Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Mob Wars

The Mob Wars
[short story from   ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

What do you think, when you look upon a mob?  Or worse, you encounter one?  That had been the lesson of the day and the cadets in the class, all five of them, 3 girls and 2 boys, could barely restrain their yawns.  They really wanted to laugh at the instructor but there were rules at the Academy, and laughing at an instructor was bad business.  Punishments varied but they weren’t something you wanted to think about.

“A mob is dangerous.” droned on the talking head instructor, a short dark-skinned female who spoke the lingua franca as if she’d learned it from a computer.  Hardly surprising since she had learned it that way.  She wasn’t from the Clayborne worlds but from another galaxy altogether.  Still, she was human and you could relate to her as long as you remained totally mechanical, never betraying any emotion towards her, or her course material.  “A mob has no leader, that’s what makes it dangerous,” she carried on.  “If you see a mob coming towards you, purposefully march in another direction and as soon as you can, find a safe place to hide until it passes by.  Any grouping of ten or more individuals walking together and sharing information, or making loud statements constitute a mob by legal definition.  It is your sworn duty to the Imperium to report any observed mob activity, noting its coordinates and direction.  Anyone who observes a mob formation and does not report it is de-facto part of a conspiracy and liable to a charge of sedition.  The penalty, as you know, is ten years in the mines, the location of the punishment to be determined by the courts but always outside your home worlds.”  

We may be cadets but we weren’t born last night, or even the year before.  The Claybornes, a grouping of three planets orbiting their sun practically equidistantly, thus making each world almost a mirror image of the others climate-wise, were a relatively recent addition to an expanding Imperium.  “Space, the final frontier” boldly claimed a cartoon character from a series of funny little anecdotes that had been transcribed upon holos and would sometimes be available for viewing.  The quaint language and costumes and the posturing would bring out waves of rollicking laughter wherever they happen to be projected.  Final frontier indeed: the abysmal ignorance and hubris of our ancestors makes us wonder that we ever got off the ground of our original world at all. Too quirky.

I was writing about that line, the final frontier.  Even now with everything we’ve discovered and learned, most of it at great cost and unnecessary loss, we still cling to our ancient xenophobia and bigotry.  Once we “know” a thing, we believe that we’ve found the truth, or at the very least, some truth, something we can hang on and build upon.  Our awareness, our ideas, we believe, can be stacked up one upon another, like the modules we fabricate then build living units or space ships with.  It’s as if we choose to forget that no matter how long these modules fit together they must eventually disintegrate, starting with the oldest ones, but we don’t notice the rot and rust, and we keep on building on top.  There comes a point of attrition and entropy and whatever is, soon is no longer.  Simply put, the base collapses.  We accept that but we never see to apply the obvious lesson in it to our interaction with what can only be called the nature of things.

Which brings me back to my story about the mob.  Whatever the Cirillian teacher says about mobs, she really knows nothing at all about them.  But we Clayborners do know about mobs.  Our own societies were basically evolved from a mob mentality.  You see, the Claybornes were chosen by the Imperium as a dumping ground for all sorts of individuals who could not be coerced into the herd mentality, or group-think that serves the Imperium’s aims so well.  We are recent descendants of “deplorables” and “undesirables”  Our grand parents were those who could not be cured.  Many were anarchists.  Some were judged with criminal mentality because they openly defied and called down the Imperium.  And oh yes, we had more than a sprinkling of lower class criminals, the murderers, rapists, bank robbers, psychopaths.  As a fourth generation myself, I say good for them.  It’s here, on our own Clayborne world which we call Armistice, that you can really see the evil that is the Imperium. 

I discovered subsequently that the Imperium had hoped we would not only “break” open these worlds and extract every ounce of resources that could fuel their space economy and finance their Earth-based economy, bolstering ever-expanding wars of conquest, but that once the worlds were bled dry, that we would destroy ourselves, with a little destabilizing help from Imperial guards. Considering the make-up of our local civilization, it seemed inevitable that we would destroy each other when times got tough, a time when the resources ran dry and the Imperium ceased supporting us with the necessities of civilization that could not be manufactured locally.

Even early on in the colonization of the Clayborne worlds, that is exactly what happened.  Unwisely, to say the least, the Imperium representatives gave the game away too soon, when dreams of independence rode high in the minds and hearts of the colonizers.  Conflict ensued.  But at first it wasn’t against the Imperium.  That seemed too big a slice to tackle.  In anger and frustration, various groups, and towns led by gang lords, armed themselves by whatever means, mostly clubs, compound bows and arrows, long handled barbed spears and long knives or machetes, as well as agricultural implements which had reluctantly been allocated to them, and began to attack each other for control of the worlds.

That wasn’t according to plan since by now little or no effort was being made to mine the planets.  Everybody was too busy strengthening their defences and protecting their fields and other food supplies while attempting to lay waste to “the enemy’s” fields and food supplies, transports and storehouses and stealing resources and useful labour and women.

We could almost hear the screams of anger from stock market and “trading houses” all the way though space from an incensed earth, home base of the Imperium, as resources from the Claybornes’ came to a quasi-standstill.  Fortunes in speculation were being lost by the month, the week, even by the hour.  Action was demanded of Arch Imperator, Junes Kohlmadir.  She did what her kind do best: responded by massive force of arms against the wayward planets.

The Imperium intervened  with iron fist and jack boots.  Martial law and a general ban on every sort of weaponry was declared.  Walls around fortified towns were dismantled, sometimes with explosives, more often with slave labour from those arrested for disturbing Imperium-mandated peace; those that is who hadn’t been publicly executed in the first reactionary wave of the new military dictatorship.  They executed thousands of individuals, including women and young children – as an example.  As any thinking person would know and expect, more violence ensued, now directly aimed at the Imperium troopers and subsequent governors sent to negotiate and re-establish a working peace.  Adding insult to injury, the Imperium representatives decreed that any existing facility that could produce a space-faring vessel was to be utterly destroyed, not simply mothballed.  The Imperium set up its own space station to repair and upgrade its own ships.  All merchant ships had to have (and pay for) a complement of Imperium troopers on board, and an Imperium representative to accompany the captain at all times whenever it landed on one of our worlds.

This is the tipping point, where the Imperium, instead of subduing us, only succeeded in uniting the entire planet against the Imperium.

These people, my people, learned through bitter and bloody experience to hate the Imperium with passionate fury and vowed never to let the predators get their resources as cheaply as they had in the past.  We vowed to fight the Imperium to the last man, woman and child on our world.  There would be no free interference in our affairs.  Autonomy or death, was our slogan and war cry.  In the morning the call to arms and resistance would show up, painted on walls, fences, and even on the side of Imperial armoured personel carriers and tanks.  So the people began to organize; to create larger and larger political groups and legally challenge the Imperium’s manipulations.  We lived in wave after wave of bloody crackdowns and brutal repression but any talk of surrendering resulted in another body hanging from a pole, or tree, for the troopers to cut down and dispose of.  We would no longer be the Imperium’s “hewers of wood and drawers of water” forever, or until our worlds became unable to sustain life due to heavy extraction of natural resources and unchecked man-made pollution and we were abandoned to perish in the depths of space, with no hope of ever seeing rescue transportation off our dying rock.

Whenever the Imperium landed a detachment of Guard troopers, mobs formed and there was the inevitable bloodbath.  It is said that half of the population of Armistice died in the anti-Imperium “mob wars” that had already lasted two generations when, at sixteen, I found myself fighting for freedom.

So, ask me, do we know what to do if we encounter a mob?  Sure, if it’s from our side, join in.  If it’s from the enemy side, slink away and report its movements to our side, then form our own defensive counter-mob and attack.  To hesitate is to loose.  Now we are solidly united with our own spilled blood against the Imperium.  There would be no quarter from our side, for we are the legitimate people of this world.  

“Let me repeat:  a mob is a leaderless group of ten or more people bent on destruction and murder.  Report any mob to the nearest Guard post.”  Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am and why don’t you pack up your stupid course materials and return home by the first shuttle, with no due respect, ma’am?  Take some Star Trek holos back with you and base your next history course on them.  Maybe your students won’t turn into zombies on the first day. 

Meanwhile, what’s the real mob? There can be but one answer to that: it’s the Imperium.  The real Mob is always the largest, most powerful predatory group, for a mob takes what it wants because it has the power to do so.  Smaller groups, or “mobs” serve but to justify the real Mob’s oppression, or to do some of its dirtiest “wet” work.  Think “terrorists” as the vanguard of the Mob.  Oh yes, I have read quite a bit of the home world’s history to understand why here, on Armistice, we do what we do, and why we call our world by that meaningless term.  A mob, leaderless?  Never, no such thing.  The “leader” may not be a human being, it may be injustice, hunger, oppression, enslavement, but oh yes, a mob always has a leader.  In fact such a leader is the most powerful and motivational if it isn’t human, but an irresistible force, when choice is no longer choice.  Where, or when, anger and hate fill the collective vat of despair and feet begin to walk; hands grab sticks, stones, anything defensive or offensive, and charge down the street.

There came the inevitable bloody clash between Armisticians and troopers.  I was wounded in it and captured.  I was then seventeen earth years of age.  I am now an old but still strong woman from the hard labour I have performed my entire captive life.  I survived the mandatory torture and gang rapes, solitary confinement, sub-standard food fare and damp, cold, filthy accomodations.  Today, from my life imprisonment cell on Rebus, one of several Imperium prison planets, I write this for the “counselors” to read and ponder: “Down with the Imperium!  I still hope to see its final downfall.  How dare you call yourselves “civilized” and us “savages” and “terrorists.”   You are nothing but cowards who starve and kill women and children so your elites can wine and dine, get richer and brag.  Your lives are as hollow as the insides of our tiger reed.  I could almost pity you but will never: I vowed eternal hate and enmity between us and so it shall be.

Signed:  Selinia Armstrong of the free world of Armistice

Advertisements

Obsolescent and Pointless


[Thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

I’ve been thinking a lot more about man’s civilization.  There’s a word that keeps coming up: obsolescent.  According to the definition, that word means something is on the way to becoming obsolete.  Implied: it isn’t there yet, but most likely to become so.  We know that all systems tend towards entropy, a state in which no energy is available to do any work.  It’s there but not in any usable form.
To plagiarize the “Good Lord” and his introductions to some parables: “And to what shall I compare this Earthian civilization?  There was a man who was looking for transportation, for a car.  He walked and walked and came to a town, not surprisingly named “Car Town” and he being in search of a Car, decided to find one in this town.  He walked around and counted eleven car dealerships.  Every dealership, he noticed, had hundreds of cars for sale, compact, subcompact, medium size, and some big monsters.  There was a wonderful array of colours of cars to choose from, and many sales people waved at him from office windows, and from the yards.
    Finally he entered a dealership and was accosted by a saleswoman who excitedly brought him to their special of the week.  It was a lovely car.  He asked for the key so he could try it out.  Her face fell at the request, but she dutifully produced the key and he tried to start it.  It turned over but wouldn’t start.  Another car did start but died just as he was entering the street.  Another had two flat tires.  On and on.  He went to dealership after dealership but none of their cars worked properly.  There was always something wrong, or he could tell that none would last any length of time and he’d be wasting his money.
    Despondent, he walked out into the outskirts of the town, towards the slums.  Over the barking of dogs and the jeers of kids “just hanging” he heard the sound of a motor.  Intrigued he went down an alley between derelict house trailers to find a young girl and a boy working over a cart in which was installed a small motor.  He noticed that the motor had a v-belt pulley and a belt that went to another pulley on the rear axle of the cart.  The girl got in the cart and engaged a lever that pushed an idler pulley against the inside of the v-belt, thus transferring the power to the rear wheels and the cart jumped forward and she threaded it through several obstacles in the yard, then down the alley and disappeared.
    The man approached the boy and said, “That is an amazing piece of work, and it can be used for transportation as well?”  “Yes” replied the boy, “my sister is going to use it to fetch groceries and stuff for granny and granpa ’cause they can’t walk to the store anymore and it’s dangerous for old people to walk the streets – they are often attacked by gangs of kids, for their money.”
    “I see” said the man, “So when you are old enough for a license, you’re going to buy a real car from one of the dealers in town?”
    “Not a chance,” replied the boy, “None of their junk works.  They used too, so says granny, but they rushed and rushed to build them, using cheaper and cheaper parts so they could display more cars but eventually they were so badly built none of them ran.  I’m going to build my own car once I can afford to have proper parts made for it.  I have a friend whose mom is a welder, and my teacher was an army engineer.  He’s going to help me build it.  I don’t imagine it’ll be fancy, but it will run, that’s the main thing.” 
    Thus endeth the parable. 
    There are many I realize, who still hope and pray and wish, and have faith in the greater love of man, that those beautifully useless cars in the dealer car lots of Car Town can yet be fixed and put on the road.  I can’t blame them for their faith in man: I’ve been there and I know how hard it is to let go of the self-delusion and face the music of the times.  This civilization isn’t going anywhere but down.  It is obsolescent.
    It is more than obsolescent, if that wasn’t enough: it has become redundant, pointless, meaningless.  There will be nothing new to sprout under this sun. Let me mention a couple of things I read about recently that illustrate where this society is going.  You be the judge here.  The following quote is from yesterday’s article by George Monbiot titled, Urge, Splurge, Purge – monbiot.com
    QUOTE: “A system that depends on growth can survive only if we progressively lose our ability to make reasoned decisions. After our needs, then strong desires, then faint desires have been met, we must keep buying goods and services we neither need nor want, induced by marketing to abandon our discriminating faculties and succumb instead to impulse.
    You can now buy a selfie toaster, that burns an image of your own face onto your bread – the Turin Shroud of toast. You can buy beer for dogs and wine for cats; a toilet roll holder that sends a message to your phone when the paper is running out; a $30 branded brick; a hairbrush that informs you whether or not you are brushing your hair correctly. Panasonic intends to produce a mobile fridge that, in response to a voice command, will deliver beers to your chair.
    Urge, splurge, purge: we are sucked into a cycle of compulsion followed by consumption, followed by the periodic detoxing of ourselves or our homes, like Romans making themselves sick after eating, so that we can cram more in. Continued economic growth depends on continued disposal: unless we rapidly junk the goods we buy, it fails. The growth economy and the throwaway society cannot be separated. Environmental destruction is not a by-product of this system. It is a necessary element.”
    Can a society pushed willy-nilly by such marketing techniques, have any future?  Does it deserve to have one?  Let’s try a simpler question: what would it take, using any of the tried (and failed) methods of religious-political-financial self-correction, to fix such a society?  Rhetorical questions, to which we all know the answer(s).
In the New Testament (Christian bible) the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13 concludes with: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” 
Let’s look at that because many people get a good, warm, emotional response from reading this quote.  It’s pure propaganda, and poisonous to the mind.  As a detached, self empowered being I have no need of faith, hope and love, nor is love the greatest.  It isn’t “love” that makes people support the system, to the detriment of everything that has any qualifiable value.  It’s primarily faith.  Faith makes people cast about for an answer when they sense that something isn’t right.  Faith says, vote in someone else, or buy a different brand or type of food.  Drive a different car, or use public transit.  Install solar panels on your house and “get off the grid.”
As if!  Are the appliances used, the food ingested, the roads used, the water, sewer, computers, heat or house construction, maintenance and repairs “off the grid”?
A better question: can an entire city of say, 10 million people, exist without a “grid” to make it function?  Isn’t a city in essence a machine?  A machine needs many things to function before it even begins to operate whatever it is supposed to operate.  Are the mines that scour out the minerals that become the metals that are used to build high-rises for example, “off the grid”?  Are the gas and oil companies off the grid? No.  The Tooth Fairy is off the grid, of that I’m pretty certain ’cause the Tooth Fairy doesn’t live in any city.  She only visits to leave small change.  But no city, and no resident of said city, can ever claim to live off the grid.
Can we say, let’s go off the grid incrementally, as is now proposed in so many articles and books available to read?  Unless we mean only one small aspect of “the grid” (say, hydro electricity) our efforts are entirely wasted unless we also control the source of the materials we use to “go off the grid” with.  The biggest problem with the “off the grid” chimera is technology.  You cannot have any technology and claim to be moving off the grid: it won’t let you because “THE GRID” is what technology is all about.  It is THE GRID.  Just think “Internet” and try to imagine THAT being off the grid, and see where that leaves you.  In the dark, and I don’t mean the dark web.  Your ISP is THE GRID.  Your government and banks are THE GRID.  And so on, and so on.  Everything Matrix is grid.  Nothing is incremental about the Matrix: it’s a dictatorial power, all or nothing.  It will let you use solar or wind power if it can profit from it, and control how you use it, and how much.  Can’t put meters on wind, or sun energy? Hah! Bad bet.
A California based water corporation, I think it was the Bechtel Corporation, managed to have laws enacted in certain cities of Latin America whereby they “owned” rain water and the people literally had to rebel against their local councils to regain control of their right to collect rain water without having to pay for it.  Those who collected rain water without paying a tax on it were fined, or jailed.  Oh yes, it is all about money, never about life.
And… that is why this global civilization is obsolescent.  It has become a predatory, bloody, sectarian, self-centered, selfish, decadent exercise in utter stupidity, foolishness and meaninglessness.  When this entire global civilization collapses and dies, so will the Matrix die with it.  Whatever survives of the Earthian ISSA beings will be of necessity “off the grid” and they will build something truly new, something as yet unheard of.  This isn’t “hope” on my part, it’s from the certainty of observation.
Oh yes, we can “see” the future. It’s not “nothing” as yet.  It exists, of necessity, since what we construe of as “the present” is simply the future sliding past our observation point into the past.  If we can “see” the future as little as a minute hence, that means it already exists.  If it exists a minute hence, it exists beyond any time definition.  We can learn to stretch that minute into years, centuries, millennia even, since “time” is an artificial construct of our #1 enemies: the Time Lords.  Some people call this state of awareness “imagination” and some say that those who see the future are “the dreamers” but it is neither.  What it is, is a reality we have been told is taboo to look into.  Why don’t we stop being children, stop living “by faith” and grow up?  It could mean billions of lives saved, not to mention much of the planet’s ecology.
What to think, when all around of what is familiar is being destroyed or falling apart?  Know that it is not a death, but a renewal.  The cocoon that has nurtured and constrained man’s civilization is breaking open.  A scary necessity. 
I want to do more than see my wings: I want to use them.

I Discovered Kurt Vonnegut

[thoughts from  ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Quote: “Most writers waste people’s time with too many words. I’m trying to reduce everything down to the minimum. My last work will be a blank piece of paper.” — Samuel Beckett

{did you say “typos”?  Ok, let me fix that, for the grouches and grammar Nazis…}

That’s right, that’s what the title says, I discovered Kurt Vonnegut.  I don’t mean by that that I never heard of him before, I’ve heard of Kurt Vonnegut since, well basically puberty, when politics, politics and politics became so important to me I started reading fiction in Earnest (a diner that used to belch barbecue exhaust on the eastern end of town), and then in my spare time as well.  (Yes, that is, indeed, a misplaced modifier – I just thought it looked better here than there.)

Having discovered Kurt Vonnegut, I thought I’d finally, finally, get to read Cat’s Cradle, which the entire world has heard of but few have read.  So I got that, but a few other books decided to tag along and now I’m reading “Breakfast of Champions.”  Ultimately, in this life (or the next, life’s funny that way) I will get to read Cat’s Cradle, honest, I will.

But this isn’t about Kurt Vonnegut, or Cat’s Cradle, or even Breakfast of Champions.  This is about writing… and reading.  So then, allow me (and how could you not? – got you there) to re-preface this with, “So many Writers, so Little Time (to Read them All!)”

In the worlds of writers and readers, I’m primarily a reader.  When I write it’s for the pleasure of reading the stuff for my own entertainment or edification.  Oh yes, forgot to mention that when I write I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to write about, or what I’m writing about, or where it’s all supposed to go, therefore there can be but one reason why I should write and that’s as already stated.

Having said that, I have a massive complaint, as a professional reader that is.  When I decided to become a reader, I naturally set upon the task of reading all that was ever written.  I mean, how to choose, right?  So grab something, anything, written, and read it.  I would eventually have read all that had ever been written still extant.  I was after all quasi-literate in 2.36 languages, already a huge head start.  I could multi-task, even reading while driving (that came later and it takes some getting used to by other drivers on the same road, but that’s their problem, right?  Just get with the program and all will be well) or doing other menial tasks for which AI’s hadn’t been invented yet.

But then came a heart-stopping, bone-jarring, mind-numbing realization: Writers!  Contrary to what my English and French teachers insisted upon, these critters weren’t all dead smart guys.  Some still lived and they still wrote!  Not only that but a whole swamp of wanna-bees hummed and buzzed in the undergrowth.  Books, books and more books were piling up and bookstores were graduating into high-rises.

Then came the computer age and… ahhh, a bit of respite as bookstores went broke and closed.  Newspapers thinned out.  Magazines became things you whispered about if you didn’t want people to guess how old you were.  For a few brief moments it looked like a recognized author could get by with writing a couple of novels in a lifetime and retire comfortably somewhere in Greece, preferably near a nude beach and a decent telescope – don’t assume I’m talking only of male writers.  After all, writers who become authors have imagination.

Anyway, I was getting nicely settled back down to my classical reading of Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Canterbury Tales (just kiddin!) Isaac Asimov (Yawn!) and Alice in Greenland (well, why not?  Do YOU know where that rabbit hole goes?) as well as Little Women when there was a loud ‘bang!’ and just like that, there was an Amazonian Internet explosion and from it began to… you guessed it… ooze out more and more books, not from authors, but from writers!  Not only that, but as time went on, this Infernal Internet decided it could TRANSLATE books written in languages that sourced somewhere in the back of the Horsehead nebula, so that any and all books could be read by anyone with only a rudimentary grasp of her own maternal language.

So, I read (make that past tense) and read (still past tense) and read (now in the present) and it’s the punishment of Sisyphus all over again. It’s the 13th Labour of Hercules.  I will drop dead one day soon, and my face will fall and be absorbed inside the FBReader library.

Imagine this: A couple of days ago I innocently took on a landscape job in Yarrow (that being a little town S-W of here, and yes it is named after that weed).  There was a nastily overgrown backyard in a corner of which was a cute little cabin.  Mystified, I looked through the one window and there, at a desk, facing a computer, was a person, a people of the Earth variety, engrossed and staring at the screen, and the fingers tapping out a dance on a keyboard.  OK, thought I, must be an accountant or some such person working from home.

Imagine my crest fallen chagrin when the people person stepped out of the cabin with a frown, but also a hopeful and winning smile, and asked me if I’d seen her kale plant.  ???Say what?  I looked over the gargantuan infestation of weeds… “It’s around here somewhere” says the person, and by pulling at the weeds with a hoe, sure enough, I uncovered a starved, skeletal pale kale thing which beheld the sunshine for the very first time in its short and now totally traumatized life.  “Could you place it out of harm’s way while you clean out the weeds?” added the person.

By then I was getting very suspicious about the person’s computer activity, meaning, who asks to have a 97.2% dead kale thingy transplanted – in the middle of September?  (Keep in mind I’m writing from the Northern hemisphere here and even if Climate Changed temperatures insist on hovering in the 80’s F – and who knows what Celsius would make of that, silly Roman, it’s practically winter here.) 

I said to myself, I know what sort of people person this is… I just know.  So I slyly asked, “How did your garden end up like this?”  If only I had just shut up and stayed with my first assumption!  Stupid me: the mental grenade exploded:  “Oh, I’m a writer, an author actually, and I’m behind on a deadline so no time for gardening this summer.”

Aaaaarghhhh!  #@%#!!! Another writer!!!  It’s like they’re literally coming up out of the weeds and woodwork.  And I had her within reach of my various implements of destruction too!  Good ground a-plenty for a decent burial, and all the necessary tools at my disposal.  Yes, although it’s pure cowardice on my part that that writer is still alive and clacking away to her deadline, I am proud to say that I did not attack her, or otherwise attempt to do her in. 

With total self-control I turned around, slowly, counted to 13 in both directions, and turned back with the fakest smile ever produced and said, “Ah!”  Needless to say, but I’ll write it anyway, just in case, she assumed I was expressing appreciation at the thought of another book on the ether-shelves and smiled broadly and boldly.  Don’t people ever realize when they’re this close to death?

But the books… well, they keep piling up, and up.  As the Preacher observes wryly in Ecclesiastes,  (that would be from the Judaic-Christian bible for those of you who forgot and remain disconnected) and I quote: “Of the making of many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”  Even then, thousands of years ago in what was practically prehistory, when they hadn’t even invented paper, someone was already in my predicament.  Faced with such impossible odds, it’s really no wonder people turn to God in despair.