27 August 2020

Heroes from ancient Greek mythology

The Heroes, or, Greek Fairy Tales for My Children by Charles Kingsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is Charles Kingsley's retelling of stories from ancient Greek mythology for children. It deals with three heroes, Perseus, Jason (of the Golden Fleece) and Theseus. I enjoyed reading it as a child, and liked the pictures, which are pretty, but not particularly Greek -- the pastoral landscapes, especially, look English rather than Greek.

Perseus rescues Andromeda
I found it interesting to see what I could remember of the stories, having last read them when I was about 10. Though it tells of the origin of a "Procrustean bed", which I had often seen referred to in other books, I retained no memories of it, and had to look it up as an adult. The thing I remembered best was the three old crones encountered by Perseus, who had to share one eye between them, and, of course, his fight with Medusa and rescue of Andromeda from the sea monster.

The last of these has several resemblances to the Christian legend of St George and the dragon. notably the theme of human sacrifice. I found the similarities and differences interesting, especially since I've written a book that features the legend of St George

The only thing I remembered about Theseus was his encounter with the Minotaur, which, however, I had pictured as taking place underground, but in the story it evidently did not, which made little sense of the spool of thread he had to carry to find his way out again.

But I also found the stories strangely flat, especially Theseus. He was an ancient superhero, so powerful that he never seemed to be in any real danger. The harpies, which are supposed to be terrifying monsters, don't look particularly terrifying in the picture, and seem even less so in the story. They arouse curiosity rather than horror, and are vanquished quite easily.

I do think, however, that they would be good for modern kids to read, and not only those brought up on a diet of superheroes. There are many references and allusions to them in other literature -- the Procrustean bed is just one example -- and so it can help children to understand those references.

Also, the past is another country, another culture, and reading stories from different cultures can help children to understand cultures other than their own.

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12 August 2020

The devil made me do it

One of the most curious inversions of Christian theology can be seen in the popular perception of the role of the devil or satan in Christian theology.

Someone is found guilty of a heinous crime, and is reported in the media as having said "The devil made me do it", and the perception is created that the role of the devil is to absolve Christians of responsibility for all the evil things they do.

The reality is the other way round.

Just before receiving communion, Orthodox Christians pray to the Lord Jesus Christ "who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first". As Christians the only thing we can say is not that the devil made me do it, but that I let the devil talk me into doing it. What we can, and must say, is "The devil made him do it," or "the devil made her do it."

The primary characteristic of the devil is the making of accusations. In Hebrew the satan is the accuser, the one who makes accusations in a court of law (see Zechariah 3 and Revelation 12:10). In Greek satan is translated as diavolos, from from which the English words devil and diabolical come.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged". It is a human tendency to want to judge others for the evil that they do, and to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. Actually it is devilish tendency, for the most characteristically satanic activity is the making of accusations, and especially false accusations.

Not judging other people does not mean that we should call evil deeds good. Evil deeds are evil, but we are to judge actions rather than people. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin. The devil came into the world to accuse sinners, but Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. If we ask God to have mercy on us, and he does, we ought to cultivate a merciful heart and not judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. As G.K. Chesterton put it, "In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment."

If we use the devil as an excuse for sinful behaviour, then it is always to excuse the sinful behaviour of other people, never our own. It's OK to say "The devil made him do it," but not to say "the devil made me do it."

Perhaps the best summary of the Christian view of the role of the devil in Christian theology comes from a secular anthropologist, whose book Demons and the devil describes the result of a study he made of orthodoxy and orthopraxy on the Greek island of Naxos;
The Orthodox moral world emerges as an arena in which good struggles against evil, the kingdom of heaven against the kingdom of earth. In life, humans are enjoined to embrace Christ, who assists their attainment of Christian virtues: modesty, humility, patience and love. At the same time, lack of discernment and incontinence impede the realization of these virtues and thereby conduce to sin; sin in turn places one closer to the Devil... Since the resurrection of Christ the results of this struggle have not been in doubt. So long as people affirm their faith in Christ, especially at moments of demonic assault, there is no need to fear the influence of the Devil. He exists only as an oxymoron, a powerless force.

08 August 2020

Nnedi Okorafor Deep Future Story for the Moment, Binti | A Pilgrim in Narnia

This book is quite high on my "want to read" list, but I haven't yet seen it in any book shops in the Great City of Tshwane Nnedi Okorafor Deep Future Story for the Moment, Binti | A Pilgrim in Narnia:
Binti is the award-winning novella of a young African woman with a special gift enhanced and challenged by her rugged stubbornness, deep love, and dynamic intelligence. Binti’s community is closely modelled on the Himba people of southwest Africa, including the special braiding of her hair and the red-clay otjize that coats her skin for beauty, protection, and an embodied sense of culture. Binti is a “master harmonizer,” someone who is able to use a genius for mathematics, a training in advanced technological development, and the customs of her people to “speak” into the world, bringing people and worlds together in harmony or challenge.
If you've read any of the books mentioned in that review, and especially if you've seen any of them on sale in Tshwane, please let me know.

Apart from the praise given to the books in Brenton Dickieson's review,  I have a couple of other reasons for wanting to read the books, mainly personal curiosity.

One reason is that the protagonist of the book comes from the Himba people of the Kaokoveld region of northwestern Namibia and southwestern Angola. I've met a few Himba people, and have been very impressed by them. They are related to the Herero and Mbanderu people of central Namibia and speak the same language.

I was once rummaging through some old files in the office of the Anglican Church in Namibia and came across some correspondence from and about one Thomas Ruhozu, who was said to be the only Anglican in Kaokoveld. There was an address on one of the letters so I wrote a letter to him, and six weeks later he appeared at the church office, 700 km away.

He arrived when a diocesan synod was starting, so he came to it as an observer, and someone was found who could translate the proceedings into Herero for him, and in between synod sessions we gave him a crash course in evangelism.

He told his story. He wanted to go to school so he walked 150 km to Odibo in Ovamboland, where there was an Anglican church school, and decided to become a Christian and was baptised. He got to Grade 4 but his father died, so he had to go home to look after the family cattle.

After the synod I had to take some of the delegates back to Ovamboland, and we went via Kamanjab, on the edge of the Kaokoveld, and left him there -- non-residents of the Kaokoveld were not allowed in without special permits -- this was 50 years ago. Here is a photo of us at the garage in Kamanjab vwhere we parted.
Gideon Ileka, Steve Hayes, Thomas Ruhozu

Thomas Ruhozu was a pretty active evangelist. A couple of months later a priest from Odibo visited and admitted 20 catechumens. A few months after that he visited again, baptised the first 20 and admitted 50 more.

I met a few other people from the Kaokoveld as well, and found them all pretty impressive.

My other interest in the novel that makes me want to read it is the name of the protagonist, Binti.

I had an aunt called Binti Growdon. Her maiden name was Cairncross, and my mother told me that the name Binti came from an Arabic word meaning "girl" or "daughter".

I lost touch with aunt Binti after my uncle Tommy Growdon died in 1965, though I heard she had remarried and lived in Cape Town. But I've never met anyone else with the name Binti, and would like to meet one, even if she's only a character in a novel.

07 August 2020

Lockdown and the battle of the booze

When the lockdown for Covid19 started back in March, it was at Level 5, and the sale of alcoholic liquor was forbidden. That made sense at the time, because the idea was that only essentials, like food, could be sold, and alcoholic liquor was not deemed essential.

Then it dropped to Level 4, and then to Level 3, and liquor could be sold again. But it was stopped again at Level 3, but the rationale was somewhat different, since by that time a lot of other non-essentials could be sold. The problem was that when liquor was sold again, there was more domestic violence, more drunken driving, and more fights generally, and this was filling up the hospitals which needed the beds for the expected inrush of people infected with Covid19.

We have had some booze in the house for years, and once we had finished the Chateau de Cardboard we had bought to drink with our dinner once or twice a week, I went to make an inventory of what we have. Here it is:
A sip of Jerepigo. Brandy for a Christmas cake (if we can afford the other ingredients), a couple of bottles of table wine and some Marula mampoer.  

And looking at that, I have a suggestion for the government for a compromise solution which should make a lot more people more happy. 

Keep the ban on hard liquor sales, but allow the sale of wine and beer, and limit them to one bottle of wine or one six-pack of beer per purchase. . 

That should give the wine industry and its employees a chance to recover while not filling the hospitals too rapidly with non-Covid patients. 

And when we're allowed to go back to church, we'll need that sip of Jerepigo for communion. 


Seeing if the new Blogger editor has improves

Trying to see if the new Blogger editor works. I typed a couple of paragraphgs in compose view but nothing appeared on the screen. Now in HTML view something appears but the previous sentence still has not appeared when I am typing a new one. This is absdolutely impossible to use. I am still looking at "now in HTNL something a" while I am typing this. New paragraph, but the first paragraph stioll has not appeared. I'll go away and make a cupt of coffeee, and maybe what I have tryped will appear on the screen when I come back. New paragraph. Now the first paragraph has appeared, and the first six wqords of the second pasragraph. Thisd, they say is an "improved user experience". Waiting three minutes to see what you've typed is an "improvememnt? I spelt that wrong, I think, but I can't correct it since I can't see it. Back from making coffee, and now I can see all three paragraphsd abover, but the user experience of waiting for text to appear is as exciting as watching paint dry.

PS, I've just discovered how to get the old editor back, at least until 24 August 2020.

So I'll be able to carry on blogging here until then. If things here haven't improved, I'll be back to blogging at Methodius Hayes's journal — LiveJournal: My other blogs at WordPress and Blogspot have become unusable because of their dysfunctional new editors. In February 2020 the WordPress editor became unusable.

04 August 2020

Writing a sequel

A few It looks like my bloggin daysa are over. The people at Blogger in competition with Wordpress to see weh can makwe the msot dysfunctional blogging software. Tyhe new editorn is slow, slow, slow. It takes about 20 seconds before what you've typerd appeared on the screen and it is almost impossible to go back and correct it. Does anyone know of a bloggin blat form that acrtually works?


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