Category Archives: Essays

67936168-orwell_4605c

Shooting an Elephant (Orwell)

Here’s an excellent essay about George Orwell’s time in Burma.  Spoiler alert:  He shoots the elephant.

In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.  I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter.  No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress.  As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so.  When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter.  This happened more than once.  In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves.  The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all.  There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.  (continued at link below)

Shooting an Elephant, by George Orwell

 

colossians

Letter to the Colossians

From Intended Consequences
Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

Saint Paul’s Letter to the church in Colossae, Turkey, stands out from his other Epistles in its tranquility.  Because he is writing in response to the good report of Epaphras, the Saint who shared the Gospel with the Colossians, and from whom came to Paul no news of destructive conflicts among them, the Letter emphasizes peace, freedom, and unity in Christ, and retains an air of relaxed forward progress.  Following his standard greeting he writes:  “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.  You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the Gospel that has come to you.  Just as it has been bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.” (Colossians 1:3-6)

Transitioning from commending the new church’s faith to the eternal significance of God’s work, he states with finality the result of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross.  “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-4)  The priorities of Saint Paul’s mission shine through more easily in this Letter since he doesn’t have to address any specific dysfunctions in the church.  Instead he eloquently builds up the people’s faith by conveying a picture of wholeness of the body of Christ as it’s meant to operate.  Paul’s personal mission is the instruction of new believers for the purpose of a righteous and healthy Church.  “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.” (Col 1:27-9)

Even though this is mainly a Letter of encouragement he makes sure to warn them of a possible danger, that of letting worldly traditions and systems of thought hinder the purity of one’s relationship with God.  “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority…  And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands.  He set this aside, nailing it to the Cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col 2:8-10, 13-5)

For the early Church, the Cross and Resurrection changed everything.  Life as they knew it had ended and a new glorious existence had begun.  For the first time ever the world had seen the person of God in the flesh, one of the Holy Trinity offered freely in sacrifice to liberate humanity from sin and death, and now they’d been tasked with establishing a community based on that good news.  Paul anchors them to the reality of union with God in heaven while reinforcing this connection through the hope of the Lord’s return.  “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4)

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:12-7)

 

BraveNewWorld

Foreword to Brave New World

From Aldous Huxley’s foreword to his novel, Brave New World:

Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment.  If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.  On no account brood over your wrong-doing.  Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.

Art also has its morality, and many of the rules of this morality are the same as, or at least analogous to, the rules of ordinary ethics.  Remorse, for example, is as undesirable in relation to our bad art as it is in relation to our bad behaviour.  The badness should be hunted out, acknowledged and, if possible, avoided in the future.  To pore over the literary shortcomings of twenty years ago, to attempt to patch a faulty work into the perfection it missed at its first execution, to spend one’s middle age in trying to mend the artistic sins committed and bequeathed by that different person who was oneself in youth — all this is surely vain and futile.  And that is why this new Brave New World is the same as the old one.  Its defects as a work of art are considerable; but in order to correct them I should have to rewrite the book — and in the process of rewriting, as an older, other person, I should probably get rid not only of some of the faults of the story, but also of such merits as it originally possessed.  And so, resisting the temptation to wallow in artistic remorse, I prefer to leave both well and ill alone and to think about something else.

Link to rest of Foreword