Category Archives: Christianity

On Atheism, Religion and the Human Being

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

Very recently I ‘accidentally’ stepped into a burgeoning discussion on WordPress. The question was simple and innocuous enough: is a child born with an innate sense of God, or in a broader sense, the numinous?

To a philosopher, such a question is a very personal one. You think about it and you answer it according to your own remembrances, memories, and experiences. Sadly the question was going to be caught, handcuffed and dragged through the streets to be tortured by one particularly strident and defensive ‘ism’.

I suppose the question was custom-made to being hijacked mostly by atheists, and I should have been a bit more wary to even try to wade on the shore of that stream. The water was acid on my bare feet.

I’ve never liked atheism. I tried it for a few years and I found it to be a dead religion, devoid of awe, beyond short-lived awareness of pretty sunsets, flowers and waterfalls, perhaps the enjoyment of sex; devoid of joy, since true joy can only be known on that spiritual plane atheists abhor and denigrate every chance they get.

Essentially, you are born to die. You can be no more than a superior intelligent animal and all accomplishments are but the results of a pointless evolution which cannot lead anywhere since there is no continuity beyond a mindless material level. There is no purpose to life beyond propagating itself, again, for no purpose. Though atheism denies “luck”, that being a spooky goddess we do not speak of in fear of losing our atheist badge, in its philosophy everything is happen-chance.

Self-professed atheism is a recent phenomenon, at least in the Western White Christian World, stemming mostly from deliberately mis-interpreted works of Charles Darwin and his speculations on species adaptation which he called natural evolution.

Here’s the contradiction. While life is pointless, evolution is of foremost importance and it is everything. Everything we can conceive of today has evolved… from? Well, we can’t say ‘from nothing’ that being too uncomforably close to ‘creation’ so we’ll just invent some beginning. But it can’t be anything that could remotely be connected to the effects of “divine” intervention. The perfect atheist world has a walled border; a zero tolerance policy to infiltration or refuge seeking from any sort of spirit, or spirit thought.

Though it is absolutely pointless, nevertheless atheism allows conditions such as love, caring, compassion, even empathy. Somehow, as curious as that seems to me, such unnatural conditions evolved from the same “Big Bang” and resultant muck and mire soup everything came from. Why such conditions settled on mankind, along with their too obvious opposites such as hate, racism, misogyny, egregious violence and spreading bigotry, evolution explains it. How? Dare I say by faith? Indeed, my own discovery is that it takes more faith to believe in atheism than in deism! That naturally explains why atheists have to propagate their belief by force of demagoguery, just like their opposites, in Christian “fuddlementalism”.

If everything stems from evolution, then religion is a natural product of evolution, therefore anything “happening” within those sacred halls of mostly nonsense is also a natural product of evolution. Can’t be any other explanation. So, why are atheists so vehemently anti-religious since everything is a product of their belief system? Could it be because atheism is not “science based” but a religion in its own right, its tenets subject to change without notice? And they have changed, for example on the subject of eugenics, for which we have Hitler to thank.

I’ve always known that atheism is a counter-religion, a reaction to the extremes of primarily Catholicism and Evangelicalism. Countering means engaging on the battle field and the battle field requires missionaries.

In that regard, Atheism lost one of its most strident mouth-pieces and missionary: Christopher Hitchens, who died of cancer in 2011. In my opinion, if that’s the best Atheism can come up with to prove its point, it may as well throw down its sword and yield to its opponents. You lost the Cup, go home quietly, don’t break any hearts or any stained glass windows on the way, and thank you very much for a century of dubious entertainment.

“The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing.” (John Gray, The Guardian)

Indeed, despite “the obvious” the world’s religious population is currently 85% of total population and that number is not only not declining, it is projected to rise in the next 40 years.

See also: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/how-religious-will-the-world-be-in-2050/

Now I need to make a point here: religion(s) are not what matters in all of this. What matters is that we allow ourselves, and our children, the innate “right” to be spiritual beings. In that respect both, organized religions and atheism, are enemies of mankind as a full-fledged spirit-mind-body human construct. Both kill spirit, hence both deny mankind access to its ultimate claim to being a member of humanity.

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The Machine Eaters

I don’t know how this is going to work; I forgot to add a comment and reason for reblogging Aishwariya Ramachandran’s latest post. Says it all and says it well. The post may be a bit long for some but if one is looking for quality and depth of thought, look no further.

Quoting the beginning of the post:

The Machine Eaters

by Aishwariya Ramachandran

Magpies burble outside frosty windows. Autumn sidles into view. I dreamed many things. Awakening is sharp on the spirit.

All the old heroes are dead and buried and pushing up wilting flowers, soot-covered, frayed at the edges, desperate for a clean breath in the sickly yellow-glow of the industry.

Red-faced oligarchs loot the coffers of citizenry taking human capital and freedoms of movement, speech, and association, running them through the great profit calculator prophet machine, the machine which conjures the specter of the invisible hand.

Too much Too soon

Magpies burble outside frosty windows. Autumn sidles into view. I dreamed many things. Awakening is sharp on the spirit.

All the old heroes are dead and buried and pushing up wilting flowers, soot-covered, frayed at the edges, desperate for a clean breath in the sickly yellow-glow of the industry.

Red-faced oligarchs loot the coffers of citizenry taking human capital and freedoms of movement, speech, and association, running them through the great profit calculator prophet machine, the machine which conjures the specter of the invisible hand.

Acolytes of its imperceptible body gather round shadows on the wall and cry sweet objectivities while the fire creeps closer, the wavering images growing longer, blacker and deeper; they cost the waking dreamer, screamer of sanity’s alarm for speaking truth in the face of true lies told by the state.

All the old constants are broken in heaped piles on the floor of democracy

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(This is one of those stories, mostly fiction but enough personal life included in to make it more than just fiction. It’s fairly long so I’m going to post it in three parts over the next few days)

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

I found out about him from some research I was doing, trying to piece together what happens to old people who end up living alone in rural areas, particularly in the central prairies-forgotten on homesteads of farms long ago fallen through the cracks of commercial viability.  He’d shown up on police records-a man looking for his wife in the city.  According to the records she had a daughter at the time.  His name is Peter Breckman.  Further inquiries revealed nothing else but that he’d returned to his farm in Saskatchewan, north of the Saskatchewan River, somewhere to the north-west of Prince Albert.

I was hooked.  I asked my editor for some long overdue vacation time.  There was no argument.  With several awards, including the Canadian Association of Journalists Award, and a possible Pulitzer for a book I’m writing based on my work in investigative reporting (including a stint in jail for not revealing a source) I was not to be argued with on that point.  The House wanted me happy and of course, working.

“You’re going to drive all the way into central Saskatchewan in October?  You’ve never driven outside Ontario, all on paved highways, except those two trips we took to Chicago, and I did most of the driving.  Why don’t you fly to Regina, take a bus north, rent a real four by four when you get to Prince Albert and give yourself time to explore the country, you know, before you’re buried under the snow or die in a blizzard while listening to Leonard Cohen?  Come on, give yourself time to flush out your quarry, and regale us with another of your tear-jerking prize winning stories of people down on their luck who somehow manage to see themselves through it all.  Look, if it’s money you need, or an advance, we’ll be happy to give it to you, Reed.”

Even in heels I have to look up to see his round face.  I notice his hairline is receding more and more and there’s graying at the temples.  We, none of us are getting younger, hah!  “I know Edward.  But I don’t need money; I need time alone to think.”

“Suit yourself, I know when my arguments are wasted.  But stay in touch will you?  Call, or email once a day-promise?”

I took a very deep breath, studied the genuinely concerned look on his face.  “No promises Edward, not ever-remember?  That’s why as long as we were together you were always free to be with anyone else also.  I commit only to my work.  This time is for me – alone.  I’ll call if something warrants it.  If something happens, someone will call, I’ll make sure of that.  I’ll carry a note in a pocket so when they find my frozen body under a snow drift by a clump of waxberry bushes, they can contact you on your cell.”

He smirked and that was done.  We kissed goodbye as two people who had been married for many years would.  The romance, if there ever was any, and it was more House’s gossip than reality, was long gone between us.  We were business partners and that suited me fine.

The next morning I finished packing my CRV and I headed west from Toronto, hitting the number 1 highway until I was about a hundred klicks from the city and then switching to service roads and secondary highways.  I waited until the landscape became utterly unfamiliar to allow myself to relax.  The land began to flatten and the roads became margin lines on the edges of graph paper, or so I imagined it would look from the air.  Here and there, small rivers or dry ravines with denuded clumps of aspen, cottonwoods or willows, graciously offered a break in the scenery and let me pass, lost to their own concerns.  Eventually I got around to putting a Leonard Cohen CD in the drive and I turned the volume almost as high as it would go, rolling down the side window and letting my feelings have their way and flow on the breeze.  I literally flew as there didn’t seem to be any speed limits, or if there were, they weren’t posted.

Somehow it was all very fitting for as I listened to my all time favorite Canadian poet and singer my mind began to form the outline of the story I was going away to dig up and write.  Yeah, I guess you could say that I am an archaeologist of sorts, digging up stories of ghosts not yet dead and giving them one more moment of light before the final darkness drives them away for good.  Ok, so I’ve read too much gothic fiction, but I like it.

As I drove along and played with the words of the songs, mixing my own with them, I became convinced that whatever I found out there would not only change my life, but give me a greater awareness of myself.  Here, in this endless land called the Prairies I would lose the City that had formed the city girl and this Changing Woman.  Here I would find another me, one more real than this one.  That was what I was after.  The story was to be the frame around my new face,  and I didn’t care whether the world was ever going to see that face.

I eased off on the accelerator and stopped more often, choosing my overnight stops carefully, frequenting restaurants that catered to the locals, mostly farm people.  I did not hide myself and attracted quite a few hopefuls.  I asked questions and they told me their stories which I surreptitiously recorded for the main story.  I needed background material as I knew nothing of this land or its people.  Which is a good thing actually as I had no preconceived ideas about any of it, except for the questionable I had gathered from the CBC, McLean’s and the National Film Board.  I had done my desk research but now I was in it for the show-down, so to speak.
I took five days to reach Prince Albert.  This is what they have to say about this town of 35,000 people:  Prince Albert is the 3rd largest City in Saskatchewan. Located in the broad valley of the North Saskatchewan River near the geographical center of the province where the agricultural prairie of the south and the rich forest belt of the north meet.  Much of Prince Albert is built on the sloping south bank of the North Saskatchewan River while the north bank provides a spectacular view of mixed forest, typical of northern Saskatchewan.
I set up my ‘office’ in a hotel and began to inquire as to the whereabouts of Mr. Breckman.  The police were the most helpful.  They cross-checked their old files with up-dated information and found me an address.  I didn’t tell them who I was and they didn’t ask why I wanted to know.  These people still trust strangers here and I was somewhat surprised but said nothing.  Soon enough, I thought, soon enough when they will become suspicious and closed like those of us in the big cities.

After two days of Prince Albert, I checked out but indicated I could be back, and drove across the North Saskatchewan river and headed north, then west into what seemed to me terribly empty lands with modern machinery parked in the fields and huge ‘farmsteads’ of barns, storage sheds, silos and modest homes holding up the grey sky and keeping a vigil over thousands of flat, empty acres of cleared land.  I passed a church with its front door gaping open, its steeple fallen down and a couple of weathered sheets of plywood nailed over the hole caused by the fallen construct.  Well, I thought, at least now the door is open to all, at any time, even if there is only dank mildew and darkness inside.  Beats religion anyhow.  I know Leonard would have a poem and a song to write about this place.  His words would be gentler than mine, perhaps.

I hit the dirt roads and eventually serpented my way down into a deep ravine and snaked up the other side, thankful that the road was dry as I had heard tales of prairie gumbo and I did not relish the thought of being stuck at the bottom of this twisty, steep and not too well kept road.  As I crested and leveled upon the flats again I saw my destination.  A clump of blue spruce and some ramshackle buildings with a broken and falling picket fence that had once been painted white, along the road.  Slowly, I turned into the rutted driveway, sides and center of the drive overgrown with coarse horsehair grasses and dandelions, a few still blooming.  My car being narrower than the normal, if rare, traffic that had formed this road, I had to use my four-wheel drive and some skill to not be thrown sideways.  I was to learn later that the best thing to do when driving over a deeply rutted road is to straddle the ruts and create a new set in between.  I am a city girl.  There are things you have to grow up with; that cannot be learned overnight, or even by observation.  Sometimes you have to accept your own ignorance, knowing that if the foot was in the other shoe, you’d be the one explaining and demonstrating the rules of the game.

Reaching what seemed like the end of the driveway, I turned off the engine and peered around without getting out.  I had seen some sad places along the way here, but this was the saddest imaginable.  There was an old Dodge van parked in front of a grey, sway-backed shack with a peeling tar paper roof.  The van had once been white but now was a mixed shade of green algae or mold and accumulated wind-blown dirt.  A weed with small, shriveled purple flowers grew from the windshield gasket.  It had a jack supporting the front struts and the driver side front wheel was gone.  All the others were flat and the tires were sun-baked and weather cracked.  From a broken window of the side doors a dog of indistinct lineage, age or gender stared at me without making a sound.  It looked strange until I noticed it only had one eye.  It seemed to be trying to smell me and I judged its remaining eyesight was not too good.  Safe to get out of the CRV?  I thought it was, but I was careful to open the door wide first, then put one leg on the ground, then slide slowly from the seat to stand beside the car, ready to jump back in at a moment’s notice.  The dog left the window and disappeared.  I waited and I heard it jump out of the old vehicle, heard a whimpering then it limped around the front and came slowly towards me.  It wagged its tail slowly, as if putting too much speed on it would detach it.  It approached me and sniffed, then just stood there until I bent down gingerly and petted it lightly on the head and behind the ears.  I don’t like dogs or pets in general and this was wild country.  I didn’t know if Mr. Breckman was even home, but likely he would be.  Obviously his supplies were brought in by someone as there was nothing around that was drivable.

The dog whined a bit and I felt sorry for the old thing but didn’t know what to do.  I walked to the shack, up the two creaky steps of loose boards and knocked on the door.  There was a shuffling inside and some indistinct words that may have been ‘Wait, I’m comin’ and in a few moments the door creaked open.  I saw an old man, old beyond his physical years I could tell.  A man who knew anguish and much suffering.  I introduced myself as Reed, the reporter from the “House.”

“Did you get the message I sent you about a possible interview?”
“Yes, the message was given to me. Sorry I couldn’t get back to you but I don’t have a phone. I’m Pete” he answered.  “I’m sorry about the state of this place but I don’t get around to doing much anymore.  My back just won’t let me.  Please come in if you care to and we can sit at the table.  Then you can tell me why exactly you’re here.”

We sat at a dusty table, on two old wooden chairs that certainly pre-dated my time.  A naked light bulb dangled from two twisted black and white wires that came from a hole in a yellowed drywall ceiling.  I was facing the man as he sat squinting at me, holding his head in his hands.

“Mr. Breckman” I began, but he waved me to stop.

“Please miss, call me Pete, or Peter, but forget the mister.  I’m no mister, just an old man waiting for nothing to happen.”

An interesting ‘tournure’ of words, I thought.  But before I plunged into my spiel I found myself wondering if I could do something for this ‘old man’ before me, or for the dog.

“Your dog, Pete, seems to be in great pain, and I think it’s very hungry.”

“Who, Bean?  She’s a great hunter, she doesn’t go hungry.”

“Pete, I watched her.  She can hardly move anymore and she’s starving, for food and affection.  Something should be done for her.”

“Ah, yes, I forgot.  She’s old and she don’t complain any.  There’s some chow stuff in the cupboard under the sink, I think.  D’you think you could get some to her, and some water too?”

I nodded and complied.  It was simple and heartwarming.  The dog was grateful to me and that was a first.  And so was the man I’ll now call ‘Pete’ for clarity.  I had some supplies in my car so without asking I brought in some fresh food and made us sandwiches.  Pete stared at me as I worked at the counter, wiping it as best I could first.  I was surprised to find running water, though not hot, at the taps and found a dish cloth that looked reasonably clean to wipe a few items of cutlery.  Then I brought out a couple of cans of Canada Dry ginger ale and we ate in silence.  I watched him eat.  He was definitely enjoying his sandwich and I felt gratified.  My heart was not just going out to the old man, but racing to him.  I wondered why I was so taken and accounted it to the emptiness of the place, being tired from my traveling and a degree of nervousness I was working to overcome.  My watch said it was already after 14:00 hours and the nearest hotel I knew of was almost two hundred klicks back the way I came.  I’d be driving back through unfamiliar country dirt roads with no signs, re-crossing those horrid ravines and if it rained, or sleeted as it seemed wont to do, I’d be in serious trouble unless I overcame my natural reticence of asking for help and pulled into one of those modern farms.  Surely, I said to myself, I can’t sleep here.

He had finished his sandwich, mine being half-eaten and he turned on the light.  To my surprise I saw a set of battered blueprints which I’d earlier taken as some kind of tablecloth.  He sighed, leaned his head in his hands again and stared at the drawings.  I saw tears welling up in his eyes, reflected by the light.

“Ahhh!” he groaned.  Then he looked up at me again and apologized.  “So sorry miss, but you have no idea how much your presence is hurting me.  You look like her.”

“I’m sorry Pete.  So sorry.  You mean I remind you of your wife?”

“My wife, yes, my pretty little Sally.  My life.  Yes, you do remind me and I suppose I’m an old fool who never made the effort to get over his love for one woman.  I only knew Sally, no one else.  We grew up around here and kind of became attached to each other.  She had a bad home life and ran away to our place many times.  Finally at sixteen, and me eighteen I couldn’t stand it that she’d be abused at home, so I went over there, threatened her old man and took her away.  We married in the church and lived with my parents for a short while, then we moved here.  Kids didn’t stay with their parents in our day, you had to make your own way in life.  There’s a quarter section here, not something you can live on you know, but you add on and add on and eventually you have a real farm.  It’s tough, those first few years but that’s why you do it young, when you have plenty of stamina and you know everything and you know you’re going to get what you’re after.  If you have a good woman behind you, it’s even more of a sure thing.  Sally was a good woman miss.  A very good woman, make no mistake.  But I think deep down she wanted more than life had given her and it didn’t look like we were going to hit the good times soon.  Ours was going to be a life-long struggle which eventually would be for our kids.  We’d see the results of our hard work in them.  That’s what I saw at any rate.  And I think that’s what she saw too, and she wasn’t as accepting of it as I was.”

He stopped talking and looked at me again.  He took another deep breath and stared at the blueprints.  I could see stains, cracked folds and rips in them.  How long, I wondered, had it been since he brought them out of wherever and put them on the table to look into his past?  For I had no doubt they were linked to his life with Sally.  How to ask?

“I noticed a set of footings to the side of this house out there.  Are these the plans for what was to be a new farm house?”

“You are sharp, miss.”  It was my turn to wave him to stop.

“Please call me Reed.  That’s what everyone calls me.”

“Oh yeah, Reed, that’s what you said.  What’s your full name?”

“My name is Jones, Reed Jones.”

“OK Reed Jones.”  He pronounced it heavily and deliberately, each syllable as if he was driving them with a sledge hammer.  “I should thank you for the fresh sandwich.  That was good food.  You’re much taller than Sally was, an’ your hair is longer and darker than hers was, and o’ course you’re much older than she’d been, but seeing you at the counter there, preparing the food, well, no woman’s done that here since she left.  I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK.  I won’t patronize you by saying I understand, but I can feel some of it.  I’m an empath-makes me stay one step ahead of the competition in my field, and the competition is fierce.   But I’m determined to be the best at what I do, whatever it takes to get there.  Look, if you’re tired or you want to stop, I can come back tomorrow and we can go on, or finish then.”

“Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue.  I feel much better when I talk to you about that time.  It’s like something clears up and I can see through it for the first time.”

“Well, I was thinking about the drive back to my hotel.  It’ll take me over two hours if I don’t run into rain, or sleet or whatever you call it here.”

“You looked at the sky when you went out, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“What do you make of it?”

“Well, it’s uniformly grey and the clouds seem a bit low.  But there’s no storm that I can see, or sense.”

“Well, let me tell you.  In about an hour it’s going to start to rain.  Then the rain will begin to freeze.  The first coulee you hit, you’re dead stuck at the bottom, no way out until you’re towed with a tractor.  Gets pretty cold out there, even for us who’ve lived here all our lives.  I don’t think you want to get out on that road this evening.  Besides, it’s October.  It’ll be pitch black in half an hour and I’d bet you’re more used to driving with street lights.”

“Yeah, driving in the dark with only headlights to go by is weird.”   I hesitated.   “I brought a sleeping bag and a comforter.  I could sleep here, maybe, somewhere.”  And I looked around hoping for that suitable ‘somewhere’ to manifest.

(end part 1 of 3)

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

or
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?

So,
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.”