called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). Not many of us were called to noble things (in the world’s eyes), but, amazingly, we have been called to Christ (1 Cor. 1:26). And if called, then justified, and if justified, then glorified (Rom. 8:30).

In other words, I do not see in Scripture where we are told to expect or look for a specific call to a specific task in life.

And that includes pastoral ministry and missionary service. ….

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On Conan Doyle's birthday...

On Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday Chris Gehrz at The Anxious Bench writes about "The Religious History of Sherlock Holmes." Doyle himself was a Spiritualist and certainly unorthodox in his religious opinions.
Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone
Of course, the coldly logical Holmes would seem like a natural skeptic of the “psychical knowledge” for which his creator evangelized. The Scarlet Claw, the best of the World War II-era films made by Universal, finds Holmes and Watson attending a meeting of an occult society in Canada. “If the facts are there,” insists a Conan Doyle-like aristocrat, “even the most hardened skeptic — provided he has an open mind — must finally acknowledge the actual existence of the supernatural.” “Facts are always convincing,” responds Basil Rathbone’s Holmes. “It’s the conclusions drawn from facts that are frequently in error.” ….
The Universal pictures starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce remain my favorite Sherlock Holmes films. I even enjoy the updating to World War II. My enjoyment is undoubtedly partly nostalgia — I may have first seen them on television Sunday afternoons watching from my great-aunt's couch before we had a TV at home. The Scarlet Claw is one of the most atmospheric and a favorite, although not particularly related to any of Doyle's stories. I may watch it tonight in honor of the creator of the characters.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bond

Not long ago a Facebook friend directed me to this site. Mark Lewis and I share some common ancestry. My mother was also a Bond. Lewis writes:
My Bond ancestors were from an estate in Cornwall near Plymouth called “Erth Barton”, meaning the farm of the Erth family. The building is today a country manor Bed and Breakfast with the same name. In 1610 a study was commissioned to determine if it was the oldest building in Cornwall, and the conclusion was that it indeed was the oldest building. It came into Bond possession when the only daughter of the Erth (or de Erth) family married Richard Bond. Their descendants were known as the Bonds of “Earth”.

The first land grant to a Bond in Pennsylvania was to Richard Bond in 1696 and then one to his wife Sarah Robinet Bond in 1702. Richard is believed to have emigrated to America around 1696. Family history has Richard returning to England for business and dying there before April of 1702.

Richard and Sarah had a son Samuel Bond born ca 1692. He married Ann Sharpless in Pennsylvania ca 1726 and soon moved to Cecil County, Maryland. Richard and Sarah had one son, Richard Clayton Bond, born Oct 4, 1728 and three daughters. Samuel left the Church of England to become a Seventh Day Baptist by 1737, and Ann Sharpless left the Quaker Church to become a Seventh Day Baptist with her husband.

Richard Clayton Bond lived most of his life in Maryland, where his 9 children were born. He was a man of wealth and influence, and represented his county in the state assembly for 21 years. When he was past 70 he moved to settle on a large farm near present-day Lost Creek, West Virginia, where he died at age 91. ....

The second son, Richard Jr., born March 9, 1756 was known as Major Richard Bond, and he lived most of his life at Lost Creek, WV. He owned and operated a mill 1/4 mile above the present town of Lost Creek. ....

Richard Bond Jr, also known as Major Richard Bond, was married the second time to Mary Brumfield, who bore him four sons. After Mary died, he married a third time to Mary Lewis. He died Feb 14, 1820 at the relative young age of 63. ....

Me with Grandad: Charles Austin Bond
Levi Bond, the oldest son of Major Richard Bond, was born in Maryland in 1785. He married Susan Eib on May 3, 1807 at her house near Clarksburg. They settled on a large farm on Broad Run, near Lightburn, where they raised a large family. In 1876, after 69 years happily married, they died within a few weeks of each other. ....
This approaches the point where our ancestry diverges. Levi's third son was Richard (1814-1871) and one of his sons was John Corydon Bond (1845-1933), my great grandfather. John Corydon had five sons. Two were twins, one of whom was Charles Austin Bond (1872-1957), my grandfather, who I remember well. My mother was Mary Elizabeth Bond (1911-2009).

The Lewis site is extremely well done and has quite a lot more information (including information about siblings that I didn't include). I am grateful for the concise summary of the Bond connection to England.

The coat-of-arms hung on my parents' living room wall. An image search online will discover other Bond coats-of-arms that are very similar.

Friday, May 18, 2018

"Come, ye sinners..."

Re-posted from 2012 because I really like this hymn:

A friend reminds me of this great hymn from the Sac­red Harp tradition: "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy"

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.
Refrain
View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?
Refrain
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
Refrain
Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Refrain
Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
Refrain
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Refrain
 
 
 
A variation on the hymn by the Missouri All State Choir:

Sub-creators

In "Dorothy Sayers Did Not Want to Be a Prophet", Crystal Downing, soon to be a co-director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, gives a overview of Sayers' Christian writings. This is about the first:
At the height of her fame, Sayers was asked to write a play to be performed in Canterbury Cathedral for an annual festival. Having spent 15 years writing about a sexually adept aristocrat who entered churches more for aesthetic contemplation than spiritual renewal, Sayers hesitated. She finally accepted the commission, due, most likely, to the prestige of her predecessors in the job, T. S. Eliot and Charles Williams.

However, in writing a play about the 12th-century architect who rebuilt part of Canterbury Cathedral after its fiery destruction, Sayers experienced her own baptism by fire. As though a hot coal had touched her lips, she began speaking, through her characters, about the relevance of Christian doctrine to the integrity of work. Intriguing even professional theologians, her play ends with an angel announcing that humans manifest the “image of God,” the imago Dei, through creativity. After all, the Bible chapter proclaiming the imago Dei presents God not as judge or lawgiver but as Creator: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

Even more radically, Sayers’s angel suggests that creativity is Trinitarian. Any creative work has three distinct components: the Creative Idea, the Creative Energy “begotten of that Idea,” and the Creative Power that is “the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul.” Indeed, Sayers’s angel says of Idea, Energy, and Power, “these three are one.”

Called The Zeal of Thy House, Sayers’s 1937 play ran for 100 performances, having moved from Canterbury to London’s West End. Audiences valued its unusual communication of Christian belief. Rather than endorsing pietistic practices, it celebrated the sanctity of work; rather than obsessing over sexual sins, it denounced arrogant pride as the “eldest sin of all.” The play’s self-aggrandizing protagonist, a womanizer who believes he alone can make the cathedral great again, is humbled by a crippling fall. Only then does he abandon his narcissistic need for mastery and acclaim, telling God, “to other men the glory / And to Thy Name alone.”

Due to the play’s popularity, Sayers was hounded by the press for statements about her beliefs, finally writing an essay for the Sunday Times that argues, as she later summarized, “whether you believed in Christ or not, it was ridiculous to call the story of the Incarnation and Redemption dull.” She desired to challenge dismissive and antagonistic responses to earnest faith. But to do so, she recognized the need to get rid of Christian rhetoric associated with pious self-righteousness and political self-interest. As she put it in another article written during the tour of Zeal,
Let us, in Heaven’s name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much the worse for the pious—others will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before them.
In 1940, the BBC asked Sayers to write a series of 12 radio plays about Jesus. Taking the commission very seriously, Sayers spent a year rereading the Gospels, studying the original Greek as well as Bible commentaries. ….

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Singing the Psalms

While exploring Amazon for an entirely different CD, I came across The Psalms of David - Choir of King's College, a two-CD collection of thirty-six hymns from the Psalter. I ordered it although it seems to be currently unavailable. I own several CDs of British hymns. One of my favorites, purchased back in the eighties, is Psalms of Scotland by the Scottish Philharmonic Singers and I decided to see whether it is still available. It is. Amazon offers it as MP3 collection for $8.99 — not bad at all — but the lowest price for the CD is $95.99 (the only other offer asks $274.84). I had no idea I possessed such a valuable disc. I think I'll keep it.

A description on the booklet with the CD explains:
The Psalms of David in metre have been sung in Scotland for over four hundred years. In 1582, when John Dune returned from exile to Edinburgh to be Protestant minister of St Giles', a large crowd accompanied him up the High Street singing Psalm 124 in their own tongue — and in four parts — with "a great sound and majestic."

Of the Scottish Psalter's many sources, a prime one was Geneva where in the mid-fifteenth century English, Scottish and French Calvinists found refuge. Taking their own translations of the psalms and their tunes with them, they brought back others to their own countries.

While the precentor still leads the praise in some Reformed sects, there was a movement towards the end of the eighteenth century in Scotland to form and train parish choirs. At about the same time the Scottish Paraphrases were added to the psalms for public worship, to be followed much later by hymns. ….
I found only two selections on YouTube from that collection, one the very familiar Psalm 23 to the tune called "Crimond." This is the other:




Paraphrase 65 Desert
Hark how the adoring hosts above
with songs surround the throne!
Ten thousand thousand are their tongues;   
but all their hearts are one.
Thou hast redeem'd us with Thy blood,
and set the prisoners free;
Thou mad'st us kings and priests to God,
and we shall reign with Thee.
Worthy the Lamb that died, they cry,
to be exalted thus;
Worthy the Lamb, let us reply,
for he was slain for us.
To him who sits upon the throne,
the God whom we adore,
And to the Lamb that once was slain,
be glory evermore.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Without our aid He did us make


The YouTube link: https://youtu.be/x0hvizFZf5Q

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;     
Come ye before Him and rejoice.
For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.
To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.
O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Confession

Following my last post it occurred to me to post some examples of corporate confession. Always after a prayer of confession comes a reassurance of forgiveness. The first is from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.

We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable.

Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A more recent Anglican prayer:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou those who are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.
From the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (1906):
Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being, whose face is hidden from us by our sins, and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts: Cleanse us, we beseech Thee, from all the defilements of this day, and deliver us from all proud thoughts and vain desires; that with lowliness and meekness we may draw near to Thee in prayer, confessing our sins, confiding in Thy grace, and finding in Thee our refuge and our strength, our hope and our salvation; through Jesus Christ Thy Son. Amen.

"If we confess our sins..."

Ray Van Neste at the Center For Baptist Renewal on "The Importance of Confession of Sin in Corporate Worship":
A guided time of corporate confession has been a staple for Christian worship through the ages though it has fallen out of use in many churches today. A basic idea behind the practice is that in order to draw near to God we must confess our sins (Psalm 66:18; Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 1:9). This reminds us again of the holiness of God, our sinfulness and the pardon available in the gospel. Without this, we too easily tend to drift into worship taking God lightly. In such confession together we experience the gospel afresh, facing our sins and receiving the cleansing forgiveness which Jesus provides. This gracious pardon is the central reason driving our worship. Even if we bring many other sorrows and burdens with us, being reminded that our greatest problem--the wrath of God because of our sins--has been dealt with will enable us to praise God. ....
My church does this occasionally but not consistently.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan"

The Silver Chair is one of my favorites among the Narnia series and the chapter titled "The Queen of Underland" is one of the reasons. That queen, using a familiar kind of argument and a dulling enchantment, is trying to convince Eustace Scrubb, Jill Pole, Prince Rilian, and one of my favorites among Lewis's creations, Puddleglum, that their memories of Narnia are all wish fulfillment:
The Witch shook her head. "I see," she said, "that we should do no better with your lion, as you call it, than we did with your sun. You have seen lamps, and so you imagined a bigger and better lamp and called it the sun. You've seen cats, and now you want a bigger and better cat, and it's to be called a lion. Well, 'tis a pretty make-believe, though, to say truth, it would suit you all better if you were younger. And look how you can put nothing into your make-believe without copying it from the real world, this world of mine, which is the only world. But even you children are too old for such play. As for you, my lord Prince, that art a man full grown, fie upon you! Are you not ashamed of such toys? Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But, first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams."

The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once.

First, the sweet, heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone's brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes.

Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, "What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I'll turn the blood to fire inside your veins."

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum's head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himse1f. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."
C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, 1953

The later Auden

From a review of the final two volumes of The Complete Works of W.H. Auden:
...[I]n 1940, watching a German film on the invasion of Poland, he received a shock that upended his whole view of things when some German members of the audience began to shout, “Kill them! Kill them!” In that moment he understood that the premise of liberalism, that people are fundamentally good, and therefore perfectible, was a delusion. Very soon he was thinking that only religion could explain and treat the mystery of evil. He began reading religious writers, and made his way back to the Anglican Church of his childhood. At Mount Holyoke, where he taught briefly in 1950, one could track his reading of writers such as Chesterton, Kierkegaard, and Charles Williams by his signatures on the old library cards.

This is why the Auden one encounters in these late prose pieces is a surprisingly conservative, disenchanted realist, convinced that our civilization has taken a wrong turning, with very little likelihood of ever finding its way back. As he wrote in the conclusion of a commissioned essay on the fall of Rome that Henry Luce could not bring himself to print,
I think a great many of us are haunted by the feeling that our society, and by ours I don’t mean just the United States or Europe, but our whole world-wide technological civilisation, whether officially labeled capitalist, socialist, or communist, is going to go smash, and probably deserves to.
Toward the end of his life, in 1970, he put it even more strongly:
Everyone today will agree that the world we have fabricated during the last two hundred years is hideous compared with any fabricated in earlier times. And no one, I think, believes anymore in the liberal dogma of Progress; namely, that all change must be for the better. On the contrary, most of us, both old and young, are terrified of what the future may bring.
.... To my taste, the most touching passage of these books comes at the end of a talk given for the BBC in 1966, and expresses a cautious hope that people might begin to recover a sense of phenomena as sacramental signs. He then comments that such a development could only be “based on a conviction that in art and in life, to quote Wittgenstein: ‘Ethics and aesthetics are one, and a condition of the world like logic.’” That is the kind of sentence that should be carved in stone in every city center.

Incidentally, to judge from the many references to this famous quotation now available online, it appears that, first, no one quotes the whole of it, and, second, no one begins to understand it. If logic is “a condition of the world,” as is mathematics, then there is no escaping the inference that such a condition can only be predicated on what we call mind or intelligence. It follows, too, from Wittgenstein’s linking of ethics, aesthetics, and logic that to act illogically, unethically, and unaesthetically are very dangerous things to do because they deny the nature of things. Thank you, Auden.
Thank You, Auden! | Chronicles Magazine

Monday, May 7, 2018

Sabbath

Prager is very good on the 4th Commandment (if you don't see the embed below, the YouTube link is https://youtu.be/GKsvLpJxVTA) :


Thank you, Ralph Mackintosh, for calling this to my attention.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Elaborate whimsy and precise nonsense

From David Bentley Hart in 2016, "The Dream-Child's Progress," a wonderful appreciation of Alice:

“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee: “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”
Alice said, “Nobody can guess that.”
“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”
“Where I am now, of course,” said Alice.
“Not you!” Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”
“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out—bang!—just like a candle!”
Taken together, Alice and its even better sequel of 1871, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, constitute for me something like the single recurrent motif subtending the entire arc of my life and drawing my whole existence into a meaningful unity. I doubt a complete year ever elapses without my having read them yet again (along with The Hunting of the Snark, Phantasmagoria, and various of Carroll’s essays, letters, poems, and riddles), and they never fail to delight me as much as ever—or, rather, to delight me more than ever, since much of their humor becomes more comprehensible as one ages. They are the first books of any length I recall having been read to me when I was small, and the first I read to my son when he was out of his infancy, and I hope they will be the ones resting at my bedside when I die. The only time I ever willingly curtailed a budding friendship was in my early twenties, during a monastic retreat, when an otherwise engaging new acquaintance mentioned that he had just read Alice for the first time and had been unimpressed; thereafter I remained cordial toward him, but aloof, certain that the depravity of his tastes must emanate from something dark and dismal within. ….

"The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"
Anyone would have to grant that, if nothing else, Carroll’s books have come to exercise an influence on the English language rivaled only by Shakespeare’s. Not only does Alice echo on in a host of common expressions—Cheshire cat smile, down the rabbit-hole, through the looking-glass, “Curiouser and curiouser,” “Off with her head!” and so on—but even many of Carroll’s nonsense words have become redoubtable fixtures of the lexicon. “Jabberwocky” alone gave us such indispensable locutions as “galumph,” “frabjous,” “chortle,” “mimsy,” “slithy,” “vorpal blade,” “tulgey,” “uffish,” “Bandersnatch,” “Jubjub bird,” “Tumtum tree,” “Calooh! Callay!”—why, the OED even includes “outgrabe” and “brillig”—while Humpty Dumpty’s magisterial exegesis of that mighty poem gave us the concept of the “portmanteau” word. That scarcely touches the surface of the matter, however. In a very real sense, the Alice books, along with all of Carroll’s nonsense verse, constitute a kind of revolutionary manifesto of a uniquely English style of genius: that special capacity for elaborate whimsy, precise nonsense, absurdity burnished to an exquisitely delicate sheen—which the French admire but cannot imitate, the Germans dread but cannot resist, the Italians love but cannot understand. .... If, for instance, The Faerie Queene or Paradise Lost is the great English epic in the simple sense of being the most distinguished long narrative poem in the language, The Hunting of the Snark is the great English epic in the sense of being a work no other people could have produced. Other examples of the art abound, obviously: Lear’s nonsense verse, Gilbert’s Bab Ballads, Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children, and so on. But none achieves quite the purity, tireless wit, and ingenious invention of Carroll’s works. ....

.... What is certain, however, is that the ­Alice books constituted a revolution in ­children’s literature. It would be hard to exaggerate how tediously hortatory, aridly moralizing, stickily saccharine, and sanctimoniously condescending most Victorian writing for the young was before Alice arrived, or how much of it presumed that children are rather stupid and humorless, and that their imaginations must constantly be corrected by equal measures insipid cossetting and dire admonition. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it,” the Duchess tells Alice; and most of what children were made to read in the middle of the nineteenth century was constructed on precisely that horrid premise. The Alice books were arguably the first children’s stories of their time actually written for children. ....

Behind the books stood a deeply attractive, if in many ways paradoxical, personality. Charles Dodgson had always delighted in absurdity, despite—or, probably, as a result of—possessing a mind of luminous clarity. He was a rigorous logician and skilled mathematician, some of whose originality in both fields has only recently come to be appreciated. He was also the consummate Victorian, incapable of levity or the slightest hint of impropriety on matters moral or spiritual: restrained, deeply pious, on his knees in prayer at regular and extended intervals, genuinely horrified by anything indecent, cruel, or irreverent, and largely socially conservative. ....

...[H]is understanding of children as individuals was most definitely not a pink and sugary one. The Alice of the books, for instance, is goodhearted, but certainly not cloyingly sweet or even impeccably well behaved. She acts ­impulsively, occasionally becomes quite annoyed or peevish when provoked, sometimes loses her patience, can be a bit conceited, and once or twice delivers herself of fairly harsh opinions regarding others. And she is ­absolutely never, thank God, cute or precious or darling (or anything horrible like that). She is an extremely likable child, but a real one also. .... Again, the books are not moral fables; but that is mainly because of their deep moral intelligence. They are even infused, I would argue, with a kind of profound spiritual sanity—one they nowhere expound, but everywhere (and curiously) reflect. .... (much more, including quite a bit about Carroll’s beliefs.)

"...And ascended into Heaven..."

From a very good collection of prayers by one of the great Reformers, The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, these composed to be prayed regarding Our Lord's ascension to Heaven:
Grant we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe Thy only begotten Son Our Lord to have ascended into the heavens: so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell. Amen.

God, the King of Glory, which hast exalted Thine only son Jesus Christ, with great triumph unto Thy kingdom in heaven; we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send us Thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither Our Savior Christ is gone before; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"Thy love and peace to every heart"

From the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (1906), in the "Family Prayers" section, "Forms of Grace Before Meat." They are all mercifully brief.
  • THE Lord make us grateful for all His mercies, and add His blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.
  • ALMIGHTY God, who providest for us, nourish our souls with the Bread of Life in Jesus Christ. Amen.
  • BLESS us, O Lord, in blessing Thee, as we receive Thy gift of daily bread. Amen.
  • THE Lord bless this food to our use and us to His service. Amen.
  • LORD, help us to receive all good things as from Thy hand, and to use them to Thy praise. Amen.
  • HEAVENLY Father, make us thankful to Thee, and mindful of others, as we receive these blessings, In Jesus' Name. Amen.
  • FATHER in heaven, sustain our bodies with this food, our hearts with true friendship, and our souls with Thy truth, for Christ's sake. Amen.
LORD Jesus, be our holy Guest,
Our morning Joy, our evening Rest;
And with our daily bread impart
Thy love and peace to every heart. Amen.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

"The trivial round, the common task..."

John Keble, 1822:

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,      
Restored to life, and power, and thought.
We need not bid, for cloister'd cell,
Our neighbour and our words farewell,
Nor strive to find ourselves too high
For sinful man beneath the sky:
New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.
The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves — a road
To bring us, daily, nearer God.
If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.
Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us, this and every day,
To. live more nearly as we pray.
Old friends, old scenes will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see:
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

If you don't see the embed below the YouTube link is https://youtu.be/miaBBv7nLmU