Month: September 2017

Beasts of Fire and Water

Gyna stumbled wildly across the dim, cavernous room, wondering how much farther her trembling legs would bring her before she collapsed—and that would be the end. She listened for any sound other than thunder, wind and her own gasping breath, but the thumping had ceased, and the fiendish cackling had vanished. Not daring to hope that she might have lost her pursuer, she hastened into the only opening she saw ahead, a dark and empty doorway. Perhaps the blackness would hide her there?

A few paces past this exit, she glimpsed a faint light, seeping around a corner in the passage. Approaching more slowly and trying to quiet her panting, Gyna peered cautiously around the corner and saw a long, spiraling staircase, descending to what looked like a pool. The light, a pale greenish, sickly glow, seemed to be coming from something in the water . . . was there some sort of creature down there? Yes, it looked like something with tentacles, and a big something at that.

It figures, she thought, with a sort of frantic bitterness. After all this, now a water monster. Well, what should I have done?

She took a few small steps backward, her thoughts scrambling for some other way out, when something rough sprang around her and knocked her down—a net. The witch had caught up, without a sound.

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Remembering the Basis of Human Dignity

Several months ago, I happened to glance at the cover of America, and noticed something strange among the featured article descriptions: “Jesus, Please Don’t Fix My Disabled Daughter.” Curious, I flipped to the indicated page number, confident that the essay would not actually advance the idea suggested. To my astonishment, however, it did.

The author, a Heather Kirn Lanier, explained that she had recently begun reading the Gospels and generally liked Jesus, but was initially disappointed with His miracles of healing. As Mrs. Lanier said, “He reinforces the idea that the disabled body is broken, damaged. He treats the disabled body as something to fix.” She went on to protest that her disabled child was not worth less than anyone else, emphasizing, “She’s not damaged goods,” and that, therefore, the little one had no need of fixing. She also proceeded to give Jesus’ actions her own interpretation, one agreeable to her view that we should not demean the disabled by trying to cure them.

At first I didn’t know how to respond. Of course Mrs. Lanier’s little girl was as precious as a child without handicaps . . . but why would that lead the mother to regard potential healing as an insult?

Then I understood. From that essay’s perspective, any privation meant a degradation in value. There was no distinction between saying that a child’s body had been malformed and insinuating that that child was intrinsically inferior to other children. Suddenly I understood so much of the modern world’s anguish.

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After Rain

Heavy veils of grey yield to wind,

Parting to reveal still-shining blue,

Shedding soft shreds, whiter now and thinned,

Gladsome white-gold sunshine beaming through.

 

All the ruts and ditches that here lie,

They are mirrors now of water-glass,

Wherein fragments of the glowing sky

Gleam up from among the stones and grass.

 

Branches netted roughly, tattered bars,

Drab grey webs all drizzle-wet and grim,

Glisten now with countless bits of stars,

Silver-bright, as if with Christmas trim.

 

Every leaf and flower-head weighed down,

Battered with the rushing of the rain,

Now stands splendid in its diamond crown,

And is swift forgetting all its strain.

 

All the earth is baptized, washed anew,

And stands radiant before the sun,

All the gloom and tempest that it knew

Now become such glory as to stun.

 

So for nature, so also for me,

When that which oppressed and struck me low,

As the light returned, changed wondrously,

New marvels of grace and joy to show.

 

Let it come then, Lord, the bitter rain,

Though it drench and pound upon my soul;

Only, send Your light, and make my pain

Something shining, my fractures Your whole.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind may be the quintessential Hayao Miyazaki film—meaning, not necessarily his best, but the most comprehensive assortment of his characteristic themes and motifs. The setting is a staggering feat of creative world-building and visual opulence. Characters include a strong young female protagonist, children, and old people; and while the villains may be more clearly evil than most Miyazaki antagonists, they don’t ultimately evoke hatred or vindictiveness. There are flight sequences and stunning uses of water. Themes include pacifism and environmentalism. The story frankly acknowledges the sadness of loss and fears for possible future losses, but is subtly shot through with hope and grace.

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