The First Commandment: Thou shall be Ignorant

Right there in the very front, in the beginning so there’s no question of its importance, no room for misinterpretation, god commands his children NOT to eat of the tree of knowledge of ‘everything’* and thus the religion is bound and encapsulated within itself, with no outside influences – however sound their truths might be.

This thought struck me for the first time the other day and it intrigued me greatly because I immediately understood that it was important, no it was crucial to the religion to damn knowledge right off the bat, at its inception: That way there could be no question or curiosity from its followers and any thinking or contemplation done by said person is strictly limited to “a chaotically cobbled together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors, and copyists, unknown to us and to each other, spanning nine centuries,” as Richard Dawkins accurately describes the bible.

Now I am well aware of the ‘theological’ discussions regarding this particular transaction in the story of the garden of Eden, I was a christian myself for a long while.   Most interpretations use the story to set the stage for the rest of the bible, ie.  the fall of man, the failure of man to be perfect and hence the need for a redeemer.  Some say it defines man’s life cycle: pain associated with birth, toiling in the soil until death.  There is also significant discussion about whether the whole thing was a set up:  surely an omnipotent god just knew we were going to botch it? Yet, didn’t he have to give us free will at some point in order for us to have the ability to choose whether or not to obey him?  But if he was an omnipotent god wouldn’t he have known we would be unable to resist temptation?  Especially that all-too-human trait of doing exactly the opposite of what a parent tells us to do?  But then he had to allow us a choice….ad infin.

I say not one of those premises is the truth and they merely act as smoke screens.  See, if one is tasked with compiling a workable document for a fledgling religion as were the delegates at the Council of Nicaea under Constantine’s orders, then it makes perfect sense that a well refined story would be utilized at the very outset of the narrative which effectively deters its readers from ever wandering past the pages of that one quilt-worked book.  By so doing, the religion is then set up, indeed, mandated to refuse any other refinements or outside information.   Now the religious leaders have a captive audience.  Now can begin the building of a theological empire whose leaders are given carte blanche control over their flocks because they have been taught that information and knowledge is evil and suspect.

It’s been an effective tool.  The christian religion is entirely encapsulated and absolutely refuses any new information.  Check out what Copernicus went through when he observed that the sun did NOT revolve around the earth.  His successor Galileo was forced to recant his view about a heliocentric galaxy and not until 1992 did the church issue a formal apology on his behalf.  1992!! Darwin’s ideas have been similarly refused even though the past one hundred fifty years have yielded massive amounts of support in their favor.  Yet a christian’s response is almost robotic:  Doesn’t matter, got a commandment to follow, No. New.  Information!!!!!!!

How has that affected our nation?  Well, we have a large section of our population who are dutiful  christians and therefore make for paranoid, suspect, information wary voters whose only source of information comes from the church and select news sources that are proven horribly skewed.  I know ’cause I was once one of them.  Some of those christians have been elected to office and so we possess wholly ignorant politicians who are charged with making long-term policies without caring about facts, they blatantly admit it, and they careen forward recklessly, with blinders on.  So we will continue to suffer the effects of global warming because we cannot accept new knowledge as a nation. And we will continue to be left behind the world in terms of groundbreaking science research, education, and progressive social goals.  We can no longer claim to be number one as a nation on several levels simply because so many of us have obeyed the first commandment:  thou shall be ignorant.

It’s a damning, damning situation and there’s not much to do for it except plod along.  It doesn’t do any good to present facts, send links to verifiable resources, or emphasize one’s historical background in education.  Our brothers and sisters simply cannot fathom or manage any form of outside information or knowledge: they’ve been taught that its evil. I find for myself, that at some level this new revelation allows me to muster a great deal more patience towards my fellow humans. Awareness is everything sometimes. The best we can do is educate when the opportunity arises and try not to sound like arrogant asses at the same time (I know this can be a problem because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to be conscious of it).

Despite the ironclad direction to remain naive, there are those brave enough to dare step outside the lines and let the road take them where it may.  I know because I was one of them – and every day more and more of us make the choice.

Imagine ….  a movie with a character living in animation until suddenly something makes her real and we see her foot emerge from the cartoon into real grass, experiencing real sounds, amazing smells, and beautiful, beautiful colors for the first time.  She feels the warmth of the sun on her face and the wind gently tossing her hair.  For several long moments we might watch her as the camera circles around her and we witness the overwhelming gratefulness she experiences as she takes in everything and smiles at her newfound freedom, no longer confined to the pages of someone else’s hand. Yes she’s a bit scared and we would see that she navigates through some bumpy roads in this new reality, but we watch her grow more confident each day.  And, at the end of a few years, we might picture her at her computer writing these words of truth:  Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.

Here’s to knowledge and understanding kids; and let truth will out.

Frankie

* I choose to use the word ‘everything’ here since it more accurately depicts the gist of the commandment.  In research for this article it was asserted in several places that the phrase ‘good and evil’ is really used a merism…that is a set of linguistic opposites put together with the effect to mean not just the parts, but the whole. So the interpretation of knowing ‘good from evil’ is a bit off, it really means that adam and eve would have knowledge of everything, including good and evil.


Thanks Brittany, For Defining Life for Us….

There’s quite a bit of bruh – ha-ha going on about Brittany Maynard and her decision to end her life at her choosing rather than at the behest of a brain tumor.

She’s been labeled a coward.  A loser.  Ignorant.  And most of all godless (my guess is most of these accusers have not sat by the bedside of a comatose loved one and wiped the bile from their lips, change their soiled sheets, and clean their soiled bodies for days on end until finally the last breath is drawn).

Brittany’s decision gave me courage because it reaffirmed something I’ve long thought:  We define LIFE as a society not by quality, but by quantity.  Consequently, I propose, we cheapen life – and what it means to live.

The reasoning is based on the idea that if the sanctity of life is so broad that no matter how mal-formed, no matter how dependent, no matter how irresponsive, no matter if a life is more full of doctors and therapists and pokes and prods than actual living, no matter how tightly bound a soul might be within a prison of useless limbs and organs, then we do ourselves a disservice because we misplace the fact that life should also have a certain level of value – and health – if it’s to be truly cherished and worth something.

I originally took my cue for this thought from Nature.  Nature doesn’t really let the diseased or malformed or ill survive.  It can’t. Nature has high standards – grade AAAAA – when it comes to quality control, and it doesn’t fudge very often.   We humans forget this.  We’ve gotten far removed from nature and therefore do not necessarily act ‘natural’ towards life…or death.

The reaction to Brittany’s death exemplifies this.  We would condemn her to weeks of pain and suffering, loss of body control, loss of appetite, withering away, loss of consciousness…ad in fin….because it doesn’t matter her quality of life, only her quantity.   As Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, put it Suicide is not a good thing. It is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and toward those around us.”

Brittany wasn’t “saying no to life and everything it means” she didn’t have a life to say ‘no’ to.

Instead, she chose to say yes to life, but within the strict confines of quality control that Nature operates.  She chose to value life as having meaning and participating in it fully, instead of just existing for existence sake.

So thanks Brittany, for defining life for us by keeping a high standard of quality.  Your afterlife is secure.

Here’s to Life….healthy, full, and vibrant.

Frankie


An Earth Visit

Tsyllus stepped out of his TimeField Transport and took his first breath of Earth air.  Well, to him it was simply Planet st.042 located in the Stellar Formation xin, Galaxy Hrsollyn.  It was a bit of an outback planet, Universally speaking, and was therefore rarely visited by any alien life.  Tsyllus knew this because he was a TimePrince and therefore privy to all alien travel throughout the Universe.  At once.  It was a curse. He was visiting this particular planet because he heard tell (by some unsavory Woolysnx in some shifty bar on the mangy Planet Slaacp) that the inhabitants here had picked up the esoteric idea of a TimePrince.  Tsyllus wasn’t surprised at all that an obscure life form came up with the concept:   “We are, after all, connected.” he thought to himself, “We are all made of the same stardust material and we all possess the same stardust memories.”

He wanted to investigate what they teased out of the ether and how close they came to the reality; this meant an actual trip to Earth to study the imagined TimePrince and its creators.  He correspondingly landed in Trafalgar Square, just underneath one of the lion monuments.  He stepped outside to check his landing position, and taking a small remote control-looking device from his coat pocket he thought for a moment and then pressed a couple of buttons.  It took a few seconds, the Transport had to receive the code and then implement the program, but slowly the vessel seemed to disappear, its high-tech, shiny black rounded shell was blending in to the concrete base elevating the lion. Tsyllus had activated the camouflage program.

“Better.”  He announced to himself and, adding the command “Open Main Hatch” a panel of concrete opened up exactly like a door and Tsyllus stepped into his home. The hatch closed automatically behind him.   “Dlynnar, find local broadcast satellite A113, queue to program “Dr. Who.”

“Request received, finding local broadcast satellite A113, queueing to program ‘Dr. Who,'” replied Dlynnar, the mainframe quantum computer, in a pleasant androgynous voice.   He planned on watching every bit of Dr. Who and anything remotely Dr. Who related; he wanted to see what these aliens got right in the thing and what they got wrong.  He suspected the ‘wrong’ column would far outweigh what they got right, but he was inwardly thrilled that they even came up with the idea.  He wondered if they knew that TimePrince’s were a despised group and not typically amiable.

After hours of The Doctor, and a long tea in a small shop in Leicester Square, from where Tsyllus observed nearly every kind of human behavior and interaction, he was ready to make his report:

“Visit: Planet st.042 located in the Stellar Formation xin, Galaxy Hrsollyn, locally known as “Earth”, date 45 Meleni, year 70412.  Findings as such:

“The local intelligent life, calling themselves ‘humans’ are indeed an interesting and humorous population.  The first thing that impressed me was that I found their quaint bodies to be quite fragile and underdeveloped compared to most other alien life.  Just one small piece of metal slung from a projectile at mass velocity can crush their intelligence centers without resistance.  Indeed, this particular animal has no developed physical defense system such as an exoskeleton or telekinetic abilities to alter their surroundings or regeneration capacity of any kind, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to outside influences.  However, they fall quite short in soliciting appeal from any alien visitations due to their small mental and spatial capacities.  And yet….they seem to overcome their deficiencies in several clever and creative ways.

‘Humans’ have managed to build a variety of quasi-exoskeletons using the scant amount of metals found in their natural Planetary composition.  These exoskeletons include large land tanks, aeroplanes (what are Universally known as IPT – IntraPlanetary Transport) and water borne vessels, both surface hydro and sub-surface hydro.  One might wonder why the Earth creatures even build such protection if, as mentioned earlier in this report, it invites no other alien life form.  This is because Planet st.042 is still very much in its infancy with regards to Universal Awareness and therefore more focused on the varying differences amongst themselves.   Such a focus only sets the stage for intraplanetary warring, as typically seen on other Planets that are in their infancies.

In fact, there is still a large population on this Planet that still cling to archaic beliefs and have not yet progressed beyond Msoolyz’  famous “Illusionary Fixation” whereby their intelligence capacity is still underdeveloped and stifled by early “pre-consciousness beliefs of deism and egocentric thought processes” as Msoolyz states.  On the balance though, the Planet seems to be continuing along normal Awareness progress.  I would adamantly note however that much of their slow development is again due to the lack of any outside visitation or relationship; they have no reason to comprehend themselves as a unit without the face of an outsider to unite them.

Along with creative improvisations to protect themselves, I must also declare a high level of admiration for the human ability to imagine.  The fact that they were able to hone it on the concept of a TimePrince is testimony to their capacity to discern specific ideas and worry them to perfection.  In the case of comparing their version of a TimePrince with actuality, there are a few things eerily accurate.  There are obviously many gaps in these nuggets of truisms, however the ingenuity utilized to deduce what might be placed in those gaps is both entertaining and charming.

While they’ve imagined a TimePrince (their term is ‘Time Lord’) that is indigenous to a particular Planet and alien race, they imagine that everyone from that Planet is a ‘Time Lord.’  They missed the part where there are only a few of us born each generation with the ability to See and Intervene.   Yes, there is a certain amount of status with the gift, but the curse is much greater.  Torn from our families at a young age, denied any childhood privileges and raised by older generations of TimePrinces, our lives are solitary (Humans got that part right) and never our own.”

“It’s no wonder we are an unhappy lot.” Tsyllus thought to himself.  “Dlynnar, delete last to the word ‘Intervene’.”   He waited just a second and Dlynnar replied “Deleted, ready to continue Tsyllus.”

“Whilst this Planet has had scant alien visitors,” he continued, “the imagined life forms humans contrived are grounds for a Msoolyz type examination in their variations of form and character, and presented with an odd fixation on violent, often malicious life forms.  Perhaps this stems from their still primitive views and lack of knowledge thereof, I’ll leave the final conclusion for the experts.  It seems difficult for them on the whole to consider friendly visitors, which is most likely to occur as we all know.

Finally, and in attempt to end on a positive note (although I’ll admit a certain biased toward liking these harmless creatures) they have obtained a decent foundational grasp of space and time.  They are aware that there is probably other life in the Universe besides their own, they have probed neighboring Planets within their Stellar System and have worked the calculations out enough to understand that time and space are in no way fixed and linear but, to the use the words of their imagined ‘Time Lord’ a ‘Big blob of wibbly wobbly timey wimey ….. stuff.’  I myself am highly impressed at this grasp of time and space.”

“Overall, the inhabitants of Planet st.042 are a charming, if naïve, animal and I for one wish them well in their attempts to mature.  I have scheduled a revisit in millennia (Dlynnar, set the date for reminding please) and shall send an update at that time.   For now, this completes my report on Planet st.042 located in the Stellar Formation xin, Galaxy Hrsollyn.   Respectfully submitted, TimePrince Tsyllus.”

He took a deep breath and then addressed his computer, “Dlynnar, send report to the Pynndl council and set course for Planet Scaalp, I need a Norliss to drink before I lose my mind.”

Dlynnar dutifully replied, “Sure thing Tsyllus, sending report into council and setting course for Planet Scaalp, you need a Norliss before you lose your mind.  Estimated time of arrival equals 35 plincks, plus or minus 2 plincks. Allonsy!”


Declaration:   Atheist – No Small Announcement to Make in the U.S.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day; we were discussing the topics that I write about on this blog.  Obviously there is quite a bit of content about atheism (positively speaking) and religion (negatively speaking), I mentioned this to him “I write a lot about atheism, since I am an atheist.”   He responded to this comment by saying that, basically he was too, but he “just didn’t feel comfortable putting it out there,” for fear of backlash from family, friends, and this being America and all…..we then talked a little bit about how the term and those who identify with it are wholly misunderstood, somehow deemed evil, angry, hateful and without morals.  I would challenge us to readjust our thinking about the kind of people atheists really are.

One of the most common questions I get, especially from those who know my ‘christian up bringing’ background is:  “Why do you hate god?”  I respond with the truth:  there is no hate involved, only a logical conclusion reached by a few years of doing my own research and an understanding that science really does unlock the mysteries we are obsessively keen to understand.   “Besides,” I reply, “It’s difficult to hate something that doesn’t exist.  The same way I have no emotion towards Zeus or Mithras”

I suppose, by extrapolation, a perceived hate in god also translates to a perceived hateful disposition because one of the other more common misunderstandings is that atheists are unhappy and not at peace.   In fact, in my experience, the bulk of us seem to be utterly content in the life they lead and this is made especially more meaningful since we are well aware that this is our only shot at life and that in itself is cause for celebration.  (Not to negate the small percentage of the human population who are somehow miserable no matter where their deist preferences lie).  Truthfully?  It is my strong contention that peace comes with understanding, it does not surpass it. On the other side of the coin, I believe that religion itself can rob a person of their peace.  I remember the numerous conspiracy theories that blew through church during the Clinton administration.   I recall distinctly the fear instilled by the church about this or that issue and although I had ‘god to cling to’ I will confess to harboring a certain paranoia when I look back.  In another part of the world, a religion prevents successful healthcare because it ‘comes from the west’ and is secretly poisoned.

Sometimes, atheist hate is perceived by many where really a passion for the truth is the compelling force behind our actions. For instance, we will petition for the ten commandments to be taken down in courtrooms, or sit out the pledge of allegiance in schools, or refuse to include the words ‘so help me god’  in our  reenlistment oath – not because we are evil, not because we are hateful, and not because we are angry.   We do these things to raise awareness to the obvious breech of our nation’s constitution:  that no preference is given to any religion.  It’s simply a matter of exercising our pragmatic right to call out a social injustice and violation of the law.

For those who are raised in closed, religious environment, legends abound of the misdeeds and immoral acts atheists are ‘known’ for.   I had a friend and her lovely little family over for thanksgiving dinner last year.   They are former members of that-one-religion-that-doesn’t-celebrate-holidays-or-birthdays and this was their first thanksgiving or any holiday dinner they’d ever attended.  After the feast, an afternoon of football, visiting, and pumpkin pie, she looked at me and queried, “This is it, fabulous food and football?  No baby sacrifices?  No bloodletting?  No dancing naked around a bonfire?”  We laughed at her joke and I responded that “nowadays, we tend to keep that stuff to just once a year, at winter solstice.” (festivus is celebrated much like thanksgiving, the exceptions being prime rib for dinner instead of turkey and A Christmas Story marathon – completely lacking in blood sacrifices….)

Lacking religion, or a belief in a deity, is usually and also equated with a lack of morality, and I would contend that this is perhaps the biggest misconception of all.   The reality is that the burden of morality is probably greater for an atheist.   We have nothing to blame our goodness or weaknesses on except ourselves.   We accept a deep level of accountability for our actions and typically are motivated to do good just because it’s the right thing to do, rather than expecting some promise of eternal reward in return – neither are our good deeds motivated by fear of being punished if we don’t do them.  We have a sense of camaraderie, in that all humans are connected and are brothers and sisters who share a moment in time together.  We don’t cheat on our spouses because we are bound by some command or fallible piece of literature, but because we take our vow to be faithful seriously and we wish not to cause pain to our mates.  For a real study in the ‘moral’ and ‘religion’ connection, check out those countries where religion is quite the minority, their crime rates are actually lower.

Then there’s the point to be made that religion itself is not so ‘moral’ after all.  Within the realm of christianity, the catholics are dealing with one kind of horror, while protestant churches allow known offenders back into the pulpit.  And, sadly, more and more often there appear headlines of pastors or youth pastors abusing their positions of authority.  Islam’s recent violent surge has all but shattered its claim of being a peaceful religion.

The bottom line, straight out truth is:     Morality is not confined to religion.

“What about love?” they’ll often ask, “How can you really know love if you don’t know god?”

Two responses:  One – god isn’t necessarily all loving himself.  One only needs to look around at the injustices that occur on a daily basis in our world, and yet ‘he’ doesn’t intervene.  I mean, does it make sense that an omnipotent god would curse part of this rock and its inhabitants whilst conveniently blessing another to the point of overindulgence?  Two – religion doesn’t have the monopoly on love.   The dedication and passion I have toward my husband are wholly voluntary, I don’t need to have some outside love to validate or motivate me to love him.  I love him because of the connection we share and the chemistry we create together.   Furthermore, he has confidence in that love because he knows it is purely motivated, not borne from some obligation to a historical manuscript.

A capacity for love, a passion for justice, a logical conclusion, and morality are not limited to the four walls of any church, mosque, or synagogue.  These characteristics are borne of conscious decision, an open mind, and a desire for truth.   These are the earmarks of atheists.  Eventually we’ll have developed a healthier perception about atheism.  Then we can be free to announce our un- belief with confidence and without prejudice.  In the meantime, we’ll go on living our lives and making a difference in the lives of others.

Rock on kids….

Frankie


The Importance of Conflict: How Tension Shapes Our World

I am in the middle of writing a book about a friendship and came upon an epiphany:  I cannot write the story unless I include conflict, within the characters’ own conscience and between the two characters themselves.   Without conflict, I realized, we never learn the measure of ourselves or one another.  Furthermore, without conflict we cannot create – nor can energy be created.

First and foremost creating a story without conflict would be boring:  ‘Sam and Frodo set out on an adventure and they made it to Mordor without any mishaps, troubles, or quarrels.’  OR  ‘Sam and Frodo set out on an adventure, but their bond was nearly shattered by Gollum and the burden of The Ring.’  Which provides the richer content to work with? Which scenario allows us a peek into the universal human condition of the struggle between good and evil?  Secondly, we owe it to our readers to provide a roller coaster ride of emotion as we couch some conflict within finely tuned sentences and long phrases of detail.  It is after all, the very thing that keeps them turning pages.  Finally, the greatest challenge we face as writers is to resolve a story and resolve it correctly.  Without any tension to resolve, there is no reason to write.

Enter conflict.   Welcome tension.  Make yourself at home dissonance.

As I began to explore the different causes that might induce tension into the relationship I am creating, I became aware that our entire existence, really, is comprised entirely of tension and conflict.   I also noticed that much of the time the dynamics involved in whatever conflict one might examine produces some astounding sources of energy.

As far as relationships are concerned, I find that as I mold the two characters in my story, their inner conflicts as well as their outer conflicts literally end up dictating the path of the narrative.   I have to create them in such a way to bring balance to the overall storyline, which means they must be somewhat opposites in order for balance to occur.  Hence, the way I create the book depends on the conflicts I use with my characters, the tension within their relationship and the dissonance they feel towards their outside circumstances.  These are the blueprints to my story, the rest is decorating, finding the right colors, and getting the right ambiance.

There are other kinds of tension that produce energy.  As I sit outside to write, a pleasant breeze flows through the patio.  I am reminded that wind is caused by the meeting of a Low Pressure and a High Pressure weather system coming together and the air moves in an effort to create a balance between the two.  Where there is great disparity between the systems, huge storms can occur.  The conflict of air movement between pressure systems allows us to harness the energy in places where wind is produced steadily and regularly, we light our homes and streets with it.

Our sun provides light and warmth to us primarily because it is one big bright ball of elemental conflict. The nuclear reaction at the core of our star pushes energy out while the weight of the star creates a vast amount of gravity that pushes inward.  Once the core runs out of hydrogen gravity takes over, the conflict is resolved, and the star dies.  For the billions of years this delicate balance of ongoing energy conflict occurs however, we are provided a thriving life on this small rock.

How about if we break things down to some of the smallest particles we know?  Remember our basic chemistry class wherein we learned how the water molecule was formed?  Two hydrogens attach to one oxygen because of the number of positive and negative protons and electrons each possesses, which allows them to come into perfect balance. They are opposites and in this case the conflict resolves itself by creating a balance, as well as the substance most crucial to our existence.

Without conflict or tension there simply cannot be ….. life.  Conflict is never easy and for the most part I would be willing to bet that, given the choice between fight or flight, the latter would nearly always be our preference.   But as writing, and life, have taught me, dealing with the conflict and resolving it not only strengthens our relationships, it provides us with infinite energy as well.

Peace Kids!

Frankie


Pieces…. Of a Shattered Life

Ever marvel at how we can muster the strength to put ourselves back together after our life is shattered?

Maybe it was a death.   A cherished soul mate.  Or a child met only briefly.

Maybe it was a relationship.  A divorce.  A best-friend-forever moving.  A child that walked away.

Whatever the cause, putting a shattered life back together is an immense challenge.

It is work.  Exhausting, depleting work.

There we are.  Standing in the middle of an infinite room with a thousand thousand pieces lying about us.

Shards that sparkle and rudely pierce our darkest grief.

A task.  A chore so vast that some shrivel away.

A task. So profound that only the strength of shear survival compels us to rebuild.

We do it.  Piece by piece we manage to find a way to do it.

We start, one by one of course.  And  deep down we know that what we are building is new and different.losing a

We know it will not be the same.

It is impossible.

Some of the pieces from that shattered life are now missing, we realize.

Some of them will never fit the same together.  Ever again.

Maybe.  Just maybe, some of them we choose to leave alone.

Maybe.  Just maybe, we pick up a new piece instead.

One by one, slowly and painfully the pieces are fit together until one day we become aware that we’ve built a new life.

Shiny, scary new in some places.   Worn and comfortable in others.

And here or there a hole.  A scar.  A reminder of the thousand thousand pieces that once were.

But  – a life rebuilt at last.

A testament to our tenacity.   A banner of pure commitment  to live.  An example to each other.


The Value of a Dreamer

Jacob sat crying, exasperated and exhausted because he couldn’t figure out the math problem.
His mom came over to the table, gave him a hug and suggested he take the rest of the night off. “That assignment isn’t due until Thursday anyway, honey, give yourself, and your brain a rest.” She gave a tousle to his coarse, sandy hair and a peck on top of his head to finish. Jacob slowed his crying and his panicked breathing, closed his book and got up from the table to get ready for bed.

As a twelve year old his bedtime routine was fairly quick and ten minutes later his mom went to his room to tuck him in. She noted that his demeanor was still deflated so she implemented her ‘go to’ strategy of offering to tell him a story of one of his favorite heroes. “Which one do you want to hear?”

“Ummmm, I dunno.” He replied, his big blue eyes were nearly full of tears again so his mom, in an attempt to quell another breakdown, dived right in to one of his favorites.

“Remember the guys who dreamed about the teeny tiny particles that would hold all of everything together, hmm? Small, invisible bits of energy that act like glue and if found, would change how we see the world.”

Jacob blinked back the tears forming in his eyes, mostly for his mother’s sake, and nodded in approval at her attempt. “Peter, Robert, and Francois,” he said, “they were big dreamers.”

“Yes they were, and just like you I am sure they struggled over their maths as well. I bet they still do. So how did these dreamers find their dream,” she asked her son, coaxing him out of his misery.
“Lots of people helped.” Jacob replied.

“That’s right, it always takes more than one to make a dream come true. In fact, so many people believed in this dream that they built some pretty amazing things to make it happen, like…..”

“Like the world wide web!” Jacob interrupted, “That’s my favorite part of the story, hundreds of scientists all over the world working on one single problem. They had to have a way to talk to each other, right? So they hooked up their computers to each other so they could talk any time of the day or night!”

His mom laughed. “That’s right sweetie, and now we can Skype grandma because of their desire to fulfill a dream. Who knows what your dreams will create, yeah? What else?”

“The ell – eightch – seeeeeee…..” Jacob shouted out and let the ‘seeeee’ trail off into infinity. “The big
circle tunnel they built underground in…., where did they build that again?”

“Europe son, it’s so big it exists in two countries, France and Switzerland.”

“That’s right, in two countries!” Jacob mused, “That’s a big circle.”

“It is a big circle, but it had to be in order to make Peter, Robert, and Francois’s dream come true. Do you remember why it had to be so big?” Jacob’s mom moved a piece of hair out of his eyes and tucked it behind his ear.

“Cause the atoms hafta get really, really, really, really super-fast for them to crash into each other.” Jacob was sitting up on one elbow now, engaged and enthused.

“Exactly,” said Mom “They have to spin around and around in that big wide tunnel until they build up enough speed to collide. One group of scientists built a camera to take pictures of the crashes so other scientists could study the pictures to see if Peter, Robert, and Francois were right about their dream. But why would it matter so much for them to be right?”

“Because it would answer some questions about our universe,” Jacob chirped back, “or if they weren’t right, they might at least get a clue about what was right. Right?” he smiled coyly at his mom.

“Yup,” she smiled back at his witty use of words, “but what did they find out about the dream of an invisible force that held everything together?”

“They were right! Their dream came true, they discovered the Higgs boson and the math worked out too. Now we have an answer. But we have more questions too.” Jacob rolled over on his side and put his head on his mom’s lap, she rubbed his back.

“Yes,” said his mother, there will always be more questions, but dreamers like yourself… and Peter, Robert, and Francois, and all the other hundreds of scientists and people who work so hard will always find answers to those questions. Now sleep, I bet you’ll get that math problem right off tomorrow morning. And dream your own dreams my dear, who knows what might happen?”

“I’m gonna solve the mystery of black holes.” Jacob announced as his mom turned off the light and closed his door.
“No doubt you will son, no doubt you will.”

author’s note: This story inspired by the Documentary “Particle Fever” and dedicated to the hundreds and thousands of scientists the world over whose diligence and dreams answer questions we all have. Thank you.


Jack: The True Story of a Faithful Servant

He sat up straight, dark brown eyes focused ahead, ears hearing everything.  Anna smiled at his stoic manner as she flipped through her Facebook feed on her phone.  She was in the waiting room of her doctor’s office, an appointment in the middle of endless appointments thanks to a brain tumor.  Her husband hired Jack at the beginning of the ordeal, some six or seven years ago, as a means to keep an eye on Anna while he worked because he feared to leave her home alone.  Jack was an all business sort of guy, by the book, and it was two or three years before they saw him even crack a smile. Now though, Jack was accompanying her everywhere.  Anna’s husband had recently passed due to cancer; Jack devoted himself solely to her immediately.

“Anna Thompson” the nurse chirped out.  Jack was the first one up and he waited patiently as Anna gathered her things and stood up.  He followed dutifully behind, eyes scanning the surroundings, making sure all was well.  “Isn’t he handsome?” the nurse asked softly as they walked through the door she was holding open.  Anna agreed but Jack simply passed without looking and followed his charge around the corner to “room six today dear,”  “chirpy chirpy” was all Jack could hear.

The usual tortuous, silent wait ensued after the nurse took Anna’s vitals.  She knew better than to start a conversation with Jack, he wouldn’t utter a word back to her.  Instead she studied the thick black hair that managed to stand straight up on his head no matter what.  It was always a source of amusement for Anna and she smiled at it for the thousandth time as the doctor finally came into the room to break the silence.  Jack didn’t move or even acknowledge that another human being shared the room with them now. He listened to the mundane dance of their voices for several moments then the doctor announced that he’d  “like to draw some blood today to make sure that new med is working for you.”   Anna nodded in consent but squirmed subconsciously on the table at the thought of another needle.  Jack reflexively moved slightly closer.  “Who’s your bodyguard?”  the doctor asked.

“This is Jack, since my husband died he started coming along with me to my appointments.”

The doctor held his hand out to Jack, but the latter merely stared ahead.  “He’s quite the professional,” the doctor laughed and shook off the rebuff in good humor as he moved towards the door.

“Yes he is,” said Anna and she gave a little wave as the doctor turned around and left the room.  The nurse came back and fulfilled her role as a vampire.   Jack shifted uncomfortably from side to side for a few seconds when Anna winced at the needle prick.   “He’s protective of you isn’t he?” queried the nurse.

“Very protective.” Anna responded.

“Well, at least you know you’re safe,” said the vampiress as she set everything back on the tray and took her gloves off.   “See you in two weeks,” she sang with the same chirpy voice and she was gone out of the room like a puff of air.

They left the room, left the office, left the building, then left the entire city behind as they drove home, stopping at the neighborhood Wal-Mart before calling it a day.   Jack sat silently in the passenger seat (Anna loved to drive, so he let her) and muttered not a sound the entire time.   When they arrived home, they both jumped out of the car and Anna opened the gate for Jack to go through.  Inside the house she picked him up and gave him as many hugs and kisses as he could stand, interspersed with high praise:  “You did so well today, baby!”  “You were such a good boy!”  “Mama’s so proud of you, your first time out and you behaved like a pro!”  Jack gave a shake to put his fur right when Anna set him back on the floor and then graciously accepted the small beef bone Anna pulled out of the fridge.  He took it to his bed and sat stoically for several moments before he began to gnaw gently at its tender middle.   He slept well that afternoon, dreaming of car rides and the chirpy voice of the nurse.

Happy Friday Kids, and go kiss your four-leggeds!

Frankie Wallace

*Authors note:  I dedicate this story all the amazing service animals out there who serve their masters with dedicated and admirable aplomb.  They are treasures of this life to be cherished deeply.  Jack is one of the best of these heros….

 

 

 


Something Amiss – How can the Hold of Religion Overpower Even a Mother’s Love?

I am privileged enough to be a mother to three wonderful young men.  I’ll never forget the first time I held my first child and the intense wave of protectiveness and fierce love that swept over me.  Like most mothers I knew right then that I would die for this tiny human before I would let anything harm it.  There is something very primal, very acute, and very ancient about that motherly love.  It enables us to survive sleepless nights, keep watch like a hawk, and always always want the best for our offspring – despite our own hopes and desires for them.  There is no other selfless love than that of a mother.

This devotion is the reason we experience such raw complete pain when we are on the outs with our children.   So far, cross my fingers, I’ve yet to encounter any difficulties with my own boys but I have a couple of sisters whose children have distanced themselves and I see the exorbitant amount of pain and anguish they endure – I hurt for them as only another mother can.  It makes me thankful for the relationships I have with my boys, and keeps me mindful to tend them as diligently as I tend my yard and flowers.

And yet, despite this innate adoration that we experience as mothers, and the pain that accompanies a broken relationship with a child, there are some who would willingly, consciously, unswervingly choose a religion over their child.   I know this because one of my dearest and best friends is currently walking a very fine line with her mother in the hopes that she and her infant son are not shunned completely from her parents life – all because, like any normal human,  she questions the faith she was indoctrinated with as a child.   I ache for her and worry for her.  I wonder at the ‘omnipotence’ of a god who would direct his followers to act as if their children didn’t exist. But mostly, I wonder at the ability of a single denomination of a single religion in a series of man made religions to have such a hold over its followers that even a mother would forsake her own flesh and blood. 

I simply cannot fathom it.

In fact, it is unnatural.  It is wholly unnatural for a mother to forsake her love for her child and abandon it as if it never were.  It goes completely against our motherly instincts.  I can only conclude then, that the religion which teaches the anachronistic practice of shunning must have an unhealthy hold on its adherents if it would override a mothers love and devotion.  

This surmise bears out over several academic disciplines, psychology and sociology for instance.  History has given us plenty of examples of cults and sects whose practices require them to completely shut off the outside world and anything to do with it – even family members.   In a more intimate relationship, say between a man and a woman, if he isolates his partner, keeps her from friends and family and feeds her consistent lies about the way the world works,  we do not hesitate call it abuse.  Yet, religion – and the omnipotent god it supports – does that very thing, to the point of triumphing a mother’s innate love .

There is something horribly amiss about the idea.

Here’s to a mother’s love…let no thing….including religion….drive it asunder.

Frankie


Going Back to Work: A Short Story

Carole waited behind the rest of the housekeepers to clock in and then made her way to the cart room with them as well.  Sort of.  She trailed behind with a couple of the older ‘girls’, unable to keep up with the younger generation whose laughter and chit chat echoed along the hallway.

It was her second week back to work and her body was still acclimatizing to the new change.  By that I mean that most of Carole’s sixty something being was aching or paining in some way as she padded along.  Her back was especially sore these past two days since she developed a limp from a blister on her foot due to a new pair of shoes and the limp made her use her back muscles in ways they weren’t meant to be used.  She was exhausted.

About the second or third room into her day she found a rhythm and managed to finish all twelve rooms.  Carole was allotted four hours but it took her four and a half and when she got home she grabbed a glass of ice tea and sat down on the couch to put her tired feet up.

“How was yer day Luv?”  Ed’s gravelly voice reflected her own haggard state and she replied, “Not bad.  We only had twelve rooms today and managed to keep up a bit better.  I am happy that tomorrow is my ‘friday.’ “

“I am so sorry you have to go back to work Luv,” Ed said as he brought her an ice pack for her back. She knew he meant it.  Ed always prided himself on being able to provide for his family but since his last heart attack he could no longer work.  He had a modest pension, but increasing medical bills, prescriptions and food and everything else made it difficult for them to maintain.  Carole worked just a couple of days a week as a secretary when the kids were in school and that was the extent of her work history.  It took some adjusting within the both of them to see Carole become the ‘breadwinner’.

Ed sat down next to her and opened the bottle of ibuprofen to give to Carole, who upended it to empty three tablets in her hand and then she gulped them down.  As she handed the bottle back to Ed she noticed the tears start to form in his eyes again.

“Now stop Dearest,” she said and wiped the first of the tears from his cheek.  “We are in this together and its really okay.”  Ed could not contain himself any longer and he broke down at these last words.  This was a daily ritual for them since Carole started back to work.  Ed couldn’t help himself.  His dear sweet wife being forced to work at this age and after all this time was a difficult situation for his manly pride to bear.  A part of him was crushed.

Carole found it best to just sit and let the moment pass, she rubbed his hand and kissed his cheeks until he finally composed himself several solemn moments later.    She turned his attention to dinner and asked how the roast in the crock pot was coming along.

“Just fine,” he answered, “and I think I’ve figured out the right way to make the potatoes this time,” referring to the distinct taste Carole always managed to give them – her secret was half and half, lots of butter and plenty of pepper.

“Sounds lovely Dearest, ” she said, smiling adoringly “You’ll be cooking as well as our son in no time!” she laughed.  It was a long standing joke in the family that Sam was even a better cook than Carole.

“Pfffft!”  Ed retorted, “I am not so sure about that, but I do know the value of a good vacuum cleaner now.”  Since his wife went to work, Ed took it upon himself to do all the house chores.  He had Carole teach him laundry and dishes before she went to work so that he could take them over once she did.  It was the least he could do and it helped immensely to ease his guilt and keep him busy during the days she was gone.

The rest of the evening passed as usual with casual conversation about how much things had changed the past twenty years interspersed with the latest family gossip.  They clung to each other mentally and emotionally within this quiet routine and the familiarity of each other.  Ed fixed her plate, the same way Carole use to do for him, and got her bath ready after dinner.   He laid out her uniform for the next day before going to bed.  They snuggled in together, whispering short “I love you’s” in  various form and drifted to sleep together, still holding hands.

At exactly four thirty hours Ed awoke and started the coffee for Carole.  His internal clock never let him sleep past this time for as long as he could remember.   He fixed her breakfast and packed her lunch and tenderly saw her off to work three hours later.  Once her car round the corner of his street, he sat down at the dining table and bawled as if he were three years old again, unbeknownst to his beloved.   Ed would never adjust to the idea of his wife working for as long as he had a breath to breathe.

Meanwhile, Carole waited behind the rest of the housekeepers to clock in…….

 

 

Author’s note:  This story is dedicated to the thousands of senior citizens who’ve had to join the working ranks these past two decades as a result of the financialization revolution.  May they find peace……


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