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Posts Tagged ‘good’

Fanny Price is one of the most boring heroines in literature.  She is always good, always correct, and it seems that her only faults lie in being too timid and being too easily fatigued.

Edmund Bertram is one of the least interesting heroes in literature.  He is sincere, intentional, and sober.  His primary shortcoming seems to be thinking the best of people and making the most of bad circumstances.

But isn’t real life and real goodness more like this duo?  Do they not refute our human tendency to buy into bright personalities, to follow confidence, to love foolishly?  Isn’t it hard to draw the line between dying to self and giving in to the pressures of those less wise?

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, does seem to be busy pressing these truths.  The most charming characters are the ones who oppose the good.  Mr. Henry Crawford and his sister Mary may not set out to be wicked, but they don’t try to be good.  They try to seem good.  They may even wish they were good.  What good could be done with them if good people took them under wing, befriended them, taught, influenced, married them?

How are good people to resist the allure of reforming their lovers?  How are good people to judge accurately?

While simultaneously facing these dilemmas and illustrating them, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram move through the excitement of new connections in the small neighborhood that has been their comfortable home.  Over and over again you see the heroine and hero making mistakes because of the things that influence their perspectives.  They doubt themselves.  They deceive themselves.  They reproach themselves.  They deny themselves.

And all through the plot, following paths merely tangential to each other, they’re getting a chance to discover the value of each other’s steady, reverential characters.  So when the events conspire to divide them from all the temptation of flattery, charm, and attraction, little wonder they proceed to fall in love with unsatisfactory brevity and with a felicity the envy of all their foolish relations.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Once upon a time I read a book, kept hoping it would make sense at the end, and when the end was not the resolution for which I had hoped, declared the book to be a bad one, and not worthy of recommendation.  That book was much shorter than The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I have never before read a Russian novel.  My literary experience has generally skirted the classics.  Against Tolstoy I am prejudiced, for his enormous works sat on the same shelf as Tolkien’s at the library, except Tolstoy’s were always waiting to be checked out while Tolkien’s occasionally visited their home nearby the famed Russian.  The literature of Russia has a reputation, but I am not entirely sure what that reputation is.  I think it has a reputation for being unpleasant.

For The Brothers Karamazov does not end like a romance or a tragedy.  The entire novel is like applied philosophy, the kind that is so like real life that it weaves a story.  There are many ideas brought forward by Dostoyevsky’s portrait of the Karamazov family, ideas which are loosely connected and often contradictory.  At the center of the tale is the trial of Dmitri Karamazov, the oldest son of the murdered Fyodor Karamazov.  Willing to betray a woman, willing to lie, unwilling to steal but stealing anyway, willing to beat a man – but not willing to murder?  Does integrity come by degrees?  What if the same man is willing to take pity, willing to show gratitude, willing to be generous, willing to love?  Can such extremes exist sincerely in one person?

Perhaps rather than claiming the book to be a study of evil’s causes and cures, it could be described as a description of the approach Russians have taken to evil.

Is evil innate?  Is it taught?  Is it a response to neglect and abuse?  Does evil behavior spring from insanity?  Is it the inevitable cause of rejecting God’s world – even if you still embrace God?

What about cure?  Will science cure evil?  Liberation?  If a culture embraces the creed that “all is lawful,” will evil cease to exist?  Can piety cure evil?  Goodness?  Vengeance?  Mercy?  Gratitude?  What prevents evil?  Honesty?  Faith?  Does the threat of law discourage evil?  Does the church’s social influence deter evil?

Has the church been corrupted?  Can conflict exist in the midst of the church or society, without at least one side representing evil?  Has God been corrupted?  Has God been lied about?  Has the Devil?  What is the Devil’s goal?  For that matter, what is God’s?

What would a man take in exchange for his soul?  If he could save someone he loved from damnation, what would he sacrifice?  If he could save someone he hated?  Would a proud enemy accept help?

What is the difference between remorse and despair?  Forgiveness and disdain?  Why do people seek after a sign?  Must we walk by reason and experience, or is it possible to walk by honor and faith?  Can a person love another and hate them at the same time?  Can God?

I once read a book and kept hoping that the end would bring resolution, but I will not declare this book to be a bad book.  I will humbly admit that I do not understand The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  It has a lot to say about the psyche of Russia, their history and culture.  If I re-read the book, now knowing the story, I might be able to follow its message.  But at 700 pages long, I’m not particularly eager to.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“And we urge you, brethren,

to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.

Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the faint-hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us.

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”

1 Thessalonians 5:12-26

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The politics of Star Wars are interesting.  The philosophy, though? 

I was watching Revenge of the Sith the other night, a tense and moving film filled with individuals in conflict.  Obviously Anakin is torn between what he wants and what he fears.  Padme loves Anakin but can’t believe who he’s become.  Obi Wan has to fight evil, though it is manifest in his pupil and friend.  The Jedi want to follow the Jedi-way, but evil is too powerful to be left alive that long. 

The prophecy, about the “chosen one”, is the one common theme in all of the movies.  Anakin is to restore balance to the force.  Balance is just the half-full way of describing this tension.  As Padme lies dying, she tells Obi Wan that there is good in Anakin.  Luke repeats this in Return of the Jedi, and ultimately, appealing to this shaft of goodness is what saves the galaxy. 

While I watched a few nights ago, Anakin Skywalker’s seduction by the Dark Side, I laid a finger on something that has always bothered me, a fundamental difference in philosophy between George Lucas and I.  For Anakin, there is no going back.  He never repents for what he has done, even at the end of Episode VI.  In Episode III, after disarming Master Wendu, leading to his death, Anakin’s whole being looks like he wishes he could repent.  “What have I done?” he cries out.  As though unable to control who he is or what circumstances limit him, the young Jedi hates who he is becoming yet boasts in it.  The wickedness in him is just as important, just as valid, as the good.  In the end of the story it is not a turning from his identity that causes the change, but the resurgence of a different part of his character. 

That is a hopeless, gnawing life.  The truth is, Anakin wasn’t good.  Neither was Darth Vader.  Goodness could only really come by acknowledging the wrong, and turning from it to something truly good outside himself.  Without that, there is no forgiveness, no redemption.  Without that, good versus evil is ultimately irrelevant.  Which matches the philosophy of the Jedi, who claim that “only the Sith [bad guys] deal in absolutes.” 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I finished a couple books that I haven’t reviewed yet.  One was by G.K. Chesterton, a genius who despised Protestants without ever really disagreeing with them.  Ok, but that’s not why I was reading him.  He wrote about marriage, home, and family, with great common sense.  Sometimes we say insight, and we mean something little.  I want to say prophetic in that intangible, surreal sense, but that’s strange.  He got into an issue and saw outside of it so that he could make points that should be so obvious, but none of the rest of us could see because we were busy arguing the points the wrong people were making to distract us from our strongest case.  So that was good, and beautiful, and challenging. 
 
Side note here to transition into the next book review.  I love reading books because they inspire me, make me think, or challenge me.  Books, unlike the majority of people I know, will tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I ought to do.  This is why I read books about relationships.  Maybe I’ll be burned by thinking I have all the answers, but in the mean time it makes me want to live a life preparing for the ideal romance and marriage – if I could just figure out what ideal was.  And for the moment, I have no firm idea of what an ideal man looks like to me either.  I think I have to meet him.  It’s like The Witch of Blackbird Pond says: Kit had to stop planning and start waiting.  The reason was, she would find out, a lot of these details are not a lady’s to figure, but the gentleman’s.  Letting other people make the decisions when they affect you is hard, but relaxing.  I did a lot of that this week. 
 
So I did just finish The Witch of Blackbird Pond, making a whole two books I’ve read with “Witch” in the title.  The first was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a book that my mom probably first read to me, and then I read it.  When your mom gives you a book as a kid, you think there could be nothing wrong with it.  That’s a good reason for rereading books when you’re smarter.  (So many people like CS Lewis, but his theology wasn’t always biblical; he never bothered to study the Bible, I think.)  Anyway, I would never have picked up this book either, but for a friend recommending it and saying how real the characters were.  It came from my library’s young adult section, which I think is sad because adults are not encouraged to read these really good books that would do them more good than they do kids.  It was short, though, so it would have looked strange next to the three hundred page hardbacks in the adult section. 
 
I’d say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don’t understand what’s going on.  And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work.  I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages.  It’s the kind of thing she would like and live – and the kind of thing I would like and try to live. 
 
So some people think I’m perfect.  I don’t know what I have to do to convince them I’m not.  What’s more, they think I’ll despise them for their weaknesses or desires.  All my life I’ve determined not to forget who I was and what it was like to be younger.  For example, I remember how very serious everything was in my life, and how sure I was of my ideas, and even now it isn’t so much that I was wrong as that I didn’t see the whole picture.  I desperately wanted someone to help me out with the big picture, but I guess not enough because I wouldn’t ask anyone.  This to say that I wanted to remember feeling those things so that I could relate to young people.  And I never wondered how I would clue kids in that I knew: that I hadn’t forgotten, that even though I’m not entirely normal, I had some of the universal experiences. 
 
I think of some of my friends not so much as perfect, but as good.  They love Jesus and they are willing to make right choices – the kind that don’t radically mess up their lives – but they struggle with the choices, and sometimes fail.  My friend who likes Blackbird Pond is one of those.  And now that I think about it, that’s probably one of the things I’m looking for in the man I’ll marry: that he’ll be good (but as Anne says, with the capability of wickedness which he denies) but struggle, and sometimes fail.  I’ve never loved a person before I knew some of their faults.  Weird, huh? 
 
So even novels I read, even the romantic ones that send me to long drives talking to God about waiting and “Where is he?” – are challenging.  Because The Witch of Blackbird Pond was about waiting and serving and looking at what is and what I can do instead of what might be or isn’t and what I can’t do (yet), and because it came packaged in a daydreamy story, I’m inspired.  Now if only I wasn’t so exhausted from a trip across two time zones… 
 
And the number one question on my mind is what to read next.  Seriously, I have a stack.  But I didn’t have to tell you that again, did I? 
 
Hey – in case you’re one of those people who thinks I’m perfect, I’m going to confess.  Maybe I should have confession Fridays or something.  = )  How’s that for a blog series?  Anyway, we were at the beach and I was feeling dreadful, but our group was taking pictures, and as I threw down my hat and jacket on the sand, I exclaimed that I had no idea how I looked, and asked a dear friend if I looked beautiful.  The other night she’d told me I did when I, a reflection recently refreshed in my memory, did not think so.  But honestly.  How immodest.  To beg for flattery even just privately from her would have been wrong.  In front of everyone?  Arg.  Not perfect.  Proud.  Vain.  Immodest.  Quick-tongued.  Self-focused.  Didn’t do personal devotions all week either.  I thought it was ok, and it was in an anti-legalist sense, but I think it would have helped to hear from Jesus. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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