Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Queen and the Dragon

Our kids have developed an enthusiasm for new group called SHEL. They are four sisters (Sarah, Hannah, Eva, Liza, get it?) from Fort Collins, CO who play violin, piano, mandolin, and drums. Their music is hauntingly beautiful. I like just about everything on their first album.

One of their songs is called "When the Dragon Came Down." The lyrics are the kind that tear your heart apart. It is the story of a king who lost his queen and his kingdom to a dragon that attacked while he wasn't paying the kind of attention he should have. Here are the lyrics, as far as I can distinguish them.  I may have one or two phrases wrong, but you get the point:

Lay your head down
Close your eyes
Sleeping on a golden bed
Cold as ice.

Oh is she really gone
I lost my queen along with my crown
when the dragon came down
Oh deep within my sleep
awakened by the sound of her scream.
The dragon came down like a dream.

The news gets worse every day.
I read my paper, pull my weight.
Head buried in the sand.
The truth can free you [common man?]
Wisdom take me by the hand
Help me understand.
The Dragon came down.
[end of chorus]

See the sun rise in the east
Evil wakes when the king sleeps.

Oh is she really gone….[chorus]

You a man with a broken soul
You’re a king who is alone
You’re a cripple without a home
You’re a bird struck by a stone

Better cut my tongue out now
Before I speak the truth too loud
For the hope we’ve lost is found
For the world is awakened by this sound.

By this sound.

When the dragon came down.

Oh, is she really gone. 
I lost my queen along with my crown

When the dragon came down.

I've rarely heard a sense of loss and guilt so well expressed.

Compare another "poem" about a Queen and a dragon--one that features a dragon coming down to destroy a Queen.

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.
His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;
she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child.
But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.
But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth.
Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. 
We've discussed whether SHEL is Christian.  I think not. Perhaps this song is their longing for Rev. 12. "The truth can free you..., Wisdom take me by the hand, Help me understand."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The lives of two child stars

I incidentally had the opportunity recently to compare the lives of two child stars, Ricky Nelson and Donny Osmond. Apparently Ozzie Nelson was very strict, authoritarian and controlling. This seems to have resulted in Ricky becoming quite libertine when it came to sex and drugs."Nelson had a tremendous sexual appetite and a casual attitude toward sex, once estimating he had had sex with thousands of women."

Contrast Donny Osmond, who is quoted as saying:
Donny: “I married as a virgin. I really did [laughing]. And, I’m proud of it. It was difficult. Boy! let me tell you it was difficult! The hormones were raging…”
 Piers: “Do you wish you’d just piled in back then, Donny?”
 Donny: “I’m glad I withheld. I really am.”
Hilary White says in the same article,
I think Donny Osmond, with his whole family, represented something more than just silly teeny-bopper pop songs. They were sold as the “clean” pop act of their time, happy, innocent and cheerful. They made their name not only as a talented family act, but as one dedicated to the old fashioned religious-based virtues that had been hugely popular since the end of World War II. They were, in fact, the living embodiment of an innocent enjoyment of youth and, yes, I’ll say it, romantic love, that itself turned to “industry poison” at exactly that historical moment.
I think it is intriguing to think about why morality "takes" for some children, and not for others.  I have no wisdom on the matter at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jane Austen's Persuasion

My son-in-law and daughter, Chris and Therese Goode, are involved in an Acadia Theatre production of Jane Austen's Persuasion, adapted by Jennifer Le Blanc.  Here is a review, which highlights the valuable contribution of the Goodes. There are still shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday (2), and Sunday. See Acacia Theatre Company's web page for details.

How to stop the bleeding

This article in Crisis about the demise of theology and philosophy requirements at Catholic Universities is very discouraging. I have at least one friend who lost a job because his school cut out the theology requirements. I love this quote about what few courses remain:
Do students read better after such classes? Do they think more critically? Are they any more ethical? Do they understand their faith any better? The answer is usually no, and this is really no surprise since these departments long ago forswore those goals in their headlong pursuit of their own professional specialization.
Anthony Esolen makes a similar point about the absence of beauty, esp. poetry, in modern education. Modern educators have no use for beauty, because there is no political pay-off. After quoting Keat's "Ode to Autumn," he says,
Keats has said nothing about death, but it is there, like a shadow, a gentle one, not to be feared. His ode is sweet and sad, a companion for life. You cannot do anything political with it. You cannot do anything at all with it, no more than you can do anything with a sunset, or the warm pressure of a friendly hand. It brings beauty that clears the mind of what is merely ugly or crass or squalid. It is fresh air, God-sent.
I think among the things needed is for the hierarchy to realize that the demise of a robust Catholic liberal education is making evangelization even harder, because the faith is grounded in a reality that modern modes of discourse and analysis can't reach.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Romance of the Sea

Our family had a discussion recently about what geological feature is the most attractive to each of us: ocean, forest, mountain, plain, desert, icecap, etc. I have always said "mountains."  I especially love the Austrian Alps, but find the Smokies, Blue Ridge, and the Colorado/New Mexico Rockies to be close to my heart. I lived ten months in Austria during my sophomore year. This is where I lived.

Which is why I was struck this morning while I was reading the Afterward of the Third Edition of Lewis's Pilgrim's Regress by the phrase, "the noise of the falling waves."  Suddenly a series of recent events and associations came to mind having to do with the sea. I'm reading Treasure Island aloud to the boys. I saw the play Jane Austen's Persuasion yesterday, which features an admiral and two sea-captains. I've been listening to one of my favorite orchestral pieces, La Mer, by Debussy.

Finally, as we were waiting to watch the play, we sat at the little amphitheater at Concordia University that looks over Lake Michigan. It may not be the ocean, but it is an inland sea. The colors of the water and the sky were breathtaking. It is as if someone had taken all the blues and greens from a sixty-four crayon box and drawn a sea-scape. I wish I had a picture of it.  I wish I had had an hour and the skill to paint it. My thirteen-year old son couldn't take his eyes off of it. The picture is from my other son's smart phone. I tried to adjust the color some to get the nuance, but the greens and purples aren't as strong they really were

One of my most vivid memories is walking to the west end of one of the main streets in San Francisco and coming to a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Huge waves were crashing against the rocks below. The sky was a dramatic of sun and whirling clouds. I just stood there and listened to the "noise of the falling waves."  If I hadn't had an appointment I might have stood there for hours.

I'm not an "ocean" guy like some of my kids are, but there is certainly a "romance of the sea" which affects me deeply. I think the same can be said about forest and desert. I'm not so much struck by the plains or prairie, although I love the Little House books, and the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain.