trypophobia, existentialism, lotus pods, Nihilophobia

Eyes of The Lotus Pod

You Look as Strange to Them

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Living periscopes ascend, vindicating intuitions that they’re not mere plants. Examine the elongated totems like some chess master absorbed by a whirlwind of counterfactuals. Only they are not pieces in your game. You are a pawn in theirs.

Minutes assail you, warriors to be killed one at a time. The pink froth of the sunset drips down the pods, sending their dark affinities squirming toward your feet like mutant apprentices deployed to ensnare. Purple eyes watch yours watching them watch yours. Follow the regress. Pretend you have a choice.

One inference attains solidity. Lotus Pods are security cameras placed here to observe us. To observe you. Conduits of a Power more primal and remorseless and inscrutable than gravity, their segmented eyes gander not with indifference but affects unnamed by any human tongue. To what Mind do they connect? What dark soul presses against those convex windows?

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Remember something. You look as strange and vile to them. A narcotic called Routine stupefies you until bizarre things elicit a yawn. If you took the shears and made a deep incision across your abdomen you’d be forced to agree the contents are every whit as grotesque and unfathomable as the ghastly plants. Almost. Your hypocrisy is audacious. You arose from the happenstance conjunction of two cells and grew in the dank hollow of another creature before being ejected in a protoplasmic discharge; you spend your days chasing the wind on a rock lit by a distant conflagration of gases, gnawing the flesh of your fellow entities for sustenance, yet you dare to point an accusatory finger at the lotus pods?

Leaves grow between the minutes, entangling them, impeding whatever it is that clocks measure or detect or warn us about. You’ve had it all wrong. You saw the present as a night between two days, one illumed by the glare of hindsight, the other distorted by the mirage of dreams and expectations. Seeing the leaves quiver in the breeze you realize the only true light is the flickering candle of NOW floating down a switchback, away from one abyss and toward another, casting its measly glow on no one knows what. Before and Later are funhouse distortions that make the room look bigger. The room is tiny. Everyone else is playing make believe in a closet. You don’t have to. Look at the lotus pods. Now.

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With the indifference of sages they regard you, their eyes dilated by the same deliriant coursing through your veins: a hallucinogen called Life. How to account for its high esteem despite a 100% mortality rate and side-effects too numerous to list? No accounting for taste. Those freaks who worship it, who want to find more in space should come here. This is what they’re excited about? How is it more fascinating or sacred or deserving of study than granite or helium?

Or Nothing. How do we explain our ultimate ancestor? Awake from your dogmatic slumber. Pace before globular muses. Squeeze your head to prevent an eruption. These thoughts can’t fit in the cheap Tupperware of language. Will they spoil if not preserved? Is the resultant poison lethal?

No, it’s worse.

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Free on Kindle Nov. 23 – 26

It’s not too late to hide. Maybe use cinder-blocks to build a wall between them and the house. Will you need to board up the windows? What if they can see thoughts? What redundant cautions and elaborate rituals will suffice to deflect rays emanating from these violet orbs?

If you can’t hide there’s no reason not to continue your studies indoors, to attain a fresh vantage as a practitioner of the scientific method, to follow in the footsteps of Newton and Darwin. Or are you standing on the shoulders of Faust?

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Retrieve two flower pots and a spade from the garage. Your shadow materializes on the side like a cave only you may enter. There’s no little surprise that clawed hands don’t reach through the soil to defend these sentries, unless this is their desire. Ignore the ancient puzzle: you’re free to do what you want but not to want what you want. Like all philosophic riddles its practical upshot is nil. Regardless of which diabolic force entails your behavior, you dig up two with greater caution than a man probing a minefield. Defying your expectations, the Indian Ocean doesn’t geyser from the holes. Nor do the roots wrap around your throat.

With the measured steps of a Flying Wallenda you take them inside and place them on the kitchen table. Do they have any idea how hideous they are? In the garden, their eyes pointed at the house. What would happen if they saw each other? Place a trembling hand on each pot. Prepare to turn them, to magnify their cognition to the level of omniscience. Medusa, meet Medusa.

But arranged like this you won’t see what they see. There is one way to partake of their Objective view. Remove the mirror in the living room and drag it upstairs. Position it across from the one in your bedroom. Put a tower speaker between them. Place the pods on it back to back, the eyes of each facing opposite mirrors. Don’t look! Not yet. You want to taste the forbidden fruit of knowledge without any observer effect defiling it.

Cover your face with shaving cream. Not good enough. They’ll know who it is from the shape of your head. Look for the Halloween mask your ex mocked, the Yin to Stimpy’s Yang. (“That show is stupid”? This from a woman who records every episode of The Bachelorette.) Don the likeness of that enchanting beast. It won’t fool them for long but you only need a glimpse.

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Poke your head between the mirrors. Look Ptolemy, look into the Hubble telescope. Not all infinite regresses display fractal beauty. See the multi-eyed serpent coil through anfractuous catacombs, all-seeing and self-sustaining.

A blinding bolt of Eureka! cracks the shell of your mind and reveals to the stunned hatchling within a world beyond all wonder. You’ve spent your life solving phantom problems. Why is there anything instead of Nothing? Does creation contain more good than evil? What’s the meaning of Life? These are easy; puerile, even. They’re all explained by …

Your cell plays Low Rider. What if it’s her? Second thoughts could come at any moment. The 100+ plaintive text messages were bound to pay off. Not all women are disgusted by desperation. Exceptions prove the rule. As you reach for your phone Ren’s extended ear knocks one of the pots. Trying to catch it you fall forward and butt the speaker with your head. You stumble and feel a horrendous crunch under one shoe, then the other. A crevasse rends your soul, hollows you out, leaves a void to be filled with the icy expansion of dread. Your ringtone becomes the Introit of a Requiem. Don’t look down. Run!

You should have gone out the front door and never looked back. Like spotlights on watchtowers they beam at you.

“What? They’re inside. I’m going to plant them in the front yard. It’s too crowded back here. I have a beautiful lawn where they can — Why are you looking at me like that?”

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The survivors bear solemn witness to your massacre. With the ominous silence awaiting all things they accuse, judge, condemn. Look at the green and purple guts splattered on your Nikes, alien blood from an all too human weakness. Out damned spot? No earthly water can remove these stains. Fall on your back and remove the murder weapons.

“It was an accident,” you cry, holding a shoe to the heavens like some novice priest after a botched sacrifice. Sap oozes down your forearm, writing a secret map on leathery parchment. Far above, all those chemicals failing to clot in the fathomless reaches of space have no idea how good they have it.

YOU took them to the house. YOU exposed them to risks. Their destruction was not an act of Nature.

“But … I’m a part of Nature. Everything is. We’re all … like … one, you know.”

Not even Johnny Cochran would have tried that.

“I’m sorry,” you sob, prostrate before the obdurate judges. What sentence will they decree? Maybe in a merciful act of vicarious atonement they’ll smite the rest of the human race in your stead. While gazing into the mirror you should have posed a query about the essence of Justice.

“To beg for mercy is to ask for injustice,” you say, burying your face in the long-neglected lawn. “I won’t add insult to injury. I repent in dust and crabgrass.”

The spade juts from the earth. Stop thinking about questions that could be resolved if you take two more pods and create another oracle. What awaits us, sleep or dreams? Are we the sole attendees of this cosmic masquerade? What are tonight’s Powerball numbers?

“Two pods are a tragedy, four are a statistic.” Your conscience, a ghost ship lost at sea, cannot find the shore. Perhaps there isn’t one.

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Banned from Wikipedia! Was that you, Big Pharma, makers of Tryposoothe? It’s nothing but a new-fangled benzo, as if the off-patent ones wouldn’t have worked. For shame.

The Mushroom of Consciousness

A Vertical Odyssey of Extraordinary Peril

Monks in the Temple of 11,111,117 Holes

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Ontology, philosophy, Quietude

The Pythagorean-Euclidean Reformation

What’s the difference between G-d and Prime Numbers?

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The Former has causal agency and absolute simplicity; the latter share the essence of permanence itself. Humankind will morph into something worse and vanish altogether. The sun will devour the earth and turn to ash and the motley caravan of days will journey no more, but an infinitude of Primes will remain, irreducible, imperishable, pulsing with life like bioluminous creatures in a dark sea, not contingent quirks in a vale of tears but omnipresent passageways to all possible worlds, their properties impervious to the warp of dreams and the solvent of Time.

The Ishango bone from 23,000 BCE with its nineteen and seventeen and thirteen and eleven notches, is it not a baton handed to us by Paleolithic kin, a magic wand brandished by apprentice sorcerers? When they weren’t drawing bison or sharpening spears they were tantalized by the same riddles that obsessed Euclid. They may not have discovered the causal relation between sex and pregnancy, obvious only in retrospect, but they knew some numbers are more powerful. Some numbers are magic.

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Go back further. Do you see him? Seated on his haunches in the brush waiting for creatures you couldn’t find on Wikipedia in a month. Do not let the grandiloquent names of eras fool you. In the way a finite number of sunsets separates you from childhood, a longer orange and black chain of days connects you to him playing with rocks. He gathers six and puts them in two groups of three then three groups of two. Six disappears like a patch of water on the horizon that fades when he goes to inspect. He adds a stone. He adds a stone and mixes them into groups of three and four, two and two and two and one, six and one. They defy all attempts at destruction, possessing some intrinsic cohesion as though consisting of persistence itself, which they do.

Furrows distort his pronounced brow. He has no sounds to affix to the visions and sensations flooding the cave behind his eyes. An antelope wanders past but he does not see it. A cloud of dust arises over his futile attempt to reduce the stones. The sun spreads his shape over the concoction, creating the first blackboard. Which discovery is greater, his or Newton’s? He picks up the stones* and holds them to his chest to share their indestructibility? Perhaps man’s longings for everlasting life arose thus.

Standing upon his shoulders, mathematicians savor a vicarious taste of immortality, interacting with Beings who will endure, the sole survivors, the ultimate hombres. Space and time will expand and explode like some cheap balloon, leaving a puff of quantum dust, but Primes will endure undiminished, glowing with life in a sea of Nothing, unbound by the chain of days. They never weren’t and always will be. You weren’t, barely are now, and soon won’t be. You jelly?

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This mystery religion demands sacrifices, but not of blood. Men sell their souls. Why not their sanity? Maybe the erosion occurs naturally. After glimpsing the Foundation of things, jeweled pillars in a secret kingdom sought by philosophers and poets and scientists alike, the return to this stockyard of flux is more desolate than Lazarus’s homecoming.

Mathematicians are watchers in a sacred garden, observing fauna more fantastic and elusive than gryphons or centaurs. And you can never join them. Ever. Your C+ in Algebra did not equip you for this expedition. You are a paralytic separated by a canyon from Riemann’s forest, its august splendor cloaked in the bewitching haze of twilight. Even for the Elect who can enter the hidden paths it soon becomes too dense. Many do not find their way out.

If the summum bonum is contemplation of the divine, how indescribably cruel to predestine most to ignorance. Surely some approach is possible, some humble veneration. Making up in vigor what it lacks in precision, an analogy suggests itself. Few Catholics understand the philosophy of Aquinas. Neither do they need to. Salvation comes from faith and good works. And ritual. Ritual sustains everything else. Unfortunately the asceticism of the Pythagoreans makes their reverence difficult, not that you didn’t try. There were fewer temptations in ancient Greece. Vegetarianism is easy when there isn’t a Burger King on every corner. A new faith is needed. When in doubt: WWMLD? (What would Martin Luther do?)

Pythagoreans' Hymn to the Rising Sun, 1869 (oil on canvas)

In The Temple of 1,234,567,654,321,234,567 There Are Two Divisors

The disciples of Pythagoras lost their way due to doctrinal entropy. Latter-day secularists (“mathematicians”) spend their days scribbling hieroglyphics, discussing Star Wars and Far Side cartoons and disdaining the reverent awe of the simple devout. The wielder of the Ishango bone would have clubbed them. They need an empiricist monk to ground their work and offer it as a sacrament to the faithful. They need a Temple where the incorporeal suffers the contortions of Existence to join the common man, that doomed but defiant twinkle of statistical glory who always turns to iconic representations to focus his mind on what he venerates but cannot see, to deflect his attention from the motley caravan of days. And Temples need keepers

The 3,370,501 paper clips in your storage Pod are as tangible as the bones of the martyrs enshrined in the Otranto Cathedral. The Rubbermaid totes in the garage, decorated with glow in the dark stars and filled with assorted screws, nuts, and bolts, need to be counted on a regular basis. You would not pray the rosary only once. (The Tic Tacs were a bad idea; foolish even. The ants could not be quantified and the Tic Tacs decreased.)

Removing the fourth step to your front door left a big drop, but the top is now a magnificent throne overlooking seventy-nine pink flamingos spray painted gold. Judiciously chiseled off the walls in the living room, missing portions of crown molding create 101, 103, 107, and 109 arches respectively. Added to the first floor, a seventh door leads to a tiny cave of crumbling plaster, but its absence was intolerable. In the aquarium across from you, Hardy and Littlewood the Oscars hover like prehistoric genies, incredulous witnesses of a bygone time. Segmented amber eyes separated by fist-thick foreheads watch you watch them watch you watch them. Out of their line of sight, a community tank of Tiger Barbs flanks the fridge. The unexpected demise of the thirty-first necessitated feeding one to the Oscars to preserve the tank’s harmony.

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Unlike a Mandela** representing the impermanence of things, the 444,449 marbles covering your basement floor signify persistence. How many nights have you spent scooping handfuls, rolling in them, marveling at the certainty that no smaller assemblage can infiltrate and disband them, that they constitute a perfect unity despite their multitude. If only your mammoth-hunting forbear could join you. Rest assured, he is here in spirit. So is Goldbach and Euler and Gauss and Ramanujan and perhaps we are not distinct minds but manifestations of a Great Monad pondering the eternal. Death will not extinguish your flame. It will rejoin those who have partaken of these mysteries, which means your self or ego or whatever they’re calling it this week is an illusion. You do not exist independently of thoughts about the Primes.

No faith is bereft of tribulation. The presence of the Truth increases knee-trembling questions. Pascal was a featherweight when it came to angst. And gambling.  The number of irreducible particles in the universe either is or is not prime. Can you live without knowing? If not, the competing option poses interesting problems. The Taurus Raging Bull in your dresser can hold six. For all numbers other than three, if a prime gathers you unto the Great Monad, a non-prime is your epitaph; if a prime remains, you were felled by a feeble, reducible assassin. The 15,683rd day of your life approaches. Decide by then or you’ll have to wait for the 15,731st.

Caution is required when adding bottle caps to the collection in the attic. How could you think 22,333 is prime? Your status as a simple monk does not absolve you from the responsibility of thought. Count them the day after you open them.

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Hose the bird droppings off the bronze address numbers affixed to the back of the garage. 6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,641 mocks the insubstantiality of physical reality. That many grains of sand would not fit inside the universe. So much the worse for the universe, this botched concoction, this hodgepodge of waves and particles seen through a glass darkly.

6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666, 666,666,641 exposes the shadowy stuff of which you consist. Kneel before it and raise your arms. Squint and see how they are misty outlines. Behind them 6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,641 catches the light, not dependent on it for illumination, gleaming like some golden bridge over the stream of Heraclitus. Sixes do not secede from this union. They do not reveal themselves as circles and arches and squiggles the way letters in a word do if stared at too long. Run your fingers across it. Feel it pulse with the heartbeat of Reality. Ignore your Gladys Kravitz-like neighbor’s incredulous stare. The ravenous indifference of Reality will soon devour her. And other things.

Note well: if G-d is not free to make square triangles, married bachelors, alternatives to modus ponens, or give 6,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666,666, 666,666,666,641 more than two divisors He is as powerless before them as you. The Supreme Mathematician’s workshop was built to fit the anfractuous corridors of an a priori labyrinth. Perhaps He spends His days soaring past zeros on Riemann’s critical line, approaching omniscience since no amount of positive confirmations can prove it, exploring the endless beauty of a landscape He did not create. Blasphemy and crazy talk? Then what is the nature of their relation?

Cicadas buzz, having emerged from a slumber of thirteen or seventeen years to mate for a few weeks and die. Who’s the wisest animal again? In your armchair you prepare seven bottle tops for the collection. Hardy and Littlewood shimmy up and down their aquarium, ignoring partially submerged Ping-Pong balls. Through bubble walls they soar like enraged deities defending a crystal cosmos. The enormity of the tank filled with 151 gallons fails to diminish the footballs with fins, as though their significance is not dependent on any relation to a grander scheme, as though their fierce nobility and purpose would endure in the totality of water.

4-7-10079

Novels Featuring Mathematicians Afflicted with Great Evil

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*Not the band.

**Petronius Jablonski created a Mandela made entirely from colorful bits of Styrofoam, thereby felling the branches of Buddhism predicated on impermanence, hopefully ending their wanton destruction of good art. (They’re worse than Pete Townsend!)

***And how often are primes two apart? Consider 18,407,687 and 18,407,689. The nebulous wisp between them, is it not akin to the dreamlike pasture separating the granite castles of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies? No one knows if there is a biggest such instance of sibling rivalry or if they continue forever. The largest heretofore discovered contains 300,000 digits. It is not impossible that man will join the shells encased in sedimentary rock without figuring it out. Our digital replacements will be no less stumped but more stoic in its face.

The Temple of 11,111,117 Holes

Gus Sanders, Segmentarian

The Pond That Writes The Book

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Literature, Quietude, sweetness of honey

Bobbleheads, Epiphenomenalism, and You

If you don’t choose your thoughts you don’t choose anything

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You don’t choose your thoughts

If a hierarchy governs their placement it eludes codification. No obvious criterion separates the bobbleheads on the upper shelves from those below, certainly none based on contributions to civilization. Why is the Terminator next to the Incredible Hulk? What twisted taxonomy consigns Simon and Garfunkel to different shelves?

Look closer. Patterns emerge and vanish, icebergs of data drifting in an ocean of static, foiling assumptions and postulates. Is chaos a type of order or is order a subvariety of chaos? Are they antipodes or kin? If nothing is random then chaos is shorthand for ignorance. Careful. Some people break codes. Some codes break people. The line is slight and you won’t know you’ve crossed it. Others will.

Perhaps the difficulty involved in their acquisition is key. The bobbleheads easiest to obtain reside in the center. The more rarefied spread out in a spiral pattern. Regrettably these subjective elements necessitate the decryption of a medium even more convoluted. To account for a collection we must first understand its collector, forcing us to explain the enigmatic by means of the incomprehensible.

A Novel of Vengeance, Honor & Bobbleheads

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Vicki & The Bobbleheads

“How many bobbleheads do you have?”

They gander like alien invaders awaiting the signal to attack, their infiltration scheme brilliant in theory (camouflaged in the likeness of their prey) but destined for disaster owing to the retention of their oversized craniums.

“Many are called. Few are chosen.”

“You have more than that bar on Lincoln Avenue.”

“Bobbleheadz. The bobbleheads at Bobbleheadz are mostly sports figures. Quantity counts for nothing. Quality is indefinable.”

“How long have you been collecting them?”

“I prefer not to think of our relationship in those terms, or any. To speak of some things devalues their importance by denying the uniqueness of their nature. It assumes a linguistic currency that can be exchanged for the subject in question. Priceless things have no currency, conceptual or otherwise.”

“So they’re more like roommates or imaginary friends who aren’t completely imaginary. I get it. Not.”

“Would you like to see the heads bobble again?”

“Again? I’ve never been here before.”

“I was thinking of the ones in the bar. You should see these.”

“Big day in a girl’s life. Is this like that act where the performer has to keep ten plates spinning?”

“Much more impressive. Take a seat in the big comfy chair. Stare at the one in the center.”

“Jerry Garcia.”

“It’s Karl Marx.”

“Why is he between Chico and Harpo?”

“Think about it.”

“So you sit here and get baked and watch your bobbleheads.”

“What’s wrong with that? People turn to different things to find shelter from the commotion of life.”

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“I guess. It’s no worse than losers who play video games all day.”

“How flattering. Thank you.”

“Do you do this with other guys or is it a solitary thing?”

“Take three deep breaths. It’s important to relax before you see them.”

“I’m looking right at them.”

“But they aren’t bobbling yet. Take a deep breath and hold it. Let it out slowly.” He flicks a switch on the wall. Cabinet lighting bathes the bobbles in blue neon. “I want you to imagine you’re drifting down a stream of clear water beneath a pale blue sky.”

“What does this have to do with big-headed baseball dolls?”

“First of all, as the presentation will demonstrate, there is not a single sports doll. Not one. Second, I might be exhibiting these at a Bay View art gallery. I’ll have to introduce them several times a day. I need practice. Do you think I’d let people walk up and paw them, let children put their sticky fingers on them? Maybe I shouldn’t bother.”

“Maybe you should pitch this to Cirque du Soleil.”

“Watch the sky change colors. Dark blue. Darker.” He turns on the vibrating dumbbell. His subjects nod like a coliseum of hydrocephalic dwarfs. “Watch them shimmy. Relax. Let your eyes slip out of focus so they look blurry. Blurry like a cloud.   Can you see any faces in the cloud?”

“Yes.”

“Who do you see?”

“Betty Boop.”

“Good, very good. Take a deep breath. Let it out. What color are her eyes?”

“Blue.”

“Are you sure?”

Mm hmm.”

“You’re seeing the sky behind the cloud, that’s why. Just like when you look into the eyes of the blue-eyed man. He is as temporary as a cloud, but the sky behind him remains. Do you understand?”

“I’ve never understood anything less in my entire life.”

“That’s okay. We don’t know anything for certain. That’s why we have instincts. Yours are telling you the current is moving in circles. Look at the cloud being blown by the wind, molded by it. What does it look like now?”

“Count Chocula — No, Franken Berry.”

“Are you afraid of monsters?”

“Monsters aren’t real.”

“Very good. None of the faces are. Only the sky behind them is. There are no individual monsters. What color are Franken Berry’s eyes?”

“Blue.”

“That’s because you’re seeing the sky behind the cloud. Just like when you look into the eyes of the blue-eyed man. The sky is a permanent mind watching you, thinking about you, judging you from behind many passing manifestations. Do you understand?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“That’s good. The wind is getting stronger. You’re spinning faster. Are you dizzy?”

“A little. I’m afraid of drowning.”

“Look down at your feet. It’s a whirlpool. Look how fast the horizon is spinning.” She shrieks. Duncan sips his beer and smiles. “Watch your cloud. Which one are you seeing?”

“Boo Berry.”

“Very good. Look at Boo Berry. Look at his eyes. Think of the blue behind them and the mind of the blue-eyed man and what the mind wants. Then the terrible spinning will stop.”

“What does the mind of the blue-eyed man want?” she pleads.

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He picks up a book and opens it to a page bookmarked by a cigar band. Some sentences are highlighted, others crossed out in red as though stabbed. “He wants you to remember a simple phrase. Then he wants you to forget it until you hear it again. Can you do that?”

“Yes. Anything.”

“The current is slowing down. What does your cloud look like now?”

“The Great Gazoo.”

“What color are his eyes?”

“Blue.”

“And why is that?”

“Because that’s the sky behind the cloud.”

“And the sky is the mind of the blue-eyed man. So deep and blue. So blue and deep.”

“The sky is the mind of the blue-eyed man,” she says. “The sky is the mind of the blue-eyed man.”

“Excellent. Look into the blue of his eyes. A blissful calm washes over you like you just had an orgasm. You’re not tired but you’ve never felt more peaceful in your life. Do you like this calm?”

“It’s like ecstasy.”

“Ecstasy the drug or the many states of being squeezed into that concept?”

“Yeah.”

“Would you like to feel this way all the time?”

“I couldn’t drive or go to work.”

“How about feeling like this more often?”

“It’s not worth the effort. Guys resent constructive criticism. It makes them self-conscious. I learned my lesson. Accept what you get or move on.”

“This won’t involve the Pavlovian manipulation of inept boyfriends. Are you interested?”

“Definitely.”

“Then listen very, very carefully.”

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Sweeter Than Anything

I, Petronius Jablonski, scholar and philanthropist, do hereby solemnly swear to NEVER again use the foul, twisted Deep Dream program to ruin good pictures.

The Reader interested in Epiphenomenalism should read this. It’s potential relevance to The Sweetness of Honey and bobbleheads and everything is obvious only in hindsight.

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Go Forth My Book Into the Open Day

“If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that. I’ll live my life or I’ll end my life with this project.”  Herzog

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Existentialism, Literature, sweetness of honey, Truth

Go Forth My Book Into The Open Day

Happy, if made so by its garish eye.
O’er earth’s wide surface take thy vagrant way.

They love not thee: of them then little seek,
And wish for readers triflers like thyself.
Of ludeful matron watchful catch the beck,
Or gorgeous countess full of pride and pelf.
They may say “pish!” and frown, and yet read on:
Cry odd, and silly, coarse, and yet amusing.

The_Sweetness-of-Honey-createspace-PROOF

From Chandelier Press

When a skirmish of practical jokes escalates, three men learn the boundary separating pranks from vengeance is drawn in dust. An eye for an eye becomes a worthless guide once they’re lashing out blindly. Caught in the crossfire of their reprisals, Vicki, a sarcastic hairstylist, must decide whether to take sides in a war or play Gandhi to madmen.

The bullied becomes the bully when Nelson pays Duncan and Tyler back for childhood torments. Such scores never stay settled. Duncan, an obsessive bobblehead collector, sees practical jokes as art. To Tyler it’s all about honor. After they retaliate, the sleep of forgiveness brings forth monsters: a blitzkrieg where suspicion dissolves alliances, mutually assured destruction is no deterrent, and unintended consequences mock all battle plans.

With war comes collateral damage. Hypnotized by a bobble-wielding Duncan, Vicki perpetrates a cruel prank against Tyler. Upon realizing she’s being used as a human IED, the enemy of her enemy becomes her boyfriend. Unknown is whether she’s chosen the right side, or if there is one.

Fantasies of Revenge are indigenous to a shadowy land where nightmares, archetypes, and bestial yearnings vie for dominion. The Sweetness of Honey charts this territory, offering the forbidden fruit of schadenfreude. “Revenge is sweeter far than flowing honey,” said Homer. Bears aren’t the only species willing to endure hardship for a taste.

One: Requiem for Gorillas

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GIWWPN Genius Fellowship Grant

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Existentialism, Ontology, sweetness of honey, Truth

Sweeter Than Honey

Sweeter Than Anything

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From Chandelier Press

If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that. I’ll live my life or I’ll end my life with this project. Herzog

Someday, life will be sweet like a rhapsody. When I paint my masterpiece.  Dylan

To what shall I liken the creative process, birth or death? Yes!  Luigi Zeripaldi

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Chapter Three: The Sorrows of Nelson

An ancient sage said no man should own more than he can carry. Clutching a Hefty bag and watching the dawn rain brimstone on Milwaukee, Nelson makes a virtue of necessity. One of his boots has no laces, forcing him to favor the other leg, signaling a weakness he doesn’t have. If consciousness is a stream, compassion is a rivulet that appeared yesterday and could dry up this afternoon. Don’t count on it during droughts. Don’t count on it ever.

He walks behind a drugstore and leans against a dumpster and searches through his bag and pulls out a pair of jeans. Is the split in the seat too big to be worn in public? Once upon a time. Not now. Amazing how standards change, like a yardstick warped by humidity. The ragged cuffs don’t reach his ankles, but they’re less awful than what he was wearing. He folds those sour shreds and places them in his bag, a tomb of Bethany from which they will one day arise with new life, when the jeans by comparison are worse.

Sunlight oozes over walls painted with cryptic symbols and spreads an orange growth in the alley, irresistible to a one-eyed cat. It makes a pact with gravity and plunges from a windowsill. On its back it stretches and writhes, in the throes of a feline vision quest, perhaps napping with a pride of elders. Contrary to popular belief, pleasure is the absence of pain. Blink and it’s gone. Don’t blink and it’s gone too.

Back on the street Nelson limps with great resolution. In lieu of rage or bewilderment or resignation, the remains of dignity smolder in his eyes. Avoid the inference. If it can happen to him …

He stands across from a bank and studies the digital clock, outraged by its testimony as if arriving from a place where Time’s obscene striptease is prohibited, the wanton display not tolerated.

Drivers watch him. Disgust hops from one host to another like some condemnation from a Universal Mind using individuals as vessels. It inflames a young man driving a pickup, possesses a woman in a Camry, then fills the faces in one shiny vehicle after another until Nelson yearns for the paradise of invisibility or at least the stupefied indifference of his fellow homeless travelers. With what talisman do they deter this demon or aren’t they superstitious?

Funny how you care what others think even when critical issues vie for precedence. A wise man said consciousness is an illness. Then being concerned with the consciousness of others is a fever in a funhouse.

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A yellow Mustang detonates hip-hop tremors across the pavement. The passenger inspects Nelson and looks away as if recanting belief in his existence. A hybrid runs the light to avoid idling next to him. For this they’re saving the planet? Should have bought a Hummer. It requires no psychic to detect thoughts piercing as screams: sentences of exile commanded by dozens of petty dictators each day. Maybe his cohorts who argue with unseen tormentors are practicing soliloquies of innocence. But their energy nourishes the scrutinizers, transforming lowly magistrates in the court of social norms into executive editors deleting names from the Book of Life.

He spits in the gutter and crosses the street. His reflection in the bank window flinches. If only some telescope could have seen this apparition approaching from the distance of ten years. He could have taken another direction. Or were other future incarnations worse? Maybe there was only one. Cold comfort until you think about it. Something made this happen. This. Hard not to take it personally.

The people inside tend an abstraction that grew from the exchange of beads for food, the way sacrificing goats to stop thunder morphed into Mozart’s Requiem. Small changes accrue, leaving few fossils. Remember that. The rest is trivial.

“We don’t have public restrooms,” says the security guard, followed by a disastrous attempt at a smile. Any juries deliberating whether pity is worse than cruelty are dismissed.

“That’s alright,” says Nelson. “I piss and shit outside. Like an animal. There’s something wrong with your clock.”

“It tells the time, temperature, and date. You can watch it for free. Outside.”

“Are you sure my eyes won’t wear it out? I’d be happy to pay for the depreciation. I have some underwear in my bag I could trade.”

On his first day the guard must have thought he’d be foiling robbers, negotiating with kidnappers, and seducing tellers who instead act as vessels of the same harsh judgments haunting Nelson. Some of the patrons turn away from the confrontation, declaring neutrality or at least indifference. Those who watch find succor from the pain that living brings, mollified by the ultimate antidepressant: Schadenfreude XR, time release, a natural tonic used by all people at all times.

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“I want to call your attention to the fact that it’s not showing the same temperature as the credit union,” says Nelson.

“I’ll be sure to mention this to the president.” The guard hands him a pen. “I’d like to thank you for your support.”

“You don’t have to be an ass. I’m trying to help. You need to check and see if anything’s wrong with it.”

“Nothing’s wrong with it. Ours is the correct one.”

“How do you know? Prove it. What if they’re both wrong?”

“Maybe you could keep an eye on our clock. Outside. If you do I’ll give you another pen tomorrow.”

“Can I fill out an application for your job? I promise I won’t mention the grade school diploma that makes me overqualified.” Nelson unzips his parka. A ghastly stench seeps out like some malevolent genie escaping a cracked bottle.

The guard steps closer until his face contorts. He remains a few feet away as though blocked by a force field. Revulsion is an instinct. And judging. He can’t help blaming Nelson for stinking and dressing this way. Everyone naturally believes we choose our traits. Some thoughts are as essential to survival as lust and thirst. Most are lies.

“There’s a restaurant three blocks up the street with a bigger sign,” says the guard.

“It has the same temperature as the credit union. This isn’t a matter of consensus. If it were, your bank would have some explaining to do.”

“Maybe the temperature is different from place to place. Why does it have to be the same everywhere?”

Nelson covers his ears and screams. Two of the guard’s neckless comrades approach, chomping gum. A teller with shooting stars tattooed on her neck and a swarm of earrings grimaces and looks away. Some tribal chieftains killed subjects who walked in their footprints or made eye contact. Talk about privilege. Bank tellers have no such rights.

“The thermometer here is wrong,” Nelson yells to the patrons. “They’re lying to you, you stupid sheep. Don’t you care?” He retreats through the revolving door. This one doesn’t lock when he’s halfway through, trapping him like an insect in a Tic Tac container. Distorted by the tinted glass, the guards watch him like mad scientists performing a biopsy of his soul. He doesn’t wait for the diagnosis. Far above, all those chemicals failing to clot in the silent and beautiful reaches of space have no idea how good they have it.

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Chapter One: Requiem for Gorillas

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Existentialism, philosophy, Schrodinger's Dachshund, Truth

Gus Sanders, Segmentarian

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.  Camus

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The archetypal resemblance between the Grim Reaper’s scythe and your lawnmower, surely it’s no coincidence the Big D carries a yard tool rather than a metal-detector, .357,  or pool cue. To explain the particular, start with the general. Take a step back with Gus Sanders, founder of Segmentarianism. During a Peak Experience (aka Satori) he realized the gods made Sisyphus push a boulder because their mower was in the shop. Based on a true story.

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Gus Sanders rested his hands on bulbous knees jutting above black socks and  gulped for air. With desperate eyes he sized up his abhorrent foe, his Goliath. Its silence, a snide boast of invulnerability, mocked him more than howls of laughter. Unknown muscles in his shoulder and back twitched. He spat and probed for weaknesses. Then the fifty-sixth attack met the same ignominious fate as its predecessors.

He sought sustenance in Hate, which is not a fickle flame contingent on the fuel of man’s misfortunes but a great wind impelling warriors in all ages. His Aussie slouch hat provided scant protection from the jaundiced eye in the heavens. How many conflicts has it beheld, delighted or appalled but never indifferent. That would be intolerable. If  it doesn’t care, who does?

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Impervious, the start chord awaited, an Excalibur only the salesman could effectively extract from the LawnMaster Easy-Start Deluxe Mulching Mower. Gus shielded his eyes and looked to the horizon for strength, for perspective. The earth, is it not a vast coliseum?

Rivulets of sweat added a shimmering gloss to what he saw, but they didn’t create it. Certainly an electrolyte deficiency played a role, but not as a sufficient cause. When he attempted to stretch, the crackle from his back was disturbing but extraneous to what followed. Not all  enigmatic visions can be dismissed as pathologies. The smug little skeptics who deify first principles forget that philosophic fundamentalism is as inbred and ill-kempt as its bucktoothed religious cousin.

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Above a Bucky Badger weather-vane on the garage, cumulus clouds morphed into a ghostly figure pushing a mower across a lawn punctured by iridescent dandelions. He dissolved but the grass remained, as if to ridicule and defile the purpose of his fleeting existence. Gus collapsed. “How many hours of my life have I spent cutting the lawn?” he cried, recoiling from the leprous growth surrounding him.

Mentholated smoke wafted through the den where his wife played Mah Jong on the computer amid the sonorous thunder of “Song Sung Blue.” “Why don’t you wait until the sun goes down?”

“Because it will be dark then. We’d need to add a guide dog to the other five.” He tottered to the kitchen and poured  a gin-and-tonic sans tonic and found a scratch-pad. “Must have started when I was twelve. That’s an hour each week walking behind a deafening machine, choking on exhaust in the scalding sun. Have to do it at least twenty times a year. Forty years times twenty equals … sweet Jesus. That’s over  a month of cutting the lawn non-stop. Look at that segment of my life. Stolen. And I never would have known.”

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“Gussy, what are you shouting about? Why don’t we pay one of the neighbor kids to do it?”

“Because cutting the grass isn’t a video game, and we can’t afford the special helmets they need.” He stared at the numbers like a scientist examining a lethal virus through a microscope. “All the evidence is right here. Anyone could have found it. Unless they’re afraid or brainwashed, why haven’t they? Maybe it’s like people stuck in a communist country who have no idea how restricted their lives are.”

He poured another gin-and-tonic sans tonic and looked out the window at the insidious LawnMaster Easy-Start Deluxe Mulching Mower. Its chrome handle extruded from an orange plastic shell: a monstrous, rapacious crustacean waiting to attack him and devour more of his life. “You’ve been sucking up my time. What sane man would consent to being born if he knew his life would involve an entire month of cutting the grass?”

Propelled by the mysterious dynamism animating all beings, the analysis took on a life of its own. During his weekend shifts, Gus ignored college football, Cops, and even the adventures of Mary Weatherworth to begin a Segmentarian Critique. The calculations were simple to perform, but contemplating the sums proved no less daunting than the observation of crime scene photos. Worse than the outrage was the lack of a culprit.

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“Shaving averages out to five minutes a day since I was fifteen. If I live to be eighty that’s … Who would consent to being born if he knew he’d have to spend three months shaving?”

“Tossing and turning in bed is at least four hours a week, which comes to … another twelve months. After all these segments are chopped off, what’s left? And if the government isn’t behind this, who is? It’s too organized and systematic to be a coincidence. Has anyone else calculated  it? Maybe this is what pushed John Nash over the edge.”

With the weariness of all lonely soldiers of fortune fighting a war of ideas, Gus wishes his LawnMaster Easy-Start Deluxe Mulching Mower had started on the fifty-sixth try that afternoon. Once you start exposing life to the terrifying clarity of Segmentarianism there is no turning back. Amazing how a happenstance brush with an idea can change a man.

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“Some day all the grass will look like this. When there’s no one round to cut it, it’ll just grow and grow, all long and messy.”

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To remedy the Lawnmower Blues, contemplate things less ephemeral than your absurd chore. You, dream of a shadow, while you change the length of your lawn each week, devoting your fleeting days to glorifications of futility, the cluster of gasses recently nicknamed Jupiter remain chaotic as they were in the Permian. Oblivion is patient; permanence, relative. That even it shall die, this cherub who shone in a wondrous way for billenium, should its mortality bring you comfort, a sense of familial affinity, or despair? If nothing be permanent, then only Nothing is permanent. And ultimately triumphant. There is no Ontological anchor in Heraclitus’ rapids.

Watchman & The Mystery Box

Shi Tzu, Cosmic Yak Dog

Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

 

 

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Annals, philosophy, Truth

The Dialogues of Supernatural Individuation

A Deductive Exorcism of Ghosts

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So that the Reader may fully share in this glorious triumph against superstition, it is essential that he understand and fully acknowledge the theoretical impossibility of ghosts. To the philosophic novice, being theoretically impossible is a far graver offense than being physically impossible. The latter is a misdemeanor against the laws of nature; the former is a desecration of logic herself. Unfortunately, a straightforward descant would expose even the most learned to arguments intricate and arcane. Despite the technical perfection, my exposition would prove insufficient to infuse the Reader with the perplexities that assailed me or bring him to his knees with the unique awe of a grand philosophic revelation. His loss would be of tragic proportions: the argument I shall unveil is as original and profound as the introduction of amino acids into the primordial soup.

To clearly elucidate and explore this point, I have decided to demonstrate it by means of a dialogue. If the format was good enough for Plato and David Hume it is good enough for me. The Reader is encouraged to imagine himself seated at the table with the participants, actively following (perhaps even participating in) the discussion.

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The Participants

Sophia represents the voice of Reason. Scatius is a wily philosopher whose views are in diametric opposition to mine. Cretinius holds the views of the common man.

***

At a picnic table in Pulaski Park sat Sophia, Cretinius, and I. The morning sun or Sophia, which article of Creation deserved greater reverence, which was more conspicuous and inexplicable in its beauty and power? Though she was barely eighteen, to look into her dark green eyes was to confront Wisdom itself. We shared a bottle of peppermint schnapps while giant but gentle Cretinius worked the morning crossword.

“Sophia, a fascinating problem vexes me. In the realm of the supernatural, how in theory would we individuate things? How would we recognize one entity as being distinct from another?”

“What’s a two-letter word for alternative?” said Cretinius, rubbing his salient brow.

After some thought, Sophia leaned forward, revealing cleavage from the plenitudinous bosom concealed beneath her toga. “It couldn’t be the same way we individuate natural things. Consider five coins. What distinguishes each of them is their occupation of different spaces.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Now I am not asserting that spatial continuity is the only consideration, but it is essential.”

“Cretinius, that’s a terrible habit,” said Sophia, her radiant features grimacing as his finger excavated his nose.

A loud belching interrupted her as Scatius staggered into the park. His spindly legs seemed incapable of supporting the humpbacked torso upon them.

“I fear he is in his cups again,” I whispered.

“Those are sandals,” said Cretinius, his lazy eye looking up and away from the crossword.

“I wonder what views Scatius holds on your position,” said Sophia.

“And what position is that?” he said, taking a seat. The black caves of Scatius’ eyes provided the only contrast on his forbidding face to his pasty skin. Though his hair was thin to the point of endangered, his skeletal arms were covered with dense patches of beastly fur. He helped himself to our schnapps, guzzling it from the bottle.

“Driving, page-turning force” Publishers Weekly

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“I was maintaining the theoretical impossibility of ghosts,” I said. “My critique is more severe than the assertion that they do not exist. I maintain that it makes no sense to even speak of them.”

“Ah, the cheap solvent of logical positivism,” he said with a hiccup. “That’s about as original as breathing.”

“Scatius! Don’t touch me there,” cried Cretinius.

“My argument owes nothing to the lazy and arrogant positivists,” I said. “They assert that statements are only meaningful if they are verifiable. My position is that we cannot coherently speak of ghosts because they cannot be individuated by the criterion of spatial continuity. The difference between one and three of them is not a feature of the distinct chunks of space they occupy. By what criterion can they be separated?”

“Your argument is fascinating,” said Sophia, cradling her chin in her hand and batting her long lashes.

“It is interesting,” agreed Scatius.

“What about Casper the Friendly Ghost?” asked Cretinius. “He takes up space. So do the ones on Ghostbusters.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Sophia.

“Be patient,” I said, stroking the celestial crop of sun-bleached down on her arm. “Something good will arise, non-Phoenix-like*, from his point. Cretinius has voiced the common perception of ghosts. Although we say they do not have spatial dimensions, we conceive of them as gaseous or luminous beings who occupy space in a mysterious fashion that allows them to float through walls. Unable to conceive of non-physical, non-spatial, invisible beings, we are reduced to the conceptual level of tabloid sightings and cartoons. Oh, what can comfort a man who finds himself in a town of ghosts, a town where the stern sheriff of logic is not obeyed?”

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Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

Scatius belched. “The answer is both obvious and devastating to your cute little argument. Ghosts can be individuated on the grounds that they have unique minds or personalities.”

Sophia turned to me and put her hand atop mine. So soft the skin. So unequivocal the yearning in her eyes. The sun beamed on its masterful handiwork: sporadic freckles on her nose, shoulders, and in the heavenly valley of her mountainous bosom.

“What’s a three-letter word for opposite of later?” asked Cretinius.

I winked at Sophia and clasped her tiny hand and prepared for triumph. “On the contrary, we cannot speak of distinct personalities unless individuation has already occurred. ‘I have seven minds but my bother has only four,’ is a ridiculous statement, but if physical embodiment is not a criterion how can we criticize it? From this it follows that we have no means of individuating disembodied minds.”

“Sophistry,” groaned Scatius, reaching for the schnapps. He finished the bottle and smashed it on the bike path. “Let me think,” he said, massaging his temples.

“Oh Petronius, your arguments shine with the light of Truth,” said Sophia.

“Here is the fundamental difficulty,” I said. “Terms such as two, many, some, and few are coherent insofar as they refer to distinguishable items. If we have no means of theoretically distinguishing one ghost from another, what sense would it make to say that there are many of them as opposed to a few, or one as opposed to three? When we attempt to determine the autonomy of entities in a domain where spatial and physical considerations can not be applied we are, to put it politely, speaking gibberish.”

“Gibberish indeed,” said Scatius, pounding his fist on the table. “You would deny what all of mankind has believed since the dawn of time?”

“He’s angry,” said Cretinius.

“Mankind does not know that what they think they believe is conceptually impossible,” I said. “It is the philosopher’s task to demonstrate this, not to encourage their folly with trickery.”

“Writer’s throughout history have documented the tragic plight of ghosts,” said Scatius, putting his head on the table. “Trapped between planes, ignorant of their condition …” He began to snore.

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Shi Tzu, Buddhist Yak Dog?

“You mean cynical hacks know a good gimmick when they see it,” I said. “The lost-ghost cliché is absurd on the face of it. After a full day without hunger pangs or trips to the restroom even Cretinius would figure out that something special had occurred. And what should we make of the supernatural dimension that stands as the basis for these tales? What could possibly transpire in a bodiless, non-physical realm? The traditional answer is the experience of bliss or a reunion with deceased family members. Has no one noticed these are mutually exclusive?”

“But wouldn’t you want to see your father again?” said Sophia, running her fingers through my hair.

“Exceptions only prove the general rule. Regarding the plausibility of the former answer: compile a list of all the types of bliss you have experienced without the use of your body.”

Sophia giggled. “There aren’t many, and the best one isn’t included.”

“Something smells bad,” said Cretinius.

“Oh my,” cried Sophia, pinching her nose. “Poor Scatius has had an accident.”

“He pooped,” agreed Cretinius, and we all abandoned the table with its slumbering defecator. “Petronius, look at the bugs,” said Cretinius with glee. Attracted to the sweet liquid from the broken bottle, a squadron of yellow jackets darted about the shards.

“No Cretinius, those are –”

I put my finger to her lips. “Sophia, when I establish my Academy, Experience shall be granted an honorary professorship. Hopefully all my pupils will be as receptive to my teachings as you. And as lovely.”

Cretinius screamed and lumbered away flailing his arms.

“Now, even if we can conceive of a disembodied state of bliss, what do we mean by bliss in this context? A state of schnapps intoxication? For all eternity? As much joy as that syrupy nectar can bring, would you want to feel like that forever?”

“Oh Petronius, let’s go for a walk in the park.”

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Petronius Who?!

*On principle I avoid all references to Egyptian mythology. As clever as they were in covering a desert with giant triangles and gruesome half-cat half-man monstrosities, their obsession with the afterworld was preposterous. How did they expect a mummy to untangle himself once he arrived in the next kingdom? Did not the removal of his vital organs and brain bode ill for his health and vigor? What were those silly people thinking?

As the legend has it, after the Phoenix set its nest afire and burnt itself to a crisp, it was reborn. Why can no modern hack go within a mile of a keyboard without making a reference to it? Verily, it is the true curse of the Pharaohs. That such a story persisted longer than one generation bespeaks the appalling poverty of imagination rampant in Egypt at the time. Worse, it is frighteningly evocative of the Buddhist monks who practiced self-immolation in protest of the Vietnam War.

A conscientious writer will only use a mythic allusion to bring clarity. If there exists even a remote chance of it evoking irritating questions regarding mummies or horrific images of suicides, then he must look to other means to make his point.

Even ignoring the preceding (and utterly damning) objections, it is not clear a Phoenix reference would have been appropriate. I want something good to arise from inferior questions. There is nothing whatsoever in the Phoenix legend about a superior bird arising. It is the same tedious, self-immolating one each and every time.

A question we shall not pursue here is how a bird can set anything on fire. Did it strike a match? Did it rub two rocks together? The Egyptians were aware that birds lack opposable thumbs, were they not? Perhaps they should have spent less time carving gibberish on their gaudy tombs and more time observing the natural world. What manner of brain-disabling deadline did the author of this puerile legend work under? Had the Pharaoh commissioned him to write a new one by the morrow? Or did he compose it after hours in the broiling sun?

In summary: a reference to a Phoenix arising would have been inappropriate, subjected the Reader to needless trauma, quite possibly ruined my otherwise splendid dialogue, and covered my hands in filth from the crime of perpetuating this cheap, contrived, and all-around deplorable myth.

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The Mushroom of Consciousness

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A Novel of Vengeance, Honor & Bobbleheads

 

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