freedom or security or maybe both

“Anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

That unmistakable musty smell of old books and papers is still lingering in my nose
despite the needed shower in order to purge my skin of the accumulated dust and debris
from a previous life now clinging to my now older self.
The allergies are revving up as I sneeze, I mean type.

We’ve spent the last three days in our attic emptying it of its hoard of boxes and stuff…
most of which has been sitting in the same spot where it was deposited some 20 years ago
when we packed everything up from our first house before departing and moving
to where we are now.

Being the parent to an only child is both blessing and curse.
The curse is found in the saving of each and every little shred of his existence.
What that only child wore, played with, made or accomplished in school.

Treasures of the heart, but way too much stuff.

Throw in the boxes that have cradled mom’s china-head dolls, her tea set from childhood,
three generations of toys and stuffed animals, photographs upon photos,
outdated electronic this and that…add in those boxes of the well-read and dearly loved
books both from those who have called this house home as well as those who have not—

And so we have had a real mess!

I did, however, manage to rescue a few books left over from college.

You see that book sitting on top of my lap?…that Dostoevsky book?
And yes it does smell.

It is a paperback book of the Notes from the Underground and The Grand Inquisitor?
Well, you should know that that single little musty dog-eared book got me in a bad spot
during my sophomore year in college.

I’ve mentioned this tale before but I think given our current day and time, a revisit
just might be warranted.

But first a bit of background regarding the tale of the book…

According to Britanica.com

Dostoevsky’s novel The Brother’s Karamazov is most famous for three chapters that
may be ranked among the greatest pages of Western literature.

Brothers Dmitry, Ivan, Alyosha and the illegitimate Smerdyakov.
Within the story, there is another story…a poem written by Ivan…
that being The Grand Inquisitor.

In “Rebellion,” Ivan indicts God the Father for creating a world in which children suffer.
Ivan has also written a “poem,” “The Grand Inquisitor,” which represents his response to
God the Son.
It tells the story of Christ’s brief return to earth during the Spanish Inquisition.
Recognizing him, the Inquisitor arrests him as “the worst of heretics” because,
the Inquisitor explains, the church has rejected Christ.
For Christ came to make people free, but, the Inquisitor insists,
people do not want to be free, no matter what they say.
They want security and certainty rather than free choice, which leads them to error and guilt.
And so, to ensure happiness, the church has created a society based on “miracle, mystery,
and authority.”
The Inquisitor is evidently meant to stand not only for medieval Roman Catholicism but
also for contemporary socialism.
“Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor” contain what many have considered
the strongest arguments ever formulated against God, which Dostoyevsky includes so that,
in refuting them, he can truly defend Christianity.
It is one of the greatest paradoxes of Dostoyevsky’s work that his deeply Christian
novel more than gives the Devil his due.

Here is another look behind this troublemaker of mine…
a quick tutorial thanks to Sparknotes.

I didn’t have Sparknotes back in my day.

If I had, then maybe I would have tempered my more impulsive and defiant self
by having perused the gist of the story before meeting it cold turkey and in turn, going
rogue on a most liberal atheistic professor who pretty much thought he “got me” and my head on a platter.

The story is based on the notion that Christ has come back to earth.
He came to Seville, Spain where he performed miracles and was embraced by the people.
But the head of the Spanish Inquisition comes to town and has Christ immediately arrested.
The story then proceeds with the Inquisitor leading the majority of dialogue of the tale.

The Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that he cannot allow him to do his work on Earth,
because his work is at odds with the work of the Church.
The Inquisitor reminds Christ of the time, recorded in the Bible,
when the Devil presented him with three temptations, each of which he rejected.
The Grand Inquisitor says that by rejecting these three temptations,
he guaranteed that human beings would have free will.
Free will, he says, is a devastating, impossible burden for mankind.
Christ gave humanity the freedom to choose whether or not to follow him,
but almost no one is strong enough to be faithful, and those who are not will be damned forever.
The Grand Inquisitor says that Christ should have given people no choice,
and instead taken power and given people security instead of freedom.
That way, the same people who were too weak to follow Christ, to begin with,
would still be damned, but at least they could have happiness and security on Earth,
rather than the impossible burden of moral freedom.
The Grand Inquisitor says that the Church has now undertaken to correct Christ’s mistake.
The Church is taking away freedom of choice and replacing it with security.
Thus, the Grand Inquisitor must keep Christ in prison,
because if Christ were allowed to go free,
he might undermine the Church’s work to lift the burden of free will from mankind.

The Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that it was Satan, and not Christ, who was in the right during this exchange.
He says that ever since the Church took over the Roman Empire,
it has been secretly performing the work of Satan, not because it is evil,
but because it seeks the best and most secure order for mankind.

Our professor was young, probably 30 if that, teaching a room filled full of late teens and early
20 somethings.
He came to class barefoot.

This was the height of the preppy fashion trend…of which I embraced.
A barefoot instructor was a throwback to about 10 years prior add
my being a conservative Reaganite and I did not have a settled
sense of anything good.

He sat cross-legged, Indian style, on the classroom’s generic desk.
Some day’s he’d take us outside to sit in the grass.

He’d wax and wane over the advanced literature we were to read and discuss.

He rarely gave grades but when he did, what I received were A’s and B’s.
Of which was pretty good for me and I was most pleased.
We were reading challenging tales…some of which captivated me.
If it hadn’t been such…I would have lost interest quickly and then struggled.

He announced on day 1 that he was raised Catholic but was now an ardent Atheist.

“Great”— I felt my eyes roll within my head.

I was a 20-year-old who, despite living that hard balance of lose and large in college,
I was also a conservative and an ardent Christian,
.
For when it came to push or shove, I knew what was my Truth.

When it came to the end of the quarter, we read Dostoyevsky’s book.

Our illustrious professor took on the role of Inquisitor, of course, in the open class discussion
as I embraced that of Christ.

For each dig he offered to the class, I spoke up a counter thought.
For I took on the role of defense attorney for a man who truly needed no defending
but I wasn’t about to let this flippant professor spew falsehoods to a captured
audience.

The final exam was based on the story.
I wrote feverishly for the allotted 3 hours examination time.
I turned in the infamous blue book, walked out, got in my car, and in turn drove home
for the summer.

When the grades were mailed out, as they were back then since these were the days before computers,
my report noted that I had received a D in my Lit class.

WHAT!!!!!!????

I immediately called the University and eventually made my way to the English Department where I was told
that my professor had resigned his post and left to teach in Arizona…taking all of his records with
him.

That was that.

No recourse.
No petition.
No action news interviews.
No legal action as we see so often today.
No “one call, that’s all.”

My GPA dropped and I was crestfallen because it wasn’t that great, to begin with.
My mother knew I had been cheated and therefore did not say a word about the “D”
And I had been cheated for one reason and one reason only, my faith.

I know now that this was to be the beginning of what we currently see today—
that being a staggering indoctrination and persecution of the Christian faith
on college campuses.

And that single frustrating event came flooding back today when I opened that musty old box
full of books.

And so I flipped through the book.
There was underlining and pen scrawled notes in the section dedicated to Notes From the Underground…
“Pope [Alexander] says that if you want to see how to run a society, look at an anthill”
Hummmmm…

As I went back and looked over the premise of the story, I was struck by what the Inquisitor tells
Christ….that the Chruch is seeking “the best and most secure order for mankind”
and I find that exceedingly telling.

Just look at the Episcopal Chruch and the Chruch of England—both desperately trying to appease
man while turning a blind eye to God’s word.
Other denominations now follow suit.

“Satan was right,” the Inquisitor tells Christ—who only politely listens while remaining silent.

With our having been given free will…of which the Inquisitor sees as an inherently impossible burden
for mankind, he ignorantly believes that it is his sole responsibility to thwart what God, and in turn Christ,
afforded man. He does so in the name of the Chruch.
The Bride fighting the Bridegroom for dominance.

Hummmmm…

We see that it is the Inquisitor who knows what is best for humankind, not so much God nor His Son.

Historians agree that Dostoevsky is noted for having a canny understanding of the psychology of man.
In part because of his life and upbringing.
He is also oddly prophetic regarding the future of Russia and her undoing Revolution–
a theme that runs throughout much of his work as he often foretells of a great fall and of man’s ultimate
demise as there is always the struggle between free will and what is perceived as security…
as in what does man really want for his life and living?

I for one find Dostoevsky works most telling for our own day and time.
So much so that I need to reread this “poem”
Because it seems we are currently living the life of the Inquisitor as we prefer a sense of security,
a guarantee of living life in the 21st century rather than that of choice.
The choice of eternal life or eternal death.

In the end, Christ rises to kiss the Inquisitor as He takes His leave.

May He not take His leave of us.

If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not,
let your peace return to you.
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words,
leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town.

Matthew 10:13-15

what was that about animal or angel…

“I see clearly with the interior eye,
that the sweet God loves with a pure love the creature that He has created,
and has a hatred for nothing but sin, which is more opposed to Him
than can be thought or imagined.”

St. Catherine of Genoa


(image courtesy a UK internet news outlet)

Yesterday we took a brief look at what it is that separates man from beast…

That being the conscious conscience–

Our ability to make a conscious choice to believe…in say, that Jesus Christ was and
is who He said He was…as He remains to this day—that being the Son of God…

So a conscious conscience separates us.

Otherwise, we’re pretty much alike as in that we are born of both male and female, we
eat, sleep, play, seek shelter, have similar bodily functions…

And yet we possess a higher order of thinking—a conscious conscience.

We can choose to follow something rather than said following being simply an innate
reaction or some sort of imprinting.
We can follow literally or we can follow figuratively and consciously…or, choose not to…

It’s no secret that I love football—
that being American football and not the soccer version of futbol.

And we can whittle that down even further in that I prefer college ball…
but I will always take what I can get.

So needless to say, I joined the rest of this football and commercial loving Nation,
all who gathered either in person or around a thousand and more televisions in order
to watch the big game Sunday night…the Super Bowl.

I am neither Eagle fan nor Patriot fan…and despite being from Atlanta and having the
Falcons being my team by proxy…Green Bay is actually MY team of heart…

And as to why that is—is beyond my soul.. but I bet it goes back to childhood or the adoption…
just saying.

So in such a competition as a Super Bowl, one usually opts to pull for one team or the other…
and as I am tired of the Patriot Dynasty constantly winning and Coach Belichick’s
sloppy sideline apparel along with his monotone one-word press conference interviews,
add in a constant dour demeanor, I thought we should give Philly a go.

And so perhaps in hindsight, I was wrong in that notion.

Following the Eagles routing over the Patriots Sunday night, Philadelphia,
that city of brotherly love, broke out into insanity…

And not mind you the type of joyful, happy, triumphant, euphoria of insanity witnessed
at the moment of a victory…such as in the…
“Hey, Nick Foles, what are you going to do now that you’ve won the Super Bowl???…
with that joy-filled, confetti swirling answer being a triumphant “I’m going to Disney World”

But rather this victory swirled down into the insanity of hate, destruction, violence,
and lawlessness.

More like, dare we say it, animals…

Add to the fact that the image I found today was from a UK news site,
as in the world watched how badly “we” behaved.

And I say ‘we’ because ‘we’ are, for all intent purposes, Americans…
As in I just happen to be from Georgia, and the game just happened to be played in Minnesota
and it just happened to be a game between New England and Philidelphia players—
so “we” are all, when the dust settles, in this together…as Americans.

Sigh.

I for one find the behavior seen in Philidelphia, bottom of the barrel, awful.

However, the questions remains…are these “fans” going to be held accountable?

Maybe some were arrested.

Yet I’m pretty certain many more slipped into the dark
of night over those who actually were arrested for “disorderly” conduct—
throw in a little looting and destruction of private property to that citation.

Whose cars were those flipped over and torched?
Or what about sending those regular citizens who were caught in the middle of the madness,
sending law-abiding folks who just happened to be in downtown businesses and hotels,
into some sort of panic attack, so afraid they would become victims of the animal mob?

Not a pretty picture to say the least.

And so I think about all of this ugly Americaness of ours…these seemingly selfish,
self-centered acts of consciousness…decisions made which are,
when all pretense is stripped away, acts of the demonic-
As in the very lesson, we learned yesterday, that being it’s man’s choice when
he leans toward anger, hate, violence lawlessness, sinfulness..in other words, acts of evilness,
of which has its impetus in the demonic and certainly not the angelic or saintly…

And just as we have the conscious conscience of choice to be more like the animals—
we also have the conscious conscience to choose that of the angelic, the saintly and that
of love.

May we choose love….

Once again, another life lesson brought to us by a mere game.

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light,
and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet…
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger,
nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth;
for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things,
from Whom all other good flows and proceeds. They look not only at the gifts,
but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis

animal or angel

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one,
not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
To love is to be vulnerable.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


(Marc Chagall / Cow with a Parasol / 1944)

In his Second Sunday before Lent homily, Bishop Ashenden puts before us the notion
of the identity of Jesus.

Who Jesus really is.

He notes that no one—not Buddha, not Mohammad, not Abraham, nor Moses…
none of these individuals ever professed to be God…

But that Jesus was different.

He did claim to be the Son of God…and in turn God.
That He was in the Father and the Father was in Him.
(John 14:11)

Yet Bishop Ashenden notes that our culture does not teach that Jesus is or was any
different from anyone else.
And also notes that none of us can actually prove what Jesus did.
We only have the written word…no tangible proof that shows the world definitive proof
of this or that.

And so we are left asking ourselves…
why were these things done the way that they were done and
why had these things been done and said even in the first place?

The good Bishop notes the words of C.S. Lewis when Lewis referenced man and choice…
that the choice of man is to be either animal or angel—or more aptly, animal or saint.

For in animals we are all similar in that we are born of both male and female.
And from that… man is then born of consciousness/ brain/mind…
with his conscious being the separator between man and animal…
as some may even dispute that…

So thus, by the conscious being of his conscience, man (us) has the capacity to
become children of God.
The choice between dust or to live eternally.

And so comes Jesus to show how humanly conscious choice is put into practice.

For the Children of God are born not only from man and woman but also from
the Holy Spirit.

And yet even worse than the animals…man, with his consciousness, can, therefore,
choose to become demonic…
because man can consciously choose malice, anger, rage, hatred, damage…all things which
are demonic versus that of The Spirit.

And so Jesus, as God made man…demonstrated that Love was never designed to be kept
to self…but to be freely offered and given…that which counters the demonic…

“Humans are amphibians…half spirit and half animal…as spirits they belong to the eternal world,
but as animals they inhabit time.
This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object,
their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time,
means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–
the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back,
a series of troughs and peaks.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

ahhh, youth….

“Inner strength is our most powerful weapon”
Hans Scholl

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents,
the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.
When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Sophia Loren


(a curious killdeer / Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today’s headlines are rife with the misdeeds, shenanigans and out right barbarism
of our younger generations…

Just today there was a heinous story about a group of teens, ages 14 to 16, who had actually videoed a disabled man drowning in a retention pond in Florida…
Worse, they did nothing in the way of offering assistance or getting help—

And what is even more unconscionable, they later posted the video online
where they are heard mocking, cursing and ridiculing the drowning / dying man.

This latest incident comes on the heels of the continued reports of the ongoing
unrest raging on many of nation’s college campuses. Ever since November’s election
we continue witnessing students protesting, rioting, marching and simply
causing all manner of mayhem in the name of their presumption to a freedom
of expression.

Now don’t get me wrong…not all our youth are bad, spoiled, hateful or even evil.

However it just seems that those who do as they should, who do what is right, who
strive to be positive examples are never the ones highlighted, recognized or
applauded for taking the higher moral road.

My editing friend at Plough Publishing House has sent out another book recently…
At The Heart Of The White Rose…Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl
Edited by Inge Jens

I doubt my publishing friend is aware that four years ago I had actually
written a post about this youthful brother and sister duo.
It was a post written after reading the book
A Nobel Treason–The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler.

I often think about this young brother and sister especially when I see the stories
about our own young people today.

I often think about the ultimate sacrifice this bother and sister made during
their own generation’s time of madness.

I think of their conviction and bravery.
I think of their selflessness.
I think of how they chose to fight for a cause without violence or temper tantrums.
I think of how they never backed down once they were caught and tried.
Never ashamed of what was really the Truth and what was a lie.
They never acquiesced, never gave in, never gave up.

I’m just starting the new book.

It’s a collection of letters and diary entries.
An intimate window into the lives of two ordinary kids who simply wanted to live,
grow and learn…
yet who opted to take a stand against a very real evil—
not something merely perceived or imagined.

They risked everything.
And in the end, they lost everything.

And yet their story which is decades old remains most relevant to this day.
Perhaps even more so given our own precarious time of anger and angst run amuck.

When we look around to our own current day’s madness…
I pray that we may remember that there will remain those who know right from wrong
despite the maddening times claiming otherwise…

here is a link to that original post……

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/a-noble-treason/

Do not be deceived:
God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand….

Galatians 6:7-11