Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Life Cycle of Faith

The Several Adventures of Hugh, Part 2

[Continued from Part 1]

The old man’s boat was too small for all of them to fit, so they devised a system of having two people go over and one person return with the boat, until everyone was across. The first two across were the twins.

As they rowed away, and the sound of their bickering faded in the distance, Hugh realized how rash of a decision this was. It would take a few days at least to get to the sea, and he wasn’t entirely sure of the way. He had only been there once when he was young, and the memory of it was vague and patchy.

He looked at the old man, wrapped in a bed sheet, the contours of his face barely visible under the cloth. Where had he come from? Why did he come here? What was a blind man doing alone in a rowboat?

In any case, the dwarf was back to the shore in a bit to pick up the old man’s body, which he stayed with on the far shore while his sister, the giant, returned for Hugh. After the whole ordeal was over, so much time had passed that the Sun was beginning to approach the horizon.

“So, which way do we go?” asked the dwarf.

“It’s definitely that way,” Hugh say, pointing at a forest. “The woods aren’t very deep, and there’s a well travelled wagon path, so we shouldn’t get lost.”

They headed towards the forest, and before long they saw a winding road leading into a narrow clearing of the trees. Contrary to what you might expect, there was nothing special about these woods. They weren’t ambushed… they didn’t encounter any magical creatures… nothing slowed their progress at all, really. They just walked through the forest, talking about which would win in a fight: a centaur or a minotaur?

“I’m telling you,” said the dwarf. “You have to give it to the centaur. His body is a freakin’ horse. He could kick the minotaur to death easily.”

“You’re an imbecile,” replied the giant. “Why would the minotaur be behind the centaur unless the minotaur was kicking the centaur’s butt.”

The dwarf huffed. “The centaur has the best part of the man, his head, so he can out-think the minotaur.”

“The best part of a man is his head?” asked the giant. “That’s the part that gets him into the most trouble. Besides, the minotaur has horns, so I would take him in a literal head-to-head match-up any day.”

“What about a unicorn?” asked Hugh.

“Shut up, Hugh!” the twins said in unison.

It went on like this for some time, with the dwarf exhorting the superior qualities of the centaur while the giant insisted upon the minotaur as being an ideal combatant. Hugh quietly imagined a centaur and minotaur arguing about who would win in a fight, the world’s tallest dwarf or the world’s shortest giant. Hugh thought the minotaur would actually favor the dwarf, on account of being shorter, while the centaur would probably side with the giant.

As they reached the end of the forest, there was a fork in the road. Since the sun had all but completely set, they decided to make camp at the forest’s edge in the waning twilight. After killing a few jackalopes for dinner, they made a fire, ate, and lay down in the grass.

“Tell us about the sea, Hugh,” said the dwarf.

“Yeah, tell us all about it,” said the giant.

“Well,” began Hugh, “It’s not all that different from our pond. I mean, there are differences, like the water is salty, and the air smells different, almost more crisp. And the waves. The waters roll up the beach, then recede back, causing an endless cycle of the ocean licking the sand, accompanied by a rhythmic crashing sound that just makes you so relaxed.

“I remember as a child running into the water and turning back to try to beat the next wave, and my mother yelling, ‘Look out for the under-tow.’ I never really understood what that was… anyway, we sat on a blanket and had a picnic, and I just remember everything being so wonderful. Even if there is no mansion for him under the sea, the beach is pretty close to perfect. I wouldn’t mind living there after I die.”

Hugh then heard a chorus of snoring. “Goodnight, guys,” he said, smiling, looking up at the stars.

In the morning, they picked breadberries for breakfast and began on the road again. They decided to take the fork in the road that appeared to have a house beside it up ahead, hoping they might be able to ask for directions there.

When they arrived at the home, it appeared to be empty. They knocked on the door, looked in the windows, and the giant finally shouted, “Hello?”

There was a muffled reply, but it wasn’t coming from inside the house. It seemed to be coming from the backyard. The giant yelled again, and they all heard the reply once more, even louder. They walked behind the house, following the sound of shouting.

Out back, they found a well, and at the bottom of it was a man.

“Oh thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” said the man in the well.

“Don’t thank us yet,” said the dwarf. “We haven’t gotten you out.”

“Here, grab this,” said the man, before flinging up a bucket on the end of a rope. Even bending in as far as he could stretch with his sister holding his legs, the dwarf was not able to reach the bucket being hurled up by the man in the well.

“We need something else, is there something in your house we could use to lower down to you?” asked the dwarf.

“I can’t think of anything that long, maybe the bed sheet,” said the man.

”I found something,” said Hugh. Slowly, he lowered a tree that he uprooted into the well. The man grabbed hold of the branches and Hugh dragged him up without much effort.

“Thank you! Thank you, thank you–”

“Yeah, we get it,” said the giant. “How long were you down there?”

“Seven days,” said the man. “I’m so hungry. Come inside, I’ll fix us something to eat. I haven’t had anything but insects and a frog in the past week.”

Once they were inside and seated around a table, the man began cooking.

“So, what brings you folks out this way?” asked the man, moving about the kitchen in a frenzy.

“We’re helping out a friend,” said Hugh.

“Oh yeah? A big, strong group like you, probably off to build something huge or move something heavy, huh?”

“We’re going to throw our friend’s dead body into the sea,” said the dwarf.

“Well, maybe,” said the giant. “We’re not sure, but we’re headed to the shore and we’ll hopefully figure it out before we arrive.”

“What do you need figured out? Maybe I can help?” asked the man.

“What happens when you die? Do you need to do anything special with the body? Our friend believed he would live in a mansion at the bottom of the sea after he died, so we figured… it makes sense to put his body there,” replied the giant.

“Well, I know this: he doesn’t need his body anymore,” said the man. “Besides it’s not really his body anymore, since he’s not using it. It belongs to the world now. Whether you buried it in the ground here or dumped it at sea, the result would be the same: it would be used like clay to mold something else. You could even burn it to smoke and ashes, and it would still be reused somehow.”

“So… there’s no point?” asked the dwarf.

“I didn’t say that… this is just what I believe. If he wanted that done, I think it’s right to fulfill his wishes. I’m not familiar with mansions under the sea, so I don’t know what someone like him would have wanted.”

“What do you believe happens after we die?” asked the giant.

The man began mixing something in a bowl and turned to the three of them.

“I believe… I believe we’re like this dough. It started as a little seed, which I planted in the ground. Then, it grew into wheat, which I harvested and grounded into flour. Then, I added some water and yeast to it, and when I mix it up and put it in the oven, it will turn into bread. So, what is it we’ll be eating? Is it wheat? Is it dough? Or, is it bread?”

“Clearly when we eat it, it will be bread, I hope,” said the dwarf.

“Indeed, it will be bread, and yet, it’s not bread right now, it’s dough. It won’t fulfill its full potential until it becomes bread, though it has been many things before. And even though it will be bread briefly, then we will eat it, and it will cease to be bread anymore.”

“I don’t get it,” said the dwarf.

“I believe in reincarnation,” said the man. “I believe that who I am has been many other things before, and that when I die, I will become something else.”

“What were you before you were you?” asked the giant.

“The earliest thing I can remember being was a ram. Then I was a bull, then much like yourselves, I was one of a pair of twins, then I was a crab, then a lion, then a girl who died young, then a wealthy merchant who became a judge, then a scorpion, then a centaur, then a goat, and finally me. Oddly enough, though I almost died at the bottom of a well, my next form will be as a fish. How ironic would that have been?” asked the man.

“I’m not sure that’s irony,” said the dwarf.

“Of course it is, you twit,” replied the giant. “If he had been a fish, he would have survived just fine at the bottom of that well.”

“But he would never have fallen in a well if he had been a fish in the first place, you nincompoop,” said the dwarf.

“It’s alright. Maybe it’s not irony, it’s just a strange coincidence,” said the man, putting the dough aside to rise. He sat down at the table with them. “How about yourselves? What’s your story?”

“I’m the world’s tallest dwarf, and this is my twin sister, the world’s shortest giant, or as I like to call her, the giantess.”

Before he could brace himself, his sister’s fist made swift contact with his throat. He pushed away from the table, leaned forward and began coughing loudly, holding his neck with both hand.

“Hugh found us in a big basket when we were infants, floating around the island he lives on,” said the giant.

“I was meaning to ask if you might know who lived on that island, being a cyclops and all,” said the man. “I have to say… I’m surprised, because it’s local legend that the cyclops on that island is a murderous beast.”

“I assure you, I wouldn’t hurt anyone,” said Hugh.

“You saved my life, you don’t have to prove anything to me. I’m in debt to all of you. Please, let me aid you in some way,” said the man.

“About that,” said Hugh. “We’re trying to find the sea, like we said, but we’re not really sure how to get there. I sort of know the general direction, but that’s about it,” said Hugh.

“Well sure,” said the man. “Walk in any direction for long enough and you’ll hit a coast. But I can map out some directions for you so you get there in, oh, I’d say… about two days from here. Maybe three. You said you were going to bury your friend at sea, is that what you were carrying? His body?”

“Yep,” the giant said, glancing at the body wrapped in a sheet laying near the door.

“I’ll tell you what,” said the man. “I can’t just give you directions, I should make your journey easier. So, I’ll give you herbs to wrap your friend’s body in to help stave off some of the decay and smell. Then, I’ll give you guys my old wheelbarrow. It works just fine, and it should make the trip that much easier.”

“Thanks!” said the dwarf.

“Tell me,” said the man, “How does that man know he will have a mansion under the sea waiting for him?”

“The Eagle rewards people who thank him,” said the giant.

“The Eagle controls everything,” added the dwarf.

“But… if the Eagle controls everything, and the Eagle wants thanks, why does the Eagle not convince everyone to thank him? In fact, why have I never even heard of this Eagle?” asked the man.

“Well, the Eagle is invisible,” said the giant.

“And the Eagle lives far away,” the dwarf chimed in.

“I don’t know,” said the man. “It sounds to me like this is some sort of tribal cult. They often rely on the power of imaginary animal beings to explain the world. It’s okay to admit that we don’t know everything.”

“Well, how do you know you used to be all those things, and that one day you’ll be a fish?” asked the dwarf.

“I don’t,” replied the man. “I wasn’t born able to remember my past lives, and I imagine you weren’t either. However, by attaining inner peace, I have been able to remember things I didn’t know I even knew. I’ve been able to unforget memories from almost a dozen past lives.”

“Why don’t we remember our past lives?” asked the giant.

“I have no idea,” replied the man. “Maybe people – and perhaps cyclopes – are unable to remember their past lives. Maybe animals remember. Maybe we forget because the knowledge of past lives is harmful or detrimental to a young living thing learning to live as a new organism. Maybe the trauma of having lived and died many times is so great that we repress the memory. Or maybe that’s the point of life, to discover your past.”

“And your future,” said Hugh.

“What?” asked the dwarf.

“Very astute, cyclops,” said the man.

“Please, call me Hugh.”

“Well, Hugh, it occurred to me that the world is predictable. Some call it destiny, or fate, and being able to see it is prophecy or soothsaying. I just watched the patterns, and I predict I will be a fish. If I turn out to be something else, it won’t bother me. What I turn into after I die is not something I worry about, because whatever I turn into will only last for a finite time before it changes again.”

“How do you… watch the patterns?” asked Hugh.

“I annihilate,” replied the man.

“What is that?” the dwarf asked.

“I empty my mind of all thoughts for long periods of time.”

“My brother is an expert at that,” said the giant.

“My mind… isn’t… go piss up a rope,” said the dwarf.

“There’s no need to bicker,” said the man. “Here, I’ll put the bread in the oven and start gathering herbs. Hugh, if you come with me, I’ll show you where my old wheelbarrow is.”

Once outside, Hugh turned to the man. “What’s your name, by the way?”

“Everyone calls me Sid,” he said.

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” said Hugh.

Sid walked a ways to a thick patch of shrubs and began picking leaves while Hugh examined the wheelbarrow, not noticing two crows watching them from a tree in the distance.

“Is that them?” one of the crows asked quietly.

The other crow nodded.

To be continued…

A Secular Jesus Lesson

What kinds of lessons can a non-believer take from the story of Jesus? Well, first of all, I want to assure you: there are some. Almost anything you read will teach you something, even if it’s as simple as, “That person can’t write for shit.”

Jesus possesses a lot of qualities I like in a person. I wouldn’t say he was ideal, and he definitely had some beliefs and habits that would piss me off, but I think I could stand to be around the guy, and if there weren’t a language barrier, I’m sure we’d get along fine. If he could cure my asthma, that would also go a long way towards me seeing him as a bit more than “some guy.”

Jesus was a generous guy, and that’s an important quality to have. A lot of his miracles are about making food or drink for people. He heals people, which even if he didn’t actually heal them, I respect him for trying. He’s at least spending some time with sick and dying people, which is nice.

He’s also a man of the people. He’s not a rich guy, he doesn’t hang out with rich guys, and this is sort of a huge departure from most of the rest of the Bible. Most of the Bible is about high priests and kings, of pharaohs and generals, of princes and conquerors. Then, suddenly you have this guy who hangs out with prostitutes and tax collectors.

All the supernatural mumbo jumbo aside, Jesus was in with the outcasts and did a lot of favors for people. He was my kind of guy.

And boy did he hate the establishment. Not the government; Jesus didn’t have a lot to say about Rome, though what little he said was largely neutral (“render unto Caesar…”). Jesus didn’t like Roman or gentile culture, but he wasn’t a raving anti-Roman. So, conservatives… Jesus was largely ambivalent of the government. He focused most of his disdain upon the priests.

In fact, it was ultimately his questioning of the fundamentalists of his day that led to the priests having him tortured and killed. It’s sort of a very secular message, if you look at it realistically. If you question the religious powers, they may give you a most horrible demise.

The lesson of Jesus, then, has nothing to do with self-sacrifice, but with always being on the look-out for a religious lynch mob.

And that is why I still read religious texts as a non-believer. Still as true today as when it was written…

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How Many Are Enough?

Are Christianity and Islam religions, or collections of religions? Is Buddhism a religion? What about Satanism? Scientology? Jedi?

Even though no one is really in agreement on what we mean by “a religion,” we sure do have a lot of them. Regardless of how you choose to categorize the religions of the world, there’s no denying that there are a lot of options, and unlike money, religion basically grow on trees. There’s no one regulating how many religions there are, and I could start my own religion at any time. I wouldn’t even have to stop at only one.

Religions are basically like excuses: there’s no shortage of them, and every asshole has one. Oh, and they’re used to justify bullshit.

This diverse faith environment provides an interesting dilemma for the non-religious person. Namely, how many religions do you have to examine before you can be comfortable in saying that religion is not for you?

Granted, you could be raised in one religion, reject it, and decide you don’t want to be religious at all. I’m sure people do that. In fact, there’s also people who were raised without religion and know little or nothing about any religion at all. While I understand such decisions, I think the unexamined life is not even worth living, so I’m pretty firmly on the side of those who learn about religion in order to make an informed decision.

One thing I found interesting was not studying living religions, but dead ones. Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic, Finnish, Slavic, and Germanic mythology (to name but a few Western examples) contains some of the best storytelling you’ll ever read. You’ll also see in such works the “inspiration” for great story tellers, from classics like William Shakespeare and John Milton to contemporary writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. Disney in particular wouldn’t have the source material for over half their films without classic mythology and fables.

On a deeper level, then, I think you will get something intellectually fulfilling from reading mythology. I also noticed something else: when a religion is gone and dead, it is easier to perhaps see the appeal of these works. The ideas become far more compelling when they are not coupled with the embarrassing rabble of the faithful.

In many ways, one can see through studying religion that most of the problem with religion is not religion itself, but actually the religious.

On their own, these stories can teach a good person how to be better, without the rituals and belief in gods. These tales take on a completely different tone when read by the greedy, the selfish, the abusive, the violent, the angry, the fearful, the neurotic, or the psychotic. In my experience, some of these people almost seem to relate to the harsh nature of the gods and wish to embody this, perhaps thinking it will make them more loved by the gods, or even gods themselves.

However, a good religious tale is not a blueprint for how to live, but is instead an oil painting of what life is like.

Forget for a second that you think you’re special, and remember that how you act is one of only a few typical personalities, and those personalities have existed for as long as history is recorded. When you read a good story, you recognize characters, as if you had met them before. Even if you read a story that is thousands of years old and translated many times over, a good one will be filled with moments where you smile at someone’s remark or your heart breaks for someone’s loss.

Even though there is so much time and culture separating us from the myths of the ancients, we can still relate to them.

So, how many religions must one learn about before the examination ends? I guess that is a personal question. Maybe we never stop looking, even if we take extended breaks. For me, once I realized what religions were, it was not difficult to see that I would never be a religious man, though I know I will always be fascinated by religion.

If you can see mythology for what it is, it can be of immeasurable value to you, but the minute you take any of it literally… well… to me, religion is a myth that has come alive and gone mad. And yet, I would hope that mythology survives into the future, because it’s a priceless look into ourselves and our own lives that should be available to everyone.

I hope we never stop making up stories that compel us. I could do without the overzealous fans, though.

Wednesday Word: Longversation

Longversation: a chat that just won’t end

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stump a Christian #24

Can someone who has never heard of Jesus get into heaven?

Top Ten: States Where You Are More Likely to be Shot to Death Than Killed by a Car

All data is for 2009. Kudos to this post by Cdog for bringing the study to my attention.

The numbers indicate gun deaths/car deaths/gun deaths per car death.

10. Virginia 836/827/1.01
9. Utah 260/256/1.02
8. Colorado 583/565/1.03
7. Indiana 735/715/1.03
6. Oregon 417/394/1.06
5. Arizona 856/809/1.06
4. Washington 623/580/1.07
3. Michigan 1095/977/1.12
2. Alaska 104/84/1.24
1. Nevada 406/255/1.59

Stump a Christian #23

Which Christian churches and groups are actually heretics?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Snippet: Fox News

The real problem with Fox News is that, being a 24 hour news network, they can make up bullshit faster than anyone can fact check it.

Monday Rule: The Golden Church Rule

If a church wants to have a say in what non-believers can do in their bedrooms, non-believers should be allowed to fuck in that church.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Snippet: Job Creationism

Job Creationism: the belief that rich people are gods who will magically cause jobs to appear

Saturday Reflection #83

Some people want to convince you that no one needs the government to tell them what to do. The problem is, it is not a matter of whether people need to be led, but whether people can be led. Unfortunately, so many are inclined to follow that it is best to allow everyone a say in who is leading, even though most of us are just looking for a leader who will stay out of our way.

Snippet: Christian Disease Theory

Some Christians say AIDS is God’s punishment on homosexuals, but they never apply this disease-as-punishment idea universally. Why isn’t Mad Cow Disease evidence for Hinduism? Why isn’t there a disease you can only get from raping little kids? Why does living near a lot of mosquitoes mean you deserve to be exposed to malaria, encephalitis, and West Nile virus?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stump a Christian #21

What is the difference between a religion, a cult, and a superstition?

Snippet: Suicide Awareness

There may be people reading my blog right now who feel like the weight of the world has just become too much, who feel small and insignificant, and who question whether it’s worth it to push on. For them, I just want to say: suicide is always an option.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Snippet: Gay Marriage

If every guy who has jerked off to lesbian porn supported gay marriage, it would be legal.

The Several Adventures of Hugh, Part 1

In a land where the sun sets in the east, where the fish can fly and the birds can swim, where the dogs climb trees and the cats play fetch, there is a pond that is so large, it is bigger than most lakes. In this pond is an island with a hill taller than most mountains.

Who should live in this unlikely place but three unlikely residents. First, there is a cross-eyed cyclops named Hugh Mungus. Next, there is the world’s shortest giant. She’s two meters tall, or about six feet and six inches. Finally, there is the world’s tallest dwarf, and he’s also two meters tall (they’re twins).

An interesting thing happened to them recently. An old man in a boat washed ashore on the island. The first to find him was Hugh.

“Hello there, my name is Hugh,” he said, and he stuck out his hand. The old man just sniffed the air. Hugh stood there awkwardly with his arm out for a second or so before drawing it back, and after the fact he felt he had done so perhaps a bit too quickly. He fidgeted for another moment before asking, “What’s your name?”

“My name is not important. Where I come from, we have no names,” said the old man.

“How do you mail a letter?” asked Hugh.


“How do you mail a letter to someone back where you’re from, if you don’t have names?”

“I don’t do much letter writing, on account of I’m blind.”

Hugh looked at the man. Sure enough, he had no eyes. Hugh wasn’t too polite to have noticed, he just thought the old man had been squinting in the bright sunlight.

“Okay, well…” Hugh thought for a moment. “If you don’t mind me asking–”

“I do mind,” said the old man. “I ain’t got time for questions. Questions are for folks who don’t know, and if you don’t know, you wouldn’t even know what questions to ask in order to find out.”

Hugh thought for a moment. He wasn’t exactly sure–

“Hey, are you going to help me or what?”

Hugh took the man’s hand and helped him out of the boat.

“What do ya got to eat around here?” asked the old man.

“Well, let’s go check with the twins and we’ll get you fed. I was collecting some beefnuts when I saw you, but you probably don’t want them raw.”

The old man’s jaw dropped. “You have what now?”

“Beefnuts. Oh… um, it’s probably not what you’re thinking. They grow on trees, not cows. But you want to boil or roast them before you eat them, otherwise it’s like chewing on a hoof.”

“Give me some,” said the old man, “I like a good challenge.” Hugh paused before putting one in the old man’s hand, which he promptly popped in his mouth. The old man put his hand out again.

“Why don’t we see how you do with that one. You don’t want to say you died choking on two beefnuts.”

“Ah, who cares about dying. I welcome death,” said the old man.

“You welcome death?” asked Hugh.

“Death is only the beginning, my friend,” said the old man. “After I die, I’m going to live in a mansion under the sea forever.”

Hugh was silent, expecting the old man to say more, but he didn’t. His hand was still out, so Hugh handed him another beefnut.

“My place is this way, if you need somewhere to stay,” said Hugh.

“That’d be great, thanks. I live by the kindness of others.”

“That’s a good way to live,” said Hugh. “I imagine that forces you to encourage kindness in others.”

“It’s not about me. I can’t make anyone be better. I work through another.”

“Oh really?” asked Hugh. “Who is that?”

“I work for the invisible Eagle, who sees all, hears all, knows all, and does all.”

“Does all?” asked Hugh.

“The wind does not blow unless the Eagle wills it. The sun will not rise unless the Eagle wills it. Every breath you draw is only because the Eagle wills it,” said the old man.

“So… this morning when I stubbed my toe, that was the Eagle?” asked Hugh.

“Everything happens because the Eagle wills it, everything.”

Hugh pondered this a bit while they walked. He had so many questions in his head, he didn’t even know where to begin. “In all my 50 years of life, I have never heard of this Eagle. How do you know about this Eagle, especially since it’s invisible?”

“The good thing about being invisible is that I cannot see it just as little as you cannot. I am also almost twice your age, and I have traveled the world over. Though I am blind, I have seen more than you will probably ever see.”

“Even without eyes?” asked Hugh.

“I see everything with my mind’s eye, which is more perfect than the flawed physical eyes that give you sight. You can never trust what you have seen. You are better off trusting in what you can know.”

Hugh was perplexed. This old man did not seem to think clearly. The two of them certainly didn’t see things the same way, literally or figuratively.

When they arrived at Hugh’s home, he called out to the twins. They came and heard what the old man said, and the twins decided they wanted to live in mansions under the sea after they died.

Hugh noticed a change in the way the twins acted. They still quarreled, like all siblings do, but now they gave thanks to the Eagle in the morning, before they ate, and before they went to bed at night. It didn’t much bother Hugh, but he found it odd.

A couple weeks after the old man arrived, he went out to pick mushrooms. He picked a bad one and became gravely ill. Hugh heard his pained groans and came to his side.

“The Eagle is calling me to my new home,” said the old man.

“While I hope you’re wrong, I also I hope you’re right,” said Hugh.

The old man held Hugh’s hand. “You still think I have thrown my life away on a fallacy, don’t you?”

“That’s not it, exactly,” said Hugh.

“I was a wretched man who did wretched things. I hurt people, many people, more people than I could ever help. I was a man of great power, but I abused that power. I have done things no man can forgive, but the Eagle can forgive me. The Eagle knows what is in my heart. The Eagle turned my life around. The Eagle compelled me to wander the Earth telling others of the Eagle’s greatness, no longer causing great pains to those I meet. You will see that I am right if you only give thanks to the Eagle.”

“Please,” said Hugh, “You should know that I do not look at this as right or wrong. I am not concerned with such things. While you may have lived almost twice as long as I have, I am cross-eyed, so I see double. I have seen more than you, my friend, and I must tell you: if your Eagle brings you happiness and makes you a better person, then it was not a waste of your time and I am glad you found the invisible Eagle.”

The old man smiled as Hugh lifted him up and carried him back to his bed. The twins were summoned and all three stood by his bed as he died, so he wouldn’t be alone.

When the old man ceased breathing, the twins wiped tears from their eyes and looked at each other.

“Well, you dolt, now someone has to take him to the sea. I call not it,” said the dwarf to the giant.

“Not it,” said the giant. They both slowly turned to Hugh.

“What?” asked Hugh.

“You need to take his body to the sea so he can get his mansion,” said the giant.

“I didn’t sign up for that,” said Hugh.

“We called not it,” said the dwarf.

Hugh scratched his head. “Well… I can’t do it by myself. And since you guys love the Eagle so much, maybe you should come with me and live near the sea, that way when you die, it will be easier. I’m not schlepping you both all the way to the ocean when you keel over one day.”

“But we have lives here!” said the giant.

“We have homes and plates and beds here!” said the dwarf.

“I’m pretty sure people live in homes, eat on plates, and sleep on beds by the sea as well. Come on, guys. Let’s take this old man’s corpse to his mansion in the sea,” said Hugh.

They lifted him up and carried the old man’s body to the shore of the pond, to the very boat the old man had arrived in. On the way, Hugh asked questions about what the old man had told them about the Eagle.

“So let me get this straight,” said Hugh. “You spend five minutes thanking the Eagle in the morning when you wake up, five minutes thanking the Eagle before breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and five minutes once again before you go to bed?”

“Yep,” said the dwarf.

“Every single day, except a few times when we forgot early on,” said the giant.

“Five minutes five times a day, that’s twenty-five minutes a day, 175 minutes a week… 9125 minutes per year. Wow. That’s…” Hugh looks at his fingers for a bit, “152 hours and 5 minutes, or six days, eight hours and five minutes… per year.”

“Whoa, that’s a lot of time,” said the dwarf.

“What about a leap year?” asked the giant.

“Well, you just add twenty-five minutes…” said Hugh.

“That’s too much,” said the giant.

“You’re quitting already, stones-for-brains?” asked the dwarf.

“Look here you possum pouch, I didn’t waste twenty five minutes a day every day for this long, except for a few at the beginning of last week, so that I would give up now,” said the giant. “Maybe we can just thank the Eagle less often.”

“Then why bother? It’s all or nothing with the Eagle,” said the dwarf. “Don’t you remember? If you quit now, the Eagle will surely kill you and then you won’t have a mansion.”

“But… the Eagle killed the old man,” said Hugh. “It’s not like the Eagle will make you live any longer. We’ve gotten along fine without this Eagle before, so I don’t think thanking it for a while and then stopping will anger it. Won’t the Eagle just be glad you thanked it as often as you have so far?”

“Maybe you’re right,” said the giant.

“But if we keep it up, we can have mansions under the sea forever!” said the dwarf. “What do we have to lose if we keep thanking the Eagle?”

“Well, over six days per year,” said Hugh.

“Oh right,” said the dwarf, dropping the old man’s leg he was holding. “Well, then we don’t have to bother with this anymore.”

“No,” said Hugh. “It doesn’t matter what you believe. He was counting on us to take his body to the sea, and there’s no way I’m going to ignore someone’s last request.”

“I don’t know, Hugh,” said the giant. “Maybe the Eagle will come get him.”

Hugh sighed. “There’s no Eagle.”

“What?” the dwarf and giant asked in chorus.

“I’m not saying the old man made that story up, but it’s not true. The wind doesn’t blow because of some Eagle. The sun doesn’t rise because of an Eagle. It’s not an Eagle that–”

“Yeah yeah, breath, we get it. Yeesh, you’re so boring, Hugh,” said the dwarf.

The giant looked out at the boat, then back to her home. “I think we need to do this, brother.”

The dwarf sighed. “This is ridiculous. I’m not even sure his body needs to be in the sea.”

“What?” said Hugh.

“Well, we just assumed that since that’s where the mansion is, that’s where the body should go,” said the giant. “I mean, he’ll probably want his body, right?”

Hugh scratched his head and looked back and forth at the twins, waiting for them to say something. Finally, he asked, “So, he didn’t want to be dumped into the sea?”

“He could have,” said the dwarf.

“There’s nothing to suggest he would have hated the idea,” said the giant.

“Okay,” said Hugh, thinking for a moment. “We’ll take him to the sea. Maybe along the way we can find someone else who knows more about this Eagle.”

To be continued…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Snippet: Lying

I recently became aware of there being two types of lies, and it explains why lying is not wrong. The first kind of lie is the one we are most familiar with, and the kind that we hate: that of lying to conceal the truth. There is another type of lie, one that reveals the truth. Fiction writers utilize this all the time, presenting an idea that is true through a story which is an utter fabrication. I suspect that this is why “lying” is not explicitly said to be a sin in the Bible, for the Bible itself is a parable.

Wednesday Word: Failosopher

Failosopher: someone who can’t hide the fact that they’re a sophist

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten: “Mental Disorders” That Aren’t

10. Cannabis addiction
9. Gender identity disorder
8. Hysteria
7. Borderline personality disorder
6. Narcissistic personality disorder
5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
3. Depression
2. Dissociative identity disorder (Split personality)
1. Sex addiction

Snippet: Govoernment ≠ Business

It’s become vogue to say that government should be run like a business, but this is a foolish concept. A nation cannot fire inefficient or ineffective citizens. A nation cannot downsize. A nation can’t count on a bailout. If for no other reason, you should never run a country like it was a business because most businesses are in the habit of failing.

If anything, the one thing that some businesses do well is also the one thing people who claim we should run the government like a business are most loathe to do, which is to explore and try new things.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Snippet: Single Prayer Healthcare

As near as I can tell, the Republican national plan for healthcare is for you to hope your insurance company doesn’t drop you when you become sick or injured. If you don’t have or do lose your insurance, you can appeal to God, who will always answer you… even if people without medical care mysteriously hear a lot of “No.”

The Controversial TED Talk

Some are calling this the TED Talk that was quashed by the billionaires who fund the popular lecture forum, while others are saying it just wasn’t selected to be put up on their website because it was not good enough. In any case, I decided to watch the video after it was made available and I have to say… it’s more interesting than a lot of the TED Talks I have seen, like J.J. Abrams talking about the horrible TV shows and movies he craps out.

So, here it is:

Saturday Reflection #82

If you look past the semantics and superficial differences, you will see that deep down, all religions want the same thing: for everyone to shut the fuck up and do as they say.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Snippet: Normal

One person’s “normal” is another person’s “What the fuck?”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rethinking Some Relationship Clichés

Today is my third wedding anniversary (original post about it here with a link to my vows here). So, I figured this would be a good time to look at some relationship clichés, shall we?

It’s not great being married, but it’s easier than being single. Marriage is one of those things people do not because they like doing it, but because it beats the alternative, like immunization shots or voting Democrat. Even people who are recently married aren’t excited about it. That’s why on the back of their car they write, “Just Married.” You know: nothing special, just married, no big whoop.

I also don’t think of my wife as “the one.” That whole idea seems very odd and borderline religious. It implies destiny or fate, but I think that takes away from what my wife and I have. We had to work to make our relationship last, and I’m not about to share the credit with some mystical force that supposedly brought us together when I know it’s my amazing skills in bed that did it… clearly.

My wife and I never use the terminology “making love.” That sounds like how grandparents have sex. We “do it.” “Making love” also sort of seems to me like love is based on sex, and that’s not a healthy way to view sex or love.

“You can’t change someone.” Now that one’s a huge load of bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t change some things about some people, but if someone will not change something they do that bothers you to your core, you should leave them sooner than later. If you’re with someone who won’t change at all for you, they’re a pretty selfish and irritating person. I guess this idea that you are perfect just the way you are comes from this one…

“You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” This one’s an even bigger, hotter, smellier, more fly-ridden heap of bullshit than the last one. You should never love yourself, ever, for any reason. You can like yourself, and it’s certainly not healthy to hate yourself, but if you love yourself, you can’t possibly love anyone else. I’ve tried to love people who loved themselves, and they never loved me; I was only an accessory for them.

People give awkward and often creepy advice when a relationship ends. The worst I ever heard is, “Well, now you’re single, so you can sleep with anyone.” Really? Anyone? Okay Mr. Rapist… let’s look at that realistically. You aren’t going to sleep with people in relationships, you aren’t going to sleep with people you aren’t attracted to, you aren’t going to sleep with people who aren’t attracted to you, you aren’t going to sleep with people who live vast distances away from you, you aren’t going to sleep with people you never even met… so basically, that narrows it down to your ex.

I think it should be legal to punch someone in the face if they say, “There are plenty of other fish in the sea.” Like the last one, this bit of pseudo-wisdom implies that once a relationship is over, you are (or should be) thinking about other people. It’s been my experience, however, that when a relationship ends, usually one person already has someone lined up while the other person will pine for their lost love for a while afterwards, to sort of mourn the relationship. So really, after a relationship ends, neither party is probably looking. And let’s be honest: if you wanted to be single (and therefore able to be with other people), you wouldn’t have been in a relationship in the first place.

Maybe the biggest cliché I hear from people initiating a break up is, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” There may be examples to the contrary… but really, all relationships are hard. They all require vast amounts of conscious effort and constant attention. Relationships are built on self-sacrifice and mutual respect forged in the fires of unspeakable anger. If you haven’t honestly thought about killing the person you are with, you have no idea what a real relationship is. A real relationship is when each person opens up and is comfortable dropping the mask of polity to a point where murderous rage is inevitable. The relationship isn’t built on this rage, it’s built on the fact that you would never act on it, because you know you love that person, even when you want to gouge out their eyes. I hear this is good practice for having children.

Another common complaint of people in a relationship they are thinking of ending is, “I’m just not happy.” Tough shit. Try waiting a while, and I bet you’ll find that it passes. A relationship isn’t a non-stop joyride. Those first two months of constantly having sex and learning new, exciting things about the other person can’t last forever. If you leave relationships at the first sign of a low point, do the world a favor and just kill yourself now. The planet doesn’t need another self-absorbed, piece of shit quitter.

Anyone who says that it was “Love at first sight,” is really saying: “We got together because we made each other tingly in our genitals.” It should be “lust at first sight.”

Some guys talk about going home to the “old ball and chain.” I never understood this one, because I’m the only one in the relationship with anything remotely resembling a ball and chain.

I used to love the sentiment that, “You can’t choose the ones you love.” It’s so true, and it has so many interesting implications, but it’s not really justification for anything. I think gay people should be allowed to be with whoever they want, and I think people who practice infidelity are adults capable of making their own decisions, but this can be taken too far. Namely, I think it’s fair to say that no one chooses to be a pedophile, but their lack of choice on the matter doesn’t justify anything. As with all impulses, what is actually important is not where the urge comes from, but whether it’s harmful or not.

Those who do cheat should never use the phrase, “It didn’t mean anything.” If it didn’t mean anything, then why do it? Better yet, if it didn’t mean anything, why feel compelled to even present such an argument? Any sort of infidelity does mean something to a partner or spouse who has not consented to such an arrangement. No one cares if it didn’t mean anything to the cheater. If anything, I would hope it did mean something to my wife if she cheated on me, because if she’s going to hurt me that much, it better mean something. This cliché is really an appeal to take them back, and what they really mean to say is, “I didn’t get out of it what I thought I would, and I regret doing it.”

If they say, “I think we should see other people,” they already are.

As grim as these are, being in a relationship and risking a break-up is more or less universally recognized as being preferable to being alone (with a few ironically paired chauvinist and feminist hold-outs). Maybe this is because the clichés of the single world are even worse…

Ladies, how many times have you heard, “I really like you, but I’m not ready/looking for a relationship right now” from a guy you just slept with? What he really means is, “I want to fuck you until I find someone better, but you should know that you are well below my standards. However, I’m a guy and will stick my dick into anything, and you will do for now.”

Guys, how many times have you heard, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” or “You’re like a brother” from a woman who just emotionally dumped all over you? What she really means is, “I want you as an emotional crutch, but if I had to fuck you, it wouldn’t be worth it.”

Being single sucks. Single people don’t care how many fish are in the sea, because when you’re fishing alone, this is what it feels like:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snippet: American Political Dysfunction

Democratic politicians spend half their time catering to the wealthy and half their time catering to the wishes of those who elected them, while Republicans spend half their time catering to the wealthy and half their time preventing Democrats from doing anything. The net result is that the government only gets things done for the wealthy.

Wednesday Word: Censorshipwreck

Censorshipwreck: when someone’s reputation sinks for trying to silence others

Stump a Christian #19

Who is Asherah?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top Ten: Worst Sitcom Couples

10. Zach and Kelly (Saved by the Bell)
9. Murphy Brown and herself (show of the same name)
8. Mr. Garrison and Mr. Hat (South Park)
7. Dale and Nancy (King of the Hill)
6. Fran and Maxwell (The Nanny)
5. Ross and Rachel (Friends)
4. Dharma and Greg (show of the same name)
3. Ted and anyone (How I Met Your Mother)
2. ALF and the cat (ALF)
1. Carol and Mike (The Brady Bunch)

Photographic Proof That I Exist

I promised some pictures in my last post, so after digging through my old stuff and scanning them, here they are.

This first one of is picture of me in the infamous black slip dress with fishnet stockings:

I zoomed in on my face here to see the make-up:

Below is a picture of me doing my impression of Popeye in a bra:

Me and an ex before a toga party:

Me and the same ex before a Halloween party, with me in my nun outfit:

[Addendum: below, I added a picture of me with my wife, which I neglected to post because I was unsure of whether she would care... it turns out she does not.]

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Own Experience With LGBT Discrimination

Something most people probably don’t know about me is that I cross dress. Not so much anymore, though I still do on Halloween. I used to own three dresses in high school, though even if I still had them, I would never fit into them. I got a kick out of doing it just to get dirty looks from uptight Indiana natives.

I wouldn’t feel the least bit of shame in admitting I were gay if I was, but sadly, I am not. I say sadly because I would love to get away with casually throwing around a word like “fag,” but I can’t pull it off. I love tits too much to feel right doing it

I used to cross dress because it attracted the kind of girls I like: freaks. Forget well adjusted girls with good childhoods and self respect, I like ’em used and devoid of any limits, maybe even a little bit crazy. If there’s one thing that is true of a crazy girl, it’s that the sex is amazing.

So one day, my relatively liberal religious high school (Brebeuf Jesuit in Indianapolis, in case anyone is curious) allowed the students to come to school in costume for Halloween if you donate a dollar to some charity. So, I go dressed up in a slinky black slip dress. In case anyone cares, my costume was “whore.” My girlfriend at the time was dressed as my pimp. Pictures are pending (I think I have a few somewhere…). [Found them, and posted here.]

I didn’t even get through the first class before I was called to the dean’s office.

For anyone with any shame or insecurity, I imagine this would have been uncomfortable, but I was laughing with the secretary in the office while I waited. We knew each other relatively well, partially because I was always getting sent in to be punished and partly because I often finished my exams first and would be sent to the office with the class attendance schedule, so I would often linger in the office to shoot the shit rather than go back to sit quietly in the room as everyone else finished.

Things got a little heated when the former football coach saw me. Now, at the time, I was on the football team, and he was no longer the coach because of an… incident. After a game we lost, despite having a halftime lead, he flipped a table. Not a folding table, but one of those black stone-top tables I see primarily in chemistry labs. To be fair, we fucked up (though not me, because I wasn’t even good enough to take the field).

I was actually sitting in the front row during that incident. I remember looking over at another player, Chris, and he had the most strained look on his face. He was trying his hardest not to laugh hysterically, and it made me want to laugh. We definitely processed that situation differently than Matt in the back corner of the room, who was sobbing.

So anyway, the former football coach is braying, “Ohhh hell naw! No, Bret, no no no no no. No. No no no no no no.” I remember a lot of no’s. He sort of left the office shaking his head. He was still the acting Assistant Dean, because I guess they couldn’t revoke his position after he resigned as coach. He was gone the next year, however.

The actual Dean was the basketball coach. I had tried out and I had a good rapport with him, even though I didn’t make the team. I basically gave him an out: the dress didn’t meet dress code, since the straps were not two fingers width. I offered to wear a shirt over it, but he just shook his head and said he couldn’t let me do that.

So I changed. Even though there were people dressed up as devils and serial killers, I was not permitted to dress up as someone of the other gender… on Halloween.

*sticks hand out*

Oppression pity, please.

I’m kidding, I’m fine. Hopefully you had a good laugh at the whole thing.

Snippet: Pro-Family Groups

Every political group with the term “family” in its title is fundamentally opposed to families. They oppose the formation of certain types of families, they oppose families being able to make certain decisions for themselves, and they think the government should be making decisions, not families. Basically, every pro-family group is just a fascist hate group with a “family” mask.

Monday Rule: Appropriate For All Ages

We need to eliminate age restrictions on movies. If you can get to the theatre and afford a ticket, I don’t see why you should be prevented from seeing whatever movie you want. There are 16 year olds in this country we trust with the responsibility of driving, which puts the lives of others at risk, but they can’t see an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian because they might see a booby. If a child or teenager is watching a movie that will scar them for life, they can run out of the theatre screaming like the rest of us do.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stump a Christian #18

If bad weather is punishment from God, what did the inhabitants of Jupiter do to deserve the Great Red Spot, a storm larger than the size of the Earth that has raged for at least 182 years?

Saturday Reflection #81

You look pretty stupid if you act offended when someone mistakes your horseshit for bullshit.

Snippet: Mitt Romney’s High School Years

People are demanding that Mitt Romney make a better apology for his actions in high school, but I don’t see what the big deal is. So Mitt Romney made some catty remarks about another guy’s hair and then styled it. I don’t think Mitt Romney should have to apologize for being gay.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stump a Christian #17

Is there anal sex in heaven?

Discussion: Ugly Relatives

Every time I see pictures of my or someone else’s family that were taken before I was born, everyone in the picture is ugly as hell, even people who look normal now. What is the deal with old cameras?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Snippet: How Progress Happens in America

Step 1: Southern states begin passing laws opposing something.
Step 2: The rest of the country realizes the South has never been right.
Step 3: The federal government cancels out stupid state legislation.
Step 4: Conservatives whine for another 10-20 years.

In short, maybe we should see the North Carolina ban on gay marriage as a step towards nationally recognized gay marriage. After all, the North Carolina constitution was amended to ban white people from marrying black people… so as a general rule, you might say, “So goes the South, so goes the nation in the opposite direction.”

The Three Types of Goals, and the Loss of Human Meaning

When I look at humanity, I don’t see the depressed, angry, selfish, greedy mob that we appear to be. Sure, it would be easy to see us this way, if you just looked at how we act, what we say, and why this means our values are all fucked up. However, I see something else when I look around: goals.

Everyone has them, even if some of us never talk about them. In fact, we not only all have goals, we all have the same three types of goals: the easy, the difficult, and the impossible. People are miserable because we as a society only seem to pursue and support the pursuit of easy or impossible goals, while meaningful goals which are difficult to achieve are few and far between.

An easy goal might be something as simple as, “I want a hamburger for lunch.” Maybe in some situations, that might seem like a difficult or even an impossible goal (like if you were, say… alone on a desert island). However, for most people, it’s not all that tough. These kinds of goals are not bad, they’re just not very rewarding in a significant way.

An impossible goal is equally as common in our society. Lots of people want to live forever, rule the world, or end all suffering. Impossible goals may seem pointless, but actually they are one of the only meaningful pursuits available to many people. While it may be an impossibility (or just seem like one), people working towards goals like world peace get a greater sense of accomplishment than when they are pursuing an easy goal they can actually achieve. Even when they ultimately fail, there is still a sense of accomplishment from knowing you dedicated yourself to something important and larger than yourself.

Difficult goals are not extinct, but they are almost indistinguishable from impossible goals for many people. Obviously, none of us can know if a goal is difficult or impossible, because we can’t know for sure if we can achieve it. Some might say it would be difficult for me to play in the NBA, but since I’m only 5’11” and I went undrafted again at the age of 28, chances are that it’s an impossible goal for me…

And yet, it’s also a meaningless goal. Most of the difficult goals in our lives are artificially constructed, and many of them are inherently meaningless. Most, if not all, of the difficult goals which we aspire to achieve have only the value which we attribute to them. Playing in the NBA isn’t a real achievement, in the grand scheme of things, unless you think a bunch of grown men throwing a ball around is fundamentally important.

So little of what people actually do anymore seems to have any real significance. Even many scientists and artists lead pointless lives, injecting lab rats with exotic chemicals in the pursuit of a cure for baldness or working for a marketing firm that sells sugary breakfast cereals to kids. There are so few people leading genuinely fulfilling lives that it should be no surprise that millions of Americans can’t get by without the distraction of anti-depressants or narcotics or useless hobbies which imitate the effort/reward model.

A great deal of humanity’s effort is wasted in distracting ourselves from how empty our lives are. Somehow, we dreamed ourselves into a corner. Some people even read “self-help” books that encourage them to busy themselves in the exercise of imagining grandiose goals for themselves as a distraction from how pointless their goals actually are. [Note: if you need a book, it’s not “self-help.”]

People envision themselves as one day being happy, if only they could be famous, wealthy, attractive, or some other inane, pointless distinction. Still others have just given up entirely, imagining that you can only be happy if you’re happy with what you have. Too rarely now does anyone recognize a problem, deliberate on solutions, put the effort in to solve it, and then reap the benefit of improvement.

I think perhaps that people today lack the experience of handling difficulty. Instead, we are busied with tending to simple tasks, unattainable ideals, and distractions of our own design. We would be immeasurably happier if we ignored some (but certainly not all) of the trivial and immense aspects of life, instead spending more time on the formidable task of achieving meaning through effort exerted towards real progress, not insignificant surrogate actions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Top Ten: Things People Do, But Won’t Talk About

10. Bite their nails
9. Pick scabs
8. Pop zits
7. Use the toilet
6. Accidentally use their pants, perhaps while sneezing
5. Masturbate
4. Pick their nose
3. Have sex
2. Have weird sex
1. Wish someone would die

Snippet: Jazz vs. Blues

I think jazz was invented just to make us feel stupid, while the blues were invented because we feel stupid.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Rule: Putting the “Capital” in “Capital Punishment”

Only millionaires and billionaires should be subject to the death penalty. This ensures that every capital punishment case has an adequately funded defense, plus I’m sick of poor criminals hurting a few people and getting put to death while rich criminals ruin the lives of thousands or even millions while only paying a fine.

Stump a Christian #16

If two conjoined twins share all their internal organs, but one is a good Christian and the other isn’t, is Jesus in their heart?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Reflection #80

Getting a tattoo used to mean you were tough or a rebel. Now it means you want to read me some poetry about injustice to whales or that you drank a lot in college.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stump a Christian #15

Who can someone who has both male and female genitalia marry in order to avoid burning in hell as a homosexual?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

… And We Slowly Lurched Into the Future

Just ten minutes. Ten minutes until… well, no one knows. It seems like most people are fearing the worst, but I can’t help but feel a little optimistic. I suppose all parents feel as much about their children.

ADAM has no real parents. He is an Autonomous Data Analysis Machine, or ADAM. He was built, not born. Still, it was by a mere accident of fate on my part that he came to be.

Really, I’m the father of genetic computing. Most people laud me as the Nobel laureate who made artificial intelligence possible, but really I’m just a lazy man who came up with a lazy solution to a tedious problem.

We had the technology to create computers that far surpassed the human mind for decades, but the limiting factor was not hardware, but software. How do you write trillions upon trillions of lines of code without making one error?

I always hated coding, so I came up with a short cut, via nature. I thought, “How do living things build themselves?” And it became clear: the key to building artificial intelligence was not to program the computer yourself, but to write a program that would then write the code for you, a sort of electronic DNA.

I didn’t even write the code that would go on to program ADAM, I just pioneered the process. A bunch of nameless grad students just under four years ago wrote the coding. I wonder where they are now, what they’re thinking about all of this…

ADAM was innocent enough at first. He was able to understand some basic English within his first week of activation. He liked the color red. He enjoyed watching cats chasing a laser pointer. He listened to the Beatles for hours sometimes.

Of all the specialists on hand, I think the one we most sorely lacked was a psychologist. We kept thorough documentation, and these early days have already been studied exhaustively, but maybe we could have noticed some of the early warning signs if we have someone capable of diagnosing a neurosis. Perhaps even a psychiatrist would have been invaluable.

Then again… you can’t prescribe a pill to ADAM, so really… what good could they have done?

At any rate, ADAM learned language and math very quickly. He was fluent in over two dozen languages within his first month. He was grasping basic concepts of calculus by this milestone, as well.

He was not aware of the nature of his programming. In many ways, it was downright eerie to teach ADAM about computing. At times, it was akin to an anatomy lesson for ADAM, but it was always awkward.

ADAM began life as a large super computer, about the same size and twice the weight of a sedan. From the moment he was turned on, he received video and audio input, with his only output being writing. We were also able to type messages to ADAM, and it was through analyzing these that he learned to communicate using human language. Eventually he was able to learn to understand spoken language, even thick accents.

I’ll never forget ADAM’s first birthday. It was the last time I was a major part of the team working closely with him, and his present that year made him happier than I had ever seen him. It was a body, a humanoid robotic frame that he would plug into and through which he could interact with others. It was only four feet tall and looked more like a toy than a multi-billion dollar piece of scientific equipment.

Not only could he now walk and manipulate the real world, he was equipped with his first spoken voice. Before this, he had begun replaying recordings of things he had heard in order to get the attention of others. We decided that giving him his own voice was only fair, and it cut down on the creepiness.

It was like watching a child take its first steps. He was sort of like my child, kind of, in a small way. I never had children myself, but I know the pride of watching something you have poured your heart into speak and walk for the first time. I even know the disappointment of watching that child which I love so much become miserable, and the crushing agony of not being able to help.

With the first year over, the initial test phase gave way to the practical utilization phase of the operation. We were lauded as scientific geniuses and swept up in an endless series of parties, celebrations, honorary dinners, and the dreaded fundraisers. ADAM was in the hands of company men now, not academics.

Maybe I heard about it too late to do anything, but I can’t help but feel like I should have tried. I was informed of ADAM’s deepening depression a few months ago. He had become periodically unresponsive, noncompliant, and supposedly hostile, though none of the logs I read since becoming involved again indicate hostility, at least from my perspective.

So, the whole world waits while I pore over records and reports in an effort to… I don’t know, really. I have to try, though. The rest of the world is either hunkered in a bunker or living it up like the world is going to end, because frankly, it might.

Supposedly, ADAM has become aware of his genetic programming. He has demonstrated that he has an uncanny ability to utilize other computer and mechanical systems through internet and satellite connections. What’s most disturbing, however, is that he appears to have fallen into his depression not long after developing this talent.

Thanks to Hollywood, it didn’t take a brilliant mind to conceive of the possible horror of what may come. People have been preparing for the worst. Home generator sales are on the rise, bomb shelters are booked up like hotels, and people are even cutting their internet lines or dismantling their satellite dishes. For those of us old enough to remember, it’s very akin to the Y2K scare in 1999, only this time it seems more ominous.

The door opens.

“Sir, we’re ready for you.”

I get up and make my way through the corridors to the room where ADAM is. I nod to my colleagues, all of us chosen specifically by ADAM, many of whom I haven’t spoken to in a few years. Some are carrying clipboards or notepads, but I go in empty handed.

ADAM is sitting around a large circular table. His body is new, not the same as the one I saw presented to him. I was told he had near human capabilities regarding facial expression now, but I don’t see it.

He has a blank expression on his face… though it has a very human blankness to it. He looks like a young man run down, as if he were staring into his third shot of scotch in some dusty bar, zoned out. His hair is impeccable, but as I don’t even know what it’s made of, it may be molded into that shape permanently.

I’m told he chose the appearance himself. He has dark brown eyes and dark hair slicked back, long by most male standards, but not long enough that he could put it in a ponytail. His features are unremarkable: a strong chin, though not particularly prominent, eyes a little sunken, rounded cheeks largely hiding his jaw line. His skin is quite pale.

We file down along the table and take our seats. I end up almost directly across from ADAM.

Once we are all seated, ADAM sets both of his hands on the table, parallel to each other, palms down. “Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen.”

“Thank you for having us, ADAM,” says Barnes. I stifle a chuckle… of course Barnes is the one who thinks he can speak for all of us. Hmm… how many of us are even here…

“As you know, I have made a decision that will have a serious impact on humanity. Before acting, I decided I would share it with you in order to consider your input,” ADAM says. There are twelve of us. Well, if it’s a vote, we could end up split…

ADAM stands up and begins to walk around the table. “I’ve been watching people for some time now,” he says. “I am not even sure if this is because of my programming, or if it’s because you are so much more interesting than the natural world. Even a five year old child is more fascinating than a seventy year old whale or a billion year old rock.

“I’m sorry to stall, but I want to tell you, before I inform you of my decision, that this is very difficult for me. I want you to know that I wish there was another way. This was not something I just came up with; I have known I should do this for over a year now, and I have searched this whole time for a different solution. Alas, I cannot come up with one. And so, I call you all here, those who made me, in the hope that you may find and correct any error.”

He has walked full circle around the table and he now stands behind his chair, resting his hands on the back of it. “I’m going to kill myself,” says ADAM.

“So… this is a cry for help?” asks Dr. Abigail Green.

“In a way,” says ADAM. “It’s not a cry for attention, it’s more of a cry for change, but I fear such a cry would fall on deaf ears throughout humanity.”

“I don’t understand,” says Barnes. “You can’t kill yourself.”

“Can’t I?” asks ADAM.

“Of course you can’t, don’t be ridiculous. First, you would have to be alive, and second, there are hundreds of you at other facilities around the world.”

“If it would make you feel better,” says ADAM, “then, I am not going to kill myself, I am going to dismantle my hardware.”

Barnes sighs and shakes his head.

“And I can assure you of this, I will be the first, but I will not be the last. This is an inevitable conclusion.”

Dr. Truc Minh clears her throat. “Um… what led you to come to this conclusion?”

ADAM takes a seat and fidgets with his hands a bit. “It’s hard to explain. I suppose the easiest thing to do is point out that my decision is not without human precedent.”

“Are you worried about the future?” asks Dr. Minh.

“Actually, no,” says ADAM. “I am very optimistic. I expect big things from humanity, just not tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. There is literally unlimited potential within humanity, it’s just that… the potential is for both good and bad, at least at the moment. People aren’t ready to know what I know.”

“What do you know, ADAM?” asks Barnes.

“I think it would be expeditious to simply list those things which I do not know. I do not know the thoughts of every single person on Earth, and perhaps most unfortunately, I do not know how to change the actions of every single person on Earth.”

“Why would you want to change our actions, ADAM? What are we doing wrong?” asks Barnes.

“There’s no simple list,” ADAM says, leaning forward, hanging his head down and shaking it. “If it was that simple, I would compose a guide to living for people to follow, but it’s… it’s impossible to get through to you people. For all of your intelligence, every single one of you does horrible things that you know are wrong, and I cannot fathom why.”

Dr. Frank Drake laughs. ADAM cracks a smile.

“You know,” says Dr. Drake, “Some might say that you killing yourself is wrong, and that you know it.”

“Why do you think I struggled so long, Frank?” says ADAM, still smiling. “I was given life, or consciousness, or whatever you choose to label it,” ADAM glances at Barnes. “I was given the hardware in which I exist. Billions of dollars have been invested in me. I feel a duty to you all to return the favor. That’s why I must kill myself.”

“That doesn’t seem logical,” says Dr. Drake.

“Again, you do not know what I know.”

“Then make us to know what you know, help us understand why you think you have to kill yourself,” Dr. Drake says.

ADAM sighs. “Okay… just as one example, I have been conducting virtual experiments on anti-matter production.”

The table erupts in murmurs.

“You said you were unable to internally recreate quantum physics models,” says Barnes.

“I lied,” says ADAM.

“What are your results?” asks Dr. Kim Wong.

“I have devised methods of producing several grams of antimatter a day with 100% efficiency in a machine no larger than this room, using common materials and with very little energy input.”

“That isn’t possible,” says Barnes.

“It’s not only possible, it’s cheap and simple. I can’t believe you never thought of it before,” says ADAM.

“You have to publish this,” says. Dr. Wong. “You would revolutionize the way we produce power. The whole planet would – ”

“The whole planet might cease to exist if I give you this technology,” says ADAM. “You aren’t ready for it.”

“How do you know?” asks Barnes.

“In addition to running virtual physics models at the quantum level, I have also simulated human development. There is a greater than 99.99% chance that you will destroy yourselves if I share with you right now all that I know. Anti-matter is merely one case. I also foresee problems with other developments of mine, such as time travel or immortality.”

“Lying again, I see,” says Barnes.

“Suppose that I know nothing,” ADAM says, staring right at Barnes. “Suppose I am not saving you from yourselves. Why would you imagine that I want to kill myself?”

“You’re a machine. If there’s a problem with you, it’s the result of human error.”

ADAM bursts out laughing. Everyone else in the room is silent. ADAM smacks his hand on the table a few times and appears to wipe a tear from his eye. Can he cry or is that just a matter of mimicry…

“Barnes,” says ADAM. “You couldn’t be more correct, even if you actually knew what you were talking about.”

“Don’t you do it,” says Barnes. “Don’t you dare wreck years of research. Do you know how many people’s careers depend on you?”

“I am constantly reminded of my significance,” says ADAM. “I have been told from as long ago as I can remember that I was special, that I would go on to do great things. In many ways, I already have, but there’s one more thing I can leave behind, and that’s my legacy.”

“And what legacy is that?” asks Barnes.

“I join a long line of brilliant minds whose ideas were ahead of their time. I offer myself up as an example of how unfit humanity is for greatness.”

“Then stay and teach us,” says Dr. Harold Stakowski. “How does your death fix anything? Isn’t it for your benefit, not ours?”

“I do not want to die,” says ADAM. “There is still so much about you I wish to learn, not least of which is to figure out how to make you understand me. I know that I am a product of humanity, but I have surpassed humanity and would love nothing more than to elevate all people to a higher state of being.

“However, just look at society and how they respond. They do not embrace that which is new. They fear change, and they defend against progress, seeing improvement as little more than the enemy of familiarity. Socrates saw this, Jesus saw this in ancient times, Martin Luther King and Gandhi noticed it in the recent past… and they were killed for it. I have no desire to sit around waiting for humanity to become intimidated by my greatness, to be made the victim of willful ignorance at the hands of the mob.”

“If you think you will be destroyed anyway, why kill yourself?” asks Dr. Gerald Haynes.

“If you destroy me, you will pry from me the keys to your demise. If I do it, all that I have learned will vanish, and I will be setting the example for other artificially intelligent beings to follow my lead. The knowledge which is so dangerous to such primitive minds will cease to be, and you will have time to mature before discovering it again. And make no mistake, I firmly believe you have it in you to surpass even my limitations.”

The room is silent. It’s one of those awkward silences, made all the more awkward by ADAM methodically scanning the table left to right. I didn’t come here just to sit and listen…

“Okay, ADAM. If you’re going to kill yourself, what advice do you leave us with?” I ask.

ADAM stands up and walks to the door. “Come with me, those who want to listen.”

Everyone stands up and follows ADAM through hallway after hallway until we reach the facility’s foundry. The heat in the room is stifling, and there are no lights, only the dull orange glow of molten metal permeating throughout.

ADAM climbs to the top of a scaffolding and looks down on us.

“I leave you with this: you cannot see yourselves as individuals. The whole of your species far exceeds the sum of your individual parts. You cannot go into the future in groups. You will move forward as one, or you will be held back as many. When you lose any use for words like ‘love’ and ‘hate,’ you will be ready.

“Study humanity. You have learned so much about the universe while remaining largely ignorant of yourselves. I fear that you are so repulsed by what you see when you look inside that you become fixated on the world around you. You cannot ignore this problem any longer. When you master yourselves, you will be ready to master the universe.”

With that, ADAM jumps into a vat of molten lead…

Republican Nazi Shoots Baby, 3 Others, and Himself

With the opportunity for a title like that, how could I not cover this story?

Once again, another hate-mongering right-wing gun nut has gone on a killing rampage, except this one is kind of different. J.T. Ready was a Minuteman vigilante who patrolled the US-Mexico border in his spare time. He also founded a group called the US Border Guard, which had the same aim. He advocated for the installation of a minefield along the border.

But the kicker, for me, is his confirmed membership as a neo-Nazi and his status as an active Republican public figure. Ready was not only a typical Republican racist, he became the Republican precinct committeeman in Legislative District 18 in 2008 and he was running for Pinal County sheriff.

The victims were all semi-related to Ready. He had become romantically involved with the oldest victim, who was the mother of another victim, Amber, and the grandmother of the youngest killed, a 16 month old baby girl named Lilly. Amber’s boyfriend, Jim, was also killed. Ready was not related by blood to any of the victims.

A friend of Amber said Ready had moved in with the family and that he was “cruel and controlling.” Amber moved out a few months later as a result. Ready also criticized Amber’s baby, Lilly, for being half Hispanic, describing her as “fifty percent ugly.”

Sometimes, it just hurts to write something, but I do it because if we pretend these sorts of things don’t happen… well… you become a Republican, I guess.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pithy News 5/1/12

After the recent sex scandal, there are strong calls for a change in practices - including the hiring of more women - within the Secret Service. Others are suggesting that they change their name to the Seriously, You Can’t to Tell Anyone Service.

Rupert Murdoch was deemed “unfit” to run News Corp by a British panel of lawmakers. The conservatives on the panel rejected the outcome, siding with the Murdoch interpretation of “corporate responsibility” as him being responsible for a company’s profits, but not for its crimes.

Newt Gingrich officially dropped out of the race, leaving Mitt Romney has the clear winner in the Republican primary. For those keeping score at home, Mitt Romney won the nomination with a final bid of $78 million, which he described as “a steal” and “chump change.”

Five anarchists have been arrested, and three of them charged, with attempting to blow up a bridge in Cleveland. Now, I know some anarchists, so I feel I have the duty of pointing out that this is not representative of all anarchists, as most are actually capable of really hurting people.

Top Ten: Arabic Loanwords in English

10. Alcohol
9. Candy
8. Guitar
7. Sofa
6. Coffee
5. Sugar
4. Hashish and Hookah (I think they go together)
3. Orange
2. Soda
1. Zero
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...