Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Hoc Anno Domini, by Vermont Royster

The WSJ has printed this every Christmas since 1949.

In Hoc Anno Domini

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression—for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A14

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Past Couple of Months

view of ISS from Soyuz 23, on its return to Earth carrying Shannon Walker, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and Doug Wheelock

The past couple of months have been a mixed bag. After looking at my stress test pictures, my cardiologist thought I had perhaps developed another blockage. After doing a heart catheterization, he found out it was nothing. (Something like 90% of the time it's nothing.) I was glad I got that taken care of, while I'm employed and still have insurance. Now I won't need another stress test for two years.

At work, they have an online program that asks all sorts of nosy questions about your health. After taking the survey, I found out I'm at risk for depression and alcoholism. Tell me something I don't know! (Things at work suck so badly a woman in my department just up and quit. She had worked there for 17 years.)

My '01 Ford Ranger started leaking gas. Drip...Drip...Drip... They have plastic gas tanks now, which means they can't just be welded like in the days of yore. It cost me about a thousand to get that fixed. (I don't want to grip too much though, as it's the first big expenditure I've had to lavish on my truck. Still...what an odd thing to break.)

And now, worst of all, my t.v. has crapped out! My beautiful 42" Vizio I bought just 18 months ago, the t.v. I took the above picture off of, has four HDMI jacks, all of which stopped working. (HDMI jacks are what you plug cable boxes, blue-ray players and the like into.) One by one they went out, and I'd switch to the next one. Well, I ran out of working jacks.

Luckily I got the extended warranty, so I'm still covered on that. Glad I saved that receipt. Whew... They're coming to work on it tomorrow. I'm hoping they just give me a new one, which they might.

Being middle-aged sucks. Everything you own breaks, your body starts to go to pot, and you still have to work for at least twenty more years before you can retire. Bleah...

On a positive note, my novel is coming along. Despite long periods of utter neglect, I have finally reached the 150 page mark. That's about 42,000 words. It was supposed to just be a 7,500 word piece I was going to send to a magazine (Analog), but the damn thing has taken on a mind of its own.

One roadblock I hit was a scene at the Asakusa Kannon temple in Tokyo, a place, in a city, in a country I've never been in. Wikipedia and other sites provided a little help, but only still pictures and a map. (Incredibly, the only map of buildings I could find was from a random tourist's website.)

And then it hit me: youtube. There are a bunch of vids from random tourists visiting there, so after watching them I had enough of a feel for the area that I could write about it. I also took out a couple of books on Tokyo from the library. Though one of them was from the 70's, it gave me an interesting picture of the place.

(Example: according to the book, next to one nondescript high-rise apartment complex in Tokyo, there's a clearing with a rock in it. The rock has a hole bored through it. They used to crucify people there, and sometimes burn them at the stake, using the rock to hold up whatever torture device they were using.)

Incredibly, not much of my research made it into the scene. (If I had included everything, the scene would have read like a travelogue.)

I do feel better knowing the place though. Without having a feel for it, the scene had been pretty sparse and dry. It felt almost unethical, to just leave it as I originally wrote it. Now, though I've added only a few lines, it seems a lot better.

Anyway, that's enough updating for now. See you in two months!