July 30, 2021

Notes from Nirvana (Chesterton Conference)

Kind of overwhelmed by the wealth of ideas in the Chesterton conference talks.  I’m a virtual attendee along with hundreds of others including a former astronaut of the U.S.! (Actually I think he's in person.) 

Yesterday there was Kyle Mann, editor at satirical website Babylon Bee. My takeaway: Satire is a way to get through to a deaf and Baal culture where argument or “niceness” can’t.  He brought up the example of Elijah before the Baal-worshippers in the Old Testament. Elijah didn’t try to convert them by argument. Same with Jesus when he dealt with the Pharisees’ trick questions. To paraphrase one answer: "Give to Ceasar that idolatrous coin with his head on it, and give to God what is God's." 

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Later came another presenter on education:  

1. Between the ages of 2 and 4 the average child asks about 40,000 questions. The speaker mentions that by the age of 12 they have only one question which every educator cringes and shudders at: “Is this going to be on the test?” This is the sign that education is broken, that something is wrong because even employers don’t want employees who can merely regurgitate information fed them. 

2. Einstein said, “if you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Fairy tales expand the mind, stretch it, bolsters imagination. 

3. Chesterton said fairy tales are good for kids despite the “grim” material because they already know the world is a dangerous place but the tales give them to understand there’s a solution, a weapon, a “St. George to slay the dragon” (i.e. Christ). Grimm’s Fairytales have some implicitly Christian themes: the wolf in Little Red Robin Hood was the devil. The hunter was Christ. Robin Hood’s straying from the path of righteousness was Adam and Eve and like them Robin and her grandmother died. The restoration of Robin and her grandmother from the belly of the wolf is like how Jonah was saved from the belly of the whale.  Similarly Cinderella was Christ-related. 

4. Some modern renditions of Cinderella replace the “...and they lived happily ever after” for things like, “...and they lived and had their ups and downs, sometimes angry with each other, sometimes sad, and sometimes happy.” But this destroys the point of the tale, which is that Cinderella and her prince (in Grimm’s German literally, “the king’s son”) are an image of Christ and us, and that the ‘happily ever after” is Heaven. In an effort to make it more realistic they unwittingly make it less realistic since Heaven is, in fact, happiness ever after. 

5. "Crisis can have a paralyzing effect on people, in large part because their formation has not prepared them to encounter crisis with virtue and joy. “Crisis” means, from the Greek, “sifting”.  A time of sifting for gold, a time of decision about who we really are. Stories teach us how to "look at crisis with discernment and joy, a time when we wrestle with reality to discover the true meaning of our lives." 

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From Dale Ahlquist - Chesterton as prophet! (First quote approximate, from memory.)

In 1933:  “China is the main threat of Christendom.” 

In 1935: “Democracy will eventually be revealed as rule by an unpopular minority.”

In 1930: “Each sex is trying to be both sexes at once.”

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My clerihew entry:

Two fellows named Rodgers and Hammerstein 

They must’ve had rows from time to time

I picture them huddled piano-side

Late at night considering homicide. 

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