28 May 2023

The Morning Star, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Knausgaard is most famous for his six book autofiction series My Struggle. Thousands and thousands of pages of barely novelized autobiography in which he painstakingly reveals his inner being, his confessional of thoughts, feelings, emotions, his psychological state at the various stages of his life.  It’s a massive literary attempt to make sense of his own existence. It’s probably the best chronicle of contemporary Western living or what Western people call living. The existential crisis Knausgaard is obsessively concerned with, and meticulously investigates, is the authenticity of what the Western world calls living. Are people really living if they are so discontent, so restless, depressed and unhappy?

The West is saturated with addicts. People seeking escape from their own lives through narcotics (legal and illegal), alcohol, pornography, food, gambling, video gaming, scores of therapies and religions. People don’t seek escape if they are content.

The characters in Knausgaard's six volume My Struggle and the novel The Morning Star all wonder how much of their lives is authentic and how much of their lives is just them being swept along the social tide, mimicking what society has conditioned them into believing life should be. A life exclusively material and temporal.

It’s not a question most Americans really consider. Most Americans live as they are told. They are distracted from examining their own individual existence by manufactured cultural concerns, issues which they believe are larger than their own lives. Safeguarding the border, safeguarding restrooms from transsexuals, safeguarding their faces from being masked, safeguarding their cherished brands from catering to people who seek escape from likewise miserable lives but through channels they deem evil.

It’s OK to believe that our lives have been made miserable by the spouses we have made vows to and believe that by escaping through divorce our lives will be made better if we find a new and improved spouse, or just freely fornicate. That’s OK, that’s OK as long as it’s not done in a homosexual manner. And if one of our cherished brands should seem to support homosexual fashion than that brand should be punished.

Americans live in perpetual fear their unfulfilling lives will be disrupted.

The American is constantly distracted from himself by these manufactured irrelevancies.

In The Morning Star nobody worries about the debt ceiling. No one is anxious if the government is plotting to take away their guns.

The Knausgaard character is aware his own discontent is internal in origin, he stops and examines his life and ask himself this question, which distills the multi-thousand page Knausgaard canon into two sentences:

Why wasn't this good enough?  Why isn't it sufficient in itself? (p. 380).

The Knausgaard character has never learned what the apostle Paul learned

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. . .

The main thematic difference between My Struggle and The Morning Star is t
hat in the My Struggle books Knausgaard is chiefly concerned with the discovery of the internal discontent and the recognition of the inauthenticity of life, whereas The Morning Star spends considerable time on its origin and its possible remedy.

In The Morning Star we read about the unsatisfying lives of nine narrators as they go about their day-to-day unrest when suddenly a huge new star blazes in the sky. Simultaneously in their individual lives strange phenomena begin to occur which may or may not be supernatural. This plot device allows Knausgaard to continue his examination of the authenticity of contemporary life but also enables him, through characters such as a priest, a journalist, a teacher, and a would-be philosopher to engage in much theological and philosophical speculation as to what has been lost in the scientific/technological secular age we live in.

The seeming supernatural events in the story-line are briefly and sketchily detailed, and while early in the novel it appears as if they will converge, they never do, nor is much consideration given to their reality.

The question is not whether these events are actually supernatural, it’s whether our lives are more than material, if there is something beyond that which we have been taught scientifically. Would our lives be be larger and more fulfilling if we looked past contemporary life’s scientific boundary?

The increasing interest in the old pagan religions, which Knausgaard touches upon in a subplot concerning a death metal band, perhaps reflects this. For even modern Christianity discounts the supernatural, there are no miracles in modern Christianity, healings occur outside of the church, sick Christians go for chemotherapy, liver transplants, they take the same prescription drugs as the infidels. I chuckle over the small self-proclaimed Christian who, rightly, rails at the pharmaceutically polluted gender fluid youth, but at the same time they flock to the pharmaceuticals at the first little ache in their bodies. Their medicine cabinets are just as full. Are they any more the person God made them to be than the gender bender?

In The Morning Star the reader must consider if the acceptance of the scientific boundary of life has limited it.  Is it a reason our lives are so small?

And, of course, the boundary of our science is death. Our science does not accept life after death. The consequence of this is the tiny temporal lives we live here on this earth, and that’s the main reason for our constant worrying and fretting which drives us to discontent and despair and the addictions of our escape. We must gain the impossible from this life before it ends. If there is no life after death, we must gain treasure and pleasure enough in this life to last the eternity of the void. In this life, if even paying rent seems arduous, is it any wonder most of the entire Western world is anxious, depressed, restless, discontent?

And this question of death is another large concern of The Morning Star. If we were able to look beyond this life, as Christ exhorted His followers, our worries would cease, our need for escape would disappear. But in this world where the boundary has been set by science, we are not allowed to believe Christ has defeated death.

The Morning Star ends rather in a rather unsatisfying fashion, it must be admitted, as Knausgaard attempts to imagine a life without the boundary at death. It’s a hodgepodge of pre-Christian beliefs and modern near death experiences that is vague in meaning, followed by an apocalyptic epilogue (the book, probably not coincidentally, ends on page 666) which, rather than tying the novel's supernatural loose threads together, just unravels one more.

But despite the weak ending, The Morning Star is nonetheless another admirable attempt by Knausgaard to sort out the difficulties of the post-Christian way of life.

22 April 2023

Terrifier 2

I don’t think any filmmaker has ever championed the joys of cruelty to the degree of Terrifier progenitor Damien Leone. In terms of gleeful sadism and torture portrayed in exuberant gore, Terrifier 2 matches its predecessors, All Hallows’ Eve and Terrifier.  Art the Clown is back to humiliate, eviscerate, mutilate and decapitate several unlucky citizens of Miles County on Halloween.  In one of the film's merriest moments of mischief, Art uses the hollowed out head of one of his victims as a candy bowl for trick-or-treaters.

In addition to Leone's trademark haute couture gore, Terrifier 2 also features his garish sets and grindhouse aura.  But to me, one of the most interesting aspects of Leone's Terrifier trilogy is Art the Clown's chief enemies are middle class families, and he depicts their homes as drab, artless, mean spaces where parents and children grate on each other nearly to the point of hatred.  Indeed, these working class Americans are almost as angry as Art, but completely lack his capacity for joy.  

Terrifier 2 brings a new and highly successful addition to the Terrifier cinematic universe.  This time around Art is aided in his bloody high jinx by *the little pale girl,* the ghost of a 10-year-old rape/murder victim (whether she was raped/murdered by Art the Clown is unclear). The pale clown-costumed tween is not so much an ingenue as an injure-you cheerleader who roots on Art in his Halloween murder spree.  

There's really only one bummer to Terrifier 2, but unfortunately it's big enough to make the film less enjoyable than its predecessors.  The acting by two of the main characters is godawful.  A person named Sarah Voigt plays the mother of the middle class family targeted by Art, and she's off-key in every scene she's in.  Her character is scripted with a couple moments of redeeming human emotion, but this Voigt person plays them like some rookie violinist practicing on violin with only one string.  Voigt is such a horrible actor, as the movie progresses you cannot wait for Art the Clown to slowly tear her limb-from-limb. . .alas, her character is one of Art's quickest, most painless deaths.  

The other acting bummer is the lad who plays the kid brother in the middle class family.  He's inept, but at least he's not as gratingly annoying as Voigt.  You just wish there was a vintage Edward Furlong laying around somewhere that Damien Leone could have dusted off.

The *final girl* of the middle class family is played by Lauren LeVera, and she is merely OK.  Regrettably, none of the new cast members, save Amelie McLain as *the little pale girl,* have the charm of Terrifier's trio of female leads.

But I understand discussing the acting talent in a highly stylized exercise in gratified gore is nitpicking, at best, and should not be taken as a caution against its viewing.  Terrifier 2 is highly recommended.  

25 March 2023

Working Class Hero: Easter Bunny

It takes a special kind of person to be an Easter Bunny.  

It takes a hero.

Don’t laugh. Not unless you’ve worn that bunny head for an eight hour shift at the mall.  There have been many a man, woman and trans that have tried on that bunny head and couldn’t do it.

The bunny head is heavy.  It’s hot inside there.  Dark.  The eye holes are covered with mesh.  You are in a dark, hot place, weighed down.  Yes, a bit like Hell.  Wearing the bunny head is like looking out from Hell’s screen door at the world of the as-of-yet unjudged.  And you, from behind Hell’s screen door, are told to put a smile on the miserable faces of the as-of-yet unjudged (and sell a $39.99 commemorative photo package). 

And no, it’s not just the little kids at the mall.  It’s every single miserable person at the mall.  Miserable people who work in the mall stores, mall janitors and rent-a-cops, delivery people, geriatric mall walkers, shoppers of all ages and genders, tween and teen school truants, anybody in the mall who walks past the Easter Bunny on the Easter Bunny’s set is owed the Easter Bunny’s attention.

Anyway. . .

Most people, when they try on the bunny head, become anxious.  Panic sets in.  They feel cut-off, locked in, claustrophobic.  Buried alive.  They yank that bunny head off and gasp: I can’t breathe! I’m not cut out for this!  

Luckily, I’ve felt buried alive my whole life, so putting on the bunny head felt no different from any other moment.

Well, the rest of the Easter Bunny uniform is no joke, either.  The coat weighs a ton, the pants and paws are ill-fitting and hot as fuck.

Anyway. . .

Also, the Easter Bunny does not speak.  The Bunny must bring a smile to the miserable faces of the as-of-yet unjudged without saying a word.

Luckily, I have a lifetime of experience as a mime.  I was never formally trained.  I taught myself.  I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid talking to people, so I am an expert at non-verbal communication.

To put a smile on the miserable faces of as-of-yet unjudged white folk, usually a simple limp-wristed wave of the paw will do.  African-Americans require a little more effort, they are more miserable, I suppose, but my mack daddy strut usually does the trick.  Police officers who happen by get my Derek Chauvin knee drop mime.  It doesn’t make them smile, but the other mall bystanders chuckle in delight.  Teenagers who try to crack wise at the Easter Bunny’s expense are shamed with a mime of a penalty flag toss and unsportsmanlike conduct signal.  I won’t get into detailed specifics regarding certain ages and genders, fluid or not, but take my word, this Easter Bunny makes all who cross his path feel loved.

It’s a grueling eight hour shift that leaves you soaked in sweat with a sore neck and a head aching from breathing your own recycled oxygen.  But the reward, the Christian satisfaction of giving a momentary born-again experience to the miserable souls of the mall, makes the agony of carrying your bunny head daily more than worth it.

01 February 2023

John 14:1-9

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him. Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

Thomas and Philip are there with Jesus at the final hour.  

They have been with Jesus for upwards of three years.

And here, at the end of Jesus' mission, they (and doubtless the other disciples, as well), have no clue what He is talking about. . .

They have no idea who He is.  They have no idea where to go.  They have no idea what to do.  And this is made painfully clear by their (in)action after the crucifixion.

The only one who thought He knew what to do was Judas. . .

They have been with Jesus upwards of three years, and are utterly clueless.

As clueless as me, 2000 years later.

Here I am, 2000 years later stranded in the Satanic World Order, and I am supposed to know where to go and what to do?

I'll tell you where I won't go, and what I won't do:

I won't go and listen to a self-proclaimed Christian 'minister' who speaks with absolute confidence and certainty about how other people ought to live their lives.  For I am pretty certain they don't know a God damned thing more about it than Thomas or Philip or me.  As the Apostle Paul said:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. . .

Thomas and Philip (and the other disciples) didn't know what to do until Jesus came back from the dead, appeared to them, and told them what to do.

What am I supposed to do, 2000 years later?

I am as clueless as Thomas and Philip were.

What do I do?

Trust Jesus has a plan to drag my sorry ass out of this Satanic World Order and into His kingdom.  

I can judge my life to this point the same as I would judge the lives of Thomas and Philip and the other disciples in the period between the Last Supper and the Resurrection.  My behaviors have certainly been different.  But the judgment would be the same: unrighteous.  

Jesus got Thomas and Philip and the other disciples into the Kingdom, even though they had no idea how it would happen.

In the midst of the Satanic World Order, even though I have fallen, as Thomas and Philip and the other disciples fell, though from different temptation, I look to what Thomas and Philip and the other disciples saw, the resurrected Jesus.  Jesus has overcome the World, and even from the pit I am in, I see Him.  That's all I need.

22 January 2023

John 12:25 and Donald Trump

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal--
John 12:25.

I can't think of any recent public figure who loves his life more than Donald Trump.  His entire life has been about stealing enough money to *live deliciously,* as the Bible terms it (Revelation 18:7).

He would destroy anybody or anything to keep his soft clothes and King's houses.  In this regard, he inverts Caiaphas' prophecy:

It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

Trump is willing that a whole nation should perish for one man: himself.  That is the measure of how much he loves his delicious life.

Now that his delicious life is in jeopardy, does he calculate the wages of sin his soft life has cost?  

Does he repent like Nebuchadnezzar?


The best thing for Trump would be if he were to be beaten with many stripes or lashed with a cane until he came to senses and begged God for mercy for the sake of Christ.  This won't happen.  He will run out the clock of his delicious life with legal ploys funded by his gullible followers.

And then he will die in his sin.

20 January 2023

The Baptist According to Luke and John

 Just asking:

Is there any more pitiable figure in human history than John the Baptist?

His life’s labor was to prepare the way for the Lord.  And by all the gospel accounts, he did it admirably.  And yet. . .

. . .He ended up sentenced to death, and plagued by doubt. That is. . .

. . .If one believes the account in the gospel of Luke.  In fact, if Luke is accurate, one could well ask, did the Baptist die, as American self-proclaimed Christians like to term it, *unsaved?*

Luke would have us believe the Baptist, plagued by doubt, sends 2 of his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the One.  This is exceedingly odd, because. . .

Luke’s infancy narrative tells us Jesus and the Baptist had maternal figures who were related, and that both their births were miraculous, and that the maternal figures in their lives knew before their births of their exact relationship to each other, that of messenger in service of Savior.  

Shouldn’t the Baptist have grown up with absolute certainty about his *Cousin?*  Mary and Elizabeth, the maternal figures of Jesus and the Baptist, were relatives, and met before the births and discussed these matters, and Luke states the Baptist knew *in the womb* that Jesus was the One.  And yet. . .

. . .Luke would have us believe, at the end of his life the Baptist doubted, sent out disciples to question Jesus, which seemingly irked the Lord, for He replied “blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”

Jesus later added that he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than the Baptist.  It would not be unreasonable to infer then that the Baptist is outside the Kingdom of God.  At any rate. . .

. . .for this reason we say no one is more pitiable than the Baptist. . .he devoted his life's labor to preparing the way for Christ, and yet ended his life on death row, unsure if he had prepared the way for the right One. . .IF Luke’s account is true.

On the other hand. . .

. . .the gospel of John records no such doubt on the part of the Baptist.  In fact, in John’s gospel, unlike Luke’s, the Baptist has no idea who Jesus is until he sees the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus, a confirming sign given to the Baptist by God, at which time the Baptist proclaims with absolute certainty Jesus is the Lamb of God.  He never wavers or doubts, and consoles his own disciples who see the ministry of Jesus grow, and his ministry shrink, by stating He must increase, I must decrease.  Not a shred of doubt is ever hinted at in the gospel of John.  So. . .

. . .for the sake of the Baptist, let us hope John's account is the more accurate.

14 December 2022

Matthew 5:14-16

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

I’ve been reading the New Testament for over forty years.  This saying of Jesus is recorded, variously, in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  I have probably read this saying at least one hundred times. . .

And every time I read it, my conscience is seared. . .

I have had the Light of Jesus’ Gospel for over forty years. . .but it has not shined before men.  

I have not hid the light 100% of the time.  But certainly I have hid it more than 99% of the time.  More than 99.5% of the time.  

I think of all the people I have been acquainted with over the decades.  The vast, vast majority of them never knew I was an admirer of Jesus, and that I esteemed His gospel above all else.

Every time I read the saying of Jesus presented above, my conscience is seared as I admit how little I have displayed it.  

It’s not that I would be ashamed if people knew I was a Jesus person, or that I was afraid people would think less of me if they knew I was a Jesus person.  I don’t care what people think about me. . .  

I wish it were that I was ashamed or fearful.  It wouldn’t be more excusable, because it can’t be excused.  But it would be more comprehensible. . .

For the plain truth is incomprehensible: I have the gospel of the Savior, and almost all the time I do nothing with it.  I live as if there is no Kingdom of God.  I live exactly as the people who are ignorant of the gospel of Jesus live. 

I ask myself: why is this?  I don’t have an answer.  I can say that I don’t care enough about other people to illuminate them with the gospel of Jesus, and this is certainly true, but I can’t answer why I don’t care enough about them.  Why am I reasonably content to just pass the time here waiting to die as if there is no Kingdom of God, as if there is no other way to live than the way unbelievers live?  The way they live is not the right way to live, of that I have no doubt.  The world goes about everything the wrong way, of that I have no doubt.  And yet, as I said, I am reasonably content to go along, anyway.

And so when I read the saying above from Jesus, and must acknowledge the power and splendor of the gospel, and yet I can't be bothered about it, my conscience is seared as I contemplate the extraordinary labor Jesus undertook to bring His gospel to the world. 

I can only hope this confession serves as an introduction to the gospel of Jesus to any who pass here. . .