Ursula K. LeGuin on common assumptions people — including writers! — make about fantasy fiction:
Assumption: Fantasy Land is the middle ages. It isn’t. It’s an alternate world, outside our history, and its map isn’t on our map. It may resemble mediaeval Europe in being pre-industrial — but that doesn’t justify its having no economics and no social justice. Nor does it explain why nobody there ever feeds or waters their horses, which run all day and night just like a Prius. The best send-up of this fifth-hand Tennyson setting is Monty Python’s Holy Grail, where horse are replaced with coconuts. Whenever I find a fantasy that is set in a genuinely imagined society and culture instead of this lazy-minded, recycled hokum, I feel like setting off fireworks. — Ursula K. LeGuin, “Some Assumptions about Fantasy,” Cheek by Jowl, p. 5.
This astonishing gift of special seeing is quite common among children. To this extent perhaps most children are poets. As we grow up it is generally lost. I can remember so well, from earliest childhood, seeing something in the light on a hill, or in the shape of a flower, or in a human face (perhaps a very plain face) which seemed absolutely heavenly. It was so strong a feeling that I felt I must tell the world about it or burst. Ordinary description was no use; poetry it had to be. — Ruth Pitter.
In Matthew 9, Jesus tells the parable of the wineskin: You don’t put new wine in an old wineskin, he says, or the new wine (as it ferments) will burst the old wineskin. Rather, you put new wine in a new wine skin, and in that way *both* are preserved.
It’s pretty obvious what “both” means here: It has to mean the new wine and the new wineskin.
And yet more than one commentary seems to think that Jesus is saying that by putting new wine in the new wineskin, you’ll preserve both the new wineskin and the old wineskin, leading to conclusions about Jesus’ concern for the old systems, structures, practices, or whatever.
Davies & Allison, usually no slouches as commentators, are particularly confused and confusing on this point:
“In its broader context, which concerns fasting, this clause makes for a positive relation between an old practice (fasting) and the newness brought by Jesus. That is, even though the immediate subject of ‘and both will be preserved’ is the new wine and the new wineskins, the redactor was probably thinking of wineskins as symbols for something from the past, and of the need to preserve them.”
Huh? They acknowledge that “both” refers to (1) new wine and (2) new wineskins … but then they talk as if “wineskins” (new and old) refer to “something from the past,” and as if Jesus is concerned somehow — in spite of what they know “both” means — about preserving the old practices/system (i.e., the old wineskins).
It makes my head spin.