Friday, October 2, 2009

The Tragedy of Greatwine part I

Corbrand Millerson was a man who had come into a high fortune young in life. He had inherited a modest company from his father and when he took it over he was able to expand it. His heart wasn't in it, and soon enough, the company was taking care of itself. He collected great wealth, for very little effort. Corbrand began to entertain many hobbies and interests that he really had no business doing, except now he had so very much time and no financial reason to not indulge himself.
Corbrand had grown up believing in modest living. He shopped the discount stores for cheap suits, when his hand-me downs had gotten threadbare to the point that his secretary was forced to mention it. He bought most of his household items from the lowest priced store. He kept his hair short with a beard trimmer his aunt gave him for 16th birthday. He trimmed his fingernails with same pair of scissors he used to open his mail.
The insignificant things seemed mountainous to him. An new appliance was a shift in lifestyle. "Tools," he would say, "I don't want more of them, I want less." He would say this because every time he dared buy something new, to repair it he would need a new set of tools to take care of it. He hated replacing things as much as he hated changing his routine.
His first shift in thinking began unexpectedly on the day his company went international. He had started it just like any other day. The exception being that he had cut himself with his straight razor. And as he sharpened his scissors that afternoon to open his mail the whetstone cracked in half. "What a waste," he said as he dropped it into the empty garbage can.
That set him in a foul mood. When the special deliveries arrived his faithful second in command brought them into his office and arranged them while he was out pacing through a store. A hundred gifts had come pouring in from each and every branch in his company. Grateful employees, all who had become prosperous by way of his business and leadership, wishing him(and subsequently themselves) the best in the venture.
Still peeved Corbrand overlooked the goods. Which were: twenty some bottles of wine or champagne, Swiss chocolates, cigars, assorted nuts, and someone had the audacity to send flowers. Corbrand frowned. His beaming second in command had assembled it and had stood there waiting to surprise him.
"Ship it to my place," Corbrand said gruffly, "Feel free to take something home for the wife." He grabbed his briefcase and made for the door, stopping only to add, with an edge on his voice, "Don't forget to take out that stinking garbage."

He had purchased a house at the recommendation of his accountant. In fact he had his accountant pick the house for its various tax breaks. It was much larger than he needed, so he closed off all but the entryway, kitchen, bathroom and a smaller room he used for general living needs.
When the gifts came by post he left it all in his living area. Which forced him to either find room for it all or open up another room in the house. Neither of which he wanted to do. So he looked at the first bottle and realized he didn't have a corkscrew. He tried with his scissor, to cut the cork in half and extract it but it proved a hopeless task but he managed to get the bottle to leak. When he was about to
give up when a champagne bottle uncorked itself with a sound like a gunshot and sprayed down the ceiling in great bubbling geyser.
Corbrand was stunned, and then he laughed, a great long laugh. Until his sides ached. He laughed at himself, his business, all the things he had tended dutifully for years seemed as silly as the puddle on his floor that formed from the drippings off the ceiling. He picked up the bottle and drank what remained.
It was hard to say what flavor enticed him. But when the bottle was dry he walked himself to the nearest store and got a corkscrew. Two more bottles were emptied. And when he woke he found the stubble on his chin no longer bothered him. The straight razor looked like more trouble than it was worth. And all he could think about was getting through the day to see what the other wines tasted like.
Within a month he had joined a connoisseur association. He bought a few books on the subject, and purchased a periodical. He was by no means a drunk, though some would have called him a bit of a lush. It was not the alcohol that enticed him, but the endless variations. The core hypocrisy of vintners was that they were trying for consistency, and yet though this pursuit so very many variations had been made. Corbrand felt like he was searching for buried treasure with every bottle. But his newly found addiction was soon not something he could keep to himself. He began to throw lavish parties as his network of wine tasters grew. With each meeting he got new tips on exotic and rare wines. He retired from his business and began traveling the world; tracking down these leads.
Some years later. Corbrand had developed some sophisticated tastes. His favorite wines were paired with his favorite foods. His favorite lunch was a salad and bread with a glass of sparkling apple wine at a bistro in France run by a very talkative elderly Albanian man and his niece. The bread was very expensive. But it was in the perfect shape of a bottle and it was the most perfect bread he had ever tasted. "Why is this bread so expensive?" he asked as he handed over fifty euros.
"Because it is the best in the world, and I only have the means to make one per day." was the old man's reply.
"How do you make it so perfectly like a bottle?"
"It is made in an old wine bottle," said the niece. She was very pretty. Corbrand would steal glances at her when he thought her uncle didn't notice.
"Is it a kind of French bread?" asked Corbrand innocently.
His niece turned a color and looked fearfully at her uncle. The old man laughed. "No the french don't have the brains to make this bread. They couldn't make it like I do. Not in a million years. Yes they could make it in the shape of a wine bottle. But they don't make bread like this."
"How do you make it differently?"
"Wouldn't you like to know? Wouldn't France like to know? I have had every baker in the world try and steal my recipe. What makes you think I'll tell you my family secret?"
"I'm not a baker, I'm a connoisseur."
"You and half of France. Those of you who are not bakers drink too much wine. And not just wine. You drink trash. What are you drinking? That German white? Rubbish, I'll show you a real wine."
Every time Corbrand visited the old man he was the only one in the shop, and they had a long conversation about wine, his homeland, and what Corbrand thought he was doing with his life.
"Wine will not make you happy." the old man would said, "a tasty venture, but it does not care whether you drink it or not, it will not morn you when you pass from this world. Corbrand: You need a family."
"I'm very happy as I am."
"You say that now, but wait until you are old like me, you will wish you still had the virility of youth to start again. I thought like you once, and now I will die alone with only my niece to bury me."
Corbrand almost offered to marry his niece there, so that he could be there for him.
Instead he said he would be there when the time came.
"No," said the old man knowingly, "you are not family. A good man, to be sure, but a dying man needs blood. Life provides plenty for everyone but if you do not choose family, it will not choose you."
Corbrand would nod and smile and listen. But not a word he took to heart and his mind drifted to the gentle curves of the the old man's niece. And then he would leave after leaving a generous tip under his plate. The old man would refuse it, if offered, but he hoped every time he did so the young woman would find it and buy herself something nice.
Corbrand's list of wines to conquest was growing short. It was still great sport to him, and he had found many other hobbies in the process. A friend had a group of very knowledgeable colleagues on his polo team. Which Corbrand studied and came to play, with the ulterior motive of finding wines, but he found the sport enjoyable and continued long after the wine leads dried up.
Art galleries and museums became a favorite place to meet and discuss with educated people. His prize bottles, that he had not yet dared open, had first been found in a painting by some obscure artist in the 17th century. The label however was quite clear, a word in the right ear had earned him a lead that led him to Switzerland. Switzerland held nothing, except that the vintage wine no longer existed. Winery and vines had all been extinct for a century, but had once upon a time rested in the hills of Northwestern Italy.
Borderlands being quite tricky, as they had changed hands over the years. Corbrand found it just across the border in France. The vines were all still there, the new winery had been erected over the site of the old. He walked in walked the facility with a bus tour of Germans. He talked with the experts and showed them a picture of the painting. The tour leader smiled kindly and pointed up into the rafters where thousands of antique bottles of the vintage lined the building. But they were empty. Corbrand purchased an empty bottle as well as bottle of new wine and went to leave with a sinking feeling. It was gone. That was his only thought.
He was driving away when he saw an old manor house sitting up on the peak of a hill. A glimmer of light caught his eye from one of the windows. He turned down the dusty roads and wound his way up. The house was falling into disrepair. The tiles on the roof were broken. The shutters all askew save one. An old Peugeot sat in the driveway. A dog came barking. Someone still lived here. Corbrand grabbed his Italian phrase list and stepped out of the car and quickly made friends with the dog.
The door creaked open and a middle aged gentleman appeared. He set a straw hat on his head as he stepped through the door.
"Good evening," he said in English.
"How did you know I was American?"
"You drive a rental car. I know every car that drives through my valley."
"Good evening," said Corbrand backtracking, "I'm Corbrand."
"I am Giuseppe, and you are in my valley."
"Your valley? Shall I leave?"
"Please I am not a busy man, but if you are not here about wine please leave."
"Very good then," said Corbrand, "I am here about wine." and he named the vintage.
The man made a noise that he understood.
"My price is the painting." Corbrand's heart skipped a beat.
"You heard me."
"You found the painting? Yes?"
"You mean-"
"Of course I mean that one, there is no other."
"May I see the wine?"
"Yes, if you are serious buyer."
"I am."
"Follow me." and Corbrand did.
As the made their way into a older farm building the man began to explain.
"I am an artist. I paint. My father owned all the land of this valley. He was the son of the vintner. Yes the very same. He had no other sons to leave the farm. When he died I sadly, did not manage it well, as I put myself into my painting."
The farm building was decorate by at least a hundred paintings. Not of bad quality. But it they all left the view feeling hollow. As if there was something missing.
"But I could not support the winery with my attention so fixed. I lost it. I was forced to sell it. I was shamed. I sold the winery and became quite wealthy. But my art suffered. My regret cripples my craft, I cannot paint until I can win back what my father left me." They stopped over a pile of straw. "Here." said the man as he shoved the pile aside. His hand found a rope, and he pulled it and a hatch opened into the ground. "This is it."
He disappeared into the ground. Corbrand followed, his heart racing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A problem with beauty

The issue is close to everyone. A person in their respect to beauty shows all good aspects of themselves and many bad ones beside. And because of the most altruistic/relativistic quote handed down to us(beauty is in the eye of the beholder). And I would say because of this few have tried to pin the concept to a specific set of characteristics. At least if many people have analyzed this problem most keep it to themselves.

Beauty doesn't just apply to the opinions of people but to things. It is an interaction between animate and animate; as well as animate and inanimate. I can think of many people who went up into the mountains to become inspired. The question is: from what?
The beauty of a woman can alter a man's path but so can a mountain? That doesn't say much for the woman. Unless this is simply a matter of size?

The other old adage that we all know and repeat is 'the eye is the window to the soul'. Which in my mind means that either the eyes expose the world to the soul in a similar fashion as a south facing window soaks up passive solar heat. Or the window is more of a peephole and the soul is a voyeur searching to look at what it desires. Both occur simultaneously. We collect experience unintentionally and intentionally.

So beauty is an idea that is a response to someone, an action or a thing. Anything, good or evil, can be deemed beautiful. What part of the human complex contains the mechanism that decides that? Or is it beyond all human control? The mathematical formula for beauty is, I'm sure, numerically correct. But I reject it as the true notion of beauty. Numerals do nothing but state a level of correctness. And of all the ugly things in the world a good many are considered numerically desirable.

Let us think about the appearance of beauty. It occurs at memory or first inclination toward it. It could coexist with us our entire lives before it becomes beautiful to us. It is something within us that turns it from foreign or commonplace into something altogether other. It is this turning that concerns beauty.

It occurs in three ways:

1. The object of immensity. Something greater than oneself, impervious to all attempts to change or alter it. Invulnerable.

2. The object of vulnerability. Almost the perfect opposite of the first item.

3. The object of complexity. It is rare for this to be the sole reason of beauty. Complexity exists for one reason: to show there is a reason; whether that reason be simple or complex.

Beauty then is a realization of existence beyond one's self and of a system that has put it in one's path. I have no real reasoning to explain this properly. But what I think is happening when the sense of beauty occurs is a connection is formed. Not of self to object, but of self to idea. The object is merely medium.

We are unaware of the billions of things going on around us. The thing that attracts our attention is the comprehension of the idea of what we are seeing. Not actually seeing it, but seeing it work out in our mind's eye. The sense of beauty comes from a clear connection to the eternal idea behind the object, animate or inanimate, that are brought before our eyes.

It stirs the soul, an inspiration, a cry for more. Eyes or ears or none at all. The voiceless idea speaks every language, but most importantly it speaks soul. And beauty is how it speaks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cemetries of London

The next song of Coldplay's new album, as we resume, begins on the downward spiral of the previous track into an ominous tone. The piano's scales denote the air of thought, tension, the need for a decision. You'll find piano phrases like this in many movies. The singing begins with a melancholy verse:

'At night they would go walking til the breaking of the day,
The morning is for sleeping
Through the dark streets they go searching to see God in their own way
Save the nighttime for your weeping
...and the night over London rang'

What does this mean? Obviously it is a search for God. But they aren't walking dark streets literally, and they can't find, for all their efforts, what they are looking for. Where are they searching for God? In their mind. The path through the mind is not a lighted one, and no matter how long you think, you won't find it in its entirety. Every man, in every tribe, has sought truth and everyone knows that there is still something missing from even the best observations. What's this to do with England? I'm not completely certain but what comes to my mind is a vision of Druids meeting the Roman missionaries for the first time. The Druids represented thousands of years of accumulated knowledge (and witchcraft). The druids, according to many tales and records foretold the coming of missionaries to Ireland and to England and even paved the way for the change.
This next musical part is an enormous turn from a belated unknown, to something rock and roll is known for: revolution. Rock and roll however paired it with rebellion. Coldplay has paired it with redemption.

'So we rolled down to the river
where the toiling ghosts strain
for their curses to be broken

This is the state of all humanity. At some point every soul cries out to be relieved of their burdens. Every institution made by man binds him, and he wishes to be free. Even if a man is free of others devices he is subject to the trap of his own mind.

'We'd go underneath the arches
where the witches are in there saying,
there are ghost towns in the ocean.'

To me this is a throw back to the flood. The only way to redemption is judgment and the accounting of one's deeds. But the ghost towns in the ocean are filled people who failed.
The music takes another turn to a desperate tone:

'God is in the houses and God is in my head and all the cemeteries of London
I see God come in my garden, but I don't know what he said
For my heart it wasn't open'

This, to me, is brought back to the present time. Man stands in his own place and looks at all that has passed under his own feet and says God's hand was evident in those happenings. But when he looks to himself he cannot understand his own purpose. We are aware of God trespassing upon our minds, as if he expected something of us but what is it that he expects?

Everyone has said at some point that we 'live in hard times'. Thus the last line of the song is very appropriate: 'there's no light over London today'

To me the meaning of this song is fairly evident. The search for redemption by human power is hopeless, but we must keeping looking because we have to.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Viva la Vida

For anyone who knows me it should come as no surprise that I am plugging their new album. If you had asked me about their previous albums I would have said they were good and deserved a listen to. This one is a must listen to, as it is a completely different breed of music.

There is a very short list however of composers and poets who were able to move me.
They are:
Beethoven, Dvorak, Rich Mullins, Jakob Dylan, and now Chris Martin.

I have heard lyrics that spoke true, and I have heard strains of orchestras that pulled upon each heart string. Coldplay's previous endeavors seemed to dwell supremely upon love songs(which they did well) and did not deviate for the most part. Viva la Vida is both poetry and orchestra, not designed for marketability but solely to create a feeling with each piece of music; and the album, when listened to completely, is an experience of life.

Truth is the core of all good music. I have heard music that seemed to be truth; I have heard great truths told in poetic form, but never in such harmony with music until now. Viva La Vida is a subtle album and the lyrics need to be thought on carefully. The music hints at what words are left out. The music becomes poetry and that is the real genius of this record.

The first track is entitled 'Life in Technicolor'. There are no words, just music. Some might call it a variation on a theme. Each note was planned to take mind on a journey. For me it brings back memories of some of the happiest times in my life.
The feeling of being clean, innocent, and embarking upon an unknown adventure come through clearly. It ends flowing into the next track on a positive but slightly downward note. Which to me implies how easily we as humans can slide from nothing wrong in the world and one single, not even negative, sign of opposition and our complex is ruined. It's like saying saying "everything is fine," and meaning it, followed by us saying: "except for that one thing..."

My plan is to review the entire record. Very soon you will know what I think about it. Until then go listen and be amazed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Good Gun

Juan had grown up in poverty. He had since shrugged it off, grown up and moved far away from his poor family. He would have only been a farmer had he stayed. He would have married some bucktoothed girl out of practicality. Even that sounded good now.
There had been famine that year. Everyone was holding on to what they could. The gang had fallen apart, Juan had been their leader. Most of his companions had been shot by people trying to defend themselves or jailed where they would soon die of starvation.
Juan had a reputation of a very hard man. The story that was circulated was that Juan had come to town with a pair of six shooters. This wasn't anything of merit, most people carried guns. Juan walked right in shot down the mayor, the sheriff, four deputies and the old white catholic father all without switching his a beer to the other hand. He quickly conscripted some goons and the town was his. It was also legend that he killed his competitors and then threw their daughters(and sometimes wives) into his brothel. Parts of his infamy were unfortunately true.
The town was full of his slaves. All of them doing exactly as he wished or he or one of his lackeys would shoot them. No one wore chains, but everyone feared the Juan of Morita.
The problem of being surrounded by slaves and lackeys is there is no room for friendship. How could he have been so careless to have lost everything? And now it came down to his life and his sidearm.
It wasn't anything exceptional. Just an old .38 special. There was no beer or liquor to be had to numb the pain of hunger. Or was it failure that hurt so badly? Juan didn't know. The barrel of the pistol was raised to his head, he almost didn't care enough to pull the trigger. And imagined what would happen the moment after he mustered the courage. He dropped the gun. Maybe if he practiced pulling the trigger without bullets he could...
He heard something and with a whimper picked up his gun again and ducked into the shrub along the dusty road. It was a farmer leading his mule drawn cart out of town. Juan recognized him. He had stolen his daughters for his brothel. He had shot him in the leg in the process of acquiring his women so the farmer walked with a limp. The farmer had gotten his daughters back when Juan's gang had fallen apart. Juan was not bitter about this, he just wanted some food, or drink. He needed a drink badly.
He would wait until the farmer had past and then rob him. Or should he kill him outright? Juan felt he had a right to. He looked at his pistol again. No, he decided he had better save the bullets if he could. The police might find him after all.
The slow creak of wheels approached. Juan felt himself begin to shake with excitement. It was like conquering Morita all over again. Just the power of his hand to hold the pistol steady, and the resolute little finger to execute. Maybe he would draw blood after all.
Just as he crept out onto the road, something unexpected happened: he froze in terror.
It was not at prospect of killing. It was at a Mountain lion springing upon the farmer and mule its savage maw open. The farmer did not see!

Two shots rang out. The great cat fell in front of the farmer. Juan advanced on the cat, his mouth open in amazement. It was still writhing on the ground. He put a third slug in its deathly skull and it lie still.

The heat, the hunger, the angst; he took a breath. It all dissolved into the heat of the afternoon.

The farmer looked at him, recognized him, and eyed him cautiously. Juan laughed, for the first time since he was a child. Something like the first time his father gave him his own firecrackers. Or when he had won a bicycle race as a boy.

The farmer stood there in fear, shocked at the mountain lion, but not trusting the man with the gun.
"That was a near thing."
"Yes it was. It was an incredible shot"
"Thank you, I've never hunted big game before."
"Would you like for me to carry the carcass on my cart?"
"I don't need it."
"The skin is fairly valuable."
"You may have it if you like."
"That's very generous. Could you give me a hand with it?"

Together the two men hefted the lion onto the cart.

"I owe you my life." said the farmer.
"No, you owe me nothing," said Juan.
"Where are you going to?"
"I don't know."

They stood looking at the ground.
"If you have any food, I would like some, if you can spare it."
The farmer produced a small piece of cheese and a tortilla. Juan took them and handed the farmer his pistol.
"I can't take this!" said the farmer.
"I have no money. Please, take it."
"What makes you think I wouldn't shoot you?"
Juan just looked at him and dropped the gun. The farmer caught it deftly. Juan began to walk away North. At every step he expected to hear the shot that would take his life. He walked for miles without looking back, every step he thought would be his last.
Night fell and he made camp and ate the provisions the farmer had given him. He fell asleep thinking he would not wake up again.

He did not die. Nor did he change significantly. He went to America. Spent many years there. But even the wealth and freedom could not blot out what had happened in Morita. He had been a king there. In America he was just another illegal immigrant in a land that was made of kings. He began to think about going back. He cashed in his savings, bought several guns, and a truck. He would go back and make Morita his again, and it would be better than the first time. Or he would die trying.

He pulled into town at dusk, to find the town completely different to the one he had run ruined and left. Electricity lit street lamps and houses down the main road, where only lanterns and candles had before.
There was a loud noise and whine. Juan ducked and then laughed. There was a fiesta, along with the fiesta was a dance and fireworks. Juan tucked a pistol into the back of his jeans, he didn't know what kind of reception he would get, but he would be ready for whatever went down. The dance was in full swing a mariachi band crooned and played and everyone danced. It was a wedding. He wondered if it was anyone he had known.

Upon the wall of the post office was his picture. His heart skipped a beat. He looked closer to discover that it wasn't a wanted poster. It did not bear his name. It just said: "The First".

He shook his head as to what that meant and stepped onto the dance floor. One by one people stopped dancing, and the band eased to dis harmonic silence. A collective gasp.

"Juan the first has returned!" Someone yelled and with the exclamation went a general hurray.
Juan did not recognize most of the people. A few of his old gang were in the crowd, most of them however, were the people he had stolen from. But there they were all smiling at him.

"Hello," he mumbled. He was introduced to the bride and groom. The bride used to be one of the girls he had pimped out. He felt awash with shame as she kissed him on his cheek and the groom shook his hand warmly. A wave of familiar faces encroached upon him, asking him how he had been, where he had gone, he did his best to smile and reply. The farmer with a limp took him by the arm. "Hello Juan."
"Hello," said Juan his heart sank even lower with guilt, "I- I'm very confused... I wasn't expecting anything like this."
"Let me show you something." the old farmer said and took him to the town hall. Above the mayor's seat hung a Mountain Lion's skin. It had three bullet holes in it.
"Is that?"
"You didn't sell it?"
"I wanted to. But I couldn't."
"Why not?"
"I took the time and tanned the hide. And when I was going to take it to market the weather turned cold. We piled on the blankets, but couldn't stay warm enough. I put the lion's skin over my family and we were warm. I told them the story that went with it. The following days my wife told me how happy she was and that she had all she needed. You must understand, she had been griping for years about not having what she wanted. I realized that I too had everything I wanted. Indeed I had more than I wanted. That night, in the cold of winter my family said they were warm. And we thought about our neighbor and how hard it must be for him. So, in the middle of the night, I took the food I could spare, blankets, and the lion skin. I found my neighbor in pitiful state. His whole family would have starved, died of sickness, or died of cold. Only after they were fed, and wrapped in blankets and the lion skin dared I go home. When I returned the following evening, I was amazed by what I saw. They were all healthy. The house was warm and food on the table.

"'How did this happen' I asked,

"'Why this morning I was warm, and no longer felt sick, you left your pistol here, and I went out hunting and found a jackrabbit. I hope you don't mind, I will reimburse you for the bullet I used.'

"We ate together, and he related to me how fulfilled he was with life, his wife and children too, seemed happy. And soon we were talking of our next neighbor. And the lion skin and pistol was passed to them. Sure enough he too found all he needed.

"Wait," interrupted Juan, "This is impossible. You speak as if the gun and lion skin had power in them."
"I don't know that they don't," said the farmer, "Magic, miracle, it's all the same in my eye. Every man woman and child who slept under the lion became better for it. Every man who raised that pistol never missed and fed his family, not just for that once but forever." the farmer opened a case against the wall. "The most amazing thing, is that not one of them wanted to keep it to themselves. Each one took aid to their friends and neighbors not out of duty, but out of love."
Juan looked up from the floor to see the farmer handing him his old .38. He began to cry.
"I was going to kill you that day. I was going to rob and kill you." He blurted.
The farmer didn't look surprised, "This is why I think there is magic in these things. You could have chosen to watch the lion rip me apart and then rob me. The instant you saw evil, even though you were an evil man, you stopped it. You for a fleeting second did something right and all the good you could have done with your life left into this gun and that lion skin."
Juan was weeping on the floor.
"Why doesn't everyone hate me?"
"I did for what you did to my daughters, and what you did to my leg. But that is passed we cannot change it."
"Just because you can't change the past doesn't mean you forgive!" he yelled.
"No we have forgiven you because you gave a gift, you may not have realized what it was but the gift was greater than everything you've taken."
Juan fell into a heap on the floor, suddenly tired, weary of his exploits. He looked into the cylinder of the .38: One bullet left. He pressed it against his head but knew he couldn't pull the trigger. He felt the farmer put something around his shoulders. And then he was alone, in the town hall of town he had come to conquer. He came to be king not a man of charity. Charity, he thought and felt the lion's skin on his shoulders, has made me greater than any king.

That night Juan died. A different man inhabited his face, and it smiled, like a boy who just won a bicycle race.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Death of a Capitalist

This is a story not commonly told:

There was an individual, of industrious sort, of shining example. It seemed from the moment of her birth she was working. The cold out of doors provided for her simple needs and she used every opportunity to move up in the world.

The struggle against her environment left no room for relationship. Men offered themselves, but she chased them away, there was better to be had, and there was no resting until she had it. There was no time for tears over bloodshed. Only the jockeying for a life of ease.

She began small, unnoticed by the large and dominating. She ran when she had to. She took her winnings when she could and looked for a place to settle down.

She grew and began to take out her competitors one by one. Each gave her a small thrill, with each triumph her confidence was boosted. Finally her black eyes glimmered upwards, and there she saw her home and her job at the peak of a towering building.

An old hag occupied it. All the riches of earth flocking to her. She was blind, and half crippled but a great deal more powerful than our girl.

She rested, studying the hag, eying her strengths. Watching her movements, her advantages, her weaknesses. There was fate: the goal, the prize, the last hurdle. Her heart pulsed with purpose.

The hag had the greater resources, but her movements were slow. The strength and speed of youth burned the hag, stinging her not one deathly blow, but many harmless advances and prods that could not be avoided sent the hag backing down and away. The hag knew she was meeting her end. She bowed out and disappeared.

The now ascended held her head high, and turned away the others that came to challenge her. She grew larger, larger than even the old hag but remained quick and bright. She could find a mate and raise a family now, the dream had been realized.

Time passed. Maybe a day or a year. No one could remember.

The light of the lamp shone upon the corner of the room.
"Honey" called a woman, "when did that get there?"
"Its been there for awhile, I've been ignoring it."
"And you didn't do anything about it?"
"It wasn't hurting anything. So I left it."
"I don't want it in the house. Would you please?"
The man of the house got a broom and deftly swept the young spider from her nest to the floor. She made a mad dash for cover. The man looked at it's bright colors and admired it before he reluctantly crushed it underfoot.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

a believable faith

I have not understood faith my entire life. Not for the lack of people trying to teach me. I knew what the formula was but I could not apply it. And I then thought people believed in something akin to fairytale magic when they spoke of faith.

When I was about 9 or 10, I had a Sunday school class. The elderly woman leading it pointed to the light switch on the wall. "Faith is believing that the light will turn on when you flip the switch."

I suppose the principle was there. But I didn't see it. I was a young literalist. I asked "so electricity is a part of God? and if I don't believe the light will turn on... it won't?" I stepped across the room and said I didn't believe the light would turn on and flipped the switch.

On another occasion she was going on a rather long-winded tirade about who God was and was unconsciously thumping her Bible threateningly at all of us young'uns. To be honest I had begun to tune out about 90% of what she said. My mind had better courses to run. I had my fill of theology from home so naturally I didn't go to church to learn anything, I could do that(had to) at home. I went to see my friends. The 10% of this lecture that I listened to was John chapter1 and Genesis 1(these chapters parallel each other) and I heard the phrase "in the beginning there was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God."

I let out a loud objection. "Teacher,"(I knew her name was Mrs. Ashcroft but we were supposed to call her teacher) "your saying," I held up my Bible, "That THIS is God?"
Mrs. Ashcroft was a kind woman from what I had heard of her. But there was a level of severity in her face that did, in no way, invite questions. I asked the question for two reasons, 1. I hadn't been reading my Bible on my own time, at all. And if God, the one that killed hundreds of thousands of people in the old testament, was in fact the book he would not be pleased that I had I hadn't been browsing through his pages 2. the folk in Texas almost always, if they were believers, kept a large family Bible in their living rooms and were very superstitious about putting anything on top of it. I had only the day before left several G.I. Joes and a vehicle upon the cover of one at my best friends house(and was asked to never do that again). The kicker was that I hadn't even asked for forgiveness yet: I thought I was about to get an ol'testament ass whooping, and I wasn't certain that God wouldn't use Mrs. Ashcroft to do it.

I don't remember what her reply was. All I remember was how close her nose was to mine as she earnestly tried to get me to understand what God was. All I could see was just how earnest the blood vessels on her forehead could be. It was an uncomfortable lecture, one that made me realize asking questions usually ended up in people explaining something at great length and 'passion' reviewing the things I already knew. Questions gave others the opportunity to speak condescendingly toward me, particularly those who felt the need to exert their authority or superiority over me. That image of inferiority began to creep in, and I felt that's how God looked at me as well. Technically I knew he wasn't. I knew the Bible's take on things, but that's the horrible thing about bad leadership: The example of authority taints the idea of the intangible to something it is not. I began to only ask questions of things I could not figure out or find readily in a book. In short I stopped asking God and man for help as I didn't want their help if it came with condescension.

Along with this idea came the notion that I didn't want to be human and for many years tried my very best to look at the world as objectively as I could and erase all emotion from my mind. Humanity was continually in the work of creating catch 22 situations that I wanted no part in. To not be human, it seemed even if only by mental claim, was a loophole from social pressure. Oddly enough I realized that I could never truly disconnect completely from my emotions, but could not altogether admit my erring thought process as I had nothing to fill the void. I would always have preferences, if by no other thing this made me human. But I did not know the damage I had wreaked upon myself for some years.

Once I began my collegiate career I began to think about Purpose. It became the cornerstone of my philosophy and still is in many ways. C.S. Lewis put in perspective in his book 'Mere Christianity' with the notion that for every need there is something that satisfies. I bent my mind where it did not want to look and found that my emotions were a part of thought. The gap between ideas and emotion was what made a thought a truly complete thought, the gap was also what made me human.

All this time I believed in God. I had no idea who or what I was asking. I asked Him for many things. Desperate and anxious. Not wanting my life to go by without leaving a mark somewhere.
All my requests I tried to feign the emotion of faith. Sometimes I really thought I was praying faithfully. I was trying so hard to believe, but yet I was faithless and emotionally bankrupt.

How is it that I can try so hard to believe and yet not have faith?

There was a line that people used to say(I think they still do). "Become what cannot be destroyed: Faith, Hope, and Love."

Obviously those things cannot be destroyed. But I passed them off as things completely separate. Only this last week have I realized that they are all apart of the same thing. They are describing perfect Love. You can love something without hope and faith. You can hope for things you don't love. But you cannot have faith. You can get it but you can never have it. Faith is an act of giving, but it can only be had if asked for.
Faith Hope Love
The request, the expectation, the realization.

The difference in syntax is subtle, and yet the meaning vastly different.

Perhaps some things must be learned over being taught. But I can't help but think of how different my life would have been had I understood it from Mrs. Ashcroft.

Which is not to say that I hold a grudge against those who tried to teach me. I was a difficult pupil to say the least. If there is a moral to be taken from this anecdotal article it is this: let us not water down so the least of us can understand in a short amount of time. Let us not skip over the interrogatives for theology. These questions must be answered, calmly and without condescension of age or ideology, to the best of our ability, and not just within the text of the Bible but also in respect to History and Philosophy. Answering questions are of greater importance than the preaching and recitation of the Word.

Christ said that if you had but the faith of a mustard seed you could move mountains into the sea.

So my friends if you are at your wits end and have nothing left: pray for faith.
and if you are content and wealthy: pray for faith.