Dan

Char

Ruth hopped along the edge of the wheat fields, dancing with the dandelion seeds. She had a private game that she played, where she would pick a stalk with its frozen explosion of fluff, carrying it with her, dancing with the wind, trying to protect it from blowing away but daring it to fly at the same time.

One arm outstretched with the trembling, spidery dandelion, she spun over the clover and wild strawberries, on down the mosses and between the ferns, flying over the dappled dry orange needles of the forest floor that led down to the lakeshore.

Inevitably the wind would win, and her quiet laughter was carried away with the tiny parachuting seeds as they sailed out over the waves and scattered.

Everyone who met her found Ruth to be a quiet, shy, polite little girl; but her parents knew a different side. When Ruth’s mother rang the dinner bell, and she came skipping over the road with a bundle of flowers and leaves in hand, Father exchanged a knowing look with Mother.

When there was company, it would be a quiet dinner. But when there wasn’t, little shy Ruth would turn into a tornado of questions.

“Why don’t the fishes climb up on land, Poppa?” and “How do the apples know when they are ripe?”

“Why do the bees love the garden so much?” and “But the roses, how do they grow in different colors from the same plant?”

And her mother would carefully try to explain how grafting roses worked, as more questions flew rapid-fire from Ruth.


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Dan

Balance

History is full of smart people who believed that the universe, or at least its creator, started out as something fundamentally good. And plenty of smart people still think that, deep down.

Philosophers who discussed the so-called death of god were concerned with what to replace that goodness with, once our assumptions started to shift. That nice, warm certainty of fundamental goodness (even though based purely on instinct, it sure is pleasant to sit in) got replaced by an unknown void. Some thought that atheism meant nihilism; others argued that it meant we could define our own meaning. Like we had been doing all along, anyway.

But when that assumption of goodness falls away, when our gods die and leave us to watch over this world, there is a guilt that fills our hearts. Or at least it sneaks up in mine. A guilt that tells me I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough, that I can’t possibly solve all the problems.

We have been led astray by concepts of karma. Ideas of built-in balance. Thinking that we must rise to a certain standard to balance out the evils in the world, yet the only guaranteed balance in the universe is embedded in its laws. Conservation of mass and energy. The arrow of entropy. All else is flux.

We don’t have to let the guilt tell us how we fail to meet some impossible standard.

We don’t have to let assumptions about karma, fate, or faith dictate how we struggle.

I don’t care what you think about what lies outside our universe, an imagined next life. What we do within these ropes of reality, is on us. On me, and on you. But it’s not a pressure that should feed guilt. It should feed our cooperation.

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Dan

Autonomic

I begin to walk, and the first hour begins. I am chased by the moon, hiding under a shifting blanket of clouds, diffused over the pale sidewalks. The humidity is dense and the night air is a hot blend of sickeningly sweet pollen.

At first I am itchy, a tingle at the back of my neck, and I keep glancing behind me, barely spotting a shifting red space just beyond the corners of my eyes. I am always jittery at the start of a long night’s walk.

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