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Red Tidings of Great Ploy

With all credit to Rush and especially Neil Peart, to the tune of ‘Red Tide’ Sorry guys, I can resist anything but temptation.
Media has some new plague to run in our feeds

An ombre’d meme we are doomed to repeat

Facebook feed, becoming a bore

Thirsty travelers – find an open store

Frothy drink leads to open war

And the red cup crashed to the floor

THIS IS JUST A PAPER CUP

THIS IS NOT OFFENSE

Stay out of that star, it only bucks my skin

Lattes full of poison, baristas named Satan

Where’s the Sun that Mary bore?

Where’s the snowflakes like years before?

Black gold’s sipping is nothing to abhor

But my red cup’s crushed to the floor

THIS IS JUST A PAPER CUP

THIS IS NOT OFFENSE

No way will we redesign!

No way we will bend!

Is this conspiracy, or is this just a test?

Bottom line approaches, for the weary man

We used to be frothy, now even McD’s has head

Too late to change, to loud to ignore

Use social media as our coffee whore

Christmas tidings, let the profits soar!

And the red cups arrive at the stores

Now’s the time to make some sense

Let’s turn on the light

Let us not fall victim to this corporation’s hype

So ubsurd to think a travel mug could change a silent night

Let us not fall victim to this corporation’s blight

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Politics and the Two Great Ideologies

It has been noted before that the world is a battleground between two great ideologies. America is an extremely visible description of this war. The revolution was not a war against an oppressive monarchy, though lives were certainly lost in that endeavor. It was really a war between the concepts of ruler-ship and autonomy. It was a war between preservation of the status quo and the enlightenment. At the time the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was given free reign to use his gift with words, his philosophical leanings, and the dream of enlightenment ideals to stoke the passions of the citizenry towards the establishment of an independent nation. But there the single minded unity of the appointed delegates ended.

Two camps soon formed. One camp was dedicated to the establishment of an idyllic society in which everyone was self-sufficient. To do this, the population needed to be educated landowners who were involved in the political process and who were not dependent on any entity for their survival. If everybody had a stake in their society and had the education and means to do so, they would build a nation of unity, strength, and resilience. Everyone would have an equal voice and, through cooperation and debate, would set policies that ensured the strength and endurance of such a society.

The other camp was a hold-over from the days of empire building. They wanted to appoint a new king. They operated under the notion that people are incapable of ruling themselves and need an agency to dictate behavior, ethics, and morality to preserve the social structures of a nation in order to create wealth and maintain control of the population. They held that wealth and power were bestowed on specific agencies by God, and everyone else was there to support the will of those appointed few.

It is fair, of course, to point out that neither camp was primarily formed by men who had created their own wealth; they were not self-made men, they were men who were born into wealth. Certainly, none of them sacrificed their wealth to ensure freedom. They did gamble their freedom, but ridding themselves of British monarchy was largely a financial consideration. The difference revealed itself after the yoke of monarchy was cast off.

Today this battle is still being fought. The titles of the entities at war have changed, but not the underlying ideologies. On the one hand are corporations and corporate government and on the other, social programs and individual freedom. It has always been an uneasy alliance. Our most prosperous periods as a nation have been those times when our nation leaned towards Jeffersonian ideals at the expense of those of Hamilton. Our darkest hours are always at those times when we have allowed Hamilton’s perspective to run unfettered.

Historically, when we allow the wealthy and corporate entities to horde wealth, they horde it, they do not take the bulk of it and spread among the population. When we spend more time legislating against the individual and relax the regulation of big business, they take advantage of relaxed regulations of relaxed oversight and behave badly. Corporations are formed by individuals. Why we expect more restraint from them than we do from ordinary citizens is beyond me.

Relaxing the regulation of big business and the banking industry allowed for the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Under the New Deal, we place the brunt of taxation on those who gained the bulk of the wealth. We promoted social spending such as jobs programs, housing, nutrition, and education and we saw our strength, unity, and wealth as a nation grow. I think we sometimes forget this important lesson of history. I think we forget why we are here and what we did last time we got to this place. I think we have forgotten what’s important and what works, not for the upper 5%, but for our nation. We have forgotten the Great Idea, the same one espoused by the central figure of Christianity as we run wholeheartedly to the one espoused by the medieval church, by monarchy, by corporations, and by the state. The two are very different.

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Gun Violence in the Cyber Age

I am tired. I am tired of reading about our problems with mass shootings and gun violence. I am tired of reading about how the evil left wants to take away guns so that the government can institute marshal law and turn us all into slaves. I am tired of division and divisiveness, derision and poor decisions. The truth is that we have forgotten how to solve problems together—thoughtfully, constructively and cooperatively.

No one on the left is saying that you have to give up your guns. What they are saying is maybe we should make it harder for people who want to go out and kill ten random strangers to get the guns they need to do it. On the right, I hear a lot of talk about how guns make us safer; allow the common man the ability to stand up to government tyranny. I hate these arguments. Having a gun means you are actually more likely to die in an act of gun violence. All of the .45 magnums in the world offer you as much protection against government tyranny as a blade of grass against an elephant. Our government have nerve gas, biological agents, microwave weapons that cook off the outer layer of your skin and, need I mention nuclear warheads. If the government wants you neutralized there is no hope for you.

To those on the left who think that we should melt down guns and build beautiful works of blue steel art, I say: even if no one in the U.S. Had a gun, people will always find a way to kill each other. Sword attacks, knife attacks, golf club attacks, and attacks with dumbbells take people’s lives, sometimes in greater numbers than you might think. Getting rid of guns isn’t the answer.

Well, Rev. Grim, if no one is right then what IS the answer? Honestly, I don’t know. I have a few suggestions, but you probably won’t like them. Since you asked I will share them. First, we need to tone down our love affair with violence. Get rid of sports and the semiotics of violence from our schools. Teaching our children to steal when they want something (like bases or balls), to kill their opponents or to kick their asses, and to cheat as long as they don’t get caught is ruining us. These are all activities they learn playing sports and is probably why high school football players are more likely to end up in prison than any other single demographic in our nation.

Second, we need to realize and freely admit that EVERYONE is crazy. We all have a psychosis, a neurosis, or a personality or behavior disorder of some sort. The great secret of psychology is that there is no meaningful definition of sanity, only explanations of insanity which everyone has at least some attributes of. We need to make it okay to admit that we are crazy and we need to make sure that people feel okay getting help before they lose it and walk into a public place and kill a bunch of other crazy people who aren’t hurting anyone, really. I like to say that admitting that you’re crazy allows you the opportunity to make concessions so that the rest of the world doesn’t have to deal with your insanity; the truly dangerous ones are those who refuse to accept that they’re crazy and push off the effects of their insanity on the rest of the world.

Finally, we need to put down our tech. We are so isolated as individuals that it is no small wonder people relate more to characters in video games than they do to each other. Humans are social creatures by nature. We have evolved, over hundreds of millions of years to interact with each other. Our brains work off of social cues and non-verbal gestures, off of pheromones and touch. People who are isolated from human contact for extended periods break, and yet everyday, all over the country we are replacing communities with social networks; we are trading friends for facebook, and we are trading social gatherings for dating sites and tinder. Guns are merely tools. If we want to stop mass shootings, we need to address the real problems. We are a nation of isolated individuals, taught that violence is acceptable when we really want something; we are isolated and alone and lonely and breaking apart because we are trying to live an inhuman life while maintaining a facade of humanness in this very cyber age.

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Martial arts, Uncategorized

Ki Ken Tai Ichi: Unity in the Midst of Chaos

Ki-ken-tai-ichi or “spirit, sword, & body are one” are the essential elements to a yuko-datotsu (correct strike). This means that all three elements of the strike happen as one element and make the perfect strike. The ability to do this is the ideal which all practice should strive for as a goal.

– Kendo Promotional Exam Study Guide, auskf.info

When I started practicing kendo at Doshikai Kendo and Iaido Dojo, I heard the words Ki Ken Tai Ichi often enough to understand that this was a fundamental concept to the practice of Kendo. It has taken a great deal of time, effort, and dedication to reach this point where I feel that I can address the subject and be confident that my treatment of the topic will be relevant. Ki Ken Tai Ichi is a state in which the mind/spirit/intent is unified with the shinai and body during the performance of a valid strike. A strike without proper demonstration of Ki Ken Tai Ichi will not be considered valid and thus will not be awarded a point.

On a practical level there are certain identifiers that will indicate that the kenshi is demonstrating proper Ki Ken Tai Ichi and has achieved yuko-datotsu.   To have properly demonstrated Ki Ken Tai Ichi, the kendo player must synchronize the impact of the mono-uchi with the landing of the leading foot. This is simultaneously accompanied by a strong kiai to express whole hearted intent and dedication to the cut. While this sounds like a simple matter of timing, the reality is that it involves a complex series of events that bring the body’s center into harmony with the movement of the limbs, breath, and shinai resulting in a cut that occurs in a single beat and is punctuated by a resounding kiai. This is the essence of the ideal strike and the only strike that will be considered valid for the purposes of scoring. I might hit my opponent over the head all day but without proper Ki Ken Tai Ichi, I will never score a point or win the match.

On a more esoteric level, Ki Ken Tai Ichi takes on a more all encompassing aspect. When we break the concept down into its individual components, the idea of a supreme unification between an individual’s KI, Ken, and Tai is very intriguing. The mind/spirit complex which tends to maintain a constant dialog in relation to the environment struggles against focus. The internal dialog is chaotic and spends most of its time over thinking and analyzing what the senses feed it. The shinai is at first an alien body in relation to the self. Initially, the student has to exert a great deal of conscious effort in controlling the shinai. This effort is confounded by the erratic internal dialog. Constant practice breeds a close, personal relationship with the shinai while repetitive training creates instinctual action that releases the conscious self from its responsibility to control and direct the shinai. The chaotic conscious mind is put to rest as it switches from the discursive mode, talking its way through the match to an objective focus on the shinai and the task at hand. The present moment is the only time in which valid strike can occur. The body, which always exists in the present moment, is the foundation that when rooted into by the mind/spirit allows the newly present and aware kenshi to manifest Ki Ken Tai Ichi and achieve yuko-datotsu.

The concept of Ki Ken Tai Ichi serves a very valuable and foundational role in the way of the sword. It is a tool that allows the kenshi to develop a capacity for mindful, correct action and nurtures a sense of calm even in the midst of chaos.

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Novel Graphic

“Hey! What are you doing in my dumpster?!” the burly restaurateur hollers from the back of his shop. I duck down, wolfing half a sandwich in a bite and dropping the rest as he struts across the alley.

“I thought I saw a shelf in here,” I lie, holding up a broken board as evidence. For some reason people are more offended by the idea of eating trash than they are about me decorating my home with it.

“Yeah, whaddevuh, just beat it kid,” he gruffs, poking a thumb fatter than my wrist toward the street.

“I’m beatin’!” I hop out of the dumpster like a scared cat. Halfway to the street, I turn. “Hey, you’re not hirin’ are you?” I’m always looking for work—anything, and I don’t want this guy to get pissed and start dumping bleach on his food. They have the best hoagies in town.

“For you?” he asks, thrusting his hands out palms-up and framing me with a helpless query. He waves, disgusted, and turns back into his kitchen.

I shrug and lope out of site. Life as a gutter rat is scary sometimes. You never know when some burly, three-times-your-size dickhead is going to cut loose and take out a lifetime of shit and suffering on you. I once had my jaw broken when a gorilla decided to use my face for a golf club against the fender of a car because I said hello in the wrong language. You learn to keep your mouth shut. You also learn to watch body language and develop a strong instinct for the best time to cut and run.

Things won’t be like this forever. I have even just now completed my manuscript. There is a spring in my usually heavy step. It is the quiet hope of a man who has just been informed that his parole has been approved, or that his missing loved one is coming home. This book is good. I already have a two paragraph summary written up. I recite it in my head as I walk:

All stories have very simple beginnings, the drop of a name, the changing of seasons. Robert Engel’s love affair with archaeology began as a simple dream in the mind of a child. Now, in the rainforests of Central America, that dream has begun to manifest itself and it may change the very nature of life on earth. Faced with an ancient prophecy he must walk a trail as the sole representative of humanity, a trail intended for a very different being. Can he prevail and save his species?

Gritty, suspenseful, and brimming with lavish detail and rich narratives, this tale ushers in a new era for fiction fans by stretching back and touching the Sacred. Imaginative, creative, and original, this story echoes ancient wisdom in the tradition of the warrior poets. An epic journey that is startling, though-provoking, and full of deep implications and questions. Sure to be the year’s best seller!

I felt kinda arrogant putting that last bit in there, but after much consideration I decided that I have seen some pretty lousy books that said that too, so I figure it must be like ‘creative visualization’…if you imagine hard enough you can will something to be. Even though my book is fan-fucking-tastic and I don’t need luck, it never hurts to have some just in case. My chest swells briefly. I am proud of this book. Without being conceited, my work is way better than anything Penn Sting ever dreamed of writing. The artwork is outstanding, too…

I turn to unlock the front door of the complex and in the reflection of the glass window, beyond my sleepy, brown eyes and dark features, I see it. I close my eyes for a minute. I just sent the manuscript by certified mail yesterday, which means I’m imagining things. I open my eyes, but it’s still there. Muted Prophecies: 1 Ahau. I walk across the street numbly. I pull a copy of the manuscript out of my pocket and hold it up. The goggle-eyed man atop the step-sided pyramid in the comic shop sign and the man atop the pyramid on my manuscript cover are identical down to the brush-stroke, with one exception: the name Rick Barber isn’t anywhere on the sign, which reads: Written by Penn Sting, Illustrated by Carl Toland.

I feel like I’m in a different, foggy, and possibly drug-induced world. The sun is up now, which means that I have been standing here, in front of the comic shop looking at the sign and my manuscript for hours. Since four o’clock, I have drifted, anchored by incredulity to this spot; turning my escape out of poverty over and over in my hands; opening it, closing it; touching the Illustrated by Rick Barber printed on the cover. For nearly four hours I have hovered here squinting at details beneath first, the flickering streetlight and then, beneath the first rays of morning. I have read it and re-read it more times than I can count and I remember writing it and drawing it, and rewriting and redrawing, inking, cutting, pasting, and scanning. I remember being struck by ideas for half a year until the novel was so exquisitely perfect that no one could ever turn it down. Of course, all of that is immediately called into question on looking up into the window and the glossy sign in front of me.

This has happened before. Once I designed a character and drew up six full issues with an extended two year plot line. On the day I finished it, I took it over to show my friend Larry. He showed me the pre-sales for a new series that was identical to mine and accused me of ‘somehow’ stealing manuscripts from the artist, though how I was supposed to have managed that, I’ll never know. That was six years ago, and he still looks at me with shifty eyes and hunched shoulders, like a boar who could charge at any moment.

I walk through the dingy halls into my tiny efficiency, pausing at my box on the way to retrieve the fan-mail I regularly receive from collection agencies. The walls are papered with painted mosaics in bright four-color dots framed by off-white trim like a comic book. Heroes are locked in defiant combat with arch-foes, struggling for the fate of humanity. I drop my keys and the mail on the table I made out of an old door and cinder blocks and flop onto the couch in a heap. Action figures stare at me from displays around the room; on top of the mini-fridge, clustered around the ashtray and Zippo fluid on the counter, on top of the dresser; a thousand tiny spies transmitting my precious work to corporate thieves who steal my dreams, steal my hope. There is no voluntary muscle movement, now. I am lying like a man waiting for death; the innocent prisoner who is freed, after his life is over, with an apology and a handshake.

Then I see it. I have lain here in this exact position before, but I have never before seen the tiny little hole. It is a small, jagged rip in the wall where the paint has cracked and it bulges strangely. I swear there is a weak light shining through and I feel like I am being watched by a million eager eyes. I watch, in awe, as a roach skitters into the strange fissure. I know I haven’t done anything horribly illegal, but I feel like I am being appraised and judged, like my soul is exposed to humanity. I feel small and frail. I hear murmurs now, a cacophony of whispers tearing into my heart and mind.

“Who…are…you?” I demand, my gnarled, knotted fingers clutching handfuls of hair on either side of my head as I try to shut out the deafening roar of whispers.

The whispers continue without acknowledging me. I hate being ignored and the whispers have taken on a harsh, grating tone. I also hate being perceived as small and frail. I attack the rip in the wall viciously, with my bare hands; prying my fingertips into the edges of the hole and digging my way out of this tiny illustrated box; peeling away ink and paper, ripping the border away to see what hovers so menacingly beyond—in the next frame.

The light is blinding and the whispers are now deafening, interspersed with screams of rage and shrieks of horror and heartbreak. Still I tear at the wall, ripping the hole open wider and enraging the whispers further with my insolence. I am burning beneath their stares. Greasy fingers smudge my glossy skin, staining and streaking me, pressing me back down into the page. My life is laid out, frame by frame, before their eager eyes. Every pain and sorrow is for their amusement, every thought and every sin open for their scrutiny. “Do I even have free will?” Or is my entire life just a twisted plot-line? I curl up in a ball in this new tiny frame I find myself in, with only vague images of roaches and a brown envelope lingering in my perception.

* * * * *

I wake with a start on my sofa. I don’t feel like I was drugged, which I of all people would know, but I don’t feel right. Something is off. I rub my rough hands over my face, running them through my short black hair. I take a deep breath and feel the pinch of anxiety churning gastric juices in my center. I make my way to the mini-fridge, trying to avoid making contact with the glaring action figures in formation there. I keep what little food I have here refrigerated, to protect it from bugs. The bugs are everywhere in this neighborhood. City workers try not to go in the sewers without special suits, because the bugs down there are so big and so numerous.

Some French bread and cheese should settle my stomach. I cut the moldy spots off the cheese block and wolf it down. I used to enjoy eating, but now I consume as much as I can as quickly as I can, so I can move on, like a scavenger. I wipe the grease from the cheese onto my jeans. My gaze falls to the table. A roach skitters to the edge the table, staring at me with accusing eyes, a tiny judge waiting to fill my ecological niche, but satisfied to feed off of me for the time being. The spiky hairs on its legs send a wave of revulsion through me. I am sickened by its horrible, disease infested visage. It chitters briefly, moving its antennae sickeningly. Others emerge and join it. Their glassy little eyes fix on me and they chitter to one another. I know they are talking about me. I can hear their whispers; almost understand their murmurs. There are so many of them now, that they practically coat the entire surface of the door-table and the assorted shit that is strewn about its surface.

Sweat glistens on my face. I can feel it beading up in my hairline even though there is a chill that has taken residence in my spine. No longer merely a swarm now, the bugs seem to be moving in unison, like a colony setting about a specific task. Suddenly the idea strikes me. Its absurdity dictates its inherent truth. The roaches have been the spies all along. My revulsion quickly turns rage. Everything makes sense now…my ideas being stolen, the whispers, the eyes…even the dearth of pimentos in the cheese spread when I left it out. It was them all along. “You!” I scream, jumping to my feet. “You are the ones responsible! You have taken all of my dreams; you have sold off my hope like a stolen wedding ring!”

The roaches were chittering louder now, rising up off of the table, climbing over one another’s slippery chitin shells. I kick the table over and leap towards the counter, swiping a bottle of lighter fluid. I fumble desperately with the tip and spray it onto the table where they are regrouping. I spray until the bottle is empty, soaking the door and as many of their revolting little bodies as I can. I pull the matches from my pocket and strike a match.

“Fuck you,” I say as I toss it into the center of their mass. Their chittering becomes a shriek, high pitched, almost deafening, but infinitely satisfying. I sit down on my sofa and begin sorting through the scattered contents of my table, still very pleased with myself and enjoying the glowing light of my table fire, the sizzling and popping of the bugs’ bodies indistinguishable from the popping and hissing of the wood.

Amid my fan-mail is a plain brown envelope. Its presence is disturbing and I hesitate, freezing in my movement as though it is going to grow teeth and attack me. I take a deep breath and stare at my brown, scarred knuckles. The cuticles are scratched and torn, puffy red. The hole in the wall is a foot long slit, swollen and pulsing. Sweat is beading on my forehead. I open the envelope and I am greeted by the back of a graphic novel. My breath shudders out of my nose. I close my eyes and turn over the book.

The Insignificant Life of Rick Barber

The book drops from my shaking hands onto the floor. The heavy cardstock cover drops open. My life is an insignificant graphic novel. There on the first page, I stand, holding scraps of paper and staring at a store window. I pick it up and see my life bared. Shrieks of murmuring intermittently rip through my mind. I live in an empty room with a board and illustrated furniture. My fantasies and my realities are colliding. I feel as though I’m falling forward at a hundred miles an hour, doomed to collide into the painted wall in a thin puddle of fluid and fragments.

My heart is pounding faster and faster, the veins on my forehead bulging. The pages flip, and my eyes are locked on the words and images printed there. My thoughts flow from me in the exact order in which they are written. The pictures are blurred and twisted. Bursts of white light blink in my periphery. The sweat from my hands is warping the pages now. The pages continue to flip and I realize that I can no longer tell whether I am turning the pages or the pages are turning themselves beneath my clumsy, grease and naphtha covered fingers. Faster the pages flip, and faster, keeping time with the deafening drumming in my chest. I close my eyes. I am falling so fast, as though I can feel myself moving through space at a million miles an hour, perched upon this rock. I am terrified to read the last page…

* * * * *

“Yeah, this unit just opened up yesterday, so I haven’t got it cleaned out yet, but it won’t take long to finish,” the older man rasped as he opened the door. “Kid took off. Guess he went to go find greener pastures.” He said turning on the light with his pudgy fingers.

“Whoa…” the young man said turning around in the efficiency.

“Yeah. Kid had some talent. Not sure what to do with it. Reckon I can’t throw it away. Even if he never comes to pick it up, it’ll be worth somethin’ someday.”

The prospective renter walked around the room, greasy fingers gliding gently across the surface of the murals on the walls and the drawings of luxurious furniture. He paused at the only picture that was not on giant sheets of paper. “What is this one made with?” he asked touching the glossy surface. “It’s like it’s inlaid in the plaster.”

“Yeah. I ain’t never seen nothin’ like that,” the landlord replied tugging his ear, arms crossed on his chest and resting on his bulging abdomen. “Reckon I’ll have to replace the sheet rock, so it’ll be a day or two before this unit’s ready, but like I said, them one-bedrooms are ready right now.”

“No, no…this one’s kinda creepy, but it’s so well done…it’s like having a van Gogh in your living room. Let’s leave it,” he said staring at the screaming, illustrated man. The sleepy brown eyes of the painted man glistened like obsidian, and his dark curls threatened to pop out of the wall. He seemed to be struggling, bound in the straight-jacket, as though he were trying to leap out of the wall, or being sucked into a panel in a comic book. At the bottom of the frame was a bold golden-rod colored box with black letters:

Next month: Dissecting the mind of Rick!

This short story first appeared in the OU Windmill, 2007. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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Uncategorized

The Encounter at Old Farmer’s Meadow.

The sun was hot on his back, threatening to roast him, slowly baking his eyes and nose.  Both itched and burned from the dust and grass pollen but he didn’t move so much as a muscle.  The beast might notice him.  It had been sitting there for what seemed an eternity; waiting, watching.  It hadn’t seen him but only because he was still as a corpse.  He made his breaths shallow and slow.  The sound of his own breath rushing in his nostrils echoed in his ears with each repetition.  There was no way the beast could hear it from where it perched but he slowly opened his mouth a tiny crack and breathed in and out slowly through it.  If the beast could smell fear it would know exactly where he was.  He was so scared.  He hadn’t ever expected to see one of them for real.

His neighbor’s uncle had been taken two summers past and a friend that he had played in the forest glen with as a young one had been taken just last week.  It had always been somebody else, always somebody who had not been careful enough.  It was always somebody who wasn’t as smart or quick as he was.  Smart and quick wasn’t going to get him out of this one.  He could hear his mother’s warnings and admonitions to be safe and keep an eye on the sky repeated relentlessly in his head like an echo that never faded.  Nobody had ever seen one of these and lived to tell about it.

The wind picked up just a bit, lifting his hair for an instant then letting it fall.  The beast swiveled its vicious head towards him it’s black soulless eyes falling it seemed directly on where he lay among the tall grass.  His breath caught in his throat.  He started to shake.  He wanted to bolt from his hiding place and dash towards the safety of the woods and home but the beast stood between him and salvation.  These things were supposed to fly, not sit there on stones and wait for you.

“Don’t move,” said a voice.  “It hasn’t seen you yet.  If it had you would be dead.”

He knew the voice was in his head, but he had the oddest sense that it was whispering in his ear.

“Who is that?” he asked himself but not himself.

“Who I am doesn’t matter.  The question you need to be asking yourself is how we are going to get ourselves out of this?” replied the voice.

“There is no getting out of this.  It’s looking right at me.”

“It’s looking right at us, and yes, there is a way out of this.  We can do this.  I will help.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m here with you.  That’s all that matters right now.  You aren’t alone any more.  We can get out of this together.”

“I’m scared.  It’s just sitting there.  It has been for hours.  It must know I’m here.  Somehow it knows I’m here and it’s going to kill me.”

“Then why not stand up and let it happen?”

“I don’t want to die!  Not like this.  Not here, alone in this wretched field.  Not by that thing.  I’m still young.  I still have a future.”

“I’m here with you,” said the voice.  “That thing will not be the death of us.  Of course we are going to die, but not here.  Not now, and not in the claws of that good for nothing beast.  We have to think.  We can do it together.”

He had stopped shaking.  What or who was this talking to him?  Where had it come from and could he trust it?  His mind was racing, his heart pounding.  The sun was so hot.  He felt like he was roasting where he lay.  The bright sunny day that had drawn him into the meadow was now his enemy, working with the beast to seal his fate.  He should have never left the woods.  He was safe there.  He had never seen the beast.  Nobody ever saw the beast in the woods.  Gods above, why hadn’t he listened to his mother and the elders?  He could be safe at home right now eating and chatting with his family and friends, but he had to be adventurous.  He had to be the one to push the boundaries, to question everything and take nothing for granted.  What was he always looking for?

“If you keep thinking like that you won’t ever get us out of here.  I can help, but I can’t do it for you.  If we are going to live you will have to find your courage and make a decision.”

“Who are you?  Get out of my head!  You aren’t helping, you are scaring the shit out of me almost as much as that beast sitting there staring at me.”

“We need to work together in this.  I’ll explain everything as soon as we are safe, but I need you to calm down and look around.  There is a way out of this and we will find it.”

This was insane.  His eyes started to slowing scan to the right then to the left.  He took his time looking and thinking.

“What the hell am I doing?  I’m doomed and now I’m going insane.  I have a voice in my head.  I’m going nuts and I’m going to die screaming.”

“There!  That’s our way out.”

Almost half way between where he lay in the grass and the beast’s perch, a small mound of debris crowded into the worn battered branches of a small shrub.  It seemed like mainly sticks leaves and dirt.  The Wind knew what else might be tangled in that mess.   The Shrub lay in a shallow depression that would fill with running water during storms, another hazard that he had been warned away from.  He hoped his mother wouldn’t find his body.

“Oh please.'” He tried to feel the earth beneath him but could only feel grass.  Coarse matted grass.  “Maybe that damn beast will carry me off, far away, to eat me?”

“You can make it to that shrub before the beast can.  I know you can.  You are fast; The fastest of all your brothers and sisters.  Faster than anyone in the family or any of the neighbors when you were in school.”

He hadn’t run for fun in such a long time.  He remembered the feel of the ground nearly pushing him away with each step.  It was so effortless, so easy to run faster than the wind.  It felt as though he could fly at times.  Wait, he was tensing his legs!

“What the hell am I doing?”

He startled himself.  He thought for an instant that he had screamed that aloud but the beast didn’t move.  Its black, glossy eyes seemed to be looking straight at him but at the same time look everywhere at once.  His legs had stopped any silly notions of running.   For now, that is.

“It’s the only way.  You just run.  Run like you know you can.  Run to life and I will do the rest.”

“You are crazy, and I am insane.   I’m lying here in the meadow, about to die a bloody, painful, scary damn death and all I can do is lay here arguing with an imaginary voice in my head that’s trying to get me to commit suicide.”

“Who said I was in your head?”

“Shut Up!  I can’t do this.  I just need to lay here until it leaves.  That’s safer.  That’s the only way I have any hope of living through this.”

“It’s not going to leave.  It knows you are here somewhere.  It will stay till it finds you.”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!  Just go away.  Please just go away.”

He was starting to shake again.  He could feel the tears starting to roll down his face.  The beast would see.

“You have to go now!  It sees us!”

The best started to shift.  Great, glossy, sharp wings spread as the creature bounded into the air.  Those great wings beating, powering the massive thing into the air.

“Run!”

It was all he could hear, all he knew.  He was running.  When did he start running? He was still fast.  Faster than ever, and by a great deal!  He looked up and nearly stumbled.  The beast was nearly on him.  Vicious claws outstretched and grasping.  It was fast.  Faster than he was and he was running towards it!

“Close your eyes!”  The command echoed in his head then he was leaping, head first into the shrub.  This was unreal.  He felt like a passenger inside his own body but yet not.  His legs were burning, his chest heaving, about to burst.  His eyes were closed now; he could feel the debris as it exploded around him.  It hurt.  He could feel something sharp stab into the soft skin of his side. Was that the beast’s claws?  Those grasping, tearing, ripping claws were reaching for him now. He could hear the beast now crying out, wings flapping frantically.  Frantically? What had happened?

He could see again.  He was running.  Into the forest!

“I’m alive!” He called out loud and into the air this time.  He wanted the voice to hear. He wanted everyone to hear.  “I’m alive, I’m alive.”

He dared a quick glance back as he continued running on beneath the forest canopy. The beast was nowhere to be seen.  He ran a bit quicker.  The debris pile and shrub looked as though the beast had gotten the better of them.

“Better the bush than me,” he said aloud but also to the voice.  “Now I think you owe me an explanation.  Who are you, and where did you come from?”  The silence he received was somehow disturbing. It was downright frightening.  He stopped running.  “Hey, I owe you one.  Hello?” He felt alone and scared now; more so than when in danger from the beast.

“Shit.  I really am going crazy.”  He continued on at an easy trot, reaching out with his senses, looking for the beast, looking for the voice.

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Communication and Creating Reality: Reconciling Opposing Realities

I have been pondering the interaction of multiple realities for some time. How is it that, if reality is based on perception, some realities seem to dominate the realities of others in spite of the will of the individual? I would submit that the nature of communication comes into play here, in a very powerful role. In order to understand the nature of communication, one must understand that communication is a socio-cultural activity.

At the most fundamental level, communication is the act of deriving meaning from abstract symbols in the context of the culture in which they are utilized. In producing, interpreting or sharing communication, we are taking part in an act which is sanctioned by the culture we are interacting in. It is not individuals, but their culture which assigns meaning to individual and composite elements of the abstract, be they audible or visual elements. For example, to most Americans of English speaking descent, the abstract symbols “Nee hao” have no meaning, but to those who are immersed in a culture that incorporates Chinese language and culture, it is interpreted as “Hello.”

It cannot be said that the abstract symbols so arranged have meaning in and of themselves, nor can it be said that the individuals who are communicating are establishing meaning for their communication. Rather, it is the group to which the individuals belong which assigns meaning to combinations of phonemes and dictates acceptable and unacceptable uses of such abstractions. In this manner, through cooperation and education, we are able to not only assign meaning, but to create meaning of our own. The universe need not dictate that I am hungry, but my ability, or even my desire, to communicate meaning may serve as the basis for the reality of my statement.

The same is true of a shared reality. In choosing to participate with other individuals in a meaningful manner, we are forced to interpret reality in a cooperative manner in order to derive meaning from our experiences. That is to say, we lend our perceptions to and may even push aside aspects of our own reality, in order to interact with other beings in their realities. The question has been raised, “Why is it that in some instances (such as two rival teams in a competition), one reality can overpower an equal and opposing reality?” The answer is fairly simple. One reality must choose to be dominated in order to allow the two realities to interact and produce meaning to individuals with a group. Sometimes we have to choose to accept the reality of others as our own in order to sustain the complex yet illusory world we have chosen to interact in.

Humans are constantly making and remaking our world in order to incorporate new knowledge and perspectives. We adjust to new interactions, and we derive meaning and understanding from these perspectives and interactions. We cannot do this if we refuse to accommodate the realities of others. In a very real way, we acknowledge the validity of the realities of others and give acquiescence to their reality, to their perspectives and meaning. We co-operate, or operate with others, to provide the foundations necessary for a group understanding of the world and our place in it. We have unlimited free will, including our decisions to live, work, and love with other sentient beings in a world predicated on perception so that we can learn who we are, why we’re here, and what we need to learn to be at peace.

So…what kind of reality are you building? What are you trying to learn? What concessions are you making in your daily life? Are you choosing to limit yourself by abiding by the realities of those around you, or are you letting others help you to grow and blossom into the master you were born to be?

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