Perelandra

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The second book in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Perelandra chronicles Edwin Ransom’s journey to Venus, a.k.a. Perelandra. Ransom settled back into life in Cambridge after his trip to Mars. Suddenly, Oyarsa (God) calls on Ransom to go to Perelandra. Excited for more space travel, Ransom accepts the mission.

After his trip in a ship that’s like a frozen coffin. Ransom’s told to travel in the nude and that clothes aren’t needed on Perelandra, a planet with land that moves like waves and the flora is a wide range of vivid colors. I can’t do Lewis’ descriptions justice.

Ransom soon meets the green-skinned Queen, one of the planets two inhabitants. The Queen has the innocence of a child because on the new planet she is one. Perelandra is like Eden with its sole pair of inhabitants, its sole prohibition, i.e. “Don’t sleep on the ‘Fixed Lands'” and its serpent, i.e Weston, Ransom’s nemesis who plays the serpent in this tale.

Maelidil is the creator who teaches the Queen all about life, but he disappears once Ransom arrives. The Queen also never sees the King and the story’s almost over by the time Ransom finds him.

Most stories feature a young, strong hero who lacks wisdom, which he acquires by the end. Here our hero is educated and wise, but lacks the usual brawn. Ransom battles Weston with wits trying to prevent Perelandra’s Fall, but he realizes that one day Weston will wear the Queen down. He figures out that he must beat Weston physically. Thus Lewis takes gives us a middle aged scholar as a hero who must win by a great physical test. How original!

I found the story compelling and clever. Lewis gives us a setting similar to Eden, but not quite. We may expect a certain outcome, but Lewis shows us that things could have been different. Perelandra was a fun read that made me think.

 

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Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?

If we were having coffee, I’d urge you to see The Babushkas of Chernobyl. Talk about a movie about strong women! It’s truly unique.

I’d mention that I had a nice birthday starting with dinner at a favorite restaurant when my sister was in town. Then I had jury duty on my birthday, but got the afternoon free.

I’d tell you I’m reading C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, the second book in his Space Trilogy. It’s grabbed me from the start as we have a new narrator, who’s likable, and who’s telling Dr. Ransom’s story. I wonder why . . . .

Our weather is getting a bit colder, which makes me shudder, but it’s been so sunny and clear that I’m remembering that autumn does have its charms.

I attended my Great Books discussion where we discussed a selection of Marx’s early writings on workers’ alienation. The reading was dense and it bothered me that Marx never explained how he came by his conclusions. Some explanation of how observations or survey data would have been nice, though I understand that it wasn’t common in 1844 to collect quantitative data the way. A major study on poverty was done street by street in London in the 1890s. While people approached Marx with an open mind, I was glad that I wasn’t the only one who found the reading a slog.

I haven’t heard from the library where I interviewed. I hoped to hear early last week, but didn’t. My guess is that I won’t get an offer, which is how things go. The waiting part of job hunting is trying.

Yesterday I met one of former students from China. We went to the Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian. After brunch we went to the Adler Planetarium, which I hadn’t been to in years. It was fun to see Melody who’s preparing for the CPA exam. She’s passed 3 of the 4 sections already. I wish her well.

Out of the Silent Planet

In fact, I’ve Out-of-the-Silent-Planet-9780684833644I’m not a big science-fi fan. I rarely read the genre, but I loved C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. I’ve already ordered book two in this tragedy.

In Out of the Silent Planet, average Joe, Dr. Ransom, happens upon and old schoolmate Devine and Devine’s new evil scientist buddy Weston. Ransom had been tramping around the countryside and, as a favor to a woman he met, went to this house to see why her son, a servant there was late and her mother was apprehensive. It turns out that she had good cause. When Ransom arrived, the two men were fighting, physically, with the boy. In the end Weston and Devine were in the process of abducting the boy. In the end the boy is freed and Ransom, when he comes to after being knocked unconscious. Ransom realizes he’s hurtling through space kidnapped by Weston and Devine.

Ransom overhears Weston and Devine. They’ve been to Malacandria, the planet they’re heading to, before and were returning to offer up Ransom to the aliens there. They’re hoping to load up on valuable resources and hand over Ransom to the sorns, a species of aliens on Malacandria.

Ransom’s forewarned and planned to escape. He manages to run off though a bizarre environment with pink sticky earth, odd food, three homo sapien species that can see angels and that get along with each other. As a philologist, Ransom is quickly able to learn the aliens’ language. (Well, one of them, as it turns out each species has its own language and one shared language.)

As Ransom evades and eventually is captured by the aliens, he learns to look at life in a completely different and wise way.

This is a book I relished. Lewis has such a gift for language and made me want to improve the book I’m working on currently. The themes are related to Christianity, but even if that’s not your faith, it makes you think about human life and our foibles.

I read that C.S. Lewis once criticized sci-fi because in most stories the writer takes you to the end of the universe, but everything is basically the same with the substitutions being basically the same as what we now have. For example, here we have guns while in outer space in most stories they just use lasers and use them in the same instances we  would. In Out of the Silent Planet, the aliens’ philosophy and approach to life is just about completely different from humans. They’re quite impressive on the whole.

Good Quotations

“And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back–if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?”

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmán, as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.”

“But Ransom, as time wore on, became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart. A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind by the mythology that follows in the wake of science, was falling off him. 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 all the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren: he now saw 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.”

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you what’s new with you and then, I’d tell you about the wonderful exhibit of Gilded Age portraits I saw at the Drieshaus Museum (and about which I’ll soon blog). I went there with a friend who’d never been to the Drieshaus. She loved it as I expected and we’ll soon go back.

I’d tell you about the rather weird and captivating documentary I saw called, The Wolfpack. I came to really care about these boys and their mother who were imprisoned more or less by their irrational father. I won’t soon forget the film and how it illustrates the curative powers of creativity. 

I’d urge you to get and read C.S. Lewis’ The Silent Planet, which I’m reading for my online bookclub. His writing is wonderful and inspires (or kicks me) to improve my own work.

I’d lament that last week I didn’t get to write much. I went downtown twice to meet with friends and on Friday did some research into 19th century Christmas stories for children. Wednesday I went downtown to meet friends, i.e. network. I learned about how a student committed suicide at the Hefei program Clark U runs and how differently the Chinese responded. They silenced any talk of the matter. They didn’t have any memorial service. The boy had jumped from the 10th story where the teachers worked. We’re trained to be open, talk and share to heal the living. Through back channels my friend learned of the suicide. When he mentioned that he wasn’t sure if he had the student, his Chinese colleague sent him a photo of the boy. He expected the attachment would be a snapshot of him alive, not a picture of him splattered on the pavement, which is what he received. Yes, cultures do differ dramatically.

Oh, I’d say that I thought my interview went fine, though as usual, when I reviewed my performance I thought of ways it could go better. I won’t hear for another week at least and so am continuing to job hunt. I am getting job hunting fatigue, but what can you do.

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The Screwtape Letters

screwtape-lettersC.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters has been on my mental list of books I should read for years. Boy, do I regret not getting to this witty, wise book sooner.

Written from the point of view of a modern devil, Lewis’ book is a collection of letters between Screwtape, an uncle mentoring Wormwood, a young tempter as he tries to win a human over to the side of evil. The letters are clever as well as perceptive. Screwtape must make his thoughts on temptation and salvation clear to Wormwood, who’s something of a blockhead. Screwtape makes it crystal clear that for the Devil to win, he doesn’t care about the “quality” of the fallen as much as about the quantity and the modern world where people’s thinking have become sloppy and morality fuzzy, allows for evil to win boatloads of souls. The book takes you on an interesting journey as Wormwood bungles his mission.

Reading from Screwtape’s point of view was tricky. I had to constantly remind myself that for him the “Enemy” was God and that he flipped his opinion of Above (heaven) and Below (hell). I’m used to seeing as the Above being the home of the good guys.

Much of the book examines modern British society’s failings but Lewis’ criticisms are still true, at least they fit in the US where morals have been shrugged aside as irrelevant, education’s been watered down and the word “democracy” is misunderstood.

Here are a few quotations:

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.”

“When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this easily managed.”

Tom’s SCREWTAPE contribution to F&F — Focusing on Film

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See below to find my Act One friend’s clever contribution to a C.S. Lewis’ publication. I love how he writes about all aspects of social media and the news’ effect on us.

Here’s the “Screwtape” article I wrote for “Fellowship and Fairydust.”

via Tom’s SCREWTAPE contribution to F&F — Focusing on Film