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Re-Emergence

Five years ago I was prolific.
In the multiple moves I've done since then, amidst the stress and chaos of life for the past few years, my output and vociferousness has fallen somewhat. My attention span isn't what it used to be, my hands hurt after a few hours of typing (thanks to all the fractures), and while I'm loathe to admit it, the mental alacrity of youth has abandoned me somewhat. I've exchanged it with greater depth of thought, a more pragmatic approach to problems, but I miss the mad lurchings of my youthful ideas.

So I'm doing what anyone in my situation would do. Republishing my old work, sprucing it up, and letting it reinvigorate me. Its not nostalgia, my least favorite emotion, but a kind of vampiric time travel. I'm stealing my own ideas.

March 17, 2005
"So what do you believe? I mean, do you believe in God?"

He scratched the stubble on his chin. After a moment, he kneeled into the sand and drew two circles above an arc.

"What do you see here?"

"It's a smiley face."

"No. It's just two circles and a semicircle. It's a random pattern, or one I constructed and holds some alternate meaning. But I assure you, It's not a smiley face."

His friend stared at the pictograph for a hard second.

"It looks like a smiley face."

"Sure. And to most every functioning human on the planet, it's a smiley face. But that's because we're all hard-wired pretty much the same way, we'll interpret this random collection of squiggles as a smiley face."

"But its not random. Like, there's a pattern."

"To us there's a pattern. To an alien it's just some bizarre kanji thing."

"I'm really not seeing how this has anything to do with the God thing."

"Think about it. We're looking at the world, taking it in, and most of us see smiley faces everywhere. It's what we're wired to do. WE look for patterns, we put a human face on things. You look at the universe, the stars, and you group them like they're intended to be. But the stars don't care what we want, they don't tell us anything, they're just there. Everything else is in our own heads."

"But sometimes the smiley face--excuse me, can we drop this 'smiley face' thing?"

"Be my guest."

"But sometimes there really IS a pattern, isn't there? Things that seem random really aren't. Hidden connections."

"Oh boy."

"What?"

"'Hidden Connections'. You're starting to sound like one of the paranormal people. You're gonna be talking to me about Uri Gellar in a second."

"They have a point, don't they? Isn't it a bit presumptuous to assume that just because we can't see exactly what the connections are that there aren't any connections?"

"Well, that's why you have to test. If you do it right, a connection will appear or it won't. But you have to be really strict, or else you're fucked."

"Even then, if the interaction's complex enough, there could be way too many things to test and we'd never be able to sort them. And what's this got to do with God, anyhow?"

"I'm saying that just because the universe looks like some great grandaddy farted it into existence doesn't mean they really did. It could just be a bunch of circles in the sand."

"What about faith?"

"It amazing to me that what people call faith these days really means a stopgap to keep the Other things out of their lives. They think that putting a cross or whatever on their door will keep the bad things out of their lives. That's not faith. That's institutionalized denial."

"That's really harsh."

"Harsh world. I read in some hippy magazine lately that the purpose of religion is to make us confront the other, to make us learn to accept it's presence."

"Okay, I'm devil's advocate and I know that's bullshit."

"Well, it's all well and fine for the mystics. I've always had a soft spot for the mystics; at least they were interested in the bigger questions. More 'hmmm' and less 'grrr'."

"Okay, but what about ethics? The most recent ones, they all seem to agree that being nice to other people is better in the long run than being a prick."

"A safe bet. Altruism is all about reciprocity. But to borrow your phrase, I'm not sure what that has to do with God."

"Okay, then. Let's look at people. Don't you think people, on some level, need to believe that there is something bigger than them out there that will judge them, keep them on the straight and narrow?"

"Sure. And look how well that works. I'm sure every petty thief and thug learned that the only consequences their actions had were imposed by other people, not all powerful entities. And that has a dangerous colliery: if people are suffering, they must have done something wrong."

"So what's the option then, genius? You've gotta give them something that they can hang their hopes on."

"Fuck 'em. Let them wallow in despair."

"Hey, altruism?"

"Okay, fair enough. I don't know what to do about that. But I have the feeling that the God you're thinking of won't have any part in it."

"I got that feeling too."

And with that, the seraphim spread their wings and slid into the air.

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