In the first portion of our excursion through the sticky saying that we discover in Homer’s Achilles I explored the idea that we’re not as different from Achilles as we think. Hearkening back to Bespaloff (On the Iliad), we might at this point be able to recognize that while in spirit we admire Hektor, more often than not in action we emulate Achilles. For confirmation, we only need to survey our society in which appearances, wealth, fame, brash self-assertion, and power are our golden calves.
Many literary images have taken up residence in my life: laughing Lucy tossed into the air, safely caught by Aslan’s velvety paws; a gaunt Hamlet confronting a weird, haunting specter; the lovely Scheherazade, spinning a thousand tales for the Persian Šāhe Šāhān (King of Kings); a slave boy, answering questions posed by a curious man drawing figures in the sand; Margaret’s tears gently falling upon a golden carpet of leaves . . .
A young woman sits at the feet of Jesus. She is transfixed by his presence, hanging on his every word. Can you glimpse the delicate smile that hovers about her lips as she contemplates him? Her eyes are bright, captivated. She is Mary. See the somewhat older woman walking across the room deliberately towards Jesus? Her eyes are warm and straightforward, but her brow is furrowed and her expression troubled. Here is Martha.
Once upon a time, there were two sisters.
No, not the two step-sisters from Cinderella, although I can guess that for some of you, that’s who came to mind. Or, perhaps, if you’re like me, you thought of Austen’s Lizzy and Jane. Those sisters would be a most amiable topic to dwell on for a while.
However, the story of the two sisters I’m thinking of is told in the Bible. One sister, perhaps the elder, was Martha. The other was Mary. With their famous brother, Lazarus, these two sisters have joined the ranks of the Bible’s most well-known people.
Parables, somewhat open-endedly defined as “any saying or narration in which something is expressed in terms of something else” (Oxford English Dictionary, 1987), are sticky.
I’m certainly not the first to notice this nor, I’m sure, am I the first to use that word to describe them. But there’s no doubt in my mind: such “sayings” are sticky.
Israel lived through centuries of Divine silence; then came the Word and angels sang. Hundreds of years of stillness ended when God spoke Himself into the world. This occurrence, like so many of those in Scripture, serves not only as an historical account but as an instructive tale: It admonishes us, “Wait! Be silent!”
Be still, God says, and in that stillness you will come to know Me (Psalm 46:10).
Editors note: The following post is the transcript of a commencement address presented by our friends - and semi-regular CiRCE contributor - Kate Deddens and her husband, Ted. It's lengthy, but worth the read. Enjoy.
I recently came across a website featuring paintings by an undergraduate college professor of mine. No, I wasn’t an art major and he didn’t teach me painting—at least, not the kind of art one creates on a canvas. He was one of my tutors at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where I earned a Liberal Arts degree as a bonus for the privilege of studying the Great Books.
My youngest child, just nearing his seventh birthday, has begun writing what I like to think of as love letters. He is not an accomplished reader or writer. He is all boy – far more interested in sword fighting than in wrestling with letters which currently signify, to him, little that is particularly interesting. Yet my heart is overjoyed to see him write small tokens of his affection to each member of our family.
Ilúvatar said again: “Behold your music! This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find contained herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may seem that he himself devised or added.”
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien