Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chapter 7: It's on!


The problem in my head started on the flight to Gimpo Airport, South Korea, just a sort of mental static, but static with a purpose.  I slept uneasily, woke up at landing, groggy and confused, barely able to make it through baggage and onto the train to Pohong. The static got worse on the three hour train ride, worse because it became more clear, a voice: "No...no," gently insistent,"no...no, you are going the wrong way.  Turn back, it's wrong."  I'd never heard voices before so you can imagine how freaked I was, though it calmed me to recall Oliver Sacks' revelation in his book Hallucinations that hearing voices was considered normal until the Freudian age, when we decided it was important to define sanity, and Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral mind (1976) which posits that everyone heard voices in ancient times, and that these voices were either telepathic, or not.

The cab in Pohong took me to my place, two flights up to a single room with a mattress on the floor. I could not sleep so at 1:00am I set out on the streets.  I headed west- the giant oil port to my left- up and down low hills crammed with shuttered shops and quiet homes.  I tried to send mental communiqués to Gregory and Anthony back in L.A. but they fizzled.  I wrote texts (which they did not answer).  Here are a few I saved:

"Something's wrong."

"I'm getting increasingly intense signals that the Korea idea was...."

"Implanted."

Paranoia arose in my gut.  A few late night workers were on the sidewalks, and their furtive glances inspired a growing terror.  When dawn arrived I was at the central market near the docks, where tens of thousands of crabs, eels and fish were brought alive from small fishing boats to old women, preparing, in the case of the eels, to make an ultimate hell of their last moments on earth.  The eel-women sat with one basket on their left filled with intact, fresh black eels, writhing in fear.  The women would pick up one eel at a time, hook its flesh with a scalpel-like implement, then pull down to flay it alive, drop the skin in a pile at their feet and toss the body into a basket on their right, where it joined a growing pile of pink worms writhing in agony.  I watched this for a while, until the hostile thoughts of the flaying women joined the chaos in my head.  I had an image of becoming an eel, of one of the women grabbing me, hooking my skin, tearing it off.  

I may have screamed.  I may have run.  Somehow I got back to my small room to hide until I had a better plan.  Did I calm down? Did I sleep?  I do know I wrote because I found this in my handwriting, an apparent attempt to re-establish my identity in the face of intrusion:

I want to fuse poetry and prose and forget the artifice of rhyming and meter but also avoid the sloth of stream of consciousness, as we call undisciplined expression that wanders in a circular path, circular thought being suspect because it produces nothing new, just the same question and answer over and over, but meditation can employ circular thoughts with variable centers, for instance I'm asking a circular question, "What is an atom?", asking it over and over, but in the center of this circle is an atom, what the Greeks surmised could not be cut because it’s the smallest thing, yet smallness is not what I seek nor inability to be cut, I just seek the center of my thought and I can only visualize a center if I think in circles for circles have centers and lines do not and while circling I had a new idea about the atom at the center of my thought: It is an atom from my body and it contains my pre-birth memory, and unless I approach this atom and access my memory, I won't know who or what I am or what I come from, or where I'm going, because we have lost our memory- by “we” I mean the conscious network on the surface of this globe and in particular the part called human that proclaims its self-awareness.  We are proud of the apex we imagine we’ve attained and yet we have no memory, as no one older than two years has a memory of being a baby because one presumes being a baby is so different from everything after that it cannot be remembered, and the center of my circular thought is that we humans have no memory of what we were and in fact have less memory of that than we have of being a baby because we see daily evidence of babyhood and its preface in sperm and egg yet we see nothing of what we derived from before the birth moment, so as I continue to wander in this circle ever mindful that scorn attaches to a wandering mind that wanders too long without “results” I squint and try to focus on the center of my thought and think I see an atom that multiplied many times makes up the atoms of my whole self, and each atom in isolation contains the hologram of my memory, the memory I seek but as those mystics we call particle physicists find that particles do not submit easily to our glance because our communal particle consciousness creates an interference pattern with the memory of the solitary particle, which we deem not conscious anyway (and by thus deeming close the door to its memory) so circling circling it’s gone!  I can’t do it I can only guess and wonder if I should put on saffron robes or live my life and get “results” some other way because I can’t answer the question at the center of my thought and I am barred entrance to my own memory.

I don't recall getting on the train to Seoul, but I did, and that evening I was back in the Gangnam District, still struggling to quiet my mind.  I was finally able to call Gregory and Anthony; they were in turmoil too.  The three of us were battling ferocious internal voices claiming we had made a mistake, countered now by other voices claiming that we had made no mistake, that the doubting voices were tricks from our enemies.

I remember standing before a modest beige facade with a blue neon sign in English: Whiskey Club.  It seemed so inviting, so safe; I went in.  The decor was classy.  Several men, some American, some Korean, in evening jackets and beautiful Korean women dressed in long gowns chatted at a shiny black bar.  I took a seat.  A stunning woman, whom someone who didn't have my problem with perfection (Ch. 6) might call "perfection," brought me a menu.  It listed dozens of whiskeys, by the bottle.  I pointed to the first one and asked the price.  She said, "$600," and then I knew I was in a place I did not properly understand, at the same time that I didn't understand the head I was in either. What happened to the $5,000 Gregory had stuffed in my wallet?  Confusion within confusion, and to make it worse, my next memory is of a Korean woman sitting naked on the edge of a hotel bed.  She is speaking to me.  She says, "They know about you.  Be careful."

The phone rings.  Gregory says, "They tricked us.  It's on.  Come home."

I hate when that happens.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chapter 6: Juche

Some developments: By pressing my mind, so to speak, against Gregory and Anthony's minds, I've found I can stimulate telepathic abilities in them.  They are actively developing those abilities now.  Putting our heads together we've already come up with an anomaly.  In our investigation of leaders, advisors and propaganda writers regarding the U.S. Coalition war in Iraq and Syria- which we believe to be a controlled burn designed to ring us with fire while we slumber- we’ve found repeated references to North Korea, but they are puzzling.  They do not seem to reference a country, but rather an activity, a secret project, one involving interests all over the globe.  Powerful interests. 
North Korea seems as good a place to focus our nascent anti-war movement as any.  Gregory, who, it turns out, in addition to being a minor cult leader destined to become the world’s predominant post-war political thinker, is a man of independent means (from what source I don’t know), is bankrolling my flight to Gimpo Airport in South Korea.  I’m writing this in a hurry at LAX (Gregory and Anthony are seeing me off) hoping to post before take-off. 
I’ve been to South Korea twice before for teaching jobs.  I like the way students bow to you when they turn papers in.  The school I worked at and my cheap apartment were in the Gangnam District of Seoul, famed from the rap song, Gangnam Style, which is the fashion capital of Asia.  I felt quite frumpy each morning walking to school in my teacher outfits among some of the most beautifully dressed and groomed people in the world.  The District was lively at night, and overwhelming with light and size, like five Times Squares one after another.  On Friday nights the girls in their stunning outfits often threw up on the sidewalk after too much drinking, while their bemused dates watched.  

I’d been to Gimpo Airport and was impressed when I arrived at baggage claim to find that the passengers’ luggage was already there!  That was my first experience of Korean efficiency.  The culture is very serious about efficiency, which is a good thing.
From Gimpo I’ll take a train to the southwest coastal city of Pohang, where Gregory has secured a cheap room.  Pohang is a port city, industrial, very few tourists.  We've detected a nexus of communication there, connected to the swirl surrounding North Korea.  My goal will be to locate and understand that nexus.
I’m looking forward to flying Korean Airlines.  They have amazing stewardesses.  Their dazzling smiles seem to bore right into you.   A director at my Korean school told me his wife tried out to be a Korean Air stewardess, one of the most coveted jobs in the country.  She went through an excruciating course involving endless details of decorum, and passed.  The last hurdle was to walk across a stage in high heels.  She stumbled once and was disqualified.  The problem was that she was not perfect.  I talked about perfection to my Korean students once, after they expressed doubts that they had done a poetry exercise “correctly,” i.e. perfectly.  I said that if something is perfect, that means, literally, that it is completed.  “Perfected” means “done,” and thus there should be no positive moral connotation to perfection.  In fact, I argued, there is a negative connotation to “perfection” because to be “done,” colloquially, means to be “finished,” as in “washed up.”  The students listened to me without comment.
Anthony Roberts, Gregory’s 19-year-old protégé and future presidential candidate (in 2044) came rushing across the check-in area to us.  He’d been charging his phone, actually charging his mind by dipping it into the Internet.   Anthony can “surf” the Internet telepathically, using his phone as a prompt, a feat I haven’t mastered.  He was breathless.
“Listen, I’ve gone through hundreds, maybe thousands of emails and texts, and I think I’m going right into the writers’ minds sometimes.  What I’m finding is far-out.”
“What?” Gregory and I asked, almost as breathless as Anthony.
He looked at us for a moment.  “There is no North Korea.  In 1945 a B movie actor was abducted from the North when it was administered by the Soviet Union.  It wasn’t just the Soviets who abducted him; it was a consortium also representing China, the U.S. and Europe.  The B movie actor’s name was Dong-ha.  He had no family and little fame.  He was subjected to six months of treatment at a secret facility.  When he emerged he had a new history as an underground fighter against the Japanese, and a title: "Great Leader."  He was also apparently a deep thinker because he had put together a national philosophy called “Juche,” in his words an “original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought.” Juche conveyed that an individual is the “master of his destiny,” and that the North Korean masses should be masters of their destiny against all comers, super-powers or not.  The actor had been given a new name: Kim Il-sung.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Chapter 5: Independence Day

It was exciting to share my knowledge of their futures with Gregory and Anthony (in 28 years they will be, respectively, the dominant political theorist of the century and a presidential candidate) and even more exciting to decide that we would band together to change history by influencing the war that is unfolding in Iraq and Syria, a war that we know is the precursor to World War III.  As recounted in Chapter 4, after first doubting the wisdom of messing with the past to affect the future, we agreed that I would not have been privy to my visions unless the mechanism that controls time "wanted" me to be, unless the universe wanted me (us) to act, meaning that the universe itself, or one faction of it, is not happy with the slavish, non-thinking direction of our species.

Late Thursday we sat at the kitchen table in Gregory's commune, going over the ways we might begin our project.  Exhaustion set in and we agreed to meet again Saturday morning to form a plan of action.

As you read this post on Saturday I will be in that meeting with Gregory and Anthony- you'll see our decisions in Chapter 6 on Tuesday.  Today's chapter recounts my use of time to prepare myself for today's meeting.  This hasn't differed much from my "normal" life, but with partners and a purpose there seems more point to it.

Friday morning I woke at Gregory's commune, northwest of Lancaster, where I have permanent guest status.  I had breakfast with my co-conspirators and Gregory drove me back to my place off Pearblossom in Littlerock.  I took my morning nap, always key to clear thinking, then walked into the kitchen, spread the L.A. Times on the linoleum table, sipped my coffee, and stared.  There was lots of news.  Brexit passed. There was a gun control Congressional sit-in and Supreme Court rulings on immigration and affirmative action.  However, there were no stories on the Iraq/Syria war, in which the U.S. and its coalition are battling every day.  This was one of those news days when so many things were happening that the war went away- a minor story compared to all the breaking news, but in an honest media the lead headline throughout the world, every day, would be, "Your Government is Leading You into World War III and there's nothing you can do about it."  (Aside: besides the arguable benefit to humankind such honesty would bring, if traditional newspapers did this their readership would soar and they would regain their previous influence).

Nothing jumped out at me from the news that suggested an obvious direction for a first step in changing history.  I spent the afternoon in growing frustration and increasing doubt as to the point or sanity of our undertaking.  I've found in the past that mental logjams like this can be loosened by dips into popular culture, so in the early evening I rode my bike to the Cinemark at the Antelope Valley Mall and saw Independence Day: Resurgence.  I picked this movie because I recalled not being too annoyed by the original and because Wikipedia described the genre as "science fiction disaster," which, for obvious reasons, resonated.

It was Friday night at the theater, lots of teenagers- mostly there to see Independence Day: Resurgence- jostling and rowdy.  I picked a seat in the back so I could watch both the film and audience reactions.  The point of Independence Day: Resurgence is the destruction conveyed in a series of CGI segments of vast alien spaceships wiping out familiar world cities like London and L.A.   I say those scenes are the point of the film because there's no way the teenagers packed into that theater would have been there for the formulaic love sub-plots or sci-fi concepts.  I verified this by dipping into the young minds in the theater.  During the previews and the movie's non-violent sections the kids were distracted, but during the movie's CGI images of skyscrapers twisting and rush-hour traffic hurtling into the air the audience became silent, almost reverent, completely focused on the screen.  I inspected the teenage neurology during the destructive scenes and found that a strong peace of mind prevailed.  The adults in the room showed the same.  I checked myself and, yes, the laying waste of gigantic swaths of human civilization was utterly soothing.  No wonder the industry spends so much money churning out end-of-the-world movies, and no wonder governments have so little difficulty maneuvering their populations into war: everyone is itching for disaster. You will not find this aspect of war in a typical history book.  Only fiction, like what you're reading now, tells the truth.  Thus, while Aldous Huxley's novel Point Counterpoint describes how the years leading up to World War I featured emotional turmoil and craving for havoc in the English middle-class, high school history books only tell you about an ageing empire and an assassinated archduke.  Someday textbooks will say that World War III, the one we're itching for now, started over oil, water, religion, food- but if we somehow become wise we'll write that World War III started because people everywhere were unhinged by peace itself. Humankind's most pressing challenge is to make peacetime more enjoyable.

How can Gregory, Anthony and I interest anyone in avoiding war, given our species' taste for periodic destruction?  If we pontificate we'll sound like bleeding hearts or impractical losers.  I think our only hope is to find some piece of evidence proving that we are being manipulated into the war.  People want their mayhem, but they don't like feeling tricked.   My friend Doug has found significant circumstantial evidence that we are indeed being tricked (http://laskenlog.blogspot.com/), but circumstantial evidence is not enough to change history.  We need a "smoking gun."   Read Chapter 6 on Tuesday, June 28 to see what we come up with.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chapter 4: Changing history

I've been waking up in a cold sweat every night wondering what to do with my information from the future.  I want to use it to forestall the insidious war now encircling us, but changing history looks tricky.  Theorists have wondered what would happen if a time traveler went back to kill baby Hitler. Would neo-Nazi's master time-travel and go back to protect Hitler, leading to an escalating time-war that would never end? Or would some sort of cosmic control mechanism kick-in to preempt the disruptions?

I tend towards the cosmic control mechanism, yet the pressure on me to act, to use the information, has been getting stronger.  I keep wondering why the control mechanism permitted me to get my glimpse of the future, even though I'm well positioned to use it to affect history.  What's the point of allowing me to have this knowledge if I can't do something with it?  

I sought out and met both Gregory and Anthony Roberts, the real ones, but I did not share my knowledge about their futures.  I told them about this book- that I was using them as inspiration for my fiction, but I did not tell them that I use "fiction" in Jane Austin's sense of "non-fiction," so they have not known that one of them, Gregory, in our time a west coast guru with a small but growing following, will become the dominant political thinker of this century, while Anthony Roberts, today a teenager living on Gregory's commune, does not know he will run for president in 2044 on a platform derived from Gregory's thinking (see Prologue). 

Until this morning, that is, when I told them.  Yes, I told them their futures.  I figured, what's the worst that could happen?  We're already being waltzed into World War III and we're powerless to react, though we see it in plain sight.  
Maybe the cosmic time-control mechanism is leaking information to help us stop or modify the war.

At first Gregory and Anthony Roberts were skeptical of my story, but after I demonstrated my telepathic abilities they accepted its truth and were 
stunned to learn about their prominent futures.  They asked many questions about what's coming- the war, the dictatorships, the post-war rebirth of democracy- but there wasn't much I could tell them beyond what I've written so far.  

"What do you think we should do?"  Gregory asked.

"I'm not sure," I said.

"Maybe we should wait a while and see if there are rules about changing history," Anthony Roberts advised.

"Yes, I worry about the cosmic consequences too," I said, " but why was I permitted to receive this information?  I can't help thinking that the cosmos, or some part of it, wants me, wants us to use knowledge of the future to change history.  What else could it mean?"

We sat in silence that gradually settled into agreement, and a conspiracy was born.

If the lights of the universe blink out tonight, I guess you can blame me, but so far nothing has happened, or maybe it's happened and we can't tell.  This I do know, I will have important new information to share in Chapter 5 this Saturday!



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chapter 3: Men vs. Women

You might envy me for my telepathic abilities, especially now that I've found I can read future minds, but this is not an easy spot to occupy.  Imagine, wherever I go, whether it's the Family Dollar Store on Pearblossom Highway with its sparse staff and desert dwelling customers or the crowded sidewalks of Melrose Avenue in L.A., I see people living their everyday lives as if a tsunami of change is not towering over their heads.  Uncomfortable as this makes me feel, it has to be that way, I guess. Just as hospital management does not want inmates in the psych ward to be agitated, so society's handlers prefer the relative peace of quotidian worry to panic and hysteria.  But my fate is to see World War III taking shape right now.  We're well into the preliminary stages; in fact we're walking calmly up the chute to slaughter as I write.  I could easily become one of those guys on a corner with a sign heralding "The End," but my wife would leave me.  Wait, she's already left me.  A couple of them have.

I'm doing full disclosure because my topic today is the evolutionary struggle between men and women.  Is it coincidence that the numerous attempts, since the Industrial Revolution, to revive matriarchy, at least on a power-sharing basis, are culminating now, just as the last possible exits from World War III close around us, in the symbolic man vs. woman matchup of Trump vs. Clinton?  

It isn't easy to distract people from an apocalypse; you need the strongest distractors. The ultimate showdown between man (brutish, impatient, celebrating emotion over intellect) and woman (patient, emphasizing logic and strategy) is almost distracting enough so that we don't notice that neither candidate seriously addresses the conflicts flaring up around us.

The candidates do promise "defense" against our enemies, but they offer no recognition that U.S. policies created these enemies and in many cases nurtured and supported them.  They offer no recognition that our overly large and neglected population needs enemies and war just to establish a coherent, defined society.

Certainly neither candidate deals with the fundamental concern that, just as the 10,000 years of human "civilization" before us showed no progress in figuring out alternatives to war, so our species has failed again, in our time, to figure out an alternative. This is big news, perhaps the biggest piece of unreported news today, along with the genetic engineering and AI robots that are lining up to come to our rescue (i.e. replace us) after we try to kill ourselves.

From this point of view, the current presidential race is not a struggle between man and woman- it's a sideshow to distract us.  Whether the brutish man or the diplomatic woman wins, either way we will fall into a brutish war.  

What about men and women?  After the war, my glimpses indicate, people will be concerned with the endless variety of genders possible through genetic engineering. With mastery of human/parasite relations (see Prologue), we may be freed from sexual reproduction, possibly freed from sexual desire, a confusing prospect indeed.  Why must my mind be filled with such profound conundrums, only a few decades removed from relevance, while my vote can go only to one of two people arguing today's relatively simplistic and badly defined issues?