Tuesday, December 31, 2013

GK Chesterton & George Bernard Shaw in the Movies

 
I'm just putting this up for posterity sake. I found a halfway decent, if small, photo of Chesterton and Shaw on the outdoor set of a test film by J.M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame). They made two short films with Barrie in 1914, but this still photo is all that is known to have survived from either. It was western called How Men Love. (The other film short was called Rosy Rapture, the Pride of the Beauty Chorus.) Below is what Chesterton wrote in his autobiography of the event:

"We went down to the waste land in Essex and found our Wild West equipment. But considerable indignation was felt against William Archer; who, with true Scottish foresight, arrived there first and put on the best pair of trousers … We … were rolled in barrels, roped over fake precipices and eventually turned loose in a field to lasso wild ponies, which were so tame that they ran after us instead of our running after them, and nosed in our pockets for pieces of sugar. Whatever may be the strain on credulity, it is also a fact that we all got on the same motor-bicycle; the wheels of which were spun round under us to produce the illusion of hurtling like a thunderbolt down the mountain-pass. When the rest finally vanished over the cliffs, clinging to the rope, they left me behind as a necessary weight to secure it; and Granville-Barker kept on calling out to me to Register Self-Sacrifice and Register Resignation, which I did with such wild and sweeping gestures as occurred to me; not, I am proud to say, without general applause. And all this time Barrie, with his little figure behind his large pipe, was standing about in an impenetrable manner; and nothing could extract from him the faintest indication of why we were being put through these ordeals."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What I'm Working On

An introduction to a new sci-fi novel coming in 2014

BODE JACK


by CWS

Preface


Stories are like dreams. They fill your head with all sorts of terrific nonsense when they aren't busy scaring the bejesus out of you. I think it must be that the people who have no stories to tell are the same people who cannot remember their dreams. If you ask me, it is a sad misfortune to have a head with no nonsense in it.

Prologue


The Wayfarer came from the lone moon of Venus more than 300 million years in the past, long before there were intelligent life forms to give it a name. His first few thousand years of life were spent inhabiting fish-like creatures on one of the moon’s many far side lakes. The water was highly oxygenated thanks to the lush plant life, though an anoxic environment would have suited him just as well.

He knew nothing of his origins. Like some of the loricifera found on Earth, he had no mitochondria, yet he was not entirely hydrogenosome based. His tiny microscopic body produced energy from various materials found in other living creatures. Strictly speaking, however, he was no parasite. Being mitochondria free, he was a long-liver with a lifespan that might reach billions of years, and as such, had no need to reproduce. In fact, if there were others of his own species, he had never come across one. It’s likely he wouldn’t have known it if he had.

Similar in construct to an amoeba, he had no head, no eyes, no ears—not even a set mouth. Like a millipede, he had several rows of tiny legs that were equally at home walking, climbing, or swimming. Being microscopic in size, he would float on currents of air as easily as waves of a lake until he sensed the warmth of a living creature and would take up residence there, generally entering through the mouth. Once inside, quickly and instinctively he’d find his way to the creature’s cerebral cortex. Using the spines on his legs, he would hook them into various sensory and motor neurons that would transfer electrical sensations to his own brain which, although quite small, was much more complex than any modern scientist could believe to exist in such a tiny creature. Here is where the real living began.

Multicellular life emerged with great rapidity on Venus’ moon due to it’s distance from the sun among a tapestry of other complicated reasons. What took billions of years on Earth happened in less than a hundred million there. The Wayfarer journeyed from creature to creature, living within each, often for many, many years, usually until they died. Then he would move on. While he took up occupancy, their sensory perceptions would become his own. Thus, he saw through their eyes, heard with their ears, experienced taste with their tongues. He lived their existence with them, though never interfering. They were totally unaware of his presence.

This was his normal mode of existence (he could conceive of no other) until, thanks to the sun’s gravitational pull, the moon finally impacted the planet with such great force that it set Venus on it’s odd reverse rotation.

* * *

He was intelligent but did not know it, his reasoning not yet having been put to the test. It was only the first year after his hibernetic journey on a fragment of the moon which hurled itself into the heart of the Earth’s Panthalassic Ocean more than a hundred miles from the western shore of Pangaea. Neither extreme heat nor cold, nor the great collision of the fragment made much of an impression on the sleeping space traveler. Like many microscopic critters, The Wayfarer was indeed hard to kill.

When he first awoke, he found himself floating near the ocean’s surface. Almost a full week would go by before he sensed a tiny bit of warmth emerging from the first cold-blooded creature he physically encountered—a young cladoselache shark. Grasping a gill slit with his many feet, he was able to hitch a ride. Within a day he was safe inside, attached to the shark’s cerebral cortex.

The Wayfarer was pleased to be within such a hardy creature, especially one which would surface from time to time so that he could look beyond the sea to the greater world. He especially liked to view the stars in the early morning hours as the young shark jumped and played in the rushing tides, although he could no longer recognize their patterns from his new outpost in the cosmos.

The shark was nearly four feet in length, very large for the Paleozoic Era. He had few natural predators, or at least, few that could keep up with him provided he saw them first. His main diet consisted of anything that lived in the water and would fit in his mouth. The Wayfarer rather enjoyed the taste of the early proto shrimp and various bony-fishes. The slimy hagfish he could have done without and regularly turned off the sensory receptors in one of his legs responsible for taste information when one of these was consumed. All in all The Wayfarer was contented living vicariously through the shark and did so for many years until a thirty foot dunkleosteus fish came from behind and crushed the cladoselache (who was now quite old) between his powerful jaws. But within the space of an hour The Wayfarer would find his way to the brain of the dunkleosteus and become co-master of the Panthalassa.

He remained an ocean dweller for the next 250 million years living in all kinds of ocean dwelling creatures big and small, even surviving two cataclysmic events nearly 200 million years apart, both of which heated the ocean’s waters to staggering temperatures. But both times he sensed the danger and was able to take up occupancy inside proto shrimp that dove deep down into the vast trench that once ran along the western side of Pangaea (and later Laurasia) where the water stayed cool, each time remaining for hundreds of thousands of years, and then re-emerging to find a vastly different planet with most of its life forms gone.

Finally, one warm, spring day a loon dove into the water and swallowed whole the small bony-fish The Wayfarer was residing in. He had no idea what had swallowed his home, but it took him very little time to get to the loon’s tiny brain, and after the right connections were made he found himself staring down at the Earth 4,000 feet below and immediately knew his time as a water dweller had come to a close.

* * *

There had been no avian life on the moon of Venus, not even flying insects. And while his minuscule body was capable of floating softly on air currents, this was a whole new experience. Whizzing high above the ground at nearly 80 miles per hour, diving into the ocean to grab fish and then upon resurfacing to literally run along the surface of the water for a hundred or two hundred yards before acquiring enough momentum to regain flight, snatching insects right out of midair for a snack—it all seemed impossible. He took great satisfaction living in the loon for several years and would inhabit thousands of other birds before he was done.

At home in the ocean, he had missed the entire era of the dinosaurs, although he viewed them many times from the water near the shore and felt a shiver. There had been nothing on his old moon that could compare in size, strength, and fierceness. At least he didn’t think so, but he couldn’t really remember his old home. His brain and memory were vastly superior to anything on Earth. His neural network could store information literally by stacking atoms along the sides of his body chamber, a bio-electrical wonder. But even a long-liver such as he had only so much storage capacity.

The Wayfarer would spend the next 50 million years within an extremely wide variety of birds and animals of every kind and size while roaming the land mass which would eventually become North America. He came to think of it as home and learned to extract himself from birds when they migrated south for the winter. This was his land now. He had no desire to live anywhere else, even temporarily.

In many ways, each day was the same. Whatever creature he occupied would spend the majority of its time looking for food while trying to avoid being eaten by others. When it wasn’t eating, it was sleeping. Birds were somewhat more interesting in that they built nests for their young and this he found fascinating. Once he spent an entire evening in a tree watching a spider spin a complex and intricate web that filled him with awe. He also found it frustrating because the bird he was taking up space within, and whose eyes he viewed the spider through, would often look away or would look at something else where only a small part of the web was visible from the corner of one eye. The bird wasn’t intelligent enough to be curious about much of anything for long. The Wayfarer never seemed to find another creature as curious as he, and this he found to be a curiosity in itself. But something vastly more astonishing than birds building nests or even spiders spinning webs was about to happen.

It was only 10,000 years ago that the Wayfarer and his bird were perched in a tree when the bird’s ears picked up an extraordinary sound unlike anything either had ever heard. The noise would come in short staccato bursts and in slightly different pitches. It was very peculiar indeed even to the bird who kept his head cocked to one side listening intently. The sound gradually came quicker and louder. Soon the source (or sources) of this sound appeared over the hill to the west, walking on two legs side by side, carrying the carcass of a whitetail deer between them and—talking.

The Paleo-Indians were so vastly different from other animals that creatures would come out of the woods to sit and watch them (they as yet had no reason to fear humans), completely fascinated, especially by their hands.

The Indians sat beside a nearby creek and dressed out the deer. The Wayfarer was entranced with the adeptness of their hands and the stone tools they used to carve and skin the doe. They did something else very odd, something The Wayfarer wouldn’t have believed possible. They started a fire by scraping two stones together to create a spark. Surely these were no ordinary animals! Where did they come from? he wondered.

They cooked and ate the meat, packing away the portion that was left in a deerskin bag. They even wore the skins of animals for clothing. Even their feet were covered in skins. The Wayfarer had a hard time understanding the purpose of this.

One of the Indians began carving on a bone while the other disappeared into the woods and came out again carrying vines. The bones had been used to make fish hooks. After attaching the vines, they used the deer’s liver as fishing bait and sat by the creek making that noise with their mouths again, often showing their teeth at each other—yet they didn’t appear to be angry. The Wayfarer was confused. Why bare your teeth if not to strike terror?

Just then The Wayfarer’s bird flew away, and he would not see another human for more than 2,000 years.

* * *

When The Wayfarer next saw humans again, there were several of them in a pack. He was in the body of a gray wolf that lay on a small plateau overlooking the valley below where they made camp. Some of their young boys were taking turns throwing a long stick with a pointed rock tied to the end, trying to land it in a circle they had drawn in the dirt while the adult men left to hunt and the women built huts of sticks and animal hides.

The Wayfarer would in fact start to see humans with a certain amount of regularity from that time on, always with great interest. He later watched the early mound builders in the central plains, was there when the first bricks and stones were laid in the five story complexes at Chaco Canyon (it amazed him that other native peoples never bothered to copy the stone building technique), saw all kinds of dwellings come and go from teepees to longhouses and partially underground sod homes, watched great Indian nations fight for land and hunting grounds ... and saw the first white men make their entrance from the east.

They came in great wooden vessels across the seas and over several centuries filled the land, blazing paths that would crisscross the continent and eventually give way to concrete and asphalt. They took rock from within the Earth and made iron which they would mold and bend to their heart’s desires. And with iron came the strange houses that belched beautiful billows of white smoke and moved along iron rails and wooden planks. They also made wire and hung it from wooden posts stringing it from coast to coast.

Great and magnificent horses were brought to the land and were used to pull wagons, carts, and plows. (The Wayfarer lived in one for a time, and the farmer’s children would ride upon its back coming home from a hard day’s work in the fields and would pet the animal and give it apples which the Wayfarer greatly enjoyed.)

But the humans were not always peaceful and eventually fought one another in a grand war which left thousands of dead bodies strewn across the land.

With concrete roads came the iron horses. In another 50 years there would be more of them than anyone could imagine running at terrific speeds throughout the entire countryside.

Humans built great domiciles reaching higher and higher until, no longer being satisfied with their connection to the Earth, they made houses that could fly across the skies.

In all this The Wayfarer looked on with astonishment, but something more, almost a kind of reverence. So much so that he never once considered attempting to live in a human. They were in his mind something far above him—a creature to be admired from afar. However, while he could hope to leave one creature and enter a certain other nearby, having no eyes or ears of his own, the animals; birds; and fish he lived in throughout his life were often the result of happenstance. And so it happened that on a warm spring day in 1959, the bluebird he inhabited flew into an open window at St. Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana and into a wall where it died. The Wayfarer would get a ride on a custodian’s sleeve and settle on a bed in the maternity ward where Mrs. Evans would give birth that evening. The Wayfarer had just made his final connections to the newborn’s cerebral cortex when he heard her say, “Bode Jack; his name will be Bode Jack.”

Chapter One....

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remembering Ros


Ros 1961 to 2012

I distinctly remember a friend of mine—a good amateur paleontologist—back in the late 90s talk about going out of town to meet up some like minded people he had met through an internet group. I laughed until I cried. “You’re not actually going to meet a bunch of internet dorks!?”

I still dislike the notion of such a thing. I guess I never considered internet friends to be “real” friends. They were more like acquaintances. And I’ve had many such acquaintances over the years that I’ve met through my YouTube channels and blogging as well as my George MacDonald site. I’ve answered hundreds of emails from George MacDonald fans. But I never once considered having a cup of coffee with anyone I met on the internet. That is, until I met Ros.

Not that it would ever happen. She lived in England, and chances are I would never set foot in Europe, nor she in the States (although I think she did visit the USA once before I met her). Unlike many people I had encountered on the internet, Ros had a less than dorky way about her. She was a very fun loving Catholic girl who enjoyed everything about CS Lewis, and she was in love with the movie Shadowlands. She used the title as her internet handle for blogging. I think she could have watched it every day really. She bought a book I had out about George MacDonald, more of a study guide than anything really, and not a very good one at that. But she wanted to know more about the man who had inspired Lewis.

Ros wrote to me often over the years. She was always very encouraging and often knew just what to say when I was unhappy. She was the embodiment of effervescence. But her happiness came in the face of adversity. Her marriage ended some years ago, and two of her sons had terrible physical problems. Her youngest, who I believe is about 17 now, was homebound, and the doctors didn’t seem to be doing him much good. Then one of her older boys was jumped a couple of years ago and beaten badly one night, suffering horrible head trauma that might afflict him for life.

All this contributed to what Ros called her thorn in the flesh. She began drinking heavily and couldn’t seem to find her way out. I normally wouldn’t talk about this, but it’s on her blog for all the world to see. Rather than hide it, she sought the prayers of those who knew and cared about her. She fought with it and agonized over it daily. I recall at one point she drank in her garden one evening until she passed out and found herself covered with snow the next morning. Her drinking was that bad. I can safely say that I have never met anyone who tried so hard to rid themselves of an addiction. She wondered why God wouldn’t take it from her. It wasn’t for lack of prayers. Nor for lack of good deeds. She worked in homeless shelters and many charitable causes. It was something she couldn’t beat on her own.

Ros would sometimes get flustered with the internet and would sign off for months at a time. I hadn’t heard from her for quite a while though and searched around a bit today to see if anyone else had heard anything only to find out that she died back in September. Her brother left a blog page in tribute to her. He doesn’t mention the circumstances of her death, but those of us who knew her can probably surmise that it was alcohol related.

Why didn’t God take this compulsion to drink away from her? Yes, that’s the question isn’t it. I wonder, did St. Paul take his thorn in the flesh to the grave too? Actually, I imagine he did. One thing I can tell you from the writings of St Paul and St Ros both is that they loved their God in spite of it. Perhaps that's all God is concerned with. Will we, like Job, still love him in spite of our suffering?

Ros once told me that she had dreamed one night that I was standing at her door stoop. In fact, it’s why she read my book. She thought it was a message from God. She figured I was there to help her in some way. I guess it never dawned on her that God would bring me into her life so that she could help me.

I’ve had other “real” internet friends since Ros and will certainly have others. But she remains very special to me. I will be very proud to have a cup of coffee with her in heaven one fine day.

Looking after children at Norfolk County Council

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ordet - A 1955 Carl Dreyer Film

You can watch this film at YouTube (in a 12-part playlist) here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSojSt6Qlew&list=PL86E718012C52C419

And here is a snippet from near the end that I found on YouTube: Warning: This gives away the whole film, so if you think you might want to watch it one day, I would avoid watching this scene.



I've recently discovered the genius of Carl T. Dreyer, a Danish filmmaker who started with silent films in 1918 and made his last in 1964. No matter which of his films you start with, his style of framing and storytelling is unique and was developed early. The first thing you'll likely notice is how much Ingmar Bergman took from him. Their films look very much alike and move with a slow deliberation where the silence is as important as what's being said. "Haste" is simply not in their vocabularies. But where Bergman's films were full of questions, Dreyer's are full of answers.

Dreyer was born a bastard child and initially orphaned before being adopted at the age of two by a Lutheran couple who he felt mistreated him. He was a very bright child, and after taking his school finals at sixteen, he left home and never returned. He found a job as a clerk and after a couple of years managed to find a position as a journalist. In his spare time he wrote film scripts and eventually was hired by Nordisk Films to both write screenplays and to sort through those that were sent in by others. Of course this eventually led to directing.

Despite Dreyer's disdain of his childhood, his Lutheran upbringing seems to have played a very important part in his life, and his religious faith made its way into nearly all of his films. He was a perfectionist and this shows in his films where every shot is just the right shot with just the right lighting, and even his actors in bit-parts were carefully selected. His films were shot mostly in Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. Unfortunately, these were, even in those days, countries with a strong atheistic air that defined the spirit of the age, and thus, many of his films were considered flops. After German audiences laughed at his only horror film—Vampyr—Dreyer had a breakdown, checked himself into a clinic in Paris, and quit the cinema for a number of years, returning to journalism. He gradually got back into filmmaking with mostly documentary shorts throughout most of the 1940s and then went on to make two of his best films, Ordet in 1955 and Gertrud in 1964. It wouldn't be until after his death in 1968 that much of the rest of the world would discover his films and appreciate the underlying warmth of the message they contained.

Carl Dreyer's movies are in my opinion among the best of all-time and well worth seeking out. He wrote some 49 scripts; several, especially among the earlier ones, were made into films by other directors. He directed only 14 features and 8 shorts himself:

The President (Denmark, 1919)
Leaves From Satan's Book (Denmark, 1921)
The Parson's Widow (Sweden, 1921)
Love One Another (Germany, 1922)
Once upon a Time (Denmark, 1922)
Michael (Germany, 1924)
Master of the House (Denmark, 1925)
The Bride of Glomdal (Norway, 1926)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (France, 1928)
Vampyr (France/Denmark, 1932)
Good Mothers (Denmark, 1942) short
Day of Wrath (Denmark, 1943)
Two People (Sweden, 1945)
Water from the Land (Denmark, 1946) short
The Danish Village Church (Denmark, 1947) short
The Fight against Cancer (Denmark, 1947) short
They Caught the Ferry (Denmark, 1948) short
Thorvaldsen (Denmark, 1949) short
The Storstrøm Bridge (Denmark, 1950) short
A Castle Within a Castle (Denmark, 1954) short
Ordet (Denmark, 1955)
Gertrud (Denmark, 1964)

Probably among the best of these are Leaves from Satan's Book, Love One Another, Michael, Master of the House, The Passion of Joan of Arc (often referred to as his masterpiece), Day of Wrath, and Ordet (which means "The Word" in English).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Are You Ready?"

I wonder how many times I heard that sentence in church growing-up. Today when we say Evangelical we generally think of non or inter-denominational churches, and there are a ton of them. But when I was a kid there weren’t many independent churches, and the closest thing to an Evangelical was a body of churches that usually referred to themselves as Pentecostal. (That’s "Pennycostal" when you’re 10 though.) There was, and is, an actual denomination called the "Pentecostal Church," but the Assemblies and Church of God among others also referred to themselves as a Pentecostal "type" of church, basically meaning that they all believed in the "gifts of the spirit" such as healing and speaking in tongues and so forth. The Baptists were very much out of the same mold minus the gifts thing.

Pentecostals were very big on asking people if they were ready to die. "Where would you go? Are you right with Jesus? Will you make it into Heaven? Do you have that blessed assurance?" Pentecostal church meetings always were a bit of a cliché-fest I’m afraid. Personally, I felt like I was born ready. I always felt that death would be a homecoming of sorts long before anybody told me so. I simply didn’t, and still don’t, fear death at all. But when I was younger there was a part of this equation I was missing.

Now you would think that the Pentecostals, the people who have pushed this "Where would you go tonight if you died?" business the longest, would be the most fearful of death and all the fiery trappings of Hell that go along with that message. Not so. The Catholics are so afraid of death that they invented Purgatory just in case they needed one last chance to get their act together.

The fact is that most people fear death more than words can say. They don’t even want to talk about it. They don’t need any reminders that they’re going to die one day. Most people don’t want to know when their time is coming. They’d sooner be surprised by a conk on the head from a falling meteorite and never know what hit them. But there are some who do in fact know when their time is up and are given a specific time table in which to "get their affairs in order." I find these people ultimately die the best deaths. They’ve made their peace with God and the world. I wonder if this is God’s way of telling us that there is no Purgatory and that those who would have needed a second chance there are getting it now by way of the knowledge that their deaths are imminent?

My dad used to tell a story about a man named Carl who worked on the railroad in East St. Louis during the first half of the 20th century. It was one of those stories about the fragility of life. The story goes that one day Carl was doing some kind of work on a the hitch of a train car. Train yards are usually very noisy environments and he couldn’t hear that the rest of the train behind him was backing up to connect with the car he was working on. It connected right through his mid-section. Amazingly he was still alive and conscious. A doctor was called. He said that there was nothing he could do. The man would soon bleed to death. And when they unhitched the car from the train it would only serve to quicken the man’s death since the gaping hole left behind would cause much of his insides to come pouring out along with more blood, and he would die almost instantly.

They called Carl’s wife and told her the situation, and that she had better get down there quick with the children if they wanted to say goodbye. And this she did. Of course they called his church pastor as well. The preacher said a prayer and Carl’s family kissed him farewell. The man in charge of the train yard asked him if he was ready. Carl said, "Go ahead," and they unhitched the car. He fell down and died. I guess Carl was ready.

Two weeks ago I was with a group of people, some were friends, other I didn’t know, trying to get a big house ready for a wedding as well as for the homecoming of the bride’s father. Kevin was in his last stage of cancer and it took a ventilator to keep him alive. But he wasn’t ready to die just yet. He wanted to see his daughter get married first. The following Saturday he did just that.

It was a happy event. It was a sad event. That night at the reception, everybody’s cell phones started ringing with the message that Kevin’s dad, in his 80s and in a nursing home, died unexpectedly. And Kevin had made arrangements to be taken off life support the next day himself. He got to see his daughter get married first, but also knew he and his dad were suddenly going to be dying a day apart. Despite his having been ready to go, it didn’t stop his little girl from having the saddest honeymoon of all-time with her father and grandfather both dying within 24-hours of the wedding.

Kevin was Catholic, but he didn’t need any Purgatory. He was ready. What does it really mean to be ready? Is there ever any really getting right with God? I doubt it very much. It’s mostly about getting right with our enemies. If we forgive others, God forgives us. Christianity is 90% forgiveness. No amount of prayers or kissing our loved ones goodbye will make us ready to meet our Maker. But can you love your enemy as much as you love yourself? Can you go through life without bitterness toward those who have harmed you and wish them the best? God doesn’t care much about all your accomplishments in business, art, sports, or anything else in life. There’s only one area he demands any real achievement in. It’s all about forgiveness.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Faithless

I watched a well made film today about, of all things, vampires. I dislike everything about the subject of vampires for the most part and avoid books and movies about them like I avoid taxes. I happened onto it by accident really. It was called Let the Right One In. It’s a Swedish film directed by Tomas Alfredson (who also directed last year’s box office and critical success, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and written by fellow Swede John Ajvide Lindqvist. Let the Right One In is about a boy, Oskar, and a girl, Eli, both 12-years of age. The boy is bullied in school and an outcast. When the girl moves in next door, he finally has a friend, but he has no idea that she’s a vampire or that her father has to go out at night to procure victims for her, bringing home their blood in a jug. In one scene, after her father fails to bring home provisions, she has to go out and do it herself. After lying under a bridge pretending to need help, a man comes to her rescue and she kills him, draining his blood. Then she sits over him and weeps for having done it. She almost seems to have a conscience at times. Later, however, she thinks nothing of taking the blood of her dying father after he tries to commit suicide. She then lets his body fall from his hospital window and watches with no emotion as he hits the ground several floors below. Eli is as hot and cold as it gets.


I routinely rate movies and other artwork by content and style. I’m now realizing that this is a flawed rating system. This film has plenty of style. The cinematography is quite good though dark and brooding, and the acting is pretty good considering how young most of the talent is. The content is strange and otherworldly, certainly unlike any other vampire film. Most people would say it’s not a vampire film at all. It’s a movie about the love between a boy and a girl who just happens to be a vampire. But style and content aside, something is missing.

While we’re still children, our lives are all about emotion, not so different from a dog or a cat except we express it differently. We generally don’t give too much thought to God or metaphysical ideas as children even if we go to church regularly. Kids are too busy having fun, or trying to have it. They live to make themselves happy and darn little else. A child mostly alternates between being very happy, very sad, very angry, or very afraid. Those are the four chief emotions of childhood. Even love is just something to make us happy. There’s seldom any real altruism in children. They only give in order to get. If we have someone to teach us about Jesus, then hopefully we’ll grow-up to be altruistic people with well balanced emotions of nearly every kind (at least every kind worth having). A child can get very sad, but seldom do they get extremely depressed to the point of hopelessness because they know they still have their whole lives in front of them and anything can happen. But if we don’t get any kind of spiritual training as children, we run the risk of having severe bouts of depression during our adult years. Life can at times seem very bleak to someone without a God, especially as he/she gets older. They no longer have the bulk of their lives in front of them, and soon they run out of hope.

This is what I see in so many Swedish films. So many Russian films. And the past couple of decades in British films. There’s very little belief in God in those countries. And there’s an undeniable bleakness in most of their art. This is not a coincidence. We were born to seek out the face and favor of God just as a tree stretches higher and higher to the sun all its days. A tree knows there’s nourishment in the suns rays. All it’s hope is in that sun, balanced of course with small amounts of rain and earth. Likewise there’s a nourishment to a human’s existence that only comes from fellowship with God. Christians talk about spiritual growth. God’s spirit flows to us and through us like the sun’s rays to a tree. Without it life is very bleak indeed. Man does not live by bread alone. He needs something to nourish his spirit as well as his body.

In watching Swedish films or listening to Swedish music, not only do I see that bleakness, I see people acting like automatons. Their musicians just go through the motions as though they’re painting by numbers. There’s no heart in their songs because there’s no God in their hearts.

We who live in nations that are primarily Christian produce most of the world’s greatest art and always have. Again, this is no coincidence. We know the purpose of life and live to fulfill it. That extreme happiness, sadness, anger, and fear we wallowed in as children becomes tempered as we grow-up by faith, hope, and love as St. Paul says. But there’s also a fourth item just as important, and that’s forgiveness. To forgive and to be forgiven is the key ingredient in all spiritual growth. Sometimes when people say they forgive someone, they may still look askance at them as if to say, “I forgive you, but I’ll never trust you.” That’s not real forgiveness. God’s eyes are not leery. Neither should ours be. But I don’t want to turn this into a sermon on forgiveness.

I want to end this little sermonette with a song from Ireland—one of the few remaining countries in Europe that still has a large amount of Christian believers. It was written by Francis McPeake around 1950 and is called properly “Wild Mountain Thyme.” (It sometimes goes by other names like “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” or “Bloomin’ Heather.”) McPeak’s song was largely inspired by a much earlier poem from Robert Tannahill, but McPeake took it to a different place. (He was Presbyterian I believe.) It may look merely like a song about romantic love, and that’s no doubt what Francis meant it to be. But like so much that comes from the art of the Irish, you can’t help but feel something of God in it too. And isn’t that as it should be? Shouldn’t the spirit of God permeate everything we do, even without us thinking about it? I often find myself singing this song at work when no one’s around, and I re-imagine it as God singing it to us the way the “Song of Solomon” is so often said to be a poem about the love of God for the church. Can you not see the Lord with his hand extended saying, “Will ye go?”



Wild Mountain Thyme

O the summer time is comein'
And the trees are sweetly bloomin'
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the bloomin' heather.
Will ye go, lassie, go?

And we'll all go together,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

I will build my love a tower
By yon clear crystal fountain,
Aye an' on it I will build
All the flowers of the mountain.
Will ye go, lassie, go?

And we'll all go together,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

If my true love she were gone,
I would surely find another,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

And we'll all go together,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Response to Thoughtlessness (or—The Atheist Mind)

The following is an excerpt taken from the transcripts of a lecture given by the famous philosopher, Mr. Billy Brightish, at the equally famous policy institute, WHATTHINKUM U, in the great Southwestern village of Albuquirky. The extract actually comes from the question/answer portion at the end of the talk (but before the widely reported police intervention) when one particular young man (and aren't they always young) came to the mic to challenge Mr. Brightish. The lecture presented an analytical breakdown of the spurious inferences and irrational suppositions of the atheist mind presented in its varied art forms today with a particular emphasis on television and film.

"You in the pink muscle-shirt and sandals. What is your question?"

Q: Sir, I'd like to know what gives you the right to criticize writing in film, television, or anywhere else? It's interesting to me when people who don't work in a particular field criticize the craftsmanship of an artist.

A: Hmm...(pause). I fail to see anything at all interesting in it. I don't make cars, but, like most people, I can easily tell you everything that's wrong with mine. I'm not a barber, but, I know perfectly well when my hair is cut right or when it's uneven; when it's been left too long or cut too short. You don't seem to know this, but I actually am an author. It wouldn't matter, however, if I was not. I would still be a conversationalist. I have thoughts and theories. I'm a philosopher. I'm a metaphysician. I'm a logician. I'm a dreamer. I am every man. And like most men, I know poor dialog when I hear it or see it. I know poor logic, poor sentence structure, whining, cliché's, theoretical impracticalities, a priori arguments, baseless conjecturing, opinions established on mere sentiment along with the vulgar sophistry that is so much a part of the atheistic mindset in the world of art.

Picasso used a fair amount of symbolism in his work. Unfortunately, his paintings and sculptures seldom said anything when reconstructed. Even a poor logician like Freud would agree that sometimes a nude is just a nude and a beggar just a beggar. Unless a work of art tells a story, it fails as art, but may please as mere esthetic. I find over and over that atheist artists either fail to say anything useful, or they say something worse than useless, and that is an untruth.

Let us consider the recent web series The Confession. You may think important questions are asked in the show. I say that the queries are childlike and the responses inconsiderate. Our doltish gunman played by Kiefer Sutherland posed a surmisal a few episodes back that came wrapped in the kind of irreality this series will be known for (if it's to be known for anything at all) when he suggested, no—declared—that there were more murders done in the name of religion that anything else. Even during the crusades Christians only killed 100,000—a drop in the bucket compared to atheists. Atheists have killed more people during the past hundred years than all the religions of the world combined during the past two thousand. Mao killed 70 million; Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev killed 66.7 million; Brezhnev 900,000; Mussolini 300,000; Pol Pot 1,700,000 for starters.

Q: People do not kill in the name of atheism. If an atheist communist kills a large number of people, he did not kill them because he was an atheist but because of ideologies.

A: What's in a name? How about if I say they kill in the spirit of atheism? What all those mass murderers had in common was atheism and Social Darwinism. Genocide is the logical outcome of Social Darwinism carried out to its conclusion. I've yet to see a genocidal Social Darwinist who was not an atheist. Some might argue that Hitler was one, but I would counter with the fact that he would claim to be a Pagan to one group of people and a Christian to another group down the road. It seems fairly obvious to me that he didn't really believe in anything but his own selfish desires.

Q: But atheism is not a belief. It doesn't tell you what is right or wrong, it doesn't have a moral conduct, and it doesn't tell you how to live your life. It is ONLY a rejection of a specific belief.

A: I disagree. It is no mere a negation. The only people it isn't a belief for are those who have never heard of it, nor of concepts of God. That might entail a few tribesmen in a remote village who have had no contact with the rest of the world. A person like that can be an atheist without knowing it. It's doubtful, however, that this would include anyone anywhere since every single known language in the history of the world has a word for God. At any rate, for anyone who has heard of a God concept, atheism is of course a choice, and you cannot make a choice without forming an opinion, which in this case is what you mean when you say belief.

Further, atheism is the worship of self. Its code of conduct is selfishness. And this is why every single known genocidal Social Darwinist has been an atheist. Both ideologies are completely egocentric.

You also cannot be an atheist without being an adherent of naturalism, empiricism, and humanism among other cockamamie beliefs. Atheism is an entire belief system. Naturalism, incidentally, makes no room for free will. And of course, since free will is obvious to all mankind, atheism is foolishness. Or do you really think that the reason people all over the world stop at a red light is because the random particles of the universe just happened to make them all do this?

Q: "It is an absolute failure of logic at best to suggest atheism kills people."

A: Atheism is a worship of self interest at the expense of all others. It's a philosophy that says, "Do what thou wilt." It's a philosophy that says, "Nothing matters." It's a philosophy that says, "There are no consequences for my actions." Atheism is nothing short of a recipe for murder and insanity.

Q: "I suggest you have an irrational hatred of atheism."

A: This is the way a child argues. He lies. He calls dislike—hate. He calls the rational—irrational. And it's exactly what I expect from an atheist. Atheism is the most childish and thoughtless of all metaphysical suggestions. It abhors science, and it abhors reason. Therefore it must lie to make even an artificial point.

Q: "Claiming atheists kill more people than anyone else is equivilant to...."

A: I gave a verifiable list of genocidal events carried out by atheists that amounted to well over a 100-million murders in the last hundred years alone. If there is a similar verifiable list of anywhere near that amount in a hundred year period pertaining to a religious person or group, I've never come across it, and you haven't offered one. Is there any chance you'll say something truthful at some point?

Q: "Social Darwinism is directly contrary to evolution"

A: Hogwash. Evolution is about natural selection in conjunction with survival of the fittest, part of which is the fighting to the death of organisms and animals. A Cuckoo Bird pushes eggs from other birds such as Warblers, out of their nests, and places her own eggs in it. After the chick hatches, it will push any remaining eggs and/or hatched Warbler chicks out of the nest and then spend its remaining days, before fledgling, imitating the call of Warbler chicks so that the Warbler parent will feed it. This kind of killing is a part of Darwinism. This is exactly what Social Darwinists do.

Q: How'd you like me to kill....

End of extract.