Stealing The Fire

I just woke up from the weirdest dream.  In my dream, this choir of sweet-voiced children was singing “If you are right and we don’t belong, we’ll fall, don’t fret.  It won’t take long.”  There were other verses, but as I woke up most of it vanished, leaving only this and “If you are right and it’s beneath that we belong, if we are wrong, it won’t be long.”

It was such a vivid dream – let alone I don’t often dream of people singing – that for a moment or two I thought “wow.  I must find a site with those lyrics and post them on the blog, because that is totally the theme song of indie.”

And then I woke up and realized the song was sung to the lyrics of “Love lifts us up where we belong.”

And I realized the song didn’t exist and my post would be slightly different.

So, let’s talk about fate and duty and striving.

I grew up in a culture that believes strongly in fate.  I was rocked to sleep to songs about fate inexorably pulling people to doom or triumph as well as to songs about your fate being scripted all ahead of time and there being nothing you can do to escape it.

So I suspect this problem is more mine than other people’s.  But I know it’s other people’s too.

Nine times out of ten, when newbies approach me and stammer a question, it is a variation on “do you think this is what I’m supposed to do?”  (Why is it that the ones who instead TELL me “this is what I’m supposed to do” are ALWAYS the ones who truly have no aptitude and who ALSO aren’t making progress because they think they’re wonderful already?  No, don’t answer that.  Because G-d is an author and this is a funny book, I know.)

This question tortured me for years.  It still does.  The sense that I owe someone a life, that there is something I’m supposed to do, and that “is this what I’m supposed to do?”  “Is this the life I should be living?”

(In my case, it is complicated – of course – by my being religious and therefore believing that there is a part I should be playing.  But if you interpret my life in that way, He’s been plying the divine two by four against my thick skull since the sixties trying to shove me this way, while I bleated “should I be doing this?”)

Even for those who aren’t religious; even for those who didn’t get saturated in fate with an extra side helping of fortune telling and talismans to avert an evil fate, there seems to be this sense “am I making the best possible use of my life?  Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”

This is possibly because humans are crazy apes, aware of our own, personal mortality, a thing we presume other animals aren’t.  (Presume perhaps wrongly.  I suspect cats know.)  So we know our time is finite, and we look at it as an asset to be used.  Hence we get young people wanting “meaningful” jobs and “to do something that matters.”

Writers are particularly prone to this sort of doubt, because we get hit on the nose early and often.  Unlike other skilled crafts, we don’t – most of us.  There are exceptions – get tutored by a master in the craft and then released into the world knowing we’re at least somewhat good.

No, even those of us who have worked and practiced and think – from what we’ve seen and what we read – that we can’t be wholly bad, can’t be sure.  And in the days before indie it was entirely possible to spend a lifetime being rejected by EVERYONE and never breaking in.  Particularly as we went towards the nineties and you had to go through an AGENT first.  “Get pre-rejected” as it were.  Look, if I didn’t write as fast as I do and not been as stubborn as I am, I might not have made it here.  I wrote eight – EIGHT – novels, one of them a goat-gagger and got them rejected by EVERYONE before one of them found an agent. And then she claimed she couldn’t sell it and didn’t send it out.  And I wrote a ninth, which sold.  Two of those books rejected everywhere have now sold.  One has done rather well for me.  Others were a case of my biting off more than I could chew and/or of trying to cram too much story into too few words because I thought I was supposed to do.

Writing books used to say things like “know when to give up.  If it’s affecting your life, breaking up your relationships and devouring your sanity and you’re still not published, it might be time to walk away.”

I suspect the indie path won’t really be any easier.  There will be stories you put up that sell barely a copy.  Some of these will be your heart’s darlings.  Some of the stuff that you put up almost cringing will sell and sell and sell.

And this is not even just for writers, but for everyone who ever tried to do something difficult and tried to reach beyond what they thought they were supposed to do or what they thought they could aspire to.  (One of the videos that came up for Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong was of An Officer And A Gentleman.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie and I don’t remember whether the song was in it.  BUT the story is the quintessential story of reaching beyond what you thought should be allotted to you.)

So you’ll try – whether what you want to do is writing or something else you think would be wonderful and which seems just out of reach – and you’ll fail.  And you’ll try again, and you’ll fail, and you’ll start to get discouraged.  And you’ll lay awake at night, the thought rounding on your mind, like starving wolves outside a village during a killing frost “What if I’m not supposed to be doing this?  What if this is not what I’m supposed to do with my life?”

It is human, I think, to want to avoid pain.  I think that whole question is a way to allow you to walk away before you kill yourself trying for something.  After all if your ancestor Grog hadn’t limped away from the big mammoth he was trying to take on his own, with his stone ax, you wouldn’t be here.

On the other hand…  On the other hand…  If he had taken that mammoth the entire village would have eaten like kings for a month and there would be other humans here who weren’t because all the village except Grog died of starvation.  (Grog probably ate them and survived that way.  This is why I don’t study genealogy.)  And that mammoth?  It turned out that Grog had already wounded it fatally and it died not very far away, after Grog had stopped following.

So, what am I saying?  Am I saying that there is no destiny?  No preordained fate?  That there is nowhere we should be?  Nothing we should do?

Well, I do believe there is a purpose to our life – but then I’m religious – but I don’t believe our fate is scripted.  I also believe that our purpose might be something that… fails to occupy our entire life.  There is an Agatha Christie story that illustrates this beautiful – unfortunately I can’t remember the title, but it’s one of the Harley Quinn stories – in which someone is about to jump from a cliff, and someone saves him.  The person who is saved goes on to play an important role in something.  The one who saved him had, himself, contemplated suicide.  It is hinted he had to stay alive so he would pass this isolated spot in the dead of night and thereby save this man.

Yeah, I believe you have a divine purpose, but your chances of knowing it or understanding it are minimal.  You have to trust that if you do the best you can, you’ll be there at that moment when you need to do what you’re supposed to.  (Also, I presume that G-d, like a good programmer has backup loops and you might get re-directed somewhere else.)

But that’s my religious beliefs – and other people’s belly laughs – and not fate.  I don’t believe in fate, no.

I believe in people who want something and who want it bad enough to do it.  I believe in people who think “So, what if it’s against fate?  The gods of fate can stuff it.  I’ll still climb that mountain and steal that fire even if there should be hell” or eagle “to pay.”

But shouldn’t you take heed of failures?  Perhaps you don’t have the natural talent?  Perhaps someone is trying to tell you something?

Look, natural talent has precious little to do with it.   If my younger son wanted to be a singer, I’d tell him it would be hard as h*ll because of his sensory issues.  I wouldn’t tell him it was impossible and that he could never do it.  Deaf people – who want it bad enough – can learn to sing.  There are ways to magnify the sound vibrations, so they can feel music and imitate it.

In the same way I wouldn’t tell even the most pitiful beginner writer “you’ll never make it.”  I’d give him or her some gentle hints on how to start improving, then leave it up to them to succeed or fail.  Because, as that sweetly singing in choir in my dream said, if they don’t have what it takes, they’ll fall… eventually.  (Or not.  It’s none of my business, anyway.)  If they want it, it’s their business to try.  If we want it, it’s our business to try.

I don’t remember the rest of the lyrics in my dream, but I have a feeling it said something about kicks in the teeth.
The other day a friend on Face Book posted a thing about “How do you get to success?”  Answered with “Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail…….”

Make your own fate.  Climb your own mountain.

Your nails might be torn and bloody when you get there, and you might be down to one eye and one good knee.  BUT if you want it badly enough, you’ll get there.  If it’s a price you’re willing to pay, you’ll get there.  Don’t deceive yourself into continuing because it’s “fate” and don’t soothe giving up because “it’s fate.”  Make your own decisions, fate or no fate.

Yes, there might be hell to pay.  If you want it badly enough to pay the price, you can have it.  You can reach beyond what you were taught you could. The price is working beyond what you thought you’re capable of.  And to keep going after – by all reasonable thought – you should have been dead.  Sure, a man can take a mammoth down alone.  Even if the mammoth falls on him.  But what the heck, the village will eat well through winter.

You want the fire of the gods? Steal the fire of the gods.

And when the eagle comes to eat your liver?  Eat his.  Raw.

No one decreed it should be the other way around.  It’s up to you to make it the way you want it.

151 responses to “Stealing The Fire

  1. “If you want it badly enough to pay the price, you can have it.”

    Life will second-guess you. Don’t do it to yourself.

  2. A book on job-hunting that I once read said that most people get about forty “No” answers before they get a “Yes” answer. But given that you only need one “Yes” answer and then you have a job, don’t let the “No” answers discourage you — thnk of them as one step closer to getting the “Yes” you’re eventually going to get, and keep on looking.

    Similar advice would apply to a young man looking for a woman to spend the rest of his life with. (Or vice-versa if you’re in a culture where it’s acceptable for women to initiate dating. Substitute as appropriate.) He’ll get lots of “No” answers, some of them outright rejections, others people that he dates for a while and then one or both of them figures out that they’re not right for each other. If he lets himself get discouraged by all the “No”s he gets, he’ll never get to “Yes”. You’ve got to pick yourself up and keep going, or you’ll never succeed.

    Thomas Edison tried over a thousand different approaches to designing the electric light bulb. None of them worked. He didn’t give up — he said something like “We haven’t failed, we’ve just found a thousand ways that don’t work.” (Can’t get the exact quote because weirdly, Google isn’t loading for me right now — even though every other website is loading just fine.)

    Never give up. Never surrender.

    • *shudder* 40-to-1? I’ve had spells where I went a while between jobs, but never more than 10 or 15. I think if I had to wade through 40 failed attempts at finding work, I would probably get discouraged. On the other hand, if you’re talking about getting something approximating the “Dream job”, and not merely, “Yay! We don’t have to eat Ramen Noodles tonight!” then I might agree.

      • Wayne, in academia right now it’s running around 80 to 1 if you are looking for tenure-track positions in the humanities (excluding Arabic language, Parsi language and Middle-Eastern historian). A friend sent out 100 job applications before he finally landed a full-time slot.

        • Hmm… I was interpreting it as 40 interviews, not just 40 applications. I’m probably running about the average, counting that way.

          • Out of 80 applications someone sends out, I’d guess that they would get an average of 8-10 initial phone interviews, and maybe 4 live interviews if someone reaches that stage. Or one, if you get offered the slot. I was on a search committee for a very specialized position and we still got 30 applicants, some of them “wing-and-prayer” types that did not fill the requirements. Then six phone interviews and four candidates came to campus.

            • On the other hand, when applying for jobs, I’m probably more conservative about when to send a Resumé than most. I seldom send one for jobs that have requirements I don’t qualify for, even though I know that many of them inflate the qualifications they call for.

              Probably one benefit I have in some cases is that I am an excellent speller, and generally have good grammar (even though I long thought I was horrible because I got bad grades in English), and I have heard that tons of Resumés come in looking like they were written by 4th graders.

      • well, it balances out with my eighty rejections before selling a short. I am the universe’s counterweight Wayne. I hope you’re grateful

      • Talking of “40:1 odds”:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epeQwq-aYV0 .

        (Have to play that one for Kratman one of these years…. >:) )

    • Someone’s been watching National Treasure and Galaxy Quest. :-D

      • Galaxy Quest: guilty as charged. Guilty of good taste, that is. :-)

        But it’s been years since I watched National Treasure, so if I was quoting from it, it wasn’t intentional. What was the quote that made you think of National Treasure? The Edison one?

    • I’ve got the movie reference blues:

      I pick myself up, dust myself off, Start all over again. Don’t lose your confidence if you slip. Be grateful for a pleasant trip,…

      Sure it is confectionary fluff, but it is Fred and Ginger and therefore some of the finest kind.

  3. Odd that Portugal, being a Catholic–as opposed to Reformed–country should have a thing for fate. That’s the stuff of the Calvinist. Like me.

    Yesterday I visited the Henry Ford museum. (Mr. Ford was certainly a fellow fated to do big things…)

    Standing in the cab of the largest locomotive I’ve ever seen, I looked down to see a model train setup. I could see the entire thing with multiple trains running their courses in circles through tunnels and over bridges. The entire plan of the railway was clear to me.

    One of the model trains had a video camera built into it and they fed its signal to a monitor set up alongside the tracks. The perspective was completely different showing just the track a little ways ahead and the scenery going past. The plan could be derived from this view, but it’s hard work and it’s never complete until you’ve finished the course.

    Call it fate or providence but that kind of big-picture perspective is like the aerial view of the model train setup. It belongs to the Transcendent and though we’d like to steal a peek at it, creation is wired (uncertainty principle and chaos theory) to keep it from all of us.

    What we have to work with is the view from the locomotive. In the words of the song:

    Life is like a mountain railroad
    With an engineer so brave
    We must make this run successful
    From the cradle to the grave
    Watch the curves, the fills the tunnels
    Never falter, never fail
    Keep your hand upon the throttle
    And your eye upon the rail

    • Islam influence. Portugal was occupied by Arabs for hundreds of years.

      • ppaulshoward

        Yep, Tom Kratman talks about the difference between the Islamic and Christian mindset on “God’s Will”. Christian soldiers may talk about God’s Will but will aim carefully. Islamic soldiers will just “point and shoot” as it is “God’s Will” if they hit the target or not.

        • Islamic soldiers are devotee’s of the ‘spray and pray’ method. While Christian soldiers are more of the mindset of, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’

        • These mindsets are predicated upon differing concepts of Deity. Insh’allah causes the Arab to shrug, but it moves the Swiss to made watches. The Calvinist believes Providence is mediated through ballistics and windage, so he takes them into account. S/he believes Deity will be true to his character as expressed in natural law. Conversely, the Islamist Deity may act capriciously since s/he/it is above any law.

        • One of the things I learned from the Marines (I never was a Marine, but I’ve worked with them a lot) was that it wasn’t the Marine Corps’ policy to judge its enemies – that was left to God. It was just up to the Marines to arrange the meeting.

        • I’ve heard it called “Insh’allah marksmanship.” God willing, we’ll hit something.

          • Interestingly, Portuguese still use Oxala — “I hope so” — a corruption if insh’allah

            • you see the same thing in spanish – “ojala que” – “I hope that/hopefully”. It’s completely lost the religious context of it’s roots, which is rather interesting, considering how fervently its used in its original form.

            • Free-range Oyster

              I’m not sure why, but Brazilians often have a similar attitude. Both Pentacostals and Catholics are known to respond to everything with “Se Deus quiser” (if God wills it). Invitations, deadlines, health, incoming asteroids, you name it. I know there is a middle eastern influence there, but I never noted any Islamic influence, much less a Calvinist one. The ME angle is more a culinary thing. Dang it, now I’m craving esfihas… :(

              Dragging my attention away from my stomach, that attitude seems uncommon in the States, particularly in the free states. I believe a lot of it is cultural – the ideal of the up-by-the-bootstraps self-made man clashes harshly with that attitude. The Blue Model in the once-free states encourages a certain learned helplessness, but I’m not certain that’s the same thing.

              • Oyster,
                I think Brazilians get it second hand from Portugal. And I’m not saying Portugal is islamic — of course it isn’t, but the songs (FADO!) and legends often are, and it… passes on. It’s amazing how things linger, unspoken through cultures. Unexamined too. I was always more a bootstraps kind of girl. Most people in Portugal thought I was nuts.

              • Interestingly enough, when I was in school (before the Middle East and Islam became quite such a commonly discussed topic) we were taught that this attitude in Mexico, Central America, and South America was a Spanish and Portuguese influenced attitude. Nobody mentioned where they got it from, however.

                This influence also created the ‘manana attitude’, and ‘Bahama time’, where deadlines don’t really mean a whole lot,because, “it will get done when it gets done.” An attitude that drives us Americans nuts. :)

                • This reminds me of my time in Panama – the country and not the one in Florida. I had a car that I bought on the Colon side of the country and then I moved to Panama city after I got out of the Navy. I had to go to Colon every year to get the car registered. Even worse everyone in the country had to get registered on the same week.

                  Well, I would go to Colon three times to get my registration because sometimes the person in charge would just take the day off or he would charge and extra 50-100 dollars to get it done on time. It was always manana… which doesn’t mean tomorrow.. it means someday in the future–maybe. ARG

                • I’ve told people I spent most of my teen years standing around on street corners… Not what it sounds like. I could never accept: x time could be three hours later. So I’d be there fifteen minutes earlier, waiting. After a while I started taking books. I was BORN a (temporarily) expatriate American.

                  • We would get into the car for church so that we could be 15 minutes early for services and wait in the car 15 minutes while Mom put her finishing touches on her makeup. ARG we always thought she was from some other country. She was born in Idaho. Nothing is more embarrassing than to walk into church late… every one turns to see who it is.

                    • I to remember always being 15 minutes early for church (and turning around to see who is walking in late). My dad was anal enough at always being on time (probably where I get it from) that if my mom would have did that I believe he would have left her in the car, and walked in without her ;)

                    • Maybe she did it on purpose, to get everyone to look? :-)

                    • Even at 71 Mom is still a Diva. You could be right… she wanted everyone to look ;-)

                    • What’s the point of going if nobody knows you’re there?

  4. I have been thinking about the proper response to this post Sarah. I come from a religious family who believes in fate and destiny. However, they believe it is only found in the Church (Mormon). It is very Old Testament in its organization and belief that men are the leaders and women are the support system.

    It was a very hard thing for me to break from my family and my church since most of my family are strong members in the church except for one brother who married a Catholic girl. :-)

    At eight years old I became familiar with Ben Franklin’s writings. God knows, that they were not teaching his writings in school even then (1969+). I came across a saying that “God helps those who help themselves.” That one saying has saved me through some terrible times and even some good times. It became my motto with “speak softly but carry a big stick” from Theodore Roosevelt.

    Was it destiny or fate? I do know that a Portuguese friend read my hands when I was in South Africa. She told me that I would be a writer. It was written in my hands. She also told me that my life would be cut short, but I would have a new life in the ashes. –that did happen – my illness has changed my life out of proportion. So I do wonder about the fate thing. She didn’t say I would be famous, but that I would be supported by a good man. Was it character analysis? or was it fortune-telling. I don’t know. She is the only one I know that has been right so much about my life. Besides knowing that I would eventually find a good man helped me go into the military and learn electronics. It gave me hope.

    Because of my experiences, (and yes I am religious too in the sense that I am sure there is something out there who is interested in our lives) I think if I had really believed in fate that I wouldn’t have striven as hard as I have done. I think fate – is just the talents, abilities, and choices that are presented to us. I could have given in and married one of my mother’s choices and have been miserable. I would have never written and would have had an empty place in my heart, knowing that I should have done something.

    I don’t have that emptiness. I have done something. I want to do more somethings. I wanted to travel. I chose the opportunity to travel the poor man’s way – Navy. I wanted to live in new cultures. I had that opportunity too when I was able to get through the electronics course. Now I want to write. I still would like to travel. But maybe it was destiny that the Internet came along so that I can travel in my mind.

    So to sum up, fate is choices we are presented with… we can go that way or another way because it is our choice. Destiny is not set in stone – I do disagree with the Calvinists. We can make our own, but there are milestones that are there when we are going the right way vs the damaging way. I do get deja vu moments. I do dream what will happen next. I have trusted that maybe those ways are better for me. But I can choose not to go that way.

    Do I make any sense? lol

    Cyn

    • Yes you make sense, and I just used the exact same quote, right before I read your comment :)

    • I was shaken the other day by realizing that when we were kids and looking at each other’s palms — not serious fortune telling — one of my friends had an abnormally short life line, and we joked and teased her. She died at 29. Coincidence? Possibly. But it chilled me. OTOH I believe in free will. So while my G-d might have a plan, he has to work around my free will.

      • I think you’ve identified why Calvinists and Deists regard magic-users and fortune-tellers with such antipathy. We require Providence to not be disclosed through palmistry or other superstitious means because that would be cheating.

        • Um… I don’t think G-d plays poker with His creation, sorry. But we weren’t really doing fortune telling — we were educated girls — we were just playing. Hence the teasing.

        • Here is where I deviate with most Calvinists, Deists, and other Christian philosophers… because it is there if we look (magic & fortune-telling)… it is almost like saying we don’t want to look at the underpinnings of the universe (atoms) because it will make the mysteries of God too comprehensible. So all science should be considered evil. I could never understand the attitude. ;-)

          And yes, I consider myself a Christian. Not trying to start a fight here btw… just curious… Besides imho after reading string theory and other physic theory(ies)… In many ways physicists sound just like the mystics. ;-)

          • I refuse to accept a Creator of the Universe who is bound by Time. Thus entropy becomes merely a direction, like N, S, E & W … or Up and Down. Given that perspective of entropic flow, I see no reason that “future” events can’t have “prior” effects. Which is not to say I think they do — what I can believe constitutes a much larger field than what I do believe.

          • ppaulshoward

            I’m not sure that I agree with Steve on the reason many Christians look down on/forbid fortune telling/magic using. For many, it’s not “seeing things/doing things God doesn’t want us to know or do” but it has more to do with us “opening ourselves” to evil influences. IE working magic (for seeing the future or other reasons) is invoking spiritual beings that are not “friendly” to us. It’s related to the idea that evil beings can’t enter your home unless you invite them in. Trying to work magic is inviting those beings into yourself.

            • The reason I have seen certain people get into trouble is because they want something or someone to guide them and lead them on a path. They are not able to see the long term effects of what they are doing. They believe every wind, every voice, every thing… they don’t have the “danger, Will Robinson” alert signal.

              That is why it is a dangerous path. A sheep can’t climb it and shouldn’t. A goat could. Some people have the talent and the guardianship to take the path. People who play with it are the ones who get into trouble the quickest.

              • Many christians also simply don’t believe in magic. Which is interesting, since the bible says it exists. The problem being that magic is supernatural intervention. More often the intervention of evil forces (ie the devil and his cohorts) than divine intervention (which is generally called miracles, not magic).

                I guess a lot of it depends on your definition of magic.

                • The Mormon perspective when I was a child was interesting. My father was worried that we would run into beings that would try to deceive us. Mormons profess Christianity btw. Anyway we went through a whole series of if it is an angel, it will not touch you because it cannot deceive you. Plus we went through the if it is evil it will try to touch you, but you won’t be able to feel it. and then we had to banish it.

                  I don’t know why my father was so worried about this type of thing (unless it was the JS story). But I have never been in that situation.

                  My parents had some experiences as teens that would curl your hair, which they were very descriptive about to their children. Might be wear I get my storytelling ability. So Bearcat – I just don’t see the difference in power between miracles and magic. And the Bible says that even the devil can do miracles. … I just listen to my danger alert. If it goes off, then I leave no matter who it is – I have left in the middle of a church service once because of that annoying alert. ;-)

                  • That is what I was trying to express. That miracles and magic are the same thing, but many people define them as miracles=supernatural, unexplainable things done by God, and magic=supernatural, unexplainable things done by the devil.

                    That is a simplistic explanation of something many people don’t conciously reason out.

                    And yes both Satan and God can work through strange conduits.

                    • Nooo, God’s miracles are more like bringing the rules of eternal life forward. Everything works the way it should work, for a minute. It makes sense. It causes joy and helps you move forward. It’s like the moment when you know the answer, even if you don’t know why it’s the answer yet. (Some people find such miracles annoying and infuriating, mind you, because they think it’s not fair that anybody should get a shortcut.)

                      One understands, although I fortunately have no personal experience, that demonic “miracles” are a lot like bringing Hell onto earth for a minute. Everything works the way it shouldn’t, things make less sense, and it causes horrible things to happen inside people. It tries to make people small and mean, and to fix their minds on some small thing with a horrible fascination. And yet, it’s a lot like trolls on the Internet — it’s so stupid and pointless, but so proud of itself. So yeah, I don’t doubt that there’s a feel to that kind of junk which one is wise to avoid.

                    • Politics are FULL of demonic “miracles” — nods sagely.

                    • Very simplistic – ;-) It doesn’t take into account that the world is more than two dimensions.

                    • If by two dimensional you are meaning only two supernatural beings, I was going with just the ‘Bosses’. Under the fairly standard Christian belief (at least standard amongst Christians I know, I do have Mormon relatives and know there beliefs are signifigantly different than mainstream Christianity, but don’t know enough about them to point out the specific differences) that if it is evil it is working for the devil, and if it is good it is working with God.

                    • Bearcat – Mormons believe that too. I am a Jack-Mormon so my views are different. They only believe that the prophets meet angels though. I am not too sure about it. My angels have been the natural world (dogs, cats, other animals) which have saved me a couple of times.

                      Sometimes you can’t determine evil or good by just what is happening. “The fruits” take time to appear in many cases.

                  • For what to be afraid of when traipsing into the occult, read Hungry Ghosts. but Heinlein believed there was a science to it, and it could be harnessed, and I’m not sure it wasn’t right. Done wrongly it’s problematic, though.

                    • yea – the magicians were apprenticed… so that they didn’t hurt themselves Same with herbal witchery so that they didn’t poison themselves. I think there is a science to it that we don’t know because it was lost in the Inquisition.

                    • No. Not the inquisition. It was never as widespread nor as powerful as you think and anyway that would be much too late for it. Sigh. Most of the magic that people did was cruel and it was used for those in power to keep power. Christianity was welcomed as a relief from it, honestly, and the forbidding of magic was welcome because most magicians were… not good people. I mean even the sainted Greeks practiced human sacrifice. Of course there is a power in it… it’s just not good.

                      I’ve been reading about a series of attempts to bring magic to science or science to magic. Most end badly. If I can find the pile of books (they’re “far off research” for a book) I’ll post titles.

                    • Human sacrifice – yes, not good at all. Very interesting. –however, witches were a different breed, usually older women who helped with childbirth and used herbals to help with illness. If I remember they were the ones who were targeted in New England (famous witch trials etc). I have wondered although I don’t have proof that the Inquisition was used for power – and not just political power.

                    • ppaulshoward

                      Cyn, I think you need to read up on the Salem Witch Craft trials. Men as well as women were accused of being witches. In fact, plenty of the “witches” were considered to be “pillars of the community” before the girls accused them.

                    • NO. Very seriously no. At least not the ones the inquisition went after. SERIOUSLY. Actually there were more people hanged as witches in Protestant countries (read Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches for background.) Witch hunting is a common thing of humanity, still going on in non-Christian countries. It’s the “someone must be to blame.” — this is what I mean by much of what the US believes about witchcraft in Europe being fairytales. They were NOT remnants of the old religion (very little remained, at least in most Catholic countries, where the religion had been Roman and therefore rather ritualized. This might have been different in Norse countries) and the herbal healing craft had about zero to do with witchcraft. Ditto delivering babies. Oh, there were old rituals around that — life and death call for those, but they were general “woman knowledge” not occult.
                      Look, I grew up with this, okay. There are still witches in Portugal. They’re distinct from fortune tellers. They’re distinct from herbal healers. “Witches” sell the occult and influence people against/over their wills. That’s where the line is crossed and that’s what’s considered “not good” still.Healers and fortune tellers are often referred to as “Women” because it’s a woman thing. (I have this plan for a short story about an American sailor asking a cab driver for a “woman” — :-P )

                    • Also – I think our church history in the US is pretty shallow (as in we don’t learn it). So I apologize if I make some mistakes Sarah. I know that in Germany when I was there, the children are taught church history in school.

                    • In Portugal too. I didn’t have to take religious ed — dad wrote me out of it, not because he wasn’t Catholic (he is) but because I’d read more than the priest who taught it and I ARGUED which disrupted everyone — so I got to sit out with the (practicing) Jewish girls and protestants. BUT all of eighth, ninth and tenth grade is church history, pretty much — because it twined secular history. In the states there’s this bizarre fairytale of good witches and bad church men. Do you want a more balanced idea of late-European witchcraft, the kind that the church got p*ssy about? Google Atenais de Montespan and what she did to get/keep the affections of Louis XIV. To quote from Gross Pointe Blank “It reads like a demon’s resume.” Now, was every case the inquisition went after like that — oh, heck no. And I’m by no means defending the actions of the church in the secular realm, starting with the burning of the Templars BUT — BUT — as with a lot of what they did in the new world being a reaction to encountering MASSIVE human sacrifice, they were not entirely without reason. And what they faced were not always — or primarily — kindly wise women. At least after the fourteenth century or so, they tended to leave herbal healers alone. (Before that, things are complex and local.)

                    • It has been awhile since I read the Salem Witch trials paul… so thanks for correcting me.

                    • –bizzare fairytale – right… I guess it is because we have the English protestantism (think of Henry the VIII), and Huguenots , Pilgrims, and other groups who were unhappy with the Catholic church. So you get the bad church men…

                    • Credit the “Enlightenment” with the tales of “bad church men” as well — just as Anthropology has few actual instances of cannibalism, it mostly being practiced by “that tribe, over there.”

                    • For one because apparently cannibalism leads to REALLY BAD DISEASES….

                    • Oh well – Protestantism (old stuff) strikes again ;-). Sadly there is still human sacrifice practiced in some parts of Africa. We saw it in the newspapers when I was there in the 1980s (South Africa). It is a line that should NOT be crossed EVER.

                    • Mind you, I think the Catholic Church … um… Liberation theology is about as good as the old grabs at secular power. That said, it’s not as dark as it has been painted. It is one of the traditions I was raised in. My practice is complex and far far too involved to explain — since half the time I don’t understand it myself. I try though. I still think my best hope consists of being the plucky comic relief.

                    • When you get right down to it, the Chinese are practicing human sacrifice right now. So, for that matter, is Planned Parenthood and its allies. They dress it up better, call it “choice” and declare it will allow the mo … woman to lead a better, more prosperous life.

                    • I read about the dying rooms. Let’s not talk about that. I’m still having nightmares.

                    • Which “Hungry Ghosts”? There are 8 ficition titles on the first Amazon search page not including addiction self help books and a biography of Mao.

                  • i agree that politics is full of “demonic” miracles. But I am thinking of something a little different when I say more than two dimensional. – as in one man’s magic is another man’s technology.

                    We live in houses wired with electricity – invisible electron current. We fly in machines. If it was a God miracle, we would never fly. We drive in cars to pickup food, and cover distances that our ancestors couldn’t . We hear invisible voices on boxes – if that isn’t magic… ;-)

                    Our scientists are magicians. They have cracked the atom, etc. And, we benefit from this magic. it is not from the devil or God … “by your fruits, ye shall know them.” We won’t know for generations if this era of ours is bad or good.

                    Yet should we give up these technologies because they were not handed to us? We will eventually pay for them…I am pretty sure.

                    I also believe that story and magic are one. Terry Pratchett wrote about the death of Christmas (or hogwatch) and how it was necessary to save the Hogfather. When the hogfather died at the Winter Solstice, he was also reborn as the sun rose. The sun was still the orange orb in the sky, but without the story it was just an orb. We need our stories for meaning and magic in our world. Read the book or see the movie (it was made into a movie–quite good too). It shows how important story is to the collective humanity.

                    Magic? is all around us at least in my opinion. It is how we use it that shows our affiliation. No man is one thing or another, but a mixture of both. The worst people still loved something. We may not be able to see it because of the monsters they became.

                    When I lived with a Navajo foster sister, she told me that the all the animals and rocks had spirits. Her elders told the people that the reason they couldn’t hear the spirits anymore was because of the noise coming from the white man’s culture. I can see that. Electricity does have a wavelength.

                    Also – I need to read Hungry Ghosts.

                    • Three of our founders, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, have had a significant impact on my beliefs, as have others. If you read these men, especially Ben Franklin, you get the sense that they believe that when God created the heavens and the earth, He created everything, including what we refer to today as “natural laws”, or scientific principles. If you believe that God has created EVERYTHING, then the study of science is merely the study of God’s creation. Logically, it can be carried farther. Consider the miracles of Jesus: turning water to wind (molecular reforming), raising Lazarus from the dead (reversing Entropy), and feeding the multitude (again, molecular recombination). As the Son of God, with the knowledge of all the laws of creation, AND THE ABILITY TO USE THEM, these miracles both become explainable, and also reinforce that Jesus was God on Earth. The Sermon on the Mount was an explanation of how our minds work, or how they should work. How we are like God is in knowing how (some) things work, and being able to harness them. We still have a long, long way to go.

                    • A couple decades back I recall reading a scientific explanation of the 10 Plagues that befell Egypt at the time of the Exodus — all perfectly logical and intertwined: the Nile running red being due to an algae bloom, which drove the frogs out, which allowed the flies to prosper … and so on, up unto the death of the first born son being due to their being treasured in the households and given the choicest available viands, which also was most likely to have been tainted and become poisonous.

                      Really quite a simple trick for a Deity outside the time-stream.

                    • “Really quite a simple trick for a Deity outside the time-stream.”

                      YES!

      • Is this where I should suggest C. S. Lewis’ Perelandra trilogy?

        • I liked the stories, but I don’t remember them well enough to see how they were relevant to Sarah’s comment that this is attached to.

          • Ransome was chosen to do a task. It is clear that he was free to refuse, and what he was called to do would be accomplished, but if he didn’t answer the call he would be the looser.

    • As a Deist, Benjamin Franklin would agree with the Calvinist in looking to science/natural law to discover what Deity has in store for us. Any Calvinist who asserts that destiny is set in stone should remember that we can never know it. If some information object–call it Destiny, Fate, or the Decrees–can never be known by me or anyone, I can safely act as if it does not exist.

    • Yup:

      The Road Not Taken

      Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
      And sorry I could not travel both
      And be one traveler, long I stood
      And looked down one as far as I could
      To where it bent in the undergrowth;

      Then took the other, as just as fair,
      And having perhaps the better claim
      Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
      Though as for that the passing there
      Had worn them really about the same,

      And both that morning equally lay
      In leaves no step had trodden black.
      Oh, I marked the first for another day!
      Yet knowing how way leads on to way
      I doubted if I should ever come back.

      I shall be telling this with a sigh
      Somewhere ages and ages hence:
      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
      I took the one less traveled by,
      And that has made all the difference.

      Robert Frost

  5. One of the arguments used by early Christian missionaries to the European Saxons (as compared to Saxons in England) was that G-d was stronger than wyrd (fate). So one could argue that belief in predestination has very deep roots in northern climes.

    I’ve given up making long-term plans that say: “in five years I will have a job at the State Department. In ten years I’ll get married and settle down.” G-d just laughs and rolls something very different across my path. G-d, fate, destiny, whatever. And if I don’t get these revisions in the mail, it will be fate worse than death! :)

    • TX wyrd – I have played with the thought. Maybe God is wyrd. lol Yea, I am not good at long-term planning either except when I was five years old. I was going to finish college (I did that at 40), I was going to travel (27-32 in the Navy) and I was going to get married (31).

      My other long term planning was that I was going to get published. I have as an indie. :-)

  6. “And when the eagle comes to eat your liver? Eat his. Raw.”

    Eagle liver, mmm. Excuse me, I have a riot to write, a book cover to re-design, and self-doubts to kick with big stompy boots.

  7. I have learned to beware the subjunctive; is that what I was supposed to learn? Meh. If I was supposed to be doing or being anything the supposer should have been more effing explicit. (If He made me He made me remarkably dim about certain things, and thus any lack of perceptiveness is the fault of the manufacturer.) I will follow my will o’er the whisp of what interests me and worry about what I should be doing later, if at all.

  8. I have often said that the reason God compares us to sheep in the bible, is because they were the stupidest animal he could think of. (Those of you who have dealt with Jersey’s feel free to contradict me, you have a viable arguement)

    Then we come to fact that he created us in ‘his image’. I hope that is meant superficially, because if God was as stupid as some of the people I know, we would be in real trouble ;)

    • I have always wondered about the sheep reference lol… Goats are smarter and can adapt to many different environments.

      • It also depends on the breed of sheep. Merinos produce wonderful fleeces but are not ready to live on their own. Churro (or churra) sheep and some other heritage breeds are goat-like in their ability to survive and to eat almost anything. However, I would not want churro wool underwear unless there was no alternative!

    • Dealt with cows, they are large, they know it and can be practically immovable if they want to be. I found it preferable to do so from the top of a horse — it makes ‘you’ bigger. Stubborn is a good word for a cow. Sheep are still a pretty good candidate for dumb. At least we were not called domestic turkeys.

  9. Free-range Oyster

    Insightful comments and witty discussion later maybe, but for now: thank you so much for this. I needed it today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an eagle to go punch in his stupid face.

  10. “You want the fire of the gods? Steal the fire of the gods.

    And when the eagle comes to eat your liver? Eat his. Raw.

    No one decreed it should be the other way around. It’s up to you to make it the way you want it.”

    Well said! And something the more entitled-feeling people of the word (many of them in my generation, I’m afraid) could stand to hear said more often. Or at all, given the state of public education these days. Heck, I’ve had people encouraging me to make my own way for pretty much all much all my (admittedly short, so far) life, and it wasn’t until several months ago that I sat up and and really *realized* that there is no law of the universe that says ‘Things shalt work out in txgecko’s favor’. If you want it, get out there and make it.

  11. My background is not religious, but I have a heck of a respect and liking for it being in the world (you can’t read old books and not pick up the mindset of living with religion, and why it’s a good thing). I do believe we make our own fate and that the answer to “What’s the meaning of life?” is “Whatever meaning you give it.”

    As for writing – yup, this is pretty much what I told myself when I began writing again. I’ve also determined that it’s time to stop if I don’t enjoy it, and as long as I’m having fun, I’d post it for free. Obviously, I want more, but I won’t call it “failure” if I don’t get it. Getting paid for something I should love doing, but which I don’t enjoy and which makes me miserable instead, that would be a failure. One of the biggest attractions of self-pubbing is my fear that the obligation will kill the fun – obligation to another company that pays me, that is. Obligation to waiting readers is the best inspiration of all.

    BTW, birds are aware of their own mortality. I expect all prey animals are – they all know, in their bones, that their life is doomed to end at the claws/fangs/sharp beaks of a predator. I’ve looked at my own birds and they do know they’re safe with me, and I know how much that safety means to them. But it’s easy to trigger their fear, and if they’re hurt or sick, they hide it as much as they can. In the wild, they’d have moments of absolute terror every day; things that, if I experienced them, would traumatize me for life – knowing that a killer who planned to eat me was close by, and got one of my family just last week. (I really hate Nature.) For those that think herbivores are silly to be spooked so easily, they aren’t being silly, they’ve got good reason. Easily spooked is more likely to stay alive. (So, folks, if you’ve got a predatory cat, please don’t get a bird or a fish, or something else the cat’s going to stare at and lick its chops over. (Of course, I did hear of a friend of a friend who got their gerbil one of those big rolly -balls. Gerbil goes happily rolling along inside the ball, cat sees it, pounces, sends the ball rolling. Lightbulb goes off in gerbil’s head (they’re apparently smart little buggers), and gerbil goes after the cat. Cat flees in a panic. After that, whenever the gerbil got into his rolly-ball, he’d go hunting for the cat.))

  12. I’m a very strong believer in God, and a Christian, though of no denomination. You can only have your life saves so many times by “circumstances” before you believe in angels! Fate – not so much. My personal belief is that God created a plan for me in the beginning, but gave me free will to follow it or not. Each time I make a decision, I exercise that free will. The thing about God, however, is that he NEVER gives up. If YOU mess up His plan for you, He creates a Plan B. He also gives each of us the opportunity to bless others with our daily lives, however we can. That may or may not be a part of His plan for us. By living our faith in Him, we show it to others. There’s a lot of religion in my books, because I do believe strongly. It’s not preachy, and sometimes it’s subtle, but it’s there, just as other things having nothing to do with religion, but that are a part of everyday life, are there. God’s Will? I’ll know if I’ve satisfied it when we meet. Until then, I’d do what I can to be happy, and to honor Him.

    • Fate is an interesting concept. I’m not sure if I believe in it or not, because I’m not sure if I fully understand it. Like you I believe that God created a plan for me, and gave me free will, to choose what I wanted to do and whether I followed his plan or not. Where things start to get twisty is that I also believe God is all knowing, and before he created me (and his plan for me) he already knew what would happen, and whether I would follow his plan or not. He gave me free will, to make my own choices, but knew what those choices would be before I was ever created.

      Is that Fate, or not? I’m not sure, but I am sure that the more I think about it and try to understand it, the more confusing it becomes. I think I have a headache now from exercising my brain and bending it in ways it wasn’t created to bend ;0

      • Time is a aspect of material existence. God created material existence, and is not subservient to His creation. He is outside time…therefore when He looks He sees all time laid out as you and I might see a broad view from a great height.

        • Weirdly, I once experienced everywhereness? Ubiquity? It was terrifying. I don’t think I could live there. Of course, I am NOT Him.

          • Ubiquity encompasses everywhereness and everywhenness. I think of Him as “occupying” a single point, tangent to all other points. That’s as far as my math allows me.

  13. Different reaction: My lead character sits in my frontal lobes, right behind my eyeballs, with a magpie’s hoard of memes and themes and characteristics for me to write for her.

    I love the line about “When the eagle comes for your liver…” Dolly is very much a spit-in-Fate’s-eye kinda girl. I think I’m stealing it for her.

    M

  14. On the subject of fatalism: it seems to me that the U.S. has a huge disconnect on this issue between the establishment and ordinary citizens. Oddly enough, where fatalism is usually associated with poor peasant types, here the establishment is fatalistic and the common man isn’t.

    This isn’t a thinly veiled poitical comment, either. BOTH the right and left establishments are fatalistic. On the left, this takes the form of a two-headed monster of Malthus and Marx, in which capitalism is raping the planet. On the right, it takes the form of an Old Tory Spenglerism, in which there are just too many weak people out there for the country to avoid a new Dark Age.

    The thing is–as far as raping the planet goes, I’m reminded of a hilarious come-on line used on my sister: “Don’t worry. It’s so small you won’t even feel it.”

    Continued…

    • Eh. IF we’re raping the planet, at least we should beget a civilization :-P

    • Sorry…my home computer is down, I’m using the library computer, and I ran out of time on my first session. I’m back now.

      Anyway, as I was saying, if we are raping the planet, it must be with an extremely small one, because all the ecological catastrophes have turned out to be either bunk or minimal in effect.

      However, the right-wing Spenglerism also annoys me, because it too is overblown. It tends to throw around misleading statistics like the claim that 47 percent of the American people are not paying taxes, without mentioning that (a) this is largely a result of the current depression–and that many of those people would LOVE to have a job, or a better job at least, even though it would mean paying taxes; and (b) that many of those 47 percent are benefitting from (IMHO unwise) per-child exemptions due to the fact that they are in large families–and that many of them are deeply religious conservative voters.

      (In addition to being overblown, you have nonsense like Charles Murray’s claim that rich liberals are responsible parents who don’t preach what they practice. Please. I’ve known rich people, and in at least a large minority of their families, there’s an unofficial tradition of what you might call wink-and-nod adultery. The idea that they’re saints who are just too nice to make those bad blue-collar types behave quite frankly pisses this blue-collar boy off).

      Meanwhile, the average working American is, at least in practice, ignoring the doomsaying–even if he personally believes it–and is quietly making do by being as productive as he can. You have the left-wing intellectuals shrieking about the end of the world, you have the right-wing intellectuals tut-tutting about the end of America–and you have people you’ve never heard of before working for SpaceX, or developing fracking techniques for oil extraction.

      Part of my love for classic SF like Heinlein is that while growing up, I could relate to its ethic far more than to either of the dominant political philosophies at the time.

      • hear, hear Ken – I stay away from liberal because it is so far away from my natural optimism that I don’t want it to be true. (I think they are deluding themselves.)

        • True–but note that I spent roughly three times as much text explaining my problems with *conservative* declinists.

          • Umm well yes – but that is the group who are running things and not the conservatives who believe that if we are given the opportunity, we can have great jobs, eat well, and live well.

            • True…and I’d like the country to ultimately be run by “the conservatives who believe that if we are given the opportunity, we can have great jobs, eat well, and live well”–as opposed to Nixon/Kissinger types who believe that the American people don’t have what it takes, and that the best we can hope for is managed decline.

              • I agree wholeheartedly – those types really bug me… We need more Human Wave politicians, who can see with optimism and hope. I was a young girl when Nixon resigned. So yea – he let down a lot of people with his superior attitude.

                • I describe myself as a “dark optimist,” as opposed to that old cliche “sunny optimist.” It isn’t that I don’t know that there are plenty of evil or incompetent people. It’s that I think the rest of us have the wherewithal to overcome them.

                  Where a sunny optimist would see a large, menacing male head toward him with clenched fist and believe that sweet reason would carry the day, a dark optimist would think, “Thank God I’m armed.”

                  • Well that puts me in the “dark optimist” because I learned karate (a few moves) to protect myself and I carry a stun gun. I do have a gun, but I let my hubby carry it. ;-)

                  • To give a more topical example: the sunny optimists believed that the Iraq War would make the entire Middle East like Western Europe. (Looking at the euro crisis, maybe they were right, in a manner of speaking.:)) They also mentioned all the hospitals and day care centers being built in Iraq.

                    As a dark optimist, I didn’t buy into either Arab Spring–2005 or 2011. And I was somewhat skeptical about the *current* progress (current then, not now) in Iraq–when you’re doing well in a war, you show maps, not day care centers. However, I also knew damned well that Arabs, who ALWAYS lose wars, weren’t going to defeat the world’s strongest, most competent, and most successful military. Eventually, Bush was forced to surge in Iraq, and we won there. And, not unexpectedly, the Iraqi government for whom we won the war wasn’t exactly the perfect Jeffersonian democracy.

                    • Muslim brotherhood came in on the Arab spring.
                      As for the Middle East looking like Western Europe. oh come on… that is just dumb. I have a brother who is a merchant marine and has been in and out of Saudi Arabia since 1988. He found it strange that there were a lot of men on the street and very few women. If he had been looking at the Arab culture as a anthropologist, he would have thought that they must reproduce in other ways because there were very few women. lol

                    • The history of revolutionary movements ought breed despair. The French Revolution led to The Terror and Bonapartism, the Russian Revolution quickly fell to Lenin’s thugs, and the Kaiser’s fall resulted in the Third Reich. To consolidate post-revolutionary power typically requires the sort of ruthlessness that breeds tyrants.

                      In America the Revolution was in fact much more of an Evolution, and its success probably owes much to the balance of power exercised by rival states.

                    • ppaulshoward

                      RES, IMO the major difference between the American Revolution and any of the others was that the “governments” that took over after the revolution were the same “governments” that were in power before the Revolution. Our biggest problem after the Revolution was forming a union of the states.

                    • Saudis reproduce the same way Americans do. They also have sex the same way Americans do–Americans in the Castro district of San Francisco.

                      [/mostly true stereotype] :)

                    • In my experience the conservative temperament trends toward the morose and gloomy, the confidence that human designs will fail and the corruption at the core of human nature will render all achievements like unto Ozymandias’. Ronald Reagan was unique on the Right for his sunny optimism and positive outlook — but then, he was largely self-educated and had already survived an alcoholic father, a Depression, a World War and Jack Warner.

                    • We need less gloom and doom and more happy warriors.

                    • The advantage of happy warriors isn’t just tactical. It’s that they are usually right. As a right-winger (NOT a conservative) I believe man to be imperfectible; however, that does NOT mean that we are always in the last phases of civilization. The odds, in fact, are against it.

                    • When the Daughtorial Unit was much younger I explained (amazing how much when can discover when one’s child poses questions) that the problem with Free-Market Capitalism is that the costs are visible but the benefits mostly hidden, while with Marxism the benefits are overt and the costs covert. It typically requires the perspective gained from age and experience allows us to perceive the long trend while trapped in the day-to-day frustrations. Swamps do get drained, but we tend to be distracted by the alligators at our armpits.

                      OTOH, I remember when a computer memory in the 200M range was stupendous and cost $200 (and when that would put 200 gallons of gas in the tank) and nowadays we can pick up 8G at the end-aisle display at the local grocery for $20. I also remember when a 25″ television screen was HUGE, nowadays my gym has fifty or sixty much larger screens scattered about.

                • Nixon’s superior attitude?? I’m enough older (and once did a research paper on an aspect of his career) and can assure you that, if ever any man did, Nixon suffered an inferiority complex, deeply held insecurities that however good he was some Golden Boy would stride in and take it all away. That is why JFK’s defeat of him in 1960 rankled so, and what drove him to such lengths as the Watergate cover-up revealed. The fact that, as young senators, JFK had been one of Nixon’s only friends just exacerbated his insecurities. It also explains his resentements over being pilloried for doing what LBJ, JFK and (probably) Ike had done before him: using the machinery of government to reward allies and punish enemies.

                  Kissinger, OTOH, was a practitioner of the dark art of Realpolitik, possibly the finest of the 20th Century and matching the skills of Talleyrand, Metternich, Disraeli, Bismarck and others of Diplomacy’s uberwizards. Pragmatic to their cores, these sorcerers had no ideology beyond the stability of their nation’s prosperity and advancement of its interests.

          • I believe we’re NOT declining.

            • Being a pessimistic optimist, I don’t think we’re declining, either, but it’s going to take a lot of work to undo a hundred years of trying to destroy the US Constitution. I’m not apolitical, but I’m very definitely anti-political parties.

              Chasing LBJ’s socialistic goals has set us back fifty years or more in space exploration, hampered economic expansion, and slowed general prosperity. Jimmy Carter’s lame-brained ideas almost cost us the Cold War. None of the presidents following Reagan have done anything to make me believe the political bureaucracy can be reformed simply or easily. It MIGHT even take armed insurrection, which according to Thomas Jefferson, was necessary every now and then to keep the “civil servants” and politicians civil.

              That’s why I like science fiction. I can exercise my ideas about how to go about restructuring government in the 2XXX or beyond, without having to physically doing all the hard work. Indie gives me the opportunity to get my ideas to an audience without having to placate “gatekeepers”, whose agenda may be radically different from my own.

      • I could relate better to Heinlein, too.

  15. ppaulshoward

    Sarah, you mentioned “Hungry Ghosts”. Who’s it by?

    • Joe Fisher (Who committed suicide, after his experiences, which ARE rather typical of messing with the occult with a hopeful mind and no defenses.)

      • ppaulshoward

        Ah, I found _The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts: A Riveting Investigation Into Channeling and Spirit Guides_ by him and it sounds like the same book (reissued).

      • Defenses being important… my world dissolved when I was eight years old… the occult touched me and I did not go looking for it. It was scary, scary, scary. But I was able to pull myself together and live to my age now. I still don’t know why I was that interesting.

        • Just finished reading the book. I made you a friend on FB Sarah because I wanted to tell some experiences of “hungry ghosts” when i was in Japan in the early 1990s. It happened to a few friends of mine. I am not, nor ever have been, interested in channeling or mediumship. It smacks of possession to me. I really dislike any type of manipulation or possession.

          • Yes, smacks of the same to me. That said, I wasn’t sure they weren’t spirits of the dead, just not of good people.

            • I agree. I saw a circle of people dabbling in it and what ever it was, it was evil. I spent a lot of time pulling two people out of the circle. The leader (not the medium) eventually went to an insane asylum. What I found interesting is that whatever it was, it targeted very bright people, which was a surprise to me.

  16. Not related, but… New news report says “structures” along Flying W Ranch Road are burning. My daughter and son-in-law are in the mandatory evacuation area. We’re supposed to get rain tomorrow. Can it get here early, please?

    • Sending good thoughts (and prayers) your way. No rain dances. I just don’t have the knack. ;-)

      • Don’t have the knack?? Heck, I don’t have the knees!

        I hope all goes well, Mike.

        • We DO have a rain stick. I keep trying to get Dan to take off his shirt and dance :D So far, no luck. He looks at me like I’m nuts.

          • Well – it would be good for entertainment value anyway. ;-) Woohoohooohoo!

            • That’s what I figure. I could use some happy right about now.

              • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSejNT4Do0E

                Sweet Misery

                Heard you had some trouble
                Thought I’d try to help you
                In my time I’ve had a little trouble too
                If you let it get you
                Down you know I’ll bet you
                It will get you down and walk around on you

                Sweet misery
                She loves her company
                She’s in a crowd when she is all alone
                She doesn’t care follow you everywhere
                She is most happy when she makes you moan

                My dog had some puppies
                Would you like to have one
                He will be your friend and he will lick your face
                He will never cheat you
                He won’t try to beat you
                Help you be a winner in the human race

                Sweet misery
                She loves her company
                She’s in a crowd when she is all alone
                She doesn’t care follow you everywhere
                She is most happy when she makes you moan

                Heard you’re feelin’ better
                Glad you found some happy
                In my time I’ve had a little happy too
                If you let it get you
                Up you know I’ll bet you
                It will get you up and keep you smilin’ through

                Sweet misery
                Don’t need your company
                She’s in a crowd when she is all alone
                She doesn’t care follow you everywhere
                She is most happy when she makes you moan

                Hoyt Axton

    • We’re smack dab in the center of downtown, Mike, and it’s raining ash, and the sky is red. Sigh.

  17. We’re at Academy & Palmer Pk blvd, on the east side. No ash, but the smell of smoke would choke a horse. The swamp cooler filters out about 90% of it.

  18. My beliefs are… mine. And I think they’ll stay that way — the last time I mentioned them openly, I wound up taking incoming from *everyone*.

    • Yes, well, CF, post-millennial, pre-Great-Saucing Pastafarianism always has been considered the less respectable fringe of the denomination . . . :)

      • Heh. Pastafarianism.

        I tried once to get my older son (the artist in the family) to draw a Great Spaghetti Monster with a fork sticking out of it, so I could put it on a T-Shirt with the caption, “I ate the Great Spaghetti Monster”, but he never did it for me.

  19. And one last (I am sure you all are hoping) reference:

    Sure, a man can take a mammoth down alone.

    There is a repeated line in the film Butch and Sundance: The Early Years: Two people cannot rob a train, it has never been done before. I suspect all you cleaver story tellers know where that one leads.