Creativity and Spiritual India

Posts tagged “Bevis Lowry

Ghostyard

“I won’t leave my body, I told myself, no matter what happens.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Ghostyard.

Ghostyard - Tim Green

by Tim Green

 

 

Listen here: 

I won’t leave my body, I told myself, no matter what happens.

A riverbank is a stupid place for a graveyard. The bodies are bound to get washed away over time. People go to the river to get clean, or take their water buffaloes to wash the dust off. It’s meant to be a pure place, and a purifying place. Some worship this river, or use its water to worship other gods. But that same water filters through graves. How can it be pure?

Stupid.

I slowed down as I neared the graveyard, keeping an eye out for the rowdy ghosts, especially him.

On the other hand, maybe it was a good place to bury the dead. I had seen fewer and fewer ghosts there, since I’d come as a kid. Ghosts tend to stick around their bodies, and if their bodies have washed away, the spirits can go on to whatever’s next for them. Another life, usually. I’d known most of the kids in our village when they were old.

That’s why cremation is good: the vessel is gone so the spirit moves on.

Usually. The one I sought tonight was old. Old and tricky.

I won’t let him fool me.

I looked carefully at the gravestones, taking in all the details. The crack there above the old woman’s name. I’d known her. Only dried flowers there now, a garland of red, yellow, orange, red, yellow, orange. If that old ghost made an illusion, he’d have to get every detail right to fool me.

He lives here. He knows the details better than me.

Never mind that. I’d just come to talk with him, ask him why he’d been causing trouble.

Was there a purple flower in that garland?

 

***

 

In India, ghost-knowledge is much more comprehensive than in the West (except the movie Ghostbusters, of course). Growing up in Canada, I sometimes wondered if ghosts existed. A glimpse of one, or word that someone had had even the remotest experience of one, was cause for gossip and fear among us kids. But in India they are categorized in many ways, largely according to the life they had while in a physical body.

If someone performs spiritual practices but also nefarious acts, for example they might become a powerful ghost. Those were often the worst kind. Sometimes whole families or even villages might be ghosts together, having been ripped out of their old lives all together by some violent event. There are ghosts fixed in trees, those who know they’re ghosts and those who don’t. Some are ‘for hire,’ and a dark tantric can incite them to attack living people. They can possess people’s bodies, and it’s easier if the people are weak-minded due to intoxication or mental illness.

Ghosts have their terms as ghosts, like jail sentences. Often they are living out what would have been the remainder of their life, which was cut short by a sudden death. It generally sucks to be a ghost, because they have the same sensory desires as they did in their lives, but without the physical senses to satisfy those desires. Powerful sages and yogis can release them from their terms as ghosts and send them on to whatever comes next, usually rebirth as a human or in another species.

Interesting stuff. Some day I’d like to develop a more complex story involving ghosts.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


In defense of Religion and Science.

“Instead of branding people according to which camp they’re in and which flag they’re waving, it’s far better to look at underlying motives.”

This week I’m pausing the scene-of-the-week series. I’ve been thinking about religion and science, and how too often we get caught up in pitting one against the other, as if they are natural enemies, or as if one is totally false and the other is a virtuous savior. Really that’s all bollocks.

Science Fish

Listen here: 

They’re wars, not religious wars

There is a popular saying, that most wars and death go on in the name of religion. This is often put forward by proponents of strict rationalism and its brainchild, science.

This is not true in two ways.

People usually kill each other for land, money and power. The two world wars were not religious wars. Stalin and Chairman Mao’s attacks on their own people were not religious wars. Taken together, these make up most deaths in the twentieth century. So statistically, at least in recent times, most violent deaths have not taken place in religious wars.

Secondly, wars that go on in the name of religion are generally not actually founded in the teachings of the religions in question. The Bible never advocated the Inquisition or the Crusades, nor the genocide that took place in the Americas. These were all done in the name of the Bible and  Christ, but if you look deeper you’ll find that was just a false front. Christ taught his followers to love their neighbors, not to enslave and exploit them, to take their land and replace their spiritual sites with your own. Actually the underlying reasons for these conquests was greed, and the desire for self-aggrandizement. Religion was just a front, not the cause.

Science wars?

On the other hand, a religious person might turn the tables on science and say, “Hey! You claim that so much damage has been done by religion, and that science is progressive and helpful, but science has done far more damage than religion ever has. Guns, the atomic bomb, nuclear plant disasters, plastic clogging the oceans, chemicals poisoning our rivers, greenhouse gasses heating the planet—these are all byproducts of science, not religion. Wars between humans are nothing compared to rendering the entire planet less habitable.”

But again, if you look deeper, you’ll find that the cause of these things is not science. Science is the study of that which lies within the realm of the senses or the extensions of the senses. Based on discoveries made during these investigations, various technologies can be made. These can be helpful or harmful, both in their manufacture and their use. Thus far, we see a mix. Science has produced medicines to save millions of lives, and weapons to kill just as many. The wheel and fire are also scientific discoveries, not just nuclear bombs and plastic, so even the foremost Luddite can’t write science off completely. However, most of the gadgets produced today—androids and tablets and wireless ear-pieces—are unnecessary and very harmful to the environment in their production. What is real progress? Is it the advancement of our immediate convenience, or our capacity to understand, love and give? Too often, the underlying motive for scientific progress is also greed.

Therefore let us not criticize religion or science. They each have their jurisdictions, and it’s not helpful to falsely pit them against each other. Instead of branding people according to which camp they’re in and which flag they’re waving, it’s far better to look at underlying motives.

 

Thanks for listening. Next week we’ll get back to our scene-of-the-week series.

If you want to see what I can do with a deep story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!

 


I see the future

“Jashan wove through the dense London crowd, trying not to catch anyone’s mind.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, I see the future.

I see the future of anyone who looks at me - paul bica

By Paul Bica

Listen here: 

Jashan wove through the dense London crowd, trying not to catch anyone’s mind.

He felt someone looking at him, and met her gaze without meaning to. A middle-aged woman in frumpy clothes. Sensations and images swirled around her, of her birth and her birthing a baby girl and her life wove through his mind like a thread with a sharp needle: I loved tennis but I had a child and stopped playing to give her my love. Then her future: My husband will divorce me and my daughter will marry overseas and I’ll grow old alone.

The woman glanced away. They never noticed what had happened. They didn’t know their own future, only their past. Jashan turned like a dancer, moving fast through the crowd without touching anyone, thinking of his forest and wishing he were still there with Father.

A man bumped his shoulder. Jashan turned back to him. The man’s big lips drew in a frown. Jashan caught his eyes to see if the man was angry enough to throw a punch, then the man’s life played: I want to be boss of a little tech company but I’m an employee and have been for years. I’m trained to be friendly and never show anyone but the envy of my boss burns me slowly. I’ll become alcoholic but in my last years I’ll leave that and do community service gardening and try to let this burning ambition die down.

Jashan apologized, turned away. He’d seen much worse in the minds of the crazy people.

In the forest there had been none of this. A baby fern once told him: I will grow three feet into the air before I run out of my seed-energy. There won’t be enough light filtering through the canopy for me so I’ll wither away and die.

In some ways, lives in the forest weren’t so different from here. But here the events in people’s lives had a thousand accoutrements, branching out in all directions, incredibly complex. And they were also disconnected from themselves and from the earth who nursed them.

Jashan had seen a bear crashing through the bush once: I’ll be on my own in a new patch of forest but I’ll always think of the other cubs. We grew up rolling together and sleeping in a pile. As I grow older I’ll become solitary and hibernate more than six months a year and I’ll not hunt because of sadness and I’ll starve.

There was sadness everywhere, but in the forest it was simple, elemental. But Jashan’s Father had left there to save it from these people who loved machines. He hadn’t succeeded. Now Jashan was in London, the hub of madness, on his way to meet the woman who had presided over the destruction of his home.

He wondered what her future was, and whether he could change it.

 

***

 

I’m already working on  developing this one into a short story, regardless of what the vote is! My good friend Bala is helping, and his experiences with the conservative mental health system in the UK are sending the story in a new direction. If someone claimed to have powers in the UK, being able to read people’s emotions or future, they would likely be sectioned. There is an imagined norm, and deviance from that is a disorder.

Now while I don’t think the whole thing is bunk, and some people really do benefit from medication and therapy, I do think that our western world view is too limited to accommodate everything that’s ‘normal’ for human beings to experience. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Horse Boy,’ for example, you’ll know that autism is viewed very differently by Siberian shamans than it is by the medical profession. It’s true that some people don’t function as ordinary citizens, but don’t we need people who are out of the ordinary too, not just in one way but in many ways?

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Lonely

“When the constellations came out at night, they were still perfectly aligned with his inner sense of direction. The world laid itself out before him.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Lonely.

By Tuncay

By Tuncay

Listen here: 

It was all too easy, walking through these pines. Making lean-tos at night, trapping rabbits… Even the snow had a crisp layer which supported his snowshoes nicely. Fischbach peak could be tough to climb this time of year, but it was nothing that Hasran hadn’t done before. When the sun rose, it was always just where he thought it would be. When the constellations came out at night, they were still perfectly aligned with his inner sense of direction. The world laid itself out before him.

That night he came to the old cabin that he’d used last year on this same route. He tied the sled onto a tree trunk, out of habit from camping on slopes. The snow could shift and the sled would slide. It was better to be safe.

He creaked open the door. Inside, the cabin had degenerated more since he’d last come. Other men must have made camp there. New scratches marked the floor, and someone had even forgotten a tin mug.

Careless.

He went out and got his mat and blanket from the sled, then laid them on the bed. Coils sprang out in every direction but it was still better than sleeping on the floor.

He brought some dry wood out from the tarp. He’d have to leave some pieces here for the next person, though no one had left any for him. He melted snow to drink, and poured some of the boiling water into a bowl of oats and bran. Salt would be a luxury. He sat on the bed, and soon found himself staring at the doorway. It creaked in the wind, and light leaked around its edges as though heaven shone outside. Someone had carved a scene into the planks: a woman walking up a mountain.

Artists. Hasran wished for a moment that he had some hobby like that. The long nights were making him crazy, like Uncle had been crazy. The problem came in wondering too much what makes humanity tick.

 

***

 

When I was a kid, my family and I were cross-country skiing through a Canadian pine forest, when we came across an abandoned shack. The snow came half-way up its sides. Snow-laden pines surrounded it and the forest was preternaturally quiet, with the snow absorbing all sound. I clambered down into it from the surface.

The wooden planks on the walls had warped so that light streamed in. A cot took up a quarter of the total space, with rusty bedsprings coming out from mulched cotton. I imagined some hermetic trapper living there, or someone who just couldn’t find peace within civilization. It’s that experience which inspired this story.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Ancient Evil

“I know, I know. But we are also mortal.”

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Ancient Evil.

Ancient evil - ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER

image by ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER

 

Listen here: 

We’ve haunted this land since before time began. When these castles were unformed clay and stone, we watched men build them up. Inspiring a spider to bite, tempting a street-boy to his first mugging, we helped them remember that death is close for them.

I know, I know. But we are also mortal.

Silence! Have you known one of us to die?

I’ve only ever known you, Mother. Who is that one, flying in now on a rotating machine?

Let me sense him… He is an investigator. He wants to know what happened here a thousand years before his birth. Ah, there is a scorpion. I’ll use that to—

Don’t kill him.

Oh? Are you sympathetic to these tiny creatures now?

It’s not that. I have no empathy. That would be strange. But curiosity… We’ve been inspiring snakes and scorpions for so long… couldn’t we control the urge of reproduction, or the impulse that makes men build these structures so high in such a short time, even though they’ll all die so quickly? Couldn’t we control those, like Uncle does?

We were not made to do that work, son.

Hmph.

He’s nearing…

Who made us?

 

***

 

As I write this, I’m in the Abu Dabhi airport, on my way to India. I tried to get into the US, spent some time in England waiting for a long-delayed Indian visa (I wrote ‘writer’ as my profession and they were afraid I was a journalist, which is for some reason problematic.)

I’ve recently finished a book called ‘The new green history of the world,’ by Clive Ponting. It’s a realistic re heavy look at the history of the human race and our relationship with the environment.

While the history presented in the book never questions western evolutionary theory, and I think it should, and it doesn’t take into account the possibility of civilizations more ancient than what’s taught in schools, it’s still an eye-opening account of at east of the last two thousand years. In the last five hundred years especially, and the last fifty exceptionally, it’s a history of unsustainable exploitation. We are in an extreme spot now, with the world’s systems breaking down. Our energy-hungry international commerce is mostly running off oil-power. The planes, the cars, the power plants. And it seems there’s not much of that left, and the world is heating up.

So as I’m sitting in this ultra-modern airport, typing away on my laptop, I wonder, how long can this last? Will government and trade break down, or will we transition somehow into another phase which, while more modest than this massively expansionist phase we’re in now, would involve substantial international travel and trade of culture and goods.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Ghosts from 500 years ago, expanded version

Hi. B.T. Lowry here, fantasy author and videographer. Welcome to the first story developed from the scene-of-the-week series.
The scene which got the most votes was the short film, “Ghosts from 500 Years ago,” so I went right ahead and developed it further. I added more footage and brought in a ghost-king from ancient India and some deep thoughts. If the first part seems familiar, jes’ keep watching.

Here it is:

My special thanks go out to Erothyme, with Biomigrant and Emma Staarbird. Their excellent music is featured in the latter part of the film, the song “Pines and Leaves,” from the album, “Sound in the Living Current.” The whole album–and all their work, really–is excellent. You can find out more about them at these sites:

http://www.erothyme.com
http://facebook.com/biomigrant
http://biomigrant.bandcamp.com

Also, thanks to unnamed temple musicians of South India and Orissa, whose celebratory sounds also grace this film.

Thanks for watching and listening and reading. Feel free to look around the site, btlowry.com, for more scenes and such. You can also read my novel, Fire from the Overworld, and sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts and thoughts about living, loving investigation and creation. Or you don’t have to do any of that, and we can still be friends.


Bouncing off Borders

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Bouncing off Borders.

Our World - DIBP images

Our World – DIBP images

Listen here:

I shuffled up to the immigration desk.

“Papers,” said a brawler of a man with a thick black mustache.

I furnished him with my passport.

He scanned it, said without making eye contact. “Why do you want to go to the USA?”

It’s a free world and this land belongs to no man, and to everyone. You people stole it from the Indians and they didn’t own it either. We’re all coming and going.

“Visiting friends,” I replied.
He frowned. “Don’t you have any friends in your country?”
No one belongs to any country or family. We’re all citizens of the Earth, and even more than that we’re  citizens of the universe and children of God.

“I do,” I said. “I have friends here too.”

He looked over whatever information was on his screen about me. “It says here that you’ve been to the USA before. You’ve been to many countries. Why would you want to leave your own country, stay there with your family?”

I have no country. I just happened to be born in some piece of land recently designated by a name.

“I like traveling.”

He made a mark on some sort of checklist, then looked back at the screen. “You said you’re a writer.”

“Yes.”

“Are you a journalist?”
“No Sir.”

He looked me in the eye for the first time. “Well what do you write?”

The whole world is an allegory. You just shift it left or right like transposing a song, or the down indicates the up, earth points to heaven. There’s no fiction. Every idea indicates something real.

“Well, I filled out the landing card.”

He nodded, apparently satisfied. “Do you plan on writing when you’re in the USA?”

“No, Sir. I only write in my own country.”

“While in your own country, do you intend to write about experiences that you had while in the USA?”

“Ah, no Sir. I only write in my own country about experiences that I have in my own country, Sir.”

“Very good.”
“Can I go in?”

“No. Policy dictates that every man should live in his own country.”

“So there should be no travelers?”

“Only on business.”

I closed my eyes, told myself not to yell at this man, not to attack.

I opened them and raised my hand above my head. “Charge!”

From the back of the immigration room, a force of war-horses five hundred strong sprung from hiding. Their riders, clad in exotic, angular armor, raised hooked blades over their heads as they charged into the USA.

 

***

 

This scene was inspired by my recent visit to the Los Angeles airport. I was welcomed by men who had a keen interest in me as a person, who wanted to know all the details of my life. They were kind enough to escort me around the airport, and even gave me my own space in a locked room with other guests. I got to see the inside of a police van, and was able to return to my home country much more quickly than I’d hoped.

This experience left me with an appreciation for the human conceptions of countries, borders, and also money, because it is largely the glow of money which keeps these constructs intact. How amazing it is that a country not five hundred years old, in its current incarnation, and which was largely stolen from the older inhabitants, now keeps people who were born in other places out! It is indeed a testament to mind over matter that these ideas govern our lives and activities. In this spirit, I have decided to name a constellation of stars after myself, and should anyone ever make it to that area of the universe, I will question them thoroughly and charge them an entrance fee.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. You can also grab my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!

 


A Boy and his Goat

by Tristan Schmurr

by Tristan Schmurr

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. I’ll be recording the next few scenes in Govardhana, India. India is wonderful, but in the entire country, there is no place which is quiet, except perhaps the peaks of the Himalayas, where there’s no electricity. So don’t mind the calls of temple goers in the background, will you?
Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, A boy and his goat.

A boy stops at the edge of a gargantuan canyon. Clouds swirl below and around him, so he cannot see the limits of the abyss. Only distant peaks cut above the clouds, gleaming on the horizon. He’s been traveling for a long time, so the boy sits on the edge of the canyon, swinging his legs in the air.
He wonders how to cross… How to reach those mountains?
He removes a notebook from his pack, with wheat-colored pages. He stares out for a while, then sketches a bridge across the gorge. He draws a goat walking across the bridge. As the boy draws he grows tired, so he lies back and sleeps.
When he wakes, he is sitting up and it is night. The goat from his drawing walks ahead of him on a rickety wooden bridge, which swings in the breeze. The boy stands with shaky legs, and finds wooden slats beneath his bare feet. The mountains in the distance are purple and blue, the sky dusky. Northern lights play behind the clouds, along with constellations that move too quickly.
The goat walks ahead of him toward the purple peaks, a saddlebag jingling on her back. Her hooves clack on the slats.
The boy follows. He’s no longer tired. They walk for a long time, crossing a gorge even more massive than what he’d seen while awake. After what seems like days, they reach the far end of the bridge. First the goat, then the boy, pass onto grass which looks lush even in the dusky light. He smells night flowers and starry ponds.
The goat turns her head back, then opens a pouch in her saddlebag, using her teeth. She brings out a notebook which looks like the boy’s own, but it is longer. The goat tosses the notebook to the grass and pulls out a pencil. She sketches a bridge crossing a canyon, like a thread through the sky. Then she draws the boy there, walking across it. She shades it with a piece of charcoal.
Having finished her work, the goat lays down to rest. The boy sets his head on her soft and warm belly, then falls asleep himself.
When he wakes it is daytime, and he is still on the near side of the gorge. A thin bridge with wooden slats stretches before him. Though its end is lost in clouds, he knows it must be fixed somewhere, for it does not fall.
Cheerful, the boy sets out across the bridge toward the shiny mountains. Curious, he stops and checks his drawing book. There he sees a drawing of himself, with his head resting on the goat’s belly, and he feels at peace.

***

This scene was inspired my long-term fixation with goats, which even I don’t understand. When I was a teenager, a group of friends and I gave each other goat names (Baby Goat, Mister Goat etc.) These days, sometimes friends greet me by baaing, though I’ve never told them about my time in a teenage goat-cult. People often send me pictures and videos of goats doing funny and strange things. I like their weird, square pupils. It is perhaps all this which brought the idea of a mystic goat to my mind, one who can only be accessed through dreams, but who’s actions profoundly affect the real world.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up  my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


The big ones, or how I got knocked out

Balloon racing by Les Chatfield

 

I’m going to take a break from the scene-of-the-week to tell you about the first time that got knocked out.

(Listen below)

 

I had the experience of looking back at all the major points in my life simultaneously. Actually there are not so many as you might think. Birth is obviously a big one. There were a couple in my childhood from 6 to 12 years old that stand out. A lot of things happened in between these big events, of course, but not unexpected stuff. Learning to eat, sort of eventually. Learning to walk, then run.

The first time I rode a bike without training wheels was a big one. My mom and dad pushed me off, me sitting there on the bike. I flew forward, pedaling hard, and I felt like I was flying around that parking lot, almost empty of cars.

Speaking of two wheeled vehicles, I remember going on a ride which was, in retrospect, extremely dangerous. I was to drive a miniature motorcycle in hoops around a thick plastic sphere, going up, upside down, down, round the bottom, up again… I only made it to the top once before running out of momentum. The motorcycle fell down on top of me, knocking me unconscious. When I opened my eyes, I was looking at the world from a new angle of vision, and I couldn’t remember the transition, how I got there. That was the first time I ever got knocked out. These events are like bubbles fixed to the string of my life. In each bubble the memory plays out in a seamless loop, changing a little each time.

You can listen to this being read to you here:

audio mp3=”https://btlowry.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/the-big-ones.mp3″%5D%5B/audio%5D

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

Next week we’ll start again the Scene-of-the-Week series.

Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 🙂


Five Main Events

Five by woodleywonderworks

Five by woodleywonderworks

 

 

(Listen below)

We’re taking a break from the scene-of-the-week series to take do a little retrospection.

I look back at the main events in my life. There are five, really. Birth, obviously. Adolescence as a whole. My first real relationship. Joining the temple, and leaving the temple. That’s it.

I wonder, if one or the other of these events had been different or had not taken place, who I would be now. Of course, some of them really can’t be removed, like birth and adolescence. But they could have happened very differently.

Birth is huge. It’s the starting point of our life, and we come in with momentum. A rocket launched eastward may turn and go northward, but not so easily as one which was launched northward to begin with. The starting trajectory of a person’s life is the angle at which they come into the world, and this affects the entire course of their lives. Of course, the choices we make in our life also change who we are, but if I were born into very different circumstances, I reckon I’d be a very different person today.

Why is a person born into her particular life? This is, if not one of the main philosophical questions that have been asked by different schools throughout the ages, certainly one of their assistants. Science would generally have us believe that we are products of physical evolution, that our selves as we know them now—our bodies, that is, and maybe minds as well, depending on who you ask—are the result of many, many years of iteratively evolving genetics.

This is, of course, not the only idea on the subject. Many people believe that the circumstances of our birth—including our parents, the stability of our country or lack thereof, our talents, our personalities, our capacities, our economic levels, and all other obvious and not-so-obvious trappings and attributes that we may possess—have carried over into this life from the one before. All these different kinds of momentum, they say, are carried in a subtle body, which surrounds and accompanies the conscious self from life to life. While this is all quite far out, it does explain a lot of differences between us all, which are attributed to chance by the former school of thought, without further explanation.

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

Come back next week to get the next scene of the week, the first of those in the new round. You can say in the comments which scene you’d like to see made into a short story.

 


Genderizer

Broad bean media hand shake

Broad bean media hand shake

 

 

(Listen below)

I just couldn’t decide, so I kept running the genderizer back and forth, looking at myself in the mirror. At one point I left it in between, so I was half man, half woman. On one hand, it would be good to be a man when I met the CEO. I could grip his hand really hard when I shook it. We could joke about our wives, or talk about different beautiful actresses or singers. I could win him over, man to man.

Then again, as a woman I might be able to enter his confidence more easily. I could hear him out, sympathize with him, appeal to his softer side. I might remind him of his mother, or sister. Maybe his wife.

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

Vote now or forever hold your peace! (until the next round)
Figuring this out as I’m going along, I’m closing the first round on scene-of-the-week, where you can vote for the scene that you’d like to see as a short story. Tomorrow’s scene will be the last one, So leave a comment on the scene you like the best, either here, on Facebook or Twiter, or as a message to me, and see that scene transformed into a story in an upcoming post.

What is… Scene-of-the-Week?

Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 🙂


Wolf in the window  

Gray Wolf by dalliedee

Gray Wolf by dalliedee

 

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

It was alright until my bear broke through the barrier separating me from the mundane life.

Let me backtrack. I was there on the London Underground, Bakerloo line, going to work. I was reading a book of myths from my childhood. I held a book in front of me, changed the page sometimes in case anyone was watching. But my eyes were closed, with sunglasses on so no one would see. The stories were behind my eyelids, and so was I.

I sat with my wolf, Santoin. He’s not so impatient as me. While I looked over our map of the sacred mountain, he just sat by me, breathing and gazing ahead. He imparted stability to me, just by being there. By being so big and solid and fierce, all that and still loyal to me.

My lighter friends, bunnies and furry bears, crawled over logs and traipsed through streams and wrestled with each other like idle thoughts on a fluffy-sky day. I colored in the areas on the map where we’d gone already. The color came from my fingertips, light brown and sepia. We’d gone a long way.

We were just about ready to set out when one of the fuzzy bears climbed up next to me and reached backward, behind me where I couldn’t see, where he wasn’t meant to go, and he pushed a barrier which I’d forgotten was there, and his finger set a ripple going like he’d thrown a stone in a sideways pond.

My sunglasses fell off. I dropped my book onto a ridged rubber floor. The man next to me on the Bakerloo line looked over, fear in his eyes. What had he seen? Had Santoin crossed over with me, just for a second? I blinked in the fluorescent lights, reaching for my sunglasses.

 

Scene-of-the-Week

Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 🙂


Which life event would you like to change?

_MG_7809_sequence_01 by Hugh Letheren

_MG_7809_sequence_01 by Hugh Letheren

 

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

Yes, Madam, please just sit there. No, It won’t hurt, but you will feel a tingling. Alright, we are initiating now. Yes? Just relax, it’s alright.

It’s done, Madam. We’re getting the results now… It seems you have had eight major events in your life. Birth, entrance into school, a fight with your best friend after which you never spoke with each other again, the first time you sang in front of an audience, ah… the commencement of womanhood, your first child, marriage, your second child, divorce… and here we are today.

We can change one event within the budget you’ve specified. I advise you to consider carefully. You don’t want to lose anything that’s presently dear to you. But don’t overthink it either; it’s impossible to predict all the ramifications of your decision.

Ah, you look like you’ve made up your mind. Which one would you like to change?

 

Scene-of-the-Week

Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 🙂


Ghosts of worshipers from five hundred years ago

This week the scene-of-week is in a video. I recently went to the magical land of Hampi in South India and was inspired to make this video about the ancient culture there, which was conquered, which has morphed into the people and customs found here today. I recommend you watch it and listen to it, but if you’d like, the transcription is below.

***

I look at these old ruins from above, this extensive temple which is crumbling in many places. The courtyard, now empty, must have been filled for celebrations. Deities would have been brought out on procession, accompanied by priests fanning them, offering them food, water, incense and flowers. People must have sang in the procession, beat drums and blown shehnais. Feasts were offered to the deities, then given to rich and poor alike. A king held ceremonies here, for good children, a long reign, and to please God. These dusty ruins were whole and alive. People lived here, they worshipped here. Some of the priests must have served in this temple for years, perhaps decades.

How can I just pass through this place when it had so much significance for them? How can I not stop to mourn their tragedies, and to wonder at the intricacies of their lives?

 

Scene-of-the-Week

Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 🙂


Scene of the week: Nature Woman vs. Tech Man

seeds by Peter Kaminski

seeds by Peter Kaminski

 

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

A meteorite hurtles through space. There are dormant seeds inside it, but they need a home, a planet. They cannot change the course of the meteorite and must move indefinitely, until it hits another object.

After hundreds of years, it crashes into the surface of a small moon, orbiting a gas giant. The meteorite’s surface cracks open, revealing a shiny brown seed half as tall as a man. A day passes.

The planet is not empty. On the opposite side, now in darkness, tiny machines scour the ground. They dig in then produce more of themselves, using the elements from the ground. They move over the surface like grass growing, and one in a hundred taps down deeper, searching for water for their Master. He sits in a steel-and-glass palace a hundred miles behind them. He is surrounded by machines for building, breaking down, transforming, heating, cooling and a hundred other terraforming tasks.

The seed passes into night, then back into day. It cracks. Its edges fold out like beetle-wings. Inside, many smaller seeds surround one in the center, the largest. Many of the small seeds crack open. Roots go down from them. They fight against the hard earth. They push their ways into tiny cracks, then pry them larger. The roots use the last of their life energy searching for water for their Mistress, she who is in the largest seed. She who will make this planet her own.

 

Scene-of-the-Week

Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 🙂


Scene of the week: The Incarnator

River of light by webtreats

River of light by webtreats

 

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

 

Bormeal hurtled through the streams of time, firmly gripping his hammer.

It was unsettling. Not the streams. They were beautiful in their own way. He felt like he were falling through thousands of horizontal rainbow waterfalls, suspended in an infinite void. No, what was unsettling was the fact that he’d lose his hammer. He loved it. It was part of him. It was huge, like Thor’s, and it could bash things really nicely. But even though he would still look the same as he did now when he landed—bulky, ferocious, hairy—and even though he would remember everything… he could not keep his hammer. Whatever god governed all this wasn’t very kind, not to Bormeal anyway.

When he looked up, things seemed to be going reeeally slow. The figures in the time-streams—so many faces and animals and births and deaths and triumphant moments—moved as though shrunk-wrapped and half-frozen. When he looked down, they all seemed to move reeeally fast. Whole lives came and went while he took a breath. On his own level (which was changing constantly as he fell) it all moved at a regular pace, like him. A man laughed with his family, another dug a hole for a plant. Crowds of people worked on huge stone buildings. They slowed down as they passed by him, as though they were falling upward.

As he neared Earth time, Bormeal began to discern the spiritual level of people on the planet. Incarnators saw the planet in different ways, but he saw this as a hazy, multi-dimensional, colorful graph. As he fell farther, he saw the structures of politics and nations. Blocky shapes bashing against each other with spasms and crashes, waddling across the world knocking each other around. By now, a second of Bormeal’s time would be around… it was hard to guess, but… an hour of time below. As he got closer still he could make out land masses, people milling around. Battles that were important only to the people in them, and some others alive on the planet at the time, if they were nearby.

Bormeal hit the earth, lost his hammer in filaments of light. He sighed, feeling alone without it. He looked around from the top of a hill in some semi-arid land. Scrubby grass and bald rocks. Cold and drizzly. A dozen goat-herders walked below, but they didn’t look up. Bormeal didn’t appear to everyone as soon as he landed. No, there was a proper sequence to things.

Generally, he first showed himself as an apparition, say, to a single crazy farmer. Then word got round. Everyone professed not to believe it, but everyone had their doubts. Then Bormeal appeared to a few folks in the saner section. Most of them wouldn’t tell anyone. Still, some would. Then he appeared to some of the leaders of whatever religion was prominent in that place. The monks and nuns wrote about him and distributed the knowledge to the faithful. That was pretty authoritative, but some people would always think them crazy—the proportion varied according to the society. Anyway, Bormeal would reveal himself, soon after that. Some would think he was a demon, others a god. He was neither, not the way they thought about such beings anyway.

Ah, one of the shepards had strayed behind the others. Bormeal manifested himself, puffing into the air with some nice effects around him, like yak-tails made of light were being whisked around behind him. He walked down, all buff and shiny looking, and approached the startled man.

This is part of the Scene-a-Week series. Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 


Scene of the week: Crazy Auntie

by mysterious conspiracy

by mysterious conspiracy

 

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

The family’s old, crazy auntie held one finger to her mouth, glanced around as to indicate all the others in the house, and gave me a look could only be described as ‘extremely conspiratorial.’ She pushed her taped-up glasses up on her nose, adjusted the sari on her frail, skinny frame. Eyebrows raised, eyes wide. Grinning like a little girl.

She spoke to me in Bengali, still glancing around and grinning. I sat by my computer, listening. I couldn’t understand her, but it was eminently obvious that she was revealing her plan to me, telling me the whats and the hows and the whens. She’d carried out some trickery, somewhere in the house. Maybe she’d mixed ingredients in the larder. Maybe she’d stolen something. Maybe she’d said something to one person, something else to another. I didn’t know, but it was mischief, and I was in on it.

This is part of the Scene-a-Week series. Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. 


Scene-of-the-week premiere: Throwing a guy through time

Boy throwing ball by Kasia

Boy throwing ball by Kasia

 

Welcome to the first of the scene-of-the-week series. Every week there’ll be a new scene, a glimpse of a potentially complete story. You get to vote which one you want to see as a full story in the comments below.

You can listen to this being read to you here:

 

Or to download it, right click here and choose ‘save link as’

 

Time Hucker went into trance using his special machine. His assistant Gerald, who he’d seen as a big, hairy boy a moment before, now appeared as a tiny ball of light. Time Hucker’s own body now looked luminescent, his arms glassy. He stood looking down as though from a high bridge. He took hold of the Gerald-light, held him in his hand as though weighing him, and looked down into the time streams. Gerald would take the streams seriously, once he was far enough in. Oh yes.

The trick was throwing him at just the right moment…

Each stream was a different color, flowed straight in its own direction, from horizon to horizon. They looked like a hundred thousand curving, translucent rivers, all stacked on top of each other. Their distinct colors—green, blue, orange, yellow—mixed with each other in ways that he still found amazing, though he wouldn’t admit it to Gerald.

Far, far below lay Gerald’s destination, the Earth timeline. Time Hucker watched, waited. Wait for it. Wait…

He imagined himself saying to Gerald, who was both his apprentice and nephew, ‘It is tricky to toss someone from one flow of time into another, Gerald. When I first started training, my teacher had me throw stones. From where I was, I threw a stone down into the faster time streams. It’s a bit like throwing a ball from a bridge, you see, and trying to get it to land on a particular square inch of grass. Tricky. Well, it’s actually more like that example, except gravity acts on the ball more and more, the closer it gets to the ground. Because you see, Gerald, time gets denser in the lower dimensions. Not like here.’

Savvy words, but then Gerald wouldn’t listen to such things, because Gerald was more interested in the pretty colors that the rivers of time made when they combined with each other. He liked to swim among them, diving and surfacing, seeing how the colors changed depending on where he was among the layers. Why, if Time Hucker would let him, Gerald would change the time streams, just for aesthetic effect!

If, however, Gerald were a good student, listening attentively, Time Hucker would have said, ‘When I threw them, the stones would appear somewhere in the timeline, very suddenly and moving very fast. Earth people would think them meteorites. Which they were, but from another time.’

Then Gerald would laugh at Time Hucker’s wit.

Time Hucker would smile and pat Gerald’s head affectionately. ‘But the problem, you see, is that people are much more unpredictable than stones. They can adjust their fall, like someone with a parachute, pulling at the corners to change direction. They can move left and right, even slow themselves down a little bit.’ His hands tightened on the Gerald-ball. ‘But they still had to move, very, very fast, Gerald. Like you will now.’

For Gerald was not an attentive student. No, Gerald had to be taught a lesson.

Ah! Wait for it…. wait…. hold…

With all his strength, time Hucker hurled Gerald down into the time streams.

This is the first week in the, Scene-a-week series. Each week, I’ll give you a scene from a story, maybe from the beginning and maybe from somewhere in the middle. These stories will not be fully written, just the scenes. You can vote for which ones you want to have made into a full story in the comments section. Sound like fun?


How to age with grace

It’s tough getting old.

A friend of mine who’s pushing 70 told me that his body’s like an old car. First this bit goes, then that bit goes… It’s tougher still when you’re surrounded by images glorifying youth. On the media we see oily muscly men with practically no body hair, women who’s proportions have been photoshoped so that they resemble barbies.

But there are advantages.

If it’s a life well lived, old age can be one of the best times. You can reap the material fruits of working hard and saving money, can enjoy friendships which have deepened over time, and can act with deeper self-knowledge than before. Whatever we gather–be it knowledge, wisdom or stuff, we’ll likely have a store of it to relish and share later in life.

So what I’m thinking about today is, how to age with grace?

Some people really hit their stride in their later years, but in what? There are some things we can’t take with us into old age: the smooth skin, endurance and strength of youth. Oh, we can age more slowly or more quickly, depending on how we live. But age we must. Some of us are dragged into older age while desperately clinging to the things that only youth allows: tons of energy, lots of sex, unstoppable immune systems, parties… Of course if you watch your diet and do yoga, you can stretch your life out (hardy har har), but we’re all getting older. Or our bodies are, anyway.

Where are the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, New Kids on the Block?

Or where are any host of young actors and actresses who moved from A-list to B-list, then to C, then off into the oblivion of non-famousness, Sinéad O’Connor’s letter to Miley Cyrus (language warning) sums up the music industry, and really most entertainment industries. They’re factories which churn in the young, pretty and talented, then churn out the washed up. (It’s better to burn out than to fade away) Rock stars, movie stars and models have it easy in youth and hard in old age. In the media, women have it harder than men. The window of being suitable for the uses of those industries is small. The body will change.

Different parts of us age differently

Now the way I understand it, (based largely on the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and other spiritual books) we’ve got three aspects: our self (soul, spirit, atma), our mind and our body.

Body aging

Our bodies are aging constantly, starting at the moment of inception. I’ve heard a body hits its peak at around eighteen years, then slowly deteriorates from there.

Mind aging

Pursuits of the mind, on the other hand, often really kick off later in life. Many authors are published for the first time in their fifties or sixties. Professors hit their stride after much life experience. In their later years, scientists mine jewels from decades of research. Musicians become masters.

Yet the mind also fades later in life. Also death is ever approaching… what to do?

How to age with grace: spiritual life

I know many people entering into old age who really inspire me. They all share certain things in common: they’re engaged in spiritual practices. They identify themselves as being spiritual beings who continue after the body and mind fail. They know that their spirit doesn’t die, and they’re identifying with their spirit. They’re not holding onto something impermanent, and so they’re no afraid of entering old age and, eventually, dying.

 

I don’t believe in the moon

Now if you don’t believe in any kind of spiritual life whatsoever, that’s fine. I personally choose not to believe in the moon. Seriously though, I reckon if we spend our lives cultivating awareness of our immortal selves, old age and death won’t come as a shock. Death will just be the shedding of skin.

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. (Bhagavad Gita 2.22)

If you disagree with me, please say so in the comments! If you agree with me, you can debate respectfully with those who don’t. You can subscribe by clicking ‘follow’ in the lower right hand corner of the screen, or click facebook or twitter to share this around.

I’ll be publishing once every two weeks. I was doing once a week, but I want to put more time into each post, and also into getting them out there 🙂


ABDUCERE UNUM IS SCISSOR MAN. Coming soon to a theater pretty nearby you.

With the recent successes of such films as Batman, Spiderman and various other stuff, the movie-going world is eager for super-heroes, but recent polls have shown that everyone’s tired of them being so plausible.
Therefore I submit the following very serious proposal to whom it may concern for a new kind of superhero: one who is at once everyday and fantastic, a homebody and an intergalactic adventurer.
Ahem.

1
There is a simple man who likes folding origami animals, knitting and making those picture-stitching things on round hoops, with flowers and trees and stuff. His name is Abducere Unum.
He is quite content until one day his large sewing scissors slip and cut his right index finger. It’s not a bad cut so he doesn’t think much of it. He bandages it up and takes break from sewing for the day.
But that night Abducere has strange dreams. He’s running though rolling fields of trees made of stuffed fabric… even the sun is just yellow felt in a blue felt sky. It’s wonderful and he prances merrily about for a good while, until he touches something. He reaches his hands out to a lovely yellow rose, to gently seize without breaking it, and inhale its robust fragrance, but is horrified as the flower slices apart at his touch.
He sits down in frustration and his hands turn the smooth grass to cut-up burlap chunks.
“Nooooooo!!!” he cries.
He wakes up with a start, thankful that it was just a dream.
Until he sees his darling paisley bed sheets have been cut to ribbons! It’s then that he realizes that the accident with the scissors has changed him forever.
He’s no longer Abducere Unum, but SCISSOR MAN!!
Ahem.
It’s really hard for him to lead his practical life. He wonders why the powers that be would let this happen to him.
Then he hears about some strange goings-on. Something or someone is fastening stuff together which simply shouldn’t be joined. Skyscrapers merged, all leaning-over-like. People shaking hands and getting stuck, fruits not coming from trees like!!
The world’s top scientists confer to figure out the problem, but even though their brains are really big and there are a lot of them, they still don’t come up with a solution.
By this time Scissor Man is living on the street. He can’t hold a job, literally can’t hold anything. His girlfriend’s left him, his t-shirts are all in tatters. He feels he has no purpose in the world.
Then he hears of the weird joining force, that what’s joining stuff, and he feels that God’s given him a mission. Tentatively, he tries to unjoin some white daisies that got stuck together along the river where he’s been camping.
It works!
He goes on to unjoin houses and people, until he’s prancing around the city unjoining stuff, merrily chuckling and composing little ditties right and left.
When the government notices his success, they give him help. On a huge crane, he unjoins skyscrapers, makes a mountain range like a real range again, and not just a single massive clump of rock.
Humanity’s nemesis behind the joining makes an anonymous announcement on all TV and radio stations: in response to all this undoing of his work, he is going to join the earth to the moon.
Everyone is horror struck. Some look to Scissors Man with abhorrence. Others say he was just trying to help.
He withdraws from them all, sits and thinks in a real good thinking spot, down by the river he lived by when he was homeless.
Who could be behind this? Who would have the power?
Eventually, he remembers a fierce rival in his sewing competitions. Coniunctio Mulier was her name. Brilliant but vicious, many suspected that she had arranged the apparent accident which crippled her opponent’s lead hand, which made her the default winner of the Great Western Sew-off of 1965.
It must be her! thinks Scissors Man.
He works to track her down, but she’s gone from her ancestral home in the woods with a bunch of crazy people. Only her father remains there, knitting and cackling fiercely. Scissors Man wonders if all the others have been killed.
Leaving that place, he looks fearfully to the sky.
The moon is already closer!!
He sprints to the Pentagon and petitions the president for a space ship. The president reluctantly agrees, but refuses to send anyone to help Scissors Man drive it.
“Fine!” barks Scissors Man.
He goes anyway, somehow figuring out the controls on the fly, mostly using his mouth and feet. Up in space, he sees a great web of finger-knitting connecting the moon to the earth. The net is getting thicker even as he watches.
It’s almost too late!
Nudging the controls with his nose, his cutting hands ready, he edges closer. When he’s near, he dawns his specially-fitted space suit and exits the craft. Out in space, he begins cutting the web.
He’s making decent progress when Coniunctio Mulier shows up, riding in a ‘borrowed’ alien spacecraft which looks like a turnip. Her hands are swollen from all that knitting, yet her fierce visage shows that she’ll do whatever it takes to make good on her threat.
A fierce fight ensues, with Coniunctio Mulier trying to join Scissors Man’s hands together, while he tries to cut the bonds apart and attack her for good.
Finally he cuts the tether which ties her to her space ship. She joins herself back! He cuts it again, but she joins back again! And again!! He cuts her again, but she rejoins herself again!!!
Seeing no other recourse, Scissors Man gets some distance, goes behind a nearby asteroid. He enters into deep meditation.
Peering out with his special spiritual vision, he sees Coniunctio Mulier’s astral body. Some special power, looking like ball lightning or something, is connected to her with these fibrous light-thread things!
Reaching out with his own astral body, he cuts the tie between her and her power. Coming out of meditation, he goes to battle her again.
Yay! She can no longer join things! He defeats her easily at that point.
The UN bars her entrance back on earth. Needing fuel, she is forced out into space to deal with the aliens who’s ship she ‘borrowed.’
Scissors Man returns a hero. Science develops a metal strong enough to withstand his hands and he is fitted with special gloves so he can function pretty normally. He meets a girl with incredibly heavy feet and they really hit it off.
They live happily together, being sure never to go on ships or up into flimsy buildings, lest her weight crash through the floors, killing them and people beneath them.
The End

2

(Paintings by the lovely and talented Jayanti dasi)


What is the world’s most narrative vegetable?

There is a question that’s been debated since people began debating things, more than six years ago. It’s disagreement on this question which led to the fall of Atlantis, but also to the first explorations of space. The “Greek Miracle” in architecture, mathematics and so on came from considering this question, but so too did the fall of the Roman Empire and the death of Farmer Servius Cominius’ dog.

What is the most narrative vegetable?

Some might say the humble potato, for it fits into so many types of preparations, just like a good plotting tool (for example the try-fail cycle) fits into many a story. Others might say, “NO!! It is the chili, which injects heat into a meal, just like dramatic conflict is the heart of every story.” Others say, “The chili is not technically a vegetable!”

Without causing any more cataclysms, I submit herewith that the most narrative of all vegetables is the artichoke. Why you ask?

Here is a standard plot diagrams. 99.9 percent of films and novels follow this basic structure.

basic plot diagram

Now behold the subjective artichoke eating experience. Notice that the stages of eating an artichoke correspond more closely with the classic plot diagram than those of any other vegetable.

artichoke

I hope this conclusion will lay to rest this ancient conundrum so that humanity can get on with doing other stuff.


Fantasy and real life

Fantasy writing can be a huge allegory where all the races, places, people and events correlate to equivalents in our world. You could also look at fantasy worlds as being like alternate dimensions of our world, where all the qualities, places and events have been kinda mixed around and matched differently.

Of course this could be heavy-handed: “This guy’s obviously speaking about the cold war. The gnomes are the Americans, the dwarves the Russians, and the super-mushrooms are nuclear weapons. But why does he hate Russia so much?” or “Hey! This is really about the clash between baseball teams, not dragons and elves! This guy’s got an agenda! I want an objective story!!”

Now the way I see it, there are some great advantages to this one-step-removed-from-reality-approach. If an author stays away from blunt and simplistic expositions of one point of view, he or she can say a great deal about this world we’re in, without getting caught up in specifics of race, country and history which people feel really personal about. The moment I say Egypt, or France, or India, or Muslims or Africans or women, people with experience knowing or being those places and races will have a host of preconceived ideas. It’s harder for me to start fresh. But if I make a world and races up, drawing inspiration from this world, I might be able to show you a fresh take on things here.

On the other hand, if an author sets fiction set in this world, he or she can draw from readers’ experiences more directly. If you’ve been to London, if I just write a few lines about walking into Leicester Square on a sunny day, a whole picture replete with scents and sounds will come to your mind.

An author writing fantasy will generally try to have the best of both worlds: setting their story in an alternate world, but drawing many things from this one. A lot of the flora and fauna may be the same, as well as the laws of physics and ways that people interact, express emotions and so on. You can really only go so far from this world without losing your readers.

If you don’t believe this, please read the following poem I wrote in my own, newly invented language. It’s not in the boring Roman Alphabet.

fantasy-and-real-life-poem


‘Sister” short story reading

Today I’m presenting a short story which I wrote some time ago. It takes the form of a letter from a brother to a sister. The only thing is, the brother remembers her from his past life, but he’s not sure if she remembers him.

Here’s the text version:

Sister

 

Dear Manjot (light of the heart),

I hope you and Kirandeep are well.

I want to remind you of our relationship, before you were born. Before I was born. I hope you don’t think I’m deluded.

You were so skinny that you slid through tiny hoops. I remember your bony shoulders poking through a blue sequined dress, which sparkled when you first found it. Your black, dreaded hair flopped around like a mop as you flipped and did handstands in train aisles or dangled with your knees hooked over sleeping-bunks. People clapped or pretended we weren’t there. Some gave money. I stood behind you in the aisles, a felt-tip moustache on my face, a man’s suit draped on me like a tent, pinned up around my bare calves.

I was your older brother and you my sister. Your name was Roma. Mine was Raj, though I was hardly a king. Do you remember?

I could play the ektara somewhat –the one-stringed instrument given us by our father. I wasn’t much for melody but the trains taught me rhythm: click-a-de clack, da-dunk, click-a-de clack, da-dunk. I twanged the ektara to the same rhythm which jostled the people back and forth. I think they liked that.

They said to me, “Boy! Sing Jaya Jagadish Hare!”

Or to you, “Can you pass through three hoops at once?”

And if we could do what they asked, they’d sing along and clap and would surely give us something. At first I didn’t know the popular Bengali and Oriya songs but I learned them as people sang for me what they wanted to hear. “Like this…”

You said to me when we were stopped at a country station, “I’ll learn how to balance on my mouth!” You’d seen a girl do this in a marketplace once, chest facing the ground and legs bending behind her head. “People will give rupees like a rain,” you said, nodding with raised eyebrows.

You dreamed of being a super-flexible yogi. I imagined I’d become a master musician. Such ideas kept us hopeful.

I remember when we switched trains, you waited on the old one until it started moving. I ordered you to join me on the platform but you leaned out the door and made a funny, defiant face. Finally you jumped off and ran along the platform, slowing to a stop. That made me angry, and I think that’s why you did it, because you liked me protecting you.

Do you have these memories? You died in between. So did I, but by God’s desire I recall the journey.

Evenings on the trains were best, when people hadn’t pulled their bunks down to sleep but were relaxed. They played cards, ate or entertained their kids. They’d give us a few rupees then. Big fat people, some of them. What they must have spent on food! The toilets’ stench was overpowered by the smell of hot rice, rotis and dahl.

I remember the day you died. We were curled against the train door. People sprayed us with water as they used the sink above us. The friction between the linked cars sounded like metal thunder. We stopped at a station where the train was cleaned.

I was thirsty. I jumped onto the platform as workers in orange overalls mounted the train. I went looking for drinkable water. People slept on benches under rows of fluorescent lights cutting the night. Shiva’s crescent moon hung amid dark clouds and a wind blew from arid hills.

While I was drinking, men in expensive shirts offered me potato-pea samosas with coconut chutney. I ate some and wanted to bring some back for you, but they got me talking about where I was from and what I did on the trains. They saw my ektara and asked me to sing. I sang a short tune, still thinking of you. They complimented me, said I should enroll in a music academy. They’d help me get in. “Sing another!”

I was caught by their attention and was singing so loudly that I didn’t hear the train leaving.

Finally I heard the click-a-de clack of the wheels rolling over joints in the track. I turned. The train was accelerating out of the station, doors and windows passing into the night. You were leaning out a door, searching the platform. I dropped my ektara with a crack-twang and ran to you, calling your name, “ROMA!” between sharp breaths. You looked at me and screamed, “RAJ!” I clawed at door handles and window latches locked from the inside. Far ahead you hung out an open door. I ran faster. Maybe I should have grabbed some window-bars but it was already going so fast. I had no idea where the train was going. Windows and doors fell ahead of me into darkness. I ran harder and you reached out your hand, but half the station lay between us. Your strained smile broke as you realized I wouldn’t catch up.

There’ll be dried teardrops on this paper, if you look closely.

Then your face changed. You got your funny defiant look. You jumped, clutching your colored hoops, you hit the ground and lost your footing. You crumpled then rolled and slid. You stopped against a column which kept the station’s roof up. Your hoops rolled along the platform and onto the tracks behind the caboose.

For a full year I kept thinking you’d show up again. People don’t really believe in death. Maybe because the soul is eternal. Death’s all around us: people, plants, animals dying, but does anyone think they’ll die? We know it intellectually but do we believe we’ll actually stop existing? Just the body dies; that I know now.

The men who’d given me samosas caught me from behind.

I spent almost two years with them. They didn’t bring me to music school but sent me begging. They weren’t kind men, but they provided a sort of shelter, and maybe that was my bad karma mixing with God’s protection of me.

You might be thinking that all this explains your strange dreams about trains. I’m laughing now. In this life, you’d rather walk from Ottawa to Whitehorse than get on a train.

The men sent me all over Eastern India, always with one other child. In pairs we’d beg on trains, perform or steal to make our quota. We were like cows wandering a city, eating whatever we could find then coming home to get milked. The men didn’t keep us in pairs long enough to get close; we might have run away together.

After a year I understood you were gone. With no close friends, I didn’t much want to live. I got sick and the men found me medicine but they didn’t know what they were doing. I fell ill at the beginning of the rainy season and left before its end. When I died, I was thinking of my little sister, of you.

It’s hard to describe how I knew it was you. You looked very different: twenty years old, not seven; tall and beautiful and of course in a completely different body. You were well-fed but slender with fine brown hair. I recognized you through a combination of many many small things. Your laughing-dove-chuckle was almost the same. So was the way you folded plastic packages while you talked. You used to jump when you were excited; now you roll up on your toes grinning unabashedly. The way your nose wrinkles when you smell something you don’t like, the way your ears rise when you’re annoyed, the way you move gracefully through a crowd like you’re gliding on ice… so many things.

Maybe you can see why I hesitated to tell you. It’s inappropriate I suppose. Your husband might get jealous. It seems strange, my trying to rekindle something from another life.

You’re my sister. These last thirty years, serving in the school together, I’ve had it confirmed who you are – or were – a million times in a million little ways. When I think of you in that other life, roaming around performing on trains, I see your face as it is now. Maybe you know too, and you just don’t know what to make of it.

You can speak about all this with me if you’d like, but you don’t have to. If you just give me a nod of recognition, I’ll be satisfied. Or if none of this makes sense, you can pretend you never read it and just consider me a fellow naturalized Indian, as we are in this life. I’m planning a trip to India soon. I want to visit the holy places before this body gets too old for the journey. I might stay there until I die. I’m quite sick already, as you know. So whatever awkwardness this letter might cause won’t last long. I’m laughing. Each life is so short, isn’t it!

In any case, please think of me as an old friend.

Your brother,

Nayan


Secret places not wanted by others.

Who owns the Earth? We humans come and go. So do animals and plants. Who can claim ownership of even a square centimeter of territory? I remember learning in school when I was about 14 that the Queen of England owns Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.
I remember thinking, ‘This is ridiculous!’ Not just that the queen of a northern isle could own a place in Africa, but that any human being could own something existing for millions or billions of years before and after their brief lifespan. I might as well point out a patch of stars, name it after myself and tell everybody, ‘That is is the Bevis constellation.
But this is not a rant about ownership, or rather the next bit won’t be.
This is about unwanted places. A position or place not coveted by others is a great thing. A secret place in the woods, a room in an abandoned house. No international fights are going on for the rights to it, stealing your peace of mind. In such a place one can be at peace. In some countries, the wealthy are targeted by kidnappers. In business, a CEO’s job is coveted by many. The posts of national leaders are prized, but that little path in the woods, that simple house–you can be there without worry. Probably. It is a pretty mad world.

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