We are ready for the one after the last one. That brings us to number 52.
52/”Live not by lies.”
This is the title of an essay Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in 1974. He was writing especially for his Russian people (and other Soviet citizens) suffering under the rule of the Soviet Union. But the exhortation holds good for everyone everywhere for all time. Surely that must be especially true in times when lying is the accepted way of proceeding for most people. So S. told his fellows, don’t go along with the lies. We in the United States have a choice. We can go along with the routine lies that almost everyone agrees on. Or we can refuse to live by lies. It will probably take courage to refuse to live by lies. But if we keep on agreeing that the emperor is wonderfully and tastefully attired, we will lose the hope of having an honest country. We will lose our self-respect. A few people already have refused to go along with the lies. We can imitate them.
53/”He’s the universal soldier, and he really is to blame.”
This is a line from Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song “Universal Soldier.” Her next lines go on to say, “But his orders come from far away no more, they come from him and you and me.” I think she has nailed our carcass to the wall. Yes, the filthy scumbags who run our country are murdering, lying, warmongering monsters. But the deeper truth is that we ordinary people are really the ones to blame. We have acquiesced in all these preemptive wars. We have wallowed in idolatry of the U.S. military and of the U.S. as a nation. When I say we, that includes Christians–truly converted Christians!–and conservatives. We need to repent and change our behavior. We’re the universal soldiers, and we really are to blame. Here is Buffy Sainte-Marie with “Universal Soldier,” a song she wrote many decades ago.
54/”Libby the Kid is Billy the Kid spelled sideways–sort of.”
Libby the Kid was the cartoon mascot for Libbyland Dinners, TV dinners for kids. The dinners have been gone for a long time, and so has Libby the Kid. But at the time I thought the phrase above was clever and entertaining. I have remembered it all these long decades. I don’t think I ever had a Libbyland Dinner, but I still remember at least this part of their advertising.
55/”What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
Yes, this can be overdone. Something that does not kill us might cripple us so profoundly as to ruin our lives. But there is also a great deal of truth in the phrase. Sometimes bad things happen to us which seem unfair and overwhelming. But if we weather the storm, we become stronger people, more able to stand on principle and to face the future with the determination to do right. What seemed only a hardship, turns out in the long run to be a blessing in disguise–something that toughened us up for future challenges. Hebrews says something similar, in reminding us that God disciplines us as a loving father disciplines his children, for our good (Hebrews 12:3-11).
56/”You’re inimitable, Lewis.”
This is a phrase from one of C. S. Lewis’ books in his Space Trilogy. The books are fiction, but C. S. Lewis is one of the characters. What happened was, Lewis had said something which was so characteristic of his usual way of thinking, that his friend told him, “You’re inimitable, Lewis.” I used this phrase often when dealing with my Aged Parent. She would say something very consistent with her usual idiosyncratic way of thinking. She was completely herself–for better or for worse. So I would tell her, “You’re inimitable, Lewis.”
57/”You go broke gradually, then all at once.”
This seems to me to apply not just to individuals, but also to countries. The Soviet Union went broke gradually–then all at once. I think the U.S. is doing the same thing. We are still in the “gradually” phase, but the “all at once” phase may show up soon. (We are already bankrupt; we just don’t know it yet.) I think this phrase can apply to more than just finances. I think we have been going broke gradually in terms of our morality. Now suddenly our morality is almost completely gone–we are broke morally all at once. Our moral impoverishment happened gradually, but “all at once” we are almost complete idiots on any topic you can name.
58/”The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Here is just one example. The Donald Trump presidency was supposedly going to stop and even reverse illegal immigration, was going to start to reduce our foreign footprint significantly, was going to start the process of dismantling the Deep State. Donald Trump represented incredible change, according to our elites, who got their panties in a wad (see #10) about how horribly Mr. Trump would change things. Well, after four years of Donald Trump as president, we could all readily say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It seems to be a principle of life, that true change comes rarely, and then only after fierce determination and commitment to high principle. Don’t hold your breath that change for the better is going to happen.
59/”There’s no there there.”
This was spoken by Gertrude Stein about Oakland. The idea being that Oakland was just sort of a spot on the map, but not really a city with a distinct personality. My guess is that some people who love Oakland could point out, then and now, how that was unfair! Still, we kind of know what she means. There are things that seem to lack personality. I would say, for example, of American Christianity, that “There’s no there there.” Is that unfair? Maybe, but maybe not. American Christianity is so compromised in its principles and behavior, that we can say, with only slight exaggeration, that “There’s no there there.” Biblical Christianity would look far different. Can we change? Only if we decide to “live not by lies.” That may be “a bridge too far.”
60/”Things hang together.”
This is from Chapter 40 of George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It is spoken by Caleb Garth. I have only read the book once, and don’t feel inclined to read it again, but as soon as I saw that line (many decades ago) I underlined it and wrote in the margin yes. I have never forgotten it, and I think the truth of the statement is constantly enforced upon us. Caleb Garth is telling us, morality fits together in a practical, common sense kind of way. The virtues reinforce each other. So do the vices. If we are willing to steal from our neighbor in how we vote, we probably have other vices we are willing to indulge, because “Things hang together.”
61/”Trees don’t grow to the sky.”
Possibly Aristotle was the first one to notice this. Everything has its natural limit. The reality God has given us has boundaries. We have to learn to recognize the boundaries and work within them. If this seems not worth taking the time to state, consider children being born in the United States these days. Some of them are being lied to egregiously, and their lives are being ruined, because irresponsible adults refuse to recognize boundaries God has set. Boys are boys, and girls are girls. We need to work within those boundaries, or we cause lots of misery for people. Trees don’t grow to the sky, boys don’t become girls, and girls don’t become boys.
62/”Overreaching don’t pay.”
This is a line from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck says it, or writes it. When we overreach, we put ourselves in position to get a smackdown. It is better not to be in a hurry to do too much. Jesus Christ says something similar, in telling us not to try to take the place of honor at the first table, because the one who gave the invitation may say we don’t belong there, and we would then have to move to the last place. Better, he says, to take a lowly position to start with. Then we can be moved forward by the man who issued the invitations in the first place, if necessary. (Luke 14:8-11) Our human instinct is often to overreach, but Huck is trying to warn us that it can be counterproductive.
I hope to continue with part VIII next week.