Friday, December 30, 2016

C. S. Lewis ~ “Red Berries”

Clive Staples Lewis was born in November 1898 in Belfast, Ireland, the son of a solicitor and a clergyman’s daughter.  He taught medieval literature at Oxford University and at Cambridge University and was a prolific writer.  C. S. Lewis’ better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in his space trilogy.
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In the novel Perelandra, the second book in Lewis’ space trilogy, the main character Ransom is transported to the planet Venus where he finds himself naked and alone.  His immediate concern is finding food and shelter.  Experimenting with various plants, he discovers a fruit that has a pleasant, bread-like taste and satisfies his hunger.  However, he soon finds that once in a while, one of the fruit contains a red berry that is absolutely delicious.

Sometimes I find a literary “red berry” in a book that I’m reading.  They are delicious; they transcend all other delights.  For me, those red berries are statements of universal truth, the most wonderful thing to encounter in a text.  By the way, I am referring to real truth, not a truth contrived for the sake of a story.  However much I love Jane Austen, I do not believe “it is a universal truth that a young man of good fortune is in want of a wife.”   

What is a universal truth?  I think it is that which sets one free.  It restores the soul, rejoices the heart, and enlightens the eyes.  It is a rare and random treat.  Some novels contain many red berries because their authors dedicate themselves to writing the truth; George MacDonald is one such writer.  Other novels may contain only one such treasure, but it makes the entire book worthwhile.

In Perelandra, Ransom considers what it would be like if there were red berry fruits on Earth.  He surmises that someone clever would find a way to genetically alter the fruit so that every piece would contain a red berry.  Red berries would then be mass-produced.  The rich and powerful would get the lion’s share of the red berry market while the poor would go without.  He concludes that it is better if a red berry is a rare and random treat.


I don’t think we are in danger of mass-producing literary red berries.  I think that truth will always be a rare and random treat.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Overmind Matter

“And God said, ‘Let there be light.’”
And the lightening struck the sand, and from the sand came the race of the Fulgurites.  From this humble origin, the Fulgurites multiplied and grew in strength until their descendants spread over all the Earth, some even reaching to the stars.  And now, as the prophet had foretold, “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”
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The high priest reflected on this as he sat in the sun.  He knew the time was at hand for the next generation to arise.  It had been prophesied eons ago, even before this world took its place in the Great Dance.  The children were almost ready to be reborn; their tutors would soon see the fruits of their labors. 

The high priest laughed to himself to think how shattered the humans would be to learn that they were not the rulers after all.

And as for me, he thought, I may be one of the fortunate few to witness it.  Who knows?  I may still be here in Harmony when it happens.  How fitting.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Talebearers

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” Proverbs 26:20

We live in a magic world, but it is also a world of conflict.  There seems to be no lack of it, fed and spread by talebearers.  I myself try to avoid conflict and promote peace, and I am certain that I am not the only one.  After all, don’t we all dream of a world in which all war, strife, and conflict have ceased?  Don’t we all long for “The Kingdom of Summer” described by Stephen Lawhead in Taliesin?  If that is true, if a world without conflict is our hearts’ desire, then why is conflict the main character in our stories? 

One would think, judging from all that is written about conflict, that we cannot survive without it.  Talebearers depend upon it and read books, articles, and blogs about it.  They attend seminars and lectures about types of conflict, how to create conflict, how to raise the level of conflict, how to use conflict to increase tension, and so on.

Well, here’s a conflict:  I don’t want to write about conflict–at least not in the way I see it presented.  To me, the best conflict is like a math problem in that (1) it has established parameters; (2) it obeys the laws of logic; (3) the process to resolve the conflict is a learning experience; (4) the resolution makes sense; and (5) the journey in resolving the conflict is just as satisfying as reaching the destination.  To borrow from George Polya:
1.     The conflict is understood in terms of its history, source, and nature.
2.     There is a plan to deal with the conflict; several options are available.
3.     The conflict is addressed during which theories many be tested.
4.     The conflict is satisfactorily resolved.
5.     The process is discussed and evaluated for its efficacy and application to other situations.

I think the most important aspect of any conflict is the “why?” – there must be a reason for the conflict beyond “Something Happened.”  And I prefer it to be subtle, complex rather than complicated.

When I encounter conflict in a story, I want it to guide the characters from one stage of growth to another, one that fosters higher order thinking and enlightenment.  But I do not think that type of conflict is popular because it’s not on the best-seller lists or in book reviews.  Instead it’s all drama and unresolved issues where the characters act out of their reptilian and mammalian brains.  That is not for me.  Life holds enough drama and issues without my hunting for it in the books I read.

So my solution to my particular conflict is to write the kind of stories that I want to read.  If others want to read them, that is great.  But if not, it still remains a very satisfying and interesting journey.


Friday, December 23, 2016

C. S.Lewis ~ "Homeliness

Featured Author ~ C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was born in Belfast, Ireland, the son of a solicitor and a clergyman’s daughter.  He taught medieval literature at Oxford University and at Cambridge University and was a prolific writer.  C. S. Lewis’ better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in his space trilogy.

The following is an excerpt from Lewis’ autobiography Surprised by Joy.

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“At the same time I exchanged Wyvern for Bookham I also exchanged my brother for Arthur as my chief companion.  Though my friendship with Arthur began from an identity of taste on a particular point, we were sufficiently different to help one another.  He was a man of more than one talent:  a pianist, and in hope, a composer, and also a painter.

“In literature he influenced me more, and more permanently, than I did him.  His great defect was that he cared very little for verse.  Something I did to mend this, but less than I wished.  He, on the other hand, side by side with his love for myth and marvel, which I fully shared, had another taste which I lacked till I met him and with which, to my great good, he infected me for life.  This was the taste for what he called ‘the good, solid, old books,’ the classic English novelists.

“Under Arthur’s influence I read at this time all the best Waverleys, all the Brontës, and all the Jane Austens.  They provided an admirable complement to my more fantastic reading, and each was the more enjoyed for its contrast to the other.

“The very qualities which had previously deterred me from such books Arthur taught me to see as their charm.  What I would have called their ‘stodginess’ or ‘ordinariness’ he called ‘Homeliness’ – a key word in his imagination.  He did not mean merely Domesticity, though that came into it.  He meant the rooted quality which attaches them to all our simple experience, to weather, food, the family, the neighborhood.

“He could get endless enjoyment out of the opening sentences of Jane Eyre, or that other opening sentence in one of Hans Andersen’s stories, ‘How it did rain, to be sure.’  The mere word ‘beck’ in the Brontës was a feast to him; and so were the schoolroom and kitchen scenes.  This love of the ‘Homely’ was not confined to literature; he looked for it in out-of-doors as well and taught me to do the same.

“But for him I should never have known the beauty of the ordinary vegetables that we destine to the pot.  ‘Drills,’ he used do say.  ‘Just ordinary drills of cabbages – what can be better?’  And he was right.  Often he recalled my eyes from the horizon just to look through a hole in a hedge, to see nothing more than a farmyard in its mid-morning solitude, and perhaps a gray cat squeezing its way under a barn door, or a bent old woman with a wrinkled, motherly face coming back with an empty bucket from the pigsty. 

“But best of all we liked it when the Homely and the unhomely met in sharp juxtaposition; if a little kitchen garden ran steeply up a narrowing enclave of fertile ground surrounded by outcroppings and furze, or some shivering quarry pool under a moonrise could be seen on our left, and on our right the smoking chimney and lamplit window of a cottage that was just settling down for the night.”

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Foggy Notion


Amalia looked around in wonder.

What is this place?  she thought.  Look at all this fog!  Why, I can’t see more than fifty feet in any direction.

“Hey!”

A voice called out behind Amalia, making her jump.  She turned around and saw a woman walking out of the fog, a tentative smile on her face.

“I didn’t expect to see anyone here besides me,” said the woman.  “When it gets foggy like this, I can’t even see myself.  Well, here you are, and who are you, my dear?”

“Er, my name is Amalia.”

“Pleased to meet you.  I’m Mrs. Notion.  Welcome to my world.”

“Your world!” said Amalia.  “And what world is that?”

Mrs. Notion laughed and rapped the side of her head with her knuckles.

“Why, the one inside here!  This is my world and you’re in it.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” said Amalia.  “I did not mean to intrude.”

“It’s quite alright,” said Mrs. Notion.  “I was in the mood for company.  It’s not often that I get any visitors–especially on a foggy day like today.  Will you join me?”

“Certainly,” said Amalia.  “Where are we going?”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” said Mrs. Notion.  She and Amalia walked down the road and disappeared into the fog.