There’s some symbolism here that I haven’t had time to sort out.  (Some of us need time to just sit and think—time that work won’t allow.)  I’d been wanting to watch Jeepers Creepers for quite some time but streaming services said it was unavailable.  I suspect that was because a sequel has been running in theaters and those who own the rights want to capitalize on it.  So it goes.  When it finally did show up on Freevee, so you have to subject yourself to commercials, I had to see it.  Now I need some time to think.  In case you’re even slower than me, the film involves a couple siblings driving home for spring break when they encounter a monster/demon, Creeper.

Creeper smells peoples’ fear and consumes parts of those who have something it needs to regenerate itself.  The brother and sister encounter Creeper on one of those long stretches of road without civilization that you find in parts of America (in this case, the unspecified south).  I won’t spoil the ending, but for my money (or actually, Freevee patience), the first half is pretty scary.  The whole is not bad either.  So what do I need to think about?  Well, Creeper stores its victims’ corpses in a church basement.  The church is abandoned, but still.  This overlap between religion and horror is an aspect that has fascinated me time and again.  Shouldn’t a church be a safe place?  (For many of us, that’s a myth long debunked.)  Is it because it’s abandoned that a demonic monster has moved in?  Or does religious symbolism not bother it?  Or perhaps attract it?

Not only that, but the movie also has a prophet.  While she’s not called that, this local woman has dreams of things involving Creeper that haven’t happened yet.  Like Cassandra, however, everyone ignores her.  It seems that Jeepers Creepers experienced a budget cut during production that led to a rewritten, and cheaper, ending.  While I won’t spoil it, I will say that it is a bit of a letdown from how the film started.  A lot is left unexplained, but the story is pretty good and the acting, at least by the siblings, and the always entertaining Eileen Brennan, was impressive.  They have a way of conveying fear that’s believable and contagious.  The religion theme, however, appears to have been dropped once the church burns down.  It may be that it was somehow revisited in the ending that money forced to change.  Regardless, it is worth watching, and, if you have the time, pondering.

What People Like

It must be like showing up at a party wearing a flashy shirt that somebody else is also wearing.  Embarrassing, no?  A few years back I read Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Washington Irving.  As you may know, I recently finished Andrew Burstein’s.  The two were published within a year of each other, but both after a seven-decade gap in such biographies.  I suspect the renewed interest in Irving sprang up in the surge of public interest after Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow appeared.  Movies have power.  Books, especially big books, take a long time to write.  I don’t know if Jones and Burstein were aware of each other’s efforts or not.  Both are quite good, but they do stand as a testament to how fame can be fleeting.  Irving is infrequently taken as a genius writer today but he started more than one big thing.

What I’m particularly interested in is how Burton’s film seems to have kickstarted a new millennium interest in this old story.  I recently had a discussion with a couple of folks who felt that movies were too manipulative to be enjoyable.  Of course, nobody forces you to watch a movie, but I have found that they are powerful ways of influencing people.  And society.  Movies have been one of the more impactful forms of fiction media, spawning ideas that can change society.  Indeed, they may be modern mythology.  I wouldn’t yet make that exalted claim for Sleepy Hollow, but for those who follow such things, it has influenced the way we look at things.  And we can learn something from paying attention to them.

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane by John Quidor

I suspect that is one of the perennial mistakes of higher education.  Assuming that something is popular means that it shouldn’t be worthy of scholarly attention.  If we want to understand what it means to be human, rather than just raping and plundering our planet until we choke it to death, we need to consider what it is that appeals to people.  What are the Classics if not the popular literature of antiquity, dating back to the time before most people could read?  What do we lose by trying to understand what motivates others?  There are those who spend their money on such things, after all.  Consider game developers.  They rake in the money because that’s what people like to do.  We don’t mind being manipulated, as long as we do so voluntarily.  We’ve wandered away from Irving at this party, but it does seem that Burton’s movie kickstarted our interest in America’s early wit again.  We ignore what interests hoi polloi at our peril.


Not to dwell on Satanism, but the morning after my last post on the topic, while out on my morning jog, I came across a pentagram incised in the pea gravel of the bike path.  Then another.  Lest there was any lingering doubt that this had to do with the local school’s Satan club, a few feet further along a 666 appeared.  None of this was there the day before and, given that folks my age are too busy to be out scraping sigels in the sand, I suspect that it might’ve been someone younger.   Dare I say, school-aged.  Protesting or promoting I couldn’t tell.  As I jogged, I fell to thinking about pentagrams.  They’re not inherently evil and actually have an interesting history.  For most of that history it was morally neutral, if not a positive sign.

In the 1800s, during Romanticism’s heyday, it was supposed that an inverted pentagram—one with two points up instead of one at the top—was a sign of evil.  It was also in the 1800s that the contemporary king of outrage, Aleister Crowley, began what would eventually morph into modern Wicca.  Crowley liked to refer to himself as “the wickedest man on earth,” at least among his friends.  The upside-down pentagram was seen to represent a goat’s head, and if you’ve read my book you’ll know that some groups have long associated goats with demons.  Ironically, during the Nixon Administration the Grand Old Party began to use inverted pentagrams on their elephant logo.  Evangelicals who otherwise object to this “Satanic” symbol seem quite okay with it branding their political party.  Truth in advertising, I guess.

The thing about symbols is that they only have the power we give them.  The five points of a star symbol match well the pentagonal symmetry that we often see in nature: sea stars, sand dollars, strawberry flowers, and eucalyptus seed pods.  It’s pleasing to the eye for creatures with five fingers and five toes.  There’s a rightness about it, even if it doesn’t look a thing like the stars in the sky.  Is it Satanic?  No, only to those who believe it to be so.  Are there Satanists trying to take over public schools?  No.  That doesn’t mean people don’t think they aren’t.  (That last sentence is all tied up in nots, I guess.)  Symbols, by their nature, contain the meaning we assign to them.  They say to me that kids pay attention to what adults do,  so if we act grown-up perhaps—just perhaps—they will aspire to do the same.

Something I Said?

I’m very aware of my own insignificance.  I know that I’ll die and be forgotten, just like everybody else.  Even if I manage to survive by some “Kilroy was here” action, the sun will eventually red giant all of this out of existence.  Still, sometimes I wonder if it’s something I said.  You see, I really didn’t know where to start when I published Holy Horror.  I was an editor myself and thought maybe the secret handshake would earn some kind of attention, but no.  And when I wrote both Nightmares with the Bible and The Wicker Man, both were with established series.  And in latter cases, the editor I was working with (long-term employees, both) left.  Left before the book was published and I was left wondering.  Was it something I said?

Not to brag or anything, but I’ve got about the lowest self-image a person can have.  When life beats you up repeatedly, starting at a young age, you quickly learn your place.  But still, all this leaving.  I’m a member of a faith community (if you want to know which one you’ll need to get to know me personally).  This particular tradition requires a meeting with the minister before joining—something that makes good sense.  The first church where we tried this, the minister was in the process of leaving and couldn’t schedule us in.  Then we moved and in our new area, the minister left about a month after we started attending, before we could meet.  Was it something I said?

I ask this question half in jest.  Still, having a father leave when you’re only two or three, you start to question just about everything.  I’m sure retirements, new opportunities, or just fedupness with the job (which I certainly understand) caused these changes.  But then I was ousted from three jobs in fairly quick succession.  During my interview at Rutgers University the chair of the religion department said “You must feel like you have a target painted on you.”  Leaving is a natural part of life, I know.  As an editor I know that leaving such a post is somewhat unusual because where do you go from here?  Ministers, well, they’re leading the charge during the great resignation.  Maybe they’ll become editors?  As for the rest of us, we’ll just continue to spin dizzily on this globe until old Sol stretches his arms and lets out a big, red yawn.  I won’t be here by then, but wherever I am at that point, I’ll be wondering if it was something I said.

Bad Movies

I watch bad movies so you don’t have to.  Maybe that’s my ticket to retirement (it certainly isn’t working the usual way).  In any case, my habit of trying to find something “free” on a network I already pay for often leads to films that keep me awake on a drowsy weekend afternoon, but really don’t offer much else.  Sometimes you learn something nevertheless.  I recently watched From a Whisper to a Scream.  It was free and got more than five stars out of ten, but I didn’t really work for me, even with Vincent Price.  A vignette movie, it presents four episodes from Oldfield, Tennessee, making the claim that it’s a place infected with evil.  The first involved necrophilia, with consequences.  The second—more in a moment—was about eternal life.  Lovecraft’s circus comes to town in the third, and the fourth is about the founding of the town during the Civil War.  Of course, the framing is a “bonus” mini-story as well.

The second episode, “On the Run,” has a wounded ne’er-do-well, shot by some southern rivals, falling into a swamp boat.  He’s rescued by an older African American who lives alone in said swamp.  Noticing him practicing hoo-doo (cue The Skeleton Key), the miscreant soon figures his rescuer has found the secret of staying alive forever (which he has).  Naturally greedy, the petty criminal “kills” the African American and ransacks his shack for the secret potion that keeps him alive.  Being horror, the dead come back and the owner of the shack returns to punish the white man who is trying to steal what he already has.  The Black man had given him the potion to bring him back to life.

There’s a bit of a parable quality to this particular story.  Each vignette predictably has the evil-doer punished, with the exception of “Lovecraft’s Traveling Amusements,” where the Black woman owns those who work her carnival.  And she gets away with it.  None of the characters, apart from the Black man in the swamp and the children in “Four Soldiers,” are really sympathetic.  Religion does also come in the Civil War segment since, drawing cues from Children of the Corn, the kids have created their own god.  So, a diverting film, if not a great (or even a good) one.  This was Vincent Price’s last true horror film, making it worth seeing for that reason alone.  His role is limited to the framing story which, as we might expect, becomes part of the collection of horrors from Oldfield.

Satanic Struggle

Around these parts folks are in an uproar about an after-school Satan Club.  The idea is an action to get Evangelical undies in a bunch, and it’s only proposed when a school system supports an overtly Christian club.  Reaction more than action, really.  Right now is bursting at the seams with indignation about something most people don’t understand.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve read plenty of books about Satan and many of them deal with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.  The Church of Satan believes in no literal Devil or Hell.  It was established to draw attention but also to make a statement when Christian Nationalists start to get too pushy.  Still, people are afraid of Satanism as the numerous international panics about it have shown.  And conspiracy theories don’t help.

It seems to me that the solution to all of this is education.  People, naturally enough, react to things emotionally.  I do it all the time.  (This is one reason that Artificial Intelligence will never be truly that—humans think with their emotions as well as with reason.)  The sad thing is, there are many easy ways to correct mistaken assumptions.  The information is out there and it’s easily found.  It’s easier, however, to spout off on social media like you’re an expert on something you know nothing about.  Trump introduced a culture of outrage—did his supporters suppose nobody else was capable of doing the same?  The Church of Satan was established as such an outrage.  In a nation of literalists, they hit a nerve.

The Church of Satan does not worship the Devil.  It supports social causes and it cooperates with law enforcement when some unbalanced individuals think it means something that it doesn’t.  To my way of thinking, this creative endeavor, despite getting the attention it sought, might’ve been better thought through.  Although extremism appeals to those who, like Herostratus, crave fame at any cost, does it really move us any closer to where we want to be?  Part of the problem is that many outspoken political figures want us all to be the same as them.  White, Christian, male, heterosexual.  I really can’t imagine a worse kind of nightmare.  Humans crave variety and new ideas.  As I sit here watching a new, uninformed Satanic Panic developing in my own backyard, I wonder if we all wouldn’t do our blood pressure a favor by sitting down with a book.  And maybe learning what this really is about.  Shoving matches seldom end well.

Internet of Nothings

I don’t suppose it’s actually a confession, since my background’s available publicly on my CV, but I do admit to not being a media expert.  As is often said, the British higher education system doesn’t so much make one an expert as it teaches one how to become an expert.  The truth of the matter is, the critical thinking skills of higher education, plus your own reading and analysis, are what eventually produce expertise.  Still, I miss not having taken a degree in media studies and what I anticipate I’d have learned, if I had.  You see, what I miss, even on the internet (which is mainly trying to sell you things), is basic data.  Okay, so Wikipedia has it, but not enough of it.  Not enough to keep up with media, in any case.  I recently came by a couple of series on IMDb that I wanted to know more about.  Neither had a synopsis and neither was on Wikipedia.  The open web search that followed, even with “quotation marks” simply led to blind alleys, where, it turns out, you can buy stuff.

We are producing media at such a rate that keeping up is simply no longer possible.  While I was working on my doctorate in Edinburgh, I tried as hard as humanly possible to find and read everything previously published on Asherah.  I think I did pretty well for pre-internet days.  Now when I try to find everything on a topic I’m limited to the internet, and it simply doesn’t contain enough information.  Take these two series, for example.  No amount of searching brought up anything significant about them.  They weren’t exactly obscure, either.  Information was simply missing.  Like after the 1965 MGM vault fire, the information was just not to be found. 

It may seem impossible to believe, but there remain tons of information, trivial and important, that simply can’t be found on the web.  As a student in religious studies I learned about what used to be called Religion Index One.  It was a resource published by the American Theological Library Association and it listed just about all the articles published on a topic.  (It’s gone electronic now, I believe.)  I keep thinking there most be something like it for media studies.  But the new material keeps coming thick and fast, like a blizzard, and I’m not sure that such an index exists.  I use IMDb a lot, but even that’s not complete.  And nobody, it seems, is an expert on the entire internet.  If you are such a person, please let me know.  I have a few questions about media studies.

The Young and the Headless

Young adult literature is sometimes fun to read as an adult.  In addition to going swiftly, compared to much “adult” literary literature, it has a way of evoking what life was like when we were younger.  Or at least it can.  Sticking with my Sleepy Hollow kick, I read the first volume of the series “The Hollow” (later “Sleepy Hollow High”) by Christoper Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore.  This volume, Horseman, posits the return of the headless horseman to Sleepy Hollow in the modern day, triggered by the return of some of Ichabod Crane’s unknowing descendants.  The story follows brother and sister team Shane and Aimee Lancaster, who’ve just moved to Sleepy Hollow from Boston.  Although full of unexplained happenings, the book conjures the emotional turmoil of teenage years well.

While I normally try to read within my usual age level, the occasional foray into tween, young adult, and now, new adult lit is a fun escape.  One of the mysteries of aging—and I certainly didn’t think of this myself as a young person interacting with my elders—is that you remember what it was like to be at the various stages of life you’ve passed.  When you’re young you’re discovering things for the first time and there’s a revelatory aspect to them.  I can’t make universal claims, but in my experience life just gets more complicated the longer you live.  We yearn for the simplicity of younger times when, for example, you just paid the rent, went to work, fell in love, and did your own taxes.  As an adult you find all of these things hide complexities that often hide even more complexities within themselves.  Why not throw caution to the wind and spend a weekend reading a young adult novel?

I’m undecided about reading the rest of the series.  This story quickly drew me in, but the other volumes are now published only in ebook format.  And I suppose I should do some more serious adult reading as well.  Actually, I’ve been plugging away at a novel written for adults by an author my age, but it’s long and, well, involved.  Kinda like life itself, I suppose.  One of the things I’ve noticed about modern engagements with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is that they tend to skew towards a younger crowd.  Maybe I can recapture a bit of my own youth that way.  I’ve known the story since my youngest years but have only recently really began to pay attention to it as, well, I guess I have to admit, an adult.

Learning English

English is a difficult language to learn.  Growing up monolingual, I was able to pick up German, Greek, and Hebrew (and other semitic languages) without too much trouble, through intensive schooling.  I have to wonder if those learning English as a foreign language don’t have a much more difficult task.  The other day I was looking at a document in Icelandic (don’t ask), and marveling how I simply couldn’t penetrate it, although it is Indo-European.  Then I sat down to read an article in English.  The topic was of interest to me but it was clear that the content wasn’t written by native speakers.  Indeed, it turns out the authors were from an Indonesia university.  The journal was published by an Indonesian press.  It’s peer reviewed, but those who run it aren’t native English speakers.

Interestingly enough, although the article wasn’t in the field in which I was technically trained, I was able to follow what the authors were saying.  Partially it was because of my familiarity with the topic, which I’d read about before, but partially it was that you can read English without the direct and indirect articles that are our usual guideposts, and with the wrong verb tenses and declensions.  It is possible.  You wouldn’t want this, I suspect, if you were building a rocket carrying people into space, but it isn’t that much different from trying to read the instructions that come with most devices that are manufactured in nations where English is a foreign—very foreign—form of communication.  I admire their pluck.  I still recall enough German that I can get through some documents without generating more gray hairs, but I wouldn’t dare try to write to someone in it.  Nein.

Languages are fascinating elements of human culture.  Although there was no literal tower of Babel to create them, our species, in isolated areas, learned a variety of different ways to communicate verbally.  It’s only with travel that these isolated groups met and generally they try to talk, unless they simply kill strangers on sight.  We want to understand one another.  We all know that our language learning skills are at their peak during our very youngest years.  Brains get ossified into using one language to think and as you age it’s harder to pick up new ones.  Still, we have that old isolationist tendency hardwired as well.  Us versus them.  And if we can’t understand we quickly distrust.  Language study is probably one of the best ways to ensure peace.  If we can’t do that, at least we can try to read our language through the eyes of someone who’s made the effort, even if it’s difficult for us.

Have a Little Hope

Optimism is a rare commodity these days.  Reading Scott Edwin Williams’ new book, Lightbulb Moments in Human History: From Cave to Colosseum, served to remind me of that.  The first of a projected three volumes, Williams’ book frames this rather like some of the other big picture attempts to summarize human history in a thousand pages or less, such as those of Yuval Noah Harari or Rutger Bregman.  In outlook he’s closer to Bregman, who unabashedly states that we have progressed—things are better than they used to be.  To explore this, in a (in his own words) smartass way, Williams has divided early human history into four main areas: STEM, religion, education, and culture.  This framing device isn’t heavy-handed, but it is interesting to see religion included, and not always negatively.

We live in an era when those I regularly talk to (admittedly a small group), generally feel pessimistic about where we are.  A good deal of that is because, as Williams rightly points out, we look at the small picture.  Yes, we have big problems such as Trump, Musk, Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine, and global warming.  Yes, people are suffering and dying needlessly.  If, however, we take a step back, things are far better for far more people now than they ever have been.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have big problems to solve—mostly spawned by capitalism and patriarchy—but if people follow historic trends, we may well end up in a better place.  Historians won’t take Williams’ book seriously—and indeed, he tries to inject quite a bit of humor along the way—but books that remind us to compare where we are with where we have been can provide much needed optimism.  Hope still huddles in Pandora’s box.

I was glad to see Williams including religion in his four keys areas to explore.  I am convinced that he doesn’t devalue any people in the world (the book covers prehistory, ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Meso-America, Greece, and Rome) but his chapter on Christianity is a bit of an outlier.  Although it’s not intentional, his “God of the Old Testament” versus “God of the New Testament” paradigm could been seen as antisemitic.  Again, I’m sure Williams doesn’t intend it that way, but those of us who have studied, and continue to study the history of religions realize that that model has been used to justify nefarious plots in the past.  Throughout the whole, Williams pokes fun at Erich van Däniken who influenced a young Williams just like he influenced a young me.  And growing up requires leaving some things behind, while nevertheless learning something from them.

Expiration Date

One of the perils of trying to understand others—something that is vitally necessary for a humane and civil world—is facing difficult truths.  Sometimes horror makes you do that.  I’ve recently been trying to watch horror directed by women, as this gives another perspective on what’s scary.  Directed by Mimi Cave and written by Lauryn Kahn, Fresh is very disturbing.  Noa is a young professional who’s not having much luck dating.  He best friend Mollie, who is African American, is the voice of reason in the film.  Noa finds internet dating services inadequate, matching her up with losers, but then she meets a handsome, funny guy in the grocery store.  She agrees to a date and they hit it off.  So far, so good.  Then he takes her to his place and abducts her.  He explains that he’s a supplier of human meat for an ultra-wealthy circle and she is to be consumed.

I won’t say much more about the plot since you may want to disturb yourself some day, but I will say that the movie reinforces something I get from reading Carmen Maria Machado:  women have to deal with men’s assumptions about their bodies.  Even the institution of marriage is all about ownership; men don’t want to pay (the key word) for supporting someone else’s child.  The nuclear family is intended to keep that at a minimum.  Just a glimpse at social standards reveals that men are held less accountable for cheating than women are, largely because there’s never a question of who someone’s mother is.  Noa’s captor is charming and nice.  He’s also a (as later revealed) Satanic psychopath.  He’s also also married, with children.

The film is disturbing on so many levels as it reflects on how a man feels he has the right, literally, to take women’s bodies.  Habeas corpus indeed.  It feels like being invited to dinner at Hannibal Lector’s house.  The religion element—for there often is one—is only revealed in two short glimpses.  One is the plate of one of the cannibals which has a Satanic symbol printed on it, and the other is a mid-credit shot of the butcher’s customers where the Satanic symbol reappears.  This theme isn’t really explored in the movie, but it is equated with “the one percent of the one percent.”  The clients are those who can afford anything and who crave the one thing they can’t have.  This is a movie to keep you up at night but it’s also one with a very strong social commentary.  That commentary is as disturbing as the entire premise of the film.

Local Haunts

Local color.  It’s what makes travel so much fun, even if not to someplace exotic.  I’ve lived in five different states and two different countries and one thing each place had in common was local lore.  Since I’ve been a stranger in most places I’ve moved, I’ve picked the lore up primarily from books.  Fortunately there are as many people willing to write them for the also many people like me who are willing to read them.  S. E. Schlosser is a storyteller.  We have Rutgers University in common, but her book, Spooky New York, focuses on the state next door.  The book contains retold stories, or as the subtitle states Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore.  New York isn’t unique in having such stories, and some of them are clearly regional variants—I heard some of them set in Wisconsin, for instance—but there’s a guilty pleasure in reading such accounts.

Although most of us are raised being told “there’s no such thing as ghosts,” that “truth” doesn’t stick for all of us.  I don’t know if any of the ghosts in this collection are real; folklore deals with that—shall we say—twilight zone that lies between quotidian existence and the weird.  Strange things do happen, but not on any kind of scientific schedule so they can be anticipated and quantified.  And some of them have been seen and reported by many different people.  These stories include such tales.  While they range the length of the state they concentrate in the east.  I’m sure, however, that if you spent enough time talking to the locals you could scare up ghosts from across the Empire State.

Many of the tales are set in New York City.  Having commuted into New York for about seven years, one thing became clear to me.  Even with the tall, modern towers and sophisticated, wealthy trappings, it can be an eerie place.  Around this time of year I would arrive in Manhattan well before sunrise.  Walking the predawn streets to the office showed Gotham in a different light.  Even the few times I went for lunchtime strolls to clear my head, I sensed there were millions of untold stories here.  Some gothic, some haunted.  Schlosser tells several such New York tales.  She includes some from literature but most of those probably go back to stories told by the locals before having been fixed onto paper.  This book will help set the mood, even if you live in the next state over, or anywhere that ghosts roam.

In Praise of Cardboard

There’s an irony to it.  Using single-use plastic bags to ship books.  Now I know better than to stereotype book lovers, but I suspect it’s safe to say that those of us who order books like paper.  And we are probably well aware that paper recycles more easily than single-use plastics with heavy, preternaturally sticky labels attached to them.  You see, much of the clutter about our house is our reluctance to just throw away things that can be recycled or reused.  There are rules for prep, however.  Labels are supposed to be removed from plastics and judging from my experience, I need to be doing more pushups to do so.  Some are stuck on so well that it stretches and distorts the plastic like the face of a movie monster, still without coming off.  What’s wrong with a box?

Books arriving, snug in a box

Apart from being easily recycled, boxes prevent books from getting banged up in transit.  I often receive books so tightly cased in plastic that removing them must be like pulling off snug leggings when it’s really humid out.  There’s an almost obscene quality to peeling off something that tight.  And getting the label off?  Forget it.  Boxes are better.  We tend to reuse many of them—they’re good for sending fragile gifts to others.  Or storing other single-use plastic pieces for use in art projects.  (Lids often can’t be recycled.)  As long as the paper’s responsibly sourced, cardboard has environmental benefits.  Besides, I suspect books prefer the feel of paper on their skins.

I’m not a very good consumer, but I do have a soft spot for books.  Even as reasonable grocery chains are phasing out single-use plastics, many book sellers are picking up the slack, it seems.  I know we have developed civilization to such a point that our lifestyle is impossible without plastic.  Indeed, the very keys on which I tap out these thoughts are made of plastic (at least Macs use metal casings for their laptops, or some of them, anyway.)  I have this nightmare that I’ll get something in the mail, or worse, a visitor at the door, telling me that they’ve pieced together, from all the fragments of labels still on plastic bags, that I’m the one who’s been turning them in for recycling without properly removing the sticky paper.  I know that I won’t have any viable defense—I don’t have the time, resources, or tensile strength to do the job properly—and all I’ll be able to say is, “I prefer boxes.”

Valentines and Bombs

So what was I thinking, posting about bombs on Valentine’s Day?  Regular readers know my fascination with holidays.  Valentine’s Day is another one of those that simply gets plowed under by the sharp shares of capitalism.  We work on Valentine’s Day, of course, after waking to news of yet another multiple shooting at a university.  Is it any wonder that we think about bombs on Valentine’s Day?  As Tina asks, what’s love got to do with it?  In 2016 we were taught that the politics of hate is how elections are won.  Surveys consistently show Americans favor stricter gun laws but congressmen love money more.  Maybe love does have something to do with it after all, Ms. Turner.

Love, it seems to me, was the best thing Christianity had going for it.  While the Gospels aren’t entirely consistent on this point, the figure we call John (not the Baptist) focuses on it.  Jesus spoke of, indeed, insisted on love.  “God is love” some radical went so far as to write.  But love gets in the way of selfish agendas.  We can wave Bibles around, and hold them up for photo ops, but they do no good that way.  Besides, love might, in some instances lead to sex.  And we know that Augustine won that argument centuries ago.  We don’t have a widely recognized holiday celebrating that dour saint, however.  Perhaps we should take a cue from the fact that nobody knows which Valentine yesterday really commemorates.  Isn’t love best when it can even be anonymous?

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

I often ponder why it seems so difficult for people to love universally.  Yes, we do annoy each other.  Yes, we have conflicting agendas.  If, however, we pause for a moment and consider we’ll see that other people have feelings just like us.  They too want to be loved and appreciated, and held by those closest to them.  This is not a bad thing.  What’s so wrong with love, after all?  We pour money into the military industrial complex and try to regulate who can love whom.  And we say we’re living the religion touted by the New Testament.  I always try to keep Valentine’s Day special.  It can be tricky on a Tuesday when work will bear its inevitable load of problems to solve.  Still, if we all paused when we faced a people-related frustration on Valentine’s Day, and said to ourselves (saying it aloud would only cause problems) “I love you” to the person causing our frustration, I wouldn’t have been thinking of bombs on Valentine’s Day.

How To Build a Bomb

We see footage of the tragedy in Ukraine.  Or the miles and miles of film documenting World War II with its hell from the skies bombings.  Bomb after bomb after bomb.  I recently wrote of how tragic this is in the light of the Turkey-Syria earthquake.  Just a few days before that, the New York Times ran an interest piece on how bombs are made.  Now, there’s no excusing it, but boys seem to like explosions.  Although I’m a pacifist, I was fascinated by how long the process is and how specialized the work, to make a bomb (technically a shell, but the result’s the same).  And then we see the footage and realize all this time, money, and technology are going into objects to be shot at other human beings.  Rise and kill.

It is an indictment of our species that we spend so terribly much on destroying others of our own kind.  Some of this is evolution, surely, but some of it is consciousness gone awry.  Nobody wants to be the victim of somebody else’s bombs.  At the same time, there are different political philosophies in the world and our history has made us distrust, and maybe even hate, one another.  I think of Putin and his hatred of the west.  And then I think how close we are.  From mainland to mainland, Russia and Alaska are only 55 miles apart.  If you include the islands, that figure drops to 3 or 4 miles.  And an entire ideological world.  This is such a strange fiction we’ve created.  

Some experts tell us that our systems of allowing strong men to rise to the top (and note, female belligerent national leaders are quite rare) will inevitably lead to war.  Of the making of bombs there is no end.  These guys in the news story require bomb making to take home paychecks to support their families.  Even now there are war zones throughout the world where it’s not safe to wander because of ordinance.  Some of them are even here in the United States.  On a visit to a friend in West Virginia we went to Dolly Sods Wilderness area.  It’s rugged and wild and beautiful.  Once used as an area for military training, unexploded ordinance still exists there.  Visitors are warned of this, of course.  But there are other mined and fought-over areas where the innocent are still killed long after the war has ended.  As an adult boy I’ve become less impressed with explosions.  If you live long enough, ideally, you should begin to understand life is a gift, and not something to be thrown away.  Or taken by someone else’s bombs.