Category Archives: cosmic awareness

Random thoughts, Frank Herbert Quotes, taken from the science fiction series based on the “Dune” novels.

Quote- prequel to Dune: The Swordmaster said solemnly, “Bushido. Where does honor begin? Ancient samurai masters hung mirrors in each of their Shinto temples and asked adherents to look deeply into them to see their own hearts, the variegated reflections of their God. It is in the heart where honor is nurtured and flourishes.” With a meaningful glance over at Trin Kronos and the other Grumman students, he continued. “Remember this always: Dishonor is like a gash on a tree trunk — instead of disappearing with age, it enlarges.”  He made the class repeat this three times before he went on. “The code of honor was more valuable to a samurai than any treasure. A samurai’s word — his bushi no ichi-gon — was never doubted, nor is the word of any Swordmaster of Ginaz.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

THOUGHT (from the above):  If you are not an honourable person yet insist on believing in God, then such a God is an evil construct of your own design.  Honour above all else must be the recognizable, recognized and trusted hallmark of the true believer.  False believers are many, and they are the ones who believe that their God loves them and will save them.  True believers do not entertain such foolish thoughts: they seek only to serve God without question, without excuses for failure and without expectation.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

New knowledge changes the past.

What is “democracy” but the tyranny of a minority cloaked in a mask of the majority?

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty. – Frank Herbert (Chapterhouse)

Ultimately, all things are known because you want to believe you know.

Answers are a perilous grip on the universe. They can appear sensible yet explain nothing.

When you think to take determination of your fate into your own hands, that is the moment you can be crushed. Be cautious. Allow for surprises. When we create, there are always other forces at work.

Without a goal, a life is nothing. Sometimes the goal becomes a man’s entire life, an all-consuming passion. But once that goal is achieved, what then? Oh, poor man, what then?

Any path that narrows future possibilities may become a lethal trap. Humans do not thread their way through a maze; they scan a vast horizon filled with unique opportunities.  –The Spacing Guild Handbook

Hatred is as dangerous an emotion as love. The capacity for either one is the capacity for its opposite.  –Cautionary Instructions for the Sisterhood, Bene Gesserit Archives, Wallach IX  

What senses do we lack that we cannot see or hear another world all around us?  –The Orange Catholic Bible

Innovations seem to have a life and a sentience of their own. When conditions are right, a radical new idea — a paradigm shift — may appear simultaneously from many minds at once. Or it may remain secret in the thoughts of one man for years, decades, centuries . . . until someone else thinks of the same thing.   How many brilliant discoveries die stillborn, or lie dormant, never to be embraced by the Imperium as a whole?

When the center of the storm does not move, you are in its path. –Ancient Fremen Wisdom

Progress and profit require a substantial investment in personnel, equipment, and capital funding. However, the resource most often overlooked, yet which can often provide the greatest payoff, is an investment in time.  –DOMINIC VERNIUS, The Secret Workings of Ix

A requirement of creativity is that it contributes to change. Creativity keeps the creator alive. –FRANK HERBERT, unpublished notes

It is said that there is nothing firm, nothing balanced, nothing durable in all the universe — that nothing remains in its original state, that each day, each hour, each moment, there is change. — -Panoplia Propheticus of the Bene Gesserit

Nature commits no errors; right and wrong are human categories.

What is this Love that so many speak of with such apparent familiarity? Do they truly comprehend how unattainable it is? Are there not as many definitions of Love as there are stars in the universe? — -The Bene Gesserit Question Book

The purpose of argument is to change the nature of truth. — -Bene Gesserit Precept

Infinity attracts us like a floodlight in the night, blinding us to the excesses it can inflict upon the finite. —Meditations from Bifrost Eyrie

Freedom is an elusive concept. Some men hold themselves prisoner even when they have the power to do as they please and go where they choose, while others are free in their hearts, even as shackles restrain them. —Zensunni Wisdom from the Wandering

There is no such thing as a law of nature. There is only a series of laws relating to man’s practical experience with nature. These are laws of man’s activities. They change as man’s activities change.

The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

My comments on some of the above: 

How does new knowledge change the past?  Mostly by forcing us to detach from superstitions, traditions, caveats, beliefs and assumptions that new knowledge exposes as false, or fraudulent. It also forces us to rethink our past, thus changing it.

In the current global upheaval due in large part to our facile acceptance of Western style political systems and our crass and ignorant belief that such systems are the best and should “rule” the word, we should pay heed to the statement made about democracy.  Never has it appeared as true as it does today.

Inevitably and inexorably, as we are learning from recent history, when we create, we do indeed create other forces and these will take on a life of their own as diametric opposites to our own.  The wars we fight to try to hang on to our creations, insisting that they should rule the world, are utterly useless.

“Hatred is as dangerous an emotion as love” – Indeed.  It amazes me that in the midst of rising waves of hatred on this world, so much effort is expended in opposing it with the call to love.  Can’t people see that what you resist, not only persists, but increases in intensity until both sides are locked in a death struggle from which more evil proceeds?  Yes, a great war may be fought to topple an evil regime (Nazi Germany and WWII as a prime example) but the hatred, now from both sides, is not diminished, just gone to ground, waiting for another opportunity to rise up and rule again.  Love is not the antidote to hate, only compassion has the sustaining power to accomplish such a task.  Love confronts hate, seeking to turn it into an image of itself (reciprocal action) whereas compassion destroys any force that would support and feed hatred.  It can do this because compassion is not an emotion  but an empowered personal choice. 

Re: the purpose of argument – is it wrong to seek to change the nature of truth?  Why should it when truth is nothing more than a chimera invented by mind controllers?  Truth is what is believed, therefore truth is based on numbers and force.  

 

This n’ That and the Wisdom of Frank Herbert

                             [thoughts from  ~burning woman~   ]

Let me see, now: there is work, rest, and somewhere in between, everything else, the jumble of life.  I’ve been very tired these last few weeks, mostly due to work, I realize that, but we also experience a deeper tiredness that comes from an accumulation of worn out time, year after year after year, “time passes” and to the observant, it produces a strange, disquieting litany of thoughts that run over the sands of the mind, like runnels of sand blown off the top of dunes and sliding down the sides to settle, but never for long, at the base.  The wind changes direction, comes again, picks up the sand and flings it into a sky already filled with brown dust.  Somewhere in that floating, parched wildness my thoughts float, forming a part of it, and somewhere further, as the future chooses, some of those thoughts will again form the uncertain and ever-changing top of another dune.  The wind “dies down” then the wind returns and the dance of thoughts begins anew.

I like the imagery.  Somewhere in a dimmed, distant past, beyond these times, in another galaxy, a different world, I existed on a desert planet.  I sense this more than I remember it.  The awareness of sand, not only as a symbol but as gritty reality, is as much a part of my life as is the beating of this Earthian heart.  I think of Frank Herbert’s masterpiece science fiction series, starting with the book, “Dune” – the sand and rock desert planet that would have remained unknown to the Empire were it not for the fact that it produced a substance known as “Spice” which prolonged life and allowed individuals to see through space and time.  All imperial space traffic depended on the spice, hence Dune, like Earth’s Middle East, was a planet constantly being fought over for its one and only resource, a resource without which the Empire could not hold.  Ah, but Frank Herbert was a great prophet and few realize it even today.   I will return to this thought.

Terrible, horrible man-made events are taking place all over this world.  Some of us, the ones lucky or unlucky enough to have been born with, or somehow developed, the sense of empathy, feel these things, perhaps too deeply.  They are more than troublesome, they are life-destroying.  Now thinking as an intelligent, sentient, being: is there a greater crime than that of destroying life?  I cannot think of one and yet it is a crime that Earthians have always indulged in fully, and continue to plunge themselves into in a never-ending cycle of bloody violence fed by greed, fear and lust.  A global Madness but since 99% of the asylum’s denizens are certifiable, then their madness is what passes as the norm.   

I should not be the one feeling tired from being immersed in this madness.  Surely every single ISSA (intelligent, sentient, self-aware) Earthian on this world should be equally tired, maybe even sick to death, of the bloodshed.  But no, those who are not actually cheering it on, or participating in it, are plunged so deeply into their own methods of denial that nothing disturbs them.  That remains utterly shocking to me.  Some whose conscience can still be tweaked with a shiver of awareness, blame their leaders, then return to their little, mindless motions, pretending to be alive.  

What I find so terribly sad isn’t so much the tens of thousands sacrificed daily to profit and pleasure, but the billions who are so brain dead, heart-cauterized and blind that they cannot honestly, without blame or self-justification, enter into the agony of earth and feel it burn.  Hoping it will not come to them, they ignore it and the closer it appears to their own doorstep, the deeper their head buries itself in the sands of oblivion. 

This brings me back to Frank Herbert.  Here are a few quotes I picked out of his third novel on “Dune” titled “Children of Dune.”

“If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments.  When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments.  Such assumptions are often full of holes but remain most precious to the convinced.”

“Because of the one pointed Time awareness in which the conventional mind remains immersed, humans tend to think in a sequential, word oriented framework.  This mental trap produces very short-termed concepts of effectiveness and consequences, a condition of constant, unplanned, response to crisis.”

“To learn patience [in the Bene Gesserit Way] you must begin by recognizing the essential, raw instability of our universe.  We call nature – meaning this totality in all of its manifestations – the Ultimate Non-Absolute.”

“Time is a measure of space, just as a range-finder is a measure of space, but measuring locks us into the place we measure.”

“The malady of indifference is what destroys many things.”

“It is said that there is nothing firm, nothing balanced, nothing durable in all the universe – that nothing remains in its state, that each day, each hour, brings change.”

And finally, “Every judgment teeters on the brink of error.  To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous.  Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.”

Listening in Time

(short story,  by Sha’Tara)

“I know you are keen, and willing.  Good traits in a researcher.  But you are missing the key ingredients.  You must sit quietly, by yourself, for hours, maybe days, and listen in time.  Listen to the voices of the dead, and the pre-incarnate.  They are in the voices of “others” and in the sounds of the earth: the wind, the cracking soil, the moving grains of sand, the patter of the rain on scrabbly hard-pan soil.  They come on the heat waves.  Sometimes they get playful and paint mirages which tell stories from within your own heart and soul which your tired and bleary eyes will translate into images of desires.  

If you do not learn to listen, all you will accomplish in these places as you sift through dirt and rubble is collect garbage.  It will be recognizable as works of the people but it will reveal no stories, no myths, no history.  These you will have to create from your own imagination and trust me on this, it will not be the same stories as what was, even if the entire world should buy your interpretations.  Honest archaeologists are a rare breed but there is nothing written, either in this desert or in mountains, that says you can not be one of that small group.  When you teach yourself the secret of time listening the people who made and used the objects you unearth, they will tell you their stories.  Some will seem strange and some will be, to your modern understanding, quite unbelievable, but just listen.  It is not your call to re-interpret the lives of others according to your current knowledge: that is sacrilege.  Let the ghosts speak; let them tell their story, and accept it at face value.  It may be that they lie to you, but let it be: do not add insult to injury by adding to the lies.  After all, as you will discover in time, all of your history is lies.  There is no truth to be found on this world, or in this universe.  We know, we’ve been looking for millions of your years and there is no such chimera.”

I was young then, and I’d been experimenting with the local flora under the auspices of a would-be witch doctor who called himself George but whose real name was an unpronounceable Mexican word that sounded like apple-cotle or aptly cotli.  This particular drug induced “time dreams” he had told me, and… “You should only smoke a small amount at sunset.  Sit against a rock, or a tree if you can find one, and set your mind free to roam.  Do not try anything, just let it all go.  It is the time of the spirits and sometimes one of them will notice you and approach you with a story, or some advice.  Just listen and do not try to make any judgment about what you hear, or think you hear.  Put your own thoughts aside and just absorb.” 

I smoked slowly, not eagerly, trying to practice “wisdom” in my folly.  How long I sat against the rock that dug into my back, feeling the sand getting cold beneath me, I don’t know.  Darkness came and the sky exploded with myriads of pin-points of lights: star, planets, meteors, even satellites and flashing lights of planes.  Time passed and I no longer felt the cold, nor the loneliness or that deep fear of the dark unknown.  I “slept” with eyes open, hearing and learning to listen.  I heard small animals squeaking to one-another, some unrecognizable insects repeating endless calls; owls, even one loud shriek of what could only be some wild cat, cougar perhaps.  It didn’t matter.

It seemed as if I’d become a part of the landscape, an extension of the rock I leaned against.  I felt a deep well-being; a thoroughly unfamiliar certainty.  I was “here” and “here” was where I belonged.  This was “home” like nothing had ever been.  “Here I sit, and here I remain,” I thought, against all common sense.  I felt the cold, hunger and thirst but it did not matter to this “me” that was being absorbed by the land, the air, the sky, the universe, the cosmos.  In that time I was no longer a body-centered, or physical being.  I was a member of the cosmic races, with a part of me resting upon a planet called earth – a very small, very strange planet. 

That’s when the voice came to my mind; when I heard the words I quoted above. 

I have been digging up history in this part of the world for almost fifty years now.  I’ve become old and bent.  My skin is like that of a lizard, dry and scaly, with brown spots.  I’ve loved being naked in the sun and it has left its marks on my body but I don’t care.  He was my lover and I cherish his touch still.  I haven’t become famous.  No best seller came from my notes; no following.  People came here to dig with me, and left to seek fame and fortune.  Some managed it, returning to tell me about it.  Some even provided funds so I could remain here, on my wind-swept plateaus digging up ghost stories; me, the crazy Canadian who should have been more at home on the snowy wilds of northern Canada, than here. 

To the local people, I am “loca perdida” or the crazy one, though many come just to be with me, or to listen to my stories.  They come to get me sometimes, either with a jeep, or even a donkey, and take me to a village feast so they can hear some of my stories about their ancient peoples.  They seem to have no difficulty believing me, and I have wondered about that.  Do they also listen in time? They “pay” me in food, or in new blankets for my tents or shelters.  Good people, all of them.  I’ve always felt safe here; not sure I could have managed that in cities where people crowd unhappily together, hardly ever getting to know each other though rubbing shoulders every day.  How sad is that life, I think.

Here I remain.  Here I belong for my body’s time being.  Here I taught myself to listen in time and it is here that I will die so another archaeologist, another time listener, can find bits and pieces of my presence in this place and unearth my own story – a story that will have meaning only to her and the few who carry our vision of living in time.  

How I wish I could express, in words, how blessed my life has been and how much I look forward to new digs out there in the stars, knowing that when I sit down and look up I will see more stars.

A Difficult but Necessary Matter of Balance

 (thoughts from    ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara)

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, being as they say, busy.  But surprisingly, I’ve had time, perhaps too much time, to think about this world, about its overall condition and where it is heading, apparently heedless and unaware.  I know this is a judgment forming an opinion, but not once in my entire life of 70 years has my sense of where things are going ever been wrong.  It’s like a compass in my mind, something I can “see” and rely on entirely, basing my personal movements on it, knowing when to “hold and when to fold” as the song goes.

I feel massive waves of sorrow passing over me time and again, triggered by many encounters: a baby in its mother’s arms; an old man hunched over waiting to safely cross a busy street; a homeless lady holding a sign saying, ‘Please buy my CD, I’m hungry’ and displaying a CD she probably found in a dumpster – (she got lucky: I saw her and I chose to believe her despite all the propaganda against her) or even moved to a helpless stop by the wind’s choreography of tree branches not yet covered in leaves.  A house hunched behind a sagging gate; a rusting sign from a business that went broke years before…  

Have you ever just “thought” about “the world” and had tears well in your eyes until they started flowing down your cheeks?  Closed your eyes and brought your hands together as if in prayer, though you don’t pray?  Then thinking, ‘Do I want to be here?’ and knowing the answer is ‘No, I don’t want to feel this, this way, connected to this chaos of ignorance, of pain, of apparent mindlessness.  I don’t want to be the stranger any longer; to not be able to speak to the trees, the birds, the clouds.  I’m tired of just feeling and finding it so terribly difficult to harness those feelings; to draw intelligence, awareness, understanding, acceptance and meaningful teaching from them.  That is probably neither their purpose, nor task but I’m breaking the rules here.’ 

Life, I find, is like driving a street.  Some parts are smooth, some rough.  Some are safe and some, well, you may not get out of alive.  The truly sad part is, much of life is entered into without its overall costs duly assessed.  People are programmed, it seems, to repeat patterns and unable to stop and consider the risks, the odds, based on previous lives, previous experiences of elder people, or people in history.  ‘What are my chances this is going to work as I hope?’ Is not the question asked.  Plunge into the swamp, there are no alligators here!  But there are, disguised as floating logs.  You may have passed your swimming tests and won medals, but guaranteed: terror is but a splash behind you, and it isn’t virtual reality. 

Too dark a vision?  Probably, but some of us have chosen a path that runs counter to that of the herd and we see that which the herd isn’t permitted to see, and would not want to see in any case. 

Someone has to shed burning hot tears for the dying.  It’s a difficult but necessary matter of balance.  

 

The Edge of Human (Borrowed title from Blade Runner 2 by K. W. Jeter)

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

In the beginning was the Past.  Father God stood alone, last remaining Titan, proud in his quasi-Omnipotence gained from the overthrow of his enemies.

 
He created Time, the lever with which he would reach across eternity and weigh all life.  And he stood at one end, holding it, fondling it, loving it.  Then he created the fulcrum, which he called the Present and which history named the Christ.  Then he created the human, the man. 
 
But the man was cold and afraid in the dark and cried.  And she heard his sobs in the darkness and drawn by compassion, came forth to comfort him.  She came from Spirit, without father or mother.  And she made herself human for him and called herself Eve.
 
“Be not afraid” she said, pressing herself against him.  But the man was provoked by her naked truth and violated her.  Then she saw the emptiness of his soul, the ugliness of it.  She ran away from him but could not go far.  She became heavy with child as she walked down the time ramp hoping to find its end.  She bore her child in pain and horror but also in love.  It grew heavy in her arms and took the life from her as it suckled greedily and painfully. 
 
Father God felt the presence of her weight and that of her child upon his lever and in his quasi-Omnipotence, pushed down to force her to come to him.  He sensed a great fear and hatred of her, as if she could somehow put an end to his self-delusion of Omni-grandeur.  Eve struggled along the incline of the lever, intent on finding the end.  She knew if she surrendered and went back she would be swallowed in the anonymity of slavery and her child would die.  But her humanity pulled her down.  Exhausted, she dragged herself upward, splinters entering her hands and knees.  On and on until finally she could go no more and collapsed.  She put the child down and waited.  
 
The End, my End, will find me here.”  She reasoned.
 
“Why have you stopped, Eve?” Came a gentle voice from the darkness before her.
 
“I can’t go anymore.  I am empty.  My child is starving.  This is my end.”
 
“It never is, Eve.  You have travailed throughout the history of humanity and you bore the future in your womb and in your arms.  You suckled it from your spirit.  It surely will not die.  And neither will you.  Listen carefully — It is always the darkest and coldest just before the dawn.  You are not dying, you are changing. 
 
You’ve come to the edge of human. 
 
Look at your child – it’s not like you, nor like its father.  It is all that you ever wanted for your world and yourself.  Let it stand on its own.  It will take your hand and lead you into a new world.  The world in your mind.  For that is who this child is: your world.  You created it, from your hopes, dreams and feelings.  From your sufferings and pain.  From your dignity and strength.  From your walk that refused to surrender to any man, demon or God.”   
 
And her child stood beside her and picked her up.  With one blow, the curtain of darkness was rent in half and she saw a shimmering light beyond, at the end of the coarse wooden ramp she’d walked on for so long; where she had left a trail of tears and blood.  The great hell of time deflated like a balloon behind her and she walked forward, knowing that she was now more than human, more than god or goddess, something entirely new. 
 
But she remains Eve. 

“Follow the raven into shadow and you will find the light”  (medicine man saying)

Experiencing Wearing Down

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

When we’re young it’s basically impossible to consider life past, say, the age of 50.  Now so many of us live in what was then called “old age” in better or worse financial and health conditions.  I just watched “The Notebook” movie again – probably for the 5th time at least.  I’ll never get tired of that story, it’s so well told.  You’d think that a love relationship with such stormy and crazy beginnings wouldn’t have any hope of succeeding.  But in this story, it does, and it’s ending is wonderful and perfect.

I like a line James Garner says in the movie: “I’m experiencing wearing down.”  Many people feel that way in my age bracket.  We are indeed wearing down.  A whole gamut of emotions follows this wearing down.  For some it’s a blessing, for most, I’d say it’s never acknowledged, and for others, it is feared and fought to the end.  It does mean that we are approaching our rendezvous with death.  However poetically one phrases that, it is not a pleasant thought – honestly.

I am of those, perhaps having been raised quite strictly religious, who not only believes that life goes on beyond the body, but that it does so in full consciousness and “I” continue to live my life, replete with choices and destiny.  Later, when I overcame the need for religion, and the need to be totally dependent upon the caprices of some god, the inner knowing that life is eternal and infinite did not go away with my religion.  It was, in fact, the one thing from my religion(s) that remained true, if only for me.  (I think that in the realm of eternity, such choice to believe or not is entirely up to an individual, a sacred belief that no one has the right to either deny anyone, or force on anyone.)

Does that awareness make it easier to face the reality of death?  Not for me.  I don’t like the idea at all, even if, being of those who remembers past lives, I’ve gone through the process before.  It is the place where one, alone and helpless, faces the ultimate stripping of attachments to this life.  

For those who cannot believe in continuance, death is the end.  The termination of all awareness.  That, to me, would be unbearable.  I think one has to be incredibly courageous to meet death with such stoicism.  

For those, like myself, who “know” (as in some sort of unshakeable awareness) that life continues, the passage nevertheless is fraught with questions and trepidation.  I know, for example, of the many things I did (in this one life) that makes me a poor candidate for any sort of, shall we say, graduation to something better.  Countless thoughts, words and deeds must be there, ready to accuse me.  Is there some balance, some way that thoughts, words and deeds of the non-selfish variety can outweigh the others?  I honestly do not know.  There must be justice, that I know.

So as I inevitably wear down; as I come closer and closer to death (of the body) I ponder such things.  I don’t know what to expect, not exactly.  I have some ideas, some thoughts, on the matter but where are the facts? 

There aren’t any.  So what do I have to offer, if indeed some sort of judgment is in the offing?  Very little.  I can offer a changed life, from selfishness to detachment and self-empowerment in order to practice compassion and develop empathy.  I can offer forgiveness, certainly, that having been one of the easiest lessons to learn.  I can offer my personal commitment to my chosen purpose of a life lived to serve others – however much that effort remains wanting.  Beyond that, I have nothing to give in exchange for some sort of pass.  Perhaps that “nothingness” is what is needed?

Life is truly short and throughout its meteoric passage it never stops from asking us to make meaningful and life-affirming choices in all things.  If only we weren’t so spiritually and mentally deaf to the teachings we are given so freely, and all the time.  If only such would suffice to turn us from our baseless fears and selfishness that make us such bad stewards of our world and of those who need our compassion now more than ever just to survive.  If only… 

Quotes: 

“Throughout history, empires and civilizations have collapsed once they degrade the environment below its capacity to carry the human footprint imposed on the environment.” – Paul Craig Roberts

“When you are small, if you reach out, and nobody takes your hand, you stop reaching out, and reach inside, instead.” — Amanda Eyre Ward

“Nothingness is a sigh of eternity, a casual avowal of the infinite.” —  Edmond Jabès, The Book of Resemblances.

 

Is it worth it?

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

          Lanky Andy, Andrew Larkin, walked into “The Odyssey” restaurant at exactly 1800 hours.  He allowed his transitioning photochromic lenses to clear enough so he could scan the seats.  Eddie, Edward Aberhart, was seated in a booth halfway down the window aisle, facing the entrance door.  He waved at Andy.

          “Jees… Jesus Eddie, you look like shit. What’s up?  What’s with the ‘I need to see you right away, like today!’ call?”

          “It’s like this Andy.  I’m at the end of my rope, OK?  I’ve been thinking about things for years now and it’s turned into a bloody nightmare.  I keep asking myself, ‘Is is worth it?  What am I doing here?  What’s the point of anything, anything at all.’ and nothing seems right, feels right, tastes right.”

          “What does Linda have to say about your, um, nightmare?”

          “Linda’s gone.  She packed up, went back to her family down south.  I haven’t spoken to her since she left, that’d be about two months ago.  Just packed up while I went uptown, loaded up the car, took Jessie with her and left me a note on the kitchen table: ‘I’m going to stay with mom for a bit until I can get a job at the hospital down there.  I know a doctor, I’ve got excellent references as an ER nurse, I’ll get a job.  Please, don’t call me, don’t call mom, just vanish from our lives.  If you follow, I’ll get an injunction based on emotional abuse.  I don’t care what you do Eddie, just disappear from my life; from our lives.  You’ve become creepy, sick, but not something I can do anything about.  I won’t let you drag us into your nightmare.  Goodbye Eddie.’ and that’s it.”

          “Well, nothing like a cheery get together to get things rolling.”

          A busty, dark “Greek” looking waitress came by, took their orders and said their drinks would be right up. 

          ‘I sure hope so’ thought Andy.  ‘I need a drink, the kind that helps you put your thoughts together, then wipes them out so you can enjoy life again, if only for a day.’  

          Although the place was three quarters full, it being Saturday evening after all, the drinks miraculously showed up within three minutes.  Eddie fingered the cold condensation on the outside of his glass.  He didn’t pick it up, didn’t drink, just stared as if he was reading a message.  Andy sipped on his, smacked his lips then swallowed the entire glass, waving at a waitress for a refill. 

          “All right, goddamn it Eddie, you got me here.  Don’t tell me you’re just going through another of your emotional bullshit phases.  I had enough of that shit with you in college.  Let’s cut to the chase, what’s eating you?”

          “I’m really sorry Andy but my life sucks.  I hate teaching and I don’t believe anything the curriculum makes me teach the kids so I can’t really motivate them.  Well, how could I?  I can’t motivate myself any longer.

          “You know I used to attend the ‘Life Force’ Pentecostal church, where I met Linda, right?  I thought I had some sort of relationship with God.  It felt good, right, proper and my life made sense.  I joined the Lions’ Club to be of service in the community and that reinforced my belief that life had purpose.  I married Linda and I was sure I really loved her.  Jessie’s birth, now that was some celebration after all the scare that she would be abnormal – nothing wrong with that kid.  I had it all and then it all went away.  I mean it, Andy: it just evaporated.  Like I fell in some big black bottomless hole.  That’s where I’m talking to you from: a black pit of despair, falling with nothing to hang on to.  Can you accept that?  I’m not asking you to understand, just accept this is how it is.”

          “Do you want me to lie to you?”

          “No.”

          “OK then, I can’t – no, let me put it more clearly for you: I won’t accept it.  I’m a rational person, Eddie.  If something fucks up upstairs, it’s up to me to go up there and straighten it up.  There’s no Chimera up there that’s going to take over and fuck up my life – not before now, not now, and not ever in the future.  I wouldn’t let it happen.  That’s my answer to your asking me to accept your current state of mind: I don’t because if I did, then I’d have to try to understand it next – and I’m simply not going there.  I don’t play mind games Eddie.  My own life is controlled; some people say I’m as hard as a rock, well fine, that to me is high praise.  That’s why you stuck with me through college too, you needed that hardness to put grit into your own mush, Eddie. 

          “What the fuck, man.  You are the one who got Linda, you whiny wimp of an excuse for a man.  She went for you because she felt sorry for you most of the time.  But I was the one who loved her Eddie.  How often I imagined what we could have done as a couple, as a team.  A doctor and a nurse, and I would have pushed her to get her medical degree too.  We would have been all over the world, helping people, I mean really helping.  A team on fire.  Fuck you Eddie, you miserable excuse for a human being.  I feel so sorry for you right now I want to punch in that baby face of yours.  Goddam it, I don’t believe this.”

          “Why have you never told me of your feelings for Linda until now?  I didn’t know, honest.”

          “Of course you didn’t know, you self-absorbed little shit.  All that’s ever really mattered to you was you and your precious feelings.  ‘I joined the Lions’ club to be of service to the community.’  Such a crock.  You joined to find support for your insecurities – tell me honestly that isn’t true.”

          “Ah hell Andy, I didn’t call you here for you to beat up on me.  I’m down, Andy.  I can’t take this.  Is this fun for you, crushing what’s left of a total loser?”

          “OK, OK, I’ll back off if you’ll level with me and tell me what’s really the problem.  What’s the cause of your black pit of despair, Eddie?  What’s this Gremlin you’ve got on your back that you can’t shake off this time?”

          “The honest truth, Andy: the world, and my life in it.  Have you followed the news lately?  With all the crap that’s going on and that keeps arising all over, is it really worth it?  Is there some point to it?  The world’s in a shambles, what am I supposed to do?  Ignore it?  Carry on like what’s her name, Pollyanna? 

          “I wake up in the middle of the night and I have visions, terrible visions, of things happening to thousands of people, horrible things.  And I feel guilty about it all, I can’t help myself, and the guilt won’t go away.  It’s like everything bad that happens is my fault.  I’m responsible somehow, as if I were a puppet and I was being played, forced to watch; forced to link my lifestyle to the problems of other people.  If I enjoy something, they go without.  If I eat, they starve.  If I have a house to live in, they are homeless.  If I have rights, they are enslaved.  If I’m free, they are in prison.  I’m cursed, Andy; I’m the other side of the coin.”

          As their food was being served, Andy didn’t answer.  He moved some plates around, ordered another drink, looked up at Eddie and said, “Ed, drink your fucking drink, right now.” 

          The waitress looked up, a shocked look on her face.  “Sorry, that’s between my friend and I here.  Please bring him another drink, he’s going to need it.”

          The waitress almost scampered away.  Andy started eating and felt ravenous.  He swallowed, then started to laugh.  Not so loud as to cause embarrassment but so Eddie would hear it and stare at him. 

          “You find something amusing, Andy?” Eddie put his empty glass down, looked into Andy’s eyes.

          “Yeah, you.”

          “My problems are amusing to you?  I thought doctors were supposed to be empathetic.”

          “Some are but it’s definitely not a trade requirement.  If it was most of us would be out of work tomorrow.  But this has nothing to do with me being a doctor, or you a high school teacher.  We’ve been dancing around a much more serious business called life.  You asked me, is it worth it?  Before I answer that, give me a rational alternative to what you call life.”

          “That’s a nuts question.  How can there be a rational alternative to life?”

          “Ah, got you there haven’t I?”

          “I don’t have any answer for you.  Are you talking about an alternative to life?  How can there be such a thing?”

          “Have you heard of NDE’s or near death experiences that some people claim to have had?”

          “Vaguely.  Here and there.  There’s no proof of such a thing actually happening. Just the brain reacting in a crisis when life is on the line.”

          “Exactly!”  Andy drank some more and it seemed his drinks were tasting better each time.  So did the food.  “Got to congratulate you, Eddie, this is one hell of a fine restaurant.  Not fancy, but you can’t beat this food, or the drinks either.  Don’t know when I’ve enjoyed myself more at a meal.  Go ahead, dig in, dig in.  This is fantastic!”

          “What do you mean, ‘Exactly’?”

          “Mmmm… what?”

          “I said there was no proof that NDE’s are real experiences and you said, ‘Exactly.'”

          “And I meant every word!”  Andy laughed at the puzzled expression in his friend’s face and noticed that outside, the world had gone dark except for street lights and the lampshades over the booths made new shadows.

          “Ease up on the drinks, Andy, you’re losing it.”

          “Actually I’m getting it, Eddie.”

          “Care to explain?”  He took a serious drink and suddenly felt himself unwind.  As if something good was going to happen.  Imagine that: nothing good had seemed to happen for ages.  He knew it wasn’t the drink, nor the food.  Anticipation. He actually felt it.

          “I never realized it until now,” said Andy.  “About you, I mean.  I always thought you were somewhat of a sissy, a wimp you know, going around feeling sorry for yourself, bringing people into your circle to empathize with you.  But that wasn’t it at all.  You were just confused, selling yourself short, unaware of your own nature, thus unable to take advantage of it.”  He seemed to look at Eddie with some sort of awe.  “I never knew; never suspected even.” 

          “Would you tell me what you’re going on about, Andy?  You’re confusing me and I think you’ve had too much to drink.”

          “Oh just wait.  I haven’t had half enough.  I’ve been a fool, Eddie, a complete idiot.  I’m the one who’s been totally self-centered and blind.  You know what you are, buddy?”

          “Hey, this is getting scary.  What am I?  Some sort of Reptilian alien?”  Eddie smiled, ate some, enjoyed it.  “You going to keep me in suspense?”

          “No.  I’ve got it.  You, my very dear friend and pain in the ass, are an empath.  A real, honest to God empath.  That’s what explains your angst, you visions, your despair; your deep questioning of the purpose of life. You feel it man, you feel it all and you have never learned how to deal with it.  You’re supposed the “channel” this stuff, not keep it bottled up.  It’s not about you, it’s about this world, and how life evolves or adapts itself within.  That life needs to communicate; to give itself messages and in human terms, those messages are carried by empaths. 

          “When I said, “exactly” I meant it: it’s all based on empathy.  There’s no need of proof once you pass a certain point, or reach a certain level of evolution – it just is.  I’m a surgeon and I know a bit about NDE’s.  I’ve had talks with quite a few patients who, after thanking me for saving their life, went on to describe their experiences under anaesthesia when they experienced clinical death.  I was interested but never convinced beyond what you said: brain reaction. 

          “But it wasn’t that, don’t you see?  These NDE people are empaths!  They crossed over and came back because their nature provided the bridge between the physical world of their body and the spirit, or mental, world inhabited by their consciousness.  I remember talking about this with Linda.  She didn’t make the connection between NDE’ers and empathy, but she accepted the experience as very real.  Goddam Eddie, she was right!  I just needed to see the connecting thread and you just showed it to me.  Your angst is your connection to others, Eddie.  You’re not cursed, you are blessed, old friend.” 

          “If that’s the case, shouldn’t it have made me selfless and compassionate instead of the loser wimp you see before you?”

          “No, I see it now, that’s not how it works.  You needed teachers and you didn’t get them – luck of the draw I suppose.  You needed to be taught self-empowerment and self-reliance.  That’s where the rubber hits the road I bet.  That’s where it comes together and changes you completely.  Think about it, Eddie.  Think about it long and seriously.  While you’re on top of that, teach yourself about channelling – pass it on, don’t keep it in.  You’re watching the movie, you’re not in the story being chased by those demons, though they are real.  You can sense them but they don’t know you exist.  That’s your key and your power.  You can exert influence upon the stories in your mind if you learn how to transmute the information then upload it in its changed form.  I read about this stuff; it’s amazing I never got it until now.  You: you’re the key.  You’re the Avatar.  You’re the one making it happen now, right now, while you’re outside of yourself.

          “Is that my alternative to life?”

          “Yes.  You see, there isn’t just one form of life, there are infinite types of life.  People like yourself, well, they can slip in and out of any form they choose.  You have the power to do that and that’s how you survive in worlds given over to violence like this one.  You don’t stay in the line of fire, you duck, you live to fight another day.  But you’re always on the front lines regardless of where you go in your mind.”

          “You missed your calling, you should have been a preacher.  I’m sold.  Just hoping it isn’t the drinks talking, or feeling.”

          “It isn’t the drinks.  This is like a revelation.  I’m sold too.  I’m no empath, I know that, but you know who else is?”

          “Linda!”

          “You bet, Linda.  And buddy, I’m going after her.  I love her; I’ve always loved her and I’m going to make it up to her for not pushing my way between the two of you.  Got that?”

          “Yes, I got that.  It’s how it’s got to be.”  He hesitated for a moment, then added,   “I know you’ll be good for her, and you’ll take good care of Jessie.  Let me know when you guys are married, or settled.  I’d like to visit.”

          “I’ll do that.  No, I mean we’ll do that.”