In the Event of Cylon Apocalypse, the World Must Be Peopled

What book will I bring with me on the emergency evacuation ship when the Cylons destroy civilization, and we have to start over again?

In true Apocalyptic form, I am late for this last meme question. That’s not because I didn’t have an answer, though.  No, I’ve always pretty much known that in the event of the alien invasion, I’m grabbing my Bible first, and then a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

This is what my copy looks like. Though I’m pretty sure I don’t have the “portable” edition. But a heavy book will do double duty as part of my personal defense system. Even alien robots pay attention when 20 lbs. of sonnets and tragedies come hurtling their way.

There really wasn’t a very complicated decision process here.  I asked, “Which book could I not bear to have perish from history forever?” and the Bard was the obvious answer.  No more Hamlet?  No Julius Caesar or Romeo and Juliet?  I don’t want to live in that world.  These are the stories that have shaped the imaginations of readers for generations.  They’re the books behind all the books I love today.  They’re the fertile ground from which springs much of modern English language and usage.  If we want to preserve our tongue and some piece of our storytelling tradition, we ought to keep these books alive.  I’m not really surprised by my choice.  After all, these are all the reasons I’m going to grad school to (God-willing) get a degree to teach English lit at a university setting.

Now, I hope I never have to take such action for real.  There are plenty of other books I’d weep to have to leave behind.  My Gaiman, my McKillip, Tolkien, Lewis, Jane Austen.  James Thurber!  I hope that by the time the Cylons come, I’ll have a Kindle with all my favorite books on it.  Heck, the need for a contingency plan might just be reason enough to overcome my technophobia regarding digital books and buy a Kindle.  I’ll be the first to admit, all this sci-fi that I read and watch has made me a little paranoid…


Yea, though we have frolicked in glee through these ten weeks, the time has come to put away the meme and go on with life.

It has been quite fun, and rather surprising. I learned a great many things about my fellow muses and even about myself:

Thalia wept over Julius Caesar!

Terpsichore finds Narnia to be the pinnacle of World Crafting.

Urania believes Captain Hook to be the most perfect of Villains.

Calliope would honeymoon with Kipling, of all authors!

And I would save political books from the World’s End. Huh.


But most surprising was the amount of fellow bloggers who graciously did this meme with us!

David of the The Warden’s Walk who, even though he is a tad bit behind, always presents his choices with a thoroughness and intensity that pits me to shame. His thoughtfulness and good taste are highly appreciated!

Anne, of Jubilare, has not only joined in this endeavor, but spurred many passionate and detailed discussions.

Emily Kazakah at Wander Lust took the time to play around with us as well, and contributed some wonderful ideas. And expanded my “to be read” list!

The Golden Bookwyrm at The Bookwyrm’s Lair. True to the name, the Bookwyrm brings the charm of biblophilia to the meme.

And, of course, our brother site, The Egotists Club over at blogspot. K cheerfully went along with our silliness, and offered some excellent reviews!

And it is quite likely that there were others as well. If so, please let us know! We would love to read what you have to say!

Also, in the interest of continuing this annual tradition, what suggestions do you have for next year?

  • Any new way of organizing?
  • Ideas on subjects? Preferably, next year’s will not be so “romantic” . . . .
  • And can we find another name for it than “meme”? It just sounds silly and take too much explanation.

In case you missed any of our posts that you were absolutely dying to know about, have a recap.

Book Meme 2012

Week 1: Book Crush(es)

Thalia: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Urania: Morpheus
Terpsichore: Bean
Melpomene: Benedick
Calliope: Richard Winters 

Week 2: Books I’d give a theme song to

Thalia: Wooster & Jeeves & Stephane Grappeli
Urania: Hero & Endless Dream, and Twilight & Angels
Terpsichore: Many Lists
Melpomene: Dark Waltz & Melian and Thingol, Debussy & Woolf
Calliope: Make Way for the Ducklings & Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto

Week 3: Best villain

Thalia: The Man in the Brown Suit, from  . . . .  The Man in the Brown Suit!
Urania: Captain Hook, from Peter Pan
Terpsichore: Moriarty etc., from Sherlock Holmes, etc.
Melpomene: Mr. Jackman, from Old House Of Fear
Calliope: Edmund, from King Lear

Week 4: Best love story

Thalia: Our Mutual Friend, by Dickens
Urania: Gwyneth and Judd, from The Bell at Sealey Head
Terpsichore: A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken
Melpomene: John and Abigail Adams, in their letters
Calliope:  Sir Conan and Lady Anne, from The Red Keep

Week 5: Characters and literary figures I’d name my children after

Thalia: Quentin
Urania: Miranda
Terpsichore: Many Names
Melpomene: Beatrice & Benedict
Calliope: Edmund & Lucy

Week 6: The author by whom you own the most books

Thalia: Agatha Christie
Urania: Lewis & McKillip
Terpsichore: Lewis
Melpomene: Terry Pratchett
Calliope: Lloyd Alexander

Week 7: Favorite words and phrases, or lines and literary allusions that would win your heart.

Thalia: Tasty Words
Urania: As You Wish
Terpsichore: Lists of Allusions
Melpomene: Song of Songs
Calliope: Supercalifragilisticexpialidosious

Week 8: Best Story Settings

Thalia: Shakespearian Rome
Urania: Sci-Fi
Terpsichore: Narnia
Melpomene: The Inferno
Calliope: Mistawis

Week 9: Book(s) that you would bring on your honeymoon. (ie; so intrinsic to your life that it MUST be shared with your life partner as soon as possible. Or just fun to read together.)

Thalia: Poetry!
Urania: The Sandman
Terpsichore: A Library
Melpomene: Heart of the World
Calliope: Rudyard Kipling

Week 10: Books that I would bring if the world was going to be destroyed by aliens/cylons and we had to restart civilization as we know it. (ie: the basis of human knowledge and thought and civilization.)

Thalia: History
Terpsichore: Fiction
Melpomene: Political Thought
Calliope: Theology

Mel’s Meme: The Seeds of Society

In his book Leisure the Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper lays out the founding of what we have come to know as “culture”. It was only when men did not have worry about every meal, when every moment was not spent securing the livelihood of a people, that they could begin to spend time – leisure time – studying.

And, eventually, creating. Art can only happen in a society organized enough to have leisure.

And this is my introductory excuse for having poor taste. When I looked deep, deep into my psyche, I discovered that my instinctive grabs would be;

Plato’s Republic,
Aristotle’s Politics,
De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

I am horrified.

I loathe politics. In fact, it might be rated up there with chickens.

In my most cynical moods, I tend to reject all forms of government.

But I do trust education. And maybe if every person in this surviving culture read about politics, it might work!

And the first thing to that a dispossessed society needs in order to stay a culture, is a working organization.

A system of government, if you will.

And it needs people who can think clearly and reasonably about the purpose and organization of government. It need both the information and the wisdom passed down through the ages, what Chesterton called the “democracy of the dead”.

The purpose of government is to serve the people: humans do not exist to serve the government. So yes, there are books that – as I have in the middle of exploring – make us human.

But if the world as we knew it suddenly ended and we had to start anew, it would be important not just to preserve the beauty that was but to rebuild lives, society, and culture.

John Adams, in the throes of organizing the fledgling United States of America, deftly describes this basis of culture in a letter to his wife.

My Dear Portia—

Since my arrival this time, I have driven about Paris more than I did before. The rural scenes around this town are charming. The public walks, gardens, &c., are extremely beautiful . . . I wish I had time to describe these objects to you, in a manner that I should have done twenty-five years ago, but my head is too full of schemes, and my heart of anxiety, to use expressions borrowed from you know whom. To take a walk in the gardens of the palace of the Tuileries, and describe the statues there, all in marble, in which the ancient divinities and heroes are represented with exquisite art, would be a very pleasant amusement and instructive entertainment, improving in history, mythology, poetry, as well as in statuary. Another walk in the gardens of Versailles would be useful and agreeable. But to observe these objects with taste and describe them, so as to be understood, would require more time and thought than I can possibly spare.

It is not indeed the fine arts which our country requires ; the useful, the mechanic arts, are those which we have occasion for in a young country as yet simple and not far advanced in luxury, although perhaps much too far for her age and character. I could fill volumes with descriptions of temples and palaces, paintings, sculptures, tapestry, porcelain, &c., &c., &c., if I could have time ; but I could not do this without neglecting my duty.

The science of government, it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation, ought to take place of, indeed to exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.


Thus concludes the excuse. I would like to have found that my heart of hearts wants to preserve Homer, or Shakespeare, or Dante. I believe that those are the books that teach us best what it mean to be human.

But no.

I suppose it is hope that makes grab political training manuals rather first.

Because if the Cylons do come destroy Earth and we must begin anew, I want to reach the point of culture as quickly as possible so that the new Homers, Shakespeares, and Dantes have a chance to create again.

Epic Meme Saturday: An Apocalyptic End to the Meme

If it was truly the end of the world I would not bring a book, that would be pointless as I shall have no need of it, either being in Heaven and experience the Beatific Vision which is better than anything word can give, or I shall be in Hell, and I don’t think I would really care about books in Hell…

However, the end of the world, the end of technology, the end of how this culture perceives life, an Apocalypse, would call for a very special book indeed. It would have to be foundational to what is good about our culture, it would have to exemplify what it means to be human, and contain the foundation of Christianity. Well, I think the only thing that really does that perfectly is the complete works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas wrote a massive amount, both of philosophical, theological and poetical. He wrote this hymn;

Pange, lingua, gloriosi

Corporis mysterium,

Sanguinisque pretiosi,

quem in mundi pretium

fructus ventris generosi

Rex effudit Gentium.

Sing, tongue, the mystery

of the glorious Body

and of the precious Blood,

which, for the price of the world,

the fruit of a noble womb,

the King of the nations, flowed forth.

Such beauty truly belongs to man as human and as children of God! St. Thomas is called the Angelic Doctor for a reason and his lucid prose is a joy to read. (Though due to modern understandings of words it can be a bit hard to get used to.) Plus, I am sure that throughout his entire library of work the great saint quote the entire bible, new and old testament, so that is an added happiness! Hmm… lovely.

Although it would not be the easiest thing to read as a the world as we know it is crumbling apart, I think it would be the thing that I most want to preserve.

Thursday Dances: Cataclysmic Codices

“What books would I bring if the world would be destroyed by aliens or cylons and we had to restart civilization as we know it?”

What a question!  And how tempting it is to lay aside the booklist question in order to pursue the nature of the catastrophe…but I’ll keep myself in check.  I talked over the booklist question with a friend I knew to be familiar with Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.  We agreed that we would *not* bring a shopping list, nor blueprints, unless the blueprints were extensive enough to be of use.  Rather, we’d opt for something more fundamental, and would not limit ourselves to one book unless we had to.

Thankfully Thalia’s already got charge of the History of the Peloponnesian War, which did arise as a possibility in the course of our conversation.  We talked about bringing the Bible, Shakespeare, the works of St. Augustine, Pascal (I’d bring the first two and my friend could handle the latter two).  We pondered the best way to sum up or collect all the pieces of art or music in a volume (and couldn’t really get beyond the Norton Anthologies of both, so if you have other suggestions, please make them).  We figured that it might be wise to bring as much information on chemistry, physics, and calculus as possible, despite our personal failure to study them very deeply; why, we asked, leave all the legwork to the people trying to rebuild the world?

Then I consulted my eldest brother, who, after due mention of the Bible and Shakespeare, determined that he would bring a Latin missal, breviary, and patristic writings; a collection of Plato and Aristotle; Homer and Virgil; Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italian; all of Aquinas; and (somewhat peculiarly) a scientific manual that our dad consults regularly.  These, he figured, were among the documents on which the present civilization was founded.  If they did so the first time, then there was no reason they should not again.

So, figuring he would have those covered, I imagine myself bearing the dictionary; a volume of Anglo-Saxon poetry; The Wealth of Nations; a pretty solid anthology of not-Anglo Saxon poetry; some book or other on animal husbandry and agriculture; the small bag of honeymoon-worthy books; and The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

…then hopefully I’d find the person who brought Tolkien along.

It’s the end of the world as we know it
and I feel fine

Tuesday with Thalia: The End of the World

This is the last post of the Spring Book Meme, and, fittingly, it concerns the end of the world as we know it. For, as my mother is quick to mention, if it really concerned the End of the World, we would have no need or desire for books!

What, we ask ourselves, is the book we would want with us if the civilization collapsed around us?

I have given thought to this matter for many years, not just in preparation for today’s blog. I harbor a feeling that I must prepare myself, not just for the Last Day, but for the remainder of these weary last days. I never go anywhere without planning a route back to my family in case of sudden disaster. For example, I went to Meadowmount, the violinist’s practice….gulag… in the Adirondacks. I figured if the world ended, I would take my violin, my bedding and Mr. Galamian’s gun and find a boat from Lake Champlain, through the waterways of the Great Lakes, down to Green Bay, over on the Fox river, carry my boat to the Wisconsin river in Portage, and arrive at my family’s house within a few weeks. I was almost disappointed that the world continued lurching through eternity.

So this post answers a question that I have actually considered a great deal. The book I would guard, cherish and preserve against the ravages of time is Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. In the introductory book, Thucydides himself sums up his own purpose in writing this history.

“The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time. (My italics. I seem not to trust your readership today. It’s a fluke. )

Though this does sum up the major reasons I want to preserve Thucydides, I should also mention that the writing is lovely. Even in translation, Thucydides’s writing is beautiful. He recounts the tragedies and follies of his times as honestly as he could, in the hope of saving us and our children trouble. Don’t lose his wisdom.


PS. All this chat about the end of the world is making me le tired. I’ll just take a nap before I fire ze missiles, shall I?

Epic Meme Saturday: A Fairy-Tale Honeymoon

A book that I would bring on my honeymoon. Oye jehmoie! I don’t know if I would bring a book on my honeymoon. At least, not any of the books that changed or formed my life. Those books are so very important that I would either read them with my beloved before we married, or take longer over them than a honeymoon would give (for reading at least). Books of such importance should not be kept waiting.

If I ever get married any and all books on my honeymoon would have to be of the sort that are meant to be read by a fire and under the stars, so that would include …. Patrick McManus books!

Though those are not quite as romantic as I might want. So maybe not…maybe G.K Chesterton’s Fr. Brown mysteries, they are thrilling and enchanting; perfect for snuggling up before a fire! However, there is one drawback to those stories; they are never shallow (not the drawback, I am coming to that…) and some times they are quite deep! That is the draw back! Although it is a requirement to think deep thought and have deep discussions with my new spouse, I think not right before bed (which is when you have fires) because I would be too busy being comfy. So perhaps that would be a better travel-book.

Arra, this is harder than it seems!

Alright, last possibility is fairy-tales! But not just any fairy tales, because I can only listen to so many of Andrew Lang’s stories without going to sleep (though that might not be a bad thing), so they must be special and exciting! That leaves me with Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories! They are witty and charming, just right to right to read and giggle over and rambunctiously enjoy!


Mel’s Meme: Oh, Prisons of Finitude!

In my defence, I did not mean these memes to be quite as romantic as they sound. (Also, no one would help me make them up! You guys do it next time!)

Yes, I know, they sound ridiculously mushy. But I was trying to find specific, earthy examples of abstract, philosophical questions. And the questions that I do tend to lean on the side of are usually things like;

“Literature, the sharing of words, stories, and experience, presupposes a community in which to do the sharing. So, what role do books have in creating, fostering, and renewing community? What – if anything – do books have to do with being  Human? Being Human in a community? Love, or the need for another person, is the basic instinct that draws human being together into a community. Can books facilitate that function? How? Why? Which books?” ~Melpomene, Musings in the Witching Hour*

Ahem. Et cetera.

In this instance, what I was trying to question was not so much a problem of romantic love. Rather, I wanted to know if there were books so dear, so crucial, so formative to my own Being and understanding of the world that it would be impossible to share a life with another person without likewise sharing this work of literature.

Le sigh.

As usual, my scope is too wide and my example too narrow.

My sad choice of phrasing does place some practical limitations on this week’s challenge. I am quite sure there will be other things I will want to be doing on my Honeymoon. But as it is, I must carefully select a work that fosters this very select community of two, preferably with the opportunity for discussions, enjoyment of the words and story, and probably give some of the epic, sacramental scope of matrimonial love.

Heart of the World:
by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

This is a very beautiful, delicate, odd little book. (It is short, sweet, and can be picked up and put down easily. The reading it aloud only increases the delight. The perfect honeymoon book!) Von Balthasar is known as a theologian, but this book – even in translation! – marks him as a poet. Oh, it is written in prose form, but the exquisite sentences, graceful imagery, and meandering unfolding of ideas marks this a work of Poetry.

It feels like an old man musing on the nature of the world and the meaning of living (emphasis on the act of living, as well as the more abstract concept of life) and allowing his ideas to flow forth in the sweetest, most beautiful expressions possible. It is a work which invites the readers into contemplation, stillness, beauty, grace, and, (most deeply) love. This work has been describes as the ” pure serenity of a volcano under snow”. And as poetry, it shares the experience between souls, the most hidden and holy expressions of the Heart.

He begins by describing the drift in the River of Time, gently opening with the idea of the Self and the Other, the precious individuality that as yet leaves us each alone; ideas I have thought about, but for which I have never been able to find the proper articulation.

“Prisons of finitude!

Like every other being, man is born in many prison. Soul, body, thought, intuition, endeavor: everything about him has a limit, is itself tangible limitation; everything is a This and a That, different from other things and shunned by them. From  the grilled windows of the senses each person looks out to the alien things which he will never be . . .  How far it is from one being to its closest neighbor! And even if they love each other and wave to one another from island to island, even if they attempt to exchange solitudes and pretend they have unity, how much more painfully does disappointment then fall upon them when they touch invisible bars . . . Being are alien to one another, even if they do stand beautifully by one another and complement one another colors, like water and stone, like sun and fog: even if they do communally perfect the resounding harmony of the universe. Variegation pays the price of separation . . . The limpid mirror has been shattered . . . but every single splinter remains precious, and from each fragment there flashes a ray of the mystery of its origin.” ~ Chapter One: The Flowing Stream

And so he continues on, finding words fit to picture, at least in part, a mystery of the World. And the main image centering, (anchoring, cohering,) the book is the image of the cross as an embrace. The world as full of significance and meaning and tremendous splendor. The unity of beings is only possible in the Union of Christ to His bride, the Church. And this the example we have on which to model out marriages.

The second half of the book shifts slightly to address the church as the beloved bride, at the same time gracefully makes it clear that reader who has been addressed from the start of the book is the church, the bride. And despite all flaws, failures, mistakes and stumbles, is still greatly loved. The entire book is, essentially, a love letter from Christ to each person in the world. It is a wild, wild, love.

And so after all, it is a romantic book. It celebrates the highest Romance in the history of the World. Hopefully, it should remind this newly married couple of their place in echoing, entering, and living this Great Mystery.

“Everything hearkens back to your throbbing Heart. Time and the seasons still hammer away and create, and your Heart still drives the world and all its happenings forward with great, painful blows. It is the unrest of the clock and your Heart is restless until we rest in you, once time and eternity have become interfused. But: be at peace! I have overcome the world. The torment of sin had already been submerged in the stillness of love. The experience of what the world is has made love darker, more fiery, more ardent. The shallower abyss of rebellion has been swallowed up in unfathomable mercy, and throbbing majestically reigns serene the Heart of God.” ~ Chapter 13: Love – A Wilderness

Christ as Bridegroom

* “The Witching Hour” is three in the morning, when daimons prefer to visit their mortal instruments.