Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Devil is in the Details

Lily stays sitting. “Frances. What if Ambrose is the Devil?” “He’s not the Devil. I know who the Devil is and it isn’t Ambrose.” “Who’s the Devil?” Frances crouches down as if she were talking to Trixie. “That’s something I’ll never tell you, Lily, no matter how old you get to be, because the Devil is shy. It makes him angry when someone recognizes him, so once they do the Devil gets after them. And I don’t want the Devil to get after you.” “Is the Devil after you?” “Yes.”

~ Fall on Your Knees; Ann-Marie MacDonald

Every life that has ever been lived has had a companion that travels along the path unseen; wanted or unwanted. Fall on Your Knees by Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald is not for the faint of heart, nor the casual reader. The story takes the reader into depths of humanity that are smothering and dark, yet in perfect harmony lifts them into the light once again.

The irony of the story about the Piper family is that it begins in the late 1890s and ends in the fullness of the Industrial Age of the 20s. Yet, it could take place in all its glory even today with events surrounding child marriage, racism, religiosity, family secrets, forbidden love, and a host of others in this 500+ page compilation of the human experience.

The book is filled with literal metaphors, as well as figurative. As we delve into the lives of the three Piper sisters, and how all things came to be in the end, we discover that the devil is in the details.

Over the years of my life, I have seen the devil on more than one occasion. As a child I watched him prattle on at the end of the tongues of many a gossip, encouraging others to believe the lies he portrayed as truth. Ah yes, the devil has made liars of many a man and woman. I have seen him revel in the throes of rage between two races that clash time and time again. He is still reveling in this today. I have seen his haughtiness in the eyes of an addict. Look deep into the soulless depths of a far-gone addict’s eyes and there you will see him triumphant. I have borne witness to the hopelessness of a child who stands along with its parent at the corners of Hunger and Want. There is nothing greater to disparage the soul of a parent than to feel as though you have failed innocence.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In Fall on Your Knees, the idea of a physical devil lurking somewhere in the mists of Cape Breton, or perhaps trolling along with Kathleen in New York City is an ever present, yet indiscernible theme.

The only question left with the reader at the end of this story is “Who is the devil?” Hint: It’s a figurative question.

Through literature we learn to live, to love, and to conquer!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Clan Matters

Since the dawn of time, we have lived within the ever progressive, but unchanging dynamics of the clan. In the beginning, it was for survival against unknown enemies of nature and other human beings. Over time, other reasons became a necessary part of the clan – land, money, power, control; but always and ultimately for survival.

Contrary to popular belief, clans were not comprised simply of a single family. Indeed, clans embraced a multitude of people. They were among the first organized communities, encompassing several families and their extended families, as well as the servants within the families.

Everyone in the clan had a purpose and contribution to make, no matter their status. Regardless of feudalism, everyone served a purpose. There were the healers, the spiritual leaders, the black smiths, and people of every vocation. However, there were none who served a greater purpose in the clan than those who took up the sword, battle axe, and other weapons for the purpose of protecting the clan. These were the Warriors.

The warriors were held in high revere and rarely found themselves in want of anything. The clan provided their every need in exchange for their protection. The young grew up in the shadows of these fierce men and women. (Celt and early Norse.) Were the Warriors perfect? Absolutely not, but who among us are?

Today, we have matters of the clan to discuss. Our warriors have been demonized into the monsters that haunt the dreams of young children. Each day they who have sworn to serve and protect our small towns, cities and even our country have found themselves in want.

A truth:  As in the days of the clans, there are a few who have not honored their oaths, but the majority goes to work each day with honor in their hearts and actions.

The words of the Cass County Sheriff stung in my heart two weeks ago, “…we [police officers] are hunted.”

If we are hunting our own warriors, who will protect us when they become extinct?

If we continuously feed negative images of police officers to the media machine, they will continue to overshadow the good work that these men and women do every day of their lives. I know it seems harsh to those who are negatively affected by the few without honor, but you must concede that most have their honor and integrity intact. Most would take a bullet for you, regardless of who you are.

This “hunting” of law enforcement, be it through videography, or through violence must come to an end, or one day we may find ourselves at the mercy of the hunters. Do you see how that works? In the days of the clans there were those who would conspire to overthrow the ruling clan. They would muster up enough support for a revolution and then turn out worse than what was. Usually in a God-forsaken tyranny that would last for years.

Law enforcement is our first and last line between order and chaos. In this battle “no man’s land” does not exist. Either there is law and order, or there isn’t. The choice is up to us.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Web of Obsession

Great Expectations is one of the most epic stories of love and loss of all time. There is a reason this book is a classic. It speaks to many of the human conditions, as is the nature of Charles Dickens in his works. We are going to peer in on Pip and Estella, a love that was as one sided as love can be, until one day…

In Great Expectations, Pip finds himself falling deeply in love with a girl he cannot possibly hope to marry, although he would dearly love to. He begins to tell himself stories of how Miss Havisham has planned it all out. He begins to believe that somehow the woman has orchestrated this very complex plan to ensure that Estella will be his. Oh what a web we weave, when we practice to deceive – especially ourselves.

Great Expectations is a cautionary tale about self-deception based on assumption. Pip, receiving a mysterious gift of wealth, assumes that the wealth came from Miss Havisham to assure that he was of the right class to marry Estella. What he didn’t consider is that although the world divides humanity, true love will transcend all obstacles.

We as human beings do this all the time. We want something [insert thing here] so badly that we begin to tell ourselves stories. We rehearse the lines for conversations that may never happen. We create scenarios in our head of all the possibilities. We choose the one that makes the most sense to us and build upon it, and one day we find we have fallen deep into obsession.

Pip is obsessed with Estella. He can’t live a single day without the story he has created ruling his life. Until the day he learns the mysterious gift of wealth did not come from Miss Havisham at all. This one intricate piece of knowledge unravels the story in his mind, leaving him disappointed, heartbroken and in a state of disbelief.

There are no greater lies than the lies we choose to tell ourselves. Think about it. The deepest disappointment that comes to each of us is self-made, through the stories we tell ourselves. Obsession is blinding to all things real.

Be careful about how much you fall in love with someone or something. You may just find yourself caught in the web of lies you tell yourself.

Through literature we learn to live, to love and to conquer!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Fond Farewell

“There is no greater love than this that a man should lay down his life for his friends.”
~ John 15:13

As many of my readers know, one of Fargo’s own was tragically killed in the line of duty on February 11, 2016. Officer Jason Moszer.

There are too many fresh wounds in Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding area to speak of love and romance on the Butterfly Phoenix blog, in spite of Valentine’s Day. However, romantic love is not the only kind of love in the world, and this is the perfect time to remember that.

The community is coming fresh off the heels of Giving Hearts Day, but today and throughout this week, I am asking you to dig a little bit deeper and donate to The  Moszer Family Benefit Fund. Your donation will not be tax deductible, however think of it as a much needed deposit in a love starved world. Kindness matters in the face of tragedy. The smallest amount means as much as the largest, because it means you care, and that holds far more value.

Officer Jason Moszer is the first officer to lose his life in the line of duty in Fargo since 1882. Let us not forget that even in these dark hours, Fargo is a beautiful city, filled with the kindness of strangers, warmth of community and most of all love for one another.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

To Love and Be Loved in Return

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”  

Here we are in the month of February, where Cupid is busy, slinging arrows here and there in preparation for St. Valentine’s Day. Ah, to love and be loved in return.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an intense story, surrounding the life and times of a teenage boy. These are the times when love, lust and infatuation all seem to become one and the same. Infuse the other types of love – familial and friendship, and life becomes extraordinarily complex.

One of the most profound statements made in the book is “We accept the love we think we deserve.” When I was younger, my greatest fear was the fear of being alone. It was an intense feeling that couldn’t be shaken. I had spent the first six years of my life primarily alone, due to life’s circumstances. So, I knew what being alone was.

Ironically, in high school I didn’t chase after every boy who turned my head. Nope, I was looking for the one. I, like Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, was looking to fill that enigmatic something that just couldn’t quite be named. Maybe it was a void left by the absence of my father. Maybe it was the loss of one my best friends. Maybe it was just a need for a sense of self-worth in a society that had labeled me long before I even knew they existed. Maybe…just maybe it was a combination of all of that and more. Being a teenager isn’t easy; for girls or boys.

My first real, true and honest kiss was magical. I can remember it like it happened just last night. We had sat on the old wooden merry-go-round on the playground at the elementary school. It was December 1984. I had turned 16 that past summer, and I had met the magical kisser the following October. We talked for a long time that night, as we had many a nights before that. It was warmer than usual for December, so I hadn’t dressed for being outside for long. Big flakes of snow had begun to fall from the overcast sky. We stood up, and he placed his leather jacket around my shoulders, and then he kissed me. In that one moment the whole world stopped, and became much smaller, including only him and me. He was the one. I told you it was magical.

Reality check:  The one was six years older than me. He often drank and smoked a lot of pot.

Love is many a splendored thing, blinding being the greatest of these when you are sixteen. One magical kiss and the gates to hell opened wide. I overlooked the fact that he was an alcoholic and a pothead. I overlooked every red flag that presented itself – because he loved me. He doted on me, and gave me everything I thought I didn’t have.

We broke up about a year and half later. He went back to the East Coast, and I went to on to college, where the loneliness got the best of me, and I called him, just to see how he was. It was magical again. We picked up just where we had left off. The next thing I knew, he surprised me and showed up on my doorstep in October. After all, he loved me.

We spent eight years making each other miserable. I was trying desperately to make him into the man I had dreamed to be the one. He was trying desperately to be who he was. The friction became too much for both of us. He lied, cheated, and fed his addictions. The more I pushed back about his behavior, the more he indulged himself, now blaming me. He never hit me, he didn’t have to - his words were enough.

The most common question people ask me about those eight years is why did I stay? The answer is because I had accepted the love I thought I deserved.

In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie and his friends learn that they were doing the same thing I was, only in a different way.

I’m not afraid to be alone anymore. In fact, I prefer to be alone. I don’t go looking for the one. I’m not sure the one really exists, but I maintain the hope that the one is looking for me.

WARNING: There are a lot of triggers in this book.