Sunday’s Wisdom #339: The Cost of Wrath

“Grand ideas of peace evaporate very quickly in the face of a chance to make your enemy pay.”
– Killien, Pursuit of Shadows
The Keeper Chronicles
, by JA Andrews

This is one of those quotes which is given extra weight by the context surrounding it, but is also so simple and potent that is has power on its own, even without any context at all.

Killien is a man whose people are deeply flawed: extremely violent and aggressive, prideful and self-superior, engaging in the slavery of other peoples, including the theft of children from their homes and families, with a nonchalant assurance that there is nothing at all wrong with it. But for all the brutality, Killien’s father carried a hope for peace, for the uniting of all their splintered clans into one, and perhaps even an equal coexistence with their neighbors, in due time. But the man was betrayed and murdered, leaving his son to inherit his hopes and dreams, which have been repeatedly burnt to ash. Killien has always sought for peace and unity, but he learned that power is needed in order to resist their oppressors and deal with traitors, and he has always been angry at how his father was betrayed, and at what has been done to his own clan. So, when he, too, is betrayed, and his newborn son threatened, it unleashes his fury, to the result of much destruction.

In fairness to Killien, he was also being influenced by an outside force, another traitor who thought to take him entirely away from the path of peace onto one where they simply rain death on everyone around them. When he’s freed of that, and his mind is cleared, he is horrified, and he does not balk at the task of righting what he has done wrong, to try and salvage a chance for peace out of everything. However, that is simply a poetic way of looking at what our anger does to us.

Bit by bit, it festers and boils and grows until, one day, it finally has the chance the erupt. It burns our souls in fury, freezes what’s left in hatred, and drowns it in darkness and pain and blood and sorrow. That is the work of wrath whenever we let it have free rein over us.

Now, an argument can be made that some of what Killien does is perfectly justified. And one can always make an argument that since power is needed in order to bring the mighty to heel, then pursuing that power may seem to be worth any price. Peace can only be won through war, after all. Not to mention the further argument, that ever so human phrase that comes up every single time: “They deserve it.”

Perhaps.

Perhaps everyone we hate really does deserve everything we can possibly do to them and more. Perhaps our anger is always fully justified and perfect in its aim and never does any harm to any innocent. Perhaps the fury born of sorrow is always right, and our moral outrage is never, ever mistaken.

Or perhaps not.

Perhaps it’s not actually about what “they” apparently “deserve.” Perhaps it isn’t, and can’t be, and must never be, about what “they deserve.”

Mobs have destroyed cities out of anger, out of a mad desire to make someone pay for all the injustices of the world. Those cities were filled with innocent people, people for whom the mob is the injustice. Clearly, simply lashing out does nothing but shed more blood, and all because of the fear and anger which come from wanting something good but ultimately being helpless.

Everyone goes through life feeling helpless in some way. Even people who think they rule the world, and who we also think rule the world, cannot entirely escape being powerless. For some, it drives them to seek power, more and more of it, as a method of survival. For others, they have no idea how to go about that, and so they endure, day after day after day, feeling helpless to do anything as their world burns around them again and again and again… until one day, maybe, they finally get a chance, just one chance… to strike back. And from there, it becomes so easy to fall so quickly, to forget entirely that all we really wanted, in the beginning, was to live in peace.

There are times I scream at myself for being so helpless, for not knowing anything about how to go about becoming powerful enough to help my people and my country. And there are other times, quite often, where I am thankful that I have so little power, because with so much anger in my heart… I sometimes fear what I would do, and who I would hurt, if I simply had the chance.

Some people are slaves to their lusts, or gripped with envy, or victims to their own pride, but I fear my greatest sin, the one most difficult for me to let go of, would be wrath. And not much has actually happened to me, as of yet. I fear what I may become if ever my anger is truly unleashed, if I have the opportunity to make my “enemies,” such as they are, pay. How much blood would stain my soul? How much would my soul be twisted as I delighted in their pain and misery? Who would I become?

That’s why this quote speaks especially to me, because it speaks to something I have not yet faced, and yet in everything similar to facing it, I have not done so well.

As much as I long for peace, I hate my helplessness, and as much as I hate my helplessness, I fear to find out what I would do if I had power and chance to use it. Would I hold to my ideals, or sink into my hate?

I don’t know.

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The NEW Shortcut for Using Classic Editor in Creating Posts

Hello fellow WordPress bloggers!

So, a short while ago, I posted A Note For My Fellow WorPress Users. I gave a brief set of instructions to guide anyone who wanted to know in how to access the increasingly-elusive Classic Editor.

Then they changed things again. I suddenly found the setup changed again, such that I couldn’t get back to that wonderful Classic Editor without going through a pretty impressive routine of cyber-gymnastics that I discovered largely through accident and stubbornness.

Seriously, WordPress. You had something that worked quite well. Then you messed it up. STOP MESSING IT UP MORE.

As I went through this new rigamarole, however, I noticed something. The website address that I was being directed to first, in accessing WP Admin, was slightly different than the one I finally managed to end up at, where I could actually create my posts the way I freaking wanted.

The new site address goes like this:
https://wordpress.com/posts/%5Byourblogname%5D.com

The one I want goes like this:
https://%5Byourblogname%5D.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=post

A little experimentation and I have discovered that bookmarking the latter allows me quick and easy access to the Classic Editor! Yay!

Oh, and if you want to access your pages and such the same way, simply write “page” instead of “post” at the very end. I imagine that can work for a number of the other tools as well, but for now, I thought I’d just share this little shortcut.

It’s simple. It’s easy. It works!

Happy posting (with Classic Editor) everyone! 😀

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Sunday’s Wisdom #338: I Will Always Need My Mom

“I need her to make me some cocoa and tell me that everything that is going badly in my life will sort itself.”
– Kathleen Kelley, You’ve Got Mail

It’s been awhile, but I seem to recall that Kathleen says this when she’s at a point in her life when she is feeling the dread and pressure of the very real possibility that she might soon lose something truly important to her. When that happens, when the shop she inherited from her parents, the shop she practically grew up in, the shop she has dearly loved for as long as she has been able to love anything, and in which she still has her closest friends, when that shop closes down… well, it’s a devastating loss. As she puts it, it’s like a part of her has died, and her mother has died all over again.

Her mother was, as mothers should be, her hero, her role model and champion, her steadfast, immovable, unshakeable support. Kathleen remembers the good times in her book store, in the car after school when they would just talk, and all the times her mother gave her the comfort she needed to be strong. The world may not understand how something as simple as hot chocolate and reassurance (for instance) can be such a powerful influence, such a source of enduring strength, but there you have it.

It is often in the smallest, most everyday of gestures that we find our greatest comfort.

And who is there more consistently, to offer such support, than our beloved parents, especially our mothers?

I do say that knowing that not everyone has that most wonderful blessing. Some parents are atrocious. Some mothers are awful. And even when one is so blessed, sometimes the tragedy of loss strikes all too soon.

In that light, I want to just say how grateful I am that my mother is still here, and that she has always been awesome. She has always been supportive of her children, as long as we do not hurt either ourselves or those around us. She endured all the travails that come with motherhood, guided and taught us as best she could, and she spoiled us (especially me) so rotten that it has only been exceeded by how she spoils her grandchildren. 😉 Most of all, I have always known that she loves us.

I have always known I am loved.

What a truly wonderful gift!

Though I am a fully grown adult, working and supporting myself as best I can, there will always be some part of me that, every so often, for no reason or any reason at all, just needs my mom, with all of her comfort and love and support.

Thank you, God, for my mother.

Thank you, Mom, for being my mom. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Captain Falcon and the NOT Winter Soldier Anymore

As human beings, we have a tendency to deify or demonize almost everything we see, including each other, and especially the people who stand out, like our heroes and villains. Now, there most certainly are such things as good and evil, but the truth is that people can be much more complicated in ways which are not readily obvious to a public eye. Everyone is, in their own way, wrestling with the darkness of the world around them and the darkness within themselves. Not everyone walks away from that as purely good or evil, purely villainous or purely heroic.

That is one of the more profound themes which is repeatedly explored in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

As Marvel’s second Disney Plus show, there are inevitable comparisons to be made with WandaVision, but, really, the two shows are so distinct from one another, much live the various film and television franchises within (or loosely connected to) the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that I don’t think there is much good that will come from such comparisons. Each show is its own thing, and we may be better served if we just leave it at that.

I am going to say, though, that this show had much more powerful episodes, and a great deal more character development.

Following the two titular characters after the events of Endgame, the show is largely about their personal journeys, both together and individually. In the Falcon’s case, that of Sam Wilson, we see how and why he decides to take up the mantle which Captain America left in his care. As for Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, he is still trying to move on from being the Winter Soldier, and the trauma of remembering all the harm he ever did. As the two of them are both “Cap’s best buddy,” there is a good deal of friction between them, but they also have a lot in common: they both loved their friend, they’re both trying to cope with everything, they’re both trying to do good, and they’re both angry when the shield of Captain America, which Sam donated in good faith to the Smithsonian in the hopes that the example of Steve Rogers would inspire people for generations to come, is immediately taken and given to some military stooge, someone the government believes they can control.

Said stooge comes in the form of a much-decorated soldier, John Walker. He is everything the government wants in a good soldier, which is precisely what would have disqualified him in the eyes of Dr. Erskine, the scientist who turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. He is loyal, capable, and highly skilled, but also aggressive, egotistical, unstable, short-sighted, and stubborn. He simply does not have the strength of character to bear the mantle of a legend. He proves himself lethally merciless in front of the entire world, but he is also a soldier just trying to do his job, and he even chooses to cast vengeance aside at one point, in favor of saving lives. In short, he is extremely dangerous, but it is while he is trying so hard to be a hero that he becomes villainous.

The found the perfect cocky, creepy smile.

Somewhat parallel to that is Karli Morgenthau, leader of an anarchist group called the Flag Smashers. She is the young idealist who falls, escalating from the thievery of things her people need to survive, to premeditated murder and bombings, to outright international terrorism. She had a good cause, namely the welfare of a legitimately displaced people, but she let the pressure of it all – her cause, her losses, her enemies in the shadows breathing down her neck – get to her, and went about it all wrong. Perhaps most tragic of all, she manages to box herself into a situation where her surest comfort is her confidence that she and her closest friends could all die and her cause would still continue.

That’s two people in this show who fight for hope but lose to despair. There are others who have simply given up on such entirely. There’s yet another Captain America, of sorts, who was treated most heinously by the very same government he was sworn to serve as a soldier, an trauma that left his angry and bitter. There’s Baron Zemo, the man who truly defeated the Avengers in Civil War, and he does not join the fight for any illusions of hope, but simply because it serves his own ideology to hunt the Flag Smashers into oblivion after they have taken super serum. And then there’s Sharon Carter, who once stood foremost in the fight against Hydra, in Captain America and the Winter Soldier, and was both a valuable support and a romantic interest in Civil War. Since then, she’s become jaded and nihilistic, and, as it turns out, a criminal overlord in a kingdom of thieves. She is quite arguably the worst of them all, the hero who becomes a villain that is wearing the mask of still being a hero.

So, following all of these characters, and more, all across the world and through the depths of their various souls is indeed a riveting experience. Marvel did that part quite well. Yet… well, there are certain pronounced imperfections, things that they tried and failed to do.

For instance: the fights.

They did a fair job with the last few fights, but the earlier fights were a bit lackluster. Even Sam’s first aerial mission as Falcon, as flashy as it was, felt like it dragged on a bit and displayed his limits even more keenly than his strengths. Outside that, however, was the first time Sam and Bucky (and Walker and his partner) fought the Flag Smashers. Sure, there were several of them, and they were juiced up on super serum, but Bucky, of all people, ought to have held his own best of all in that fight. I mean, he was a one-man army in his Winter Soldier debut, and he held his own again in Civil War, but now he’s easily overpowered by a pair of amateurs? Nah, not buying it.

“Did they actually power us *down* a bit for this show?”

For another: …uh, just how easy is it to break someone out of prison by smuggling them a key card in advance, walking through a prisoners’ area and dropping a note that starts a riot? Because that, along with anything else that just needed to happen to advance this particular plot, was always pulled off pretty dang easy. Like when the Flag Smashers easily defeat Sam, or Walker’s friend is easily killed, or a new suit with new wings is made.

Speaking of, small detail: having a vibranium shield and vibranium wings does not make Sam’s flesh vibranium. Taking a blow from Karli head-on ought to have seriously hurt him, even more because he stood and took it with the wings holding him in place. He ought to have been a Sam sandwich!

For another instance: the politics.

Disney and Marvel definitely live on the Left, but they still have to cater to the Right in order to sell their movies and shows and make money. As such, there is an irritating tendency for them to preach at their audience. That was, I will admit, more balanced in this show than one might have expected. I adore the part where Sam says, “We can’t ask people to step up without meeting them halfway,” but it is immediately preceded by making excuses for people who can be labeled as terrorists and thugs (not to mention “refugees”), so I wonder what “halfway” Disney would have in mind.

Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate shows which talk about the difficult subjects, and this one was far better than it might have been, but, still, it got a bit ridiculous at times.

And what was with Karli talking about being citizens of the planet? There are is no such thing as a planetary citizenship. There are national citizens, but not global ones. Or is there supposed to be some sort of New World Order at work here?

A final instance: the setup for the future. I mean, it’s pretty clear that things are just barely getting started for the Falcon, now the new Captain America, and the Winter Soldier, as well as for the villainy of Sharon Carter, and for the escapades of John Walker, the USAgent, under the auspices of a woman who, in Marvel lore, is Madame Hydra herself. So, will things continue in the form of a second season, or in the next movie?

We must wait and see, but the sense of this as a beginning rather overshadows how the ending feels… as an ending.

“We are just getting started, boys.”

What this show did best? The moments where the characters just talked about what was important to them. There’s something powerful in that, especially in how Sam’s character shined especially bright. That was his wheelhouse, after all, just talking to people, helping them. The reason Cap chose him to give the shield to? Because he is a good man, first and foremost.

That comes through, I just want to say, because the casting in virtually every role, major and minor alike, is absolutely brilliant! These are fantastic actors who have great material to work with and with fairly competent direction behind them. I mean, I just have to give a shout out to every member of the cast. They were fantastic.

So, is it a perfect show? Um, no, certainly not. But it’s pretty good, especially because of the characters.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #337: Dangerous Pedestals

“The danger with people like him… is that we put them on pedestals. They become symbols, icons, and then we start to forget about their flaws. From there… innocent people die, movements are formed, wars are fought.”
– Baron Helmut Zemo, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Season 1, Episode 3, “Power Broker”

In this (slightly redacted) quote, Zemo is referring specifically to the idea of super soldiers like Captain America, and how we people idolize such, putting them on pedestals because of what they can do, giving them more power because they already have more power, when, really, they’re just other human beings. With all that power in such flawed hands, well, it inevitably all goes to crap and people suffer for it.

Zemo is, in a way, on to something, but it’s more general than he thinks. I have noticed many times that we, as human beings, tend to either deify or demonize each other. People are either heroes or villains, angels or demons, good or bad, through and through. It’s a terribly flawed perspective, yet sadly common as well, despite how short-sighted, two-dimensional, self-limiting, and even destructively dangerous it is.

Take the relationship between a parent and a child, for instance. The parent may see the child as an angelic baby, and the child may see the parent as an immaculate figure of godlike prestige and power. And then, as the child grows, the flaws begin to emerge, the disagreements, the arguments, until the parent is a hypocritical tyrant and the growing child is a stubborn, savage little demon who has surely been led astray by some foreign influence. From there, the conflicts may eventually settle into a mutual understanding that they are both simply human, or they may erupt into bitter, lifelong disputes. All because they could only see each other as one thing or the other, as either angelic or demonic, godlike or pathetic.

Almost every view that we have of our fellow humans follows that basic pattern. Public figures and celebrities can be adored one moment and then savagely attacked by their own fans and supporters in the next breath, the instant they do something “imperfect.” Or the other way around, the moment the guy nobody likes does something good and useful, people tolerate them better, even like them in a strange way. Or maybe, as is sadly common, they support a particular leader no matter what, without question, as if they can do no wrong. It’s ridiculous, and dangerous. Sure, it enabled George Washington as a leader, but it also enabled the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. It is the essence of cancel culture, of censorship, and so much worse. It is the air breathed by empires and rebellions alike. All because of the pedestals that people use for others, and often crave for themselves.

How many heroes have been entirely condemned for a single wrong they did? How many times have the villains done something terrible only to be forgiven, or otherwise given some slack, the moment they do something the audience thinks of as good? Heck, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is practically a case study (especially on the heels of WandaVision) in how the audience reacts in rabid praise or condemnation of the people on the screen (character and actor alike) and of each other as well, based on whatever opinion we dare to voice.

I wonder what it is about us that we have to try and peg everyone around us in some sort of moral pecking order. Does it help us understand where we are, ourselves? I don’t think so. I think it just gives us a chance to think we are better than some people, while also giving us an excuse not to try and better ourselves because, on some level, we think we can’t be as good as such-and-such person that we’ve placed higher in our moral pecking order. And then comes the bitter disappointment if one “higher up” does not meet our expectations.

I don’t always succeed, but I try, very hard, to avoid looking at the people around me like that. I try, instead, to just see the person, the fellow human, who is doing the best that they know how. I can learn from them, and they can learn from me, and we can all improve ourselves together. That’s what it means to work together: no one is better or worse, we just do our best and support each other.

That is unity, and it comes, first and foremost, in avoiding the mentality of pedestals.

No matter our station, our position, our power… we’re all just people.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #336: Meet in the Middle

“We can’t demand that people step up if we don’t meet them halfway.”
– Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Season 1, Episode 6, “One World, One People”

Yes, I have enjoyed this show, and especially Sam, quite a bit. 😉

Sam Wilson is saying these words to some of the more powerful people in the world. These are people who are trying to decide what to do in the wake of tumultuous events, and, frankly, they have not been doing a very good job. They’ve done poorly enough that a few desperate people have tried to stop them with violence, and who can blame them when they’re fighting for their lives and the lives of everyone like them? But these powerful people, the moment they’re safe, they continue on as they have been. And Sam calls them on it. He speaks simply and sincerely to the need for humans to work together to overcome these and all other tumultuous events. To that end, people can’t just dismiss each other, making demands and offering nothing in return.

There is something about that which I think people desperately need to remember these days. Sure, a lot of this speech goes towards things I don’t personally believe (it’s Disney, we disagree on a number of political matters), but the one thing that I wish people would remember is, quite simply: you just can’t ask for everything you want without giving something back.

Give a little, get a little, back and forth, together, until we meet in the middle.

The world is overrun with people who want to get everything without giving anything. They want to have happiness without building it, as needs to happen. They want to get paid without working, to lie without being called a liar, to cheat without ever being held accountable, to break the rules without facing the consequences. But most of all, most pointedly, in this instance, they want their political views to be accepted and enforced without ever listening to the other side of the argument. They just dismiss it, and entire swathes of our population, as casually as brushing aside a fly.

There inevitably follows, from this casual ignorance of another human’s perspective, a devaluation of that human as a human. They become stats on a sheet of paper, a label in a political conversation, a noise to be ignored, a stain to be cleansed and forgotten, an obstacle to be removed without compassion. There is no real working with someone who we see like that, or who sees us like that.

The frustration I have felt when people I have known for a long time completely ignore what I have to say, responding with pat-answer insults and willful ignorance of everything I say, is immense. It gets to me sometimes, and I just want to scream and break things like a poltergeist. I listen, and I listen, and I listen to them, and they do not listen to me. That is the sentiment that many, many people are feeling, because one side does nothing but make demands and refuses to listen, refuses to give any ground, refuses to work with the people on “the other side.” Completely forgetting that it’s not really about sides, it’s about finding practical solutions to urgent problems.

As humans, we can be stubborn, hard-headed creatures, with passions and prejudices aplenty all around. But we have to learn to give a little ground for each other. We have to. And the first step, the first inch, that we have to give is: “I don’t agree with you, I don’t understand your point of view, but I am willing to sit here and listen to your side anyway, because you are a human being like me, and I’m sure you have good reasons for what you believe, so, come on, let’s work together and find a way for everyone to get something out of this. Talk with me.”

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Sunday’s Wisdom #335: A Hopeful Point to the Pain

“What would be the point of all the pain and sacrifice if I wasn’t willing to stand up and keep fighting?”
– Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Season 1, Episode 5, “Truth”

One might be able to tell that I am greatly enjoying this show, and especially the character of Sam Wilson, the Falcon.

Sam is a man well-acquainted with pain, both his own and that of others. He has given much for what he believes in, what he loves, and he has seen the sacrifices of others with clear, unclouded eyes. He is not at all naive about the world and how good people get hurt, and suffer, and lose important things.

The question isn’t simply whether someone understands that or not, but what they do with that knowledge.

Sam has seen old friends became jaded and nihilistic. He has seen old enemies actually trying to do what they think is right, but do so without any light of hope in their eyes. He has seen good men die, heroes fall to corruption, and hopeful idealists turn to terrorism and murder. All of them are dealing with the darkness of the world, with everything they’ve lost and suffered, and it turns many of them bitter, hateful, and destructive.

But the wrongs of the world are nothing new.

Tyrants and traitors have victimized many in the world, for thousands of years. For generations upon generations, men of honor have died for their cause, only for that cause, and their people, and their names, to be trodden under and forgotten. The powerful have always preyed upon the powerless. Good and bad people alike lose important things. Victims are made every day without having done anything to deserve it. Lies, abuse, and neglect have destroyed countless relationships, and countless people have succumbed to the bitterness of their failures.

These are not new things. They have been with us for as long as we have existed.

And yet, we persevere.

We stand up.

We join the ranks of those who are willing to give their all, generation after generation. We reach out in kindness and understanding to support those in need, to heal wounds of the spirit with loving words, loving deeds, and shared tears. We hold up the ideals that past generations have bled for, and we work to raise a generation to whom we can pass the torch. We get up, make our beds, brush our teeth, do our jobs, fulfill our obligations, savor all the happy moments we can make, and give everything we can to help our neighbors, our communities. We volunteer at shelters and libraries. We speak up instead of staying silent in the face of evil. We march, we petition, we vote. We keep fighting for what is right, the best way we know how, even though the world itself may be against us.

This we do because we remember what we have, in humility. This we do because we are willing to persevere, in courage. This we do to preserve the light in our lives for the future, in hope. This we do in honor of all the pain and sacrifice that has already happened, in determination.

Some say that the existence of such pain means that we can never win, that each sacrifice is doomed to be in vain.

I say that the existence of such pain, such sacrifice and darkness, is itself a reason to fight on.

I say that the greatest insult we can give to those who have suffered, including ourselves, is to give up, to let it all be in vain on our watch.

The world will be what it is, yes. But what would be the point of it all if we didn’t keep trying to make the world better anyway?

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Sunday’s Wisdom 334: The Limits of Bloodshed

“Blood isn’t always the answer.”
– Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Season 1, Episode 4, “The Whole World is Watching”

For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled to survive. It is the way of nature itself to kill or be killed, to eat or be eaten, and that has been imprinted on human nature for longer than our recorded history. Something threatens us, hurts us, takes what is ours, we strike back and we kill it. The only times we beware, avoid, or appease, instead of kill, is when we literally can’t kill it. That’s why every tyrant in history has been so invested in keeping their subjects afraid of them.

When Sam says these words, he is saying it whilst practically surrounded by people for whom blood is the only answer they really know.

On the one hand, there is a group of who want to live peaceful lives, but have been displaced by recent catastrophes and abandoned by the powers that be who promised to help them. (side-rant: do not trust in far-away powers that be for help) For them, they’re trying to help people, but they’ve engaged in unsavory acts which are escalating in violence and it’s turning their arguably-just cause into just another a bloodbath. And this group is, in turn, being hunted by a shadowy puppeteer who fully intends to add their own blood to the slaughter.

On the other hand, there are the legitimate authorities of the world who do not like their boat being rocked. These sent some of their finest soldiers to apprehend or kill the pesky little revolutionaries for them, and when one of these soldiers is killed in action… well, his comrade responds with primal, murderous, merciless fury. One of his own has been taken, and he immediately seeks blood for blood.

And then there’s yet another rogue element in this entire equation. The man that Sam is speaking to in this scene is one who has already demonstrated his capacity for seeking bloodshed in answer for his own losses. In this particular moment, though, he expresses a desire for the wholesale destruction of those who possess unnatural advantages over their fellow man. What he refers to is superhumans, but if one were to extend that to its logical conclusion, then it would include all other artificial advantages like advanced technology, skills acquired through a lifetime of training and experience, and, of course, money and social connections. Ultimately, he is not being so logical, and is merely playing god in another bloodstained way.

Sam is the one who understands that, at some point, spilling blood doesn’t solve every single problem.

The people who are trying to help could have gone down a different path, away from all the terror and fear and blood, and probably accomplished more for it, for a lot less risk.

The man who goes murderously crazy when his friend is killed in front of him has every right to his anger, but he had no right to commit murder himself, and it will only make things worse and worse.

And as appealing an image as it might be to anyone when they envision a world cleansed of all those who they deem to be threats in some way, there is no way to accomplish that without becoming a monster that is pretending to be a god. Which, even if one were willing and able to do that, it still wouldn’t make for a lasting peace.

There is no real peace without making a much more human connection. We have to realize, on a fundamental level, that we really are all in this together.

Sometimes the answer lies in helping each other, instead of hurting each other.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #333: Greater Worth

“A jewel has brilliant fire, but it gives no warmth. Our hands are not so soft, but they can serve; our bodies not so white, but they are strong; our lips are not perfumed, but they speak the truth. Love is not an art to us, it is life to us. We are not dressed in gold and fine linen. Strength and honor are our clothing. Our tents are not the columned halls of Egypt, but our children play happily before them. We can offer you little, but we offer all we have. …’Nothing’ from some is more than gold from others.”
– Sephora, The Ten Commandments

A classic from decades ago, The Ten Commandments depicts the life of Moses, albeit in a rather sensationalized manner. At this point in the story, Moses has left Egypt, including everything and everyone he has ever known, including a woman who was most alluring and, unknown to him, also most cutthroat and merciless, quick to commit murder in order to further her own ends. Moses is now bereft of everything, but has found a new people, a humble people, including a man named Jethro and his several daughters. The daughters dance and hope he’d pick one of them to marry, but his heart was no longer dazzled by such displays. Instead, he talks to Sephora, the one who did not dance, and the more they talk, the more her words, simple and sincere, fall upon his aching heart and heal it.

The emptiness of his loss is filled not with shining gold and fiery jewels, those treasures of the world, so cold and hard. Those fine things are not bad, in and of themselves, but they are often distractions from things that matter far more: warmth and life, truth and true love, integrity and hard work, charity, humility, happiness, and the pure, free laughter of children at play, among other things. These are humble things, everyday things, precious things, more valuable than all the treasures of the world combined. Yet they are also overlooked, because they cannot be held and owned, they cannot be exchanged, spent, bought, bartered, or lent, and they can be had by the poor as easily as by the rich.

A wealthy CEO pledges a small fortune to a charitable cause, not really missing the money and, as it happens, getting a nice tax write-off in the bargain, not to mention good publicity. A child empties their piggy bank of their entire savings to give to that same cause. Who has given more?

A rich man offers a beautiful girl a life of luxury and ease. A poor farmer offers her love. Who offers more?

A king bestows honors and gold upon their heroic allies, while an impoverished family offers a soldier, in their most desperate hour, shelter and safety and what meager food they have to share, and that soldier offers their very life in defense of the kingdom. A young, curvaceous woman offers all manner of pleasure for an evening, while another woman offers a lifetime of love and loyalty. A political player offers connections and opportunities and so many flatteries, while a father offers protection and a brother offers blunt and brutal honesty. Who is offering and giving more?

What is of more worth, in the end? The things we can hold in our hands, or the things we can hold in our hearts?

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War of Mortal Gods… NEEDS EDITING!!!

Amazon.com: War of Mortal Gods (Book One): EVO Universe Presentation eBook: Ewers, Kipjo K.: Kindle StoreI am just going to get this part out of the way:

It’s “refrain,” not “reframe,” as in “please refrain from doing that.”

And it’s “lest,” not “less,” as in “don’t irritate me lest I smite you.”

And it’s “cosmivore,” like herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore, not “cosmivorse.” There is no “carnivorse.”

I do not know if the author himself managed to get all three of those wrong every single time he wrote them, which was quite often, or if some editor or editing software somewhere is to blame, but, either way, it drove me batty.

On that opening note, I have to say that War of Mortal Gods: Book One rather clearly demonstrates that the quality of Kipjo Ewers’ EVO Universe, consisting of The First, EVO Uprising, Eye of Ra, and Genesis, is quite clearly in decline.

I hate to be so harsh, especially with an author whose work I have so enjoyed. So, let’s back up a bit and put this into context.

One of Ewers’ greatest strengths has always been a writing style that could easily be converted into something visual, especially movies. This time around, however, that very strength seems to have turned against him. Instead of describing things so that they can be vividly visualized by anyone, he uses shortcuts, as if he’s talking to some artist on the project whose job it is to take broad descriptions and come up with detailed appearances. The word “amalgamation” was used a number of times, describing how something looks as if it were a combination of things that human Earthlings might be familiar with. And that was it.

Which, it was also a bit strange to be getting such comparisons whilst seeing things from the perspective of aliens who had no such familiarity with Earth. We got Earth-based amalgamations, but without any idea of what the aliens thought or felt about what they were seeing. If, instead, we truly saw through their eyes, saw what they felt seeing their own planet, that would be something else entirely. Do they see strength? Decay? A shell? A gilded flower with veiled power? But we got nothing of that. It was just… vague instructions for someone else who had the responsibility making things visible.

For that matter, I have also enjoyed how easy it was for us, the audience, to connect with the various heroes, so powerful but also so human. We got to spend time seeing them be human. At least, we got that in previous novels. In War of Mortal Gods, most of the time was spent being dramatic instead. Very little actually happened outside some oh-so-epic thumb-twiddling. The heroes basically just waited, or flailed around a bit, before all Hell broke loose at the cliffhanger, while the villains plotted and plotted and plotted and PLOTTED until the moment they finally made their move. Seriously, we did not need so many chapters establishing how evil and savage the villains are, and much more graphically (and uncomfortably) than we were shown in previous novels. With so much being made to happen, and so little actually happening, there was something of a disconnect with the characters in general.

I suppose one could say War of Mortal Gods went the way of DC rather than Marvel, where the story was about what the heroes and villains could do, and about their conflict – or, more specifically, the prolonged setup of their conflict – rather than about them as characters.

But perhaps the overall problem could be summed up more succinctly: War of Mortal Gods is just in dire, severe, overwhelming need of editing. The timeline of it, and Genesis, needs a bit of work, but most of all, the overall plot of this war needs to be streamlined, with things actually happening, instead of being promised to happen, and with the characters developing, instead of simply going through the various obstacles in their way. I can see how this is only the first quarter of the saga – or, rather, the second part of the saga, as it picks up directly after Genesis ends – but I can also see this novel having been heavily edited to about a quarter, or maybe a third, of its length, making room for the rest of the saga to be included in the same novel.

I won’t advise Ewers to go back to the drawing board, as that ship has now set sail, but he may want to vigorously reassess how he is managing his story.

Rating: 5 stars out of 10.

Grade: D.

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