Friday Flotsam: Bl. Karl, Lasik, Tolkien, and Anime

1. First and foremost; today’s the feast of Bl. Karl of Austria, whose prayers we desperately need today as the wreckage of Christendom spirals ever more wildly out of control.

Just learned of a quote of his that has immediately become one of my favorites:

“We are bearers of culture even in the land of traitors.”
(this was when he was fighting in Italy, which has switched sides early in the war, and urging his men to civilized conduct)

Oh, and by the way, another prominent Saint actually was named for Bl. Karl: Karl Wojtyla, AKA Pope St. John Paul II.

Emperor Karl, pray for us!

2. Big personal news is that I got Lasik surgery…kind of. My right eye got done, but with my left they ran into a problem. Apparently, my eyes are both small and deep-set, which meant the eye doctor found himself rather cramped for space. Rather than try to force the issue, he decided to call it quits after cutting about a third of the incision (rather glad about that: don’t want people getting stubborn while they’re working on my vile jellies). This means I’ll have to go back in a few months when it’s all healed up and have it done again. In the meantime, I’ve popped out the right lens of my glasses and am going about like that.

3. Process was overall more uncomfortable than I expected; the eye’s numbed, but you can still feel the vibrations of the laser at work, and at one point the eye gets sucked forward and you lose vision entirely. The recovery is also slower than I’d expected; my right eye is still not at 100% and my vision fluctuates in that eye. Also can’t do any strenuous or prolonged exercise for the time being.

Still, it’s a bit of a novelty to have such clear vision in my bare eye.

4. Read some of Prof. Tolkien’s letters this morning. One particularly interesting one (letter 246) has him detailing both the reasoning behind Frodo’s ‘failure’ and what would have happened if Gollum hadn’t intervened. Among other things, he notes that Frodo’s subsequent withdrawal and brokenness is at least in part the result of a bit of pride and greed still inside him; that a part of him wanted to be the hero, to have succeeded on his own and was disappointed by his personal failure, while another part actually misses the Ring and regrets its loss. The same holds for Bilbo. It’s another example of Tolkien’s extremely clear-eyed view of morality and the human soul, and his lack of illusion as to its capacities. Even very, very good characters yet have touches of darkness and imperfection within them.

Those who accuse Tolkien of having an idealized or simplistic or black-and-white view of morality in his books simply weren’t paying attention. Only, unlike his detractors, he’s able to draw images of high nobility and moral excellence in spite of that clarity and moral complexity, rather than wallowing in it to try to prove how clever he is.

5. As for what would have happened if Frodo had claimed the Ring without any interference, Prof. Tolkien explains that the Nazgul would not have been able to attack him or remove him by force, since they were bound to the Ring. However, neither would they have served him, since Sauron still held their rings and Frodo, though grown during his journey, was not nearly great enough for such a challenge. What they would have done would be to feign subservience, to try to coax him away from the Cracks of Doom, and thus prevent him from jumping in himself and destroying the Ring that way (which Tolkien lists as another possibility). Their strategy would be to play for time and safety until Sauron could get there, whereupon Frodo would simply have been crushed by his power and the Ring returned to its maker.

Elaborating on this, Tolkien explains that no one on the field, with one exception, could have ever hoped to challenge Sauron face-to-face with the Ring. If Aragorn or Galadriel had taken it, they would have sought to beat Sauron by building an empire and fighting him with military force, but a one-to-one encounter would have seen Sauron simply overwhelm them and reclaim the Ring, which after all was his by right.

The one exception was Gandalf, who could conceivably have had the power and authority to match Sauron. But then, if he had, he would have been worse because he would have used it for ‘self-righteous’ ends: Sauron’s evil left good clearly distinguishable from it, but Gandalf “would have made good detestable and seem evil.”

6. A friend put me onto Love is Like a Cocktail, a very short – 14 episodes, each about 3 minutes long – anime series about a young woman who loves alcohol, but becomes tipsy and drops her button-down salarywoman refinement after even one drink, and her husband who loves her and mixes her suitable cocktails for all occasions.

It’s the lightest of light fare, essentially just two nice people being nice to each other and enjoying good drinks, but it’s incredibly endearing (and often very funny). The sweet, healthy relationship on display is as refreshing as any cocktail, while at the same time the show serves as a crash-course in the infinite ways people have come up with to serve alcohol (complete with recipes) and what makes each of them special. I was definitely tempted to try a few of these myself.

More importantly, and more rarely, it illustrates the particular happiness and comfort that comes from a healthy, loving relationship between a man and women (or so I’m told).

Full disclosure, there’s some of what might be called ‘sweet sexuality’ going on: the wife’s design, ah, shifts a bit when she gets tipsy, and the final episode is mostly her in the bathtub with a strategically-placed waterline. Personally I think in context this is all perfectly fine, but your mileage may vary.

7. I’ve also recently breezed through the anime of Spy x Family, which was both hilarious and extremely sweet, with one of the best ‘little kid’ characters I’ve seen in a long time. But I think I’ll have to do a full review of it (probably not until after the Halloween season is over, though).

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