How to Carbonize a Textbook

27 02 2010

So much rests on the position of the coal layer in geologic time.  They call it the “Carboniferous” period from several million years ago.  They should be calling it the Prevaricaceous period.  What they taught us when we were kids, and what they’re still teaching your kids, is that a layer of coal formed under the earth as a result of trees and bushes getting buried, whence they decomposed for millions of years in the absence of organisms that could break them down properly.  This is the fiction told in your reliable textbooks, as well as on the more serious references found on the Internet.  What they don’t tell you is that there is no known chemical process for this to happen as described.  More importantly, though, I need to address the fact that this theory was completely debunked almost two decades ago when an honest scientist, one of the few remaining on Earth, discovered that a substantial layer of coal was created not over the course of millions of years, but in the course of a day.

It was a famous volcano known as Mount Saint Helens.  In 1980 this prominent peak blew its top and covered a large section of forest with mud and lava.  A few years was required before someone paid close enough attention to the geological stratification to discover a layer of coal that had been formed from the trees that once stood there.  The find was phenomenal.  Even such prominent periodicals as the National Geographic published news on the matter.  The problem with the discovery, though, was that it threatened to turn geological and paleontological dating on its head.  Normally, fossils could be dated by their proximity to a coal layer under the earth, where there was one.  Those found in and around that layer were presumed to be about as old as the layer, which, in principle, is not such a poor assumption.  Because coal was presumed to have formed from three hundred million years ago, the conclusion was that these fossils were about this age, also.  The implication that coal could be formed in a day by a single eruption destroyed the foundation upon which that age was determined.  The coal didn’t take that long to form, therefore it was not necessarily that old.

The process is called carbonization, and, unlike the theory fed to us in the hay trough of public education, this chemical process has been well known for centuries.  During combustion your log, or textbook, burns in two stages.  In the first stage, steam is released.  This process actually consumes energy, rather than release it.  When you first toss a piece of wood on a campfire, you might notice that it just sits there, at first, emitting a light-gray smoke.  That’s steam.  Eventually, when enough of that steam has been released, the second stage of combustion kicks in, producing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other smoke byproducts.  This is the step that actually releases heat, and it further drives the first step to completion.  Now, the steam that gets released is not simply the moisture residing in the wood.  The log could be perfectly rid of water yet release steam in the first step.  The water doesn’t even exist until it is formed in the first step.

So, to summarize the process of combustion, when enough heat is applied to a flammable substance it absorbs that heat and releases water.  It can do this in the absence of oxygen.  In the next step, it reacts with the air and produces a flame, heat, smoke, and all of the attributes that we normally associate with the process of burning.  The second step cannot happen in the absence of oxygen.  Therefore, what happens during a volcanic event is that the lava covers the forest, either directly or over a layer of mud, and the intense heat causes the first stage of combustion.  The second stage is thwarted, because the layer of molten rock prevents oxygen from getting to the wood.  What you’re left with is a material that burns hotter than wood, because it no longer has the first stage to absorb much of its heat.  In essence, while wood stores the energy of sunlight, coal stores the energy of that sunlight plus the energy of a volcano.

One notable point to consider is that carbonized wood, known as coal, is an activated carbon.  This means that it has a tendency to bind to toxic metals that would normally poison us.  Now, if coal could have been formed by simple decomposition over millions of years, then this would not be an issue.  However, the toxic metal known as mercury is normally derived by heating certain rocks until they produce mercury vapor, which must then be condensed into its liquid phase to be properly contained.  Lava, then, is nature’s way of extracting mercury from rock.  In this case, the active carbon layer is sandwiched under a heated rock that often contains mercury.  The result is that the coal absorbs this mercury, as well as some other toxic substances, which then give rise to environmentalist concerns about the burning of coal.  But that’s a different matter.

The process of incomplete combustion has been well known for years.  It was often used to make a highly flammable cloth, known as char, from cotton fabric.  People used this char as an easy way to cause a spark to generate a flame, which could then be used to start a fire for various useful purposes.  The only catch was that they had to use a fire to make the char if they needed the char to make a fire.  It’s easy to do, really.  If you wish to carbonize a paleontology textbook, all you really need is a steel container big enough to hold it.  The container should be able to close snugly enough to snuff a flame.  Make a hole in the top about the size of a pinprick, to allow the steam to escape.  Then toss the whole thing into a campfire and sing worship songs while you roast marshmallows.  Keep an eye on the container to make sure no flame forms over the pinhole.  Once the first combustion stage nears completion, the material emits flammable vapors that ignite just outside of the hole, causing a flame to appear.  Snuff the flame, if you can.  If the flame reappears immediately, then your textbook is nearly fully carbonized.  Be careful not to burn yourself when you remove it from the fire.  After it cools completely, you can open the container and remove its charred contents.  Upon first sight, it will look like a burned book.  Intuitively, a thing already burned is not flammable, but this is not the case.  The carbonized textbook is even more flammable than it was originally.

Now, the discovery at Mt. St. Helens was rightly perceived as a threat to paleontology.  This fact was published and publicly recognized, but somehow, between then and now, this notion was quietly swept under the rug.  It would be the same as if Edison had invented the light bulb, held a convention to celebrate it and then tossed it into storage to be forgotten.  Textbooks and notable web sites still tout the old theory as though it were undisputed.  This is not a mistake.  This is a blatant lie.  All of evolutionary history hinges on the age of the rocks in which the fossils are found, and not only is the age of coal no longer in the millions of years, but even the layers of rocks upon it are also called into question.  This means that all of the fossils found in and around these layers are also to be dated at an earlier, later or else unknown, date.

When I say that masters of knowledge, in this case scientists, are not to be trusted, I mean exactly that.  No evidence is damning enough to overturn a popular myth on its own.  No scientist can blow this apart.  He can nail his ninety-nine theses on the door of the scientific establishment, but if he is heard by none other than the establishment that he seeks to overthrow, then no reformation will take place.  In our age, our best hope is the pitting of one thought master against another, such as when a news agency investigates the turpitude of a scientific agency.  Then…maybe…the people will listen.  Unfortunately, the thought masters often work in concert.

For now, our texts will continue to tell fables, but at least we’ll have more kindling for our campfires.

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The True Atheist

22 02 2010

Often, the Christian fails to live up to his, and God’s, moral standards.  Much finger-pointing then ensues from those who claim to believe neither in God nor absolute morality.  The atheist does not charge the believer with failing to uphold atheistic standards, but, rather, he condemns the Christian for failing to be a true Christian.  The atheist has no standards, for the whole world is a colossal freak show to him, and morality is just an opinion.  He then has no real basis for judging anyone else’s actions.  Therefore he must judge others by their own standards.  The unavoidable consequence is a double standard.  If the Christian fails in little ways, then he is a hypocrite.   If the atheist fails miserably, then he’s okay, because that’s just the way he happens to be.  Instead, the Christian is judged for identifying the atheist’s moral failure for what it is.

If I fail, then shame on me.  If you fail, then shame on me for noticing.

The true atheist is a mythical being, forged from fantasies.  He does not care that others think that there’s a God, nor that they consider him bound for Hell.  He does not slander believers for believing, because their faith doesn’t matter any more than their and everyone else’s existence.  He is a criminal, who behaves himself only when such is profitable.  The laws of men are weak to stop him, and crime often pays.  He sees nothing as right or wrong.  He does not help the needy, for anything not able to live on its own might as well die.  He sees natural disasters in the same way that he sees the victims of natural disasters: both are products of random chance without inherent value, and both are temporary.  He steps over the bodies of the suffering.  He demands no justice, for there is no such thing.  He offers no pity.  He expects no meaning or purpose in life.  He has no hope, beyond that this life might treat him kindly and then stop suddenly, without much pain.  He has no reason to get out of bed in the morning, except that he is driven by the motivators of simple pain and pleasure.  Humanity is an illusion, being in truth no better than animals, which are merely sophisticated varieties of common minerals in aqueous solution.  He has no reason to condemn others’ shortcomings.  He has no reason to get angry.  Though he experiences pleasure, he has no real reason to be happy.  His only objective is to pass his genes to the next generation, yet, ironically, that objective was no one’s idea and need not be achieved.  The true atheist does not exist.

The true atheist would be a dangerous, unpredictable and selfish beast.  In as much as one approaches true atheism, one becomes a threat to others.

Purpose and meaning are things that can only come from God.  You can attempt to create your own, but you are not the author of your own life, and anything you manufacture is playacting.  Right and wrong are things that can only be determined by God.  You can invent your own standards, but, then, so can the next guy, and no one need do what you think is right, not even you.  The atheist, the breed that actually exists, loves to put God on trial and condemn him for his mismanagement of our world.  Again, on what basis does an atheist condemn anyone?  He puts himself in the role of God, holding his own standard in higher esteem than God’s, and he attempts to sit in judgement over the Almighty.  If my own code of ethics has independent merit, then I am a god in my own right.  If I hold it over God, then I have usurped him, not unlike what Satan had intended to do.  But doing so requires there to be a God, and the existence of God undermines the atheist need to be a god.  If he cannot be a god, then he cannot hold others to his standard, which, by all appearances is what all atheists seems eager to do.

The real atheist, the one that really exists, is irritated that others believe in the existence of God.  He mocks them at every turn.  He struggles to bend public thought his way.  The schools must teach his views, and the media must assume him correct.  He develops rationale for explaining his own existence without God.  He hates the implication that he is a sinner bound for Hell.  The real atheist is sometimes dishonest and sometimes criminal, but he actually prefers to see himself as a good person, and he will actually make some effort to be one, even though “good” is not a real concept to him.  He sometimes soothes his conscience by helping the needy.  He raises your taxes to make sure you’re doing it, too.  He is horrified by natural disasters, for they remind him of his own fragility, and he is fully conscious of the human tragedy.  He insists on justice, even if he cannot define the basis for justice.  He feels pity for the downtrodden, and he doesn’t even reconcile this with his own logic.  He longs for meaning and purpose, but he rejects the existence of either.  All he has is pain and pleasure, and he spends his life trying to minimize one and maximize the other, as though it mattered.  He values the company of other people, even if they are just coincidental arrangements of organic chemicals, nothing more.  He mourns their loss, even if they were no one’s handiwork and by no one lovingly created.  He is quick to condemn politicians and especially religious leaders for moral shortcomings, even if he doesn’t believe in morality.  He is easily angered.  He seeks to be happy.  He raises his children, when he no longer feels like aborting them, and he worries about what the world will be like for them when they grow up, though he won’t be there to care.  He worries about global warming for his progeny, though, logically, it should not matter at all to him, because it won’t affect him.  He sometimes loves, even if love is just a biochemical trick.  He is the real atheist, and he is a living, breathing oxymoron.

He says that there is no God.  He desires no God.  He thinks that there is no God.  But he lives as though there were a God.  His actions betray his words.  Fortunately, actions speak louder than words.





Erosion; a Dialogue Among Rocks

20 02 2010

Imagine, if you will, three similar worlds placed upon each other like sheets of paper, arranged so that their homologous features matched. 

 The top sheet is a picture of a timeless world.  Mountains dot its landscape, and great rocks thrust into the sky.  Trees cling to the sides of cliffs, their roots wrapped around boulders, and vines blanket them like a comforter.  A lone steep road ascends the side of a crag, winding its way up to the top, where a city sits in full view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  This is not a defensive location, for the city has no enemies.  Nor is it a location of convenience, for its engineers were clever enough to be able put it on any terrain whatsoever.  It rests upon that crest like a beacon, because the denizens of the lone farms and ranches nestled in the nooks and dells throughout the land love to be able to gaze upon it, where it flickers like a nest of stars that haven’t learned how to fly across the sky yet.  On one horizon, the stars gather in retreat from the advancing dawn.  On the other horizon the sun hides just out of sight, gently illuminating the morning sky.  This world is held forever in a state of perpetual dawn.  Its clocks are always wound.  Its creatures are never hungry.  Its rocks are not eroded, nor are its metals corroded.  The entire place is pristine, like a new car, fresh and green, without blemish.  It even has that new-Earth smell.  A blanket of fog nestles in the lowest ravines, dripping dew upon its herbage.  Cascades of waterfalls make their way down the sides of rock faces.  It is near one of these streams that a man first appears.  He stares in awe at the world around him.  Then he sees the city, and he feels it beckoning to him, so he begins a slow ascent up the winding road cut into the face of the rock.

 Now, let us return to our stack of papers.  The world on the bottom, though a manifestation of the one on the top, is a very different place, indeed.  Somewhere between the top page and the bottom page, the forces of entropy kicked in, reducing the bottom page to a manner of Hell on Earth.  All of the mountains from the first page were eroded until they were nothing but completely flat valleys.  Then the valleys were eroded until they washed into the sea.  Boulders eroded into pebbles, which eroded into gravel, which turned to sand, then silt and then clay.  Hurricanes started in what once was the Atlantic Ocean, traversed unhindered where the American continent used to be and traveled on into the Pacific Ocean.  Being a very liquid sphere, it became not unlike Jupiter, with its everlasting cyclone.  The miniscule particles of sediment were stirred up into a colloid, a suspension of solid within a liquid, causing the dirt and water to mix into a dangerous quagmire.  The sun had reached the end of its life, and, for a time, there seemed some uncertainty as to whether it would consume the Earth or blow it into outer space.  It had done a little of both, tearing the planet apart and turning it inside out, bringing its molten core to the surface.  The stars fled from the sky and blinked out, and the sky was pitch black.  The Earth was void and without form.  It was ready for God to move upon the face of its darkness and create new heavens and a new Earth.  But this was the last page.  This world was timeless.  It was into this darkness that a man appeared in mid-air and fell into the quagmire, where he promptly began to sink into its quicksand, drawing ever closer to one of those eternally burning pockets of magma.

 Somewhere between those pages was another.  This middle page was the story leading the top page to the bottom page.  This one was not timeless, and, in a sense, it was not just one page but many.  In truth, these worlds when put together formed a book.  The mountains were only halfway eroded in the middle page.  The creatures were hungry but not dead.  Somewhere in the middle of this life-death world was a hill that had once been a mountain but was not yet a valley, and a significant portion of rock had been exposed.  A force of humanity had hewn rock from its place and changed its shape, relocating it ultimately to the head of a grave.  A very large mass of people gathered around it to pay their respects, never noticing the neighboring grave, which had also been freshly filled.  This grave was marked by no headstone, for its only respecter could afford naught but to roll a nearby boulder to the place of the head.  The crowd, then, could hardly be blamed for trampling rudely upon the recently deceased, though they might have noticed the one mourner beside it.  If they had possessed eyes to see such a thing, they would have seen the personage of a deceased one arise from his grave and walk slowly up into the sky, traversing a road in a different world, making his way to a certain city.  By all appearances, he would be walking up thin air into the sky, where once a mountain had been.  Likewise, if they had the eyes to see, then they would have noticed a personage falling from his grave into the bowels of a dead planet, sinking into an invisible mud.  He would by all appearances be falling through a valley floor that had not yet washed into the sea.

 When the crowds dispersed, aged and died out, a vandal visited the gravestone, changing one letter to another.  We might imagine those two stones lying side by side, one carved by human hands, the other carved by random chance.  One stone looks at the other and notices his regular shape, and the letters and numbers scrawled across the surface.  He at once recognizes the fact that something apart from the forces of nature has affected his neighbor.  We might pretend that the two stones had a discussion on the matter.

 “By Jove,” says the boulder, “You have a very distinguishing mark upon you!”

 The gravestone awakes from its slumber and mumbles, “It’s just erosion.  Random forces of nature have made me this way.”

 “But,” the boulder protests, “there is writing on you!”

 The gravestone immediately dismisses this.  “It is nothing but an illusion.  It only looks like the work of an intelligent hand.  I just happen to be the one rock among millions that happened to erode intelligently.  It’s a statistical inevitability.”

 “Look, rock,” said the boulder in frustration, “I know very well what a natural rock looks like.  I know what the forces of chance would produce, and you aren’t it!”  The boulder peered closely at the other and read, “R. I. P. H… Charles Darwin… 1809–1882.”

 “What?!” replied the gravestone, offended, “That’s supposed to say R.I.P.”

 “Well, it used to, but somebody messed with it…hey, how do you know what it’s supposed to say?  I thought you said it was written by random chance.  That’s like rolling the dice and saying that it’s supposed to give you ten, or flipping a coin and saying that it’s supposed to be heads.  If it’s random, then it’s not supposed to be anything in particular.”

 “Yes, but I was the lucky rock that eroded into the message, ‘R.I.P.’

 “I wonder what the H means,” mused the boulder.

 “Nothing,” the gravestone snapped, “It doesn’t mean anything, because it wasn’t authored by anyone.”

 “Does it mean Heaven,” thought the boulder, but then a new idea ocurred to him, “or does it mean Hell?”

 “I said it doesn’t mean anything!” the gravestone shouted.

 “Nonsense,” said the boulder, “It’s too well organized to not mean something.  Someone did this to you, and they must have meant something by it.”

 But the two rocks would not agree.  With time, the gravestone eroded into just another rock, and its letters crumbled away.  Then it said nothing, meant nothing, and looked not at all like a rock that had been deliberately shaped by human hands.

But this is all pretend.  Rocks do not discuss the meaning of life, for they are just rocks.  It is people, living and breathing and exibiting far more design, which demonstrate this kind of nonsensical discussion.  They see their own order and claim it a matter of random chance.  They see aberrations in that order and call it disease, a thing which was not meant to be.  Yet, though they can see that the aberration was not meant to be, they refuse to see that the  healthy person was meant to be.  Having been endowed with a design, having been meant to be anything at all, we demonstrate the existence of the one who meant it.  Otherwise, we cannot claim that a sick person should have been healthy any more than we can claim that a coin toss should have been heads…unless we thought we had rigged the toss, but, then, there comes the intervention of an intelligent design.

 Back to our book, again, we see that the pages have been disturbed.  Someone has picked up our unbound book and read through only the first page.  After finishing that page, the reader placed it on the bottom of the stack and never finished reading the second page.  Now, our story of the universe starts with degeneration without a perfect starting point.  The beginning is mysterious and unexplained.  Humpty is falling from a wall upon which he never sat.  The story begins with the fall.  In our new version, the sun has already risen, and a tiny crack has already formed in the wall of the city.  A particle of sand has moved a little down the stream.  The world starts as nearly perfect as it could be, except that it is already on the second page before we’ve really begun. 

 Then we come to what would have been the end.  Billions of souls perish in the darkness of the end of the world, and there is no transition from there to the first page again, even though it is the next page.  An intraversable chasm sits between the first and last pages, and the people suffering in one cannot get to the other.  Yet, mysteriously, the new last page is full of people.  Those fortunate enough to live on this page have no fear of slipping to the second page, because there is none.  They started with the second page, and now they’re on the new last page, the beginning of things, when all was perfect and new.  All that was old has passed away, and now there is a new heaven and a new Earth.  This will not perish, because this is now the final page of the story.

In the meantime, we shall erode like rocks while arguing whether we have been shaped by an intelligent designer.





Peace of Mind

15 02 2010

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)

Politics makes excellent fodder for a heated discussion.  Living in a representative government gives us the feeling of empowerment, that our leaders are our servants.  We take personal responsibility for the fate of our nation.  When our elected officials make a mess of things we get angry, because we feel responsible for having given them that authority.  Much of what we see in the news is about politics.  Friendships are forged and broken over political affiliation.  Yet, we give ourselves too much credit.  A person gets one vote.  That one vote among many gets two choices.  Will it be Republican or Democrat?  Anything else, and the vote is wasted.  People judge us by whom we would vote for, but we really have so little choice in the matter of our governance.  Both parties are corrupt.  One wants to take over our lives quickly, and the other wants to take over our lives slowly.  Both are faithless, immoral aristocracies, bent on gaining power.  They gain power by getting elected, and then they gain more power by ascribing more authority to themselves.

One can easily become frustrated over politics.  I can clean my house.  I can order my own little world.  I only think I can order my country.  In truth, I have almost as much say in the workings of my representative government as I would under a monarchy.  It’s like playing the lottery: an expired lottery ticket is only less likely to win by one in ninety-four million.  The difference between an old ticket and a new one is almost inconsequential.  My one vote among millions is not significantly better than the opinion of a man living under an unelected king.  Granted, the mass effect of an entire nation of votes is significant, and I should continue to vote, but I would not benefit from taking myself too seriously.  I, personally, have little say in the matter.

People pull their hair out over politics.  Yet, they are almost entirely helpless to do anything about it.  A key to happiness is to avoid dwelling too heavily on that which a person cannot change.  You were handed a life with certain conditions that you had no hand in making.  You can make yourself miserable by worrying over the evils that were handed to you, or you can find those things which are in your power to affect, and then affect them for the better.  You get one vote.  You only get that one vote.  Don’t treat it as something more than it is.  The governance of your country is likely not in your hands.

You can put your faith in God.  No one can take that from you.  You can put your mind at ease by ordering the little piece of the universe that God has placed in your hand.  Take charge of what is really yours.  Let go of what is not.  If you can’t kill the rats of angst that gnaw at your mind, then remove yourself to a peaceful place.  While it lasts, there are still places of beauty in this world.  There are still decent people among us.  There is still a way to live at peace.  Thank God for what you do have.

In the end, life is not what you make it, in an absolute sense.  It is what you do with what you’re given.  Some people are given more and some less, and different people are sure to have different outcomes and accomplishments.  Sure, under better circumstances you could have made more of yourself, but that isn’t really the point, is it?  Anyone could do better under better circumstances.  The issue is what you did with whatever circumstances life threw your way.  If unfairness comes your way, then the matter is not whether things should be fair, but what matters is what you did with what you had.

In a sense, life is unfair.  People start out with all kinds of advantages and disadvantages.  Down the road, more are added to the mix.  In a sense, life is perfectly fair, because initially everyone had an equal chance of being born in anyone else’s shoes.  Whether chance or divine providence chose your origins, the only question you have left to ask is, “Where do I go from here?”

Somewhere out there is a beautiful place, and you can find it.  Somewhere out there are nice people, and you can be one.  Somehow, there can always be meaning in your life.  You can always live to serve the God who made you.





Of Mice and Momes

13 02 2010

[fiction]

Warren Wormwood lived in the quaint little town known as Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi Ch’intrate, more familiarly known as Lasciate Ogne, or L.O. for short.  He was a single white man trapped in a neighborhood of people very much unlike himself.  It’s the age-old phenomenon: a man finds a nice little community of individuals of similar character, moves in, and finds his neighborhood slowly slipping out from under him.  One by one, familiar faces move out of the area in their quest for upward mobility, and one by one, immigrants who don’t speak a word of the native tongue move in around him.  Pretty soon, he’s trapped in a setting that he did not bargain for.

“Momes,” he calls them, the archaic word for moron.  He finds that it relieves some of the angst to insult people openly with words they would never understand.  Open profanities are far too obvious.  A person doesn’t even need to understand what was said to know that he was slighted, if the accusation comes laced with an obscenity.  Almost no one knows what a mome is, and so Warren finds himself free to express his ill will.

Perhaps the first day was when he saw the neighbor lady take one lazy step outside to deposit a large untidy bag of diapers and rotting food on her own doorstep.  Convenience, the universal currency for which there is no equal, demanded that she do no more than absolutely necessary to rid her home of the unwanted garbage.  Out of sight was out of mind.  She didn’t care that her neighbors and everyone driving down the street were now faced with the blight of her front stoop.  She had maximized her benefit to cost ratio, and that was good enough for her.

“Lazy wench,” Warren grumbled, “Too blasted lazy to put her trash where it belongs.  There goes the neighborhood!”

He had wrongly anticipated that his fellow neighbors would share his sentiment.  To some degree, they did note the unsightliness of a large gaping poke of refuse blowing in the wind, but they were of a similar heritage as the woman, and they, too, discovered the joy in the convenience of not having to take the trash any further than the front door.

One day, Warren plucked up the courage to go next door and speak his mind.  This, of course, was not received in any better manner than it was given.  Wild words in that foreign language flew around, intermixed with something that his mind could latch onto, generally expressing the belief that Warren was a jerk for imposing upon the business of strangers next door.  Besides, the woman could easily survey her area and point out others who were living just as basely as she was.  Therefore, she was right, and he was wrong.

But he tried to explain to her that she was bringing down the neighborhood.  She replied by telling him to find a new neighborhood.

Having failed at that, Warren sulked about for the next several weeks, unable to think about anything else, until a new neighbor moved in, who was not only of a different race, but of a different species altogether.  The first mouse of bitterness showed itself, of all places, in his kitchen trash.  There it sat, staring up at him with his beady little eyes, looking like a kid caught with its hand in the cookie jar.  He quickly tied up the bag and darted about, not really sure what to do with the thing.  In the end, the bag and the mouse found their way into the trash can outside.

But, for a moment Warren felt a pang of empathy for the little critter, trapped in a bag, slowly suffocating.  So he rescued it and dumped the pest into an old terrarium that he had stashed in a closet.  For the next two days, he fed it and admired its little pink nose that wiggled at him, and the little white whiskers that stuck out from his face.  He named his pet, “Peevy,” and he kept it in the attic, where he spent most of his leisure time.

Well, one mouse under glass is fine and cute, but two mice in the room are an annoyance.  When he found the next mouse in his kitchen trash, he promptly took it outside and flung it at his neighbor’s yard.  “You’ll get plenty to eat from them, I’ll bet!” he yelled after it.

Two mice in the room are an annoyance, but three mice in the walls are an infestation.  He heard the telltale scratching and scrambling behind the gypsum board, and he knew he had a problem.  Upon closer inspection, he found that the drain pipe under his sink lead through an oversized hole into the wall, providing a highway leading straight out over his trash can.  He marched straight to the store and bought a tub of spackle and the biggest box of rat poison he could find.  He poured the poison into the wall and sealed off the hole.

Night after night, he lay awake pondering the constant gnawing on the framework above him, beside him and below him.  They seemed to be gnawing at his mind, munching away at his heart and slowly eating away at his sanity.  That wasn’t the only thing eating at him, though.  Bitterness, like the mice, was gnawing at him.  At first, he had nurtured his little pet peeve, but it had reproduced and filled his thoughts like an infestation.  It was that stupid lady next door with her ill-managed garbage that was drawing the vermin into the area.  It was all of these people, imitating the easiest possible lifestyle that brought the pestilence.

And it was Warren, who just couldn’t poison and kill them fast enough to keep them from boring holes through the walls, bringing down the house.  He likened the vermin to the people, invaders with bad hygiene.  In a sense, it was the fault of his neighbors.  In a sense, Warren could not be faulted with blaming them for his own problems.  However, it was not his neighbors that ate at his soul.  They were not the ones biting and chewing their way through his mind.  They were minding (or not minding) their own business, and they were oblivious to his suffering.  But while he fought the infestation of mice, he fed the infestation of evil thoughts.

Then, one day, he realized that it was easier to kill a few people than to kill hundreds of mice.  That’s how he ended up in a concrete studio apartment with bars on the windows.  At least it had room service, with the warden delivering his mush on a platter three times a day.

And, as he sat there contemplating a mouse that inched its way into his cell in search of his gruel, he remembered the words of his neighbor, telling him that if he didn’t like the neighborhood, then he should move out.  That would have been great advice, but it was advice for an earlier life.  This was a neighborhood that he could never move out of, and the mice were there to stay.

[/fiction]





Common Senselessness

8 02 2010

At the height of the Roaring Twenties, the majority of adults were smokers.  One might imagine that the roaring sound was their collective hacking.  Let’s assume that they had no knowledge of the scientific evidence that it caused lung cancer, heart attacks, erectile dysfunction and birth defects.  In fact, let’s admit that the studies had not even been conducted yet.  Are we to assume, then, that humanity had no idea that what they were doing was maladaptive?  We would be incorrect if we were to say that smoking is dangerous.  The term, “danger,” implies risk.  Risk implies that there’s at least some chance, no matter how small, of getting through unscathed.  With smoking, there is no such chance.  If you smoke, then you will wreak your lungs massively.  One has absolutely no chance of smoking a single cigarette without causing great harm to one’s own body.  It’s not danger.  It’s destruction.  It’s not risk.  It’s self-mutilation.  A person might smoke yet miss emphysema and lung cancer.  Likewise, a person might drive straight into a brick wall and not die.  In either case, the voluntary victim never comes out ahead of the game.

Yes, but we needed scientific evidence in order to know that smoking is harmful.  That first puff at the flaming stick that left us gagging, choking and gasping for air gave us no indication that what we were doing might be injurious.  God put that reflex in us to avoid getting smoke in the eyes and to avoid breathing it.  Had the involuntary reaction not been planted within us, then we might claim ignorance.  We might inhale that first drag uninhibited.  Instead, our bodies screamed bloody murder at us, begging and pleading that we stop, but we did it.  We continued to do it, and then we did it again.  We kept doing it until the mechanism against it was burned to death.  We killed the messenger.

And then we could smoke as freely as we wished.

Too bad, the early people did not have the scientific studies to show them that they were wrong.  Okay, so it was obvious that breathing hot toxic fumes and ash was probably a stupid thing to do.  Nice sensitive mucous membrane tissues smoked like a side of beef jerky probably wasn’t the best invention of mankind.  Yet, people did it.  Not just a freaky fringe of society did it, either.  The general masses adopted the practice like a hot fad.  This should have been the death knell for the term “common sense,” because there obviously isn’t any such thing.  I have, for some time, felt inclined to resist the urge to ridicule people who smoke.  After all, I know that they are addicted, and quitting the cancer stick is one of the hardest achievements a person can make.  Even so, it was the fear of ridicule that drove them to it in the first place.

Oh, but let’s not sit too hard on the poor addict. The overwhelming majority of us will drive home from work today, following the car before us by a mere few feet.  A quick survey on a crowded fast-moving highway is enough to show us that even if society dumped the cigarette tomorrow, we’d still be a culture made up primarily of reckless fools.  We don’t really need physicists and automobile crash tests to tell us that we need way more distance than we’re using to protect us in the event that the car in front of us comes to a screeching halt.  If we were honest with ourselves, we would count the cost of our own stupid ways.

Yet, the foolishness of others so often overrides the wisdom within us, even when it screams out loud.  We have killed ourselves and donated our bodies to the collective madness of our world.

Do I blame the Nazi soldier who was just following orders?  Perhaps, he was just a blind fool, doing his duty to his nation.  His commander told him to gas the Jews, and his fellows did it, too, so he figured on doing it, himself.  Yet, I do not doubt that the God-made conscience within him demanded that he stop.  I am sure that he killed that messenger, committing the deed until his own personal objections were dispelled.  In fact, I do blame the common man for every deed that he commits, for though he chooses to follow the herd, he is not without warning.

The sense of the common is ad populum. It is the fallacy that if everyone else seems to think so, then it must be true.  Millions of people can’t be wrong, can they?  In truth, billions of people are wrong every day.  If common sense even exists, then it is nothing more than a herd mentality.  It is more of a common ignorance or a common senselessness.   The entire society has a mind of its own that acts to override the thinking of its individuals.  What should be obvious to anyone is erased, renamed and redefined in favor of the popular trend.  People are so afraid of disagreement, that they sacrifice their own insight to the god of approval from others.

No establishment, no organization and no society is immune to this disease.  Smoking was just a symptom.  The fact is that we cannot trust the wisdom of others, no matter their expertise nor their standing.  All are subject to the beast.  The professor and the farmer are both victims.  The national syndicate and the local tabloid are both vectors for this disease.  Your parents may have taught you wrong, and the person who challenged you to challenge your parents may also be dead wrong.  This blog may be wrong, but so might your encyclopedia.  When all comes to naught, one might easily slip into the postmodern notion that nothing can truly be known.

But let’s go back to that first draw on the cigarette.  Before you conditioned yourself to accept the unacceptable, you were naturally inclined to accept the truth.  Smoking was wretched, and it felt awful.  In the prime of your life, when you were just a little kid that hadn’t undergone the brainwashing influences of public education, you were more inclined to believe in God.  Kids have an innate tendency to believe in the Almighty.  It takes years of conditioning to beat this out of them.

Unless we become like little children, we cannot accept what once seemed natural to us.  Without simple faith that has no reliance on the common senselessness of the world we cannot enter Heaven, when the world is rushing in a stampede for Hell.

Case in point, intelligent design of all living things is quite obvious.  Isolated from the foolishness of popular culture, we would naturally see that, given that we understand the complexity of an organism, at least in part.  If not for the sages and mad hordes around us telling us otherwise, we would naturally conclude that life has a design indicative of an intelligent designer.  All of creation testifies to this.

We take the first draw from the Darwinist cigarette, and we gag.  Through repetition and a faith in the intelligence of our fellow humans we come to accept the unacceptable, until, eventually, we find that the lie has become a bare necessity of our existence.  We feel that we cannot live without it.

The common man is no fool, but he lives like one.  He talks like one.  He trains himself to be one.  In following the common man, we do the same.





Moths’ Bane

6 02 2010

[fiction]

Mam and Behem sat perched next to each other on a cool wet rock next to a small trickle, shaded from the sun by a branch from a milkweed bush.  It was late afternoon, and they had spent the entire day napping.  Their repose was interrupted by the arrival of a butterfly, which landed between them with its wings held up high, like a pompous banner bearer.  Moths are known for resting with their wings in a downward position, which is why they are so irritated by butterflies, who relax with their wings held up.  At first, they pretended not to notice the other species, hoping it would go away, but the irritant remained, making the assertion, “You know, you won’t always have the sun with you.  I don’t mean to be pushy, but you might do well to make full use of the light while you still have it.”

Behem glanced over at Mam and remarked, “Light, she says.  What use have we for the blasted stuff?  What, are we hiding in the shade so that we don’t take more than our fair share?  Begone, you pest.”

The butterfly stuck out its proboscis in insult, but to no effect.  “I don’t think I like you moths,” it said, simply.  “You aren’t very friendly.”

“Why don’t you go find yourself a nice little phoebe to play with and leave us moths alone?” the moth griped.

The butterfly sat there for three minutes, twitching its antennae uncertainly, before it finally realized the depth of the insult.  Then it excreted haughtily and fluttered away.  Mam just looked sideways at his companion and smirked knowingly.  For the next few hours they sat there, whiling the time away, until the sun died and buried itself under the horizon.  The two moths stared at it transfixed, unable to comprehend that their light source was leaving them completely.  Soon, it was gone, and its light died with it.

The two moths sat in the dark, bewildered.  “By Jove,” said Behem, “I dare say the sun up and left us.”  Ten minutes passed, and then Mam took to the air, with Behem following.  At first, they flew up and up, as though to get out from under the shade.  Then, when the stars began to appear in the sky, they spent some time chasing after those.  Their entire world was swallowed in darkness, and they lacked the mental capacity and the personal history to expect these circumstances.  The whole world was coming to an end.  The sun had died and gone away.  The stars were out of reach and impotent.

Presently, Mam lit on a large white flower, which he began to feed on.  Behem landed next to him, watching him silently.  “What are you doing, Mam?!” he asked, distraught.

Mam continued eating, then paused to consider the question.  “What does it look like I’m doing?” he replied.

Behem vibrated his wings angrily.  “Come on, Mam!  We’ve got to find the sun!”

“How do you propose we do that?” Mam asked, skeptically.

“It’s got to be around here somewhere!” Behem screamed, taking to the sky.  He flew solo through the inky darkness, desperate in his search.  In the distance, he thought he saw it.  It glowed in the amber hues of the sun, though perhaps not as bright.  He accelerated toward the light, desperate to draw near to that waning star.  There it was, next to a squarish structure.  He could already make out the form of several other moths dancing in celebration around it.  As he got closer, he could see the forms of several june bugs and a may beetle resting on the stuccoed wall near the ambiance.  In rapturous joy, he circled the light, over and over again, shouting, “I’ve found it!  I’ve found the sun!”  He joined his compatriots in a great fluttering dance around their god, shunning food, shunning reproduction.  All of the mundane necessities of life could wait.  In this “sun,” which was really just an old porch light, he found meaning.  He belonged here.

A few hours later, he landed on the acrylic cover to rest his weary wings, and Mam came by and joined him.  “Mam!” he shouted, “Isn’t this great?  I found the sun!”

“I know,” said Mam, skeptically, “I could smell your excitement pheromones from miles away, except….”  He looked around doubtfully and continued, “This doesn’t look much like the sun to me.”

“What do you mean?” shouted Behem incredulously, “It’s wonderful and bright!”

“Yeah, but…it’s not shaped the same, and…” Mam flew a circle around the “sun” and continued, “it’s all full of dead moths.  Man, I really don’t think this is it.”

Behem’s joy began to falter.  “But, Mam, It’s so pretty.”

“But, it’s not the sun.”

“But, Mam, isn’t it basically the same?  Shouldn’t we just stay here?” Behem begged.

Mam twitched his antennae thoughtfully, then replied, “No, I think I’ll just wait until the real sun returns.”

“But, Mam!  What if the real sun never returns?  Besides, this is a sun that you can touch and feel.  This is wonderful.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for the big ball of light in the sky.  I just want this.”

Mam considered this for a few minutes, then abruptly answered, “Well, suit yourself, but I still prefer to wait for the real sun to return.  I’m going to go visit some flowers, find a mate, and sire some eggs. ”  And with that he flew away.

“But…you sell yourself short!” Behem called after him.  “Why would you live the ordinary life when you could have this?!”

Silence was his only reply, so he returned to his dance about the porch light.  He spent the rest of the night in this celebration, and when that wore thin, he began crawling around on the light, looking for something more.  He wanted more of it.  Finally, he found a way inside, which was pure ecstasy.  He danced wildly, overjoyed at having found his way into the inner sanctum.  He hardly noticed the pile of dead moths beneath him.

Meanwhile, Mam spent the rest of the night hopping from flower to flower, doing the things that moths are supposed to do, nothing glamorous.  Eventually, he found a mate and sired some eggs, and when the sun returned, just as he believed it would, he was sitting in his favorite place on the rock, basking in the cool humidity that emanated from the moist dirt.  He then resumed napping in the warmth of the sun.

When that fiery celestial orb crested the horizon, sending a ray of light to the photo cell of the porch light, that weak artificial light was extinguished.  The formerly exultant Behem would have danced for joy when that first ray of light fell upon him, except that he was dead, killed by the false god that he had wasted his life pursuing.

[/fiction]