Month: July 2017

The Gift of the Elven-King

Many ages ago, a great realm lay between the mountains and the sea, once ruling much of the world but now mostly forgotten. During the years leading to its decline, a curious affliction spread to many of its people. Fine, filthy fumes drifted across much of the land, becoming a slow poison in men’s eyes and throats. This was the doing of some wizards in the moors; they were releasing the foulness, most out of careless folly more than wickedness, from the furnaces and cauldrons where they performed their secret labors. But the people were to blame as well, for they made no effort to protect themselves. Instead, they simply coughed and blinked and went on as before.

In time, they became so accustomed to these fumes that they no longer knew anything different. They thought nothing of the bitterness they breathed, or the dull, ugly sights coming through their marred eyes. Many forgot that air could be sweeter, light stronger, colors brighter. Some, noticing the change, fled to remote regions where the air was less sullied, but they were few.

On the land’s western border, in the mountain forests, the Elves observed this evil from their own realm. No corruption could come near their dwelling places, but they saw and grieved over the sufferings of the foolish men. Thus it came, one day, that the Elven-king called his messengers to him.

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Peter Pan vs. My Neighbor Totoro: Contrasting Perspectives on Childhood

Recently, my family and I watched two movies deemed by their fans to be classic celebrations of the magic of childhood. The two take place in profoundly different cultures on opposite sides of the globe, but both—in their own ways—involve the magical bursting into the everyday, celebrate innocent wonder, and affirm the importance of family. One of them is, alas, much less well-known in the United States than the other. That one is Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, and the other is Peter Pan (the Broadway version, starring Cathy Rigby). I had seen both many times before, but on these reviewings, I noticed some remarkable contrasts in their perspectives on childhood and growing up.

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The Host of the Wounded King

All you who weary of living,

All you tear-blinded who stumble,

Finding the road unforgiving,

Feeling your strength slip and crumble,

Though blood from your hands be streaming,

And the cross your backs encumber,

Through this night one star is gleaming:

Strength Himself is of our number!

 

Though we be lonely and desolate,

And our faith’s rock-bed be shaken,

We have not lost our last, nor yet

Are we completely forsaken.

That Lord so battered and slandered

Rises like flame of the morn,

Raising His unconquered standard,

Winding His summoning horn!

 

Rise up to heed His call!

Hail it, for ‘tis addressed

To weary suff’rers all,

Worn, wounded and oppressed.

All earth He means to win;

All souls who dwell therein

Rise as to Him they fall;

His cross, His weapon blest.

That conquest we may share,

All we who crosses bear,

Strange triumph if we dare

To love Him best!

 

Let us not drag like slaves

Burdened and raddled,

But with our King who saves,

Fight even to our graves,

As knights embattled!

Shall we not now perceive?

Hasten, all who believe;

Though all our hearts may grieve

And bones be rattled,

Let us live well and die

Knowing for Whom and why—

He leads us, riding by,

On ass-charger saddled!

 

Hark what we have to win!

Pulling from swamps of sin

Our souls and others’ in

Strength of His power;

Gaining, through patient fight,

Ever a higher height,

Up toward the world of light,

Hour by hour!

All of our bloody tears

Sowing our battlefield,

By our feet hoed, will yield

Fruit past the years,

From faith-laid seed appears

Immortal flower!

 

When we hear glad and resounding

His final blast o’er the earth,

All these grim foes now surrounding

Will, like the womb-walls at birth,

Burst away, and we will gather

Into our King’s lightsome hall,

No more blood-streaming, but rather,

Streaming His joy in its all.

 

Shall we not then rouse our spirits

And stand our ground this one night,

Knowing that we need not fear its

Dark, who have drunk of His light?

Faith’s light kindles Love’s blazing heat,

We fight by its heavenly glow,

Bleeding, but ne’er in defeat—

Till morning His triumph will show!

How to Be a Successful College Graduate

This piece is not what you might think. I’m not going to tell you how to get your dream job, climb the corporate ladder, navigate social circles, or make an obvious impact on society. I won’t tell you those things, partly because I don’t know them, but also because I want to challenge their status as the definition of success.

College students and new graduates hear a good deal about “success,” but are likely to receive very mixed signals about the particular goals in question. When our mainstream culture speaks of “succeeding,” it tends to have some sort of economic or social ends in mind. Land a well-paying job, achieve recognition in your field of work, acquire the means to live in comfort and security, and you’re probably a “success” by this assessment. The more noble-minded raise this standard to include making a useful contribution to the world, which is well and good, though I will bring in an important nuance later. Schools with a strong Christian outlook, like my alma mater, also emphasize building up the kingdom of God and winning the world to Christ. This is also, undoubtedly, an important and worthy aim. Any one of these, however, can become dangerous if new alumni make it the measure of themselves and their lives.

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