Monthly Archives: June 2013

(CH. 3, PART 1)-The Boy Stranger: A free allegorical novel

Bullet Two

Two men came on horseback to the ranch house as the sun was setting. As they came across the land, they appeared to float quickly, like dust across the plains in front of a strong wind.

They knew nothing of the hat shop or any other specifics about the man’s deal with Dakota Inc.  They knew that Dakota Inc. had sent them to the man, but they did not know why.  It wasn’t their place to know.  They were instructed to speak little, and to ask no questions of anyone, not even of themselves.

The heads of these two men were like cannon balls. They leveled everything.  Heads full of metal, but they had very good eyes and ears.

Nothing rattled or clinked in their pockets.  Only the howls of coyotes and wailing were in the pockets of the men.  There was no money.  They carried no extra bullets, but only what they had in their guns.  Two pistols each, and each bullet was stuck in its chamber as snug as an egg in a robin’s nest.  A greedy man takes too many bullets, Leonard always said.  Dakota Inc. carried bags of bullets and bags of money, Leonard said.  Dakota Inc. was greedy.

The men were sent by Dakota Inc., but of course they were not part of the Company.  They were part of a group of men that Dakota Inc. hired for the job, and that group of men was led by Leonard.  Leonard’s men looked nothing like Dakota Inc.  They did not wear fancy black suits, and they did not jingle or shine or boast.

The men had come.

The men were there, at the ranch house.

Before, Dakota Inc. used to send their own men on errands like this.  That was back before the War ended; before the blue army from the east came swarming to the west like the locusts.  Now, Dakota Inc. couldn’t get away with things so easily.  They could not be so open. So they hired other men to go, and made for themselves very good alibis.

The two strange men got off their horses and walked to the door of the ranch house.  Their walking was as images floating across a wavy storefront window. And like those images, they approached silently, their boots scarcely making any noise upon the ground.

Lucy and mother saw them coming and knew there was nothing good about it.  The two women held each other until the men got to the door, and then mother let go and ran to the door to meet them…to charge them. Father was in the bedroom where he always was.  Jason was off in Shadow, working for the gambler, Van Carlo.

Lucy coughed and cowered near the tiny, lukewarm fire.  She was afraid, and longed to be back in Richmond.  But all she could think about was a room with a great hole in the ceiling and the moon looking down.  A hole made by a cannonball in the ceiling of the row house in Richmond.  It was all the same, she thought.  Everything was South Dakota now.  Everything was just a room with a hole.

Mother saw the men through the window as she approached the front door.  The men were very tall and lean.  So lean that they looked as if they might disappear if they were to turn sideways.  They were dark, too, with shadows falling all around their faces in places that most people did not have shadows.  As their faces moved the shadows remained, the darkness shifting inconsistently with the light.

They looked sick and diseased in their thinness and darkness.  Death was their disease, mother thought, but they did not die from it.

Mother knew instantly that she did not care for these men.  She cared nothing.  She would not care if they simply died in the doorway. She hated the men, and even though she knew that her hatred was just an impostor of strength, it made her feel better to hate them.

‘Yes, let them die in the doorway,’ she thought as she flung open the door.  ‘Let them die there and let their bones turn white and smooth until they look as flat as the land around us.’

But her heart fell and she knew it would never come to that.  She could tell that she stood no chance against these men.  Even if she fought them and got lucky and they died in the doorway as she wished, more would come.  There were always more men to come.  Just like in Richmond.

Mother stumbled back inside the house as they came for her.  She caught her balance, and then ran to grab a broom that was resting against the wall near the door.  She turned and waved the broom at them, as if to shoo them away.  They looked like animals and she would treat them like animals…rodents and critters.  Unwelcome by all, down to the very last person in the entire world.

But then, an instant later, she decided against the broom and instead grabbed the shotgun that was resting next to it against the wall.  They were not as small as rodents.  No.  They were the wolf or the coyote.  You did not use a broom on those animals.

She felt the thin, cold trigger on her finger.  The men moved quickly then.  For men such as these must move quickly to avoid the judgment.  Mother marveled at their speed, and she did not even have time to raise the gun up to her waist before one of the men snatched it from her hands. He took it and handed it to the other man.  The other man quickly put it somewhere inside his long, gray coat, and then continued moving forward, just as smoothly and easily as if the shotgun had never been there at all.

The two men turned mother around and roughly pushed her into the house.  Lucy tried to scream, but only her coughing came out, and this was a sound just as loud as and even more terrible than screaming.  She tried to stand, but in her fit of coughing her body convulsed, and she tumbled forward into the fire.

The fire.  Just moments before she had been kneeling in front of it, and with a coal had been drawing a picture of a little bird on thick paper.  But now she was face first in the fire, and when she pushed back, she burned her hands badly, and then she did scream.

She stood up quickly, shaking violently, and then fell to the floor, on top of the picture of the little bird.  The weight of her body and her dress smudged the picture and blurred the lines together and wrinkled the paper.

Lucy rolled over to look at the picture, and saw that it was ruined.  This greatly angered her.  She saw that the picture was crushed and smudged, and she screamed in rage.  Then she took the paper and threw it into the fire where it burned to ash, just before she fell back down on the rug.  The ash rose and floated away.  Flying, she thought to herself in the midst of her rage.  Flying beautifully, just like a bird should.

The men still did not talk or make much of any sound at all.  Even the sound of their boots on the floor was muted.  Their violence was their sound, and it covered up all other sounds around them.

Lucy was still screaming, but then the screaming turned once again to coughing, and mother was comforted just a little by this.  It meant that Lucy was still just dying from the cough and not from the fire.

Mother turned and beat her fists against the men’s coats.  She smelled the smell of duty on them.  It smelled just like it did in Richmond: a horrible, dusty, unwashed, nomadic smell, and all manner of the smells of nature.

Her blows fell with no more effect upon the men than the swish of a horse’s tail. One of the men made a casual sweep with his arm and knocked her down. As she fell she reached up with a clawed hand and tore something from the man’s chest.  It was cold and hard, with sharp edges.  Was it the man’s heart?  She closed her fingers around it, and then crashed onto the floor.  The cold, hard thing dug into her hand and drew blood, which seeped between her fingers.  She looked up at the man, and saw a hole torn in his vest just where his heart would be.  She waited for him to collapse and die, but he didn’t. Useless heart, she thought.  She drew the hard thing to her and decided she would keep it, and hide it from the man.  She would take something from him, just like he had come to take something from her.

“Where is your husband, woman,” the first man said.  He had the voice of a coyote: a soft rumble, followed by a howl. “He is in the bed,” the first man continued, answering his own question.  Then he continued speaking to mother:  “Help me find him.  I know he is in the bedroom.  We have come for him.”

Mother couldn’t think straight.  All she could do was scream, “He has no boots!”

The second man spoke, and he had the voice of an eagle:  screechy and abrupt, with the beginnings and ends of his sentences sharp like dagger points.

“We must take him.  He will go far.  South Dakota is very large.”

“Oh no, oh no, oh no!” mother screamed.  “Is it a dream?  Please tell me it is a dream!”

“It makes no difference,” the first man said.

             Mother staggered to her feet.  She moved away from them awkwardly, and stood next to Lucy who was on the floor near the fire, sobbing and coughing.

            “Then they sent you,” she said.

            “Yes,” the first man said.

            “And when did you know you’d be called upon to do this to us?”

            “We knew from the minute Dakota Inc. saw you get off the train.”

            Mother buried her face in her hands and began to sob.

            “Eyes.  Eyes everywhere.  I knew it!  How can a place so empty have so many eyes?  Eyes everywhere, where so many other things should be.” She fell to her knees, next to Lucy and continued to sob greatly.

            “I would take the noise of the cannon; the thundering noise and the heaviness of Richmond and the War.  But this quiet, and all of these watching eyes,” mother said.

            “It is true,” the second man said.  “We know what Dakota Inc. knows.  And yes, they have many eyes.”

            “Though perhaps they are not all in the right places,” the first man said.

            The second man turned quickly to the first man.

“I think you should be more careful with your words, Rifle,” the second man said.

            Mother shook her head and stared at the floor.

            “Done in,” she said.  “And not even by men.  At least the blue soldiers were men.  But these?  Dakota Inc.  They are trains on twisted tracks, casting huge, iron shadows.  And you they pull you behind them and us they run straight through.”

            Then she looked up at the men defiantly.

            “Don’t they?  Right behind them,” she said.

            The first man struck mother hard on the cheek, and the blow felt like the butt of a gun, not a hand.

            “We will not muzzle the ox, woman.  But we could.  Do not speak to us as though we have no choices,” he said.

            “You need to stop speaking now, Rifle,” the second man said sternly.  “Let’s get the man and go.  Leonard is not patient these days.”

            The first man nodded. His gaze shifted to the hallway and the open bedroom door at the end of it.  Then, in unison, both men began to move down the hall. The first man stopped and turned back to mother.  He marveled that she was still conscious after the blow, though her mouth was bleeding and she was not clearheaded enough even to sob anymore.

            “Don’t worry, woman,” the man said.  “Leonard will soon forbid Dakota Inc.  It is possible that your son will be left alone.”

            The second man’s eyes widened in disbelief. “I will have to tell Leonard about this, Rifle,” he said.  “You have been,” he paused, trying to find the words. ”Irresponsible with Leonard’s voice,” he finished.

            The first man pointed to the room.  “Go get him,” he demanded.  “And let me speak for Leonard.”

            “I think you should speak less, or tell Leonard to come himself, next time.  You sound very much like Rifle to me,” the second man said, spitting on the ground and giving the first man a suspicious look.  Then he turned and went to the bedroom.

Lucy stood quickly and ran out of the house.  At this point the sun had set and darkness had fallen, and Lucy was quickly lost in it.  Even the sound of her footsteps seemed to vanish only seconds after she was through the front door.

            Darkness had come with them, Lucy thought as she plowed forward into the freezing cold night.  And the darkness was following closely behind, as a dog follows its master.  Except these men were not the masters.  Dakota Inc. was, and Dakota Inc. meant to be master over everyone and everything.

‘But is it really this way?’ she cried in her mind.  And if it was, did it have to be?  All her memories of Richmond were fond ones.  All of them, in spite of the War.  And by the same way she survived Richmond and the War knew that she could survive South Dakota, too.  More than that, it was her only choice, for it was the only way she knew how to survive.

            Lucy stopped abruptly and knelt over coughing and panting and shivering.  There was blood in her mouth and she could taste it.  She looked all around and saw nothing but the faceless black of the wilderness night.  There were no bright windows from the row houses or other buildings, or the fires of the burning street lamps.  Richmond was never this dark.  Even after the blue soldiers came, there were fires burning everywhere at night.  But in South Dakota there seemed no bright side at all for her imagination to seize.

She turned back and saw the faint glimmer of the fire through the front door of the ranch house.  Reluctantly and weakly, she made her way back to it.  When she got to the house she stopped and did not go inside, preferring to linger at the window, trying to stifle her coughing but at the same time knowing that it didn’t matter.  The men were not there for her.  And even if they were, they did not have to take her anywhere to have her.  It was the same with mother.

***

            The first man, Rifle, watched the second man (who was named Fire) pull the heavy man from the bed.  The heavy man gave them no resistance, but he did not willingly rise get to his feet.  He rolled from the bed and landed on the floor with a meaty thud, and there he lay like a corpse.  The man called Fire had to beat him a few times to get him to move on his own.  Finally the heavy man got to his knees, but after that he could rise no further. He just stared at the ground breathing heavily and said nothing.

 Then Rifle turned back and looked down the hallway at mother, who was on her knees and holding her face, dazed, and looking at the floor.  He tilted his head.  Slowly, he walked towards her.  He reached down and put a hand gently on her head.

            “I’m sorry, woman.  It…” he paused, looking uncomfortable.  “It’s not me, you understand.  The Strangers….”

            Suddenly, behind him, he heard running footsteps.  He turned just in time to see Fire rushing at him with his gun drawn.  Before Rifle had a chance to move, the butt of Fire’s gun came crashing upon his head with the force of a falling brick.

            Rifle’s hat came off his head and he collapsed to his knees next to mother.  She looked over at him and saw that he had a bald spot in the middle of his head, surrounded by long, stringy gray hair, thick and tangled as old twine in some places.  The bald spot was white as the moon.

            “Rifle, when you speak you will speak only one thing!” Fire said.

            Rifle groaned and nodded, and rubbed the top of his head.  The bald spot was starting to bleed and swell.

            “Y…yes.  I will speak only one thing,” he said.

            “Say the one thing!”

            “When do I get paid?” Rifle said.  It came out as a confused whimper.

            “And what is the answer?”

            Mother held her hands over her ears and then began to sob again, loudly.

            The man called Fire was obviously annoyed at this.  He put his gun directly over her head and fired.  It was loud and startled her, and she sobbed more quietly.

            “S…soon,” said Rifle, still dazed.  “Soon.  There is nothing that is not soon.  And the payment will be worth the work, according to Leonard.  That is the answer.”

            Fire stood up straight and put his gun away somewhere inside his long, gray coat.  He nodded. “Good.  Now get up, Rifle.  Let’s get the man and go.”

            Rifle nodded and put his hat gently back on his head.  Standing, he followed Fire reluctantly to the bedroom.  There were shuffling sounds, and soon they emerged, carrying father.  And though father was not dead, he hung limp just like a dead man would hang, with stunned and pointless eyes, between the two strangers.

            “Please do not take my husband,” mother whispered as the two men walked past her, with father, and out the door.  But they did not hear her.

            As soon as the men left, Lucy ran inside the house and clung to mother and they cried out in front of the dying fire together.  The men rode and rode into the night, barely thinking about the ride.  These days, they never thought about the trails that they knew so well.  The moon fell upon the wide plains before them and made them and the land around them as pale as the moon itself, so that South Dakota resembled the moon.

            When mother and Lucy stopped crying the house was utterly silent.  The sound of the horses riding into the South Dakota eternity had long since passed away.  Everything was quiet, exactly like it had been for weeks before the two strangers ever came to them.

***

 

            It was a wide open space, with just a few trees around.  The sky was a bright, yet dismal gray, as were the flat, seamless clouds which covered it.  The light in the sky was strange.  It was both natural and unnatural at the same time.

It was morning of the next day, and the Stranger called Rifle sat by the campfire.  The collar of his long gray coat was up around his ears and his hat was pulled low.  He wasn’t eating, even though it was breakfast time in the camp.  He and Fire had had a long ride last night, and he knew he should be hungry.  But he did not feel like eating.  He did not feel well at all.  The ride had been a cold one, he thought, and the top of his head throbbed from where Fire hit him with the butt of the pistol.  Rightly hit him, Rifle thought to himself.  He deserved to be hit.  He’d been hit before, but why did it hurt so much this time, he wondered.  Why so much more than usual?  And with the swelling, he felt like his head was two sizes too big for his hat.

So he didn’t eat.  He just poked disinterestedly at the campfire with a stick.

Rifle glanced up and looked at his bleak canvas tent that was set up near the fire.  The tent was empty last night because he and Fire were in the saddle.  The front of the tent was open, and the heavy canvas flaps were waving and making thick popping noises as the wind blew them around.  Inside the tent was a bedroll that was still tied, and a small pillow was tucked inside it.  It had provided no cushion last night, for he did not lay on it.

Rifle could see the edge of the bedroll near the opening of the tent, and he realized that he was tired.  He thought he would very much like to go inside the tent and unravel that bedroll.  But it wasn’t time for that now.  Even though the ride was long, and they rode all night, it was now daylight and Leonard said there were things to do.

There were always things to do.  Things like the thing he and Fire did last night. Those things were tiring, though, Rifle thought, and he wished he could sleep a little.

Rifle turned his head and saw Fire near a tree a few yards away, speaking with Leonard, who was the leader of the Strangers Gang.

The other Strangers were sitting around the campfire, but unlike Rifle, they were all eating.  They were the tools of Leonard, and, like Rifle and Fire, had been given new names.  They were given these names so that they knew exactly how to answer Leonard and just what to do when they were called.  The names of the other Strangers were:  Blanket, Hammer, Wagon, Rope, and Fence. And though they resembled men, Leonard did not consider his Strangers human.

Including Rifle and Fire, there were seven Strangers.  Eight, if you counted Leonard, but none in the gang ever did.  Leonard wasn’t a Stranger like they were Strangers.  Not really.  Leonard didn’t seem to be anything real or familiar.  He only had the outline of a human being, which was barely a resemblance.  He was more of an experience than he was a man.  He would sometimes say he was the mask of South Dakota.  A human-like image that represented all of the things the Strangers did in South Dakota.  But that was as close to being a man as he would admit.

Rifle had been doing the things the Strangers did for many years now.  He knew well of them, and they were like the things that he and Fire did last night to the man and his wife and sick daughter out near Shadow.  They were usually dreadful things.

Yes, Rifle thought, Leonard was a sort of semblance of human form, like a mask, but nothing more.  And the other Strangers weren’t much closer, all of them having forgotten the names they were born with.

 Except for his left eye, Leonard kept his head and face covered completely with several dirty gray bandannas.  There were always gloves on his hands so you could not see his fingers and a gray hat always on his head.  His long, gray coat always covered him from his neck to the soles of his boots.  There were no holes in the coat.  Any holes were quickly patched, and there were many patches, but no holes.

Rifle looked at the other Strangers around the fire.  He thought to himself that it was good he was not hungry because breakfast time was almost over, and he would not have enough time to eat now anyway.  The Strangers finished up their breakfast and then all there was left to do was to urinate on the fire.  One of them stood up to do just that, and the others filed away to get things ready for the day.  None of them spoke.  They were not permitted to speak, except to ask only one question, and they were also allowed to answer their own question.  That question was: When do I get paid?  And the answer was always the same.  The answer was:  Soon, and the payment will be worth the work.

If there was a second person in charge of the Stranger’s gang, it was Rifle, and then came Fire.  Of the Strangers, only Rifle and Fire, whom Leonard referred to as his other voices, were allowed to speak and think beyond that one question and one answer.  South Dakota was a large place, and Leonard needed extra voices sometimes, and Rifle and Fire were them.  But Rifle and Fire had to keep their words and thoughts within boundaries, which was why Rifle was hit in the head last night.  He had strayed beyond the boundary.

At that moment, near the campfire, Rifle felt uncomfortable because he knew that the one eye of Leonard was on him.  The one eye he kept uncovered for seeing; the eye that was always bleeding, just a little.  Rifle pulled his collar up a little higher and his hat a little lower.  He was very tired.  The man named Holland was fat and heavy and dead weight on the horse last night, and Rifle was exhausted. For a man who had nothing, Holland Credence was very heavy.

Near the tree, Fire was telling Leonard about the things Rifle said last night to the woman, as well as something else.  He told Leonard that the boy, Jason, was still alive, and that it was true that this boy had been speaking and working with Van Carlo, the gambler, and the gambler liked the boy very much.

Leonard nodded when he heard this news.  All along he had thought that this was true.  When he went and spoke with Dakota Inc., and when they told him that they wanted the man named Holland as payment for the debt, he was suspicious that Van Carlo was in town and that he had a new telegraph; a telegraph from the East, not from South Dakota, and a telegraph that Van Carlo very much trusted.  He was the son of the man, Holland.  This boy had seen the War in Richmond, and it was rumored that he’d even killed one of the blue soldiers.

It was the whole story, Fire told Leonard.  There was nothing more Dakota Inc. knew.  Leonard nodded again.  He always told his Strangers to make sure they got the whole story when dealing with men like Dakota Inc.  Make them tell you everything, he said.

Leonard and Fire walked over to Rifle, and the other Strangers gathered around and stood behind them.  Leonard’s bleeding eye, all that could be seen from beneath his bandannas and his hat, began to bleed a little more as he approached.  This happened sometimes, especially when it came to times of punishment.

Punishment.  What Leonard liked to call “things”.  He never called punishment by name.  It was just things.  But Rifle knew what the things were.

Inside his head, Rifle heard Leonard’s voice.  It told him that he was indeed a good boy.  He was strong and useful.  The voice praised Rifle’s ability to ride the horse well, and his skills at tracking and shooting. Yes, you are a very good boy, Rifle, the voice said.  But there are things needed to make you better.

Rifle stood up and faced Leonard.  He looked uncertain.  Nervous.  He didn’t bother to hide it.

“When do I get paid,” Rifle said, his voice trembling.

“Oh, hopeful Rifle.  No more speaking.  And no more answers except for the things,” Leonard said.

Rifle looked at the ground and nodded.

Leonard reached out and caressed Rifle’s cheek with his thickly-gloved hand, then placed his hand on Rifle’s shoulder.  “If you want to be human in South Dakota, dear Rifle, then let’s talk about it.  You can be human, you know.  There is no law in South Dakota or in the Stranger’s gang against it.  But what we need here is perspective.”

He put his hand under Rifle’s chin and raised the chin so that their eyes met.

“Think of your life as a rod. At one end there is your birth.  Then, there is some blood.  Then your death at the other end,” Leonard said.  “So, Rifle, what am I to you then?”

“You are South Dakota,” Rifle said, closing his eyes.

“I am the rod, Rifle,” Leonard said.  “Everything is on it.  Your birth, death, all the blood, the man named Holland, the tents and the trains. Without me…” he brought his fingers together then pulled them apart, spreading them. “…poof, no more trains.  No more South Dakota.  No more you.”

“Yes, Leonard.”

“You see?”

“Yes, of course, Leonard.”

Leonard nodded.  “Good,” he said.  Then he gestured for all the Strangers to sit around the campfire that was now only smoke, because it had been urinated on.

“Let’s talk about this boy of Van Carlo’s,” he said.

Leonard and Fire spoke for a while, and the others, including Rifle, only listened.  They agreed that the boy was necessary, and that he was a very, very good boy.  If Van Carlo liked him so much, there must be something too him.

“And what about Dakota Inc.,” Fire said.  “They will want the boy, too, eventually.”

“Eventually,” Leonard scoffed. “They are imbeciles.  They would have asked us to take the boy in the first place, instead of the fat man, if they were not.  And they should have paid us more and we should have gone and left the fat man and taken the boy.  The boy, who used to be from Richmond but is now from Van Carlo; and those are the worst kinds of boys in South Dakota.”

“Rifle and I spent some time in Shadow, in secret,” Fire said.  “We heard some things about Van Carlo’s telegraph…Jason is his name.  He fought the blue soldiers during the War, even though he was only very young, just a boy.  He can ride and shoot well, and he can track.  He will go to the mountain if we give him time.  He will take the high ground, and it will be difficult to bring him down.”

Leonard’s eye began to bleed a little more.  It was a steady trickle now.

“There is no higher ground than my head in South Dakota,” he said.

There was a long pause at the campfire.  They all poked at the wet fire pit with sticks, except for Leonard and Rifle, who simply stared straight ahead.

“I will lead us to the mountain,” Rifle said, finally breaking the silence.

Leonard turned to look at Rifle, and Rifle thought he saw just a hint of uncertainty in the bleeding eye.  And suspicion.  The trickle of blood from the eye formed a little pool just underneath the eye, and this pool began to soak into the bandannas. Then Leonard blinked the eye over and over until it was all red.  This was a way that Leonard would scream sometimes.

Rifle stood.  “I am ready for the things,” he said, looking first at Fire, then at Leonard. “Then we can go and find this boy.  Even if he is on the top of the mountain, we’ll get him.”

“He won’t be like the fat man, Rifle,” Fire said, while Leonard looked on in interest.  “He can shoot, so it was said in Shadow, and he can track very…”

“He won’t be the one tracking,” Rifle interrupted, giving Fire a stern look.  “And so what if he can shoot?  We can all shoot.  It’s who shoots first that matters.”

“He will be able to see quite far up there,” Fire said, shaking his head.  “And you had trouble with the woman, Rifle.  What will happen at the top of the mountain where there are no walls and he can see all the way to the ocean?”

Leonard stood up and turned to face both men.  From somewhere underneath his long gray coat he pulled two rifles out and put one under the chin of each of the two men.  The rifles were like appendages to him, and the barrels were as cold as icicles.

“That’s enough,” he said.  “This boy, this new telegraph of Van Carlo’s is the worst kind of boy in South Dakota.  He’ll see nothing up there but South Dakota, and it will be as faceless as the walls and ceiling of his bedroom.”

He took the rifle from underneath Fire’s chin and placed it next to the one under Rifle’s chin.

“And you, Rifle,” he said.  “Your tongue is a wild horse. Fire is right. You had trouble controlling it for the woman.  What will you do when you face a boy who actually knows what he’s doing with a gun and a horse?  They say this boy has killed a blue soldier, even before he finished school.  You’ve never even killed a soldier, Rifle.”

Rifle did not reply.  He turned to look at his bedroll inside the tent, with the flap of tent still moving in and out like a tongue on the wind.  It was time for the things, and he wished he had something to dream about.  And then he remembered that he did.

“But we can help you, Rifle,” Leonard said.  “And I will let you track down this boy, even on the mountain, because I can help you.  But we cannot leave until after.”

“After, then,” Rifle said.

Then the rest of the Strangers came at him slowly with the sharp half of a broken horseshoe.  It was time for the things.  Two of the Strangers, Blanket and Fence, took him by his arms and led him to the tent.  Then they opened his bedroll, laid him down on it and began.  Rifle closed his eyes and started to dream about new things.

Leonard stared at the tent and saw Rifle’s boots sticking out of it.  He heard the men doing the things to Rifle.  He looked at Rifle’s boots, not with love, but something like it.  It was kind of like yearning….a yearning because Rifle was a very good boy, and could shoot and track very, very well, better than them all.

But then, Leonard thought about Van Carlo’s new telegraph.  What would happen if they found him on the mountain?  Perhaps he would prove to be a very good boy, too, if Van Carlo hadn’t brainwashed him fully.  And if he was a very good boy, then there might not be any more need of Rifle, and then Leonard could stop yearning.  He hated to yearn, anyway, but sometimes it couldn’t be helped.  And he hated that, too.

Deep down, Leonard hoped everything they said about this boy was true.  He hated Van Carlo, but he understood that the gambler had something of wisdom, and if Van Carlo liked the boy, then there was something to him.

This boy…what other rumors had he and Rifle heard about him?  Fire told him.  He could ride a horse well, with sharp movements, and up the sides of trees.

“Just like you, Leonard,” Fire said.  “I even heard that he killed that blue soldier with only a knife, while the soldier had a Spencer.”

He sounded like a good boy to Leonard.  As good as Van Carlo, even.

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(CH. 2, PART 3)-The Boy Stranger: A Free Novel

          “You’re not a very good gambler, Jason.” Van Carlo said.  It was early in the morning.  “I don’t think you’d ever make it on this side of the table.  Your family is starving, and you still don’t take any more from me than you did when you first started.”

            “I’m sorry,” the boy said, staring out the window of the casino.

            “And I’m angry about it.  Which is strange, I know.  I should be happy to have such a fool for a telegraph.  Maybe I’m the fool.”

Van Carlo turned away from the boy and looked at his chips.  He was on a break between games, and the other gamblers had stepped away from the table.

            “I don’t think you are a fool, Van Carlo” the boy said.  “You’re the only one who can look out this window and see things as they really are in South Dakota.”

            Van Carlo turned to look at the boy again.

“Boy, you are hard to read.  I look at your face, and all I see is nothing.  Maybe you would make a good gambler after all,” He paused for a moment.  The he said, “There is only one more thing you need.”

The boy looked out the window again, burying his head behind the velvet curtain. “What is that?”

            “To take more money. Until then, you are no gambler.  I don’t know what you are.”

“Mm,” the boy said. He was barely paying attention to Van Carlo’s words.

            Van Carlo shook his head.  “Dead.  Your family.  That’s what they are. At least they can claim it.  But you, I have no idea.  You come to work, but you don’t make any money.  You have a face fit for anything, but you do nothing with it.  Truly, you are a strange boy.”

            “Mm,” the boy said again.

            The boy turned to the side and the lethargic light from the window struck his face, making half of it gray and overcast.

‘He looks like a man today,’ Van Carlo thought.

The boy sighed and turned completely away from the window.  The velvet curtain fell across the panes and the streets of South Dakota were blacked out and only the dim of the casino remained.

“What’s going to happen to my family, Van Carlo?”

Van Carlo sighed.  “They are just a number in a book in some Company office in Shadow, Jason,” he said.  “That’s Dakota Inc.  You warned your father about them?”

“Yes.”

“Stuck in the drawer, he is,” Van Carlo said.  “I’m sorry.”

The boy nodded.  Then he didn’t say anything for a long time.

“What’s wrong?” Van Carlo said.

“I don’t want to say, Van Carlo.  You will think I am a fool.”

“I already think that,” he said.  “All boys are fools whose fathers are fools.”

“Then you know what’s happened to my father.”

“Yes. They have come and taken him away.  Now only your mother is left.  She has to be both your mother and your father now.”  He took a chip and spun it.  “It is a hard place to be in, especially in South Dakota.”

“Taken him away?” the boy asked.  “That’s not what I meant.  He is in bed, and he never leaves.”

Van Carlo looked very sad.  “No. They’ve taken him, and he is dead today.  So what I’m saying is…” he stood up and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “…to take more money.  It doesn’t matter anyway.  I don’t go anywhere to spend it.”

The boy turned away.  “I don’t believe you,” he said.

Van Carlo sat down and picked up his cards.  “You don’t have to believe me.  Pretty soon it will be time for you to get out of here, and then you’ll go home and see.  When the daylight has broken and the gray clouds are bright enough for you to see the road, you’ll see.  Just as sure as you saw the blue general that they said would never come.  Dakota Inc. does not hide such things.  They make them plain for all of us to see.”

“Then I prefer to wait until then,” the boy replied.

“Suit yourself.”

The boy looked at the empty seats across the table.  The other gamblers were still taking a break.

“I wish I could read faces so well…like you Van Carlo,” the boy said.

Van Carlo shrugged. “Don’t do this to yourself.  This was your father’s doing.  None of this is your fault.”

“Yes, Van Carlo.”

(CH. 2, PART 2)-The Boy Stranger: A free novel

The boy arrived home early the next morning, just as the sun was rising.  Van Carlo had sent him on several long errands after their conversation the night before, and he was tired.

He didn’t skim for himself any of the money Van Carlo sent with him to buy things.  He still didn’t feel entirely comfortable with taking money from the gambler. He didn’t fully understand Van Carlo and it didn’t seem right to take money until he really knew who he was taking it from.  For the time being, he was content to listen to Van Carlo and to take the little money he gave him outright at the end of the night.

When the boy arrived back at the ranch house, he was eager to talk to someone about all of the things Van Carlo had told him. But he did not want to talk with father just yet.  He preferred mother, or even better, Lucy.  He wanted to see what Lucy thought, but he could not find her.  He could not find mother, either.  A note on the stove told him that they had left early that morning for Shadow and would not be back until later in the afternoon.

There was a smoldering fire in the fireplace in the living room, and the boy put a tin cup of water on some of the burning coals.  It was just a small, useless fire, not dangerous. It was barely hot enough to heat his water.

He put a little tea in the water after a while and sat in a chair near the window and began to drink it in unhurried sips.  He heard a shuffling in the bedroom and what sounded like the whisper of two men talking to each other. One of the voices sounded like father’s.  Then, after a moment, he realized the other voice was father’s, too.  Father was talking to himself in whispers.

The boy went to the back of the ranch house to his parents’ bedroom.  He found father standing with his ear against one of the thin walls.  There were cracks in the wall, especially around the windows, and the boy could feel a little of the cold wind of South Dakota on his cheeks as he entered the room.

“What are you doing, father?” the boy asked.

“Oh.  Jason.  You’re back from work.”  His father turned to him.  “How’s work going?”

“Fine.”  The boy sat down on the bed.  “Are you okay?”

Father smiled.  “Oh, yes.  I’m just listening to the wind.  South Dakota is really screaming out there today.”

The boy nodded.  “Yes, it is.  It screams down from the mountain.  I hear it on my way into Shadow, screaming in my ears.  It’s like that a lot around here.”

Father sat on the bed next to him.  “Yes, well.  We’ll get used to it.”

“We got used to the muskets.”

Father nodded.  “And the soldiers out in our streets, playing like children away from their parents.”

“Which ones?”

Father shrugged.  “Ah.  Who can remember anymore?  Blue ones, gray ones; I don’t know.  I think it was the blue ones.”

“You think so?”

“I remember thinking they looked fat in their uniforms,” father said. “Or maybe that was just my own refection in the window.”  He smiled thinly.

The boy smiled thinly, too.  Then he got up and went to the window and looked at the mountain in the distance.  He sipped his tea, but it was already cold, so he put it down on the window sill and left it alone.

“Maybe you should be listening to South Dakota through the walls of your shop, father.  Instead of the bedroom,” the boy said meekly.

Father’s smile faded quickly.

“I don’t like the shop, Jason.  It’s more comfortable here.”  He looked up.  “Though, it seems like this ceiling gets an inch or two lower every time I lie down on the bed and stare up at it.”

The boy looked up.  “It looks all right to me.”

“Yes, well…it isn’t.  And the ceiling in the shop is even lower.”  He shook his head.  “I have to duck to walk in there.  And I can’t hear the wind through the walls there; too many hats lining them.  It looks the same as the shop in Richmond.  I like it better here in the bedroom.”

“I don’t understand.  What’s wrong, father?”

Father shook his head.  “I just think that people are comfortable in their own hats.  They only see a stranger in a new one, when they look at themselves in my mirrors.”

The boy pressed his ear to the wall next to the window.

“Is South Dakota speaking to you?” father asked.

The boy listened for a moment longer.  “No,” he finally said.  “I just hear the wind, and feel it, too.”

Father nodded.  “Sometimes it speaks to me.”

“What does it say?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

The boy pressed his ear again.  There was only wind.  But there was a lot of it.

“Are you sure you are hearing the wind, father?  Or is it something else.”

“No, it’s the wind speaking.  And I’m listening closely.  I’ve got some thinking to do, it seems.”  He tapped his temple and winked.

“The wind told you that?”

“South Dakota told me that.”

The boy removed his ear from the wall. “I thought you said the wind spoke to you.”

Father shrugged.  “Same thing.”

There was a long pause between them.

“I think you should go to the shop today, father,” the boy said, finally.

Father stood up and went back to the wall, and pressed his ear against it.

“Not now, Jason,” he said.  Father listened to the wind for a very long time, and whispered to himself.

Jason watched him for a few minutes, then left.  But every so often he would go back to the bedroom and check on him.  One time as he stood in the doorway watching father, the wind blew so hard it rattled the window.  The boy felt the draft on his cheek from across the room.  Father seemed to enjoy the feel of the wind in the room.  He stood there caressing the glass of the window and smiling a smile that reminded the boy of his dead aunt in her coffin.

The boy started to say something about the cold, but then he didn’t.  It didn’t matter.  He turned to go, but then father spoke to him, and he stopped.

“I think I’m going to sell the shop, Jason,” he said, still caressing the window, his ear still against the wall.

The boy nodded, but his eyes were wary.

“To whom?”

“They call themselves Dakota Inc.  They have their business in Shadow.”

“What kind of business?”

Father turned away from the wall and looked at the boy.

“The helping kind.”

“Who do they help, father?”

“People.  People like us.”

“You mean people from the East.  People from Richmond, not their own kind,” the boy said with suspicion.

“People from away, yes, Jason.”  Father went to sit on the bed with his back to the boy.

“They are, um…sympathetic to our situation.”

The boy walked over and stood in front of father. His boots made a hard, cold sound on the floor, and for the first time that morning the boy realized that except for the wind, he had noticed no other sounds in the house.

“Sympathetic?”

“That’s right.”

“About our situation?”

“Yes.”

“When did you talk about our situation with these men?”

Father shrugged. “I didn’t.  They knew much about us, though.  Our names, how much I had spent on the business, how much stock I had invested, our lack of savings, where we lived, how in debt we are…all down to the number.”

The boy did not speak for a moment.  He turned and looked out the window, then back to father.

“Do you want me to make you some coffee?” the boy asked.

“No.  I’m not thirsty.”

“Are you cold.”
“No.”

“I will go have some coffee, if that’s okay.”

“Fine,” Father said.  “I’m going to lie down for a while.”

            The boy went to make some coffee in the dying fire in the fireplace.  When he returned to the bedroom, he found father under the covers and rolled to one side.  His unpolished boots were on the floor pushed neatly together at the end of the bed.

            “I have heard of these men, Dakota Inc.,” the boy said, sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. “I have heard about them.  I have seen them, too.  They are always out, whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, or if it’s clear or raining.  They are always on the streets. They have eyes like fish that never blink.  They always carry a lot of guns.  Three apiece, I think.  Seems a strange way to run a business, being out in the street all the time.  More like the soldiers in Richmond than businessmen.”

            Father sat up in bed and rubbed his face.  Then he looked at Jason.

            “We put our guns away in Richmond because our cause was lost.  Maybe theirs isn’t.  I don’t know.  But I do know that I have made up my mind.”

            “Father, I don’t think they understand Richmond, or us.  I’m not even sure they understand South Dakota.  Maybe we should talk to someone who does.”

            “Like who?”

            “Like Van…” he stopped, remembering Van Carlo’s admonition to not tell his father he had said anything about Dakota Inc.  But it was too late.  His father knew.

            “Van Carlo.  The gambler?”  Father did not look pleased.

            “Why not?  He’s lived here for many years.  He knows this place, and he knows Dakota Inc.  He says to stay away from them.”

            “He knows how to take a fool’s money, is all,” Father said.  “And maybe I am a fool.  But I’d rather give my shop to Dakota Inc.”

            “But Van Carlo says…”

            “Your friend Van Carlo speaks a lot of words for a gambler,” Father said, waggling a finger angrily at the boy. “Stray words cost a gambler money, I know that much.  And either he doesn’t know this and is a fool or he does and is an imbecile.”

            The boy stood up.  “That’s not true, father!  Van Carlo…”

            “You are a dullard, boy, with an imagination like a jar of grease.  You believe in the perspective of a man who has been sitting in one place so long that he can’t tell his body from his own chair?”

            “He’s not like that, father,” the boy said.  He sat back in the chair and hung his head.

            “How dare he judge men in the saddle when all he does is sit around all day.  Tell me, Jason, does Van Carlo’s chair take feed?  Is it in need of a grooming now and then, or a soft stable and a fresh drink of water?” He lay back down in the bed.  “Van Carlo is a fool and his employer is sloth.”

            The boy shook his head.  “Van Carlo’s job is to read faces.  And he knows the faces of Dakota Inc., and you should have nothing to do with them.”

            Father sighed, and the boy could see the condensation from his breath rise from his mouth and then quickly dissipate into the draft in the room.

            “If you weren’t practically a grown man, I’d strike your bottom, boy, like I used to,” he said. “But you are a man. Though no less a dullard, that is obvious.”

            “I’m sorry, father.  I didn’t mean to make you angry.”  The boy pulled his hat low over his eyes.

            “You used to be such quiet boy, but South Dakota has given you a big mouth.  Go spend some time against the wall over there, and leave me alone.”

            “Yes, father.”

            There was quiet between them for a long time.  Father’s breathing became regular and the boy realized he was asleep.  The boy put his empty tin cup of coffee on the floor and stood.  He put his ear to the wall and his hand on the window and listened to the wind outside, and felt the cold wind on his cheek, and his fingers became numb against the window.

After a moment, he heard the thrumming of horses in the distance.  Father sat up in bed slowly and slung his legs over the side.  He rubbed his face and looked at the boy.

            “They are here,” he said.  “Hand me my boots.”

            The boy’s face went white and he pulled his ear quickly from the wall and took his hand off the window as though the window had been a hot stove.  He looked at father for a moment, then went over and picked up his father’s boots and handed them to him.

            “Who’s here?” the boy asked.

            “Dakota Inc.”

            Father stood up and brushed his wispy gray hair back.  He bent over and pulled his boots on, and then he pulled up his suspenders over his shoulders with his thumbs.

            “What do you want me to do?” the boy asked.

            “You might as well come to the door with me,” father said.  “They know you are here.”

            Jason followed father out of the bedroom.

“Just make sure you stand behind me,” father said, opening the front door.  The men were approaching, just three black dots beyond the fence in the distance, getting larger.

They came up the road, which blended in so well with the rough and patchy land around it that you could hardly tell there was a road there at all. Or maybe all of it was a road, and there was no land.

They looked like very hard men, the boy thought to himself, when the men finally arrived at the ranch house.  No sense of humor to them.  No smiles.  Lots of teeth, yes; but no smiles.  They looked like black statues on their horses, and they stayed on their horses the entire time. The boy and father stood in the doorway, the men and their horses stood in front of them.

            Father spoke and the boy stood behind him in the doorway and said nothing.  He just stood there and kept his face very still, just like he did when he was working for Van Carlo at the casino.

            The icy sun was behind the men from Dakota Inc. and their shadows fell forward.  One of the men moved his head and the shadow of his very wide hat fell upon the boy’s hand in the doorway.  The boy pulled it away quickly, instinctively, as if pulling it away from a flame.  He drew back a little into the house.

            The men stood in a line, their horses only inches apart from each other.  They were wearing black suits of fine cloth, which had many extra shining things hanging from them.  They all had guns, three apiece.  Two pistols which they wore high at their sides in shoulder holsters, almost heart-level, and a rifle, which was in a long, leather holster and stuck out of the back of their saddles, making the horses look like they had a horn coming out of their backs.

            Both the men and the horses seemed unhurried and calm to an unnatural degree. They looked like men who had utterly no concerns.  Other people had problems, but not these men.  Their problems had become other people’s problems a long time ago.  They were men who were able to look out at a crazy world and realize that none of the craziness had anything to do with them.  They were not even themselves.  Everything about them, from their shoes, to their faces, to the guns at their waists, all belonged to other men. They could never be wrong. They could never be right.  They could never be anything that wasn’t passed off to the world with a shrug.

            When the three men spoke, they spoke together, so that the words came out in one heavy, layered voice.  Their words were not meant to be disputed.  They asked for no advice.  They invited no questions.

            It was very simple, the men said.  They would loan father a certain amount of money to keep the shop going.  In return, he would pay them a monthly amount and interest, as well as a percentage of the profits.  Payment had to be made at the end of every month, except for the first month, which the men said he did not have to pay.  It was a grace period.  After that, under no circumstances could the payment be deferred.

            There was no better deal to be found anywhere east of Richmond, the men told father.  If father didn’t believe them, they invited him to go to Shadow and ask around.  He would see that many other proprietors had made the same deal with Dakota Inc., and they were all doing quite well.

            “Will you send people to come buy my hats,” father asked.

            “We will try to send them,” one of the men said. “But this is not Richmond, and it is certainly not Richmond before the war, as you were accustomed to it.  We, unlike your old country, cannot force men to do things they do not wish to do.”

            “Well, I hope they come then,” father said with a sigh.

            “You do indeed hope, and you will have plenty of that in time, slave owner,” one of the men said.  “You refugees from the east are rich in hope.  But money works better in South Dakota.”

            “I did not own slaves,” father said.

            “No?  Sold them, perhaps?” the man in the middle said, tightening the black gloves on his fingers by pulling at them at his wrists and looking disinterested.

            “So, do we have an agreement, Mr. Credence?” another man asked.

            Father nodded.  He reached out his hand, but the men from Dakota Inc. did not return the gesture.

            “That will do,” one of the men said, turning to the boy hiding in the doorway.  “Don’t you think so, boy?”

            The boy was looking at the ground, and pulling slowly back into the house like turtle into its shell.  At the mention of his name, he looked up, and then nodded slowly.

            “Obliged,” the men said, tipping their hats.  Then they turned and rode off.

            “What do you think it would be like to fight them, father?” the boy asked, watching the men ride past the fence.

            His father sighed and turned to go back into the house.

            “Like they said, this is not Richmond.  But if that’s what you want, then you do it.”

Father disappeared into the dimness of the house, but the boy kept on staring out the front door until the men from Dakota Inc. disappeared beneath the horizon.

Father went to lie down in his bed.  Two days later, he still hadn’t gotten out of bed, and the boy and Lucy and mother realized he never would.

***

The weeks went by and the cold of December became even colder in January.  Christmas was a ghost, and noiselessly slipped by.

During the winter, Lucy developed a cough.  There was no money to pay for her to go see the doctor in town, and the doctor wouldn’t have seen her anyway because father was late on his payments to Dakota Inc.  The doctor did not see patients who were late on their payments to the Company.

No longer just a clearing of her throat several times a day, the cough soon became something of an inseparable part of Lucy’s personality; like a second language to her.  It frightened the family, especially mother, who knew the sound of that particular cough.  She had heard it from some of the gray soldiers during the winters in Richmond, before the blue general put an end to the war once and for all.  It was a cough that went beyond life and body.

***

One night, the boy was in his drafty bedroom, lying on his bed.  He stared up at the gray moon through the hole in the ceiling.  The moon looked ill.  Sick moon, he thought.  Sick like Lucy.  The wispy clouds galloped around it like ghoulish horses on a haunted merry-go-round.

The boy found himself missing Richmond.  He turned and looked at the candle on the table next to his bed and he remembered something Lucy said.  She said that Richmond, when looked at from South Dakota, or from any great distance during the war must have flickered gently and gracefully like the flame of a candle.  It was pretty, even endearing somehow from that distance.  But up close it was a nightmare:  cannon balls falling on houses; houses falling on houses; horses with shiny, bristling soldiers trampling houses.  But still, they boy missed it.

Father’s shop in Shadow was now gone, taken by the Company men who called themselves Dakota Inc., and father, for all practical purposes was gone, too.  He just stayed in his bed all day, not eating, and taking only a little water.  Mumbling something about a play he was hoping to write.  Richmond, he’d say.  He’d only ever wanted to write about Richmond.  And one day while sitting by his father’s side, the boy shoved a pencil and paper under his father’s nose as the old man lay covered in the bed.  “Write!” the boy screamed.  “If you want to write something of Richmond, write it then,” he screamed.

But father refused.  “Richmond doesn’t sell anymore,” he said, and rolled over.

As the boy lay on his bed staring at the moon through the hole in the ceiling, the clouds drifted away from it, the ghoulish horses galloping off in single file.  And then there was only the moon.

If this moon, this South Dakota moon could talk, what would it say to him, the boy wondered.  And would he be able to understand it?  After all, he was just a dullard, with an imagination like a musket spiked into the ground.

The Deadly Implication of Total Depravity

From the 2013 Truth About New Calvinism conference, I took away this.  It is a thought I have had for a while, and thanks to John Immel and Paul Dohse and Susan Dohse, I am able to articulate it into a single poignant sentence:

Because of man’s depravity, he is utterly unable to recognize evil, let alone confront it.

You see, man cannot be good.  I have said this in the past:  Total Depravity is an ABSOLUTE, and as such, it is infinite.  Man’s depravity is his end.  He CANNOT BE GOOD.  And since all man does is an extension of his utter SELF, he can never be in a position to recognize good, articulate it, apprehend it and….and this is the most important part (thanks to John Immel for adding this to the equation; SO true) can never confront it.

The pastors understand this doctrine precisely, and its implications.  They can NEVER be held accountable by you.  You, because you are wholly EVIL can NEVER be in a position to ever see any sin in them.  You can never be in  a position to demand justice for your own abuse or for your child’s because as a function of your root nature you can’t even define evil.  You cannot even recognize that the “abuse” was in fact abusive, because abuse implies that you are able, in your own mind, to draw a distinction between what is good and what is NOT good.  This, of course, according to the reformed theological construct in regards to man’s depravity, is impossible.

ALL good is in spite you.  YOU can’t contribute to anything God does on your behalf because YOU are nothing more than a mindless depraved barbarian incapable of judging rightly…well, anything.

Once you understand this you will understand why so many leaders in the reformed camp seem to have very little concern with the abusive and destructive conduct which seems to have (and still does) reigned with impunity in many neo-Calvinist churches for decades.

Once you understand this, you can understand why to them, abuse is really “abuse”.  Wink, wink and nudge, nudge.

Bridget’s Excellent Comment and My Response: Concerning the real purpose of the concept of “spirit” in the hands of reformers and neo-Calvinists

Bridget Says:

Hi Argo –

Thinking on some of what you wrote here and have some random thoughts to express. As I consider Jesus, it seems to me that his physical being was of the utmost importance. He came to earth as a physical being — not as a spiritual being. He entered our world as we have to exist in this world (physical). He could have come in a different form, his God form, but didn’t. He chose not to minimize the physical reality that man exists in, but instead seems to have attrubuted much importance to it.

Just as important, Jesus went about healing people, mind and body, and raising the dead. This seems to confirm the importance of the physical being. Jesus did not minimize the physical, but cared for the body as he invited people to believe in, and follow, him. He certainly didn’t demean man’s physical being and tell them “p’shaw with the body, it doesn’t matter, go on to the afterlife.” He came to give life — life abundantly!

Along with the above, when we consider the OT and the Law, I think of how much of the Law was concerned with the physical health of God’s people. God valued/values the health and safety of his children, as you also touched on with the ten commandments.

These observations seem to be contrary to so much of what we hear today about “the spiritual man” being of supreme importance to the detriment of the physical being of man. Maybe this is a case of taking some of Paul’s exhortations to the extreme?

  • Bridget,
    What a wonderful comment. Yes…I think you have the issue pretty well organized, even despite your claim that your thoughts are “random”. LOL That was actually pretty concise.

    Funny thing…on the drive home from the TANC 2013 conference yesterday I had very similar thoughts. I began to consider Jesus, the “God man” and I thought…”well, how do we reconcile his physical self with his deified self”. And then I realized pretty much what you concluded: that there is really no need to reconcile them because there is NOTHING to reconcile.

    Who was Jesus? Jesus was what He was. He wasn’t in a fleshly “form”—that would have made His sacrifice UN-efficacious. In order for his sacrifice to be effective in removing the unattainable EXTERNAL standard of “evil and good” and make us morally innocent before God (which is our true nature, in Adam, contrary to what the reformers say) His body needed to be FULLY God, Himself. There is no contradiction because there was nothing more to Jesus than His body and mind. THAT incorporated all the deity He had.

    We constantly make the distinction between what is “real”– that is observable to our (insufficient) senses–and the “spirit” realm that exists somewhere out in the ether in some other dimension, exclusive to us and which contains all the ACTUAL TRUTH of all things. And because we cannot see it or comprehend it, TRUTH always eludes us. This kind of thinking, in the hands of despots and tyrants like the neo-Calvinist leadership, is obviously very effective in controlling and exploiting the masses. By making a stark distinction between body and spirit, once again “true” man is outside the observable “fleshly” man. Thus, you are never in a position to declare anything, judge anything, or do anything effective for yourself or for God because the true you isn’t you at all; it is some abstract “spirit” self.

    This is utterly Platonic thinking and has nothing to do with Jewish understanding of metaphysics. The body is the person is the spirit is the soul. Jesus is One; meaning His physical body IS what was God standing before the disciples. His perfection didn’t lay in His Spirit…His perfection was His moral innocence; just as Adam was morally perfect before the fall, and just as we are morally perfect now in Christ, which is why there is no Law under which we must still be compelled or judged. We can do good, know good, and BE good because WE ourselves, in our physical body and physical mind are morally perfect once again; just as Adam was in the beginning. We please God because we exist, and by extension, what we DO pleases God.

    Your last paragraph hits it right on. The emphasis on “spirit” is rather the conscious, purposeful splitting of man into two mutually exclusive parts which can never be reconciled rationally. This, once again, removes man from himself…and again, once that happens, you become nothing more than a means to an abstract idea…as John Immel puts it “the Utopian Ideal Dream”. This can be the “fatherland” or the “motherland”, or the Workers Paradise, or the Altruistic Collective, or, as we see now-heavily-the “local church”, or the “body”. YOU are nothing more than whatever can be sacrificed and fleeced in service to this utterly abstract, theoretical and mutually exclusive non-existent IDEA. Once you deny it, or leave it, or are booted out of it, or are burned at the stake or Iron-Maidened, you are dead to it. This is why so many people who have left SGM never again hear from their “friends” who were once so close or their pastors who “cared” so much for them. As is the case with me and my family. They are hypocrites, and they are evil.

Body and Spirit Do Not Co-Exist, Except Metaphorically: Response to Wartburg commenter “LT” concerning his/her assumption of the mutually exclusive spirit/body dualism in human beings

Man IS his physical person.  His body is the entirety of his “self”.  Even consciousness is not the root of man’s self.  His body is.  Man is his body, and all the attributes which are qualified and quantified regarding him are wholly and derivative of the singularity of his body.  Any sin which can be considered “objective” (acceptable and logical for mass concession and integration) violates the body–and the Ten Commandments are an excellent illustration of this–they are not violations of the spirit.  They are not violations of “consciousness” or even violations of “will” (though, those are violations, and we cannot of course ever minimize the ability of man to reason and to will).  They are violations of man’s physical self and his physical property and the physical selves and property of his family.  Adultery, theft, envy, murder…these are considered “objective” sins because they are sins against what man is (not necessarily who he is…that is, what he thinks or feels or wills or chooses).  And of course God makes no distinction between what man is physically and what he owns and earns (shout out to John Locke).

It is interesting to note that the Ten Commandments were written personally by God, Himself.  Given that, we should take serious the explicit attention paid towards man’s physical self.  Man’s “spirit’ or his “consciousness” is never mentioned in the Ten Commandments.  But his body and property are.  In the case of “mother and father” honoring, there is a title mentioned, but that is nothing more than a narrowing down of the scope of actual physical PEOPLE so that we can more precisely understand the subjects of this particular directive.  Mom and dad, the human beings, are to be honored…there is no separate distinction made of their “spirit” or or their “soul” or their “consciousness”.  Mom and dad are those two people that you can see and touch right over there…those two bodies, from which is derived their consciousness and reason and will.  One in the really bad argyle sweater and the other in the really bad Christmas sweater.  They are to be honored.

Also as the bible says:  “The life is in the blood“.  (Emphasis mine.)

The neo-reformed crowed love explaining how man’s sickness is a “spiritual” one.  There is no such thing.  There is no such actual thing, I submit, as the “spirit” of man.  That is, there is no separate existential “self” to man.  His body is who he is.

But making sanctimonious and loquacious appeals to man’s need for “spiritual” healing obscures the purpose of this doctrine:  to, once again, remove man from himself.  If the “true” self is extricated from the human being…the body essentially removed from man, and man becomes the substance of some nebulous, vapid, undefinable, mutually exclusive “spirit”…or rather, some strange third-party combination of spirit and body… then the body can be exploited in service to the “true” self (and so can the “spirit”, but the spirit isn’t tangible, so the body takes the brunt).  The body can be violated.  And the body can never have any grounds for legitimate remonstrance or any reasonable  demand for justice for itself because it doesn’t really matter.  Because it, itself, isn’t part of the equation.  YOU are not really YOU because humanity, as this irreconcilable amalgam, cannot really be defined.  At best you are a “mixture” of spirit and body…which again is just a way of saying that YOU can never actually be defined.  You are both and neither, together and at the same time mutually exclusive.  You cannot define YOU because you are constantly the sum of two substances and forces which can neither be described, defined, nor integrated in a coherent, consistent, quantifiable KNOWABLE way.  You are the product of two absolutes, physical and spiritual, which are infinite in their theoretical natures and so by definition cannot be reconciled without being contradictory.

And yet, here it is in our common American Christian orthodoxy.  You don’t really know who you are, because the “spirit” is beyond you.  You don’t get a say then, in what happens to you, because all that you see and do and think has nothing to do with the “spirit” which has a much claim to right of ownership of you as your own physical consciousness does.  So sit back, kneel before your divinely appointed gnostic Calvinist, reformed local church overlords and let THEM deal with your body (and your money…because they also understand that really, what is the difference?) so you can be left to trust that in the end, your “spirit”, the true you–because it is the “incorruptible” you–can be approved by God.  Your pain and bodily  destruction then is the sole observable physical manifestation that your spirit is purified.  This is why when you complain about abuse, or illness, either physical or mental, they laugh in your face and tell you to stop being an idolator.  To decide that you actually deserve to have physical needs met, to be able to acquire property and your own will is an affront to the “sound doctrine” which declares that the body can no more be useful to God and “truth” than you can hope to ever do something “good” on your own.  You can’t do good because you can’t KNOW good because good belongs to the “spirit” which belongs to God.  Pain and exploitation of the body then forces you to understand that what you think you want and what you think you feel aren’t really real at all.  The spirit is what matters…and that is of course beyond you.  Appeals to physical comfort and personal respect and human dignity is a blasphemy against the pure and good “spirit”.  Which, of course belongs to God, and has nothing to do with you anyway.

And this is precisely why pastors make destructive “counselors” for those with emotional and mental afflictions.  They see the human being not as a singular being but as an irreconcilable amalgam of opposing and exclusive realities.  Physical and spiritual.  It is nothing more than the typical gnostic dualistic idea of the material verses the heavenly.  Depravity and “grace”.  Mutually exclusive absolutes which put man in the unenviable position of not actually existing at all.

And this is the jumping off point for most Christian counseling.  And we wonder why the outcomes of this kind of approach to psychological concerns can be quantified by a value of emotional and physical body bags.

And this was my point to LT, a commenter over at the Wartburg Watch blog, who, in the thread concerning psychology and psychiatry and the role of pastoral “counseling”, he was constantly asserting the difficulty of poor little pastors needing to treat the “whole” person, who was an “undefinable mix of both spirit and body; often, we cannot tell which one”.

But the fact that it is impossible to treat a “whole person” when you, by your own admission cannot even DEFINE a “whole person”…well, this seems to have been lost on LT.

So I wrote:

“LT’s problem is common in neo reformed interpretive assumptions. The physical and the spiritual are two mutually exclusive realities fighting for dominance within a single person. It is one or the other, or both; but in this case “both” simply means that at any given moment it could be one or the other, and it isn’t always possible to tell which.

The problem is, again, that the “whole” person isn’t really a whole person at all, but an amalgamation of competing forces attempting to define an impossible singular reality in a single person who cannot possibly exist. This is the Gnosticism implicit in the false theology. Remember, to these people you are never you. That is their root assumption.

Never forget this. EVERY doctrinal view they have is rooted in idea that YOU are purely a mirage. You have no self. You are a dream-like bystander to your life. You are merely the functional extension of powers which have already determine your outcome. Thus, nothing about YOU really matters. There is no psychology. There is depravity and “grace”. That’s it. Neither have anything to do with YOU. LT’s lip service to “medicine” is nothing more than Calvin’s false moral dualism.

A person is one physical being. There is no actual distinction between physical and spiritual. When you base your understanding of human beings on irreconcilable notions of two separates equaling one IS, you destroy people. People’s lives are illusions. This makes it virtually impossible to empathize.”

And LT said: “I don’t know anyone who believes that”.

(Yeah, I get this all the time.  Calvinists don’t believe that Christians are totally depraved…for instance.  Sigh.  It appears that no one EVER believes in the inevitable and direct logical conclusions of their assumptions.  This is usually an effect of lazy thinking and/or willful ignorance.)

And I also wrote:

“What you think does not necessarily define the true nature of the ideas you assume. You have stated the separation of body and spirit clearly. I have not misquoted you. These are clearly exclusive notions. That they exist in a person must make the person a bystander to his/her self. The only way to reconcile man then is to assume he is a contradiction. For how do you explain what man is, then as a singularity? You cannot. He is ever a “mixture” of spirit and body. This is an impossible position for him to be in

Or, we agree that man is one. In which case, spirit and soul are merely qualifications of how man moves (acts, thinks, etc). This makes man an objective individual self, driven fully by his own ability.

When we can see clearly to accept this, we can begin to make real and effective treatments for what ails him/him. There is no ACTUAL dichotomy of man in spirit and body (though there may be one metaphorically). All issues are physical issues because man is physical.

Reasoning the Subjectivity of Sin

Sin is purely a function of individual human context; “objective” sin is purely observable action which deprives INDIVIDUALS of self-ownership.  Thus, even objective sin can be said to be rooted, not OUSTIDE of man, but wholly INSIDE of individual, separate human beings.

This was God’s purpose in the beginning.  All TRUTH is a function of individual SELF.  And senses are given to observe and quantify/qualify actions of individuals so that violations of the right of self to exist (the POINT of creation in the first place…for individuals to BE) can be truly known.  And this to bar any excuse for violations of self in favor of some purely theoretical (non-existent) notion.  Like what?  Like an impossible EXTERNAL moral standard of good and evil, which individuals can never keep because it is mutually exclusive to the reality which is individual SELF.

You may consider me a heretic because I say “sin is subjective”, but my appeal is simply to the truth that all reality is first and foremost a function OF MAN and his reality, and is not “outside” of him. The reason man “fell” was because he exchanged the truth of his own flesh and blood existence for an “objective” standard of morality…an absolute which was forever beyond him because it made that which is mutually exclusive to man’s existence–the theoretical moral dualism of “good” and “evil”–the plumb line for his wholly moral physical “self” before God. The reason you can never do enough good according to the objective theoretical standard of good and evil outside of you is precisely because good is ALWAYS defined by evil and vice versa. Whereas in the beginning, it was not to be this way. Man’s physical IS was all the morality he needed to be just before God.

Add to this the fact that claims to the “objective standard” of God cannot really be defined objectively for anyone who does not believe in God. So Christians go back to their tired and worn and irrational circular logic of “well…God said it; it’s in the bible; just because you don’t believe it doesn’t make it false”.

But IF it is truly objective then we MUST be able to objectively define it for someone who is not a believer. Non-believers have every right in the world to demand rational proof of any truth Christians claim is objective. And if our sole argument is “sola scriptura” or some other nonsense, then we cannot claim objectivity of “sin”. It is purely sin because we choose to presume it based on subjective opinions like “biblical inerrancy” or other rational larcenies.

And–sorry my fellow Christians–presumption of the truth of contradictory and purely subjective and/or abstract ideas is not proof of objectivity. And the non believer should run from us when we try to  make these arguments. Anyone without a rational argument for what they believe based in the reality of man’s physical, actual context is not entitled to the time of day.

When we make MAN the center of moral TRUTH…meaning, all reality is defined according to MAN’S context, we can begin to see a modicum of objective GOOD versus objective EVIL. We may not be able to prove God to atheists (and neither can they disprove…in fact, their faith is much less rational), but we can prove pretty objectively the nature of true evil (as I said in the second paragraph). Namely, those sins which observably violate the rights of INDIVIDUALS to own the sum and substance of their own life…their property, mind, and body. These are easy to define…just read the ten commandments: adultery, violating the sabbath (back then), dishonoring mother and father, theft, lying…all of these are essentially versions of the larceny of other individuals. You TAKE what does not belong to you; and criminal “taking” is pretty easy to quantify and really easy to observe. Hence, it is objective.

And this proves my view of my faith. REAL truth finds man (and God as an Individual with His own inherent rights) at the center of it.

Real truth is that which proclaims that man is an object worth loving. Man is the object you do not violate…all creation is for man, and man is the center of his own truth, as God intended it. And that is what Christ does. He restores our innocence…the truth and goodness of self INSIDE man; He removes this “objective standard” which was a lie from the beginning. An external standard of good and evil was NOT from God; it was the evil of the fall of man. Man was supposed to be GOOD, period. His existence was the standard of his own pure morality. The only objective sin then is a violation of man’s self. Forcing people into “objective gospels outside of us” and external biblical “roles” and all other manner of fabricated righteousness is not the gospel. It is the problem.

Love God and love your neighbor are the sum of the law. Because real objective GOOD  is found in revering the right of people to own themselves, and to recognize that dogmatic judging of purely subjective “sin” according to some theoretical absolute “standard” outside of humans is really a false, evil teaching.

Be Back In 10

To my handful of hard-working, hard-slogging, hard-thinking, patient and long-suffering readers,

I will be on vacation for the next ten days.  I look forward to confounding the notions of reality and metaphysics, and even more, dismantling the evil and destructive assumptions of that false and heretical theology, Calvinism, which finds a new and even more egregious birth in the modern day fundamentalist neo-Reformed movement.

I have left you with a long and complicated post on the nature of divine and human “prediction”, wherein I discuss the theoretical idea of time, and how this posit is true:  There are only objects and relative movement.  Anything else is pure abstraction.

That should keep us all busy until I get back.  🙂

 

Understanding Divine and Human Prediction of the “Future”

I think that this post is sort of a putting of  the cart before the horse.  Before we can really discuss consciousness, either man or God’s, we need to find a way to actually define it.  And this, believe me, is not easily done.  In fact, of all the ideas that I have been thinking on since starting this pilgrimage towards TRUTH as a function of purely that which can be explained reasonably (for I do not concede that truth exists apart from this; that is, all truth is reasonable (i.e. non-contradictory) truth), defining consciousness so that it is, indeed, truly conscious, instead of merely an illusory entity subservient to some other “law” or rote mechanical process has been…hmm, well, if not by far the most difficult it has been at least beyond-question observably the most difficult.

Nevertheless, I do believe I have a workable definition that still conforms to my premise that all truth is derivative of what actually IS; that is, the physical, observable, universe.  Which certainly excludes that which cannot be known or seen apart from physical, actual objects.  Like “spacetime” or the “void” or “laws” of nature and physics.  (I’m not saying that we observe everything, but that everything that is, IS someTHING which is ACTUAL…not a law, or process, or “spirit world” or theoretical abstraction.  For example, I believe in God, and I believe that God is physically real.  He is real in the same way that we are real; that everything is real; for all is real in the same way.  Our existence “there” may be relative, but our REALITY is the same:  physical.  Not law, not abstraction, not theory, not idea, not different “dimensions”.)

At any rate, the point is that I am going to plod on and discuss the nature of how a consciousness actually does something—in this case predict things—before I define what consciousness is.  It is a little ass-backwards, I know, but I think it is important to discuss this now; for more than defining consciousness, the importance of continuing to bludgeon to death all notions of determinism, whether physical or metaphysical, is of life-saving importance.

In general, I believe that God’s consciousness functions pretty much like man’s if you want my honest opinion.  It, that is, consciousness is likewise a product of God’s ability to be self-aware; that is, to see Himself as an “other” in a holistic sense…and a perpetual sense; as an “other” from everything including Himself.  Like man, He can predict the “future” (as an abstraction, not as an actuality) in Creation in a sense, I suppose, according to cognitive quantification of how things move (do, act, be). And God’s predictive ability is perfect, of course.  But this is not actually that profound, for so is man’s in many cases…man is able to use abstract mathematical laws to describe movement and thus predict perfectly, or nearly perfectly, how objects will move…that is, what they will do in the “future”.  The real difference is that God’s predictive ability must also be comprehensive …complete in regards to ALL of the physical universe at any given moment IF He so chooses.  Meaning God will not choose to predict something if that thing is irrelevant to His perfection, which would make Him redundant.  He predicts only what is necessary/reasonable to predict, that is.  And not every choice of His will need to be based on prediction.  Prediction has limited usefulness for the free consciousness of God because His omnipotence–that is, perfect power to ACT–precludes the necessity of prediction in most cases, I would argue.

Now, God’s comprehensive predictive power, I assure you, does NOT mean that the “future” is REAL before it comes to pass.  That is nonsense;  a logical impossibility.  Nothing can exist before it exists.  Which is why I deny the doctrine of election; for you cannot elect something that does not exist.  You cannot do anything with something that does not exist.  Go ahead…try to make a pizza with ingredients that do not exist.  I’ll wait.  Forever.  Incidentally, this is also why the concept of inevitability is purely abstract.  There is no such real thing; for nothing is “inevitable”…this is merely another way to qualify movement of objects.  A thing either is or it is NOT.  Both is and is NOT are absolutes which cannot be mitigated by anything…and this is according to their infinite nature as abstract qualifiers.  As I said, a thing cannot exist before IT does, and when it does, its existence is ultimately infinite on the physical level because it will always be a function of something physical, and whatever the physical thing in question is, it cannot be a function of is NOT.  You see, “being” itself is actually an abstraction.  In reality,  there are only objects and relative movement.  Everything else is abstraction.

The fact is that ALL quantification of movement, whether mathematical or otherwise, is a function of the object itself, not a function of the abstract idea which is quantifying.  This is purely how it is described, and thus not a function of prediction, which is purely rooted in a free consciousness’s ability to cognitively organize its environment according to theoretical, abstract constructs .  And thus, because of this, regardless of how precise and perfect the prediction is, even to describing the object’s “future” movement 100%, the object itself must first ACT according to its own ability (in order that IT is doing the act, not something else) to do so BEFORE the predicted/declared movement occurs.  And so the object, regardless of how accurately the object’s actions are quantified—including “prediction”, is still utterly culpable for making the action actual; for bringing it to pass.  Remember, prediction, like everything else, is always a function of the “present”, the “now”; it does not occur in the “future”.  Nothing, by definition, actually occurs in the future.  For if it did, the future would not be the future, it would be the “present”.  And there are no degrees of present; degrees of now.  There is no such thing as an earlier “now”, a present “now” and a future “now”.  Thus, prediction is merely assumptions about what can only ever be not yet.  When it comes to pass, that is the predicted action becomes a function of the present, then prediction itself is dead. Moot.  And irrelevant.  And you cannot ascribe TRUTH to that which is always irrelevant to what is happening now, in the real present.  In this sense, prediction itself is wholly meaningless in reality.  Since everything is always a real and actual function of now, prediction is moot and irrelevant in describing REALITY (which makes declaring “laws of physics” what “guides” and “directs” the universe impossible).  It is merely theoretical; a way to qualify/quantify.  It has no actual bearing on NOW.  Ever.  As I said, you only have objects and relative movement.  Anything else is pure abstraction.

The actions of an object, no matter how well predicted, DO NOT exist UNTIL the object engages them ITSELF.  There is a functional difference then–and more importantly a moral difference–between what is assumed to be true based on perfect prediction, and what ACTUALLY occurs as a function of the object actively doing.  You cannot judge someone or something for acting BEFORE they act, no matter how well you may predict it.  Because, really, though you may predict the action  the object has to DO IT before it can be known as real.  And reality is the only true knowledge.

The difference is not slight, nor a matter of semantics.  The difference is seminal.  The difference is between what is ACTUAL, that is real, and what is theoretical, that is, NOT real.  And one cannot be judged on what he WILL do, because WILL do is not the same as actual DOING.  The existential reality of creation is that there is only doing.  “Not doing” is an existential impossibility.  And prediction is an abstraction rooted in assumed actions verses assumed non-actions; but in the end, all that is real is the object and what it does, there is no NOT doing which gives definition to the doing.  There is the object doing, period, which is merely then this:  objects.  Doing is merely the object quantified and/or qualified as movement by an “observer” (another object; preferably conscious and self-aware) .  Which is why all movement of objects with mass is relative movement.  Don’t argue with me on that one, you can take it up with Doc Einstein.

One cannot be judged for NOT doing something, no matter how accurate the prediction is.  Because prediction is not reality, there is nothing real to judge, and nothing real to KNOW, and you cannot KNOW what does NOT exist, by definition (for knowledge can only be a function of what actually IS; if it isn’t actually there, then it isn’t truly KNOWING, it is assuming or presuming).  There is no true knowing unless and until an action becomes observably ACTUAL as a function of the object, not a function of the cognitive abstractions of the consciousness, which is what prediction is.

So, in the case of God knowing the “future”; okay, I can concede that His predictive power is as accurate as man’s and more so in that, because He is everywhere (and must be “everywhen”, per se) it can be utter.  But even this does not change the fact that any declaration or moral judgment of such actions can only be purely presumptuously descriptive of an action that must FIRST be freely and wholly and volitionally performed by the object or consciousness which makes them “predictable” and “knowable” to God.  Because only way a thing can be even predictable is because it is assumed that the object will “later” do it, not that it has already done it.  Which means that its “doing” does not presently exist.  So,there is nothing to judge, because you cannot judge that which does not exist.  NON-existence, by definition, precludes everything.

So, despite human and divine predictive ability, Man and Creation are still utterly free.  And it must be, because without the free ability of Creation and man to act and do of their own, innate and separate-from-God power, there is no “future” or actions of any kind for God to know, predict, judge, see, and/or declare.  The “future” (as well as “past”) is still purely theoretical, and its understanding is still purely abstract.  I maintain that there is no ACTUAL thing as time, and so basing our understanding of our actions and God and His actions as a function of time as the setting for what then must be determined-but-not-yet-existing actions is inherently dangerous to human existence.

There are merely objects and relative movement.  That is all that is real.

God’s existential substance and His relationship with “time”:

God is not necessarily a function of movement.  Man, having mass, like any other object with mass, MUST move; there must be movement implicit in his existence because he has “parts”; he can be quantifiably separated from other objects, and he can be geometrically separated from himself.  This cannot happen without implied movement.  If a thing does not move, then it cannot have “parts”, per se…it is what it is, and it is infinite; it cannot be measured. But a thing with mass has parts.  It has a “here” and a “there” to it, as it were.  And this cannot happen without movement; that is, movement is implied.  You do not get nor maintain a “here” versus “there” without movement, and movement perpetually.  If an object always has “parts”…a here verses there, for example, a right or a left, up or down, and thus it can be divided as it were, in relative space, then it must always be in a state of movement, even if it is perhaps positionally static relative to an outside observer.

So, to summarize:  I submit that there can be no thing which does not perpetually move which can, at the same time, be geometrically divided into parts.

But God is not like this.  God is an absolute.  He has no parts, by definition.  He is the sum of His own TRUTH.  He is absolute and infinite; He cannot be divided and can have no definable limitation.  Therefore, God does not move in relative space.  God merely IS.  There is NO movement implied in His own existential reality/being.  Now, He can move in Creation, but this is only relative to US, the created observers, witnessing the stark limitation of God separate from Creation; He does not possess it, therefore, between us and Him is a limitation… an existential and physical boundary.  When He acts and moves in Creation, His movements and actions, in other words, are limited to HIMSELF; He does NOT become Creation.  So, since God, having no parts– because any part of a perfect and absolute God must also be 100% perfect and absolute God; you cannot have part absolute or partly perfect, by definition–does not move.  And if He does not move, one cannot ascribe a theoretical timeline to His being and doing.  In other words, there is NO time which can be efficaciously applied to God’s existential reality.  And this being the case, one cannot declare a WHEN to any thought or action to God.  For all that God is and does is merely is and does, period.  That is, perpetually IS…never “was” or “will be”.  There is no “future” to God.  The theoretical coordinate system of spacetime cannot apply to that which has no “parts”, and therefore must be infinite (and does not move).  So to declare a “when” to God knowing what He knows or doing what He does what He does is irrational.  It has no logical basis within His absolute and infinite existential metaphysical reality.  ANY value of God’s doing or knowing is always going to be a value of infinity—his infinite, timeLESS being–which will always equal infinity.  Thus, there can be, again, no WHEN to God’s knowing what man and/or Creation will do or how it will act.  So any attempt to declare that God knows or decides BEFORE man exists or acts is logically untenable.

Literally then, there can be NO determination or declaration by God of something BEFORE it exists (including “election” or “predestining” this or that), because there can be no such thing as a “before” with God.  And because of this, there can really be no prediction of an action in man’s sense by God because prediction is predicated on the theoretical framework of time, which as we have already shown cannot apply to God.

The point is that when God declares something “will be”, whether because He is orchestrating it or “predicting” it, we can only accept that the declaration is of something that will come to pass as a direct function of the Created object acting of its own free and unfetter ability/volition to act and to be; we cannot make assumptions about “when” God knows this or “when” He sees it.  There is no such thing as when to an absolute, infinite Being.

So, in summary, I do not accept time as anything other than a theoretical quantification of movement for man and Creation.  And I deny it even more so with respect to an absolute God, who must be, by definition, utterly immune to the concept of time, even theoretically.  It is impossible to apply any concept of time to anything of God.  We can quantify God’s actions by “time”, but we must understand that the definition thus will be limited to assumptions based upon OUR physical observations within our own existence.  It cannot describe how God acts as a function of Himself apart from Creation.

No, God is NOT in Control: Another refutation of a platitude which is yet more divine determinism

WAIT!  Don’t leave yet.  Hear me out.  This is not me being a polemic (not that I have a problem with that). 

Caution:  What follows requires thinking!  This is not easy stuff, but again, hear me out.  You see, the heresy is hidden in the humble platitude.  This is an effective tool of the Enemy.  His “light”.  Do not be deceived.  As usual with neo-Reformed theology, the Devil is in the details.  Literally.

God is in control.

That makes sense, right?

Or does it?

God is in control.  Hmm.  Something about this has just never sit well with me.

We hear this a lot, and usually it is qualified on the basis of what He “allows” or does not “allow”.  And what does He allow or not allow?  Well…we are not given the grace to perceive these things…of course.  Like so much of what is taught in church these days, you must merely accept that the contradictions in such notions are merely that which God has somehow decided we don’t need to know.  See, logical and existential contradictions aren’t really contradictions in the new reformation sweeping like a contagion throughout our churches.  They are the pure “truth”.  What we can actually see and know to be true as a function of humanity’s existential reality, based on a right and quantifiable understanding of our environment, based on our ability to reason, is merely a shadow of reality, if that.  This of course is quite convenient.  If the human beings which fill the pews and the burgundy chairs by definition cannot know anything, then they are easily manipulated by those who, somehow, do.  And even if those who are specially dispensed to somehow rule concede that they don’t know either, what they can concede is that God put them in charge at any rate; and so if you don’t know and your ecclesiastical “authority” doesn’t know, well, its basically a zero sum game.  You might as well sit down and submit, because YOU have not been divinely appointed to explain what to do with the knowledge that is…er, unknowable, because it is contradictory, because it is divine “truth”.  And because you are totally depraved.

But God is in control…that just makes sense, right?  I mean, this is not even a neo-Calvinist thing.  Everyone says this; almost every Christian is wholly committed to the idea that God, as a direct function of his omnipotence, must of course actually BE in CONTROL of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE.  For that, after all is our definition of perfect power, no?

Well, I suppose I could accept that.  Except for one small thing.

The idea that “God is in control” is completely irrational.

Wait.  Don’t leave.  Let me qualify.  It is not irrational if by “God is in control” we mean that God is in control of Himself.  It IS, however, irrational, and untenable if by “God is in control” we mean that He is in control of Himself AND everything else.  For this cannot be reconciled to sense or reason. It is wholly unworkable in organized reality, and thus, should be dismissed as an appeal  to rank fantasy and mysticism.  Further, I submit that in almost all cases, this is exactly what is meant.  God’s control is NOT limited merely to Himself, but to everything else as well.  Again, this notion should be summarily dismissed as rationally untenable.

Here’s why.

The very idea of God’s “control” over Creation is purely a theoretical, infinite absolute.  Since the control is of God, and God Himself is an infinite absolute, the control of which we speak must be absolute as well.  But, since the control itself is NOT God, and it is NOT Creation (or man), then control cannot be actual; that is, it cannot be viscerally, physically real.  Therefore and again, control must be purely theoretical.  It is not an actual thing.  Yes, like God, it is infinite.  Yes, like God it is absolute.  But, unlike God, it doesn’t actually exist.  It is merely a way that MAN is able to qualify some observable action which is a function of something real.  Like God, for example.

So, God is real, but “control” is not, as such.  And in such a case, “control” being absolute AND theoretical cannot be applied to man’s contextual physical reality, because man’s physical reality is not absolute and not theoretical, and does not actually exist in a way that can be consistent with the idea of infinite absolute “control”.

Have I lost you?  I thought so.  I know…this is tough stuff.  Forgive me.  You gotta think about this a while.  Believe me, I have.

Take a breath.  Hang on.  Stay with me.  This is going someplace.

“Control” cannot be applied to man’s contextual, physical reality without some form of quantifiable limitation.  For example, a coordinate system such as mathematical spacetime; or linguistic concepts (e.g. run, sky, black, car, stop, etc.) which are buffeted by actual physical reality; that is, observable physical boundaries between separate objects within that reality.

But if God’s absolute control (for God’s control must, again, be absolute, as anything which IS a direct function of God MUST be absolute also, by extension) is limited by the observable limitations of Creation’s physical boundaries between objects within it and with God, then God’s control cannot be absolute control, it can only be limited control.  And limited control as a function of God’s absolute power over his Creation absolutely is, obviously, a contradiction in terms.  So what this means then is that God’s control cannot be absolute over Creation unless Creation is an extension of God himself…again, because ABSOLUTE control cannot by definition be exerted over what is ultimately LIMITED, without being a contradiction in terms.

Listen again:  Absolute control cannot be LIMITED by the actual SELF of the thing over which it exerts its absolute control–in this case, Creation.  If we concede that Creation is indeed limited, then absolute control cannot be exerted because absolute control cannot possibly be exerted over what is NOT absolute because this creates a contradiction whereby the infinite, limitless absolute control must be, by definition, limited in its application precisely because the context of where it is occurring (Creation), is limited.  And absolute-ness cannot be a function of both infinity and limitation.

Okay.  Maybe this has not gotten easier.  Go take a smoke break.  Maybe hit the bathroom.  Perhaps a sandwich and a glass of your favorite adult beverage (if your are an adult, or over 21,which are not necessarily the same thing).  Regroup, and come back.

I’ll wait.

Okay.  Let’s go back a bit.

God is absolute, Creation is observably limited–qualified, for example, by the mathematical, theoretical constructs of space and time–between objects.  ALL theoretical abstractions then, whether linguistic or mathematical, must be qualified by the context in which they are applied, either by “pictures” in our minds of the object or objects which the language is describing, or by set numerical values within the theoretical framework of the mathematical “system”.  In other words, observable reality, apprehended by the senses, is what actually allows these theoretical concepts to be practically applied.  Reality…that is, our physical universe, provides the observable limitations to man’s infinite (in and of themselves) cognitive theoretical abstractions he uses to organize it.  Without physical reality as the anchor for ALL of man’s understanding, there can be NO measurable and thus knowable efficacious truth.

But, according to our neo-reformed Christian foundations, man’s physical reality cannot limit God’s absolute…well, anything.  Including His control.  So, again, God’s control cannot be absolute unless Creation is actually like God.  And, since the only thing “like” God in its absolute-ness is God…you can easily see where this must mean that Creation IS God.  This is the only context where God’s control can be absolute over Creation.  Creation IS God, metaphysically and, moreover, physically. This makes Creation infinite, and so God’s control can be likewise infinite.  Thus producing a situation where God’s absolute control is not a contradiction limited by the setting of His control.  Namely, Creation.

Now, among other very serious and certainly blasphemous (and worse) problems with this  notion is that it means that, really, control then cannot be exerted at all over Creation, much less absolutely, because it is contradictory to say that God controls Himself within the absolute One-ness which is Himself.  This is an untenable, unworkable redundancy.

So what conclusion are we left at the end of this dicey and cumbersome excursion into logical metaphysics?  It is namely this:  that God’s control cannot be limited in Creation at ALL; what we are really speaking of when we speak of God’s control can only be God’s control over HIMSELF, within the context of an independent, self-abled Creation, which then must, by definition, include man.

God’s control then, cannot logically be a function of “allowing” or “not allowing”…for the idea of absolute control over Creation does not grant the possibility of this kind of distinction whatsoever.  Because in the context of absolute control by God over Creation, “allowing” things in Creation to happen towards a given end is the very same thing as “NOT allowing” to a given end.  They are both direct functions of God’s singular absolute divine control.  Which I have already shown is impossible unless Creation is God.

Again, if God’s control is limited it is not absolute.  And we have seen that IF God “controls”—employs “control” of some kind in His interactions with Creation, which I submit He does—then this control must be limited; and what defines this limitation of His control must be demarcated, and quantified so that the “control” can be declared a separate thing, in order to be workable within the context of God interacting with Creation.  The demarcation must be a very stark, very real, quantifiable and thus physical boundary.

What is this boundary?  Well, I submit that what it is, and what it can only be, is the inherent and wholly separate mutually exclusive (i.e. God cannot be Creation and Creation cannot be God) abilities of Creation and God to BE what they are and to DO what they do, wholly apart from one another.  In short, and as I said before, if God is in control then He is only in control of Himself.  Because He cannot be in control of Creation without making Creation Himself, which is metaphysically and rationally impossible.  And, conversely then, Creation (and more importantly, man) is in control of itself, apart from God.  Creation and man is the sole determiner of ITSELF/HIMSELF. God cannot determine man or Creation unless they are Himself.  And I’m not sure anyone, not even a Calvinist, will accept this.

How God controls things in Creation must then be similar to how man controls things in his environment.  If I pick up a glass of water, I am in “control”, but only in a limited sense, of the glass of water.  The glass of water moves where I take it…to the table, to my mouth, tilted over your head.  But what is clear is that I do not become the glass of water.  My control is limited by notion and reality of self; that is myself, and the self that is the glass of water.  Any control I have cannot go beyond that boundary; it can only take advantage of the glass of water insofar as the glass of water is able to be moved and manipulated and still be declared a separate thing.  My moving the glass of water does not mean I possess it…it is wholly a function of my free consciousness and volition taking advantage of the innate ABILITY of the glass of water to BE what it is, separate from me.  My control cannot exceed its ability to be what it is…made of glass, full of water, able to be picked up, tilted, poured over your head…all of this is a direct function first and foremost of the glass of water’s innate ability to BE and DO, not a function of my control.  The ability of the glass of water to BE and DO constrains my control of it.  Therefore, my control is NOT absolute. 

The same is true of God.  His control is NOT absolute, but MUST first and foremost be constrained by the innate and self-generated ability of Creation and Man to BE and DO.  Even if God is performing a miracle, such as turning water into wine, or parting the Red Sea (I have this water theme on my mind, apparently), all miracles occur within the confines of the SELF which is the water, which becomes wine, which is also its SELF.  The root of which is always inexorably and categorically the external, separate thing.

Now, it may seem as though I am hyper-rationalizing the argument…God can do anything with anything at all, even changing its physical reality (water becomes wine;  Lazarus who died becomes Lazarus who lives).  And that is true, but the germane point is recognizing that there is always an inherent self in the Created thing which cannot be undone, or usurped, in order that there may be a constant boundary between God (who is absolute and cannot be anything other than what He is, by definition; He cannot be Creation) and the other object (whether wine, or water, or a glass, or MAN) so that God does not become existentially redundant.  Where this argument becomes supremely important is in regards to other living consciousnesses…namely man.  Man must always be himself, of himself, by himself, regardless of how God interacts with him.  Any other construct is hypocrisy and a divine impossibility.

So, what this all means, once again, is that any sort of idea of divine determinism is rationally untenable. “God controls all things” put simply, cannot be true.

God Allows/Does Not Allow:  Encore and expansion

In the context of the Divine, the Perfect, and the Absolute Sum and Fullness of Itself, who is named by the only rational name—I AM; yes, in this context the control of Creation, which is to say of anything NOT God, must also then be perfect and absolute.

This being the case, when directly applied to the notion of divine control over Creation there can be no logical difference between God allowing or not allowing certain and/or specific events, circumstances, etc.  They are both functionally the exact same thing.  Since God’s control is absolute, He is wholly and categorically responsible and culpable for the outcome of the event or circumstance, regardless of whether He “allows” it or not.  The event is directly caused by God’s absolute control, and thus, there can be no real distinction between allowing and not allowing.  In both cases, each are a function of God’s perfect control, and the outcomes thus are anchored and tethered, uninterrupted, to the exact same source.

For if A=B=C means that A=C; and also we accept that A=X=C means likewise that A=C, then the argument for this specific example, where we substitute A, B, C, and X with values from my argument, looks like this:

Divine Control = Allowing = Event Comes to Pass; and

Divine Control = NOT Allowing = Event Which Comes to Pass

Thus it follows that in both cases, the outcome is identical:

Divine Control = Event Which Comes to Pass, regardless of whether it is allowed or not.

The equation is undeniable.  All events are directly a function of God’s control.  If the car accident happens because God caused it or allowed it to happen, God is–because He is unable to appeal to ANY outside influence over the events by definition because He and His control are ABSOLUTE–completely culpable in both cases.   Attempting to somehow make a distinction about what caused the accident—between what God DID do and DID NOT do; which are functions of the same absolute: God—is redundant, confusing, and contradictory; and even worse, I submit that this idea is specifically designed to camouflage the real message which is implicit in the theology.  It is merely a further facet of a neo-Reformed/Calvinist construct designed to remove humanity from itself and to place it under the ownership and exploitation of tyrannical mystics masquerading as today’s Christian “leadership”.

My argument concerning what is the evil root of this theology then inexorably concludes with the logical (and my oft-stated) assumption that God is all that Creation and Man is and does.  Which either makes God the direct author of evil or destroys the concept of evil entirely, replacing it with what amounts to moral relativism; there is no such thing, in this construct, as good or evil.  For all that happens—both the event and its moral implications—is by and of God, absolutely. 

Which is the greater apostasy of the two options I will leave you to decide.  For me, they are both equal parts abuse, exploitation, oppression, violent suppression, and ultimately, utter destruction of humanity.