Posts Tagged ‘God’

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 3, 2013
'It's a clear cut case of demonic possession', thinks Ralph.

‘It’s a clear cut case of demonic possession’, thinks Ralph.

…and Squirellier

(Episode 54)


  As Leland and Agent Hailey settled back with their drinks, Ralph began.

“Good evening.”  Ralph gave a hesitant smile.

“Good evening, Ralph!”  Someone from the back called, to a titter of laughter.

Ralph nodded.  “I hope so,” he began tentatively.

“Just show us the painting!”  That someone called again.

“Shut up!”   Someone else called.

The commissioned painting was hung directly behind Ralph and covered in black velvet.  It was quite large as befitted a fifteen hundred dollar commission.

“As you know,” Ralph began again.

“Speak up!”

“Shut up!”

“As you know!”  Ralph leaned to close to the microphone.  The feedback nearly deafened everyone in the room.

Ralph pulled back immediately, and hesitated tentatively as if he were afraid to go near the mike again, which brought on another titter of laughter.  Ralph gazed out over his audience with saucer-sized eyes, and a hand dove for the peanuts.  He stood their cracking and eating several while his audience sat, waiting.

Finally, with both cheeks full of nuts, Ralph approached the microphone again, hesitantly.  “As you know,” he said.  “I am primarily a painter of rural, and that is in our case, agricultural settings.”  Though with all of the nuts in his cheeks this came out a little more like, “ur his hin hower cashe , hagghricalshurrrel shittings.”  This last got a laugh.  Ralph swallowed and drank some water.

“But fine artists down through history have not only reveled in depicting how their friends and neighbors earned their livings, but felt it their duty to celebrate it in song, story and painting.”

George Everlee nodded and started the applause.  “Farmers are the backbone of this community,” he  called out, “and we owe it mostly to just a great breed of Guernsey we have developed right here and now – in Kimmel County!”

There were lots of cheers.  Even fist pumps.

Ralph nodded.  “Praise the Lord for our abundance,” he said.

“Yes.  Yes. Yes,” it was murmured around the room.

“Are we in a tavern and drinking here, or are we in a church?”  The voice called out.

“Shut up!!!”

“As you know also, from my other times up here, that I believe ‘Wherever the Lord has brought abundance, the Devil views jealously.”  Ralph’s eyes narrowed.

The room was quiet.

“Wherever His Good Works Are In Evidence, the Devil plots.”  Ralph’s voice dropped and paused.

“Ah yes.  Yea, yea, yea,” some in the audience responded.  Others began to sway, (some from drink).

“And WHEREEVER the Good Lord Savior most blesses, THERE is where old Beezlebub most seeks to leave his brand!”  Ralph’s eyes bugged.

Hands were lifted.

But not George Everlee’s.  In fact, George Everlee was smiling stiffly, but looking around, wondering where this evening was headed, while his wife Arlene fought, inconspicuously, to get Ralph’s attention.  But by now, Ralph’s eyeballs were surely big as saucers, and the veins in his temple bulged.

“George Everlee’s Guernsey, Daffodil, was surely most blessed,” Ralph continued, pointing to the cloth covered painting, and with a nod to Ralph Everlee.

Leland had a feeling.  ‘This is fast turning into a wake,’ Leland thought.  ‘And for that, someone has to have died…’

But Ralph Everlee smiled, relaxed a bit, and nodded tentatively.

“Why I can still remember that frosty morning she was first delivered,” Ralph said.  “I was working on another portrait of a sort in a far part of the barn of Henrietta, George’s prize sow.  Many of you, of a few year’s memory, surely remember her.  I’ve got to say, she had the best flesh tones of any sow I’ve had the pleasure yet to paint in this area… mostly yellow ochre and Old Holland white with just the barest highlight of vermillion.”

Arlene blushed.  But George pumped his fist to a general cheer which arose from the crowd.   “It’s Stumps Magic Sow Cream” for any of you who are interested!”  George called out.

Ralph nodded, then moved closer to the mike.

“I know many of you here now – right now – have either laughed slightly, or just coughed, when you have heard me say up here in the past that an Artist has to Beat the Devil, each time he takes up his brush.  That Art is so important to the glorification of God, that the Devil must see to it himself, that this process – lent to us by God Himself – we call creation goes awry.  So that what is meant to be a glorification instead becomes an abomination.”

            Arlene and Ralph Everlee were now looking worried again, as were his kin, nestled nervously around, as to where this was going.  There was tittering and nervous reaching for drinks.

“I think you’d better just show us the painting, Ralph,” the voice in the back called.

And this time it was answered by a murmured chorus of assents.

“Before he does!”  Arlene Everlee stood up, bravely trying to turn the river of  some dark destiny to which it seemed Fate had deemed course through their celebratory evening.  “I just want to say how proud I am of my husband George, and his prize Guernsey Daffodil!  for the honor he has bestowed upon all of us here this evening who are gathered to toast our profession.  And I just want to add,” as she teared up, “that George has been as good a husband and provider these 25 years as he is a breeder and Daffodil is a milker.”

“Hear!  Hear!”  Voices cried.

They all drank to that, while Arlene blubbered and George Everlee kissed her.

“Show us the painting for Godsakes, Ralph,” another shouted.

“Well, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, I’m not going to say I beat the Devil,” Ralph said, gripping a corner of the drapery, and pulling.

Inwardly Leland prepared to cringe.

“But I drank his beer for free.  And then I painted his Face.”

Ralph had gotten most of the prize Guernsey Daffodil right excepting for the face, which resembled exactly that of a chipmunk.

A gasp rose up.

Silence gripped the room, while everyone fought to realize what to say, and turned generally towards George Everlee – whose jaw had fallen nearly to the floor – for guidance.  It was George’s herd manager, Earl, who finally spoke first.

“Well, he got her tits right,” he remarked gruffly.

Graphic of painting by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

February 4, 2013


Following Our Bliss

“The reality is embarrassing.  Being me just doesn’t seem to get me anywhere.”

– John, incarcerated sex offender

I had an acquaintance years ago when I was much younger who was upset one day because he’d just been fired from his job at a wine shop.  I tried consoling him with those sorts of things you say, such as, ‘these things will happen’ and ‘there are other jobs out there’, to which he replied:  “But I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever held!”  My older brother at the time told me, “There are a lot of people like this.  It’s very sad.”  (“They’ll work for cheap!” years later I read a small construction company owner saying.)

My favorite character in Sherman Alexie’s new book of collected stories, “Blasphemy” is Thomas Builds-the- Fire.  His mission in life is to tell stories.  He’s kind, gentle, wise, and tells pretty good stories.  But no one in the tribe wants to/will listen.  God seemingly has granted Thomas Builds-the- Fire the urge, but neglected the audience.

Does this strike a little close?

Then the Bible tells us about Jonah, who really doesn’t want to do what the Lord wants him to do.  Ordered by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it “for their great wickedness is come up before me,”  Wikipedia   So he runs away to sea, only to be swallowed by a whale and spit back out to face God’s admonition.  It seems there is no escaping one’s Duty.

Not knowing how to end this, I’ll leave you with this anonymous note copied from an elderly man’s Facebook comment:  “It was great to see you in Great Falls, even if it was for a short time. I missed Saturday as Merrillee slipped on the ice on our way to MPAB showcases and put her should out of joint. More than 10 hours in the ER followed.”

The point?  Life is oftentimes much more what happens to us, than what we intend.

Postscript: One reader found this essay a confusing “stream of consciousness”.  What I’d intended to point out by retailing these various anecdotes was that conducting your life by “following your bliss” is a little like driving with your eyes closed.  Reality doesn’t know (or care) anything about your ‘bliss’.  You very well might run into things if you drive  with your eyes closed!

This idea of following one’s bliss is taken over from the Christian notion of allowing Christ to run your life – only Christ has been removed, and one’s Self has been placed in the driver’s seat.   (And no one is watching out for you.)   Certainly a person should listen to themselves.  (If you don’t, who will?)  But then, the wiser more mature person (in my view) listens to others.  A mature person realizes that life is a collaboration.  You give a present; then you listen to see if that person really wanted it.


Photos taken from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

January 20, 2013

Voice Workshop Matt1

Miracles Erase Themselves

If you are like me and listen to a song you love compulsively, until the glitter rubs bare to right down to the neurosis – then you might share my frustration with familiarity.

But if you are also like me and relish relaxing in your same old living room over-stuffed chair and falling to sleep in your same old bed, being around the same people, then you also might share my experience that familiarity creates a lovely affection where nullity reigned.

(What you can’t see is me taking a couple days to ponder this quandary.)

(Maybe it’s a good time to read something.  Do a little research.)

Wikipedia says that “A miracle is an event attributed to divine intervention”.

This would indicate that it’s not the event itself, no matter how remarkable (or unremarkable), which is its defining character.  Rather, it is the presence of the divine.  So, the miracle could come upon us quickly or grow upon us slowly…

But why do miracles disappear?  Even miracles which reveal themselves to us slowly (like the comforts of home and hearth) can become a loathsome burden if we were to remain frozen in them, past their prime.  (see  ) For example, even I don’t want to lie in the sack forever and snooze, or to sit in my chair all day.  What causes this dissipation of the miracle?

Most philosophers define a miracle as an ‘unnatural event’; something which ‘interrupts the Law of Nature’.  However, for my money, Baruch Spinoza’s explanation gives us the more workable insight.  Wikipedia says, “In his Theologico-Political Treatise Spinoza claims that miracles are merely law-like events whose causes we are ignorant of.  We should not treat them as having no cause or of having a cause immediately available.  Rather the miracle is for combating the ignorance it entails.”  So, it doesn’t take me long to realize the beauty of a song I love.  But I must sit in my chair a little longer to realize the pleasures of the home and hearth.

This may sound like a modern day scientific/rationalist explanation; that a miracle is simply something we don’t understand yet.  But I would interpret Spinoza’s explanation to say that we are ignorant of God’s presence in our day to day for which the miracle is a re-education.   That God is merely a law-like event whose cause we are ignorant of.

Unfortunately, as humans, our memory of the divine is really short term.  You need only read the Old Testament for a continual reminder of this affliction.  We seem to have to re-live each miracle as if born-again a thousand times.  It seems it is very difficult for our short term memory of the divine to stick.  It’s a wonder God hasn’t tossed up his hands with vexation and announced “these people just can’t learn!’  Actually, I think He does this in the Old Testament – or mutters words to this effect.

(As Moses was later recorded to have said by his biographer, “I grew just to quail, when He would begin to mutter.”  :0   )

Apparently God won’t be written down, packaged or sold.  When we try to re-create His nature through mechanical means, either through art or sloth – the miracle becomes a neurosis.   No gold bricking or lolly-gagging about the Elysian Fields for us.  It seems in this World, we must all get out of bed, take out the ear buds, and get to work if we want the New Jerusalem.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

August 14, 2010


The Hierarchies


A Little Bit of God

There’s the old joke that life is like pulling a dogsled – if you’re not the lead dog, all you see are assholes.  What does this have to do with Art?  Well, before you can get people to appreciate beauty, first you have to get their attention.  And this is not so easy.  The problem even perplexed Jesus, who famously griped, (with my paraphrase and exclamation point) “Heaven is all around us, if only you have the eyes to see!”   “Well that’s all fine and good,” most reply, “but I’m a practical person and I’ve got to keep my sights on the rear-end of this dog ahead of me.  Go away and don’t bother me.” 

People who have tried to help impoverished artists find that “you give them money, and they just spend it on more art materials.”   What art achieves, at least for that evanescent moment, is to get our eyes off the rear-end of that sled dog ahead of us.  And that’s intoxicating.

 I’m often frustrated when I find reason useless.  But I’m not alone in this quandary.  Sociologist have studied the best way to reform terrorists (perhaps the most fanatical of us all) and found the best way to reform a terrorist is to get them married.  Now, at first blush, does this sound reasonable?

But does being an artist sound reasonable?  As artists start to work each day, we all pray, or meditate, or maybe just mutter a bit, or tie one shoelace backwards for inspiration.  Because a little bit of God can go a long way.

Poster and Photo by Carl Nelson

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