An Uncommon Dozen: Commonplace Quotes from August-September 2018

As a CM student, I keep a commonplace book—a practice which was once common to most well-educated people.  This is a place where I can copy down and keep near me especially beautiful or important or thought-provoking or amusing quotes from what I read.  While I’m backlogged on copying these into my physical commonplace book, I’ve encountered some lovely thoughts recently, and I thought I’d share some of them with you.

To start, some common sense from George MacDonald.  The Princess and the Goblin  is the second book I have read aloud.  Hannah, Justin, and I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together, then Irene and Curdie’s first adventures.  We’re onto The Princess and Curdie now.

“That’s all nonsense,” said Curdie.  “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Then if you don’t know what I mean, what right have you to call it nonsense?” asked the princess, a little offended.

George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin
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Godly Foolishness

“Come in,” said the Bishop.
The door opened. A singular and violent group made its appearance on the threshold. Three men were holding a fourth man by the collar. The three men were gendarmes; the other was Jean Valjean.

“Ah! here you are!” he exclaimed, looking at Jean Valjean. “I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs. Why did you not carry them away with your forks and spoons?”
Jean Valjean opened his eyes wide, and stared at the venerable Bishop with an expression which no human tongue can render any account of.

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, pages 85 and 86

Jean Valjean stole the bishop’s silver while the bishop’s guest. In the morning, he is arrested and brought back to the bishop. And before Valjean is even accused of stealing the silverware, the bishop gives the thief silver candlesticks as well.

This of the bishop’s is assuredly a very unjust act.

True, the Lord says: “But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41).  But isn’t this a direction for behavior in the face of adversity—not of restitution?

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Thanks and Praise: a Narration from Volume Two of Ourselves

Most of us who have an idea of God offer thanksgiving to Him occasionally, whether when our blessings are brought unusually to our notice or when a prayer—for an opportunity, for a success, for the recovery of a loved one—is answered. But these thanksgivings can be few and far between; the Lord has told us through Scripture that He is honored by our thanksgiving, and we ought to make thanksgiving often. These frequent thanksgivings should be habitual in two ways—that we often have voluntary-involuntary liftings of the soul toward God in thanksgiving, and that at regular intervals we remember what we are thankful to Him for. We should remember that we all have many, many things to be thankful for: the gift of life and family, the gladness of work, whatever amount of health the Lord has given us, the pleasantness of our clothing. To go outside, even when we are in the city, should always be a joy to us, and we should thank God for it.

Praise, too, we should often offer to God—He has told us that He is pleased and honored by our praise, as the human artisan is honored and pleased by judicious praise of his work. The works of God for which we may offer praise are always before us, from the trees outside my window to the iPad I am writing this narration on—because God designed the world in which the human artisans could discover, the way of making the device. The wonders that the scientists show us of the universe are wonders by seeing which we can see more the wonders that God has wrought; and we should offer Him praise for them.

Geologic Time on the Human Armspan

Yes, I’ll admit it. I have trouble visualizing geologic amounts of time. Then again, you probably do too. I doubt that there are many people for whom the span of time “a hundred and thirty-five million years” makes immediate, intuitive, graspable sense. This still doesn’t make much sense for me… but at least now I have an idea of “Paleozoic,” of “Mesozoic,” of “Cenozoic,” relative to the age of the earth, via a visualization from Basin and Range, by John McPhee. This is a school read, so I copied the helpful concept into my science notebook, then figured that I’d share it on here!

By the Light of a Fast-Fading Moon

On Tuesday, Sky Guide, a handbook-to-the-heavens-on-your-screen which our family uses, sent me a notification that early the next morning there would be a lunar eclipse + blood moon + supermoon. I didn’t take action in the evening, but at two-something a.m. I woke up randomly, looked up times, and set an alarm for around the three-something the eclipse was supposed to start at. When the alarm went off, I got some brothers, my nature journal, and the first pencil-stub I could find, and headed outside. The boys went back in pretty soon, but I stayed out to do my conscientious duty as a Charlotte Mason student—something I do more dutifully in interesting or unusual situations—and wrote about the eclipse as best I could. So here’s a transcription of it—slightly edited, because I wrote it in the wee hours of the morning by bad light—as my first post here; a piece of writing influenced both by the education I’m being given and my ongoing attempts to put words to the world.

1/31/18—Lunar eclipse

~3:50 am

The visible part of the eclipse is just starting, and I’m sitting on the side of the driveway shivering. In addition to undergoing an eclipse, tonight the moon is an extra-large “supermoon.” It is very large and bright and casts distinct shadows. The pencil lines appear to fade in and out rather, but it’s even possible to write by—but a little hard, so please pardon the handwriting. While writing I am noticing the slice cut off the edge of the moon getting larger when I look up. The night is pretty clear, but there’s a thin cloud layer; you can see the moon through it easily, but not many stars are visible and the moon has a faint white halo at about the distance from stretched thumb-tip to pinky-tip held at arm’s length. The edge of earth’s shadow can now be seen to be curved, but it is not nearly as curved as the moon’s bite from the sun last August. Writing is getting dimmer and harder, but it’s nice to have an eclipse you can stare at without special glasses. Now the moon is almost half obscured. It is possible that it has a ruddy tinge—this is supposed to be a blood moon as well—but the visible part of its disk looks dimmer now we I (the boys went back inside ere I started writing) can’t see the whole thing. This writing is hard.

Note at top of the page: the thermometer out back says 37°

Caption by sketch: even harder to draw than to write by scant moon-light!

1/31/18—Lunar eclipse

~4:50 am—After watching for a while, I went back inside for around half an hour, and now wish I hadn’t! When I went inside the mostly white moon was more than half obscured by a dark, somewhat convex shadow. I was noticing dimmer light and more stars. Coming out again, I expected to see no apparent moon or a slight sliver disappearing behind a shadow. One expectation was met, that there would be much less light; the stars look almost new-moon bright, and I wouldn’t be writing this if not for my headlamp. But the moon did not look as I expected! This, I suppose, is where the prognosticated “blood moon” bit comes in; the disk was lit at the bottom and up the edges, as in my drawing above-right—and the lit part was definitely reddish! The red has now faded, and the moon is somewhat dimmer and less lit, I think, than when I came out. Also, it’s sinking—this time I’m sitting on the asphalt above the driveway to be able to see (cold). I can see and recognize Cassiopeia and the big dipper. Cassiopeia has moved from where I saw her at the beginning of the night. I saw Orion at the beginning of the night, but don’t now; I don’t know if he’s set or I’m just in the wrong spot (on a local level) to see him. I saw a meteor a little bit ago!