Monday, June 28, 2010

The philosophy of love

Amongst other things I am currently reading Essays in Love, by Alain de Botton. It’s a book on the philosophy of a love story. Because I need all the help I can get. No, some of it is not at all helpful, being written from a completely different worldview. But it has had it’s enlightening moments, being written by a male about the process of falling and being in love – even if he is perhaps more philosophical and introspective than most - and in places it’s hysterically funny!

I like Alain de Botton for a bit of pop-philosophy. I heard him speak once, which inclined me to like him more. He stood there as an unassuming, foppish sort of chap in dull clothes who was interesting and entertaining, without having to do anything more than talk for an hour. And the book extends beyond the romantic. Here’s an excerpt, which is by no means the most profound insight in the book, and nothing all that new, but I thought it was a good sort of reminder and prompt, from the chapter called ‘I’ - Confirmation. Read on till he brings in the idea of a loving God, and includes implications for community and knowing and influence (and thankfully, re point 9, God does ascribe a correct identity to us).
2. Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone there who can understand what we are saying, in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.

3. What does it mean that man is a ‘social animal’? Only that humans need one another in order to define themselves and achieve self-consciousness, in a way that molluscs or earthworms do not. We cannot come to a proper sense of ourselves if there aren’t others around to show us what we’re like. ‘A man can acquire nothing in solitude except a character,’ wrote Stendhal, suggesting that character has its genesis in the reactions of others to our words and actions. Our selves are fluid and require the contours provided by our neighbours. To feel whole, we need people in the vicinity who know us well, sometimes better, than we know ourselves.

4. Without love, we lose the ability to possess a proper identity, within love, there is a constant confirmation of ourselves. It is no wonder that the concept of a God who can see us has been central to many religions: to be seen is to be assured that we exist, all the better if one is dealing with a God (or partner) who loves us. Surrounded by people who precisely do not remember who we are, people to whom we often relate our stories and yet who will repeatedly forget ... is it not comforting to be able to find a refuge from the dangers of invisibility in the arms of someone who has our identity in mind?

5. It is no coincidence if, semantically speaking, love and interest are almost interchangeable, ‘I love butterflies’ meaning much the same as ‘I am interested in butterflies’. To love someone is to take a deep interest in them, and by such concern to bring them to a richer sense of what they are doing and saying ...

7. It was a long time before I was in any position to help Chloe to feel understood. Only slowly did I begin to unearth, from among the millions of words she spoke and actions she performed, the great themes of her life. In our knowledge of others, we are necessarily forced to interpret clues, we are like detectives or archeologists who piece together stories from fragments ...

9. The problem with needing others to legitimate our existence is that we are very much at their mercy to have a correct identity ascribed to us ...

10. Everyone returns to us a different sense of ourselves, for we become a little of who they think we are. Our selves could be compared to an amoeba, whose outer walls are elastic, and therefore adapt to the environment. It is not that the amoeba has no dimensions, simply that is has no self-defined shape. It is my absurdist side that an absurdist person will draw out of me, and my seriousness that a serious person will evoke. If someone thinks I am shy, I will probably end up shy, if someone thinks me funny, I am likely to keep cracking jokes.

17. Though I felt myself attentive to the complexities of Chloe’s nature, I must have been guilty of great abbreviations, of passing lightly over areas I simply did not have the empathy or maturity to understand. I was responsible for the greatest but most unavoidable abbreviation of all, that of only being able to participate in Chloe’s life as an outsider, someone whose inner world I could imagine, but never directly experience. However close we might be, Chloe was in the end another human being, with all the mystery and distance this implied, the inevitable distance embodied in the thought that we must all die alone.
And so it goes on.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Poetry Day - As I Walked Out One Evening

I've recovered from my night on amphetamines (the pseudoephedrine in Sudafed) and this poem by WH Auden needs to feature in it's entirety on this blog at some point, so here it is. I particularly like the second last stanza, which has been seen here before. To me it says: you may suffer, but look out the window and see that others do too, and love your crooked neighbour regardless, remembering that you're crooked yourself. (The painting is by Ann Hawksley, and you should look at her others here.)

As I Walked Out One Evening
by W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My night on drugs

OK so health posts are generally boring and shouldn't be written, but what in the world is in Sudafed??!! I too two last night at about 6pm (because the chemist said take them sooner rather than later or they might keep you awake) and then it was all I could do to eat dinner and write that post (you can blame Sudafed for the fact that that's all it was). They cleared my head for sure, and did it fast, but perhaps that was the problem. It's like it upset my balance or some other thing and my head was spinning all over the place. I had to go and lie down, then when I realised it wasn't a passing moment, I staggered up to do the going-to-bed routine then went to bed at 8pm and stayed there till this morning. It was all a bit trippy. I wasn't game to take any more this morning incase I couldn't walk a straight line to work. I'm now sitting at my desk staring hesitantly at the box wondering whether I should have another go.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


So it’s been a while since there was a post here, and even longer since there was an original thought. I was a little under the weather last week, and only took one day off work but should have taken about three because I just dragged myself about. This week I’ve been a little “excessively diverted”, as Jane Austen would say, and when you can’t blog about what’s on your mind it’s hard to blog about something else. I have started a few posts, but not finished any of them. I also have a lingering head-congestion, and have usually had a dull headache by the time I got home from work, so I just bought and took Sudafed and already I feel weird (the chemist warned me they might cause sleeplessness, but right now I don’t think that’s the effect they’re having). There was going to be a quick post tonight, but it might not make any sense ... I’ll be back soon however.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poetry Day - The Elixir

I was in Berkelouw’s Books the other weekend with a friend where it was confirmed, what I have long suspected, that she is indeed a kindred spirit. She had followed me to the second-hand poetry section for starters and there she opened a book of Thomas Hardy’s poetry and said 'this is my favourite Thomas Hardy poem', which was none other than The Darkling Thrush. I exclaimed 'oh me too, I can recite that poem' and then she said 'me too'. It was a moment of understanding. Then I espied a strange old book of poems by GK Chesterton, and she said something about the poem The Donkey, I open the book and there was the poem The Donkey. But then lo and behold Nicole posted The Donkey the following Monday, so I haven't given you that one.

But here is another George Herbert. This is his classic poem, which you may have seen quoted about, called The Elixir.

     The Elixir

     Teach me, my God and King,
     In all things thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
     To do it as for thee:

     Not rudely, as a beast,
     To run into an action;
But still to make thee prepossessed,
     And give it his perfection.

     A man that looks on glass,
     On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
     And then the heaven espy.

     All may of thee partake:
     Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture (for thy sake)
     Will not grow bright and clean.

     A servant with this clause
     Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
     Makes that and the action fine.

     This is the famous stone
     That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
     Cannot for less be told.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Britty goes to Narnia

This is my eldest niece, on a family day-trip they took to the snow. I just like this photo - she looks a little like she's been superimposed into it, when she hasn't.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Annie's rug finale

Well here it finally is. Annie's finished rug!

Here you see it laid out on the floor. I didn't block it again once I added the border, because I haven't really got space for that, but hopefully it is OK (though I am considering it!).

On the couch.

Rotated a little to what I think is the right way up (because of how I stitched it up).

Trying to get better colours near the window.

Back on the couch.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Boo hoo

I'm sick. And I went to work knowing the rule that taking sick leave following a public holiday requires a medical certificate - and I only have a cold which is nothing to trot off to the doctors about so I thought that'd be ridiculous. But consequently I went snuffling about and sharing the germs with everybody. It was OK sitting around in the heating till about 2:30 pm, when I really would have liked a nap, and then walking home in the dark. (Turns out my heroics were probably unnecessary, as they only implement that rule if you have a habit of crying sick, which I don't.)

I sucked through a whole packet of soothers at the onset of this in bed during Sunday night and should have just got up to watch us hopelessly lose the soccer given how much time I spent awake and getting in and out of bed. My usual line is that I don't get colds, but I was forced yesterday to admit that this one got me. Tonight I figured that if I was going to be sick I was going to go all out, so I bought chicken soup.

But you'll all be pleased to know that my mystery black eye did disappear the way it came. It started fading fast on Saturday and was all but invisible on Sunday. I'm hoping this cold follows the example.

Meanwhile, some of us could see this coming. Remember Cate Blanket's - I mean Blanchett's - dress? Well look at these pyjamas from Peter Alexander. A girl at work pointed these out to me today. They're not even real crochet, which would be hideously uncomfortable, but fake prints (I couldn't figure out how to get a picture here, so you'll just have to click through and see it to believe it).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Creatures before the Creator

The quote I posted from Stanley Hauerwas reminded me of something Francis Schaeffer writes in True Spirituality, about the fact of us being creatures before the Creator, and I was a bit amazed to discover that I haven’t posted it yet here on the blog. The first chapter of True Spirituality is basically completely underlined by me, and it’s a book I went back to over and over in the past.
… I am to love God enough to be contented, because otherwise even our natural and proper desires bring us into revolt against God. God has made us with proper desires, but if there is not a proper contentment on my part, to this extent I am in revolt against God, and of course revolt is the whole central problem of sin. When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God, or I have ceased to be submissive to him …

The rebellion is a deliberate refusal to be the creature before the Creator, to the extent of being thankful.

When we say we live in a personal universe and God the Father is our Father, to the extent that we have less than a trusting attitude we are denying what we say we believe. We say that as Christians we have by choice taken the place of creatures before the Creator, but as we show a lack of trust we are exhibiting that at that moment, in practice, we have not really so chosen.

At the same time, I say there is a battle in the universe, and God is God. Then if I lack trust, what I am really doing is denying in practice that he has a right, as my God, to use me where he wants in the spiritual battle which exists in the seen and unseen world.
From Chapter 1 The Law and the Law of Love

Then later:
If I refuse my place as the creature before the Creator and do not commit myself to him for his use, this is sin. And anything else is also misery. How can you enjoy God on any other level than what you are, and in the present situation? Anything else will bring misery, a torturing of the poor, divided personality we are since the fall. To live moment by moment through faith on the basis of the blood of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit is the only really integrated way to live. This is the only way to be at rest with myself, for only in this way am I not trying to carry what I cannot …
From Chapter 11 Substantial Healing of the Total Person

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our lives as gifts

After banging on about melancholy, I thought it fitting to steal this quote from Byron.

Long story short: we don’t get to make our lives up. We get to receive our lives as gifts. The story that says we should have no story except the story we chose [...] is a lie. To be human is to learn that we don’t get to make up our lives because we’re creatures [...]. Christian discipleship is about learning to receive our lives as gifts without regret.
- Stanley Hauerwas

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New Penguin Books

There are seventy-five new Popular Penguin books coming out in July. The list includes some curious titles.

Poetry Day - About suffering

I was contemplating another Herbert for this week, but instead I am going to snitch one from Frances, because what is the internet for if not for snitching ideas, or at least giving you reminders? I need to read more WH Auden, badly. The poem is a response to Pieter Breughel’s painting ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icharus’. I saw the Breughel-Brueghel exhibit in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 1997, but whether or not this particular painting was there is a stretch of the memory. I'll even give you Frances's little intro "It’s a neat comment on the way those old Dutch paintings exquisitely rendered the ordinary, but it’s also a poignant observation of the world’s perennial propensity to sail calmly away from the boy falling out of the sky". We actually looked at this poem in that poetry workshop with Judith Beveridge I keep mentioning, because she thought "About suffering there were never wrong" quite perfect as a poetic line.

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

WH Auden

Friday, June 11, 2010

I know him so well

Last night I got to musing on this old song, via the route of thinking about music I played in school (you can blame Simone's blog and a post about trombone duets). So over a bit of crochet I went you-tubing. A friend and I played this as a flute duet at a music workshop we went to once upon a time. It's perfect for any sort of tragic duet. Melancholics beware - and just remember Jesus everybody!

You have to watch this gloriously 80s Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson version. Then there’s Barbara Streisand (this one is chest-clutchingly good) and then, of course, ABBA and Whitney and I didn't know Susan Boyle had had a go with Elaine Page too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chorizo, lemon and basil

Last night it came around to me to cook dinner for my Connect Group (aka known as a bible study group). So I thought I'd share an Ali special. I opted for quick and easy, because if dinner takes too long, then everything that comes after blows out into over-time (and I didn't fancy cooking in advance and lugging the finished meal about for a re-heat).

I've made this up after dinner at a friend's house, and I think the original came from a Donna Hay cook book, but I don't know which one.

This is what you need for about four people:

1 packet spaghetti
3 chorizo sausages
A bunch of basil
The zest of one lemon (use a fine grater or zester)
A punnet (or two) of cherry tomatoes
And last night I added a few zucchinis for more greenery

You can slice the chorizo and fry it, or put it on foil on a tray in the oven for about 20 minutes. I also put the tomatoes, cut in half, in the oven, just to warm them up a bit (and I put the sliced zucchini in there too). Then you just cook the spaghetti (obviously), pull all the basil leaves off and leave them whole, zest the lemon and then stir it all through the cooked spaghetti.

It might sound odd, and it's not the sort of meal I eat too often because chorizo can't be too high up on the health food scale, but you have to try chorizo, lemon and basil together to understand. And don't ruin it by adding a whole pile of other flavours (if you're one of those cooks who can't help adding a little bit of everything in your fridge). Instead of the tomatoes and zucchini the original had roast capsicum in each of the three colours, but I can rarely be bothered roasting and skinning capsicum (and that would increase the cost). Chorizo is usually around $20 a kilo, but Tuesday night was my lucky night because it was going for $9 a kilo, so I loaded it in - and I use the raw sausages from the supermarket, but you could possibly also use the cured smoked sort from a small goods vendor.

It's good.

The black eye, the fish skin and the block of chocolate

I don't know what I did in my sleep on Tuesday night, but I woke up yesterday morning with a black eye. Well, actually that is a trifle dramatic, though I have been asked if that were the case several times since. When I first looked in the mirror it was a red smudge under my eye, somewhat like a blood vessel had ruptured under the skin, then it was a larger purple blob. Now it looks a bit like my tear duct is bleeding on the inside (which is quite poetic really). If it doesn't just go away the way it came I might have to investigate.

Then this morning on the way to work, boy was I glad I wasn't one step sooner. To my great astonishment a great gooey blob splattered on the footpath right in front of me. On closer inspection it was actually a very large, messy, horrible, stinky piece of fish skin. I looked up in surprise and way up in the tree above was a big fat crow, who had obviously finished with it (or maybe not). I'm not given to screaming, but I think I would at least have gasped, screamed on the inside and done a strange dance on the footpath if that unknown horror had flopped onto my head before slithering down my face. Then I might have turned around and gone home for a shower.

But since being at work I have won a block of chocolate, in that Club Chocolate add that comes up on the SMH online and takes over your computer screen, so that is something.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Crochet without borders

I am now up to the border on Annie's rug (I stayed home on Monday - because I wasn't feeling great, had sent everything to press early and have weeks of sick leave, so decided why not? - and I got ahead on all those little ends, once I got out of bed).

But the other night at church we had a spotlight on missions and as part of that watched a short video on the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa founded by Catherine Hamlin and her late husband (I've posted briefly about this before here). The video featured the opening of Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’), a little community for women who are not able to be healed completely by surgery and require ongoing care and support.

I noticed in the video that there were many shots of the women in this village knitting or doing something that might have been crochet (it was a passing camera sweep) and that there were a lot of knitted blankets to be seen, which snagged my attention (I've got crochet on the brain!). I've since discovered from the Australian Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund site (scroll to the bottom of that page) that they are very pleased to receive knitted or crocheted blankets for the patients of the hospital.

I was actually more curious as to where the ladies doing the knitting were sourcing their wool etc (I assumed this was a means of creating a livelihood, but they may have been doing it for the hospital), than I was about sending over completed blankets, but I now have it all on the radar. If you like to knit/crochet blankets, or even do patchwork, you might like to consider the Fistula Hospital as a destination.

Note: I took the pictures from this website, to show their gorgeous rugs! (And I love the website wallpaper!)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rejoicing (or being happy?) always

I confess that I did have a small quibble with George Eliot on Happiness. The reason being that the very word "happy", and thus its meaning, derives from hap, happenstance, and so forth. In other words, what's happening. And thus I'm not convinced that you can completely divorce happiness from circumstances. If a person isn't rendered happy by some circumstances and sad by others, I'm not so sure they're healthy (or very empathetic).

But there is something that transcends circumstances, and I think it's a larger and deeper thing than happiness, as it stands by definition, though in alignment with Eliot's "complex of habitual relations and dispositions". I do think it's closer to joy (even the word "cheer" derives from "mental condition" which is perhaps closer the mark). I know John Piper is Mr Joy, but I have been reminded of a sermon called Rejoicing Always by John MacArthur. It's good, and what's brilliant is that you can actually read it, you don't have to listen to it. In it he makes a case for a difference between joy and happiness.

An heroic short film

And since I am feeling heroic I thought you might like to watch this short film (it's very short) I contributed to making. It takes a while to load up, but I think it is worth it.

What love makes us do

So I finished Felix Holt: The Radical, and liked it immensely. I have read criticisms that the plot was contrived, but I couldn't care less; I did so love the story. And I feel quite inspired to great heroics. Here is one last (perhaps) snippet (italics mine):

There was something which she now felt profoundly to be the best thing that life could give her. But – if it was to be had at all – it was not to be had without paying a heavy price for it, such as we must pay for all that is greatly good. A supreme love, a motive that gives a sublime rhythm to a woman’s life, and exalts habit into partnership with the soul’s highest needs, is not be to had where and how she wills: to know that high initiation, she must often tread where it is hard to tread, and feel the chill air, and watch through darkness. It is not true that love makes all things easy: it makes us choose what is difficult.
George Eliot
Felix Holt: The Radical, Chapter XLIX

Monday, June 07, 2010

George Eliot on happiness

So there is something of a theme in Felix Holt: The Radical, by George Eliot, about happiness and melancholy. Here is another snippet, from Chapter XXXIX:
No man believes that many-textured knowledge and skill - as a just idea of the solar system, or the power of painting flesh, or of reading written harmonies - can come late and of a sudden; yet many will not stick* at believing that happiness can come at any day and hour solely by a new disposition of events; though there is nought less capable of a magical production than a mortal's happiness, which is mainly a complex of habitual relations and dispositions not to be wrought by news from foreign parts, or any whirling of fortune's wheel for one on whose brow Time has written legibly.
*I think you have to read this phrase quite differently to how we might these days, ignoring the negation.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Well it's Annie's birthday today, and this is what her rug looks like so far. It may look like all I have to do is join these panels and then do the border, but alas, there are a million little ends hanging off the back to be weaved in first. It shouldn't take me too much longer though, and I am looking forward to the border because that should be mind-numbingly monotonous, which is how I like it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The great debt of joy

                                  Yea, it becomes a man
To cherish memory, where he had delight.
For kindness is the natural birth of kindness.
Whose soul records not the great debt of joy,
Is stamped for ever an ignoble man.

Sophocles: Ajax

Poetry Day - A broken altar

The other day I found the The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth-Century Verse on a throw out book table. I ummed and argghed because the thing I am not supposed to buy any more of is poetry anthologies. I recently actually got rid of a few, mainly books I had picked up cheap at book fairs and so forth in the first place, which all contained much the same material. But I went back to this one because I don’t have any books devoted to the 17th Century and it looked to have some undiscovered treasures in it, as well as the greats like John Donne and George Herbert. I have a book of George Herbert’s poetry alone, but I have re-discovered this one (which is not unlike this poem by another George).

A BROKEN ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears:
  Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
  No workman’s tool hath touched the same.
                    A HEART alone
                    Is such a stone
                    As nothing but
                    Thy power doth cut.
                    Wherefore each part
                    Of my hard heart
                    Meets in this frame,
                    To praise thy name:
  That, if I chance to hold my peace,
  These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

George Herbert

The painting is ‘George Herbert at Bemberton’ (1851) by William Bryce, taken from here.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Necessity of Chivalry - CS Lewis

The word chivalry has meant at different times a good many different things – from heavy cavalry to giving a woman a seat in a train. But if we want to understand chivalry as an ideal distinct from other ideals – if we want to isolate that particular conception of the man comme il faut which was the special contribution of the Middle Ages to our culture – we cannot do better than turn to the words addressed to the greatest of all the imaginary knights in Malory's Morte D'Arthur. ‘Thou wert the meekest man’, says Sir Ector to the dead Launcelot. ‘Thou were the meekest man that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.’*

The important thing about this ideal is, of course, the double demand it makes on human nature. The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth. When Launcelot heard himself pronounced the best knight in the world, ‘he wept as he had been a child that had been beaten.’**

What, you may ask, is the relevance of this ideal to the modern world? It is terribly relevant. It may or may not be practicable – the Middle Ages notoriously failed to obey it – but it is certainly practical; practical as the fact that men in a desert must find water or die.

The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop.

In so doing, the Middle Ages fixed on the one hope of the world. It may or may not be possible to produce by the thousand men who combine the two sides of Launcelot's character. But if it is not possible, then all talk of any lasting happiness or dignity in human society is pure moonshine.

If we cannot produce Launcelots, humanity falls into two sections – those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be ‘meek in hall’, and those who are ‘meek in hall’ but useless in battle – for the third class, who are both brutal in peace and cowardly in war, need not here be discussed. When this disassociation of the two halves of Launcelot occurs, history becomes a horribly simple affair.

In short, there is still life in the tradition which the Middle Ages inaugurated. But the maintenance of that life depends, in part, on knowing that the knightly character is art not nature – something that needs to be achieved, not something that can be relied upon to happen.

The ideal embodied in Launcelot is ‘escapism’ in a sense never dreamed of by those who use that word; it offers the only possible escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable.

* Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur (1485), XXI, xii
Ibid., XIX, v.
- C.S. Lewis,
Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories, "The Necessity of Chivalry".

Note: It always pays to google before typing something yourself, so I stole much of the typing of this essay, and the picture, from here.

Crochet, chivalry and angels

I sat down last night to sew a few more crochet squares together (I've only one more panel to stitch up!) till I thought 'I'm done with this, and with the thoughts in my own head' so I picked up my newish CS Lewis essay book (after four chapters of my bible) and flicked through the contents, and how could I resist the essay called The Necessity of Chivalry. Then I read a short story called Ministering Angels. I'm still in a state of mystified stupefaction over that. It's a response to another short story of the time, clearly satirical, otherwise I have no excuse for it. I'm not even going to talk about it or I'll go red in the face. But I will share some of the essay in the next post.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Yellow owl workshop into lino prints?

A while back I had a little fettish with lino-printing, and made this, inspired by Michelangelo and Leonard Cohen, 2 Cor 4:7-10 and 12:9 (melancholic that I am - written under it is the line "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"), but little else, in fact nothing else.

The plan way back then was also to come up with a few lino cuts I could use in making cards. I try to make cards these days, because even if I do happen to find one I’d like to buy with something remotely appropriate written inside, it’s a silly amount of money - that and I over-rate my own abilities in that I often pick a card up and think to myself ‘I could make that’, but there are often just too many “ifs” after that thought, like IF I had those scissors and wire and fabric like that and watercolour lessons and ... not to mention if I’d thought of the idea in the first place ... So making cards always seems like a good idea, until I actually have to sit down and make one to send someone tomorrow, then I am scratching around looking for something to put on it.

Anyway, I have been eyeing off these rubber stamp sets from Yellow Owl Workshop (click the link and scroll right) for my card making efforts in a swanky stationery shop nearby, and I have recently had this brilliant idea that I could copy some of them into lino cuts (excepting maybe the Eiffel Tower) and make my own. But this could be a disaster (I think a lot of the detail is probably too fine), or merely one of those passing fancies.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


This was a magificent sermon by Paul Dale on Revelation 21-22. He gave a picture of heaven so compelling and encouraging yet also so challenging  - in that we won’t long for heaven in the way that we should if our heart is after the wrong things. Do yourself a favour and listen.

(And this is not why I especially liked this sermon, but he made interesting observations about this notion of heaven as a “city”, because if you read Rev 21:2 and 9ff closely, and figuratively, is it really talking about a metropolitan landscape dressed as the bride of Christ? The sermon reminded me of what I posted from Cameron Blair here. The other nice point was why heaven is represented as a cube.)

Note: This is actually a different recording of the sermon to the one I heard live, but is hopefully essentially the same.