Thursday, March 4, 2010

Psyche and the Shadowbrute

Dear Misfits,

How not to like a story that begins “I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of the gods.”?   This is the opening line to C. S. Lewis’ wonderful novel, Til We Have Faces: a Myth Retold.   The Misfits at our meeting all said that they liked the book and definitely recommend it as a tale of adventure, redemption, and spiritual seeking. 

In the story, Orual, Queen of Glome, commits a tragic sin against her sister, Psyche.  Orual lives to deeply regret her misguided attempt to “save” her sister from the “Shadowbrute”, the god who lives on the Grey Mountain.  The “Shadowbrute” had taken Psyche to be his wife when she was sacrificed by the villagers of Glome.  Our discussion of this tragic event led us to conclude that Lewis used the consequences of Orual’s actions to metaphorically represent the destruction of faith through the rigid application of reason by secular forces.

Though set in pagan times, the story reflects C. S. Lewis’ deeply held Christian beliefs.  It also reflects his great intellect and writing skill.  It is a great read for Catholics or anyone interested in matters of faith versus reason.  John Paul the Great put it this way, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…”  In the end, Orual, Queen of Glome, comes to understand that truth has as much basis in faith as in reason.

If you decide to read the novel, it is recommended that you go to the back of the book and read Lewis’ very helpful “Note” at the end of the story.  There, Lewis explains that the novel is based on the mythological story of Cupid and Psyche.  This background helps explain the pagan setting of the story…and the tragedy that follows.

Now on to our next book.  We have decided to change the order of our next two books.  The changes are as follows:

For March, we will now read Jon Hassler’s touching novel, Dear James.  The story is set in the fictional small Minnesota town of Staggerford.  The story features Miss Agatha McGee, an upright elderly resident with a saw-toothed tongue. The novel deals with a relationship that Agatha develops with a pen-pal in Ireland--who she subsequently discovers is a priest.  It is rich novel of simmering envy, charity, and finally, redemptive love.

Then in April, we will read the play, Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot.  (We said at the beginning that we would read Catholic novels, biographies, poetry and plays. We have never read a play so this will rectify that shortfall!)  Eliot's short play was originally written for the Canterbury festival and tells the story of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett (1118-70) by Henry II's henchmen. One reviewer notes that it “is essentially an extended lyrical consideration of the proper residence of temporal and spiritual power, of the obligations of religious believers to the commands of the State, and of the possibility that piety can be selfish unto sin.”

Please drop me a line if you have books you want placed on our “must read” list.  All recommendations are welcomed and will be considered.

Warmest regards,

Misfit Buzz

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