Butterfly in the Sky / I Can Go Twice as High

It’s been far, far too long since I’ve sat down and actually read a book.

That’s why I’m especially excited to get back in the groove of things, beginning with my fresh new copy of John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress.

As a method of forcing myself to follow through and keep on a regular schedule, I’m going to be blogging my notes; an online book club of sorts. Along with the intellectual stimulation and inherent entertainment value of a good book, hopefully there will be some spiritual benefit from the endeavor as well. I am the Pilgrim, and he is Me. Count yourself lucky I’ve let you in on the ground floor. Leslie is going to help too.

The first installment this grand experiment (it’s a sad day when consciously sitting down to read a book is such an irregular event as to be called an “experiment”) is scheduled for Friday evening, which means you’ll have to wait until then for my in-depth analysis and insights. until then, content yourself with this primer on Mr. Bunyan, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project:

BUNYAN, JOHN (1628-1688).
B. at Elstow, near Bedford, the s. of a poor tinker, was ed. at a free school, after which he worked at his father’s trade. At 17 he was drafted as a soldier in the Civil War, and served for two years at Newport Pagnell.

That’s the English Civil War, in case you were wondering. Wikipedia says the conflict was between supporters of King Charles and supporters of the Rump Parliament. Hehe… “Rump.

At 19 he m. a pious young woman, whose only dowry appears to have been two books, the Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven and the Practice of Piety, by which he was influenced towards a religious life.

I’d just as soon my fiance not be so poor as to own nothing but two books, but the romantic and recently reformed book lover in me says we should all be so lucky.

In his autobiographical book, Grace Abounding, B. describes himself as having led an abandoned life in his youth; but there appears to be no evidence that he was, outwardly at any rate, worse than the average of his neighbours: the only serious fault which he specifies is profanity, others being dancing and bell-ringing.

Oh dear God, no. Not bell-ringing. Anything, anything but bell-ringing.

The overwhelming power of his imagination led him to contemplate acts of impiety and profanity, and to a vivid realisation of the dangers these involved. In particular he was harassed by a curiosity in regard to the “unpardonable sin,” and a prepossession that he had already committed it. He continually heard voices urging him to “sell Christ,” and was tortured by fearful visions.

I’m not saying I would have done it, but I do wonder how much they were offering JB for Christ. Are we still talking about 30 pieces of silver or has inflation caught up with our Lord and Savior? That was borderline sacrilegious. Sorry.

After severe spiritual conflicts he escaped from this condition, and became an enthusiastic and assured believer. In 1657 he joined the Baptist Church,

Darn right he did.

began to preach, and in 1660 was committed to Bedford Jail, at first for three months, but on his refusing to conform, or to desist from preaching, his confinement was extended with little interval for a period of nearly 12 years, not always, however, very rigorous. He supported his family (wife and four children, including a blind girl) by making tagged laces,

I have no idea what tagged laces are. For our purposes here, let’s pretend they are those springy shoelace thingies 3rd grade girls wear.

and devoted all the time he could spare from this

If you’re not careful, tagged laces can consume your entire day.

to studying his few books and writing. During this period he wrote among other things, The Holy City and Grace Abounding. Under the Declaration of Indulgence he was released in 1672, and became a licensed preacher. In 1675 the Declaration was canceled, and he was, under the Conventicle Act, again imprisoned for six months, during which he wrote the first part of The Pilgrim’s Progress, which appeared in 1678, and to which considerable additions were made in subsequent editions. It was followed by the Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680), The Holy War (1682), and the second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1684). B. was now widely known as a popular preacher and author, and exercised a wide influence.

Kind of like a 17th Century Rick Warren, only JB actually had biblical insight. Yeah. You heard me RW.

In 1688 he set out on a journey to mediate between a father and son,

The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon

in which he was successful.

I don’t have much experinence in the area since I’ve never had much conflict with my father, but I have to think most successful father-son mediation revolve around watching Field of Dreams.

On the return journey he was drenched with rain, caught a chill and d. in London on August 31. He is buried in Bunhill Fields. B. has the distinction of having written, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, probably the most widely read book in the English language, and one which has been translated into more tongues than any book except the Bible. The charm of the work, which makes it the joy of old and young, learned and ignorant, and of readers of all possible schools of thought and theology, lies in the interest of a story in which the intense imagination of the writer makes characters, incidents, and scenes alike live in that of his readers as things actually known and remembered by themselves, in its touches of tenderness and quaint humour, its bursts of heart-moving eloquence, and its pure, nervous, idiomatic English, Macaulay has said, “Every reader knows the straight and narrow path as well as he knows a road on which he has been backwards and forwards a hundred times,” and he adds that “In England during the latter half of the seventeenth century there were only two minds which possessed the imaginative faculty in a very eminent degree.

By my count, that sentence has 140 words. $1 to the first person to diagram it.

One of these minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other The Pilgrim’s Progress.” B. wrote about 60 books and tracts, of which The Holy War ranks next to The Pilgrim’s Progress in popularity, while Grace Abounding is one of the most interesting pieces of biography in existence.

With the possible exception of Let’s Talk about Pep, Sandy “Pepa” Denton’s seminal masterpice detaling the behind the scenes intrigue that was Salt and Pepa. (Other awesome autobiographies available here.)

That was pretty rude, what I said about Rick. I’m sorry buddy. You keep selling your over-hyped books, praying for presidents and rocking that ridiculous beard. I don’t have to read your books if I don’t want to.

When is Kevin Costner going to make another decent movie?


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