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Dept. of Belated Introductions

So the other day we had a couple of posts by one J.B. Toner, without so much as a by-your-leave or a couple of ten-spots on the dresser. This is entirely the fault of the management, which is a fancy way of saying me, since I’ve known the guy ever since he sent me a bunch of his poetry and his novella The Bent World (which eventually mushroomed into the full-blown Bent Universe) lo these many years ago. It was a careening little book, and included some scenes which have stayed with me ever after. Here is one of the reviews of The Bent Universe from Amazon:

“This is a fun and deeply probing read. Toner challenges you in ways you never thought possible, while teaching you the finer points of whiskey and vulgarity. It had me laughing, crying, and asking for more when it was all over.”

Hoo! Welcome aboard!

Guest Post from J.B. Toner: LIFE IS AN RPG


No, not a rocket-propelled grenade. A role-playing game. And don’t worry—I don’t mean that society forces us to wear masks, or that nobody understands our inner children, or anything that would rightly cause you to shake me by the lapels. I mean, literally, an RPG. Like Dungeons & Dragons, or the Legend of Zelda. Please, allow me to explain.

Everyone has noticed that when our fair Lord walked among us, He constantly spoke in metaphors. “The Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to. . .” Part of the reason, of course, is that Heaven is beyond our present comprehension—the eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard. But I believe another part of the reason is simply that, here on earth, literally everything is a metaphor for literally everything else. Birds are a metaphor for music, and vice versa. Moonlight is a metaphor for love, and vice versa. A quiet death offered to Christ in peace, is a metaphor for the charge of the Light Brigade—and vice versa. Christ is Christ, but He’s also you and every person you’ll meet today. One of the reasons we’re driven to write so much poetry is that each thing is itself (A is always A); but it also represents everything else, and that’s too confusing to be expressed except through poetry.

So, life is an RPG. I bring this up because it comes to my attention that people are bored sometimes. This is madness. Life on earth is very often sorrowful or harrowing, but it’s never boring. Consider the fact that you voluntarily play RPGs for fun, in order to be entertained. Well: we know that our daily lives are holy, that God walks among the pots and pans; but I call your attention, sir or madam, to the fact that our daily lives are also tremendously entertaining if we simply perceive that we ourselves are heroes.

We have clear missions to unlock. You’ve graduated high school? Ding! You went up a level. College? Ding! Up a level. (Note that the challenges get successively harder, just like in the game.) Put your children through school without them running away to the circus? Ding! Each day we have optional side quests. Give five bucks or your sandwich to the homeless guy. Ching: you’ve gained XP (or grace points, as I like to call them). Read some G.K. Chesterton. Ching: +2 bonus to your Wisdom rating. We get quest items. New pair of glasses? Bloop: new item in inventory. New watch? Bloop: new item in inventory.

We take these things for granted because we’ve grown up around them and we see them all the time. But imagine if we could really step from total non-existence into the life that we have right now. Who needs elves and goblins? We live on a giant rock hurtling through space, where waters fall from the sky and billions of people live lives that are all pretty much the same and yet somehow, super-rationally, are at the same time all wildly different. Just breathing is a crazy adventure. Where does all this air come from? Well—it’s part of the campaign setting. So take a new look at the world around us. Shake up your 20-sided dice and get ready for some random monster encounters. God put you here to be a hero, and it’s time to start your day.

Guest Post from J.B. Toner: DEATH


The wage of sin, the price of Adam’s fall–
All right, I’ve sinned, you reading this have sinned,
We’ll pay our debt, blood, suffering, and all:
Our souls to God, our bodies to the wind.
Death follows life, so be it, life will end,
But Christ, dear Christ, the doctors kill our young,
The doctors, doctors, murder, cut, and rend,
Before our children ever see the sun.
They move, they feed, they kick, they sleep and dream,
They live, they live, they live within the womb–
They cannot beg for life, they cannot scream,
And so we leave them to their birthless doom;
But how unfair and sorrowful it seems
To lay the sinless in a sinful tomb.