“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.
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?
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.
September 6, 2015 | Categories: Blog posts, Short stories | Tags: ancient, Author, b.t. lowry, best, Bevis Lowry, bodies, creative, dead, death, different, emerging, episodes, episodic, evil, favorite, fiction, flash fiction, fooling, funny, genre, ghost, ghostbusters, good for children, graveyard, halloween, hare Krishna, haunted, illusion, imagination, india, learning, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, popular, religious, river, scene, series, short story, spell, spiritual, spirituality, themed, tricking, unique, visionary, weekly, west, writer | Leave a comment
“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.
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.
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.
August 30, 2015 | Categories: Articles, Blog posts | Tags: Author, b.t. lowry, best, between, Bevis Lowry, creative, different, emerging, episodes, episodic, favorite, fiction, flash fiction, funny, genre, good for children, hare Krishna, imagination, learning, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, peace, popular, reconcile, religion, religious, scene, science, series, short story, spiritual, spirituality, themed, unique, visionary, weekly, writer | Leave a comment
“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.
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?
August 23, 2015 | Categories: Blog posts, Short stories | Tags: Author, b.t. lowry, best, Bevis Lowry, clairsentient, clairvoyant, creative, different, emerging, episodes, episodic, favorite, fiction, flash fiction, funny, future, genre, good for children, hare Krishna, imagination, learning, metropolis, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, popular, religious, run lola run, scene, science fiction, series, short story, spiritual, spirituality, super power, themed, unique, vision, visionary, weekly, writer | Leave a comment
“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.
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.
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.
August 16, 2015 | Categories: Blog posts, Short stories | Tags: Author, b.t. lowry, best, Bevis Lowry, bleak, canada, creative, desolate, different, emerging, episodes, episodic, favorite, fiction, flash fiction, forest, forgotten, funny, genre, good for children, hare Krishna, hermit, imagination, learning, loney, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, popular, religious, scene, series, short story, snow, spiritual, spirituality, themed, unique, visionary, weekly, winter, writer | Leave a comment
“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.
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.
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.
August 9, 2015 | Categories: Blog posts, Short stories | Tags: ancient, Author, b.t. lowry, best, Bevis Lowry, creative, demigods, different, elemental, elementals, emerging, episodes, episodic, evil, favorite, fiction, flash fiction, funny, genre, gods, good for children, hare Krishna, imagination, learning, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, popular, religious, rulers, satan, scene, series, short story, spirits, spiritual, spirituality, themed, unique, visionary, weekly, writer | Leave a comment
Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Bouncing off Borders.
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.”
“Are you a journalist?”
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.”
“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.
July 26, 2015 | Categories: Blog posts, Short stories | Tags: anger, Author, b.t. lowry, best, Bevis Lowry, border, country, creative, deport, different, emerging, episodes, episodic, favorite, fiction, flash fiction, frustration, funny, genre, go through, good for children, guards, hare Krishna, how to, imagination, immigration, learning, line, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, passport, popular, religious, ridiculous, scene, series, short story, spiritual, spirituality, stop, themed, unique, victory, visionary, weekly, writer | Leave a comment
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.
July 19, 2015 | Categories: Blog posts, Short stories | Tags: animal, Author, b.t. lowry, best, Bevis Lowry, boy, bridge, children's story, creative, different, dream, emerging, episodes, episodic, favorite, flash fiction, funny, goat, good for children, hare Krishna, imagination, learning, most, New, Non-European fantasy, odd, popular, reality, religious, scene, series, short story, spiritual, spirituality, themed, unique, visionary, weekly, writer | 2 Comments