:: What Art Can—And Can’t—Do by Philip Yancey @ First Things [This is an older article, and it’s not a short one, but please, please read it. Let it breathe life into your soul. (Hello, Flannery O’Connor.)]
For those of us who labor in the arts and who believe in transcendence, here is a place to start. Some are called to be prophetic goads, and some giants may hammer in firmly embedded nails. But the rest of us can aspire, with no tinge of shame, to scribbling in the sand. Spaces need filling. The father of cellist Yo-Yo Ma spent World War II in Paris, where he lived alone in a garret throughout the German occupation. In order to restore sanity to his world, he would memorize violin pieces by Bach during the day and then at night, during blackout, he would play them alone in the dark. The sounds made by the reverberating strings held out the promise of order and hope and beauty. Later his son, Yo-Yo, took up the father’s advice to play a Bach suite from memory every night before going to bed. Yo-Yo Ma says, “This isn’t practicing, it’s contemplating. You’re alone with your soul.”
:: After you have read the above article, go read this Facebook post by S.D. Smith.
You lose elections long after you lose the stories that shape. Elections are a hundred years too late to save us. In other words, an election only reveals the stories we believed, loved, and allowed into our hearts to shape our affections. Elections are more effect than cause.
:: Lord of the Flies: Evil Recognized Is Redemption Begun @ CiRCE. I read Lord of the Flies for the first time last year and am reading Flannery O’Connor this year.
Like a Flannery O’Connor story, Golding’s ending completes the meaning of his work, not by resolving it, but by creating the possibility of resolution. The characters are not saved, but they are prepared for salvation. And readers are prepared along with them, for they, too, have been given the opportunity to take a long, hard look at themselves.
:: Candor: What Jane and Lizzy Bennet Can Teach Us about Charity @ Roman Roads Media [The Four Loves | A Series Exploring C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves] What a beautiful essay! Again, I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time last year (though I had watched both movie versions numerous times) and The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis is on my to-read list this year.
This will sound very anticlimactic, but when we face our human enemies, we need to face them as literary critics. A good critic does not react to what he reads. He reads it. He reads it carefully, over and over if necessary. He considers its genre, its context, its author, its author’s intentions, stated and unstated. He considers what circumstances the author himself may have been reacting to. And then, given all that consideration, he gives the work the most generous interpretation he can. The virtues of a literary critic are patience and generosity, but something deeper too: the good critic has to want there be something in that book to be understood—something, however small, that is worth understanding.
:: My Wife is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World: C.S. Lewis on Eros, Beauty, and Plato @ Roman Roads Media [The Four Loves, Part 2]
But I would submit that our starting point and first response to the question, “What makes a woman beautiful?” should be “Participation in the image of God.” Man is created in the image of God, male and female, but woman is given a special aesthetic placement in that order—she is the glory of man. She bears the image of God in a unique way—a way that’s glorious and beautiful, a way that’s defined and measured by participation in something greater and more universal than herself.
:: The Eye of the Beholder @ CiRCE [Supper of the Lamb was one of my favorite books from 2015]
:: Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89 @ The New York Times [Go Set a Watchman was one of my favorites in 2015 and To Kill a Mockingbird is in my all-time top 10.]
Lewis realized that anyone who has never read widely is liable to become a prisoner of narrow and weakly held opinions, because his experience is limited by his own time and place. The one who participates in great literature, on the other hand, encounters the opinions of a host of other thinkers. He can see the consequences of their ideas without having to adopt their philosophies himself. In the process of comparing his assumptions with those of others, his own worldview gains strength and clarity.
"I think Berry makes a profound point about the community being imperfect and yet that imperfection is just what we need to grow. The Enlightenment has us all obsessed with creating the perfect environment for us to achieve our potential. But maybe our obsession is making it harder for us."
:: The book most people have lied about reading – and it's not War and Peace @ The Telegraph [As of this month, I’ve read 11 of these, not counting half-heartedly listening to Alice in Wonderland. I have Anne Frank on my to-read pile.]
:: Punctuation in novels @ Medium [So fascinating!! Brief strong language alert.]
Third, words reveal the contents of our minds and hearts. That means words involve a certain amount of vulnerability. We are disclosing to the other something personal and private. We are uncovering something of our interior life, something of ourselves.
"Absolutely no one is precisely average."
The term he uses for this--jaggedness--is perfection. I have at least two kids who are much more jagged than average, for sure. This article is excellent, especially paired with a re-reading of the children's book Understood Betsy:
"'What's the matter?' asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face.
"'Why--why,' said Elizabeth Ann, 'I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-gradespelling, what grade am I?'
"The teacher laughed. 'You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in? And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication table?'
"'Well, for goodness' sakes!' ejaculated Elizabeth Ann, feeling very much as though somebody had stood her suddenly on her head.
"'What's the matter?' asked the teacher again.
"This time Elizabeth Ann didn't answer, because she herself didn't know what the matter was. But I do, and I'll tell you. The matter was that never before had she known what she was doing in school. She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind, so she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up, but in that moment, she had her first dim notion of it, and it made her feel the way you do when you're learning to skate and somebody pulls away the chair you've been leaning on and says, 'Now, go it alone!'"
:: Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation @ TED. I need to listen to this TED talk weekly, if not daily.
"The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go."
This reminds me of the Flannery O'Connor essay I read recently (The Fiction Writer & His Country).
"He will feel that any long-continued service to [the topic of prosperity] will produce a soggy, formless, and sentimental literature, one that will provide a sense of spiritual purpose for those who connect the spirit with romanticism and a sense of joy for those who confuse that virtue with satisfaction."
In The Mind of the Maker (also on my "currently reading" stack), Dorothy Sayers quotes C.S. Lewis:
"There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous...Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering... It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms..."
:: Master of Light: A Close Look at the Paintings of Johannes Vermeer Narrated by Meryl Streep @ Open Culture [video] Vermeer is one of my favorites!
:: Loving Vincent
More about the movie: