last temptation of Christ: a deeper revolution

The Last Temptation of Christ unsurprisingly stuck with me. Usually when I complete a novel, I think “hmm, that was nice” and I move on to the next thing. But Kazantzakis’s interpretation of “the Greatest Story Ever Told” is rewarding and leaves a lot to think about, especially if you’re obsessed with early Christian history.

I mean, obviously it’s not historically accurate. That’s not the point. The point is that the book brings these familiar characters to life. Jesus begins the book as a sickly carpenter before transforming into the messianic figure we’ve come to know and love. However, his humanity is emphasized. At times, Jesus comes across as a jerk with megalomaniac fantasies. This helps contextualize Jesus the man and the era he lived in.

This is best demonstrated by his relationship with Judas Iscariot. Judas is a true revolutionary with a hatred for the Romans and is often frustrated by Jesus and his message of love. Jesus feels that Judas’s revolutionary ideals don’t go far enough: the concerns for the body are temporary, Jesus wants to bring salvation to the world…Jew and gentile alike.

The various characters are often puzzled by this. This universalism is too lofty, too radical to ever be realized.

And this sort of remains true today. I’ve expressed my admiration for John Dominic Crossan views: Jesus was responding to the imperial authority of the Romans. Jesus and his followers might not thought of it in that way, but that was effectively what he was doing. I don’t think enough scholars, both Christian and secular, stop to appreciate this. Not even Bart Ehrman.

I think this is best demonstrated by the cross as the official symbol of Christianity. Jesus unquestionably died by crucifixion, perhaps the most ruthless form of punishment by the Romans. And none of the early Christian apologists deny that it happened. Stop and think about that: their very leader got “owned” by the Romans. In fact, it HAD to have happened so that he could be resurrected. So Christians took this event and chalked it up as a win for their beliefs, and a loss for the ruthless rule of the Romans.

Scholars often wonder how Paul was able to convince so many pagans to convert to Christianity (or, to be more historically accurate, his form of Christian Judaism, as Paul still thought of himself as a Jew), well maybe here’s an answer: Roman rule under the Pax Romana pissed off enough people that when they heard of a man who was resurrected after a crucifixion, conversion was a way to subtly stick it to the Romans. This could be why Paul put so much emphasis on death and resurrection in his theology.

Yes, I know there are plenty of problems with this theory, chief among these is how little the Romans are criticized in the New Testament. In fact, the Gospels explicitly blame the Jews for Jesus’s death and not the Romans, even though the Romans certainly DID execute Jesus. My response to this is that you don’t have to spend more than two minutes following populist/leftist politics before realizing that they hate each other more than they hate their opposition. It is my opinion (maybe more on that at another time) that this is fundamentally rooted in these kinds of movements. Even though the Romans were THE existential threat to life in the Mediterranean world, it would have been mainstream Judaism that were the primary theological/ideological opponents of early Christianity…even if the Jews were as much under the thumb of Roman rule as they were. This is heresy in the world of radical movements, what leftists might call “class traitors” today, and it wouldn’t take much for Christian writers to switch out Romans for the Jews in regards to who was guilty for Jesus’s death.

It is this narcissism of small differences that plague radical movements, religious and political alike, and I doubt early Christianity was any different. (See Monty Python’s Life of Brian)

It is difficult to tell if the real Jesus actually preached this message of universalism, or a peaceful coexistence of all people under one God. Crossan might, but it’s more likely this was extracted by later thinkers and is now considered the ethical message of Christianity IF people could move past their short-sightedness (maybe not under “one god”, but you get the idea).

Anyways, I’ve spent too much time on this post, forgot where I was going. The end.

the last temptation of Christ- by nikos Kazantzakis

Look, I’m not a particularly religious person.

Why I obsess over Jesus and the New Testament, I don’t know. Just do. Get off my ass.

But I just started reading The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis. I’m only about halfway through it, it’s a long book. I don’t expect any twists and turns to a story that I’m already familiar with.

But the book is nothing like the film, let’s just get that out of the way.

I couldn’t have written in a million years. It reads like an extended version of the Gospels. But it weaves between perspectives-from Jesus (Son of Mary, as he’s often called), to Judas, to Mary (wife of Joseph) to Mary Magdalene, to the Apostles, etc-to create a rich tapestry of these events. Because Kazantzakis writes like the authors of the Gospels, the book actually breaths life into the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

While reading it, I honestly forget that this book was deemed “controversial”. Of course, I haven’t gotten to the “last temptation” part, which might understandably piss some people off, but as Kazantzakis explains in his prologue, Jesus (at least if you’re Christian) was both full divine and fully human. Can you imagine the burden of having to live with that? Everyone hears about the “divine” part. But no one wants to confront the “fully human” part. So Kazantzakis takes that perspective and runs with it.

Anyways, finished taking a shit. Gotta get back to work.

BYE ✋

“joseph campbell”

I was watching Bart Ehrman debate some dude, forgot who, and he mentioned the non-canonical early Christian text, Apocalypse of Peter (never read it). The text describes heaven and hell, with descriptions of hell being far more creative than those of heaven. Point being, as Ehrman explains (paraphrasing): “there are only so many ways to describe eternal bliss”, while the imagination on eternal damnation knows no bounds.

It’s not really a revolutionary observation, I know, but that’s true in all our storytelling: “heaven” is a place of temporary stability before “hell” comes along and propels the plot forward. Therefore much of the creative energy behind a story lies in the “hell” of it all.

In other words, story is conflict.

But I think Ehrman’s statement is also a reflection on the nature of language. I’ve always found that imaginative descriptions of dread, anger, depression, anxiety, etc. to be far more creative and rewarding than depictions of bliss. Heaven, beauty, bliss, etc lie in the realm of the sublime, and therefore transcend the possibilities of language.

However, that might just be a reflection of my own deranged mind.

Whatever dude, shit’s boring.

once upon a time in montana iii

I couldn’t hit shit with my six shooter. I missed every target.

J Robert Oppenheimer’s 10 year old son, Malachi, watched and nodded his head. “Did you really know my father from the war?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” I replied.

“Whose side did you fight for?”

“Uh, Abraham Lincoln’s?”

“Which detachment?”

“963rd, 9th battalion, 4th infantry, uhmmm, at the Battle of Waterloo?”

“Did you get injured?”

“Oh yeah. All over.”

Malachi scratched his head. He knew I was full of shit. “Are you sure that you didn’t know my father from the future?” he asked.

“How do you know about that?”

“He has a time machine in the barn.”

Malachi took me into the barn and lifted a large tarp off a time weapon—a similar looking time weapon that sent Mr. Ree, Oppenheimer, and myself back to 1879.

“Does it work?” I asked Malachi.

“Of course. My father built it. He can make anything work.”

Oppenheimer stood at the entryway of the barn. “That’s enough Malachi,” he said. “You run along now.”

Malachi shook his head. “Yes father,” he said and went back to tending to his chores.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this, Bob?” I asked Oppenheimer.

“It doesn’t work.”

“Malachi says it does.”

Oppenheimer paced back and forth, rubbing his hand across his face. “Look,” he said, “we can go over this all day. Sure, I can send you to the future, the past, whatever. But it’s almost impossible to get you back to YOUR timeline. I’m sorry James. But we need to look at the present. You’re here. Mr. Ree is here. I need help. This community needs your help. Please help me. I can’t fight Dickleburg on my own.”

I thought through his words. “You love Malachi,” I said. “But did you know that I have a child back in that timeline? If there is a chance, however slim, to get back there, I have to take it. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were me?”

Oppenheimer nodded. “If I’m going to help you,” he said, “then we have to secure these goldmines. There’s a property in gold that makes these time weapons work. To secure the mines, we have to defeat Dickleburg.”

I pulled out my Korth 357.

“I’m no good with those six shooters,” I replied. “But I can shoot a fly’s dick off with this 357. Can you help me make more bullets?”

“That I can do.”

TO BE CONTINUED

midlife crisis

I ain’t gonna lie.

I did exactly what I wanted to do for nine straight years: drink in excess.

So it’s hard for me to say that I regret nearly a decade of my life. There were some great fucking times.

But were there regrets? Situations I could’ve handled better? People I could’ve been nicer to?

Oh yeah! You bet!

The truth is, where I came from, I overstayed my welcome. A good friend told me, for my own well-being, that he better not see my face in these bars ever again.

He meant it.

I never returned. Never spoke with him again.

Some things are meant to be forgotten.

But I can’t help but think: do all my old friends hate me? Do they think about me as much as I think about them?

I suppose that we all separated for the better. It just nags me that there are those I spent years with, whose lives instantly got better once when I left.

Of course my life got better too when I left them.

Maybe I’m just overstating my self importance.

Maybe it’s hard for me to accept that time is gaining on me.

shane

Shane by Jack Schaefer is good.

Not great. But good enough.

The film is clearly more influential (I’ve probably seen it, but I’ve drank a lot since then). Clint Eastwood was inspired by it. That’s obvious in Pale Rider, but Unforgiven has some echoes of it. Logan was also heavily under its influence but I don’t watch that kind of shit.

I’m intrigued by the subject of reality meeting myth. Which is why it’s high time for the book or film be updated into a “neo-western”, or whatever buzzword the kids are using, albeit with a more pessimistic ending.

The story is told from the perspective of a kid. And when we think of our childhood, we recall the magical times we had. But when we think objectively about it, we miss all the fucked up shit around us.

Remember that cool neighbor that would let you shoot his Glock? He was a registered sex offender.

Of course none of that occurs to you because you assume everyone is nice and pure.

Now I’d never write an updated version of Shane, I’d instantly lose interest. But maybe someone with more discipline would be willing to put pen to paper.

I imagine a story set during the Great Depression or some shit, where banks are harassing farmers and threatening to take their land. Then a mysterious stranger with a dark past comes into town and befriends a family.

The boy is instantly taken by the stranger. The father is handicapped in some form or fashion, unable to tend to his land properly, so the stranger steps up. The boy eventually begins to look up to the stranger more so than his father.

Then, of course, the banks and henchmen come in, threaten the townsfolk, blah blah blah…we all know the story: Shane essentially sacrifices himself, his death is ambiguous, and he achieves mythical status in the town.

But I’d like to see a more pessimistic conclusion. And as I think about it, my ending sort of resembles that of Blood Meridian: decades later, like the 1960s, the boy runs into Shane, very much alive, but the truth about him is revealed. Shane was nothing more than a drunken murderous hitman who actually cuckholded the father.

Naturally all of this went unnoticed by the boy, now a man, but he chooses instead to remember that summer as a magical time when a stranger came into town.

I’m sure that story has been told a million times. But good stories are worth retelling.

Of course I ain’t retelling it. I’ve got fart and cum jokes to write.

“dr. sí” part vii

We stole guns off some guards that Angelika brutally murdered and ran down the corridor.

“The time weapon is is being held three floors above us,” Angelika said.

We began to feel tremors all around us. I asked Angelika the last time this volcano erupted.

“About 25,000 years ago,” she said.

“Then this thing could go off at any moment. We better hurry.”

We went down the corridors and up the stairs in an attack formation. Angelika and I covered the front. Mr. Ree and Oppenheimer covered the rear.

When we reached the room holding the time weapon, the Kill Squad…along with Izzy….was there. They altered course and stormed into the volcano earlier in a bloody, devastating firefight. Not many survived.

“Thank goodness you’re alive,” the Admiral said. “And you found J. Robert Oppenheimer. Excellent work. Lt. Captain, please dispose of the scientist.”

Lt. Captain cocked his pistol and raised it up to Oppenheimer’s head.

I raised my rifle to Lt. Captain.

“Pull that trigger and you’re dead,” I told him.

“But Colonel James,” the Admiral said, “this time travel stuff is against the laws of God. We must destroy all of the evidence.”

“No,” I said. “Oppenheimer has as much right to exist as the rest of us.”

Dr. Sí then rushed in with his guards. “Well well,” he said. “Glad you’re all here.”

We were surrounded. We dropped our weapons.

Dr. Sí walked up to the Admiral. “I’m happy to see you’re doing well Admiral,” he said.

“This ends today doctor,” the Admiral replied.

“I think not,” he replied.

Dr. Sí walked over to a control panel. In a corner across the room, the floor moved, revealing a lava pit.

“I’m sorry Admiral,” the doctor said. “But you can’t go where we’re going.”

The guards grabbed the Admiral and pushed him towards the pit. “You’ll never get away with this,” he yelled.

“Of course I will. I control time! Think about the possibilities Admiral! We could have taken over the world. You never understood that.”

“Izzy, don’t let them do this,” the Admiral screamed. She walked over to him and the guards.

“You’re one abusive son of a bitch,” she said. Izzy then roundhouse kicked him into the fiery pit. When the screams stopped and the flames died down, Izzy turned around.

“Can I go home now,” she asked. “I didn’t want to be here anyway.”

“I’m sorry madam,” Dr. Sí replied. “I cannot let anyone leave here alive.”

“So what happens now? This volcano will erupt at any moment,” I asked.

“Exactly Colonel. In a few moments, I will time travel out of here and this volcano will erupt, destroying the evidence.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Angelika said. Dr. Sí walked up to her, grabbed her hair and put his lips on her.

“I’m sorry things didn’t work out between us,” he said. “I gotta go.”

He went back to the panel and a countdown started. A laser dropped down from the ceiling which would release a plasma field around its target, triggering a spacetime ripple that would permit time travel.

“Before I forget,” Dr. Sí said to me, “here’s the $1 million I owe you. Where I’m going, this money is no good.”

He threw a metal briefcase as my feet.

“Alright,” the doctor said, “let’s get this bullshit over with.”

The laser then fired out a beam, creating the field around Sí. While the guards were mesmerized by the sight, Oppenheimer ran into the field, pushing the doctor out.

There was a bright flash of light, then Oppenheimer was gone…lost somewhere in time.

“You fool!” Dr. Sí yelled.

Out of the confusion, Angelika attacked the guards and took a gun. She began spraying bullets across the room. I picked up the briefcase and ran for cover.

I grabbed a rifle from a dead guard and began shielding Izzy. Mr. Ree then engaged in the firefight.

When all the guards were dead, Angelika threw down her semi-automatic and grabbed Dr. Sí. He tried to put up a fight.

“Angelika!” he screamed. “This volcano will go off any second. We don’t have time for this!”

“Time’s up bitch!” she said. Then she threw him into the lava pit. A large flame shot up in the air.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ree was monitoring communications between guards over the radio. “Reinforcements will be here in a minute,” he said.

I handed the briefcase to Izzy. “Make sure Miriam gets this,” I told her.

We shared one last look. “Mr. Ree and I will give you cover while you escape,” I said. “Angelika, go with her.”

“But I didn’t get the weapon,” Angelika responded.

“Let it go,” I said. “You can save humanity without it.”

I reached out my hand to hers and we looked deep into each other’s eyes. “Goodbye Angelika.”

She gave a pause. “Goodbye James,” she said.

Izzy and Angelika, along with a few surviving members of the Kill Squad, ran back down the corridor. The tremors were beginning to pick up.

Mr. Ree and I stood behind the control panel, waiting for reinforcements to arrive. “Ready to go where no man’s gone before,” I asked him.

He put a cigar in his mouth. “You’re reading my mind.”

As guards were pouring into the room, Mr. Ree provided cover while I fiddled with the controls. The laser pointed in our direction and released a beam. The field surrounded us.

Where…or when…we were going, only God knew.

Then there was a brilliant flash of light….

*********

Izzy, Angelika, and the Kill Squad made it out of the volcano just as it erupted. As they watched the explosion from a safe distance, Izzy turned to Angelika.

“Do you think they’re dead?”

Angelika looked to the ash cloud hovering over the jungle. She thought for a moment.

“No,” she replied. “They’re out there…somewhere in time….”

THE END

“dr. sí” part vi

“This is science gone haywire,” J. Robert Oppenheimer said. “I should have never agreed to help Dr. Sí.”

“Don’t beat yourself up,” I said to him. “We’ll get you out of here and back to your own time.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” he replied.

“Sure it does. It’s science! Anything is possible.”

“We can’t just go ‘back in time’. Doing so would violate all sorts of Newton’s laws. When the quantum field is generated, the individual is transported to an alternate timeline. The laws of physics remain the same and the outcomes in these timelines might be similar to our own, but it’s not the same timeline. Am I making sense?”

“Nope,” I replied. “But we’ll get you as close to your timeline as humanly possible.”

“Forget it,” Oppenheimer replied. “Our best option is to disarm the weapon to prevent this from happening again.”

“How do we do that?”

“There’s a special property in the element of gold that penetrates through space and time. If the gold is removed from the nano chambers, the weapon would be powerless.”

“Sounds like a plan Bob.” I looked over to Mr. Ree. “Do you think the Kill Squad will alter course and find us?”

“I doubt it,” Mr. Ree said. “I don’t even know where we’re at.”

“We’re at the bottom of a dormant volcano,” Oppenheimer said. “They’ll never find us.”

“Shit,” I said. “Then we have to take matters into our own hands. We just need an opportunity.”

Angelika then peered through the opening of our cell door. “James,” she said, “just hold tight, I’m gonna get you out of here.”

“Angelika,” I replied, “I thought you were with Dr. Sí.”

She then reached her hand through the opening to touch my own. “Dr. Sí is no friend of the Ionian Liberation Front. He’s no friend of peace and justice. I don’t want this technology to fall into the wrong hands.”

“Get us out of here and we’ll destroy it,” I said.

“No! Think about it James. With this weapon, we can right all the wrongs. We can undo our violent past and create a better future.”

“I don’t know Angelika.”

“Please, I’ll get you out of here. But let me have the weapon.”

I thought for a second and agreed to her terms. Then she grasped my hand tightly.

“What’s your wife’s name?” she asked.

“Miriam”

“She’s a lucky woman. Perhaps in another time….”

She let go of my hand and closed the opening. I heard some rustling outside, then a few gunshots. After a few moments, the cell door blasted open.

Angelika walked across the rubble wearing a skintight leather suit and holding a Heckler & Koch M27.

“Alright boys,” she said. “Let’s blow the top off this volcano.”

“dr. sí” part iii

Angelika was loaded onto the plane, strapped to a dolly like she was Hannibal Lector. Maj. Jzerkov was generous enough to give her a jumpsuit.

This time, the plane was bound for Hawaii, the last known location of the nuclear scientist and Dr. Si.

“Are we getting drunk on the plane again,” Mr. Ree asked.

“Damn right we are!”

Admiral Majors joined us at the bar. He was to brief us on our mission.

“The rest of the Kill Squad will join us in Honolulu,” the Admiral said. “Sgt. Private, Captain Corporal, and Lieutenant Sargent have been fully briefed on the situation.”

“Maybe I’ve been too drunk to pay attention,” I said. “But what is our mission?”

“I thought it was obvious,” the Admiral replied. “Retrieve the scientist and kill all the bad guys. How complicated do you want this to get?”

“What about Dr. Sí? What will we do if we capture him?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

After drinks, I went to the cargo bay to talk with Angelika. I dismissed the guards and removed her mask.

“Can you remove the straps please,” she asked. “I need to use the bathroom.”

I unstrapped her from the dolly and watched her closely while she used the toilet.

“Does this turn you on,” she asked.

It kinda did but I played it cool. “Just making sure you don’t escape,” I replied.

“Where am I gonna go? We’re on a plane.”

I didn’t reply. She wiped and flushed the toilet. “Gonna wash your hands,” I asked.

“Why? I didn’t shit on my hands. So what do you want to talk to me about?”

“What’s the deal with Dr. Sí? Why is he so important?”

“This technology he possesses, you couldn’t possibly imagine its power.”

“A nuclear weapon?”

“No. Something more powerful.”

“What could be more powerful than a nuclear weapon?”

“You have a small imagination.”

I scratched my head. Maybe I was too drunk to have this conversation. “Well what does he want with a nuclear scientist,” I asked.

“Nuclear power can be used for other things than just weapons.”

“Care to divulge?”

“Set me free from this cargo bay and I’ll tell you everything.”

“I’ll have to discuss that with the Admiral. He’s particularly concerned about the….”

I turned around for a second and Angelika leapt at me with a makeshift knife (that she presumably snuck in up her ass (or vagina)). I was quick enough to grab her arm and throw her to the ground.

I laid on top of her for a brief moment. We stared into each other’s eyes while I restrained her, my mouth inches from hers. We were both aroused by the sudden burst of action.

The guards rushed in when they heard the commotion. “I got the situation under control,” I told them.

I stood up and ordered the guards to strap her back to the dolly. “Our conversation is done here,” I said. “I’m gonna go jack of…er, I mean, get a Jack. A Jack and Coke. I’m gonna go get drunk.”

But I didn’t go to the bar. I rushed to my cabin to beat off.

dr. sí

“I’m Amish now,” I said to Admiral Majors and Izzy. “I don’t believe in violence anymore.”

“You mean to tell me we drove all the way to Pennsylvania from Los Angeles just for you to say you’ve taken a vow to never kill again,” the Admiral asked.

“Yes. I killed a man in cold blood. Not out of justice,” I replied. “I felt pure hatred. And I hope to never feel that again. That’s not God’s way.”

“The man you killed was a bent cop AND a serial killer. Fuck that guy!”

“No,” I said. “You see this,” I pointed over to the wide green pastures. Off in the distance, Amish brethren were erecting a barn. “This is God’s way. Hard work and community. That’s what will get us to heaven.”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this bullshit,” the Admiral replied. “So you wanna play hardball eh? Fine. $2 million. I am offering you $2 million of tax payer money to join my force. One of our top nuclear scientists have gone missing, and we have reason to suspect that the Ionian Liberation Front is behind it. You’ve dealt with those guys before. If you change your mind, you know where to reach me.”

The Admiral stormed off. Izzy bashfully stood around.

“What’s her name,” she asked.

“Miriam,” I replied. “She’s a good woman. She’ll make an excellent mother.”

“I’m happy for you,” she said. “I’m seeing someone too. I gave Admiral Majors a hand job on drive over here. He’s taking me to dinner tonight.”

“I wish you two the best of luck.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Goodbye James.”

“Goodbye Izzy.”

After I finished tending to the cattle, I washed off the bull semen then went to the homestead for supper. Miriam served me up a plate of beans and cornbread.

Miriam was a plain and simple Amish woman. We married during the fall harvest. Her father was Ezekiel, one of the community leaders. He was generous enough to take me in.

“Didist thou havest a good day,” she asked.

“I did Miriam. This is a well-earned supper after an honest day’s work.”

“The Lord hath blessed us. I am pregnant with child.”

“This is swell news indeed. The community with rejoice at the announcement.”

We smiled and held hands while we sat around the fireplace. I was loading tobacco into my pipe when Ezekiel stopped by.

“The Lord has brought forth good news,” I told him. “Miriam is pregnant with child.”

“Praise the Lord indeed,” he replied. “I am going to be a grandfather.”

The two of us went to the porch to watch the sunset. I took a match to the pipe. “So what brings you by Ezekiel,” I asked.

“I’m afraid Brother Peter is not doing well,” he said. “He won’t likely survive through the night.”

“That’s a shame. Miriam and I shall pray on it.”

“Unfortunately, I bring more bad news. Bandits have returned and stole four more chickens. We don’t have the funds to replace them. I’m afraid that we are having trouble feeding the children and the harvest isn’t bringing what we need. Times are hard indeed.”

“The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away,” I said.

“I wish someone would do something about these bandits. They have drained all of our resources for the winter,” Ezekiel said.

I puffed on the pipe and rocked in the chair. “I’m sure the Lord will provide.”

That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. I sat up and kissed Miriam on the forehead while she peacefully slept.

I grabbed a shovel and hid behind the chicken coup while I waited for the bandits. I heard twigs snapping and bushes rustling. They were close.

“Stop right there or I’ll bash your head in,” I told the two bandits.

They laughed. “You’re Amish,” they said. “You can’t hurt us.”

“Grab my cock and find out,” I replied, referring to the rooster.

We had a stare down. I waited for one of them to make a move. One went for his pistol and I smashed the shovel right on his dick.

“My dick,” he yelled.

The other one leapt at me and I knocked his clean off his shoulders. Blood sprayed all over the coup. I went over to the other man laying on the ground.

“Don’t kill me,” he yelled. But I smashed the shovel right into his guts.

I buried the bodies deep in the woods.

I took the shovel and began digging behind the barn. Out of the dirt I pulled out an old oak box.

Inside the box: the Korth 357 magnum.

TO BE CONTINUED