So the first few chapters were read under palm trees instead of our usual Northern Irish semi dull days. The book was first published in Germany in 1894 after being banned in his home country of Russia and is the culmination of thirty years of Tolstoy's thinking, and lays out a new organization for society based on a literal Christian interpretation. Why am I always drawn to banned things? I swear, it is not intentional. In the case of Tolstoy, I imagine his work was banned because it was in direct conflict with, say, the idea of the draft. It is basically a pacifist’s manual.
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I’ll roll it back a bit, and let you into my life. I grew up in a family where church attendance was not that important, but occasionally my father desired that we would still attend. I was never interested in church. In Ireland, when some kind of mass salvation thing swept across my sister’s school, (thought it was not a religious school) and she got saved, it was a little shocking. If I’m honest about it I wasn’t too happy. I felt that my sister was stolen away from me. Soon I started to wonder If I too should be saved. For a long time I mocked the Christian music she listened too because it sounded too…well, weak. As time rolled on I thought “I’ll do the prayer”…you know that prayer that you’re supposed to do to get saved. I did that and forgot about it. About two weeks later I started to read the bible more and more. It felt like a compulsion. I am not sure if I had self hypnotised myself but I became really eager to learn more about the bible. Instead of being peaceful though, I turned really inspired by the apocalyptic. I started to straighten out though but I became interested in bands like the very obscure Nashville based Wedding Party ‘s Anthems Album (in my early 20’s they even invited me to their studio to see their set up because I made friends with most of the band members and often wrote detailed descriptions of how I felt about their songs) and Saviour Machine, a great gothic Christian band whose lead singer Eric Clayton was really great to talk to. I was a big fan and here was Eric talking to me!
At that point in my life I’d rather meet these people rather than the biggest pop star today. For me, These people were “celebrities” and they inspired my thinking, and also my belief that the best and most talented works of art and literature are probably the ones you’ll never hear of. What I mean is that most of the musica and art that has inspired me will probably never ever reach the mainstream. From that perspective I’ve never felt that I should necessarily seek to be “the best” because in my mind these people were the best yet would never make it into the mainstream. I started to understand that sometimes the best musicians and artists are the ones you’ll never hear about. Maybe I should do a story on that at some point.
Getting back to Tolstoy, you’re more likely to hear of Tolstoy with his books War and Peace or Anna Karenina, both of which, to this day, i've never read. In the book The Kingdom of God is within you, Tolstoy speaks of the Doctrine of Non-Resistance to Evil by Force, A principle of nonviolent resistance when confronted by violence. Trust me, I know it seems like an insane concept, and most would never be able to follow it.
In recent times I think, at least by American standards, I may be more conservative leaning, but even with that I do not feel fully “understood”. I’m still at that stage of understanding that maybe it fits with God’s will that killing your enemies is acceptable, yet Christ doesn’t seem to say this, nor even allude to it. I suppose I would say that officially it is not the right thing to do spiritually, but physically it might be a necessity. I can't say. What I can say is that Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is within you certainly makes you ponder these things.
In that sense I think Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is within you is as relevant for the 1800’s as it is today, but it requires a lot of work if one wants to live it out in the real world. Then again, I can’t think of a single scripture where Christ says the walk will be easy! Well worth a read.
NOTE* Upon writing this I realise, though it had slipped my mind, that I wrote a review on Amazon about this. Apparently 9 out of 9 people found it helpful! Not bad right lol
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But what if they aren’t? What if they’re still hanging around, wanting a visit, and the loved one never stays anymore than a few minutes and leaves. We wouldn’t do that in during a family visit to a relative, we wouldn’t even do it during a hospital visit. We’d feel awkward if we spent less than 5 minutes every time we visited a relative. Without the vocal interaction though we’d be forgiven for thinking we’re wasting our time. We might even feel a bit delusional to be talking to someone that isn’t visibly there.
I’ll say this. I’ve visited the grave a few times when I felt defeated and ruined. I’ve told a graveyard full of people all my worries and it felt like a weight off my shoulders. I don’t want it to come off like I am some kind of emo or goth. I don’t think I am. I don’t follow those cultures. I’m just saying that having someone to confide in that won’t cause an argument or pass judgement is one of the best feelings in the world. I’m not convinced that has anything to do with “talking to the dead”, but rather speaking vocally, in a private place, without judgement, the things on your mind. You can talk to whomever on the beach, in the forest etc. Much of Ireland is Catholic, and although I was raised Protestant, I can only guess that it’s probably similar to confessional. Ever since meeting Christine, I’ve been living in my local town as opposed to out in the country and it’s a good opportunity to visit my granma. I know my granma has passed on; it’s not that I am delusional. I know she’s not “there” in the materialistic sense we’re used to, but I like to think she’s there, maybe as some astral form. If she isn’t, well, that’s fine too. At this point it’s all a matter of faith, of belief.
So that’s a little of what I’ve been up to. Again a big thank you for the customers who give me the excuse to get away from the art table, and just remember that up until Christmas I’m going to include a free original hand sketched artwork (ACEO sized) with every tarot bag/pouch sale. Hey, if I’m at the table most of the day, it makes sense to do a few cool original artworks for you guys.
UPDATE: Since writing this article, Yoav Ben-dov, one of the greats in the Tarot community, has passed on. As is often the case in social media, we befriend people who, often, we'll never meet, and never really get to know fully. For me Yoav Ben-dov was this kind of friend. I didn't know Yoav Ben-dov too well but he liked a lot of our artworks and it has only been recently that we realised that he was actually a big deal. So we would like to take the opportunity to wish Yoav Ben-dov a safe travel!
James is the artist behind the illustrations on this site, maintains the website, writes the blogs and puts together the newsletter.