KINDRED – another rediscovered flash fiction

Harry brought Norris a golden knife. Norris had been Harry’s fence for twelve years, and they were, if not friends exactly, something close to it.

Norris told him how his kids were doing and when his wife was getting out of the state pen for women and how to hide things from the IRS and how a person actually had to buy a house.

Harry had figured he’d get a good price for that stolen knife. He’d got it when he went into someone’s house with a carpet cleaning crew—which he did mostly so he could steal things. Yes, he figured he’d get a good price because Norris loved gold: he had gold watches, six gold rings, a gold pendant, two gold chains, a gold painted car.

Norris surprised him by offering him a low price for the knife. “That’s solid gold, man. Fine workmanship, solid gold. I checked it in an antiques register. Solid fourteen karat. Sharp and in mint condition. I want three times that.”

Norris refused, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the knife. So Harry, still surprised, shrugged and put the knife back in the gym bag and said, “I’m outta here,” and he was even more surprised when Norris jerked the bag away, took out the knife, and stabbed him in the chest with it.

Norris stood over him with tears in his eyes. “I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry. I always liked you. I didn’t want to pay for that knife, though. It’s too good to pay for like that. It’s gold. It’s beautiful. But I had to have it. I wish you’d brought me ten silver spoons worth the same as you wanted. I would’ve bought them. But gold…and a knife perfect for killing, both. I could let the gold go, or the knife, but not both the gold and the knife.”

Harry whispered, “I understand, man. I do.”

Then he died, but he died understanding.

I mean, it made complete sense. Totally.

VOICES – a rediscovered flash-fiction piece

Voices

“Your parents are worried about you,” the child psychiatrist told Jeremy. “Do you know why?”

“Yes,” the boy said, “it’s because I hear voices.”

“What do the voices say?”

“They don’t say anything.”

“Then how can you be hearing voices, Jeremy? They just sort of hum, or bark? I’ve heard of that.”

“No, they’re not even voices. It’s only one, and it’s not exactly a voice.”

“Then what is it like?”

The boy leaned back in the leather chair. He looked at the cryptic doctoral certificates, framed, on the wall. He looked at a bowling trophy. “You like bowling?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think of a doctor bowling.”

“Well I do. It makes me feel like I’m just doing what my body likes, sometimes.”

“I know what you mean by that, I do.”

“The voice, or whatever it is, Jeremy. Can you try to tell me what it’s like?”

The boy looked at a world globe. “Well, um…I don’t know.”

“Try to describe it. Take your time.”

The boy considered; the miniature grandfather clock ticked. A hummingbird came to the window and seemed puzzled by a reflection in it. It hung beating the air, looking at the glass, fooled and not fooled, then went away. “Huh,” the boy said.

The psychiatrist waited. At last the boy said, “It’s like…if you’re in a dark cold room, and somebody pulled back a curtain, just a little, high up on the wall, so that one ray of light came down and you put out your hand and in the dark cold room you could feel that warm light on your hand, and how that feels.”

“That sounds like a pleasant feeling. A good one.”

“It is. It is a good feeling. But it’s just…It’s like the feeling is talking. It’s saying, ‘Ray of Light, Ray of Light, Ray of Light.’ It’s saying ‘You and Me, You and Me.’ It’s saying ‘Open and feel Me.’ But it’s not saying anything either. It’s not saying anything at all. No words. It doesn’t talk in words.”

The psychiatrist realized his heart was thudding loudly in his chest. “When…when do you hear…feel this?”

“When…when things are a certain way in me. I don’t know how to say…”

“Is it when…just like receiving? A feeling of nothing but receiving? Very…very empty except for…for receiving?”

“Yes! Yes, that’s it.”

The psychiatrist looked at the clock. “We have some time left. Do you want to play Chinese Checkers?”

“Sure.”

The psychiatrist told Jeremy’s parents there was nothing wrong with him. But he asked permission to speak to the boy on his birthday every year, “just to keep an eye on things,” but what he didn’t say was: he asked to do this for himself, and not for the boy…

A new CIVIL WAR?

Sadly, what happened on January 6th, 2020–gibbering louts, gullible Qanon stooges and white supremacists invading the Capitol Bldg–is probably only a prelude. White nationalists and their conspiracy-theorizing allies will not go away; probably not for a generation. These people are deeply entrenched in their fantasy world. They have guns (who doesn’t?) and while tottering about in their psychological VR, they can twitchily squeeze the triggers of real firearms that will have an effect in the real world. They can make pipe bombs; they can drive explosive-laden trucks into buildings. They can emulate Timothy McVeigh and other mass murderers.

The New American Civil War may be fought on relatively small, discrete battlefields scattered about the US Capitol and state capitols. Unless a faction of the American military splits off under some “General Jack D. Ripper”, a lunatic officer with fanatic followers in the ranks, there won’t be much army-vs-army, per se, in this civil war. But blood will flow. There will be white-nationalist militia attacks; there will bombings, and massacres carried out by extremist right-wing murderers. Viet Cong style operations may arise in some places–but instead of VC it’ll be American racists, misled veterans, and Qanon “believers” who will discover to their dismay that combat is not like a video game. They will all be defeated. But in the meantime there will be horror; pulses of severe social chaos.

Experiments in secession are not unlikely. I predict attempts by right-wing extremists and white nationalists to declare “truth zones” (actually, Lie Zones); towns, even counties, where their racist conspiracy-theory memes and “sovereign citizen” falsehoods are for a time imposed in local laws, and schooling. “We declare Trumptown to be a free state…” These localized secessions will not stand. All such endeavors will crumble. But some urban–and suburban–warfare may be necessary to rescue sane people from armed and violent buffoons. Even now, “Five Oregon counties will ask voters in the next election whether they want to detach from the deep-blue state and join neighboring red-state Idaho.”

This spotty Civil War, an outbreak of shingles on the body politic, will be vectored by the Big Lie, fed by the fever swamps of the internet, especially the lie that “Trump was elected”…But in the antebellum South, the original American civil war was itself fueled by lies: “Slavery is natural, Negroes are inferior, the Yankees are enslaving us and they’ll steal our land.” Today, neo-racist lies in the wilderness of the internet spread like the media version of zoonotic diseases.

A cultural pandemic...We can vaccinate people, especially children, against that cultural pandemic, starting now, if we systematically teach critical thinking; if we vigorously espouse a return to standard, reputable news sources, and valid resources of historicity. . .

Why Are We Here? Questions and Answers

Q. Why do we have to age and pass away?

A. Because nature is constantly rolling the genetic dice. There has to be room to roll the dice. There must be room for the outcome to play out. If we had no aging, but just  sudden death to clear space, it would be a constant mess.The process must be graduated to conserve resources and for reasons of species capability of processing death. Aging has sociobiological value; it helps us psychologically, and of course many elderly people have valuable wisdom, and are able to help care for grandchildren which enhances social stability. Social stability makes the species more likely to survive to reproduce…so that nature can throw keep rolling the genetic dice.

Q. Why does nature roll the genetic dice?

A. Some would say the arising of the constant rolling of the DNA dice is just a roll of the dice itself; just an accident. It seems unlikely some creator god came up with it. But that doesn’t mean there’s no agenda behind it.

Q. Whose agenda? Is it nature’s agenda? What is that agenda?

A. Can an accident have an agenda? Why not? What if that particular process of randomization, which we are unable to distinguish from an accident, was itself programmed in some sense. Even if nature arises by accident, it may have some self-awareness. It’s not inconceivable that this putative self-awareness immanent in nature chooses, over time, to very gradually guide the genetic agenda. Its agenda, at least one part of it, seems to be ongoing biological evolution itself.

Q. But what is biological evolution’s agenda? Where is it going? Isn’t it totally random?

A. If biological evolution has, or is part of an agenda, it may be something we cannot comprehend from here…The general consensus among scientists seems to be that evolution is entirely random. It is notable however that for the million-plus years humanity, in several forms, has been evolving, there is some form of recognizable progress. Though we remain animalistic in many ways, we are far more intelligent and capable than earlier stages of evolution.

Some would say that is suspicious. I myself think it is.  However, that progress is of relatively short duration; is within a fairly narrow span of evolutionary development, in comparison to the billions of years before it…

People worry about how long the human race will last, whether we’ll eradicate ourselves, or be destroyed by an asteroid. It’s theorized that most civilized races (or quasi civilized, as in our case) don’t survive the point where they lose control of their technology; where they fail to control weaponry, or fail to deal with self destructive environmental tendencies. We may survive, or we may not. But thinking that the point of existence, our justification as a species, is somewhere off in the future, might well be surrender to illusion; it might be captivation by a mirage.

It’s more likely that we exist so that *something* can experience what we experience, through us: our ancient ancestors hunting, mating, engaging in simple ecstatic dances; moments of triumph and despair; our art, our music, our moments of intimacy and companionship. The thing that created us so that it would not be alone…the thing that looks into its own eyes when we gaze into one another’s eyes…

It is satisfied, whatever we do. It’s simply here, through us, for the adventure; for the self discovery. It is the universe discovering itself from within.

A Double Handful of Remarks and Observations

February 16, 2021

//Every bad decision I ever made was as mindless as the jerk of a thumped knee. Nothing guided the decision but fear or animal wiring or trauma. It was as if my thumb was making a decision for my whole body (sometimes another familiar part made the decision). Some dusty, bloated little person in a tiny corner office of me made the decision; an incompetent bureaucrat who runs the government from a forgotten department.

//Some like to pit heart against mind, feeling versus rationality. I tend to the rational and trust it more on the whole but it seems to me that if a feeling, a reading on reality from “the heart center” consistently bears fruit, if a distinct feeling proves its rightness then it IS rational, it’s a higher reason manifesting in the heart. And if we understood the whole process we’d call that one for reason.

//Government and the power of approximation: Governing 400 million people–and globally, finding a way for countries working together to manage more than 6 BILLION people–is an astounding juggling act; is also the triumph of trend over precision, most of the time. Civil Rights laws are very definite but enforcing them is a generality, requiring constant renewal. Governing productively is usually not governing perfectly. It’s herding cats. Eventually the cats arrive. Intelligent government is a productive approximation that, in sum, does more good than harm. An intelligent government monitors itself, the way a body does with its immunology, for the diseases of corruption and gross inefficiency.

//Some scientists speculate the cosmos is a gigantic 3-D computer program–that “nature operates like a computer program.” This is a gigantic vanity. It’s not that nature is modeled by a programmer; it’s that programs are inspired by patterns seen in nature…and feebly imitated, in small measure. The vanity of the hyper-analytic mind has mistaken its own faint, surfacey modeling for the superstructure of reality. 3-D is not enough “D”.

//It’s fashionable to speak of “the present moment”–and that’s good. But there are levels of mindfulness most don’t experience. Even the first level of mindfulness, being in the present moment–self-remembering–can be startling. Suddenly you’re in the real world. Birdsongs, insects, car sounds, sounds of children, the 3-dimensionality of things–suddenly seem to ‘appear’. This was here, around me, all along?

//Libertarianism? Fine–when we can count on unregulated people not to pollute, not to endanger employees (eg, killing 11 of them at a time with faulty oil rigs), not to make dangerous pharmaceuticals, not to commit consumer fraud, not to wreck the economy, not to insanely drive up the cost of health care, not to need guidance while flying planes; not to need cops, fire dept or infrastructure. Arrange those changes & I’m all for it.

//Looking at trees with new apples strange to think that they apples are communicative, a call to other species, “Eat this and spread my seeds”. Flowers also are communicative between species. Plants calling silently to animals, to insects, “Let’s trade.”

//Does falling organize the world? Isn’t gravitation falling? It’s indicated by falling; by things pulled downward, toward a center of mass. Gravity, anyway, organizes the world; it gives us an up and down, a surface we can walk on, collects mass to offer resistance we use for propulsion; it makes it possible to drop trash in a trash can and have it stay there; to put forks in drawers; to remain seated at my desk.

//For unknown reasons, when consciousness is increased enough the possibilities for free will are mysteriously (not supernaturally–mysteriously) increased. I don’t quite understand why–or, I almost understand it, but I don’t think I can express the why and how of it.

//Old age is right and proper, however dismaying it may seem as we age. What use is a candle that is not lit? It merely takes up space. When it is lit, it gives light, but it also melts. A candle that gives light but does not also melt away is either an abomination of nature, or a miracle. If it’s a miracle then it is not in our province to construct it.

//Conditions have weight. Behavior has momentum.

//There’s a misunderstanding that the right-hand-path, to use a short hand term, is about abasing or losing yourself or demolishing yourself. Not true at all. It’s simply about being in right relationship to the divine source of consciousness, and the Bodhisattvas who try to mitigate, and eventually end, the world’s suffering. But it’s not self annihilation. It’s more like a reshuffling of the inner person so that the ego takes its rightful place, as just one more part of the inner machinery. It’s like taking the keys away from a drunk driver.

//Machines that pollute are only half invented.

//The word “God” has psychological weight that distorts our understanding in a way that’s analogous to a gravity well; to gravitation bending spacetime. We can’t hope to understand the external intelligence as long as we insist on calling it God.
//Music temporarily changes our relationship to time; it reconciles us with time’s disintegration of form.

//I think that the universe is front-loaded to create life just the way it’s front loaded to produce gravity or suns or atomic motion. But I don’t see a creator being necessary. It’s just that in this (one of many?) universe the probability of life is built into the structure of things just as the structure of things is built into the structure of things. How did the strong/weak forces come about? They’re in the nature of materials at hand at the big bang; the probability (not inevitability) of life is presumably in some wise also simply in the nature of matter. There is no need to assume that life requires a supernatural spark and therefore there’s no need to assume that it arises purely by chance as such–if things are innately organized to produce it, *just because they are*, that is no more supernatural than that things are innately organized to produce gravity. It’s not intelligent design–because it’s not design. Life is not designed in; it’s just likely due to some only barely (so far) intuited immanent structuring of matter and energy.

//My character is smarter than my calculator.

//Many scientists think there’s a black hole at the center of every galaxy, central to the formation of galaxies. What is a black hole but a void, an almost infinite gravitational compaction rendering space as a sucking vacuum. Nature it appears does not abhor a vacuum but relies on it. Many philosophers have noted the necessity of death and emptiness; the importance of unoccupied space to occupied form. It should be no surprise when that principle extends to a galactic scale. Principles are as macroscopic as they are microscopic. It is also noted, in the most recent research at this writing, that the massive black hole at the center of a galaxy spins off material which somehow revitalizes the galaxy’s capability of creating stars and planets. From death, life.

//For me, at least, depression is a concession.

//Everyone shares the unfolding of the universe. We call it “time”.

//We feel insignificant in the vastness of the universe but one could probably travel halfway across the galaxy before coming across another truly intelligent lifeform. It takes an enormity of planetary resources to add up to the building blocks of life and a great many other factors must converge to make possible intelligent life and then civilization. We conclude, then, that while it’s out there somewhere, it is comparatively rare. Any intelligent being then in the vastness of the universe is a rarity. Hence we are no longer to be considered insignificant as individuals.

//People without regret are either fools, self deceiving, or psychopaths. Everyone’s done something wrong, and regret shows you know it and want to do better.

//Organized religion is like organized playtime: it’s for children. But children need reassurance; reassurance is a form of compassion. They need the ritualism of playtime.

//It may be that life at best is just a series of consolations for death. Still, if you identify with perception itself, and not with the memory/personality lost at death, then perhaps death is simply immersion of point of view into the great sea of consciousness. But for most people this is cold comfort. Who knows? I am merely convinced that the root of perception is an extension of a permanent part of the universe.

//Corporate interests rule and will continue to rule. Their alliance with the theocrats will mean only science that makes the rich richer and the environment poorer will be allowed and hence, ignorance will thrive and when ignorance thrives, corporate interests rule and will continue…

//The stars are a contradiction. They are each one a gigantic sphere of nuclear energy burning furiously in the sky, large enough to consume a planet like ours many many times; they are so big they can be seen across countless light years of interstellar space. But we see them as glimmers, scarcely there, and there are so many that, in contrast to the vastness of the universe each one is indeed tiny. Looking at them dramatizes their vastness and tininess at one time. The scale of the universe is contained in the sight of a single star.

To Friends Interested in Esoteric Spirituality

December 15, 2020

I had an epiphany last night about the nature of ego; of vanity; of its place in us. Looking at myself, with active attention, I seem to see it’s function. Of course, we all  know some of what it’s for: it helps us sociobiologically. It helps us establish a place in the society and that improves our ability to survive, to take advantage of the survival synergism of “the village”, the pack, the community. But its deeper purpose is to serve the default functionality of humanity, in the world. If Gurdjieff is right we’re here, when not reaching for something better, to emit an energy that is used by the cosmos to stem the attenuation of the Absolute created by time; to plug the leak in the dike. When I consider the arising of single cell, then multicell life, the arising of the structure of DNA, the general, overall pattern of biological evolution, it does seem designed. It is not a matter of every event, biological or not, being ordained; nor of everything quite designed, and intended; it’s a matter of a machinery set to working, long ago; chugging away, to create life: a rather inefficient machine that yet accomplishing its agenda to create life and sentience, thin on the ground though it  may be in some parts of the universe–as a means to an end. One of the primary devices for driving a human being onward to some unknown goal, would seem to be the ego. The ego, and its substructure vanity, really does seem like a designed piece of machinery for governing automatic action; for pushing it along. That is the default setting. But there is something else included in the package that must be activated and is also intended: that a certain percentage of three-brained beings will develop the option, supported by magnetic center perhaps, of attaining to a sort of “specialist” status in the great factory of the universe. They can create a  finer energy and thereby move on to be more fully useful at a  higher level. With subsequent rewards.