Sun Tzu has Something to Say

“Know thine enemy and you will win.” -Sun Tzu

While the opinion of an ancient warfighter might have lost some validity in our modern age, there is a reason why the saying has become such an axiom. The ability to see the world through another’s eyes and listen to someone else’s opinion is a crucial life skill, albeit a difficult one to employ. For some, having to swallow their pride long enough or thoroughly enough to just listen to an opposing view to theirs is one of the hardest tasks imaginable. Hubris can one of the greatest impediments to progress one faces, be it in his career or personal life.

We see an unwillingness to compromise almost anywhere men have ideals. From a child throwing a tantrum all the way to international politics, there is always an inherent desire to be heard, not to listen. And while children are subject to their parents, and nations have a moderator in the UN, persuading others in everyday life is often much less decided. Then, there is no moderator, no authority, just one’s own opinion versus another’s. Those kinds of debates are frequently useless, if not detrimental, and end with little or no progress made on either side. This is because of an unwillingness, by one party or both, to listen; it doesn’t matter how articulate the argument or how sound the morals. If people won’t listen, what point is there?

Only when there is a willingness to weigh new ideas can progress be made. This can be evidenced by the now-debunked notion of spontaneous generation- the idea that life can instantly spring from non-life (maggots from meat, eels from mud, etc.). For centuries, spontaneous generation was an accepted law in the secular scientific world. Whenever new evidence or arguments were made against it, on either religious or empirical grounds, they were scorned by the scientific community. Nobody was willing to listen. This led to a ridiculous and entirely wrong idea’s perpetuation throughout the entire world. Had the scientists of the era kept open minds, they might have smothered a falsehood that lasted centuries.

The Biblical story of Samson is another example. Despite the protests of Samson’s parents in choosing a wife in a Philistine, an outsider, he insisted, saying, “‘Get her for me, for she pleases me well’” (Judges 14.3). Ignoring his parents’ best wishes, he married her. Eventually, she betrayed him to the Philistines and even wound up marrying Samson’s best man. If Samson was reasonable with his parents, his marriage could have been a happy one to a faithful woman. But once again, hubris overpowered clear thinking.

To be fair, the power to speak and command others’ attention is also an invaluable skill. However, if the speaker is only interested in having a one-way debate, no one will listen. The only way to get another’s respect for one’s ideals is to respect other people’s ideals. Not only is it simply the reasonable thing to do, but it just might open somebody’s eyes to truths they had previously refused to consider.

“Hell’s Finest Scalpel”

My dear Wormwood,

I, too, am pleased with the developing situation in Europe. A rising tide of Islamic migrants will undoubtedly see a rise in European converts for their god. One of the chief duties of Hell, as you should by now know (and is widely recognized among our colleagues), is to encourage the practicing of devout religions among mankind. Do not mistake me, I do not mean every devout religion; obviously Christianity is to be made in its every facet inconsequential* in our patients’ minds. And even the vaguely tethered branches of skewed Christianity that have survived through millennia of hate and fire (despite our best efforts at their extirpation) are, when in their pure and ardent forms, damaging to our cause. Not because they of themselves lead souls to the Enemy’s gates, but because they encourage the kinds of charity and critical thinking that we strive to block out of human minds. But barring that, religion, when utilized properly, is Hell’s finest scalpel.

The devout religions that we should and do encourage have done us very little harm over the course of history, while a great tonnage of ignorant lives has been taken by Hell in profit. I am talking, mainly, of the myriad Eastern religions that have been used to justify every ridiculous human fantasy from animal-worship to polygamy to genocide. And need I even mention our two greatest weapons where Western religion is concerned? Atheism and Materialism, no matter that their practitioners (at least, the ones who are competent enough to recognize that they are practitioners) adorably insist they aren’t religious, are religions that have been utilized by Hell for decades to ensnare the “intellectuals” of mankind.

I feel I should clarify what I mean by inconsequential; you are growing to be quite an adept hellion, but you are young, and the last thing I want is for you to ignore, or, worse, to attempt to entirely smother any thoughts of Christianity in your patient. In the first place, as I have said many times before, the Enemy will probably not allow you to block out all thoughts of Him– He is self-admittedly a jealous kind, after all.

The aim is not to deflect every possible thought from your patient’s mind that revolves around faith. Rather, block any thought that might stimulate his conscience, waking him from the dreamy quagmire you have so meticulously woven around his soul. Do not for any reason allow him to think of the wrath one base action would incur on him from the Enemy; rather, let him dwell on those actions that he perceives should “please his ‘Father'”. So long as there is no cause for your man to be alarmed at the gaps in his spiritual armor, there also is no cause for him to seek repentance. So then, Christianity does us good as long as it is conditioned. Work the thought of it to be subconsciously viewed as inconsequential but not entirely irrelevant, for as you have so plainly seen in the last few decades, a man who considers himself to be “right with Jesus”, but still acts a pagan, is some of the easiest prey Hell has known.

And that is what I mean by all this tiresome talk- that the humans in our charge must in no way feel as though there is an imminent need or relevant reason to, say, confess their sins in fervent prayer. It has been proven to us countless times that the man who attends church on Sunday only to mindlessly frequent his favorite brothel on Monday is unconsciously experiencing just the type of gradual and unsuspecting damnation that we desire. This is the method of choice for Hell’s seasoned tempters (I do hope you note this), and has for centuries provided a steady flow of comfortable souls into the glorious, insatiable, deserving maw of Our Father Below,

Your affectionate uncle

Screwtape

Love, like Innocence

Through a gap in the treetops, a high patch of orange sky arched over the sleepy world below it. The leaves, set alight by the weathered sun, shone like little green lanterns. Their serrated edges rustled together at the suggestion of the slow, heavy air. The quick voices of finches chittered carelessly back and forth from the boles of the trees. The smell of old rain still clung to the tall grass under the trees. It felt like the earth itself was taking a breath.

The calm was shattered by a single, desperate footfall. A girl stumbled into the glade, her wide eyes searching to and fro, her hair in disarray. She turned and looked back where she came, trying to listen over her quiet panting. Somewhere in the woods, underbrush crunched and snapped. The girl’s breath caught, and she started running again, making entirely too much noise. She glanced over her shoulder as she ran, and she thought she saw him. She made a quick turn and shot through a dense clump of vines, aiming for a clearing that could be seen through the trees. She was a step or two from the clearing, and for a moment she thought she would make it. Then something hit her. She gasped and fell out of the trees and into a carpet of grass. Her pursuer landed over her, pinning her arms to the ground. Their eyes locked, and she stared intensely at him. He stared back, then, abruptly, he leaned in and kissed her.

A wry smile twisted across her lips. Cal. she thought. She gave him a playful knee, and he rolled to the side. “Caught you, Daisy.” he said in a tired drawl.

Daisy chuckled, pulled a strand of hair out of her eyes, and tossed a stick at him. “I let you.”

He pulled her over to him, and she took his hand. The lazy sun touched the horizon, igniting a razor-thin line of ground like a white-hot wire. One by one, the lanterns of the leaves went out. The palette of the sky grew muted, and stars started to glimmer. A purple non-light began to fill the nooks of the world. The finches yielded their chorus to the crickets and cicadas. Swarms of fireflies twinkled into existence, lighting the path back as if the woods were eager for the couple to be gone. But still they sat, content with each other’s company. Eventually, Cal stood, pulling Daisy to her feet. “I ought to get you home.” he said.

“You gettin’ tired of me?” she asked mockingly.

He smiled and said, “Can’t happen. It’s just I remember how your daddy reacted the last time I brought you home late.”

“‘I’ve to get Daisy back before her daddy tans my hide.'” she teased in his voice.

“Now quit, you.” Cal responded, giving Daisy a mock push.

She feigned outrage, then pulled the boy’s hat over his eyes and hit him lightly in the shoulder. Then together they left the woods, found and untied their tethered horses, and started the long ride home.

Peace and Love*

She’s waiting for something. A nervous breakdown, a panic attack, a tirade full of big words and tears and emotions. But he just sits there, looking about as riled up as a dead guy. That gets on her nerves because this is really important. Why is it important? Well, because she thinks it seems like it should be; it has all the markers seen on TV: she’s upset, she’s yelling, they’re in public, she has all her friends on her side…. Why doesn’t he see how important this is? It strikes her that he simply doesn’t care about the conversation, which means that he doesn’t care about her views on the subject and he doesn’t respect her friends’ opinions and by not humoring her-UNDERMINING THEIR ENTIRE FRIENDSHIP-selfish and completely missing the point and-HOW CAN HE BE THIS IGNORANT-the whole time can’t handle it!!!

*she slowly returns to sanity as steam exits her ears*

Her friends lose interest, and she’s desperate to keep the closure going; she hasn’t felt this alive since six months ago, when she first read that great book that she never shuts up about. He’s still sitting there, little flecks of her spittle dripping down his face. But she’s sure he deserved that. With her verbal arsenal empty, she glowers at him from across the table. He stares back with those biting eyes, and she renames their shade Accusatory Green. She debates whether she should say “Stop staring at me,” but those words come uncomfortably close to “Don’t look at me,” and that could denote weakness; she decides not to say it.

He reaches across the table for his pen, and she has to restrain herself from grabbing it first. If she missed she would just look like a fool. He starts doing that super annoying pen-flip thing that he always does when he’s bored. It’s a sleight slight: he’s saying he’s bored with her!

*she loses it*

It now feels like a sauna, which is apropos, considering the fine mist she’s giving off. The fire alarm triggers. They’re all doused with water and ushered into the hall. As the door to their classroom opens, the mist collapses in on itself and whooshes out. Everybody in the hall sees where it came from, so she makes no attempt to hide her frayed hair or running makeup or crazy eyes. She views those things as battle scars, proof that she stood up for something as important as transgender bathrooms. Wait, that wasn’t it. That was from the day before. She struggles against the mental fatigue she now feels. She knows it was something political. But the answer eludes her until she barely remembers that it was something worth discussion.

The teachers, realizing that the alarms were just that girl from room 113 having one of her “moments”, herd their students back into their respective classrooms. But just then the bell rings. Forgetting she was ever mad (as tripolar, paranoid, psychopathic, occasionally homicidal individuals do), she turns and gives him a quick hug before she exits, leaving him to shake his head and wonder what he’s doing with his life.