Monday, July 6, 2020

#1104

My internet search for DESIRE images.  Abstractions are hard to visualize.

How to be as happy as I can, based on the instructions from the previous post:

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove the universe a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to the other country and to help others to do the same."

Mere Christianity, the end of book 3, chapter 10

There is something in me that needs to be satisfied.  When I find it all will be well, including my pursuit of happiness.  

Saturday, July 4, 2020

#1103


"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
                                                                                                                    Declaration of Independence

As I am typing this blog post I see a magazine from a Food Network personality on the table near me with the main cover headline "75 Things That'll Make You Happy" - I can find no list or article within the magazine, so I suppose if I count the recipes and material goods highlighted, they would equal 75, and they have the power to make me happy.  A very interesting coincidence.  Thinking about the magazine and the headline, I suppose the lifestyle presented in the magazine is something to strive for, with an end result of happiness.  I guess the person whose name is on the magazine is an influencer.  If I were to use the recipes and prepare the dishes I might be happy for a few hours.  Food does make me happy.

More thoughts on happiness:

"To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to "be happy."  But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.  One must have a reason to be happy.  Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically.  As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy.
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, from the postscript, 1984.

"It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can."
From a Lewis letter to Sheldon Vanauken, dated 6/4/55

C.S. Lewis says I must be as happy as I can be.  However large my Happy Tank is, I must keep it full.  Viktor Frankl tells me I cannot pursue happiness, as instructed by our country's founding document, and actually become happy.  Dr Frankl instructs me to search for that which will, automatically, bring happiness.  

I think I know the answer and I think Lewis provided a few good quotes pointing us in the right direction.  More to come.

Monday, June 22, 2020

#1102



This blog is not political, social commentary, or even necessarily religious in nature.  This is the C.S. Lewis Society of Frederick, Maryland's blog - A free way to maintain a website for information concerning our group, meeting times, and information concerning what we will be discussing.  In addition to information I do like to post items of interest.  C.S. Lewis was an author and our group is basically a book club, so books and reading are usually the topic most posted, unless it is directly C.S. Lewis related, and then the post can be anything - a quote, video, picture, etc.  
A year or so ago our monthly meeting's topic was C.S. Lewis as Public Philosopher, based on a James Como lecture.  C.S. Lewis, for all his fiction, religious, and academic work, did comment much on his times, usually not with specifics, but with his convictions concerning the Big Ideas.  
Two Big Ideas Lewis discussed: Love and Forgiveness.  He usually discussed these in a Christian context.  I do not think you need to be a Christian to love or to forgive, but being a Christian, with the third person of the Trinity dwelling within, love and forgiveness should be a way of life.  Of course, this is not always the case, but it is the Christian's calling.   
I am posting the video above because the topic is more than relevant.  It is the ultimate answer to hate and racism on an individual basis.  It would be wise when implementing just public policies to ground them in love and forgiveness, as opposed to vengeance, but a specific public policy would be beyond the scope of this blog.  
Another reason for posting this: The main story in the video happened right here in Frederick, Maryland.  We are the Frederick C.S. Lewis Society and a KKK national leader resided right here in Frederick.  This leader, Roger Kelly, lived (maybe he still does) near the town I moved to in 1991 - Thurmont, Maryland.  I remember the church my mom attended taking part in a counter rally/protest to one of Mr. Kelly's KKK rallies.  This is a local story.
Thinking about American history, I think in the mind of many is a period in the 1950's and 1960's labeled The Civil Rights Era.  Once major legislation was passed we ended that chapter, even if the implementation would take time.  I was born in 1974 and grew up in Frederick city.  My parents experienced segregated schools (in Frederick), I did not, and at Parkway Elementary all seemed right with the world.  I suppose this idyllic time (1980-1985) was the time period when America was Great, and the time period some are attempting to Make Again?  Of course not, I was just too young to notice that racism was still alive and well.  
My friend, born in South Korea, within the last 3 years, had a KKK flier placed on his store's door, suggesting he go home, even though he is an American citizen.  This is the 21st century in Frederick.  If you consume any news, the last month in America is a clear demonstration that we have far to go in establishing a just and equitable society.  
The video is short and tells but one story from the amazing life of Daryl Davis.  A documentary was released a few years ago called Accidental Courtesy and I happened upon it through the library.  They have a DVD copy and you can use Kanopy (a wonderful, free service through the library) to stream it.  The documentary adds much to the story and adds many more characters, some stories of redemption, some tragedies, and some stories of the road ahead.  Highly recommenced viewing.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

#1101


With the passing of Ian Holm and a free night I decided to finally watch Tolkien.  About a year ago, in Post #1005, I mentioned the movie and that an internet search would provide less than favorable reviews and I mentioned that the Tolkien family wanted nothing to do with the movie, and that negative attitude from me would account for my, almost spontaneous watching.  I had not written "Watch Tolkien" on my To Do List.  I should have.  It has been many years since I have read any Tolkien biography, so fact vs fiction in Tolkien's early life is not my strong suite.  Those answers can be found in the podcast from the Wade Center below.  If you have an interest in Tolkien, watch the movie, it is worth your time.  It is not an Oscar award winning movie, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

#1100


Ian Holm - Bilbo Baggins to many of us - passed away yesterday, he was 88.  Playing Bilbo in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films was my introduction to Ian Holm.  I then discovered I had watched him in Chariots of Fire and AlienHe has 137 credits to his name on IMDB.



Friday, June 19, 2020

#1099

Looking for a short story to read to listen to?  I recently discovered a podcast called LeVar Burton Reads.  LeVar Burton simply reads a short story, usually 45 minutes in length.  I enjoy short stories and have my favorites - Flannery O'Connor and Ray Bradbury being the BIG 2.  Besides buying a collection of stories at a bookstore where does one find short stories?  Bradbury and O'Connor, I am a BIG fan, to the point that I have already visited O'Connor's historical sites in Georgia, and I am hoping to make my way to a planned Bradbury museum in Illinois.  In reading their biographies and letters you see how a short story writer is published, in least in the 1950's.  The various magazines Bradbury and O'Connor published their stories in, are they still being published?  I did go to the largest selection of magazines available - Barnes and Noble, but I did not find any that I remembered.  So where would a short story writer publish individual stories today?  I do not know, but I have enjoyed LeVar Burton Reads as a medium to hear story stories I would most likely never have read.

I recently listened to "The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex" by Tobias S. Buckell.  A story exploring honesty and integrity in a system lacking those traits, throw in a future NYC, and a bunch of aliens, and you have a good story.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

#1097


According to Amazon I purchased A Wrinkle in Time on February 12, 2006 and The Wrinkle in Time Quintet Box Set on March 28, 2008.  When the 2018 movie came out I thought I had read the story, hearing the plot, I decided I had not read the story after all.  I believe I started a time or two, but never got far.  I recently purchased, for the third time, A Wrinkle in Time, this time from a discount bookseller I like to visit.  I was attempting to help brick and mortar stores during this shutdown (this store sold their books on the internet for the first time) and it was cheap!  What happened to my other editions?  About 8 years ago there was a Great Book Dispersion from my library.  I had too many books, so I made some hard choices.  My Honda Fit was transformed into "cargo mode" and about 10 boxes of books went to The Book Thing of Baltimore.  Hopefully, kids in Baltimore have my books and imaginations are being fed.  

I did finish A Wrinkle in Time this time!  I enjoyed the story and am glad to have finally read this classic.  I reserved the movie from the library to watch, but listening to reviews, both positive and negative, I have decided I will keep the story fresh and unadulterated in my head.  Movies can be a good thing for a book and hopefully the 2018 movie does propel many to read the book, but a movie can mix in one's imagination and muddle the experience.  I had read Narnia many times before the 2005 movie, but James McAvoy is now my imagination's Mr Tumnus, and for me this is a good thing.  There are characters that the movies have ruined - I am not too fond of Reepicheep in the movies.  The Reep in my head is much better than the Reep on the screen!

My quick thought concerning A Wrinkle in Time would be the cosmic struggle for love the story presents.  The Black Thing in the story reminded me of the idea of a Silent Planet in Lewis.  Both authors used an evil presence as an answer to why things are as they are, why the struggle for good and love exists.  Both also offer the hope of an individual making the right decision and how that decision can bring about a defeat of the evil.  

Read the book!  


Sunday, June 7, 2020

#1096


A few posts back I celebrated Dr. Francis Collins winning the Templeton Prize.  Dr. Collins has a well known C.S. Lewis connection.  If you do not know of this connection read about it HERE.  There is another Templeton Prize winner with a strong C.S. Lewis connection - Charles Colson, 1993 winner.  If you do not know about Charles Colson's Lewis connection read Born Again.  I must have gotten rid of my copy or I would provide a few quotes.  An internet search will provide examples as well.  I had plans to post this after the Dr. Collin's post a week or so ago, but the news cycle presented a more pressing topic.  
Related to our current situation is a scene I remember reading in Born Again where Colson describes the White House in 1970 being surrounded by buses to protect the area from the protesters.  This is the time when the president actually did walk amongst the protesters, be it at 5am at the Lincoln Memorial.   Below are 2 pictures from May 1970 and a video from the Nixon Library describing the decision to ring the White House with buses.



Saturday, June 6, 2020

#1095

In Post #919 and #921 I mentioned HBO's new version of Fahrenheit 451 and I said I did not like the movie.  I did not post a review, just said I did not like it.  I have been listening to many podcasts during our "shutdown" and I found a few that review movies and the books they are based on and I listened to a few hours on 451.  I recently re-watched the movie with the thoughts from the podcasts in mind.  I now like it a little more.  I suppose I am also easily swayed by a good argument.  However, this is a case where I think the book outshines all the movie attempts.  
Based on the podcaster's thoughts I suppose the shift from actual books, which are basically gone, to an illegal internet, is at least, an interesting plot change.  They do still burn books if they happen to find them, but mostly they destroy computer hardware - with fire.  In this future the internet is highly regulated and that which may make you unhappy is not allowed.  As in the book, this is all bottom up.  The people want freedoms curtailed.  This is no Big Brother, this is US.  There are books on the internet, but they have been scrubbed.  Emojis are used a lot.  Also, the self-policing entertainment society is well portrayed.  All are connected and all have a vote, immediately.  You can basically be cancelled.  This is a good re-interpretation, though darker, of Bradbury's entertainment wall and the family.
The idea of constant surveillance in this society and our interaction with the images is a theme we are dealing with today, and have been dealing with since video making became common technology for any who want it.  The Rodney King assault was filmed in 1991,  29 years later George Floyd's murder was filmed, both by bystanders.  A free press, able to display the images, result in the demand/hope for justice.  In the new 451 the justice is swift and also televised.  
I suppose this is an application and warning for us.  We have the technology to see that which was hidden from us in the past.  Like the movie, we also have the social networks to call for immediate justice, and many of us demand it.  I would counter with thanks that we have laws that are written, in books.  Images usually work on our emotions, whereas the written law our intellect, our rationality.  As long as we strive to make sure the written laws are indeed blindly and equally administered then even Ray may agree the visual technology a good for society.  

C.S. Lewis tie-in?  We read and watched 451 a few years ago, so I am still thinking about it.

Friday, June 5, 2020

#1094

Last week I watched with great anticipation the launch of NASA astronauts aboard a SpaceX rocket only to have the launch postponed.  A few days later the launch was successful and astronauts Bob and Doug are currently aboard the International Space Station.  
C.S. Lewis did enjoy space stories, scientifiction as he called it, and he added to the sci-fi genre with his Space (Cosmic) trilogy.  I too love sci-fi.  I am a child of the space shuttle program.  I was once in Orlando (as a young adult) and I interrupted my sleep to watch a 2 or 3am shuttle launch.  I was alone watching the ball of fire in the night sky from the street.  I am also a child of cable TV and the VCR.  My imagination (or at least my eyes) had plenty of space fodder.  I have always loved "Space" and I was delighted to watch the successful launch.  Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, desires to create space ships to colonize Mars and explore space for habitable planets.  
It is 2020 and we are still so far from having our own house in order that building a summer house on Mars would not seem to be a top priority.  I use the summer house analogy because the rich and powerful will be those going "off planet" to escape the mess we have here.  The last sentence may just prove the influence of scf-fi reading/watching on me.
Lewis does offer some thoughts, he takes it a step further to the actual meeting with extra-terrestrials, the following is from an essay titled “Religion and Rocketry,”:

“We know what our race does to strangers.  Man destroys or enslaves every species he can.  Civilized man murders, enslaves, cheats, and corrupts savage man.  Even inanimate nature he turns into dust bowls and slag-heaps.  There are individuals who don’t.  But they are not the sort who are likely to be our pioneers in space.  Our ambassador to new worlds will be the needy and greedy adventurer or the ruthless technical expert.  They will do as their kind has always done.  What that will be if they meet things weaker than themselves, the black man and the red man can tell.  If they meet things stronger, they will be, very properly, destroyed.”

p. 89 in my copy of The World’s Last Night and Other Essays

Yet Lewis does provide a hope in an interview he gave to Sherwood Wirt in 1963:

Wirt: Do you think there will be widespread travel in space?

Lewis: “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”

Monday, June 1, 2020

#1093

One week ago a series of choices were made and the ripple effects from those choices dominate the news cycle, 24 hours a day.  Choice is a major theme in Lewis's writings.  Is there a perfect quote for today?  Not really.  The last book we discussed as a group was The Great Divorce and the idea of our choices making us into a certain type of person, the cumulative effect of choices, was the main theme.  
The cumulative effect of choices can be seen in our country, from the beginning.  A very good book to read to see how these choices are active in our criminal justice system today is Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy.  
I had posted about the book on February 3, 2015, Post #570.  I will paste most of that post below, because I seem to always have trouble linking to a previous post on this blog.

From 2015:

"Taking a quick stroll through this blog you will see that current social/political issues are rarely addressed.  The main reason, we are a C.S. Lewis Society and I always try to have a Lewis quote to "support" whatever it is I post, with current events I would have to do more speculating - What would Lewis say?  Regardless of how much one knows the words and works of C.S. Lewis, to surmise his personal thoughts on a current event, more than 50 years after his death?, I think it would be prudent to stay away from such an enterprise.
That being said, I am going to enter the world of current events through a book I recently read called Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  Driving home one night I was listening to CSPAN radio and a lecture/presentation featuring Bryan Stevenson and Sister Helen Prejean concerning the justice system and the death penalty was on.  I was hooked to the point that I reserved Bryan Stevenson's new book from the library.  There was a waiting list, but eventually it was my turn. . . The radio program was compelling enough for me to take the steps of getting the book and reading it. If you were to search the internet for video with Bryan Stevenson you will find numerous lectures and appearances which may compel you to read this book as well.
Now the book:  The blurb on the front cover is by John Grisham and while I have only read one of his books (though I always enjoy the movies) I will put Just Mercy up there as a court room drama, page turning read.  I could not stop reading.  I needed to know what was next.
The book is basically a memoir with the main story being the conviction, six years on death row, and ultimate release of Walter McMillian.  A tragic story of injustice which ironically takes place in Monroeville, Alabama.  The same town Maycomb is modeled on for To Kill a Mockingbird. . . In addition to the main story of McMillian, numerous other heart breaking stories of justice and/or mercy denied are interspersed throughout the book.
 Why this post?  Well, we are a C.S. Lewis Society and books are what made Lewis famous and without his books our Society would not exist.  Therefore, an interest in a C.S. Lewis Society most likely means an interest in books and this is a book worth your time.  We are about to begin a month or two discussing The Problem of Pain and injustice is a source of pain in our world, so this book provides more examples of the issue (in case you were running short), and it also provides a practical answer - an example of someone working to alleviate pain and suffering in America caused by injustice."

Thursday, May 21, 2020

#1091



Being a C.S. Lewis fan might just = a Francis Collins fan as well.  Speaking personally, this is very much true.  Search this blog for Francis Collins related posts and you will find a few, I believe 2, which would be the most for a scientist. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

#1090



I do share personal items on this blog from time to time, but do try and relate them to C.S. Lewis in some way.  I have tied in some of my Pandemic Experiences, but not much.  I would think it is probably a popular thing to do amongst certain segments of society.  If I were not working it sounds like something I'd try, and then regret it and wonder why we live in a society where everyone thinks they have an obligation to tell the world how they feel/think online, etc ... I have enjoyed reading "Journal of a Plague Year" by Chuck at Wonder Book.  I receive email updates and have read a few.  The latest was pretty good, detailing his adventure to save the baby animals he discovered in a storage area at the Book Warehouse.   Wonder Book has a good book deal going on right now too, click the previous link to see.

I have been working 40 hours a week, so my stay at home time is but 2 days, but they are 2 days that seem to have more hours in them, so my reading has increased.  I re-read Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor for no particular reason, except I love the story and, though very dark at times, provides a multitude of laugh out loud moments.  Since I now have a "smart" phone I have been discovering the world of podcasting and my current work day allows for about 3 hours of listening, so I searched for discussions on Wise Blood to listen to.  One I listened to was about a publisher called Wise Blood Books and not about the actual story.  That led me to their website.  I rarely read new fiction, but thought I would give them a try and order a book that was published a few months ago.  The price was the same as Amazon and the book arrived much sooner than Amazon could promise - less than a week with basic 1st class shipping.

The book is titled,  If Nobody Calls, I'm Not Home: The Open Letters of Bim Nakely by Samuel Hazo.  It is an epistolary novel and, while I have not finished all the letters, the one's I have were great.  Barbara (Bim) Nakely writes to FDR, Pope John XXIII, Ernest Hemingway, Babe Ruth, Mae West, St. Mary, and other famous people, as well as to her family members, some alive, most dead.  The letters I have read so far deal with her fears of death, thoughts on the Big Questions, politics and world events, and her personal life history.  They are engaging and funny.  The 22 letters are about 6 pages each and the book itself has about 140 pages. 

From the back cover:

I had such a good time reading If Nobody Calls, I’m Not Home. Hazo has written a unique, moving and insightful epistolary novel filled with honest emotions about the very meaning of life. As Bim Nakely, the main character, writes letters to both famous people and family members, we share her compelling journey as she explores her past and considers her future. A beautiful read.
—Eva Marie Saint, Academy Award Recipient

If you are looking to support a small publisher consider Wise Blood Books and If Nobody Calls, I'm Not Home would be a good book to start with.

Relating this to C.S. Lewis - he wrote 2 epistolary novels!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

#1088


In January 2020 I posted my plans to see a stage production of Paradise Lost (which was very good) and I wrote about the work Lewis added to Milton studies.  I decided to read Paradise Regained during Lent.   My reading was pushed back until recently and I just finished.  I have a Signet Classics paperback copy which includes a wonderful afterword by Fay Weldon.  

Weldon's essay is a fiction, set as a tutorial between herself - the professor, and a student who is not looking forward to Milton's work.  Here is a taste:

"I'm glad you noticed - he has chosen to treat the 'i' and the 'e'; of 'disobedience' as though they were a 'y,' one syllable for two," says the tutor.  "But don't you see?  That's the point.  It's what C. S. Lewis defined as 'freedom within form.'  C. S. Lewis was the great literary critic of the mid-twentieth century, as well as having written The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for which he is better known.  Familiarize yourself with his nonfiction."

Just a little Lewis Fun for you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

#1087


I am pretty sure, for the first time, a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche will be featured in a post on this blog.  If you look over some of the posts on this blog you will notice a desire I have to make sure the quote is accurate, and as far as I am able, to find the quote in an actual primary source.  In reading Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning I came across this powerful quote:

"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."


I may look for the source, I may not, with or without verification, it is a great quote.  Maybe a Nietzsche fan can provide some help as I often try when I see Lewis attributed to a quote that is not exactly his. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

#1086


I have been reading Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning during my down time.  According to an online bookseller I purchased the book in May of 2017.  I am not sure what I heard or read 3 years ago that prompted the purchase.  I can tell you it had not been touched until recently.   

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian doctor - neurology and psychiatry, who survived the Holocaust and went on in life to espouse Logotherapy - a belief that striving for meaning is the primary motivating factor for humans.  One must always be careful in using the Holocaust as a point of comparison to any other situation.  This is rightly so.  Yet I read this today, a comparison Frankl made:

"The Latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the finish, and a goal to reach.  A man who could not see the end of his "provisional existence" was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life.  He ceased living for the future, in contrast to a man in normal life.  Therefore the whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in which we know from other areas of life.  The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position.  His existence has become provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a goal.  Research work done on unemployed miners has shown that they suffer from a peculiar sort of deformed time - inner time - which is a result of their unemployed state."  

The book has a Part 1 and a Part 2, in my edition the quote is on page 66.  There are breaks or sections in each part and the quote comes in the 13th section from the end of Part 1.

Again, comparing one's situation to the Holocaust is basically something that should not be done and I hope a situation in human history never arises that would warrant such a comparison.  But Frankl does use an unemployed person as an example and I believe it is applicable to our current situation.  I have mentioned in previous blog posts that I am working 40 hours a week, for that I am thankful.  My experience is but a tiny slice of what many other people are experiencing.  But the idea of an ultimate goal and a daily goal can easily slip away, even in normal life, more so when "what's next" is so tentative.  

A post I thought of interest due to my reading.  Read the book to find out more.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

#1085



" . . . which things the angels desire to look into."
1 Peter 1:12

"We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra.  But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into."  
Out of the Silent Planet, Chapter 18 

And, a few paragraphs later:

" . . . I wish to hear of Thulcandra and of Maleldil's strange wars there with the Bent One; for that, as I have said, is a thing we desire to look into."


A July 9, 1939 (most likely August according to Walter Hooper, seems Lewis dated the letter incorrectly) letter to Sister Penelope:

"You will be both grieved and amused to learn that out of about 60 reviews, only 2 showed any knowledge that my idea of the fall of the Bent One was anything but a private invention of my own!  But if only there were someone with a richer talent and more leisure, I believe this great ignorance might be a help to the evangelisation of England: any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people's minds under cover of romance without their knowing it."

It seems to me obvious now, but if I removed all my time in church and bible studies and other Christian activities, and picture myself as one unfamiliar with the scriptures, then I suppose this story could 'smuggle in some theology' - if I were a reader of science-fiction, a fan of H.G. Wells and picked up this book by someone named C.S. Lewis, someone, in 1939, I would not have known of, then I suppose it might slip by.  

Sunday, May 3, 2020

#1084






Wednesday, April 29, 2020

#1082


Need something to do?  Pick-up your copy of Out of the Silent Planet and read along while listening to The Tolkien Professor discuss your reading.  The Mythgard Academy discussed the 1st story in the Lewis Cosmic Trilogy in January 2020.  I am slipping and Lewis related "stuff" is happening without me knowing!  Well, the discussions are preserved for us and we can add a re-reading of Out of the Silent Planet (or perhaps a first reading!) and a deeper understanding to our CoVid19 home bound activities.  

There are 6 weeks of discussions, I would suggest you go to the main website to start and to read more about what exactly the Mythgard Academy is and who the Tolkien Professor is.  The first 4 discussions are posted on this page.  To date, the last 2 are not.  However, I did find the last 2 discussions on their YouTube page and on various podcast hosting sites.  

Mythgard Academy - Out of the Silent Planet

You Tube Videos

I love the cover art above! The 1949 Avon paperback version featuring a full-color scene of Ransom in a boat with Hyoi the Hross and Sorns at the top right.  A pfifltrigg, an eldil, and Oyarsa would make the cover complete, though very busy.







Saturday, April 25, 2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter

The Resurrection - James Tissot

This is most likely one of the oddest Easter celebrations most of us have ever had, but Easter nonetheless.
Christ has Risen!

Friday, April 10, 2020

#1080

An internet search found this picture labeled as a Church Parade
C.S. Lewis served in the Home Guard during WWII, but there was an aspect of this he loathed - The Church Parade.  In chapter 7 of Surprised by Joy Lewis expresses his disdain for the public school system, specifically the desire to make all of one mind and quash individuality, he is especially upset at compulsory games.  About the halfway mark of the chapter he writes, "I wish I had never heard chaplains in the armed forces produce a similar argument in defense of the wicked institution of Church Parades."  

A from a letter dated March 9, 1944:

"How little I approve of compulsion in religion may be gauged from a recent letter of mine to the Spectator protesting against the intolerable tyranny of compulsory church parades for the Home Guard."


George Orwell, also a member of the Home Guard, also had a problem with Church Parades.  Orwell writes this in his diary on March 23, 1941:


"Yesterday attended a more or less compulsory Home Guard church parade, to take part in the national day of prayer. There were also contingents of the A.F.S., Air Force cadets, W.A.A.F’s, etc., etc. Appalled by the jingoism and self-righteousness of the whole thing…. I am not shocked by the Church condoning the war, as many people profess to be – nearly always people who are not religious believers themselves, I notice. If you accept government you accept war, and if you accept war you must in most cases desire one side or the other to win. I can never work up any disgust over bishops blessing the colours of regiments, etc. All that kind of thing is founded on a sentimental idea that fighting is incompatible with loving your enemies. Actually you can only love your enemies if you are willing to kill them in certain circumstances. But what is disgusting about services like these is the absence of any kind of self-criticism. Apparently God is expected to help us on the ground that we are better than the Germans. In the set prayer composed for the occasion God is asked “to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to help us to forgive them; to give them repentance for their misdoings, and a readiness to make amends.” Nothing about our enemies forgiving us. It seems to me that Christian attitude would be that we are no better than our enemies, we are all miserable sinners, but that it so happens that it would be better if our cause prevailed and therefore that it is legitimate to pray for this……. I suppose the idea is that it would be bad for morale to let people realise that the enemy has a case, though even that is a psychological error, in my opinion. But perhaps they aren’t thinking primarily about the effect on the people taking part in the service but are simply looking for direct results from their nation-wide praying campaign, a sort of box barrage fired at the angels."

Along the lines of Orwell's thoughts, but with some qualifiers, would be Lewis's Dangers of National Repentance, originally published in 1940.  Today, most readily found in God in the Dock.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

#1079




The previous post highlighted Dad's Army as an entertainment option during this shut-in.  C.S. Lewis was a veteran of WWI.  When WWII began he was 40 years old, turning 41 in November of 1939.  Once war was declared between England and Germany Parliament passed a full conscription act for men between 18 and 41.  Lewis was "young" enough to be conscripted and his letters during this time show him thinking of the possibility.  He mentions that he might be excluded because he is a teacher.  He also thought about teaching for the military - Army Educational Corps.  The president of his college thought he would be wasting his talent and he should consider working for the Ministry of Information.  

C.S. Lewis's brother, Warnie, was a retired Army officer, but still in the Reserves, so when war was declared he returned to active duty.  He was eventually sent to France and was among those evacuated from Dunkirk (though I am finding conflicting accounts of Warnie being among those evacuated during 'Operation Dynamo' - mentioned mostly in biographies, but in Lewis's letters it seems Warnie is evacuated at the beginning of May 1940 - this would have him safely in England before the dramatic evacuation at the end of May.)  By the middle of August 1940 Warnie is transferred back to the Reserves, he is sent home to Oxford and he serves in the Home Guard, using his boat, I suppose the Home Guard Navy.

From Lewis's Letters:

August 11, 1940, in a letter to his brother Lewis writes, "I have commenced my L.D.V.* Duties with 1.30 a.m. patrol on what they call Saturday morning and mortals call Friday night. As it seemed no use going to bed to be raked out at 12.45 I asked Dyson and Humphrey to dine and the others to join us afterwards so as to make a 'wake' of it in the original sense."
* Local Defence Volunteers, later called the Home Guard

A week later Lewis wrote again to his brother (August 17, 1940): "One excellent thing about this job is that it gives you, once a week, the chance of a walk at the only time in 24 hours when it is really pleasant for walking in summer.  Indeed 'pleasant' is too weak a word for the actual patrol - which with owls and bats and night smells and moonlight reflected from water, and the sort of dreamlike receptivity one gets from being rather tired - it was ravishing."

Saturday, April 4, 2020

#1078



Since the previous post concerned WWII, I will stay in that historical period, but turn from drama to comedy, for another Coronavirus Entertainment option.  Dad's Army was a BBC sitcom with 80 episodes between 1968 - 1977 - according to IMDB.   About a year ago it was suggested I watch this program.  I have been slowly watching and have checked 20 off the list.  I am told you can find the series on Netflix.  I watch on You Tube.  Below is my favorite episode, so far, but I do have 60 more episodes to watch.  A Lewis link will be the next post!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

#1077


Week 3 of Coronavirus Shutdown: I have posted many entries on this blog celebrating books.  I have noticed online, and in the newspapers, that recommendations for books to read during this time is a popular subject.  10 Best Sports Books / 10 Best Pandemic Novels / 10 Best ....

I may have mentioned it, but I am still working 40 hours a week, so I am thankful for that, but that means I cannot "take advantage" of all this free time these lists are designed for.  However, I have found that during my 2 days off, I seem to have more time - no where to go, staying home for 48 hours does feel different and a few hours a week have opened up.  I decided to start by reading The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.  I started watching the TV series a few years ago and just finished the final season by binge watching this past weekend.  Amazon says I ordered the book pictured below in September 2019.  The Library of America's first volume of Philip K. Dick's work includes 4 stories that I hope to read with my extra time. 

Why post this?  Well, (SPOILER ALERT) the Axis powers win WWII and Germany and Japan basically carve up America - see the book's cover art above.  In the story there is a book called The Grasshopper Lays Heavy (my previous post I cited Ecclesiastes, this is why I was reading Ecclesiastes, the phrase "the grasshopper lays heavy" is from chapter 12, verse 5.)  The Grasshopper book tells of an alternative world where the Allies win the war.  This book is banned by the Nazis.  The new superpowers in this alternative world = The US and the UK, I do not recall the USSR being mentioned.  This is an alternative world in an alternative world, so anything can happen.  The US plays a more benevolent role - worldwide Marshall Plan I suppose and the UK continues/ramps up the British Empire.  The US, in the end, fades because of failed leadership.  Weak presidents eventually come in to office and the powerful, almost dictatorial, Winston Churchill continues to lead the UK and his ways are not as benevolent as ours. 

In this alternative world within the alternative world that is The Man in the High Castle we find not the special relationship the UK and US have, but the British Empire once again rules the world.  This scenario is not mentioned in the TV series, which has many differences from the book, and unless these ideas really excite your imagination this might not be worth watching or reading.  I was interested, and invested, so I had to finish the race.

In the alternative world within the the alternative world England and the US become rivals. Therefore, CS Lewis would probably not become the star he became in America.  One of the main reasons he has, besides his actual books, would be the work of Walter Hooper / Clyde Kilby / Thomas Howard / Kathryn Lindskoog and other early Lewis Scholars.  These individuals may not have been so fervent in their Lewis appreciation.  I believe all those I just mentioned made trips to England and visited Lewis.  They might not have made those trip.  In this world, maybe Lewis is not the author we know him to be.  Therefore, there is a strong possibility that there would have been no New York CS Lewis Society and all the societies that have formed since, including the CS Lewis Society in Frederick, MD - our group!  Who would we be celebrating instead in this alternative world?    

If such possibilities sound entertaining to your mind: read, and/or watch, The Man in the High Castle during your Coronavirus Shutdown.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

#1076


I have been to a few supermarkets over the last 12 days and I am still slightly shocked.  Co-workers mentioned shoppers "panic-buying" - especially toilet paper, but I did not believe them.  Friday, March 13th I noticed the mid-afternoon traffic at a local grocery store was a little busier than normal.  After that we slowly went into the Corona-Shutdown: closing schools, restaurants, etc.  On the morning of Monday, March 16th I went to the same small grocery store and it looked like a hurricane was about to hit.  I shop at this store once a week and have never seen the shelves without food.  It was stunning, odd, and worrying all at the same time.  

All that I just wrote has "sat" for a few days and since then I made a few more trips to a larger grocery store in my area.  One trip the canned goods are gone, one trip the potatoes, one trip the eggs and milk - ALL TRIPS - the Toilet Paper.  About 6 trips to 2 stores over 12 days = NO TOILET PAPER.  Maybe I should worry!

Why hoard?  We have been reassured the supply chain will hold up and if we shop as we normally would things would be much better.  Yet, I too have hoarded.  I love coffee and have a very high view of my personal coffee making ability.  During the first week I made unreasonable purchases of coffee beans - more than I need for the next month or so.  But in my head I calculated the local roaster may not have access to green coffee beans from the coffee growing areas of the world - THEN WHAT?  My calculations were really just coffee fears - my emotions, not actual calculations of facts.  So I hoarded.  

Why am I writing this?  The other day I read: "Be generous: Invest in acts of charity.  Charity yields high returns.  Don't hoard your goods; spread them around.  Be a blessing to others.  This could be your last night."  Ecclesiastes 11:1 The Message       

This is wisdom, which is needed right now, along with empowerment from the Holy Spirit to act in accordance with that wisdom.   

What about Lewis?  Well, I have searched and searched for a story I have heard from Walter Hooper more than a few times at a few conferences, lectures, etc.  When Walter Hooper served Lewis as his personal secretary he would help with the tea when visitors came to see Lewis.  Fred Paxford, the gardener, was also the grocery shopper for the household.  Paxford would only get a 1/2 pound of sugar at a time, splitting a pound bag with a neighbor.  Hooper, worried there would be no sugar when needed for tea when guests were visiting Lewis, asked Paxford why he insisted on buying sugar in this manner.  Paxford replied that one never knows when the end of the world will come and one does not want extra sugar in the larder when the end comes.  I could not find a direct quote for this, but watch a few Walter Hooper lectures on YouTube and I am sure you will eventually hear a version of the story.  

UPDATE:  I can verify my story above with a printed version of a talk Walter Hooper gave at Mythcon VI in 1975 - Follow this link to find the paper.

Also, I have gone to the 3 grocery stores in my area a handful of times since I posted this, and the toilet paper aisle continues to be empty.  My household was able to buy the same amount we always buy at a local member's only big box store, if I relied on my local grocery store I would be getting anxious about this.  Maybe I am going at the wrong time?


Saturday, March 21, 2020

#1074



C.S. Lewis's "On Living in an Atomic Age" was originally published in an annual magazine called Informed Reading.  The essay was published in the last issue, Volume VI in 1948.  A quick internet search came up empty as to the existence of this magazine.  Lewis wrote many, many, many, smaller pieces to magazines and newspapers, and many of these publications are no longer in print.  We should be very grateful to Walter Hooper who has spent his life making sure all these smaller pieces continue to live.

"On Living in an Atomic Age" has become very popular since we began living in an "Age of Coronavirus" with many outlets quoting from the piece.  This is my 4th post out of 5 to use the essay.  Below you will find a link to a New York Times podcast.  3 readings from 3 books are given to help us in this time, and the last is from Lewis, yes - "On Living in an Atomic Age."

NY Times Podcast

Sunday, March 15, 2020

#1071



Due to our current flu prevention measures I am home with nothing to do on a Sunday and in the last post I mentioned I could not find Lewis mentioning the Spanish Flu in his letters after a quick search of his letters from that time period.  I decided to search a little deeper and did find a few mentions:

On November 10, 1918 (one day before Armistice Day), Lewis writes to his father from Ludgershall - about 15 miles from Salisbury and Stonehenge.  Lewis was at Perham Down Camp, officially still recovering from the wounds he received in France in April.  During this recovery he is up and about, even taking a trip to London to talk to his publisher - his book Spirits in Bondage was published in March 1919.

Lewis writes:

"We have been innoculated against the influenza here.  If it is at all bad at home I should get it done.  It is not worth one's while risking ones life over a thing like that and the innoculation is very mild.  It proved an effective check in Paris and why it has not been more widely used here, goodness only knows."  

Lewis was not a scientist, then or later, but he points to an innoculation as his protection (spelled with 2 n's by Lewis, not sure if this was a common spelling or not.)  I just did a quick search to see if there was an inoculation available that would have helped and could not find a good answer.  Since so many people died and if a simple inoculation would have protected people, I am going to assume the inoculation was not what protected Lewis.  Just as a Flu Shot will not stop Coronavirus - but I am not a scientist either.

On February 4, 1919 Lewis was out of the army and was busy studying at Oxford.  He writes to his father, "I have a very bad piece of news for you: Smugy is dead.  Sometime in the middle of last term he fell victim to flu."

Smugy, (in Surprised by Joy his name is spelled - Smewgy, found in chapter 7) was Harry Wakelyn Smith (1861-1918) and was Lewis's Classics and English teacher at Malvern College, where Lewis attended 1913-1914.  Lewis said as a teacher Smugy was "beyond expectation, beyond hope."

Saturday, March 14, 2020

#1070


We in the Lewis world love to speculate what Lewis would say about a current event.  I was emailed an attempt from March 12th, posted by Matt Smethurst on The Gospel Coalition's website.   Since the piece is basically just Lewis (the best way to speculate what Lewis would say!) I will cut and paste the entire post:



It’s now clear that COVID-19 is a deadly serious global pandemic, and all necessary precautions should be taken. Still, C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago—ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays
I was also thinking about what Lewis might say to us today.  I thought of this quote because it is good.  "Learning in War-Time" is also a good place to look.  Since Lewis served in WWI and lived through the Spanish Flu, I quickly searched his letters from that time period (quickly) and found nothing, since I checked - quickly - there might be something there for one to find.
I think the Atomic Age quote is good, but might be an apples and oranges comparison.  The average person basically had no control over who decides to push the button that might have started an atomic war and until the bomb was dropped one should be busy "doing sensible and human things."  Since I am typing and thinking at the same time I may have just found my answer - sensible.  You might argue that the current measures are not sensible - I just lost a vacation.  Or you may think they are very sensible.  With the threat of an atomic bomb I should go to the theater, school, a baseball game, etc.  But with Coronavirus, it seems very sensible to avoid such mass gatherings for a time.  There are things I can do to help the situation and there are things I can do that will hurt the situation - see the tragedy from the Philadelphia War Bond Parade in 1918 as an example.  The main point remains - Coronavirus will come and it will go.  Be sensible, but remain human and do not let it "dominate your mind."

#1069


Our next meeting is a few weeks from now and we will be discussing C.S. Lewis and his advocacy for animals.  Our readings will not be very sentimental, though stories and examples from Lewis's life may be. 

A few months ago an article in our local newspaper featuring 2 brothers who go to the animal shelter and read to the dogs caught my attention.  I saved it until this month and post it now:

Reading for the Dogs

Frederick brothers read to dogs in county animal shelter


Excited barking echoed off the walls of the Frederick County Animal Shelter on Saturday as 10-year-old Kolby Ryan sat crossed-legged across from the cage of an anxious pit-terrier mix named Bently.
Breaking away from his nervous pacing, Bently slowly loped over to the bars to smell the hand Kolby offered as he also scooched up closer to the cage. Higher up on the cage, just beneath Bently’s profile, hung a politely worded sign warning visitors of Bently’s visual impairment and asking them to please speak softly to avoid startling the shortsighted dog.
For the next 15 or 20 minutes, that’s exactly what Kolby did — reading to his furry companion in a calm, level voice from a book of collected comic strips.
“I think it helps them get used to humans more and maybe not bark as much,” Kolby said during a short break later Saturday morning. “And you can see them getting used to people, like, they’ll look over our shoulder and watch us read.”
Kolby, a Liberty Elementary School student whose father, Tim Ryan, owns and operates the ABC All Wildlife Removal company, decided to combine two of his passions when he made his New Year’s resolutions for 2020.
“The two things he loves [are] animals and reading, so we’ve made it a New Year’s resolution that this is something we want to do as often as we can for the animals at the shelter,” said Kelli Fink, Kolby’s stepmother — the family prefers the term “bonus mom” — as she watched Kolby reading to Bently.
The idea began after Kolby and his younger brother, 8-year-old Jayson, started attending Wags for Hope reading sessions at county libraries, where youth are encouraged to read to therapy dogs to improve their reading skills, Fink said. While the program was helpful to Kolby and Jayson, the boys deduced that, just like the therapy dogs were helping them read, other dogs likely would benefit from the attention, as well.
“One day Kolby was like, ‘Well, what about the dogs that can’t get a ride? What about the dogs who don’t have anyone to take them?’ And that really speaks to their personality, to really take it a step up and say, ‘Let’s go read to the dogs that nobody can read to,’” Fink said. “They wanted to help the animals that need it the most.”
The signs were soon obvious that the reading was having an effect. Stopping his pacing altogether, Bently was soon sitting calmly right next to Kolby, his brown fur pressed up against the cage as he leaned his head down toward Kolby, listening intently to the boy’s calming voice. By the time Kolby had finished a good 20 pages, Bently's soft brown eyes were closed tight, his tail wagging slowly on the other side of the cage door. While the ruckus of the shelter's other inhabitants roared in the background, the 2-year-old mutt seemed perfectly content and at ease. 
The animals weren't the only ones who took note of Kolby and his brother's efforts. Linda Shea, the shelter director, said she and the shelter staff were also pleased to see new visitors volunteering their time to make sure the animals are comfortable with and open to human interaction. 
"Reading to animals has become more important, especially the dogs, because it calms them down," Shea said, explaining that many animals come to the shelter stressed out by past trauma, the drastic environmental changes they've experienced or both. 
Some animals have trouble eating or sleeping after arriving at the shelter, and the problem can be exacerbated by the reactions many of the animals elicit from visitors to the shelter.
"What's the first thing someone wants to do when they see a cute animal? A lot of times they're going to run up to that animal and want to pet them all over, smother them with attention," Shea said. "And while that’s a great energy and it’s good, a lot of times here we need to decrease the energy level because there’s a lot of barking. Some of the dogs that you’ll see are a little bit more shy and might not respond well to that kind of attention."
Later on Saturday, Kolby and Jayson's two older brothers arrived with their father, Tim, who is no stranger to the shelter from his work capturing and rehabilitating animals for a living.  
"It takes so much time and so much patience to come in here and be able to try to talk to an animal and make the animal feel comfortable with you and stuff like that," Tim said as he watched Jayson finish another page from his book to the delight of an excitable puppy named Goldie. "Animals can sense that."
For Kolby and Jayson, the volunteering was its own reward, as Jayson put it simply upon finishing the book a few minutes later.
"It feels really good because, I think that [the animals] feel better that people are reading to them," Jayson said as he moved down the row to the next dog in the kennel. "So they can feel like they’re at a home even though they’re not really at a home."
January 14, 2020 by Jeremy Arias in the Frederick News-Post

#1045

The Christmas season, for me, usually means my annual trip to the movie theater.  I average about one trip a year and as far as I can r...