Friday, July 27, 2012

X : The Art of Infiltration


X

My dear Nightshade,

            You have written me time and time again on the subject of the subconscious mind, and I think it is time that I address it. The man's conscious mind is not only aware of your existence, but has given you a name. He doesn't speak to you of course, we could use that, build up a delicate little paranoia about him. Be that as it may you must work to keep him from doing anything at present, keep him as far from his own will as possible! Distracting him from his true identity for even a minute is a victory at this point, Nightshade, every second that he spends without distraction he grows closer to the enemy, infects more of the people around him with that horrid mystery, increasing the torments your incompetency has piled up for you tenfold what they would be if you could only throw him in front of a bus.
            His subconscious is a tool, one that you learned to use very early in your schooling. However, using the subconscious to draw to distraction will require a mastery that only comes from experience that you have no time to acquire. In this, as in all things we do there is a delicate balance between not enough and too much. Each thought is a contraband that you must sneak past his judgment, into his conscious mind. Make it too close to your will, and he will see it outright and toss it into the fire, “take it captive” as the enemy calls it. Make it too close to his own will, abominably close to the enemies, closer even than he knows, and it will be innocuous, and worthless to your cause. This delicate balance is complicated further still by the uncomfortable truth that every attempt you make that is found out will increase his ability to sniff out your deceit the next time.
            Enough of the consequences of failure, you will have more than enough of those come time for review, on to how you may redeem yourself. (How unfortunate for you that the enemy is the only source of genuine miracles, the realms of hell are much more realistic, as well you know.) The technique is simple enough, though it requires careful planning. The first step is to choose the  destination you would like to reach, it is best to chose a well worn road especially for your first attempts. In this patient I would say your best bet is to continue to harp on the lustful thoughts that you have planted so deep in him. Yes, you might say that this is the vice he is most aware of, and you must realize that his defenses will be very high against an all out assault. However, catch him with a few “innocuous” thoughts (call them plans, not fantasies, which he will reject outright), and he may follow you. Do this well for a day or two, and a direct attack with memories or a tried and true fantasy, mixed with his “plans” will be assured to have a positive affect. 
          For example, try to convince him that anything that is that “beautiful” in his mind cannot be entirely dismissed, he will want to extract the passion and desire in these plans which seem to him virtuous from the lust that is inextricably braided with them. Here you have got him, he may even obsess for hours, indignant that he cannot participate in the exquisite poetry of marriage and intimacy, after all he has been so “good” for all this time and knows who he would like to marry, and is much more ready than his peers who have rushed into the engagement. How delightful it would be if you could work with Wartwitch to get the fool and his woman to simply elope, She has proven to be singularly incompetent in that regard. Between the two of you the my confidence in the inevitability of our ultimate victory is nearly shaken. It is well that our fate does not rest on the shoulders of insignificant tempters such as yourself.
          Returning to the point, the more of these thoughts you dump on him at the appropriate time the better, as long as you tend the fire of indignation and pride, and none of his precious brothers stamp it out, he will be yours to lead further and further from his will. If you can salvage this case you will not even need my recommendation to enter the lower levels of administration, you may even be given a position on one of our infernal science teams. The stakes grow by the day, Nightshade. Your situation has been desperate for some time now. I have included (as usual) the latest edition of the informational brochure published by the department of compensation on the house for incompetent tempters. Do read it this time, and write back to me your reactions (be specific!) to the torments described therein. Fear is a wonderful motivator, and I think you shall need every bit of motivation you can get.

Your affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

Friday, July 20, 2012

VI: Philosophical Thermodynamics, Among Other Things


VI

My dear Nightshade,

          If nothing else, you are consistent... deftly, you have made some small good of horrid circumstances (and go on to boast about it as though it were you who tempted Eve.) Yet, you do not see that you are taking exactly the opposite (and I would say wrong) path from the one you started so well on. Surely you must see that, as you lead him from isolation to social sin you lead him past that fatal centre where the enemy wishes for him to reside! 
          Everything in our work is a pair of equally desirable extremes framing the enemy's will. He desires a man to be passionate, we push him to lust and rage, or pull him into cold stoicism. He desires a man to respect the unseen, we push him to become a magician, or pull him into pure materialism. Every sin we can tempt a man to is some excess or dearth of a quality that the enemy has placed in him. There is perhaps something to be said for an unstable philosophy that bounces back and forth between the hot and cold. Heated rage one day giving way to icy cynicism the next. Glass, treated similarly, will shatter.
        But, forget all that Nightshade, philosophical thermodynamics will do you no good if you keep forgetting your first lessons as a tempter. Habit, Habit, Habit! So you say that you have created an egotist out of him, what of it? In each change of course you allow him to acquire some characteristic the enemy so desires him to have. As he made his way from isolation to the centre of attention, a thousand seeds, and I am by no means exaggerating, of self esteem and efficacy were sown. So in constantly scheming to drive him into more and different sins you will drive him right into the arms of the enemy. 
          Allow me to provide a successful counter example, as I begin to suspect that you do not have a proper respect for the full weight of experience that is behind my advice. In my sophomore temptership I saw it fit to produce exactly one gentle nudge towards gluttony at a critical point. Yes, gluttony of all things! I simply cemented the one simple idea that he alone is looking out for his interests, and my job was reduced to monitoring his long, slow, (admittedly boring) decline into increasingly selfish habits. He became an insatiable connoisseur of absolutely everything. Food and Drink, travel, furniture, servants, friends, each increasingly unsatisfactory as time went on and novelty became unattainable. One simple maneuver, and his selfish soul acquired the uniquely savory flavour of genuine, shameless, avarice.
          Pick your course and stay with it, this is no time for acrobatics. Attack this new self esteem. Get him started on a dozen things he won't finish, and use his father as much as possible. I feel compelled to write to you concerning that topic as well, (since you have so readily forgotten the rest of your basic training.) Send me a draft of your plan in that department, so that I will know how elementary my instruction must be.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

Sunday, July 15, 2012

New York City Looking out, Looking in


     From the very first moment that I saw the skyline I knew that the last time I saw those lights, I was a totally different person. It snuck up on me, I wasn't ready, and now here I am staring at a city, knowing that there are millions of people milling about living their lives, their pains, their joys, their plans and routines, hopes and despairs, their dreams and their shattered unrequited dreams. And I can feel it. I hear it, welling up like a great big choir singing the same song in brilliant harmony, singing out their emotions. The same song with the sobbing vibrato of a mother who can't begin to understand her son, and the clear shining tenor of victory. I see it in moving color, trains, planes and automobiles, with their passengers weaving courteously, angrily, despondent and bored through the veins and ventricles of the city.

     The first time, all I could sense was the smell. Ugh, that aweful smell. Burning... whatever, spent gasoline, garbage, rotting sewer, and human, millions of people sweating in the summer heat. I saw the lights and the buildings, but they were mountains to me, beautiful, but not inhabited. And the people I did see, I saw over-bored and tired locals, and the empty exuberance of tourists. I was supposedly there as a mission worker, learning the trade of urban missions. Feed a few homeless people, watch kids in depressed neighborhoods, administering the standardized test to determine passage into that next eternal grade level in life, giving out review cards and cheat sheets to help people pick the right answers. I'll admit it was a life changing experience for me, I took away a lot, but I didn't give anything that lasts.

     But now, there's something totally different. I look at buildings and I see stories, I look into eyes and I see souls. I look at a city and I feel the weight of the sheer humanity of it all, and I can bear it, barely bear it, with borrowed strength. You might call it empathy, and I might call it that too, for lack of a better word, but that great big word isn't big enough. It's perception, awareness, attention, processing, feeling, and acting played out over and over again a thousand times as I look sight to sight. And at each step my heart, my mind, my soul are each more capable than ever before. I perceive in 12 dimensions, I am aware of so much more, and my attention is drawn to the real stories I see (not my own imagined could be's) I can process with the people I see, feel what they feel, and I'm compelled do or say something... anything to let them know that I'm here, I'm real, and there is a love flowing through me I want to find time to share.

     There is something really satisfying about knowing that, despite the radical nature of these changes, that 18 year old me wanted to learn everything that I know now, he wanted to be who I am now, and now after all this time, and by no fault of his own. He made it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

V: Rebukes and Last Resorts


V

My dear Nightshade,

     You are losing him! To your credit you have recognized the fact, and have implored me half a dozen times this week for guidance. That credit and a soul lost to the enemy will buy you exactly the same punishment as your cousin.
     You ask me again and again what to do, and I will tell you that my answer is the same: that your one hope is, and has only ever been, to isolate the boy. His years of insecurity and social ineptness are not so far behind you, what have you lost in that short time that he has thrown off the wonderful shroud of fear you cast over any social interaction? How could you let him get to the point that he could, withoug a moment's hesitation, accept an invitation to an all-nighter with a youth group at his church despite the fact that he knows none of it's members. I have read reports from that front and there are a hundred reasons you should do everything in your power to keep him from that event. The greatest of which being his getting anywhere near that passionate youth pastor, five minutes genuine sermon from that pariah and you will have years of repair to do. 
     Everything short of direct tyranny should be considered, and if you should see an opportunity for that without revealing yourself, I daresay you might find the scourges of the infernal police for disobeying an order from the lowest parts of hell a deal kinder than the punishment for losing a soul. I leave it to your judgment, and wash my hands of anything you might attempt to rectify this. You have made a very desperate situation here, and you should spare nothing in bringing him back to the happy state of affairs of just a few months ago.

Your Affectionate Uncle,
Screwtape

Thursday, July 5, 2012

IV: Beginning of Blunders


IV

My Dear Nightshade,

     You incompetent, foolhardy twit. What could possibly have possessed you to think that you could cultivate a friendship without any report to me? Here you have been carrying this on in secret, until you complain that the boy is leaving behind his solitary tendencies asking me to guide you back. How can I help you at all if you confidently strike out on your own. Though I do appreciate your distrust, and your spirit of individuality, you will accomplish nothing if you do not take full advantage of the advice that I have to offer. For now, I must endeavor to clean up your messes.
     If you allow this to go any further the boy will surely be cured from the months of good work you have done to make him a lone wolf. Surely you realized that the goal in all of your work up to this point was to create a skulking solitary man of blurry and jaded morality, if any at all, and here you are sending him off to a friends house every other day during the summer like you were creating one of their heartwarming coming-of-age films. Eugh...
     My disappointment and disgust aside, I must now work with what you have given me. You tell me that you have been working with the the other boy's charge, Einglomp, who is now on his second temptorship. Thank our father below for that fact, putting together two rookies on this most important case would surely spell disaster; that is of course if your blunders have not done so already. Be sure that you pay attention to his lead, he has done good work leading his boy down the comfortable path of relative kindness, goodness, self-control, and morality. These things, fatal in any real measure, are the tools kept closest at hand by any skilled tempter. Only the most depraved of human souls will continue living in a way they know to be somehow worse then the way they perceive the humans around them to be living. Convince them they are at least “as good as” their fellows (not so much better as to be “un-democratic,” mind you) and they will make their way gleefully into small sin after small sin with the lightness of conscience that only comes from skimming along the top of their own standards, unaware of any other standard by which a man may be judged. Another, perhaps, more social method of the minimization I discussed in my last letter, largely irrelevant in your case. However, this sense of relativity is not a harmful thing to allow your boy to be taught.
     Do not allow him to take up the other boy on his challenge to join the football team. I think I can see into your reasoning as to why it will help your cause, and I am sure that Einglomp has been filling your head with his praises of the boisterous pride of locker-room banter as a source of every sort of youthful vice. Do not be so foolish. Your boy is an all together different case which needs isolation and brooding if there is to be any chance for success. If the road to hell were a formula our researchers would have found it by now. Do everything in your power to keep the boy at home as often as you are able for the rest of the summer, and if he must go, for hell's sake, do not allow him to ride his new bike. The blasted contraption is deadly, for all his feelings of empowerment in conquering the fear that you built up from that wonderful little spill, piled on top of an unhealthy appreciation for the beauty of nature. Keep the boy off it!

Your affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape