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Wrapping story around horrific events disseminates their skeletal outlines into bite-sized pieces for readers’ assimilation and learning.

 

Such an event occurred the night of January 30, 1945, during a freezing snowstorm upon the Baltic Sea. The Soviet submarine S-13 torpedoed the German transport ship, the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, nine hours into its passage. On board were 10,000 refugees fleeing from the Russian and Allied offensive. Only one thousand survived.

For three years the author Ruta Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee from World War II, researched this disaster until, in her imagination, Salt to the Sea (2016) was conceived. The story unfolds, piecemeal, through four characters: Joanna, a twenty-one-year old Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a seventeen-year old East Prussian preservationist and restorer of works of art; Emilia fifteen-years old, Polish and eight months pregnant; and Alfred, a seventeen-year old delusional German seaman assigned to the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Like a skilled minimalist painter, Sepetys reveals more by what she leaves out. Her precise words have dropped depth charges upon this reader’s psyche, its rumble evoking a slow burn and profound feelings for the characters.

Salt to the Sea, an historical novel, also leaves me with questions. In seventy years, will anyone be writing of today’s refugees caught within the crosshairs of greedy global politics? Since when has it been all right to minimize the losses of the poor, even their lives?

All of this cries out to God.

 

 

 

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From my reflection upon the evil splicing the Brett Kavanagh confirmation hearings, together with the media flimflam in its wake, have emerged an ancient liturgical ritual and a story, both from the Bible.

In Leviticus 16: 7–10, we learn of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the most holy day of worship in the Jewish calendar; its intent was to purify the Israelites’ sinfulness that impeded their covenantal relationship with Yahweh. The High Priest cast their guilt and shame upon the head of a goat and then beat it into the desert, never to be seen again. The Israelites felt better, but remained ignorant of the flawed depths within their unconscious, still unknown to them.

Unfortunately, this practice of scapegoating continues, despite the ongoing explorations around the globe in the depth psychology of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

And in the gospel of John 8: 1-11, we watch how Jesus dealt with the scribes and Pharisees, bent upon stoning the adulterous woman in their keep. He looks at them, says nothing, then leans over and begins writing in the sand. Infuriated by his silence, they badger him further and remind him of the penalty in the Mosaic Law for such crimes. Then comes his measured response: “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Then he resumes writing. And we remember what followed.

Both passages speak to the human condition with its minefields littering our inner landscapes. Shrouded in impenetrable darkness lay deadly energies that kill or maim: anger, greed, lust, sloth, pride, gluttony, and envy. I know. I have all of them. Only when trip-wired do we experience them, either in others or ourselves.

That happened during the media bedlam of last Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and its aftermath: frenzy inflated egos, unleashed inhibitions, and wounded spirits, perhaps irreparably.

Evil flaunted its poison. The challenge is to be wary of our own and drop the rock.

 

 

It begins small—a mass of shoots along the ground, their tendrils angling for fence posts, for trellises, for garden lanterns, for rock outcroppings along creek bottoms. The fevered race is on. Summer sun hotwires their prodigious growth into swirls of greenery that soon become tangled thickets. Occasional breezes whip the gummy tendrils onto still more shrubs or upon whatever lies in their path. In late August clusters of star-shaped flowers feather the tops of these vines, their sugary sweetness intoxicating bees and other insects.

 

 

 

Sweet Autumn Clematis is the name of this perennial.

It seems that gossip has similar characteristics: fiery, infectious, showy, invasive, suffocating. Such psychic darkness lurks beneath the guise of excitement and hilarity and swells the media’s breaking news and ignites lunchrooms. Its fabricators insist that they are in the know, no matter the mangled remains of their prey. The resulting entrapment seems impermeable to change—But not so.

Both tangled vines and gossip are noxious, and harsh measures are needed to destroy them. The first hard frost kills the perennial and reduces its lush foliage to the straggly hairs of a witch hell-bent on escape. And the laser-truth of grace excises the lies from those afflicted and restores their characters, whether still living or deceased.

We have only to wait. Evil has always had short shrift in this world.

Available on Amazon

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