Lewis’ “That Hideous Strength”

This mixture of Arthurian myth, 20th century sci-fi, university political intrigue, and happy domestic philosophy has been one of the most entertaining reads I have lately enjoyed. Well, actually I didn’t read it. I listened to an audiobook, but I think that little diminished my pleasure.

In the story, science marches so far as to break into spirituality, but then of course we know it had been there all along. Myth and fairy tales blend with science and Christianity. The volume drips with quotes and allusions, most of which were miles beyond my experience.

Like much of C. S. Lewis’ work, it is master storytelling interspersed with mind exploding ideas. I particularly enjoyed thinking through the questions it forced me to ask about masculinity and femininity, both as they complement and as they are in conflict. At times I felt like laughing at Lewis, whose words were so clearly those of a man or a bachelor.

But perhaps his understanding of women is greater than I wished to give him credit for. Sometimes I felt he most certainly put a woman’s heart on the page; even my heart on a page. I do not remember ever identifying so thoroughly with a female character as I did with Jane Studdock. She is wife and scholar; a rebel, a coward, and a prophetess. That  affection spilled over onto her husband Mark, primarily for her sake. I could not tell you how Lewis convinces readers to love a character so stupid and so ill intentioned. None of Mark’s goodness is his own doing. He must be shoved into everything he does right.

Mark and Jane seem ordinary at first. Scholarly and unhappy newlyweds, but they are drawn quickly into opposing sides of a conflict that is both extraterrestrial and relevant. That Hideous Strength is the final volume in the “Space Trilogy.” Though it has been years since I read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, they are equally fine books. I did find that the level of entertainment grew as I progressed through the series.

 

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O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

IMG_0880I was very slow reading A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. I finished it in the library parking lot on the day it was due for return. But it was a pleasant first taste of Flannery O’Connor. Vivid southern characters whose authentic dialogue is belied by their actions draws together this collection of short stories. The reader hears the characters talk very big and then sees them live very small. Their plots and schemes are turned upside down. It is words versus actions with unforeseen consequences in each story.

Many of the stories feature manipulative women leading, or trying to lead, families and farms. There is conflict between family members and between landowners and farmhands all told in dry, tongue-in-cheek style.

A favorite quote: “He had a look of composed dissatisfaction as if he understood life thoroughly.”

The title suits the book. The characters are completely unreliable and by the end of the book the reader is convinced that most of humanity is equally so. Goodness and authenticity eludes every single character, particularly those characters whose vocabulary is most clearly Christian.  The collection sings out, “Don’t trust anyone!” while entertaining the reader thoroughly.

Monumental Failing

I’ve always had something to prove and that night lying on our apartment floor I was sure I had failed. The lumpy college-student couch, my journal and the book of Isaiah seemed to be the only comfort in my world. The day had been so long, so exhausting. We had experienced two full days of the first new student orientation at William Carey University. They called it “CareyWOW.” Perhaps it did “wow” the freshest freshmen, but the magnitude of my coming failure awed me more than anything.

I had set up 15 service projects in the Hattiesburg area that summer between my sophomore and junior year. Perhaps it was unusual for a student to be charged with setting up a whole two hours worth of the orientation schedule, but I was the new BSU Special Events leader and I was ready for a challenge. I had contacted organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Fieldhouse homeless shelter. We were to have groups hosting block parties for neighborhoods and groups picking up roadside litter.

Each project had its cooler of water, trash bags or block party games to bring, a volunteer coordinator to meet and a collection of new students to wrangle. That’s at least 75 different possible problems. The volunteer coordinators could forget. Trash bags could be left behind. Coolers could spill. New students could sleep too late. Wrong turns could be made.

I had never created anything so public. Never had my work been so visible to all the faculty and administrators I had tried so hard to impress. Failing was never an option for me, but I was so sure that tomorrow I would fail the trust of an entire university.

I rolled over on my stomach and closed my aching eyes. My stomach felt sick, knowing how I would be humiliated before my entire school the following morning. A whole summer of phone calls, voicemails, detailed meetings and headache-inducing logistics would go up in flames. I had spoken with the other leaders that night. Each was more exhausted than the last as we left the late night chapel service we had attended with the new students. Staggering weariness, bleary eyes, whispers of demon darkness and angry goodnights left me with no hope for the next morning. Certainly everything would fall apart.

I fell asleep late that night after washing off an August day’s worth of sweaty stickiness and the next morning I woke early to go to get ready for the day. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes and breathing deep, I felt dozens of vicious butterflies make a home in my stomach.

The coolers had to be packed with ice. So I hurried to the building with the storage room where they were waiting. At 7 AM on a Saturday it was still locked. I turned around and I saw two students, dear friends and fellow leaders for orientation, walking up.

“How can we help?” Samuel asked. He was a big guy with a bigger heart.

“I need to pack the coolers with water and ice and put the group numbers on them, but they are locked up,” I said. “Could you contact security and have them come unlock while I go find someone with a truck?”

“I have the number in my phone,” Vic said.

I ran to the BSU house and asked our director, Dr. Glaze, if he knew who might have a truck we could use to bring the coolers to the gym where the morning service would be held just before students left for their projects. The door to the building opened and in walked Zac, country singer and a professional country boy. I glanced out the building and saw the great, dented, red truck parked by the sidewalk. The question was out of my mouth on the heels of my “Good morning.” Zac walked out to move the truck closer to the storage room.

Dr. Glaze asked me if I had extra copies of the instructions and maps for everyone’s service projects. College students, even ones in leadership roles are not known for their skills in keeping up with sheets of paper. By the time I had collected all the copies and printed out extras the red truck was loaded down with 15 small Styrofoam coolers each with a number Sharpied on its lid. Samuel and Vic waved at me from the truck bed as Zac turned his truck around and headed for the gym. I breathed a prayer, grabbed my stack of papers and walked out with Dr. Glaze. The butterflies seemed to have settled on some flower.

I walked into the gym full of new students and grabbed a muffin. People surrounded me: faculty, staff and administrators I wanted to impress, the people who would write me gleaming reference letters, if I succeeded. My butterflies swarmed, their moment of flowery comfort shaken. Dr. Glaze leaned toward me and whispered, “You’ll come up with me and announce the groups’ departure.”

With wobbly knees I stood on the bleachers, juggling papers, muffin and keys waiting to speak. The morning worship music rose from the band on the floor and my heart stilled. The world was no longer my concern as the sound of our voices rose to heaven. The butterflies waved good-bye and the moment I stood in a sort of stasis between busy preparation and public beginning was a moment of screaming, worshipful joy. Moments later I held the microphone in one wobbly hand as my voice rose clearly and powerfully. In that moment I knew I wanted my legacy at this place to be my excitement for service.

To Fight the Dark

To fight the dark

With whispered words,

To fight the dark with a sorrowful song;

March into battle with pencils sharp.

Fighting desperately on bleeding pages.

Losing all, speaking simple words.

The cost?

My honor.

Singing a shameful song.

Defending justice.

Hard, burning right,

No easy joy.

Paper burns and sears the soul.

~Laura~

Sharpe’s Retreat

Sharpe left the house before anyone was up. The old woman would ask more questions and would also try to make him stay. He saw the breadbox as he slipped out her kitchen door. His stomach growled in spite of the feast she had served last night. He could not take even half a loaf; the woman had promised him ham, eggs, and toast that he was not getting, but it still seemed like stealing to take the bread.

Sharpe’s motorcycle leaned against the side of the house. His drowsy eyes drooped, but he knew he must ride and ride fast. No one should know him or be able to find him. Everyone he had known was gone now but he could not know anyone new. He would not bring danger on the old woman’s home by remaining. She seemed to manage a plentiful farm, but she had mentioned his father’s charity medical compound last night. She said she planned to pilgrimage there before the next month ended. He now knew he must find a way to start the spread of the news so it would reach her in time. Any questions would lead her to the dark truth, as would any lie his honest soul may have tried to tell.

He had remained silent and merely nodded as the woman spoke the night before. He had listened and pleaded his own weariness. If he had been less completely weary he would have waited until the house was asleep the night before and leave before the new day, but to lay clean in a clean bed is powerful force. He had not wakened until the morning. He would not be the one to tell her that her only hope of healthcare was gone; she could not know it was her hungry guest’s fault.

The old woman could not know that he had sat on a porch swing by the perfect redhead. Swinging back and forth he had kissed her, for both the first and last time, in one disastrously long moment.

As Sharpe rode through the foggy fields he saw that perfect crystal clear Texas night just days ago, or was it ages? The clinic lights and searchlights were on to keep away the dark and the wandering gangs that filled it. In that lawless region, a clinic well stocked with technology and drugs, was salvation for the leaderless farmers and fair game for whoever wanted it bad enough. Sharpe was to lock the gates and watch his little sister when he and Claire had walked out of the clinic. It had been a much longer walk than necessary to their houses that shared the safety inside the fence with the clinic. How many times had Sharpe’s dad had night duty? How many times had he locked the great gates and babysat? Countless times. But none since he had recognized that the redhead he grew up with fit the description of woman. Darkness had fallen as they sat on the porch.

The nightmare began when the lights blinked out in his house next door. Claire whispered, “Your sister.”

He sighed, “Good night.”

She kissed him and slipped inside her own door. Sharpe wished later that he could have gone in with her and an hour later died by her side. But rather, guilt would be his companion as he rode his motorcycle through the dark chasing his sister’s kidnappers. His miserable return when he could find no path to follow was greeted with ashes inside the protective fence with the open gate.

Five Senses

IMG_0103_2Sight

From one gray cliff-top I can see across the canyon to the other. Green and orange smudge the sides of the canyon: living brush and the exposed colored rock beneath the gray. The whole world spreads beneath us travelers, cut hundreds of yards below by a narrow river.

Sound

From one gray cliff-top I can see across the silent canyon to the other. Green and orange smudge the sides of the canyon: living brush and the exposed colored rock beneath the gray. The whole world spreads beneath us travelers, cut hundreds of yards below by a narrow river, running in a crescent to the splashing sea.

IMG_0111_2Smell

From one gray cliff-top I can see across the silent canyon to the other. Green and orange smudge the sides of the canyon: living brush and the exposed colored rock beneath the gray. The whole world spreads beneath us sweaty travelers, cut hundreds of yards below by a narrow river, running in a crescent to the splashing, salty-clean sea.

Taste

From one gray cliff-top I can see through the warm, thick air across the silent canyon to the other. Green and orange smudge the sides of the canyon: living brush and the exposed colored rock beneath the gray. The whole world spreads beneath us sweaty travelers, cut hundreds of yards below by a narrow river, running in a crescent to the splashing, salty-clean sea.

IMG_0109_2Touch

From one hard, gravel-gray cliff-top I can see through the warm, thick air across the silent canyon to the other. Green and orange smudge the sides of the canyon: rough, living brush and the exposed colored rock beneath the gray. The whole world spreads beneath us sweaty, weak-kneed travelers, cut hundreds of yards below by a creamy, narrow river, running in a crescent to the splashing, salty-clean sea.

~Laura~

Before November

This is a poem I wrote for a creative writing class in September of 2015. I was thinking of elections and government leaders.

There is no truth in what you say,

And this you know

And yet you speak.

Why? Why? Lies! Lies!

There is no heart

In your cold soul.

Your lying soul;

The cold, the dark, creep, creeping out

Around your tongue.

You cold oppress,

Benevolent?

Sneering ruler!

Poison power,

Dripping death from your cloven tongue.

You think your might

Gleams in the light,

And yet you stink to highest heaven.

Scorning justice,

Crippling straight.

There is no truth in what you say,

And this you know

And yet you speak.

Lies! Lies! Why? Why?

~Laura~

Beautiful with Time

I don’t know why I’m blogging. I think I want to write with my life. Blogging will hopefully allow me to improve my day-to-day creative writing output and document some of my life. Not that my life is terribly interesting. I am on summer break before my last year of college. I pretty much just work, read books, hang out with my family, look at Pinterest and think. *Yawn*

I do have a few hobbies that I’m rather bad at:

  • I love “Filofaxing”/creative planning, but being financially limited I dream and make halfhearted attempts and get bored every couple of months with my current planning system, so I change it.
  • I collect books. I have tons of books in my room and my family has a ton of books in our house. I love libraries, used book sales, and places filled with volumes. I always have more I need to read and am always ashamed of my current reading accomplishments.
  • I love sewing and crocheting, but patterns take up too much time, perfection is a pain and my designs never work out quite so well as I hoped.
  • I make up so many stories in my head, and I think many fascinating thoughts, but I am lazy and don’t write them down.

♥♥♥

Story Time

Once a princess had a garden. Any flower would bloom for her. They changed their colors and their seasons just please her. When guests came to visit they marveled and the sight of her beautiful handiwork. Each color and texture sang a happy song. 

One day the princess went on a long journey. She asked her sister to care for the garden. Her sister tended the garden everyday. She watered the flowers and trimmed the dead bits and pruned the trees. But the garden was not happy. The colors turned garish and the leaves wilted. The princess’s sister did not know what magic made the colors perfect. She could not see what made the plants beautiful.

♥♥♥

I personally think that all skills are like cookie baking. When I was a child I baked cookies by squeezing as many spoonfuls of dough on the pan as was possible. I baked them until they were browned all over. The hard, ugly cookies always stuck together, but I didn’t know why. It took time but experience brought improvement, even without a teacher. I learned that less time means more gooey wonderfulness and that 2 inches apart makes the cookie a round and beautiful dream.

I feel like the princess’s sister most of the time, inept at making beautiful things. However, I hope blogging and life are like cookie baking. Learning and improvements take time, but if one does something enough, one learns to do it well.

~Laura~

A Good Passage

The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s and on them he has set the world.

1Samuel 2:7-8