Lewis, Tolkien, TS Eliot, Vikings, Virgil, Bill and Ted: On History

The hardy romp through theories, stages and general phenomenon of history, as provided by Mark Tiberius Gilderhus in History and Historians: A Historiographical Introduction, brings to mind the various intersections of a notion such as “historical consciousness” and a “philosophy of history” and various readings in cultural apologetics thus far.[1]  It would be nearly a crime to not begin with material from C.S. Lewis, given his significant role in modern apologetics, and so we begin, working backwards perhaps though history to find our way.

[1] And as this was written during my final course in the online MA program in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, a number of such connections flooded my mind. Were I to have written a thesis, this might be the outline of how it could have gone.

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Beauty: A Gentle Introduction

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness… I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence … We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

– CS Lewis, Weight of Glory

 

 

Blaue Blume / Langtans Blaa Blomma (Blue Flower of Longing) from wooden flower arrangement from recent local Octoberfest vendor;

Wanderer on the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818, German Romantic

The Anglo-Saxon World Anthology: Oxford Classics

Often the wanderer pleads for pity / and mercy from the Lord; but for a long time             Sad in mind, he must dip his oars / into icy waters, the lanes of the sea                                  He must follow the paths of exile: fate is inflexible – The Wanderer (Anglo-Saxon poem)

 

Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C.S. Lewis by Corbin Scott Carnell, Eerdmans, 1974

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Theological Aesthetics I: Hans Urs von Balthasar and “Seeing the Form”

“Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another… We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name … can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”[1] – Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

“The witness borne by Being becomes untrustworthy for  the person who can no longer read the language of beauty.”[2] – Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

“Before the beautiful—no, not really before but within the beautiful—the whole person quivers. He not only ‘finds’ the beautiful moving; rather, he experiences himself as being moved and possessed by it.”[3] – Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

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Beauty II: Theological Aesthetics Part Deux (Completing Balthasar)

Completing Balthasar: Garcia-Rivera and Community of the Beautiful

In developing the foundation of aesthetics, Balthasar leads us to rapture and ecstasy, beholding the splendor within the form.  But what becomes of reason? Can we be enraptured of a form which deceives us? Since all that glitters is not indeed gold, we find ourselves at the nexus of faith and reason, just as, Garcia-Rivera reminds us, Dante found himself as Virgil (classical virtue and reason) led him to the gates of Paradise, at which point he needed a more capable guide, the beautiful Beatrice (faith, with a loveliness spoken of by her beauty). Continue reading

Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment aka What Can’t You Get Away With

Essay 2.  Although Crime and Punishment was begun prior to Nietzsche’s first published work, The Birth of Tragedy, it nevertheless offers one of the finest ripostes to Nietzschean power philosophy. Consider the ways Dostoevsky answers Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity through the relationship between Raskolnikov and Sonia.

 

God is dead   – Nietzsche

Nietzsche is dead – God

<note:review of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors is not contained herein, but it’s only Jan. 2 …>

the playful, t-shirt or bumper-snicker worthy sloganeering goes.  Death and life – Nietzsche posits the former (death of God) to find a place for the latter (life for man).  Jesus, of course, had his own take on the relationship: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 New KJV), “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) and finally “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).  The nineteenth century Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, also a Christian, embodied that life-giving power of Christ in his 1866 novel, Crime and Punishment, specifically in the love relationship between the Raskolnikov and Sonia.

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Orthodoxy IX: Authority and the Adventurer

as a placeholder until we get to discussing this finale to Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, we here begin with the finale.  His mention of mirth reminds me of the description of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings:

Thus Aragorn became at last the most hardy of living Men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elvenwise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure. His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, and yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise at times like a spring from the rock.   Return of the King, Appendix A.5,

gkc orth a

“And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”

Wordsworth, The Prelude – Lewis’s List #5

 

 

Surprised by Joy – as impatient as the wind – WW SBJ

It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s “enormous bliss” of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to “enormous”) comes somewhere near it – CSL SBJ

“When C.S. Lewis first read William Wordsworth as a teenager, he violently disliked him” Mary Ritter begins her chapter on Lewis’s #5 pick on his list of ten books which Lewis felt had “shaped his vocational attitude and philosophy of life.”[i]  Themes of Nature, of Reason and Imagination, and perhaps above all, Joy, are what Ritter cites as the most profound influences of Wordsworth on Lewis.  The theme of Joy, found in the opening lines of Wordsworth’s poem Surprised by Joy, plays a central role in Lewis’s own conversion and approach to apologetics (argument for the existence of God); hence, the (same) title of Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy (with Wordsworth’s opening line given on the title page).

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