Category Archives: Personal Reflection

Inspiring Writing Locales: The Hawaiian Island of Maui

Maui from the air. Used by permission of Jen Kazmaier.
Google Maps. “Maui`

Writing is a solitary vocation. Where one writes can make up for much of the solitude and certainly enhances the writing experience, particularly if the locale has some role to play in the story. One such inspiring locale is Maui. I’ll let the images, for the most part, speak for themselves. Here are a few topics that make Maui special.

The Haleakala Dormant Volcano

Like the other Hawaiian islands, Maui is volcanic in origin and the landscape is dominated by two dormant volcanoes. The larger, on the east side of the island, is called Haleakala. This mountain, at least from the west slope, has none of the precipices and rock faces that I came to expect from hiking in the Rocky Mountains, but rather slopes up relatively gently from the east coast of the island to the summit. Indeed from our balcony (lanai) on a clear day we could see the observatory and the Red Hill Lookout at 10,023 feet.

Hikes around the Haleakala Crater.

Taking the hike to the edge of the crater is an awe-inspiring endeavor and gives one a sense of the size of this volcano. Numerous hiking trails allow for the exploration of this massive formation.

A view of the Haleakala crater from the rim.

On many mornings, before sunrise, the summit can readily be seen from the foot of the mountain, but as dawn breaks it frequently becomes cloud covered.

Summit of Haleakala. Used by permission of Phil Kazmaier.

The Hana Highway and the Tropical Part of the Island

Haleakala has an enormous influence on weather patterns on Maui. South and west of the mountain, the land is quite arid with many dried-up water courses. In contrast on the other side, there is a great deal of rainfall, with many creeks that can flood rapidly after a heavy downpour. The abundant moisture provides a tropical rain forest setting.

A Rainbow Eucalyptus

Maui Coral Reef

There are many coral reefs close to shore on Maui and it is relatively easy to find good snorkeling close to accessible beaches. Here are a few images that we were able to capture using a rented underwater camera.

Slate pencil urchin
Likely a Butterfly Fish
Likely a Needlefish
My best guess: a school of Black Durgon Triggerfish (although I don’t see the extra “trigger” fin).

Closing Remarks

Maui beach lava rock which reminded me of Edvard Munch’s THE SCREAM.

Whether you’re writing an adventure situated on a tropical island, or like me, re-reading Jules Verne’s MYSTERIOUS ISLAND with its dormant volcano, Maui is an inspirational locale for writers and readers alike.

If you have a CALGARY PUBLIC LIBRARY card, you can check out Peter’s books for free …

Jane Austen, in EMMA, taught me a new word

Emma, by Jane Austen, is a delightful story with vivid characters, challenging interpersonal relationships, but overall a backdrop that encourages doing one’s duty, being principled, caring for others, and ultimately doing what is right.

In this reading of the story, I was struck by a new word that I learned:

Valetudinarian: A person of poor health or unduly anxious about health.

Oxford Reference English Dictionary

After introducing the term, Austen illustrates it accurately in the character of Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s father.

Before I describe him for those who have not read Emma recently, I think it’s important to distinguish Valetudinarian from Hypochondriac. A hypochondriac imagines he has a serious disease. I suppose when those fears are disproven, fear of another raging, illness emerges.

A valetudinarian, such as Mr. Woodhouse, does not necessarily believe he is ill at the moment, but rather evaluates every activity, every relationship, and every interaction from the perspective of the health implications. So, for example, when others are enjoying a hearty meal, Mr. Woodhouse insists on a thin gruel. When guests are coming over, he insists Emma make sure they are not ill. Children are seen as carriers of disease and travelling is to be avoided if there is any chance of cold, rain, or snow.

Austen does not overtly criticize Mr. Woodhouse, but simply shows how his valetudinarianism constrains his own life and the lives of those around him. Still he is much loved, and understood. Emma cheerfully looks after him. Even Knightley acknowledges this duty as an important obligation.

The implications

When I look at my own life in 2020 and 2021, the tendency toward valetudinarianism is very strong. I seem to have been conditioned to see every relationship, every activity, every human interaction from the perspective of health. Like Mr. Woodhouse, this long term focus, this application of a health filter to every aspect of my life is not beneficial and constrains me much as it did Woodhouse. Indeed, it naturally engenders a constant feeling of vague fear.

So what’s the answer?

While I was reading Emma, I was also reading George MacDonald’s The Seaboard Parish. MacDonald, like Austen, lived in an era when medicine could do very little to improve health. The recipe seemed mostly to rest and wait to see if the patient is able to recover. MacDonald’s personal experience with illness and death, should have made him a prime candidate for valetudinarianism, but he was not like that at all, even though he suffered many sorrows from disease.

 Sickness, particularly Tuberculosis, was no stranger to the MacDonalds. George would christen it as being “the family attendant” in later years. It took the lives of four of his children and some of his grandchildren as well.

http://georgemacdonald.info/children.html

MacDonald lived the idea that God is supremely good and we can trust the future to him, including whatever confronts in the way of illness or death. Our job is to do our duty in the present and leave our future (over which we really have no control) in the hands of the Almighty.

In The Seaboard Parish, there is a massive storm which casts a great ship on the rocks just off the coast of Walton’s parish. At great peril, some sailors and passengers are rescued but many were not. A battered sailor with a broken leg believes he is dying (he was not) and asks Vicar Walton what he should do. Here is what what MacDonald said through the character of Walton:

Trust in Christ and do not be afraid.

George MacDonald, The Seaboard Parish, Kindle Edition (Unabridged).

He did not lie to the man as perhaps some would today, to make him hopeful of recovery and easier. He gave the unvarnished truth and I believe it was the best thing to say, since MacDonald had a hope that transcended even the prospect of imminent death. So, as I continue to hear the never-ending news reports on Covid strains as they move through the Greek alphabet, like hurricanes moving through alphabetical names in September, I’ll remember George MacDonald’s admonition and try to live a life of faith, unintimidated by the government, the health agencies, and the news media.

Coventry 2091 Trade Paperback Arrived: Updating My Author’s Bio

I’ve reached a milestone with the publication of my fifth book, Coventry 2091. It’s time for me to revise my author’s bio. Here is a preview of the changes.

Long before I became a fiction author, I was an avid reader. Books in general and novels in particular influenced me greatly. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings , C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of the Narnia , and Stephen R. Lawhead’s trilogy, Song of Albion are among my favorite and best-loved novels.

I also very much enjoy classic science fiction classics such as Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky.

The stories I most enjoyed were not only entertaining, but they taught me something about all that is good and excellent in ourselves and the world around us. They inspired hope without glossing over the fact of evil

I began writing The Halcyon Dislocation in response to a challenge of sorts. I was meeting with friends in our small book club when I began musing about how much I would like to write a novel. One of my friends, an accomplished author in her own right, looked me in the eye and said, “Why don’t you do it then?” After many conferences and contacts with other authors, my first book was published.

I am now the author of five books. As a futuristic novelist, I started my writing journey by creating a complex, parallel world in The Halcyon Dislocation. And so I began my speculative fiction series, The Halcyon Cycle. My second novel, The Battle for Halcyon, describes the fate of the displaced University of Halcyon as it seeks to return to its own space-time. The third in this series, The Dragons of Sheol, published in 2019, takes the reader to Abaddon, a continent ringed by mountains with the main land mass six kilometres below sea level. 

In 2021 I have published the first book in a new series, The Coventry Chronicles, called Coventry 2091. These stories, naturally enough, make some assumptions about what life will be like seventy years from now. Although, I foresee some troubling and deeply unsettling changes ahead, I am at heart an optimist and believe that whatever evil we may face, it cannot forever triumph over good. As a reader you might be surprised at how that manifests itself in the story.

In writing these stories I have been able to pursue a life-long dream of writing fast-paced novels that explore the intersection between adventure, science, faith and philosophy.

My book, The Battle for Halcyon, won a 2016 Word Award in the Speculative Fiction category. Previously The Halcyon Dislocation was short-listed as a finalist in The Canadian Christian Writing Awards – Futuristic Fiction Category. I am grateful for the recognition I received as relatively new and unknown author.

I am currently working on the  first draft of Coventry Peril. This story follows the travails of the Coventry Penal Colony and their hope for freedom and a place of safety.

On Reading the Unabridged Version of George MacDonald’s ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD

I have enjoyed the many fine abridged versions of George MacDonald’s books, but have recently moved to unabridged copies of his works. I can see why many 21st century readers do not have the patience to read the asides and the sermons, but for me they have been a special delight.

At one point in Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood, MacDonald writes down the Reverent Walton’s complete Christmas sermon to his parish. What especially interested me: Walton did not assume everyone in the congregation was at the same place in their spiritual journey. He spoke to three groups of people and recognized the questions they were asking and worked to help each group move further along the way rather than upbraiding some of them for their lack of faith. The first group he addressed were those who had begun to hope that the good news of New Testament were true, but deep down believed it was too good to be true.

People who wished the good news message were true, but thought it was it was not

I think moving from a position of convinced agnosticism (an oxymoron) to a wish that the message were true opens one’s mind to the point where one might listen to what is being said. “Begun to hope” is the operative phrase since these listeners did not really believe their hope could be true. I think there are two disastrous mistakes to avoid here (disastrous mistakes for both the inquirer and anyone who might speak with them on the subject):

The first, is to try to believe something simply because it might be helpful. To use hyperbole, this is akin to a high jumper convincing himself he can clear a ten meter bar in the hope his new found confidence will help him to clear two meters. At all costs, we must not lie to ourselves. It is much better to be scrupulously honest with ourselves even if it takes us longer to recognize the truth. Here is some dialogue from my upcoming book Coventry 2091. In this story, Geisbrecht is a counselor helping Jacob Kraiser get over nightmares about his parents and siblings death in a car accident. 

Geisbrecht looked at Jacob for a moment and then said, “Here’s what I want you to do. Start a journal. Write about the good times with your parents and siblings. By the way, do you believe you’ll see them again?”

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Well think about it. If you really believe this absence is temporary—and I mean really believe because you are convinced that’s the reality—then that conviction puts a whole different complexion on these questions. But don’t fool yourself. Don’t talk yourself into a conviction. Be scrupulously honest.”

Giesbrecht looked at Jacob as he thought about the question. “No, I don’t believe I’ll see them again.”

Giesbrecht sighed. “Well that makes things harder. Write down everything you remember about your parents and siblings, good times and bad. Especially, after you wake up after a nightmare, pull out your journal and write. If you were a Christ-follower, I’d tell you to pray. I’d also tell you to write about God’s love and goodness. Maybe you’ll be able to do that honestly in time, but right now you can’t and I don’t want you pretending and lying to yourself.”

Giesbrecht gave Jacob a searching look. “Will you begin journaling?”

Jacob might be tempted to propagandize himself into believing that he would see his family again because of the beneficial effect (I’m not even sure this kind of deep cognitive dissonance is possible) of feeling more at peace and less traumatized by the loss of parents and siblings. Geisbrecht cautions him against this tendency because we ought to believe things because they are true and connected to reality and not because they make us feel a certain way.

The second mistake is to view good news as “wishful thinking” and dismiss it merely because we believe we are falling victim to our own wish fulfillment desires. Dismissing good news, merely because the news is good makes no sense. As truth seekers we must follow the evidence where it leads and one of the chief decisions we have to make has to do with what evidence we allow for consideration.

MacDonald through Walton speaks to two other groups of listeners:

  • Those who have begun to believe the Good News is true, but fear they might be disappointed if they looked into it more closely.
  • Those who have become convinced the message is true. They then wonder what it will mean for their lives. Will they go on? Will they act and their convictions? Exercising our will and making a decision is always the last hurtle, isn’t it?

Those groups of listeners may merit further discussion in the future.

If you’re interested in checking out my books, here is a link for your convenience … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JB0IWE6

The Father Brown Stories by G. K. Chesterton

Cover from my volume of FATHER BROWN CRIME STORIES

I am reading the Father Brown stories for the second time. I believe I now have a complete set and can read them all in chronological order. I particularly want to focus on one story I had not read before:

  • Chapter 1 entitled “The Resurrection of Father Brown” in The Incredulity of Father Brown

The Resurrection of Father Brown (caution spoilers)

Father Brown is in an unnamed south american country (it is on the northern coast of the continent) quietly serving as a priest to some of the poorer citizens when his ministerial assignment is discovered by an american reporter named Paul Snaith. Mr. Snaith wrote so many glowing articles of the famous Father Brown serving in South America to readers in America, that Father Brown was invited to go on an american speaking tour (which he declined). At Snaith’s hands, Father Brown’s fame continued to grow. He received a bottle of wine from a Mr. Eckstein, asking him to try it and say what he thought of it. Knowing the lunacy of american advertising, Brown had a glass and went out for an evening walk. He realized he was not alone. But he was a man of courage and even stronger curiosity and walked on.

“All his life he [Father Brown] had been led by an intellectual hunger for the truth, even of trifles.”

He was beset by two men, one with a knife and one with a cudgel. This attack was observed through a window by John Adams Race an american engineer who happened to be an evangelical Christian. Race left his house and rushed to the scene. As he arrived, the cry went up: “Father Brown is dead!” Snaith was there and confirmed it. The death was also confirmed by Dr. Calderon.

The funeral, with Brown in a wooden coffin at the foot of a wooden crucifix, was held a short time afterward, and Mendoza, one of the local politicians gave a long oration, praising Father Brown. His political opponent, an atheist and revolutionary named Alavarez kept his peace until the oration grew to be too much when Mendoza, as part of his speech, began berating his political opponents.

Alvarez, beside himself with rage, berated and blamed God for this and every other tragedy. He ended up defiantly by saying:

“I defy the God who is not there to waken this man who sleeps forever.”

“Stop! Stop!” cried Snaith; “somethings up! I swear I saw him move.”

The wonder at this miracle, as expected, caused the crowd to roar with excitement. Surrounded by the adulation of the crowd and of Snaith, Father Brown sat up and tried to calm everyone down. When he failed he staggered off.

Later on, Race asked Brown where he had gone. Brown explained he had rushed to the telegraph office to tell his bishop to disregard the reports of this “resurrection miracle” since it was a hoax.

My Personal Thoughts

If I put myself in Father Brown’s shoes, wouldn’t I be tempted to use this supposed miracle to strengthen the faith of believers? Wouldn’t I be tempted to use a “noble lie?”

Father Brown’s answer to this question is telling. Brown told Race that he would praise God not for saving him from death but from disgrace.

“And if it had only been my disgrace! But it was the disgrace of all I stand for; the disgrace of the Faith that they went about to encompass.”

Snaith, Mendoza, Eckstein, and Calderon had set the whole thing up. Eckstein drugged Brown. Calderon confirmed his death. Snaith would have published the miracle broadly and then he have “uncovered” the hoax he had orchestrated. Snaith had even duped Brown into writing a few letters, although innocent at the time, later would have made it sound as if Brown had perpetrated the hoax.

For me this underlines that commitment to the truth is paramount. There are no shortcuts. There are no “noble lies” permissible. This, of course, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in miracles, but rather I must, through diligence and a certain degree of skepticism make very sure they are indeed miraculous, much as the gospel writers and Father Brown did.

If you are interested in checking out Peter’s books, look here.

Whither our Universities? Part 2

Is the sun setting on our universities?

Here are some additional links to columnists speaking about the sanctioning of Professor Tomas Hudlicky:

Barbara Kay at the National Post … https://bit.ly/2Vtq7Tx-Kay

Jordan Peterson at the National Post … https://bit.ly/3g7HbGK-Peterson

Chapter 9, “The Aberhardt Constant” From The Battle for Halcyon

I did not want to distract from the discussion of the facts around the Tomas Hudlicky sanctioning by talking about the “What If” questions in my writing. In this snippet from The Battle for Halcyon, the faculty are using what they know to gradually move the student body to think a certain way. The fictitious Professor Aberhardt appears before the university senate to complain that they are moving too quickly. As a sociologist he had developed a metric (called by others The Aberhardt Constant) for how fast one can change a subject’s thinking without the subject realizing what is going on. This, of course, is fiction but here is the dialogue:

“What’s all this about Darwin?” asked John Hobbs, wiping his pudgy face with a handkerchief.

Darwin Blackmore considered his colleague for a moment. John Hobbs was short and his extra weight made him look as if he did not have a waist.

Blackmore caught himself stroking his goatee and put his hands down on the conference table in front of him.

“John, I don’t really know what Aberhardt wants to talk to us about. He asked to meet with the Senate Executive Committee on a matter of some urgency. Since he’s a member of the Senate I couldn’t say ‘no.’ I have given him twenty minutes.”

The door opened and Blackmore’s pretty Executive Assistant, Bernice Le Blanc entered and closed the door behind her.

“Professor Aberhardt has arrived for his appointment. Is it convenient for me to bring him in now, or do you need more discussion time?” asked Bernice.

Blackmore looked around the table. “Shall I have him brought in?” Everyone was nodding. Blackmore turned and nodded to Bernice as well.

A few moments later, Bernice ushered Aberhardt into the conference room. Blackmore rose to shake his hand as Bernice left and closed the door behind her. Frederick Aberhardt was an austere man with a long thin face crowned with thin, wild, scraggly hair. His chin was defined by a brown goatee that was as wild as the hair on his head.

“Professor Aberhardt how good it is to see you,” said Blackmore. Blackmore hoped he sounded sincere.

Aberhardt took his hand, but only nodded in acknowledgement.

“Please have a seat at the table,” said Blackmore.

“I’m used to lecturing, so I’ll stand,” said Aberhardt.

Blackmore felt his face getting warm. The pompous swine!

Blackmore turned toward the others and cleared his throat as he tried to regain his composure. With long practice, he made his face impassive.

“Friends, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the distinguished Professor Aberhardt to our council chambers. He is one of the most eminent sociologists of our time. He has written the book The Sociology of Democratic Governance, which received the President’s Award shortly before we were dislocated. Even before the award, the book had become obligatory reading in all serious sociology and political science courses.”

He turned to Professor Aberhardt. “Welcome to our meeting, Frederick. Please tell us about the urgent matter you wanted to talk to us about.” Blackmore sat down and leaned back in his chair.

Aberhardt had a surprisingly loud voice for a thin man and glowered at his audience with piercing eyes.

“As Darwin has said,” began Aberhardt, “I am the pre-eminent sociologist at Halcyon. I’m here to warn you that you are taking a dangerous course. As I listened to our senate deliberations over the last few weeks, it has become clear to me that we are contemplating taking more direct action to bring resisters or rebels into line. WE MUST NOT DO THAT.”

The shock of Aberhardt’s shout, made Hobbs, who had begun to doodle on his note pad, drop his pencil on the floor. He frowned at Aberhardt and shifted his position.

“I’m not sure I follow you, Frederick,” said Blackmore in a soft voice.

“In my book, The Sociology of Democratic Governance, I go to great lengths to define what has subsequently been named the Aberhardt Constant.

“Perhaps you should explain, Frederick, since not everyone here has read your magnificent work recently.”

Aberhardt’s eyes bored into Blackmore, as if questioning whether or not he was being mocked.

Blackmore gave him his most reassuring smile.

Apparently satisfied, Aberhardt went on. “Many governments in the past have tried to direct the thinking of their subjects. They have used force and coercion. Although they appeared successful for a time, they ultimately failed. Why?” Here he thrust his index finger into the air.

“They failed because coercion achieves outward compliance, but had no control over what happened in the minds of their citizens. Thus, their thoughts unmodified, the subjects became increasingly rebellious until the opposition gained power to revolt.”

“Through our empirical studies we know better. We encourage people to express their opinions. We welcome them. When they criticize us, the nature of their criticism tells us to what degree our persuasion is working. By using the media, the arts, and education, we can change the prevailing public opinion in the direction we want at a rate given by the effectiveness of these tools. I have measured that effectiveness. That rate is defined by Aberhardt’s Constant. As long as we only make changes at a rate less than this time constant, then the average person, even though he grumbles about some of the things he sees going on, doesn’t become alarmed enough to take action because the change is happening slowly. He doesn’t realize that his opinion is being incrementally being shifted for him by unending repetition in the direction of the next behavior modification step through school, through television and every other thing in his environment he sees or hears. We can study him, poll his attitude and opinions, and if one message doesn’t work, we’ll try another. We can always measure our effectiveness because he’s willing to tell us what he likes and what he doesn’t like.”

Blackmore shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He heard Lydia Pendergast beginning to tap her foot on the floor.

Maybe I shouldn’t have sat down. Now that Aberhardt has the floor he could go on and on.

Aberhardt continued. “This gradual thinking modifcation works splendidly as long as we don’t go too fast. Some changes are so significant and so difficult, we actually have to wait for a new generation to grow up under our tutelage to achieve change. But, here is the critical point.

“If we try to go faster by coercion, then not only will we build up the subject’s resentment, but by its very nature, coercion causes the subject to hide his true feelings from us. When that happens we no longer accurately measure public opinion…” Aberhardt again stabbed the air with his finger for emphasis. “And so we will be governing in a vacuum, being forced to use stronger and stronger measures to maintain compliance until the system collapses in a revolt or an unwelcome opposition party.

“All of this is explained in my book …

“Yes, yes, yes!” muttered Lydia Pendergast. “We know all that.”

Aberhardt glared murderously at Pendergast.

Undaunted Pendergast continued. “Halcyon is a closed, controlled environment. We have broken down many of the institutions that have caused us so much grief. We know that religion poisons everything and so we have been careful to make the practice of religion a private affair, excluded from all public discussion, and so thanks to our excellent management, religion has almost disappeared. We won’t have any Martin Luthers rocking our boat…”

“Undoubtedly that has been an excellent development,” said Aberhardt.

“We have suppressed the family,” continued Pendergast. “Isn’t that important?”

“It’s true, that suppression is very important for sociological evolution. The stable family is a sociologically self-contained unit which means we don’t really know what ideas are taking root there. They don’t need us to care for them. In our new order, we create state dependency by ensuring there are almost no close familial relationships…”

“Exactly my point,” interrupted Pendergast.

“Let me continue,” interrupted Aberhardt in turn, “the subjects now look to Halcyon to raise their offspring. If they are sick they come to our doctors. If they are depressed they talk to our psychologists. At every turn we are able to influence them. These are all excellent steps but with our current actions we are jeopardizing all of our progress…”

“Really Frederick, I’m sure you’re right about the basic facts and your theory is brilliant,” said Trevor Huxley cleaning his glasses. “But it will take twenty or thirty years to make the kind of changes we want if we follow your infinitesimal steps, even given the rather substantial control we have over the Halcyon media, the few artistic endeavors we have left and of course our educational activities. We simply don’t have twenty years. This army of Apemen we have heard about could be here any day now and we need to make sure that everyone is on board. We can’t have any disunity. We can’t have our decisions questioned. Only the strong will survive and we need to govern strongly.”

“Besides,” added Pendergast, “your problem Aberhardt is that you’re working through social influences. Biology is more fundamental than sociology. Give me the right neurotransmitters and I can make our people believe anything you want.”

“Enough,” said Darwin Blackmore. He stroked his unruly goatee. “Thank you Professor Aberhardt for you valuable and insightful discourse. I will weigh your suggestions as well as those of Professor Pendergast and Administrator Huxley carefully.”

Aberhardt scowled. “You’re not going to take my warning seriously, are you?”

“Nonsense,” said Blackmore. “You have given us much food for thought. As I recall, Aberhardt’s Constant is a constant in name only and can be increased; perhaps you and Dr. Pendergast should have more discussions. With the right kind of psychopharmacopeia one could make the changes much sooner and so modify the magnitude of the Aberhardt Constant. Thank you for your time.”

Blackmore’s best smile was wasted on Aberhardt’s back as he stomped out.

As the door slammed, Pendergast muttered, “When I make this work, we’ll have to rename it the Pendergast-Aberhardt constant.”

Blackmore, ignoring Pendergast’s mumblings, went on:

“I have one more item to discuss. Do you remember after the first Halcyon River expedition returned and reported about the City of the Dead? There was a fellow on that expedition, Albert Gleeson. Subsequently because of his bizarre religious ideas, Jonathan Boyd, the psychiatrist at Halcyon Medical Center, decided he was delusional and needed to be protected. Boyd sedated him because of his illness, but then Gleeson mysteriously vanished from Halcyon. He reappeared on the Second Halcyon River expedition, and then after that disaster, joined the rebels in the new colony. Well I have reliable information that he has secretly returned to Halcyon.”

“Is this a problem?” asked Huxley. “After all he is only one person. I presume there is only one, am I right.”

“No, he’s not a problem,” said Blackmore. “Indeed, now that we know he’s here, he’s even less of a problem, but still this colony he and his fellow rebels have set up is an annoyance. Furthermore as Professor Aberhardt has so eloquently pointed out, we persuade people to our way of thinking through the media, the arts, and through education. But this colony is beyond our reach on all three fronts. We want to mold and shape our society by controlling the story that everyone believes. Who knows what peculiar ideas, indeed, what dangerous and inimical ideas they may come up with, in the absence of our guidance. We can’t lose control of our conditioning program because of these uncontrolled upstarts.”

 “So what do you propose?” asked Pendergast.

“Propose? I propose we watch him discreetly. That way we can locate all of his contacts. We may not need to do anything, but if he does cause trouble, we’ll pick him up. Now if we have no further business, I still have some excellent wine in my cellar that I think we should try.”

A Collision of Two Imperfect Causes

I have read and enjoyed The Last Castle several times. I enjoyed it so much, I am reading it now in its much longer, original, unedited version. The title MacDonald originally chose was St. George and St. Michael.

MacDonald’s story begins in 1641 shortly after Thomas Wentworth, The Earl of Stafford was arrested by Parliament, tried for treason, and beheaded. King Charles I, a personal friend of Stafford, signed the order for the execution and regretted his decision to his dying day.

MacDonald, as a masterful storyteller, does not chose the easy road and cast the conflict between Parliament (Roundheads, Puritans) and the King as a one dimensional conflict between Good and Evil, but rather he shows how two groups of people, the Heywoods on one hand, and Henry Somerset , the Earl of Worchester, and his subjects on the other hand, find themselves by differing honorable convictions on opposite sides. Although on opposing sides, they fought each other for noble and altruistic reasons.

The Earl of Worchester, a catholic, and his followers had given their allegiance to the King and would stand by him to the bitter end. Hence St George is in the title, representing the red cross of England and the crown.

On the other hand, Richard Heywood and his father, believed their first allegiance was to their conscience and truth. For that reason they chose the side of Parliament and the Puritans. The archangel St. Michael stands for truth.

Although they were on opposite sides of this great civil war, when they met they respected each other since they saw a true man, a man of principle in the other. They were taking part in a war that was a collision of two imperfect causes (I think this phrase was used by MacDonald but I cannot locate the reference).

Indeed when Richard Heywood is captured inside Worchester’s Raglan Castle, The Earl now a Marquis offers him freedom if he would renounce his cause or even share his secret how he came to get into the castle. Richard declines and is sent to the dungeons.

After Richard is taken away the honorable Marquis says to himself:

“I doubt not the boy would tell everything rather than see his mare whipped. He’s a fine fellow, and it were a thousand pities he turned coward and gave in. But the affair is not mine–it is the King’s. Would to God the rascal were on our side! He’s the right old English breed.”

How Does This Speak to Me Today?

In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

The reason I am not to judge, is not because judgment must never happen, but rather because I am so poor at it. I am too ready to excuse myself and condemn others. I know nothing of the background, assumptions, or personal history that led to a particular action in others. If this is true of contemporaries I know reasonably well, it is much more true of historical figure in whose shoes I have never walked and whose motivations I could never fathom. Yet, as I get to know people from other eras through what they have written , that reading can be invaluable in finding out about myself, my own biases and about the uncritiqued assumptions that so plague my thinking.

Concluding Thoughts

We live in a time when the wholesale destruction of our history is taking place. Statues are torn down, graves desecrated, and places named after historical figures are being renamed. We act as if we  moderns are uniformly righteous and those that have gone before us are irredeemably evil. Even if that were true (we are too complex as human beings for that to be so clear cut) we would still be better off to leave our history intact and learn from our past both good and bad. It is better to have a view into the past from historical eyes than to leave the writing of history to the biased ideologues of today who desire us to think in a certain way.

Every war is a collision of two imperfect causes. Those on opposite sides may indeed be there for different, honorable reasons. I hope I continue to have the courage to respect that.

A Writer’s First Trip to the Holy Land: Gideon’s Springs also called Ein Harod

Gideon’s Spring

It was a rainy day when we arrived at Gideon’s Springs, a beautiful area with clear water bubbling up at the back of this shallow cave.

From there the water flowed across Ma’ayan Harod National park.

This enchantingly beautiful place was the likely the location (see Judges chapters 6-8) where Gideon selected the three hundred to begin the rout of the Midianites.

One of the many colorful flower placements in rock crevices along the trail
This bulb-shaped tree with spikes on the trunk is likely Ceiba speciosa, also called the Silk Floss Tree.

Personal Reflection

In a land of desert and stone such as Israel, the appearance of a well-watered place such as Ein Harod must have inspired reflections on God’s love and provision.

Here is one of my favorite passages:

Isaiah 41:17-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

17 When the poor and needy seek water,
    and there is none,
    and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
    I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
    and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
    and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
    the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
    the plane and the pine together,
20 that they may see and know,
    may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Even when we are in a dry place and are driven to the border of death by thirst, Isaiah reminds us that when we are driven to ask, God will provide and provide abundantly. For me, Ein Harod is a beautiful picture of God opening up a fountain in the midst of the valley and the bounty and fruitfulness that living water can bring.

2019 Kazmaier Fall and Christmas Newsletter

It’s not often when we can get our immediate family all together in Ontario for a barbecue. It is even more seldom that we are able to take an impromptu family picture.

This picture was taken in August and includes the most recent addition to the Guelph Kazmaiers, their dog Rio.

Late this summer we took a trip to Calgary with Michael and Alyssa and their family. On our drive to Radium we had occasion to stop at Cascade Ponds, near Banff. This picture of the ponds with the Rockies in the background, reminded me of what I am missing here in Ontario.

Indeed, I overheard my Grandson, Nolen explaining to his father that what we call mountains in Ontario are really nothing more than hills. When the real comes, the shadow must pass away!

Cascade Ponds Near Banff

One of the difficult things about being so far away from my parents: I only get to see them perhaps once or twice a year. In between, I have to be content with frequent phone calls. I am glad to say, that although they are both 95 (my father is soon to be 96), they are still in reasonably good health.

Peter’s Fourth Book is Out

My fourth book, the third in The Halcyon Cycle, came out in June. I have reached a milestone of sorts: I have finished my first book series and am now on to writing about a different world with new characters. I have tentatively entitled the new book Coventry 2091. I’m just finishing the second draft, but I can see the manuscript is far from complete.

Wishing You and Your Family a Joyous Christmas and a Blessed New Year

Finally, since this newsletter has drifted into December, Kathy and I want to wish everyone, along with your extended family, a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year. If you have read this far into the newsletter, I hope you take this moment to re-connect with us. Even a short email, a blog comment, or Facebook post would be so appreciated.We do so love to hear from you!

Reminds me of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Interacting with Bruxy Cavey’s ORIGINS Week 2: Ribs, Ladders, and DNA

In week 2’s message on Origins, Bruxy Cavey focused on Genesis Chapter 2.

An important observation by a contributor to Bruxy’s Blog

In my week 1 Origins blog, I addressed an interesting and anonymous comment on Bruxy Cavey’s blog. Part of this comment also has relevance to my discussion of Origins Week 2.

Anonymous wrote:

“When I first heard that this series was coming, with special focus on Genesis, my initial reaction was “Uh-oh… this should be interesting.” While the stories seem to try and carry a message or lesson, I can’t take them literally…I just can’t. The only thing I can do to from dismissing them outright is telling myself that they’re essentially all symbolic, not to be taken literally; a way to try and explain something very complex in simple terms. Like trying to explain to a child why and how we do our taxes once a year…you can’t go into depth, so you sort of oversimplify and use symbols that they already understand; like, “we have to tell the mayor (to replace CRA or gov’t) how much money we made, this way they can decide if we give more or get some back,” etc. God is the alpha and omega: this, to me, means he’s like infinity, outside of the constraints of time and space. I can’t even understand what that would even mean, so how could I possibly understand how he actually started it all? Enter Genesis.”

Genesis Chapter 2 apparently provides an amplification of Day 6, Chapter 1 which closes with the creation of Man (Homo sapiens). Anonymous, like many, takes this as a figurative description. He points out, using the metaphor of an adult explaining to a child a complex subject (for example why we have to pay taxes) that an adult would be forced to use imprecise, figurative language to capture the limited vocabulary of the child. 

Specifically Anonymous says:

“Like trying to explain to a child why and how we do our taxes once a year…you can’t go into depth, so you sort of oversimplify and use symbols that they already understand; like, “we have to tell the mayor (to replace CRA or gov’t) how much money we made, this way they can decide if we give more or get some back,” etc.”

I agree, God in his desire to reach out to us, uses our language and in some sense His communication is limited by the words and concepts available to His audience, just as the adult is limited in vocabulary and concepts in speaking to the child.

However, if I were that adult speaking to my child, I would choose my words very carefully since I realize my child will mature and remember my words when they are older. If I were clever enough, I might choose metaphors that had embedded in them concepts and understanding that go far beyond what the child can grasp, concepts that will only become much clearer later as the child’s knowledge and understanding grows. 

Of Ribs, Ladders and DNA

Why choose a rib in Genesis 2 to describe the creation of Eve?

The Hebrew word, transliterated Tsela means:

Definition
  1. side, rib, beam
    1. rib (of man)
    2. rib (of hill, ridge, etc)
    3. side-chambers or cells (of temple structure)
    4. rib, plank, board (of cedar or fir)
    5. leaves (of door)
    6. side (of ark)

Particularly interesting to me is the idea that Tsela refers to side as well as rib. If I imagine a side with ribs running from the backbone to the sternum. this picture, to me, a chemist, is reminiscent of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA). You may be familiar with the alpha helical structure of DNA.

Helical Structure: By Zephyris – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15027555

How does this relate to ORIGINS?

If you straighten out the helix and look at the actual chemical structure the ladder or ribbed structure is apparent with each base pair as an individual rib. Perhaps God, in His desire to not only speak to ancient Homo sapiens using a rib cage also wanted to speak to modern Homo sapiens in such a way as to indicate He knew a great deal more about the biochemistry than the simplified language of Genesis might indicate.

By Madprime (talk · contribs) – Own workiThe source code of this SVG is valid.This vector image was created with Inkscape., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1848174

Equally interesting to me was the curious choice of the male as the source of both sexes. From my reading, I think most modern biologists would have identified the female as the more fundamental of the two sexes (I think this is based on reproduction being formally attributed to the female and that some species (for example social insects) have only a short-lived and transient role for males.

If one thinks of God genetically creating male and female, it makes sense to use the male as the genetic source code of the human race. In Homo sapiens, only the male has a complete set of chromosomes (including the sex chromosomes XY). To me this another one of those instances that would mean nothing to the early audience of Genesis but speaks to me.

Some final thoughts

Conviction and proof have limits that each person sets for themselves. Even though I find these correspondences in Genesis of great significance, I recognize that others would not do so. Indeed there are some who might set the bar so high that there is probably nothing anyone could find or say that would redeem Genesis in their eyes. I understand that. Still, this is meaningful to me and I share it in the hope that others might find it useful.