Category Archives: literature

Ryken on Christian literature

The intellectual usefulness of literature is not that it necessarily tells us the truth about an issue but rather that it serves as a catalyst to thinking about the great issues of life. If this is true, we can also see how misguided has been the frequent assumption that it is the task of Christian literary criticism to show that works of literature are Christian. The task is rather to assess whether and to what degree works are Christian in their viewpoint. Christian enthusiasts for literature too often seek to baptize every work of literature that they love.

Been reading articles in Dr. Leland Ryken’s anthology of works on literature and the Christian imagination, called “The Christian Imagination.”  Writers like JRR Tolkien, Francish Schaeffer, Annie Dillard, George MacDonald and others weigh in on the conversation.

Leland Ryken is professor of English at Wheaton College, and was the stylistic consultant for the ESV, and who authored “The ESV and the English Bible Legacy” which I highly recommend, if you’re the least bit interested in the heritage of our English Bible.

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“The Cow in Apple Time”, a poem by Robert Frost

As I drink my cider, read my Frost, and think about earlier autumn days with my family at a particular apple orchard we used to go to, I came across this poem.  I hope it will make you smile or even laugh as it did for me.

“The Cow in Apple Time”

Something inspires the only cow of late

To make no more of a wall than open gate,

And think no more of wall-builders than fools.

Her face flecked with pomace and she drools

A cider syrup.  Having tasted fruit,

She scorns a pasture withering to the root.

She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten

The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.

She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.

She bellows on a knoll against the sky.

Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.

– Robert Frost

Happy Apple Season!

A soldiers bravery

If I could quote this entire book, I would.  I’ve loved it so much!  An old man is reminiscing about his time as a soldier in the war as a Turk against the “Franks”.

But I will tell you a secret, which is that almost no soldier believes he will be killed. This is because it is impossible for the human being to imagine that he is dead, and this is because he is always alive and present in the act of imagining. He sees his comrades die, but he thinks himself immune, and this fatal lack in his nature makes him a good fighter. Even a man who has decided to die on purpose and become a martyr does not really believe in his own death.

Birds Without Wings, by Louis Bernieres

The One Who Wears My Ring

The One Who Wears My Ring

The old Roman stones were rough,

The nearby streets hustling bustling,

With the downtown baazar filled with stuff,

I’m found wanting.

 

Though the blue sea and its warmth does please,

The carpets of Anatolia do spark wonder,

One can live life here quite at ease,

But still for one thing do I hunger.

 

Fascination is filling its appetite,

And my eyes are filled with new sights,

Curiosity is overwhelmed with the number

Of unexplored corners, and unknown streets.

But when all is still and well,

The buses and taxis have had their fill,

When the fishermen have no fish to sell,

I’m found wanting one thing, still.

 

If I could travel even more…

If I could try the world’s foods…

If I could meet the most interesting people…

If I could see the oldest ruin…

I would still be found wanting this one thing.

 

In man’s pursuit of beauty in all the land,

All he wants is to walk with her, hand in hand.

Though the world interest, curiosity, and fascination bring

Only let me be with the one who wears my ring.

The Turkish Language Purification; the benefits and drawbacks

“It’s a pity, it really is,” my friend said.  “Our history is so rich, and now we are cut off from a lot of it.”  My co-worker and I were discussing the modern Turkish language reformation that happened sometime in the 1930’s under the direction of Turkey’s modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  It’s something I’m going to dig deeper about later, but first as background, the Turkish language went through a transformation most languages in the world don’t get….it got purified.  All during the famous Ottoman Empire the lingua franca was Turkish’s predecessor Osmanlaca (depicted above), which had similar grammar and vocabulary to the present Turkish spoken in Turkey now, but was written with Arabic characters.  Ataturk’s dream for his new country was to exist and partner with the West, but he noticed a problematic trend.  All the surrounding Muslim nations, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, were all large strides behind the West in terms of modernity, ability for communication and civilization.  His heart for Turkey was for her to keep up with the West, and the way to do that was to get rid of the extremely large communication barrier of language, or at least break down to manageable fences.  He did this by overhauling the language Osmanlaca and got rid of the Arabic characters and replaced them with Latin characters, thus the Turkish we know today.

My friend and I were talking about this reformation and how it had both great and not so great consequences on Turkey.  The terrific effect of Latinizing the language was the shortening of the language bridge of Turkish to English and vice versa.  The downside to this transformation of language was Ataturks “other” motive.  In getting rid of the Arabic characters, he also wanted to “purify” the Turkish language.  You see the Ottoman Empire was an extremely ethnically mixed empire. Christians, Muslims and Jews co-mingled peaceably, and with the various ethnicities there were many dialects of Osmanlaca.  Bulgarians, Romanians, Arabs and Persians lived in this empire, and as is the nature of two languages living side-by-side, they lend to each other.  Up to the transformation of the Turkish language, it consisted of Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and various European linguistic flavors.  Ataturk’s goal was in effect to place a language filter under Osmanlaca, so that as it dripped through only pure Turkish comes through to the other side, getting rid of “foreign” influences.

Well this succeeded for the most part, sadly.  My friend was telling me that most of the youth don’t know old Turkish, but simple modern Turkish.  Well what’s the problem with that, you might ask.  Language is inextricably linked to culture.  One defines the other.  One feeds into the other.  The presence of certain words in a culture can speak volumes to the ethnic history of a people group.  You take away one’s language, you take away their culture.

The same day my friend and I had this conversation, I saw students walking around with course-books for Osmanlaca.  To my joy and the benefit of Turkey, Universities are offering the old Ottoman language as a language you can learn.

If we forget where we came from, how can we know where we are going?

Can you think of any phrases or words we have borrowed from other languages, that make ours more rich?  For example, “cest la vie” (its the life).

The Greatest Deception

I noticed a caterpillar, brilliantly decorated, crawling up the corner of the doorway frame, with white fur, an orange head with two long antenna feelers at his head, and with another one, equally long, coming out the back as a tail.

It moved so slow and carefully that I thought it rather old and perhaps near to death, but he continued to creep up and up, swaying his head and his feelers back forth slowly as he went.

He came to what seemed like an old spiders web, the kind that look more like fuzz than web.  The caterpillar didn’t know what to make of it, as he stayed there at that obstacle swaying his head back and forth, feeling for a way ‘round perhaps.  This he did for hours.

The next day, I came back to see that he had encased himself in that fuzz, or maybe he was encased by a more speedily working spider who trapped him in there.  I instantly set to carefully scraping the fuzzy encasing away to find him inside and alive!!

Whether he was behind bars against his will or encased in his own bed awaiting new life, one couldn’t easily tell.

I let him be.  A cocoon it was, for as I stopped scraping he set to mending his bed.  My head filled with all the possible colorful butterflies that he may soon be.

One day went by, two, then three.  I came back much to my dismay.  The mending I thought he was performing turned out to be a last wave for help, as I found his body crusty and dried out like sand, sucked clean by an eight legged devil!

No new life for that caterpillar!  His journey was cut short, and I was deceived!!  The greatest deception at that, fooled that death was life!

“Not all, but some” a poem

The river pours out water of life, creatures run to it.

Fields yield its joy, and with happiness a crop is harvested.

Adorned with heavenward hands, trees do sit.

Who causes the bellies of the river beds to swell and flood.

Who has let foul weather fall upon seedlings below.

Who allows fire to ravage forests, shedding priestly blood.

Though water destroys it also nourishes.

Though hope is put in your land, it can disappoint.

Though beauty may flourish, it can be taken away.

Though all cannot be understood,

Though perfection lies but a bit away,

To know what has been revealed, I could.

In this I know, God is good.