The Power of Suggestion

I have a funny little story to tell, a true tale about a simple experiment which my scientific and mischievous friends enacted upon me one day in our youth. It was a conspiracy of suggestion actually, one designed to convince me that I was ill, when in fact I was perfectly healthy. But first, before I begin the tale, let me interject with a non-sequitur, but one that I hope you shall soon see, is very important: “Fear not the things of this world, only fear God and gain wisdom!”

I think we all understand that the more times we hear something the more we believe it is true. This is the basis and rationale of advertising after all, and the entire purpose of marketing; making claims about a product regardless of the validity of the claims, but if the claims are made often enough, people will buy the claims and the product. Our behavior is guided and influenced this way, right? Of course we all know this, consciously or unconsciously, all of us having been thoroughly saturated in these psychological truisms by our commercial economy. Keep these facts in mind as I continue with the tale of my friends’ dastardly plot against me, and how I fell for it; but let me first say: “Fear not the things of this world, only fear God and gain wisdom!”

The day began like most did for me during high school. I arrived at my locker before first period and spun the combination and pulled out a few books and binders before the bell rang to make my way to class. But today I was not just a high school student. Unbeknownst to me at the time, about ten, perhaps twenty of my friends (and even a few mere acquaintances enlisted to participate) had made me the object of an experiment. The hypothesis: could they make a healthy friend sick, merely by suggestion? They believed that they could! The test and observations: repeated suggestions from numerous sources throughout the day to persuade and guide my health to their desired outcome. And so the experiment began, at my locker, just prior to first period. Two friends arrived, and as we began talking one looked at me with concern on her face, “Are you feeling alright? You don’t look so good.”

“I’m fine.” I responded. And my other friend jumped in, “Really? I don’t think so. You look awful.” This seemed very strange to me at the time, but that was the end of it and I walked to class.

As I walked between first and second period someone passed me in the hallway. “Hey! How’s it goin? Whoa, what happened to you?!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“You look like you got hit by a bus. Are you sick or something?”

“No, I’m fine. What are you talking about?!” I replied with annoyance.

In second period my buddy who sat behind me made a few comments as I sat down, saying that my face looked pale and green.

“No it doesn’t,” I said. “What is wrong with everyone?” I asked.

“Seriously, you should go look in a mirror.” He replied.

So after class, during break I went to the bathroom and had a look. That was when my doubts began. The lighting wasn’t great in the bathroom, with horrible fluorescents, all pasty and white, and the walls were painted green. Like a chameleon I picked up both these traits and indeed I did look pale, green and sickly. By third period I was feeling a little nauseous. By fourth period I was feeling clammy and hot, and my head was beginning to hurt a bit. Several classmates suggested that I should go home and get some rest. I considered it but shrugged it off and said I’d be fine.

At lunch I reconsidered, and I concluded that everyone was right, I wasn’t feeling all that well. I must have picked something up, a cold or flu or something. Maybe I really should go home, and get better. Later, I learned of their trickery. We all had a laugh at my expense, which I really didn’t mind. It was a clever experiment and I was impressed. And the conclusion we made, based on our observations, is that yes, it is possible to make a healthy person believe he is sick through repeated and ongoing suggestion, made by many different sources all with singleness of intent and purpose.

Just today I had an interesting interaction with a propane delivery man, which was actually the situation which made me remember this experiment from my high school days. Let me tell you what happened, but first: “Fear not the things of this world, only fear God and gain wisdom!”

Having refilled our propane tank, the driver carried the hose out from behind our house and I called out to him from my perch on the second story balcony, “Hey! Thanks for filling our tank.”

He looked up at me, from a distance of thirty or forty feet, and quickly, he pulled a cloth mask up over his face. I called down to him to reassure him that I was fine, he didn’t have to put that thing on if he didn’t want. After all, we’re outside, and he was miles away from me. I’m not worried. But he responded, “Yes I do! I don’t want to get this virus!” So it dawned on me then, that he wasn’t protecting me at all, he was protecting himself. I felt foolish; and realized he was probably upset at me now, since I wasn’t wearing a mask. I had been trying to make him feel at ease by saying not to worry about the mask, misunderstanding his motives as being thoughtful towards me, when he was actually just looking out for himself. And that was fine with me once I understood him. Yet, how interesting I found it that here is this man delivering a truckload of propane gas—which to me seems a fairly dangerous job—and he had no concern about that at all, but he had an incredible terror of contracting a virus from me, in the wide outdoors, at a distance of over thirty feet, while I stood on a second story balcony and he stood on the ground. How can this be?!?

“Fear not the things of this world, only fear God and gain wisdom!”

And I remembered the high-school experiment. Of course, that’s it! This propane driver has been terrorized day and night about this virus, by many sources, repeatedly, continuously, all with a common motive and purpose; to provoke his fear, and to manipulate his behavior. It is astounding how effectively this experiment has been enacted upon us. But then, I know first-hand how well this method can work; I remember how it once worked upon me.

We must help each other now, we must reassure each other. We must repeat the better and the more truthful things. We must use our voice and our strength to combat the terrifying message that we are being sold all day, every day. Sure, we may die; we will die. But let us first live; let us live without fear. I imagine that if I were to tell that propane driver every day about all the propane explosions that happen each year (roughly 2,900 homes destroyed annually, 25 deaths and 155 injuries) he might eventually grow frightened to drive that truck. But why scare him? What’s the point of that?

I would rather give him hope, and give him courage to face the challenges of this life, with all of its difficulties and sorrows. I would rather repeat again and again for him: “Fear not the things of this world, only fear God and gain wisdom!” This is the message that he needs to hear, and hear repeatedly, continuously with singleness of purpose, so that he and everyone like him can live without fear of life.

“Fear not the things of this world, only fear God and gain wisdom!”

~FS

O Lord of Sweet & Gentle Mystery

I am immersed in your love, O Lord.

By your fine, beauteous light,

I am illumined and made light,

made buoyant and floating;

You cause my thoughts to drift upon the wind,

like marigold fragrance and dandelion down,

all twirling and dancing and trusting in You.

I am like a quivering branch, O Lord.

Your Joy rising and shaking my limbs,

all tingling and ticklish, I’m in your hands;

I’m in your arms, in your embrace.

I swoon, I faint, and fall upon the soft earth.

There you whisper into my ear—

sweet secrets and gentle mysteries,

for only me to hear.

I am immersed in your love, O Lord.

Truly, I am lost in your embrace.

Amidst a field of flowers as I do feel,

You shower me with light, a love

like the morning dew,

that illuminates my cheeks,

my lips, and my brow.

You are the radiant light,

who warms the cold depths of midnight.

You are the everflowing spring,

who reveals the sweet depths of my being.

You are the Lord of gentle mystery,

the source of all that abides in me,

and all that awakens and enlivens me.

O Lord, immerse me forever in your love.

~FS

Freedom in Christ is Freedom from Sin

I think many people primarily view their sin as something that points to their failings as a human-being, and as something shameful. Yet instead of this, rather seeing our sin as the principle thing which keeps us imprisoned, trapped and enslaved, is a much more useful way to understand our sin; and it is more important and beneficial to see the truth of our sin in this way. Sin is our enemy, and it is also the glue that our enemy uses to keep us stuck in our suffering.

Because of the fact that we mainly view sin as shameful and we feel its negative reflection upon us, we hide from it, we deny it, and we run away from it; and because we do this, we never get free of it. It continues to cause us and others pain and suffering. Our sin becomes the walls and bars of our self-made prison because we are merely ashamed of it, but we don’t renounce it.

We are in a spiritual battle, and as with everything, we choose sides moment by moment. If we fear our accusers, and if we fear the truth of the accusations which point to our sins, then we will never become free. Satan, the great accuser, and the source of the energy behind our human accusers, intends to keep us trapped, hiding forever in our shame and guilt. But if we put our trust in Christ, the source of all good human freedom, then we can face our accusers boldly, we can face ourselves too, as we admit our sin; if we trust in the forgiveness found only through Jesus Christ—who is not an accuser—then we can find the courage to renounce our sin, and become free from its effects on our future life.

It is important to remember the characteristics and qualities of the principle actors. On one hand we have the devil: the deceiver, the accuser, the father of lies, who seeks our enslavement and ultimately our destruction. On the other hand we have Jesus Christ: the son of God, the truth, the comforter, the way of life, who seeks our liberation and ultimately our complete fulfillment as human beings made in His image and likeness. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle here, and we are all susceptible to influences on both sides.

We need not resort to accusations, lies or fear; and when we are met by these from others we need not become ashamed or enslaved—provided we align with the enemy of fear and lies, Jesus Christ. If we lay our sin down and renounce it before Him, in spirit and in truth, we can stand fearlessly, boldly and even joyfully in the face of our accusers and in the face of any deception designed to ensnare us. Truth, especially in regards to our sin, will set us free; Christ, the Truth, will set us free! Have faith, have hope, repent!  

~FS

First Light

If you’re tired of the battles,

when you’re ready to surrender,

Come, join me for a drink of water—

And let us go to the house of the Lord,

in peace we’ll go together.

Come, let us dance like fools,

stumbling no longer,

hand-in-hand, and free—

the time is ripe for laughter,

please, come and dance with Me.

Beneath the starry night,

upon a moonlit field,

the angels sing their song—

by myriad candles’ warming light,

we’ll see the birthing of the Dawn.

Foregoing all the dismal thoughts,

that tag along and weigh us down,

when only joyfully we’ve brought—

our thankful spirits bowing down,


We’ll leave that life, all fraught with fought,

Christ’s life and light, shall fill us now. 

~FS

The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1; part 4):

And yet John wasn’t gone, he wasn’t lost, he was very much within her reach, just a short walk down the hall, in the maternity ward’s intensive care nursery, just off the nurse’s station.  She only had to walk down there, and take him. He was hers after all. In the most intimate way, he was hers; not as a possession, but as a part of her. Nobody could get in the way of that intimacy, of that primal and essential value, which is far greater and more urgent than any hospital administrative procedure or restriction. Mary hastened out of bed and left her room, clothed in only her sleeping gown, and barefoot. She made her way down the dark hallway towards the light from the nurse’s station, which reflected off the waxed floor ahead of her, leading the way. The floor was cold, and her bare feet slapped lightly against the linoleum as she walked quickly, practically running, to rescue her boy. There was one nurse sitting at the desk, and she was busy doing a crossword puzzle, when Mary asked to see her baby. The nurse explained that it was after visiting hours, and she was the only one on duty tonight, so even if she wanted to, she couldn’t leave her station unattended. Mary pushed her to reconsider, but the nurse held her ground, saying that the NICU nursery wasn’t simply a place one could go in and out of without precautions; special gowns had to be donned, as well as gloves and masks, and all of these procedures took time, which she just didn’t have right then. She was very busy. Mary glanced down at the nurse’s desk, prompting the nurse to slide her right hand over the crossword, as she looked up into Mary’s eyes defiantly. They locked eyes momentarily, and Mary expended great effort to hold her tongue; refraining from uttering the sarcastic observation that the nurse was obviously busy with her games. Still, the look in Mary’s eyes conveyed pretty much the same thing that her sarcastic comment would have, and the nurse got the message. Nurse Pleasant—that was her last name, though not always her attitude—grew embarrassed. She wasn’t a bad person, nor even a lazy one, but just extremely overworked, and she coveted her nights at the maternity ward—long hours typically with very little to do, which provided a respite from the countless tasks she performed around the hospital during the day. As a senior nurse, her responsibilities were legion, and she was exhausted. Covering the night shift, while other nurses were sick, was actually a chance to catch up on her puzzles, and even get some sleep, which she couldn’t even do at home—where her husband always had some complaint or another, which needed her immediate attention. For Nurse Pleasant, even being at work was a vacation, compared with being at home.

Mary appealed to Nurse Pleasant’s own maternal identity and memories. Surely, she must remember what it was like to be a new mother, how she had needed to see her newborn child and to hold them? Couldn’t she imagine the agony of being denied fulfillment of this need? Nurse Pleasant did remember those feelings. She loved being a mother, and she loved holding babies. She looked up into Mary’s desperate eyes, which had filled with tears, and she relented.

“Okay, I’ll bring him to the window, so you can see him. No, I can’t let you in to hold him. We have very strict restrictions on that. The priority is to keep the nursery sterile and free of anything that could harm the babies. I’m sure you understand. That’s the best I can do. If you want to go over there, to the viewing window. I’ll go get suited up and bring him over for you.”

Mary nodded, and took a step towards the window, but couldn’t help noticing Nurse Pleasant reach into the top drawer of her desk and pull out a key on a long lanyard. Mary looked away, pretending not to notice, but out of the corner of her eye she kept the nurse under close observation, as she walked through the windowed door, where she donned a gown, pulled on a fresh pair of rubber gloves, and placed a mask over her face, and a surgical cap over her head, before using the key from the desk in the door which led into the intensive care nursery. Mary turned away and walked to the viewing window, considering what she had just seen. “Anton would be furious with me if I snuck into the nursery,” she thought. “No, that would be wrong. He’d say I trespassed; he’d be disappointed. But is it really trespassing if I’m just getting what is mine?” She mulled these things over, until she saw Nurse Pleasant pull John from his incubator and bring him over to the window. Excitedly, she pressed her face up against the glass, and devoured her baby with her eyes. As you can imagine, everything about him appeared beautiful to her: beautiful little feet and toes, beautiful hands and fingers, pretty soft pink skin, fine blondish brown hair covering his perfect little head. She pressed against the floor with her bare feet and stood on her toes to get a better look at his face. Again, perfectly beautiful; though the look in his eyes disturbed her, he looked uncomfortable. And why was he arching his back, and his limbs were all quite stiff, as if he were trying to get away from the nurse and didn’t like the way she was holding him. “Doesn’t she know how to hold a baby?” Mary thought incredulously. “What’s the matter with her, why doesn’t she hold him so that he is comfortable?” This bothered Mary, and she gave Nurse Pleasant an exasperated look, which the nurse ignored, while she continued to look down at the baby’s face, smiling and cooing soothingly. This also annoyed Mary, though it was really jealousy that made her feel this way. It was she that should be holding John, not a nurse. Nurse Pleasant looked up at Mary, smiled and returned the baby to his incubator.  

Several minutes later, the nurse came out of the nursery and sat down again at her desk, returning the key to its place in the top drawer. Mary thanked Nurse Pleasant, who went back to working on her crossword puzzle, and Mary returned to her room. But she didn’t sleep. Instead, she formulated a plan. Her thoughts briefly flitted to her husband, he wouldn’t approve, she was fairly certain of that. He’d forgive her.

(to be continued)

~FS

The Good, The Bad, & Our Motives

It is an interesting and instructive question to ask oneself: am I doing or saying the right thing but for the wrong reason; or am I doing or saying the wrong thing but for the right reason; or am I doing or saying the right thing for the right reason? (We’ll ignore the fourth option: doing or saying the wrong thing for the wrong reason, because that’s just wrong.)

With respect to the prevailing measures our leaders, and those who trust them have taken, in attempts to curtail this pandemic, we have seen all of these conditions at play. We’ve seen Dr. Fauci, and others in positions of authority, employ the ‘noble lie’ telling us untruths because they are for our own good; this is a version of the ‘ends justify the means’ approach to ethics, which is simply a variation on saying the wrong thing (a lie) for the right reason (our own good). But I think if you are willing to lie, even with good intentions, you are already on a slippery slope; and the end of that downhill slide is inevitably a bad outcome, with nothing good to justify it.

Perhaps even worse than that though, is doing or saying the right thing but for the wrong reason. This one can be very confusing to recognize, and can confound everyone who experiences it. We hear the good words spoken, or see the good deed done, but we sense the bad motives underlying it, but we can’t quite pinpoint what exactly is wrong with it. And because the wrongness of it is cloaked inside a garment of supposed good, it often is effective, goes unchecked, and the perpetrator will get away with it. This technique is often used to target Christians such as myself; perhaps you have also been the recipient of this kind of subterfuge?

For instance, I have been told that I should wear the mask, or get the vaccine, because as a Christian that would be ‘following the golden rule’ to love ones neighbor as oneself. The particularly interesting thing about this is that it is often leveled by folks who aren’t Christians themselves; so that raises a red flag at the outset. Why would a non-Christian suddenly have interest in the teachings of Christ, who they don’t believe in? Is their motive sacrificial love (charity)? And the use of their quotation, does it honestly fit contextually, and in the spirit, with the entirety of Christ’s teachings found in the rest of scripture? My guess is it typically doesn’t; but it is rather motivated by their fears, and their desire to persuade you to act according to their wishes. They use the right thing (scriptural references) for the wrong reason (manipulation/coercion/shaming rather than genuine love). The letter of the law is there (a good), but the spirit behind it is deceptive and sneaky.

It is true that the Christian tradition, including scripture, is a testament of love for God and love for neighbor, but the key and primary aspect of this is ‘love’. The underlying motivation for all action and speech is and should be genuine charity. If you can honestly attest before your conscience and God that your motive is love for others, than I suspect that you are doing or saying the right thing for the right reason. The unfortunate thing for us today is that we have seared our consciences to such a degree through bad thoughts and bad behavior that we can’t even discern our true motives, and we’ve grown so accustomed to telling and hearing lies that we can’t even discern the truth within our own hearts. This needs to be step one; make your own heart good, then all that flows out from it will be good; and the means you employ in doing or saying anything towards another person may have a good ending.

~FS

The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1; part 3):

Several minutes later Anton returned to the room and reported, as expected, that it wouldn’t be possible to see their son tonight; that the doctor was gone for the evening and they’d have to ask him tomorrow. Anton had arrived to Mary’s room already feeling somewhat dejected, but as he explained the circumstances to her, and saw his wife’s darkening gaze, he added quickly that the nurses didn’t have the authority to let them in to see their baby, and besides, even if they could, visiting hours were ending in a few minutes.

“Visiting hours?!” Mary exclaimed sardonically. “Am I just a visitor here?!”

“Apparently they’re short-staffed as well. Several nurses caught the flu and are out. So that makes it more difficult…”

“These things are not important, Anton.” Mary pleaded. “Fine, they’re plausible reasons, but not justifications. None rise to the level of…I mean really?! Visiting hours, an absent doctor…nurses with the flu? These are the things standing between a mother and her newborn baby? I haven’t even held him yet! Three days he’s already been in this world, and I haven’t even smelled him, I don’t even know what he smells like…what he feels like! No, Anton, this is not right. I’m telling you it isn’t right! I am getting into that room, and I am going to hold John; and I am going to give him what he needs. Tonight!”

Anton sat down on the edge of the bed and looked into his wife’s eyes; and then he embraced her, pulling her agitated body close to him. She tensed at first, resisting the intimacy and the compassion of his gesture, which made her feel weak at a time when she believed she needed to feel strong. But without warning she burst into tears, and she wept bitterly into his chest. And she cried for a very long time—letting herself go—which surprised her; and she even wailed for a few moments, which frightened her. All the while Anton held her firmly against him, and with one hand he caressed the back of her head, letting his fingers run gently through her long, black hair—which she had always found very soothing.

“I just want to hold him, it isn’t too much to ask…is it?”

“Of course not, and you will. Very soon. Let’s just be patient a little longer. Everything will be fine. You just rest now, and I’ll head on home and get ready for my classes tomorrow. We’ll both get some sleep, and you can talk with the doctor in the morning and I’m sure they will let you see John. I’ll be back tomorrow evening and who knows, you’ll most likely be able to tell me finally, how our little boy smells. And hopefully not like a dirty diaper.”

Anton and Mary shared a brief chuckle, and she leaned back against her pillow, as he stood up. “It’s just a few more hours, honey. Get some sleep. Everything will be fine in the morning.” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and gathered up his things before saying goodnight and leaving the room. He was relieved to see her close her eyes as he shut the door. “She must be very tired,” he thought to himself. “It was a very difficult birth; sleep is the best thing for her now. She’ll get good rest and feel refreshed in the morning.” He continued to assuage his concerns about his wife in this way, and with many similar thoughts, as he walked down the hallway, descended the stairs to the lobby and exited the hospital, making his way to the car. In the back of his mind however, far back and mostly hidden from view, he had other thoughts, doubtful thoughts, based on previous experiences which had demonstrated his wife’s stubbornness and her one-pointed determination. If he allowed himself to consider these memories as well, he would have admitted there was little chance that she would remain in bed for the entire night, and leave the nurses at the end of the hallway alone, and leave John unsought for; but he was adept at suppressing these thoughts, so he happily started his car and began the drive home, comfortably though erroneously convinced that Mary was safely ensconced in her bed for the night.

Mary couldn’t sleep; no, not at all. Though she did try, and her body wanted to; but in her soul, rest was an impossibility. But how can we say it was her soul that was troubled? Was it not simply her mind and her emotions in turmoil? And didn’t we say at the outset of our story that words mattered, and precision in our choice of words would be of the utmost importance in conveying the truth of it all, and for describing things accurately? Yes, the disquiet that she felt inside, since John had been taken from within her womb, was certainly difficult to put into words, but Mary wrestled to find the proper means of conveying this experience—for her own personal understanding, and as a matter of scientific inquiry. The ache, the emptiness, the confused disorientation that currently overwhelmed her was only an aspect of a more profound, wider and more expansive unrest. It included every aspect of her being, including her thoughts and her emotions, and it permeated her body, yet it would be an error to resort simply to a biologically reductionist argument to explain it; simply because neurons are involved, and hormones as well—as are many other physiological processes which could be observed and measured—observing all of these is simply to say that her body was involved, but not that her body was the source. Before John, she was one person; after John, she was somebody new. As his life grew within her, she died and was born again; and this process occurred over and again, dying again, and again, to who she had been. John was her butterfly, and she was his chrysalis; yet, she was a butterfly too, and he was her catalyst. Mary smiled as she landed on this image in her mind, and she came to the conclusion that the greatest realities are best captured poetically. It is the poet and the prophet who best reveal the workings of the soul, and who translate the mind of God to humanity most truthfully. With John, she discovered that the building blocks of life are charity, and the foundation that undergirds all of creation, is charity. Charity being that love that is union between entities, love between persons, devotion, self-sacrifice, endless giving and intimate relationship. Charity, Mary decided, is the universal language which communicates perfect understanding, and holds everything together; and charity is the engine that powers the cosmos, and keeps it going. Without John, she was now like an amputee, the one who experiences that strange sensation where they can still feel the toes that are no longer there, and the itch of the leg that has been taken away. She had been augmented, and now she was diminished. She once would have defined herself by her attributes, but now she would define herself by what was missing—apophatically, she was the mother without her son.

(to be continued)

~FS

The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1; part 2):

Mary shuddered, and shook her head violently, “I hate that word…retarded. Just horrible.”

“Yes, but it’s a perfectly reasonable word, Mary.” Anton countered, until she shot him a menacing glance, to which he amended, “But, I do see your point.” They both smiled briefly, enjoying one another’s company, and the unspoken dynamics between man and woman, husband and wife.

“Of course the word is reasonable, and descriptive dear. But give what is reasonable to our unreasoning world and just watch how quickly description turns to ugliness. Our boy will not suffer such a fate, I can tell you that with certainty. I will not allow it.” And with that they both fell silent again, as the sun finally began to set, and the golden glow that had previously filled the room faded, casting the room in grayer tones. Anton observed his wife in the gathering darkness. So many things about her attracted him—her wit most definitely, her fine features of course, but her character and moral integrity was an undeniable force that he couldn’t resist. She was a very practical woman, without a doubt, yet she was never narrow in her approach; and her pragmatism was expansive and generous. So that even what might be considered fanciful by others and dismissed as superfluous, she could conceive the value and importance, and with her profound imagination she would allow, for practical reasons, even the most spiritual, artistic or even mystical pursuits. Anton would say that his wife had “a rigorously scientific mind, wrapped within a wondrously expansive heart.” Because of this there was no room within Mary for any prejudice—the scientific method wouldn’t allow it, and neither would her heart which was filled with love. But she could be ruthless in the face of willful ignorance and intentional deceit; and she could sniff out these pernicious character flaws in a person, just like a hound on the trail of its prey. Anton thought that final comparison privately, though he meant no disrespect by it, it just seemed an apt simile; though, if pressed to articulate his wife’s ability to perceive deception, nevertheless he compared her more favorably, to detective Sherlock Holmes, one of her favorite characters from childhood reading. Anton leaned forward and switched on the lamp at the bedside, and then sat back in his chair. “Let’s wait and see what the doctors discover.”

Worry finally spread across Mary’s face. She had been working with great effort to subdue it ever since the doctor had expressed his findings, but now it broke forth and darkened her expression. Anton, as well, felt anxiety creep into his depths, as the bottom fell out of his stomach, leaving an ache of emptiness there, which echoed up through all of his organs and ended in a painful tightening of his chest. Both he and Mary wanted to see their newborn baby for themselves, and they both questioned the meaning of what the doctor had diagnosed.

“What did he mean do you think, by ‘there are good places for him’? Does he mean an institution? Does he expect us to give our baby away—permanently? I didn’t really understand that.”

“No, I didn’t take it that way. I think he just meant that there are places that can help us—and John—if we need help as we’re raising him.”

“I’m not sure, though; I suppose, maybe that’s it.” Mary closed her eyes and pictured the doctor again as he had revealed his findings to them. “He was very nervous. He doesn’t exactly engender confidence.”

“Well, can you imagine having to tell a couple their new baby, their only child, is mentally retarded?”

“Oh, would you please quit using that awful word. We don’t even know if it’s true, if he’s even stunted in any way at all. So perhaps he doesn’t respond to them, there could be plenty of other causes for that, other than a mental deficiency. I need to see him myself. I’m not doing any good laying here. I need to see him and hold him.” She began to get out of bed, and Anton placed a hand gently but firmly on her shoulder.

“Mary, just stay there—please—let me go ask the doctors. You still need to rest; you lost a lot of blood and fluids during the birth. Please dear. I’ll be right back. I’m sure they will let us see John, if at all possible.” They locked eyes for a brief but tender moment—comfort and understanding flowing between them in that ineffable, silent manner that operates between beloveds, without words—which Anton then cut short, as he briskly left the room before his wife could protest any further. She smiled as she lay back into the soft pillow and closed her eyes. She imagined her husband making his way down the sterile, poorly lit hallway, with his long strides, covering vast swathes of waxed linoleum tiles with each step. He was a tall man, true to his Baltic roots, or Scandinavian, nobody was absolutely certain where precisely he originally came from; the only dependable records for him issuing forth from an orphanage in upstate New York, stating that both of his birthparents were deceased, having died in transit from Copenhagen in 1933, on a ship that had originated somewhere in the eastern Baltic, most likely from Riga, Latvia, though some records seemed to indicate Stockholm instead as the port of origination. In any case, he was adopted by a Lutheran pastor and his wife in 1934, and had been brought up in the faith. Mary pictured him now, kindly and tactfully discussing their situation with the nurses at the far end of the maternity wing. And he would be speaking persuasively and charmingly with them; and she could imagine that they would be quite taken by his expressive, sincere blue eyes, and they would find his slightly disheveled thick blond hair and his high cheekbones equally charming, and maybe even alluring. But it would all be to no avail; he would return in a few minutes to tell her that it wouldn’t be possible for them to see their son John tonight. And it wouldn’t be for any lack of effort on his part, in fact, one could honestly say that Anton’s virtues would be the cause of his failure in this case. He would want to follow the rules of the hospital—like any good person should—and he wouldn’t want to make any waves or expect any special treatment; he wouldn’t want to rock the boat, or cause a stir after all. He was a very thoughtful and kind man; and he always tried to do the right thing. And for all of these reasons Mary loved him; but she nonetheless, would be very angry at him when he returns to her room. Because the thing that was even more right in this situation, in her opinion, was for her to see her child. Following the rules is all well and good, and it has its place, but the connection between a mother and her newborn baby is far more important. Even more so when that baby is in dire need of its mother; when it has been repugnantly, and mistakenly (she was certain), labeled ‘retarded’.  

(to be continued)

~FS

Blessed Are The Meek

A meekness that loves is never defeated; it is a softness that yields, but never gives in. And it never can be broken. Do not fear your peace before the maw that devours. If your peace arises from Christ; it is like a strong fountain which never runs dry, and it will water your own soul eternally. And it is a refreshing dew giving hope to others of a pure heart; but it is like hot coals in the breast of those who love lies and deception. 

To those of us who’d take up arms to save our meat. Eat bread instead. Lay down our arms and take up purity. A pure heart knows Truth, and can live by it. And Truth will embrace us with the arms of tranquility.

~FS

The Epic of John Gilgesh (Chapter 1: part 1)

If we are to rightly honor the life and work of John Gilgesh, and also those of his contemporaries—his friends—we owe it to them, and to those of you who will read about their magnificent exploits—and it would not be untruthful, to call them sublime exploits, considering the circumstances in which they occurred—if we are to rightly honor them, we must write boldly without fear, and if possible, also with reverential love, for indeed, that is exactly how they lived, and how they offered themselves to their Creator.

Yes, we knowingly wrote the word ‘Creator’. We first considered using a less controversial phrase like, ‘higher self’ or ‘cosmic life force’ out of instinct—almost without thinking—in hopes of reaching the widest audience by causing the least offense. But this would be impossible, not because of any ideological or religious reasons, but because the life of man, this man in particular, along with his cohorts, is inextricably bound up with the concept of a Creator, and nothing which follows will make any sense at all, if we are to remove the dual concepts of a Creator and His creation, and substitute these with different concepts such as  higher or terrestrial powers.

We must apologize, for it truly wasn’t our intention to delve into such controversies so early into our story—before we’ve even begun to tell it—but words, as you will shortly come to see, play a very important role in the life of John Gilgesh; so, for the integrity of the telling, and to be true to our subject matter, we must choose the most accurate and honest words in the unfolding of our epic. Perhaps, we have already alienated a few of you because of this, and you will not be continuing along with us on our journey. Well, be that as it may, we wish you every blessing and we certainly bear you no ill will; and we hope you feel the same. But now it is time to press onward—to forge ahead—because time is short in a sense, because there is so very much to tell, and so many details to share with you about the life of John Gilgesh, his friends, and about the movement which they initiated.

Here again, we must take a quick detour, because you may have heard others who’ve made erroneous claims that Gilgesh sought to create a utopia—a foolish notion—or that he was the charismatic leader of an esoteric cult—an inane assertion—but nothing could be further from the truth. So it is worth taking a moment to utterly dispel such rubbish right from the outset before continuing. Many of these claims have been made by those who didn’t know the man, as is typically the case. In the instance of the extensive, and ultimately derogatory, commentaries made by Victor Fragmore regarding the time he spent with Gilgesh, as a founding member of the movement—or community, if one wishes to call it that—much more will be discussed about these at the appropriate time in the future. For now, suffice it to say that he was of a distinctly different temperament from his colleagues, and the inner workings of his heart made it impossible for him to perceive events accurately, or to understand others sympathetically.

Now, to begin our story, we will be going back to the very beginning, we must do so because John’s parents, and the times into which he was born, play such an important role—as must always be the case—in his development, and what he would eventually create. It was not long after his birth, several days more or less, while his mother was still recovering in the hospital from what had been a difficult trial, when the doctor and nurse who had been overseeing the newborn boy’s progress, came to some startling conclusions, which they reluctantly made known to his mother and father late one afternoon. Mary Gilgesh was propped up in bed, sipping her tea and looking dejectedly at the untouched tray of food on the table beside her; her husband, Anton, was sitting nearby, and with his warm, sonorous baritone voice, he was attempting to persuade his wife to eat a little something to help speed along her recovery. When a small knock was heard upon the door, preceding the hasty entrance of Dr. Masch and his assistant, nurse Neiblom. Dr. Masch was a rotund man, balding, and with a reddish complexion prone to perspiration, particularly when he became nervous or agitated, as was currently the case. Standing at the foot of the bed, he looked Mrs. Gilgesh in the eyes momentarily, before losing his nerve and turning to face Mr. Gilgesh. Anton looked benevolently back at him and raised his eyebrows in expectation; and he smiled kindly, in an attempt to put the good doctor at ease. Nurse Neiblom nudged the doctor in the side with her elbow to help move things along.

“Yes, well, of course,” Dr. Masch began haltingly. “Yes, it seems, your son. Well, yes of course, he’s getting stronger, he’s looking very strong indeed, isn’t he, Nurse Neiblom?” She nodded encouragingly, and he took her cue and began nodding as well. He smiled cautiously and drew his right hand across his brow to remove the sweat which had accumulated there, before continuing: “Yes, by all appearances he looks quite normal. I mean, physically he is coming along very nicely. It’s just that, well, of course, there’s the mental side of things also, isn’t there?” Anton sat forward in his chair and Mary shifted the pillow that was behind her, and they looked at one another quizzically and then back towards the doctor, who proceeded: “Look. There’s just no good way to say this, so I’m just going to come out with it.” Dr. Masch glanced out the window, through which a golden light was streaming, casting shadows of the panes and curtains upon the wall behind Mary, and sinking Anton into a darkened silhouette. “Your son is retarded. I mean, mentally retarded. Yes, that’s it. Of course, he’s very healthy you know. Very healthy, but…you see, he just doesn’t respond to us. Well, he doesn’t respond to much of anything, does he Nurse Neiblom? No, he doesn’t. He’s in his own world, you see, one can observe this in his eyes, they are vacant. They don’t focus upon anything, like a normal baby would, you understand.” The room fell silent for several moments, as the four occupants each digested this information in their own way.

Nurse Neiblom offered a sympathetic look towards Mary and Dr. Masch hastily continued, “I’m sure you both need some time to think over what I’ve just said. I’m sure it comes as quite a shock, especially given that you both are, well, you’re both university professors, isn’t that correct? Yes, of course, so how does something like this come about? To two intelligent…such a couple as yourselves, how do you have a child like this? Genetics, so many factors at play. Please don’t blame yourselves, no not at all, there’s nothing you could have done.” He wiped his brow again, and then concluded: “You don’t need to worry. We have good places, very good places that can take care of him. You just rest now, and let us know if you need anything. We’ll know much more in the coming weeks; we really don’t know the extent of it all yet. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry.” Dr. Masch turned quickly and walked out of the room, before Anton or Mary could formulate a response. Nurse Neiblom quickly followed the doctor out, leaving the young couple in stunned silence.

(to be continued)

~FS