1874 Oil on Canvas
"No magic dwelling-place in magic story, shut up in the heart of a thick wood, was ever more solitary and deserted to the fancy, than was her father's mansion in its grim reality, as it stood lowering on the street: always by night, when lights were shining from neighbouring windows, a blot upon its scanty brightness; always by day, a frown upon its never-smiling face . . .
The spell upon it was more wasting than the spell that used to set enchanted houses sleeping once upon a time, but left their waking freshness unimpaired. The passive desolation of disuse was everywhere silently manifest about it. Within doors, curtains, drooping heavily, lost their old folds and shapes, and hung like cumbrous palls. Hecatombs of furniture, still piled and covered up, shrunk like imprisoned and forgotten men, and changed insensibly. Mirrors were dim as with the breath of years. Patterns of carpets faded and became perplexed and faint, like the memory of those years' trifling incidents. Boards, starting at unwonted footsteps, creaked and shook. Keys rusted in the locks of doors. Damp started on the walls, and as the stains came out, the pictures seemed to go in and secrete themselves. Mildew and mould began to lurk in closets. Fungus trees grew in corners of the cellars. Dust accumulated, nobody knew whence nor how; spiders, moths, and grubs were heard of every day. An exploratory blackbeetle now and then was found immovable upon the stairs, or in an upper room, as wondering how he got there. Rats began to squeak and scuffle in the night time, through dark galleries they mined behind the panelling.
The dreary magnificence of the state rooms, seen imperfectly by the doubtful light admitted through closed shutters, would have answered well enough for an enchanted abode. Such as the tarnished paws of gilded lions, stealthily put out from beneath their wrappers; the marble lineaments of busts on pedestals, fearfully revealing themselves through veils; the clocks that never told the time, or, if wound up by any chance, told it wrong, and struck unearthly numbers, which are not upon the dial; the accidental tinklings among the pendant lustres, more startling than alarm-bells; the softened sounds and laggard air that made their way among these objects, and a phantom crowd of others, shrouded and hooded, and made spectral of shape."
--From Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
There is a cloud hanging over all of us. No! It’s not Marx’s specter of communism; do not mistake it for that. It is a ghost-filled misty mass casting its colossal shadow over every move we make. I only began to feel its damp effects recently, but since then, the cloud has been growing.
My discovery began on a partly cloudy (I am referring to real clouds now) day in Oxford, England. I was on a double-decker public bus, headed away from the city-center in search of C.S. Lewis’s church and grave. My habit of flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants had led me there with no tour guide, no map and no idea of their whereabouts except that they were, “That way,” as directed by a bookseller. I followed my heart, and exited the bus at a stop next to a locally owned flower shop in what I figured was the general vicinity of the church.
“How fortuitous!” I thought. Well, it may have been something more vulgar, but I like to think of my past-self speaking a semi-Victorian English. Anyway, “How fortuitous!” I thought, “I can purchase a flower to place on or next to the grave.” I entered the shop and bought a Gerber Daisy for a few odd pence in my pocket from a kind woman working there. She happened to know the location of the church, and provided me a map, and a penciled path on that map to the church. A narrow, winding walkway through suburb neighborhoods, under lush hedge-arches and along quaint stonewalls brought me to the church and its graveyard. It was a humble, stone Anglican building with a walled cemetery and a few leafy trees on the grounds. At the gate, I met an aged gardener, sitting on a stone eating a sack lunch with his calloused hands. We were the only two around, and after approaching him, I said, “Is it okay if I . . . ? ” and pointed to the cemetery beyond the gate.
“Sure,” he said indifferently, and I entered. There was no wind; I was completely alone, and everything growing in that graveyard was green. I walked from headstone to headstone, my little daisy in hand, looking for ‘the one’ and not caring how quickly I found it. At last, there it was! A simple slab with an empty flower holder at its base. I put my flower in it, stepped back and took a picture with my iPhone (see picture above). Immediately I felt like I had committed some terrible sacrilege or at least an embarrassing faux pas, so I put my phone away and blushed a little. When the shame had passed, I just stood there feeling overwhelmed. I prayed and thanked the LORD for His Spirit’s work in this man’s life; the allergens in the air may have forced a tear or two out of my eyes. I did not know then what was overwhelming me. I think I know now. The answer can be found in two passages—one from C.S. Lewis himself and the other from Holy Scripture:
“You must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature [at death]. Nature is mortal. We shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive” (From The Weight of Glory).
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV).
The cloud! That ever-growing cloud of witnesses was swelling over me and I was feeling its cool mists. The moment in that silent cemetery awakened me to one idea: C.S. Lewis is not dead. He has joined that ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ I did not have a false sentimental picture of him looking down from heaven smiling on me. No, I was thankful for God’s work in him, and felt the weight of that work—the weight of glory.
From that day to this, the cloud has been growing, or rather my awareness of it has been growing. Every book I read, from McCullough’s John Adams to Metaxas' Bonheoffer; From Beacher Stowe to Boreham; from Augustine to Ambrose; from Dickens to Dostoyevsky the cloud has been building to cumulonimbus proportions. God’s work in those men and women has continually reminded me of the fleeting nature of nature and the unwavering power of our creator, even in his flawed children.
I left my flower there and made my way back to the bus stop, feeling thankful for that moment in the graveyard when I was surrounded not by the dead but the living. The weight of glory has been hard upon me ever since, as it should be upon all of us,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).
May 11, 2012
Tippin Dental Group
G.K. Chesterton was born one hundred and thirty-eight years ago this month into the Pax Britannica and prosperity of Queen Victoria’s reign. He grew up a normal—if a somewhat absent minded—young man. But at a young age, God gave Chesterton a capacity for joy seemingly unmatched in any of his contemporaries.
He seemed to take nothing seriously, calling the cosmos cozy in Orthodoxy and writing lines such as, “Woe unto him that considereth his hair foolishly, for his hair will be made the type of him.” But this supposed flippancy was only his keen ability to prioritize the truly important from everything else. He took two things very seriously: friendship and the Christian faith; though it is refreshing that he was able to laugh through discussions of these things as well. In his letters, in his essays, in his books, and in anecdotes told of him, he was consistently lighthearted and full of loving optimism. At a young age he pondered in all honesty, and maybe a bit of naiveté, “I wonder whether there will ever come a time when I shall be tired of any one person.” He also found immense pleasure in life’s tangibles,
“I do not think there is anyone who takes quite such a fierce pleasure in things being themselves as I do. The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me: the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud. It is just the same with people. When we call a man "manly" or a woman "womanly" we touch the deepest philosophy”1 (From a letter to his wife, postmarked 1899).
Chesterton gloried in “The birthday present of birth,”2 and Christians should be truly thankful for the birth and life of a man with such an expansive mind and spirit-filled, joyous character. History’s geniuses have a poor record when it comes to joy and mirth. The celebrated genius of Edgar Allen Poe was drink-inflamed, and disturbingly dark; Nietzsche went mad; Alexander the Great’s violent mood swings are legendary; even Bernard Shaw’s hilarity was tainted by a vicious and unfeeling belief in eugenics. But Chesterton, his genius uncompromised, enjoyed life, lived temperately and used his powers for defending the faith he loved, singing (completely out of pitch) all the way.
As far as it concerned Chesterton, he acquired no personal enemies, but made a point to endear himself to those lambasting his person in the “The Daily Mail” or “The Times.” Men such as H.G. Wells and G.B. Shaw with worldviews diametrically and militantly opposed to Chesterton’s thought of him as a friend, and a dear one.
Cultural change and language mutation—the products of time passing—will eventually force most names into the choking mists of history, but the name of Chesterton should not disappear into that ancient fog uncontested. His perspective was unique and truly valuable to Christians. He brought mirth to the Gospel and joy to Orthodoxy—two traits that need a good dusting in Christian literature.
R. Eric Tippin
Tippin Dental Group Staff Lounge
May 3, 2012
 Ward, Maisie (2007-12-28). Gilbert Keith Chesterton (Sheed & Ward Classic). Oak Grove. Kindle Edition.
 Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2009-10-04). Orthodoxy. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
After a few moments of consideration, I thought I ought to make a quick mention today letting everyone know that we have now squarely moved from the "postmodern era" into the "ironic era." These transitions are always a little nebulous and hard to pin down, but now there is little doubt the switch has taken place. I'm sorry the transition has already past (maybe a week ago) and I did not announce it on the very day of the new era's arrival. However, during the last few years the postmodern era was showing its age and has now officially moved on to better things at another company. Although I could take the time now to go into all of the details concerning the whys and wherefores of this shift, I have come to the realization that this would only be a redundancy and a preempting of all the social commentators and academics of the foreseeable future fleshing out the intricacies and cultural trends that have brought us here and have anchored us, in our present state, securely in the ironic. I must say I have already enjoyed parts of this new era, but also severely dread other out workings of its designs. Because these eras are quite all-encompassing, I would begin going through each area of your life and seeing which things can stay or must go. Finally, the last item I wanted to touch on after announcing this change in era is one of the greatest losses going forward. The thing surely to be missed the most is sincerity.
There are movie stars, and then there’s Shah Rukh Khan. Some call him India’s Tom Cruise — but that understates his fame [...]. If pressed, we’d say that the American equivalent of SRK, the king of Bollywood, might be Heinz Ketchup: He’s sweet, he’s lightly processed, and he’s everywhere. Bollywood produces 1000 titles a year (compared with Hollywood’s 500) reaching an audience of 3 billion, which makes Khan — who stars in no fewer than five films per annum, and produces dozens more — a very busy man. Last week, when he took a break from triple-threating and shilling for his vanity musk “Tiger Eyes by SRK” to accept an award at Yale, America gave him a different kind of “special treatment”: summary detention. TSA didn’t see an international film star — they saw a Muslim in a private plane headed toward New York, and they held Khan for hours before the Indian consulate and the U.S. State Department intervened. (Giant chagrin.) “Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America,” said Khan. What can we say? A little humility is never a bad thing, but America doesn’t need to support the recovery by seeding the business of humiliation."
The ironic era is here when catagorizing frees us to commentate from above categories! More examples are suited up for this trackmeet and not all are so friendly. But keep heart; we have recongized and categorized them in order to deflect their impact with ironic observations!
With all sincerety,
Mowing my Lawn
Roeland Park Kansas
Special thanks to Instagram for retro filtering our image of my record player spinning Copeland on the iPad.