Families that Discuss together, stay together

Families that Discuss together, stay together
Families that Discuss together, stay together

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

MDM Academy

I have been in heaven the past couple of weeks as I have embarked on an educational journey with the Mission-Driven Mom Academy (MDM). At first, I wondered if I really had any time to even add something else to my life, but it feels like I have not added anything except purpose, light, and understanding. I feel as if my personal scripture study has been enhanced, my parenting improved, my job as youth mentor enriched, etc. This program has been very influential for me and my role as wife, mother, sister, daughter, teacher, etc.
Right now the program is on sale for 30% off!! Check it out!   Sign up here at the MDM Academy

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Return to Imagination

Today I learned something about Lewis and his fantasy children’s books. I had originally thought he had written The Chronicles of Narnia with the idea to help convert children to Christianity so that they, unlike him, would grow up in the faith. I was wrong. Well, partly wrong. As it turns out, he did not set out with that purpose, but the books themselves eventually evolved to show Christian symbolism. He says, “Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children. . . .This is all out moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first, there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.” (“Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” 1956) The evolution of a fantasy story to a Christian fantasy story had help from the reader who, bringing with him his worldview of Christ and Christian symbolism, saw divine connections and this idea exploded into many excellent commentaries on the subject.
Since C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia not, as so many have supposed, to rekindle the spark of Christianity within the minds of children, what must have been his purpose? Lewis looked at the world around him. Education reform had all but reduced the curriculum to mindless superficial facts and meaningless ideas. Movies had begun to replace the leisurely activity of reading the classic novel. Professor David Whalen of Hillsdale College says that in the movies, especially in the action/adventure type, one explosive event after another entertains a riveted audience until they are numb with overwhelming excitement. Lewis was concerned that the fast-tracked world would overpower the imagination once made vivid by leisurely reading and discussing.
One solution to the modern busy-ness was to return to the great books. He said, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.” (Introduction to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, by C.S. Lewis) There exists a certain texture, atmosphere, quality and character in a classic book that lends to the reader as much excitement as the story itself (Whalen). No other media can transfer these characteristics to the reader.
Lewis felt that modernity, with its rapid change and endless distractions, created a sort of man-made cocoon for mankind, far away from nature, Godly creation, and Imagination. Thus, he set forth to restore sensitivity to it.
Imagination, which Lewis thought had gone astray in our modern world, could be described as the default setting of our pre-cognitive skills (Whalen). The dreams, the hopes, the fears all begin within the realm of the imagination. The busy-ness and distraction in our man-made world seem to have upset and crippled the default setting of Imagination. We tend to get stuck in the mundanity and urgency of ordinary things (Whalen).
While pondering this, I could not help thinking of our family tradition of backpacking and camping and how much it rejuvenates me. I am sure few would understand why I would want to “be homeless for a week” (a phrase from someone I love), and I am not sure I understand the “why” myself until I am finally up in the mountains and away from the distractions and the noise of our fabricated world. It is there that I re-connect with my soul, reconnect with nature, with God’s creations and with the most basic tenets of life. Out in nature I feel liberated from the addictive superficial diversions and the entrapment of the merely immediate enticements. In the mountains, I am renewed to think of the higher and the highest things.
Lewis’s hope in writing the Chronicles of Narnia likewise was to restore sensitivity to the imagination, to correct it, and place it where it will instill the "ideal" within the mind and heart once again. In his writing, he returned to the ancient myths and symbols that inspired the imagination for many centuries.
Thank you, Hillsdale College, for your free online courses and especially thank you for the particular course on C.S. Lewis. Once again, I am inspired!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thoughts on The Abolition of Man

Hillsdale College sends out emails about free online classes, which include lectures, readings, and quizzes. I decided to study a course right now along with someone I am mentoring. This course is called An Introduction to C.S. Lewis: Writings and Significance
“C.S. Lewis was the greatest Christian apologist of the twentieth century. He was also the author of works of fiction, including the Chronicles of Narnia, and of philosophy, including The Abolition of Man. This course will consider Lewis’s apologetics and his fiction, as well as his philosophical and literary writings, and their continuing significance today.”

I have listened to and watched the first lecture and then listened only to the second. I find that I do not understand all of it unless I listen and then watch and take notes. Something significant to me today was the discussion Lewis has in Men Without Chests (the first chapter in The Abolition of Man) about Reason and Imagination. He talks about an elementary-education literature book, which states that feelings are arbitrary and not essential for education. He tells of a well-known story of Coleridge about two tourists observing a famous waterfall. One called it 'pretty' and one 'sublime.' The authors of the elementary literature book, Gaius and Titius, take a third position and say the tourists are not referring to the waterfall, but to their feelings about it. They argue not about the waterfall being “pretty” or “sublime”, but only say something about the arbitrariness of their feelings. Lewis’s argument is that if you separate reason and imagination, you will eventually cause the abolition of man.

Just as Aristotle believes the Soul and Body are inseparable, Lewis believes Reason and Imagination (emotions, feelings) are inseparable. In essence, Reason is the knowledge of the who, what, where, when, and why of the waterfall and Imagination is the “how I fit into this scenery and who I am in relationship to it” type of knowledge. The waterfall is a creation of our Mighty God and represents magnificence, majesty, and awe. If I were there along with the tourists to witness the beauty of it and recognize it as a sublime gift to me and humanity by a Loving Father, I would feel humble, and lifted. Thus, I would join with the one in calling it sublime. The word 'sublime' describes the high level of respect for the Creator’s gift.
While reading The Abolition of Man, I remembered a book I started on the recent backpacking trip, called Follow the River. It had come highly recommended to me as an excellent way to learn history and the culture during 1700-America. I started the book and got to page 80, or somewhere near it, I cannot remember. I ended up closing it and not picking it back up because it did not fill my soul. It was not “sublime” to me.
If I understand Lewis at all I I would say the book was not sublime because of the author’s improper and ignoble tone. The writing expressed base thoughts with little effort to build character and improve relationships. Oft-times, a contention would arise and instead of developing a brilliant and noble dialogue or thought-dialogue to dispel the contention, the author walked away from the opportunity for the characters’ personal growth. 
It is true that the author based his fiction on a historical fact of a woman, along with her two young boys, being kidnapped by Indians and her long journey of her escape nine months later. The original story is noble and good and inspiring, but the author modernized and fictionalized the story as an avenue to further the cause of the baser human desires. To make my point without going into sordid detail, the author lingers on the memories of this woman’s sexually intimate experiences with her husband and has her compare his body with that of the Indian chief’s, who continues to stare her down. It is not to say that these things could not have happened, I am merely saying that the author seems to be focusing on these base instincts and desires, rather than on the Good, the True and the Beautiful, or in other words, the Sublime.
If I were to apply Lewis’ principle of using the right word for the circumstance, I would label the woman in the original story as a woman of great courage, faith, and passion for surviving. In the fictionalized story, I label the woman as low-class, the book as poorly written and neither of them worth spending my time. 
The educational effect of using Reason and Imagination is that both together dictates the highest way to live. When our conscience is grounded in the Good, the True and the Beautiful, it is grounded in Christ, who is the Author of all Good, the True and the Beautiful. Anything that is not up to those standards is other than noble and virtuous and will eventually abolish mankind.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Conservatism: Don Quixote's Unreachable Vision

I had an epiphany this morning as I was reading Don Quixote, the knight-errant, and the unbending conservative. I was pondering about how stuck he was in his vision of the ideal—being a knight who galavants across the country trying to right all the wrongs. In essence, I see what a beautiful idea that is. Do we not all want to make things right? Of course, we do. However, his major problem was that he was living and believing in a by-gone world that was contradictory to the conventions of his day. The medieval chivalry was long gone. A new era was upon him, and he would not see it, nor bend to it.

Apart from what God requires me to do (because those divine laws are unchanging and ever-lifting me to better spheres), sometimes I think I too am stuck in my vision of the ideal polity. Am I fighting unbeatable windmills of the future? Some of my windmill-battles are:

1. I think the constitution is sufficient for our day--let's get back to it!

2. Abolish the welfare system and take care of our poor and widows as families, communities and churches (like we used to do 100 years ago)

3. Do away with big government

4. Indoctrinate the educational system with ideas of liberty, free-market trade, and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (all the Great Books for that matter).

5. Get rid of processed food and sugar--they are poisoning us (that one will repel family and friends--so, I have to be quiet about that!)

There are much more. I could go on for hours, but I will not bore you all to death. However, the message Don Quixote is trying to teach me has gone deeper today. I wonder if my energies may be better spent on living in my current world and doing the best I can to promote Godly values like Maternal Feminism, family, exemplary living, devotion to my Maker, keeping the Sabbath Day holy, being kind and charitable to everyone.

The world is going to go the way it is going. There is no doubt about that. The trajectory appears to be in the direction of the downward degenerate slope. I cannot don my conservative armor, attack the windmills and expect any success with my lancing arm. The Man of La Mancha said it best in his classic song,

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

Let me instead reach for the reachable stars of godliness and virtue. Let me promote the heavenly cause and go about it in reachable ways. Let me fight the beatable foe and bear the bearable sorrow with the grace of Christ's Atonement.

Thank you Don Quixote for helping me learn one more lesson today!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Aeneid: My Try at Written Narration

As many of you know, I am trying to implement Charlotte Mason Principles in our homeschool and at our online Monarch Webwork school. Well, I thought last week, if I am expecting my children and students to write narrations, then I should do it as well. 
What is a written narration, you ask? Simply, it is a written paragraph in your words of any length that summarizes what you have read. Also, it is not open-book or open-notes but should come directly from your head and in your words. It is not an easy task, but as Charlotte Mason says, it will get easier as you practice. 
Right now I am reading the Aeneid, by Virgil, and this is my attempt at written narration. I have only read the first ten books so far and thus have only written ten narrations, however, I will post the others here once I finish each. 

Book 1

Aeneas, having fought in Troy and witnessed the death and carnage of the bloody Trojan War, including the death of his dear wife, Creusa, escapes his burning city of Ilium and takes the surviving men on twenty ships to found a new home. Fate has it that he will build Lavinium in the land of the Latins. Of his crew, he has son Ascanius and father Anchises. Juno is furious with him, as she is a fan of the Greeks and not of the Trojans. She causes the wind god Aeolus to cause great storms, which take many of Aeneas’ ships far north, possibly destroying them. Aeneas and 7 of the 20 ships crash onto African soil near Carthage. After hunting and spearing seven stags, preparing and cooking them up for the men with his god-like strength, Aeneas goes off to explore the new land. His mother, Venus, disguised as a girl archer, inquires after him. He inquires of where he is, and she recounts the story of Tyre-born Dido and her escape from her tyrant brother. With all her gold and silver and her people, she embarks on her voyage, similar to Aeneas’ and founds a new city, the City of Carthage. Venus then tells Aeneas that his men are safe and coming to Libya’s shores to meet with him soon. Aeneas is empowered to go further into the city to meet this Dido. His mother shrouds him with mist so no Libyan can detect him or his men. With that protection, they venture to explore all of Carthage and notice the “building up of the grand city.” He is inspired and thinks of the founding of his city he will build soon. Aeneas observes his other men having been saved by the storms have arrived and are pleading with Dido for help and protection. She inquires, they tell their story, and she knows of Troy and the war and Aeneas. Surprised at the grand welcome and hospitality shown to his men, he bursts forth from the misty protection and shows himself. Dido is taken aback by his handsomeness and godliness and falls for him and prepares a huge feast and festival for his arrival. Aeneas sends for his son Ascanius back at the shipwreck. To protect Aeneas from Juno, Venus, sends for her other son, Cupid, to disguise himself as Ascanius and come to put love into Dido for Aeneas, ensuring protection for the hero since Juno loves Dido and will not do anything to hurt her by killing her love. The end of Book one is thick with love as Dido drools over him inquiring about his heroic life. It is pretty obvious that he will now in the next book recount the Trojan war.

Book 2

Aeneas tells his story to Dido of the last hours of the Trojan War. He tells of a Greek defector, Sinon, who recounts to the Trojans that he has escaped the evil Greeks and wanted to live in Troy. He tells of the great wooden horse the Greeks built to honor the god Minerva for their victory and that the Greeks had all now left for their shores. Some wanted to take the horse into Iliam, into their city and keep it as a gift to their gods. Some were suspicious. It was settled that it would be brought in. The defeated city slept that night in peaceful slumber knowing they were safe from the Greeks, but not realizing the belly of the wooden horse contained nine of the best Greek warriors and the Grecian fleet lay off the shores hidden by a nearby island. All came quietly into the city and at once raided and eventually destroyed all who were left. Meanwhile, Hector approaches Aeneas in a dream to reveal what is happening, and that Aeneas must flee the city. He climbs to the roof of his father’s house to observe the destruction and begins to don his armor to fight. He collects comrades, and they join the battle with fury. The priest of Apollo tells him that Troy is doomed and that it is the very last day for Troy. Aeneas enters battle with his men. A Greek soldier mistakes him and his men for Greeks and quickly become victims to Aeneas, who kill him and the other Greeks to get their Grecian Armor. They don it and disguise themselves as Greeks and fight. In trying to save Cassandra, many of his men die. Only he and two men escape and arrive at Priam’s palace where they continue to battle. The Greeks break down the doors and kill all Trojans inside including King Priam and his household. Aeneas sees his mother, Venus, who warns him to stop battling and get out of the city with his family to save his posterity. He obeys and gathers them together, but his father, Anchises, refuses until they see an omen in the sky—a star shooting down. Anchises knows it is a sign to follow his son. They prepare and run for their lives, but Creusa, Aeneas’ wife, is suddenly missing. Aeneas races to secure his son and father with his men and goes back to save Creusa. Noble are his efforts for the love of his life, but he cannot see her anywhere...until Creusa’s shade appears to him denoting she has been killed and that he should flee rapidly, find a new land and marry a new bride. Upset and broken-hearted, but calm and forward-facing he runs to his son and father. Many refugees have joined the group. They head for the mountains.

Book 3

Aeneas builds a fleet and when summer has just begun, heads out to sea with his people. Landing at Thrace, he begins to develop, what he believes is the fated city and offers a sacrifice to the gods. He pulls up some shoots, but blood comes with them. Surprised, he inquires and the voice of Polydorus, Priam’s son, tells him of his bloody death and his burial in that very place. Shoots had grown where all the spears were used to kill him. Aeneas decides that his fated city is elsewhere and embarks again toward Delos. Apollo foretells his fate again and sends him where his Ancient Mother is. Anchises believes it is Crete, and they head there. Once landed, they begin to build, but are overtaken by a devastating plague. When a year is almost complete, they offer sacrifices to the gods and implore Apollo’s oracle where they must go. The prophecy reveals his fate once again and that it is not Crete where they must build, but in Italy. Cassandra had prophesied this clearly, but they did not listen to her (does anyone ever listen to Cassandra? I am reminded of Agamemnon, written by Aeschylus). They sail on and endure a great storm lasting three days and three nights and land in Strophades, where Celaeno and her harpies live. They kill some cattle for a meal and are attacked by the Harpies. They know they must leave, but before escaping, the oldest Harpy, Celaeno, makes a harsh prophecy that the party will get to Italy, but not before they are so hungry they eat their platters. On to Actium they go and celebrate with Trojan games.Then at Buthrotum, they meet Andromache and Helenus, son of Priam. She tells of her misfortunes and they both receive them all with hospitality. Aeneas consults Helenus about the voyage and receives a prophecy that he will know where he is to found his city when he sees a great White Sow but to be weary of the coast of Italy. He is told that he must always and never forget to worship Juno with sacrifices, thinking of her first and always. They sail on and arrive in Italy. Anchises interprets the four white horses as a sign of war or peace. They make an offering to Juno of course then leave to another shore and land near the Cyclops' shore. Here they see an emaciated castaway who was mistakably abandoned by Odysseus. He tells his sad tale and just as the Cyclops approaches they snatch the castaway up and run for the ships. Onward they go and see and then avoid Scylla and Charybdis. They sail around the Sicily and then the winds carry them to Carthage where they are now. And the scene returns to Dido and Aeneas sitting together and learning about each other’s stories.

Book 4

Dido is entranced by this foreigner. She asks the advice of her sister, Anna, what she should do. Should she forget her deceased husband and pursue Aeneas or should she not. Anna persuades her it would be the right thing. Dido begins to fall madly in love, “She wanders in a frenzy through her city streets like a wounded doe caught all off guard by a hunter.” They both fall in love and are lost in their love and emotion. They forget about their mission and their fate. All building stops in Carthage. Juno sets a cunning trap as she sees a way to stop Aeneas from founding in Italy. She proposes to Venus that the two marry. Venus sees through the trap and agrees only if the highest Gods agree. Juno plans that when she brings down a storm, they’ll seek shelter in a cave and then “marry them.” The hunt begins, and sure enough, a storm catches them, they seek shelter, and Juno leaves Dido to believe they are married. They completely forget who they are and what they must do in life and are lost in each other’s love and passion. Personified Rumor now ravages the countryside maliciously telling their story until it reaches Dido’s suitor King Iarbus, who prays mightily to Jove about their foolishness and mistaken fate. Jove listens and sends Mercury to the rescue, who wakes Aeneas up with great force toward his grand purpose and who he is in the history of time and what he must do and become and what his progeny must do and become. Aeneas is gravely worried about how to tell Dido, but she knows before he approaches her. She can see the ships preparing to leave, and while upset, she complains of his lack of commitment to her and how ruined she is now. In defense, he tries to soothe her and calm her, but to no avail. She begins to hate him vehemently, prays for vengeance and swears to kill herself. She asks one last favor of Anna that she appeal to Aeneas to wait for the most favorable weather in which to sail and wait for her anger and emotions to calm down. To no avail, Aeneas is set and will go forward. He fears the fates more than he fears Dido. Like Aeneas, she is determined to go ahead and burn herself and all his memories. That will show him, she thinks. She now prays and soon will set fire to the stakes. Aeneas sees her, and his heart is turned once again to her, but Mercury intercedes and reminds him of his purpose. Dido, seeing he will not return to her becomes wickedly vengeful and brings down curses that the two countries will always be at war (Virgil sets the stage for the Punic wars here). Dido kills herself, but not before she puts all the blame on Anna for telling her to fall for Aeneas.Tragic ending!

Book 5

As they sail away, Aeneas and his men notice the fire, but do not know it is Dido’s body burning. They sense an impending doom. They sail near Sicily near Anchises tomb and decide to land and celebrate him with feasts and competitions. The chapter is full of descriptive contests and happenings centered around Anchises. Aeneas notices a snake appear and take the offering he placed on the altar, and he feels that it is a sign that his father accepted his gifts. Meanwhile, the women are gathered together weeping over Anchises' death and all the hardships they have had to face. They are tired of wandering and want nothing to do with Italy any longer. Juno sends Iris down to entice them to set the ships ablaze to ensure they do not wander any longer but settle here on Sicilian shores. They think it a great idea and work hard to set fire to all of them. The men hear about it, and Ascanius rides on to set the women straight, letting them know of the harm they have done. The Trojans try, but cannot put out the flames. Aeneas prays to Jupiter, who hears and who sends a storm to quench and put out the blazing fires. All the ships are saved, but four. Aeneas is down and wonders if he should abandon his destined purpose, but Nautes suggests he leave some of his company in Sicily and sail on to Italy. In a dream that night, his father, Anchises comes to him and tells him to do what Nautas said, but to first go to the underworld and speak with himself (Anchises) and hear his destiny. Aeneas sets out to build a city and leave it under Acestes’ rule, builds a temple and a priest to care for it, holds a feast for those he is leaving behind and sets sail for Italy. Meanwhile, Venus complains to Neptune about Juno preventing the Trojans from their destiny. Neptune assures her that all will go as fate has planned, but first one life must be lost before they reach Italy. Palinurus is in the lead and Sleep comes to him to tell him to rest and leave vigil, but he refuses and Sleep kicks him out to sea. He is lost, and Aeneas sadly holds a tribute and farewell to him as properly as one can in a situation such as that.

Book 6

Aeneas lands at Cumae and consults the Sibyl, who keeps the gate of the Underworld. She asks him to pray to Apollo to ask permission to enter into the Underworld. He prays and asks for no more than what Fate decrees. The Sibyl prophesies that he and his people will surely make it to Latium, but not before facing some of the greatest trials of war and bloodshed. He states that he can handle this and begs to please go down and meet with his father, Anchises. She tells him the descent is easy, but the ascent is impossible unless Aeneas does two things. He must bury a friend who has polluted his soul and must reach a golden bough and break it off. Only will it break off if he is the selected one of the fates. Aeneas contemplates who the body is that he must bury and discovers it is Misenus, who foolishly challenged Triton to a contest on the trumpet. Aeneas begins to organize the funeral rites for him, and the poet tells the story. Next, Aeneas searches for the golden bough and upon finding it rips it off easily and takes it to the Sybil. Having done both of these tasks, he now can enter into the Underworld with the Sybil. The Poet now invokes the gods to ask permission to tell the story of his journey there. Aeneas is shown Death, Sleep, Disease, Old Age, Dread and Hunger, Poverty and many others. Then, he sees many shades that are forced to wander having never had a proper funeral. Palinurus is one of them and begs to be carried to a safer place, but the Sybil assures him that his body will be recovered and will receive a proper burial and funeral. He is calmed and reassured and leaves them. Charon refuses to take Aeneas across the Styx. However, the Sybil reminds him that this is the Fated Aeneas and that he must do so. She shows Charon the golden bough, and he understands and obeys, taking them across. They reach Limbo, a place for shades of the untimely deaths. Aeneid sees many, but most notably, he sees Tragic Dido, who is still furious with him. He meets her with love, but she will not accept it. He sees his comrades in war, including Deiphobus, Priam’s son and hears his story. Aeneas had searched for his body at the time of death, but could not find it. Deiphobus asks Aeneas why he is in the Underworld but is not allowed to hear the answer as the Sybil moves them onward. Now they come to Tartarus, the place of the wicked and damned souls. She tells of their names and their punishments. It is similar to Dante’s Inferno. Finally, they leave Tartarus and enter into Elysium to seek for Anchises. Aeneas must place the golden bough here to enter in. They meet and embrace and then Anchises shows Aeneas the spirits who have yet to be born and those who will have a second body (reincarnation). These spirits are to become his race and will be heroes. Such names as Romulus and Augustus Caesar, who is stronger than Hercules, according to the poet, and many others who will make Rome a great kingdom. He then warns not to have a civil war and to rule with all his power. One last shade comes into view as he sees Marcellus and his son who will die an early death. Marcellus will be famed in the Second Punic War. Anchises leads his son with stories of glory and tells him of the wars he must wage with the Laurentine peoples and of Latinus’ city and to shun or shoulder each ordeal as he meets it. With this, both the Sibyl and Aeneas leave the Underworld.

Book 7

Aeneas’ nurse dies and is buried. They sail past the land of Circe and reach the mouth of the Tiber River. The poet invokes the muse and begins to tell the story of Italy and King Latium, whose daughter Lavinia is betrothed to Turnus, but that the Oracles say she is to marry a foreigner--a stranger. Dismayed by the signs, the King seeks out his father, Faunus, who prophesies that she is to marry a foreigner. Meanwhile, Aeneas and his people arrive at Italian shores and make a banquet and feast. Aeneas feels he has finally arrived at the home of his fate. Then he prays, and Jove receives his prayer with happiness. Aeneas sends an embassy to the king and a herald before him. They arrive at the beautiful palace and describe what they see. Latinas welcomes him and his people with open arms and asks from whence they come. Ilioneus answers that they come from Troy by way of Fate and promises no ill will from the Trojans. They offer gifts from Troy and King Priam. The king tells Aeneas of the Oracle and gives his daughter to Aeneas, as he is the proper husband for her, according to the prophecies. Juno discovers that Aeneas has arrived on Italian shores and is livid. She rouses the powers of Hell to exact a heavy toll of bloodshed on the Trojans before the Alliance is created. Quickly, Juno flies to the Underworld to wake Allecto and with fiery words, explains all her fury and commands that Allecto tempt key people to start the war. She obeys and visits Amata, the mother of Lavinia, to tempt her about the marriage between Lavinia and Turnus. Amata falls into a frenzy and rouses the women of Latium to join her. Next, she works on Turnus from a deep sleep, but he mocks her profusely. She changes her disguise and sends to fiery serpents upon him and riles him up for war. Following this, Allecto turns toward Iulus (Ascanius), Aeneas’ son, whose hunting dogs find Sylvia’s pet stag and Iulus, not realizing the stag is a pet, shoots it down and kills it, which suddenly upsets her and the town. War is about to break out. Allecto sounds the war cry and then returns to the heavens to report to Juno that she has completed the tasks given her. Juno sends her back to the Underworld. Turnus moves toward Latium and is ready for battle, and the people are ready for action and approach King Latinus to approve the fight. He stands firm and will not. They beg him to open the gate, which is customary for the commencements of battles, but he refuses and prophesies that the people will pay dearly for their outrage and puts the blame on Turnus, with a warning that he will have a dreadful end. Then, King Latinus locks himself into his palace. Juno intervenes and opens the gate for the people. The battle begins. The poet then invokes the Muse once again. Virgil now goes through the catalog of Italian heroes, including Mezentius, who is the epitome of the uncivilized, barbaric type in Italy and ends with the story of Camilla.
Book 8
Turnus begins this book with a battle cry to begin. Meanwhile, in his sleep, Old Tiber, visits Aeneas and tells him how happy he is that Aeneas has finally arrived, they had been waiting so long for him. He tells him not to fear battle and gives him the sign of a white sow and her white piglets under an oak tree and that thirty years hence Ascanius will establish Alba. He then turns back to the battle at hand and tells him to seek out King Evander’s armies and his son, Pallas. He wakes and obeys. Once on Evander’s shores, he sees they are celebrating Hercules. The Arcadians discover Aeneas and want to attack him and his men, but when Aeneas tells them his name and from whence he comes, they welcome him. King Evander knows his father and will help in any way. Aeneas pleads for help against Turnus, and the king will send his troops. Evander tells the story of how he knows Anchises. Then tells the story of why they celebrate Hercules every year; he saved their people from the monster son of Vulcan, Cacus. After telling the story, he recounts the history of Early Latium and takes Aeneas on a tour around the city. Rome must be so great that the gods have made it their home. Meanwhile, Venus goes to her husband, Vulcan to convince him with her beauty to make a full armor for Aeneas. He is spellbound and obeys, with the help of the Cyclops.The next morning, Evander and Aeneas meet. Evander promises to be an ally and lends him his troops and those of his son, Pallas, then tells Aeneas about evil Mezentius. Evander, himself, is too old to fight. Out of the sky just then, comes a sign from Venus. His men are dumbstruck, but Aeneas knows the sign and is calm. Deep within the heart of Evander, he wishes to fight and expresses it to Aeneas, but alas, he cannot. He beseeches the gods to keep Pallas safe, and they are off! Venus delivers the armor personally, and he admires it. The poet now speaks and begins to describe the engravings on the shield, which represent all the major stories of Roman history, including Romulus, the Sabines, and Caesar. He knows nothing of these stories but greatly admires the shield.

Book 9 Iris comes to Turnus and tells him that Aeneas is gone from his camp and that now is the time to go and attack while he is gone. Back in the camp, Aeneas’ men remember that he had warned them not to trust the open field, but to stay within the walls. Turnus is like a wolf waiting “around a crowded sheepfold.” The Poet asks what God warded off these fierce flames from Aeneas and their men. Long before, Jove’s mother gave her sacred timbers to the Dardan prince to build their fleet. Now she is in anguish to see the fleet destroyed and begs her son, Jove to save them. He questions if fate can be chosen and granted or if it is right that Aeneas go unscathed. Finally, he promises that instead of being destroyed, they will change their shape and become nymphs of the sea.The Fates from Ida descend and let the ships become nymphs, free and safe from harm. Turnus is happy the Trojans cannot escape by sea now and are trapped on land to face him. The Trojans are resisting at the gates. Euryalus and Nisus have a plan to break out into enemy lines to search for Aeneas. Euryalus is young and does not remember Aeneas’ advice to stay behind the gates and walls. Nisus seems to come to his senses and tries to keep Euryalus from going since he is still young and has a good life ahead, but he is determined. They seek an audience with the Trojans and present their plan. The men and Ascanius approve and Ascanius gives them gifts. Euryalus asks Ascanius to care for his mother if he perchance should die, which Ascanius agrees to do. The poet foretells their fate as they set out. They fight mightily and then Nisus once again tries to stop Euryalus from fighting, but to no avail. He is young and hotheaded. They run, but when Nisus turns back and sees that Euryalus is not behind him, he goes in search of him and suddenly sees him among the Rutulians, who will stop at nothing until he is killed. Nisus tries to save him, but cannot and ends up being killed shortly after that. The next morning, the Rutulians have impaled the heads of the two and placed them on pikes to display to the Trojans, who recognize them at once. Euryalus’ mother sees and weeps. Her heart is broken, and she makes her speech. The men, including Ascanius, comfort her and enter into battle. The Rutulians begin a full-scale attack on the Trojan camp. The Poet invokes the Muse to have their help in recounting the battle. Numanus taunts the Trojans with his speech, comparing the manly Italians to the effeminate Trojans. Ascanius prays for divine help to kill him and Jove hears and gives him strength and the deed is done. Apollo praises Ascanius for his heroic act. Apollo then stops him from fighting until he is older. The men notice the exchange between Ascanius and Apollo and approve of it, then head back to battle. Turnus comes to the gate to help and kills many. Pandarus thinks he is doing good by closing the gate, but discovers that Turnus is already within the walls. He taunts Turnus and Turnus kills him. He could have opened the gate and let his Rutulian men it to help in the killing, but is bent on taking the Trojans on himself--full of pride and hubris, is he. The Trojans are finally gaining. They plunge Turnus into the River Tiber, and he rejoins his troops.

Book 10

Book 10 begins with the council of the gods. Venus is desperate and pleads with Jove to end the war. She blames Juno for the whole of it. Finally, Venus pleads safety for her grandson, Ascanius. Juno rebuts, saying that she only has “helped” the Latins and blames Venus for intervening. In the end, Jove will not intervene one bit and leaves it all for the fates to find their way. Back on the battle scene, Turnus is waging war. Meanwhile Aeneas lands in Tuscany and gathers King Tarchon and men and sets sail once again for Latium. The Poet invokes the muses to tell the story of the great men from Tuscany. Shortly, afterward, the nymphs who had been born of the burning fleet finds and warns Aeneas of the battle already happening and to prepare for war. Tunus sees Aeneas coming with his fleet and makes plans to kill them all. King Turchon runs his ship to shore and breaks its back on a sandbank. The battle is in full force. The first victories are by Aeneas himself, however the struggle is equally felt. Pallas, now leads the way and kills many, including Haleasus. Fate prevents Pallas and Lausus to fight one another. Juturna, Turnus’ sister spurs him on. Turnus, seeing Aeneas yells for his men to stop fighting, for he will have Pallas alone. Hercules cannot promise safety for Pallas. The two fight hard and finally Turnus kills him and strips his heavy belt from him, rueing the day that he ever did it. Aeneas hears of his death and lashes out in fierce angry battle to avenge his death. He had promised to bring him back safely to his family and home. Juno is fearful of Turnus’ life and begs Jove to save him from temporary danger. He indulges her for a time and Juno creates a phantom of Aeneas to lure Turnus away in a ship and out of danger. She controls the winds and takes him to his homeland. He is angry when he realizes his plight and prays ot Jove. Meanwhile, Mezentius is heading up the enemy line and fights mightily. At the end of Book 10, we see Mezentius and Aeneas face each other. Mezentius receives a blow. His son, Lausus, jumps in to save his father and Aeneas slays him. A break of emotion sets in as Aeneas contemplates the love Lausus had for his father. He feels deep sorrow and pity and carefully lifts the limp body and returns it to the enemy. Mezentius sorrows over his son, but then avenges his death as both he and Aeneas fight to the death, with Aeneas standing in victory’s place. Mezentius has one last plea to be buried under the earth.

Book 11

Aeneas dedicates the spoil to Mars and then prepares the funeral and to return Pallas’ body to his father, King Evander. The Latin elder, Drances pleads for a truce to bury their dead and Aeneas gracefully accepts and they agree on 12 days. The funeral procession continues, and they reach King Evander, who throws himself onto the body of his son. He wishes to be dead, just as is his wife and now son, then, he asks Aeneas to avenge Pallas’ death against Turnus. Back in the capital, resentment grows against Turnus. The embassy sent to ask help from Diomedes, returns and presents King Latinus with an unfavorable answer. Diomedes says he will not fight the Trojans, especially with someone as gifted as Aeneas. King Latinus speaks to the people saying the Latin situation is hopeless, and they should either give some land to the Trojans or build ships for them to sail to another harbor. Drances agrees and inveighs Turnus to his face. Turnus replies hatefully and finally calls out that he will take on Aeneas by himself. Aeneas gets wind of this and immediately prepares. All gear up for battle and Camilla comes to offer help to Turnus, who accepts readily. He stays back and prepares to ambush and sends her to the front lines. Meanwhile, Diana summons Opis, tells Camilla’s story and prophecies her doom and then asks Opis to avenge her death by killing her pursuer. The battle begins and Camilla fights mightily. Jove intervenes and sends Tarchon down to rally the Etruscan allies to aid the Trojans. Arruns attacks Camilla and while hurling his spear prays to Apollo for help saying that he does not kill a woman for plunder or trophy over her corpse, but merely wishes to stop one of the strong heroines to win the war. Apollo hears. Camilla’s last words to her sister are to fetch Turnus and tell him he must take over and then she dies. Opis laments and seizes the opportunity to avenge her and kills Arruns. Turnus discovers the news of Camilla, abandons his plan for an ambush and charges toward the Capital to find Aeneas.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Structure of Soliloquy: Impending Death of Richard III

Give me another horse: bind up my wounds.
Have mercy, Jesu!--Soft! I did but dream.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.

What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?

O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain:
yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!

I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?

Methought the souls of all that I had murder'd
Came to my tent; and every one did threat
To-morrow's vengeance on the head of Richard.

King Richard’s Soliloquy (Act V.III.178-207)

Shakespeare’s understanding of the human impels him to include the soliloquy for the sake of self-introspection, which often empowers the individual and the audience to learn the truth. The soliloquy helps Richard come to a realization of his circumstance and the consequence of his bloodthirsty decisions. The ghostly visitations of the eight men and women whom Richard murdered trigger the soliloquy; each of them appearing at his bedside and placing a curse upon him, “despair and die.” When he awakes, his vision is cloudy, but soon Richard recollects the dreams, which launch him through a series of emotions beginning with panic and ending with the ghostly-prophesied despair. 

Shakespeare structures the soliloquy as a process of making sense of his dire situation. The first line addresses the recent misfortune from the night before, the loss of his horse and his battle wounds. Then the next four lines deal with fearful panic as he remembers the deadly dreams of the eight apparitions. The next seven lines deal with an inquiry and battle within. He questions if he is indeed the murderer. He answers, first no, then yes, and wonders if he could flee, but knows he cannot escape from himself, nor take upon himself revenge. The next two and a half lines demonstrate a near reckoning with the inevitable truth, but he cannot hold onto it quite yet and quickly points out that no, it is a lie, he is not a villain. The next eight lines condemn him as guilty. Finally, keen despair sets in during the next four lines as he realizes he has lost all his friends with no one to pity him, not even himself. He recognizes the self-betrayal and dishonesty, which will lead him to his bloody death within moments, for with the last three lines he is brought to a perfect remembrance of the eight, midnight-ghostly visitors, of those he murdered, who had prophesied his despair and death. 

As stated, the soliloquy is a process that Richard moves through. However, Richard is not alone in the process; the audience experiences right along with him the corollaries as if the audience were in King Richard’s place. In a way, the soliloquy finally redeems the audience from suffering, for once they go with Richard through the process of reckoning and accountability, they can be rest assured that the end is near, and they have learned more completely what befalls a man with such ambition. The exercise can be remarkably influential; remaining in the minds of the audience well after the play has ended. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Vocation Calls: What Is Your Mission?

I cherish the opportunities to learn more about who I am and what God wants me to do. I watched a docudrama on BYUtv last night that reminded me of who I am and what is my special purpose or mission in life.
Imagine a youth from a small hamlet, an untrained, unschooled, impoverished young person, who sees a resurrected heavenly being and who has received a call from God to do great work on this earth. This youth forgoes the pleasure and security of a quiet life and pursues the divine call and completes the mission. Tragically, the youth is tried, pronounced a heretic and dies a martyr. Who might this be?
This youth became commander of the French army at age 17, was captured and imprisoned at the age of 18, and burned at the stake at the age of 19 in Rouen, France on May 30, 1431. Have you figured out who this youth is?
          This courageous, virtuous youth was Joan d'Arc. What moved her to take on such a daunting task? While at home in Domrémy, France she heard a Heavenly voice calling her and as she gazed toward the voice she saw a bright light wherein Heavenly Messengers bid her rise and save France from the English domination and restore Dauphin Charles to his rightful seat on the throne of France.  Her faith and devotion to God and steady belief in this divine call prompted her to gather an army and eventually defeat the English.
Scrupulous trial records attest to her virtuous moral, character and to the praise she received from the men who served with her. Her era represented a corrupt time in France, but she was fully committed to living the law of chastity. Her mission involved camping out with men and lying in the same tents. In the trial records, it is stated that men desired to lie with her, but as they reached out, they were overcome with a strong restraint or felt like they could not touch such a pure, moral maiden. Joan never swore, prayed continually and required the men to pray twice daily. Joan had a thorough understanding of who she was and what God expected of her. Her army felt her influence and leadership.
Many tales have been told of her courage and leadership. Scores of movies and tomes of literature have graced our theatres and libraries. Some depict her life well, some not.  Many scholars and historians have not known what to do with her spiritual experiences and have played them down or changed them completely. I believe her experience was divinely appointed to prepare the world for greater things.
This morning as I pondered upon her special mission and her influence I was astonished to think of her illustrious role in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her story is not unlike that of Joseph Smith, only her mission was to restore faith in God and to save France politically.  I thought about the how the Gospel had not yet been restored to earth, thus the protocol would be different than what I would expect from today's revelation. In Joan's day, the Lord had made use of the already known religious symbols of the Catholic Church. Her angel voices declared the design of her banners with the French fleur-de-lis and the words of Mary and Jesus. The divine command was to bring God back into the daily lives of her army and the nation. Miraculously, the Lord responded to her devotion to Him and her influence over the soldiers to practice religious devotion; Joan and her army began to win back many of the cities from the English and eventually to lead the Douphin to his place as the rightful heir to the throne.
           Richard John Maynes said of her mission, “Without Joan of Arc, there would have been no country of France. Without France and the French Navy, George Washington could never have won at Yorktown. Therefore, there could have never been an America. Without America, there could not have been a successful Restoration of the Gospel. Joan of Arc was led by God to do what she did to guarantee the restoration.”
Jeffrey R. Holland turns our thoughts inward and inspires us, “A young girl could do that now in our day.” If God can lead and inspire an ordinary and simple young Joan d'Arc, he can inspire each of you to carry out your purpose and mission. If you are to do it successfully, you must keep His commandments as Joan did.  Be courageous and follow your personal revelation. Don't be afraid to be different in our century.

Celebrate with me one girl’s mission to further God’s purposes. Be inspired! Find your mission!

Watch the most recent film about Joan d'Arc on BYUtv

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Companion Virtues: Intelligence and Goodness

You who know me, know I love John Erskine's Essay called "The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent". I like it for a few reasons including the idea that it always seems to prepare me to start another school year on the right foot—making sure I remember intelligence is a virtue and a companion to Goodness. You can read more about his premise in the link above.

Well, my thoughts have somewhat been rolling around in the realm of being intelligent and virtuous—that Knowledge must be matched with the sister virtue of Goodness.  To the degree that intelligence and Goodness exist together, they make a person whole and glorious. C. S. Lewis said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” I surmise that sometimes in our learning we justify our weaknesses and lower our values and standards. I think this is the seductive danger in leaning toward our own understanding and not God's understanding. In Second Nephi 9:29, we learn that "to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God." This principle of aligning my intelligence with God's intelligence has led me to ponder on my recent past.

Here is a little history: for the last twelve years, I have been associating with a couple who have intrigued me with their thoughts, ideas and intellect. Most of our discussion has been in the field of religion, LDS religion, and includes principles and ideas from without the mainstream of Church belief. It has been fascinating and compelling. Other couples have shared stories and books about visions and near-death experiences. These have been intriguing too. For the sake of making this post brief, I am not going to go into detail at this time. I may revisit this post when college classes and my own homeschooling responsibilities are not overwhelming me, but for right now, I will be brief.

Over time, I have had a feeling that something does not quite settle right in my soul about all of these things and I have not known why and maybe I still do not know why, but I have an idea. It seemed that all these years only a few number of members know about these things or talk about them. The rest do not or do not even care. The Brethren surely do not talk about them either. The word esoteric comes to mind. These discussions, therefore are for the few, not the many. They also come in, not by the Gate, but in other ways (under the gate, over the fence, etc.) Knowledge translated into Greek is Gnosis, which could be interpreted as Gnosticism. In other words, over the last decade or so, I have been delighting in good old Mormon Gnosticism. Not gnosticism in the ancient sense pertaining to the 2nd Century heretical movement, but a loose definition of gnosticism in the sense that only a few know about it—esoteric knowledge.

If the knowledge is esoteric, then it is not for the general public. This is starting to sound like the Dark Ages to me. If it is not for the general public, then it is only personal revelation and not something that ought to be shared with others. Alma 12:9 says, “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.” Strict command is pretty strong here. I surmise that this "gnosis" in which, I have been caught up is not for me to share with others, discuss with others or listen from others.

I believe Mormon Gnosticism began as a fascination with me, then gradually, I felt a sort of "pulling away" from the basic faith. I do not think I went far, but just enough to feel a little darker. In my struggle, I felt to veer away from the esoteric and an amazing thing happened, I felt freer and more filled with light and knowledge, or more pertinently, I felt true gnosis—the kind of living knowledge given to all mankind from God.

Back to Erskine, I truly DO have a moral obligation to be intelligent, act intelligent and do intelligent things. I have the obligation to be good and to match my intelligence with that of God's, but I do not have an obligation to share the esoteric or the obscure doctrines, I need to heed the Lord and "impart only the portion of His word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give Him". I do, however, have an obligation to continue to seek for personal revelation and when it comes, I know I can be like Mary of the New Testament and keep all these things and ponder them in my heart (Luke 2:19).

Chorus in Aristophanes' Frogs

Who will win the contest and be granted the grand position to bring life back to an ailing Athens? The aggressive match is between the newly deceased Euripides and the long deceased Aeschylus. Dionysus descends to the underworld and will determine who bears more weight and could turn Athens around.  However, the most influential force of any Grecian contest relies on the Muses, the source of the knowledge of arts and sciences. They are the “experts” in the Dionysian rituals and festivals. In the following two stanzas the chorus summons their bright presence to preside over the fierce debate between the two angry poets.

When men of sage and subtle mind
In fierce debate their views do vent,
And strive some priceless phrase to find
To mask each specious argument,
The Zeus’s virgin daughters nine
Stand by to watch the sport divine.

Come then today, you Muses bright!
Two worse foes never took the field:
For one is armed with words of might,
And one the sword of wit does wield.
O heavenly maids, your presence lend!
The Game’s afoot! Descend, descend![1]

It is alluded to in the first stanza that whenever there is a debate, such as this fierce one, the nine Muses stand by as spectators. Alas, is that all they are—spectators? I would surmise their purpose is more than bystanders. The chorus would agree and knew well the importance of the Muses at the contests. They continue on chanting their wisdom. With their iambic trimeter, they call down the Muses to descend below to witness and give favor to the contest. In the penultimate line of the second stanza, the “heavenly maids” will lend their presence, which one can assume that by their presence, they impart something substantial. I imagine that they grant encouragement, strength and hope for the best man to win.
In comparing the chorus of Frogs to the choruses of the former poets, Aeschylus and Sophocles, I find it exceedingly interesting that the chorus’ in Aristophanes’ Frogs has less substance than the antecedents. It would seem that the characteristics of the singular figures are becoming more in tune to the logic and wisdom or the irrationality and folly of their choices and rely less on a wisdom-bearing chorus. Therefore, I deduce that, apart from the chorus leader, the chorus’ effect on the audience or reader is weaker and less convincing than those of the former poets. It may be that Euripides’ characters are portrayed as real and human and more reasonable, whereas, those of Aeschylus’ are more heroic and stay closer to the moral themes denoting the ideal virtue, relying on the chorus to convince the audience of the ideal. Regardless, the influence and spirit of the Muses will always linger on.

[1] Aristophanes, The Frogs, translated by David Barrett, (Penguin Classics, 2007), Act II, line 877-888