Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Honoring Mary

While praying the rosary today, I was thinking about how we Catholics honor Mary. And I had one of those doubts - as I assume most Catholics once in a while do - that asked if we didn't give Mary too much honor.

It's kind of easy to think that. I mean, if you look at all the beautiful paintings and sculptures and architecture dedicated to Mary - if you think of all the reams and reams of paper dedicated to honoring her - if you reflect on all the lovely songs and hymns and poetry written her honor - it's simply dazzling. Through the ages, Mary has been given so much attention that it's easy to wonder - wouldn't that glory have been better if it had been given directly to God?
Of course, the Catholic answer to that is, this glory is given to God.
That might sound a little weak until we realize that Mary is God's masterpiece.
She is the most perfect and beautiful thing He has ever created. And that's saying a lot. Now, when human artists - Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and people like that - how do we honor them? By making a big to-do about their work!
Let's say the Greek sculptor Polykleitos walked into this room. (Art class is paying off! Polykleitos is the guy who made this sculpture.)
Now, if Polykleitos walked into this room right now, and I wanted to compliment him on his artwork, I would have at least two options of how I wanted to praise him.
Option #1: Praise him directly.
"Oh, Polykleitos! You are one of the most amazing artists ever. You're perfectly stupendous and fabulous and absolutely fantastic. I think you're great."
Option #2: Praise his work.
"Polykleitos, I love your sculptures. They are so extremely beautiful! I'm really impressed by the way their hair is so curly and detailed, and how lifelike their poses are, and how perfectly their noses are shaped."
Now, if I were Polykleitos, I would be pretty happy to be told any of that. But my guess is Option #2, being a little more specific, is also a little more flattering - no, not a little more flattering, a little more sincere. I've actually told Polykleitos what I like about his sculptures and why I think he's great, not just that he's magnificent.
Is this analogy perfect? Certainly not. God is so utterly high above Polykleitos that it seems a little shallow to mention the two of them in the same sentence like that. And God is different from an artist in that He Himself is the essence of goodness. He definitely deserves direct praise, and we definitely can and should glorify Him without making any reference to His works.
However, God is also an artist, and it is good for us to praise and honor the work He has done.
The honor we give the Pieta does not in any way take away from Michelangelo's glory; it increases it.
The honor we give the Mona Lisa does not in any way take away from Leonard da Vinci's glory; it increases it.
And the honor we give Mary does not in any way take away from God's glory. I wouldn't say it increases it, because God is already so glorious He can't be added to; but I would say that honoring Mary helps us realize more clearly God's genius and goodness and beauty.
So that, my friends, is my spur-of-the-moment defense of the Church's teaching on honoring Mary. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Christina's Bio

The youngest in a family of brothers, twenty-two-year-old Christina Tenth has never been treated as a lady, nor does she much care to be. She spends most of her time in her father's garage crawling in and out of broken engines, helping to keep up the family business. Since the streets where she lives are in a rather rough part of town, the matter-of-fact redhead has learned to take care of herself, if the need should arise. Her crisp, business-like manner, coupled with the occasional smart or sarcastic remark, warn strangers she is not to be trifled with...and succeeds in annoying and puzzling Jude.

Post any questions you have for Christina, and I'll have her answer them in an interview.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Character Quirks

So, what makes a great character?
It's an extremely interesting question, and books upon books could be written on the subject. Of course, I'm not going to try to answer it completely in one little blog post. But, I am going to discuss one of the many things which I think can make a character interesting.
The thing is character quirks. I say "quirks" for lack of a better word; by it, I mean any little thing which makes a character stick out from anyone else in literature, or at least in their book. Maybe it's something they carry around with them at all times. Maybe it's a certain interest. Maybe it's a distinctive flaw. Or maybe it's how they dress, or a phrase they use continually, or part of their appearance that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Here are some examples of popular book characters and a list of quirks that makes them memorable.

Anne Shirley, Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables

1. She hates her red hair (as well as her freckled nose, her green eyes, and her skinny figure).
2. She gets into "scrapes."
3. She is hopelessly romantic.
4. She insists her name is spelled "with an e."
5. She has a temper.
6. She talks non-stop, for paragraphs at a time.
7. She demands "scope for the imagination."
8. She loves puffed sleeves.
9. She uses big words.
10. She is on a continual quest for "kindred spirits."
11. She names (or renames) everything she meets.
12. She wishes her name was Cordelia.

Sam Gamgee, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

1. He loves stories of the old heroes.
2. He wants to see the elves.
3. He can read, recite, and compose poetry (unusual for a poor hobbit).
4. He addresses Frodo as "Mr. Frodo."
5. He has a knack with rope.
6. Like most hobbits, he has a fear of water (in the Shire this wouldn't be considered a quirk, but in the Company he's really the only normal hobbit of the group).
7. His devotion to Frodo is unwavering.
8. He loves gardening (understandably).
9. He is suspicious and distrustful of foreigners (i.e. Faramir) and bitterly dislikes Sméagol (not to mention Ted Sandyman).
10. He is emotional (no other character in the book bursts into tears as many times as Sam).
11. He has a soft spot for "Bill," the pony.
12. He has a becoming affection for "his old Gaffer," the Shire, and all simple beautiful things.

Jo March, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

1. She writes.
2. She has a temper.
3. She has but one beauty - her long thick hair.
4. She whistles, runs, talks slang, and is a general tomboy.
5. She acts - playing "male parts to her heart's content", usually in a certain pair of hand-me-down boots.
6. She loves to read...especially in a garret, in the company of rats and apples.
7. She despises her work at Aunt March's.
8. She can't cook.
9. She's clumsy, always ruining gloves, dresses, coral bracelets, and the like.
10. Although she loves all her family, she has an especially close bond with gentle Beth.
11. She feuds constantly with her little sister Amy.
12. She scowls at any young man who gives a hint of making Meg fall in love with him.

Maybe those weren't all exactly quirks, and some of them were repetitive; but hopefully I got the idea across. Now that I've gone through three of my favorite characters in literature this way, I'll try it on one of my own....oh dear. Let's go with Timandra. I feel like she's rather thoroughly developed. We'll see if she is or not....

Timandra Clemmons, Lucy Agnes' The Prince's Pendant

1. She spouts Shakespeare left and right.
2. She wears her long black hair loose around her face.
3. She carries around a purse. (At least, she did at one point. I don't know if I've made a point of that in later drafts.)
4. She makes as many biting remarks to Dar as she possibly can.
5. She always has time to listen to Ada.
6. She addresses family members as "brother mine"/"mother mine" quite frequently.
7. Her facial expression can change from one extreme to the other with a rapidity akin to magic.
8. She talks almost as much as Anne of Green Gables, only she's never really serious. As she puts it, "My tongue has been my best friend and constant source of amusement ever since I can remember."
9. She can tease without being flippant.
10. She sometimes bursts into song without an obvious reason.
11. It takes quite a bit to dampen her spirits, and even more for her to show discouragement.
12. Her most firmly-held conviction is that everyone is called to be a hero.

Huh, I was really getting desperate at the end there. But it works for my purposes. :)

How about you? Have you noticed any quirks in your favorite characters? Can you list a few unique traits any of your characters have?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lament for the Lost Innocents of Abortion

Innocence! Innocence!
No cause for you to die;
You are not to blame for all
The evils men devise.
You alone are innocent
Among this culture's breed;
Why should you, then, pay the price
For all our wicked deeds?
I shouted this in anguish
To the millions we have lost;
And at once I was reminded
Of a Man upon a Cross.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Alphonse's Interview

Here's Alphonse's interview. I talk in blue. Alphonse talks in red. It's taken me an incredibly long time to post this one, but I've come up with a brilliant excuse: the prince is a very busy person, and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to schedule an appointment with him.

Thanks for letting me interview you, your highness. Although, I suppose you're used to such things by now, aren't you?

*laughs* I suppose. What is it you wanted to ask me?

Well, first of all - Pippin asks what your talent is.

Heavens, I don't know if I ever thought about that extensively. *thinks for a moment* There are many things I take pleasure in, but of course, each hobby is not necessarily a talent. I enjoy fencing, hunting, horsemanship, archery, swimming, hiking, exploring, and the like.  *pauses, then shrugs* I suppose I'm most skilled in horsemanship.

What is your favorite color?

How is one to choose? *sighs* Each hue of the rainbow has its own place in creation. The smooth blue sky stretching over the landscape, cluttered with pillows of white cloud...the deep living green of the forest, tempered with somber browns and blacks...the cheerful reds and yellows of flowers dancing in the breeze. No, I couldn't possibly have one favorite color.

*smiles* That's the most poetic answer to that question I've ever heard. What's your greatest fear?

Greatest fear....*falls silent, biting lip* I suppose...well, I'm afraid that the Festerlonians might attempt something dreadful. They never used to worry me; but as I grow older and they grow stronger, I can see more and more that Father is troubled. You can read it in the lines of his face and in the far-off expression of his eyes at times. It would be a terrible thing if they ever set about conquering the world in earnest. I don't see how they really could, while we are so strong...but they have surely not been idle in the years since their last defeat. Stranger things have happened than a rising of an empire from its ashes. We must hope and pray that they remain quiet.

Jordan H wants to know if you ever wish for brothers and sisters.

*a soft smile* I don't know. I suppose I'm happy enough. If I had needed siblings, God certainly would have given me some. There are times, though, when Mother looks at me with that wistful expression in her eyes, and makes me feel almost guilty for being away so much. Then I do wish that I had a sister, to keep her company whenever I'm out on an adventure in the mountains or on a trip with Father.

Do you like animals?

*grins* Oh, do I! Most certainly. Especially horses. There's little I prize more than my stallion, Deneb. There are times that creature seems as intelligent as a man, strange as it may sound.

What's your favorite time of the day?

Very early morning, just as dawn is waking the world from its slumber. How perfectly lovely are those last moments of the night, when all, though dark and cold, is touched by a certain hope of morning. The birds are the first to feel it, and their songs bless the silent world into wakefulness. There is wakefulness in the forest if there isn't in the palace. All the trees seem to be standing straighter in an expectant hush. That gray, still glow steals over the world. Brighter it grows, and brighter - the birds' songs grow to an ever-present twittering - and then, the sun appears! that globe of brilliant light peering over the trees, climbing over the world - oh, and then everything is light, and cool, and fresh, and utterly, utterly new. There is no more glorious time than that of early morning!

Wow. Maybe I should climb up into the mountains one day before dawn....if I could make myself wake up. John G says, "Do you like being prince?"

Do I like it? *smiles* I've never known different. Yes, I suppose I do like it. I would be a pig to complain; my life is so easy I almost feel guilty. So many others are less fortunate than I. Of course, that's one of the nice things about being the prince - you get to help people. Last summer, I took in a little orphan boy from the streets, to let him live in the palace for awhile. I wanted him to stay forever, but...*deep sigh* It didn't work out the way I wanted.

Amy D asks if you like the fall.

*grins* Oh, 'tis glorious! There are few things more beautiful than the mountains around the palace in the fall.  It's one of my favorite times to go hiking. The vibrant trees all aflame with color, the crisp fresh breezes, the exhilarating bite in the air - oh! It makes me want to go up there right now, and never come down.

Gi wants to know if you're afraid of heights - although, in light of all your praise of the mountains, I rather think I can guess the answer.

*laughs* I should think so! No, I'm not afraid of heights. I love to be up high. The nearer the stars, the better.

Well, that will be all, your highness. Thank you very much for the honor of an interview.

So, there's Alphonse. Our next candidates are:
Eldon Clemmons
Jude Clemmons
Christina Tenth 




Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Lost Sense of Wonder: What Modern Science is Missing

Long ago, man looked at the world and wondered. He gazed up at the stars and found them beautiful. He watched the change of the seasons and marveled. He heard the chirping of the birds and was held spellbound.
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Where had all this splendor come from? Man pondered this question for long days and nights. He had no telescope to observe the stars at closer range, no microscope to explore the basic components of living things; but he did have a brain which was more complex than the most wondrous of modern computers. So, he thought; and he arrived at the conclusion that, somehow, there was a Higher Being in charge of it all. Somehow, there was a Creator responsible for all this creation.
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This belief of Man's took a different shape in different times and places, but it is very interesting to consider that it was always there. The Greeks considered this Higher Being to take the form of many gods and goddesses who dwelt in glory on Mount Olympus, Zeus and Hera and hundreds of other characters who still capture the world's imagination today. The Norse believed in the sky-god Oden and a myriad of deities - Loki and Freya and the thunder-god Thor. The Sumerians had the fiercely beautiful Ishtar, and the Egyptians worshipped Amon and Osiris. And in a little stretch of fertile land called Canaan, an odd group of people called the Hebrews claimed to have the true belief - a belief in One All-Powerful God, a God with a Name so sacred it was not to be spoken by the light tongues of men.
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Flash forward several thousand years, to the present day. Man has made great strides in science and technology, achievements so remarkable his earliest fathers would not have believes such things possible. Now, man looks at the world and discovers. He peers at the stars through a telescope and finds that they are massive orbs of burning gas, suspended in a limitless universe and visible from distances so great it makes one dizzy to think on them. He studies the change of the seasons and learns that they are caused by the tilting of Earth on its axis as it spins its yearly course around the sun. He scrutinizes the intricate anatomy of every living thing and realizes each is composed of thousands of living cells, each one a little unit of activity in itself - and, furthermore, that every element is formed at its most basic level of tiny atoms, that within these atoms are even tinier particles called protons and neatrons and electrons - that all of this is so miniscule and yet so detailed that it is nearly as mind-boggling as the size of the universe.
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Can you imagine what primitive man would have thought if he had known this world was so vast, so intricate, so surprising? What reaction do you think would have been his? Would it not have been a resounding "wow"? Would it not have been a breathless confusion of wonder? We could hardly expect anything else! Man's sense of wonder at the world all around him, already admirably awakened, would have grown a thousandfold if he had learned, in a moment, all these truths which modern man has uncovered over the centuries.

And yet...what does modern man think? He certainly doesn't have the same reaction the ancient man would have had.

Modern, atheistic science draws conclusion that would shock any self-respecting wonderer of the ancient world.

"There is no God."

"This universe is the product of chance."

"Humankind was not designed, but came about due to random evolution."

Where has man's sense of wonder gone? It has disappeared, flown away like the epic mythology of that distant ancient world. Only snatches of it remain, and these are scorned. We think ourselves so very smart, don't we? We know we have learned much since those days of the old philosophers, and so we scorn their wisdom. It is true that we have made great progress in the last several thousand years. But does this mean we can scorn the little wisdom and great thoughts which were the basis for all our learning?

We have lost that supreme, that essential, that glorious sense of wonder! And with it, we have lost our belief in Someone greater.

It is ridiculous, what we men have done. It is as though a peasant had a clock, and always knew it had been crafted by someone - and then, upon breaking the clock's face and seeing the intricate clockwork inside, decided the clock made itself. Or as though a group of children, having lived all their lives in a house and assuming its builder had been a capable workman, suddenly came out of the house and realized it had merely been a dollhouse in a room more magnificent and massive than anything they had ever seen - and concluded that there was no builder at all.

As our knowledge has grown, our wonder has shrunk. It doesn't make much sense to me. Does it make much sense to you?

Maybe the ancients had something there when they said there was a higher power. Maybe we should look into that God of the Hebrews. Because, no matter how informed the modern and atheistic mind is, it cannot be denied that there is something missing - a sense of awe and wonder at the world around us.

It would be a shame if we accepted the new marvels of modern science at the expense of the old. I'm not saying we should go back to believing in Zeus. I'm saying we should move forward to believing in God. We should be able to look at this world with that same sense of wonder as the ancients, to stand there and look up at the stars and simply lose ourselves in meditating that those dots of life - those huge orbs of flame light-years out in space - were created by a God, a God who also made us, who cares about us, who loves us.

It'd be a shame if we lost that sense of wonder - because that sense of wonder is what makes life worthwhile.