Monthly Archives: October 2010

The First Half of My Re-Written Version of “Macbeth”

Act One
Scene One

The world was shrouded in darkness. Not a single light shone, either in the heavens above or on the earth below by which a weary sojourner could find his way. The darkness was almost tangible – alluring and taunting – yet elusive – always hiding just out of reach, like a spider web with fine gossamer fibers that one can never quite brush away. The darkness was absolute; it seemed to hold some sort of a spell. Nothing stood long within its path – the darkness laid desolate every living thing that stood in its influence. Every tree, every shrub, and every blade of grass, it seemed, had long since surrendered its life to the iron will of the darkness. Not a single soul had ventured into the Dead Plain for over a hundred years. Not a creature dared to take refuge beneath the gnarled, rotten limbs of withered oak trees. Not a word. Not a sound. Only darkness.

And then something moved in the darkness. It was a feeble, quaking limb, shattered into many pieces, then a trembling fist; and, finally, a rasping breath forced its way out of a twisted, parched mouth into the plain, ringing across the darkness like a war cry on the field of battle. The air was still thick with the stench of blood and the screams of the dead and dying. A solitary form, decrepit with age and misuse, crawled like a worm across the desolate plain through the carnage of the previous day.

An icy wind whipped over the plain, rattling the rusty branches of the trees and the very bones of the living and the dead into a lifeless submission, and a torrential rain drummed ceaselessly against the lifeless forms, running tiny eddies through tangled and blood-matted hair. No life, it seemed, could endure such devastation. But the form did not give in. Bracing herself — for it was a woman, if one could call such a deformed creature thus — against the frozen blast, she pulled up, seeming to draw strength from her macabre surroundings. With a hideous shriek that was a death rattle and a victory shout and a vulture’s croak in one, she thrust her hands into the sky. Suddenly, the field was ablaze in an unearthly light. Each of the bodies that lay upon the ground was within that moment consumed by an eerie blood-red flame that was not extinguished by the torrential downpour.

And the witch was not alone. Two other figures very like the first crawled through the muck and gore and joined her in pagan incantations. The hellish light grew stronger and more powerful until the light was almost blinding. Yet the three sisters carried on, as indistinguishable from the light as one filth from another.

“I feel my strength returning, sister,” croaked the first.

“I, too, sister,” snarled the second.

“And I, too, sister,” hissed the third.

The sisters turned to one another in pagan glee.

“Our work here is almost complete, sister,” said the first, rattling her skeletal wings slowly behind her.

“When shall we three meet again, sister?” queried the second, tail methodically swaying from side to side, as in a trance.

“And where the place, sister?” demanded the third as her forked tongue flicked in and out of her mouth to catch the scent of decaying bodies,

“When the battle’s lost and won – ere at the set of the sun,” cawed the first, “upon the heath.”

“There we shall meet Lord Rían,” responded the second.

The women, having completed their plans, joined hands. The fire that had once consumed the bodies at first tricked then erupted in a giant cascade out of the bodies of the witches and formed a giant pillar of fire and smoke that reached as a thousand grasping tendrils trying to bring down the foundations of Heaven itself.

“I summon you, Tanwen,” cried the first over the silent roar of the flames.

“I come, Greymalkin,” shrieked the second.

“Dema calls,” murmured the third.

Then, as suddenly as the light began, it subsided into a smoldering, pulsating glow that crawled over and through the bodies of the slain warriors on the field. The field was empty – abandoned it seemed; desolate once more. But it was not forsaken entirely. For three creatures were making their way through the field: a skeletal vulture, a bedraggled cat, and a rotting snake. Their eyes shone feverishly with the flame of the fire that had only moments before enveloped the entire plain as the gathered around one of the fallen heroes and gorged themselves on flesh – biding their time until Lord Rían arrived. And then there was silence. Not a word. Not a sound. Only darkness.

Act One
Scene Two

A final shot rang out. The sound bounced off the rocky cliffs that enclosed the army as a box until it was able to escape like a captured bird out of its cage. Kennet, commander of King Ashton’s armed forces, strolled over to his target and kicked the man with his boot to ensure that he was truly dead.

“That’s the last of them, I would think, my Lord King,” Kennet said, as he bowed to show respect to the man who had just appeared behind him.

King Ashton of the Arnava looked around and surveyed the battlefield. He was a good man, Kennet noted for the hundredth time, with kindly features. The Arnava was an ancient species renowned for their delicate, detailed metallurgy and verbal prowess. Although he was only a few thousand years old, Ashton’s face was creased with crevices that demonstrated the great care and effort he took in ruling his country. From the white hair that flowed off his crowned head onto his shoulders like light dancing on the water to the beautiful iridescent white wings of the Arnava royalty that stretched out to the sky from his back, Ashton looked every inch a king; his presence instantly demanded respect. But his heart was the heart of a peacemaker, not that of a warrior.

Ashton nodded. “I should hope so,” he stated sadly. “I have seen many deaths in my lifetime and I should not like to see any more today.”

“Understood, Sir,” Kennet responded. He holstered his gun and walked slowly with the King back to the military outpost. “We won a great victory today, Sir. Today will certainly teach any other man who wishes to be a traitor to think twice before he acts.”

“I suppose it shall.” Then he paused. “Was today even necessary, Commander?”

Kennet faltered in his steps, a shocked expression on his face. “Sir, Lord Oscar was trying to take your throne! He was willing to kill you for your crown. Any such man deserves to die!” he declared passionately.

Kennet could see that the actions of the day were weighing heavily on the king. He shoulders were stooped; his face was puffy; and he dragged his feet as he walked, not bothering to even look up. “I suppose you are right,” he acknowledged, but then he quickly added, “but surely there was another way: another avenue we overlooked…”

Kennet sighed. He was very young in Arnava terms – only in his late eighties – and was known for his compulsive, aggressive behaviour that was uncharacteristic even of youth. Hence he couldn’t understand Ashton’s peaceable mindset. But Kennet was also fiercely loyal to his king and was willing to go beyond his duties for the sake of the State: qualities that led rapidly to his early promotion to the Commander of the King’s Army.

“There was no other avenue, my Lord. You know that as well as I. All negotiations failed years ago. It was time to act.”

It pained Kennet to speak so his king. It was Ashton, after all, who had saved his life as a child living in poverty and brought him to the palace to be raised and educated. Kennet had been all but adopted into Ashton’s family and almost thought of him as his father.

Ashton opened his mouth as if to say something and then abruptly closed it again. He saw a figure in a bloodied gown frantically making her way towards the two men. Kennet’s hawk-eyes strained to discover the identity of the woman. Then his eyes widened in shock. It was Dr. Dŵynwen, head of the army’s medical personnel, though her current state of disheveled anxiety hardly resembled the cool and collected surgeon that was so familiar to them both. Something must be terribly wrong, thought Kennet apprehensively, to make this woman behave in such a way.

Dŵynwen stumbled up to the men, barely bothering to make a sloppy half-curtsy to the king before blurting out her news. Her eyes were wide with fright, her hair in a tangle, and her face and hands and gown were freckled with dripping sweat and blood. Kennet’s russet wings twitched nervously in anticipation of her news. “My- my Lord Ashton,” she began, gulping the air the way a dying man in the desert consumes water.

“What is it, Dr. Dŵynwen?” the king gently asked. The regal demeanour he had lost during the recent conversation with Kennet he bore once again with a kindly smile that masked growing concern.

“It- it’s your son, my Lord,” she managed to gasp between heaving breaths, “he’s been- grievously wounded.”

Kennet saw the king’s face blanche and knew his face was undergoing a similar process.

“My-“ Ashton began, voice cracking. Then he started over, clearing his throat, “My son… Finn?”

“Yes, my Lord King,” Dŵynwen stated, drawing herself up again. “He was wounded in combat with Lord Oscar not two hours ago.”

“Where is he?” cried Ashton. “I must see him!” Without waiting for a response, King Ashton dove towards the medical district, great wings beating the air into submission like a trainer would a disobedient animal. Kennet also stretched his wings out, their earthen tips extending wide, and raced with the king towards the dying prince. The king is going slow, he thought, faster than I have ever seen from him, but too slow. Kennet was young and powerfully built: his wings were strong and his body was lithe and designed for speed. The King, however, was old and unused to flight; time and again, Kennet had to force himself from beating the king to their destination.

Time marched on like a line of ants with no end in sight; the winds tossed them about like a discarded old toy. Desperation creased the countenance of the elderly king; tears mingled with the sweat and rain that were streaming down his face. Just as Kennet was beginning to have newfound appreciation for the unknown athletic stamina of Dr. Dŵynwen, he saw the medical district faintly in the distance.

It was a small structure of no remarkable features, for it had been set-up rather hastily as part of the last minute preparations for the oncoming onslaught… (To be continued)


Is St. Augustine Still Relevant Today?

When I first read St. Augustine’s popular book, Confessions, I did not see many ways in which this “antiquated” book could possibly be relevant to my life. Aside from further growing in the art of confession, the concept obviously derived from the title of the book, I feared that little would be left to learn. Fortunately, as I delved into the book rather hesitantly, I found to my delight that there are many truths to be derived from this classic work.

To begin, Confessions taught me that my presupposition of the work confession itself might have been slightly skewed. Confession to the Lord and to my fellow humans often becomes merely a list or an acknowledgement while completely ignoring the equally important aspects of true sorrow and repentance. The confessions of St. Augustine were very real – he made no attempt to justify the sins that were his own. This is another aspect in which I seek to grow. It is one thing to own to committing a sin; it is quite another to do so without making excuses or justifications.

While still unregenerate, Augustine’s search for truth was an all-consuming part of his life. This was a very convicting realisation for me as I examined the differences between his quest for truth and me for mine. Granted there is a rather stark contrast in the life situations which we find ourselves in: Augustine was born into a half-Christian home and was not raised with the Truth in the same way I have been. As one great teacher once told me, “It’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay to not know and be satisfied.” In other words, don’t be afraid to ask questions without knowing the answer, but don’t be satisfied in your ignorance. However there are ways in my life were I can see that I am content with not knowing, and this should not be so.

Perhaps one of the poignant ways St. Augustine has changed my life would be as an example of both sin and the effects thereof. I have meditated many times on the passage where he stated, “I was afraid that You would answer my prayer at once and cure me too soon of the disease of the lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled.” Unfortunately we as Christians are often caught in the state of the realisation of the fact that our sin must be dealt with but with the hesitation of dealing with that sin for fear of having our sinful desires left unfulfilled. Amid all this, though, is the joy that shines through we a transformed life is witnessed through the power of Christ working through a man to change his heart and his very desires.

Therefore, in my opinion, Confessions, though certainly very old, is hardly out-dated, for the truths and experiences are still very relevant to life today. The truths expressed in Confessions cannot change with time, for their Author does not change with time, and are consequently always relevant.

Is the World of “Beowulf” More Christian than America Today?

Every person and every age has its own understanding of the relationship between good and evil. America is known as the great “melting pot,” indicating the infusion and assimilation of many people and ideas from the entire world into one country. This has led to the diversity and breadth of beliefs that can be seen in America today, most of them unbiblical. Writing in a likely unchristianized Britain in the late first century, the “Beowulf” poet, seemingly as a Christian, held a view of good and evil that was probably not typical of the time. Although his view may not have been typical of the age, the “Beowulf” poet’s view of good and evil is more Biblical than that of American culture today.

To understand where the poet and the culture aligned with and have strayed from the truth of the relationship between good and evil, a study of truth itself would be in order. The Bible repeatedly states that God and God alone is perfect – every aspect of His nature is wholly and utterly good. This means that anything contrary to His nature is not good, for it is not God. Humanity cannot hope to meet God’s standards. As Romans 3:10 states, “No one is righteous, no not one.” Humanity is fallen and incapable of doing any good, and when life is over, God will judge our lives and we will see that our supposed “good deeds” are as filthy rags in His sight and really worth nothing at all. Only by salvation through His Son may we escape eternal judgment. As C. S. Lewis once said, “No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.” Such is the standard that humanity can never attain – if our good deeds are as rags, what must our wicked deeds be in His eyes?

The culture has many points of view on the relationship between good and evil – as many, it seems, as there are people who make up the culture. However, there are some predominant themes that seem to rule American culture as a whole. In a relativistic society, there is no true meaning to the word good, as there is no meaning to the word evil. Good seems to mean something that helps others, promotes popular causes, or supports popular ideologies. In America today, it seems to be very hard to do anything evil at all. The end justifies the means in our world – if the end result was “good”, it doesn’t matter how one gets there. This belief is reflected widely across our culture though the various forms of entertainment, specifically mass entertainment. As long as one doesn’t hurt another in the process, it never was really bad in the first place. However, as askew as America is today, it is not completely off the mark. A corrupt politician exploiting the citizens of his district for financial gain and power plays is universally disdained. Nothing is more despised than one who hurts another for his own personal benefit. An overwhelmingly large percentage of Americans believe in some kind of eternal reward, but the popular conception of heaven is not quite the paradise as described in the Bible. “As long as I’m not terribly bad, or at least more good then bad, God wouldn’t send me to Hell,” they say. Yes, the culture does acknowledge Hell, but they reserve it almost exclusively for the Hitlers and Stalins of this world. As can be seen, the culture has strayed dramatically from the Biblical view of good and evil and is not likely to return anytime soon.

The “Beowulf” poet had a view that is more similar to the Bible’s as compared to that of the culture’s perspective. “Beowulf” does not deal so much with goodness as much as the evil that dwells within this world. Within humanity, the poet frequently calls people “good” when referring to their physical or behavioral characteristics. People that are “good” within the poet’s story are those that are strong and powerful or good to others, most notably those who are unselfish, self-sacrificing, and generous. The poet also acknowledges that God is both sovereign and powerful as well as good on many occasions. The poet also has a very well-defined view of evil as well. The list may seem rather similar to the culture’s list: murder, cruelty, and other things that seem to unjustly hurt others. Then a surprising addition pops up. According to the poet, striving against God is a terrible evil (lines 106 – 114) and condemns worship of idols, calling Satan “the killer of souls.” Regarding eternity, God is the judge of the deeds of mankind, says the poet (lines 180 – 188), but we are left to guess whether or not the God of the poet’s world is as just as the God of the Bible or if it rather like the wishy-washy god of the culture.

God alone is the standard of perfection and the judge of all things. While the culture takes an elastic stance on the issue, the Biblical standard of good and evil is inflexible and unyielding. “Beowulf” falls somewhere in between The “Beowulf” poet seems rather undecided – sometimes mirroring the Bible and other times mimicking modern culture – and eventually lands with view of good and evil that is markedly more Biblical than that of American culture today.