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Gambler, No. 3 [A Defense of Dogma]

“It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much falseness in the world.” — Dr. Johnson

“The mind can only repose upon the stability of truth.” — Dr. Johnson

(c) The National Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I fear a great Romantic fallacy is corrupting our country; perhaps no man today is more Romantic than the man who has absolutely nothing to be Romantic about. The self-avowed atheist will be the first of the moderns to start a crusade against belief, admitting its all of no consequence; the feminist who believes gender is fluid and therefore irrelevant will scream, and shout, and shrill and shriek against the one gender that is not fluid—the white, Christian male. If one speaks with any modern moralist, he will discover that morality is either self- or socially-constructed yet that, above all else, it should be fought for with great zeal; that is, by declaring morality as something that is constructed, he is acknowledging that it changes, and if it changes by the mere whims and fancies of society, a rather fickle enterprise, it ends up much like gender, an irrelevant thing we are all trying to define.

But what the moralist often ignores is the simple fact that any war must be fought with a concrete ideal as its foundation. No man begins a war for something he is certain will not exist in five years; no man fights for a country he knows will turn on him once he returns home. All the modern Romantics fighting for ideals they claim are fluid will inevitably grow tired of fighting for fluidity and begin fighting for foundations, and those foundations will be the opposite of reality and common sense. The atheist will no longer fight God alone; he will fight for his dogmatic brand of atheism; gender theorists will give up the notion that gender is fluid, and they will also give up the idea that gender can be male or female; those words won’t exist in their narrow universe; we will all be pan-genders.


The modern rhetorician has also fallen under the spell of denouncing dogma. I was recently reading an essay by the (relatively) famous Mike Rose, who, with the rest of modern composition theorists, railed against the five-paragraph essay and the old, traditional, rigid-rules that used to be taught. The man denies the common fact of student writing. He denies the fact that if you do not show a young writer a way, the writer will not know where to go; and he is content with calling bad writing good, all for the sake of breaking the rules.

But, I say, if anything, we need more rigid-rules, more dogma; if anything, we need more tradition, more boundaries and walls to work within. Breaking down good dogma ultimately leads to the construction of bad dogma.

Any modern secular sage will argue that Christianity keeps its followers in bondage; there are too many rules and too much order. One might say that there is not order enough in many of our churches; one might say that most atheists today are more dogmatic than most Baptists or Methodists. With that I almost cannot argue. But if rules and order are so bad in and of themselves, ask the modern sage, who preaches from a podium, if it would be alright to break his rules. Better, as him if it is alright to break the podium against his brain. Many love breaking down boundaries to free the immigrants into the country. Fewer yet walk into a zoo denouncing boundaries and cages, and those who do only denounce them until the lion leaves his cage. And perhaps that is just why Christianity needs and creates boundaries, for if it was let loose it would devour society like a lion. For it is both terrifying and triumphant.


Not too long ago, I ventured downtown with my dogmatic buddy to share a pint and discuss the ways of man and literature and our Lord. My dogmatic friend explained to me that this particular casino—a man cannot have a pint without a slot machine in Vegas—was one of the oldest, one of more tradition. Now, tradition as defined by Vegas standards is anything over forty years old. I think a man would be hard-pressed to find a building older than fifty years in Vegas; it is a sign of deadness when a city must change every ten years; the lively town is the old town, built with the spirit of youth, built by men who wanted their buildings to last forever because their spirits last forever, buildings unlike the whims and fancies of gender-theory, socially-constructed and built for destruction.

But I have slightly digressed. My friend showed me around the casino and we left, deciding to stroll around the area, continuing our discussion. The downtown area, despite its newness, has made improving strides in recent years, and many locals who are sick of the strip flock there. One finds it easily enough by coming down Fremont Street and running into a pedestrian mall, what is called the Fremont Experience. (But I protest. Read my Gambler, No. 2 if you want the true Fremont Experience.)

We arrived at the corner of Lewis and Casino Center and longed to enter Anthony’s New York Pizza & Deli for a slice, but we found no seating, it being a Saturday evening. A young man from Kansas City who walks through downtown Vegas might feel as if he is in a different country. I did not often venture around downtown KC, but I did stroll around the Westport and midtown area a time or two. To compare the two would be silly. But in general, the Vegas district is much smaller and contains a far wider range of people. Bikers seemed to be a great hit the last time I was there—at Anthony’s—and it will be hard to forget seeing such a big man, with all his tattoos and leather, carry such a little dog around in his jacket. A stretch hummer and a man with a camera across the way caught our attention, especially when that man waived his camera around for a panorama. The white man in a purple EMAW shirt surely stuck out to him. But I fear I have digressed again.

Unable to grab a slice, we continued on, discussing the same particulars and dodging characters you want to dodge. I educated my friend on the sad fact of what a cis-gender was; we talked other particulars. The evening was a fine night from strolling, for once. Though the dryness in Vegas is both a curse and a blessing; the heat is not so bad, but then one must drink a gallon of water a day to keep from drying, wilting, shriveling, and dying. And I and my skinny bones had just had over a pint.

At some point during the evening, my friend asked me if I wanted to see one of the oldest buildings in town. I quickly shot my mouth off and asked him if the building was built last week, and he proceeded to tell me it had been there since the twenties. Educated, I continued with him, winding around darker streets, away from the neon and slots.

We rounded a corner, and there was a quaint, white building, but not just any building; it was a building that stood for something. It was not, I believe, socially constructed. It was not made by man. It was made by God. It was a church.

Broom Snow,
Written & Transcribed at The Desert Schooner,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Late September, 2015

Painting: "A square before a Church"
By Jan van der Heyden,
Oil on oak, 1678


The First Surgery


If ever hands shook, they shook then;
a crude blade poised above bare chest
in a novice hand

the patient writhes
awake, a root tight between the teeth,
grip boa-like to whatever was nearest:

interlocked with another’s fingers
pulling at a sapling's limb
or a desperate clawing
as if to dig up anesthesia
before it ever had a name.

The surgeon, caught in swing
between criminal and compassion
ready to pierce the flesh

with the intent of good, ready
to face the scream, the thrash,
the signs of death.

Oh, to have witnessed the confidence
in that cut, the foresight beyond pain,
as the body opened 

became as something buried and unearthed—
the whiteness of bone
the blood at darkest red.

With it finished,
the breath beginning to even,
the tailor inside—inside us all—

set to work—platelet and clot
his needle and thread, the slow mend
of a treasure beyond gold. 

Bryn Homuth
As a follow to "The First Surfer"
September 15, 2015

Painting: The Doctor, 1891 
Sir Luke Fildes, 1843-1927
Oil on canvas 


On a Lakeside Morning


there’s a shimmer in the trees and waves
borne from the coupling of wind and light

the reed-necks incline toward shore
as though they listened to something there;

the dock planks groan, the fire pit's last embers brood
red, then ash, then lifted in smoke—

spent scraps of the forest, unread pages
in the great novel of the wood.

A story is already there,
written in bark and sap,

the text read not by lantern
or candle, or flame,

but in the warming by its heat,
in the way it holds a stare.

A deer grazes in the dew-glint
sunfish jaw for grubs in the weed beds 

the great-horned owl surveys from its roost.
To see the sudden unfolding of plumage—

like curtains thrust aside to fill a room—
before lifting from the branch

is the lifted strain from a reader in that dim study
in which we often find ourselves,

too engrossed to rise—or even reach—
for the nearest light

until another flips the switch or pulls the chain
to ease our tired eyes.

Bryn Homuth
Sewell Lake, MN
August 24, 2015

Painting: The Blue Rigi Lake of Lucerne Sunrise
William Turner, 1842
Watercolor on paper 


Gambler, No. 2 [On Taking a Hike]

And I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it. — Samuel Johnson

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

As men are debauched from within, so too is the town of Las Vegas. At its core, no small number of licentious deeds dwell. Vegas, though rotten at the core, is surrounded on all sides by barren mountain ranges, which add a glory to the outer edges. These mountains look like large boulders placed by some giant. By day they are a bright brown, nearly reflecting the ever-present sun. Frenchman Mountain triumphs over the east side of town, a tree-less rock, rising four thousand feet above the raging Pacific and two thousand above the Valley. But to the west truer, taller mountain ranges tower over our town—the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness and the Le Madre Mountain Wilderness, home to the Spring Mountains and Nevada’s eighth tallest peak, Mt. Charleston, first scaled by explorer John C. Fremont.

Due to their barrenness, these mountains are prettiest at dawn and dusk. When that sun has just finished his day’s course, Frenchmen Mountain is set on fire and looks nearly like a fat match, its tip a reddish hue and its base still tan. When the sun fully sets, all the mountains turn on their nightlights, blazing blue and turquoise. One may just consider them to be great frozen tidal waves stopped by the hand of Our Lord, only to be loosed once His patience in our debauchery has flowed over into the cup of His wrath.


The air was crisp and cool at eight thousand feet, and though temperatures would rise into the triple digits in the Valley, my companion and I braced the fifty-degree weather as we began our hike to Mt. Charleston’s peak. To my knowledge, there are four ways to the top. One might take the shortest route by first ascending Griffith Peak, a five-mile trail that climbs roughly 2,500 feet, before connecting with the South Loop Trail, climbing another thousand feet to the summit. Naturally, we ventured to take this path, but due to forest fires from over two years prior, the trails were closed. The individuals who wish to reach Charleston’s peak today must choose to take Trail Canyon, a two-mile trail that ends at Cockscomb Ridge and conjoins with North Loop Trail. From that junction, one has over six miles and fifteen hundred feet in elevation, braving switchbacks, winding along canyon walls, before the intense final climb up Charleston’s peak. Most take this eight-mile route to the top. Only an idiot would decide to take the entirety of the ten-mile North Loop Trail, in which four total miles of switchbacks up and around Kyle Canyon are added to the hike. If a man is not conditioned to mountain climbing, he is a fool to take such a route, certainly the longest, if not that hardest, to the top.


At 8,400 feet we began our ascent at the start of the North Loop Trail. “I hiked Pike’s Peak,” I said. “The elevation there is far worse—thinner air,” I continued as if I had been born in a mountain cabin and not a Kansas City hospital. “Once we get out of the tree-line, you’ll see the top and, psychologically, it’s much easier.” “The way back is really a joy—all downhill. Takes half the time.” And so on and so forth I spoke as a blind guide to the blind.

Our spirits were truly quite optimistic. We had our provisions. We had our food. Two bottles of beer, two pipes and smoking-tobacco, carrots, chocolate chip muffins, lemon muffins, sandwiches, granola bars, fried kale, and, of course, four large bottles of water. Nothing could stop us.

The first two miles of this hike are an intense ascent, which is nothing but switchbacks. “This will be the hardest part, getting up, out of the trees,” I said as if I were John C. Fremont himself. At various points we came to clearings, where we could take a gander at the terrain. At this point, we saw two prominent peaks; surely one of those was it. Another hiker, who seemed to cover five yards with each stride, passed us, and asking him how long it was to the top, he gave us a perplexed look yet left us with the notion that the trail was ten miles total. Thus encouraged, we continued on until we covered the first two miles, and the trail began leveling off, wrapping itself around the two peaks earlier spotted.

Kyle Canyon is full of pine, aspen, and Mountain Mahogany. Across the canyon two other prominent peaks towered, one fully clothed in the green of the Bristlecone Pine, the other a bald peak, which looked much like an old man’s bumpy head. We stopped and ate a muffin while sitting on a log, overlooking the canyon. Our path began to descend rather steeply, again crossing back-and-forth through switchbacks and leading away from what we had believed was our peak. Two men crossed our path, one telling us we had eleven miles to go. We were, nevertheless, full of the youthful spirit of optimism that will, at times, lead a man to continue in ignorance. When one is descending, as we were, it is easy to be deceived; it is easy to believe the whole trail of life will be one downward motion.

We, at least, made it to Cockscomb Ridge and the junction with Trail Canyon. Seeing that we had already made it four miles, we continued on, seeing a sign that declared we had six to go. What is six miles more to two young, spritely men?

After this junction, the North Loop Trail takes a nasty turn. The mere scent of switchbacks sent shivers through our weary skeletons. We were deceived at just how much energy was exerted on the way down the canyon, and after what was probably a mile of upward switchbacks, I began to question my initial judgment of this might mountain range.

We stopped and supped on another log, eating sandwiches and carrots, foolishly drinking too much water. If one does make it up this series of switchbacks, he is rewarded with a relatively level two-mile journey along the edge of rocky canyon cliffs. Though there is little ascent overall, the terrain is nearly more difficult because one is walking on loose rocks, and the whole path is characterized by little dips, dives, and dells, which do wonders to the hipbone. Firmly convinced our initial peaks were falsely identified, we met a man, who had measured the distance with his phone and confirmed that we couldn’t see the peak, but we had four miles to go. Here a certain dismay began to overtake us. Perhaps due to my general distrust in the accuracy of phones and the goddess Surrey, or perhaps due to my insane pride, we yet sauntered on, slacking in our pace with each dip, dive, and dell.

That man, when he sees the end of his desires, is the more encouraged to press on to that end, is a truth that cannot be applied to hiking a mountain. We saw it. Mt. Charleston’s peak. We had seen it, for he was the bald-headed peak we had seen before—the peak that, if we had known it at the time, would have sent us to our knees in worship. There he was: Three mountain-miles away. With my binoculars I could clearly see the path that wound around his limestone and dolomite rock. And though we had our end in clear view, we saw that our path angled to the right and again ascended switchbacks for a quarter of a mile. Dismayed at such a prospect, we further recognized that we were nearly out of water, and with heavy hearts, we turned our backs to that mighty, bumpy, bald-headed peak and made our way back to Kyle Canyon.


The way back took longer. By the time we began our descent back down the canyon, we had been out of water for nearly a mile. We munched on carrots for sustenance, and I feigned optimism. As we made our way down to Cockscomb Ridge, our spirits once again picked up; we nearly sang with joy at the mere prospect of heading downhill again. Much like Shadow, that noble dog from Homeward Bound, I proclaimed that we just “had to make it over that little ridge we had descended earlier,” and then we would have it all downhill from there. Little did we know that our memories of the initial entry into Kyle Canyon were blurred at best, for a two-mile upward hike awaited us.

We made it nearly a mile, but the lack of water was beginning to take its toll. As if leading a horse, I fed my companion carrots and attempted to remain positive, fearful of any fatal fainting. Beginning to grow dismayed, I soon wondered if we would ever make it to the top of the canyon. I then, with what energy that was left in me, grabbed both packs and ventured forth—“I will come back with water,” I said and bounded away like a wounded wood-elf.

Whether the sinking sun illumined their faces, or whether it was the glory of Our Lord who shone through them, I met two angelic beings, who, after much bewilderment, graciously emptied their camelbacks, and gave us two plums. As we conversed and blessed these two heavenly beings, two other weary travelers approached from behind. They too had tried the North Loop. They too had failed. But they failed with enough water for three, and I gladly took an offered bottle.

My compatriot and I thus continued up the canyon with a brighter outlook on life. When we finally began our two-mile descent, our spirits were nearly so high we could sing. I will, nevertheless, not forget how much longer those two miles were going down than they were going up that morning. And thus is the way of life. In the sheer novelty of a task, we begin with a vigor and energy that overcomes its difficulty, but familiarity breeds toil. May we scale our daily mountains with the novelty of seeing each sunrise as the first to beget the world and each sunset as the first last call to drink of that Living Water which sees us through the dark valley of Night.

Broom Snow
Written and Transcribed at The Desert Schooner,
Las Vegas, Nevada,
Saturday, August 29, 2015

Painting: "A Mountainous Landscape"
By John Glover,
Oil on canvas, n.d.


Lying Awake


There are the arcane sounds 
best discovered after dusk, flushed,
like earthworms from the porous ground
by the dark—as if a black rain fell in sheet 
to wrap the supine body of each day.
Walk with ears
down those listening sidewalks,
not a muscle stirred
and you might hear them: 
a red eye’s drone
cricket whistles
wheels’ rubber shrieks
or the seething of the air itself.
Wait for the dreamer’s expression
if you lie next to another;
the cadence in their breath,
the fitful murmurs,
the roll and doze 
and readjust,
the conversations overheard
between chemical and memory
voiced as if by alter egos.
These are the things we could never learn 
about ourselves
unless you, or I, or they
eavesdrop on the unconscious.
Not only old age burns and raves
as Thomas said, 
but so too does the wakened, seething night
pacing at your other side
angry at how little attention it commands.

Bryn Homuth
On a short drive as I rode passenger
August 24, 2015 

Painting: Moonlit Night
Ivan Aivazovsky 1817-1900
Oil on canvas, 1849