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"Things Change, People Change"

     A fellow in the North Valley of Albuquerque is threatened
with six months in jail because stray dogs came on his place and
ate raw chicken that had been soaked in anti-freeze.
     In the old days a dog out of its fenced-in yard and not on a
leash was an illegal substance.  In my younger days I defined
every dog on my fenced-in place as my dog and exercised sovereign
life-and-death rights over it, just as I did over the chickens
and rabbits.  I killed many stray dogs with the expressed
approval of Animal Control officers and County Sheriff Deputies. 
"Yes, Sir, we sure do need help in clearing the stray dogs out of
the South Valley."
     Once I caught a dog attacking the rabbits in their hutches. 
I shot him in the snow, and the bloody trail he left behind
looked like Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.  Another time I
didn't miss, and the Animal Control people hauled the carcass
away, saying, "Call us any time, Sir!"  But things have changed,
and the fellow in Duranes, trying to protect his place from stray
dogs without discharging a firearm within city limits is paying
dearly for it.  Things change.  
     The Synod of New Mexico of the Presbyterian Church used to
meet for several days in mid-summer at Ghost Ranch.  After the
evening session, a bridge game started up near the snack-bar.  An
elder-delegate, Harry Brandt, headmaster of Menaul School in
those days, was one of the players.  Another elder delegate
approached the game and said to Mr. Brandt, "I'm Prospero
Jaramillo.  I want you to know that I was permanently expelled
from Menaul High School as a student, years ago, for playing
cards!"  The players laid their cards down on the table and
stared at each other.  They found it hard to pick them up and
resume the game.  Things change.
     There is a section of hell, not the lowest most miserable
circle, but somewhere in the mid-section, reserved for those who
committed a certain special sin.  No new residents have come to
this circle for some years.  All the inhabitants are Old-timers. 
These are the damned lost souls who defied the rules and ate meat
on Friday.  They never bothered to distinguish between venal and
mortal sins.  The distinction seemed stupid to them.  So here
they are, damned forever, and with no newcomers to join them and
liven things up.  They have heard rumors that persons who eat 
round steak and pork chops and chicken and turkey on Friday will
not be coming, because the rules have been changed and it's no
longer a sin to eat any meat other than fish on Friday.  Things
     People change, too.  I changed from a professional
clergyman, what we cynics now refer to as an "ecclesiasticator,"
into an anti-ecclesiastical activist, who insists on serious
consideration of the Big Questions, more than really good
ecclesiasticators ever would dare.  Over the same decades my
brother-in-law changed from a left-wing liberal activist into an
extreme right-wing conservative apologist, who has great respect
for Eliot Abrams, Jean Kirkpatrick and Thomas Sowell.
     I think my brother-in-law's change was what Joseph Campbell
calls "enantiodromia" -- "running into opposite," with little
change of heart at the deeper levels.  It was all theory and
intellectual games and verbal manipulation from the beginning,
and he simply changed theories, for reasons that are not clear,
at least not yet clear to me.
     My change was the result of an awareness, which grew slowly
over time, that the ecclesiastical institution does not serve
well the ideals and values which I have held fairly consistently
all along, namely equality, sharing, fairness, extra empathy for
those who work hard and for those who suffer as a result of
others' greed.  War was the main issue back then, and I found
that the church was really on the wrong side, so I changed sides. 
I did not change my basic value/belief system.  
     I still believe in a sort of Cosmic Justice, even though I
doubt that there is a God anything like the one described by
ecclesiastical institutions.  I also have come to believe that
the leaders of those institutions do not believe in The
Undeviating Justice at all.  The great atheists of our time, like
Marx and Freud, have more "faith" than popes and TV evangelists,
who couldn't possibly believe in a Just God and do what they do.

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Copyright © 2000 Harry Willson

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