We have received an unusual amount of rain for late summer. As a result, I have not had to refill the swimming pool, our grass is greener than it was in spring, the Crepe Myrtles are blooming more lavender flowers than I have ever seen them do, and I’ve not had to water my garden which is producing its fourth through eighth tomatoes as we speak. For this I am very thankful.
Last Tuesday night we went to hear Terry Brooks speak in Fort Worth. Pro – he is a testament to avid reading, enduring enthusiasm and hard work. Con – His favorite writer is atheist Phillip Pullman. Brooks’ Shannara books were lent to us a few years ago and enjoyed by my older children. I am not an avid reader, so I did not preview them beforehand, nor have we discussed them afterward. I don’t know if it would have made much difference if I had, except for my warnings about fantasy. But if I stick to my ideals, then my kids would not be allowed to read anything. Austen indulges too much in romantic fantasy and elevates suffering for suffering’s sake too much, Shakespeare’s characters are too passionate, Cyrano and Quixote are battling impossible figments of their imagination, Lewis is too speculative and trying to please everyone – as long as they’re traditional, Plato is too rational, etc. Spiritual writings even need to be read under advisement. I’ve come to the point of believing there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, except in Church. We must stay alert and vigilant with everything. Sit back and relax? With X-files maybe, but that show isn’t relaxing.
At lunch I lectured my children, one of whom was reading a Terry Brooks story while eating, about being addicted to fantasy, action and adventure. I speak from experience as I’ve recounted elsewhere about romantic literature. People don’t know how to be quiet and peaceful with themselves especially nowadays where instant excitement and stimulation is only a button click away, or a turn of the page, or in the refrigerator. (I’m starting a low-carb diet today, btw, Lord have mercy – I love chips!) Terry Brooks says that one reason he keeps writing book after book, besides always wanting to improve in his craft, is because he gets grumpy when he’s not. Sign of addiction, if you asked me. The only thing we’re supposed to be addicted to is prayer and the Sacraments. Everything else can pass away without eternal consequences.
So why read? Because the Church recommends it mainly. It also unites us to other humans, and we are a people of language. Using language is a skill that I and my kids definitely need to improve in. A skill all of the above authors excel at, among others whom most people are acquainted with better than me. I’m also sure that there are legitimate things to learn and be amused by in everyone, as I don’t believe in Total Depravity. So I’ll not forbid them to read Terry Brooks until I hear of something that I believe will damage them like too graphic violence or sex. I was encouraged to get lost in books while I was growing up, and even though we sometimes can be transported by a well-crafted tale, we still need to know what to guard against like unrealistic expectations. So I hope that having critical conversations with my children will be enough to protect them from getting lost in these fantastic other worlds.
Meanwhile, I’ve barely begun C.S. Lewis’ third in his Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength, which hasn’t offended me yet. After that I may read some Chesterton. I don’t know when I’ll get back to Plato. And for Spiritual reading, I feel drawn to The Prayers, some of which are linked in my previous posts, as a way to try to get my mind, which is too far ahead of my heart and thus crippled, into the latter.
A couple of preliminary thoughts on THS, I think Lewis brings up a good point about the collegiate discussion regarding the repair of the wall around the well. He laments that the discussion in days past would have concerned the preservation of beauty. While that is a loftier goal than utility and economy, beauty on its own can be too subjective and one’s appreciation too subject to the passions. By stating that Bracton College “was founded in 1300 for the support of ten learned men whose duties were to pray for the soul of Henry de Bracton and to study the laws of England”, Lewis highlights for me both the common lineage of orthodoxy in early England and where they started to go astray. But even the common part in the Church of England has faded into the background with the Protestant Reformation. He also brings up Cromwell’s purges and how Merlin’s well was saved from it by a martyr. I am not sure of Lewis’ sentiments regarding the “popery” of praying for the dead and keeping holy places consecrated, but at least he notes how tradition is being threatened.
Back to the weather, we are experiencing unseasonably cooler temperatures, a perfect 72 degrees at present, so I have sent the kids out of doors before they do their homework. Hopefully they are clearing the path in the woods of fallen trees and branches and will play Hide and Seek with Rebecca and Pippin (our Corgi). We have still not gotten to Lively Latin or History Portfolio as their Abeka takes up most of their day, and 9th grade, without the Bible video, hasn’t been too disagreeable so far. I’m not having Rebecca read their depressing readers, though, and since she read The Magician’s Nephew over the summer, I’ve not pressed her on extra reading yet. Jeremy and Rachel are both reading, from Sonlight recommendations for their book reports, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I have not read but have seen the movie. They usually write thoughtful reports, so I will wait for that.