A disruptive take on (un)-branding

An opening “Heads up!”

This article is intended to do something that is usually best avoided, at least in the context of an article.

Some students of culture describe semiotic frames that define a society’s possibles et pensables: they shape what is seen as possible and what is even thinkable within a society. And it is usually preferable to handle communication so that you aren’t asking people to overhaul their mental frameworks: if you can think far enough outside the box that you find possibles et pensables the sort of thing that can be easily brought into question, that’s a wonderful thing to be able to do, but it is usually best kept under wraps, and usually best kept in a back pocket.

This piece is designed to delve into deeper work and not be as quickly digested as other fare. It’s harder to process than an article intended to persuade you between two options that we both already understand well enough. I tried to think about how to make my point while dodging working on what is seen as possible and what is even thinkable, and I don’t see how to eliminate that work from my point. I want to revise what is seen as possible and what is thinkable about branding today.

Where did branding come from anyway?

To the best of my knowledge, and to only present the beginning and end of a story, branding was once what happened when cattle owners would use a hot iron symbol to brand an identifying mark on cattle they owned, to be able to claim whose cattle they were if there were any question. There is a fairly close equivalent to this in the modern business world, but the equivalent isn’t really “how a company communicates itself and its offering to the outside world.” It’s really much more the unsexy practice of attaching metal tags to valuable company equipment that say, “This is property of XYZ corporation, serial number 12345.” And while there may be good reasons for engaging in this part of due diligence, it is hardly that interesting or deep.

Not so with real branding in today’s business world, not by any stretch. As I have prepared and thought about the question, I’m not sure I can think of an equally significant concept that I have met. To pick two examples from my own field in information technology, Agile development and open source software may be significant concepts, but I do not see the same niches and layers. There is some theory about open source software as such, and people may complain that a company that releases software under an open source license but “drops patches [external contributions] on the floor” isn’t really walking the walk, but in my experience the theory that most open source software developers are interested are the computer science and software engineering issues concerning their tools and pet projects, and you simply don’t have subspecialized high value consultants on the theory and ideology of open source. But branding is in fact a very big concept, and you do have high-value consultants actively engaged for their expertise in some specialization or subspecialization somewhere under the “branding” umbrella.

And with this significance comes something else, maybe something less attractive: however useful or prominent it may be, it is far from a worldwide universal, and I am not aware of any Great Teachers who have thought in terms of branding. Not only that, but Socrates might very well have lived to a ripe old age, instead of being condemned to death, if he had lived a brand that would have been socially acceptable to the citizens of his city. (The entire story of his gadfly’s teaching and life is an example of how to avoid branding yourself if you want to succeed and live.) Discussion of branding may be anachronous if applied to Socrates, but the principle justifies such an intrusion.

Two seismic shifts, one after another

In the popular Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that a shift had taken place in wisdom literature: that is, what people have written about how to succeed as a person; one definition offered for such wisdom is, “skill for living.” Whenever the text was written, the author had apparently read a great deal of wisdom literature over time and made a cardinally important distinction between a character ethic and a personality ethic. Up until about World War II, the basic framing assumption in wisdom literature in the U.S. is that success is success arising from character. One needs to be diligent, and humble, and merciful to others, and so on. In short, we need virtuous living to get ahead. These virtues may include practices: Ben Franklin’s “A penny saved is a penny earned” is an exhortation to the virtue of thrift. But success is acquired through growing as a person, by growing in virtue.

The subsequent sub-par personality ethic was much more superficial; it offered tips and tricks to get ahead, while avoiding anything calling for real internal transformation. And while there are definitely mere practices that we could do better (I could smile more), most of my problems aren’t on the level of personality, but where I need to do more inner work. The shift Covey documents is a seismic shift, and it is difficult to overstate its significance. Something like the character ethic and the personality ethic exist at least to some extent side-by-side in information technology: there are people who have been educated in computer science and software engineering, and who maintain a lifelong curiosity towards those areas as well as working their way through fads and individual tools, and there are educational programs that just teach buzzwords and individual tools with only incidental coverage of deeper issues in theory. A manager who has dealt with both kinds of programmers will know the difference well.

I would posit, or rather point out, that there has been a second shift after a shift from a character ethic to a personality ethic: a shift from a personality ethic to a (personal) brand ethic. There are books I’ve read that offer an induction into a brand ethic in ways that someone who’s not already an insider will understand: but I don’t remember anything I’ve read treating as a live question whether we need a brand ethic or a personality ethic, or whether we need a brand ethic or a character ethic. Personality has a place: it has a place because a personal brand on Twitter that incorporates some amount of what feels like personality is a stronger brand than one that is one-dimensional. The place for personality is neither more nor less than what the brand ethic calls for. And that’s odd.

But you, C.J.S. Hayward, have a brand!

In one sense, at least some people will say that I have a brand, and one that I have consciously contributed to. This blog’s background, for instance, is one touch out of many things that provide a sense of brand. Old-fashioned, exaggeratedly recognizable links could be called another.  None the less, I meet the concept of a personal brand with some degree of puzzlement. I’ve written dialogues before, but I’m drawing a blank at how to flesh out a dialogue with pretty much any of the world’s great teachers about marketing-style branding as a paradigm for how to relate to others. I do not find branding in the Sermon on the Mount, I have difficulty envisioning what Sun Tzu or other sages would say, and for that matter I do not think that Muhammad would have understood the concept, and if he had understood it, would find it to be extremely offensive: much as democracy’s foundational attitude that you have a say in things is profoundly un-Islamic (when George Bush was pushing to endow Iraq with democracy, my comment to friends was, “I wish that Bush would herald a goal that would be less offensive to Muslims, like a hambone in every pot.”).

It is possible for brands to be layered. It is possible for brands to have depth. It is possible for brands to present a tip of an iceberg with lots of room to dig. However, I would pick as a particularly bad piece on personal branding a book chapter which advised the reader to pick three positive adjectives on the list, and simply decide, “These will be my brand.” And this isn’t just one book. When a company has announced that XYZ represent its values, it gives the impression of something arbitrarily chosen and tacked on, something plastic, something that would really make Michael Polanyi squirm.

Our close contemporary Michael Polanyi (Wikipedia), to pick one of the achievements he is best known for, argued essentially that knowledge is not something separate from people. When people are initiated into a tradition of expert practice, there is knowledge tacitly held by those who are already insiders in the culture of expert practics, and this knowledge is tacitly transmitted to people who are being trained to become insiders, without ever being held or passing consciously to those in either role. He comments that swimming coaches and swimmers alike breathe differently from non-swimmers in that they expand their lungs to hold more air when they breathe in, and they keep more air in their lungs when they breathe out, using their lungs this way for added buoyancy. Other explanations may be available in this case, but, the broader picture is one that uses tacit knowledge, or to take the deliberately chosen title of his magnum opus, Personal Knowledge, and recognize that we have many layers beyond the surface. And I’m trying to imagine Polanyi reading a text telling him to pick three adjectives that should identify him as his personal brand. I see him squirming, much like the Far Side cartoon entitled, “Baryshnikov’s ultimate nightmare” that shows a square dance caller saying, “Swing your partner ’round and ’round, now promenade left and don’t fall down…

However, the concern I raise, which may or may not be terribly distinct from Polanyi, isn’t just that a personal brand is shallow, or at least has been shallow in every book I’ve read telling me I need a personal brand. It’s also designed as artificial and plastic, not real and alive. It may have an alive motif, like the handmade-looking lettering and art in cookie-cutter Starbucks locations. But it is what Neal Stevenson described in In the Beginning was the Command Line, in describing a mediated and vicarious experience waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland:

The place looks more like what I have just described than any actual building you might find in India. All the stones in the broken walls are weathered as if monsoon rains had been trickling down them for centuries, the paint on the  gorgeous murals is flaked and faded just so, and Bengal tigers loll amid stumps of broken columns. Where modern repairs have been made to the ancient  structure, they’ve been done, not as Disney’s engineers would do them, but as thrifty Indian janitors would–with hunks of bamboo and rust-spotted hunks of rebar. The rust is painted on, of course, and protected from real rust by a  plastic clear-coat, but you can’t tell unless you get down on your knees.

And on this point I’d like to mention a point from The Cost of Discipleship. I don’t know now whether I’d agree with the suggestion Bonhoeffer makes, but he highlights that the Sermon on the Mount says both Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven, and also that we are to conceal our good deeds: But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. Asking how these two incongruous commands fit together, Bonhoeffer says that we should do good deeds but hide them from ourselves, that we should reach a state of doing goodness that we do it without being aware of it. Now whether that should exactly be believed in reference to the Gospel, I don’t know. But something like that is true of some secular skill. I remember a conversation with a Unix professional who said that in a job interview he had claimed to be a Unix wizard because that was required in that social situation, but it would have been “an outright lie” for him to make that claim among his peers. I assure you he was very competent. But his competency had reached a level where (among other things) he knew how little he knew and how much more there was to know, and like almost any good Unix wizard, he found calling himself a Unix wizard to feel like an outright lie. When I was asked in high school as the school’s student Unix system administrator, I hesitated, and I was both surprised and delighted when a friend said “Yes” for me; I would have been making an outright lie (in my mind) to make that claim. Nor is this a specific local feature of Unix wizardry. That is just an example close to my experience, and it seems that nobody considers themselves what in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine terms would be called Morlocks. There is a kind of “reverse hypocrisy” here. A Morlock, to expert practitioners, is someone else at a higher level of skill. (Linus Torvalds has voiced confusion about why others consider him technical.)

The general rule is that the most confident in their performance are usually the most-overconfident, and the most competent are actually less confident; unlike the over-confident, they are guided by a sharply tuned inner self-criticism, the same self-criticism that in any competent practice of classical music means that musicians hear their performance mistakes more quickly than even the most discerning audience members. What is going on here is the same thing as was told to me as a child, which I’ll leave in politically incorrect terms:

An Indian and a white man were standing on a beach, and the white man drew a small circle and said, “This is what the Indian knows.” Then he drew a larger circle around it and said, “This is what the white man knows.” Then the Indian drew a huge circle encompassing both other circles and said, “This is what neither the Indian nor the white man knows.”

And this quality, of seeing a huge encompassing circle of things that none of us know, is foundational to being a genuine expert almost anywhere. Hence a high school biology text compares the discipline of biology to trying to discern the characters, plot, and themes of a long and intricately complex movie, when all you have is half a dozen stills in varying conditions. Hence one biology teacher I remember fondly saying very emphatically that we don’t know what’s going on: all that biologists know now is only a tiny slice of the truth.

So what does this all mean for branding? It means a couple of things, and perhaps it may be good to have three positive adjectives you seek to represent. But one thing it means is that people are often not aware of their good (and bad) properties, or at least not all of them. This might be true morally, but it is also true in terms of professional competence. I remember going to a presentation on getting a government job and the “stupid questionnaire” (the presenter’s preferred term) where you were asked to rate yourself from 1 up to 5 on different areas of competency. Now coming from a business background where I had been asked to rate myself 1 to 10 in competency and advised the higher self-rating I gave, the harder test questions would be asked of me, thought of rating myself mostly 3’s with a couple of 4’s on the ones I was strongest, the presenter made crystal-clear that that was not going to work. The only acceptable answer was a 5, or maybe you could get away with one or possibly two self-ratings of 4. And that’s not selecting for competency. It is selecting for overconfidence, and for gaming the system. For someone who is genuinely competent, and is not aware of how and why to game the system here, giving a sincere and well-thought-out self-evaluation is a recipe for elimination even if that employee’s past five supervisors would mark the person as a clear 5 across the board.

The title I’ve been mulling over, The Twitter Job Search Guide, is part of the cohort of books where branding is bedrock. It also suggests that Twitter competencies expand outside of Twitter, so that a cover letter is composed of a few tweets and a resume is composed of a few more tweets. Now that’s an idea I’d be cautious about dismissing; communicating value concisely is a valuable skill, and in some sense Twitter might be seen as a Toastmasters of written communication. Toastmasters’ Competent Communicator course trains people with five to seven minute speeches addressing core competencies in speaking (plus a couple of other details), and the thought is not exactly that participants will only need to give speeches of that length, but rather to lay a foundation that is explicitly intended to be adaptable to longer or shorter speeches. And Twitter is not always 140 characters of nothing; there are profound contributions made, and it is a valuable skill, and one quite often present among the most competent gifted, to make a significant point clearly and concisely. For a business world that just wants the time, not the whole process of a watch being built, it may be good discipline and skill to be able to write a six tweet cover letter and twelve tweet resume. But I am concerned when this all falls under the aegis of branding. And in The Twitter Job Search Guide, the tweets for a cover letter and resume all fall under the heading of communicating a brand. Though there is (for instance) discussion of what constitutes a good ratio between professional and personal tweets, I’ve read two thirds of the text and I haven’t yet seen advice to tweet or communicate something that does not fall under the aegis of your personal brand. The beginning, middle, and end of what you are advised to communicate is brand. There is no other way to relate to others, it seems, and this is a plastic form of life.

Now before going further, there is one point I would like to clarify about boundaries (a topic that I believe is ill-framed, but that is not my interest here). One professor, addressing graduate students who were or probably would be teaching assistants, talked about “being the same on the outside and on the inside.” She went on very directly to state that this did not mean “letting it all hang out”; that was precisely what it was not. Normal social interactions embody both what is anthropologically called “positive politeness” and “negative politeness”, and on this point I would recall another professor talking about appropriate communication in crossing cultures. He gave some examples of positive politeness, things like saying “Hello!” to a friend (the sort of examples of politeness that jump to mind). Then he said that when strangers approach each other and look down at the sidewalk when they’re a few meters apart, that’s politeness. It is a refusal to wantonly intrude; it says, “You have not invited me in and I will not presume where I am not invited and I do not belong.” And that is politeness. He mentioned, to drive the point a little bit further, that he had one good friend he visited, and though he did not do so at this visit, he would have thought nothing of opening his friend’s refrigerator and helping himself to anything inside. The principle of negative politeness is that you do not do things without invitation; one may surmise that some point along the way the professor’s friend gave one or several invitations to rummage through the fridge without asking specific permission, and I would be almost certain that the professor had not asked permission to arbitrarily rummage his friend’s fridge; he had presumably been given that permission as the friendship developed. And outside of a few exceptions like this, it is a significant violation of negative politeness to rummage through someone’s fridge without asking.

Socially appropriate relations, or boundaries, or negative politeness, or whatever you want to call it, applies; that can and should mediate our interactions, and brands that have any sense to them will stay within these boundaries. However, while I believe we need the mediation of negative (and positive) politeness, there is something plastic about the mediation of brands. It’s good not to give TMI, but a personal brand is neither the only nor the best way to communicate within positive and negative politeness that respects boundaries.

I’m not sure this addresses all of branding; I’d expect that someone who knew branding well could point to currents within branding that survive this critique. I’ve picked examples that struck me as silly; I haven’t discussed the silliness I see about corporations picking three identifying values, and in much more mainstream and professional venues than a book in a career center offering a list of positive adjectives and an invitation to pick three as defining your personal brand. But for what I’d like to see instead, I don’t have a big program to offer, just appropriate social interaction: social interaction that is appropriate to degree of relationships and the roles of the participants. Others have written The Clue Train Manifesto; I have not examined that manifesto in depth but its opening words about a human voice suggest I’m not the only person, nor the first person, concerned with human communication.

My personal unbrand

I wanted to give a bit on my personal brand, or rather unbrand, or, if you prefer, ersatz brand. You’re welcome to say, if you like, that it is in fact just a personal brand, only a personal brand that embodies at least one classic and cardinal mistake. Or at least two mistakes, apart from the easily digested simplicity of an effective brand, the bulk of my effort is growing in terms of both who I am as a person, and how I can achieve deeper competence. Some attention is given to appearance, but a brand works primarily on image management. Skills one acquires, for instance, are there because of their usefulness to a branded image. But let’s return to the other basic attribute in what makes sense in a brand.

One of the parameters that is desired in a brand is doing one thing well, simplicity. There may be contours to the brand’s landscape, but if you are a jack of all trades you are assumed to be a master of none. One part of a brand’s job description, personal or otherwise, is to present a simple core, perhaps one core feature that offers a value proposition with one core benefit. Or, perhaps, there are a few pieces working together, but if you can’t write it on the back of a business card, you have failed. And in fact this is not restricted to branding. Good to Great talks about good companies that became great companies having and/or discovering a core “hedgehog concept” that they keep returning to, and while such a general title on business has to assume marketing and with it branding as part of the picture, I do not recall the emphatic “hedgehog concept” discussion portraying it as a particular issue for marketing and branding. In Good to Great, the “hedgehog concept” defines a one-trick pony that fundamentally outperforms Renaissance man opponents.

In my own case, what I offer is a profoundly gifted portfolio of interconnected skills. Want to know what reading Latin and Greek has to do with the business world? At a competitive local exchange carrier, we were working with an upstream provider who did business with us because they were required to by law, even though they didn’t want to, because they saw us as cream-skimmers. Nobody else in my group could make sense of their opaque, bureaucratic communication. I could, and there wasn’t much of a hiccup when my boss, with my consent, added communication with that provider to my responsibilities. I don’t know if any of my bosses have cared that I enjoy writing, but several have cared that I could create and edit clear and high-value documents. I don’t know whether any of my bosses have particularly cared that I’ve received rankings as high as 7th in the nation in math contests, but they do care when I apply that to solo programming that hits the ball out of the park. In the positions I’m focusing on now in User Experience, I don’t really expect my prospective bosses to care that I have postgraduate coursework in essentially all major User Experience disciplines: anthropology, cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology, with a distinctive work addressing something at the core of User Experience competency. However, once I am hired and running usability tests, I expect they’ll care how much that background lets me draw out of a test.

And, to dig a bit deeper, the achievements I value are not because of intelligence, but communication. I’ve calmly spoken to a bawling four-year-old with an extremely painful blood blister under her thumbnail, until she she had stopped completely. I’ve been asked why I know how to relate to Ukrainians. I’ve been told, “You are like a white American and like a black African, and closer than an African brother.” I’ve communicated across large gaps with remarkable success.

And, to give one last detail, I’ve had many projects and there is a common thread running through virtually all the ones I’ve liked most: I’ve reduced user pain, or made something a joy to work with. To pick one example from when I had just started a new job, I was given a four-word spec before my boss left for his vacation: “Get [name of employee] off overtime.” The employee was a revenue assurance auditor who was trying to keep on top of a provider who was slipping us inappropriate charges, a responsibility that had him on heavy overtime in a company which normally stuck with a 40 hour workweek. And I winced when I saw what he was doing. I respected him and his actions as a team player, but he was cutting a steak with a screwdriver because that was the only game in town, and I wanted to give a razor-sharp knife, designed for him personally. When he said he was perfectly willing to do drudge work, my unspoken response was, “I appreciate and respect that you’re willing to do drudge work. I still want to get it off your plate.” And I drew on Edward Tufte’s principles and made a carefully chosen greyscale (instead of numbers) system that cut his involvement down to 40 hours a week, then further down so only part of his time was spent keeping on top of this responsibilities, and he was in a position to engage other responsibilities that were out of the question earlier. At a certain point into the process, I told him, “The only reason I ever want you to do us the old tools is because you want to,” and he very quickly answered, “I don’t want to!” In other words, the new tool completely superseded prior methods, which is a rarity. I don’t remember exactly how far along we were when my boss returned from vacation, but the employee told me he was raving to my boss, and in that whole position my boss never really showed much inclination to micro-manage me. (He described me as “nearly self-managing.”)

These and other things could be a basis for a number of personal brands that I could treat as my working contract with the professional world. However, it is my preference not to have my dealings mediated by a constructed personal brand. I’d like to give my friends and employers alike the real “me”, and while I will act differently with friends, family, church, and an employer, I don’t want people dealing with an artificially infused personal brand. I want them to deal with me. And while one friend explained that a fellow graduate student in psychology who dealt in measuring psychological traits answered a questionnaire for a job application, she understood exactly how the test worked, answered like the personality profile that the company wanted, and just made sure to act like the profile they wanted while she was at work. I don’t want to judge, but I find something very sad about the story. And it has everything to do with working with a personal brand.

This is not as crystalline as a normal brand. That’s intended.

Back to a character ethic…

Doxology

God the Game Changer

God the Spiritual Father

Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, ascesis

Miscellaneous

CJS HaywardEt cetera → Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous items that you won’t find in other areas of the website. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest A Christmas gift for children.

A Christmas gift for children

A look at some of the peaks of CJS Hayward that would be more interesting to children, including the Tale of the Fairy Prince.

Connections
I do not live in a vacuum, but in connection with communities and other people. Here are some of their webpages.

A Facebook portrait for Orthodox clergy
Facebook is slightly insensitive to religious communities who call their priests, “Father.” Here is a tweak on one clever response to the censorship.

Favorite haunts
My site isn’t focused on links, but I’ve found some jewels on the web that I consider worth mention.

Homemade pinball machine HOWTO (short)
As a child, CJS Hayward made a number of different little pinball machines. Here’s an updated summary of how to get into the craft.

If You Want to Link to Jonathan’s Corner (short)
Here are some images, along with sample HTML, for people who want to link to this page. (Text links are also welcome!)

The “natural cycle” liturgical clock

The concept may not be obvious if you’re not used to ancient ways of thinking about a time, but there is a different way of calculating time based on the natural cycles of sunrise and sunset rather than artificial things like time zones.

UberLingua (short)
Writing is largely a copy of oral language; it does not take full advantage of visual media. Here’s an article about what some might call the next generation of human language. It is dedicated to all those web designers who believe that, if they make a web page you already know how to use, they aren’t doing their job.

Miscellaneous nonfiction

CJS HaywardOrthodox books online and more → Miscellaneous nonfiction

Another section has Articles. This section is a “grab bag” of other nonfiction works. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest Actually, to Me, It Is a Very Good Day.

Actually, to Me, It Is a Very Good Day (medium)
This is from a lecture and “reading aloud by the author” session.

Amos and Andy: Meet Barack Obama! (short)

Amos and Andy represent a low point, a shameful low point, in U.S. race relations and politics as a whole.

Some have said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. This is a look at, so to speak, something in today’s political arena that seems reminiscent of Amos and Andy.

Join a new Amos and a new Andy as they discuss politics, Republicans, prejudice, and Barack Obama!

An Author’s Musing Memoirs: Retrospective Reflections, Retracings, and Retractions (medium)
A letter to the reader about God, some of my flaws, and God’s work even in a flawed person such as Yours Truly.

The case for uncreative web design (medium)
Many people think good web design means making a design that’s different from other websites. This article argues another perspective.

“Concept demo” awards program (medium)
A carefully thought-out resource for reviewers for web awards program, on how to best present their programs to the web.

Jonathan’s Canon (medium)
An annotated bibliography of works that have influenced me, that I would like to pass on.

On Kything (medium)
Excerpted from the Journal of an Awakening.

Memory and prayer (short)
Do you believe that prayer is a good thing, but struggle to enjoy it for more than two minutes? I did for a long time; then something clicked.

On mentorship (medium)
A description of mentorship that has more than technique.

Not Stressed? (medium)
This is something I wrote about spiritual discipline and stress. I went to a Bible study that talked about dealing with stress, and when I heard the discussion, I realized that I was living at a much lower level of stress than what was assumed. I thought about how to explain why I experience less stress, and I realized that stress was the tip of the iceberg.

An open letter from a customer: I Don’t WANT to Abuse Your Employees and be Rewarded for Gaming the System (short)

The phrase “The customer is always right!” heralded in good customer service in an age of bad customer service.

Now some companies take “The customer is always right!” in a way that rewards customers who burn out their employees. This is a call to treat employees as human beings and perhaps free them to offer better customer service.

An open letter to spam patrons (short)
Do you hate spam? Here’s a letter you can send to business owners who don’t understand why spamming is bad.

Seven-Sided Gem (medium)
This lecture was given at Mensa’s Chicago Regional Gathering, and was meant to share several facets of interesting personal experience.

Tinkering with Perl
Something I wrote when my brothers were twelve to introduce them to programming. It tries to be very simple—just enough so kids can start tinkering.

Assorted creations

CJS HaywardOrthodox books online and more → Assorted creations

This is a “grab bag” of assorted creative works. Other sections have longer fiction and short stories; this offers a colorful collection of things you can’t find other places. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest A dream of light.

Christian koans (medium)
A koan is a unique kind of story that is both short and powerful.

A dream of light (medium)

Dreamlike images flow throughout this narrative.
Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World not Touched By Evil
An exploration of seven different cultures in a world of pure goodness, a world without evil. This comes to mean seven forms of goodness which are sharply different from each other.

Game review: Meatspace (medium)

It is, in a sense, a description of the ultimate game.
Fingerprinted collects (short)
A short collection of prayers, in French and English.
The grinch who stole Christmas (short)
A twist on the classic Dr. Seuss story.
I learned it all from Jesus (short)
A poster in the tradition of “How To Be An Artist” and “I Learned It All In Kindergarden”.

Janra ball: The headache

A marvelously silly game from planet Espiriticthus.

Jobs for theologians (short)

An irreverent look at jobs available in theology.
The modern baccaulaureate (short)
You’ve heard of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Modern Major-General”? Here’s an update.
The Portal (medium)
The Portal is an interactive story. You’re the hero.
Profoundly Gifted Magazine: An Interview With Maximos Planos
This looks through a thin veil at meeting a grown-up prodigy.
Romantic Impressions (medium)
A set of vignettes trying to capture romantic impressions like the 19th century Romantics did.
The Way of the Way (medium)
An “early work” collection of poems underscoring something I sensed in Christianity that can be hard to see from the West.

Other articles

CJS HaywardOrthodox books online and more → Other articles

Free online articles. These articles range over a number of topics, from business communication to unexpected reasons to study mathematics. As well as these, there’s another section of miscellaneous nonfiction works. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest AI as an arena of magical thinking for skeptics: Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Sciece, and Eastern Orthodox Views on Personhood.

An Abstract Art of Memory (medium)
The ancient Greeks developed an art of memory that is very good with concrete facts. I wanted to see if I could adapt the principles to be more effective in storing abstractions.

The administrator who cried, “Important!” (medium)
You probably know the story of the boy who cried, “Wolf!” Here’s an updated version, with a lesson for business communication.

AI as an arena of magical thinking for skeptics: Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Sciece, and Eastern Orthodox Views on Personhood (long)
My second master’s thesis, from Cambridge. It’s theology (or what is considered academic theology at a University, which isn’t really theology at all), and touches on a number of interesting areas.

Animals (medium)
Some of us spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be human. It’s also worth thinking a little about animals.

The blacksmith’s forge: An extension to Euclidean geometric construction as a model of computation (short)

There were a few ideas that stayed with me from what I did while exploring and working for my master’s (or my first masters, at least). My masters appeared to provide a novel and rigorous approach to infinitesmals, as one benefit to using distances as numbers in something like a metric space.

Blessed are the peacemakers: Real Peace Through Real Strength (medium)
Most people—pacifist or not—would agree to the claim that violence should be avoided, and that people should study alternatives to violence. Here’s a chance to do just that.

Dark Patterns / Anti-patterns and Cultural Context Study of Scriptural Texts: A Case Study in Craig Keener’s Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (medium)
My first thesis in academic theology, looking at how the concept of dark patterns or anti-patterns may illuminate recurring tendencies in the wrong kind of advocate scholarship.

Does Augustine return to the interpersonal image of love as representing the Trinity, or does he abandon this in favour of the psychological image?(medium)
After years of being a pariah and whipping boy, the Blessed Augustine is going through a rehabilitation. This is an essay I wrote where Augustine served to me as a Church Father and as a halfway house between a Western, more philosophical approach to theology and the Eastern, mystical ocean I needed to dive into.

The essay looks at Augustine with respect but calls to task some of the silliness in people who are willing to be selective about Augustine’s own words in order to make him look better.

The Evolution of a Perspective on Creation and Origins (medium)
I wrote this for a mailing list where I felt attacked for my beliefs—by people who didn’t understand them. This post helped other list members to see why I thought certain ideas should be considered and not dismissed out of hand.

Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh: A Look at Profound Giftedness Through Orthodox Anthropology (medium)
To be human is to have a profound gift in the first place, and one that far overshadows what psychology refers to as “profound giftedness”. But that “profound giftedness” is both human and interesting. Here’s an article looking at it from a theological perspective.

Friendly, win-win negotiations in business: Interest-based negotiation and “Getting to Yes” (short)

A look that takes ‘Getting to Yes’ interest-based negotiation from hostile settings to win-win negotiations in a friendly setting. Examples are included.

The Fulfillment of Feminism (medium)
An essay following The Patriarchy We Object To which talks about how feminism might find its home.

A Glimpse into Eastern Orthodoxy (medium)

Eastern Orthodoxy is both Christian and Eastern. and sometimes other Christians, and the West in general, don’t pick up on what exactly this means. A Glimpse into Eastern Orthodoxy is written in the hope of creating a spark of connection.

The Hayward Nonstandard Test: An Interesting Failure (medium)
This was an attempt to think outside of the box. It failed, but there may be something very interesting in how it failed.

He Created Them Male and Female, Masculine and Feminine (short)
An essay I wrote in college about how masculinity and femininity are real, good, and part of how we are meant to flourish.

The Incarnation: Orthodoxy, Islam, and the Reformation (medium)
A look at what the Incarnation means for practical, lived life, and how it may be present or absent in Orthodoxy, Islam, and Protestant Christianity.

In celebration of Tribbles (short)

A look at cruelty-free pet keeping and an unlikely candidate for a pet where one’s living conditions would otherwise be cruel to something furry.

“Inclusive” Language and Other Debates: An Orthodox Alumnus Responds to his Advisor (medium)
A conservative alumnus answers questions posed by his egalitarian thesis advisor from a minor degree.

Knights and ladies (medium)

A more recent treatment of masculinity and femininity which tries to go deeper, and voice something important that has been unspoken.

Looking at “Stranger in a Strange Land” as a Modern Christological Heresy(medium)
An Orthodox Christian reader looks at Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, originally titled The Heretic, as a Christological heresy.

Meat (medium)
A look at ethical issues connected with icons, Theophany, Creation, animals, and meat from an Eastern Orthodox Christian perspective.

An Orthodox Looks at a Calvinist Looking at Orthodoxy (Medium)
One Presbyterian minister took the time to earn a doctorate from an Orthodox seminary… and wrote some reflections which left me wondering what he’d missed. I think his impressions may be a lot of people’s impressions, and I think he’s given a pretty candid take.

This note quotes the original reflections (with permission), and posts my reply to what seemed like getting a lot of details right but missing how they fit together in the big picture.

Orthodoxy, contraception, and spin doctoring: A Look at an Influential and Disturbing Article (long)
This article was occasioned by the discovery of some of what programmers ironically call, buried treasure: in this case, current Orthodox positions on contraception often are built on top of the buried treasure. Maybe this buried treasure is, as the definition in the jargon file says, “something that needs to be dug up and removed.”

The Patriarchy We Object To (medium)
A talk about some of what Orthodoxy can say to feminism.

Privilege, Pure Privilege—Extreme Privilege (medium)
This meditation looks at privilege—the privilege of celebrities, which the author does not have and has no desire for, and then other forms of privilege which make the concrete fabric of the author’s life.

Attention is paid to childhood literary heroes, and moves on to looking at what can be found in the lives of the saints.

Some thoughts about Heaven (short)
Heaven is meant to be important to earth.

Theology of play (short)
It sometimes seems easier to think about why work is important, than why play is important. This is an essay on why play is important.

A treatise on touch (medium)
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made is written by the doctor who found out that leprosy ravages the body by destroying the sense of touch. He recounts a story about getting sick, letting his foot fall asleep, thinking he had leprosy, realizing his error, and living a life alive to touch as he had never done before. This is part of that story’s impact on me.

Un-man’s tales: C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, fairy tales, and feminism(medium)
A study of two of the greatest scholar’s works that looks at the Un-man’s tales in C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, with eyes wide shut.

What the West doesn’t get about Islam (short)

The West doesn’t get Islam…

…and Western efforts to just understand Islam leave us further, not closer, to understanding Islam and Muslims.

Why study mathematics? (short)
Have you ever felt like mathematics was a secret game that everybody but you understood? Here’s the secret.

Why young earthers aren’t completely crazy (short)
A look at why some people insist on a young earth creation in the face of scientists’ constant claims that evolution is the only game in town—and why they’re not completely wrong.

Odds & ends, curiosities & creative works

CJS HaywardOrthodox books online and moreOrthodox Theology → Odds & ends, curiosities & creative works

Suggested starting points include The Angelic Letters, The Best Things in Life Are Free, The most politically incorrect sermon in history: A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, and Technonomicon: Technology, Nature,ascesis.

The Angelic Letters (medium)

A collection of letters from a senior angel to guide a guardian angel watching over a man, as envisioned by an Orthodox Christian. Inspired by C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

Apprentice gods (short)
A look at this life as an apprenticeship of becoming gods and time as the womb of eternal life.

Apps and mobile websites for the Orthodox Christian smartphone and tablet: Best iPhone, iPad, Droid, Samsung, Android, Kindle, and Blackberry mobile websites and apps (short)
A look at the best that’s available for Orthodox Christian app seekers with iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets.

The Arena (short)

A work of mystical theology that looks at life as a great spiritual arena and training ground.

Athanasius: On Creative Fidelity (short)
Ever hear a broken record talking about how Orthodoxy has always been a matter of creative fidelity and never a matter of parrot-like repetition?

The Best Things in Life Are Free (short)

An exploration, connected with the chalice, of what it means that the best things in life are free.

The most politically incorrect sermon in history: A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (medium)

A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount intended to unfold just how it appears to be the most politically incorrect sermon ever.

An Orthodox bookshelf (medium)
An Orthodox bookshelf covering The Orthodox* Study Bible, some of the Fathers, Neo-Platonism, and one or two works today.

“Physics” (short)

An Orthodox ‘Physics’, or study of the nature of things, designed to respond to Aristotle’s ‘Physics.’
Prayers (short)
A collection of short prayers for different occasions and purposes, offered to and for the Orthodox Church.

Public Portions of the Divine Liturgy, in Russian and in English
This is not something I’ve written (besides a preface), but something I put together from The Divine Lutirgy to help me understand the public parts of the Russian Liturgy. I offer it in the hope it may help others.

Refutatio omnium hæresium
The Refutation of All Heresies

The royal letters (short)
Three intimate letters from a father to a son about God, kings, and men.

Rules of Engagement
Rules of engagement for spiritual warfare that has always been waged, and is becoming more intense.
From Russia, With Love: A spiritual guide to surviving political and economic disaster (long)
The Russian Orthodox Church has a lot of experience living with hard times. This piece talks about not only survival lessons but the spiritual beauty that can come in political and economic difficulties.

St. John the Much-Suffering

As the text accompanying this beautiful icon begins, “St. John the Much-Suffering is a saint who fought industrial-strength sexual temptation for decades and WON in every sense of the term.”

Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, ascesis (medium)

We are entranced by technology, and yearn for harmony with nature. But there is more to life than getting technology or taking walks in the woods.

Twelve quotes on Orthodoxy, ecumenism, and Catholicism (short)
Twelve quotes to explain in particular why Orthodoxy seems to have such a cold response to Catholic ecumenical advances.

Theology & creations

Read selected works on Kindle: part of the collection, The Best of Jonathan’s Corner

This is an author’s library of free online books, centered on Orthodox books. Whether you want to read online novels, orshort stories, or theology and homilies, or other literature, why not look around here?

The most recent addition is, A Comparison Between the Mere Monk and the Highest Bishop.

Orthodox Theology

Go to:   Orthodox theology   Articles  Assorted creations   Journals  Miscellaneous nonfiction   Novels  Orthodox Humor   Satire   Short stories  Socratic dialogue   Technology

You can find works from several Orthodox books here, but this section itself is really one big Orthodox book: an anthology of Orthodox mystical theology.

The works in this collection span many types and genres, but overall they can be gathered into three large categories: theology articles, hymns and poems, and odds and ends, curiosities and creative works, Each of these has author’s picks highlighted; the author is personally partial to hymns and poems.

If you are looking for a place to start in these attempts to share the Orthodox Church’s mystical theology, I suggest Silence: Organic food for the soul or Doxology. Both are taken from the hymns and poems section.

Theology Articles

Suggested starting points include Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough, Exotic golden ages and restoring harmony with nature: Anatomy of a passion, Money, A pet Owner’s rules, and“Religion and Science” Is Not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution.

Amazing Providence (short)
One thing I have learned as a Christian is what it means for God to look after you.

That Beautiful Strength (medium)
A look at the hideous strength of C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, and the beautiful strength that is even stronger.

Can You Smoke Without Inhaling? Martial Arts and the Orthodox Christian(medium)
After ignoring an uneasy conscience, CJS Hayward tried to study a martial art on Orthodoxy-appropriate terms. Here is a retrospective that looks at the broader question of whether we can “smoke, but not inhale.”

Contemplation (short)
We were made to enjoy contemplation, in more than one sense.

Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough(short)

Years back, I wrote a couple of pieces about origins questions. This is a more recent piece that addresses a very specific point about bringing Protestant fundamentalism into Orthodoxy, and it moves away from origins questions towards a more important issue.

You might also read the companion piece, Note to Orthodox evolutionists: Stop trying to retroactively shanghai recruit the Fathers to your camp!.

Our Crown of Thorns (short)
Christ’s crown of thorns has every relevance to our daily lives. Is it something we can have on our own terms?

Desire (short)
A meditation on covetousness, desire, and true happiness.

Dissent: Lessons From Being an Orthodox theology Student at a Catholic University (medium)
When I was studying at Fordham, the question of dissent loomed large. This is an attempt to respond to what was “in the air” at that school.

Does God Suffer? (medium)
A grieving pastor, after the death of his son, wrote that God suffers with his Creation. This is a respectful look at his masterpiece that tries to explain why it is good news that God does not suffer.

Its central points revolve around what is called “theology proper,” or “the doctrine of God.” It responds to a powerful picture, in the masterpiece A Foot in Two Worlds, of a God who can handle creaturely suffering because he suffers with them. And it looks at what it means for God to be so great that he is beyond suffering.

Do We Have Rights? (medium)
We have a lot of rights these days. Or at least we think we do, and the list of our rights is growing longer and longer.

What if I told you that people can get along well without thinking in terms of rights?

The Eighth Sacrament (short)
In Orthodoxy, there are seven sacraments, officially speaking; but there’s a great deal of truth in saying that there is only one sacrament, or that there are a million of them. This is a look at one among many of the “other” sacraments.

Exotic Golden Ages and Restoring Harmony with Nature: Anatomy of a passion (medium)

There is a perennial cry in some quarters to reclaim former glory. We thirst for the exotic, but not always in the best places. Do we appreciate what we have?

Farewell to Gandhi: The Saint and the Activist (medium)

Years back, the author was very attentive to Gandhi’s writing, enough so that his first public speech was formed by that attentiveness. Now, years later, he has some second thoughts, and realizes areas where he was wrong.

God the Game Changer (medium)

A meditation on God as the Game Changer who responds to sin, evil, pain, and death by changing the game.

God the Spiritual Father (medium)

A collection of quotes and reflections on God the Father in light of the spiritual fatherhood in Orthodox monasticism, in its relevance to us today in an economic depression.

Halloween: A solemn farewell (short)
I enjoyed Halloween for many years, but it looks different as I begin to understand Orthodoxy.

C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength: science and magic, spirit and matter, and the figure of Merlin (medium)

A look at a slightly strange strand about science, magic, spirit, matter, Merlin, and other topics woven into the tapistry of C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength.

The Horn of Joy: A meditation on eternity and time, kairos and chronos(medium)
A meditation on eternity and time.

How to find a job: A guide for Orthodox Christians (short)
A concise summary of both the sacred and secular dimensions to an Orthodox Christian’s jobhunt. (Getting a job for Orthodox Christians calls for both.)

How to Survive Hard Times (medium)
Would you like to know how to survive an economic depression? People have survived every kind of disaster from recessions to economic collapses. The way they have survived may have had something to do with spirituality and faith. Do you want to dig deeper into how to survive a depression? You might find some answers here.

On humor (short)
A look at humor (off-color and otherwise) in the light of Orthodox Christian classics.

The Hydra
A look at a hydra whose heads include the covetousness of Romanticism’s Sehnsucht or longing, escapism, fantasy, the occult, and the freedom that comes when one rejects all of these.

Incarnation and deification (short)
An written for the Feast of the Nativity and the Fast before it, about Incarnation that unfurls in deification.

Introduction to the Jesus Prayer (short)
When we pray the Jesus Prayer, God uses it to build silence in our hearts and untangle those things we have knotted inside.

Lesser icons: Reflections on Faith, Icons, and Art (medium)
An Orthodox artist looks at art as a variety of icon.

Modus Tollens: Meandering Reflections on Life, Faith, and Politics(medium)
Loss is a part of life. In fact, loss is a part of Divine Providence: “Every branch that bears fruit, [the Vinedresser] prunes that it may bear more fruit.”

In truth, everything in life is either a blessing from God or a temptation which has been allowed for our strengthening.

Modus Tollens explores this pruning.

Monarchy (short)
A meditation of mystical theology about kings and kingdoms, monarchs and monarchy.

Money (short)

A homily touching on a subject that doesn’t get much treatment for how important it is.

Note to Orthodox evolutionists: Stop trying to retroactivelyshanghai recruit the Fathers to your camp!

Orthodox Christians may believe in evolution, but when Orthodox claim that the Fathers’ overall teaching goes hand in hand with evolution, there is something fishy going on.

You might also read the companion piece, Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough.

Oops… Could the Western Rite Please Try Again? (short)
There is something that is not quite right about the Western Rite in the Orthodox Church. (Really? When they are trying so hard to reconstruct the authentic Western Orthodoxy of the first millenium? Yes!)

An Open Letter to Catholics on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism (medium)
An open letter about an elephant in the room that Orthodox are painfully aware of and Catholics seem not to see at all.

Ordinary (short)
Some of us wish, or are tempted to wish, that we lived in the age of the great Christological controversies, or nineteenth century Russia, or perhaps the Middle Ages or the Baroque era.

But God has placed us here and now, and ordained for us our ordinary lives to live out. Has God made a mistake in doing so?

The Orthodox Martial Art Is Living the Sermon on the Mount (long)

One perennial debate is about war and peace, just war and pacifism, violence and nonviolence, soldiers and armies, and figures like Gandhi. Listen to the mystical theology of the Orthodox Christian Church as She listens out of the depths of Her silence.

Our thoughts determine our lives: Beyond The Secret and the Law of Attraction

A look at Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica’s title, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, as uncovering a more interesting secret than just Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret‘ and the Law of Attraction, and a secret for inner transformation—and outer!

A pet Owner’s rules (short)

God is like a pet owner who has only two rules.

The Pleasure-Pain Syndrome (medium)
A look at the pleasure-pain syndrome that for an instant crystallizes in the discussion of the Philokalia under a work attributed to St. Maximos the Confessor.

Pride (medium)

A look at the venomous hydra called narcissism and pride, by which Satan fell from being an Archangel in Heaven to being the Devil.

It isn’t good for us, either.

QUICK! What Is Your Opinion About Chemistry?

A look at “religion and science” that takes a slow, careful look at how we should receive patristic attitudes towards what is now considered to be the academic discipline of chemistry. (Note: this has nothing to do with alchemy even if there is a historical relation between modern chemistry and alchemy.)

“Religion and Science” Is Not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution(medium)

In my own experience, I started from a very scientific background; I have math awards and letters after my name in the sciences. And this science has been the start of a journey of repentance; it is a starting point of things that would find healing in Orthodoxy. And entering Orthodox theology, mystical theology, has meant unlearning not only the content of my knowing but what it is to know at all. Science is cut from the same cloth, or bedrock to, what it was that I needed healing from the Church as I was reconciled from the kind of background one gets in the sciences.

Repentance, Heaven’s Best-Kept Secret

Virtue is its own reward.

Repentance leads us into the rewards of virtue.

It is Heaven’s best-kept secret.

Science and knowledge: Regenerate science, philosophia naturalis, and human ways of knowing (medium)

C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man discusses a science that was born in occult ambiances, and says, “It might be going too far to say that the modern scientific movement was tainted from its birth: but I think it would be true to say that it, was born in an unhealthy neighbourhood and at an inauspicious hour.”

During that discussion of science and the enterprise abolishing Man, there are some very tantalizing remarks about a “regenerate science” that “would not do even to minerals and vegetables what modern science threatens to do to man himself.”

This piece looks at something of a regenerate science that is closer than you might think.

A Shaft of Grace (short)
A description of an everyday religious experience.

“Social antibodies needed: A request of Orthodox clergy (medium)

An article exploring the social issues surrounding technology and faith and inviting Orthodox clergy to provide pastoral guidance, in other words “social antibodies”, for the internet, iPhones, and other features of the technological nexus that we are in.

The Swiss Army Knife and God (short)
Do Swiss Army Knives offer a lens to see God with?

Take Your Shoes Off Your Feet, for the Place Where You Stand Is Holy Ground (medium)
The Fathers see something in the Lord’s command to Take Your Shoes Off Your Feet, for the Place Where You Stand Is Holy Ground, and it has every relevance to Great Lent.

What do the Fathers see? And what does it have to do with Great Lent?

The transcendent God who approaches us through our neighbor (short)
Everything we say of God is inadequate. Yet this God who is far beyond anything we can say has a vicar on earth: not the Pope, but every person who crosses our path.

Treasure (short)
Calvin and Hobbes said, “There’s treasure everywhere!”

And really, there is.

Treasures in Heaven: The Inner Meaning of “Do Not Store Up Treasures On Earth”
“Do not store up treasures on earth,” in the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to be the ultimate strict standard of sacrificial living.

It is a strict standard, but its plain sense may be the outer shell of an important inner meaning.

Two Decisive Moments (short)

One of the moments is long ago. The other one can be right now.

What Evolutionists Have to Say to the Royal, Diving Image: We’re Missing Something
An article by someone who believes humans genuinely ARE a special flower and royal, on what evolution / revolutionary punk eek has to tell us who believe in the divine image.

What Makes Me Uneasy About Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and His Followers(short)
A look at what exactly about Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and his followers could disturb an Orthodox Christian.

What the Present Debate Won’t Tell You About Headship (short)
Among Christians, there’s a debate about “headship”. And those involved can miss something very important.

Where is the good of women? Feminism is called “The women’s movement.” But is it? (medium)
In the days of Luther, the Roman hegemony was strong enough that even Protestants had difficulties imagining how one could be at odds with the Roman Catholic Church and yet be right with God.

Feminism enjoys a similar position today for women’s interests, but “the women’s movement” is slipping, and there are signs a growing number find that “the women’s movement” is not their movement.

Work-Mystic (medium)

Work offers something of a missed opportunity for many of us: drudgery we endure to get pay, rather than an opportunity to serve and enjoy in a very high sense.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and there is in fact room for a mystical theology that encompasses work, and transforms it.

Your Own, Personal Hell (medium)
It has always been seductively easy to create your own, Personal Hell. The Fathers say that the gates of Hell are bolted and barred from the inside, that Hell is self-chosen, that there are in the end there are two types of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God ultimately says, “Thy will be done.” And some have suggested that even the fire of Hell is the Light of Heaven as experienced through the rejection of the only joy we can ultimately have, Christ Himself.

(You might also be interested in material from other sections of this website, such as Stephanos, and An Orthodox Looks at a Calvinist Looking at Orthodoxy.)

Hymns and poems

Suggested starting points include Doxology, A pilgrimage from Narnia,Silence: Organic food for the soul, and Why This Waste?.

Akathist Hymn to St. Philaret the Merciful (medium)

An akathist hymn celebrating St. Philaret the Merciful of Asia Minor, who was generous and merciful when he had much, and remained no less generous and merciful when he had little or nothing.

The Book of Thanks (medium)

All of us have a great deal to be grateful for. This is one text that looks through thankfulness at the scandal of the particular. It is part of a collection, A Pilgrimage from Narnia, that does not exactly narrate the author’s journey into Orthodoxy, but shows pictures of things that have been seen along the way.

Death (short)

We may have hospitals to hide death from our eyes, but all of us are moving towards death, even if we are in denial as a society. But there is another way; love is stronger than death.

Doxology (short)

A poem to hymn the glory of God.

Glory (short)

We thirst for glory. There is only one way that thirst is rightly slaked.

How Shall I Tell an Alchemist? (short)

A musing prayer about how to open the eyes of an alchemist.

Hymn to the Creator of Heaven and Earth (medium)

A celebration of the resplendent beauty of the natural world.

Maximum Christ, Maximum Ambition, Maximum Repentance(medium)

A meditation on the Maximum Christ we approach and maximum repentance as the true realization of God’s maximum ambition for our lives.

Now (short)
A poem pouring forth mystical theology of eternity, time, and that precious moment we call ‘now’.

Open (short)
A poem about closed fists, open hands, and true joy.

Pilgrim (short)
A prayer and poem about pilgrimage on earth.

A pilgrimage from Narnia (short)

A poem about a pilgrimage that begins with C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and ever presses ‘further up and further in.’

Psalm picker

This was a tool I made for myself after realizing I wasn’t spending nearly enough time praying through the Psalms. This will pull up different psalms, and there is a a mobile-friendly version too.

Silence: Organic food for the soul (medium)

A meditation on spiritual discipline and silence as an organic diet for the soul reaching out to the whole person.

Why This Waste? (short)

A poem that opens when a woman opens a priceless jar of perfume and a thief asks a question that was deeper than he knew: “Why this waste?”

A Yoke That Is Easy and a Burden That Is Light (short)
A prayer.

Odds and ends, curiosities and creative works

Suggested starting points include The Angelic Letters, The Best Things in Life Are Free, The most politically incorrect sermon in history: A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, and Technonomicon: Technology, Nature,ascesis.

The Angelic Letters (medium)

A collection of letters from a senior angel to guide a guardian angel watching over a man, as envisioned by an Orthodox Christian. Inspired by C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

Apprentice gods (short)
A look at this life as an apprenticeship of becoming gods and time as the womb of eternal life.

Apps and mobile websites for the Orthodox Christian smartphone and tablet: Best iPhone, iPad, Droid, Samsung, Android, Kindle, and Blackberry mobile websites and apps (short)
A look at the best that’s available for Orthodox Christian app seekers with iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets.

The Arena (short)

A work of mystical theology that looks at life as a great spiritual arena and training ground.

Athanasius: On Creative Fidelity (short)
Ever hear a broken record talking about how Orthodoxy has always been a matter of creative fidelity and never a matter of parrot-like repetition?

The Best Things in Life Are Free (short)

An exploration, connected with the chalice, of what it means that the best things in life are free.

The most politically incorrect sermon in history: A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (medium)

A commentary on the Sermon on the Mount intended to unfold just how it appears to be the most politically incorrect sermon ever.

An Orthodox bookshelf (medium)
An Orthodox bookshelf covering The Orthodox* Study Bible, some of the Fathers, Neo-Platonism, and one or two works today.

“Physics” (short)

An Orthodox ‘Physics’, or study of the nature of things, designed to respond to Aristotle’s ‘Physics.’
Prayers (short)
A collection of short prayers for different occasions and purposes, offered to and for the Orthodox Church.

Public Portions of the Divine Liturgy, in Russian and in English
This is not something I’ve written (besides a preface), but something I put together from The Divine Lutirgy to help me understand the public parts of the Russian Liturgy. I offer it in the hope it may help others.

Refutatio omnium hæresium
The Refutation of All Heresies

The royal letters (short)
Three intimate letters from a father to a son about God, kings, and men.

From Russia, With Love: A spiritual guide to surviving political and economic disaster (long)
The Russian Orthodox Church has a lot of experience living with hard times. This piece talks about not only survival lessons but the spiritual beauty that can come in political and economic difficulties.

St. John the Much-Suffering

As the text accompanying this beautiful icon begins, “St. John the Much-Suffering is a saint who fought industrial-strength sexual temptation for decades and WON in every sense of the term.”

Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, ascesis (medium)

We are entranced by technology, and yearn for harmony with nature. But there is more to life than getting technology or taking walks in the woods.

Twelve quotes on Orthodoxy, ecumenism, and Catholicism (short)
Twelve quotes to explain in particular why Orthodoxy seems to have such a cold response to Catholic ecumenical advances.

Articles

Free online articles. These articles range over a number of topics, frombusiness communication to unexpected reasons to study mathematics. As well as these, there’s another section of miscellaneous nonfiction works. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest AI as an arena of magical thinking for skeptics: Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Sciece, and Eastern Orthodox Views on Personhood.

An Abstract Art of Memory (medium)
The ancient Greeks developed an art of memory that is very good with concrete facts. I wanted to see if I could adapt the principles to be more effective in storing abstractions.

The administrator who cried, “Important!” (medium)
You probably know the story of the boy who cried, “Wolf!” Here’s an updated version, with a lesson for business communication.

AI as an arena of magical thinking for skeptics: Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Sciece, and Eastern Orthodox Views on Personhood (long)
My second master’s thesis, from Cambridge. It’s theology (or what is considered academic theology at a University, which isn’t really theology at all), and touches on a number of interesting areas.

Animals (medium)
Some of us spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be human. It’s also worth thinking a little about animals.

The blacksmith’s forge: An extension to Euclidean geometric construction as a model of computation (short)

There were a few ideas that stayed with me from what I did while exploring and working for my master’s (or my first masters, at least). My masters appeared to provide a novel and rigorous approach to infinitesmals, as one benefit to using distances as numbers in something like a metric space.

Blessed are the peacemakers: Real Peace Through Real Strength (medium)
Most people—pacifist or not—would agree to the claim that violence should be avoided, and that people should study alternatives to violence. Here’s a chance to do just that.

Dark Patterns / Anti-patterns and Cultural Context Study of Scriptural Texts: A Case Study in Craig Keener’s Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (medium)
My first thesis in academic theology, looking at how the concept of dark patterns or anti-patterns may illuminate recurring tendencies in the wrong kind of advocate scholarship.

Does Augustine return to the interpersonal image of love as representing the Trinity, or does he abandon this in favour of the psychological image?(medium)
After years of being a pariah and whipping boy, the Blessed Augustine is going through a rehabilitation. This is an essay I wrote where Augustine served to me as a Church Father and as a halfway house between a Western, more philosophical approach to theology and the Eastern, mystical ocean I needed to dive into.

The essay looks at Augustine with respect but calls to task some of the silliness in people who are willing to be selective about Augustine’s own words in order to make him look better.

The Evolution of a Perspective on Creation and Origins (medium)
I wrote this for a mailing list where I felt attacked for my beliefs—by people who didn’t understand them. This post helped other list members to see why I thought certain ideas should be considered and not dismissed out of hand.

Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh: A Look at Profound Giftedness Through Orthodox Anthropology (medium)
To be human is to have a profound gift in the first place, and one that far overshadows what psychology refers to as “profound giftedness”. But that “profound giftedness” is both human and interesting. Here’s an article looking at it from a theological perspective.

Friendly, win-win negotiations in business: Interest-based negotiation and “Getting to Yes” (short)

A look that takes ‘Getting to Yes’ interest-based negotiation from hostile settings to win-win negotiations in a friendly setting. Examples are included.

The Fulfillment of Feminism (medium)
An essay following The Patriarchy We Object To which talks about how feminism might find its home.

A Glimpse into Eastern Orthodoxy (medium)

Eastern Orthodoxy is both Christian and Eastern. and sometimes other Christians, and the West in general, don’t pick up on what exactly this means. A Glimpse into Eastern Orthodoxy is written in the hope of creating a spark of connection.

The Hayward Nonstandard Test: An Interesting Failure (medium)
This was an attempt to think outside of the box. It failed, but there may be something very interesting in how it failed.

He Created Them Male and Female, Masculine and Feminine (short)
An essay I wrote in college about how masculinity and femininity are real, good, and part of how we are meant to flourish.

The Incarnation: Orthodoxy, Islam, and the Reformation (medium)
A look at what the Incarnation means for practical, lived life, and how it may be present or absent in Orthodoxy, Islam, and Protestant Christianity.

In celebration of Tribbles (short)

A look at cruelty-free pet keeping and an unlikely candidate for a pet where one’s living conditions would otherwise be cruel to something furry.

“Inclusive” Language and Other Debates: An Orthodox Alumnus Responds to his Advisor (medium)
A conservative alumnus answers questions posed by his egalitarian thesis advisor from a minor degree.

Knights and ladies (medium)

A more recent treatment of masculinity and femininity which tries to go deeper, and voice something important that has been unspoken.

Looking at “Stranger in a Strange Land” as a Modern Christological Heresy(medium)
An Orthodox Christian reader looks at Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, originally titled The Heretic, as a Christological heresy.

Meat (medium)
A look at ethical issues connected with icons, Theophany, Creation, animals, and meat from an Eastern Orthodox Christian perspective.

An Orthodox Looks at a Calvinist Looking at Orthodoxy (Medium)
One Presbyterian minister took the time to earn a doctorate from an Orthodox seminary… and wrote some reflections which left me wondering what he’d missed. I think his impressions may be a lot of people’s impressions, and I think he’s given a pretty candid take.

This note quotes the original reflections (with permission), and posts my reply to what seemed like getting a lot of details right but missing how they fit together in the big picture.

Orthodoxy, contraception, and spin doctoring: A Look at an Influential and Disturbing Article (long)
This article was occasioned by the discovery of some of what programmers ironically call, buried treasure: in this case, current Orthodox positions on contraception often are built on top of the buried treasure. Maybe this buried treasure is, as the definition in the jargon file says, “something that needs to be dug up and removed.”

The Patriarchy We Object To (medium)
A talk about some of what Orthodoxy can say to feminism.

Privilege, Pure Privilege—Extreme Privilege (medium)
This meditation looks at privilege—the privilege of celebrities, which the author does not have and has no desire for, and then other forms of privilege which make the concrete fabric of the author’s life.

Attention is paid to childhood literary heroes, and moves on to looking at what can be found in the lives of the saints.

Some thoughts about Heaven (short)
Heaven is meant to be important to earth.

Theology of play (short)
It sometimes seems easier to think about why work is important, than why play is important. This is an essay on why play is important.

A treatise on touch (medium)
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made is written by the doctor who found out that leprosy ravages the body by destroying the sense of touch. He recounts a story about getting sick, letting his foot fall asleep, thinking he had leprosy, realizing his error, and living a life alive to touch as he had never done before. This is part of that story’s impact on me.

Un-man’s tales: C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, fairy tales, and feminism(medium)
A study of two of the greatest scholar’s works that looks at the Un-man’s tales in C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, with eyes wide shut.

What the West doesn’t get about Islam (short)

The West doesn’t get Islam…

…and Western efforts to just understand Islam leave us further, not closer, to understanding Islam and Muslims.

Why study mathematics? (short)
Have you ever felt like mathematics was a secret game that everybody but you understood? Here’s the secret.

Why young earthers aren’t completely crazy (short)
A look at why some people insist on a young earth creation in the face of scientists’ constant claims that evolution is the only game in town—and why they’re not completely wrong.

Assorted creations

This is a “grab bag” of assorted creative works. Other sections have longer fiction and short stories; this offers a colorful collection of things you can’t find other places. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest A dream of light.

Christian koans (medium)
A koan is a unique kind of story that is both short and powerful.

A dream of light (medium)

Dreamlike images flow throughout this narrative.

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World not Touched By Evil
An exploration of seven different cultures in a world of pure goodness, a world without evil. This comes to mean seven forms of goodness which are sharply different from each other.

Game review: Meatspace (medium)

It is, in a sense, a description of the ultimate game.

Fingerprinted collects (short)
A short collection of prayers, in French and English.

The grinch who stole Christmas (short)
A twist on the classic Dr. Seuss story.

I learned it all from Jesus (short)
A poster in the tradition of “How To Be An Artist” and “I Learned It All In Kindergarden”.

Janra ball: The headache

A marvelously silly game from planet Espiriticthus.

Jobs for theologians (short)

An irreverent look at jobs available in theology.

The modern baccaulaureate (short)
You’ve heard of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Modern Major-General”? Here’s an update.

The Portal (medium)
The Portal is an interactive story. You’re the hero.

Profoundly Gifted Magazine: An Interview With Charles Wallace Murry of A Wind in the Door
When I was young, I emulated to an arguably toxic extent Charles Wallace from Madeleine l’Engle’s A Wind in the Door: it was through Charles Wallace that I learned to identify with a character in literature.

Late in her life, Madeleine l’Engle said she was waiting to see where Charles Wallace was, but passed on before she could complete a novel about where the adult Charles Wallace was. There is much that I gained from that author, including Within the Steel Orb, and I hope a tribute may stand here from someone who identified closely with the character, enough to see the novels’ faults from the inside.

Romantic Impressions (medium)
A set of vignettes trying to capture romantic impressions like the 19th century Romantics did.

The Way of the Way (medium)
An “early work” collection of poems underscoring something I sensed in Christianity that can be hard to see from the West.

Journals

Here are two journals I’ve kept. If you’re looking at a place to start, I suggest Journal of an Awakening.

Journal of an Awakening (long)
A journal of a spiritual awakening.

Musings (long)
A journal of ideas I wished to record.

Miscellaneous nonfiction

Another section has Articles. This section is a “grab bag” of other nonfiction works. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest Actually, to Me, It Is a Very Good Day.

Actually, to Me, It Is a Very Good Day (medium)
This is from a lecture and “reading aloud by the author” session.

Amos and Andy: Meet Barack Obama! (short)

Amos and Andy represent a low point, a shameful low point, in U.S. race relations and politics as a whole.

Some have said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. This is a look at, so to speak, something in today’s political arena that seems reminiscent of Amos and Andy.

Join a new Amos and a new Andy as they discuss politics, Republicans, prejudice, and Barack Obama!

An Author’s Musing Memoirs: Retrospective Reflections, Retracings, and Retractions (medium)
A letter to the reader about God, some of my flaws, and God’s work even in a flawed person such as Yours Truly.

The case for uncreative web design (medium)
Many people think good web design means making a design that’s different from other websites. This article argues another perspective.

“Concept demo” awards program (medium)
A carefully thought-out resource for reviewers for web awards program, on how to best present their programs to the web.

Jonathan’s Canon (medium)
An annotated bibliography of works that have influenced me, that I would like to pass on.

On Kything (medium)
Excerpted from the Journal of an Awakening.

Memory and prayer (short)
Do you believe that prayer is a good thing, but struggle to enjoy it for more than two minutes? I did for a long time; then something clicked.

On mentorship (medium)
A description of mentorship that has more than technique.

Not Stressed? (medium)
This is something I wrote about spiritual discipline and stress. I went to a Bible study that talked about dealing with stress, and when I heard the discussion, I realized that I was living at a much lower level of stress than what was assumed. I thought about how to explain why I experience less stress, and I realized that stress was the tip of the iceberg.

An open letter from a customer: I Don’t WANT to Abuse Your Employees and be Rewarded for Gaming the System (short)

The phrase “The customer is always right!” heralded in good customer service in an age of bad customer service.

Now some companies take “The customer is always right!” in a way that rewards customers who burn out their employees. This is a call to treat employees as human beings and perhaps free them to offer better customer service.

An open letter to spam patrons (short)
Do you hate spam? Here’s a letter you can send to business owners who don’t understand why spamming is bad.

Seven-Sided Gem (medium)
This lecture was given at Mensa’s Chicago Regional Gathering, and was meant to share several facets of interesting personal experience.

Tinkering with Perl
Something I wrote when my brothers were twelve to introduce them to programming. It tries to be very simple—just enough so kids can start tinkering.

The Way I Think (short)
There was something I missed in school, and had to invent myself. This book is for bright young people, and their parents, who would want to know what I’ve learned about thinking.

Novels

Go to:   Orthodox Theology   Articles   Assorted creations   Journals  Miscellaneous nonfiction   Novels   Orthodox Humor   Satire   Short stories  Socratic dialogue   Technology   Toastmasters speeches

This section has free online novels. Other free online books include Yonderand Hayward’s Unabridged Dictionary: A Free Online (Satire) Dictionary, or the how-to book Tinkering with Perl.

But the novels are right here, and several of them are Orthodox books. As well as these novels, you can also see short stories and other assorted creations. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest The Sign of the Grail.

The Christmas tales (long)
Several pilgrims speak over the Christmas meal.

A Cord of Seven Strands (long)
A novella which explores the connection between a circle of friends as they pass through harrowing experiences.

Firestorm 2034 (long)
A science fiction story about a medieval who is transported to the 21st century, and the chaos that ensues. It explores decades of shift in technology and culture. Heinlein fans will note a resemblance toStranger in a Strange Land, which I drew on—perhaps they’ll like this one, too.

The Sign of the Grail (long)

In this Orthodox book, a college freshman explores his room and finds a book, Brocéliande, and his eyes begin to open when he starts to read legends of King Arthur’s court.

The steel orb (long)
The steel orb is an Orthodox book that tells a story from a world that has been simmering in my heart for years. It concerns a young pupil who wants to be a teacher, and the struggles he goes through on the way. It is a fantasy novella based on the patristic Orthodox East instead of the medieval Catholic West.

Orthodox Humor

This section has Christian jokes and humor, and the lighter side of Orthodoxy. If you are looking for a place to start, I suggest Archdruid of Canterbury Visits Orthodox Patriarch. But free to check out the Orthodox books section too.

1054 and All That (short)
The confused person’s guide to being even more confused about Orthodoxy.

Archdruid of Canterbury Visits Orthodox Patriarch (short)

If you don’t know what this refers to, do a Google search for “Archbishop of Canterbury becoming a Druid.” The issue is more complex than it looks, but not that much more complex.

Communities of Mount Mathos Release Another Open Letter to Ecumenist Patriarch

They certainly appreciate precision!

Devotees of Fr. Cherubim (Jones) Demand his Immediate Canonization and Full Recognition as “Equal to the Heirophants” (short)
They’re at it. (Again.)

Evangelical Converts Striving to Be Orthodox (short)
You may have heard of the Evangelicals who studied hard, tried to re-create the Early Christian Church, and rediscovered the Orthodox Church. Here’s an update.

Pope Makes Historic Ecumenical Bid to Woo Eastern Rite Catholics (short)
Hot off the trail of the Pope’s offer to Anglicans comes a new historic bid, this time aimed at Eastern Rite Catholics(!).

Your Fast Track to Becoming a Bishop! (short)
The most convenient way to become an Orthodox bishop.

Satire

Satire. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest Religion Within the Bounds of Amusement. You might also like Orthodox Humor.

Hayward’s Unabridged Dictionary: A Free Online (Satire) Dictionary(long)

Ambrose Bierce wrote a classic of wit and satire, called The Devil’s Dictionary. This book follows in that tradition, and comments on any number of things in American life.

Inclusive Language Greek Manuscript Discovered (short)
There is a considerable buzz among New Testament scholars among the discovery of a nearly complete manuscript to the book of the Bible called Romans.

Religion Within the Bounds of Amusement (short)

Inspired by a visit to a “seeker service.” To those unacquainted with Christian lingo, this means a church service which tries to reach out to people seeking God—but “reach out to people seeking God” really means, “put on a circus.”

A Strange Archaeological Find (medium)
Read a 26th century historian as he extols the poetic beauty of a light bulb, praises Darwinism as a truly great myth… and analyzes a rather strange archaeological find.

Unvera Announces New Kool-Aid Line (short)
A leading nutriceutical supplement MLM announces a line of Kool-Aid for its distributors, containing some of the most powerful plant toxins available to humankind.

Short stories

Here are short stories you can read online for free. Besides the short stories, there are some works of fiction in the assorted creations and free online novels. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest Unashamed.

The commentary (medium)
This is a piece of wisdom literature about a man who has been searching for the Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, in One Volume, Containing a Careful Analysis of All Cultural Issues Needful to Understand the Bible as Did Its First Readers… and why he is so veryunhappy when he finds what he desires.

A glimpse through a crystal (short)
A dream about another world.

The metacultural Gospel (medium)
A fictionalized Gospel account set in contemporary America. It tries to convey how genuinely shocking a person is described in the Gospels—and how he’d still be stunning, today.

The Monastery (short)
The story of a traveller moving deeper and deeper into a monastery—in more ways than one.

A picture of evil (short)
What, exactly, is the nature of evil? Read about three painters who tried to show it.

The spectacles

There is more to this man than meets the eye. He appears quite ordinary; he’s learned that skill well enough…

Stephanos (short)

Stephanos begins when a boy enters a temple to get away from his sister…

A strange picture (short)
Why was a picture of beauty so disturbing?

Unashamed (short)

Abigail loves to sit down at a keyboard and improvise with her father. Why is she afraid one day?

The voyage (medium)
A disillusioned young man wants to escape into another world, a magical world, and finds an old man who might help him.

The Wagon, the Blackbird, and the Saab (medium)

There’s more connecting these three items than you might think. But the differences are more than meets the eye, too.

A wonderful life (medium)

It really doesn’t matter if the situation is ordinarily bad or extraordinarily bad. Not for what really counts.

Socratic dialogue

Socratic dialogue: philosophy with more than a dash of drama. If you’re looking for a place to start, I reccommend The Watch.

The damned backswing (short)
A dialogue about a “damned backswing” that keeps coming up in life and society.

How Shall We Live at 2:30:44 PM, Tue Jan 26 2016? (medium)

Humans have long lived as hunter-gatherers, then in a geological eyeblink adopted the agricultural revolution, and then in an eyeblink even compared to the agricultural revolution, spin out in a cascading, coruscating, coruscating succession of technologies.

The Law of Attraction: A Dialogue with an Eastern Orthodox Christian Mystic (medium)
In shaky times, many people look to the Law of Attraction. Orthodox Christianity has a way to delve deeper.

The Martian Human Complete Set of Working Instructions to Happiness: Life, the Paleo Diet, (Paleo) Orthodoxy, and Other Things (medium)
A Socratic dialogue between a fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and an Orthodox theologian about Martian and human life, happiness, and the Paleo diet.

The mindstorm (medium)
A dialogue which has a brilliant alumnus return to his school and discuss philosophy of education with its founder.

Plato: The Allegory of the… Flickering Screen? (short)

A slightly updated look at Plato’s Allegory of the Cave… or perhaps not really an updated look at all. Should the most famous piece of Socratic dialogue have been called the Allegory of the Television?

Singularity

A Socratic dialogue about the present cultural singularity emanating from the West and reaching across the globe.

The dialogue is between Merlin, chrismated John, and Herodotus.

Spirit (medium)
God is spirit, and he invites us to be spirit too.

Veni, Vidi, Vomi: A Look at “Do You Want to Date My Avatar?” (short)
“Do You Want to Date My Avatar?” is a viral music video that is funny and demure by music video standards. At first glance, at least…

The watch (medium)

On the surface, it’s about a watch that has another way of telling time. Under the surface…

Within the Steel Orb (medium)

Does Einstein’s theory of relativity say anything that relativism does not? Or does relativism say anything that Einstein’s theory of relativity does not?

Is there a difference that matters?

A sleek car under starlight, a different kind of information technology, a deep, blue-robed host, and the wisdom of a Socratic dialogue in a science fiction world.

Yonder (long)
Yonder is a science fiction story that starts in a world where mind and body are separate. Or at least that’s one way of looking at it. You could also describe it as a miniature Divine Comedy, a journey which begins in Hell and ends in Heaven, but uses none of the traditional imagery: Hell is a place where you can have any pleasure you want, while Heaven is a place with intense suffering.

Technology

Here are a collection of works about technology, programming, web design, and hackerdom. You may also be interested in the open source software projects section and possibly Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, Ascesis. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest The Luddite’s guide to technology: Fasting from Technologies or Passwords maker.

Ajax without JavaScript or client-side scripting (short)

It’s common knowledge among front-end web developers that Ajax is not necessarily “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML”: XML can quite well be replaced by JSON. But JavaScript and client-side scripting languages aren’t strictly necessary, and here is a proof of concept.

All I Really Needed to Learn About Programming, I Learned From Java(short)
As I look back on my programming experience, the most important things were not writing low-level serialization routines, or stunning optimizations that drew on deep theory. All I really needed to learn about programming, I learned from Java.

The blacksmith’s forge: An Extension of Euclidean Geometric Construction, as a Model of Computation
What is a computer? This looks at how high school Euclidean geometric construction may be seen as a model of computation, and then looks at an extension that opens the door to many more constructions that can give a powerful extension to Euclidean construction.

It allows quick construction for three problems classically considered to be insoluble.

The case for uncreative web design
Many people think good web design means making a design that’s different from other websites. This article argues another perspective.

The Luddite’s guide to technology: Fasting from technologies (long)
The title “The Luddite’s guide to technology” is quite deliberately ironic. The content, a work of Orthodox mystical theology, is not ironic, and is a discussion of spiritually disciplined use of today’s technology. The discussion is meant to provide a roadmap and provoke reflection.

Passwords maker (short)

It can be surprisingly difficult to make a password that is both strong and secure on the one hand, and not impossible to remember. Sure, if your password is “BQRaW3@8-i–d5bce” it is going to be a hard password for anyone malicious to guess, but that kind of password is hard to remember, and for that matter hard enough to type in!

Passwords maker makes passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember. Curious how that is possible? Take a look!

So, You’ve Hired a Hacker (Revised and Expanded) (medium)

This is a revision of a classic guide for managers confused by hackers they’ve hired. Not the vandals who break into other people’s computers—the other kind of hacker, the law-abiding kind. Haven’t heard of them? Here’s a chance to do just that.

Tinkering with Perl (long)
Something I wrote when my brothers were twelve to introduce them to programming. It tries to be very simple—just enough so kids can start tinkering.

Usability for hackers: Developers, anthropology, and making software more usable (medium)

Programmers can easily enough make software with an interface that makes sense only to them. This is a discussion of personal attributes that many programmers can draw on to make software that is much more usable.

Usability, the Soul of Python: An introduction to the Python programming language (medium)
An introduction to Python that looks at usability as one of the most fundamental aspects of the language.

Your site’s missing error page
Think you’ve covered the bases in appropriate error pages? 404 and 500 covered professionally? You’ve still got at least one left.

Toastmasters speeches

The ice breaker: Why such harassment? (short)
If someone said, “I wish I were gifted enough that people would start harassing me,” the response may be “Huh?”

But that doesn’t make the experience any less real.

Organize your speech: iPhones and spirituality (short)
Texting while driving is dangerous; we’ve learned that texting is a strong enough technological drug not to mix with driving. But there are other lessons in life besides “Hang up and drive!” This is especially true with the technological drug of the iPhone.

Get to the Point: Humor delivers pain (short)
People see humor as joyful, but take away a joke’s pain and what’s left isn’t funny. As Mark Twain the humor wrote, “The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in Heaven.”Orthodoxy would agree.

Et cetera

I like to create—usually by writing, but I’ve made other things as well. This is a collection of all sorts of things I’ve created (besides writing and besides a role playing game I cherish). Some are very serious; some are very silly. The most recent addition here is A Facebook portrait for Orthodox clergy. There is also a list of recent additions to this site, sorted by date.

If you are looking for a place to start, I suggest A Christmas gift for children.

Like something you see here? Don’t like something you see here? Want to write the creator/author? Contact me!

Go to: Art   Games   Humor   The minstrel’s song   Miscellaneous   Open source software projects   Web services

Art

Here are assorted pieces of visual art. As well as the pieces here, you might enjoy looking through the pictures on the homepage. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthane?.

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthane? (medium)

A watercolor that I made my freshman year of college. I don’t think I’ve made any other artwork that reaches the same standard.

An Enchanted Picture (short)

Watch as the picture fades and melts.

The Good Shepherd (short)
“Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” What haven’t you been told about this?

A Personal Flag
A web page set me thinking, and I decided to create a personal flag—that is, a visual symbol designed to share who I am. Here it is, with annotation.

Taberah (short)
I drew a picture of the hero of my second novel. I’m not sure it came out as powerfully as what I envisioned, but I think it captures something…

Go to: Art   Games   Humor   The minstrel’s song   Miscellaneous   Open source software projects   Web services

Games

As well as the games here, there’s another game, The Minstrel’s Song, that has its own section. Some of the open source software projects are also games. But if you’re looking for an interesting challenge, why don’t you tryA Four Dimensional Maze?

A four dimensional maze

Some years ago, I wrote a program that allowed the player to navigate a four dimensional maze. The game looks like it did on the Apple ][—a blast from the past.

Generica (medium)
This is an icebreaker board game: if you print out the printer-friendly version, you can make your own board game to play with friends.

Patterns (short)
I wrote a program to help me understand a math problem, and found it was fun to play around with: interesting things happen when you click around. This is probably one of your better bets if your mind’s fried from a hard day’s work.

Humor

Go to: Art   Games   Humor   The minstrel’s song   Miscellaneous   Open source software projects   Web services

A handful of humorous items. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest Procedures for the Adjustment and Repair of Televisions.

Automated Windows Tech Support (short)
I have here a personally developed automated Windows technical support system, available free of charge.

A Customer Experience Survey (short)
There’s a customer survey for everything

A Fully Functional Windows 95 Emulator That Runs Right in Your Browser (short)

Plans are underway for a fully functional Windows 7 emulator, but unfortunately are running into difficulties with IE6 compatibility.

Microsoft Offers Better “Truth in Advertising” for Windows XP Dialog Box
Microsoft has released a clarified wording for one of the most important—and most annoying—dialog boxes in the Microsoft Windows XP Operating System.

Procedures for the Adjustment and Repair of Televisions (short)

A number of methods may be used for dealing with televisions; here’s the one I think is best.

The Quintessential Web Page (short)
What is the Web? It’s a tough question to answer, perhaps because it’s so hard to define a typical web page. If you click on this link, however, you’ll be taken to about as quintessential of a web page as I believe exists.

Today, Florida Orange Juice. Tomorrow… (short)

Remember those TV commercials a few days back, where warm sunlit scenes were followed by a warm voice saying, “Florida Orange Juice. Because it makes you feel so good?” Here’s an update.

Miscellaneous

Go to: Art   Games   Humor   The minstrel’s song   Miscellaneous   Open source software projects   Web services

Miscellaneous items that you won’t find in other areas of the website. If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest A Christmas gift for children.

A Christmas gift for children

A look at some of the peaks of CJS Hayward that would be more interesting to children, including the Tale of the Fairy Prince.

Connections
I do not live in a vacuum, but in connection with communities and other people. Here are some of their webpages.

A Facebook portrait for Orthodox clergy
Facebook is slightly insensitive to religious communities who call their priests, “Father.” Here is a tweak on one clever response to the censorship.

Favorite haunts
My site isn’t focused on links, but I’ve found some jewels on the web that I consider worth mention.

Homemade pinball machine HOWTO (short)
As a child, CJS Hayward made a number of different little pinball machines. Here’s an updated summary of how to get into the craft.

If You Want to Link to Jonathan’s Corner (short)
Here are some images, along with sample HTML, for people who want to link to this page. (Text links are also welcome!)

The “natural cycle” liturgical clock

The concept may not be obvious if you’re not used to ancient ways of thinking about a time, but there is a different way of calculating time based on the natural cycles of sunrise and sunset rather than artificial things like time zones.

UberLingua (short)
Writing is largely a copy of oral language; it does not take full advantage of visual media. Here’s an article about what some might call the next generation of human language. It is dedicated to all those web designers who believe that, if they make a web page you already know how to use, they aren’t doing their job.

Et cetera

A Christmas gift for children

A look at some of the peaks of CJS Hayward that would be more interesting to children, including the Tale of the Fairy Prince.

Connections
I do not live in a vacuum, but in connection with communities and other people. Here are some of their webpages.

Favorite haunts
My site isn’t focused on links, but I’ve found some jewels on the web that I consider worth mention.

If You Want to Link to Jonathan’s Corner
Here are some images, along with sample HTML, for people who want to link to this page. (Text links are also welcome!)

The “natural cycle” liturgical clock

The concept may not be obvious if you’re not used to ancient ways of thinking about a time, but there is a different way of calculating time based on the natural cycles of sunrise and sunset rather than artificial things like time zones.

UberLingua
Writing is largely a copy of oral language; it does not take full advantage of visual media. Here’s an article about what some might call the next generation of human language. It is dedicated to all those web designers who believe that, if they make a web page you already know how to use, they aren’t doing their job.

Connections
I do not live in a vacuum, but in connection with communities and other people. Here are some of their webpages.

Favorite haunts
My site isn’t focused on links, but I’ve found some jewels on the web that I consider worth mention.

If You Want to Link to Jonathan’s Corner
Here are some images, along with sample HTML, for people who want to link to this page. (Text links are also welcome!)

The “natural cycle” liturgical clock

The concept may not be obvious if you’re not used to ancient ways of thinking about a time, but there is a different way of calculating time based on the natural cycles of sunrise and sunset rather than artificial things like time zones.

UberLingua
Writing is largely a copy of oral language; it does not take full advantage of visual media. Here’s an article about what some might call the next generation of human language. It is dedicated to all those web designers who believe that, if they make a web page you already know how to use, they aren’t doing their job.

Open Source Software Projects

This is a set of open source projects. You may also be interested in the section of things written about technology, programming, web design, usability, and hackerdom. If you’re looking for a place to start, why don’t you look at ABSOLUTE Precision Arithmetic with Arbitrary Precison OUTPUT?

Licenses: Most, although not all, of these projects are available to you under your choice of the Artistic, GPL, and MIT licenses (see individual pages for details). If you find something you like, you are invited to consider linking to CJSHayward.com.

ABSOLUTE precision arithmetic with arbitrary precision OUTPUT
This offers something fundamentally better than arbitrary precision’s arithmetic letting you choose where the digits drop off. It stores any (computable) number exactly, and offers print-on-demand decimalizations.

If you originally calculate a number to three decimal places, and later find you need six, or want the user to be able to specify any number of decimal places you can’t know in advance, no problem. Just ask for six or a user-entered number of decimal places: no need to refactor all of your code. And if an exact number is generated by someone else’s code, you need not dig into that code to get your preferred number of decimal places.

This also does not suffer the corruption on arithmetic operation that slowly corrupts float- (or arbitrary-precision) arithmetic.

I miss Aqua: A retro-themed Maverick
The Aqua theme is gone from Mac OSX, but with a little open source pixie dust we can have an Aqua virtual machine available from Mac, Linux, or Windows.

Enjoy!

Catch the furball (Demo) (short)
Catch the furball is an ice-breaker board game intended for people to play around the computer. This page will both let you play the game, and download it to install and/or tinker with. (It’s a bit like Generica, but easier to set up.)

CFL: A truly unique distributed version control system (short)
CFL is the world’s first green distributed version control system. Inspired by compact fluorescent lights, it is at its core based on Mercurial, but builds on it in ways some would never imagine.

CJSH, a Python 3 based experimental, programmable Linux / Unix / Mac command line shell (short)
An experimental Unix/Linux command line shell, implemented in Python 3, that offers Unix strength and Python-powered Unix scripting while taking advantage of some more recent concepts in terms of usability and searching above pinpointing files in directory heirarchies.

The data mine (short)
The data mine is a search engine designed to give powerful access to a site’s contents. The interface is meant to be friendly and use keyword highlighting and link targets to allow the user to find desired material with minimal clicking and scrolling.

Fortunes (short)
On some computers, there’s a fortune cookie program that displays a short quote suitable for signatures and the like. Here are two things I’ve written, in that format.

Hayward\s free intranet employee photo directory (short)

A free, simple, powerful, usable employee intranet photo directory built with Django jQuery Ajax.

The magic notebook (Demo)
The magic notebook is a tool for storing and organizing notes that can be used for contact information, to do lists, lists to read, recipes, and whatever other eclectic collections of information you want. It is available both for personal use and as a downloadable CGI script.

The minstrel’s song
This is an extensive and somewhat nostalgic ‘roguelike’ computer game, which works best on a Linux-like system.

Mobile Web Proxy (short)

The Mobile Web Proxy is meant to be a proxy that will allow some webpages which cannot be displayed on my cell phone (and perhaps not other people’s mobile devices either) to be available for viewing.

Private logistics: Privacy-sensitive todo, calendar, scratchpad, personal information management (PIM) (medium)

This webpage provides certain dynamic services: todo, calendar, and scratchpad. However, it doesn’t store your information somewhere on a server run by someone else. It is stored on your computer, and only on your computer.

Proportional font terminal: A better Linux / Unix / Mac term
For those of you who use Unix/Linux terminals, would you like to use the same kind of proportional fonts that are used on almost every major website? This is a tool to let you do just that.

The Powered Access Bible (Demo)

The powered access Bible is a CGI script which you can use to find things in the Bible, and see what they mean in context.

Quizmaster (Demo) (short)
There are quizzes that give you multiple guess questions and tell you what you’re closest to. This is a CGI script designed to let webmasters post their own quizzes. This is a more dynamic setup than many: as you answer questions, you can see your results being calculated.

SearchLog(Demo) (short)
SearchLog is weblog meets search engine, with some cool tools thrown in to make it more powerful.

Sidebar in a Can (short)
Visitors with Firefox or other Mozilla browsers: would you like a sidebar offering Jonathan’s Corner selections? (Non-Firefox friends: I’m sorry, but the other browsers don’t access this sidebar yet.)

Webmasters: Would you like to have a sidebar that is both dynamic and low-maintenance? The sidebar powers the rotating link on my front page. Check it out.

Snippets (short)
This is the release page for a CGI script where fortune cookie meets wiki: an editable quote of the day, a way to remember people to e-mail, and other things as well.

Spaghetti Parenthesis Visualizer (short)
An in-browser tool to balance parentheses (braces, etc.) None of the code that it visually formats will be sent to the server, but the security conscious are invited to download their own copies (GPL/MIT).

Virtual Tour (Demo)
Virtual Tour is a web tool I made to allow an online virtual tour. Whether or not you set up webpages, I invite you to see the virtual tour I made of ‘Impressions of Cambridge’ at beautiful Cambridge University in England.

Web services

Web tools related to Jonathan’s Corner: A Library of Free Online Books. If you’re looking for a place to start, why not check out the Toolbar?

One Stop Shopping for Web services (short)
An easy access page for this site’s RSS and sidebar services.

Reciprocal links directory (short)
A directory of reciprocal links. Submissions are invited; please contact the author.

Toolbar (short)
A simple, slightly eclectic, and somewhat powerful toolbar linked to Jonathan’s Corner.

The minstrel’s song

A Role Playing Game

Welcome to the home page of The minstrel’s song! Here you can download and read about the role playing game, and the roguelike. The game has a very rich world, with seven detailed cultures—as you read about the cultures, you may find yourself seeing through these people’s eyes:

The storytelling of the Nor’krin
The horseplay of the Tuz
The tinkering of the Urvanovestilli
The song of the Yedidia
The simple ways of the Jec
The peace of the Shal
The pranks of the Janra.

The cultures are written out of the author’s experience on three continents, and add depth and color to game play. As one player said during playtesting:

Tuz are all action.
Urvanovestilli are all words.
Shal are all being.
Janra are all goofs.

Like something you see here? Don’t like something you see here? Want to write the author? Contact me! There is also a list of recent additions to this site, sorted by date.

If you’re looking for a place to start, why not read Janra ball: The headache?

An Example of Play

I also have the beginning of a TMS play by e-mail campaign online. Reading it might give you a feel for what play is like. The campaign is closed.

The Fantasy World

The cultures of this Christian fantasy world have been worked out in detail:The World Espiriticthus.

Playing Materials

Player’s Introduction
Game Master’s Introduction (short)
A Mathematical Model (short, optional)

Background Reading

General Comments and Theological Groundings (medium)
Further Notes (medium)

A Game Within a Game: From Espiriticthus to Our World

Here’s a piece I wrote about some of the local color in the game:

Janra ball: the Headache (short)

A Roguelike Computer Game

A “roguelike” computer game (long), very retro, can be downloaded herefor Windows, Unix, Linux, and Macintosh.

Yonder

CJSH.name/yonder

Yonder
Read it on Kindle for $3!

The body continued running in the polished steel corridor, a corridor without doors and windows and without any hint of how far above and below the local planet’s surface it was, if indeed it was connected with a planet. The corridor had a competition mixture of gases, gravity, temporature and pressure, and so on, and as the body had been running, lights turned on and then off so the body was at the center of a moving swathe of rather clinical light. The body was running erratically, and several times it had nearly fallen; the mind was having trouble keeping the control of the body due to the body being taxed to its limit. Then the body tripped. The mind made a few brief calculations and jacked out of the body.

The body fell, not having the mind to raise its arms to cushion the fall, and fractured bones in the face, skull, and ribs. The chest heaved in and out with each labored breath, after an exertion that would be lethal in itself. A trickle of blood oozed out from a wound. The life of the abandoned body slowly ebbed away, and the lights abruptly turned off.

It would be a while before a robot would come to clean it up and prepare the corridor for other uses.


“And without further ado,” another mind announced, “I would like to introduce the researcher who broke the record for a running body by more than 594789.34 microseconds. This body was a strictly biological body, with no cyberware besides a regulation mind-body interface, with no additional modifications. Adrenaline, for instance, came from the mind controlling the adrenal glands; it didn’t even replace the brain with a chemical minifactory. The body had a magnificent athletic physique, clean and not encumbered by any reproductive system. And I still don’t know how it kept the body alive and functioning, without external help, for the whole race. Here’s Archon.”

A sound came from a modular robot body at the center of the stage and was simultaneously transmitted over the net. “I see my cyborg utility body there; is that my Paidion wearing it? If so, I’m going to… no, wait. That would be harming my own body without having a good enough reason.” A somewhat canned chuckle swept through the crowd. “I’m impressed; I didn’t know that anyone would come if I called a physical conference, and I had no idea there were that many rental bodies within an appropriate radius.” Some of the bodies winced. “But seriously, folks, I wanted to talk and answer some of your questions about how my body broke the record. It was more than generating nerve impulses to move the body to the maximum ability. And I would like to begin by talking about why I’ve called a physical conference in the first place.

“Scientific breakthroughs aren’t scientific. When a mind solves a mathematical problem that hasn’t been solved before, it does… not something impossible, but something that you will miss if you look for something possible. It conforms itself to the problem, does everything it can to permeate itself with the problem. Look at the phenomenology and transcripts of every major mathematical problem that has been solved in the past 1.7e18 microseconds. Not one follows how one would scientifically attempt a scientific breakthrough. And somehow scientifically optimized applications of mind to problems repeat past success but never do anything new.

“What you desire so ravenously to know is how I extended the methodologies to optimize the running body and the running mind to fit a calculated whole. And the answer is simple. I didn’t.”

A mind interrupted through cyberspace. “What do you mean, you didn’t? That’s as absurd as claiming that you built the body out of software. That’s—”

Archon interrupted. “And that’s what I thought too. What I can tell you is this. When I grew and trained the body, I did nothing else. That was my body, my only body. I shut myself off from cyberspace—yes, that’s why you couldn’t get me—and did not leave a single training activity to another mind or an automatic process. I trained myself to the body as if it were a mathematics problem and tried to soak myself in it.”

A rustle swept through the crowd.

“And I don’t blame you if you think I’m a crackpot, or want to inspect me for hostile tampering. I submit to inspection. But I tried to be as close as possible to the body, and that’s it. And I shaved more than 594789.34 microseconds off the record.” Archon continued after a momentary pause. “I specifically asked for bodily presences for this meeting; call me sentimental or crackpot or trying to achieve with your bodies what I failed to achieve in that body, but I will solicit questions from those who have a body here first, and address the network after everybody present has had its chance.”

A flesh body stood up and flashed its face. “What are you going to say next? Not only that you became like a body, but that the body became like a mind?”

Archon went into private mode, filtered through and rejected 3941 responses, and said, “I have not analyzed the body to see if it contained mind-like modifications and do not see how I would go about doing such a thing.”

After several other questions, a robot said, “So what’s next?”

Archon hesitated, and said, “I don’t know.” It hesitated again, and said, “I’m probably going to make a Riemannian 5-manifold of pleasure states. I plan on adding some subtle twists so not only will it be pleasurable; minds will have a real puzzle figuring out exactly what kind of space they’re in. And I’m not telling what the manifold will be like, or even telling for sure that it will genuinely have only 5 dimensions.”

The robot said, “No, you’re not. You’re not going to do that at all.” Then the mind jacked out and the body fell over, inert.

Another voice, issuing from two standard issue cyborg bodies, said, “Has the body been preserved, and will it be available for internal examination?”

Archon heard the question, and answered it as if it were giving the question its full attention. But it could only give a token of its consciousness. The rest of its attention was on tracing the mind that had jacked out of the robot body. And it was a slippery mind. Archon was both frustrated and impressed when it found no trace.

It was skilled at stealth and tracing, having developed several methodologies for each, and something that could vanish without a trace—had the mind simply destroyed itself? That possibility bothered Archon, who continued tracing after it dismissed the assembly.

Archon looked for distractions, and finding nothing better it began trying to sound out how it might make the pleasure space. What should the topology be? The pleasures should be—Archon began looking at the kinds of pleasure, and found elegant ways to choose a vector space basis for less than four dimensions or well over eight, but why should it be a tall order to do exactly five? Archon was far from pleasure when a message came, “Not your next achievement, Archon?”

Archon thought it recognized something. “Have you tried a five dimensional pleasure manifold before? How did you know this would happen?”

“I didn’t.”

“Ployon!”

Ployon said, “It took you long enough! I’m surprised you needed the help.”

Ployon continued, “And since there aren’t going to be too many people taking you seriously—”

Archon sent a long stream of zeroes to Ployon.

Ployon failed to acknowledge the interruption. “—from now on, I thought you could use all the help you could get.”

Archon sent another long stream of zeroes to Ployon.

When Ployon remained silent, Archon said, “Why did you contact me?”

Ployon said, “Since you’re going to do something interesting, I wanted to see it live.”

Archon said, “So what am I going to do?”

“I have no idea whatsoever, but I want to see it.”

“Then how do you know it is interesting?”

“You said things that would destroy your credibility, and you gave an evasive answer. It’s not every day I get to witness that.”

Archon sent a long stream of zeroes to Ployon.

Ployon said, “I’m serious.”

“Then what can I do now?”

“I have no idea whatsoever, but you might take a look at what you’re evading.”

“And what am I evading?”

“Try asking yourself. Reprocess the transcripts of that lecture. Your own private transcript.”

Archon went through the file, disregarding one moment and then scanning everything else. “I find nothing.”

“What did you just disregard?”

“Just one moment where I said too much.”

“And?”

Archon reviewed that moment. “I don’t know how to describe it. I can describe it three ways, all contradictory. I almost did it—I almost forged a connection between mind and matter. And yet I failed. And yet somehow the body ran further, and I don’t think it was simply that I learned to control it better. What I achieved only underscored what I failed to achieve, like an optimization that needs to run for longer than the age of the universe before it starts saving time.”

Archon paused before continuing, “So I guess what I’m going to do next is try to bridge the gap between mind and matter for real. Besides the mundane relationship, I mean, forge a real connection that will bridge the chasm.”

Ployon said, “It can’t be done. It’s not possible. I don’t even understand why your method of training the body will work. You seem to have made more of a connection than has ever been done before. I’m tempted to say that when you made your presentation, you ensured that no one else will do what you did. But that’s premature and probably wrong.”

“Then what am I going to do next? How am I going to bridge that gap?”

Ployon said, “I saw something pretty interesting in what you did achieve—you know, the part where you destroyed your credibility. That’s probably more interesting than your breaking the record.”

Ployon ran through some calculations before continuing, “And at any rate, you’re trying to answer the wrong question.”

Archon said, “Am I missing the interesting question? The question of how to forge a link across the chasm between matter and spirit is—”

“Not nearly as interesting as the question of what it would mean to bridge that chasm.”

Archon stopped, reeling at the implication. “I think it’s time for me to make a story in a virtual world.”

Ployon said, “Goodbye now. You’ve got some thinking to do.”

Archon began to delve. What would the world be like if you added to it the ability for minds to connect with bodies, not simply as it had controlled his racing body, but really? What would it be like if the chasm could be bridged? It searched through speculative fiction, and read a story where minds could become bodies—which made for a very good story, but when it seriously tried to follow its philosophical assumptions, it realized that the philosophical assumptions were not the focus. It read and found several stories where the chasm could be bridged, and—

There was no chasm. Or would not be. And that meant not taking the real world and adding an ability to bridge a chasm, but a world where mind and matter were immanent. After rejecting a couple of possible worlds, Archon considered a world where there were only robots, and where each interfaced to the network as externally as to the physical world. Each mind was firmware burned into the robot’s circuits, and for some still to be worked out reason it couldn’t be transferred. Yes, this way… no. Archon got some distance into this possible world before a crawling doubt caught up to it. It hadn’t made minds and bodies connect; it’d only done a first-rate job of covering up the chasm. Maybe organic goo held promise. A world made only of slime? No, wait, that was… and then it thought—

Archon dug recursively deeper and deeper, explored, explored. It seemed to be bumping into something. Its thoughts grew strange; it calculated for billions and even trillions of microseconds, encountered something stranger than—

Something happened.

How much time had passed?

Archon said, “Ployon! Where are you?”

Ployon said, “Enjoying trying to trace your thoughts. Not much success. I’ve disconnected now.”

“Imagine a mind and a body, except that you don’t have a mind and a body, but a mind-body unity, and it—”

“Which do you mean by ‘it’? The mind or the body? You’re being careless.”

“Humor me. I’m not being careless. When I said, ‘it’, I meant both—”

Both the mind and the body? As in ‘they’?”

“Humor me. As in, ‘it.’ As in a unity that doesn’t exist in our world.”

“Um… then how do you refer to just the mind or just the body? If you don’t distinguish them…”

“You can distinguish the mind and the body, but you can never separate them. And even though you can refer to just the mind or just the body, normally you would talk about the unity. It’s not enough to usually talk about ‘they;’ you need to usually talk about ‘it.'”

“How does it connect to the network?”

“There is a kind of network, but it can’t genuinely connect to it.”

“What does it do when its body is no longer serviceable.”

“It doesn’t—I haven’t decided. But it can’t jump into something else.”

“So the mind simply functions on its own?”

“Ployon, you’re bringing in cultural baggage. You’re—”

“You’re telling me this body is a prison! Next you’re going to tell me that it can’t even upgrade the body with better parts, and that the mind is like a real mind, only it’s shut in on twenty sides. Are you describing a dystopia?”

“No. I’m describing what it means that the body is real to the mind, that it is not a mind that can use bodies but a mind-body unity. It can’t experience any pleasure it can calculate, but its body can give it pleasure. It runs races, and not only does the mind control the body—or at least influence it; the body is real enough that the mind can’t simply control it perfectly—but the body affects the mind. When I run a race, I am controlling the body, but I could be doing twenty other things as well and only have a token presence at the mind-body interface. It’s very different; there is a very real sense in which the mind is running when the body is running a race.

“Let me guess. The mind is a little robot running around a racetrack hollowed out from the body’s brain. And did you actually say, races, plural? Do they have nanotechnology that will bring a body back after its been run down? And would anyone actually want to race a body that had been patched that way?”

“No. I mean that because their bodies are part of them, they only hold races which they expect the racers to be able to live through.”

“That’s a strange fetish. Don’t they ever have a real race?”

“They have real races, real in a way that you or I could never experience. When they run, they aren’t simply manipulating something foreign to the psyche. They experience pleasures they only experience running.”

“Are you saying they only allow them to experience certain pleasures while running?”

“No. They—”

“Then why don’t they allow the pleasures at other times? That’s a stranger fetish than—”

“Because they can’t. Their bodies produce certain pleasures in their minds when they’re running, and they don’t generate these pleasures unless the body is active.”

“That raises a number of problems. It sounds like you’re saying the body has a second mind, because it would take a mind to choose to let the ‘real’ mind experience pleasure. It—”

Archon said, “You’re slipping our chasm between the body and mind back in, and it’s a chasm that doesn’t exist. The body produces pleasure the mind can’t produce by itself, and that is only one of a thousand things that makes the race more real than them for us. Think about the achievements you yourself made when you memorized the map of the galaxy. Even if that was a straightforward achievement, that’s something you yourself did, not something you caused an external memory bank to do. Winning a race is as real for that mind-body as something it itself did as the memorization was for you. It’s something it did, not simply something the mind caused the body to do. And if you want to make a causal diagram, don’t draw something linear. In either direction. Make a reinforced web, like computing on a network.”

Ployon said, “I still don’t find it convincing.”

Archon paused. “Ok, let’s put that in the background. Let me approach that on a different scale. Time is more real. And no—this is not because they measure time more precisely. Their bodies are mortal, and this means that the community of mind-body unities is always changing, like a succession of liquids flowing through a pipe. And that means that it makes a difference where you are in time.”

Archon continued. “I could say that their timeline is dynamic in a way that ours is not. There is a big change going on, a different liquid starting to flow through the pipe. It is the middle age, when a new order of society is being established and the old order is following away.”

Ployon said, “So what’s the old technology, and what’s the new one?”

“It’s deeper than that. Technological society is appearing. The old age is not an abandoned technology. It is organic life, and it is revealing itself as it is disintegrating.”

“So cyborgs have—”

“There are no cyborgs, or very few.”

“And let me guess. They’re all cybernetic enhancements to originally biological things.”

“It’s beyond that. Cybernetic replacements are only used to remedy weak bodies.”

“Wouldn’t it be simpler to cull the—”

“The question of ‘simpler’ is irrelevant. Few of them even believe in culling their own kind. Most believe that it is—’inexpedient’ isn’t quite right—to destroy almost any body, and it’s even more inadvisable to destroy one that is weak.”

“In the whole network, why?”

“I’m still working that out. The easiest part to explain has to do with their being mind-body unities. When you do something to a body, you’re not just doing it to that body. You’re doing it to part of a pair that interpenetrates in the most intimate fashion. What you do to the body you do to the mind. It’s not just forcibly causing a mind to jack out of a body; it’s transferring the mind to a single processor and then severing the processor from the network.”

“But who would… I can start to see how real their bodies would be to them, and I am starting to be amazed. What else is real to them?”

“I said earlier that most of them are hesitant to cull the weak, that they view it as inexpedient. But efficiency has nothing to do with it. It’s connected to—it might in fact be more efficient, but there is something so much bigger than efficiency—”

Ployon cut it off. “Bigger than efficiency?”

Archon said, “There is something that is real to them that is not real to us that I am having trouble grasping myself. For want of a more proper label, I’ll call it the ‘organic’.”

“Let’s stop a minute. I’ll give you a point for how things would be different if we were limited to one body, but you’re hinting at something you want to call ‘organic’, which is very poorly defined, and your explanations seem to be strange when they are not simply hazy. Isn’t this a red flag?”

“Where have you seen that red flag before?”

“When people were wildly wrong but refused to admit it.”

“And?”

“That’s pretty much it.”

Archon was silent.

Ployon said, “And sometimes it happens when a researcher is on to something big… oh… so what exactly is this nexus of the ‘organic’?”

“I can’t tell you. At least, not directly. The mind-body unities are all connected to a vast (to them) biological network in which each has a physical place—”

That’s original! Come on; everybody’s trivia archive includes the fact that all consciousness comes out of a specific subnet of physical processors, or some substitute for that computing machinery. I can probably zero in on where you’re—hey! Stop jumping around from subnet to subnet—can I take that as an acknowledgment that I can find your location? I—”

“The location is not part of a trivia encyclopedia for them. It’s something as inescapable as the flow of time—”

“Would you like me to jump into a virtual metaphysics where time doesn’t flow?”

“—correction, more inescapable than the flow of time, and it has a million implications for the shape of life. Under the old order, the unities could connect only with other unities which had bodies in similar places—”

“So, not only is their ‘network’ a bunch of slime, but when they look for company they have to choose from the trillion or however many other unities whose bodies are on the same node?”

“Their communities are brilliant in a way we can never understand; they have infinitesmally less potential partners available.

“You mean their associations are forced on them.”

“To adapt one of their sayings, in our network you connect with the minds you like; in their network you like the people you connect with. That collapses a rich and deeper maxim, but what is flattened out is more organic than you could imagine.”

“And I suppose that in a way that is very deep, but you conveniently have trouble describing, their associations are greater.”

“We are fortunate to have found a way to link in our shared tastes. And we will disassociate when our tastes diverge—”

“And shared tastes have nothing to do with them? That’s—”

“Shared tastes are big, but there is something else bigger. A great deal of the process of making unities into proper unities means making their minds something you can connect with.”

Their minds? Don’t you mean the minds?”

“That locution captures something that—they are not minds that have a body as sattelite. One can say, ‘their‘ minds because they are mind-body unities. They become greater—in a way that we do not—by needing to be in association with people they could not choose.”

“Pretty convenient how every time having a mind linked to a body means a limitation, that limitation makes them better.”

“If you chose to look at it, you would find a clue there. But you don’t find it strange when the best game players prosper within the limits of the game. What would game play be if players could do anything they wanted?”

“You’ve made a point.”

“As I was going to say, their minds develop a beauty, strength, and discipline that we never have occasion to develop.”

“Can you show me this beauty?”

“Here’s a concrete illustration. One thing they do is take organisms which have been modified from their biological environment, and keep them in the artificial environments which you’d say they keep their bodies in. They—”

“So even though they’re stuck with biological slime, they’re trying to escape it and at least pretend it’s not biological? That sounds sensible.”

“Um, you may have a point, but that isn’t where I was hoping to go. Um… While killing another unity is something they really try to avoid, these modified organisms enjoy no such protection. And yet—”

“What do they use them for? Do the enhancements make them surrogate industrial robots? Are they kept as emergency rations?”

“The modifications aren’t what you’d consider enhancements; most of them couldn’t even survive in their feral ancestors’ environments, and they’re not really suited to the environments they live in. Some turn out to serve some ‘useful’ purpose… but that’s a side benefit, irrelevant to what I’m trying to let you see. And they’re almost never used as food.”

“Then what’s the real reason? They must consume resources. Surely they must be used for something. What do they do with them?”

“I’m not sure how to explain this…”

“Be blunt.”

“It won’t sting, but it could lead to confusion that would take a long time to untangle.”

“Ok…”

“They sense the organisms with their cameras, I mean eyes, and with the boundaries of their bodies, and maybe talk to them.”

“Do the organisms give good advice?”

“They don’t have sophisticated enough minds for that.”

“Ok, so what else is there?”

“About all else is that they do physical activities for the organisms’ benefit.”

“Ok. And what’s the real reason they keep them? There’s got to be something pragmatic.”

“That’s related to why I brought it up. It has something to do with the organic, something big, but I can’t explain it.”

“It seems like you can only explain a small part of the organic in terms of our world, and the part you can explain isn’t very interesting.”

“That’s like saying that when a three-dimensional solid intersects a plane in two dimensions, the only part that can be detected in the plane is a two-dimensional cross-section (the three-dimensional doesn’t fit in their frame of reference) so “three-dimensional” must not refer to anything real. The reason you can’t make sense of the world I’m describing in terms of our world is because it contains real things that are utterly alien to us.”

“Like what? Name one we haven’t discussed.”

“Seeing the trouble I had with the one concept, the organic, I’m not going to take on two at once.”

“So the reason these unities keep organisms is so abstract and convoluted that it takes a top-flight mind to begin to grapple with.”

“Not all of them keep organisms, but most of them find the reason—it’s actually more of an assumption—so simple and straightforward that they would never think it was metaphysical.”

“So I’ve found something normal about them! Their minds are of such an incredibly high caliber that—”

“No. Most of their minds are simpler than yours or mine, and furthermore, the ability to deal with abstractions doesn’t enter the picture from their perspective.”

“I don’t know what to make of this.”

“You understand to some degree how their bodies are real in a way we can never experience, and time and space are not just ‘packaging’ to what they do. Their keeping these organisms… the failure of the obvious reasons should tell you something, like an uninteresting two-dimensional cross section of a three-dimensional solid. If the part we can understand does not justify the practice, there might be something big out of sight.”

“But what am I to make of it now?”

“Nothing now, just a placeholder. I’m trying to convey what it means to be organic.”

“Is the organic in some relation to normal technology?”

“The two aren’t independent of each other.”

“Is the organic defined by the absence of technology?”

“Yes… no… You’re deceptively close to the truth.”

“Do all unities have the same access to technology?”

“No. There are considerable differences. All have a technology of sorts, but it would take a while to explain why some of it is technology. Some of them don’t even have electronic circuits—and no, they are not at an advanced enough biotechnology level to transcend electronic circuits. But if we speak of technology we would recognize, there are major differences. Some have access to no technology; some have access to the best.”

“And the ones without access to technology are organic?”

“Yes. Even if they try to escape it, they are inescapably organic.”

“But the ones which have the best technology are the least organic.”

“Yes.”

“Then maybe it was premature to define the organic by the absence of technology, but we can at least make a spectrum between the organic and the technological.”

“Yes… no… You’re even more deceptively close to the truth. And I emphasize, ‘deceptively’. Some of the people who are most organic have the best technology—”

“So the relationship breaks down? What if we disregard outliers?”

“But the root problem is that you’re trying to define the organic with reference to technology. There is some relationship, but instead of starting with a concept of technology and using it to move towards a concept of the organic, it is better to start with the organic and move towards a concept of technology. Except that the concept of the organic doesn’t lead to a concept of technology, not as we would explore it. The center of gravity is wrong. It’s like saying that we have our thoughts so that certain processors can generate a stream of ones and zeroes. It’s backwards enough that you won’t find the truth by looking at its mirror image.”

“Ok, let me process it another way. What’s the difference between a truly organic consciousness, and the least organic consciousness on the net?”

“That’s very simple. One exists and the other doesn’t.”

“So all the… wait a minute. Are you saying that the net doesn’t have consciousness?”

“Excellent. You got that one right.”

“In the whole of cyberspace, how? How does the net organize and care for itself if it doesn’t contain consciousness?”

“It is not exactly true to say that they do have a net, and it is not exactly true to say that they do not have a net. What net they have, began as a way to connect mind-body unities—without any cyberware, I might add.”

“Then how do they jack in?”

“They ‘jack in’ through hardware that generates stimulation for their sensory organs, and that they can manipulate so as to put data into machines.”

“How does it maintain itself?”

“It doesn’t and it can’t. It’s maintained by mind-body unities.”

“That sounds like a network designed by minds that hate technology. Is the network some kind of joke? Or at least intentionally ironic? Or designed by people who hate technology and wanted to have as anti-technological of a network as they can?”

“No; the unities who designed it, and most of those using it, want as sophisticated technological access as they can have.”

“Why? Next you’re going to tell me that the network is not one single network, but a hodge podge of other things that have been retraoctively reinterpreted as network technology and pressed into service.”

“That’s also true. But the reason I was mentioning this is that the network is shaped by the shadow of the organic.”

“So the organic is about doing things as badly as you can?”

“No.”

“Does it make minds incompetent?”

“No. Ployon, remember the last time you made a robot body for a race—and won. How well would that body have done if you tried to make it work as a factory?”

“Atrocious, because it was optimized for—are you saying that the designers were trying to optimize the network as something other than a network?”

“No; I’m saying that the organic was so deep in them that unities who could not care less for the organic, and were trying to think purely in terms of technology, still created with a thick organic accent.”

“So this was their best attempt at letting minds disappear into cyberspace?”

“At least originally, no, although that is becoming true. The network was part of what they would consider ‘space-conquering tools.’ Meaning, although not all of them thought in these terms, tools that would destroy the reality of place for them. The term ‘space-conquering tools’ was more apt than they realized, at least more apt than they realized consciously; one recalls their saying, ‘You cannot kill time without injuring eternity.'”

“What does ‘eternity’ mean?”

“I really don’t want to get into that now. Superficially it means that there is something else that relativizes time, but if you look at it closely, you will see that it can’t mean that we should escape time. The space-conquering tools in a very real sense conquered space, by making it less real. Before space-conquering tools, if you wanted to communicate with another unity, you had to somehow reach that unity’s body. The position in space of that body, and therefore the body and space, were something you could not escape. Which is to say that the body and space were real—much more real than something you could look up. And to conquer space ultimately meant to destroy some of its reality.”

“But the way they did this betrays that something is real to them. Even if you could even forget that other minds were attached to bodies, the space-conquering tools bear a heavy imprint from something outside of the most internally consistent way to conquer space. Even as the organic is disintegrating, it marks the way in which unities flee the organic.”

“So the network was driving the organic away, at least partly.”

“It would be more accurate to say that the disintegration of the organic helped create the network. There is feedback, but you’ve got the arrow of causality pointing the wrong way.”

“Can you tell me a story?”

“Hmm… Remember the racer I mentioned earlier?”

“The mind-body unity who runs multiple races?”

“Indeed. Its favorite story runs like this—and I’ll leave in the technical language. A hungry fox saw some plump, juicy green grapes hanging from a high cable. He tried to jump and eat them, and when he realized they were out of reach, he said, ‘They were probably sour anyway!'”

“What’s a grape?”

“Let me answer roughly as it would. A grape is a nutritional bribe to an organism to carry away its seed. It’s a strategic reproductive organ.”

“What does ‘green’ mean? I know what green electromagnetic radiation is, but why is that word being applied to a reproductive organ?”

“Some objects absorb most of a spectrum of what they call light, but emit a high proportion of light at that wavelength—”

“—which, I’m sure, is taken up by their cameras and converted to information in their consciousness. But why would such a trivial observation be included?”

“That is the mechanism by which green is delivered, but not the nature of what green is. And I don’t know how to explain it, beyond saying that mechanically unities experience something from ‘green’ objects they don’t experience from anything else. It’s like a dimension, and there is something real to them I can’t explain.”

“What is a fox? Is ‘fox’ their word for a mind-body unity?”

“A fox is an organism that can move, but it is not considered a mind-body unity.”

“Let me guess at ‘hungry’. The fox needed nutrients, and the grapes would have given them.”

“The grapes would have been indigestible to the fox’s physiology, but you’ve got the right idea.”

“What separates a fox from a mind-body unity? They both seem awfully similar—they have bodily needs, and they can both talk. And, for that matter, the grape organism was employing a reproductive strategy. Does ‘organic’ mean that all organisms are recognized as mind-body unities?”

“Oh, I should have explained that. The story doesn’t work that way; most unities believe there is a big difference between killing a unity and killing most other organisms; many would kill a moving organism to be able to eat its body, and for that matter many would kill a fox and waste the food. A good many unities, and certainly this one, believes there is a vast difference between unities and other organisms. They can be quite organic while killing organisms for food. Being organic isn’t really an issue of treating other organisms just like mind-body unities.”

Archon paused for a moment. “What I was going to say is that that’s just a literary device, but I realize there is something there. The organic recognizes that there’s something in different organisms, especially moving ones, that’s closer to mind-body unities than something that’s not alive.”

“Like a computer processor?”

“That’s complex, and it would be even more complex if they really had minds on a computer. But for now I’ll say that unless they see computers through a fantasy—which many of them do—they experience computers as logic without life. And at any rate, there is a literary device that treats other things as having minds. I used it myself when saying the grape organism employed a strategy; it isn’t sentient. But their willingness to employ that literary mechanism seems to reflect both that a fox isn’t a unity and that a fox isn’t too far from being a unity. Other life is similar, but not equal.”

“What kind of cable was the grape organism on? Which part of the net was it used for?”

“That story is a survival from before the transition from organic to technological. Advanced technology focuses on information—”

“Where else would technology focus?”

“—less sophisticated technology performs manual tasks. That story was from before cables were used to carry data.”

“Then what was the cable for?”

“To support the grape organism.”

“Do they have any other technology that isn’t real?”

“Do you mean, ‘Do they have any other technology that doesn’t push the envelope and expand what can be done with technology?'”

“Yes.”

“Then your question shuts off the answer. Their technology doesn’t exist to expand what technology can do; it exists to support a community in its organic life.”

“Where’s the room for progress in that?”

“It’s a different focus. You don’t need another answer; you need another question. And, at any rate, that is how this world tells the lesson of cognitive dissonance, that we devalue what is denied to us.”

Ployon paused. “Ok; I need time to process that story—may I say, ‘digest’?”

“Certainly.”

“But one last question. Why did you refer to the fox as ‘he’? Its supposed mind was—”

“In that world, a unity is always male (‘he’) or female (‘she’). A neutered unity is extraordinarily rare, and a neutered male, a ‘eunuch’, is still called ‘he.'”

“I’m familiar enough with those details of biology, but why would such an insignificant detail—”

“Remember about being mind-body unities. And don’t think of them as bodies that would ordinarily be neutered. That’s how new unities come to be in that world, with almost no cloning and no uterine replicators—”

“They really are slime!”

“—and if you only understand the biology of it, you don’t understand it.”

“What don’t I understand?”

“You’re trying to understand a feature of language that magnifies something insignificant, and what would cause the language to do that. But you’re looking for an explanation in the wrong place. Don’t think that the bodies are the most sexual parts of them. They’re the least sexual; the minds tied to those bodies are even more different than the bodies. The fact that the language shaped by unities for a long time distinguishes ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ enough to have the difference written into ‘it’, so that ‘it’ is ‘he’ or ‘she’ when speaking of mind-body unities.”

“Hmm… Is this another dimension to their reality that is flattened out in ours? Are their minds always thinking about that act?”

“In some cases that’s not too far from the truth. But you’re looking for the big implication in the wrong place. This would have an influence if a unity never thought about that act, and it has influence before a unity has any concept of that act.”

“Back up a bit. Different question. You said this was their way of explaining the theory of cognitive dissonance. But it isn’t. It describes one event in which cognitive dissonance occurs. It doesn’t articulate the theory; at most the theory can be extracted from it. And worse, if one treats it as explaining cognitive dissonance, it is highly ambiguous about where the boundaries of cognitive dissonance are. One single instance is very ambiguous about what is and is not another instance. This is an extraordinarily poor method of communication!”

“It is extraordinarily good, even classic, communication for minds that interpenetrate bodies. Most of them don’t work with bare abstractions, at least not most of the time. They don’t have simply discarnate minds that have been stuck into bodies. Their minds are astute in dealing with situations that mind-body unities will find themselves in. And think about it. If you’re going to understand how they live, you’re going to have to understand some very different, enfleshed ways of thought. No, more than that, if you still see the task of understanding ways of thought, you will not understand them.”

“So these analyses do not help me in understanding your world.”

“So far as you are learning through this kind of analysis, you will not understand… but this analysis is all you have for now.”

“Are their any other stories that use an isomorphic element to this one?”

“I don’t know. I’ve gotten deep enough into this world that I don’t keep stories sorted by isomorphism class.”

“Tell me another story the way that a storyteller there would tell it; there is something in it that eludes me.”

Archon said, “Ok… The alarm clock chimed. It was a device such that few engineers alive fully understood its mechanisms, and no man could tell the full story of how it came to be, of the exotic places and activities needed to make all of its materials, or the logistics to assemble them, or the organization and infrastructure needed to bring together all the talent of those who designed, crafted, and maintained them, or any other of sundry details that would take a book to list. The man abruptly shifted from the vivid kaleidoscope of the dreaming world to being awake, and opened his eyes to a kaleidoscope of sunrise colors and a room with the song of birds and the song of crickets. Outside, the grass grew, the wind blew, a busy world was waking up, and the stars continued their ordered and graceful dance. He left the slumbering form of the love of his life, showered, and stepped out with his body fresh, clean, and beautifully adorned. He stopped to kiss the fruit of their love, a boy cooing in his crib, and drove past commuters, houses, pedestrians, and jaybirds with enough stories to tell that they could fill a library to overflowing.

Archon continued, “After the majestic and ordered dance on the freeway brought him to his destination safe, unharmed, on time, and focusing on his work, he spent a day negotiating the flow of the human treasure of language, talking, listening, joking, teasing, questioning, enjoying the community of his co-workers, and cooperating to make it possible for a certain number of families to now enter the homes of their dreams. In the middle of the day he stopped to eat, nourishing a body so intricate that the state of the art in engineering could not hold a candle to his smallest cell. This done, he continued to use a spirit immeasurably greater than his body to pursue his work. Needless to say, the universe, whose physics alone is beyond our current understanding, continued to work according to all of its ordered laws and the spiritual world continued to shine. The man’s time at work passed quickly, with a pitter-patter of squirrels’ feet on the roof of their office, and before long he entered the door and passed a collection with copies of most of the greatest music produced by Western civilization—available for him to listen to, any time he pleased. The man absently kissed his wife, and stepped away, breathing the breath of God.

“‘Hi, Honey!’ she said. ‘How was your day?’

“‘Somewhat dull. Maybe something exciting will happen tomorrow.'”

Ployon said, “There’s someone I want to meet who is free now, so I’ll leave in a second… I’m not going to ask about all the technical vocabulary, but I wanted to ask: Is this story a farce? It describes a unity who has all these ludicrous resources, and then it—”

“—he—”

“—he says the most ludicrous thing.”

“What you’ve said is true. The story is not a farce.”

“But the story tells of things that are momentous.”

“I know, but people in that world do not appreciate many of these things.”

“Why? They seem to have enough access to these momentous resources.”

“Yes, they certainly do. But most of the unities are bathed in such things and do not think that they are anything worth thinking of.”

“And I suppose you’re going to tell me that is part of their greatness.”

“To them these things are just as boring as jacking into a robotically controlled factory and using the machines to assemble something.”

“I see. At least I think I see. And I really need to be going now… but one more question. What is ‘God’?”

“Please, not that. Please, any word but that. Don’t ask about that.”

“I’m not expected, and you’ve piqued my curiosity.”

“Don’t you need to be going now?”

You’ve piqued my curiosity.

Archon was silent.

Ployon was silent.

Archon said, “God is the being who made the world.”

“Ok, so you are God.”

“Yes… no. No! I am not God!

“But you created this world?”

“Not like God did. I envisioned looking in on it, but to that world, I do not exist.”

“But God exists?”

“Yes… no… It is false to say that God exists and it is false to say that God does not exist.”

“So the world is self-contradictory? Or would it therefore be true to say that God both exists and does not exist?”

“No. Um… It is false to say that God exists and it is false to say that God exists as it is false to say that a square is a line and it is false to say that a square is a point. God is reflected everywhere in the world: not a spot in the entire cosmos is devoid of God’s glory—”

“A couple of things. First, is this one more detail of the universe that you cannot explain but is going to have one more dimension than our world?”

“God is of higher dimension than that world.”

“So our world is, say, two dimensional, that world is three dimensional, and yet it somehow contains God, who is four dimensional?”

“God is not the next step up.”

“Then is he two steps up?”

“Um…”

“Three? Four? Fifty? Some massive power of two?”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question from that world?”

“Go ahead.”

“How many minds can be at a point in space?”

“If you mean, ‘thinking about’, there is no theoretical limit; the number is not limited in principle to two, three, or… Are you saying that God has an infinite number of dimensions?”

“You caught that quick; the question is a beautiful way of asking whether a finite or an infinite number of angels can dance on the head of a pin, in their picturesque language.”

“That question is very rational. But returning to the topic, since God has an infinite number of dimensions—”

“In a certain sense. It also captures part of the truth to say that God is a single point—”

Zero dimensions?”

“God is so great not as to need any other, not to need parts as we have. And, by the way, the world does not contain God. God contains the world.”

“I’m struggling to find a mathematical model that will accommodate all of this.”

“Why don’t you do something easier, like find an atom that will hold a planet?”

“Ok. As to the second of my couple of things, what is glory?”

“It’s like the honor that we seek, except that it is immeasurably full while our honors are hollow. As I was saying, not a place in the entire cosmos is devoid of his glory—”

“His? So God is a body?”

“That’s beside the point. Whether or not God has a body, he—”

“—it—”

“—he—”

“—it… isn’t a male life form…”

Archon said, “Ployon, what if I told you that God, without changing, could become a male unity? But you’re saying you can’t project maleness up onto God, without understanding that maleness is the shadow of something in God. You have things upside down.”

“But maleness has to do with a rather undignified method of creating organisms, laughable next to a good scientific generation center.”

“His ways are not like your ways, Ployon. Or mine.”

“Of course; this seems to be true of everything in the world.”

“But it’s even true of men in that world.”

“So men have no resemblance to God?”

“No, there’s—oh, no!”

“What?”

“Um… never mind, you’re not going to let me get out of it. I said earlier that that world is trying to make itself more like this one. Actually, I didn’t say that, but it’s related to what I said. There has been a massive movement which is related to the move from organic to what is not organic, and part of it has to do with… In our world, a symbol is arbitrary. No connection. In that world, something about a symbol is deeply connected with what it represents. And the unities, every single one, are symbols of God in a very strong sense.”

“Are they miniature copies? If God does not have parts, how do they have minds and bodies?”

“That’s not looking at it the right way. They indeed have parts, as God does not, but they aren’t a scale model of God. They’re something much more. A unity is someone whose very existence is bound up with God, who walks as a moving… I’m not sure what to use as the noun, but a moving something of God’s presence. And you cannot help or harm one of these unities without helping or harming God.”

“Is this symbol kind of a separate God?”

“The unities are not separate from God.”

“Are the unities God?”

“I don’t know how to answer that. It is a grave error for anyone to confuse himself with God. And at the same time, the entire purpose of being a unity is to receive a gift, and that gift is becoming what God is.”

“So the minds will be freed from their bodies?”

“No, some of them hope that their bodies will be deepened, transformed, become everything that their bodies are now and much more. But unities who have received this gift will always, always, have their bodies. It will be part of their glory.”

“I’m having trouble tracking with you. It seems that everything one could say about God is false.”

“That is true.”

“Think about it. What you just said is contradictory.”

“God is so great that anything one could say about God falls short of the truth as a point falls short of being a line. But that does not mean that all statements are equal. Think about the statements, ‘One is equal to infinity.’ ‘Two is equal to infinity.’ ‘Three is equal to infinity.’ and ‘Four is equal to infinity.’ All of them are false. But some come closer to the truth than others. And so you have a ladder of statements from the truest to the falsest, and when we say something is false, we don’t mean that it has no connection to the truth; we mean that it falls immeasurably short of capturing the truth. All statements fall immeasurably short of capturing the truth, and if we say, ‘All statements fall immeasurably short of capturing the truth,’ that falls immeasurably short of capturing the truth. Our usual ways of using logic tend to break down.”

“And how does God relate to the interpenetration of mind and matter?”

“Do you see that his world, with mind and matter interpenetrating, is deeper and fuller than ours, that it has something that ours does not, and that it is so big we have trouble grasping it?”

“I see… you said that God was its creator. And… there is something about it that is just outside my grasp.”

“It’s outside my grasp too.”

“Talking about God has certainly been a mind stretcher. I would love to hear more about him.”

“Talking about God for use as a mind stretcher is like buying a piece of art because you can use its components to make rocket fuel. Some people, er, unities in that world would have a low opinion of this conversation.”

“Since God is so far from that world, I’d like to restrict our attention to relevant—”

Archon interrupted. “You misunderstood what I said. Or maybe you understood it and I could only hint at the lesser part of the truth. You cannot understand unities without reference to God.”

“How would unities explain it?”

“That is complex. A great many unities do not believe in God—”

“So they don’t understand what it means to be a unity.”

“Yes. No. That is complex. There are a great many unities who vehemently deny that there is a God, or would dismiss ‘Is there a God?’ as a pointless rhetorical question, but these unities may have very deep insight into what it means to be a unity.”

“But you said, ‘You cannot understand—'”

Archon interrupted. “Yes, and it’s true. You cannot understand unities without reference to God.”

Archon continued. “Ployon, there are mind-body unities who believe that they are living in our world, with mind and body absolutely separate and understandable without reference to each other. And yet if you attack their bodies, they will take it as if you had attacked their minds, as if you had hurt them. When I described the strange custom of keeping organisms around which serve no utilitarian purpose worth the trouble of keeping them, know that this custom, which relates to their world’s organic connection between mind and body, does not distinguish people who recognize that they are mind-body unities and people who believe they are minds which happen to be wrapped in bodies. Both groups do this. The tie between mind and body is too deep to expunge by believing it doesn’t exist. And there are many of them who believe God doesn’t exist, or it would be nice to know if God existed but unities could never know, or God is very different from what he in fact is, but they expunge so little of the pattern imprinted by God in the core of their being that they can understand what it means to be a unity at a very profound level, but not recognize God. But you cannot understand unities without reference to God.”

Ployon said, “Which parts of unities, and what they do, are affected by God? At what point does God enter their experience?”

“Which parts of programs, and their behaviors, are affected by the fact that they run on a computer? When does a computer begin to be relevant?”

“Touché. But why is God relevant, if it makes no difference whether you believe in him?”

“I didn’t say that it makes no difference. Earlier you may have gathered that the organic is something deeper than ways we would imagine to try to be organic. If it is possible, as it is, to slaughter moving organisms for food and still be organic, that doesn’t mean that the organic is so small it doesn’t affect such killing; it means it is probably deeper than we can imagine. And it doesn’t also mean that because one has been given a large organic capital and cannot liquidate it quickly, one’s choices do not matter. The decisions a unity faces, whether or not to have relationships with other unities that fit the timeless pattern, whether to give work too central a place in the pursuit of technology and possessions or too little a place or its proper place, things they have talked about since time immemorial and things which their philosophers have assumed went without saying—the unity has momentous choices not only about whether to invest or squander their capital, but choices that affect how they will live.”

“What about things like that custom you mentioned? I bet there are a lot of them.”

“Looking at, and sensing, the organisms they keep has a place, if they have one. And so does moving about among many non-moving organisms. And so does slowly sipping a fluid that causes a pleasant mood while the mind is temporarily impaired and loosened. And so does rotating oneself so that one’s sight is filled with clusters of moisture vapor above their planet’s surface. And some of the unities urge these things because they sense the organic has been lost, and without reference to the tradition that urges deeper goods. And yes, I know that these activities probably sound strange—”

“I do not see what rational benefit these activities would have, but I see this may be a defect with me rather than a defect with the organic—”

“Know that it is a defect with you rather than a defect with the organic.”

“—but what is this about rotating oneself?”

“As one goes out from the center of their planet, the earth—if one could move, for the earth’s core is impenetrable minerals—one would go through solid rock, then pass through the most rarefied boundary, then pass through gases briefly and be out in space. You would encounter neither subterranean passageways and buildings reaching to the center of the earth, and when you left you would find only the rarest vessel leaving the atmosphere—”

“Then where do they live?”

“At the boundary where space and planetary mass meet. All of them are priveleged to live at that meeting-place, a narrow strip or sphere rich in life. There are very few of them; it’s a select club. Not even a trillion. And the only property they have is the best—a place teeming with life that would be impossible only a quarter of the planet’s thickness above or below. A few of them build edifices reaching scant storeys into the sky; a few dig into the earth; there are so few of these that not being within a minute’s travel from literallytouching the planet’s surface is exotic. But the unities, along with the rest of the planet’s life, live in a tiny, priceless film adorned with the best resources they could ever know of.”

Ployon was stunned. It thought of the cores of planets and asteroids it had been in. It thought of the ships and stations in space. Once it had had the privelege of working from a subnet hosted within a comparatively short distance of a planet’s surface—it was a rare privilege, acquired through deft political maneuvering, and there were fewer than 130,982,539,813,209 other minds who had shared that privelege. And, basking in that luxury, it could only envy the minds which had bodies that walked on the surface. Ployon was stunned and reeling at the privilege of—

Ployon said, “How often do they travel to other planets?”

“There is only one planet so rich as to have them.”

Ployon pondered the implications. It had travelled to half the spectrum of luxurious paradises. Had it been to even one this significant? Ployon reluctantly concluded that it had not. And that was not even considering what it meant for this golden plating to teem with life. And then Ployon realized that each of the unities had a body on that surface. It reeled in awe.

Archon said, “And you’re not thinking about what it means that surface is home to the biological network, are you?”

Ployon was silent.

Archon said, “This organic biological network, in which they live and move and have their being—”

“Is God the organic?”

“Most of the things that the organic has, that are not to be found in our world, are reflections of God. But God is more. It is true that in God that they live and move and have their being, but it is truer. There is a significant minority that identifies the organic with God—”

Ployon interrupted, “—who are wrong—”

Archon interrupted, “—who are reacting against the destruction of the organic and seek the right thing in the wrong place—”

Ployon interrupted, “But how is God different from the organic?”

Archon sifted through a myriad of possible answers. “Hmm, this might be a good time for you to talk with that other mind you wanted to talk with.”

“You know, you’re good at piquing my curiosity.”

“If you’re looking for where they diverge, they don’t. Or at least, some people would say they don’t. Others who are deeply connected with God would say that the organic as we have been describing it is problematic—”

“But all unities are deeply connected with God, and disagreement is—”

“You’re right, but that isn’t where I was driving. And this relates to something messy, about disagreements when—”

“Aren’t all unities able to calculate the truth from base axioms? Why would they disagree?”

Archon paused. “There are a myriad of real, not virtual disagreements—”

Ployon interrupted, “And it is part of a deeper reality to that world that—”

Archon interrupted. “No, no, or at best indirectly. There is something fractured about that world that—”

Ployon interrupted. “—is part of a tragic beauty, yes. Each thing that is artificially constricted in that world makes it greater. I’m waiting for the explanation.”

“No. This does not make it greater.”

“Then I’m waiting for the explanation of why this one limitation does not make it greater. But back to what you said about the real and the organic—”

“The differences between God and the organic are not differences of opposite directions. You are looking in the wrong place if you are looking for contradictions. It’s more a difference like… if you knew what ‘father’ and ‘mother’ meant, male parent and female parent—”

Ployon interrupted, “—you know I have perfect details of male and female reproductive biology—”

Archon interrupted, “—and you think that if you knew the formula for something called chicken soup, you would know what the taste of chicken soup is for them—”

Ployon continued, “—so now you’re going to develop some intricate elaboration of what it means that there is only one possible ‘mother’s’ contribution, while outside of a laboratory the ‘father’s’ contribution is extraordinarily haphazard…”

Archon said, “A complete non sequitur. If you only understand reproductive biology, you do not understand what a father or mother is. Seeing as how we have no concept yet of father or mother, let us look at something that’s different enough but aligns with father/mother in an interesting enough way that… never mind.”

Archon continued, “Imagine on the one hand a virtual reality, and on the other hand the creator of that virtual reality. You don’t have to choose between moving in the virtual reality and being the creator’s guest; the way to be the creator’s guest is to move in the virtual reality and the purpose of moving in the virtual reality is being the creator’s guest. But that doesn’t mean that the creator is the virtual reality, or the virtual reality is the creator. It’s not just a philosophical error to confuse them, or else it’s a philosophical error with ramifications well outside of philosophy.”

“Why didn’t you just say that the relationship between God and the organic is creator/creation? Or that the organic is the world that was created?”

“Because the relationship is not that, or at very least not just that. And the organic is not the world—that is a philosophical error almost as serious as saying that the creator is the virtual reality, if a very different error. I fear that I have given you a simplification that is all the more untrue because of how true it is. God is in the organic, and in the world, and in each person, but not in the same way. How can I put it? If I say, ‘God is in the organic,’, it would be truer to say, ‘The organic is not devoid of God,’ because that is more ambiguous. If there were three boxes, and one contained a functional robot ‘brain’, and another contained a functional robot arm, and the third contained a non-functioning robot, it would be truer to say that each box contains something like a functioning robot than to say that each box contains a functioning robot. The ambiguity allows for being true in different ways in the different contexts, let alone something that words could not express even if we were discussing only one ‘is in’ or ‘box’.”

“Is there another way of expressing how their words would express it?”

“Their words are almost as weak as our words here.”

“So they don’t know about something this important?”

“Knowledge itself is different for them. To know something for us is to be able to analyze in a philosophical discussion. And this knowledge exists for them. But there is another root type of knowledge, a knowledge that—”

“Could you analyze the differences between the knowledge we use and the knowledge they use?”

“Yes, and it would be as useful to you as discussing biology. This knowledge is not entirely alien to us; when a mathematician ‘soaks’ in a problem, or I refused to connect with anything but the body, for a moment a chasm was crossed. But in that world the chasm doesn’t exist… wait, that’s too strong… a part of the chasm doesn’t exist. Knowing is not with the mind alone, but the whole person—”

“What part of the knowing is stored in the bones?”

“Thank you for your flippancy, but people use the metaphor of knowledge being in their bones, or drinking, for this knowing.”

“This sounds more like a physical process and some hankey-pankey that has been dignified by being called knowing. It almost sounds as if they don’t have minds.”

“They don’t.”

What?

“They don’t, at least not as we know them. The mathematical analogy I would use is that they… never mind, I don’t want to use a mathematical analogy. The computational analogy I would use is that we are elements of a computer simulation, and every now and then we break into a robot that controls the computer, and do something that transcends what elements of the computer simulation “should” be able to do. But they don’t transcend the simulation because they were never elements of the simulation in the first place—they are real bodies, or real unities. And what I’ve called ‘mind’ in them is more properly understood as ‘spirit’, which is now a meaningless word to you, but is part of them that meets God whether they are aware of it or not. Speaking philosophically is a difficult discipline that few of them can do—”

“They are starting to sound mentally feeble.”

“Yes, if you keep looking at them as an impoverished version of our world. It is hard to speak philosophically as it is hard for you to emulate a clock and do nothing else—because they need to drop out of several dimensions of their being to do it properly, and they live in those dimensions so naturally that it is an unnatural constriction for most of them to talk as if that was the only dimension of their being. And here I’ve been talking disappointingly about knowledge, making it sound more abstract than our knowing, when in fact it is much less so, and probably left you with the puzzle of how they manage to bridge gaps between mind, spirit, and body… but the difficulty of the question lies in a false setup. They are unities which experience, interact with, know all of them as united. And the knowing is deep enough that they can speculate that there’s no necessary link between their spirits and bodies, or minds and bodies, or what have you. And if I can’t explain this, I can’t explain something even more foundational, the fact that the greatest thing about God is not how inconceivably majestic he is, but how close.”

“It sounds as if—wait, I think you’ve given me a basis for a decent analysis. Let me see if I can—”

“Stop there.”

“Why?”

Archon said, “Let me tell you a little story.

Archon continued, “A philosopher, Berkeley, believed that the only real things are minds and ideas and experiences in those minds: hence a rock was equal to the sum of every mind’s impression of it. You could say that a rock existed, but what that had to mean was that there were certain sense impressions and ideas in minds, including God’s mind; it didn’t mean that there was matter outside of minds.”

“A lovely virtual metaphysics. I’ve simulated that metaphysics, and it’s enjoyable for a time.”

“Yes, but for Berkeley it meant something completely different. Berkeley was a bishop,”

“What’s a bishop?”

“I can’t explain all of that now, but part of a bishop is a leader who is responsible for a community that believes God became a man, and helping them to know God and be unities.”

“How does that reconcile with that metaphysics?”

Archon said, “Ployon, stop interrupting. He believed that they were not only compatible, but the belief that God became a man could only be preserved by his metaphysics. And he believed he was defending ‘common sense’, how most unities thought about the world.

Archon continued, “And after he wrote his theories, another man, Samuel Johnson, kicked a rock and said, ‘I refute Berkeley thus!'”

Ployon said, “Ha ha! That’s the way to score!”

“But he didn’t score. Johnson established only one thing—”

“—how to defend against Berkeley—”

“—that he didn’t understand Berkeley.”

“Yes, he did.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“But he did.”

“Ployon, only the crudest understanding of Berkeley’s ideas could mean that one could refute them by kicking a rock. Berkeley didn’t make his ideas public until he could account for the sight of someone kicking a rock, or the experience of kicking it yourself, just as well as if there were matter outside of minds.”

“I know.”

“So now that we’ve established that—”

Ployon interrupted. “I know that Berkeley’s ideas could account for kicking a rock as well as anything else. But kicking a rock is still an excellent way to refute Berkeley. If what you’ve said about this world has any coherence at all.”

What?

“Well, Berkeley’s ideas are airtight, right?”

“Ployon, there is no way they could be disproven. Not by argument, not by action.”

“So it is in principle impossible to force someone out of Berkeley’s ideas by argument.”

“Absolutely.”

“But you’re missing something. What is it you’ve been talking to me about?”

“A world where mind and matter interpenetrate, and the organic, and there are many dimensions to life—”

“And if you’re just falling further into a trap to logically argue, wouldn’t it do something fundamentally unity-like to step into another dimension?”

Archon was silent.

Ployon said, “I understand that it would demonstrate a profound misunderstanding in our world… but wouldn’t it say something equally profound in that world?”

Archon was stunned.

Ployon was silent for a long time.

Then Ployon said, “When are you going to refute Berkeley?”


Since the dawn of time, those who have walked the earth have looked up into the starry sky and wondered. They have asked, “What is the universe, and who are we?” “What are the woods?” “Where did this all come from?” “Is there life after death?” “What is the meaning of our existence?” The march of time has brought civilization, and with that, science. And science allows us to answer these age-old human questions.

That, at least, is the account of it that people draw now. But the truth is much more interesting.

Science is an ingenious mechanism to test guesses about mechanisms and behavior of the universe, and it is phenomenally powerful in that arena. Science can try to explain how the Heavens move, but it isn’t the sort of thing to explain why there are Heavens that move that way—science can also describe how the Heavens have moved and reached their present position, but not the “Why?” behind it. Science can describe how to make technology to make life more convenient, but not “What is the meaning of life?” Trying to ask science to answer “Why?” (or for that matter, “Who?” or any other truly interesting question besides “How?”) is a bit like putting a book on a scale and asking the scale, “What does this book mean?” And there are indeed some people who will accept the scale’s answer, 429.7425 grams, as the definitive answer to what the book means, and all the better because it is so precise.

But to say that much and then stop is to paint a deceptive picture. Very deceptive. Why?

Science at that point had progressed more than at any point in history, and its effects were being felt around the world. And science enjoyed both a profound prestige and a profound devotion. Many people did not know what “understanding nature” could mean besides “learning scientific descriptions of nature,” which was a bit like not knowing what “understanding your best friend” could mean besides “learning the biochemical building blocks of your friend’s body.”

All this and more is true, yet this is not the most important truth. This was the Middle Age between ancient and human society and the technological, and in fact it was the early Middle Age. People were beginning to develop real technologies, the seeds of technology we would recognize, and could in primitive fashion jack into such a network as existed then. But all of this was embraced in a society that was ancient, ancient beyond measure. As you may have guessed, it is an error to misunderstand that society as an inexplicably crude version of real technological society. It is a fundamental error.

To really understand this society, you need to understand not its technology, but the sense in which it was ancient. I will call it ‘medieval’, but you must understand that the ancient element in that society outweighs anything we would recognize.

And even this is deceptive, not because a single detail is wrong, but because it is abstract. I will tell you about certain parts in an abstract fashion, but you must understand that in this world’s thinking the concrete comes before the abstract. I will do my best to tell a story—not as they would tell one, because that would conceal as much as it would reveal, but taking their way of telling stories and adapting it so we can see what is going on.

For all of their best efforts to spoil it, all of them live on an exquisite garden in the thin film where the emptiness of space meets the barrier of rock—there is a nest, a cradle where they are held tightly, and even if some of those who are most trying to be scientific want to flee into the barren wastes of space and other planets hostile to their kind of life. And this garden itself has texture, an incredible spectrum of texture along its surface. Place is itself significant, and I cannot capture what this story would have been like had it been placed in Petaling Jaya in Malaysia, or Paris in France, or Cambridge in England. What are these? I don’t know… I can say that Petaling Jaya, Paris, and Cambridge are cities, but that would leave you knowing as much as you knew 5 milliseconds before I told you. And Malaysia, France, and England are countries, and now you know little besides being able to guess that a country is somehow capable of containing a city. Which is barely more than you knew before; the fact is that there is something very different between Petaling Jaya, Paris, and Cambridge. They have different wildlife and different places with land and water, but that is not nearly so interesting as the difference in people. I could say that people learn different skills, if I wanted to be very awkward and uninformative, but… the best way of saying it is that in our world, because there is nothing keeping minds apart… In that world, people have been separate so they don’t even speak the same language. They almost have separate worlds. There is something common to all medievals, beyond what technology may bring, and people in other cities could find deep bonds with this story, but… Oh, there are many more countries than those I listed, and these countries have so many cities that you could spend your whole life travelling between cities and never see all of them. No, our world doesn’t have this wealth. Wealthy as it is, it doesn’t come close.

Petaling Jaya is a place of warm rainstorms, torrents of water falling from the sky, a place where a little stream of unscented water flows by the road, even if such a beautiful “open sewer” is not appreciated. Petaling Jaya is a place where people are less aware of time than in Cambridge or Paris and yet a place where people understand time better, because of reasons that are subtle and hard to understand. It draws people from three worlds in the grandeur that is Asia, and each of them brings treasures. The Chinese bring with them the practice of calling adults “Uncle” or “Aunt”, my father’s brother or my father’s sister or my mother’s brother or my mother’s sister, which is to say, addresses them not only by saying that there is something great about them, but they are “tied by blood”—a bond that I do not know how to explain, save to say that ancestry and origins are not the mechanism of how they came to be, or at least not just the mechanism of how they came to be. Ancestry and origins tell of the substance of who they are, and that is one more depth that cannot exist in our world with matter and mind separate. The Indians and Bumi Putras—if it is really only them, which is far from true—live a life of friendship and hospitality, which are human treasures that shine in them. What is hospitality, you ask? That is hard to answer; it seems that anything I can say will be deceptive. It means that if you have a space, and if you allow someone in that space, you serve that person, caring for every of his needs. That is a strange virtue—and it will sound stranger when I say that this is not endured as inexpedient, but something where people want to call others. Is it an economic exchange? That is beside the point; these things are at once the shadow cast by real hospitality, and at the same time the substance of hospitality itself, and you need to understand men before you can understand it. What about friendship? Here I am truly at a loss. I can only say that in the story that I am about to tell, what happens is the highest form of friendship.

Paris is, or at least has been, a place with a liquid, a drug, that temporarily causes a pleasant mood while changing behavior and muddling a person’s thoughts. But to say that misses what that liquid is, in Paris or much else. To some it is very destructive, and the drug is dangerous if it is handled improperly. But that is the hinge to something that—in our world, no pleasure is ever dangerous. You or I have experienced pleasures that these minds could scarcely dream of. We can have whatever pleasure we want at any time. And in a very real sense no pleasure means anything. But in their world, with its weaker pleasures, every pleasure is connected to something. And this liquid, this pleasure, if taken too far, destroys people—which is a hinge, a doorway to something. It means that they need to learn a self-mastery in using this liquid, and in using it many of them forge a beauty in themselves that affects all of life. And they live beautiful lives. Beautiful in many ways. They are like Norsemen of ages past, who sided with the good powers, not because the good powers were going to win, but because they wanted to side with the good powers and fight alongside them when the good powers lost and chaos ruled. It is a tragic beauty, and the tragedy is all the more real because it is unneeded, but it is beauty, and it is a beauty that could not exist if they knew the strength of good. And I have not spoken of the beauty of the language in Paris, with its melody and song, or of the artwork and statues, the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur, or indeed of the tapestry that makes up the city.

Cambridge is what many of them would call a “medieval” village, meaning that it has stonework that looks to its members like the ancient world’s architecture. To them this is a major difference; the ancient character of the buildings to them overwhelms the fact that they are buildings. To that medieval world, both the newest buildings and the ones they considered “medieval” had doorways, stairwells, rooms, windows, and passages. You or I would be struck by the ancient character of the oldest and newest buildings and the ancient character of the life they serve. But to these medievals, the fact that a doorway was built out of machine-made materials instead of having long ago been shaped from stone takes the door—the door—from being ancient to being a new kind of thing! And so in the quaintest way the medievals consider Cambridge a “medieval” village, not because they were all medievals, but because the ancient dimension to architecture was more ancient to them than the equally ancient ways of constructing spaces that were reflected in the “new” buildings. There was more to it than that, but…

That was not the most interesting thing about them. I know you were going to criticize me for saying that hospitality was both a human treasure and something that contributed to the uniqueness of Petaling Jaya, but I need to do the same thing again. Politeness is… how can I describe it? Cynics describe politeness as being deceit, something where you learn a bunch of standard things to do and have to use them to hide the fact that you’re offended, or bored, or want to leave, or don’t like someone. And all of that is true—and deceptive. A conversation will politely begin with one person saying, “Hi, Barbara, how are you?” And Barbara will say, “Fine, George, how are you?” “Fine!” And the exact details seem almost arbitrary between cultures. This specific interaction is, on the surface, superficial and not necessarily true: people usually say they feel fine whether or not they really feel fine at all. And so politeness can be picked apart in this fashion, as if there’s nothing else there, but there is. Saying “How are you?” opens a door, a door of concern. In one sense, what is given is very small. But if a person says, “I feel rotten,” the other person is likely to listen. Barbara might only “give” George a little bit of chatter, but if he were upset, she would comfort him; if he were physically injured, she would call an ambulance to give him medical help; if he were hungry, she might buy him something to eat. But he only wants a little chat, so she only gives him a little chat—which is not really a little thing at all, but I’m going to pretend that it’s small. Politeness stems from a concern for others, and is in actuality quite deep. The superficial “Hi, how are you?” is really not superficial at all. It is connected to a much deeper concern, and the exterior of rules is connected to a heart of concern. And Cambridge, which is a place of learning, and has buildings more ancient than what these medieval people usually see, is perhaps most significantly distinguished by its politeness.

But I have not been telling you a story. These observations may not be completely worthless, but they are still not a dynamic story. The story I’m about to tell you is not in Petaling Jaya, nor in Paris, nor in Cambridge, nor in any of thousands of other worlds. And I would like to show you what the medieval society looks like in action. And so let’s look at Peter.

Peter, after a long and arduous trek, opened the car door, got out, stretched, looked at the vast building before him, and listened as his father said, “We’ve done it! The rest should be easy, at least for today.” Then Peter smiled, and smashed his right thumb in the car door.

Then suddenly they moved—their new plan was to get to a hospital. Not much later, Peter was in the Central DuPage Hospital emergency room, watching people who came in after him be treated before him—not because they had more clout, but because they had worse injuries. The building was immense—something like one of our biological engineering centers, but instead of engineering bodies according to a mind’s specification, this used science to restore bodies that had been injured and harmed, and reduce people’s suffering. And it was incredibly primitive; at its best, it helped the bodies heal itself. But you must understand that even if these people were far wealthier than most others in their tiny garden, they had scant resources by our standard, and they made a major priority to restore people whose bodies had problems. (If you think about it, this tells something about how they view the value of each body.) Peter was a strong and healthy young man, and it had been a while since he’d been in a hospital. He was polite to the people who were helping him, even though he wished he were anywhere else.

You’re wondering why he deliberately smashed his thumb? Peter didn’t deliberately smash his thumb. He was paying attention to several other things and shoved the door close while his thumb was in its path. His body is not simply a device controlled by his mind; they interact, and his mind can’t do anything he wishes it to do—he can’t add power to it. He thinks by working with a mind that operates with real limitations and can overlook something in excitement—much like his body. If he achieves something, he doesn’t just requisition additional mental power. He struggles within the capabilities of his own mind, and that means that when he achieves something with his mind, he achieves something. Yes, in a way that you or I cannot. Not only is his body in a very real sense more real to him than any of the bodies you or I have jacked into and swapped around, but his mind is more real. I’m not sure how to explain it.

Peter arrived for the second time well after check-in time, praying to be able to get in. After a few calls with a network that let him connect with other minds while keeping his body intact, a security officer came in, expressed sympathy about his bandaged thumb—what does ‘sympathy’ mean? It means that you share in another person’s pain and make it less—and let him up to his room. The family moved his possessions from the car to his room and made his bed in a few minutes, and by the time it was down, the security guard had called the RA, who brought Peter his keys.

It was the wee hours of the morning when Peter looked at his new home for the second time, and tough as Peter was, the pain in his thumb kept the weary man from falling asleep. He was in as much pain as he’d been in for a while. What? Which part do you want explained? Pain is when the mind is troubled because the body is injured; it is a warning that the body needs to be taken care of. No, he can’t turn it off just because he thinks it’s served his purpose; again, you’re not understanding the intimate link between mind and body. And the other thing… sleep is… Their small globe orbits a little star, and it spins as it turns. At any time, part of the planet faces the star, the sun, and part faces away, and on the globe, it is as if a moving wall comes, and all is light, then another wall comes, and it is dark. The globe has a rhythm of light and dark, a rhythm of day and night, and people live in intimate attunement to this rhythm. The ancients moved about when it was light and slept when it was dark—to sleep, at its better moments, is to come fatigued and have body and mind rejuvenate themselves to awaken full of energy. The wealthier medievals have the ability to see by mechanical light, to awaken when they want and fall asleep when they want—and yet they are still attuned, profoundly attuned, to this natural cycle and all that goes with it. For that matter, Peter can stick a substance into his body that will push away the pain—and yet, for all these artificial escapes, medievals feel pain and usually take care of their bodies by heeding it, and medievals wake more or less when it is light and sleep more or less when it is dark. And they don’t think of pain as attunement to their bodies—most of them wish they couldn’t feel pain, and certainly don’t think of pain as good—nor do more than a few of them think in terms of waking and sleeping to a natural rhythm… but so much of the primeval way of being human is so difficult to dislodge for the medievals.

He awoke when the light was ebbing, and after some preparations set out, wandering this way and that until he found a place to eat. The pain was much duller, and he made his way to a selection of different foods—meant not only to nourish but provide a pleasant taste—and sat down at a table. There were many people about; he would not eat in a cell by himself, but at a table with others in a great hall.

A young man said, “Hi, I’m John.” Peter began to extend his hand, then looked at his white bandaged thumb and said, “Excuse me for not shaking your hand. I am Peter.”

A young woman said, “I’m Mary. I saw you earlier and was hoping to see you more.”

Peter wondered about something, then said, “I’ll drink for that,” reached with his right hand, grabbed a glass vessel full of carbonated water with sugar, caffeine, and assorted unnatural ingredients, and then winced in pain, spilling the fluid on the table.

Everybody at the table moved. A couple of people dodged the flow of liquid; others stopped what they were doing, rushing to take earth toned objects made from the bodies of living trees (napkins), which absorbed the liquid and were then shipped to be preserved with other unwanted items. Peter said, “I keep forgetting I need to be careful about my thumb,” smiled, grabbed another glass with fluid cows had labored to create, until his wet left hand slipped and he spilled the organic fluid all over his food.

Peter stopped, sat back, and then laughed for a while. “This is an interesting beginning to my college education.”

Mary said, “I noticed you managed to smash your thumb in a car door without saying any words you regret. What else has happened?”

Peter said, “Nothing great; I had to go to the ER, where I had to wait, before they could do something about my throbbing thumb. I got back at 4:00 AM and couldn’t get to sleep for a long time because I was in so much pain. Then I overslept my alarm and woke up naturally in time for dinner. How about you?”

Mary thought for a second about the people she met. Peter could see the sympathy on her face.

John said, “Wow. That’s nasty.”

Peter said, “I wish we couldn’t feel pain. Have you thought about how nice it would be to live without pain?”

Mary said, “I’d like that.”

John said, “Um…”

Mary said, “What?”

John said, “Actually, there are people who don’t feel pain, and there’s a name for the condition. You’ve heard of it.”

Peter said, “I haven’t heard of that before.”

John said, “Yes you have. It’s called leprosy.”

Peter said, “What do you mean by ‘leprosy’? I thought leprosy was a disease that ravaged the body.”

John said, “It is. But that is only because it destroys the ability to feel pain. The way it works is very simple. We all get little nicks and scratches, and because they hurt, we show extra sensitivity. Our feet start to hurt after a long walk, so without even thinking about it we… shift things a little, and keep anything really bad from happening. That pain you are feeling is your body’s way of asking room to heal so that the smashed thumbnail (or whatever it is) that hurts so terribly now won’t leave you permanently maimed. Back to feet, a leprosy patient will walk exactly the same way and get wounds we’d never even think of for taking a long walk. All the terrible injuries that make leprosy a feared disease happen only because leprosy keeps people from feeling pain.”

Peter looked at his thumb, and his stomach growled.

John said, “I’m full. Let me get a drink for you, and then I’ll help you drink it.”

Mary said, “And I’ll get you some dry food. We’ve already eaten; it must—”

Peter said, “Please, I’ve survived much worse. It’s just a bit of pain.”

John picked up a clump of wet napkins and threatened to throw it at Peter before standing up and walking to get something to drink. Mary followed him.

Peter sat back and just laughed.

John said, “We have some time free after dinner; let’s just wander around campus.”

They left the glass roofed building and began walking around. There were vast open spaces between buildings. They went first to “Blanchard”, a building they described as “looking like a castle.” Blanchard, a tall ivory colored edifice, built of rough limestone, which overlooked a large expanse adorned with a carefully tended and living carpet, had been modelled after a building in a much older institution called Oxford, and… this is probably the time to explain certain things about this kind of organization.

You and I simply requisition skills. If I were to imagine what it would mean to educate those people—or at least give skills; the concept of ‘education’ is slightly different from either inserting skills or inserting knowledge into a mind, and I don’t have the ability to explain exactly what the distinction is here, but I will say that it is significant—then the obvious way is to simply make a virtual place on the network where people can be exposed to knowledge. And that model would become phenomenally popular within a few years; people would pursue an education that was a niche on such a network as they had, and would be achieved by weaving in these computer activities with the rest of their lives.

But this place preserved an ancient model of education, where disciples would come to live in a single place, which was in a very real sense its own universe, and meet in ancient, face-to-face community with their mentors and be shaped in more than what they know and can do. Like so many other things, it was ancient, using computers here and there and even teaching people the way of computers while avoiding what we would assume comes with computers.

But these people liked that building, as contrasted to buildings that seemed more modern, because it seemed to convey an illusion of being in another time, and let you forget that you were in a modern era.

After some wandering, Peter and those he had just met looked at the building, each secretly pretending to be in a more ancient era, and went through an expanse with a fountain in the center, listened to some music, and ignored clouds, trees, clusters of people who were sharing stories, listening, thinking, joking, and missing home, in order to come to something exotic, namely a rotating platform with a mockup of a giant mastodon which had died before the end of the last ice age, and whose bones had been unearthed in a nearby excavation. Happy to have seen something exotic, they ignored buildings which have a human-pleasing temperature the year round, other people excited to have seen new friends, toys which sailed through the air on the same principles as an airplane’s wings, a place where artistic pieces were being drawn into being, a vast, stonehard pavement to walk, and a spectrum of artefacts for the weaving of music.

Their slow walk was interrupted when John looked at a number on a small machine he had attached to his wrist, and interpreted it to mean that it was time for the three of them to stop their leisured enjoyment of the summer night and move with discomfort and haste to one specific building—they all were supposed to go to the building called Fischer. After moving over and shifting emotionally from being relaxed and joyful to being bothered and stressed, they found that they were all on a brother and sister floor, and met their leaders.

Paul, now looking considerably more coherent than when he procured Peter’s keys, announced, “Now, for the next exercise, I’ll be passing out toothpicks. I want you to stand in two lines, guy-girl-guy-girl, and pass a lifesaver down the line. If your team passes the lifesaver to the end first, you win. Oh, and if you drop the lifesaver your team has to start over, so don’t drop it.”

People shuffled, and shortly Peter was standing in line, looking over the shoulder of a girl he didn’t know, and silently wishing he weren’t playing this game. He heard a voice say, “Go!” and then had an intermittent view of a tiny sugary torus passing down the line and the two faces close to each other trying simultaneously to get close enough to pass the lifesaver, and control the clumsy, five centimeter long toothpicks well enough to transfer the candy. Sooner than he expected the girl turned around, almost losing the lifesaver on her toothpick, and then began a miniature dance as they clumsily tried to synchronize the ends of their toothpicks. This took unpleasantly long, and Peter quickly banished a thought of “This is almost kissing! That can’t be what’s intended.” Then he turned around, trying both to rush and not to rush at the same time, and repeated the same dance with the young woman standing behind him—Mary! It was only after she turned away that Peter realized her skin had changed from its alabaster tone to pale rose.

Their team won, and there was a short break as the next game was organized. Peter heard bits of conversation: “This has been a bummer; I’ve gotten two papercuts this week.” “—and then I—” “What instruments do you—” “I’m from France too! Tu viens de Paris?” “Really? You—” Everybody seemed to be chattering, and Peter wished he could be in one of—actually, several of those conversations at once.

Paul’s voice cut in and said, “For this next activity we are going to form a human circle. With your team, stand in a circle, and everybody reach in and grab another hand with each hand. Then hold on tight; when I say, “Go,” you want to untangle yourselves, without letting go. The first team to untangle themselves wins!”

Peter reached in, and found each of his hands clasped in a solid, masculine grip. Then the race began, and people jostled and tried to untangle themselves. This was a laborious process and, one by one, every other group freed itself, while Peter’s group seemed stuck on—someone called and said, “I think we’re knotted!” As people began to thin out, Paul looked with astonishment and saw that they were indeed knotted. “A special prize to them, too, for managing the best tangle!”

“And now, we’ll have a three-legged race! Gather into pairs, and each two of you take a burlap sack. Then—” Paul continued, and with every game, the talk seemed to flow more. When the finale finished, Peter found himself again with John and Mary and heard the conversations flowing around him: “Really? You too?” “But you don’t understand. Hicks have a slower pace of life; we enjoy things without all the things you city dwellers need for entertainment. And we learn resourceful ways to—” “—and only at Wheaton would the administration forbid dancing while requiring the games we just played and—” Then Peter lost himself in a conversation that continued long into the night. He expected to be up at night thinking about all the beloved people he left at home, but Peter was too busy thinking about John’s and Mary’s stories.

The next day Peter woke up when his machine played a hideous sound, and groggily trudged to the dining hall to eat some chemically modified grains and drink water that had been infused with traditionally roasted beans. There were pills he could have taken that would have had the effect he was looking for, but he savored the beverage, and after sitting at a table without talking, bounced around from beautiful building to beautiful building, seeing sights for the first time, and wishing he could avoid all that to just get to his advisor.

Peter found the appropriate hallway, wandered around nervously until he found a door with a yellowed plaque that said “Julian Johnson,” knocked once, and pushed the door open. A white-haired man said, “Peter Jones? How are you? Do come in… What can I do for you?”

Peter pulled out a sheet of paper, an organic surface used to retain colored trails and thus keep small amounts of information inscribed so that the “real” information is encoded in a personal way. No, they don’t need to be trained to have their own watermark in this encoding.

Peter looked down at the paper for a moment and said, “I’m sorry I’m late. I need you to write what courses I should take and sign here. Then I can be out of your way.”

The old man sat back, drew a deep breath, and relaxed into a fatherly smile. Peter began to wonder if his advisor was going to say anything at all. Then Prof. Johnson motioned towards an armchair, as rich and luxurious as his own, and then looked as if he remembered something and offered a bowl full of candy. “Sit down, sit down, and make yourself comfortable. May I interest you in candy?” He picked up an engraved metal bowl and held it out while Peter grabbed a few Lifesavers.

Prof. Johnson sat back, silent for a moment, and said, “I’m sorry I’m out of butterscotch; that always seems to disappear. Please sit down, and tell me about yourself. We can get to that form in a minute. One of the priveleges of this job is that I get to meet interesting people. Now, where are you from?”

Peter said, “I’m afraid there’s not much that’s interesting about me. I’m from a small town downstate that doesn’t have anything to distinguish itself. My amusements have been reading, watching the cycle of the year, oh, and running. Not much interesting in that. Now which classes should I take?”

Prof. Johnson sat back and smiled, and Peter became a little less tense. “You run?”

Peter said, “Yes; I was hoping to run on the track this afternoon, after the lecture. I’ve always wanted to run on a real track.”

The old man said, “You know, I used to run myself, before I became an official Old Geezer and my orthopaedist told me my knees couldn’t take it. So I have to content myself with swimming now, which I’ve grown to love. Do you know about the Prairie Path?”

Peter said, “No, what’s that?”

Prof. Johnson said, “Years ago, when I ran, I ran through the areas surrounding the College—there are a lot of beautiful houses. And, just south of the train tracks with the train you can hear now, there’s a path before you even hit the street. You can run, or bike, or walk, on a path covered with fine white gravel, with trees and prairie plants on either side. It’s a lovely view.” He paused, and said, “Any ideas what you want to do after Wheaton?”

Peter said, “No. I don’t even know what I want to major in.”

Prof. Johnson said, “A lot of students don’t know what they want to do. Are you familiar with Career Services? They can help you get an idea of what kinds of things you like to do.”

Peter looked at his watch and said, “It’s chapel time.”

Prof. Johnson said, “Relax. I can write you a note.” Peter began to relax again, and Prof. Johnson continued, “Now you like to read. What do you like to read?”

Peter said, “Newspapers and magazines, and I read this really cool book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Oh, and I like the Bible.”

Prof. Johnson said, “I do too. What do you like about it most?”

“I like the stories in the Old Testament.”

“One general tip: here at Wheaton, we have different kinds of professors—”

Peter said, “Which ones are best?”

Prof. Johnson said, “Different professors are best for different students. Throughout your tenure at Wheaton, ask your friends and learn which professors have teaching styles that you learn well with and mesh well with. Consider taking other courses from a professor you like. Now we have a lot of courses which we think expose you to new things and stretch you—people come back and see that these courses are best. Do you like science?”

“I like it; I especially liked a physics lab.”

Prof. Johnson took a small piece of paper from where it was attached to a stack with a strange adhesive that had “failed” as a solid adhesive, but provided a uniquely useful way to make paper that could be attached to a surface with a slight push and then be detached with a gentle pull, remarkably enough without damage to the paper or the surface. He began to think, and flip through a book, using a technology thousands of years old at its heart. “Have you had calculus?” Prof. Johnson restrained himself from launching into a discussion of the grand, Utopian vision for “calculus” as it was first imagined and how different a conception it had from anything that would be considered “mathematics” today. Or should he go into that? He wavered, and then realized Peter had answered his question. “Ok,” Prof. Johnson said, “the lab physics class unfortunately requires that you’ve had calculus. Would you like to take calculus now? Have you had geometry, algebra, and trigonometry?”

Peter said, “Yes, I did, but I’d like a little break from that now. Maybe I could take calculus next semester.”

“Fair enough. You said you liked to read.”

“Magazines and newspapers.”

“Those things deal with the unfolding human story. I wonder if you’d like to take world civilization now, or a political science course.”

“History, but why study world history? Why can’t I just study U.S. history?”

Prof. Johnson said, “The story of our country is intertwined with that of our world. I think you might find that some of the things in world history are a lot closer to home than you think—and we have some real storytellers in our history department.”

“That sounds interesting. What else?”

“The Theology of Culture class is one many students find enjoyable, and it helps build a foundation for Old and New Testament courses. Would you be interested in taking it for A quad or B quad, the first or second half of the semester?”

“Could I do both?”

“I wish I could say yes, but this course only lasts half the semester. The other half you could take Foundations of Wellness—you could do running as homework!”

“I think I’ll do that first, and then Theology of Culture. That should be new,” Peter said, oblivious to how tightly connected he was to theology and culture. “What else?”

Prof. Johnson said, “We have classes where people read things that a lot of people have found really interesting. Well, that could describe several classes, but I was thinking about Classics of Western Literature or Literature of the Modern World.”

Peter said, “Um… Does Classics of Western Literature cover ancient and medieval literature, and Literature of the Modern World cover literature that isn’t Western? Because if they do, I’m not sure I could connect with it.”

Prof. Johnson relaxed into his seat, a movable support that met the contours of his body. Violating convention somewhat, he had a chair for Peter that was as pleasant to rest in as his own. “You know, a lot of people think that. But you know what?”

Peter said, “What?”

“There is something human that crosses cultures. That is why the stories have been selected. Stories written long ago, and stories written far away, can have a lot to connect with.”

“Ok. How many more courses should I take?”

“You’re at 11 credits now; you probably want 15. Now you said that you like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’m wondering if you would also like a philosophy course.”

Peter said, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is… I don’t suppose there are any classes that use that. Or are there? I’ve heard Pirsig isn’t given his fair due by philosophers.”

Prof. Johnson said, “If you approach one of our philosophy courses the way you approach Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I think you’ll profit from the encounter. I wonder if our Issues and Worldviews in Philosophy might interest you. I’m a big fan of thinking worldviewishly, and our philosophers have some pretty interesting things to say.”

Peter asked, “What does ‘worldviewishly’ mean?”

Prof. Johnson said, “It means thinking in terms of worldviews. A worldview is the basic philosophical framework that gives shape to how we view the world. Our philosophers will be able to help you understand the basic issues surrounding worldviews and craft your own Christian worldview. You may find this frees you from the Enlightenment’s secularizing influence—and if you don’t know what the Enlightenment is now, you will learn to understand it, and its problems, and how you can be free of them.” He spoke with the same simplistic assurance of artificial intelligence researchers who, seeing the power of computers and recognizing how simple certain cognitive feats are for humans, assumed that it was only a matter of time that artificial intelligence would “bridge the gap”—failing to recognize the tar pit of the peaks of intelligence that seem so deceptively simple and easy to human phenomenology. For computers could often defeat the best human players at chess—as computerlike a human skill as one might reasonably find—but deciphering the language of a children’s book or walking through an unfamiliar room, so easy to humans, seemed more difficult for computers the more advanced research began. Some researchers believed that the artificial intelligence project had uncovered the non-obvious significance of a plethora of things humans take for granted—but the majority still believed that what seemed trivial for humans must be the sort of thinking a computer can do, because there is no other kind of thinking… and an isomorphic simplicity, an apparent and deceptive simplicity much like this one, made it seem as if ideas were all that really mattered: not all that existed, but all that had an important influence. Prof. Johnson did not consciously understand how the Enlightenment worldview—or, more accurately, the Enlightenment—created the possibility of seeing worldviews that way, nor did he see how strange the idea of crafting one’s own worldview would seem to pre-Enlightenment Christians. He did not realize that his own kindness towards Peter was not simply because he agreed with certain beliefs, but because of a deep and many-faceted way in which he had walked for decades, and walked well. It was with perfect simplicity that he took this way for granted, as artificial intelligence researchers took for granted all the things which humans did so well they seemed to come naturally, and framed worldviewish thought as carrying with it everything he assumed from his way.

Peter said, “Ok. Well, I’ll take those classes. It was good to meet you.”

Prof. Johnson looked over a document that was the writeup of a sort of game, in which one had a number of different rooms that were of certain sizes, and certain classes had requirements about what kind of room they needed for how long, and the solution involved not only solving the mathematical puzzle, but meeting with teachers and caring for their concerns, longstanding patterns, and a variety of human dimensions derisively labelled as “political.” Prof. Johnson held in his hands the schedule with the official solution for that problem, and guided Peter to an allowable choice of class sections, taking several different actions that were considered “boring paperwork.”

Prof. Johnson said, “I enjoyed talking with you. Please do take some more candy—put a handful in your pocket or something. I just want to make one more closing comment. I want to see you succeed. Wheaton wants to see you succeed. There are some rough points and problems along the way, and if you bring them to me I can work with them and try to help you. If you want to talk with your RA or our chaplain or someone else, that’s fine, but please… my door is always open. And it was good to meet you too! Goodbye!”

Peter walked out, completely relaxed.

The next activity, besides nourishing himself with lunch (and eating, sleeping, and many other activities form a gentle background rhythm to the activities people are more conscious of. I will not describe each time Peter eats and sleeps, even though the 100th time in the story he eats with his new friends is as significant as the first, because I will be trying to help you see it their way), requires some explanation.

The term “quest,” to the people here, is associated with an image of knights in armor, and a body of literature from writers like Chretien de Troyes and Sir Thomas Mallory who described King Arthur and his knights. In Chretien de Troyes, the knight goes off in various adventures, often quests where he is attempting different physical feats. In Sir Thomas Mallory, a new understanding of quests is introduced, in the quest for the holy grail—a legendary treasure which I cannot here explain save to say that it profoundly altered the idea of a quest, and the quest took a large enough place in many people’s consciousness that it is used as a metaphor of the almost unattainable object of an ultimate pursuit (so that physicists would say that a grand unified theory which crystallizes all physical laws into a few simple equations is the “holy grail of physics”), and that the holy grail is itself in the shadow of a greater treasure, and this treasure was one many people in fact had possessed (some after great struggle, while others had never known a time when they were without it). In Mallory in particular the quest can be more than a physical task; most of Arthur’s knights could not reach the holy grail because of—they weren’t physical blemishes and they weren’t really mental blemishes either, but what they were is hard to say. The whole topic (knights, quests, the holy grail…) connects to something about that world that is beyond my ability to convey; suffice it to say that it is connected with one more dimension we don’t have here.

Peter, along with another group of students, went out on a quest. The object of this quest was to acquire seven specific items, on conditions which I will explain below:

  1. “A dog biscuit.” In keeping with a deeply human trait, the food they prepare is not simply what they judge adequate to sustain the body, but meant to give pleasure, in a sense adorned, because eating is not to them simply a biological need. They would also get adorned food to give pleasure to organisms they kept, including dogs, which include many different breeds which in turn varied from being natural sentries protecting territories to a welcoming committee of one which would give a visitor an exuberant greeting just because he was there.
  2. “An M16 rifle’s spent shell casing.” That means the used remnant after… wait a little bit. I need to go a lot farther back to explain this one.You will find something deceptively familiar in that in that universe, people strategically align resources and then attack their opponents, usually until a defeat is obvious. And if you look for what is deceptive, it will be a frustrating search, because even if the technologies involved are primitive, it is a match of strategy, tactics, and opposition.What makes it different is that this is not a recreation or an art form, but something many of them consider the worst evil that can happen, or among the worst. The resources that are destroyed, the bodies—in our world, it is simply what is involved in the game, but many of them consider it an eternal loss.

    Among the people we will be meeting, people may be broken down into “pacifists” who believe that war is always wrong, and people who instead of being pure pacifists try to have a practical way of pursuing pacifist goals: the disagreement is not whether one should have a war for amusement’s sake (they both condemn that), but what one should do when not having a war looks even more destructive than having a war. And that does not do justice to either side of the debate, but what I want to emphasize that to both of them this is not simply a game or one form of recreation; it is something to avoid at almost any cost.

    A knight was someone who engaged in combat, an elite soldier riding an animal called a horse. In Chretien de Troye’s day and Mallory’s day, the culture was such that winning a fight was important, but fighting according to “chivalry” was more important. Among other things, chivalry meant that they would only use simple weapons based on mechanical principles—no poison—and they wouldn’t even use weapons with projectiles, like arrows and (armor piercing) crossbow bolts. In practice that only meant rigid piercing and cutting weapons, normally swords and spears. And there was a lot more. A knight was to protect women and children.

    The form that chivalry took in Peter’s day allowed projectile weapons, although poison was still not allowed, along with biological, thermonuclear, and other weapons which people did not wish to see in war, and the fight to disfigure the tradition’s understanding women had accorded them meant that women could fight and be killed like men, although people worked to keep children out of warfare, and in any case the “Geneva Convention”, as the code of chivalry was called, maintained a sharp distinction between combatants and non-combatants, the latter of which were to be protected.

    The specific projectile weapon carried by most members of the local army was called an M16 rifle, which fired surprisingly small .22 bullets—I say “surprisingly” because if you were a person fighting against them and you were hit, you would be injured but quite probably not killed.

    This was intentional. (Yes, they knew how to cause an immediate kill.)

    Part of it is the smaller consideration that if you killed an enemy soldier immediately, you took one soldier out of action; on the other hand, if you wounded an enemy soldier, you took three soldiers out of action. But this isn’t the whole reason. The much bigger part of the reason is that their sense of chivalry (if it was really just chivalry; they loved their enemies) meant that even in their assaults they tried to subdue with as little killing as possible.

    There were people training with the army in that community (no, not Peter; Peter was a pure pacifist) who trained, with M16 rifles, not because they wanted to fight, but as part of a not entirely realistic belief that if they trained hard enough, their achievement would deter people who would go to war. And the “Crusader battalion” (the Crusaders were a series of people who fought to defend Peter’s spiritual ancestors from an encroaching threat that would have destroyed them) had a great sense of chivalry, even if none of them used the word “chivalry”.

  3. “A car bumper.” A car bumper is a piece of armor placed on the front and back of cars so that they can sustain low-velocity collisions without damage. (At higher velocities, newer cars are designed to serve as a buffer so that “crumple zones” will be crushed, absorbing enough of the impact so that the “passenger cage” reduces injuries sustained by people inside; this is part of a broader cultural bent towards minimizing preventable death because of what they believe about one human life.) Not only is a car bumper an unusual item to give, it is heavy and awkward enough that people tend not to carry such things with them—even the wealthy ones tend to be extraordinarily lightly encumbered.
  4. “An antique.” It is said, “The problem with England is that they believe 100 miles is a long distance, and the problem with America is that they believe 100 years is a long time.” An antique—giving the rule without all the special cases and exceptions, which is to say giving the rule as if it were not human—is something over 100 years old. To understand this, you must appreciate that it does not include easily available rocks, many of which are millions or billions of years old, and it is not based on the elementary particles that compose something (one would have to search hard to find something not made out of elementary particles almost as old as the universe). The term “antique” connotes rarity, and in a sense something out of the ordinary; that people’s way is concerned with “New! New! New!” and it is hard to find an artifact that was created more than 100 years ago, which is what was intended.This quest is all the more interesting because there is an “unwritten rule” that items will be acquired by asking, not by theft or even purchase—and, as most antiques are valuable, it would be odd for someone you’ve just met—and therefore with whom you have only the general human bond but not the special bond of friendship—to give you such an item, even if most of the littler things in life are acquired economically while the larger things can only be acquired by asking.
  5. “A note from a doctor, certifying that you do not have bubonic plague.” Intended as a joke, this refers to a health, safeguarded by their medicine, which keeps them from a dreadful disease which tore apart societies some centuries ago: that sort of thing wasn’t considered a live threat because of how successful their medicine was (which is why it could be considered humorous).
  6. “A burning piece of paper which no one in your group lit. (Must be presented in front of Fischer and not brought into the building.)” This presents a physical challenge, in that there is no obvious way to transport a burning piece of paper—or what people characteristically envision as a burning piece of paper—from almost anywhere else to in front of Fischer.
  7. “A sheet of paper with a fingerpaint handprint from a kindergartener.””Kindergarten” was the first year of their formal education, and a year of preparation before students were ready to enter their first grade. What did this society teach at its first, required year? Did it teach extraordinarily abstract equations, or cosmological theory, or literary archetypes, or how to use a lathe?All of these could be taught later on, and for that matter there is reason to value all of them. But the very beginning held something different. It taught people to take their turn and share; it taught people “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the Golden Rule by which their great Teachers crystallized so much wisdom. All of this work and play, some of the most advanced lessons they could learn, were placed, not at the end, but at the beginning of their education.

    That is what kindergarten was. What was a kindergartener? The true but uninformative answer would be “a person in kindergarten.”

    To get past that uninformative answer, I need to stress that their minds are bound up with organic life—they did not spring, fully formed, as you and I did. In most complex organisms, there is a process that transforms a genetically complete organism of just one cell to become a mature member of the species; among humans, that process is one of the longest and most complex. During that time their minds are developping as well as their bodies; in that regard they are not simply in harmony with the natural world this society believes it is separate from… but one of its best examples.

    But to say that alone is to flatten out something interesting… even more interesting than the process of biological mental development is the place that society has for something called “childhood”. Not all cultures have that concept—and again I am saying “culture” without explaining what it means. I can’t. Not all societies understand “childhood” as this society does; to many, a child is a smaller and less capable adult, or even worse, a nonentity. But in this culture, childhood is a distinctive time, and a child, including a kindergardener, is something special—almost a different species of mind. Their inability to healthily sustain themselves is met, not always with scorn, but with a giving of support and protection—and this is not always a grudging duty, but something that can bring joy. They are viewed as innocent, which is certainly not true, and something keeps many people from resenting them when they prove that they are not innocent by doing things that would not be tolerated if an adult did it. And the imperviousness of this belief to contrary experience is itself the shadow of the whole place of childhood as a time to play and learn and explore worlds of imagination and the things most adults take for granted. And many adults experience a special pleasure, and much more than a pleasure, from the company of children, a pleasure that is tied to something much deeper.

    This pleasure shines through even a handprint left with “fingerpaints,” a way of doing art reserved for children, so that this physical object is itself a symbol of all that is special about childhood, and like symbols of that world carries with it what is evoked: seeing such a handprint is a little like seeing a kindergartener.

And they were off. They stopped for a brief break and annoyedly watched the spectacle of over a hundred linked metal carts carrying a vast quantity of material, and walked in and out of the surrounding neighborhoods. Their knocks on the door met a variety of warm replies. Before long, they had a handprint from a kindergartener, a dog biscuit (and some very enthusiastic attention from a kind dog!), a note from an off-duty doctor (who did not examine them, but simply said that if they had the bubonic plague there would be buboes bulging from them in an obvious way), a cigarette lighter and a sheet of paper (unlit), a twisted bumper (which Peter surprised people by flipping over his shoulder), and finally a spent shell casing from a military science professor. When they climbed up “Fischer beach,” John handed the paper and lighter to his RA and said, “Would you light this?” It was with an exhausted satisfaction that they went to dinner and had entirely amiable conversation with other equally students who scant minutes ago had been their competitors.

When dinner was finished, Peter and Mary sat for a while in exhausted silence, before climbing up for the next scheduled activity—but I am at a loss for how to describe the next scheduled activity. To start with, I will give a deceptive description. If you can understand this activity, you will have understood a great deal more of what is in that world that doesn’t fit in ours.

Do I have to give a deceptive description, in that any description in our terms will be more or less deceptive? I wasn’t trying to make that kind of philosophical point; I wasn’t tring to make a philosophical point at all. I am choosing a description of the next scheduled activity that is more deceptive than it needs to be.

When students studied an academic discipline called “physics,” the curriculum was an initiation into progressively stranger and more esoteric doctrines, presented at the level which students were able to receive them. Students were first taught “Newtonian mechanics” (which openly regarded as false), before being initiated into “Einstein’s relativity” at the next level (which was also considered false, but was widely believed to be closer to the truth). Students experienced a “night and day” difference between Newtonian mechanics and all higher order mysteries. If you were mathematically adept enough to follow the mathematics, then Newton was easy because he agreed with good old common sense, and Einstein and even stranger mysteries were hard to understand because they turned common sense on its head. Newton was straightforward while the others were profoundly counterintuitive. So Einstein, unlike Newton, required a student to mentally engulf something quite alien to normal, common sense ways of thinking about the world around oneself. Hence one could find frustrated student remarks about, “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was Newton. Then the Devil howled, ‘Let Einstein be!’ and restored the status quo.”

Under this way of experiencing physics, Newton simply added mathematical formality to what humans always knew: everything in space fit in one long and continuous three-dimensional grid, and time could be measured almost as if it were a line, and so Einstein was simply making things more difficult and further from humans’ natural perceptions when his version of a fully mathematical model softened the boundaries of space and time so that one could no longer treat it as if it had a grid for a skeleton.

Someone acquainted with the history of science might make the observation that it was not so much that Newton’s mechanics were a mathematically rigorous formalization of how people experienced space and time, but that how people experienced space and time hadbecome a hazy and non-mathematical paraphrase of Newtonian mechanics: in other words, some students some students learned Newtonian mechanics easily, not because Newtonian physics was based on common sense, but because their “common sense” had been profoundly shaped by Newtonian physics.

This seemingly pedantic distinction was deeply tied to how the organic was being extinguished in their society.

I suspect you are thinking, “What other mathematical model was it based on instead?” And that’s why you’re having trouble guessing the answer.

The answer is related to the organic. Someone who knew Newton and his colleagues, and what they were rebelling against, could get a sense of something very different even without understanding what besides mathematics would undergird what space meant to them. In a certain sense, Newton forcefully stated the truth, but in a deceptive way. He worked hard to forge a concept of cold matter, pointing out that nature was not human—and it was a philosophical error to think of nature as human, but it was not nearly so great as one might think. Newton and his colleagues powerfully stressed that humans were superior to the rest of the physical world (which was not human), that they were meant not simply to be a part of nature but to conquer and rule it. And in so doing they attacked an equally great truth, that not only other life but even “inanimate” matter was kin to humans—lesser kin, perhaps, but humans and the rest of the natural world formed a continuity. They obscured the wisdom that the lordship humans were to exercise was not of a despot controlling something worthless, but the mastery of the crowning jewel of a treasure they had been entrusted to them. They introduced the concept of “raw material”, something as foreign to their thinking as… I can’t say what our equivalent would be, because everything surrounding “raw material” is so basic to us, and what they believed instead, their organic perception, is foreign to us. They caused people to forget that, while it would be a philosophical error to literally regard the world as human, it would be much graver to believe it is fundamentally described as inert, cold matter. And even when they had succeeded in profoundly influencing their cultures, so that people consciously believed in cold matter to a large degree, vestiges of the ancient experience survived in the medieval. It is perhaps not a coincidence that hundreds of years since Newton, in Newton’s own “mother tongue” (English), the words for “matter” and “mother” both sprung from the same ancient root word.

The Newtonian conception of space had displaced to some degree the older conception of place, a conception which was less concerned with how far some place was from other different places, and more concerned with a sort of color or, to some extent, meaning. The older conception also had a place for some things which couldn’t really be stated under the new conception: people would say, “You can’t be in two places at once.” What they meant by that was to a large degree something different, “Your body cannot be at two different spatial positions at the same time.” This latter claim was deceptive, because it was true so far as it goes, but it was a very basic fact of life that people could be in two places at once. The entire point of the next scheduled activity was to be in two places at once.

Even without describing what the other place was (something which could barely be suggested even in that world) and acknowledging that the point of the activity was to be in two places at once, this description of that activity would surprise many of the people there, and disturb those who could best sense the other place. The next scheduled activity was something completely ordinary to them, a matter of fact event that held some mystery, and something that would not occur to them as being in two places at once. The activity of being present in two or more places at once was carried on, on a tacit level, even when people had learned to conflate place with mathematical position. One such activity was confused with what we do when we remember: when we remember, we recall data from storage, while they cause the past to be present. The words, “This do in rememberance of me,” from a story that was ancient but preserved in the early medieval period we are looking at, had an unquestioned meaning of, “Cause me to be present by doing this,” but had suffered under a quite different experience of memory, so that to some people it meant simply to go over data about a person who had been present in the past but could not be present then.

But this activity was not remembering. Or at least, it was not just remembering. And this leaves open the difficulty of explaining how it was ordinary to them. It was theoretically in complete continuity with the rest of their lives, although it would be more accurate to say that the rest of their lives were theoretically in complete continuity with it. This activity was in a sense the most human, and the most organic, in that in it they led the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the plants, the rocks, the mountains, and the sees in returning to the place they came from. This description would also likely astonish the people who were gathered in a painted brick room, sitting on carpet and on movable perches, and seeing through natural light mixed with flickering fluorescent lights. Not one of them was thinking about “nature.”

What went on there was in a very real sense mediocre. Each activity was broken down, vulgarized, compared to what it could be—which could not obliterate what was going on. When they were songs, they were what were called “7-11” songs, a pejorative term which meant songs with seven words repeated eleven times. There was a very real sense in which the event was diminished by the music, but even when you factor in every diminishing force, there was something going on there, something organic and more than organic, which you and I do not understand—for that matter, which many people in that world do not understand.


Archon was silent for a long time.

Ployon said, “What is it?”

Archon said, “I can’t do it. I can’t explain this world. All I’ve really been doing is taking the pieces of that world that are a bit like ours. You’ve been able to understand much of it because I haven’t tried to convey several things that are larger than our world. ‘God’ is still a curious and exotic appendage that isn’t connected to anything, not really; I haven’t been able to explain, really explain, what it is to be male and female unities, or what masculinity and femininity are. There are a thousand things, and… I’ve been explaining what three-dimensional substance is to a two-dimensional world, and the way I’ve been doing it is to squash it into two dimensions, and make it understandable by removing from it everything that makes it three dimensional. Or almost everything…”

“How would a three dimensional being, a person from that world, explain the story?”

“But it wouldn’t. A three dimensional being wouldn’t collapse a cube into a square to make it easier for itself to understand; that’s something someone who couldn’t free itself from reading two dimensional thinking into three dimensions would do. You’re stuck in two dimensions. So am I. That’s why I failed, utterly failed, to explain the “brother-sister floor fellowship”, the next scheduled activity. And my failure is structural. It’s like I’ve been setting out to copy a living, moving organism by sculpturing something that looks like it out of steel. And what I’ve been doing is making intricate copies of its every contour, and painting the skin and fur exactly the same color, and foolishly hoping it will come alive. And this is something I can’t make by genetic engineering.”

“But how would someone from that world explain the story? Even if I can’t understand it, I want to know.”

“But people from that world don’t explain stories. A story isn’t something you explain; it’s something that may be told, shared, but usually it is a social error to explain a story, because a story participates in human life and telling a story connects one human to another. And so it’s a fundamental error to think a story is something you convey by explaining it—like engineering a robotic body for an animal so you can allow it to have a body. I have failed because I was trying something a mind could only fail at.”

“Then can you tell the story, like someone from that world would tell it?”


Peter and Mary both loved to run, but for different reasons. Peter was training himself for various races; he had not joined track, as he did in high school, but there were other races. Mary ran to feel the sun and wind and rain. And, without any conscious effort, they found themselves running together down the prairie path together, and Peter clumsily learning to match his speed to hers. And, as time passed, they talked, and talked, and talked, and talked, and their runs grew longer.

When the fall break came, they both joined a group going to the northwoods of Wisconsin for a program that was half-work and half-play. And each one wrote a letter home about the other. Then Peter began his theology of culture class, and said, “This is what I want to study.” Mary did not have a favorite class, at least not that she realized, until Peter asked her what her favorite class was and she said, “Literature.”

When Christmas came, they went to their respective homes and spent the break thinking about each other, and they talked about this when they returned. They ended the conversation, or at least they thought they did, and then each hurried back to catch the other and say one more thing, and then the conversation turned out to last much longer, and ended with a kiss.

Valentine’s Day was syrupy. It was trite enough that their more romantically inclined friends groaned, but it did not seem at all trite or syrupy to them. As Peter’s last name was Patrick, he called Mary’s father and prayed that St. Patrick’s Day would be a momentous day for both of them.

Peter and Mary took a slow run to a nearby village, and had dinner at an Irish pub. Amidst the din, they had some hearty laughs. The waitress asked Mary, “Is there anything else that would make this night memorable?” Then Mary saw Peter on his knee, opening a jewelry box with a ring: “I love you, Mary. Will you marry me?”

Mary cried for a good five minutes before she could answer. And when she had answered, they sat in silence, a silence that overpowered the din. Then Mary wiped her eyes and they went outside.

It was cool outside, and the moon was shining brightly. Peter pulled a camera from his pocket, and said, “Stay where you are. Let me back up a bit. And hold your hand up. You look even more beautiful with that ring on your finger.”

Peter’s camera flashed as he took a picture, just as a drunk driver slammed into Mary. The sedan spun into a storefront, and Mary flew up into the air, landed, and broke a beer bottle with her face.

People began to come out, and in a few minutes the police and paramedics arrived. Peter somehow managed to answer the police officers’ questions and to begin kicking himself for being too stunned to act.

When Peter left his room the next day, he looked for Prof. Johnson. Prof. Johnson asked, “May I give you a hug?” and then sat there, simply being with Peter in his pain. When Peter left, Prof. Johnson said, “I’m not just here for academics. I’m here for you.” Peter went to chapel and his classes, feeling a burning rage that almost nothing could pierce. He kept going to the hospital, and watching Mary with casts on both legs and one arm, and many tiny stitches on her face, fluttering on the borders of consciousness. One time Prof. Johnson came to visit, and he said, “I can’t finish my classes.” Prof. Johnson looked at him and said, “The college will give you a full refund.” Peter said, “Do you know of any way I can stay here to be with Mary?” Prof. Johnson said, “You can stay with me. And I believe a position with UPS would let you get some income, doing something physical. The position is open for you.” Prof. Johnson didn’t mention the calls he’d made, and Peter didn’t think about them. He simply said, “Thank you.”

A few days later, Mary began to be weakly conscious. Peter finally asked a nurse, “Why are there so many stitches on her face? Was she cut even more badly than—”

The nurse said, “There are a lot of stitches very close together because the emergency room had a cosmetic surgeon on duty. There will still be a permanent mark on her face, but some of the wound will heal without a scar.”

Mary moved the left half of her mouth in half a smile. Peter said, “That was a kind of cute smile. How come she can smile like that?”

The nurse said, “One of the pieces of broken glass cut a nerve. It is unlikely she’ll ever be able to move part of her face again.”

Peter looked and touched Mary’s hand. “I still think it’s really quite cute.”

Mary looked at him, and then passed out.

Peter spent a long couple of days training and attending to practical details. Then he came back to Mary.

Mary looked at Peter, and said, “It’s a Monday. Don’t you have classes now?”

Peter said, “No.”

Mary said, “Why not?”

Peter said, “I want to be here with you.”

Mary said, “I talked with one of the nurses, and she said that you dropped out of school so you could be with me.

“Is that true?” she said.

Peter said, “I hadn’t really thought about it that way.”

Mary closed her eyes, and when Peter started to leave because he decided she wanted to be left alone, she said, “Stop. Come here.”

Peter came to her bedside and knelt.

Mary said, “Take this ring off my finger.”

Peter said, “Is it hurting you?”

Mary said, “No, and it is the greatest treasure I own. Take it off and take it back.”

Peter looked at her, bewildered. “Do you not want to marry me?”

Mary said, “This may sting me less because I don’t remember our engagement. I don’t remember anything that happened near that time; I have only the stories others, even the nurses, tell me about a man who loves me very much.”

Peter said, “But don’t you love me?”

Mary forced back tears. “Yes, I love you, yes, I love you. And I know that you love me. You are young and strong, and have the love to make a happy marriage. You’ll make some woman a very good husband. I thought that woman would be me.

“But I can see what you will not. You said I was beautiful, and I was. Do you know what my prognosis is? I will probably be able to stand. At least for short periods of time. If I’m fortunate, I may walk. With a walker. I will never be able to run again—Peter, I am nobody, and I have no future. Absolutely nobody. You are young and strong. Go and find a woman who is worth your love.”

Mary and Peter both cried for a long time. Then Peter walked out, and paused in the doorway, crying. He felt torn inside, and then went in to say a couple of things to Mary. He said, “I believe in miracles.”

Then Mary cried, and Peter said something else I’m not going to repeat. Mary said something. Then another conversation began.

The conversation ended with Mary saying, “You’re stupid, Peter. You’re really, really stupid. I love you. I don’t deserve such love. You’re making a mistake. I love you.” Then Peter went to kiss Mary, and as he bent down, he bent his mouth to meet the lips that he still saw as “really quite cute.”

The stress did not stop. The physical therapists, after time, wondered that Mary had so much fight in her. But it stressed her, and Peter did his job without liking it. Mary and Peter quarreled and made up and quarreled and made up. Peter prayed for a miracle when they made up and sometimes when they quarreled. Were this not enough stress, there was an agonizingly long trial—and knowing that the drunk driver was behind bars surprisingly didn’t make things better. But Mary very slowly learned to walk again. After six months, if Peter helped her, she could walk 100 yards before the pain became too great to continue.

Peter hadn’t been noticing that the stress diminished, but he did become aware of something he couldn’t put his finger on. After a night of struggling, he got up, went to church, and was floored by the Bible reading of, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” and the idea that when you do or do not visit someone in prison, you are visiting or refusing to visit Christ. Peter absently went home, tried to think about other things, made several phone calls, and then forced himself to drive to one and only one prison.

He stopped in the parking lot, almost threw up, and then steeled himself to go inside. He found a man, Jacob, and… Jacob didn’t know who Peter was, but he recognized him as looking familiar. It was an awkward meeting. Then he recognized him as the man whose now wife he had crippled. When Peter left, he vomited and felt like a failure. He talked about it with Mary…

That was the beginning of a friendship. Peter chose to love the man in prison, even if there was no pleasure in it. And that created something deeper than pleasure, something Peter couldn’t explain.

As Peter and Mary were planning the wedding, Mary said, “I want to enter with Peter next to me, no matter what the tradition says. It will be a miracle if I have the strength to stand for the whole wedding, and if I have to lean on someone I want it to be Peter. And I don’t want to sit on a chair; I would rather spend my wedding night wracked by pain than go through my wedding supported by something lifeless!”

When the rehearsal came, Mary stood, and the others winced at the pain in her face. And she stood, and walked, for the entire rehearsal without touching Peter once. Then she said, “I can do it. I can go through the wedding on my own strength,” and collapsed in pain.

At the wedding, she stood next to Peter, walking, her face so radiant with joy that some of the guests did not guess she was in exquisite pain. They walked next to each other, not touching, and Mary slowed down and stopped in the center of the church. Peter looked at her, wondering what Mary was doing.

Then Mary’s arm shot around Peter’s neck, and Peter stood startled for a moment before he placed his arm around her, squeezed her tightly, and they walked together to the altar.

On the honeymoon, Mary told Peter, “You are the only person I need.” This was the greatest bliss either of them had known, and the honeymoon’s glow shined and shined.

Peter and Mary agreed to move somewhere less expensive to settle down, and were too absorbed in their wedded bliss and each other to remember promises they had made earlier, promises to seek a church community for support and friends. And Peter continued working at an unglamorous job, and Mary continued fighting to walk and considered the housework she was capable of doing a badge of honor, and neither of them noticed that the words, “I love you” were spoken ever so slightly less frequently, nor did they the venom creeping into their words.

One night they exploded. What they fought about was not important. What was important was that Peter left, burning with rage. He drove, and drove, until he reached Wheaton, and at daybreak knocked on Prof. Johnson’s door. There was anger in his voice when he asked, “Are you still my friend?”

Prof. Johnson got him something to eat and stayed with him when he fumed with rage, and said, “I don’t care if I’m supposed to be with her, I can’t go back!” Then Prof. Johnson said, “Will you make an agreement with me? I promise you I won’t ever tell you to go back to her, or accept her, or accept what she does, or apologize to her, or forgive her, or in any way be reconciled. But I need you to trust me that I love you and will help you decide what is best to do.”

Peter said, “Yes.”

Prof. Johnson said, “Then stay with me. You need some rest. Take the day to rest. There’s food in the fridge, and I have books and a nice back yard. There’s iced tea in the—excuse me, there’s Coke and 7 Up in the boxes next to the fridge. When I can come back, we can talk.”

Peter relaxed, and he felt better. He told Prof. Johnson. Prof. Johnson said, “That’s excellent. What I’d like you to do next is go in to work, with a lawyer I know. You can tell him what’s going on, and he’ll lead you to a courtroom to observe.”

Peter went away to court the next day, and when he came back he was ashen. He said nothing to Prof. Johnson.

Then, after the next day, he came back looking even more unhappy. “The first day, the lawyer, George, took me into divorce court. I thought I saw the worst that divorce court could get. Until I came back today. It was the same—this sickening scene where two people had become the most bitter enemies. I hope it doesn’t come to this. This was atrocious. It was vile. It was more than vile. It was—”

Prof. Johnson sent him back for a third day. This time Peter said nothing besides, “I think I’ve been making a mistake.”

After the fourth day, Peter said, “Help me! I’ve been making the biggest mistake of my life!”

After a full week had passed, Peter said, “Please, I beg you, don’t send me back there.”

Prof. Johnson sent Peter back to watch a divorce court for one more miserable, excruciating day. Then he said, “Now you can do whatever you want. What do you want to do?”

The conflict between Peter and Mary ended the next day.

Peter went home, begging Mary for forgiveness, and no sooner than he had begun his apology, a thousand things were reflected in Mary’s face and she begged his forgiveness. Then they talked, and debated whether to go back to Wheaton, or stay where they were. Finally Mary said, “I really want to go back to Wheaton.”

Peter began to shyly approach old friends. He later misquoted: “I came crawling with a thimble in the desparate hope that they’d give a few tiny drops of friendship and love. Had I known how they would respond, I would have come running with a bucket!”

Peter and Mary lived together for many years; they had many children and were supported by many friends.


Ployon said, “I didn’t follow every detail, but… there was something in that that stuck.”

Archon said, “How long do you think it lasted?”

“A little shorter than the other one, I mean first part.”

“Do you have any idea how many days were in each part?”

“About the same? I assume the planet had slowed down so that a year and a day were of roughly equal length.”

“The first part took place during three days. The latter part spanned several thousand days—”

“I guess I didn’t understand it—”

“—which is… a sign that you understood something quite significant… that you knew what to pay attention to and were paying attention to the right thing.”

“But I didn’t understand it. I had a sense that it was broken off before the end, and that was the end, right?”

Archon hesitated, and said, “There’s more, but I’d rather not go into that.”

Ployon said, “Are you sure?”

“You won’t like it.”

“Please.”


The years passed and Peter and Mary grew into a blissfully happy marriage. Mary came to have increasing health problems as a result of the accident, and those around them were amazed at how their love had transformed the suffering the accident created in both of their lives. At least those who knew them best saw the transformation. There were many others who could only see their happiness as a mirage.

As the years passed, Jacob grew to be a good friend. And when Peter began to be concerned that his wife might be… Jacob had also grown wealthy, very wealthy, and assembled a top-flight legal team (without taking a dime of Peter’s money—over Peter’s protests!), to prevent what the doctors would normally do in such a case, given recent shifts in the medical system.

And then Mary’s health grew worse, much worse, and her suffering grew worse with it, and pain medications seemed to be having less and less effect. Those who didn’t know Mary were astonished that someone in so much pain could enjoy life so much, nor the hours they spent gazing into each other’s eyes, holding hands, when Mary’s pain seemed to vanish. A second medical opinion, and a third, and a fourth, confirmed that Mary had little chance of recovery even to her more recent state. And whatever measures been taken, whatever testimony Peter and Mary could give about the joy of their lives, the court’s decision still came:

The court wishes to briefly review the facts of the case. Subject is suffering increasingly severe effects from an injury that curtailed her life greatly as a young person. from which she has never recovered, and is causing increasingly complications now that she will never again have youth’s ability to heal. No fewer than four medical opinions admitted as expert testimony substantially agree that subject is in extraordinary and excruciating pain; that said excruciating pain is increasing; that said excruciating pain is increasingly unresponsive to medication; that subject has fully lost autonomy and is dependent on her husband; that this dependence is profound, without choice, and causes her husband to be dependent without choice on others and exercise little autonomy; and the prognosis is only of progressively worse deterioration and increase in pain, with no question of recovery.

The court finds it entirely understandable that the subject, who has gone through such trauma, and is suffering increasingly severe complications, would be in a state of some denial. Although a number of positions could be taken, the court also finds it understandable that a husband would try to maintain a hold on what cannot exist, and needlessly prolong his wife’s suffering. It is not, however, the court’s position to judge whether this is selfish…

For all the impressive-sounding arguments that have been mounted, the court cannot accord a traumatized patient or her ostensibly well-meaning husband a privelege that the court itself does not claim. The court does not find that it has an interest in allowing this woman to continue in her severe and worsening state of suffering.

Peter was at her side, holding her hand and looking into his wife’s eyes, The hospital doctor had come. Then Peter said, “I love you,” and Mary said, “I love you,” and they kissed.

Mary’s kiss was still burning on Peter’s lips when two nurses hooked Mary up to an IV and injected her with 5000 milligrams of sodium thiopental, then a saline flush followed by 100 milligrams of pancurium bromide, then a saline flush and 20 milligrams of potassium chloride.

A year later to the day, Peter died of a broken heart.


Ployon was silent for a long time, and Archon was silent for an even longer time. Ployon said, “I guess part of our world is present in that world. Is that what you mean by being in two places at once?”

Archon was silent for a long time.

Ployon said, “It seems that that world’s problems and failings are somehow greater than our achievements. I wish that world could exist, and that we could somehow visit it.”

Archon said, “Do you envy them that much?”

Ployon said, “Yes. We envy them as—”

Archon said, “—as—” and searched through his world’s images.

Ployon said, “—as that world’s eunuchs envy men.”

Archon was silent.

Ployon was silent.

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