Friday, July 29, 2016

These Beautiful Bones

by Emily Stimpson

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's a discussion of the profound Theology of the Body, but focusing on the neglected parts (i.e. the non sex parts).
  • She gets the beauty of simplicity, the earth, daily life, and all those Hobbit-ish things.
  • It's inspiring. It makes me want to pray well, eat well, exercise well, dress well, live well.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I think it could turn off non-Christians and people who were less "Conservative" (see important note below*). It sometimes has that "the modern age is the most horrible age" point of view, which bothers me somewhat, though it's too complicated to get into why I think it's inaccurate.
  • I also didn't like it all that much when she did talk about sex and gender. I thought it lacked complexity of thought, and didn't go beyond stereotypes enough. Though again, it probably won't bother most Conservative Christians who are relatively normal (unlike me, apparently).

Thoughts: I read this book for a Book Club, which is a distinctly different experience than a normal read. Much more chapter by chapter than the book as a whole. And my notes for this one were more talking points than thinking points (the two are definitely different). So I'll simply summarize briefly my main praise and main criticism.

--Loved: Not much was new to me in this book, but it really put ideas that I've been particularly pondering over the last couple years in clear and inspiring words. I got so many ideas for improvement, for both myself and culture! Yay!
And as Bilbo said, "It is no bad thing to celebrate the simple life."

--Didn't love: There is an idea that everything is worse in our time, from manners to clothes to gender roles to pretty much everything, and that's it all specifically because we're losing our Christian roots. Some of this is true, but I also think it can be inaccurate sometimes. I very much think it's true that there is a greater lack of the Theology of the Body in these times, and that we're fighting against the Culture of Death, but many of these issues are considerably more complicated than they're presented in this book. There seemed to be a lack of understanding of history and culture.
Take manners. Can you really say that East Asia has worse manners than the West? And the East has never been Christian. This seems kind of nationalist** to say, but maybe it's an American thing? Her example of it being completely unnoteworthy to see drivers swearing loudly and lengthily at pedestrians is simply wrong in Canada, at least the places I've lived. And Canada is less Christian than the States! And personally, I don't particularly like some of the manners that are considered "essential" by some traditionally-minded people, specifically the gender oriented ones.
Anyway, I have lots of thoughts on it, and they're more nuanced than my writing above might lead you to believe. But this is too complicated a topic to discuss properly on this blog, unfortunately.

Grade: 4 stars

If You Like This, You Might Also Like:
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis: Because he more than anyone else gets how important daily life can be for one's sanctity. Also The Great Divorce. Stimpson quotes Lewis a number of times in TBB, so this should be indicative of some compatibility of thought.
  • Acedia & me by Katherine Norris: Because, although it has a very different tone and maybe wouldn't be liked much by the "Conservative" people I mentioned above, I think at it's heart, it gets at the same ideas. I think the growth of sloth and acedia and the lessening of proper Theology of the Body attitudes are closely linked. Certainly many of the ideas for improvement I got from A&m were very similar to those from TBB.
  • The Theology of the Body by Pope St. John Paul II: Because, as we made note of in Book Club, there are a plethora of books about ToB that everybody reads, but nobody seems to read the actual ToB itself! Yes, it's complicated and dense, but reading the source material is always worth it.

* I'm using "Conservative" here purposefully. I don't like the habit of dividing Catholics into Liberal and Conservative--mixes politics with doctrine too much, and allows us be judgmental far too easily. But in this case, I specifically mean conservative, and NOT traditional or orthodox or any such word.

** I don't think "nationalist" is the right word, but I'm running out of time to find the right one. What I mean is "to be against a particular nation". Like sexist or racist but for nations.

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