Literature of Western Civilization: 14th to 21th Century

     Though people die, and empires fall, they leave to succeeding generations their advice and legends in literature. Until recently, this literature was confined to writing; and with the invention of the printing press in 1455, thousands upon thousands of books have since been published. That was until the early 20th century, with the invention of the “moving picture.” This invention has since revolutionized Western Civilization, in many ways for the worse, as the literature of previous generations affect the decisions of succeeding generations.

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Where is your Faith?

Here is a short story that I wrote for the ACE Regional Student Convention of 2016. I hope you all enjoy. ~ Stephen Huband

      He fell. The rope that bound his wrists prohibited him from stopping his fall, and with a groan, he landed on the Roman earth. Just then, a whip cracked, adding another to the welts already crisscrossing his back.
     “Get up! Or do you desire to be fed to the lions a day early?”
     A calloused, scarred hand roughly pulled Marcus to his feet. “We’re here,” the voice said again. The very sound of that voice filled Marcus with terror, but nothing could prepare him for what he was about to witness.
     The soldier abruptly removed the sack from over Marcus’ head. His heart leaped in shock, and he took it all in. The sounds of cruel laughter, the cracking of the whips, the screams of agony, fear, and despair; and the deeper, angrier roaring of the hungry and imprisoned lions. Marcus shivered, knowing he and whoever else shared in his misfortune, would soon be the meal of those beasts.
     Before he could think on his certain doom any longer, Marcus was once again grabbed by the nape of the neck, and shoved down a dark corridor. They passed by the lions and tigers Marcus had heard, and those infuriated creatures charged at him, unheeding in their fury of the strong bars which held them back.
     And then, through a door, past more men just as vile in appearance and demeanor as the one now holding Marcus, they entered a large crypt. It was spacious, dirty, with barred openings in its ceiling that let in blinding rays of sunlight. He was then thrown down, and the guard left with an oath and a sharp kick to Marcus, who collapsed again with a moan.
      “Hello, young man. Who might you be?”
     Marcus held his throbbing stomach with one hand, and pushed himself up against one of the many cold stone walls. He looked up into the eyes of a kind old man.
     “I am Marcus,” he said at last. “I am a Christian, and was arrested by the soldiers and brought here mere hours ago. They also took my mother and brother.”
     Several more figures approached from the shadows closer to where Marcus and the old man were seated. They gathered under one of the iron barred skylights, and their eyes were full of sympathy and caring.
     “We welcome you,” said the man. “I only wish it were under better circumstances.” His voice betrayed to Marcus no fear or anger. Marcus was puzzled. Of all the group there, no one, young or old, showed any fear, or bitterness.
     “How are you all so calm?” he asked, after some discussion. The old man, who seemed to be the leader of the group, smiled.
     “We have all lost our earthly freedom and possessions. But one thing we still have, that the sword and the lash can never take away; and that is our faith in Jesus Christ! Remember our Lord’s promises! He said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ Oh, Marcus, where is your faith!” The man’s face was sincere, and Marcus took no thought of offense, but he did not reply. The man’s words had struck a chord, and Marcus thought intently upon what the other believers told him.
     The beams of light entering through the narrow skylights now began to fade, eventually disappearing entirely. The old man then led the little band in prayer, and Marcus listened intently. After it was quite dark, he fell asleep.
     Morning came too soon. Guards burst in, and seizing them, nearly dragged them up the steps again, out into the blinding sunlight. The mob, seated above, filled the air with hateful yells, and the encouraged guards beat them even more than before. They were led across the amphitheater until they arrived at an elevated and regal throne.
      The man sitting upon it stood. He had a royal demeanor, but his face was cruel, and Marcus knew there was no pity in Caesar’s heart. Just before the group was an altar, and to it the Emperor pointed.
     “Choose,” he said. “If you will pour out an oblation to Jupiter and the blessed gods of Rome, I will spare your lives. If not, you will be devoured where you stand.”
      For a moment, silence filled the air. Marcus considered. If he did the simple thing that the Emperor asked him, he could go free. Maybe he could even see his mother and brother again. If he didn’t, he would be torn apart by lions. His heart raced, but then, he remembered what the old man, standing so calmly next to him, had said. Marcus felt courage well up in his heart, and he knew what he must do. He nodded firmly to the other believers. “We cannot accept his offer,” he said.
     The old man now spoke. “Jesus said that if we denied Him on earth, He would deny us in heaven,” and then he turned toward the throne. “We cannot accept your offer, oh most gracious Caesar,” he said, and the others said the same.
     Caesar’s visage was twisted with a look of disgust and anger. “Very well,” he said, and sat down.
     At that moment, the doors to the cages of the animals opened. Out leapt the snarling beasts, running wildly around the group, attempting to claw out of the arena. Seeing they could not do so, they then turned to the little band, now in the center of the arena. But, Marcus did not notice, and the cacophony of screams and roaring around him were drowned out, for his eyes were fixed to the sky. There, he saw the heavens opened, and Jesus holding out his hand. Angels swept down to him, and a peace filled his soul, just as it had just a few moments past.
     And then, it was over. A Voice spoke to Marcus, and he smiled, even as his body fell to the ground, bleeding.
     “Thy faith hath saved thee… welcome into the joy of thy Lord!”

Robinson Crusoe: Decision

After having been shipwrecked, Robinson Crusoe took advantage of the fact that the ship was stranded out a short distance from the island. While he was searching through the ship, he found a heap of coins sitting in the ship.

coins-pieces-of-eight-3-SmallHe recognizes the money is worth nothing to him. He is all alone, and even if there were savages on the island, they would not take gold and silver as payment for their services. If a ship came to pick him up, they would probably expect his gold as payment for delivering him, if they even bothered to do so. But he takes the money anyway. Why?

The love of money is what got Crusoe in that predicament after all. He was sailing to Africa to get slaves and expected to return to his plantation and become rich. Was it old habit setting in? Probably. If I were to find money lying around, I would probably take it for sentimental value and a reminder of the civilization I had been raised in, or since it was coinage, to melt down and turn into something more useful, but it seems that the only reason Crusoe took the money was for the money’s sake.

Robinson Crusoe: Storms

Robinson Crusoe. I remember reading this book as a little child, enthralled by the tale of a man who, against all odds, and all alone, with only what he could grab from a beached vessel before it sank, took dominion over his island, fought off savages, and most importantly, found his way back to God.

Through all of the book, there is a reoccurring theme, the storms. There was a storm when he first went to sea; there was another on his second voyage, and the storm that resulted in his being cast on an uninhabited island. How important are these storms to the story?

beachI believe I can say that they are probably one of the most important elements to his story. First, as an allegory. The physical storms he faced represented the spiritual storms Crusoe was experiencing. Also, the storms are borrowing from the the idea of Jonah, or the sailors in Psalms 107:23-30, who were faced by the seas, which were acting as the physical representation of the hand of God. Second, the storms give a crucial element of danger and adventure that would otherwise be lacking. The storms help get us to take far more interest in the story than we would of otherwise, and act as a very critical part of the story of Robinson Crusoe.

Francis Bacon: Persuasiveness

Francis_Bacon,_Viscount_St_Alban_from_NPG_(2)Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, and most notably, one of the first to use the form of the essay. Following in the footsteps of Montaigne, Bacon began publishing essays on various topics.

One of his essays discussed his opinion of debt, and he even gave ideas as to how much of your income you should spend or save in order to increase your own wealth. However, his essay has no power to it, especially when you understand how he himself did the exact opposite of his own advice, and at his death was in debt  £24,000, or  £3m in current value. By the time he wrote the essay, he had already been disgraced and removed from his position as Lord Chancellor of England under James I, and so he had his own life as hindsight. The least he could of done would be to use his own example to spur the readers to follow his own advice, as he had experienced not following it and was suffering the consequences. But, since he did not do so, this essay is lacking, and probably not going to be persuasive enough to convince someone to not go into debt.

My Thoughts on Thomas More’s Utopia

gold-haters-just-dont-get-it
Gold is useless? Yes, except as a means of exchange. It seems as if the Utopians understood this but their surface philosophy seems to disagree.

Utopia, meaning “no-place”, is Thomas More’s description of a place with no private property and socialistic ideals. Published in 1516, it was published while the Roman Catholic Church was in dominance. Did this book bring More into scrutiny by Catholics?

The book begins with a dialogue with the traveler, who has supposedly seen this “no-place”, where everything is perfect. The people, for instance, despise gold. It serves no purpose, except for ornamentation, and they aren’t proud or vain, and so think such ornamentation is a sign of servitude, and for their slaves and little children only. Yet, we are told they fill their houses with this useless metal. We’ll see just why. Continue reading