The Shoulder Life

Walking, listening, and contemplating off the beaten path

Acquainted with Death

This is an emergence of sorrow and hope following an acquaintance’s sudden and tragic death. In memory of Paul Landhuis.


Death is no friend, but an acquaintance to me.

I’ve met it twice or more.

It passes by as a speeding car disturbs peace

on a starlit road, reminding,


reminding me.

Like a pastor offers a bereaved wife tissues, saying,

“Child, ‘tis not weakness to weep,”

Death introduced itself to me in gentle condolences.

Ah, yes: the cat has died.

“Ashes to Ashes,” aptly, it cried,

and I was but three—I don’t even remember

the day,

the hour,

the minute they brought the news.

“Tragic,” it consoled, “but natural.”

Kindly dress the wound you inflicted, O my acquaintance,

and I accept your sincere apologies,

never doubting.

It’s natural; it’s what happens to us.

But never mind.

“I’ll be back in some years to remind you again,”

said Death, fumes billowing out his exhaust like ghosts.

Brief, dreadfully brief, is the passing to and from existence,

and should I dare forget,



remind me.

I remember her eyes,

her constricting irises pleading

as silent she lay on her side with

fluids dripping from her liver.

With the concern of a friend and an enemy’s nerve,

Death lay my grandfather beside her as she breathed her last,

seeking, I suspect, to soften its blow the following year.


by one,

by one.

“See? It is natural.”

But Death is not a friend; he is only an acquaintance.

Hovering like a blanket of clouds, somewhere in the troposphere,

turning over holy circles, Death lies beyond me.

Though I ponder,

though I and myriad ancestors pretend to understand,

it evades, encircles us until the day we’re marked for it.

“Fear not,” it says, “for I shall come some other day,

and in the meantime

have examples to spare.

I shall remind,


remind you. It’s only natural and fair.”

Do not come on careening tires.

Do not burst upon me in reckless violence.

Or can you do any other?

Do not mock the memory

and quiet of solemn, starry skies.

Curse your intimate defilement, your sweeping treachery,

though not your treachery.

Another’s treachery comes to remind,


remind me on this day,

when that day,


and minute bleed coolant, oil, and blood.

For although Death claims life by blood,

by blood and death Love gave me life.

So, shall I speak only of what I know,

of what I understand?

Or who may understand such things?

I know of one man who sees with eyes unveiled.

Beyond the veil of vision, another acquaintance is claimed,

like a crashing car, the threshold breaks asunder

and Death cries, “Another has slipped through!”

For it claimed a husk, not a vacant soul,

and Paul, may acquaintance—surely, my brother—

knows nothing of that hovering consolation,

that foul deception of natural processes.

In hollowed hands of hallowed grace, a cure is found,

and more than ever before

I am reminded,



Debunking the “Crisis”: A Reply to Dr. Mohler

This rebuttal has been removed not as a retraction from the author’s conviction, but as the result of a perceived disrespectful tone unintended but revealed by a mentor. May the Lord guide His children in their disagreements in all charity and humility, starting with me.

Sincere regards,
Benjamin Scott Campbell

But Why?

Recently, I witnessed a conversation which went something like this (vastly abbreviated):

Man 1: There are many intellectual scientists who are proper idiots when it comes to philosophy, and that’s unfortunate since philosophy is thinking about how to think. Though you cannot always test truthfulness, you can disprove things.

Man 2: Philosophy belongs in the museum with alchemy. Science proves with concrete evidence whereas philosophy speculates, passing supposition as theory without actually applying a test. Further, you are quoting scientific method.

Man 1: …Which came from Aristotle, a philosopher.

Man 2: But why waste time sitting around drinking coffee while trying to figure out something beyond scientific method? The purpose of life is to find joy in learning: understand that everything can be explained and valid explanations can be tested. Enjoy life for as long as you can.

This dialogue encapsulates the breadth of that conversation. But I want the reader to pay careful attention to the last thing Man 2 said.

The Purpose of Life, According to Man 2: Enjoy it for as long as you can.

Watching, observing, the question burned through my skull until it drilled its fine path through my cortex and out to this page.

But… Why?

Scientists do not hate the Why question. It’s where they live and perform all their tests on things. It is the substance of living–the Why of existence, not the why of things–which makes them turn away, waving dismissive hands. That is precisely what Man 2 has done; that is precisely all that Man 2 can do. He cannot test why he exists, so he reduces it to a pithy and altogether groan-worthy “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we… but let’s not think about that.”

Man 3 joins the banter: I simply don’t see philosophy holding the same value to our lives as medicine.

But… Why?

Why bother if someone lives or dies? Of what do you deprive the ill if not the feigned sense of otherness with which the universe persistently drowns us?

Man 2: My 6yo knows more about weather patterns and money management than most 20-somethings I’ve met.

Yeah, but… who cares? Why does it matter if your daughter should grow up a successful meteorologist? It might feel as though it matters to you, but, really, the cold facts of the universe can’t prove your feelings, so I guess they’re irrelevant. Or what difference would it make, really, if she experienced a brain injury rendering her bed-ridden?

Man 2: Just have fun. Find joy in learning.

I’d like to see Man 2 try to convince Syrian refugees or a bloated Ugandan orphan with terminal skin disease and missing leg (has he ever touched one such person?) that knowledge and enjoyment are the purpose of life. And if knowledge and enjoyment are the purpose of life, why is it that only the privileged get to have it?

I’ll say that again, just in case you were skimming: If knowledge and enjoyment are the purpose of life, why is it that only the privileged get to have it?

We’ve just shoehorned 99% of humanity into the dumpster of worthlessness. That is what an exclusively materialistic (i.e. mere matter) worldview dominated by science does, and put in that environment, a collective existence that’s 99% worthless fails the test of proof. It’s rubbish.

The only people this historically infantile worldview benefits are the scientists who propagate it, they and the sheep who blindly follow them into the slaughter pen, unwilling to acknowledge the existence of purpose beyond matter, beyond the veil of vision.

Benjamin Scott Campbell enjoys thinking, telling stories, and breathing, all primitive practices we ought to ridicule and condemn. Email this oafish savage at

Donald Trump and Your Useless Vote

I care for few things as little as I care for politics. As it goes, I prefer apolitical conversation to a political conversation any day (canned laughter). Nothing turns seemingly normal, genial human beings into yakking, snarling hippos faster than the words “I’m a democrat” or “I’m a republican.” Just socialize with a herd of hippos and you’ll understand political group dynamics from the senate floor to your extended family.

That being said, there’s something that needs to be said to every voting citizen of the United States leading up to this 2016 presidential election:

Donald J. Trump is not Hitler (see related: What Robin Williams and Adolf Hitler have in Common). Or Mussolini. Hillary R. Clinton is not Jezebel. Or Mary I of England.

Furthermore—and this is what I really want to say—America is not yours to safeguard, America is not forever, and your vote changes little besides you.

Let me share with you what will happen if the projected nominees (respectively) become the 45th President of the United States. I’ll try to curb the details to match your fleeting attention span:

President Donald J. Trump

Following a narrow victory fueled by aging cynicism and youthful ignorance, the establishment GOP unsuccessful to stop the 70-year-old juggernaut dolloped in golden wisps, President Trump stands at the point of inauguration in all his Trumpian glory—as glaring as it is unavoidable. The magnate is sworn in, manifesting the destiny of rebellious 18th Century Brits and embodying in shameless publicity that which previous presidents tried to sweep under the rug. He’s not honest, but at least he’s brazen and predictable in his audacity.

President Trump proceeds to author The Audacity of Audacity with a reluctant, disavowing foreword by Barack Obama and glowing afterward by Vladimir Putin. It sells a million copies in two days, half to rising sensation D.J. Trumptastic (“I’m a big fan of his—so, what? He’s a nice guy. Great music. Doesn’t make him me, though, let’s face it”).

Trump’s four years in office transform him into a senile man whose chief accomplishment is his Twitter following. Political power reverts to the Supreme Court and Congress, the conglomerate of which bicker like hippos in the Nile over how to check and balance President Trump.

The irony of it all, of course, is Trump’s real goal in all of this. Perhaps this is pie-in-the-sky hope, but I’ll say it: What if Trump actually built an empire of falsehood and asinine absurdity, secured the presidency, and made a mockery of the American political system as a sort of art piece? Looking at the guy’s record, failure seems integral as iron in Trump’s blood. Perhaps he’s learned the secret of transforming failure into success—perhaps that explains his success in the Republican primaries—by exposing this entire political cinematic for what it is: a damn good show with incredible acting talent.

President Trump, in sum, is the cognizant outworking of America’s rebellion and hypocrisy, an alchemical monstrosity borne from conservative pride for man-made tradition and liberal intolerance for deviation from progression.

The dollar collapses. New Jersey goes double bankrupt. The GOP fractures, bringing a little 2016 back from the past. As they say: hindsight is 2020.

President Hillary R. Clinton

We’re back in 2016. President Clinton wins by threads, and Al Gore demands five recounts until the electoral college concedes Hillary’s victory due to exhaustion. Dissident republican voters sulk back to their homes in shame, trending #NeverTrump as #MadamPresident trounces their hashtag on social media. LGBT activists celebrate a victory for rights; WHO and Planned Parenthood celebrate a victory for rights; aging flower children celebrate a victory for rights. Republicans, meanwhile, declare the end is, as it always seems to be, nigh. Germany’s Angela Merkel knowingly pats President Clinton, who appears to be frothing at the maw, on the cheek. Merkel laughs. “You worked so hard for this, Hillary.”

Months pass, then a year. The House and Senate fluctuate between parties. Bills pass and bills fail. President Clinton keeps some promises and pretends she never made others. Three years later, human rights activists call her a traitor for sending troops to Syria and Ukraine. She’s more crinkly than ever and… her hair! It’s nearly, dare I say, Trumpian.

Most of what she tried to accomplish in the first two years was blocked by a Republican-majority senate, her last two years marked with that Millennial malcontent and perseveration on change. She’s let down everyone in some way, the Republicans declare her presidency a failure, and the election cycle begins in January 2017. There are twenty-seven GOP candidates and twelve democrats.

Karl Marx is raised from the dead to be the democratic nominee, Joel Osteen buys off his twenty-six opponents and becomes the republican nominee, and Shia LeBeouf (inexplicably) wins in a landslide victory.

President Clinton would be a win for establishment politics for four, maybe eight years, but her triumph spells the undoing of establishment politics in the United States, at the very least an end to a two-party monopoly.

What Have We Learned?

If you’re willing to pardon my sardonic parody of American politics, perhaps you’ll seek the truth of what I hide behind the veil of levity. Notice: none of the aforementioned outcomes includes the end of the world, Orwellian surveillance or Brave New Hedonism.

The truth is that whether we vote for Trump, Hillary, or Peter Freakin’ Pan, your vote, and the aggregate of voting citizens, do not compete for red vs. blue dominance. Rather, we viciously vie for weight and significance. We are set on opposing scales, but the balance is borne between us, not by us, but through us—graciously through us. We aren’t the cosmological tradesman; we are the goods.

If Trump wins, the world will not end. If Hillary wins, the world will not end. The world will end someday, but your vote in the 2016 United States Presidential Election is not going to tip the scale one way or the other. That’s the point of humanity: we are one race of people, tugging against one another until the cord finally snaps, but in the end the only person you’ll have to account for is yourself. The mere fact that you get to exist is rare and beautiful.

Political ambivalence and abstaining from voting (as is my method) is often considered tantamount to embracing the political opposition, but I contend that political disengagement need not be synonymous with societal apathy. Conversely, I love the human race in all its multitudinous creativity, and thus I say our creative energies die squandered on clever games.

I must endorse an excellent book published by Oxford Press, To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. For those of you weary of politics, who believe the world is made for more than voting and beating one’s perceived political rivals, for those who long for connectivity, a world where beauty and hope are stronger than bureaucracy… from Hunter’s summary:

“Because change implies power, all Christians eventually embrace strategies of political engagement. Hunter offers a trenchant critique of the political theologies of the Christian Right and Left and the Neo-Anabaptists, taking on many respected leaders, from Charles Colson to Jim Wallis and Stanley Hauerwas. Hunter argues that all too often these political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. What is really needed is a different paradigm of Christian engagement with the world, one that Hunter calls ‘faithful presence’.”

I didn’t mean for this book to be the punchline it turned into, but I’ve been at this for too long, and the energy I’m investing into this blog entry will likely result in the very thing I’m suggesting here: very little return for the investment.

That’s your vote, really. Insignificant. In the end, you, the American people, even the whole world cannot stop President Trump from happening; it is the entropic will of a rebellious nation, whether it’s President Trump or President LaBeouf.

Don’t panic. You’re not a big deal. Neither is the president. Neither is America. Neither is this Wounded World.

Benjamin Scott Campbell notices these italicized blurbs at the bottom of other news articles and thinks he’s cool enough to have one of his own. Contact at

Alas, Wounded World!

Alas, bold and vexing world!
At last, I will have you no more,
For I have been dealt the Greater Wound.

Alas, your sheath is come,
An ineffaceable scabbard,
But I will mourn you not; I thrill at your passing!

The weight borne by Atlas —
Not a drop or speck will endure.
Water and Terra burn and evaporate as an indiscernible mixture.

All constellations: turn aside,
For the Great Ones have fallen.
Earth and all her inhabitants are ruined by True Power.

Nor could the sun shine,
Not upon this gruesome scene:
From edge to edge the souls of Sol are scourged.

Mercury is silent,
The interior system ceases to speak
All the ungodly messages have passed from memory.

And what comfort is Venus?
The rage of her mirror, and its vanity
Is ended, not unlike her inhospitably from the beginning.

O Wounded Terra! Decimated!
What charity could soothe your demise?
Your inhabitants and their developments are smelted as dross.

Mars, the useless brother —
He was our shepherd to his fold
Where he too was but a sheep to be fostered by wolves.

And the brightest star, Marduk,
He shall burn with the worst of them.
Long has he subjugated the Wounded World, he and his demon brother!

Loveliest of all, Saturn is harvested
Like the most common of grain,
And the Victor shall wear her rings as tokens of her demise.

Uranus: wicked and debased!
His lot is with the devils of the deep,
Though the sons of death worshiped him as Sky.

Every drop of Neptune will boil.
Sea will writhe, evaporate, and be no more.
For the deceived will no longer bow to Terra, Sky, and Sea.

Lastly, Pluto’s waning favor fails:
With it Charon, the Beloathed River, and the satellites.
Until ruining undoes both deceived and deceiver in sweeping grandeur.

O Wounded Planet, rife with Wounded Souls!
Who shall rescue you from your most excellent demise?
It was foretold long before men came to their senses and reckoned it fable.

Alas, Wounded Planet! Alas!
For all your ages you remained stubborn.
Gravity is your master, and with it you shall burn.

Time has dealt you harshly,
But not without its benefits.
Terra and her children have long balked at repentance.

Now the Victor comes,
Bringing with Him His recompense,
And none shall be spared the Sword of His Mouth.

But you captives: rejoice,
For your Liberator comes!
Here He comes, full of grace and truth!

For in His grace He crushes the proud;
In His benevolence He ousts the shameful.
Yet He is near to the downtrodden and the brokenhearted.

Be dismayed, O inhabitants of the Wounded World!
Be horrified, O deceived ones and you deceivers together!
It is the end of twisted half-truths; it is the end of false particles.

Science tried to teach you,
But you would not hear its wisdom.
You sought ‘how’ and scoffed at ‘why.’

Your deeds are defecated,
for manure they were from Genesis.
Your first-fruits cannot satisfy the blood owed for your debts.

Give! Give of all your goodness,
Give until you have scored your body purple,
But your portion in Eternity is torn from you, for you forgot the Royal One.

Yes, let the doer and doing burn together,
For doing is done.
But those restless for Justice have seen Him come, and rest.

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry.
For He is kind to those who are His Own,
But will destroy those who have no portion in life.

Alas, Wounded World!
The Sword is against you and you are forever sheathed.
But you humble ones, take heart: your Recompense is at hand.

We see the Great Wound;
By mercy, we see our Great Lack.
So we sigh: heal us of ourselves by Yourself, through Yourself, for Yourself, in Yourself, and to Yourself.

Written by Benjamin Scott Campbell
Some inspiration: Earth by Sleeping At Last

Voting for an Unshakeable Government

On November 4, in the United States of America, there will be something called Midterm Elections.



And I can’t help but think of our youth and elders going around, as some are wont to do, passing out stickers, pamphlets, or other informational literature in an effort to get people to go out and vote! “Yes, vote!” some might say. “It’s either you vote or our future is in their hands. Don’t you realize people have died to give you this right? Don’t you know how other generations have suffered to make this land what it is today? Now it’s going down the tube, and you want to sit back and ignore all the issues? If you don’t vote, someday you’ll be wishing you did when the United States of America crumbles under the cruel grip of tyranny. Do you want that? Do you want this nation to fall?”



All the hoopla and outcry for us to get out and vote strikes me with the same lacklustery as it always has, and this is the mode of many people these days, although I would be lying if I said it was the majority. The trouble is that when facing the question at hand (Should I vote? or perhaps from certain folks Why aren’t you voting?) we are presented with two camps, and this reflects the false nature of these elections. Are you a voter, or are you a bum-sitting-outer? Are you the fervent “for the sake of our nation” type, or are you the “for the sake of my apathy” type?” It is exceptionally problematic and is presented clearly in the issues we vote for.

Vote YES! on Prop. 48. Vote NO! on Prop 48. Vote for Bobby, because he’s a Republican! Vote for Yosef, because he’s a Democrat!

We are consistently fed package deals. All or nothing. Yes or no. Pass or fail. Win or lose. 1 or 0. We are treated like biological computers, and the voting booths are programs. Of course, this extends into almost every facet of life, but to endeavor that connection is not my purpose here for now. What if there was another option? What if there was a better option? What if I didn’t have to be the passionate vote-or-die monger OR the apathetic let-it-burn fatalist? The fallacy of false alternatives cannot win here: there is more to life than voting or disengaging.

Besides there never being a Scriptural mandate to vote, we are told in 1 Peter 2:17 to “honor the emperor.” In the very next verses, Peter implores us to be subject not only to those who are “good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” Are we to be terrified, then, when a person of insincere repute is voted into office? Should we dismay when that bill we so adamantly petitioned against passes? Maybe we didn’t petition against it, but somewhere in the quiet of our secret thoughts we believed it to be an awful thing. What if our taxes are raised? What if they refuse/accept the proposal for the pipeline? What if this man/woman fails to live up to his/her promises (spoiler alert: they never do, nor can they)?


Artist’s Interpretation of Baton Rouge, LA. after the vote doesn’t go his way
This may also just be Baton Rouge, LA

In choosing not to vote, which is my stance, I am choosing to direct my energy and focus toward a government. Yet for all the elders I see around who vehemently stand immovable on the carefully maintained green of “Vote, or else! And may God bless America!” I cannot help but wonder if the enemy has shoehorned them into the greatest lie of their generation: things may be as they were in the good old days, and we are the ones who must make it happen. Wrong and wrong. Ecclesiastes speaks to the foolishness of such talk, and the prophet Daniel says nearly the antithesis in Daniel 2:21 (when dealing with an unjust king, by the way), “[God] changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings…” In choosing not to vote for propositions and rulers on this earth, where kingdoms of immense power rise and fall, I choose to direct my focus on a government and a kingdom which cannot be shaken, His government.

God has given wisdom to our elders and passionate zeal to our youth, yet they choose to squander it in fighting each other rather than joining as one, under Christ’s banner and not the star-spangled kind. The zeal of the youth ought to be praised by the elderly, and the wisdom of the elderly ought to be respected by the young, that in unity and as one we might proclaim the name of Jesus, not America.

After all, why should I spit on the sacrifice of those who died to give me the freedom to do so?


But, you know, whatever. Go vote for Prop 48.

What Robin Williams and Adolf Hitler have in Common

Please don’t hate me. Give me a chance, O hasty reader.


It goes without saying, for the perceptive reader, the nature of my writing today. I’m not the first to say something, certainly not the last, and my perspective is no more profound or interesting than a pile of dirt, which buries and is buried by all. The man Robin Williams, of whom I and most everyone know little, in reaching for and taking hold of death, grasped not for death, but for life. This then is the greatest tragedy of all, and while any death ought to shake us, it is only when it is a sizable death that we get a sense of the mortality of all.

There is something morbidly ironic in the suicide of a man who made his living by humor. It was his livelihood, his vehicle for nearly everything he did in the public eye. Yet we see in this, the culmination of a life, a deep-seeded need left unmet by his marriages, children, and professional success. Hold on. This isn’t another hammering of a tired trope, you understand; of course he had all these things and “something was lacking.” Anyone with sense may see that, but that is not why he ended his own life.

Laughter shares a complex catharsis with several other human phenomena, each one distinct. Laughter, sexual intimacy, birth, and notably death are some of the most confounding experiences of the human existence. They each express something undefinable about people, something beyond empirical data or observable theorems. Certainly, we may achieve a level of understanding regarding the science or mathematics of the expression, but the origin is as unfathomable as the origin of life itself. Anyone who lingers too long in the realm of any one of these may find it maddeningly complex, and complex in such a way that complexity isn’t at all what we should call it. It is… other.

Otherness is not necessarily fearful, but it is wantonly dreadful. C.S. Lewis explores this in his book The Problem with Pain, a title I highly recommend to any who seek a kind of comprehensive solace in the face of death. It is this otherness which has driven every war, every conflict, and every misunderstanding. It caused Adolf Hitler to believe in eugenics and the extermination of human life, for what he thought was the greater good of humanity. Conversely, it is this same otherness which unites humanity: it caused Egyptian Christians to form a human barrier around Muslims performing salat, their daily prayers; it caused Martin Luther King Jr. to dream a dream; it caused France to offer asylum to fleeing Iraqis, it caused the hearts of millions to churn with dismay as they discovered Robin McLaurin Williams had hung himself to death.

While I’m sure most people do not take kindly to my categorization of Hitler with the late Mr. Williams, I beg you hear me out. Robin Williams, in committing suicide, did not reach for death. Indeed, no one, even the most bent and evil of people such as Hitler, do not desire ill. They desire the otherness, the impossibly inexplicable “What is it?” of life. You see, laughter, intimacy, and even birth do not make a life. Conversely, death does not absolutely end a life. What makes and ends a life is that which is beyond our comprehension to grasp as mere people. What Mr. Williams reached for was that strange unknown, the “peace which surpasses understanding.” Hitler did not ultimately desire war since it was all a twisted means to an end. His ideology, however wicked and hell-inspired, was meant to bring peace. This is the sadistic power of death.

Death is a sinister foe. It prides itself on the slow decay of a pretty face, one which desperately piles on makeup and do-ups in order to preserve what is so fiendishly reeled away. Death thrives on the steady dismantling of a lovely mind, one such as Robin Williams had, until it believes the only option is, as he himself put it, “a permanent solution to temporary problems.” That being said, one might adequately place Hitler and Robin Williams in the ranks of the leaders of ISIS or Bob Dylan. But we don’t need to name-drop here: let’s be honest. I fit in with all these names, and we all have one name.


“Oh, the humanity!” Indeed, how we all cleave to life in the most confused ways. One might easily take this to a logical end and say eating alone is cause for shaking our heads at the futility of all we do to preserve our fleeting lives. Logic, however, is not the answer, just as death is not the answer. We deceive ourselves if we think we may outsmart death, but we do our loved ones and assuredly our own selves a cataclysmic disservice to plunge headlong into death as though it is our only salvation. What a confused, tragic people we are, and I am among the worst offenders.

What then can we do? We aren’t strong enough to beat death, and to embrace it is the final futility. Hope is the only thing worth living for in the face of death, of which all our ends are certain to drink deeply. Love, we must understand, is never far from us, and this is true hope. If we can take Mr. Williams’ sudden departure from this world as an example, we must remember that happiness, beauty, and even laughter cannot cure the ravishing otherness which either ruins or restores our souls. When we lose faith in ourselves, we must never lose faith in what is true. When we lose hope in the world, we must remember always to hope for what is beyond it. When we lose the love of all, and when we fail to love ourselves, I pray you may find, O reader, the power of the unfailing love which comes from the Origin of humanity, the Origin of all. You know His Name, and rest – aye, rest – assured that He knows yours.

Even the darkness cannot tell you your name, but He holds you. Let that be your hope, for all else is suicide.



Benjamin Scott Campbell –