What’s in a Name?

You may have noticed some changes taking place around here lately. Several weeks ago, I updated the layout and design of the blog. It is slightly more modern, but without completely abandoning the ancient, historical feel I intended at the beginning.

Now the big revisions have taken place: switching the URL from 4scores.blogspot.com to capstewart.com, and replacing the original blog title, Four Scores and Seven Films Ago, with a new title, Happier Far.

When I first created this blog in January of 2006, I decided on a title that incorporated my love of American history and my affinity for instrumental motion picture scores. The lengthy subtitle of the blog gave me practically unlimited freedom to write about whatever I wanted:

Art. Life. Joy. All find their greatest expression in and through one Source: the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the spiritually dead, the Fountain of lasting pleasure. Apart from Christ, art is a mere distraction, life a mere triviality, joy a mere fable.

In changing the URL, a new blog title seemed appropriate as well. I may still comment on the arts and pop culture from time to time—especially movies—but my main focus here is the study of God, and I wanted a blog title that expressed that focus more explicitly.

Choosing a new name for my blog proved to be a strenuous mental exercise. I wanted a phrase that both hinted at the overall theme of my writings while also referencing an important historical work or figure. The possibilities I came up with included Inconsolable Secret (C. S. Lewis), An Infinite Happiness (Henry Scougal), Paradise Regain’d (John Milton), Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan), A New Affection (Thomas Chalmers), Recovered Paradise (John Milton), and The Sovereign Joy (Augustine of Hippo). Most of these choices, I discovered, had already been taken by other bloggers. Even the mash-up Pilgrim’s Paradise had been snagged.

(As a side note: While we were trying to come up with variations on Pilgrim’s Progress for a blog title, my wife Shannon suggested Pilgrim’s Ogress, which indeed had not been taken. She thought I could write about our married life, with her as the ogress. As you can tell, I dismissed the suggestion.)

Ultimately, I decided on a phrase from Paradise Lost for the title; I love Milton’s epic poem so much (as well as its oft-neglected sequel, Paradise Regain’d) that I felt compelled to include it. The phrase “happier far” comes from the closing section of Paradise Lost, where the archangel Michael tells Adam of a happiness that exceeds that of living in paradise—a paradise within. Having God dwell within you through regeneration is better than just dwelling in paradise (see John 4:14 and John 7:38). Indeed, God can put a gladness in our hearts that exceeds that which is caused by earthly success (Ps. 4:7). And even in the midst of trials, we can experience an inward peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). It is far better to take paradise with you wherever you go.

Admittedly, Milton’s language, while timeless in its beauty, is hard to navigate. But with Shannon—and her Masters in English—as my guide, the world of Milton has been opened before me, rewarding my wandering steps with great vistas of linguistic and narrative majesty.

For the subtitle, I chose a quote from Augustine’s Confessions, which is an eloquent description of the joy found in a resurrected life. It is a testament to Augustine’s wisdom that I have read so little from him and yet have been so greatly affected by him—probably because I have studied great writers who likewise have been affected by him.

Combined, the new title and subtitle of this blog succinctly explain one of my main goals: to embrace and enjoy the greatest Treasure of mankind. As the very source of all true art and life and pleasure, God Himself dispels our inferior affections with gospel affections. If my readers experience a greater degree of these “new affections” (as Thomas Chalmers called them), I will consider my efforts on this blog a success.

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).