"Knee-deep! Knee-deep!", when asked how deep was his puddle.
I am knee-deep...no, neck-deep on a learning curve in a new venture. I feel guilty when I don't post, or visit my favorite haunts, with the usual frequency. But this is bigger, and is more important for where I'm going.
So if I appear to be missing for a few days, be assured I will be back soon. I can't imagine ever giving up this venue, no matter how busy I get. Life's a production, and this is my stage. I just hope I'll have readers when I perform.
Ever notice that once you decide to do something and actually begin to do it, a thousand avenues begin to open up? The trick is staying focused on the chosen path until it has been made successful, or until it has proven to be fruitless. Or maybe (*may*be!) if another path appears to be clearly superior. That last one is fraught with hazard though, as it is the trick of last resort of the "fog fairies" to drag you off course.
These memes seem to be cropping up everywhere of a sudden. Here's another:
You Are an Old Soul
You are an experienced soul who appreciates tradition. Mellow and wise, you like to be with others but also to be alone. Down to earth, you are sensible and impatient. A creature of habit, it takes you a while to warm up to new people.
You hate injustice, and you're very protective of family and friends A bit demanding, you expect proper behavior from others. Extremely independent you don't mind living or being alone. But when you find love, you tend to want marriage right away.
Souls you are most compatible with: Warrior Soul and Visionary Soul
(66% dark & bitter, 66% working class, 100% genuine)
Okay, we all know Guinness is the best possible score on any "What Kind Of Beer Are You" test, so you can just go on and pat yourself on the back now. Like the world's most famous brew, you're genuine, you've got good taste, and you're sophisticated. What else can I say, except congratulations?
If your friends didn't score the same way, get ready for them to say: Guinness is too heavy; it's an acquired taste; it's too serious--and they probably think those things about you at times. But just brush 'em off. Everybody knows Guinness is the best. Cheers.
So I wonder from time to time, what does it take to get on Steve H's blogroll. I've gotten the impression that asking outright is likely to get a few kitchen knives thrown in my general direction. So I sit tight.
Click here, plug in your zip code, and the page will tell you where gas is cheapest in your vicinity.
I tried it and it correctly identified the two lowest cost gas stations I knew about in my area, plus one that I didn't. It looks like the price updates lag behind by a few days, but that still makes it a pretty good indicator of where to go.
Ever received a speeding ticket when you're sure you weren't speeding?
I narrowly avoided that fate several months ago. It shook me a little, and soured my opinion of the police.
See, I have always been a fairly conservative, "law and order" kind of person, and I always believed the police were on my side. They had a tough and sometimes dangerous job to do, and as a law abiding citizen I had no reason to distrust them. Rather I felt it was my duty to be of assistance wherever and whenever I could.
Now I know some of you who have had brushes with the law that were much more disturbing than what I am going to relate will dismiss the following as nothing worth mentioning. However I believe I was just a bit too naive at the time.
I was driving to work one morning, and as I did every morning five days a week, I decelerated as I approached one of the "school zones" on my way to work. I had done this so very many times that I knew exactly where to take my foot off the gas, exactly where to begin braking so that I was not exceeding the 15 mph limit as I passed the speed limit sign. As I was crawling along I noticed a motorcycle cop parked under a tree up ahead.
"Good," I thought to myself. "Someone was killed at this crossing last year. Glad to see they're enforcing the speed limit."
After I passed the crosswalk, I began to accelerate back to the normal posted limit as I passed the officer. However much to my complete amazement, he pulled out behind me, siren and lights blaring.
I pulled into a Walgreens parking lot. He pulled up behind me, hopped of his cycle, and swaggered up to me--all five feet two of him--full of macho and nasty attitude.
Did I not know there was a school zone there? Yes I knew. I drove the route daily. Did I know I was going 25 mph through the zone? No, not at all--my speedometer read 15 mph. He took my license and insurance information, and when he came back to my car, we discussed his accusation further, how wonderfully accurate his radar gun was, the relative accuracy of speedometers at low speeds, the unlikelihood I felt that the countless dozens of people I had paced through the zone over the years could have all been going 25 mph while my speedometer read 15 mph. No, I wasn't counting on other people's pace to justify my own speed, only that it was a check against my own perceived speed.
"Ok, I'll let you off with a warning," he finally said. "I think you're a safe driver. But you better get your speedometer checked out.
"By the way, this is my first warning of the day. You should be grateful."
"Thank you, officer," I said, and drove away.
I'm convinced it was my clean driving record up to that point and my willingness to raise questions and press the facts with him (110% respectfully, by the way) that saved me from a nasty ticket that day. *I* knew I wasn't speeding. He knew it too. I must have sounded like someone who was intelligent enough and knew enough to fight the charge in court.
I fumed about that for months. I still narrow my eyes whenever I see a patrol car while I'm driving. I didn't used to be that way, and it bothers me, because I still think the police are doing a sometimes thankless job that needs doing. I just don't trust them like I used to.
Up until I read this article, I had always assumed that there was virtually nothing that a person could do to effectively fight a speeding ticket in court--however unjustified--short of hiring an expensive lawyer. And at the rates that lawyers charge, the ticket would be far cheaper--even when tallying up the increased insurance rates over the next two or three years.
Not any longer. The author of "Case Dismissed!" has done the extensive research and provided all of the information necessary to effectively fight a speeding ticket yourself--using established case law!
In most places the speed trap/traffic court system is a corrupt moneymaking scam for the authorities, and almost no one knows how to fight it effectively. And yes, this information will help you fight the charge, even if you WERE speeding! If you can read from a page, you can get your ticket dismissed.
Update: Ok, that wasn't even the funniest one by far. Try this: Connect the Dots. We're shrieking and busting our guts here reading this...
Ahm gonna hafta keep an eye on this guy. That's too good! Read the rest (left sidebar) too. They're kinda like jalapeno pepper. After a while they build up strength, until you're left rocking and spasming in paroxysms of hysteria!
Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song A little girl with nothing wrong Is all alone
Eyes wide open Always hoping for the sun And she'll sing her song to anyone that comes along
Fragile as a leaf in autumn Just fallin' to the ground Without a sound
Crooked little smile on her face Tells a tale of grace That's all her own
Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song A little girl with nothing wrong And she's all alone
There's something about that song that I seem to have a strong affinity for. There is a part of me that is that way, despite the fact I don't often find myself quite so carefree and joyous in my daily existence.
But there is a girl named Alex who has been on my blogroll almost from the beginning. She embodies that song. Somehow she grew up that way and stayed that way, and still today at age 30 she endeavors to live that way.
I don't often blog about her, and she's actually not a conventional blogger in a lot of ways. No comments, no links to other bloggers.
But no shortage of readers either.
I always come away from her site thoughtful. So much of what she writes rings true and right and beautiful to me. In some vague way she reminds me of my sister. I don't keep up with Joy too much. We remember our birthdays and I get fresh photos of my nieces every few months (which I cherish dearly and plaster on my refrigerator). But Alex reminds me a lot of Joy in her younger days.
Daisycat and I just returned from a hike in the Catalina Mts. Around the back side of Green Mountain, near where we were a few weeks ago, except this time it was from the top rather than the bottom, and it was a beautiful sunny day instead of snow showers.
I got a bit more sun than I needed, and I'm totally wiped. I have a few photos, but they'll have to wait.
The world may be going to hell-in-a-handbasket, but there are few places that are more like paradise than my own backyard on a Saturday afternoon in April. The citrus and jasmine are finally finished blooming, and now the wisteria gives me its brief show.
Wisteria has the shortest bloom of anything in my garden. From the start of the show to curtains is less than two weeks. Which is too bad because it is so beautiful.
I finally got around to fabricating a new support for my wisteria last fall. Prior to this it was getting up into my privet tree and choking the sunlight off for the tree. It was also hard to enjoy the blooms while they were hidden somewhere up in the tree.
Closeup Wisteria blossom.
Palo Verde, "green twig" in Spanish. But this time of year it is a fountain of lemon-yellow floribundance.
To those who are allergic, this sight is synonymous with hay fever, but to the bee, it is a heavenly delight!
The bougainvillea are incandescent this year. Well, they always are, but my vine has put out a terrific display of bracts this year--much more than the usual.
After all that, a climbing rose in full bloom seems tame by comparison, doesn't it?
Ok, it wasn't quite a lazy afternoon. My day was actually spent working on the extension to the storage shed. Here is what it looked like last week. Today I added more floor sections, using the handy-dandy mixer that Daisycat brought home. With my lots finally officially on the market, I'm scrambling to finish this shed so I can move my (good) junk off the lots ASAP.
Back a while ago, the Bear changed his ranking system, and I plunged from mammalian status back to amphibian. *Not* acceptable! So I've done without a ranking except my tongue-in-cheek, Bane-awarded "Ceramic Chia Pet" status.
Well, finally tiring of my undeserved slimy creature status, I swallowed my pride, tucked my tail between legs, and...*ulp*, joined the Alliance. If these "mutual back-scratching clubs" (or other more, *ahem*, colorful descriptions) are the only way to generate traffic, then so be it.
Why should I care about traffic? Well actually I don't for traffic's sake. But youall might have noticed that I've also stooped to grubbing for money. There are a few Amazon ads sprinkled here and there, and more prominently on the archive pages. I wanted to try to snag some benefit from the lost souls wandering in from a misguided Google search. A significant number of them come looking for my photos of Hawaii, so I've added some Hawaii related stuff in the archives.
Soo... as long as I was grubbing a little, I figured it wouldn't hurt to get more people through here for more grubbing purposes.
I'm going to try to keep my main page relatively uncluttered--no rows of garish ads right at the top, unlike some sites. But here and there I'm likely to drop a link to something relevant in the body of my posts. If the post topic interests you enough to read the article in the first place, then you can think of the link as an added service.
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered.
He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."
The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied
Luke 22:35-38 NIV
Tomorrow is National Buy A Gun Day, 2006. Daisycat is all set with her purchase, only awaiting the green light from me. Though it is about a week ahead of when I thought we could spare the funds, I'm thinking I'll give the go ahead, just to make the day. (Are you reading this dear?)
So what to do about it? I think and I think and think and think. And I realize that there is simply no way to cover every contingency, with the exception of one thing. Buy oil for your lamps while there is still time. At the midnight hour, when the bridegroom comes knocking, it will be too late.
Assuming that part is taken care of, then what? Is that all there is to it? Some might say so. Perhaps they are right. Scripture might seem to support their thesis. But daily life could get a little difficult between now and that day, if things stay on their present course. Do you have a contingency plan? Are you prepared for outages and shortages and disruptions of various sorts, and yes, even persecutions? I mean, how many people have never given a second's thought to even the most basic preparations recommended by FEMA for a three-day disruption? And if a NOLA style disaster comes to your city, then what? Suppose something of that nature comes to your entire region? Do you think the government is going to step in and rescue your ass after three days, when the entire region is likely to be aflame in riots and looting? Isn't it prudent to lay up a little extra food and safe drinking water, medicines and supplies, to outlast a wider ranging series of troubles?
This generation has no clue, no experience to draw upon to inform their decision making. But as recently as the first half of the last century, Europe was plunged into bloody chaos. My mother and her family lived through it, and spent the ending months of the war and the beginning months of the peace as desperate refugees. It is far from inconceivable that our generation could see troubles on such a scale again, if not greater still. The last thing I want to become, if I have any power to prevent it, is a refugee.
But in the final analysis there is nowhere left to flee to anyway. Not in this world.
Still, does anybody really know what time it is? And how many contigencies can or should a person prepare for? How soon into the time of trouble before we are gathered up? Has anyone really answered that question definitively. Oh, many believe they have it pinned down, but I don't believe them. Pre, post, mid? Could be any of the above. Does anybody *really* know? I wish. But the season is plain.
The fig has put forth it's leaves. He who has eyes to see, let him see.
There was a certain professor of religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States. Dr. Christianson taught a required course in Christianity at this Particular institution. Every student was required to take this course regardless of his or her major.
Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the Gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing more than required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.
This year Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going on to Seminary. Steve was popular, well liked and an imposing physical specimen. He was the starting center on the school football team and the best student in the class.
One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. "How many push-ups can you do?"
Steve said, "I do about 200 every night."
"200? That's pretty good, Steve," Dr. Christianson said. "Do you think you could do 300?"
"I don't know," Steve replied, "I've never done 300 at a time."
"Do you think you could?" again asked the professor.
"Well, I could try," said Steve.
"Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it," said Dr. Christianson.
Steve said, "Well... I think I can... yeah, I can do it."
Dr. Christianson said, "Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind."
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. Now these weren't the normal kind of donuts, these were the big fancy kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited that it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson's class.
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, "Cynthia would you like one of these donuts?"
Cynthia said, "Yes please."
Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you please do ten push-ups so that Cynthia may have a donut?"
"Sure." Steve jumped down from the desk, did ten quick push-ups, and then returned to his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe do you want a donut?"
Joe said, "Yes."
The professor asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?"
Steve did ten push-ups and Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle. Steve did ten push-ups for each person before they received a donut. Dr. Christianson continued down the second aisle until he came to Scott.
Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good of physical condition as Steve. Scott was popular and never lacking female companionship. When the professor asked, "Scott would you like a donut?"
Scott's reply was, "Yes, if I can do my own push-ups."
Dr. Christianson said, "No, Steve has to do them."
Scott said, "Then I don't want one"
The professor shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have the donut he doesn't want?"
With perfect obedience Steve started to do the push-ups.
Scott yelled, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!"
Dr. Christianson said sternly, "Look, this is my class, these are my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it." And he put a donut on Scott's desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to perspire and was starting to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to get up and down. As Dr. Christianson started down the third row, many students were beginning to get a little angry.
Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?"
Jenny's answer was a firm, "No!"
Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?" Steve did ten...Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say "No" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve also had to put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There was a pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face and his arms were beginning to turn red because of the physical effort being put forth.
Because Dr. Christianson could no longer bear to watch Steve's hard work go for all these uneaten donuts, he asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push-up to make sure he did all ten in each set.
As the professor started down the fourth row, he noticed some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. He did a quick count and saw that there were now thirty-four students in the room. He started to worry that Steve would not be able to make it. He went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of the row, Steve was really having a hard time. It was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
Just then, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room. He was about to enter when at once all of the students yelled, "NO!! Don't come in!!" Jason didn't know what was going on.
Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come."
Professor Christianson said, "You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?"
"Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut."
Dr. Christianson said, "Okay Steve, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?"
Not even knowing what was going on, Jason said, "Yes, I'll have a donut."
"Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?"
Steve did ten very slow and labored push-ups. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row and started on the visitors seated by the radiators. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-upin a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was profusely dripping off of his face and there was no sound except his heavy breathing. By this time, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very well-liked. Dr. Christianson went to Linda and asked if she wanted a donut.
Linda said, very sadly, "No, thank you."
The professor quietly asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?" Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.
The Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan "Susan, do you want a donut?"
Susan, with tears streaming down her face pleaded, "Dr.Christianson, why can't I help him?"
Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, explained, "No, Steve has to do it alone. I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone here has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered up inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice when a player messes up, he has to do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to the party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.
Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?"
As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, plead to the Father, 'into Thy hands I commend my spirit.' With the understanding that He had accomplished all that was required of Him, He yielded up His life for us. And like some of those in this room, many leave the gift on the desk, uneaten."
Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.
"Well done good and faithful servant," said the professor, adding, "Not all sermons are preached in words."
Turning to the class the professor said, "My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God spared not His only begotten son, but gave him up for us and for the whole world, now and forever. Whether we choose to accept His gift to us, the price for our sins has been paid. Wouldn't it be foolish and wouldn't it be ungrateful just to leave it laying on the desk?"
"Enjoy these last days and months and years of your slumber, Grandfather," said the scarred old man. "Your wake-up call is coming soon."
The Time Traveler said three last words and was gone.
I put the pistol away - realizing too late that it had never been loaded - and sat down to write this. I could not. I waited these three months to try again.
Oh, Lord, I wish that some person on business from Porlock would wake me from this dream.
It was not the horrors of his revelations about my grandchildren that had shaken me the most deeply, shaken me to the core of my core, but rather the the Time Traveler's last three words. Three words that any Replayer or time traveler visiting here from a century or more from now would react to first and most emotionally - three words I will not share here in this piece nor ever plan to share, at least until everyone on Earth knows them - three words that will keep me awake nights for months and years to come.
UPDATE: It seems that the story is AWOL. Which of course fires much speculation. For now, Google has it in cache HERE. And of course I've snagged a copy of it for future reference, should it be lost from there soon.
April 2006 Message from Dan Greetings Readers, Friends, and Other Visitors:
The Time Traveler appeared suddenly in my study on New Year’s Eve, 2004. He was a stolid, grizzled man in a gray tunic and looked to be in his late-sixties or older. He also appeared to be the veteran of wars or of some terrible accident since he had livid scars on his face and neck and hands, some even visible in his scalp beneath a fuzz of gray hair cropped short in a military cut. One eye was covered by a black eyepatch. Before I could finish dialing 911 he announced in a husky voice that he was a Time Traveler come back to talk to me about the future.
Being a sometimes science-fiction writer but not a fool, I said, “Prove it.”
“Do you remember Replay?” he said.
My finger hovered over the final “1” in my dialing. “The 1987 novel?” I said. “By Ken Grimwood?”
The stranger – Time Traveler, psychotic, home invader, whatever he was – nodded.
I hesitated. The novel by Grimwood had won the World Fantasy Award a year or two after my first-novel, Song of Kali, had. Grimwood’s book was about a guy who woke up one morning to find himself snapped back decades in his life, from the late 1980’s to himself as a college student in 1963, and thus getting the chance to relive – to replay – that life again, only this time acting upon what he’d already learned the hard way. In the book, the character, who was to experience – suffer – several Replays, learned that there were other people from his time who were also Replaying their lives in the past, their bodies younger but their memories intact. I’d greatly enjoyed the book, thought it deserved the award, and had been sad to hear that Grimwood had died . . . when? . . . in 2003.
So, I thought, I might have a grizzled nut case in my study this New Year’s Eve, but if he was a reader and a fan of Replay, he was probably just a sci-fi fan grizzled nut case, and therefore probably harmless. Possibly. Maybe.
I kept my finger poised over the final “1” in “911.”
“What does that book have to do with you illegally entering my home and study?” I asked.
The stranger smiled … almost sadly I thought. “You asked me to prove that I’m a Time Traveler,” he said softly. “Do you remember how Grimwood’s character in Replay went hunting for others in the 1960’s who had traveled back in time from the late 1980’s?”
I did remember now. I’d thought it clever at the time. The guy in Replay, once he suspected others were also replaying into the past, had taken out personal ads in major city newspapers around the country. The ads were concise. “Do you remember Three Mile Island, Challenger, Watergate, Reaganomics? If so, contact me at . . .”
Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger said, “Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water, Ninth Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White Sox sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope Benedict XVI, Scooter Libby.”
“Wait, wait!” I said, scrambling for a pen and then scrambling even faster to write. “Ray who? Pope who? Scooter who?”
“You’ll recognize it all when you hear it all again,” said the stranger. “I’ll see you in a year and we’ll have our conversation.”
“Wait!” I repeated. “What was that middle apart . . . Ray Nugin? Judge who? John Roberts? Who is . . .” But when I looked up he was gone.
“White Sox win the Series?” I muttered into the silence. “Fat chance.”
I was waiting for him on New Year’s Eve 2005. I didn’t see him enter. I looked up from the book I was fitfully reading and he was standing in the shadows again. I didn’t dial 911 this time, nor demand any more proof. I waved him to the leather wingchair and said, “Would you like something to drink?”
“Scotch,” he said. “Single malt if you have it.”
Our conversation ran over two hours, but the following is the gist of it. I’m a novelist by trade. I remember conversations pretty well. (Not as perfectly as Truman Capote was said to be able to recall long conversations word for word, but pretty well.)
The Time Traveler wouldn’t tell me what year in the future he was from. Not even the decade or century. But the gray cord trousers and blue-gray wool tunic top he was wearing didn’t look very far-future science-fictiony or military, no Star Trekky boots or insignia, just wellworn clothes that looked like something a guy who worked with his hands a lot would wear. Construction maybe.
“I know you can’t tell me details about the future because of time travel paradoxes,” I began. I hadn’t spent a lifetime reading and then writing SF for nothing.
“Oh, bugger time travel paradoxes,” said the Time Traveler. “They don’t exist. I could tell you anything I want to and it won’t change anything. I just choose not to tell you some things.”
I frowned at this. “Time travel paradoxes don’t exist? But surely if I go back in time and kill my grandfather before he meets my grandmother . . .”
The Time Traveler laughed and sipped his Scotch. “Would you want to kill your grandfather?” he said. “Or anyone else?”
“Well . . .Hitler maybe,” I said weakly.
The Traveler smiled, but more ironically this time. “Good luck,” he said. “But don’t count on succeeding.”
I shook my head. “But surely anything you tell me now about the future will change the future,” I said.
“I gave you a raft of facts about your future a year ago as my bona fides,” said the Time Traveler. “Did it change anything? Did you save New Orleans from drowning?”
“I won $50 betting on the White Sox in October,” I admitted.
The Time Traveler only shook his head. “Quod erat demonstrandum,” he said softly. “I could tell you that the Mississippi River flows generally south. Would your knowing about it change its course or flow or flooding?”
I thought about this. Finally I said, “Why did you come back? Why do you want to talk to me? What do you want me to do?”
“I came back for my own purposes,” said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I don’t want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s nothing you can do. But relax . . . we’re not going to be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I don’t even know that sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have on the edge of your desk.”
I tried to relax. “What do you want to talk about?” I said.
“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.
I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .”
“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.” He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, “It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.”
“You mean the War on Terrorism,” I said.
“I mean the Long War with Islam,” he said. “The Century War. And it’s not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over.”
“You can’t have a war with Islam,” I said. “You can’t go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word ‘Islam’ means ‘Peace.’”
“So you kept telling yourselves,” said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. “But the ‘peace’ in ‘Islam’ means ‘Submission.’ You’ll find that out soon enough”
Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist, xenophobic, right-wing asshole.
“You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago,” said the Time Traveler. “Do you remember what Category Error is?”
It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a “podunk little college” to be able to concentrate fully.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said the Time Traveler. “In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means.”
I waited. Finally I said firmly, “You can’t go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be wrong.”
The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, “Let me give you an analogy . . .”
God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.
“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler, “that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”
“That’s absurd,” I said.
“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler. “The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . . . threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God.”
“That’s just stupid,” I said. If I’d ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now. He was obviously a mental defective.“The planes, the Japanese planes,” I said, “were just a method of attack . . . a means . . . it wasn’t aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we’d never have . . .”
I stopped. What had he called it? Category Error. Making the problem unsolvable through your inability – or fear – of defining it correctly.
The Time Traveler was smiling at me from the shadows. It was a small, thin, cold smile – holding no humor in it, I was sure -- but still a smile of sorts. It seemed more sad than gloating as my sudden silence stretched on.
“What do you know about Syracuse?” he asked suddenly.
I blinked again. “Syracuse, New York?” I said at last.
He shook his head slowly. “Thucydides’ Syracuse,” he said softly. “Syracuse circa 415 B.C. The Syracuse Athens invaded.”
“It was . . . part of the Peloponnesian War,” I ventured.
He waited for more but I had no more to give. I loved history, but let’s admit it . . . that was ancient history. Still, I felt that I should have been able to tell him,or at least remember, why Syracuse was important in the Peloponnesian War or why they fought there or who fought exactly or who had won or . . . something. I hated feeling like a dull student around this scarred old man.
“The war between Athens and its allies and Sparta and its allies – a war for nothing less than hegemony over the entire known world at that time – began in 431 B.C.,” said the Time Traveler. “After seventeen years of almost constant fighting, with no clear or permanent advantage for either side, Athens – under the leadership of Alcibiades at the time – decided to widen the war by conquering Sicily, the ‘Great Greece’ they called it, an area full of colonies and the key to maritime commerce at the time the way the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf is today.”
I hate being lectured to at the best of times, but something about the tone and timber of the Time Traveler’s voice – soft, deep, rasping, perhaps thickened a bit by the whiskey – made this sound more like a story being told around a campfire. Or perhaps a bit like one of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon stories on “Prairie Home Companion.” I settled deeper into my chair and listened.
“Syracuse wasn’t a direct enemy of the Athenians,” continued the Time Traveler, “but it was quarreling with a local Athenian colony and the democracy of Athens used that as an excuse to launch a major expedition against it. It was a big deal – Athens sent 136 triremes, the best fighting ships in the world then – and landed 5,000 soldiers right under the city’s walls.
“The Athenians had enjoyed so much military success in recent years, including their invasion of Melos, that Thucydides wrote – So thoroughly had the present prosperity persuaded the Athenians that nothing could withstand them, and that they could achieve what was possible and what was impracticable alike, with means ample or inadequate it mattered not. The reason for this was their general extraordinary success, which made them confuse their strengths with their hopes.”
“Oh, hell,” I said, “this is going to be a lecture about Iraq, isn’t it? Look . . . I voted for John Kerry last year and . . .”
“Listen to me,” the Time Traveler said softly. It was not a request. There was steel in that soft, rasping voice. “Nicias, the Athenian general who ended up leading the invasion, warned against it in 415 B.C. He said – ‘We must not disguise from ourselves that we go to found a city among strangers and enemies, and that he who undertakes such an enterprise should be prepared to become master of the country the first day he lands, or failing in this to find everything hostile to him’. Nicias, along with the Athenian poet and general Demosthenes, would see their armies destroyed at Syracuse and then they would both be captured and put to death by the Syracusans. Sparta won big in that two-year debacle for Athens. The war went on for seven more years, but Athens never recovered from that overreaching at Syracuse, and in the end . . . Sparta destroyed it. Conquered the Athenian empire and its allies, destroyed Athens’ democracy, ruined the entire balance of power and Greek hegemony over the known world at the time . . . ruined everything. All because of a miscalculation about Syracuse.”
I sighed. I was sick of Iraq. Everyone was sick of Iraq on New Years Eve, 2005, both Bush supporters and Bush haters. It was just an ugly mess. “They just had an election,” I said. “The Iraqi people. They dipped their fingers in purple ink and . . .”
“Yes yes,” interrupted the Time Traveler as if recalling something further back in time, and much less important, than Athens versus Syracuse. “The free elections. Purple fingers. Democracy in the Mid-East. The Palestinians are voting as well. You will see in the coming year what will become of all that.”
The Time Traveler drank some Scotch, closed his eyes for a second, and said, “Sun Tzu writes – The side that knows when to fight and when not to will take the victory. There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked, walled cities not to be assaulted.”
“All right, goddammit,” I said irritably. “Your point’s made. So we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq in this . . . what did you call it? This Long War with Islam, this Century War. We’re all beginning to realize that here by the end of 2005.”
The Time Traveler shook his head. “You’ve understood nothing I’ve said. Nothing. Athens failed in Syracuse – and doomed their democracy – not because they fought in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but because they weren’t ruthless enough. They had grown soft since their slaughter of every combat-age man and boy on the island of Melos, the enslavement of every woman and girl there. The democratic Athenians, in regards to Syracuse, thought that once engaged they could win without absolute commitment to winning, claim victory without being as ruthless and merciless as their Spartan and Syracusan enemies. The Athenians, once defeat loomed, turned against their own generals and political leaders – and their official soothsayers. If General Nicias or Demosthenes had survived their captivity and returned home, the people who sent them off with parades and strewn flower petals in their path would have ripped them limb from limb. They blamed their own leaders like a sun-maddened dog ripping and chewing at its own belly.”
I thought about this. I had no idea what the hell he was saying or how it related to the future.
“You came back in time to lecture me about Thucydides?” I said. “Athens? Syracuse? Sun-Tzu? No offense, Mr. Time Traveler, but who gives a damn?”
The Time Traveler rose so quickly that I flinched back in my chair, but he only refilled his Scotch. This time he refilled my glass as well. “You probably should give a damn” he said softly. “ In 2006, you’ll be ripping and tearing at yourselves so fiercely that your nation – the only one on Earth actually fighting against resurgent caliphate Islam in this long struggle over the very future of civilization – will become so preoccupied with criticizing yourselves and trying to gain short-term political advantage, that you’ll all forget that there’s actually a war for your survival going on. Twenty-five years from now, every man or woman in America who wishes to vote will be required to read Thucydides on this matter. And others as well. And there are tests. If you don’t know some history, you don’t vote . . . much less run for office. America’s vacation from knowing history ends very soon now . . . for you, I mean. And for those few others left alive in the world who are allowed to vote.”
“You’re shitting me,” I said.
“I am shitting you not,” said the Time Traveler.
“Those few others left alive who are allowed to vote?” I said, the words just now striking me like hardthrown stones. “What the hell are you talking about? Has our government taken away all our civil liberties in this awful future of yours?”
He laughed then and this time it was a deep, hearty, truly amused laugh. “Oh, yes,” he said when the laughter abated a bit. He actually wiped away tears from his one good eye. “I had almost forgotten about your fears of your, our . . . civil liberties . . . being abridged by our own government back in these last stupidity-allowed years of 2005 and 2006 and 2007 . Where exactly do you see this repression coming from?”
“Well . . .” I said. I hate it when I start a sentence with ‘well,’ especially in an argument. “Well, the Patriot Act. Bush authorizing spying on Americans . . . international phonecalls and such. Uh . . . I think mosques in the States are under FBI surveillance. I mean, they want to look up what library books we’re reading, for God’s sake. Big Brother. 1984. You know.”
The Time Traveler laughed again, but with more edge this time. “Yes, I know,” he said. “We all know . . . up there in the future which some of you will survive to see as free people. Civil liberties. In 2006 you still fear yourselves and your own institutions first, out of old habit. A not unworthy – if fatally misguided and terminally masochistic – paranoia. I will tell you right now, and this is not a prediction but a history lesson, some of your grandchildren will live in dhimmitude.”
“Zimmi . . . what?” I said.
He spelled it out. What had sounded like a ‘z’ was the ‘dh.’ I’d never heard the word and I told him so.
“Then get off your ass and Google it,” said the Time Traveler, his one working eye glinting with something like fury. “Dhimmitude. You can also look up the word dhimmi, because that’s what two of your three grandchildren will be called. Dhimmis. Dhimmitude is the system of separate and subordinate laws and rules they will live under. Look up the word sharia while you’re Googling dhimmi, because that is the only law they will answer to as dhimmis, the only justice they can hope for . . . they and tens and hundreds of millions more now who are worried in your time about invisible abridgements of their ‘civil liberties’ by their ‘oppressive’ American and European democratically elected governments.”
He audibly sneered this last part. I wondered now if the fury I sensed in him was a result of his madness, or if the reverse were true.
“Where will my grandchildren suffer this dhimmitude?” I asked. My mouth was suddenly so dry I could barely speak.
“Eurabia,” said the Time Traveler.
“There’s no such place,” I said.
He gave me his one-eyed stare. My stomach suddenly lurched and I wished I’d drunk no Scotch. “Words,” I said.
The Time Traveler raised one scar-slashed eyebrow.
“Last year you gave me words about 2005,” I said. “The kind of words Ken Grimwood’s replayers in time would have put in the newspaper to find each other. Give me more now. Or, better yet, just fucking tell me what you’re talking about. You said it wouldn’t matter. You said that my knowing won’t change anything, any more than I can change the direction the Mississippi is flowing . So tell me, God damn it!”
He began by giving me words. Even while I was scribbling them down, I was thinking of reading I’d been doing recently about the joy with which the Victorian Englishmen and 19th Century Europeans and Americans greeted the arrival of the 20th Century. The toasts, especially among the intellectual elite, on New Year’s Eve 1899 had been about the coming glories of technology liberating them, of the imminent Second Enlightenment in human understanding, of the certainty of a just one-world government, of the end of war for all time.
Instead, what words would a time traveler or poor Replay victim put in his London Times or Berliner Zeitung or New York Times on January 1, 1900, to find his fellow travelers displaced in time? Auschwitz, I was sure, and Hiroshima and Trinity Site and Holocaust and Hitler and Stalin and . . .
The clock in my study chimed midnight.
Jesus God. Did I want to hear such words about 2006 and the rest of the 21st Century from the Time Traveler?
“Ahmadenijad,” he said softly. “Natanz. Arak. Bushehr. Ishafan. Bonab. Ramsar.”
“Those words don’t mean a damned thing to me,” I said as I scribbled them down phonetically. “Where are they? What are they?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” said the Time Traveler.
“Are you talking about . . . what? . . . the next fifteen or twenty years?” I said.
“I’m talking about the next fifteen or twenty months from your now,” he said softly. “Do you want more words?”
I didn’t. But I couldn’t speak just then.
“General Seyed Reza Pardis,” intoned the Time Traveler. “Shehab-one, Shehab-two, Shehab-three. Tel Aviv. Baghdad International Airport, Al Salem U.S. airbase in Kuwait, Camp Dawhah U.S. Army base in Kuwait, al Seeb U.S. airbase in Oman, al Udeid U.S. Army and Air Force base in Qatar. Haifa. Beir-Shiva. Dimona.”
“Oh, fuck,” I said. “Oh, Jesus.” I had no clue as to who or what Shehab One, Two, or Three might be, but the context and litany alone made me want to throw up.
“This is just the beginning,” said the Time Traveler.
“Wasn’t the beginning on September 11, 2001?” I managed through numb lips.
The one-eyed scarred man shook his head. “Historians in my time know that it began on June 5, 1968,” he said. “But it hasn’t really begun for you yet. For any of you.”
I thought – What on earth happened on the fifth of June, 1968? I’m old enough to remember. I was in college then. Working that summer and . . . Kennedy. Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Now on to Chicago and the nomination!” Sirhan Sirhan. Was the Time Traveler trying to give me some kind of half-assed Oliver-Stone-JFK-movie garbled up conspiracy theory?
“What . . .” I began.
“Galveston,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “The Space Needle. Bank of America Plaza in Dallas. Renaissance Tower in Dallas. Bank One Center in Dallas. The Indianapolis 500 – one hour and twenty-three minutes into the race. The Bell South Building in Atlanta. The TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco . . .”
“Stop,” I said. “Just stop.”
“The Golden Gate Bridge,” persisted the Time Traveler. “The Guggenheim in Bilbao. The New Reichstag in Berlin. Albert Hall. Saint Paul’s Cathedral . . .”
“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted. “All these places can’t disappear in the rest of this century, your goddamned Century War or not! I don’t believe it.”
“I didn’t say in the rest of your century,” said the Time Traveler, his torn voice almost a whisper now. “I’m talking about your next fifteen years. And I’ve barely begun.”
“You’re nuts,” I said. “You’re not from the future. You escaped from some asylum.”
The Time Traveler nodded. “That’s more true than you know,” he said. “I come from a place and time where your grandchildren and hundreds of millions of other dhimmi are compelled to write ‘pbuh’ after the Prophet’s name. They wear gold crosses and gold Stars of David sewn onto their clothing. The Nazis didn’t invent the wearing of the Star of David . . . the marking and setting apart of the Jews in society. Muslims did that centuries ago in they lands they conquered, European and otherwise. They will refine it and update it, not toward the more merciful, in the lands they occupy through the decades ahead of you.”
“You’re crazy,” I cried, standing. My hands were balled into fists. “Islam is a religion . . . a religion of peace . . . not our enemy. We can’t be at war with a religion. That’s obscene.”
“Have you read the Qur’an and learned your Sunnah?” asked the Time Traveler. “It would behoove you to do so. Dhimmi means ‘protection.’ And your children and grandchildren will be protected . . . like cattle.”
“To hell with you,” I said.
“Your dhimmi poll tax will be called jizya,” said the Time Traveler. His voice suddenly sounded very weary.“Your land tax for being an infidel, even for fellow People of the Book – Christians and Jews – will be called kharaz. Both of these taxes will be in addition to your mandatory alms – the zakat. The punishment for failure to pay, or for paying late, a punishment meted out by your local qadi, religious judge, is death by stoning or beheading.”
I folded my arms and looked away from the Time Traveler.
“Under sharia – which will be the universal law of Eurabia,” persisted the Time Traveler, “the value of a dhimmi’s life, the value of your grandchildren, is one half the value of a Muslim’s life. Jews and Christians are worth one-third of a Muslim. Indian Parsees are worth one-fifteenth. In a court of the Eurabian Caliphate or the Global Khalifate, if a Muslim murders a dhimmi, any infidel, he must pay a blood money fine not to exceed one thousand euros. No Muslim will ever be jailed or sentenced to death for the murder of any dhimmi or any number of dhimmis. If the murders were done under the auspices of Universal Compulsive Jihad, which will be sanctioned by sharia as of 2019 Common Era, all blood money fines are waived.”
“Go away,” I said. “Go back to wherever you came from.”
“I come from here,” said the Time Traveler. “From not so far from here.”
“Bullshit,” I said.
“Your enemies have gathered and struck and continue to strike and you, the innocents of 2006 and beyond, fight among yourselves, chew and rip at your own bellies, blame your brothers and yourselves and your institutions of the Enlightenment – law, tolerance, science, democracy – even while your enemies grow stronger.”
“How are we supposed to know who our enemies are?” I turned and growled at him. “The world is a complex place. Morality is a complex thing.”
“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,” said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out yet – the majority of you fat, sleeping, smug, infinitely stupid Americans and Europeans.”
He stood and set the Scotch glass back in its place on my sideboard. “How, we wonder in my time,” he said softly, “can you ignore the better part of a billion people who say aloud that they are willing to kill your children . . . or condone and celebrate the killing of them? And ignore them as they act on what they say? We do not understand you.”
I still had not turned to face him, but was looking over my shoulder at him.
“The world, as it turns out,” continued the Time Traveler, “is not nearly so complex a place as your liberal and gentle minds sought to make it.”
I did not respond.
“Thucydides taught us more than twenty-four hundred years ago – counting back from your time – that all men’s behavior is guided by phobos, kerdos, and doxa,” said the Time Traveler. “Fear, self-interest, and honor.”
I pretended I did not hear.
“Plato saw human behavior as a chariot pulled by precisely those three powerful and headstrong horses, first tugged this way, then pulled that way,” continued the Time Traveler. “Phobos, kerdos, doxa. Fear, self-interest, honor. Which of these guides the chariot of your nation and your allies in Europe and your surprisingly fragile civilization now, O Man of 2006?”
I stared at the bookcase instead of the man and willed him gone, wishing him away like a sleepy boy willing away the boogeyman under his bed.
“Which combination of those three traits -- phobos, kerdos, doxa -- will save or doom your world?” asked the Time Traveler. “Which might bring you back from this vacation from history – from history’s responsibilities and history’s burdens – that you have all so generously gifted yourselves with? You peaceloving Europeans. You civil-liberties loving Americans? You Athenian invertebrates with your love of your own exalted sensibilities and your willingness to enter into a global war for civilizational survival even while you are too timid, too fearful . . . too decent . . . to match the ruthlessness of your enemies.”
I closed my eyes but that did not stop his voice.
“At least understand that such decency goes away quickly when you are burying your children and your grandchildren,” rasped the Time Traveler. “Or watching them suffer in slavery. Ruthlessness deferred against totalitarian aggression only makes the later need for ruthlessness more terrible. Thousands of years of history and war should have taught you that. Did you fools learning nothing from living through the charnel house that was the 20th Century?”
I’d had enough. I opened my eyes, turned, reached into the top left drawer of my desk, and pulled out the .38 revolver that I had owned for twenty-three years and fired only twice, at firing ranges, shortly after it was given to me as a gift.
I aimed it at the Time Traveler. “Get out,” I said.
He showed no reaction. “Do you want more than words?” he asked softly. “I will give you more than words. I give you eight million Jews dead in Israel – incinerated – and many more dead Jews in Eurabia and around the world. I give you the continent of Europe cast back more than five hundred years into sad pools of warring civilizations.”
“Get out,” I repeated, aiming the revolver higher.
“I give you an Asian world in chaos, a Pacific rim ruled by China after the vacuum of America’s withdrawal – this nation’s full resources devoted to fighting, and possibly losing, the Century War – a South America and Mexico lost to corruption and appeasement, a resurgent Russian Empire that has reclaimed its old dominated republics and more, and a Canada split into three hateful nations.”
I cocked the pistol. The click sounded very loud in the small room.
“We were speaking about ruthlessness,” said the Time Traveler. “If you fail to understand it at first, you learn it quickly enough in a war like the one you are allowing to come. Would you like to hear the litany of Islamic shrines and cities that will blossom in nuclear retaliatory fire in the decades to come?”
“Get out,” I said for a final time. “I’m ruthless enough to shoot you, and by God I will if you don’t get out of here.”
The Time Traveler nodded. “As you wish. But you should hear two last words, two last names . . .religious judge Ubar ibn al-Khattab and rector-imam Ismail Nawahda of New Al-Azhar University in London, part of the 200,000-man Golden Mosque of the New Islamic Khalifate in Eurabia.”
“What are those names to me or me to them?” I asked. My finger was on the trigger of the cocked .38.
“These religious officials were on the Islamic Tribunal that sentenced two dhimmis to death by stoning and beheading,” said the Time Traveler. “The dhimmis were your two grandsons, Thomas and Daniel.”
“What was . . . will be . . . their crime?” I was able to ask after a long minute. My tongue felt like a strip of rough cotton.
“They dated two Muslim women – Thomas while he was in London on business, Daniel while visiting his aging mother, your daughter, in Canada – without first converting to Islam. That part of sharia, Islamic law, is called hudud, and we know quite a bit about it in my time. Your grandsons didn’t know the young women were Muslim since they both were dressed in modern garb - -thus violating their own society’s ironclad rule of Hijab — modesty. The girls, I hear, also died, but those were not sharia sentences. Not hudud. Their brothers and fathers murdered them. Honor killings . . . I think you’ve already heard the phrase by 2006.”
If I were to shoot him, I had to do it now. My hand was shaking more fiercely every second.
“Of course, the odds against one sharia court in London sentencing both your grandsons to death for crimes committed as far apart as London and Quebec City is too much of a coincidence to believe in,” continued the Time Traveler. “As is the fact that they would both be introduced to Muslim girls, without knowing they were Muslim, and go on a single dinner date with them at the same time, in cities so far apart. And Thomas was married. I know he thought he was having a business dinner with a client.”
“What . . .” I began, my arm holding the pistol shaking as if palsied.
The Time Traveler laughed a final time. “All of your grandsons’ names were on lists. You wrote something . . . will soon write something . . . that will put your name, and all your descendents’ names, on their list. Including your only surviving grandson.”
I opened my mouth but did not speak.
“According to their own writings, which we all know well in my day,” continued the Time Traveler, “ ‘Hadith Malik 511:1588 The last statement that Muhammad made was: "O Lord, perish the Jews and Christians. They made churches of the graves of their prophets. There shall be no two faiths in Arabia.’ And there are not. All infidels – Christians, Jews, secularists -- have been executed, converted, or driven out. Israel is cinders. Eurabia and the New Khalifate is growing, absorbing what was left of the old, weak cultures there that once dreamt of a European Union. The Century War is not near over. Two of your three grandsons are now dead. Your remaining grandson still fights, as does one of your surviving granddaughters. Two of your three living granddaughters now live under sharia within the aegis of New Khalifate. They are women of the veil.”
I lowered the pistol.
“ Enjoy these last days and months and years of your slumber, Grandfather,” said the scarred old man. “Your wake-up call is coming soon.”
The Time Traveler said three last words and was gone.
I put the pistol away – realizing too late that it had never been loaded – and sat down to write this. I could not. I waited these three months to try again.
Oh, Lord, I wish that some person on business from Porlock would wake me from this dream.
It was not the horrors of his revelations about my grandchildren that had shaken me the most deeply, shaken me to the core of my core, but rather the the Time Traveler’s last three words. Three words that any Replayer or time traveler visiting here from a century or more from now would react to first and most emotionally – three words I will not share here in this piece nor ever plan to share, at least until everyone on Earth knows them – three words that will keep me awake nights for months and years to come.
I know a lot of people like that, people who have no awareness beyond the surface, who barely ever have a thought they don't speak. I think that bloggers as a general rule have a fairly rich inner life, and the very best bloggers are those in which there is a deeply spiritual inner life. No, I don't mean religious. Spiritual and religious are two things removed one from another- and if you don't get that, you probably don't have much innner life.
I tend to think that inner life can be established by a variety of things. Mine, I'm pretty sure, was a result of being such a voracious reader as a youth. I grew up with a head full of other worlds, other ideas, other concepts. By twelve, I understood what bullshit the educational system was, and fought it the rest of my life. WIth the understandable result that I didn't do extraordinarily well in school. Still, I learned enough to get by. What I learned, and what I'm still living with, is that the inner life gives you a vision of a world that is better than the one we live in. All human progress has been because of that inner life, because of the reaching beyond, because of the ability to imagine something better, faster, stronger, safer. Who has the inner life? who uses it? Look around and see the people who are changing the world.
Time and space don't really stand between us. Proximity and distance are part of the matrix we live in, and without it we could not make sense of our world with our limited minds.
When part of me gets bored I go rummaging around through time and space. But it has also been therapeutic for me, as I have noted elsewhere. Because every moment is eternal, there are eternal moments where hurt still lingers. Since they are in the present of eternity, they naturally are capable of affecting me now. But I am also able to go back to them and apply new levels of knowledge and wisdom, and thereby diffuse the pain. In a certain sense it is going back in time and changing personal history.
But what happened happened. It is not like a recording on magnetic tape that can be replayed or overwritten. Some people make that mistake. The past is present in eternity. What happened is happening now, and it is accessible. It is the meaning that can change.
Herein lies the power of forgiveness.
Then there are those rare moments when eternity reaches forth and touches the present, times when what was and what is, come to terms with the forevermore, and the falcon's long route comes full circle.
I've written about much of what I'm referencing elsewhere, and I don't want to rehash that which really doesn't belong here, except to say that it is important not to miss the significance of such a moment.
See, when you make something to be desperately important at some point in your life, even decades later, long after the bitter regret has been washed away and wisdom has remade the understanding of what once was and then was no longer, there may still be old channels of thought and feeling that are capable of responding to the fulfillment of that which once held such importance--deep grooves carved on one's soul, awaiting the coming of the spring floods that never came--long since grown over and quite forgotten.
"Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
Sturm und Drang and earthquake and fire. And after that, a stillness of soul. And in the midst of the peace, a butterfly. There were shackles I never even recognized that burst asunder, and such a joy that welled up in me that I was at a loss to explain, given where I thought I had come to. Should I feel embarrased? In a measure I do. At one level I want to say "that has no real meaning anymore, and you've dealt with it so long ago". But why should I deny it, even if it is senseless, and even if it is far far too late for the purposes that the channels were carved for?
But can I deny I've been looking for it even still, even as the old sailor still looks out to the sea? The sea is in his bones. How can he turn away?
Yes it is not even necessarily the person or circumstance. It is indeed that elusive something on the periphery of sleep, an undefinable longing in a moment of absent reverie, that flicker of eternity that appears in the long shadows of a late afternoon. It is the voice of the Muse, singing when and where she can to a soul that is crusted over and burdened with the weight of the mundane. (Do we listen when we hear?) But it can be tied to a person. Especially when such a skein of thread was woven around and through with such intensity.
There is a torrent in the courses, and tectonic rumblings in my inner landscape that speak of a shifting and remaking and resettling of the contours, the extents of which are still quite unknown to me. When the One Ring was unmade, there was much that seemed constant that ceased to be, in rumblings and churnings and splittings-asunder. And a torrent quenched the fires of Isengard and sent much flotsam and jetsam adrift. Flotsam and jetsam, joy mixed with ancient anguish and yearning and intensity of emotion. It's really all quite fascinating.
If this sounds quite overwrought, you are probably right. I seem to be in a hysterical and hyperdramatic mode at the moment. I can assure you I'll be just fine in no time flat.
Lest the reader misunderstand, the above is all an internal thing. My life is as it was and will be. If I regain a friend, I will count myself most blessed. If it is merely the briefest moment of contact, like the moon as she brushes past the evenstar on her course into deepest night, I will be sadder but it will still have been one of those slivers of the perfect.
Nightingale, sing us a song Of a love that once belonged
Nightingale, tell me your tale Was your journey far too long?
Does it seem like I'm looking for an answer To a question I can't ask?
Ah Norah! Soothe me, caress me with your velvet voice!
I think I've mentioned before that I can just put this album on endless repeat and listen to Norah Jones all day. An e-mail from a friend last night prompted me to pull it out again for another listen.
The Nightingale According to Newton, it is justly celebrated beyond all others by European writers for the power of song. The song itself is indescribable, though numerous attempts, from the time of Aristophanes to the present, have been made to express in syllables the sound of its many notes; and its effects on those who hear it is described as being almost as varied as are its tones. To some they suggest melancholy; and many poets, referring to the bird in the feminine gender, which cannot sing at all, have described it as "leaning its breast against a thorn and pouring forth its melody in anguish."
Only the male bird sings. The poetical adoption of the female as the singer, however, is accepted as impregnable, as is the position of Jenny Lind as the "Swedish Nightingale." Newton says there is no reason to suppose that the cause and intent of the Nightingales' song, unsurpassed though it be, differ in any respect from those of other birds' songs; that sadness is the least impelling sentiment that can be properly assigned for his apparently melancholy music. It may in fact be an expression of joy such as we fancy we interpret in the songs of many other birds.
They cannot endure captivity, nine-tenths of those caught dying within a month. Occasionally a pair have lived, where they were brought up by hand, and have seemed contented, singing the song of sadness or of joy.
Someone whom I have always known to be particularly insightful has ascribed the nightingale to me. That is interesting. I've never heard the song of the nightingale. Based upon the poets' interpretation, this may be accurate to a degree, at least historically.
But today I'm blogging from my patio. It's sunny and calm and about 70 degrees. The jasmine and orange and grapefruit and wisteria and roses and bougainvillea are all in bloom, and the trees are loaded with sparrows and finches and doves and mockingbirds and a thrush is warbling his tune. The outdoor cats are here and there, commenting on it all, or soaking up a ray of sunshine. On this fair morn of my life, my thoughts and feelings run more in the lines of another Norah Jones tune:
Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song A little girl with nothing wrong is all alone.
Eyes wide open, always hoping for the sun And she'll sing her song to anyone that comes along.
Fragile as a leaf in autumn, just fallin' to the ground Without a sound.
Crooked little smile on her face, tells a tale of grace That's all her own.
Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song A little girl with nothing wrong, and she's all alone.
Be careful though. People resent it if you seem too happy. ;>
Do yourself (and me) a favor--buy this album today if you don't already own it:
These two are fairly new. I've been using this moniker since 1994, and up until recently, the only other use of "Desert Cat" that I could find online was the brand name of a typesetting machine, an ATV, and someone's software company. I own the .net domain name, and have been keeping a sharp eye on the .com domain in hopes that it might expire. Now it looks like someone nabbed the .us domain. My fault, since I didn't nab it when I had the chance.
Not that it matters too much, except that I don't want to be mistaken for someone else using the name.
I've noticed you stopped by a couple of times recently.
Have a look around, make yourself at home! I'll try not to be self-conscious or anything. :D
"Who in tarnation is the Cat talking to?"
Sitemeter is an interesting thing. Sometimes amusing, sometimes surprising. Every so often I'll browse through the logs and see what brings people here. It's not a terribly sophisticated tool, but sometimes I can discern a thing or two about my readers based on their search terms, the origin of their browsing, etc. It looks to me like someone I knew way back in high school browsed through here in the last couple of days.
Back when K began reading my site, she worked her way through my entire archives over the course of several days. It was an odd feeling. An individual post or two doesn't tell someone much about me. But the cumulative weight of nearly three years of ranting and musing and linking and commenting speaks volumes. I suppose I must have passed the test, since she's still around. :)
I usually feel like a tiny voice on a soapbox in the midst of a surging crowd of opinion and commentary, each vying for the ear of those few souls they can snag. So it's jarring sometimes to be reminded that Google is a faithful indexer of every word I've ever written. And that yes, sometimes with the right search terms, someone does notice me jumping up and down and waving in the midst of that vast sea of punditry.
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