Children are often confronted with harsh realities for which they are inadequately equipped. Innocence is fragile. Some of our earliest memories include bracing traumas of loss, and like every human being, children try to cope. They turn to God in their own way and often find Him in His interaction with them through creation. Just as seasons reflect in microcosm the seasons of our lives, our dominion over the animals is a means by which His watch-care over us can be better understood. For children especially, this is high theology. It is also a gateway to the power of literature.
H.G Wells was born on September 21, 1866. He was a brilliant thinker, but his humanistic worldview sparked a grand debate with none other than G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton wrote The Everlasting Man in 1925 as a literary rebuttal of Wells’ Outline of History in which Wells characterized human life as a seamless extension of animal life. In his book Defiant Joy, author Kevin Belmonte notes Chesterton’s desire to position his book as a counter-point dialog with Wells. One of the most famous passages explores the distinct differences between mankind and animals.
Stephen King was born on this day, September 21st in 1947. Famous for his mind-bending thrillers, he is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Book Awards. King’s writing is captivating for many reasons, but perhaps foremost is his ability to conspire with his readers to suspend reality and imagine a world where constraints are unraveled.
Even the greatest musicians set theory aside when they listen to beautiful songs. In fact, if they tried to analyze every measure and note, the spell would be broken. When John Keats wrote about Negative Capability, he meant the gift of appreciating beauty without understanding it. The tortured soul who has to know the ‘why’ of every detail is bound for unhappiness.
Leo Tolstoy was born on this day, September 9th in 1828. In his essay “What is Art?” Tolstoy tells the story of the Russian painter Karl Bryullov correcting a student’s sketch. “Why you only changed it a tiny bit,” the student marveled, “but it is quite a different thing.” Bryullov replied: “Art begins where that ‘tiny bit’ begins.” Tolstoy comments: “That saying is strikingly true not only of art but of all life. One may say that true life begins where the ‘tiny bit’ begins, where the infinitesimally small alterations of consciousness take place.”
It’s impossible to overstate the power of light. Claude Monet understood how subtle variances could affect color and texture and he returned again and again to paint exact landscapes changed only by cloud conditions, seasonality or time of day. His twenty-five canvas series known as Haystacks displays this tremendous power to affect perception.