Empathy and the Devil

It’s apropos that I’ve been rereading C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters with a friend now. Weekly, we pore over a couple of chapters and broach free-range discussions launched by the demon Wormwood and his “affectionate uncle,” Screwtape. Our culture, like many biblically-tinged cultures before it, is saturated with talk of Satan in his various literature-based iterations. Merely over the course of American history, we’ve developed perhaps as twisted a view of the fallen archangel Lucifer as we often have of Jesus. Everyone from Washington Irving to The Grateful Dead has had a go, with widely varying degrees of accuracy. Yet, as with Jesus (who, let us not forget, made Lucifer and all his fellow angels), we can’t altogether divest Old Scratch of his scriptural identity by means of either broad-brush cartoonism or utter disregard. Thanks be to God.

[Editor’s note: As C. S. Lewis himself said in the preface to The Screwtape Letters, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Therefore, if you have an unhealthy interest in things diabolical, this post may or may not be for you. Feel free to read or disregard as wisdom dictates.]

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Playing in the Dark

There are a number of quarries in and around Knoxville where lanky, dusty men used to blast marble out of the hills before the Depression. In fact, if you read the odd town-centric indie publication here or there, you’ll eventually dig your way into a vein of prose in which some loafered, office-bound journalist will wax poetic about the geological intricacies of East Tennessee’s pink marble. We should all dream so big. In earnest, marble from Mead’s Quarry has made it all the way to New York and the District of Columbia. These old holes in the ground, however, have become the stuff of dreams nowadays. They tend to attract college students and hometown creatures alike to their emerald green waters, beckoning the sweltering and the summer-skinned to the coolness of placid depths. As for myself, though, I go in the deep dark of winter.

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The Other Endgame

First things first: spoiler alert. This is going to get messy, because I got messy.

I got the last good seat at the 9:30 showing of Avengers: Endgame—the only seat left from which I wouldn’t have to crane my neck at an obtuse angle. I shuffled in to the row, which was mostly empty at that point, except for the dating couple next to my seat. I apologized before plopping down beside the lady, which made the moment more awkward than it would have been anyway. A little while later, a large man and his young son scooted past us and sat next to me. These were to be my companions for the journey. We had come for entertainment, yes, but also for closure. After twenty-one films of waiting for post-credits questions, we demanded answers.

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Thoughts on Finishing the Work

On Good Friday, Bill Wolf and a gigantic cadre of musicians brought Wolf’s Easter: Stories & Songs show back home to Knoxville. It was the show’s first return to the city in five years and its first time at the historic Bijou Theatre. It was also the culmination of many months of effort for the players and the production team.

It ended with me driving home in the rain. Of course, even then, it was never really over.

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Over Heard

My daughter’s dance class:
A brave octet of blue-clad torsos, all
Delicate and strung tight with snare drum ribs.
They gallop like crabs

Gone dizzy with light.
A lone piano chord sends them spinning.
We’re born from beneath a throb of human
Song. We hear sound raw,

Drink it in gulps, and
Wheel away laughing.

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