Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Sea

Like most people, the ocean has always fascinated me; its vastness, like the dark expanse of a star studded sky, always thoroughly immerses me in the knowledge that I am all too finite.  Yet unlike the sky, which fills with me with hope—as I marvel that the God who made the Cosmos knows and cares for me—the sea overwhelms me with a sense of mystery marked with a distinct undercurrent of fear.
In my mind’s eye innumerable hosts of myriad forms of life teem just beneath the churning surface, and my mind swims with the endless possibilities found in the massive breadth and depth of the sea.  Frankly, it terrifies me.
Deep water has always scared me and I know exactly why: there might be something down there.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the world isn’t as thoroughly explored, as completely known, and as neatly explained as the scientific establishment tells us.  The attitude that modern man has uncovered all the earth’s deepest secrets—that that are no mysteries left on earth—that is so universally displayed by the major scientific media is pure hubris.
I find it incomprehensible that every time a discovery is made of some entirely new species, every time an animal that had been label ‘extinct’ is found alive and well, every time a once legendary creature is found to actually exist, the scientific community somehow manages to spin the story to communicate that the last great mystery of the world has been found and that we know everything there is to know and that there can be no more new, undiscovered creatures anywhere in the world, when each and every instance of discovery proves just the opposite!
Thus it is that I have never outgrown the fervent hope and the niggling terror that one day I might encounter one such unknown entity.  That possibility has always seemed the most likely, and thus the most terrifying, when I’m in or on deep water.  I have never allowed this fear to stop me from enjoying the water, however.  Despite the ever-present fear that something dark, silent, and powerful might drag me under anytime I was in water over my head, I grew up fishing, swimming, and canoeing on the Tennessee River, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every trip I’ve made to and on the ocean.  The river grants a peaceful restoration of the soul through its serenity, and the crash of the ocean surf mesmerizes me into a restful, trance-like state of mind through its ceaseless shushing.
Tonight, though, something new happened to me.  The water, as nice as it is, is not a human’s natural habitat, and being on terra firma has always provided me with the sense of security which comes from being in one’s element. It was only when I was in the water that I feared that something might get me—until tonight.
It was quite late and I sat on the shore of Oak Island under the dark of an overcast and moonless sky watching the Elizabeth River surge into the sea as I silently and sleepily pondered life and enjoyed leisurely smoking my pipe.  Because of the current of the river and the shape of the bay, there was almost no surf where I was and the water was surprisingly calm—until the wake of a boat long since out of sight finally reached the shore.  The long wake lines were at an angle to the beach in front of me and as they crashed in they created an illusion of a long procession of great, dark fish rushing along the beach in the shallows, each one leaving behind a thin foam wake that slashed up the beach in front of me.  Without interrupting my thoughts, these huge, illusory ‘fish’ reminded my subconscious of the life teeming in those waters.
A cold fog rolled in across the water from my right, reducing visibility to a few feet and suddenly the constant, rapid pounding of the surf on the shore became the synchronized steps of thousands of feet, and the numerous, raising ripples of the boat’s wake became rank upon rank of soldiers marching forward out of the water to capture the beach after having been dropped, like paratroopers all is a line, in the shallows by the great fish speeding by me.  As the fog thickened the organic, steam-like sounds of a pod of porpoises blowing became the sound of mermen breathing and the phantasmal army was upon me.
Never before had the thought occurred to me that something might come out of the water and get me, but suddenly my comfortable illusion of safety disappeared as completely as my pipe smoke in the fog.
It required every ounce of my will power to refrain from running screaming back to the lodge.


As the wake passed up the beach the army marched inland until the sound of their footsteps was no more and the fog slowly cleared.  Never before had my imagination so completely terrified me and as the last patch of fog, which had seemed to linger around me feeding off my smoke, finally wafted away leaving me alone I sat perfectly still and trembled in the silence as I contemplated an idea for a new story.

© Andrew J. Goggans 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012


I recently reread this passage from The Revolt of "Mother" by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and it moved me (and convicted me) more than anything else has for quite a while. God help me--I want to be more like this woman.

"Sarah Penn's face as she rolled her pies had that expression of meek vigor which might have characterized one of the New Testament saints. She was making mince-pies. Her husband, Adoniram Penn, liked them better than any other kind. She baked twice a week. Adoniram often liked a piece of pie between meals. She hurried this morning. It had been later than usual when she began, and she wanted to have a pie baked for dinner. However deep a resentment she might be forced to hold against her husband, she would never fail in sedulous attention to his wants.

Nobility of character manifests itself at loop-holes when it is not provided with large doors. Sarah Penn's showed itself today in flaky dishes of pastry. So she made the pies faithfully, while across the table she could see, when she glanced up from her work, the sight that rankled in her patient and steadfast soul -- the digging of the cellar of the new barn in the place where Adoniram forty years ago had promised her their new house should stand."

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I have recently read a few articles and blogs and heard several conversations that really bothered me. Not offended-bothered, just saddened-bothered. The subject was questioning whether or not homosexual emotions/lusts were at work in the relationship dynamics of characters and people who just about everyone is familiar with: whether it's David and Jonathan, Frodo and Sam, or Jesus and John, people seem to have a propensity for jumping to conclusions. While I will readily agree that in some instances the authors of some literary works did intend for that to be evidence in their work, I do not feel that it is the case with any of the above or many other examples, and I would like to offer an explanation, that I feel uniquely suited to give, for the actions and behaviors that people most often hold up as evidence of characters being homosexual.

Clearly from Scripture homosexuality is almost as old as time but to suggest that David and Jonathan, or Jesus and John, were bi- or homosexual seems absurd to me and the result of a lack of personal experience with being relationally intimate with some one whom they are not sexually intimate, and because of the sadly prevalent and thoroughly erroneous Freudian notion that everything is and must be connected to sex. As I have 6 brothers in my family with whom I am very close, and as a member to a group of guys who have all been very close friends from childhood, I think I can safely say that most people in our over-sexually-aware (and homosexually-aware) society read far too much into any instance of same gender intimacy. While it is true that most men are uncomfortable with prolonged physical contact (like holding someone while they cry, or putting one’s arm around someone), lots of eye contact, back rubs, use of pet names, overt verbal displays of affections or other similar actions, I firmly believe that this is simply because they strongly associate those actions only with the opposite sex interactions, and that if these actions are looked at objectively it can be seen that there is no reason for them to be viewed sexually.

My friends, siblings, and I grew up putting an arm over each others shoulders while standing or sitting next to each other in the car, watching a movie, or just talking, to show unity, to show that we were 'best friends,' and we still do it for those same reasons despite the fact that I am 25 and have two kids. We give each other back massages while standing around talking, or after working out, wrestling and sparring, hiking and climbing, fishing and swimming. We give long bear-hugs when greeting and when parting. We hold hands when we pray, and we've held each other and cried when life was shitty or when the Holy Spirit beat us into broken contrition over our sin. We call each other mean names in a playful, joking tone as a 'manly' way of calling each other by endearments, and we say "I love you" to each other every time we end a phone call or a visit.

We are all straight as arrows, most of us are married, and half of us have kids. We act that way with each other because we know that there is no hint of homosexuality to it, merely comfortable familiarity. We've all been friends for so long, been through so much together, hurt each other so deeply and worked through it so determinedly and thoroughly, that we know that we can trust each other with our very lives because we've shared our deepest failings and our greatest successes together; we know each others' dirtiest secrets and our brightest hopes. We are family: a band of brothers—some by blood, all by the Holy Spirit—that we know we can turn to for anything because no matter the time or space that separates us, we always have been and always will be committed to our relationships with each other.

Physical and relational intimacy between members of the same gender is not a sign of homosexuality, it is a byproduct of a relationship so deeply intimate, constant, and permanent, that unless a person in our over-sexed society has personally experienced it the only way they can interpret it is by miss-labeling it as sexual.

Again, I say all this not because I am offended, but because I feel saddened by and sorry for anyone who makes false assumptions about same-sex (particularly male) intimacy through ignorance and to offer, not only a different perspective, but the hope that so much more can be put into and gotten out of our interactions with other members of the Body of Christ if we are willing to move past the Freudian stigmas of our hyper-sexualized culture.

The Hibernian

The Hibernian

The Moon smiles at me like Chester the Cat.

A drag on my pipe, a puff of smoke later,

I smile right back as I tip my hat.

“Another Sweet Josie,” I tell the waiter.

I scribble, setting slip’ry thoughts solid.

Like ocean waves inside I ride my buzz.

Writing for posterity all that I did,

All that I thought and felt the world was.

In Luna’s light I write in deep delight.

The noisy pub, the greasy grub, only add

To the wellspring of words that fit just right.

A night all to myself thoroughly had.

Copyright: Andrew J. Goggans 2012

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: Enchantment

I finished Enchantment by Orson Scott Card during my layover in Charlotte today and I loved it through and through. I have only read a few of his books but it's by far his best work. In fact, this is one of the best novels I've ever read, and that includes all the classics that I read in high school and college.

A very creative retelling of the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, this novel is very well researched and very well written. The character development is intense, though gradual and very skillfully arranged so that it's believable and compelling. The plot is enthralling and the pace perfect (not too slow, not too fast, everything happens in due time).

There were no logical oversights, no loose ends, and though (since it's a retelling of a common fairy tale) you more or less know that the good guys win, the details of how and why are brilliantly executed.

Audience-wise it's definitely adult-focused: true to fairy tale form, there is a limited amount of (but graphically depicted) violence, and similarly Card makes no bones about being very frank about the human anatomy and human sexuality. However the language in the narration of the story is readily accessible to young adults, and it can easily be argued that Card's frankness is neither calloused nor is his discussion/depiction of violence and sex in any way gratuitous or titillation, but rather skillfully used and tactfully handled.

Finally, while the novel is a really good read with a wonderful blend of action, romance, and the wonder of fantasy, it also offers up many, many deep lines of thought on the nature and order of our universe and our limited understanding of it; the similarities and differences in Christianity and Judaism; and the roles of men and women, husband and wife, through the ages.

It's an excellent novel that I highly recommend to everyone.