Out of the Silent Planet

the_starry_night-wallpaper-1152x864C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy is my first reading project for the year, and I just loved Out of the Silent Planet. Lewis’ imagination fascinates me, and I was especially struck by Ransom’s experiences of and philosophizing on space.

He had read of “Space”: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now—now that the very name “Space” seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it “dead”; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren: he saw now that it was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes—and here, with how many more! No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens—the heavens which declared the glory.

Wiman on love

Processed with VSCOcam with m4 preset“Love, which awakens our souls and to which we cling like the splendid mortal creatures that we are, asks us to let it go, to let it be more than it is if it is only us. To manage this highest form of loving does not mean that we will be showered with earthly delights or somehow be spared awful human suffering. But for as long as we can live in this sacred space of receiving and releasing, and can learn to speak and be love’s fluency, then the greater love that is God brings a continuous and enlarging air into our existence. We feel love leave us in unthreatening ways. We feel it reenter us at once more truly and more strange, like a simple kiss that has a bite of starlight to it.”
(Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss)

Kreeft: Love Is Everything

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset“Not only is love everything, but everything is love.

Love is everything. Love is the soul of everything valuable. The most precious gift in the world given without love is worthless; the cheapest gift in the world given with love is priceless.

But everything is also love. Everything valuable is made of love. Everything that exists, from yourself to a grain of sand, is God’s love made visible, made incarnate—love in the form of creation. The words He spoke to create everything in the universe—”let it be”—were the words of love. He loved stuff into being. Space is love’s spread. The room you are in now is a thousand cubic feet of God’s love spread out. Time is love’s life (“lifetime”). History is love’s drama. Matter is love’s body. Gravity is love’s energy when it moves not souls but stars and stones and storms. We are love’s children. “Be made” means “I love you.” Your very existence is God’s love of you. Love is the meaning of life and the meaning of religion and the meaning of everything.”
(Peter Kreeft, Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters)

Recent Reads: I

While I am sure the blog world does not need yet another list of books to read, I love gaining titles and ideas from the blogs I read and thought I would begin sharing some of my recent reads. (Let’s be real: I wanted to be cool like Margaret and Rebekah.)

Percy-Love-in-the-Ruins.sflb_Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy
I read this book primarily on a plane to and from Los Angeles. It is strange and eery but hauntingly beautiful and memorable. For the four-hour flight from Atlanta to LA, I did not once put the book down. Percy masterfully creates the setting for the reader, and the languid heat and buzzing insects and occasional bullet whistling past hang over the reader. I could feel the humidity as I read; even now, I can quickly return to the eery stillness and oppressive summer weather. The main character, Dr. Tom More, spends his life attempting to cure others of the longing to escape the evils of matter and this world (“angelism”) and the reduction of people to biological machines (“bestialism”). The setting that Percy creates with its intense physicality reveals to the reader that while “angelism” might seem to be an appealing way of living to Dr. More and many of his readers, we cannot escape the physical, indeed even the sacramental, nature of this world. For it is the incarnational, sacramental, physical everyday that brings Dr. More to truth not through transcendence of the physical, but by seeing it for all that it is:

“What she didn’t understand, she being spiritual and seeing religion as spirit, was that it took religion to save me from the spirit world, from orbiting the earth like Lucifer and the angels, that it took nothing less than touching the thread of the misty interstates and eating Christ himself to make me mortal man again and let me inhabit my own flesh and love her in the morning.”

Wendell_Berry_Given_Poems_smGiven: Poems, Wendell Berry
I read a few poems from this book each morning before my students came to my classroom, and Berry’s poetry once again gave me lines to linger upon throughout my day. Berry is my favorite poet, and this collection provides some of his best.

For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.

403961_LARGELove & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters, Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith
I linked to this book in an earlier post, but felt that this deserved its own mention. Love & Salt is a collection of letters between two women who are struggling with what it means to live. Their letters are honest, sometimes brutally so, and filled with pain and questions but also hope and grace. They provide beautiful reflections to some of life’s biggest questions and their friendship reveals what true friendship consists of: two people who teach one another of God, life, love, and faithfulness. On top of the rich substance in each letter, they are pieces of art and both women are wonderful writers. This has been one of my favorites this year as I look back over the pages and see myself in some of their stories. And isn’t that what we all desire as human beings, to know we are not alone? These women will reassure you that you are not, in fact, alone in all of your doubts and fears and questions and loves and hopes and joys.

Maybe I’ve had it all wrong, and it’s not that I have to love God more than my family but simply come to see that my love of my family—past, present, and future—is a sign of the even greater love of God, which governs all.

41Y2x+dGiHLIf Aristotle’s Kid Had an iPod, Connor Gallagher
This is a delightful, quick read. The author takes some of the fundamental ideas in Aristotle’s philosophy and whimsically and simply shows parents all of their implications for raising children. Gallagher discusses ideas such as friendship, virtue, leisure, and happiness, and how to cultivate them in your children. While some of my Hillsdale friends might just prefer to read Aristotle himself, I found this book to be witty, succinct, and deeply insightful—especially as I attempt to help eighteen children grow up into virtue and goodness.

Holy Saturday

01-old-rc-churches-basilica-cattedrale-patriachale-di-san-marco-venezia-it-01-anastasis-11th-cO Death, Death, He is come.
O grounds of Hell make room.
Who came from further than the stars
Now comes as low beneath.
Thy ribbed ports, O Death
Make wide; and Thou, O Lord of Sin,
Lay open thine estates.
Lift up your heads, O Gates;
Be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors
The King of Glory will come in.
(O Death, Death, G.M. Hopkins)

“To be a woman with a wise and understanding heart”

caddie_woodlawn

I never cry when I read books. But reading this to my students this afternoon, I found tears coming to my eyes. I hope the sweet girls sitting in my little room take every word from Caddie’s father to heart:

“It’s a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls than of boys. It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task, too, Caddie—harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well. I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.”
Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink