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Never Surrender

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Solon never stopped speaking the truth–and it worked!

This week I’ve been getting more than the usual number of doom-and-gloom messages from readers. “We’re cooked, we’re finished, bad guys win–game over, man!”

Meanwhile, I am sometimes told that my outlook is not exactly peachy.

In Revelation, the devil, the Beast, the False Prophet, and all their gang, get thrown into the lake of fire and that’s the end of them. They don’t get to come back, ever. This is what God has told us. This is what we must believe.

Only thing is, we don’t know His timetable. The coming of the Lord may be another thousand years from now. Meanwhile, it’s a rough ride (and He warned us that it would be).

So what do we do? Win or lose, we fight. Sun Tzu tells us there are times when you can do nothing else: “On death ground, fight,” he says. And J.R.R. Tolkien used to quote an ancient Anglo-Saxon poem: “Will shall be sterner, heart the bolder, spirit the greater as our strength lessens” (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/548454-hige-sceal-pe-heardra-heorte-pe-cenre-mod-sceal-pe).

If God’s grace be with me, and for as long as He gives me strength, I’ll fight: never to surrender to the social and political fads, the wicked nonsense of this world, which is handed up from Hell to its servants on the earth–from spiritual wickedness in high places. I will not be browbeaten into saying yeah, sure, I’m all for the whole sexual anarchy bit, transgender included. I will not support abortion. I will not say things are true when I know them to be false, because some tyrant threatens me.

Those of us who are “old” have an advantage.

When Solon the lawgiver was an old man, the Athenians threw out the wise and just laws he’d given them and fell under the hand of a tyrant, Pisistratus. Everyone became very small and quiet–everyone but Solon, who never passed up an opportunity to criticize Pisistratus and his policies. His friends were horrified: they knew what happens to people who diss tyrants. “Solon,” they wondered, “what gives you the courage to stand up to the tyrant?” And he answered, “My old age.”

The rest of the story: as tyrants go, Pisistratus was pretty much top-of-the-line. He came to admire Solon, began to listen to him, and wound up canceling or amending many of his worst public actions because Solon had made him see how wrong they were. Who knows what might have happened, had Solon lived longer?

The rest of the rest of the story: Pisistratus’ successors were made of shabbier stuff than he, and finally had to be assassinated. Should’ve listened to Solon.

So we ought to speak the truth, even if it feels like we’re only shouting into the wind. We cannot know who’ll hear us. We often can’t know how God will use us. He has placed us as watchmen on the walls. As He told Ezekiel, He will hold us responsible for sounding the alarm; but He will not hold us responsible for whoever chooses not to hear it.

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I have become an official and bona fide Old Man–no more pretense of youth. Somehow in today’s mangling of the English language, the word “older” has come to mean “less old than old.” So maybe for a few years I could get away with being “older.”

But no–I am now old, and I mean to make the most of it. And having long watched The Last of the Summer Wine and Waiting for God, these classic British sitcoms have taught me exactly what to do, to make that second childhood as much fun as the first. Maybe more fun: I don’t have to go to school, and no one can make me eat cauliflower.

Yes, I know old age is not all fricasseed frogs and eel stew. For one thing, by now most of the people I have known and loved have gone before me, and almost all of the places that I’ve known and loved have been torn down, wiped out, paved over as if they never were. Like maybe I just dreamed them.

I don’t expect ever to retire. Writers don’t. Anyway, it took me so flaming long to reach the point of actually being a writer, I still feel like I’ve only just gotten started.

Who knows? The way things are going with my country, I may yet get arrested for failing to “celebrate” a same-sex parody of marriage, or the unspeakable crime of Climate Change Denial (which is so insulting to those smart people who know what’s best for us!), or praying.

Near the end of his life, the philosopher and former lawgiver, Solon, saw his home city of Athens fall to a dictatorship. So Solon opposed the dictator, loudly and energetically: which made his friends worry about his future. “Don’t you know that dictator is a dangerous man?” they asked. “What gives you the courage to oppose him?”

“Old age,” answered Solon.

May it be so for all of us–because it may be a long, long time before the younger folks can wipe the sleepers from their eyes.

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