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  • And There Shall Be No More Curse
    May 25, 2017

    One morning recently, I awoke aware of two battles raging inside my body. Most likely they were inside my body. Or at least, in my opinion, that’s where things like these battles happen: in bodies. The first battle was a dramatization of the most immersive sort, played on stage at the Biochemical Electric Opera, which is located between my ears, in my opinion. I don’t remember all the particulars—forgetfulness is a technique the Biochemical Electric Opera uses to keep me coming back—but I do recall that it was a Star Wars themed battle, and I was a Jedi Knight wielding an orange light saber. Yes, even my subconscious was uncool in junior high. And amid the fray, I woke to an entirely different battle raging, this one also happening inside my body, most likely.

    Some of the greatest atrocities ever committed on earth were carried out with absolute conviction in their ultimate goodness. When Mao freed the peasants from the bonds of their material possessions and sent them into bondage on collective farms, it was because he believed in the power of common men to accomplish extraordinary things. When tens of millions of them began dying from starvation, he was still so confident in the power of common men that he refused to believe the stories. Common men, he thought, if they act with virtue, cannot but thrive, regardless of the obstacles. Faith in the Image of God, if you like, brandished and brought down with a crushing blow upon the Image of God.

    All the time and everywhere, Good Things Fight Each Other To Exist. Mao’s naivete is an epic instance of this theme. The second battle that I awoke to, raging—most likely—inside my body, was by comparison barely an anecdotal instance. I seem to have acquired a virus. Now, viruses are teeny tiny demons made of phosphates, sugars, proteins, and the invisible stuff that demons are normally made of, like deception. My body is equipped to fight tiny demons with the Wisdom of God. That can look like a lot of things (e.g., having the good sense to take medicine). In this case, the hagia sophia was revealed in a myriad myriad white blood cells that swarmed the last known whereabouts of tiny demon and unleashed a shock and awe campaign called inflammation. Casualties included the epithelial cells of my laryngopharynx. To summarize: white blood cells, designed by Wisdom, raining down fire upon the inside of my throat and shooting chemicals into my brain stem to give me a fever.

    And here, if I may lean in toward you and really tell you what’s what, is what I’m driving at with all this teeny tiny demon business. W. H. Auden wrote, “The slogan of Hell: Eat or be eaten. The slogan of Heaven: Eat and be eaten.” Somewhere, someheaven, there is a land that I cannot now hold in my mind. A land where life no longer comes from competition for life, but from the sacrifice of life in every living thing on behalf of every living thing, for Christ will fill all in all. A land where good things are free, for there is nothing left to pay with when we have spent even ourselves. How will we live? How will we receive good things if all that we have, we sacrifice? Everything filled by Christ, and everything to Christ. Good things not given first and then received, but at once given-and-received. Good things no longer fighting good things to exist as they do now in a zero-sum economy of being alive. Population without the population crisis. Cosmos. Shalom. Beauty. The perfect fitting of all good things alongside all other good things, with no cracks, no buckles. This is the land I dimly see into and cannot yet grasp. And in this land, nothing that sets good thing against good thing makes any sense. Eat or be eaten has the ring, there, of nonsense.

    Having seen that land, I am angry at the Powers that set good things against other good things, and I am armed with an imprecatory Psalm or two. I do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with powers that set the lives of people in the United States against the lives of people in Pakistan. With the authorities that set the safety of Jewish families in Israel against the human rights of Palestinian families there. With the principalities that set men against women. And, much less dramatically, I wrestle with the elements that set my own immune system against my own now very sore throat. I can’t explain how invisible things can be made of phosphates, sugars, and proteins, or for that matter, how they can be made of other invisible things like deception, legislature, or cultural inheritances. I also can’t explain how my own mind, full of my own personality, can be made up of neurons, chemicals, squishy grey material that sits behind my eyeballs, or for that matter, dreams, ideas, and memories. But it is at least made of those things, if not other things, too, most likely. In my opinion.

    But, oh, that other Land. In it, there shall be no more curse. And they shall see His face.

    Originally published on September 14, 2014.



    The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
    March 17, 2014

    I was assigned, recently, to perform a blood draw on a patient. I walked into the room with my instructor, and the person lying in bed was difficult to look at, like an angel. She was nearly in middle age, but her physical development had kept her little more than the size of a child, and she stared out with the mind of an infant, wordless like Bethlehem’s Son of God. Even the bones in her face seemed barely formed, and her lips drawn back on her dark, protruding gums showed a clenched mouth of small teeth. She lay on one side, her knees drawn up to her chest, her arms intertwined in front of her. Her muscles so constricted that I could barely extend her arm enough to even search for a vein, and when I did, her skin was the soft, veinless skin of childhood. I searched over and over with my fingertips, hoping to find a blue bounce under the skin, but when I finally felt what I was looking for, I was unable, even after two tries to find the vein with my needle. My angel let out only a whimper. My heart said, “I’m sorry.” My instructor assured me that this was one of the most difficult blood draws I would encounter in most of my career, and after a few more attempts, she found the vein herself and our little vial filled with blood. I put my fingers in the tiny palm of our patient and gripped her hand, and when I did, she relaxed her arm more than she ever had before. And I held her hand for a moment. When I see her again in the Kingdom of God, and she is teaching Saints in the way of Christ, I will tell her that I am sorry that I hurt her. And she will hold my hand again.



    The Joy of the Resurrection is Superlative
    April 8, 2012

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is literally the most joyful thing that has ever happened in the world. Without exaggeration, it does not make sense to be happier about anything else in the world, ever. You were guilty and broken. God did not simply settle the debt – bring you back to zero, so you could start over. He put his Spirit within you and made you alive with Christ. The whole world was our graveyard, but in the resurrection we have been given Eden – and better than Eden: Eden incorruptible.

    Worship Jesus today. Worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for what God did in the tomb early Easter Sunday morning. And I’m not going to tell you outright how you should worship, but I’m going to hint in some directions. Think of how you behave when you’re really enjoying something. You probably do some or all of these things: laugh, sing, whistle, shout, jump up and down, clap, pray, smile, hug someone, sway back and forth, bake a cake. If you do any of these things (or other things to express joy), then they indicate some elements you should incorporate into your worship of Christ today because of his resurrection. In fact, you should probably get a little ridiculous in order to be reacting properly to the goodness of this news. Christ is Risen. CHRIST IS RISEN!

    Also, while we’re talking superlatives, do you realize that everyone needs to know about this event?



    (Re-)un-nothinged
    November 21, 2011

    Nothing is that which cannot be imagined sensibly. It is also, in a sense, what is happening this weekend. And the two definitions overlap here: at what is unimaginable, or at least was. The unimaginable happens sometimes. It is the nihilo, “ex” which we came. It goes by other names, and some are well-rehearsed on this blog. It prompted me to embark on a google-facilitated refresher course in the annihilation of matter by antimatter. Which is a misnomer, really, because matter isn’t annihilated, but more likely turned into gamma rays: beams of light so glorious that we cannot see them; so powerful that they pass through us like plated bullets, leaving exit wounds in our DNA. And that gives us cancer, or it makes our children sad and strange to us. So in that sense, antimatter’s effect on matter is a type of nothing, but not the material kind. The google search which brought me around to reading about antimatter actually began with the question, “what is nothing, philosophically speaking?” Google is apparently my first resource for such questions. Results were weak. I ex-ed out of the browser and took a shower. I decided to settle for definition up there at the top. No A=B equations fit well. Defining nothing is like failing to fill in the left side of the equation while searching for the right side (  =?). Nonsense. I gave it up. Nothing is not even zero, you know. I’ve heard old men refer to it as “zero with the ring knocked off.” I find that phrase ironically apt as a description of what is happening this weekend. That is not a thought I linger on, though. There is too much nothingness to that thought. I don’t want to fill my mind with nothing. I want to fill it with God. Day by day I am being renewed within, though without I am being destroyed. So I look with hope to what I cannot see — what is eternal. For this body that I wear is hardly better than nakedness, and I would not be unclothed, but rather further clothed. I would be devoured, but devoured by life.



    A Prayer When Much Is Lost
    September 13, 2011

    For the waste of our flesh,
    For the ways of solitude,
    For the weight of doubt,
    For the waning of life,
    Let us pray to the Lord,

    That we be healed,
    That we be held in Glory,
    That we believe,
    That we be alive,
    Lord, hear our prayer.