The Legacy

The band concert on that airless July evening ended with Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. Everyone was on their feet. Moms and dads, grandparents and kids marched in place waving little flags and sparklers. As if on cue from the obligato of the piccolo, stars began popping out of the dark scroll above the ebbing twilight. As the march concluded the band stood up, bowed and received a rousing applause. The clapping and motion of the crowd picking up their lawn chairs created a momentary relief from the otherwise stagnant ether that evening in the park.

Andrey picked up his lawn chair and Laura’s. They headed to their car. Along the way kids were tugging on their father’s arm. There was an ice cream vendor parked on the street nearby. Moms were tugging along the little ones while talking to their neighbors. The concert in the park, a harmony of the past and present, so pleased Andrey that he told Laura as they got in the car that he gained a kick in his step. Laura looked over her glasses at him and then proceeded to talk about what they had to do the next day. Andrey was quiet and was not listening. He was tapping the steering wheel. The past was being drummed up …to a day in July fifty-five years ago…

 

Andrey had been told to clean his room. His uncle was coming over. After much balking and saying “Ahh mom” and mom’s cajoling and taking a circuitous route to each of his friend’s houses to see what they were doing – they were told to clean their room before going out – Andrey cleaned his room. After inspection by mom, Andrey was told to wait in his room. His uncle would be there any minute.

What was this all about anyway? The sun was shining and summer was just outside. Uncle Bill pulled into the driveway. Andrey’s dad, the older brother, came out the door and greeted him. Andrey took in as much as he could through the open bedroom window. Mom came out and greeted Bill. Then the three of them came into the house. After fifteen minutes Uncle Bill was standing at the bedroom door. Hanging from his hand was a strange case. It was brown with brass clasps and looked used.

Bill came into the room and placed the case on his bed. Dad and mom stood at the door. ‘What was this all about?’ Andrey wondered. Uncle Bill flipped open the two brass colored latches and opened the case. He pulled back a velvet cover and there it was – a brass, scratched up, bell-dented Conn b-flat trumpet.

Uncle Bill told Andrey that he played the horn when he was younger and that he no longer wanted to. He thought I could make better use of it. Andrey beamed. It wasn’t his birthday. It wasn’t Christmas. It was July …and it was brass …and it was his. Not yet having a vocabulary of appreciative words other than what he typically said at his birthday and Christmas after opening a present, he simply said, “Thank you, Uncle Bill.”

Mom, dad and Uncle Bill went into the front room to talk. On his bed the horn lay in its case. Its owner sat next to it looking at it as if it like a new kid on the block and not sure of the relationship. He made the first move. He picked up the horn and began looking at it from all angles. He pulsed the valves, pulled out the slides and pinched the spit valve. There was a deep gouge in the bell and dents and scratches all along the tubing. He explored the case. Inside he found valve oil, something called slide lube, a little music stand you hooked on the horn and a mouthpiece. He picked up the mouthpiece and looked at it. It was tarnished silver. It had a wide rim and a deep dark cup. At the other end, the horn end, the tube was no longer round. It looked like it had been dropped. He brought it to his lips and began blowing. Nothing but splurged air. He pursed his lips and blew again. This time a buzzing sound occurred. He put the mouthpiece in the end of the long tube and thought of the girl down the block who had to practice the violin every day and did so making a sound like sawing-a-cat-in-two. He blew into the horn to see what sound would come out.

The sound that came out of the trumpet with that first blow was a muffled sputter. So, Andrey took in a big gulp of air, puffed up his cheeks and blew harder. BlllllllllllOOAAAAARRRRRGH! Bobby, the family’s French Poodle, gave a howl and ran to hide behind dad’s legs. Boots the cat got up from Andrey’s pillow and plopped back down at the foot of his brother’s bed and closed his eyes again. Andrey, a freckled redhead, had a lobster-red face as he walked into the front room with a new kick in his step. His parents clapped. Uncle Bill kidded dad. “Are you ready for this?”

Now that he could produce a sound of his own Andrey felt that the world was handed to him. And then he had a thought. He would have to practice every day like the girl down the street. The world began to look different that day …

 

Andrey drove up to a diner. They went in for some pie and coffee. Andrey wanted to reminisce. And, unlike his first wife who thought his trumpet practicing was a racket and who was as indifferent as Boots the cat was to goings-on not its own, Laura listened to him rehearse his memories.

“I remember my grandfather giving my dad his own boxed set of classical music LPs. It was a set of “Living Stereo” recordings of 100 selections of 80 composers played by various orchestras. That was my first exposure to music other than the hymns at church. I would lay in the middle of the front room floor in front of the stereo console. I turned up the volume and listened to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and, Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto. There was Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius…and Sostenuto!

My favorites were pieces that featured brass instruments like Mussorgsky’s The Great Gate of Kiev and, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Procession of Nobles and …

The waitress, a tattooed young woman of about twenty-years-old, brought the pies and poured more coffee. Andrey continued.

“Up to that point in my life I had used my allowance to buy baseball cards, comic books and banana flavored Bonomo Turkish Taffy. Remember that? I soon learned to clean the taffy out of my mouth before playing the horn. My first trumpet teacher was a fifth-grade band director. He had a heavy accent. He would hold my mouthpiece up to the light and almost jump out of his chair when he said “Filty!, Filty!”…

Anyway, I began to do chores so I could buy classical records with trumpets playing in them. I listened to them and played my horn to them. Looking back, I learned a language that everyone understood.”

Andrey thought for a moment and then smiled.

“But my music professor at college couldn’t understand where my pitch was coming from. He had perfect pitch and mine was somewhere way south of his. The two of us would sit at his piano. He would place an interval exercise in front of me. When I sang it acapella, he would screw up his face as if in pain. He was charitable, though. I got a C+ in his class for “trying”. I was OK as long as there was pitch I could hone in on it.

“How about I buy a pitch pipe for your showers?” Laura teased. Andrey smiled and then his face contorted.

“Now listen to that… that hateful noise after all that good music we heard tonight.”

Laura looked around. “That is the background music. You can’t go anywhere in public these days without that annoying racket. It’s like someone or something is trying to own your space.”

“Exactly!” Andrey set his cup down and his eyes lit up. “Oh. I didn’t tell you about my dream last night. I just remembered it.

I was on a stage inside a band shell. White light was pouring down on me so I couldn’t see the audience. I was wearing a tuxedo and felt overheated. I was sitting in the trumpet section of the concert band. My C trumpet was on a vertical trumpet stand at my left knee and my b-flat trumpet was on a trumpet stand at my right knee.

There were two young men, one on each side of me in the trumpet section. During the third movement, the one marked Largo – Oh, I forgot to mention that the band was playing a transcription of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony – anyway, the young man on my left took my C trumpet from the stand and began to walk away. I whispered ‘Where are you going with my horn?’ The young man said, “I am going solo.” He walked off stage with it. I could see him just outside the bandshell talking to friends and some women. The young man was showing them the horn. He let them hold it and play it. Then I saw the young man on my right pick up my b-flat trumpet. He began to play the solo trumpet passage in the fifth movement, the one with the Allegro non Troppo tempo. Tah tah tah taaaaah”

Laura put her coffee down. “My, you have vivid dreams.”

“Well, I might be embellishing this just a little.” Andrey winked. “You know. Old men have their stories to tell.”

“Uh-huh. Go on old man.”

“Well, the young man reappears and he comes back and sits down. He places the C trumpet back on the stand. The horn was badly dented and scratched. It looked like the horn my Uncle Bill had given me. I remember being happy to see the horn again but I became sad because I couldn’t use it in the concert. I handed that horn back to the guy on the left and said, “Here, make good use of this.” The guy on the right of me was not happy that I had gifted the other guy the C trumpet. I told him, “You can use my b-flat trumpet anytime you like.” He still wasn’t happy. End of dream.”

“Wow, quite a dream. Say, whatever happened to the old horn?” Laura queried.

“I donated it to the Salvation Army hoping some kid would learn to play. And now that I no longer playing my horns, I wanted to give them to my kids. But they have no interest in them. Here’s a thought. How about they are buried with me? In ancient times pharaohs and kings were buried with what they would use in the afterlife.”

Laura laughed. “You can’t take it with you, Andrey. And besides, I’m sure Gabriel has a horn for you to play.”

“I’ll end up donating them to the Salvation Army. And by the sound of things (Andrey pointed to the overhead speakers) this world needs all the help it can get.”

Laura nodded and said, “I wonder what that waitress will dream tonight after hearing this racket throughout her shift?”

“Maybe about nose rings, piercings, and more tattoos.”

Andrey went to the cash register and paid the bill. He came back to the table, left a tip and a scrawled note on the table: He who understands music understands the cosmos.

Andrey got up. “C’mon. Let’s go.” They went into the night, into the reverie of unbeguiled silence.

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2019, All Rights Reserved

The Dinner

 

The Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend Marvin was finalizing his response to the client. He sat before his two monitors. One monitor held the client comments regarding the marked-up drawings stacked neatly to his left. The monitor on the right held the recipe for beef bourguignon. He was making plans for a quiet dinner Saturday night and the start of a new book.

As a lead engineer Marvin’s desk was inside a cubicle configured with partitions on three sides. The opening in the cubicle faced a wall and an aisle. The cubicle was at the end of a long aisle that traversed the first floor of the engineering firm. His desk was secluded from all the other engineers. This was of no consequence to Marvin for he kept to himself. Detachment from others meant that he could concentrate on his work without being disturbed by any human drama. The only semblance of his life outside the cubicle was a calendar of military planes that reminded him of his time in the air force.

Before leaving for the weekend, Marvin walked over to confer with another engineer. Landry’s cubicle was at the other end of the first floor. As was his manner, Marvin walked with a deliberate military gait without looking at the other engineers along his path. Any engineer seeing him pass might think of Marvin as an animated stick figure. The pencil thin Marvin conserved his motion and his emotions for the necessary.

Any female engineer, and there was one on the first floor who did, would notice that Marvin wore the same grey twill pants, black shoes and a version of a plaid shirt that he wore every day. On his belt hung a TI-36X Pro engineering/scientific Calculator. If asked, he would tell you that it was the same one he had used for his FE/PE engineering exams years ago. He would also tell you that the calculator replaced the slide rule he had carried on is belt during his days at the university. The shirt pocket pen pouch remained from those days.

The same female engineer seeing Marvin walk by also noticed Marvin’s dispassionate single-minded gaze beneath his dark unkempt eyebrows. And, that his disheveled dark hair and a stout mustache that covered his pursed lips gave Marvin an austere manly look, a no-nonsense guise. It seemed to her that the university geek, now in his early sixties, had continued to live in cerebral austerity. The never-married Marvin appeared to be married to his thoughts. This, she supposed, figured in Marvin’s lack of human interface except as required to complete the challenges presented to him.

Marvin conferred with Landry, a mechanical engineer who was months from his retirement and who gave a glib reply when someone asked him how he was: “I’m here and I’m loving it!” At Landry’s cubicle drawings were spread out on two desk tops. There was talk of the reactor coolant pump the client wanted for the nuclear plant. There was talk of length of pipe and the location of the pump, of water head pressure, of horsepower, of vendor drawings, of the calcs required and of a redundant system. They both noted that there was a labyrinth of pipes and conduits to contend with.

Marvin Left Landry’s cubicle after responsibilities were delineated. He then returned to his own cubicle to respond to the client. He sent his client an email outlining the work to be done and stating the date for the sealed engineering drawings to be handed over. On the other screen he looked once more at the beef bourguignon recipe and decided beef stew would be a good choice for a quiet Saturday dinner. He printed out the recipe and shut his computer down. He was weekend ready.

On Saturday morning, as was his manner, Marvin got up at 3 AM. he took his usual two-mile walk. When the sunlight began festooning houses with gold overlays, he drove over to the market to purchase the ingredients for his beef stew. With recipe in hand Marvin then drove over to a nearby liquor store where he found a burgundy that the recipe called for. He also purchased a bottle of aged bourbon that he would later pour into his “U.S. Air Force” engraved decanter and rocks glass.

With a plan to eat at 5 PM sharp, Marvin gathered up the ingredients: chuck roast, carrots, pearl onions, garlic, bacon, beef broth, olive oil, tomato paste, mushrooms, seasonings and the burgundy. At 3 PM he placed the recipe on a book holder. He began the process, methodically and carefully. There could be no room for error. After following the recipe to the letter, he placed the Dutch oven in the oven at the called-for temperature. Dinner would be served at 5 PM.

Just before 5 PM Marvin took the stew out of the oven and let it rest. He set his place at the table and poured into a wine glass the balance of burgundy. He set bread on the table and some butter. The smell of the stew filled his apartment. At 5 PM sharp he placed the Dutch oven on hot pad just before his place at the table. A large spoon was put into service as he opened its lid. Just then there was feverish knock at the door. “Now who could that be?” Marvin growled. He got from the table and headed for the door.

Through the door’s peephole he saw a concave figure of a woman who was nervously knocking again. “All right! All right!” Marvin snapped. He opened the door and became dumbfounded at the surreal sight before him. Somewhere under woman’s clothes and a wig was his neighbor Arturo. Before Marvin could say anything, Arturo rushed in and said, “You gotta help me!” Marvin stood holding the door open hoping the illusion would leave the way it came in.

“What?! …What is all this about?” Marvin had no calculus for what he saw. And he had no patience for any of this nonsense, as his beef bourguignon and a quiet night were waiting for him.

“You see …,” Arturo, frantic, started but he broke off as if to find words that a military man would understand. “You see…” Arturo started again, pushing back a wig curl that kept covering his right eye. “I …I …well, you see, it’s like this.” Again, Arturo broke off as if his next words would seal his fate. “You see, my friend (as if to cushion Marvin’s response) I … I … well, I put on some of my wife’s clothes while she is out at a church gathering with her girlfriends.”

Marvin looked Arturo up and down and said, “I’ve heard it said that in marriage the two become one but I didn’t think…”

“No, No, it’s not like that. I mean it is like that, but not like that.” Arturo thought that by not making any sense that he could persuade the unmarried rational Marvin with some secret knowledge of marriage that he, married to Martha, must possess. But Marvin wasn’t buying it. The food was getting cold.

“What do you want from me? I just sat down to eat.”

“I … I … locked myself out of the apartment. I took the garbage out…”

“Wait! You took the garbage out dressed like that?”

“Ah …mmmmm … ah I did”, Arturo turned eyes away from Marvin as if to hide the truth.

“So,” Marvin responded impatiently, “what am I supposed to do? There’s a simple solution. Call your wife and tell her that you are locked out.”

“It’s not that simple, you see …, my wife has no idea and I don’t want her to know about this.” Arturo waved his hand from head to toe.

“I can see why.” Marvin said sternly. The smell of the beef stew was now making his stomach growl.

“You’ve got to help me. Can you check the windows of my apartment to see if any are unlocked?’ Arturo petitioned Marvin.

“You want me to sneak around outside your apartment and look in your windows? The people around here will think I am as batty as you? And worse! And, besides, you have already made yourself known to the neighbors.”

“I … I …I learned my lesson. I cannot go out again.” Arturo was pacing back and forth as he spoke. The look on his face was one of holy terror.

“My wife will be returning, she said around nine-o’clock. I don’t want her to see me like this.”

“So, I get the privilege?”

“I sorry, my friend, to bring this to you but I have no where else to go for help. You are a smart man. You can think of things.”

“Right now, I am thinking of my dinner which is getting cold.” Marvin folded his arms across his chest.

“Say. What is that marvelous smell?” Arturo turned his face towards the kitchen.

“It is beef bourguignon and I am hungry. You can join me so I can eat. If you remain quiet.”

“Maybe you can think of a plan while we eat,” Arturo continued to ply Marvin’s ego as he sat down. He figured Marvin might respond better to the situation than to his makeup varnished face.

Marvin brought out another place setting and a wine glass and an uncorked bottle of red wine. He never had a guest eat with him before. He hoped that he could eat in silence and gain some semblance of the quiet evening he had planned.

The two ate in silence and finished their meal. The silence was broken when Arturo, noticeably agitated throughout the meal, queried Marvin. “Any thoughts?”

Marvin looked up from his plate. As was his manner he spoke dispassionately to Arturo. “My new found ‘friend’, I have no flow chart that can show me the next step. If you were a deadheading pump, I would have options. I could put in a piloted relief valve or a bypass or an unloader valve downstream system of the pump to allow excess pressure to be relieved and flow to continue through the pump and back to the tank.”

Arturo thought for a moment and then said, waving his hand over his body from head to toe, “This must be my relief valve.”

The red wine Marvin was drinking came out through his nose. Little droplets of red wine now hung precariously from his mustache. He wiped his mouth and got up from the table. As he walked to the kitchen he said. “It looks more like a Catch 22 situation. No entrance without a key and no key without an entrance.”

Arturo winced when he heard those words. He knew his fate was sealed. He went to the window and peered through the slats of the blinds. His wife had not come home.

In the kitchen Arturo helped Marvin put the dishes in the dishwasher. As he did black jagged lines formed beneath his eyes. Mixed with tears his mascara had run, giving him the appearance of a freakish clown.

When Marvin had finished in the kitchen, he told Arturo that he was going out to the patio for some bourbon and a cigar. He told Arturo to grab a glass and join him if he wanted to. “You look like you could use a drink.”

Arturo followed Marvin onto the patio but only after he looked around to see if anyone was looking. Then he ventured out and sat down. There, much like the privacy of Marvin’s cubicle at work, two sides of his apartment and one side of high bushes enclosed the space. The open side was the lawn.

Marvin poured bourbon from the decanter into the “U.S. Air Force” engraved rocks glasses. He handed one to Arturo who then sniffed it. Speaking with a quaver in his voice Arturo said, “Thank you for my last supper,” “Cheers,” said Marvin and he clanked Arturo’s glass.

Marvin lit the cigar his colleague gave at the close of last ASME IMECE congress meeting. Taking a long draw on it and, as was his manner, he looked dispassionately at the open space making mental notes of what needed to be done on Tuesday. Arturo, on the other hand, crossed and uncrossed his legs in nervous rapidity. With each cross and uncross his dress hiked up to mid-thigh exposing more of his hairy legs.

Martha’s dress was a size 8 floral print. On six-foot two 220-pound Arturo, the dress looked ready to burst at the seams. The dress’s three-quarter sleeves came to just above his elbows. They had a solid grip on his upper arm as did the wig on his head. Rivulets of sweat ran down Arturo’s forehead; the wig was so full and so tight that the breeze Marvin enjoyed came nowhere near Arturo’s scalp. Unable to fit into his wife’s shoes with his size 12 feet, Arturo wore her flip flops. The only evidence of them being worn was the thong between the big toe and the rest of the toes.

After crossing and uncrossing his legs once more Arturo stood up and said, “Excuse me. I’m going to see if Martha came home.” Marvin continued his dispassionate gaze into Tuesday.

Arturo went into the living room and peered through the blinds. Martha’s car was in the parking lot. Arturo rushed back to the patio in panic mode and told Marvin. Marvin got up with the hope that he could find the reverie he had promised himself the week before. They both went to the window and saw Martha’s car. But then they saw her taking out the garbage to the dumpster at the end of the parking lot. Arturo rushed to the door, opened it and saw that the door to his apartment was ajar. He ran out yelling “Not a word! Not a word!” Marvin closed his door and then peered through the peephole. He wanted to see the return of Martha.

Martha returned. But instead of going to her door she knocked on Marvin’s’ door. Marvin waited a few seconds and then opened the door.

“Have you seen Arturo? Martha asked.

Marvin opened his mouth and hesitated. With a darting glance at Arturo’s and Martha’s front door he said, “I can’t say that I have.” Marvin stood there in a plaid shirt, grey slacks and black shoes with a dispassionate look.

Martha searched the curious look on Marvin’s face. She wondered if there was a smile underneath his mustache. She had never seen him smile. She then looked over at her front door. It was still ajar.

“OK. Sorry to bother you. Good night.” As Martha walked away Marvin shut his door and breathed a sigh of relief.

Back on the patio Marvin sat down and took a swig of bourbon from his engraved rocks glass. He relit the cigar a colleague gave him and took some puffs. He opened the book that he had been waiting to read: “Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto”. After reading for several minutes he took a long draw on the cigar and held the smoke in his mouth. As he breathed out the smoky cloud, he had a thought: “It would be easier to explain the trajectory of a space probe traveling billions of miles from earth to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt than it would be for Arturo to explain his recent trajectory to Martha.”

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2019, All Rights Reserved

What Mattered to Hannah

 

Hannah wanted to get away so she booked a week at a cottage on a lake, the deepest lake in Wisconsin. Hannah boarded her parrolet Henry and headed north. The drive up from Chicago was just a few hours. Off the main highways she followed a lattice of county roads with names like “A” and “T” past fields of corn and cows. God, country, family and, lost love was on the AM radio. Hannah lived alone and drove to the cottage alone.

Hannah’s vacation hours had so accumulated at work that if she didn’t take them before the end of the year, she would lose them. But leaving work to vacation was hard for Hannah. The only relationship she had was with her work. It was a relationship which made increasing demands on her while offering yearly increases in pay. As the years passed and promotions were awarded her work responsibilities ratcheted up. To keep the relationship going and to do what she wanted to do – producing and giving – Hannah did what she had to do.

Using up the accumulated vacation hours was not Hannah’s only reason for getting away from work and home and going to the cottage. Getting away from being lonely in one spot was what mattered. Getting away from work to matter somewhere else mattered. Especially as she turned sixty-seven and the downtime they called “retirement” loomed in front of her. Could she matter without work? Hannah loved to work, to make things happen, to produce what mattered to others. Being an engineer was a career that produced things that worked and things that mattered. Could she live just as an observer?

When Hannah told her two younger sisters about her trip to the cottage, the youngest sister, Anna, gave Hannah a book. Anna described it as a book about hunter-gather societies, the noble savage, Gaia, “rootedness” and a dark green religion of “compassion”. The middle sister, Savannah, gave Hannah a novel about the Rapture. Hannah, put both books in the trunk of her car where they banged around as she drove. Hannah brought Chekov along for the week.

When Hannah called her ninety-year old mom and told her about the trip, her mother said “Good for you” and “Make sure to behave yourself.” When Hannah told her mom about her concerns about the food available at the cottage, for she had drastically changed her way of eating, her mom said “Take what you can get.”

The first day at the cottage was a day of unloading the car, putting things away and finding out that “We have WiFi” meant we can provide no internet signal you can use. The cable TV offered local news and weather forecasts and “This channel should be with you shortly”. The program never arrived. So, the cottage meant the basics like the flip phone Hannah carried.

That evening Hannah drove into town and went into the first restaurant she came to. There were cars on the street in front of the place so she felt it might be worth a try. It wasn’t a supper club. It was a bar and restaurant with the look and smell of the fifties and something past its prime. The redolence of time past and the objects on the wall made Hannah feel like she had gotten away from the present. On the walls surrounding the well-used wooden tables and chairs were fishing maps of the lake, a framed type-written menu from 1955, and black and white photos of townsfolk in parades and holding large fish. The bar area had the same but was updated with a “It’s a Great Day to Be a Packers Fan” plaque hung over the bar. Hannah was in north heartland.

There were three tables near where they sat Hannah. Two grey-haired women of large size sat at each of two tables. It was Saturday night and the special, rib-eye steak, was set before each of them. One of the women at the far table started up and then asked the passing waitress to move the butter closer. “I don’t want to have to walk.” She buttered her roll with the now available butter and then sat eating it looking blankly out at the street. The woman next to her ate looking at the wall behind Hannah.

At the third table, the one closest to Hannah, an old man and his wife sat with a younger fiftyish man. The younger was doing all the talking. The older couple was doing all the eating. Hannah noted that the older two pushed the pinkish red color meat to the side of their plates. She continued to note that the younger man finished his dinner and took his credit card out to pay the bill. The older man took some cash out of his pocket beneath the table and said nothing. The dinner bill was paid with the card.

Hannah ordered some perch. The waitress supplied the fish and the sides and promptly brought the bill when Hannah had finished. The bill lifted her loneliness. “I matter” she thought.

Back at the cottage Hannah observed the couple in the next cottage return from town. The man got out of his 4X4 pickup truck and walked through the screened porch door. His dejected look seemed to Hannah to be saying “The fish weren’t biting that night”. The short bean pole of a woman had followed him to the door but the screen door had already closed behind the man. The man was already at the cottage door. The woman reopened the porch door and went in.

The next morning Hannah was sitting on the dock when she heard some clomping behind her. The man from the cottage was heading to his boat with some fishing gear. He saw Hannah and said “Good morning. How are you?” Fine, thanks” Hannah responded. “Another day of fishing?” Yes ma’am.” “Good Luck!” “Thanks.”

That night in order to dispel the indoors with the outdoors Hannah slept with the bedroom windows open to let the lake breeze in. The cottage, with pine wood paneling throughout and fusty furniture and bedding, had a dank feel and a musty smell. It was as if the inside of the cottage had been inverted to the outside and then inverted in again for Hannah’s arrival.

Dealing with the windows was no easy task for Hannah. The wooden windows in her bedroom resisted change. One window would not go up and the other would not stay up. Hannah would have the same bout trying to sleep in a new bed: one position on the mattress did not give and another gave too much.

The next morning technology greeted her: “Your brew is complete! Enjoy!” The Keurig Hannah brought with her offered the comforts of home. “Home is where the good coffee is” would be a good country lyric, Hannah thought. After a cup of coffee and some reading Hannah went to the local diner for breakfast.

There, old men sat around a table talking about their trucks and politics and baseball. A beaming grandma led her grandchild to a table. A weary baby-carrying mom followed. Does one miss the weariness born of attachment? At that moment Hannah did.

It seemed that most of the patrons of the diner were older early risers like Hannah. The crossword puzzle in the daily Sentinel was already filled out by the time she arrived at 7 am, Hannah observed.

The atmosphere of the diner and its food were comforting to Hannah. Unlike the Keurig, the waitresses brought her breakfast, more coffee, and the check with “Here you go my dear” and “More coffee sweetie?” and “Have a great day hun.”

The atmosphere of the diner lifted her loneliness but the diner’s food began laying her low. The third cup of coffee, the well-buttered toast and the oil-coagulated hash browns – the settling food made her uneasy. The heaviness in her stomach and her sinking mood reminded her of the deep well of grief and sorrow she carried inside. The sediment of losses, screwups and broken relationships had settled deep inside her after sixty-seven years of life. But if she sat at a breakfast table with friends she’d wouldn’t be talking about her subterranean sorrows. She’d be talking about the weather, her kids, her job, and asking “what’s new with you?”

The shop owners along the small town’s main street were very happy to see Hannah come in. “Take what you can get” Hannah remembered. She bought a top and a flouncy blue and white summer dress that she knew she would never wear. Owning the feminine charm of the dress gave her the feeling that she mattered as a woman.

In the evenings, after dinner in town, Hannah sat on the cottage’s screened-in porch. There, she smoked little Brazilian cigars, read Chekov and when it was too dark to read, she listened to the night. It seemed to Hannah that the incessant chirring of grasshoppers and ratcheting of crickets was like millions of prayers being offered for those who would soon fall asleep to the murmur of their unspoken supplications.

It was on one of these nights that Hannah had a dream. Or, was it a vision? A Winnebago Indian princess named Lily Thunder Boss stood on the porch. She spoke to Hannah: “Trace the fingers of God and you will see the hand of God. You have come this far, keep tracing.” Hannah immediately woke up. It was 2 AM and the grasshoppers, crickets …

On the third morning Hannah walked down to the docks at the end of the row of cottages. The sun had just come up over the silhouetted shoreline behind her. It began to flash gold in the eyes of the houses along the far shoreline. The lake, not flush yet with direct sunlight and now beneath Hannah’s bare feet, was like a dappled green and grey quilt that stirred as if the lake was about to wake beneath it. In the company of moored pontoons and motor boats and of ducks bobbing for food and loons beginning their conversations Hannah sensed something familiar.

That afternoon she went to the Crossroads Grocery. She bought the fixings for a salad and some Chardonnay. The automated voice of the grocery’s self-serve checkout scanner said “Thank you for shopping with us”. Hannah remembered “Take what you can get.”

On Thursday morning Hannah took a canoe out onto the lake, the deepest lake in Wisconsin. She paddled to the center of the lake where she could see the full extent of its water. The day before she had driven to the south end of the lake but couldn’t come near it. There were private roads with houses nestled along the shoreline. These were now at a great distance from the canoe. The houses and boats appeared as white flecks against a jagged dark green background. The lake, reflecting the cirrus clouds and the baby blue sky as with an ancient uneven mirror, gently swayed her canoe. Hannah sat thinking about her future over the deepest part of the lake. Above her, the wide-open sky. Below her, the bounded water. She sat at the boundary of rapture and watery earth surrounded by voices nowhere near.

Later, she ate lunch at one of the nearby golf clubs which had a WiFi connection. She checked her emails; there was nothing pressing, mostly ads. She ate watching the golfers, men in shorts with caps and sweaters, as they gathered their foursomes. She overhears them kid each other as they wait for beer and sandwiches to take with them on the course. And though the well-manicured course was everywhere verdant and serene, the game, played between tees and holes and beers, seemed to Hannah, to be disquieting for some of the red-faced golfers who came in for water after their round. Hannah thought they must have spent most of their time playing outside the lines.

That night, after a day of hiking and eating a late supper at the diner, Hannah went to bed and dreamed: She was the lake, the deepest natural lake in Wisconsin. All around her were bass, trout, perch, walleye, white bass, trout, northern pike, muskies, catfish, crappie, sunfish and, schools of Walleyes and Large and Smallmouth Bass. They passed her with open mouths. She saw her four children swimming by her, each in different directions. They didn’t notice her. She was the lake. Her sisters swam by. They were talking as they passed each other. Air bubbles, not words, were coming out of their mouths. Deeper in her, her ninety-year old mother floated. She kept saying “I’m hanging in there” and asking me “What’s new with you?”. In the deepest part of her, the dark green part of her, was her dead father and a son who died in a car accident. They lay in repose. Hannah couldn’t say anything to any of them. She was the casket that held them.

At her surface were boats. Their arched outline appeared like dark mysterious icons. Above that was the sky. The sun cast shadows across her of transparent clouds and opaque birds coasting on thermals above. And then, at the surface, appeared an eel. It seemed friendly as it swam near the surface but then took on an impish smile and dove deeper. The creature then slithered and circled inside of her. It wanted to press her down to the bottom of herself. It was then that waking dream broke off. It was then Hannah understood its name to be TRAUMA.

The next morning, technology: “Your brew is complete! Enjoy!” As Hannah drank her coffee, she read and planned her last full day at the lake cottage. She would take the canoe out in the morning for her daily matins, then go for a walk and find lunch, then she would take a nap on the porch. In the evening she would go to a “Friday Night Fish Fry” which was the special on every restaurant’s menu that night. But she started off on the wrong foot.

At dawn Hannah pulled the canoe to shoreline and pushed it three-quarters of the way into the lake. She gathered a life-jacket and a paddle from the fish-cleaning shack and placed them into the canoe. With one hand on the aft of the canoe she placed her right foot in. The canoe rocked to the right and began to lurch forward into the water semi-sideways. Hannah quickly put her left foot in and began balancing the canoe with her hands and feet on each side of it. So far so good. She had done this before.

She was now hunched behind the seat so she moved her right foot forward past the seat while holding onto the canoe’s frame. Her legs were spread apart, one on each side of the bench – one leg forward and one leg behind. At this point nothing felt stable. The canoe began to rock back and forth with every shift of Hannah’s weight. With her hands on each side of the canoe frame she slid them forward hoping to steady the canoe and place her left leg over the bench. In that moment Hannah realized that the stiff lurching of a sixty-seven-year-old was exaggerated by the canoe. And then it happened. Hannah toppled over to her left and fell into the green wet murk. The canoe, on its side next to Hannah, lay beside her as if to comfort her after its practical joke.

Standing up in three feet of water and reeds, soaked, dripping and covered with algae and green mud, Hannah thought she looked like The Creature from the Deepest Natural Lake in Wisconsin. The words of an old song came to her as she walked to the shore: “Oh the old grey mare She ain’t what she used to be”. If her mother could have seen see her, she would have said “It happens to the best of us” and “You kids will be the death of me yet.” Like as with her mother, the days of her independence were becoming fewer. She would need a steadying hand going forward. Being mattered would matter more than ever.

Hannah returned to the cottage. Her flip-flops squished loudly as she walked past the other cottages. She hung her soggy underclothes on a clothes line. Her water-logged jeans and black sweater were laid on a picnic bench to dry in the sun. The pockets of her jeans were filled with algae and grit. Algae clung to the sweater as if it was a net. Her morning rituals on the lake now included baptism.

After seven days and nights at the cottage on a lake, the deepest natural lake in Wisconsin, Hannah returned home. At the door to her apartment Hannah found a package from Amazon. It was something she ordered a week ago. It was a book, a friend, and what mattered to Hannah.

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2019, All Rights Reserved

 

Hate is In the Air

 

Breath it in. Fill your lungs with a blast of bile, the astringent air of acrimony. The air is electric, charged with rage and resentment all around you. Are you feeling the compulsion to hate “by any means necessary”? If so, there are essentials to perfect your hatred.

 

First things first. Internalize everything. This step is important in order to consolidate your truth. Of what use are other’s thoughts and feelings if they don’t affirm you? Love is that which affirms you. Hate is to be directed at those who don’t love you as you require.

See handed-down truth as demoralizing and not affirming. Reject such truth for your facts. Your truth is all that matters anyway. Then, you will see everything as out of order with regard to yourself. This will allow you to feel righteous and justified in hating the past and presenting your narrative. History is just a record of power in the wrong hands.

Then, in no particular order…

Never be content. Why should you be content when you can have it all? You were born to crave. Would any god deny you anything you deem good? Pursue the rainbow’s end. See others as keeping you from that end. Life is a zero-sum game. You must grab all you can. Find your satisfaction in tearing down what others have built. How can anyone justify what they have when you are lacking?

Begin to dehumanize those you feel responsible for your misery. They must be unhuman to not affirm your values. Make them into objects of your disfavor. Other them. Hold them in contempt. And be sure to judge them based on your values. They are judging you right now.

Exclude others who do not share your values and tune into others who do. Seek out your tribe’s mouthpieces and emotional surrogates, those who can elicit hatred more vocally. They will authenticate your hatred.  Listen to news programs. Listen to the commentators to get your cues: “Nazi!” “Hitler!” “Racist!” “Facist!” Name calling is an effective means to denigrate those you hate.

Choose politicians who market materialism as “social justice”. Soulishness, found in tales and myths, is for fools. If you can’t touch and hold the object of your desires of what use is that to you? The same politicians must advocate for diversity and inclusion. Both diversity and inclusion determine who’s in and who’s out. Then you will know who your enemies are.

Make sure to talk about others without their knowledge. The purpose of gossip is to convey your disapproval of others and to set yourself apart from them. If someone betrays your values with their words, then return the reproach. Is that not justice?

To feed your contempt and to vicariously ‘deal with’ your enemies watch movies that contain revenge justice. Watch The Hunt. Use your imagination and see your enemy ham-strung, taken down and taken out. The El Paso and Dayton shootings reveal the full realization of hatred.

Use social media to exercise your hatred. What better vehicle to vent the air of acrimony? One should not hold that air in for long. Rather, breathe it out. Use your pride as a self-defense mechanism. Knock your opponent down to size with name-calling. Their pride is keeping them from accepting your values. 4chan is a good place to chat about what you hate.

Reject consequences of your actions as unfair. The law and its personifications, law enforcement and the judges, make victims. Throw your bath water on them.

Whatever you do, do not sit around in silence. Fill the air around you with the voices and music that will sustain hatred. The Enemy of your hatred is not silent. And His words are weaponized and sharper than any double-edged sword. Defend yourself against violence done to your truth with a sound barrier.

Use your fears to leverage your hate. You fear because you do not have. Others have what you want. Hatred works to bring about equality and fairness by calling out others about their unfairness.

Be warned. There are those who walk the boundary of heaven and earth. They seek to mitigate hatred with their version of love. Resist them. Harden your heart against them. For they do not know you. Show your true face to them – the face of the god within.

You have heard it said “love your enemies and do good to those who despise you”. I say to you, know your enemies and let them know what you hate about them. Stiffen your will against all competing interests that are against you. Loving your enemies is weakness. Hatred is the power to control and compensate for any weakness on your part. And, of what use to you are those who do not share your values? There is no room in the same world for you and them. Give them no quarter.

Finally, never forgive. If a person wants reconciliation then make them grovel and accept your judgment of them. Tell them “I do what I do because of you”. If they do not respond adequately then revenge is the only option. The offender must feel the weight of the offense taken. Forgiveness is weakness and meant for those who suffer from a God-like complex. Pity is what you deserve from them for having to hate them.

If you can fill your unforgiving minutes
With sixty plus year’s worth of hate,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be self-actualized, my child!

 

–Shadowbrute

My Times are Not in Your Hands

Despotism has so often been established in the name of liberty that experience should warn us to judge parties by their practices rather than their preachings.
—Raymond Aron, The Opium of the Intellectuals

During the recent Democratic Presidential ‘debates’, the Progressive Element candidates for president reveal just how incongruous Progressive thinking has become. Two of the candidates, Biden and Booker, stated that they want to beat up Trump, inciting the crowd with their aggression. This within the Progressive mindset that publicly denounces bullying and violence. The Communism appropriator Bolshevik Bernie Sanders and Cherokee heritage appropriator Elizabeth “Angry Eyes” Warren push for collectivist health care as a “yuman right” (a “right” that will consume all of your hard-earned property rights). This while the Progressive Element condemns the Trump campaign of Russian collusion. There’s more from these bizarre Progressivists.

CHARLESTON, SC – JANUARY 17: The stage at the Gaillard Center is prepared for tonight’s Democratic debate on January 17, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina. Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley spent yesterday campaigning in South Carolina in lead up to tonight’s debate. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Biden offered a new and improved Obamacare, a dismal and expensive failure for the consumer. The other candidates want to ditch him, Obamacare and Obama’s legacy for their own new and improved version of collectivism.

Biden said that healthcare is the most important issue facing voters and Buttigieg says climate change is the most important issue. This while the Progressive Element legalizes full-term abortion, promotes physically harmful sexual activity and travels to a climate confab at Google camp (Sicily) in private jets and mega-yachts.

According to Italian media reports, guests were expected to arrive in an eye-popping 114 private jets.

The Post guesstimated that with 114 flights from Los Angeles to Palermo, the planes would have pumped an astonishing 100,000 kilos of C02 into the atmosphere.

A-listers arrive in private jets, mega yachts for climate confab

One of the anti-Semitic socialist spice girls, Ocasio-Cortez Spice, has declared that the world will end in twelve years if we don’t do something about climate change. So, I understand the need to confab and to add ‘fuel’ to the narrative before it’s too late. Our betters need to show us a better way.

“Reparation H” Kamala Harris wants you to pay for slavery that didn’t happen on your watch. This from the party of the KKK and Jim Crow. And new age guru Marianne Williamson thinks all you need is love. And that means open borders for the lot of them. This while the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and others under Democrat control for decades are becoming third-world-like hell-hole cities – overrun with the homeless, rats, used needles, human feces and the spread of infectious diseases. This from the Democrat socialists who say they will do socialism better than what history accords. This – their love for humanity knows no dystopian bounds.

Open borders? They are Progressivism’s response to the perceived authoritarianism of the Right. For borders, boundaries, and laws are too legalistic, fundamentalist and not inclusive. So, they will promote lawlessness as a means to an end – diluting the country with illegals who will vote for more “Anything Goes” Progressivism. This while the streets west and south of “Welcoming City” Chicago are swarming with the law-unto-themselves gang members who slaughter at will. This while they treat our laws as a three-year-old girl who decides she is a boy.

Who are Progressives? The Progressive Element? Besides offering a narrative that Progressivism’s vision will make the world a better place while being equally detached from the reality of this world, Progressivist’s ideological worldview has many other unsettling characteristics.

Economist Thomas Sowell in his book A Conflict of Visions, Ideological Origins of Political Struggle, provides background and understanding of Progressivism’s “unconstrained vision”.

In the Summary and Implications section of the Visons of Social Processes chapter, Sowell writes comparing the “unconstrained vision” with the “constrained vision”:

The two visions differ fundamentally as to the sources of human survival and progress. According to unconstrained vision, the patterned behavior of society is successful, just and progressive insofar as it reflects the articulated rationality of man in general and of the most intellectually and morally advanced people in particular. Order – and especially a just and progressive order – is the result of design, backed by the commitment of people dedicated to the general welfare. In broad outline, this is the vision of the “age of reason”, which began in the eighteenth-century France and has spread throughout the Western world and beyond.

In the constrained vision, where man – individually and collectively – lacks both the intellectual and moral prerequisites for such deliberate, comprehensive planning, order evolves historically without design, and more effectively than when it is designed, Language is one example of such order without design and its complexity, subtlety, and effectiveness exemplify the power of systemic processes which tap the experience of all, instead of relying on special wisdom or nobility of any individual or council. A prominent element within this tradition has applied the constrained vision to economics…. given full expression by Adam Smith and is exemplified today in the writings of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek.

Sowell goes on to describe the difference of the two visions regarding social processes:

The unconstrained vision tends to judge processes by their results – “Is it right? Is it good? …The constrained vision judges rightness and goodness as process characteristics rather than the results: A foot race is fair if it is run under the proper conditions – regardless of who wins or loses, or how often the same person wins. Justice, in the constrained vision, thus means adherence to agreed upon rules, while in the unconstrained vision, something is just or unjust according the end results.

 Progressivism manifests its end result vision with the likes of participation trophies, allowing men to use the women’s locker room and restroom and to participate in women’s sports. Its version of end result equality is a driver for socialism – making every outcome equal. It is also the thinking behind ad hoc justice, which eschews the rule of law, applicable to everyone, and rules on the basis of individual circumstances and narratives rather than behavior and accountability. Progressivism’s ‘justice’, as Sowell describes above, says that the systems and processes produced the criminal. The individual is therefore not accountable for these things. This feeds the narrative that our betters must be in control to produce better people.

To produce equal outcomes, though, requires control of individuals and processes. And that is what the Democrat candidates are proposing in various ways. They want your times in their hands.

To gain control Progressives paint a dystopian future without them in power. Per them, the world will end if we don’t act, democracy will end if they are not given control, and rights, such as slaughtering the human in your womb and men disguised as women appropriating women’s concerns, will be taken away by the Right. Hence the calculating narrative described in my previous post, Manipulated to Follow the Course of This World. The blatant irony of the narrative is that it does not invoke the Age of Reason”. Rather, it invokes a mercenary army of passions to fight for the Progressive narrative.

Reading these ideological vision characteristics one can begin to see that the Progressive Element sees its members, its candidates, as your betters, as Anointed Ones. It was not long ago that one of the “Anointed Ones”, Hillary Clinton, gave the world her “unconstrained vision”:

It Takes a Village: Picture Book

It Takes a Village offers a universal, unifying message. It captures perfectly Clinton’s vision of a multicultural America working toward a constructive goal. So hopeful and forward-looking.” —The Washington Post

 More could be said but I’ll end here. I’ve written several posts about the Progressive Element with a desire to inform the reader of its diabolical ways. Though proclaiming a roadmap that is just and fair and caring it acts in just the opposite ways. They make excuses for their behavior while condemning and persecuting those who do not serve its narrative. They pronounce good “evil” and evil “good”. Their means to ‘equality’ is to bring others (males, whites, the rich…) down and to say that two things that are not equal are equal (male-female marriage and homosexuality). They become enraged when gendered pronouns are used. Coercing language and humans into confusing nonsense is characteristic of Progressives and certainly of the Evil One and his minions.

The values the Progressive Element extols, couched in humanist and even Christian terms, comes from the father of lies. There is no truth in the Progressive Element. The road map these false prophets propose is the “wide way” Jesus talked about (Matt. 7:13-15. Progressives “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

 

Therefore, I will not put my life in their hands. Rather, I submit to the One True Narrative…

My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. -Psalm 31: 15

Manipulated to Follow the Course of This World

There is a passage in C. S. Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength (published in 1945) that foreshadows the media manipulation going on today. I’ll begin with some background from my post Genealogies of Straw?

The narrator in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel That Hideous Strength tells us about one of the central characters Mark Studdock. He is a young academic, a sociologist, and a member of the Progressive Element at Bracton College. He is an ambitious, self-centered and shallow intellectual who has come into the service of the National Institute of Coordinated Sciences (NICE). He believes NICE will serve the best interest of humanity through progress at any cost. Once he stopped hemming and hawing about joining the organization he is welcomed into the inner circle. But he soon finds that he has committed himself to a hellish organization which plans to re-do humanity by force so that only the best humans (in NICE’s view) remain. He is made aware that the tentacles of the organization are growing.

 Before the passage I quote below we learn that Mark is pressured to write newspaper articles that conceal what N.I.C.E. is up to. At one point he questions Miss Hardcastle, the sadistic leader of the N.I.C.E.’s corrupt police force, about which newspaper – “Left or Right” –is going to print the “rot” he is being asked to write. Miss Hardcastle answers.

“Both, honey, both,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and terrified of each other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us – to refute enemy slanders. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.”

“I don’t believe you can do that,” said Mark. “Not with the papers that are read by educated people.”

“That shows you are still in the nursery, lovey,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Haven’t you realized that it’s the other way around?”

“How do you mean?”

“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in the Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”

Mark, the academic sociologist, balks at such an inference. And Hardcastle responds “…Don’t you see that the educated reader can’t stop reading the high-brow weeklies whatever they do? He can’t. He’s been conditioned.”

 Anyone who spends time reading and watching the media, and I presume a large portion of the population here in the U.S does., is susceptible to its manipulation. Is this news to anyone? TV commercials and internet popup adverts are created to manipulate the viewer and reader to go after what is being offered, or to at least carry a jingle and a phone number and an image around in their head. Subliminal manipulation is used constantly to sway thinking.

Similar manipulative influence is used by Progressive Element’s TV news/political opinion programs and on its news and opinion websites where news is swapped for narrative. The talking heads of these shows and websites hope to affix their narrative in the minds of the viewer and reader with an endless repetition of lies, innuendos, slander, and charged words: “Racist!” Sexist!” “Homophobe!” “Islamophobe!” “Nazi!”. These words are intended to produce hate for the ‘enemies’ of the Progressive Element’s agenda. It induces an effect on the viewer and reader not unlike those who take part in INGSOC’s Two Minutes Hate as described in George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1949).

The Progressive Element’s desired outcome-based control of others using terror and ideological fiction is characteristic of totalitarianism. This manifestation of political evil is not new nor Progressive. It is characteristic of what came before as expressed by Hannah Arendt in her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt, a German-born American political scientist and philosopher wrote about the horrific events of her own day: the totalitarian regimes of Soviet Stalinism and the rise of Nazi Germany that brought about the annihilation of millions. Referring to the citizenry who allowed such horrors, Arendt found a “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”. And, so was lying. Here are three quotes coming out of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the forces at work during those times to de-legitimize truth and to de-humanize the hearer: 

Why the constant, often blatant lying? For one thing, it functioned as a means of fully dominating subordinates, who would have to cast aside all their integrity to repeat outrageous falsehoods and would then be bound to the leader by shame and complicity.

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.

The talking head’s mocking and sneering of the ‘enemy’ is echoed in social media by the viewers of Sixty Minutes Hate. Internalized totalitarianism, often disguised as a push for social justice, demands control of the conversation, of people’s thoughts, of people’s behavior and of people’s property. With terror-mongering (e.g., “The world will end in 12 years if we don’t do something about climate change”; “Democracy will end if we don’t wrest control of it from those in power”) and with endless repetition one’s understanding of reality is swapped for the socially constructed reality. Shadow banning on social media sites is meant to keep opinions opposed to the Progressive Element’s agenda out of sight and mind.

Societal manipulation done by academics and the elites of the ruling class is used by totalitarian regimes (North Korea most notably today) to produce servitude to its agenda:

 “Apart from the massacres, deaths and famines for which communism was responsible, the worst thing about the system was the official lying: that is to say the lying in which everyone was forced to take part, by repetition, assent or failure to contradict. I came to the conclusion that the purpose of propaganda in communist countries was not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate and emasculate.”

Anthony Daniels, The Wilder Shores Of Marx: Journeys In A Vanishing World

Big tech uses societal manipulation. Machine Learning Fairness algorithms are used by Google to put Google’s thumb on the scale of searches in order to skew search outcomes toward the social justice their narrative demands. Enter “Men can” and “Women can” into the Google home page and see what immediately shows up. Men are portrayed negatively or neutral and even as being able to have babies. Women are shown as compassionate and as powerful corporate and civic leaders – positively. One can imagine what Google’s Machine Learning Fairness algorithm does to skew political and cultural (the LGBTQ in particular) searches.

No matter where you lie on the political spectrum you will want to listen to the video and read the research of Dr. Robert Epstein, Why Google Poses a Serious Threat to Democracy, and How to End That Threat. Beyond newspapers, you and I are being manipulated by the princes of the power of the air – Big Tech. Dr. Epstein stated at the senate community hearing that Google’s manipulation affected a range of a minimum of 2.6 million to 10.4 million votes in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Liberal Professor Warns: Google Manipulating Voters ‘on a Massive Scale’

You can be sure that what comes out of Hollywood is societal manipulation. The entertainment you watch is manipulated. You are taking in pagan and Progressive notions of life meant to shape your world view. One example: 7 Moments That Made ‘Frozen’ the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever

  

Because of the incessant and ubiquitous manipulation impelling one to follow the course of this world, because the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:1-3) to produce hatred, vindictiveness, greed and a lust for power, a follower of Christ must set their mind on things above (Col. 3:1-2) to gain their bearings in this world. One way to deal with the manipulative narrative is to do what Jesus did to Peter when Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Jesus rebuked Peter: Get behind me Satan! You’re trying to trip me up! You’re not looking at things like God does! You’re looking at things like a mere mortal!” Jesus put his Father’s words in front of him and put man’s manipulative narrative – avoid pain, suffering and death – behind him.

The father of lies has been around since the Garden of Eden. He lies and he wants you to be a party to his lies. The Evil One is behind manipulative narratives as Jesus makes clear when he denounces the Judeans and their narrative, one of evoking their Abrahamic lineage as proof of the rightness of their narrative.

“You are from your father – the devil! And you’re eager to get on with what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he’s never remained in the truth, because there is no truth in him, because he is a liar – in fact, he’s the father of lies!” (Jn. 8:44)

The teachers of the law and the religious leaders in Jesus’ day wanted to control the narrative of what the law said, how it was to be applied, and of who had say-so with regard to the law. They clearly had expectations of a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and of a man as not as repulsive as John the Baptist and of a man not as conciliatory as Jesus. Truth showed up one day in the marketplace and revealed their manipulative narrative (Matt. 11;15-17) regarding John the Baptist and of himself:

“If you’ve got ears, then listen!

“What picture shall I give you for this generation? Asked Jesus. “It’s like a bunch of children sitting in the town square, and singing songs to each other. This is how it goes:

‘You didn’t dance when we played the flute;

You didn’t cry when we sang the dirge!’

The narrative of the teachers of the law and the religious leaders clearly had its expectations. And when those expectations were not met the crowd would have Jesus crucified. The same deference to popularized and propagandized narratives with expectations based on ideological fiction is true now. And the same totalitarian impulse, like in Stalin’s and Hitler’s time and, today, within the Progressive Element, desires that you be in the thrall of their narrative, to dance to its music and to sing its songs. And in servitude to Big Brother’s narrative you will soon hear “‘You dance when we say dance! You sing when we say sing! Or, else! for totalitarianism and the evil behind it are never satisfied. Both seek to control outcomes with lies and manipulation and then with force.

Words That Never Pass Away Except in Some Forums

 

Imagine a chemist or an engineer or doctor thinking that what came before in his field, the accumulated wealth of knowledge and of best practices, is no longer of value and foundational for what he does now…

 

One major modern-day theological misconception comes from assuming that the Pharisees, one Jewish sect of many in Jesus’ day, represented the opposite of Jesus’s teachings.  Assumptive preaching, directly or indirectly, seeks to make a contrast between the Law keepers and Jesus. The Law, presented as antiquated, and the Jews, presented as Law fixated, are projected in a negative light. Jesus and his followers, presented in humanistic fashion, in a positive light. In so doing, the Pharisees and the Law have become stereotyped in the minds of many and with it, Jesus has become stereotyped. With mischaracterization comes misapplication of the gospel.

What is juxtaposed in the gospel are the encounters Jesus has with those of his day and the prevailing opinions about the Law and about the Messiah. Jesus speaks to Pharisees, scribes, religious leaders, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, fishermen, the blind, the lame, the sick, the rich, the poor and to political power – Pontius Pilate – and to a massive crowd. These occurrences reveal Jesus’ dealing with misunderstandings of the Torah. Jesus’ countering their perceptions of the Law caught many off guard and troubled the righteous who lived by the Law. To ward off their concerns and not willing to destroy one iota of the Law, Jesus says to the Sermon on the Mount crowd “Don’t suppose that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy them; I came to fulfill them!” Not one iota of the Torah will pass away until all is fulfilled with the New Creation (Matt. 24:35).

With his Sermon on the Mount Jesus offered the big picture truth – the Law of Love should be the arbiter of our intents and actions as the fulfillment of the Law. This is God’s intentions for his created beings (Matt. 7:12). The Law basically said “Don’t do this and if you do…” Jesus, in the his sermon, explains his interpretation of the Torah to the Jewish crowd (Matt: 5:17-20). He counters each of their “You heard it said…” understandings by telling them to look at the Torah his way. He summarizes the Torah and the Jewish understanding of the righteous being admitted into the New Creation with “Well, then: you must be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

One important consideration to keep in mind with regard to framing a picture of the law is that the gospel writers did not intend to paint an across-the-board history of the time of Jesus. This context was provided by the intertestamental scribes. The Jewish community and the gospel writers knew their writings. The gospel writers stated purpose (John 20:31) was to write an account of the One they called the Messiah. This is the focus of the gospels, not “Law bad, Jesus good”. None of their accounts diminish or denigrate the Law or the Law keepers. Their accounts tell us of Jesus’ juxtaposed encounters and ways of thinking about the Law and life in a Jewish contemporary context. Matthew’s gospel account in particular addresses issues of concern for second temple Jews including matters of the Torah and righteousness which is mentioned over and over again in his account.

Another basis for the assumption that the Law had been negated and done away with is the fact that Christians are not obligated to follow the Law. For one thing, animal sacrifices were no longer required. Jesus – the Lamb of God – sacrificed himself for us. The righteous were to do the same. The assumption that the law, with its instructions and blessings and curses was done away with is a misunderstanding of the sending of the spirit at Pentecost upon those who believed in Jesus as Messiah. In fact, Pentecost confirms the words of the Law and the prophets: “the “word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” (Deut. 30:14)

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh ,… Ezekiel 11:19

 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31;33

There are some who draw many parallels between the giving of the Torah and the giving of the spirit at Pentecost: The Many Parallels of Sinai and Pentecost. Others line up the dates: The Giving of The Ten Commandments was on Pentecost.

The Torah, the instructions, never went away. In fact, it is right in front of you. Here’s Moses telling the children of Israel this very thing:

For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. Deut. 30: 11-14 (emphasis mine)

The English word “law” is a translation of the Greek word nomos. And, nomos is a translation of the Hebrew word “Torah”. Deuteronomy, as quoted from above, is a restating of the nomos – the law, the Torah. And, as stated above, one cannot presume that a Moses needs to be dragged off mountain top to restate the law. The law is a by-your-side tutor. So, one is without excuse regarding the knowledge of God and his Torah (restated by Paul in Romans1:18-32).

The Torah is teaching, instruction, and “best practices” to point the Jews the way to walk, to learn to be holy as God is holy. The Torah contains blessings for those who obey the Torah and curses for the those who choose not to obey. The Torah life is not a life of bondage. Rather, it is a life with boundaries. (Boundaries are conflated with bondage these days). The Torah for the Jews and especially for the Qumran community was not a religion but a way of life.

The wisdom literature of the Scripture speaks about observing the law – the Torah – to become wise. This includes home schooling one’s children in the Torah.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (torah). Prov. 1:8

The Apostle Paul, the chosen emissary of Jesus to the Gentiles, would speak also speak to the Messianic Jews regarding how to understand Jesus in relation to the Torah, especially in light of the fact that Paul did not require the Gentiles to follow the Torah. Many today assume that meant Paul disposed of the law for Christians. The trained as a Pharisee and law observant Paul taught a different approach to the Torah in accordance with the resurrection of Jesus and his kingdom on earth (Gal. 3: 19-20). The thinking that the law was made irrelevant by Jesus was countered early on by Paul as he taught that the Messiah delivered on his covenant faithfulness:

The Messiah, you see, is the goal of the law, so that covenant membership may be available for all who believe. Rom. 10:4

Like Jesus, Paul didn’t dismiss the law. And, like Jesus Paul made it known that obeying specific laws was secondary to one’s intent and love for the One who redeemed them to walk in love. Perspective, God’s perspective is what mattered most and not man’s attempt to practice the Law.

Circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision Is nothing: what matters is keeping God’s laws. 1 Cor. 7: 19

This perspective, as taught by Jesus (“Except your righteousness exceed that of…”) and later by Paul to the Jews who wanted to be declared “righteous” to be accepted in the age to come, also made clear that the law brought God’s people only so far.

We are Jews by birth, not Gentile “sinners.” But we know that a person is not declared “righteous” by works of the Jewish law, but through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah.

That is why we too believed in the Messiah, Jesus: so that we might be declared “righteous” on the basis of the Messiah’s faithfulness, and not on the basis of works of the Jewish law. On that basis, you see, no creature will be declared “righteous.” Gal. 2: 15-16

It would be hard to imagine a chemist or an engineer or doctor thinking that what came before in his field, what works and what doesn’t work, is no longer of value and foundational and to declare a new way. But, it is easy for social engineers to discard what came before, including the law, to invoke a societal tolerance of all manner of license against perceived authoritarianism.

The gospel as dispensed today in many churches leaves out the historical context of the Law (and of Jesus) and coaxes out stereotypes. The Jews of Jesus’ day are presented as under the heavy yoke of the Law and obsessive about rules and regulations and keeping the law. Jesus is presented as chastising them for bothering with the law and not being more human. Some preaching will go so far as to say that the law was a failed attempt by God to make his people righteous and that Jesus came to discard it and to try a new way.

Jesus is presented as setting people free from the Law and therefore accountability so that they can be their own person. And, erroneously, the Jews are presented as caring about the Law and Jesus caring about people. I have seen Jesus presented as enlightened man of peace and love. Often on social media I have seen Jesus hailed as a Progressive along with Che Guevara and other radicals. Others on social media have stated that Jesus is OK with homosexuality based on the thinking that God made them that way and the law Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. is pre-Jesus and therefore invalid (Jesus as social-justice warrior).

Others, including a well-known Jesuit priest on social media, have implied that the Law is authoritarian and “conservative values” and therefore must be vilified as uncaring and Jesus as humanistic “Progressive values” to be embraced. These pagans worship their gods and follow their laws even sacrificing children to them in the name of Jesus the Progressive.

The effects of suppressing the truth about the Law is seen in our culture and individually, as accountability is thrown out the door with the law. Lawlessness abounds, anarchy follows and in-your-face mocking of the righteous. “Law bad, Jesus good”.

Moses and the Ten Commandments – Gustave Doré

Imagine listening to a singer’s performance and the singer and musicians didn’t care about tonality, meter and pitch. Imagine that they didn’t care about what came before musically and what worked to harmonize their performance. The sounds they make are jarring to the ears but you listen because it is promoted as avant-garde, unheard of and en vogue. You leave the performance feeling unsettled because the music didn’t resolve – there were no tonic chords only an establishment mocking dissonance. The ‘music’ was unconstrained and lacked direction and meaning. Yet, you feel proud of yourself that you were involved in something unconventional and iconoclastic. Later, at dinner with your companions, you rave about the performance. You want to come off sounding, liberal, broad-minded and, …Progressive, and not like so many others who are so conventional and lacking your insight. There is preaching today just like that today. “They declare themselves wise, but in fact became foolish.” (Rom. 1: 22)

Finally, there are three Psalms in which the Lord’s instruction is central to understanding life before God: Psalm 1, Psalm 19 and Psalm 119. The writers show a strong desire to know God and His ways. The Psalmists want God’s instruction more than life itself. We would do well to do likewise, since man does not live by bread alone.

 

~~~~~~

There is so much more that could be said about Jesus and the law, so I commend the following:

Required reading: the chapter Did Jesus Abolish the Law of Moses?  Mind the Gap: How the Jewish Writings Between the Old and New Testament Help Us Understand Jesus by Matthias Henze

 

The Way They’ll Do Your Life

 

May 1 – the Day of Solidarity of workers around the world

 

 

The Left’s dalliance with Socialism, redolent with wooing – “Money is in the wrong hands”, “You show me a capitalist, and I’ll show you a bloodsucker”, Workers of the world unite! A future to believe in!” – is not a relationship with socialism’s destructive life-wrecking persona as history accords. Rather, the Left speaks in highly charged (and romanticized) words of a life-saving relationship with socialism using the likes of the moral sounding “From each according to his ability; To each according to his needs”. The match-makers of the Left hype the ‘good-side’ of socialism to their ‘clients’ as one of REVOLUTION! CHANGE! EQUALITY! These beguiling words and many more are enticements for a marriage to politicized envy. They are words of an appeal to dance with the devil (and his details). Millennials who court socialism don’t realize the monster they are dating.

The reality: “From each to the State. Your needs are subject to the State.” Democratic socialism: Pull a lever and vote for socialism; Pull the lever and vote your will; Pull the lever and your needs and your will are submitted to the State.

Personal histories, as in the podcast below, expose “for the people” ideologies and economic systems. As you will learn, socialism dehumanizes the people… “for the people”. Here’s the intro to the podcast from the post She Survived China’s Forced Labor Camp. Now She’s Urging Americans to Reject Socialism.

Jennifer Zeng grew up admiring the Communist Party of China and adhering to its stringent rules. But her life changed forever when she embraced religion and was swept up in a government crackdown on Falun Gong. Arrested four times as a young adult and held in as a prisoner in a labor camp, she quickly woke up to the horrors of living in a socialist state. After being subject to brutal torture, Zeng managed to escape China and now tells about the evils of socialism and communism.

At a time when more Americans are embracing Karl Marx’s teachings, Chris Wright has helped Zeng share her story as part of a network called the Anticommunism Action Team. They recently spoke to The Daily Signal along with Darian Diachok, who escaped from Soviet-era Ukraine as an infant and has helped former Soviet satellite states democratize and overcome their failed communist systems.

 

 

The goal of socialism is communism. Vladimir Lenin 

The legacy of socialism is one of devastation “for the people”.  Beside the accounts in the podcast, personal stories via literature recount the actual eye-witness history. They have the greatest impact on the reader and certainly over myriads of facts. (I will write about the Left’s selective memory in a future post The Mau-Mauing of History.)

The sole substitute for an experience which we have not ourselves lived through is art and literature.

-Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

Required reading w/quotes. These are first-hand personal accounts of life under the heavy fist of socialism:

“Apart from the massacres, deaths and famines for which communism was responsible, the worst thing about the system was the official lying: that is to say the lying in which everyone was forced to take part, by repetition, assent or failure to contradict. I came to the conclusion that the purpose of propaganda in communist countries was not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate and emasculate.”

Anthony Daniels, The Wilder Shores Of Marx: Journeys In A Vanishing World

Three books by Alexzander Solzhenitsyn reveal the grizzly details of Life under Communism via his experience. (I read the complete volumes of Gulag and the The Life…  in the 80’s. I just finished reading the stories of Apricot Jam:

The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956 (Abridged version)

“My life is over, a little early to be sure; but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die – now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, an so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.”

~~~~~

“The separation of church and state was so construed by the [Soviet] state that the churches themselves and everything that hung in them, was installed in them and painted in them, belonged to the state, and the only church remaining was that which … lay within the heart.”

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

“A tub was brought in to melt snow for mortar. They heard somebody saying it was twelve o’clock already.
“It’s sure to be twelve,” Shukhov announced. “The sun’s over the top already.”
“If it is,” the captain retorted, “it’s one o’clock, not twelve.”
“How do you make that out?” Shukhov asked in surprise. “The old folk say the sun is highest at dinnertime.”
“Maybe it was in their day!” the captain snapped back. “Since then it’s been decreed that the sun is highest at one o’clock.”
“Who decreed that?”
“The Soviet government.”
The captain took off with the handbarrow, but Shukhov wasn’t going to argue anyway. As if the sun would obey their decrees!”

~~~~~

“He ate his supper without bread. A double helping and bread–that was going too far. The bread would do for tomorrow. The belly is a demon. It doesn’t remember how well you treated it yesterday; it’ll cry out for more tomorrow.”

Apricot Jam: And Other Stories

 

Added 7/15/2019:
Here’s Democratic Socialism in action – mandatory action on your part. You must submit your will:
Venezuela calls for mandatory labor in farm sector

“Trying to tackle Venezuela’s severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg with a band aid,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement.

 

Rejection and Revenge, A Breath Apart

The Murder of Abel – Gustave Dore

There is a well-known account in Scripture (Gen. 4) that on its face seems simple and straightforward. Yet, the Hebrew writer presents a scenario with enormous ramifications. We must dig deep to understand its meaning for us.

Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “I have acquired a man with God’s help!”  Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.  When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Early in Hebrew Scripture we learn of pairs and contrast: light and dark, human and animals, Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. The pairings and contrast are meant to be instructive, as are the names of Cain and Abel.

Although Cain’s name has the primary meaning of “acquire,” the word that his name comes from (קָנָה kanah) also means “to erect, to found,” and “to create.” In Genesis 14:19 we see various translations describe God as either the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (King James Bible, New American Standard Bible, Webster‘s Bible Translation), or “Creator of heaven and earth (New Living Translation, New International Version). Both words “Possessor” and “Creator” are translations of the same word קֹנֵה konay, a cognate of Cain’s name Kayin. What’s In A Name: A Secret About Cain and Abel

In the context of contrasting the brothers Cain and Abel, “Cain!”, an exclamation from mom and the name for her son, connotes “Possessor” and “Creator”. It’s possible that Eve’s new found God-likeness had gone to her head, perhaps claiming co-creation with God. The name signals Eve’s bending in toward self-divination and for her son to project himself in the same way – as self-sufficient creator and possessor of all before him – in contrast to the “Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth”. The pairing of the two names – Cain and Abel – tends toward this interpretation.

Abel as noun הבל (hebel) means vapor, breath, or something very close to nothing. Abel could have been nicknamed Whiff.

I wonder. Did Eve feel exhausted and out of breath chasing after little Cain? Naming her second son Abel implies a here-one-minute-gone-the-next tracking of a little life. Abel’s name is further contexed in Ecclesiastes: Everything is breath (not “vanity”, a current mistranslation). And, in Ps. 39:5, 144:4; Prov. 31:30.

We get the impression from their names that Cain is a rooted of-the-earth man and that Abel is a reed in the winds of heaven. Their vocations tell us more about them..

We learn from the narrative that both brothers are fulfilling the human vocation given earlier in Genesis: dominion and care of animals and the land. They are doing so successfully under God’s blessing and in communion with God. At the end of the year, harvest time, the brothers bring an offering to God. Cain brought only some of the fruits of the soil. Abel brought the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock.

God makes a distinction between the two offerings. God looks with favor on Abel’s offering – the best of what he has. And, God rejects Cain’s token offering. The prophet Malachi gives us some understanding as to what offering the “Possessor of heaven and earth” – the Landowner – desires:

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

-Malachi 1:13-14

God’s response does not go over well with Cain. Farmer Cain, “Possessor” and “Creator” of his own domain, grows an attitude. God notices and issues a warning.

 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

God gives Cain a choice. He could repent and do right. Then his fallen countenance would be lifted up. He would know joy. Or, if he refuses to what is right sin will have dominion over him. His fallen countenance will remain. Sin’s chaos will rule his life and the lives of his descendants. We learn that Cain, his own man, chooses pathway number two which takes him away from home and out of God’s sight (does he think this?):

Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. -Gen. 4:8

The advent of civilization (Gen. 4:17-26) is stained by a wrong choice, one made out of anger and of a desire for revenge. The horrific ramifications of the wrong choice are the pollution of the land, blood guilt and curses (as opposed to God’s blessing). The Land Owner had warned the tenant and now asks Cain the same question posed to Adam (Gen. 3: 9):

 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden. -Gen. 4:9-16

 Cain lies and evades responsibility for his actions. The sin in his heart is growing rapidly. It is taking dominion over him, the self-made dominionist. Cain’s domain, his farm land, is now working against him and Cain has become more cursed than the land. The once solid self-defined man is to become a wanderer through life– fleeting, ephemeral, mortal, transient, without strength, a passing wind, …a breath.

Cain, beginning to feel the weight of his actions, balks at his punishment. But murder is no small thing. Murder brings about a greater punishment, as we learn in Numbers 35:33:

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.

But in the Cain and Abel account God does not take a life for a life. Rather, as an act of mercy, God exiles Cain from his home, from others and from the land, his source of strength. Cain is removed from out of the context of God’s blessing. Exiled, Cain still has a chance to repent and return to the Land Owner.

As Cain finds out, man’s sin affects the land that we are to have dominion over. Hosea wrote about it (Hos. 4: 2-3):

There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away

 

 This early account in Scripture is a study of contrasts. It reveals two ways of being and two distinct personalities. There are the Abels who acknowledge the transient and dependent nature of their being, as in the words of the Psalmist (39:5)

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

And, there are the Cains who deem themselves god-like Creators and Possessors and thereby mocking the One True Creator and Possessor, as described in Prov. 21:24:

The proud and arrogant person— “Mocker” is his name—
    behaves with insolent fury.

There is an offering of the best portion and there is an offering of a token. Clearly from this account and from many more, our offerings reveal what we think about God. Do we view God as Creator and Possessor? Do we view God as the Land Owner under Whom we work as faithful stewards and return the best of our stewardship? Or, do we see God as an obligation that needs to be dealt with on our terms?  (See the Parable of the Ten Talents, Matt. 25: 14-30) (See also the account of Ananias’ and Sapphira’s token offering in Acts chapter 5. It doesn’t end well!)

The Cain and Abel account reveals that there is God’s view of things and man’s. God’s warning to Cain makes His view clear beyond a doubt. And though a victim is entitled to revenge in the Old testament God does not take revenge. Rather, God lets Cain live with the consequences of his actions. “You want to live outside my blessing – Go for it!”

 This account reveals that Biblical ethics are not the same as Biblical Law. God does not take a life for a life. God does not seek monetary compensation (2 Sam. 21). The Law should be read in a larger context. Jesus tried to get the Scribes and Pharisees to understand the bigger context, the Big Picture, of His work of Redemption.

One final contrast. Abel – “breath” or “breeze” – dies in accordance with the transient nature of human existence. Cain, who saw himself as the rooted “Creator” and “Possessor” is to wander the earth like a breeze. As a fugitive he has to keep moving. He’s not tied to the land (a symbol of his strength) as he once was. What Cain had refused to accept of God and of his brother Whiff he now has to accept as his existence “east of Eden”.

Revenge and Rumors of Revenge

 

The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.

Hamlet (3.2.250)

 

The Murder of Abel – Gustave Dore

How would you respond if a group of people became jealous of your influence and they decided to do away with you?

Revenge, retaliation, reprisal and retribution. These are four words with the same connotation: returning an offense taken in back onto the offender; payback.

Escalation, increase, intensification and mushroomed. These four words connote the same thing. Their meaning is made obvious as the media uses them to describe the burgeoning effects of revenge, retaliation, reprisal and retribution. Those effects include estrangement, conflict, lack of closure, segregation, armed conflict, crisis, strife, tension, turmoil, wars and rumors of wars, and exclusion.

Settling scores sets in motion a chain reaction of settling scores. On a personal level, a husband and wife may engage in tit-for-tat sniping and then become increasingly retaliatory and then, later, lawyer-up for a contentious divorce. The effect on them and their children is one or more of the effects mentioned above.

On a global level, a nation may resist détente and instead stir up animus with hawkish rhetoric. Such a nation wants to settle accounts on their terms. So, they prepare nuclear armament for retaliatory strikes. And again, whether as an ongoing hawkish stance or a strike, the effect would be one or more of the effects mentioned above for that nation and its relations with other nations. Settling scores, whether on a personal or national level, becomes an open-ended endless battle of wills and powers. This is also true on the societal level.

A guru of the sixties, French postmodernist philosopher Michel Foucault believed that power is the most important aspect of any societal relationship. In his way of thinking, first comes power, then comes truth. Power produces truth. Institutions such as the legal system, the family, the parent, the teacher, the church, and those that hold the traditions handed down hold sway over others. Such regimes of power were to considered to produce their own realms of truth. And all such power domains were deemed by Foucault to be exclusive, repressive, censorious, concealing, and oppressive. Foucault’s ‘unmasking’ of power and its trappings would involve rebellion and retaliation against them. This, he posited, would be the path to liberation for society. This is the path of the Progressive Element who demand institutions change and they remain unchanged. Philosopher Roger Scruton saw what was happening:

The intellectuals of 1968 hunted through the social world for marks of power, in order to declare their rebellion against it. Every gathering, every institution, every fragment of the old civilization wore for them the badge of enmity. [I]

This Post-modern thinking – power produces truth and power is everywhere and in the wrong hands – produces a context for revenge, retaliation, reprisal and retribution against long-standing institutions and traditions in the name of social justice. Again, Roger Scruton:

“People inoculated by the culture of repudiation, reluctant to acknowledge the search for meaning as a human universal, tend to think that all conflicts are really political, concerning who has power over whom”[ii]

Add nihilism, moral relativism, and ad hoc justice into the inoculation and things turn viral. The culture, as one can witness, is obsessed with anger, hatred and vindictiveness. Theologian Miroslav Volf, in his book Exclusion and Embrace, describes one reason for the spiral of vengeance as “the predicament of partiality” – the inability of the parties locked in conflict to agree on the moral significance of their actions. Put another way, “For me to err is human, to forgive you is weakness”.

While the news media daily presents us with unresolved conflicts and their escalation, the entertainment media offer us conflicts resolved with revenge justice. Its offerings are almost countless, so I’ll name just four current dramas.

John Wick is described as an “Old Testament revenge story”. Wick is a former hitman who returns to the criminal underworld when a Russian gangster steals his car and kills his dog. He searches for those for who did this and for those who act against him. He wants retribution. Revenge is a bloody mess.

In the black comedy Cold Pursuit the main character Nels Coxman, played by Liam Neesom, is a vengeful snowplow driver who starts killing the members of a drug cartel following the murder of his son. Revenge leaves no street unplowed.

Death Wish is described as a vigilante action thriller. Bruce Willis plays the main character, “a Chicago doctor who sets out to get revenge on the men who attacked his family”. Revenge goes pathological.

Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood stars as William Munny, “a notorious outlaw and murderer, but he is now a repentant widower raising two children”. He takes on a revenge job offering reward money to support his family. In the process his partner Ned is tortured and killed by Little Bill, the local sheriff. “Munny heads back to Big Whiskey to take revenge on Little Bill. Revenge downs Big Whiskey.

(Men are particularly drawn into these action revenge dramas. Women are drawn into the relational revenge drama offered on the likes of Bravo.)

Because of the innate human desire for justice, revenge has been plotted (and popularized) in movies, books and plays. Vengeance was a frequent theme of Tudor drama, as dramatized in the work of Shakespeare. The main character has been wronged or has incurred a significant loss and so self-justified revenge becomes the plot to mete out justice. But, beyond invoking a motivation for justice, the story line taps into fallen man’s impetus for vengeance. The story line allows the reader, the viewer and the play goer to vicariously take revenge. (I woke the other day with the MyPillow jingle in my head. I had heard the commercial in the background the night before. I wonder if watching revenge justice in any of the above movies lays in one’s subconscious mind waiting to be acted on.) Pay back is portrayed as the means to a just and redemptive end. But is the end just and redemptive? Credits will role after a revenge justice movie and your hunger for justice may be temporarily sated, but real-life revenge does end that way.

By many accounts, revenge is the ongoing de facto way to deal with social matters. Political wars, tribal wars, cultural wars, local and national conflicts, Jihad, personal vindictiveness, suits and counter suits, hatred, greed, and the dogfights for power over others contain elements of revenge and rumors of revenge. The revenge process is a vicious circle, as theologian Volf writes in Exclusion and Embrace:

Instead of wanting to forgive, we instinctively seek revenge. An evil deed will not be owed for long; it demands repayment in kind. The trouble with revenge, however, is that it enslaves us. As Hannah Arendt pointed out in The Human Condition, vengeance

acts in the form of reacting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to takes its unhindered course; …[vengeance] encloses both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end. (Arendt, 1959, 216)[iii]

What shall separate us from loving God and others? Revenge. What shall be the way out of the death spiral of revenge? Again, a quote from Exclusion and Embrace:

“…our actions are irreversible. The only way out of the predicament of irreversibility, Arendt insisted, is through forgiveness …A genuinely free act of which ‘does not merely react”, forgiveness breaks the power of the remembered past and transcends the claims of the affirmed justice and so makes the spiral of vengeance grind to a halt. This is the social import of forgiveness.[iv]

 

We both know that even when we forgive and don’t return evil for evil, the other may seek to continue the cycle of revenge. But, when we disengage from the revenge process and only return good towards the other “you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Prov. 25.22, Rom. 12:20). With forgiveness and acts of love we frustrate the other’s attempt to continue in the spiral of revenge. The onus to continue is put on the other’s head. The other may shake off our response and continue to seek revenge (becoming more of a hothead?) or the other may look to get out from under the burning coals and go their way.

To be sure, forgiveness is not a denial of the injustice incurred. Rather, it is placing the injustice in the proper perspective, as Joseph did so long ago: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph forgave his brothers, embraced them and showed them kindness.

How would you respond if a group of people became jealous of your influence and they decided to do away with you?

 

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               [i] An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture, Roger Scruton, page 130.

               [ii] Forgiveness and Irony, Roger Scruton

               [iii] Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation,   Miroslav Volf, page 120-121

               [iv] Ibid. 121.