Sunday, April 19, 2020

Thoughts for Hong Kong's youth

My altered-ego D.L. has gone out on a limb with “Thoughts for Hong Kong's youth?”  Read it at:  https://laskenlog.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Interview with Gregory

If you've read to the end of this blog you've met 24 year old Gregory, leader of the activist group, "Army of the Young," who believes that technological changes impacting us will lead either to total submersion of humanity or to the creative blossoming our kind has longed for.  I hadn't talked to Gregory since we met a few weeks ago at the Bakersfield Woolworth's, and I wanted to know what he thought about the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.  I called him and suggested we meet again at the same Woolworth's, but Gregory has been doing his organizing on zoom, and he wanted to meet that way.  I have an old Mac, and luckily it and I were able to handle the technology.  

I was ready to scorn the zoom experience, but I was surprised and a little unsettled by how quickly I got used to the two-dimensional, fleshless image of Gregory.  The only dimension we shared was time.  Below is a transcript of our conversation.

Me:  Hi Gregory!  How are you doing?  

I could see busy young people walking back and forth behind him, tending to fax machines and computers.  Gregory wore an "Army of the Young" t-shirt.  His hair was long, but he was shaven.  He smiled disarmingly.

Gregory:  Hello, Harry!  I enjoy reading about your adventures with your spirit guides, Betty and Robert.

Me:  You should make a trip out here and meet them.  They could add some dimensions to your movement.

G:  How so?

From a look that passed over Gregory's face I realized that he believed that Betty the Coyote Goddess and Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster are fictional creations of mine.

Me:  Gregory, you do know, I hope, that my characters are real?

G: Hm?

Me: Betty is an incarnation of the Native American "Trickster Goddess," and Robert is a telepathic gila monster who, unlike most of his tribe, thinks I'm good conversation.

G: How about your treatment of Jesus then, and Gandalf, a fictional character?

Me: Well, they're real...in various senses.

Gregory looked at me through the non-judgemental zoom platform, but it was clear he was reassessing me as a nut.  He has no problem accepting my telepathy, so it surprised me that he would doubt the reality of my desert companions.  I was about to resign myself to losing an important friend, when Betty decided to pull a (literal) deus ex machina.  Her face appeared on the screen and howled mournfully.

G: Very funny, Harry!

And then Betty was standing on her hind paws next to Gregory, her front paws on his desk between the keyboard and mouse.  She looked at him and smiled a coyote smile.

Gregory leaped out of his chair shouting, What the fuck!

Betty: Hello, Gregory!

And then she was gone.  Gregory sat slowly back down in his chair.  He seemed to be panting.

Me:  Gregory, I'm sorry!  She does things without warning me.  You should take her revelation to you as an endorsement.  She understands your movement and wants to support and influence it.

I let Gregory breathe for a while.  Finally he spoke.

G:  Harry, what does this mean?  I am secular, as you know.  I'm not an atheist, but I do like evidence for what I believe.  Should I kill myself?

Me: No!  Gregory, Jesus no!  That would mean I should kill myself.  But I feel lucky to have stumbled into these devine and exotic relationships.  Forces like these don't mean that science is false...just that it's incomplete.

G:  That's not the problem, Harry.  My unease is not caused by the possibility of deities and intelligent non-humans.

Me:  What is it then?  

G:  Have you heard of Epicurus?

Me: Is he the one who recommended eating and drinking all day?

G: No.  That's the fake Epicurus created by Judeo/Christian authorities to weaken the huge following Epicurus had in the Greek and Roman worlds.  The real Epicurus was a 4th Century BC Greek philosopher whose doctrines became anti-matter to the newly forming establishment religions.

Me: What were his doctrines?

G:  Every book by him was destroyed, so we rely on the Roman writer Lucretius, who two centuries later recorded Epicurius' ideas in his work, "
On the Nature of Things."  Copies of this book too were destroyed and it was lost for centuries, until one copy was discovered in a German monastery in 1417.  Just to get through this quickly, I'll put Epicurius' religious ideas in bullet points:

  • Everything is made of tiny things called atoms (Greek for "thing that can't be cut").  Humans are made of atoms that are all tangled up in crap and nonsense.
  • Gods exist.  They inhabit peaceful, contemplative realms.  Gods are made of atoms too, but their atoms are "fine," unencumbered with crap and nonsense, and they want to keep it that way.
  •  The gods don't care about us.  If they perceive us at all we're an irritating static.  
  • We have souls, made of atoms.  There is no afterlife.  When a soul dies, it's gone.

By the way, Gregory continued, most adherents of Epicurus were aristocrats, which makes sense because they had enough comfort in life that they didn't need to believe it would come after they died. 

More to the point, the gods, according to Epicurus, would just as soon flush us down the toilet if we get in their face.  Unfortunately humans often end up on a collision course with a god's face, sometimes because of actions by philosophers, sometimes by scientists (once by a woman named Eve) and the toilet of history becomes a real possibility.  There's a major collision brewing now because human physicists have found clever ways to peek into the divine sphere.  Their data is refracted back in distorted, ambiguous form, with the net effect of forcing the scientists into embarrassing admissions of non-comprehension while still pissing off the gods.

Me: Uh-oh, why are the gods pissed off?

G: If Epicurus was right that gods want to be left alone, we should be getting a lot of attention from gods now because of our intrusions.  Your encounters with Betty and Jesus could be aspects of this.  I'm sure a lot of people are having such encounters.  It's bad news, Harry.

Me:  Why?  Why couldn't it be good news?

G: Because the "gods" or "celestial clouds of blissful atoms" or whatever we decide to call them are irritated by us.  And why not? They were blissful before we blundered in.

Me:  Gregory, "blunder" comes from a Scandinavian word meaning, "blind."  It's not our fault.  We don't know what we're doing.  We should be forgiven.  Although I see your point.  We need to take a breath and think about things.  What do you recommend?  Should I apologize to Betty and Jesus and stay out of their desert?

G:  Not necessarily, Harry.  Why don't we try to find out what they want?

Me: I thought we knew that: They want us gone.

G: But...we might be able to negotiate how we go, how we become gone.  After all, we don't even know where we are, or that we are someplace we haven't been before and maybe shouldn't be.  Let's wait for some feedback.

Me: That's one of the elements of your movement, isn't it?  We should stop dictating to the universe and have a conversation with it instead.

G: That's right Harry.  If I didn't know you aren't a joiner, I'd invite you to join us.

Me: I'm honored to be invited!  My purpose today was actually to ask you about the response to the coronavirus.  The last time I saw you in Bakersfield we didn't know the whole world was about to change.  How does the pandemic response fit into your movement?

G:  The pandemic response and its aftermath will be a test of human governance.  Everybody is talking now about how inefficient everything is, how uncoordinated, how unplanned.  The cure for that is strong government, the very thing everyone loves to hate.  Governance is in a bind because it is not trusted.  We need it to be strong, but we don't trust it to be strong.  

Me:  Very true.  What does your movement suggest?

G: We suggest that geographic areas be established (possibly, in our case, on the West Coast) where government can start from scratch, offering the security of scientific response in a realistic fashion, without bombast or pontification or any of the self-canonizations of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign.

Me: How would you enforce your language requirements?  Who would be in charge of monitoring political language?

G: We've identified a vast pool of qualified and willing candidates: retired English teachers.

Me: Brilliant!

G: They are already comfortable judging people's use of language.  They tend to have sensitive ears for political nuances, since many are exiles from inhospitable political environments.

Me: I'll have to tell my buddy D.L.;  he'll jump on it!

G: Send him to me.  Harry, I need to get going now.  To tell you the truth, I'm a bit shaken by Betty's visit.  How do you handle it?

Me: With care.  Good luck, Gregory!

G: Same to you, Harry!

I clicked a tab on the screen that said, "Leave meeting," then clicked another that said, "End meeting," and finally without clicking anything, I left the meeting.

For more on Gregory's Army of the Young, keep reading here or go to http://www.gregorysarmyoftheyoung.com/


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Betty leads me to Gxd

Shelter-in-place orders haven’t changed my life much.  I live like that anyway, sometimes staying home in my desert shack all week until the Saturday trip to the Family Dollar Store.  Now when I go there, the clerk is wearing a face mask and the customers stay the same 15-20 feet away from each other that they ever did.

I do find my mind wandering during this period, probably for the same reason everyone’s mind is wandering: No one knows where this transformation of society is heading, other than that it’s got a distinct dystopian sheen.

Anyway, I was thinking about my two divine acquaintances, Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess and Jesus, and how easily I’m able to slide into conversation with them, as though they were kindly kindergarten teachers and I was a puzzled five year old.

And it occurred to me, maybe because of my recent conversation with Gregory (leader of the "Army of the Young") that I’ve never tried to take this to the next level, you know, by attempting to talk to Gxd.  The weird spelling derives from irrational fears held by many Jews that Gxd is a sort of volcano deity, furious, ready to spew torrents of molten wrath should you stray one inch from Hxs will.  Therefore you should not get too close to Hxm, which would happen if you used Hxs name.

I call that fear “irrational,” but it isn’t really.   For one thing, the Torah, the foundational scripture of Jews (accepted by Christianity and Islam as the Old Testament), presents exactly that jealous, supreme, furious god, ready at any moment to torment and kill the disobedient.

Combine that with a universe- the one we inhabit- that a lot of the time does seem run by such a god, and you have a recipe for an irrational fear that is rational. 

Nevertheless I sat on my front porch staring at non-indigenous shrubs that dot the sandy yard and wondered, “If I can talk to Betty the Coyote Goddess and Jesus, can I talk to Gxd?”  

I continued to muse, “If Eastern thinkers are right, Betty and Jesus are faces of a central god, known by Hindus as Atman, 'the spiritual life principle of the universe' (Microsoft dictionary), that is in all likelihood the face or a face of our uppercase god, which means I’ve already talked to Gxd many times.  In fact most people have probably talked to Gxd.”

“Still though," I continued to myself, “With Betty and Jesus I’m receiving a persona, anthropomorphized for me, or in the case of Betty mammalized, composed of particular aspects of Atman (or should I say Axxxn?).  But if I commune with Gxd directly I might receive every aspect of Hxm at once.  Would I short-circuit?”

Such cautionary thoughts did not dissuade me because, as research has shown, males are drawn to risk more than females, and older men with nothing to do but write their experiences are the most drawn, because they need things to write about.

I resolved then to go in search of Gxd.  And since there is no better guide for finding a god than another god, I sought Betty.

It wasn't hard to find her.  I just walked across the desert for a while and there she was, sitting beside a creosote bush.  As usual she was way ahead of me.

"Hi Harry, " she murmured seductively, "Looking for Mr. Big?"

"If that's sarcasm, Betty, I may or may not understand it.  I'm guessing you don't appreciate being a lesser god to humankind's one and only."

"It's not like that, Harry," Betty thought to me (since her physical self can't say consonants, our communication is telepathic), "We are all aspects of X, including you.  Harry, do you like my new spelling?"

"Sure," I chuckled (adding a telepathic chuckle emoji), "you know, in human math, 'x' means 'unknown'."  

"Yes, and here you are trying to know it."

"Sorry.  Should I drop the idea?"

"I don't know."

"What?  Did you say, 'I don't know'?  Betty, you are a deity, maybe an aspect of X.  How are you not going to know?"

"I don't know," she replied with a grin (FYI, coyotes can grin).

"If that don't beat all...." I offered.

"Go figure," Betty said, and continued, "Harry, close your eyes."

I did as instructed, though I recalled that Coyote, often in male form, was  believed by many Native Americans to be a destructive trickster, sometimes even the source of evil.  Betty noted my inner musings and replied:

"Harry, don't forget that many tribes depicted me as the creator of humanity, personally designing its mentality, bringing it the gift of fire and much more."

"Betty, did you do those things?"

"Honestly, I don't remember...."   Betty seemed to drift off.

"What?"

"Harry, sorry, I'm trying to concentrate here.  Can we change the subject and set a course for your conscious soul?"

"My 'conscious soul'?"

"Yes.  Your soul has several parts.  One part we call 'conscious,' which is, for want of a better term, 'you'."

"What are the other parts?  Do I want to know?"

"Apparently you do, Harry.  I'm going to tell you a myth from the Mohave tribe, who lived around here.  They believed that when you dream you travel back to the time of creation and directly witness the events of your mythology."  

"Betty, I'm getting sleepy.  Wait, revise that...I'm asleep!  Wow, and this is a dream!"

"Calm down, Harry.  Breathe deliberately and slowly, or dream that you are."

I tried to control my breathing and began to relax, my closed eyes settling on an evolving void of utter darkness and nothingness.  It began to fold in on itself.  A soft purplish glow appeared, which somehow I knew was self-awareness.  I drifted closer to the glow and saw that it was as innocent as an infant's new mind.

Betty returned to my thoughts, "Yes Harry, we renew as helpless, unknowing infants.  The lessons from our past lives, at least the ones that survive, come raining down on us."

I saw this "rain" in many colors, filling the purple haze with language, history, perspective, personality.  Then dozens of eyes appeared across the newly formed "body," looking all around, even, terrifyingly, at me.  Betty stepped in again.

"It's alright, Harry, just a process.  Newly established inborn knowledge is being infused with perception of current time.  The mind of X is forming."

"How often does this process take place."

"Always."

I let that stand, distracted as I was by the developing entity.  Anxiety, fed no doubt by a dump truck of guilt, was growing within me.

"Betty," I had to restrain myself from shouting, "I don't know why, but I'm getting really scared.  Can you get me out of here?"

"No, only you can get yourself out of here."

I knew that was true.  The form before me spread out to fill the entire visual field, which appeared like a sphere around me.  I was floating in the center.  My heart started to pound.

"Betty, am I in the middle of X's mind?"

"Sure, Harry.  Either that or you're confined in an institution, telling your therapist your latest delusion."

"Betty, stop joking!"

Betty's soft chuckle reassured me.  "Harry, X has lost innocence now and has a mature form."

"Betty, is X male, as our mythology has it?"

"Talk to X and find out."

I stared at the inner wall of the sphere that surrounded me.  It was full of morphing images, impossible to make sense of.  Finally I spoke.

"Hello?  Please forgive me for being blasphemous, if I am.  To begin with, could Yxu please tell me what 'blasphemous' means?  I would like to ask Yxu if Yxu have a gender, but not if it's a blasphemous question."

And just like that I heard a crisp, sweet voice, "Hello, Harry.  It seems I created you."

"Oh, I guess you did, thank you.  Betty, are you still here?"  Betty did not respond.  I wanted her advice on how, or whether to proceed, but she left me on my own.  

"I mean," I sputtered to Gxd, "I'm confused.  I just watched you be created, so I'm not sure how you created me.  That sounded irreverent, please forgive me...!"  

"Don't worry, Harry, we're communicating now.  All I ask from humans is some introspection and responses that show evidence of critical thinking skills."

"Oh thank god, I mean, oh my god....!"

"Harry, relax.  Remember, you're dreaming.  If it's too much, just accept it as a dream."

"Ok, but how do I know if it's a nightmare or a, what's the opposite of a nightmare, 'good dream'?"

"'Good dream' will do, Harry.  Anyway, back to your question, 'What is blasphemy?'  It's from the Greek, meaning 'slander.'  To blaspheme is to slander X, to say something about X that is not true.  Since you know nothing of X, then whatever you say about Hxm is of unknown truth and thus is slander and blasphemy."

"Oh, ok...uh...sorry, I don't know how to refer to Yxu.  Should I call you Gxd?"

"Don't refer to Mx as anything.  To refer to Mx is to presuppose knowledge of Mx, which, as noted, is slander, and yes, it has been known to rile Mx."

"Ok!  But, I'm getting lost here.  If I'm communicating with Yxu now, doesn't that require referring to Yxu, and so blaspheming?"

"Harry, you're being literal and time based.  This is a dream.  We are both ending and becoming in every moment.  You sin and blaspheme, you lose your innocence, I become angry and lose my innocence then regain it.  Does that make sense, Grasshopper?"

"No!  I'm losing my ability to know how words work!  Oh my X!  Yxu joked and made me feel like I am like Yxu, but I am lost and without understanding, so how could I be like Yxu?"

"Good question, Harry, you are an excellent student!  Go ahead and ask your question about gender."

"Oh yes, sorry.  Well, do Yxu have a gender?  Are Yxu male or female?"

"Yes."

I should have expected that.

X continued: "We're reaching the end of this dream, Harry.  Let me ask you what you learned from this encounter."

"What I've learned is...uhm... Lord, I have learned...damn! Sorry!  Jesus, what the hell...."

I was really losing it, tangled in so many languages and perspectives.

"Try again, Harry."

The voice was kind, loving.  It was a relief to feel a benevolent side of X.

"Ok, sorry for blaspheming!"

"Continue, Harry."

I calmed down then, my thoughts coming together in sensible form.

"Ok. Well, I think the lesson I've learned is that humankind's understanding is limited to a shell of constructs assembled by our five senses.  Those senses are not designed to see beyond the shell.  Thinking about X is an attempt to do just that.  The sin is not that we try to see beyond the shell.  It's that we can't admit that we don't know how to, that we haven't seen squat.  We don't know anything at all beyond the shell.  Nothing.  The sin is pretending that we are able to see.  What angers Yxu is dishonesty."

"Not bad, Harry," said Gxd.

Betty came floating into the visual field and spoke cheerfully:

"Say goodbye to Gxd, Harry.  This dream is almost over."

"Goodbye, Gxd, and thank you!"

"Any time, Harry," said Gxd.

Betty gestured for me to get on her back, and she galloped across the renewing desert.  It was dawn when I dismounted in my front yard.  I bid farewell to Betty and went to bed, entering a dreamless sleep.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Is China an enemy?

My altered-ego D.L. has roused himself to new heights with “Is China an enemy?”  Read it at:  https://laskenlog.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 23, 2020

New Moon Club Reunion

Readers will recall two weeks ago, on the last full moon, I speculated on the effect moon phases have on us humans, and the difference between the force of the full moon compared to the new moon, and I told the story of a maternity nurse who said there are more births on new moon than full moon.  I promised to return to the subject on the next new moon, which was last night.

I wanted to do justice to this effort and recalled that the New Moon Club, of which I'm a proud member had not met in many moons, not since one of our members, Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, suffered serious mental trauma from the Communication Death Ray, said by some to have been personally invented by President Trump (see below, The Babel of Trump Tower).  So I made a telepathic call for a New Moon Club meeting which was answered (telepathically) in the affirmative within minutes by all members: Robert, Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess, Jesus and Gandalf the Wizard.

At 7pm last night I set out from my weathered cabin in Pearblossom, walking over the soft rolling desert carrying water, a Nature Valley Sweet 'n Salty Granola Bar (which I find enhances my telepathic abilities) and a flashlight, since the new moon entails no moon.

After trudging for some minutes I came over a mound and there were my companions, seated around a smoldering fire tended by Gandalf, who poked it with his staff.  Robert was speaking when I arrived.

...so it's a brand new struggle, replacing that between Trump and national capitalism...."

Robert became silent and turned to look at me as I approached, seeming to resent my interruption.  The others smiled.  They sat on leveled chunks of stone in this order: Gandalf, Betty, Jesus and Robert, with a stone reserved for me between Jesus and Robert.  

"Continue please, Robert," I said, as I settled on my rock, "By the way, did you say that Trump struggles against national capitalism?  I thought he represented national, or nationalistic capitalism."

"No," retorted Robert, "He represents global capitalism.  That's why his policies are so destructive to the nation."

"Trump's response to the coronavirus would seem to argue your point, Robert," I said quickly.  You don't want to start a conversation with Robert by implying that he is wrong.  Gilas don't have an equivalent in their language for "wrong."  The closest term literally means, "mortally wounded." 

I continued: "Robert, what struggle are you talking about?"

Robert, who often acts as our group's left-wing, explained: "Reports indicate that the White House, in its evolving policy on the coronavirus pandemic, is divided between what I'm calling national interests, which include making people's health paramount, and global interests which define 'health' as global cash flow."

"We should note," said Betty, "that the primary targets of the bailout money are large corporations.  Small business, in fact small anything, will be directed under the bus."

"Indeed!" spat Robert. 

Betty continued, "To be fair, however, the shutdown of businesses and jobs has its own death count, just as real as deaths from the virus.  People are destroyed either way, and it's not clear that the virus caused deaths will outnumber the shutdown caused deaths.  Medical leaders downplay that aspect."

Readers might find it implausible that a retired nightclub mind-reader would be out in the desert absorbing ideas about human society from active or semi-retired deities, a character from a novel and a talking lizard, but it just shows the lengths one has to go to these days to find decent conversation.

"Robert," said Jesus, "Your thesis reminds me of the dichotomy my followers faced between personalized, small groups and the mass following that developed - no pun intended.  The term 'Catholic,' after all, comes from the Latin: Kata, 'with respect to,' plus holos, 'whole,' meaning the whole of everybody are members of a catholic church.  It turns out that spirituality comes in local and international forms too." 

"Which way represents your views best?" asked Robert.

"
That's not easy to answer," said Jesus.

Betty intervened, "Robert, you can find deficits and benefits inherent in both small and large human organizations.  I don't think you're implying that large organized religions are always spiritually inferior to small ones."

"No, I'm not, " said Robert, "and large corporations are not inherently bad; many have been creative, inventing and developing critical human technology.  It is not automatically bad to be big, or global."

"Then what's bad about the current assault by bigness?" I asked.

"What's bad, " explained Robert, "is that this invasion of global interests into America's response to the pandemic is disguised as domestic policy, much as people's obsession with the Dow Jones is disguised as a domestic focus.  Money itself is no longer domestic.  And as noted- your foreign policy is as much impacted by global interests as your pandemic policy."

Gandalf, who I think tries to overcome his origins in a fictional place (Middle-earth) by making occasional germain comments about our universe, did so: "I agree, Americans face a paradox: If they go to war, they will think they are being nationalistic, but they will not be serving nationalism."

"Gandalf," I asked, "You lived through a type of world war in The Lord of the Rings.  How was that different from our wars?  When you arrived at Frodo's hobbit hole that day and told him of danger abroad, were you an internationalist or what?"  

Gandalf was unruffled: "The point is that I told the hobbits the truth.  I did not mischaracterize the protagonists.  Sauron et al were exactly the threats I made them out to be.  You didn't need to wonder if it was an international concern or domestic; it was both.  But when you hear about your enemies, you are given cover stories to disguise who they actually are."

"This particular cover story may be coming to an end," said Betty, "as it is now plain that the Trump White House is balancing human lives, which in Robert's formulation are a national interest, against "productivity" and "growth," terms which, thanks to your media, have acquired strong positive connotations, but which can now be identified as global interests that are not necessarily positive."

"Amen," said Robert.

"If I may change the subject slightly," I said, "I'd like to point out that tonight is new moon, as the title of our club suggests.  I called this meeting to address the question on everyone's mind: 'Do moon phases affect human behavior?'"

"That question has not been on my mind," Robert mumbled.

"I know.  I was being funny," I explained.

"Oh," said Robert.

"Sorry, Robert, I forgot that gilas have no concept of humor.  For humans, the world would be unbearable without it."

"Yeah," Robert said, and spat (gilas have toxic saliva so spitting is a meaningful social cue), "but I've studied your humor and I know what it is.  The latest science is that humor comes essentially from electrical impulses coursing through the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerves connecting the left and right hemispheres of the human brain, which control, respectively, logic on one side and artistic, poetic thinking on the other.  A pun is "funny" because it makes a connection, picked up by the corpus callosum, that neither hemisphere alone would make.  Gilas don't need humor because our mentality is logical and artistic at the same time."

"Robert, " I responded gloomily, "you will be gratified to know that you are not at all funny."

Robert said nothing but stared into the fire and spat.  He was clearly insulted.  

Betty, who usually acts as our moderator and peacemaker, said, "Robert, I think all Harry is suggesting is that the struggle between global and national interests has reached a head exactly on a new moon.  That's interesting enough, don't you think, whether anything is funny or not?"

Robert spat and remained silent.  I wondered if there was any point, after all, to this meeting.  We settled into our private thoughts, and it became comforting just to sit around a fire in the middle of nowhere with friends.  Words are overrated, sometimes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The coronavirus in Los Angeles

One late afternoon this week I was sitting in my combination study, kitchen, bedroom, living room, staring absently through the open window at the desert haze, when I felt a familiar tingling in my head, followed by the (telepathically transmitted) sultry voice of Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess, aka The Trickster.  Her purpose was to alert me that humans living in Los Angeles and the surrounding sprawl are behaving in a way she has not seen before in thousands of years of monitoring our species.  

Harry, she said in my head, everyone has withdrawn to their shelters and are coming out as little as possible.  Schools and businesses are closed and people are facing financial ruin.

Why?

A virus called the corona has appeared and is stalking humanity.

Oh yeah, I read about it.  Has it become a major killer?

There is potential that it will. 

Betty,  I'm always interested in your findings, but I can't say I "care" about this in the conventional sense.

Harry, your indifference to your own species is sad.

It's not indifference; it's hostility.

That's sad too.  You only dislike your species because it is currently out of whack, disorganized and confused.

True that.

Once you humans get your act together, you'll be awesome.

Thanks for that thought, Betty!  In your opinion are people overreacting to this virus?

It's hard to say, but the most remarkable thing, Harry, is that people are complying with the drastic orders.

Are they complying because they are afraid of the virus?

In part.  The story is alarming: A virus leaps from a bat to a human and is expected to continue leaping, killing many in its path, until it has deposited its progeny in humans everywhere.  There is no natural immunity to the virus and no antibiotic for it.

Yeah, scary.  Also there are plenty of conspiracy theories, like that it escaped from a lab, or is a weapon of some group against another.  Betty, as a deity, can you tell me what this virus really is?

It's more than one thing, Harry.  One thing it is, is a virus.  Its origin, though, is varied.  Whether it came from a lab, or from evolution, or from a deity- it wasn't me, by the way....

We chuckled telepathically.

...wherever the virus came from, it also came from your own human minds, your own need, which beckoned it into existence.

Betty, that's a tough sell.  Are you saying we wished for the virus?

No.  I'm saying you wished for some force that would impede you, that would slow down your lonely mindless march.  The virus heard your need and sprang forth.

Betty, you are never going to win the Nobel prize for science.  How many people have died from the virus in L.A.?

Nine.

I thought about that for a moment.  

Given the current low death rate, Betty, I'm surprised too at the widespread compliance with sheltering in place, abandoning of businesses and schools.  Is anyone resisting, from any demographic?

There's some resistance from financial interests, religious groups and beachgoers, but society at large is compliant.

That's a conundrum!

It sure is! 
Betty called out as she sailed through the open window, landing at my feet and calmly sitting on her haunches.

Hi Betty, I get the feeling you have something planned for us.

I do.  Is you car working?

Betty was referring to my 2007 Camry hybrid, which waits patiently in the dirt beside my house for weekly trips to the Family Dollar Store.

Where are we going?

Los Angeles.  I need to do some readings in the field.  

Within minutes we were heading south on the 14, planning the jagged route of freeways to downtown L.A.  Traffic was light due to the statewide confinement.  Betty sat on the front seat, using a bit of her "magic" to create a dog aura that disguised both her coyote and deity aspects.  I use the term "magic" in quotes because, although the things Betty can do are as mechanistic as anything we understand, since we can't understand them, they're magic.  

We transitioned to the 5 south and soon crossed the 210 and were surrounded by vast urbanity.  
Betty sniffed the air from the partly rolled down window.  After a few minutes she said:

Harry, I'm already getting the information I need, but I guess it's de rigueur to park and walk around.

You already know what you need to know?

Pretty much.  But let's park someplace and walk around, just in case I missed something.

Copy that.

The sun had set behind the Griffith Park hills.  I got off the freeway at Los Feliz, turned south on Riverside and drove randomly for a while, until we ended up in Atwater Village, a cross-hatch of railroad tracks, warehouses and a thriving artistic community.  

I parked on Glendale Boulevard.  Betty and I got out and walked past empty shops that were usually bustling.  

So Betty, what are you learning?  Why are people so compliant with the radical requirements?  It can't just be because they're afraid of the virus.

No, it's not.

We approached a young mother wearing a face mask and pushing a baby in a stroller.  The mother veered a few inches away from us, and I felt Betty amp up her dog aura (she can also create the illusion of a leash).  When the sidewalk was empty again, Betty resumed her thoughts.

Harry, people are segregating themselves into small units, whether familial, tribal- whatever is the smallest denomination of belonging they can find in society.  They do this in compliance with authority, but they also want to do it.

Why?

Humans are afraid of the gigantic civilizations they have built, because they are unstable structures, fashioned in a hurry by unstable humans.  Dealing with other people has become fraught, since the context for human relations is increasingly unclear.  Going forth into civilization is dangerous.  People like the idea of hiding from the "world," like a coyote in her burrow.

What do you mean, that we are "unstable"?

Betty paused, considering, I guessed, how to soften her words for me.

Humans evolved to deal with extreme instability.  Unlike deer, or tortoises, or butterflies, you did not adapt to a specific environment.  The human environment has been a kaleidoscope of change since the animals pushed you out of the motherland.  Your real ambition is to get back in, though you go about it in strange ways.

Imagine!, 
I exclaimedmarvelling at the ironies of life, I'm walking down Glendale  Boulevard with a coyote who is lecturing me about human instability.  Betty, why can't we make a stable environment and make ourselves be stable?  

Your difficulties are understandable.  You've had no opportunity to evolve; it's been one disaster after another, whether self-inflicted or otherwise.  Humans need a break.

I don't think we're about to get one, 
I sighed as we got back in the Camry.

I'd have to agree, 
Betty said.  In summation, then, people are in the mood to shelter in place, thus the compliance.  How long they remain in that mood is a question.

That's a question alright, 
I responded with a lack of brilliance and insight that effectively ended the conversation.  Thirty minutes later I parked on my dirt driveway and we said goodnight.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Conspiracy theory

"Conspire" means "breathe together" in Latin.  Conspiracy is intimate.  The conspirators are vulnerable to each other, open with their thoughts because they have common interests.  The conspiracy must remain secret because it only serves those interests.

From this point of view conspiracies, and by extension conspiracy theories, are as natural as communication.  Why then does no one today say, "I have a conspiracy theory"?  We all have conspiracy theories, but voicing one invites ridicule.  

Perhaps the rumors are true, that the CIA promoted a negative connotation for the phrase "conspiracy theory" to embarrass people who doubted the Warren Report on President Kennedy's assassination.  If that conspiracy theory is true, it was a brilliant move, stunningly successful.  

It's interesting too that the word "paranoia" is understood by almost everyone while its opposite, "pronoia" (referring to denial that there are people conspiring against one, when in fact there are) is mostly unknown.

Of course, even if someone overcomes the stigma of vocalizing a conspiracy theory, and even if everyone who hears the theory agrees with it, you still face the question: What are you going to do about it?  You can't take legal action because a conspiracy theory is a theory; it is not designed to be a formal allegation, as there is generally little or no evidence to back it up.

For instance, I have a conspiracy theory that Big Pharma is behind the move away from attributing significance to dreams, which are referred to in many medical journals as neural "trash," to be tossed into the trashcan of sleep.  Why?  If dreams have meaning and are studied, as was the fashion in Freudian times (e.g. Beverly Hills in the 1960's), and if people are able to assuage life problems by talking about dreams- as believed not only by Freud but by most human culture- that's not good news for a system in which mental health is addressed with prescription drugs, which means it's not good news for stockholders.  

The term "depression," too, has been co-opted by Big Pharma.  In the past, a state of depression (previously melancholia) indicated that a person was "sad," a term that is avoided in the pharmaceutical world because we understand that sadness can be caused by the world outside the sad person, and there's no Rx for that.  Today, the person is affected not by the outside world, but by chemical imbalances within.  That's where the money is.

But what can I do with my conspiracy theory about Big Pharma other than blog about it?  There's no legal action to be taken since I have no evidence, and because the pills often work, there's little hope of inspiring a pro-dream movement against medical science.  People would think: What have dreams done for me lately?

The only struggle for change I'm interested in is the struggle to reattach a neutral connotation to the phrase "conspiracy theory," so that, if you laugh at my theory about Big Pharma nixing dreams, it will have to be because you can prove it isn't true, not because I can't prove it is true.

Dreams will fight their own battle for recognition.