Friday, December 31, 2010

Immortality

Inspired by my Poe-ish mood, here's a piece I wrote back in 11th grade studying American literature.

What do you get when you assign students to write a poem about death immediately following a unit dedicated to Poe? You get this. Thanatopsis was boring anyway.

Immortality
Miles Veritatis

‘Twas hour doom of wintry night
In castle dungeon deep
Locked away in fest’ring cell
Did lonely pris’ner sleep

When with a start, his eyes sprung wide
At startling, frightful sound
The shrillest wail pierced through his heart
Made loose his terror bound

Trembling, he turned his head
To cell’s gate standing wide
And in the gap, a figure stood
Om’nous in dim, flick’ring light

The dark man cloaked in cape and hood
Slipt silently through the door
Reaching out cold hands of death
To pris’ner on the floor

Slowly turning key in lock
The pris’ner’s chains fell free
Yet no more for freedom did he long
But for sweet captivity

With grip of stone, the figure seized
This quaking pris’ner’s wrist
Then pulled him to his feet and led
Out from his safe abyss

This demon nigh would be his end
Our pris’ner did know well
He’d hang his body by its neck
And drag his soul to Hell

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What is Love?

What is Love?
Miles Veritatis
We live in a culture enthralled by sensation in a time in which everything is temporary. To be caught up in the moment is to be intrigued for maybe a handful of seconds before something else is thrust before one’s face. Longevity means the number of hours your iPod will play on its charge and permanency is how long it takes Sharpie to wear off. We are a throwaway culture, where everything is replaceable and nothing is repairable. Is it any wonder we don’t understand why love won’t last a lifetime when nothing else will?
Love is a funny word anymore, it doesn’t have the connotations it once did in writings from even a hundred years ago. “Love” is what is found in asinine movies where Sandra Bullock stumbles around and makes googly eyes at some overly metrosexual male lead. “Love” is what you feel when you eat chocolate. “Love” is the magical thing that you stumble across and never forget, that makes two unfaithful individuals somehow end up monogamous by the end of The Notebook for an ending that defies every shred of logic. In truth, we’re not supposed to understand what this “love” is all about… if we did, it couldn’t mean so many things… and yet, some of the most important decisions of our lives are meant to be made because of it. One begins to see why this ambiguity might become problematic.
The great modern philosopher C.S. Lewis made a very simple claim as to the nature of love; simple, and yet bold, particularly in this age 60 or so years since the time he said it. Lewis claimed, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a constant dedication to the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” In a society such as ours, drunk on emotion and high on sensation, this is a radical notion indeed! In one simple sentence, Lewis challenges everything we think we know about this thing we call “love,” but in the sudden removal of our presuppositions, all else begins to come into focus.
To paint Lewis’ assertion as a metaphor, love is like a boat that has moved across a lake. In its wake, the boat leaves an ever widening trail of ripples, and if you were in the water at the time of the boat’s passing, the ripples would be what you felt; however, the ripples are not the boat itself. You may, by the ripples, if you could not see the boat, know that the boat was nearby, but if you tried to climb out of the water by grasping at the ripples, you’d find yourself going nowhere, and getting there quite efficiently. In the same manner, affection may be a sign of love, it can be felt by those close enough to be influenced by love… but to mistake it for the thing itself would be a very grave error indeed. Like ripples, emotions are temporary, they are there one moment and gone the next, they are not consistent, and they provide no foundation to grasp on to if you find yourself in trouble.
Love, however, is not temporary… it does not waver, it does not vanish inexplicably; it is resolute, unbending, and unyielding. Love is a force to be reckoned with, it is a decision, made consciously, and does not arise by accident. It cannot be “fallen” into, and it is no mystery. Love is a habit formed consciously, an act of self sacrifice, of determining to put another’s needs before one’s own, and it is not unique to romance. Love is found in friendship, in brotherhood, in family, in patriotism, and in camaraderie. Forms of affection can be engendered by all of these sorts of relationships, but again, these feelings are a byproduct of something greater that has passed before them. A “love” that is founded upon emotion will be just as fickle and untrustworthy as the emotion itself… and thus can never be lifelong. Love is made strong by conscious exertion of a willful mind, a resolution of the heart which is not easily broken by our fickle natures.
An ancient Hebrew scholar named Paul made similar observations as to the nature of love, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” The picture painted is not of a fickle machination of a sensual people; rather, it is of a notion of permanency that eludes our sensually addled minds. Consider, though, the implications of such talk: a binding ideal, a commitment of the self to selflessness… for if the stakes are greater than just one’s own self-centered objectives, we can truly have a reason to press on past the hardships which are inevitable in life. 
Too many friendships, fellowships, and households have been spoiled by the crystalline ideal of self fulfillment sustaining one too many harsh blows of reality and being shattered to pieces; but, if one’s idyllic portrait of a life well lived is one of contentment and indulgence, the life built upon that standard can only be as sturdy as the sensational nature of its foundation. Anything built by man can only be as strong as its foundation, which is why we must select for ourselves, voluntarily, a platform which can weather the roughest of storms, providing a stalwart battlement for crisis. This sort of rampart can be erected only through toil and sweat, hardship and labor, but in the end it can withstand the harshest storms life can bring its way.
There are many things in our culture which can be readily replaced, but our lives are not amongst them. Love is a great and powerful mover of men, it inspires and enchants us all unlike anything else, but we must take heed not to become lost in its enchantment. Sacrifice is the mortar which seals the bricks we lay through our toil and sweat… without it, our beautiful castles will crumble, laying waste to our efforts, shattering dreams, and leaving hearts in ruin.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whence Came Man?

Whence came man, his figure cowed
Sweat and tears upon his face?
What befell his kingdom proud?
Whence came man in his disgrace?

Away from mountains, tall and strong
Away from whitewashed cliffs sublime
Weary footsteps, his mournful song
Beaten through the halls of time

Whence came man, his spirit rent
Blood seeping forth from pierced heart?
What doom saw his glory spent?
Whence came man in fractured part?

Away from Eden’s blessed soil
Where kind sun shone upon his face
Away to bitter dark and toil
Awaiting peace, Death’s cold embrace

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Fairy Tale

I actually wrote this some time ago and just came across it, I thought I'd post for your (collective) reading pleasure. A (very) short story I wrote for a contest between myself and a friend. Enjoy!

A Fairy Tale
Miles Veritatis

Once upon a time in a shire of England there was a young boy born to a peasant family. He had thin blonde hair and bright blue eyes, a joy to behold, but not a joy to his parents. They had little money, and a new mouth to feed was more than they could handle. Their meals were sparse and housing was sparser, so when the Plague ravaged Europe, they had nowhere to hide. The disease claimed his mother first, then his father; however, when all seemed lost, he was found lying in a basket in the market by the servant of a Duke, who was filled with compassion and pity at his crying and carried him back to his master's manor. The Duke became angry at first at the audacity of this servant to bring the child of a peasant into his home, but the Duchess, upon sight of the boy, was struck by his beauty, and entreated the Duke to allow him to stay. The Duke begrudgingly agreed on the stipulation that he be raised as a stableboy. So the boy stayed with them, raised by the Duchess and her nursemaids until he was old enough to begin to work. As he grew, he was kept in the same nursery as the family's daughter, and became her playmate. The young Lady was beautiful from childhood, with thick hair that flowed in locks black as raven's feathers and glinting hazel eyes—radiant like the emeralds of her mother's jewelry. 
The two became quite fond of each other, and when the boy began his work in the stables at the age of ten, the girl would often go to “play with the horses” and spend time with her friend. She would visit him daily, and as the years passed and the two grew older and more mature, each began to discover the beauty of the other; however, upon the girl's eighteenth birthday, her father announced his plan to marry her to the son of a fellow Duke, a matter in which she had no choice. Her displeasure was obvious, and it was not difficult to discover why. The Duke was enraged at the stable boy, but he was well loved, so there was little that he could do openly. Secretly he began to devise ways to be rid of him, first by offering him ale tainted with hemlock; but the boy was not given to drink and so the temptation passed and the poison failed. Second, the Duke devised a treachery of sport, challenging him to fence but using a blade sharpened in secret; however, the boy proved to have skill with a sword and none of the Duke's blows fell true. Infuriated, the Duke made a third, more desperate scheme. He hired two assassins to kill the boy in his sleep; but the boy was wise, suspecting the Duke's foul play, and so the evening before the attack was to come, he crept from the manor in darkness, taking with him the young Lady, the love of his heart, and fled.
The two did not cease their flight until they were far from danger, fleeing to the East, to the strange countries of the Orient, where they would never be found by the Duke's men. Upon their arrival, they discovered the men of the land to be celebrating a recent victory against their Enemy from the Sea. There was to be a great feast upon the eve of their arrival, with promise of fireworks, and so the two requested to be married amidst the festivities. The night came and the feasting began. As the men became drunk and full of food, there came a shriek from the watchtower and a panic swept across the gathering. Men clamored for their weapons and women and children fled for their homes. Arrows from the dark seemed to suddenly sprout from the ground, the tables, and the bodies of men, sluggish with their drunken bewilderment.
As the chaos began, the young groom leapt to his feet, unsheathing his sword to defend his bride. He stood, eyes frantically searching the darkness, when he felt a small tap at the back of his heel. He whirled about, sword aloft to strike, and then sank to his knees as his heart shattered within him. Tears flooding his eyes, he grasped vainly at the shaft of the arrow sprung from the heart of his love, as though to wrest from it the life it had claimed. There were no fireworks that night.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Agony of Love

I once said that the measure of a man is found not in his strength, his wealth, or even his wisdom. Rather the measure of a man is found in the depth of his love, for it is in love that one discovers the enduring strength to overcome all obstacles, the joy that makes the smallest nothing seem greater than all the world's riches, and the most intimate truths that lend meaning and purpose to life itself.

While I do not disagree with my previous sentiments, I suppose an addendum must be made: for also in love can the deepest pains and most heart-wrenching sorrows be found. The nature of love is to be made vulnerable, the person that is loved is essentially handed the keys to one's heart, and may freely access any part of it. While the dynamic of a loving relationship with God is one sided in the respect that only one of the two partners in such a relationship is capable of failing the other, not so in a relationship between humans. I was once told that I must always remember that we are all human, and by our very nature we are capable of utterly failing each other at any given moment. No one is perfect, and sometimes our imperfection seemingly brings the world crashing down around us and those we treasure most.

The key, and consequently the truest test of love, is found in redemption. Through actions of repentance, selflessness, and care we are able to rebuild from our mistakes. Like a broken bone, once healed, we are stronger than we ever were before. The process takes time, effort, and more often than not considerable amounts of heartache, and we will always be tempted to simply flee our problems, hoping they will vanish. If only it were that simple.

Redeemed love is the most powerful force in the universe, it is the nature of our relationship with God, and it is the most concrete bond possible between two souls. The dynamic of redemption is matchless as, through rebuilding, flaws can be hammered out, oversights can be accounted for, and trust can be forged more purely than ever before. The easy road never leads to the best results. While a gentle stroll down a mountain path can lead to a pleasant meadow, it is only through the toil of climbing the mountain to its summit that one can bask in the glory that is the world laid out below him, and see farther than he imagined. While it is possible to find contentment in taking the easy road, the road filled with hardship is the one that leads a man to something astounding.

It is easy to trust someone who has never wronged you, it is difficult to build trust with someone who has wounded you deeply. It is simple to find happiness in a situation that has never afforded heartache, it is wearying to find solace amongst tumult.

However, the question that must be asked is -- without adversity, is it possible to understand peace? Without pain, is it possible to understand joy? Without betrayal, is it possible to understand love?

God answered that question for us. He, being the omniscient Creator of the universe and of every single one of us; He, the One who defines selfless Love based upon His own person; He, who has never wronged any creature in existence, allowed His most prized creation to stray, so that we could know how wonderful it is to be found. God could have taken the easy road, He could have not allowed Adam and Eve to fall to sin, He could have wiped them from the earth and started over, but He didn't. Instead, out of the selfless love He bore for His children, He not only pursued them into darkness, but ultimately accepted the full penalty of their mistakes upon Himself. The Author of history, the Inventor of life itself, the perfect God of the universe, out of the love He bears for His children, chose to Himself endure agony so that we might fully know the depth of His love.

So, while love is the source of our fulfillment and purpose, it is also through love that we experience our most devastating heartaches. The important thing is to remain steadfast, to sacrifice of the self for love's sake . . . for it is through selfless sacrifice that we find redemption, and it is through redemption that we encounter the deepest, most gratifying love of all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Necessity of Pain

It's interesting to me that some of the most beautiful pieces of art in this world -- be they poetry, paintings, or music -- are expressions of pain; of all the great emotions we perceive, the one that seems to motivate us the most is agony.

When people are happy, they become content and complacent, preferring to sit idly by rather than work or create. Pain, though, requires action; we seek to do whatever we can to alter our circumstances -- to vent our frustration or angst, to distract ourselves from our ailments, or simply to express our sorrows. The way we operate is vastly different from that of other creatures, we have this innate tendency to be idle rather than to work. The betterment of ourselves is something we consider best left for another time or another place, and therefore we need a motivator; without something to prod us along, we do nothing. Humans are irreversibly lazy creatures.

When we were created, we had a twofold purpose: to fellowship with the Lord, and to tend to the Earth. We were charged with being the caretakers of the world and all that is in it, a job that man fulfilled admirably until his fall. When man received his punishment for his wrongdoing, the Lord issued a curse:

"And to Adam he said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

It strikes me as entirely possible that not only was God referring to the fact that the Earth would be difficult to maintain from that point forward, but also that we would be universally motivated to our work by pain. Man's newfound selfish nature would motivate him to idleness, seeking his own pleasure before the necessity of his work, and so we began to require an element of unpleasantness to stifle our idleness and again make us productive. In this way, pain is a motivator in the most basic sense.

From a deeper perspective, though, pain is more than a simple prod to the rear to spur us on to action: pain is potentially our strongest creative influence. What works of artistic value are not created out of a release of pain more than likely are created out of the euphoria that comes with being released from a prior pain; be it agony or gratitude from an agony assuaged, pain brings out the beauty in us. Like an abrasive brush polishes metal, pain scrapes away the built up grime of our self-indulgence and lethargy. Through potentially the greatest of all ironies, it is the most significant of our weaknesses that has the potential to make us stronger than anything else in this world. Stories of people who have been horribly wounded by some past event, and through that pain have been motivated to overcome obstacles most people would consider impossible are immortal. Even in fantasy, pain is inescapable: one of our most long revered childhood superheroes is the outpouring of a tormented soul and an anguished childhood.

Thus is the desolate nature of this unhappy world in which we live: we are creatures capable of only what our own sorrows allow us to be. Without each our own personal demons, we languish in our own pleasure induced squalor.