Writing in the aftermath of World War II, Christopher Dawson took exception to the suggestion that modern European civilization was “pagan.” Paganism was rife with religious sentiment, Dawson recalled; what was going on in mid-twentieth century Europe was something different. True, many men and women had ceased to belong to the Church. But rather than belonging to something else, rather than adhering to another community of transcendent allegiance, they now belonged nowhere. This spiritual no-man’s-land, as Dawson characterized it, was inherently unstable and ultimately self-destructive. Or, as the usually gentle Dawson put it in an especially fierce passage, “a secular society that has no end beyond its own satisfaction is a monstrosity – a cancerous growth which will ultimately destroy itself.” One wonders what Christopher Dawson would say today.
– George Weigel, from his book “The Cube and the Cathedral” (Basic Books, 2006)
Monthly Archives: November 2012
First off, Happy Thanksgiving!
Hope everyone out there has a wonderful day with family or friends. Or both. Be sure to catch the latest in the Hobbit Read-Along, titled “Happy Hobbit Thanksgiving,” over at jubilare. It’ll put a smile on your face!
Speaking of read-a-longs, there’s another one developing over at “Read the Fathers.” This one is a seven-year project to read seven pages a day of the early church fathers. It’s a great opportunity to read some of the foundational writings of the Christian faith. It starts on the first Sunday in Advent (December 2, 2012.)
Check out the link. I plan on participating and hopefully I’ll be disciplined enough to read my daily seven pages. Evidently there will be a forum where readers can discuss the material covered each day. Learning and fellowship. Sounds good, no?
Oh God our Father, we would thank thee for all the bright things of life. Help us to see them, and to count them, and to remember them, that our lives may flow in ceaseless praise; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
J.H. Jowett, 1846 – 1923
For my old gamer friends and fantasy lovers. Even if you’re not a writer, take this test!
More than likely, no one will be interested in this, but I am and therefore I shall post it. Also, my promised posts on Dwarves are not ready yet, so this will have to do.
I took the exam twice. Once for the first “high fantasy” story I ever started (at the age of 12 and still ongoing for my own enjoyment) and my current work in progress which, if I can finish, I will try to publish some day. The first set of answers are in red, and the second in blue. There are places where I can tell I have progressed. Overall, though, I do not see a huge difference in the answers.
I can tell a difference…
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“The Hobbit” isn’t a very long book. It runs a mere 250 pages or so. For most of us, that’s easy. But not if you’re Bilbo Baggins. He’s not used to ten pages of adventures, much less 250.
Just look what he’s been through so far: He had to entertain a bunch of unappreciative dwarves without any notice. He had to leave home! He barely escaped being Troll Chow. He had to exchange riddles with one of the creepiest characters in all of literature. And let’s not forget the goblins, wargs, a werebear, giant spiders, a devious dragon and those most dangerous of all creatures, men.
So as you might imagine, our Mr. Baggins is getting a bit weary about now. Here he is, besieged in the Mountain with a bunch of grouchy dwarves and no end to the situation in sight. He just wants to go home. Unless he does something himself he’s likely to be stuck where he is for a very long time. That just won’t do.
Fortunately, Bilbo had the great foresight to burgle the one thing in the whole Mountain that Thorin wants more than anything else: the Arkenstone of Thrain. So, taking advantage of poor Bombur, Bilbo slips off to meet with the Elvenking and Bard. He tells them flat-out, “Personally I am tired of the whole affair. I wish I was back in the West in my own home, where folk are more reasonable.” And he offers them the Arkenstone.
Well, after Bard and the Elvenking pick their jaws up off the ground, they see what Bilbo has given them: the solution. With new respect, the Elvenking says to Bilbo, “Bilbo Baggins! You are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-princes than many that have looked more comely in it.” To which Bilbo replies, “Thank you very much I am sure.” What he actually means is, “Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Just end this thing, will you?!”
I have felt for awhile that the Arkenstone is a type of the Pearl of Great Price from Jesus’ parable. You know the one. A man would go and sell everything he owns to possess it. Well, Bilbo used the Arkenstone to purchase what for him was the Pearl of Great Price. Home. It’s hard to argue with his wisdom.
Having struck the deal, Bilbo anxiously heads back to the mountain when who should appear from out of the blue? Why Gandalf, of course! His timing is impeccable as future tales will bear out.
As usual, Gandalf brings glad tidings: “There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up! You may come through all right.”
Yeah, yeah, sure, sure.
Good grief! Twice in one year.
You may remember that a few months back I had to put down a novel because it was so . . . bad. That was “The Darwin Conspiracy” by John Darnton.
Recently, I tried reading “Lost” by Gregory Maguire. Maguire has authored several popular and well-reviewed books, such as “Wicked,” “Son of a Witch,” and “A Lion Among Men.” “Wicked” was even called a “beloved classic.” So when I saw “Lost” at a charity book sale for a buck, I figured it was a sure thing.
Purported to be a ghost-story, it starts out with a main character whose name is as dull as the plot. Winifred Rudge. What image does that call up in your mind? Don’t worry about being accurate because Maguire gives no description of her to go on until almost midway through. Makes sense to me.
After trying to infiltrate some kind of adoption agency for a book she’s researching, she flies off to England to stay with her cousin and work on said book. I think. It’s not really clear. And Winnie isn’t really sure about what she’s doing, either.
So, she gets to England only to discover that her cousin is missing and his apartment is being renovated by two very strange Englishmen. Then there are strange sounds coming from behind some of the walls and the neighbors aren’t very helpful. Or likable. The book goes on for some 330 pages or so. I bailed at about 200 pages. Why did I go that far? Ah, THERE’S the mystery! Especially with such great writing as this: ” the sun came out like a sissy on the playground once the bully’s gone home for lunch.”
In one of the publicity blurbs, Peter S. Beagle raves that “‘Lost’ seems to me to be his (Maguire’s) best novel yet.” What am I missing here? Has anyone out there read any of Maguire’s other works? “Wicked” or “Son of a Witch” maybe? Please help me if you can.
There, in the struggle of Roman civilization against barbarism within and without, is our own struggle; through Rome’s problems of biological and moral decadence signposts rise on our road today; the class war of the Gracchi against the Senate, of Marius against Sulla, of Caesar against Pompey, of Antony against Octavian, is the war that consumes our interludes of peace; and the desperate effort of the Mediterranean soul to maintain some freedom against a despotic state is an augury of our coming task. De nobis fabula narratur: of ourselves this Roman story is told.
Will Durant, from the preface to his “Caesar and Christ,” published in 1944