A desperate dilemma confronts writers, artists, and students in these times: Authentic creative endeavor is always embedded in friendship and community. Yet both friendship and community seem increasingly remote and elusive.
This is why I find myself recommending Diana Glyer’s little book Bandersnatch to so many graduate students. Diana reflects upon lessons gleaned from lifelong study of the Inklings, particularly J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Then she skillfully draws from those insights numerous practical suggestions applicable for anyone embarked on a major creative project.
Many are the books providing helpful advice for students working on theses or dissertations (I have previously posted some pearls of my own). Yet I believe reading Bandersnatch will prove more helpful to most students than all of those books combined. I should probably buy copies not individually, but by the box or crate.
Last Friday night I was privileged to speak at a virtual meeting of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club. It is always a joy to gather with them. While I’ve talked with them before about Galileo, Kepler, star atlases, and many other topics in the history of astronomy, this was something a little different: “A Book Mystery: The New Galileo Affair.” Do you like mysteries? We played the role of book detectives exploring a still-unfolding Galileo affair. Here’s the abstract sent out in the OKCAC newsletter:
Galileo has been in the news again, or at least his books have. Over the last decade and a half, suspicions have been raised regarding several different copies of Galileo’s Starry Messenger (1610), the first published report of telescopic discoveries, as well as Galileo’s Compasso (1606), a manual for his engineering compass. The History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma holds first editions of both works. Both OU copies are marked by Galileo in his own handwriting. How have the suspicions and even charges of forgery affected interest in the OU copies? In this presentation, Kerry Magruder, Curator of the History of Science Collections, will recount the story from his own point of view as it unfolded over the past 15 years. This book mystery will give you a unique perspective on the latest “Galileo affair.”
The broadband connection was poor that night due to the onset of Oklahoma winds that began to blow through the area just as the talk was getting started. But my thanks to Danny, who kept things going despite the power flickers that beset us. And Danny edited out the down times when we were restarting our computers, routers, Zoom connections, etc.
The video records the complete monthly meeting of the OKCAC. My presentation begins about 21 minutes in.
See also the PBS website for the documentary “Galileo’s Moon.” This program includes interviews with many of the figures mentioned here. Watching my talk first may help you get more out of the documentary.
Interview by Gary Deddo for the You’re Included series, released January 2, 2022, in two parts, with the title “The Intersection of Faith and Science,” although it is largely autobiographical. It was recorded at the American Academy of Religion annual conference in San Diego in November of 2019.
At a Health and Human Services (HHS) Town Hall December 14, Francis performed a rendition of a well-known song adapted for particular circumstances, as he is wont to do, oftentimes with the collaboration of others (which surprises no one who is aware of his folk music roots growing up at The Oaks). In this case, Francis converted “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” into a song about the end of the pandemic:
So great to see the George MacDonald Society flourishing with activities like this. Hopefully this is the first of what may become an annual gathering this time of year. Thanks to those who organized it, to Malcolm Guite for welcoming and sharing his poem, “Descent,” and for all the readers. At the heart of today’s event was a reading of MacDonald’s story, “The Gifts of the Child Christ,” published in Stephen Archer and Other Tales, 1883, with an illustrated ed. in 1981. It is a poignant tale of how we are here to learn to love, how suffering and grief may be redeemed toward that end, and how Christmas-time may help us in that ongoing task.
I think I might be weary of this day
That comes inevitably every year,
The same when I was young and strong and gay,
The same when I am old and growing sere—
I should grow weary of it every year
But that thou comest to me every day.
I shall grow weary if thou every day
But come to me, Lord of eternal life;
I shall grow weary thus to watch and pray,
For ever out of labour into strife;
Take everlasting house with me, my life,
And I shall be new-born this Christmas-day.
Thou art the Eternal Son, and born no day,
But ever he the Father, thou the Son;
I am his child, but being born alway—
How long, O Lord, how long till it be done?
Be thou from endless years to years the Son—
And I thy brother, new-born every day.
George MacDonald, Poetical Works (London: Chatto & Windus, 1893), vol. II, p. 210.
Last spring, Candace and I read aloud Malcolm Guite’s anthology, Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter. We found the poems deeply moving, and Malcolm’s essays opened them up for us both as literature and as theology. We plan to return to them again this coming year.
So this Advent, we are taking up Malcolm’s similar collection, Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Each evening, if our schedules permit, we look forward to reading this aloud together. Malcolm often publishes the poems on his blog, so we listen to the audio file as he reads the poem for the night there, before we turn to read aloud the interpretative essay in the book.
Malcolm has a gift for selecting poems that are worth returning to over and over again, and for explicating them in ways that open up unexpected meanings of the season. The poets range from Christina Rossetti to Grevel Lindop, George Herbert to Ruth Pitter, Edmund Spenser to Luci Shaw, Alfred Lord Tennyson to Scott Cairns, among a host of others. Some are familiar favorites to us, some are new-found friends and companions.
These volumes now have become two of our most treasured books for reading at Christmas and Easter (cf. Christmas poetry to read aloud). We also keep Malcolm’s own books of poetry close by, as well as our volumes of Luci Shaw and Madeleine L’Engle.
Since we first encountered this song on John McCutcheon’s Winter Solstice album (1984; Apple Music), this has been one of our favorite Christmas songs. Here’s the Magruder Lassies version 😃. In the above music video by Ricky Skaggs, Keith Getty, and Kristyn Getty, I love the harmonies, the remarkable nature videography, and the fact that they sing all the verses!
Ricky Skaggs, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Brightest and Best (Apple Music)
“And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales
‘Cause after the last tear falls there is love”
This song resonates with what we have learned from our friend Mercy. At the Thanksgiving meal this year, Rachel read aloud from one of Mercy’s poems that our healing comes… “in the middle of our hard, as we learn to know the heart of our Healer…” Mercy Tobin, “Our Healer’s Heart,” in Safe in His Arms, p. 118.
In the post Favorite family Christmas movies, one of the video shorts we mention there is this classic from 1945. We first discovered it as an extra on the DVD for Christmas in Connecticut (1945), a more familiar Christmas classic starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet. This lesser-known video is a heart-warming, Oscar-winning short video set in the old West inspired by the story of the magi (IMDB). Candace and I look forward to watching Star in the Night each year. Because it’s only 22 minutes long, it’s easy to fit in when we don’t have time for a longer Christmas activity. And now it’s on youTube, so we don’t have to fiddle with the DVD remote.