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 don’t post as much as I used to. My studies have kind of skerred me away from writing anything which carries an implicit, “If you only read what I write about Scripture THEN you’ll understand it.” For I cannot see how most theological writing is any different than every poor soul who does willfully add their own writings to Scripture. However, I still love reading and writing (am into some Robert Louis Stevenson at the moment), so I’ve decided to go a different route. To challenge myself literarily and spiritually, I am going to re-write some Old Testament stories that have caught my attention.
To be clear, what follows are totally for enjoyment. There is no added value or significant meaning. It just helps me to remember Scripture if I can discern between something that is not Scripture and the real deal. To begin, because a friend of mine has me re-examining the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis, I am going to see if I can re-write it five times–each in a distinct genre. As “fabulism” or “post-modernism” or what I think is just as aptly labeled “anything goes” is essentially the latest genre to emerge–certainly not present in Moses’ mind–I will start there. Enjoy.
she was not quite awake as he pawed her legs apart dawn had not yet broke they were alone somewhere in the middle of another barren land where the few nearby leaves rustled she soon caved to his passion it frightened her she bit his lip and was rewarded she bit harder he responded harder he slowly twisted her long hair around his hand and suddenly jerked her head back roughly she dug her fingernails into his back seeking blood in return he leaned his face towards hers again he held his foul breath in and by this she could tell he was close she bit his lip almost clean off as he finished tasting his blood he recoiled and instinctively smacked her hard seeing only the shadow of him through her own dark arms she screamed with sheer terror he had only witnessed such fear once before and that time he didn’t stop on this morning something was different on this morning he stayed his fist then his hands favored her soft chest to the hard ground and he squeezed violently one last time before he pressed himself to his feet food he thought catching his breath he walked towards his fruitless garden in the morning darkness
i do remember said abel i remember yahweh looked well upon my offering and did not look well upon yours then cain said i heard the voice of yahweh he spoke to me then abel said what did he say then cain said yahweh said to me if you do well then your face will be lifted up but if you do not do well sin is crouching at your door it wants to devour you you must rule over it then abel said to cain what are you going to do
the distant thunder slowly rolled closer as if weary from the journey as cain tore into the flesh of his brother abel and the blood of abel began to mix with his sweat on his skin and the thunder grew in speed and strength only yahweh saw everything but had you been there had the skies not become as night you might have seen that it was precisely when the first blood of abel landed on the earth that the deafening thunder clap stopped the intoxicated fury for one moment cain cowered in fear but abel was already asleep then cain completed his murderous act with renewed heart and vowed to never be interrupted again
cain wrapped his cloak around him as he sat alone on the side of the rocky mountain cain gazed far beyond where the heavens touched the earth the wind squinted the eyes of cain and then yahweh said to cain where is abel your brother cain was still as the mountain he sat upon then cain said i do not know am i my brothers keeper
then cain said to his wife who was with child there is no more food here
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.
Today my pizza delivery adventures took me (on a delivery) to a hospital with an automated, high-tech, and brisk revolving door. *I think* this sign is supposed to warn parents that the unmanned, potentially lethal object (UPLO) may not “see” children as surely as it does us big people.
But I also couldn’t help notice that this sign looks like the famous scene from the Sistene Chapel–if viewed through the eyes of the pizza-loving, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Michelangelo.
From Star Wars Episode VII until Logan, I had determined, for spiritual reasons, to not watch any movies. That’s fourteen months of no movies. While I do confess that several times during those months, I told folks, “If it gets solid reviews, I’ll go see it,” no solid reviews came in for those films. Finally, my childhood hero, Wolverine, seemed to rise to the occasion. Rated-R Adamantium claws and solid reviews? How could I resist?
Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to fully “escape” anymore–darn you, books!
By my thinking Logan normalized the act of harpooning little girls through the chest on screen and also advocated lying to children if it keeps them hopeful while the world falls to shit. No thank you, Hollywood. As Colonel Nathan R. Jessup once said, “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to (censored) extend me some courtesy.” Do we really need to see a bloody (red-not-British) harpoon point sticking out of a little girl’s chest to be entertained? Fool-ish-ness.
Then, as if I needed another reason to not visit the cineplex again, I resumed reading some Tolstoy short fiction and came across a story called, “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” It’s a brief account of a wrongfully convicted man spending his adult life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And while in prison he finally meets the real killer, who proceeds to try to escape by digging out, little by little, and dumping the sand from his pockets onto the prison yard. Upon light investigation, sho’ ’nuff the internet tells me I’m not the first to notice that Shawshank Redemption totally ripped off Tolstoy.
So I’m back on the movie fast. Twenty-eight plus years of staring at screens. And for what? What a waste.
I fought in Iraq.
Not often, but sometimes while I was there I felt a unique-to-me sensation which I later determined to be my body’s response to feeling afraid-for-my-life. For me, this kind of fear feels similar to run-o-the-mill crying. But whereas everyday crying feels localized to my face and eyes, afraid-for-my-life doesn’t leave any part of me untouched–plus it is many times more intense. Put another way, I might say crying cuts like a scalpel, afraid-for-my-life cuts like a semi-truck.
That said, as I keep reading about these attacks, I hear the interstate. What about you?
Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough to see what is going on. It’s not that difficult. If you can read, you can get it.
Here’s what I could track down as the formal response of some of the West’s leaders. One formal statement is different from the others. Can you discern whose it is and how it is difference? Or do you need pictures?
Germany – Merkel: “We have to assume it was a terrorist attack.”
Russia – Putin: “This is a shockingly cruel and cynical crime committed against peaceful civilians.”
America – Trump: “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin.”
America – White House Spokesman: “…we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”
Poland – Szydlo: “…with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen..”
London – Khan: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the awful suspected attack on Berlin last night…”
Can anyone explain to me what Khan means by “suspected”? Does he not know what “an attack” is? Does he not know that even if it turns out to be the equivalent of a Columbine or Sandy Hook mass-murder that it is still an attack? Is he really asking us and expecting us to withhold forming an opinion?
What about you? Are you with Khan? Am I being silly? Does he seem reasonable to you? Should we put our ability to match like-with-like on hold? Also, who is he praying to? Allah? The same god that the “suspected” attacker prayed to? How does that work?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is only path to victory. For H-‘s sake, do not believe the lie that the war is against flesh and blood.
Our God’s Word–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who loved the world so much He sent His son Jesus the Christ to die for us and whom He resurrected on the third day, this God and no other–could not be clearer: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Do not send our children to fight flesh and blood. Instead, turn off the television and fulfill your calling and proclaim the Gospel. In our day this looks like ensuring and insisting the people in your life know that Our God is not their god. This begins with you knowing this is the case. Do you know this? Do you know our God? Do you know Jesus? Really know Him? If you have any doubt, then track down a “Christian” and ask them to remind you what the Gospel is. If they don’t seem to know, or if what they say doesn’t sound like good news, thank them for their time and find another one. (Christian churches are a good place to start…)
The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,
“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”
(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).
Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)
I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.
On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.
And I am confused these days.
See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.
By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.
There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.
I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”
Cars have neutral. People–not so much.
You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.
I’m wearing down. I’ve been studying Hebrew nearly all day. I figure I have one more round of flashcards in me after I write this. Then the big final is in the morning.
This wraps up my third semester of studying ancient biblical languages (though, unlike Koine Greek, Hebrew is alive and well). I love it. Really, I do. I even switched my degree program and concentration so that I take more languages. But I have one big beef with the way the material is being presented. Often times we are told something like, “So because of this, then, we know we’re working with a nominative noun, and that’s how we know he meant ‘ship’.” Or what have you.
That’s flatly wrong. Grammar does not give words their meaning, we do. Grammar is a tool we invented to help communicate meaning, but at the end of the day, we give words their meaning–you and I.
Words are not transcendent. They are here. They are mine and they are yours. They are me. They are you.
Do you understand my words?
We are each responsible for our words’ meaning. It’s not like there are a bunch of words floating around and we just grab them out of the air and order them in some aurally or visually pleasant manner–no. We have something to say (or not) and then we begin to utter the words within us. Where do we get new words? People. How do we know what the new words mean? People tell us.
Looking for fun in unexpected places? Join me in telling “men of letters” that they give their words meaning. Sheesh. It’s like I was arguing for flat earth or something. It is quite frustrating. The more “educated” someone is, the more they desire, perhaps unwittingly, to turn words into numbers. Folks want each word to mean one thing and only one thing. This desire and the attempt to manifest the desire is selfish. By calling it selfish, I do mean to communicate clearly that I believe it is downright evil.
To be sure, if you’re ever confused about what I meant, just ask. I will tell you what my words mean. If I’m confused and ask what you meant, then you tell me what your words mean. This back and forth is called talking.
Welcome to Erff.
H- answered, “Officer Judy is from Zootopia.”
“Zootopia, eh? When were you watching that?”
“So you wake up early enough to watch movies before school when you’re at your mom’s?” I asked.
“I wake up when my alarm goes off.”
“What time does your alarm go off?”
“I go down stairs and eat breakfast and then I change clothes.”
“You change clothes downstairs? Why downstairs?”
“Well, my mom throws down my clothes, and then I put them on and watch tv until it’s time to go.”
“I see. Where is your mom while you are watching tv?”
“She’s upstairs with C-.”
“Oh,” I said, cutting myself off quickly. Unable to resist the pull to follow inquiry further, I rejoined with, “What is she doing with him?”
“I think they play with each other.”
“Hmm. What do you mean? Like play games? Maybe play video games?”
“No,” she held the note, “not video games.”
“I don’t think I understand, H-. What are they playing?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
As if Truth’s gateway, the rear-view mirror reflected that her searching eyes did not notice mine.
Finding no satisfaction, H- concluded, “More like wrestling, I think. I don’t have the word.”