Category Archives: On Earth As It Is In…2011-2012

A Nightly Utopia (How to Lucid Dream)

I scribbled everything that I could remember about my dream on the back of a telephone bill, the nearest scrap of paper I could find.  I wanted very much to return to that murky world, but how?

The question bothered me for some time. I eventually realized that as soon as I entered a lucid dream—that is, as soon as my sleeping self could recognize that I was sleeping—I could control the content of what I saw, and then transport myself back to Utopia. That’s what I nicknamed the place  (in the sense of “Nowhere” rather than “An Ideal World”).

I began to keep a daily journal about everything that I could remember from my previous nights’ dreams. This helped me to exercise my subconscious mind and render it more and more autonomous. I would force myself to fall asleep by counting to an absurdly high number, concentrating only on the sequence of sheep (unoriginal, I know) and forcing the chorus of the dead day’s memories to be silent. I wanted to master the ability to continue to count even in a dream, so that I could transition smoothly between Utopia and the wakeful world without losing control of my reasoning and memory. I chose a special number—10,000—that I was intent on reaching. I would invariably lose control of my conscious will before getting to that number. But when I could get there consistently, and recognize that I’d gotten there though already asleep, I began to have control over the content of my dreams almost every night. My old trick of trying to write something down and then seeing if it remained constant on the page was also a useful tool.

I’d like to say that the narrative resumed right away—that I immediately conjured up the other three horsemen and the woman and the lamb and propelled the story forward. But my sleeping will was more powerful than any urge to continue a plot, and I wasted a lot of time doing idle things like flying. I spent a lot of time flying those first few days—taking great leaps into nowhere and floating into the blackness surrounding me. I would stupidly think to myself “Remember how to do this when you’re awake!” Other shadows were flying around me too, and some better than I. But it hardly mattered, because I was having so much fun.

One night, as I reached 10,000 and prepared to leap into one bottomless pit after another, I caught sight of one of the sheep I’d just counted bleating mournfully on a rocky outcropping. I approached him hesitantly, wondering if he’d bite. He said:

The Red King, the Black King, and the Pale King are hosting a Tournament of Fire. The prize is the hand of the Whore of Babylon. Men and women from all the Seven Cities are all gathering. Will you compete, stranger?

“You’d better wear a cloak and shield your face—or else people will scream when they see a roasted lamb walking around, half carved up and scarred by fire.”

No sooner had I said this, then a cloak was draped around him, hiding his body, so that he might have been a short man rather than a monster. I noticed that I was also wearing a cloak. It was turquoise lined with a rim of fire. I complimented myself that I was better dressed.

You see me as a scalded lamb? Doctor Kimel, I presume?

July 10, 2011

Next Entry August 7, 2011 (I apologize for the delay.)


The Author Reveals Himself (Many Characters from One Consciousness)

I took a deep breath and prepared to continue my speech—a moment in a dream might be a month in reality. But before I could begin, the red horseman preemptively interrupted me and said,

“What do you suppose those flashes of light are, Doctor Kimel, shining out there in the void? You’ll notice that some twinkle, and others just glow dimly.”

“Are they stars or planets?”

“Stars and planets are non-fictional objects,” laughed the red horseman. “They don’t exist in this place. Not anymore. No, those lights are Sentinels—every one a living soul at one time or another, scattered in time and space. The Sentinels that glow dimly represent people who have viewed us in the past. The ones that shine brightly symbolize active views—people watching us at this very moment. So long as they sparkle, someone is observing us, and thinking about what we do and say here.”

He turned to the pale horseman, and asked, “Brother, how many lights have illuminated this place since the beginning of time?”

The pale horseman said, “818, and to be honest, they rarely shine brightly.”

The red horseman sniggered, “That is a pathetic number. I can show you places in this universe where lewd acts are performed for cash that boast millions upon millions of more lights on them.  Why do you suppose this place is so dark and murky? Why do you think our words are so muffled, and don’t echo? This site is in the middle of nowhere, and no one cares what you do or say here. Even if you justified God’s existence, even if you explained the nature of human history, even if you described utopia itself, no one would give a damn. If anything, those who disagreed with you would resent you for the effort. But you needn’t worry about that, because you don’t even have an audience to misunderstand you. Essentially, you’re talking to yourself.”

This was a depressing prospect. I began to grow uneasy. In my sleep, my body might have turned on its side—I sensed that the world was beginning to de-materialize, and my consciousness was being recalled to another reality.

The black horseman galloped forward. “Concentrate, Doctor Kimel, for God’s sake.”

“Why should he?” laughed the red horseman. “Vanitas vanitatum, Brother! I’ll see this place destroyed before I’ll let this beast from the planet of talking monkeys throw a second stone at me!”

Alright, alright, this is getting too abstract. I’ll agree to intervene for entertainment’s sake, and to speed this plot along. Doctor Kimel, go ahead and justify belief in the existence of God. Then, I’m afraid that you’ll have to throw a stone at the red horseman, killing him. Then the black horseman will throw a stone at the pale horseman in self-righteous revenge for his earlier injury. The pale horseman will then justifiably throw a second stone at the black horseman, killing him. Then, Doctor Kimel, as the white horseman, you will have the duty of throwing a second stone at the pale horseman in punishment for what he just did to the black. And so, you will emerge unscathed with your three rivals dead.

The other three horsemen hurled themselves to the ground. Their steeds reared up in terror. Every observer fell prostrate, sobbing. Some screamed in terror—others in confusion.

I said, “Whose voice is this?”

This is David Vincent Kimel, the Author.

“But I’m David Vincent Kimel,” I said, “and by the sound of things, I must be in a dream.”

The screaming crowd began to scramble in all directions. The other three horsemen leapt on their steeds and scattered. The charred lamb skull, exposed by the dissipating crowd, approached me and said, “Don’t you understand?  We’re all David Vincent Kimel here. We are all phantoms in a single imagination.”

In my hands, the third seal on the scroll broke.

And then I woke up, and saw no shadow of falling back asleep.

***

July 3, 2011

Next Entry July 10, 2011


God, the Meaning of Life, & the Fate of World Civilization (Prelude)

“God is love,” taught Christ, but “God is dead,” wrote Nietzsche. If so, Nietzsche is now in good company.

Is there good reason for a rational, cosmopolitan voice to admit to being a theist in the 21st century? Stephen Hawking, a man unimaginably more intelligent than I, recently attributed belief in God to people “afraid of the dark.” A candle is snuffed out, and dies. But we hear an insistent voice whispering: “Only when the night is over. Only when the morning breaks.”

Since before the evolution of language itself, our ancestors have looked up at the sky and grunted plaintively about what was hidden there. The greatest prophets and poets and philosophers in history have added their voices to the indecisive chorus. How can I hope to contribute to such a dialogue, which seems to be increasingly one-sided as atheism and globalization become entangled in a kind of latter day Gordian Knot, and “religiousness” is taken by many as an emblem of willful ignorance? What does Kimel know, that Aquinas didn’t?

Well, Aquinas didn’t know that humans could reach the moon through their ingenuity alone. He didn’t anticipate that we could unleash the power of the atom to destroy whole cities during wartime. He didn’t even know that the Earth revolved around the Sun. In fact, he didn’t have access to the most basic truths that babbling schoolchildren are now taught by rote memorization. A great deal was, literally, beyond his imagination.

As civilizations have evolved by dancing to the tune of the mastery of their citizens over the natural sciences, the ideas and arguments at play for these kinds of discussions have grown in number over time in direct proportion to the accumulation of knowledge in the din, though the naturally conservative nature of religion has sometimes prevented modernizing tendencies in theology. Yet now, we have more building blocks at play than ever before with which to construct our perspectives, so that today, one can hunt for God armed with a set of metaphors unprecedented in the history of the human imagination.

And so a humble voice, like mine, can fumble to speak, even if I’m no Plato or Aquinas or Kierkegaard. They didn’t even know that evolution was a law of nature, let alone imagine a world in which computers could communicate with each other in cyber-space.

In time, I will consider the arguments against God. But now, hear the arguments for Her/Him/They  (anything would be preferable to “It,” an impersonal pronoun more fit to describe a throne than the one who sits on it.) Begin with a position of doubt—that there might be a God, or there might not be a God. Yes, proceed from this point, and then hear my four reflections.

***

May 29, 2011

Next Entry Postponed to July 3, 2011


The White Horseman’s Retort (On Agnosticism)

White Horseman 

You’ve made some bold claims.

Red Horseman

You’re out to make bolder ones.

White Horseman

Before I begin, we need a logical starting point—some common ground. So, let me propose that we agree to this tenet: agnosticism rather than theism or atheism should be a logical person’s point of departure when it comes to this issue.

 Red Horseman 

Why do you say that?

White Horseman 

We can never know for sure whether God exists or doesn’t exist. To take sides on the issue means taking a leap of faith, one way or the other. But to admit that one is doubtful, this is an honest answer, and a more logical starting point than an assertion of atheism. So, let’s agree to begin with an agnostic perspective.

Red Horseman 

You won’t escape my net so easily. What if I defined atheism by beginning with an agnostic perspective, but then leaning toward God’s non-existence on the basis of the evidence at hand?

White Horseman

You’d be right to do define it that way!  On the basis of the evidence, you can evaluate the issue for yourself—is there good reason to think God exists? You should err on the side that seems most persuasive, or remain puzzled. But keep in mind, you’ve implicitly agreed to my starting point—an objective reader would have to admit agnosticism as the most rational point of departure for this discussion.

All of this assumes, of course, that God’s nature can be discussed rationally by beings as humble as we are. Could an ant write a poem, or read a book, or understand the concept of honor? I think, though, there’s good reason to think humans can discuss the nature of God—at the point that we’ve evolved the secret of symbolic communication, nothing lies beyond the imagination.

Red Horseman 

That’s a debate for another day. I presented three arguments to you about why I lean toward atheism, and wasn’t so verbose about it either.

(1) Omnipotence is a logical impossibility.

(2) Omni-benevolence cannot explain the cruelty of the world.

(3) Monotheism seems impossible, insofar as cultural relativism exists.

White Horseman 

Those are three strong arguments. We’ll get to them—I promise you. For tonight, though, let’s agree to an agnostic starting point. Next, I’ll give you the evidence for God’s existence. We can weigh it against your counter-evidence, and then our audience can decide for themselves in what direction a leap of faith seems justified, or whether it’s better to remain agnostic.

Red Horseman 

Good luck. No one seriously believes that anything you say will be any different from what people have been saying for thousands of years. You’ll never convince me, or anyone else.

White Horseman

We’ll see.

May 15, 2011

Next entry postponed to May 29, 2011.


The Red Horseman’s Complaint (On Atheism)

Before I could say another word, the pale horseman barked at the red: “You’re no one to set conditions. If only I had my turn back again, there’s no question of what I’d do. I’d throw a stone at you myself and finish you off—as it was, I wasn’t sure enough about your guilt to execute you. But now you say that God is dead, which proves that everything you swore about believing in the Sacred Law was a lie. You began this game for no reason when you cast a rock at this innocent girl.”

***

Black Horseman

It’s a bit late for that realization! Why should I have suffered because I was persuaded by the white horseman’s reasoning from the start?

Pale Horseman

You have to forgive me for stoning you—every move is painful in this game. I loved the red horseman too much to kill him, though now I see what a hypocrite he is.

Red Horseman

You’ve misunderstood me entirely.

I acted completely righteously in this game. I followed the Sacred Law to the letter. Now, I’m about to be killed because my enemies are conspiring against me.  According to the white horseman here, logic is to be our guide rather than dogma. Well, if this is the result, then I curse God, and say that it’s preposterous to believe in Him.

In the first place, God can’t be omnipotent. Could He create a rock He couldn’t lift? Could He make pi a rational number?

In the second place, God can’t be benevolent. This universe is too evil for words. Why should the agony of this world be experienced by anyone? Why should the innocent suffer?

Finally, God’s nature can’t be singular. Everyone worships God in different ways, and people go to war self-righteously and die like martyrs for opposite beliefs. We’ve no way of determining what’s true or false, since the questions that matter come down to faith and intuition. There are no absolute values. Religion serves social ends–it’s all a great lie.

I always assumed that God couldn’t be described logically—that the limits of human language itself put constraints on our ability to find words for Him. The Law was the Law–I didn’t dare to question it. But if logic is to rule the day, then I’ll die an atheist. The world is probably as it seems. It’s a random, Godless place, and no one will prove otherwise, because sad though it is, you all know that I’m right. Now, let the white horseman stone me, and let him accept the consequences. I couldn’t care less.

May 8, 2011

Next entry May 15, 2011


The Red Horseman’s Plea (On Suicide)

The crowd began to disperse in all directions, and almost immediately, the lamb was lost in the throng. But as if nothing else mattered but the game of stones, the red horseman turned toward the woman and hissed,

“The white horseman thinks he’s being clever by championing your rights, but consider this. If you survive this game, I know for a fact that you’re fated to experience one of the most excruciating roles in the history of world history. Avoid this undeserved fate, and end the game for yourself now. Were you in love? Then you’ve been abandoned by your lover, and have learned that the world is a cruel place. Were you raped? Then why should you be cursed by the role of mother, or live with bitter memories that can’t be erased? Why would you choose to live in a world in which no one would love you, and your own mother would turn you out? Your era is random, and vicious, and awful, and there’ll be no end to your worries if you survive.”

The pale horseman immediately broke forward and said,

“Now that he’s spoken as he did, there’s no doubt in my mind that you must kill the red horseman. In this terrible game, you can at least self-righteously defend yourself with confidence. Consider this; if you let this villain survive, there is every indication that he’d kill you on the next turn. Even if you would end your own life, to allow him to survive to kill another woman like you would be wrong if you believe yourself an innocent victim. And besides, it would be criminal to kill the black horseman who defended you, or to throw a stone against me, who did nothing to harm you explicitly.”

“Disgusting sophistry, “ said the red horseman to the pale. “Even if the girl doesn’t kill herself, stoning you, the pale faced horseman, would be a better choice than touching me. At least then she wouldn’t be committing a murder, and the pain in this game would be evenly distributed among several participants. That’s rational too, isn’t it?”

The pale horseman turned to me,

“You wouldn’t let this woman touch me, would you, when I just spared you a rock in the face? Clearly the red horseman must be stopped, now, before he sheds more innocent blood.”

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said, “But I can’t quite get over the anthropomorphic lamb skull who just talked to me. Am I dreaming?”

“Well, how would you know you’re in a dream, if you’re in a dream?”

I’d forgotten the usual answers to the question—that writing doesn’t remain constant on a page in a dream, and that it’s difficult to turn electric lights on and off. But nothing was on hand to inspire the thought, I suppose. Instead, I said,

“You’re right. I can’t be sure of anything but my own existence…”

“Listen to me,” said the pale horseman. “Never mind philosophy for the moment. All that matters is, you must kill the red horseman. It’s the only just move if you believe the girl is an innocent victim. You wouldn’t let this child hurt herself, or me, would you?”

“You did throw a stone at the black horseman who defended her against the red horseman.”

“That’s between me and the black horseman.”

“Well, ultimately, it’s out of my hands. I gave my vote to this woman, here, and am bound by her decision.”

“You’re a fine actor,” said the pale faced horseman. “But remember this—should you throw a rock at me on this turn, in this woman’s name or otherwise, I will never forget the injury, and as far as I’d be concerned, death would be too good for you. Should you spare me, on the other hand, I will never forget your perfect justice. Act righteously, and carefully.”

***

The Child

What should I do? The Roman Lucretia stabbed herself to preserve her honor after the king’s son raped her. Even if she were innocent, she didn’t want to live as an example for unchaste women to cite when they didn’t end their lives after they were caught red-handed…

White Horseman

But weren’t the nuns who chose not to kill themselves after rape by the invading barbarians even better examples than Lucretia? This whole idea of women as damaged property in the aftermath of rape is too cruel for words, and is a reflection of sexist and old fashioned mindsets. If you were raped, you’d be innocent of adultery. And even if this child were conceived in passion out of wedlock, would even the wickedest judge insist that its mother deserved to be stoned before it was even delivered? The red horseman is a very dangerous man and must be stopped. In your heart, you know this is true, even though your decision is excruciating.

The Child

I’m afraid of killing him! I’d rather stone the pale faced horseman, who hurt my champion the black, and avoid killing anyone.

White Horseman

But then you’ll be signing my death warrant. Consider that the red faced horseman will kill his black faced counterpart on the next turn. The pale faced horseman will then stone me in self-righteous revenge for this throw. Then, I’ll be forced to retaliate against the pale, killing him, leaving the red horseman with the final move, to kill me, and then you, and others like you too. There’s only one thing to do—the fact that self-defense is righteous in a game like this makes your choice all the clearer. Do you know it yet?

The Child

To stone myself?

White Horseman

I’m afraid not…

***

The red faced horseman licked his lips.

“Well, well,” he said. “I can see the way the wind is blowing. But let me say this to you, now. You’re overturning this woman’s will and warping her mind with your strange logic. I won’t let you escape responsibility for what you’re about to do. Is this my reward for being a righteous player?” He clenched his fists. “Today’s events have convinced me that God is dead. Atheism is most rational. Convince me otherwise, and I won’t begrudge you my death in this game. Otherwise, let it be on your head, Doctor Kimel.”

“Now there’s a challenge,” I said, stepping forward.

May 1, 2011

Next Entry May 8, 2011


The White Horseman’s Move (The Right Decision)

White Horseman

Tonight on this Easter Sunday, I will be succinct. I give my vote to the poor, defenseless, pregnant woman here who had a rock thrown in her face and is being threatened with death for the “crime” of being raped. Madam, I will stone whom you tell me to stone. At this moment, I am ashamed of this world. It’s too evil for words.

***

Red Horseman

That’s cheating!

Black Horseman

No it’s not. Even if the woman doesn’t technically receive a stone by the terms of this ancient game, the White Horseman can still simply ask her advice and do her will. It’s unprecedented.

Anthropomorphic Lamb Skull

Doctor Kimel, I presume!

***

Now, a roar erupted from the crowd. The severed head of a black lamb, all that remained of their feast, had actually come back to life and begun to talk.

In my hands, the second seal on the scroll broke.

April 24, 2011

Next Chapter May 1, 2011