The Endless Upward Spiral

In the aftermath of the Feb. 14th school shooting and massacre in Florida, pundits and our Chaos President are pushing the idea of arming teachers as a deterrent to future shooters, never mind the fact that most of these deranged people fully expect to die during their attack on the schools.  Wayne LaPierre of the NRA has repeated the old line “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”  Another talking head on Fox News called for schools to accumulate “superior firepower.”  According to the NY Times, arming 20% of the teachers in the country would result in 700,000 handguns circulating in schools (in addition to those already present), which would certainly be a boost to gun sales and the NRA, but not a boost to school safety.  Even trained police 1) often miss their intended targets in a shootout, potentially hitting bystanders and 2) have their own prejudices in identifying who is, or isn’t, a threat (a point well made by the Black Lives Matter movement).

Trump himself has said that it would have been “beautiful” if everyone in that club in Orlando had been armed, when the killer began to shoot.  I can just see it:  a dark, crowded club, someone by the bar fires a shot, and suddenly 200 guns whip out of holsters and start blasting away.  When the smoke finally clears, the original gunman may be the only one left standing.

Likewise, a teacher hears gunshots in the hallway, grabs a pistol from the desk drawer and fires at the first threatening-looking (these days, practically synonymous with black or Middle-Eastern) male who appears in the doorway.  I have a feeling that most teachers would instinctively throw themselves in the path of a bullet to save their students, but very few would want to convert their schools to combat zones.

Escalation, rather than rational gun control.  Dissemination of even more weapons, rather than removing access to semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15.   The same mentality leads to increasing the nuclear armament rather than the pre-Trump era negotiated decreases on all sides, when we already have enough to destroy the world many times over.  If someone makes a threat, the only response is to make a bigger threat, “fire and fury like the world has never seen before!”

Here’s an excerpt from the final novel in the Fourth World trilogy, currently a work in progress.  The robot Protem is discussing escalation with General Slocumb:

“Our agents in Beijing report that, after seven years of neglect under Lee Kam-Mun, the attention of the PWE has once again settled on the worldwide Resistance.  Under their new Leader, Pers Bigelow, mobilization of PWE troops in Asia, Africa and the Eurozone has increased sharply.  It is only a matter of time before we come under attack here in the Western Quarantine Zone.”

“Then it’s a bloody good thing we haven’t wasted those seven years of respite,” said Slocumb, his smile easy and confident.  “As you know, Mr. President, we’ve built a rather substantial fleet of small fighter ships, each powered by a modified Flowsorb engine; they can outrun and out-maneuver anything on the PWE side.  The ships have been armed with the fourth-generation Razer cannons developed in our San Jose labs, which have greater range, and pack a more powerful wallop, than conventional PWE weapons.  Let the blighters come, I say; we’ll show ‘em what for!”  He suddenly brightened at another thought.  “And— and, I haven’t even brought up our beautiful, brand-new battleship, launched last week— Big Bella!”  Protem had heard that the ship’s name Bella was derived from bellum, war.  As in a bellicose, belligerent battleship:  was the name, along with the alliteration, an example of humor?

A warning signal always turned on in Protem’s neural network whenever its military officers began to speak in an over-excited way, like boys exulting over their new toys.  “You are assuming that the PWE has not made similar advances.”  The general’s smile slowly disappeared.

 

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Super Blue-Bloods

The Bay Area has had front-row seats in the past couple of months for two major celestial events:  first the total solar eclipse (I’ve already lost the special glasses used to view that), then a few days ago, the total eclipse of a super blue blood moon (super because of its size at the moon’s closest distance to the Earth along its elliptical orbit, blue because it was the second full moon in the same month, and blood because of its color, imparted by red light from all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth passing through the atmosphere to be reflected back from the moon).  Shivering in my greatcoat and wiping the condensation off my binoculars at 4:30 in the morning, I watched the super moon gradually bleed red as it slivered into the pre-dawn darkness.

It brought to mind an early morning in my novel Fourth World Nation (the sequel to Fourth World), when Benn steps out during the Double Lunar Eclipse Festival to explore the Martian colony where he now lives:

“Low in the morning sky, Deimos and Phobos sat perfectly aligned as Mars moved between them and the sun, plunging both moons simultaneously into darkness.  Over the preceding hour, Benn had watched tiny Deimos, which was 20,000 km away and appeared like a slow-moving star in the sky, duck into hiding behind Phobos, which was not only larger at 22 km across, but also much closer, appearing more like a small moon.  Phobos, circling the planet at high speed from west to east, had swallowed its little brother, and now both sons of the ancient Greek god Ares (called Mars by the Romans) lay in their father’s dense shadow.  Q!  A double-lunar eclipse!  Benn had never witnessed one, simply because he had lived most of his life underground.  It was highly unlikely that anyone from Tharsis Colony had ever seen such a spectacle.

In contrast, everyone in Highland City was out in the streets to begin the holiday, despite the early hour.  All eyes, drowsy or alert, were directed upward for the duration of the eclipse, which, although relatively brief, did not disappoint the cheering crowd.  The rarity of the phenomenon, the surrounding media buzz, and above all, the opportunity to throw a city-wide party at five-thirty in the morning more than compensated for the brevity of the actual eclipse.  In fact, the festival would stretch through the entire day, from unusually early opening times for the downtown bars, to the Mayor’s Parade at ten, and the lunar-themed dinner menus at many restaurants.

Among the myriad festival events, Benn had highlighted a noon concert by the Highlander Symphony; the program on his da-disc featured “The Planets” by Holst; Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” transcribed for horn and Mars-harp; and finally, Panic and Fear, a modern piece by LaGuardia.  What a stark difference there was between Highland City, where wealth and a sophisticated population could support a “world-class” (albeit a small world) symphony orchestra, and Benn’s home colony of Tharsis, where the only musical ensemble was the five-man pit orchestra at Tharsis-on-Avon, the Shakespeare company.  At the thought of that singularly talentless quintet, Benn had to laugh.  Their conductor often made his musicians play over the actors’ voices, and Benn’s best friend Jace had sometimes stopped in the middle of a soliloquy to rail at them.  What had Jace called them?  Scurvy rogues?  Rampallions and fustilarians?  Was he making these up?  No, he remembered:  Basket-hilt stale jugglers!  At one particularly disjointed rehearsal, Jace had rushed downstage, drawing his cutlass and yelling, “Away, you cut-purse rascals, you filthy bungs, away!”  When the conductor responded with a rude hand gesture, Jace had raged on, “I’ll tickle your catastrophe; I’ll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps!”  Hmm, Benn chuckled, maybe there was high culture at Tharsis, after all.

On this rare day off, the first thing that struck Benn—who had so far been shuttered away in an underground lab at MWI—was that Highland City clearly tried to fashion itself after New York Metropol—even their Mayor had been imported from there.  He savored the great outdoors by strolling aimlessly north on Av7, east on St46, then north again on Av5, stopping to explore the illogically-named neighborhoods.  Notably, there was no rise in altitude at Morningside Heights, neither park view nor terrace at Parkview Terrace, and he would have been shocked to find a river at Riverside Drive.  Pleasantly diverted, Benn wandered on, taking in the fascinating billboards and door signs on every street.  They reflected the City’s ethnic and cultural diversity (at least commercial diversity, down here at street level).  Overhanging the arched entrance to Nasser’s Lunch Site was a rocket ship that looked like chunks of meat on a skewer; its menu spoke with a Mideast Zone accent, promising an oasis of lush, exotic pleasures within.  Several doors down, Benn peeked into The Pho Chateau, a chain restaurant originally based in Earth’s Mekong District, which offered moon-shaped rice noodle dishes, served family-style in a Baroque white-and-gold paneled room, its high ceiling ringed by a slate mansard roof.  The menu at The Pho Chateau’s gilded entrance depicted dancing dumplings which accurately reflected the elongated shapes, if not the movements, of Deimos and Phobos.  Farther up Av5, a quasi-religious group calling themselves the Highland Druids hawked tiny Aresite amulets and gave demonstrations of Areodynamic cookery, which, they claimed, had healing powers tied to the phases of both moons.”

The similarity to New York City had already struck Benn at a high-society dinner party.  Here’s another excerpt from Fourth World Nation:

“From his long wait in line, overhearing the nasty comments that the cream of society made about one another, Benn had concluded that the oldest families in Highland City enjoyed far less prestige than the newer ones.  Some even referred to them dismissively as Oldies (at least they weren’t called Martians, a distinction enjoyed only by natives of Tharsis)!  Benn thought again of the archived black-and-white films.  Unlike the New York high society they were trying so hard to emulate—where the oldest established families, many with Dutch or English surnames, looked down on social climbers and the nouveau riche—here, wealthy Oldies like the Monroes were perceived as the most backward colonial subjects.  It was the recent arrivals from Earth who occupied all the positions of power.  Unlike the early settlers of colonial New Amsterdam and New York, whose philanthropic families became permanent fixtures of city life, their modern equivalents on Mars had become largely irrelevant, as a growing technocracy rapidly supplanted the old plutocracy under the PWE.  Still, the old families understood the rules governing fashionable society.  They had defined local tradition, and that was something the diverse newcomers craved.  Therefore the Monroes and other Oldies were invited to high-society events; however, whispered the young technocrats and their spouses to one another, the blue-bloods should not let that further puff up their leathery egos, which some compared to overstuffed, old-fashioned club chairs.

 

Shameless Commercial II

At a large trade tasting of the wines of Bordeaux held in San Francisco yesterday, a friend– the owner of a great chateau in St. Julien– told me he had downloaded and started to read Fourth World Nation, the second book in the trilogy.

“Oh no,” I replied (despite an initial flush of success and gratitude– maybe it was time for a translation into French!).  “The series is meant to be read in order– so it’s better to start with Fourth World, and then move on to Fourth World Nation.”  Otherwise it would be hard to understand Benn’s abilities, his relationship to Lora, and why they are running away from the Pan-World Electorate.

In going back to Fourth World, my friend would probably be amused by Chapter Eight, in which Dr. Nes Neelin holds a tasting of the Greatest Wines of the Century in the Mellon College dining hall.

Ever since Fourth World Nation came out on Amazon, I’ve been working assiduously on the third novel in the trilogy, in which the setting shifts from Mars back to Earth– in particular, my old stomping grounds of Malaysia and Singapore.  With a minimum of spoiler alerts (I won’t even mention its title), here’s an excerpt:

As a young linguistics student at Cambridge University, Wesley Stuart had appeared in numerous collegiate theatrical productions, including some by his favorite playwrights, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward.  Which one was he channeling now?  Someone in between, perhaps.  Chou Xia-Yu had found his classmate’s talents amusing, and was therefore willing to tolerate his sporadic spoofing of British Peers, or “p-p-pompous p-persons of p-p-privilege,” as Stuart sometimes put it.

How had a charming but harmless thespian, a Bohemian polyglot such as Wes Stuart, ended up as the PWE Superintendent of Singapore?  Chou knew very well the final step, having promoted Wes to that position during his time as Leader.  Before that, Wes had served for eighteen years as a minister in the British Parliament, a local governing council of the Pan-World Electorate.  There was, of course, no longer a distinction drawn between the House of Lords and the House of Commons (nor had there been for almost a hundred years), but the Stuarts had occupied a seat in Lords since the seventeenth century, and on the day Wesley Stuart had staked his claim by strolling ever-so-naturally through the grand entrance to Parliament, no one had thought to object.  Even the vehement stand taken by The London Stage, a cultural review published and edited by Wes, against the long-lost traditions of aristocracy— which still glowed in the hearts of many Britons like a warm coal among the morning ashes— had drawn nary a negative comment from his fellow ministers.  He may have written and acted as a traitor to his class, but that class now existed only in a dense fog of London nostalgia.

As he closed the front door, Stuart affected a different accent.  “Roit this wye, lidees and gents,” he pronounced like a circus barker, with a bow and a broad sweep of his arm.  Lora walked slowly past him into the living room, pausing to gawk at two huge bronze Buddhas flanking the entryway.

“Wes, you haven’t lost your touch,” said Chou.  He flashed a momentary smile, then cleared his throat pointedly.

“Ah.  By that you mean my touch of craziness,” replied Stuart, feigning embarrassment.  “Well, you were ever the serious one, Chou.  Always getting straight down to business, eh?”  He gestured at the furniture crowding his living room, which consisted of a club-style sofa and three leather wingback chairs (“Water buffalo,” he announced proudly) surrounding an ornately-carved Indonesian hardwood kopi table with a tall Chinese vase at its center.  Bookshelves overflowing with publications in several different languages lined the walls.  Everyone settled into a comfortable seat, but Ari plopped herself down on the edge of the low table, shifting it sideways on the marble floor by a millimeter or two.

Stuart lunged forward and steadied the vase, even though they both knew there was no danger of it tipping over— and besides, it was made of an indestructible polymeric material, the product of multispecies recombinant DNA.  “Oi sye, steady on, young pip!  That’s from the Ming Dynasty, innit?”

Not bloody likely, not unless the Ming Emperors had access to genetic engineering, thought Stuart with an inward laugh.  Ari felt a wave of irony and smiled innocently at her host:  she had liked him immediately, sensing his openness, his affection for Chou, and above all, his excellent humor (what Wes himself might have termed his “infinite jest”).

 

Hope Marches On II

It took me a few days of wrestling with my own ambiguity, to digest the meaning of the Women’s March this past weekend.  Because of the crush at the San Francisco Civic Center last year, I decided to join the march in Oakland’s Lake Merritt Amphitheater.  With the change in setting, it’s hard to make an accurate comparison, but the women’s movement has clearly evolved, probably as a result of all the trauma following Trump’s inauguration.

Last year the focus was on women’s rights and equality, with other intersecting issues on the periphery:  immigration, racism, LGBT and sexual freedom, and so on.  This year, the signs looked different, more extreme:  “Feminism without intersectionality is simply racism!” and “Destroy white feminism!”  Large, diverse groups of men and women (none of them wearing pink hats) formed drum circles in support of undocumented immigrants, Dreamers, Black Lives Matter, universal healthcare, and against ICE, the Wall, Harvey Weinstein, nuclear buttons and of course Donald Trump.  From the stage, women spoke and recited poems on sexual harassment and assault; #MeToo has definitely changed the movement’s trajectory.  There were more commercial sponsors, more pleas for money and voter registration than last year, but also a stronger sense of activism and long term personal commitment, as opposed to donning pink hats and marching on any given day.  Hats show solidarity, but solidarity, although necessary, is not sufficient for true empowerment.  Some signs this year read, “Marching is important, but running is more important.”

Last year, with a new march, a movement more fluid in nature, I wished for greater focus on the central issues (e.g. equal pay for equal work).  But this year the movement has grown and solidified to the extent that intersection with other causes, such as racial oppression and immigration– rather than what the Women’s March has been accused of, namely appealing only to white middle-class women in an effort to get more votes for the Democratic party– has now become crucial.  The pain and anger felt by women is multi-faceted; these different facets, after the divisive year we’ve just gone through, have a brighter light than ever shining upon them.  The different causes and effects of pain are more clearly distinguishable than ever, and the movement should engage all of them.

Maybe lose the pink hats next time, the sense of victimization which the hats symbolize.  Instead, roll up your sleeves in true empowerment, ready to work, write, organize, run for office.  In my struggle to understand the movement’s new face, it helped to read this morning’s news, in which Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Dr. Larry Nassar to 40-175 years in prison for sexual assault.  In giving all the victims a voice and her personal support, she urged them to “Leave your pain here” and to go forth and live their magnificent lives.  Be a former victim, and do great things.  For me, that sums up the crossroads where the women’s movement now finds itself.

This Is Not A Drill

Alert:  a policy missile of the Trump Administration is heading your way.  Seek shelter immediately.  This is not a drill.

Within the next few weeks, ICE officials will conduct a massive sweep of neighborhoods and workplaces in San Francisco and other Northern California cities to strike against sanctuary laws that aim to protect undocumented immigrants.  They plan to arrest and deport more than 1500  people, which will unavoidably destroy families, disrupt essential services such as healthcare, and instill fear in communities of color.

The federal government faces a shutdown this weekend if our Chaos President and Congress can’t resolve the DACA issue, which is entangled with the Great Wall of Mexico, and now funding for children’s healthcare as well.  The GOP’s holding CHIP hostage in order to get money for the Wall truly demonstrates the cynical nature of political football:  option plays, end runs, mis-directions, flea-flickers, razzle-dazzle.  Just win, baby.

On a different battlefront, the Trump Administration has unveiled a sweeping proposal to open nearly all US waters, including the long-protected California coast, to offshore drilling for oil and gas.  Florida, which has a Republican governor and Mar-a-Lago (not necessarily in that order), has been exempted from a proposed policy which would endanger coastal economies and the environment.  Not to mention ruining the view from Trump’s golf course, hence the Florida exemption.  California has been ravaged by a series of devastating fires and floods, natural disasters which can be linked to global climate change, while Trump shuns the Paris Accord and blithely (or perhaps corruptly) continues to promote fossil fuels. To me, the image of millions of acres and a thousand homes going up in flames, then many others swept away by the ensuing mudslides, is as alarming as an incoming nuclear warhead.

Trump continues daily to launch missiles of misogyny and rockets of racism; it seems almost an intentional distraction, when he flashes xenophobia, support for white nationalists, vulgar references to Haiti and Africa, attacks on the press, threats to the nation’s health coverage, and on and on.  The delayed-action bomb of tax “reform” has already hit its target.  While our attention is drawn to yet another outrage, he pushes the allegedly big nuclear button, risking the lives and well-being of millions of immigrants, Dreamers, sick children, coastal dwellers and, in the case of global warming, merely all future generations of humankind!

In Hawaii and Japan recently, nuclear alerts turned out to be false alarms.  This is not a false alarm; for many, it is a matter of life and death.  It’s hugely ironic to me that, when Trump passed his physical last week and was declared not to be (officially) demented or insane, I actually took that as bad news:  in other words, he is doing all of this on purpose, with intentional malice.  If Trump is “like, really smart” and a “stable genius,” he is also an evil one.

So seek shelter.  Or better yet:  on Saturday January 20th, the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, seek the protest nearest you.  Protest for racial equality, demonstrate for women’s rights, march for science and the environment, protect the Dreamers and other immigrants, reach out to one another and, as I’ve been urging all year, VOTE in this year’s midterm elections.

Most Likely to Secede

In the late 1970’s, my college friends in Connecticut sometimes teased me about coming from California:  a huge earthquake, they said, would one day split the state from the rest of the country, depositing it into the Pacific Ocean; better buy some oceanfront property in Nevada!  Perhaps they were thinking metaphorically of the degree to which California remained separate, in terms of its liberal politics, mindset, laid-back lifestyle, tolerance, diversity,  weather, inventiveness etc.  People here love to point out that, if ranked alongside all the nations of the world, California’s economy would be No. 6.  We have economic engines such as the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, famous Wine Country, Central Valley agriculture, biotech and space industries, superb universities, electric cars, Google, Facebook, Twitter, touristic natural beauty, great Mexican food and, well OK, Hollywood too.  Talk of seceding from the Union has always been a distant background noise, and not always originating from our own state:  didn’t someone in the Utah state legislature, about two years ago, propose that California ought to be cut off?

Our Chaos President’s negative attitude toward California seems to be– surprise!– making things worse.  He has moved to vastly expand offshore drilling along the California coastline, threatening coastal ecology and economies, as well as public health.  His tax “reform” will increase the federal tax burden for Californians, prompting the state Senate to come up with a creative counter-proposal.  He has undertaken punitive measures against sanctuary cities which are being challenged in the courts.  His FCC has overturned net neutrality rules, and the fight to restore a free and open Internet has moved from Washington DC to Sacramento.  He has withdrawn from the Paris Accord on climate change, so that Governor Jerry Brown now attends the international climate meetings and commits California to surpassing the terms to which the US previously agreed.  While Trump wants to prop up coal and oil, California is fast building up solar and other renewable energy.  Trump’s first move as president was to cancel the Trans-Pacific Pact, leaving the US on the sidelines while China expands its influence in Asia and Europe; California has prudently continued to negotiate its own, separate trade deals on the world stage.  Now North and South Korea have begun talks, encouraged by China and Russia– again leaving the US to worry from the sidelines, largely because of Trump’s bellicose schoolyard tweets about Kim Jong-Un.

Since California is within range and directly threatened by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, shouldn’t Jerry Brown be attending those talks?  But California doesn’t possess a nuclear arsenal– or do we?  What about the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the threat to withdraw support for Palestinian refugees unless they toe the line?  Should Jerry clear some time on his schedule?  It was a dramatic moment when all but a handful of nations in the UN voted to condemn the Jerusalem decision:  isolating the US from former friends and allies in the Middle East, Asia and Europe must be the guiding principle of this Administration.  By so diminishing the international stature of the United States, Trump has increased the leadership role of California.

Should California secede from the Union, aside from the dubious legality of such a move?  The actions of the Trump Administration make it look as though the Union is seceding from California (as it is from the rest of the world)!  But despite that, I would argue against secession.  Spoiler alert:  Even in science fiction, forming a separate nation is fraught with unforeseen consequences.  In Fourth World Nation, the second book in the Fourth World Series, the Martian colonies declare their independence from Earth.  Here’s an excerpt:

When the applause finally stopped, Ran began by addressing Khalmed Salman.  “Superintendent Salman, you represent the Pan-World Electorate in this historic transition.  Do you have anything to say?”

Salman’s tone was stoic but contained something chilling, like a sharp blade buried just beneath the sand.  “Yes, perhaps historic to you, but not to the PWE.  By taking control of the colonies,” he said, his dark gaze sweeping the room, “you imagine that you have defeated us, but quite the opposite is true.  We will withdraw all of our personnel and resources to Earth, and in our absence, the consequences of your actions will become painfully clear:  the  law and order you have taken for granted will disappear; your Resistance movement will break up into factions pitted against one another; the material supplies necessary to maintain function in the cities will run out.  All remaining PWE ships will transport troops as well as any civilians who wish to depart for Earth.  Within four weeks, however, you can expect that a new fleet of fully-manned warships will arrive to retake the colonies.”

Or at least retake Congress in the mid-term elections.  On that optimistic note, I wish all my readers a happy 2018!

 

 

It’s That Time of Year

Christmas isn’t just a time for shopping!  In his thoughtful Christmas 2017 newsletter, a dear friend, A.D., reflects on moral foundations:  “There is still great danger in certainty, whether it is embodied by an ideology like Communism or in a fundamentalist faith… what we now hold as fundamental values and attitudes may look pretty silly in 200 years… even ‘Foundational’ beliefs change over time.”

Roy Moore’s senatorial candidacy in Alabama shows that the passage of 200 years is not required for things to start looking crazy.  Since the election of Donald Trump (heavens, only a year ago!), the moral foundations of the Republican party have morphed such that a credibly-accused pedophile, an Islamophobic racist who feels that America was last “great” during times of slavery, enjoys the full support of the Republican National Committee.  And, of course, Moore has the strong support of our Chaos President, himself a compulsive liar, misogynist, racist, xenophobic, white nationalist bully.  What in the world has happened to the Party of Lincoln?  The self-hypnosis and extreme moral rationalization necessary in order to sacrifice its traditional values for the sake of political expediency has the GOP either sleepwalking or tied in knots.

I’ve been reading Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live, or a Life of Montaigne (highly recommended).  Michel de Montaigne, a 16th-century writer whose influence remains powerful today, adopted several Hellenistic philosophies, particularly Skepticism.  He addressed life problems by saying, essentially, “I withhold judgment,” which freed him from having to find an answer to anything, including the endless unanswerable questions that plague us every day.  The Skeptics accepted everything provisionally, rather than try to confront a “real world” with absolute truths which could be known, categorized and arranged in an orderly fashion.  To be so supremely unassuming, as they saw it, was the path to relaxation, joy and ultimately the flourishing of humanity.

Montaigne’s essays were initially embraced by the Catholic Church as exemplary arguments in support of faith, and then, within a century, denounced as subtle works of the Devil.  The Essays remained on a list of banned books until their eventual rehabilitation in the eyes of the Church.  Back and forth went the interpretation:  even the Church, a purported source of moral “foundations” could not claim a firm grip on bedrock.  Bakewell suggests that Zen Buddhism, with its perplexing koans, may have been a better approach to the imponderables of Montaigne’s universe.

A.D. does not “affiliate with a particular catechism,” but nevertheless writes, “I may not be someone swayed by revealed truth, prophecy or miracles but I recognize that, in my attempt to live some sort of a ‘virtuous’ life, I function in a web of religious history and culture... without it, I would probably be paralyzed by a sense of relativity and by a cosmic complexity that is way beyond  my puny reasoning capacities.”  A.D. is being rightfully unassuming:  the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure, says the Skeptic, the Montaigne, in all of us.  Thankfully, faith of a more general (not necessarily religious) type and hope in goodness save us from living in a bleak, unknowable world.  I might also look into Zen…

Not a bad newsletter to get for Christmas!  With apologies to our friend A.D., even Fourth World Nation, the just-released second novel in my sci-fi trilogy, takes a stand.  Here’s a brief excerpt:

“They had so readily mistaken mindless mob behavior for unity, just as they were doing now, thought Benn.  And, according to Marc, the fact that their intolerance would only be assuaged by a tangible demonstration—such as a prophecy or a miracle—was the opposite of faith.  Benn could easily provide such a demonstration, but even then, he would either be seen as a messiah or a witch.”

On that cheerful but skeptical note, Happy Holidays to all those who follow this blog!