Monthly Archives: July 2012

Current reading

Or, why is my briefcase and/or ebook reader so danged heavy?

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling in a Kindle app on my pc.  It’s the first work in the Harvard Fiction ebook I bought recently (Eliot’s old Five Foot Shelf, after which I have lusted at Half-Price Books in Indianapolis).  The Kindle edition is a buck ninety-nine or somesuch.  Fielding’s  writing in Tom Jones is remarkably modern for something written in the 1740s, but the more I read the lighter, fizzier and more disagreeable it is.

The letters to the Galatians and Romans, Exodus, Leviticus and Acts (to be followed by the letter to the Hebrews) in a quest to understand what the ancient Jewish law meant to early Christians.  In the years immediately after Christ’s ascension the Christians of Jerusalem worshipped daily in the Temple and kept the Torah as they had done before, and the leaders naturally figured that this was the Christian life—pagans converting to Christ would need to be circumcised, keep the dietary laws, participate in the Temple worship of daily sacrifice and so on.  The first big recorded dispute in the Church was whether pagan converts really needed to do all that to live a Christian life.

I have a facebook friend, a Protestant, who posts stuff about Christians needing to keep the entire ancient Jewish law, and I found that I couldn’t refute it off the top of my head because I didn’t know the historical details—all I could do would be to cite the authority of historical practice, which ain’t recognized by most Protestants.  (No, I’m not going to attempt to refute her beliefs unless she asks me – it isn’t any of my business, but it is an interesting question.)

My current thought is that the moral law is universally binding, of course, but in order to keep the rest of the old law you’d also need to re-establish the Levitical priesthood and have those guys carrying out all the prescribed sacrifices—the regular daily ones plus all the sacrifices required to cover breaches of the law—since all those sacrifices are an essential part of the ‘economy’ of the old law.  But then you run up against Christ and His sacrifice, ably explained and defended by St Paul.  So at the moment it’s boiling down to “in what way is Christ’s sacrifice a fulfillment of and a replacement for the Levitical system of sacrifice?”  It’s not a bad hook on which to hang your Bible reading.

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers.  A look at the Trinity as described in the ancient creeds, and how these descriptions make perfect colloquial sense when considered in the light of human creativity, especially writing.  For example, a book exists in the mind of its author as an Idea; in a sort of incarnation of its Energy when it takes on the flesh of ink and paper, and as Power when read and understood.  The parallels she finds are astounding.

Selected Literary Essays by CS Lewis once was lost but now is found.  The 13yo girl, an author, poet, and budding scholar of Middle English, was curled up one night with Arthur Q-C’s Oxford Book of English Verse, and we fell to discussing poetry.  The conversation eventually came round to alliterative meter and she said she’d tried her hand at it following the rules set out by Lewis in his essay The Alliterative Metre, one of the Selected Essays.  Lo! she found it in the foyer a few days ago and since her interests have wandered to something else I’m re-reading it.  It’s one of those thousands of books I bought when I was a Rich Young Bachelor hoping someday my kids would wander through them and educate themselves as I did with what few books I had in childhood.  When she finds a book to read I often tell her that I bought it just for her twenty-five years ago.

And I’m casting about for some good fiction to read—something Good, True and Beautiful.  Any suggestions?  Which reminds me, I haven’t yet read Bill Luse’s The Last Good Woman.  There.  That was easy.  Good fiction ahoy!

Electronic archaeology

I’m now vaguely competent in troff, an arcane forty-year-old typesetting language with conceptual similarities to TeX, in which I used to be a minor expert.  troff is surprisingly flexible once you get over the first hump in the learning curve, which mainly involves cryptic two-letter commands.

My competency grew after being assigned the task of rescuing a troff-encoded manual for an old programming language by converting it to an archival pdf.  Once I figured out the basic mechanics of the conversion, my boss’s boss got tweakitis – nudge that table, fix that linebreak, add page numbers, etc.  By now I’m ready to start writing troff macros.