Sunday’s Wisdom #316: Truce

“The outcome of this war won’t be decided tonight. I don’t think anyone would criticize us for laying down our rifles on Christmas Eve.”
– Lieutenant Gordon, Joyeux Noel

The Christmas Truce of 1914 is, I think, one of the better moments of humanity’s history, for the humanity that was found among enemy soldiers. These were men who had been sent to kill each other and had, mere moments before, been shooting at each other. These were brave men, loyal to their countries and obedient to their superiors, and they were wading through Hell itself in the Great War. But on that night of Christmas Eve, they united as Christians, and as humans, in peace, respect, and brotherly love. It was a magnificent moment.

Unfortunately, Gordon’s words were a bit too optimistic.

See, the entire situation of World War I was an absolute mess. There were no clear heroes and villains for history to revere or revile. It was just a horrific domino effect that brought the nations of Europe into a mutual slaughter. I can hope that the people in charge of all the armies were resolved to try and achieve their objectives and restore peace as quickly and effectively as possible, but the bulk of the blood shed in any war is by common soldiers. To that end, the soldier must be willing to kill “the enemy,” and do so without hesitation or pity. That is why everyone involved in war gets so damaged, because a piece of their humanity has to be turned off for a time, and they wade through absolute trauma like that.

Thus, no one in a position of authority could do anything but work against the effects of the Christmas Truce, else their cause and their soldiers would become even more damaged. That is how much of a mess war is.

That is how much of a mess the world is.

We are all at each others’ throats, it seems, over a wide array of disagreements. But, the thing is, we’re not actually at war with each other. We’re not being sent into battle, or sending others into battle. We’re not digging trenches or forming squares or dropping bombs or anything else. And yet, we are dehumanizing each other with alarming ease and frequency. And over what? Politics? Party? Rhetoric? Religion? What movies or boy bands we like?

Exactly where was the point that we stopped loving each other?

Black people and white people marched together against racist laws, and triumphed together, and yet now we have race riots galore. Men and women have always managed to exist in balance with each other, albeit in ways which changed from culture to culture, yet now both men and women are hated and the families we used to build together are being torn apart. People of every political party used to find common ground and enact laws for the public good, yet now we’re indoctrinated towards relentless hatred and a refusal to listen. We had dreams of nations working together across the globe to solve all of the problems of the human race by protecting the rights of all, yet even our forums of discourse have been turned towards oppression and misinformation.

We are not at war with each other, and yet the world is at war with itself.

That is a war that will not be decided overnight. But we can take the first step within ourselves and our communities: lay down our arms. To lay down our anger and our hatred, our temper and our fear, our pride and our need to be right. To instead, take up a song, as the men of the Christmas Truce did. They were joined by music, the language of the soul, and we must join together as well in a song of love, a melody of respect, a symphony of diversity as we remember the simple truth, that we are all human beings, none greater or lesser than any other.

Will we be criticized for it? Oh, yes. Most certainly. The world is a mess, and it cannot adapt easily as it tries to just keep functioning.

The choice must be to join in the song anyway, and keep the music of peace alive in our hearts.

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Things I Have Given Thanks For

I shared an invitation on here to Give Thanks. Now, I’d like to just share with you, my wonderful audience, the things that I gave thanks for on Facebook over the course of a week (though my final entry was on the eighth day, the day after Thanksgiving). It was a humbling, uplifting experience, and I am filled with a sense of gratitude for all of these that I wrote an entry for, and for so many more things, too numerous to count. I hope never to forget what I have.

(I kept the hashtag as an effective way of separating my entries)

Sam was all burrowed under the blue blanket (I had to lift the edge up to reveal his face) and perfectly happy as he lays against my knees, getting pets and loves from his human! I just had to snap a picture! 🙂

I am grateful for my dogs, my furry, four-legged little friends, and how they brighten my days. 🙂

Today, I was able to talk to my grandmother on skype. Tomorrow, I’ll do the same with each of my parents. I am grateful for the technology that lets us stay connected even across great distances, not only on skype, but on facebook, through email, and the internet. It was not so long ago that such wonders were unheard of, and I wish more people appreciated it, and their loved ones, more.

I am grateful for music. It is an expression of the soul, and often good for the soul, much like the stories we tell. Like this YouTube artist covering “Life is a Highway,” and in such a simple, sweet, fun way. It made me smile.

Life will be good as long as we can laugh, tell stories, and make music.

I am thankful for clean air. The fires here in Oregon were so big and so close that the smoke saturated the air, veiling the sun, turning the entire world grey with a faint neon-red hole, almost the color of blood, where the golden sun ought to have been. I was honestly pretty scared. We fasted and prayed for relief from this, for the winds the change and the rains to come and douse the fires and clean the air. We waited, but not for long, really. The rains came within a week, and then they came again, and the air was clean. And I was never so happy in my life to see the sun shining as it should. Which, coming from me, says something.

I am thankful for clean air, and for answered prayers.

I am thankful for my family. Not just that I have a family, or that I have a family, but that this is my family. We have our problems, our disagreements, our ongoing issues, but there is no doubt in my mind that we love each other, and we will always be there for each other. We are rather protective of each other, and I love that about us. Especially since I’ve seen families that are anything except loving and protective towards each other. It just boggles my mind that anyone could do that, because mine is always there for me. Thank you, God, for my family.

I am thankful for stories, in all their forms (books, movies, anime, games, audio, told around a campfire, etc.). I am thankful for how they reflect us, and our times, and keep a little piece of us alive forever. I am thankful for how stories teach and inspire us in a way nothing else does. I am thankful for the stories rattling around in my head (now, if I could just manage to get them out of my head and onto the page…). I am thankful for the conversations we can have and the ideas which are born from the stories we share.

Not to use something as good as this to self-promote, but I am grateful for my blog, and the friend who inspired me to begin it. It has been my den, my refuge, and one of the only places of late where I have been able to share that little portion of my soul that only comes out through written words. I have been able to discuss a variety of things about the stories we tell, I have been able to gush like a fanboy, I have accepted and complete challenges, and every Sunday I have made it a point to share a quote and my thoughts on it, in the hopes that I might be able to spread just a little light from my life into someone else’s. I am grateful that I have been able to do so, to be of some service in my own way.

I am thankful for the rain that replenishes the water that we all need to survive. I am thankful for the light of day that warms and sustains us. I am thankful for the cool shadows of night that we may rest peacefully in. I am thankful for the beauty of winter, the hope of spring, the labor of summer, and the all the colors of life in autumn.

I am thankful to have a job. It’s a pretty safe job, and it provides an income that meets my needs. That is no small thing, especially now.

Not only do I have food, but I have *delicious* food, and *nourishing* food, and *plenty* of food. There are a multitude of factors which go into the production of said food, everything from the weather to the labor of farmers, ranchers, food processors, the transportation industry, the markets, and me having the means to pay for it, and the power necessary to use the appliances which let me cook it, and store it, and the industry which produces the dishes and cooking utensils involved… there is *a lot* which goes into feeding me and those around me, and it’s all produced by the freedom of capitalism, thank you very much. Oh, and the grace of a merciful God. There is a reason I thank Him in every prayer said over my food.

I am humbled by the knowledge that I am so richly blessed that I will never be able to really count all my blessings. I will never live long enough to name them all and say thank you. And, of course, I find that I take many great blessings for granted. So, I just want to express my gratitude for everything I take for granted, and say how thankful I am for being so blessed that I *can* take things for granted.

The best of my friends is Scott Bascom (his pen name, anyway). A better friend, I could never imagine. I am thankful to know him, and to have him as my friend, the brother of my soul.

I am grateful for the light of truth in my life. I am thankful for the power of knowledge. I am especially thankful for the hope of the gospel, and the gift, and hope, and power of repentance, that I might continually change to become better tomorrow than I was yesterday.

This may sound like a small thing but I am thankful for a soft place to sit, that I might rest my legs, my rear, and my back in comfort.

I am thankful for a solid roof over my head, with solid walls, and a solid, clean floor. I am thankful that we can make it warm when it’s cold, or cool it down when it’s hot. I am thankful for a soft bed to sleep in, warm and safe, especially since I have had beds which felt like freaking slabs of marble to lay on. I am grateful for my backrest. I am grateful for the appliances we use to cook and to clean our food, our laundry, and ourselves. I am thankful for strong, clean clothes aplenty. I am thankful for clean water, and for power.

I am thankful for that my needs are met, and for the many luxuries I take for granted.

I am thankful for time; for all the time I have in this life, all the time given to me, every moment I am still being given; time for working and earning my keep; time for eating, resting, and generally seeing to my necessities; time with my family, friends, and pets; time to have fun, to read, to write. I am so thankful for the time I have.

I know we were instructed to do this for seven days, but I have one more thanks to give, for today.

I slept in waaay late, which was magnificent. I took care of my dogs and had breakfast with my nephew. I wrote a post for my blog, though it may need some editing, which is a goal I have for my days off. I also have a tremendous number of pictures on my computer to sort through, and I have a goal that every day I have off, I go through a certain number of them. I did that. I had lunch with my nephew, feasting on leftover pizza. I put on Christmas music and we put up the tree together, and a couple other decorations. We basked in the Christmas tree lights, with my dogs collecting pets and loves. He finished his chores for the week. I finally put up my karate belts to display on my wall. He got to borrow one of my books after his chores were done. I believe I have given my nephew a little motivation to behave better, so here’s hoping. I played on my fairly new Switch. We had hamburger helper for dinner together. We lazed around in the evening. Read scriptures, he showered, I took care of the dogs. And my newest game for the Switch arrived.

All in all, a good day. I am thankful.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #315: What We Need for Christmas

“I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family.”
– Lou Lou Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It might not be Christmas Day just yet, but after a week of giving thanks, and watching this particular movie with my family on Thanksgiving Day, this is quite definitely the quote that speaks most to me right now.

It comes, as one might expect, just after the Grinch has made off with everyone’s stuff. He’s taken their presents, their trees, their food for their feasts, and just about everything else he could possibly take, and even turned off all the Christmas lights. The Whos wake up the next morning, and are devastated, but when their mayor practically throws a temper tantrum like a spoiled child, casting blame and guilt on a little girl who did nothing wrong, the girl’s father steps up. He stands in simple, grounded sincerity, having realized that, for all of the zeal with which he and his community have celebrated Christmas, somewhere along the way they got their priorities wrong. They put the stuff first instead of what really matters most: each other, their loved ones, and family.

In truth, they don’t need that stuff. Lou certainly doesn’t. Not while he has what matters most to him: his family.

Lou’s simple declaration is met with applause and joy and everyone starts joining hands and singing, with love, and not stuff, foremost in their hearts.

It is a fairly safe bet that this year’s holiday festivities may be a bit more muted than we are accustomed to. Indeed, I fear that, for some, it may be the worst part of the year, made all the worse for how happy it ought to be. There are few ways to feel more powerless than to be helpless to help those who are suffering, or may very soon be. It is a time when I really must be thankful for everything I have, and most of all for my family. My family is what I need most. So I hope that those who will have little else this year can still somehow find joy with their loved ones.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I hope others have the same joy that I do.

And that, no matter how bad it gets, I hope we can all have a merry Christmas this year, and every year.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #314: Humbling Gratitude

“I’m sorry I’ve ever complained. I’ll never complain about my leaky roof again.”
– Maya Penelope Hart, Girl Meets World
Season 2, Episode 27, “Girl Meets Money”

Maya Hart is accustomed to being the poor girl, at least, within the limits of her experience in life thus far. Her father left when she was very little, her mother is almost never there because she’s working her butt off as a waitress to provide for Maya, she has relatively little, including a leaky roof and a wall with holes in it, and the best things she gets, like home-cooked dinner, a cell phone, and art supplies, come from the family of her best friend, whose father is also her teacher. So, she’s not had the easiest life, and she is often made aware of what she doesn’t have. In this episode, however, she is reminded of what she does have, and how much more she has than many people throughout the world.

Maya’s mother, we see, isn’t able to give her the soft, luxurious life, but she’s still there, and does all sorts of things to give her everything she can, albeit sometimes in ways which are a bit unconventional. Maya has a roof over her head at all, access to decent medical care, a warm bed, three meals a day, both delicious and nourishing, an abundance of clothes, the chance to explore her skills and express herself… the list goes on. In short, she has all her needs provided for her, and many luxuries as well, and opportunities, too. That’s a lot, when you think about it.

Now, I want to make clear, that I personally think that having a complaint about our circumstances isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cars were invented because one man refused to accept how literally shitty things were when people had to ride horses everywhere, and he did something about it. That’s the spirit of improvement, for ourselves and others, rather than a spirit of complacence, of universal acceptance of how things are. So, having a complain, and even voicing it, aren’t necessarily bad.

However, there is a surprising distance to be found between “having a complaint” and “complaining.” The one acknowledges that there is something legitimate to be improved, while the other wallows in misery and is often used as an excuse for some poor behavior, dragging everyone down. One leaves room for remembering what you have, which, it never does well to forget, while the other tends to push out any such spirit of gratitude.

Maya doesn’t have much compared to those immediately around her, but she has more than most, and suddenly wants to never complain again, if only because she knows she hasn’t been grateful. Her best friend has a good deal more, thanks to the labors of her parents, but she’s usually humble and grateful anyway. And their highly-intelligent friend, whose father is obscenely rich, feels nothing short of humiliated at having so much and having done so little for anyone else.

It is amazing how humbling it is to remember what you have, instead of what you don’t have. And humility, I would say, is essential to human compassion.

One typically isn’t very compassionate when one is complaining, after all.

It’s just too easy to get caught up in it, in one’s most selfish wants, and completely miss the good in one’s life, and the good that one can do in other people’s lives.

So, I see Maya’s desire to never complain not as some wish to simply accept whatever pains she has in life, but as an earnest expression of her own compassion.

Gratitude, humility, and compassion all go hand in hand.

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Give Thanks

I try not to get preachy about my religion here on my blog. That’s partially because I don’t want to be overbearing about it, but also because, in all honesty, I have trouble seeing my blog, and myself, as a truly worthy messenger of what I hold to be divine truths. However, it is my hope to spread light, even if it’s just a little, into the world around me. As such, I try to be careful and balanced, but I see no harm in passing on invitations from the President of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, along to you, my wonderful audience. Especially when such invitations, which one is under no obligation to accept, are geared towards just helping us to improve our lives, ourselves, and the world around us in some small way.

Thus, some months ago I shared an invitation for people of all faiths to pray for help with the COVID pandemic. Now, for a second time, I share the words of President Nelson.

The idea is for us to remember what we have, and to share it with each other on social media. It’s Day 2 of this (at time of publishing this post) and already I think we’re improving our lives and uplifting our spirits with this. It is just… well, words rather fail.

So, I am doing this, just getting online when I am feeling grateful for something (like, say, my dogs, for how they brighten my life, and the technology that lets me keep is touch with my family, and my family themselves, who are so good to me, and music, and so on and so forth). It only takes a moment, and I feel better about my life, and more connected to the people in my life, and maybe it will help someone feel better.

No pressure, of course, and no obligation. But I am passing on the invitation to you, my wonderful audience, to join us in remembering what we have, and to give thanks.

Have a wonderful evening!

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Sunday’s Wisdom #313: Veteran Bond

“Those who have journeyed far to fight in foreign lands know that the soldier’s greatest comfort is to have his friends close at hand. In the heat of battle, it ceases to be an idea for which we fight, or a flag. Rather, we fight for the man on our left, and we fight for the man on our right. For when armies are scattered, and when the empires fall away, all that remains is the memory of those precious moments we spent side by side.”
– Jack Durrance, The Four Feathers

When the ancient legions of Rome, or the armies of Greece before them, were facing a vast horde of barbarian warriors, the raw numbers tended to be stacked ridiculously against them. Yet they triumphed, again and again. They were armed, armored, trained, coordinated, disciplined… and they all had a singularly basic mission to protect the man next to them even more than themselves.

Thus has been the bond between soldiers ever since.

I actually meant to post this on the Sunday before Veteran’s Day in my country. Having messed that up, I suppose the Sunday after will just have to do.

Jack Durrance is a soldier who has served the empire of Great Britain. He and his friends signed up for king and country, and together they did as he describes: they journeyed far from home and fought. He speaks from experience, and that experience has taken a toll on him and each of his friends. Jack himself lost his sight, another lost his life, another was condemned to suffer and die if not for some outside intervention on his behalf, yet another had his arrogant pride broken, and still another was transformed through a great journey in which he overcame his own cowardice. All of these things, they endured, and those who survived came together to lay their fallen to rest.

They began as friends, and became steadfast comrades. They passed through many pains, but carried them together, and so those were able to fall away in the end. What remains is the joy, the comfort of that connection, that time together, that bond between men, which drives away doubt and solitude and even sorrow. With that in one’s heart, one, and one’s friends, can stand firm in the face of all the hordes of the abyss.

Such men certainly are to be honored. Not that their flaws are excused, but that their humanity is praised, their sacrifice is accepted, and they are met with gratitude and respect.

For what it is worth, coming from one such as I, a soft, untried man who has spent his entire life safe beneath the shelter built by their sacrifices, I cannot say thank you enough to our veterans. For everything they have risked, and suffered, and sacrificed, and lost, and especially for what they have accomplished, I am truly and utterly grateful.

Thank you, veterans.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #312: Living is More Than Survival

“I don’t want to survive! I want to live!
– Captain B. McCrea, WALL-E

This is one of my most favorite quotes.

Disney’s Wall-E depicts a humanity that would be the envy of many. No one has to work, to do the hard and dirty things involved with surviving. Indeed, no one has to do much of anything at all, it’s all taken care of by robots. Everyone is free to be idle, just relaxing, with all the shiny toys and games. And apparently this prosperity is inexhaustible, or at least it hasn’t run out in so far, in seven centuries. There is absolutely nothing to worry about.

It’s really quite horrible.

It’s like Neverland, where no one ever has to grow up, but that idle bliss comes at a cost far higher than is obvious at first, until one sees it, and then one can’t not see it.

Humanity’s freedom from struggle and hardship has made it stagnant and weak. People don’t think or do or even feel and dream as they used to. They just get born, eat and breathe for awhile, until they don’t do that anymore. They just exist, nothing more, all within a tiny metal shell in the void of space. And even within that tiny space, they are blind to half of the wonders right there next to them, which their ancestors built, like a pool or a running track.

Humanity is surviving, and in comfort, but not really living. And not really in charge of themselves and their own lives. They don’t know it, but they are at the mercy of the machines that take care of them.

It’s an easy life, but not a happy one.

Then the captain of the ship has his eyes opened, and he chooses a different course. He, and humanity, chooses to stand up and take charge. He chooses a more difficult path, filled with hardships and unknowns. He chooses to do more than merely survive, he chooses to live.

There is more to living than just staying alive.

That cuts both ways, of course, including, at one end of the spectrum, those who need not concern themselves with the needs of survival, and, at the other, those who are entirely concerned with such. Some people, most people… in fact, quite nearly all people in the history of the world have fallen into that latter category. They have lived their entire lives locked in the struggle to survive. That has been the great bulk of their existence, simply making it to the next day, the next year, the next week. Yet even when such is driven by necessity, it can still become an all-consuming obsession. In fact, maybe that is how obsessions are made, through what we think is necessary, and thus we go terribly out of balance.

There must be more to one’s existence than merely continuing to exist. There must be balance. There must be joy. Else, what is life worth living for?

Now, exactly how that manifests in anyone’s life is up to them to decide. For some, it’s working hard, and then playing hard. For others, it’s the quiet dignity of hard work itself and job well done. It could be maintaining a hobby that one is passionate about (like, for instance, me and my blog). It could be finding new friends, or falling in love, or having a family. It could be the dream of traveling the world, or the act of doing good, unselfish works. It could be the order of knowing one’s place, and knowing that one has a place, in the world, or the absolute chaos of knowing that one is free to go and do whatever one chooses. It could be making and telling stories around a fire late into the night.

Whatever the shape it takes, there is more to living than just surviving. There is more than “nothing” to do with life.

Something tells me we’re going to need to remember that very soon.

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A Note for My Fellow WordPress Users

Most of my blogs are intended for… well, anyone and everyone in my wide, far-reaching, wonderful audience! 🙂

This one, however, is more of a quick note intended to assist anyone who uses WordPress and wants to create a post in the Classic Editor instead of in the Block Editor. (that’s at the end of the post, if you want to scroll down and skip right to the point)

One of my bigger pet peeves is anytime people take something that works and replace it with something that doesn’t. It keeps happening, though, so I’ve learned to just try and figure it out as I go.

I have figured out how to navigate through at least one such change, and I want to share it.

Anyone who has been using WordPress long enough knows (and probably loathes) that they recently made major changes in how we can create posts. They introduced the Block Editor (monstrosity) that I am fairly certain NO ONE actually likes, enjoys, or anything else positive. If WordPress reads this, I want them to know that we hate the Block Editor.

In the “Classic Editor” (ie, the one I am using right now because it works) we are able to do revolutionary things, including but not limited to saving our work, adding and visibly arranging pictures, and we don’t even need to “open settings” in order to see the categories and tags and publishing options and such, it’s just right there automatically.

It’s wonderful!

But, things are what they are, and idiots keep replacing things that work with things that don’t, so my approach is simply to figure out how to get things done anyway, despite the raging stupidity that currently runs rampant in the world.

Not that I have any strong feelings about this, of course! 😉

I know I am not alone in my frustrations. I recently saw one of my fellow bloggers post about possibly ending their blog because the Block Editor is so inconvenient. So, wanting to be helpful, I shared what I have figured out about posting using the Classic Editor. Another blogger – whose blog you totally should check out – liked it so much that they suggested I share the same in a post of my own, so it could be more widely shared. The idea of doing something to assist more of my fellow bloggers appeals to me, so, here we are!

I have no idea if this works for anyone else anymore. I don’t see why it wouldn’t, but, then again, I don’t see why WordPress sprung the Block Editor on us in the first place, so what do I know? 😉

Oh, right: I know how to create a post in the good old Classic Editor that we all know and love. On that note, and with some much-needed complaining about the situation now out of the way, I hope this is helpful to someone! 🙂

Go to your blog site.
Click “My Site”
Click “WP Admin”
Click “Posts”
Do NOT click “create new.” Click the arrow *next* to “create new” and it has the options “Block Editor” and “Classic Editor.”

And to edit a post, click the checkbox next to the post (or, as I’ve found on an iPad, press somewhere on the area around the post without touching the post title itself), and the option of “Classic Editor” will be among the things that pops up.

One must insist *every time* that, yes, this IS what one wants to do.

And that’s pretty much it. Have a good one, fellow bloggers and other WordPress users! Post away! (and share away!)

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Sunday’s Wisdom #311: All That Matters

“If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.”
– Angel, Angel
Season 2, Episode 16, “Epiphany”

Finishing out the Halloween festivities here, this came to my mind while I was discussing last week’s quote.

When Angel says this, he is saying it in light of a bitter truth he’s been forced to swallow, which drove him into absolute despair, from which he has emerged with another truth, an epiphany. Which, I find, is often the way of such epiphanies. The way to enlightenment often passes through darker valleys… but I digress.

Angel has lived a long while without any real hope, and then he found some and became a real fighter, a warrior. He hoped for redemption from past misdeeds, he hoped for the sort of cosmic reward that follows the grand victory of good over evil, and he hoped to simply beat down the darkness with bloody ruthlessness. All of those hopes have been dashed to pieces and burnt, leaving only ashes behind. He no longer believes that he can see the end of his own suffering and live through it. Indeed, he no longer believes much of anything. There is no grand plan, no last and everlasting victory, no light at the end of the tunnel. So he believes.

Now, I disagree entirely with that, but I must admire the conclusion that Angel reaches, which pulls him out of his despair.

See, if nothing we do matters… if there is no big win, no absolute victory, no reward or recognition… if nihilism is right and there is nothing else… then what we do is everything. In other words, it’s all we have, and all we are. That makes it the most important thing in the world, because it’s all there is, and how can you top “everything” in terms of importance?

So, maybe our deeds count for nothing in the grand scheme, where nothing changes, nothing improves, everything eventually falls to entropy and becomes nothing, and so on and so forth. Maybe we don’t get anything for it, good or bad. Perhaps our efforts are completely doomed to be utterly futile on a cosmic scale.

…so what?

We still have our ability to choose! We still have our choices, our actions, our superpower that even the universe cannot match! In fact, that’s all we have, it’s everything, and thus it automatically matters more than anyone can comprehend.

“The smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world,” Angel says, finishing his explanation. He is absolutely right (and I will delve further into that another time). And it goes even further than that.

Every act of kindness, every choice to be brave, all the little sacrifices we make for those around us, these matter, both to us and to those whom we help.

Every time we choose to be better than we might otherwise be, every temptation we turn down, every sin we cast aside, turn our back to, and walk away from, every change we make for the better, these matter to us and to those around us.

Every time we say something kind instead of something rude, every time instance where we respect someone we disagree with, every time we speak up, and stand up, for what we believe is right, this matters to us and to the world we make together.

…every time we vote, even if we have good reason to think that our vote does not matter. It matters. If only because we have raised our voice.

Every time we defend someone in need, tend to someone sick, protect an innocent life, these matter, and these larger decisions are made up of many, many smaller ones.

Every time we make cookies for someone who’s going through a rough time (for instance), we are helping, in some small way, and making the world that much better.

Even if nothing we do matters in one way, everything we do is still all that matters.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Humans?

I would say, all the monsters in the world should definitely be afraid of humans.

Humans, after all, are the ones who become vampires, witches, and werewolves, become (possibly) fairies and goblins, become angels and demons, become ghosts… and become the undoing of all of the above and more.

Humans can become anything, you see. We are the knights in shining armor, the beautiful enchantresses, the mystical wise ones, the brutish warriors, the impish rogues, and the pious clerics. We are the kings and queens, the masons, smiths, innkeepers, hunters, sailors, seamstresses, bakers, butchers, farmers, shepherds, scholars, librarians, inventors, officers, and so much more. We are fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. We are everything humans can be, both good and bad, be it courageous, cowardly, cruel, or cunning. We are smart, and we are stupid. And there are a lot of us, enough to fuel all the torch-and-pitchfork mobs that monsters are always shown to be running from, despite their many advantages and supposed superiority. We breed like the all-loving cockroaches of the universe, as a friend of mine likes to put it. 🙂

Oh, and we’re f****** insane! Absolutely no supernatural creature matches what we limited, fragile, frail humans do for fun, let alone when we’re actually out for blood!

Of course, on the flip side of the coin, we’re also cannon fodder. We are helpless little victims of the things that go bump in the night, things that we don’t believe exist anymore. We get in each others’ way the majority of the time, making things tremendously more difficult than necessary for those who defend us. We often refuse to accept things that don’t fit what we already want to believe, denying that monsters exist right up until they rip us apart. And when the monsters in the dark prey on us in the shadows, we die. We die easily, and (usually) permanently.

In short, there are pros and cons. We have our strengths and weaknesses as surely as any supernatural creature may.

So, how do we measure up in urban fantasy?

Well, going straight to the top, the humans of Supernatural seem to hold their own even against the greatest powers in the universe. Mind you, they don’t just stab and shoot their way through such beings… well, ok, sometimes that is exactly what they do, but there’s usually a bit more to it! They gather knowledge and master all manner of mystical secrets. They forge alliances and find all manner of ways to overcome literally impossible odds, including the use of mystical weapons that can theoretically kill almost anything. And, not to put too fine a point on it, they fight dirty, without apology.

Most interesting to me, though, is when the fate of humanity hinges on those moments of humans simply being… human.

The Archangel Gabriel absolutely hated everything about the Apocalypse, and he sat on the sidelines, hiding, really, for a long time. But when he entered the game, he played a pivotal role, and he chose to fight not for the angels or for the demons, but for humans. This is simply because he, having lived with humans for a very long time, came to realize something: humans try. They try hard, being brave, loyal, and selfless to a fault at times. So he fights for humanity, having come to love it.

Then there’s the time when God reconciles with his sister, the Darkness. Chuck and Amara, as are their human names, have the longest and most painful of histories between them. Eventually, though, they had to forgive each other, because, in spite of everything, they love each other. That lesson, Amara learns as Chuck is on the brink of death (and the universe with him), and she learns it from an elderly human woman as she talks about her relationship with her son.

That’s two events of absolute destruction averted partially, or entirely, by the examples humans set, examples of love.

In Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, humans survive and win because of everything they bring into battle against the powers of Hell. They face demons head-on, and seem to become all the stronger for it, as Angel himself observes. They prepare with ingenuity and fight with their wits as much as swords, guns, stakes, and rocket launchers. They face the worst of themselves over and over and triumph, saving each other from their own inner darkness. They call on holy powers and master countless magics of every kind, and even their ill deeds can bear fruit in the endless war for survival. Angel, after all, was cursed to have his soul again as an act of vengeance against the demon who wore his skin. And Buffy inherits a legacy that originates with the unholy violation of a girl thousands of years ago, which has spawned countless champions of humanity, most especially once that gift was refined, and fully unleashed, by the touch of a woman’s near-divine magic.

Even those who live in the streets, who have no power, are able to take those same streets back from the monsters with little more than their wits, their will, and a lot of improvised weaponry. Even those who don’t fight can get up and keep going, even in the face of existential horror. That is how unstoppable humanity truly is.

As for those who are more powerful, the Watchers Council are keepers of knowledge and masters of bureaucracy, which enables them to fund, equip, and coordinate humanity’s struggle on a global scale. It was only unfortunate that we never really got to see them cut loose before a cunning enemy destroyed them. That power, of mastery within the realm of human civilization, was used by the enemies of humanity as well, as in the case of the Wolfram and Hart, a powerful law firm which operated every bit as internationally and efficiently as the Watchers.

It is that sort of civilized power which makes the humans of the Dresden Files what the hero refers to as the “nuclear option” of the many supernatural factions. Oh, they have their secret orders and fellowships, their wizards and monster hunters, not to mention certain cops and criminal overlords, but it is only through their connections with the normal, mundane humans of the world that all of these are able to thrive. The same holds true for all the courts of vampire, fae, and everything else. When disappearances and catastrophes need to be cleaned up, or covered up, they call their human contacts. When shipments need to go unnoticed, they pay humans to not see it. The human banks keep their money, human hands fly their private planes, and human lands surround their estates. The threat of using human laws, humans officers, human bureaucracy, and human media against each other, that is a way to make everyday life far more inconvenient for everyone involved. Thus, it is the nuclear option: you do it us, and we do it to you. Everybody loses, including the humans.

And that doesn’t even go into what happens when the mortal world actually becomes hostile towards something supernatural, and the entire human race becomes a massive mob. With nukes.

That particular danger of humans is much greater, and stated much more explicitly, in the Mercy Thompson series. In short: every supernatural faction out there really does not want to court open warfare with their human neighbors. No matter how arrogant they are, and some of them are very arrogant, they prefer to not be slaughtered.

Some of the vampires are powerful, all of them are dangerous, and many may long for the days of uncontested superiority, when they could glut themselves on the human population and leave piles of bodies in their wake. But, make no mistake about it, the day they stop contenting themselves with the delusion of being the world’s puppeteers from the darkness, that is the day when humans – numerous and vengeful, clever and capable of operating in daylight – will render them utterly extinct.

The fae and werewolves both revealed their existence to the humans entirely to avoid being exposed and hunted down. They (and the vampires) police their own for that same reason. Mind you, the fae are also engaged in efforts to regain their old power, which effort was actually aided by coming out to the humans. Yet, the wisest and mightiest of the fae realize that, at best, an all-out war with the humans might result in mutual annihilation, and leave the planet as little more than a pile of irradiated ashes. In short, they simply can’t win against the humans.

As for the witches… well, they hide in plain sight, many of them practicing openly and being easily dismissed. They keep their more nefarious activities carefully out of sight, provided they remain sane enough to do so. They don’t even consider fighting the humans in general, though they may forge puppet strings within the halls of human power. Heck, they fought, and still fight, each other often and bitterly enough that their numbers and abilities have been sharply curtailed for centuries.

Probably the most straightforward example of the might of humanity is in the Monster Hunters series. Oh, there’s a great deal of money, knowledge, bureaucracy, supernatural items (and allies), love, valor, and iron will involved, but a surprising number of monsters can be either killed or highly inconvenienced by the simple expedient of overwhelming firepower. It is glorious! 😀

In contrast, humanity probably has its single poorest showing in The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Seriously, the moment humans start getting a little traction in that franchise, they end up getting wiped out. All the formidable military and hunter types get eviscerated, all the bureaucrats get burnt, and all the people who shine as examples of humanity tend die slowly and painfully. Unless they, too, become something supernatural. Not that they don’t make a good showing, at least in back alleys and the like, when they can be the ones sneaking and ambushing, but, by and large, the little humans mostly just prove how good they are at dying.

So, the general, albeit not universal, consensus seems to be that the biggest advantage humans have is how powerless they are. They have to adapt, use anything and everything they can get their hands on, and this empowers them to match powers that should by all rights, be able to mow straight through them. Indeed, sometimes the enemy does mow straight through them, but the humans still come out on top in the end. Not bad for people who die so easily, eh?

Probably my favorite example of this is actually the anime Shiki. It’s a story about how some vampires come to a remote village with the intent of usurping it from its present human occupants. They are clever and subtle and absolutely devastating, wiping out a huge portion of the population like a plague. But as they grow confident and bold in their inevitable victory, they make a fatal false step at a critical moment. The wrath of the humans is swift, efficient, thorough, brutal… even monstrous. Having gained even the slightest advantage over their murderous enemies, the humans are relentless, and merciless. They, the humans, prove that that they are the ultimate bogeyman.

Let the powers of darkness beware of us!

Happy Halloween!

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