Category: Intersections

Thematic Resonance in Civilizational Superstructure

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The human story, at its base, holds a fairly simple framework. An ape-ancestor, both a puzzle-solver and obsessed with time, stumbles over persistence hunting and ends up inventing both a great way to catch dinner and the curious social technology of telling a story. A few million years or so later, this results in a flowering of the human tree, one of the branches being homo sapiens. Homo sapiens uses this amazing tool to get into the heads of the landscape: both animals (its original purpose) and energetic flow patterns (winds, plants, landscape features). Somewhere along the line, they meet up with cousins from another continent, wolves, and the two co-evolve for a time, resulting in wolves around the planet and humans using pack technologies to form tribes.

This dynamic set up a repeating meme, where a group of lonely, curious or shunned humans would enter a new landscape and then completely adapt themselves to it, becoming pretty much literally an extension of the land itself. In turn, barring a major disaster (super-volcano explosion, meteor strike, invasions of Triffids from Beyond the Stars), the tribe could self-perpetuate its presence in the landscape in perpetuity.

Putting it in a slightly different light, seeds moved in and used behaviors to affect themselves physically between generations to fully become the People of the Land. Time would then begin, stories would flow. All would be well.

Seeds went out, adapted to the environment, became the world.

Civilization, on the other hand, was an upheaval of that story.

The foundation of civilization revolved around a traumatic break with the world, a mega-death that broke the idea that the culture was a part of the land. For Sumerians, that was unexpected seasonal flooding from both freshwater and seawater sources. For the Aztec, it was being chased from their homelands until they were deep into swampy territory next to a lake. From there, civilized cultures would start a hyper-specialized form of gardening–farming–where they would rip up everything so that the land would be forced to provide them and them alone with food. This created a war-mentality where one class would have to protect the food, one would have to grow and distribute the food, and one would have to make sure the constant input of manpower needed to make this work would keep on coming.

If you were to ask people about their deepest held spiritual beliefs before the coming of civilization, they’d probably look at you like you were crazy. Their beliefs came out of their interaction with the land; it formed quite naturally from that dialogue over generations. If you asked them specifics–like “Where do we come from?”; “Why are we here?”–they would have stories they could absolutely share with you. However, the frame was different. Life was a whole thing, not to be divided between ‘spirit’ and ‘not-spirit’ in a way that is generally understood now.

There’s a reason for that.

Civilization also faced similar questions: “Why are we here?” “Why are we putting so much effort into this crap?”. By all accounts, farming was a pretty shitty life.  Like, on the scale where you felt sick and had deformed kids level of “shitty.” And building cities, even worse. Especially the smell. The diseases. Faith–the ongoing dialogue between people and the greater world–was pretty much screaming “stop doing this!”

Someone, somewhere along the line, who really wanted to keep their job, came up with an idea. Faith used to be the comfort that you could take in knowing that a process much larger than you worked. Maybe, if you spent your entire life examining that process, but even if you didn’t that currently invisible mechanisms would still work fine. The new definition of faith by Mr. Go-Getter placed the emphasis on the invisible part of the mechanisms, arguing that (a) the invisible was more important than the visible and (b) if the invisible grew visible, it was no longer worthy of being called “faith.”

This boiled down to “we (the folks in charge) know you hate this life. But trust us: invisibly, this way of life is AWESOME!” As more people grew dissatisfied with this explanation, they had to come up with more and more invisible gifts to heap upon the deserving. You could serve in the afterlife (heck… sometimes that’s how you GOT an afterlife), it was a battle between good and evil and evil was all the lazies, a good afterlife only came to those who served well. Spirituality grew further and further away from perceived reality and gods dwindled from a multitude to handfuls per culture to finally two.  Even two wasn’t low enough. People were still miserable and trying to figure a way out.

This is where things get complicated.

Judaism comes in, in this world of divine kings and games of ‘our god is better than your god’ and awkward attempts at unification (“We’ve got to unify to fight the Bad God!” — Zoroaster). The common narrative is that the Jews responded to this polytheistic world by creating the idea of monotheism.

What if there is another way to look at this?

So here lies the context around Genesis. The Jews had battled their way out of generational slavery. They were a long ways away from their homeland, with not a lot of hope that they would successfully return. The kids were used to being forced to worship the gods of one (or more) of the same kingdoms who had enslaved them. How do you deal with that?

The Jews reacted by creating a clear pathway back to their land. An immediate-return religion.


YHVH — also known as the Tetragramaton, the name given to the Hebrew tribal deity. Loosely, it translates to “everything”.

Angel — taken from the Greek word “angelos” meaning messenger. Originally supposed to be “daimon”, which was a spiritual helper but the term was not used because it had both negative AND positive aspects. Applied to two different terms in the Bible: the Word of God, which encompasses emanations of YHVH so powerful it took physical form, and to the Elohim, which can be translated as ‘sons of god’


How do you explain to your kids that, even though they’ve spent their young lifetime watching Mom & Dad bow to a Golden Calf, that this is now wrong? How do you explain to them that the land they have never seen, never experienced, is so much better than where they were at? You tell them this:

“Look, my child. The universe loves us. It got us out of captivity. It protects and shelters and feeds us right now. And the gods in this universe? Well, if they rise up against us, the universe itself will shout out ‘I like these people! Leave them alone.’. So here’s some ground rules. There’s the Elohim and then there are foreign gods. You’re only going to truly know the Elohim once we return home. Until then, don’t bow down to these representations of gods. How is a single god more important than the favor of the universe? Don’t worship them. You’ve got enough to do! And once we get home. Once the home is ours again, we are in the hands of the Elohim once again.”

Obviously things didn’t work out as intended. I am secure in saying that if I laid this down at the feet of many Jews, they’d be scratching their head. But look at how absolutely utterly magnificent an attempt this is at trying to preserve a tribal legacy from the depredations of a foreign land and aid them in coherence in getting home. A way to preserve the embers of your spirituality so it can be fanned into the open flames of the heart, in an unknown future.

In that aspect, it worked. Jews, as a tribal people, have a resilient and coherent society even today, synagogues helping to cement that cohesion even while the only temple to the Elohim can exist in Jerusalem. It was an amazing, mostly successful attempt and I’m honestly in awe of it. It’s also sadly at the heart of the reason why they are persecuted (civilization really has a serious hatred for tribes, especially successful ones).

With that, I’m going to need to move on to where it all went awry.

About the time Yeshua was up to his/her hijinks (if you haven’t read this article, read it: [http://www.nthposition.com/jesusampalinsky.php](Jesus & Alinsky)), the Romans were trying out a new unity spiritual technology of their own: rebranding. They’d conquer a place, usher in some roads, and start lecturing on how their gods were pretty much identical to the local ones. So, if you wanted to continue your ways of worship, you simply had to call your gods by the Roman equivalents. And celebrate the Roman holidays too. And respect the Roman worship because, you know, your gods and the Romans were the same. Rebranding worked great for a time but like all the other attempts at explaining why our ‘world’ was crappy, it started to fall apart as the Empire slowly did.

Here’s where Saul of Tarsus steps into the picture. Saul’s a sad man. He’s a Roman but his Dad really talks about how cool it is to be a Jew. It gets so contentious, Saul finally ends up going out and hunting down Jewish apocalypse cults, like this Yeshua cult that says the Roman Empire sucks and it’s going to fall horribly because it’s filled with lechers and perverts and just generally terrible people. He gets a head injury and somewhere in the recovery period figures out his job was actually a bout of teen angst and decides to ‘become Jewish’ instead.

In context, consider how easy would it be for you, tomorrow, to become Maori or Saami or Tongva or Lakota.

Saul takes the Roman concept of rebranding to ridiculous heights, claims spiritual superiority, and takes the message of a tribal religion and applies it to the Empire. It probably would have stopped somewhere in there, except that Constantine spotted that it was a great way to unify his rapidly disintegrating empire.

“The Universe is OUR god. That means it’s so much bigger than your gods. And it likes us because Saul says so and Saul has talked to the Universe lately. Entry fee is: belief is Iesu. Thank you for playing.”


The above is likely not a direct quote from Constantine.


You really can’t get more detached from direct observation than saying ‘the universe loves ME more than it loves YOU’ and while this sham worked for a while, it ended up in the same division that claimed all the attempts to unify spirit. And as it did it gave birth to the ultimate twins of detachment.

Welcome to the spiritual technologies known as Science and Theosophy.

Science is the madness that results from faith being so long divorced from common practice. It looks at the last few thousand years of devastation and, instead of questioning the cultural wounds imposed on the people, says:

“There are forces in this universe but they are IMPERSONAL ones. They don’t care for us and they probably don’t even think or aren’t alive or aren’t of any importance.”

Tribal people from over forty thousand years of observation roll their eyes at its ignorance.

Theosophy is the rationalization that occurs when you are trying to fit all of those personal forces into a framework where they flat don’t fit. Theosophy appeared at the heart of the Spiritualist Movement in the late 19th Century and is best recognized today through both New Age and Waldorf movements. Theosophy wants to say:

“We are all part of a primitive space-time, the lowest of the low, and every ill we get, we deserve. In fact, we’ve asked for it. This is elementary school for gods. We (and the ongoing march of civilization as it progresses) are an “unfolding consciousness” (actual quote, btw) and once we’ve learned enough lessons, we will uplift from this precocious plane and enter the real Reality.”

And tribal people bang their head on the wall as theosophists try to sell dreamcatchers — summoning charms SPECIFICALLY made for the Spider God of a certain tribe — as special nightmare stoppers theosophists ‘made in their past lives as native american shamans’.

So what is the takeaway from this entire post? E pluribus unum? Infinite diversity, infinite combinations? Perhaps it’s something as simple as highlighting both a seductive but dangerous (and ultimately futile) spiritual technology meant to unify the planet AND an attempt by one tribe to preserve their identity long enough to return to its roots. Only one of these technologies is worthy of study

The other only exists to be discarded, except as a warning to future generations and a lesson of history.

Some concepts lifted from this article: http://discuss.rewild.com/t/the-trouble-with-one-long-post/2183 originally published on rewild.com January 2nd, 2017

New Flashfic: Cross the Line

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There is an argument that video games can cause violence. I know for a fact that for many people, it brings solace. It brings relief. And there are circumstances where violence is sadly necessary.
Ω

Simply put, when drink and the night took him, that’s when she came alive.

Phosphor colored dots on a desktop screen; in that digital world she wielded great powers and a blade she found so long ago, when the dragon overtook the High Reaches and she had been sent on a quest by a desperate villager who was willing to part with the town treasure and even promise to help her learn the secrets of the fighting warrior monks of the Lost Valley who left their scrolls of martial techniques in a jar in the local tavern when they ascended to a higher plane.

She had to wipe blood off with the back of her hand. It had been a bad night.

It was hard to look out of one eye. She hadn’t checked it in a mirror, yet. She didn’t want to. Occipital fracture. That was what her face was screaming. But she didn’t know.

He said she was so stupid.

She could hear the music; she rode it to the stars in a ship that had a name like Bravery or Freedom or Star’s Reach and in that moment when the hyperspace engine hit and the universe blurred into motion, she knew there would be worlds ahead with monsters and alien artifacts and mysteries for her to crack, as pirates would come at her and rebels for her to fight or maybe join and she would level her blaster at them and demand to meet their leader.

She didn’t dare turn the volume actually up, in case he found her and took even that small mercy.

Her hands were cramping up something fierce. She tried to remember what she did about them last time. That was when she’d overcooked the pasta. He’d slammed the pot down on her hands. She was grateful it had cooled down some.

She was fairly certain she’d soaked them in milk. She’d have to do that soon.

She could smell the jungle, feel its heat, even the heat of the two guns in her hands, barely cooling down as she cut down wild animals and smugglers searching for that lost treasure because it was actually the key to an ancient civilization that had been destroyed because its power had grown too great and its ability to change the fabric of reality itself had threatened the gods so they had sunk the lands of those powerful people and relegated the whole thing to history.

Why couldn’t she stop crying?

It wasn’t so bad a life. The rent was paid on time. There was enough for food. Sometimes, it was tough to get the bills off. She had a hard time thinging. Thinking. Words could get hard. He knew she was slow.

He didn’t drink every night. He wasn’t angry every time.

The invaders were on the march again and her army was the only thing standing between them and their conquest of the kingdom and she’d been saving her mechanical legions for last, towering things of steel and steam that would lumber above the field and slaughter wide swaths of the enemy but it was sometimes hard to stop them and they’d stumble off the map and into villages and towns allied to her and when she wasn’t concentrating on leading her troops she could imagine virtual screaming of virtual children and women and innocent people.

In the end it was all her fault.

She was too dumb and too fat. Too ugly. Too tired. Too clumsy. She’d only had a couple of years at college. He’d have four. Her friends had even less education. That’s why he didn’t want her seeing them anymore. Their faces remained a thumbprint on her memories, blurred with time, connected to random names like Nancy or Jolene or Bobby.

She was lonely but it wasn’t safe for her to be alone. That’s why he was there for her.

There was a gun in her hand and she looked at it and she held it out and she blew away the driver’s face and she jumped into his car and drove away; the cops came racing after but there was another car, another driver she could take down and that led to the chase on the bridge where she got a hold of a cop car leaving the cop bleeding on the road but the best was when she got herself a tank.

He had a gun.

It was by the side of the bed, in a drawer. He’d never taken it out but he would look at the drawer sometimes. If he was truly angry. There was a phrase he’d use. “Insurance.” Against criminals. Or enemies. Or stupidity. Or clumsiness. Her best behavior would be rewarded. That was always his promise.

He let her know she was never at her best. At least around him.

The oldest game, so simple; two lines maybe an inch long, white and pure, on each side of the screen with a dashed line in the center and simple bright scores on top and a square ‘ball’ that would bounce back and forth and you’d have to concentrate, hard, not to lose it as the ball went faster and faster between the two lines, and even when she had to squint between the tears, in the end she’d always find a way to win.

She pulled the gun out.

She stood over him and she checked if it was loaded. It was. She took the gun and pointed it at his head, an inch away. The distance of a line of phosphor on a tiny screen. Her finger trembled on the trigger. She put the gun in her mouth. There was this horrible metal taste, oil like the backfire of a car. Her hand trembled with restraint. She closed her eyes. She pulled the gun out of her mouth, pointed it, put it back in, out again. It all blurred together; her, him. A single shot.

It was louder than she could imagine.

Categories: Flash Fiction, Intersections, Personal Tags: Tags: ,

New Flashfic: Trooper

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How do you feel if you’re on the losing side of history? A trooper from a familiar franchise comes to the only conclusion he can.

Petrichor.

VX-2068 (Vex, to his squad mates) heard that term when he was off-duty, drinking at a bar off of Kessel. The Tarkin doctrine stated that it was the rule of force (and its corollary, fear) that kept the peace. That required troopers to be aloof, separate. Not Vex’s personal belief, but what could you do about it? Rules were rules. Of course, sometimes, you just had to blow off some steam. You couldn’t help yourself. Sneak off the base, armor off, drink a little, get a little action. In Vex’s experience, for the most part, the brass looked the other way, as long as people weren’t taking too much advantage of the locals. Well… no more than the government allowed, so it kind of varied from post to post.

Petrichor was supposed to be the smell of wet soil after rain.

It’s not that he’d never done rain duty before. It’s just that most of the time it was under armor. There was this time, in this swamp, knee-deep in muck searching for some sort of insurgent leader that had been chased into hiding. Nothing came of it. Last he’d heard, the insurgent leader had been caught back on Coruscant. Or maybe had just died. He wasn’t sure. There was something about it on the news. Big celebrations.

Now… everything was different.

Head on the ground. Helmet cracked from a blow that should have killed him. An improvised local trap—a low-tech stupid indigenous improvised trap—had taken him down. Air flooding in. Dirt in his mouth. Smell of the soil after rain. Petrichor.

His blood tasted coppery and he wondered about that. There were some differences in trooper blood and others. He knew that. Did their blood taste different? Stupid thought. Sitting up was painful. Helmet came off easily and he looked up. The trees surrounding him were, by any aesthetic standard, overwhelmingly beautiful. That wasn’t why he was crying. It was the dull, intermittent booms in the sky, where debris hit the atmosphere and burned. It was the halo of an explosion in the sky, the size of a small moon.

It was seeing all hope die.

Vex was having a hard time wrapping his head around it. The galaxy had been dying 40 years ago. The dream of unity, always a distant hope at best, was breaking apart at the seams. Corporations were inflicting their will on less powerful planets and war was endemic. The Republic served as the galaxy’s policeman, not their savior. It had to reforge itself into a image more fitting for the issues at hand. For the time at hand! It had to come under sterner rule, as the rule of law and the very fabric of Republican society was coming undone.

Vex spit on the ground, dropped the helmet. Listened to the shout of victory echoing across the Valley. Locals. He hated them. He’d seen good men die, friends die, at their hands. And even as he thought that, he knew, deep down, a truth. He wasn’t going to make it off this world. He wasn’t going to make it home.

Home. What was that going to be like? Rule back in the hand of the locals? How were they fit to run anything? Vex understood that they’d evolved there, immigrated there, assimilated there, long before the Republic. But they had no idea how to deal with intergalactic affairs.

That’s what a Senate was for.

Clouds were forming, the result of the particulates from the explosion seeding the sky above. Helmet in hand, Vex headed towards the drop point. Perhaps there was a shuttle there. Perhaps not. But it would get him far enough to be out of immediate danger. Maybe there’d be others who’d made it as well. Maybe they could band together in some remote corner, make a community, live out their lives isolated from this madness. GN-4279 had been interested in gardening. JB-0037 had been studying clean water reclamation from some water farmers. Maybe over time, they could build back a semblance of order, of civilization. Reclaim their place in the universe.

Vex looked down at his helmet, angrily threw it against a tree. It wasn’t fair! It’s not like he’d lived a good life. A fancy life like the senators or governors or even the upper brass. Most people didn’t know that for every 4 soldiers who were on duty, twice that amount were working janitorial services.  A life spent hip-deep in crap or shooting at people he didn’t have a particular problem with. That’s what so many of the locals just didn’t get. It was just a job. Why couldn’t they see that?

Vex wasn’t an idiot. No, not all of the laws were just. Not everyone got fair treatment. But that was simply life. No one guaranteed it would be fair. The locals whining about how the Republicans—and later the Empire—got all of the best perks, like they would have done anything different had they held the reins of power.

Come to think of it, some of those locals did hold spots of power. Just a few of them, sure, but enough of them that Vex had seen them on Senate broadcasts. Wasn’t that proof that anyone could make it if they tried? All of that was well past his pay grade, though, so no matter who bitched about it, his life wouldn’t be any different. Just a trooper, working for a government, that was now seeing his world fall apart.

It just wasn’t fair!

The armor was pressing in on him. He was tired and it was heavy. He’d been in it all of his life.

What would he be without it?

What the hell would he be if he was no longer white?

No shuttle ahead. Others though. Not sure on what side. Not really certain if it mattered anymore.

Slowly, bit by bit, Vex started removing his armor and went to join them.

Categories: Flash Fiction, Intersections Tags: Tags: , ,