Leaf by Niggle is probably the J.R.R. Tolkien short story that I have read or listened to the most. My view of it has changed over the years, most significantly shortly after deconverting when I realised my vision was fundamentally different from Tolkien’s. But I continue to love it and it continues to influence me.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series was an important part of my childhood. Not only did I read the books a number of times, but we also had BBC dramatisations of them that were frequently played.
I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was probably my favourite, with its tales of travel, but one particular section of The Last Battle had a much larger impact on me. In fact, arguably it affected my view of the afterlife more than the Bible itself, and the effect of that endures today, years after I rejected the Christadelphian “kingdom”.
I’m not sure that I saw a single sunrise in 2019. However, I tried to make up for it in sunsets, and wanted to share some of my favourite sunset photos.
I hold a rather remarkable historical document in my hand. It’s a text that, despite its age, is still well-known today. I refer to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first of the seven genuine epics of Harry Potter.
We have more surviving copies of this than any other historical text from the late twentieth century. These include first editions written a mere five years after the events described. The copy I’m holding is from several years later, but we can still be confident that the text has been accurately preserved.
A few years back, after Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebrations, I wrote about how fiction can be life changing. This is true in general, but there are particular stories that I strongly remember affecting my view of the world, sometimes in ways that I doubt the author intended.
It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t gone as I planned. And sometimes it’s tempting to just write it off and forget about it. But as the halfway mark slipped past, I started to consider what I really want to achieve this year and how I want to be able to remember it.
Growing up, I always liked the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Now I see that it shows problems with God.
The words from Mendelssohn’s Elijah echo in my head:
If with all your hearts ye truly seek Me,
Ye shall ever surely find Me,
Thus saith our God.
It’s a song I like a lot (yes, still), and it seems like such a simple promise. But was it ever really true?
It is said that our Northern Hemisphere ancestors were familiar only with white swans. When they sat round the fire talking about the swans they had seen, there was no need to specify the colour: The mere concept of a black swan was absurd.
However, sometimes these things are a matter of perspective. I happen to come from a land Down Under where Christmas is in summer, where mothers hop around with their young in a pouch, where spiny mammals lay eggs, and where the swans are most distinctly black. And so it was many years before I first saw a white swan.
At the end of 2019 I had a list of books that made an impression on me that year, but never got round to writing them up. Since 2020 is now half over, it’s time to fix that.
I guarantee this list was completed December last year, and doesn’t contain any clever additions like Pandemic Preparedness for Dummies or The Traveller’s Guide to Cancelling Everything and Staying at Home.