Reading Perelandra in June

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Reading Perelandra in June

1Majel-Susan
Redigerat: jul 24, 2020, 5:22am

Continuing C.S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy, I've opened a new thread for Perelandra! Yay!
I will update it with my reading notes, as soon as I get a good opportunity. ;)

The link for my last thread on Out of the Silent Planet is here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/319436

Everyone is welcome to join me again! *bows*

___

July update.
The link for the next thread on That Hideous Strength is here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/322107

2-pilgrim-
maj 31, 2020, 7:24pm

I still haven't finished the previous book! Reading very little at present, I am afraid.

3Sakerfalcon
jun 1, 2020, 7:11am

I will be joining you very soon! Just got to clear some space in my reading rota!

4Majel-Susan
jun 1, 2020, 11:29am

>2 -pilgrim-: No pressure! Feel free to continue posting your thoughts on the Out of the Silent Planet thread. If you later want to continue with Perelandra, this thread and the comments will be ready for you then!

>3 Sakerfalcon: Welcome again! Don't worry, I'm also off to a slow start this month, since I'm currently preparing for exams. :)

I'm still only in the middle of Chapter 3, but I hope to post again soon.

5haydninvienna
jun 1, 2020, 1:24pm

>4 Majel-Susan: exams are more important! Good luck!

6Majel-Susan
jun 1, 2020, 8:52pm

>5 haydninvienna: Sad, but probably true... Thank you, though!

7Sakerfalcon
jun 2, 2020, 6:21am

>4 Majel-Susan: If you later want to continue with Perelandra, this thread and the comments will be ready for you then!
That's what I love about LT book discussions. You can still read them and add comments even years later, so the conversation is never over.

8MrsLee
jun 4, 2020, 6:52pm

I am slowly reading, but not much. I keep thinking I should have some glimmer of a remembering of these stories, but I got nada.

Although I am enjoying this world, the way Lewis trys to search out what it might have been like to meet an "Eve," and many of the other ideas he is exploring, I will never read these again.

9Majel-Susan
jun 10, 2020, 12:58pm

I'm back! — for a bit at any rate...

Chapter 3
Ransom may have had fun tumbling around his new swinging turf and falling into lusciousness, but I, as the reader, was getting all of the vertigo and none of the thrills. But I wouldn't mind the fruit at all, I think! And a rocking bed sounds nice too! :P

There was an exuberance or prodigality of sweetness about the mere act of living which our race finds it difficult not to associate with forbidden and extravagant actions.

Yep, I think I've got the picture of Perelandra. I would love to live my days in such guilt-free luxury, but I suppose that it is not quite in our nature to "merely" pursue a pleasure, as innocuous as it may be in itself...

10Majel-Susan
jun 10, 2020, 12:59pm

>7 Sakerfalcon: Yes, discussion sites are fun like that. I never read the Harry Potter books as they were being published, so when I finally did read them for the first time last year, it was an awful lot of fun to read through the archived forums to find out what readers back then were thinking and speculating as the books were being published.

11Majel-Susan
jun 10, 2020, 8:59pm

Ch 4
So Ransom has made a new, scaled friend... Um, cute? I guess... My first instinct, though, was, "Ooh, no! A reptile coiled around a beautiful tree! This is NOT a friend, Ransom!"

The "bubbles" sound like a lot of refreshing fun! I probably wouldn't have thought twice; I would just have been like, "Yay!" and immediately gone straight on to plunge myself "through the whole lot of them and to feel, all at once, that magical refreshment multiplied tenfold." Well, I guess, that's one reason why Oyarsa wouldn't send me in the first place. 😁

From a disappointment to an absurdity—it seems that whether he's on Malacandra or Perelandra, making that first good impression is something that troubles Ransom. I'll hazard a guess and say that he probably struggles with it even back in London, too. xD

12Majel-Susan
jun 11, 2020, 6:39pm

Ch 5
I feel Ransom's discomfort in not being sure who is speaking to him or, perhaps, who else is speaking to him; and how the longer he talks to the Green Lady, the more he is unable to look at her and needs to take a break.

And, boy, does Ransom get blunt with her.

'I wonder,' said the woman, 'if you were sent here to teach us death.'

'You don't understand,' he said. 'It is not like that. It is horrible. It has a foul smell. Maleldil Himself wept when He saw it.'


And then Ransom takes a mean turn...

Against his better judgment Ransom found himself goaded into argument.

But I didn't understand this line:

The sense of precariousness terrified him: but when she looked at him again he changed that word to Adventure, and then all words died out of his mind.

I thought it was an interesting idea when the Lady says, 'I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking,' and I had to go back to reread the passage to understand better what she meant by this. It was an interesting difference of perspective on the concept of free will, between the fallen and the unfallen natures: in the Lady's case, Maleldil's will is her will and is as natural as being carried by the waves, and only now does she realise her own active part in following Maleldil's will.

I'm not sure what kind of mood Ransom has worked himself into here, but it certainly is fascinating!

'Yes — or like a wave so swift and great that all your force was too little.' (Oh, yes, Ransom: I know what you mean!)

There was something in her replies that began to repel Ransom. 'You can't want him very much if you are happy without him,' he said: and was immediately surprised at the sulkiness of his own voice.

Now, look what you've done, Ransom. The Lady now has misgivings about motherhood because of you!

On a side note, "Piebald" is a nice name. I hope Ransom likes it.

13Majel-Susan
Redigerat: jun 12, 2020, 5:36pm

Ch 6
Ooh! The concept of a forbidden Fixed Land! While reading and thinking on this, it occurred to me how many of the Lady's metaphors about life and about following the way of Maleldil had to do with embracing the ever-changing activity and unpredictability of the waves and their floating islands, and then it struck me how the concept of a Fixed Island where more things could be predicted and controlled, could make a lot of change to such a perspective. Hmm, sometimes I wonder if all this "growing old" is a good thing...

The Lady is awfully cute, what with how inquisitive she is about Ransom's wound, followed by her eagerness to try it too, followed by an even greater curiosity about pain. Ever since meeting her, I have been thinking of Eve in Mark Twain's Diaries of Adam and Eve. Similar to the Lady here, Eve was wonderfully charming, innocent, inquisitive, and experimental, to the point of – well, we know what — and all the animals loved and followed her everywhere as well. Really, The Diaries of Adam and Eve is the most charming book I've read so far this year, though, of course, I do hope to be able to top that further!

I'm not sure how I feel about repeat villains, but I must say that Dr Weston appears to have found himself greeted by a rather scandalous surprise!

14Majel-Susan
jun 14, 2020, 5:02pm

Ch 7-8
Okaayyy... If I'm reading this right, I'm to understand that Weston has been, at least, partly possessed by the Devil? Ookaaayyy...

I prefer Weston's villain speech in Out of the Silent Planet; it was more... I don't know, but his motivations were less elusive. This diving into the supernatural is just a bit weird for me.

Also, everyone is wondering where in Perelandra is this King that the Lady keeps talking about, this King who is apparently "older" and makes the decisions. I wonder if when they finally get to meet the King, he will not be rather a disappointment after all that the Lady has gone on about him. It will be fun!

15Majel-Susan
jun 17, 2020, 1:08pm

Ch 9
Wow! Now I've entered the realm of horror movies!

It looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile... And yet (as he now saw) even the children know better: no child would have any difficulty in understanding that there might be a face the mere beholding of which was final calamity.

Oh, yes, I know that feeling!

All these mothers' sons must be very confusing for the Lady; she can't seem to make up her mind which one of them needs help to be "made older." Apparently, though, Weston-but-not-Weston has been riveting company, that is, up to a point.

But as he spoke of the women with the thousands of lovers she yawned, with the unconcealed and unpremediated yawn of a young cat.

But I did rather enjoy Weston-but-not-Weston's subversive discourse on the wisdom that followed the Fall of Eden—I do, after all, admire the ingenuity and innovation mankind has had to resort to since then, and I must confess myself, as well, deeply attached to the story of the Fall and the subsequent history of the Incarnation—all sentiments, which Ransom found himself unable to deny: hence, his anger at the unfairness of what he was up against. All the same, I thought he justified his position wonderfully well.

Is Maleldil a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do, He will make good of it.

16MrsLee
jun 18, 2020, 9:48pm

I'm glad you are still enjoying this. It lost me just at the point you are describing as interesting! Lol. I couldn't handle all the blah, blah at this point in my life. Too impatient. I don't even disagree with Lewis' worldview. This has been a strange year for me, even before the Covid outbreak.

I do look forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the story.

17Majel-Susan
Redigerat: jun 19, 2020, 12:49pm

>16 MrsLee: It lost me just at the point you are describing as interesting!

Haha, I can understand that! I'm still in the middle of chapter 10, and even I'm getting weary of Ransom the babysitter. I'm hoping things will pick up a bit of pace later, but for now I've put reading on hold until I'm free again after my last exam on Wednesday (whoopee!).

Thanks for the interest, though!

18hfglen
jun 19, 2020, 1:51pm

>17 Majel-Susan: Good luck with the exam!

19Majel-Susan
jun 19, 2020, 5:14pm

>18 hfglen: Thank you!

20haydninvienna
jun 20, 2020, 2:03am

>17 Majel-Susan: What Hugh said.

21Sakerfalcon
jun 20, 2020, 3:39am

>17 Majel-Susan: Good luck from me too!

I have already finished Perelandra and was refraining from commenting so as not to influence you but I will just say MrsLee's experience with the novel was very similar to mine. I did finish, but found myself skimming a lot. At times I was thinking of Alice in Wonderland's remark "What is the point of a book without pictures or conversations?" because even what conversations there are in the novel are really monologues to make a philosophical or theological point, not real character interaction

22Majel-Susan
jun 20, 2020, 10:18am

23Majel-Susan
jun 29, 2020, 8:39pm

I've been reading after the last exam and I'm pretty close to the end now, so I figured it's time to type up 'em notes!

Ch 10
Babysitting is boring, but I thought the scene where the Lady "tries on" the feathered clothes was pretty cute, and even though Ransom doesn't think her improved by the clothes, he doesn't know what to tell her. Speaking of which, I wonder where the King is. I'm sure she would like to get his opinion as well.

Ch 11
If the Lady were to be kept in obedience only by the forcible removal of the Tempter, what use was that?... Did Maleldil suggest that our own world might have been saved if the elephant had accidentally trodden on the serpent a moment before Eve was about to yield?

And this is why I would have said, "Chill, Ransom. Chill. It's not up to you."

He did not know whether Eve had resisted at all, or if so, for how long. Still less did he know how the story would have ended if she had. If the 'serpent' had been foiled, and returned the next day, and the next ... what then? Would the trial have lasted for ever? How would Maleldil have stopped it?

Perhaps my family is just a load of pessimism, but this just reminded me of how my mother used to say, "If not Eve, it was going to be someone else down the line. Sooner or later, but probably sooner, someone was going to eat that apple."

24Majel-Susan
jun 30, 2020, 2:26pm

Ch 12
Ookaay... So Ransom has decided to take the route of physically defeating Perelandra's spiritual enemy... This reminds me of sitting down to watch horror movies with my sister and she often remarks on how the protagonists often take down the supernatural evil by physical means. It's a bit incongruent, if you know what I mean...

Ch 13
He found that the darkness was not complete. His own fish swam in a bath of phosphorescence and so did the stranger at his side.

Hmm, reminds me of the recent ocean bioluminescence phenomenon spotted in California...



Weston, whenever the "Un-man" goes away and Weston comes back, has just been reduced to a blubbering sack of bathos. While I don't necessarily find it unfitting that Weston essentially sold his soul to the Devil, I think it's a bit of a pity--- I don't know, a waste. I mean, it could make for a rather curoius backstory for Weston, but the result is lackluster, which could be part of a point, too; after all, shaking hands with the Devil isn't quite supposed to add to one's personality, but I don't know... Weston is just kinda really meh right now. He comes off as more annoying than menacing. By the way, I've been really unpersuaded during the last couple of chapters where whenever Ransom finds him, the "Un-man" is slowly and senselessly killing some small and petty creature of Perelandra.

Also, at this point, I wonder if I will ever get to meet the King...

25Majel-Susan
jul 1, 2020, 11:24am

Ch 14-15
I think that it's a bit of an overkill detailing everything Ransom has been doing and seeing since he decided to take on the Un-man... Also Weston and the Un-man are killed and then killed a second time exorcism-style... Um, okay. I don't see how Weston can come back from that now, so it will absolutely blow my mind if his reanimated mind/corpse/soul makes a reappearance in the next book. xD

I did appreciate, though, how Ransom felt the need to show some respect even for what was left of Weston, when he inscribed an epitaph for him at the mouth of the cave.

And finally... Ransom finds his coffin-ship... I despair of ever meeting the King.

26Majel-Susan
jul 1, 2020, 7:45pm

Ch 16-17
Meeting the King was not half so much fun as I had hoped.

Abstract discussions, when I come across it, usually in movies, often amuses me to some degree, so I didn't particularly mind it here either, though I confess to skimming much of it. Abstract is fun but also tends to become tedious, but it fit in all right here, Perelandra being more of a theological musing than an action/plot type of story.

'I know what he (Ransom) is thinking,' said the King, looking upon the Queen. 'He is thinking that you suffered and strove and I have a world for my reward.'

Irrelevant, but I suddenly remembered my mother's theory many years ago that the Serpent would have preferred to tempt Eve rather than Adam because, once "enlightened," Adam (behaving as men do, according to my mother) would have wanted to maintain his newfound "superiority" and he wouldn't have shared the apple with Eve. "Killing two birds with one stone" was basically the logic. I just thought that that was an interesting idea, as well.

Perelandra was all right, though I can see how many of the passages tried a lot of readers' patience and I personally preferred Out of the Silent Planet. I think I can also say that while C.S. Lewis is very causal and conversational in his philosophical writings, at least compared to my limited experience of other books in the same genre, he does tend to become a little heavy-handed in his works of fiction. Well, at any rate, trying is fun!

Anyway, thanks for tuning in! A new month and new books for me!

27haydninvienna
jul 2, 2020, 4:56am

Showing unusual restraint for me, I haven't posted in this thread till now, but assure you that I'm reading and enjoying it. I don't think I ever read Perelandra right through, but I do remember the incident where the Un-man is torturing the froglike animals, and the bit where he/it gives the Lady a mirror (as someone, I think Naomi Mitchison, said archly, "Well, after all, he is a devil"). I definitely have read That Hideous Strength, and will be looking forward to that thread.

I wonder if the comment by the King that you quoted was an allusion to Charles Williams' theology of exchange: I cannot bear my own burden but can bear that of my friend; we must build the altar so that the fire from heaven can descend somewhere else?

28Majel-Susan
jul 2, 2020, 11:07pm

>27 haydninvienna: I wonder if the comment by the King that you quoted was an allusion to Charles Williams' theology of exchange

I haven't read Charles Williams before so I wouldn't be able to compare, but as he and Lewis were contemporaries, it is possible.

The (slightly) larger context of my quote above is the King agreeing with Ransom that it is not through his own merit that Perelandra's temptation has been withstood and that he has become the Oyarsa-Perelendri: it is a gift from Maleldil, from the eldil of Perelandra, from Ransom, from the Queen, and every creature that lives on Perelandra. He says, 'Through many hands, enriched with many different kinds of love and labour, the gift comes to me. It is the Law. The best fruits are plucked for each by some hand that is not his own.'

This reminds me of a brief discussion I had earlier today about "merit." I'm not sure how much I believe in the concept of merit, at least, in the sense that people often use the term. For instance, it's a gift and not so much to my own merit that I was born into the first world, that I have an education and opportunity to learn new things, new skills. All of that has nothing to do with me.

All the same, the King has undergone his own different kind of test by Maleldil in the meantime, so everything didn't hinge solely on the Lady putting up with the Un-man. :)

On yet another note, it just occurred to me that after spending goodness knows how long on Perelandra, Ransom never told the Lady his name. For generations and generations hence, the Lady will be telling her children and her children's children, "There was once a great and old man sent by Maleldil to deliver us in the time of Perelandra's temptation. His name was Piebald of Thulcandra..."

I'm delighted to know that you have been enjoying my reading notes! Thank you!

Since you're still around and interested, I will open a new thread for That Hideous Strength once I get a proper start on the book. :D

29haydninvienna
Redigerat: jul 3, 2020, 12:56am

>28 Majel-Susan: In relation to the idea of "exchange" and your quotation from the King, Williams has this (in the poem "Bors to Elayne: On the King's Coins", in Taliessin Through Logres:
Might may take symbols and folly make treasure,
and greed bid God, who hides himself for man’s pleasure
by occasion, hide himself essentially: this abides—
that the everlasting house the soul discovers
is always another’s; we must lose our own ends;
we must always live in the habitation of our lovers,
my friend’s shelter for me, mine for him.

This is the way of this world in the day of that other’s;
make yourselves friends by means of the riches of iniquity,
for the wealth of the self is the health of the self exchanged.
(Emphasis mine.) That's far from being his only statement of the idea, but it's the only one I can find quickly. And speaking of another of Williams's poems ("Taliessin on the Death of Virgil", also in Taliessin Through Logres, in the introductory essay "The Figure of Arthur" in Arthurian Torso, Lewis has this:
It is important to realize that this passage is not simply a poetic conceit. Williams has said here nothing that he is not prepared to avouch in cool prose: and the whole chapter on ‘The Practice of Substituted Love’ in He Came Down from Heaven is devoted to the exposition of it. The doctrine, which he called that of Exchange or Substitution, may be summed up in three propositions.
(1) The Atonement was a Substitution, just as Anselm said. But that Substitution, far from being a mere legal fiction irrelevant to the normal workings of the universe, was simply the supreme instance of a universal law. ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save’ is a definition* of the Kingdom. All salvation, everywhere and at all times, in great things or in little, is vicarious. The courtesy of the Emperor has absolutely decreed that no man can paddle his own canoe and every man can paddle his fellow’s, so that the shy offering and modest acceptance of indispensable aid shall be the very form of the celestial etiquette.
(2) We can and should ‘bear one another’s burdens’ in a sense much more nearly literal than is usually dreamed of. Any two souls can (‘under the Omnipotence’) make an agreement to do so: the one can offer to take another’s shame or anxiety or grief and the burden will actually be transferred. This Williams most seriously maintained, and I have reason to believe that he spoke from experimental knowledge.
(3) Such ‘exchanges’, however, are not made only by mutual compact. We can be their beneficiaries without our own knowledge or consent, as when our god-parents became our substitutes at the font. Such is the coinherence of all souls that they are not even limited by Time. Hence in Descent into Hell—a story which shows the doctrine of Exchange in action—the heroine takes upon herself the terror of a remote ancestor and liberates him from feeling it. ... I think the poet would have said in so many words, if asked, that any Christian Virgilian can this very night assist in the salvation of Virgil.

*(Emphasis in original.)

30Majel-Susan
jul 3, 2020, 11:41pm

>29 haydninvienna: Oh, I quite like the sounds of that!

I looked up a little more on Charles Williams, and his theory of co-inherence sounds like a fascinating read, once I can clear up my current queue of theological books. Do you have any recommendations which of his fiction and non-fiction works are the best? Descent into Hell has an interesting description on Goodreads, and it appears to be his most well-known work. Is that a good place to start, or would I be missing something? I remember from our previous thread for Out of the Silent Planet, -pilgrim- mentioned something about Williams' books linking with each other.

31haydninvienna
Redigerat: jul 4, 2020, 2:24am

>30 Majel-Susan: I've read some of them but -pilgrim- is definitely the expert. Williams actually wrote quite a bit on theological matters, one of the books being He Came Down from Heaven mentioned in the Lewis quotation in >29 haydninvienna: . Another is The Descent of the Dove, which I have read, and (as I remember it), as with most of Williams's writing, it's good at communicating enthusiasm but less good at telling a coherent story. There's also a short book called Outlines of Romantic Theology, which I know nothing about. You might be better to start with the poetry—get Arthurian Torso as an introduction from Faded Page (or even the kindle version: it's out of print and second-hand copies seem to be fetching ridiculous prices) and then the Arthurian poetry, Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars. I'm pretty sure that most of Williams's theology is expressed in some way in the poetry, and the poetry is easier to read (in that you expect it to be somewhat obscure—don't judge me, I live by writing plain English).

Williams was not a systematic theologian. If you think of a spectrum with St Thomas Aquinas at one end and say Jakob Boehme at the other, Williams was much nearer the Boehme end. I'm not a theologian either so I'm not going to commit myself beyond that. Bother: I've got The Descent of the Dove here somewhere and now I may have to find it and read it.

ETA: I did find The Descent of the Dove, and in Williams's introduction I found this:
I may perhaps be permitted to add that the themes of this book are also discussed, from different points of view, in other books of mine—in Descent into Hell, He came down from Heaven, and Taliessin through Logres. The first is fiction; the second is not; the third is poetry—whether that is or is not fiction.

32haydninvienna
Redigerat: jul 4, 2020, 10:29am

Well, I did re-read The Descent of the Dove. Interesting. I think I have to draw back a bit from arguing that Williams isn't good at telling a coherent story. The book as a whole is clear and makes a good deal of sense, although I'm not going to dispute his theology or even necessarily his historical accuracy.

The book is subtitled "A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church". In fact, it's pretty much a history of the concept of "co-inherence", as Williams defines it. This is not the place to discuss that concept, and I suspect that I'd embarrass myself if I did anyway.

Couple of quotations that I found interesting:
"Reason," as Chesterton said, "is always a kind of brute force ...The real tyranny was the tyranny of aggressive reason over the cowed and demoralised human spirit". There is, certainly, a way by which Reason can avoid that brutality; it is not a way that St Thomas took, but its exists. It consists of saying, at the very beginning, as that other great rationalist Euclid said, "Let us suppose ...". ... But then poetry can do something that philosophy can not, for poetry is arbitrary and has already turned the formulae of belief into an operation of faith. We have often been shown how Dante followed Aquinas; it would be of interest to have an exhibition of their differences. For poetry, like faith, can look at the back as well as the front of reason; it can survey reason all round. But the towering castles of the Scholastics would not deign to suppose: it is why the Inferno is readable, while the chapters on Hell in the Summa are unbearable and unbelievable. (pp 122-3)
As was said earlier, co-inherence had been the very pattern of Christendom; we were not to be merely inheritors but "brethren and fellows and co-inheritors of the name of salvation". ... The first Indulgences had been declared to the early Crusaders; all temporal penalties of sin were remitted to those who fought. This was but a method, and two further steps were still to be taken before the whole superb and dangerous knowledge became defined. In the thirteenth century Alexander of Hales defined the Treasury of Merits, and in 1343 the doctrine was accepted by Clement VI. In 1457 Calixtus III formally declared that the exercise of such powers was applicable beyond this world ... an accurate method of exchange was then presented to the faithful; by doing this, that would be achieved. Indulgences were "applicable to the souls in Purgatory". ... Money was, on earth, a means of artificial exchange, and could be, now, a means of the art of heavenly exchange—money given in repentance, in faith, in love. As the intention was struck into act—"as the money chinks in the box"—the fact was achieved—"the soul springs from purgatory". (pp 162-3)

Another one was interesting because of certain recent events:
Few Roman Catholics now denounce the secret vices of the Pope; few Anglicans exhibit the loathsome corruption of their Archbishops; no President of any Free Church Council is accused of sodomy or sloth. Perhaps indeed their lives are more pure, or perhaps vociferousness has merely exhausted itself. (p 162)
And, speaking of the Reformation:
Compromise was unthinkable, and toleration had to be a necessity before it could be a virtue. In fact, as a virtue it does not yet exist, though we once thought it did. For our fathers became bored and miserable and decadent through their incessant killing, and we, the children of that killing, supposed ourselves to be convinced of charity, when, in truth, we only shuddered still at the memory of blood. (p 182)


ETA I'm not trying to argue either for or against Williams here. As I said, I found the quotations interesting, and relevant to >28 Majel-Susan: . If the community thinks that I've overstepped the Pub rules, I'll take there post down.

33Majel-Susan
jul 4, 2020, 12:45pm

>31 haydninvienna: >32 haydninvienna: I had some trouble finding Descent of the Dove since it wasn't in my library, on Project Gutenberg, on Faded Page, or in the Open Library; but at last I found a pdf on some university site. Yes, I think I will read it when I get the opportunity, along with Descent into Hell. Thanks for the recommendation!

>32 haydninvienna: Another one was interesting because of certain recent events:
Few Roman Catholics now denounce the secret vices of the Pope...

Ha, yes. My mother would agree with that one, and we are Catholics. :)