Saturday, July 25, 2020

"I get by with a little help from my friends," Ringo Starr

I admit it can be lonely living by myself in the desert, but these days everyone is lonely no matter what they do or where they live.  I've been suppressing my telepathic sense so I don't have to hear my own laments magnified a million times from L.A., but this morning I opened up just to check-in and was rewarded with a flood of anxiety pouring over the mountains.

The coronavirus pandemic with its shut-downs and quarantines is testing us in ways that are not acknowledged.  Our deepest fear is that the institutions and people that structure our lives- family, friends, schools, banks, stores, all the "ties that bind"- are dissolving and will not come back.  Science fiction writer Cixin Liu imagines a soothing existence: floating in space without ambition, direction, or definition.  That's what's happening to us minus the soothing space part.

Society will return, of course, but we fear it will be in a form we won't recognize.  Maybe, we think, we won't even be part of it.

There is a lot of guilt involved.  Before the shutdown all we did was complain about how terrible everything was.  Now we suffer from our own wish for change.  

People wonder: Should I be angry about this and blame someone or something, or should I despair and accept my own culpability?  

I get angry sometimes, depressed other times, and sometimes I just stare out the window at the mountains as if they had answers.

Last week I reached the level of internal chaos required to induce action.  As I have in other crises (documented in these pages) I headed across the rocky sand in search of the beings who sustain my life out here.  Often on such forays my goal is to find a particular one of them (full list: Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess, Jesus, Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster and Gandalf the Wizard), but this time I walked aimlessly, not sure what or whom I sought.  

It couldn't have been entirely aimless, though, because I ended up at Betty's favorite creosote bush, and there she was, seated beside it.  She smiled (a coyote smile is conveyed through suggestion) and spoke first:

Hello, Harry!  I've been following your thoughts this morning, but I'm not sure I have any particular wisdom for you.

Why not, Betty, you're a deity.  Doesn't that mean you know things?

I'm not saying I don't know things; I'm saying I'm not sure I can help you.

Just knowing things can be a big help sometimes.  Please tell me something you know.

Betty gazed over my shoulders at the mountains and sighed.  After a few moments she spoke.

Harry, the things that are scaring people the most are true.  

Like what?

Like the dissolution of your civilization.  It's going to be scrapped and rebuilt.

Will it be an orderly process?  Will people be taken care of and thoughtfully introduced into new roles?

It doesn't look like it.

We were silent for a while.  I was at a loss for my next question, until I remembered the burning issue of the day.

Betty, I don't know whether to be angry at others for causing this situation, or to wallow in self-doubt and blame myself.

You might try a little of both, Harry.  

Which is correct?

They are both correct.  People caused this collapse by not caring, not thinking, not doing.  On the other hand, although you cared and thought, you haven't actually done anything to prevent it.

True.

We entered another contemplative moment.  I considered thanking Betty for her time and going home to my shack for a nap.  Betty caught my drift and said,

Harry, collapse and rebuilding happen continually in the universe.  

But why must it happen over and over to human society, Betty?  Humans are supposed to be smart, smarter than animals or insects or anything else.  Why don't we fix our society instead of letting the problems build up for years until only destruction can fix them?  Do you know the story of Alexander the Great and the Gordian knot?

Yes, Alexander arrived in the town of Gordiam in the Middle East where he was shown an immense, tangled knot with a legend: Whoever could untie the knot would rule Asia.  Since ruling Asia was on Alexander's mind, he tried to untie the knot.  After sustained efforts he failed to untie it, so he drew his sword and sliced it in half, effectively untying it.  Harry, why did you think of that story?

People secretly admire Alexander for slicing the knot, Betty.  They think it shows Alexander's intelligence and fitness to rule.

Does it?

It shows how humans often rule, for better or worse.  

So instead of tying to solve your problems, you just slice everything into pieces?

In essence, yes.

I suddenly felt very tired and sat on a rock.  

Betty, my anger comes from the idea that there are people who are manipulating things.  They may not have caused the overall mess, but they have been monitoring it and finding ways to control it.

What is the goal of these manipulators?

Their goal is to make sure that the new society includes them.  Our conspiracy theories are about people secretly deciding who will live and prosper in the new order, and who will not.

We were quiet for a few minutes.  Though it was soothing to be with a friendly soul, my thoughts soon settled on a vision of a hungry mob emptying the Family Dollar Store, which was not the relaxing mandala I had sought.

As if to save the day, Gandalf the Wizard from Lord of the Rings strolled towards us.  He is the only fictional character among my friends, but in practical terms he's as real as a talking coyote.  

Hi all, said Gandalf.  Harry, I've been following your thoughts too, although I'm not telepathic.

If you're not telepathic, Gandalf
how did you follow my thoughts?

As far as I can tell, Harry, I tapped into the first person omniscience of my creator, J.R.R. Tolkien.  

Wow, you can do that?

Yes, but it's hard to sustain.  Anyway, I'm not sure I can help you, Harry, but it might be interesting to compare Middle-earth's travails with yours.

At that point Gandalf and I heard a soft throbbing, like waves on a shore.  It was peaceful, meditative, and seemed designed to help me and Gandalf peer into unknown corners.  I looked at Betty to ask what the sound was, but she was sleeping, and the soft throbbing was her snoring!  This, I figured, was blessed snoring.

Gandalf, I continued, I recall that Middle-earth experienced a complete revolution, in which every society in that world was destroyed and transformed, yet the book is uplifting.  In contrast, imagine that humanity's current situation is a science-fiction story.  Most people would agree the genre would be Sci-Fi Horror.  Why isn't Lord of the Rings, with all its death and pain, in the Fantasy-Horror genre?

I've thought about that, Harry.  There is actually much more destruction in your world story than in 
Lord of the Rings, because in your story, nothing of your lives survives.

What?  Gandalf, did I mention that I came out here looking for solace?  What do you mean?

Harry, you'll recall that at the conclusion of 
Lord of the Rings, what you might call "ethnic" or "racial," or even species related differences are not transformed at all.  Sorry for the confusion in terms; Tolkien never made clear whether hobbits, elves, dwarves and people could cross-pollinate.

I recall some action between elves and people.

Yes, perhaps.  At any rate, all these classifications of beings stay the same through the great wars of Middle-earth, so the aforementioned hobbits, elves, dwarves and people- not to mention wizards, orcs and demons- maintain their definitions at the end of the tale.  Since friendships tend to occur between those with similar backgrounds, and since no one in Middle-earth changes their basic form, the destruction of everyone's societies does not bring destruction of their friendships.

I think I follow you, Gandalf.  Are you saying that in my world, our current forms will change so much that our great-grandchildren will not know where they came from, or who we were?

Yes.  The approaching process will entail scientific refashioning of civilization itself.  Just as Europeans (with help from the Romans) forgot that they were Celts, Visigoths and assorted barbarians, the next people will forget they were you.

Gandalf, I assume you know how upset people would be to hear these ideas.

Of course, but Harry, you don't seem too upset about them.

I'm upset enough, but I'm also trying to think of something uplifting, which you and Betty apparently cannot offer.

At that moment there was a hitch in Betty's snoring, as if it were interrupted by a cough.  We looked at her for a moment, then Gandalf spoke.

If it's good news you want, Harry, you need but ask.  The reason Lord of the Rings is rated "Fantasy," not "Fantasy Horror,"  is that the friendships are so intense, so loving, and so successful that constant fighting with orcs is a small price to pay.  At this moment you humans have friendships, but the friendships are based on the past, not the future.

Gandalf, did I hear you say you had good news?

The good news is an idea.  That idea is: if you can get even a portion of your society to take the blinders off and talk about things as they actually are, you could revive the ancient art of friendship and survive.

Easier said than done, but it's worth a try, 
I said courteously.

Betty opened her eyes and gazed into mine, and a great warmth spread inside me.

Betty, that feels good, but it's just depressing me more.

Now what's wrong? 
asked Betty.

What's wrong is I'm making all this up!  I'm not talking to a deity and a wizard.  I'm sitting on my bed in my fucking room, flipping through a six- month-old Mad Magazine.

Gandalf intervened: Nonsense, Harry.  Remember when Frodo and Sam were hiding in a cave outside Mordor and they speculated about how they could be characters in a novel?

Yes, what about it?

Well, they were characters in a novel, weren't they?

So?

So if they weren't real, why did you care about them?

Betty and Gandalf broke into raucous laughter, and I suddenly felt out of my league.  With impeccable timing, Jesus chose that moment to enter the scene.

Hello Harry, Jesus said serenely.

Hi Jesus!  I suppose you've been following my thoughts too.

Indeed I have.  Would you like a bit of my wisdom?

Yes I would, though I have to confess I haven't understood some of the statements attributed to you.

Such as....?

Well, the turning the other cheek thing, loving your enemies, etc.

You don't understand that?

No, I mean, I do understand the idea, but it's not what is happening in the world.  In fact the opposite is happening.  What's the point of you saying these things if no one does it?

Everyone does it, Harry.

Everyone loves their enemies?

Yes, they have to because your worst enemy is the person most like you.

Can you give an example?

There are lots from international relations.  The Cold War was the period of the highest tension between the Soviet Union and the U.S., while at that time they were more similar to each other than they were to any other countries.  Now China, with its renewed imperial ambitions, is the most similar to the U.S., so it has become your primary enemy.

Then...should we love China?

Oh yes, the sooner the better.

Quiet reigned again.  I picked up a stick and drew meaningless symbols in the sand.  I wondered about Frodo and Sam.  Did they know they were not real?  

Get a life, Harry!

The intruding thought carried the unmistakable signature of Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster.

Hey Robert, I said dryly, are you joining the campaign to cheer me up?

Why don't you cheer me up, Harry, you're from the master race after all.

Ha ha, that's funny.

What's funny?

Calling humans the master race.

What's funny about it?

Jesus, Betty, Gandalf and I watched Robert trudge across the clearing.  He settled on a stone between the creosote bush and my rock.  He spat once, then continued his thoughts:

Harry, you are so anthropocentric!  Do you ever stop to think about what's happening to other creatures around you, like, I don't know, gila monsters?

Sure, Robert, all the time.

I'll let that pass.  I suppose you're wondering if I- the least prone of our group to hallelujah choirs- will be the one to cheer you up.

Stranger things have happened.

Ok Harry, here goes!  Gila science interprets what is happening on the surface of our planet in a non-anthropocentric way: human society's chaos is not caused by humans.

What is it caused by?

It's caused by the earth.  All the upheaval in human history is actually not human history.  It's earth history.  

What are humans, then?

Humans are by-products of the earth's growing pains.

Ok, I am totally cheered up now; thanks so much Robert.

Hang on, I didn't get to the good part:  Humans are so talented at adapting to things, you could probably adapt to the idea that you're by-products rather than important beings like deities and talking lizards.

And then what?

The sky's the limit.  Once you are honest about your prospects, you can plan a decent retirement.

Robert, if you didn't exist I'd have to make you up.  Well friends, thanks for coming.  I think I'm overdue for my afternoon nap, so if you'll excuse me....

Just a moment, Harry, 
said Jesus, rising and walking over to me.  He looked into my eyes, then touched my forehead with the tip of his index finger.  I felt an immediate dilation of my spirit, which was immersed in a warm bath of the waters of joy.  I'm sure Jesus could tell by my expression that I was not resisting.

What is happening, Jesus?, I asked.

Harry, you are in touch with your atoms- hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, iron and all the vast crowd.  They are not in despair, are they?

No, my atoms are joyful.  Why is that?

They are part of earth's processes, going where they want to go.

What am I?  Am I made of them?

You are a temporary construct of them.

Jesus, what's the good news in this?

Communicate with your atoms, Harry.  Find common ground.  Find how you can combine your needs with what the earth needs.

Jesus, people call those kinds of ideas 
mystical babble.

Who cares, Harry, that doesn't mean they aren't true.

Feeling somewhat restored, I said goodbye to my friends and trudged home, hoping the warm glow from Jesus's words would last the trip.  It did, and in fact I took the glow with me into my afternoon nap.  

Pleasant dreams, readers!


Sunday, June 21, 2020

A meeting about tricking Hong Kong's youth

A group of men met in China last winter, as the coronavirus pandemic and quarantines were unfolding, to discuss Hong Kong and the likelihood that late spring would coincide with lessening infection rates and a lifting of quarantines.  This prospect interested the men because it entailed possibilities for manipulating Hong Kong's young people by unleashing within them the energy of spring as a power source for their protest.  This "spring break" energy would be especially intense after everyone had been pent-up for months in unnatural hibernation.  By choosing this time to issue a set of directives from Beijing specifically designed to upset Hong Kong's youth, the men foresaw an easy road to chaos, one they could blame on the protesters.   If the protests were sufficiently violent, the entire protest leadership and many followers could possibly be shut-up for good.

One man said, The young are unschooled in our ways.  They think they follow their own volition, but we will be the stage managers.  If we set a trap in spring, they will be too full of emotion to see it.

Yes, said another, Let's trigger them in late spring.  At that time young people will be erupting all over the world, so when the mayhem starts, news of Hong Kong will be bumped off the front pages in the countries whose support the protesters need most, like the U.S.A.  Gentlemen, it is time to make a list of things we will say in late spring to trigger Hong Kong protests!

That list appears on page 4 of today's Los Angeles Times (6/20/20, "Beijing to expand Hong Kong presence") where it is summarized by this line: "China plans to establish a special bureau in Hong Kong to investigate and prosecute crimes considered threatening to national security."  The message: Dissent will be illegal and punishable in harsh ways.  


It's a gripping story, but by the time readers get to it on page 4 they will have read thousands of words about race riots, infection rates and economic uncertainty.  L.A. Times readers and most Americans are too exhausted from their own trials to think much about Hong Kong.  

There will be no help for the protesters from international capitalism; financial centers in Hong Kong do not want to go against China.  Without money in their court, the protesters have no hope of military support.


Youth of Hong Kong,  you need to rethink your approach if you don't want to be sitting ducks.  When China's latest moves send you to the boiling point, that is by design.  You have not chosen this timing.  It was chosen by your opponent in pursuance of a strategy in which the more violent your protests are, the more you will be misrepresented to people whose support you need.  Every time a window is broken or a rock is thrown, your opponent will rejoice and congratulate himself on his strategic acumen.

I wish I could advise you on how to "win," but I'm not sure how each of you defines "winning."  What I can say is that when you detect that an intended action of yours has been determined by your opponent, you should think twice about doing it.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Interview with Gregory w/P.S. on George Floyd protests

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 Creator Goddess and Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster are fictional creations of mine.

Me:  Gregory, you do know, I hope, that Betty and Robert 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 deus ex machina (literally).  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.

Postscript, 6/14/20: 

When the protests and rioting resulting from George Floyd's killing started, I contacted Gregory again to see how the unrest was affecting his movement, since his followers tend to be in the same young demographic as the protestors.  We set up another zoom meeting and had a short but revealing conversation:

Me: Have your young followers been swept up in the protests over police killings?

G: Many of them have, yes, but we have discussions in which we put current events into the perspective of the human transformation now underway.  Part of that transformation entails a genetic refashioning of the traditional races.  Whether our ancestors lost their skin pigmentation in the quest for vitamin D or not, our genetic codes will be mixed and matched.

Me: Are you predicting the disappearance of currently existing races?

G: Not the disappearance- the modification.  There will be an element of self-determination as parents choose their children's physical, intellectual and emotional characteristics from the palette offered by science.  After a few generations, the result will be artificial "races" that are physically soothing to each other across racial lines, avoiding the intense rivalry and historical baggage typical of today's racial mixing.  Bioengineering will bring us harmonious diversity at last, but in the process it will destroy today's version of diversity.

Me:  A lot of people will not like that.

G: No one will be able to stop it, but there will be instances of isolated groups who seek to retain their original genetic makeup.  It will be a matter of great pride for them, but rivalries between extended genetic families will not have the force of "race war" that we verge on now.

Me:  Do you advise your followers how to protest George Floyd's killing?

G: No, I don't tell my "followers" what to do.  It's enough for me that they understand the context of the unrest- its context in human evolution.

Me: And that context is that in a few generations there won't be races as we've known them.

G: In a nutshell.

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 conversations 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 in 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 more drawn to risk 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.  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 entity spread out to fill my entire visual field, appearing 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.

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 explained, "Reports indicate that the White House, in its evolving policy on the coronavirus pandemic, is divided between what I call 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 beneficiaries of the bailout money are large corporations.  Small business, in fact small anything, are directed under the bus."

"Indeed!" spat Robert. 

Betty continued, "The shutdown of businesses and jobs has its own death count (though it is often a count of living-death) which is just as real as the death count of 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 concern.  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."

"One important cover story is unravelling," said Betty, "as it is now clear that the Trump White House is balancing the health of citizens, which in Robert's formulation is 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.


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