Recipe: Friendship

 

NOTE: This recipe is reliable but unpredictable in its results. Use with caution.

Ingredients:

  • 1 person (in addition to oneself)
  • common experiences
  • a shared interest
  • sarcasm or humor, to taste

Serves:

2, in some cases for a season, in others for a lifetime

Preparation Time:

10 minutes – a year

Directions:

  1. Meet someone–and have a shared experience together; this could be a class at school, a job, or some sort of social event. This shared experience can be either good or bad, and the experience doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or even interesting. These factors are incidental and should not affect the quality of the friendship.
  2. Find a common interest and mix this in. This could be a love for writing letters, or cinema, or painting one’s toenails, or vigorous exercise. The point is that people tend to need an excuse for a friendship, and a common interest often provides that initial glue to bring two people together.
  3. Be patient: occasionally the ingredients do not react well at first. Sometimes, close friends start out as irritating acquaintances, so it’s important to keep an open mind regarding people.
  4. Spend time with this friend and, for added fun, go on adventures (a recipe that pairs well with this one).
  5. Not all friendships will be equal in depth; this is normal, and having a variety of friendships can make life more fun.
  6. When fitting, add sarcasm or other varieties of humor; some cooks prefer sincerity and verbal encouragement, but my personal preference is to avoid the entire sub-genre known as “words of affirmation;” do your best to kill the friendship (I call this the “charbroiling technique”). If the friendship lasts, you’ll know it was real.
  7. If the above steps don’t work for you…then write your own recipe!

What are your recipes for friendship?

Please Sign Here for the Princess

Though it had been an excessively long, mildly inconvenient journey, here it was at last: the great palace of the kingdom of Lira. As his aide-de-camp pulled the horseless carriage round the grand driveway in front of the palace, Prince Albert of Forint couldn’t help but lament (to himself, of course) upon noticing all that scaffolding clinging to the entirety of the east wing of the building. That was the older part of the palace, he knew, and considered hopelessly old-fashioned, but of a style that Albert privately still quite liked. Those thin, clear windows mass-produced nowadays might be more practical, but could they hold a candle to the ornate, handcrafted stained glass of the past centuries? Maybe not, however, Albert reminded himself, he was not there to critique windows.

The carriage came to a halt, and Albert removed his goggles. His aide-de-camp hopped out, darted round to open Albert’s door, assisted in removing the voluminous duster that covered Albert’s shining gold armor, and produced a handkerchief that banished any stray flecks that had managed to get through said duster. A Liran official rushed forward – sedately, of course – to provide honored-to-welcome-yous and right-this-ways, and, following that way, Albert strode up the stately steps, his armor flashing in the brightly shining sun, looking every inch a king’s son come to win the hand of a fair princess. Which, of course, he was.

Admittedly, by the time he reached the top of said stately steps, Albert was not over-fond of said brightly shining sun, as the former was very long and the latter very hot. Once inside, had anyone asked his opinion on the subject, he might have said the temperature in the palace itself was untowardly warm, especially in the throne room, where he was received. Otherwise, it was all that was splendid, with the well-dressed courtiers of Lira seated in ornate chairs of dark wood on either side of the room, and the King of Lira seated in an ornate chair of gold on a dais at the far end of the room.

The official Albert was following stopped about halfway up the aisle and began howling out may-I-presents and of-that-names. Albert might have moved a bit closer to the dais himself, as, when the king spoke his own welcome in a voice of average volume, Albert had to strain just the slightest to catch every word. But, while Albert thought that stepping forward slightly as he gave his reply showed a bold spirit, any more might be taken as presumptuous.

At any rate, Albert didn’t really need to hear all that much, as he had memorized the words of the ceremony for the Winning of the Hand of the Fair Princess since he was old enough to do so, and had seen it take place for several of his own sisters. As was custom, the Princess of Lira herself was not present in the room. However, he’d heard of her as a kind, virtuous, accomplished young woman, qualities which of course meant nothing individually, as everyone said that of most princesses. But, taken together, they meant that she wasn’t a madwoman, at least. More importantly, he’d seen a photographic portrait of her, and had been pleased to discover it wasn’t entirely unlike her painted one. So, with confidence, he responded with gusto to the King’s scripted hast-thou-come-to-win-the-hand-ofs and dost-thou-accept-the-tasks-set-forths.

And so, at long last they came to the very end of the ceremony. Now all that was needed was for the King to say, “Verily, I see thou art a man of great heart and courage. Go forth, with my blessing,” and Albert would be shown to his guest room. There’d be an opulent ball this evening, where he would meet the Princess – along with all the other suitors, poor fools – and then he’d actually go forth and complete the tasks the following morning. Said tasks were fairly standard stuff – find this mystical jewel, slay that marauding dragon – he’d review them again in the morning.

But, only, the king didn’t say what he was supposed to stay. Instead, he said: “Verily, I see thou art a man of great heart and courage. Now, all that is needed is for you to acknowledge the Terms and Conditions.”

Albert let a good thirty seconds go by while he 1) heard what the king said 2) realized it wasn’t what the king was supposed to say 3) realized that he didn’t understand what the king said 4) realized that, because it wasn’t what the king was supposed to say and he didn’t understand what the king said, he didn’t know how to respond to what the king said 5) waited to see if the king or anyone else would say anything else to explain what the king said 6) realized no one was going to explain what the king said and 7) spent ten seconds coming up with something to say in response to what the king said. Those ten seconds produced this: “Ah, I beg your pardon, your majesty?”

The king merely repeated what he said: “Verily, I see thou art a man of great heart and courage. Now, all that is needed is for you to acknowledge the Terms and Conditions,” but this time Albert was a bit more prepared.

“Your majesty, might I inquire what these Terms and Conditions are? Lest your majesty mistake me, let me state that I know of the concept of Terms and Conditions. I merely inquire as to what these specific terms and conditions are. And, if I might be so bold, what their place is as a part of this ancient, most hallowed ceremony for Winning of the Hand of the Fair Princess?”

The King waved his hand, a bit more dismissively than Albert would have thought appropriate. “Our legal representative shall explain the Terms and Conditions momentarily. As to their place in this ancient ceremony: my daughter may wish to grant her hand via traditional means, but we are a modern monarchy living in modern times, are we not?”

There was another uncomfortable silence, during which Albert gradually realized he was expected to respond. “Ah, yes, sire.”

“Then,” continued the King, “We must take modern precautions.” He clapped his hands. “Honored Beatrice, if you please?”

A woman, whom Albert was forced to assume was Honored Beatrice, rose from the crowd and came across the room towards him, holding a large stack of papers, on top of which rested an inkwell and pen. While there was as yet no gray in her hair, she was of such an age that Albert would have been comfortable referring to her as a spinster. Nevertheless, she wore an elaborate ebony gown, which gleamed like fish scales, with an excessive number of drape-y bits that wafted behind her like wings.

“Your grace.” She inclined her head respectfully, but with a smile he couldn’t place and didn’t like. “Allow me to present the Terms and Conditions, as well as a Medical and Bodily Injury Waiver, for your detailed perusal and signature.” She held out the stack of papers.

It took Albert a moment to realize that she meant him to take them, and he grabbed at them very awkwardly once he did comprehend this, as he was, of course, still wearing his golden gauntlets.

“Take as much time as you need,” Beatrice assured him. “There are fifteen sections, each of which require your signature. You can also opt to have the conditions read out loud by Winston over here, if you would prefer.” She motioned to the official who had shown him in, who had now taken a seat.

“Ah, no, that won’t be necessary,” Albert responded. Beatrice smiled, and went back to her chair.

Somehow, and he wasn’t quite sure how, even as he did it, Albert managed to position it so that he was holding the pen and inkwell in the crook of his elbow, while one gauntleted hand uncomfortably held the stack of papers, and the other clumsily turned the pages of Section I: General Disclaimers, which numbered seventeen pages. However, this method for safekeeping the pen and inkwell proved his undoing when it came time to affix his signature to the end of Section I. He read the closing paragraph twice just so he could strategize how he was to do it. He was keenly aware, more so as every second passed, that 1) they had not given him a table or anything remotely of the sort to utilize 2) he was actually the only person standing in the room 3) everyone in the room was looking at him and 4) it really was very hot in there.

He eventually decided to abandon a slight bit of dignity and place some items on the floor, reaching for them when the time came. Dignified, perhaps not, but better than ink-spotted armor.

Only, the ink was all dried up.

“Ah, Honorable Beatrice,” he spoke up. “Might I trouble you for a renewed supply of ink?”

“Of course,” she replied. And then they waited for a good five minutes while a serving man ran off to find, and then back again with, a new inkwell.

“Thank you,” Albert said.

The silence as he signed was deafening, save for the scratch of the pen. Perhaps…he spoke before he could lose his nerve. “Honorable Beatrice, mayhap it would be best to have these Terms and Conditions read aloud, for the benefit of those assembled here.” He realized, after he had said it, that that last part made very little sense, but, well, no takebacks now.

“Of course,” Beatrice assented. She produced a second copy of the documents from somewhere in her robes and handed them to Winston.

Winston then began to read, for the next hour, the Terms and Conditions and Medical and Bodily Injury Waiver in the fastest monotone Albert had ever had the misfortune of hearing. He really only understood a word or a phrase here and there, such as “agree,” “the Princess’ sole discretion,” and “hold harmless,” intermixed with a steady barrage of legal gibberish, such as “indemnify.”

Nevertheless, he signed everywhere they said to sign. And, once that was over with, the King mercifully gave his blessing, and everything was back on track.

Or so Albert thought, all through the ball and his many dances with the Princess, who did seem to be gracious and accomplished and did not look unlike her photograph. And all through the many tasks he undertook to win her hand, and all through his many triumphant completions of said tasks. And right up until he found himself seated in a small room, in front of a desk, behind which sat the Honorable Beatrice in a pair of spectacles, again with that same smile he couldn’t put a name to but didn’t care for.

This was no way to treat a champion like himself, he who had won the Princess’ hand. For won it he most assuredly had. For sure, a few slobs had come close to beating him at a few tasks, and to his chagrin, one personage – not even a prince, simply the second son of a duke – had even somehow bested him at one particular challenge. But, never mind that. Albert had won 10/11 of the tasks. He had scaled the monstrous mountain to defeat the terrible troll, dived to the depths of the devilish lake to fish out the priceless pearl, sprinted across the scorching desert to defeat the sniveling snake, etc. So why, then, was he cooped in this dark room with the Honorable Beatrice, and her bat wings, and not being paraded into the grand hall to wed the Princess right then and there?

“Well,” began the Honorable Beatrice. “I’ll just come right out and say it: you did not win the hand of the Princess.”

And so it was that Albert experienced yet another shocked, awkward silence at the hands of the Liran monarchy.

“I beg your pardon?” he nearly gasped.

“You did not win the hand of the Princess,” repeated the Honorable Beatrice.

More silence. That was apparently all she was going to say, so Albert managed to choke more words out. “But, but how could that be? Did I not scale the monstrous mountain to defeat the terrible troll? Did I not dive to the depths of the devilish lake to fish out the priceless pearl?” He was becoming bolder and louder as he went along, remembering all that he had suffered. “Did I not sprint across the scorching desert to defeat the…”

“Yes, yes, you did all that,” the Honorable Beatrice interrupted him. “But, well, the simple fact is…the Princess doesn’t like you.”

“I must beg your pardon, once again?”

“Well, you, like all the other participants, were given the chance to interact with the Princess at the Questing Eve Ball, and, apparently, you, em…” She paused a brief moment, and appeared to check some notes. “You talked about historical architecture, specifically the techniques by which you create multi-colored glass, for a solid hour and fifteen minutes. Whereas, this other fellow, the Duke of Shilling’s son, was apparently much more agreeable, simply by virtue of talking about different sorts of muslins for two minutes.”

Albert once again allowed his incensed-ness to fuel him: “The Duke of Shilling’s son? Is that the one who has won the hand of the Princess?”

Beatrice grew tight-lipped. “I can neither confirm nor deny the final winner of the Princess’ hand. I can, however…”

Albert dared to interrupt: “I demand to know how this is even possible. I won the tasks, I must win the hand of the Princess. Such it is and such it has been, throughout Winning of the Princesses time out of mind. You are saying that these tasks counted for naught, and that the winner was decided at the very beginning of this…charade.”

“Actually,” interjected Beatrice, “If you reference page thirty-five of the Terms and Conditions which you signed, you will note that it clearly states that the final winner of the Princess’ hand is up to the discretion of the Princess, who may take into account the winner of the tasks, but is not obligated to do so. And, actually, there was the potential for the winner to be decided at any point during the Winning of the Hand of the Fair Princess, up to and including the end of the final task. But, yes, it just so happened it was decided on the first night.”

Albert had never heard anything like this in his life, and he said so.

“Well, your grace,” Beatrice smiled that smile again, which he was now able to recognize for what it was: condescending, and perhaps a tad dash of cruelty. “I know that you come from Forint, where they are, perhaps, a tad more attached to the old-fashioned ways of doing things than we are. We are…”

“…a modern kingdom yes, yes, yes, I have heard this word used a thousand times in my presence during this charade,” now that he’d found the word, he didn’t want to stop using it. “But,” he forced himself to calm, for a moment. “Will you not take under consideration the great love I have for his majesty’s daughter. My feelings…”

“…are entirely legitimate, I am sure,” said Beatrice with faux-sympathy. “Here is what you do: ‘Feelings,’ you say, ‘I have no further use for you. You are simply cluttering up my mind, and tripping up my thoughts. Goodbye now.’ And then, you toss them out.”

“Well, madame,” responded Albert after a biting pause. “While my feelings for the Princess are strong, I can see but one recourse: you will be hearing from my father’s lawyers.”

That smile again, but not condescending, merely…hungry. “I look forward to it.”

And so, as Albert turned to walk out of the room, he wondered how he had ever thought her shining scales to be those of fish or her wings those of a bat. No, it seemed there was a new kind of dragon abroad in the land, standing between noble princes and their fair princesses: Lawyers.

Jasper and Life’s Silver Linings

I

Jasper clambered up the metal post, grabbing the railing and swinging himself up onto his front porch.  Claws scrabbling on the crinkly foil front stoop, he pulled himself up into his bedroom loft.  He sighed with satisfaction as he inhaled the invigorating aroma of hamburgers and hotdogs.

Only a few days before, Jasper had been homeless, sneezing in the sopping grass and damp dirt in a hole beneath a tree.  The moist environment played havoc on his sinuses, and he always seemed to have a head cold.  Then, while he was out scavenging one day, he scented a lovely, smoky aroma.  At the end of the trail it created, Jasper discovered his new domicile.  A warm, dry, cozy cave that would protect him from predatory cats and snakes and head colds—what more could he ask for?

II

Jasper was snuffling in his sleep when he jolted awake to the sound of thumping and the thunderous bark of a dog right outside his bedroom.  He quivered instinctively for a moment, then reassured himself, It’s all right.  Nothing can get to me here.  Calming his shaking nerves, Jasper sat back on his haunches and peered around in the dark.

Then his roof disappeared, and Jasper went blind.  Bright sunlight doused him, and he cowered for a moment, protecting his eyes.  A cloud passed over the sun, and Jasper raised his head, the cloud looked at him and blinked and yelled, and his roof fell with a clang.  More barking and yelling.  Jasper’s paws were over his head.  Every moment, he expected the world to end and his home to collapse around him.  When several minutes had passed and the noises had died away, Jasper peered out between his paws.  He scrambled to the opening over his front porch.  With a crinkly thud, Jasper landed and shimmied down the post beside the platform.  Scurrying behind a giant orange bolder with a small bush growing out of it, Jasper peered back at his home.  Perhaps he should monitor it for a little while to see if it was safe to return.  Jasper lay down, munching on a leaf he had pulled from the plant above him, and stared intently at his home, ready to flee at the first sign of danger.

III

Every time Jasper nodded off, bad things seemed to happen.  This time, Jasper’s nap was disturbed by another volley of thumping, and he started up just in time to see a mammoth figure towering over his house, pulling off the roof, slamming it down again, and rolling the structure away from Jasper’s hideout behind the boulder.  The figure and the house disappeared around the corner of the mountain in the shadow of which Jasper’s house had nestled.

Jasper hesitated, devastated and immobile.  Where was his house being taken?  Would he ever see it again?  Gathering his courage in both paws, Jasper blocked out all thoughts of danger and dashed off in the direction his home had disappeared.  He wasn’t about to relinquish his new home that easily.

IV

Rounding the mountainside, Jasper spied his house been lifted into a giant thing that was all shiny and black and bulbous on four big circles like mushrooms turned sideways.  In a last spurt of desperation, Jasper scaled one of the fake mushrooms and slung himself in after his house.  Jasper hoisted himself up the pole, onto his porch, and then into his bedroom.  He wasn’t going to part with his house again, and there was nowhere else to hide.

A rumble began, and the floor vibrated.  Then Jasper found himself lurching one way and then another, bouncing off the walls of his house several times before managing to brace himself in a corner.  This continued for a while before the shaking and the noise abruptly stopped.  Something heavy slammed.  Then the ominous thumping approached, and Jasper heard a grunt and his home plunged downward, causing him to almost slide out onto his porch.

After a few minutes, the motion stopped, the noises receded, and Jasper’s breathing finally returned to normal.  Exhausted, Jasper fell into a light doze.

V

This time, his growling stomach was what awoke him.  Jasper rubbed his belly, groaned a bit as he stretched his stiff and bruised muscles, and then cautiously lowered himself out of his house.  What he saw as he landed on his front porch and surveyed the view convinced him that he must have died and gone to paradise.  Sunlight streamed down in golden puddles, and he was surrounded by enough food to feast on for a year and home improvement materials that would be perfect for furnishing his new house.  He inhaled the new, odorous air and smiled toothily.  Perhaps it’s true, he thought.  There is a silver lining in every cloud, even the ones that blink and scream and try to kidnap your house.

Some thoughts on Out of the Silent Planet

Having recently finished reading Out of the Silent Planet on holiday, two quotes from separate, but closely tied, passages struck me especially. Not having read the book since high school, almost 8 years ago at this point, most of it was new to me in terms of the ideas presented and general plot; and as is often the case of most ‘first time’ read-throughs where only the veneer of ideas is genuinely discovered, mine was no different. All that to say, even having just finished it, the book already entices me to read again and see what other worldview and cosmological tidbits Lewis has sprinkled throughout this first in his space trilogy.


Quote 1: On Death

“Many thousands of thousand years before this [talking to Weston], when nothing yet lived on your world [earth], the cold death was coming on my harandra. Then I was in deep trouble, not chiefly for the death of my hnau [creatures] -Maleldil [God] does not make them long-livers -but for the things which the lord of your world, who was not yet bound, put into their minds. He would have made them as your people are now -wise enough to see the death of their kind approaching but not wise enough to endure it. […]The weakest of my people do not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maledil you would have peace.” (Lewis, 138-139; Chapter 20)

Quote 2: On Bent and Broken Men

“I see now how the lord of the silent world has bent you. There are laws that all hnau [creatures] know, of pity and straight dealing and shame and the like, and one of these is the love of kindred. He has taught you to break all of them except this one, which is not one of the greatest laws; this one he has bent till it becomes folly and has set it up, thus bent, to be a little, blind Oyarsa [king] in your brain. And now you can do nothing but obey it, though if we ask you why it is a law you give no other reason for it than for all the other and greater laws which it drives you to disobey. […The bent one] has left you this one [law] because a bent hnau can do more evil than a broken one.” (Lewis, 137-138)


I like the above conversations between Oyarsa and Weston. Prior to and during this conversation, Weston has waxed eloquent about how ‘humanity’ must be perpetuated at all costs -even if it means sacrificing their physical form, the lives of individuals (like the protagonist), etc. Through this whole dialogue, Lewis demonstrates mankind’s propensity to try and mentally block out and avoid what they know to be their ultimate end. In Weston’s specific case, Lewis also makes an interesting statement that a bent man is more capable of evil than a broken one. A man driven by greed, for example, will only cause so much harm, and is no longer so much a man as an animal since he no longer operates under any pretense of ‘law’ but simply carnal desire. However, the tyranny of the moral busybody, the man who will go to any extreme for a ‘good’ end, can be the most destructive, and Lewis understands this because he saw many such men in his own day, as we do in ours.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” -C.S. Lewis