Books

You Have Been Warned

Totalitarian Fiction. Only one of these I haven’t read, the rest multiple times. A few hundred pages can get you quite an education.

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How Many Times Must We Fight the Book Banners?

A school district in California has banned To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnOf Mice and Men, among others. How many times must we fight this battle?

Each of the books in question deal with difficult subject matter from our country’s complicated and painful history, including systemic racism. Blocking engagement with these important books is also avoiding the important role that schools can and should play in providing context for why these books inspire and challenge us still today. – Tom Ciccotta

And over at Penguin Random House, employees try to get Jordan Peterson’s new book banned — based on lies about the author. In fact, grown adults were crying that the book is being published. Johnathan Kay writes:

People are dying from Covid, losing their businesses, and these spoiled brats transform into babies because their employer is publishing a book they don’t like.

Indeed, the fact such people work at a publisher — supposed protectors of the freedom of speech — is disturbing.

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12 Rules to End Chaos in Your Life…and the World

{Part 1 of a series of posts reviewing Jordan Peterson‘s book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.}

Jordan Peterson‘s bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, challenges people to get their own lives under control before trying to change the world. No, this isn’t just another book about steps to success or happiness. This isn’t some fad book-of-the-week that are no different than the previous twenty forgettable books. Peterson asks readers to reach deep intellectually. Drawing on ancient history and science, and critical thinking, this clearly isn’t just some fuzzy book on “self care” or quick fixes.

Norman Doidge sets the stage in the forward writing:

…without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions — and there’s nothing freeing about that…Ideologues are people who pretend they know how to ‘make the world a better place’ before they’ve taken care of their own chaos within…Ideologies are substitutes for true knowledge, and ideologues are always dangerous when they come to power, because a simple-minded I-know-it-all approach is no match for the complexity of existence.

And in no time in recent memory are people in need of clear thinking in the face of ideologues and extremists. Peterson was attacked for his defense of free speech and academic freedom by those who claimed to be “open-minded” or “progressive.” Doidge notes, whether they realize it or not:

…millennials are living through a unique historical situation. They [have been]..thoroughly taught two seemingly contradictory ideas about morality…[leaving them] disoriented and uncertain…tragically deprived of riches they don’t even know exist.

And so a generation has been raised untutored in what was called, aptly, ‘practical wisdom,’ which guided previous generations…[suffering] a form of serious intellectual and moral neglect. The relativists…chose to devalue thousands of years of human knowledge about how to acquire virtue…

..made worse by this moral relativism; [people] cannot live without a moral compass, without an ideal at which to aim in their lives…So, right alongside relativism, we find the spread of nihilism and despair, and also the opposite of moral relativism: the blind certainty offered by ideologies that claim to have an answer for everything…Sometimes it seems the only people willing to give advice in a relativistic society are those with the least to offer.

Whereas many, in their hubris, think the past as nothing to offer, our ancestors knew differently:

For the ancients, the discovery that different people have different ideas about how, practically, to live, did not paralyze them; it deepened their understanding of humanity and led to some of the most satisfying conversations human beings ever had, about how life might be lived.

Then Peterson begins:

Through the elevation and development of the individual, and through the willingness of everyone to shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path. We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world…the alternative — the horror of authoritarian belief, the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual — is clearly worse.

{In part 2 of this review, we will look at Peterson’s first three rules.}

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Tolkien’s Unfinished Sequel to LOTR

When Sauron was destroyed at the end of the Third Age, was that the end of evil? No, as Tolkien knew, evil would try to creep across the land again. He had began to outline what would unfold in the generations after The Lord of the Rings, prefaced on the nature of evil:

If evil is not faced up to and confronted, it will spread…the Dark Tree, the concept of growing evil…a dark tree whose roots can never be fully destroyed so that evil will once again arise if the tree is left untended or unwatched. When we do not actively keep watch for evil, it will return…Sometimes in order to preserve the good in the world, we need to step put of the Shire with hope in our hearts, and journey to the darkest places whatever the cost. – “In Deep Geek”

The sequel was never completed, but Tolkien’s vision and warnings about evil live on. Learn more about J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfinished sequel to The Lord of the Rings here.

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Destroy Cities, Destroy Hope

After famed Minneapolis science fiction and fantasy bookstore Uncle Hugo’s and its sister store, Uncle Edgar’s, were destroyed by rioters, Tony Daniel had this to say:

…a city is not like a statue. It is an unplanned web, a crazy network of individuals doing productive, artistic, crazy, and interesting things, all at once. It pulsates with life and change in some areas, accretes tradition or staleness, or both, in others.

It’s never the same. The hustle and bustle of the street, the shops and restaurants and churches and halfway houses and all the rest engender this…when a cultural institution…is burned, the damage goes beyond the physical. It is not really possible to merely clean up and rebuild, as you might a Target or a police station. The bustle of the street, the fabric of the city itself, is damaged.

The destruction…hurts people’s souls, even if they don’t realize this. When you burn such places down…you are not clearing for renewal. You are destroying the very possibility for growth and change in a community.

You are killing hope.

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Beware of the Book Burners

Jarrett Stepman writes:

A well-educated person should read deeply and broadly…Reading authors with opinions both contemporary and ancient can be a profoundly illuminating experience. It becomes quite clear that the advancement of time has led to many positive changes—and more than a few bad ones as well…’Decolonizing’ bookshelves represents a further closing of the American mind, but now intellectual shallowness is being paired with self-righteous zealotry. It’s a frightful combination.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ― Ray Bradbury

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Christopher Tolkien, Architect of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, 1924-2020

Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the person in charge of his father’s literary estate, passed away at the age of 95 on the 16th of January. After his father passed away in 1973, Christopher began a massive, decades-long project of publishing his father’s unfinished Middle-Earth histories:

In 1977, he collected and published The Silmarillion, a work that Tolkien had intended to publish, which explored the origins of Middle-earth and set up the conflict that he explored in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In the years that followed, he continued to produce new volumes of Tolkien’s unpublished writings, releasing Unfinished Tales in 1980, the 12-volume History of Middle-earth between 1982 and 1996, and edited and completed a number of longer narratives and translations of epic poems, including The Children of Húrin (2007), The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009), The Fall of Arthur (2013), Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, (2014), Beren and Lúthien (2017), and The Fall of Gondolin (2018).

As Gandalf said,

…the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

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2020: What did Sci-Fi predict?

Not a lot of good things, so apparently we are far better off than they thought, and our ever present doomsayers claim. Some disappointments as well, like not being on Mars yet. Check out Travis Perry’s article reviewing what film and books thought we would wake up to in 2020.

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Myths Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson Told Me

Scientists enjoy telling stories. They tell stories about, among other things, the quest to understand the universe — stories that sometimes have implications for belief or disbelief in God…

Too, often, these stories are false.

This is how science historian Michael Newton Keas beings his engaging and enlightening book, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion.

Unfortunately, he his right.

What he is referring to is when celebrity scientists stop talking about science and interject their personal beliefs under the guise of science. If those beliefs aren’t friendly to religion, they have a habit of promoting the false religion-is-at-war-with-science narrative with a variety of myths. The war between science and religion  is a modern fable, not surprisingly promoted by those who don’t think highly of religion.

This is a shame, really, because we need popularizes of science, but when some scientists become celebrities, they can fall off their intellectual foundation rather quickly. When Neil DeGrasse Tyson turns Giordano Bruno into a martyr for science in his show Cosmos, much of the story is fiction. When Carl Sagan made claims to the effect that the cosmos is all that there is or always will be, he wasn’t making a scientific statement, but a personal, philosophical one. When Sam Harris claims the church had been “torturing scholars” for “speculating about the nature of the stars,” it simply isn’t true.

It’s not hard to review history, as Dr. Keas shows, and see there is no widespread hatred of science from religion. In fact, he details some of the ways “theistic religion nurtured the development of modern science from its start.” He also reveals the irony of these celebrity thinkers replacing religion with their own naturalistic philosophy and materialistic magic.

I’ve studied a lot of history and science over many years, so I have seen elsewhere the history Keas lays out.  Such as there is far more to the Galileo story — he isn’t the poster child of a war between the church and science. The Dark Ages weren’t so dark — the Renaissance didn’t appear out of nowhere. Nor were most of our ancestors really confused about the shape of our planet — most thought it was a sphere and didn’t need Columbus to prove it (he didn’t think it was flat either).

Do the celebrities purposefully spread their myths? I hope not, but the history isn’t hard to find and they keep repeating their myths anyway.

The takeaway from Keas book is we should learn to recognize when our experts, celebrity or otherwise, switch from teaching to evangelizing. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, unless you are passing it off for something it isn’t. And don’t for a moment think you aren’t capable of testing and questioning those who portend to speak for all of science and history.

They don’t own all the keys to our past and our universe. We all do.

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Robert Jordan, Heir to Middle-Earth

The Wheel of Time series, which James Rigney, writing as Robert Jordan…is a true successor, a true heir, to the kind of mythically philological trail of creation that Tolkien had blazed some fifty years earlier. Like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the world of the Wheel is a myth behind myths. The wondrous Age of Legends, the ‘far past’ of Jordan’s plot-lines in The Wheel of Time, is our mythically Atlantean past just as surely as is Tolkien’s story of the fall of Númenor from the Silmarillion. – Michael Livingston

For those who haven’t dived into Jordan’s epic 14 volume Wheel of Time Fantasy series, you’ll be hearing much more about it in coming months as Amazon Prime begins production on a television adaptation. Will they be able to adapt the voluminous, sometimes dense, successor to Middle-Earth? Or will it follow the troubled road of shows based on Shannara and The Sword of Truth? At least they have a complete book series to work from and can avoid the angst Game of Thrones fans have endured.

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