Friday, March 28, 2014

Nature is broken

The world God made is so beautiful, sometimes it's easy to forget that it's as broken as the people who live in it.

If nature wasn't broken, loved ones wouldn't be born with illnesses that can't be cured. Mudslides wouldn't indiscriminately kill and leave families waiting for answers.

Stupid mother cats wouldn't ignore their kittens and let them die in the cold, even though they're right in front of her. And then people wouldn't have to wait, helpless, wondering which kitten will next go stiff and lifeless. And then try to rub life back into its tiny body, hear its tiny cry, and wonder if it even has the strength to suck its mother's milk. And realize they probably don't, and become resigned to waiting until they're all gone.

It wouldn't have to be that way. That mother cat could just as easily have licked them, warmed them, nursed life into them. But she didn't. No amount of hovering by people will fix it. Even if you could keep them warm, they won't live, because their mother won't take care of them.

I wonder if God sometimes feels this way. What does he think when we act selfishly, when we remain cold and heartless even though people who need us are right in front of us? Has he resigned himself to our free will, and waits, knowing that if we choose not to, no amount of hovering can change us?

They're just kittens. That's something you could fix without messing up free will, right? I ask.

Sometimes it all seems unfair. Sometimes my favorite hymn, This Is My Father's World, seems to be mocking.

This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings and 'round me rings
The music of the spheres.

But how much worse is it for God? He is omniscient. He can't put these sorrows out of his mind like we can. He knows when a sparrow falls. He knows when a kitten dies. He knows each person lost on the Malaysian flight more intimately than their own families do.

This is my Father's world; oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

Some of the tragedies come from human selfishness. Others seem to be accidents—nature's rebellion manifesting in pain. Like us, nature is not immune to the effects of sin. It struggles, fights, and sometimes, by the grace of God, overcomes.

But still we wait, resigned, trying to remember what we know.
This is my Father's world. The battle is not done
Jesus who died will be satisfied
And earth and heaven be one.

Willing them to live.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shades of Milk and Honey review

After a couple months full of theater and schoolwork, I decided to treat myself to some reading: Shades of Milk and Honey, the first book of the Galmourist Histories, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I had the pleasure of meeting Mary at GenCon 2012, but only last week did I manage to pick up one of her books. I'm glad I did. I wasn't sold on the idea of Regency fantasy when I started, but as I read, I came to enjoy how well Mary's magic system works itself into the Regency world.

I've been increasingly interested in the Regency period in the last few years. I've read Pride and Prejudice upwards of a dozen times. (I may or may not have dressed as Elizabeth Bennet for Halloween last year.) It's an era that really lends itself to the aesthetic, and Mary works it.

The magic system is called glamour. Glamourists use breath (ether) in different arrangements to create illusions, even sounds and scents. The process isn't described in much technical detail, but that's not the point. The subtlety of glamour blends very well into the social setting of the Regency and thus the relationships that populate the story.

Our main character is Jane, a woman who is so nice and polite I at first couldn't believe her, but she soon develops into a remarkably subtle character. She's learned to repress her emotions and put stock in herself based on her propriety. By the end, she learns how to open herself up to her passions (and eventually takes less crap from her spoiled sister, whom I just wanted to slap. Even the sister, though, is developed enough to be believable). Love and family, in traditional novel of manners fashion, take the forefront.

Mary's elevator pitch for the series is "Jane Austen with magic." There are a few sprinklings of humor of a type you wouldn't get in an Austen book, but the idea is true to the setting. I've read that the other books depart from the typical Austen-esque plotline, but I think these characters (and glamour itself) have the potential to make other story types not only memorable, but also fun.

You may need a love of Regency or romance to get you in the door, but the characters and the magic will keep you there. I enjoyed this story and the world of glamour very much.

Find Mary's blog here.