I just love Robert Louis Stevenson–love him.
Check this out. I’m reading through his David Balfour, itself the sequel to Kidnapped. (Kidnapped is far superior, so start there.)
Here’s a scene in DB. The young Davie is trying to decide whether to move in for a forbidden kiss with a lass as he departed her company. (This scene takes a moment, but stick with it. It is so worth it. I’m especially talking to you Nazi-handbook-reading feminists and all the letting-you-drive men you’ve enchanted recently.)
The day came round at last when she and I were to separate. We had been extremely intimate and familiar; I was much in her debt; and what way we were to part was a thing that put me from my sleep, like the vails I was to give to the domestic servants. I knew she considered me too backward, and rather desired to rise in her opinion on that head. Besides which, after so much affection shown and (I believe) felt upon both sides, it would have looked cold-like to be anyways stiff. Accordingly, I got my courage up and my words ready, and the last chance we were like to be alone, asked pretty boldly to be allowed to salute her in farewell.
“You forget yourself strangely, Mr. Balfour,” said she. “I cannot call to mind that I had given you any right to presume on our acquaintancy.”
I stood before her like a stopped clock, and knew not what to think, far less to say, when of a sudden she cast her arms about my neck and kissed me with the best will in the world.
“You inimitable bairn!” she cried. “Did you think that I would let us part like strangers? Because I can never keep my gravity at you five minutes on end, you must not dream I do not love you very well; I am all love and laughter, every time I cast an eye on you! And now I will give you an advice to conclude your education, which you will have need of before its very long. Never ask women-folk. They’re bound to answer ‘No’; God never made the lass that could resist the temptation. It’s supposed by divines to be the curse of Eve; because she did not say it when the devil offered her the apple, her daughters can say nothing else.”
Curse of Eve. Ha. Sounds about right. (Ms. magazine subscribers, you better be smiling at this point.)
Now, for something from yesterday, check out this NPR news story quote.
At Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., psychology teacher Sarah Soileau wants her class to consider some of the questions raised by the #MeToo movement — questions like verbal consent.
“What did we learn?” says student Marcus Bright, 17. “Each base. Each base. First base. Second base. Third base. Each base, I’m asking.”
“That is a good rule to live by,” Soileau says. “Each base you better ask, all right?”
As for me, I’m sticking with Stevenson.
So, to all the single ladies, “Wuh, uh, oh-” -Watch out! Big ol’ smoochie, smooch attempts are headed your way!
Transmitted through my helmet’s CEP’s, the phrase “tail’s hit” will forever be connected to the word “fear” for me.
Immediately I wondered whether my formation lead’s pilot meant that the tail of his helicopter was hit or that his tail gunner–the human–was hit.
And immediately I began to scan the monochromatic green terrain one hundred feet below for shooters.
And immediately I was overwhelmed with the reality that they could be anywhere and if they weren’t presently firing, I would likely not notice them.
And at the occurrence of that precise thought I became afraid.
I felt fear for the first time in my life.
Eventually, in a matter of seconds I mean, it was clear that the tail gunner was the victim of the “hit” and our direct action mission was aborted in favor of flying him to the nearest ‘cash.’ (Combat Support Hospital.) He lived.
But me? I was incapacitated for a little bit and I had an overwhelming desire to cry. Let me repeat that first part: I was incapacitated for a little bit. Luckily, I was the inexperienced co-pilot at the time.
Years later, I was the instructor pilot on a night sortie at the schoolhouse, and one of our other Huey’s had stopped checking in with HUB–or on any other radio or frequency we all tried. (That usually means the crew had crashed.) Soon after, my student was on the controls and hover taxiing to hot refuel at Andalusia. He was all over the sky, as they say. Too high, over-correcting to too low. So as my aircraft commander did for me in Iraq, I took the controls without comment. The student was clearly going through the realization that his friends might be dead–that we might later die on the job–and he didn’t need any more input. (They lived.)
Dr. Ford (et al): Stay terrified–it lets me know that you’re not a leader, that you’re not worth following.
Or you could apologize for lying. Or you could forgive.
But I can’t/won’t/don’t want to join you in your fear. I’d be trading in every ounce and moment and piece of hard-earned experience I have for nothing–no reason, no action, no sound, no light, no nothing–for darkness. In other words, I’d be exchanging it all for fear.
And I am not afraid.
I sought work at the gentlemen’s club, in part, because I had never worked with women. Right after college it was Air Force pilot training (mostly men), followed by the last male-only Air Force flying squadron (must have balls), then several odd professions to include a car wash (mostly fellas) and the oil fields (oil rigs being the last bastion of actual men on the LORD’s good earth).
Despite, or in spite of, being married for six years, I had never really been around women, nor really even desired to be around them. It’s been three years since big-P-I-M-P-in and in a most unexpected change, these days I often seem to find myself around only women. Don’t get the idea that I am one of those creepy, sinewy older guys we all know at work who aren’t quite gay, but somehow are only able to be friends with women. For good or bad, that’s not me. With me, the situation is manifest in other ways.
For example, my beloved toastmaster’s club is gaining women by the droves. Six years ago it was the only place I knew of which had about a 50/50 make-up. But recently I went to a off-day meeting where the ratio was more like 80/20. The official roster has it 60/40–or 31/19 to be more precise. Where have all the cowboys gone?
Then there’s the last time I was asked to teach at church. Naturally, each Sunday I notice that most of the regulars are of the fairer sex, but that did little to diminish my astonishment as I was totally unprepared to speak to a group of two men and thirty black women. In answer to my reactionary inquiry, my pastor said, “Expect more like 80/20 in the future,” but that, “Yes, it’s more women than men.” Me, teaching women? Ha. What do I know?
Here’s what I know. After much deliberation on the matter and many years in school, I’m calling it quits on trying to learn about women. To me, from what I’ve seen and from what I believe I have been purposefully shown, that goal would be no different than trying to learn about the ocean. I don’t mean learning about the elements of one of Earth’s oceans that we can observe with our five senses. I mean that, for me, women as a group are like the ocean that is eternally beyond the ocean that we presently perceive. What’s more, even if I could learn about women, not one reason comes to mind as to why I’d want to.
Instead, I’m going to focus on learning about one woman. That’s right. My mind is resolved. One of you lucky women will soon gain a suitor. Get excited. And since I’ve recently also concluded that shame is probably the deepest sensation felt during the acquisition of knowledge, I’m pretty sure that my upcoming education will be exceedingly difficult for my prideful self.
As far as the other thought, I lost it somewhere by the ocean part. It’ll return some other day, I guess.
I will give you this, though. Just now as I walked by the dumpster in the darkest hours before the dawn, I saw the regular raccoon but also two smallish ones. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a raccoon family before. What about you?
I’m just saying that Robert Louis Stevenson is masterful. Check out this little section I just read from his The Master of Bellantrae.
Let anyone speak long enough, he will get believers. This view of Mr. Henry’s behavior crept about the country by little and little; it was talked upon by folk that knew the contrary, but were short of topics; and it was heard and believed and given out for gospel by the ignorant and the ill-willing. Mr. Henry began to be shunned; yet awhile, and the commons began to murmur as he went by, and the women (who are always the most bold because they are the most safe) to cry out their reproaches to his face. The Master was cried up for a saint. It was remembered how he had never any hand in pressing the tenants; as, indeed, no more he had, except to spend the money. He was a little wild perhaps, the folk said; but how much better was a natural, wild lad that would soon have settled down, than a skinflint and a sneckdraw, sitting, with his nosed in an account book, to persecute poor tenants! One trollop, who had a child to the Master, and by all accounts been very badly used, yet made herself a kind of champion of his memory. She flung a stone one day at Mr. Henry.
“Whaur’s the bonnie lad that trustit ye?” she cried.
Mr. Henry reined in his horse and looked upon her, the blood flowing from his lip, “Ay, Jess?” says he. “You too? And yet ye should ken me better.” For it was he who had helped her with money.
The woman had another stone ready, which she made as if she would cast; and he, to ward himself, threw up the hand that held his riding rod.
“What, would ye beat a lassie, ye ugly—-?” cries she, and ran away screaming as though he had struck her.
Next day word went about the country like wildfire that Mr. Henry had beaten Jessie Broun within an inch of her life.
Makes me wonder. Where is the woman who admits her safe status today? Seems out-of-fashion. And if she is in danger, what factors contributed to the change?
I say you’re all still very safe, safer in fact than you were in the nineteenth century–and that this still explains your boldness.
Late last year when actresses began revealing that the situation in Hollywood was exactly as most of Middle America had always known it to be, I made a small non-monetary wager with one male relative of mine who shall remain unnamed. Pride was the only thing worth winning or losing. I said, “This whole thing will blow over by summer. Quit acting like trending hashtags have power.”
Well, you can imagine that he has been quick to point out that summer is here and the #MeToo movement still moves.
My angle has always been H-. What do you want me to tell H-? I believe that the only thing to teach her on this topic is what the Bible teaches. Its words have at least two elements which women need to be raised hearing repeatedly. The first element is that men rape women. As many skeptics point out, this behavior is recorded as occurring more than once and sometimes even by the so-called hero of the story. No argument here. Thousands of years later, however, we should not be shocked to discover we have not evolved or some shit.
The second element is the teaching that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How many victims believe that about their body? Maybe all, maybe none. No women mention it in their accusations is all I know.
As a divorced man, I can tell you that I will never understand the “stay” aspect of #MeToo. The “safe word” notion seems reasonable if you’re into some kink. If he doesn’t agree to it, well, at least you know where he’s at. But to be frank, well no. Frankly I just “can’t get there from here” as they say. (LEAVE.)
You know what one of you once told me? She said, “On dates I never think about how I am being treated. I think about how mad my dad would be if I let myself be treated bad.” Obviously I haven’t forgotten that. And not so obviously, after three years of ancient language study, I think that is a near perfect word-for-word translation into English of the Apostle Paul’s Greek, “your body is the temple of the holy spirit.”
Lastly, if the I’m-only-sharing-this-now-because-I-want-to-prevent-further-victims sentiment that falls under the #MeToo umbrella, if not is the umbrella, continues past the summer, I cannot see how anyone still associating with #MeToo is not a fool in the sandy biblical sense. Unlike, say, the American Revolution or the Civil Rights movement, in this case, the longer you last, the weaker you become. You set it up that way.
Then again, reading “20 Years Strong: #MeToo Movement Denies Allegations of Impotence As It Considers New Gender-Neutral Logo” on some future day does not seem unlikely.
She had plugged the laptop directly into the wall outlet. I couldn’t believe it. One year has passed, but it still sticks out in my memory.
Before the babysitter left, I tucked H- in for the night. After paying her and saying, “Thanks again!” I showed her the door and she exited. There was always a peculiar tension to our interactions, likely due to the fact that she was young and happily married and I was divorced and didn’t buy it.
But she had plugged. The laptop. Directly. Into. The wall. Who does this?
Moments like these confirm that I am not meant for marriage.
Did she not know how much a laptop costs? Or how much of me she placed at risk?
Quickly, I double check that, sure enough, the surge protector is on the ground, visible, and within reach of the wall outlet–right where I left it.
But come closer now. There is something else. I want to tell you something that I already feel guilty for sharing. There is a part of a lover that I miss dearly. I don’t hear much discussion of it among the ranks of men, but I find it to be enchantingly erotic.
It is the feel of the tender, meaty flesh of the inside of your upper arms. You only offer it as you lie naked beneath me, having willingly allowed me to push your arms over your head in worship.
Now there is only longing. Longing for my thumb to again devotedly caress the skin that spans from the bones of your wrists to the muscles of your arms as I finally and firmly enclose this part of you in my palm.
Vulnerability, your scent intoxicates!
And what of this confession?
Out doing some last and only minute Christmas shopping. I couldn’t help but notice that in the line ahead was some poor old lady with this disease. Fortunately, for me, the inability to purchase something not on sale isn’t contagious. Or unfortunately.
And she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of Yahweh.”
Cain’s shoulders rose and fell. The deed done, his fight for air was not over. Eve had watched him come to her from the field. He ran at first. He walked the last length before stopping with his face before hers.
The moment was no different than any other for Eve. As long as she could remember she had known precisely how she felt and what she wanted to say, but often, and again on this day, she did not have the words.
Cain slowly regained his breath while he watched Eve walk from tent stake to tent stake. Her course never wavered. She simply would look at Cain then bend down and pull the stake out of the ground. In response, the animal skin previously held taut would slacken. Cain stood still as he watched his mother. When she pulled from the ground the fourth stake, the tent no longer held its shape. But when she grasped the fifth stake, the earth did not release it so easily. She calmly tried again. The land still held tight. Standing up, she looked once more at Cain. Then she pushed her sleeves back and reached down again.
“Stay!” she cried out as Cain began to move towards her.
He obeyed as the wood sliced through her palms, her own blood now adding to the difficulty. Unable to be still any longer he walked towards her. The noise she made was so loud it stopped him. She seemed to break her voice with it. But what he did not expect was the speed and force with which she pushed him back. He looked down and saw two dark hand-prints on his skin. He watched his right thumb raise and slowly smear through her blood. Her rapid, wild strikes against his shoulders then his chest awoke him from contemplation. He did not resist. Only when she wildly began to beat his head did he cover her fists with his own and restrain her.
Then he caught his mother as she collapsed before him in exhaustion. Watery tears fell from her eyes and guttural moans escaped from her mouth. Then she lifted her head towards his. She grasped onto his hair and pulled his ear to her mouth.
“You are Cain. My son.”
“Yes,” I am aware that I am a hypocrite. But “no,” that is not going to deter me from changing my wicked ways and speaking truth to power (that’s right, ladies, you are powerful).
I cannot remember precisely when it began for me, but if I give it a thought, it was probably when I first headed from little pink house-Lenexa to the Rocky Mountains to ski as a teenager. It may have been the drastic difference in how you appeared on the mountain versus how you appeared in the restaurants, that is, the change from puffy snow-pants to form-fitting leggings.
Or maybe it was the cheerleaders’ underskirt attire during cold-weather events. Aren’t cheerleaders the rightful leaders when it comes to fashion?
Whatever it was, as a young man I wasn’t going to say “no”–if you weren’t. More form-fitting clothing, more of the time, I said!
But now, after two or so years of all y’all–no matter how short, tall, fat, or thin–wearing nothing except leggings, I’m telling you it is time to put your pants back on.
Oh, and here’s a tip for the next time this trend surfaces: I maybe could have lasted for a few more months if you wouldn’t have started wearing leggings that have massive patches of fabric missing around your not-naughty bits.
Here’s the tru tru. I have a daughter. As you know, I cannot fight every battle and win the war. So help a brother out! She deserves better from you.
A fellow student in my theology class told me that in his 69 years of existence he’d never encountered hamartiology. My own 34 year old pink body hadn’t either until two weeks ago. Hamartiology is the field of Christian theology which studies sin. Fascinating stuff. How many people even believe in sin anymore? Here in Denver the concept has very little support. I have had several older folks tell me bluntly, “Well, I don’t believe in sin.” Like I said, it’s fascinating. Then this past week we read about atonement and all the different reasons Christian thinkers over the years have deduced the reason for Jesus’ death to be.
As I hope the savvy reader can imagine, there are no clear cut answers. Christians have been doing their best and generally fall into only a handful of categories, but there is no universal agreement. (No surprise here). What was intriguing to me, however, was how integral a person’s concept of sin is to their concept of atonement and why Jesus had to die.
Obviously, I have nothing new to add to the study of sin, but I do have one observation that brings me some hope. One of the books mentioned that sin is both our condition and the result of our condition. We sin because we’re sinners and we’re sinners because we sin. That’s easy enough, nothing new. But then it went on to remind readers that we (humanity) commit sins not just because we’re sinners, but because we’re the recipient of others’ sins as well. For example, I have been living a fairly spartan life these last couple weeks. Early to rise, been memorizing scripture, reading voluminously, no movie/TV-watching etc. Yet I have still been sinning in some very easy to acknowledge acts. Before I read the aforementioned section about being on the receiving end of fellow humans’ sin, I was a bit perplexed. But now I feel like I’ve gained some understanding, or perhaps one more example, of the reality that I cannot ever do it on my own. Theoretically, if I could erase my memory and become a hermit on Mars with no more contact from humans, maybe I could avoid sins of commission. But even then sins of omission would be occurring because I’d be avoiding my purpose.
The point of all this is that hamartiology and the Christian doctrine of sin is the most accurate description of reality/evil I have discovered as of today. Consequently, I believe, like most Christians do, that I am a sinner in need of repentance and that God sent Jesus to die to take my place in order to restore the broken relationship that the first man caused by his sin. Those of you who know the story know that the ironic piece, of course, is that the biblical writers suggest that in my act of recognizing both my status and that there has been a substitution of characters; instead of being punished, I am forgiven. That’s a relief, a veritable un-burdening–especially compared to the sensation that accompanied me while I distorted the reality of sin’s effect on my life.
Oh. What is sin, you ask? What is the root of all sin? It’s the displacement of God from his rightful place.