Kris an’ Murphy: Grace

Kris: “Hmph. I don’t see what the mystery is here.”

Murphy: “Right. You have grasped something about women that the world’s most famous and transcendent physicist couldn’t manage?”

Kris: “Not that Grace! And even if I thought I did have her figured out, no way I’d tell her! She’s so charming when she thinks she’s got me dazzled with her, ah, mystique. I was talking about …”

Murphy: “Waitaminute. I thought it was you and Faith …”

Kris: “She got her Master’s six months ago. Working on her Ph.D. over at State. I’m told that Larry is [ahem] quite taken with her. Grace started in September and is proving to be quite companionable.”

Murphy: “I don’t be…”

Kris: “And how is Louise these days, Murphy?”

Murphy: “Never mind. You were going to say something about that meme.”

Kris: “Steering the conversation into safer channels, are we? Wise choice. I was, of course, talking about the concept of grace. I suppose trying to turn it into some kind of unsolvable puzzle keeps a bunch of preachers employed. But I don’t see it as a puzzle at all. Quite the opposite.”

Murphy: “How so?”

Kris: “So tell me you’ve never screwed up in your life.”

Murphy: “‘I’ve never …’ Gimme a break, Kris, willya, you pulled this on me two weeks ago!

Kris: “I’ll take that as a ‘no’. Now tell me how many times you could actually have done something about the screwups.”

Murphy: “Sometimes, yeah. And sometimes …”

Kris: “Sometimes, shit happens. You did it, it’s your fault, but you had about as much chance of stopping it as you’d have of stopping an express train with your bare hands.”

Murphy: “Or a school shooting?”

Kris: “Yeah. Imagine being the security guard who watched a kid go into the schoolhouse a thousand times, and on the thousand-and-first he blew away the building. Your fault, you let him in, but what the hell could you possibly have done about it? Assuming, of course, the kid’s collection of AR-15s wasn’t hanging out of his pockets. So what would you expect to happen to you?”

Murphy: “With that on my record? To be blown away myself. If I didn’t do it first!

Kris: “Happy Facebook to you too. Which of course is exactly what would happen if the social media trolls – which is pretty much everybody on social media …”

Murphy: “You’re forgetting the lolcat crowd. They’re not trolls …”

Kris: “Just irrelevant. And you’re really dating yourself with that reference …”

Murphy: “Louise won’t wish to hear that.”

Kris: “She’s probably too young, and too into Instagram, even to know what a lolcat is, Murphy. As I was saying. If social media had its way, just about anybody who screwed up at anything, their fault or not, and hadn’t been anointed as untouchable by the mob du jour, would be guillotined, crucified, drawn and quartered, basically subjected to some kind of messy death.”

Murphy: “This is social media? Sounds like you’re describing the Executive branch of our government!”

Kris: “Which we voted into office. So they’re different how? Anyway, let’s say the social media types get their way. You screw up, you’re done. Branded for life, if indeed you’re left with a life. Then, something happens to one of them. What do they get?”

Murphy: “The same treatment.”

Kris: “OK. Now iterate.”

Murphy: “At the rate most of us bugger things up? Global warming would cease to be a problem.”

Kris: “Or, more to the point, there’d be no one around to care whether there was a problem or not! We’d have all wiped each other out. Exactly. Grace, the ability to let some of this ugly stuff that we’re responsible for slide, works to break the blame cycle and stop us from exterminating ourselves! No mystery whatsoever.”

Murphy: “Oh, I dunno …”

Kris: ” … ‘if it’s that obvious, why are we even asking questions about it?’ Because grace is risky. It might backfire. You offer grace and it works, you look good. And the whole point of life is looking good, so you gain in prestige and profit within your village, however you define it, yes? You offer grace and it doesn’t work? The person you offered grace to goes ahead and does the same stupid thing again? Now, it’s not just her fault, it’s yours too! And you are now at the mercy of someone else’s grace. Not a comfortable place to be, especially since the exercise of grace can be surprisingly random. The problem with seventy-seven times, Peter, is that, sooner or later, there’s a seventy-eighth time. That’s when the chickens come home to roost. And who knows whether it’s seventy-eight times, or seven hundred seventy-eight, or eight, or 0.8?”

Murphy: “No mystery, huh? That sure sounds like one.”

Kris: “I disagree. That’s not a mystery, that’s an ignorance. We don’t yet know for sure where the tipping points are, when the costs of offering grace are greater than the benefits. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the big data people, at Facebook and elsewhere, are figuring this out. I’ll bet, though, that in a wealthy society, which we still are despite our headlong rush to fritter it away, the tipping points are far more liberal than in a crowded, resource-strapped society, in which the smallest transgressions could lead to social collapse via war, drought, famine, or pestilence. You can actually see in the Bible, I think, the evolution of a society from one in which resource limitation was critical to one where it was less so, where the ‘jealous’ god became a ‘god of love’. Who nevertheless had to enforce the concept of grace with the divine equivalent of an AR-15 arsenal, lest ‘the people of god’ forget and set themselves on the path to self-immolation. Haven’t you ordered the wine yet?”

Murphy: “The waiter’s been by six times already. He couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

Kris: “Argh. My apologies. Grace will be wondering where the hell I’ve been.”‘

Murphy: “She’ll have to offer you grace.”

Kris: “That would be nice.”

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Kris an’ Murphy: Two Cowed

Kris:Jesus, Murphy! Tell me you didn’t get that from one of your students.”

Murphy: “‘I didn’t get that from one of my students’. There. I did as you wanted. Now ask me what really happened.”

Kris: “Facepalm. Came in as part of a homework assignment?”

Murphy: “Of course.”

Kris: “And of course you reamed him out for it.”

Murphy: “Her. In case you haven’t noticed that there aren’t any ‘hims’ in our classes any more. And get real. When’s the last time you reamed out a paying customer whose reviews of us, which determine whether our jobs are worth having in terms of paycheck and work conditions, are dependent on the grades we give them and the courtesies we extend to them?”

Kris: “Namely, ‘A’ grades for no labor, and no meaningful critiques of whatever work does get done. Not to mention kowtowing to the student body sociopolitical craze du jour, or else.”

Murphy: “As usual. And since we both understand this, and have forever, why are you beating me up over it?”

Kris: “Because I’m sick and tired of it all! Of logic and proportion falling sloppy dead and polluting everything it touches! Take the current, 947th iteration of the gun control crap.”

Murphy: “As far away as possible, please. It’ll turn the wine into vinegar before we’ve had a chance to pour it, never mind drink it.”

Kris: “Ha ha. A freak goes off. Kids die. The gun control posse sees an opportunity for itself, starts screaming. The gun freedom goons see the gun control play as a threat, scream back. Neither lobby wants sensible change, because that change would profit neither of them. Nor will the media, mass, social, or otherwise, back sensible change because they profit from the wrangle, not to mention from the rebel and vigilante ‘gaming’ and ‘entertainment’ products that these freaks spawn, and not from authentic solutions. The screaming delivers the usual stalemate. So, surprise! Nothing changes. Rinse and repeat. For all we know, the media are egging on the freaks any time they need a ratings or sales boost.”

Murphy: “Ew.”

Kris: “That would be all of us. I suppose one thing that can be said about this ‘two cows’ thing is that, at least it talks about something other than the sheep we all seem to have become, for a change!”

Murphy: “You going to tell me what you really think sometime tonight, or are you going to continue to keep me in suspense?”

Kris: “Watch me. You know as well as I do that the ‘two cow’ thing you got is ridiculous, because, in addition to inadequately and inaccurately characterizing the states that it quotes, and being hopelessly biased in favor of the ‘conservative’ state, it makes stupid and utterly invalid comparisons between social philosophies (‘liberal’, which I presume means ‘social liberal’ instead of ‘neoliberal = libertarian’, and ‘conservative’, which generally stands for things that are anything but) and economic models.

“So, since our ‘two cow’ meme guru evidently thinks that a ‘conservative’ is necessarily a capitalist, let’s take that as a given and compare apples with apples, thus, compare capitalism with communism and socialism. Let’s also assume that the adherents of all three of these systems are not automatically dolts – I know that this proposition automatically disqualifies this conversation from any sort of consideration by our masters in the social and mass media, but I will cling desperately to the perception, however invalid it may now be, that it is our job as university intellectuals to consider even those options that would lose an America’s Got Talent vote – and that all are authentically trying to deliver milk and meat products to themselves and their communities in the best way possible. Which means somehow trying to turn two cows per person into a productive and self-sustaining herd.

“And, surprise surprise, each system works. Each one grows the herd and delivers products to the people. For a while. And then, each one fails, generally because some individuals have decided that they are more important than the system, and, sooner or later, the system can no longer cope with its burden of selfish individuals – its parasites, not to put too fine a point on it. The only relevant question, really, is if any of these systems be inherently more robust against parasites than any other. The fact that, throughout history, humans have lurched from one system to another and back again, endlessly, suggests that none is inherently superior. All we’ve figured out to do, in order to keep civilization from collapsing utterly, is to keep lurching, keep changing the system to shake off the pests, and hope that the system has enough time to actually deliver products to people before the pests figure things out and reattach themselves. Mind you, given the speed with which pestiferous information goes viral these days …”

Murphy: “You can always censor the media. Or ban it.”

Kris: “Like they do in China? Where they’ve got an Emperor in all but name, and are hell-bent on handing him all the keys to the government?”

Murphy: “Which is different from what we’ve got now, here in the USA, exactly how?

Kris: “[…] C’mon, Murphy, open that damned bottle. We may as well drink up while we still can. Before we’re as sloppy dead as the logic and proportion we used to be able to champion, before the Voice of the People decided that it wanted entertainingly idiotic absolute monarchs instead.”

Murphy: “Keep up that talk, and the sloppy dead will be sooner rather than later.”

Kris: “Yeah. Now ask me if I give a shit.”

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Screwtape The Third: The Hall of Crusades

Owww!!! Bless your ass, Wormsap!!”

“Y-y-y-y-yessir, Master Screwtape?”

What in pluperfect [ptui!] heaven are all these soapboxes lying around here for?!?”

“T-t-t-they’re e-e-essential materials, sir!”

“For what?

“For the new Hall of Crusades the construction demons are building. In honor of the fulfillment of one of the biggest contracts we’ve ever scored!”

“Oh, really?”

“Master Screwtape. The shade of Billy Graham has descended to us. How could you have missed it?”

Missed it? How could I have avoided it?!? The wailing and the screeching are normally the most soothing of music, but not when it’s loud enough to shake the ice stalactites off the lava fountains! Lucifer himself had to ascend from his mansion and inform Mr Graham that this is indeed the home he purchased with his actions, and that he was obligated, as an ordinary resident of the Hadean Estates, to know and follow our rules and regulations. And the whole level was thoroughly singed when he was done. Didn’t that man ever read any of the contracts he signed?”

“He didn’t remember any of his rants against Jews topside. Why would you expect him to recall signing anything except the backs of the checks made out to him?”

“Well, now he’ll have plenty of time, and incentive, to learn how to remember things! Speaking of which, I remember you haven’t given me an adequate explanation for all these soapboxes. Lava and ice are plentiful, cheap, and adequate building materials. You bored with them or something?”

“Why shouldn’t I be? After all, this is H…”



“So what’s the deal? What [ptui!] angel possessed you to do this? Do I have to perform an expectorcism?”

“Only if you’re planning to spit and polish my hooves, sir. Do you not see how perfect a misery this is? The man once compared preaching about the [ptui!] Adversary to selling soap, and he spent most of his career on a soapbox, so to speak. What could be more apropos?”

“That’s one soapbox. Not half a continent’s worth!

“B-b-but sir, in order for Mr Graham to truly reap what he has sown for his soapboxing, the soapbox hall has to be on a continental scale.

“So it can hold all those who have turned to religion thanks to the Billy Graham Crusades, only to find that religion made their problems worse, turning them more hostile against religion, and the society that spawned religion, than they were before.

“So it can hold all the moderate religious leaders who lost congregants to the enthusiasm of the Crusades, and still more to the backlash against them.

“So it can hold all the soldiers who died, in flesh and in spirit, fighting the jingo wars that Graham and his Crusades promoted in the name of his religion, and the mourning loved ones they left behind, often without either solace or finances.

“So it can hold all the lovers of social diversity, against whom Graham and his Crusades have set a spiritual, and maybe now a physical, wall of intolerance.

“So it can hold all the lovers of civil political discourse, who see in Billy Graham and his Crusades the origins, not of truth but of fake news, not of hope but of fear and the profits that can be made from it, not of humility but of hubris, not of dialogue but of side-taking, not of good will promoting peace but of angry posturing that can only end in war.”

“So it can hold …”

“OK OK OK!! What are we going to do with all the soap?

“Put it in the rooms, of course.”

A direct violation of our rules …!!!

“Not so, sir. You forget, we don’t supply water. We therefore amplify the pressure of the prohibition against bathing with the reminder of its possibility, if only. In full accordance with Procedure HELLSOP297r78eq v. 238c. Moreover, the soap serves as nutrition for the rats and roaches resident in the Hall’s rooms, further enhancing the experience of the clients as specified in HELLSOP2472sx58am v. 448u, rider 239. Accordingly, the maid demons will be replacing the soap on a semi-regular basis, with the boxes thus acquired to be used on the inevitable and continual expansion of the Hall.”

“Which will be open when?

“Of course, we won’t wait until it’s finished. Do we ever? The continual construction, whether required or not, provides our clients with the pleasant ambiance appropriate to their privileges. We wait until the scribe demons have completed the documents to be presented to Mr Graham upon his first entrance to the Hall.”

“His residence manual?”

“Of course. And a Bible.”

“A Bible?”

“Thousand pages long. Two copies.”

“A Bible?!?

“Each page containing a single verse. The same verse on every page, endlessly repeated. As provided for in HELLSOP23…”

“Shut up. Which verse?”

Ecclesiastes 7:15.”

“Heh. Heh. HehehehooooHOOOOOOWWWWWLLL!! But why two copies?”

“So he can present one to his roommate, the shade of Pat Robertson, when he shows up here.”

“That’s bad, Wormsap.”

“Curse you, sir.”

“But I’m telling you, do not dawdle on getting that Hall built and these soapboxes out of here. Because, so hurt me, if I trip one more time on so much as the sawdust from any of them, a certain demon of my acquaintance is going to be drowning in daffodils!”


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