Category Archives: Reading Life
After reading the LOTR trilogy I felt the buzz of good literature and the romance of epic storytelling for a week. No more than a week, because even now I can recall the buzz. Of course I’ve taken to listening to the soundtrack while I paint, so that keeps the experience alive. It was hard to say good-bye and figure out where to turn next in the Land of Lit.
After some disorientation, I finally decided to take up where I left off last year in Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles and started in on Doctor Thorne, which is a delicious treat of book so far. But before I travel further down that path, I will write one more little LOTR post. I promised to tell you which character I most related to and which part of the story really got to me……
Of course if I pose the question as which character I’d like to be, I’d have to say an elf. Definitely an elf. Who wouldn’t want to be a Tolkien elf – you get to be a beautiful creature with supernatural eyesight, all kinds of magic things such as vials of evil-repelling light, a rich lyrical language, and immortality. Also you always get to be above the fray. Heck, if these elf people were so perfect, where are they now? Over the sea on the eternal island I suppose.
But the question I put to myself if not what I’d like to be but who I relate to now, as I am. There are so few females in the trilogy and even fewer human females.Most of the other major females are elves. The one major human female character is Éowyn , the lady of Rohan, but I don’t really relate to her at all. She is too perfect, too devoted to duty, too blonde.
To be honest I have to say I relate most to the hobbits, and if I had to choose one hobbit in particular it would be Merry. I really felt for him, wanting so badly to contribute to the struggle, but feeling out of his depth, having no idea what he could do to help, feeling alone, outside the loop, an insignificant presence among mighty heroes. I was so happy when he got to do something really brave, a thing that only he could do, and I was thrilled when he actually got the credit for it. (I won’t tell you what that thing is because if you have not yet read the books, I would not want to be a spoiler.)
As for which part of the epic got to me most, there are so many dramatic, pivotal, beautiful events in these books that many qualify as candidates for “most satisfying moment.” But only one of them brought tears to my eyes. It was is that part of Return of the Ring when the stronghold city Gondor is in its darkest darkest hour. The fearsome and powerful leader of the Nazgûl is at the gate and Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, has gone mad and suicidal. Lots of people are dead and the rest of them are expecting to be dead in the next few minutes. Suddenly they hear the horns of Rohan – the powerful equestrian army of their ally has arrived in the nick of time.
The part that swept me away was when we are with King Théoden and the Rohan army as they approach the burning mess and carnage of Gondor in its final hour. They hesitate for moment and then shout their war cries, blow their horns, brandish their swords, and ride into battle. You have to read it. I am pretty much a pacifist so it surprised me that a war scene could so move me. It opened a door to understanding about the whole appeal of war: the opportunities it presents for ultimate courage, friendship, and self-sacrificing love. I never quite understood this, at least on an emotional level, until I read this scene.
I decided about a month ago I needed to finally read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. These novels were published in 1954 and 1955 and the films came out in the early 2000’s, so long ago that the action figures are now collector’s items. But hey, I work on my own timeline, and 2016 turned out to my personal LOTR year. Maybe it has something to do with what’s going on in the world – horrible wars and the feeling of a spreading darkness, and being an election year with its spectacle of people clutching after that ring of power.
Certain members of my family, who have been Tolkien fans for years, have watched the LOTR movies repeatedly so I have caught parts of them multiple times. I did go to see each of the films when they they first came out, and honestly, I did not like them all that much. Not that they are half bad as film adaptations go. As such they are quite good. It’s just that these kind of action productions are not to my taste and haven’t been for quite a while. As I get older I seem to be developing a sort of strange resistance to this business of “being entertained.” The thought of going to a concert or watching a movie is steadily losing what appeal it ever had.
The books, of course, are a whole different experience. I must have
read The Fellowship of the Ring before, because once I began reading it, parts of it came back to me. And I remember reading The Hobbit. The Two Towers and The Return of the King seemed new to me. Now that I have read the entire trilogy I am not sure how a true Tolkien fan can love the films. The Lord of the Rings is all about words and language and histories passed down through poetry, song, and legend. The books have rhythm, depth, and towering height. To do them justice it seems to me you need to devote the time and mind-space to reading them.
I must say I love Howard Shore’s soundtrack, even though the main theme sounds just like an old hymn called “This is My Father’s World.” (Which is so appropriate maybe it’s deliberate.) Apparently the LOTR soundtrack has won a “Best Soundtrack of All Time” award for like six years in a row from some organization called ClassicFM. It’s possible that the experience certain literature can be enhanced by a good instrumental soundtrack. (For that matter some lives could be enhanced by a good instrumental soundtrack.) But maybe even music limits the mind by overlaying a structure the mind wouldn’t otherwise impose on itself. My reading experience is also affected by picturing the characters as their film counterparts. It’s always a mistake to see the movie before you read the book.
But maybe in this case it is not a big deal. I am not upset about it. I did it to myself. I think that on the whole it is a good thing that books are adapted to film, as long as the filmmakers make a good faith effort to be true to the book to the extent the limitations of their medium allow. There have been many book adaptations that seek to appeal to current values and tastes rather than trying to be true to the book. You could make a case that even this is healthy – literature reinterpreted to speak to the culture. But when the movie actually reverses or debases the spirit or theme of the book – I find that sort of thing abhorrent.
For example the main theme of the LOTR is that you cannot compromise with evil. You cannot keep just a little bit of evil and think you can use it for good. The nature of evil is such that it wants to devour and make everything part of itself. If the films had changed things just a little bit to let the good guys keep the ring of power, that would have destroyed the story. But these films, although they adapted much, did not change that most important thing. So they are tolerable.
In my next post I will talk about which LOTR character I most related to and which part of the saga really got to me.
Today I was thinking about writing more on G.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong With the World? But I could not get past the word world. Instead of What’s Wrong With the World? my book will be called What IS the World?
What do we mean when we talk about the world? Usually we aren’t referring to nature or the planet or the universe. Some people say we are advanced animals and therefore our world is as natural as theirs. I disagree. If we really are only advanced animals then we are cheats. We do not play by the rules of the natural world. We twist survival of the fittest to suit our moral sense, our emotions, our historical memories, our beliefs, and all those prejudices our fellow creatures do not have. It is obvious to me that humans are not simply advanced animals, but are in fact a whole different kind of thing.
Nor is human world purely spiritual, despite what some New Age gurus would have us believe. We are forever identified with our mortal forms, these bodies with a head, a torso, two arms, and two legs, organisms beholden to the uncompromising demands of nature. It’s difficult even for the most wildly imaginative writers of science fiction and fantasy to do away with this basic pattern, though many have made vigorous attempts to break free from the humanoid form.
Though we may thwart the law of the jungle, our bodies insist on operating according to plan. We may ingest tons of sugar, chemicals, alcohol, and opium and hope the body will continue to operate unimpeded, but it won’t. It will process whatever substance goes into it according to its hard-coded internal program. No matter how much we meditate, that half gallon of ice cream we consumed will not transcend to the spirit of sweetness but will turn into fat and burden our liver.
Our bodies keep us tied firmly to the natural world and that is as it should be. It keeps us humble, lest we fly off and think we can join the angels. We are not angels and we never will be. We are humans, a distict order of creation, above the animals, below angels. Our origin is planet earth with its specific nature, yet we are not fully at home on planet earth in the wild kingdom/evolutionary sense. When we talk about “what’s wrong with the world” or “world record” or “world war” we are not talking about the world of the wild kingdom. From earliest history, it seems, humans have been aware of that other world that I call spiritual; but that is not really our home either, at least not in the purely spiritual non-material sense.
The human world (I am guessing) is a relatively new experimental creation, currently superimposed between or on top of the natural and the spiritual. Perhaps this age is an early iteration of a world that will eventually become more suitable for human souls than this borrowed and cobbled-together gerry-rigged thing balancing precariously between those two other worlds. I imagine that when we shed these bodies we remain human beings. We do not perish and we do not turn into something essentially other than what we are now. Maybe – probably even – we keep our general form, identity, memories, and mental structures.
Perhaps “up there” will be sort of the flip side of “down here.” We will then follow the rules of that world but our identities will continue to desire the pleasures of earth, just as here we long for the pleasures of heaven. We will be spiritual beings who want to eat, climb trees, walk with companions, and live in houses. We will want to build camp fires, smell flowers and pine trees, have sex. (!?) We will be as different from the angels there we differ from the beasts here.
I can imagine a semi-spiritual world that duplicates the things of earth so that God’s graduated creatures can feel at home. Perhaps, as Plato thought, we will find there the ideal forms of everything. But I fancy those ideal forms will be still further ahead of us and the next world will simply be one created for humans who have journeyed to the next level of our existence. Somewhere along the way, perhaps soon, the experimental cobbled-together world will transform into one perfectly suited to the kind of creation human beings are meant to be, a world that is the perfect integration of nature and spirit.
What would such an integrated world be like? Who knows? I am sure we are all in for plenty of surprises and I wouldn’t want it to be otherwise. Still, it’s fun to make some guesses. I imagine it as a place where nature is more alive and responsive to human thought and emotion: the rocks would truly sing and the mountains would really clap their hands. There would be animals that would speak and love and interact with us in a meaningful way instead of being limited by the demands of survival.
I think we can see small previews of this in our relationships with pets. My dog Cocoa is as close to a loving being as any animal I have ever known. She interacts, responds, and communicates lavish affection. But after living with her brother Pippin for ten years, she saw him die of lymphoma in our living room and the loss seems to have had little effect on her. I do think I notice a few changes I her behavior. She seems more needy for attention since his death and she hates to be left alone in the house. I just don’t honestly think she “cares” the way humans care when a loved one dies. However, I like to fancy she cares an ounce or so more than an animal in the wild cares. Survival in nature leaves little room for grief.
In any case we seem to say world with great frequency, often without the slightest thought as to what it is we mean by it. Generally we seem to have the vague notion that we refer to some kind of comprehensive system. We know well enough what we are trying to communicate. No need to be like me and bog yourself down making problems out of things that are not problems, like the meaning of words. Language usually works like the involuntary organs of the body. The heart beats and the words issue forth. Until you start messing with them.
As part of my research, I noticed that Amazon lists more than 100 pages of books with the word “world” in the title. Here are a few of these titles, just to observe the variety of ways we throw this word around. I have read a few of these….
Books with WORLD in the Title
Brave New World . Aldus Huxley
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain
World Order. Henry Kissinger
The World and Will. Arthur Schopenhauer
The Greatest Salesman in the World. Og Mandino
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Joanna Weaver
My Beloved World. Sonia Sotomayor
The World According to Garp. John Irving
A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918.
The War of Worlds. H.G. Wells
The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Martin Puchner and Suzanne Conklin Akburi
Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World. Ed Emberley
The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and The House of Pooh. A.A. Milne
The World As I See It. Albert Einstein
Danny the Champion of the World. Roald Dahl
How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. James Wesley Rawls
The Lost World. Arthur Conan Doyle
Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. Michigan Kaku
America: Imagine a World Without Her. Dinesh D’Souza
And the award for the weirdest title with World goes to…..
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Ida Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
* * * * *
And we haven’t even begun with the song titles. “Part of That World” from The Little Mermaid is the first one that pops to mind. Or TV shows. Like The Wonderful World of Disney.
But enough of this. After writing my crazy thoughts I Googled “world” and discovered that the Wikipedia article is not half bad. For one thing it says the English word comes from two Old English words that roughly translate to “Age of Man.” As opposed to the Latin word – mundus – which means “clean, elegant” and is related to the Greek cosmos which means “orderly arrangement.” If our world was once defined as something orderly it is currently becoming more disorderly by the minute. Words themselves are splintering, meanings no longer as clean and elegant as they once were. But orderly or not, we are stuck with this world and might as well make the best of it.
My plan is to read, write, and draw and try to make sense of what I can. What comes of my attempts I share here for what it’s worth. And Happy Valentine Day. Buy someone a cardboard heart full of chocolates and don’t stress too much over the meaning of it all.
I have just finished listening to What’s Wrong With the World? by G. K. Chesterton. This is actually my second reading of this book. I have learned a few things since the last time I read it a couple years ago and have come to see things in a different light. GKC speaks from a Catholic point of view and last time I read the book I was seriously considering returning to the Catholic Church. I needed a sense of continuity in my life I suppose, and also a spiritual home. I thought the Catholic Church might fulfill both purposes. I liked that it was rich in tradition, music, and history and it might have the right balance of structure and space to support my spiritual needs.
That was in 2014. In 2015 I decided against the idea. I can’t say this is my final decision. Until this life ends there is always the possibility I will change my mind. I sometimes wish I could just commit to an idea and stay with it. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, I wish my soul could select its society and shut the door. My soul seems to like to hang out with a society for a while and then sneak out the back door that it always leaves ajar.
In reading What’s Wrong I realized I pretty much still agree with GKC’s version of the Catholic point of view. But maybe GKC’s version of the Catholic point of view does exactly jibe with the point of view the Church has expressed through the last few centuries. GKC thinks the Church accommodates the moral needs of human nature and is a good institution for broad spiritual guidance. This is the ideal, but it seems to me the Church has too often gotten wrapped up in protecting itself as an institution and has not always stood for the rights of the individual vs the state. It has sometimes been an agent of the state and of state-sponsored violence when it should have been a voice for non-violence and love. That’s one of the reasons I decided against committing to it again.
GKC disagrees with Leo Tolstoy’s assertion that violence is always wrong, at least if you profess to be a follower of Christ. GKC seems to accept that violence is sometimes needed to protect what is good and part of being human is the desire to protect what is good. There are huge problems with admitting the necessity of certain categories of violence, but this is not the post to go into that. Obviously the world agrees that violence is a necessity for the human race. I think I agree that we humans do want to protect what is good but more often we want to protect what we think is our own, which, as far as most of us are concerned, is exactly the same as what is good. GKC would agree, but he thinks we need to get clear on what should and should not be our own.
What is wrong with the world, according the GKC, is that everybody needs to have a very specific something of our own – a house with a door and a small patch of earth, perhaps three acres. In early 20th century England, a small segment of the population had taken over all the property and the vast majority of souls were left to scramble and scrape to get by on scanty mine or factory wages. Instead of a house with a few acres they had to live in slums, the workhouse, or the streets. In this series of 49 essays GKC talks about what led to this state of affairs and why it is so difficult to fix.
GKC is always funny and charming but in this book I actually perceive some anger coming through, such as when he talks about a certain law that required girls of poor families to cut their hair short to control lice. Why, he asks, do we not address the conditions that lead to little girls living in lice-infested conditions rather then demanding that children adapt their hair to the conditions? Parliament, he says, would not dare to demand such a demeaning thing of children of the rich.
Chesterton was a proponent of distributionism, a social theory that was neither socialism or capitalism. It said that everyone who wanted to should be able to own a private home and a little land. It advocated distribution of land but not by force – rather landowners should be encouraged to bequeath their land to the poor upon their death. Not sure if the idea ever took off.
GKC skewers socialism of the type that tells people they do not want what they want, the type of socialism that tries to engineer society to benefit the state. The exploitation of people for the benefit of industrial profit fairs no better. These interests are represented in the book by two hypocrite politicians named Hudge and Gudge who, as it turns out are really working together, against the interests of poor “Jones”, the ordinary man who simply wants to live a peaceful life in a home of his own.
This quote, I think, expresses the heart of the book’s message:
“Whether we can give every English man a free home of his own or not, at least we should desire it; and he desires it. For the moment we speak of what he wants, not what he expects to get. He wants, for instance, a separate house; he does not want a semi-detached house. He may be forced in the commercial race to share one wall with another man. Similarly he may be forced in a three-legged race to share one leg with another man; but it is not so that he pictures himself in his dreams of elegance and liberty. Again, he does not desire a flat. He can eat and sleep and praise God in a flat; He can eat and sleep and praise God in a railway train. But a railway train is not a house, because it is a house on wheels. And a flat is not a house, because it is a house on stilts. An idea of earthy contact and foundation, as well as an idea of separation and independence, is a part of this instructive human picture.
I take, then, this one institution as a test. As every normal man desires a woman, and children born of woman, every normal man desires a house to put them into. He does not merely want a roof above him and a chair beneath him; he wants an objective and visible kingdom; a fire at which he can cook what food he likes, a door he can open to what friends he chooses. This is the normal appetite of men; I do not say there are not exceptions.”
What’s Wrong With the World was first published in 1910 so I am sure some readers will have problems with Chesterton’s discussions of women and the suffrage movement. It seems absolutely stone-age when you read of a time when women were still fighting for the right to vote. But it’s also interesting to enter into new insights about that time. The State and its doings were not always considered all that important to the mass of the population. Chesterton discusses the importance of the private home to men, women, and children and why its importance ought not to be superseded in importance by the demands of either the government or commercial industry.
Note: I have long since made the decision not to be offended by points of view popular in the past that are widely considered insensitive now. I just don’t want anything (such as anger) to stand in the way of gleaning what wisdom the past has to offer. Attitudes have changed dramatically in the past few decades, mostly for the better. Heck, I wouldn’t even want to be women in the 1960s, especially after watching Mad Men, but it was what it was, and I want to be free to seek understanding of the world wherever and whenever it can be found.
A question occurs to me. Why do I feel compelled to read social theories from 1910? In this book GKC actually provides an pretty good answer to that question – the question of why we might want to look to the past for answers to current problems. I may need to talk about that topic in the next post.
Einstein: His Life and Universe is a treasury of Einstein stories and quotes. Einstein was a very quotable guy and this surely enhanced his popularity. Here are a few of my favorites:
In an interview shortly after his 50th birthday, a journalist named George Sylvester Viereck asked Einstein if he accepted the historical existence of Jesus. Einstein’s response: “Unquestionably. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
I was just impressed that Einstein had taken the time to read the Gospels. In the same interview, Veireck asked him if he believed in God. He was asked this question or some version of it many times during his life; this was one of his best answers.
“I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written this books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”
About America he most admired the freedom to express individual ideas, even unpopular ones, without fear. “From what I have seen Americans, I think that life would not be worth living to them without this freedom.”
Einstein’s appreciation of freedom, his natural tendency from birth, was greatly energized by his experience of living in Berlin and witnessing the rise of the Nazis. He publicly announced that he “would not live in a country where people were denied the freedom to hold and express their own thoughts.”
I ended 2015 with my wick burnt to the bitter end, but no more so than on most of my other New Year’s eves. I generally do end my years with a whimper rather than a bang. By December 31st time really does feel ancient. Also the whole holiday season thing wrings me out. By the last day of the year I am such a tired stupor that all I want to do is curl up in my big easy chair in my new Christmas pajamas watching some old movie that I’ve seen at least 20 times before. Or read a book, a comfortable old book; I am not in the mood to break through any intellectual frontiers. Perhaps I might have a glass of wine to feebly welcome in the New Year, limping half-awake across the midnight line.
But New Year’s day, as in the past, I awoke with a new sense of purpose and energy. I know the calendar is only an artificial human construct but, artificial or not, there is something magical about the dawning of the New Year. Right away I felt excited about returning to my essential creative self and beginning anew. The bright spirit who guides my reading life immediately produced exactly the right book to help me get there. I was browsing Hoopla* and there it was: C.S. Lewis: The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers. Immediately I felt a familiar and welcome something welling up within – that combination of urgency, desire, and “rightness”, similar I suppose, to love at first sight. The book is a collection of essays, speeches, and recordings on the theme of writing, most of which I had never read.
In fact, now that I think of it, 2015 was an unusual reading year in that other than one essay (“Why I Am Not a Pacifist”) I went the entire 12 months without reading any C.S.Lewis. He, along with a few others, is usually the bread and butter (or in my new gluten-free diet the nutritional yeast) of my reading life. Perhaps part of my burnout was due to Vitamin CSL deficiency.
As soon as I began listening to the book I felt a surge of spiritual energy and I knew I had found the perfect book to kick off my 2016 reading year. As with many other C.S. Lewis audio books, this one is narrated by Ralph Cosham. His proper slightly dry British diction strikes the perfect note of confident intelligence and self-effacing humility. It’s easy to forget I am not listening to C.S.L. himself. Sadly I have just read that Mr. Cosham passed away in 2014.
A few minutes into the first essay I felt myself coming home to the green pastures, wooded paths, and clear sparkling streams of my literary world. Many of the pieces have to do with children’s literature and Lewis’s ideas about what that means. This was especially delightful because my first project this year is illustrating a children’s book for an author I know. I am now inspired not only to illustrate but to write, maybe for children, maybe not.
In Lewis’s view, the author should let the subject matter of his or her imagination choose the appropriate form, whether that form be fairy tale, detective novel, science fiction, essay, poetry – whichever vehicle seems best to fit your material. To Lewis it would be beyond vulgar to write according to the demands of the market. He himself wrote the Narnia books because they seemed the best form for the stories he had to tell, not from any special affection for children.
Here is a quote from this book that I love:
“No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally, and often more, worth reading at the age of 50.”
So true. I read The Wind in the Willows for the first time only a couple years ago and I can’t imagine I would have liked it better had I read it as a child. It is a book I will surely read again.
I am also fascinated by what Lewis has to say about movies based on books:
“Nothing can be more disastrous than the view that the cinema can and should replace popular written fiction. The elements cinema excludes are the very elements that give the untrained mind its only access to the imaginative world.”
Lewis would probably be appalled at the number of untrained minds in our time who are completely shut out from this imaginative world. A non-reader cannot even know what Lewis means by “imaginative world.” He is talking about a world that exists only in the human mind, a world that has qualities far beyond mere excitement, explosions, and sequential dramatic events, however well-acted and however impressive the special effects. This imaginative/spiritual world is a vast and eternal resource. The more you read the more you discover how words can lead you through doorways and secret passages to places that are beyond the reach of language. You cannot get this magical experience from the movies.
*Hoopla is a library-connected app where you can get free ebooks, audio books, music, and movies. Check it out if you have not already found this treasure.
First of all Merry Christmas or Happy Whatever Holiday you are celebrating.
It may not look like it from the outside, but internally 2015 has been quite a wild ride for me, a year of faith exploration that has taken me in directions I did not expect. On this eve of the day we celebrate the birth of the founder of my faith, I sit down and take stock of where my faith has actually landed. More than ever I believe the birth of Jesus ushered in a new era for humankind, but my understanding on what that means has changed and expanded.
Of course this all this understanding has to do with reading. Books are always my lights through the dark forest of life. I think it started with reading a classic I’d been putting off for a while: A Confession by Leo Tolstoy. That was in March and that book affected my so profoundly that I can hardly believe it has been less than a year since I read it. Some people think it is just a description of Tolstoy’s personal mid-life crisis, but for me it cracked open the secret door in the wardrobe and sent me blinking into a vast new world. It led me to read several of Tolstoy’s subsequent works: Resurrection, his final novel, What I Believe, and The Kingdom of God is Within You. Each had an equally mind-expanding effect on me that I have barely begun to process.
Jesus did indeed teach us exactly how to usher in a world of peace and good will. The most concise summary of his teaching is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapter 5. His life and further teaching support what he told the crowd at that time. From his reading of the Sermon on the Mount Tolstoy (in What I Believe) derived five new commandments of Christ:
- “Be at peace with all men, and never consider your anger as just. Never look upon any man as worthless or a fool, neither call him such. Not only shall you never think yourself justified in your anger, but also you shall never consider your brother’s anger as causeless; and therefore, if there is one who is angry with you, even if it is without cause, go and be reconciled to him before praying. Endeavor to destroy all enmity between yourself and others, that their enmity may not grow and destroy you.” Matthew 5:21-26
- “Take no pleasure in concupiscence; let each man, if he is not a eunuch, have a wife and each woman a husband; let a man have but one wife, and woman one husband, and let them never under any pretext whatever dissolve their union.” Matthew 5:32
- “Never take an oath under any circumstances. Every oath is extorted from men for evil.” Matthew 5: 33-37
- “Never resist evil by violence; never return violence for violence. If anyone strikes your, bear it; it anyone takes away what is yours, let him have it; if anyone makes you labor, do so; if anyone wants to have what you consider to be your own, give it up to him.” Matthew 5: 38-42
- “Never consider men of another nation as your enemies; look upon all men as you do toward your fellow-country men; therefore you shall not kill those whom you call your enemies; love all and do good to all.” Matthew 5:43-48
So far the human race never actually tried to do what Jesus taught, at least on a large scale. Of course there were pockets of those who got it – especially in the early Christian era but also among certain groups in later history. Throughout history there have been individual who tried to live accordingly, some with success. These people have always stood out as extraordinary and were often recognized as saints.
Going to church and singing hymns of praise are good things. These activities preserve the great hope and pass the tradition to the next generation. They may even make us better people. But as long as we keep returning violence for violence, or (and here’s the real rub) keep participating in systems that operate based on fear and violence, peace on earth will remain a hope and a dream.
Following Christ’s teaching begins with the individual. You cannot make other people do it, at least not if you want to follow the spirit of Christ. Force of any kind cannot lead to peace on on earth or even peace in your own home. Each person who sees the truth must simply follow Christ’s teaching to the best of their ability.
We must not even judge the Christian Church for all its faults. Judgment of anyone other than ourselves is not part of the new way. Humankind has not been ready for the radical change in structure and mindset inherent in Christ’s revolutionary approach to living on earth. Maybe the time is now and or maybe we will struggle on in our fear and violence based systems for a few more centuries, but as time goes on it will become more and more apparent that humanity must recognize the way of peace or perish.
I have written several posts on different sections of What I Believe. You can find these posts in the main menu of this blog. This year I will be adding to these posts.