DISCOURAGED ? Visit the devil’s yard-sale !   [a book review]

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Below is my modern mash-up (simply updating pronouns, gender and style) of a parable written by William Rathvon in 1911.  The original portrayed an auction, as the devil was “going out of business” — but perhaps that was a bit premature in 1911? — being prior to two world wars.   Well, fast-forward to where he’s now holding a weekend yard sale, hoping to cash out before the apocalypse arrives either to snuff or “rapture” his potential buyers; or before Jesus descends from the heavens onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (which would disrupt Lucifer’s rummage sale) — so, queue the medias’ search-lights in Jerusalem! ~see Acts1:11.   (Note: I consider myself a Judeo-Christian believer – yet only God knows if I qualify – so please recognize that my sarcasm is not directed at Jesus, but rather at some widespread misinterpretations of the Bible.)



Indeed these notions have spilled out of “the churches” — dangerously infecting the general public of western civilization, and beyond.  If you believe the end is near, or that your life or human civilization is at risk of becoming dark, or worthless, or even over, be alert!  (Belief shapes experience, which, for example, is why BigPharma spends millions doing double-blind experiments, including into placebo-effects about the power of belief.)  If belief affects personal physiology, is it too far-fetched for it to affect our social mindset, too?  Well, perhaps “the end” is greatly exaggerated? But hey, every life seems to have an end! – or maybe a coda (a “next chapter”)? – or a sequel? — so let us recall that there have been at least five major global extinctions of life across deep history, yet life continues. And now we have “Extinction Rebellion” — young people vigorously resisting a “sixth”. Well, all stories do have an end, so what do YOU believe about “The End”? What story do you occupy, or anticipate? 

Clearly the devil has not read Professor Bart Ehrman’s disruptive new book, ARMAGEDDON: What the Bible Really Says About the End  — or he wouldn’t be so hasty to liquidate his tools. (Ehrman is a prominent, some might say “infamous”, church historian.)  I’m confident the devil doesn’t want you to read a free sample excerpt ! — so, do it anyway ?  OK, here’s my modern version of Rathvon’s parable:



It was recently announced that the devil was holding a weekend yard sale, and would offer his tools for sale to anyone who would pay his price. On the first night of the sale they were all temptingly displayed, and a bad looking lot they were: malice, envy, jealousy, holier-than-thou (a.k.a. “pride” ~see v.16…), hatred, sensuality, deceit, betrayal, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. As a centerpiece, there lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced higher than any of the others.

From among the crowd, someone asked the devil what it was for. “That’s discouragement,” was the reply.

“Well, why do you have it priced so much higher than all the others?”

“Because,” replied the devil, “it is more useful to me than any of them. With it, I can pry open and get inside anybody’s consciousness, even when I couldn’t get near them with the uglier, more complicated tools; and once inside I can use that person in whatever way I desire. It’s so  battered because I use it with nearly everybody, as very few people are aware that it belongs to me.”

“You say you use this wedge-of-discouragement with nearly everybody  — with whom are you unable to use it?”

The devil hesitated a long time and finally said in a low voice, “I can’t use it to get into the consciousness of a grateful person.”

It should be added that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He still owns it, and is still eager to use it.

REVIEW quotes of Ehrman’s book:

“Vigilantly persuasive.”  —The Washington Post

“Lucid and compelling.”  —Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Ambitious.”  —Publishers Weekly

“Well-argued [and] certain-to-be-controversial.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ehrman is always highly readable… posing thought-provoking questions about what readers believe and how those beliefs affect their actions. Lots to ponder here. –Booklist


Screenplay Premise : : A LOST WORLD : God Gets Another Do-over

The Great Wave of Kangara by Hokusai, ~1829

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.   ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is presently a deep and wide trend in society, identifying itself as “spiritual, not religious”. From a marketing standpoint the idea below could have legs, as it speaks both to “end times” and/or “climate disaster” while also addressing spiritual hunger while countering literalism and “originalism” – neither of which is very defensible among thinking viewers. We are at a tipping point, and perhaps on the cusp of disaster. This could be a great adventure! (The stories we internalize shape our reality.)

A LOST WORLD: God Gets Another Do-over  Reference, video > Plato’s Atlantis, In Our Time.  [BBC, on YouTube, 22 Sept.2022]  Reference, film > On the Beach w/Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire. 1964.   NOTE: the film is available on youtube, but sound quality is poor, and CGI-subtitles are flawed, yet hilarious. (The film is “post WW3”.)  Reference, book > How Jesus Became God. (Bart Ehrman)

Preface   Humankind are better creatures than we have imagined. We’ve been lied to by our institutions — religions, politics, economics — insisting that humans are “fallen sinners” and that “greed is good”. ¿Can original innocence become guilty? ¿Guilty of what? — maybe nothing more than gullibility, over-reacting to apparent adversity, or loneliness. The future of humanity will depend on a critical mass of “me’s” awakening to a desire of becoming “my best self”, while helping our neighbors along the way.

DEEP WEAKNESS of main character:

Argus Maragos, — a Greek fishing boat captain, who privately disagrees with his pastor, Pete, about how to read the Bible, but has avoided speaking out — while steaming to home port one day, is suddenly hurled onto a nearby reef just beyond the harbor, in a cataclysmic event, a perfect storm, which instantly wipes out virtually all global  communication/information services, blinding all reports of what has happened. (Morse code is the only remaining outreach, for those few who have electricity, gear, and know-how.)

Was it a nuclear exchange, an asteroid strike, a solar pulse (coronal mass ejection), or a supervolcano, like Toba in Sumatra, or WahWah Springs in Utah; or maybe alien killer-robots?


The survivors among his crew and those at his church, some of whom think that Argus  may be onto something, debate among themselves about what happened and how to survive in a suddenly low-tech world, with very differing outlooks.

Captain Argus reads between the lines of scripture, while Pastor Pete insists on the literal Word of God (in King James English, only), both seeking preservation of community (or control of other people), setting them at odds in their dramatic quests.


PLAN of the Main character to OVERCOME ALL OPPOSITION:

Captain Argus is convinced that the wisdom of the ages that’s contained between the lines of scripture will deliver his growing crew of survivors, supporters, and fellow worshippers, so he needs to demonstrate that his outlook has enough merit to defeat the rigid literalist approaches, using compelling logic [from “Logos”— a word which derives from principle/reasonableness, rather than from Latin for person – “mask”, which in Greek is the source of our English word for hypocrite: actor, “mask wearer” a theatrical term ] — to assert that that old superstitious way of reading scripture is tragically flawed, controlling, and manipulative.


BATTLE   This is the CLIMATIC SCENE just before the APPARENT DEFEAT:

Argus is excommunicated from his faith-community as a heretic, for blasphemy, and for denouncing preaching that insists that God is wrathful toward sinners and apostates, instead of being merciful and redemptive.  Then there went up a mist; but soon a rainbow arched across the heavens.


SELF REVELATION   Here the HERO adjusts the PLAN.

Deep private dialog within himself, in sweaty prayer [in voice-over, lips not moving] similar to Abraham negotiating with God (see Gen.18 v.20-end) hoping to save people about to perish wholesale (reminiscent of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah) in which Captain Argus sees God’s mercy demonstrated in a way that eventually will regenerate community, with focus of them rebuilding their seafaring way of life on the coast. Argus had avoided unpleasantness at church, but he now has deep dramatic need to expose the political pronouncement that “Jesus is God”, as declared by Emperor Constantine, who wasn’t even a Christian until many decades later, when he professed while on his deathbed. (Argus asks “How can a son be the Father of All Life?”.)   In 325, at the Council of Nicea, Constantine traded recognition of Christians as loyal Roman citizens, for their loyalty to the empire — a devil’s bargain which largely contaminated  the church.  Ever since, preachers everywhere are taught not to touch this “settled doctrine” lest they lose their jobs.


ADJUSTMENT  Argus resolves to build an old-style sailing vessel to explore whatever remains of the world. He now has 12 disciples ready to study with him and work on this project, one of whom is a spy.  (He does not view himself as a modern messiah, but simply a realist with metaphysical leanings and spiritual appetite for truth.)



At first they build a few out-rigger canoes for localized fishing, and then a sea-worthy sailing vessel in which to look for other survivors and trading partners — in the tradition of Argos, the ancient shipbuilder who outfitted the original “Argonauts”. [Gus’ surname in Greek means “carpenter” // Jesus was said to be the son of a “carpenter” although the Greek word tekton means builder, or stone mason.]  Ultimately Gus demonstrates that literalism misleads, while truth reveals itself to be “that which is not a lie” — a classic “definition” of something impossible to define.

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Some casual musings on casting, in no particular order: