Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Sleep

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 3: I Keep Falling Asleep

There are a number of wonderful books which, though highly recommended, I have not finished because I fall asleep every time I try to read them.  Even when I’m not reading in bed, I fall asleep: I curl up in my chair, I melt into the couch, I lie on the floor like a cat.  This probably indicates that I don’t get enough rest at night, but perhaps it also indicates something about my reading material.

kitty sleeps on book

Some might think falling asleep indicates the book is dull.  I think it mostly reflects the reader’s (lack of) wakefulness, blood circulation, and attention span; it’s not necessarily the book’s fault.  Thalia and I discussed the fact that though Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture is beautiful, lucid, and interesting, we conk out after a few pages.  My theory is that the ideas are heavy.  It’s like trying to balance a number of well-cut rocks.  You can follow where the reasoning goes, but you also have to carry where you’ve been with you, as though you were trying to pick up a road as you walk on it.  That’s the heavy bit, keeping all those premises in mind, and it exhausts my brain.

Leisure the Basis of CultureOrthodoxyStudies in WordsFrankenstein

Presumably this is also why I fall asleep reading Orthodoxy and, to my shame, Studies in Words.  Possibly I made my attempts at both books in a severely compromised state, since by all rights I ought to have read and loved them by now.  It’s why I never finished my Intercollegiate Studies Institute Reading (work by Kirk and Burke, oh my) or Frankenstein (which still waits on my bedside table for me to return to it).

What books have you fallen asleep reading?

In Pursuit of the Obvious

In the course of writing last night’s post, I struggled to corral my thoughts so as to share them in an orderly fashion.  But these other quotations express a little bit more on the subject, so I wanted to share them too.

~~~

I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before. If there is an element of farce in what follows, the farce is at my own expense; for this book explains how I fancied I was the first to set foot in Brighton and then found I was the last. It recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious. No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne.  – GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them – never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through? – CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

I have the most ill-regulated memory.  It does those things which it ought not to do and leaves undone the things it ought to have done.  But it has not yet gone on strike altogether.  – Lord Peter Wimsey, Gaudy Night

I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving. We are alive within mystery, by miracle.  – Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition

Review Part 1: Disney’s Frozen

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Did you read The Snow Queen? It is my favorite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. And I grew up on fairy tales: Andrew Lang’s books, many beautiful picture books, and sundry collections of various folklore! (For some reason, Grimm’s fairy tales were not so big in my home. It might have been the R rating most of the originals have.)

Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, is a tale of true love saving an icy heart through hard work and sacrifice. I loved the edition my family had, as it was gorgeously illustrated, highlighting the sharp, biting beauty of Ice and Snow.

 

When I heard that Disney was “reimagining” Andersen’s tale, I was both worried and intrigued. Frozen premiered yesterday, and my housemate and I went to see it.

And I like it. Maybe more than “like”. The more I think about it, it gets higher on my list of favorite movies. I want to share it with people I love.  Starting with you. You should go see Frozen.

It is not perfect by any means, so I am wary of overselling.  But I need to talk about it! My compromise is to make a list of pros and cons for the movie. (If you are fearful of spoilers, read carefully. A few might slip in.)

 

The Story

Cons: It is not the original Andersen story. There are significant changes, mainly shifting the focus from a boy-girl pair to a pair of sisters.

Pros: It works. The heart of the story is figuring out what True Love is, and removing the possibility of romantic mushy feelings from the central pair certainly crystallizes our definition. 

 

The Plot

Cons: There are a few holes. Mainly, the sudden ability to control magical icy powers.

Pros: The holes are not in important parts. The magical abilities are a part of the setting, not the focus. And the story telling does a good job of making that clear.

 

The Art

Cons: It is a cartoon. Which means round faces and unlikely body proportions for all living things. Maybe I am spoiled, but I expect animated characters to make better use of  facial expressions.

Pros: It is a cartoon. Which means stunning closeups of snowflakes an ice and an ICE PALACE that will take away your breath. (Not to mention an ice dress.) And there are a few good faces. Also, there is a pretty scene of Anna imitating classical works of art that are hung around her palace.

 

 

The Music

Cons: It is not the Lion King. Or Prince of Egypt.

Pros: HARMONY! CHOIRS! SOARING NOTES! Songs than capture the moment and plot and emotions! Background music that works with the story so well I barely noticed it! Melodies that work with the lyrics, lyrics that appreciate pretty words! (“Frozen fractals”!!!)  But seriously, how long has it been since Disney actually used harmony and choirs? And lyrics that have united and developed the narrative themes and motifs? You can listen for yourself, if you wish.

 

Our Protagonist Sisters

Cons:  . . . . None

Pros: SISTERS! Their relationship is the center of the story, and . . . I can’t say more without spoilers. I really want my own sisters now.

 

The Side Characters

Cons: There is an annoying talking snowman named Olaf.

Pros: Other than Olaf, all the side characters are excellently crafted, acted, and used. Each has a purpose AND a personality. Even the snowman. (Supposedly he is the personification of the sisterly bond. But he is still annoying.)

The Wit

Cons: Not so witty. There is a tad bit of mild potty humor. And the kind of things that 5-year-olds find funny.

Pros: Fortunately, it has enough substance that it doesn’t need wit.

 

The Villain

Cons: There is no villain! There is a cad, but he is easily spotted, serves an important narrative purpose, and get his boring comeuppance.

Pros: There is no villain! Our two protagonist sisters face a true battle against FEAR. Yes, the real opposite of love is not hate, but fear. And this movie states that baldly. Which brings us to . . .

 

The Subtlety

Cons: Frozen has the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The themes, motifs and morals are so obvious, a five-year-old can identify them. Even the humor has big, blinking arrows pointing to it. (Not literally. But it may as have have.)

Pros: A five-year-old can identify the themes. Does a good fairy tale need subtlety? I have spent years looking at the art of literature, savoring the delicate images and tastes of humanity and truth. I appreciate those, but I recognize that sometimes bluntness is needed.

It is almost as if Disney is trying to reverse years of overly mushy ideas of romance and impractical ideas of love in one movie. It has the same theme as all real, important, fairy tales: True Love. It even correctly identifies the true opposite of love as fear! (I really can’t get over that.) The motifs (storms, doors, creation vs. control, etc.) are well chosen and well used.

To be fair, our modern society has stopped using or understanding  subtlety well. Those who do look for subtlety are the academics, most of whom tend to read their own insane symbols and agendas into the work. The frankness of Frozen does forestall this misunderstanding or misinterpretations.

While Frozen might have appealed to a more adult audience had it used subtlety, it adheres to the structure of old fairy tales and is accessible to all ages. It is blunt, but I can forgive that when it is blunt about Truth and gives the theological definition of love.

The Theology

Cons: Shockingly, there are no cons. There was a moment when I thought there might be, but then the characters very helpfully and carefully explained themselves, and all was well.

Pros: There must have been a solid Christian crafting this story. It is possible for  clever and thoughtful agnostic to have written it, but my instinct says otherwise. This movie not dares to ask and answer the question “what is love?” Their answer (as closely as I can remember) is “Love is wanting what is good for another person, and acting on it no matter what the cost for another person“. What does the Catholic Catechism say about love?  “To love is to will the good of another.'” Brilliant.

And because there is no subtlety, they even point out the in-movie examples. Just in case we missed them. But the examples are good, realistic, and, like all good theology, filled with common sense.

 

Conclusion

In his chapter, the Ethics of Elfland, G.K. Chesterton describes a fairy tale as being built on common sense and the ideals of eternal Truth and Reality. Frozen does fit this definition: it adhere to its internal logic, and is surprisingly well rooted in common sense. The characters ring true as portraits of humanity. The story is well crafted, if obvious, and holds fast to the heart of all good stories: love and sacrifice.

In short, go see Frozen.

And then come back and discuss it with me! When I have had time to percolate ideas, I will come back and expand on the themes and story telling. As obvious as it is, it might be a good teaching tool to point all those literary devices!

 

Letter to My Friends

 

 

Dear Friend,

You are precious, priceless, and deeply loved.

You have a heart more vast and luminous than the Grand Canyon, and nothing can alter that.

Unfortunately, having such an awe-inspiring heart makes it easier for people to kick cans or drop litter into it. A heart, by its very nature, will always be a target.

But that is because the people who do that are stupid and refuse to see, and so those people are to be pitied the more for missing out on YOU.

To put it more practically, being so beautifully sensitive means that you are also so painfully sensitive.

The openness to the world that we – having been blessed to be raised in loving, healthy, whole environments – have cultivated in ourselves, leaves us without the protection of cynicism, or even “disillusionment”. Instead, we must see life as it really is. (To paraphrase the Discworld witches, seeing what really is, is an altogether much harder gift curse.)

And that sucks.

Truly. Many of us seem to be struggling right now. I think it is something particular to this generation.

Yes, I know, generation upon generation have suffered, sacrificed, and died before us. But something seems different about this generation.

For one thing, as we come out of that Grand Era of baby boomers, technology, and “reason”, we as a group have been left looking for the “unreasonable”, the mysterious, and wonderful. (Also spelled, for clarification purposes, as “wonder-full”.)

This is my personal theory as to the prevalence of “New Age” isms. After so many years believing in NASA and other modern progresses, people were drawn to New Age thingies simply wanted to be able to see the sacred and beautiful in ordinary things. And actually have something considered sacred and beautiful. And mysterious and wonder-full and awe-full.

“New” Age? Pfft.

Christians have been believing – and acting upon! – that for the past two thousand years. Its called a Sacrament, people!

Which brings me back to original point; we, as young Christian adults, seem to have a strange malady these days.

It is a little bit like ennui, combined with homesickness and compounded by chronic job searching.

I suppose I must admit that it is likely other generations have felt this before. But pray, give me leave to wax hyperbolic about the trials and tribulations close to my heart!

Even Economists – those perilous number wizards- are insisting that this generation is having a ridiculously hard time finding jobs and paying off student loans and generally making ends meet for long enough that we can feel like adults.

And this intensifies just our original trouble.

Because the ennui-homesickness-loss feeling is by now a part of who we are, and it started a long time before most of us even began to look for real jobs. It seems to be part – to paraphrase one of my favorite books, The Blue Sword –  a feeling of not belonging, a strong desire to find a place where familiarity and wonder coincide. And part a fear of the discomfort and incongruity that such a place evokes.

Even those of our generation who are not Christian seem to be feeling it: this odd mix existential angst, immediate material insecurity, and the throbbing attraction of anything that promises it has a meaning.

It is our home, and not our home. This can give us moment of awe and love, of the discovery and home-coming at one time which Chesterton describes.

Which is not usually the most comfortable of positions.

And it offers very little in the way of practical happiness.

Whatever you are facing right now, remember that you are a child of God.

And that I think you are AWESOME.

And anyone who thinks differently is being blind.

Including you.

I will be insulted if you distrust my opinion that much!

(So will God, but I cannot put him on the same level as myself. That would be a stretch, even for an Egotist!)

In any case, beloved, breath deeply, eat healthy, sleep well, and live wonderfully.

Love,

Melpomene

P.S. Some more Chesterton for encouragement summation of our path.

The Men of the East may spell the stars
And times and triumphs mark,
But the Men marked with the Cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

~ excerpt from the Ballad of the White Horse

Travelogue: Grand Canyon

Trekking across the wide expanse of land that comprises the western part of the United States of America, there was once one person who first stumbled over the Grand Canyon.

I can only barely imagine how he felt.

I have seen photos, so I was prepared in some degree. But the sheer . . . . largeness staggered me.

We left Santa Fe, with its rich history and perfect weather and pretty scenery and fake adobe buildings.

(Even the McDonald’s was faux adobe. We called it . . . . faudobe.)

And we reached Grand Canyon National Park just before sunset. It had rained a little, so the air in between the south and north rim slightly hazy.

(For a better view of the photos, click on them.)

 

 

And it was so huge that I could physically not absorb it all. I would fill my eyes with as much of it as possible, and still see barely a quarter of what was available to be seen. It is should be the definition of “overwhelming”.

 

 

The very thought of hiking it me breathless.

And then I realized that we were at 7000 feet above sea level, and it was probably just the thinner atmosphere that impeding my breath.

 

 

It should have stunned my with wonder, left me speechless at the Glory of God.

But I am afraid to admit that I only felt . . . numb. It is pretty. Huge. Scary.

However, it is almost alienating in its grandeur.

Chesterton is right when he says in Orthodoxy that when we love something we call it in a diminuative; the small and delicate tugs on out hearts in ways that the awe-inspiring never can.

 

 

The photo above is more intriguing than the others, is it not? A photographer will tell you that it is because the frame is formed and the eyed directed by the ceder tree.

I think it is because the ceder there gives the photo the feeling of the immediate, the personal, the tactile, and, yes, the small.

 

 

 

We can gasp in awe at the huge and sweeping, but it is the small and tender that reaches into our own cozy worlds and takes our breath away.

Wondrous works of Nature can never move you like your first sight of your first child.

At least, I imagine that it can’t.

 

 

The Grand Canyon, (or, as they call it there, Grand Canyon, sans article,) is beautiful.

But I prefer the quieter, more homelike prettiness of Flagstaff. We only passed through the town, (well, and stopped for gas,) but I fell in love with it. The smaller, gentler beauties are enough for me.

Flagstaff is a city with a small country town feel. It has the attitude and pretty pine and birch forests reminiscent of my favorite place on earth: Northern Michigan. But it also has surrounding mountains!

Could it be that I have found my own personal Heaven on Earth?

 

 

 

Triolet

I’m sorry to serve these words neat, without any accompanying cheese, cherries or comment, but I am trying to remember every address I’ve had since I was 18. Have a laugh, for it is Thursday.

Triolet

I wish I were a jellyfish
That cannot fall downstairs
Of all the things I wish to wish
I wish I were a jellyfish
That hasn’t any cares,
And doesn’t even have to wish
‘I wish I were a jellyfish
That cannot fall downstairs.’

G.K.Chesterton

Oh My Gosh. There are FISH in my hair!

This, is an addendum.

My brother #3 should be hired as the creative director onto this blog.

If only we had the funds with which to hire him.

In the midst of last night’s insomnia induced rambling on the joys of homecoming, he wandered downstairs and proceeded to watch me slowly type out the blurry thoughts that tried to form a post.

He patted my arm, and then gently informed me that I needed a more random title.

Something eye-catching, and strange.

Off the top of his head, he suggested, “OMG, there are FISH in my hair!”

Thus, this post is dedicated to him.

And it begs the question:

How much of an effect DOES a title have on the interest drummed up in a article?