Roy G. B’v visits Narnia

I know, things have been quiet around here lately. Nowadays, I mostly post at The Confessional Outhouse, but this little tidbit I thought was cool enough to share, and not really aligned with the mission of the ‘house:

Young kids are often taught about Roy G. Biv, a hypothetical gentleman who helps them remember the seven colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Even kindergartners tend to rebel at the mysterious ‘I’ in Mr. Biv’s name, however. What the hell is indigo? It has to be explained to them that indigo, halfway between blue and purple, is actually a very different, super-important color, trust us.

In fact, indigo is a bit of a fraud. The other six “colors of the rainbow” are the long-enshrined primary and secondary colors of art theory. Indigo only got shoehorned into the rainbow because Isaac Newton, who originally saw five colors in the spectrum, decided decades later when he wrote his landmark treatise Opticks that seven would be a more elegant number. He believed the seven colors should harmonize somehow with the seven classical “planets” in the night sky and the seven notes on the diatonic scale. So he added orange, along with indigo, an important dark blue dye since ancient times. In reality, most observers have a hard time seeing indigo as a separate band of the spectrum, and it’s not usually included in modern color theory.

If indigo is iffy, how many colors are there really? Well, the human eye can distinguish between about a million different hues, but a real rainbow displays its shades in one continuous spectrum, not the neat stripes of a Care Bears cartoon. In the Iliad, Homer refers to a one-tone purple rainbow, because the ancient Greeks didn’t have words for the full spectrum of color. Later classical and medieval thinkers agreed with Aristotle that the rainbow had three shades; in Islamic thought, there are four, corresponding to the four elements. So it’s largely a cultural call. Many Asian languages, even today, use the same word for “blue” or “green” — someone in China might describe the rainbow very differently from someone in Finland, or Papua New Guinea. Let’s just say there’s a wide spectrum of possibilities.

Although this is cool and neat by itself, what really caught my eye was that we owe our 7-color rainbow to Newton’s dependence on the medieval seven-planets as an organizing principle for other (all?) areas of life.

Have you ever asked yourself why there are seven Narnia books, and what holds them together, though they all seem so very different? It turns out that C.S. Lewis scholars have been trying to answer that question for over 50 years, and after many unconvincing attempts to systematize Narnia (plays of Shakespeare, days of the week, …), Anglican priest and Lewis specialist Michael Ward had an epiphany that Lewis was (just like Newton) using the seven medieval “planets” (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun, Moon) to organize his creative vision — and even subversively using the Narnia series to attempt to re-interject awareness of the seven medieval planetary ideals into the modern consciousness.

For more information, you could go read Ward’s book for lay readers, The Narnia Code, or his academic book (Warning! English professors only beyond this point!) Planet Narnia, or listen to him talk about it on Mars Hill Audio Journal #90, or hear the extended discussion from Mars Hill Audio: Conversations. Or you could just go poke around the man’s website.

And while you’re doing so, you can be listening to this cute song from my favorite band, even though it is now obsolete (maybe they’ll write a new song, like they did when this song had to be corrected).

What’s The Word?

Glad you asked! The Word is a fantastic biblical graphic-design project by this dude Jim LePage, who has apparently been channeling Donald Knuth for almost two years! Why did he do it?

In the past, I’ve tried an approach like, “starting today, I’m going to read my Bible for 20 minutes every day.” While I may stick with it for a week or a month (sometimes even longer), inevitably I stop because I have no self-discipline for that sort of thing. I knew I didn’t want to try that approach again so I tried to come up with a new strategy that would work for me.

I began by thinking of things that I really like and want to do. One thing that kept coming up was design. So I decided to try and combine my love of design with my desire to read the Bible more. The result is a series called Word.

Basically, Word is a series where I create original designs for each book of the Bible. Before each design, I spend time researching the book, finding out the themes, historical context, weirdest stories, etc. I also scan through parts of the book looking for a passage or story that could translate into a cool design. Each design isn’t meant to completely represent the book, rather it is merely based on a passage from the book.

There are too many great designs in the project to try to link to here, but to inspire you to hop on over and check them all out for yourself, I’ll choose a few of the most “three-sixteeny”, i.e. those that most highlight words. Enjoy!

Another good way to browse them all is in his online shop, from which you can order prints. (And then you can hop over to his tumblr, Gettin’ Biblical [HT Pooka], where he shares great Christian graphic design from all sorts of books and such.)

What is Faithfulness?

This really bugs me. Faith and faithful are words that (to me, at least), have unrelated meanings (see also grace vs. graceful). Faith is belief, but faithful does not mean being ‘full of faith‘. Or do you think it does mean that?

Image vs. Word III

Well, the whole Jacques Ellul Image vs. Word series has not generated the response I was hoping for. So instead of the originally planned four, I will cap off the Old Covenant and Incarnation phases with just one more post on the final two phases of New Covenant and Consummation. But that’s OK, because these are basically reiterations of the first two phases anyways, so there’s less new to discuss.

I want to read that discussion

Image vs. Word II

(If you haven’t read it yet, back up and read the previous post)

The second phase of the biblical relationship between Word and Image is Incarnation. Ellul states that “there is no true theophany.” Instances like these [Gen 18:1-16, Gen 32:22-32, Judges 13, Daniel 3:24-25] are all difficult to discern in terms of whether the apparent theophany is God himself, an angel, or pre-incarnate Christ. In any case, Ellul also asserts that the only possible Image of God is man — because this is the only vessel in which God himself placed his own image:

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Image vs. Word I

This is the first in a set of four posts discussing concept of the biblical relationship between Word and Image, as presented in Jacques Ellul’s inscrutable book Humiliation of the Word (which is not a how-to manual — as a visual artist friend of mine was disappointed to learn — but somewhat of a Cassandraic Jeremiad). I had mentioned before that I was going to read this book. Well I haven’t yet. I’ve read 86 pages — into the middle of chapter two (which is almost certainly more than you have!) The book is dense, to say the least, as well as being translated from French, but I have gotten a lot out of it, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who can power through it.

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Word of the Day

Nowadays, immediate doesn't mean what it used to. Continue reading

More Language

A while back, I gave an elder at my church a copy of Doing Our Own Thing. Yesterday (probably in retaliation, and certainly an escalation!), he gave me a copy of Jacques Ellul's The Humiliation of the Word, which he termed "a long, hard read", and knowing a little about the reading proclivities of that assessor, I'm probably in trouble. Continue reading

Do you, like, care about language?

Believe it or not, I have so far this year (well, since Christmas) read two whole books — and that in addition to keeping up with a new year's jumpstart of my Bible reading! The most recent book is John McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing; the Degradation of Language and Music, and Why We Should, Like, Care. Continue reading