Out of the Silent Planet, Chs. 18-Postscript

It was actually semi-sweet to say goodbye to Out of the Silent Planet this week. In the final denouement we were treated to the foundational theology that will undergird Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. Each planet is ruled by a particular eldil, or angel. In the case of Malacandra (Mars), on which this adventure takes place, the eldil is Oyarsa. The eldil who rules Thulcandra (or Earth), however, is bent, or evil. Whereas the communications between the other planets are faciliated by their angelic messengers/rulers, Thulcandra is the “silent planet.” It’s eldil contended against the other eldila in an age gone by, and drew down to Thulcandra (Earth) those with him. Since then, no communication has come from earth. Only God (Maleldil) knows what goes on. All else, to the rest of the beings of our solar system, is darkness and silence. Our evil eldil, obviously Satan, has drawn a hedge of darkness around our planet.

Oyarsa questions Ransom at length about this, though Lewis does not fully describe the exchange in the pages of the book. For Oyarsa, the ways that God has dealt with Earth are a mytery, terrible and wonderful at once.

In Out of the Silent Planet we have a description of a world of sentient beings who have never fallen. They are sinless. Interestingly, there is death on Malacandra, but it is done when Oyarsa determines to “unbody” these beings. But death is not full of fearful anticipation. Rather it is seen as a transition to a greater life. A life with which the universe pulsates. On the return trip home Ransom once again encounters the vastness of space not as “space” but as “the heavens,” full of life and the boundless energies of God. Just as is all the universe, which he learns while on Malacandra.

It is interesting how Lewis retells the Christian story from the outside looking in. Scripture calls Satan the prince of the power of the air, so in Lewis’ imaginative retelling, his authority over our “air” includes its being cut off from the rest of the living universe’s eyes. Too, Satan is described as having been cast out from (or drawn down from) heave to earth, as though he has become weighted with the darkness with which he has wrapped the Earth.

So many interesting themes will get played out in the next book, Perelandra, but I’m going to try to do better about not anticipating ahead.

Out of the Silent Planet is much more tantalizing than I remember. Too short, it leaves as mere foreshadow many important themes. Just when the mythology gets interesting, Ransom is heading back to Earth, to keep an eye on Weston and Devine. Sigh. Now that I appreciate this first book more, it ends too soon.

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Fathers Determine Faith

In the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine (Vol. 16: No. 5 [June] 2003, pp. 24-27), not yet online, is an article by Robbie Low entitled, “The Truth About Men and the Church.” The article utilizes sociological data from Switzerland appearing as “The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland”, by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner, in the second volume of Population Studies No. 31 entitled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, ed. by Werner Haug, et. al., and published in January 2000. (Whew!)

These are the highlights:

*If a father regularly attends church, then sixty-six to seventy-five percent of his children will either regularly or irregularly attend church, regardless of whether the mother regularly attends or not.

*If a father irregularly attends church, then fifty to sixty-six percent of his children will either regularly or irregularly attend church, again, regardless of whether the mother regularly attends or not.

*And if the father doesn’t attend church, then sixty to eighty percent of his children will not attend either, whether the mother herself regularly attends church or not.

In short, the mother’s affect on her children’s church attendence, without fatherly support, will keep children who might otherwise be non-attending churchgoers as irregular church goers. In the sociological data, this was the most positive outcome of the mother’s influence, considered by itself.

Thus, Low concludes, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children” (24).

This, to say the least, does not sit well with mainstream social thinking. But given that Americans and Europeans take sociological studies as more authoritative than the Christian Scriptures, it would seem that popular or no, these are facts that must be faced. Low admits that “The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know” (25).

Low points out that the primary role of the mother is one of intimacy, care and nuture. It is from the example of the father that the children (male and female) learn to engage the world outside the home, and which engagements are important. Where fathers are “indifferent, inadequate or absent,” Low notes, this task is much harder.

So it is surprising that churches in the West are so keen to follow feminism’s denigration of the male. From Murphy Brown to our own families, our society preaches fatherlessness as the norm. Men are expendable; at best, mere sperm donors. Nearly all the media examples of men and fathers show them to be ignorant, inattentive, and helpless.

And this teaching is having its impact. Low states that “we are ministering in churches that accepted fatherlessness as a norm, and even an ideal. Emasculated Liturgy, gender-free Bibles, and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer. In response, these churches’ decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated” (25-26). It is among the conservative and evangelical churches, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, which generally hold to traditional, partriarchal norms of family structure, where numerical growth is occurring. Given the data, this is to be expected. And Low continues, “The figures are in and will continue to come in. The churches are losing men, and, if the Swiss figures are correct, are therefore, losing children. You cannot feminize the church and keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men” (27).

I say again, this will not sit well with the readers of my blog who resist the clear biblical teaching. But what do they have to offer? Anecdotal stories of chauvinism and purported violence. Where these incidences occur even once, they are to be deplored. But the fact of the matter is, the evidence contradicts these anecdotal stories. Partriarchal understandings of family are, in short, better for the religious faith of the children.

Low concludes, “A church that is conspiring against the blessings of patriarchy not only disfigures the icon of the First Person of the Trinity, effects disobedience to the example and teaching of the Second Person of the Trinity, and rejects the Pentecostal action of the Third Person of the Trinity, but more significantly for our society, flies in the face of the sociological evidence! No father–no family–no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children” (27).

Another Example of Godly Fatherhood

Those Winter Sundays

by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Clifton Fitzroy Healy, 9 August 1913-10 February 1991

At work, one of my rather mindless tasks is to test books for pH levels. This requires the demanding duty of placing a small amount of water on the page of a book, and placing a sensor tube in the drop of water. Then I wait a few minutes until the pH level registers, and record that level on a piece of paper. However, despite this riveting work, I am able to read while I do it.

One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Victor Davis Hanson’s Fields Without Dreams, in which Hanson, a classicist specializing in early Greek warfare and agriculture, describes the decline of his family’s fruit tree farm and vineyard, and those of the surrounding area, near Alma, California. Reading that book really brought to mind my late grandfather, Clifton F. Healy.
Continue reading “Clifton Fitzroy Healy, 9 August 1913-10 February 1991”

Out of the Silent Planet, Chs. 12-17

This week’s installment was rich. Much good commentary on language, work and productivity, knowledge, and, mostly, angelology.

But what I found most intriguing was Hyoi’s account of pleasure and memory. In a passage worthy of consideration alongside Aristotle’s De Anima, Bk Gamma, Lewis writes of a conversation between Ransom and Hyoi. Ransom begins:

‘If a thing is a pleasure, a hman [i. e., earthly human] wants it again. He might want the pleasure [of sexual intercourse] more often than the number of young that could be fed.’
It took Hyoi a long time to get the point.
‘You mean,’ he said slowly, ‘that he might do it not only in one or two years of his life but again?’
‘But why? Would he want his dinner all day or want to sleep after he had slept? I do not understand.’
‘But dinner comes every day. This love, you say, comes only once while the
hross lives?’
‘But it takes his whole life. When he is young he has to look for his mate; and then he has to court her; then he begets young; then he rears them; then he remembers all this, and boils it inside him and makes it into poems and wisdom.’
‘But the pleasure he must be content to only remember?’
‘That is like saying, “My food I must be content to eat.”‘
‘I do not understand.’
‘A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking,
Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The seroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of the poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. . . .’
. . .
‘And indeed,’ he continued,’the poem is a good example. For the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only by means of all the lines after it; if you went back to it you would find it less splendid than you thought. You would kill it. . . .’

[p. 73]


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The Fatherhood Chronicles V

Well, about a month or so ago, Anna and I went on our first major baby-stuff buying outing. She got the crib set she wanted, clothes, and so forth. Heck, we even bought a diaper pail on the way home from Divine Liturgy on Mother’s Day! Today was yet another installment of “There-goes-Clifton’s-book-budget-money II (or III?): Carter’s Outlet Revisited.”

But lest you think I’m too terribly resistant to all this baby-product buying, I must make a public confession. As soon as I saw the Eric Carle “Hungry Caterpillar” diaper bag, I said to my wife (excitedly no less!): “There it is, hon!” and hustled over to the display rack. *Sigh* I’m a sucker fer kids’ stuff now. My youthful days of carefree living are now behind me. Fatherhood descends.

I tell you what, it’s a doggone good thing I got the complete works of Plato and Aristotle’s four major works (Physics, Metaphysics, De Anima, and Nichomachean Ethics; as well as a few others) in Greek. Not to mention my trusty LSJ lexicon (the Big Daddy), and several of the ancient commentators on Aristotle. Doesn’t look like I’m going to be spending much on books here in less than two months. Dang! And I’d had my eye on the W D Ross Metaphysics two-volume text and commentary!

The Fatherhood Chronicles IV

Last night was class two (of four) of our childbirth instruction. I swear by all that’s good: if I see another video of a live birth, I’m going to quit. I mean it.

The first night was pretty much learning about the three stages of labor: early, middle and active. In husband terms: panic, confusion, and dear-God-don’t-let-her-hit-me-again! We saw some video of live births. I winced and chewed my gum furiously.

Last night was more videos (How many women have let themselves be filmed while giving birth, anyway?! Sheesh!), but in addition to the “squeezing-a-watermelon-through-your-left-nostril”-cam shots of live births, we also got to learn about medications and medical procedures. My wife gets her choice of narcotics and a near-spinal-tap, and . . . you may have to cut where if the baby is slow in coming out?!!!

I swear to you, if I’d seen these videos in my junior high sex ed class, I would have been “scared celibate.” Monastic vocation, here I come.

But I think the videos are softening me up. The more babies I saw laid on their mother’s chest right after birth, the more I had to keep flicking away that darn dust speck that kept getting in my eyes. Yep, I’ll either pass out or be a blubbering idiot. My poor wife.