- C.S. Lewis, "On Reading Old Books"
Frank points out a must-read review on a global warming book. Reviwer Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club, "a pro-human campaigning network," describes the religious language used to advocate the Earth's doom.
We also suffer from ‘denial’ about the results of our activities, much of which is ‘straightforwardly selfish’, based on ‘an unwillingness to abandon personal comforts and consumption patterns’. The clincher, so far as Lynas is concerned, is that ‘most of my neighbours still shop in supermarkets’. They shop in supermarkets? Clearly such people should not be deciding the future of the planet after all. So, he concludes, the only solution is carbon rationing: ‘People would trade carbon as a parallel virtual currency, swiping their carbon cards at the petrol pump….’ We would all have a carbon limit just like we all have a pound limit, only the carbon limit would be imposed by the state. Global warming would be part of everyday life and everyday calculations, just as money is now.This sounds like a critique I have heard from one man for many years, that the environmental movement was not about saving us or the earth but a guise of statism. Environmentalists want to run our lives, forcing their own morality on us for our perceived good.
It isn’t every day I get a cartoon dedicated to me. Thanks, Phil.
Now try and get your comment utility fixed.
Haven’t live-blogged The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III, for a few days. I’m still at it. I’ve gotten through Lewis’ death, thinking dark thoughts of mortality, and now I’m in the resurrection land of the Supplement section, where Hooper prints some letters he left out of the earlier volumes, then decided he wanted to include after all. After this comes the “Great War” supplement, in which all Lewis’ letters to Owen Barfield, arguing about Theosophy, are gathered in one place.
Anyway, here are a few excerpts that interested and/or amused me:
From a letter to Mary Van Deusen, Oct. 3, 1953:
It is hard, when difficulties arise to know whether one is meant to overcome them or whether they are signs that one is on the wrong track.
From a letter to Dom Bede Griffiths, Jan. 30, 1954:
The trouble with Thackeray, is that… all his ‘good’ people are not only simple, but simpletons. That is a subtle poison wh. comes in with the Renaissance: the Machiavellian (intelligent) villain presently producing the idiot hero. The Middle Ages didn’t make Herod clever and knew the devil was an ass. There is really an un-faith about Thackeray’s ethics…. No conception that the purification of the will… leads to the enlightenment of the intelligence.
From a letter to Katharine Farrer, Feb. 3, 1954:
The bearings of this are wide, as you’ll see if you reflect on the difference between drawing a nude and verbally describing it, or the impossibility of mentioning Cheko-Slovakia (is that how you spell it) at the apex of a lyric however deeply one may feel about that country.
From a letter to Chad Walsh, Dec. 3, 1955:
I’ve often thought that if I wrote a play I’d do it in verse but type it as prose. In the present state of the human ear no publisher, manager, actor, or audience wd. recognize it, not even if it was in heroic couplets or the metre of Hiawatha.
One thing that constantly exercises my limited powers of charity throughout these books is the fact that Lewis consistently spells “all right,” “alright.” I personally consider “alright” an atrocity against the English language. However, as one quickly learns in reading the letters, Lewis wasn’t a very good speller.
In relation to that, it's often been said that Lewis had a photographic memory. Someone who knew him wrote somewhere (I can’t find it; I can never find the Lewis reference I want. No photographic memory here) that if you named a page number from any book Lewis had ever read, he could recite the contents of that page verbatim for you. This would seem to be an exaggeration. He uses many quotations in the letters, and the notes show that they’re only approximately correct, like his spelling. His memory was obviously phenomenal, but it wasn’t exact.
Last night's radio talk on Open Live dealt with the emerging church and the emergent movement within the church. Professors John Koessler and Kevin Zuber urges listeners not to prejudge people by the emerging label, but to give them an ear and discerning dialog.
Warner Brothers and Universal are building a Harry Potter theme park. I confess I'd like to visit Hogwarts too, but I'd be concerned that it would have lots of little witchcraft and faux occultic elements lying around.
The Defense Department is developing cybernetic moths for video surveillance.
"Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places," he continued. "A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it."
"Once the moth hatches," Brooks said, "machine learning is used to control it."
I’m still beat tonight. Had another good night’s sleep, and my eye-bags have receded somewhat, like one of Sen. Gore’s icebergs, but I’m still shot from the weekend. I mowed the lawn after work, and now I’m about ready to collapse in a wrinkled, damp pile in a corner, like a college guy’s tee-shirt.
So I’ll redirect you to this post, composed by someone who calls himself “The Big Stink” (I assume it’s a he; rare is the woman who’d voluntarily assume a name like that) at an excellent Twin Cities blog called Freedom Dogs. I wish someone had told me these things at graduation. I wish I had the courage to put some of them into practice even today.
I made it back from Iowa all right, thanks for asking. I came home physically beat, not only due to insomnia caused by sleeping in a strange bed (how strange I’ll explain further on), but because I’d slept badly all week leading up to the trip. So I figure I’m still about three nights in the red, even though I slept nine hours straight when I got back to my own mattress Sunday night (the first time I’ve slept that long at a stretch since… roughly 1995). I have massive swellings, like goggles (visible in my peripheral vision) around my eyes, making me resemble the British actor Michael Gambon even more than I usually do.
The weekend went fine. For those of you joining us for the first time, I made a six-hour trip to Elk Horn, Iowa for the Tivoli Danish Festival this past weekend. A Viking encampment has been part of the festivities for several years now, and I and a couple others from the Viking Age Society of the Sons of Norway joined a much larger group from Omaha in adding to the ambience by wearing our Viking outfits and whacking each other with blunt swords.
This year’s festival was more successful than last year’s. Saturday morning was rainy, but things cleared up and in the afternoon we had a creditable encampment going, and got some fighting in. In fact, I believe it may have been the largest Viking encampment they’ve ever assembled for that event. We were able to field two “armies” of eight men each for the group fights. That’s certainly the largest I’ve ever been involved in.
The good citizens of Elk Horn have allocated funds, (public and private, I believe) for the construction of a Viking house, next to the genuine Danish windmill they imported from the Old Country a few years back. Here’s how it looks right now:
It’s not completed inside, and that makes this the embarrassing stage, since a lot of cheating has gone into the construction. When it’s done it ought to look authentic, but a truly authentic house, aside from being expensive and time-consuming to construct, has a short life expectancy (they rot). The Danes of Elk Horn want a house that’ll last a while, and so concrete footings and plastic moisture barriers and plywood are much in evidence now. Here’s the interior:
That’s Sam from Missouri, who brought his Viking boat again and set up a crucible to cast commemorate pewter coins, which he sold for the benefit of the house project. He’s working on the casting in the picture. I expect he wouldn’t be delighted to be featured on a Christian blog, but on the other hand he’ll probably never know.
On the tallish bench behind him, in the space between the upright posts, was where I made my bed, by permission of John, the project honcho. That’s how Vikings generally slept—on fixed benches along the walls of their houses (although I’ve always thought of the benches as somewhat lower than this). My inflatable mattress fit almost perfectly in the space, as it happened.
We had fireworks on Saturday night, and they were impressive. According to what I was told, the spectacle wasn’t orchestrated by professionals but by the local pharmacist, who does it as a hobby. Perhaps he benefited by having explosives stored up, since the fireworks were cancelled due to weather last year. In any case he did not fall prey to the mistake many pyrotechnicians make, of shooting up a fancy rocket that does something nobody’s seen before, and then pausing to give the audience time to appreciate it and applaud. That slows everything down. This guy didn’t spare himself. He kept it moving and had the bombs bursting in air pretty much constantly. I’ve seen far less impressive spectacles done by much larger towns, and I don’t recall being more impressed even at Disney World.
We got some good fighting in. I felt extremely diffident the first day, observing how much better our hosts were than we were (they practice pretty much every weekend; our practices and our demonstrations are generally the same things). Also a couple guys from Canada were there to demonstrate their somewhat different system, which permits much nastier blows (but uses anachronistic plate armor protection). The second day felt better, although I never overcame my deepest sin as a warrior—I forget my discipline when the armies engage and break out of the shield wall. This, if you know your Viking history, is a capital mistake that caused big defeats at Stamford Bridge and Hastings, among other battles.
I have a nasty purple bruise on my left shoulder, and my neck is sore from falling over backwards on top of another warrior with my torso on the ground but my head on his stomach. All that’s OK. I like going away a little hurt.
Thanks to the people of Elk Horn, and to the Skjaldborg group, for a memorable and successful long weekend.
Author Marilynne Robinson writes about a new poetry anthology called, American Religious Poems, edited by Harold Bloom and Jesse Zuba:
Whitman's nation was no nation in terms of the time in which he wrote. It had then, as it has now, no bond of blood, soil, or tongue to create in it the organic unity the theorists of nineteenth-century nationalism considered essential components of a legitimate national culture. Whitman's genius was to reject all that, to see a real America and to create a visionary America based squarely and exuberantly on ever-changing patterns of life and newer streams of population. Dickinson's poetry quietly presses every question religious belief might seem, to the hostile or the anxious, to preclude. If these are the two greatest American poets, as Harold Bloom and I and legions of other critics and writers and readers believe, then the classic achievement of our literature is an openness, intellectual and spiritual, that is utterly unlike the phenomenon of an "American religion" promoted by certain politicians and religionists and derided by Professor Bloom and many others. If American religion is narrow and unlikable, it is difficult to account for a book like this one, in which so many fine poets are represented.Thanks to Critical Mass.
Though doubt, alienation, and even parody are elements in some of these poems, the collection is quite appropriately aware that these all have reference to the field of thought and meaning ordinarily called religious. Any reader of Ecclesiastes or the Book of Job is aware that the canon of scripture has room for thought that can disrupt conventional assumptions about the nature of belief, whether these assumptions are held by the religious or by their critics. Indeed, religion is by nature restless with itself, impatient within the constraints of its own expression.
This is curious. Swedish mysteries are popular in English apparently, and now children's detective books are building momentum.
Harrison Scott Key points out an observation by Theodore Dalrymple, "As Dostoyevsky said, starting out from limitless freedom, we end up with total despotism." For context, this is the closing statement in Dalrymple's article, "There Is No God but Politics," in the New English Review. Earlier, he writes, "Qutb insists that the triumph of Islam is the only way that what he calls the lordship of man over man will be abolished, just as Marx and Marxists insist that the triumph of Marxism is the only way that the exploitation of man by man will cease."
For Memorial Day, I offer this quote from Theodore Roosevelt's Autobiography, published 1913. His observations on politicians and public opinion of his day are remarkably relevant to our current day situation.
I SUPPOSE the United States will always be unready for war, and in consequence will always be exposed to great expense, and to the possibility of the gravest calamity, when the Nation goes to war. This is no new thing. Americans learn only from catastrophes and not from experience.Thank you to all the men and women who have taken up the call to prevent our country's wars from being irreparable and overwhelming disasters. May the Lord bless you and work through you according to His abundant mercy.
There would have been no war in 1812 if, in the previous decade, America, instead of announcing that "peace was her passion," instead of acting on the theory that unpreparedness averts war, had been willing to go to the expense of providing a fleet of a score of ships of the line. However, in that case, doubtless the very men who in the actual event deplored the loss of life and waste of capital which their own supineness had brought about would have loudly inveighed against the "excessive and improper cost of armaments"; so it all came to about the same thing in the end.
There is no more thoroughgoing international Mrs. Gummidge, and no more utterly useless and often utterly mischievous citizen, than the peace-at-any-price, universal-arbitration type of being, who is always complaining either about war or else about the cost of the armaments which act as the insurance against war. There is every reason why we should try to limit the cost of armaments, as these tend to grow excessive, but there is also every reason to remember that in the present stage of civilization a proper armament is the surest guarantee of peace—and is the only guarantee that war, if it does come, will not mean irreparable and overwhelming disaster.
Further: A Memorial Day quote from R.L. Stevenson's essay, "The English Admirals."
Peter Collier writes, "We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys' adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we've heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we're uncertain about what we celebrate. We're the land of the free for one reason only: We're also the home of the brave." (via Books, Inq. and Instapundit)
Chatta Mom (a.k.a. Omie) passes on a photo of our men in Iraq cutting a plot of grass.
Tags: Memorial Day, Theodore Roosevelt, Navy, war, history
On these emerging blogs, as well as on e-mail lists and forums, I’d finally found what I’d been looking for working in publishing, hanging around at readings, and going to grad school: other poets. Not famous ones, elder ones, teaching ones, laureate ones, or the ones with books from Knopf stocked at Barnes & Noble. The other ones. Ones like me.(via Books, Inq.)
I think I can see it, but if the book jacket told me I was holding a compelling drama on the garbage in our lives, I'd probably put it down.
James Taranto points out a report, not widely touted by the establishment press, of grisly torture by our enemies in Iraq. If you follow the links, you'll see descriptions of evil deeds like those portrayed for entertainment in the movie Hostel and reports of men freed by our troops. Yet on this Memorial Day weekend, we get no above-the-fold coverage on this, no evidence for the reason Mr. Bush called them evil.
Patrick Henry's words about another American conflict seem to fit, and on this weekend, I recommend them in honor of those who have given their lives in defense of our freedom and their own families.
For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. . . .
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. . . .
If we wish to be free—if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon, until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained—we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!
Michael Drout has recorded a CD of his reading Beowulf in Old English. If you'd like a sample, you can listen to MP3s of other Anglo-Saxon poetry on his Anglo-Saxon Aloud site. A remarkable sound, so Tolkienesque it seems, but then maybe Tolkien's Welsh influences would pull the sound of his languages in a different direction for those able to hear it.
Happy 30th Anniversary to Stars Wars, which debuted today in 1977. While I continue to wait for a Doctor Who cameo in one of the special update releases, here are thirty things you may not have known about the making of the movie. For example, "R2-D2 and C-3PO are said to be based on the 1958 Akira Kourosawa film, Kakushi toride no san akunin (The Hidden Fortress). Other characters in Star Wars were also drawn from the film including Han Solo and Ben Kenobi." What? Did Lucas make any of this up himself?
Update: This site on Star Wars origins is very interesting.
Galactic Patrol[by E.E. "Doc" Smith] tells the story of Kim Kinnison, a Lensman who jettisons in a space lifeboat with a data spool containing the secret of the enemy's ultimate weapon, the Grand Base. He jets around the galaxy in his speeder, gets caught in tractor beams, passes his ship off as a chunk of loose metal, eludes the bad guy's star cruisers by tearing off into the fourth dimension and finally destroys the enemy base in his one-man fighter. During his training he wears a flight helmet with the blast shield down, but he can still "see" what's going on using his special powers.Sound familar?
A review that proves everyone is not an expert on spiritual or metaphysical matters. In fact, some of us don't even ask the right questions. "Hitchens has solved, he thinks, some of the deepest problems in metaphysics and the philosophy of religion—or, at least, he would say he had if he realized that there were deep problems at stake here," writes Robert Miller in First Things.
Talking about Pirates of the Caribbean: "It's been a great experience," Johnny Depp said to a Japanese audience. "Trying to discover who Captain Jack was, getting slapped around by the Disney people — it was all fun."
Man, those Disney people can be like jackbooted thugs.
Christianity Today magazine has listed their book awards last year's titles. The books have a similar feel to me, as if they were on the shelves of a discriminating bookstores.
Gave blood after work tonight. The venue was the VFW post in Golden Valley, where they’re broadminded enough to accept slightly-less-red blood from non-veterans like me. They also serve sloppy joes (although the sandwiches are smaller now than they used to be. On the other hand, they’re free).
They were busy tonight, so it took longer than I’m used to. Also my draining was delayed when a lady got poked wrong, and they had to summon all hands to apply pressure, cauterize, mop up blood spill, lie to the press, etc.
On the other hand, I got the cute young female tech. I gave her a piece of advice, as an old veteran blood donor—“Bear down with that Betadine swab. When you use pressure, it doesn’t tickle.”
She did not thank me. On the other hand, she didn’t allow me to bleed to death, so it all works out.
Something has been changed every time I give blood. This time they gave us brightly colored plastic balls to roll in our hands to promote blood flow, instead of the pieces of plastic tubing they used to use. I’m not sure if that’s an improvement or not. I’ll have to ponder the positives and negatives before I come to a final conclusion. By which time they’ll have switched to Beanie Babies or something.
No post from me tomorrow, I’m afraid. I’m driving down to Elk Horn, Iowa, again, for the Tivoli Festival. The Danes of Elk Horn have invested in building a genuine Viking house next to their landmark windmill, and I’ve been granted the privilege of sleeping in it.
Also I’ll get to bash and be bashed, which is usually good for my mental health.
If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you’ve probably guessed I could use some bashing.
I’ll give a full report when I get back. Assuming I do. Maybe pictures too.
Someone concerned about the CBS company reputation says former president Jimmy Carter's last book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, is so full of errors it makes the company look bad. She suggests a fact-checking system to screen books before publishing. Putting aside CBS' reputation, what do you think about this system? How responsible should publishers be for the research of their authors?
We’ve been having a dry spell, but that broke today, in the sense that Scotch Highland bulls break china in shops and politicians break promises not to raise taxes.
It had been cloudy for a couple days, but showers had been spotty. So today didn’t look like much of a change. As the day wore on, though, the sky darkened and lowered (that’s not “lowered” as in “got lower,” but “lowered” as in Longfellow’s “…when night is beginning to lower.” It rhymes with “flower”). The darker it got, the more you expected it to be raining when you checked out the window, and the more you were surprised that it wasn’t yet. Obviously a lot of potential energy was building up. You began to expect a plague of frogs or something.
Then the rain came all at once, gusting in on a billow of wind. It rained hard, and then it hailed for a while. The hail stopped but the rain went on.
My African library assistant seemed frightened by the whole thing. I’d had the idea that they get pretty severe weather back where he comes from, but it all seemed new to him.
Which doesn’t have anything at all to do with my subject for today’s post.
I was thinking about being young, and trying to be wise (I know I’m far removed from being young, but I can remember that far back. Also I’m remarkably immature. And I didn’t say “being wise.” I said “trying to be wise”).
I often wonder about the value of sharing wisdom with young people. We all try to do it. It seems a waste to go through all the hard learning experiences we’ve had, if we can’t pass that experience on to the young.
The problem, it seems to me, is that wisdom is a thing you can’t really share.
You heard your elders give you the same advice you want to pass on now, didn’t you, once long ago? Did it help?
Of course not. Because the maxims and bromides and proverbs and aphorisms never mean anything until you’ve bumped up against life and gotten some bruises. Touched a few hot stoves and gotten burned.
It’s only then—only after a few bruises and burns have been collected, that the sayings of your elders suddenly start to make sense.
When I was a kid I made a conscious effort to follow the advice I heard from old people. I did this because I was more cowardly than most people my age, and I wanted any excuse I could wangle to avoid taking risks.
And it didn’t work. I had the words right, but the music was wrong. Wisdom only operates, it seems, in those who are inclined to act foolishly in the first place. For the cautious and prudent, like me, the rules turn out to be kind of counterproductive.
The moral? Go ahead. Tell the kids not to play in the street.
But be prepared to see them get hit by cars anyway.
The consolation is that the survivors will probably listen.
"Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, and an intriguing interpretation of British history" is what's in store within the new translation of an old Welsh book from the Middle Ages, The Mabinogion. No, I haven't heard of it either, but it's bound to have some great material even if it's a bit hard to read.
I can’t find a reference in The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III right now, but in a couple of the letters Lewis expresses his deep dislike for the “modern” fashion of printing book titles sideways on book spines, so that you have to tilt your head to read them on the shelves.
He likes his titles printed so they’ll read horizontally, straight across.
The current volume of this series features a spine over 2 ½ inches wide. If they’d called the book The Collected and Edited Letters of the Immortal Clive Staples Lewis, Copiously Annotated and Furnished With Supplements Containing Previously Unknown Letters As Well As the Entire Body of the “Great War” Correspondence With His Friend Owen Barfield, they still could have almost fit that title in one line across such a massive spine.
But they print the title sideways, so you have to tilt your head to read it on the shelf.
“There’s glory for you,” as Humpty Dumpty would say. Even if you’re C. S. Lewis, world renowned and up on a pedestal only a little below St. Paul's level in the eyes of many Christians, you still can’t get a publisher to print your covers the way you want them to.