The Illness that’s Everywhere

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“I don’t really feel sick. Not exactly,” said the white-haired lady.

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Many Paths sat down on the edge of the pine bough bed and looked down warmly into the eyes of She Who Saved Many Lives. She squeezed her mentor’s hand a bit tighter as she asked, “Can you tell me how you feel, Great Leader?” 

She Who Saved Many Lives chuckled a bit. “That’s you now, dear.” She squeezed the hands of Many Paths and returned the warm gaze. “You’re the Leader.”

“It is more like everything feels sick,” she continued. “Not a lot, but some. I see, feel, hear, sense — an illness that is slight for now but growing and that it is — everywhere.”

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Many Paths now grew worried. Perhaps, as sometimes happened, something bad grew in the brain of She Who Saved Many Lives. Or, maybe she was being metaphorical and vague on purpose. That was one of her many “tricks” to get you to think for yourself. Maybe, she is even now about to teach me a lesson. I would certainly welcome it, thought Many Paths. Her mood had improved. She could at least hope that her mentor was teaching her. 

“It’s most like a dizziness. As when you spin around in a circle for a long time. Then you stop and the whole world seems to be spinning. You lose your balance and fall. And that is what this feels like as well. Something in the world is very much out of balance. It is falling. And though the earth still lives, there are those about in the world who would make earth herself fall.”

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“And that makes you dizzy?” Many Paths still thought a teaching lesson was not the only hypothesis, but the best. 

“It does when I look upon it. I want to understand what it is and how it came about and how to stop it of course. And when I study into it, that’s when I myself start to feel that dizziness. How can anyone want to destroy life itself? They want it to be imbalanced! They want life to stop!” She Who Saved Many Lives sat up and Many Paths could see her mentor’s forehead was wet.  

Many Paths thought perhaps rest was the most important thing to prescribe for her patient. But her “patient” was anything but; she seemed obsessed with trying to find out what was imbalanced. Many Paths decided to pursue the conversation. 

“How could the world get out of balance? If it were in balance to start with, why wouldn’t it stay in balance?”

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She Who Saved Many Lives nodded, “I have asked myself that same question. As you no doubt would appreciate, there are many possible answers. It might be that none of them are correct. It is possible that the imbalance was always there but too slight for us to notice. Over time, the imbalance became so large that it was impossible to return to balance.”

Many Paths remained more concerned with her patient than with such a philosophical discussion. But her curiosity had nonetheless been engaged. She Who Saved Many Lives had a gift for that. 

“I can see how a small imbalance could lead to a larger one. But it may also be true that imbalance and balance are themselves in a cycle. When a person is a tiny toddler, they fall a lot! They have very little sense of balance. At last they grow into adulthood and they have good balance. Then…no offense meant…but as you get very old, your sense of balance becomes worse. Then, you fall again.”

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“Yes, and of course, each of us individually dies. For us, as a separate being, we grow so far out of balance that we die. And yet normally, the whole of life is not thrown off balance by that. But my sense of things is that people are “falling” at all ages, not just toddlers and old folks. It is something — I don’t think there is a better word than “evil” — some idea or way of thinking that is not only wrong in some circumstanced, but actually aimed at self-destruction. I think of NUT-PI and also from our own tribe, ALT-R and POND MUD. But it is not just them. Somehow, they or people like them are infecting others. It may be that I myself am ill. And because of that, I sense illness elsewhere. But I don’t honestly think it’s like that. The illness is everywhere — and it makes me sick to think of it — that there are life forms out there — as recounted in The Myth of the Orange Man — that want to destroy life itself for some trivial greed.” 

For a time, the two women sat in silence, each considering the words of She Who Saves Many Lives. Many Paths at last began, “I have felt something similar. I felt it when POND MUD and ALT-R betrayed us. But after we won the Battle of the Three Paths, it seemed as though the world was well again. Then someone stole Tu-Swift. Stole him. Who would steal the children of others? And then, in trying to find Tu-Swift, others left — and no-one is back. No-one. They may all be dead for all I know. Everything is sick. Yes. Very sick. And I don’t know how to cure it.” 

Many Paths looked for a time into the eyes of She Who Saves Many Lives for an answer, for a clue. Any moment now, she hoped, her mentor would ask one key question and this would all fall into place. At last, Many Paths realized that was not going to happen. Saves Many Lives had not been teaching at all. She was as confused as Many Paths. Saves Many Lives had reminded Many Paths that it was now her turn to be Leader. Many Paths took a deep breath and gave the hand of She Who Saves Many Lives one last squeeze and stood up. 

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“But we will find out how to cure it. We will find out. But for now, let us both get some rest. Tomorrow may bring good news or bad, but it will be another day. Many Paths smiled, turned, and exited the Cabin of her mentor. She looked out onto the Center Place of the Veritas. She smelled the cooking fires, and she heard the happy chatter of her people punctuated now and again with a laugh. It suddenly hit her that she loved this entire tribe and loved it with the same ferocity as a mother grizzly loves her children. She would find out what this illness of the world was and together they would cure it. They would fix it. Surely, life itself would come to her aid. 

She walked over to the edge of the broad, swiftly flowing stream. She smiled as she remembered the clever way that Eagle Eyes had turned this stream into a weapon in the Battle of Three Paths. She could see the pink and gold of the sunset clouds reflected yet transformed by the churning water. She knew that somehow and some day, all would be well once again. Life, after all, was robust. It also flashed through her mind the nearby spot where KAVA-NUT had been attacked by a trained eagle! That was something to behold. If we can enlist nature….

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Many Paths looked upward imagining the great eagle swooping down. She imagined that she could actually glimpse the eagle in the fading light…careening over the trees. No. It was an eagle, she decided, and headed this way! Could it be…? Many Paths quickly flung several folds of her robe over her forearm so that the Eagle could land there. She put her forearm up parallel to the ground and the Eagle alit. 

Many Paths recognized the Eagle as one of the ones that Eagle Eyes had trained. This one appears to have a badly broken leg, she thought. But as she calmed the Eagle, hooding its vision with her hand, she noticed that something was attached to the Eagle’s leg. She had to breathe deeply to calm herself enough to remove the something without spooking the Eagle. It seemed to be some sort of message.

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The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Orange Man: A Parable of Lying and Greed

The First Ring of Empathy (The Start of Book One) 

Fire and Feast (The Start of Book Two)

Previous Most Recent Chapter in the Myths of the Veritas

An Essay on How we sometimes Confuse the Label with the Thing

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Essays on America: The Game

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The Game

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The Game has no rules. Not really. I suppose you could say that the one rule is that there are no rules. 

Not everyone can play The Game. So, that might count as a rule about entering and leaving The Game.

To Enter the Game, you need to be a Player. 

And, to Leave the Game, you need to die. (You can’t “quit.”)

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Those are the two rules about whether you can play, but there are no rules within The Game. 

But how does one become a Player? 

Fame is not enough. Wealth is not enough. Good looks, or sharp wits, or intelligence, or encyclopedic knowledge, or special talents? No, that is not enough. 

What is important is that you have Power and that you will execute your Power without regard to any human ethics or sense of fair play or human sensibility. 

But what exactly is this Game? 

To answer that, we must look at its origins. 

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Original Art by Pierce Morgan

Have you ever been bored? 

I certainly was — as a kid. But not for long. Because when I was bored — no TV, no friends, and long before video games or the Internet, I would read or I would make up a game and play that game. As an adult, however, I’ve been very busy as most of us have. I have plenty to challenge me, entertain me, make me laugh, and make me cry, both real and artificial. 

Likewise, I imagine that most of you have been more tired or worried or overjoyed or experiencing any one of a hundred emotions much more often than you’ve been bored. 

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But let’s imagine that you had been born into different circumstances. Let’s say that you were born into so much power and wealth that you could afford literally anything provided only your parents approved. And, once you could carry cash around on your own, you could even circumvent that restriction fairly easily. You may not have been able to buy true love, but you could certainly buy enough sexual favors to keep you satisfied. You could access any drug you felt like without any fear of consequence so long as you didn’t do anything boringly inconvenient like OD. 

Because, you see, if you did overdose, it would call attention to the fact that you and your mates could use drugs without a meaningful fine and without any jail time, provided only that you ditched your parents’ mansion for a month or two and instead lived in another mansion that would set you straight. Similarly, many of life’s challenges that most people have to face are not really challenges for such folk. They don’t have to worry about getting into college, or getting a job, or being popular, or finding a mate, or getting drafted into the army, or getting sick and not having to be able to afford the drugs, or getting arrested for such trivialities as shoplifting, doing illicit drugs, speeding, sexual assault, or vandalism. 

Human nature being what it is, even this kind of upbringing will not produce only sociopaths. Some people from such circumstances do turn out to be wonderful, productive, generous human beings. After all, they will get access to a marvelous education and if they are thoughtful, they may see that the world would actually be a better place if more people could live better lives. That happens a lot. 

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But not always. Many people born into such circumstances will not feel true love toward another human being. They will not take advantage of the educational opportunities by learning how to be a better human being. Some might learn particular skills like finance or law that they feel will help keep them in power. But education for them, like everything else, is only a means to an end. 

Imagine how you would feel if you had everything you could possibly want? Ecstatic? For a while perhaps. Happy? Maybe. But again, the way most of us are wired, with zero challenge there is zero sense of true accomplishment. You would be bored. Since real life offers no challenges, you’d like to play a game. 

The Game. 

The Game with no rules that is only open to the very bored and very powerful. 

To be a Player, you must have enough power to make it interesting to the other Players. And, you must be willing to play unethically. Otherwise, you’d be boring because you’d be so easy to beat. 

Just because you can’t be a Player doesn’t mean you don’t have a part in The Game. You do have a part. You are the dice. You are the cards. You are the little tokens that more around the board. There are 7 billion of you. It’s a complicated game! And because it’s so complicated and so open-ended, it never really gets boring for The Players. 

Although the game is open ended, there are certain patterns of moves that recur quite regularly. A common move, for instance, is to start a war. Another is to steal a great deal of wealth. Another is to “take over” another player — to “own” them so that they have to do what you say. 

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These “moves” in The Game, of course, can cause great pain and suffering to millions of people in the real world. So what? Many of them are also trophy hunters. It’s kind of a signal to other potential players: “No, I don’t care about life. But I care about winning. And I won over this lion (or elephant). So there!” 

Similarly, The Players really don’t care about how the people feel who die in a war or what it means to their kin; not any more than you would care if you’re playing monopoly. You might care about what token you use. I think the train and the dog are quite popular; the iron not so much. 

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Similarly, The Players often have some sort of persona that they prefer; gangster, thug, bon vivant, playboy, philanthropist, celebrity, politician, professor, entrepreneur, etc. Somewhat inconveniently, their persona shares a body with their real character so if the persona is mobbed, the real person beneath gets rushed, and touched, and man-handled. A great deal of time and effort goes into protecting The Player from the consequences of their actions in “the real world.” 

I cannot see the whole board, but it’s clear that The Players moves right now are, among other things, destroying the ecosystems that we rely on. By the very nature of The Game and The Players, they couldn’t care less provided the “real world” consequences will occur after their death. It’s no accident, of course, that most of The Players who are on-board with ecological suicide are old, white men who are not going to live much longer anyway. It’s of absolutely zero interest to them whether people die in hurricanes, or lose their crops, or their houses are flooded —- BOR-ing! What really matters — to them — is winning the game and “taking over” other players along the way. 

If that’s all that matters to us — the dice, the cards, the board, the checkers — if all that we care about is whose team is winning The Game and nothing about the consequences for billions of human beings and for other living beings on this earth — then that’s what will be. 

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But if we do care, then it’s time to end The Game. 

Before it’s too late. 

In other words, now.

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Series on SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra Greedy Swindlers). 

Post on how interconnected all life on earth is. 

An antidote to boredom: gratitude. 

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Essays on America: Ice

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“Have a nice day.” 

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In the San Diego area, where I live, people really do often say, “Have a nice day.” And, generally, that happens, at least weather-wise. It is typically between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 24 degrees Celsius) year round. Right now, we are having a slight heat wave. When I went to play tennis this morning, I filled a cup 2/3 ice and 1/3 water to help me stay cool and hydrated on the court. Although we played at 8:30 am, the temperature on the tennis court was already high. As I filled my cup (to almost running over), I was once again struck by the odd properties of ice. 

One of those properties is that ice is less dense than water. Ice floats. That turns out to be a good thing. But it’s also an unusual thing. Many substances contract as they get colder and expand as they get warmer. 

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There’s another weird thing about ice. It takes as much heat energy* to change a cup of ice at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) to a cup of water at 32 degrees Fahrenheit as it does to warm that water from 32 degrees F to 176 degrees F!! That is hot water! Exposure to water for two seconds that is only 150 degrees F will give you third degree burns. You do not want to touch water that is 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius)! 

Just contemplate that astounding fact. It takes as much heat energy to change a cup (or any other amount) of ice to water at that same temperature as it does to heat that ice cold water up to way beyond scalding. 

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“Well, okay,” you might say. “But who really cares?” 

You do! Or at least you should. Because all that ice that is melting at the Arctic and in Iceland and in Greenland — that is a big frigging deal! 

And I think you would immediately know it’s a big frigging deal if Global Warming heated the ice cold water in the Arctic Ocean to scalding water that was so hot it killed all the fish, dolphins, whales, crabs, and seaweed in the ocean. It would kill you almost instantly if you tried to swim in it. 

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Actually, what is happening is worse than that. 

Why? Because although water is reflective, it is not nearly so reflective as ice covered with snow. Chances are, you may have heard the expression “snow blind” which is a temporary blindness caused by the sunlight bouncing off snow and hurting your retina. But you have not heard the expression “water blind.” Although there can be glare off the water, it is not nearly so severe. So, when the ice melts, it not only represents a huge change in heat energy; it also speeds up the further heating of the planet. The sunlight once reflected off of ice covered with snow and that helped keep the planet cooler. In those areas where the ice and snow have melted, much less of the sun’s energy is now reflected off into space. 

Actually, what is happening is worse than that. 

Why? Because the arctic heat is also thawing permafrost in arctic lands. This means that methane which is trapped beneath the permafrost is being released into the atmosphere. Alas, methane, like Carbon Dioxide, is a greenhouse gas. So, the increased level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is not only itself causing the planet to heat up; it is also releasing huge quantities of another greenhouse gas: methane. 

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Unfortunately, in the first two decades after being released into the atmosphere, methane is 84 times as “effective” as Carbon Dioxide at trapping the heat energy in the earth’s atmosphere. Agro-business and manufacturing also produce methane. This means more warming and less ice. 

As it turns out, there are many possible variations of ice. The exact number of different types varies depending on what “counts” as another type. You know that “solid ice” is different from frost and snowflakes and candle ice. Under extreme pressures, many kinds can be produced in the laboratory. But none of them is Ice Nine. 

Ice Nine is a science fiction substance created by the mind of Kurt Vonnegut in his wonderful book, Cat’s Cradle, which is well worth the read. 

In Cat’s Cradle, a scientist discovers another form of ice which “freezes” at room temperature. Not only that; if even a tiny “seed” of this Ice Nine touches a larger body of water, that entire body of water will turn into Ice Nine. So, an over-arching suspense arc of the book is whether or not humanity will be able to “contain” Ice Nine or whether it will basically destroy life on earth. 

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Ice Nine is fiction. But global climate change is not fiction. 

Whether we humans can get our act together in time to prevent turning Global Climate Change into Global Climate Disaster is not clear. Many people are working very hard to prevent that. But many other people apparently think it will happen after their individual life is over so they don’t really give a damn about how many of their descendants will suffer or how many other life forms they destroy. And a few people, those I call SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra-Greedy Swindlers), are actively trying to hasten the Global Climate Disaster by rolling back environmental regulations, setting forests afire, and denying that Climate Change is real. 

Why? 

That’s the subject of the next post. 

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  • In actual practice, the amount of heat will vary depending on the insulation and ambient temperature. If you heat ice water up on your stove, for example, at first, in addition to the heat you provide from the gas flame or electric coil, your house temperature (perhaps around 72 degrees F) will also be heating up that water. But once the temperature of the water reaches a higher temperature than 72 degrees F, some of the heat you apply from the stove will “leak out” into the rest of your house. And the higher the temperature of the water, the more will leak out into the rest of your house. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat%27s_Cradle

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A Little is Not a Lot.

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“A little’s not a lot.

A swing may be a miss. 

You must remember this:

A kiss is not a kiss

Without the bliss.

A single sword does not

Make Camelot. 

Offers don’t make bought. 

A day does not make old. 

All that glitters is not gold. 

Ads do not make sold 

Without the goods, 

A tree is not a woods. 

A giant sea of coulds 

Does not imply a single spoon of shoulds.”

@truthtable, 2019. 

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I just reheated a lukewarm half cup of French Roast coffee. I zapped it in the microwave for 18 seconds. That seemed about right, and it turned out very close to perfect. If I’d put it in for 17 seconds or 19 seconds, I would have been equally satisfied. 

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Do you think 1 second would have worked equally well? My “microwave,” despite the name, does not let me control the time to a microsecond, or even a millisecond. Do you think a millisecond would have been sufficient heating time? What do you think would happen if I put it in for 18 minutes or 18 hours instead of 18 seconds? 

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I’ve been watching the US Open on TV. There have been some amazing matches! Like the folks on TV, I can hit a serve. I can volley. I can hit topspin or slice. I can hit backhand, forehand, swinging volley, and overhead. I can aim the ball toward the empty court, or hit behind a player racing to cover the empty court. Yet, I don’t think any of my readers, however much or however little you know about tennis, would ever confuse my play with any of the contestants in the US Open! Why? I mean, is there really much difference between my forehand and Rafa Nadal’s forehand? Sure, he puts more topspin on and hits it with more speed. Why should that make a difference? 

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On a completely different topic, let’s consider nutrition for a moment. Do you think water is good for you? Yes or no? Without any access to fresh water, people die. How long it takes to die of dehydration will depend on health, activity, ambient temperature and other factors. As a general rule, three days without water will kill you, but it could be much shorter or slightly longer. But you won’t die in a millisecond. And you won’t survive for a year. It’s obvious; right? So water is good for you! 

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But wait. You can also kill yourself by drinking too much water. It takes about 6 liters of water to kill a 165 pound person. Of course, it depends slightly on the person and the situation. But you will not die from 6 teaspoons and you will certainly not survive drinking 60 liters in an hour. 

You can certainly drown in water. People do it ever year. In 2015, it is estimated that over 300,000 people died from drowning! It seems to me that water must be bad for you! Yet, you cannot live without it. 

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What about exercise? Good or bad? If you never exercise, that is certainly bad for you (which is why I wrote Fit in Bits). If you run as fast as you can for as long as you can, you will injure or kill yourself (as did the very first marathoner). Again, it depends on your health and the situation. Some people can survive a 50 mile race. Others will have a fatal heart attack sprinting 100 yards. 

How can life be so contradictory? 

Life is not contradictory. 

But neither is it composed of a set of perfect dichotomies. 

We like to impose dichotomies because it makes thinking and decision making quicker and less painful. In some limited circumstances, this strategy is appropriate. It’s fine to try to avoid cutting yourself. Under most circumstances, you don’t really have to say to yourself, “Hmm. It’s Tuesday, September 3rd. I wonder how much I should cut myself today?” No, any cut means a chance of infection and will take some of your biological resources to heal and recover from the blood loss. 

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Nonetheless, there is a difference between nicking yourself while shaving and being beheaded. There is a difference between stubbing your toe and being stoned to death by an angry crowd.

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I must confess to feeling a bit foolish pointing these things out, because I imagine everyone reading this is well aware that “some” does not equal “all” and that in many circumstances, how much and under what circumstances make a huge difference. If you want to give a pint of blood some day so that others may live, good for you! You’ll be doing it lying down and in the presence of medical personnel who will minimize the chances of infection to near zero. But you can’t give six pints of blood in one day. And, it is not advisable to “do it yourself” by slashing your wrist, collecting a pint of blood and then putting on a bandaid before transporting the blood to a blood bank.

Again — isn’t this all obvious? Well, I would have thought so. 

Yet, over and over, when I talk to supporters of the current US President and mention that he has told over 12,000 lies since taking office, people almost always say, “So what? Everyone lies.” 

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I am a dinner guest for the first time at the house of an acquaintance and they serve overdone salmon with way too much salt for my taste. I might say it’s “good” or that I “like it.” Depending on the situation, and how much they press me, I might also mention that I also eat sushi so I’m okay with having it less done. I might or might not mention that I’m never add table salt to my food. 

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If they say, “I like it…but I think I might have put too much salt in. What do you think?” At that point, since they are asking for honest feedback, I am going to tell them that I agree with them and that it tastes very salty.” Generally, I like to give people feedback that is honest, unambiguous, and offers a positive suggestion for how to improve. In the case of cooking, it makes a lot more sense to mention my preferences before the meal whether I’m at a restaurant or at someone’s home. Now, if I am nonetheless served over-salted, over-cooked food, I have a basis for being more frank than if I hit them with new requirements after it’s too late (at least this time) to do much about it. 

Giving feedback that is honest, direct, and offers an actionable suggestion is a good heuristic to use in the design of user interfaces as well. An error message that says, “Illegal syntax!” is fairly useless in and of itself as is “Stack overflow!” Error messages such as these are written from the developer’s viewpoint. They may serve as useful error messages during debugging. They are useless for the typical user. 

All humans are created equal. But not all lies are equally evil. And many many lies are not the same as a few lies. If you still think that publicly telling 12,000 lies that are told by a person who is supposed to be leading the country — lies that are told for the liar’s own short term benefit — if that ocean of lies is the same as a teaspoon of a lie told to encourage a child, or spare someone else’s feelings, then, please re-read this post from the beginning. 

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Human language enables us to communicate over time and space. It is a wonderful thing. Without language, we would basically be living lives not very different from those of primates in a zoo. Human language allows us to work together harmoniously; to specialize in particular skills; to build roads and buildings; to discover things about nature and ourselves; to invent and to improve. Human language can be used for no other purpose than to attempt to con people. 

There are even cases, where being “conned” is understood and acceptable. If you see a play or a movie or read fiction, you suspend your disbelief. At one level, you imagine that what you are seeing is actually happening. That makes the story and the experience more compelling. But you know that it’s a move, play, or novel. The same fiction, if it is touted as a documentary, is a lie. 

It is fun to see a competent magician perform. Their patter is meant to distract you, to misdirect your attention. It is part of the illusion. It is not “evil” because you know it is all part of the show. As an adult, at least, you don’t think that the woman was really sawn in half and then magically healed. It’s a perceptual challenge. It’s meant to be fun. It would be quite different if the magician murdered his assistant by actually sawing them in half! 

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Twelve thousand lies. Twelve thousand lies. Not twelve. Not twelve hundred. Twelve thousand. Each one is a cut to American democracy. Each lie reduces the credibility of America on the international stage. Each lie makes people feel less confidence in government. 

Yes, there are cases where it makes sense for POTUS to lie. Say that a reporter says, “A source tells me that we are going to try to capture Bin Laden on May 2nd (2011) at his compound in Abbottabad around 1 pm local time.” And then, imagine the reporter asks the POTUS at a Press Conference,  “Is that accurate?” 

Let’s further suppose that POTUS knows that this is accurate. Should he say, “Oh, yes, in fact, your source is precisely correct.” No, of course not. 

That is not at all the same quality of lie as it is to lie in a self-aggrandizing way about your abilities, your height, your vote total, whether or not you have Russian help in getting elected. It is not the same as lying that the Mueller report “exonerated” you. 

All lies are not created equal. And one lie or even a dozen lies does not equal 12,000 lies. One cut does not equal 12,000 cuts. One liter of water does not equal 12,000 liters of water. Heating my French Roast in the microwave for 12 seconds does not give the same result as heating it up for 12,000 seconds. No-one would carelessly equate any of these things. 

So, why do the apologists for the POTUS respond to 12,000 public, provable, and important lies by saying, “Well, everyone lies sometimes.” 

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A little is not a lot.  

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Books on Amazon by Author: 

The Winning Weekend Warrior focuses on strategy, tactics, & the mental game for all sports, for business, and for life.

Turing’s Nightmares uses fictional scenarios to explore ethical issues around robotics and AI. 

Fit in Bits suggests numerous ways to fit more fun and exercise into daily activities. 

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and relates them to contemporary issues and events. 

Is there Honor in Killing Sticks?

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Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer moved swiftly away from the walled city, at first walking rapidly and later running quickly. They had both been shaken badly by seeing the killing stick. When they were sufficiently far from the city, and into a copse of white birches, they stopped to catch their breath and talk about what they had witnessed. 

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Eagle Eyes began by simply looking at Lion Slayer, grimacing and wordlessly shrugging her shoulders.

Lion Slayer responded simply by slowly shaking his head from side to side. 

They simply stared at each other for some time. At last, Eagle Eyes put into words what they both felt. “What was that? What did we just see?” 

Lion Slayer answered, “I have no idea for what it even could be. I have never seen or heard of such a thing.”

“Nor I!” said Eagle Eyes. “But I am fairly certain it was real and not play acting or ritual. The screams of pain were too real. If that was Nut-Pi, that is very bad news indeed.”

“Indeed it is!” 

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Eagle Eyes looked for a moment at Lion Slayer. “I’m glad you eventually came to fight on our side instead of working with Nut-Pi.” 

“Yes,” said Lion Slayer, “so am I. In fact, all of Nomads of the South as you call us, we feel that way. Nut-Pi is cruel and treacherous. He is quite possibly the one who began this stealing of children. My brother was one of the people who spoke first at the Cupiditas. He was not a nice person. Not at all. But he had a way of talking…it would make you think he was on your side and doing you a favor, but — no, no, don’t shake your head. I am not making excuses. It’s just…I’m agreeing with you. He has a giant city. He may have horses. He is very cruel, but he’s also a very persuasive liar to some. My brother never fell for it, but some of the Elders did. Frankly, I think they envied the Veritas.”

Eagle Eyes, “Why? Never mind. But now there is the killing stick! We don’t know what it is or why they steal children or how many killing sticks they have or how they work. We must get back and warn the Veritas.” 

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“But we could stay and find out more. Perhaps we could even steal some such killing sticks!” suggested Lion Slayer. 

“What?! What honor would be in such a kill? Nut-Pi showed no strength or skill. And it certainly was not a fair fight. Who would want to kill in such a way? Perhaps only Nut-Pi. Although…”

“Although what, Eagle Eyes?” asked Lion Slayer. 

“I wonder,” began Eagle Eyes, “if using such killing sticks makes a person into someone like Nut-Pi. But, no we must get this much information back there as swiftly as possible. We might learn more and we might not, and meanwhile, we might get captured and they would torture us for information about how best to destroy both our tribes! We can speculate further as we run. Come on!” 

They began to jog. Lion Slayer ran alongside through some sparse woods and then onto a burned field. “Do you know the way back to the Veritas from where we are?”

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“I know the direction but am not familiar with the terrain. Though as you see, we are lucky enough to have a sunny day with many small clouds.” Eagle Eyes glanced over at Lion Slayer. 

He said, “You mean because the clouds will keep it from being too hot or because it’s easier to know your direction when the sun’s out?” 

She said, “No. Both of those are true. But I speak of a third thing. The clouds help reveal the terrain beneath them.” 

Lion Slayer frowned. He took some even deeper breaths to ‘save up’ for more dialogue. “What mean you? Clouds reveal terrain? Clouds are clouds.” 

Eagle Eyes said, “Clouds do have their own nature. But it not just water that reflects. Everything reflects everything. Of course, the clouds are not like a still lake. But have you noticed that the water appears different when the sky is dark and cloudy from how it appears when the sky is clear and blue?”

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Lion Slayer answered, “Yes, but that’s because water reflects everything.”

Eagle Eyes smiled and said, “Indeed. Because everything reflects everything.”

Lion Slayer kept jogging but paused in his speech. At last, he said, “All right. Everything reflects everything, but not so you can see anything!”

Eagle Eyes laughed a bit, which slowed her pace. So, she controlled herself and continued, “You mean to say that you cannot see anything. I can. A cloud such as these change slightly. Such a cloud over a desert is a little more yellow; such a cloud over a snowy mountain is more white; such a cloud over a pine forest is greener; such a cloud over a large lake is slightly bluer. You can see fire reflected in it too though not a picture of the flames. Perhaps I can teach you by the time we get back to the Veritas center place.”

Eagle Eyes continued, “First, and perhaps most importantly, do you see any flickers of red up there?” 

Lion Slayer considered, “No, but I never do except at sunup and sundown.” 

Eagle Eyes shook her head, “If you ever know of a fire and there are such clouds as these, look and you will see. It can be pretty obvious. The others are a little more subtle. Look north and then look south and tell me what you see in the colors.”

Lion Slayer at last said, “They are different colors and shades and shadows both places. They aren’t one color or another!”

Eagle Eyes allowed herself a small chuckle. “Of course not. I don’t mean the cloud will be colored blue like a blueberry or white like a sun-bleached skull. Subtle. Subtle.”

They came to a well worn path but had to run single file. Eagle Eyes jogged on in the lead with Lion Slayer a few feet behind. They ran on in silence for a time enjoying the motion, and enjoying the slow descent. They also enjoyed not being on constant guard against discovery by the Z-LOTZ. 

At last, Lion Slayer broke the silence. “I’m not sure. But it seems like north is whiter and south is slightly more yellow. But it’s crazy. There’s no such thing or people would have told me.” 

Eagle Eyes said, “I wasn’t taught either. And that seems strange. Maybe the elders want kids to figure it out for themselves. But it might be that I noticed it because…well, I notice things.” 

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Lion Slayer tried to pay a compliment, “You do.  Have. Good eyes!”

Eagle Eyes said, “Thank you, but it isn’t just things I see. I hear things too. For instance, I hear from your breathing that you need a short break.” 

Lion Slayer replied, “No. I. Don’t. I.” 

Eagle Eyes stopped. “Fine. I need a short break. We’ll make better time if we don’t wear ourselves out. Plus there is water up ahead.” 

Lion Slayer said, “You see that in the clouds?” 

Eagle Eyes answered, “No, I see it in the plants and the trees. You don’t have this kind of lushness in your country. For you, the signs of water are quite obvious. There is desert and there is oasis. Right?” 

Lion Slayer nodded, “Yes, that’s true. Although, in the deep desert, one may sometimes see an oasis that is not really there. We call them a mirage. An oasis that lies.” 

Eagle Eyes nodded. “I hate lies. But I don’t think the oasis is lying really. I think what you are seeing is a reflection. But not off clouds and not off water. So…what could such a thing be reflecting from?”

Lion Slayer could now feel his legs becoming heavy. Eagle Eyes had been right. He did need to get a drink and stretch & take a short break. 

Reluctant to start a fire whose smoke might still be visible to Z-LOTZ scouts, Eagle Eyes shared the remainder of her pemmican provision. They ate silently for a time and sipped the cool fresh water that had indeed been where Eagle Eyes. They agreed that they would walk for awhile and then jog again in the afternoon. As they walked, the conversation again turned toward the killing sticks. 

Eagle Eyes wondered aloud, “How would you feel if you killed an enemy with such a killing stick — especially if they had no killing stick of their own? Would you feel any sense of victory? Any pride? Or, would you become something like Nut-Pi? I don’t know. I used eagles against someone with no eagles. I used a change in the river’s course against those who had no idea that such was possible. But there was always some risk on both sides. What if you could kill someone from the other side of a mountain? Never having to see their face? Killing is not the first answer ever, but how does this strike you?”

Lion Slayer sighed. “If it were up to me, we would not use weapons at all. We would wrestle — something I am quite skilled at. But I can see why someone who is not so good a wrestler might prefer to use a club or knife. For honor though, the combatants must be equally matched. But if they use killing sticks, we need to get some as well.”

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Author’s Page on Amazon. 

Beginning of the Myths of the Veritas

Beginning of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas

An Essay on Labelism 

A Wild Ride to a Lower Level

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Tu-Swift shook his head. “We should all go. You and I are not all that fast either right now. He has knowledge about horses that we need to learn — and about the ROI. We cannot leave them here. We don’t know who is coming, but I doubt it’s a rescue party.” 

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Shadow Walker sighed. “All right. If Jaccim can walk out of here. I’m not carrying him. Nor is anyone else.” 

Though the sun could not be seen, its hidden light from beyond the horizon lit high pink clouds as they tugged aside the heavy door. Tu-Swift, now fully awake, shouted down into the cellar. “Cat Eyes! Cat Eyes! Wake up! We hear war drums afar but coming closer. We should leave. I’m going down to help. Pack up quickly. Can you explain to the others?” 

Tu-Swift, who had lost all fear of the others, began working his way down the stairs. The others were already packing. Apparently, they had no objection to leaving their adoptive slave-home, now in ruins. Tu-Swift could hear the soft yet insistent voice of Cat Eyes talking to the others in ROI. For some reason, it did not sound so foreign when she spoke it. Shadow Walker had also descended. He imagined his strength would be needed to get Jaccim up the stairway. Though if this really were a war party approaching, he doubted they could out-run or out-walk them. Working together, they managed to get everyone out of the cellar with their meager provisions and belongings. 

Shadow Walker began working his way toward the cover of the burned and broken forest and motioned for the others to follow. Jaccim shook his head and jabbered something in ROI. Shadow Walker grew impatient. “We don’t have time to discuss. We can leave him here though I think it would be better to kill him outright. Otherwise, the ROI or whoever it is will force him to say which way we went. Let’s go!” 

“No, no. You don’t understand,” began Cat Eyes. He wants to come with us, but he says we should go another, faster way.” 

Shadow Walker asked, “How? What other way?”

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Cat Eyes said, “He calls it a ‘flume’ but I don’t know what that is.” She glanced at Jaccim who grimaced in pain. It hurt him to move, but he began using sign language to supplement his words. 

Cat Eyes, turned now to Shadow Walker. “He says that beyond the place where they kept the horses there is a branch of the river that was long ago dug to allow logs to flow down to the plane. Even among the ROI, it is not much thought of. But he thinks it will still work. There are still hollowed logs there that we can use to ride quickly down to the plain. If we hurry, and they don’t see us, we will escape them for good. 

Tu-Swift stared at Shadow Walker who stared back and then looked at Jaccim. Could Tu-Swift be right about this man? Does he really feel grateful for the medicine? Shadow Walker thought it would be almost impossible to outrun them anyway with his sprained ankle. “Yes, let’s try this ‘flume.’ They made their way as quickly as possible back to the horse paddock. Beyond that they went toward a small stream. On the far side of the stream, the current had dug into the bank. In that darkness, floated several hollowed out logs. 

Jaccim pointed toward them as though he wanted them to get in these logs. But then, as they approached, he suddenly shook his head and pointed urgently to a nearby large lever, hidden among vines, and signed for them to help him instead. It still wasn’t clear to Shadow Walker whether or not this was some sort of elaborate plot or trick. He kept his hand near his sword and spoke a single word “Caution” to Tu-Swift. 

Jaccim grimaced as he pulled back on the motionless lever. Cat Eyes, Shadow Walker, and Tu-Swift put their backs into it as well. The lever itself seemed to be made of that same material that the swords were fashioned from and the cellar trap door — and the door that Shadow Walker had moved long ago. They all pulled on the lever, but nothing happened. Then suddenly, all four of them fell on their backs as the lever gave way. Jaccim urged them to get into the dugouts now – at once. The lever had apparently been connected to a kind of gate which moved and allowed much of the river to veer off steeply to the right. Shadow Walker got in behind Jaccim. He wanted to keep an eye on him. Two women quickly got into another dugout, each holding one of the wolf pups cradled in her arms. Cat Eyes got into the third and last log and told Tu-Swift to get behind her. 

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The logs felt odd and unstable. They eddied around in the dark pool and Jaccim used his hands to paddle the log. Soon, Shadow Walker imitated him. Working together the log slowly inched its way out into the current. Suddenly, the log began to move quickly. Jaccim immediately put his hands out and grabbed the side of the bank. Then, with Shadow Walker’s help, they turned the boat slightly. 

To To-Swift’s eyes, it seemed the boat had simply disappeared. Directly in front of him, he could see the two ROI women following. Their boat also fell from view. Tu-Swift was tempted to jump out. He knew how to swim but he had never ridden in a boat and he didn’t like it. But Cat Eyes grabbed at the shore and managed to turn their boat and then…whoosh! The two of them were falling, speeding downward. Tu-Swift grabbed Cat Eyes around the waist to help keep his balance. He could see that they rushed through a wooden channel — a kind of artificial river. They fell much faster than he could swim. The long beautiful hair of Cat Eyes streamed into his face making it hard to see. Maybe Jaccim had lured all of them to their death. He began to wonder how he and Shadow Walker could have been so stupid. 

Suddenly, Tu-Swift found himself submerged in icy water. The breakneck flight of the log stopped. It resurfaced and bobbed along gently. Tu-Swift and Cat Eyes now floated together stuck to their clothes and to each other. Tu-Swift noticed that the other two logs floated nearby. He could hear the water rushing into this slow river behind him. Or, was the sound in front. Tu-Swift felt disoriented. In front, he could see Jaccim and Shadow Walker paddling wildly toward the shore. And, now, so did the two ROI women. He and Cat Eyes followed suit, though he wasn’t sure why. They were already soaked. And, this seemed a pleasant enough way to travel. There was definitely a roar in front of them. He could see Jaccim and Shadow Walker scrambling out of their boat, grabbing their things and wadding to shore, holding on to the branches of a fallen tree to help. Shadow Walker tried to pull the dugout along with him but the current dragged it away. It floated away and disappeared. Soon, he and Cat Eyes joined the other four on the shore, all of them soaked. They scrambled up a muddy embankment. From there, Tu-Swift found a higher vantage point and watched the other two logs disappear over a cliff of water. A sudden shiver shook him. Was it the cold, he wondered? Or, was it the knowledge that he had been seconds from being crushed from a fall? 

Tu-Swift began to shiver uncontrollably now. Shadow Walker rummaged through his belongings but all the blankets were damp. He glanced at Jaccim and saw that he lay motionless, apparently exhausted from the effort required by their narrow escape. Shadow Walker felt loath to build a fire after seeing all the destruction and death it had caused, but he knew Tu-Swift especially needed warmth. He was so skinny. His lips were turning blue. 

He glanced about. This part of the forest, far below the Center Place of the ROI had been spared by the great conflagration. He placed a few damp blankets and hides over Tu-Swift and searched for tinder and kindling. He now felt comfortable leaving Tu-Swift, at least for a time. He returned a few moments later to see a strange sight. Tu-Swift and Jaccim lay together.  Both shook with cold but the three women had thrown their arms and legs around the two, using their own body heat to help keep everyone keep warm. 

Shadow Walker created a place to set a fire with reflecting stones around them on one side and a rock behind on the other side. Before he began striking his milky blue-brown flints together though, he asked Cat Eyes to find out from Jaccim whether their fire could be seen from up above. 

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She quickly translated the short question into ROI, but Jaccim’s answer seemed too long. At last she said, “He rather doubts they will follow us. What they see from afar could be clouds from the water fall. Or, smoking remains of the fire. Those are not the war drums of the ROI, but of the Z-LOTZ. They are not actually even war drums but celebration drums. The leader of the Z-LOTZ proclaims that the ROI are now in default of their agreements and all will be made slaves. The drums are calling all the living ROI to come out and be slaves for the Z-LOTZ.” 

Shadow Walker asked, “What agreement?” 

Cat Eyes sighed. “That’s a long story but the main point is, it’s okay to set the fire.” Here, she looked straight at Shadow Walker. 

“Tu-Swift is very cold! Please!” As she said this, she hugged Tu-Swift even more tightly as though to demonstrate her point. 

Shadow Walker was a skilled fire starter. Even so, his own hands shook a bit as he started the fire. 

Soon, Tu-Swift’s color returned. It felt quite nice being warmed by the three women. Especially Cat Eyes. Tu-Swift found her eyes very beautiful to look into. He stopped shivering and the women released him. He sighed and inched a little closer to the fire. He noticed a small stack of kindling laying a ways off. 

Tu-Swift found the kindling — weird. Normally, Shadow Walker stacked firewood in a very methodical way. These sticks lay haphazardly splayed out at odd angles. Not surprising, thought Tu-Swift, because he was in a hurry. Feeling a bit embarrassed by being so cold, and even more by the pleasure he derived from the women warming him, he decided to do something useful and to stack the wood carefully. He sat now still close to the fire, but with his back to it and began to stack the sticks. But as he did so, he felt an odd tingling sensation on the back of his neck. He noticed that his eyes stared fixedly at one little configuration of sticks. And, it reminded him somehow of Stone Chipper who had folded his arms just like that in order to signify…

Tu-Swift clapped his hands together. “The dream! The dream! The dream!

Shadow Walker held up his hand and said, “What dream? What are you talking about?”

Tu-Swift stared at Shadow Walker and asked very slowly, “Did you save the hides with the strange markings? Did you?”

Shadow Walker nodded solemnly. “I did. You just now sat on one such hide over there.” Shadow Walker pointed at the spot where Tu-Swift had just been sitting. “What is going on?”

Tu-Swift glanced at the eyes of his companions. “I think I know what it means!” 

Cat Eyes seemed excited. “The marks? You know what they mean?”

Tu-Swift nodded, “I think so. I have to check. You know the Z-LOTZ tongue as well as the ROI and Veritas, right, Cat Eyes?” 

Cat Eyes. “Yes, I do.” 

Tu-Swift added, “Good! Good! And sign language. You know their sign languages too, right?”

Cat Eyes answered, “Well, yes, but they are the same. Almost identical. Life three leaves on a tree.” 

Tu-Swift eagerly asked, “And do they have the Legend about the gifts of sounds from the animals?”

Cat Eyes considered this for a moment. “Well, I am not sure. I have never heard it whole after I was stolen. They wouldn’t bother to entertain me or teach me about such things. It would take me some time to recall whether I overheard it.”

Tu-Swift, “Yes, yes. Well, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. Here, look at this. You see how these marks are like the arms and forearms and hands? Don’t you see?”

Cat Eyes looked at the excitement on Tu-Swift’s face. His eyes twinkled with the vibrant flames. “So, you think these marks are actually meant to be … pictures … of people doing sign language?” 

Tu-Swift nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes! But it’s more than that too. See? It isn’t just every sign that’s shown. Each sign is for one of the main sounds of the language! See? There is the ‘zzz’ of the buzzing bee! There is the ‘sss’ of the hissing snake! Do you see? Do you see? We can make these symbols line up into a whole story! Imagine!” 

Shadow Walker frowned and shook his head. “That seems like a lot of work for nothing. Why not just tell you?” 

Tu-Swift continued with unabated enthusiasm. “Yes, but — I’m here! But what if…what if we could…what if we could put such marks on a small piece of bark, tie it to the leg of one of the hawks that Eagle Eyes trained and you could … you could send these words to Many Paths! You could tell her we are alive. You could tell her…anything that you could tell her in person.”

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Shadow Walker wrinkled up one eye. “What are you talking about? Are you suffering from being too cold?” 

Cat Eyes had caught Tu-Swift’s enthusiasm. “No, no. He’s right. Tu-Swift’s right! We could use this to send our words. See. I think of a word. I put one of these for each sound. Now, when you look at it, you don’t think of the whole word; just think of the first sound. Now you put them together and it makes the sound of the word. You know which word I meant.” 

Shadow Walker tilted his head. “That might work. Yes. But why not just make a mark for each sign?” 

Cat Eyes began talking while Tu-Swift considered this. “You could. But … I think sign language works well when you are there with the person. It doesn’t take a great imagination, if we are all wet and cold and you gesture toward firewood, we know what you mean. But how would you tell Many Paths, if she were not here, that Tu-Swift and you were both alive, had joined up with four ROI, their village had burned, and all would return by full moon?”

Shadow Walker. “I see. But that wouldn’t fit onto hawk’s leg!” 

Tu-Swift said, “No, you are right. But now that we know such a thing is possible, we might find other uses or other ways to send messages some distance. Remember how we put false marks in the forest to thwart Nut-Pi?” 

Shadow Walker nodded. “How do we know these marks are true? When you speak to someone, you can see the truth in their eyes. How do we know the marks are true?” 

After a pause, Tu-Swift said, “That is a good question. A hard question. But a very good one.” 

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Books by the Author:

The Winning Weekend Warrior – strategy, tactics, & the mental game for all sports. 

http://tinyurl.com/ng2heq3

Turing’s Nightmares. Speculative Sci-FI about robotics and AI that raises ethical issues. 

http://tinyurl.com/hz6dg2d

Fit in Bits describes many ways to work more fun, variety, and exercise into many of your daily activities to become fitter, thinner, & healthier. 

http://tinyurl.com/h6c7fce

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then relates them to contemporary issues and events. 

https://tinyurl.com/y9ajvz9j

The First Book of the Myths of the Veritas. 

The Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas.

https://petersironwood.com/2017/02/25/the-invisibility-cloak-of-habit/

How we can “paint ourselves into a corner” psychologically. 

Four Essays on Social Media, Propaganda, Persuasion. 

Tu-Swift Dreams of Drums

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Tu-Swift Dreams of Drums.

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Tu-Swift’s lids felt heavy. As they fluttered shut, the strange markings on the hides swam before his eyes. In the distance, he could hear drumming. Drumming. Very pleasant. Very nice. Tu-Swift remembered hearing the drumming as She Who Saves Many Lives intoned a long poem for all of the people. It was a poem about animals, and people, and language. Tu-Swift, like all the Veritas had memorized it at an early age. He knew the prose version as well. As She Who Saves Many Lives sung the ancient song, one of the braves, Stone Chipper, used sign language to portray the same story. Perhaps from working with stone, he looked like stone. The muscles of his chest, shoulders and arms writhed as he moved from position to position. It had been hard for Tu-Swift to follow as a child.

Now, in his half-dream state, Tu-Swift could slow the playing of the memory and the memory became the dream. He could see the positions that Stone Chipper used. Then, an odd thing happened (as they are wont to do in dreams). The arms of Stone Chipper became sticks. And every time, he moved them into a new position, he heard the voice of She Who Saves Many Lives saying the sounds of the animals. 

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The sounds. Did we steal them? Did we borrow them? How can we steal them? The snake still hisses. The owl still hoots. The bee still buzzes. And before his internal eyes, Tu-Swift saw the snake and the owl and a swarm of buzzing bees all dancing and playing together. Now, they lined up and came toward him. First, the snake flew toward his face hissing – ‘sssssss.’ Just as it reached him, it opened its mouth, sharp fangs, forked tongue, and then the snake veered off. The hoot owl hooted and stretched for Tu-Swift, talons first. The hooting sound became louder and louder: ‘ooooOOOO OOOO!’ But the owl also caromed away. Now, the swarm of bees zipped toward him buzzing all the while. Suddenly, one of the girls Tu-Swift fancied from home, Sooz, appeared before him smiling. Except now she had cat eyes. She said her name, ‘Sooz’,  and nodded to him just as she had when they first met. Now, she did something odd. She waved her right arm into the crook of her left elbow making the sign for snake; then, she quickly turned her hands outward making them into the claws that signified owl and then her fingertips all moved nervously like a swarm of buzzing bees. Now, she flew away from him and as she disappeared into a bright green cloud, she said, “Remember me. Remember Sooz.” 

Tu-Swift muttered in his sleep, “I will Sooz. I will.” 

Shadow Walker chuckled to himself. He looked down to see the fluttering eyes of Tu-Swift who obviously walked now in the shadow world of dreams. He recalled some of the times that Many Paths and Shadow Walker had spoken of each other’s dreams. He had been dreaming of her, in fact, when something inside him told him it was time for him to keep watch and let Tu-Swift sleep. 

Shadow Walker again turned his thought to the girl with the eyes like a cat. She seemed to be telling the truth even though her tale was amazing, if true. Still, she was definitely holding something back. There was something important that she had not yet told them, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Possibly, she herself had done something against the ways of the Veritas. Although…how could she help it if she were stolen as a child? 

Shadow Walker now heard Tu-Swift muttering again, first about drumming, and Cat Eyes, and language. Like all dream mutterings, it made little sense. He would ask him about it upon wakening. Shadow Walker had found that dreams were easily recalled if they were remembered upon waking but seldom if one waited. 

Meanwhile, quite oblivious to Shadow Walker, Tu-Swift now found himself sitting astride a horse, a giant golden horse. He held reins in his hands and he could control the horse via these reins. Jaccim Nohan trotted alongside on another horse and spoke to him in Veritas. They now seemed friends, but that was not surprising in the dream world. Jaccim’s body turned into sticks of firewood, but he continued to talk…although…it wasn’t exactly talking. He was using his stick limbs to form sign language. Yet, Tu-Swift heard it as words spoken in the voice of Jaccim but the words were not ROI but Veritas. He listened to the words and kicked the giant horse firmly but not cruelly and lightly whipped the reins. The giant horse took off galloping up a hill, leapt up into the sky and Tu-Swift was flying atop his horse — sailing through the sky effortlessly though the steady drumming hooves continued even louder than before. 

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Now, Tu-Swift had fallen off his horse into a pit of giant snakes – squeeze snakes – who were going to squeeze him to death. Where was his horse? He tried to slide the snakes off of his arms but they wouldn’t go. They could speak his name! “Tu-Swift! Tu-Swift! Wake up!”  

Tu-Swift shook his head and came awake. Shadow Walker was shaking him. “Wake up! Wake up! War drums. We must go. Now. Wake up!” 

“What? Whose war drums?” Tu-Swift tried to focus but it was difficult. 

Shadow Walker took Tu-Swift’s head in his hands and stared into his vacant eyes. “I don’t know. But it isn’t Veritas! Wake! We must go!” 

At last, Tu-Swift returned to this world and he saw Shadow Walker quickly putting their things together for a quick journey. “What of Cat Eyes and the others?” 

Shadow Walker sighed. “I think we may have to leave them here. Or at least Jaccim. He is too hurt to travel quickly.”

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Author Page on Amazon

Sci-Fi Scenarios about the Future of AI

Pattern Language for Teamwork and Cooperation: Overview

A Story of Early Work in Human Computer Interaction

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Myths of the Veritas: The First Ring of Empathy

The Myths of the Veritas: The Second Book

Cats Eyes Shows her Gift

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Shadow Walker sighed and grimaced and ground his teeth. The more he considered the words of Cat Eyes, the angrier he made himself. Meanwhile, Jaccim drew back, afraid now that his “healer” was about to destroy him instead. The women drew back as well, feeling the tension grow steadily higher. 

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Tu-Swift spoke next. “What is wrong Shadow Walker? I think you are scaring our patient. And everyone, actually.”

Shadow Walker looked back over his shoulder at Tu-Swift. “Yes. I will talk no more of this right now, but I do want to learn more about — many things. But first, let me finish administering these cooling herbs.” 

Jaccim soon abated his whimpering and seemed to sleep. A large part of Shadow Walker’s brain remained suspicious. He still wasn’t sure he believed the story of Cat Eyes, but if there were another branch of the Veritas, it would extremely desirable to make contact. He motioned everyone to draw away from the sleeping ROI. He gestured for them to sit in a small circle. They obeyed without question and it seemed to Shadow Walker that it wasn’t just that he was a man with a killing sword. It seemed as though these women … expected to obey. He chuckled as he thought about Many Paths or She Who Saves Many Lives “obeying” someone. Well, maybe he could work this to his advantage, he thought. 

Shadow Path looked to Cat Eyes, “Do the other women also speak Veritas?” 

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Cat Eyes shook her head. “No, not really. We’ve all come from different places. We’ve taught each other a few words of each other’s language, but they won’t understand you if you speak that fast. If you ask me to, I can speak what you say in ROI. We all speak that. All of us were stolen at an early age for … well, as I said, as slaves.” 

Shadow Walker shook his head. “I still don’t see. Why steal children? You have to feed them for years before they can do useful work.” 

Cat Eyes stared at Shadow Walker for a long while. Her lip trembled and it seemed to Shadow Walker that she now looked through him to another place and another time. At last, she said, “Early taken; easily shaken; slaves will see: it is their destiny. That’s not a very good translation, but the ROI, and the Z-LOTZ as well, have such a saying. It means that you steal a child early and train them to be a slave and they won’t expect anything different. If you steal a grown man or woman, they will sabotage you when they can, possibly even murder you in your sleep. You have no such danger if you steal a child young enough.”

Shadow Walker glanced at Tu-Swift whose jaw had fallen open. At last, he spoke. “Can this be true? They steal children young just so they can … train them to be slaves with no spirit?” 

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Cat Eyes nodded. “Yes, I’m afraid that is their reasoning. It does’t always work, by the way. Sometimes, even small children learn how to rebel in small ways. But the ROI and Z-LOTZ believe it. In fact, it’s even one of the sayings in … well, this gift I have. Please don’t ask me about how I obtained it, but I wanted to show it to you. I don’t quite understand it, but I think it’s important.” She pointed to a small bag nearby. “Can I show you?” 

“This is not a weapon, I take it?” asked Shadow Walker. 

Cat Eyes laughed a bit. “No, it’s not a weapon. At least, I don’t see how it can be such. But I do not totally understand it.” She strode off a few feet, rummaged through her bag, and brought out a smaller bag which she brought over the circle. From within the smaller bag, she took out a large skin with many markings on it. There were also two smaller skins, also with many markings. In addition to markings, there were several nicely made pictures of different animals. Several small stones also fell out. 

Shadow Walker frowned. He glanced at the others. No-one seemed to understand. “What is this?” 

Cat Eyes shook her head. “I don’t really know. But it is used by the children of the Z-LOTZ to learn ROI and by the ROI to learn Z-LOTZ. And, each of these. I have seen them use this and when they point at this mark, for example, they almost always say the same thing which is not a word but only a part of a word.”

Tu-Swift tilted his head to one side and looked at Cat Eyes. She did have rather intriguing green eyes. “Part of a word? What do you mean?” 

Cat Eyes replied, “You know the creation myth, of course?” 

Tu-Swift humpfed. “Of course!” 

Cat Eyes nodded. “So, you recall the part about taking sounds from different animals. The ‘z’ from the bee and so on. The ‘z’ of the bee is what I mean by part of a word. It doesn’t mean anything till it’s put together with the sounds of other animals or things.” 

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Tu-Swift bent over the markings on the large skin and stared at them in more detail. “What on earth are these drawings of? They all look like firewood that’s been dropped at odd angles. What is this a picture of?” He pointed to one of the many marks.

“I really don’t know, Tu-Swift. I’m really sorry. I was a slave. My job…one of my jobs… was to watch the children of one of the priests of the Z-LOTZ. I watched them play and every so often my master would come in and watch as well. He seemed very pleased when his children would point to these markings and say parts of words. It was one of the most puzzling things I saw in the giant center place of the Z-LOTZ and there many puzzling things.”

Shadow Walker then said, “Who are these Z-LOTZ and where are they? A giant center place? What do you mean by that?” 

Cat Eyes had been trying to swat away the constant droning questions from her two female friends, but she could ignore them no longer. She quickly spoke in ROI, summarizing for them the conversation thus far. Then, she turned back to Shadow Walker. 

“If our Center Place over Snow Mountain is an acorn, this village you burned down is a seedling. But the Center Place of the Z-LOTZ is a full-sized oak of the forest. I never saw all of it. There is a wall to keep all the slaves inside so we could not escape. It is not too far from here. Perhaps two or three day’s ride.” 

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Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker asked two different questions at the same time. 

Tu-Swift: “Have you ridden a horse?”

Shadow Walker: “Why were you there?”

Cat Eyes looked at one and then the other. “Let me answer Tu-Swift’s question first as it is much easier. No. I never really controlled a horse. I have been tied onto a horse. It is not fun. As for…”

Tu-Swift cut in, “Me too! I agree! I was bruised.” 

Cat Eyes nodded. “Yes. I don’t remember much about how I felt after they stole me. I mean, in terms of bruises. But I was older when the ROI took me to a Z-LOTZ priest for … well, that’s where I found this game. I was there to watch smaller children and … learn other things.” 

Shadow Walker could feel that Cat Eyes knew more but something about her time there was deeply troubling. “What can you tell us about the Z-LOTZ and the ROI?” 

Cat Eyes responded, “They have an alliance but they are quite different people. As different from each other as they are from the Veritas — except that both are quite cruel people. I don’t recall a lot from the time before I was stolen, but I know we were kind people. And you seem kind. The ROI only care about doing everything quickly and making a lot of something. They mainly steal children for the Z-LOTZ. Some, like the three of us, have been used as slaves here as well, usually after…after a time with the Z-LOTZ. The Z-LOTZ — they have elaborate rituals and feasts. They have elaborate myths that everyone is required to repeat word for word. And everyone is supposed to believe them. So far as I can tell, the actual priests of the Z-LOTZ don’t believe any of it. When my master had other priests and their wives over for feasts, they joked about how they used these myths to control the people. I think, in their view, it wasn’t just the stolen children who were slaves. Everyone was.”

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Tu-Swift listened to this with ever-widening eyes. He found Cat Eyes to be fascinating and believed every word that she uttered. Shadow Walker still had his doubts. 

“If you were a slave, how did you come to find out so much?”

Cat Eyes frowned. She appeared to be taking this question seriously. At last she said, “I think I found out so much because they treated me as a slave. They didn’t actually think of me as a real person. As for the Z-LOTZ, I also don’t think they realized how much I understood their language. I had already learned a little of their language before I was sent there. The ROI don’t really talk all that much. They rely a lot on sign language — which is not that different from the Veritas. You were able to make yourself understood just now when you convinced them about the medicine.” She paused, and added, “I may be good at learning languages? I don’t know. But some of us — we did things — bad things, I guess. To get back at them. Some of the slaves though.” Here Cat Eyes paused, bit her lip, and a small tear appeared at the corner of her eye. “Some did not recall anything about their homes and they thought…they thought being a slave was just what they were supposed to do. But I remembered that everyone is not cruel.” 

As she had said all this in Veritas, the other two women began pelting her with questions in ROI so she turned to them and quickly explained that she was just telling what she knew about the ROI and the Z-LOTZ. 

Then, Cat Eyes turned back and smiled at Tu-Swift. “I am glad you didn’t … I am glad you got rescued, even if you had to burn down our village to do it. When you appeared and I heard some words of Veritas, it gave me hope again.” 

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Shadow Walker shook his head. “I need to say one thing. We did not burn down this village. The ROI did that themselves! They meant to burn our small rescue party up with fire arrows. They shot them behind us into the dry grass and the wind blew the fire toward us and the fire nearly killed us all. I am still not sure whether or not all of the others in our party escaped. But we outran the fire, though we could not see very well as we ran and both Tu-Swift and I were injured. But the fire kept spreading into the forest and on to the village. We don’t use fire arrows. Only the ROI do that. As we know from the Legend of the Orange Man, fire, like hatred is hard to control, once unleashed.”

Cat Eyes nodded. “I know. That is why…I am not proud of all the things I did against the Z-LOTZ and the ROI. I was only a child. There were so many of them. I could not fight them in the normal way. I used … other methods. Poisons for one. My mother was a medicine woman and I already knew things that she began to teach me when I was very young. I didn’t kill anyone. But I made many of them just slightly sick in some way. Just enough that they would not suspect poison. Sometimes, I would weaken their walls.  And a few times, I put small holes in buckets so some grain would seep out as they carried it making a path for the rats to their pantries. I put other irritants in their clothing. I taught some others to do the same. We had to be very careful. But they — we never showed our hatred outwardly. They thought of us…they didn’t really think of us as people and therefore not as enemies from within capable of doing damage. But damage — we did do damage. Anyway, what now? You said some of your party are yet unaccounted for?” 

Shadow Walker found her story amazing, but he was still not convinced. He glanced at Tu-Swift and could see that he, at least, believed every word. 

Shadow Walker said at last, “Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but Tu-Swift and I need to hold our own small council for a time. I need to go above and do a more thorough search to make sure there are no other ROI around.”

Cat Eyes looked him in the eyes. “Yes. I think most of the ROI escaped and were heading to the giant Center Place of the Z-LOTZ. We hid out here so we wouldn’t be given once again as slaves. I don’t think there are any left behind as guards. Is there anything up there left to guard? It seemed the entire village was about to be destroyed.”

Shadow Walker looked at her face which seemed so open and honest. “Indeed, there is not much left of your village. Nor have the horses returned. But I did meet one ROI on the way here. He tried to kill me — with this — (here he flicked the newly acquired sword) and I was very lucky to have escaped with my life. I have seen no sign of others — yet. But, one cannot be too careful. We will go and take a look. And, we need to decide on our next steps. We will guard you and search for food. We will talk again when the sun rises.” Shadow Walker stood, bowed, and began to back toward the stairs. 

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Cat Eyes bowed back to Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift. “I understand. You would be safer down here I should think. But you do not yet know me well enough to trust me.”

“I trust you!” said Tu-Swift. 

Shadow Walker looked into Cat Eyes. “I mostly trust you. But it’s a lot to take in. We might be safer down here, but is there any other way in or out of this cellar?” 

Cat Eyes shook her head. “No, just those stairs.”

Shadow Walker said, “Well, it would be easy to move heavy things from the armory across the trap-door and make it quite impossible for any of us to leave. We would be trapped down here to slowly die of hunger and thirst.” 

Cat Eyes nodded. “Yes. But maybe then we should all leave? Except, I don’t think Jaccim is well enough. Maybe, in the morning, he will be recovered enough to travel.”

Shadow Walker said, “Yes. We will — do you think you can lend me all this until morning? I would like to contemplate this more.” He gestured at the marked skins. 

Cat Eyes nodded solemnly. “Yes. I hope you can make more sense of it than I could.” She quickly gathered up the skins and stones and put them back in the small bag which she handed to Tu-Swift. She looked him directly in the eyes now, “Sweet dreams. I will see you in the morning. But before you go, do you mind if I take a look at your knee?”

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Tu-Swift assented and she began to feel his knee and his entire leg. She massaged it gently and at one point not so gently. Tu-Swift cried out suddenly and Shadow Walker raised his sword. Without taking her eyes off Tu-Swift she addressed Shadow Walker. “I am not going to hurt Tu-Swift. I think his knee will feel better in the morning though. You go and ‘guard us’ as you put it. We will reconvene in the morning if you like. Hopefully, you will not pull heavy things over the trap door and trap us in here to starve slowly.” She then looked up at Shadow Walker and smiled at him. 

Shadow Walker looked at her and said, “No, we will not trap you in here. I did think of that when we first came here, but no.” 

Tu-Swift thanked Cat Eyes, for his knee did feel less … misplaced. Cat Eyes smiled back and again said, “Sweet Dreams.” 

Tu-Swift muttered something and followed Shadow Walker up the stairs. They pulled the heavy trap door over the opening and sat on the ground. Tu-Swift immediately took out the marked skins and the stones and begin looking at them intently. Tu-Swift glanced up to ask Shadow Walker a question but he could see that Shadow Walker felt exhausted. Tu-Swift offered to keep first watch and looked at the marks. 

Hours later, when the Starry Hunter was overhead, Shadow Walker awoke and said he would stand watch for awhile so that Tu-Swift might sleep. He immediately fell into a deep sleep and began a strange and wondrous dream.

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The Myths of the Veritas, Book One

The Myths of the Veritas, Book Two

The Creation Myth of the Veritas 

A Tale of Two Nannies

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A Tale of Two Nannies. 

Some decisions are difficult. Some are easy. I’ll let you decide for yourself, discerning reader, which kind of decision this one is. 

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Briefly, I need a nanny for my kids. One is named, let us say, Donna. The other is named, let us say, Serena. 

I didn’t really know either of them personally, but I find out something about each of them. 

Serena came from a good family. Everyone spoke highly of her and of her family. She had worked at the local library and from my casual observations, seemed to get along quite well with children. She was soft-spoken but assertive and articulate. She was also young and athletic. 

Donna came from a crime family. She swore like a sailor. Many people had accused her of various crimes including theft, tax fraud, insurance fraud, obstruction of justice, and pedophilia. So far, none of these had resulted in her going to jail. 

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By chance, I happened to see her hanging out, joking, and laughing with known drug dealers and murderers.

When I confronted her about the shadiness of her background and acquaintances, she pooh-pooh’d it as nothing but slander by jealous bitches out to steal her God-damned job and I had God-damned better hire her or she was going to sue me and everyone else she could think of!!

So two questions. 

  1. Which one should I choose for the nanny to my kids?
  2. Is this really a hard decision? 

 

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Author Page on Amazon

Myths of the Veritas: Book One

Myths of the Veritas: Book Two

Which wolf do you feed? The “bad” wolf or the “good” wolf? Of course, sometimes, decisions involved complex trade-offs, but sometimes we “know” what the right thing to do is and instead do the convenient or selfish thing.

 

 

Finding the Mustard

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{A departure from the Myths of the Veritas, this is just some thoughts while making dinner}

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To the best of my ability, this is the view I had when I poaching salmon for dinner tonight and realized I had almost forgotten the mustard. I spied it immediately.

Then, (while using the mustard) I began to ponder a blog post from a few weeks ago on the importance of making sure that you looked for “the whole enchilada.” But just now, I relied on a small number of cues and it all worked out fine. What’s the difference?

The difference is that I am looking in my refrigerator for something that I know I have. Even in a large grocery store, there are a limited number of products in jars. But in my fridge? Very few. And, let’s face it; much of modern life is like this. We spend time at work, at home, at the gym, on our commute and we are on familiar ground. We see familiar things. We talk to familiar people. So, all these little algorithms we develop *work* pretty well most of the time.

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But — they do not work very well at all if applied to *new* situations, or *new* places, or *new* knowledge or *new* people. If I were to find myself looking in the refrigerator in Italy or Malaysia and relied on the exact same cues, it would be far less likely to work!

It isn’t so much that these little algorithms or pattern recognitions don’t work. They don’t. But so what? The problem comes when we *assume* or even *insist* that they still work. Mostly, they don’t. So, when you are in different situations, you need to slow down and search & ask for help & think & test. And, if you do, it’s mostly all OK.

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But if you insist that your knowledge *should* work in situations where it does not…you are going to make yourself uncomfortable much more than you need to.

Quite apart from the unfairness that xenophobia wreaks upon “others”, it is sad to me that it prevents so much that is interesting and wonderful about living in the 21st century. We have this *astounding* and *amazing* opportunity to learn from a thousand cultures and peoples. Instead, we are ignoring them, or destroying them, or sometimes incorporating a useful piece of technology.

Left to their own devices, people from different places, cultures, races, etc. can generally work it out. But if a rabble rouser preys on your feelings of discomfort and helps you focus on it, they destroy that natural accommodation and mutual learning. Of course, they are doing it to gain power over you, and they don’t care that they are blinding you to a cornucopia of possibilities.

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Once the flames of hatred are sufficiently fanned, you will never be able to see that “other” as a human being who is fundamentally just like you, but whose ancestors and cultures learned different skills and customs in order to survive. You will never see all that you can learn from each other. You will never see that you have been manipulated into fearing, and hating, and even killing so that someone else can become richer, or more powerful, or be able to flout laws that they don’t like. And that is a very sad thing.


Myths of the Veritas: Book One

Myths of the Veritas: Book Two

Myths of the Veritas: Diversity as a Testament to Our Success as a Species

The Whole Enchilada 

Author Page on Amazon