Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

New Acquisitions

Someone please stop me!!

First pick-up was:

I love C.S. Lewis’s work in general and his theological work in particular (although do I prefer Chesterton over Lewis? hmmm). And how can I pass up a book that contains an essay titled “Fern Seeds and Elephants.”

Second Pic was:

This is from 1954 and is pre-Vatican Two. It has some lovely (and some rather homely) art in it and a wealth of information on many things Catholic: stations of the cross, extreme unction, baptism, the thingamabobs that make up a priests “uniform”, etc, etc.

In the Missal (a thing I still find hard to penetrate conceptually) they give you the years 1954 thru 1972 instead of using a generic system by which you identity which of the possible fourteen calendars you are in for any possible year, say 2017? Can you imagine someone throwing this set out and getting a new one in 1973 because they ran out of years?

Ah, and the smell of the set. That old book smell. I don’t know what it is. Do books that come out now end up with that smell? Is it the ink? This is a closed box set so the aging of the pages and ink and binding is somewhat preserved in a hermetical atmosphere and the tones are that much more sweet. You can’t get that out of a digital book. And they will always be at a loss for it.

But it proves a nice thing to begin the day looking them over.

But as it is I am four weeks into N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God and I am only on page 67. My reading slows to an absolute crawl during allergy season and my waking hours are usually less than sleeping hours.

Of course a crawl is about 200 pages a week, but it has been all fiction as I can’t attain the level of focus required for Wright’s subject at this time. I hope the Cottonwood clears up by next week.

Interestingly, my wife has just recently started to suffer from seasonal allergies and she is hating it. “This is what you have been living under all these years?! I feel as if I’m having a stroke!”

Yeah, love, it sucks big time.


The Value of Hume

I was, during a break, thinking a bit of C.S. Lewis’ On Miracles, when I had a sudden bit of potential integration that I can do nothing with at the moment. In one of the early chapters he is talking about the limits of experience. This was in relation to a naturalist approach to universal explanation. Basically how wide the naturalist abstraction is compared to the personal evidence that can conceivably support it.

As a philosophy with any positive value, Hume’s seems out the gate to be a piece of mud. However, mud has its uses. His shattered, fractured universe is quite useful when we think about the edifices that people stand on unknowingly. How much is assumed, unexamined, unexplained, even unrecognized, from one instance to the next instance.

Immanuel Kant was, historically, the man who attempted to put Humpty Dumpty back together after Hume busted him up…

Few people go through life terrified that the car they are traveling in will suddenly cease to exist right out from under them, or that the ball they are throwing will turn into a dragon and burn them where they stand. But why shouldn’t these things happen? If these things do not happen, surely, some lesser things of the same nature happen all the time? Should we fear that they could happen but just haven’t, at least not in our personal experience?

Why not? These are pretty easy questions in philosophy. Or, rather, such questions have been part of philosophy for millennia. But what about whole world-views? What part of it is blind faith on the part of the holder? And how much is derived from things they can actively demonstrate?

What can one stand on? How much of your views of the world, of the nature of things, of people, politics, right and wrong can you account for? And how much of it is words put together without referent, without ground?

I think most people would be astounded to find there is very little they can account for. And little of that they can piece together. What is your experience of a house but the Continue reading

Modern Christian Music

So I was at Alleluia Catholic Bookstore today in Kent. Beautiful little store, decent book selection, great art and trinkets and miscellany. Also enough Catholic paraphernalia to exorcize a whole legion (get it? nudge nudge) a whole legion of demons and decorate a large parish or small cathedral.

I got a copy of last week’s National Catholic Register (they had an article about Star Trek… don’t judge ME!). An essay collection called Why Humanae Vitae was Right. The more I look the more I agree with that assessment. Hell, in a couple of years I am going to divorce my wife and marry my dog – and who says I can’t? By what standard? Ha ha! And then I will take over the congress and appoint a horse as a member.

It was a horse was it not?

And lastly I got another Bible. I fear I may be one of the creepy class of people I never understood… THE COLLECTOR. I love Bibles (except the cheap paperback kind, you buy James Patterson in paperback (although preferably not at all (double parenthetic! (no, triple,(no….)))) and I didn’t have a little hand held one. It is the Saint Joseph edition of the NAB.

It is new. I have yet to find a nice old, old one. One thing I would also like is one that is just a Bible. I have, already, 10 Bibles that are all chock full of commentary and I have over 300 theological books in my library. I would like one that is purely Bible.

Anyway to the subject at hand. Oh, and the salesman there was the nicest of gentlemen, Luis, go visit him sometime if you are in the area, he works Mondays and Thursdays. Anyway the entire time I am browsing the store’s radio is on some modern Christian MOR pop station.

Arf. It just puts lead on the old saying, “the devil has the best music”. Because if what I was hearing in that store was God’s, His taste in music is AWFUL. All the songs sound like dreary, ineptly reconstituted lyrics from all the depressing parts of the Psalms done in a pancake flat watered down almost, kinda country sorta like sound.


More like a merge with other lanes onto the same road. But here is a question: why can’t Christian music kick ass? No. NO!!! I am not talking Creed, you son of a bitch! And I am not talking about some Metallica sounding band grumbling “S-S-s Sanctifya!”

On that level why can’t these people be more like Lafferty’s Catholicism and not so much like Lewis’ Narnia. You might be engrossed in a Lafferty story and have to have someone else bring out the deeply theological theme for you (I know, I’ve needed it done for me) but even the dumbest James Patterson (if you’re offended, improve your reading tastes) reader doesn’t fail to grasp, and pretty easily, that Aslan is Christ.

You can argue, and you would be correct, that Narnia is for children, while Lafferty is clearly not. But this music is not for children either. It is for adults.

Think about it, there are kick ass writers, movies, art. But music? What is all this saltless water?

Years and years ago I was having a conversation with an Objectivist acquaintance of mine (we were both Randians) and he had a particular dislike of the rock band AC/DC, while I have been always quite fond of them on account that I’ve never been able to keep my knuckles off the ground when I walk. He considered them some sort of particular threat to society (at least that was the impression he gave) the nadir of civilization. He was opposed to the monotonous drum beat, the three chords, the loudness, the wail of the singer, and the banality of the lyrics, not to mention the crudity.

He did give them credit for being primitive enough to invent the single entendre.

Then he made the comment that this was in the nature of rock music, that it was intrinsically a lower level of music and a sign of cultural disintegration.

People laugh at Randians, but man do we come up with some nifty ideas!

After hotly detesting this, I took a wider, technological track outside the direct purview of music. Rock music was the direct effect of an advance in technology, namely, the electric guitar. No electric guitar, no rock.

Now I posited to him. Imagine that our society was Objectivist, Randian since 1820. Let’s posit that Ayn Rand was born a hundred and fifty years before she actually was. My buddy was talking to a science-fictioneer, ya know. And let’s say the world was instantly under her sway. Religion fell like the dinosaur, communism never could be, all people are the reason worshippers we all talk about. We are in a complete free market utopia, science rules the day, etc, etc, etc.

Still the electric guitar and amplified music in general will be born. Are you to tell me (and the band in discussion certainly were not the first) that a couple of shaggy 5-footers aren’t going to plug those things in, turn the amps up real high and bang and scream away. And that no one will like it? That we will all sit there with our tea and crumpets and turn up our noses and call the police down?

Would anything be different? Well a lot. Let’s not even do the whole Randian alternative future – that was merely the form I had the conversation in. Let’s say a Les Paul came up with the electric guitar in 1885 or even 1910. Yeah, it would be a lot different. We probably would have had a lot more years of Blueberry Hill and You Keep a Knockin’ before we got to Big Balls and Slide it In (that very tacky song, can you guess what it means? is courtesy of Zeppelin wannabes Whitesnake).

Assuming, of course, a downward trajectory of culture. I mean we are inarguably on that, but I was referring to my alternate timeline.

So, I repeat. Why is Christian music so terribly lame? It is not the subject matter. Most of the stuff I grew up listening to (I was a metal head in the 80’s) I couldn’t tell what the hell they were saying.

Just an idle thought. I never pursued “Objectivist” artists when I was an Objectivist, and, if I ever became Christian, I wouldn’t seek out Christian music either. The Christmas stuff (love the Rudolph song, ha ha) the choir stuff, a lot of it is great. But that modern radio stuff. Stuff it.

Great C.S. Lewis Quote

I was replying to someone in a theological debate and looking up a C.S. Lewis quote that I remembered reading awhile back. It is from an essay collection called God in the Dock. It is in chapter four, Answers to Questions on Christianity.

Question 11

Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness?


Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best.

I doubt this is true. I have seen many a self-satisfied idolators of self (hell, I was one, I probably still am) they never look very happy to me. Drunk, maybe, not happy.

Good Science Fiction Sites

Let’s first say that it ain’t the big sites. Unless you are interested in what is happening… right now… No! you missed it… right…wait…NOW! No! You missed it again. Myself I like the past stuff better than the current stuff. I have three current authors I read: John C. Wright and Vernor Vinge (Vinge certainly doesn’t write enough) and Gene Wolfe.

There is just too much great stuff to gamble on the present and reading the tastes of current authors at SF Signal gives me no indication I would enjoy their works. Perhaps that is not fair, but as a consumer I merely have to choose, I don’t have to be fair.

Anywho the first up is the site of author John C. Wright. He does a lot of other topics other than science fiction (and will have opinions that are bound to piss some people off, but that’s your problem) but the man knows his stuff. I can’t even begin to enumerate the authors he opened me up to over the last several years: David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus, C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy to name but a few. I even got turned onto Lafferty because he mentioned the outlandishness of Past Master and I thought the title cool enough to look up. Hence a love affair commenced and the rest is history (between I and Lafferty, not I and Wright although I am to be counted as a fan of his works as well). Best to search his site by keywords; his subjects can vary wildly.

Next up is a site devoted almost exclusively to science fiction literature, particularly New Wave science fiction of the 60’s and 70’s, by a Mr. Joachim Boaz called Science Fiction and Suspect Ruminations. This is a great site. This guy digs up the most arcane, forgotten books and does pretty in-depth reviews of them. He has turned me onto some real gems. One such was Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop (also known as Starship); one of the best constructed books I’ve ever read. Some of what he digs up I’ve never heard up, and sometimes the author I’ve never known about either.

The third site is a specialized site for fans of R.A. Lafferty called The Ants of God are Queer Fish (it is a Lafferty reference and unfortunately not one I fully get as I have never got my hands on the story referenced). But if a Lafferty story or novel leaves you scratching your head (and that will happen) Mr. Petersen should be able to help you out. This is for the initiated, if you have never read Lafferty then not much is going to make sense on the site. There is also a FaceBook page for Lafferty fans started by the same author of The Ants of God are Queer Fish. I myself don’t have a FaceBook account as I don’t want unwanted communications from ghosts of the past. But… there you go.

If all you’ve been exposed to as a science fiction is the latest Star Wars tie-in books or the latest whoever it is, give these sites a look – and spread your wings!


R.A. Lafferty Tomorrow!! And New John C. Wright!! And More Randian Disappointment


Just a reminder that the first of 12 R.A. Lafferty volumes is released tomorrow! Buy! Buy! Buy! So all 12 volumes will be published and I can get them all.

Here is the table of contents for this first edition.


  • Introduction by Michael Swanwick
  • The Man Who Made Models
  • The Six Fingers of Time
  • The Hole on the Corner
  • Square and Above Board
  • Jack Bang’s Eyes
  • All But the Words
  • The Ungodly Mice of Doctor Drakos
  • Frog on the Mountain
  • Narrow Valley
  • Condilac’s Statue or Wrens in His Head
  • About a Secret Crocodile
  • Days of Grass, Days of Straw
  • The Ninety-Ninth Cubicle
  • Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne
  • Parthen
  • The Skinny People of Leptophlebo Sttreet
  • Rivers of Damascus
  • Afterword by John Pelan (the publisher)

If you want to experience outside the normal bounds of whatever it is you have read in your life indulge in some Lafferty. If not for your own sake, then do it for mine!


Also tomorrow is the third installment of John C. Wright’s Count to a Trillion series. So far I have loved the series. The only caveat is his tales are dense and I read some 50 – 60 books a year. I have to find some synopsis to remember exactly where the last book left off…


I am afraid I am going to end up being one of those ex-Objectivists that end up Continue reading