Gaspar Redux

E.S. KraayEarlier this week, a good man I know approached me in church and said, “I just finished your book Gaspar.  Great book for this time of year.”  Although the book begins in ancient India, the protagonist makes his way to ancient Ireland and concludes his lifelong quest for truth in ancient Judea during the Passover.  He is intimately involved with the passion of Jesus.  As Christendom celebrates Holy Week next week, I am certain that is the connection the reader makes.

Shortly after Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ was published, it was brought to my attention that there were many typographical errors throughout the book.  I can’t say whether I was more embarrassed or more displeased.  In either event, I spent recent months rereading the book and correcting the errors I could identify.  I regret to admit that I found 58 errors.  I take personal responsibility and apologize for that.  While I cannot pull the printed book, yesterday, I replaced the original file on Kindle – the file uploaded by the publisher in 2014.  While the new electronic edition may not be as aesthetically appealing as the original, I can assure you with certainty that it more accurately presents the original manuscript.

If you have considered reading Gaspar, this may be a good time to do it.  Having just finished another reread, I am pleased with the story and its message.  My ‘collaborators’ characterize my prose as ‘sparse.’  They offer that observation in a good way, much like one might call Hemingway’s prose as ‘sparse.’  Don’t think I am comparing myself to Hemingway.  I would never be so bold.

As an example of my ‘sparseness,’ my ‘Last Supper’ is not a congenial ‘Da Vinci’ painting, and I address it in four, simple paragraphs …

“Raised voices of repressed anger rumble above us.  Heavy footsteps, perhaps a scuffle.  A chair grinds the floor, another falls heavily.  Footsteps to the doorway, then down the steps outside.  A figure halts and stares into the room, probably not expecting to see us.  The man’s hair and eyes are dark, indecision and worry etched into the lines on his brow, so deep that they are shadowed.  He turns and takes a step toward the stairway, maybe thinking to return.

“He takes his head in his hands as if holding it together.  He is in pain, more mental than physical.  His anguish is visible in every drop of sweat that falls from his forehead.  “Damn him.  Damn them all,” he whispers under his breath.  He runs into the street and disappears into the night.

“More footsteps above us.  Someone standing on the balcony calls into the darknesss with a restrained and husky voice, “Judas, Judas.  Please come back.”

“But Judas, if that was his name is gone.”

Throughout my life, I have been drawn to Judas Iscariot.  I do not paint him as a villain in my book.  If you read Gaspar, you will find that I view Pontius Pilate in a positive light as well, a man who does everything he can to save who he believes is a guiltless and inspired man.

During this special time of year, I invite you to skip the chocolate rabbits and read Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ.

On another note, 48 hours from now, I will be touching down in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where I will join Tony Sanneh and his Haitian Initiative Team.  If the electricity and Internet hold up in Port-au-Prince, I plan to post daily updates on my sister site, The Vitruvian Man.  See you there, and thanks for your continued support.

War Without Virtue

end warNo day passes when I do not receive a ‘tweet’ from the Wars in the World website informing me of more deaths around the world directly associated with armed conflict.  As an example, today, four Egyptian army soldiers were killed and 12 injured in an incident in the Sinai Peninsula.

At this moment, only two of the seven continents on this planet are unblemished by active war.  Sixty-six countries of the 196 in the world experience armed conflict today, conflict that involves 682 militia-guerilla, separatist and anarchic groups and governments that include combatants from the United States to drug cartels.  Of the 682, the most well funded warriors are from the United States.

These are not comforting statistics.

achillesThroughout the year, I take a few minutes each day to re-read parts of my earlier work.  This morning, I read the sequence in Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ as Gaspar gives a lesson to his students on ‘justice and right living.’  During Gaspar’s lecture, many of the students and instructors praised the deeds of the mighty Achilles who Homer tells us took his vengeance upon the Trojan champion Hector.  “And when the dying Trojan beseeched the Greek hero to return his body to his family for proper burial,” the belligerent instructor Alexander haughtily tells the students, “Achilles said he would rather carve the flesh from Hector’s bones and eat it raw than return it to Priam [Hector’s father].”  Aenesidemus, the master of the school raises his hands to restore order and concludes,

“At the very end of the epic {the Iliad], the great Achilles – who you just now applauded for his demonic savagery – weeps with Hector’s father Priam and returns the corpse to him.  The great Achilles weeps with the old man.  It is an act of compassion, and I wonder now, had the Greeks who sailed in their thousand ships and the Trojans who defended their city for so long had acted from the very beginning with the compassion Achilles showed at the end, would there have been a war?”

With so many countries engaged in so many conflicts as I write this post, I rue that too few lessons have been learned from the bad choices humankind has made throughout history.

Next time you are tempted to praise the virtues and ‘heroism’ of war, remember these words from Thomas Merton,

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.  It demands greater heroism than war.  It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

Thomas Merton

Mitakuye Oyasin.

‘Tis the Season of Peace, Joy and Love

GasparOne of the highlights of my year occurred in early January when my friend Father Paul asked if I would read the nativity sequence from my novel Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ at the Sunday Masses on Epiphany weekend.  Somewhat reluctant and embarrassed, I asked my friend and associate, actor, writer, musician Alistair McKenzie if he would come to Tucson from LA for the weekend to do it.  He graciously agreed.

Redemptorist Renewal CenterAs I relate the experience, I tell people, “I was sitting in the front row for three of Alistair’s readings.  I wrote the thing and I knew what was coming, but Alistair’s presentation forced me to choke back huge, emotional tears.”

As we embark on this season of peace, joy and love, I am reminded of what Christmas is really about.  I invite you to re-visit Alistair’s incredible reading to remind you of how and where this all began.  Click the link and scroll down to “The Christmas Story Audio.”

Peace and Blessings Always

Wisdom

wisdom

Melchior bows to Balthazar, then to me.  He smiles, “You are very young, not much more than a boy, but we welcome you as one of us now.  You do not have to be old to be wise.”

Melchior from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ

Gaspar and the Perennial Tradition

E.S. KraayBefore I wrote a single word to any of my books, I had a core concept clearly in my mind:  what is this book about?  In the case of Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ, I began – and finished – with the conviction that truth is universal, it is the same in the east as it is in the west.

For those of you who have read the book, you will understand that concept.  Gaspar’s story begins in ancient India, moves through the Fertile Crescent to ancient Ireland, returns to Rome and concludes in ancient Judea.  When his journey ends on Golgotha, he knows, as I know that truth is universal.  When Gaspar meets Yeshua on the Mount of Olives, he asks, “What have you learned?”  Yeshua replies,

“I have learned what I have known all along.  Truth is love and love is truth.  A man can love himself.  A man must love himself and a man must love all men on the earth as he loves himself.  That is truth, Gaspar.  There are seven directions and it is true no matter which direction you choose to follow.

“I have been East to you Kanheri, and it is true there.  I have been South to the source of the great river that feeds Egypt, and it is true there.  It is true to the north where winter never ends and where the ground is ever white with snow and ice.  It is true to where the sun sets far beyond the Pillars of Herakles.”  He points to the night sky.  “It is true where men live on distant stars deep in the heavens, and it is true at the very core of this world we inhabit.”  He places his palm upon his chest.  “Most importantly, it is true here, deep inside you where dwells your immortal self.”

I was inundated this week with the Perennial Philosophy.  Four years ago on my Vitruvian Man website, I wrote a post entitled Confluence of Faith, Aldous Huxley and Ruth.  It was about the Perennial Philosophy, man’s continual search for truth.  This week at Mass, we heard the beautiful story of Ruth throughout the week.  It reminded me of that post and drew me back to the Perennial Philosophy and my belief that truth is universal.

This morning, Franciscan Richard Rohr posted a brilliant meditation The Perennial Tradition.  It brought me full circle.  As Fra Rohr writes,

This larger and constantly recurring wisdom has been called the Perennial Tradition or the Perennial Philosophy. No one group owns this content, but most of us own parts of it, and for me the goal is to honor and include as many parts as I can, so that I can be truly catholic. We see this same inclusivity in Jesus to an amazing degree. I see this as the clearest indication that one practices “the true religion.” A true religion is precisely one that can teach you how to recognize and honor God everywhere, and not just inside your own group symbols.

For those of you who have read Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ, I hope this message came through to you loud and clear.  For those of you who have not yet entered its pages, I invite you to delve into it and the Perennial Philosophy that will indeed make this world a better place to be.

Aleph

Risen

Risen

 

“I hold the stones in my hand and stare at the ox head and the shepherd’s crook.  I once drew the symbol carved on the box on the floor of the cave in Fál.  The image of OM looks so much like the ox head and shepherd’s crook.  It is the same in the east as it is in the west and everywhere in between.

“I gaze at the hilltop a final time.  When this righteous man took his first breath, I was there, and I was here to see him take his last.

“The two have become one.  Knowing what I know, this is not the end, but the beginning.”

Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ

Gethsemane

Gethsemane … The word, the name has haunted me for a lifetime.  From Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ

“Raised voices of repressed anger rumble above us.  Heavy footsteps, perhaps a scuffle.  A chair grinds the floor, another falls heavily. Footsteps to the doorway, then down the steps outside.  A figure halts and stares into the room, probably not expecting to see us.  The man’s hair and eyes are dark, indecision and worry etched into the lines on his brow, so deep that they are shadowed.  He turns and takes a step toward the stairway, maybe thinking to return.

“He takes his head in his hands as if holding it together.  He is in pain, more mental than physical.  His anguish is visible in every drop of sweat that falls from his forehead.  ‘Damn, him!  Damn them all,’ he whispers under his breath.  He runs into the street and disappears into the night.

“More footsteps above us.  Someone standing on the balcony calls into the darkness with a restrained and husky voice, ‘Judas.  Judas.  Please come back.’

“But Judas, if that was his name is gone.”

Gaspar