As I mentioned, I was recently in Judges. Then the last few days, I have been studying Thessalonians 1&2.
I don’t want to rename the Bible. Moreover, I wouldn’t be able to. The idea is ridiculous. But I would like to share what I would call it, that is, in an imaginary world.
I’d call it… Actually I can’t put it into words.
It’s something like a self-help book that teaches you how to accept happiness in your life.
“Accept Blessings”. That’s about as close as I can get. But that sounds like an military order, not a book title.
“How to Accept Blessings” might be more accurate, but now I don’t know if I would have ever picked up a book with that title.
All I’m really trying to say is that the more I read the Bible, the more I see that people around me do not know how to be happy, how to make two good decisions in a row (let alone how to add a third), and the more I see that even when life doesn’t appear to be unfolding in our favor, it is.
Put another way, the starring character, Jesus, is supposed to have said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in “Accept Blessings.”
See? That’s just not powerful.
And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in “How to Accept Blessings.”
Hmm. That’s definitely worse.
I guess we’re stuck with: And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in the Bible.
Obviously we watched Jack Reacher last night. I was struck by two parts. The first is when TC explains how, through training and repetition, someone not smart can be made to appear smart. It reminded me of what I was trying to say about illiterate children.
Secondly, my dad told me today that he did not buy the toilet paper that was seemingly destined for him to buy as it sat on the shelf at the store. I repeat: my dad did not buy available toilet paper. Hear me clearly: the toilet paper had his name, in cursive—at least if you look in the right light—on the packaging and he did NOT buy it. Bravo. That reminded me of TC’s answer to the blonde’s anxious query, “Should I be afraid?!” Cruise says, “Are you smart?” Blondie says, “Yes.” Tom then says, “Then don’t be afraid.”
First up was the oddity that as I looked to see if there was anything to note about the passengers or vehicle passing me, I was surprised to be the recipient of a smile and thumbs up.
For an unknown reason, anytime I suspect that an occupant of another car is communicating to me, my heart skips a beat. I must be on fire, I think.
But, no. That’s not what was happening here. This was some sort of encouragement. But for what?
Was this Iowan so sheltered that my Colorado plates being in Iowa were simply exciting? As in, “Good for you! You got out!!”??
No. That just didn’t make sense. Plenty of people pass through this state.
Hmm. Not on fire. (Confirmed by the fact that another car has passed me–sans attempt to warn me of fire.) Not my foreignness. What could he have seen?
A- was in the backseat reading.
No tablet. No phone. No movie. No video game. Just a boy and a book. Yup. That’s it.
A smile and thumbs up from a stranger passing me on the highway. Why? Because I’m raising a boy right.
Secondly, I saw a bald eagle. It was just lazily riding the waves of the wind. At first I couldn’t be sure that it really was a bald eagle. But as I returned my eyes to the road, I saw a new scene. A blanket of red, white, and blue–47, 48, 49, and, yes, 50 bright stars to boot–warmed the wintry landscape. And I could tell that, even when I wasn’t looking, men and women were constantly sewing and mending this mantle by dim, fading candlelight in one great period of darkness.
Then I was sure of it. It was a bald eagle if ever there was one.
The idea of evaluating my father seems odd to me at this point of my life (and his). Instead, I want to create a subtle distinction between evaluating my father and sharing with you characteristics of my dream dad. I want to do this today because of the feelings Ad Astra evoked.
Ad Astra is Mr. James Gray’s new, and remarkable, film starring Mr. Brad Pitt.
Ad Astra is also the perfect vehicle to bring my dream dad to life because it makes bold decisions–just like my dream dad would stare into the immensity that faces every man and boldly step forward, world watching.
Scenes in Ad Astra which are unbelievable at face value are presented with such force and gravity that the viewer can only be intrigued to see where all this is going–in the same way that my dream dad would behave in a manner that would continually intrigue me.
Indeed, the movie does go places, too. We travel with Mr. Pitt to Neptune in hopes of finding my father. Der, I mean, Pitt’s father. In fact, we’re looking for Pitt’s father because of his mysterious behavior, both generally in his having desired to antisocially voyage so far from terra firma, and particularly by his recent actions as leader of the “Lima Project”. Likewise, my dream dad is definitely a visionary and thereby a leader of unmatched proportions.
Most importantly, all along the epic and beautifully rendered space journey, the story is one of fatherly encouragement and belief in the son’s ability to do better than himself.
One flashback, near the film’s too-soon conclusion (much like my dream dad’s ‘conclusion’ will forever occur too soon), includes a four or five word sentence that can only carry its tremendous meaning in the gravity-less environment of our fantastic imaginations. But those few words are all my dream dad would need to say to let me know I was finally respected as a man.
And my dream dad would definitely let me know when I had achieved that high goal.
To force myself to take a break from weather books and the Bible, I like to head to the bookstore and just pick a fantasy book. During this exercise I use one variable to make my selection–its cover.
The latest cover to jump from the shelf into my hands is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.
I want to draw attention to one particular element of fantasy that I hitherto had not thought of as fantasy–but should have. This element? The gray. The subtle.
The protagonist girl-child, an “Adept”, is learning the ways of the world from a renegade bachelor prince called Anafiel Delauney. Of this stud she strokes, “I have never known a mind more subtle than that of Anafiel Delauney.”
Right now the American conversation is binary. If you’re Greta, the world is black and white. If you’re Trump, it’s red and blue. There’s capitalist, there’s socialist. There’s rich, there’s not rich. Safe, assaulted. Tolerated…hated? No, that’s not right. Tolerated is squared up against accepted. Yep, that’s the ticket.
Does it have to be this way? Probably. How do I know? Because we fantasize about the gray. We escape to a world where subtle minds are cast as inescapably welcome. Or at least I do.
In my dying breath, that is, if my time with you had been animated with breath of my own and not simply with your imagination, in other words, if I had had a dying breath, then I like to think I would’ve thanked-
What? No! Not the acorn, never! Not that lifeless lump. Why do people always focus on the nut? I’ve always said: The nut is not the meat!
No, no, no. But where was I?
Ah, yes. I remember.
If I could have thanked anyone–call to mind that I am a character of fiction and it is quite impossible for me to offer gratitude in its proper sense–but I’m saying, if I could have, you know, hypothetically, thanked anyone, then I would thank Henny-penny.
She was a rare bird. And without her-
Well, without her, I guess I just wouldn’t have anyone to thank.
Harsh wind enraged remnant embers
“Cain, my love!” his mother cries
She bids him, “Here!”, she scrambles near.
A Sestina is form of poetry–a restrictive form of poetry. It has six stanzas of six lines, then a three line stanza. The last words of each stanza are the tricky part. After the first stanza, the last words have been chosen. The full pattern is as follows:
- ECA or ACE (called envol or tornada–it must also contain the other end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six appear in the final three lines.)
We now pause our regularly scheduled programming (three more Cain and Abel re-writes on their way) to bring you some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s best sentences.
From Treasure Island
Silver was roundly accused of playing double–of trying to make a separate peace for himself, of sacrificing the interests of his accomplices and victims, and, in one word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing.
From Prince Otto
(This first one hits strikingly close to home–perhaps ol’ Bob stumbled upon Ecclesiastes?)
Do you not know that you are touching, with lay hands, the very holiest inwards of philosophy, where madness dwells? Ay, Otto, madness; for in the serene temples of the wise, the inmost shrine, which we carefully keep locked, is full of spiders’ webs. All men, all, are fundamentally useless; nature tolerates, she does not need, she does not use them: sterile flowers!
And this one (Prince Otto, too) persuades whatever inner-workings lie behind the long development of some men’s seemingly hard, dark faces to rush to just beneath the surface the brightest and rosiest hues of red.
There is nothing that so apes the external bearing of free will as that unconscious bustle, obscurely following liquid laws, with which a river contends among obstructions.
Of all creatures, man is set apart by his ability to respond at length. Other creatures appear to be able to make inquiry and even reply through a series of grunts and gestures, but man alone has been endowed with the responsive power so-called reason.
Lowering his chin almost imperceptibly, Adam slowly closed his eyes. With an increase of force likely to be noticed solely by his closest family, he exhaled the entirety of the deep breath he had been holding as he watched his sons. He leaned his head forward until his chin rested on hand, which was on the top of his staff, as he reopened his eyes.
“What?” Eve asked.
He didn’t look at her. Though his eyes were open, he did not see anything but the garden.
“What?” Eve repeated.
Worried by Adam’s silence, Eve did not notice the look on Cain’s face. Adam did not have to.
“Abel!” he called at last. “Here,” he motioned for his son to come close.
As Abel listened to his father’s words, he looked towards Cain only to see that Cain was staring at him. Some new feeling arose in Abel, one whose name did not yet exist but which he wished would never have surfaced.
The next month was not pleasant for the family. Adam would not let his sons out of his sight. Eve worried.
“What are you saying, Cain?” Abel asked when the two brothers were in the fields, some distance from Adam.
“I’m saying He-” Cain motioned towards the entire sky, “-He spoke to me after that day.”
“And what did He say?” Abel replied.
“He told me If you do well, will not your face be lifted up?”
Relieved, Abel said, “That sounds true.”
“But then He said,” Cain continued, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.”
Alarmed and looking for Adam, Abel said, “Why wouldn’t you do well, brother?”
Adam awoke from his daydream and did not immediately see his sons. Scanning the horizon with growing panic, he soon calmed down. The two men were seen facing each other, apparently talking about something. Then Abel took a step backwards, as if to place some distance between Cain and himself. Adam grabbed his staff and began to run, cursing himself that he did not stay closer.
“STOP!” Cain commanded Adam, Abel lying lifeless on the ground. “Do not come any closer, father.”
Adam stopped and closed his eyes and saw the garden. Cain bumped Adam’s shoulder as he left him there with Abel’s body. Then Adam buried Abel.
That night, Cain had nightmares of the voice saying, “You must master it. You must master it. You must master it.”
He awoke to the sound of thunder, soaked in sweat.
Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
I’m still in Tolstoy’s short stories. Again, one particular sentence just struck me as perfect. So here’s the challenge: In the below comments, let’s see if we can write with similar excellence. (One sentence.)
The bonfire was extinguished, the forest no longer looked as black as before, but in the sky the stars still shone, though faintly.
Here’s my attempt: The young boy stopped running, the city moved even faster, but he still felt her hand in his, though now she did the squeezing.