Jesus was a poor man, a simple man. He was raised by a carpenter, more then likely became a carpenter, and until he stepped into his role as Christ, worked as a carpenter. His disciples, likewise, were laborers – minus Matthew – who, though skilled, more then likely lived day to day. We don’t know for sure of course, but it fits the historical context of the time of Jesus. Unless you were Roman, or Jewish royalty, you were simply a peasant, a worker, he lived and worked day to day.
We know Jesus had supporters and we know he had followers. On more then one occasion Jesus fed his followers with little, because that is all they had, and because of faith, he made it big. Jesus took all they had, and made it more. Likewise, after Jesus, his followers did the same – taking their possessions, selling them and held everything in common. They took small things and made it huge, eventually the largest religion in the world. Jesus was known for praising the poor over the prosperous, and known for teaching poverty over prosperity. He told Nicodemus to sell everything and follow him, he told the parable of the rich young man who could not let go, and therefore would not see the Kingdom of Heaven. The ways of God are not the ways of man, and money was a means of man, and, by the example of Jesus, was merely a shackle that must be broken. We see in the betrayal of Judas that the Father did not need money to accomplish salvation, and sadly, Judas doesn’t have that revelation until it is too late.
We live in a modern world. We have modern church buildings, we have modern bills, what does this mean for us as believers? As Christ said, the poor will always be with us, and he was right. Poverty is now like it was then, just more complicated. What we have now that we didn’t then is buildings – cathedrals, “vaticans”, office towers, arenas – which in turn binds us to money, both in need and desire. The church today is rich, some would argue too rich, and with being rich comes the consequence of money, the ever present need for it. We can argue that we need these things to spread the Gospel, though Paul, who refused money and supported himself as a tent maker, would probably disagree. We can argue that to spread the Gospel we need TV, we need big buildings, though in its most powerful moments the Church had none of these things. In fact, it wasn’t until the Church became a political power that money mattered.
Jesus taught lessons in humility, poverty, yet we teach messages of prosperity, and it grates against the grain of the message of Christ. Yes, Jesus didn’t have access to million dollar airplanes, but I’m positive that even if he did, he wouldn’t have bought one. The early apostles didn’t buy expensive caravans to parade around in, the traveled on ships – sometimes against their will as prisoners – to spread the message of Jesus. Jesus didn’t say if you follow me you will be rich on earth, he said we would find our treasure in heaven. Does this mean we can’t have earthly possessions? I don’t know, but what I do know is that the early Christians were less concerned with themselves and more concerned with the community as a whole. They were not only willing to give up everything they had to live in common with one another, they were even willing to give up their very lives for the sake of the Gospel. These men and women were true believers, letting nothing come in between them and their faith.
Jesus would not recognize the Church of today, with her big buildings, he large statues, her printing presses, her television stations. Jesus would not recognize the apostles of today, with there large houses and their Mercedes Benz. He would not recognize the common Christian either, with nice houses and our large bellies. What he would recognize is the slums, the political corruption, the sleaziness of religious leadership. The pride and arrogance, the greed. If we follow the Bible, and even bring tradition in, we would be self sacrificing for the good of the community. We would not worry about being prosperous, we would worry about being a faithful witness. We would not need wealth, we would need community. Sadly, I believe that we are beyond the ability to do this. The problem isn’t our desire to be what God wants us to be, the problem is money.
We no longer have church in our homes, we have it in large buildings. We no longer are the poor ourselves, some of us never even experiencing poverty at all. We no longer feel the need to give everything – only a portion, because we have our own personal desires. We like the idea of sitting in a nice wooden pew made out of expensive Oak, in an air conditioned building, singing songs from a band that plays through a nicely tuned sound system. To think we would be gathered together, huddled closely in a 2 bedroom apartment around a candle is ludicrous, yet that is how our forefathers in the faith worshiped Christ. Even more, they actually feared for their lives, knowing that at any moment, soldiers could come and take them away to their deaths. Of course, the argument is that we live in a different world, society has changed, and that is true. We have become shackled once again to society, through money, and in turn, become ineffective messengers. We have turned the message of the Gospel – of love and sacrifice – into a message of prosperity, a message that needs to be fed by the masses, instead of being fed by the Mass. We have lost moral relevance to our cultures because we have embraced the culture in which we live, and in turn become a business that still claims to be not for profit. We claim that we have to be rich to secure the rich, instead of being like Paul and relying on the Holy Spirit to speak the message to those in station above us. We go to seminars instead of slums, we sit in air conditioned buildings to here the words of Christ instead of turning to the streets and the homeless to share a meal. We ensure our status by wearing our best for Jesus, and in doing so neglect the ones he came for, the ones who wear all that they have, they ones who have nothing left in life but the air that they breathe.
The danger in this is that we can become the same pharisees that Jesus condemned, we can become the same money changers who promise a way to salvation by exploiting the poor. So maybe I was wrong, maybe Jesus will recognize us, it just wont be as we would like him to.
When I was in the United States Marine Corps, we had this saying, “Keep it simple stupid,” and we taught in “Barney Style.” In other words, the simplest approach was usually the best. Keep the complicated uselessness out, and just get ot the core, essential part of what going on, and above all, once you begin something, don’t do anything to further complicate it! Unfortunately, the more time and people you add to a process, the more likely that keeping is simple is going to go the way of keep it complicated. The history of Christianity can be seen in this light. So, at least for the five minutes it will take you to read this little post, instead of complicating things with the Primacy of Rome and Sola Scriptura (BTW, Jesus never saw Rome, NOR did He speak Latin :) ), lets look at some basics.
16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
These two verses tell us how we can come to have eternal life. First, God the Father, loved the world so much that he gave his Son, Jesus, so that those who believe in him may have eternal life. Secondly, Christ was not sent to condemn the world, but sent that the world might be saved through him. The Apostle John continues that those who do not believe in the Son do not need to be condemned by Christ (or us) because they have already condemned themselves. They condemn themselves through evil works:
20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’
Here, Christ continues be saying that those who do what is true come to the light, and by doing what is true, others will see the truth. So what is the things that are true? When asked, Matthew records Christ’s words:
37 He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
The work of truth is “simple,” Love God with all you soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. The problem comes when we don’t follow the two great commandments
James says that “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26) – in fact James contends that faith alone will not save. Likewise, Jesus in Mathew 25 (31-46) describes that whose who helped those in need – in other words loved others – did so to him, and those who did not, well, in simple English, turned away Christ. It is evident in this parable that all who came before the Father believed in him and Christ, those who Jesus rejects question when they did not feed him and cloth him, but because they do not show the acts of truth, they do not have salvation. Both James, and more importantly Jesus, are saying that, if you do not act in response to your believe, you do not truly believe, for true belief, or faith that is alive shows it.
Jesus’ parables are full of illustrations showing that people who are true believes act on the faith, from the ten virgins to the Good Samaritan. It is not is not simply to “confess the name of Jesus,” we must act on that confession. Not only did Jesus say we must believe and that we must show our belief, but he told us what to do. Love God and love our neighbor. God is the obvious object in this equation. We are to love Him with all of our being and in everything we do. To do this may seem daunting, but the answer is in the next part, loving your neighbor as yourselves. Christ also said it in a different way, Love others as I have loved you (John 13:34) and that he loves us as the Father loves us, and that we should abide in His love (John 15:9). To abide in love is to be full of love. Jesus was not sent to the world to condemn it, and Jesus, likewise, did not send his apostles out to condemn the world either. He sent the apostles out, who in turn sent us out to love the world, even unto death. This love passes all understanding (Ephesians 3:19), and cannot be explained and only personified in the sacrifice of Christ.
In conclusion, we must believe, and to believe we must show it. We show our belief through love, and it is through following these commandments that we actually believe. If we do not love, we simply do not believe, even if we confess and do all the right things, without love, their is no belief and no salvation. We will be known by our fruit (Matthew 7:16), if our fruit is love, then it is light, if it is not, then it is evil.
All scripture quoted taken form the
>New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE) at BibleGateway.com
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Jesus’ simple phrase has a lot to say. The definition of meek is to be submissive, quiet or, as Websters says:
Someone close to me, my wife, called my previous post my “conversion” story. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way, but in the end I guess it sort of is. However, since I don’t particularly care for the term conversion in the instances that it concerns people who are already believers in Christ, and also because its not the fullness of the story, I decided to write the following.
I was born in Thomaston, GA on March 20, 1980. Thomaston is a small town, now considered to be on the outskirts of the suburbs of Atlanta. My father, at the time, was a charismatic Methodist pastor who “rode” a circuit. He was up and coming, however he had two issues, he was both charismatic and he liked black people – he actually wanted them in his church. Keep in mind, this may be 1980, but it was also the deep south and the United Methodist Church was a deep rooted southern denomination (John & Charles Wesley began in Georgia in the 1700s). On advice from a close friend, he left the UMC and started an independent charismatic church, which later merged with another independent charismatic church with eventual ties to the Paulks in Atlanta and so on.
Sometime in the mid 1980s, my father met then Pastor Randy Adler, a great man of God and faith, who would go one to be one of the central founders of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. My father would start a church in Thomaston – St. Michael and All Angels – in 1993, and go one to be ordained to the priesthood, becoming a canon, and later a bishop. This began my personal hunger for the liturgical and sacramental, starting around the age of 11-12 – the church we where in before the CEC was dabbling in liturgical expression, and it came full circle with my charismatic and Wesleyan upbringing. At this time, myself and the oldest of my younger brothers were home schooled (Josiah was only born in 1992) and my parents switched from the lifepack system (I don’t remember the publisher) to Seton Home Study School. Seton is an accredited home school program, that is Roman Catholic, based in Virginia. Throughout the 1990s I felt a calling to the priesthood, and I loved the liturgy, I studied it, along with the Bible and the Early Church Fathers – even going to seminary classes my dad taught as head of the CEC seminary in the southeastern United States. I was smart, even able to answer questions that seemingly dumbfounded seminarians, some who were already priests, who had come from other denominational walks of life, with pastoral and biblical experience. I loved it. I ate it, I drank it, i pretended to be a priest in my dreams. I was an acolyte who knew everything there was to know about being an acolyte. I knew the Book of Common prayer backwards and forwards – and not just the 1979 prayer book, but the 1928 one as well. I read the Bible throughout at least three times from 1993-2000 – even the Apochypha. I read the anti-Nicene fathers, the post-Nicene fathers… if it was church, I read it. I was also rebellious and prideful, and before my father could kick me out (I think it might have been more of my mother), I joined the Marine Corps in 2000.
I was in the Marine Corps for five years. In many ways it was glorious, in many ways I should be dead, either by my hand or something else. I survived, but I was broken. Both physically and spiritually. I didn’t find time for God unless I was desperate, and though I was desperate many times, it was never enough. I went to church on a so-so basis, never really getting rooted, even though there was a CEC church merely 30 minutes away (I still cannot thank Fr. Mark Johnson and his wife Natalie enough). I slipped and fell, got back again and fell again. In many ways, I became a man in the Marine Corps, which is awesome, and I began to become the man God wanted me to, which is even better. The only problem is I did it in the most roundabout way possible, which, let me tell you, sucks. I was still rebellious and prideful. I was still a know it all. I hadn’t really changed in most ways, yet I found myself out of the Marine Corps and back home where I needed to be. In essence, by only the grace of God, I had survived.
The end of 2005 brought me back home, put me in school (junior college), which, naturally, I excelled at. Both my father and my brother Jake were good motivators – Jake being smarter then me, but only because, or at least I bragged, I didn’t study – he studied constantly. I found a new home in my mind within the confines of scholarly activity. Again though, I was still rebellious and prideful, arrogant to a point. I still felt the call to the priesthood, and when I wasn’t being stupid or getting drunk, I continued to study, I continued to read and listen, and I continued to be active within my dad’s church, which at the time was the cathedral for the diocese of Georgia. Somewhere along the line I finished junior college and set my sights on the University of Georgia, but first, we had a diocesan convocation at the cathedral for Georgia, and I had to help my dad.
The convocation went great – some external denomination politics and controversy had to be addressed, yet from how I remember it, the convocation as a whole was awesome. The last night of it, a Friday night, in June of 2007, everything changed. We went home, to my parents house, me and my brother were going to stay up and drink scotch while listening to Ron White (a very colorful/vulgar comedian) and while we were doing that, my mother screamed from downstairs. I don’t know what time it was, but it was late – my father had a stroke. It ended up being a massive one, one that left him bedridden up until February of last year when he passed away. Beyond the support my family received from family, friends and the church denomination as a whole, I was angry. I was angry at God first and foremost, I called Him things I don’t think He’s repeat. I blamed Him, I probably even straight up cursed Him, I don’t really remember. In fact, I don’t really remember the next week or so. The short of it, I was angry. I eventually blamed myself, but my anger at God outweighed any anger I felt toward anything else. The people around me, mostly people from St. Michael’s, were extremely supportive, but in the end, inside the struggle was just too much.
I ended up going to the University of Georgia, following my younger brother, and ended up studying history and classical culture, with running certificate programs in Native American studies and archeology. I continued to study the Bible, liturgics, the church fathers, I also studied philosophy and Islam. I did my own personal biblical research project, I put special emphasis on church histroy. However, even though I maintained a presence in church while I was back at my mothers house, I didn’t give myself the time to go when I was away. Things began to change though when I met my wife on facebook, through mutual friends in the CEC, and she would come down to Georgia from Rhode Island to see me in November of 2008. (I think its November, we began talking n September).
To make a long story a little less long, in January of 2009 Ruth Anne got pregnant. I went back and forth a lot concerning what I was going to do, but I ended up deciding to move to Rhode Island and get married. We got married on September 12, 2009, and Katherine Isabella Elena Holloway was born September 30. Newlyweds with a baby, the more I think about it we should have had our own TV show. We have now been married almost six years, and we have added three more babies since Katherine. John William (named for my daddy), Karl Joseph (we like the name) and Zachary Thomas (Zachary is my middle name), Katherine is convinced she will have a sister named Sophia – who knows. During this time, we didn’t really have a “home” church, but both Ruth Anne (and her family, he dad is a deacon in the CEC) and I were still part of the CEC. The closest church to us was in Newport, which is quite a drive, especially with little ones. If the drive didn’t get me, what I found when I went there would have. Ultimately, it was a little of both. I had visited and participated at many CEC churches, mainly through traveling with my dad (I also lived in California for a year at the main cathedral in San Clement), and what I had found in Newport was like nothing I had ever experienced in the CEC. There was almost no liturgical expression, the sacraments felt like an afterthought, and I felt like I was going to an evangelical concert. This certainly, in my mind, was not going to work. So we stopped going. Now, here we were, with no place to go.
Personally, I didn’t really care. I was still mad. It wasn’t just my father anymore, it was a lot of things – in fact, my first confession (with Fr. James at our local parish) and my second confession (with Fr. Nick, also at our local parish) that was simply my confession. I was angry, mad as hell. Somehow I think Fr. Nick took it better, maybe Fr. James simply was not expecting me to say just that. Was that all I could remember? Yes, the anger, which led to confusion, had simply clouded everything else. In all honesty, before I get to the end of this story, I still deal with anger and rejection on a day to day basis, but at this point in my life, it had become who I was. I didn’t want to have anything to do with church. I had dabbled with the thought of visiting a local Orthodox parish – I had done some studies at an Orthodox parish when I lived in California. I loved the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostrom. I had also done some Eastern Rite studies in my home schooling. Yet, I just couldn’t see myself diving right in. I had even thought about the Roman Catholic Church, but the thought of sitting through RCIA classes, being taught stuff I already knew, well, I was just too smart for that. My wife, however, being the proactive one, sought out Fr. James at St. Patrick Church in Providence (her dad knew him) and eventually set up a meeting. I couldn’t honestly think of a reason to say no, so I planned to go. The more I thought about it, the more right it felt, and when Fr. James asked me if I really wanted to do this, I said yes.
The process to confirmation was long, longer for my wife, she did end up having to take the RCIA classes (I didn’t… thank God – well, I took two, the first on the Ten Commandments – I thought I was going to fall asleep, the second was the Theology of the Body). In the end, we were both confirmed and have been attending St. Patrick Church in Providence, RI for several years now. I still have many questions, I still have questions and issues with some beliefs – such as Purgatory and the Perpetual Virginity, but I have found my faith to be a Catholic faith. I am still a little Methodist, a little charismatic – still very Anglican in my thought processes, they are still a very large part of who I am as a believer today, and will continue to be for the rest of my life. As a side not – as an Anglican (or an English-Catholic, or to be correct, Anglo-Catholic) I am encouraged by institutions such as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. All in all though, I am Catholic. I do not believe the Catholic Church is the only way or the only answer, to believe that would be to say that men and women like my own father were wrong, and for me, my father exemplified the life of a true Christian in more ways then I can mention. I believe that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, I believe the only way to the Father is through Him. I believe that Christ is visible and present in the Sacraments. I am happy to call myself Catholic.
I am not a “perfect Catholic” by any stretch of the imagination. I still have my struggles, mostly internal, I am human after all. I still study and read, though I don’t find myself discussing theology, liturgics and such as often as I used to. I pray more now, but never without ceasing. I still have my doubts and issues, but my faith carried beyond all of those things – and the community in which I find myself still continues to blow my mind. I don’t find myself as charismatic as I once was – however I still will “speak in tongues” on occasion (usually when I am praying for Karl when he is having a fit) and I find myself raising my hands in worship from time to time (usually surprising myself in the process). I am still a rebel at heart, for whatever reason, maybe its part of who I am supposed to be. I still dream of the priesthood, but again, I am now a Roman Catholic. Words cannot describe how I feel in the depths of my heart for where I am at. Again, there are still struggles, but I have stopped being angry at God. I finally feel, in many ways, to be home, thought I am not totally comfortable with that term either. I know that my daddy is sitting – no dancing (you would have to know him), clapping his hands and worshiping God, all the while smiling down on me and my family.
J. Z. Holloway
Feast of The English Martyrs, 2015
I was raised to be a Christian. My rearing began in Protestantism and eventually led me to Catholicism, on a path that seems to be pretty straight forward, but in truth was very roundabout. I was born to a Methodist minister who was ordained in the midst of the Charismatic renewal in the United Methodist Church, which because of the controversy surrounding it, eventually led him, and our family, into the independent Charismatic movement. This eventually led us into the Sacramental Renewal that spread through Protestant denominations and independent churches in the late 80’s and mid 90’s.
This renewal was transformative in many ways, but most importantly in the new understanding that Christ is not only accessible in the Sacraments, but that He is present. In so, life itself is given through these actions, and their importance could not be over stated. It was during this time, as a home schooled youth, my parents changed curriculum to Seton Home Study and my education as a young man took a very Catholic turn. Bear in mind, Seton’s religious path is pre-Vatican II in its nature, so the understanding of Catholicism is strictly limited to the structure before the last great council of the Church. It did however, lead me to a deeper love of the Sacraments and the Catholic Church in general. I was also during this time that my parents, and our family, joined the Charismatic Episcopal Church (http://www.iccec.org), which, not being affiliated directly with the Anglican Communion, based most of their liturgical and sacramental traditions on them. In many ways, the journey to the sacramental way of Christianity had been complete, and would have been settled if not for 2007. As a note, though I had a deep appreciation for Catholicism, and a deep love for it as well, I also had a strong connection to conservative Anglicanism, one that still shapes me in little ways today.
In 2007, my father, a bishop in the CEC, had a massive stroke. I did not totally grasp the outpouring of support that my father’s “people” and friends gave, but it was there. However, I deeply questioned God’s motivation in, not only allowing this to happen, but the purpose behind it. In retrospect, I feel the problem with my line of thinking was that God had anything to do with it in the first place. do not get me wrong, God allowed it to happen, God may even have intended it to happen for His own purposes, but I missed the point. There was no reason for me to blame God or question Him, but I did, and I was angry. In this anger I missed the love that was shown by the people around him, towards both myself and my family. The true Christian outpouring of sacrifice that occurred simply because of who my father was to so many people. I in turn, though not losing belief, lost faith – mainly because I had belief. That may not make sense, but it was because I had more belief then I had faith, I lost the most important part of the equation. I never truly questioned my belief, and in not doing so, I was enabled to lose my faith. My faith was not that, the knowing where you cannot truly know, but was rooted in what I had actually experienced. I had allowed the comfort zone I was in to cloud my true faith, and thus I lost it. In many respect I simply did not care anymore, I simply said the hell with it, and I was prepared to leave it at that, then I met my wife.
To say my wife and I’s relationship is conventional, could only be true in a modern, very humanistic sense. We met and she got pregnant, I moved to Rhode Island from Georgia, and we got married. Less then three weeks later we were blessed with our first child, Katherine. Since then, we have had three more beautiful children – all boys, and obviously, though it has been a blessing, it certainly has not been easy. To read more about the story of Katherine and how me and my wife got together, you can read it here. We knew we wanted to go to church, even though I personally still struggled with faith – I still had belief, and began going, when able, to our local CEC parish in Newport, RI. Though further away then I wanted to travel, I wanted to make it work, but the parish was not what I was expecting. Though part of the CEC (and as a bishops kid I had traveled throughout the CEC with my dad, visiting many churches), it seemed to me to through away most of the sacramental aspects of Anglican tradition – it seemed to me there was a very conscience effort to become, or at least appear, less “catholic.” The emphasis was mainly in the Evangelical and Charismatic streams, and again, I found myself getting angry. To me, it felt like I was finally able to “get into” my faith again, only to be slapped in the face. We still went from time to time, but I could never get fully comfortable with it, and instead of risking perpetual anger, I simply refused to go. My wife, on the other hand, needed a home, and so she went searching. Ironically, the least “catholic” member of our family, my wife, found her home in the Roman Catholic Church, at a parish called St. Patrick Church in Providence. This led us to the process of confirmation, RCIA classes (which thankfully because of my prior schooling and study allowed me to “skip” most of these – in other words, I knew most of the stuff already and had affirmed it). We got confirmed, and we are happy members of our local parish.
In finding our home at St. Patrick’s, we have found a loving community, not only of believers, but of people of faith. St. James says that faith without works is dead. We can have believe, but without the works, without community, the believe cannot take root and can easily be shaken. The faith can, and often times, dies. Our priest, Father James, recently spoke about the importance of community, and for the first time in a very long time, I personally have allowed myself to become part of a faith based community once again, one that is full of faith, and full of the love that faith needs to grow. I have always had belief, but often I have lacked the true faith to sustain it, I have often lacked the community to keep it alive. I am not knocking past communities I have been apart of at all – often, i found myself away from these, sometimes by my own choosing. I spent five years in the Marine Corps, and did not allow myself the time to become part of a community. I spent time in college, I moved to Rhode Island, and again, I – and I emphasis I – sis not allow myself to become part of a community. I don’t believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the only answer – and I often find myself struggling with Roman Catholic belief, but I never struggle with the Roman Catholic faith. I still struggle with the calling I have felt since my youth to become a minister/priest – and yes, I am Roman Catholic, so we know where that road leads, I struggle with belief at times when it contradicts subjects I have studied and take interest in – I studied history and classical culture (and I even did some loose seminary), and have always had a fascination with physics and science. These struggles are fine, at least to me. I am human, struggle defines my existence, but my struggles do not define me – my belief doesn’t truly define me, what defines me is my faith. My belief can be shook, can be battered – it can be crushed, but my faith, because I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, both here and in Heaven, is a live and well.
The problem with belief is that it simply isn’t enough, we must be surround by people of faith, and allow our own faith to be cultivated. We must be active believers, yes, but we also must be active people of faith.
Below is my beginning of a work that has been in my head for sometime – its unedited, so please forgive all the grammar issues (and for those asking, I already have an editor). It definitely a work in progress… a huge work and a huge progress, but with this one, I actually plan on finishing it. I edited some of the language so it would be more PG (and my family members wont yell at me), however the final product will not have such edits. Please feel free to share your thoughts.
A lush, green world that was, and never would be again, has become a fading memory of the old, told through stories to the young. Like a religious pilgrimage through time, the old ones, the ones who came before the Fall, would tell their diatribe to a younger generation who would hang on every word like sap used to hang on a tree. Grand, decadent buildings no longer were, left only as rotted husks to be venerated as monuments to gods that no longer existed, yet, the memory of their creation still lingered in the memory of a few and the tales of the many. To say humanity was finished, to say that the race known has human had been completed, would be a slap in the face of evolutionary propaganda, and yet, here we are, at the precipice of a status quo that will longer hold water in the face of a hurricane.
The Fall came as night fell on the East Coast of what was then the United States, and it came suddenly. For most, it was like their previous life had been a dream, for a few, the witness of such an even forever shook their own reality, they could not process what had been before nor what was to come. Human reason could not explain the inexplicable, the inherent doom without a warning sound, and therefore the ones who remained had only a fading memory of yesterday, and a certain dread of tomorrow. Even those whose lives were not touched by technological advancement of any kind were effected, and the infection of despair reached every corner of a corner less globe. The old gods had been replaced by what was to be the Cloud, a scion of space, a bender of reality. Not religious in nature, its force was felt by everyone who gazed upon it, and its grasp was like a shackle.
No one truly new what happened, or even what it was, but the weight it placed on the world was heavy. Like an asthma victim trying to catch just one more breath, this world was held in a vice unknown to its inhabitants. The things of the past have now faded, what is to be is the only matter that remains.
It had been over one hundred years since the Cloud appeared in the skies. Governments and society, not having an answer, had fallen. Rising in their place was hovels of humanity, each creating their own culture that had broken fragments from the past, and hardened together by the resilience of existence. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, we don’t even know of today.
“Time, time!” the internal alarm repeats. “Awaken, awaken!” the internal voice cries out.
Dustin sat alone, as he usually did, in the hot afternoon sun in a desert with no shade to be seen. He dreamed of stories that his grandfather used to tell him. Of large cities, glorious buildings, of endless supplies of water, of things completely out of his reach. He reached for his canteen, forgetting it was empty of water, and attempted to take a swig, receiving only a suckling of air. He swore, throwing the metal container in front of him, frustratingly reminding himself that it was his only canteen. Slowly, he rose to his feet to get it, and as he reached out his hand to grasp the now sun heated container, he saw the Cloud in the distance.
Dustin was a young man, vain, only in his attempts to amount to anything more then what he was, a failed farmer, in a land where nothing but dirt and dirtweed grew. His father had settled on this land many years before when Dustin was a baby. Bringing his grandfather and his sister with him, Dustin’s father toiled simply for existence, simply to survive. Knowing what had come before, and knowing that he would never see the things his own father had talked about, Dustin’s father through away all hope and dreams of the past life, and dictated that any talk of those things that had come before where never discussed. Punishment for even mentioning a thought of tall buildings and green grass was a swift slap to the face, or even worse. The only person to be able to get away with such banter was Dustin’s grandfather, and even then, he would only talk of such things after taking one too many sips of moon water, his father’s special drink made from dirtweed.
After his grandfather had died, he would often sit alone, his mind wandering to fantastical places he knew he would, never could, visit. He would dream in silence of a bygone time where metal creatures roamed streets of flattened, smooth rock, a place where shade was easy to find. The only thing he could find where he existed was the damnable sun and its unwavering heat. Before he died, Justin asked his grandfather what became of such glorious things, and his reply, though still and quiet in his final breathes, was firm and full of dread. “We came to the end of a precipice, a place where we, as men, had achieved greatness, and because of our own vanity and lust for knowledge and the power that comes with it, we fell.” Dustin often pondered on the meaning of this as well, but he had no idea what his grandfather meant, and so he continued to steal away and sit in the hot sun.
“Dustin,” his father called, “Dustin!” “Coming,” he responded. His father was always calling him. Do this or do that, this was the way Dustin’s life went. It was only when he was alone did Dustin really feel alive – when he could dream and imagine. Of course, his father thought he went off by himself way too often, and maybe he did, but he did not worry about it too much. He thought his father was too hard on him, pushed him too much. On the other hand, his father thought Dustin was simply too lazy, so he focused on making a man out of him. “One day,” his father thought, “One day he’ll get it, one day he will understand.”
“I need you to go over to the Hollerman’s place, they have a boull I need ya to grab. Take the carts and grab ‘em.” “Yes sir,” Dustin replied, and he went to fetch the carts. Dustin didn’t mind going to the Hollerman’s place, he would get to see Rachel, but he hated boulls. Too big, too bulky, mean as hell. His grandfather had loved to eat the meat of a boull, told him it reminded him of when he was a young man and he would go out with his own parents. After seeing his father slaughter one, with all of the blood and insides all over the place, Dustin did not quite understand the desire to eat such a thing. Yet, he knew his father had already paid for it with the meager amount of crops he could grow, so therefore he set out to grab the beast from the Hollerman’s. On the bright side, they would know he was coming, and Alana Hollerman, Rachel’s mother, would prepare his favorite soup, dustweed and cayroot. Plus, he would get to see Rachel.
As he left, with the carts trailing behind his horse, he turned back to see his father and his home. He was happy to be going to the Hollerman’s, but he dreaded having to come home. He dreamed that one day he would never have to see that vision again.
The Cloud sits in silence, a pillar in the sky. Silence drifts within the heart of its darkness, yet nothing can penetrate its abode. Many look upon the shape, like a wisp upon the water, yet none knew its nature, at least none that had survived.
Rachel looked out towards the Cloud, and she was silently happy. Dustin would come today for the boull, she would get to see him, and knowing how her mother favored him, he would also stay for dinner. Slightly obese as a child, Rachel had developed into a fit young woman, with red hair and a slight tan from the sun, her crystal green eyes would catch any light that caught her dimple laden face. Her father had died three summers before, so it was just her mother and her two older brothers who ran the farmstead. She knew that Mr. Tannes had paid her mother for the boull, but wondered what the exact price he had demanded. She knew that Dustin’s father fancied her mother, most men did that came around from time to time, but Mr. Tannes seemed much more overt then the others. He seemed to be a cruel man, yet she knew that this had to be in part because of the lifestyle in which they lived. Life was hard for all since what was known as the Fall, the day the Cloud came to rest over the land. So she did not totally blame Mr. Tannes for being the ass of a man she thought he was, just mostly. Dustin, she thought, was just like his grandfather. Kind, gentle, and of course handsome, with his rugged blonde hair, made even more so by his many hours of toiling under the sun – she could close her eyes and see him sweating right now, only to turn towards her with his boyish blue eyes. But enough of that, she had to prepare the house for a guest, a guest who she not only could not wait to see, but one she wanted to impress.
Rachel’s mother would tell her stories that he own mother and grandmother had passed on to her. How before the Cloud there was great cities and great nations of people, ruled by laws and morality. A place where everyone seemed to be happier, a place far better them where they found themselves now. She could not imagine it, to be honest. She could only see the look in her father’s eyes as he passed away from the sickness that had claimed so many in the mall area around her. She could only close her eyes and see the dust and the suffocating heat that only let up just enough for them to barely get by. She did often wonder how they got here. What had happened so many years ago? Her grandmother said man cursed himself. “He ate the apple,” she would always say. Rachel had no idea what that meant, she had never seen an apple to begin with, except in a color drawing from a long faded book page. Her mother told a different slightly different story, one she must have learned from her daddy. “One day,” she said, “all men looked to the sky and the rain fell.” “The crops failed, the lakes dried up,” she continued, “and man turned on man, like never before, then came the sleep.” Her mother would tell her nothing more than that, she would not answer any of her questions, and she had many. What is the Cloud, what was the sleep? Her mother would only shake her head and smile, telling her to put it out of her head. So did, or at least tried, but it always seemed to creep back into her thoughts.
Her brothers, Jacob and Phillip, had already prepared the boull for its departure to the Tannes’ homestead, and they had already cleaned up for Dustin’s arrival. They did not particularly like or dislike him, but they knew their mother did like him, so the attempted to treat him as well as they could, with a little abuse on the side. Dustin never seemed to care too much, so she did want to encourage them more by saying anything. Her mother’s stew of dirtweed and cayroot, Dustin’s favorite, was almost complete, so she knew he would be arriving soon. “Someday,” she thought, “He would come whisk her away, and take her to a better place.” She knew this was not really possible, the better place part anyways, but she still dreamed. As she looked out the dirt plated window, she could see him coming down the trail and her heart leaped, and a smile crept to her face. She quickly put her working apron away, checked her hair in the mirror and walked outside to the porch.
Dustin saw Rachel standing on the porch, and he smiled. No matter how much bullshit he had to put up with from his father, and no matter how much he hated having to transport a boull from anywhere to anywhere, seeing Rachel’s green eyes made it all worth it. He wondered if one day they would be together. “Of course,” he said to himself under his breath, “he was the only suitable man her age around.” Yet, it did not stop him from fearing some older fool would steal her away. As he got closer to the house, he heard a crack in the distance, and a slight rumble under his feet. He thought to himself, “That’s odd… I wonder….” As he thought, the ground beneath him seemed to heave up and down, and then back up again. His two carts were thrown to gods know where, and he found himself falling from the sky towards the hard dirt. As he was falling, he could have sworn he heard Rachel scream for help. Suddenly the ground was upon him, and darkness invaded his mind.
Lightning crashes, thunder rolls, the Cloud is a fire in the sky of day. The Children of the Rain have roused from their slumber, and have awoken to the fields of their harvest.
The entire earth shook, as lightning left the Cloud and penetrated the ground, to what felt like the core itself. Shackles of metal sprang forth from its belly and took hold like roots of a tree. Like sirens from a rocky island in the see, a song rose up from the heart of the Cloud, and then, the sound of silence.
“Its @#$#@# itself!” Exclaimed Fiona. “The @#$damned thing @#$#@# itself, and we have no idea why.” Shaking her head, she turned away from the monitor to see Kale looking up at her in astonishment. “I aint never seen nothing like it,” he said, “It’s like the whole sky just came down.” Fiona was too excited, or was it scared, to correct Kale’s English. She had been trying for what seemed like an eternity to get him to talk right, and even though it was a lost cause, she tried, if only because she cared about him. Fiona was new at the analyst station in New Britain, only on the job for two weeks, and though she had been assured nothing would happen, nothing ever happens, she just knew something would. As she peered back at her monitor, she realized her greatest fear had happened, something HAD happened, and it had happened on her watch.
New Britain was not in the old Britain, it wasn’t even in the old Europe. Fiona’s dad had told her that long ago, before he was even born, this place was called New England. Once the Cloud came and brought the Fall, or was it the Fall bringing the Cloud, she didn’t know, those who had survived had decided to rename themselves. Partly to rid themselves of their past, in case there was something there that had caused the catastrophe, but mainly because the old way no longer existed. Yet, even in this, they had used what they knew, and dubbed themselves the New Britain. Apparently, at some point in history, this place was known for its liberal way of thinking, its grand societal ideas. Now, it felt like a hub for illiterate inbreeds who only cared about themselves and had no passion for anything beyond where they were. Fiona only new how to read the old speak because her father’s parents had been teachers of some sort, at a large facility where young people came to learn about their world. In many ways, she felt like she was continuing that tradition with Kale, even though it never seemed to catch root in his mind.
She had to tell the Marshall, but what to tell him? Fiona knew that everyone had felt the tremor, she didn’t need a spike on a flat monitor to prove it happened. Anyone looking outside would have seen the cloud descend to God know where, again, unless the Marshall was sitting in a bunker with plugs in his ears, he would already know what is going on, at least as much as she did. Yes, protocol said, demanded, that she report, but report what? Slowly, she slid from her chair and turned toward the hallway leading to the Marshall’s office. “This should be interesting,” she thought.
The office the Marshall kept was pretty bare, save for a faded picture of his mother that sat on a desk, and his chair. He knew many of the people in his care thought him to be rich because he had what they called a “realpaint” of a person, and though it bothered him a little, he had learned to use the persona in his favor. Miles Fabian was born seventeen years after the Fall. He was the youngest of eight children, his mother being forty-six when she bore him, and he was their third child after the Cloud had appeared in the morning sky. His parents had been wealthy before that day, and because his father’s wealth came from being “self-made,” and not just money, his father was able to keep his wits, and influence, about him better than most. Because of this, though technically poor now and simply a survivor like the rest, he held the respect of those around him. Miles’ father was a founder of New Britain, and along with the rest of those who were considered founders, ensured that their children would carry on the legacy they had created by dynastic means. This did not mean Miles Fabian was a stuck up tyrant, on the contrary, he loved the people he felt like he served, but he also knew that persona was everything, and for the sake of keeping the rule of law and order, he didn’t attempt dissuade any notions of his potential wrath.
He stared out his window. He hadn’t felt a tremor like that in years, decades, and even then it wasn’t this bad. Beyond the worry of the tremor, the Cloud, the ever present form of atmosphere that could always be seen in the distance towards the western horizon, was gone. He knew that soon enough, whoever was on watch duty would be coming up to tell him that something had happened. “No #$@!,” he said to himself, “If you didn’t feel that you probably didn’t have breath in you.” Miles always worried about what was next, but he had always found a way to keep everything locked away in his head, letting those around him figure out whatever it was that needed figuring out. Today, he realized as he turned around, no one would be able to figure this out, and they would come to him for answers, answers he didn’t have. Or did he? He had almost seen the Fall, missing out by only seventeen years or so. He had brothers and a sister who actually remembered it, using their sticks of color to draw crude and scary pictures. Those drawings never made any sense, mainly because his parents, who for whatever reason had kept them around, told him they were just pictures his sibling had made when they were younger, and didn’t mean anything. Two things weighed on him, first, the fact that his parents had kept the pictures, the second was the fact his siblings only vaguely remembered actually making the colored drawings. It didn’t matter of course, all but one of his siblings was dead, and Martha had been born after the Fall. She had lost her mind at any rate, so again, what did he really know?
As he looked up, he saw Fiona standing there, appearing extremely nervous. “Yes,” he thought, “It would be Fiona who was on duty, the poor girl.” He liked Fiona, she was, well, almost like a granddaughter. If her grandparents and parents would not have been so snooty, they too would have been “founders,” but as it was, those looking and trying to survive could have cared less about having proper diction, they needed to know how to live, and that was that. He knew he should ease her mind, tell her that he had seen whatever it was he had seen, but a part of him wanted to make sure she could handle her new found position and have the balls to report what she could, even knowing that she didn’t really know anything. He was saved, or rather she was, by Kale, the idiot who only had anything in life because of his parent’s position, again, awarded because of their own parents. “Sir, it fu—,” Kale began. “Yes, I know, I saw… and I assume so did everyone else within walking distance to a window, and yes, I felt it too, as I’m sure everyone else did as well,” Said the Miles. Fiona replied, “Do you know what it is, um, sir?” “No, but I have an idea, you should probably call the council together, I’d better say something.” Fiona answered the Marshall’s request, “Yes sir, right away.”
As Fiona and Kale turned to leave, for a moment he thought back to one picture that his brother had drawn that really stood out. A band of smoke sitting on a desert floor with an open door leading to a stairway. The stairway was full of something, something not quite coherent. As a shiver of cold ran down his spine, he tried unsuccessfully to rid his brain of the path his mind was taking him.
I love video games – I love playing them, reading about them and talking about them. So to lighten the mood of the blog, I have decided to write a review of one I am playing right now – Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. (BL:THC)
BL:THC consists of two games, Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Both games are first person shooters made in the style of a role playing game. Meaning, like most games you level up, get better gear, complete missions, but you also have to craft your character – of which there are many – with skills as you level. This enables you to craft your character the way you see fit to match your playing style. For the uninitiated, it is like Call of Duty meet Elder Scrolls… or, as many of my friends have pointed out, everything Destiny should or could have been (ironic, since Borderlands 2 came out way before Destiny). For the initiated, it is a space opera shooter that plays as an RPG.
Borderlands 2 came out in 2012, while the Pre-Sequel came out in 2014, so there are plenty of reviews already for these tow games, and of course, many comparison reviews for BL:THC on PS/XBox One versus their counterparts on old-generation consoles. For me, however, this is my first real experience with the series and these games – I did play the original Borderlands back in the day for s brief time, and my second experience with first person shooters in a long while, my first being Destiny. Many of these comparisons focus on frame rates and the newer graphics, but having no previous experience, I don’t really care, what I care about is the game play and the fun factor.
As a prelude, this game is rated Mature, and it is for a reason. It is bloody, vulgar and at times, offensive. It is crude and unapologetic, and honestly, I like it. No, I can’t play this game in front of my kids, well, I could, but at the very least if I do, I wear my headphones. This being said, it is no more violent then most violent video games, and it certainly isn’t Mortal Kombat, more Elder Scrolls meets guns – and just a little more crude.
The number one thing I take away from Borderlands is that it doesn’t matter. Nothing does. If I die, it doesn’t matter – I can still achieve my objective, it will just cost me more in game money. If I loot, it doesn’t matter, I can still get the equipment that I need. If I didn’t complete every side quest, though it may be blocked at the moment, it doesn’t matter, I can always come back, or join a friend and do it on theirs – it still counts on mine. In the end, nothing matters.
The whole point is to blow stuff up. Yes, kill bad guys and blow stuff up, and again, nothing else matters. As long as you do this, you will eventually achieve your objective. The other point is to loot, and even if you miss a million crates to loot, there are a million more. Blow stuff up and loot, I like that, its, well, peaceful. What I mean is, it isn’t nerve racking, I don’t get nervous going into a boss fight, like I might do say in Destiny, or Elder Scrolls Online. If I die, someone will be there to pick me up, or, I just end up paying the Hyperion Corporation to be rematerialized, again, it doesn’t matter, I will achieve my objective, or dye (again and again) trying.
For blowing stuff up, we go back to loot. The game – either one – gives me a million different option on how I can blow up any one of a million different things. There are a ton of different weapons, and likewise, shields, character mods, character relics and the like to get me where I’m going and to help me, well, blow stuff up, and in turn, loot more. I love the range of options these two games give me. I don’t have to buy a weapon to suit my playing style, I will find one, and even if I don’t, yes, I can buy one – finding plenty of money along the way. Since it play like an RPG, I have options of shields (armor) – I can choose a high capacity shield, which may effect my health, or a lower capacity shield which absorbs me… and so one and so on. On top of all of this, my character (again, of which there are several) come packed with certain skill sets in which I can place skill points to give me certain advantages – again, picking ones to suit my playing style.
All in all, these two games blend the FPS and the RPG experience very well – we have good shooting mechanics, good character mechanics and then, as always, there is the loot. Lastly, the questing is very progressive, and even with the large amount of side quests, I have not felt like I was stuck in one spot for too long. For this alone, if you like FPS and RPGs, this is a great collection for you. In addition of the stock games though, you also get all of the DLC for Borderlands 2 and the new DLC (featuring Claptrap’s mind) for the Pre-Sequel. On top of this, it is for the next-gen/now-gen consoles of Playstation 4 and XBox One.
Graphically, though I haven’t played the games on previous generation consoles, I am impressed with the visuals for both games on the new consoles. I play on PS4, so I can’t speak of the Xbox, but I haven’t had any issues on the PS4, even playing with a full compliment of 4 players online. To me, the scenery is gorgeous – its not realistic, but it isn’t supposed to be. It is supposed to be cartoonish/anime-like, and it shows very well. Its vibrant, in all ways, and I like that. Again, I can’t speak of comparisons, but from what I seeo n the PS4, it has been remastered very well. I can’t speak of frame rates or whatever, but I have played a lot of video games, and I really like how this looks.
Lastly, the story itself feels like an RPG. There are plenty of characters which, once you get past their crudeness, you actually do “care” about – unlike Destiny which thrusts you into a galaxy where there is story potential and falls flat on it face, Borderlands gives you a planet, a moon and a station in which a space opera unfolds.
While playing, I almost felt like I was in a Ben Bova novel of the Grand Tour series – there is corruption, violence, sex and heroes which aren’t antiheroes but aren’t good guys either – yet, you can feel an empathy for them (or not). There are many locales to visit, many characters to meet, and get to know and they all have a story. I found myself wanting to find out more and more, to get to get to the root of all the evil going on, I want to get to Handsome Jack and, well, blow him up. On the flip side, however, as long as there is loot and stuff to blow up along the way, you could care less, because in the end it doesn’t really matter.
Rating: A+ (97.786)
(Note: I have played Borderlands 2 mostly, only briefly play the Pre-Sequel, if anything changes on my impressions, I’ll let you know – I don’t apologize for not being technical, but honestly, as long as I like the way it looks and plays, its good enough for me… and it doesn’t really matter anyways.)