Quick, quick, slow.

21 March, 2013

I have a confession.

I’ve taken too much of your time already and there’s no way to give it back. I can only explain and ask for, not forgiveness, but understanding.

I have been a practicing chronomancer for about five weeks now, or to put it another way, for several centuries. Stealing time from someone always seemed unethical, but the laws of large numbers convinced me that there was nothing wrong with slicing away a second or two from someone. They’d never notice, and with enough seconds then I would be able to do so much more with my life. Read more books. Walk more streets. Dance more dances. Kiss more lips. Experience more of everything. Or hell, just catch up on some TV.

It’s so simple to do these days, there’s no excuse not to do it. In the dim and hazy past, chronomancers slaved for minutes, sometimes months, over hourglasses filled with liquid time.

Now there’s an app for it.

I’d brought my phone on holiday. I needed more time. And there you were…

Dancers are easy targets. Obsessed with timing, with the beat. Stepping in rhythm, feeling the flow and ebb, and if you dance with the right person, and start to drain time at just the right moment… then you can live forever.

We danced in the rain, syncopated drops splashing on our faces. Summer rain, giving way to the fall. You turned, and as you looked away my finger tapped a button, and a second was transferred from you to me. Just one second shared between us forever. Tiny. Miniscule.

Our minute second.

But I made a mistake. I hadn’t reset the phone for the continental time zone. Instead of one second, an hour of concentrated time flowed out over the dance floor. Days spilled into the Spree. So much wasted time. I tried to stop it, to reverse what I had inadvertently done. I could see the time of your life around me. Nothing worked. Time ran out of my hands.

And now here we are.

Time flows fast for you. It’s stopped for me. But one of these years, in a couple of days, maybe we’ll meet again. Just in time.

Soloist

21 March, 2013

The piano was bound tightly to the boat, ropes straining as the small craft beached onto the island. Burly locals unleashed the unused wooden instrument and began the long march into the hills. Hours of sweat and grind brought the piano to the natural amphitheater, a desolate caldera where she waited. People from across the island had come to hear her play, and so she did, long into the night. The moon was high as the last of her audience left for the lights and warmth of the village. But she had not brought the piano here for them. The air was calm, the stars bright and her fingers danced – lost in music – until the glow of dawn brought her exhausted back to the earth.

Cats

21 March, 2013

She hated cats. They were a curse in the castle, tripping her up, making her sneeze, leaving dead rats in her bed. Her only response to the misery they made of her life was to be increasingly cruel to them. She would hit them with brooms, throw them over walls and set the hounds on them. The castle was known to be haunted, and she would tease her brother with ghost stories while waving the head of a cat she had put on a stick. One day she slipped on the stairs and died. Her viciousness kept her soul in the castle, her ghost doomed to walk the halls for eternity.

But she was not alone – all the cats she had ever killed were there too. Their spirits, nine ghostly lives for every cat she had known in life. Ready to torment her forever.

Expectations

21 March, 2013

That first dance, that first night, that moment we clicked. I can still remember the rise and fall of emotions, the pulse of excitement and trepidation. I would move and you would follow effortlessly for we danced the same language. There was no fear of being misunderstood, each motion I made was in response to you, in response to me, in response to you. Deeper and deeper, what we were doing could not be done alone. I could never dance like this without you. You could not dance like this without me. We created something new which in that time, that place, was perfect.

Nervous smiles, a slight unbelieving air. Were we really that good? What just happened? Let’s not jinx this, just dance again. And again. The tempo changed, the mood changed and we changed with it. No longer just ourselves, we were subservient to this thing we had created and could not stop. The dance was all, the dance filled us with joy and inspiration and that memory of why we do this at all. Sheer pleasure. Flow. Bliss. Grins that we couldn’t put away.

But reality was waiting. Lurking in the background, waiting as it always does.

For once that night was over we knew we would meet again and would want to dance that perfect dance once more. That dance which emerged from the unexpected pleasure of connection that we felt. But now that connection was expected, we could see in plain sight that we could be amazing.

And if we could be amazing, then we should be amazing.

And then if we weren’t amazing it meant the magic was gone, and how can a ‘perfectly fine’ second experience compare to what we had? We will try too hard. It will feel forced. Maybe we shouldn’t bother. Maybe we should leave perfection alone.

Of course we danced again. The high of that first experience was too good. I needed that fix and I saw in your eyes that same desire. The crowded floor called to us. The music flowed over us. I took you in my arms and we danced.

It wasn’t the same.

Life Lessons

21 March, 2013

Since storylane is shutting down I thought I’d repost my stories from there. Nothing to do with myths or science, but still…

“It’s not really me though, is it?” I asked Google.

“No, but then you are not really you either. At least, you are not who you were a moment ago, so does it matter that this 13 year old is a construct I created? I based him not only on your memories and the growth structures of your brain’s neural network, but on all those people who had interacted with you up until your 13th birthday.”

He didn’t look like me. When I was 13 digital cameras were rare so I had not been saturated with the idea of what I looked like. I remember one photo and to me, that was what I looked like. Google had found a lot more images to reconstruct me (and probably used some sort of processing on my current looks) so while I am sure it was a more accurate depiction of my younger self it didn’t resonate.

The holoroom we were in was not that big, only a few meters across. Younger me was reading comics and didn’t seem aware of my presence. Robotic dinosaurs were engrossing in a way that an old man from the future clearly wasn’t.

“He wont react until you talk to him.” Google always seemed to know what I was thinking.

“I don’t even know what to say. It’s not real, this won’t change anything. I mean if you had a time machine and I went back to tell myself some life lessons then maybe this would be worth something…”

Google paused for a second before replying.

“We don’t have a time machine. It got stolen by a singing…actually that doesn’t matter. Let’s just say time travel is impossible and leave it at that.”

I can never tell when Google is trying to be funny.

“I know that, I just don’t think I have anything to say. Nothing that makes a difference.”

“That’s OK. It’s just a meme you were tagged with. I can switch off the hologram and you don’t have to record your questions. The socials will understand. Look a new meme is coming in for you already.”

That was good. I couldn’t answer this question – maybe I should work on what life lessons I should tell my 13 year old grandchildren rather than myself. But then what would I know about today that would be useful to them? I still used Google, and hlogged for a hobby. What a relic. 13 year old me shimmered out of existence as the holoroom reset to its defaults.

“OK Google, what’s the next one…”

“It is just this – Tell Any Story.”

That I could do. A story about anything. Anything at all…..hmmmm….

Maybe I’ll just tell a story about robot dinosaurs.

Tantalos

25 August, 2011

His wife could not bear to see him go. She stayed behind in the palace while Tantalos sailed along the river towards the sea. He had been called by the gods – instructed by Zeus himself to come to Mount Olympus and become a cup bearer. The role of cup bearer to the gods was such an honour that not even the ruler of a kingdom could refuse, and so Tantalos bid farewell to his three children and his beloved wife. She had tried to stop him. “This is madness, you are a grown man and a king. How could the gods desire you for this work, surely Zeus longs for a fair maid or a comely lad to do his bidding.”

But Tantalos was a pious man, and when the gods called, he responded. He had tried to placate his wife, “The gods are just and wise. They know what is best and so I must go to them.” This had earned him scorn from his beloved – “The gods are fickle and cruel and you will know this soon enough, begone, I am done with arguing. All I can do now is to weep for you.” So she wept salt tears and as she did the river flowed into the ocean taking Tantalos’ boat into the domain of Poseidon. The god of the oceans lifted the little boat and bore it to Mount Olympus where Tantalos was ushered in to meet the King of the gods. Trembling before the throne of Zeus, Tantalos humbly offered his services as cup bearer.

“And who exactly are you?” asked Zeus.

“I am Tantalos, King of Lydia who you desired to serve you.”

“Oh no, ” cried mighty Zeus, “I didn’t mean you, I meant that handsome youth who I spied a few weeks ago. What would I do with a man like you? Well, waste not, want not. Begone to the kitchens and let us never set eyes upon you again.”

And so Tantalos was taken from the table of the gods and set to work in the kitchens – cutting, peeling, soaking, boiling, roasting, carving, slicing. This once mighty king was reduced to servants labour and only his piety kept him sane. He repeated to himself over and over, “The gods are just and wise. They know what is best.” But being on Mount Olympus allowed Tantalos to see the actions of the gods and what he saw appalled him. The Olympians were no moral bastions, but cruel and wicked tyrants. Their moments of kindness were interspersed with terrible rage and petty revenge. The scales were gone from his eyes and Tantalos vowed to return home.

Moreover he had discovered the secret of the gods power. The nectar and ambrosia of the gods was really all that kept them apart from mortal men. But what if everyone could have access to these gifts, what if everyone could live forever like a god? Tantalos thought of his wife and children. They deserved better than old age and death and so one night when the gods were revelling, Tantalos sneaked out of Olympus. He carried with him more than enough ambrosia for all of Lydia. Alas for Tantalos, although it was dark, Panoptes the hundred eyed giant saw him attempt to flee. The giant quickly scooped up the fleeing king and brought him before the gods.

There was outrage at Tantalos’ crime. Stealing the secrets of immortality could not be dealt with lightly. Zeus pronounced his sentence – Tantalos would be taken to Hades and tortured for all eternity. But then nimble Hermes spoke up.

“Fellow gods, what Tantalos has done is surely the worst of crimes. If mortal man becomes like a god, then we become like mortal man! What status would we have if we did not deny mankind the riches of the world? Nothing that they planned would be too difficult for them. No, this is the worst of crimes and the punishment will be severe.”

Zeus replied, “I am already punishing him for all eternity, what more do you propose?”

Hermes smiled. “I think it will serve to punish his descendants. For his daughter Niobe I will make her fertile and grant her many children. Then we shall kill the children before her very eyes and afterwards turn her to stone. His son Broteas we will drive mad before burning him to death. As for Pelops… Ah, that shall be the best. Since Tantalos worked in our kitchen we will bring Pelops there and cook him for a feast.”

Zeus frowned. “I do not intend to eat a human. I would sooner eat a horse.”

Hermes chuckled, “Oh I have no intention of eating the child, we will just throw the parts to the birds. But then we shall spread the tale of how it was Tantalos himself who cooked his own son, and that is why we are punishing him.”

Tantalos was pale. “Please, punish me as you will but spare my children, I beg you.”

Hermes simply smiled. “I think I will enjoy telling the story of Tantalos and his son. And I think I will start by telling your poor sweet wife…Perhaps I will bring her something to eat while she mourns her son…”

The gods are just and wise. They know what is best.

Son of God

31 January, 2010

yahwehnameOne of the claims that is very explicit in the New Testament is that Jesus is the Son of God. Moreover he is God himself. Apologists have noted that this idea would be utterly unthinkable in the Jewish context of Jesus’ life. No Jew could hear this without thinking it blasphemy, and so those that turned to this new idea would have to have been convinced by something extraordinary. The only thing that could be so extraordinary would be that Jesus was in fact God. Others took a different view. Rationalists of the 19th century all the way through to characters in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code have posited that Jesus himself was just a normal human, preaching a message of love and tolerance (and happily ignoring the end-times apocalyptic quotes of Jesus). They think that the son of God idea came from the neighbouring Hellenistic cultures. After all, gods, demi-gods,  cult heroes, saviours born of virgins and so on were common place in the Greek world. As Christianity expanded it is natural that the new converts would start to include their own pre-held beliefs in their liturgy and rituals and eventually their theologies as well.

But it wasn’t just the Greeks who had the idea of Sons of Gods. The Jews themselves were once polytheistic and even by the time of the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) they had not entirely come round to pure monotheism. Just as future Christians would read back into the early churches their own brand of Christianity, so too did the Rabbinic Judaism formed in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem read its own monotheism right back to the beginning of their history. They were certainly correct that a form of monotheism had been the mainstay (or at minimum a very powerful force) of Judaism since at least the Exile in the sixth century BCE. The Deuteronomists give us vivid descriptions of the overturning of the pagan rituals that were performed in Judah just prior to the Exile. Sacred groves to Asherah, the wife of Yahweh were burned and statues removed from the Temple. Although portrayed as removing foreign influences it is clear that these were natives beliefs that were being challenged and changed. Despite the reformers best efforts the belief in multiple deities continued. The high god, El-Elyon and his son Yahweh, were separate beings for many Jews.

In addition to snippets of old belief the remain in the Old Testament we also have evidence of what other groups of Jews believed around the time of the emergence of Christianity. The writings discovered at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) reveal a more complicated picture of Judaism than some imagined. The writings of the Alexandrian Jew Philo show a theology that is perfectly content with a second God: the Logos – the son of the All Mighty. Jewish Gnostic writings are replete with descriptions of the angels, the sons of the God Most High. The argument that no Jew would ever tolerate the idea of someone being the son of God is manifestly false.

An interesting aspect of the title ‘Son of God’ within the Old Testament is that it can refer to different kinds of beings. The word translated to God was sometimes El (the High God) and sometimes Yahweh (God of Israel). The phrase Son of El was always used to describe heavenly beings, recognised as either Gods or Angels. Whenever the phrase is Son of Yahweh it refers to human beings (or sometimes the population of Israel). Most often this is done in the case of the King, he is made the son of Yahweh in a ceremony, the words of which are also used on Jesus when he is baptised. Does this imply Jesus was seen as the new King? Not at all. In each case where he is referred to as the Son of God he is the Son of El Elyon. Jesus was no mere mortal, he was an angelic being, a divine god. And which god? Over and over he is called Lord, the same translation into the greek that is used for Yahweh himself. Jesus was Yahweh. His very name means Yahweh Saves (or Yahweh is Salvation) and he is referring to himself. There was no need for centuries to pass and for legends and more impressive credentials to accrue to Jesus, it was there from the start. The stories of Jesus are the stories of Yahweh, returned to the world and ready to end it, all in preparation for a new world that never came.

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