In the Beginning, Part II

Voice of God whispers in Adam’s ear.

“Wake up Adam, wake up.  God has a surprise for you!”

Adam groggy from the divine anesthetic, “What?  What’s going on?”

Well all those animals seemed to be rather interested in their own affairs, and quite frankly, with the exception of may be the…” consults stone tablets written by Adam…”the chimpanzee and the…er…dog,” God ponders for a moment wondering what God spelled backwards is,”really didn’t seem like a great helper worthy of the impeccable qualities imparted to you by your creator.” God gives an imaginary tip of the hat, “So here you are….yooooooouuuur helper!!!”  God had a little light shine down from above in a rather showmanshippy sort of way.

Adam is a bit stunned, and upon seeing the first naked person of the opposite sex, he learns a little bit about a previous dangly body part.  Fortunately, shame hasn’t entered into the picture.

“Name her Adam, name her as you did the animals!”

The newly created being seems to demonstrate a mixture of frustration, and fear.

“Um…okay…but er, can you tell me why my abdomen is hurting?”

“Oh that’s just a little leftover pain from the rib I took out of you.  Let me take care of that.”  God sends a warm glow of light towards Adam and after it passes into his abdomen, the pain is gone. “Do you like that effect? I’m working on how best to impress people with my awesome powers.”

“Yeah.  Impressive.  Listen before I name this helper over here.”  Points to helper, helper has an I’ll give you a piece of my mind look, “I’m a bit concerned that you’re taking body parts of mine to make new people.  Why didn’t you just create this person from the dirt like me?”

“Symbolism!”

“What?  What does that mean?!”

“I want you two to have a special connection.  A piece of you, to make her.”

“But why a rib?”

“Because you have lots!  Well 12 pairs.  It varies a bit.”

“But I think I’m having trouble breathing.  You might have nicked my diaphragm”

“Nope you’re fine.

“How many more people are you going to make like this? I assume all my parts aren’t expendable.”

“Nope this is the only one I’m making from a body part.  She’s special. I wanted her to share your genetic code.  Symbolism!!”

“Yes, well I still don’t quite get that.  So anyway, how are we going to make more people?”

“You are going to love it, and so is she!  You see that bit down there that stood at attention like a worshipper obeying his Lord God?  Well you are going to put that thing inside of her?”

God points to the nether regions of the newly created being and a little light begins to glow like a little star.  The new being looks a bit stunned and frightened.

“Is there some sort of hole there?  I don’t really see anything.”

“Of course there is…it’s um…well…don’t worry, when the time comes you’ll figure it out.  Insert tab A into slot B.  Pretty straightforward.”

“And that act just makes more people like us?  Do they pop out from behind bushes or something?”

“No no, it’s much more fascinating than that.  See you have this fluid inside of you and when you put your bit there, into her bit there,” more starlight twinkling on the requisite body parts, “it’s going to feel great.  Then you are going to reach this amazing moment, say my name a lot, and in the height of ecstasy expel this fluid into her.  There are these little swimming things in your fluid you see, and they are going swim and find this egg in her, fertilize it, and about 9 lunar months later, you are going to have this tiny baby pop out.”

Newly created being looks horrified.

“Does she also reach the height of ecstasy at the same time, because that would be pretty awesome?!”

“Um…well no.  I mean she could, but really she’s quite complicated, and you know as long as your…er…fluid gets in there.  You get to have a baby! Or well she does technically.”

And so what is this baby thing?”

“Well it’s like you, but at a very early stage of development, so it has to learn and grow up into you…or…er…her over there.”

“So does this baby talk or anything?”

“Not at first. It learns to talk!”  Good looks quite impressed with himself.

“Okay, but it’s able to like go around the garden and feed itself though right?”

“Well no.  It can’t really walk at first.  Or grasp anything.  Can’t really see more than 3 inches in front of its face, and it will take a good month or two before its eyes can follow objects around. Oh also it can’t chew, owing to not having any teeth. It will be quite a few years before it can really fend for itself reliably.”

“That’s horrible! Well what I’m supposed do with it?!  How do I feed it!?”

“Well see those two lumpy bits on her chest?” God makes her nipples begin to twinkle.

“Yeah I quite like those.” Adam gives the newly created being a toothy grin.

“Well when the baby is born, they produce milk and she just gets the baby to latch on to the nipples and, pardon the expression, those babies can suck like a demon.”

Both Adam and the newly created being look at the breasts with a completely disgusted look on their face.

“Oh stop it you two…it’s a beautiful experience, just you wait.”

“Alright, so what we can make a baby any time I put my thing into her?”

“Um…sure.  Don’t worry about the details yet.”

“And so this thing, it like grows in some sort of a pouch or something?”

“Yeah…I guess. Sort of.” God points to the abdomen of the newly created being and makes an nice red glowy area. “You see it’s going to grow right around here and her belly is going to get bigger and bigger.  Inside her is something called a womb, where the baby develops.”

“And so it grows until what? It just sort pops out of her?”

“Nope…it just sluices out her, easy-peasy.  In the same place where you put your thing in to make it.  That’s efficiency!”

“So 9 months of gestation and several years of basic doing every little thing for this thing is more efficient than just popping new people out of the dirt?”

“Adam! It’s a miracle!”, rebukes God.

“Sorry Father.  Okay, well…this all sounds like a lot of responsibility.  Maybe we should get to know each other a bit better first.”

“Alright, alright, well listen, you need to name her.”

“Hmmm…well she’s made from me, and I’m a man.  But she’s got a womb.  So wombman?  No, I don’t really like the phonetics there.  How about woman?”

God rolls his eyes, “That’s the type of naming creativity usually attributed to me.  Okay, well I guess let’s go with it.  But I still think you are missing out on the whole symbolism part here, but in any case, now that you have woman, you may leave your father and unite with her as one.  That’s what I was getting at here.  Wish you were a little brighter, but I guess subtlety is learned.”

“Okay, well this all great Father, but does she talk, she really hasn’t said anything thus far.”

“Well I created her to be a helper, I didn’t think she needed to talk.  She just needs to do what you tell her to.”

Woman looks back at God incredulous.

“Don’t get me wrong Father, I appreciate the thought, but you’ve given me the ability to choose, I think she should have it too.”

“Are you sure? Because you know life is pretty confusing as it is?”

“I’m sure Father, and give her a voice too.”

“Okay, but listen as soon as I give her free will and a voice, I’m going to hit the road.  I know anger. I’ve been in some pretty good rages myself, and she looks like she’s about to burst.  I prefer to think of this garden as a peaceful place, so I’m going to shape some glaciers or something.  I’ll check back with you later.”

God creates a little ball of light that travels quickly towards woman and as soon as it hits her it envelops her body.  Then with fire in her eyes she looks at Adam and then over to God and starts walking over to God.

“Explain the rules to her Adam.  Byeeeee!” and quickly vanishes.

Woman has arrived.

In the Beginning. Part I.

“So, um…Lord?  God?  Sounds a bit formal.  But I mean you created me from dust and all, so dad doesn’t sound great either.  Father…er…hey thanks for putting me in this garden.  It’s gorgeous I have to say.  I mean I don’t know much about…well anything yet, but I imagine it has everything a guy could need.”

“Yeah don’t worry about that Adam you’re set up pretty good here.  This is basically paradise.  I’ve put the Tree of Life here, you will literally never die here and you can just enjoy it forever.  Oh and I also put the…” God speaks really low in a mumble, “…ledge here as well…ood…evil” mumble mumble, “…perish..”, speaks really fast, “Don’t touch it.  Okay and moving on.”

“Lord. God.  I…er, didn’t catch what you just said there.  What else did you put here.  It sort of fell apart after you told me about the Tree of Life.”

“The Tree of Good and, er, Evil.” God looks sideways with feigned innocence.

“The what?  Good and Evil?”

“Yeah, bit of a nasty tree really.  I know seems a bit incongruous with the whole everlasting life and paradise vibe, but it sort of contains wisdom, knowledge, sort of gives you a lot of my ability to learn from your mistakes and improve and get smarter over time so you’ll become more and more like me.  Listen, I don’t recommend it.  You eat the fruit and you’ll die.  Really moving on.”

“But!”

In the commanding voice of God, “MOVING ON!

“Alright, alright.” Adam hangs his head down.

God shifts uncomfortably, “Sorry about that, but the truth is that we really have…or er…rather you have a lot of work to do.  Okay, confession time.  You know how I’m all-powerful and all-knowing yeah?  I mean I can literally make anything happen.  But, the thing is, I’m not exactly good at everything.  Does that make sense?”

“No, but I was literally just created, and I’m not allowed to eat from a certain tree.”

Alright, alright, point taken.  Well let’s say you know a lot of stuff, but even knowing all that stuff it can be hard to convince somebody of your point of view.  Oh or, let’s say I know everything there is to know about carpentry, you know like I read all about it in a book, you know…book smart, but in general I’m just not very good at it.  Can’t build a table to save my life.  Fortunately I can just think it into existence and it happens, thus I appear to be a master carpenter, but if I actually had to do the work, the results would be terrible.”

Adam with all the confidence of a young child who wants his father to think he is smart replies, “I think I understand, especially if I knew what carpentry was!  Or a book!”

Yeah, um…well one thing I’m very good at is creating.  I’ve created a lot of things on this planet, beasts of burden, all manner of wild animals, birds.  I’m pretty certain I made the insects too, it just doesn’t seem to have been overly intentional. Well anyway, here’s the thing Adam.  Your Lord and God, just isn’t very good at deciding what they should be called.  And if I’m completely honest, I kind of feel my time is better spent thinking about other things.  I mean my consciousness is pretty massive and can do a lot of important stuff.  Do you know what I’m getting at son?”

Adam smiles sweetly and shakes his head.

“Well Adam, you are going to have to name every living thing I created.”

Adam’s jaw drops. “Wait…Father.  This doesn’t make any sense.  You named me just fine!”

“Actually your name is just a bit of word play, it actually means ‘earth’ as I made you out of dirt.  You see? Not terribly inventive.”

“Wait my name means dirt!?”

“Well it also mean red-skin, for the color of your skin.  Words sort of have lots of meaning. Ambiguity is something you are going to LOVE!  Either way, you’ll admit that my names are far too logical and less than inspirational.  So anyway, here’s your etching tool,” God blinks his eyes in a fun and magical way, “and there is a pile of stone tablets to write on.  In case you want to make any notes.”

“Oh my, God, there are thousands of tablets there!”

“Yeah, well you know everything is provided for you.  And everybody needs a job. Purpose is important Adam.  I created this whole universe for you, so it seems only reasonable that you could do this for me.  Right?”  God grins unconvincingly.

“I don’t know anything about naming either!”

“Hey I’m not completely abandoning you, you don’t have to go and find all the creatures.  I’ll bring them before you.  Watch them behave a little bit and I have a feeling that your creativity will kick in and you’ll come up with a great name.  You’re my greatest creation after all.  I know you won’t let me down.  Consider yourself the first biologist!”

“Alright, enough with the pep talk Father. Let’s get to work.”

After several days…

“May fly, fruit fly, black fly, horse fly…”

“Why horse fly?”

“Don’t know, don’t care.  Tsetse fly, dragon fly…”

“What is a dragon?”

“No idea. Crane fly, sandfly, mosquito, midge”

Several more days…

“Oryx, lynx, ibex, fox, minx…”

“You seem to be using a lot of x’s there.”

“Yeah, I get on a streak, it flows.”

“But that doesn’t sound all too inspired.  I mean I could have done that.”

“The thought never occurred to me Father.  Pelican, Pigeon, Penguin, Puffin.”

Several more days…

“Weasel, beaver, otter…”

“Great pace Adam.  You’re knocking them down one every 10 seconds we’ve hit near 300,000 of these things, we should be done, in about a week or two.”

“Father, I’m running out of names.  I’m literally just trying to alternate vowel and consonant sounds to come up with names.  I just called something an el-eph-ant.  I’m lost at sea over here.”

A look of “Uh oh” washes over God’s face.

“What!?”

“Well as it turns out, I completely forgot about all the animals in the sea.  I’m think it might be a bit longer than week or two.”  God gives a sheepish grin, which he can now do since Adam already named one of the animals a sheep.

A couple of months go by (It is not clear that months had been defined for the lunar or solar calendar at this point, but one can be certain that for Adam it was a very, very, long 2 months).

“Well done Adam!”  God quickly reads through all the tablets and makes a mental note (God can do those sorts of things and remember it)

Adam asks in a beleaguered voice, “So what now father.  Do I get to wander the world and see these animals in their native habitats?”

“Er, no, you’ll be staying here. But you’ll get to hang out with the near 100 species that are in the garden!”

“One hundred?!  Well why did I bother naming all these animals I won’t even see?  I’m the only person around to even see ANY animal!”

“Calm down.  I’ve got great news for you, quite related to that point actually.  I’m going to make you a helper!”

“I just named like 8 million animals, and NOW you decide to bring me a helper!?”

The stress is getting to you son.  Probably should have let you have a day of rest.  I did give myself one after all.  I might be omnipotent, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good nap.  Although I can assure you that creating the universe was much harder.  Anyway, yes in retrospect it would have been more useful to do this last task as a bigger team, but I assure you, you’ll forget all about that when you see her!”

“Her?”

“Quiet son, your Lord God is going to do a little surgery.”

God applies His divine anesthetic and Adam falls into a deep sleep.

Climate Scientists Embarrassed but Thankful for People on Internet Telling Them About the Sun

In a surprise reversal of position, numerous climate scientists now say they could be all wrong about climate change, thanks to a plucky group of public skeptics who have spent numerous hours on the internet reading articles by people not associated with the climate research in any way.  For years climate researchers have failed to listen to these pleas for reason and understanding.  Much to the chagrin of the climate community, a major misstep has been brought to light, climate researchers have forgotten to take into account the sun in the now shaky theory about human-induced climate change.

The moment of truth came Dec. 9th when an article that was reporting 2016 was shaping up to be the hottest year on record when a commenter who goes by the name “drillbaby” said the warming we are seeing is caused by the sun.  We were able to track down this commenter as internet climate expert and full-time real estate agent, Derek Laskin, to ask him how this revelation came to him.  “It really was the stuff of stories the way I was inspired,” exclaimed an excited and proud Laskin, “it was a cool morning, but the sun was out, and I noticed that throughout the day things started to get warmer.  That’s when I came upon this article about climate change and global warming, where the scientists are blaming on carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, but based on my experience on how the sun seemed to be working, I decided to comment on this article to suggest that maybe we shouldn’t be looking at carbon dioxide, and that the sun is responsible for the warming.”

This comment may have been missed by the climate science community if not for a bit a random luck.  Climate researcher, Dr. Mike Hulme, received a text message from his sister who happened in the article that simply read “Holy shit, some guy commented on an article and mentioned the sun!  I’ve never heard you talk about the sun before in telling me about your work.  WTF!?”  The word spread at the speed of light in the scientific community, and while some resistance remains to this new development, the change has been visible and scientists are now contemplating a spectrum of new ideas in regards to the warming we are seeing.  We had a chance to go to King’s College in London to talk to Hulme.  “Needless to say I am shocked.,” said a shaken Hulme, ” All those years in school studying weather and climate, and nobody ever brought up this glowing orb in the sky called the sun.  I’ll admit it made the physics of climate somewhat implausible, but you know we tend to respect our teachers and believe what they tell us without every going through that process of discovery on our own.  I am just glad that we have internet commenters like drillbaby to clue us in to important things we have missed.”

When asked why some researchers are still resistant to this very pervasive idea of the sun causing warming, Hulme replied “Well I have no idea why they would prefer to remain in the dark as it were, but I guess most scientists care more about money, and it’s a tragedy really.  But I have no other explanation.  I will say that there really is a lot of confusion right now and so some scientists are reticent about changing their views yet until all the information comes out.  Currently we are still mining internet comments and finding out all sorts of things we previously did not know.  As it turns out there are many people who haven’t spent years studying atmospheric physics and research climate data who are writing some pretty in depth articles about how we got it all wrong.”  We then asked Hulme if there was anything else these internet comments were shedding important light on.  “Absolutely,” responded Hulme, “Quite a lot really, but one thing stands out.  As it turns out there are many people saying that the climate has actually changed naturally over the course of Earth’s history and there really is no need to worry.  Apparently if things change naturally any suggestion that changes may be enhanced or made more severe unnaturally is a pointless argument.  I’ve even changed my views about gun control.  People die naturally, thus homicide is irrelevant.  I’m just going to retire early and hang out with my Scottish Terrier”

Silence ensued for a few minutes as the exasperated Hulme simply shook his head in quiet contemplation.  I then asked him about the field of paleoclimatology that looks at how climate has changed in the past.  Hulme looked up at me wild-eyed and said, “Don’t you understand, it’s all been a lie? We missed the part about the sun and so you can’t trust any of our understanding about past climate either!  Honestly how can you trust us or anything we say ever again?!”

The Sun, featured here in the upper right.  The missing piece of the global warming puzzle, previously missed by scientists.
The Sun, featured here in the upper right. The missing piece of the global warming puzzle, previously missed by scientists.

We left the sobbing Hulme, but there still seemed to be some questions.  Previously computers models had demonstrated the warming could only be explained with the additional CO2 going into the atmosphere, and not by natural causes alone.  What then were those computer models even showing?  We sat down with a distraught Dr. Michael Mann at his office at Penn State University to ask him.  “We’ve all been taken aback by this sun thing, and it’s really made us look more carefully at the qualifications of the people involved in this research.  Models are really complex and most of us don’t really understand it.  As it turns out those who make these models don’t have years of experience studying computational fluid dynamics, but are rather out of work video game designers.  Apparently it’s quite common to randomize things in a video game, and this is apparently what the designers were doing – just randomly throwing in some false warming into the models.  Overall it’s pretty disappointing that we missed the sun in our models.  Right now I’m in the processing of going through my old syllabi that I have from my many years in college to make sure that there was no section called “the sun”.  If not, I think I have grounds to ask for a refund on my tuition.”

Finally, we asked Mann when the climate research community would have an official statement to make to the public they lied to all these years.  Mann, like Hulme, said there are many more internet comments to troll through, but he did say this “Right now I’d just like to say thank you to all those who persevered through perhaps 6 or 7 articles from right wing media outlets and were still able to find time to post their well-defended comments underneath articles with our nonsensical babbling which represents, to be honest, some of the shoddiest science mankind has ever seen.”

Area Man Dissatisfied with Locker Room Talk at Local Gym

Omaha, Nebraska – Area man Derek Sonnerson expressed his deep disappointment in the locker room talk at the local LA Fitness that he had been a member of for 5 months.  “I find myself in a position of needing to join a new gym because my current locker room talk doesn’t live up to the high standards of misogyny and descriptions of sexual assault I had been led to believe happened in this environment.”  Sonnerson who pretty much just wanders around the machines to stare at the females working out, and then heads back to shower to talk about them as objects has found the opportunities for guy talk severely lacking.  “You know, I stuck it out at this gym for several months, come at different times of the day, but can’t really seem to strike up a conversation with anyone about my creepy sexual exploits.”  A dejected Sonnerson said reactions have ranged from disinterest to disgust.  “Most of the time guys are just talking about their kids, sports, or politics.  It’s really disheartening.  One time I came in and these two college students were talking about some hot girl one of them was going to ask out to the movies and I said something like, ‘are you going to wait until the lights are low in the theater before you grab her pussy?’  They just told me to fuck off and called me a loser.”

Sonnerson says his current challenge is getting out of his current gym membership.  He’s submitted a request for a refund citing “unfriendly locker room environment” as his reason.  We talked to the LA Fitness manager Michael Thorn about the situation. “Frankly at this point,” Thorn said with some exasperation, “I’m prepared to give him is money back.  We’ve been getting a lot of complaints.  Women say he’s leering at them; men say that he keeps bothering them in the locker room.  I have to clear it with upper management, but usually in these cases it’s a no brainer.  He’s bad for business, we just want him out.”

Sonnerson seemed optimistic, “I know somewhere out there is a gym just waiting for a person that devalues women like I do and with a locker room full of guys that want to talk about it.  I just have to keep searching.”

Racism Thwarted Thanks to Social Media

Former Racist Ellen Degeneres
Former Racist Ellen Degeneres

Burbank, CA – Thanks to a cadre of people on Twitter Monday, racist Ellen Degeneres was thwarted from spreading her divisive, white privilege message to the world when she tweeted herself riding on the back of world’s fastest man Usain Bolt.  People who had gone nearly minutes without being outraged by something quickly piled a dung heap of shame on the unsuspecting Degeneres forcing her to cry and immediately become a better person.

Professional shamer Lindsay Telson told reporters in an interview Wednesday that she was glad she could be one the first to strike shame into the heart of the unsuspecting comedienne. “Some people might have looked at the picture and taken time to consider what it was really trying to say, but I’ve become really good at spotting racism having used Twitter for many years now.”  When asked whether she was still going to continue to fight, a weary but resolute Telson responded “Racism requires all the vigilance that social media can muster.  That’s why I follow so many entertainers and people of import not only on Twitter, but Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.  People look up to them, and if I can be the first to call them out on their racism I know that such attitudes will soon disappear.  Fighting complex and long time problems like racism 140 characters at a time is such a satisfying feeling.  Also,” added Telson, “you get more people favoriting your tweets and more followers.  So you can fight racism together.”

Long time shamer Randy Loeffler, who also helped shame Ellen, said shaming is a lot more in depth.  “You see,” said a thoughtful Loeffler, “good shaming isn’t just about being first it’s about the level of outrage you display or how piercing your comment is to the person you are trying to shame.  That’s really how you get people to favorite your tweet and follow you.  I’m not saying being quick doesn’t matter, but I feel shaming is more nuanced.”  Reporters took the opportunity to further question the experienced shamer to understand the shaming community better, “I’m not really fond of the term shamer.  I mean it’s true, but I think of myself as more of the social police.  We’re a community you know.  In fact in my area we started a Facebook group called Outrage Outreach.  Not a great name, but the person who thought of it was shamed appropriately.  It’s nice to get a chance to get together in real life with fellow shamers.  We don’t get to talk much to each other, but every once in a while we’re sitting at the table looking at our phones, somebody will call out something shameworthy that a celebrity has posted and we’ll all get on it.  It’s a lot of fun, being outraged together and in person.”

But shamer Destiny Carter painted a more complex and discordant view of the shaming community.  “First,” said a serious Carter, “shaming can be exhausting.  You might start with shaming a celebrity, but then some people will support that celebrity’s racist tweet, and then you have to start shaming the supporters too then they shame you back.  And it’s like there’s this bond you know because you clearly both like shaming, but you’re at odds.”  Carter then became pensive before adding, “Personally I have found it hard to find good friends among my fellow shamers.  One time I went out with one of them on a date.  We didn’t talk much, but we I liked the fact that we were getting really outraged, so we had sex.  But when actually talking after sex, while our phones recharged, it turned out that we felt very vulnerable and uncomfortable getting to know each other as people.  The outrage that brought us together was gone. So I tweeted him the next day that I had fun, but that I didn’t think we should go out anymore.  He got upset and tried to fat shame me because of his concerns to stop obesity and this forced me to shame him back to stop misogyny.  I am sure he’s a better person now as a result of it.  I don’t know…I had to block him when he started to slut shame me.”

To get a better perspective on shaming on social media, this reporter talked to Dr. Leonard Orville at Cornell University  who said that social media has really led to a lot of healing in the U.S. today.  “I don’t want to be too bold in my prediction, but I think that if we are able to maintain this level of shaming, by the year 2025 problems like racism will be a thing of the past.  So many celebrities, athletes, politicians, and just regular everyday people are being shamed into a more egalitarian mindset and society is being mended at an alarming rate as a result.  Hold on…is that a dreamcatcher on your tie?  That’s cultural appropriation.  Let me get my phone to take a picture.”

Eternity

Our story today is set in heaven.  It is a glorious place.  The light of God shines everywhere and God is at the center of it all, and sort of everywhere just soaking it all in as countless souls experiences the joy and happiness of being in His presence.  And as it says in Revelation “There is a constant chanting of angels that are heralding Holy, Holy, Holy over the throne of God.  The Mercy Seat in heaven where God sits is surrounded by angels full of glory and power that profess and bless the holy name of God continuously.

Bill sits among the multitude of souls reveling in God’s glory.  It’s unclear how much time has actually passed but things have started to feel a little bit different for Bill.  He hears a voice.

“Psst…hey!”

Bill breaks out his reverie and looks over to the source of the voice and sees a vague form there. “Are you talking to me?”

“Yeah…well you’re the only one that can seem to hear me, but then again with all the singing maybe it’s just heard to hear. Ha!”

Bill watches as the strange figure starts to look more and more human shaped.

“Yeah we’re just souls, but since you seem to look the way I feel, I sense we are both transforming it something more resembling our old selves.  I’m Hank.  It’s nice to meet you.  I’d shake your hand, but…uh…well we’re not of the body and all that.”

Bill nods dumbfounded.  Nobody had ever talked to him since he walked through the gates and from that point on it’s just been constant singing.

“Listen,” says Hank, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can take this anymore.”

“What do you mean?” Bill responded, still slightly shocked that the conversation is happening.

“Do you have any idea how long we’ve been up here?”

“No”

“Well I do. 14, 325 years!”

“Really?  I thought there was no time in heaven.  How do you even know that?”

“First of all,” said Hank “There’s definitely time passing here, you just can’t measure it by watching the Earth go around the Sun once a year.  And the reason I know how long we’ve been here, is that I happened to ask a passing angel last week.  Difficult buggers to get a hold of really.  It’s like trying to find an employee in a Wal-Mart to find out where they keep the slivered almonds.  It’s a big place Heaven, with not a lot of those angels about.  I mean the ones that are singing are obvious, but you know I figured its best not to interrupt.  Anyway the angel tells me what year it is on Earth.  I’m impressed we even made it as a species for that long.”

“Hmmm…well that’s interesting, but what do you want with me?” Bill asked, wondering if he shouldn’t be getting back to his bathing in the joy of God’s light.

“Well mainly you were the first person that seemed to hear me.  And quite frankly, I was bored!”

“Bored?  This is heaven!”

Are you trying to tell me all this joy and happiness hasn’t lost its edge a bit?  I mean this feeling of joy and happiness in the glory of God and all that has been going on for a pretty long time…I mean I don’t even remember why I’m happy anymore.  I mean don’t get me wrong, God’s great and all, but to feel really good, you need to remember what it was like to feel bad.  It’s been a long time, I was lucky to remember my own name.”

“I’m…Bill but the way…I think, and yes you may be on to something.  I have noticed lately that there isn’t quite as much bliss as there was before.  Although I can’t say exactly when it all changed.  I just assumed this was how I always felt and that I hadn’t remembered properly how happy I’d been feeling.”

“Bill, that is exactly what went though my mind.  But you know what knocked me out of my reverie?”

“No. What?”

“As I’m just enjoying the scene of Jesus sitting next to his Father on the throne, I notice Jesus take a sip of something from a golden chalice, and it hits me like a tsunami.  I had completely forgot the sensation of just how refreshing a drink can be when you’re thirsty.”

“So?”

“So?!  Listen I am not saying God isn’t amazing, but so are a lot of other things.  I mean when was the last time you saw field full of flowers, a waterfall, or just a great movie?  Or that great feeling you get after a good cry.  I would kill to see Forrest Gump, or Beaches right now.”

“But you get to feel great all the time here.  You don’t need to cry.” Bill looked at Hank with a matter of fact expression on his face.

“I mean sure you can say that about anything, but where’s the flavor?  Joy and happiness is not built on one thing alone, they are built on a myriad of experience of the course of time.  I mean when was the last time you woke up from a kick ass great night of sleep?”

Bill’s expression now changed to one of incredulity “God’s light is everywhere.  You don’t need to sleep?”

“Exactly, it’s always light.  Do you think that’s normal?”

“Isn’t it?”

“Think about it Bill.  It took me a long time to remember too.  Don’t you remember something called night?  You know stars?  The moon?  Sleep?”

“It rings a bell.  But sleeping is for when you’re tired.  I’m not tired and haven’t been since I got here.”

“And you think that’s normal?  What about that good kind of tired you got from a good workout or jog?  What about that good kind of tired you got from a satisfying day of work?”

Bill, looked down for a moment, a look of deep concentration on his face. “No I don’t.  I think I sold office supplies.”

“That’s not the point!”  Hank became more animate and grabbed Bill by the shoulders only to find nothing to grab on to and then backed away with a look of disappointment.  “Listen, the point is I am sure there was something that brought you joy.  Look I love God, you love God, that’s how we got here, and I think that’s fabulous.  But there’s got to be more to it than this.”

Bill still looked apprehensive, “I don’t know.  God’s light is pretty great.”

“Of course it is.  If you had asked me 5,000 years ago if I would get tired of this, I would have said you were crazy.  No one is more surprised than I am to find myself in this position of being a bit dissatisfied.  Now if you ask me could I take all of this for another 1,000 or 2,000 years, I would say sure, but eternity?  Really?  That same angel that I asked about the year to, you know what I asked him next?  How much longer do we have?  You know how he responded?  He just laughed.  That’s messed up.  I mean don’t you remember getting up here and all the excitement of it?  I was thinking, I can’t wait to see my family.  And you know I realized, I haven’t missed them once. And I don’t know how long you’ve been here, but I also started to remember how excited I would be to get here to meet Him and all the question I was going to ask him.  I mean think about it Bill, weren’t you all excited to meet God, and ask Him a bunch of questions?”

Bill nodded.

“Yeah, me too.  But have you got to ask Him one question?”

Bill shook his head.

“Me neither, and I love asking questions.  But I got here and it was just like praise, singing, glorious light, and I forgot everything!”

“So, what, do you want to ask Him a question?”

“Yeah I want to ask him a question.  Like, ‘Can I go back and do some more good works on Earth?’, because I’m sure there are still problems.”

“Yeah…come to think of it, I feel a bit idle.”  Bill started to feel like maybe he was coming out of a dream. “So do you think we should go up and talk to Him?”

Jesus-at-the-right-hand-of-the-fatherBoth Bill and Hank looked towards the throne.  A throng of angels and beasts singing praise.  God and Jesus were just smiling magnanimously at everybody. Hank turns to Bill, “I don’t man, it doesn’t look like a scene to have a conversation in.”

“Yeah.  So what do you want to do?”

“Let’s just get out of here Bill.  We’ll talk to somebody at the front gate and see what our options are.

“Sounds good Hank.  But where is the front gate?”

“Hmmm….I don’t know.  It’s been like 14,000 years I don’t remember which direction we came from?  Do you?”

“No.  So what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know…let’s just start walking and try to find it.  I mean the one thing we do have, is time.”

————————————————————————————————-

Thank you for reading.  Thought I’d try my hand at a little satire.  Whatever your thought are about heaven, eternity is still a really, really, really, long time. 🙂

More than Words

The discussion of free speech has once again risen up after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  For some interesting reads please take a look at this article on the Ethics of Free Speech and this article that presents a Muslim’s perspective on the situation.  Many of the ideas in these articles are important and so I wanted to throw them out first so that I don’t repeat their points too much.  If you’re too lazy to read them (I barely had time to write blog posts anymore so I understand)though I’ll list some important points that are guiding my thoughts right now:

  • How do we decide what freedom actually means?

    From http://bearingdrift.com
  • The argument for freedom of speech often gets turned into a “Those who want that freedom” and “those that don’t”. This is a false dichotomy because generally the disagreement lies where along a spectrum of “Freedom” we must draw the line on free speech.
  • Is freedom of speech always a good thing?
  • Words have power

When the news broke about what happened in France on January 7th, I have to say my reaction was not one of surprise.  Muslim extremists are nothing new, and given the anger that was sparked when Danish cartoonists depicted the prophet Mohammed in their publication, I just wasn’t surprised.

Now this not to say that I didn’t think it was a terrible tragedy.  Of course it is.  I don’t want anyone to think that my position is that those at Charlie Hebdo got what was coming to them. There is a difference between not being surprised and thinking such an act of violence against them was deserved.  There is no question that these Islamic extremists have got it wrong.  They don’t understand their faith, they will fail in achieving whatever dream world they want to live in, and they will simply cause more harm to others and themselves with time.   I can say that with certainty, in the long run, they will fail to get what they want and it is clear that all good people should and do oppose their aims.

Before looking at Charlie Hebdo let’s take a closer look at this whole cartoon depiction of Mohammed stuff.   Perhaps by putting things into context you will understand why I was not shocked to find that this happened.  First, we can agree that killing somebody over such a thing as a cartoon, no matter how offensive,

From the South Park Wiki. The picture of Mohamed was available, but I chose to show Buddha instead. I’m okay with that. 🙂

is ridiculous.  That being said it is not unreasonable for someone to be offended when their religion is ridiculed.  People do it all the time, they just don’t go all the way to killing somebody.  I am sure there are many other moderate and peaceful Muslims who were offended by Charlie Hebdo or the Danish cartoons previously.  And of course some number close to 100% of them never killed anybody over it.  Satire, comedy and comic depictions of religious figures is not new, but it is relatively new.  Such things quickly got you killed in Europe not so long ago if you tried to ridicule Christianity or religious leaders.  And while I believe the world as a whole, on average, progresses forward in terms of morality and reason, there are pockets of people going in reverse. As an example, I find it interesting that prior to 9/11 there was no outcry about a South Park season 5 episode in which various deities from other religions banded together to save the day.  I guess Mohammed was not ridiculed but still a cartoon is a cartoon.  This episode was even available after 9/11 for a number of years and has only recently been pulled.  I guess it was off the radar for awhile and perhaps South Park Studios didn’t want to take the chance anymore.  The point is that the backlash against Islam post 9/11 seems to have had a more polarizing impact on Islam and the west, such that those who wish to do us harm have looked for more reasons to do so.  Therefore, it seems to me, those who perpetrated the attack on Charlie Hebdo would have likely found another target had they not been drawing cartoons, but their doing so simply added them to a list of possible targets.  Crazy people generally don’t have good reasons to cause such harm, so should we be surprised that in a country with a lot of Islam vs French tension, where a magazine is ridiculing Islam that this simply puts them on the radar of the crazy people?  Personally I don’t think so.

Now let’s get back to freedom of speech.  We can also agree that it’s important, but just because you have the freedom to say something that doesn’t mean you should.  If you’re wife asked you if she looked fat in something, then you would have the freedom to tell her the honest truth, but I think you know how well that will work out for you.  Also having freedom doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t consequences for exercising that freedom, and law may have very little to do with it.  In truth, I have the freedom to go and kill somebody.  But there are consequences to that action.  Those consequences may simply be a fear of getting caught, more often than not though it is our own moral center that prevents us from doing such a thing.  We may even have a good reason to do so, but I also think about what my friends and family would think about me, how I would provide for my child, the times I would miss with my family, etc.  We are free to do a lot of things when you think about it, but our choice to act on those freedoms must be weighed against the consequences of our actions.

One of the Charlie Hebdo satirists said “We can’t live in a country without freedom of speech. I prefer to die than to live like a rat” in regards to whether he was

From http://www.beheadingboredom.com

worried about angering Muslim extremists.  While I can feel a certain amount of respect for someone who lives by their convictions, I do wonder about the value of that conviction.  Of course, the chance of dying from a terrorist attack in the west is extremely small, and perhaps if he knew that there was even a 10% chance of being a target of Muslim extremists, he might not have been so sure of himself.  I am also opposed to religious extremism (or really any kind of extremism) but if I am going to have convictions on the matter that are worth dying for, satirical cartoons seem like a strange way for me to take a stand.  If we want to defeat extremism, are satirical cartoons helping the situation?  I doubt if any extremist has looked at one of their cartoons and said to his fellow crazy Jihadists “Hey guys…you know what…I didn’t get it before but this cartoon has really shown me we’re being ridiculous.  Let’s just relax and maybe talk to some more moderate imams about interpreting the scripture in the Koran more carefully”.  Furthermore it seems one of the best way to quash Islamic extremists is actually by having most of the Muslims who are more moderate on your side.  Doing something that most Muslims find offensive, might not anger them into attacking you, but it doesn’t exactly win their hearts.  Therefore if anybody thinks that drawing satirical cartoons of Mohammed is in any way taking a stand against Islamic extremists then you are quite simply wrong.  It does nothing but divide people.  At best, those who appreciate the cartoons are a group of secular intellectuals who appreciate the wit and who already agree with the points you are making.  At worst, those who appreciate the cartoons are bigots wishing to eradicate all Muslims from their country.  The point is, such cartoons aren’t helping and are most likely making things worse.

What people seem to forget is that 1) being right isn’t always the most important thing, and that 2) even if you want to be right there are multiple ways to make your point.  Richard Dawkins is right about a lot of things, and yet many people, even humanists, atheists, and agnostics think he’s an asshole.  In thinking about these cartoons, I was reminded about my confrontation with the gay bashing fundamentalist Christians who came to our campus.  I asked the main guy point blank “Even if you are absolutely 100% right do you think that your offending and insulting them is going to convince them to your point of view?”  He was sure that they were going to hell and so he felt that what he was doing was the strongest most direct way to get them to change their sinful ways.  Anybody else of course can see that such anger and unkindness would never win the hearts of those they intend to save.  The only people who are supporting them are those who already agree with them.  So even though Islamic extremists are crazy, they don’t understand their faith, they cause harm, and their actions will ultimately cause them to fail to achieve their over arching aim, how we expose the extremists for what they are is just as important.  Being martyrs is one of those possibilities, but the freedom to draw cartoons of the prophet Mohamed just seems like a silly way to make that stand.

From http://thebilzerianreport.com

Freedom of speech is an extremely important one to a free society.  Speech has the power to sway.  As it sways it can raise the consciousness, inspire, and lift men and women to more.  However, speech also has the power to divide, misinform, offend, anger, and mislead.  To quote Uncle Ben Parker “With great power, comes great responsibility”.   I don’t wish for any government to censor publications like Charlie Hebdo.  Taking away freedoms doesn’t help the situation either, and is never an answer to terrorism (i.e. The Patriot Act). Nevertheless, no matter how “in the right” we think we might be, let us also think about how we communicate our message.  Freedom of speech is an important one to fight for, but there are many other good things to fight for and so it’s important to not get so lost in one fight that we start to lose the others.