Divine Carelessness and Fairytale Levity
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Baylor University Press
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The current rash of books hostile to religious faith will one day be an interesting subject for some sociological analysis. They consis-tently suggest a view of religion which, if taken seriously, would also evacuate a number of other human systems of meaning, including quite a lot of what we unreflectively think of as science. That is, they treat religious belief almost as a solitary aberration in a field of human ratio-...
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Levity is probably not the first word that most readers associate with George MacDonald. On the contrary, unlike his contempo-raries Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde—fellow writers of fantasy known for their whimsicality—MacDonald tends to be linked with moral and spiritual seriousness rather than lighthearted playfulness. C. S. Lewis, while not the first to emphasize the solemnity of MacDonald, has ...
The Levity of Saints and Angels
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When someone speaks of “levity” today, they are probably refer-ring to something humorous, ridiculous, or frivolous. Used positively, it can mean that which elicits laughter or fleeting joy, or that which calls forth—however briefly—a startling perspective of the world. Used negatively, the word relates to things that are not “seri-ous,” not worthy of considering deeply or pursuing whole-heartedly, ...
Ecstasy and Folly
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One of the most famous visual representations of a saint and an angel levitating is Bernini’s sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Teresa (see facing page). Despite its massive heft of white marble and gilded metal, this is probably one of the lightest works of art ever created. The two central actors in Bernini’s sculpted drama float between the grounded level of the viewer and the heavenly dome above where angels sport ...
Vanity and Play
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Commenting on one of the effects of ecstatic experience, Augustine and his mother describe how their attitude toward the things of In that day when we were speaking of these things, this world with all its delights became, as we spake, contemptible to us, and my mother said, “Son, for mine own part I have no further delight in any thing in this life.”1After a vision of God’s glory, immutability, and eternality, the mys-...
Carnival and Sabbath
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Hidden in the midst of Qoheleth’s discussions of the vanity of being is one of his most famous reflections:For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:By drawing attention to the evanescence of existence, vanity not only liberates an individual for present playfulness but also discloses the importance of different times and seasons. Weeping cannot take pre-...
“Never so Real as When TheyAre Solemn”
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While most modern cultures set up levity and seriousness as dia-metrical opponents, this has not always been the view of every society. Medieval Catholic Europe, for instance, though girded round with strict laws and hierarchical structures, gave laughter and play a prime position within its cultural life both in institutional ceremonies such as the Feast of the Ass and in the everyday life of the people.1 ...
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...“If you knew time as well as I do,” said the Hatter, “you wouldn’t talk Fairytales love to manipulate time. Tolkien says that part of the “magic of Faerie” is in the “satisfaction of certain primordial human desires,” among which is the desire “to survey the depths of space and time.”1 Fairytales are metaphysically curious; they ask and play with the most fundamental questions of existence. This, perhaps, is a further ...
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Tolkien defines a fairy story as anything which deals with “the nature of Faerie: the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country,” but, with the humility of an anchorite, he warns against speaking directly about this realm: “I will not attempt to define [Faerie], nor to describe it directly. It cannot be done. Faerie cannot be caught in a net of words; for it is one of its qualities to be indescrib-...
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Despite the arguments of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, most people still view fairytales as primarily for children.1 While fan-tasy has become an acceptable (if slightly dubious) genre for adults, fai-rytales have yet to evade their association with children. Many adults have a difficult time “entering into” a fairytale. A common criticism is that a fairytale is a flight of fancy, an indulgent escape from the “real ...
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There is a strange irony in the way physical gravity operates through waves and particles that are massless and “pass unchanged through any material in their path and so [. . .] carry signals with absolute clar-ity across the vast reaches of space.”1 With an infinite host of heav-enly angels (angelos, as we know, is Greek for “messenger”) backing up gravity, levity would seem to be the true force in the universe. Despite ...
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Page Count: 270
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Making of the Christian Imagination
Series Editor Byline: Stephen Prickett, general editor