Archive for March 2022

IT’S FOR REAL   Leave a comment


Is this for real? Dreams and visitations? Yes, truth can be told in so many ways, and this culmination of the trilogy strikes to the heart of the matter. For this reader, this last volume in the trilogy is the most powerful. In crisp clear language the author takes us through the final stages of healing – through grief, guilt, confusion, beautifully crafted love scenes, resolution, and ultimately awareness of the breadth and yet limitation of human life. One cannot help feeling the humanity of the well-crafted characters. I venture to say this volume could well stand on its own, though it would then lose some of the richness of what has gone before.



Despite the fact that I had not managed to read the last several pages before our book club’s meeting time, I was eager to engage in conversation about what I thought were the broader issues of the book: the personal suffering, determination, and heroism of the main characters as they experienced, survived, escaped, and moved on from the horrors of unjust regimes. But the first comment in the group was something like, “I skipped over the political stuff and focused on the personal stories of the characters.” There were many nods of agreement throughout the room. Since I thought the “political” stuff was an essential part of the story I sat back and listened to the focus on love and family. I agreed with those who thought the characters were well-developed, sympathetic, and interesting.


Now I have read on to the end and found myself interested in the “Dear Reader” section and the discussion with Madeline Miller — fascinated with their distinctive processes and emphases. If I were to try in one sentence to summarize what most gripped me about this book it would be the quote on page 330 Where Miller says, “That’s something that I love about your work: the themes of power and injustice. I feel like over and over again you are looking at these systemic injustices and personal injustices, and I think it’s incredibly powerful.”


Today, as the world is trembling in response to the horrific destruction in Ukraine, it’s books like this that shake us with the personal reality of the suffering as well as the frightful potential for the broadening of injustice and hopefully for a growing concern with justice. “Politics” is not the right word. The words are “justice/injustice.” This novel, grounded in fact, has the power to grow our depth-level awareness.

THE BOOK OF JOB – 2021 (HUMAN TIME) — NOT A WINNER   2 comments

Again I’m free to post this short story here. It didn’t win, place, or show in the latest Writer’s Digest” contest.


“One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’” (NRSV)

 “But do not ignore this fact, beloved, that with the lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.” (NRSV)

 The Lord stepped down from the throne, a fond parental smile revealing their anticipation of greeting the representatives of earth, the most difficult, and maybe most beloved, group at this millennial gathering of celestial bodies. Outside the great hall there was a cacophony of claims to priority, all the more dissonant as there were as many languages being spoken as their world had to offer. And then the quieting joy as they forced their way past each other over the threshold and discovered in the great hall that each understood everyone’s words, though probably not each other.

Some arrived with prayer rugs, others with cushions, while many eyed the chairs arranged throughout the room, creating a visual clamor of national clothing colors — from the reds and blues of kiffiyehs covering middle eastern heads to the bling of formal saris and the dignity of Sikh turbans; from the oranges and yellows of flowing African skirts to decorated Chinese head pieces, mitigated by the occasional black suit with stiff backward white collar worn by expressionless men.

A buzz of questions erupted when the rumor spread that Satan would be in attendance. One man with a backwards white collar swung around to the exit. “I’m not staying. I’ll have nothing to do with Satan.” With a quick hand on his shoulder the Lord smiled lovingly and firmly, “You already do have much to do with Satan. Sit down and relax.” Relaxing, however, was far from the intention for any in the gathering.

And then Satan arrived, accompanied by a stern looking entourage in various military and civilian attire, protectively alert for signs of danger. Some of the gathered rose as if to leave while others settled in various degrees of fear and curiosity. Satan’s group, on the other hand, stood straight-backed and immobile around him as the Lord reached their hand to Satan who pulled back a bit.

“It was only a moment in time since you last reported in,” the Lord observed. Satan waved a reassuring gesture to his guards and, offering a half smile to Gabriel, the Lord’s assigned assistant for today’s meeting, replied, “Yep. I told you then the world was quite a mess, but you preferred not to listen to me and focused instead on putting poor Job to the test. Strange thing to do, considering he was one of the truly devoted ones – maybe the only one.”

“Well that was then, and this is now. But why do you have this uptight entourage behind you? Don’t tell me you’re worried about your safety. You know perfectly well I don’t operate that way.”

“Habit, I guess. You get that way after you’ve been hanging around earth long enough.”

“Maybe you’re worried about the coup I hear you’ve been trying to pull? How’s that been going for you?”

“Pretty damn well, I’d say. I think I have my position pretty solidly cemented.” Satan’s smile broadened even as it curled. Gabriel stiffened. A buzzing erupted as whispers of shock – or maybe agreement – rolled like a tsunami through the attending group. Some things are just too sensitively political to talk about.

“Relax, Gabe” The Lord swept their hand reassuringly about the room encouraging calm. Then, smiling benignly toward Satan, “You think you’re in a good position now, Sate.” Again a flurry of action from the gathered group, shocked at the intimacy between the two powers. “But my cause will defeat you in the end, I’ve set earth dwellers up with some pretty powerful tools.”

“Like what?” one of Satan’s deputies sneered and then backed up in response to his boss’s silencing look.

“Like faith, love, dedication, community, gratitude, compassion, intellect, logic, science, even anger to mobilize against evil.’

Satan’s entourage tittered a bit, receiving Satan’s quick appreciative smile in return. Then, with something that looked like a sneer on his face, he declared, “a perfect array of tools. Thanks. I’ve been able to make good use of them. Look at Constantine, for example. It took very little effort to get people to have “faith” in him. All he had to do, really, was put the cross on the sword and send them out, using your “anger” to kill off anyone who called you by a different name. Didn’t you see what was happening?  I’ve used that faith thing a lot, managing to get people to confuse ‘faith’ with abject obedience. Really pretty easy to do.”

“But love in the long run will overcome anger.”

“Really? Where do you see that happening?”

“Look at all the times neighbors come to the aid of people who are suffering. That certainly is love – and caring for community besides.”

“Don’t fool yourself. I know how to use that one too. Maybe you were thinking in broad terms when you established that “neighbor, compassion, and community” thing, but I managed to get them to think close to home. Look over there” The Satan gestured, “that fellow with the backwards collar does a great job of convincing people you should be kind to your immediate neighbor and keep out anyone who doesn’t belong in your community.” The fellow with the collar reddened as the Lord turned a sadly inquisitive eye on him.

“And ‘anger against evil?’” Boy, have I ever got you there. All it took was planting the idea that anyone not like your “community” is an evil danger. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen the result of that little trick of mine.

The Lord calmly moved closer to Satan and looked him confidently in the eye like a parent gently berating a wayward child. “You’ve obviously been seduced by one little planet, that troublesome little place. And you’ve forgotten that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. We’re just getting started. Sure, we’ve got lots of problems to work out, but don’t forget creativity and science, and even the flexibility to adapt and change over time.”

“I hate to tell you, old timer, but you’re a bit late. People can’t even agree on who you are. Allah, God, Great Spirit. Some don’t even name you.”

“And some don’t even know you’ve taken control of them!” the Lord snapped back.

The attending representatives broke into a buzz of discussion, piling disjointed thoughts on top of unverbalized shocked utterances. “The Lord does have a temper! Maybe losing it once in a while isn’t so bad.” “What are we supposed to say when we report back on earth?” “This is depressing – like there’s no hope.” “I don’t think it’s so bad – Satan seems to hit the nail on the head.” “Why doesn’t the Lord point out all the research being done these days on happiness and gratitude…” “And even love.” “How come the two of them seem so cozy with each other? Almost like they’re two sides of the same coin.” “We came all this way for this? I could have spent my time reading, or watching TV. Or discussing with friends. Where is all this getting us?” “What’s the point anyway?”

The words piled on each other like a rocky landslide. Some attendees rose as if to leave. Or perhaps to fight. Or simply to attack each other with accusing looks or raised fists. Some moved as if to surround the Lord with protection or maybe just encouragement. The great hall had disintegrated into a tumult of words, utterances and movements both organized and random.

Still the Lord was smiling benignly. Satan wasn’t. One thing that didn’t play into Satan’s hand was discussion.

“Cool it!” The Lord raised their hand in a calming gesture. Then, turning to Satan, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll make a deal with you. Why don’t you do what I had you do with Job. Take everything away from your most devoted and successful follower and see what happens. Come back and report to our next millennial gathering. That’ll be like tomorrow in our eternal timelessness, but it gives you lots of earth time to work it out.”

“You’re on!” Satan smiled a crooked smile while his entourage vacillated between sneers and fears. “Let’s shake on it.”

Outside the great hall departing participants fell into disarray as their sudden fall back into multiple languages jarred whatever efforts they had been making to understand each other.

The Lord didn’t try to hide a worried parental smile.




Posted March 13, 2022 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: