Essays on America: Wednesday

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

How you see where you are depends on how you got there.

It’s Wednesday. And that means, at least for most of us, that yesterday was Tuesday. Mundane, right? Obvious, right? 

C3B9202A-2605-4E21-90F8-1B78BA735C72

But suppose that it’s Wednesday for you but that yesterday was Thursday! 

Oh, my! You would be in quite a different “Wednesday” than the rest of us would. How could this happen? 

Many ways. You could be a character in a Sci-Fi movie. Maybe you were in a coma for six days. Or, you could have retrograde amnesia from a blow to the head. Or, maybe you have some weird form of temporal lobe epilepsy. No matter how you got from Thursday to Wednesday, you will treat the day quite differently from those of use who experienced yesterday as Tuesday. 

And this is generally true of human beings. 

How you experience your current reality depends a lot on how you got there. 

IMG_9724

It so happens that my dissertation studied human problem solving. I used a problem called the “Hobbits and Orcs problem.” You may have heard of it.

There are three Hobbits and three Orcs on one side of a river and you have to get them all over to the other side. The only way to cross the river is by use of a small boat. (No flying, swimming, catapulting, disapparating, etc. allowed). For the boat to operate and not simply float off downstream, it must have at least one creature in it. But the boat can only hold one or two creatures. It cannot hold more. Orcs, as you probably already know, are suspected of eating Hobbits. You cannot ever let more Orcs than Hobbits on either side of the river, even briefly. You can try the problem for yourself.  Remember though…you cannot let there be more Orcs than Hobbits on either side of the river — not even briefly. 

fullsizeoutput_120c

I compared how people solved this problem to an early AI system modestly called, “The General Problem Solver.” As you might expect, even though both humans and the AI system (GPS) can solve the problem, they behave quite differently. For instance, the places where humans have trouble (take more time; make more mistakes) are quite different from the places where GPS slows down. 

Start – HHHOOO (boat) {river}

Goal –                             {river} (boat) HHHOOO

Spoiler alert — now, I have to talk about the solution.

At one point, you will feel as though you’ve been making good progress and you have two hobbits and two orcs on the far side of the river along with the boat. Now, comes the sticking point (for humans). If an Orc brings back the boat, you’ll have two Orcs and one Hobbit on the near side. The two Orcs will gang up on the Hobbit and eat it. Fail! But if the Hobbit brings back the boat, the far side of the river will have two Orcs and one Hobbit so that Hobbit will get eaten. 

Here is the situation: 

HO {river} (boat) HHOO 

The “trick” is to use one Hobbit and one Orc to bring the boat back. Now, you use two Hobbits to take the boat to the far side, and it’s pretty easy to solve from there. The “trick” is only “tricky” because it feels as though you are undoing the progress you’ve already made! You took two over and you need to bring two back. In fact, many subjects wanted to “give up” rather than bring two creatures back over. They claimed it was “insoluble.” 

But wait. 

It gets even stranger. 

Half of my subjects began with a “half problem.” They started in this position. 

Start: HO {river} (boat) HHOO 

Goal:        {river} (boat) HHHOOO

These subjects had very little trouble solving the problem. They began by taking the boat to the left side by using one Hobbit and one Orc. They quickly solved the rest of the problem. 

Then I gave those same people, the entire problem again, but starting here: 

Start – HHHOOO (boat) {river}

Goal –                             {river} (boat) HHHOOO

They had little problem at the beginning. 

But when they got to the position shown below, many wanted to quit. Many said the problem was “impossible” once they got to this position: 

Now: HO {river} (boat) HHOO 

Goal:        {river} (boat) HHHOOO

Does that pattern look familiar to you? It should! 

This is exactly the problem that they themselves had just solved a few minutes earlier! When they started there, it was easy. But when they got there by arriving at it through their own effort, that same position was now daunting. They didn’t even recognize or realize that they had just been there. (None of this behavior was like that of the General Problem Solver, by the way). 

fullsizeoutput_124a

A number of economists were interested in this result. Why? Because “classic” economics operates like GPS. It looks at the Starting Point. It looks at the Goal. It looks at various possible moves. It doesn’t “care” how it got there. According to classical economics, if you buy IBM stock at $50 and I buy it at $150 and now it’s at $100, if we have the same knowledge, then we should make the same decision about whether to buy or sell. In reality, people do not. If you bought it at $50, you’ve made a huge profit and are happy to sell it. If I bought it at $150, I’m going to suffer a loss. How people view a situation is heavily dependent on how they got there. 

Now, let’s play another little “what if” game. 

What if you were an extremely rich person who also happened to be extremely selfish. In America, for instance, worker productivity has increased decade after decade. This meant that the wealthiest people in the country kept getting wealthier and wealthier. But the workers, who made a lot less than the owners, also benefited by getting wealthier. 

Until around 1974. Then, a strange thing happened. The productivity of American workers continued to grow. However, the increased wealth that accrued from all those people learning new technology, learning new methods, using the suggestion box, etc. — none of that increased wealth went to the workers. All of it went to the richest people in the country.  

https://economics.stackexchange.com/questions/15558/productivity-vs-real-earnings-in-the-us-what-happened-ca-1974

There had been a kind of partnership between owners and workers. The owners of large companies said, in effect: “if you keep being more productive by working harder, smarter, and faster, we will all benefit. We’ll have more profits and you’ll have higher wages.”

Then, the owners stopped living up to that implicit agreement. They took all the increased profits for themselves. Basically, that’s what happened in 1974. And it also happened in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. It varied, of course, somewhat from industry to industry, and month to month, and company to company but that is the big picture. 

People who had organized their lives and the lives of their families around their jobs found that they had no job. Their jobs were shipped overseas or given over to automation. They were pissed off. As they should have been. Notice that this trend continued unabated under both Republican administrations and under Democratic administrations. It’s hard to even see a difference in the divergence that occurred between the ever-increasing wealth that workers contributed through their increased productivity and the stagnation in their real wages. 

Then, we come to 2016 and someone said, “You can’t trust these politicians. They’re all the same. They are in cahoots with their rich donors. You know who you can trust? ME!” 

IMG_8380

The very worst fear of many of the wealthiest .001% of the country is that all workers will get together and demand their fair share! The workers are at least as responsible for the increased overall wealth as the owners. But while real wages for workers has been basically unchanged for decades, the compensation for owners has skyrocketed. Of course, they know it’s unfair! They don’t care if it is unfair. But they do care greatly that the yacht party of caviar and champagne continues unabated. 

How to deal with this? What can you do if you’re wealthy because of other people’s work and this becomes common knowledge? You divide and conquer. You shout long enough and hard enough in every possible medium of communication that it isn’t the greed of the wealthy that has kept your wages from going up. Oh, no, not at all. It’s the foreign competition. It’s the people of color. It’s the gays. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Jews. It’s the uppity women. It’s the video games. It’s violence on TV. It’s sunspots. It’s aliens from other planets hidden in area 51. It’s lack of ambition on your part. It’s because you haven’t taken responsibility. It’s because of liberals who want to take all your guns away and make you eat quiche or salad. 

IMG_6566

Those that want it all for themselves are terrified that you’ll catch on to their game. And, if you do catch on, you may just choose not to play any longer. So, they buy politicians. They buy air time for commercials. They indoctrinate you to hate workers that look different; that speak differently; that eat different foods; that wear different clothes; that worship in buildings with a different shape. They plant lies about all of these “other” people so that you will hate those “other” people — meanwhile trying to convince you that they are on your side; that they are just like you really. After all, you’re both “white” or “straight” or “Christian” or “Midwestern” or whatever. But the truth is — the lives they live are quite different. Despite being extremely wealthy, many of them pay far less tax than you do. If their kids goof off in high school or aren’t very bright — no problem! They’ll just bribe the way for their kids to get into a top university.  

So far, their little game has worked. By using the same methods that get you to buy skin products you don’t really need; the same methods that get you to buy sugared water at a high price; the same methods that get you hooked on sugar; the same methods that make you feel guilty about being overweight; the same methods that induce you to buy products and systems to help you lose weight; the same methods that fool you in a thousand ways — they get you to hate other people — people who are superficially different are “sold” as being fundamentally different. While the people whose lives really are fundamentally different from yours are being touted as living lives that are very similar to yours.  

IMG_3408

Once you begin voting for the folks who are paid for by these very wealthy people, you will tend to listen to them. You will tend to believe them. Not because you are stupid or gullible. You will do it because that’s what you’ve done in the past. The more you vote for them, the more you want to believe them. And, here’s the kicker: if they are outrageous  in behavior and speech, you will want to believe them even more. After a few years, it doesn’t matter how absurd or ridiculous what they say is. You’ll still believe them. It’s not your fault, really. But it does keep you, and all the rest of us, trapped in a vicious circle. 

You got to this Wednesday from yesterday. But your yesterday was Thursday. It’s comforting to know that there are millions of others who also got here from Thursday. 

You don’t have to keep choosing this way. But many of you will. And, that’s precisely the way that the wealthiest .001% like it. They don’t want to share with you the wealth that you created. They’d much rather keep things the way they are. They’d much rather keep that wealth for themselves. After all, caviar, champagne, yachts, and beautiful teen-agers are expensive. 

There is, of course, a much easier solution to the Hobbits and Orcs problem. Hobbits and Orcs could stop hating and mistrusting and killing each other. Then, crossing the river to the other side is easy. And that benefits everyone. 

Everyone, that is, except the .001%. 

—————————————————

Author Page on Amazon. 

Abstract of article in Cognitive Psychology

 

 

       

Essays on America: Wimbledon

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Wimbledon.  

An amazing venue. An amazing tournament. 

person woman sport ball

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This year,  in particular, offered up a host of amazing matches; e.g., Federer vs. Nadal; Federer vs. Djokovic; Serena Williams vs. Simon Halep; all the matches of Coco Gauff. And many more. The quality of tennis keeps improving. And not by accident. It’s due to fair competition. 

In match after match, not only in the finals, players threw themselves into the fray to run, perceive, plan, hit, decide, and use their emotional energy in positive ways. What makes this, and every sports event, wonderful is that it is a fair contest. And because it is a fair contest, people train hard, push hard, try their damnedest to win. 

The opponents make each other better. And, then, after they have trained as hard as they can train, they play as hard as they can play and we watch the drama that reveals the limits of human performance. 

IMG_3416

Imagine instead that the outcome were to be predetermined by those in power. Because someone bribes the dictator, or is otherwise connected by favors or blood, the winner is chosen by the dictator. Then, everything is “show” to make it fall into place the way the the dictator wants. Maybe some of the competitors would be drugged. Maybe some of them would meet with accidents. Maybe the line calls could consistently shade one way. 

Would fans even get any joy in watching? I suppose some might. After all, I do enjoy watching 007 movies, Star Trek, etc. even though I already know which side will win. But then, why bother with a tournament? Why not just make a fictional movie about tennis and the dictator’s favorite tennis player? 

Who would want to enter such tournaments if they knew that the outcome depended on your connections to the dictator rather than on their skill and strategy? Who would bother to train hard for the event? Who would even be attracted to the sport in the first place? 

If you were a top quality athlete, if some sports were “open and fair” and other sports were predetermined by the dictator, which one would you want to play in? 

A1356755-E7D8-41A6-A98A-AD4CB64083E5

Of course, in a dictatorship, it isn’t just sports that are corrupted. Every aspect of life is corrupted. You can poison the food and water and get away with it — if the dictator likes you. You can run your company into the ground and be bailed out if you are aligned with the wishes of the dictator. Government officials will be advanced according to how corrupt they are rather than how well they do their jobs. You can be a brilliant academic, but if your views do not align with what the dictator thinks will protect and expand his own power, you’ll be passed over for promotion. That’s the best case scenario. You could find yourself in a prison camp. 

And under these circumstances, why should people try hard to discover and disseminate the truth? Why should anyone make the best possible product if the dictator might jail you because you are competing with the dictator’s son-in-law? 

IMG_5418

Under dictatorship, everything in life decays into a moldy shadow of what it should be. Creativity is stifled. Your brilliant discovery won’t be approved by the dictator because the dictator didn’t know about it ahead of time (by definition). On the other hand, the dictator might “prescribe” findings and discoveries such as the existence of phlogiston. Experimental results will be manipulated and the population will begin to believe in a reality that is less and less aligned with the actual facts. 

Do you think this is an exaggeration? It isn’t. But don’t take my word for it. Read about writers, film makers, singers, movie stars, athletes that were not in “favor” with Stalin or Mao. 

3A7CE1AC-1B9A-4005-A118-B3B4460A450F

Do you, like most workers, take pride in doing a good job? Why bother if the dictator can brush away your team’s product in order to promote the competitive product made by the dictator’s daughter, say? Absolute power is an addictive drug and a dictator will never voluntarily give up power. They insist on more. Of course, no-one can know everything and the worst kind of dictator is the impulsive/cover-up kind. They don’t bother to understand a situation but make snap judgements. Then, everyone is required to scramble to pretend the snap judgment was actually a good — no, a great decision. 

The lies and mediocrity will proliferate. In many cases, cruelty will be extracted from “enemies of the people” intentionally. Beyond that, there will be almost no incentive for government to be effective under a dictatorship. Do you think the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is inefficient now? You haven’t seen anything like the inefficiency of a dictatorial state! But if things stay on the current trajectory, you will. 

IMG_3241

Once honesty becomes replaced with loyal lying, everything crumbles. Everything.

Your body only stays healthy and alive because it sends all sorts of communication signals. If your body “lies” to itself and sends false signals, you will soon find yourself in terrible health or worse.

It is the same with a nation. If public officials lie, it destroys government in and of itself — and it also encourages  the rest of the population to lie, cheat, and steal. 

Game. Set. Match. 


Author page on Amazon.

 

Essays on America: Labelism

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Essays on America: Labelism

fullsizeoutput_193d

This is a post about racism. But, it’s also a post about misogyny. It’s a post about homophobia. But it’s also a post about Trumpism and the “base.” (BTW, if any of these terms makes you not want to read the article, then you definitely should read it). 

Because all of the ideas associated with these terms are in some way linked to one particular term: labelism. What is labelism? It is treating the label of a thing as if that label equaled the thing labeled. Let’s take an example. Call me Ishmael. (My real name’s “John” but you can call me “Ishmael”). But I’m guessing that that really bothers some of you. Why? Because my name is “John.” Let’s come back to that. 

When I was a very young kid, I recall my mother telling me that we were going to visit one of her friends, Mrs. Fox. Immediately the image of a woman who was also a fox sprang into my imagination. She had a human hairdo popular back then with straight hair at the top and many curls below ear level. But her snout was distinctly vulpine. Her eyes were also fox-like, but it was made up and she was wearing lipstick! I must have had a wide-eyed and glazed look when I said back to my mom, “We’re going to see … Mrs…..FOX?!” 

fox on brown wooden plank

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

Mom giggled and said, “That’s just her name. She’s not a four-legged fox with a tail!” I think that my mother must have imagined something similar to my image because she then burst out laughing. I don’t think I was totally convinced by Mom’s reassurance, but I was at least willing to go see for myself what this “Mrs. Fox” really looked like. 

Now, in fairness to my younger self, there were many examples of cartoon animals and books that equated the name with animal. The Three Little Pigs. Donald Duck. Mickey Mouse. And they all exhibited the same hopes and fears that I did.

It seems to me that people differ quite a bit in terms of how much “reality” they attribute to a label. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve seen microwave popcorn on the shelves with the word “Butter” prominently displayed, but when you read the ingredients, there is no butter in it whatsoever. Similarly, some marketing genius came up the idea of naming a perfume “Unscented.” So, if I go to the store and buy cat litter that says, “Unscented” it is actually perfumed with a perfume whose name is “Unscented.” (Get “Fragrance Free” instead, although I suppose eventually that will also be a lie). 

fullsizeoutput_14

How did I discover that the popcorn had no butter? I read the fine print. I looked at the ingredients. Right now, we are lucky because Americans earlier put the pressure on until it was legally required to list ingredients. (For what it’s worth, the popcorn’s good; besides that, it probably wouldn’t work to put butter in microwave popcorn. But why lie?). 

As I argue elsewhere, listing every ingredient wasn’t necessary hundreds of years ago. People would buy their bread at a local baker and if they put crappy ingredients in it, everyone in town would know. But now? Most of us buy stuff from people we don’t know and are never going to meet. And, the trail of responsibility is very complex indeed. Today’s supply chains lower costs but make quality hard to pin down and very hard to pin down responsibility for bad behavior. 

How did I discover that “Unscented” is a scent? Initially, I think someone told me and I think it was my daughter-in-law or my daughter.  And then, I confirmed it with my own sense of smell. By the way, the manufacturers of cat litter are masters of perfumery because they make one brand that actually manages to smell much worse that cat poo or cat urine or both combined. It is vile. Now, that takes genius. 

If you think facebook gets a bit nasty on occasion, you should really try twitter. Anyway, I ran across a tweet today that got me thinking along these lines of labelism. The tweeter basically said that she “wasn’t a racist but” (a phrase highly correlated with the very next thing being a racist comment). She wasn’t a racist, so she claimed, but it didn’t make sense to pick a black actor for Ariel because they don’t look anything alike.  

Okay, then. Let’s first just get one thing out of the way. Ariel is a cartoon character. The Actor is a real person. People are quite different from cartoon characters. And, they look noticeably different, regardless of color. But much more importantly, the person would not be anything like Ariel either. The person would have lungs, a heart, a brain, 720 different muscles, have weight, be real, could move on her own, etc. 

On the other hand, characters in novels, plays, movies and cartoons — if they are well done — are like real people in terms of their internal lives. It is all a fiction, of course, as well as magic. (It’s no accident that Disney called his extravaganza theme park “The Magic Kingdom.”) Fiction is magic in that it allows you to vicariously experience another person’s choices, actions, sensory inputs, relationships, self-talk, and even internal conflicts. The words are used as cues or clues and you yourself imagine the actions, sights, sounds, and smells. You generate the feelings with your brain. The book doesn’t have a brain. The movie doesn’t have a brain. 

photography of disneyland

Photo by Makenzie Kublin on Pexels.com

When you watch a movie, you see a person and hear a voice. The most important thing is what is going on in the actor and whether they can hint at what is happening internally through their motions, expressions, and voice. That is what is important about good fiction: what goes on inside. 

What could possibly be more racist than to think a POC could not feel inside what a white person was thinking? Or, what could be more racist than to think a POC could not show that set of feelings through their actions and voice in a highly competent, artistic, & inspired fashion? 

Now, let us set aside the really important part of the story process and just focus on the external factors. Two complete human forms typically share a myriad of surface characteristics. Most people have bilateral symmetry, ten toes, ten fingers, one head, the same set of 720 muscles and so on. Our fingers share the same joints, fingernails, etc. And yet — out of that sea of similarity, the “I’m not a racist but” tweeter claims that because the actor is black, she “doesn’t look anything like [emphasis added]” the form of the cartoon character. So, the “I’m not a racist but” tweeter thinks skin color counts — but none of the other 1000 physical characteristics that nearly all of us share count at all. Hmmm. So, for the “I’m not a racist, but” tweeter, skin color is the only marker of a person’s physique that makes any difference. 

6A476221-BDAD-4FC1-97A4-531C91BE04AC

Human beings are vastly complex. Our life — the very life we feel right now — goes back in unbroken lineage 4.5 billion years. Our bodies contain 70 trillion cells. By contrast, the (already considerable) population of earth is only 7 billion. To pick out one characteristic as being the only one that counts? 

The tendency to confuse label with substance persists into adulthood for all of us. For instance, in Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, he cites studies in which adults, e.g., prefer dentists, whose name starts with “D” and will give preference to someone with the same name they have, even though the name sharing is coincidence.  We also have the option to be on the look out for it for labelism. Watching out for it and then looking into things more deeply is the first step to minimizing it in your thinking. 

Because there are others who are well aware of this tendency to confuse the thing with the label and all too happy to use that confusion to make a profit at your expense. In the examples above, consumer products companies are following the letter of the law (all the while lobbying to rescind even those protections) but at the same time, spending millions to mislabel their products and mislead you. “All Natural Juice Drink”! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? The one I looked at had less than 5% juice. There’s nothing about it that’s “natural.” It’s basically water and corn syrup. And, indeed, at this point, the actual ingredients are listed. So, if and only if, you take the time to look at that government-mandated information, you will see what’s really going on. Large corporations are not satisfied with only misleading the people who won’t bother to read the ingredients. They want to right to fool everyone. 

actor adult business cards

Photo by Nikolay Ivanov on Pexels.com

Sadly, this manipulation of labels to confuse the unwary to do things in the interests of the very rich rather than their own interests is not limited to their consumer products. The very wealthy who essentially own and/or run the corporations want to be able to control elections. So, they brought a law-suit under the label “Citizens United” all the way to the Supreme Court. (This was hardly “citizens united”!! It was brought on behalf of some of the richest and most powerful people in American). 

Applying nice-sound labels to things that are “bad” is just one type of trick. Another common trick is to label something negatively in order to get you to dislike it. Why do people want to manipulate you into disliking somebody? Basically, they do it to get you to put your anger on them for your troubles rather than the people truly responsible. 

The word “label” implies a word. But let’s look more deeply (or at least more pragmatically) at the basic concept of playing on your labelism so that you act against your interest. Corporations use music and pictures to impact your psyche in the same way. When they tell you (as currently required) about the deadly side-effects of a drug, they play calm idyllic music. Nice music. Music that makes you feel there is nothing to worry about. And sweet pictures. Pictures of flowers, and rainbows, and family fun, and romance. How could anything possibly go wrong? But those pictures do not logically flow from taking the drug. Nor does joyful music start playing in your life. 

IMG_3558

You may or may not experience this after taking that new drug. After all, it’s just a picture, not a promise. But your brain treats it as a promise. And they know that.

We just accept it now. After all, it’s just “business as usual.” But why is it “business as usual”? Who benefits from the rules that now exist? And what if, someday in the future, Americans become so accepting of this manipulation of feeling through labels, images, & sounds that they did not even notice that this was going on in politics? What if we were not just being manipulated by big moneyed interests into buying cat litter, popcorn, and drugs? What if corporations were also spending their billions to buy elections in order to make the rules of the game even more favorable to them? 

We can only imagine. 

IMG_3240

IMG_3126

IMG_8483

It happened before. Don’t let it happen again.

 

—————————————————

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/how-supreme-court-turned-corporations-people-200-year-saga/

Author Page on Amazon

The Declaration of Interdependence

Tags

, , , , , , ,

The Declaration of Interdependence

0355AE9F-AF78-474F-A2D1-4034ED2D8DD0

The first fireworks I recall seeing: Camp Y-Noah, when I was about 7 or 8. Before, I had seen some from a distance — little sprays of colored lights in the sky followed by a distant boom. Even those distant booms terrified my dog Mel, a wonderful, loving, honey-colored Cocker Spaniel. 

Being right next to the action at Y-Noah was an entirely different experience. The sound thumped by chest! The spreading streamers of bright explosives filled the sky! The sparkling threads were red, white, and blue as well as gold, silver, green, and purple — all the colors of the rainbow and more besides!

I watched with one of the kids from my cabin. I cannot recall his name but I do recall that he had a blond crew cut and was a bit on the chubby side. At Camp Y-Noah, we slept in log cabins on bunk beds, about 10 kids to a cabin. Our days included swimming, archery, shooting 22 rifles, hiking, and various contests, including “morning inspection” pitting one cabin against another, or volleyball (pitting one cabin against another) or softball (pitting one cabin against another). We generally hung out with the other kids in our own cabin; they were on our “team” and the ones we spent most of our time with. 

For that reason, I was surprised when a kid we didn’t know came to watch the fireworks with us. This kid, whose name I also don’t recall, was an African-American with short curly hair.  After silently watching for a couple minutes, began commenting on every firework. But instead of saying “Oh, WOW!” as we were, he likened each firework to what he was going to do to one of the kids in his cabin. It seemed odd that he would dislike one of the boys from his own cabin and especially that he would passionately dislike him. 

743D831B-23CD-4BF5-ADE2-0AD57817259C

He soon solved that mystery for us. His cabin mate kept calling him the N-word. I grew up in a very segregated white neighborhood and school. Nonetheless, I knew from an early age that this was not a word to be used. I associated using the word with “bad people” and found the idea that one of the kids at Camp Y-Noah would use it rather amazing and a bit upsetting. I also found it amazing that this kid from another cabin would be so upset. 

Of course, kids being kids, I had lots of experience with kids calling each other names. While I didn’t typically start such insults, I would respond in kind and sometimes “pile on” when someone had a nasty nick-name applied to them. In the first grade though, these nasty nick-names never perseverated. And none of the names we came up with were associated with racism, hatred, and lynching.

The first time I recall an unlucky recipient keeping a nasty nick-name for more than a few days took place about four years later. We were studying American myths and legends at the time and one of these legendary figures was “Pecos Bill” who supposedly tried to jump over the Grand Canyon, got half-way over, realized it was too far and turned around in mid-jump and came back. (Don’t try this at home). For some reason, all the other boys in the class, and quite a few of the girls, dubbed “Bill” “Puke-us Bill.” He hated it and told us of his hatred of the name. That made it all the more fun for us as fifth graders. 

Although cruel, the name was unique. It had nothing to do with Bill’s race, religion, or country of origin. Though he hated it, and we teased him with it for the rest of the year, he still hadn’t reacted as passionately as the kid from camp had done to being called the N-word. 

And with good reason. Bill’s ancestors had not been enslaved whole-sale and stolen from their native land and torn apart from their families. The women had not been systematically raped. Men who tried to escape had not been castrated or had their foot chopped off. They had not endured centuries of oppression. Even after slavery was abolished, citizens of America descended from those slaves were tied up and tortured, lynched, and to this day are more likely to be shot dead for no better reason than complying with a police request by pulling out their wallets to show their ID’s or by not pulling out their wallets to show their ID’s. White people, in the year 2019, are calling 911 to report black people doing such dastardly deeds as having a picnic, or playing in their own yards. 

fullsizeoutput_193d.jpeg

Fireworks are explosives. They may look very pretty. But every year, thousands of Americans end up in the ER from fireworks. Fireworks are violent explosions. They need to be treated with great care. It’s very common for a fuse to be shorter than it seems. And explosions don’t always go as planned. 

And racist slurs? To people who are in a minority, a racial slur is nothing like a “nick name.” I really didn’t understand that when I was a seven year old camper. But I do now. What I also understand is that playing to racism or religious differences have led to millions of innocent people killed. And, the distance between freely using racial slurs and millions of innocent people killed is not as long as you might think it is. 

Today is a day for all Americans to celebrate our independence from tyranny. We should celebrate. The American colonists were taxed by the British government but had no vote and no representative in Parliament. The rationale for our declaring our independence was based on many grievances, and eventually some of those influenced the Bill of Rights. But having a vote is absolutely fundamental to having a democracy. If it isn’t a democracy for all of us, it isn’t a democracy. 

america ancient architecture art

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When it comes to measures to disenfranchise citizens, those are a blow to democracy itself. That should concern everyone, not just those who are not disenfranchised. And, so should applying racial slurs and killing innocent people. And, so should intentionally inflicted cruelty of any kind. We breathe the same air. We are all inter-connected. The Declaration of Independence speaks to independence from tyranny, but when it comes to defending those freedoms, we are all in it together. E pluribus unum. 

———————————

Ever stop to think about how much even commonplace things that you take for granted depend upon the efforts and knowledge of others across the globe — and millions of other people who lived in ages past? https://petersironwood.com/2019/05/06/corn-on-the-cob/ 

Still confused about how much you’ll be able to “recreate” modern conveniences based on your own hard work and knowledge? Maybe this video will help. https://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_thwaites_how_i_built_a_toaster_from_scratch?language=en

My title is hardly original, and here is a link to some of the earlier uses of the title. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Interdependence

Here’s another take on the fact that people around the world have developed slightly different skin colors and somewhat different cultures. https://petersironwood.com/2018/08/03/the-myths-of-the-veritas-the-forgotten-field/

The Doors of Mystery

Tags

, , , , , ,

“What an amazing sunset,” Fleet-of-Foot said to no-one in particular. His companions, Hudah Salah, Easy Tears, and Day Nah sat close by. 

70E2D770-2B7A-4D5D-B322-D499FD6785AC

Easy Tears noticed that Hudah Salah, who had previously said very little had become much more talkative since their escape from the fire — and her separation from Lion Slayer. Here she was again: “Perhaps the fire in some way joins up with the fire of the sunset. Then, he shines more brilliantly than ever.” 

Easy Tears listened carefully to Hudah Salah, just as she did to everyone in her own tribe. “That’s an interesting possibility, Hudah. Let us think on that.” 

{Translator’s Note}: And, unlike our more “civilized” society, where everyone is judged on being able to respond immediately with arguments carefully crafted to push people into one of two predefined camps, this is what Easy Tears actually did: She allowed herself to think. She did not try to dissect the idea, nor prove it, nor disprove it. She let the idea loose in the archives of her mind. Easy Tears, in particular, did not like to put up walls either between herself and others or within her own memory archives. There was no “Restricted” area. The idea could play around in there as long as it liked. What was the hurry? Their bodies all needed restitution and traveling by night is not always a good way to make things quicker. And, now they were all enjoying the sunset. 

Of course, unlike the Veritas, your translator was brought up in a world where speed is all and if you can’t get your next version of software out the door yesterday, you can go out the exit door for good. So, when I describe things, I tend to phrase things in a much more simplistic fashion than what actually went on in the minds of the Veritas, as best we can tell from the burgeoning field of statistically inferential macro-psycholinguistics. It would be helpful then for you, the reader, to remember that my translations will tend to reflect my own modernistic blinders – and yours. But let’s get back to finding out whether these folks are going to get back to the center place of the Veritas alive and tell Many Paths, their leader, what they have learned about The People Who Steal Children. 

As Easy Tears allowed the idea to roam freely, she did not have to “watch” the idea or “be careful” where it might lead. So, she could just sit back and watch the sunset. The idea conjured a trumpet that sang a song about fire. Most of the various artifacts, people, ideas, places, in the mind of Easy Tears paid little attention to this particular tune. A few however, had their say. Easy Tears recalled how hard it had been to see when they were running through fire. Even when the flames were not an issue, the smoke made it hard to see. So smoke interacted with sight. 

Another memory heard the tune and danced to it. Easy Eyes had been a small child, but one who had already revealed her eye for beauty and design. Everyone who wished to, was encouraged by the Veritas to share designs for patterns on both the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. She had created several ideas in her head and one in particular had caught her eye.  That would be the one! She worked in secret on her full scale project and as it neared completion, she became more and more disconcerted. The design no longer seemed a thing of real beauty. She recreated the small scale version and it still held exquisite beauty and balance.  What, she wondered, was going on? She had gone back to her larger design and it appeared empty and bland. So, the size of something could even change its nature. She had added additional elements to the large scale design and had, in fact, received much praise for her design. This was sincere praise, not just pat-the-sweet-little-girl-on-the-top-of-the-head praise. And, she knew it. So, smoke rises and spreads and becomes more sparse. 

6515873C-D2E3-4282-9C68-0B89AE860B8A

Easy Tears related these wakened memories to the group and Hudah Salah translated for Day-Nah. 

Fleet-of-Foot, though not quite so open as Easy Tears, also allowed these words and memories free access to his own experience. “For some reason that I cannot explain, it reminds me of skipping stones on a creek or a pond. You want stones that are as round and flat as possible. But, the size of the stones proves crucial too. If a stone is too small, even if it’s flat, it will curve in the air and slice right into the water too steeply. If the stone is too large, even if well made, you cannot throw it fast enough and it will only skip a few times. So, here too, the behavior depends on the shape, or design, but also on the size. 

AEEE88B5-FAA7-4DAB-911F-6101A7C68609

“Yes,” added Hudah Salah, “in my experience size matters. And also speed. In our lands, much sand there is and one grain or two — this is nothing. But we have — you and Eagle Eyes — you saw such a storm, during your visit. Much sand coming fast – it can kill you. The nature of much is different from the nature of one or a few.” 

sand storm and rock formation

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

After a long pause, and when the sunset had faded from crimson all the way to gray ash, Easy Tears said, “We think it may be the case that something about the nature of much smoke together on the ground to be different than much smoke not together high in the air. But sunsets vary so much. We must ask to join with the wisdom of others to decide. Let us sleep. I will keep first watch.” 

The dawn also proved visually stupendous. The foursome broke camp and continued their journey even before the color reached its peak. They saw no sign of their friends nor, thankfully, of the People Who Steal Children. They did see horse hoof marks and that kept them on the alert. 

Occasionally, they returned to the topic of the beautiful sunsets and sunrises and whether it was related to the fire. 

Hudah Salah remarked, “In the heat of the summer, it seems as though the sun actually pushes you down, as though the light is heavy.” 

Fleet-of-Foot turned back to look at Hudah. He smiled at her. An image of them together flickered through his mind. Then, the same idea stole into his mind in words. After all, he thought, life must go on. If Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer are both dead…. Or, perhaps, they just decided to go off together? How could they have just disappeared? We were all running together. Maybe they’re sick of all this fighting. That’s ridiculous. I know she’s okay and I know we will be together. Feed the good wolf, feed the good wolf. 

Easy Tears spoke. “I have a feeling it has something to do with light that reflects or the light that isn’t there.”

Now, Fleet-of-Foot was amazed at Easy Tears. “Light that isn’t there?” 

Easy Tears, motioned to Fleet-of-Foot to come closer. “Look at the bare ground over there. What do you see?”

“Many things. You mean, your shadow?” 

“Yes, Fleet-of-Foot, my shadow. It is lack of light. What color does it appear?” 

Fleet-of-Foot frowned. “Color? No color. Well, I suppose it looks a little bit blue compared with what is around it.”

IMG_0057

Hudah Salah broke in, “Oh, yes, it is blue. It can be quite obvious in the desert. The sun is yellow but the not-sun is blue.” 

Fleet-of-Foot considered. “I see what you mean. But, I’m not sure…”

Easy Tears pointed to the other side of her, “Now, look over there. What do you see?” 

Fleet-of-Foot shrugged his shoulders. “Not shadow?”

Easy Tears laughed. “Don’t guess! Look! And keep moving. My shadows will come with me!” 

Fleet-of-Foot shook his head, frowned, and took another look as he strode alongside. At last he said, “Well, to tell you the truth, you have another shadow on that side but it’s vague and a bit greenish.” 

Easy Tears continued. “Yes. You see those bright red sunrise clouds high in the sky? There is shadow from the light of them as well. 

They strode on silently for a time. 

Fleet-of-Foot said, “You are truly amazing to have ever noticed that!” 

Easy Tears laughed. “Oh, I didn’t see it. I lived for years and never noticed it. Eagle Eyes pointed it out to me. She truly is amazing! Haven’t you noticed?” 

Fleet-of-Foot blushed and hoped the others attributed it to the high red clouds. He cleared his throat and mumbled, “Yes, of course.” 

They continued all day with few breaks. At last they found themselves on the path they had taken on the way out. A few hours later, they were at the same odd door that stymied them for a time on the way in. They had intentionally left it closed in the hope of thwarting what they assumed would be a large group of the People Who Steal Children riding on horseback. Now, their way was blocked by a large heavy door that six of them had had difficulty with. How could they open it with only three adults and a small child. The alternative was to try to find another route but nothing obvious had presented itself. 

The three of them pushed and pulled to no avail. After some minutes, they managed to move it perhaps half an inch. Then it stopped and further effort proved fruitless. The three sat down heavily and looked at each other, trying to catch their breath. They looked around and realized that none of them knew where Day-Nah had gone. 

fullsizeoutput_1375

Fleet-of-Foot called out, “Day-Nah!” 

“Day-Nah. Here. Help me.” 

Fleet-of-Foot cautiously approached the voice and soon saw Day-Nah pulling at something. Fleet-of-Foot soon saw that it was a thick rod of the same stuff that the door itself was made of. 

Fleet-of-Foot was amazed and wanted to learn more. “Where? Where did this come from? What place?” 

Day-Nah stared at him uncomprehendingly. Fleet-of-Foot thought back to his time among the Nomads of the South. Suddenly, the word sprang to mind. 

As soon as he said it, Day-Nah’s face brightened and he ran over to a nearby hollow log. Fleet-of-Foot thought it an odd place to hide a club, but it seemed to be a good club despite its odd shape and long length. It was made of this hard, heavy material and he was happy to have it. But he could not use it to break down the door. It was made of the same stuff and way too thick to be destroyed with a club. 

PicturesfromiPhone2 070

Fleet-of-Foot returned to Easy Tears and Hudah Salam and showed them the club. Waving it slightly, he said, “This may prove useful should we encounter the People Who Steal Children.” 

Hudah Salam looked at him and smiled. She walked directly toward him and for a moment, he thought she might kiss him! 

But it was not to be. She merely, took the “club” from him and walked over to the door. She put one end into the small slit and put both hands on the other end. Then, she braced her feet and pulled backwards. The door moved! 

Fleet-of-Foot laughed and shook his head. “Oh! How not fleet-of-thought I am!” 

His friends laughed too. Easy Tears glanced at him and smiled. “I didn’t see it either. But I suspect Eagle Eyes would have. She’s good at that kind of thing.” 

Fleet-of-Foot smiled. He knew exactly what Easy Tears had meant by ‘that kind of thing’ though there was really no word for it. But there should be, he thought and they pitched in and quickly moved the door. 

On toward the Center Place of the Veritas they strode. After a few moments, Fleet-of-Foot waved the lever and said, “Well, it also makes a good club.” All of them laughed for it seemed to them at the time that the worst was over. 

IMG_5294

——————————————————————-

Author’s Page on Amazon

The Pros and Cons of AI

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Collaboration and Teamwork

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Orange Man

The Beginning of the Tales of the Veritas 

The Beginning of Book Two

Tu-Swift’s Vengeance

Tags

, , , ,

Tu-Swift heard something and dropped to the ground instinctively. He nearly screamed aloud from the sudden explosion of sparkling white pain that shot through his knee. He panted to help squelch his scream and reduce the pain. He stared through a gap in some fencing. His body now flooded with adrenalin, his thoughts once again raced ahead. What was that furry thing in the distance? 

brown wolf standing on green grass

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Wolves! Of course, he thought. Lucky I am downwind! They will be hungry and looking for food. These appeared to be mere pups. They don’t send pups out first. Perhaps the pack has all been destroyed in the fire and only these two — wait! Those are the ones Many Paths befriended! And there’s Shadow Walker! He’s limping. What happened to him? And what is he…he glanced at his own sword. He’s got one of these. But Shadow Walker was being cautious. Perhaps he sees more wolves? Or, the People Who Steal Children? 

Just then, Shadow Walker begin secret whistle-talking, hiding his message in the surrounding birdsong, much as a stalking cat creeps hidden in the tall grass. Shadow Walker was asking whether Tu-Swift was there. Tu-Swift nearly shouted out that he was here, but caught himself just in time. He whistled back that he was here and asked if it was okay to come out of hiding. 

Shadow Walker whistled back that to be cautious but to make yourself visible to me and I will make myself visible to you. 

Tu-Swift now smiled. His smile widened. He was so happy, it was all he could do to purse his lips enough to whistle back: “You are already visible to me.” 

Shadow Walker snorted and then he really laughed aloud. He knew it to be rash but he had been so tense, frightened, worried, angry for so long that the relief came unbidden. 

In body, both of these Veritas were hobble-legged and jerky; they nonetheless closed the gap between them quickly, but not so quickly as the wolf pups who were at Tu-Swift in a flash. He smiled deeply at their obvious joy in seeing him again. He felt his shoulders and neck relax. Then, he fell into a long embrace with Shadow Walker. They felt such mutual relief in their reunion that thoughts of the dark and evil days they had just lived through did not invade the consciousness of either one of them for a time. Yet, both of them held fast to their new-found swords.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift both began to speak at once. Then, out of mutual respect, both stopped. Shadow Walker stopped out of respect to the exuberance that emanates and animates the young in general and to the survival of Tu-Swift. Tu-Swift respected the age and experience of Shadow Walker. 

After a pause, Tu-Swift began again, “What happened to you? Where are the others? Are there more of the People Who Steal Children still about? Did you see any horses? How is Day-Nah?”

Shadow Walker smiled and put up his hand. “Wait. Wait. I have questions for you as well, but quickly and one at a time, I will try to answer yours first. I sprained my ankle running from the fire. I don’t know about Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer. So far as I know Day-Nah is okay, heading back to our Center place with Fleet of Foot, Easy Tears, and Hudah Salah. I did slay one of the People Who Steal Children on the way here. But wait. You asked whether there were any more. Did you see some?”

“Oh, yes. There are four under the armory, or what used to be the armory. Three women and one badly wounded man. He was one of the ones who oversaw me when I worked with the horses. I came out here to find some yellow dock to staunch his wounds.”  

77A3526C-DBFC-4FC8-8767-E9D9E95ACF98

Shadow Walker shook his head. “What? Four of them? What sorts of weapons do they have? Why are you helping them? This man who enslaved you?” 

“They have no weapons,” Tu-Swift began. “He — he’s hurt — and in a lot of pain. I don’t think he’s a threat. These are not really soldiers. They are…just people. They could not outrun the fire and managed to survive in the cellar beneath the armory. Should I not heal him? But anyway, there is nothing growing anywhere near. I can’t travel far as yet. I fell badly and twisted my knee.” 

Shadow Walker nodded. “Ah, those odd tracks were your odd tracks. Crutch and all. Where did you get one of these?” He held aloft his sword and regarded it, still impressed at the feel of it. 

Tu-Swift replied. “It was in the armory. It is sharp! But also — so hard. I think it would slice right through most of our weapons. How did you get yours?”

Shadow Walker’s tone became somber as he answered, “One of the People Who Steal Children came at me with it. I had no weapon to speak of. I was lucky to survive. He fell onto a sharp tree stump and perished. I helped him end his life more quickly.”

Tu-Swift looked into Shadow Walker’s eyes and said softly, “So, you also believe in mercy for our enemies?” 

IMG_1163

Shadow Walker frowned. “I’m not sure. But let’s see these People Who Live in Cellars and find out what their story is. Lead the way.” 

Tu-Swift began hobbling toward the armory. After a few feet, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Shadow Walker held out a bunch of dried leaves. 

Tu-Swift exclaimed, “Yellow dock! But where did you get it?” 

Shadow Walker, “Not around here. When I escaped the fire, I found some near a creek to help heal my sprain. I’m not that swollen or pained any more, though I still cannot really walk very well. You can use this on your friend.” 

It was Tu-Swift’s turn to frown. “I would not call him my friend. He was the least cruel of the three main overseers we had. And he was almost decent to the horses too. Almost. Anyway, if we have the power to heal, it seems we should. I’m sure that’s what Many Paths would do.”

8F508A66-D0F0-41B6-99F8-6BD6AC70B483

Shadow Walker sighed a long sigh. “Are you sure? I’m not. She just became leader and one disaster after another has befallen the Veritas. You were stolen. Several of our guards were murdered. Somewhere in this land, there are eight of us. But I only see you. You are the only one I can be certain is still alive. I’m not so sure Many Paths would chose mercy for any of the People Who Steal Children. Do they really deserve it?”

“You could be right, Shadow Walker. One cannot ever know for certain how someone else will react to the pressure of the moment. But she did once say to me that mercy that is deserved is not really mercy. It is fairness. It is justice. But it is not mercy.”

They had arrived at the entrance to the armory. Shadow Walker placed his arm on Tu-Swift. “You may be right, Tu-Swift, but I know one thing for certain. Many Paths would think for a long time of all the pros and cons before taking action, right?” 

Tu-Swift chuckled. “I get your point. Sometimes she does go on and on and on about various possibilities. But when it’s necessary to act quickly, she acts. She doesn’t always discuss. Her natural bent is toward kindness to all things.” 

799F0BBD-AF07-479A-903D-C53F122F4E05

Shadow Walker nodded slowly. “Yes. You’re right. Look, this may yet be a trap. Let me stand here while you pull up the trap door. That handle…”

“Yes, it’s the same weird stuff our swords are made of. I know. Okay, here, let me ease down and I’ll pull it open. But I don’t think you will face a hail of arrows or the tip of a sword, although I am sure Many Paths would advise us to be prepared for anything!” 

Shadow Walker smiled at Tu-Swift. “Agreed.” 

Tu-Swift pulled on the cold, hard ring of the trap door. Slowly, it creaked open. 

————————————————————————-

Author Page on Amazon.

The Creation Myth of the Veritas. 

The Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man. 

The Myths of the Veritas: The Forgotten Field. 

The Beginning of Book One. 

The Beginning of Book Two. 

The Pros and Cons of AI.

  

Eagle Eyes Eyes an Eagle

Tags

, , , , , ,

sky space telescope universe

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Eagle Eyes ran desperately to escape the flames that chased her down the hill. Her eyes burned from the smoke, but she hated the lack of visibility more than the pain. She needed to run quickly and yet, could hardly see her next footfall. So much for having the eyes of an eagle a tiny voice in her head said scornfully. She might or might not break a leg, she calculated, but being eaten by the fire would surely kill her, so on she ran. For a moment, the wind shifted and she could see a clear path before her with only a small fire to avoid and she ran even faster in that direction. Suddenly, the path before her burst into a wall of flames. She looked around desperately and caught a glimpse of another person off to her right. She couldn’t tell who it was in the murky air, but whoever it was seemed to be running directly away from her. She turned and ran in that direction. 

The shadowy figure before her suddenly veered to the right, stopped, spun around and ran off at a different angle. She ran toward the shadowy figure. She soon outdistanced the flames and found herself doubled over, gasping for air in a grassy field that was unscathed by fire. Even better, she breathed clean air. She thought of how grateful she was and suddenly collapsed. 

When she regained consciousness, she found herself on her belly. She raised her head, glanced down and saw human feet right beside her. She jumped and spun into a defensive combat posture. Eagle Eyes took in the posture and bearing of her enemy and had decided where to strike when a voice yelled “Stop!” She recognized the voice. It was her own voice, echoing in her head. She felt faint. 

The man before her was Lion Slayer. He was trying to smile at her but grimacing in obvious pain.

654FF1D3-68C3-4CF9-A6DC-3A2EA7156C17

“Ah, Lion Slayer. Well met. Sorry, I thought you were…I guess I thought you were one of those who steals children.”

“I understand. I was also terrified! Because of this.” He held up his injured arm. “And worse. We could be both crisply burned to a crisp. What of the others? Have you seen them?” 

Both of them looked toward the open, undamaged field that lay before them. Neither saw any sign of their compatriots. Then, they turned and regarded the crest of the hill behind them. It lay a charred ruin and behind that they could see towering flames and billowing black smoke. They turned and looked at each other. 

Eagle Eyes frowned. “Should we go back for them?” 

Lion Slayer looked down. “I would like to. Of course. But we were very lucky to escape those flames once. We will do them no good dead.”

fire orange emergency burning

Photo by Little Visuals on Pexels.com

Eagle Eyes considered. With a sudden shudder, she recalled running through the flaming field, unable to draw breath, unable to see more than a few feet in front of her. “I hate fire. At least this kind of uncontrolled fire. It destroyed everything and everyone. I hate fire arrows.” 

Lion Slayer nodded. “As do I. Eventually, it will burn itself out and I will find Hudah Salah. And the others. But now, we should move even farther away. The wind can shift again and bring the fire this way and this time, we might not be so lucky.”

Eagle Eyes also nodded. “We must be wary as well to be on the lookout for the People Who Steal Children. If we escaped, some of those might have as well. And our friends. Come, let me tend to your wounds when we get down there. Beyond that creek, there are trees. On the far side of the creek we may find jewelweed or yellow dock to help with your burns.” Here she pointed off in the distance and began walking. Lion Slayer walked beside her, constantly scanning the horizon for enemies of the human or fiery variety. 

“I see some far trees. I do not know these plants, jewelweed and jello dock, but we have a kind of cactus  — we put the jelly on burns.” 

The eyes of Eagle Eyes brightened, “Oh, yes, I know that one. You brought some on your visit! But I don’t think it grows near here. It’s ‘yellow dock’ by the way, not ‘jello dock’.” 

981ABFE1-F37E-474C-8D2C-B4E38508ECEA

“Oh, sorry, yes. I wasn’t sure anyone noticed the gifts we brought. Perhaps you have no need of such things. We call it ‘aloe’.” 

“Oh, yes, all of the Veritas were grateful for your gifts. I especially thought those…what did you call them? ‘Scarves’?  They were quite attractive!”

“Like this one?”  He pulled out from his robe a finely made scarf and held it out to her. It looked to have originally been blue and white, but now it was mostly black. “I found it easier to breathe through this. It keeps out very many of the smoke. We use them for sandstorms.” 

adventure arid barren coast

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Presently, they arrived at the creek. Sure enough, on the far side, yellow dock grew in abundance. Finding a long-abandoned campsite near the margin of the woods, Eagle Eyes made a cold wrapping of boiled leaves. To cool them quickly and more completely, she swung them in the air until they were cold to the touch. She gently laid them on the blistered skin of Lion Slayer. She was surprised that he hardly flinched. She glanced back across the creek and saw a group of people! She hoped it was Fleet of Foot! And, the others, of course. She tapped Lion Slayer on the shoulder and put her finger to her lips for quiet. She gestured for him to turn and look. He did so, stood, and began to shout, “Hudah! Hu-mmmph!” 

Eagle Eyes sprang up in a flash and clamped her hand over his mouth. She put her mouth right next to his ear and, in a loud whisper said, “Wait! There are too many. Those are the People Who Steal Children!” 

Lion Slayer turned looking back and forth between the figures on the horizon and Eagle Eyes. She appeared so insistent, gesturing him to get back behind the cover of nearby trees. He backed away into the trees. When they were in a fair distance but could still look out he turned again, “You cannot count how many there are! Not from here. Hudah may be there!” 

Eagle Eyes put her finger to her lips to signal quiet. She whispered again. “I can count them from here. Twenty have passed by and more are still passing.” 

“But then, our friends may have been captured!” he protested. 

“I doubt that very much. So far, no-one resembling Fleet of Foot or any of our friends have passed by. And Fleet of Foot would probably rather fling himself into the fire than be captured. That man loves his freedom, believe me. I know him well.” For some reason, she blushed after she said this and her hands became sweaty. She glanced away from the horizon into the deep dark eyes of Lion Tamer. 

She stammered out, “I mean, Shadow Walker’s probably much the same. And you. Wouldn’t you rather die in the fire than be captured?” 

“No. I would fight. I hate captured. But hate fire burning more. This hurts!” 

photo of fire

Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

At least he’s whispering now, thought Eagle Eyes. Maybe he’s trainable. Anyway, that’s not my job. My job is to look for our friends. But now, there are too many together. I cannot really see everyone. But we must remain here until…. She decided to share her thoughts with her comrade. “I cannot get a good look at everyone. There are too many. But if our friends are there, I can tell you that they are definitely captured and vastly outnumbered. Once they all pass by, maybe we can follow their trail and we will get a better chance to see about hour friends.”

When Eagle Eyes saw that there were no more passing by, she signaled Lion Tamer to follow her. He frowned and whispered, “It’s dangerous. Let me lead.” 

Eagle Eyes nearly laughed aloud but stifled herself. “It much much more dangerous if you lead. I can see better. Oh, don’t make that look. You know it’s true.”

Lion Tamer sighed. He knew it was true, but somehow, he felt he should go first. It was how things were done. But not by the Veritas, he reminded himself. Their leader is a woman. Without a very good record so far, he thought silently.

Eagle Eyes got down on all fours and began creeping up the hill at an angle. She turned, put her fingers to her lips and gestured Lion Tamer to get down. He did so and they slowly moved forward through the tall grass whenever the wind came up. She turned to to say something and Lion Tamer was not there! She looked all around and then saw him coming through the grass. She crept up to him and whispered, “Stay close. Where you can see me. And hear my whispers. We don’t want to be found out. Stay close!” 

Lion Tamer followed his instructions, but it made him very uncomfortable. He could see her only all too well. Much of her clothing had been burned. And Veritas women wore hardly more than men did. At her insistence, he was so close, he could not only see her, but smell her as well. And, he liked it. A lot. 

Lion Tamer sighed. He thought to himself that he must put this out of his mind, at least for now. If they were discovered, they might or might not be able to outrun their enemies. Eagle Eyes stopped and held up her hand behind her. She turned and put her mouth near the ear of Lion Tamer. She whispered. “We are close enough for now. They have no horses. None. And they are not very well organized. I think it most likely that they simply ran from their village. I still see no sign of our friends, but we will creep closer after nightfall if conditions are right. Come.” She gestured toward a small gully overgrown with weeds. 

body of water near mountain

Photo by Emre Can on Pexels.com

He lay next to her, without touching her, but close enough to feel the heat of her body. He reminded himself of his wife, Hudah. How would he feel if he survived this fire and she did not? He hoped he did not have to discover the answer to that question. Hudah suited him just fine, though the Veritas women intrigued him. And this one…her eyes were not only effective, but deep and beautiful. 

Something caught those deep and beautiful eyes and she glanced up. An eagle circled above, its majestic wings reflecting a red glow from flames burning. Eagle Eyes made an incredibly high pitched whistle. The eagle immediately banked left out of its circle and descended rapidly toward them. Eagle Eyes heard Lion Slayer gasp beside her and she lay her fingers on his lips to hush him. She slowly drew a piece of dried meat from a pouch. She gathered much of the cloth that remained and wrapped it quickly around her forearm just before the eagle alit upon it. She whispered to it gently as she fed it the meat. Eagle Eyes tore a tiny strip of cloth from her garment and wrapped around one of the eagle’s legs, whispering gently as she did so. The eagle stared at her as she said, “Go home. Go home. Go home.” The eagle finished the meat and flapped back up into the sky.

eagle in flight

Photo by David Dibert on Pexels.com

She turned to look at Lion Slayer, whose mouth lay agape below staring eyes.

“Will that work?!” he asked.

“I’m not sure. I’ve trained many eagles. Luckily, this was one of them. But I can’t say for certain.”

“You are an amazing … you are amazing,” said Lion Slayer, shaking his head slowly from side to side.

——————————-

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Parable of the Orange Man 

The Myths of the Veritas: Beginning of Book One

The Myths of the Veritas: Beginning of Book Two

Author Page on Amazon

Shadow Walker’s Shadow Walking

Tags

, , , ,

IMG_3805

To ameliorate his impatience with the slow, ankle-sprained progress he made in his search for Tu-Swift, Shadow Walker entertained himself by thinking through the ways to be a more stealthy warrior. 

{Translator’s Note}: I used the expression “entertained himself” because from what we can tell, the Veritas very much enjoyed learning from others and from oneself. Such improved skill might well save his life. In our culture, we would therefore perhaps call it “practical” and it would be irrelevant whether it would be entertaining. But they thought that most things were at once practical, entertaining, and educational. 

Shadow Walker’s internal dialogue continued. I have my eyes of course, he thought, and it is much harder to see in the dark. But besides that, I see differently in the dark. More like a cat. It’s hard to see color. And, I’m more sensitive to movement. Not everyone sees as well as I do. And, some, like Eagle Eyes see far better. At this, Shadow Walker’s logical flow diverted. He began to wonder yet again about all the missing members of the search party. He and Eagle Eyes had worked through the trials for the rings of empathy together. And, though he only knew him a short time, he had come to like and respect Lion Slayer. Still, he felt his main priority was to find Tu-Swift. Though already quite fast a runner, he was still relatively small and inexperienced. Eagle Eyes was an experienced fighter and possessed excellent vision. She would see an enemy coming before that enemy saw her. Probably. But it all depends…and he returned to his considerations of how to make himself stealthier with respect to sight. 

IMG_3277

He explored this theme for a time, going back in his own memories about how various factors affected his vision. He recalled from the empathy trials that a person’s state influenced what they saw. If they were hungry, they would tend to see things more as food. If they were thirsty, they would see things more in terms of moisture. And so on. It occurred to Shadow Walker that the beautiful symmetry in the clothing that adorned so many of the Veritas actually made them much more visible as targets. A more random pattern like fallen leaves…

close up photo of brown praying mantis on a branch

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Shadow Walker smiled at the recollection. When he was about six winters old, he had been playing in some autumn leaves when one of them suddenly jerked upward in a buzzing flight! The Praying Mantis is a fairly large insect and it had seemingly appeared from nowhere and startled him greatly. So, color and pattern as appropriate to the back ground would help. Masks. Yes. The face was the most distinctive and obviously human part of a person. Now, it occurred to Shadow Walker that perhaps the ceremonial masks that they sometimes wore had once been part of a camouflage outfit. Perhaps once such masks had been necessary for hunting or war or both. 

All the Veritas were trained while stalking to wait and move only when the wind moved. But perhaps there was more to that skill as well. He had noticed that the wolf pups had far better hearing than he did. And sense of smell of course. But now, Shadow Walker thought about the ears of horses. They moved like those of the wolves and were also large. A horse could probably hear the slight snap of a tiny twig much better than a human could. If the People Who Stole Children still had their horses, he would have to be very careful indeed not to be heard too soon. 

brown horse

Photo by James Lee on Pexels.com

With another flash of insight, Shadow Walker realized that if these People Who Steal Children were going to insist on being enemies, it would be well for the Veritas to learn much more about the ways of horses. It seemed to him, in their brief exchanges before the fire had separated them, that Tu-Swift had already begun down that path. Perhaps it would be necessary to make friends with horses as the Veritas had done with wolves, eagles, and many plants. To encourage plants to grow, it was necessary to learn what each plant wanted. Some wanted much water; others less. For some, planting a small fish nearby seemed to help them. Others had to be groomed of pests. Maybe it was the same with horses? 

Shadow Walker reminded himself to stay alert to the task at hand. At last he reached the edge of the burned forest, but the “cover” there was hardly better than in the burned out field. After only hobbling a few hundred yards in the remains of the burned forest, he noticed odd indentations in the earth, spaced an arm’s length apart. He had never seen a track like this. He bent down and picked up a small piece of charcoal. He twirled it in his fingers and it disintegrated. Then, he looked at his hands and noticed they were smudged with ash. He decided to pattern his body and clothes like a fawn, dappling both with black splotches of varying size. 

IMG_2562

Ahead of him, the wolf pups were excitedly sniffing at a large black blob. As he limped closer, he saw that it was the charred body of a deer. He peered at it and realized that something had turned it and examined it, perhaps for edible meat. There was none. The destructiveness of fire was complete. Shadow Walker thought of the legend of the Orange Man who, through his own greed, had destroyed a complete village and himself as well. Perhaps the People Who Steal Horses had done the same. Perhaps they were all dead. But perhaps not. He smiled, realizing that it was Many Paths more than anyone else who had taught him to consider a wide variety of alternatives before taking action. 

Suddenly, a wave of love and longing for Many Paths came over him. The image of her smiling face floated before him. He sighed. Why would people come and steal Tu-Swift? And, Dah-Nah too for that matter. They are a cruel people! He began to fantasize some particularly nasty tortures for them. Then, he realized that he himself did not want to become as cruel as they are. He did not want to feed the “bad wolf” within himself. It would be easy right now to feed the “bad wolf” within. Those people astride horses had done so much damage to the Veritas, to the fields, the trees. The “good wolf” seemed to have gone for a moment. Then, he noticed that the two real wolves right beside him both stood rigid, their ears turned, their nostrils flared. They stared behind him. 

fullsizeoutput_2481

He spun around in time to see the flash of a sword. His ankle gave way as he ducked and spun. He fell hard against the blackened deer carcass. As the warrior stepped forward, Shadow Walker shot his good leg out and swept the warrior’s forward leg out from under him, causing the warrior to fall and yell out, perhaps warning others. Shadow Walker’s powerful arms pinned the warrior’s arm behind him and he twisted it hard. The man struggled mightily, twisting, turning and falling onto the sharp triangle of a burned tree stump. The stump shot clean through the man from belly to back. He began to scream and tried to free himself. Shadow Walker twisted the sword from the man’s hand and lay his own weight atop the man thus further impaling him. For a moment, he found himself enjoying the sound of the man’s ripping flesh. The screams soon became a weak bubbly burble. 

Shadow Walker scanned the forest remains, alert for more warriors who might be drawn by the screams. He saw nothing. He heard nothing. The hungry wolf pups were much more interested in lapping up the spilled blood than anything else. They seemed quite unconcerned about further attack. Perhaps this had been a lone survivor and perhaps not. Shadow Walker remained crouched down for several minutes. At last he became convinced that he was not in immediate danger. He stood up and began to examine the sword. It consisted of something not earthly, yet familiar. This, he suddenly realized, was made of the same stuff as the door on circles that they had encountered on the way here. What was this strange metal? And, how could they have made a sword this smooth and even? 

black and white building construction industry

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Perhaps there was more to be learned from this enemy than the training of horses. They seem to have better weapons as well. The wolf pups began tearing at the flesh of Shadow Walker’s would be killer. It occurred to him that it might be a mistake to let them taste the flesh of humans. It was too late to stop now. He wanted to examine the warrior more closely, but did not want to have the wolves think he was attempting to “horn in” on their “kill” but soon they had their fill and he examined the corpse. In the dead man’s tunic he found a small leather pouch which contained three circles of gold. 

This is odd, thought Shadow Walker. Why make gold into a circle? The disks also had strange markings on them and the image of a face. These are a very odd people indeed, thought Shadow Walker. He secured the sword and the pouch with the gold disks around his waist with leather thongs. Then, he began making his way toward the village. Again, the forest seemed completely deserted. Yet, he remained wary. He followed the odd track. It seemed to him that it could well be the track of someone using a make-shift crutch or cane. It might be Tu-Swift. But it might be another warrior from the People Who Steal Children. 

IMG_9414

 

Soon, Shadow Walker could see clear spaces beyond the edge of the charred forest. In those clear spaces, the burned remnants of the village of the People Who Steal Children stood. Fire, he reminded himself, was not something to be toyed with. He had to admit that he had felt a strange wave of pleasure wash over him when the heard the ripping sound of flesh. That fire of hatred and cruelty must be contained or it would destroy him as thoroughly as the forest fire had destroyed the People Who Steal Children. Shadow Walker moved cautiously; moved with the wind; moved from shadow to shadow, as his eyes searched the open spaces for signs of life. 


Author Page on Amazon

The Legend of the Orange Man

Story of Feeding the Good Wolf vs. the Bad Wolf

Mobility of Body & Mind

Tags

, , , ,

As many of you know, I am using fiction (The Myths of the Veritas) to explore how various values interact. In our story currently, two of the Veritas barely escaped a forest fire and in the process, both injured themselves. This limited their mobility led me, not for the first time, to think about mobility more broadly. How does it relate to strategy and tactics in games, sports, and life? Are our concepts of mobility always useful? How else might one think about mobility? 

This is also of interest because I recently fell down and broke some ribs. As the saying goes, “It only hurts when I laugh.” But that’s not very accurate. It also hurts to cough, hiccup, stand up, sit down, turn over, and lie down. I began to write about people with limited mobility and then my own mobility became limited, at least temporarily. So, now, I take a very short break from the Veritas and instead riff on mobility. 

In college, one of my quad mates, Andy, happened to be an excellent chess player. I had enjoyed chess ever since I was about 10, but I had never actually studied it much. Andy introduced me to Emmanuel Lasker’s chess manual (an awesome and recommended book, by the way) and to think about chess positionally and strategically. Before that, I had mainly relied on “seeing” combinations (an unexpected and brilliant sequence of moves & counter-moves) as a way of winning. 

white black game fun

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the process of showing the values of chess, including mobility, Andy introduced me to a game called “Monster.” In this chess variant, one side has all the pieces and plays “normally.” The other side has only a king and four pawns. That’s right. A king and four pawns against a king, queen, eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, and two rooks! It sounds vastly one-sided. But here’s the twist. The side with only a king and four pawns gets two moves to every one move of the other side. 

Unless the side with all the pieces plays quite well, it will quickly be overwhelmed by the side with double mobility. Perhaps this should not have been so surprising to me. Imagine you could run twice as fast as a “normally fast person.” In other words, you could run the 100 yard dash in 5 seconds rather than 10 and run 40 yards in 3 seconds. Not only would you be the world’s fastest sprinter, you could also run out most ground balls in baseball; if your basketball team got a rebound on the opponent’s side, they would pretty much be able to just throw the ball to the other side for the world’s fastest fast break. You would be pretty amazing in soccer or American football as well. 

IMG_9737

Needless to say (?), greater speed isn’t always an asset. In molecular terms, greater molecular velocity means a higher temperature. Humans and other warm-blooded animals employ various mechanisms (shivering, sweating, goose bumps, blood flow regulation, etc.) to keep their temperature fairly constant. If those molecules start moving around twice as fast as they normally do, the organism will quickly die. If the molecules move too slowly, the organism will also die.  

As we age, thought, as well as movement, tends to slow down, other things being equal. Of course, other things are seldom equal. If you are highly experienced and well-practiced at something like playing piano, typing, coding, or doing cross-words, you will typically not slow down much and be much faster than a much younger but much less experienced pianist, typist, coder, or cross-word solver. 

fire wallpaper

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Life is a dance of opposites; e.g., stability and change; duplication and diversity; movement and stasis. Long ago, our ancestors chose mobility and became animals while another whole branch of life chose stability and became plants. Even so, as time-lapse photography reveals, plants do move. Occasionally, they move much more rapidly as anyone who has touched the “triggers” of “touch-me-not” knows.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ5dQ_Pdfac

Conversely, sometimes, animals move very little; e.g, bears hibernate; caterpillars form a chrysalis; people sleep (though they move during some phases of sleep). The male angler fish is much smaller than the female and spends its life essentially as an immobile parasite perched on the female until their blood supplies merge. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4LPmjQoc_A

On the whole though, our great branch of the tree of life evolved to move. And, when we do not move, there are problems for us physically. A complication to watch out for with broken ribs, for instance, is pneumonia. Why? For two reasons, I believe. First, because when it hurts to move generally, you generally move less. I won’t be playing tennis for a few weeks. That can affect overall health and decrease the amount of air that I need to exchange with my lungs as well. Second, it specifically hurts to take a deep breath. So, that also discourages me from taking deep, cleansing breaths. It discourages me, but I do it anyway. 

It seems as though we may be touching on a general principle here. When an organism believes, for whatever reason, that the result of an action will be pain, it tends not take that action. Sometimes, it will be otherwise goaded into that action to avoid still great pain, but all the while, that organism will procrastinate, avoid, distract, and only take the painful action if absolutely cornered. It’s good to breathe deep even though it’s painful. 

This piece of knowledge turns out to be quite useful in understanding the behavior of others as well. If I observe you to be avoiding doing something even though it has an obvious benefit to you, I then tend to assume that you fear something else even more; you anticipate pain. Just to take a random example, let’s suppose that a court demands that you present a piece of evidence and you refuse even though it would be a chance to clear you name. It’s at least a reasonable assumption, that you fear something else more; e.g., that the truth would implicate you in wrongdoing. You would want to slow everything down as much as possible. This would be particularly effective in the court of public opinion because any one particular topic might eventually become boring to the public. 

IMG_5510

It could work in more minor cases as well. If you are a kid and you steal cookies from the cookie jar, you could take the tack of denying it, blaming your little brother, suggesting the tooth fairy did it, convince your little brother than he should claim he stole them in order to win your favor, etc. There are a variety of tactics that could be employed. Most kids, however, are taught that honesty is the best policy. Although they don’t instantaneously become ethical on that account, eventually most see, by virtue of their own experience, that honesty really is the best policy. 

Even for those who continue to lie in their words, their actions typically betray them. 

Mother: “Who stole the cookies?” 

Kid: “What cookies? It wasn’t me!” 

Mother: “Can I inspect your hands?” 

Kid (hastily thrusting his hands behind his back): “It wasn’t me! There’s nothing on my hands! No cookie crumbs! No cookie crumbs! (Kid brushes hands together audibly behind his back). Better check on my sister! She probably did it!” 

red string lights on clear mason har

Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

The poor kid continues to lie, but the structure of his actions; viz., to block Mom’s investigation, betrays the truth.  

It will pretty obvious to Mom. Unless —unless, Mom went into the room already convinced that sister stole the cookies. Because the body is not the only thing that it takes energy to move. It also takes energy, in some sense, to change one’s mind. It also takes energy to block out the truth, of course, but only at first. If you do it often enough, it becomes painless and effortless. 

One nearly universal example is the “blind spot” in the human retina. The place where the optic nerve exits the eyeball does not, itself, have any sensors. If you close your left eye, it appears that your right eye has no blind spot. It seems as though you have “full view” of what’s out there. In actuality, some of what you “see” has been constructed by the rest of your nervous system. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_spot_(vision)

What other blind spots do we have? We like to be mobile. We’re all in a hurry. But if we have blind spots and don’t even know that they’re there, we might just miss a step and break a rib or two. Maybe we’ve learned to ignore the kid brushing the cookie crumbs from his hands behind his back for far too long. But are we also so blind we cannot see the kid who’s still got his hand  in the cookie jar? Yes, that one. The one six inches in front of our face.  

It might be painful at first. But take a deep breath. Move the fresh air in and out of your lungs. It may hurt a bit, but it’s a cure that’s far better than the disease. 


Author Page on Amazon

Myths of the Veritas: The Beginning of the First Book

Myths of the Veritas: The Beginning of the Second Book

The Invisibility Cloak of Habit

 

The Ashes of ROI

Tags

, , , , , ,

The make-shift crutch that Tu-Swift fashioned for himself worked pretty well. He made a few adjustments along the way; for example, roughening up the grip so his hand wouldn’t slip and tying some sphagnum moss round the upper cross-piece. Tu-Swift forced himself to use all his skills to remain unseen. It felt to him that this was a complete waste of time, but he did it because tingles of intuition can be accurate…or they can be completely misleading. At least, that’s what She Who Saves Many Lives said and so did Many Paths. 

IMG_5416

Suddenly the image of Many Paths playing “Stalked and Stalker” with him last autumn flashed into his mind. It burned so vividly that he could smell the autumn leaves. She had hidden beneath the hanging roots of an over-turned tree. Many Paths had also obliterated any sign of her path. Instead of searching, Tu-Swift had closed his eyes and imagined he was Many Paths. Then, he opened his eyes and scanned them over the landscape, not to find Many Paths but to be Many Paths trying to find herself a good hiding place. The first place he had spotted was the over-turned tree. Indeed, Tu-Swift had found her very quickly. He had explained his intuition; he had been quite proud of it. Many Paths, however, praised him but then also warned him that such intuitions were not always correct. It’s fine to try but don’t assume it will always work or be accurate, she had warned. 

IMG_3828

Tu-Swift brought himself back to the present. Hadn’t he been half day-dreaming when the People Who Steal Children kidnapped him? Perhaps if he had been more vigilant…. And yet, he could not shake the eerie feeling that he alone existed in the entire universe. His plan for pre-cooked meat soon revealed itself to be smoke. 

He found many small cooked animal corpses all right and one burned deer, but they were all burned to a crisp. They were nearly indistinguishable from the corpses of fallen trees. I will continue to be wary, he promised himself, but if I were one of The People Who Steal Children and I saw a forest fire coming my way, I would not head back out into the forest and plain! I would try to get away from it. Head for dessert or water. I might grab a few things, but I’d be trying to save my life. I wouldn’t be interested in organizing or joining a search party for some missing kids. Not even ones that are mischievous enough to let out your horses. Well, they would be pretty upset about that one. Yes, they might put a price on my head for that. But they may not even know it was me. Unless they captured Day-Nah. 

brown drift wood

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Day-Nah, Shadow Walker, Fleet-of-Foot — who knew whether any of them were okay? I barely outran the fire myself and I’m already one of the fastest in the village. Well, not now, maybe, but I was. And, soon will be again. I hope. What if…what if I can’t run? Bear Bite used to be a fast runner too. But never after that bear chewed the back of his leg. So, some injuries you never get over. All the more reason for continued caution. 

What Tu-Swift now lacked in mobility, he attempted to compensate for with thoughtfulness. Despite having the feeling that the woods were empty, he constantly scanned the surrounding area, not only for signs of approaching enemies but also for possible hiding places for himself and for places that would not be thought of by The People Who Steal Children. 

In this tense manner, Tu-Swift continued to hobble through the margin of the burned forest until he found himself at the edge of the very village he had worked so hard to escape. The entire area looked like the morning after a giant’s campfire. Parts of many building stood, charred and darkened spikes; they were everywhere. He could see one blackened side of the barn still standing. Tu-Swift began to walk toward it when he heard a moan. It could be a trap he thought. 

Tu-Swift turned his head this way and that. He thought that the sound seemed to be coming from the remains of building where I put the broken quills and bows. Speaking of which, what weapon do I have? I can use the sharp rock I brought with me. And, the crutch which I could use as a club or as a thrusting weapon. There were more weapons in that room. At least, I think so. They may have all been taken out. 

As he cautiously hobbled toward the entrance, Tu-Swift heard the moaning growing louder. 

More likely than a trick, he thought, would be a survivor of the fire, badly burned or broken, but still possibly quite dangerous. You can’t really count on anything, Tu-Swift thought to himself. You can be sitting at a feast enjoying yourself and then you wake up in a cell. These people kidnapped me. They stole Day-Nah as well and they are mean to the horses. Why do they steal kids? Whoever it is, they can suffer in pain. In fact, I might be able to add to it. Why don’t they leave other people alone? 

By the time Tu-Swift reached what used to be the doorway of the armory, he had managed to generate a good deal of hate toward the moaner. Tu-Swift had imagined cautiously peering in as he opened the door, sharp rock at the ready. But there was no need. Part of the door and frame remained standing but there was a wide gap on either side. He peered into the charred skeleton of the building. His eyes fastened upon something on the far wall. As he drew nearer, he could see that it was a sword. A far better weapon, he thought, than a sharp rock. Using it and the crutch will be a challenge, he though. He picked it up and felt the blade. 

IMG_7209

It was sharp like the Veritas weapons, but it was smooth; it was even. It felt immensely powerful in his hand. Tu-Swift again heard the moan and it seemed to be emanating from the earth below him. After hobbling about in the mostly empty armory, Tu-Swift found a large door ring on the floor. It seemed to be fashioned from the same kind of stuff as his sword. He pulled up the door and he could see a staircase before him. He lay on the floor and peered over the edge. He could see four shadowy figures who seemed to wave about in the dim light. They began talking excitedly or some of them did. The moaning continued. One of them drew near and Tu-Swift clutched his sword more tightly. 

Even in the dim light, Tu-Swift could see that a beautiful young women stood below him talking. But he had no idea what she was saying. It was that same language all these child-stealers spoke. Maybe he should kill her, but he didn’t really feel like it. Two more figures joined the young lady. They were all female. But one figure, the moaning figure, remained rolling and writhing on the floor in the shadows. 

IMG_6729

Suddenly, Tu-Swift recognized the voice despite it’s inhuman quality. It was the one that he and Day-Nah had called “The Fat Man.” He had actually been the nicest of the three that made them cull horses and shovel manure, but he was one of them – the People who Steal Children. He had a sudden vision of ending the man’s life by thrusting his sword through his belly button. For a split-second, Tu-Swift recalled that image of himself on the right when his mind had been trifurcated. He pushed that image aside. 

Tu-Swift slowly descended the staircase, awkwardly carrying his crutch and sword with him. When he reached the bottom, he gestured for the three women to move away from him. Cautiously glancing all around, he made his way over to The Fat Man. His young eyes adjusted quickly to the dim light. The Fat Man turned toward him and Tu-Swift nearly vomited at the sight. He had never seen someone with such a disfigured face. Once again, he was tempted, this time out of mercy more than anger, to end this man’s anguish. He looked into his eyes. It was one thing to hate an enemy in one’s mind and even kill them there but it was quite another to look your enemy in the eye and kill him in real life. 

Instead of thrusting a sword through the belly of The Fat Man, he gestured to him that he would go and come back with some plants to help heal his body. All four of the People Who Steal Children were now jabbering at him. It seemed they were asking questions, but he couldn’t even be sure of that. I should really learn more languages, he scolded himself. 

Tu-Swift ascended the staircase, this time sitting on the stairs and going up one at a time. He had a plan of which plants to gather. He had noticed them near the corral. Once he made his way back outside however, he surveyed the camp and realized that these herbs would have been destroyed along with everything else. Trees, buildings, animals, plants, healing herbs, beautiful flowers, food supplies — it had all been destroyed. Tu-Swift promised himself that he would collect a small piece of charred wood to remind himself of the destructive power of fire — and of greed and lying — as personified in the Myth of the Orange Man. If he ever returned to the Veritas Center Place, he swore he would look at it every day and remember the face of The Fat Man. 

blur charcoal close up dirty

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

———————————

The Myth of the Orange Man

The Start of the Myths of the Veritas

The Beginning of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas

Author Page on Amazon