New Beginnings – Chapter 2. Another Gale of Laughter

New Beginnings – Chapter 2. Another Gale of Laughter

Chapter 2. Another Gale of Laughter

Beeko’s body would be whole again, and reasonably healthy in this dream realm, except for the fact that he is not himself. This oddity does not bother him. Instead he seems to identify with perfect ease as a slightly older, not so physically fit man, someone about thirty years of age who is carrying a short range, slug spitting weapon, dressed in greenish, loose fitting togs that the boy recognizes as some sort of armor-less field fatigues. It is all too obvious that this is by no means a professional soldier, much less a finely trained Human-mercenary (like Beeko himself) serving the grimly inhuman N’Molloue in the management and milking of their vast, star-spanning empire. Beeko the mercenary soldier dreams of something radically different. Something entirely alien to his own way of living.

Rather than fit into any known military mold, this dream individual carries no shield or armor other than a helmet, no sword or spear, nor even a bayonet at the muzzle end of his short rifle. He is armed in hopeless defense of his Earthly human homeland, which is currently being overrun by a closely related, but politically distinct people whose features, body conformation and language are all similar, though not exactly the same at all points. Both this fellow and his attacking relatives are so light in hair and skin coloration that they nearly cause Beeko to be contrastingly comparable to Zantchez herself. Which fact is by itself disorienting enough to make him want to forcibly lose his lunch, had he actually eaten a lunch.

Yet despite this emotional reaction he did not have a meta awareness, he took his sense of being the person of his dream at face value, and looked at his companions with accepting eyes. These manifestly are North Hemisphere natives, the same sort of people as those whose genes have polluted Beeko’s own bloodline, and truth to tell, polluted the bloodlines of half the human race. Yet for once in his life, Beeko was not thinking about this at all. He was totally focused upon the horror of the unfair and utterly unwinnable war now in progress for his alter ego. He accepted that this broad cheeked, blue eyed, wheat stubble haired, slightly pot bellied alter ego, whom he regarded as himself, was resigned to die in the fight, not in an effort to win his war, but simply to make the loss hideously expensive for the assailant nation. There was no question, no wavering, no doubt in the dream-Beeko’s mind about this.

There were a large number of unfortunate yet sizzlingly real reasons for this ugly, spirit grindingly pessimistic attitude. To start with, the overweening enemy had control of the sky, and rained city shattering bombs upon non-combatant populations without either mercy or let up. Thousands had already died in the first seventeen days of active fighting. All along, the much larger bully nation was broadcasting bald, transparent lies to the world that vigorously and categorically denied doing any such thing at all. Most of the globe who had access to satellite images, and broadcasts from the victims, watched in frightened outrage, while overstuffed N’Molloue-style economic chieftains of this burgeoning eastern empire of the north scrambled to back up their hand-picked front-man.

The world at large was frightened down to the roots of its soft, blunted teeth, because this heartless, attacking nation possessed more explosive nuclear devices than any other single nation on Earth, and were already taking absurd risks simply by prosecuting this unjust, indefensible war directly in the face of world-wide condemnation, and their victim’s firm belief that all future generations would judge these imperial pirates harshly.

And with that atomic club in hand, the attacker was signaling that if thwarted in its determination to absorb its much smaller neighbor into its re-emerging continent spanning empire, it would unlimber those vicious assets and risk general world war. There had already been two such all enveloping conflagrations in the preceding century, but this was the first time that it seemed likely that atomic bombs, most in the hands of the attackers, and nearly as many in the hands of the victim nations friends, might be employed at any moment. Right along with the character with whom he identified, Beeko was outraged, terrified, nauseated, and determined. An attitude entirely alien to any self respecting mercenary, no matter for whom he fought.

Yet the sleeping Beeko D’Ja did not care. He knew exactly what he felt, and did not question what it meant. In the dream he did not directly notice, but there was another difference being experienced, and therefore having an unremarked, yet corrosive effect on the his sense of identity. His unfocused mind did not fall directly into its rut of reproach, but daydreamed vaguely about things given up, joys and pleasures lost by the personality being dreamed. Most particularly a soft female form and three half grown children that Beeko’s alter ego and this feminine source of solace had engendered together over the preceding dozen years.

The overwhelming force of that psychological resonance of the dream followed him into sleep like the shadow of a man marching into sunrise. That sleep was sticky, troubled, irritable, and restless, and when he came out of slumber at last, D’Ja remained convicted, yet was utterly bewildered once again. “What was that? I have never had feelings like this. Never anything close, never heard of anybody having dreams like this. That was almost not a dream. At least not like any normal dream, but might on the face of it have been a historical record. A record of an unknown time in an unknown place, among lost unidentified peoples under unimaginable pressure. Why? And while I am at it, let me ask, why me and why now?”

“There were so many odd modes of thinking, so many big first letter symbolic representations. What did it mean that EU = UN = NATO = US? Why did all of this mystery together = a single direction, west? Why is it that there was no consideration for north or south, as if only east and west mattered? If that was a true view of past times in the northern hemisphere, was it any wonder that the dregs of that civilization had settled at the bottom of the planet, far to the south of all of that evil, self-annihilation? Flopping down like a blanket of inadequacy upon our ancestral survivors? Leaving us to famine and frequent still-births until rescued by our generous benefactors?”

Then Beeko, deliberately slowing his breath as before a battle, backed himself up, and began considering more fundamental questions as they applied to him personally. “Is it even possible that what I experienced is really how the world of the past ended? In one way, it certainly presented itself as if it were, but that seems unlikely on the keen front edge of it. Or has some strange spirit entered me? If so, was it through my left nostril or my right? Have my brains simply been scrambled by the trauma of my wounding? Who would know? Who can consult with me on this? Where is that lovely nurse…that beautiful Zantches? Could she maybe help me?” Once again, the young man struggled to lift his eyelids.

It might have been only minutes later, or perhaps an entire day had fled while his mind experienced that disturbing dream. But now the light was different, the boy was alone, and much about the space that he occupied became optically clear. It was a large cubical with a steel-gray floor, a washed-out peach hued ceiling, and rich cream walls all around. There were two wide doorways, both paneled firmly shut with what looked very much like a natural wood. Surprising, because natural wood was never used for building material on any N’Molloue sponsored Mercenary base. Not even for non-structural elements such as door panels or window frames. Most importantly, this quick scan showed Beeko that he was entirely alone, with no fellow infirmary patients, no doctors, and most importantly to him, no nurse. Now the youth was confronted with a dilemma, should he call out, or merely wait?

The young man decided that he could always call out if waiting grew too long, and in the meantime he could examine the various contents of the shelving, and piles of machinery that he could make out from his bed. The cream tinted shelving presented no insoluble mysteries, being familiar cylindrical tubes of fluid potions, and jars of compressed pills indistinguishable from any infirmary shelves he had ever seen. The technology in evidence was wholly different, looking little like the instruments with which every human-mercenary soldier had occasion to become familiar with over the last three and a half centuries. What was it? What was it designed to do? Why was it so different? Where is this? ‘New Beginnings?’ where is that? Is it a free floating station? Is it a planet? Why has he never heard of it before?

Then an entirely novel thought struck him. A sneaky idea so outrageous that regardless of the fact that the clues have been kicking Beeko’s shins and slapping his face for every second since his first swim to woozy consciousness with his right leg missing, he had been unable to entertain until the present split-second. Could it be that this was a non N’Molloue base where he lay? Could it be that some never suspected, stealthy element among his human civilization had managed to create some obscure form of cypher community beyond the alien empire’s reach? How was it possible for any human ship to get beyond the sphere of N’Molloue imperial reach? There had always been unsubstantiated rumors about such attempts far in the past, during the first century of N’Molloue imperial help. Even Beeko’s mother, so humiliated that it was most likely her distant New Zealand colonial ancestry that had bled through and tainted her child that she was always a conspicuous upholder of the most conservative social order on station, where she lived with her four children, would whisper about those tales.

Oh, not directly to Beeko, but now and then he could hear her pillow-talk voice as she entertained a lover in the night. Nevertheless, despite his awareness of such gossip, just to ask these things leaves him stunned at the possibility. At first partial recovery from having considered this, his reaction is to cry out, “Impossible!” Yet he remained silent despite himself and considers what the results of such a broad deception could mean; first for humanity as a whole, then for Earth as a planet, and finally for Beeko D’Ja as an individual.

It was risky, it was a terrible gamble, it was frightening almost to the point of causing him to panic inside of his rib cage, but it was also thrilling. Beeko loved the thought, until he found himself hating it for the space of one breath out of every five that he took. Yet the fact that pleasure radiated throughout his entire form for four breaths out of five, kept him enthralled. He was in fact almost as enthralled by this unauthorized idea as he was by his nurse.

Having pondered the idea, Beeko clears his throat, and remembering that in the infirmaries to which he is accustomed, it is always unnecessary to shout, simply sinks back into his pillows, speaks to the air as if to a friend standing right beside him. “Hello, this is Beeko D’Ja, I know not my room number. I am alone, I have just awakened, I am hungry. Please, as soon as is doable, send in a nurse. I have no idea of how long I slept, how long it has been since any bandaging I have been given has remained in place, how long it has been since last I ate. Or even where this infirmary is actually located. I will not know these things without your help, so I quietly await your attention while feeling very dependent. Please relieve me of this weakness.” D’Ja was very pleased with this performance, and smugly congratulated himself upon its subtle deftness as he awaited answer.

He did not wait long. One of the doors to his room slid quietly into the wall beside it, and a female, much older than Zantches barged in, already talking. “Very nice young man. You must have some idea of what is going on and where you are, or you would not have worded that pretty request in quite that way.” This creature was elderly, her face deeply creased, and the hair on her head, though un-regulation long, was peppered liberally with gray. Beeko notes that this person surely must be at least one hundred, and possibly older. What was she doing working with her hands like a beginner? Then he noticed her garments. They, like those worn by Zantches were a blouse and pantaloons cut to minimize restriction, in swirling colors. This time rose, lavender, and the most brilliant shade of yellow that Beeko had ever seen worn upon any human body. Once this had registered, he was caught between wanting to stare, and needing to close his eyes against the glare.

Mastering his skittish self with a soldier’s stern discipline, he did not quite do either, but craftily shifted his gaze a few degrees to one side, as if anxiously scanning the environment for threats, as he replied, “Look, is it time for me to eat? I do feel a trifle hungry.” Back came a chuckle and the message,, “Oh you will never NOT feel hungry, soldier. You are back to the metabolic status of teenager again, as long as you are growing out that limb. Then, after it is grown, you will stay hungry as you exercise it up to size so that your two legs match. Your stomach is going to be working hard this year. Never you fear. But I suppose you want to know where you are, why you are here, and what all of this means…. OH, and by the way, I ought to tell you a thing or two about me. Being self-focused like all other humans, I will start with that. My name is Telmmah M’tcho, and I am one of fourteen hundred or so “Never-borns” who now live on this globe, which is designated ‘New Beginnings.’

“Our other free colony, a planet called ‘New Hope,’ has about seventeen hundred such unusual persons upon its surface. Less than one hundred are left in the hidden tunnels back on Earth, from which we, meaning every human in existence, all started.” Her coal black eyes seemed to grow impossibly dark as she confided, “We are called ‘Never-born,’ because we were never registered with the official administration, which has always, naturally, answered to the resident N’Molloue imperial governor. But that does not tell you much of what you truly want to know, does it? New Hope is nearly one hundred years older than New Beginnings, and has over nineteen million human settlers upon it, where New beginnings which is merely twenty-two years old. Where you have landed has a population just a shade over two million. Is this enough for you to ponder, boy, or are you up for a few more facts before your brain goes catatonic?” D’Ja is not certain about catatonia, but he is certain that he is thirsty for facts, now more than ever. “Let’s try for more, and If I freeze stiff and stare at nothing, you can just leave me to it, OK?”

The strangely intimidating never born waited to answer until she had plopped down on the bed, taking advantage of the space where Beeko’s leg should have been. This time the wrinkled woman’s chuckle sounded more like a cackle as she threw her head back and laughed. She did this without any apparent thought of her age, station in life, or dignity. “A brave young man, but then again, all soldiers are brave are they not? Either that or stupidly unable to properly assess risk. Do you know, by the way, to which group of soldiers you actually belong?” Beeko is slow to volley back, but when he does he makes sure that he sounds thoughtful and sincere rather than flippant. Oh, I assess risk all of the spirit blessed time, but no one can know everything. The whole art of war is uncertainty. A good soldier does not only do the right thing at first, but improvises along the way when things go wrong. This time I could not, but at other times I could.”

“An example of your improvisational skill, is this?” The brightly clad Telmmah remains irreverent while continuing to project a feeling of gravitas as massive as that of any N’Molloue imperial governor that D’Ja had ever observed at a distance across a number of mercenary base parade grounds. There was not much to say to this, so he chose simply to look fixedly at the woman and not speak at all. Which, not surprisingly, was greeted by yet another gale of laughter.

New Beginnings Book – Chapter 1. Beeko

New Beginnings Book – Chapter 1. Beeko


Seventy thousand years ago, homo sapiens oozed out of Africa and out into Western Asia and Europe. Each small band that dribbled out existentially convinced that they were permanently and irreconcilably at war with all other humans, with animal life, and with nature itself.

That orientation has never left the species, culminating in the world we live in now. A world on the edge of extinction because of climate change which after thirty years of ever more urgent dire warnings, we as a species have never been able to fulfill our promises of reform made to one another. Compounded as we enter our third year of viral plague, and further complicated by a savagely callus, all out ”Me win – you die” war in the heart of Europe. Not to mention a half dozen other wars going on in less supposedly civilized parts of the globe.

The document that follows is a novel, set some fifteen hundred years in a future where the powers of our time failed utterly, and humanity nearly went extinct. Only denizens of far southern lands had survived, and these people scrambled to stave off starvation each and every day. The landforms have changed, most of the flora and fauna wiped out. Traditional indigenous wisdom made useless. The mutant gene burden on the surviving population is so high that more infants are exposed to the elements each generation than are nurtured and taken into families, such as these were. Only the arrival, after more than a thousand years of this, space vessels of an alien empire broke the cycle. These creatures were pleased to provide food sufficiency and healing of disease in exchange for labor. Thus, the vast majority of humanity’s remnant became slaves of an alien empire. True to form, all humans resented this bargain, but only a handful organized as a conspiracy to attempt, somehow, to wriggle free.

Why is such a novel being featured in the blog of a small Christian community? Especially as much of the rest of this community’s blog space is devoted to clarifying what many people regard as abstruse theological subjects? Using close examinations of Hebrew, Greek, and Roman Imperial history and language to debunk many widely held beliefs about what Christianity is all about?

The answer is straightforward and simple, yet still seems odd to conventionally Christianized eyes and ears. Jesus’ entire mission was devoted to bringing people on board to one idea, one project, one goal which he called the Kingdom of God or of Heaven. This was always closely linked to the forgiveness of sins.

Please remember, that though there are indeed a list of crimes, like murder, theft, and bearing false witness that were considered sins, the main or generalized concept is one of falling short, and that the principle shortfall to be avoided is always ‘separation’ of human from human, human from the rest of creation, and/or human separation from God. Thus, seeking the Kingdom of Heaven is precisely the cure for that seventy thousand year old attitude featured at the top of this page.

Our story opens on a distance shrouded planet in a star system unimaginably far away, called New Beginnings, where this conspiracy has established a toe hold.



Beeko D’ja fought his weary way to some semblance of consciousness; dizzy, disoriented, and bewildered. Nothing fit together, and this disturbed him mightily. He knew that he could not depend upon his mind in the condition that it seemed to be in, but he did not understand why this instability should be as it was. Straining against the fog, he attempted to order his mind, fight backward through recollections in order to find clues. The last thing that he remembered was a blast that was much too loud, a flash vastly too bright, an instant of shocking pain, and then nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. Feeling stricken, he tried to get his figurative mental legs under him, but the total nothingness sent unpleasant tendrils of worry through his brain, and caused him to pound upon his memory harder. No reward was forthcoming, and this agitated him the more.

His mouth responded to this information, when his thinking was still spinning darkly sideways. “Am I still on that brutal Spirits condemned, battle field hours after that flash? Or am I properly evacuated back to camp?” The rasping sound of his own voice shocked him, and he did the rest of his self-interrogation in proper silence. “In either case I ought to smell the irritating, sulfur-thickened air of that unhappy world with its toad-like Ga-Grummivaran fighting with the lizard-like Fi-Grummivaran (who could beat them every time without our help) and hear the constant drone of palm sized Grummivaran insects. Shouldn’t I? Something is wrong, what in the realm of impossibly horrible N’Molloue-punishment has happened?

“Did I take a head wound? Is my hearing lost to me, my nose not working? Come to think of it, why am I not staring up at whatever is straight above me? Is up there a patch of sky, clouds, or am I in a building with a ceiling? Why don’t I know? Have I been struck blind too?” All the rest of this internal act of inquiry was taking place silently, no soldier of the human-mercenary Battalions ever allowed themselves to disturb the peace of their bunkmates with idle maunderings, and Beeko had special reasons for toeing the line of all unwritten laws, among his battalion mates.

That principle of proper behavior firmly established in mind, he went back to being concerned about the disposition of his physical form. Though he well knew that his own N’Molloue-serving human-mercenary battalion’s skilled medical staff, all of whom would be equally as human as the soldiers, whom they maintained and restored to duty when damaged, could eventually take care of things like those ugly losses that he suspected having suffered. Still, the prospect was so alarming that Beeko, a ten active year veteran himself, started to struggle to sit up from where he was laid out upon his back like a dead mercenary soldier instead of a living one.

He found instantly that he was restrained tightly with stiff elastic straps across chest and belly, and long tubes plugged into both arms. A sure sign that he was badly wounded and in need of big help. Even more alarming because there was no precedent in his experience, he discovered that once he had moved, he had no sense of his right leg. His body awareness ended abruptly on that side of his form, just under his buttock. Yet still he found that he had no memory of what could have happened other than that he was plainly an unhappy casualty of that last assault.

Such unpleasant, unplanned for things did happen, and this was not his first time in infirmary, if this was infirmary, but somehow this situation was inexplicably different, and confusing. He was terribly aware that his instincts wanted to run wild and rebel. But for the life of him he could not imagine why this would be so. Empty minutes passed, then, for the first time since waking, he heard a noise that had not been present earlier. Being able to identify it was not enough, it had to be faced, and that required that the anxious youth fisted his scattered wits into a bundle. No human mercenary of the N’Molloue Empire ever wants to be caught napping.

It was a soft sound, the scuff of an indoor shoe against a smooth floor, but his senses were trained and finely tuned. Right away he forced himself to work harder on getting eyelids to obey his commands to open. Fifteen seconds later, when he had won his battle, he was rewarded with a powerfully pleasurable sight. Something totally unexpected, but uncommonly welcome. It was a female, certainly as young as he, dressed in a loose, flowing blouse and pants in pastel green and an equally light sky blue that swirled together and seemed to constantly wink into one another, then return back to themselves . This was not regulation wear for any nurses he had ever dealt with in the past, but he liked it. If this enchanting creature wanted to risk reprimand to increase her decorative nature, that was just fine with him. Furthermore, this surprisingly exquisite creature standing before him was extraordinarily lovely in other ways, with wavy midnight tresses framing her face down to the jaw line. Her deep, raven’s wing eyes that burned with life in their sockets, and she had a smooth milk chocolate complexion.

Her brow was broad, her chin firm, her nose compact and broad, yet delicate. Just to see her was to lose all memory of all of the girls and young women who have spurned him over the entire span of his years. Beeko was immediately struck to the heart, yet he was loath to react to his own runaway feelings in any visible or audible manner. The never quite perfectly accepted Beeko well knew what he looked like to his people. This was true on the surface of their home world, and in the bowels of their satellite retreat that circled above Earth’s quasi-ruined surface. It was still true among the soldiers of his short range fighting troop, just not so obvious. If any of his mates offended each other too openly, they might not be quite as quick to come to that offended one’s rescue in situations where fractions of a second might count. And that, of course, could be fatal.

He, with the humiliatingly lank, honey washed hair, hazel eyes, and ruddy-gold skin of his distant racial heritage showing through, felt like a flagrant badge of personal dishonor was tolerated more for the sake of self preservation, than for having gotten to know Beeko as an acceptable, real person. Where his culture did not include myths about angels, there were tales of supernatural beauty showing up among their kind, and this girl fit those myths as perfectly as he fit the indelible memory of those who had selfishly, nearly fourteen hundred years ago, broken the world and left his folk, in fact all of the people left on Earth, sick and starving. Nobody actually blamed the boy to his face, but the tightening of lips, failure to meet his eyes, reluctance to be seen as his friend, even among those who depended upon his good will, could not be mistaken for a series of random accidents. Beeko D’Ja was young, but he was proud to know beyond any doubt that neither was he a fool.

His customary hesitation was rewarded by this dusky vision who, generously ignoring Beeko’s so evident peculiarities, asked with tender kindness, “Feeling better yet? You have been coming to consciousness for more than an hour, soldier. If you had taken any longer, we would have been worried. As it is, Doctor will be wanting to study your stats, when she comes in.” Beeko’s throat is constricted and he makes a valiant effort to talk, finding it far more difficult for him than it should be.

Nevertheless he forces out the words, “Doctor? Where is this? How long have I been out? Do you know what actually happened? How long will it take for me to recover enough to go back to my duty?” For Beeko, there could be no question more pressing. Nor more vital for him to understand. His rank and position in the troop was tentative enough as it was. It was entirely possible that he would find himself bumped from the rolls. That would force him back to a base, to impatiently await reassignment with another outfit. One where he would be just as shakily welcome, and would have to go through the hazings and other rituals, just to gain a precarious minimum acceptance no better than what he had lost. It would be so much easier if he could simply slip back into an accustomed place.

This unguarded honest inquiry prompted a frown, and a prim statement that sounded like he was being scolded. As he held himself steady, not sinking his ears down as if he could protect them in the angle of his shoulders and upper arms, the deceptively sweet appearing, pitiless vision continued, “Oh, you are not going back, soldier, not ever. No matter how well you recover. Besides that leg is going to take four or five months to regrow even with the proper stimulation. As it is, you are in luck, both our local bio-chemical and magnetic resonance technology are at least ten percent better than back in a base infirmary. Even so, you will have plenty of opportunity to reorient to your new situation. Don’t worry. You will understand soon enough.”

“Understand?” The youth is doubly, perhaps triply confused. Local technology better than at a base infirmary? Why would that be? How is it even possible for her to say something nonsensical like that? The N’Molloue were the source of all advanced technology and they were scrupulously even-handed about what they were willing to give to their bipedal human servants. This is, naturally, one of the reasons that we lowly humans have been eager to remain faithful N’Molloue servants, after all. Almost without a pause between this thought and his own reaction to it, D’Ja snorted internally. “That, and terror. The generous six legged, four armed N’Molloue coordination masters always reserved their best technologies, including weaponry and starship drives for themselves. Even our best Mercenary Horizon-soldiers would be helpless squaring off against our benefactors. As for us, their Mercenary Bayonet soldiers? The slaughter would be absolute and nearly instant.”

“Anyway, Doctor, the puzzle remains unaddressed. Understand what? Understand about what? Why will I not be allowed to go back to my mates, if I recover well?” There is a short hesitation, yet in just a few seconds the intriguing blue and green clad woman seemed to relax and relent, but what she said was bewildering and nearly impossible to digest. “Your mercenary mates are nowhere nearby. That is the simple truth. Your bayonet- battalion is not in this star system, and you are no longer enrolled among their number. You will just have to get used to this, and make the most of it. I know that you don’t understand right now, but this is the truth that you will have to live with, and there is nothing about this with which you can argue. You might as well try arguing with a star about the spectrum of the light that it gives off. Or a N’Molloue battalion manager when she gives an order. Now, you have talked enough, probably too much. Go back to sleep. Someone will be here to see to your needs when you wake. It might be me, but that is unlikely.” The boy wanted to stare fixedly in dumbfounded consternation at the woman, but did not dare.

He hardly remembers that in normal life, he hardly notices his own reactions. He has his ways, and though they never worked to attract to himself what he wants, these ways save him from the foolish agony of making whatever his situation happens to be at the moment, worse.

Feeling suddenly used up and exhausted, his eyes begin to shutter of themselves, but before he is quite shut down, he has the strength to ask, “You know my name, surely. It has to be on my papers. But will you tell me yours?” Then his eyes seem to glue themselves closed, and an unending span of time seems to pass before he hears the fetching young woman’s lovely voice faintly, saying “Alright, it is no secret, I am called Zantches Il Barkum.”

Another eternity snails past, and then, “I am right at the moment serving the nursing staff here on New Beginnings, but I am a detached ex-member of a human-mercenary engineering battalion, just as you are a detached ex-member of a human bayonet-mercenary warfare battalion.” He has just time enough to puzzle over the designation, “New beginnings?” before he falls into a sort of nothingness, that is absolute, yet contingent upon him rather than upon itself. Yet this time, rather than being wrapped in insensible nothingness, he instantly enters a profound state of dream.



Do We Know What Is Real?

Do We Know What Is Real?

Long ago, I spent a couple of weeks getting to know a brilliant professional theologian who had already written an entire shelf of books, while letting him get to know me. This was of vital importance at the time because I was proposing to marry his daughter. The one serious sticking point came up when he framed a question as if it was about acting as an umpire at a baseball game. A pitched ball had crossed home plate, and the batter had held still as it passed. Some observers said that it was a ball because the pitched was just out of the strike zone, and some said that no it had been a strike. How, the theology professor asked, would I solve the dispute? Was there an absolute measure that could be arrived at, or was everything just relative depending upon one’s point of view?

“Oh poop,” I thought. I could see the trap. What my prospective father-in-law was asking was, “Did I accept that what seems obvious is reality, or was I infected with that deconstructionist, post-modern radicals who basically implied that nothing is actually real? Well, I was not in the camp that he was so unhappy with, but neither was I as naive about accepting as absolute what our senses tell us as he, a person of an earlier intellectual era, insisted upon being. I was unprepared, and fudged my answer, fuzzing up the edges of what I said.

But I have faced this same question often in the years since, and understand how to clarify what has to be expressed fairly well. What I’m going to give you now is an explanation written as dialogue between a fairly advanced human being of a future time, and an alien with whom she is creating a friendship. The whole story is not written here, only the snippet that expresses an answer to the nature of the “Reality,” within which we all exist:

“This is, I say, good. This, Megan Joy Brown, newest friend, is first the question from me. What mean you with this strange snippet of words, “Ultimate reality?” Is not what is real simply what is real? How then is some reality ‘Ultimate,’ indicating in this tongue of yours, more real than what is real? How is such a statement not, as you say, ‘Crazy?’” Megan Joy is relieved because this is a serious question that shows that the non-human female has placed her attention upon the actual content of what has been said, but this particular inquiry is not beyond Ms. Brown’s ability to answer. She clears her throat. “We each, my friend, experience the reality that we see, hear, and feel with our nervous systems. These systems are set up to keep us alive, and not to give us accurate scientific data. The two purposes overlap much of the time, but not always.”

“How is this? Understand I not this.” Megan Joy takes a deep breath before plunging in. “I cannot tell you about how your own nervous system works my non-human friend, but I can tell you about mine, because it is similar for all of us who are human and what is human is well studied. Let me start with color. My eyes show a specific spectrum of vibrational frequencies as colored light, and they do this only for those few chosen frequencies. There are infinitely more vibratory frequencies that might be perceived, but I do not see them.

“Instead, everything in this entire visible universe that is vibrating slower than the specific band of frequencies that my eyes see, strikes me as black. Everything vibrating faster than that band is also black to me. I experience a hue that I call black, that is either moving faster or moving slower than let us say yellow, and I simply do not know the difference. Under most circumstances this has no bearing on my survival, but in a laboratory…? You can, my Spacer friend, understand that this might be another story entirely?

“Black? What is black might but many colors unknown? This is disturbing.”

“Oh, just talking about vision, that isn’t even the half of it. Half of what I see, what any human sees, is not coming up my optic nerve from my eyes. Half of what I see is actually manufactured in my brain from memory and expectation. This is what causes smooth, no-gap perception, even though new information has to be processed before it is perceived, it is also why my kind are so often shocked to see how someone has grown so much older when we have not seen them for a while, but we take their aging in stride when we have seen them every day. You do understand this, surely?”

The ungainly being mimes a human nod, but says nothing more.

“Well, far more importantly, something similar is happening in the front part of our brains as we go through life,” Megan Joy drills down deeper. “Only this is not because of our being stuck with original equipment like the color sensing in our eyes, but because we are not stuck at all. Here is the situation: I am going to arrive at an understanding of the situation around me so that I have a way to understand how I fit, and what makes things happen. This we call a world-view/self-image. Self-image and worldview are always paired, and each forms a container for the other. On the other hand, every time I discover, through frustrating experience, that my present world-view/self-image is inadequate, I feel like I have run up against an unyielding bulkhead like the inner walls of this interstellar vessel, smashed my face against the thing or something.

“The more desperately I try to claw through that solid barrier the more frustrated I get. When I finally let go and stop thinking, my brain actually disassembles part of itself, “pruning” we say, many of its nerve bundles, then re-formats them more complexly. Meaning reconfigured with many more cross-connections, as well as possibly more nerves altogether. Suddenly I can think thoughts, and solve dilemmas that I was incapable of thinking or solving before, and I set off to do just that. But this leads to a new problem that my species did not understand for the longest time. I now tend to see everyone who has not reconfigured as many times as have I, to be backward and stupid, and I also continue to regard anyone who has re-formatted more often as foolish, unrealistic, and untrustworthy, so I will be wary of everything that such a person might think, say, or do.

“Do you see what this neurologic situation naturally, and inevitably leads to? We unfortunate humans, for most of our history have, because we could not see into our own physical brains, found that we hold to ideas, philosophies, cultures, what have you, that must simply contradict one another, and fight over those contradictions as if they are not only real in the outer “Real” world, but of vital importance. Therefore, my personal reality and my neighbor’s reality will be in each case not an ultimate reality after all, but we will still kill each other in defense of what we each say is reality. There are quite a number of other examples that I might give, but is this pair sufficient to give you a basic picture?”

The listening alien is horrified. “How can you then continue to exist?”

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