My most recent pastor loves to commend believing in the Bible even when you don’t understand it. (Most recently, this was communicated in response to Old Testament saints’ polygamy.)
My father wants to write a book about the value of dreaming–not during sleep, but the kind of dreaming where you let your mind just freely choose a desirable future, no matter how likely, and then enjoy the accompanying sensation for as long as you can–even if it that future never comes true.
My wife is woefully unaware of Western Civilization’s most recent two and a half millennia of history, and simultaneously is one of the most happy and hopeful people I know.
My best friend, who is the most principled, and therefore inspiring, person I know, wonders if the coronavirus coverage and government and extra-government response is actually a strategic, coordinated, and intentional effort by those who oppose President Trump to prevent him from winning reelection.
Put another way, I think it’s time to escape for a bit. Will you join me?
I like to escape by focusing as hard as I can on something, anything that catches my attention. No more keyboard. No more blog. No more computer. No more news. No more family. No more house. No more job. No more planet. No more universe. Just me and the idea.
Today’s idea is making a vow.
The vehicle which delivered this idea to me is the passage in Judges where one Judge, Jephthah, vows to the LORD to sacrifice as a burnt offering that which comes out of his home upon his victorious arrival–if only the LORD will grant him certain victory. If you’re unfamiliar, his only daughter is “that which” comes out and he sacrifices her, with her encouragement.
I can imagine that some people would point to this story as reason to question scripture’s status as “worthy of study”. To them I would offer this reminder, “Jesus saved my soul. Jesus commended scripture. I’m sticking with Jesus.”
I can imagine that others would draw some ridiculous and irrelevant points about “vowing” and different “covenants” or more simply, “That was then, this is now–there is no need to dwell.”
Then, I can remember that at the end of a recent translation of Homer’s Iliad, or some other ancient classic, the critic commends it for containing characters who behave so inexplicably and unpredictably. In other words, the critic lauded the story for its messiness. The critic, I think, loved the story because it made the reader think, “Hmm. What would I do?” or “Hmm. Would I do the same thing? Have I done the same thing?”
Vowing is an interesting enterprise as it essentially brings into focus our integrity as individuals. Within “vowing” the group, the community, disappears.
In the account recorded in Judges, the situation’s tragedy is compounded by the daughter’s urging her father to keep his vow, his integrity–even though it would mean that she dies because of it.
Keep in mind that these people don’t know Jesus. There is no “personal relationship”. It’s back in ancient history and it’s over in a part of the world when what we call “theocracies” were at least normal, if not the norm. Also, keep in mind literacy rates in bible times and the chance that the daughter knew anything about Yahweh, other than he was her father’s god and some rote memorization of the most memorable laws, would be very difficult to defend. In other words, I think we could insert any other deity’s name and the story would present the same.
Despite all these words, I can’t untangle myself from the two questions, “Why make the vow?” and “Why fulfill the vow?”
Integrity. That’s why.
Okay. Escape over.
It was okay. But I got an email from H-‘s school district about COVID-19 during the attempt. Remind me to close that tab next escape-attempt.
The email contains a link to a “comic” on NPR’s website to use to help kids stay stress free. Pictographs? Really? We’re going to survive the pandemic because someone drew pictures?
What should schools do right now? The same thing they should always do, the same thing which they never do. Pack any children you can see into buildings and teach the kids how to read words. Make it clear that we expect everyone of any age to always fight through any sickness. Keep the posture that because of literacy, if you get sick in America, you don’t die. But most importantly, teach the kids how to read words. Teach the kids how to read words. Teach the kids how to read words.
We don’t need stress-free kids. We need literate adults.
And I just received another email.
I’m over it.
Two emails in less than one hour and four minutes counts as hysteria. This is embarrassing. Every single teacher and administrator involved in public schools should be embarrassed and ashamed for furthering this hysteria.
I don’t fantasize anymore. When I was younger, I loved the way movies elicited some fantasy or other. After Sandlot I could almost see my foot aligned with the mound’s rubber at Wrigley. After Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves I could think of nothing but splitting an arrow with an arrow. And after Top Gun, well, I went on to become a military officer and pilot.
Fantasy no more.
Over the last two nights I finally watched Black Panther and also gave in to the hope that 12 Strong might get it right. These movies are both fantasy action films. They both include a healthy admixture of current events and fiction. And they both elate and inspire their fans. But, by my thinking, they, the resounding box office success of Black Panther especially, beg the question, “Can inspiration be dangerous?”
Black Panther‘s make-believe portion is what I struggle to understand. I do not identify with, neither am I inspired by, the notion that, “all along my people actually were capable and smart and possessed the technology to change the world for the better.” In fact, I find it troubling. More troubling is I think I’m alone in this because I am afraid to even type it.
Naturally, there are millions of reasons why the idea doesn’t inspire me, but I only want to highlight the one reason why it shouldn’t inspire anyone at all: unlike every other superhero movie, it is entirely based on pernicious historical revision. And given that truth depends on the events of history, we might consider the implications behind using historical revision as inspiration.
This takes us to 12 Strong. With 12 Strong we have a different type of fantasy, a different type of revision. The film begins by unnecessarily reminding the viewer of the, not just one, but many attacks that Bin Laden and friends perpetrated on the United States, the last of which being 9/11. Unlike Black Panther’s bright-color-clothed, ancestor worshiping character’s, this movie’s characters achieve depth only if in a kiddie pool. And while Thor’s men certainly declare that they are inspired by him, his greatest strength seems to be undecided. Is it that he can both speak Russian and ride a horse? Or that he got really–and I mean really, really–mad when he saw the news that fateful morning? (So mad that he kicked over his desk!)
Unlike Black Panther, 12 Strong does not actually revise history. It’s too cowardly to even attempt that. It surely is bad history, but Wakandan-like revision is nowhere in sight. For example, there is no discovery that the terrorists actually love the United States. Nor does some soldier wander into a mountain cave and discover that the United States’ actual forefathers (you know, the ones secretly sabotaging all the Taliban’s bad seed’s biggest plans) have kept alive an underground resistance within the same cave system wherein the bad tribes hid from shame all these centuries.
Nope. You won’t find any of that. Instead, 12 Strong merely works very hard to make sure that no one can say the military response to 9/11 was unjustified. (There’s even a scene where some Taliban leader shoots a burka-wearing woman who had been teaching little girls how to read–something which he believed Allah forbids. Yeah, that’s it. It was their illiteracy that we were pissed about.) By the way, the fact that any American thinks additional explanation for military response to 9/11 is necessary at all speaks louder than any graphic representation of barbaric beliefs ever could about whose side they’re on.
In the end, I guess I do fantasize. I fantasize about the day that we admit that our way of life is under attack every moment, from every angle. I fantasize about the day when we admit that it’s okay–in fact good–to have power and use it. I fantasize about the day when any one of us defends the Founding Fathers of the United States of America as champions of freedom. Do you hear me? I fantasize about these things.
The most fitting way to describe this book is by telling the truth. It is both good and bad.
You may be wondering how I ever stumbled upon Richelle Mead’s The Fiery Heart. The answer: one semester of translating Hebrew and Greek. I mentioned to a friend that over the break I just wanted to read something easy and preferably out of the norm for my tastes. I was thinking sci-fi or fantasy. I thought that that conversation bore no fruit, so I drove to the bookstore where I picked up Octavia Butler’s supposedly sci-fi story Kindred—chosen literally by its cover. Sci-fi written by a black woman, who knew? (Review coming soon).
Anyhow, the next morning I found Mrs. Read’s vampire tale on my windshield and decided to follow the rabbit. Like I said, it’s good and bad. The following sentences should demonstrate what I mean.
There was just her and the feel of her lips, the exquisite way they managed to be soft and fierce at the same time.
I admit that one caught my attention. It is on page three, and it caught my attention because while I was in college, I took an ethics class. (Oh the fondness of that memory.) There was a lady in the class who had some very odd tendencies, and one friend and I identified these tendencies and exploited them. We were classically behaving as “little shits.” In short, while we ate lunch before class, we would decide which of her tendencies we would adopt and then impose them on the classroom discussions at will. One of our innocent classmate’s tendencies was to answer in opposites. You can imagine the fun we had as we concluded any ethical analysis with, “I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I think it’s both right and wrong.” And the best part was that the woman would resoundingly answer, “That’s how I feel!”
Back to blood boilers and dhampirs (thought I’m still not sure exactly what those are). As I read Mrs. Mead’s novel, I kept noticing this tendency to invoke contradictions in the name of good writing. I didn’t start keeping track until about half-way through the book, but here are a string of them. They occurred about every forty-ish pages.
Her long, dark hair spilled over her shoulders, and there was a fire in her brown eyes that was both dangerous (wait for it) and alluring.
Even through my jeans, that touch was provocative and made me think of all the times he’d run his hands over my legs. It was agonizing…(drumroll please) and exquisite.
Time stopped having meaning. It seemed like both an eternity and (How short? Please, I can’t wait a moment longer!) a heartbeat before I was cognizant of my surroundings again.
This isn’t the same as you running off to a witch’s tea party! This is life and (Let me guess…) death. (YES! I was right.)
Last one, for effect. The speaker is talking to the human girl who is dating the vampire boy.
And that’s the thing, I think…the real reason I’m not that weirded out by you two. It goes against all sound logic, but somehow, you two together…it (Anyone else’s head feel warm?) just (Oh boy. I’m not feeling so good anymore. Bathroom please.) works. (Hurrrl. Now, retract tongue.)
Besides these juxtapositions of contradictory and ultimately inconsequential platitudes, the book contains two hundred plus pages of foreplay and a disappointing sex scene, prescription drug use, illicit drug use, and a whole host of other unsavory behaviors (all by eighteen year old’s) which in and of themselves certainly need no help being normalized into our degrading civilization. Oh, and there was a lot of mouth’s crushing together. Considering the nature of vampire teeth, that seems dangerous. And life-giving.
Billionaire playboy, philanthropist, media mogul, and three-time Olympic gold medalist Maxwell Rudolfson was being heralded as the most benevolent creative genius America has ever produced. The streets felt safer, violent crime statistics were at an all-time low, and for the first time ever maximum security prisons had vacancies.
“As you know, I spent a lot of time contemplating the problem of violent crime in this country. One day it hit me. Certainty is security. And as awful as the idea sounded at first, I realized that it was the best solution to the rampant and ever-increasing violence that kept people locked inside their homes, living in fear. It is no lie that it took a little convincing,” Maxwell continued to a chuckling crowd, “but, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.” Cheers arose all along the mall.
Sure, life in the city had improved since the new legal code allowed each adult to murder one person so long as they filled out the proper application paperwork and notified their requested victim. Most people couldn’t believe how the general public responded so many years ago. Rather than rush into a murderous feeding frenzy, the whole of the country took a deliberate approach. Many people decided to save their kill for truly the right person. Then something astonishing happened. As the society waited to commit the unspeakable act, people lost interest. Looking back, it should have been no surprise that as we got older, we calmed down and wisened up. But still, no one, not even Maxwell Rudolfson himself, could have predicted the immensity and totality of the new-found peace and security that blanketed the country.
Meanwhile, in a nearly empty government building a department of justice official couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked the young man standing before him to wait at the counter for minute.
“Sir. You’re not going to believe this. Maxwell Rudolfson’s son just filled out an application for murder,” the official reported to his supervisor.
“Yeah. Ol’ Max figured this day would come. Who does Jr. want to kill?”
The planet’s Earth-like gravity had an unexpected welcoming effect on Mission Commander Stevenson as he stepped out of the craft. This was the forty-first world he had visited on this particular eighteen month mission. He hadn’t shared with anyone yet that it would be his last. He was sixty-four years old and while his mind was never sharper, his body was starting to say no.
NASA probably expected him to call it quits sooner rather than later, but he knew they would be sorry to see him leave. Not the first mission commander to make a career of exploring new galaxies, he hoped he would prove to be the most steadfast. He had personally stepped foot on six hundred thirty-five extraterrestrial worlds. Not one of them contained life.
Oh, sure, he had had plenty of R and R back on Earth between missions, but it was all beginning to wear on him. As evidence of this, to a person, all the other astronauts could even deliver his famous “one complaint” speech–accent and all–verbatim.
Month thirteen, almost to the day, he’d say, “For someone as fortunate as me, someone who has seen the glory of the cosmos up close and in person, to complain would be criminal.” The imitator would then pause, just like Stevenson always did. “But I am human. I do have my own thoughts. And if I had to pick one thing that I would change about the program, it would be the gloves! I have spent over half my life feeling the inside of a pair of gloves. Every celebratory hug we’ve had after discovering we got a chance to live on after opening the door, every rock I’ve lifted, every flagpole I’ve planted, every tool I’ve used, everything has felt the same. I just wish something could be done about that.” Every newbie expected the speech to end at that point and just about interrupted the old man as he continued undeterred, which made it all the more amusing for everyone else. “I miss the feel of a woman, the feel of a Christmas tree, the feel of not quite warm enough shower water. Most of all, I miss the feel of dirt–my dirt.”
As he looked back for the others to join him on the ritual first walk around the new world, he unconsciously reached for the fastener on his glove.
Apologies, I didn’t realize my tinkering changed the setting about whether just the opening or full text was emailed out. Here is today’s post again.
Below is a chat conversation I had with Ariel Johnson from AT&T. Try and enjoy it as much as I did.
Thank you for your patience! Your AT&T Representative will be with you shortly.
Welcome! You are now chatting with ‘Ariel Johnson’
Ariel Johnson: Thank you for using AT&T Chat Services today. I will be happy to assist you.
Ariel Johnson: I can definitely review the account to see when will be the autopay will be fully effective.
Ariel Johnson: By the way I hope you are enjoying your day!
Pete: Do you just copy and paste messages, or do you type them out like I am?
Ariel Johnson: I do type Pete.
Pete: I’m dying here.
Pete: Do you know what a proof of life is?
Ariel Johnson: Sorry no.
Pete: Well, in any case, I am enjoying my day.
Ariel Johnson: Awesome!
Pete: But I’m still not convinced you’re real. 🙂
Ariel Johnson: Yes I am.
Ariel Johnson: Please be advised that the autopay will be fully effective after 30 days upon enrollment.
Pete: You definitely did not type that.
Pete: So I should pay my bill today, but next month, it’ll be automatic/
Ariel Johnson: Yes
Ariel Johnson: For the current bill it will be paid manually.
Ariel Johnson: Rest assured that this will be the last time that you will be paying the bill manually.
Pete: What is your namesake’s dad’s name in the little mermaid?
Ariel Johnson: I don’t know sorry.
Pete: thanks for the help.
Ariel Johnson: If you know the answer is much appreciated.
Ariel Johnson: Since you are online I can assist you to process the payment now.
Pete: No need. I can do it. Have a great day.
Ariel Johnson: Please be advised that the autopay deduction will takes place two days prior to the due date on the account.
Ariel Johnson: Do you have any other concerns that I may assist you with?
Pete: Nope. I’m out.
Ariel Johnson: For convenience in the future, you can also manage your account using the MyATT mobile app on your phone.
Ariel Johnson: It has been a pleasure chatting with you today. AT&T appreciates your business. Again this is Ariel Have a wonderful day!
Ariel Johnson: Bye.
Lockheed Martin just signed on to the Mars One mission.
Mars One has pushed the landing date to 2025, two years later than the original 2023.
The mission got legitimized and stigmatized in the same breath. That’s life.
Still no news on who was chosen for round two. They’re supposed to let people know yes or no by the end of the year. What do you think? I really wanted this group to have their stuff together, but that seems like it was asking a bit much at the moment. Oh well. That they have Lockheed Martin really does break the fall from the date sliding.
Cross your fingers for me being selected for round two. Can you even imagine?