Tuesday, December 30, 2014

To Err is Human

In An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope penned the famous line: "To err is human; to forgive, divine."

Yet God requires all of us to forgive, and each of us to forgive all:

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (D&C 64:10)

The doctrine is simple, though not always easy to apply.  In his Essay on Forgiveness, C.S. Lewis, one of Christianity's most articulate apologists, explains why this is so.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Inner Ring

I don't know if C.S. Lewis' essay The Inner Ring has any direct connection to Tolkien's epic masterpiece The Lord of the Rings.  However, it would be hard to read this brilliant C.S. Lewis essay without considering the possibility that it might.  Tolkien wrote of "One Ring to rule them all,/ One Ring to find them,/ One Ring to bring them all,/ And in the darkness bind them."  It is at least conceivable that Tolkien's "One Ring" and C.S. Lewis' "Inner Ring" actually refer to the same thing.

Monday, December 22, 2014

History of Soccer: The Beautiful Game

The Beautiful Game... or at least one of them
If you ever want to watch a fascinating historical documentary, consider checking out History of Soccer: The Beautiful Game.  I find it particularly interesting how politics and soccer have been intertwined over the years.  If you like history, and if you like soccer, I am confident that you will also like this excellent film production.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

C.S. Lewis - Learning in War-Time

Here are a few precious pearls of wisdom from C.S. Lewis' timeless sermon Learning in War-Time:
  • "The moment we do so we can see that every Christian who comes to a university must at all times face a question compared with which the questions raised by the war are relatively unimportant. He must ask himself how it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to heaven or to hell, to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology." - p. 49
  • "We have to inquire whether there is really any legitimate place for the activities of the scholar in a world such as this. That is, we have always to answer the question: 'How can you be so frivolous and selfish as to think about anything but the salvation of human souls?'" - p. 50
  • "All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest: and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not.  Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one: it is rather a new organization which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials." - p. 54
  • "I reject at once an idea which lingers in the mind of some modern people that cultural activities are in their own right spiritual and meritorious — as though scholars and poets were intrinsically more pleasing to God than scavengers and bootblacks." - p. 55
  • "The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly 'as to the Lord'. This does not, of course, mean that it is for anyone a mere toss-up whether he should sweep rooms or compose symphonies. A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow. We are members of one body, but differentiated members, each with his own vocation. A man’s upbringing, his talents, his circumstances, are usually a tolerable index of his vocation. If our parents have sent us to Oxford, if our country allows us to remain there, this is prima facie evidence that the life which we, at any rate, can best lead to the glory of God at present is the learned life." - p. 55
  • "The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologia Germanicai says, we may come to love knowledge -- our knowing -- more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking our the right eye has arrived." - p. 57
  • "To be ignorant and simple now- not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground, would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy must be answered." - p. 58
  • "A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age." - p. 58
  • "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come." - p. 60
  • "Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received." - p. 61

C.S. Lewis - The Weight of Glory

Here are a few precious pearls of wisdom from C.S. Lewis' timeless sermon The Weight of Glory:
  • "If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith." - p. 26
  • "Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object […] If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy." - p. 29
  • "If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know." - p. 34
  • "The first question I ask about these promises is ‘Why any one of them except the first?’ Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? For it must be true, as an old writer says, that he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only." - p.34
  • "Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself." - p. 38
  • "How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall 'stand before' Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the Divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is." - p. 38
  • "When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects." - p. 43
  • "Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning." - p. 45
  • "It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the back of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics." - p.45
  • "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.  And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.  Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses." - p. 46

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Anatomy of Peace

  • "What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause?"
  • "What if we systematically misunderstand that cause?"
  • "And what if, as a result, we systematically perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?  Every day."
These are some of the questions that the Arbinger Institute's book The Anatomy of Peace answers with remarkable and persuasive clarity.  It is a book that challenges widely held assumptions about the nature of conflict, but it also invites the reader, and indeed the entire world, toward real, sustainable peace. This might sound like an impossibly quixotic task, but The Anatomy of Peace accomplishes its purpose if it is able to reach even one human heart.

The story begins with a group of parents who, in desperation, have dragged their children to Camp Moriah, a reformative camp in the Arizona desert directed by an unlikely pair of friends: Yusuf al-Falah, an Arab immigrant from Jerusalem, and Avi Rosen, a younger, once embittered Israeli man. The other main characters in the book are the parents of troubled youth who, with the help of Yusuf and Avi, begin to discover that there is much more to establishing peace in their homes and places of employment than they previously had supposed.  In other words, the parents, guided gently along by Yusuf and Avi, begin to discover that the real solution to their problems is located within their own hearts.

The basic message of The Anatomy of Peace is simple, but profound: there is no way to resolve conflicts, whether at home, at work, or even on a larger scale between nations and peoples, unless there is first a resolution of conflicts within the human heart.  A heart at war cannot promote peace because a heart at war causes its possessor to see other people as objects rather than as human beings with hopes, dreams, desires and goals.  Only with a heart of peace can individuals begin to see people as people, and thus begin to spend more time helping things go right instead of dealing with things that are going wrong.

The premise is simple, but in one way or another, and at one time or another, no one is exempt from having a heart at war.  How do we recognize a heart at war?  How do we turn from a heart of war to a heart of peace?  How do we share that peace with others?  These are all questions that The Anatomy of Peace can help us answer.  The Anatomy of Peace demonstrates that peace has more to do with our way of being than simply with our way of acting.  It shows how even the most bitter enemies and fiercest opponents can become friends.  

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is dealing with conflict in their lives, whether personally, at home, or elsewhere.  It may just hold the key to resolving difficulties that have long troubled or perplexed you.  Enjoy.     




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal - Film Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz
Have you ever heard of Skeksis?  What about Garthim?  Mystics?  Gelflings?  Aughra?  Fizzgig? Podlings? or Landstriders?

If you have never heard of these strange creatures on the mysterious planet Thra, it may be time for you to watch The Dark Crystal.  The Dark Crystal is a 1982 fantasy film that was directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz in which the protagonist, Jen, embarks on a dangerous quest to heal a world that had been divided by a shattered crystal.

If that sounds too weird for your taste, just watch how Jen and his friend Kira summon landstriders and engage in the following conversation:

Jen: "The prophecy didn't say anything about this!"
Kira: "Prophets don't know everything!"

Jen and Kira, On a Mission