Category Archives: Christianity

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I – The Calling

(Continuing with the saga in which many thoughts are expressed and many things are learned. This is chapter 16. There are 25 chapters in Part I and 25 more following in Part II. I’m writing this because some of you may want to know how much longer you have to suffer through this, others how much more to expect of a journey and adventure through the unlikely possible, or should I say, the possible unlikely.)

Chapter 16
Return to the Cottage – Introducing Genti

Nothing much had changed at the cottage when the travellers returned after their days on the trail. The barn was partially re-thatched but the rest of the long roof would have to wait another season for grass to be harvested for the thatching. Sheep wandered about or slept in the lower field. Pigs squealed and grunted in their pens. Chicken and geese wandering everywhere presented more of a cacophony. Apart from the noise of the animals reinforcing the fact that things had more or less returned to some normalcy, more logs and branches had been dragged in and stacked in ingenious ways to shed rain and provide dry firewood.

They saw men, women and children about, intent on their various duties or their games.

“Why aren’t they acknowledging our approach?” Asked Deanna.

“I’ve cloaked us in a semi invisible veil. I want to test how close the three of us can get to them before they notice us. Advance silently and quietly.”

They were almost among the people and still no one noticed, not even the dogs. A young boy lobbed a rough-sewn pig skin ball and Lo reached for it and held it in the air. The children stopped running and stared at their ball stationary in the air. One girl screamed and the adults turned to see what was the matter. Lo dropped the ball and gradually made the three of them visible.

Children, women, men, all stared at the three travellers mouth agape. Lo addressed them and explained.

“As you probably already suspected, and talked about among yourselves, we are more than we at first appeared. I used this little trick to prove the point, beyond our fighting abilities and speed which you have observed and wondered about. All three of us are in fact wizards or sorcerers as you will. We are of those who fight for what is right, good and just whereas there be some of us who work on the opposite side of it. Now let me reintroduce ourselves to all of you if you would call out anyone near enough to join.”

They waited while the people of the cottage were assembled to hear what Lo had to say. He could tell they were eager for this revelation, very eager, but perhaps not as much as the priest in Glowmere would be if ever appraised of this. Would there still be a wedding or would that change to a public execution by burning?

The people being assembled and Ian MacGruder having nodded his assent, Lo explained.

“Some of you remember the old tales about certain wizards called the Alas, do you not?”

There were nods and “Aye, there be stories still told of such!” from some of the older people.

“Two of us here are of these. I am the ancient Alay Lotharic, hence my nickname, Lo. This woman is the ancient Alaya called Nah’La and is my bound and eternal wife, as I am her bound and eternal husband. Together now after a very long time apart, we seek out two evil wizards we have dubbed  the Betrayers that we may destroy them before they do more damage here, or cause more wars and plagues.

“This third member of our group, this young woman, calls herself Deanna. She is of the Elven race and possesses powers similar to ours and some that are quite, how shall I say it, unique. She met with us and joined us when we went down to that fortified village that is called Torglynn. She has voluntarily chosen to join our quest and to fight for the defeat of the Betrayers.

“That is basically the long and short of it. We intend, if it pleases you, to stay with you for a few more days during which we will discuss our strategy and learn more about each other and our combined powers. There is another powerful member of this group but he prefers to remain anonymous and unseen. You will however hear him howling in the night when he turns himself into a werewolf. I say this because should any of you encounter him you need have no fear and he will be able to speak to you. As long as he is nearby, allowed to roam freely and no attempt made to molest him, you and your animals are fully protected from either man or beast.

“If for reasons of your own you wish to meet with this person, Deanna will lead you to him. Be aware that if your intent is treacherous, all of us including the werewolf can read your thoughts. If the wolf senses betrayal he will kill instantly, without qualms or remorse. The same is true of the woman, Deanna, for she and the Wolf have a bond that only the Elven people and the Wolf Clans can understand.

“I leave you to think upon these revelations. Realize that I have just taken you back into your old memories, traditions and ways. Remember what you once were before you were enslaved by these new ways, by the new Roman God and his violent religion of conquest and enslavement. Remember and perhaps you may regain some of the pride in what you once were.

“If you wish, you may appraise your village priest of our presence. If he is wise, he’ll do nothing about it. If he is as ignorant as most are, and I suspect he is, he will seek to do us great harm in which case the harm will go to him and those who side with him and try to harm us. If our lives are threatened, know that we will fight and kill those who attack us, however many there be. Would you mind giving a little demonstration, Deanna?”

The young woman looked over the rag-tag group with her flashing green eyes, tossed her hair back, raised her arm and pointed at a large stone near a line of trees that defined the edge of the common yard. The stone measures in the neighbourhood of eight feet in diameter, and partially rose from the ground to the  height of a man. She opened her hand palm out. Two heartbeats and the stone violently shattered, it’s debris scattered over an area of several hundred feet, leaving a hole waist deep to a man in the ground.

A collective gasp escaped from many open mouths accompanied by silence. Looks of confusion, of fear and of certain admiration if not actual worship were turned to the three wizards. It was Nal who broke the spell.

“All right, all right! Look folks, I’m still Beanna here. I’m your friend, not a stranger. These things that have come to pass, I knew nothing of them when I lived with you some months past. I thought myself an ordinary lass then and except for my skin tone, my dark almond eyes, black hair and small size compared to you, I would have been the same as you. That hasn’t changed. My powers are not meant for any of you, though I do have a new ability to heal, as does Deanna. This we will do while we are with you. Bring us your sick, your lame, those who have chronic pain and I will heal them, I mean we will heal them. Now, we be starving after so long on the trail, is there food available?”

There was cheering at that. MacGruder came over to Nal and grabbing her, hugged her in his powerful embrace. After releasing her he said,

“Aye lassie, ye and yo’re companions air welcome among us. No one will tell the priest anything I swear, we hold our secrets well in these parts, o’ necessity. Ye were not braggin’ about the healin’ then? ‘Tis true you can do this?”

“Aye sir, we can, and we will.”

“Please call me Ian. An’ I forgive ye fer the meddlin’ in my affairs afore ye left. What ye said needed sayin’. There be new weapons being forged from those we took from our attackers an’ I understand the need for ‘em. I thank ye, lass.”

Nal could not reply. She was choking and tears gushed from her eyes. Apart from her mother, Lo and Deanna, she had known so little kindness or respect through her short years that any amount overwhelmed her. MacGruder noticed and added,

“Ye be a fine girl, Beanna. If ye be half as much a wizard as ye are a good woman, this world owes ye a great debt o’ gratitude already and will owe ye much more. Come, let’s find ye some food.”

He took her small hand in his huge one and led her into the dining area where many had already gathered and were standing and sitting, or busy serving. Lo was on a long bench with several men discussing who knows what and Deanna was engaged in what certainly seemed to be a very serious talk with two tall strangers. A tall young blonde woman was sitting quietly and primly next to the lady of the house. The food came her way and she decided her hunger took priority. She waited for a perfunctory grace to be said then fell to.

The meal was boisterous as such things go but most of the conversation was of the common sort. People’s health, the animals, the weather and in that respect much about the powerful storm that had passed so violently and quickly to the south, bringing lighting and thunder, a thing seldom seen in winter. Several looks were cast at the travellers at the mention of the storm but these said nothing more than acquiesce to the general consensus, that it was unusual.

When the meal was over, Ian MacGruder asked the travellers to join him in a separate and private part of the house.

“First then, I wish to acquaint ye with me own daughter just returned to us from the north where she attended a special kind o’ training place for some chosen young women o’ the clans.”

The tall, slim and quite blonde young woman entered the room accompanied by her mother, Jen and solemnly bowed to Lo and Nal but said nothing, just straightening up and standing as still as if she’d been a guardsman on parade duty.

“This here is Genti, our daughter of whom we are beyond proud. She has been training in secret to become a priestess against the edicts of the Church. Despite the dangers, she chose to enter into this vocation, stating that she did not want to see our old ways die while she could do something about it. Genti is a strong and very disciplined woman who has twice refused a very good match in order to pursue her vocation. I’ll not say more but leave the rest of her story for her and her mother to tell.

“Now I wish to discuss the matter of the healin’ ye said ye could perform on our people and that ye would. We be in serious need of this gift. Is there some particular procedure ye need done for this?”

Nal answered, “No Ian, just take us where we are needed and we will do what we do. I will go with someone you choose. Deanna, will you go along with someone else that we may double up on our efforts for our time may be short?”

“Certainly I will do that. Someone lead me on.”

It was Genti who spoke, in a low but penetrating voice,

“If I may an’ it please ye, I would accompany ye to t’ sick, m’lady.” She said to Deanna.

Though the words spoke of a deep humility they could not hide the power and authority in them.

That is the “healing time” that would be talked about for long years thereafter when a greater, more eventful thing took place at the MacGruders and surroundings of the cottage than had been the cowardly attack that had killed three of their people. The story would also speak of how a daughter of the clans became a great healer in that time.

Sick, lame, those hurt or maimed in accidents, all were cured, including one young man of eighteen summers who had never been quite right in his head and a blind child of three summers who received her sight.

We often speak of how joyful people are when they are delivered from an enemy, when a war is won and the fighters return home in victory. But nothing can surpass the joy of those who receive their people cured from terrible diseases for which they thought there would never be a cure.

Imagine the joy of that mother of the three year old blind child, to realize her child could see after the Glowmere village priest had accused her and her child of having sin in their lives and pronounced the child’s blindness as a just punishment from God.

Imagine if you can the relief also from the many who were dirt poor, when they discovered that the wizards would take no payment, either in gold or in kind, for their healing services. Yes, it was a time of great rejoicing at the cottage that led to three days of feasting, music and dancing.

When the celebrations began and it looked as if they would go on for some time, Deanna confessed to Nal that she longed to join up with Wolf whose lonely calls she had been faithfully following.

“I need to go to him and run with him. I want to find out what he has learned and done about his own powers and how he can help us since he insists on coming along with us. Of course, he would never leave me.”

“Go then Deanna. You’ve done a great service to all now and it’s time for you to enjoy your own life. Talk to me when you are ready to rejoin us. Now listen, you can’t just shuck your clothes here for me to look after and walk away. You’ll need to find a dry place to hide them and you’ll need to wear them when you return. You will remember the human taboos on nakedness, will you not?”

“I will try. It’s silly but it is their law. Warn me when the festivities are coming to an end and I will return.”

Hidden from any prying eye, Nal and Deanna hugged each other and kissed passionately, chests heaving with desire for each other.

“Go, go before we do more. I know you cannot regret but I might and I don’t want to. I love you and you know that. All of us are caught in our own love triangles with you as the fulcrum and it is a terrible burden but I feel it has its purpose and that will be revealed to us soon. Go, find your mate and play. I return to Lo and the things of men and women and wizards while you deal with those of wolves and elves and wizards. Ah, what a motley bunch we are.”

Reluctantly she turned and walked away, back towards the cottage. When she turned, Deanna had disappeared. She scanned the sloping land and saw the large black werewolf and his huge light grey mate running across an open area then plunging into the woods. Then came the distinct calls as both went about performing their territory claiming rituals. Nal felt her heart grow heavy and began to doubt that Deanna would ever return to her as a human being, if at all.

‘I am being a foolish girl, letting love confuse my thoughts. I must be to the things that now concern us most, to the great confrontation that awaits us.

‘O, Lo, I fear for us. Perhaps it’s because of what happened to me before that I harbour this fear, but it is in me. The fear of unavoidable pain and of death. I feel it coming, Lo.’

Did he hear her thoughts? Did he sense her loneliness and emptiness? There was no response from him as she walked slowly and deliberately back to the feast. She heard the music, then the laughter. Night once again began to claim his rightful share of time and Nal stopped to watch as the huge fire lit as a welcome beacon threw its baleful glare up the walls of the great stone building, drawing portentous shapes upon them.

‘Fire’ she thought. ‘Fire, I have seen so many fires already, too many and their colour drains me of life.’



The Challenge of Death

Happy Valentines Day

(thoughts from ‘The Other Side’ by ~burning woman~ )

I took a break from writing the novel tonight and watched a movie my friend left with me. It’s called “The Carer” and it is a good story.

Here are some quotes from that movie:

Quote: “Great Dramatists and great actors conspire to blow up complacency, corruption, pretension, all the vices of our rich, sordid, jaded world with humour, passion and a large dollop of sex.”

(And I would add, so do great writers.)

Quote: “How many of us here deny the human condition in one form or another? We get old, that’s the truth. And how can you tell true stories about the human condition if you deny it, choosing only the good bits: youth and beauty, passion and sex. There’s no truth in cosmetic enhancements, you know, no candour in collagen.”

(And here I would add: Nor in ostentatious adulation and riches.)

Quote: “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.”

(And here I would add that those who work so hard at denying the coming reality of death and what it may entail of the unknowns it hides, are as cowardly as those who quail when facing it on the battle field or in opposing tyrants.)

Quote: “Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing as death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” {End of quotes}

Let’s engage the topic of “this or that” History Month. Let’s look at some big topics we could have official history months on and pretend, just for one moment, that a “History Month” means that we actually cared about what “month” is being recognized for or celebrating.

OK, big topics.

How about a “Love History Month”? I’m told that love is really, I mean, really important; that everybody wants love, needs love. Two days from “Valentine’s Day” and suddenly the subject of “love” is all the rage. Maybe they should have made February “Love History Month.” Ah but then I wonder what sort of “history” would emerge from such a topic. Who would mention that love is an absolute value; that there are no “degrees” of love? Imagine a whole month where, as celebration of love everybody does nothing else but love one-another.

I think not. Let’s just send each other little red hearts on cardboard or on digital screens and keep on pretending.

Do we have an official “Life History Month”? I don’t remember hearing about that either. Yet, is there a more important topic to discuss and engage? Shouldn’t we, once and for all, define life as an absolute value? How about celebrating a whole month without any killing, not in warfare, not in sports, not as a police activity, not as random street crime and not in the killing fields of meat packing. For one month, all life is sacred, at least to the very best of our ability to practice this.

I’m afraid we’re not touching that one with a ten foot pole.

Do we have a “Peace History Month”? OK, here goes, one whole month dedicated to doing peace. One whole month of total cease-fire, no warfare. One whole month no oppressing, no bullying, no extorting, no taking advantage, no competitive activity. Just peace.

Hm. Why can’t I see that happening either?

can’t do love,
can’t do life,
can’t do peace.

Hey, I know. Let’s have a “Death History Month”! Focus on everything and everyone on this world that’s died, is dying, and will die, how and why. For an entire month all we do is study death, observe death, think and talk about our own guaranteed, certain death, then feel the feelings engendered by such a study.

Of course we would never do that; it would be considered morbid.

Yet does anyone realize that the more death is studied and focused upon, particularly one’s own death, the more one comes to understand the necessity of
loving unconditionally? Of
treating all of life as sacred? Of
personal and global peace as the only foundation for any civilization?

But we won’t have any of that because, well, we all know why, to the tune of about seven and a half billion reasons. We would never contemplate engaging love, life or peace in any meaningful context, it would upset the applecart and the applecart is what’s sacred!

I’m told that mankind is not brainwashed, is not manipulated, is not controlled. Therefore what I’m really being told is that mankind is autonomous, free to think, speak and act in every way.

If that is the case, then mankind, that is each and everyone of us, is fully responsible, and accountable, for all the misery, the horror, the killing, that takes place all over this world. There is no one else to blame! If you’re not the victim, then you are the perpetrator. Sure, there’s countless arguments against my black and white views of things, but they remain spurious.

As perpetrators of global injustice the reality we exist in is a reality we all want, desire, or feel the need for. As victims, the same reality is one we consider hell and would do practically anything, if we had the power, to get out from under. It’s just that the perpetrators, the consumers, the relatively content, the remaining “haves” won’t let their victims escape; they won’t even let them seek refuge from oppression and drone bombing in the box store, the fast-food drive-tru or multiplex theatre because that would spoil the game and the game must go on.

We of the west with our fake religions, fake economics, fake politics, have been masterful at vicariously spreading hell and death throughout the world through our Master we call the Military Industrial Complex. For several hundred years we’ve benefited from that exploitation and now, when it’s coming to a justly deserved end we’re not giving up in the face of certain collapse, we’re desperately attempting to shore up the crumbling edifice of militaristic imperial democracy and “Christian” values even if all we’re doing is pretending it isn’t collapsing.

The costs? More deaths of innocents, but as long as it’s not my death, or the death of “my” innocents, it’s normal and fair collateral damage. If a dozen Kurd children need slaughtering today so I can fill my SUV gas tank or buy a bigger screen smart TV, that’s the price the Third World or developing world has always had to pay to the Empire so why should that be a problem today, particularly?

Happy Valentines day…

It’s all your Fault

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

The other day, in an unguarded moment of, what, nostalgia? Remorsefulness? Painful introspection, well whatever, I wrote that thing I called ‘Throwing away the key’ and got some interesting replies. I gave myself some interesting replies also, churning up some pretty nasty internal monologue.

The long and short of it, it’s now churning me. Oh yes, there was something driving my thoughts that day and it has intensified. I don’t know where this is going but I’m sure I’ll find out.

Life on earth is interesting to say the least. It’s kind of black and white though we like to throw in a lot of colours to hide the plain truth and we like to pretend the colours are real. They’re not.

Duality: It’s all your fault, the other side, it’s all my fault. There is nothing in between, either or, that’s it. We don’t like that so we say, as if saying it really meant anything, well, it’s not all her fault, it’s not all your fault, not all yours, not all mine. It’s always a bit of both. Then we write up reams of laws and hire thousands of highly paid interpreters to determine the degree of fault to saddle both with. The system gains. Instead of one guilty party, you have two, and both get to pay, forever. A Crayola System, in a nutshell, that’s what living in society is.

Life on earth. For the average Joe or Josephine, it’s never black or white, it’s the coat of many shades of grey. Nothing’s really evil; nothing’s really good. We make sandwiches without the slices of bread and see nothing amiss with that when we open the plastic wrap to pick at bits and pieces of meat and cheese, lick the mayo and mustard from the wrap and finally grab the pickles off the tray and eat them. What a delightful sandwich, we say and of course everyone agrees, it was a delightful sandwich.

Then comes the innocent, the fool, the philosopher who sits beside you on that spinning plastic stool and says, that wasn’t a sandwich, that was a mess of edibles, perhaps, more like a dog’s breakfast. Oh, how dare you, or, Oh well she’s just a kid what does she know, or He’s the village idiot, don’t listen to him.

You ordered a sandwich, the system gave you a sandwich and that’s the end of the story: it was a sandwich. When the system gives it to you, it’s always what you meant to have. Always. If you said otherwise, you can’t begin to imagine what the system has in store for those who insist it wasn’t a sandwich.

Anyway, what difference does it make? It does, says the philosopher, the baker didn’t sell any sandwich bread and he went broke. His family is now on the streets, homeless and starving. And did you notice that the mess you call a sandwich did not cost you any less without the bread?

Well probably the other ingredients cost more so who can blame them for not lowering the price? If that baker had any gumption he’d have found another job to provide for his family. Those people are just lazy. What people, you ask? You know those immigrants, those, those, you know, those not like us.

Which brings in love, and hate. Well, we don’t want total love, that would throw a lot of things in complete turmoil. We don’t want total hate, that would make us look bad, so we bring in the Crayola box again and we start colouring between love and hate.

We have an official black people day, or week or we may stretch it to a month. See? We’re not racists. We don’t line up at some church to shoot the same-sex couple that just got married. See? We’re not all that homophobic. We just won’t serve them any sandwiches, but that’s understandable, we have rights.

We bring in famous entertainers to raise money for some flood victims because their plight was in the news, plus it’s a marvellous opportunity to promote our group and raise even more money.

There are gala dinners and lavish entertainment and when the bills and our financial expectations are covered, we gather to two percent remaining, and put the amount on a billboard size cheque for the photo shoot and the TV interview and we bring the happy, smiley CEO of the charity corporation that will distribute two percent of the cheque’s value to the village mayor who will pass on two percent of the receipts to his friend at the lumber yard and a pick-up truck half full of two by fours and six sheets of plywood will drive off to the construction site where a half dozen volunteers from the local church are building a Christian school. See? We are charitable.

So, let’s stay with the greys, they’re so much easier on the eyes. And for those of you naysayers who gripe about the way we do things, this is earth and if you don’t like it, you know the slogan, “Love it or leave it.” What’s to not understand?



Jeanine Winslow

[short story  by Sha’Tara]

Devon avenue is an old street with old trees, old houses and old people. This is where Jeanine Winslow lives, with her old cat. She is a widow now, her old husband died about two years ago, but no one remembers that except Jeanine and the Revenue Service. Jeanine’s house and home is one of the most decrepit small bungalow type houses on the street.

Today is a grey day. It’s raining, a cold, miserable rain that hits the skin as frozen needles. Jeanine’s arthritis is bad today, that being one reason she has been unable to go to the corner store. The other reason, of course, is that as usual the month outlasted the pension and there is not one red cent left in the house. The cat is the fortunate one, he can go outside and hunt mice. There are lots of nice fat mice in his neighbourhood. Yes, it’s his neighbourhood, he’s a cat.

There’s a steady tinkling sound in the small dining room, just behind where Jeanine is now standing and contemplating her situation.  There’s an old, rusty water can on the floor to catch a steady drip from the ceiling, a drip that keeps wandering as the drywall gradually sags lower from the water coming through the old worn out asphalt shingle roof.

A knock on the door takes Jeanine out of her circular thinking about a situation she has no control over. Wiping her tears, she goes and answers the door. On the rickety old porch, long without a roof, two very well dressed young men with briefcases smile at her. She smiles back and politely invites them in. They come in and begin their spiel.

They’re from the local “Tabernacle” they say, and they are collecting funds to finish the inside of their church, and inviting their neighbours to participate in the services.

The tinkling continues as Jeanine, sitting nervously on a small stool, the only two chairs taken by the young men, listens politely. One of the young men stares at the drip in the can, then follows it to the sagging ceiling. It impresses itself on his mind as his father is the owner of a local lumber yard and he’s done some construction himself. He understands this lady’s problem but says nothing, letting his partner do the talking.

Finally the spiel is over. They stand, realizing that this woman was certainly not made of money and perhaps they’d have better luck on another street. They make to leave when suddenly Jeanine finds her courage and her tongue to say something to these nice young men. She does not berate them or call down their religion, or their God. Far from that. Jeanine is a very kind lady. But there is something she needs to do.

She grabs the coat sleeve of one young man and say, “Please, don’t go yet. There is something here I need to show you. Please follow me?”

They follow as she leads them deeper into the old house, through a short, dark corridor. She opens the door to a tiny bedroom and in the bed, two small children, obviously a boy and girl and obviously siblings, sleep, the little girl sucking her thumb, the little boy having his arm over her in a protective way.

“I found them downtown five days ago, she says. They were crying and hungry, abandoned as so many are. What could I do but take them home, feed them, wash them and provide them with a bit of warmth and the comfort of a few sheets and blankets? I have nothing to dress them in and their own clothes were nothing but dirty rags. Now… I have nothing left to feed them. I just wanted you to know that it is not because I’m stingy that I didn’t give you anything, it’s that I don’t have anything… nothing. I’m sorry.”

The two very nice young men looked at each other and something flashed between them, some thoughts that found agreement. The oldest of the two, the one who had done the presentation, spoke then.

“We’re sorry too, very sorry. Look, here’s forty dollars that I have on me. Take that for now, and I promise we will be back.”

The younger searched his own pockets and came up with another fifteen dollars and some change. He also handed that over.

With a trembling hand, Jeanine took the money and the look on her face showed all the gratitude that words could never express. The young men left and Jeanine, knowing the children could be trusted to stay in the bed, got dressed for the cold and wet, painfully put her winter boots on and went shopping, slowly dragging her old two wheeled cart and counting her steps as was her habit.

Two days later, early morning, the storm having passed and the pale winter sun having made his appearance in a bright blue sky, a construction truck loaded with roofing materials and several cars pulled up along Devon avenue, close to Jeanine Winslow’s cottage. One man walked up to Jeanine’s front door while the rest, a crew of some seven men and three women, began to unload the truck and wheelbarrow the materials to the house. Ladders came next.

The “foreman” whose name is Jason Farnham and none other than the owner of the lumber yard, had gone to speak to Jeanine and got her shocked OK, for the work to proceed forthwith. The old roof was quickly peeled off and the happy pounding of air nailers and commands hurled back and forth filled the yard. Two women, one a strong teenager, the other, middle aged, went into the house and after moving the meagre furniture and spreading a tarp, pulled down the damp drywall. While finishing they explained to Jeanine,

“We’re sorry about the rush but the drywallers are only available tomorrow. They’ll start at 10:00 AM sharp and they’ll be done the hanging by noon. We’ll be back to finish the taping and mudding tomorrow afternoon. Any mess, we will clean up and we’ll paint next week. Is all this OK with you, Mrs. Winslow?”

“I… Yes, of course, yes…” She sat, small and quiet, with her big tomcat in her lap, her face in her hands. She didn’t know what to make of all that was happening. She thought, maybe she should just let it happen. And that’s what she did: let it happen. She went to the children’s bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed where they were occupied drawing and colouring. They looked up at her and smiled and her heart nearly burst with joy.

The small, basic roof was completed in record time and while the roof crew was cleaning up and running the magnet along the walls for stray nails, the foreman went back in the house, expressed his satisfaction on the removal of the old damp drywall then addressed Jeanine.

“Mrs. Winslow, I must apologize for our brisk performance but we just wanted to get this done in the shortest time while the sun was shining. We didn’t want to leave you as your situation was described to us so we put our emergency crew together, gathered the materials and soon I promise, your life will be back to normal, minus the roof worry. We will also put a new roof on your front porch. That, and new steps, comes later this week. I would have called you, and certainly we should have sent someone to warn you, but you don’t have a phone and we didn’t think there was any option either for you, or us so we decided to act instead of debate. My son Steve, whom you’ve met, was very persuasive and quite insistent.

“We will need to talk about the two children you are harbouring. The situation will have to be, shall we say, legalized? We have a couple of very compassionate people who we rely on to discuss these situations. Would you agree to meeting with them?”

“Yes I very much would. I know I can’t keep them but I need to know they will be sent to a good home. They really are wonderful kids, you know? I wish I could have them meet all of you but I’ve got them wrapped up in old clothes of mine and my husband. I haven’t been able to go shopping for children’s clothes, I’m sorry.”

“Did you get that, Leona? The kids need clothing. Could you leave the clean up to the rest of the crew and go get some children’s clothes from our good will box? If you can’t find anything there, please go and buy em.”

“OK, sure Jason. Be back shortly.”

“Leona’s my wife, we’re a team! I’ve got to go, Mrs. Winslow but there’s a couple of things to settle yet. First, here’s a check for $500 to help you get through this time. Second, and most importantly, everything we did, or will do, for you, is our choice. You owe us nothing and we certainly do not expect you to join or attend our church or any such thing. You will not be embarrassed by having to give any testimony. When we’re finished, we’re finished. Certainly, should you need further help you are welcome to get in touch with us – use the lumber yard – but that’s it. We are very happy to have the means to help you and others like yourself. Is that all OK with you then?”

“Yes Mr. Farnham. Yes it is. Thank you.”




Let’s Talk about Self Empowerment

(an essay) 171212

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

In considering real solutions to our increasingly insurmountable social and environmental problems I attempt to propose concepts and ways known to all of us but never actually put in practice in any serious way.  I deliberately eschew any and all “solutions” that have already had their day and demonstrated, sooner or later, their propensity to develop feet of clay.  Check out King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue if you don’t know, or remember.
Not just eschew, but I will call them up and expose them.   So, in keeping, let talk about self empowerment.

What exactly is self empowerment? Some might think it’s the power to control one’s surroundings, or events in one’s life. It isn’t.

Simply put, self empowerment is owning everything about one’s self. All that I think, say and do, belongs to me, and is authored by me. If any of it is inappropriate, then I’m being inappropriate, not someone else who may have said it and whom I’m quoting.  It is up to the self empowered to qualify a particular quote so it is not misunderstood.

If I am self empowered then I own me.

The other thing is, it also means no one else owns me, or any part of the real me – not speaking of possessions here, as in, having a mortgage on a house for example: that belongs to whomever fronted for the loan. I’m talking here of entities, or people, who like to own you, who enjoy having followers, believers, voters, lovers, worshippers, i.e., who need slaves to do their bidding; or conversely, people who are convinced they can only “do” if that which owns them is empowering them to do it.  “My country; my God; the Devil made me do it” – all dis-empowering statements.  Giving credit to others for one’s accomplishments is debilitating. 

That is why so many “managers” in the corporate world have their own meetings hidden from ordinary employees where they can brag about their “accomplishments” and take credit for exploited lowest “slave” labour on the assembly lines of the corporate order.  Their power comes from their workers and the more oppressed the workers, the more power (in control and money) management gathers to itself.  

The self empowered has no god, goddess or other invisible spirit entities to whom s/he is beholden. For many, that’s not just a big one, it’s determinative. No self empowerment possible if it cancels out dependency upon “god.”

The self empowered does not pray, obviously, that being an oxymoron.  Would a self-empowered person ever credit a god for anything? No, not even if the rest of her society did so. 

Anecdotal:  I always find it a bit funny (and embarrassing) when working with Christian people who insist on praying before meals or giving thanks after a day’s work or for whatever reason they have to give their god credit for doing (whatever!).  I listen to the petitions and the thanks and wonder why these people don’t realize that it’s all the same for believers or non believers alike. 

Nobody is guaranteed a safer work site. Nobody gets preferential treatment from the weather. Nobody gets cheaper materials. Nobody gets more to eat. Nobody has more money.  Nobody is any safer from attacks or war. Nobody is any cheerier or happier.  For all that praying and giving of thanks, there is absolutely no difference between believers and non believers.   “Ah but you fail to realize that…” and the rationalizations trip over each other, each one more ridiculous than the previous. Yes, I mean ridiculous because they certainly are.

A self empowered person doesn’t make promises and doesn’t accept them either. Promises enslave. This enters into the whole trust thing.  By definition then, the self empowered would never “get married” that too being an oxymoron. I had to smile today listening to an old song about promised love eternal when I remembered that the “in love” couple in question, who sang the song in wonderful harmony, with all the love looks of the time, divorced bitterly a long time ago. No surprise there.

The self empowered never asks, ‘what’s in it for me’ because that is the wide open door to bottomless corruption.  Enter selfishness, lies, hypocrisy, blame, control, predatory greed (which begs the question: is there any other kind of greed?) 

Perhaps these closing paragraphs illustrate self empowerment best of all.  When it comes to exchanging energies, as in labour, time, resources, the self empowered does not insist on a set exchange price but allows the situation and the transaction to speak for itself.  Fairness is determined by “the other.” Is the one buying or hiring well off?  The full price is accepted.  Is the one buying or hiring, poor?  The price is negotiated and may easily plummet to as low as zero.  The items are handed over or the work is done in the very same way, given the same quality, as for those who can afford to pay.
What replaces any energy given over, is joy, and that beats the money every time.  You see, this approach empowers “the other” as well.  The become in integral part of the transaction, as equals, as their integrity comes into play.  They now need to take responsibility for the exchange.
Our artificial consumerist system has robbed us of this necessary aspect of any transaction by removing the “bilateral” human interaction.
Does this work in “real life”?  It does, by the way, extremely well.
For those curious about achieving self empowerment, there is much personal introspection to be engaged.  Here however is a bit of esoteric “knowledge” that goes a long way in getting started on this path.  It has to do with the soul.
Many still believe that a soul is their spirit essence, that part of themselves that transcends physical death.  It’s nothing of the sort.  If people knew what a soul is, and yes, everyone has a soul whether they like it or not, believe it or not, the soul is a controlling implant.  I know how “impossible” it is for most “Earthians” to even consider such a possibility, but the main reason “you” continue to do the terrible things you do to each other and your world; the reason you cannot break out of your “programming” and set off on a new, peaceful, tranquil, quiet, simple, accepting of all, path is you are not allowed.  Every time you manage to break out and establish something more human and humane for yourselves, your world, your species, it always turns back on you.  It’s ‘Babel’ over and over.
The “gods” look down, they see their slaves gaining understanding and awareness and they clamp down viciously.  How many times have we seen this?  Ask the archaeologists how many civilizations have come and gone.  This one is going the same way and as long as the programming works, the collapse is unstoppable.
In the old Twilight Zone episode, “To serve mankind” the aliens leave a book behind in their own language, translating only the title, “To Serve Mankind”  At the end someone figures it out: it’s a cookbook and the people taken away to a better life were being served as food to the aliens.  We’re in exactly the same boat today.
To translate our own “cook book” we need to either neutralize the soul implant or remove it entirely.  Can that be done?  Yes.  I’ve done it.
Time to go serve mankind…


Love and Compassion… or is it Love versus Compassion?

        [thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Let’s dive in with this quote from D. H. Lawrence:

“Life and love are life and love, a bunch of violets is a bunch of violets, and to drag in the idea of a point is to ruin everything. Live and let live, love and let love, flower and fade, and follow the natural curve, which flows on, pointless.”

There’s so much being said in those two lines.  Life and love are life and love just as a bunch of violets is a bunch of violets.  We have a saying here, “a thing is what it is and it isn’t something else.”  …and: Bingo!  Love is love and it isn’t something else.  Now then, can we define love?  I think it’s very easy: love is an emotion.  Therefore love is not any of those other things people (with agendas) “love” to drag love into.

For example, the biblical injunction to love your neighbour as yourself, or to go even further and to love your enemy, and one step more: to give your life for another because of love.  Well, here’s why that has never worked and will, guaranteed, never work: you can’t force an emotion, you can only experience it after something else has happened.  Love therefore is never a motivator, it is the result of something else having happened first.

I don’t see any problem with that; no difficulty in understanding it.  So carrying this on, love then, can only be reciprocal: it manifests only as a result.  It is dependent upon a cause.  Whatever the cause may be, love will manifest and will carry on the nature of the cause.  Hence, you can love your country and kill or be killed for it (a blatant contradiction to the claims made of love) because you first are a brainwashed patriot who has never asked: what do they mean by “my country?”  What am I defending, against whom, for whom?  In comes the enemy.  Can I love my country, defending it against an enemy and love that enemy at the same time?  Am I a spiritual contortionist?

Let’s briefly look at the most common type of love: romantic.  Two people with the right combination of chemicals acting simultaneously “fall in love” and when this is acknowledged, desire flares up usually to sexual intercourse.  It is called “falling” because for those caught in the vise, it is a falling, not a deliberate engagement to a carefully considered end.  Certainly some relationships begun as love, continue, and end well.  But to claim such are sustained entirely by love is giving “love” false credit.  I consider this type of love as a form of suicide… 🙂

As there is no point to any emotion, so there is no point to love.  Emotions are exhaust from feelings.  We get feelings from a variety of sources, some physical, some mental, body and mind reacting to even more primitive or distant input.  Feelings are analyzed and used or discarded.  This process creates emotions.  The main problem with the emotion of love is, people have been erroneously taught (for controlling purposes and to create guilt) that they can use love as a motivating force.  Sure, just as much as you can use your car exhaust to fuel your car.  Love is entropic.  Love does not arise from deliberation, from rational thought.

Is it “love versus compassion” after all?  Once more into the fray, let’s see if I can make this point: that love and compassion are not buddies but diametrically opposite.  I hear people say, “with love and compassion we could…”  That’s like saying, “with salt and sugar we could doctor our coffee.”  Predictably, the result of such thinking, and it is global in scope, is that nothing changes or you have an inedible cup of coffee.  In fact to the great dismay of those who promote “love” as the modus operandi for the world’s ruling agencies change goes from bad to worse… always.  Yes, that’s always.

What then is the big deal with compassion?  Compassion is a power, a source of energy.  It is a stand alone program that can be used as an operating system for the entire spirit-mind-body that we call a human being.  Compassion is there.  I cannot choose to have compassion, I already have it, having been born an *ISSA being.  It is part of me, of you, of all sentience.  All an individual need do is choose to use that particular operating system rather than those offered by the Matrix, which translates as the status quo or the System.

Switching to compassion as our OS will mean a change of programming, naturally.  If  you’ve ever switched from Microsoft Windows to Linux you know what I mean.  This new OS is lean and uncompromising.  It will remove three of man’s most common virtues and foibles: faith, hope and love.  Gone.  Under compassion, you learn to live independently, as a self-empowered being.  The choices you make now are not suggested, they are dictated by compassion.  Your choices become non-choices because any attempt to use to old ways will result in an error message.  For example, if you are thinking of using “love” in a particular dilemma the message will read: “The concept you are attempting to introduce is incompatible with your current programming.”  Then you remember, and you return to your new nature and re-discover that compassion is all you need to approach your current situation.

Advantages of compassion over love: compassion is a part of you, love only manifests as emotion, a johnny-come-lately, meaning it is utterly compromised.  Compassion is free of condemnatory judgments, i.e., free of any external input seeking to motivate choices.  Love thrives on being told what to do.  Compassion is self-motivated whereas love is always reciprocal.  Those who speak of “unconditional love” really have no idea that they are speaking of a contradiction, a chimera.  There can be no such thing as unconditional love.  Can’t be found anywhere on earth, or in history.  Compassion demands self-empowerment and detachment whereas love collapses under endless loads of dis-empowerment and attachments.  Compassion is never found in collectives whereas, again, that is where love thrives, from the family unit or tribe, to the ends of the empire.  You can become compassion by nature but you can never become love by nature.  If you are, by nature, a compassionate being, compassion is your life, you don’t need to activate it, or search for it or hope it will be sufficient to meet any situation: you are it.

Love on the other hand has so many faces and levels of entropic energy it is guaranteed to fail at the most critical moment and you’ll have to fall back on other choices.  Take that critical moment:  you’ll pray, throw money at it, join with others against it, vote and hope, turn and run, sue, demonstrate, give in, change your mind, convert, put up.  Whatever choice done in the name of love, if you lose you will experience the bitter taste of loss; you will know loneliness, pain and suffering.  You will eat humble pie.  Much of that suffering translates as physical ill-health or psychoses, followed by drugs, injections, hospitalizations, the rise of addictions and lack of self-control.  Follow the trail left by dashed expectations.

The compassionate being, self-empowered and knowing both body and mind, living from spirit source, experiences differently.  We become a bridge between a world’s joy and sorrow, feeling all, knowing all.  By transmuting the worlds’ happiness and pleasures to joy, the world’s pain and suffering to sorrow, compassion makes it not just bearable but understandable.  This leads inexorably to becoming an empath.  Before that happens to me though, I want to be “outta here!” because then “I” would have to feel the world’s extreme feelings and emotions before they became joy and sorrow.  Try to imagine what that would mean.  Already I feel it closing in.

Nevertheless, due to programming there are likely millions of individuals who would choose to live a compassionate life but never see the dichotomy of love versus compassion and remain firmly trapped within the love morass, the love belief, having to make difficult and contradictory choices on a daily basis, choices which compassion would instantly make for them, equipping them to act in the moment rather that toss and turn the idea looking for some proper or logical outcome which can only exist in compassion.

If I were a teacher, I would emphasize this: remember, it is never love and compassion but always love or compassion.  Then, if you make the choice to live a compassionate life, be prepared to lose everything… that you may gain yourself.  Here’s a well known parable that illustrates seeking for compassion:

*”A long time ago an important man came to a Zen master seeking to be taught Zen.  The master quickly realized by the tone of voice that this rich man was used to command obedience.  He listened while the rich man said: “I have come today to ask you to teach me about enlightenment, about Zen.”  The Zen master offered to discuss the matter over a cup of tea.  When the tea was served, the master poured a cup for his visitor.  He poured and poured until the contents overflowed on the table and spilled unto the rich man’s robes.
“Enough!” cried the rich man.  “Can’t you see the cup is full and you’re spilling tea all over?”
The master stopped pouring and said, “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added.  Come back to me when the cup is empty.  Come back to me with an empty mind.”

There is another saying that should be familiar to all Christians at least: “Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

*ISSA: Intelligent, Sentient, Self Aware

*Story of Zen master borrowed from:


Tomgram: Ira Chernus, Now Who’s The Enemy?

I think this article is on point, and it’s a great read.  It only takes a few minutes and suddenly one gets a better, if not less confusing, perspective on the politics of Washington, particularly under president Trump.

The question that came to my mind as I read through the following is, “Should the people of the “West” so-called, be legitimately afraid of Islam and Muslim people, or are the “world leaders” of Washington perpetrating a massive scam on American people so they can fleece them, not only of their money and property, but of their democracy, their freedom, their very soul as a people living in 21st Century earth?”

The second question is, “If we cannot clearly identify “the enemy” then do we really have an enemy at all, or is it that the real enemy of the country is ensconced in, ruling from, the White House?”

As you read through, consider this quote from Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn: “we will do whatever it takes to win… If you are victorious, the people will judge whatever means you used to have been appropriate.”

Tomgram: Ira Chernus, Now Who’s The Enemy?

Posted by Ira Chernus at 4:08pm, February 5, 2017.
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Let’s face it: since 9/11 everything in our American world has been wildly out of proportion.  Understandably enough, at the time that attack was experienced as something other than it was.  In the heat of the moment, it would be compared to city-destroying or world-ending Hollywood disaster films (“It was like one of them Godzilla movies”), instantly dubbed “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” or simply “A New Day of Infamy,” and experienced by many as nothing short of an apocalyptic event inflicted on this country, the equivalent of a nuclear attack — as NBC’s Tom Brokaw said that day, “like a nuclear winter in lower Manhattan,” or as the Topeka Capital-Journal headlined it in a reference to a 1983 TV movie about nuclear Armageddon, “The Day After.”  It was, of course, none of this.  No imposing imperial challenger had struck the United States without warning, as Japan did on December 7, 1941, in what was essentially a declaration of war.  It was anything but the nuclear strike for which the country had been mentally preparing since August 6, 1945 — as, in the years after World War II, American newspapers regularly drew futuristic concentric circles of destruction around American cities and magazines offered visions of our country as a vaporized wasteland.  And yet the remains of the World Trade Center were regularly referred to as “Ground Zero,” a term previously reserved for the spot where an atomic explosion had occurred. The 9/11 attacks were, in fact, mounted by the most modest of groups at an estimated cost of only $400,000 to $500,000 and committed by 19 hijackers using our own “weapons” (commercial airliners) against us.

However, the response from a Bush administration eager to strike in the Greater Middle East, especially against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, was to act as if the country had indeed been hit by nuclear weapons and as if we were now at war with a new Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. In the process, Bush officials took that first natural urge to go apocalyptic, to see our country as endangered at an existential level, and ran with it.  As a result, from September 12, 2001, on, the confusion, the inability to see things as they actually were, would never end.  The Bush administration, of course, promptly launched its own “global war on terror.” (GWOT was the acronym.)  Its officials then made that “global” quite real by insisting that they were planning to fight terrorism in a mind-boggling 60 or more countries around the planet.

Fifteen disastrous years later, having engaged in wars, occupations, or conflicts in at least seven countries in the Greater Middle East, having left failed or failing states littered in our path and spurred the spread of terror groups throughout that region and beyond, we now find ourselves in the age of Trump, and if it isn’t obvious to you that everything remains dangerously out of whack, it should be. Consider the set of former military men and associated figures the new president has appointed to run the national security state.  As TomDispatch regular and professor of religious studies Ira Chernus points out today, they uniformly believe — shades of GWOT — that our country is in a literal “world war” at this very second, and they seem to believe as well that its fate and the planet’s are at stake, even if none of them can quite decide whom it is we’re actually fighting. This struggle against, well, whomever, is so apocalyptic that, in their opinion, our very “Judeo-Christian” civilization is at stake. (Hence the recent Muslim ban, even if not quite called that.)  On all of this, Chernus offers their own grim, whacked-out words as proof.

Who could deny that, by now, many Americans have lost the ability to see the world as it is, put much of anything in perspective, or sort out genuine threats from fantasy constructs?  As a result, we’re led by delusional officials overseen, as if in some terrible Hollywood flick about the declining Roman Empire, by a mad, driven leader (who may be quite capable, in a matter of months, of turning the whole world against us).  If you don’t believe me, just plunge into Chernus today and into a fantasy war and an apocalyptic fate that supposedly awaits us if we don’t fight to the death against… well…

Perspective, context, proportion? Sorry, we don’t grok you, Earthling. Tom

Field of Fright 
The Terror Inside Trump’s White House
By Ira Chernus

What kind of national security policy will the Trump administration pursue globally? On this issue, as on so many others, the incoming president has offered enough contradictory clues, tweets, and comments that the only definitive answer right now is: Who knows?

During his presidential campaign he more or less promised a non-interventionist foreign policy, even as he offered hints that his might be anything but.  There was, of course, ISIS to destroy and he swore he would “bomb the shit out of them.” He would, he suggested, even consider using nuclear weapons in the Middle East.  And as Dr. Seuss might have said, that was not all, oh no, that was not all.  He has often warned of the dangers of a vague but fearsome “radical Islam” and insisted that “terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the Earth, a mission we will carry out.”  (And he’s already ordered his first special ops raid in Yemen, resulting in one dead American and evidently many dead civilians.)

And when it comes to enemies to smite, he’s hardly willing to stop there, not when, as he told CNN, “I think Islam hates us.” He then refused to confine that hatred to “radical Islam,” given that, on the subject of the adherents of that religion, “it’s very hard to define, it’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”

And when it comes to enemies, why stop with Islam?  Though President Trump has garnered endless headlines for touting a possible rapprochement with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, he also suggested during the election campaign that he would be tougher on the Russian president than Hillary Clinton, might have “a horrible relationship” with him, and might even consider using nukes in Europe, presumably against the Russians. His apparent eagerness to ramp up the American nuclear arsenal in a major way certainly presents another kind of challenge to Russia.

And then, of course, there’s China.  After all, in addition to his own belligerent comments on that country, his prospective secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, have both recently suggested that the U.S. should prevent China from accessing artificial islands that country has created and fortified in the South China Sea — which would be an obvious American act of war.

In sum, don’t take the promise of non-intervention too seriously from a man intent, above all else, on pouring money into the further “rebuilding” of a “depleted” U.S. military.  Just who might be the focus of future Trumpian interventions is, at best, foggy, since his vision of The Enemy — ISIS aside — remains an ever-moving target.

Suppose, though, we judge the new president not by his own statements alone, but by the company he keeps — in this case, those he chooses to advise him on national security. Do that and a strange picture emerges.  On one thing all of Trump’s major national security appointees seem crystal clear.  We are, each one of them insists, in nothing less than a world war in which non-intervention simply isn’t an option. And in that they are hardly kowtowing to the president.  Each of them took such a position before anyone knew that there would be a Donald Trump administration.

There’s only one small catch: none of them can quite agree on just whom we’re fighting in this twenty-first-century global war of ours.  So let’s take a look at this crew, one by one, and see what their records might tell us about intervention, Trump-style.

Michael Flynn’s Field of Fright

The most influential military voice should be that of retired Lieutenant General and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (though his position is already evidently weakening).  He will lead the National Security Council (NSC), which historian David Rothkopf calls the “brain” and “nerve center” of the White House.  Flynn laid out his views in detail in the 2014 book he co-authored with neocon Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies (a volume that Trump, notorious for not reading books, “highly recommended”). To call Flynn’s views frightening would be an understatement.

America, Flynn flatly asserts, is “in a world war” and it could well be a “hundred-year war.” Worse yet, “if we lose this war, [we would live] in a totalitarian state… a Russian KGB or Nazi SS-like state.” So “we will do whatever it takes to win… If you are victorious, the people will judge whatever means you used to have been appropriate.”

But whom exactly must we defeat? It turns out, according to him, that we face an extraordinary network of enemies “that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.”  And that’s not all, not by a long shot.  There’s “also al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and countless other terrorist groups.” And don’t forget “the merging of narcotics traffickers, organized criminals, and terrorists.” (Flynn has claimed that “Mexican drug cartels” actually post signs at the U.S.-Mexican border — in Arabic, no less — marking “lanes of entry” for Islamic terrorists.)

Now, that’s quite a list! Still, “radical Islam” seems to be America’s number one enemy on most pages of the book and Flynn puts the spotlight of fear squarely on one nation-state: “Iran is the linchpin of the alliance, its centerpiece.”

How Shi’ite Iran can be the “linchpin” in what turns out to be a worldwide insurgency of the Sunni Islamic State (aka ISIS) is something of a mystery.  Perhaps it’s not any single version of Islam that threatens us, but the religion in all its many forms, or so Flynn seems to have decided after he published his book. In this spirit, in February 2016 he infamously tweeted “Fear of Islam is RATIONAL” as an endorsement of a video that indicted and vilified that religion of 1.6 billion people. And to this day he evidently remains unsure whether “radical Islam” — or maybe even Islam as a whole — is a religion or a political ideology that we must fight to the death.

In our present world, all of this highlights another glaring contradiction: Why would Vladimir Putin’s Russia, for so long fiercely resisting Muslim insurgencies within its own borders and now fighting in Syria, ally with global radical Islam? In his book, Flynn offers this facile (and farfetched) explanation meant to clarify everything that otherwise makes no sense whatsoever: all the forces arrayed against us around the world are “united in their hatred of the democratic West and their conviction that dictatorship is superior.”

Anti-democratic ideology, if you’ll excuse the choice of words, trumps all. Our enemies are waging war “against the entire Western enterprise.” In response, in his book Flynn ups the ante on the religious nature of our global war, calling on all Americans to “accept what we were founded upon, a Judeo-Christian ideology built on a moral set of rules and ties… The West, and especially America, is far more civilized, far more ethical and moral, than the system our main enemies want to impose on us.”

As it happens, though, Flynn seems to have come to a somewhat different conclusion since his book was published.  “We can’t do what we want to do unless we work with Russia, period,” he’s told the New York Times. “What we both have is a common enemy… radical Islam.” The Russians, it turns out, may be part of that Christian… well, why not use the word… crusade against Islam.  And among other things, Russia might even be able to help “get Iran to back out of the proxy wars they are involved in.” (One of which, however, is against ISIS, a reality Flynn simply ducks.)

Of course, Russia has not significantly changed its policies in this period. It’s Flynn, at a moment when geopolitical strategy trumps (that word again!) ideology, who has apparently changed his tune on just who our enemy is.

“I would want this enemy to be clearly defined by this president,” Flynn said when talking about President Obama. Now that Donald Trump is president, Flynn’s the one who has to do the defining, and what he’s got on his hands is a long list of enemies, some of whom are visibly at each other’s throats, a list evidently open to radical revision at any moment.

All we can say for sure is that Michael Flynn doesn’t like Islam and wants us to be afraid, very afraid, as we wage that “world war” of his. When he chose a title for his book he seems to have forgotten one letter. It should have been The Field of Fright. And his present job title deserves a slight alteration as well: national insecurity adviser.

An Uncertain (In)Security Team

On the national insecurity team Flynn heads, everyone seems to share a single conviction: that we are indeed already in a global war, which we just might lose. But each of them has his or her own favorites among Flynn’s vast array of proffered enemies.

Take his top assistant at the NSC, K.T. McFarland.  For her, the enemy is neither a nation nor a political unit, but a vaguely defined “apocalyptic death cult… the most virulent and lethal in history” called “radical Islam.”  She adds, “If we do not destroy the scourge of radical Islam, it will ultimately destroy Western civilization… and the values we hold dear.” For her, it’s an old story: civilization against the savages.

There’s no way to know whether McFarland will have real influence on decision-making in the Oval Office, but her view of the enemy has been voiced in much the same language by someone who already does have such influence, white nationalist Steve Bannon, whom the president has just given a seat on the National Security Council.  (He reportedly even had a major hand in writing the new president’s Inaugural Address.)  Trump’s senior counselor and key adviser on long-term foreign policy strategy offered rare insight into his national insecurity views in a talk he gave at, of all places, the Vatican.

We’re in “a war that’s already global,” Bannon declared, “an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism.” However, we also face an equally dangerous threat: “an immense secularization of the West,” which “converges” with “radical Islam” in a way he didn’t bother to explain. He did, however, make it very clear that the fight against the “new barbarity” of “radical Islam” is a “crisis of our faith,” a struggle to save the very ideals of “the Judeo-Christian West … a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind.”

New CIA Director Mike Pompeo seems to agree wholeheartedly with Bannon that we’re in a global religious war, “the kind of struggle this country has not faced since its great wars.” Part of the key to survival, as he sees it, is for “more politicians of faith to infuse the government with their beliefs and get the nation back on track, instead of bowing to secularism.” In this battle of churches and mosques, he also claims that the line has been drawn between “those who accept modernity and those who are barbarians,” by which he means “the Islamic east.” In such a grandiose tangle, who exactly is who among our enemies remains up for grabs. All Pompeo seems to knows for sure is that  “evil is all around us.”

Retired General and Secretary of Defense James Mattis admits forthrightly just how confusing this all is, but he, too, insists that we have to “take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values.” And who exactly is threatening those values? “Political Islam?” he asked an audience rhetorically. On that subject, he answered himself this way: “We need to have the discussion.”  After all, he went on, “If we won’t even ask the question, how do we even recognize which is our side in a fight?”

Several years ago, however, when Barack Obama asked him to spell out his top priorities as CENTCOM commander in the Greater Middle East, Mattis was crystal clear. He bluntly replied that he had three priorities: “Number one: Iran. Number two: Iran. Number three: Iran.” Moreover, in his confirmation hearings, he suddenly proclaimed Russia a “principal threat… an adversary in key areas.”

Still another view comes from retired General and Secretary of Homeland Security James Kelly. He, too, is sure that “our country today is in a life-and-death struggle against an evil enemy” that exists “around the globe.” But for him that evil enemy is, above all, the drug cartels and the undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.  They pose the true “existential” threat to the United States.

Everyone on Trump’s national insecurity team seems to agree on one thing: the United States is in a global war to the death, which we could lose, bringing some quite literal version of apocalyptic ruin down on our nation. Yet there is no consensus on whom or what exactly we are fighting.

Flynn, presumably the key voice on the national insecurity team, offers a vast and shifting array of enemies milling around pugnaciously on Trumpworld’s field of fright. The others each highlight and emphasize one or more groups, movements, or nations in that utterly confused crew of potential adversaries.

We Need an Enemy, Any Enemy

This could, of course, lead to bruising disagreements and a struggle for control over the president’s foreign and military policies.  It’s more likely, though, that Trump and his team don’t see these differences as crucial, as long as they all agree that the threat of destruction really is at our doorstep, whoever the designated deliverer of our apocalyptic fate may be. Starting out with such a terrifying assumption about how our present world works as their unquestioned premise, they then can play fill-in-the-blank, naming a new enemy as often as they wish.

For the last near-century, after all, Americans have been filling in that blank fairly regularly, starting with the Nazis and fascists of World War II, then the Soviet Union and other members of the “communist bloc” (until, like China and Yugoslavia, they weren’t), then Vietnamese, Cubans, Grenadians, Panamanians, so-called narco-terrorists, al-Qaeda (of course!), and more recently ISIS, among others. Trump reminds us of this history when he says things like: “In the twentieth century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.”

The field of fright that Trump and his team are bringing to the White House is, by now, an extreme version of a familiar feature of American life. The specter of apocalypse (in the modern American meaning of the word), the idea that we face some enemy dedicated above all else to destroying us utterly and totally, is buried so deep in our political discourse that we rarely take the time to think about it.

One question: Why is such an apocalyptic approach — even when, as at present, so ludicrously confused and unsupported by basic facts, not to say confusing to its own proponents — convincing for so many Americans?

One answer seems clear enough: it’s hard to rally the public behind interventions and wars explicitly aimed at expanding American power and control (which is why the top officials of the Bush administration worked so hard to locate fantasy weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and bogusly link him to the 9/11 attacks before invading his country in 2003). Americans have assured pollsters for years that they don’t want to be the cops of the world. So, as successful leaders since President Franklin Roosevelt have recognized, any wars or steps toward war must be clothed in the word defense, and if you can add a sense of apocalyptic menace to the package, all the better.

Defense is little short of a sacred term in the American lexicon (right down to the “Defense” Department, once upon a time known far more accurately as the War Department).  It bestows an aura of moral justification on even the most violent and aggressive acts.  As long as the public is convinced that we must defend ourselves at all costs against an enemy that threatens our very world, anything is possible.

Trump and his national insecurity team are blessed with an added benefit in this process: the coming of all-news, all-the-time media, which has a tendency to inflate even the relatively modest (if bloody) acts of “lone wolf” terrorists until they seem to engulf our lives, 24/7, threatening everything we hold dear. Images of terror that might once have been glimpsed for a few minutes on the nightly news are now featured, as with the San Bernardino or the Pulse night club killings, for days, even weeks, at a time.

Certainly, when so many news consumers in the world’s most powerful nation accept such fearsome imagery, and their own supposed vulnerability to it, as reality itself (as pollsters tell us so many Americans indeed do), they do so in part because it makes whatever violence our government inflicts on others seem “regrettable, but necessary” and therefore moral; it absolves us, that is, of responsibility.

In part, too, such collective apocalyptic anxiety gives Americans a perverse common bond in a world in which — as the recent presidential campaign showed — it’s increasingly hard to find a common denominator that defines American identity for all of us. The closest we can come is a shared determination to defend our nation against those who would destroy it. In 2017, if we didn’t have such enemies, would we have any shared idea of what it means to be an American? Since we’ve been sharing that sense of identity for three-quarters of a century now, it’s become, for most of us, a matter of unquestioned habit, offering the peculiar comfort that familiarity typically brings.

At this point, beyond upping the ante against ISIS, no one can predict just what force, set of groups, nation or nations, or even religion the Trump administration might choose as the next great “threat to national security.” However, as long as the government, the media, and so much of the public agree that staving off doom is America’s preeminent mission, the administration will have something close to a blank check to do whatever it likes. When it comes to “defending” the nation, what other choice is there?

Ira Chernus, a TomDispatch regular, is professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of the online MythicAmerica: Essays.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Ira Chernus