This post is part of a series called The Fellowship of the Inklings where I attempt to blog my way through reading The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski.
Over the past year the angst of the previous decade that arose from the anxiety of the previous half-century has been condensed into a few books that explore how Christians should respond now that we are marginalized by our ever-more secular culture.
Let us suppose that sometime in the mid 19th century, a primitive animist tribe dwelling in uncharted jungle encounters a Western missionary who, amidst horrific gasping and choking, claims to be in possession of a holy book, a salvific book, a book from God himself, and then falls over dead. At the exact moment of his expiration, sweet rain pours forth from a cloudless sky, and the oldest and most venerable priest of the tribe confirms the benevolence of the omen. The dead missionary carries no portmanteau and his hands are empty.
The pictures in my mother’s scrapbook testify that, like most little girls I’ve met, my sisters and I wore dress-up clothes more often than not for our first five or so years of life. The magic of the dress-up box, and of the girlish imaginations that transformed its contents into anything from the richest regal robes to the poorest paupers’ rags, sustained our liveliest play and solemnest pretending for a long season.
This summer, my Medieval literature students are reading Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis of Assisi, and we will begin this Fall with a discussion of the book. Some students will express confusion or horror at the ascetic practices of St. Francis and they will need such habits explained. I tell them the logic of asceticism is already inextricably (though invisibly) bound to many aspects of their Christian walk, but that asceticism is also bound to a host of secular matters.
It is jolly good fun to always be talking about truth, goodness, and beauty. In fact, the more we talk about it--the more metaphors we use--the more romantic it becomes. Warm blackberries, babies' breath, raindrops on roses, and all that. This is fine and dandy on the Internet, but when you sit down with young moms in your own home you begin to blush.
Having just returned from Austin, TX and the 2017 CiRCE conference on Memory, I am continuing to reflect on the joy of that gathering. Several of the speakers mentioned that being there was a “taste of heaven.” I agree for several reasons. (This applies to not only the CiRCE Conference but other retreats, gatherings, and conferences.)
One. When classicists refer to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, the Beauty of which they speak is almost always artistic Beauty. Artistic Beauty is a far safer subject to broach than physical Beauty. We enjoy talking of the Beauty of Rembrandt, Botticelli, or Bach. The Beauty of Claudia Schiffer or George Clooney strikes us as a bit tawdry, though. Artistic Beauty is diplomatic and agreeable, while physical Beauty has the power to offend.
The full text of the lecture I delivered last week in Austin, Texas.
Set in 1987. Warren Hays is 40 and works at a University library. He is the great grandson of Will Hays, founder of the Hays Code. Hays graduated with a master’s degree in classics from Notre Dame. He moved to LA after he graduated and tried to win fame as a standup comic. His schtick was a skewed mockery of modernity staked in little history lessons on 17th and 18th century European history. No one thought it was funny. Successful comedians only spoke of pain and depravity. He became disillusioned. After several years, he left LA and was deeply in debt.