Okay, so this book stands up to the hype. I liked the period-novel feel to the story, but it's message is relevant for today. I appreciate what a work...moreOkay, so this book stands up to the hype. I liked the period-novel feel to the story, but it's message is relevant for today. I appreciate what a work like this stood for in it's day, making a startlingly clear case for civil rights and acceptance of people who are different from ourselves. I was actually happy to see that the narrative didn't get bogged down much with legal proceedings and nomenclature, as I wasn't much interested in another CSI/law story.
The most valuable part of the read for me was observing the dynamics of the parenting style of Atticus. He was a fairly physically removed father, somewhat uninvolved in the day-to-day life of his children, but his presence was strong whether he was literally in the room or not. What should I call this type of presence? A moral presence. Atticus' image and teaching was ubiquitous in the conscious development of the children, with a strong assurance of his love for them, and an even weightier sense of obligation and duty that bound the father and children together to a higher law, or 'parental conscience'. In this day and age, Atticus would be censured for his absence and emotional distance from his children, but I saw a penetrating love and concern for his children that evidenced itself in a desire to see his children become adults that were independent, emotionally mobile, and entrusted with a functional, frequently-tuned moral compass.
I want to be that type of parent. In a world where one's children become merely one's alter-ego; become a 'second chance' at fame, fortune and ease; I want my children to become all that they can be as a child of nature, a child of God--their most real parent--who will one day work to elevate others to that same independent status of heirdom and coequal worth with earthly parents. I want to hold to an Atticus-like style of discipline and governance, but with an aim to ultimately free my kids from me, to be the best they can be. (less)
It was an amazing journey to read the fellowship again. Jen and I had watched all the movies in a Labor Day marathon a month ago, and it left a 'smart...moreIt was an amazing journey to read the fellowship again. Jen and I had watched all the movies in a Labor Day marathon a month ago, and it left a 'smart' in me to get more meat from the author. I'm not disappointed. I'm reading it a bit faster than I did the first time, but this helps me to preserve in focus the overarching narrative of the home/adventure tensions that Tolkein so masterfully conveys.
I have felt and been able to recognize a deeper message coming through this book than I ever sensed before. Replete throughout the story is Tolkein's belief in destiny, in a deeper nature to all of existence than always floats to the surface of our consciousness, in the worth of the types of people that are disregarded and devalued by 'the world', in the importance of forging ahead into new and even perilous horizons while remembering your roots.
Much of the author's intention for the book can be found in his poem of Aragorn's prophesy:
All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.
The first would work well as a summary for the entire work, and is, in fact, a line taken directly from Shakespeare, "Not all that glitters is gold". The hobbits are more than what they appear, Aragorn is more than what he appears, Gandalf becomes more than what he initially appears ('dead'), the Fellowship accomplish more than they thought was probable, Sam is arguably a greater hero than Frodo, the Shire is a greater stronghold than Gondor (hiding the ring), the one ring appears small but holds the fate of Middle-earth, happiness exists in spite of, and maybe as a result of, suffering...the list could go on and on. Even Gimli appears small and helpless, but in actuality...wait...no, he's still pretty much small and helpless throughout. Ha!
We need this reminder of the possibility unpretentious, inner worth in a world where commercial image is propagated at the cost of true personal development and character. The grubby, awkward Fellowship defies the modern, American portrayal of success and value, and helps to correct our vision enough to see, if even for the short time that one is engrossed in this story, that simple love, friendship, truthfulness, adventure, and home are motifs upon which a happy life can pivot, and we don't need the proverbial industry and magic of a Saruman or the power of a Sauron to become fulfilled human beings. (less)
Emerson's "Representative Men" is a selection of exemplars from history that more or less became the typification in Emerson's mind of the kind of gia...moreEmerson's "Representative Men" is a selection of exemplars from history that more or less became the typification in Emerson's mind of the kind of giants that have gone before and trailblazed a way to truth and understanding within western civilization. Included in the essays are discussions on the contributions of (in order of my favorites) Montaigne (representative of skeptics), Shakespeare (of poets), Plato (of philosophers), Goethe (of writers), Napoleon (of 'leaders of the people' [my words:]), and Swedenborg (of mystics).
Emerson's discussions became a bit too thick at times with his own spin towards new ways of thinking about these categories of leaders. Emerson is fresh enough without belaboring the exposition to the point of confusing the reader with the superior genius of each character. If you have ever read Emerson you know that you will always come away with a new way of understanding an old concept. He has a way of brushing off the old truths, making them shine, and even purifying them so you have a better concentration, and possibly more, of them than ever before. He makes you turn over the dumb rock in your hand to reveal a speaking jewel. But there is such a thing as too much newness. It is said that for communication to take place, there has to be a balance of the familiar with the novel. Emerson is heavy on novelty, always, but especially in this book, and he overdoes it a bit at points for my taste. But Emerson was writing to people that included those who, I'm sure, were a bit more intelligent than myself. And taking into account the fact that Emerson himself was more intelligent than I, I have to conclude that though the book was a bit too 'orotund' and convoluted at points for myself, yet it may only seem that way because I am several rungs down from his cognitive level of functioning. I heartily enjoy even his abstruse ramblings that go over my head, and I can even appreciate it's value when I get nearly nothing out of it. I have faith that some are picking up what I'm dropping. It's true Emerson-ian style, and I take the good with the 'less-good'.
What Emerson does best in this book is persuade me to pick up works by all the authors he descants on EXCEPT for Swedenborg. Emerson appeared to betray his distaste for the final turn of Swedenborg's literary career for which he became notorious in religious spheres. His discourse on Napoleaon was favorable as far as his early career and his practical genius, but he confesses Napoleon's moral self to be debased, and ineffective in respect towards any lasting benefits. As for the rest, he makes you feel like they truly understood the common man and even wrote to raise 'plebian' ideas to a more celestial atmosphere. Emerson seems to imply, "What's theirs is ours, and they help us to see that they don't own their thoughts as original; but they share their ideas as born from the collective human consciousness of which each of our own minds are a part and contributor." Emerson writes at the end of the book, "The world is young: the former great men call to us affectionately. We too must write Bibles, to unite again the heavens and the earthly world."
Emerson brings down high truth to my level, and he helps me to identify other 'representative men' who have done that as well, and maybe better. We honor truth, says Emerson, not by plating glass over it in the prestigious halls of academia, but rather we 'honor every truth by use'. (less)
This is still one of the most recommendable books I know (that list is growing shorter). What about it isn’t inspiring? An old spinster and her quiet...moreThis is still one of the most recommendable books I know (that list is growing shorter). What about it isn’t inspiring? An old spinster and her quiet little Dutch family steeped in tradition become ground zero for the holocaust atrocities in old Haarlem, Holland; and the courage and love that radiated from their lives throughout the entire tragedy is almost enough to make the reader want to share in their agony for just a modicum of their unwavering confidence in a bigger plan. What would we give for a greater sense of the part we play in the universe? The Ten Booms gave everything.
This was the 4th time I’ve read this book (I first read it when I was ten years old), but this time I read it with new eyes. I never realized before the literary quality of the narrative itself. The co-authors who helped Corrie tell her story excelled in their art (the same writers for The Cross and the Switchblade), and were able to synthesize elements of the story that may have even amazed even Corrie to see the emerging pattern that pulled together every tiny event in her life revealing a grand destiny. The name “The Hiding Place” certainly is descriptive of a very meaningful component of the story, and maybe it grabs readers’ attention, but I think the real overarching theme out was that of a watchmaker. Corrie was a watchmaker from a long line of watchmakers— she could “hear in the ticking clocks a world of order and reason”—and it is so interesting how the story illustrates so perfectly the fine-tuning of a cosmic plan that Corrie and her family was obviously playing into, unbeknownst to them at times. How many times were her childhood conversations referenced later in life that solaced her in a cold, concrete prison cell years later. So many reminders were sent through the time machine of her mind to tether her spirit in moments she might have teetered on madness. I loved especially her story about how, as a little girl throwing a tantrum because she didn’t want to go to school, her father had gently pried her hands off the railing. “Skilled watchmaker’s fingers closed over mine and gently unwound them. Howling and struggling I was led away from the world I knew into a bigger, stranger, harder one.” Later in her life she felt the same gentle hands of God prying her fingers from her safety and her comforts, “taking me where I didn’t want to go”—the very words of Christ to Peter in John 21:18.
You can tell when someone taps into something real, because it’s WAY bigger than their meager explanation. How could you possibly say that meetings in a flea-infested barrack with death all around were “sanctuaries of fleas” affording “little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb” unless you had discovered something that transcends the ordinary plane of understanding? Corrie uses much of the same Christian language I’ve known for so long, but her steps aren’t hollow in the street—they speak. There’s something here beyond her comprehension, and so I love even her attempts to capture it with Christian platitudes and Bible verses I’ve heard a thousand times. But then again, there are a few fresh phrases that, simply upon reading, made me want to burst out and cry: like Nellie’s encouragement before…(spoiler alert)…dying, “There is no pit so deep, that He is not deeper still”; and her Father’s comfort to her, “Our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him.”
I’ll never forget seeing the scarred and deeply pensive gaze of Corrie Ten Boom at the end of the video I watched shortly after reading this book. (visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXYV435Fe3U and fast forward to 3:27) It was made in the 70’s, so the video/stylistic quality, along with the typical adaptation for film, became quite a disappointment for us ‘sophisticated’ (spoiled) moderns who watched it together. But at the end, Corrie—the REAL Corrie!—turns to the camera and in a voice full of the deep realization of suffering, but beneath which a dawn is rising, says, “And I have told to anyone who would listen, no pit is so deep... [here she looks away from the camera as if remembering the horror, and slowly turns back with the hint of a triumphant smile]… that He is not deeper still.” I couldn’t help but believe her. (less)
3rd time reading this through. One of my favorite stories of all time, but honestly, I started to feel that I absorbed as much as I could for this tim...more3rd time reading this through. One of my favorite stories of all time, but honestly, I started to feel that I absorbed as much as I could for this time in my life. The thought occurred to me that I might read this once more before I die, and that’s it. We’ll see what the years bring.
It is a beautiful story. Profound. Sometimes playful and outlandish in a Lewis Carroll sort of way. Honestly, some parts feel like just another Victorian nickel-novel. But MacDonald always manages to take it beyond its 19th century mew, and really succeeds like no author I’ve ever known in launching even beyond mere literature. You realize at some juncture that it’s about you—has always been about you. Some readers are disappointed in learning that MacDonald is only mildly interested in storytelling. He’s interested in reaching the reader, making a real connection in spirit, and writes with that goal in mind. It’s no surprise then that some accuse him of over-moralizing his tales, and losing track of the art, but I find him to be doing what he supposed to be doing with his stories, and using the art of storytelling to connect with people. He writes honestly, and in some deep paradoxical way I’m always convinced that he writes what he sees, and sees what he writes. Reading MacDonald always helps me to believe in greater things, in a fuller life potential, in a more beautiful God—in MacDonald’s world.
The story is about a boy who meets North Wind, a lovely ancient female embodied in the bitter, wintry wind, who serves as an emissary from God. This is truly a story for the childlike, as is all MacDonald’s works, but will appeal to today’s child much less than in the 19th century. North Wind is a metaphor for suffering in the world that has some intelligence behind the façade of senselessness, and the wind is described as only one of the various forms that God’s messengers may assume to reach us, depending on how ready we are, to help us ‘become who we are’. As far as the origin of pain, suffering, and so-called ‘misfortune’, not even North Wind can say what it all means, acknowledging a more remote antecedent of sense behind the sense. The closest North Wind can come to understanding it all, and maybe the closest MacDonald can get to it, is as a song:
"I will tell you how I am able to bear [the suffering of others], Diamond: I am always hearing, through every noise [and suffering], through all the noise I am making myself even, the sound of a far-off song. I do not exactly know where it is, or what it means; and I don't hear much of it, only the odor of its music, as it were, flitting across the great billows of the ocean outside this air in which I make such a storm; but what I do hear is quite enough to make me able to bear the cry from the drowning ship. So it would you if you could hear it."
When little Diamond questions North Wind about why she isn’t as good to others as she is to him, the answer deftly slams the forward dialogue into reverse:
Diamond: Why shouldn't you be good to other people as well as to me? North Wind: That's just what I don't know. Why shouldn't I? Diamond: I don't know either. Then why shouldn't you? North Wind: Because I am.
Lest he give up there, North Wind ends with, “Besides, I tell you that it is so, only it doesn't look like it. That I confess freely. Have you anything more to object?”
The first half of the book is a bit fantastical with Diamond’s meeting the wind and such, but the second half of the book is mostly preoccupied with Diamond’s earthly struggles. Though I liked the first half best, the second half is really the important part I suppose, since it is the practical application of North Wind’s revelations.
I had an incident with this book that is worth mentioning regarding its value in my life. My dad had randomly picked this book off my shelf while visiting in Dallas, Texas. It fell open to these words:
North Wind: "You are quite mistaken. Windows are to see out of, you say. Well, I'm in my house, and I want windows to see out of it." Diamond: "But you've made a window into my bed." North Wind: "Well, your mother has got three windows into my dancing room, and you have three into my garret."
You can imagine my father’s confusion at reading that section, and later we all laughed as he read it out-loud and reminded me why he doesn’t read my sort of books!
Dad passed a few years later—a sudden stroke—and my brother shared with me a dream he had a short time after dad’s death. Dad was asking him to close the window because it was cold outside. Jeremy asked, “Why?” “Because they’ll get cold,” dad replied.
For me, and I know this is desperately reaching, it was a vivid reminder that dad had gone to the back of the North Wind, not suffering any longer; but we are still here in the cold, in a small corner of God’s greater Life, sheltered from some paralyzing horrors, but sheltered also from the truth at the foundation of the most unspeakable sorrows—endless warmth, and joy, and love. It was almost as if he was saying, “Don’t weep for me, weep for yourself that you have so far to go in such a chill wind.”
Bottom line, this was a mesmerizing and profound tale, and the peace communicated (not merely spoken or written) brings such a sense of assurance to me of what God is doing with all…this. I need as much of these kind of intelligent, lovely reminders as I can get. (less)