Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bloody Heat: A Tale of Alyria

It’s this bloody heat. It’s making it hard to think straight. I just want to tell someone what happened to me tonight so that I won’t forget it, but it’s getting hard. Keep getting dizzy. I already threw up once. Hope no one got splattered as I leaned out the window. It’s a long way to the ground from up here in the Web.

I guess it all started last night when I was getting ready for the job. I had been casing this minor official’s house, figuring that there would be all sorts of loot inside. Took several days, but I finally figured out how to get in and nab a share of the wealth. Keepers say that generosity is a virtue, and I figure that I’m just sharing the blessing of Pheric upon them that ain’t got no generosity. Just doing my religious duty, you might say.

Anyways, I was waiting for the Devil’s Hour to get started. Ain’t no heist that I’d pull any other time. Besides, this official got them divine lights scattered all over his manor, which would have made the job extra hard. He must burn his entire ration of power on them lights, but I got to say that it is well spent. No thief worth his salt would dream of raiding him with them lights. That’s why my plan was so brilliant. Wait for the Devil’s Hour when the city shuts down and then slip in. Sure, you hear stories about demons roaming the night during the Devil’s Hour, but that’s just superstitious nonsense. Least, that’s what I thought until tonight.

Blast! My arm started twitching again. Hurts like the devil too. Bandage bled through again. Have to change it again.

Okay. That’s better. So, like I was saying, I was getting my equipment together when I glanced out the window and saw the Weeping Moon rising over the city. Now, I ain’t no superstitious man, but I got to say that it gave me chills to see it. A man of less sense than myself might have even called it an omen. For a moment, I thought about staying in and letting the heist pass, do it another night. But then I got my sense back. Ain’t no bloody moon going to get between me and my loot. Course, I was sweating up a storm by then, because of this heat, but I hoisted my pack and headed out towards my target.

My timing was perfect, as normal. Just as I rounded the corner and spotted the manor, the Devil’s Hour struck. The clock stopped. The machinery stopped. All the lights went out. No wonder folks get so scared. You get used to the noise and the light. When it all goes away, it’s scary. The silence could get to a man less hardened than myself. Why, I have even heard of folks going mad during the Devil’s Hour and throwing themselves off of buildings and stuff.

So anyway, my mark was in front of me, lit up now only by some torches and the red light of the Weeping Moon. It was time for me to start hustling. I hopped the wall easily and slipped through an open window. At least this heat is good for something. I wiped my face and looked around. I was in a bedroom of some kind. I knew that the money room was somewhere in the basement, so I eased open the door and took a look around. No one was coming, so I started sneaking down the hall, looking for the basement stairs. Good thing for me, they were at the end of the hall. Just as I started down them, though, I heard the noise.

It’s getting hard to see in this light. Everything looks so red. The Weeping Moon is shining through my window again. It’s giving me chills.

Or am I getting sick? A bit of heatstroke, maybe? I don’t feel so good.

When I heard the moan from back down the hall, I ducked down as far as I could and try to walk quietly down the stairs. Course, with my rotten luck, don’t you know that a step creaked. Footsteps came down the hall toward me. I pressed myself flat up against the wall and prayed to Pheric that I wouldn’t get seen. That’s when the thing came to the top of the stairs. I think that it was human once, but it ain’t been human for a while. It was like a body that got up and started walking. It was bleeding all over and staggered a bit as it walked. I didn’t dare even to move. Then it turned and saw me. With a howl it charged down the stairs at me. I tried to get out of the way but there just wasn’t the room. It plowed into me and we both fell down the stairs. It was kicking and punching and clawing and biting even as we tumbled down the stairs. That’s why I’m so cut up. Its blood smeared all over my clothes as I tried to get away. I managed to push it off of me and then kick it in the head. Its head snapped back with a crack and it fell on the floor. I was stunned. I hadn’t meant to kill it, although there ain’t no way I was losing sleep over it neither. It tried to get me and got its just deserts. Ain’t no skin off my back.

So, I started listening real good and didn’t hear no other noise. Still I figured that I ain’t got much time, right? So I decided that I’d best grab some loot and run. As I went to open the door going into the basement, though, I almost slipped in a puddle. Looking down, I saw more blood oozing out from under the door. This seemed strange to me, so I opened the door carefully so that I could peer inside.

It was just awful. The entire basement was covered in blood. It covered the floor. It dripped from the ceiling. It ran down the walls. Sure, there was some loot in the room but it was also covered in blood. I was trying to decide how badly I wanted the money when I felt something creeping up my leg.

Now I got the shakes. I’m almost done and then I’ll rest. Yes, rest.

The Weeping Moon is looking at me. It’s laughing. I know it is. Curse you, moon! I know what you’re thinking. You want me to jump! I’m not going to do it. I’m not a lunatic. I’m going to stay here and finish talking to my friend!

It’s still laughing.

Some of the blood was running up my leg. That’s right. It was crawling up my leg, like it was trying to cover me. My leg started burning. I screamed and bolted up the stairs. At the top I turned and looked. It was coming after me! The giant red flow was seeping up the stairs! Worse, I could hear it chuckling, laughing, calling my name in a thousand different voices. Slowly part of it formed into a face. My face….

I can’t talk no more. My arm hurts. I’m hot and sweaty. Now I’m starting to see things. My old bandages are starting to move over there in the corner. Everything is turning red. Even my sweat is red. The moon is playing tricks on me. Well, it won’t get the last laugh! You’ll see! You’ll see!

What am I saying? I must have heatstroke or something. Look, I’m going to go lie down now. I’m sure that I’ll feel better in the morning. It’s just this bloody heat that’s driving me crazy. This bloody, bloody heat.

A quote, courtesy of John Wesley

One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? -- a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do...perhaps encouraged therein by his own example?" --John Wesley

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Excuses, excuses...

I haven't posted anything recently, and I apologize. I've been rather busy lately with stuff at work and home. Today I organized my wife's birthday party after driving over to Bloomington with her so that she could buy a new Irish whistle. The previous two days I spent directing primary photography on some new promotional videos for my workplace. Good work, but exhausting. So, the upshot is that I am tired, and I am going to bed. Good night!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

On Bible Translations

Tonight, I happen to be blogging because a child has kept me up, so you get the short version now. Maybe I'll develop this later. In his book The Word of God in English, Leland Ryken makes a compelling case for "essentially literal" translations of the Bible. One point (among many) is his argument that translation and interpretation are two different activities which need to be kept distinct. Therefore, he argues that dynamic equivalent versions of the Bible are harmful because they add interpretive elements to the text. He agrees that interpretation needs to happen, but he asserts that this is the job of an expositor (like, say, a pastor), not a translator. This sparked a thought. Exposition and interpretation of the Scriptures happens in a communal context, as the saints of God work together to understand the text that they have been given. Could the rise of dynamic equivalent translations be, in part, a result of the decline of the interpretive community of the Church? If I'm all alone as a Christian (either in reality or de facto), then how can I understand the Bible? Maybe I can pay Zondervan to do it for me.... It's a half-formed thought, I know, but it's late, so that's what you get. So there.

Monday, April 18, 2005

To my wife...

My wife just celebrated her 26th birthday. We have been married for almost eight years. (Yes, I even remember our anniversary.) The years haven't been easy. She once gave me a book of Japanese poetry, having bookmarked this poem:

I think of the days Before I met her When I seemed to have No troubles at all

It's true, and we both know it. But I wouldn't trade away single day that I've had with her, either the good or bad.

I know that I think a lot about death, but she is God's answer to keep me from despair, at least for now. " For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart....Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. " (Ecclesiates 5:20; 9:9) I know that a day is coming when one of us will have to walk on alone, but I am able to forgetthis when I gaze into her beautiful eyes.

Crystal, I love you more today than the day that we met. Each night, as I watch you sleep, I thank the Lord above that He has given you to me. Of all the blessings that He has given me, you are the greatest.

I love you.

"Push" by Sarah McLachlan Every time I look at you the world just melts away All my troubles all my fears dissolve in your affections You've seen me at my weakest but you take me as I am And when I fall you offer me a softer place to land [CHORUS:] You stay the course you hold the line you keep it all together You're the one true thing I know I can believe in You're all the things that I desire, you save me, you complete me You're the one true thing I know I can believe I get mad so easy but you give me room to breathe No matter what I say or do 'cause you're to good to fight about it Even when I have to push just to see how far you'll go You won't stoop down to battle but you never turn to go [CHORUS] Your love is just the antidote when nothing else will cure me There are times I can't decide when I can't tell up from down You make me feel less crazy when otherwise I'd drown But you pick me up and brush me off and tell me I'm OK Sometimes that's just what we need to get us through the day [CHORUS]

Sunday, April 17, 2005

In Other News...

I received word today that my friend James Lansberry won his first game of Puerto Rico on BrettspielWelt. Congratulations, James! If you don't know what Puerto Rico is, then you are missing out. No, it's not a state. It's a boardgame.

The Long Walk

I think about death a lot. You may have noticed. I figure that it's just good division of labor. Most people don't think about death at all. So I do their thinking about death for them, so that, when they need to face death, I'm ready to help. Of course, this means that sometimes I need help thinking about life. That's why I'm married. When I find myself spiraling into a black mood, Crystal is there to pull me out of it. That's good. I also tend to analyse the books that I read and the movies that I watch. I try to avoid reading or watching junk. Stories are like food. Some junk food is okay on special occasions, but you need a healthy diet of substantial stories to keep going. This doesn't mean that they all have to be heavy. There's a place for light reading or light entertainment. I just prefer to be deliberate about this choice, rather than defaulting to a particular choice all the time. All of that is really just a preface. Because, without that information, you won't understand why I'm turning a Stephen King novel over and over in my head. I just finished reading The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (which is a pseudonym of King's). The premise is simple. Every year, the government holds a competition called the Long Walk. This has become a central part of American life, drawing spectators from across the country. Potential contestants must first pass a written test, and then those who are eligible are selected at random. The contest itself is simple. The competitors gather in Maine and begin to walk south, following a pre-arranged route. A contestant must maintain a speed of four miles an hour. Dropping below this speed earns the contestant a warning. The contestant will continue to earn warnings every thirty seconds until his speed is back to four miles an hour or more. Walking for an hour without any lapse in speed erases one of your warnings. If a contestant has three warnings and lapses below four miles an hour, he is shot. There are no breaks, no pauses for rest, no bathroom stops, no camping for the night. Nothing. Last man standing wins. So, one hundred young men begin this race, but only one will finish it. The rest will be dead. The winner earns the Prize, which is essentially one wish. The government will give him whatever he wants. That's it. That's the premise. We follow Ray Garrity ("Maine's Own") through a Long Walk. The book played out largely how I expected that it would. In particular, as the harsh reality of what is going on settles in, a question is repeated: Why did I decide to do this? Is the Prize worth this? What if the Prize is fake? In addition, there is a grim paradox. In order to avoid being alone, you find yourself talking to the other boys walking with you. So, you find that maybe you like this person and start caring about what happens to him. But, you can't win until they are all dead. Oh, spoilers ahead, for whatever that's worth. The short version is that Ray Garrity wins the Long Walk, but he dies immediately after winning. Actually, I think that it's possible to interpret the ending as Ray rejecting the Prize to embrace death. So, in a sense, the Prize that he was really seeking was death. Uplifting, I know. So, I'm contemplating this book, and I'm wondering if the Long Walk is intended as a metaphor for life. I wouldn't put it past King, based on what I know about him. Think about it from the perspective of someone who is not a Christian. It looks something like this. Here we are, in this life. Of course, we are all pursuing something (the Prize). Along the way, though, we begin to question if the Prize is worth it. I could turn aside from pursuing the Prize and accept something lesser. Maybe it's sex. Maybe it's food. Maybe it's just a chance to stop fighting. Of course, that way lies death. But then again, so does the pursuit of the Prize. In the end, the Prize isn't worth it. All that's left is death. And so, at the end of your life, you look back at all the bodies that you've stepped over to achieve your Prize, and it is never worth it. In the end, all that you have gained is death. So how are you any better off than those that fell by the side of the road? Maybe that's an interpretive strain on the book. I'm not sure. But maybe not. But there's more. Christians are also on a Long Walk. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Hebrews 12:1-3) Often we think about this race as a sprint, but I don't think that is the best understanding. Rather, it's a marathon. A long-haul race. A Long Walk. And at the end is the Prize. But to reach the Prize, you have to go forward. There is no stopping until the end. And along the way, the questions arise: why did I decide to do this? Is the Prize worth this? What if the Prize is fake? But there is a crucial difference. You can win together. And so you carry the wounded, and you drag the bleeding, and you bandage and you pray and you keep moving forward, moving forward, because to stop is to die. And the pathway is covered with the bloody footprints of those who have gone before. And the world surrounds you, watching from the sidelines, laughing when you fall, not caring that you are suffering and bleeding and dying. It's entertaining! It's fun! And at the end is the Prize: death. This is known as the Way of the Cross. Jesus walked it first, and we all follow Him. "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) "So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood. Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured." (Hebrews 13:12-13) Recently, I have come to take a lot of comfort from the account of the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was looking ahead to a day that He dreaded, and He did not want to go. "And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.'" (Matthew 26:39) He knew that one of his trusted friends was about to betray Him. He knew that His disciples would abandon Him. He knew that Peter would deny ever knowing Him. He knew that His body would be torn apart and that His spirit would be afflicted and that He did not deserve any of it. And in the stillness of the garden, in the bleak nighttime of His sorrow, He pours out His soul and cries out, "Please, God, Father, please. I don't want to go. Please, can't there be another way?" I know that my heart has spoken these words many times, when I have faced the lonesome dark, and the weary road, and the endless night of sorrow. "Please, God, can't there be another way?" And I know that I should trust His wisdom, and I know that I should trust His love, and sometimes that is enough. But sometimes I need to remember that Jesus never asks me to do anything that He hasn't done Himself. So I know that He stood back up and wiped away His tears and walked to His death like a man. I know that He opened Himself and made Himself vulnerable and paid the price. I know that He walked into darkness and was wounded in body and soul. I know that the breath rattled in His lungs one last time as His broken body finally collapsed. I know that He was buried in a tomb and left to rot. And I know that He walked out on the other side, alive and glorified. I know that He now no longer suffers the pain of death, that He rules all things because He earned it, that all creation sings His praise. And I know that He promises the same for me, if I endure to the end, like He did. Death is at the end of the Long Walk, but for us, death is the gateway to life. Perhaps King is onto something, for this is how he ends his book.
A hand on his shoulder. Garrity shook it off impatiently. The dark figure beckoned, beckoned in the rain, beckoned for him to come and walk, to come and play the game. And it was time to get started. There was still so far to walk. Eyes blind, supplicating hands held out before him as if for alms, Garrity walked toward the dark figure. And when the hand touched his shoulder again, he somehow found the strength to run.
I'll see you all at the end. Last one there's a rotten egg.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Dream

I don't usually remember my dreams, but fragments of one dream have stuck with me. My mom was visiting. I don't remember exactly what we were doing. Maybe we were touring my workplace, or maybe she was visiting with my children. Everything was wonderful, until I remembered that my mother is dead. And so I asked her if she was dead, and she said that she was but for some reason it didn't seem to matter right then, because she was there, and it was okay. Then I woke up, in a world that is full of many things but no longer holds my mother. I miss my mom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wearing the Mask: A Tale of Alyria

Suddenly, he awoke. Sweating, he panted in the darkness. Was it a dream? His mind was muddled and confused, still swathed in the mists of sleep. He groped for the light switch and turned it on. The pale blue glow of the single bulb illuminated the room. It was still the same as always. The bed, the small table, the single chair. He looked at the water clock. Was it really that early? The chime had not yet sounded to awaken him for work. How he wished for a window. He did not have a window, but he was hopeful that, with hard work and dedication, he would receive one. Some day. It was one of his fondest dreams.


Memories of last night trickled into his head, like water in the water clock. It could not have been a dream. They had all been there. She had been there. How could she be a dream?

“How could she not be a dream?” whispered a cynical voice in his head. He ignored it, trying to remember what had happened. Too much strong drink, too much excitement. His eyes fell on the robe, tossed carelessly on his chair. And his mask….

His mask lay on the table. Its empty eyes stared at him accusingly.

And he remembered.


The sun was setting over the western wall of the Ark. He looked up at it, wiping the sweat from his brow. Almost dark. Good. Soon the day would be over and he would have a chance to rest. Tonight the section kitchen was serving real venison, hunted in the forests outside the Ark. Rumor even claimed that a musician from one of the colonial villages would be performing, singing and telling tales of the world outside the Ark. It would be a pleasant evening.

But until then, there was still work to be done. The Interior Forest needed to be maintained. He returned to weeding his flowerbed. Ever since he had been placed in a birth crèche, the Choosers had earmarked him for this duty. Their decision had proven to be wise. He had a natural gift with plants. Under his care they bloomed and flourished. The Mask-Maker who had been assigned to craft his first duty mask had noticed as well. His mask was golden, etched with blooming irises and finely detailed ivy vines, twining on his cheekbones and curling around the eyeholes. “Your face will shine like the sun,” the old Mask-Maker had said, “and will remind us of our future in the green growing world.” How he had glowed with pride as he had stood before the community and had received his first duty number and his first mask. 74-336-0-0-115. It was carved on his mask and burned into his heart. He smiled at the memory.

But it had been four years since his masking, and his pride had long since faded. Doubt had crept into his mind. Four years spent weeding the flowerbeds? How could this be service to the Ark? Did the Choosers not care that his abilities were squandered here? He wanted to be able to do so much more. Above all, he wanted a window in his meditation chamber. Just a simple window overlooking the Interior Forest. Surely that was not too much to ask.

One of the other gardeners glided over to him. Her eyes peered out from a mask inlaid with gold and brown leaves and her robe rustled like a tree in spring. 69-336-20-51-115 was written on her forehead. “So, 74,” she said, “what are your plans for this evening?” Her eyes sparkled like dewdrops. “Going to the concert?”

“Well, uh, I don’t really know yet,” he said. “Er, perhaps I will just retire to my meditation chamber and consider my service to the Ark. He winced even as he said it. “How stuffy you sound,” he thought. Even the section leaders rest once their duty cycle is completed.

Her eyes laughed at him. “I would not want to keep you from your meditations,” she said coolly. “But, if you were not otherwise occupied, I would like to spend some time with you in…conversation.” She laughed as he stammered his acceptance. “I will meet you after the evening meal outside the dining hall. Do not be late, for I will not wait.” She turned and glided away and he tried to return to his work. But in his mind, her silvery laugh still echoed, and her sparkling eyes hung before him.

It seemed to him that the meal would never end. He hadn’t cared for the venison, although he had eaten it dutifully. (“The resources of the collective should never be wasted,” had been the Regulation preached during the last convocation.) This cycle he had been seated by a couple that had just been assigned a child. It had been challenging. The child had squalled all dinner, despite his mothers’ attempts to soothe him. Finally, in a fit of rage, the child had thrown his bottle, which had splattered everyone at the table with warm soymilk. The wastage of food had been noted, and the section leader had reprimanded the mothers. It had been a shameful scene, and he had been glad when the chime had sounded, signaling the end of the meal. He hurried to return his meal dish to the Server and rushed through the ritual of thanks. Then he slipped from the room.

69 was waiting for him by the section’s notice board. She laughed as she saw his milk-spattered robe. “Sitting too close to a young one?” she asked.

His pride was stung, so he quoted one of the Regulations. “The children of the Ark are the future of the collective.”

“Very true. Very true. Now come quickly,” she said, pulling him down a darkened corridor. He had never been this way before and soon became lost in the twisting maze of dark corridors. When he asked where they were going, she hushed him. Hurt and confused, he continued to follow her.

Soon they came to a door. 69 slid a punch card into the slot and the door creaked open. Upon entering the room, he stopped in amazement. It was no room. It was outside. They were on the roof of the Ark. 69 closed the door behind them. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she said, her low voice thrilling through him. “Look to the east. Do you not see it?” He turned and saw the blood-red Weeping Moon rising over the mountains. She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. “Isn’t it amazing how something so deadly can be so beautiful?”

He froze in stunned amazement. No had ever touched him like this. It was definitely forbidden to one of the Servants. (“The body of a Servant is given to him by the collective, and he shall use it in the service of the collective.”) And yet, he thrilled to the feeling of her soft arms wrapped around him. Indecision wracked him.

She spoke then, softly, barely able to be heard over the cool wind that blew across the roof. “I’ve wanted to bring you out here for so long. Ever since I laid eyes on you, I knew that you would be the one. You are so in love with your plants. It’s like they are your own children. I see you talking to them as you water them, telling them your little stories. That’s how I knew.”

He pulled away then, turning to face her. “69? What are you saying?”

She stepped back as well. “Don’t call me 69,” she said. She took a deep breath. “I have a name.” Pause. “Would you like to hear it?”

He surprised himself by answering her. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I would love to hear your name.”

She hesitated. “I cannot tell you my name without showing you my face.” Another pause. Then, in a tiny voice, “Will you look at my face?”

He felt a tightness in his throat as he whispered, “I would love to see your face.”

Her hands came up to her face. Slowly she lowered the mask. She was beautiful. Dark skin like chocolate. Deep brown eyes. Black hair falling in ringlets. “My name is Autumn,” she said. Her hands reached for his mask, and he did not resist.

They made love that night on the roof of the Ark, their entwined bodies bathed in the blood red light of the Weeping Moon.


He turned the mask in his hands, watching it catch the light. The next few weeks had been a blur. He and Autumn had met secretly every night, sharing their passion. And they had talked. She had been born into a birth crèche in one of the colonies, so she had many stories to share about the outside world. She told him of first seeing the Sea of Mist, with its billowing clouds and rumbling thunder. She spoke of early mornings in the forest, when the fog still clung to the trees like a wispy veil. And together they chose a name for him.

A tapping at the door startled him from his reverie. “Helios!” a voice whispered. “Helios! Open the door.”

He looked from the door to the mask, from the mask to the door. He did not move.

“Helios!” the voice hissed again. “Helios!”

It was Autumn.


“Where are we going?” he asked. It was part of the nightly ritual. She would whisk them off to some undiscovered side corridor, where they would yield to their passions.

“You’ll see,” she answered. “Tonight I have a special surprise for you.”

Light flooded from the opening door, dazzling them. “Give the password,” a harsh voice demanded. Autumn spoke quietly. “Very well. You may enter,” the voice said.

As his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see that the room was full of people. Some sat on benches by the tables. Others lounged on the floor or slouched against the wall. Each wore the robe and mask of the Servants of the Ark. He turned to see a huge man, dressed in a black robe, closing the door behind them. “My apologies, good sir,” the man said, “but we cannot be too careful. Autumn understands this. My name is Miyamoto Hercules Washingon, and I am the leader of this group of the Named. I would like to talk further with you, but first I must begin the ceremonies.” The man pushed past him before he could speak and took his place in the center of the room.

“My friends, we are gathered here today as those who are Named. Come, shed your masks with me for a while, and revel in your freedom!” And without further ceremony the man pulled the mask from his face and threw it to the floor.

All across the room, others followed suit. Some cast their masks to the floor, while others spit or trod upon them. Autumn removed her mask with a yell of glee and cast it to the floor. He removed his mask more slowly and placed it carefully on a nearby table.

Someone thrust a bottle into his face. “Here, drink!” the person said. He sipped from the bottle and began to cough violently. “What is that?” he demanded, once he had recovered. But the person was already gone. He looked around the room and saw that it had dissolved into chaos. The bottle that he had sampled was being passed around the room. Incense had been lit, and the sweet-smelling smoke was beginning to fill the room. Someone was playing music. All around him celebrants reveled. He shrank back to the wall, looking for Autumn, but he could not see her. So he began to pick his way across the room. Finally he saw her, seated at a table with the big man who had started the ceremony. He stepped around a ménage a trois and pushed through the crowd that was forming around the trio, trying to reach Autumn. When she saw him, her face lit up. “Helios! Sit down with me. Miyamoto, have you met Helios?”

The big man smiled and put out his hand. “Just in passing. How are you doing, Helios?”

He looked at the big man in confusion. What was he supposed to do? Autumn laughed. “Helios, you’re supposed to take his hand and grip it tightly. It’s a personal gesture of greeting that Miyamoto made up. Don’t you think that it is much more personal than the Servant’s Salute?” She mimed it, mocking. “Hands to heart, hands out in service.” He winced.

The big man noticed. “Come, Helios. Why do you make that face? Sit and explain to us your feelings. We are listening.”

He sat down, painfully aware of the racket from the three in the middle of the room and their cheering audience. He began to speak but began coughing on the incense smoke that drifted through the room. The big man stood up and pounded him on the back. Gagging, he threw up onto the table. “What a wonderful idea!” someone shouted. Soon, several others had gathered around the table, attempting to vomit as well. He stood up weakly, reeling from the clashing odors in the room, disoriented by the smoke, dazed by the noise and confusion. Two men were standing on the table now, punching each other violently. The crowd in the middle of the room cheered. The room spun. He tried to scream, but no noise came. Stumbling from the table, he fled the room.

Autumn found him in the corridor, curled against the wall. “Helios, what is the matter?” she asked.

He looked at her incredulously. “What is the matter?” He waved at the room. “You cannot tell?”

“No. They are exercising their freedom.”

“Their freedom?”

“Their freedom to act for themselves. To choose their own lives and destinies, instead of being subjected to the Councils’ decisions. For this night, they can do as they please. What is so terrible about that?”

He stared at her. “But did you not see what they were doing? The drinking, the arguing.”

She shrugged. “What business is it of mine to judge what they are doing? It is their choice.” She held out a bottle to him. “Here. Drink.”

He knocked the bottle from her hand. It shattered against the wall. Their eyes locked for a moment.

He looked away first. “I am returning to my meditation chamber. I can only hope that the section bath is still open.” He stood up. “Goodbye, Autumn.”

“Do not leave,” she begged. “Stay with me a little longer.” She held open her robe. “You will be glad that you did.”

He stared at her in disgust. “The body of a Servant is given to him by the collective, and he shall use it in the service of the collective,” he quoted. “Remember that, 69.” He turned down the corridor.

Her voice reached him. “I am pregnant.” He stopped. “I am pregnant with your child. Tomorrow morning I am leaving the Ark. There are Named in the outlying colonies who will take me in so that I can give birth to the child. It is what I have always wanted, Helios. A child of my own, one that I can name and love and raise by myself, without the Choosers taking him away or telling me what to do with him.”

He turned back to her. The open door framed her silhouette. Her robe still hung open, but her face was hidden in shadows. “Come with me,” she begged. “Come with me. Together we can raise our child.”

The big man loomed in the doorway. “Autumn, are you coming in or not? I have to keep this door closed.”

“Tell me,” he said, “did you really love me? Or did you just love the idea of loving me?”

She was silent, her shadowed face unreadable.

“Autumn,” the big man said. “I need to close the door. Besides, I think that you are wanted inside.”

He turned away and walked down the corridor. Behind him, the door slammed shut.


“Helios! Let me in!” she whispered. “We do not have much time. They will catch me if I stay too much longer. Let me in!”

He held the mask up to his face. Funny how different the world looks from behind a mask. He turned it over and looked at it.

More tapping. “Helios!”

His finger traced the ivy on the golden mask.

“Helios! Please! I’m begging you!”

His hand brushed over his duty number.

“Helios! I’m leaving now. Are you coming with me?”

The water clock chimed. All over the Ark his fellow workers would be stirring. Soon the Ark would be awake. He would need to hurry if he was going to be at his duty station on time. He could almost hear his flowers were calling to him.

A vision of Autumn passed through his mind. Those deep brown eyes…


The light gleamed off the mask as he stood.

It was time to go.

The Beautiful People: A Tale of Alyria

Note: As I've been going through my Alyria manuscript, I've been rereading some of the stories that I wrote for the RPG book. A couple of them are strong enough to stand on their own, in my opinion. So, I thought that I would share them with you.

If you walk into the Citadel, just down the street from the clock tower of Kron, if you are particularly unlucky, you might see a little alleyway between two wrecked buildings. That used to be home. That’s where I used to do business. Me. Jane. I lived there and I sold me. That’s right. Jane, the prostitute. Plain Jane, the whore. But no longer.

Oh I know what men called me. Best lay in the Fifth District. Do one at a time or all together. Jane don’t care. That’s all they knew. They didn’t care when they were panting over me, breathing heavy. They didn’t care that I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to watch. Didn’t care that I hid away in a corner of my mind while they did what they did to me. In the middle of an orgy, all alone.

It was killing me. One day at a time, it drained my soul. I could see it in my eyes. They stared at me from the mirror, dead and empty. Once they used to dance with life. That’s what I told myself. I remember birthdays and picnics, happy shouts and…Nothing. The dead eyes stared accusingly at me from the mirror as I got ready for another night of business. I could feel them on my back as I leave the room.

Sometimes, when it was early in the morning and all the johns had gone home or were passed out drunk in the gutter, I’d clean up as best I could and I’d sit out in the alleyway. Most times the Weeping Moon would be setting, and its light would leak across the sky like blood, like the time I slit my wrists in the bath and watched the redness swirl through the dirty bathwater. Mist and smoke twist across the sky, but sometimes, just sometimes, I could see a single star beaming down from the sky. It was almost like some happy spirit in the sky was reaching down to me in the middle of all this mist and fear and iron and pain. I cannot tell you how often I have wanted to reach out my hands, grab on to that fragile beam of light, and just fly away.

Sometimes I would pretend that I climbed that beam of light into another world. I climb and climb and climb and then suddenly I would be surrounded with light. The sun breaks over the horizon and I can see that I am standing on soft puffy clouds and surrounded by a sky so intensely blue that it is almost painful. Beautiful people live here. I can see them all around me. Some of them are laughing and some are playing and no one is angry, no one at all, and they call to me and I run to them and they love me I am so alone I want someone to love me why won’t anyone love me.

But then I would wake up, alone except for my thoughts and the bitter tears that fell from my cold dead eyes.

That night was supposed to be my night off. I was going to go shopping in the market, looking for a flower to brighten my room. But Myra came down with a hideous cough and Piter told me that there was no way that he was going to get any business if Myra was on duty tonight. Never mind that he made me work when I was burning with a fever. Myra was just too precious to little Piter. She was his prize heifer, and she knew it.

So sundown found me at the mouth of my alley, working the street. Pose body like so. Call out seductive phrase. Flirt with eyes. I run through my checklist. The act had become second-nature to me; I could have done it in my sleep. Still, the night was slow. Several men and even a couple of women stop to check me out but each continued on their separate ways. “That’s right,” I thought. “Just keep going. If you leave me alone, then perhaps I will have peace tonight.”

Then he stopped at the mouth of the alley, and I knew that my first customer of the night had arrived. I mouthed the empty words of lust that he expected to hear as I led him back to my room. He said very little, but his eyes… His eyes frightened me. They were hard and uncaring. They spoke of untold cruelty, of pain given, of slow torturous death.

We arrived at my room and I asked for my payment. He refused, saying that he would pay after he has received service. I insisted. Then he hit me. Just once, but very hard. I flew across the room. Wiping blood from my mouth, I ordered him to leave. With a single movement, he was across the room, picking me up, hurling me onto the bed. I tried to kick, tried to scream, but his hand was over my mouth and then he was in me. I fought, I struggled, but he hit me again and again, even as he thrust into me. All the while those dead eyes never changed, not with rage, not with lust. Blows battered me as I was violated and I plunged into a darkness with no bottom, followed only by those eyes…


Pain filled my world as I opened my eyes. My vision was dark, and the ceiling wavered as I struggled to sit up. Blackness threatened to swallow me as the room spun and twisted. I staggered, vomited blood, and collapsed into the puddle. I could not feel my arms or legs. Far away I could hear the beautiful people singing but I thought they only mocked my pain. The thought suddenly occurred to me. “I’m dying.” I considered this for a moment, and then I was glad. I welcomed the thought of death. Death, a cold numbness to remove my pain. I closed my eyes and waited for the end.

Then gentle hands lifted me. Soft voices spoke to me. I opened my eyes and I saw two women in softly glowing robes kneeling over me. My room had faded away into radiant mist. Instead of the hum and clank of machinery, I heard the babble of a stream and the rushing of leaves blowing in the wind. As my eyes cleared, I saw that I was lying in a beautiful garden. My bed was of soft green grass. With a smile, one of the women held out her hand to me. Slowly, painfully, I took it.

Together we staggered down to the water’s edge. Sunlight glistened from the crystal water, and for a moment I thought that the stream was a river of gold. “Come,” she said. “You must be washed.” Slowly she began to wade out into the stream. But I hung back. I could not enter that stream. I was filthy. I was covered in blood. I would pollute that beautiful stream. I shrank back in fear and shame. She turned and smiled. “Come,” she repeated. I shook my head wordlessly, almost in a panic. With a gentle smile she returned to the bank of the stream. Without another word, she lifted me in her arms. I tried to struggle, but I was too weak. So I clung to her like a baby to her mother. Turning, she waded into the stream. Slowly I was immersed.

It was a feeling that I had never felt before. It was as though all my pain and fear, my anger and my sorrow, all was swept away. I was clean, clean as I had never been.

And then I saw Him. The Gardener. Oh, sirs, if you could only see His face for a moment… But you cannot. How could you? You will only see Him when He chooses to be seen by you.

I could have gazed into that face forever. He smiled at me and placed His hand on my forehead. It burned, it burned like white fire into my brain. The world was burned away in that blaze until all I could see were those precious, precious eyes. Then He whispered a single word and passed His hand over my eyes.

What did He whisper? I cannot say for certain. But I know that it is the word that is written on my forehead, the word that all your scholars strive to read but cannot. Strange, isn’t it? So many others have seen that word and knew immediately what it means.

However, I know what that word means to me. He put it there, and it means that I am His.

I awoke in my room. My wounds were healed. My pain was gone. And, somehow, I knew what He wanted me to do. In a voice of power, I called for fire, and the room burned behind me as I walked out of the Citadel into the wilderness. Once I stopped and looked back. The smoke rose in the moonlight like a blood-red column into the sky. Then, as I watched, the clouds parted and the smoke ascended through the tear in the sky, up, up to the stars.

And so, sirs, that is my story. I know that it will not change your judgment or sway your feelings. I know that you still think me to be a rabble-rouser, preaching a strange religion to the people under your sway. I know that you still see me as a false prophetess, preaching against Pheric, your so-called god. I know that I will still stand condemned before this Council of Inquisition and be taken away to my death. But that does not matter to me. Because I know that I am one of the beautiful people, and tonight I will be clothed in white when the Garden receives me from your hand. And there is nothing that you can do to change that. Nothing at all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The History of Alyria

Note: This is intro text for my roleplaying game, Legends of Alyria. I'm posting this for a couple of reasons. First, this way all of you will have a sense of what Alyria is. Second, I can get extra content on my blog without actually having to write anything new. Win-win situation!

Legend speaks of another world, far from the shores of Alyria. Perhaps it was another planet. Perhaps it was Heaven itself. There the Progenitors lived in peace and harmony. But it was not fated to last. For the Outsiders rose up against the Progenitors and cast them from their home in the vault of the sky. Here, the legends conflict—some of the stories claim that the Outsiders descended upon them from the vast emptiness of space, but darker legends claim that the Progenitors delved into forbidden lore and released the dark menace. Whatever the source of these terrifying beings, the Outsiders drove out the Progenitors, forcing them to flee across the vault of Heaven to hide from their enemy.

Some of the Progenitors found this world: the world of Alyria. When they arrived, Alyria was formless and void. The air was not breatheable, and the land was desolate. Yet the Progenitors were not dismayed, for they brought with them many instruments of power. The Progenitors delved deep into the earth and constructed machines of great might to shape the world to their desires. To control these machines they built a great computer named Pheric. Many of the Progenitors operated this computer, maintained it and supervised its terraforming activity.

Slowly the land was tamed. The atmosphere became breathable. The violent storms that battered the land were tamed, bringing life and rain instead of destruction. Soon forests and grassy plains spread across the land. Where once the newcomers clustered in massive concrete bunkers or arcologies, now they built villages and cities, exulting in the wonder of the world which they had built. Yes, the raw, unfiltered atmosphere remained poisonous to them, held only at bay by Pheric and its terraforming machines—yet within the sphere of Pheric’s control, all was calm and peaceful.

The Progenitors built a culture of life and peace. Knowledge increased as scholars gathered into schools and built universities. Beauty was honored, and the cities were filled with trees and blooming flowers. No war was fought, as each man cared for his neighbor. The Progenitor culture reached its height with the construction of Kryshana. Once this city had been a harsh, sealed environment dome, with functional architecture. Now Kryshana was transformed into a beautiful city. Shade trees lined its avenues, where the scholar could walk, lost in thought, and young, carefree lovers strolled. Golden buildings rose towards the sky, welcoming the sun with upraised heads. And overhead arched the crystalline dome of Kryshana. No longer necessary, the dome was retained as an object of beauty and a monument to the past. Many were the poems written of this glittering gem of the Progenitors. Of all their creations, surely Kryshana was their greatest. It was a city of light, of beauty, of justice, of goodness, of truth.

And it is for these reasons that it was shattered.

No one understands the true nature of the dragons. Some state that they were the oldest lifeform native to Alyria and that the coming of the Progenitors disturbed their slumber. Others claim that the dragons are the darkest traits of mankind given physical form. Still others mutter that the dragons are demons, released from Hell before the proper time. Perhaps they are all correct. For in those joyous days, the dragons awoke. From their dwelling place deep in the Sea of Mist on the planet’s true surface, they felt the arrival of the Progenitors and hated them. For the dragons do not feed on flesh and blood but on the hatred, fear, and pain of others. The gentle reign of the Progenitors did not provide sufficient sustenance for them. So they began to weave their dark schemes to bring about the downfall of the Progenitors. It was far too easy.

For no man can be truly good, and even in this time of light and joy, darkness yet gnawed at men’s hearts. Some sought more power than their station permitted. Some wished more riches or land and grumbled in discontent. Others, it must be said, simply reveled in the thought of bloodshed or pain caused to another. The dragons could sense the darkness in these men’s heart. Appearing to them in their dreams, the dragons promised to fulfill their dark desires. Power to the power-hungry. Wealth to the greedy. Pain to the sadistic. And so it was, as the Progenitors’ golden age spread over the land, a dark force arose to oppose it. The cancer of the dragon cultists spread throughout the land, and when the moment was right, they struck.

A thousand thousand pages of agony and woe would not suffice to tell the tale of those days. Across the continent, the dragon cultists launched one coordinated attack, knocking out communication stations, destroying electrical generators, disabling terraforming processors, and disrupting roads and transportation. Resistance was weak at best. During the long ages of peace, the Progenitors had largely forgotten the harsh arts of war. So the dragon cultists had their way. In Kryshana, a worse desecration was performed. Cultists discovered the biological weaponry of the ancients that had been sealed away and detonated a bomb filled with ripper plague in the streets of the city. The trees withered, and the people began to die, ravaged by the terrible disease. Winds spread the plague far and wide. And then the dragons themselves attacked. Thousands poured from the Sea of Mist, ravaging and slaughtering. It is said that the sky rained fire and blood in those days. Men killed their loved ones before killing themselves, trying to spare them the horror of the ripper plague. Cultists mad with blood lust, swarmed through the ruins, raping and slaughtering, destroying and desecrating while overhead the dragons themselves hurled fire and drank deep of the carnage. The forests burned. The cities convulsed. And in the shattered ruins of the dome of Kryshana, a few survivors prayed for death. Legend claims that the crystal rain of shattered glass in Kryshana sounded like weeping as the city mourned her lost children and her own death.

It was not a war. It was not a conquest. It was a rape. The Rape of Alyria.

In the mountains, the scientists that tended Pheric saw what was happening. They saw their world being destroyed around them. Yet they knew that if there was to be any chance of victory, any chance of rebuilding, Pheric must survive. They made their difficult choice. Gathering as many refugees as possible, they retreated to their subterranean strongholds and sealed the entrances with explosives.

Yet not all was lost. The Progenitors still maintained their military force, ever vigilant for an attack from the stars. The stunning surprise attack destroyed much of their ability to communicate, yet here and there small units of troops resisted. Many were overrun. Yet some were successful in pushing back the cultists hordes. Many soldiers rallied to Kryshana, where the five supreme commanders of the armed forces personally led the defense of the city. For three long days battle raged in the streets of Kryshana. Bodies smouldered in the streets as howling lunatics raved in the burning ruins of the parks, their minds shattered by what they had seen. One by one the defenders died. Slowly they were pushed back. Slowly they were slaughtered.

And then the Lord of Pain arrived to take personal charge of the fight. If any could be called the leader of the dragons, it would be him. His mere presence was overwhelming. Men fled screaming as he swooped upon them, tearing them apart. But one man did not run. One man did not flee. As the Lord of Pain bore down upon him, he held his ground, waiting. And as the huge dragon bit him in half at the waist, he released the fusion grenade that he held. The explosion shattered the Lord of Pain.

Without their leader, the dragons were disorganized and confused, bereft of will and focus. Screaming with rage, they retreated into the Sea of Mist. Without the dragons, the cultists faltered in their attack. The defenders were able to rally. The cultists were cut down in droves. Soon they were in mass retreat, seeking refuge in the forests and hills of the wilderness.

But what remained to the survivors? The colony was shattered. Communication between cities was severed. Kryshana lay in smoking ruins. The dragons had been driven off, but their goal seemed to have been achieved.

The five generals took charge. They knew that no one could be spared to discover the fate of the rest of the colony. They would have to survive on their own. The generals made some difficult decisions. Kryshana would remain under martial law for the duration of the emergency. All food and critical supplies would be under military jurisdiction. Hoarding would be punishable by death. Every man would be required to perform part-time military service. Anyone demonstrating symptoms of the ripper plague would be summarily executed to prevent the disease from spreading. One day, they hoped that these measures would not be necessary. One day, life would return to normal.

One thousand years have passed since the Rape. Under the rulership of the Five Noble Houses, the Citadel has risen from the ruins of Kryshana. Within its walls, men bow down to Pheric, the god of Iron and Thunder, and pay homage to the Keepers, priests of this fearful god. Where trees and gardens once grew, now there stand factories, clanking and hissing. In the streets, animated by Pheric’s divine power, the Restored dead walk again. Above the city hangs the Web, a city within a city, a refuge for the criminal, the outcast, the Misbegotten, the Blessed. Mistships once again sail on the Sea of Mist, seeking new lands and new discoveries. The Citadel once again puts forth its might.

But all is not well in the world of Alyria. Far to the east, another nation has arisen. Tales speak of the Ark, where all the people wear masks to hide their faces and have no names. Monsters roam the wilderness, ravaging isolated villages and destroying trade caravans. Dragon cultists still worship in dark and hidden places and infiltrate the halls of power, seeking to return their masters to the surface. A schism has torn apart the Keeper faith, turning brother against brother and threatening to reveal the true nature of their god. The world is balanced on a knife’s edge.

And one night as the Dragon Winds howled through the Citadel, a new moon rose above the horizon. A red moon. A blood moon. And as it passed through the sky, a rain like blood fell upon the land, and those that saw it wept. For the sign was clear. The ancient enemy from the stars had discovered them. The Outsiders had returned.

Welcome to the world of Alyria.

And I Head Into the Home Stretch

Tonight I began the final revision of Legends of Alyria. I've been working on this project for six years, and soon it will be complete. So, less time blogging; more time revising.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Not Taking It For Granted

Not Taking It For Granted Not only does Pastor Wilson ably answer a common objection to weekly communion, but he also defends a set liturgy while he is at it. Short, but helpful.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

In a Dark and Quiet Room, Part 3

(The previous installment can be found here) Tonight I create a box. I spin it from shadows and form it from darkness. It is a squat and ugly thing, crouching upon my writing table. Into it I place the long nights, the horrifying days, the shivers in shadow, the clutching fingers, the defilement, the anger, the weeping, the violation, the dark the dark the dark. And I place upon this box a silver lock which I seal with a golden key. Then I place the box in the corner, and I stare at it uncomfortably. But I leave the key upon the table. Because outside that box is the world of my mind, where all is as I would like it. But inside that box is the world as it is. And I hate it and I hate it, but we all must take up the golden key and see what is kept inside the locked box.

A request to those who comment

Hi, folks! Just a request from your friendly neighborhood blogger. If you want to leave a comment, would you please sign your name to your comment? I don't need a full name; I'd just like to be able to know who is leaving comments so that I can carry on a conversation with you over time. Thank you all for your consideration.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Fragments of Jenna's Story, Part 1

I promised my wife that I'd write a novel. She has been pushing me for years, and I'd like to make her happy. So I've decided to expand and complete the story of a little girl named Jenna. The story is about child abuse, personified in part by the Closet Monster. It's a fairly horrible story and, while I'm fairly sure that it will end well, it is a dark journey. So, just be aware of that. Also, do be aware that there is the use of harsh language in these tales. EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that children could be directed to this blog. As a result, I will be publishing material of this sort in a companion blog entitled "Inside the Locked Box". You can find the original content of this post here.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

If I End Up Like Terri: An Open Letter to My Wife

If I End Up Like Terri: An Open Letter to My Wife This was too good to let pass. The best summary is the editor's note: "On the day of Terri Schiavo’s tragic death, the pundits are writing about what they think is the moral of the story: make sure you have your “end-of-life wishes” in writing. But they’re missing the point. The real moral requires far more insight, maturity, responsibility and faith: be sure of whom you marry."

So, let's see if this works

I'm posting this message via email. Yay! If this works, it means that I'll be able to scribble blog entries into my Palm's email program and automatically upload them when I hotsync. That means I'll be able to blog from anywhere!

And so the addiction continues....

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Angels and Coffee

Logging away another strange thought. There's an album by Sarah Masen entitled "The Dreamlife of Angels". It's my understanding that this is a reference to Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, where a character asserts that humans are the stuff of angels' dreams. This got me thinking. Right now, the angels have access to the presence of God and (insofar as is possible) see His face. But, in some sense, so do we, right? Christians are in the presence of God every day, and especially in corporate worship we are brought before the face of God. We also have the promise that, one day, the types and shadows will fall away, and all that will be left is the reality. So, what do the angels have that we are missing? But that wasn't the thought that struck me. Angels are spirits. They can interact with matter in some way, but they are not part of the physical realm. I enjoyed a cup of Kenyan coffee this morning when I came into work. Angels can't drink coffee. An angel will never be able to enjoy the rich aroma of brewing coffee or the dark brown taste of coffee on the tongue. But these gifts from God (and many more) I enjoy every day. No wonder the angels dream of us.

Interpretation and Common Revelation

So, I’m in the shower, contemplating the book that I’m reading: Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint. At several points in the book, various characters discuss the power of stories and storytelling. The philosophy that is being suggested is firmly in the postmodernist camp, which says that stories are a way that human beings impose meaning on the random chaos of events. This leads to thoughts of my blog, and how I said that I would have to explain my thoughts on art and interpretation. (This is not going to be that entry, by the way.) However, I realized that I had a good reason for being interested in hermeneutics. After all, as a Christian, I am part of a community that is dedicated to the ongoing interpretation of a particular text: the Bible. We’re people of the Book, right? Of course, there’s a particular authority vested in the Bible, which is why a proper hermeneutic is important when studying the Bible. After all, you have to obey the Bible, while that same sort of authority isn’t vested in (say) this blog entry. This is because the Bible is revelatory, while this blog entry isn’t. Or is it? After all, doesn’t all Creation proclaim the glory of God? Isn’t this proclamation truly revelatory? Doesn’t this revelation have (within its scope) the same authority and perspicuity as special revelation? And isn’t this blog entry part of the created order? Therefore, isn’t this blog entry a part of common revelation? As such, how does this affect how I interpret this blog, or any other “common” text that I may read? Or am I just reading too much into all of this? I don’t know, but I wonder if this is a useful lead to consider.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Art of Interpretation

For the last year or so, I've been wrestling with the postmodern challenges to traditional modernist understandings of hermeneutics (the art of interpretation). I think that there are some valid concerns being raised by the postmodernists; however, I also think that they throw out far too much, especially in regards to authorial intent. I have some preliminary thoughts which I'd like to write up at some point, but it's definitely a work in progress. Anyways, in my perusal of Pastor Peter Leithart's blog, I came across the following entries: Interpretation and Jokes Jokes and unintended meanings More food for thought for me. I think that Pastor Leithart is on to something here, which will merit more thought in the future.

A little help, please

I am hoping that the novelty of all this doesn't wear off and leave me with no motivation to continue. So I would like a little pressure from all of you. Nag me if I don't post in a while. It will help.

Monday, April 04, 2005

In a Dark and Quiet Room, Part 2

(The previous installment can be found here.)

A coffee pot! That's what this place needs. How silly that I neglected this. Of course, I can't put the coffee pot on the writing table. That would clutter it up, invading my writing space. So let's put it over here, against the wall. Of course, it needs a little table of its own, where it can rest. Better, a small set of shelves. The coffee pot sits on top, ready to be used, while the shelves below hold small brown bags of various coffees. Brown bags? Come on, Seth, where is your sense of class? Glass canisters with chrome accents. Much better. The coffee pot itself is black and chrome, of course.

Ooh! Ooh! Then, hanging above the coffee pot is a scroll with the kanji for "coffee" written on it with an ink brusk. I wonder if there is a kanji for coffee. Well, if not, then I'll make something up and claim that it is the kanji for coffee. Of course, this scroll is illuminated by track lighting. Even better, I put track lighting on the ceiling, shining down onto the scroll and the coffee shelves. Obviously, now, the scroll is the center part of a triptych, with the two outer panels displaying ukiyo-e of persons drinking coffee. The likelihood of finding such prints from the Edo period is probably nil, as I doubt that the Japanese did much coffee trade during that time, but I'll make some up anyways.

Behold! My coffee center! Looks pretty good, I think. Actually, it probably looks like a coffee shrine, with a black-and-chrome deity awaiting offerings from devoted worshippers. I'll probably have to put the incense burner somewhere else to avoid reinforcing that impression.

So now, I'll have a seat with my back to the coffee shrine. That way I can reach it when I want a cup, but I won't be distracted while I write. The rest of the room is still black, of course, and I have no idea what is outside the door, but I'm not going to let that concern me right now. I have my coffee, and that's enough work on the room for today.

A quote on art

I like quotes. I'll probably have to write about why at some later date. So, in the meantime, a quote that I stumbled across: ”Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”- Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

Sunday, April 03, 2005


I just purchased the latest CD by Moby, entitled "Hotel". In the liner notes, he explains why he entitled the album this way: "Hotels fascinate me in that they're incredibly intimate spaces that are scoured every 24 hours and made to look completely anonymous. People sleep in hotel rooms and cry in hotel rooms and bathe in hotel rooms and have sex in hotel rooms and start relationships in hotel rooms and end relationships in hotel rooms and etc and etc, but yet every time we check into a hotel room we feel as if we're the first guest...we enter a hotel room and it becomes our biological home for a while and the we leave. In some ways it's similar to the human condition. We exist and we strive and we love and we cry and we laugh and we run around and we sleep as we build things and we have sex and then we die and, not to sound too depressing, the world is wiped clean of our biological presence." He's right, you know. This life is only a hotel. But one day, I'm going home.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

On Being Trendy

Wait a minute. I’m writing a blog. What am I doing here?!?

I hate being trendy. I admit that this is probably a character flaw. Trendy things aren’t automatically bad. (They usually are, though. Right?) But still, I don’t like being someone who blindly follows the latest fad. I’d like to think that I have a measure of discernment, which keeps me safe from the tossing waves and swirling winds of fads and trends. I am above such things! I am a wise, intelligent individual! I am Seth! Hear me roar! I even have credentials. I loved Lord of the Rings long before the movies came out. I saw The Matrix before the Columbine shootings (for better or worse) boosted that movie’s popularity. I saw Star Wars when I was young, before the current generation of fans sunk their teeth into the latest merchandising blitz. I am an early adopter. I am cutting-edge. I am a leader, not a follower.

So why am I writing a blog?

I mean, blogs are so very mainstream now. Everyone has a blog. I’ll bet that, if I looked hard enough, I could find a blog from the garbage collector that gathers my trash. Blogging isn’t just a geek thing anymore. It’s not an artsy thing. It’s just a normal thing. Everyone’s doing it.

And, how narcissistic can any one person be, anyways? Think about it. A blogger has the audacity to think that his puerile ramblings would be of interest to someone beyond himself. Hello, but should I care if you’re having a lousy day or that your drive to work was particularly boring today? WHO CARES? All these bloggers are wasting valuable bandwidth, spewing words across the Internet, pretending that someone cares. What a silly waste of time.

And readers of blogs are worse! Am I really so desperate for entertainment that I’m willing to stoop to voyeurism? Once upon a time, it was considered horribly rude to read someone’s diary or journal. But now it’s common practice.

But, um, well, here I am. If I have such a low opinion of blogs, then why am I writing one?

Bryan, this is all your fault.

No, that’s not fair. It’s not really Bryan’s fault, but I’m going to blame him anyways.

Last Thursday, I made the mistake of mentioning to Bryan, who is a friend of mine, that I had toyed with starting a blog, but that I had decided that I was not interested. After all, that would require discipline to commit to writing on a regular basis, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted that sort of burden.

So, yesterday, here comes an email from Bryan with a link to and a brief comment that it was free.

Of course, I’ve recently been bemoaning my lack of discipline in writing. I love writing, and I have several projects that are currently languishing. I’ve also been feeling the need to be creative. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about art and aesthetics recently, and I’m chock-full of good philosophy and theory about the arts. But I’m not doing anything with any of it. What good is it to decide that being creative is an important part of being human if I then wander off to play Half-Life 2 instead of actually being creative? What a waste.

Maybe writing a blog would be helpful.

If I were completely honest with myself, I’d have to admit that this isn’t really the first time that I’ve blogged. Three years ago, I moved from my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania to Peoria, Illinois. This was a major life change, and I decided to write a journal during the first three months of our stay in our new home. That way I could look back in my journal and remember that time in my life. Also, I figured that this would be a good way to keep in touch with various people who would be interested in knowing how we were doing. Laziness is the mother of invention. I called it “Illinois Journal” and I sent it by email to those whom I thought might care. I extended the Journal a year later, recording the events and emotions of the ten days following the sudden death of my mother. Again, I sent this by email to those who I thought might care.

The frightening reality is that there were a number of folks who wanted to read my writing. People wrote back, telling me that they found it helpful. Of course, the really frightening part is that I enjoy the attention. Part of me likes hearing that my writings have been appreciated by others. Is that pride? Certainly it would be dishonest to pass myself off as having nothing worthwhile to say, but still… Well, that’s a discussion for another day.

So now, here I am, writing a blog. Even though it’s trendy and narcissistic and puerile. Why?

Because I need the discipline of writing on a regular basis (what my sister calls “creativity on demand”). Because I need to write to fill the aching void of desire to create. Because I would like to have a place to think out loud. Because I think that I might actually have things to say that would help others.

Because sometimes trendy things are still good ideas.

I guess that we will find out together. You’re still reading, right? Then we will take this journey together and find out where it goes.

Of course, there’s more to life than blogging. So now I’m going to post this entry and go help my wife spread fertilizer in the front yard. Spreading poop, hoping that something useful will grow. Sounds a lot like my goals for this blog.