by Nicholas P. Snoek
Pim is at the house, one of Neddie's friends. Pim Steward is a strong young fellow, about seventeen, light curly hair, blue eyes, wide forehead, triangle face. He tells Jack he can get him hired on where he works, at a construction job, building an addition to a school in a small mining town near Princeton.
Jack has the feeling there must have been a family pow wow about his escapade, and this offer is the result.
"But I'm not old enough to work in construction."
Pim, "Oh, don't worry about that. You'd be a carpenter's helper. They won't even ask your age. You're plenty big enough, and if anybody says anything, just tell them you're sixteen."
"Okay, but we'd better go see the mink farmer, to clear things up with him. I don't want this to reflect on Dad."
So they go to see Mr Volver.
He doesn't mind, "If this is a chance for you to get a start in construction, go for it. I can find another helper, no problem. You didn't like it here anyway, I could see that."
Sunday morning Pim and Jack set out for Princeton, about a three hour drive.
`The westward wind, that yearns to wander...'
Pim has a small travel trailer set up on the work site, with just room enough for two people. It's kind of fun. They get a few things for breakfast at a corner store, and go up to a little lake in the hills for a swim.
In the morning Pim introduces Jack to the boss, and all is set; Jack can start right away. He does the same sort of thing as at the mink farmer's new house. He carries lumber, shovels dirt, digs ditches, fetches nails, strapping, tar paper, sealant, insulation. Whatever anyone needs done or moved or brought from one place to another. It's hot, but Jack likes the work. Nice and mindless, so he can think about more important things.
Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, ontogeny, phylogeny, genetic drift. How did it, how does it, how could it, all happen?
Pim meets a local girl, and starts to hang around with her. Her parents don't like him; he's too old for her. But Sharon is friendly and personable. A bit chubby for Jack's taste, but Pim is not so particular. Towards the end of their stay the three of them take to going to a park, and Pim and his girlfriend make love in a shed while Jack reads a book in the shade of a tree, and keeps an eye out for anyone coming. He feels a bit guilty, this girl being so young, but it's not for him to tell Pim what to do.
She's so warm and open with Jack too... he wonders if she would... But that would be a betrayal all around.
The last week before Jack has to be back at school there's a small circus in town. And Jack finds out something else about himself; he's a sucker for a long shot. He loses all of his money at one of the gambling booths.
Being really smart, thinking you can do or get away with anything, the sheer excitement of risking an unknown outcome... Jack just cannot resist. It's a lesson, an expensive one.
He'll have to avoid gambling situations.
Sadly, he tells Pim that he's lost all his money. Pim is upset, seeing all that work go to waste. But, it's too late. It's gone. Hard come, easy go.
Jack lies awake a long time that evening.
/// Hmm. There she is again. "Hello, Deborah."
"Hello, Jack. You don't seem very happy."
"No, I guess not."
"A lot has happened since we spoke. And you have some problems of conscience. Or you have some problems because you do not find in yourself a healthy conscience."
"You seem to know it all; I may as well not bother."
"No, no. Come on, Jack, don't get discouraged. You're not an evil person; you're far from being beyond hope. Remember, you have an unusual history, and your sense of identity has not developed in the best way."
"What would the development of my sense of identity have to do with my conscience?"
Laughing softly, "I thought you'd never ask. Let's go over it." And she leads the way to the tables near the crystal game.
"Are we going to play again?"
"No, not this time. Okay, you've come across the teaching of the primacy of the individual conscience. Can you tell me about it? What does it mean to you?"
"Well, as I see it, if you honestly believe something is morally right, then for you it will not be sinful, even if it might be so for someone else."
"Good. Well put. Now, how do you think this could be acceptable? Wouldn't it result in chaos or anarchy, with everyone setting his own rules and working out his own morals?"
"That crossed my mind. I wondered how St Augustine's dictum `Love and do what you will' fits in. It was sort of an example."
"Exactly. There are three conditions or provisos which make the primacy of the personal conscience workable and defensible. And they all have to do with what goes into one's conscience.
The first is, that we must be careful, as we interpret our inner voices or promptings, to distinguish between our echoic recordings with their concomitant emotion, on the one side, and legitimate promptings on the other."
"Yes. As we listen to what others say, especially when we're very young, we have a tendency to just store away the sounds, so we gather an ever growing library, like tape recordings, of all that we have heard. Not accurate point for point recordings, mind you, but more like background echoes. And naturally, what we hear most often and with the strongest emphasis, is the most likely to come up for playback. So that is what comes to mind, that's what we tend to hear, when we try to think of what to do or how to interpret a moral or an ethical problem.
We too easily accept an urging which may be triggered only by a superficial similarity to a part or aspect of the issue at hand. But if the association is not valid, the advice derived from a recording at such a time is not likely to be appropriate. Okay, that's the first.
The second is, the person must be actuated by the noblest and best of motives, as illustrated in `love and do what you will' where it is an all-encompassing all-consuming love of God that is active.
Remember Jesus gave as the first and greatest commandment, to love God, without reserve. If you love God with your whole heart, mind and soul, then to do what you will cannot be a source of evil or wrong, because you cannot then will what is wrong. Do you see what I mean?"
"Right, yes. So what's the third?"
"The third is that the person who invokes this privilege of exercising his personal conscience rather than trying to follow preordained or authority-sanctioned rules or guidelines, has a corresponding and concomitant responsibility, to so inform his mind and conscience that he will receive from it the promptings that would be in keeping with the principles of Jesus.
To find in you
The Jesus thing to do
You must have Jesus in you"
"And this I have not done."
"And this you have not done."
"But I have tried. And I could not get back to it."
"Yes, you've made some effort. But occasional bouts of repentance and remorse are no substitute for a consistent and disciplined regimen of spiritual striving.
And it need not be so formal or strict as that sounds. Just think about what it is you're doing, and how it will affect others. If you can see that it would hurt someone and you can think of a way to lessen or avoid that hurt, then take the appropriate avenue to minimize any harm or to avoid it altogether.
Your running away from home accomplished very little, and it hurt your family. And your not speaking up to Pim about his girl friend may result in damage that could have been avoided."
"You think I should have challenged Pim about that? But it was not my business. And he was my sponsor in this job. Also, he's older than I am."
"There's always choices, Jack. You wouldn't have had to challenge him. A discussion about what might happen to Sharon might have accomplished something."
"I guess you're right. I never really feel it's my place to tell others they're doing wrong. It seems to me inappropriate for anyone to chastise someone else on moral grounds, because the other has the responsibility himself to follow his conscience."
"As I said, Jack, there's different ways to do things. You don't have to be moralistic or pretentious about it; if you have a problem with another's actions or attitude, you could very likely find a way to make that known without being offensive."
"But making my views known wouldn't accomplish anything, would it? Everyone has his own views and works out his actions accordingly. No one is likely to switch to my ideas."
"You underestimate the impact you can have, Jack. Merely making another person aware of an alternative, clearly and quietly presented, can be a compelling influence."
"Okay, I can see that. That's a big responsibility."
"Much is asked from those to whom much is given."
"Whew! Okay. Now what about this identity thing?"
"Oh. Right. If you remember, I explained to you before how a mother will typically treat a child as if it has a self, an identity, and in constantly addressing the child by its name she causes it to associate the name with the developing self. This encourages her child to conceptualize the self-as-center and start to organize its experiences in relation to that center.
As it learns to process experiences in relation to a body of beliefs built up on self predications the child gradually deploys a sense of self that plays a part in its consciousness something like the field of gravity in physics. A unified field which, although it cannot be directly experienced, yet has the property of providing a framework, a reference field by means of which the knowledge derived from experience can be organized. Picture it something like an embroidery hoop."
"An embroidery hoop?"
"Yes. You know, like you've seen Mrs Schuurman use when she's doing needlework?"
"You know about all that, too?"
"Yes, yes. Never mind about that.
Back to self and others. Let me approach it another way. The first sign of a moral break-through in a child's development is its adoption of the point of view of another. But that step can be made only after there is a secure and consistently maintained self.
When this happens, a concern for another being becomes possible, and with such a concern you have the basis for the golden rule. And the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is the beginning of spirituality. So you can see, can't you, where the connection lies between conscience and a good strong identity? Conscience has to build on identity."
"So you're saying that morality depends on a good strong sense of self."
"Exactly. Sometimes there is an in between stage. Children occasionally exteriorize some aspect of their developing consciousness in the form of an invisible friend. It helps them deal with the concept of self as other. The `friend' is self and other at the same time, a transition stage from self alone to the realization and acceptance of another-as-self. You understand?"
"Isn't that dangerous? And isn't it a kind of lying?"
"No, not in that form. It's play-learning. The externalizing is actually healthy, therapeutic. An emotional release mechanism.
Mind you, it can take a pathological form, in multiple personality. A child who finds life intolerable creates another self to escape into, to help it cope. But emotion goes inward then, an intensification, the opposite from what happens with an invisible friend.
Notice too, that the lifelong interest in a story begins at this point. People who have spiritual potential have the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes, and that's what makes a story so captivating: we want to see what happens to this person or being with whom we identify.
As language skills grow you find the child building a life narrative, creating its self by story; it tells itself to itself, creating a personal history or autobiography."
"Boy, it gets pretty complicated, doesn't it?"
"Not really, not once you get used to it.
There's another concept relevant here, adumbrated in the phrase, `an enlightened self.' At conception the new human creature is endowed with a personality, a gift from God the Father. It's the personality, even more than the self, that becomes the enduring center of unchanging identity, and it associates with both mind and the later developing soul to foster personhood.
Personality is difficult to define or illustrate, as it isn't immediately detectable by the normal senses. But we apperceive it; we have a `feeling' for a person; we also come to know a personality as we come to know a person's character, by gradual induction from experience. So personality can be thought of like an underlay to consciousness, supporting it as a part of the self.
With developing consciousness comes a progressive refinement in distinctions drawn and ways of organizing them, so that not only percepts and concepts of the present but also of the past come to be integrated in the nascent mind. Experiences are abstracted into pattern-thoughts, thoughts conceptualized into integrated memories, and memories are filed-absorbed, available for later use in thinking and planning and interpreting new experience.
It's like an incremental spiral, growing and developing as time goes on. A circular staircase ascending to full humanity."
"But surely, I have as good a set of interpretations, and as good a set of organized memories as most people? How could I do so well at school, if that weren't so?"
"You do well at the things that interest you in most respects, but you're walking on quicksand in the matter of knowing who you are. You do not know who you are.
Now, take care in how you interpret that.
When it comes to the self, to say `who' is not the same as it is in relation to the person; as we discussed, the first is a private-subjective use, and the second a public-objective one. You have a problem as to who you are as a self, not as an entity to be distinguished from others. And it's not a problem that can be remedied quickly or easily.
I spoke a moment ago of a body of beliefs built up by self predications. That has to do with the fact that a self is a concept, which arises from and by way of the beliefs held by others, starting with the mother or nurturing parent but later involving peers and other mirroring selves; concerning what a self or person ought to be. In other words, the self is fostered and sponsored in relation to a moral order, a cultural background embodying a set of values."
"But I thought you said that personality is part of that."
"Yes. It all depends on whether you choose to include that in your thinking. You can make sense of the self without it, but I think it works better with it. For one thing, self as pure concept without any so-called `substance' connected with it seems kind of hollow. With personality it works a bit better."
"Well, it's there or it isn't. Which?"
"It's there. But people have a hard time accepting what they cannot sense through normal channels, you know that. So we can approach it either way, depending on the beliefs of the listener.
Now you, you've come through different backgrounds, different cultures, with language and religion and family settings all changed again and again, with the result that you don't have a fixed and firm sense of self. And your mental reservation, and your occasional challenging of authority, are efforts to hold onto elements of truth and justice as you see them, as you identify with them in your uncertain disjointed sense of self.
It's overcompensation, you see? Like a bully, playing tough to hide his inadequacy."
"I'm a shithead!"
She laughs. "No, Jack, no. You're doing what you feel you have to do, in the best way you can. All you need is a better understanding of how to make your self in future. To build a better Jack.
And it isn't all bad. You're a unique individual, an original. There's no telling what you may accomplish with that sort of start in life." \\\
The job is over. Jack and Pim are heading for Enderbush.
On the way home they pick up two girl hitchhikers. Both are a bit older than Pim, and to Jack they look quite used and painted over. He has little interest in them. But when they stop for gas, Pim says to Jack, "Hey, let's take those two on a side road and bang 'em!"
"Oh, Pim, I don't like them!"
Can't really tell Pim I'm still more or less a virgin! Anyway, when the time comes, I want to do it right, all around. Not with damaged goods. No Sharons, these two.
"What's that got to do with anything? Look, you can do the younger one, she's not bad, and I'll take the older one."
"Well, you do what you like, but I'll pass."
"Oh, shit! You're a spoilsport."
The girls seem a bit uneasy. They're heading for Bernon, and it's going to be a couple of hours. The one called Carmen decides to chat things up a bit.
"Do either of you know the Hunts?"
"The Hunts? No." says Pim.
"You've heard of Hunts Auctions, haven't you? In Bernon?"
"Oh yes. I've been there a couple of times."
Jack has too. Dad likes auctions, and sometimes picks up livestock at a good price that way.
"Well, one of the Hunt brothers, Stan I think, saw two Sasquatches this spring."
"In the Canyon, near Flood."
"Wow! Did he get a good look, up close?"
"I guess so. He said one was a grey hairy one, a male seven feet tall. It ran across the road in front of his car. There was another one at the side of the road, watching him for a couple of minutes, then they both took off in the bush. But they ran like a man on two legs, not like a bear at all."
Jack has heard stories like this before, but this is the first time it involves a person he could go and talk to. He wonders if he should. But what would he learn more than what he just heard? Usually any interesting elements are included in the reported version of the story.
Some time ago there was a story about a lake in the States which was home to countless six-legged frogs. Jack wrote a letter to the professor mentioned in the report, and the reply was much less interesting than the story. It seems there were only three or four actually six-legged frogs, with a fully formed extra pair of legs growing from their backs. All the others only had bud-like primitive growths. An unfortunate mutation, not beneficial, and certainly fated to disappear as the normal frogs out progenized the subject group.
Sasquatches are interesting. They walk upright, unlike any apes or monkeys. And there are no apes or monkeys up here, it's too cold in the winter. Like the Yeti or Abominable Snowmen, the Sasquatch doesn't seem to mind the cold.
Are they a missing link? Are they primitive people, or advanced apes? What could they live on. There's not a whole lot of fruit or berries in the rain forest areas down in the lower Fraser Canyon, maybe there's more available in the way of roots and tubers than we are aware of. Apparently they get pretty big. Some of the stories indicate seven or eight feet tall, and there are accounts of them tearing log cabins apart, or throwing full barrels of oil and gas around like toys. Seldom actually violent, though, just enjoying their physical power. The gods bowling.
A lot of the stories are about seeing or hearing them at night. Are they more or less nocturnal? Linnaeus classified them as Homo nocturnus. Most often it's only tracks. Great big tracks; their feet are enormous. That's why they're called Bigfoot in California. But they're not shaped like ape feet. They're oversized human feet. Plantigrade.
When Jack hunts it's mostly for rabbits in the bush by the river, but there are muskrats and beaver in the swampy areas. He has never seen any of the beaver, but he often hears the tailslap that warns of his approach. There aren't enough of them to build dams, but they do fell the younger poplar trees, up to about ten inches across, for the tender bark.
One day Mr Pianco calls Jack over, and tells him to ask his folks if he can come and do some trapping on their property, without benefit of permit or licence, so as to keep it profitable. Jack thinks this quite amusing, as he knows his old nemesis is quite prominent and active in the rod and gun club. But he asks as requested, at home. And of course Mom and Dad say no to that. And no more is said.
Jack is ill at ease. Something is wrong. He can't quite put his finger on it, but it has to do with science, especially biology. And his faith is involved too. More and more he takes to reading science books. He devours biology and botany textbooks and scientific periodicals. Sociology, psychology, and even, to the extent available, theology and philosophy. Mostly the popular editions, as the meatier versions are not available. And the more he reads, the less religion makes sense.
He finds the Bible especially troublesome, and is receptive to the criticisms of some of the renegade theologians, including those of other religions, or of no religion at all. A theologian of no religion seems like a contradiction in terms, but studying god matters as a subject of knowledge need not imply any devotional dimension.
He doesn't even try to share his concerns with anyone, partly because he knows no one who might understand, but mostly because he cannot formulate his problems very clearly, even to himself. He thinks a lot about human evolution.
In the slaughterhouse he has seen the similarity between human bodies and animal ones. They're basically built on the same plan, and at quick glance it's only the shape that is different at all. This is especially clear when some hunter brings in a bear. A skinned bear looks a lot like the skinned human corpses they feed to the vultures in the highlands of his native home. A lot thicker, stockier, but essentially the same form, if you disregard the claws and the snout. Actually, the human body suffers in the comparison, looking underdeveloped and spindly, like comparing a Gibbon to a Gorilla.
And then there's all the wealth of material by Darwin and his followers, too. Evolution is currently taught as fact at school, although lip service is paid to its being a theory. Darwinism is taught as an accepted fact; this is how it all happened. We are primarily and ontogenetically animal. Some say animals, period. No mind as a separate existing thing, really, and certainly no soul.
Mind is regarded as the brain in action.
But then there are the perorations of the statistical types, who assure the pious public that the kind, the number, and the variety of mutations and selections required to make human beings out of animal stock are just too great to have actually taken place. Human development, especially of the brain, would have had to take place at five to ten times the rate seen with any other species. The odds just don't stack up, even taking into account the greater amount of radioactivity proto man would have been exposed to. There was just not enough time.
But does that really work? If one generation of frogs, around one particular lake can produce a whole new set of legs, does it seem so fantastic that brain size can increase greatly over thousands of years?
What about the argument that there are no fossils of any in between stages from ape to man, no missing links. That's more of a problem. If it was all gradual there should be a straddling stage of intermediate forms.
And the reasons evolutionists have come up with to account for man's upright stance and his hairlessness are not at all convincing, either as to cause or implementation.
The Church, of course, is as traditional and hidebound as it has ever been. Human evolution is anathema! Unbiblical. And that's one reason Jack cannot bother Father Burns with any of this.
So where is the answer? Who is right? Or is anyone.
He has some good talks with Mom, but mostly on her terms and about her views. She and Dad have only had grade three in public school, and that's a long time ago. They're not in any position to counsel him. He has a hard time talking with Dad to begin with, but Mom is a good conversationalist, she's a little more adept at dealing with people who have different viewpoints than Dad is.
And Jack is definitely different. Dad is more tolerant, but he doesn't seem to have the needed concepts.
However, Mom does have her limits. When Jack discusses with her the difference between a genuine cheque and a perfectly forged one, she cannot see past the flat declaration `It is impossible to forge a cheque perfectly!' -- she can't entertain it as a supposition, that if a cheque is forged perfectly, then what would be the difference, if any, between it and the real thing? Her `reality' intervenes.
Jack argues that there would be no physical difference, so the difference has to be elsewhere. But what is it, exactly? Any event indicating that there must be a forgery, such as the two cheques both hitting the bank at the same time, or a lack of funds to cash the second one presented, would just be good luck for the bank; it wouldn't reveal wherein lies that all important difference, and would not help in distinguishing the good cheque.
The difference is in the mind of the forger. The intention of the forger as compared with the intention of an all-other-things-equal bona fide cheque maker. The intent of theft.
There's an argument for a non-physical reality.
One evening, when good old Father Burns is visiting the Spiets family, Jack, a bit absentminded -- not unusual for him -- first kisses Mom goodnight, then Dad, and then Father Burns! Entirely without thinking, he just walks around the table, and he kisses Father Burns on the cheek, like another natural father. Everyone is quite amused, and Father Burns seems delighted. But Jack is acutely embarrassed. He puts his hand over his mouth, like a little girl, blushing, "Oh, No! I ... Oh no!"
Father Burns, "It's alright, Victor. Don't worry about it, for sure now, don't fret."
Now what on earth possessed him to do that? Kissing a man! A man not part of the family.
Jack resolves that he will kiss goodnight no more.