Lucky Lu Ellen: A Poem

>> Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lucky Lu Ellen

Lucky Lu Ellen had a bowl full of money.
She lost it all on a race horse named Honey.
Honey was the name they called her in school
'Cause she said her life's goal was to eat some in a pool.
Lucky Lu Ellen didn't know how to swim
So she stayed by the poolside hoping to get in,
Until one day a pesky, mean bee
Came and stuck Lu Ellen right on the knee.
That knee did swell and she winked for the pain,
But that wink hit a boy—he wasn't the same.

March 14, 2007

 

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Myth Became Fact

>> Friday, October 4, 2013

This essay is from a collection of C. S. Lewis essays and letters found in the book "God in the Dock".


Myth Became Fact
C. S. Lewis

My friend Corineus has advanced the charge that none of us are in fact Christins at all. According to him historic Christianity is something so barbarous that no modern man can really believe it: the moderns who claim to do so are in fact believing a modern system of thought which retains the vocabulary of Christianity and exploits the emotions inherited from it while quietly dropping its essential doctrines. Corineus compared modern Christianity with the modern English monarchy: the forms of kingship have been retained, but the reality has been abandoned.

All this I believe to be false, except of a few ‘modernist’ theologians who, by God’s grace, become fewer every day. But for the moment let us assume that Corineus is right. Let us pretend, for purposes of argument, that all who now call themselves Christians have abandoned the historic doctrines. Let us suppose that modern ‘Christianity’ reveals a system of names, ritual, formulae and metaphors which persists although the thoughts behind it have changed. Corineus ought to be able to explain the persistence.

Why, on his view, do all these educated and enlightened pseudo-Christians insist on expressing their deepest thoughts in terms of an archaic mythology which must hamper and embarrass them at every turn? Why do they refuse to cut the umbilical cord which binds the living and flourishing child to its moribund mother? For, if Corineus is right, it should be a great relief to them to do so. Yet the odd thing is that even those who seem most embarrassed by the sediment of ‘barbaric’ Christianity in their thought become suddenly obstinate when you ask them to get rid of it altogether. They will strain the cord almost to breaking point, but they refuse to cut it. Sometimes they will take every step except the last one.

If all who professed Christianity were clergymen, it would be easy (though uncharitable) to reply that their livelihood depends on not taking that last step. Yet even if this were the true cause of their behaviour, even if all the clergymen are intellectual prostitutes who preach for pay—and usually starvation pay—what they secretly believe to be false, surely so widespread a darkening of the conscience among thousands of men not otherwise known to be criminal, itself demands explanation? And of course the profession of Christianity is not confined to the clergy. It is professed by millions of women and laymen who earn thereby contempt, unpopularity, suspicion, and the hostility of their own families. How does that come to happen?

Obstinacies of this sort are interesting. ‘Why not cut the cord?’ asks Corineus. ‘Everything would be much easier if you would free your thought from this vestigial mythology.’ To be sure: far easier. Life would be far easier for the mother of an invalid child if she put it into an Institution and adopted someone’s healthy baby instead. Life would be far easier to many a man if he abandoned the woman he has actually fallen in love with and married someone else because she is more suitable. The only defect of a healthy baby and the suitable woman is that they leave out the patient’s only reason for bothering about a child or wife at all. ‘Would not conversation be much more rational than dancing?’ said Jane Austen’s Miss Bingley. ‘Much more rational,’ replied Mr Bingley, ‘but much less like a ball.’1

In the same way, it would be much more rational to abolish the English monarchy. But how if, by doing so, you leave out the one element in our State which matters most? How if the monarchy is the channel through which all the vital elements of citizenship—loyalty, the consecration of secular life, the hierarchical principle, splendour, ceremony, continuity—still trickle down to irrigate the dust-bowl of modern economic Statecraft?

The real answer of even the most ‘modernist Christianity to Corineus is the same. Even assuming (which I most constantly deny) that the doctrines of historic Christianity are merely mythical, it is the myth which is the vital and nourishing element in the whole concern. Corineus wants us to move with the times. Now, we know where the times move. They move away. But in religion we find something that does not move away. It is what Corineus calls the myth, that abides; it is what he calls the modern and living thought that moves away. Not only the thought of theologians, but the thought of anti-theologians. Where are the predecessors of Corineus? Where is the Epicureanism of Lucretius,2 the pagan revival of Julian the Apostate?3 Where are the Gnostics, where is the monism of Averoës,4 the deism of Voltaire, the dogmatic materialism of the great Victorians? They have moved with the times. But the thing they were all attacking remains: Corineus finds it still there to attack. The myth (to speak his language) has outlived the thoughts of all its defenders and of all its adversaries. It is the myth that gives life. Those elements even in modernist Christianity which Corineus regards as vestigial, are the substance: what he takes for the ‘real modern belief’ is the shadow.

To explain this we must look a little closer at myth in general, and at this myth in particular. Human intellect is incurably abstract. Pure mathematics is the type of successful thought. Yet the only realities we experience are concrete—this pain, this pleasure, this dog, this man. While we are loving the man, bearing the pain, enjoying the pleasure we are not intellectually apprehending Pleasure, Pain or Personality. When we begin to do so, on the other hand, the concrete realities sink to the level of mere instances or examples: we are no longer dealing with them, but with that which they exemplify. This is our dilemma—either to taste and not to know or to know and not to taste—or, more strictly, to lack one kind of knowledge because we are in an experience or to lack another kind because we are outside it. As thinkers we are cut off from what we think about; tasting, touching, willing, loving, hating, we do not clearly understand. The more lucidly we think, the more we are cut off: the more deeply we enter into reality, the less we can think. You cannot study Pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyse the nature of humour while roaring with laughter. But when else can you really know these things? ‘If only my toothache would stop, I could write another chapter on Pain.’ But once it stops, what do I know about pain?

Of this tragic dilemma, myth is the partial solution. In the enjoyment of a great myth, we come nearest to experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction. At this moment, for example, I am trying to understand something very abstract indeed—the fading, vanishing of tasted reality as we try to grasp it with the discursive reason. Probably I have made heavy weather of it. But if I remind you, instead of Orpheus and Eurydice, how he was suffered to lead her by the hand but, when he turned round to look at her, she disappeared, what was merely a principle becomes imaginable. You may reply that you never at this moment attached that ‘meaning’ to that myth. Of course not. You are not looking for an abstract ‘meaning’ at all. If that was what you were doing the myth would be for you no true myth but a mere allegory. You were not knowing, but tasting; but what you were tasting turns out to be a universal principle. The moment we state this principle, we are admittedly back in the world of abstraction. It is only while receiving the myth as a story that you experience the principle concretely.

When we translate we get abstraction—or rather, dozens of abstractions. What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something, but reality is that about which truth is), and, therefore, every myth becomes the father of innumerable truths on the abstract level. Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley; in hac valle abstractionis.5 Or, if you prefer, myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to. It is not, like truth, abstract; nor is it, like direct experience, bound to the particular.

Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens—at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe that from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other.

A man who disbelieved the Christian story as fact but continually fed on it as myth would, perhaps, be more spiritually alive than one who assented and did not think much about it. The modernist—the extreme modernist, infidel in all but name—need not be called a fool or hypocrite because he obstinately retains, even in the midst of his intellectual atheism, the language, rites, sacraments, and story of the Christians. The poor man may be clinging (with wisdom he himself by no means understands) to that which is his life. It would have been better that Loisy6 should have remained a Christian: it would not necessarily have been better that he should have purged his thought of vestigial Christianity.

Those who do not know that this great myth became fact when the Virgin conceived are, indeed, to be pitied. But Christians also need to be reminded—we may thank Corineus for reminding us—that what became Fact was a Myth, that it carries with it into the world of Fact all the properties of a myth. God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than a Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they ought to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic—and is not the sky itself a myth—shall we refuse to be mythopathic? For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.



1 Pride and Prejudice, ch. xi.
2 Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-55), the Roman poet.
3 Roman emperor, A.D. 361-3
4 Averroës (1126-98), of Cordova, believed that only one intellect exists for the whole human race in which every individual participates, to the exclusion of personal immortality.
5 ‘In this valley of separation.’
6 Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), a French theologian and founder of the Modernist Movement.

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On Happiness, Marriage, and Drinking Wine

>> Friday, March 29, 2013


Recently, I have come to recognize a glaring fault in the first sentence of America's Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The glaring fault being "the pursuit of Happiness". "Happiness", at the time it was written, probably refers to something quite different than nowadays. I'm sure the founding fathers meant well when they made such sweeping and lofty sentiments, but I don't think they bargained on the cushy American Dream we'd be so voraciously pursuing, even at the cost of other peoples' "happiness." I am a Christian. There is a rumor going around that America was founded on Judeo-Christian values, but I've never seen happiness promised in the Bible. I've seen the promise that we will suffer hardship as a result of our faith, as well as the promise of joy and peace as a result of trusting Christ in the midst of that hardship. And such joy is quite different than the visions of happiness most Americans cling to as an unalienable right. But with all this yimmer yammer about marriage rights, I wanted to share with you a quote by C. S. Lewis worth considering:

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question-how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not."

I believe that homosexuality is wrong and should not be condoned by the Church through marriage. But the State is not a Christian entity. Should I expect the State to enforce my morality, yet balk if they enforce someone else's on me? It is a slippery question because while, at first glance, I would say "no, they should not enforce morality, because they are not a moral entity." Yet, I would also say "yes, they should, as far as they protect society from man's passions like murder, stealing, etc., and the State, by necessity, must take on a moral standard of some sort in order to ensure my bodily safety."

I would love to rail on the State. I mean, just look at how they tax me. They are so easy to pick on because they are so secular. But, my concern is not the State--not in the long run, anyway. Where my concern lies is with my family--the Church. And because they're my family, I feel I can rightfully blow the whistle on them and still be loved by them at the end of the day. And I think I can humbly say that we have dropped the ball in many ways, and so things that should be championed by the Church (marriage, family, education; the care of the poor, the helpless, the environment, the arts, science, etc.) have been ever so slightly...dumped on the State. And, as C. S. Lewis is implying, it's not as though the State shouldn't provide marriage for its people. I believe marriage was instituted by God to be enjoyed by all people, not just those who believe in Him. But I also believe He called His Church to exemplify marriage (see above statement about dropping the ball).
With that said, the State not only has to manage its primary role of keeping peace, but has to do double duty by providing some semblance of ethics on those issues its own people should be working out for themselves. So now, instead of doing a few things somewhat well, the State does many things somewhat poorly. Is it any wonder that people are so passionate about its rulings when we have attributed to it God-sized authority?

Advocates for the Church's morality in the public sector will always be at odds with some aspect of the State's rulings on morality, especially when that State declares "happiness"(whatever that means) as a right. But the Church can take C. S. Lewis' words as a personal challenge: to make the distinction of State marriage and Church marriage "quite sharp". And to do that, the Church must hunker down and do what it was called to do in the first place.  We are quite the distractable bunch, which is why I think Jesus gave us a simple to-do list: 

1. Make disciples of all nations.
2. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(Note: You can even bunch it into one line item if you have trouble remembering two)
 
And consider it a bonus when the government under which we live promotes a peaceful environment in which to do that.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:14-21

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Friday a la Francais: Monday, June 9, 2003

>> Tuesday, March 26, 2013

(I know, it's only Tuesday, but it's my party and I'll break the rules if I want to)



This evening Christina helped me with my French homework. I had to decipher between country and peoples' nationalities. I think she had fun helping me. We often sit around the T.V. at night. She likes to watch artsy films. They're rather bizarre, but I guess she's into them. Jean-Yves likes to watch the nature channel. Today was also a religious holiday, though I don't recall the name. It was interesting to see everyone out and about, hanging out with their friends and family. As I walked along side a grassy area by the port I saw a family having a nice picnic and just enjoying each others' company. I can't remember the last time I saw that. Sometimes it is hard to grasp this culture; not being able to see into the tiny cracks and crevices of the cumulative history of these people to make them what they are today. Part of me feels like this is who and where I am meant to be, living the way these people live, simplifying life. And yet another part of me is the go-get-em business woman who pushes herself to the limit to get what she wants. I have to remember that wherever I am, that I have brought God along with me. Who I really am is determined by Him.

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...And I'm Undone

>> Monday, February 18, 2013

 "We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic—and is not the sky itself a myth—shall we refuse to be mythopathic? For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher."

--C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock



 

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Butter Rum Cake Recipe. It's here.

>> Friday, December 7, 2012



I've been debating whether or not I should disperse this recipe into the universe because #1 it's not my original recipe, and #2 I had to beg, plead, blackmail, enforce silent treatment, do an interpretive dance, juggle firey batons, and eventually, exhaustedly... politely ask for it. And I've been hording it in my little Better Homes & Gardens recipe box for years, just as I'm sure the person I got it from has been doing before me. But I've come to the conclusion that a great recipe isn't great if it isn't shared. So this is my early Christmas gift to you. Make, bake, eat, and let that cake work its warm, happy magic on you.


Butter Rum Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour
Serves 12


Topping Ingredients

1 ½ C Chopped Pecans or Walnuts

Batter Ingredients

1 Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
1 Small package (1 oz) French vanilla or
 chocolate instant pudding
4 eggs
½ C Cold water
½ C Oil
½ C Myers’s Dark Rum

Glaze Ingredients
1 Stick Butter (½ C)
1 C Sugar
¼ C Water
½ C Myers’s Dark Rum


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.

2. Sprinkle nuts evenly over bottom of greased and floured funnel/angel food cake pan or bundt pan.

3. Combine batter ingredients and mix on medium-high 5 minutes. Pour batter into pan, bake 1 hour. Test with skewer until it comes out clean.
4. Place on wire rack 5 minutes while cake is still in the pan. Then turn out on plate and let cool slightly. Poke a lot of holes with skewer all the way through from top to bottom to allow glaze to soak through.

Glaze:
While cake is baking, prepare glaze so it will only be warm when applied. Melt 1 stick of butter in saucepan. Add the water and sugar. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and cool. Add ½ C rum. Dribble evenly over cake at intervals so it all soaks in.

Enjoy!

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An Open Letter to Baz Luhrmann

>> Tuesday, December 4, 2012



“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

"Was there anything sane or normal at all, or was everything just magic and ghost stories?"―Stephanie Meyer, New Moon


Dear Mr. Baz,

I regret to say that I am not your biggest fan. I wish I could claim that title but, the truth is, I'm a fairly mediocre fan. I only own one of your movies (Moulin Rouge!) which I bought almost purely for its eye candy factor back before I cared about who actually made the movie or why. Even though I considered the movie my standing favorite, I didn't really like the ending when I first saw it, and I even forgot to take it with me when I moved out of my parents' house five years ago. I haven't seen Romeo+Juliet since my last babysitting gig in 1999 (and there's a good possibility I wasn't hired back because of the fact). I haven't even seen Australia, and I've only read a smattering of your quotes and interviews. (And I'm not Catholic, but I'm pretty sure this is what the confession box feels like.)

Wait. Don't go. This really is fan mail.

All that to say that I recently saw Strictly Ballroom on a whim and a half-remembered recommendation while perusing Netflix, and now sheepishly admit to abusing my subscription from watching it so many times. I fully intend to pony up and buy the DVD. And I exhorted my parents to return my Moulin Rouge!, which I got back promptly.

Let me just say thank you. Thank you for what you are trying to accomplish through the media of film. You'll never fully realize your vision, mind you, but you've gone further than the rest, and I'm glad for it.

Now, I know I'm being incredibly presumptuous in saying that, and run the risk of being just another boorish member of the peanut gallery, but I'll say it anyway, because I think I'm on to you. I think I know what you're trying to convey (at least in your Red Curtain Trilogy). With all the eccentric, vibrant, brassy, and beautiful elements you utilize to produce that heightened sense of reality in your films, it seems to me that you're trying to create something that's larger than life, because you know that the essence of life is larger than life. But, at the end of the day, something that is made from something is way less impressive than something that is made from nothing. And as the glories of Heaven and Earth were made out of nothing, your films are going to have to settle there in the backseat. But really, that's not a bad place to be when you look at it that way.

What I did read about you was that you said you were tired of making boy-meets-girl movies and wanted to move on to bigger projects, but can I just say that you are so good at making good old love stories? And if one compliment from yours truly isn't enough to turn your cinematic boat around, may I also suggest that the Love Story is so epically huge, not in a box office sort of way, but in its very nature; that you'll never be able to tap the depths of its source, therefore supplying an endless, happy spring of creativity? And along the lines of what C. S. Lewis said, however you slice and dice your movies, when you tell the truth, you'll most likely be completely brilliant. Which you are.

Thank you for these little jewels of cinematic joy that you've created. They put a spring in my step and a smile on my face when I think about them. Thank you for the slogan on your Bazmark Inq coat-of-arms. Most of all, thank you for telling the truth...whilst utilizing unholy amounts of sequins, feathers and inappropriate burstings-out of song and dance.

God bless you!
~Sarah Vaughan

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..."
―1 John 4:18

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