Category Archives: Children

So, I’ve been Thinking


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

What was I thinking about?  First, the joke (it’s on Youtube if you want the “live” version).  An English fishing vessel is caught in a violent Channel storm.  The captain sends out an SOS:  Mayday, mayday, we’re sinking, we’re sinking!  He gets this very hesitant response:  “Zis is ze cherman coast gardt… vat are you sinkink about?”

Well, maybe I’m  thinking about sinking, or at least about that sinking feeling.  Are we sinking, I mean, as a society, and as a global civilization?  Is it game over for us?  Some will say we are, some will have noticed nothing unusual and some will admit to a rough patch and some hiccuping, and that leaves me exactly where I should be: to decide for myself what the “state of this world” is.

It’s bad, OK?  No point denying the obvious, it is a seriously bad patch we’re going through.

Are we sinking, going to the bottom, then?  I’d vote no.  I cannot imagine, or image, an end to mankind – not in the cards, you might say.  The casino will come crashing down and many a gambler will be crushed, or lose everything, but there are those left who didn’t play the game and never entered the casino.  Few they may be, but they still exist, however much the pimps and slavers of the Matrix, Status quo or “the System” have scoured the earth to round these few up.  Further to this, there are the gamblers who looked up in time and saw the cracks.  They collected their earnings, swallowed their losses, cashed in their chips and got the hell out of Dodge.

The thing is, it’s hard to separate a terrible die-back and the collapse of civilization from a total apocalypse.  To imagine, say, the extinction of some five and a half billion people over a period of a couple of hundred years.  Horrible?  Disastrous?  Scary?  Indeed, and certainly enough to believe it isn’t going to stop until all are dead and the earth lies a desert waste, it’s waters a dead stinking miasma of spreading diseases.  Those who remain alive will feel the strangling effect of the “great terror” and live in dread.  Some will invoke God and some will imagine alien rescues and some will just go through the motions of staying alive and if they still can bear children and have them will try to keep them alive, no matter what shape they are in.

That’s the nature of Earthian people.  Those who survive are the survivors and what they will then have programmed into their immune system, and what will be on their mind, that will be what they will rebuild with.  They will be your progeny.  When it thinks about you it will always be as a curse.  In their minds they will cast this generation to the deepest pits of the deepest hell.

There are many ways to look at man’s future: endless possibilities, endless directions it can go.  I like to work on the logic of it.  I look at population charts and the effects such populations have on the natural environment.  I look at the accelerating demise of non-human species, whether avian, mammalian, insect, aquatic, flora, and for each extinct species I deduct from human recovery.  I look at the spread of technology world-wide and attendant eco-damage, including climate change.  I don’t engage the smaller effects of, say, Tesla technology and “organic” or “vertical” farming.  I try to stay with the bigger picture.  I don’t see these “changes” having much of any effect in a timely manner to prevent a major catastrophe.  The main problem with “positive” technology is it puts people to sleep; makes them believe they can continue to increase population and consumption with decreasing environmental consequences.  Deadly assumption in a finite environment.

I also look at greater social developments such as resource wars leading to destabilization of ethnic communities and destruction of older ways of life.  I look at the destruction of cities and histories: the “dummying down process” and of course, the increase in dispossession and in refugees.  Then I look at how wars, civil wars, revolutions and genocides are funded, by whom, and why.  I watch the blood flow and those who once had hands covered in the blood of innocents now have their entire bodies awash in the stuff.  Then I listen to comments by those who remain essentially affluent and recipients of those “good things” which their leaders and rulers extort from dispossession, slave labour, oppression and bloodshed.

The comments, for the most part, aren’t in the least understanding, or compassionate.  There is little enough effort expended in reaching deep into the pain and suffering one lifestyle inflicts on another – and how could there be?  Earth people know little or nothing of compassionate interaction since such would require living in the nightmare of empathy.  If you are one of those rare ones living in it, you know what I mean by nightmare.  If you are not, you can’t understand what I mean, even if you try.

As a people, as a species, Earthians will not choose to become compassionate beings.  To do so would mean changing everything they believe about themselves, their species, and its interaction with the rest of their world.  I said everything, and I mean everything.  Nothing of the old would remain.  That will not happen, not on any scale needed to prevent catastrophe.

So we’ve finally reached our physical and mental evolutionary crossroads.  Yet a vast majority refuses to recognize the landmarks; others will believe they’ve never been here before and no one can know what it means.  Of course.  If there is one thing Earthians can be known for it’s their amazing ability to live in denial and defend the indefensible.

What we should be asking:  what did we use to get here?  Was it virtue, or vice?  The truth now.  What was the number one motivator of civilization that has brought it to this crossroad from which there is no turning back and from which any choice (but one unthinkable) can only lead to disaster?

Be certain that whatever “force” we used to get here will be the very same “force” we will rely on to push us down the path of our next choice.  This means we will use more of same and experience more of same though knowing it is unsustainable.  Any choice we make won’t really be a choice but a continuation of our tried and failed methods of propulsion into the future.  It’s what we are and we will continue to do what we have always done, with little sparks of resistance here and there, and some lofty rhetoric over the Internet to blind us to the real facts.

We will hear of organic, sustainable cooperative communities… and there will be some, of course.   We will hear of rich people donating food and housing to certain groups of victims of climate change and we will say, wow, they can do it, and not ask how these people got rich in the first place – because that would spoil the “feel good” moment.  More and more people will turn vegan, and even if we still insist on eating meat or using animal products, we will still take some credit and feel good about this “movement” and absolve ourselves because our doctor said our body needs the meat.  Not our fault, you see.  Plus, we recycle, we do our bit.  What the hell, “Not Our Fault” for any of the negative stuff.  Plenty of others to blame for the really bad stuff.

The “Not Our Fault” slogan will continue to rule, past the crossroads, past the turning point.  We will ride that toboggan to the bottom of the hill and then discover that those who maintained that once we got to the bottom there’d be no way back up were right.  There is no way back up.  What we left up there is forever gone and now we must walk away with whatever we have… into the future, into whatever it has left to offer.  For most, for billions, that will be death: by disease; by famine; by war; by genocide; by drowning and by burning.

As we lay dying, we’ll remember our stand-by mantra: it wasn’t our fault.  It wasn’t me.  It was them.  They did it.  Indeed, why should one individual take responsibility for what the collective did?  Yes, but isn’t a collective made up of individuals?  And am I one of such individuals?  If I am, how can I not be equally responsible?  How can I blame “others” and absolve myself?

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Eduardo Galeano, Monster Wanted (a Tomgram article)

The following is a copied article from Tomgram (see links), there being no “reblog” button on that site.  It is an introduction to a book that sounds very intriguing.  ~Sha’Tara~

Tomgram: Eduardo Galeano, Monster Wanted
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you’ve never read a book by Eduardo Galeano, believe me, your life has been lacking. Read his first book, read his last book, read something he wrote anyway. I offer you the Engelhardt guarantee: you won’t regret it. Start, if you wish, with his final volume, Hunter of Stories, featured in today’s post and then work your way back through a writer to remember.  Tom]

I’m 73, which means that saying goodbye for the last time is increasingly a part of my life.  Today, with the deepest regret, I’m bidding a final farewell at TomDispatch to one of the more remarkable writers I’ve known, Eduardo Galeano. I initially got involved with him in the early 1980s. I was a young editor at Pantheon Books and, on some strange impulse, decided to publish Genesis, the first volume of his Memory of Fire trilogy, based on no more than a few sample passages translated by the remarkable Cedric Belfrage. Call it intuition when it came to a book that had already been rejected by a number of U.S. publishers. (Admittedly, at the time I proudly thought of myself as the “editor of last resort” in New York publishing.) That modest decision launched me on the print journey of a lifetime.

This was back in the days many of you won’t remember when a book was translated and edited, often over long distances, without benefit of the Internet or email.  Belfrage had been exiled to Mexico during the McCarthy years, so he and I worked together in the old-fashioned way: by mail. (I wouldn’t meet him until years later: a little grey-haired gent with a cane who — I was still young enough to be staggered by the thought — had covered Hollywood for the British press in the silent film era.) It took forever to produce Genesis, though the process had a certain beauty to it. That first volume came out to modest attention and reviews, but its life and influence and that of the whole Memory of Fire trilogy would continue to grow in a way that only books could in those years and perhaps even in these. Eduardo was the most dramatic and beautiful of writers and he caught history — the history of these continents and of so many of the half-forgotten figures who struggled for what truly mattered — in a unique fashion, often in little passages of hardly a page or more. (I can still remember reading some of the more wonderful of them to my children as they were growing up.) I once wrote of him, “You somehow take our embattled world and tell its many stories in ways no one else can.” How true.

It took me years to meet Eduardo, since I travel nowhere, though he voyaged endlessly. (A friend of his once told him, “If it’s true what they say about the road being made by walking, you must be the commissioner of public works.”) Never have I met a man of more charisma who seemed less aware of it. Being with him was an experience because people regularly approached him to tell stories about their lives that were… well, there’s only one word for it: Galeano-esque. I saw it happen.

I’ve featured his work many times at this site, always with the deepest pleasure. This, I suspect, is the last time for both of us. The passages below are from his final, touching volume published by Nation Books, Hunter of Stories. And so, let me take this opportunity, one last time, to say goodbye, Eduardo, and thank you for everything, especially for the worlds you captured forever in words. Tom

A Visit to Heaven and Hell
Mapping Planet Earth
By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Hunter of Stories, the last book by Eduardo Galeano, who died in 2015.  Thanks for its use go to his literary agent, Susan Bergholz, and Nation Books, which is publishing it next week.]

Free

By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.

Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.

Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.

Shipwrecked

The world is on the move.

On board are more shipwrecked souls than successful seafarers.

Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood.

The illusions of any who manage to arrive do not last long.

Monster Wanted

Saint Columba was rowing across Loch Ness when an immense serpent with a gaping mouth attacked his boat. Saint Columba, who had no desire to be eaten, chased it off by making the sign of the cross.

Fourteen centuries later, the monster was seen again by someone living nearby, who happened to have a camera around his neck, and pictures of it and of curious footprints came out in the Glasgow and London papers.

The creature turned out to be a toy, the footprints made by baby hippopotamus feet, which are sold as ashtrays.

The revelation did nothing to discourage the tourists.

The market for fear feeds on the steady demand for monsters.

Foreigner

In a community newspaper in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, an anonymous hand wrote:

Your god is Jewish, your music is African, your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your gas is Algerian, your coffee is Brazilian, your democracy is Greek, your numbers are Arabic, your letters are Latin.

I am your neighbor. And you call me a foreigner?

The Terrorizer

Back in the years 1975 and 1976, before and after the coup d’état that imposed the most savage of Argentina’s many military dictatorships, death threats flew fast and furious and anyone suspected of the crime of thinking simply disappeared.

Orlando Rojas, a Paraguayan exile, answered his telephone in Buenos Aires. Every day a voice repeated the same thing: “I’m calling to tell you you’re going to die.”

So you aren’t?” Orlando asked.

The terrorizer would hang up.

A Visit to Hell

Some years ago, during one of my deaths, I paid a visit to hell.

I had heard that in the underworld you can get your favorite wine and any delicacy you want, lovers for all tastes, dancing music, endless pleasure…

Once again, I was able to corroborate the fact that advertising lies. Hell promises a great life, but all I found were people waiting in line.

In that endless queue, snaking out of sight along narrow smoky passages, were women and men of all epochs, from cavemen to astronauts.

All were condemned to wait. To wait for eternity.

That’s what I discovered: hell is waiting.

Prophecies

Who was it that a century ago best described today’s global power structure?

Not a philosopher, not a sociologist, not a political scientist either.

It was a child named Little Nemo, whose adventures were published in the New York Herald way back in 1905, as drawn by Winsor McCay.

Little Nemo dreamed about the future.

In one of his most unerring dreams, he traveled to Mars.

That unfortunate planet was in the hands of a businessman who had crushed his competitors and exercised an absolute monopoly.

The Martians seemed stupid, because they said little and breathed little.

Little Nemo knew why: the boss of Mars had seized ownership of words and the air.

They were the keys to life, the sources of power.

Very Brief Synthesis of Contemporary History

For several centuries subjects have donned the garb of citizens, and monarchies have preferred to call themselves republics.

Local dictatorships, claiming to be democracies, open their doors to the steamroller of the global market. In this kingdom of the free, we are all united as one. But are we one, or are we no one? Buyers or bought? Sellers or sold? Spies or spied upon?

We live imprisoned behind invisible bars, betrayed by machines that feign obedience but spread lies with cybernetic impunity.

Machines rule in homes, factories, offices, farms, and mines, and also on city streets, where we pedestrians are but a nuisance. Machines also rule in wars, where they do as much of the killing as warriors in uniform, or more.

The Right to Plunder

In the year 2003, a veteran Iraqi journalist named Samir visited several museums in Europe.

He found marvelous texts in Babylonian, heroes and gods sculpted in the hills of Nineveh, winged lions that had flown in Assyria…

Someone approached him, offered to help: “Shall I call a doctor?”

Squatting, Samir buried his face in his hands and swallowed his tears.

He mumbled, “No, please. I’m all right.”

Later on, he explained: “It hurts to see how much they have stolen and to know how much they will steal.”

Two months later, U.S. troops launched their invasion. The National Museum in Baghdad was sacked. One hundred seventy thousand works were reported lost.

Stories Tell the Tale

I wrote Soccer in Sun and Shadow to convert the pagans. I wanted to help fans of reading lose their fear of soccer, and fans of soccer lose their fear of books. I never imagined anything else.

But according to Víctor Quintana, a congressman in Mexico, the book saved his life. In the middle of 1997, he was kidnapped by professional assassins, hired to punish him for exposing dirty deals.

They had him tied up, face down on the ground, and were kicking him to death, when there was a pause before the final bullet. The murderers got caught up in an argument about soccer. That was when Víctor, more dead than alive, put in his two cents. He began telling stories from my book, trading minutes of life for every story from those pages, the way Scheherazade traded a story for every one of her thousand-and-one nights.

Hours and stories slowly unfolded.

At last the murderers left him, tied up and trampled, but alive.

They said, “You’re a good guy,” and they took their bullets elsewhere.

***

Quite a few years ago now, during my time in exile on the coast of Catalonia, I got an encouraging nudge from a girl eight or nine years old, who, unless I’m remembering wrong, was named Soledad.

I was having a few drinks with her parents, also exiles, when she called me over and asked,

So, what do you do?”

Me? I write books.”

You write books?”

Well… yes.”

I don’t like books,” she declared.

And since she had me against the ropes, she hit me again: “Books sit still. I like songs because songs fly.”

Ever since my encounter with that angel sent by God, I have attempted to sing. It’s never worked, not even in the shower. Every time, the neighbors scream, “Get that dog to stop barking!”

***

My granddaughter Catalina was ten.

We were walking along a street in Buenos Aires when someone came up and asked me to sign a book. I can’t remember which one.

We continued on, the two of us, quietly arm in arm, until Catalina shook her head and offered this encouraging remark: “I don’t know why they make such a fuss. Not even I read you.”

Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) was one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers.  He was the author of many books, including the three-volume Memory of Fire, Open Veins of Latin America, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, and The Book of Embraces.  Born in Montevideo in 1940, he lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for 12 years before returning to Uruguay in 1985, where he spent the rest of his life.  The passages in this post are excerpted from his final book, Hunter of Stories, translated by Mark Fried and about to be published by Nation Books.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Excerpted from Hunter of Stories. Copyright © 2017 by Eduardo Galeano. English translation copyright © 2017 by Mark Fried. Available from Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, Lamy, N.M., and New York City. All rights reserved.

Growing Increasingly Dissatisfied

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

Of late I have tried to be more open, more honest, nor only with those around me, but particularly with myself.  Less hiding of unpleasant awareness (I dare not call it facts), however annoying that might be.  It remains true, of course, that I am profoundly dissatisfied with life as I find it, or as it has found me and insisted on being my constant companion.  Whatever some people may say, and people do say many things, most of which are more the effluent of emotions than truly thought out philosophy, life on earth is not beautiful.  It isn’t wonderful.  It isn’t pretty or sweet smelling or amazing.  It certainly is not safe, nor is it predictable.  It’s neither caring nor loving.  I’d go so far as to say that earth life “is” and that’s about it.

I observe. That’s the first problem.  I think about what I observe: problem number two.  My mind’s the mind of a fixer and that is definitely problem number three.  All of my adult life has been one of observation, analysis, reaching conclusions about this world’s mega problems (obvious to those who observe and who go so far as trying to understand what they are observing) and going about finding solutions to those problems.  In this process I’ve done a lot of crazy things, not all of them “wise” in retrospect, but the consolation is that at least I was trying to do something positive.  However tempted, I never blew up anything, or shot anybody, and yes, in small ways I have to admit to myself that once in a while I did make someone’s life better with my meddling.

That being said, I repeat, I’m increasingly dissatisfied with it all.  This world, ladies and gentlemen (and anyone else in between, or crosswise) is a mess.  It’s the kind of mess that spreads, like a disease, which it really it.  It is the kind of mess that hurts people, many of those in extremely serious ways.  It is the kind of mess that steals people’s right to a decent life, and often takes their very life.

I could look at that as so many do and think, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  How about this great Americanism: shit happens.  Life explained in two words that need no translation or explanation.  Once that wonderful two-word philosophy has been expressed, the next logical step is, “Don’t worry, be happy.”  Sure, be happy.  Why not, if nothing can be done about the state of the world?

Here’s a wonderful quote:

Imagine if suffering were real.
Imagine if those old people were afraid of death.
What if the midget or the girl with one arm
really felt pain?  Imagine how impossible it would be
to live if some people were
alone and afraid all their lives. 
— Jack Gilbert, “Games”

Don’t let the sarcasm pass you by… hold on to it for a few moments of deeper thoughts.  Imagine, for one moment, if all that pain deliberately manufactured on this world… was real.  If children were molested, or slaughtered, mass-murdered in resource wars.  Imagine if women actually didn’t enjoy being sex objects, or being subjected to rape.  Imagine if being a war refugee wasn’t as romantic as you thought it would be.  Imagine if having your home bombed, or burned down, actually was a problem.  Imagine if having nothing to eat, and no water to drink was more than just a bit of an inconvenience.

Jack Gilbert says, “Imagine how impossible it would be to live” … and I paraphrase: if we had to endure what all these other people are enduring.  Let me add this: imagine further how even more impossible it would be if we realized we were the cause of this suffering?

Being an empath on this world is a terrible curse.  Imagine having to feel what other people feel, and not having the choice of feelings, whether they are experiencing torture, or the pleasure of an orgasm.  That is the lowest form of hell, so when some spirit agent or angel or divine presence offers you this gift, let me warn you: think long and hard before you say, “yes.”

I’m now going to take you to a different world; a world inhabited only by empaths.  It is not a very crowded world because these people need their space and they know how to keep it.  Nevertheless we’re speaking here of several millions scattered over a world maybe half the size of earth. These empaths are also telepathic and their lifestyles are ‘in tune’ with their natural environment so they need very little technology to live the kind of lives any of us would envy.

I asked one of the residents from that world what happens there when there is violence; when someone is killed in a fight, for example.  How does the justice system function?  There was a long moment of silence, then the woman I was speaking to answered.

“Your question has no legitimacy on our world.  May as well ask, what do you do when blue turns red?  There is no violence on our world.  We have no crime.  There are no predators.  Nothing is ever taken for all is freely offered.  We have no government for we have no such need.  We have no religion, nor money for the same reason.  No one is ever forced to do anything against their will; no one ever imposes any belief system upon another though all are free to believe whatever they desire; whatever helps them develop their personal awareness of life.”

I insisted on pushing the point further.  “What would happen, say, if a child died in an accident, perhaps a drowning, or from choking and no one was there to help?”

“Apart from the fact that such a scenario could never happen because we are empaths and telepaths from the time we are born, I can tell you what would happen.  The entire world – millions of individuals, not only of humans, but animals, birds, all sentient life – would come to a shocked stand still.  The enormity of the “crime” would be felt by all and nothing would proceed until the reasons for such a terrible tragedy taking place were understood. 

“Then the entire world would mourn deeply. 

“Then the entire world would come together to develop some way to prevent such a terrible thing from happening ever again. 

“But remember, this is taking me back many millennia, to the beginnings of our empathetic and telepathic civilization, a civilization that gives equality to all sentient life and that respects and honours all of life.

“As embodied entities we are not free of needs.  We do consume plants; we drink the water and we breathe the air.  We have various types of shelters for those seasons when it is necessary to allow the weather to get colder, or wetter so as to balance and replenish the environment.  None of that, however, is done without awareness of the energy flow between all of us, by which I mean sentients, plus the air, water, plants and soil.  We are “us” – nothing is excluded from our awareness.  A mountain; a flower, exists in my thoughts with the same intensity or “value” as my own child.”

That conversation took place a long time ago.  In the intervening years I’ve compared the performance of Earthians (who claim to be human) with what the Altarians (Yes, the world I was writing about is called Altaria) have managed to accomplish through a reasonable observation of what works, and what can never work, rejecting what they observed had never worked and would never work.  They didn’t change their environment, they changed themselves.  They rejected the selfish nature by developing two hidden senses that all pseudo-humans possess: empathy and telepathy.

Earthians’ great failing (they have many!) is their obdurate choice of solutions to societal problems that can only make those problems worse.  Tied in to this failing is to insist on regurgitating “solutions” that have been tried countless times, and failed abysmally in equal measure and equal number of times.  That is not a sign of intelligence, quite the opposite.

Speaking of telepathy, man’s technology is in the process of forcing this upon the population of earth.  It won’t be a gentle, open, joyful sharing of a people’s deepest thoughts, hopes and longings though.  It will be an extraction of information.  The information, by itself is pointless and meaningless, but that’s not the point of the surveillance police state.  The point is to rape the mind.  Do “they” give a damn whether you prefer to poison yourself at McDonalds rather than Burger King?  That you support “the Broncos” rather than “The Colts” or whether you’re homosexual rather than hetero?  That you pray to Allah and not Jehovah?  No, of course not, but they will make you think that because it creates fear and anger.  Fear and anger lead to endless anti-life aberrations; to violence, pain and death.  Why would the Status Quo want that?  Because that is how it manufactures power over life.

Yes, I long for my “transition” from earth to Altaria.  I’ve been working diligently to qualify as a novice and trainee in compassion, empathy and telepathy on my chosen next world for many years now.  I regret none of the time spent developing a mind that can understand and live on such a world.

The downside has been a gradual “separation” from the accepted, and acceptable; for my part, a pain-filled growing awareness of all the horrible crimes committed daily, mostly unawares, by people without feelings for those (human, animal, etc) they use, abuse and whose lives they destroy without any qualm, guilt or even a passing thought. 

“Pass me those wings, will ya?” 

“Git ‘er Dead” A sticker on the back of a  pickup canopy advertising a type of bullet accompanied by the picture of a dead buck lying on the ground. 

Cheering when more “boots on the ground” are sent by the President to some country the cheerers couldn’t find on a map. 

By what right?  By all those “rights” that are destroying this civilization day in, day out and none the wiser.

I’ll tell you this: there is but one weapon of mass destruction on this world: it’s its pretend humanity; every single one a weapon aimed at every other and the world they exist on without ever bothering to develop a life purpose.  Aye, there’s the rub: no real purpose but to exist and die.

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is my “close.” You may retire for your verdict but regardless of what you decide, I already know what will be the outcome.

Benny

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Benny sat by the river that flowed past the house, just beyond the back yard.  He was tossing small twigs in the water, watching them float away and he was trying to remember so he’d know who he was.  

His memories were all a jumble in his head and they usually frightened him.  He thought he remembered a couple, a man and a woman who were very loud and made him scream.  He remembered hurting and feeling guilty for that.  Then the woman would hurt him more but he never understood why.  He remembered being cold, dirty and hungry.

One day when he was alone in the yard and crying, hurting and hungry, a nice smelling woman came to him and picked him up.  She took him away from the bad people and he never saw them again.  Then an old man came to see him where he played with other children.  The old man took him away from there to a house that had trees around it, green grass, and at the back of the house, water flowed.  The old man would hold his hand and let him lean over the water.  Leaves and twigs floated on the water and down below the rocks shimmered and danced, changing colours.

Benny liked it with the old man.  He grew up and the old man said he was his maternal grandfather.  He explained about his daughter, who was Benny’s mother, how she was addicted to drugs and drank and how she liked running around with bad men.  One of those men was his father.  He explained that it was that man who had hurt him and that he was in prison.  Benny tried to understand all that when he got older but he liked the water better.

The old man, his grandfather whom he learned to call “granpa” taught him about the water.  “It’s called a river” he’d say, “it is very pretty but it is also very dangerous.  Even for a good swimmer, it’s a fast running stream and a person can easily drown in it, do you understand that?”

Benny had learned when only a baby to agree, no matter what was asked; to do what he was told or there would be consequences.  “I understand granpa,” he dutifully replied. 

But the water was more alive than anything else had ever been for Benny.  It would sing to him in a language he could understand.  It didn’t scare him like people did, or make terrible noises like street traffic.  It never hurt him and it was even more gentle than granpa.  If he felt thirsty, there was a log that dropped down into the water.  He could carefully walk down to the water, then scoop the cold water into his mouth.  It was so easy and simple, he’d laugh whenever he did this.

There were very large trees that grew by the river’s banks that bent their heavy, luxuriant tops over the water and swayed in the wind.  During the warm seasons the leaves would come, then slowly at first, when still green, they would fall in the water and speed away.  Benny liked looking up into the green canopies waiting for a leaf to get tired of hanging on to its branch, let go, and flutter down to the water to be swept away.  Later, as the leaves changed from green to brown, yellow or even red and green, more and more of them would fall away from the branches and float down to the water to also be swept away.  If a strong wind came up there would be cascades of leaves falling, covering the ground and the top of the water.  That thrilled Benny as he stood under the falling leaves with outstretched hands. 

Some days when he was really happy, Benny imagined himself a leaf floating down to the water and being swept away.  He knew granpa meant well to warn him about the water but if the leaves weren’t afraid, why should he?  He though of asking granpa, but that would be like disobeying and Benny remembered what that meant.  He felt the deep fear of the pain he had been given when disobeying the man and woman who were his parents.  If he questioned granpa, he knew he would be beaten and locked up and made to go cold and hungry.  I mustn’t say anything, but if I float away then no one will hurt me.

A leaf fluttered down noisily, landing for a moment at Benny’s foot then sliding down into the water to spin away.  Benny followed the leaf and the river took him away. 

Quotes to Live by (from a friend)

Maybe the reason nothing seems to be ‘fixing you’
is because you’re not broken.
Let today be the day
you stop living within the confines
of how others define or judge you.
You have a unique beauty and purpose; live accordingly.”
~ Steve Maraboli

“Don’t be pushed by your problems,
be led by your dreams.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Stay committed to your decisions,
but stay flexible in your approach.”
~ Tom Robbins

“When you forgive,
you in no way change the past
but you sure do change the future.”
~  Bernard Meltzer

“The power of the people is greater
than the people in power.”
~ Cory Booker

“Work for a cause, not for applause.
Live your life to express, not to impress,
don’t strive to make your presence noticed,
just make your absence felt.”
~ Author Unknown

“Let go of the idea of winning or losing.
In the game of life,
the most important thing
is just showing up and doing your best.”
~ Domonique Bertolucci

“Don’t give up now.
Chances are, 
your best kiss,
your hardest laugh,
and your greatest day
are still yet to come.”
~ Author Unkown

“I cannot let the fear of the past color the future.”
~ Julie Kagawa

“Everyone is different and everyone has a talent.
And if we put all those talents together,
it can make something
that no one’s ever thought of before.”
~ Sasha Etheredge

“I don’t really mind being
a “tree hugger”.
Trees give us oxygen,
and that might actually warrant a hug,
or even two.”
~ Jerrell Goodpaster

“Don’t become preoccupied with
your child’s academic ability.
But instead,
Teach them to sit with those sitting alone.
Teach them to be kind.
Teach them to offer help.
Teach them to be a friend to the lonely.
Teach them to encourage others.
Teach them to think about other people.
Teach them to share.
Teach them to look for the good.
This is how they will change the world.”
~ Author Unknown

 

The Times After (conclusion)

   [Short story, by Sha’Tara]

For some time, Lon watched Reuben as he disappeared, then a cry from the orphanage made him turn and run to the ramshackle building.  Two of the adults were already there, calming the children and bending over one three year old lying on the ground, the little body thrashing, if feebly.  Sweet little Amri.

“What’s wrong with her, does anyone know?”

“Maybe something she ate.  The children are chewing on anything they can eat.  They’re all in terrible pain, Lon.

“I know, Maggie.  I agree, we need to move, no more delays.  We’ll get started right now, pack what we can, hide what we can’t carry and go.”

“Where?”

“Ruben said he’d go north if he was free to do so.  He walked west when he left, but you know Ruben – he’d do that automatically just to confuse anyone wanted to follow or track him.  I know he’d turn as soon as he was out of sight, but which way?  I wish now we’d gone with him.  We’ll have a quick meeting in about an hour and decide our direction, then we’ll just go.  We cannot stay here, there’s nothing left to eat, and the water is no longer safe to drink.”

Soon the miserable camp was stripped and obliterated of recent human habitation as much as was possible.  The children were lined up and given a rope to hang on to.  The meeting was short: they would go east; no reason why except a secret vote turned up a majority of two for an eastern direction. 

Lon was bitterly disappointed, he’d hoped they would try to follow Ruben, though he well knew that was impossible.  He left his message for Ruben and they began their danger-fraught quest for food and water.  Already Lon had violated one of Ruben’s warnings, to only travel at night.  Adults took turns carrying little Amri and the weaker children.  The rest of the children began to lose some of their listlessness as they noticed changes along the route.

Evening saw the group drop down into a small gully, to hide and for protection.  Kamal, one of the strongest adults, went off in search of water which against so many odds, he did find.  Everybody searched for edible plants and roots and some of the hunger was assuaged for a time.  Night came and the small fire was doused so it wouldn’t create a glow.  The people slept on the ground, in their old rags.  Dried grasses had been stacked to lay little Amri and two other sickly children upon and each had an adult companion to keep them cuddled and reassured.  The stars came out, harsh and bright, flickering like cold, unseeing eyes.  Unable to help himself, Lon who was one of the sentry detail, walked a short distance away from the fitful and fretting sleepers and looked into the sky, turning slowly as he did so. 

“Where are you Ana?” he thought to himself.  “You promised and you must know we are in dire straights now.  We need your help; I need you here.  Don’t let Ruben be right about this.  I’m desperately counting on you.  You know I’m a terrible leader and here I am, leader by default.  This is too much responsibility…”

Morning came early, gray and cold before the sun could rise.  The hungry troop stood up, drank some water, and took to the land again, walking in the general direction of the sunrise.  Everybody, even the children, walked slower, looking for plants and roots to eat.  Hopelessness more than sadness pervaded the group.  Who could blame them? 

Finally the sun was high enough to beam down some energy into their wasted bodies.  Laughter even erupted from some children as they noticed a butterfly.

“Follow it,” said one of the women, “it may lead us to some edible flowers, or even berries.”  There was a bit of a chase, but the children were cautioned not to interfere with the insect’s path.  Suddenly it rose up and they thought they’d lost it but it came down again to disappear behind a dip in the flat ground.  They came to the edge and looked down upon a miracle, a regular feast.  An entire embankment was covered in blackberries, more or less ripe. 

Lon cautioned his charges: “I know you are very hungry but these plants will hurt you terribly if you wander in them carelessly.  We have nothing to bind rips and tears in skin.  Please use extreme caution.  Do not be in any hurry, we will camp here.  There are many green things here, there must be water also.”

Kamal went out on water detail again, he seemed to have a knack for finding it, and he did find potable water – warm but quenching nevertheless.  The blackberries did not give up their bounty without bloodshed but they proved adequate to ease the group’s hunger.  That was a good ending to what had started as a very dismal day.

That night Lon had a dream.

It wasn’t Ana who came to him in the dream, but his older sister whom he had watched being gang-raped and die in one of the hunters’ camps.  She stood on the open ground, away from the camp.  He walked over to her. 

“Hello Lon, it’s nice to see you again.  I’ve missed you terribly.  I’m sorry I abandoned you in the camp but my body wouldn’t hold on any longer.  I knew you had survived and escaped.  How are you?” 

“I’m so glad to see you Nan, you have no idea.  I’m OK, but we’re in a very precarious situation here, the people I mean.  We need help.  The children are weakening; some are sick.”

“I know that, but things must take their course, Lon.  In a way it’s your own fault that things are this bad.”

“How can you say that, Nan?  How dare you!  I’ve done everything I could to help here…”

“From your point of view, yes, but did you listen to those who may have known more?  Did you listen to Ruben, or were you so worried about his wild streak, his atavism, that you refused to trust his better survivalist judgment?  Didn’t he counsel to take the group away several months ago when the drought started?  Didn’t you think he’d know where to take you all if you followed him?  Did you think that he was trying to gain control of the group and were jealous of him?  Weren’t you afraid he would break your rules when he deemed necessary to save lives?   I know you Lon.  You mean well, but you have never really mined those deeper aspects of your nature: the fearful, the coward and the user – those aspects of one’s personality that become the controller; which reside in your subconscious.  It’s those things that killed Ana, and have brought you to these straights.”

“What do you know of Ruben, or Ana?  How can you possibly know what’s in my subconscious?  How can you know anything if you accuse me of killing Ana?  I loved her!”

“Of course you did.  You never realized you loved her too much under the circumstances, and you strangled her.  She didn’t know because in her own way she loved you too, but you choked her those many times when you insisted she come away from her duties to be with you.  She was conflicted; didn’t know where to stand between your demands, and the needs of the people.  Oh yes, you killed her.  She was an empath, Lon.  If you had allowed her full freedom to live her nature she’d still be here, with all of you, and she’d be laughing with you tonight.”

“It’s a dream, just a dream,” said Lon in the dream, “isn’t it?”

“If you want, but it is much more than a dream.  I’m here to help, Lon, but you must do as I tell you – exactly as I tell you – when you wake up into your real world.  You will abandon any idea of leading this little group.  Someone much more suitable is going to appear during the coming day.  Your hopes for the group will be fulfilled, but not the way you hoped they would be.  When help arrives, this is what you must do: walk away north, into the wilderness, by yourself.  Do not turn back, do not come back.  Your own redemption or your death, await in the young re-grown northern forests.  You will meet some people there and they will teach you about real love which is compassion.  I will see you again, Lon.  Goodbye.”

He watched her fade in the pale moonlight and woke up drenched in sweat.  Immediately he began to shake violently.  He got up, stretched and went on a short run to warm up, all the while thinking about his dream.

“That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare!”  he thought.  Then he saw the possibility that it had been a vision.  “Morning will tell, tomorrow will tell.  I’ll wait until help arrives, I’ll see.”

Strange times call for strange events.  By the middle of the next day, as most of the people were busy gathering berries, eating, hauling water or keeping the children in line, the very first event of Lon’s dream came to pass: Ruben returned from his quest.  He approved of the stopping place with a few nods.  Always somewhat taciturn, he was even quieter than usual.  Lon queried him.

“What brings you back so soon, and how did you find us?”  Ruben frowned, then started talking:

“A blind man could have tracked your group Lon.  Haven’t I taught you anything at all about being circumspect?  What’s all around you, any idea?  What lurks out there?  What’s watching?  What’s scenting the air?  What’s listening?  Anyway, I saw your sign, and read your message at the old camp.  Also, I smelled your smoke – it travels a long way in this light breeze.  But that’s no longer your concern.  I’m taking over guiding this little group, for however long it takes before we get the help we were promised.”

“Say that again?  The help we were promised?  What do you mean by that?”

“I had a vision.  Saw a woman who claimed she was your sister.  She said that Ana had sent her.  She explained about your, well, character defects.  I already knew that, it’s partly why I had to leave, see?  Anyway the vision woman asked me to return to the group and be the guide until Ana and her people are ready and able to rescue and relocate those of the group who want it.  She said they’d all been waiting for you but you wouldn’t see it, so they decided to violate a bit of “prime directive” by contacting me.

You know me Lon.  You know I would not make this up – I don’t believe in any of this.  Somehow though, that woman, your sister, was very convincing. 

“Now you have to go.  Sorry, but it’s got to be short goodbyes.  Take whatever you want, or think you might need and head north.  She said Ana will meet with you when you’ve been gone long enough.  North, Lon, north.  It’s all waiting for your there.   Once my stint here is done, I’ll be tracking up myself – I won’t be going with Ana’s people, even if they’re only relocating the people to another part of this earth.  This, this land, this continent, is my world.  I belong here.

“I still don’t believe this, but irrational as it all is, I understand.  It’s not about belief, it’s the flow, just as in the wild.  All anyone needs to do is walk in the great flow of things.  The only time we must struggle is in opposition to those who do not walk in the flow of life.  That’s what gives rise to endless conflict.  I sensed your need to impose change and values.  You can’t wish, desire or impose non-violence anymore than you can stop a meat grinder by sticking your fingers in it, Lon. 

“I know this is harsh for you at the moment; you’re hurt and angry, but  you’ll learn.  The loneliness and the wild will teach you; the north, with its cold and its pristine snows will cleanse you and change you.  If you’re worried about food or shelter, observe the animals and the birds and learn: they’re the best teachers in the wild.  I’ll see you again, in the spring.”    

     

The Times After

[Short story, by Sha’Tara]

The voices came from the branch and stone shelter partially sunk in a sloping dry creek bank.  Two men talked quietly.

“They’re coming, Ruben, I know it.  Just be patient, remember.”

“Not sure I can continue to remember, Lon, and I’m definitely out of patience.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way, or this long.  I was down at the orphanage yesterday with a handful of what were little more than weeds I’d picked over my usual wandering in search of edibles.  The children are starving Lon.  Don’t you care?  If this drought doesn’t break and water start flowing very soon we won’t even have water to drink. 

I’ve wandered over the flats as you know, looking for another more suitable place to make our winter quarters.  I haven’t found anything yet.  I’ve decided to leave and go away in search of a new place.  I may be gone for weeks, maybe a couple of months.  I’ll need to take the rifle, Lon.  I’ve also made myself a good strong longbow and a dozen straight arrows I can use to bring down game, or for self defense.  I’ll return, never fear.”

“Now there’s the problem right here Ruben.  When we came together after the last collapse and our escape from the slave hunters, we gathered as a group to help each other survive and to take care of the twenty eight children we rescued from the hunters, remember that.  We still have twenty three of these children living, none old enough to do much, certainly few strong enough to join the adults in the gathering of food and building shelters or collecting wood for fuel.  That, I do admit.  The nine adults of this community are, however, fairly healthy and are learning the arts of survival very quickly.  So far we have had no deserters or detractors.  Only one death.

“We are, as much as can be claimed, of one mind on our reason for surviving.  You remember when we decided not to commit mass suicide, but to build a new society, for the time being, of just us.  We don’t know what’s left out there.  We’ve been here over three years and I realize that with this drought we’ve exhausted the land’s capacity to grow food for us.  I know we need to find a more sheltered place and we need to locate near a permanent stream, or else find a river, or a large enough lake that it can purify itself with the change of seasons.  We’ve talked about all of this.  So in the going, I support you though I think you should take one other with you.”

“I won’t Lon.  I can’t be responsible for myself and one other and no one here can survive in the wilderness as I can, and I certainly won’t have the time to teach her, or him, skills and intuitions that one has to be born with.  As you’ve all said, I’m a throwback to a time before the collapse and before there was a civilized society of man.  As you know, I’m here to help and support.  If I had a free choice I’d be long gone.  I like living alone and moving on constantly.  My feet and my mind itch to be away from this stagnant, dying place.  I need to go.  I promise I’ll return.  I won’t get lost or die out there: that’s my home we’re looking at beyond that indeterminate horizon.”

“I know that about you Ruben.  Without you at the beginning we’d been all dead, or captured.  But there is something else.  Something that your atavism blocks from your consciousness: the matter of how we go about surviving.  I know you stayed out of the group when we discussed our goals as survivors.  But you did join us in taking an oath against predatory violence.  Violence in self defense we could only hope to avoid, but knew we may have to resort to it in an extremity.  That’s why we kept the gun and let you train some of the people with the bows and the knives.  But now you say you will go, take the gun to use to, and I quote, “bring down game. 

“You took the oath not to kill except in extreme situations.  Never for food.  We gave up the shedding of blood entirely.  Do you remember why?  We spent days discussing the subject of a new human civilization, a new society, a new culture.  We admitted to ourselves that our downfall had been our violence towards the planet, non-human sentient life on it and towards one-another as a species, often for nothing more than profit, too often in sadistic pleasure.  We concluded that re-building society was totally pointless if we did not change the very thing that destroyed us.  You were there, sitting behind the others listening.

“Convinced or not, you took the oath of non-violence.  When you use that horrible expression, “bring down game” the key word is game.  It was a game in the old ways.  Even war was a game.  Oppressing, subjugating, dispossessing, enslaving, raping and murdering, even to committing war crimes and genocide, that was all a game.  That game killed us, remember that.

“We took an oath, all of us adults, to change this.  We decided that we would indeed build a truly new society.  You remember Ana, small, wiry, tireless Ana who literally gave her life to save many of the abused and malnourished children, as well as binding wounds and broken bones among adult survivors.  She would never tell how she learned her skills, or gained her healing powers.  She wouldn’t talk about herself, instead leading us in meditations and encouraging us to take the oath of non-violence, to seek not only help and support, but make ourselves as one with the earth and the skies.  Remember how she would go into the open place where the sun and wind had parched our meager efforts at growing crops, and stand there for what seemed hours, staring into space?  Do you remember how she’d capture our interest talking about “her people” whom she would bring back to help us?  Oh, Ana… why is it taking you so long?  You’ve been gone almost a year now…”

“She didn’t “leave” Lon, she died.  She died!  Her body is buried out there with the dead children.  She didn’t go anywhere!  She isn’t coming back.  There never were any other people, whether angels or aliens or what-have-you.  She deliberately fooled you thinking it was for the best, that you would never give up as long as you held on to the hope that she would rescue you.  You need to believe it.  I don’t, and I never did.  What we don’t do ourselves doesn’t get done; will never get done.  It strikes me as somewhat contradictory that you would build a new world without violence yet surreptitiously you allow religion to creep back into it.  Don’t you realize that “Ana” is becoming an idol in your mind?  Don’t you remember that civilization’s very first poison was faith in unseen entities from which all the evils known to man evolved?”

“I know what you are saying, Ruben, but it’s different this time.  Ana isn’t an angel or divinity.  I know she died, how well do I know.  She was my wife, Ruben, and my lover.  Her death was the most painful event of my entire life, and believe me when I tell you that I have seen things when I was a child I could never write down in words – things too horrible… and felt the pain of it all, some of it upon my own body.  Yet they are as nothing to the void and emptiness Ana’s death created in my heart.  To survive her loss I swore to her privately that I would switch my love for her to my love for this world and in particular the people of this little tribe.  She also swore to me that she would return with help for us.  I will never give up on that.  Some people die, Ruben, and some just pass away.  Ana was one of the latter.  You give your whole life to others, and you are given your own life in return.  It’s how it is.”

“It’s how it is for you and I assure you that I fully accept that.  It isn’t how it is for me, and now I need to go find us a decent place to re-locate to.  How shall that go between us, Lon?”

“I am not your leader, Ruben.  I’ve reminded you of certain obligations and now it’s up to you how you proceed within those boundaries, or whether you break out of them and choose to become once again a wild one.  You leave with my blessing, however you leave.  The weapons are your decision and your personal burden.  Come with me, let me show you something important.”

The two men came out of the shelter and Lon walked to a clump of stunted black willows.  Partially hidden within the clump, nailed to one of the main trunks, was a short cross piece of wood that would, with a bit of pressure, spin vertically.

“This was how Ana and I communicated when we had to leave the area.  We would spin the cross piece to indicate direction – the top being north.  Below, here are three holes indicating morning, noon and evening.  You put a small stone in the one closest to when you expect to return.  Crude but useful.  If we are to be gone before you return I’ll attempt to leave you a decipherable message here.  If time permits; if it isn’t a rush exit, I’ll write something in the dirt floor of the old barn that serves as “the orphanage” and cover it with planks.  Look for the planks.”

The two men looked into each others’ faces, then hugged without hesitation.  Backing away from each other, Ruben added,

“If you must leave here before I return and your hoped-for help hasn’t arrived, remember this: travel at night, hide in the daytime; stay in the lowest places and post a minimum of three sentries at all times.  Rotate regularly, leave nothing to chance.  If I come back and you all are gone and I cannot catch up to you for whatever reason, don’t worry.  I’ll head north, far north.  It won’t matter then for me, I’ll have gone wild again.  Luck, Lon.” 

“The gun?”

“Won’t need it, you may.  I’ve got my bow and it’s a really good one.  Who knows but I may learn to eat plants and roots?”

He saluted smartly, then his silhouette shimmered away over the baked earth, his tough bare feet leaving no marks for anyone to find. 

{there will be a part II… honest!  I mean, there has to be now I typed myself into a corner with this one…}