Flash Fiction #221

Corona

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

FEAR SELLS

Danger! Danger, all about
Run in circles! Scream and shout!

Dig a hole, and pull it in after you.

‘Dog bites man’ doesn’t sell.
‘Man bites dog’ sells.

A man shoots up a brewery. Five are killed. Eight are wounded. What’s on the news?
One person in the US died of the corona virus.”

A man in Philadelphia is found with three assault rifles, a sniper rifle, three handguns, and 20,000 rounds of ammunition – and a cruise ship is refused docking in three countries because one crewman has the sniffles.

Stock up two weeks’ worth, and don’t leave the house.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site – apply hand sanitizer when you arrive, and again when you leave – and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Sorry! Once again, this is not so much Fiction, as sad reality – a truncated rant about how we are distracted, and distract ourselves, from far more important things. (Has Khloe Kardashian released a new makeup line?) Even firearms fatalities, as unfortunate and heart-wrenching as they may be, are massaged and manipulated. Ten times as many people are killed in traffic accidents, as in gun deaths, yet we hear no hue and cry to ban automobiles, outlaw Hummers, or confiscate pickup trucks.

Eh?? Did you have a comment? I wasn’t paying attention. ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes died when his steam rocket crashed.

’19 A To Z Challenge – Kludge

Calipers

Three Laws Of Practical Engineering
Force to fit
File to hide
Paint to cover

At the steel fabricating plant where I once worked, the difference between a welder, and a welder/fitter, was a ten-pound sledgehammer. Those storage tanks always fit.

Kludge

Noun – a software or hardware configuration that, while inelegant, inefficient, clumsy, or patched together, succeeds in solving a specific problem or performing a particular task.

Verb – the atypical act or action of achieving such a goal

Coined 1960/65 by American author Jackson W. Granholm.

Too often, ivory-tower engineers design things for the perfect, optimum conditions, and ignore reality. If you design something to be foolproof, someone will design a bigger fool. As James Bond said to Q, in one of the movies, “There’s a lot of wear and tear goes on out in the field.”

The concept of ‘Kludge’ indicates an open and adaptive mind, instead of one bounded by unchanging rules and regulations. Larry the Cable Guy may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but you have to admire his Git ’er done philosophy.

I got this challenge done, and I’ve got a couple more, ready to post soon. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

The Need For Myths

Fairy Tale

Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. We all need to understand death and to cope with death, and we all need help in our passages from birth to life and then to death.

It may really not be possible to do away with myths. The myth is as much a part of the human need as the allure of it. Even when one does not want to, there will come a time when a person feels the need for a story. This inner need expresses itself as a search, or as a desire. It may come early in life or it may come late. Nevertheless, a person who thinks, is bound to realize a sense of emptiness. Nothing but a story could fill it. All a person would want or hope for is to find a good story, and then, live it.

Finding one’s myth

This is where one person differs from another. It’s easy to understand. What isn’t easy to understand is always, why one person chooses one story to understand his reality, while someone else chooses another. It is to be understood that: Till the time a person finds the story – the myth – that satisfyingly explains his existence and gives purpose to his mind, his soul, the power within is still not released. It is looking for its expression. The myth provides the expression. Only then, when one goes deep into his personal myth, is it no longer just a story, but life itself. Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.

Every culture ought to provide a satisfying myth to the people it holds – one might say – captive. Yes, cultures hold at least some persons captive, while the vast majority are simply organized by it. This is what we understand to be a society. Is that not true? The exceptional individuals of society – the artists, the searchers, the thinkers, and the visionaries – if they succeed in finding their creativity-unlocking-myth, will then become the heroes and the leaders. They may even one day become legends that others recall with some fondness and some fear.

Book Review #17

Dark Matter

It is no paradox that I like to read stories about paradoxes. In my list of books read in 2016, I included several time-travel novels. More recently, my Book Review #16 – The Whenabouts of Burr, was not really about time travel, but a voyage across parallel, but slightly different versions of Earth.

I recently read another alternate Earth novel. It was

The book: Dark Matter

The author: Blake Crouch

The review: This book is also about alternate Earths/Universes. The narrator is a man who might have been a great physicist, married to a woman who might have been a great artist. Instead, he is a university science professor, and she runs a graphic design studio out of their home, as they raise a beloved 10-year-old son.

He is kidnapped by Himself from a parallel existence, who never married or had a family, but instead invented/designed a device to make this transposition possible. He is thrust into the other’s frenetic life, while the imposter takes over his peaceful existence.

The ‘Burr’ book makes inter-dimensional travel possible by an electronic device that limits which realities are available. It is largely a discussion about social and political alternatives – USA vs. Russia vs. China – disguised in a roman a cléf.

This book is about infinity, quantum entanglement, and the definitions of ‘reality.’ The device is mostly an elevator-car-sized sensory deprivation chamber, because quantum theory says that merely observing an action, changes the outcome. Essentially, the traveller becomes Schrödinger’s cat. He got some help from a biologist friend who developed a serum that shuts down the section of the brain that accepts the remaining input.

Instead of electronic controls, where you end up when you open the door is controlled by the psyche, the subconscious. You go where you unconsciously want or feel to go. It takes him several months, in and out of the box, to train his mind to return to where he started from.

Just when the reader thinks that it is “Happily Ever After” time, the writer throws another curve-ball at reality. While there is only one ‘his world’, and ‘his wife’, and ‘his son’ to return to, decisions that he made during the months that he was gone, caused other versions of him to split off, and 110 of them return, most of them ready to kill to get the prize. How do you surprise, outthink, and win out over yourself??

I found that this was a great, thought-provoking Science Fiction novel, about something that may become science fact in the all-too-near future. What are you reading? 😕

Flash Fiction # 168

Ali Baba

PHOTO PROMPT © Nathan Sowers grandson of our own Dawn M. Miller

UPON FURTHER REFLECTION

I won’t tell how I came into possession of Ali Baba’s magic lamp.  Let’s just say that I found it before it got lost.

“Oh great, another master, and what will you want?”  Where was the respectful genie from the stories?

First of all, I want a grand mansion.

“Never fear, Master.  I will provide everything you deserve.”

While it appeared spacious, it always felt claustrophobic.  I preferred being outside.  I was doing some decorating.  As I knelt to pick up the new bathroom mirror, I caught the reflection of the real ‘Emperor’s new mansion’ that he felt I deserved.

***

This fanciful Fairy Tale retelling is all the fault of Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site.  Visit there, and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Childlike Grace

Bible

When I was a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Blogger Barry, in a recent post, said that he’d halted on his path to becoming an Atheist. He does not say that it was because he was taught that Atheists are evil, nasty or sinful, but that is the reason that many ex-Christians won’t admit that they have become Atheists.

Tired of the judgemental, accusatory, denominational bureaucracy and hypocrisy, he still wished to identify as ‘spiritual.’ It is quite possible to be spiritual, without being a member of any Christian sect.  His last stop before getting off the Christian bus, was at Mormon.

He still visited Atheist websites, and admitted that he had remained a Christian. He was amazed at the vehemence of some militant Atheists, who insisted that any and all religions were harmful.  He admitted that, being ‘inside the box,’ perhaps he did not understand the claim.  He asked, if he was not harming himself, or anyone else, how could his being a Christian be harmful?

When we tell small children that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy exist, are we harming them, or society in general? Probably not, or only a minuscule amount.  However, when children get to be 7, 8, 9 years old, we tell them the truth, and show them reality.  To allow them to grow into adults who still believe in things like the Tooth Fairy, can cause harm in a variety of ways.

If an individual or sect is allowed to treat their particular and peculiar superstition as reality, then both the believers and society are harmed. It also inserts the thin edge of a wedge.  If one is, then all religious opinions must be accepted, no matter how strange or unreal.  The more people there are, who treat fantasy as fact when dealing with life and the general public – the fewer people who cannot and/or do not, deal with secular reality – the more harm is caused, both to the believers and to society.

Critical thinking is incredibly hard, but also incredibly important. We can’t learn and grow without it.  We have to question our own ideas and motivations, so that we don’t get stuck on there being only one correct, acceptable idea.

Next comes the slippery slope. Once strange unprovable beliefs are allowed, the holders quickly try to turn acceptance into licence.  If politically powerful enough, they try to pass laws enforcing membership in their sect, and making disagreement with their views into heresy and apostasy.  Kindly old George H. W. Thousand Points Of Light Bush once said that Atheists should not be allowed to be American citizens, or patriots.

My opinion of Blogger Barry’s intelligence and mental strength, based only on reading a few of his posts, is that he is not, and probably won’t ever be, directly harmful to society. Sadly, he’s one in 10,000 – or maybe a million.  There are countless hordes, who are only too willing to use their religion as a justification to inflict physical, mental, emotional, social, or financial pain and damage to countless other victims.

God is for the wise. Religions are for fools.  If only more people would grow out of the childish need for an imaginary friend to protect and guide them, and become adult enough to face the universe and life as it really is, and not just how they wish it were.   😦  😯

Another Challenge – Day 2

Another Challenge

#2 – How have you changed in the last two years?
I have not spent more than 70 years, getting my life into the optimum shape, doing the best I can with what little I’ve got, to go changing it at this late date.  Indeed, as my abilities and limits wane at an inverse rate to my age, I can’t afford to go changing things right now.  I am somewhat limited in chances to correct any poor decisions.  I don’t want to have to say, ‘Time’s awasted!’

The technological lifestyle thunders forward at warp speed, unchecked. I can barely keep up with what other people are changing on me.  I recently took the wife to the hospital, to register for her second knee-replacement surgery.  As her caretaker, I had to be able to be contacted.  The nurse demanded my cell-phone number, and was aghast and astounded when I insisted that I didn’t own one.  Hey, I’m all the way up to Windows7, what more do you want??

The Chinese have a curse which says, “May you live in interesting times.” ‘Interesting’, in that context, means frustrating, challenging, and perhaps dangerous. ‘Jackass’ is a show by, for, and about, young….jackasses.

#30 – What changed this month, and what do you hope will happen next month?

Things change every month, but I assume that this question refers to any significant change(s).  I made all desirable, big changes years or decades ago.  I’ll assume that a new brand of toothpaste doesn’t count.  I grow a little older, a little weaker, a little achier, a little poorer, a little more forgetful.  Next month, I hope for more of the same, but with less of an increase in all of them.

If we’re talking about “hope”, and not reality, then I hope that the son wins a lottery.  Maybe he could get enough money to send the wife and I away on trips, to get us out of his hair, or purchase a nice manor-type house with a granny-suite….probably with a bank-vault-type door between the two sections.

My number of published blog-posts changed upward this month. I hope that I’m still here next month, pushing my numbers up, but not pushing daisies up.  The only change I want, is change for a $20 – and I only gave the clerk a ten.   😛  Oh, and I want you guys to keep coming back to visit and read….but that’s no change.

Smitty’s Loose Change #4

Smitty's Loose Change

In my (ARCH)ON The Road Again post, I wrote of buying our first brand-new car, a Kia Sorento. After the first three months, we got a call to take it in for its first (free) oil change.  When the son arrived at the dealer, he was told that there had been a recall, which we wouldn’t have received notice of yet.  While one mechanic changed the oil, another installed a new hatch lock/latch.

SDC10992

After another three months, we got another phone call. That’s right!  A real, live person!  This time when the son arrived, he was again told that there had been another recall we weren’t aware of.  This time it was the ball-joints.  A hatch popping open, I can live with.  Steering malfunctions are a little more serious.

The ‘04 Chevy Impala we got rid of had just been recalled for ignition switches that could fail at speed. This factory-fresh Sorento has had two recalls before it is 6 months old.  I don’t know whether to worry about what else can go wrong, or appreciate how quickly Kia caught the problems and corrected them.

Any of you guys had vehicles that were recalled??

***

I was loath(cct) to vote for….  I found this snippet in a newspaper.  Despite typing (cct) in, in small letters, every search engine I used insisted on capitalizing it, and giving me lists of acronyms (that weren’t actually acronyms).  Acronyms form ‘words’ – radar, loran, snafu.  These were all initialismsCCTColombia Cocaine Trade.

After an hour of fruitless searching, I was forced to believe that the (cct), apparently meaning ‘correct’, was put after the word ‘loath’, the way that ‘misteaks’ (sic) are noted. It is another sad commentary on the level of public comprehension, that a correct word has to have a special sign on it, to tell the trolls that it is, in fact, correct.

***

If I really had an open mind, surely someone would have put something into it by now.

***

Religious happiness might be a bit like the state of euphoria some people get from taking drugs. It’s not real, but it’s good while it lasts. And also like using drugs or alcohol, some people become happy and good natured and others are mean drunks.

***

On Valentine’s Day I looked out at the mulberry tree in my back yard. I thought I saw a robin.  A robin?  On Feb 14th?  Just then, from a higher branch, I saw the flutter of scarlet wings.  Ah, a cardinal, not often seen this close….  But is the ‘robin’ merely a slightly duller red, female cardinal??

I asked the wife to bring her eyes glasses, and come check.  She dislodged a cat, and folded up her laptop.  By the time we both looked out the window again, there were eight (8! count ‘em, 8!) robins bunched in the tree, four bright males and four females.

I’ve never seen eight robins in one place anywhere. I can only assume that they were discussing Donald Trump, and the wall they thought he’d erected between Canada and the US, which prevented them from flying south.

Spring is coming, my lovelies. 😀  Arncha glad?

 

Flash Fiction #119

a-door

PHOTO PROMPT © CEayr

LET ME IN

It really was an unpretentious door. He remembered its far side, and thought of P.T.Barnum’s sign, “This way to the great Egress.”  Phineas said that no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, trusting the unschooled to exit a portal they couldn’t return through.

This door did not conceal any cheap, threadbare sideshow though. Rather, inside were Peace, Joy and Escape, everything a man could ask for, only, not the Reality which men are forced to return to.

He smiled as he continued driving to his appointment at the rehab center. He and Reality had a date.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

***

Click on the title to hear the doo-wop group, The Sensations sing about Let Me In, in 1962.

Religious Addiction

Bible

A letter came to a pastor recently, from a middle-aged woman determined to take her own life. She has already made an attempt.  She suffers from extremely low self-esteem, depression and other afflictions.

She feels desperate, “cut off from God” and beyond divine forgiveness. Certain readers will already be saying to themselves that she needs to be “saved,” to be “born again,” and to join a church where they “preach the Gospel.”

However, this woman has already been through all that. A Theologian read her letter and felt it was quite obvious that she suffered from far too much literalistic fundamentalism already.  Like hundreds of similar others over the years, she is being tormented by the very religion she once turned to for comfort and “salvation.”

Briefly stated, she is suffering from a form of religion that is ‘bad religion.’ It’s growing and becoming very powerful in some quarters today.  It can look successful on the outside, even imparting a glazed but glowing countenance, but it can tear apart people’s souls.

This form of ‘addictive’ religiosity is not confined to circles dominated by TV evangelists or excessively zealous priests. It cuts across all Christian denominations and, in varying degrees, all other faiths.

Here are some of its major characteristics. It touts black and white answers to every problem – from hormone issues (sex), to when and how the universe was formed.  It encourages passive dependence on a host of authorities, from sacred texts, to faith leaders at every level.  It fosters simplistic, ‘magical’ thinking.  It diminishes one’s autonomy, self-reliance, confidence in one’s own inner voice and ability to grow either emotionally or intellectually.

It views all other faith stances as wrong – or even Satanic, leading to “Hell.”  Such a system whines a lot about what “miserable sinners” we all are and yet never asks itself why it leaves such incredible guilt, anxiety and loss of self-esteem in its wake.

Priest

Yes, it can produce an overinflated ‘high’ at being on the “winning side,” as “God’s elect,” but at a terrible price. This is referred to as loss of authenticity and of one’s inner convictions.  The God being served is too often a narrow, small, vengeful, tribal deity, who is nonetheless supposedly loving.

The Churchman reflected on this phenomenon as he worked on answering the suicide note. Suddenly, with a genuine synchronicity, his mail arrived with a copy of an article from Pastoral Psychology, a magazine dedicated to learned articles on various aspects of soul-care – mainly for clergy, psychotherapists and other counsellors.

It was titled “Religious Addiction, The Subtle Destruction Of The Soul.” It was written by Patricia Anne Venderheyden, a psychotherapist in private practice in London, Ontario.  Her Master’s thesis is from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, and was focused on this same issue: religious addiction.

As she told him in an interview, this isn’t a subject that has received much attention in the past. It certainly deserves it today!  She had pondered for many years, beginning with her own experiences of certain faith groups, why it is that so many in every religion gravitate to authoritarian cliques with such alacrity and yet, in the end, with such disastrous results.

She wrote: “I observed how people’s inner authority was compromised in order to fit in with a system of belief whose standards were impeccable – and unattainable. I saw people accepted into groups only if they ‘jumped through the right hoops’, dotted their i’s and watched their p’s and q’s.” The ‘addicts’ had a show of freedom, yet their proclamations seemed ‘hollow and empty.’

She saw many such persons blindly accepting the words and advice of religious elders. All critical awareness and thinking for themselves had long since been suppressed.  “The addicts wanted to be told that he or she was absolutely right, and that any form of questioning is evil.” she said.

Certainly, authorities can help someone at first, but if they are compulsively used ‘as a way of avoiding one’s own reality,’ they ruin one’s hopes of ever becoming mature in either mind or spirit. The addicts she describes are ‘religious junkies,’ obsessed with mood alteration and a quick fix to face life.

There’s no need to assign blame. Religious leaders can nurture an addictive faith unwittingly by never stopping to ask questions of the style and content of their ministry, such as: To whom does it cater, and why?  With what results?

Believers who are really avoiding the shame and pain within by refusing to tackle it, and by ‘leaving it all to God,’ need to stop and realize that the rigidity and exclusivity of addictive religion can one day leave you empty, out of touch with your real self and, hence, engulfed by fear and despair.   😦