Mythopoeia

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Hubblesite.org

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though “breathed through silver”

Philomythus to Misomythus
(myth-lover to myth-hater)
by J. R. R. Tolkien, to C. S. Lewis

You look at trees and label them just so,

(For trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);

You walk the earth and tread with solemn pace

One of the many minor globes of Space:

A star’s a star, some matter in a ball

Compelled to courses mathematical

Amid the regimented, cold, inane,

Where destined atoms are each moment slain.

 

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend

(And must), but only dimly apprehend,

Great processes march on, as Time unrolls

From dark beginnings to uncertain goals;

And as on page o’erwritten without clue,

With script and limning packed of various hue,

An endless multitude of forms appear,

Some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,

Each alien, except as kin from one

Remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.

God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,

Tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these

homuncular men, who walk upon the ground

With nerves that tingle, touched by light and sound.

The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,

Green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,

Thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,

Slime crawling up from mud to live and die,

These each are duly registered and print

The brain’s contortions with a separate dint.

 

Yet trees and not ‘trees’, until so named and seen –

And never were so named, till those had been

Who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,

Faint echo and dim picture of the world,

But neither record nor a photograph,

Being divination, judgement, and a laugh,

Response of those that felt astir within

By deep monition movements that were kin

To life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:

Free captives undermining shadowy bars,

Digging the foreknown from experience

And panning the vein of spirit out of sense.

Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves,

And looking backward they beheld the Elves

That wrought on cunning forges in the mind,

And light and dark on secret looms entwined.

 

He sees no stars who does not see them first

Of living silver made that sudden burst

To flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,

Whose very echo after-music long

Has since pursued. There is no firmament,

Only a void, unless a jeweled tent

Myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,

Unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

 

The heart of man is not compound of lies,

But draws some wisdom from the only Wise,

And still recalls him. Though now long estranged,

Man is not wholly lost, nor wholly changed.

Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,

And keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,

His world-dominion by creative act:

Not his to worship the great Artefact,

Man, sub-creator, the refracted light

Through whom is splintered from a single White

To many hues, and endlessly combined

In living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Though all the crannies of the world we filled

With elves and goblins, though we dared to build

Gods and their houses out of dark and light,

And sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right

(Used or misused). The right has not decayed.

We make still by the law in which we’re made.

 

Yes! ‘Wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat

Our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!

Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,

Or some things fair and others ugly deem?

All wishes are not idle, not in vain

Fulfilment we devise – for pain is pain,

Not for itself to be desired, but ill;

Or else to strive or to subdue the will

Alike were graceless; and of Evil this

Alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

 

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,

That quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;

That seek no parley, and in guarded room,

Though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom

Weave tissues gilded by the far-off day

Hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

 

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build

Their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,

And steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,

A rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

 

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme

Of things not found within record time.

It is not they that have forgot the Night,

Or bid us flee to organized delight,

In lotus-isles of economic bliss

Forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss

(And counterfeit at that, machine-produced,

Bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).

 

Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,

And those that hear them yet may yet beware.

They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,

And yet they would not in despair retreat,

But oft to victory have turned the lyre

And kindled hearts with legendary fire,

Illuminating Now and dark Hath-been

With light of suns as yet by no man seen.

 

I would that I might with the minstrels sing

And stir the unseen with a throbbing string.

I would be with the mariners of the deep

That cut their slender planks on mountains steep

And voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,

For some have passed beyond the fabled West.

I would with the beleaguered fools be told,

That keep an inner fastness where their gold,

Impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring

To mint in image blurred of distant king,

Or in fantastic banners weave the sheen

Heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

 

I will not walk with your progressive apes,

Erect and sapient. Before them gapes

The dark abyss to which their progress tends –

If by God’s mercy progress ever ends,

And does not ceaselessly revolve the same

Unfruitful course with changing of a name.

I will not treat your dusty path and flat,

Denoting this and that by this and that,

Your world immutable, wherein no part

The little maker has with maker’s art.

I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,

Nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

 

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray

From gazing upon everlasting Day

To see the day-illumined, and renew

From mirrored truth the likeness of the True.

Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see

That all is as it is, and yet made free:

Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,

Garden not gardener, children not their toys.

Evil it will not see, for evil lies

Not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,

Not in the source, but in malicious choice,

Not in sound, but in the tuneless voice.

In Paradise they look no more awry;

And though they make anew, they make no lie.

Be sure they still will make, not been dead,

And poets shall have flames upon their head,

And harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:

There each shall choose for ever from the All.

My reading

morning dew, by Jubilare, taken on a morning in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

Morning Dew, by Jubilare, taken in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

 


And the heart of the Earth a star

Merry Christmas to all my readers who, by virtue of my utter strangeness, are also wonderfully strange (otherwise you’d just shake your head and move on). I love you! ^_^

A Child of the Snows

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

-by G. K. Chesterton

And here is my reading of it.


Obligatory Star Wars: The Force Awakens post

Spoilers! Do not read this until you’ve seen the film or don’t care about being spoiled.
That said, thank you, Josh, for writing such a great review! Josh’s view is very close to mine (he is a bit kinder to ep VII than I would be), so I will be lazy and instead of posting my own thoughts, I will give you all his. ^_^

Res Studiorum et Ludorum

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_Poster

Warning! Danger! Clicking below the fold will result in the new Star Wars being spoiled for you! Oh no! Avert your eyes! Whatever you do, don’t click!

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Christmas Carols and Mental Illness

How is that for a clickbate title?

No, I am not suggesting a correlation. It’s more like I am combining things.

Today I happened upon this: No, I’m Fine

It won’t take long to read it, so go read it! If it doesn’t ring a bell with you, it may still help you understand what some other people face.

I’ve overloaded before. I can’t say if my overloads are like his because I’m not in Mr. Tayler’s head, but what he says is hauntingly familiar. When the stress ratchets up to a level that flips a particular switch in my brain, a kind of pressure-valve, I change. It’s usually caused either by sensory overload (there is a reason I avoid noisy concerts and large masses of people…) or from having too much to do. Being single means that, apart from the kindness of family and occasionally friends, I have to do All The Things myself. And there are a Lot of Things. I tremble when I try to imagine what it’s like for single parents!

This is different from my depression, but not unrelated. The stress can either tip me into overload (more violent, but shorter lived), or depression. That is, the machine either executes an emergency release of pressure, or it simply shuts down. As a friend and I recently said over e-mail, depression sucks. She, dear heart, is grieving. That is a monster of a trigger.

Side Note: if you’re wondering why I refer to my brain as if it’s made of gears and pipes and switches, it’s because it helps me give context to the things that happen in it over which I have no control. And if you don’t buy the idea that I have no control over some processes in that particular fleshy mass, then you really need to educate yourself on how mental illness works. If you can “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” or “cheer yourself up,” then you are dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of normal human emotion. Real depression, or anxiety, or other mental afflictions are not in that range. They are what happens when something goes wrong with the machinery. If you haven’t experienced what that’s like, then the best thing you can do is listen to those who have and believe them.

For my friend who is grieving, this is a hard time. It’s a hard time for a lot of people. I know of a family who recently and unexpectedly lost a child around the same age as my nephew. My heart broke when I heard about it, and it’s been breaking off and on ever since. I can’t imagine what that must be like. How hollow the season of comfort and joy must feel for them right now. How they might want it to go away, to leave them alone. Please remember them in your prayers.

Cheery stuff for around Christmas, I know. As it turns out, I’m stressed right now, but otherwise pretty even-keeled. I’ve had a few small overloads, but no depression. I am extremely blessed to be able to say that, and I am on-my-knees grateful.

Still, this does not look like it will be a lighthearted season for me this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I do like to have a lighthearted Christmas, when I can). Sure, this is a time for rejoicing that Our Lord came and took human form for our sakes, but isn’t part of that rejoicing a recognition of why He came? Why we needed Him so very badly, and why His coming was not only Good News, but the only possible Good News a world like ours can receive? That the Perfect Creator would take up weakness, vulnerability, grief, pain, and not only death, but seeming-abandonment by God Himself. For if ever we feel so abandoned or forgotten, we can still look to Him and realize that He, too, cried out “why have You forsaken Me?”

And then He overcame. He rose even from that darkness and death. God had not truly abandoned God, as He has not truly abandoned us. And He is still bringing us up along with Him. He came down to our level in order to lift us up from that mire. I think that is very Good News. And seeing the mire around me only highlights just how Good.

Hope is born in human flesh, in a cave filled with animals, and that is our comfort and our joy.

And now, yet again, my Carol Countdown from 2013.

December 1: O Magnum Mysterium – Nothing says Christmas like 16th Century Latin

December 3: Away in a Manger – probably not the version you know…

December 6: Hearth and Fire – more winter than Christmas, but lovely

December 8: Balulalow – A joyful song from Scotland

December 10: Don Oiche ud ImBethil – Softer, more meditative fare. It gives me chills.

December 13: Cantique de Noel – You may know this as “O Holy Night” but I dare say that it is far more beautiful in French, especially with Joan Baez’s voice

December 15: Beautiful Star of Bethlehem – Twangy country Christmas music, and a fine example

December 17: Brugundian Carol – a softer, more mellow folk carol

December 20: Third Carol for Christmas Day – hauntingly beautiful song from the 1700’s

December 22: Veni, Veni Emmanuel – I love “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in any language, but there is something of crystal-beauty to the words in Latin.

December 24: Go, Tell it on the Mountain – The incomparable Odetta, what more can I say?

December 25: Christmas in the Trenches – And finally, the Christmas offering. It’s pretty self-explanatory

Love and blessings to you all! And Peace, and Joy, and every good thing.


George MacDonald, Endings

From the end of The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

“Then you’re leaving the story unfinished, Mr. Editor!”

“Not more unfinished than a story ought to be, I hope, If you ever knew a story finished, all I can say is, I never did. Somehow stories won’t finish. I think I know why, but I won’t say that either, now.”


Fallen Writer

~*GASP!*~

What is this? An original post? It can’t be!

Well… to some extent, it isn’t. The first part of this post was written a year and a half ago. The quoted text is not how I currently feel, so no prayers or sympathies are needed for depression as I am not presently in a depression (prayers and sympathy for stress, however, will be much appreciated!). The insights I apparently had during that grim time, though, are still relevant to my mind, and as I did not post it back when, I have decided to post it now and tie it in with my present thoughts.

And, uh, Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday-of-your-persuasion! It doesn’t look like I will be doing much Christmas-posting, but I will, again, re-post my carol countdown for any who are interested. :)

I am going through some stuff right now. Nothing is “wrong,” but then my brain chemistry doesn’t really care. It never has.

It’s moods like this that make me want to burn down the world. Luckily for me, and everyone else, global immolation is not in my power. Besides, I would probably remember who and what I love in time to stop me, even if it was.

Depression will pass. It always does. I have learned the hard way that the dimness of the world I see right now is no more real than if I were staring at it through rose glass.

If only knowing were feeling.

Different established aspects of the characters I write become more or less real to me depending on my mood, at least in the abstract.

I have found that I do not need to understand a character for them to reveal themselves in my writing, but the insights I get when I am not writing can help me see the “big picture,” what the characters themselves do not see. You know how we, as people, are often too “close” to our own lives to see ourselves objectively? It seems characters are usually like that, too.

Anyway, I’ve known for a long while that I am dealing with two protagonists who have a (mostly unconscious) deathwish. They have forgotten how to love themselves in the way that allows a person to really love their neighbors. In contrast, I have a protagonist who “loves his life” (John 12:25) so much that he is willing to do nearly anything to survive. Right now I can clearly see the irony of the fact that all three are, despite their differences, self-destructive.

If they change, it will be painful, but then processes that create lasting change are ALWAYS painful. Break the twisted bone so that it can heal straight. Even my dull-dark mood is not enough to hide from me the beauty and joy inherent in redemption.

Cheery stuff, no? Though I do touch on eucatastrophe at the end. It relates, in an acute-angle kind of way to what I will say next.

My stories, all of them, are rife with questions of redemption: what it is, what it means, how it works, if it works, what happens when it doesn’t come into play, etc. Being part of a Fallen race, the question is of deep importance to me.

What I’ve been pondering lately, in a more balanced frame of mind, is how to deal with the concept of Fallen Humanity in-story.

Stories are funny things, aren’t they? So many varieties, and yet so many common notes.

My genre is, I guess, Fantasy Fiction (or speculative fiction, if you want a bigger umbrella). Not particularly High or Low, Heroic or Dark. In fact, running down the list of sub-genres, I’m not sure where it falls. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, by the way. Some of the best (and worst) fantasy fiction out there plays to type.

The reason is that each type has its aim and the formulas work. If you want a peanut-butter milkshake, you use ice-cream, milk, peanut-butter, and maybe some chocolate syrup. You don’t add chicken soup, or gravel.

So, I am not writing dark, cynical fantasy because my aim isn’t deconstruction. But most of the alternatives have heroes that, while flawed, are still… well… heroic. And their villains are villainous. And I look at them and wonder: how much difference is there, really?

In one sense, of course, there is a vast difference. I am not attempting to diminish the importance of choice and freewill. But the Fall cuts through everyone. In a sense, it brings us all close together, even if we’re together in bondage. I may cheat, or lie, and another person may commit mass murder, but without salvation, we’ve both walked through the gates: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.”* If we both find salvation, we both find salvation, regardless of what we’ve done. In this sense, at least, there are no levels.

We’re all sinners. But the world, as a whole, rarely seems to agree. There’s a persistent feeling (one that I have to fight in myself) that some things just aren’t forgivable. That some marks, once made, are indelible.

So what does this mean for my writing? I guess it means that I’m walking a fine line. On one hand, I want my reader to like and sympathize with the “good guys,” to be horrified by the destruction wrought by their antagonists, and for the two sides to be quite clear (well, most of the time, anyway). But without ever being able to forget that the degree of separation is not as wide as it seems. I’m not necessarily talking about anti-heroes or anti-villains. I’m not exactly dealing in gray and gray morality.

I guess, maybe, I’m asking how we approach the Fall. How, if we believe in true Good and Evil (as I do,) and know that we’re Not Good (yeah, that too), do we view those whose Not-Goodness horrifies us?

I know that, for a lot of people who share my faith, this may sound stupidly obvious, but I’ve always believed that the obvious needs saying sometimes: I feel like this is Important. Not just on an intellectual level, but on an emotional one.

How do we love our enemies? How do we face mass murder, exploitation, corruption, and cruelty? We must condemn these things because we know them to be evil. To excuse or ignore them in a story, as in real life, would be a sin. But in real life we’re forbidden to judge the perpetrators. Part of that may be because of our human limitations. We can’t really understand our fellows. But maybe it’s also because, when we come right down to it, “we” are not as far from “them” as we would like to think.

To an ant the size of a pin-head, an ant the size of  a bean seems huge. To a human they’re both very small, nearly the same size, even.

The Fall makes us all ants.

And so, dear possible-future-reader, if you ever think it strange that I touch on a monster with sympathy, or deal harshly with a protagonist for a comparatively “small” fault, remember that it isn’t because I’m a relativist.

It’s because I’m not.

 


 

*Dante’s Inferno – “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”


 


Why I am Not Anti-Muslim

I know, I have been sharing a lot lately. Why no original posts? Well, partly because my brain is oatmeal and all creative energies are needed elsewhere.

Also because bloggers I read keep posting fantastic stuff that I can’t help but want to post. So… Brenton, thank you for this one.

It seems, to me, to be completely inconsistent with Christianity to turn our backs on people because we fear that they might hurt us, or hate us, or kill us. I reject that fear in the name of the One who gave Himself up to a species (that’s us, folks,) that unjustly tortured and murdered Him in order to save and redeem them/us.

God, Lord Jesus, forgive us, for we know not what we do.

 

 

 

Source: Why I am Not Anti-Muslim


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