Friday, November 9, 2018

Appropriate Fear, plus "Escort Duty" by Tom Rogneby

If you are running an ad blocker, you won't see this:

but you CAN see this: Escort Duty, by Tom Rogneby

This particular work is so different from his other writing, and frankly, from just about anything else I read, that I can't just jump into the review. Got to digress wildly, first.
And besides that, this is something I wanted to say that was too long for a Facebook post. Also, as an experiment, I'm gonna use a naming convention that isn't a part of my tradition today, just to see if it seems right to do so.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
(Proverbs 9:10, NASB)

There have been times in my life, when I have allowed myself to get sucked into an argument with someone who had either had a bad church experience, or just developed anger on their own hook for some other reason.

They tell me that they reject G-d, or that they reject the G-d of the Old Testament, or they reject something something something, because they want/believe in/need a G-d of love. They tell me that they cannot believe in / accept/ tolerate the idea of a G-d they must fear.

I've never had a good answer for them. Sure, some of them were clearly just being argumentative, but some may have legitimately been struggling with the concept. If you have been abused or neglected by a father figure, it makes it AWFULLY hard to approach a Father G-d under the very best of circumstances. And we very rarely have those circumstances.

Well, this morning, chatting with my soon-to-be-14 year old son Kenneth over the last piece of home made bread, I had a couple of moments of clarity.

Kenneth brought me one himself. He has been my son for just a little over half his life, and before he came to me, he had lived almost his entire life in a house full of women. And I discovered that more often than not, when I told him to do something, he would ignore me, or at best, comply very slowly.

At first, I was surprised; then I was angry. But, before I did something stupid, I allowed my training to take over. HA! All that college DID do something for me besides...whatever else it did...

I realized that, in terms of learning theory, Kenneth had no history of ready compliance, and no history of compliance with a n instruction form a male. He had lived in a house of high energy females, who were busy making sure that people got fed and clothed and had a roof over their heads, and if one of them told him to do something, he could usually ignore it, and they would move on to something else. (I am not assigning any blame; you try being a single parent under those circumstances and tell me what you get.) Once I realized that, the solution was simple.

I sat down with Kenneth, and told him I understood that he wasn't used to the rules of the Patterson House, but now they were in effect. I let him know that he did not have a LOT of people telling him what to do, only Papa Pat and Mom, but that FIRST TIME OBEDIENCE was expected. I knew that was going to be a change for him, but I was going to help him get on track.

I told him that every time he was given an instruction by a valid authority, he was to carry it out right away. If he didn't, he would get a spanking. However, as soon as he could learn first-time obedience, and go for a week without a spanking, he would get a reward. The reward he chose was money, so I taped a dollar bill in a plastic bag to the refrigerator.

I asked Kenneth "How many spankings do you think it will take before you learn first time obedience?"
He thought about it briefly, then replied happily, "About a hundred."
This was rather shocking to me, but I took him at his word, and we went about the program.

It took him two spankings. That's it. That was seven years ago, and I think I have had to spank him twice since then, and now, spankings aren't even a consideration. We talk, we negotiate, we set contracts, we both have expectations to be met. We have gained a huge amount of family wisdom and understanding.
But it started with a bit of fear. And that's the insight that my son Kenneth gave me.

Once I had that, I got the other, much easier part: it doesn't say that the fear of the Lord is is the end of wisdom; it doesn't say that the fear of the Lord is the sum of wisdom; it just says it's the beginning.

So now, if ever I get into one of those discussion /arguments again, at least I'll have SOMETHING to say. Not thinking it's gonna answer all of life's questions (it ain't 42, for one thing), but it might provide food for thought.

And now, for the review of Tom Rogneby's  collection of short stories, "Escort Duty."

I should have known I was in for something unusual when the graphic of the book cover only took up the bottom half of the page in my Kindle Library. Wasn't really expecting THIS, though; six short stories, in WILDLY divergent settings. Admittedly, I already knew Rogneby was a author with an unusual ability to write about different worlds, and make them believable. My first exposure was to his book of the Lost Legion, Via Serica, in 2015. That book was so god, I literally got lost in doing research to supplement my appreciation of the text, so much so that I forgot to write the review until two years later. Bad, Bad Reviewer! No Cookie!

I've also got a huge affection for his Daddy Bear stories. If you haven't discovered the loveliness of a mashup of suburban life and medieval magic, then stop reading this now, and go getTales of the Minivandians. I love the stories for their own sake, BUT I also used them to drown out my screams and whimpers during more than one long session in the dentist's chair, as beautiful women stabbed me in the face with sharp pointy things.

The following is the sum total of my Amazon review:

"Escort Duty," the first and longest of the stories in the collection, could very well have been set in Daddy Bear's universe. It's the story of a powerful and powerfully determined princess, determined to achieve her goal without understanding all the details and sacrifices that have to be made; and it's the story of a not-so-glamorous dude on a horse, who has certain skills and talents, and who has pledged his life to see her safely home. Bad things happen. Will good things come of that?

"Grandma's Kitchen" is the next story, and I still don't know whether to be warmed and comforted at the example of the sweetness of a sanctuary, created by a grandmother's love; or to be horrified at the prospect of a reincarnation to make good the things we did wrong in this life. For some, the concept of reincarnation may not be terrifying but for me? Brrrrr. HOWEVER! This is a fresh take, and Rogneby has the ability to make you feel the warmth of a Grandma's kitchen, whatever it represents.

"Plaza of Pain" is over the top. It's so over the top, it ALMOST aggravated me, until I realized it was deliberately over-stating every cliche of smash-em bop-em love-em shoot-em fiction, and then turning up the amp to 11. And that's when it got FUNNY.

"Sacrifice" is beautifully moving. Rogneby takes a minor liberty with time, altogether excusable, given the cast of characters, and ties together two foundational stories of sacrifice and redemption. This is one you need to spend some time with.

"Victory Garden" is a sad, post-apocalyptic tale of a guy just trying to get by, and they won't let him. Figuratively, they have strapped his hands down and covered him with lice, and now they hit him when he wiggles. The society he describes must have closely resembled that found in the earliest years of the USSR, but is made more poignant because the level of prosperity in the United States didn't require anyone to riot because they were starving. We just did it to ourselves because we could.

"The War," the last selection in the book, concerns the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks in the United States. It's a very, very unpleasant scenario, but in my opinion, there really isn't anything we currently have in place that will prevent it. The United States is a haven for people who want a better life, and if they can walk into the country, so can bad actors. And we really have been at peace for so long that it seems it will never end, but that's simply not the case. Rogneby merely takes incidents that occur regularly in, for example, Israel, and has them take place here. At best, we repsond in the way he describes.

This was a tough book for me to review, largely because it covers so much ground. Regardless, it's a GREAT read, and I strongly recommend it.

Peace be on your household.

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