Jack & Lucky Chapter 9, Part 2

Jack & Lucky Chapter 9, Part 2

Chapter index

Chapter 9, Part 2

Part 1

Saturday Jack heard from the new District Leader, Elder Kimble, some surprising news.

We found out that Elder Baldwin, my old companion, had committed adultery. He had probably been without his companion for a period, although we never found out all the details. That happened less than a month after I was with him. I had thought to myself that he would be one to go if ever anyone went. That isn’t prophetic, merely coincidental. I was saddened to hear the news.

Jack had never liked Elder Baldwin but didn’t wish anything bad on him. Baldwin was capable of doing that for himself. He had been prone to flirting with women, so maybe he fell into his own trap. Who knows?

Now I will initiate the daily diary and make a serious attempt to continue it.

The diary had been neglected. It is a mental barometer and is completed -up and down- in some proportion to the level of commitment to the work.

Al was a serious guitar player and Jack decided to take up the instrument. How better to use your time than learning to play music. On Sunday the 14th, the diary reads:

Up this morning at about 7:00 or so. Bathed, the last few days I’ve had bowel-movement problems.[constipation] Again this morning I was disturbed, nothing serious. I think too much spice in my food lately, not sure however. Then got ready for Church mingled with breakfast, Cream-of-Wheat and some guitar practice.

Then Priesthood, where the new district leader conducted his first meeting. I talked a bit on the Doctrine and Covenants. Then Sunday School. I directed the music and passed Sacrament.

Jack had been directing the music since the first Sunday in Bari. His companion had tried and proved to be inept so Jack agreed to take the job. It was entirely possible, considering Elder Will’s sly and exceptional intelligence, he purposely failed.

Then home, nothing special. One investigator student came, someone new. But he was welcomed and quickly taught.

So Jack is still capable of teaching when an opportunity presents itself, even if he is less than enthusiastic about it. Possibly his discouragement about being transferred around so frequently is disrupting his ability to concentrate and disabling his sense of spiritual focus. This certainly undermined his work ethic. Even a homing pigeon can get lost.

More important were his persistent questions about religion in general; these came and went like malaria fever. His extraneous reading was quinine, not cure, for the underlying affliction.

Jack was asked to write an article for the missionary newspaper the “Trumpet.” He described the new local church the others had found. He mentioned the Sunday School meeting when the student investigator dropped in; something about casting your bread on the water. This is a reference to a scripture from the New Testament. From this news article Jack was promoted to being a correspondent for the “Trumpet” and given the designation “European Information Service Coordinator.”

Monday was a day for real work.

Today we get a chance to work with the zone leaders. In order to do so we went over to the room of Elder Kimble’s to find out when.

Neither Jack nor Al were excited about working with these watchdogs. Jack hadn’t noticed that the pattern of his transfers followed closely after the visit of some inspired zone leaders. Their job was apparently to recommend changes, for better or worse.

We went out in the morning and afternoon with them. We tracted and taught a few Screening Discussions. Then we ate at the Mensa. We had to wait around in the park for sometime to pass because the zone leaders had to call the president. Then we continued to work after trading companions. We tracted and taught some. These places are real poor. Sometimes we attract the attention of several families at the same time and are surrounded by groups of inquisitive, shabby housewives and many cute little children. It’s a pleasurable experience for me to joke with them.

Some of the older ladies expressed fond memories of the American soldiers who came during World War II. They related how the Americans were quite active and had given them chocolate and nylon stockings in exchange for sexual pleasure. Most of this historical account came in a dialect with which Jack and his companion the zone leader were not acquainted. They understood the gist of the conversation because their sign language, accompanied by animated facial expressions and hand signs, was easy enough to decipher.

The old ladies saw in the two, tall Americans the same potency they had experienced personally. Their toothless, unashamed smiles were far removed from the youthful beauty they had once exploited. Yet they had a certain daring charm that would never be destroyed with age or painful poverty. They were not bashful, reinforced as they were by their friends in this small clutch. They expressed their appreciation for the healthy physiques of the two missionaries using the same reasonably explicit hand signs.

Jack and Al, working separately with the ZL’s, did more tracting in this one day than they had during the previous weeks together. Although, neither of them were very keen to admit it.

Jack and Al resisted getting into the swing of things, the next day they were once again very nonchalant about their purpose.

Up a little late, ate, etc. Then we went out to tract until early lunch at the Mensa. Then I bought a guitar lesson book.

Jack and Elder Will were going slowly for different reasons. Elder Will actually professed a knowledge of the Mormon Truth, but was worried to distraction by the pending loss of his girlfriend back home. Jack’s distraction was, for the time being, generated by his lack of “spirituality.”

After lunch they spent a good share of the time sitting on a park bench in the middle of their area.

Then tracted but everyone is either eating or sleeping. Then we went home. I slept on the bus I was so sleepy. At home we meet the district leader who gave us an appointment at the church. We promised to take it… We had trouble with the busses so we were 1/2 hour late… We taught a Screening Discussion to the boy the DL gave us. Then home and missed the plumber. Then waited for the zone leaders to come by. I played the guitar for a while. Then they came, not much was done. They [the ZL’s] just said trite things.

Being late to their appointments was symbolic of the attitude with which the two elders attacked their work. In their unique ways, they were taking their lives very seriously, they just weren’t taking their work very seriously for the time being. Jack was flying against strong winds to find his perch. Al was just soaring to stay alive.

Jack passed his idle time on the balcony breathing the fresh air of the Mediterranean climate high above the smell of cars and dirty streets. While reading Kennedy by Sorensen:

I noticed a couple of pigeons having a contest, a male and female probably. The male was chasing the other with his tail flared out. The female was leading him on, it seemed teasing, or possibly moving away out of disgust. Then the female flew to the next building. The male looked with hurt feelings, and with hurt pride and flew down and away. The female stood looking either sad at his departure or glad to be free from his actions. So is it with life. The sensitivities of people are strange but predictable within certain bounds.

Jack identified with the male pigeon. At the same time he could understand the point of view of the female. Another Dialectic.

The next day the two, now more closely scrutinized, actually went out on their own to do some work.

We left the house and my companion got a hair cut. Then saw a few comebacks, then a lesson, a Screening Discussion a good family. Then home on the bus. Then we ate. My companion cooked while I read `Discourse on Method‘ by Descartes. A good lecture on the theory of God. Now to bed.

Al Will was feeling some physical discomfort with frequent headaches.

This morning we took the bus to a small village nearby to visit a good doctor to whom my companion had been referred. Then I slept while he got checked. He has to take some medicine. He has high blood pressure.

It’s possible to get high blood pressure from the process of losing one’s girl, certainly from worrying about it too much. That could be the case with Elder Will, love sick.

Then we went home where he stayed quiet all day and I read out on the balcony. I like to read. Through dinner I read. Before bed I did pushups and sit ups, then read some more. I’m back on a push-up routine. I’m beginning at 20 push ups then 50 sit ups and 10 more push ups. Trying to build up.

This was the day Jack had enough idle time to begin another series in his journal. This was distinct from his diary because it contained his deeper thoughts. His mind had created a whole reservoir of ideas only weakly damned by his escape into reading and occasional willingness to work. The journal describes his state of mind, rather than his activities. His writing reflects his recent pre-occupation with the lofty Western Philosophy of Descartes and Socrates.

May 19, 1967: I begin this the fourth of a series of my thoughts with anxiety to make a record before they elapse into oblivion. I have the aid of a notebook in which I have recorded my ideas for the past period consisting of about 9 months. With this tool I hope to be more lucid and comprehensive…

As I sit reading about the pre-existence and the war at that time (in Jesus the Christ) I begin to notice the consistency demonstrated between this story and the actual known history of mankind. In so doing I find a need in my mind to realize the reasons existing in mankind to permit a continuation of this barbaric attitude [glorification of war] as I would define it. Up to this time I have found no volume that treats the psychological as well as the physical or conditional necessities of war as an activity.

It seems ironic in my mind that there should exist in man an attitude so self-destructive but yet so persistent. I can see how I have been developed to detest the exigencies of war and also the contradiction that it gives to the existence of man.

If I were to approach a complete examination of this attitude toward war it would involve considerable research and labor. I feel a resigned frustration–which consists of a stark realization of the probable continuation of war. In order to eliminate war, those who are the cause would have to be extinguished. To do that would necessitate a belligerent act in itself and no doubt would breed more belligerence.

I would conclude that it is the plan of God to provide the essential elements [for war] to men or allow their provision by another source [the Devil], to be consistent with some higher rule. Higher not meaning better–as compared to our standards for rules–but meaning, in position where we have no control–simply out of our reach of understanding.

This was a time of war in Vietnam and wars in many small countries around the world were often only footnotes in the news. But Jack felt this suffering and frequently meditated about it; especially once a year when it was time to report to his draft board. He had been granted a student deferment, now he was on a missionary deferment. He would return home to a world still at war. The recent visit to the US military base brought this issue to mind.

Certainly the paradox and the futility of the Vietnam war and the growing political controversy had not missed his attention. He kept abreast of these issues by reading Time Magazine. This idea of “the inevitability of war” had haunted him for many years. Mormons were not “conscientious objectors” as were the Quakers and some Muslims. The Mormons believed in a God that would “fore-ordain” war, and thus predispose Man to make war. Jack could see that this was a belief in an absurd God. He eventually rebelled against this “inevitability” in the same way he rebelled against religion.

“Man could and therefore must control his own destiny,” he wrote. Was this a contradiction of the “higher rule” or purpose Jack is referring to in a confused way?

He believed that no god or higher law predetermined the act of war. Some people are predisposed to aggression but that did not make war inevitable for anybody during any epoch. No religious creed was valid if it insisted on war being inevitable or used war to advance its own biases, such as during the Crusades. To say that war is inevitable, is the lowest form of cynicism.

I can see also in my mind an impetuous nature which I must learn to control and I must learn to plan and be patient but always try to keep before my mind my essential goals.

This was a self-criticism of his current state of affairs, vaguely related to the subject of war.

I see present in my existence the desire to escape from any necessity to believe in God, simply a reversion to my Self. But yet there is always a silent urge in my nature (because it seems to me spontaneous) that compels a recognition of God. This testifies of the other obligations I have taken upon myself in the religion I embrace. Although it seems that this idea–however strong–could also be a product of the teaching I received.

To say that, would make obvious the thought that one could be taught to negate the existence of God. And I would almost count them fortunate because I suffer from the pangs of a guilty conscience for having not met my religious obligations. I am caused to think that those under a Communist system would be taught the lack of God and therefore would not have this recurrent idea of failure as I have witnessed.

Jack could see that the logic underlying belief or atheism, of accepting or denying god in these two different circumstances was the same, IF it was just a reaction to what one had been taught. The logic underlying the assertion of god’s existence was no different than the assertion of god’s denial. It was only when these assertions were accompanied by reasonable or emotional arguments that they became distinguishable.

The dialectic nature of Jack’s thinking pattern hadn’t faded entirely with his commitment to missionary work. It may be at a crossroads, if so, it is there during the rush-hour; too much traffic, too much information, too much confusion. He was unable to go one way or the other at present. He is clearly in confused transition.

In effect he was challenging his own nature as being a product of brainwashing. He was looking for the raw “self” where he could either make contact with a sensitive spirituality or exert leadership to break clear of his dilemma. You can’t get satisfaction by forcing the issue or by reaching too fast, as Al Will had admonished.

Jack found himself in a non-physical Hades, hungry for answers and facts to support his intellectual conclusions, thirsty for spiritual sensitivity to confirm his traditional beliefs, yet reaching neither. This modern Tantalus was reaching desperately. Human nature hadn’t changed in the intervening millennia. You have to stop trying; pause in order to let answers enter on their own accord, especially if the kind of answer you want, religious certainty, relies on intuition. Al Will was right about that too but that was not the kind of answer for which Jack was searching. He was looking in a very different direction, toward logic.

As I say this I wonder about rationalizations which are put forward about Satan–and so all my ideas are confused–seeing a problem and immediately recognize an assumed solution.

There must be a position of intellect–not a genius–but above average that places a person in a capacity of thought that leaves him thoroughly confused because of his recognition of many plausible or presumably plausible solutions to the same problem. But I am left in a confusion because no certainty can be obtained. Objectivity is confusing unless boundaries are placed on the ideas to be considered. A decision is easy when few contingencies are involved but when there are many and each defeating the other–where is the basis for decision?

Jack is referring to the time honored assertion that Satan exists because of the existence of evil. Like a mathematician, he is trying to prove a theorem “God Exists” by examining its null set or negating the opposite. If you could be taught to believe in Satan you could just as easily be taught to deny Satan.

These cryptic remarks are easy to gloss over but represent the most important preoccupations in Jack’s mind which will have important ramifications in subsequent months of thinking. This is a reasonably clear statement of a timeless philosophical problem about “certainty” and how to gain knowledge. It’s a statement of the problem but not the answer. When Jack chose Elder Seaburg with whom to discuss his concerns about prayer, he did so because of Seaburg’s high level of intelligence and sincere faith. Their future discussions would eventually challenge Jack’s doubts by suggesting religious inquiry required a different kind of investigation than that which could be applied to scientific problems. This is what Jack means when he is saying: “boundaries must be placed on the ideas to be considered.”

This is so important that it deserves advance acknowledgement. Jack will confront and deny this argument yet to be presented by Elder Seaburg who is defending his own claim of religious knowledge. Thus it is possible to see the progression of Jack’s ideas in ever more sophisticated levels of skepticism. Jack would consider Seaburg’s approach “stacking the deck” in favor of accepting an ideology, by creating a logic that gives certain kinds of concepts – religious inquiry – special treatment.

Later, Jack will establish there must be a precaution introduced to any religious questioning. This precaution involves at least understanding the assumptions by which we judge information. That is the purpose of his suggesting the comparison of a belief in God to a belief in Satan. Although it is not so clear as that from Jack’s writing in Bari, this important theme will develop later.

I have recently been reading some discourses by Rene’ Descartes who began his examination for truth–and concluded things–but I can only think that he accomplished little or nothing that I can accept. He recognized his existence which I cannot accept because I can recognize only my own. He himself was restricted to this same limit. But on the other hand, I accept his existence with ease because of its seeming logic; as I accept the existence of all others and history and the reality of existence of which I have experienced and heard.

Now with this [after accepting the existence of the world] there is still the problem of deciding or realizing what one should do in life. The answer for this is easily found in my religion. But the idea of a search [for knowledge of how to live] is not the least diminished by the suggestion of a feasible answer. Even though I accept those religious ideas as the Truth, I feel compelled to continue finding reasonable evidence to support this with my senses–which will prove satisfactorily to me that those principles are valid. This is in effect saying that I am searching for a sign. Although that also is discouraged by the scriptures, it nevertheless exists in me and I find myself among those of a cursed intellectual attitude.

Jack considers himself a casualty of too much thinking, in a timeless war of religion vs. secular humanist thought. He supposes that he is disposed to be a casualty because of his particular level of intelligence. Too much IQ to let the questions lie, not enough to figure them out cleanly.

With the recognition of all these conditions present in my mind I will accept reality which is itself a meritorious act according to society. And I will attempt to explain my attitudes towards various aspects of this reality as I have recorded them since my last writing of this work.

Sometimes people cling to their ideas and writings such as these as a form of fecal retention. As crude as that sounds it is quite often the case. Sometimes people write because they have to excrete their thoughts before they become overburdened. Once having created a pile of writings they become fond of them. As trite or mundane as these writings may be, they are retained and cherished.

The difference between fecal retention and keeping important manuscripts is not determined by the process of creation or the motivation for writing. The process is the same for any quality of writing. The motivation is more difficult to analyze and thus becomes irrelevant. The difference between fecal retention and keeping a masterpiece is determined much later by society as it judges the quality of the ideas and the writing itself. If the sentiments being projected are important to other people and well expressed, then they should be retained and will be cherished by others. If the ideas are little more than drivel, one can be properly accused of fecal retention. The fact that Jack had been constipated lately and then found relief in no way qualifies the nature of his ideas or explains his motivation for retaining them. The parallel should not go without mentioning, however.

On to Part 3
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