Parables

Circle of José de Ribera [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I was alerted to the fact that I have 50 followers.  Hooray!  Today I noticed that three posts in a row do not have any stars at all. This is in stark contrast to what came before. For a while before all this, it was unusual for me to get no stars at all on any pages, despite the fact that many more popular sites don’t get stared at all. I resolve to not get star struck.   I got this far by mostly ignoring all the good advice for bloggers.  I don’t do publicity, either.  Ok, fine, I did change up my picture.  Anyway…

So I’ve been (slowly) re-reading the OT, in the form of the Ignatius Study Bible. (Kindles are awesome, and their Study Bible is superbly formatted for reference.  This is rare in the e-book world. Yaay Jesuits! )   I already have a long Jesuitical diatribe written on the subject of orthodoxy, Pope Francis, and some wishy washy folks whose names I would rather not mention. However, it holds hope for the Jesuit order, so stay tuned if you are into that sort of thing. I will post it soon.

By © 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at gmail.com] (Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki / Own work) [CC-BY-2.5, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the Ignatius Bible, they have an entire article about parables and their purpose in the OT, and the NT.  Primarily they are to take examples from everyday life, in forms easy to understand for the faithful, yet obscure the mysteries for those hostile to the faith, so the mysteries will not be sullied.

These ideas have blended with yesterdays homily, wherein the pastor discussed today’s culture being readily comparable with the mood and culture in which the Early Church found itself immersed. My husband disagreed.  During the homily I had been nodding in agreement with our pastor. Having been a modern Neo-Pagan until fairly recently, I felt rather invested in my disagreement. On the way home from mass, he and I had an argument.

It was more in line with a polite debate rather than the way most people use this word today. These days ‘argument’ is primarily a euphemism for fighting. This by itself points to a sickness in the culture and it’s disfunction for training in right relationship.  We can no longer call a spade a spade, nor do we remember the original meanings of words– so our communication becomes less precise and less meaningful.  This is a problem, and I will talk about that a little later in this article.

Henryk Siemiradzki [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway.  About parables.  These seemingly simplistic stories are a good way of talking about things that aren’t easily quantified.  Our pastor talked about how the culture we live in now is a pagan culture, and that they hold a similar position to the Early Church.

My husband disagreed– saying that in the Old Days, while most people were pagan, they at least held enough philosophy amongst them to understand some basic truths that have been distorted to the point of destruction today.  Then, people could agree that love existed, and what a family was for.  They could generally say that there was a point to the rule of law, and that people should uphold the traditions of their elders.

In this day and age, we believe that civilization is an absolute, which filters through the air we breathe. It is there, we don’t have to maintain it, we don’t have to nurture it. Therefore, by this standard, the laws do not have to reflect reality, since no one can agree that reality exists. People think for the now, and forget that laws that help some people over others can be used against them when the regime changes.  They even think that they are being righteous for legislating against nature, against generic equity and in favor of trying to correct  the perceived imbalances of the world.  They gleefully use the formation of law against those they view enemies. We are very lucky that horrors have not transpired already, and we leave ourselves– and our children– open to that eventuality.

Francisco Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, he says, we are in a state where many of our persecutors are people who call themselves Christians. They use the words of Jesus to turn against us, the way the Devil uses scripture to tempt Christ in the desert.  The ears of the modern pagan shrivel at the name of Christ, they rebel when or misconstrue when, in the earlier days the moderns of the time would be desperately thirsty for order and sanity, and the novelty of the Risen Christ would bring them out of their muddle. The hearts are so much harder today than ever before, he reasons.

I could not argue with his depiction of the modern world on most points. I agree with both sides of this argument– to a point. I think there is a place in biblical history where we can see the trials of the modern Christian writ large. We certainly are living in a pagan culture.  I just think that our good Pastor was looking at a time that was around 40-100 years too late for the mood of our current season.  I think the world that Christ himself walked in was closer to our modernist brethren than the hungry gentiles who became Christians against terrifying odds.

Acrostiche Ichtus}} |Source=internet Symboles Chrétiens |Author=inconnu |Date=Premiers siècles Public Domain– Wikipedia Commons

However, I think we get an unreasonably rosy picture of the world of our Early Christian period pagans due to the great distance, and generalizations untempered by experience of the time.  I actually think that our examples for evangelization should be Jesus’ experience, and not our Brethren in the Early Church.

Why? Because we forget what the jaded people from the Early Church had gone through. They’d witnessed already the Crucifixion of a man who had been found innocent of all wrongdoing by the supreme authority of the land.  Yet he was killed in the worst, most humiliating way possible for political expediency by a bunch of hypocrites who claimed to be the chosen People of the Unknown God.  They witnessed Christian after Christian fall to hideous death for his belief… so there had to be something in it.

After all, Jesus was preaching the Kingdom of God.  Most men he talked to  did say they believed– and upheld– in the Kingdom of God. They said that they knew what God wanted, and had it all mapped out for their own benefit. They believed in their own expertise and their own knowledge of what was best for humanity– that is, them being on top, and everybody else doing what they said.  Note also that these Pharisees did not necessarily feel bound by their own ideas, though because they could argue what they wished, they could make up exemptions for their own favorite sins. We see a lot of the same going on today.  Most who bother to reference the Bible pick and choose what verses they want and exempt the rest in God’s mercy.

People were far more jaded, spoiled and decadent in Jesus’ time. They hadn’t yet suffered the fall of Jerusalem  They hadn’t seen wave after wave of persecution, They hadn’t yet had Nero to blast off all the sophistry and nihilism that was so fashionable in the time of Herod.  “What is truth?” is the rallying cry for the post modern mind.

By MyName (Wmpearl (talk)) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

I have an entire article discussing the history of moral relativism with the intellectual advent of atheism– too great tastes that taste great together.  I don’t say that all atheists fall into this– just most of them. Furthermore  I talk about how pagans and atheists aren’t that different.  There is more overlap than anyone is willing to admit, and paganism tends to bleed into atheism and vise versa.

After all, those terrible things either happened before Jesus to those who ‘deserved it’, or people who ‘didn’t count.’  By the time that our apostles were wandering across the nations, they’d seen the fall of Jerusalem. They’d seen the Cesars after Augustus  who was famous mostly for being conscious of his need to mollify all of his masses, instead of merely using one as a wedge against another. Or perhaps I should say, he had the subtlety to be able to get away with political imbalance. Those that followed him simply did so without pretense or craft, thus resulting in greater and greater horrors.

Diego Velázquez [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The pagan gods ultimately did not have the answers for lives so terrible. They needed a God who suffered with them, a God who was not simply powerful, whimsical and dictatorial.  By then they were hungry for a God who was like them, yet Universal and awesome.  Especially a God of Universal Truth. Today, well, we haven’t seen value in the things that our grandparents held dear. They were debased by the culture in a misguided attempt to build Heaven on Earth using our government– and the governments of the Christian World.  Sound familiar?

By El Pantera (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons Cropped by fontofworlds

By El Pantera (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cropped by fontofworlds

Just like how Jesus was dismissed by the teachers of the day because he did not bring back the political state of Israel. Instead, he humbly established a Spiritual Kingdom which has no temporal authority save the binding and loosing of that which is in Heaven, and the monumental task of tending souls. Hint: It’s the Catholic Church.  That is why we have all those awesome buildings and gilded crosiers and rich fabrics and prince like dwellings in Rome.   This is also why we have ambassadors.   We are earthly representatives of Heaven, and we should use the feeble riches on Earth to make a weak and dim reflection of the Glory of Heaven.  Why? Because it is the best we’ve got, and we should always give the best we have to God’s greater Glory.

But where do parables fit into all this?  I believe that, in an attempt to make Heaven on Earth, we have watered down the meaning of the Word to the point where all the explanation in the world won’t do us much good.  I think we can lecture until our lips turn blue and the world won’t give us the time of day.

What we need are parables. We need good stories that anyone in the street can relate to. Stories about people they might know, stories that are simple and to the point. Stories that whisper of the mysteries of Faith, why we do what we do, but demonstrated in a way that’s not sanitized and castrated of the world that we know is there for the sake of a kind of purity that they don’t recognize as possible.

Illustration of Humpty Dumpty from Through the Looking Glass, by John Tenniel, 1871. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. Click for Link.

To make matters worse, no one remembers where words come from. Their meanings are altered not only by natural drift over time, but through campaigns of political correctness and a sort of mind control. When the temporal reason starts to falter, the concrete meanings become less potent, and thus people are less capable of communicating in a meaningful manner.  This way, much hand-waving, manufactured consent (or that is, formalism– the tendency to agree with those you want to impress without understanding what you are agreeing with) can come out of a simple misunderstanding and trust that it means what you want it to mean, and not what they mean.

Conversely, it can also foment dissent among those who fundamentally agree with each other, thus legitimate political cohesion is rent by grave misunderstanding. This is the double-edged danger of Humpty Dumpty thinking. This also means that our finely honed reason and well executed argument, falls not only on deaf ears, but ears ‘fortified’ with near invincible ignorance.   This is a serious problem.

By Denslow’s_Humpty_Dumpty.djvu: W. W. Denslowderivative work: Theornamentalist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So to truly engage the culture, I think we need parables again, as Jesus taught us. The words on a page are thin gruel, having been improperly used in the modern world.   A simple story only uses things you can point to, which maintain their original meanings thus the implications can be preserved against the campaign of fuzzy logic.  It also preserves against the misuse of those misguided into thinking that easier is better, and the earnest words of the kind but deluded soul.

This misuse has rendered out the Holy Spirit of our classic tales. This means these simple words fall to the ground as words of ash instead of Holy Fire.  We need new parables that a modern man might relate to, for he is as far from tending the soil or sheep as a suburban commuter is from Planet Koozebane.  But they need to be infused with the authentic teachings of Christ as informed by the Catholic Church.   I believe that Pope Francis is working from this angle– not speaking only to the Faithful, but also to the World in simple acts they may understand.

466px-Albrecht_Altdorfer_-_Christ_taking_Leave_of_his_Mother_-_Google_Art_ProjectYet,  those articles and lectures about proper Church teaching are not merely vanity.  They are we as the faithful removing logs from our eyes before we wipe away dust motes– and tears from the eyes of the world.

This snowstorm of erudite articles in the Catholic blogosphere are there for a reason. This is, so that we may correct ourselves, so that we might evangelize the culture when we are ready.  That is when we bring forth our parables so that the humble of heart– even those untaught or, even those with malformed conscience  may glimpse at the God of Love. Yes, He reaches out for them even here, even now, even through all the morbid haze of misrepresentation and debasement.

To be clear that I am not saying that the stories that “everybody knows” are trash. Far from it. We must look at them anew but in light of the truths they reveal that have been distorted and hidden from view.  We need to choose carefully what we reveal– to make sure we do not mislead, that we do not think wishfully, or to hide a light under a basket.

The True God still calls but he whispers in parables that we may be drawn ever closer to the Living Water of Divine Truth.  We can reflect that Truth and Kingdom in our actions, but we cannot build it out of laws and political wrangling.  Those things are ultimately fleeting.  It must be the movement from within in the oldest Story made new to a jaded world that already thinks it knows what we know. It must be built as God builds it– by His Might, and not our Will.

By anonimus ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Two Paganisms

From time to time I take a pause and stand back from my current life to think about the implications of what I’ve learned, and how it changes the frame of reference I once had as a believing Neo-Pagan.

I do not think this is the same thing as Lot’s wife looking back at the destruction of her home town being smote in flames. It would be more like her thinking about her home town in the context of that God her husband worshiped and how it changed her.  It would only resemble thus if I looked back with the exact same reference I once had– and longed for it.  Ironically, there is more of a risk [for me– YMMV] in reading fiction, than it is of reminiscing on the reality. Indeed, the fiction I write is less likely to trigger the vague whispers of past indiscretions than reading well written fiction by other people.

Fortunately, it’s not Harry Potter so much as James Butcher– even if Butcher is  supportive of a more recognizably Christian-inspired morality.  Indeed, that’s a part of the problem.  I was a moral pagan– that is I believed that my actions mattered– to the gods if not my fellow pagans.

And I noted that even those who claimed that it did not matter and that they took thus as an article of faith– it was displayed in their actions that they believed deeply in that which they detracted verbally.  If they lacked forgiveness, what you did mattered so deeply that it affected your relationship to that person for all time. IT does matter how you act, even if we won’t talk about it, admit it or think about it outside the context of “community relations”, and not being a jerk.

The culture of license has it’s own rules- but it prefers them to be unwritten.  Even then I was somewhat suspicious of this. How can you know what is good behavior if you have to just instinctively know to get along? Why is it that we discourage one set of behaviors in place of others, if we don’t really have a reason for it? If these rules are indeed universal, why is that, and shouldn’t that, in and of itself–mean something?!

These were the questions I wrestled with when I was practicing.  I had no philosophical training, nor did I think that it would help me. [Ed: Go figure.]   However, not a lot of people really even tried looking at things like this.  Indeed, the only group that even tried was a re-constructionist in nature. I was tempted for many reasons by them, even joined at one point, but could not fit myself to one particular culture as per their definition.

I was stuck on the unknown God and the culture I was raised in. I changed my ideas constantly about who that one was, whether one or many, whether masculine or feminine, but indeed– I could not find peace or the center that I was looking for.  Too much was changeable, up for grabs and ultimately un-anchored in the fundimental reality of every day existence. I needed a concreteness in my day in and day out spirituality,  for me to feel that there was an authentic current of the true Author of Creation.  I saw flashes of it that were awe inspiring, but I could not believe that these few crumbs would be what a conscious deity would expect a flawed human to use for spiritual food and drink.

Someone who really loves you won’t leave you battered, bleeding and alone– and hopelessly confused about what is expected of you.

I could not imagine a universe made and maintained by committee with literally NO basis of relationship or things in common.  There was too much going on here that was stable and made sense for the kind of chaos that would entail – especially if the gods are capable of evil– which (somehow) does not affect their nature.

The other problem was– it was no where stated that the gods were good, merely that propitiating them was good and useful.  So what does that say about the kind of universe you live in? The idea terrified me.

Yet– when I went to “pagan conventions” the vast majority of people did not seem troubled by these thoughts.  They assumed that either the gods were good and meant well, or they did not really believe in gods at all– and thought that pagans threw better parties than atheists. Others felt that they wanted some kind of tradition to pass on to their children, even if they did not really believe a word of it.   Sadly, there are plenty of professed Christians who behave this way, as well.

So you have two pagans– Socrates and Lucretius.  It is the latter who hoists the banner flag of our modern era.  Socrates believed that everything means something, and that you could determine that from reason– even the kind of reason that men (and women!) in the agora had access to. All you had to do was ask the right questions, and the answers would follow. That is what we call common sense– an attribute that we enlightened moderns have discredited by tedious hand-waving brought to us by intellectuals with an impressive need to feel special.

Lucretius was the other guy. He felt that there were no gods, and no god. He felt that religion was the cause of all the worlds problems, and that reason and belief were in an endless war. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Why isn’t he more widely known and read then Socrates? Much of our modern Spirit of the Age comes from the logical conclusions of the cool, aloof Lucretius.  He broke the minds of so many good philosophers it makes one cry.

It is this fallout from philosophy that made it so very unattractive in my pagan days.  I felt that all philosophy ultimately led to one denying the reality of the physical world and deciding that the only truth came from inside your own skull– which you can’t really prove exists anyway.

But then I stumbled on an idea which on it’s surface does not strike one as particularly Christian– but it is the key to understanding true Christianity.

That is, the fact that every philosophy the world has to offer can be boiled down to a single binary idea. Either there is meaning in the world (and everything has meaning) or it doesn’t.

Buddhism, Atheism, and a wide swath of paganisms follow the latter path, and the mindset of the modern era does as well.  Some few modern paganisms follow the former– but only those who have a conversant relationship with history, philosophy and reason. Those people/paganisms are few on the ground, and what they say isn’t particularly popular.  Unless they write novels, of course.

Because, there is one thing that this “modern” paganism doesn’t have– and that’s the ability to tell a story that means something.  And humans are hard-wired for that.  Unfortunately, this modern world succeeds mightily in inoculating modern man from the concept of reality.  We’re fine with reality– just as long as it’s not real. We need to believe in reality, but not act on it.  We need to know it is there, just in case we need to run to a fox hole when we are shelled by life. But don’t let reality get in the way of every day living.  That’s just too much oppression for the modern man to bear.

The irony is– before I converted to paganism– I did not have the sense of pervasive meaning that I developed in the symbol soaked world of the believing Neo-Pagan.  I was ultimately raised Atheist/Calvinist with some crypto-Catholic ideas, such as the definition of Love, and that capability to Love is the core value underscoring human kind. But I believed in a God who was entirely transcendent of the world– like a Gnostic without secret revelation. I could not understand God, so all I could do was faintly hope that I had whatever special sauce God wanted to take to heaven with him.

Otherwise it was annihilation for all time– an annihilation who’s job was never done, enacted by demons.  Yet this was preferable to no God at all– because at least there was a reason— even if it were outside my grasp. This hinted at the notion that perhaps I might see it or find it. After all, science wouldn’t work if God just wanted to play keep-away.

And a world without meaning is the ultimate game of keep-away, perfectly blended with an unholy, unending round of Calvin-ball.  Well, until humans destroy ourselves and the sun collapses in on itself. Oh, joy! Oh, bliss!

So many sad people flocked to me, asking me to lead them. That because I believed in the correct definition of Love,  and had a strong sense of an ordered universe–I had something, something so very faint, but strangely compelling to others. They even told me that it so much more than what they had, which amounted to pile of jargon with no dictionary.  But– in my mind, to truly lead them wisely, it wasn’t enough. I could not take on for the happiness of others, when I knew that all I had was the faint shadow of the true path to the gods. It would be horribly irresponsible, I felt.  So I dropped off the web, never to be seen again.

Especially since, I knew, after I found what I’d been looking for, they wouldn’t believe that I had, based entirely on what they thought I’d become.

I lost a lot of “friends” the day I came out as a Catholic.  I’ve never been particularly good at explaining what happened– not even to my older and more genuine friends.  I mean– how do you explain the process of reading Theology of the Body in one sitting? That melted all my confusion and fears about the theology of sexuality in the Church in an experience more powerful than magic.

Furthermore, I am hampered– fundamentally because I cannot conceive of a reality without meaning. I vaguely remember existing in one at some point in my past- but I was miserable. I also angrily searched for meaning anyway because with out it there was simply no reason to continue.

I don’t even know how to bridge the gap between the two paganisms. The only reason why it worked before is because we all thought we were on the same side. We did not even notice the gaping abyss beneath us separating us totally from true understanding.

What heals?

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL l) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 ()], via Wikimedia Commons

So I have been so mystified by recent turn of events that I find myself thinking about magic. What is pictured left is known as white bryony root and was for many years thought of as a lucky magical thing. It is pretty poisonous.

In small appropriately served doses it can be healing, but it is a tricky thing to know what kills and what heals. I mean, sure if you have modern measurement and dosing rules you can get a narrow band on it. But in pre-modern times it was tantamount to witchcraft. Don’t get me started on the complex calculus of plant health/growth conditions/subspecies versus drug potency.

However, I think anybody who likes hot peppers and gets “duds” or “flameout” from time to time knows what I’m talking about.  Now all of this comes out of ideas floating in my head around health issues, health fads, and conventional medicine. I’m not one of those people who thinks that all of the holistic medicine is BS, but there is much of it out there that is based on discarded theories (homeopathy to name one) and others that are based on real research.

There is other research in medicine that is constantly overturning things assumed before– such as the low fat high carb diet so beloved for the past 30-40 odd years or so. This diet is such that  reputable organizations (such as the American Diabetes Association) still support, even if there is bucket loads of research that shows– that it may be aggravating the Diabetes problem, not helping it.  Or perhaps I should say that the research suggests this very strongly.

Furthermore, conventional medicine is not without vested interests– such as the much dreaded Big Pharma, the Government interests, Insurance Interests, and all those researchers who’s reputations theories generally become faddy when their friends are prominent in all the most respected journals.  Contrary to public belief, the government was heavy into healthcare even before Obamacare, controlling a great deal about how the pharmaceutical industry operates. They limit what can be done, how much of it can be done and how much money is needed to get it done.

Basically Big Pharma was an “unintended  consequence” of  the FDA rules about what it takes to get a drug on the market. It also limits what is required to get over the hurdle, and disincentives inexpensive therapies, such as herbal medicine and older drugs that could get a new viewing for a new purpose.  This narrow and tall jump to manage also limits what a doctor can count on, as well– so he is just as willing to chuck out more reasonably priced therapies because no consistent data is available– because there is no money in research, because you can’t make money selling it as a legitimate treatment.

I hope that the huge profits made by the supplement industry will go into making studies of what it is they are doing. There is evidence to suggest there is, and apparently Stanford and other places are looking into such things. But I am a bit out of date in this field, so I will need to get back to you on this.

Even with this vector for more assurances: I don’t have a background in statistics, or researches, data analysis, or what have you. What’s an ordinary schmo like me supposed to do?  The supposed experts themselves can’t decide what’s really going on.  Not to mention, you can do a reasonably good study and depending on a whole host of factors either massage the data for the answers you want, or choose your test pool for highest success for what you want. Now, it certainly limits obvious dangers that will hurt practically everyone, but it also means that the elderly, children, and those with odd systems are more vulnerable to the conventional treatments.

Not to mention– while the skeptical human is most persuaded by individual stories– which seem the most credible– they are considered useless as even data by medical professionals and researchers.

But if I can’t properly read a study, and if my doctor is being seduced by the dark side of Pharma, then what? In these circumstances, they use what they have. The popular press (which frequently gets it wrong), the stories of friends, family, and Dr. Oz.   Well, I don’t trust any of them either.  So Here’s a fun illustration of what I mean.

So… when I got sick a few weeks ago, at first I thought I could just ignore it. That was the flu, and just by drinking a 2 kale smoothies a day, I was able to work through it. Until… well, until I got the sinus infection, and my immune system became overworked. So they gave me some very powerful antibiotics to kill it dead.  It worked… but not well enough. I’m still sick with this thing, and am now going through a regimen of mega-doses of  Vitamin C– which seem to be working better than the super strong antibiotic.

But you can’t count on it. As much as we see ourselves far and beyond the days of hiring Hexenmeisterin  or a doctor/Alchemist for our health care, for the average consumer we haven’t left it that far behind.

While super bugs are nibbling away at our effective antibiotics, and more and more of our trusted authorities stick with older standards over recent research, seeing the truth gets harder and harder.

To make matters even more annoying, Obamacare will come to the rescue by advocating “best practices” which is a weasel word for “whatever works for the most people”, which, again, since most test subjects are young males in their 20’s, means that statistical outliers will be more at risk– and won’t have any other options  Last I read, using other treatments will be illegal.

It makes one kind of sympathize with the Roman citizens during the fall of Rome who chased out all the Greek doctors with torches and pitchforks.  While it is easy to argue that the Romans were rebelling against high civilization; on the other hand, the Greeks were also awfully fond of sophists, who deserve no better.

I did learn a few experiential things during this process– too many kale smoothies makes everything taste bitter– or maybe that’s the antibiotic.

By Fritz Geller-Grimm (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

However, this one I can tell you straight – uncooked collard greens, mixed with fresh kale and put into a smoothie taste like crushed potato bugs. Don’t go there. It’s nasty.  Sure, it’s anecdotal evidence… maybe your mileage may vary.  After all my husband will tell you that fresh cilantro always tastes like soap.

But we still read what our fellow humans are saying– because that is something you can (kinda) touch. You can point to that person and say, “well, they said it, and why would they lie”?  Also, it reinforces our connections to other human beings, which can be tenuous in these days of high tech high-jinks.

Now, I happen to be in favor of all that, because I think it has some serious benefits to both the individual and civilization– but that doesn’t stop it from having downsides. It becomes it’s own magic, and can make everything around you seem less real– or more credible that things are going to heck in a hand basket.

So what is the answer?  Well, the truths we can hold onto amount to this: magic isn’t real. Sure, miracles happen, but they are that– miracles. You can’t make them happen. Yes, there are drugs that have amazing properties, but they aren’t perfect, and you have to be careful. Look both ways before crossing the street, and if you hear impossible results, chances are, they are just that.

Also, not all doctors are on the dole for Pharma. I have a DO with a lot of conventional training as well– and he keeps up with the latest studies, and has a lot of experience reading through BS.   It takes a while sometimes to find a doctor like that, but it’s really worth it, especially if you are weird like me.

Be especially careful with children and teens– especially with psychoactive drugs. I am terribly biased here, but then I had some bad experiences. They probably aren’t true for most people, but if something seems unreasonable to you– stop it! Confront your doctor. Get a second opinion.  Like anything, use your common sense.   It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.  Learn things that will help you, and average your information. But most of all– don’t give up.  Those who are most likely to die are the hopeless– which are those without hope. That is, they do not possess it, not that they do not warrant it. For life warrants hope.

For me, at least, that is what God is for. Even if things look hopeless, there is always the First and Last Things.

Is Fiction Evil?

BWfeather_eye_flat

Woodwalker; retouched by Poxnar
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

This started out as a comment on Sarah Hoyt’s article here, but it got so long I decided not to clutter her com box so much.

I had struggled with this idea for a long time. What got me to confront it head-on was a friend of mine in college. He had an inoperable brain tumor, a litany of health issues I can’t even name, and he believed that fiction was pure evil.

It was ironic, he was a scientific atheist but he believed that anything fictional was a lie, and therefore evil.

Sure, there were a few exceptions– he obsessively listened to Dr. Demento, and read political cartoons in newspapers. But, I never told him that I was a writer, and a theist because I never wanted to have that argument with him. In fact, I *dropped writing* during that part of my life so I wouldn’t have to lie to him. For what it is worth, I managed several years with only sins of omission.

The saddest part is that he and I eventually went our separate ways because I would not date him– and could not tell him why. It was not his disabilities, it was that I could never be myself truly and make him happy.

In a Chestertonian sort of quirk I realized that to operate in this fashion lead to an aseptic but sterile existence I could not manage. There is a line from him that describes it better than I can– but I’ll try. You can make very good arguments about why fiction can be entirely evil. But to live in that fashion is to destroy so much, to contort natural life into such unnatural shapes that it becomes apparent that to call it thus is contrary to reason.

For example: if fiction is evil– then what is a similie or a metaphor? What is a fable, or poetry or the teaching parables of Jesus? What about story problems for your math homework? What about those old stories you tell your children? Santa Claus? What do you do instead of a bedtime story? What are silly songs with bizarre lyrics or the poetry especially of Edward Lear? What about representative art that shows things that never were? Things that are half-remembered, things that you saw in a dream?

If our memories are so fragile and false, where do you indeed draw the line? It seems to me that the human mind uses narrative to make decisions,
keep facts straight, create bonds between individuals families and societies– what are those family stories anyway? How much of them are really true? You may as well ask “what is truth”?

I don’t know how other people write without reading. I also write some non-fiction, and without fiction I would be lost in that as well. Good thing we don’t live in that world. Trust me, it is a sad and lonely place.