Reading over my shoulder

Looking back over 2018, I’m thankful for much. In this space, I’m specifically thankful for the books I’ve read this last year. One only has so many years to walk on God’s earth, after all, so what we read ought to be worth the time we invest (or spend, depending on one’s viewpoint). I’ve grown a little in my understanding of friendship, both from reflection upon certain books, and from the shared reading with brothers and sisters in the faith. Maybe I’ve learned, or learned to reflect upon, the value of community, of sharing burdens, of vulnerability and dependence in temptations, and of the strengths and challenges of our forebears. What I am certain of, with regards to reading, is that books are like flowing waters. We never enter the same stream twice. A book I read over 30 years ago for the first time is not the same book on the fourth or fifth reading now. Granted, the words themselves don’t change (assuming the same edition), but what I notice may change, and the milieu in which I read it will definitely change.

At any rate, in this post, I share a few of the books and quotes from my reading this last year. The first two are from one of my favorite authors. C.S Lewis has been, and continues to be, a good influence upon me.

Early in January, I picked from my shelves Lewis’ re-telling of the story of Cupid and Psyche. “Till We Have Faces” is a book filled with wonders, terrors, and realizations that continue to percolate through December. A few quotes seem just as pertinent now as when I copied them into my journal almost twelve months ago.

Speaking as aside to the reader, in explanation of why she shared only part of the story with her mentor, Orual says, “One of his maxims was that if we cannot persuade our friends by reasons we must be content and not bring a mercenary army to our aid. (He meant our passions.)”--pp. 177-178.

On a related note, when Queen Orual is training for physical combat with a neighboring prince, Bardia (her primary advisor and captain of the guard) tells her “Women and boys talk easily about killing a man. Yet, believe me, it’s a hard thing to do; I mean, the first time. There’s something in a man that goes against it.” –p. 206

Woe to those who insert the killing of a person in their own writing. Not that it is never warranted, but certainly not to be done without all due consideration. Lewis would know, having fought in World War I. In the second book I mention below, Lewis makes reference to a fighting man, and surely he knew whereof he spoke.

Two last quotes from “…Faces” I leave the reader. I’ve never been pregnant myself (obviously), but I have observed my beloved wife eight times. And, perhaps, this is a most appropriate comparison: “I was with book, as a woman is with child”– Queen Orual, on p. 247. Finally, and I’m still mulling this, “…the Divine Nature wounds and perhaps destroys us merely by being what it is.”–p.284

Earlier this year, I finished what is probably the third or fourth reading, in 30 plus years, of “That Hideous Strength”, the third book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy”. Shortly after, if memory serves, I received a 3-in-1 edition of the trilogy as a birthday present. I decided, right then, to dive back into the first story. I first read “Out of the Silent Planet” as 16-year-old British Literature student learning from a British-born nonconformist. The story was equally captivating these many years later. A note to the un-initiated, however: some people consider the story a slow starter. Just last week, I finished book two, “Perelandra”.

Book one, though by itself a fascinating look at the idea of space travel before the space age, is, I think, about casting a vision of what could be, or about seeing what is unseen. It is an engaging look at what could be, and is, “out there”, but not in the “X-files” sense. Almost to the very end of “…Silent Planet”, we read Dr. Ransom saying,

“If we could even effect in one percent of our readers a change from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should have made a beginning.”

This is intriguing, not only in its own right, but in contrast to Milton, to whom is credited the origin of “Space”, as a word.

Briefly, book two, or Perelandra”, is both an exercise in “what might have been”, and a pattern for a logical framework in Christian apologetics. Still more, it explores the facets and requirements of human responsibility in the midst of Divine Sovereignty where the two ideas walk in partnership instead of enmity.

That’s enough for tonight. Thanks for reading to the end. I may post more fruits of my readings next week. Deo Valente.

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