Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Paradise Lost

So today I finished reading one of the classics, a poem, as it were, entitled Paradise Lost, by John Milton. I know, shocker that I had not read it before. I'm going to review it here, because I found out why it was a classic and think it may benefit other readers as well.

Since I knew this was a poem, penned or rather dictated by a blind person, I expected to see the following two characteristics: that it was (1) short, as I knew from High School that Milton was blind when he dictated it, and (2) that it rhymed, as it was a poem, and poems rhyme, yes?

Er, no. Actually, the most common form of poetry in the time period when Paradise Lost was written (c. 1658 - 1664) was blank verse, essentially unrhymed metered verse, usually Iambic Pentameter. Shakespeare's plays and sonnets were mostly written in Iambic Pentameter, though his usually rhymed.

As to the poem being short, well, wrong again. I can't give you an accurate page count, as your mileage may vary based on the book you are reading this classic from, the font size, etc, but it's more of a cross-country road trip than a Sunday drive in the country.

Still, it is a classic and here is why: Milton's poetry resounds powerfully in the heart of a fellow believer, and his characters come to life vividly and believably. It's stood the test of time, not because English teachers everywhere force it down the throats of unwilling students, or because the government told you it was good stuff, but because it actually IS.

So, in case, like me, you did not have to read this massive tome, but want to know what's in it, here tis:

As expected, this work records the War in Heaven between Satan and God, Satan's fall into Hell, and his dastardly revenge in getting Man to follow him down the chute. It begins with Satan's attack and God's foreknowledge not only of the event or its outcome, but of the Fall of Man and his need for a Redeemer. It ends with the expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden, and a look ahead for Adam as to the future hope and Redeemer of the race. Fiction or non-Fiction? Well, fiction, because it extrapolates conversation and events not directly recorded in the Bible, though the main plot points and characters are all very solidly in there.

God - Milton handles God in both the Father and Son in a reverent manner, depicting the Father's attributes of Omniscience, Omnipotence, Judgment, Mercy, and Grace in a clear manner, and God the Son in even better form, showing His willingness, almost eagerness, to volunteer to be our Redeemer, knowing what He would suffer, but knowing what He would gain. His vengeance against Satan and his army is vivid, decisive, and frightening, turning Satan's assumed eventual victory into a panic-stricken rout. God clearly answers the question of whether and why Satan and the fallen angels will never receive redemption, while it will be offered to Man: "The first sort by their own suggestion fell, Self-tempted, self-depraved; Man falls, deceived By the other first; Man therefore shall find grace, the other none." God also explains why Man must die: "He with his whole posterity, must die; Die he, or justice must." Meaning, of course, that without death for sin, there is no justice. Thus the quandary: God is Just, and Justice must prevail, so Man must die. But God is merciful, so man must obtain to mercy. Jesus eagerly offers a solution: "Behold Me then, Me for him, life for life I offer; on me let thine anger fall; Account Me Man, I for his sake will leave Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee freely put off, and for him lastly die Well pleased,; on Me let Death wreak all his rage. Under his gloomy power I shall not long lie vanquished."

Satan - The character of Satan is the most clearly defined, and might be the one our fallen natures most identify with, unfortunately. The most often quoted passage in Paradise Lost is by Satan, when he states, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." It's clearly shown his hatred for God, and vengeance, his scheming even after clear and decisive defeat. He knows clearly that he can never win against an Omnipotent God, but he can drag others with him, and so ensues the Fall of Man. Other good quotes from Satan: "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." Satan also discusses whether he could find place for repentance, and acknowledges it would be but a sham: "But say I could repent, and could obtain, By act of grace, my former state; how soon Would height recall high thoughts, how soon unsay What feigned submission swore?"
Satan in the end is the loser, but seems resigned to it, happier in his vengeance, that the road to Hell is wide, and many there be that find it.

Adam - The first man is so clearly defined I was able to identify poignantly with his despair in his failure to protect Eve, his doom foretold and experienced, and its impact on his progeny yet to be. In Milton's account, Adam tries to dissuade Eve from going off alone, having been warned by an angel of the impending fall if they eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. "The wife, where danger or dishonor lurks, Safest and seemliest by her husband stays, Who guards her, or with her the worst endures." Adam laments poignantly the lie in the name of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: "true in our Fall, False in our promised rising; since our eyes Opened we find indeed, and find we know Both good and evil; good lost, and evil got;" Adam and Eve knew Good already, they had no need to know Evil. In the end, Adam is happier, though knowing what his fall brought about, the death of the world; but knowing also what greater work than his is wrought as a result, the Salvation and Redemption of many Sons and Daughters.

Eve - At first glance, Eve seemed to me one-dimensional, and unlikeable. Capricious, unstable, ultimately naïve. She makes good case for being trusted to withstand the temptation of the Devil, yet when tempted, succumbs to his lies. His pretense at being a talking serpent, while inhabiting the serpent and talking through it, allows him to deceive Eve into thinking the fruit (which he never ate) was what gave the serpent the tongue of man, rather than the demon within.

Michael the Archangel, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, and assorted Angels - Well, there was no Raphael in the Bible (that I recall reading about) but this IS a work of fiction, and this character had a significant dialog. Uriel is the Watcher in Heaven, he's pretty boss. Gabriel kicked Satan out of Eden the first time, never took him for a fighter, more of a messenger, but it was entertaining watching Satan run from him. Michael, now. He's just amazing. Milton captures him well, he's totally Boss and has a sword that will cut through anything. Better than the Master Sword. And he doesn't cut any grass with it, just whacks his way through clouds of evil angels.

Sin, Death, Beelzebub, etc etc. - Satan is surrounded by a gang of 'yes-men', named after all the false gods throughout time, and they have little to no dimension to them. Sin is depicted as Satan's daughter, and Death her progeny, which parallels the descent outlined in James 1:15 - Then desire, when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

The speed at which this moved was frustrating to me, more because I already knew the plot and ending, and am more of an Action Reader than a Philosophy Major. Give me Jesus chucking lightning bolts at Satan and his minions, blowing them to smithereens, having to HOLD BACK to keep from just turning them to powder, opening up the ground of Heaven and them falling for NINE DAYS before splashing into a lake of fire. THAT'S what I'M talkin' about! Don't give me some great oratory by Beelzebub about how they can't just gather spears for another good old College Try. Don't give me some long blather by Adam about how the flowers have to be pruned back each day or they will just be back all over everything again.

Yeah. Like that.

So: Bottom Line:
Five Stars. I can't give any more, and it doesn't deserve any less. I mean, go figure, it's gotta be good if a four-hundred-year-old dusty mega-poem can make a grown man cry.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fast Food and Feingold

(Cross-posted from my other blog,

Today, boys and girls, we're going to have a word about Fast Food and Feingold.

As parents of ADHD kids, on a budget no less, early on we investigated non-medication methods for treating the wonderful adverse symptoms of... hey, is that a butterfly?
MWHAHAHA... Now that I have lost your attention...
One of the treatments we investigated is diet. Specifically, the Feingold Diet. The principle behind the diet is that we have lots of additives in our food that companies have put in there to make it fresher, brighter, tastier, and, well, many other ERs.

Food companies are in the business of making money. It's what they do, and why they exist, and we shouldn't shame them for it. After all, they employ a LOT of us, including now my oldest son, yay, he got a JOB!

But in order to make money, they need to pull out the sugar, which is kinda expensive, and replace it with Corn Syrup, which is also now kind of expensive, since we run our CARS on it. (go figure...). And they add BHT (Does anybody even know or care what that stands for??) to the packaging so that your cereal will stay fresher longer, meaning more can be on the shelf for you, and it can have a sell-by date many months in the future, rather than, like, next week...

Because you like your food brighter, they add artificial colors, like Red Dye #5. Or Yellow Dye #2. Sort of like Crayola, except you eat this stuff. Really, you DO. Just read the label on the stuff you're eating now while reading this. Those ingredients are just a tad scary.

So, these companies had the bright idea to add all this stuff into the food you eat. Nobody, not even the FDA, had a really good idea what that might do to you over the long haul, but they tested it out on mice and prisoners and some folks from Bug Guts MS, and there were no real ill effects. Right.

So, the basis on the Feingold Diet is to eat fresh food, and avoid all that other stuff you don't really need in you, because believe it or not, it really does seem to affect your brain. That's right, the effects of those chemicals affect your brain.

Anyway, lest I ramble further, we tried the Feingold Diet (There was an entrance fee for their book and subscription to their newsletter and website and some other goodies, and believe it or not, the DIET WORKED. Bringing a verse to mind, Psalm 34:8.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

I came into work after two weeks on the diet, and my head was clear for the first time in, like, ever, and I could actually think faster, talk slower, react more calmly, and in general was no fun anymore for my coworkers, who enjoyed my daily rants. One of them actually stopped me outside her office and said, "Ok, who are you, and what have you done with Chris??"

One of my coworkers actually started dropping by my office before staff meetings and giving me a Snickers Bar and a Mountain Dew so I would be good and wound up before our weekly staff meetings.
That's right, my coworkers sabotaged the diet, because I was no fun anymore.

Also, though the diet does not seem expensive, it actually is. You see, companies can sell cheaper food, well, cheaper, because fresh, natural, organic food is harder to grow, doesn't stay fresh as long, and therefore, costs more.

So now, we've got all the kids on medication, but one thing the diet DID do for us is give us a hunger for fresh food. So, while we do occasionally stop at McDonalds or Wendys for fast food, when we head to the grocery store, we usually try to pick up organics like apples and salad stuff.

So this weekend Rebecca came home with a bag of apples, intending to put them in a bowl on the table. But by the time she got a bowl out, this was all that was left...
Now, THAT's what I call FAST FOOD.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cats, Controlled Substances, and Coffee

It's been a long long while since I posted to this blog, but something happened yesterday that applies to the whole ADHD thing, and I decided to chuck another post here, which I already posted to my ADHD journey site,

So, we have a lot of cats. I used to NOT be a cat person, more of a DOG person growing up, since our family had three dogs while I was growing up, and one cat (if I remember correctly, that got distemper and my pseudo-vet sister nursed it through by giving it droppers of Gatorade.)
But that was then, this is now. My wife was absolutely a CAT person, and made concessions on the dog, who as noted before in this blog, blows coat twice yearly, a snowfall we have to deal with stoically.

So, we currently have FOUR cats, Whose names are Tribble (From the Trouble With Tribbles, a classic Star Trek episode),
(note, this guy is 17 years old, so he's fragile and somewhat cranky)

 Kato (so named because of his clumsy Ninja skills), Kuro (Japanese for black. Go figure, it's a black cat),

and last but certainly not least, Cappuccino Jack (nicknamed Bean Bun for no logical reason)
Here he is, examining a jug of Tropicana Orange Juice (actually, it's water, not OJ, as you can see. I don't think Tropicana has come out with clear OJ yet (personal note, mention it to them...)) It's not Gatorade, but his stance here makes it clear that he is curious about people food.

This cat gets on the counter to eat our dinner before it's served. Not just steak or fish. He's often seen hauling a strand of cooked spaghetti through the house, or a leaf of lettuce. He eats all kinds of things he's not supposed to.

How, you may ask, does this have anything to do with ADHD?

Glad you asked.

Controlled Substances 
You see, every morning our family gets pills. Ones like the one in the picture below.
Frankly, I do NOT see how this looks like, smells like, tastes like, or acts like, FOOD, of ANY SORT.

Yet, we are seen every morning by our Mahar Shalal Hash Baz kitty consuming these tasty trifles. Not with any relish, but just to be able to function in HomeSchool.

My oldest son, just about to re-enter college, left his happy little pill just like the one above, lying on the counter, rather than ingesting it. (He says they make him nervous...)

The very same counter ol' Bean Bun climbs on to steal our FOOD.

Oh no, he didn't.

Oh yes, he did.

So, thankfully, he decided that, since it was FOOD, it required just a tad of chewing. And he discovered quickly that these pills taste quite different on the INSIDE than they do on the OUTSIDE.

Spitting and hissing, he left the pill half-eaten. But he spent the rest of the day calmer, more organized, and studious than he's been in his entire kitty existence.

Which goes quite a ways to proving out that he actually IS ADHD, a theory we've had for quite some time, observing the way he runs through the house every day until he is completely out of energy. Zipping under couches only to pop out elsewhere, claws extended, to shred someone's leg or one of his fellow citizens of the Cat Kingdom.

This goes to show why we try to keep these substances, well, controlled, as attested to by this lock on the cabinet...
The bottom line is, I don't think Bean Bun will become addicted to this stimulant. And thankfully, he's still staying away from this one... It's my own personal addiction...


So, this morning, he's back to his usual playful ADHD self. Here he is a few hours ago, playing with and attacking some of Maya's blown coat. Yes, please don't tell anyone, but he has a thing for large tufts of dog hair...

We were studying Psalm 60 and 61. When it came time to cover the part where God says 'Over Edom I will cast my shoe', I did what I often do, and pulled off my shoe and threw it across the room.

Bean Bun went after it, chasing it up the stairs, and then leaping to his usual attack vantage point:
Then came down while we continued reading, to investigate my white sock and see if it was, in fact, a VERY large tuft of white dog hair...

Sigh. Hurry To The Spoils, back at it again.