“Son of God”

As we come to Matthew 14:15-36, we see two crucial miracles which have been much pondered.  The first, of course, is the feeding of the five thousand; and the second is Jesus walking on the water.

C.S. Lewis considered these miracles to be (in one sense) very different from each other.

Walker Feeding of the 5000
Dirk A. Walker, “Feeding of the 5000” [link].
The feeding of the five thousand was a miracle which repeated, at a specific time and a specific place, what God does everywhere, all the time:

[T]he two instances of miraculous feeding . . . . involve the multiplication of a little bread and a little fish into much bread and much fish. . . .  Every year God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase. . . .

Look down into every bay and almost every river.  The swarming, undulating fecundity shows he is still at work “thronging the seas with spawn innumerable” . . . .  And now, that day, at the feeding of the thousands, incarnate God does the same: does close and small, under his human hands, a workman’s hands, what He has always been doing in the seas, the lakes and the little brooks.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study 164-65 (MacMillan 1947).

In the multiplication of the bread and the fishes, Jesus shows himself to be doing what God does all the time.  Lewis calls this a “Miracle of the Old Creation.”

Continue reading “Son of God”

No safe investment

There ifour lovess no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves 121-122 (1960).

Reflection on a Year’s Reading

One nice thing about this site is that it gives me a place to keep track of the books I am reading. It has allowed me to be a little more introspective about what I read. (I seem to require a couple of books a week to maintain my sanity.) About a third of my reading is re-reading, which makes sense to me, anyhow. Wouldn’t you want to go back and visit old friends in addition to meeting new ones?*

station elevenMy favorite newly-discovered author of the last year is probably Emily St. John Mandel. I read Station Eleven, then picked up Last Night in Montreal, and The Lola Quartet, and enjoyed all three. Yes, they are quirky and have some repetitive elements, but I liked Ms. Mandel’s writing and will continue to follow her.

indexThe best new** fiction I read this year includes (in no particular order) Andy Weir, The Martian (2014), Stephen L. Carter, Back Channel (2014), Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2014), William Gibson, The Peripheral (2014), Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (2014), David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (2014), and Neal Stephenson, seveneves (2015).  All were well-crafted and enjoyable, but I will let you look elsewhere for reviews.  I usually pre-order anything by Gibson, Carter and Stevenson, and will probably add Mandel and Weir to that list.

51Qm5bXG9NL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I read two excellent new** nonfiction books: Margaret Lazarus Dean, Leaving Orbit (2015); and Jeff Smith, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison (2015). Mr. Smith was the most horrifying book I read recently,*** as it was an account of a politician who was sent to prison for a year for lying about a fairly minor campaign violation.

Rickey&RobinsonEric Metaxas’ Miracles (2014) was strikingly different from C.S. Lewis’ book of the same name. Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor (2014) was an encouragement about the significance of work.  Roger Kahn’s Rickey and Robinson (2014) was a great story about baseball and society by someone who lived through those important years when baseball was being integrated.

And how did I miss this one when it first came out: Cheryl Strayed, Wild (2012), a fascinating account of a troubled woman who walks the Pacific Crest Trail? Rick Atkinson’s The Guns at Last Light (2013) (last part of WWII in Europe) was well worth the 900-page investment.

Caveat Lector.  It should go without saying that some of these will be uninteresting, unedifying, or even upsetting for some readers.  What I think I can assure you is that none of these books are poorly written.   Let me know if you have any thoughts about these or others on my sidebar.

*My favorite old friend this year was probably Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow (1996), though I did love (again) the Sword of Honor Trilogy, Pattern Recognition, LoTR, and That Hideous Strength.

**Published since January 2014.

***This is saying a lot since I also read Michael Faber, Under the Skin (2000) and Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1998), two astoundingly creepy books.

Learning to learn

“Another fantasy of liberal education is that the student who advances to the university should take up the study that interests him most. For a small number of students this is in the main right. Even at a very early stage of school life, we can identify a few individuals with a definite inclination towards one group of studies or another. The danger for these unfortunate ones is that if left to themselves they will overspecialize, they will be wholly ignorant of the general interests of human beings. We are all in one way or another naturally lazy, and it is much easier to confine ourselves to the study of subjects in which we excel. But the great majority of the people who are to be educated have no very strong inclination to specialize, because they have no definite gifts or tastes. Those who have more lively and curious minds will tend to smatter. No one can become really educated without having pursued some study in which he took no interest – for it is a part of education to learn to interest ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude.

— T. S. Eliot (1932) reblogged from Alan Jacobs, More than 95 Theses (http://ayjay.tumblr.com/).

If you aren’t already watching out for anything Alan Jacobs writes, you should be.  (This quotation of Eliot’s reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote about the test of being well read being whether you could find something to interest you on the discount table at any used bookshop.)

Science and magic

The serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve.  But they were twins.  They were born of the same impulse. . . .  There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the ‘wisdom’ of earlier ages.  For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.  For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious—such as digging up and mutilating the dead.

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man 48 (1947).  Lewis, of course, does not so condemn all scientists, or even all technique, but points out (as have many others since) that the parallels between magic and science are striking and perhaps more striking than their differences.  The alchemists did experiments, too.