Christianity, knitting, philosophy

Long time, no see

Sorry for neglecting you, O Readers, for so long. A whole week!
In the meantime, I have been pretty busy.
I was privileged to see the Catholic philosopher and apologist, Peter Kreeft, speak on Monday. It was remarkable. He gave a really good talk on how to win the culture wars, and basically his answer was to become holy. I was also able to ask him a question – “Who do you think is the greatest author of the twentieth century, and why?” “C. S. Lewis. Read him, and you’ll find out.” I was somewhat surprised that he did not say G. K. Chesterton, and was bold enough to mention this when it was my turn to have my book signed by him (o bliss!). He answered “Well, perhaps he was not the creative genius that Chesterton was” but I do not remember the rest. Anyways, it was an incredible opportunity and I am so glad I went.

I also am almost finished with my February Lady sweater. I’m over halfway done with the last sleeve. I should finish it tomorrow… It is a totally seamless pattern and when it is done, all I have to do is wash it, block it and sew on the buttons. I’ve already tried it on a few times in its incomplete state and it looks great.

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Books, C. S. Lewis, fairy tales, GKC, philosophy

A Review of Coraline

Recently I read Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I recommend it. I read it all in one night… yes, at night.

I was very pleased with it. First of all, there was a quote from G. K. Chesterton in the front. That’s always a good sign. I think it might actually be slightly misquoted, but I’m not certain about that. Actually, I believe can see the influence of G. K. Chesterton on this book. But I’ll talk about that later.

It is a quick read, a bit shorter than the Narnia books, I think, and is filled with action. One sign of a good writer is that he can say a great deal in a relatively short amount of space, which Neil Gaiman has succeeded in doing. He has a pretty good style, I think; he doesn’t ramble, and he does not rely on the unfortunate technique (which I first heard explained by C. S. Lewis) that constantly uses words such as “frightening”, “dreadful”, “strange”, etc. instead of showing that these things are frightening or dreadful or strange. That is, they tell you something is frightening instead of showing you how frightening something is. In short, his descriptions are good!

Warning: the following contains spoilers-I recommend reading it only after you’ve finished Coraline


Two themes in this book intrigued me. The first was the theme of finding joy in everyday things. This is clearly Chestertonian. I don’t know whether this was intended or not, but it seemed pretty clear to me. When the book begins, Coraline is bored stiff, but by the end she’s happy just to be in the real world again with her parents and her neighbors. I suggest reading the introduction to The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton for a more lucid explanation of what I mean than I can give.

The second theme I will sum up in one quote:

“The other mother could not create. She could only transform, and twist, and change.”

This is remarkable. I have a feeling that he drew it from Tolkien, actually (his childhood and teenage reading, according to Wikipedia, included Chesterton, Lewis, and Tolkien as well as many other authors) but Tolkien got it from a higher source, which some think is Boethius (whose feast day was yesterday! Boethius is a saint under the name of Saint Severinus Boethius!). Well, yes, but I don’t think Boethius made up the concept.
In fact, as far as I know, St. Augustine was the first to state this. The idea is that God created all things, and all God created was good; therefore evil is not a thing in itself, but a twisting of a good thing, and the devil cannot create anything but only deform it. (Think C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet-the language that is spoken on Malacandra has no word for “evil” and Ransom has to use their word for “bent” instead). It’s possible that this had a root in philosophy before Augustine, which I am not learned enough to know, but this is the earliest place I know of.

Well, that’s all the profound stuff I can remember. The children’s separation from their souls may seem to be an issue to Christians, but if you’ve read fairy tales, then you probably know that the device of having a detachable “soul”, “heart” etc isn’t very uncommon. I consider this a pure fairy tale trick and don’t have a problem with it. Now, I’m fairly strict about what I’ll read and not read. I don’t read Harry Potter or Twilight or anything else like that, so I would like to think that if Coraline were problematic I would have noticed it.

I enjoyed the parts where Coraline refused to eat “recipes”. It sounded familiar… younger siblings, anyone? She seemed like a very real little girl, except that surely she would have been more frightened than she was in parts of the book? Well, I suppose that if she had been too petrified that the story wouldn’t have worked out. Possibly I’m just transposing my own cowardice to others.

I thought that the gradual revelation of the other mother was very well done. The first time Coraline sees her, she looks like her real mother, except “her skin was as white as paper”, her fingernails were too long, and, of course, the buttons. Later, it mentions that her teeth were a tiny bit too long. Near the end, it says her teeth were as sharp as knives. This struck me as being good storytelling.

Final thoughts: I think that if I can get my sister Elvenmaiden to read this book, I might try scratching at the window and see what she does.

END SPOILERS

In all, I can recommend Coraline, with the caveat that this is NOT for young readers. This is one of the creepiest fairy tales I have ever read. (It certainly is a fairy tale.) This is a book for middle schoolers at the youngest. What a fascinating book, though. Just one thing… you might not want to read it at night. I did, and it didn’t bother me too much, but you’ll just have to decide on your own. This is a VERY creepy book, but a very good one.

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Christianity, femininity, language, Latin, Modesty, philosophy

Concerning Modesty – Part I

Today, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to do a blog post on modesty. So here it is.
Note: I am not a Latinist. I really like Latin, and I am a high school student who has been studying it for over three years, but no expert. I do not wish anyone to think that my speculations based on the words are facts on how the words were used. I am using them to illustrate the many concepts that play roles in true Christian modesty. There are also other words that can mean “modesty” in Latin, but I’m only using these three right here.
My initial idea for the title of this post was to render it in Latin. So I got out my handy-dandy notebook Latin-English dictionary and looked up “modesty”. I got three renderings; modestia, pudicitia, and verecundia. I then looked up each word in the Latin part of the dictionary to see which rendering was the closest to the meaning I wished to convey, as the dictionary will usually give several translations for each word. This gives me an idea of the connotations of each word. Here is each one:
Modestia-moderation, restraint; discretion; modesty, sense of shame, sense of honor, dignity; propriety; mildness (of weather).
Pudicitia-chastity, modesty, purity.
Verecundia-bashfulness, shyness, modesty; respect, awe, reverence; sense of shame, feeling of disgrace, disgrace, shame.
So modestia would seem to be similar to one English use of modesty; the sense of being restrained, of not putting on a big show, of outward humility. Pudicitia is closer to the sense of modesty as related to purity and chastity, as is obvious from the translation; and the translations for verecundia are similar to those of modestia, with, apparently, the additional connotation of awe and reverence.
When we talk of modesty in dress, pudicitia seems to be the nearest to our meaning, yet all three play a role. For instance, modestia; the Christian should desire not to make an exhibition of himself* or draw attention to himself. He should also cultivate a sense of decency and propriety, of dressing with decency, and his behavior should also be decent and fitting. Lastly, verecundia reminds us of what modesty is all about; a sense of awe, reverence, and dignity towards our bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Shame and disgrace are what we experience when they are (mis)used or exhibited in a way not in accordance with modestia or pudicitia. 

Part Two will be here shortly!
*As customary in the English language, I use the masculine pronoun to mean both men and women. Obviously, this applies to women as well.
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