Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Last Act

The dark possibility of humankind's future...

Robert scanned his holoscreen, then mentally net-keyed his weapon. Crouching behind his own cyrex shield not far from his comrades, he not so much waited for the crisis to micro-second up, but mentally edged closer and closer to its volatile precipice.

His elite space infantry squad of 30 volunteers hadn’t battled yet. The darkness of the screaming sky above in this worldwide holocaust weighed down on them, but they were ready, now to the blast point. He keyed in a mild sedative to his blood stream and waited; looked back inwardly at the visual horror of the last few weeks, didn’t need to call up any vids on his helmet’s screen. His own memory of images abyssed enough.

The first horrific attack of the 4th world conflagration had come 6 weeks before--a sudden light-swift missile exchange that had almost simultaneously obliterated Washington D.C. and greater LA including Edwards Space Base--where he had first trained when he joined the Force. And, on the other side, Tehran, Qom, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong blasted down to their own fiery hell.

D.C.’s destruction had been so invasive that much of the western Chesapeake Bay vaporized, leaving a strange desert of broiled seascape. The first vid images reminded him of southern stretches of Martian desert where he had done his basic three years earlier.

Despite the swirling thermonuclear trash in the atmosphere, his whole crew had flown in on the next shuttle from Darkside, the slang term for Moon base 21. He was emotionally numb, knew it was futile for him to accept the offered return pass; certainly his parents, two brothers and young sister, all of whom lived in LA-plex, were now not even a shade of a shadow. Robert didn’t mourn; it was too unreal.

No one knew who had actually started the conflagration. President Sherman with a first-strike or the leaders of Iran-China, especially Prime Ministers Chi-shek and Khamenei. Both sides blamed each other, but yet after the brief holocaust, incredibly they had e-stemmed from their bunkers and forged a nantex-thin truce.

Wasn't that always the nature of politicians to carry on over the scorched bone meal of millions of the innocent?

Both governments were still recovering, when Robert’s space ship touched down in southern Texas, the alternative space port to vaporized Edwards.

Security was Code crimson. Robert, even at his regimental best, was scanned at least 7 times as if he was a possible belligerent. Even before receiving orders, everything was in lock-down. No pscyh-doc showed up to debrief and neutralize any angst, wrath, or anxeity his team might be experiencing returning to millions of dead including their own gone loved ones.

The vids said that the two super-powers---their government representing the western half of the smoking sphere against Chin-Iran were dealing with their millions dead, and half a billion injured; all hospitals and medvac sites were loaded down.

Sarcastic people were already gallows-humoring each other. Robert disciplined his rage and squashed his sorrow.

In Virginia, whole cities had been turned into vast field hospitals. Santa Barbara County, California had become a vast cyrex-mode temp city filled with refugees fleeing the far out edges of the LA-plex. Untold numbers were already experiencing signs of radiation sickness.

So the leaders had agreed to a temporary truce; then a UN negotiator had thought up 'the Tournament' and both sides quickly settled on this ultimate game. U.S./Canada versus China/Iran. The superpowers would each choose 30 representatives to battle in the ancient way of symbolic war. Hopefully, this would spare any more civilian casualties. Rather ironic that it was mainly in modern civilized war where millions of civilians were slaughtered, often by the good guys.

Most people on the street made cynical remarks:"It's only a PR cover, another crap game of political lies." "'They've' agreed to game, not to solve the slaughter but to delay their chances of losing." "'They' want time to get more weapons ready; next it's bio for sure, that's what I heard." "We're pulling a poker move over the Chinks and Camel-jocks."

Yet in the higher realms of political intrigue, the tournament concept was a diplomatic coup, even lowering belligerent criticism still railing forth from other UN member states. The two enemies’ diplomacy continued with their usual verbal battle of veiled words and misleading propaganda, even while agreeing on the ancient method—the hero’s challenge.

Thousands of pop vids reminded the less educated populace that this aged form of battle--a tournament--was most glorified in the ancient Judeo-Christian Bible story where Philistines had challenged Israelites with their taller-than-life champion, Goliath, and dared one Israelite to come against him in single combat. The Israelites sent a young man, David.

Yeah, Robert thought, I’m now a participant in a modern replay of that ancient way of symbolic war. But glancing down at the vaporizer he held tightly, he wondered, Who am I really? David or Goliath or a hybrid mix? And the actual battle wouldn't be symbolic at all except for the politicians. Besides, David wasn't an innocent shepherd boy and good king like the popular legend goes. If he really existed, (historians debated), David had been a cunning, ruthless slayer of whole villages, killing everyone in sworded massacres, just so he could rob them of their possessions.

But despite the ridiculous political lies, Robert had no regrets. He had volunteered for this ultimate contest—rising up out of the black hole of numbed grief for his family, his friends, his ravaged country. Robert still couldn't really feel at all--not any hate, no revenge. His family's deaths were suspended in pause mode. He felt only an endless blankness, a bottomless pit within, yet out of that came this call to stop the carnage.

Strangely too, in dark contrast, one side of him actually looked forward to warring--for the exciting challenge, a real battle, no more fight-sims, no more endless parading about fields at Camp Pendleton, or flying off to Mars again for another set of wilderness maneuvers.

The Tournament might be his only chance to actually fight--almost face to face--like soldiers had battled a century ago, a millennium past. Battle strategies and plans from a hundred wars Robert had studied lasered back into him now. As a history professor at UCLA, he had taught European history. Sometimes small attacks were the volatile hinges on which the rest of history swung.

His ruminating of this took up only a lesser side of his consciousness. Mainly, he focused on the scree-strewn landscape and the gray enemy shields a few hundred meters away, looking for unusual movement; plus, up-to-the-second news flashed from the net communication unit of his battle suit, the images and word lines in front of his eyes, like strange aliens flitting over the landscape ahead of him.

Now, the instant feed to his cerebral cortex warned him the Chin-Iran soldiers were moving behind their shields. Though his compstat would warn him before any attack, he still watched cat-like, fixed on the enemy cyrex shields across the terrain to the east.

Net: Warning over. False alarm; enemy is only exercising. Robert relaxed his tense muscles and briefly glanced northward where in the distance he could vaguely see the base bulk of the Himalayan range of mountains, though the mountains were obscured by heavy smog--the aftermath of the nuclear detonations and smoke from many countless after fires. Ash fell intermittently, dark twisted flakes. How many contained traces of human DNA? Unconsciously, he brushed his right arm and shoulder.

Huge slashes on the sides of the range were barely visible where whole sections of mountains had avalanched down in the midst of the bombing holocaust. He avoided looking southwest. One of America’s many missiles had misfired and taken out northeastern India. He tried not to think of the millions dead there.

Strange that this high plateau, known in the past as Tibet, should be chosen as the Tournament site. Three days earlier, he and his fellow warriors had been space shot to the location in a carrier shuttle. How had the Asians gotten here? Maybe they had been here all along, though supposedly Tibet had become a neutral independent state in 2025.

Now both sides crouched at the precipice of their own death or victory. And in front of them in time’s future arc lay the possible new life or the imploding nova of their fiery planet’s demise.

Robert suddenly winced and held a hand up to his helmet. Unexpectedly and frightful in its overwhelming allness, a thought-message was blasting into Robert’s consciousness. A nearby comrade also must have received the message, as he dropped to the ground and removed his helmet and put his hands up to his head.

The omniscient warning burned too intensely to vocalize or mind print, unless one was to write with a volcano’s explosive power or a cosmic supernova. His instant net feed said that around the globe billions of humans were stopped in their activities, transfixed by the thought-message. It appeared that it was worldwide. But from where?

Immediately, Robert decided to obey. He wasn't a believer, but this Voice wasn't earthly. He stooped and lay his large weapon at his feet on top of the ash-covered scree. About him others lay down their weapons and knelt.

Several Chinese, or more probably Iranians, came from behind their shields and also knelt down.

No one made an attempt to pray. Would a person try and pour water at the bottom of the Pacific?! Totally immersed, pressured--opened in their consciousness, they humbled before the transcendent omniscient experience. One of his fellow soldiers lay down on the ground so overwhelmed he almost lost consciousness. An Asian soldier to the far right threw his weapon to the ground, rushed past his fellow soldiers and, arms raised, ran northward toward the mountains.

In contrast, Robert felt a great sense of peace fill him and the battle-upness of moments before vaporized, the numbness vanished. Calmly, he tabbed deconstruct on his vision screen and his cyrex barrier disappeared. Others were doing the same. Now they stood face to face with their enemy challengers and walked toward them. His opposite who had briefly knelt now rose, imposingly large in a formidable-looking suit, one that looked old-style, still had visible air tanks and was obviously pressurized—bad old days. His father had told him about those has-beens. His father! Anguish filled him, his family gone...

Focusing instead on the enemy in front of him, Robert walked toward the bulky individual wondering what his opponent was like. The Asian combatant advanced toward him. Robert realized that he would have difficulty seeing the enemy’s face in the smogged glare of the day and keyed in to his net to see if there was any stat-intel—none yet.

He stopped in front of the cloaked figure, raised a hand to shake, and then felt foolish and dropped his arm. The enemy rubbed one arm across its facial plate.

Robert almost stepped back; it was a Chinese young woman! She had a small nose and intense eyes; was probably no more than 21 years old, must be slender with such delicate facial features, and weighed down under all that old suit.

She smiled up at Robert, her eyes like brown velvet, and also extended her hand. They shook, stared at each other for what seemed like minutes, and then both started to talk at once.

First, Robert and she exchanged net code. Her name was Baozhai, from Macau; briefly
Robert recalled the vids—much of coastal China had been turned into a burning chaos, vast amounts of ocean water turned to steam.

Baozhai was a draftee, former biophysics engineer, loved 4-dimensional chess and ancient
watercolor painting. They shared personal vids and a long dialogue ensued. Even though there were 58 others doing so, Robert and Baozhai were, momentarily, as if the only two humans existing.

He told her of his university background, of being a lecturer in 17th century European history, then a volunteer for the 15th Martian exploration mission, the one educator on the trip; later how he had become a soldier, why he liked to study ancient battlefields, and his love for historical fiction vids.

Their brief dialogue got interrupted. New orders came screening to him from Central Command. Baozhai’s face disappeared and images of Central Command appeared in his face view screen. A large man with gnarled hands stood facing him in an underground bunker—“This is General Stafford of Omaha SAC representing the President and the Prime Minister of Canada; no doubt you have also encountered the overwhelming invasive message that has hacked into our systems and invaded our minds."

He paused, then continued, "Many religious leaders are claiming it’s a direct revelation from God. The State Department is doing intensive research as to the message and to its real orign. You are cautioned to stay on standby--no hasty action is to be taken to engage the enemy unless directly attacked. Nor are you, however, to halt preparation for the Challenge until more information can be netted. Please standby; more orders will be forthcoming.”

The verbal message ended, the Stars and Stripes and the Mapleleaf waved across Robert’s vision screen, then vanished, and he could again see Baozhai. She was staring up at him intently, her eyes almost too large for her face and diminutive nose. Evidently she hadn’t been able to access his message, nor had she received one from her government.

“It was a message to us from our leaders,” Robert said to her, “the usual standby with notification that everyone seems to have gotten that inner consciousness message we did. Some claim it was God. The higher-ups, of course, aren’t convinced; they assume it must be a new hacknet from your government. I don't know. But me, I’m an atheist. I’ve been to Mars too many times, never seen any evidence of any higher power, no deity, only lots of space and arid rock.”

Baozhai frowned with a slight wrinkling of the bridge of her nose. She ignored his accusation against her government and focused on his skepticism. “I’ve studied plenty of brain matter in my biophysics lab; I've never encountered an individual. She then smiled. “If I studied your brain matter, Robert, I don’t think I would find you either.”

He laughed, both at her impertinence and at the insightful twist she had put to his skepticism. “Okay, I see your point; I did study four years of philosophy, Kant and all that about practical reason; I retract my rather hasty judgment. Instead, let me say, based on my study of nature and history—especially wars of the past, and now this last few weeks' apocalypse, I don’t see any Intelligence in our solar system or the Cosmos—none--but what’s inside our helmets.” Robert tapped her head gear impulsively.

She stepped back.

“Excuse me, Baozhai.”

She looked intently at him for a moment and then smiled. “I see. Me too. Have you traveled to my country or to Iran, our aligned partner? Before the holocaust?” It was such a stupid statement, she reddened.

Despite the utter horror of their situation, Robert found himself wanting to see more of her underneath that goliath suit.

“No, except for a bunch of missions to Mars-port, I pretty much hunker down in Southern California." LA-plex, Pendleton, San Diego--gone with the ripping wind. And my family! He cursed and kicked scree with his left foot. Why was he talking to the enemy who had slaughtered millions including his family?!

Sorrow from the last few weeks drowned back into him. The brief parley with an Asian soldier on the Tibetan plateau stopped as he again remembered why they were here, to kill each other, except a strange message had knocked them out of their battle prep.

Baozhai turned away. Robert glanced up at the unending smogged sky. They were silent for at least 15 minutes. Then he kept checking on the other members of his team, but most of them were still conferring with other enemy soldiers. Several US/Canada soldiers had turned and marched back to their staging area; their Asian counterparts, the same.

Finally, Robert keyed in one of his favorite family vids; one where he and his little sister and two brothers had been snorkeling off Santa Catalina Island when they spotted a Great White—

He heard words. And paused the vid.

“…so, I hope you understand,” Baozhai was talking to him, “that when I lost my whole family--older brother, my parents, and grandparents—“

Robert bludgeoned in, “Good!! You slaughtered my family too!" Then he stopped, stood stuffing his rage down, not speaking. Finally said, "I’m sorry, Baozhai. How terrible. So much loss for everyone! But I didn’t hear the first part of your sentence; I was watching a vid of my family. See." He transmitted the vid to her.

She watched in silence.

"Would you repeat what you first said?” he asked again. But Baozhai didn't answer. She had lowered her privacy screen in her helmet.

On the edge of his consciousness, Robert was aware that most of the opposing soldiers nearby were still talking. Above, the gray-blasted sky, nothing but thermonuclear smog that had lain for many days like a hydra-bodied snake lair writhing. Now strangely, it seemed to be lessening, swirling in dirty gray eddies, maybe gradually dissipating or only twisting.

Baozhai opened her helmet, looked up to Robert, her large luminous eyes staring intently into him. Finally she said, "I'm sorry for your loss. I've been thinking of mine only."

He stared back at her, both still living in the Message that seemed to fill their inner selves. Robert spoke again, "You think the Transcendent Message, this warning but warm command to disperse, is from your God?"

As if puzzled, Baozhai pinched in her nose slightly. She put a hand up on his left arm and asked, "Don't you?"

Robert chuckled in spite of himself and their extreme situation, paused, and then took her hand and held it. "Remember, I'm the atheist; you're the believer."

He glanced down toward where he had left his weapon. Now the heavy sleek metal of the death-dealer seemed both trivial and shameful. It was like seeing, suddenly, with compassionate eyes. Like his little sister's.

Several North American soldiers and Asians were actually joking so loudly, he could hear them in the distance. Others were exchanging contact info. The netfeed in his head chattered. All of this reminded him of those strange truces like the one two hundred years ago in the American War Between the States. In the midst of a vicious battle, a truce was called; Union and Confederate soldiers were suddenly only lonely or brash individuals with curiosity and friendliness who called across their former deadline and chatted like old friends in town for the weekend.

Yes, maybe, this most dangerous of games had paused again. But would it last? And what about the Presence? Was that all-in-compassing Voice really a spiritual reality or only an ingenuous hackjob by a demented enemy genius?

Looking deeply at Baozhai who was staring up at him still, Robert knew they had no answers. Somehow words escaped them. He turned away and listened to his net, looked over toward his line of combatants. Two Ameri-Canadian soldiers had already deconstructed their shields, packed up their gear, and were walking southeast, probably going to try and escape through Myanmar, and hopefully find a skimmer-ship--maybe even a shuttle--back to the southern U.S., probably Texas, one of the few areas not burning. He considered netting them, then discarded the idea. On the other side, a couple of Chin-Iran soldiers were headed east into the blank horizon.

Then he gazed back down again at Baozhai. She was still staring up at him; her eyes welling, force-fields of caring. She started to speak, but was cut off by blinding light that blanked out everything.

His suit formed a new cyrex shield—this time around both of them. Baozhai turned, pulled out a laser to cut through the siding. He shouted, “Don’t! Thermos again!”

The sky whitened until his suit closed his view screen and his meds began operating. An enormous sound, deafening even within his protective suit and shield tsunamied. Robert ordered their cyrex shelter to the ground, and switched to full battle mode--netted for triple shield-thickness.

Checking his virtual feed, he saw that a great thermonuclear wind lashed the plateau, like some cosmic tidal wave.

Their cyrex cocoon turned crimson, vibrated, and shrunk. Robert felt burning inside of his suit. Then the cocoon auto-botic took over and burrowed deep into the rocky ground and he blacked out.


When Robert woke to consciousness, at first he thought he was bivouacked in his cyrex on Mars doing wilderness battle prep, dug in near the copper nano-mines. But the heat was too intense. Then he felt a suit next to him and the horror all came back. Thermos! He cursed. Another attack had been launched! By whom?

Baozhai lay unconscious curved against him. Robert keyed the net, but only got silence. He tried bringing up a damage report of his comrades, no luck. He accessed direct speak but Baozhai didn’t answer. He rubbed her view screen. Her face was livid and pinched. Her suit must have ruptured, maybe radiation was vipering in right now. He checked her vital signs; injured but the Med must be at work.

Question: When will she become conscious?
Med: Unknown
Question: Is her unconsciousness dangerous or permanent?
Med: Near coma; uncertain length; good vital signs.
Question: May I safely remove our helmets for a short time?
Med: Doubtful; keep brief; radiation levels very high even inside of cyrex habitation.


He waited several hours then removed his helmet and hers. Touched her face with his bare hand. No response, but her breathing sounded good and the med-level looked okay. Robert locked on their helmets again.

What had happened?! Obviously another salvo of thermos, but why? Political madness! He spit out curses inside his cocoon. And waited and waited.

Hours past, the Message's allness faded. Robert tried the net again--nothing. Then accessed for an outside data report but his local scan showed only a violent wind buffeting above ground, their little land sub below a typhooned holocaust. The vid showed the sky, dark as obsidian. A black snow, nuclear winter.

Besides, aching all over, and being slightly nauseous, he angrily talked out loud to himself. “Who violated the Challenge Pact? What of the Transcend-Message? Could the latter have been a human construct, an Asian decept to put us off guard? Robert twisted his neck and looked again intently at Baozhai behind her face suit bubble. Was he even now being deceived by HER?”

Her eyes suddenly opened--dark orbs of intensity.“We'd never do that,” she almost shouted. “You're the ones who attacked!” So she had been conscious and listening to him.

Robert cursed and shouted back, “Sure, we caused it, all of it—the blitzing of Israel in 2027, the massacre of Taiwan in 2019, the mass murder in China back in the last century, and, hell yes, we even caused your Taiping Rebellion, yeah right! Get a life; go back to your brain cultures and washed-out paintings!”

Despite their closeness, Baozhai’s heavily gloved fist hit at him.

The incongruity of it all—she had actually punched him. He grinned in spite their dire straits and, with difficulty, slid up his hands to his shoulders, like some 19th century outlaw surrendering.

They stared at each for minutes, but finally started talking again; then they slept as their meds worked, and woke and sucked on rations; talked and tried to ignore thoughts of the hellish outside. Then slept again.

When Robert woke days later from a Med induced unconsciousness, he checked the net; still no com to the world. He vidded for a look above ground, outside—but only a dark sky gashed, scaled flakes falling very heavily. A gouging pain still cut into his whole left side. Baohzhai was asleep and medding. He ate and slept again, too.

Twenty-four hours later, Robert awoke and reviewed the horror of the last few months. Senseless. As for his wound, no change, though the nausea was reduced and his side felt better. But he lay drifting with the shards of his memory until unconsciousness again blanked him out.

He woke again, and again and again—hovering now between stretches of vivid awareness gashed to his inner self, then to long stretches of time when he only breathed and rolled across time like a battered slug. Several months flew past with the thermo winds, but the dark sludge of sky stayed on his view screen.

Finally, his comp told him that radiation levels were reduced enough for their life-support pod to return to the surface. It did so. He removed their helmets and touched her unconscious face.

The asked the auto-pilot, "Is it safe to go outside briefly?"

"You may take half an hour outside, but no more. It would be better to remain encased."

Robert felt his face brush Baozhai’s forehead as he moved. His beard had grown out. His arm was around her at the shoulder level. She was breathing in and out. It sounded regular. He wanted to thank someone, but knew of no one to thank, though the shock of the Trans-Message bolted back into his mind.

Robert reconnected his helmet, keyed open their cocoon; the shield pealed back and he looked up to a faded sky flaking down on them and the landscape which blended to the sky, one huge ashen bowl, one horrific crucible. Ashen. Visibility looked about 25 meters.

Med: Unsafe, return to emergency habitat.

He forced himself up onto his knees, then stood up, his side still aching, and surveyed the stark grayness scanning for his fellow soldiers or enemy combatants. Nothing. He closed the cyrex fabric over Baozhai, keyed in continued meds and requested an alert message if she worsened. Ignoring Med's repeated warnings about radiation, Robert hobbled over toward where his comrades had been. Surely they, too, must have had time to key in their survival cocoons before the sudden blast hit them. But no one.

His right ankle ached, wouldn’t be walking far, not at least for a few days. Ha! Where would he go anyway? The plateau stretched into one gray shrouded Rorschach revealing nothing to him other than man's insanity. He kept scanning with his compnet--but only silence.

What about the Message? But when he keyed the question, his comp behind his ear said, "Unknown."

Somewhere to the north lay the snow-covered Himalayas, blanked out. No color anywhere. Finally, Robert found another cocoon, but a large gash rivened it—the damage so severe, he couldn’t bring himself to look into the death to see who it had been. Burned beyond anything.

Since Robert didn’t believe, there was no prayer to give but only more emptiness, more numbness within. Vaguely, memories--of his little sis, his brothers, his parents, good friends, his squad--tumbled about like bodies in free-fall when cycling toward Mars in a large troop ship. Only now, only charred bodies came into his scarred imagination.

Several more cocoons lay flattened, white husks 10 yards further; they had not fully deployed. Instant death. The River Styx or Ragnarok for them. Robert looked at metamorphic devastation all around him and imagined the cities beyond his vision—countless endings, a cataclysm so like the Viking last age where the gods lose to enemies of chaos from the realm of death. Though the old Norsemen hadn’t figured on the sheer human evil of tech ingenuity! No god-enemies need apply. And they had imagined ice, not fire.

But, hopefully, at least a few of his comrades had survived. But for what purpose? He couldn't even summon the anger to curse Chin-Iran.

Robert turned and ache-walked back to his new and only comrade. His Med kept flashing crimson--WARNING! He keyed open the cocoon and slid in next to his former enemy. She still lay asleep, breathing evenly.

He no longer had a sense of any Presence. What had happened to It? The other soldiers? Others all the world round? Tried the net again. No answer. How many dead? How many alive? He lay still.

Twelve hours later Robert woke. But Baozhai wasn’t next to him. He opened the cyrex and scanned the landscape but couldn't see her. Somewhere behind the dirty sky reared the Himalayas, blanked out now by gray. To the east lay a fire storm.

He walked northward, favoring his sore ankle. That’s when he came upon Baozhai about 100 meters away, inert as stone. He rushed over to her. Her helmet had been blasted. She was grimy and blood was seeping out from obscene cuts in her face, burn marks, and mixed with countless gray flakes like cancer cells. Another bad gash in her arm opened almost to the bone. Obviously, she had been attacked, slashed with a laser. Unconscious, she faced up to the holocaustic sky, blank and untelling.

Evidently one of his buddies, misunderstanding, had attacked her. But where was his comrade now? Robert ignored his own question and dragged her back to their survival-shelter. Inside, he ordered Med for extreme measures. Couldn't bring himself to ask Med for a report for hours. Instead, he hugged her close, his lungs a searing fire and a loss so abyssed, but couldn't weep. Finally, though unconsciousness came.


When Robert awoke, she was still unconscious, cradled in his arms, though breathing evenly. The long slits of the wound--from whom?--were sutured, the flesh a pink glaze looking like frosting from a birthday cake of his little sister's. Hell! Family memories and the question of Baozhai's survival burned him. He wept.

The first time since he was 7 and his school chum had died in a family skimmer accident. That funeral burial came back to him more starkly clear than any vid. He could feel the cold fog of that morning as the undertaker slivered the ground and the thin flat capsule with his buddy's ashes zipped unbidden into the wet greenery of the mortuary ground south of LA-plex.

Robert drifted with his sorrow until sleep came. Then woke, slept, woke, and slept again. Then he woke and reflected on their situation, and on Baozhai. Would she live?

He kept eating, followed the warnings of Med and exercised within the shelter, didn't venture out; maybe his and Baozhai's doses of radiation hadn't been toxic.

Days and nights etched past. His beard now touched his faceplate. How many days had gone? He didn't bother to summon the net anymore. He could easily have ordered a shave when Med gave him his daily scrub, but let his beard grow. Something to do. Robert sort of smirked at that. Some Goliath he'd turned out to be. He coughed and then hugged unconscious Baozhai closer.

Who knew if it was day or night? He ignored his local netfeed. How long did they have before the end, or would the world survive? Were there others? There must be someone, at least the laser-wielder.

Where would he have to travel to find other survivors? South, for sure.

Finally, one day/night, Med told him, "The human being Baozhai will survive. Radiation damage has been reduced. Wounds are healing. She is statistically--"

"Oh, shut up...thanks." Robert yelled into the netfeed.

Med didn't respond.

Robert gazed down at Baozhai and wondered how much time they had before the next thermo blasts or the beginning of nuclear winter and their own demise.

Despite the gray death still flaking down, and the endless abyss of the world-less, dying future, Robert, the unbeliever, felt a glimmer of transcendent hope, a remembrance of the Presence. He looked down at sleeping Baozhai where she lay, medding toward health.

And being an inveterate story-catcher, not only an historian, Robert couldn’t resist smiling when he suddenly thought of a very old, oh so fair story—what would happen if he kissed her?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Taking the Belief Survey Again

In my search for what is true, good, and compassionate, I often strongly wish I had a larger community with which to identify, share, seek, search, and work, so find myself retaking this Belief-O-Matic Survey.

I've taken the quiz a few times over the last 10 years. Intriguing, how today, again, I came out as 100% liberal Friend.

But strange--yet not so strange--how my percentage for conservative Christianity keeps going down. Reached an all time low today of only 40%.

But, my deepest values and ethical views haven't changed, not since I was about 19. Rather Christianity has changed, gone off into the abyss.

Another intriguing change is that I came out 100% UU. Didn't expect that, though when I think about my intellectual, skeptical, and keen focus on seeking truth and human rights and social concern, it fits in the old 19th century sense of the UU.

What wonderful changes could occur in the world, especially in Palestine/Israel if more and more humans would turn to the radical peace-seeking movement across the years.

Like liberal Quakerism, Unitarian/Universalism was a grand tradition of seeking and bringing change.

Of course every movement for change has its dark side too, its own skeletons in its spiritual closet.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde inhabit all social and spiritual movements. Only by constant reflection and self-correcting in humbleness can we humans make a difference.

What a loss is some of the current Quaker movement, even gone to declaring there is no truth to seek! And UU's have lost their deep quest for truth!

Gone to the superstitious, the new age, yet anti-religious, yet still practicing--for who knows why--archaic Protestant church rituals. About a year ago I visited one UU meeting. Dreary and superficial:-( I tried to be friendly and positive, but got the cold shoulder. Though I signed up for their email news letter, it never came.
I guess the views were mutual. Haven't been back.

Liberal Quakerism 100 percent

religious icon 100% Unitarian Universalism
religious icon 36% Seventh-day Adventists
religious icon 69% Bahá'í Faith
religious icon 37% Roman Catholicism
religious icon 47% Church of Christ, Scientist
religious icon 40% Conservative Christian Protestant
religious icon 27% Eastern Orthodox Christianity
religious icon 50% Hinduism
religious icon 56% Islam
religious icon 85% Jainism
religious icon 63% Liberal Christian Protestantism
religious icon 61% Mahayana Buddhism
religious icon 48% Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
religious icon 61% New Age
religious icon 57% New Thought
religious icon 45% Orthodox Judaism
religious icon 65% Orthodox Quakerism
religious icon 59% Reformed Judaism
religious icon 68% Scientology
religious icon 62% Secular Humanism
religious icon 64% Sikhism
religious icon 67% Taoism
religious icon 71% Theravada Buddhism
religious icon 45% Jehovah's Witnesses
religious icon 40% Neo-Paganism
religious icon 50% Atheism

See for yourself where you journey:


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Palestinian Homes Soon to Be Demolished by Israeli Government Again

When will Israel learn that it shouldn't keep stealing Palestinian land, destroying thousands of their trees, and destroying Palestinians' homes?

This is so very sad. But at least some Jewish individuals and organizations--Rabbis for Human Rights for instance--are standing up for those being mistreated and oppressed.

From The Huffington Post:

Jessica Schulberg Foreign Affairs Reporter, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- "Nasser Nawajah was 4 years old the first time Israeli forces expelled him from his home in Susiya, a village in the southern part of the West Bank [Palestine]. In the 29 years since, Israeli forces have destroyed Nawajah's home -- and those of his neighbors -- countless times. Now, they’re threatening to do it again.

The Palestinian village of Susiya currently consists of over 300 people and over 100 structures -- the latter of which are subject to demolition by the Israeli government because they were all erected without proper building permits.

The Palestinian village in Susiya dates back to the 1830s.

Over the past several years, Rabbis for Human Rights, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit, has represented the Palestinians of Susiya in the battle to gain legal legitimacy for their tents, animal shelters, water cisterns, latrines, clinics and schools in Susiya. The Israeli High Court of Justice is scheduled to hear argument in that battle on Aug. 3. Until recently, residents had hoped the looming court case would protect their homes from Israeli bulldozers.

They were recently told this is not true.
On June 12, representatives from the Israeli government came to Susiya to tell the Palestinians that the government was not restricted by the impending court hearing and that residents should be prepared for demolitions to begin after Ramadan, which ended on Friday.

“We thought maybe a couple of buildings,” said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the president of Rabbis for Human Rights. Several days later, Israeli authorities delivered a list of approximately 40 structures targeted for demolition. “When we got the list, it’s half the village! They’re destroying half the village before the hearing comes to the court,” he said."
“The way things stand, in the next few days, the bulldozers could show up any morning,” said Sarit Michaeli, the spokeswoman for the human rights group B’Tselem, which has been closely tracking the developments in Susiya. “The community is obviously living under a lot of stress.”


"The current situation in Susiya is the culmination of decades of efforts by the Israeli government to expel Palestinians from the village, invariably followed by the determined efforts of the Palestinians to rebuild their homes on their ancestral land.

“Our houses are tents, we cannot build a normal house, and the conditions are very bad,” Nawajah told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. Still, he will not consider moving elsewhere. “Nobody is thinking about that. This is not a solution -- the Palestinians developed Susiya,” he said.

To read the rest of this important article by Jessica Schulberg, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/palestinians-west-bank-demolition_55af1787e4b0a9b94852fa25?


In the Light of Human Rights and Equality for All,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Part 2: The Worst of the Worst List

All forms of Augustinian-Calvinistic theology—and any worldview that smacks of determinism such as Paganism, Islam, Hinduism, and non-theistic determinism, (Harris, Coyne, Cashmore, etc.) where humans are only "puppets" of God, Allah, Brahman, the Cosmos, etc.

All wars, especially self-righteous attacks and intentional slaughters of civilians

But what about “just wars”?

All wars are “just” for the nation waging them. Consider the wars of Calvinist Europe, Puritan England, Catholic France and Spain, etc. Each country thinks it is right and that the enemies they attack are bad and must be killed until they are defeated.

Of all the many wars the U.S. has engaged in over 250 years only the first part of World War 11 could be considered defensive and engaged in within the requirements of ‘just war’ rules!
The Japanese government attacked the U.S. military at Pearl Harbor in 1941, shelled Fort Stevens, near Astoria, Oregon, dropped two bombs in southern Oregon, etc. America’s early responses were defensive.

Disease and poverty and the death of the young (no matter what the cause)


Superstition, illusion, dogma

Intolerance, cruelty
Racism, prejudice, enslavement

Sexual immorality, polygamy, etc.

Loss of hopes and dreams

Most of the ideological and religious isms which cause our world so much woe. Islam, nationalism, sexism, Christian fundamentalism


Denial of free speech, denial of freedom of religion

Political Correctness

Right-wing politics and Republican/Democratic two-party system and the current spending of millions on ads for political campaigns, inane, delusionary sound-bites, simplistic answers to complex problems (No Child Left with a Mind;-)

Playing the Race Card (regardless which racial group plays it); engaging in the “Blame Game”

Being treated as a thing or an object, being ignored, dissed, all unfriendliness, lack of eye contact
Conformity, especially in worldview, not thinking, not seeking

Arrogance, put-downs, disparaging comments, ad hominem

Rigid rote rituals—liturgical church rituals, responsive readings, formal music, most formal weddings, formal funerals, graduations, calisthenics, military parades, etc.

Not achieving a goal

Chitter-chatter, formal meals with small talk

Insomnia every night (since being paralyzed for 3 weeks after a motorbike accident at 18 years of age)

Long 19th century archaic poems and modern dadaistic ones

Music--Gangsta rap, disco pop, honky-tonk country, vulgar lyrics, sleazy music videos

All forms of profane, senseless ‘uh’ speech including obscenity (f-this-and-that), profanity (Jesus-H-Christ:-(, and the sleazy

In movies--explosions, car crashes, clichéd dialog, weak acting, and all other hackneyed over-done plot killers

In books—plodding, overly long abstract, descriptive or convoluted dry prose

No to fantasy! For some uncertain reason strongly dislike almost any fantasy in novels, movies, TV shows. I did read The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien but really disliked it, thought the plot was slow and fragmented, and strongly disapproved of the themes. A number of times I started the Lord of the Rings, but each time got bored, was frustrated with what seemed to be poor prose, got as far as page 80 and quit never to return. As for the movies that everyone loved, I nearly fell asleep in the one I saw, didn’t like the plot, the lack of a romantic relationship among all the confusing characters, and the vicious war-violence…

And speaking of TV, hardly ever watch the thing. Because we have cable, there are something like 230 channels, but nearly all of them drivel, inane, superficial, salacious, pontificating, political propaganda, cliched…Sadly even the few fairly well made dramas, for inexplicable reasons, fixate on dark twisted plots and themes, with hardly in light in them, and no honest-to-goodness heroes.

Places—flat land and barren desert, like west Texas, southern Arizona, southern Wyoming, Midwestern States such as Kansas

Animals—yapping little dogs, vicious large dogs, hyperactive dogs

Architecture—Severe modern concrete

Dry abstract and technical writing

Beer, (except for Israeli black beer)


Tourist junk

Pulling weeds

What a bunch of losers;-), especially the heavier worsts...

Enough of that.

Now let's light a candle or open the skylight,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Best and Worst List

While I continue to work on various long writing projects, I decided to get down a quick list of my favorites and the dissed--the best and worst about living, from the vital and significant to the mundane and inane:-)


Creative Writing--love getting the writer's flow, so into creating that one misses lunch, stays barnacled to the chair, streaming word rivers.

Swimming, snorkeling, backpacking, hiking, photographing

Transcendence/Ought--our ability of alternative choice, freedom, and creativity

Compassion, equality, human rights, honesty, kindness, empathy, truth-seeking, non-violence, forgiveness, fidelity, mercy, justice, gentleness, generosity, courage, perseverance

Long in-depth discussions and acceptance and sharing with others, even brief meaningful talk and/or joking at checkout lines

Getting published, achieving accolades

Why Questions, philosophical reflections and discussions

Libertarian-democratic socialist, parliamentary form of government

Romantic dates

Traveling, hopefully weekly outings, and at least one out-of-state vacation a year; visiting foreign countries in depth (though I no longer have the means or the stamina for that)

Energy of youth and early adult years



Humor, puns, jokes

Long historical tomes, scholarly biographies
The Great Upheaval by Jay Wink, Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, Ringside Seat to a Revolution by David Dorado

Scientific books especially on astronomy, cosmology, anthropology, geology, biology, etc.
How It Ends by Chris Impey, The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins

Philosophy, worldview study
The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner, Sophie's World by Josteen Gaarder

Imagistic and narrative poetry

Art especially oil and tempera scenes, Impressionism, Expressionism, Realism, Van Gogh, Goya

Movies, TV Mini-series and shows—The Stand, Heaven and Earth (Vietnam War), Sommersby, Savior, Bruce Almighty, What Dreams May Come, Sleepy Hollow, Terminator 2, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Breaking Bad

In books—vivid suspenseful speculative/futuristic/alternate-history plots, and long historical fiction

Music-- Folk rock, ballads, rockabilly, hard rock, catchy worship music

Mountain Dew , in all flavors—Pitch Black, Distortion, Livewire, Regular, Baja Blast, Sangria Blast, Code Red, Game Fuel

Food--This became more significant after middle age:
Crab rolls, cream of crab soup, King Crab
Blackened Alaskan salmon, seasoned tilapia, cod, Cajun catfish, etc.
Wedge-cut seasoned French fries
Fish Veracruz-style

Pizza—thick buttery crust, lots of cheese, mushrooms, red peppers…
Rubio's grilled gourmet fish, Taco Bell's Baja Chalupa
Hot peppers such as jalapeños and spicy sauces (enough to make my ears smoke;-)
Kiwis, oranges, blackberries, razzle berry pie, large figs

Weather—sunny, hot and dry (from 85 degrees to 95)

Places—Pacific Coastline, Yosemite, Redwoods, Grand Canyon, Hawaii, especially Maui beaches, Sierras, Big Sur, tall trees

Historical trips such as C.W. Trails and Museums of Virginia and South Carolina

Animals—cats:-) hamsters, meerkats, dolphins, whales, seals, otters, beavers, talking parrots, song birds such as meadowlarks, hummingbirds, raccoons, iguanas, spiders; Sea World, zoos

Architecture—Modern Wright-style, Victorian

To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"These Children Represent the Future of This Land..."

“These children represent the future of this land…”

Turn from the incessant distortion and destruction for and against various ideologies and religions.

Seek reconciliation and peace and empathy and compassion.

Here's an example of one group doing this:

From Musalaha’s webpage and Facebook page--

“Musalaha’s Israeli-Palestinian Children’s Summer Camp is designed to provide a framework for Israeli and Palestinian children to meet and come together in a fun and friendly atmosphere. Here they have the opportunity to build relationships with children from the other side, whom they would otherwise not have the chance to meet and learn to counter many of the stereotypes they have learned...as the children learn to be around other groups of people who are living in both Israeli and Palestinian societies.

If children, at a young age, learn to love and break down the barriers of hate we will be able to raise up a new generation that seeks to transform society through love, peace and biblical principles of reconciliation.

These children represent the future of this land, and if we do not invest in them now, and help them understand their common humanity as individuals made in the image of God, we will have missed a wonderful opportunity to impact their perceptions and decision making processes early on. Within a few years, many of these young people will be serving in the military, attending university and joining the work force. The ones who will be that change in their communities.

Following their experience at camp, these children are able to return home, equipped as messengers of peace and love and grow into agents of change within their own communities.”

“Under Christian rule, Jews were not allowed to visit the Temple Mount. When Islam came, Jews believed that this was a sign from God as they were allowed to return to Jerusalem under the second caliph Omar’s rule. At this point in history, Judaism and Islam were closest as Christianity was perceived as their mutual enemy. Islam’s main wars were with the Byzantine Empire and then the Crusaders. The Jews did not have military power at this time, but when the Crusaders came, they slaughtered all the Jews along with the Muslims.

For the first five centuries of Islam, Jews and Muslims had relatively good relations. This changed when the Mamluks replaced the Ayyubids in the mid-13th century. Under Baybars’ Mamluk rule, Jews were forbidden to enter the Temple Mount or Abraham’s Tomb in Hebron. For 700 years, from 1267-1967, Jews were forbidden to enter the Temple Mount, with a few minor exceptions. Neither were Christians allowed to enter this site.

“We are encouraged to see how learning and discussing these sensitive and important subjects aid in building relationships with each other.”

Cohen discussed some of the clashes that resulted between Jews and Muslims over holy sites, the Temple Mount in particular."

Salim Munayer, Hillen Cohen


“Working for reconciliation is challenging. I have heard it said that whenever you try and create a bridge between two differing sides, you experience opposition. In our efforts to bridge the gap between people, we have not only found people who oppose us, but those who prevent others from accessing the bridge altogether.

Recently, people have spoken against Musalaha by misquoting us and unfairly criticizing our work. False accusations are often hard to take, especially in the middle of a conflict saturated with radical views, where labeling and blaming others for pretty much anything and everything is commonplace.
One of our staff members who studied Criminology reflected on a term used in the field called “Gatekeepers” to paint a picture of access and control. It has been helpful in understanding how and why people are intent on controlling information and reducing discussion to fit with their own agenda.

“Gatekeepers” are described as a type of thought police who fight against information that threatens their group’s beliefs. “

“As facilitators of reconciliation we are constantly presenting new information to counter racism, enmity, and misperceptions of the other. It is important that we share information and remain open minded in our discussions with people."

Musalaha seeks to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians as demonstrated in the life and teaching of Jesus. We endeavor to be an encouragement and advocate of reconciliation, first among Palestinian and Israeli believers and then beyond to our respective communities. Musalaha also aims at facilitating bridge building among different segments of Israeli and Palestinian societies according to biblical reconciliation principles.”

Salim Munayer



Visit and Musalaha and other reconciliation and peace seekers in Palestine/Israel.

Don’t let the destroyers, the nationalists, the intolerant gatekeepers continue to distort and harm anyone.

Seek peace and pursue it in the Middle East, and everywhere!

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Striking Difference Between Violence and Force

As Huck Finn used to remark, 'Sometimes it ain't easy to tell good from bad.'

Such is the case in extremely rare difficult ethical dilemmas. In those encounters, there is a blurry line between violence and force (and, of course, the third option, nonviolence).

But this article isn't about those very rare times.

In the vast majority of cases when we need to act--almost always--violence is readily recognized as strikingly different in intent and result contrasted to force.

Let's look at a few vivid examples from history.

The Seven Years War (usually called the "French and Indian War" in the United States, because that particular part of the Seven Years War occurred on the frontier of the British Colonies).

Violence means to violate others.

In the case of the Seven Years War, all the participants were self-centered, concerned with their own profit and their own people only. The belligerents included most of the Native Indian tribes of the North American continent and European powers (Britain and France) which had invaded. All fought and killed each other in order to steal land, control North America and gain power.

A British militia attacked the French in the Ohio region of North America--

"In 1753, Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia ordered a young, ambitious 21-year old George Washington on a mission deep into the Ohio Country to confront the French. Washington’s account of his journey to Fort Le Beouf and back made Major Washington a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1754 Washington’s surprise attack upon a small French force at Jumonville Glen and his subsequent surrender to French forces at the Battle of Fort Necessity helped to spark the French & Indian War.

Tanacharison and his warriors led Washington to the French camp at the bottom of a deep glen, rimmed with rock. It was early in the morning, and the Frenchmen were just beginning to stir. It is unclear whether one of the French saw the British and Indians surrounding the glen’s rim and shot up or whether one of Washington’s men fired down first.

Regardless of who began the exchange, Washington’s force, shooting from the top of the glen down into the camp, quickly overcame the French."

The French expedition’s leader Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, after his capture, was executed by Tanacharison, Washington's ally! The Indians then slaughtered the wounded French soldiers and scalped them.

Here is a clear example of lethal violence.
Dictionary.com: 1400-50; late Middle English < Latin violātus, past participle of violāre to treat with violence, violate,
apparently derivative of violentus violent (taking viol- as base).

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: violence-- "the use of physical force to harm someone,
to damage property, etc.

Surviving French prisoners claimed they had been on diplomatic mission and showed their papers to Washington.

Whatever the nature of who was most to blame, this historical event was one of nationalism and lethal violence which started the devastating Seven Years War in North America.

Clearly, the Indian tribes allied with the French, and the ones allied with the British, and the French and British colonial soldiers violated other humans, killing or wounding them with the intent of taking over land which wasn't theirs to begin with.

#2 Vietnam.
The United States supported the French government in taking back control of Vietnam after World War ll. What were the French doing thousands of miles from their country in Europe? Why were they trying to rule the Vietnamese? Why did the United States get involved?

Again, there are complex reasons. The controversial war, regardless of all the ambiguity, wasn't a case of self-defense. At least 1,450,000 died in the war, maybe as many as 3.6 million! The vast majority of them were Vietnamese including many civilians. It was another horrific example of lethal violence, again over power and land.

The U.S. military used "search and destroy" missions to attack the Vietnamese opposed to the dictator we were supporting. Every day on the evening news, Walter Cronkite listed the daily "body count," which the U.S. government used as evidence it was winning.


In contrast, force is the application of physical restraint to stop theft, harm, violence, and killing.

A good example of this is the work of counselors, teachers, and police officers. For many years I worked with at-risk teenagers. In a hospital for emotionally disturbed teens and children, we had quiet room where we took kids when they lost self-control and were attempting to hurt others or themselves.

Clearly our use of restraining force wasn't violence. It was designed to stop violence, to restrain destructive behavior.

In one high school where I taught literature, there were 11 gangs. It was tough. On one particular day, around a hundred youths were fighting with their fists and baseball bats, etc. Many police cars came to stop the violence.

On another day, a 200-pound student attacked a 100-pound student, threw her to the classroom floor and beat at her. There was no time for me to call security, so I took a hold of the back of the attacking student and pulled her up. She tried to turn and attack me, knocking over desks.

This is another example of the difference between violence and force. The student violently attacked another person. In response I used force to stop this violence.

Notice, the attacker's intent was to harm, maybe even kill the other student.

My intent was to restrain the attacker. I had no desire to hurt the attacker, but to stop the violence.

To be continued

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Few Romantic Poems of Commitment and Passion

"Roll Ever Columbia”

They bag fading lighthouses,
Explore more lone departed posts,
Live in their relationship of ship
To water and shore;

Brave roaring ocean storms
Bar none, faring better, more
Than boats-of-line passing through
That perilous channel ‘washing
Tons’ of Oregonian waves,
Churning in between,

But unlike historic river pilots
Who guided in-bound ships
Over that dangerous bar,
His home doesn’t dominate high
On Fort Astor’s exalted bluffs;

And her love hearkens back to 1812,
Long before any lensed high tower,
Back when townies lit up a blazing
Tree as the brilliant signal flare
To direct to an approaching schooner.

His love lights up her coastal way,
Rivering to her protected harbor;
Not like today in shallow America
Where too many a sparred couple
Forever shipwreck their ‘bows.’

He’s an in-bound ship-of-line
Braving the dangerous headland
And the deep rolling river, but above,
His wild woman glows aflame,
Delights his vessel’s guided way;

There’s no disappointment;
Her shored cape opens with
Welcome, he sings the mark,
“Safe water.”

Oh so verdantly green,
Unfathomably deep,
For life;
Roll on,
Dear Columbia,
Ever and ever and ever.

*Don Bruno de Heceta, Spanish Sea Captain, was the first known
European to discover the mouth of the Columbia River in 1775.
*Captain Meares, on July 6, 1788 tried to find safe harbor on the
northern side of the mouth of the Columbia, but couldn’t so named the
place, Cape Disappointment.
*Woody Guthrie song “Roll on Columbia”

By Daniel Wilcox

First published in
Jeanette Cheezum’s
cavalcade of stars


two hands

after a fine guitarist’s set,
hidden music
through the spheres

out in the audience
hidden in the middle, two arms
under a table with two full glasses

two hands commune
as if the one
and only touching
on earth,
before the fall

for an hour and a half

embodied, that
warm embrace of their fingers
and palms

close slow dancing

no palming
but sheer magic
one body, one spirit

By Daniel Wilcox

First published in vox poetica


A Song of Songs Into Olding

Intense clangor—the joyous movement
of rod and belle
of the brash and the subtle
caroled with rubied passion,
they ring with joy their supple skin.

Fertile in consummation, in oneness

these two-to-one

jewel their future
days with melodic movement.

Appealing with rings that couple gold,
One circle—unending, endless, eternal,

They spangle their handed time with madrigals.

The chiming lyric of the sapphire
adorns their sensuous moments.

Embellishments of gemmed time

lay close
jeweled bare on their skin,

on circular strands

the years

Turning irritants, trials, and struggles

Into pure spheres of visioned music,

Shimmering pearls of perseverance

(Unlike the coldness
of the bland flatness,

the flaked shale
of many a marriage's mediocrity).

He and she chime in their aging,

wrinkled skin, touched creases,
caressed emeralds of cherishing,

lasting into the soft opalness

of Olding, their souls flow
warm with mellifluous serenity.

the seasoned-round romancing,

the ringing, rubied
Song of songs.

By Daniel Wilcox

First published in Word Catalyst Magazine,
and in outwardlink.net,
Psalms, Yawps, and Howls

Ever After

Waking up close to you,
Your ‘presence’ covered in our morning’s lips caress
Like the shimmering, luminous night's seal to a sleeping princess,
We’re warm, luscious honeycombed lovers,
Deeply treasured in life-long mellifluous romance
Truly our cherished delicious passion,

And the moonlight on the water,
Moon shimmering on the lake
And the stars shine in our room
Through time to time to time

Our heart-welling felt vow
Spectrumed rainbow of our arrowed heart,
Protecting our intertwined soul and body
Not tempted, nor wayward
But delivered from every
Disloyal fragmented moment.

For an eternal now choosing
True love so royal streamed
From time to time to time,
Through the first falling sky-up
On mount passion's verdant peak
High above the desert of briefness,
We begin newly blessed, giving life;

And the moonlight on the water,
Moon shimmering on the lake,
And the stars shine in our room
From time to time to time

With the snapping of the corked top
And the delicious splash
Of champagne on a sun-covered table,
And the burgundy bottle never empties
And our two communing glasses shine,

In the shimmering, luminous union
And the moon lights our room
And the stars’ shine on the lake
On our wedding night over and over and over,
You all in white lace
Warm in my embrace
And ever after.

By Daniel Wilcox

First published, different form
in The Shine Journal,
and in selah river


Northeast Night

Under the warm stars
Of that Whittier night,
Not Snowbound
Globally warmed,
Not sledding,
A lass and a lad
–Lasted, ever
Clung so close
Like maple syrup
Within his
Large parka,
A maple

By Daniel Wilcox

First published in
Jeanette Cheezum’s
cavalcade of stars


Summer of Love in Philadelphia

Twenty-two flights above Rittenhouse Square
in the spring of the fall you carved a smilin' pumpkin
candled at your windowed level,
a light in the times of horror and stress;
But below, we wandered our nights with
chapped hands interlocked, pocketed in my coat suede.

We walked blind streets of revolutionary warmer, earlier days
and handled paddles, splashing and pulling canal water,
canoeing near the Delaware,
swishing and crossing where Washington
and we escaped near New Hope,
our newest way from countless foes
through spaces of pilings of bridges
of lush foliage over hung.

We were loving friends three times over
in the spirit and the soul and the city;
though warmed in closeness we never caressed,
for you talked of betweeness and violin practice
and your distant boyfriend on the coast.
I called you evenings when I felt
despair, drafted away from Nam, taught
to work with lost children handicapped
by their errant parent's living.

But summer saw you in Quaker action
In raining D.C. for King's impoverished ones
while I never saw you ever after.

Yet your letters far crossed this land of Guthrie
from Reed in the redwoods of Oregon
To south in teeming L.A.
in the movement of the angels, where
I couldn't see clenched hands or shattered glass
like in the new left bank of America so Isla Vista,
Instead searched of the ancient so
coral deep in the past

on the wretched Cross spanning the centuries,
kind hands outstretched and open wide.

No more passioned letters reach
And Oregon no longer knows

But I 'wonder' in this living stream —
And will now hold you up in the Light,
For within my part of you so longs.

By Daniel Wilcox

First published in Wild Violet Magazine,
and in Quill & Parchment,
Psalms, Yawps, and Howls


Kiss your true love in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Seldom Sought Ideal of Loving Monogamy and Fidelity

Very widespread in the news of the last year were many pro-monogamous efforts and protests for marriage.

Diametrically against such monogamous marriage, at the same time, are all the new movements continuing the emphasis since the 1960's of sexual freedom, multiple sexual partners, even recreational sex, and specifically rejecting monogamy and fidelity.

First, the efforts of same sexual people to receive marriage licenses in all states of the United States, and in countries overseas has been highlighted almost every day. The most dramatic event of the past few months as far as same-sexual monogamy goes was in Ireland, a traditionally religiously conservative country and nation which voted 3 to 1 for same-sexual marriage on May 22nd.

But only a month later, the Supreme Court of the U.S., by a vote of 5 to 4, made same-sexual marriage the law of the land in America as well.

In contrast to all of this support of the ideal of monogamous marriage, it has been something of an ironic contradiction that many conservative Christian leaders (as well as Islamic scholars) have stringently opposed the movement toward the covenant of marriage among gays. Doesn’t it seem odd that these religious leaders would prefer same-sexual people to live in promiscuity or cohabitation rather than in a covenantal relationship?

However, these Christian leaders aren’t primarily thinking about the value of monogamy in this particular case, or of the ideals or emotional needs of same-sexual people, but rather only of the 4 or 5 verses in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament which condemn same-sexual activity as evil, where same sexuality is called an “abomination.” Strong words indeed.

These Christian leaders also have an illusory and fallacious understanding of traditional monogamous marriage as it has existed in past history. Seldom if ever has legal marriage in the past been at all like marriage as idealized by Christian leaders now.

First, most of the leaders portrayed in the Hebrew Bible--covering the historical period beginning in about 2000 BCA--weren’t monogamous by any stretch of biblical interpretation. On the contrary, Jewish leaders were almost all polygamous. Who adhered to an ideal of marriage as promulgated later by Jesus?

Not Abraham or Jacob…or Moses…Certainly NOT David! or Solomon or Gideon or Samson, etc.

King Solomon and a few of his 700 wives and 300 concubines.

There are a few exceptions. An ideal case for life-long monogamous marriage could be made for Ruth and Boaz, and for Isaiah and his wife the prophetess.

"When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. …Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife.” Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study by George Joyce

The New Testament is more ambiguous. Passages do state that leaders need to be the husband of one wife, but scholars disagree as to whether that meant that the lay members of Christians churches could be polygamous or not.
Generally, marriage tended to be looked upon as a sometime negative necessity to deal with sexual desire. According to the Apostle Paul, the ideal (and most useful way of life since the end of the world was soon) was celibacy. Paul even stated, that “it is better not to touch a woman” but because of immorality, leaders should allow marriage.

And he further clarified, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 1 Corinthians 7: 8-9

In Christian history from Paul to the present, Christianity varied in its attitude toward marriage.
Martin Luther permitted the German leader Phillip I of Hesse to be married to two women (bigamy), but tried to keep the polygamous marriage a secret.

Elsewhere Luther said, "I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter." (De Wette II, 459.)

Some other Christian leaders at the time also permitted polygamy such as Phillip Melanchthon or they even promoted and participated including the Lutheran leader Carlstadt and the Anabaptist leader Bhernhard Rothmann.

The most infamous case was King Henry the VIII who practiced serial polgamy, 6 wives in a row, 2 of whom he beheaded. Oddly, even a Puritan leader supported polygamy, the poet John Milton. And, of course, there are the infamous examples from history such as the Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Generally though, monogamy and celibacy were the two accepted views of Christian history, though scholars disagree about whether monogamy itself comes mostly from the Bible or from Roman law and custom since Catholic matrimonial law came from Roman law as well. The Romans were officially monogamous, though in actual practice men could have concubines and affairs.

The actual facts of history don’t support the sacred ritual of Christian marriage as modern American Christians claim. There never was in wide practice such an institution that Christians now say gays are destroying. Many, probably most, marriages in history weren’t at all like the conception of ‘traditional marriage’ as conceived by conservative Christians in modern America.

First, most marriages in the past were arranged--even forced--marriages not freely-chosen loving, life-long relationships. Read a few articles by women leaders of the 19th century to get a more accurate perspective. For example, wives in the 19th century couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property, often were ordered to obey their husbands, etc. Marriage was all very patriarchal.

Furthermore, many marriages among the upper levels of society were mainly for political, cultural, and social purposes, and had very little to do with marriage as understood in modern America or in Genesis as explained by Jesus.

But all of this has an even stranger twist in that many of the millions of Christians who stridently oppose same- sexual marriage actually practice or allow divorce!

Divorce is more often condemned in Scripture and Christian history than homosexual relations. It destroys relationships, harms children, and is so tragic. (This, of course, is in no way a condemnation of those who, despite their best efforts, experienced a tragic divorce. My only point here is that Christians who accept divorce yet condemn same-sexual individuals who want to marry as evil are being hypocritical.)

This seems to show an amazing amount of irony and seeming hypocrisy. For instance, the Barna Research Group reports two of the groups with the highest divorce rate are conservative Christians and Baptists! At least 29 to 34% of such Christians have chosen divorce, some more than once.

The story is considerably different in the case of Islam which has always permitted—even condoned--multiple wives. Muhammad himself after the death of his first wife married his adopted son's newly divorced wife, married a 6-year-old girl (according to historians, Muhammmad consummated the marriage when she was 9), married others for political alliances, was given a concubine by an Ethiopian Christian leader, etc.

And in Shia Islam, there is temporary marriage, temporary wives. It is called the Nkiah al-mutah, a brief legal marriage of at least 3 days, 3 months, or one year (basically short-term legal prostitution).

Into this current mix of a mess related to marriage, comes something even more bizarre—the recent promotion of polyamory by some Christian leaders, even those who hold strongly to creedal Christianity!!

In polyamory, sexual relations occur with multiple persons among a group of friends or acquaintances, but according to the promoters, these multiple sexual relations are, allegedly, based in Christ's love. Like God is a multiple Trinity, so then Christ-followers can or ought to model this by having multiple sexual partners!

This outlook differs from traditional polygamy (and in a few societies, polyandry) in that no marriage license is involved and generally the relationships aren’t necessarily long term and sexual partners are with each other in a group.

The Christian promoters and others call polyamory, "ethical non-monogamous."

Very immoral. Polyamory seems to be another case of convoluted, self-deceived theological rationalizations.

Okay, enough of that.

The huge question is why on the one hand—very positive--are many same-sexual individuals seeking the sacred outlook of monogamous marriage?

while in contrast

many others are disparaging monogamy and fidelity,
and choosing, instead, multiple sexual relationships
of various forms?

Even sensitive and reflective leaders such as the thoughtful humanist and atheist Neil Carter support “recreational sex.” The famous psychologist, Dr. Eric Berne, originator of Transactional Analysis, also wrote positively of recreational sex. As did the Alan Watts, the British born philosopher and Zen Buddhism
scholar: “I do not believe that I should be passionately in love with my partner…and still less, married.
For there is a special and humanizing delight in erotic friendships with no strings attached…
My life would be much, much poorer were it not for certain particular women with whom I have
most happily and congenially committed adultery…”
Alan Watts

This, of course, is about as far as one can get from the ideal of life-long fidelity in a loving monogamous marriage.

Once again: With the exception of some same-sexual individuals who have campaigned for years for the right to marry,
why is the sacred view of monogamous marriage fragmenting away with millions of others?

Let's close with a positive example of loving monogamy
from literature:

When thinking of loving monogamy, consider Roman and Grace, a Spokane Indian couple.
He is standing close to her with his basketball between them, as if the ball represents the expectant infant
they will soon create…

“Michael Jordan is coming back again,” he said.

“You can’t fool me,” said Grace. “I heard it. That was just a replay.”

“Yeah, but I wish he was coming back again. He should always come back.”

“Don’t let it give you any crazy ideas.”

Roman pulled the basketball away and leaned even closer to Grace. He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day.

Choice: that was the thing. Other people claimed that you can't choose who you love—it just happens!—but Grace and Roman knew that was a bunch of happy horseshit.

Of course you chose who you loved. If you didn't choose, you ended up with what was left—the drunks and abusers, the debtors and vacuums, the ones who ate their food too fast or had never read a novel. Damn, marriage was hard work, was manual labor, and unpaid manual labor at that.

Yet, year after year, Grace and Roman had pressed their shoulders against the stone and rolled it up the hill together.

In their marriage bed, Roman chose Grace once more and brushed his lips against her ear."

From “Saint Junior”

by Sherman Alexie


To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox