The Societal Pits and the Emotional Pendulums

“The Pit and the Pendulum” is a short story by the 19th century horror master, Edgar Allen Poe.  It tells of a Frenchman’s brush with a horrific death during the Spanish Inquisition.  For those of you whose history is a bit fuzzy, the Spanish Inquisition was a forceful, futile attempt to keep Spain Catholic.  It began in 1478 and wasn’t definitively abolished until 1834.  Heresy was illegal and punishable by death so the Inquisition was started to be sure there were no unjust executions.  Good intentions gone awry and taken too far.  About 150,000 people were charged with crimes and 3,000 to 5,000 were executed.  Eventually targeted were Jews and Muslims, former Jews and Muslims who were thought to have not given up their ways, Protestants (although they were already in the minority), Witches, blasphemers, bigamists, sodomites (LGBT?), Freemasons, and women who did not fit the accepted idea of how a woman should act and what she should do.  It started out with “evidence” gathering:  testimony from neighbors and observations of the accused’s activities to find anything that would show a lifestyle other than mainstream Catholicism.  For example, a family who routinely bought extra food on Friday and none on Saturday might be observing the Jewish Sabbath.  After not too long, physical coercion was added.  In other words, torture.

In Poe’s story, a man has been found guilty and condemned to death.  He is placed in a pitch-black cell and discovers, by almost falling into it, that there is a deep, water and creature filled, circular pit in the middle of it.  He passes out and awakens strapped to a wooden palate.  His prison is now dimly lit.  This light is enough for him to see a sharp blade suspended above him.  He watches the blade swing slowly right to left dropping a small amount with each swing.  With the help of the local rat population he is able to free himself.  Now, however, two opposing walls of the room move toward each other, pushing him into the pit.  Just when he is on the brink of destruction, the walls stop, his cell is entered and a French army officer grabs him.  Spain has been invaded.

This summary does not do the intensity of the story justice.  Check out your local library or The Literature Network (link on the list to the right) for the full story.  What it does is form a basis for comparison to today’s social pits and emotional pendulums that we, the citizens of the world, should strive to not fall into and work to not be destroyed by.

The pit of tolerance, the pendulum of respect.

One definition of the word tolerance as found in good ol’ Meriam Webster is: “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs and practices different from one’s own.”  Should one allow another to practice religion, live a lifestyle or have a belief system that is different?  Certainly, as long as the religion, lifestyle or system does not injure, kill, damage, steal, extort, you get the idea.  Should the other in turn allow the one to practice religion, live a lifestyle or have a belief system that is different?  (With the above restrictions of course.)  Again, certainly.  What if the one has a request of the other, seemingly benign, that the other deems a violation of belief or an insult?  Tolerance becomes a pit when the pendulum of respect has not stopped at its middle.  Meriam Webster tells us that respect is: “to consider deserving of high regard” or “to refrain from interfering with.”  In this case, the pendulum swings from respect of self but not others to respect of others but not self.  At the former end, the request is denied with the requestee feeling insulted but justified and the requestor feeling upset, angry, insulted and wanting satisfaction.  Pistols at 100 paces has been replaced by court dates, less deadly, more expensive.  At the latter end, the request is granted, leaving the requestee frustrated and let down with himself for going against his beliefs or not standing up against the insult.  The requestors will be perfectly happy and blissfully unaware, leaving the possibility open for repeat actions perhaps not with such a satisfying ending.  If the balance of respect for self and others is obtained, the requestee either kindly denies the request adding a suggestion of where to go for fulfillment, or he finds a way to fulfill what is asked and not compromise his beliefs.  Above all, he does not take insult.  The requestor, having the same balance, accepts the denial and goes elsewhere, or finds a way to fill the request himself.  Above all, he also does not take insult.

The pit of bigotry, the pendulum of fear.

A bigot according to Webster is:  “one intolerantly devoted to his own church, party or opinion.”  Bigotry can be innocently created when one ignorantly stays staunchly with one’s belief system and excludes all other information.  This kind reverses with knowledge:  getting to know the strange neighbors, learning about another church, culture or way of life are examples.  The creatures in the pit of bigotry are fear fed.  Fear of losing one’s identity, fear of physical harm, or fear of divine retribution are common pit food.  Usually one’s sense of self solidifies with knowledge.  Love one another as I have loved you is divine counsel.  But, physical harm sometimes is a valid concern.  The pendulum of fear swings from fear inspiring intolerance, leading to negative or destructive actions to fearless acceptance of any and all.  Acceptance that is so wide open one loses sight of moral proprieties and divinely set boundaries.  The central point contains enough concern to inspire thought provoking conversation and learning about how “their ideas/lifestyle” and “ours” can peacefully co-exist.  Mental strategies are then created and put into place to “love the sinner and hate the sin.”  Friendships are created, bridges are built, understanding and love flourish.  On the one end of the swing are the actions that are all to commonly reported in the media, fighting, lawsuits, sustained hatred, lawlessness.  Leaving the pendulum on the other would be a boring day on CNN indeed, but is that the best for each side?  If the difference is just difference, ancestral nationality, language, food choices, religious beliefs, all those parts of cultural difference, stopping the swing at the wide-open end may be as good as resting it in the center.  However, if the difference is associated with a moral imperative or divine command, the Acceptor could easily lose spiritual balance.  Should one be rejected due to ways of living that are contrary to our ways?  As above, as long as those ways do not injure, kill, damage, steal, extort, etc., most certainly not.  Should another embrace the ways to the point of avoiding subjects that, through stating truths, negatively criticize the way or shun one?  Should the other be so concerned with the feelings of the one as to give comfort and apologies when anything is said that puts the way into a negative light?  If that way is against divinely set boundaries, most certainly not!  Feelings, desires, wishes are not sins.  As the saying goes, “stress is when the mind overrides the body’s desire to choke the daylights out of a jerk who desperately needs it.”  Crime would be actually doing it.  Crime is committing actions that violate man’s law.  Sin is committing actions that violate God’s laws.  There are various consequences for crime, but only repentance for sin.  Repentance involves a measure of discomfort.  That’s the way God communicates the need to change.  If one feels uncomfortable during a conversation, perhaps God is saying something and one needs to listen.  For another to attempt to relieve the discomfort is doing one a grave disservice.

The pit of despair, the pendulum of selfishness.

Despair is beyond sadness or depression.  It is losing all hope, all confidence in one’s life.  The pendulum of selfishness swings from narcissistic “I am the center of and reason for all life” to uncontrolled selflessness.  This is putting others before self to the point of neglect of basic needs and fostering feelings of worthlessness.  Despair flourishes at this end.  In the center, lies an area where one is able to meet one’s basic physical and emotional needs and then gives to others.  This area also includes allowing others to give, while graciously receiving the gifts.  Unless genuine mental illness is present, we, human kind, need to be needed.  We need to feel worthwhile and important to those around us.  The best way to do this is to serve and graciously accept service.  Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  The upside-down is also true.  If you love people, you have no time to judge them.  Keeping your selfishness pendulum in the center not only avoids despair, but also bigotry and keeps tolerance and respect in a healthy balance.

Thanks for reading.

Retire or Retread?

Next Life chapter:  Retire or Retread

What is your next Life chapter?

Now and then, on my way to here and there, I see shells of a tire on the roadside.  Not the whole tire, just a piece of the outside, as if someone cut a ragged slice off of the tread.  Sometimes they are called Road Alligators, but I have always heard them called retreads.  According to, a retread is a tire that has had a new tread glued onto or cut into the old, worn down surface.  So when a set of automobile tires no longer passes inspection, the owner either re-tires (buys new tires) or retreads.  A retread is also a person retrained for a new job or “a person representing older or previous times, ideas, policies, etc., especially when they are deemed passé or tiresome.”

                Two of the definitions of the word retire are, to remove or withdraw oneself and to quit working or leading an active life due to age.  In two years, I will retire from my position in Granite School District.  I will quit working full time as a Registered Nurse but I have no intention of withdrawing or removing myself from an active life.  I think I’ll retread.  Art classes sound good.  Volunteering in a hospital or school doing “busy work” to free up the Nurses and Teachers is another option.  Or maybe I’ll be a story reader in my local library.  Most of all I intend to be a person who represents older values.  Much older, as in “in the beginning was the word”, especially when they are deemed passé or tiresome.

So, what is your next Life chapter?


Little Free Library Update

This story about a story is wonderful! The book and likely the series sounds very interesting and worth the look.

Records of the Ohanzee

Little Free Library There’s Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror on top of the stack!

Two years ago, I dropped off a copy of the first edition of my book, Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror, in the Little Free Library that stands beside the local bike trail. (See the original post from August 2015 here.) I wrote an inscription on the inside in the hopes of one day hearing from someone who happened to pick up the book. Weeks passed, then months and years, and I assumed that the book must have disappeared somewhere along it’s journey.

And then–just last week–something amazing happened. This appeared on Instagram…


You can imagine my surprise at seeing one of the few original copies of my book make an appearance after so many years. But this wasn’t simply one of the originals…


…it was the copy I left in the Little Free Library. And…

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“Just a piece of string”

photo credit:

Latter-day Saints have a service each first Sunday of the month called Fast and Testimony meeting.  The day before we fast two meals and give the cost, or more to the Fast Offering fund.  Then in place of a regular church service we have a time when whoever wishes to may stand and bear testimony to how the gospel and God have helped their lives.  Yesterday was Testimony meeting for September.

One young member, about 10 or 11 years old.  Stood and bore a beautiful testimony of how forgiveness helps her.  She come from a loving, supportive family.  They sit reasonably well behaved during church and I have seen her help with younger sibling.  So, at first glance one wonders what she has to forgive.  Well, she’s the oldest of four girls and as the second oldest of five girls, I can relate.  She has three younger sisters!

She stated that forgiving someone makes her feel good.  That she thinks it is easy and then finds out it can be hard.  She said, “I think sometimes, we say we forgive, but do we really?  I have to forgive my sisters and I have to forgive my friends, and I have to forgive myself.”

photo credit:

The story goes that one day, a soldier traveling between battles, found himself in a small town.  He was jauntily strolling the streets when he saw a length of colorful string on the sidewalk.  He picked it up and put it into his pocket thinking, perhaps I can use this, it might bring me luck.  Later that day, as the soldier was enjoying a simple but delicious dinner, he was accosted by the local constabulary, arrested for theft and taken to jail.  It seems a girl had lost her brightly colored purse and someone had seen the soldier pick up a brightly colored object and place it into his pocket.

Try as he might, even by producing the string, the soldier could not convince the suspicious folk he was not the thief.  Some days later, the purse was found and the soldier was unceremoniously released.

Feeling that he was justly insulted for being unjustly condemned, he tried to obtain an apology from the locals, to no avail.  Finally, he left town but told his tale of woe to everyone he encountered, without ceasing.  In fact, his last mortal words were, “a piece of string, it was just a piece of string.”

I looked for a picture of forgiveness and found a quote, lots of them.   One site listed 2461 quotes tagged as forgiveness.  Obviously more people than my young church sister think that forgiveness is important.

Someone, perhaps the great philosopher Anonymous wrote, “To heal a wound you need to stop touching it.”  As a nurse, I understand that.  Even a simple cut can become infected and enlarged if not treated properly and then left alone to heal.  A small scab may become an ugly scar if repeatedly ripped off before it falls on its own.  How many emotional wounds do we keep touching?

My young church sister asked the question, “I think sometimes, we say we forgive, but do we really?”  I’m asking what if?

What if the leaders on both sides of the conflict in ___pick a place____ decided to take Oscar Wilde’s advice, “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much?”  Well, that’s pretty obvious, ISIS would simply be an old Egyptian goddess (a peaceful one at that), and the newspaper would be a lot thinner.

What if then, if you and I forgave our sisters, brothers, friends, parents, children, co-workers, idiots on the road or in Congress, would we even have the inclination to make enemies?

Above all, what if we forgave ourselves?

A Sweet Love Story

I usually don’t read those internet stories.  You know, the ones you have to click through an unearthly number of pages wishing all the time it would have just been put on one:  why this celebrity did this, what this one looks now is whatever, and see what we caught on a hidden camera (seriously who cares), but, I am a sucker for animal stories.  This one makes me wonder, if a person can care this much for a dog, surely we all can care this much for each other.  Honestly, it’s worth the clicks.