Monday, October 7, 2013


Today is October 7th, 2013. Four hundred and forty-two years ago, the Battle of Lepanto was won by the Holy League in the Gulf of Corinth. The Holy League was led by Don John of Austria, half-brother of King Phillip II of Spain, and it had been gathered together by Pope St. Pius V. It is commemorated to this day by the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrated every year upon October 7th. In fact, the whole month of October is now known as the Month of the Rosary.

More importantly, as far as literature goes, this stunning victory has been immortalized in the verse of G. K. Chesterton. With his usual brilliant glitter and smash of words, GKC describes in his poem, Lepanto, the lead-up to the battle in a few pages, all of which combine to inspire awe in the reverent reader. He lists how the Protestant queen of England, Elizabeth, did not care to respond to the Pope's call for action against the Turk, and how France equally failed to respond. Germany was torn asunder by Protestant fighting Catholic - "And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow room."

Spain and Italy saved the day. The city-states of Italy assembled some ships, and it was Don John of Austria, raised in Spain, who was given command of the Holy League. This is magnificently detailed in The Last Crusader by Louis de Wohl, when the Pope has an epiphany as he hears the words, "There was a man sent by God, whose name was John," during Mass and realizes who he should put in commant of the fleet.

Few say it better than GKC:

"And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross."
They are haunting lines. Few remember now how closely we all came to speaking Arabic and studying One Thousand and One Nights for literature, but I shall not forget.
I shall end with this quote by Dale Ahlquist upon the neglect of Lepanto by modern literature critics:
 "But all those tributes, as well as the poem itself, have been forgotten... So the problem with the poem is that it is a defense of the Catholic Church, of the Crusades, and of war: three things not generally looked kindly upon in today's English literature classes; of course, neither are rhyme and meter. The only twentieth century poetry that is permitted to be studied is that which clashes with everything: with the ear, with history, and with common sense."
After having to read poems fetishizing decaying flesh and lovingly chronicling the darker aspects of Greek mythology ,and having had disturbing, unnecessary, and downright idiotic homoerotic interpretations of literature foisted on me, I can only concur full-heartedly.
I shall conclude with the cry of the Crusaders: Dominus le vult!
In Pace Christi,

Friday, August 2, 2013

Addendum: GKC on Ibsen

To: Ibsen the Norwegian playwright.

Re: A Doll's House

In Defense of Sanity, by G. K. Chesterton, p. 175: "But nobody seriously considers the remedy, or even the malady, or whether the existing individualistic dissolution [of the family] is a remedy at all. Much of this business began with the influence of Ibsen, a very powerful dramatist and an exceedingly feeble philosopher. I suppose that Nora of The Doll's House was inteded to be an inconsequent person, but certainly her most inconsequent action was her last. She complained that she was not yet fit to look after children, and then proceeded to get as far as possble from the children, that she might study them more closely."

Take that, Ibsen.


In Pace Christi,


Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Measure Is A Non-Hero?

Continuing to blog about literature in general rather than about particular works, I must mention that today in class Dr. Brewton brought up the subject of heroes and anti-heroes, and asked us to define what an anti-hero was. I said it was, "a protagonist who doesn't act very heroic," and he didn't seem to think that was it.

I have never understood why the protagonist is always assumed to be the hero. The protagonist is the main character, but they may not be the actual hero of the story. Usually, they are. The audience is supposed to sympathize with them. But then there are some works of fiction, like The Lord of the Rings, where Aragorn, the rightful king battling the evil forces of Mordor, who would normally be the hero in another work, instead takes second place to little Frodo taking the Ring to Mordor to destroy it.

Who's the hero now?

The term 'anti-hero' has been used so much that I think part of its meaning may have become lost or subverted over time. TVTropes seems to confirm this guess. It also identifies five variations of anti-heroes, ranging all the way from unwilling heroes, like Bilbo Baggins, to people who are heroes in name only.

I think anti-villains should also be mentioned. They are villains who are not very villainous. The audience generally wants them to join the good guys. Man, is Intelligent Systems bad about this. At least, in Fire Emblem (a strategy RPG I'm fond of and which very few people seem to know about) there is always one character on the enemy's side who is morally sound and knows he is on the wrong side but for whatever reason - honor, etc. - remains on that side and dies with stupidity and honor.

STUPID, STUPID, STUPID CAMUS. Things could have worked out so well and the next war might have been averted if only you had switched sides!!! Gah.

Sorry, minor tangent.

Since pictures are supposedly worth a thousand words and most people like pictures more than reading through a wall of text, I think illustrating the difference between heroes and anti-heroes via images from modern media would be a good idea.

Oh, and Dr. Brewton said there are no true heroes. Let's take a look and see.

Captain America

Now, I think most people would agree that Steve Rogers, more commonly known as Captain America, is a hero. He has all the qualities, and no actual superpowers (he's basically just a man whom 'science' elevated to the peak of physical condition). And he remains a good man.

When Dr. Brewton was talking about anti-heroes, what actually was running through my mind was a conversation from Marvel's The Avengers. (Yes, that is the full and proper name of that movie.) I can't remember exactly how it goes, but Steve says something along the lines of, "You're not the guy to make the sacrifice place, to lie down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you." And guess who responds with, "I think I would just cut the wire."

Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man

Tony Stark is much more of an anti-hero than Steve Rogers. How much Tony is an anti-hero is up for debate, as I see some definite character development over the course of the movies he's been in so far. We see him as a partying playboy in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, but he comes to realize what is being done with his technology and try to stop it. He abandons his womanizing ways for Pepper. And at the end of The Avengers he's the one who takes the nuclear bomb to the Chitauri when, as far as he knows, the cost is his life.

Still not entirely heroic, but hopefully getting there.

A better example would probably be this guy:


This is a good time to state my confusion as to why everyone loves Wolverine so much. I mean, really. Sure, he can beat up stuff with ease and heal from everything. He's probaby the most popular comic book character from any X-Men series. And yes, his claws are cool.

However, with me personality counts for more than appearance and ability to beat up enemies, and I don't like Wolverine. This is probably an appropriate time for me to start an Internet war and admit that I like Cyclops better than Wolverine.

I'm serious.

Let us proceed to more heroes!

Bilbo Baggins

Yes, he just won the MTV Best Hero award, but the point is that Bilbo Baggins is a Type I anti-hero, at least to begin with, as TVTropes classifies them. He is a reluctant hero; he doesn't have any particularly heroic traits. He's just a hobbit who would have preferred to stay in Bag-End, but who was dragged into an epic quest by Gandalf and the dwarves. He isn't terribly useful to begin with, and has no clue what to do with a sword when he gets one.

Over time, however, he does find his courage. And he ends up saving the dwarves multiple times, and becomes a true hero. There and back again.

Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins

Did you know that J. R. R. Tolkien actually considered Sam to be the hero of The Lord of the Rings? Well, he did. Sam represents the ordinary person who is capable of great and heroic things. Frodo has everything he has learned from Bilbo to go on. Still, they are both heroes. Frodo spends so much of himself, body and soul, sacrifing himself down to the last drop to get the Ring to Mordor. Sam battles a giant spider demigoddess (no joke - read The Silmarillion) and carries Frodo up Mount Doom. They are heroic in every sense.

To make it worse, Frodo had to lose the Shire for himself so that others might keep it. There was no going 'there and back again', not for him. I am beginning to wonder if it was not the same for Bilbo, underneath everything, too.

And then there's this to be said, from lotrconfessions.tumblr:

Yes, Dr. Brewton, there are heroes, even if they exist only in our imagination. And I think it is vital that heroes exist, even if it is only in our imagination. I believe that when humanity loses its heroic ideal it has lost its compass, and we become than the apes of the jungle. Not because we are cruel, for animals can be cruel as well, but because we are cruel when we could be otherwise.

When we have lost our heroic ideal, we are doomed. Notice what the picture above says. Aragorn is portrayed, not as 'men should be', for should indicates passive necessity, but as 'men must be', which indicates active necessity. It is not only a good thing that men should be like Aragorn, but an obligation. An absolute necessity.

Otherwise, we are lost.

In Pace Christi,


P.S. Our inability to pronounce African names led us to call one character 'Ike'. Since I have already mentioned Fire Emblem, I'd just like to say that this is Ike:

Those who play Smash Brothers will recognize him. They will also probably know he fights for his friends. Did you know he never actually says that in the game?

Yes, I read gamescripts...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Meaning of Literature

Now that I have that pretentious, high-faluting title for this blog post out of the way, I can continue in my usual random, completely informal style, with my usual philosophizing. I know you non-existent readers are most anxious for the next installment of my words of wisdom.

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. The bad thing about literature versus spoken communication is that it is much harder to communication emotion or intent through the printed/typed medium. Italics and bold only help so much. Underline and strikethrough I use less often.

Anyway. Mild tangent. See? It's happening already!

So in class yesterday Dr. Brewton expounded for a while on the meaning of literature, and how a lot of times its meaning is not always exactly what the author says it is. In other words, it can have meanings the author did not intend. However, as an author myself, I think in most of these cases the meaning is not necessarily there, latent and under the surface for a cunning reader to delve out, but rather is read into the work by the reader. I think that is the case for a lot of people who analyze things Freudian style.

I think you know by now my position on those things. Let us never speak of this again.

Moving along.

Despite my misgivings in those cases, I do think that the meaning of a work of literature can very much be more than the sum of its parts. After all, if you reduce, say, Hamlet by Shakespeare to its constituent vowels and consonants, as the Auditors of Reality in a Discworld novel would do (they reduce famous paintings to carefully divided and organized blobs of paint in an effort to understand art), you have not learned what it is. Instead, all you know is what it was made out of.

That is why Gandalf says to Saruman in The Fellowship of the Ring: "He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

Always listen to Gandalf. He knows best. Better than you, at any rate.

This is why I do not hold with literary analysis of many works of fiction. I saw a book in Books-a-Million one day, filled with analyses of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I like that series, so I flipped through the book. Other than the interesting point being made that monsters in that series usually pose as salesmen (salespeople, if we want to be PC), which is hilariously true, once you think about it, it wasn't that interesting. Reading about a series is nowhere near as interesting as actually reading the series.

Peter Kreeft (yay, I just got a new book by him today - my trinity of favorite authors goes like this: JRRT, PK, and GKC, or Tolkien, Kreeft, and Chesterton) actually made the same point in his introduction to The Philosophy of Tolkien. While reading about the characters, places, and themes in an analysis can be no fun at all (who wants to read the rehash when you could read the original?), reading about the themes or the mindset behind the work can be vastly interesting, and so it was with Kreeft's book. Granted, I love all his books, but The Philosophy of Tolkien has got to be my favorite by him. It combines several of my great loves: Tolkien, logic, right morality, and philosophy.


However, while picking apart a work of fiction to its bare bits may not tell you too much about what it is or what it means, and while readers may read many questionable things into a work that do not really mesh with the author's worldview or purpose, I do believe that there can be meanings actually latent in the work that the author did not intend.

To illustrate, in one of J. R. R. Tolkien's letters, he talks about meeting an old man who had several pictures he thought displayed scenes in LOTR perfectly. Tolkien admitted he had never seen the pictures before. The man was silent for a while and then said: "You don't suppose, do you, that you wrote that book all by yourself?" Tolkien commented that that was an alarming conclusion for a middle-aged philologist to draw concerning his own private amusement.

However, I think the man was right. There is something about LOTR, and about other great works of literature (not necessarily the ones the critics have arbitrarily deemed 'the classics'), that resonates with people. We read them again and again. Why?

I think there are many reasons, but one of the deepest has got to be the fact that these stories touch on eternal, objective truths. They enshrine themes written deep into the DNA of our souls, and we quiver like a guitar string when a hand touches it or like the string in the piano when the little felt-covered hammer hits it. Somewhere deep down inside us, we recognize these themes, out of the wrack and ruin original sin has inflicted upon us, and we cannot help but respond to them. They become great books, or books which are read by humanity, and they stay with us forever.

(Granted, I'd like to disagree on the Eragon one, and I can't really say much about The Hunger Games since I haven't read them, but you get the picture...)

Being an author myself (even if not a published author, of course), I think I have an interesting viewpoint on literature, either my own or others'. I am too close, in a sense, to my own works to analyze them honestly; they have come from my heart, and while I can nitpick them and generally act all perfectionist, like a fussy parent, I can say what I think is true about them, but I may not know for sure.

Granted, it's like that with me and any work of literature, probably. I say what I think is true, but it may not be only actually true: I may only perceive it to be true, with my limited vision.

But, yes, I have had that feeling of, "I haven't written this all by myself." I remember deciding that green would be the color of hope in the world I have made for my stories, and then reading that the Church has traditionally considered green to be the color of hope. I speculated about what men would have been like if they had not fallen in the Garden of Eden, and then I read elsewhere the speculations of others that confirmed my own.

It can be eerie, frightening, and/or ultimately uplifting, the feeling that something great and wonderful and vast beyond reckoning, something that has been born of the more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophies, which is being born through you at the design of someone else.


There cannot but be a Mind behind it all. Or life would not be worth living.

"You all right? I was worried about you back on the bed there. Your eyes rolled up into your head and everything."

"I supose I was dying again, so I asked the Lord of Permanent Affection for the strength to live the day. Clearly, the answer came in the affirmative."

"I didn't know there was such a Fellow," Buttercup said.

"Neither did I, in truth, but if He didn't exist, I didn't much want to either."

-- The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. Yes, there was a book before there was the movie. It is Good Fiction, and you should definitely read it. I have recently discovered it myself (a million thanks again, Marcela, for recommending it!!). Now, it is a wacky, zany tale, but this part at the end really struck me.

It reminds me of the scene in The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis (part of the Narnia series, of course, you people whose childhood did not include it), where Puddleglum stomps on the Green Witch's fire and makes a very good speech about how their belief in Aslan and in Narnia may be something they have made up, that they are all dreaming, but that he would rather stand by it, because it'd be a much better world than meaningless existence in the Underland, ruled by her.

C. S. Lewis was the successor of G. K. Chesterton in many ways. It's a pity his theology can sometimes be a bit wonky. (And never, ever read That Hideous Strength. Just don't. Read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra and love them, but never read the third book. You'll go nuts sooner than figure it out.)

Continuing with my random elaborations upon Dr. Brewton's words (and also continuing with my abrupt thought shifts), I must mention that he said the only way to ensure that every meaning in your work of literature was a meaning you intended would be to invent your own language. Been there, done that, it doesn't work. Tolkien invented several languages. (So have I. They are inferior to Tolkien's. Because everything that I can do halfway well, he did better.) And look what still happened to him!

There are phrases, metaphors (a favorite word of Terry Pratchett), and figures of speech. Language is a living thing, shaped by countless thoughts and minds and environments, as the Duat is shaped by the dreaming minds of so many in Egyptian mythology. (At least, as interpreted by Rick Riordan.) And there is always, always the glorious risk that you may be inspired, and that something larger than you and more wonderful than your thought may be written through you.

Words are the houses of being, after all. In principio erat Verbum.

It should be no surprise that the works of letters, literature, holds such power over our minds and hearts. It is composed of words, and is therefore inherently potentially a great good or a great evil. Literature can be sacred or it can be the opposite of sacred.

Yes, I see everything from an eschatological standpoint. Welcome to my world.

Literature is like music in that respect, I think. It should not be misused. Terrible consequences may ensue. Terrible things. Because fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate, and hate... leads to suffering.

All right. I can no longer be serious. Have this funny gif:

To quote Celtic Woman, good night and joy be to you all!

In Pace Christi,


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Yeats, Not Keats

So, yes, his name is pronounced YATES, rhmying with crates and dates and mates and NOT with Keats and beets and greets. (And that sentence has made me feel like Dr. Seuss. O.o) I did not know that. The fact that I have been pronouncing his name wrong for so long has no doubt contributed to my inability to distinguish between Keats and Yeats. Now, hopefully, I will be able to tell the difference.

I just have to remember that Yeats is the one with the creepy obsession with Greek mythology.


It made my physically sick to my stomach to read the one about Leda. (Poor, poor girl...) I don't like reading that kind of stuff! If Dr. Brewton brought it up in class, I would probably have asked to be excused and go sit in the bathroom for a while or something. (Yes, I would have.) It didn't help that it felt like I was going to have a gallbladder attack, anyway (so, yes, your comment about trauma surgeons switching to general surgery and dealing with gallbladders was morbidly appropriate, Dr. Brewton.)

Let Us Never Speak Of This Again.

Anyway, I had actually encountered "The Second Coming" before, in one of my literature books in high school. I didn't think much of it then, and I think less of it now (my Brutal Honesty coming into play again), knowing this time around that he was into Theosophy and other illogical religions. Mostly, I remember "The Second Coming" for the last couple of lines, about the rough beast slouching to Bethlehem to be born. They're very memorable lines, but I cannot decipher the meaning behind them.

This leads to one of my biggest beefs with poetry. Why can it not make sense? Oh, I'm fine with usages of apostrophe, metaphor, simile, and the like. In fact, I expect them. What I don't get is when the author appears to switch topics randomly and talk about something very metaphorical. (Metaphorical. Metamorphorical rock. Read one of the Discworld books by Pterry, and you will never view that word the same way again.)

It gets so that I feel that poets should provide an explanation of their poems, saying what they intended to write about and what the various symbols and things mean. Of course, such poets would likely roundly condemn doing such a thing, as it would no doubt detract from the value of their poetry and the inherent mystery of their wordplay and symbolisms, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Dr. Brewton made the interesting comment today about how, "We don't read as much poetry as we should." This was intriguing. How much, exactly, poetry should we read? Should we even read poetry? Who decides how much and what types of poetry we should read? How should we read it?

Sorry. When statements are pronounced categorically in my hearing, I have the tendency to start questioning them. People don't cite their sources often; instead, they prefer to state their subjective opinions as objective fact. I ran into this the other day in one of my classes. It was rather annoying. *headdesk*

Anyway, I am not wholly against poetry. I just think it should tell a story, no matter how brief (capturing an emotion or a snapshot in time are perfectly acceptable), and it should make some sort of sense. Narrative poetry is probably my favorite. Hey, I've slogged through The History of Middle-earth with the Lay of Leithan ( it spelled Leithian? I'm not sure. Help... they're coming to take my Tolkien nerd credentials away...) and the poem-version of Narn i Hin Hurin, and liked them. I also like Beowulf. (Apparently, I like alliterative, Old-English-style poetry. Go figure.)

In fact, some of my favorite parts in The Lord of the Rings actually are the poems! Sadly, very few of them make their way into the movies. However, the most memorable are ones like, "All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost..." and, "Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day's rising/ I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing..." And what about Galadriel's song: "I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew;/ Of wind I sang, a wind there came, and in the branches blew"? And, "Where are the horse and the rider?/ Where is the horn that was blowing?"

I know all of those by heart.

And who can forget the heart-breaking one that concludes the chapter The Battle of the Pelennor Fields? It lists the names of several men who died in the battle, people who are mentioned maybe once or twice in the books and never even alluded to in the movies, and ends with this: "Grey now as tears, gleaming silver,/ Red then it rolled, roaring water,/ Foam dyed with blood flamed at sunset/ As beacons mountains burned at evening:/ Red fell the dew in Rammas Echor."

Pardon me while I go cry again now...

However, it's not just Tolkien's poetry that I like. I am a huge fan of G. K. Chesterton as well. I absolutely love The Ballad of the White Horse (even if Tolkien said it wasn't strictly accurate) and Lepanto. GKC was a brilliant writer, whose nickname is the "Apostle of Common Sense". I think he definitely needs more love, particularly when we live in an age where we can all honestly say common sense is not in abundance.

So, yes, I like poetry. I just like poetry to make sense. If that's an oxymoron, so be it.

When Dr. Brewton mentioned that we don't read as much poetry as we should, Austin pointed out that music has replaced poetry in our modern lives. I think that is a very valid point. Music is a step up from poetry, just as poetry is a step up from conversation or prose. It's more dignified and elevated - more beautiful, I suppose I should say, or it should be. Suffice it to say that I believe music is sacred, and so I view... certain forms... of it to be unworthy of the name. I have ranted about this before on my normal blog and have no wish to start a flame war in our class, I shall say no more on that subject.

Dr. Brewton mentioned that church hymns likely originated with Gregorian chant during the Middle Ages. I wanted to point out that St. Gregory the Great, after whom Gregorian chant is (obviously) named, lived during the 6th century AD, a time period that is generally not considered part of the Middle Ages. Just me being a history nerd here; don't mind me...

So I thought I would dig out my humongous book, The 33 Doctors of the Church, and do a little research on St. Gregory to share with you all. Since it has been several years since I last read that book cover to cover (in fact, I only did that once) and I obviously do not remember the totality of it, I think this counts as NEW RESEARCH. Like one of my uncles said about a movie once: "If I wait to see it again for six months, it's like a whole new movie!" So, without further ado, let us investigate St. Gregory the Great.

First, a picture. Because we all like pictures. They don't make us think. Usually.

Now, I am fairly sure the papal tiara was not yet invented during St. Gregory's time. However, he is depicted with it to indicate that he was a Pope. I wish I could make out what the words of the song in his book say. I can tell you what the individual words are, but I can't recognize the lyrics of any Latin song that I know.

Anyway, back to St. Gregory. He was born around 540 (difficult to find precise dates for people's lives back then!) and died in 604 AD. He was Pope for fourteen years, ranging from 590 to 604. He came from a wealthy political family, which also, very surprisingly, happened to be a saintly family. Both his mother, Sylvia, and two of his aunts, Tarsilla and Aemilia, are also venerated as saints. He received a good education and had become one of, if not the most powerful political men in Rome by the time he was in his thirties.

Even so, he rid himself of all his properties to found monasteries and hospitals for the poor of Rome, becoming a simple monk himself. Later, he would claim that his days in the monaster were the happiest times of his life: "My poor mind, distracted by the worry of business, reverts to old monastic days when passing events glided along far beneath if, while, soaring above the whirl of activity, it dwelt on things of God alone..." (from the Preface to The Dialogues)

As is usually the case, his talents ensured that he would soon be dragged back into positions of authority so he could help the Church. He served as a representative of the Pope to the Roman Emperor in Constantinople, and eventually became the abbot of his monastery. He had a special desire to travel to England and be a missionary there, but was prevented. What happened was that he saw slaves being sold in the Roman forum, blond-haired and blue-eyed. Struck by their appearance, he asked to what race they belonged. "Angles, from Briton," he was told. "Not Angles, but Angels," he replied. Eventually, he arranged it so that St. Augustine (not St. Augustine of Hippo, but St. Augustine of Canturbury) was sent to England to convert the pagans there.

After Pope Pelagius II died, Gregory was chosen as his successor. He did not want to be the Pope. He actually tried to hide and escape after the election! However, once he was consecrated as Pope he took his duties very seriously and worked through many illnesses.

St. Gregory wrote a number of learned books, including Pastoral Care/The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Moralia/Morals on the Book of Job.

As far as the Mass and religious music goes, St. Gregory made a number of reforms to the Mass, little of which would probably make any sense to anyone if I were to describe them. His role in furthering liturgical music is harder to pin down. A biographer of his from the 9th century, John the Deacon, says that St. Gregory founded two schools of chant and himself listened to the altar boys practice, helping keeping them in time with taps of a rod.

My book, 33 Doctors of the Church - yes, St. Gregory is numbered among them - goes on to say that John the Deacon was not very complementary about Germanic and Gallic voices chanting. He compared them to the "confused sound of wagons coming downstairs"! I find this priceless. Apparently, he considered the voices of Germanic people to be deeper ("thunder", he describes it) and rather grating, especially in comparison to the "sweetness of sustained modulation" that Roman people were apparently capable of. LOL. In my humble opinion, I think that the natural strength of a Germanic voice such as this is more suited to Gregorian chant! Latin has a lot of rich sounds, which a strong voice would suit.

Then again, I may be just biased because I am Germanic myself and have a fairly strong, deep voice like my dad's family. (We are probably some of the louder members of the congregation. However, that may be a good thing because a lot of people just don't sing.) I am fully aware of how loud I can be in church, which you may not believe if all you've seen of me is the girl trying not to fall asleep in the front row.

(I have actually had someone mistake me for a boy on the phone. In her defense, she was a little old lady.)

Back to St. Gregory! His feast day is September the 3rd. For those of who you are not Catholic, feast days are days of the liturgical year on which we commemorate various holy people. You know, like March 17th is St. Patrick's Day?

I think I should now share an example of Gregorian chant with you all. Some people may no doubt dislike it or find it creepy, but I personally find it very soothing and beautiful. Because I'm just weird that way.

It's not that long. Listen to it all the way through. May your day improve with it!

In addition to mentioning Gregorian chant at the beginning of class (notice how I am passing in a Ciceronian silence over the middle portion of class), Dr. Brewton asked us at the end of class for a literary work we identified with and why. I wanted to respond, but we ran out of time. I don't think my answer would be hard to guess...

Dun-dun-dun... THE LORD OF THE RINGS!


The Lebensschauung and Weltansschauung (way of looking at life and at the world, respectively) match my own. It's not your typical, stupid teen paranormal romance book with the obligatory vampires, werewolves, and zombies (I was in Books-A-Million Tuesday, and there is a vampire-ified version of The Sound of Music. No kidding. It was called: "My Favorite Fangs." Now pardon me while I go perform an Obliviate on myself). It has depth to it. Substance. It is real. Its themes of loyalty, sacrifice, of death and immortality (Tolkien himself identified this as one of the more prevalent themes), and of good versus evil resonate strongly with me.

I believe that there are sacred things and evil things in this world. I believe there is a Melkor we call the devil, and I believe there is an Eru, the One, the Illuvatar, the Father of All. Why do I identify with the world of Middle-earth so strongly? Perhaps because it is our world, all the richer and more real to us for having been dipped in myth and legend. We see our own potential in it, and long for it - we long for the meaning and life that Middle-earth has, and which we have lost.

We see in Middle-earth our Paradise Lost, and we want to return to it.

Can I put it any more plainly?

In Pace Christi,


P.S. This post was not very much about Yeats, was it? Probably for the best.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Henrik Ibsen

I couldn't think of an imaginative title for this post, so it's very blah. Descriptive and informative, yes, but not terribly exciting.

Just to defy Dr. Brewton (I think I have given ample warning that I have a troll personality), I have this to say: "Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright..."

Now I may have alluded to this before, but I write fantasy stories set in a little world of my own. As Sir Walter Scott bemoans in his introduction to Ivanhoe, an author is always on the search for good names. I am an author, and, yes, I am alwas on the lookout for names that I think are cool. When I see one I like, I write it down. I actually have a list of names I think would be suitable for future characters. Sometimes I change them up a bit first. Now, these names come from all over. I take them from random things and assign them randomly based on the feel of the word and what it sounds like to me. What brings me back to our Norwegian playwright is the fact that I must have seen Ibsen's last name somewhere a while back, changed it to Ibzan, and applied it to a wyvern-like creature in my world.

No joke.

Back on topic!

The fact that he was Norwegian is fascinating to me, for reasons I cannot fully comprehend myself. I think it is the fact that Norse is a Germanic language, and I have seen Old Norse words in the dictionary so often from looking up the etymologies of things. (Yes, I read dictionaries. You should probably start running right now.) So in doing NEW RESEARCH (do you see that, Dr. Brewton? NEW RESEARCH!) for my blog, I decided to look up the etymology of Henrik.

Henrik is, of course, related to 'Henry'. Both words derive from the Old Germanic name of Heimrich, which means 'home ruler', from heim 'home' and ric 'ruler', according to Behind The Name. The ending sound of 'k' was dropped in English, of course, just like the initial or final 'g' was dropped in so many of our words when they have not been dropped in German, for instance. (Contrast 'day', which was originally daeg, with German tag.)

Apparently, Henrik is the 11th most popular name for boys in Norway, but Henry is only the 57th most popular name in America. That's quite a difference. It just goes to illustrate the fact that traditional names have sadly declined among children in America, in favor of giving each child their very own, unique name. Now, my name is rather uncommon and its spelling is even more uncommon, but it's an old name. It's derived from 'Elizabeth' (which itself means, 'God is my oath', according to some translators). It's not like some names where you can't tell if they belong to a boy or a girl and if the parent just did a keyboard smash to come up with the name.

Because, seriously, sometimes they are like that.

I'm not knocking ethnic names, though. Ethnic names are fine, as long as they actually belong to people of that ethnicity who presumably carry on those customs and that language. But just making up random stuff that bewilders announcers and formatters for SAT tests... Pointless.

Besides, I like traditional names.

ANYWAY. Back to the subject at hand!

Since I love using TVTropes for all my research, I have decided to look up Ibsen on there. If I'm unfortunate, there'll only be bare bones about him, but if I'm lucky, there may be something interesting...

Aha! There is a nice article for him and several individual articles for his plays. How wonderful! Now let us investigate them, precious, and share our findings with everyone else. First, a picture of Henrik Ibsen, since our blogs are supposed to be interactive, precious...

Nice beard.

Now, I think we discussed A Doll's House pretty well in class today (complete with dramatizations, which I think none of us were expecting... o.O), so I will not rehash it, but go out in search of NEW RESEARCH. (No, Dr. Brewton. I never let anyone forget things like that.) Instead, let us go explore a different one of his plays. What all did he write? (Yes, I am typing this post while looking up stuff.)

Let's see. He wrote Brand, which is apparently about a preacher who goes off the deep end and which ends with everyone dying; Peer Gynt; Emperor and Galilean (does that have anything to do with Julian the Apostate's dying words as he flung a handful of his blood in the air, screaming, "Thou hast conquered, Pale Galilean; the world has gone gray with Thy breath?" or did Julian only do that in poetry?); Ghosts; An Enemy of the People; The Wild Duck; Hedda Gabler; and The Master Builder.

Amusingly, Henrik Ibsen seems to have had an enemy in the Swedish playright August Strindberg. (I have heard that Norwegians and Swedish have a semi-friendly rivalry before, and this would seem to corroborate that account.) The Swedish playright apparently accused Ibsen of stealing ideas from him, such as ripping off his own Miss Julie and making Hedda Gabler out of it. His accusations seemed to have had the opposite effect on Ibsen, however, as he was apparently delighted by having an archrival (this sounds like comic books now) and hung a large picture of Mr. Strindberg over his desk. He said it helped him concentrate.

And this, my friends, is why reality can sometimes be so much better than fiction. Seriously, you just can't make this stuff up.

I think Peer Gynt looks interesting. I've heard the name before, and I do believe it was set to music... Yep, it says here that Edvard Grieg, who was a Norweigan composer, wrote the theme music for this play. I have actually heard of Edvard Grieg before, since he was in a composer go-fish game my piano teacher has, but all I know about him is that (1) he was Norwegian and (2) he wrote Norwegian Mountain Tunes, Peer Gynt, and I Love Thee. So anything else I learn about him will be NEW RESEARCH!

Besides, Dr. Brewton said to make personal connections and to look up stuff that interests us, so I am going to look up about how one of Ibsen's play was set to music!

All righty. Peer Gynt is a play about a Norwegian farm boy named Peer Gynt (what else did you expect?), a womanizer who prefers to run away and shirk all responsibility rather than face the consequences of his actions. Along the way he encounters trolls and a Boyg (an undefinable creature of slime and fog). A virtuous girl named Solveig, who is associated with light and the sun ("Sol" ring any bells?), is trying to save his soul. However, after being confronted with another set of consequences, Peer Gynt runs away from her and goes overseas, where he has various misadventures and eventually gets consigned to a madhouse. (And we wonder why.) An old man now, he returns to Norway to find his farm in ruins, the villagers mocking him, and Solveig still waiting for him to try to redeem him.

I have to admit, it certainly is reminiscent of the medieval Everyman plays. I actually like the Everyman play, even after reading it in high school. I just can't help it. I love it when an anthropomophic representation of Death shows up. (Favorite character in the Discworld? Either Death or Vetinari, unsurprisingly.) My favorite character in my own fantasy stories is my Angel of Death (he's called the Summoner), and so on account of that I like seeing how other authors depict Death.

Now, onto Edvard Grieg!

TVTropes (since I am apparently not to use Wickedpedia) says that the incidental music Edvard Grieg wrote for Peer Gynt was published in two different Peer Gynt Suites. The most famous of which are "The Hall of the Mountain King" and "Morning Mood". I think I shall look them up and then share them with you all. Because I love music, and so should you.

There are many comments on this song to the effect of "RIP earbud users", so I would recommend caution. It starts out very quiet, but gets lower towards the end. So use caution! I personally do not like using earbuds unless the music is very soft because I value my hearing, but I know that a lot of people use them with their iPods (I am not one of them, for I do not have an iPod). So just warning you all!

Huh. The first part of it reminds  me strongly of a song by Liszt (oh, no, here I go with Liszt again!). It was actually a fun song to play, but was hard. Most of his songs were hard. They were hard like video games by Nintendo are hard. Not to mention it wasn't the most coherent of pieces, but, hey, this was Liszt....

I think I shall find it and post a video of it as well!

It's called "Dance of the Gnomes" by the way. I think it's an evocative enough title. The pianist is apparently Italian.

The other famous song by Edvard Grieg for Peer Gynt is "Morning Mood".

So there. I have made a personal connection with Henrik Ibsen's name and the music associated with his works. I have shared beautiful music with you all. And it has been NEW RESEARCH! What more do I need to do?

In Pace Christi,


Monday, March 18, 2013

Kreeft Re: Kant

The other day I was flipping through one of my philosophy books by Peter Kreeft in search of something entirely different when I chanced across a passage about Immanuel Kant. I was very gleeful at my find and saved the page so I could share it with everyone.

As if everyone in the class reads my blog. In fact, I am quite sure that less than 50% of the class even cares what the rest writes on their blogs. Actually, if anyone else in the class reads my blog I will be surprised.

I mean, they haven't commented on anything. Granted, that's a smart move. I was under the impression last semester that Dr. Brewton had mandated we were all to use Blogger so we could comment on everyone else'se blog. So I commented on someone's blog. I promptly felt like a creepy stalker and have wanted to delete that comment ever since. (Is it possible to do so?) I wondered if I should post another comment apologizing, decided that would be equally creepy, pondered apologizing in person, and decided that would be really creepy. I have settled for pretending it never happened and trying not to randomly freak out in said person's presence.

Here's to hoping said person has forgotten it entirely.

ANYWAY, back to the business at hand. A Refutation of Moral Relativism, by Peter Kreeft, page 48-49:

"[Kant] called his most important idea his "Copernican revolution in philosophy". That was the notion that the human mind makes the truth instead of discovering it, that truth is formed by the human mind. And that includes moral truth. Kant called true morality "autonomous", that is, man-made rather than "heteronomous", made by another, by God. So our will makes the moral law, not God's. We make it; we don't discover it. I'd call that subjectivism. It's nine-thenths of the way to moral relativism. It's not yet moral relativism because Kant also believed that all minds necessarily worked the same way and created the same morality-- like logic or math. So morality was universal and necessary for Kant but not objective."

Of course, the temptation with such a values system as subjectivism is that if you have made up your own morality, you can change it whenever and whyever you want. (Is 'whyever' a word? If not, it should be. It sounds cool.) And so, to continue with our journey into Kreeft:

"Kant tried to prevent that, but he failed. He tried to prevent it by arguing that I can't logically succeed in creating my own morality contrary to the universal Golden Rule, and absolute "Categorical Imperative". It's logically inconsistent to will that everyone lie or steal when I do. But he failed because why should I care about logic if I made that up too?"

You have to admit, it makes sense in a rather chilling way... And so Kant seems to have realized the destructive tide his theory would unleash, and tried to stem it. However, he should have known it wouldn't work. Because along came Hegel, who destroyed the last bit of objective reality Kant still allowed. To wit:

"Kant called it "things in themselves". He believed that this was something real but unknowable. Hegel argued: if it's unknowable, if we can't know it, then how can you know it's there? Knowing the unknowable enough to know it exists- that's a self-contradiction. Kant tried to limit thought, to draw a border to thought; but to do that, you have to think both sides of the border."

As if attempting (and doing a good job of it) to destroy common belief in objective reality were not enough, Hegel didn't stop there, but further postulated an idea that helped form relativism: "universal process. Everything flose; everything is in flux. Truth itself evolves, even God evolves, through human history, according to Hegel."

And then popped up Mr. Doom-and-Gloom, Friedrich Nietzsche, who announced, "God is dead." I find it darkly ironic and amusing, in a schadenfreude sort of way, that he said a man would go insane without God, which he did.

Have you made it all the way through this blog post? Congratulations! I would give you a big gold star if I could.

However, since I can't, I'll give you this picture from Catholic Memes:

In Pace Christi,