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 Topic: Thought provoking works of life and morality.

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  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     OP - October 17, 2013, 04:28 AM

    I thought it might be interesting to open a thread dedicated to the writings and words of people throughout history that have argued against the dogma of their time, be it social, political or religious, from as early as you like until today,

    The first post is A Modest Proposal, a famous satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.

    A Modest Proposal also targets the calculating way people perceived the poor in designing their projects. The pamphlet targets reformers who "regard people as commodities". In the piece, Swift adopts the "technique of a political arithmetician" to show the utter ridiculousness of trying to prove any proposal with dispassionate statistics.

    It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

    I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

    But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

    As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the cloathing of many thousands.

    There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babes, I doubt, more to avoid the expence than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.

    The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couple, who are able to maintain their own children, (although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom) but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand, for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remain an hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, How this number shall be reared, and provided for? which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses, (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing till they arrive at six years old; except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier; during which time they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers: As I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me, that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

    I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old, is no saleable commodity, and even when they come to this age, they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half a crown at most, on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriments and rags having been at least four times that value.

    I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

    I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

    I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

    I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, encreaseth to 28 pounds.

    I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

    Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolifick dyet, there are more children born in Roman Catholick countries about nine months after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of Popish infants, is at least three to one in this kingdom, and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of Papists among us.

    I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, labourers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend, or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants, the mother will have eight shillings neat profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child.

    Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flea the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.

    As to our City of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose, in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.

    A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly esteem, was lately pleased, in discoursing on this matter, to offer a refinement upon my scheme. He said, that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well supply'd by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age, nor under twelve; so great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and service: And these to be disposed of by their parents if alive, or otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend, and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments; for as to the males, my American acquaintance assured me from frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our school-boys, by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable, and to fatten them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission, be a loss to the publick, because they soon would become breeders themselves: And besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice, (although indeed very unjustly) as a little bordering upon cruelty, which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any project, how well soever intended.

    But in order to justify my friend, he confessed, that this expedient was put into his head by the famous Salmanaazor, a native of the island Formosa, who came from thence to London, above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his country, when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality, as a prime dainty; and that, in his time, the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the Emperor, was sold to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court in joints from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who without one single groat to their fortunes, cannot stir abroad without a chair, and appear at a play-house and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for; the kingdom would not be the worse.

    Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed; and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken, to ease the nation of so grievous an incumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known, that they are every day dying, and rotting, by cold and famine, and filth, and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young labourers, they are now in almost as hopeful a condition. They cannot get work, and consequently pine away from want of nourishment, to a degree, that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labour, they have not strength to perform it, and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come.

    I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.

    For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of Papists, with whom we are yearly over-run, being the principal breeders of the nation, as well as our most dangerous enemies, and who stay at home on purpose with a design to deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good Protestants, who have chosen rather to leave their country, than stay at home and pay tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate.

    Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law may be made liable to a distress, and help to pay their landlord's rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.

    Thirdly, Whereas the maintainance of an hundred thousand children, from two years old, and upwards, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a piece per annum, the nation's stock will be thereby encreased fifty thousand pounds per annum, besides the profit of a new dish, introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom, who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among our selves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.

    Fourthly, The constant breeders, besides the gain of eight shillings sterling per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the first year.

    Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns, where the vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to perfection; and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating; and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please.

    Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards, or enforced by laws and penalties. It would encrease the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the publick, to their annual profit instead of expence. We should soon see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives, during the time of their pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sow when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

    Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some thousand carcasses in our exportation of barrel'd beef: the propagation of swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables; which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well grown, fat yearly child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a Lord Mayor's feast, or any other publick entertainment. But this, and many others, I omit, being studious of brevity.

    Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for infants flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand.

    I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.

    Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

    But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.

    After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, As things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for a hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, There being a round million of creatures in humane figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock, would leave them in debt two million of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession, to the bulk of farmers, cottagers and labourers, with their wives and children, who are beggars in effect; I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food at a year old, in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes, as they have since gone through, by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor cloaths to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of intailing the like, or greater miseries, upon their breed for ever.

    I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the publick good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children, by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #1 - October 17, 2013, 04:36 AM

    On The Nature Of Things, by Titus Lucretius Carus. Lucretius published this around 50BC, one of the most ancient texts arguing for a secular or deistic outlook. Far as I know he didn't deny the existence of gods , but he felt that human ideas about gods combined with the fear of death to make human beings unhappy.

    He followed the same materialist lines as Epicurus, and by denying that the gods had any way of influencing our world he said that humankind had no need to fear the supernatural. The most well known extracts of the poem are

    This terror, then, this darkness of the mind,
     Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light,
     Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse,
     But only Nature's aspect and her law,
     Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:
     Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.

    Fear holds dominion over mortality
     Only because, seeing in land and sky
     So much the cause whereof no wise they know,
     Men think Divinities are working there.

    Meantime, when once we know from nothing still
     Nothing can be create, we shall divine
     More clearly what we seek: those elements
     From which alone all things created are,
     And how accomplished by no tool of Gods.

    Whilst human kind
     Throughout the lands lay miserably crushed
     Before all eyes beneath Religion- who
     Would show her head along the region skies,
     Glowering on mortals with her hideous face-
     A Greek it was who first opposing dared
     Raise mortal eyes that terror to withstand,
     Whom nor the fame of Gods nor lightning's stroke
     Nor threatening thunder of the ominous sky
     Abashed; but rather chafed to angry zest
     His dauntless heart to be the first to rend
     The crossbars at the gates of Nature old.

    And thus his will and hardy wisdom won;
     And forward thus he fared afar, beyond
     The flaming ramparts of the world, until
     He wandered the unmeasurable All.

    Whence he to us, a conqueror, reports
     What things can rise to being, what cannot,
     And by what law to each its scope prescribed,
     Its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time.

    Wherefore Religion now is under foot,
     And us his victory now exalts to heaven.

    Full text here Smiley

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #2 - October 17, 2013, 04:40 AM

    In Defense of Witchcraft by Sam Harris. Harris is an American author, philosopher and neuroscientist and critic of religion and proponent of scientific scepticism. After writing a number of books arguing against god (Letter to a Christian Nation, the End of Faith etc) he received a number of critical responses defending chistianity and religion in general. In Defence of Witchcraft basically changes the "god" to "magic" to highlight his points on the absurdity of his critics.

    Imagine that the year is 1507, and life is difficult. Crops fail, good people suffer instantaneous and horrifying turns of bad luck, and even the children of royalty regularly die before they have taken their first steps. As it turns out, everyone understands the cause of these calamities: it is witchcraft. Not all witchcraft is at fault, of course—there are “white” witches who use their powers to heal—but there is no question that some witches have formed an alliance with the Devil. Happily, the Church has produced many learned and energetic men who are equal to this challenge, and each year hundreds of women are put to death for casting spells upon their innocent neighbors. Imagine being among the tiny percentage of people—the 5 percent, or 10 percent at most—who think that a belief in witchcraft is nothing more than a malignant fantasy. Imagine writing a book arguing that magic spells do no real work in the world, that the confessions of bad witches are delusional or coerced, that the claims of good witches are self-serving and unempirical. You argue further that a belief in magic offers false hope of benefits that are best sought elsewhere, like from scientific medicine, and lays the ground for false accusations of imaginary crimes, leading to the misery and death of innocent people. If your name is Sam Harris, you may produce two fatuous volumes entitled The End of Magic and Letter to a Wiccan Nation. Daniel Dennett would then grapple helplessly with the origins of sorcery in his aptly named, Breaking the Spell. Richard Dawkins—whose bias against witches, warlocks, and even alchemists has long been known—will follow these books with an arrogant screed entitled, The Witch Delusion. And finally Christopher Hitchens will deliver a poisonous eructation at book-length in The Devil is Not Great. What sort of criticism would these misguided authors likely encounter? In the following essay, I present excerpts from actual reviews of recent atheist bestsellers, replacing terms like “religion,” “God,” and “atheist” with terms like “witchcraft,” “the Devil,” and “skeptic.” Observe how much intellectual progress we have made in the last five hundred years.

    "[None of these authors] takes time to consider contemporary [witchcraft] in the light of some of its most sophisticated and heroic practitioners.... Moreover, none of them ever put their weak, confused, and unplumbed ideas about [the Devil] under scrutiny. Their natural habit of mind is anthropomorphic. They tend to think of [the Devil] as if He were a human being, bound to human limitations... [These] authors pride themselves on how science advances in understanding over time, and also on how moral thinking becomes in some ways deeper and more demanding. They do not give any attention to the ways in which [magical] understanding also grows, develops, and evolves... It hardly dawns upon them that [witches and warlocks] have been, from the very beginning, in constant--and mutually enriching--dialogue with [skeptics]... The path of modern science was made straight and smooth by deep convictions that every stray element in the world of human experience--from the number of hairs on one's head to the lonely lily in the meadow--is thoroughly known to [the Devil and his familiars] and, therefore, lies within a field of intelligibility, mutual connection, and multiple logics. All these odd and angular levels of reality, given arduous, disciplined, and cooperative effort, are in principle penetrable by the human mind... [Skepticism] cannot be true, because it is self-contradictory. Moreover, this self-contradiction is willful, and its latent purpose is pathetically transparent. [Skeptics] want all the comforts of the rationality that emanates from rational [sorcery], but without personal indebtedness to [the supernatural]. That is why they allow themselves to be rationalists only part of the way down. The alternative makes them very nervous." --Michael Novak, National Review

    "What's really bothersome is the suggestion that [witches] rarely question themselves while [skeptics] ask all the hard questions.... The [great warlock] Michael Novak's book "Belief and Unbelief" is a classic in self-interrogation. "How does one know that one's belief is truly in [Beelzebub]," he asks at one point, "not merely in some habitual emotion or pattern of response?" The problem with the neo-[skeptics] is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn... But as Novak argued--in one of the best critiques of neo-[skepticism]--in the March 19 issue of National Review, "Questions have been the heart and soul of [conjuring] and [divination] for millennia."
     --E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post

    "The danger is that the aggression and hostility to [magic] in all its forms... deters engagement with the really interesting questions that have emerged recently in the science/[necromancy] debate. The durability and near universality of [witchcraft] is one of the most enduring conundrums of evolutionary thinking... Does [spell-casting] still have an important role in human wellbeing? ... If [sorcery] declines, what gaps does it leave in the functioning of individuals and social groups?... I suspect the New [Skeptics] are in danger of a spectacular failure. With little understanding and even less sympathy of why people increasingly use [the evil eye] in political contexts, they've missed the proverbial elephant in the room. These increasingly hysterical books may boost the pension... but one suspects that they are going to do very little to challenge the appeal of a phenomenon they loathe too much to understand."
     --Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian

    "If [magic], by definition, exceeds human measure, the demand that the existence of [the Great Horned One] be proven makes no sense because the machinery of proof, whatever it was, could not extend itself far enough to apprehend him. Proving the existence of [the Devil] would be possible only if [he]... were the kind of object that could be brought into view by a very large telescope or an incredibly powerful microscope. [The Devil], however--again if there is a [Devil]--is not in the world; the world is in him; and therefore there is no perspective, however technologically sophisticated, from which he could be spied. As that which encompasses everything, he cannot be discerned by anything or anyone because there is no possibility of achieving the requisite distance from his presence that discerning him would require. The criticism made by [skeptics] that the existence of [Satan] cannot be demonstrated is no criticism at all; for a [Devil] whose existence could be demonstrated wouldn't be a [Devil]; he would just be another object in the field of human vision. This does not mean that my arguments constitute a proof of the truth of [witchcraft]; for if I were to claim that I would be making the [skeptics'] mistake from the other direction. Nor are they arguments in which I have a personal investment. Their purpose and function is simply to show how the [skeptics'] arguments miss their mark and, indeed, could not possibly hit it."
     --Stanley Fish, The New York Times

    "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on [witchcraft]. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional [skeptic] we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don't believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of [conjuring and divination] that would make a first-year [sorcerer's apprentice] wince...Dawkins rejects the surely reasonable case that science and [witchcraft] are not in competition on the grounds that this insulates [witchcraft] from rational inquiry. But this is a mistake... while [belief in magic], rather like love, must involve factual knowledge, it is not reducible to it... Because the universe is [the Devil's], it shares in his life, which is the life of freedom. This is why it works all by itself, and why science and Richard Dawkins are therefore both possible. The same is true of human beings: [the Devil] is not an obstacle to our autonomy and enjoyment but, as [Aleister Crowley] argues, the power that allows us to be ourselves. Like the unconscious, he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is the source of our self-determination, not the erasure of it. To be dependent on him, as to be dependent on our friends, is a matter of freedom and fulfillment. Indeed, friendship is the word [Crowley] uses to characterise the relation between [the Devil] and humanity...The mainstream [witchcraft] I have just outlined may well not be true; but anyone who holds it is in my view to be respected, whereas Dawkins considers that no [sorcery], anytime or anywhere, is worthy of any respect whatsoever. This, one might note, is the opinion of a man deeply averse to dogmatism. Even moderate [occult] views, he insists, are to be ferociously contested, since they can always lead to fanaticism...Such is Dawkins's unruffled scientific impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from [the belief in magic], a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false."
     --Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #3 - October 17, 2013, 05:47 AM

    Great thread! One cannot have a thread like this without mentioning Karl Marx:

    The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

    Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

    Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.


    These words never fail to mesmerize me. It is so beautifully written.

    Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #4 - October 17, 2013, 06:16 AM

    The Female Advocate; or, An Attempt to Recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation by Mary Ann Radcliffe, an important British figure in the early feminist movement. In The Female Advocate she discusses how the presence of men in occupations such as clerks at millinery shops takes jobs away from women and leads them inevitably to prostitution, due to circumstances beyond their control and lack of work options. She argued that it was difficult for women to attain a "respectable" job due to lack of education, societies opinion of what a woman should or should not do, and societies accepted prejudices.

    TO detail human misery in all its various shapes is not in the power of any individual: so complicated and numerous are the ills of this life, and so various its misfortunes, that we need not have recourse to the airy regions of fiction or romance, to find out objects of distress, to pourtray the woes of our fellow creatures; yet, from motives of delicacy, beg leave to withhold names, lest the suffering objects should feel hurt at the melancholy recital of their tale of woe; and shall therefore only select a few instances, and leave the candid moralist to take a comparative view of the rest, through all the wonderful mazes and wide tracts, to which a part of our fellow mortals have been condemned.—And by what? not by divine law, which is, or ought to be, the standing rule of all our action, but by an evil precedent, which happens to fall with all its force upon that part of the community, whose feeble powers of resistance, joined to an habitual passive submission, are the least able to defend them. Consequently it has never yet been thought a business worth investigation, although so many others, of much less moment, have been sought out, and redressed.

    When we look around us, nothing is more conspicuous in the eyes of the world, than the distresses of women. I do not say those whom a kind Providence hath placed under the immediate care of a tender father, or an affectionate and kind husband; or, by chance, a friend, or brother. But these, alas! comprise only one part of the community. Notwithstanding all are of the same nature, and were formed by the same Divine Power, yet their comforts differ very widely indeed. Still, as women seem formed by nature to seek protection from man, why, in the name of justice, refuse the boon? Does it not become highly worthy the attention of men in general, to consider in what manner to redress the grievances already within their notice?

    Perhaps it may be said, and very justly, that, considering human frailty, there is amongst women, as well as men, a vast number of vicious and undeserving. Granted; still, is it not better to pass over a hundred guilty, than let punishment fall upon one innocent person?—Besides, IS THERE NOT A POSSIBILITY OF FORMING A PLAN OF DISCRIMINATION, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE ONLY WHO MERIT SUCH HUMANE AND FRIENDLY INTERFERENCE?

    Some years ago, who would have been made believe, so many persons could be restored to life, as the Royal Humane Society, for the recovering of drowned persons, has effected? Yet so it is; which proves to a But with joyful expectation wait a relief to those trying hardships which the unfortunate part of poor females have so long sustained; not doubting but some friendly and humane wellwisher to the distressed, and the public in general, will zealously undertake the cause, whether individually, or in general, matters not; for it is not to be supposed, all men are in the same mind at once, or can obtain a sull knowledge of the case at first view; but when once begun, doubtless others will as quickly join in the grand cause, and from a serious survey, discover some mode of regulating this complex business, which carries such a vast train of grievances after it, and which is deeply interwoven with the happiness of the greatest part of the people, connected with the whole, will manifest itself to every serious enquirer, and shall be more fully enlarged upon, as we explore the dreary scene. But I can never force myself to a belief, that woman, the mother of all mankind, was ever intended by Divine Providence to become a butt, or mark, to receive so many piercing darts from the sons of her bosom, as her only reward for all that maternal affection and kindness which the helpless state of infancy and childhood render so necessary: independently, does it not seem a social interest in nature, to give aid and succour to one another?

    No: it was never intended that women should be left destitute in the world, without the common necessaries of life, which they so frequently experience, even without any lawful or reputable means of acquiring them, through the vile practice of men filling such situations as seem calculated, not only to give bread to poor females, but thereby to enable them to tread the paths of virtue, and render them useful members, in some lawful employment, as well as ornaments to their professions and sex. This lovely appearance, alas! is but too often thrown aside, and, frequently, not from vicious inclinations, but the absolute necessity of bartering their virtue for bread.

    Then, is it not highly worthy the attention of men, men who profess moral virtue and the strictest sense of honour, to consider in what mode to redress these grievances! for women were ultimately designed for something better, though they have so long fared otherways.

    That there should he a mixture of characters in the world is, beyond a doubt, for wise and good reasons, which we poor short-sighted mortals know not, more than that it is a principle in which all reflecting persons have agreed, that our present state, on this side the grave is certainly designed for improvement, in order to fit us for a better. This being admitted, where can the well-disposed find a better opportunity, than by desending the innocent and unprotected, selecting them from the noxious part of mankind, with whom they are, through keen adversity, obliged to associate; and placing them in such situations, as will enable them, to pursue the paths of virtue, by means of some honest employment?

    But to accomplish so laudable a design rests both with the humane and the opulent, by whose investigation, there is not a doubt, but it will be found a work of the utmost importance, not only in the present state of things but in looking forward to a succession. For in times like the present, is not the aid and assistance of men required in the military and naval departments? And in more peaceable times, which we have to look forward to, are not, or ought not, the manufactories of the country to be the first object considered? In either of these cases, it evidently appears, that men may be much better employed than in filling women's occupations. For, in the words of St. Luke, these poor females may very justly say, "to dig I cannot, to beg I am ashamed." From this evil precedent, there is no other alternative for these poor women, but beggary or vice !

    Let us then, if you please, select one of these distressed females, out of the prodigious multitude, and pursue her through the humiliating scene of beggary: I believe it is granted, that pride is well known to be the predominant passion of the human breast, and consequently any comments on that head are needless; but certain it must be, that after, perhaps, a life of ease and affluence, to be compelled to such a mortifying situation, requires more than a common share of fortitude to support. Still this prevailing passion, with all its train of attendants, must be subdued, in the dreadful situation of beggary which cannot fail to bring down the spirits of these unhappy victims, with more oppressive force than it is in the power of words to express, or pen to paint, and can only be conceived, in part, by the silent sensations of those who can adopt another's woes, and trace the passions of the human mind. For what must not be the perturbation of a mind like this, when dire necessity compels the poor, neglected victim to pursue such degrading steps, in order to support a miserable existence! See her trembling limbs, which are scarcely able to support her load of wretchedness, whilst she asks an alms from the casual passenger. She who, perhaps, a short time since, charmed her acquaintance with her sprightly conversation and vi [...]tuous example, by one adverse stroke, is nevertheless so soon become the contempt, the scorn, and the outcast of mortals! Nor is this wretched doom confined to youth alone; but, by the cruel hand of fate, the poor, dejected mother, as well as daughter, is condemned to share the same direful misfortunes, and be reduced to the same low state of wretchedness, from which their characters are stigmatized with infamy, and to which they unavoidably fall a sacrifice. In this miserable state they must for ever remain, until the spirit of oppression and mistaken prejudice is eradicated, and the heavy cloud of misrepresentation cleared away, through a proper investigation of the cause, which, doubtless, will lead to a conviction; that the distress and wretchedness of these poor, abandoned creatures originate chiefly from the avaricious and mercenary views of that set of beings, who are "Eating the bread of the hungry, and drinking the drink of the thirsty." Nor are these poor women allowed "to pick up the crumbs," which will appear in the sequel.

    In the mean time, let us, if you please, take another view of this poor mother and her miserable daughter, in this forlorn and distressing state of beggary, and there see what relief they obtain, from their piercing accents and broken sighs—little more, it is to be feared, than contempt or insults. Even the hand of charity, accustomed to bestow on the needy, no sooner observes the appearance of youth, or a capability of industry, than it is instantly withdrawn, and kept in reserve (as it is thought) for some more proper object.

    Good heavens, what a scene of woe! when the poor mother and her helpless daughter are turned adrist, to the mercy of an unfeeling world ; which neither their genteel education, or delicate constitutions, broken down by poverty and hardships, can prevent. O! what distress, in a situation like this! The mother, the fond mother, in the full bitterness of maternal affection, takes another, and another view of her darling child; perhaps the only remaining pledge of a late kind partner! sees her still laden with the fruits of a pious education at least; views her with unutterable fondness, "whilst all the soft passions of her tender soul throb through her breast with unavailing grief," at the near approach of their destruction! In vain do they supplicate their former friends, for the voice of censure has pointed them out as infamous! Good God ! what grief can equal this? Abandoned by friends, and left to the reproach, contempt, and censure of a cruel world, without a provision, or any probable means of gaining a subsistence, or even the smallest glimpse of distant hope.

    And, though shocking to relate, yet such is the miserable situation of thousands of desenceless women.

    Nor let the unfeeling and censorious part of mankind refute the assertion, until provision is made for the relief of all those who would be both industrious and virtuous, had they the means. After which, the remaining few may justly be reckoned in the class of incorrigible sinners, and be a sufficient mode of forming a discrimination.

    But until that provision is made, it is inhuman, base, and cruel, and beneath the dignity of a Christian, to load with infamy the poor, neglected female, who suffers through misfortunes, and the continuation of an evil precedent; and whose passive virtue is, perhaps, at the very instant of calumny, offering up the divine petition of, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do;" and endeavouring to arm with Christian fortitude herself and beloved child, according to the advice of the wise man, who says, "Has thou children, instruct them from their youth." She remonstrates with the child of her bosom not with standing she is her partner in wretchedness, and still encourages her to persevere i [...] virtue, and live in joyful hope.

    "Let us, my dear child,"; says she, "form our estimation of the world and its objects at they deserve; remembering we are pilgrim; and strangers here. Let us keep in view the glorious prize; and let us soar above the crowd of human difficulties, and rejoice tha [...] the hand which made us is divine. Then, let not our feet tread in the muddy paths of vice nor suffer the purity of our good intentions to be stained with a single act of disobedience to a Supreme Power."

    And under these and such like reviving comforts, the effects of a religious and pious education, she still endeavours to persevere in virtue, though in the midst of poverty; a state which, without the interference of the humane, not any thing can hide them from but the silent grave. Oh! let not then our ears be polluted by the envenomed breath of censure, but endeavour to remove the cause, as well as stigma, which, like the pendulum to a clock, sets every wheel of wretchedness in motion; and by seriously investigating the cause, searching deeply into the state of facts, and the origin of this tribulation, let the censure rest where it is due. For, is it not enough, enough indeed! for the innocent to struggle with the hardships of penury and want, without the double load of malevolence? Alas! even in this despicable state, they are still liable to sorrows they never yet felt, nor are even aware of; for the very means they are driven to use, to obtain the trisling pittance which they sue for, renders them exposed to the merciless hand of any avaricious russian, who may be base enough to drag these poor victims they know not where.

    What says the Vagrant Act?—"Persons who beg in the streets are idle and disorderlv; and any person who apprehends and carries such a beggar before a justice, shall receive five shillings, when the said justice may commit them to a house of correction."

    However shocking the sentence, what num¦bers of these poor objects have been drag¦ged away by the ruthless hand of the unfeeling savage, to some loathsome prison, without regard to the more refined or delicate sensation [...] of one or another? Good heavens! there surely needs no Siddonian powers to heighten such a tragic scene. She who, perhaps, was reared with all the gentle softness and maternal care of a fond parent; she, who so lately was looked upon as an ornament to her sex, until the pressure of misfortunes compelled her to seek for bread, to be at once confined in a dark prison, there to be obliged to hear all the opprobrious language of the very lowest set of beings, and that under a storm of oaths and imprecations, which, of itself, must pierce her very soul. There to have her ears grated with the rattling of bolts and bars, and all the adamantine setters of misery. Good God! is it possible we can see our fellow creatures debased so low ! Can we see the tender and delicate frame, which was formerly accustomed to ease and tranquillity, and which was formed by nature to participate in others misfortunes! can we let these innocent and helpless beings pass unnoticed, and not commiserate their distress, and ask, from whence the cause?—No! it is impossible the eyes can any longer be shut to their sufferings, or the ears to their piercing cries of, "Have pity on me! Oh! ye, my friends, have pity on me!"

    Is not this real distress? Surely there cannot be any thing more wretchedly miserable than the situation of these poor women, who are prohibited from sharing in industry, or the common necessaries of life, or even tasting the very dregs of comfort. For let us but figure to ourselves this wretched pair upon their bed of straw, with all their innocence, with all their tenderness, and quick sensations of distress, still laden with the fruits of a pious education,

    "They shriek, start up, the same sad prospect find,

    "And wake to all the ills they left behind."
    And thus they linger out a wretched exile in this miserable dungeon, until the law hath had its course, and they again are liberated. When see, the fond mother, the poor mother, taking another, and another review of her wretched offspring, groaning out a miserable existence on the narrow verge of life! her sorrow surrounds her like the stern winter's blast, and she feels her worn-out senses just bordering upon desponding madness; for, when Hope no longer offers her consolation, despondency must take place; and with all the bitter pangs of distress, she, like the poor widow in sacred writ, sets about to prepare her last handful of meal, that "they may eat it and die." A release they most ardently wish for, whilst in a state of innocence, rather than keep life upon such wretched terms as are now presented: for, alas! by this time, they see that period near at hand, which must determine the great and shocking alternative between vice or death. And what must be the conflict at this long-dreaded moment, to a heart which, in early youth, was taught to serve its great Creator, and still retains an ardent wish to be virtuous! Can any state under heaven be more distressing to a delicate and susceptible mind, than that between good and evil? And, how shocking it must be, at length, to hear these poor victims of wretchedness, defend themselves, by exclaiming, "I sought not redress in vice, till urged to it by selfdefence, in order to support an existence, which, though I no longer covet, it is my duty to preserve: nor is there any other remedy for ills like mine; for, as the wise Solomon says, "extreme oppression maketh us desperate!"

    What a horrid and shocking state! to be driven, by absolute necessity, to support a wretched existence by the forfeiture of every thing she holds most dear in this life, and at the hazard of what is still more precious, her immortal soul !

    Besides, what must not be the agonies of her soul in this wretched state, on the dreadful approach of death? a death which, though so much desired in innocence, is dreaded with so great horror in guilt, when all her crimes appear at once to her distracted view. Worn out with intemperance and disease, she feels the dreadful period near at hand, when she must appear before the grand tribunal! How many are her penetential tears in such a horrid situation? She calls, and calls again, upon her great Creator, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy fury, nor chastise me in thy wrath ; for who can stand before the face of thy indignation?" And thus surrounded with all these dismal and heart-piercing sensations, without a friend to comfort, or the still more invaluable consolations of a dying Christian ; her every sense is racked with horror, and little unlike the infernal regions is her wretched situation.

    Whilst her associates in vice are revelling in drunkenness, in order to banish from their reflections all ideas of the horrid scene, and thus she lies, "Groaning out the poor remains of life," her limbs bathed in sweat, and struggling with convulsive throws, pains insupportable throbbing in every pulse, and innumerable darts of agony transfixing her conscience.

    "In that dread moment, how the frantic soul

    "Raves round the walls of her clay tenement,

    "Runs to each avenue and shrieks for help,

    "But shrieks in vain. How wishfully, she looks

    "On all she's leaving, now no longer her's.

    "A little longer, yet a little longer."

    Thus her exhausted breath expires, and she dies in all the bitterness of woe. And this alike must continue to be the fate (as it has been so long to numbers) of both parents and children, unless the kind hand of interference shall sever the chain of misery, by which they have so long been held down.

    But will not a serious investigation into these scenes of horror be sufficient to arouse the most callous of mankind? for who would not use their utmost endeavours to relieve such unheard-of distress? Or, what is still better, prevent such dire calamities, and all such complicated scenes of misery and wretchedness: for, is it not always granted, that prevention is better than cure?

    Then let it not be said, that a country so samed for its justice and humanity, should suffer a continuance of such distress; or that any of our fellow creatures should be compelled to take shelter under the baneful shades of vice, in order to support a miserable existence.

    Full text here

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #5 - October 17, 2013, 07:12 AM

    A poem by an ex-muslim named Marwa. Powerful stuff.


    Oppressor–a poem

    They call me oppressor, and I have the world’s glory.


    It’s in the moon’s milk draining from full

    to crescent over a world that watches me fold

    back my sleeves. I double my belt, curl my right hand

    into a cup to wash myself holy. I polish

    even my feet clean, five times a day, my soles, they’re

    cleaner than your hands, my toes, they’re cleaner

    than your fingers. This clean? I have nothing

    to apologize for. Oppress them? I want nothing from them

    the Great Satans, but distance.


    My place in the world is golden and burnished,

    with the lines clear, ropes tight, chains glowing.

    Gates and poles and safe places, where daughters are not

    sluts walking the streets, their skin not beacons

    for men and dogs to sense and ravage,

    where daughters do not drown their throats

    with intoxicating poison. Daughters do not unlayer

    their clothes down to dirty dishrags like their faces

    to sop up and swallow every man’s honor, leaving salt.


    It is no coincidence that here the sun is so high and strong.

    The land stays dry and sweet, and nothing hides,

    no human souls are suctioned and splintered.

    Only a whore’s womb has teeth, and here we have

    no whores.


    I want nothing

    from them, but distance.


    Look at the difference between us.

    I prostrate on the floor because my back is strong

    enough to bend. With beads on threads, I

    count how many ways I can turn my submission

    to strength.


    If my forehead taps the floor, who knows what earth-

    quakes it could inspire with its waves?

    Morality. Clarity. Chastity. Strength.

    They fear me when I am on my knees most of all.

    They wish they were this clean.


    I know how to keep what is mine and keep her clean

    like I made her to start with.


    My daughter was a whore too, and I showed her how knees

    can bend, because she liked to bend them, so I bent

    them the other way over carpet. Mint,

    lipstick, and cigarette ash don’t smell very clean together,

    do they, so don’t open your mouth, but it is so wide you

    force me to slam it shut with my fist until your knees stop

    bending and your belly starts like a worm,

    how many times did your belly start,

    lower than the earth Adam was shaped from?


    I’d tell them my daughter was a whore too.

    She struck the earth

    with the spikes of her heels and her ass

    in the air, her heels are in red ribbons now.

    They could never do that.

    The mouth she used to rub my name

    into shit swollen like a melon, big-

    ger than my hand, than the sun, and she could

    not swallow her own blood before it choked her.

    Because she liked to gag, the bitch, so I let her:


    how dare she think that body was hers

    to destroy when it was a bounty,

    and I created it, I nourished it, it is only and ever



    They call me the oppressor—when they are the ones

    who stole what I made and bent her with their filthy

    thoughts, their lies and words and drink.

    I want nothing from them–

    they would sully even my trash.


    I have my own world.


    And it will stay mine.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #6 - October 17, 2013, 07:55 AM

    The Analects of Confucius:

    Cicero, De Officiis

    Yes heavy reading. Confucius changed Chinese outlooks covering many concepts and spoke out against the evils of the current systems.

    Cicero talks about the old concepts of Rome from it's early years. While it is a conservative view it was made during a time of political turmoil, civil wars, foreign influences, and outright civil unrest. There was a distinct line between a Roman before Cicero's time and during his time. Cultural isolation and privilege was restricted to only blood Romans. During his times anyone could become a Roman by military service or treaty as seen in the Social Wars.

    It is not a liberal view or even a view one of progress but I do see it's parallels in current times. I really hate it when I see history repeated during my life.

    *Off-topic* is has a great database I often use if my university databases are lacking. It also has a great selection of work in other languages.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #7 - October 18, 2013, 04:23 PM

    No quotes?

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #8 - October 19, 2013, 07:31 PM


    Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous

    What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others

    Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated

    Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life (I followed this for my career choice)

    Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall

    Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance

    The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell (cough, religion, cough)


    Time heals all wounds

    Fear is not a lasting teacher of duty (seen to often in religion)

    Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century: Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others; Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind; Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do. (Not in the book)

    We are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold, everything that the earth produces is created for man's use; and as men, too, are born for the sake of men, that they may be able mutually to help one another; in this direction we ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by our skill, our industry, , and our talents to cement human society more closely together, man to man.

    But occasions often arise, when those duties which seem most becoming ot the just man and to the "good man" as we call him, undergo a change and take on a contrary aspect.

    Shall we not imitate the fruitful fields, which return more than they receive? For if we do not hesitate to confer favors upon those we hope fill be of help to us, how ought we to deal with those who have already helped us? For generosity is of two kinds; doing kindness and requiting one. Where we do kindness or not is optional; but to fail to requite one is allowable to a good man, provided he can make the requital without violating the rights of others. Furthermore, we must make some discrimination between favors received for ,as a matter of course, the greater the favors, the greater is the obligation. But in deciding this we must about all due weight to the spirit, the devotion, the affection, that prompted the favor. For many often do favors impulsively for everybody without discrimination, prompted by a morbid sort of benevolence or by sudden  impulse of the heart, shifting as the wind. Such acts of generosity are not to be so high-esteemed as those which are performed with judgement, deliberation, and mature consideration.

  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #9 - October 21, 2013, 06:38 PM

    Accustom yourself to the belief that death is of no concern to us, since all good and evil lie in sensation and sensation ends with death. Therefore the true belief that death is nothing to us makes a mortal life happy, not by adding to it an infinite time, but by taking away the desire for immortality. For there is no reason why the man who is thoroughly assured that there is nothing to fear in death should find anything to fear in life. So, too, he is foolish who says that he fears death, not because it will be painful when it comes, but because the anticipation of it is painful; for that which is no burden when it is present gives pain to no purpose when it is anticipated. Death, the most dreaded of evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist. It is therefore nothing either to the living or to the dead since it is not present to the living, and the dead no longer are.

    Epicurus' letter to Menoeceus

    Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #10 - November 16, 2013, 01:27 AM

    Little Black Boy by William Blake.

    My mother bore me in the southern wild,
    And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
    White as an angel is the English child:
    But I am black as if bereav'd of light.

    My mother taught me underneath a tree
    And sitting down before the heat of day,
    She took me on her lap and kissed me,
    And pointing to the east began to say.

    Look on the rising sun: there God does live
    And gives his light, and gives his heat away.
    And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
    Comfort in morning joy in the noonday.

    And we are put on earth a little space,
    That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
    And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face
    Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

    For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear
    The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.
    Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
    And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

    Thus did my mother say and kissed me,
    And thus I say to little English boy.
    When I from black and he from white cloud free,
    And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

    Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear,
    To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.
    And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
    And be like him and he will then love me.

    From Songs of Innocence.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #11 - November 16, 2013, 05:55 AM

    George Carlin:

    "Let me tell you about endangered species, all right? Saving endangered species is just one more arrogant attempt by humans to control nature. It's arrogant meddling. It's what got us in trouble in the first place. Doesn't anybody understand that? Interfering with nature. Over 90%, way over 90% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet, ever lived, are gone. They're extinct. We didn't kill them all. They just disappeared. That's what nature does.

    "We’re so self-important. So self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. What? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t learned how to care for one another, we’re gonna save the fucking planet?

    “I’m getting tired of that shit. Tired of that shit. I’m tired of fucking Earth Day, I’m tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren’t enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for their Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet. They don’t care about the planet. Not in the abstract they don’t.  You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They’re worried that some day in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn’t impress me.

    “Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat? That somehow we’re gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun?

    “The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles…hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages…And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet…the planet…the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE!

    “We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.

    “You wanna know how the planet’s doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet’s doing. You wanna know if the planet’s all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilauea, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.

    “The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?” Plastic…asshole.

    “So, the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now. And I think that’s begun. Don’t you think that’s already started? I think, to be fair, the planet sees us as a mild threat. Something to be dealt with. And the planet can defend itself in an organized, collective way, the way a beehive or an ant colony can. A collective defense mechanism. The planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet? How would you defend yourself against this troublesome, pesky species? Let’s see… Viruses. Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh…viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps, this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.

    “Well, that’s a poetic note. And it’s a start. And I can dream, can’t I? See I don’t worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we’re part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron…whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward, it doesn’t judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while."

    Bill Hicks

    “Folks, it's time to evolve. That's why we're troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything's failing? It's because, um – they're no longer relevant. We're supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?”

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #12 - November 25, 2013, 10:31 PM

    "Surely the immutable laws of the universe can teach more impressive and exalted lessons than the holy books of all the religions on earth." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #13 - November 25, 2013, 11:40 PM

    Speaking of Bill Hicks, I favour the following two quotes:

    'I loved when Bush came out and said, "We are losing the war against drugs." You know what that implies? There's a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it.'

    'They're putting the cart before the horse on this pornography issue. Playboy doesn't cause sexual thoughts. There are sexual thoughts, and, therefore, there is Playboy. Don't you see? I know these sound like deep philosophical questions, "What came first, the hard-on or the Madonna video?" and "If a hard-on falls in the forest, do you go blind?" and "What does an atheist scream when they come?"'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #14 - November 25, 2013, 11:42 PM

    Ahhh...Bill is missed.

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #15 - November 26, 2013, 02:05 PM

    As is George. RIP.

    how fuck works without shit??

    Let's Play Chess!

    harakaat, friend, RIP
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #16 - November 27, 2013, 08:15 PM


    "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
    ― Robert A. Heinlein

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #17 - November 28, 2013, 08:09 AM

    That ideology is worth it's own thread for discussion.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #18 - November 28, 2013, 08:15 AM

    Should get some interesting responses from people.

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #19 - November 28, 2013, 08:56 AM

    “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”

    ― Kofi Annan, Where On Earth Are We Going

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #20 - November 28, 2013, 06:11 PM

    I first read Memnoch the Devil when I was 14. During this time I was very interested in religion, wanting to see for myself if any of it made sense to me. At 12 I read the entire bible, determined to see for myself the things people had tried to teach me that never really made sense and from there I went from one religion to another. Memnoch is by Anne Rice and gives a biblical retelling of creation from the Devil's point of view. Wanting to convince Lestat to be his general in hell, to help him win his war against god, he tells him the story of creation and takes him on a journey to different points in time, including the temptation of Christ and the crucifixion, limbo, heaven and hell in an attempt to convince him to accept the deal. Interestingly evolution is a part of the narrative as were a number of theological questions, such as does god care, why he allows evil. At that time in my life when I was so busy looking for answers I remember being so fascinated and drawn into the concepts Rice wrote, from the descriptions of heaven, hell, limbo, to the idea of the literal evolution of souls and god banishing Memnoch to hell for championing the cause of humanity. As we reach the point we evolve to have an immortal soul god took no notice and allowed them to drift in limbo, refusing to grant them access to heaven. Memnoch rebels against god in this, insisting humans are now no longer simple animals (resulting in Memnoch being banished to hell) which ultimately leads to god giving in to his wishes/demands and coming to Earth in the form of man. The purpose of life, the reason we were created as Rice writes in the novel was fascinating to me. That god doesn't know how he came to be and creates us as an experiment to see if, eventually, humans evolve into gods, so as to give him an idea of his own origins (is he has any).


    "Let's move through the forest as we talk," he said. "If you don't mind the walking."

     "No, not at all," I said.

     He brushed a little more of the grass from his garment, a fine spun robe that seemed neutral and simple, a garment that might have been worn either yesterday or a million years ago. His entire form was slightly bigger all over than mine, and bigger perhaps than that of most humans; he fulfilled every mythic promise of an angel, except that the white wings remained diaphanous, retaining their shape under some sort of cloak of invisibility, more it seemed for convenience than anything else.

     "We're not in Time," he said. "Don't worry about the men and the women in the forest. They can't see us. No one here can see us, and for that reason I can keep my present form. I don't have to resort to the dark devilish body which He thinks is appropriate for earthly maneuvers, or to the Ordinary Man, which is my own unobtrusive choice."

     "You mean you couldn't have appeared to me on Earth in your angelic form?"

     "Not without a lot of argument and pleading, and frankly I didn't want to do it," he said. "It's too overwhelming. It would have weighted everything too much in my favor. In this form, I look too inherently good. I can't enter Heaven without this form; He doesn't want to see the other form, and I don't blame Him. And frankly, on Earth, it's easiest to go about as the Ordinary Man."

     I stood up shakily, accepting his hand, which was firm and warm.  In fact, his body seemed as solid as Roger's body had seemed near the very end of Roger's visitation. My body felt complete and entire and my own.

     It didn't surprise me to discover my hair was badly tangled. I ran a comb through it hastily for comfort, and brushed off my own clothes - the dark suit I had put on in New Orleans, which was full of tiny specks of dust, and some grass from the garden, but otherwise unharmed. My shirt was torn at the collar, as if I myself had ripped it open hastily in an effort to breathe. Otherwise, I was the usual dandy, standing amid a thick and verdant forest garden, which was not like anything I'd ever seen.

     Even a casual inspection indicated that this was no rain forest, but something considerably less dense, yet as primitive.

     "Not in Time," I said.

     "Well, moving through it as we please," he said, "we are only a few thousand years before your time, if you must know it. But again, the men and women roaming here won't see us. So don't worry. And the animals can't harm us. We are watchers here but we affect nothing. Come, I know this terrain by heart, and if you follow me, you'll see we have an easy path through this wilderness. I have much to tell you. Things around us will begin to change."

     "And this body of yours? It's not an illusion? It's complete."

     "Angels are invisible, by nature," he said. "That is, we are immaterial in terms of earth material, or the material of the physical universe, or however you would like to describe matter for yourself. But you were right in your early speculation that we have an essential body; and we can gather to ourselves sufficient matter from a whole variety of sources to create for ourselves a complete and functioning body, which we can later shatter and disperse as we see fit."

     We walked slowly and easily through the grass. My boots, heavy enough for the New York winter, found the uneven ground no problem at all.

     "What I'm saying," Memnoch continued, looking down at me¡ªhe was perhaps three inches taller¡ªwith his huge almond-shaped eyes¡ª"is that this isn't a borrowed body, nor is it strictly speaking a contrived body. It's my body when surrounded and permeated with matter. In other words, it's the logical result of my essence drawing to it all the various materials it needs."

     "You mean you look this way because you look this way."

     "Precisely. The Devilish body is a penance. The Ordinary Man is a subterfuge. But this is what I look like. There were angels like me throughout Heaven. Your focus was mainly on human souls in Heaven. But the angels were there."

     I tried to remember. Had there been taller beings, winged beings?  I thought so, and yet I wasn't certain. The beatific thunder of Heaven beat in my ears suddenly. I felt the joy, the safety, and above all the satisfaction of all those thriving in it. But angels, no, I had not noticed.

     "I take my accurate form," Memnoch continued, "when I am in Heaven, or outside of Time. When I am on my own, so to speak, and not bound to the earth. Other angels, Michael, Gabriel, any of those can appear in their glorified form on earth if they want to. Again, it would be natural. Matter being drawn to them by their magnetic force shapes them to look their most beautiful, the way God created them. But most of the time they don't let this happen. They go about as Ordinary Men or Ordinary Women, because it's simply much easier to do so. Continuously overwhelming human beings do not serve our purposes - neither our Lord's nor mine."

     "And that is the question. What is the purpose? What are you doing, if you're not evil?"

     "Let me start with the Creation. And let me tell you right now that I know nothing of where God came from, or why, or how. No one knows this. The mystic writers, the prophets of Earth, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Hebrew, Egyptian - all recognized the impossibility of understanding the origin of God. That's not really the question for me and never has been, though I suspect that at the end of Time we will know."

     "You mean God hasn't promised that we will know where He came from."

     "You know what?" he said, smiling. "I don't think God knows. I think that's the whole purpose of the physical universe. He thinks through watching the universe evolve, He's going to find out. What He has set in motion, you see, is a giant Savage Garden, a giant experiment, to see if the end result produces beings like Himself. We are made in His image, all of us - He is anthropomorphic, without question, but again He is not material."

     "And when the light came, when you covered your eyes in Heaven, that was God."

     He nodded. "God, the Father, God, the Essence, Brahma, the Aten, the Good God, En Sof, Yahweh, God!"

     "Then how can He be anthropomorphic?"

     "His essence has a shape, just as does mine. We, His first creations, were made in His image. He told us so. He has two legs, two arms, a head. He made us invisible images of the same. And then set the universe into motion to explore the development of that shape through matter, do you see?"

     "Not quite."

     "I believe God worked backwards from the blueprint of Himself. He created a physical universe whose laws would result in the evolution of creatures who resembled Him. They would be made of matter. Except for one striking and important difference. Oh, but then there were so many surprises. You know my opinion already. Your friend David hit upon it when he was a man. I think God's plan went horribly wrong."

     "Yes, David did say that, that he thought angels felt God's plan for Creation was all wrong."

     "Yes. I think He did it originally to find out what it would have been like had He been Matter. And I think He was looking for a clue as to how He got where He is. And why He is shaped like He is, which is shaped like me or you. In watching man evolve, He hopes to understand His own evolution, if such a thing in fact occurred. And whether this has worked or not to His satisfaction, well, only you can judge that for yourself."

     "Wait a minute," I said. "But if He is spiritual and made of light, or made of nothing - then what gave Him the idea for matter in the first place?"

     "Ah, now that is the cosmic mystery. In my opinion, His imagination created Matter, or foresaw it, or longed for it. And I think the longing for it was a most important aspect of His mind. You see, Lestat, if He Himself did originate in Matter ...then all this is an experiment to see when Matter can evolve into God again.

     "If He didn't originate Matter, if He proceeded and it is something He imagined and desired and longed for, well, the effects upon Him are basically the same. He wanted Matter. He wasn't satisfied without it. Or He wouldn't have made it. It was no accident, I can assure it.

     "But let me caution you, not all the angels agree on this interpretation, some feel the need for no interpretation, and some have completely different theories. This is my theory, and since I am the Devil, and have been for centuries, since I am the Adversary, the Prince of Darkness, the Ruler of the World of Men and of Hell, I think my opinion is worth stating. I think it's worth believing in. So you have my article of faith.

     "The design of the universe is immense, to use a feeble word, but the whole process of evolution was His calculated experiment, and we, the angels, were created long before it began."

     "What was it like before Matter began?"

     "I can't tell you. I know, but I don't, strictly speaking, remember.  The reason for this is simple: When Matter was created, so was Time. All angels began to exist not only in heavenly perfection with God but to witness and be drawn into Time.

     "Now we can step out of it, and I can to some extent recall when there was no lure of Matter or Time; but I can't really tell you what that early stage was like anymore. Matter and Time changed everything totally. They obliterated not only the pure state that preceded them, they upstaged it; they overshadowed it; they, how shall I say... ?"

     "Eclipsed it."

     "Exactly. Matter and Time eclipsed the Time before Time."

     "But can you remember being happy?"

     "Interesting question. Dare I say this?" he asked himself as he continued to speculate. "Dare I say, I remember the longing, the incompleteness, more than I remember complete happiness? Dare I say there was less to understand?

     "You cannot underestimate the effect upon us of the creation of the physical universe. Think for one moment, if you can, what Time means, and how miserable you might be without it. No, that's not right. What I mean is, without Time you could not be conscious of yourself, either in terms of failure or achievement, or in terms of any motion backwards or forwards, or any effect."

     "I see it. Rather like the old people who've lost so much intelligence that they have no memory moment to moment. They're vegetative, wide-eyed, but they are no longer human with the rest of the race because they have no sense of anything ...themselves or anyone else."

     "A perfect analogy. Though let me assure you such aged and wounded individuals still have souls, which will at some point cease to be dependent upon their crippled brains."

     "Souls!" I said.

     We walked slowly but steadily, and I tried not to be distracted by the greenery, and the flowers; but I have always been seduced by flowers; and here I saw flowers of a size which our world would surely find impractical and impossible to support. Yet these were species of trees I knew. This was the world as it had once been.

     "Yes, you're correct on that. Can you feel the warmth around you? This is a time of lovely evolutionary development on the planet.  When men speak of Eden or Paradise, they 'remember' this time."

     "The Ice Age is yet to come."

     "The second Ice Age is coming. Definitely. And then the world will renew itself, and Eden will come again. All through the Ice Age, men and women will develop. But realize of course that even by this point, life as we know it had existed for millions of years!"

    I stopped. I put my hands to my face. I tried to think it through again.

    "But He knew what Matter was!" I said.

    "No, I'm not sure He did," said Memnoch. "He took that seed, that egg, that essence and He cast it in a form which became Matter!

     But I don't know how truly He foresaw what that would mean. You see, that's our big dispute. I don't think He sees the consequences of His actions! I don't think He pays attention! That's what the big fight is about!"

     "So He created Matter perhaps by discovering what it was as He did it."

     "Yes, Matter and energy, which are interchangeable as you know, yes, He created them, and I suspect that the key to Him lies within the word 'energy,' that if human anatomy ever reaches the point where angels and God can be satisfactorily explained in human language, energy will be the key."

     "So He was energy," I said, "and in making the universe, He caused some of that energy to be changed into Matter."

     "Yes, and to create a circular interchange independent of himself. But of course nobody said all this to us at the beginning. He didn't say it. I don't think He knew it. We certainly didn't know it. All we knew was that we were dazzled by His creations. We were absolutely astonished by the feel and taste and heat and solidity and gravitational pull of Matter in its battle with energy. We knew only what we saw."

     "Ah, and you saw the universe unfolding. You saw the Big Bang."

     "Use that term with skepticism. Yes, we saw the universe come into existence; we saw everything set into motion, as it were. And we were overawed! That's why almost every early religion on earth celebrates the majesty, the grandeur, the greatness and genius of the Creator; why the earliest anthems ever put into words on Earth sing the glories of God. We were impressed, just as humans later would come to be impressed, and in our angelic minds, God was Almighty and Wondrous and Beyond Comprehension before man came into being.

     "But let me remind you, especially as we walk through this magnificent garden, that we witnessed millions of explosions and chemical transformations, upheavals, all of which involved nonorganic molecules before 'life' as we call it ever came to exist."

     "The mountain ranges were here."


     "And the rains?"

     "Torrents upon torrents of rain."

     "Volcanos erupted."

     "Continuously. You can't conceive of how enthralled we were.  We watched the atmosphere thicken and develop, watching it change in composition.

     "And then, and then, came what I will call for you the Thirteen Revelations or mystical Evolution. And by revelation, I mean what was revealed in the process to the angels, to those of us who Watched, to us.

     "I could tell you in greater detail, take you inside every basic species of organism that ever thrived in this world. But you wouldn't remember it. I'm going to tell you what you can remember so that you can make your decision while you're still alive."

     "Am I alive?"

     "Of course. Your soul has never suffered physical death; it's never left the earth, except with me by special dispensation for this journey.  You know you are alive. You're Lestat de Lioncourt, even though your body has been mutated by the invasion of an alien and alchemic spirit, whose history and woes you have recorded yourself."

     "To come with you ... to decide to follow you ... I have to die then, don't I?"

     "Of course," he said.

     I found myself stopped still again, hands locked to the side of my head. I stared down at the grass underneath my boots. I sensed the swarm of insectile light gathered in the sun falling on us. I looked at the reflection of radiance and verdant forest in Memnoch's eyes.

    He lifted his hand very slowly, as if giving me full opportunity to move away from him, and then he laid his hand on my shoulder. I loved this sort of gesture, the respectful gesture. I tried so often to make this sort of gesture myself.

     "You have the choice, remember? You can return to being exactly what you are now."

     I couldn't answer. I knew what I was thinking. Immortal, material, earthbound, vampire. But I didn't speak the words. How could anyone return from this? And again, I saw His face and heard His words. You would never be my adversary, would you?

     "You are responding very well to what I tell you," he said warmly.

     "I knew you would, for several reasons."

     "Why?" I asked. "Tell me why. I need a little reassurance. I'm too shattered by all my past weeping and stammering, though I have to confess, I'm not too interested in talking about myself."

     "What you are is part of what we are doing," he said. We had come to an enormous spiderweb, suspended over our broad path by thick, shimmering threads. Respectfully, he ducked beneath it rather than destroy it, drawing his wings downward around him, and I followed his lead.

     "You're curious, that's your virtue," he said. "You want to know.  This is what your ancient Marius said to you, that he, having survived thousands of years, or well, nearly... would answer your questions as a young vampiric creature, because your questions were truly being asked! You wanted to know. And this is what drew me to you also.

     "Through all your insolence, you wanted to know! You have been horribly insulting to me and to God continuously, but then so is everyone in your time. That's nothing unusual, except with you there was tremendous genuine curiosity and wonder behind it. You saw the Savage Garden, rather than simply assuming a role there. So this has to do with why I have picked you."

     "All right," I said with a sigh. It made sense. Of course I remembered Marius revealing himself to me. I remembered him saying the very things to which Memnoch referred. And I knew, too, that my intense love of David, and of Dora, revolved around very similar traits in both beings: an inquisitiveness which was fearless and willing to take the consequence of the answers!

     "God, my Dora, is she all right?"

     "Ah, it's that sort of thing which surprises me, the ease with which you can be distracted. Just when I think I've really astonished you and I have you locked in, you step back and demand to be answered on your own terms. It's not a violation of your curiosity, but it is a means of controlling the inquiry, so to speak."

     "Are you telling me that I must, for the moment, forget about Dora?"

    "I'll go you one better. There is nothing for you to worry about.  Your friends, Armand and David, have found Dora, and are looking out for her, without revealing themselves to her."

     He smiled reassuringly, and gave a little doubtful, maybe scolding, shake of the head.

     "And," he said, "you must remember your precious Dora has tremendous physical and mental resources of her own. You may well have fulfilled what Roger asked of you. Her belief in God set her apart from others years ago; now what you've shown her has only intensified her commitment to all that she believes. I don't want to talk anymore about Dora. I want to go on describing Creation."

     "Yes, please."

     "Now, where were we? There was God; and we were with Him. We had anthropomorphic shapes but we didn't call them that because we had never seen our shapes in material form. We knew our limbs, our heads, our faces, our forms, and a species of movement which is purely celestial, but which organizes all parts of us in concert, fluidly. But we knew nothing of Matter or material form. Then God created the Universe and Time.

     "Well, we were astonished, and we were also enthralled! Absolutely enthralled.

     "God said to us, 'Watch this, because this will be beautiful and will exceed your conceptions and expectations, as it will Mine.' "

     "God said this."

     "Yes, to me and the other angels. Watch. And if you go back to scripture in various forms, you will find that one of the earliest terms used for us, the angels, is the Watchers."

     "Oh, yes, in Enoch and in many Hebrew texts."

     "Right. And look to the other religions of the world, whose symbols and language are less familiar to you, and you will see a cosmology of similar beings, an early race of godlike creatures who looked over or preceded human beings. It's all garbled, but in a way - it's all there. We were the witnesses of God's Creation. We preceded it, and therefore did not witness our own. But we were there when He made the stars!"

     "Are you saying that these other religions, that they contain the same validity as the religion to which we are obviously referring? We are speaking of God and Our Lord as though we were European Catholics - "

    "It's all garbled, in countless texts throughout the world. There are texts which are irretrievable now which contained amazingly accurate information about cosmology; and there are texts that men know; and there are texts that have been forgotten but which can be rediscovered in time."

     "Ah, in time."

     "It's all essentially the same story. But listen to my point of view on it and you will have no difficulty reconciling it with your own points of reference, and the symbology which speaks more clearly to you."

     "But the validity of other religions! You're saying that the being I saw in Heaven wasn't Christ."

     "I didn't say that. As a matter of fact, I said that He was God Incarnate. Wait till we get to that point!"

     We had come out of the forest and stood now on what seemed the edge of a veldt. For the first time I caught sight of the humans whose scent had been distracting me - a very distant band of scantily clothed nomads moving steadily through the grass. There must have been thirty of them, perhaps less.

     "And the Ice Age is yet to come," I repeated. I turned round and round, trying to absorb and memorize the details of the enormous trees. But even as I did so, I realized the forest had changed.

     "But look carefully at the human beings," he said. "Look." He pointed. "What do you see?"

     I narrowed my eyes and called upon my vampiric powers to observe more closely. "Men and women, who look very similar to those of today. Yes, I would say this is Homo sapiens sapiens. I would say, they are our species."

     "Exactly. What do you notice about their faces?"

     "That they have distinct expressions that seem entirely modern, at least readable to a modern mind. Some are frowning; some are talking; one or two seem deep in thought. The shaggy-haired man lagging behind, he seems unhappy. And the woman, the woman with the huge breasts - are you sure she can't see us?"

    "She can't. She's merely looking in this direction. What differentiates her from the men?"

     "Well, her breasts, clearly, and the fact that she is beardless. The men have beards. Her hair is longer of course, and well, she's pretty; she's delicate of bone; she's feminine. She isn't carrying an infant, but the others are. She must be the youngest, or one who hasn't given birth."

     He nodded.

     It did seem that she could see us. She was narrowing her gaze as I did mine. Her face was longish, oval, what an archaeologist would call Cro-Magnon; there was nothing apelike about her, or about her kin. She wasn't fair, however, her skin was dark golden, rather like that of the Semitic or Arab peoples, like His skin in Heaven Above.  Her dark hair lifted exquisitely in the wind as she turned and moved forward.

     "These people are all naked."

     Memnoch gave a short laugh.

     We moved back into the forest; the veldt vanished. The air was thick and moist and fragrant around us.

     Towering over us were immense conifers and ferns. Never had I seen ferns of this size, their monstrous fronds bigger by far than the blades of banana trees, and as for the conifers, I could only compare them to the great, barbaric redwoods of the western California forests trees which have always made me feel alone and afraid.

     He continued to lead us, oblivious to this swarming tropical jungle through which we made our way. Things slithered past us; there were muted roars in the distance. The earth itself was layered over with green growth, velvety, ruckled, and sometimes seemingly with living rocks!

     I was aware of a rather cool breeze suddenly, and glanced over my shoulder. The veldt and the humans were long gone. The shadowy ferns rose so thickly behind us that it took me a moment to realize that rain was falling from the sky, high above, striking the topmost greenery and only touching us with its soft, soothing sound.

     There had been no humans in this forest ever, that was certain, but what manner of monsters were there, which might step from the shadows?

     "Now," Memnoch said, easily moving aside the dense foliage with his right arm as we continued to walk. "Let me get to the specifics, or what I have organized into the Thirteen Revelations of Evolution as the angels perceived them and discussed them with God.  Understand, throughout we will speak of this world only - planets, stars, other galaxies, these have nothing to do with our discussion."

     "You mean, we are the only life in the entire universe."

     "I mean my world and my heaven and my God are all that I know."

     "I see."

     "As I told you, we witnessed complex geological processes; we saw the mountains rise, we saw the seas created, we saw the continents shift. Our anthems of praise and wonder were endless. You cannot imagine the singing in Heaven; you heard a mere taste of it in a Heaven filled with human souls. Then we were only the celestial choirs, and each new development prompted its psalms and canticles.  The sound was different. Not better, no, but not the same.

     "Meantime, we were very busy, descending into the atmosphere of earth, oblivious to its composition, and losing ourselves in contemplation of various details. The minutiae of life involved a demand on our focus which did not exist in the celestial realm."

     "You mean everything there was large and clear."

     "Precisely and fully illuminated, the Love of God was in no way enhanced or enlarged or complicated by any question of tiny details."

     We had come now to a waterfall, thin, fierce, and descending into a bubbling pool. I stood for a moment, refreshed by the mist of water on my face and hands. Memnoch seemed to enjoy the same.

     For the first time I realized his feet were bare. He let his foot slip into the water itself, and watched the water swirl around his toes.  The nails of his toes were ivory, perfectly trimmed.

     As he looked down into the churning, bubbling water, his wings became visible, rising straight up suddenly to great peaks above him, and I could see the moisture glittering as it coated the feathers.  There was a commotion; the wings appeared to close, exactly like those of a bird, and to fold back behind him, and then to disappear.

     "Imagine now," he said, "the legions of angels, the multitudes of all ranks - and there are ranks - coming down to this earth to fall in love with something as simple as the bubbling water we see before us or the changing color of sunlight as it pierces the gases surrounding the planet itself."

     "Was it more interesting than Heaven?"

     "Yes. One has to say yes. Of course, on reentry, one feels complete satisfaction in Heaven, especially if God is pleased; but the longing returns, the innate curiosity, thoughts seemed to collect inside our minds. We became aware of having a mind in this fashion, but let me move on to the Thirteen Revelations.

     "The First Revelation was the change of inorganic molecules to organic molecules .. . from rock to tiny living molecule, so to speak.  Forget this forest. It didn't exist then. But look to the pool. It was in pools such as this, caught in the hands of the mountain, warm, and busy, and full of gases from the furnaces of the earth, that such things started - the first organic molecules appeared.

     "A clamour rose to Heaven. 'Lord, look what Matter has done.' And the Almighty gave His usual beaming smile of approval. 'Wait and Watch,' He said again, and as we watched, there came the Second Revelation: Molecules commenced to organize themselves into three forms of Material: cells, enzymes, and genes. Indeed, no sooner had the one-celled form of such things appeared than the multicellular forms began to appear; and what we had divined with the first organic molecules was now fully apparent; some spark of life animated these things; they had a crude form of purpose, and it was as if we could see that spark of life and recognize it as a tiny, tiny evidence of the essence of life which we in abundance possessed!

     "In sum, the world was full of commotion of a new kind altogether; and as we watched these tiny multicelled beings drift through water, collecting to form the most primitive algae, or fungi, we saw these green living things then take hold upon the land itself! Out of the water climbed the slime which had clung for millions of years to its shores. And from these creeping green things sprang the ferns and the conifers which you see around us, rising finally until they attained massive size.

     "Now angels have size. We could walk beneath these things on the green-covered world. Again, listen, if you will, in your imagination, to the anthems of praise that rose to heaven; listen if you will to the joy of God, perceiving all this through His own Intellect and through the choruses and tales and prayers of his angels!

     "Angels began to spread out all over the earth; they began to delight in certain places; some preferred the mountains; others the deep valleys, some the waters, some the forest of green shadow and shade."

     "So they became like the water spirits," I said, "or the spirits of the woods - all the spirits that men later came to worship."

     "Precisely. But you jump way ahead!

     "My response to these very first Two Revelations was like that of many of my legions; as quickly as we sensed a spark of life emanating from these multicelled plant organisms, we also began to sense the death of that spark, as one organism devoured another, or overran it and took its food from it; indeed we saw multiplicity and destruction!

     "What had been mere change before - exchange of energy and matter - now took on a new dimension. We began to see the beginning of the Third Revelation. Only it did not come home to us until the first animal organisms distinguished themselves from plants.

     "As we watched their sharp, determined movement, with their seemingly greater variety of choices, we sensed that the spark of life they evinced was indeed very similar to the life inside ourselves. And what was happening to these creatures? To these tiny animals and to plants?

     'They died, that's what was happening. They were born, lived and died, and began to decay. And that was the Third Revelation of Evolution: Death and Decay."

     Memnoch's face became the darkest I'd ever seen it. It retained the innocence, and the wonder, but it was clouded with something terrible that seemed a mixture of fear and disappointment; maybe it was only the naive wonder that perceives a horrible conclusion.

     "The Third Revelation was Death and Decay," I said. "And you found yourself repelled by it."

     "Not repelled! I just assumed it had to be a mistake! I went soaring to heaven! 'Look,' I said to God, 'these tiny things can cease to live, the spark can go out -
    as it could never go out of You or us, and then what is left behind them in matter rots.' I wasn't the only angel who went flying into the face of God with this great cry.

     "But I think my anthems of wonder were more colored by suspicion and fear. Fear had been born in my heart. I didn't know it, but it had come to me with the perception of decay and death; and the perception felt punitive to my mind."

     He looked at me. "Remember, we are angels. Until this time, there had been nothing punitive to our minds; nothing that made suffering in our thoughts! You grasp? And I suffered; and fear was a tiny component of it."

     "And what did God say?"

     "What do you think He said?"

     "That it was all part of the plan."

     "Exactly. 'Watch. Watch, and look, and you will see that essentially nothing new is happening; there is the same interchange of energy and matter.'"

     "But what about the spark?" I cried.

     " 'You are living creatures,' said God. 'It is a credit to your fine intellect that you perceive such a thing. Now watch. More is to come.'"

     "But suffering, the punitive quality. ..."

     "It was all resolved in a Great Discussion. Discussion with God involves not only coherent words but immense love of God, the light you saw, surrounding and permeating us all. What God gave us was reassurance, and perhaps the reassurance that this inkling of suffering in me required - that there was Nothing To Fear."

     "I see."

     "Now comes the Fourth Revelation, and remember my organization  of these revelations is arbitrary. I cannot take you through the minutiae, as I've said. The Fourth Revelation I call the Revelation of Color, and it began with flowering plants. The creation of flowers; the introduction of an entirely more extravagant and visibly beautiful means of mating between organisms. Now understand mating had always taken place. Even in the one-celled animals there had been a mating.

     "But flowers! Flowers introduced in profusion colors which had never been before in nature, except in the rainbow! Colors we had known in Heaven and thought to be purely celestial and now we saw they were not purely celestial but could develop in this great laboratory called earth for natural reasons.

     "Let me say at this time that spectacular colors were also developing in sea creatures, in fishes in warm waters. But the flowers struck me in particular as exquisitely beautiful, and when it became obvious that the species would be numberless, that the patterns of petals should be endless, our anthems again rose to Heaven in such music that everything before seemed lesser, or not so deep.

     "This music had of course already been tinged with something dark... dare I say it - the hesitation or the shadow produced in us by the Revelation of Death and Decay. And now with the flowers, this dark element grew even stronger in our songs and exclamations of wonder and gratitude, for when the flowers died, when they lost their petals, when they fell to the earth, it seemed a terrible loss.

     "The spark of life had emanated most powerfully from these flowers, and from the larger trees and plants that were growing everywhere in profusion; and so the song took on its sombre notes.

     "But we were more than ever enthralled with the earth. In fact, I would say at this time that the character of Heaven had been changed utterly. All of Heaven, God, the angels in all ranks, were now focused on the Earth. It was impossible to be in Heaven merely singing to God as before. The song would have to have something in it about Matter and process and beauty. And of course those angels who make the most complex songs did wind together these elements - death, decay, beauty - into more coherent anthems than those which came from me.

     "I was troubled. I had a sleepless mind in my soul, I think. I had something in me which had already become insatiable. ..."

     "Those words, I spoke those words to David when I spoke of you, when you first stalked me," I said.

     "They come from an old poem that was sung of me, written in Hebrew and now rarely found in translation anywhere in the world. Those were the words of the Sibylline Oracle when she described the Watchers ...we angels whom God had sent to observe. She was right. I liked her poetry, so I remember it. I adopted it in my definition of myself. God only knows why other angels are more nearly content."

     Memnoch's whole manner had become sombre. I wondered if the music of Heaven which / had heard included this sombre quality he was describing to me, or whether its pure joy had been restored.

     "No, you hear now the music of human souls in heaven as well as angels. The sounds are completely different. But let me go on quickly through the Revelations, because I know that they aren't easy to grasp except as a whole.

     "The Fifth Revelation was that of Encephalization. Animals had differentiated themselves in the water from plants some time ago, and now these gelatinous creatures were beginning to form nervous systems and skeletons and with this formation came the process of encephalization. Creatures began to develop heads!

     "And it did not escape our notice for one divine instant that we, as angels, had heads! The thinking processes of these evolving organisms were centered in the head. So it was with us, obviously! No one had to tell us. Our angelic intelligence knew how we were organized.  The eyes were the giveway. We had eyes, and these eyes were part of our brains and sight led us in our movements, and in our responses, and in our search for knowledge more than any other sense.

     "There was a tumult in heaven. 'Lord,' I said, 'what is happening? These creatures are developing shapes ... limbs ... heads.' And once again the anthems rose, but this time mingled with confusion as well as ecstasy, fear of God that such things could happen, that from Matter things could spring which had heads.

    "Then even before the reptiles began to crawl out of the sea into the land, even before that happened, there came the Sixth Revelation, which struck nothing short of horror in me. These creatures, with their heads and their limbs, no matter how bizarre, or various in their structures, these things had faces! Faces like ours. I mean the simplest anthropoid had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. This is a face, such as I have! First the head, now the face, the expression of intelligence within the mind!

     "I was aghast! I raised the worst arguments. 'Is this something you want to happen? Where will this end? What are these creatures? The spark of life from them grows stronger, flares hotter, and dies hard!  Are you paying attention!' Some of my fellow angels were horrified.  "They said, 'Memnoch, you are pushing God too far! Obviously there is a kinship between us, magnificent as we are, the Sons of God, the inhabitants of the bene ha elohim, and these creatures. The head, the face, yes, it's evident. But how dare you challenge the plan of God?'

     "I couldn't be comforted. I was too full of suspicion, and so were those who agreed with me. We were puzzled, and back down to Earth we went, persuaded by the earth to wander, to walk. I could now measure myself in size by the scale of things as I earlier mentioned, and I could lie amongst soft bowers of plants, listening to them grow and thinking about them, and letting their colors fill my eyes.

     "Yet, still the promise of disaster haunted me. Then an exceptional thing happened. God came to me.

     "God doesn't leave Heaven when He does this. He merely extends Himself, so to speak; His light came down and took me in where I was, rolled me up into it and against Him, and He began to talk to me.

     "Of course this was immediately comforting. I had denied myself the bliss of Heaven for long periods, and now to have this bliss come down and enfold me in perfect love and quiet, I was satisfied. All my arguments and doubts left me. Pain left me. The punitive effect upon my mind of death and decay was eased.

     "God spoke. I was of course fused with Him and had no sense of my form in this moment; we had been so close many a time in the past, and we were this close when I had been made, and came forth out of God. But nevertheless it was a profound, merciful gift for it to happen now.

     " 'You see more than other angels,' He said. 'You think in terms of the future, a concept which they are just beginning to learn. They are as mirrors reflecting the magnificence of each step; whereas you have your suspicions. You do not trust in me.'

     "These words filled me with sorrow. 'You do not trust in me.' I had not thought of it as distrust, my fears. And no sooner had I realized this than that realization was sufficient for God, and He called me back to Heaven and said that now I should watch more often from that vantage point and not go so deep into the foliage of the world."

     I could only stare at Memnoch as he explained all these things.  We stood on the bank of the stream still. He didn't seem comforted now as he told me about this comfort. Only eager to go on with his tale.

     "I did go back to Heaven, but as I told you, the entire composition of Heaven was now changed. Heaven was focused on Earth. Earth was the Heavenly Discourse. And never was I so aware of it as on this return. I went to God, I knelt in adoration, I poured out my heart, my doubts, above all my gratitude that He had come to me as He had. I asked if I was free again to return to the World below.

     "He gave one of His sublime noncommittal answers, meaning, 'You are not forbidden. You are a Watcher and your duty is to Watch.' So I went down - "

    "Wait," I said. "I want to ask you a question."

     "Yes," he answered patiently. "But come, let's continue on our journey. You can step on the rocks as you cross the stream."

     I followed him this way easily enough, and within minutes we had left the sound of the water behind us, and we were in an even denser forest alive, I think, with creatures, though I couldn't tell.

     "My question," I pressed, "was this. Was Heaven boring compared to Earth?"

     "Oh, never, it's just that the Earth was the focus. One could not be in Heaven and forget about Earth because everybody in Heaven was watching Earth and singing about it. That's all. No, Heaven was as fascinating and blissful as ever; in fact, the sombre note which had been introduced, the solemn acknowledgment of decay and death had added to the infinite variation of things which might be said and sung and dwelt upon in Heaven."

     "I see. Heaven expanded with these revelations."

     "Always! And remember the music, never, never think that that is a cliche of religion. The music was reaching new heights all the time in its celebration of wonder. It would be millennia before physical instruments would reach a level where they could make even a pale imitation of the sounds of the music of the angels - their voices, mingling with the beat of their wings, and some interplay with the winds that rose from Earth."

     I nodded.

     "What is it?" he asked. "What do you want to say?"

     "I can't put it in words! Only that our understanding of Heaven fails again and again because we are not taught this, that Heaven is focused upon the earth. Why, all my life, I've heard nothing but the contrary, the denigration of matter, and that it is a prison for the soul."

     "Well, you saw Heaven for yourself," he said. "But let me continue:

     "The Seventh Revelation was that the animals came out of the sea. That they came into the forests which now covered the land and they found ways to live in it. The Reptiles were born. They became great lizards, monsters, things of such size that even the strength of angels couldn't have stopped them. And these things had heads and faces, and now they not only swam with their legs - legs like ours - but they walked upon them, and some walked on two legs instead of four, holding against their chests two tiny legs like our arms.

     "I watched this happen as someone watches a fire grow. From the tiny blaze, giving warmth, I now saw a conflagration!

     "Insects in all forms developed. Some took to the air with a form of flight very different and monstrous compared to our own. The world swarmed with all these new species of the living and mobile and the hungry, for creature fed upon creature just as it had always been, but now with the animals, the feasting and killing was far more obvious and happened not merely in minuscule but with giant skirmishes amongst lizards who tore each other to pieces, and great reptilian birds who could glide down upon the lesser crawling things and carry them away to their nests.

     "The form of propagation began to change. Things were born in eggs. Then some spawn came live from the mother.

     "For millions of years I studied these things, talking to God about them, more or less absently, singing when I was overwhelmed with beauty, going up to the heavens, and generally finding my questions disturbing to everyone as before. Great debates happened. Should we question nothing? Look, the spark of life flares monstrous and hot from the giant lizard as he dies! And again and again into the womb of God I was taken, just when I thought my agitation would give me no peace.

     " 'Look at the scheme more closely. You are deliberately seeing only parts of it,' He said to me. He pointed out as He had from the beginning that waste was unheard of in the universe, that decay became food for others, that the means of interchange was now Kill and Devour, Digest and Excrete.

     " 'When I'm with you,' I told Him, 'I see the beauty of it. But when I go down there, when I roll in the high grass, I see differently.'

     " 'You are my angel and my Watcher. Overcome that contradiction,' He said.

     "I went back down to the Earth. And then came the Eighth Revelation of Evolution: the appearance of warm-blooded birds with feathered wings!"

     I smiled. It was partly the expression on his face, the knowing, patient expression, and the emphasis with which he had described the wings.

     "Feathered wings!" he said. "First we see our faces on the heads of insects, of lizards and monsters! And now behold, there is a warm-blooded creature, a creature completely more fragile and pulsing with precarious life and it has feathered wings! It flies as we fly. It rises, it spreads its wings, it soars.

     "Well, for once mine was not the only outcry in heaven. Angels by the thousands were astonished to discover that little beings of matter had wings so like our own. Feathers, such as the feathers that covered ours, made them soft and made them move through the wind ... all this now had its corollary in the material world!

     "Heaven was stormy with songs, exclamations, outcries. Angels took flight after birds, surrounding them in the air, and then following them and imitating them and following them to their nests and watching as chicks were born from these eggs and grew to full size.

     "Now, you know we had seen this entire question of birth, growth, maturity in other creatures, but in nothing that so resembled ourselves."

     "God was silent?" I asked.

     "No. But this time He called us all together and He asked us why we had not learnt enough by now that we were not insulated from such horror and pride. Pride, he said, is what we suffered; we were outraged that such puny, tiny-headed things, things that had really very limited faces, actually, had feathered wings. He gave us a stern lesson and warning: 'Once again, I tell you, this process will continue and you will see things that will astonish you, and you are my angels and you belong to me, and your trust is mine!'

     "The Ninth Revelation of Evolution was painful for all angels. It was filled with horror for some, and fear for others; indeed it was as if the Ninth Revelation mirrored for us the very emotions it produced in our hearts. This was the coming of mammals upon the earth, mammals whose hideous cries of pain rose higher to Heaven than any noise of suffering and death that any other animal had ever made!  Ooooh, the promise of fear that we had seen in death and decay was now hideously fulfilled.

     "The music rising from Earth was transformed; and all we could do in our fear and suffering was sing in even greater amazement, and the song darkened, and became more complex. The countenance of God, the light of God, remained undisturbed.

     "At last the Tenth Revelation of Evolution. The apes walked upright!

     Was not God Himself mocked! There it was, in hairy, brutal form, the two-legged, two-armed upright creature in whose image we had been made! It lacked our wings, for the love of Heaven; indeed the winged creatures never even came close to it in development. But there it lumbered upon the earth, club in hand, brutal, savage, tearing the flesh of enemies with its teeth, beating, biting, stabbing to death all that resisted it - the image of God and the proud Sons of God, his angels - in hairy material form and wielding tools!  "Thunderstruck, we examined its hands. Had it thumbs? Almost.  Thunderstruck, we surrounded its gatherings. Was speech coming from its mouth, the audible eloquent expression of thoughts? Al-most! What could be God's plan? Why had He done this? Would this not rouse His anger?

     "But the light of God flowed eternal and unceasingly, as if the scream of the dying ape could not reach it, as if the monkey torn to pieces by its larger assailants had no witness to the great flaring spark that sputtered before it died.

     " 'No, no, this is unthinkable, this is unimaginable,' I said. I flew in the face of Heaven again, and God said, very simply, and without consolation, 'Memnoch, if I am not mocked by this being, if it is my creation, how can you be mocked? Be satisfied, Memnoch, and enjoy amazement in your satisfaction, and trouble me no more! Anthems rise all around you which tell me of every detail my Creation has accomplished. You come with questions that are accusations, Memnoch! No more!'

     "I was humbled. The word 'accusations' frightened or caused a long pause in my thoughts. Do you know that Satan means in Hebrew 'the accuser'?"

     "Yes," I said.

     "Let me continue. To me this was a wholly new concept and yet I realized that I had been flinging accusations at God all along. I had insisted that this evolutionary process could not be what He wanted or intended.

     "Now He told me plainly to stop, and to examine further. And He also gave me to know again, in wide perspective, the immensity and diversity of the developments I witnessed. In sum, He visited upon me a flash of His perspective, which mine could never be.

     "As I said, I was humbled. 'May I join with you, Lord?' I asked.  And He said, 'But of course.' We were reconciled, and slumbering in the divine light, yet I kept waking as an animal might wake, ever on alert for its lurking enemy, waking and fearing, But what is happening now down there!

     "Lo and behold! Are those the words I should use, or shall I speak like J, the author of the book of Genesis, and say 'Look!' with all its fierce power. The hairy upright ones had begun a strange ritual. The hairy upright ones had begun all kinds of different patterns of complex behavior. Allow me for the moment to skip over to the most significant. The hairy upright ones had begun to bury their dead."

     I narrowed my eyes, looking at Memnoch, puzzled. He was so deeply invested in this tale that he looked for the first time convincingly unhappy, and yet his face retained its beauty. You couldn't say unhappiness distorted him. Nothing could.

     "Was this then the Eleventh Revelation of Evolution?" I asked.

     "That they should bury their dead?"

     He studied me a long time, and I sensed his frustration, that he couldn't begin to get across to me all that he wanted me to know.

     "What did it mean?" I pressed, impatient and eager to know.

     "What did it mean, they buried their dead?"

    "Many things," he whispered, shaking his finger emphatically, "for this ritual of burying came along with a kinship we had seldom if ever witnessed in any other species for more than a moment - the caring for the weak by the strong, the helping and the nourishing of the crippled by the whole, and finally the burial with flowers. Lestat, flowers! Flowers were laid from one end to the other of the body softly deposited in the earth, so that the Eleventh Revelation of Evolution was that Modern Man had commenced to exist. Shaggy, stooped, awkward, covered with apelike hair, but with faces more than ever like our faces, modern man walked on the earth! And modern man knew affection such as only angels had known in the universe, angels and God who made them, and modern man showered that affection upon his kindred, and modern man loved flowers as we had, and grieved as - with flowers - he buried his dead."

     I was silent for a long time, considering it, and considering above all Memnoch's starting point - that he and God and the angels represented the ideal towards which this human form was evolving before their very eyes. I had not considered it from such a perspective. And again came the image of Him, turning from the balustrade, and the voice asking me with such conviction, You would never be my adversary, would you?

     Memnoch watched me. I looked away. I felt the strongest loyalty to him already, rising out of the tale he was telling me and the emotions invested in it, and I was confused by the words of God Incarnate.

     "And well you should be," said Memnoch. "For the question you must ask yourself is this: Knowing you, Lestat, as surely He must, why He does not already consider you His adversary? Can you guess?"



     He waited until I was ready for him to continue, and there were moments there when I thought that point might never come. Drawn to him as I was, totally enthralled as I was, I felt a sheer mortal desire to flee from something overwhelming, something that threatened the structure of my reasoning mind.

     "When I was with God," Memnoch continued, "I saw as God sees - I saw the humans with their families; I saw the humans gathered to witness and assist the birth; I saw the humans cover the graves with ceremonial stones. I saw as God sees, and I saw as if Forever and in All Directions, and the sheer complexity of every aspect of creation, every molecule of moisture, and every syllable of sound issuing from the mouths of birds or humans, all seemed to be nothing more than the product of the utter Greatness of God. Songs came from my heart which I have never equaled.

     "And God told me again, 'Memnoch, stay close to me in Heaven. Watch now from afar.'

     " 'Must I, Lord?' I asked. 'I want so badly to watch them and over them. I want with my invisible hands to feel their softening skin.'

     " 'You are my angel, Memnoch. Go then and watch, and remember that all you see is made and willed by me.'

     "I looked down once before leaving Heaven, and I do speak now in metaphor, we both know this, I looked down and I saw the

     Creation teeming with Watcher angels, I saw them everywhere engaged in their various fascinations as I have described, from forest to valley to sea.

     "But there seemed something in the atmosphere of Earth that had changed it; call it a new element; a thin swirl of tiny particles? No, that suggests something greater than what it was. But it was there.

     "I went to Earth, and immediately the other angels confirmed for me that they, too, had sensed this new element in the atmosphere of Earth, though it was not dependent upon the air as was every other living thing.

     " 'How can this be?' I asked.

     " 'Listen,' said the Angel Michael. 'Just listen. You can hear it.'

     "And Raphael said, 'This is something invisible but living! And what is there under Heaven that is invisible and lives but us!'

     "Hundreds of other angels gathered to discuss this thing, to speak of their own experience of this new element, this new presence of invisibility which seemed to swarm about us, unaware of our presence yet making some vibration, or that is, inaudible sound, which we struggled to hear.

     " 'You've done it!' said one of the angels to me, and let him remain nameless. 'You've disappointed God with all your accusing and all your rages, and He has made something else other than us that is invisible and has our powers! Memnoch, you have to go to Him and find out if He means to do away with us, and let this new invisible thing rule.'

     " 'How can that be so?' asked Michael. Michael is, of all the angels, one of the most calm and reasonable. Legend tells you this; so does Angelology, folklore, the whole kit and caboodle. It's true. He is reasonable. And he pointed out now to the distressed angels that these tiny invisible presences of which we were aware could not conceivably equal our power. They could scarcely make themselves known to us, and we were angels, from whom nothing on earth could possibly hide!

     " 'We have to find out what this is,' I said. 'This is bound to the earth and part of it. This is not celestial. It is here, dwelling close to the forests and hills.'

     "Everyone agreed. We were beings from whom the composition of nothing was secret. You might take thousands of years to understand cynobacteria, or nitrogen, but we understood them! But we didn't understand this. Or let me say, we could not recognize this for what it was."

     "Yes, I understand."

     "We listened; we reached out our arms. We perceived that it was bodiless and invisible, yes, but that it had to it a continuity, an individuality, indeed, what we perceived were a multitude of individualities. And they were weeping, and very gradually, that sound was heard within our own realm of invisibility, and by our own spiritual ears."

     He paused again.

     "You see the distinction I make?" he asked.

     "They were spiritual individuals," I said.

     "And as we pondered, as we opened our arms and sang and tried to comfort them, while stepping invisibly and artfully through the material of Earth, something momentous made itself known to us, shocking us out of our explorations. Before our very eyes, the Twelfth Revelation of Physical Evolution was upon us! It struck us like the light from Heaven; it distracted us from the cries of the covert invisible! It shattered our reason. It caused our songs to become laughter and wails.

     "The Twelfth Revelation of Evolution was that the female of the human species had begun to look more distinctly different from the male of the human species by a margin so great that no other anthropoid could compare! The female grew pretty in our eyes, and seductive; the hair left her face, and her limbs grew graceful; her manner transcended the necessities of survival; and she became beautiful as flowers are beautiful, as the wings of birds are beautiful! Out of the couplings of the hairy ape had risen a female tender-skinned and radiant of face. And though we had no breasts and she had no wings, she looked like US!!!!"&

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #21 - November 28, 2013, 06:15 PM



     We stood facing each other in the stillness.

     Not for one second did I fail to grasp.

     Not for one second did I seek to understand. I knew. I looked at him, at his large beautiful face and streaming hair, at his smooth limbs, and his tender expression, and I knew that he was right, of course. One need not have been a student of evolution to realize that such a moment had surely come to pass with the refinement of the species, and he did embody the empowered feminine if ever a creature could. He was as marble angels, as the statues of Michelangelo; the absolute preciseness and harmony of the feminine was in his physique.

     He was agitated. He was on the verge it seemed of wringing his hands. He looked at me intently, as if he would look into me and through me.

     "And in short order," he said, "the Thirteenth Revelation of Evolution made itself known. Males mated with the loveliest of the females, and those who were most lithe, and smooth to touch, and tender of voice. And from those matings came males themselves who were as beautiful as the females. There came humans of different complexions; there came red hair and yellow hair as well as black hair and locks of brown and startling white; there came eyes of infinite variety - gray, brown, green, or blue. Gone was the man's brooding brow and hairy face and apish gait, and he, too, shone with the beauty of an angel just as did his female mate."

     I was silent.

     He turned away from me, but it seemed impersonal. It seemed he required of himself a pause, and a renewal of his own strength. I found myself staring at the high arched wings, drawn close together, their lower tips just above the ground where we stood, each feather still faintly iridescent. He turned around to face me, and unfolding out of the angelic shape, his face was a graceful shock.

     "There they stood, male and female, He created them, and except for that, Lestat, except for - that one was male and one was female, they were made in the Image of God and of His Angels! It had come to this! To this! God split in Two! Angels split in Two!

     "I don't know how long the other angels held me but finally they could no longer, and I went up to Heaven, ablaze with thoughts and doubts and speculations. I knew wrath. The cries of suffering mammals had taught me wrath. The screams and roars of wars amongst apelike beings had taught me wrath. Decay and death had taught me fear. Indeed all of God's Creation had taught all I needed to speed before him and say, " 'Is this what you wanted! Your own image divided into male and female! The spark of life now blazing huge when either dies, male or female! This grotesquerie; this impossible division; this monster! Was this the plan?'

     "I was outraged. 1 considered it a disaster! I was in a fury. I flung out my arms, calling on God to reason with me, to forgive me, and save me with reassurance and wisdom, but nothing came from God.  Nothing. Not light. Not words. Not punishment. Not judgment.

     "I realized I stood in Heaven surrounded by angels. All of them were watching and waiting.

     "Nothing came from Almighty God but the most tranquil light. I was weeping. 'Look, tears such as their tears,' I said to the others, though of course my tears were nonmaterial. And as I wept, and as they watched me, I realized I wasn't weeping alone.

     "Who was with me? I turned round and round looking at them: I saw all the choruses of angels, the Watchers, the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the Ophanim, all. Their faces were rapt and mysterious, and yet I heard a weeping!

     " 'Where is the weeping coming from!' I cried.

     "And then I knew. And they knew. We came together, wings folded, heads bowed, and we listened, and rising from the earth we heard the voices of those invisible spirits, those invisible individualities; it was they - the immaterial ones - who wept! And their crying reached to Heaven as the Light of God Shone on Eternal, without change upon us all.

     " 'Come now and witness,' said Raphael. 'Come watch as we have been directed.'

     " 'Yes, I have to see what this is!' I said, and down I went into the earth's air, and so did all of us, driving in a whirlwind these tiny wailing, weeping things that we could not even see!

     "Then human cries distracted us! Human cries mingled with the cries of the invisible!

     "Together, we drew in, condensed and still a multitude, invisibly surrounding a small camp of smooth and beautiful human beings.

     "In their midst one young man lay dying, twisting in his last pain on the bed they'd made for him of grass and flowers. It was the bite of some deadly insect which had made his fever, all part of the cycle, as God would have told us had we asked.

     "But the wailing of the invisible ones hovered over this dying victim.

     And the lamentations of the human beings rose more terrible than I could endure.

     "Again I wept.

     " 'Be still, listen,' said Michael, the patient one.

     "He directed us to look beyond the tiny camp, and the thrashing body of the feverish man, and to see in thin air the spirit voices gathering and crying!

     "And with our eyes we saw these spirits for the first time! We saw them clustering and dispersing, wandering, rolling in and falling back, each retaining the vague shape in essence of a human being.  Feeble, fuddled, lost, unsure of themselves, they swam in the very atmosphere, opening their arms now to the man who lay on the bier about to die. And die that man did."

     Hush. Stillness.

     Memnoch looked at me as if I must finish it.

     "And a spirit rose from the dying man," I said. "The spark of life flared and did not go out, but became an invisible spirit with all the rest. The spirit of the man rose in the shape of the man and joined those spirits who had come to take it away."


     He gave a deep sigh and then threw out his arms. He sucked in his breath as if he meant to roar. He looked heavenward through the giant trees.

     I stood paralyzed.

     The forest sighed in its fullness around us. I could feel his trembling, I could feel the cry that hovered just inside him and might burst forth in some terrible clarion. But it only died away as he bowed his head.

     The forest had changed again. The forest was our forest. These were oaks and the dark trees of our times; and the wildflowers, and the moss I knew, and the birds and tiny rodents who darted through the shadows.

     I waited.

     "The air was thick with these spirits," he said, "for once having seen them, once having detected their faint outline and their

     ceaseless voices, we could never again not see them, and like a wreath they surrounded the earth! The spirits of the dead, Lestat! The spirits of the human dead."

     "Souls, Memnoch?"


     "Souls had evolved from matter?"

     "Yes. In His image. Souls, essences, invisible individualities, souls!"

     I waited again in silence.

     He gathered himself together.

     "Come with me," he said. He wiped his face with the back of his hand. As he reached for mine, I felt his wing, distinctly for the first time, brush the length of my body, and it sent a shiver through me akin to fear, but not fear at all.

     "Souls had come out of these human beings," he said. "They were whole and living, and hovered about the material bodies of the humans from whose tribe they had come.

     "They could not see us; they could not see Heaven. Whom could they see but those who had buried them, those who had loved them in life, and were their progeny, and those who sprinkled the red ochre over their bodies before laying them carefully, to face the east, in graves lined with ornaments that had been their own!"

     "And those humans who believed in them," I said, "those who worshipped the ancestors, did they feel their presence? Did they sense it? Did they suspect the ancestors were still there in spirit form?"

     "Yes," he answered me.

     I was too absorbed to say anything else.

     It seemed my consciousness was flooded with the smell of the wood and all its dark colors, the endlessly rich variations of brown and gold and deep red that surrounded us. I peered up at the sky, at the shining light fractured and gray and sullen yet grand.

     Yet all I could think and consider was the whirlwind, and the souls who had surrounded us in the whirlwind as though the air from the earth to Heaven were filled with human souls. Souls drifting forever and ever. Where does one go in such darkness? What does one seek?  What can one know?

     Was Memnoch laughing? It sounded small and mournful, private and full of pain. He was perhaps singing softly, as if the melody were a natural emanation of his thoughts. It came from his thinking as scent rises from flowers; song, the sound of angels.

     "Memnoch," I said. I knew he was suffering but I couldn't stand it any longer. "Did God know it?" I asked. "Did God know that men and women had evolved spiritual essences? Did he know, Memnoch, about their souls?"

     He didn't answer.

     Again I heard the faint sound, his song. He, too, was looking up at the sky

    , and he was singing more clearly now, a sombre and humbling canticle, it seemed, alien to our own more measured and organized music, yet full of eloquence and pain.

     He watched the clouds moving above us, as heavy and white as any clouds I'd ever beheld.

     Did this beauty of the forest rival what I had seen in Heaven?

     Impossible to answer. But what I knew with perfect truth is that heaven bad not made this beauty dim by comparison! And that was the wonder. This Savage Garden, this possible Eden, this ancient place was miraculous in its own right and in its own splendid limitations. I suddenly couldn't bear to look on it, to see the small leaves flutter downwards, to fall into loving it, without the answer to my question.

     Nothing in the whole of my life seemed as essential.

     "Did God know about the souls, Memnoch!" I said. "Did He know!"

     He turned to me.

     "How could He not have known, Lestat!" he answered. "How could He not have known! And who do you think flew to the very heights of Heaven to tell Him? And had He ever been surprised, or caught unawares, or increased or decreased, or enlightened, or darkened, by anything I had ever brought to His Eternal and Omniscient attention?"

     He sighed again, and seemed on the verge of a tremendous outburst, one that would make all his others look small. But then he was calm again and musing.

     We walked on. The forest shifted, mammoth trees giving way to slender, more gracefully branching species, and here and there were patches of high, waving grass.

     The breeze had the smell of water in it. I saw it lift his blond hair, heavy as this hair was, and smooth it back from the side of his face. I felt it cool my head and my hands, but not my heart.

     We peered into an open place, a deep, wild valley. I could see distant mountains, and green slopes, a ragged and rambling wood breaking here and there for spaces of blowing wheat or some other form of wild grain. The woods crept up into the hills and into the mountains, sending its roots deep into the rock; and as we grew closer to the valley, through the branches I would see the glitter and twinkling light of a river or sea.

     We emerged from the older forest. This was a marvelous and fertile land. Flowers of yellow and blue grew in profusion, caught this way and that in dancing gusts of color. The trees were olive trees and fruit trees, and had the low, twisted branches of trees from which food has been gathered for many generations. The sunlight poured down upon all.

     We walked through tall grasses - the wild wheat perhaps - to the edge of the water, where it lapped very gently without a tide, I think, and it was clear and shimmering as it shrank back, exposing the extraordinary array of pebbles and stones.

     I could see no end to this water either to the right or to the left, but I could see the far bank and the rocky hills growing down towards it as if they were as alive as the roots of the straggling green trees.

     I turned around. The landscape behind us now was the same. The rocky hills, rising eventually to mountains, with miles upon miles of scalable slopes, copses of fruit trees, black, open mouths of caves.

     Memnoch said nothing.

     He was stricken and sad and staring down at the waters, and to the far horizon where the mountains came as if to close in the waters, only to be forced to let the waters flow out and beyond our sight.

     "Where are we?" I asked gently.

     He took his time to answer. Then he said, "The Revelations of Evolution are, for the time being, finished. I've told you what I saw - the thin outline of all you'll know once you die.

     "Now what is left is the heart of my story, and I should like to tell it here. Here in this beautiful place, though the rivers themselves are long gone from the earth and so are the men and women who roamed at this time. And to answer your question, 'Where are we?' Let me say: Here is where He finally flung me down from Heaven. Here is where I Fell."

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #22 - November 28, 2013, 06:33 PM

    A Satanist friend of mine would be very interested in this if he hasn't read it already. I myself find this to be a very fascinating read. It is sad that she wrote something so thought provoking only to return to Catholicism later in life.

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #23 - November 28, 2013, 06:40 PM

    Yeah but she left it again. The rampant homophobia and intolerance of the church went completely against her morals. I'm planning on adding more bits from the novel, Memnoch living with early humans and trying to convince god they aren't just animals and they should be allowed into heaven is fascinating from a theological standpoint.

    Also, I'm taking a leap that your friend is a Laveyan? Most of them are atheists anyway. The Church of Satan doesn't recognise the Devil as an actual being, but as a metaphor of human nature. Nothing to do with higher powers or afterlife.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #24 - November 28, 2013, 06:53 PM

    Ah, I haven't heard about her since her re-conversion so that's news to me. Glad to hear it. I bookmarked the link to the entire novel so I'll be reading it when I get the chance inbetween blog writing and The Art of War.

    He belongs to this group, Star of Azazel:

    Not exactly atheist, but true on the rest of it. Very much into the occult too.

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #25 - November 29, 2013, 10:31 PM

    Parrots, the Universe and Everything
    "This is one of the last public appearances of Douglas Adams in which he talks about his book, Last Chance to See, coauthored with Mark Carwardine. The talk was given at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and recorded about a month before his death."

    Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

    It’s a very interesting, and unusual, and weird experience for me to be talking in my home town. Which is … (Laughter.)

    Now, amongst the books that Constance mentioned when she’s introducing me, The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Dirk Gently and so on, it was not my favourite book. And my favourite book (Last Chance to See) is what I’m here to talk about tonight. Virtually every author I know, their own favourite book is the one that sold the least. It’s somehow the runt of the litter, it’s the one you’ve always just loved the most. And I want to tell you about how this came about.

    [edit]The Aye-aye
    Sometime in about the mid 1980s, the phone rang. (Laughter.)

    And the voice said, “We want you to go to Madagascar. We want you to look for a very rare form of lemur, called the Aye-aye. The plane leaves in two weeks, we would like you to be on it.” Now I—assuming they’ve got the wrong number—said “yes!” before they could discover their mistake. (Laughter.) But in fact it turned out that they decided, “Well, here is somebody who doesn’t know anything about lemurs, anything about the Aye-aye, anything about Madagascar, let’s send him.” (Laughter.) So I started to try and find out something about it, and it turns out it’s very interesting.

    Lemurs used to be the dominant primate in all the world. And they were very, very gentle, pleasant creatures. They were a little bit like sort of cat size, and they used to hang around in the trees having a nice time. And then, Gondwanaland split up. It always sounds like some sort of 70’s rock group going their own way for reasons of musical differences. But as you probably remember Gondwanaland was that vast continental landmass that consisted of what then became South America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australasia—uh, no—Australia, Australia and not—and this will turn out to be significant later—not New Zealand which turns out to be just a lot of gunk that came out from under the ocean. (Laughter.)

    And as I say, lemurs were the dominant primate around the world, and when all these landmasses split up, and Madagascar was one of them, Madagascar kind of sailed off into the middle of what then suddenly became the Indian Ocean. And took with it a representative sample of the livestock of the period, which included a lot of lemurs. And they basically sort of sat there for millions and millions of years in glorious isolation. While, in the rest of the world, a new creature emerged. A new creature arrived that was much more intelligent than the lemurs—according to it—, (Laughter) much more competitive, much more aggressive, and incredibly interested in all of things you could do with twigs. (Laughter.)

    Twigs were absolutely wonderful. There is so much you can do with twigs—you can dig in the ground for things with twigs, you can burrow under the bark of trees for grubs, you can hit each other with twigs. If there had been copies of TwigUser Magazine around on those days, these creatures would have been lining up for it. And these creatures—which, as you have probably guessed, are called the monkeys—, because they were more competitive and more aggressive, and they lived in the same habitat as the lemurs, they successfully supplanted the lemurs everywhere in the world other than Madagascar. Because Madagascar was right out in the middle of the Indian Ocean and they couldn’t get there.

    They couldn’t get there until about 1500 years ago, when due to startling advances in twig technology (laughter) they were able to get there in boats, and eventually planes. And suddenly the lemurs, that have had this place for themselves for millions and millions and millions of years, were suddenly facing their old enemy: the monkey. So, this is Madagascar, and it turns out that the rarest of the lemurs—and when I say the rarest of the lemurs, at this particular point in the mid 80’s they were thought to be the rarest of the lemurs; we’ve now discovered and even rarer lemur called the Golden Bamboo Lemur, which went straight to the number one of endangered lemurs—but the Aye-aye is a very very peculiar animal. It looks like the agglomeration of all sorts of other different animals. So, for instance, it has a sort of foxy ears, and it has a little sort of bitty rabbit’s teeth, and it has a kind of ostrich [feathered?] tail, and it has very weird eyes, actually it has Marty Feldman’s eyes. (Laughter.) The kind of sort of looking slightly beyond you into a sort of other dimension just over your left shoulder. But it also has one very very very peculiar characteristic, which is its middle finger on both hands is skeletally thin and very very long. (Laughter.)

    And it turns out there is only one other animal in the entire world that has this feature. And this is called—I love zoologists; they have such vivid imaginations—it’s called the Long-Fingered Possum. (Laughter.) And this is a creature that lives in New Guinea, and in fact it is its fourth finger that is skeletally thin and elongated. And this is the thing that tells us that there is no relationship between these animals, it’s pure convergent evolution, because the common factor between Madagascar and the Aye-aye, and New Guinea and the Long-Fingered Possum is that in both habitats there are no woodpeckers. (Laughter.) And you see, the thing is—life is very very opportunistic, and it will take advantage of any food source it finds around the place. And if there are no woodpeckers looking under the bark of trees for grubs, then, in this case, it will be the mammals that grow the skeletally thin long finger to burrow under the bark of the tree, and get to this source of food which is the grubs under the bark.

    So, the Aye-aye is this very very very strange creature. And at this time it was thought there were only about fifteen of them left. And they lived actually not on Madagascar itself, but on a tiny little rainforest island just off the coast of Madagascar, called Nosy Mangabe, and it’s just off the northwest tip of Madagascar. And now to get there, what you have to do, is you have to fly in a 747 to Madagascar. And then in a terrible old jalopy of an airplane from Madagascar up to the northwest port. And from there you have to go in a kind of decreasingly excellent series of carts and trucks and so on, (Laughter) to a little port where there was going to be a boat that was going to take us to Nosy Mangabe. So we arrived there, and arrived at the port, and we were looking around for the boat that was going to take us to Nosy Mangabe, and we couldn’t see it. And we kept in turn asking people–you know–“where is this boat?”, and they would say “it’s there! it’s there!”, and we couldn’t see what they were pointing at because there was this terrible rotting old hulk in the way. (Laughter.)

    Well as you guessed, this is the terrible rotting old hulk in which we have to go to Nosy Mangabe. And it didn’t fulfill what to my mind was the sort of basic criteria of a boat, in that it was basically full of ocean. (Laughter.) And it seemed to me that the whole point of a boat was to keep the ocean on the outside. (Laughter.) Anyway, so we crossed to Nosy Mangabe. And it’s this tiny little, very very beautiful little rainforest island. And we hit a major problem which of course is that this animal not only lives in trees—nobody has seen it for years and years and years—lives in trees but it’s also a nocturnal animal. And the quality of batteries in Madagascar is very very poor. So, we spent night after night after night, traipsing through the rainforest, in what can only be described as: the rain. (Laughter.)

    Getting rather ratty, and basically we’ve just spent night after night sort of huddled under tarpaulins, looking at us, saying “stop raining.” And every now and then we would sort of, “gah, I’ve been trying to find this damn animal.” Actually, this is wonderful, we found this hut that used to be this sort of game warden’s—not game warden—a ranger’s hut. And it’s a tiny little hut. And it was actually full of wild life. (Laughter.) What happened, you see, is you would open the door, and you hear all this noise (makes chomping noises) and you turn on the light and it would all stop. (Laughter.) And you would see these little giant spiders around the wall, each with a sort of half-eaten bug in their mouth! (Laughter.) And say, “yes?” (Laughter.) And you turn the light out and (makes chomping noises).

    So this is our shelter, you know, we were having a great time. But one night, one night, we were all sort of—as I said—huddled under our tarpaulins, and I sort of got out, and wandered around, and suddenly, suddenly, I looked up and at a branch at about that high above my head (looks up and jumps to indicate height), this creature came out. This creature came out along the branch, looked down on me, and I looked at it, and as it looked to me—it obviously didn’t at all like to look at what it saw—it turned around and went away again. (Laughter.) Whole encounter about ten seconds. And that’s what we’ve come for.

    I had actually seen, we all saw—just managed to get a quick photograph of it when it appeared—but I suddenly realised we’ve seen an Aye-aye. Now, I was absolutely transfixed by that moment, for reasons that I couldn’t entirely explain to myself immediately. Because a month earlier I’ve never even heard of this animal and now here I was, staring at it, thinking that something extraordinary happening here. So I began to sort of think about it a little bit, and the thought I put together was this. In traveling here, in traveling on a 747 to Tananarive, which is the capital of Madagascar, and this terrible old jalopy of an airplane that took us out to the northwest corner, and then in the decreasingly excellent series of carts and trucks, and then in the rotting old hulk that took us to the rainforest where we basically walked through the rainforest night after night, it was as if we were taking a kind of time journey—a time travel journey—back through the history of twig technology. (Laughter.)

    And what this encounter had been, what this encounter had been was: I was a monkey looking at a lemur. And you suddenly think, there is a huge amount of history to this moment that we don’t think—we don’t realise—we carry around with us. Our roots in this planet go back an awfully awfully awfully long way, and we don’t tend to think about that very much. And it takes a confrontation like this to suddenly realise how sort of broad and deep your family goes. So I thought, well this is terribly interesting. And I talked to the guy who had been kind of my guide out there, who was a zoologist who had been sent along to make sure I didn’t sort of fall out of the trees and so on. And his name was Mark Carwardine, and I said to him, “I would love it if we could …, do you fancy the idea of sort of going around the world and looking for other rare and endangered species of animals, maybe doing a book about this?” He said, “well, that’s what I do for a living!” (Laughter.) “So yeah, OK.” (Laughter.)

    [edit]The Komodo Dragon Lizard
    And so we did. Now, there was a pause at that moment because I had a couple of novels I’ve just been contracted to write. So I wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and then it was time to go. (Laughter.)

    And the first place we went, we went to look for a particular animal which is the Komodo Dragon Lizard. Now you know what lizards are like, don’t you? I mean they’re sort of (makes mime with hands to suggest a size of about 12 inches). The Komodo Dragon Lizard is a little bit bigger than that. The biggest one we saw actually it was about 13 feet long, and its head came out to about here (makes mime with hands to suggest a height to about his hip), fucking huge I think is the technical term. (Laughter.) It’s thought to be the origin of the chinese dragon myth—because they are well huge, giant giant lizards, they’re scaly, they’re man eaters, literally they’re man eaters, and they don’t actually breathe fire, but they do have the worst breath of any creature known to man.

    And they live on this island called Komodo. Now, it’s not enough—it turns out—that this island has fifteen hundred, fifteen hundred man-eating dragons on it. (Laughter.) It turns our that actually that the most endangered animal on the island is anything other than the dragons. (Laughter.) In fact—as I said—they’re man eaters. They don’t actually eat you sort of straight out, they don’t sort of lunge at you and just gobble you up. They sort of sneak around and they come and give you a bit of a bite. Because their saliva is so virulent that your wound would not heal and after a while you will die. And so one of the dragons will get to eat you—it doesn’t matter if it’s the same one that bit you—they just have a strategy of having as many dead and dying creatures lying around the island (laughter) as they can manage and that kind of keeps them going.

    But it turns out it’s not enough that the island has fifteen hundred man-eating dragons on it. Just to make it a little bit more interesting, it also has more poisonous snakes on it—per square meter of land—than any equivalent area of land anywhere on earth. So, we approach Komodo—I have to say—slightly nervously, and in a slightly roundabout way. In fact we approached in such a roundabout way that went by Melbourne in Australia. (Laughter.) And the reason we went by Melbourne was somebody who we wanted to go and see there, a man called Dr. Struan Sutherland. Actually I want to read you a little bit about him, he was a great expert in snake venom.

    I should apologise before I read this, actually, for the fact that my australian accent isn’t very good. But then, what the hell, you’re all americans you ain’t know the difference anyway. (Laughter.)

    There is in Melbourne a man who probably knows more about poisonous snakes than anyone else on earth. His name is Dr. Struan Sutherland, and he has devoted his entire life to a study of venom.

    “And I’m bored at talking about it,” he said when we went along to see him the next morning laden with tape recorders and notebooks. “Can’t stand all these poisonous creatures, all these snakes and insects and fish and things. Wretched things, biting everybody. And then people expect me to tell them what to do about it. I’ll tell them what to do. Don’t get bitten in the first place. (Laughter.) That’s the answer. I’ve had enough of telling people all the time. Hydroponics, now that’s interesting. (Laughter.) Talk to you all you like about hydroponics. Fascinating stuff, growing plants artificially in water, very interesting technique. We’ll need to know all about it if we’re going to go to Mars and places. Where did you say you were going?”


    “Well don’t get bitten, that’s all I can say. (Laughter.) And don’t come running to me if you do because you won’t get here in time, (laughter) and anyway I’ve got enough on my plate. Look at this office, full of poisonous animals all over the place. See this tank, it’s full of fire ants. Venomous little creatures. What are we going to do about them? Anyway, I got some little fairy cakes in case you were hungry. Would you like some little cakes? I can’t remember where I put them. There’s some tea but it’s not very good. Anyway, sit down for heaven’s sake.

    “So, you’re going to Komodo. Well, I don’t know why you want to do that but I suppose you have your reasons. There are fifteen different types of snake on Komodo, and half of them are poisonous. The only potentially deadly ones are the Russell’s Viper, the Bamboo Viper and the Indian Cobra.

    “The Indian cobra is the fifteenth deadliest snake in the world, and all the other fourteen are here in Australia. (Laughter.) That’s why it’s so hard for me to find time to get on with my hydroponics, with all these snakes all over the place.

    “And spiders. The most poisonous spider is the Sydney funnel-web, we get about five hundred people a year bitten by spiders. A lot of them used to die, so I had to develop an antidote to stop people bothering me with it all the time. (Laughter.) Took us years. Then we developed this snake bite detector kit. Not that you need a kit to tell you when you’ve been bitten by a snake, (laughter) you usually know, but the kit is something that will detect what type you’ve been bitten by so you can treat it properly.

    “Would you like to see a kit? I’ve got a couple here in the venom fridge. Let’s have a look. Ah look, the cakes are in here too. (Laughter.) Quick, have one while they’re still fresh. Fairy cakes, I baked ’em myself”

    He handed round the snake venom detection kits and these home baked fairy cakes and retreated back to his desk, where he beamed at us cheerfully from behind his curly beard and bow tie. We admired the kits which were small efficient boxes neatly packed with tiny bottles, a pipette, a syringe, and a complicated set of instructions that I wouldn’t want to have to read for the first time in a panic. And then we asked him how many of the snakes he had been bitten by himself.

    “None of ’em,” he said. “Another area of expertise I’ve developed is that of getting other people to handle the dangerous animals. (Laughter.) Won’t do it myself. Don’t want to get bitten, do I? (Laughter.) You know what it says on my book jackets? ‘Hobbies: gardening, with gloves; (laughter) fishing, with boots; travelling, with care.’ That’s the answer. What else? Well in addition to the boots wear thick baggy trousers. And preferably have half a dozen people trampling along in front of you making as much noise as possible. (Laughter.) The snakes pick up the vibrations and get out of your way. Unless it’s a Death Adder, otherwise known as the Deaf Adder, (laughter) which just lies there. People can walk right past it and over it and nothing happens. I’ve heard of twelve people in a line walking over a Death Adder and the twelfth person accidentally trod on it and got bitten. Normally it’s quite safe to get twelve in line. You’re not eating your cakes. Come on, get them down you, there’s plenty more in the venom fridge.” (Laughter.)

    We asked, tentatively, if we could perhaps take a snake bite detector kit with us to Komodo.

    “Course you can, course you can. Take as many as you like. Won’t do you a blind bit of good because they’re only for Australian snakes.” (Laughter.)

    “So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly, then?” I asked.

    He blinked at me as if I were stupid. (Laughter.)

    “Well what do you think you do?” he said. “You die of course. That’s what deadly means.” (Laughter.)

    “But what about cutting open the wound and sucking out the poison?” I asked.

    “Rather you than me,” he said. (Laughter.) “I wouldn’t want a mouthful of poison. Shouldn’t do you any harm, though, snake toxins are of high molecular weight so they wont penetrate the blood vessels in the mouth the way that alcohol or some drugs do. And then the poison gets destroyed by the acids in your stomach. But it’s not necessarily going to do much good either. I mean, you’re not likely to be able to get much of the poison out, but you’re probably going to make the wound a lot worse trying. And in a place like Komodo it means you’d quickly have a seriously infected wound to contend with well as a leg full of poison. Septicaemia, gangrene, you name it, it’ll kill you.”

    “What about a tourniquet?” I asked.

    “Well, fine if you don’t mind having your leg cut off afterwards. You’d have to because if you cut off the blood supply to it completely it will just die. And if you can find anyone in that part of Indonesia who you’d trust to take your leg off then you’re a braver man than me. (Laughter.) No, I’ll tell you, the only thing you can do is apply a pressure bandage direct to the wound and wrap the whole leg up tightly, but not too tightly. Slow the blood flow but don’t cut it off or you’ll lose the leg. Hold your leg, or whatever bit you’ve been bitten in, lower than your heart and your head. Keep very, very still, breathe slowly and get to a doctor immediately. (Laughter.) If you’re on Komodo that means a couple of days, by which time you’ll be well dead. (Laughter.)

    “Now, the only answer, and I mean this quite seriously, is don’t get bitten. There’s no reason why you should. Any of the snakes there will get out of your way well before you even see them. You don’t really need to worry about the snakes if you’re careful. No, the things you really need to worry about are the marine creatures.”

    “What?” (Laughter.)

    “Scorpion fish, stonefish, sea snakes. Much more poisonous than anything on land. Get stung by a stonefish and the pain alone will kill you. People drown themselves just to stop the pain.” (Laughter.)

    “Where are all these things?”

    “Oh, just in the sea. Tons of them. I wouldn’t go near it if I were you. Full of poisonous animals. Hate them.” (Laughter.)

    “Is there anything you do like?”

    “Yes. Hydroponics.” (Laughter.)

    “No”, I said, “I mean are there any poisonous creatures you’re particularly fond of?”

    He looked out of the window for a moment.

    “There was,” he said, “but she left me.” (Laughter.) (Applause.)

    [edit]The Kakapo
    Anyway, in fact my favourite of all the animals we went to see, my favourite, was an animal called the Kakapo. And the Kakapo is a kind of parrot. It lives in New Zealand. It’s a flightless parrot, it has forgotten how to fly. Sadly, it has also forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly. (Laughter.) So a seriously worried Kakapo has been known to run up a tree and jump out of it. (Laughter.) Opinion divides as to what next happens: (laughter) some people said it has developed a kind of rudimentary parachuting ability, (laughter) other people says it flies a bit like a brick. (Laughter.)

    But the thing is—I might talk about a seriously worried Kakapo—the fact is you’re not likely to find a seriously worried Kakapo because Kakapos have not learned to worry. (Laughter.) It seems an extraordinary thing to say because worrying is something we’re all so terribly good at, and which comes so absolutely naturally to us, we think it must be as natural as breathing. But it turns out that worrying is simply an acquired habit like anything else. It’s something you’re genetically disposed to do or not to do. And the thing is that the Kakapo grew up in New Zealand which was, until man arrived, a country which had no predators. And it’s predators that, over a series of generations, will teach you to worry. (Laughter.) And if you don’t have predators then the need to worry will never occur to you.

    Now I said earlier, that New Zealand turns out to be just a load of gunk that came out from under the ocean. And this is why, when it emerged, it didn’t have any life on it at all—maybe a few dead fish. (Laughter.) So the only animals that inhabited New Zealand were the animals that could fly there, i.e. birds. There were are also a couple of species of bats which are mammals, but you get the point. So it was only birds that lived on New Zealand. And, in an absence of predators, there was nothing for them to worry about. Now it’s very very peculiar for us to try and understand this because we have never ever encountered an environment with no predators in it. Why not? Because we are predators and because, therefore, if we are in that environment it is a predated environment. For the europeans who originally arrived in New Zealand, … sorry, that was an extraordinary thing to say. Of course the Māoris before them and before then the Morioris, the Māoris ate the Morioris (laughter) and then the europeans came along. But before all of that happened—as I said—the island had no predators, and the birds basically lived a worry-free life.

    Now you can actually see another example of this if you go to Galápagos, there is a type of animal, there is a bird on the Galápagos Islands called the Blue-footed Booby. And the Blue-footed Booby is so called—I believe—for two reasons: one of which has to be with the colour of his feet, (laughter) and the other has to do with this piece of behaviour I’m about to describe. Because, apparently you can walk up to a Blue-footed Booby—it will be sitting there on the beach or on a branch—and you can walk up and you can sort of pick him up. (Laughter.) And what the Booby will be thinking is that once you finish with him you’ll put him back. (Laughter.) And if you haven’t lived through generation after generation of people trying to eat you, it’s very easy to come to that conclusion. (Laughter.)

    So the Kakapo, as I say, had grown up in an environment without predators. And because they were all birds, and because nature has a way—as I say—very opportunistic and life will flow into any niche where it’s possible to make a living, so—if I can be very naughty and anthropomorphise for a moment—it’s as if some of the birds figured out, “Well, this flying stuff is very very expensive. It takes a lot of energy, you have to eat a bit, fly a bit, eat a bit, fly a bit, because every time you eat something—you know—you weight down and it’s heavier to fly, so eat a bit, fly a bit—I mean—there are other ways of life available.” And so it’s as if some of the birds said, “Well, actually what we could do is we could settle in for a rather larger meal, and go for a waddle afterwards!” (Laughter.)

    And so gradually over many many generations a lot of the birds lost the ability to fly, they took up life on the ground. The Kiwi, the most famous bird—I guess—of New Zealand, and the Weka, and the old night parrot—as it was called—the Kakapo. Which is this sort of big, fat, soft, fluffy, lugubrious bird. (Laughter.) And because it has never learned to worry, when man arrived and brought with him his deadly menagerie of dogs, and cats, and stoats, and the most destructive of all animals–other than man—which is Rattus rattus, the ship’s rat. Suddenly, suddenly these birds were waddling for their lives. (Laughter.) Except in fact they didn’t know how to do that because they were confronted with an animal which was a predator, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know what the social form was, they just waited for the other animal to make the next move, and of course—as usually—a fairly swift and deadly one. (Laughter.)

    So, suddenly from there being a population of—we don’t know exactly of how many—probably not as many as a million, but hundreds of thousands of these birds, their population plunged at an incredible rate down into the low forties. Which is roughly where it is at the moment. And, so there are groups of people who dedicated their entire lives to try to save these animals, trying to conserve them. And one of the problems they’ve come across is that it’s all very well just to protect them—from predators—which is very very very hard to do. But the next problem they come across is the mating habits of the Kakapo. Because it turns out that the mating habits of the Kakapo are incredibly long drawn-out, fantastically complicated, and almost entirely ineffective. (Laughter.)

    Some people would tell you that the mating call of the male Kakapo actively repels the female Kakapo, (laughter) which is the sort of behaviour you would otherwise only find really in discotheques. The people who’ve heard the mating call of the male Kakapo will tell you, you can hardly even hear it, it’s like a sort of … I’ll tell you what they do. This animal every—for about a hundred nights of the year—it goes through its mating ritual.

    And what it does is it finds some great rocky outcrop looking out over the great rolling valleys of New Zealand, because acoustics are very important for what it’s about to happen. (Laughter.) It carves out this kind of bowl that it sits in. And it sits there, and it puffs out this great sort of air-sacks around his chest. And it sits there—and these are reverberation chambers, this is a kind of reverberation chamber—and it sits there and for night after night after night for a hundred nights of the year, for eight hours of the night, it performs the opening bars of The Dark Side of the Moon.1 (Laughter.) Now, I see some grey hairs here so you’ll know the album I’m referring to. (Laughter.) Which as you remember starts with this great sort of boom, boom, boom, it’s a heartbeat sound. And this is the noise, that the Kakapo makes. But it’s so, it’s so deep, that you more kind of feel it like a wobble in the pit of your stomach. You can only just sort of tune your hearing in to it. Now I never managed to get to hear it, but those who do say they feel it’s a very eerie sound because you don’t really hear it, you more kind of feel it.

    And, it’s bass sound. It’s very very deep bass sound, just below our level of our hearing. Now it turns out that bass sound has two important characteristics to it. One of which is that these great long waves, these great long sound waves travel great distances, and they fill these great valleys of the south island of New Zealand. And that’s good. That’s good. But there is another characteristic of bass sounds, which you may be familiar with, if you’ve got this kind of—you know—the kind of stereo speakers you can get. Where you have two tiny little ones that give you your treble sound, and you have to put them very carefully in the room, because they’re going to define the stereo image. And then you have what’s known as a subwoofer which is the bass box, and that’s going to produce just the bass sound and you can put that anywhere in the room you like. You can put it behind the sofa if you like, because the other characteristic of bass sound—and remember we’re talking about the mating call of the male Kakapo—is that you can’t tell where it’s coming from! (Laughter.)

    So just imagine if you will, this male Kakapo sitting up here, making all this booming noise which, if there’s a female out there—which there probably isn’t—and if she likes the sound of this booming—which she probably doesn’t—then she can’t find the person who’s making it! (Laughter.) But supposing she does, supposing she’s out there—but she probably isn’t—she likes the sound of this booming—she probably doesn’t—supposing that she can find him—which she probably can’t—she will then only consent to mate if the Podocarpus tree is in fruit! (Laughter.)

    Now we’ve all had relationships like that … (Laughter.) (Applause.)

    But supposing they get through all those obstacles, supposing she manages to find him, she will then lay one egg every two or three years which will promptly get eaten by a stoat or rat. (Laughter.) And you think, well so far—before trying to sort of save them and conserve them—how on earth has it managed to survive for this long!

    And the answer is terribly interesting, which is this: it seems like absurd behaviour to us, but it’s only because its environment has changed in one particular and dramatic way that is completely invisible to us. And its behaviour is perfectly attuned to the environment it developed in, and completely out of tune with the environment it now finds itself in. Because in an environment when nothing is trying to predate you, you don’t want to reproduce too fast. And it turns out you can actually sort of graph this in a computer. That if you take a given reproduction rate, and you take the ability of any given environment to sustain any particular level of population. And you start say with a fairly low reproduction rate, and you just plot it over several generations and you find that the population goes up and up and up and then sort of steadies out and achieves a nice plateau. Tweak the reproduction rate up a bit, and it goes up a little bit higher, and then maybe settles down, and levels out. Tweak the reproduction rate a little bit higher yet, and it goes up, and it goes too high, and it drops down, it goes too low, goes up, too high, and settles into an oscillating sine wave. Tweak it a bit more, and it starts to oscillate between four different values. Tweak it more and more and more and you suddenly hit this terribly fashionable condition called chaos. (Laughter.) Where the population of the animal just swings wildly from one year to another, and will just hit zero at one point just out of the sheer mathematics of the situation. And once you’ve hit zero, there is kind of no coming back. (Laughter.)

    And so, because because nature tends to be very parsimonious and is not going to expend energy and resources on something for which there is no return. So the reproduction rate of an animal in an environment with no predators will tune itself to an appropriate level of reproduction. Now, if there is nothing trying to eat you—particularly—then that reproduction rate will be very low. And that is the rate at which the Kakapo used to reproduce, and continues to reproduce despite the fact that it’s being predated, because it doesn’t know any better. Because nothing has managed to teach it anything different along the way, because the change that occurred happened so suddenly, that there is no kind of slope, there is no slope of gradual evolutionary pressure, which is the thing that tends to bring about change. If you have a sudden dramatic change then there is no direction to go and you just have disaster.

    So, again if I can anthropomorphise for a moment, what seems to have happened is that the animal suddenly reaching a crisis in his population thinks, “Whoa, whoa! I better just do, do, what I do fantastically well, do what is my main thing, which is I reproduce really really slowly!” (Laughter.) And its population goes down. “Well, I’d better really do what I do, and reproduce really really really really slowly!” And it seems absurd to us because we can see a larger picture than they can. But if that is the type of behaviour that you’ve evolved successfully to produce, then to do anything else would be against kakapo-nature, would be an inkakapo thing to do. And it has nothing to teach it any other than to just do what it’s always done, to follow its successful strategy, and because times have changed around it, it’s no longer a successful strategy, and the animal is in terrible trouble.

    [edit]The Yangtze River Dolphin
    There is another animal we went to find, it is in even worse trouble now. And this is the Baiji, the Yangtze River Dolphin, which is an almost blind river dolphin. The reason it’s almost blind, is that there is nothing to see in the Yangtze River. (Laughter.)

    Thousands and thousands of years of agriculture along the banks of the Yangtze River have washed so much mud and silt and so on into it, that the river has become completely turbid. Which is a word I didn’t even know the meaning of until I saw the Yangtze River, and basically you can’t see anything in it. So these animals, dolphins as I said, gradually they abandoned the use of sight. Now—as we all know—marine mammals also have this other faculty available to them, which they can develop, which is that of sound. And so what the Yangtze River Dolphins did was over thousands of years, as their eye sight deteriorated, so their sonar abilities became more and more and more sophisticated, and more powerful and more complex.

    And it’s very interesting, you can actually watch—if you feel like it—the development of a Baiji foetus, and you’ll see that right at—as you may or may not know—there is a certain amount of truth in the idea that the development of the foetus recapitulates stages in the evolutionary development of an animal. And you see, right at the beginning of the development of the foetus, its eyes are in the normal dolphin position, which are kind of relatively far down on the side of the head. And gradually, as the generations have gone by, its eyes have kind of migrated up the side of the head, and you see this happening as the foetus develops. Because gradually, over the generations, its only light is coming directly from up above and there is no ambient light and then, as that too dies out, so the eyes gradually atrophied. And, instead, the sonar abilities take over. And these animals developed incredibly sensitive, and incredibly precise abilities to navigate themselves around in the water just using sonar. And all is well and good.

    Until the twentieth century when man invents the diesel engine. And suddenly all hell breaks loose beneath the surface of the Yangtze, because it’s suddenly full of noise. And so, suddenly these animals find themselves trapped by something that they—that nobody had any means of foreseeing—that the thing they now rely on has been completely overwhelmed by the noise pollution that we put in the oceans. So suddenly these animals that used to be so sophisticated in their ability to find their way around, are sort of bumping into things, bumping into boats, bumping into ships’ propellers, finding themselves ensnared in fishermen’s nets and so on, because we basically screwed up the next of their faculties. And it’s a very curious feeling, I remember sort of sitting on a boat on the Yangtze River and looking, well trying to look into—you couldn’t look into cause it’s turbid and you remember what turbid means—and realising that all this noise down there means that … It’s very curious to think that there may have been a dolphin somewhere near me—I didn’t know, I mean by this stage, this was ten years ago, there were only two hundred left in a structure of water of about two hundred miles long, so you had no idea if there was one anywhere near you—but it’s curious because you think if you and another person, another creature, are kind of in the same world, then you must be feeling roughly similar. But one of the things you begin to realise when you look at different animals is that because of their evolutionary history, and because of the forms they have developed into, and the ways they have developed of perceiving the world, they may be inhabiting the same world but actually a completely different universe. But actually a completely different universe because you create your only own universe from what you do with the sensory data coming in. So, you realise that you’re here, and there is a dolphin there, and you’re comfortable, and the dolphin may be actually in a species of hell. But has no means of communicating that with you because we’ve kind of taken charge, and there is no way of kind of communicating with the management, there’s a problem. (Laughter.)

    So, I suddenly became very interested in what it must actually sound like in the Yangtze River. Now, we’ve gone to record some BBC Radio programmes while we are there, so as well as Mark Carwardine the zoologist, we also had a sound recordist from the BBC. So I said to him, “Could we actually drop a microphone into the Yangtze so that we can see what it actually sounds like in the river?” And he said, “Well you should have said that before we left London.” (Laughter.) And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Well, cause I just could have checked out a waterproof microphone but, you know, you didn’t mention anything about recording under water.” And I said, “No, I didn’t. Is there anything we could do about it?” And he said, “Well there is, there is actually one technique they teach us at the BBC for recording under water in an emergency. (Laughter.) Do either of you have condoms with you?”

    And we didn’t. Wasn’t that kind of trip. (Laughter.) But we decided we’d better go and buy some. And so we went into the streets of Shanghai trying to buy some condoms, and I just want to read you a little passage about this. (Laughter.)

    The Friendship Store seemed like a promising place to buy condoms, (laughter) but we had a certain amount of difficulty in getting the idea across. We passed from one counter to another in the large open-plan department store, which consists of many different individual booths, stalls and counters, but no one was able to help us.

    We first started at the stalls which looked as if they sold medical supplies, but had no luck. By the time we had got to the stalls which sold bookends and chopsticks we knew we were on to a loser, but at least we found a young shop assistant who spoke English.

    We tried to explain to her what it was we wanted, (laughter) but seemed to reach the limit of her vocabulary pretty quickly. So, I got out my notebook and drew a condom very carefully, (laughter) including the little extra balloon on the end.

    She frowned at it, but still didn’t get the idea. She brought us a wooden spoon, (laughter) a candle, a sort of paper knife and, surprisingly enough, a small porcelain model of the Eiffel Tower (laughter) and then at last lapsed into a posture of defeat.

    Some other girls from the stall gathered round to help, but they were also defeated by our picture. At last I plucked up the bravado to perform a delicate little mime, (laughter) and at last the penny dropped. (Laughter.)

    “Ah!” the first girl said, suddenly wreathed in smiles. “Ah yes!”

    They all beamed delightedly at us as they got the idea.

    “You do understand?” l asked.

    “Yes! Yes, I understand.”

    “Do you have any?”

    “No,” she said. “Not have.”


    “But, but, but …”


    “I say you where you go, OK?”

    “Thank you, thank you very much. Yes.”

    “You go 616 Nanjing Road. OK. They have there. You ask ‘rubberover’. OK?”


    “Rubberover. You ask. They have. OK. Have nice day.” (Laughter.)

    She giggled happily about this with her hand over her mouth.

    We thanked them again, profusely, and left with much waving and smiling. The news seemed to have spread very quickly around the store, (laughter) and everybody waved at us. (Laughter.) They seemed terribly pleased to have been asked.

    When we reached 616 Nanjing Road, which turned out to be another, smaller department store, and not a knocking shop as we had been half-suspecting, our pronunciation of ‘rubberover’ seemed to let us down and produce another wave of baffled incomprehension.

    This time I went straight for the mime that had served us so well before, ((laughter) and it seemed to do the trick at once. The shop assistant, a slightly more middle-aged lady with severe hair, marched straight to a cabinet of drawers, brought us back a packet and placed it triumphantly on the counter in front of us.

    Success, we thought, opened the packet and found it to contain a bubble sheet of pills.

    “Right idea,” said Mark, with a sigh. “Wrong method.” (Laughter.)

    We were quickly floundering again as we tried to explain to the now slightly affronted lady that it wasn’t precisely what we were after. By this time a crowd of about fifteen onlookers had gathered round us, some of whom, I was convinced, had followed us all the way from the Friendship Store. (Laughter.) One of the things that you quickly discover in China, is that we are all at the zoo. If you stand still for a moment, people will gather round and stare at you. (Laughter.) The unnerving thing is that they don’t stare intently or inquisitively, they just stand there, often right in front of you, and watch you as blankly as if you were a dog food commercial. (Laughter.)

    At last one young and pasty-faced man with glasses pushed through the crowd and said he spoke a little English and could he help?

    We thanked him and said, yes, we wanted to buy some condoms, some rubberovers, and we would be very grateful if he could explain that for us.

    He looked puzzled, picked up the rejected packet lying on the counter in front of the affronted shop assistant and said, “Not want rubberover. This better.” (Laughter.)

    “No,” Mark said. “We definitely want rubberover, not pills.”

    “Why want rubberover? Pill better.” (Laughter.)

    “You tell him,” said Mark. (Laughter.)

    “It’s to record dolphins,” I said. (Laughter.) “Or not the actual dolphins in fact. What we want to record is the noise in the Yangtze that … it’s to go over the microphone, you see, and …”

    “Oh, just tell him you want to fuck someone,” said the sound recordist. (Laughter.) “And you can’t wait.” (Laughter.)

    But by now the young man was edging nervously away from us, suddenly realising that we were dangerously insane, (laughter) and should simply be humoured and escaped from. He said something hurriedly to the shop assistant and backed away into the crowd.

    The shop assistant shrugged, scooped up the pills, opened another drawer and pulled out a packet of condoms.

    We bought nine, just to be safe. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

    So a couple of days later we were standing on the banks of the Yangtze, on a very [desperate?] drizzly grey day. And we put the microphone in this little sort of pink thing, (laughter) and dropped it into the water. And, I don’t usually do impressions but I’m going to do for you an impression of what it sounds like under the surface of the Yangtze River. And it’s something like this “pfffffffffff”. The Yangtze River ladies and gentleman. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

    And, I suddenly realized what an appalling thing we’ve inflicted on these poor animals, that live in a world of super sensitive sound and hearing. And this was why these animals were now desperately endangered because having removed one way of life from them we were now removing a second. The problem is we’re about to remove a third, I said that when I was there it was ten years ago, there were two hundred of these left, today there are twenty. And because the Chinese are building these giant dams to dam the Yangtze at one of the most beautiful and most spectacular sites in all world, the Three Gorges, and they’re damming it there which means that the Yangtze Dolphin will at that point definitely go extinct.2

    And it’s terribly sad. The peculiar thing about dams is that we keep on building them and none of them ever do any good. It’s not quite true, because unfortunately there are—in the history of dam-making—two that did work, one is the Hoover and the other is the one up in the pacific northwest, the Coulee Dam. And every other one doesn’t work. And for some reason we never manage to be able to quite stop us … we always think we just build one more. I think must have some sort of beaver genes deep in our … (Laughter.) But the sad thing as I say is that the Yangtze River dolphin is definitely and without doubt bound for extinction.

    [edit]The Human
    And, it’s very peculiar to me that we are living at the moment in an extraordinary age, an extraordinary renaissance, because we’ve got to the point when we suddenly understand the value of information, as we never have before. We call the age we live in that of information. And we’ve discovered that information is the most valuable resource we have. And as you’d know we’ve just spent billions of dollars—quite rightly—in trying to understand the human genome, and that’s just one species, that’s just us. And we’ve come to understand and realize how incredibly valuable this information is.

    And we’ve never understood kind of how it all worked together before, because before we had … let me put it this way. In the past we’ve done science by taking things apart to see how they work. And it’s led to extraordinary discoveries, extraordinary degrees of understanding, but the problem with taking things apart to see how they work is even though it gets you down to the sort of fundamental particles, the fundamental principles, the fundamental forces at work, we still don’t really understand how they work until we see them in motion.

    One of the things that came about as a result of our understanding of these fundamental principles, is that we came to invent this thing called the computer. And the great thing about the computer is that, unlike every previous analytical tool—and there are a bit … it’s funny how many of these have to do with glass, when we first came across glass, which is a form of sand, and we invented lenses, and we looked up into the sky, and by studying the sky we began to discover fundamental things about gravity, and we also discovered that the universe seems to consist—terrifyingly enough—almost entirely of nothing. The next thing we did with glass was we put them in microscopes, and we looked down into this very very very solid world around us, and we see the fundamental particles there, the atoms—made up of protons and neutrons with electrons spinning around them—and we also discover that they seem to consist frighteningly almost entirely of nothing. And that even when you do find something it turns out that it isn’t actually there, it isn’t actually a thing there, merely the possibility that there may be something there. (Laughing.) It kind of doesn’t feel as real as this (hits podium with his hand). (Laughing.)

    So the next thing we do with sand was silicon, as we create the computer. And this finally enables us to start putting things together to see how they work. And it allows us to see actual processes at work, and we begin to see how very very simple things lead inexorably—by iteration after iteration—to enormously complex processes emerging and blossoming. And to my mind one of the most extraordinary things of our age—I mean those of us who were around will remember, you know, seeing man walking on the moon for the first time—but I think the most dramatic and extraordinary thing that we have seen in our time is being able to see, on computer screens, the process by which enormously simple primitive things, processes, instructions, repeated many many times over, very very fast, and iterated over generations of instructions, produce enormously complex results. So that we can suddenly start to create, just out of fundamentally simple primitive instructions, we can create the way in which wind behaves in a wind tunnel, a turbulence of wind, we can see how light might dance in an imaginary dinosaur’s eye. And we do it all out of fundamentally simple instructions. And as a result of that we have finally come to an understanding of the way in which life has actually emerged. Now, there are an awful lot of things we don’t know about life. But any life scientist will tell you that, although there is an awful lot we don’t know, there is no longer a deep mystery. There is no longer a deep mystery because we have actually seen with our own eyes the way in which simplicity gives rise to complexity.

    When I say there is no mystery it is rather as if you imagine taking a detective from the 19th century, teaming him up with a detective from the late 20th century, and giving them this problem to work on: that a suspect in a crime was seen one day to be walking down the street in the middle of London, and the next day was seen somewhere out in the desert in the middle of New Mexico. Now the 19th century detective will say, “Well, I haven’t the faintest idea. I mean it must be some species of magic has happened.” And he would have no idea about how to begin to solve what has happened here. For the 20th century detective, now he may never know whether the guy went on British Airways or United or American or where he hired his car from, or all that kind of stuff, he may never find those details, but there wont be any fundamental mystery about what has happened.

    So for us there is no longer a fundamental mystery about life. It is all the process of extraordinary eruptions of information. And is information that gives us this fantastically rich complex world in which we live. But at the same time that we’ve discovered that, we are destroying it at a rate that has no precedent in history, unless you go back to the point that we’re hit by an asteroid.

    So there is a kind of terrible irony that at the point that we are best able to understand, and appreciate, and value the richness of life around us, we are destroying it at a higher rate that it has even been destroyed before. And we are losing species after species after species, day after day, just because we’re burning the stuff down for firewood. And this is a kind of terrible indictment of our understanding. But, you see, we make another mistake, because we think somehow, this is all right in some fundamental kind of way, because we think that this is all sort of “meant to happen.”

    Now let me explain how we get into that kind of mindset, because it’s exactly the same kind of mindset that the Kakapo gets trapped in. Because, what has been a very successful strategy for the Kakapo over generation after generation for thousands and thousands of years, suddenly is the wrong strategy, and he has no means of knowing because he is just doing what has been successful up till then. And we have always been, because we’re toolmakers, because we take from our environment the stuff that we need to do what we want to do and it’s always been very successful for us …

    I’ll tell you what’s happened. It’s as if we’ve actually kind of put the sort of “pause” button on our own process of evolution, because we have put a buffer around us, which consists of—you know—medicine and education and buildings, and all these kinds of things that protect us from the normal environmental pressures. And, it’s our ability to make tools that enables us to do this. Now, generally speaking, what drives speciation, is that a small group of animals gets separated out from the main body by population pressure, some geographical upheaval or whatever. So imagine, a small bunch suddenly finds itself stranded in a slightly colder environment. Then you know, over a small number of generations that those genes that favour a thicker coat will come to the fore and you come back a few generations later, and the animal’s got a thicker coat. Man, because we are able to make tools, we arrive in a new environment where it’s much colder, and we don’t have to wait for that process. Because we see an animal that’s already got a thicker coat and we say we’ll have it off him. (Laughter.) And so we’ve kind of taken control of our environment, and that’s all very well, but we need to be able to sort of rise above that process. We have to rise above that vision and see a higher vision—and understand the effect we’re actually having.

    Now imagine—if you will—an early man, and let’s just sort of see how this mindset comes about. He’s standing, surveying his world at the end of the day. And he looks at it and thinks, “This is a very wonderful world that I find myself in. This is pretty good. I mean, look, here I am, behind me is the mountains, and the mountains are great because there are caves in the mountains where I can shelter, either from the weather or from bears that occasionally come and try to attack me. And I can shelter there, so that’s great. And in front of me there is the forest, and the forest is full of nuts and berries and trees, and they feed me, and they’re delicious and they sort of keep me going. And here’s a stream going through which has got fish running through it, and the water is delicious, and I drink the water, and everything’s fantastic.

    “And there’s my cousin Ug. And Ug has caught a mammoth! Yay!! (claps). Ug has caught a mammoth! Mammoths are terrific! There’s nothing greater than a mammoth, because a mammoth, basically you can wrap yourself in the fur from the mammoth, you can eat the meat of the mammoth, and you can use the bones of the mammoth, to catch other mammoths! (Laughter.)

    “Now this world is a fantastically good world for me.” And, part of how we come to take command of our world, to take command of our environment, to make these tools that are actually able to do this, is we ask ourselves questions about it the whole time. So this man starts to ask himself questions. “This world,” he says, “well, who … so, so who made it?” Now, of course he thinks that, because he makes things himself, so he’s looking for someone who will have made this world. He says, “So, who would have made this world? Well, it must be something a little bit like me. Obviously much much bigger, (laughing) and necessarily invisible, (laughter) but he would have made it. Now, why did he make it?”

    Now, we always ask ourselves “why” because we look for intention around us, because we always do something with intention. You know, we boil an egg in order to eat it. So, we look at the rocks and we look at the trees, and we wonder what intention is here, even though it doesn’t have intention. So we think, what did this person who made this world intend it for. And this is the point where you think, “Well, it fits me very well. (Laughter.) You know, the caves and the forests, and the stream, and the mammoths. He must have made it for me! I mean, there’s no other conclusion you can come to.”

    And it’s rather like a puddle waking up one morning—I know they don’t normally do this, but allow me, I’m a science fiction writer. (Laughter.) A puddle wakes up one morning and thinks, “This is a very interesting world I find myself in. It fits me very neatly. In fact, it fits me so neatly, I mean, really precise, isn’t it? (Laughter.) It must have been made to have me in it!” And the sun rises, and he’s continuing to narrate the story about this hole being made to have him in it. And the sun rises, and gradually the puddle is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking, and by the time the puddle ceases to exist, it’s still thinking, it’s still trapped in this idea, that the hole was there for it. And if we think that the world is here for us, we will continue to destroy it in the way that we’ve been destroying it, because we think we can do no harm.

    There’s an awful lot of speculation one way or another at the moment, about whether there’s life on other planets or not. Carl Sagan, as you know, was very keen on the idea that there must be. The sheer numbers dictate, because there are billions and billions and billions (laughter)—as he famously did not say, in fact—of worlds out there, so the chance must be that there’s other intelligent life out there. There are other voices at the moment you’ll hear saying, well actually if you look at the set of circumstances here on Earth, they are so extraordinarily specific that the chances of there being something like this out there, are actually pretty remote. Now, in a way it doesn’t matter. Because think of this—I mean Carl Sagan, I think, himself, said this. There are two possibilities: either there is life out there on other planets, or there is no life out there on other planets. They are both utterly extraordinary ideas! (Laughter.) But, there is a strong possibility that there isn’t anything out there remotely like this. And we are behaving as if this planet, this extraordinary, utterly, utterly extraordinary little ball of life, is something we can just screw about with any way we like.

    And maybe we can’t. Maybe we should be looking after it just a little bit better. Not for the world’s sake—we talk rather grandly about “saving the world.” We don’t have to save the world–the world’s fine! The world has been through five periods of mass extinction. Sixty-five million years ago when, as it seems, a comet hit the Earth at the same time that there were vast volcanic eruptions in India, which saw off the dinosaurs, and something like 90% of the life on the planet at the time. Go back another, I think is 150 million years earlier than that, to the Permian-Triassic boundary, another giant, giant, giant extinction. The world has been through it many many times before. And what tends to happen, what happens invariably after each mass extinction, is that there’s a huge amount of space available, for new forms of life suddenly to emerge and flourish into. Just as the extinction of the dinosaurs made way for us. Without that extinction, we would not be here.

    So, the world is fine. We don’t have to save the world—the world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about, is whether or not the world we live in, will be capable of sustaining us in it. That’s what we need to think about. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #26 - December 12, 2013, 02:46 PM

    A poem about a life ruled by religious patriarchy, written by a nun named Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz some time in the 1600s.

    Arraignment of the Men

     Males perverse, schooled to condemn
         Women by your witless laws,
         Though forsooth you are prime cause
     Of that which you blame in them:

    If with unexampled care
         You solicit their disdain,
         Will your fair words ease their pain,
     When you ruthless set the snare?

    Their resistance you impugn,
         Then maintain with gravity
         That it was mere levity
     Made you dare to importune.

        .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

    What more elevating sight
         Than of man with logic crass,
         Who with hot breath fogs the glass,
     Then laments it is not bright!

    Scorn and favor, favor, scorn,
         What you will, result the same,
         Treat you ill, and earn your blame,
     Love you well, be left forlorn.

    Scant regard will she possess
         Who with caution wends her way,—
        Is held thankless for her “nay,”
    And as wanton for her “yes.”

        .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

    What must be the rare caprice
         Of the quarry you engage:
         If she flees, she wakes your rage,
     If she yields, her charms surcease.

        .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

    Who shall bear the heavier blame,
         When remorse the twain enthralls,
         She, who for the asking, falls,
     He who, asking, brings to shame?

    Whose the guilt, where to begin,
         Though both yield to passion's sway,
         She who weakly sins for pay,
     He who, strong, yet pays for Sin?

    Then why stare ye, if we prove
         That the guilt lies at your gate?
         Either love those you create,
     Or create those you can love.

    To solicitation truce,—
        Then, sire, with some show of right
         You may mock the hapless plight
     Or the creatures of your use!

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #27 - December 14, 2013, 01:03 PM

    look at love
    how it tangles
    with the one fallen in love

    look at spirit
    how it fuses with earth
    giving it new life

    why are you so busy
    with this or that or good or bad
    pay attention to how things blend

    why talk about all
    the known and the unknown
    see how the unknown merges into the known

    why think seperately
    of this life and the next
    when one is born from the last

    look at your heart and tongue
    one feels but deaf and dumb
    the other speaks in words and signs

    look at water and fire
    earth and wind
    enemies and friends all at once

    the wolf and the lamb
    the lion and the deer
    far away yet together

    look at the unity of this
    spring and winter
    manifested in the equinox

    you too must mingle my friends
    since the earth and the sky
    are mingled just for you and me

    be like sugarcane
    sweet yet silent
    don't get mixed up with bitter words

    my beloved grows
    right out of my own heart
    how much more union can there be

    come on sweetheart
    let's adore one another
    before there is no more
    of you and me

    a mirror tells the truth
    look at your grim face
    brighten up and cast away
    your bitter smile

    a generous friend
    gives life for a friend
    let's rise above this
    animalistic behavior
    and be kind to one another

    spite darkens friendships
    why not cast away
    malice from our heart

    once you think of me
    dead and gone
    you will make up with me
    you will miss me
    you may even adore me

    why be a worshiper of the dead
    think of me as a goner
    come and make up now

    since you will come
    and throw kisses
    at my tombstone later
    why not give them to me now
    this is me
    that same person

    i may talk too much
    but my heart is silence
    what else can i do
    i am condemned to live this life


    i've come again
    like a new year
    to crash the gate
    of this old prison

    i've come again
    to break the teeth and claws
    of this man-eating
    monster we call life

    i've come again
    to puncture the
    glory of the cosmos
    who mercilessly
    destroys humans

    i am the falcon
    hunting down the birds
    of black omen
    before their flights

    i gave my word
    at the outset to
    give my life
    with no qualms
    i pray to the Lord
    to break my back
    before i break my word

    how do you dare to
    let someone like me
    intoxicated with love
    enter your house

    you must know better
    if i enter
    i'll break all this and
    destroy all that

    if the sheriff arrives
    i'll throw the wine
    in his face
    if your gatekeeper
    pulls my hand
    i'll break his arm

    if the heavens don't go round
    to my heart's desire
    i'll crush its wheels and
    pull out its roots

    you have set up
    a colorful table
    calling it life and
    asked me to your feast
    but punish me if
    i enjoy myself

    what tyranny is this


    you mustn't be afraid of death
    you're a deathless soul
    you can't be kept in a dark grave
    you're filled with God's glow

    be happy with your beloved
    you can't find any better
    the world will shimmer
    because of the diamond you hold

    when your heart is immersed
    in this blissful love
    you can easily endure
    any bitter face around

    in the absence of malice
    there is nothing but
    happiness and good times
    don't dwell in sorrow my friend

    Translated by Nader Khalili "Rumi, Fountain of Fire"
    Cal-Earth Press, 1994

    "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." -Coleridge
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #28 - December 14, 2013, 03:31 PM


    Don't let Hitler have the street.
  • Thought provoking works of life and morality.
     Reply #29 - January 31, 2014, 08:52 AM

    "Do not stand at my grave and weep" is a consoling elegy with a mysterious genesis, as it was written by Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004), a Baltimore housewife who lacked a formal education, having been orphaned at age three. She had never written poetry before. Frye wrote the poem on a ripped-off piece of a brown grocery bag, in a burst of compassion for a Jewish girl who had fled the Holocaust only to receive news that her mother had died in Germany. The girl was weeping inconsolably because she couldn't visit her mother's grave to share her tears of love and bereavement. When the poem was named Britain's most popular poem in a 1996 Bookworm poll, with more than 30,000 call-in votes despite not being one of the critics' nominations, an unlettered orphan girl had seemingly surpassed all England's many cultured and degreed ivory towerists in the public's estimation. Although the poem's origin was disputed for some time (it had been attributed to Native American and other sources), Frye's authorship was confirmed in 1998 after investigative research by Abigail Van Buren, the newspaper columnist better known as "Dear Abby." The poem has also been called "I Am" due to its rather biblical repetitions of the phrase.

    Do not stand at my grave and weep:
     I am not there; I do not sleep.
     I am a thousand winds that blow,
     I am the diamond glints on snow,
     I am the sun on ripened grain,
     I am the gentle autumn rain.
     When you awaken in the morning’s hush
     I am the swift uplifting rush
     Of quiet birds in circling flight.
     I am the soft starshine at night.
     Do not stand at my grave and cry:
     I am not there; I did not die.

    `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
     `Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad.  You're mad.'
     `How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
     `You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
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