An Inklings Walking Tour

David Russell Mosley

 

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Lent
10 March 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

On Tuesday, 15 March 2016, at approximately 8pm EST, five members of the Inklings are going on a walking tour throughout the English countryside. This was a common enough occurrence when the Inklings were alive, but now the dearly departed will be live-tweeting the even (pun intended). Make sure you follow the following accounts on twitter:

C. S. Lewis: @PilgrimInNarnia
J. R. R. Tolkien: @TolkienElfland (written by yours truly)
Charles Williams: @OddestInkling
Owen Barfield: @BarfieldDiction
Hugo Dyson: @hugo_dyson

Also, be sure to follow the hashtag #inkwalk. This should be an awful lot of fun and will include many quotations or paraphrases from the workers of these authors. To get a sense of what this will be like, I recommend checking out the night Charles Williams was drunk-texting on a road trip with C.S. Lewis.

Sincerely,
David

Writing Begets Writing: On Habit and Vocation

David Russell Mosley

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Ordinary Time
27 November 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, another few weeks has gone by and I haven’t posted anything. This hasn’t been due to a lack of ideas, or even a lack of events in my own life on which I could write. Instead, I think a lot of it come from sloth. Sloth and getting out of the habit of writing, anyway. You see, I’m a stay-at-home dad for the time being. And most of the time I love it. I love getting to cuddle with my boys and watch them grow. They’d probably love it better if skills went beyond bread and jam, bread and eggs, or bread, ham, and cheese. But still, with two 18 month-olds running around, getting extra work done can be difficult. Sadly, this isn’t because I’m too busy chasing after them, not most of the time anyway, but because it’s too easy to just sit and watch TV or sit and read. These would be OK, the latter at least, if when they went down for their naps I exercised or wrote or something. But so often I don’t. Writing while they’re awake has its own problems too. Little fingers like touching computers and when they don’t, the little mouths attached to them start crying. But still these are just excuses. I could probably find a way to work around this, to train my kids not to grab at my computer while I’m working and still spend time with them. So what’s the problem? Getting out of the habit.

As many of you know, since I wrote to you about it, I’m publishing a novel (or Faërie Romance as I like to call it) with Wipf and Stock Publishers. What you might not know is that I wrote that book while also blogging and working on my PhD thesis (which is also being published by Fortress Press). Just on my thesis and novel alone, not counting conference papers or blog posts or letters or journal entries, in the three years I was resident in Nottingham I wrote over 150000 words or close to 400-500 pages. Add in everything else and I probably hit thousands of pages (not all of it good, admittedly). You see, for me at least, and I think for most writers, writing begets more writing. I had a routine of writing in a few different journals, reading books for research, pleasure, and enrichment, writing letters to friends, blog posts, my thesis and more. All of these outlets for writing made me want to write more. So, once I finished my novel, and then my thesis, and stay-at-home parenting took over more and more of my time, I started writing in the other places less and less. Hence my relative silence here. Once I stopped writing in some areas, it became harder to write in others.

Virtue and vice have firm roots in habit. Vices are bad habits we engage in, they become second nature to us, so much so that often we don’t even recognise temptation or the choice to give in. There is only one way to rid ourselves of vices (with the aid of God’s grace), and that is to replace them with their corresponding virtues. These virtues must become habits replacing the vicious habits. I mention virtues and vices because their inherent relationship to habit has been precisely my problem. Vices like sloth (and others I won’t mention here) have gotten in the way. I have not simply gotten out of good habits (though some might contend that my writing here is not one) but have fallen into bad ones. That needs to change. I must pursue the virtuous life. For only then can I co-operate with the grace of God and work toward my deification. This might sound strange, writing for a blog doesn’t necessarily lead one to deification. But writing for me is part of that process and the only way I can get back into the habit of writing is to write, to replace sloth with diligence. So, I am committing myself to write in my journal every day; to write letters when I have some to write; to post here twice a week; and to begin work on a new research project; all while I work on preparing my two works for publication.

So, I have a request for you my correspondents, please help keep me accountable (a word with which I have some hang-ups). Feel free to ask me about my writing habits, clamor for new content out loud––I know you keep it bottled up, let it out. Being a father should not keep me from caring for my children and fulfilling my vocation of being a theologian, help me make sure it doesn’t. Give me advice, tell me about your own struggles, ask me to write about something, do anything you think might help me keep writing. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t. In the meantime, look out for two new posts next week.

Sincerely,
David

Links and videos I Normally Would Have Posted on Facebook: III

David Russell Mosley

Lent
4 March 2014
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

‘What I didn’t know about St Quentin was that its basilica is one of six important French church buildings which contain labyrinths, the best known of which is Chartres. The one at St Quentin follows the same pattern as Chartres, though is slightly smaller and based on an octagon rather than a circle, so its lines are straight and segmented rather than curved. But it is superior to Chartres in that it is always accessible to the public, whereas at Chartres the labyrinth is usually covered with chairs, and only cleared for walking on once a week. I have long been interested in labyrinths, and had even drawn up plans to build one in the theological college where I was on staff. So I took the opportunity to walk around it.’

Life as labyrinth from Psephizo

The Netherlands Bach Society is performing and recording the entire works of Bach. This one is probably my favourite, still being a Bach Neophyte.

‘While it’s true that we can know something about Bach from his music and that we can know something about God from his effects, in both cases our knowledge remains imperfect and incomplete. We can never attain comprehensive knowledge of God; we can only plunge further and further into his infinite intelligibility, and as a result we come to love him more and more truly. But God’s knowledge of us is comprehensive; he does know every single thing there is to know about us. He is, as St. Augustine said, “more inward than the most inward place of my heart and loftier than the highest.” Just as no one could ever know more about Bach’s music than did the composer himself, so no one can know us more deeply than can the Creator himself. We’re not just knowers, we’re known knowers. We’re not mere musicologists, outside observers examining these things from afar—we’re the music!’

MYSTERY AND MUSIC from Word on Fire

‘But it was this past November that one of my sons asked a question that I had (as far as I can recall) never thought of in the form he posed it: “Dad, okay, I get that God has no beginning, that he is the reason for his own existence, but this is what I still don’t get: Why does God exist? I mean, what’s his purpose for existing? And why is he love and not, like, meanness or something else? Oh, and if he’s really free, did he choose to come self-exist and be a Trinity?”’

WHY DOES GOD EXIST? From Word on Fire
‘The ISIS barbarians were actually quite right in entitling their video “A Message Written in Blood.” Up and down the centuries, tyrants and their lackeys have thought that they could wipe out the followers of Jesus through acts of violence. But as Tertullian observed long ago, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And they were furthermore right in sending their message to “the Nation of the Cross.” But they should know that the cross taunts them.’

A MESSAGE IN BLOOD: ISIS AND THE MEANING OF THE CROSS from Word on Fire
‘”Adoption matters because it helps to get rid of a culture of death, and move against the practice of abortion, the practice of modern slavery and people trafficking. It can help avoid infanticide – most of us don’t know that hundreds of children in Holland are euthanised every year. It’s happening in modern Europe.”‘

John Milbank quoted on John Milbank: Adoption reduces abortion, human trafficking and infanticide from Christianity Today

‘Lent prepares us so that the seeming irregularity of the timing of Resurrection Sunday does not take us by surprise. As in the parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13), Lent is a time to make sure we have enough oil to keep our lamps lit until the bridegroom comes. It is the time of literal darkness in which we should cultivate our light. Since Easter’s timing seems so irregular, we are a bit like the virgins with the lamps—not entirely sure when the groom will arrive. Lent teaches us to tend our light.’

Scholar’s Compass: Lent and Easter’s Timing from Emerging Scholars Blog
‘”Sin is sin, but people live with different degrees of pressure and temptation. … No one knows for sure how hard temptation might bear on another. It is like Augustine exclaiming in exasperated compassion, when faced with Pelagian teachers who insisted that all sin was a fully conscious rejection of God, “Most sins are committed by people weeping and groaning.” A temptation that might seem trivial to you could be crushing to another; an obsession that haunts you day and night may be incomprehensible to someone else. … everyone comes from a different past, with different memories and abilities.” (Where God Happens, p 40)’

Rowan Williams quoted on Lenten Wisdom From the Desert Day 9 from And There Is Every Quest
If you have any interest in living in a monastic type community, for, oh, say, a year, then I highly encourage you to apply for the Community of St Anselm. This yearlong monastic community project is being done by the Church of England and will be headed up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Definitely check it out, even if you’re not Anglican.

Apply now to spend a year in God’s time

Why Study the Gift with John Milbank and Simon Oliver at the University of Nottingham.
Sincerely yours,
David

Stuff I Normally Would Have Posted on Facebook II: Now with Quotations!

David Russell Mosley

Lent
24 February 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here’s another list of links I’ve found interesting over the past week or so. Do enjoy.

“When we fast, we are changing and re-ordering our daily routine …

We are taking a step back from it.

We are saying that God’s Kingdom – the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus – calls us to ongoing, daily change in our lives.”

Lenten meditation: fasting from Catholicity and Covenant

‘At Christmas we are born again with Christ; at Easter we keep the Eucharistic Feast. In Lent, by penance, we join the two great sacraments together.’

“See, then, the Church offers you this season” from Catholicity and Covenant

‘”Self-denial, then, is a subject never out of place in Christian teaching; still more appropriate is it at a time like this, when we have entered upon the forty days of Lent, the season of the year set apart for fasting and humiliation …”‘

John Henry Newman quoted on Catholicity and Covenant

“Since we are now in Lent, it might be a good time to review the spiritual habit of fasting. Jesus clearly expected his followers to fast after he had gone, so it is odd that this is not a widespread habit amongst all Christians. To answer this, we need to ask some background questions. How often did the first Jesus-followers fast? Was it an occasional thing, focused on specific events or causes? Or was it something more habitual and regular, an integral part of their devotional life? And what was its significance?”

How often should we fast? from Psephizo

‘Szybist clearly struggles with what the Annunciation means for her. It seems to simultaneously empower and bind contemporary women with the high standards that it sets. These contradictions, these wounds, rub against each other so intensely in this collection that they produce the incarnadine (calling forth both incarnation and bleeding) of the title.’

“You are She Who is Not”: Szybist’s Incarnadine from Ethika Politika

“O New Martyrs, through a malevolent force as old as Eden you now number among the ancient holy ones; keep us particularly in your prayers, as once again we are focused on the mysterious lands where humanity first came into being, and into knowing, and where all will finally be revealed. Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.

Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,

Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,

Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,

All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.

Amen, Amen.”

Holy Martyrs Killed by ISIS pray for us from The Catholic Dormitory

‘”We Christians dare to look at our sinfulness only in the light of God. Repentance involves looking at myself through his eyes, with the goal of giving myself totally to him, step by step. It is a way of marveling at the greatness of God, which I can discover by admitting my smallness; it is a way of discovering God‘s infinite love for me, a sinner; it is the path to love-in-practice, as I learn to be as merciful to others as he is to me. In other words, repentance is not about self-improvement. It is about growth in God.”‘

Quoted on Repentance is the Daughter of Hope and the Refusal to Despair from Cosmos the in Lost  

‘We may not like the way that divine love calls us to accept death, but perhaps during this Lenten season we can practice the path that Christ’s love takes toward Good Friday. When we accept this necessary death, we may begin to learn with the grain of the universe. Balthasar, drawing on a metaphor that Jesus himself uses, notes that “the formative power of Christ lies in the formlessness of the grain of wheat that dies and wastes away in the hummus, the grain that rises again, not in its own form but in that of the stalk of wheat” (137). When we die to our selfish desires—whether for power or profit-margin—we can be raised in the form of Christ’s beauty. And then we will be attuned to the music of the spheres, ready to experience the joy of recognition when we glimpse the watermark of divine love in all creation.’

Balthasar Sandbox 5: Sacramental Education from Christ & University

‘We don’t seem to have much of a heart these days for seeing love as anything other than pure affirmation of another.  Loving another means not hurting their feelings, not telling them they are wronging someone else when they do, allowing them to hurt themselves because to confront them isn’t loving. The dangers of this love, which is love in name only, is that our being in community with one another demands we look out for others.’

Lenten Wisdom From the Desert Day 6 from And There Is Every Quest

‘”Our particular village was in a deep narrow valley with woods all round it and a rushing stream that grew louder as the night came on. Then comes the time when you have to strike a light (with difficulties) in order to read the maps: and when the match fizzles out, you realize for the first time how dark it really is: and as you go away, the village fixes itself in your mind – for enjoyment ten, twenty, or thirty years bend – as a place of impossible peace and dreaminess.”‘

C. S. Lewis quoted on Stories and Soliloquies

‘”Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself.'”

St Augustine quoted on Catholic Cravings

‘May Saint Polycarp intercede for us and give us the strength and courage to bear witness to the Faith in the face of opposition and persecution.’

ST. POLYCARP’S ENDURING LESSON from Word on Fire

I hope you enjoy! Let me know what articles or blog posts you’ve found interesting recently?

Sincerely yours,

David

A Year in Review

David Russell Mosley

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Advent
Third Sunday of Advent
14 December 2014
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Depending on when you want to place the end of one year and the start of another, I’m either several weeks late to the end/beginning of the year, or several weeks early. Still, I thought I would do a brief post reviewing this last year on Letters from the Edge of Elfland.

Top Posts:

The number one most viewed post this last year:

The (Not so) Shocking Beliefs of C. S. Lewis

This was a rather recent post, but very popular.

Number 2:

On The Economics of Elfland: In Honour of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Birthday

Number 3:

What is the Theologian’s Place in the Church: A Plea of Theologians-in-Residence

Number 4:

Creation Debates: Why Ken Ham and Bill Nye both Get it Wrong

Number 5:

The Return of Arthur: A Conversation with John Milbank and C. S. Lewis

Top Blogs Who Sent People to My Blog:

Christ and University

“Sublunary Sublime”

Stories and Soliloquies

Mysteries and Manners

Top Countries:

USA: 7991 views

UK: 2720 views

Australia: 675 views

Germany: 633 views

Spain: 109 views

Total Views: 13505

Thanks all for such a great year! Look for a new letter around Wednesday!

Sincerely yours,
David

The Scholar’s Compass: A New Place to Find Me

David Russell Mosley

Advent
Conception of Mary
8 December 2014
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today I just wanted to write you a quick note to let you know about a new place you’ll occasionally be able to find me. Some time ago the people over at the Emerging Scholar’s Network Blog decided to start putting together a devotional for Christian scholars called Scholar’s Compass. While there is much that can be learned from devotionals and other prayer practices meant for everyday Christians, it is nice to have one set aside for scholars. So alongside some other stellar authors, you can now find me. Two of my devotions have already gone up for this Advent season.

Advent: The New Year Begins

Learning from Father Christmas

Please let me know what you think. I pray you will be blessed by those I have written and those written by the others (and they are spectacular).

Sincerely yours,
David