Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Napoleon of Notting Hill

...has rapidly become one of my favorite books.

It's about a king who reinstates medieval boroughs in London for a joke and a fanatic who takes him seriously.

Who wants to be modern? Christians ought to be culturally relevant, yes, but that's not quite the same thing. Some things never go out of relevance. Further, one could argue that the more modern you are, the less relevant you will be. I do enjoy absolute truth. :-)

Small doings

So how was everyone's Memorial Day?

I spent most of the day cleaning out my room. I suddenly looked at it and discovered I couldn't handle it any more, so tidying and rearrangement ensued. I felt like I was moving out, and it wasn't much more fun. Soror kept me company by cleaning the other half of my room, the one divided from my own by a tall bookshelf and full of sewing supplies and wrapping paper. Both halves are now beautiful.

I also scrubbed the kitchen floor, set the table for dinner, and have been checking everyone's blogs. :-)

We got a lovely long rain this afternoon--a whole inch in about three hours. These are unheard-of riches. The summer monsoons have arrived about a month early--every afternoon it rains, and every evening and morning is cool and clear.

Oh, and the cat is happy, because we bought her a flea collar and now let her go out provided she wears her "jewelry"!

Monday, May 30, 2005

An interesting exchange

"White!" [Saruman] sneered. "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken."

"In which case it is no longer white," said [Gandalf]. "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

Saturday, May 28, 2005


One of the most peculiar things about our universe is the way everything echoes, copies, "means," and symbolizes other things. The spiritual and physical realms do it; art and life do it; words and deeds do it.

Metaphor is generally defined as saying that one thing "is" another thing. In literary vocab lists, metaphor is distinguished from simile because simile uses the word "like" or "as."

But I think metaphor is more than a literary device. I think it gets at something real, something that actually exists in our world. People use it as a literary device because it works, and it works because it's true.

Ben wrote an interesting blog on transposition (borrowing from a Lewis essay I have not, alas, yet read). When you have a written word and a spoken word, one element exactly represents the other. One-to-one metaphor. When you transpose something into a simpler system--from an orchestral to a piano arrangement, was the example given--one element in the new system has to represent multiple elements in the old system. Information has been lost. The metaphor begins to break down.

The book of Hebrews is one of the most interesting works on metaphor that I've ever read. The temple was not the thing itself, but was a picture, a copy, of the One who was to come. The Old Testament is symbolic of the New Testament, that much is clear. But what of the things given in the New Testament? The Spirit, and baptism, and communion?

In given the Spirit we are given the thing itself. Baptism, I think, is the "sacramental" type of metaphor, because it is a symbol of the thing and also part of the thing itself. Communion is the same. (Oh! The effrontery of me to dismiss in four words a debate that has been raging ever since the Last Supper!) Lewis distinguished between purely symbolic and sacramental metaphors, and I think he hit on something there. I have a question, though: do types of metaphor come on a continuum or are they stairstep categories? That is, can this thing over here be a trifle more a sacramental metaphor, and that one a little less, or are metaphors exactly classifiable?

It is very like The Last Battle. The Narnia of the stories was only a shadow or a copy of the Narnia that was to come--the REAL Narnia, Narnia the way it ought to be. Plato and his forms took this idea of metaphor and ran with it: everything in this world is a metaphor for something more Real, and some copies are more like the original than others. It's all in Plato, all in Plato. Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools?

Fire, flood, and plague

Someone set a controlled burn the other day up in the Valle Grande, and news reports said it was thinking of getting out of hand. Those of us who remember May 2000 are a trifle sensitive about "controlled burns," particularly ones set in warm Mays, but this one was almost a week ago, and we haven't seen smoke or flame, so I think it's okay now.

On the opposite end of the disaster spectrum, snow in the mountains was melting so profligately that there were flood warnings out.

However, the last few days have been chilly. This is good for both fire and flood prevention. :-)

And, just to round things out, there have been reports of the plague in Los Alamos, so we bought the cat a flea collar. She doesn't like it, even though it's her very own color of purple. Soror held her down while I fastened it. (What female heart despises gold? What Cat's averse to fish? --"Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes")

So God has been good. We have neither burned, flooded, or died of plague.

Friday, May 27, 2005


The sermon at Crossroads last Sunday was excellent. Fascinating. I didn't take notes on the sermon, precisely, but I took down thoughts.

An episode of Babylon 5 got it exactly right: we are made of the same dust as stars. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (i.e. the entire created cosmos), and of the dust of the ground He made Adam. We are physical creatures as well as spiritual, and by some incredible blessing we even fit in THIS universe. This very earth is what we are made of. We are not strangers. And Eve is made of Adam's bone; people were created to fit together, not thrown together by chance.

But poor Delenn did not understand the fall. When Adam sinned, all people sinned. All of his flesh and bone and dust became perverted, twisted, messed up. And as humans fell, so did all creation. The stars are in a spoiled universe too.

Dr. Hake talks about how the ultimate story of the universe is creation, fall, and redemption. As in one man all dust fell, so in one Man all dust is redeemed. Redemption was foretold at the very beginning, at the same time as the curse was instated. It was inaugurated when Jesus came as a human, because this representative Dust dealt with death. But redemption has not yet been consummated. We still live in this fallen world.

Revelation 21 tells of the lifting of fallen things. The end of the story so neatly wraps up the plot lines that were opened in Genesis 1:
-creation and its ruin
-God dwelling with men, people’s alienation from God
-the tree of life and exile from it
-marriage and alienation of humans from each other
-the curse
-man’s dominion over creation

The salvation of men has been accomplished, and in Revelation we read of the future redemption of the heavens and earth. Human dust and star dust will be reconciled.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I made it home from school. Packing was not exactly a success; I'd been trying to get it all done, but come Sunday morning, stuff was still everywhere. With the most kind assistance of Megan, soror mea, Kirsten (who was trying to check me out of the dorm before she missed church), and Judah, everything got put away, clean, and to the storage unit.

We printed directions--Judah drove us to BWI (thank you!)--we were in plenty of time for the flight--and home we went.

So now I'm in the process of readjusting to New Mexico. It's incredibly green. My hair doesn't know what to do without humidity!

I am less than thrilled with contemporary philosophy, particularly as exemplified by Episode One, which I just rewatched. Dude. It is an impressively bad film with a budget far too high for its own good. It mindlessly lauds peace and justice while the Jedi and Queen break laws and do silly things up one side and down the other. There's a verging-on-blasphemous virgin birth by the Force and Anakin as some kind of perverted Christ figure. The race scene is about five times as long as would be cinematically effective. Meanwhile, inept droids get blown up. As I recall, Episode Two was worse because it had all the philosophical problems plus a poorly designed and executed "love" story. I can only hope Episode Three is better; just now I'm unconvinced. If George Lucas hasn't got the worldview for true movies, he hasn't got it, and that's about all there is to it, unless God is merciful and he hits something good by accident.

I'm unpacked. I have been reading Dante. I was driven to it by Episode One, though I was in the middle of it anyway. I have also been reading Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers on heresy and orthodoxy, "Fellowship of the Ring" for my discussion group, and grammars of Old English. My wonderful mother bought me another of the latter from a used book store. :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2005


--Iron Woman strikes again.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The history of the universe is not dorky

Augustine has an amazing talent at whacking the perennial questions. His talk about God’s creation and incarnation (Confessions XI.5), sending His Son, reminds me of the “universe as a novel” theodicy, the one that says you can’t blame God for not dealing with evil because all things have not been concluded yet, as if it’s not the end of the novel.

Many Christian novels are dorky. It occurs to me that the history of the universe, whatever else it may be, is not dorky, particularly Christianity. As a potential novelist, I hereby take note.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Practicality is overrated, or, Lizards and Learning

Saint Augustine (Confessions X.35) chalks up the urge for knowledge with the desires of the other senses, and therefore considers it a possible danger.

For instance, instead of considering it pretty much a good thing (as we would) to sit and watch a lizard do its thing, he considers it a distraction from what he ought to be doing, such as contemplating God. The lizard might lead him to praise God, but in the meantime it wasted his attention. This is profoundly not the way I go about it, but whether that’s the medieval or modern influence, I’m not sure.

Dr. Esolen, in his article “A Manna for All Seasons,” talks about how sacrifice is not practical, and the Sabbath is not practical, but it gives God glory to spend part of our substance not being practical. Miserliness in sacrifice is bad.

Art is not practical. Math and science are not necessarily practical. Look at Gauss, who did his doctoral thesis working out hyperbolic geometry with no clue it would be worth anything, and then Einstein came along fifty years later or so and discovered that his geometry exactly described the gravity he’d been trying to express.

Augustine then might retort that expressing gravity isn’t worthwhile either. Augustine certainly argued that he didn’t need to know the courses of the stars. But I think Proverbs 25:2 is relevant here: It is the glory of God to hide a matter, but it is the glory of kings to seek a matter out.

Learning is a good thing. It is not the best thing: that is God, as Augustine and is quite right to point out: but learning is a good thing, and I’m not convinced practicality is always a good thing. Vocation and calling also figure into this debate, I think: not everyone is called to be a mathematician, but those who are should do it and do it well.

Back to contemplating lizards, it occurs to me that Proverbs spends the entire book extrapolating Truth from natural things, including lizards, and if you never notice lizards you’ll never get the point. “Though the lizard may be grasped with the hands, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” Lilias Trotter, an “intrepid woman explorer” and Victorian missionary to North Africa—and an excellent artist, it occurs to me—wrote a lot of very good devotionals, each looking at a little natural thing and drawing out the Truth.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The semiotic argument for God's existence

It occurred to me there was one. Probably it's a variety of the argument from design, but I liked it. :-)

Semiotics is the study of sign systems. They come in all sorts of ways: on doors, by streets, design of catalogs, what one wears, and (the big one) language. Pretty much anything that conveys meaning is a sign and therefore a proper thing for semiotics to study.

The interesting thing about semiotics is that it's all about signs and things signified. However, if you don't have someone making the sign, it no longer has meaning and therefore is not longer a sign. It's just a thing. Further, signs can't fulfill their function unless there's someone on the receiving end.

There are a lot of sign systems out there that work, but humans just didn't put in place. Language itself is probably one. Current evolution theory tries to call human language a more developed form of ape language, but that just doesn't fit the research. They've never been able to get monkeys to bridge the gap--and that's with a human teacher leading the way. It also doesn't fit with Chomsky's work on language acquisition and universal grammar.

If there is even one sign system in existence which humans did not invent, then there must have been Someone to make it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More on Communion

I asked Dr. Bates today about Augustine's position on Communion. (As he did his doctoral thesis on Augustine, he's a perfectly spiffin person to ask these things!) Augustine held that the bread and the wine are symbolic, but the symbols go with the grace which God bestows. It's not transubstantiation, where the elements turn into the body and blood and therefore bestow grace automatically. It's also not the pure symbolism view. In the words of Dr. Bates, "He's astonishingly Protestant."

That's probably an incoherent way of expressing it, but it makes sense to me...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Communion, mostly

Today I went to Sunday school, morning worship, Bible study (the sort usually held on Thursdays), and evening worship. It was a good day. At one point, I was sitting around my college president's dining room table talking about Barbies. (We'd gotten onto that subject by way of Wycliffe, which led to heresy, which led to executions, which led straight to Barbies. From there we discussed Legos.) I wonder if I can make sense of all the teaching. It was good, and there kept being connections, but I feel rather like a dog in a field full of rabbits. I track down one thought, and whoops! There goes another! Well, I can't catch it, and where's the one I was after??

In Sunday school we looked at Communion as described in I Corinthians 11. The Lord's Supper is not merely for our physical provision (though apparently in the early church, it was an actual meal). The what else is the issue. We dealt somewhat with consubstantion, transubstantiation, Real Presence, and strict symbolism views, but not with any sort of definitiveness. In defense of the strict symbolists, Christ is our Passover, and the Passover was a memorial. In offense against the strict symbolists, I refer one to the book of Hebrews. The Old Testament things: the temple, the firepans and dishes and sacrifices, are all types or symbols of the coming thing, which is Christ. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old. So it can legitimately be asked whether the Lord's Supper is a type or the thing itself.

Feeling blessed

a cup of pinon coffee
a bible with a leopard-spotted cover
a long red skirt
someone's paper to edit
a computer in whack
kind roommates and friends

feeling blessed...