VIOLENCE OF THE SENSIBLE KIND – Marilyn Armstrong

The thing about “senseless violence” is that it implies there’s some other kind. The sensible kind.

Everybody talks about senseless violence … but what about the other kind of violence? How come no one talks about sensible violence?

sensible violence

Sensible Violence: Good reasons to kill


“He needed killing” is still accepted in some American courtrooms as a defense against a charge of murder. If he needed killing and you kill him, you have committed an act of sensible violence.

“No one was supposed to get hurt.” You found yourself short of money, so you held up the bank. Using automatic weapons. You had a perfect plan which went unaccountably wrong. “But your Honor, no one was supposed to get hurt!”

“I had no choice.” You could have gotten a divorce, but you were put off by all the paperwork, lawyers, and courts. Not to mention having to share your stuff. So, you killed your husband and shoved his body in the wood chipper and use his remains as fertilizer. Sensible. tidy, and green.  “Your Honor, he really pissed me off. And it wasn’t easy getting him into the machine. He was being really mean to me, so what choice did I have?”

“Anyone would have done the same thing.” Really, no kidding. Anyone. It was the only sensible response. “Your Honor, she burned the roast. I had to kill her. Anyone would have done the same thing.”

“I lost my temper.” You said I wouldn’t like you when you were angry. You were right.

So you see? Not all violence is senseless. If you didn’t mean it, you had no choice, anyone would have done the same thing, or your plan went awry … it’s sensible violence. The good kind.

JUDGMENTAL PLATITUDES – Marilyn Armstrong

I am more than one judgmental platitude over my limit. So here’s a short list of aggravating nonsense people spout when they have nothing intelligent to say.

“God never gives you more than you can bear.”

Not only does God (via the bible or any other sacred text) never say that, but it’s not true, whether God is or isn’t the giver. Life gives us all kinds of things we can’t bear. Heart attacks. Unemployment. Losing your home, your kids, your loved ones, and finally your life.

This goes back to the fundamental false belief that we — individually — control our personal destiny. People who say this stuff are also people who have never been faced with an overwhelming issue that they cannot solve.

Moreover, if you say this to someone who is really suffering, you are an ass.

“Age is just a number.”

No, it isn’t. It’s a stage in life. The time where you can’t do what you did when you were younger not because your head is in the wrong place, but because you’ve got arthritis, maybe a heart condition, or whatever else life and DNA have dropped on you. Such statements include layers of not-so-subtle judgments as if you are weak because you have “given in” to age.

If you tried harder, you’d be younger. How does that work? I’d really like to know.

“Everything happens for a reason.” 

Does it now? Including disease? Financial disaster? Death on the highway? What might that reason be?

“Everything works out for the best.”

Tell that to the person getting fired, evicted, dying, in mourning. Don’t stand too close when you say it. It could be dangerous to your health.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you. You get to live a while longer. Maybe it will make you stronger, but it is just as likely to cripple you.

Soldiering on is not valor or bravery. It’s simple survival.

“It’s mind over matter. You can do anything you want to do.”

This is the biggest lie parents tell their children. Closer to reality is that you can do anything you want if you have the talent and an opportunity. Not everyone can do anything they want.

Film at eleven!

Mind over matter as in “conquering pain by thinking it away?”

If it isn’t your pain, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Saying this to someone in real pain may actually pump enough adrenaline into their system so they leap from their wheelchair and kill you. No jury would convict them.

“For every cloud, there’s a silver lining.” 

Do I need to dignify this with a response?


Skip the judgments and please, if you have nothing to say, skip the platitudes. If all you have to offer are clichés, shut up. Please.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? – Marilyn Armstrong

Mid-Week Word Prompt – Haywire

We have a guaranteed way of making everything go haywire. All you have to do is say the following words:

I absolutely guarantee should you speak these words prior to any planned event … the universe will conspire to prove exactly how much can indeed go wrong!

These are the “haywire” words. You should never say them and if possible, don’t even think them!

STANDING ON THE ACHING SHOULDERS OF THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

Don’t you absolutely love pithy quotes? They always get me thinking either because I agree with it, or because I don’t.

Today I went wandering down the mental pathways of history because someone repeated something I’ve heard a million times before, the ubiquitous quote everyone has heard and at which, we automatically nod in agreement. Everyone says it, so it has to be true, doesn’t it?

Everything that is happening or will ever happen, has happened before. That most people don’t remember and have never read any history is sad. Yet I have come to believe that ignorance of history has little bearing on what we (collectively) do.

I love history. I want other people to love it as much as I do, if for no better reason than to give me more people to talk to who share my passion. As a history buff, I want to believe if people knew history, they would not repeat the same bad behavior, make the same errors as we’ve made in the past.

That’s wishful thinking. We think a lack of knowledge is the root of the evil but there are other reasons. The biggest one? Ego.

Hitler (for example) wanted to be Charlemagne or Napoleon. He knew history. He was not unaware or unread. He wanted to rewrite history, stand on its shoulders and laugh at the past.

Lack of awareness or failure to remember is a symptom, not the problem.

It’s our human determination to prove history wrong which is so destructive. More to the point, we — humankind — want to prove we are above or outside history, not subject to its rules. This stubbornness is at the core of many of the most monstrous, terrible things we do. We keep trying to prove we aren’t subject to the same forces that have directed the past.

Not remembering history does not condemn us to repeat it. Refusing to accept the outcome of history because we want what we want — usually in combination with greed and a lust for power — that is what condemns us.

BY YOUR OWN PETARD, THOU ART HOISTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!”

By which meant he had just become the victim of what he (in this case a movie character) had planned for someone else. Then, I paused, thinking.

“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

“I have no idea,” said my husband.  Which is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and don’t know what it means.

Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed  “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love when that happens?

petards

Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.

petard was a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.

Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.

After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.

Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Theory

Theoretically speaking, “This too shall pass.” With all the hysteria, fervor, passion, anger, sheer madness … THIS TOO SHALL PASS.


Her son died. Her husband died. Their father died. His brother died, then his father. It was. Cancer. Heart attack. A minor infection turned virulent. A holdup gone wrong, a bullet gone astray. Senseless because death, disease, disaster are always senseless.

What to say? “This too shall pass.”

My mother said it all the time. It was her favorite expression. I never thought about it. She said it to comfort me when I was unhappy or when something had gone badly. It never occurred to me the expression was more than something a mother says when consoling a child.

It turns out the expression has a long, ancient history. It has been used to comfort a nation at war, a country consumed by unrest. Families, individuals, kingdoms. They are words you use when you run out of words.

king-solomon-cc

This too shall pass” (Persianاین نیز بگذرد‎, Arabicلا شيء يدوم‎, Hebrewגם זה יעבור‎) is an adage indicating that all conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets. The phrase is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by these simple words. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad — and the sad man happy. 

The legend of the quote finds its roots in the court of a powerful eastern Persian ruler who called his sages (wise men) to him, including the Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur and asked them for one quote that would be accurate at all times and in all situations. The wise men consulted with one another and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally came up with the answer … “This too shall pass.”

The ruler was so impressed by the quote that he had it inscribed in a ring.

Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and also used by Abraham Lincoln in a speech before he became President.

And when words fail me, I find my mother’s voice echoing in my head.

This too shall pass.

In theory.

COVET NOT YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS

So there we were in the car driving home. I was mentally shuffling the heap of miscellaneous stuff that passes for my brain and trying to remember all ten of the commandments.

Moses the Celebriduck

 

Why? Because I thought I should know them. They are supposedly the basis of all moral law, right? Why don’t I know them? Why aren’t they all on the tip of my tongue?

I found myself at a full stop around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section which contains a lot of run-on sentences that could be interpreted as two or sometimes even three commandments but have — I suppose for convenience — been lumped into one.

I asked Garry if he knew the ten commandments. He replied, with some irritation, that he had to pay attention to the traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying to not ram him.

Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them, at least not in order.

“A sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two educated souls cannot recite the ten commandments.”

“There’s a lot of stuff about not making idols. Not murdering or coveting.”

“Yeah, and taking one day off each week.”

When I got home, I looked them up.

Charlton Heston and the 10 commandments

It turns out there quite a few “proper behavior to God” commandments. Not all Christians — much less Jews — divide them the same way. You can count as many as fifteen (à la Mel Brooks in “History of the World, Part I”) or as few as eight. It depends on how you look at them — and punctuate the sentences.

Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects, plus a second list containing my streamlined, easy-to-remember set.

Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)

  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

I’ve always wondered how come we need laws from God to know that murder is not okay. Aren’t we born knowing this? Don’t we know without being told that stealing is bad? That we should take care of our parents and show them respect? Do we really need laws to tell us?

Modernization is all the rage, so here’s my take on them. Not etched in stone. Jealousy is mentioned once in the second commandment where it is good because it’s the Lord’s prerogative.

In the tenth, it’s covetousness, which is not good because jealousy is good for God, but not for us. That is also where your neighbor’s ass comes into the picture, one of the many things you are not supposed to covet.

A Streamlined Top Ten

  1. I’m God. The One and Only. Don’t forget it, not for a moment.
  2. Idols are O-U-T.
  3. Don’t swear using God’s name. Maybe no swearing at all. I’m not sure.
  4. Take a break on the seventh day of your week. It doesn’t matter what day you choose because when I started making the world, there were no calendars. So take your pick, then stick to it. Everyone gets the same day off, including your family, guests, slaves, servants, and animals. No work. Got that?
  5. Respect your parents. Take care of them.
  6. Don’t murder anyone.
  7. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t envy other people’s stuff, especially not your neighbor’s ass.

I’m just here to help.