Shameless Papistry, Fantastical and Paleontological Musings, General Hilarity

Fantastical Musings

The Super Hero League Game

So, I have managed to come up with a rather fun idea to pass the time, and I think the rest of you would enjoy it as well. The concept was inspired by, or almost ripped entirely from, to be honest, this photo:

Pardon the language, of course.

HORDOR!

I found this humorous.

Anyway, the rules of the Super Hero League Game are as follows: Use Google Image Search. Find a random image of a group photo. Facebook is also good for this. Proceed to give them heroic names and assign each superpowers or gimmicks based on how they look in the image, and leave a link in the comments!  Here is one of mine below. Naturally, you don’t have to choose kids, but I wanted to stay in keeping with the original.

The Youngbloods, from Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Whiz Kid– Super Speedster, Witty Remarks Thin Lizzy– Able to stretch any part of her body into any dimensions she desires. The Xander– Team Leader, Smarter than a Fifth Grader, Master Strategist, Kung Fu Prodigy Witcheye– Her gaze is powered by the arcane, and pierces all barriers. Also, firebolts. Iron Jane-Invulnerable, Super Strength Specs-Technological Genius, High-tech Battlesuit equipped with the latest weaponry, finances team off of patent royalties. Princess Andronica the Enchantress-Penchant for pomp and circumstance, and a spellcaster from another dimension, where her true form was a pink alicorn. Is also, of course, obsessed with ponies. Chrissy, the Devourer– Unceasingly hungry, her hyperactive metabolism gives her superhuman healing, speed, reaction time, and strength. She must constantly eat to maintain consciousness.

 


Fully Realized Catholic Avatar

In case you are curious, yes, the title means exactly what you think it means. I am surely and truly about to use a show drenched in Eastern mysticism and legends to demonstrate an ideal way to behave as a solid member of the Roman Catholic Church.

If at any point you should find me mad or kooky (say, the moment you read the previous sentence), I suggest you gather an elite team of cheerful heroes complete with some dark and brooding types for balance, and come meet my friends and allies for battle in New York. Because the Avengers fought there in their new movie and it seems to be a place where people like to throw down, IN THA STREETZ. Our feud will be a bitter and destructive one, for I have powerful friends, and terrors yet unknown to you lurking in the depths of my own shadowy and sinister talent for unhindered destruction…

I could, for instance, take over an urban area with the moniker “Metrocity”.

Oddball tangent done. On to the Main Point.

I think that each Element in Avatar: The Last Airbender can embodify a certain method of behavior or philosophy present in Catholicism, and give an excellent model for us to work from so that we might better serve the Bride of Christ, and therefore the Bridegroom. So, onward and upward!

Earth

Many might say this is the only Element that can be detected in the confines of the Catholic Church, and for good reason. You don’t look at something that has been in existence for 2,000 years and say to yourself “Gee, that looks really short-lived and unstable”. Holy Mother Church, like the bedrock beneath your feet, has been around for a long time now, and I have it on good Authority that She will be around forever more. So, what as Catholics must make us Earthbenders?

Simple.

That ain’t goin’ nowheres.

It is tenacity.

The Rock of Ages is what we cling to, and it holds fast through any storm. We do not build our house on sand if we are wise, but on solid stones. Faith is our shield and our root, and if it is strong enough, through it we weather any obstacles or hardships placed before us. This is the unchanging Truth of our Religion, and in it we take refuge, and from it we have our armor and shield. We must be implacable and resolute, with faces like flint, to overcome the Adversary in the grand Eternal Revolution against Sin and Death. When all else falls, we must endure. As others bow, we must remain unbent. Steadfast in our Hope, we must be unyielding like the Earthbenders, unconquerable like the Earth itself.

Water

Yet even in our ironclad defense and firm footing lodged in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, we must also be adaptable, and able to change our stance and state in life, so that we are always doing the most good according to the Will of the Lord. This seems counter to what I have just urged you to do. It is not. Water, no matter what form it takes, is still H2O, be it steam, liquid, or ice. The very nature of water is its own Earth-like stability, despite its adaptability.

When we are placed in a situation where we seem powerless, much as humidity and condensation does little but rust and corrode, and is heavily subject to an outside influence (namely the movement of Air, which we will get to next), we must rely more directly on the Power of God. We must increase our prayer in magnitude equal to the degree of our powerlessness at that time in our lives. And, when moved properly by air currents, just as we are moved properly by the Sovereign Will of God, water droplets coalesce and form rain, which renews and replenishes the Earth, just as we are called to renew and replenish the world.

Drench the World with Holiness! Or something like that.

Liquid water is a beautiful thing in that it covers and fills any nook and cranny it is in contact with. It is also cohesive and adhesive, as we must be in our Evangelization of others. We are called to stick together as the Body of Christ, and we should cling to those who have yet to hear the Good News in its fullness like a refreshing morning dew. We must slide into their hearts and minds whenever and wherever we can, filling their empty void spaces with the Light of Christ, just as water permeates into the gaps of rock and soil. We must saturate our society with Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

Then, like ice, when we have filled all those spaces and cracks, we must harden and become resolute, like water turns to ice during the bitter months. Ice, especially in glacier form, has immense erosive power. It plucks up rocks as it moves downhill, just as we must gather those we can as we move forward under the momentum our proselytizing has given us. In our rigidness after new gains, we keep what we have now baptized and prevent the retaking of those souls by the worldly means of the Adversary, like ice keeps small rock particles frozen within it from being washed or blown away.

In fact, I would even go so far to say that the essence of Evangelization is similar to the essence of Waterbending, for both are required to keep that same sort of rythmic balance. Waterbending is based on Tai Chi, which is all about guiding your enemy’s strikes to your own advantage. We must learn to even use our defeats in apologetics to guide our unredeemed brothers and sisters ever closer to God.

Air

Air is the most elusive of elements. Most of us do not know what is even meant by the “spirit” that drives the essence of Airbending, though we can tell when someone possesses it. Intangible and lacking in definition, this Element is a perfect comparison for our own Un-Worldliness. We are, of course, meant to live in the World, and love it, but we are not of it anymore. We have one foot in Heaven, and our souls are held aloft by the Sovereign Will of God, expressed through the Holy Spirit. This “Catholic Spirit” is seen in the sort of unclear but easily recognizable joy and purity of one who shows this Blessed Light to the darkened world. You probably know one or two of them yourself, men and women who calm and heal others by their presence and Faith, or drive them wild and berserk, because Evil cannot stand the presence of uncorrupted Good.

“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”-G.K. Chesterton

The secret to this profound Joy is not detachment, as the Tibetan-style Airbending monks of the TV series might tell you, but attachment. Seek the goodness of everything, as Saint Francis did. Even Death he called Sister, and his love for even the deadliest of God’s creatures is well known. As Paul commands, seek what is True, seek what is Good, seek what is Beautiful. Attach yourself to it, lose yourself within, and become a white-hot candle of Holiness through the Power of the Holy Spirit. The heat of that flame shall keep you aloft and not of this world, and people will love you and hate you for it.

Fire

Speaking of bringing on the heat, what does Firebending have to do with the Catholic Church, aside from the Heretic Roasts, hosted by the Good Ole’ Inquisition?

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

What? I’m Catholic, I get to make fun of that, just like black people get to use the N-word. (Cricket…cricket…cricket…)

Well, actually, Firebending isn’t all about destroying the living snot out of your enemies with an unstoppable wall of iridescent flame and doom. As fun as I am sure that sounds to many of you (I have a particular young lady in mind, actually…she’s probably torching someone to fuel her oven right now.), Firebending is about drive, purpose, and energy. And to me, NOTHING seems more Catholic.

I bet he and Iroh would convert if they were real.

Why? Well, what more all-consuming purpose can you think of than to get yourself and everyone around you to Heaven? Following Christ is not a by-degrees thing, as our sinful nature forces our fiats to be. It IS all or nothing. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to bring as many people as close to God as possible, every moment of every day. What sort of madman, what sort of Herculean Will chooses this sort of life? Oh, I can think of a few people. All of them, and myself, fall horribly short of our goal, but though we are so terrible at being Good, as Prince Zuko complains, and though we fail repeatedly, as he warns us we will, surrender is not an option. Christ’s call to die to yourself, inch by bleeding inch, stands out a stark, blazing white against the background of swirling shades of grey (yes, all 50 of them…ick), and smolders ever brighter when placed against the Darkness rent free from its deceptive shrouds.

That’s a full-tilt run Home if I ever saw one.

The inextinguishable Will of the Catholic Church has painted billions of its men and women red with their own blood. Whether you exsanguinate yourself slowly as the average struggling soul, or all at once in a rush of pain and Glory as men like Saint Peter and women like Joan of Arc did, you are called to do the same.

Masters of Mastery

Aha! You thought I was done! Nay! There is more yet to come!

Chiefly, the fact that the Avatar is not merely a Master of all four Elements. The Avatar is a Master of Mastery. A mere Master of the Elements can take the styles one at a time and apply them to situations as needed, but a fully realized Avatar must actually be able to use the Elements cohesively. To be very good at each one individually carries a risk of unbalance and a resulting over-correction. Say, for example, you are in a situation that requires you to be quick and adaptable, say, Evangelizing an emotional, easily ticked-off friend. You also need to put drive and willpower into keeping that up for a long period of time, most likely months or years (Hint: conversations rarely happen on the spot.) If you lose sight of the end goal and forget your purpose, you lock yourself into a watery dance of not pushing things too far and never actually get anywhere with your friend. If you become to end-game oriented, you lose track of the now and become to intense for your friend to handle. Or, say you have to deal with a very angsty Anti-Catholic stranger. Fly too high and get too mystical and joyous, and they will write you off as a fruitcake and forget anything important you might have said. Or become to set in stone and intractable and they will also write you off, this time as a reactionary stick-in-the-mud, and likewise ignore anything pithy you have said in defense of the Church.

Gee, doing all of that sounds hard. Probably because it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do: be worthy of Heaven in your perfection. Did I mention that unbalance leads to corrupting your Faith with Sin? Burning others needlessly or crushing them underboot when you are feeling all high and righteous is the most lethal kind of Pride there is, for it is what caused Satan to challenge God. Being lukewarm in the Faith for the sake of not driving everyone off is an insidious kind of Sloth. I could go on and on ad nauseum.

Fear not. You have the redeeming Blood of Christ, the whole of the Church and her Sacraments, and a legion of Martyrs and Angels at your back. It will end well if you choose to end it well. So go out there, and fully realize your Avatar potential!


Bender Identification

Ahhh it feels good to be done with exams for the Summer. In the interest of doing something completely unrelated to anything that might be considered serious in any way, shape, or form, I have dedicated my first post to something completely frivolous: Avatar.

No. Not the blue Native Americans that re-enacted Pocahantas mashed together with Dances With Wolves on a visually pleasing planet. Avatar: The Last Airbender. From what I have seen, it was the last best chance at children’s/teen television getting something well written and beautifully crafted on air, and I can only say it passed with flying colors. I still have my reservations about the sequel series, Avatar: The Legend of Korra, but those are primarily due to my personal aesthetics and nothing more. While like anything well-written, Avatar has spawned a great deal of musings in my mind, I will stave off those more pithy things to make room for some light-hearted fun. Primarily, a description of each Bending Element that will allow you and your friends to discern which sort of Bender you would be if such fun and powerful magicks were real.

I first had the idea when I wound up waiting to meet with a compatriot and happened to be sailing the Internet. I had been taking online bending quizzes to pass the time, and was amused by the lack of anything really comprehensive. For example, my results were so mixed that there was not an element I was not classified as, and once or twice, I was selected as an Avatar. However, the more complete ones tended to classify me as Earth or Fire, and the most exhaustive actually used percentages, giving me, if I recall correctly, an 86% Firebending aptitude and a 66% Earthbending aptititude, with everything else in the low 40’s or 30’s. Many of the questions related more to what nation you would fit best in, as opposed to what element best suited your personality. For example, just because I like komodo dragons and actual dragons more than I do flying bison or ostrich-horses, it does not mean that I have the personality and attributes most commonly found among Firebenders.

The thing is, part of what makes deciding what style of Bending someone is so difficult is that it doesn’t always quite link up with their personality, or it may do so in a hidden way. For example, Uncle Iroh is very reserved, aloof, and humorous for a Firebender. King Bumi appears to be extremely unstable and not nearly serious enough to be your typical Earthbender. Master Pakku on the other hand, seems more rigid than his Element would suggest. The key to figuring out the correct Element is looking at the whole spectrum of what an Element is, and applying that to the uniqueness of the individual.To that end, I am going to provide a summary of each Element and its relation to its Benders for your enjoyment and use, along with examples of the Benders seen in the TV show, and examples taken from real life.

Overview

I classify the elements into two sets of brackets that halve the set according to each classification. Tangible Elements include Earth and Water, while Intangibles include Wind and Fire. Intensity Elements include Earth and Fire, Passivity Elements include Wind and Water. The combination of classifications, along with some unique attributes of each Element and some help from the fictional Masters of the Avatar Universe, will make up what I am basing my summaries on. It is important to remember that all Elements at their extremes seem a great deal like another Element in the scheme of things.

Water

Water is both Tangible and Passive. It is something you can readily feel, and in some cases, hold onto, while being able to go with the flow of things and adapt to its spatial environment. The movement of Water is governed by the push and pull of the tides, a balance of negative and positive energy. While all mortal persons have this sort of make-up (even sinners can do God’s Will, and even Saints sin) at their core, the nature of this duality in relation to Bending and Benders is more along the lines of a mutability in their personality. Waterbenders may hang back and take measure of the environment if they feel new to a situation, and become energetic and unreserved when they feel it wise to do so. They may be pushed and pulled in opposing directions if they do not watch themselves, and are, oddly enough, like their opposite Element, Fire, easily thrown out of wack when things get too dicey or hectic. This is due to their high level of adaptability, for like water itself, it can flow around any obstacle, or solidify into ice and push things out of the way or hold them in place almost the same way Earth can. Waterbenders may seem highly mercurial, and that is to be expected, as rivers, depending on the seasonal rainfall, or seas, depending on atmospheric conditions, can go from placidity to raging fury in a matter of moments. Water is a deep and complex thing, and so are Waterbenders. There usually is something more beneath the surface. Water can be hard to nail down accurately, as it covers such a wide range of things in a person. A Waterbender could be extremely easy-going and relaxed, like a stream, or as unmoving as a glacier. However, they also have to have a portion of themselves that is the opposite of what they usually are. The glacier is solid through most of its volume, but its bottom is highly plastic and nearly liquid, which is what allows it to move. Master Pakku in particular is this type of Water Bender. The highly adaptable flowing brook would be most like Avatar Kuruk, the hands-off Avatar who wound up fighting Koh the Facestealer. Note that like ice under pressure, Pakku’s stone-face melts if you try hard enough, and when sufficiently given reason, Kuruk will come down like a raging tsunami on an enemy. The final common thread that Waterbenders share is a strong sense of community. Every drop adds to the ocean. Water droplets do not do much individually, but together they can cut straight through rock, or slow down a speeding bullet. Fire can start up an inferno from just one spark, a single pebble retains the same sort of toughness when broken from a mountain, and air is almost indivisible from itself, but water works in numbers. Waterbenders will do best when secure among people they trust and feel like they are a part of. Examples of real Waterbending personalities are master tactician Sun Tzu and politician Mitt Romney.

I had to use this picture of Sun Tzu…it came up randomly on Google Search.

Here is Mitt Romney demonstrating his “flip-flopping cold fish” Bending technique.

Earth

Earth is Tangible and Intense. It is firm beneath your feet, and is still used as a highly durable building material today, despite the advances in metalworking, which, by the way, is simply refining rock (ore) into an even more durable substance. Its chief quality is stability, for even when shaken, it usually just vibrates, and it takes a great deal of force to shatter it completely. It is hard to ignore and hard to move aside. Earthbenders are resolute, indomitable, and often unforgiving. Their manner of living is rigid, stern, and tough. They prefer the unrefined things and unrefined approaches to life, and have a rich connection to their roots. They are usually not the center of attention, despite their strong presence, due to their often reserved nature. They can be rigid to the point of unfeeling stoicism, and out of touch with their emotions. When they do finally crack under pressure, it is only after an unbelievable amount of stress, and one of two things happens. Either they completely fragment and collapse into rubble like Tyro after his capture, or they lash out with all the rage and condemnation of an earthquake’s tremors. Earthbenders are often like oxen or mules, or any hardworking, solidly built animal. They often prefer here and now values as opposed to high ideals of futures yet to come, or intangibles, and if they focus on anything it is the past, where they draw their roots from. They accept change with a lowered head and a steady and complete resistance to it. Adaptation comes slowly to them, and they are not renowned for their flexibility. This is especially true for Long Feng and the Dai Li, who have become so unbending, they force those around them to comply with their own agenda by overt and covert means. One could almost say that a solid stereotype for an Earthbender would be any comparison to the common hardworking farmer. Tough to break down, reliable, and extremely dangerous when provoked. That is what being an Earthbender is all about. Real examples of Earthbending personalities, both positive and negative, are Pope Benedict XVI, the current Pope, and Emperor Hirohito, WWII Emperor of Japan.

The Holy Father demonstrating how to throw boulders. HU-AH!!

Air

Air is Intangible and Passive. You can feel it there against your skin, but never really hold any of it. While it moves, it appears to exist, but confine it and it does little but sit in the jar you trapped it with. Air is about spirit and soul, and it has surprising depth despite its lack of being tied down to anything. The most notable quality of an Airbender is that they are zephyrous. Airbenders, like Waterbenders, have a sense of community, but it is different in practice. Air touches all things and moves around it, but never really mingles that much with anything. Airbenders will have a somewhat universal sense of community, and like the wind itself, mold seamlessly into the like company of other Airbenders. This universality comes at a price, though: Airbenders are not quite fully accepted into the company of differing personalities than their own, though they are tolerated and in many cases celebrated by all. They have an aloof quality about them, something that is often coupled with a sort of reserve or holding back, or on the opposite end of the Element, an airy and exuberant lightheartedness and highly developed sense of the humorous that singles them out in a crowd. Like the atmosphere in an enclosed room, Airbenders who take themselves too seriously can be stuffy and oppressive, and like the breeze in a sunny field, the more exuberant members of this style can be uplifting and freeing. They also tend to be a very spiritual people, whatever their religious beliefs, and hold fairly staunch codes of ethics despite the easily yielding nature of their Element. When it comes to conflict and confrontation, they can be even more evasive than Waterbenders, and almost never come at a situation directly, harsh words and raised tempers are nearly anathema to them. The most ideal position for one of their ilk is simply that of distant observation if friendly mingling becomes impossible. Only when extremely pressed and pushed to the limit will an Airbender ever start to lash out at anyone, and after the sudden storm, there is a good chance that they will be gone with the same suddenness that they came. Airbending personality examples would include Pope John Paul II and Professor Carl Sagan.

The master Theologian shows off his Airbending skills.

Billions and Billions of Bending techniques….

Fire

Fire is Intangible and Intense. Like its Intense counterpart, Earth, Fire is not subtle, but like its Intangible counterpart Air, it flows wherever there is space for it to do so. Firebending is power in its most raw, unconstrained form. Earth is also about strength, but is far easier to contain by nature of its solidity. Fire is explosive and easily spread beyond the will of the Bender, whereas the problem with Air is calling it up at all due to a similar lack of containability. Firebenders are passionate, strong-willed, and determined. They have so much drive and spirit that it is easy for them to burn themselves out quickly. Firebenders are often the center of attention or in a leadership role in life, because, like the sparks of their Element, their drive and will is easily spread among those around them. However, they can be so goal oriented that they begin to spurn or even sacrifice the well-being of the people around them for the sake of achieving whatever it is they desire. Like Waterbenders, they are easy to unbalance, though their problem stems from their inability to change direction easily, whereas their counterpart Element changes direction far too well. Fire tends to be a one trick-pony, as there is little it can do besides burn. Firebenders are often very emotional, and this unbalance can lead to the embracing of something that is initially confusing for those who see run of the mill Firebenders like Admiral Zhao or Prince Zuko in his early stages of the series. If a Firebender is either quick on the uptake, or has the misfortune to cause himself or someone he cares about great harm because of the dangerous and poorly tameable nature of the Element, they often learn to use a countermeasure to control themselves. They become stern and retain their intensity like Jeong Jeong, living a life of harsh ascetic discipline in an effort to control their unmatched power and ferocity, or they rely on their sense of humor and general lightheartedness, coupled with a more relaxed sort of discipline, like Uncle Iroh, to take the edge off of their drive and convert it into a general zest for life and living. Some, though, lose their sense of purpose, and when that happens, they go out like a snuffed flame. It is rare that they will pull a Prince Zuko and regain their drive rapidly, for like pilot lights, Firebenders are hard to start up again once they are put out. Real Firebending personalities would include Martin Luther King Junior and Adolf Hitler.

That finger just held lightning, I swear.

Here’s Hitler with his trademark technique.

Now, to do some sample analysis, using myself as the guinea pig.

I might strike people as an Earthbender due to my size and build, as well as my deeper voice and quiet intensity. I agreed with their assessments at first, because I do very much like the tradition and cultural roots I have been given by my parents, and have a strong root in my Faith and my friends. I am a very intense person, and inclined to brood and think over things silently for long periods of time. I do prefer to meet things head on, and do not enjoy backing down from difficult situations. When I thought about myself more, though, I came to the conclusion that Firebending made the most sense. See, I started out extremely aggressive and passionate, and while I am still very intense and passionate, my aggression has been curbed with discipline and time, coupled with sound religious practice. I am still easily sidetracked and have difficulty not going full-steam ahead on issues that catch my attention. If I am not careful, I snap at people easily, and when angered, I go off like a volcano. My energy is clearly present in any group, I am usually one of the loudest and most physically active people there. When I do get tired, though, I collapse and sprawl over the nearest available comfortable surface. Depending on my mood, what passes for a comfortable surface could easily be a patch of pavement. I burn out.

The problem present in classifying myself is a common thing, many people are hard to define. I am like magma, Fire so close to Earth that it’s almost solid. Waterbenders can be so cold and icy that they seem rock-like, and so flowing that they are nearly Air. Fire can be so brief and explosive that it might behave like a gust of wind, in fact, fires can cause powerful winds, like backdrafts in a burning building, for example. Fire also has the potential to be cheery and friendly, like a hearth or a candle at Midnight Mass. Water can be explosive like fire under pressure, and Earth, when eroded enough, is soft and yielding like water as sand. The important thing is the attempt to get a whole picture of the person, and work from that.

So, that all said and done, classify away, my friends! Feel free to use this guide anywhere you please, as long as you give me the proper credit for its creation.


Filler Because I’m Responsible

So, Final Exams are coming up, and I am awash in papers and tests of all varieties. As opposed to writing for this, I’ll just drop in with the occasional tidbit or artwork that I’ve muddled with to relax between pounding the intellectual turf. Have a taste!

 

This has to be one of my favorite pictures of Christ. I know, I know, it looks hippy, but I like the Universality of it. He’s just beckoning to each and every one of us, wearing a robe that shows in no uncertain terms that He really is the Lord of All Nations.

I recently began watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. I highly doubt that I need to explain why I love this picture. Also, props to Bad Catholic for introducing me to it.

I first read the quote “He went consenting, Or else he was no king…It was no man’s place to say to him, “It is time to make the offering.” from Mary Renault’s “The King Must Die” as the chapter header of some portion of Watership Down. I instantly thought of my own Bleeding King. To that end, I butchered the construction of this on Picnik.

I made this based off of a Full Metal Alchemist one my friend the Catholic Chaoticist over on tumblr had posted up. As many flaws as Bleach had to begin with, and as many as it developed, I did enjoy what I watched of it, especially these two fellows. To date, Kubo Tite is the only man who has created a main character I can identify with fairly well. What that says about me, or more importantly, Kurosaki Ichigo (the serious looking gentleman with the glorified carving knife), is besides the point. On a side note…Abarai Renji is holding his sword in the most uncomfortable way possible. I’m estimating that monster weighs about 15 Ilbs…so why would you ever rest that weight on your body, blade down?

Expect more to come!


The Swarm and the Saint, the Horde and the Hero

My interests, when it comes to the tabletop strategy game Warhammer 40,000, can be summed up quite easily with two simple strokes that divide my favorite armies into four overlapping categories. On the side of “Good”, or what passes for it in the Great Galaxy of Grimdark, I favor strongly the Blood Angels and Space Wolves, both Space Marine Chapters of the Imperium of Man. On the side of Evil, which does not need parentheses, for in such a harsh fictional background, even the heroes could be labeled as villains, I prefer the Orkz and the Tyranids, the first a race of brutish warriors equipped with legendary toughness and ferocity, and the second a Hive Collective of insatiable hunger and incalculable size.

Ah, so you have never bothered to look into the cobbled together mess that is the fiction of Warhammer 40,000? Well, I think then, it is time for a brief lesson on this hodgepodge of science fiction and and fantasy concepts. The general overview of the Universe is something like this:

Yes. It is like that.

Mankind was originally in a bit of a fragmented position, occupying random chunks of the Galaxy and mainly trying to live day by day while fighting one another and invasive alien species. Suddenly, this superman who turns out to be a demi-god with vast psychic powers conjured up by a bunch or primitive far-seeing shaman-mystics back in the B.C. years shows up.  Supposedly this guy was behind the scenes for everything major in history, and finally decided to say screw it and become the Emperor of Mankind. In the process of doing so, he creates a bunch of genetically enhanced super soldiers, including a dozen or so Primarchs, super-warriors he created using his own DNA. Some have psychic powers, some are charismatic, some are really, really, really (emphasis on all three reallys) good at organization. One has angel wings. One is really bloodthirsty. Another likes to drink and fight all the time. So he uses this mixed bag of deadly supermen and genetically enhances entire legions of men with their DNA, and puts each legion of “Space Marines”(note the wonderfully creative name) under the command of their own “father”. So, joined with the military of any planets they conquer, they run around the galaxy spanking the snot out of any aliens in a xenocidal rampage somehow held together by the iron will of their entirely (well except for Lorgar, but let’s forget him) secular leaders who follow their “father’s” even-more-iron will and insurmountable charisma.

Now, all this time, what has been allowing various gifted people to have psychic powers is this thing called the Warp. Now, in the Warp, there are creatures that can take physical form when the Warp tears. Many of these things are not nice, as the Warp is made up of the combined psyches/souls/what-have-you of every living thing in the universe. The most powerful Warp entities are the Chaos gods, Tzeentch, the bird-like fiend of Hope and Change (which makes our current president’s campaign slogan highly ironic), Nurgle, the rotting beast of Disease, Decay, and Death, Khorne, the warrior of destruction, violence, and blood, and Slaanesh, the creepy Dr. Frankenfurter of Warhammer, a being of excess and desire, Lord/Lady of Pleasure, spawned by the drug induced orgies of the Eldar (Space Elves, to be simple about it). Yup. Those darn fickle elves partied so much they birthed a hideous entity they would come to call She Who Thirsts. There’s nothing like creating a soul-devouring deity with your unchecked desires.

You always want to wear a hat when fighting Tzeentch.

Papa Nurgle is not the kind of dad you'd enjoy spending time with.

Always angry. All the time. That's Khorne for you.

I won’t even post a picture that has anything to do with Slaanesh. They’re all creepy and give me the heebie jeebies.

So, these four Chaos gods start whispering things into various ears within the Primarchs, and the New Imperium of Man suddenly has a giant civil war on its hands. After a long war costing countless billions of lives, they manage to fight off Chaos by a hair, but the Emperor is mortally wounded in the process and is kept as some sort of mostly-dead-mortal-shell thing by the Golden Throne, a contraption that uses the souls of Psykers (people with mind powers) to keep him from being completely dead. It takes a thousand of them a day to keep him kicking. And if you think that’s grisly, well, suddenly this religion based around the Emperor as a god-figure springs up, and they get an Inquisition, and it’s like a very hideous version of the Catholic Church with lasers in space, in what is left of an Empire that once spanned the Galaxy. Technology barely advances and is treated like religion, heresy abounds, atrocity is the name of the game, and aside from the corruptions of the Chaos gods and their servant daemons, a handbasket full of violent alien races are making inroads into Man’s home as well. When the tagline says “In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war.”, it is not kidding. What they don’t quite tell you until you read further than that is this: the entire concept is so over the top and exaggerated that the sheer insanity of it becomes humorous.

So, now that you have been educated about where these freaks come from, on to the specific groups themselves.

On the side of “Good”, I will begin with the Space Wolves. Now, Space Marines do need some preparatory description. The best way to think of them is simply as genetically enhanced super-warriors inside nearly impervious robotic armor, which are also monks. These are not the peaceful, simple-laborer Catholic or Buddhist monks, though. These are monks who worship the god-Emperor of Mankind and their founding Primarch, and recite Litanies of Hate and invoke blessings to turn on their machinery before going to war. These are psycho-indoctrinated soldiers who come screaming out of the sky and open fire on you with what are essentially hybrids between machine guns and rocket launchers. One fully armed Space Marine could probably take out a division of any modern day armed force by himself. A squad of ten is capable of taking over a planet by utilizing brains, stealth, and superior firepower. They are roughly seven feet tall without the armor, and hit eight or nine feet when wearing it. They can spit acid, crush a man’s skull with one hand like an egg, eat almost anything they can chew, and go weeks without eating and days without sleeping with no performance loss. They have heightened senses, a reinforced skeleton, two hearts, an assortment of other organs that let them do things like survive in extreme heat, cold, or temporary vacuum. In their armor, they can punch through metal walls, withstand blasts that would wreck our tanks, and carry what amounts to an SUV around without any real trouble at all. Each is trained in every conceivable mode of warfare and all manner of battle tactics, and is required to be proficient in each. This description only concerns the rank and file Battle Brothers of each Chapter, not the specialists or commanders of those thousands of different mini-cultures with their own heraldry, traditions, and customs.

You do not want this angry at you.

The Primarch of the Space Wolves, Leman Russ, was raised on a an icy planet called Fenris (you will find this heavy-handed naming common throughout the Universe of Warhammer), where the people were pretty much hyper-vikings constantly warring with one another for survival. He joined the Imperium when the Emperor beat him in single combat. This Chapter has strong Norse themes and roots, and are somewhat genetically modified further than their peers with even keener senses and longer canines than is normal. They use wolf imagery like mad, and wear pelts and claws and teeth and skulls as adornment on their armor. They are notorious for rushing into fights and enjoying long bouts of tale-weaving and heavy drinking afterwards. They are proud warriors with a respect and admiration for the forces of Nature, and more humanitarian than most Chapters, fully embracing their role as protectors of the Imperium. They tend to buck all manner of authority but their own, and like all Space Marines, hold their forebears and traditions in unshakeable regard. A summation of their philosophy can be found in this quote: “It is the way of Fenris. We stay as long as we can. Fight as hard as we can. Kill as much as we can. Only when we can do no more do we move on.”

Ice and snow? Enemies? No problem. They've got this.

The Blood Angels are similar to the Space Wolves in their Humanitarian aspect, and their Primarch, Sanguinius, was angelic in more than his winged and noble appearance. When the Emperor was besieged on Terra, in the heartland of the Imperium, he died protecting him and thereby saved Humanity with his sacrifice. I do not think it so strange a thing that this Chapter has extremely Catholic imagery and rituals, down to drinking the preserved blood of their Primarch from ornate chalices as part of their religious observances. In fact, the Chapter has often been described as a bunch of Catholic Vampires. All tend to be fair and long haired, and like the Church, enjoy the arts, especially painting. Also like the members of the Church, they struggle with an innate flaw, although instead of Original Sin, it is the Red Thirst, which leads, if not kept in check, to the Black Rage. This anger and hunger stems from some sort of psycho-genetic link to their Primarch, and the moment when he was slain. The Black Rage is a nearly insensate state of madness and battle lust, and those who fall into it must be shepherded by the spiritual masters of the Chapter, and are only unleashed upon the enemy when the need is great. They have a special organization titled the Death Company which these men are organized into, and they fight with a cold fury until killed. This flaw is combated by an intense life of prayer, meditation, and the release of artwork, mostly painting, as mentioned before. You have to admit, this is all strikingly familiar.

Yeah. He's like that.

Now for the Bad Guys.

Orks are a simple bunch. They were originally genetically engineered to combat one of the other races in Warhammer 40,000, the Necrons, a bunch of stone-cold killing machines, literally. Their sole purpose is to fight. An ork starts out as a spore in the ground, then eventually claws his way to the surface and right away begins beating on other orkz. You see, the more orkz fight and survive those fights, the tougher and larger they get. They thrive on violence.  Eventually, when one ork gets big and tough enough, he starts to lead a band of them, and they fight other bands. If he survives, and becomes more massive and nasty in the process, he leads what is left of all the other bands as a Warboss. Repeat this process a hundred or so times, and you have what the Orkz call a Waaaaaaagh!!!, or a massive army of the creatures bent on looting and destruction. The more Orkz there are, the meaner and tougher each ork gets. The race has been described, with only a small degree of exaggeration, as one where you could shoot their arms and head off, and put a few rounds in their chest, and you’d still have to do some hard arguing to convince one wounded in such a manner that it was dead. Combined with this natural durability and ferocity is a queer sort of cunning, which allows them to master and loot pretty much anything they can get their hands on, and turn it into weaponry. They also have a few odd members of their breed with psychic ability, the power of which fluctuates with the number of ‘boyz, as they call their average soldier, present. It is often said that if there were a way they could stop infighting and unite, the Orkz would blaze through the Galaxy like fire through last week’s newspaper.

They are this crazy. Every time.

The Tyranids are a sort of Horde as well. It is unsure from whence they came, but the multiple times they have entered the Galaxy to prey upon its denizens, they have devoured everything in their wake indiscriminately and barely been repelled. They are highly evolved swarms of organisms that function with one Hive Mind. It is unsure what the exact nature of this Hive Mind is, whether it be a collective of all the smaller primitive minds of each organism or a central intelligence, but what is certain is that the Swarms evolve at a rate unprecedented by anything else. Their claws and teeth are engineered to the point where they can rend metal, and various bio-plasmas and acids make up their arsenal of firepower. All who stand against them fall under wave after wave of utterly fearless single-minded beasts refined entirely in a way that befits wholesale slaughter. Those who have been defeated are then absorbed as biomass to create yet more monstrosities, along with their own dead and creatures too wounded to be useful. After a victory, a planet is stripped of all organic material, which is then converted into biomass for the Hive Mind to use. It has been estimated that the Galaxy has only seen the tendrils of a much larger force that is slowly investigating a new territory.

Yes. It is going to eat that tank.

So, why I have I gone on for so very long about a fantastical Science Fiction Universe setting for a game most of you will never play, and many of you will find strange, stupid, or both?

Because, I think, my favorite factions in this game parallel ways of thinking, both ancient and modern, secular and religious. One of these patterns of thought happens to apply to mine own.

In the olden days, when Vikings actually existed and men cherished far more dearly tales of combat and strife, as opposed to “RAAHN, STAWP IT” being cried out incessantly by whoever that tanned creature of a woman was on Jersey Shore, there were grand sagas of legendary heroes that opposed foes of massive dimensions, either in numbers or with one really big bad dude. Beowulf, Sigurd, Thor, and the like, all of them were legendary warriors of intense stature and martial prowess. They possessed the courage, the mettle, the fighting spirit that all Pagan heroes require to be heroes at all. They are also extremely individual people, in that they are men who stand out, who go their own way, though bound by custom and duty. They are not unthinking, nor are they brutes despite their bloodlust and strength, but are skilled and tempered by experience and cunning. This is something quite readily apparent in the way the Space Wolves are treated. Despite their over-drinking and unnecessary celebratory fighting, they are skilled and brave warriors, always ready to give their all for Lord and Land and Honor. They keep a rugged individualism about themselves, keeping their own council and spitting in the eye of those would keep that right from them.

On the other hand, you have the dragons, the monsters, the ogres, the raging hordes of killers who do nothing but pillage and rape and slay and steal. You have the darker side of ancient pagan nature here, a monster craving flesh for its gullet and other satisfaction for the various desires given to it by nature. It does not put overmuch thought into things aside from getting those wants, it has a hunger, and it must keep that hunger sated. Like Fafnir, like Grendel and Grendel’s mother, the Orkz too have needs, a bloodlust they must fill, but due to their nature, they never can get enough. There is no real self here, no real individuality, no dream beyond satisfying their innermost desires. They go where they please, sure enough, and individuals here and there might distinguish themselves as particularly good at satisfying their universal craving for wanton destruction. But they are all of too like a mind and a too much a servant of their own passions and wants to have any sort of real individuality.

Since the Advent of Christianity upon the Globe, something quite new and wonderful has arisen. A Blessed sort of Individualism that at first seems like it crushes the individual itself as part of a larger whole has sprung forth into Creation. The Catholic Church seems to many like a large number of brainwashed zombies lurching in the same direction. Nothing could be further from the Truth. The intent of Catholicism is not to take away Man’s Will, but to return it to him from the bonds of Sin and Death. A man still has passions if he is Catholic, but he meets them in a manner not unlike that of the Heroes of Old meeting a foe in battle. He must become a rugged individual, a man well versed in the Inner War of the Soul. His temptations prowl about like hungry curs, seeking his life and lives of those around him. In his Heart, he stands alone but for the Aide of God. He must learn skill, and cunning, and strength, and courage. He must become the consummate warrior, a hero, a Saint. The Church is not a gathering of zombies. It is a gathering of Men who chose to free themselves, and then free others, the way all true Heroes must. So do the Blood Angels behave. They fight enemies within and without, training and praying hard and with great vigor. They are both scholarly and adept at portraying the beauty in things. While they do all have one cause, they have chosen that cause. They bow respectfully to higher authority, but do not allow secular needs to overrun their own conscience, and are all the more respected and righteous for doing so. They come to the aide of those besieged by darkness, as befits their name. They, like the Church, are made up of individuals seeking the good, organized by a higher power into a work of art that goes about saving the Universe.

What are the Tyranids then? Secularism, or as I prefer to call it, the New Paganism, for the parallels are deliciously funny(and something I will most likely touch on in a later post), is quite similar to them in its function. Among the Tyranids, you have a massive group shackled together for the purpose of doing one thing, and one thing alone; what it is programmed to do by its nature. Tyranids devour because they were born to devour. Secular thought, Secular Humanism in particular, emphasizes the ability of Humanity to solve its own problems, by way of the equipment we are given by Evolution and the processes that govern it. Under this school of thought, the entire human race is simply this sort of machinery, this group of organisms doing what they do best, doing as they were birthed to do. The individual is subservient to the many, and able to be cast off if needed, for it is only as valuable as it is useful. Now, at this point, many will claim that this is not so, that you see strong individualism all the time. I say, not so! The Tyranids again serve me well as example. There are many forms the organisms in the swarm may take, even members who stand out in stature or individual intelligence or function, but a part of the swarm they remain. Social creatures without a Hive Mind, but enslaved to the ultimate survival of the many in this way, fare no better. The “individuals” you see are merely useful in their skills or their special adaptation, and if the usefulness fades, so does their value. This pseudo-individualism is the rallying cry of many in the Secularist movement.

Another part of the problem with this is the lack of Objective Right and Wrong. The current moral mode of the day is that right and wrong are subjectively determined by our needs as a people (read, as a species). There is therefore no real choice, no individual decision at all to be made in that kind of moral system. When making a moral decision, you are now choosing between varying degrees of function and usefulness, and you are serving the purpose for which the species created you. If you choose poorly many times, or your morality is not helpful to the race, you become detritus that is merely something that will be removed in the next generation. There is no choice in this kind of choosing, there is no real choice in selecting a different shade of gray. Their is no Individual in this kind of lazy and weak individualism, where in the end you serve the same function as everyone else, just in a different manner or form.

And from this I conclude that the Catholic Church, and Christianity as a whole, is the most rugged Individualist group on the planet.


Dashing Debonair (And sometimes Dastardly) Dragons

I am a man who very much likes dragons. Strange, is it not, this orthodox fellow who likes Roman Catholicism and Christ Jesus so much, liking something the Devil is described as in the Bible? Liking such a Western symbol of Evil and Destruction does indeed seem out of place when it comes right down to it. My fondness for the great scaly beasts is probably harmless, but many of the more Fundamentalist Christians, and even some Catholics, I have spoken to seem to find it slightly unnerving, or even blasphemous, for my tastes to lean in that direction. One such couple went so far as to say that I had within me a desire for the Occult that needed to be eradicated, along with my love of music that is not explicitly and overwhelmingly Christian. I believe they were Independent Baptists, who according to some other denominations which contain people I know, tend to be overly sour-puss in their beliefs and very uncompromising on any matter whatsoever related in the slightest to Faith. I wonder if they and the Westboro Baptist Church have anything in common? After all, I highly doubt Hell awaits me if I wear a shirt that has a dragon on it. I own so many that I would surely burn. As I write this, I am in front of my giant blue wyvern poster. Next to a book shelf chock full of tales involving or centering around dragons, among other things so many miss out on because they automatically assume that looking foul means being foul, as opposed to the fact that Evil often wears a noble face and has a nasty habit of being the most busy in God’s own house. I would wager that the Devil does not attack through so obvious means as to only use fantastical trappings as his vehicle. He has better weapons, ones that I sadly am familiar with.

But I digress. Why do I like dragons anyway? I have a few answers, probably both profound and yet as childish and simple as tiddlywinks. The best answers are that way by nature.

The most simple of these explanations ties in, as many things do, to Dinosaurs. These great reptilian creatures have stalked the halls of my mind since before I could name more than one of them. There is something vast and glorious about their size, be they diminutive like Compsognathus and Avimimus, or gargantuan like Giganotosaurus and Ultrasaurus.

Need I say more?

 

They have a distinctness that to my aesthetics, encompasses the Glory of Creation the way whirling galaxies and nebulae might in the eyes of an astronomer or astronaut. To me, dinosaurs reveal the Power and the Glory of what the Lord has made, and it is a beauty too great to be ignored, though many might deny its link to God. There is no child who will look at an Allosaurus raising its toothy maw to the sky in a triumphant roar, hooked hand-claws extended in primal fury, and not be moved. Some might fear, and others might stand in awe, but all shall be moved. And so it is with anything that displays the Greatness of God.

What the heck, I'll say more anyway.

 

So I ask you. What are dragons but dinosaurs scaled up and with more decoration in various places, physical or otherwise? Man has an innate respect for that which is larger than himself, and what is more overmastering than a creature millenia old, with wings that blot out the sun, breath that turns steel molten, claws that tear down castle walls, muscle and sinew that crumble mountainside in their grip, a gaze more intense than any bird of prey, and an alien intellect that almost breaks down your very will as it speaks with a voice that rocks the roots of the stone you stand upon. What are dragons and dinosaurs, or indeed, the vastness of Creation, but a mirror or window in which to see the Divine?

I think this would move anyone. Especially their bowels.

 

I also like to look at how Dragons, and their opposites, the typical Knight, fight. Knights, after a certain point, to me, seem more than a little weak. They find an animal, and bend it to their will, and call it a noble steed, and ride into battle dominating another of God’s Creatures. They press a blacksmith into their service, and have him forge armor and weapons with which to fight, again asserting mastery over another. The very armor and weapons themselves are not what the Good Lord has given them. There is a distinct lack of trust there, in relying not on what God has given you, but on what you can squeeze out of Creation and your fellow man. Dragons, however, are different. Their only weapons and armor, despite their effectiveness and lethality, are those granted to them by the Creator. All a dragon’s fiery breath, impenetrable scales, cruel talons, cunning intellect, colossal size, vast wings, and hideous strength are what he is born with. The very fact that he takes to the wing on the wind, something that has long been poetically called the Breath of God, implies a sense of trust in something he does not control, something he must learn to work with and not against, or be cast to the ground. I see no reason why this utter reliance on using the Gifts given to you by the Grace of God and this complete reliance on His machinations that you cannot always see but trust to support you should not be upheld as Righteous and Good. In short, my view of dragons is something anything good Christian should aspire to be.

Righteous Dragon

Those who live by the sword...

 

For fairness’ sake, I will flip the fairy story right-side up again. A righteous Knight can be just as good, and more identifiable of a character. His struggle seems far more akin to our own, by nature of his very humanity. A righteous Knight knows what God has given him is good, yet he also knows that such gifts include hands to craft and a mind to conceive wondrous things for the greater Glory of God. In kindness and humility, he asks the smithy to craft him weapons on protection of the finest steel, for there is a scaled terror to slay. He treats those items with respect for the power they hold, and finds a horse that he makes a bond with, and trains and cares for, with whom he rides to battle. Before he fights, he kneels and prays for the Grace to do as God Wills in this fight. As for the wicked Dragon, he wakes and wallows in his own strength and might, though it was all a gift from On High. He uses these gifts blasphemously and with great selfishness, killing and devouring all before him. He feels that no one is more powerful or more cunning than he.

 

Righteous Knight

The Adversary

In summation, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, even a dragon can be Holy when it is pointed towards the Glory of God.


Why I Shall Always Love the Naked Blade

I wonder why so many have such a fascination with guns. Well, wonder is not such an accurate word in this case, because I have an inkling of their desires myself. I think it has something to do with the power of the weapon, the loud bang, or in the case of silencers, the little dart-like “pitew!” of the bullet leaving the barrel, the force of the recoil against your hand and arm. Or, if you happen to be poorly trained, the butt of the firearm cracking painfully against your cheek. There is something that satisfies man’s lust for power in the ability to level a heavy-caliber automatic weapon against a brick wall and see it turn into a pile of dust, to say nothing of what such a weapon does to flesh. This becomes even more apparent in science fiction, when we have weapons like phasers which can atomize a person, reducing their body to molecular dust, or the energy cannon on the Death Star, which can annihilate entire planets and star cruisers with a single shot.In the novels, of that same Lucas-verse, there is a ship titled “the Sun Crusher” which launches reactive torpedoes into the core of the star in a solar system, thereby destroying the whole area, snuffing out countless billions of lives at the touch of a button.

I sense a great disturbance in the Force.

While I do see the appeal of various high-powered weapons in writing, for my own personal use I prefer at most a shotgun or a pair of semi-automatic pistols. Even more preferably, I would take one pistol/sawed off shotgun, and a blade of some kind. And taking things yet another step further, I would keep the blade and trade the guns out for a solid english longbow. Granted, on the battlefield, compared to what is available currently, these are not the best of choices, even though, to quote Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, “There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”, yet I still have my reasons why I favor blades and bows over bullets and bombs. Especially powerful, long range weapons like inter-continental ballistic missiles and battleship railguns. To say nothing of the nuclear arsenal currently in place worldwide.

When one uses a gun, especially something like a sniper rifle, there is a sort of disconnect not present with a bow or a blade. Men are tactile creatures, part of what makes something real to us is the touch of it to our hands. This is plain to see when you talk to any race car driver or fighter pilot. They often speak of the “feel” of how the machine handles in response to their commands. There is a mental link between object and what results from using said object. When you see a target a hundred yards out, and you aim through your scope at his head, all it takes is a quick tug on the trigger and his head is now missing. The entire affair is impersonal and though you know you have killed a man, you have not truly felt yourself kill anything. You watched a man fall down a hundred yards away after you twitched your index finger. The separation between action and result is far greater when you press a button from miles above in the air and unleash a salvo of missiles that level a city block to rubble, and greater still when you press a button and a city itself is vaporized by a multi-megaton explosion a short while later.

Making killing easy, after a certain point, becomes dangerous to the morality of man, for it mentally disconnects the violence of the act from the perpetrator. There have been many times that Popes have spoken out against new and more efficient weapons in the past, and I suspect that they will continue to do so in the future, for exactly the same reason. When war becomes as easy as flipping a switch, it is harder and harder to avoid atrocity and needless bloodshed.

Am I making myself clear yet?

This is why my favorite modern weapons to use are pistols and shotguns, because while the killing is still a matter of aiming and twitching my finger, I would have to watch the man die, close enough for it to have a strong impact on my mind without any meditation on the fact that I just took a human life. I would see the blood, watch the wound appear, and the scream, if there was one, would be very audible at that range.

This is even more true with blades and bows. It takes little physical effort, in the end, to level a pistol at someone and pull the trigger, even though the emotional effort might be intense. With a shotgun, my aim need not be nearly as precise. I can knock a grown man to the ground minus large hunks of his chest with one pump and a squeeze. And be ready for the next one to come around the corner into my line of fire. With a bow, you have no such luxury, nor do you have it with a blade. When letting fly with an arrow, you have to draw the bow back, find your target, and take aim. Once you let go, you have to reach back and grab another arrow, then repeat. Now, for a trained combat archer, they could do this very well and with great speed, moreso than one might think. An average rate of fire would be roughly about one arrow every ten seconds. This is still far slower than any modern gun and requires more thought as to what you are about to do, and the tactile sensation is much greater than the pulling of a trigger, which strengthens the mental link of action to the bloody result.

With a blade of any kind, you have to really, really want the other man to be severely wounded or dead. You have to hack, stab, and slash until he is unable to fight back or dead, and either option takes a heavy amount of willpower behind it to accomplish.  I assure you, if you run into a room with a machete and there is an enemy waiting there with one as well, you will feel the effort it takes to get out of the way when he swings at you, the weight of the weapons when they clash against one another, and you will see the agony that man goes through when you take off one of his limbs with yours. You honestly have to want someone to go through horrific pain when you swing at them with a sword or axe or mace.

They look like they mean it, don't they?

My second reason for choosing older weaponry over newer things is purely aesthetic. While I know there will be those who argue that a gun is beautiful, and I may not necessarily disagree with them on that, I would say there is something more wholesome about an object that requires the personal handiwork of a smithy than there is about something that you can produce with the right amount of factory equipment. While is is true that now one can mass-produce blades, as in the machete example I gave above, in the past, even the weapons of the common footman had a fair degree of the touch of a smith’s hand behind them. This is why, even when comparing the millions of guns churned out for use by the military today and the thousands of weapons you see being industrially forged in the bowels of Isengard in the Two Towers movie, the blades and shields of the Uruk-hai still are a sight more beautiful, in all their blackened anonymity.

As I said initially, the aesthetics of guns and bombs are plain, they are about the destruction they can cause, whether in style or in magnitude. Any sap can pick up those weapons, even a sniper rifle, and cause some damage. While you can’t necessarily fly a plane, the button one presses to unleash that thunderous fury is usable by a five-year-old child. Arguably, those with special training can render an even better output of damage and death your average person, and in some cases, I will say that using any weapon can be turned into an art form. If you doubt this, you need only look below.

Over-the-top wire-fu and martial arts aside, you can hand a dummy a sword, and he might be able to swing it, but his odds are better in an even-weaponed gunfight, for guns are the great equalizer. You can be bigger and stronger and it will not save you from the bullet stuck between your eyes. You can be faster, but bullets once fired are pretty much impossible to dodge in real life. You can, however, try to watch where the muzzle is pointing, but that’s another story. You can have all the skill in the world, but one shot can render you just as lifeless. As opposed to this blunt bang-you’re-dead approach, let’s look at how bows and swords are used.

You can be fat with quick hands and a good eye, and use a gun effectively. You need to have good coordination, footwork, stamina, agility, and strength to take on a man with a blade. You can also add your personality to the weapon, giving it a more human touch. When you fight you develop your own style, your own flair, with how you use a sword. With a gun, well, while there are options, I will say that it does not seem like there are very many ways you can fight with one that are unique to you without throwing in the field of combat, which is true for any weapon. A sword you put your soul into, a gun, well, it is more of a tool than a work of art.