How to Take a Wrong Turn on the Climb to Heaven

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Ever since I passed along to him a short anthology of Near Death Experiences compiled by a practicing physician, my son has sustained a lively exchange with me on the subject.  Being young, he is impressed by such “hard evidence” of life beyond the reality we know.  (Our nation’s school system, from bottom to top, certainly hasn’t given his generation any aesthetic or philosophical inkling of an empirical approach’s inadequacies—so empirical testimony against mere empiricism becomes very powerful.)  Personally, I’m always just a bit leery of the NDE.  It’s not that I’m an incorrigible skeptic.  On the contrary, I’m one of the few people you’re ever likely to know with years of grad-school conditioning in his past who believes that extra-terrestrial life (or its projection through an ingenious fleet of robotic minions) has probably visited our solar system.  I don’t think I’m particularly narrow-minded.

No, the problem I have with the typical NDE is the implications that over-excited chroniclers tend to draw from it.  The surrounding discussion often has the tone of boundless, almost delirious optimism.  “You see?  All is really sweetness and light!  It’s all love—love for everyone!  All is forgiven!  It’s just one great warm embrace!  All is swept up into the… the cosmic All!”  Okay, let’s stop and ponder that.  No justice for mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao (add Hitler if you like… but don’t forget Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and King Herod).  No motive to try harder in this terrestrial existence—to “seek the kingdom”.  No reason why sincere sorrow and repentance are anything but wasted time.  Lighten up!  All you need is love!

In their defense, I will say of most NDE witnesses that their encounter is brief, dazzling, and (by definition) limned by the incomprehensible.  They’re not the ones who seek to graft sweeping metaphysical conclusions onto their out-of-clock-time ecstasy (a word which literally means “standing outside of”).  They were abruptly jolted from their body… and then they found themselves bathed in light and soothed by predeceased friends and family.  As far as I know, most of them haven’t borne back a message about how the universe is put together.  They merely reiterate with John the Gospelist, “True love hath no fear.”

Dr. Eben Alexander’s kerygma from the Beyond is not so modest.  My son forwarded this YouTube link to one of the good doctor’s many public presentations.  Alexander’s case has received special attention, apparently, because 1) he himself was a neurosurgeon who had practiced for two decades when a seizure caused his brain activity to flatline, 2) he was thoroughly agnostic at the time of the incident, and 3) his brain was so very moribund for days that no sort of short-circuiting or “flame-out” could have accounted for his visions.  Clearly, something very extraordinary happened in this man’s return to corporeal life, if not in his hours of unverifiable transit through another life.  He should have been dead—quite dead.  The feeding tubes had actually been removed from his body for days before his recovery.  His revival was miraculous.

And, yes, Eben Alexander experienced virtually all of the classic NDE moments: the dark tunnel (in more static form), the indescribably bright light at its end, an angelic chorus, the warmth and limitless love of innumerable figures… but he claims to have been entrusted with uncharacteristically specific information, besides.  He was told (in a degree of detail that Dante would have envied) that the universe is unfolding according to a great plan—and that this plan involves reincarnation.  We are to return to life in better-informed stages that, collectively, will set our planet—and other planets in other galaxies, eventually—on a hyperbolic path of intersection with heaven.

An unimaginably beautiful woman (who was plainly not some morph of the divorced Mrs. Alexander) was the doctor’s Beatrice during this revelation.  I note in passing that I’ve never read of any other NDE where Miss Universe puts in an appearance and spiritually fondles her visitor.

I’m being a bit facetious now.  It’s a way to send some of my irritation through an escape valve.  In my opinion, Dr. Alexander had a fully legitimate encounter with the unspeakable bliss that awaits us beyond this Vale of Tears… and he proceeded, consciously or otherwise, to finesse some of its contours into a form more marketable than the raw material would have been.  His book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for years.  His speaking honoraria have likely dwarfed his surgeon’s income (which, in itself, constitutes a small miracle).  He has chatted intimately with Oprah before a global audience, and he routinely gives presentations even for medical personnel thanks to his lab-coat cred.  I gather that he is involved in some sort of cutting-edge tech company that aspires to point the medical-scientific community’s nose more directly into metaphysics (or its ears: the technology has to do with harmonious sounds and healing).  Life has become pretty good for Eben Alexander—and, of course, I mean life on “this side”.

How many of these dark terrestrial tunnels would be beaming with warm gold-and-silver light at the end if Alexander’s testimony had remained (as NDE’s usually do) within confines of direct personal experience, without the peek at a cosmic playbook?  Wouldn’t that more typical result have smacked of… well, Christian orthodoxy?  Didn’t the “reincarnation” message sweeten it sufficiently that Oprah would line up to drink the Kool-aid?

On the one hand, I fear that my response may be too caustic.  After all, Alexander’s narrative is not so very far off the track of other NDE’s.  Maybe he just misspoke at key points, or maybe I have misinterpreted something he said.  I myself believe that the afterlife must surely be an occasion for “linking up” with innumerable other souls—for begging and granting pardons, for getting the whole story of what happened, for healing and growing strong as something yet more magnificent emerges.  Perhaps the abuse of the word “reincarnation” was this man’s clumsy metaphor for a reality whose approach to God is so near, and so ever-more-near, that only the notion of an utterly regenerated body in an entirely different life can convey the thrill.

And yet, that higher, deeper life cannot be entirely different.  This life matters.  Morally—spiritually—it must matter.  What we do is what we are: it is the “here” from which we must depart to reach “there”.  It’s not a prison, or need not be.  God’s will is not that we suffocate forever within the folly of the narrow walls we build around ourselves.  In the recognition of our folly, however, lies the key to the gate.  We cannot become better than our fleshly form—that temporary cast in which we have so distorted God’s image—if we turn out never to have existed physically, in the first place.  Our human individuality must not become an irrelevancy.

Such cancellation of our individual worth as creatures is where I see Eben Alexander wandering dangerously off the track.  He sings off-key.  His hymn sounds to my ear like secular progressivism with a mystical tingle in the background.  The confessional note—the admission of past error that signals true growth, and also the joy of dissolving another’s guilt over injuries done—isn’t audible.  Instead, we are ushered into a no-fault vision of things getting better and better and better… things on this earth, since reincarnation is the engine driving the ascent.  Alexander even offers the Gnostic heresy’s hint that souls are reincarnated as justification of his thesis, and he tosses in the rumors of Christ’s day equating John the Baptist with the resuscitated prophet Elijah.  A proper Christian faith, apparently, ought to become more Hindu.

The first time I encountered this infatuation of the theoretical scientist with the most ancient religions on earth was, I suppose, in Carl Sagan.  It probably goes back much farther.  Its pedigree, at any rate, must surely transmit a load of progressivist DNA through every branch of the family tree.  The better here-and-now’s the thing—not heaven, not metaphysical bliss: no, bring it down here, and put us now on a path to reach it!  That’s a slightly more spiritual version of launching the Starship Enterprise (but not really—just more spiritually adorned).

You see, Dr. Alexander, our world is not getting better and better in any way that I can discern.  It may be getting worse and worse… but I’m willing to attribute such pessimism to the filter of my own rather depressive predisposition.  It’s certainly not sprouting wings as more enlightened individuals return in new bodies—and, by the way, utterly purged of their former individuality.  You say, Dr. Alexander, that many very curious cases of ESP involve children who recollect images or events from previous times and far-flung places.  Yes, those interest me, as well.  But wherein do you find evidence that these children a) preserve the character of Captain MacKay who died on the field of Culloden or, more importantly, b) display any moral awareness beyond their years?  What are you thinking, man?  What world are you living in right now, as you bow to your applause and shake Oprah’s hand?

Do you consider that you yourself have become a better man than before, though you have failed to learn—Other World Journey notwithstanding—the moral necessity of individual coherence?  Say you’re indeed better; but you are still Eben Alexander, are you not? So may we expect the better Eben within minutes of your eventual death, as your soul flutters into a newborn? Right now, then—message and all—you’re just the old, inferior Eben… have I got that correct? Or have you been permitted to transport certain revelations despite your lack of corporeal upgrade? I like much of what you propose.  I, too, love the idea of using sound to access a clearer, cleaner state of consciousness; I’ve long suspected in my own life that our urban environment damages our minds with its sheer cacophony.  But… but Doctor, why must you insist that Beatrice bestowed upon you the secrets of this healing power so that we might go forth and Conquer the World for Goodness?

Oh, how I dread that formula, in all of its versions!  World conquest—and always, always for “goodness”!  Millions of hearts have coddled it, if their tongues have not exactly expressed it… and not all of those hearts, by any means, were bad ones from the outset.  Yet none was ever made better after nursing such a spiritual virus.  This world is imperfectable: at best, we hold our own against sin.  True hope lies elsewhere.

Perhaps I’m especially distressed by Dr. Alexander’s video because I have just published The Eternal Moment: Seeking Divine Presence in the Present on Amazon.  You can read there at much greater length of my concern over “future-worship”, our time’s dominant form of idolatry, if you’re interested.  I urgently suggest that you get interested.  Beware of “ascending” staircases whose bottom step rests upon today’s earth and whose top step merely reaches tomorrow’s earth, or the next day’s.  Such climbs tend to go steeply downward, from heaven’s perspective.

Find a Water Source and Stuff Your Cupboard: Happy 2020!

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2019 ended with my having discovered Daniel Horowitz’s podcast, Conservative Review (originally a video broadcast on The Blaze network). Once Horowitz and his guest Steve Deace had combined to dissect the omnibus bill, promptly signed by President Trump amid high-fives all around FOX News, I knew that any peace I was to find over the holidays must come from within. That’s not a bad realization. I have spent most of the past two weeks, in fact, enjoying my son’s visit and completing a manuscript about my religious faith. We should remind ourselves once in a while that anyone whose hopes rest upon this world is doomed to disappointment.

Nevertheless, a year that began with my dedicating a futile tome to a poor bloke who will rot away for the rest of his life in a Georgia prison because a jury couldn’t understand “reasonable doubt”, then continued with my unearthing (mostly through Diana West’s labors) how the hundred-million-murder march of Stalinist/Maoist communism was made possible by FDR… well, let’s just say the 2019 nag ran true to form all the way to the finish line. Mr. Trump is vastly preferable to the socialist alternative. On the other hand, he isn’t Washington crossing the Delaware, contrary to memes circulated throughout social media by wishful thinkers. He’s certainly not the return of Christ (another favorite meme). He’s a man who loves attention, receives some very bad advice, and “cuts deals” by entering an absurdly high initial bid and then gulping down the come-back without any dickering. Happy 2020.

My advocacy on behalf of securing the power grid was also plugged into a dead socket. Nobody cares. I’m not sure that I even care any more. Do you want to believe “studies” designed by power companies to conclude a) that an electro-magnetic pulse would be almost impossible to create, and b) that the grid is rock-solid, anyway? Okay. I guess we’ll find out when the next major solar storm flares up (oh… and those studies forgot to mention solar storms, by the way). I’ve probably got 500 gallons of rainwater collected in various tubs around the property, and I have the means to purify it. Our cupboard is full of rice and canned nuts, and I’ve stocked up on shotgun shells. I do wish that my son didn’t live on the fringe of a sanctuary city, where rioting and looting will exceed even Hollywood’s ability to project after all the power has been off for a couple of weeks; but he has water-purification tablets, guns, and a few close friends who know how to shoot.

As for the rest of the nation… let’s just leave it at this. When one of my letters to an elected representative finally drew a response, I was told (and I condense): “Climate change is of great concern to me. That’s why I am working hard to promote clean energy through the construction of the —– nuclear power facility.” A Republican senator in action: keep those campaign contributions from the power companies coming, and also try (weakly and vainly) to outflank the Left by hugging some trees. Umm… EMP and climate change, Senator, are not… oh, forget it.

I subsequently had the bright idea, shared in this space, that the “demography is destiny” prophets of doom might be gainsaid if we could actually encourage some non-Caucasian conservatives in their bid for public office. My efforts drew comments on social media that reminded me of my promotion of Ted Cruz years earlier. Oh my God, Heidi Cruz has worked for Goldman-Sachs! Oh my God, Lerah Lee admits that she admired Barbara Bush as a child because both had attended the same high school! Apparently, a much, much better idea would be to nominate (in one case) a quondam registered Democrat whose daughter and her husband share more than a few ideaas with Liz and Bernie, or to nominate (in the other case) a white woman so wealthy that she can finance her campaign largely from her own bank account. Haven’t I already read this Republican script a few dozen times—didn’t I just read it a few days ago? “Climate change is of great concern to me….”

This week, I had kicked around a similar idea about “outreach”. Since our nation is now so flooded in illegal residents that we can’t accurately number them within ten million, since several states are eagerly issuing driver’s licenses to them, and since we know that many have already voted in past elections… well, would there be any way to peel some of them off of the Nanny State pap? Perhaps by appealing to their dignity, their manhood? Perhaps by circulating fluent Spanish-speakers through their communities warning, “The free stuff will run out! You’re being played—your vote is being bought! Free school, free health care, free road repairs, free police protection… the nation is going bankrupt, and you will be the first to feel the squeeze! You’re being set up! Don’t you want to contribute, to be respected? To be a part of the broader community? Or do you want your sons joining gangs when there’s no more free anything, and your daughters being kidnapped and enslaved when it’s no longer safe to walk out the front door?”

And so forth. Except that I finally got a hold of Michelle Malkin’s Open Borders, Inc. The first chapter was enough to enlighten me. Most of our beloved “refugees” aren’t fleeing cartel violence and a complicit, corrupt police force. Their way is paved by complex international bureaucracies, almost literally, mile after mile. Billionaire subversives and US-hostile nations conniving at our dissolution are bankrolling elaborate networks to keep the spate of migrants flowing. Everybody at the table wins (though you and I don’t get through the door). Mexico and other “donor” nations reap billions annually from wages sent back home, even as they relieve themselves of an indigent population that had posed nothing but problems in the past. The PRC primes the same pump, sits back, and watches our political system collapse. The New World Order oligarch-hopefuls see their empire of innumerable servile minions taking shape. Mainstream churches harvest a little more in the collection plate if they can woo some of the newcomers into their congregation—but the big money is paid by our tax dollars to church organizations that “resettle” the “refugees”. Democrats acquire tens of thousands of new voters in various localities; and Republicans… well, they have another occasion to display their compassion as their constituents watch taxes, culture, order, and rule of law thrown into the bonfire. Republicans are concerned about climate change, you know.

So… no, I don’t think a Spanish-language appeal to dignity and manhood would make a dint on this crowd of money-hungry adventurers who use their children as passports. The real “backbone of Mexico” is back in Mexico, trying to ride out a civil war that didn’t need months of blackout to erupt. Their communities are unraveling because their footloose, opportunistic brethren have taken off for the Yanqui Klondike: the nearly 600 sanctuary cities, where abogados and advocacy groups tell you how to milk the cash cow (Apple has an app, according to Malkin, that puts illegals instantly in touch with such vital information). With so much money filtering back to the old country through such irregular channels, a farmer who wants to grow his melons and peppers is an endangered species. Adiós, America… yes, and Adiós, Mexico.

For good news, I turn to… wait a minute, still looking… ah, yes. The Second-Amendment Sanctuary movement in Virginia, proceeding county by county. The newly elected Virginia duma is already licking its collective chops at the prospect of calling in the National Guard to gun down non-compliant citizens, so we may expect to see something like Janet Reno’s Waco before the year’s end. And then… then, unlike the aftermath of Waco, the shooting will just be starting. Fort Sumter might be a better analogy, once the smoke clears.

And that’s the good news. But remember: Republicans, too, are concerned about climate change.

Crosscurrents: God’s “Presence in the Present”

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I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about current events–yet I don’t wish to pollute my or anyone else’s celebration of the birth of Hope with excessive brooding over our ephemeral world.  Allow me, then, to share with you one chapter from the rough draft of a book that I plan to see finished in 2020.

I intend for this final chapter of the book’s first part to summarize by compacting several assertions made about the “numinous moment” or “event outside of time”.  Yet before I attempt that act of stitching together, an analogy may be helpful.  I’ve been racking my brain for an adequate one—for a parable, almost, that could convey to our linear-thinking minds how real time might match up to time as we know it.  I at last came up with something akin to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Imagine that you are walking across fog-strewn terrain toward a vague but steady light source.  You really have nowhere else to go that offers any apparent sense of destination; for the mist curls so thickly about your feet that you can’t even see your shoes, and that shimmering beacon on your horizon is your single reference in the soupy haze.

Unrevealed to you, then, in any very clear manner is the enormous but very gradual staircase across which you walk.  Its steps are suited to a giant’s feet, each being perhaps three yards wide; yet despite their great breadth, they rise by only an inch at a time.  You’re actually cutting across these stairs at a broad angle.  The result is that you can advance for fifty or sixty yards along one step before you stumble into the next one’s rise.  Naturally, since you can’t see your feet, you conclude at every mild stumble that the ground beneath you is a bit uneven.  You have no notion of slowly ascending a great staircase rather than moving ever forward toward the light which—you hope—will be the refuge liberating you from the milling gloom.

Those stairs that come at your progress laterally and throw it off balance once in a while are, of course, meant to represent the “outside of time” moments that subtly take us by surprise once in a while… and then, usually, are forgotten at once, since we assume that our attention should be fixed on forward motion.  The biblical phrase “stumbling block” had a part in helping me weave this strange analogy, for we indeed tend to treat such moments as interruptions or distractions.  We dismiss them with whatever explanation is ready at hand and get back to the serious business of “progress”.  Yet what could be more serious, in a spiritual sense, than climbing the giant’s staircase and seeing where it takes us?  If only we knew that it was there beneath the haze—that the little trips that sometimes throw us off stride all have an order!  But our senses aren’t equipped to provide such information directly.  Any knowledge of the stairs would have to be pieced together with extreme patience, most of it requiring a certain amount of inattention to that forward motion we think so full of promise.

For what kinds of experience, exactly, should we keep an eye peeled?  In the course of Part One’s ramble, I believe I have volunteered three at various points.  The first would be personal experiences that have stubbornly stayed with us for years, many (perhaps most) of them deeply rooted in childhood.  In discussing the sort of encounter that I myself recall as having knocked me off my stride and stood me upright, I did not mention anything as numinous as an angelic visitation, a message delivered in God’s voice, or a Near-Death Experience.  That’s because I have never lived through any event of the kind.  I suppose that those of us to whom God does not speak plain English in a deep, unmistakable voice have a little trouble fully believing those who claim to have been so contacted.  We don’t necessarily disbelieve them… but we wonder if their personality may be of a naive and very excitable type.  Everybody has dreams, and some of us have vivid dreams.  (Here I may include myself: my dreams are always in color and sometimes more “high-def” than any waking experience.)  A stable person understands, though, that you take a dream with a grain of salt.

Near-Death Experiences I find to be far more intriguing.  No doubt, some people massage a rough stay in the hospital until it looks like a trip to the Beyond, just as some people innocently mistake an escaped balloon that catches the sun’s last light for a UFO.  When so many witnesses of sound mind and solid character, however, testify so resonantly to the presence of something that greeted them as their vital signs flat-lined, I can’t wave their words aside.  (For that matter, a seasoned pilot makes a very good UFO witness—and there are several such reporters of strange aircraft.)  In attempting to retrieve a particular title for citation here, I found that the medical doctor/author whose name eludes me is veritably buried on the Internet under a mass of similar professionals who have documented the NDE over the past forty years.  Take your pick of them all.  It’s a pretty impressive witness list, however you arrange it.

But, no, I have presented in my discussion no such mind-boggling evidence.  The encounters I tried to describe do not grab you by the lapels, shake you, and announce sonorously, “I come from the other world!”  They simply don’t fit into the routine… and they fail to fit in after a fashion that you can’t forget, because it so insistently seems to mean something.  Just what it may mean, you never manage to decide satisfactorily.  It’s there, sticking out… and you can’t smooth it away as the reasonable effect of some handy nearby cause.

Which brings me to a second kind of experience, and a clearly related kind: art.  If I had to define an art object (or if I were given the chance to do so—for this is my wheelhouse), I should start by saying succinctly that it “expresses the inexpressible”.  Then I should probably try to express myself better and end up making a mess of my definition… because the paradox here is ineradicable.  A work of art assembles material impressions in such a way as to leave you convinced that their collaboration encodes a vital message, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.  You proceed to write an article or a book about the work, if you’re a scholar—and the more words you weave together in trying to nab the message, the more fish slip through your net.  What we academic types always seem to miss about art is its most fundamental characteristic: that it forever points to something not quite there.

Art, I’m convinced, is an angel that God sends to all of us.  The winged visitor might be a painting, a temple, or a mere tune—or the simple-seeming lyrics of the tune; but whatever his specific shape, the cherub manages to whack us lovingly upside the head and make us stumble a little on the invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  All true art calls us to faith.  It does so just by nudging us out of our determined forward stride for an instant.  Its subject by no means has to be the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, or anything related to any item of orthodox belief.  When I was an officer in a regional division of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, a lot of paper- and article-submissions passed under my eye—and the vast majority addressed some issue in the work of John Milton, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, or some other overtly Christian writer.  I always regretted such narrowness of focus in our undertaking.  I wish we could have faced the academy head-on with the confident assertion that all true art comes from God.

For the academy needed a good stiff slap in the face—or punch in the nose—from those of us whom the angel had smacked… but we instead huddled around “our” authors who, for the most part, had been banished from contemporary college classes, anyway.  As I described in an earlier chapter (and will not reiterate now), our ailing culture’s intelligentsia have exploited the free pass we gave them to dismantle art entirely, presenting its essential mystery as no more than a cheap kind of hypnotism practiced by the powerful upon the oppressed.  That thick-headed, empty-souled program of demoralization should never have been allowed to pass unchallenged.

But it was… and so, as a culture, I think our sense of the mystical lurking in material things all around us took refuge in nature.  Again, the overlap with other kinds of numinous experience is obvious.  Many of my personal “outside of time” moments involved a particular natural setting, and many of the arts draw heavily upon nature, as well.  In their quasi-scientific zeal to explain everything away in some “sensible” deterministic fashion, our intellectuals like to attribute our visceral bond with nature to a genetically hardwired response to life on the savanna.  Of course we like trees!  They represented safety from lions when we were naked apes.  Of course we like purling streams!  Every living creature needs water, and water that runs swiftly is least apt to cause illness.

You can hardly win at this game if you protest, “No, it’s not the tree’s height and the stoutness of its limbs for climbing that I like.  It’s the intricate play of shadows in the pine needles—it’s the soughing of the branches in a breeze.”  What do you know?  You don’t have a Ph.D.!

One of the responses that most fascinates me is the one we register to distant sounds.  A far-off train whistle or dog’s bark… such “racket” can induce a deep sense of peace when, a mile or two away, it is scarcely heard.  Isn’t that because of its delightful (yet painful—delightfully painful) hint that even the most energetic spurts of life are but bursting bubbles on a vast ocean’s surface?  The abyss of meaning here is grandly unfathomable.  And how on earth would the evolutionary biologist disarm such a spiritual phenomenon?  Would he say that our apelike ancestors of course perked up when they heard distant sounds, because those were warnings of approaching predators?  But the approach of a predator would ignite an impulsive fear, not stir up a leisurely meditation—and to argue that the reaction has evolved as we have become less susceptible to predators might explain a diminution of fear, but couldn’t conceivably explain the emergence of pleasure.  Why can our “best and brightest” not accept that their explanations won’t reach every nook of the forest?

I will wander off target again if I don’t take care… but I might point out, in passing, that even we non-scientists are now sabotaging our relationships with nature through intrusions of progressive thinking—through cultic outbursts of “future-worship”.  We can’t simply let the indefinite play of light and shadow in a forest or down a mountain glen speak to us of the unspeakable: we have to bend that moment into “activism”.  We must “save nature” by outlawing the removal of underbrush and deadwood, by replacing mines with the “renewable energy” of wind turbines.  In the process, we create tinderboxes that will incinerate millions of acres in the next wildfire, and we erect killing machines that slaughter hawks and other high-flying species by the tens of millions annually… but we sleep better at night, because we have come home from our nature hike with a “mission”.

I’m no fan of the internal combustion engine.  I recall dropping a word or two about my long walking tours in Ireland and Scotland, and I routinely walked to and from work before my retirement.  I’m not out of sympathy with the general distaste for our high-tech pace of living—not at all.  But, please… let nature live!  Don’t be the doctor who starts cutting out organs when a little bedrest would cure the patient.  After putting up bluebird houses around our property, my wife and I have seen families of bluebirds a dozen strong congregate around the watering dish almost daily.  That’s a good feeling.  We don’t really have to go beyond that and agitate to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline—which will cause yet more meadowland to be put under the plow, which will destroy yet more wildlife habitat.  Every experience of nature doesn’t have to feed into a political agenda… does it?

To the extent that it does, or that we let it do so, we seal off what may be perhaps our decaying culture’s final portal upon the numinous.  I have come to adopt a single word in my thoughts for the ungainly phrase, “numinous experiences”, which I shall begin using from here on out.  I call these “outside of time” encounters, or smacks in the side of the head, or glimpses out the train’s window, or nudges off the tunnel’s track… I call them crosscurrents.  We need to yield to these rare transverse currents whenever they briefly stroke us: we need not to attempt to wrestle them onto a vector that parallels our forward motion.  They won’t go there.  They are all telling us the same thing, and it is this.  “The purpose of what you do is not the purpose you offer when explaining what you do.”  Our actions are indeed purposive, if we are good people—but not purposive in any sense that we can define, since their ultimate objective is not of this world.  When we nevertheless succeed in reducing our explanations and definitions to terms that make complete sense in this world—and when we thereafter adjust our actions to suit the verbal formulas we have produced in mutilating efficiency—we become less good.  We lose touch with the spirit.  We skew our forward motion so that we no longer trip over the occasional, invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  We proceed, instead, along a perfectly flat surface, paying attention only to its “corrected” smoothness that permits a speedier advance… and we climb the staircase no farther, nor do we even notice that we’re straying from the beacon at our lower level.

“Radicalized” Teenage Girl With Kitchen Knife Shows Us the REAL Threat to Our Nation… Uh, No

“White teen girl detailed plan for racist attack on black churchgoers in notebook, police say”: that’s literally the title (with only first word capitalized) of the Washington Post article trumpeting a non-event.  Ponder those words.  A white girl scribbled some troubled thoughts about murdering congregants at a black church.  Essentially, this is the content of a “story” that made headlines throughout the Southeast, and upon which WSB-TV Atlanta lavished at least three minutes on the evening of November 19.

Once you know more details, the episode becomes even more… non-eventful.

The “white teen girl” was sixteen years old.  Not eighteen or nineteen: sixteen.  She had apparently amassed a collection of… no, not handguns, not bombs or grenades, not clips for assault rifles: knives.  She collected knives.  So now we have a sixteen-year-old white girl with “knives”, in the plural.  There was no indication that she had trained with the Mossad, or that she possessed a black belt in some ancient Japanese art of firing out blades at a rate of five per second.  As far as we know, she has only two hands.  As far as we know, members of the Bethel AME Church in Gainesville, Georgia, are not exclusively octogenarians or manually challenged female invalids.  And of course, as anyone can be pretty sure of knowing, the Church was a “gun-free” zone, making it a target even for someone with no more than a kitchen knife (the species of blade involved in this case).  Our Gal Gadot wannabe was too respectful of the law, it seems, to equip herself with deadly weapons illegally.  Sometimes the “gun-free” idiocy works.

The WaPo article bestows much quote-space upon one Sergeant Kevin Holbrook, who was most likely the blond, baby-faced young man I saw interviewed on WSB news.  That lad is going far.  He pressed all the right keys to sound just the right notes.  The girl’s notebook contained “manifesto-type” ravings, observed the officer with wisdom beyond his years (and training).  He continued, as WaPo reports faithfully: “There were many writings and drawings, different depictions, and a lot of hateful messages in it….  As far as the details go, they were down to very specific information.”  Turns out that Holbrook is also something of a theologian.  Carnage of innocents was averted, he concludes, “by pure grace”: had the normal Wednesday night Bible study not been canceled, the teen fiend would not have found the compound’s buildings empty when she visited them, a dagger clutched Bluebeard-like in her teeth.

The church’s pastor, interviewed by WSB, confirmed God’s intercession in the canceled Bible study—and confirmed, further, my own inference that no men attend this church and that no women there are capable, say, of lifting a chair or coming at an assailant from behind.  But… might God be whispering to these good people that Bethel AME should host a self-defense class in the near future, if not actually persuade a retired soldier to slip a Glock inside his coat during services?

Now, the pastor and the sergeant weren’t quite on the same page as to motivation.  The former, while admitting that the sixteen-year-old had to be very troubled, wanted her tried as an adult (tried for snooping around the sanctuary with a knife in her belt); the latter was convinced, as he revealed in his WSB interview, that she was “radicalized” by “white supremacist” websites.  Now, if our would-be mass murderess were hypnotized by Internet conditioning, then she can scarcely be held fully responsible for her acts; but if she is actually to be prosecuted as a full adult, then the assumption must be that she had complete possession of herself—more so than one would expect of an ordinary sixteen-year-old.  And in that case, the “radicalizing white-supremacist websites” are utterly irrelevant.

An aside: I wonder how long Sergeant Holbrook has dreamed of using the word “radicalize”?  Doesn’t it sound cool?  But you can’t use it to describe, say… I don’t know: say a jihadist website.  I’m afraid you can’t even use the word “jihadist” any more.  I didn’t write that.

But “white supremacist”, now—you can and should drop that phrase early and often, at least if you hope for a long and ascending career path in law enforcement.  White-supremacist songs… white-supremacist holidays… white-supremacist weather and condiments and ways of pronouncing the word “tergiversation”: it’s everywhere!  The white-supremacist menace is everywhere!

Just be grateful that white supremacists honor gun-free zones.  Can you imagine if….

Meanwhile, the city of Atlanta continues to have daily drive-by shootings, daily convenience-store robberies at gunpoint, daily brawls that go ballistic when someone pulls out a handgun—and the crimes are almost always black on black.  But the city’s African American community shouldn’t allow its collective eye to be diverted from the real problem, which is…

The KKK is back!  White people are coming for you—and with knives this time!

WaPo wraps up powerfully, “The girl’s arrest comes as black churches and other houses of worship around the country have faced a wave of violence and intimidation.”  See, you hadn’t even heard about that!  I’m afraid it’s not quite clear to me whether the adjective “black” is intended to stretch to “other houses of worship”, or if the latter is clever MSM code for “mosque”.  (Of course, to WaPo, all Muslims are dark-skinned, so my interpretive confusion is a non-issue.)  And you certainly shouldn’t be misled into thinking that Christian churches everywhere are under escalating attack from outfits like WaPo to surrender their orthodox views on marriage, on gender, on the value of hard work… that’s not intimidation, it’s the inevitable friction of Neanderthal-meets-Homo Sapiens.  The real story here, once again, is that whites are out to murder blacks.  If you didn’t know that… well, what are news outlets for?

Sergeant Holbrook and his crack team apparently lost no time analyzing the girl’s Internet activity and ferreting out the insidious influence of WS propaganda; but they haven’t yet had the leisure to visit her high school and find out if,  just maybe, she had been routinely beaten up by black girls and decided upon the church attack as her revenge.  Wouldn’t it have been wonderfully Christian if she had stormed through an open church door, knife drawn, and then been talked to tears and surrender by the suffering Christ’s words of peace delivered by a true believer?  Maybe an invitation to sit with the group and pray instead of a call to 911?  We’ll never know if that might have happened—if someone other than Pastor Try-Her-As-An-Adult might have stood up and borne God’s message.

And we’ll never know about that high school situation, either.  Something tells me that the girl would have confessed that part of her motivation right out of the gate—and that our ambitious young investigators would instantly have buried it deep in the “unusable” file.