January 29th, 2018
Wormwood sat in his office with a Cheshire cat grin on his face and his shiny black shoes resting on the desk with hands folded behind his head. He looked out his bay window at all the new recruits for demonhood. He could at last, after a long distinguished career, feel satisfied. When the book about his early life, The Screwtape Letters, was written, he was a novice still only ranked a demon. The book had been a huge success and he was even nominated for an Ignoble Prize for Chaos. He had used this to launch his career which has taken him to the very depths of Hell. They even gave him a new depth which greatly disturbed Lucifer. But all Lucifer could do was stand by aghast as he received full partnership and ownership of the Company.
He had not just stopped with the Company. He had created his own universities. They taught creative classes such as Cubicles: Our island paradises, Facebook where your life never measures up, and Now that Corporations are People. Lucifer had thought that the modern times would destroy evil but he was wrong; it offered the chance to create alternative realities, fake news, and artificial intelligences. If humans ever crossed paths with their souls they would not see it as a reality. This was Lucifer’s lack of vision and this was my opening to leave him in the dustbin of history.
Certainly he had learned a few tricks from Lucifer. He was a great salesman. He could convince you an armed missile was a Peacemaker. He learned from Lucifer that all you needed to sell something to people were a few tricks. Number one was if you tell them it is new and about progress, they almost became insanely blind to its flaws. Take the internet. It gave the promise to an equality of access to information but hidden in it was the redefining of what a friend was. It also allowed communication anywhere anytime. He smiled: including family time. But with all the communication came the need to communicate with everyone everywhere. And now emotional pain was expressed with emoticons, which created the paradox that there was more communication but at the same time there was less. I love paradoxes, he thought.
The most humorous part to him was that the internet had paved the way for sex without the touch of another human being. He thought that one of the greatest paradoxes. Certainly masturbation had always been around but now it was becoming, with the internet, the major form of sex. Relationships were too hard (excuse the pun) but the internet brought all sorts of varieties and possibilities; it made it feel like you were having real sex. But of course he had to be careful with this because he did need the human beings to continue to breed so he would have another generation to please.
What had made all these thoughts come crushing in today: he was to receive the lifetime Achievement Award for General Destruction of the Fabric of the Community. This was one of the most satisfying awards as it was given by your peers only once a millennium. Lucifer had won all the others and now he would be able to look down from the stage and give Lucifer a condescending look. That was going to be great. He was expected to give an academic acceptance speech. He had settled on exploring the question of the Problem with Pain. Pain was the main thing that could alert people to life. Pain was a reminder of all the good things that life gave you. Many assumed it was a tool of the devil and he declared it was not and he should know. People could trudge through life without ever thinking of their good health, good minds, good relationships, and so forth. But let a loved one die and they suddenly awaken to all the relationships they cherish and need to nurture. In pain questions begin to be asked: what is life about? What really matters? These were never good questions for the hell on earth we want to create. The best thing for an up and coming demon was for their clients to never think of death.
Sweat shops need to be in third world countries, far away from the buyers’ eyes. Weapons of mass destruction need to be able to travel great distances so that their destruction could not be seen in person. The further removed the consequences of your actions from the deeds the better. So hide growing old in removed nursing homes and facelifts.
Wormwood stirred from his deep thought. His administrative assistant was buzzing him on the phone. “The man who wants help in promoting the twenty-four hour War Channel is here.” Ah, painless and clueless and make the unheard of evils of war commonplace and we win. Wormwood chuckled to himself as he rose to greet his visitor. “You are doing such a good thing for the world.” He thought to himself: life keeps getting better and better.
Old Woman and the River
She was the daughter of a steamboat captain in an age when the steamboat was more a novelty as much as it was a necessity. She grew up in a river town in the middle class lifestyle of a steamboat captain. Her father, who was her hero, was gone for long stretches of time steering his steamboat up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This lifestyle of the wanderer who gathered at the river would also become a marker for her own life.
Audrey was the first Unitarian Universalist minister I would know well. She had worked as an environmentalist advocate and teacher before she accepted the call of the ministry. She specifically accepted a call to Savannah, a river town. Her call on the outside looked a little peculiar. She was not a people person. She was more comfortable alone. So she did not visit the sick or new prospects. Once she met a parishioner in her condo parking lot and they realized they lived in the same complex. She made it clear to the parishioner that under no circumstances would she be having lunches with her. The parishioner was bemused since the subject was not brought up. She was one of those folks who liked people better in the abstract but not so much in the reality.
She married a man very much her senior. He and Audrey met on a Sierra Club outing in 1966 and were married by the Rev. Berkeley Blake on a mountain top in Ojai, CA. He would live on the West Coast while she worked on the East Coast. This would be their relationship for fourteen years. It was a relationship much like her father and mother’s. In fact her mother would live with her husband on the West Coast while she was away.
She was a minister who obviously struggled with preaching as she reported spending inordinate amounts of time in preparation of her sermons. The time was, as far as one could see, not spent in the struggle of the Garden of Gethsemane but in the struggle of a perfectionist. This would make one think she was a great preacher. But to most this was not the case. Her sermons often rambled to nowhere in particular. Sometimes in the rambling a profound point would be made but more often this was not the case.
But what she seemed best at was presence at the breaches of society. She loved humanity in the abstract but advocated for humanity and the world by being present. She was the only lead woman minister in the city. She attended and helped start a women’s ministerial support group. She advocated for causes such as HIV\AIDS services, poverty programs and the like. Her greatest accomplishment was in 1990; her presence and efforts helped to form the Interracial Interfaith Community of Savannah. It was a group that offered conferences that brought the community together to speak about racism in all its verities. It was indeed in its make-up interracial and interfaith a thing regretfully not seen much in the world. Her presence in the community brought recognition and a good reputation for caring for the congregation.
Under her pastorate the congregation grew slowly. It also reclaimed the historic Unitarian Universalist Church that had been lost as the abolitionist church disbanded before the Civil War. But she also attracted social activists to whom the old timers had a hard time adjusting. This would later cause a conflict within the church.
Audrey returned to their home place in Santa Paula upon her retirement in 2004.It was here many years before that she had been an environmentalist advocating for the Santa Clara River. It was under siege and she and others plead the case for the river and won. Once back she discovered again this land she lived in was under attack by ‘progress’. She spoke to the local commissioners, stating how the Sierra Club wanted to make the Santa Clara River accessible to all. She said,” Life right here is deeply restorative. We need to reflect how we are one species among many to be awed how we are a part of something so much larger than ourselves that this watershed and floodplain eons in the making will survive us, that we are part of this timelessness. We human beings need this and it is right here.”
In these words you can hear the Steamboat Capitan and the Old Woman of the River speak. Her words and her life as all others before her and after her continue rolling in the river of life.
The Geese Apocalypse
I seem to be the only one aware of it. Other people are not like me and have not had the veil lifted from their eyes. They are paranoid of Putin, Trump, or apes. But the truth is it has always been geese who are our greatest threat. Geese assume a timid pose to us humans but it is only a cover. A quick review of the Wikipedia entry for Canadian geese reveals the truth if you know how to read. Canadian is a misnomer to distract you from the fact that they have established themselves throughout the world. Europe, Siberia, New Zealand, Argentina, and other places. They strangely (not so strange if you know they are taking the world over) have established a permanent home in the Research Triangle and the Chesapeake Bay (that is right they have established permanent homes near our nation’s capital). These geese no longer migrate even though their propaganda would have us think otherwise. They also have permanent homes in China and Russia. No these geese fly missions, not migrate, over the whole world and have permanent homes in strategic areas. Geese have taken down our best fighter jets. Geese have poisoned our water through their manure.
Full grown geese have no natural predators. No they are the predator. Their children are indoctrinated into a military mindset at an early age. You have seen them goose stepping in straight lines behind their leaders. Cute and cuddly you may think but try to get next to one and face the fury of an adult goose. You will retreat fast. The geese population is increasing; in twenty years they have increased by over ten times. Which means in another twenty years they will number a sleek V-flying war machine of over 50 million geese.
But they are not merely preparing themselves for battle, they are passing laws. While they take down our jets, poison our waters, goosestep, fly freely throughout every nation’s airspace, they have lobbied governments so that we can only defend ourselves against them a few weeks a year. They have legally tied our hands while the NRA has crowed about a need for no gun control laws.
You may ask, how did I become so aware of the goose agenda? It was a beautiful sunny day at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. I was with my family walking around the cemetery which used to be a park for humans but now geese proudly held forth tolerating the humans. Many humans were there, having to serve food to these geese to keep them appeased. It was their land now but I had not quite realized it. These thoughts are all made in hind sight before my eyes were wide open.
I was walking around the lake with my child’s hand in mine. We were bonding and enjoying the previously mentioned beautiful day. A goose approached us menacingly. I told my son not to worry, if we kept walking he would eventually leave us alone. The goose kept coming; it was now biting at my heels. My son was worried, but he had complete faith in me. I was his hero. We had gone on for fifteen yards and the goose had no let up with its hissing and nipping at my heels. I looked at my son and said all you have to do is turn around and stomp the ground at the geese and they will flee. ‘Watch,’ I said. I turned to stomp my feet. But as I turned the goose had had enough of me; he flew hissing with wings spread wide at my face. I was stunned and took a step back holding my son’s hand firmly. But when I stepped back my foot found air and then water. I was falling in the lake.
Into the water I went. I also because of my protective grip on my son’s hand took him with me. He went under. I stood up quickly the water only came up to my chest. I quickly lifted my son out of the water unto the ground. The geese had backed away and was still hissing and throwing its chest out. As if to say “Yea I took you down human and there is nothing you can do about it.”
I climbed out of the lake. I could tell by my son’s look I was no longer his hero. In fact he was not sure he could trust me anymore. I was drenched and humiliated. The geese owned the park I learned that day.
These years later I do my best to walk wide circles around the so-called Canadian geese. My son has inherited my fear of geese, which I am sure he will pass down to his son. My grandchild will more than likely live under the geese regime.
All of the information had been there but none of us believed it or had eyes to see it. But hopefully you now know; please do not tell anyone, especially near geese, where you heard this. I am going underground now. I will have weekly updates on Saturdays from now on.
I had grown up playing football. I was good at it. I had been taught discipline by my Marine Corps Drill Sergeant father. I was constantly lifting weights, running sprints, and doing football drills. I would take forty-five pound weights and bang my stomach with them to toughen my core. I was solid, quick, and if necessary mean. I had been the only freshman to start at my high school. I was an up and coming star. But my father got a job in a new town so we were moving. I would have to establish myself at a new school. I was heartbroken. When we visited the coach in the new city we passed some of the players. They were all big. It would be hard to break into this team, I thought.
The first day of practice I took on the legendary Wayne Dorritt. Not by choice of course. I was smarter than that. He was all redneck and scared everyone because he was crazy. He loved to be hit. He liked the pain. This was the thing that scared people; you could hurt him but instead of backing off he became more engaged. There was no beating him. He also loved to hit. He packed quite the wallop. The coaches wanted to test the new kid’s mettle. So they placed me opposite him. They made sure he was good and ready for me by saying I wanted his position on the team. I literally saw the blood rise to his eyeballs.
The first play he gave me an uppercut to the chin. It nearly rendered me unconscious. I looked at the coach who was watching us to reprimand him for this illegal action. They only said I needed to hit him harder. I returned to the huddle; they told me my chin strap was full of blood. Later, it would take four stitches to close the cut. I was not in Kansas anymore. Play after play I went after him. He gave me a shot to the groin. I crawled back to the huddle. The coaches continued to fuss at my poor blocking skills. I thought: he is just inflicting pain on me, he is not making a play. I grew angry and now we were going at it long after the whistle was blown. He was having fun. I was in a self-defense mode. My chin strap was red and blood was oozing out of it. Finally, the coaches told me to hit the locker room and see to my chin. It required a trip to the ER. I had established myself.
I had been taught the mantra, since I was old enough to walk, that I was a Freeman and we are blessed and therefore we gave back. I thought my best way to give back as I entered college was to become an FBI agent. I would get my degree in law and apply to the FBI. So I was determined to change the world.
In my first semester I watched the old FBI agent now professor tell his stories day after day in my 101 Law Enforcement class. He was always deliberating how he could do this and how rugged he was. He told stories to shock and give us nightmares. I was not really impressed. It was a humble brag. Look how tough I was. He showed us pictures of Bloody Sunday. Close-ups of the carnage of the men who had been massacred. Describing graphically the blood and holes in their body. He was often over my incredulous meter. One day he told us all he could disarm any of us without ever being shot. I looked at him. An overweight middle age man who showed no ability to move fast. He was living his glory days. It was then I suddenly realized I did not want those kind of glory days: days of machismo and shocking stories. I wanted days of helping others.
I had been promised a football scholarship if I came out and made the team. This would be easy I thought. I was good. I had made a few friends on the team already and was told by the coaches the scholarship was mine. They handed the ball to one of my new friends. I zoned in on him. I was oblivious to everything but stopping the man with the ball. I hit his knee hard; it crumpled under my shoulder. I heard the cracking of his kneecap. It was the sound I would never forget. I stood up over him slowly coming out of my concentration. Looking down at his wailing body and listening to him screaming in pain while not trying to seem too much in pain. I came back to hear the coaches patting me on the back enthusiastically saying, ‘Now that is the way we want you to hit. You will make first team if you keep that up.’ The words were a shock to my system. One of my few new friends was being carried off on a stretcher and they were congratulating me. The thought came across my mind: the object of this game is to hurt one another. I finished the practice but I knew I would never be back.
The overdose of machismo I had been raised with was slowly being drained out of me. I no longer cared to be the toughest, meanest, strongest, quickest man in the room. I wanted to grow old and have stories without bloodshed to tell. I wanted stories of how I changed the world and lives. I no longer wanted to play games where one of the objectives was to maim the opponent. I realized I was being conditioned to be cannon fodder. I wanted to be the one who could avoid bloody conflict, who did not play games of violence, but offered a new and different way.
It was a total shock to my system. I lost thirty pounds on a body that did not have any fat. I crushed my ego with nights of tears and prayer. I was nothing. I broke myself. It was in the breaking that I was remade. It was as though I was remolding myself but also there at the time appeared to be an outside hand molding me to think differently, to be different. I studied an old scripture. Once where it had been full of stories of personal bravery and greatness; now when I read, it was full of commands to help the poor and the least of these. It was not about exerting power to rule or win the contest; it was exerting power to bring down the abuses of power. All things were different. I needed to be reborn.
It was a call from deep in my soul to think, to pray, to live humbly, to fight for the poor and outcast, without violence. To lay my life down every day for others. It was a new path. These many years later I have succeeded and I have failed this new way. But it is always the voice I hear when I stop and think and pray. I am still fixing the broken young man.