One sharp pain. One utterance of surprise. Oh.
He leaves no great philosophies. There are no medals, no headstone.
Only a few strings left attached to this world.
Letters in government files
The sacrifice a mother makes to prove her relation to the boy whose life is opened up on paper
for a pension she is denied.
Is it invasion to hang on their every word --
the words of intimacy and filial love in these letters?
I am his family too and he is mine.
These strings scribbled on cheap, creased stationery
little ways of knowing a great deal (though I knew him
without knowing it all my life ).
Apologizing for his handwriting and blaming his pen.
Butter from a country doctor as he sits in a hospital bed.
No letters from home yet.
Despair in one string, bravado in another;
A book sent home to remember him by and
I'm a tuff buck now.
Have brother plant these pair seeds
They be big as a fist and
He spells as he spoke:
haint, dast, Upstate I beThe book cost me dear.
The last string of words
money sent home for mother's new house
never be afraid to ask, I gladly go without.
He is my muse and my relation
All these years later a picture is found
and we look the same.
I've known him and I have no doubts.
Never question God's creative force,
or His happy coincidences.
The heavens open sometimes
and the saints speak and pray --
happy for reunion.
Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
I cringe at this self-delusion. I once believed this lie. It led to a sense of entitlement, a sense that life’s little inconveniences and larger tragedies were unfair to me in particular. It led to a sense that if everyone were to adopt my basically good principles for living, all would be well with the world. It led to phrases coming out of my mouth like:
Everyone should …
If only everyone understood …
If only people were more educated …
If only people weren’t so stupid …
If only those people didn’t exist …
“We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
I was often polite and took this for goodness. In ways I didn’t even notice, I controlled others because I feared their differences and labeled them dangerous (because I alone understood goodness since I was basically good). I feared evil in a personal way, a selfish way. I worried about being buried alive by stupid people taking orders from powerful leaders with wrong ideologies.
“The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
“Hatred is best combined with Fear. Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful–horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember; Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. The more he fears, the more he will hate.” The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
It’s taken me a long time to realize that Jesus never ordered us to go around impressing people with how little we sin. What he said was to love others because we are first loved by God (despite how awful we think others are and how awful we can sometimes be).
Loving without controlling requires trusting and I can find no reason to trust without first trusting God. Trusting plain old humanity or any living thing within this system seems the height of foolishness.
Loving the unlovable others in our lives or on TV is so much more challenging than virtue signalling or joining a group of like-minded political junkies…
Yet I’ve noticed only recently that in those rare moments when I abandon self-will and open myself to loving without assurance of receiving it in return I become free — of resentment, fear and despair.
“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
In my NOVELS and in my life I do feel a certain sympathy for the devil because indeed he is in you and me.
And so my friends, how do you deal with the devils in others? How about the ones lurking in yourself? Is your struggle to love as hard as mine is?
Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
“Who killed the Kennedys?”
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeahBut what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
FEATURED IMAGE:Jerome Witkin, The Devil as a Tailor (1978)
The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.
Each Friday I’ll share a little on this genre (and sagas in general) & family history (also, if anyone would like to share a piece of their own family saga, memoir or just plain old family memories let me know and we can work on posting it here).
And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!
“I don’t know why black skin may not cover a true heart as well as a white one.”
“Caste has no foothold in Santo Domingo. It is capable of supporting the entire colored population of the United States, should it choose to emigrate. The present difficulty, in bringing all parts of the United States to a happy unity and love of country grows out of the prejudice to color. The prejudice is a senseless one, but it exists.The colored man cannot be spared until his place is supplied, but with a refuge like San Domingo his worth HERE would soon be discovered, and he would soon receive such recognition to induce him to stay; or if Providence designed that the two races should not live to-gether he would find his home in the Antilles.”
“I rise only to say that I do not intend to say anything.” Grant’s perfect speech
Do you ever sometimes wish 19th century asylums still existed for those troublesome relatives who make family gatherings so trying?
My great grandmother was sent to an asylumbecause she had lucrative properties in Jersey City, NJ. Her evil daughter (my grandmother’s sister) wanted the brownstones and vacant squares as an early inheritance so she had her mother put away. My great grandfather tried to have her released, but somehow couldn’t, so after his wife committed suicide in the asylum, he did the same.
My grandmother was offered a piece of the inheritance but preferred to live poor as a church mouse with her husband and 9 children a few towns away in a haunted house.
Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (The Joan of Arc of the Union) came from Philadelphia Quaker stock. Her father died when she was two and the family could have used a few Jersey City properties to get by, but instead the community of Friends took care of them. Elizabeth never let poverty cloud her active and opinionated mind. She read voraciously, took a job at the US Mint and got fired at the age of 15 for proclaiming Civil War GeneralGeorge McClellan a traitor to the Union.
William Lloyd Garrison the famous editor invited her to speak in Boston after hearing her oratory (favorite subjects for her were abolition, temperance and women’s rights). Still a young girl, she became an instant sensation and toured the nation.
First she spoke highly of Abe Lincoln, but soon after meeting him she publicly and tactlessly found fault, not only with his policies, but with his appearance and mannerisms. Biting the hand that feeds you never ends well, does it?
The war finished and so did her popularity. Like a washed up celebrity of today on Dancing with the Stars Elizabeth turned to bad acting gigs and suffered the spears of critics until one day the men in white suits came to take her away.
The reasons for this are sketchy at best. There’s some evidence she did not go insane. A kind family in Goshen, NY took care of her for the last forty years of her life. They sought no early inheritance. I imagine Goshen was not such a bad place to live out one’s life in obscurity.