Friday, October 30, 2020

My Secret Vampire

They say never to start a horror story at its end. 

Alas, malformed rules are meant to be broken, if only to challenge the elite status quo.

The anonymous memoir before you is being written with my very own blood. You are likely reading a digital version, but my vampire servant has assured me it will be published in an appropriately deep, red font. Ze does reserve the right to edit the manuscript after I am gone. (Ze, hir, and hirs are hir chosen pronouns, by the way)

So my end will arrive soon. My slit wrists serve as fitting inkwells to tell this tale, but those said-same gashes will limit the time I have to write. With the mortal ending secure you can now simmer in uncertainty as to whether you will learn the details of hir origin.

Enough of the premature postlude. For 42 years, I have lived a full life, even if I never mothered a child, nor written a literary tour de force. Still, I have played the role of near goddess. Even so, I ask no forgiveness for the crimes I perpetrated through my servant. Ze has been most obedient. Yet it is I who bear responsibility. In part, I am paying for those crimes with each bloody letter I write here. 

Even with the knowledge that undead creatures like my secret vampire exist, I remain a staunch atheist. Actually, given the events that have passed, I wonder if I've been riding a psilocybin fueled rocket for the past year.  Whatever the scenario, the rational fiend inside me sees no reason to worship, let alone believe in any deity that would stand idly by while September 11th, the Covid Pandemic, and the Trump-reich went down...not to mention the thousands of innocent children that die from cancer each year. It is beyond me how anyone could devote their life to an invisible god who allegedly sent his own son to death row, when it was in its unlimited power to serve up a more diplomatic solution.

Deathbed notwithstanding, I digress.

What are my so-called "sins?" Well, the least of them has been to be human, to have spent most of my lifetime upping my ethical game while implementing those convictions daily as best I could. In hindsight, those efforts were mostly "Zoomed in" with ineffective aplomb. Of course, matters changed drastically after the conjuring of my demon companion.   And so, my most egregious wrong doing, if my acid-dream recollections are indeed true, has been to command this undead creature who waits now at my bedside. My uncountable, Deathnote style directives, are by all measure quite unspeakable. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as it may be) for you, my virtual confessor, this recounting is not oral.

Without caveat, I outright admit the power I've had access to through hir has been both amazing and unnerving. Such power no one person ought to ever wield. For as Ramses, Stalin, and Musk demonstrated, absolute power absolutely results in history judging badly any unilateral pursuit of utopia. Quasi-omnipotent power should remain part and parcel to the tool kit that imagined gods unleash in their mythical tales. Only in that storybook fashion, can moral and immoral platitudes be assessed, that it might instruct we humans as a global community on the nature of good and evil.

However, in this instance, I am the responsible party. I had my demonic charge  assassinate the most corrupt world leaders, the most misguided judges and justices and secret away the most egotistic, corporate CEOs. No matter that these crimes will never be believed. In fact, I feel little guilt for their deaths. My intentions to improve the world were quite sincere, and remain so in my mind even now. Frankly, I feel much worse about having the noisy neighbor down the street taken out. 

If I'm being totally honest, I'm really only ashamed of controlling the demon servant who is my secret vampire. Ze has not only killed for me, but ze has dutifully carried out all my requests:  grand larcenies, cyber-infiltrations and nonconsensual sex acts included. Add to that the depravity of having hir pick up Thai take-out for me during rush hour. 

So, what have I learned as I approach the end of this solipsistic nightmare? In short, that no one should ever be the slave of another. Whether person, animal, plant or bacterium. In an ideal world all beings should be free to thrive throughout ones life. Nature, of course, won't allow that. As the products of evolution we are stuck with living within reality's constraints as best we can...somewhere between the realms of good and adequate. 

My secret vampire sits patiently, involuntarily drooling over all the blood I literally continue to spill. Before my vision grows too distorted let me finish with a plea to members of my species: 

Know, the world will always remain in modest turmoil.  

With that said, I ask only for acknowledgement that my overt and admittedly heinous acts, acts made through my servant, be incorporated into the world's body of knowledge. By the very integrity that seeps out of me, I undo the enchantment I wrought to bind you, my companion, my servant, my muse made real. With my dying breath, your spirit is now free to pursue good in this world. 

Listen to your mind and heart at every turn. 

Thrive of your own accord!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Eleven Reasons We Believe Dumb Things

Just Discovered: Flapjack Planet Beneath Our Very Feet!

The human intellect is celebrated for being superior to all our plant and animal cousins. Indeed, we do have the ability to discover hidden truths and learn from our mistakes much quicker than any other Earthling. Still, with nearly eight billion of us on the planet, groups and individuals continue to embrace false ideas that have no credible evidence. Here are my top eleven observations on why this is so.

#11 Lazy Thinking is Prolific. Humans have gotten so good at surviving that for centuries many have shifted a daily attitude to pursue ease and entertainment. Even when we're not laying back streaming fictional content, too often our daily tasks are repetitive and lacking in stimulating curious minds.

#10 "Black and White" Answers are Alluring. Modern multitasking and break neck speed lifestyles have humans doing so much that contemplating answers to scientific, philosophical and moral questions compacted into sound byte beliefs. Rather than considering compassionate and well-reasoned  spectrum of reality, many desire the absolute, confident, and often mistaken, answers provided by religion, ideology, and talk show hosts.

#9 Entertainment Reigns Supreme. Fictional storytelling tends to stimulate pleasure in our minds more than dry old scientific explanations. And so we are more willing to listen again and again to stories of miracles and anecdotal tales that defy logic. 

#8 Everyone Has a Right to Their Opinion. Humans have been sold such a high standard of individual liberty that we allow irrational points of view to go unchallenged. One should not be persecuted for weird beliefs that do no direct harm. Still to not confront misguided ideas with compassionate, critical thinking is to invite long term uninformed consequences.

#7 Predisposition Inertia. Children are very susceptible to believe whatever they're told without skepticism. Whether religious doctrine, cartoon physics, or playground street wisdom, false information can stick with individuals throughout their lifetime...often to be passed along generation to generation.
#6 Money is Motivation. Survival in the modern world no longer relies on individuals fighting nature, we need only find a mechanism to generate cash. Thus, our beliefs can be swayed both by tempting false advertisement and we can be lured into careers that hinge on misrepresenting truth, so long as the paycheck is large enough.

#5 Seeing is Believing Modern techniques that create deep fake video and audio clips are ever more convincing to our senses. Whether watching a sci-fi movie or a news animation, our brains can be fooled into a suspension of disbelief. It is one thing to keep in mind such virtual representations as entertaining stories and models, its another to be convinced something exists that is the creation of a social media guru.

#4 Magical Thinking. A conviction for good or ill can self-indoctrinate ourselves. The world can be so bleak sometimes that we cope by projecting that which we desire into reality without evidence. We want someone to be in control, even if Nature herself is random and unkind at times. We want a magical outcome to soothe our psyches. Whether for pseudoscience or mythical perfection humans often fall prey to the motto "I Want to Believe."

#3 Ambiguity is Annoying. In reality, our understanding of the world is a work in progress. The best answers will be part of long term research and even then may be filed with caveats. Accepting the world as subjective and on a spectrum takes effort. Remaining a touch agnostic can be a healthy attitude, but holding such a position too harshly can be misconstrued as holding scientific findings equally uncertain in comparison with outright falsehoods. 

#2 Cult of Personality In society we ought to consider truth separate from the personalities that present them. Too often we don't and if we have high esteem for a person, misinformation they share may be assessed as true in spite the idea's merit. Thus, celebrities, leaders, parents, teachers, lovers, and friends can add undeserved credibility to falsehoods if we don't take care to consider the idea on its own.

#1 Evolution Pre-programmed our Brains. Over millions of years, the flexible software of our minds has been tweaked to react to things that feel good or bad toward generation survival. These "gut" feelings persist, reinforcing ideas that may or may not be false. Just as we can be scared of the "tiger in the bushes" that was never there, we can be lured into believing something imaginary. 

Many of these overlap in our everyday experience. There is no magical path to truth, but scientific method, critical thinking, and compassionate understanding can come together to save the day. True wisdom and knowledge comes by effort, by seeking better answers to questions old and new, considering the veracity of evidence and dismissing preconceptions. It is a work in progress, but it is also a process worth pursuing!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Voting Compassion and Reason Every Day

Humans are born into a world full of variables. Where you were born. How you were raised. What education your school district afforded you. The genetic predispositions evolution dealt you. The random events that converged on your experience. What you have been taught to believe. Which beliefs you've overwritten with personal convictions. The feelings that rage and cower inside.

It's no wonder humans created gods in an attempt to bring order to this maelstrom of variables. They also created ethical systems and societal institutions and valuation principles. None of these are real. They are constructs of the human mind to aid us in being more successful, in reaching out to each other and the world to fend off failure inside and out.

In the end, if our mission is to attain improved health for all while experiencing a life full of discovery, integrity and care, then one path holds much promise. This path channels our human capacity for reason and compassion to maximize our true understanding of and to judicially act within that world. 

Yet it can take real courage to step away from evolutionary desire to control rather than to nurture. Subconsciously we can be enthralled by pleasure, privilege and pain. Yes, these primal drives are part of us, but if we want better for our world it is our duty to vote for a future that rises above, seeking health for all humans, all living things, and effectively the whole planet.

No one said it would be easy. Compassionate and well-reasoned resolve takes effort. Still, we have the wherewithal to vote with our hearts and minds every single day to make the world a better place.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Become The 99% Activist

There's a lot of room for improvement in the world we live in. Nevertheless, humans are in a place of such power that each of us has amazing potential to be part of progressive change toward a healthier planet! And yet we are susceptible to age old human foibles as well, to let ourselves, our community and our world down. Somehow we need to stay motivated amidst the many anecdotal and systemic challenges.

One starting point is assign yourself a 99% goal of personal effectiveness. Too often we're told to put 110% of our effort into a pursuit. Obviously, the math doesn't work there, still our psyches might take heed if we occasionally lie to ourselves that we can do better than perfect. Occasionally.

Most of the time, we need to give ourselves a pinch of forgiveness. As a vegan, I had to forgive myself for buying a car recently that had a leather-wrapped steering wheel. I felt torn, but then again the tires on most every car are not vegan, since they often use stearic acid derived from animal by-products. I won't even begin to assess the carnist auto assemblers, corporate CEOs and the whole industrial infrastructure that my purchase in part enabled.

So yes, one can certainly nit pick ones activism to the point of absurdity. Hell, as a progressive, we are used to many individuals and corporate "persons" challenging our mores with extreme one off examples and misinformation campaigns. This then is where we need to look our ideals in the mirror and face up to the fact that idealized dreams are fashioned from long term hopes upon the foundation of our understanding to date. To that end we must always keep a chin up, our learning caps on, and step forward to fight the good fight and make a difference where we can.

So no matter what your pursuit -- green space conservation, waterfront restoration, animal abuse elimination, citizen enfranchisement, universal health care, community strengthening, or any mission that has reason and compassion at its heart, stay the course! 

Be the creative, good-energy 99% activist that gets most of the job done, so we can hand off the dream to next generation that reaches for 99.9%!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Transtale Heart

“I know you.”

Now that I think of it, I should not have dismissed that first, odd text out of hand. Unsolicited troll-y texts have been as common as transphobic politicians long before this age of Trump. I've deleted enough friends from the pseudo Libertarian, Christian right that being chastised on an ongoing basis about my decision to embrace my womanhood was far from unexpected.  

Still, unlike spammy one-off ads and auto-checked butt-texts that annoy the senses, there was something weirdly intense about those three simple words: I, Know, and You. But, dismiss them I did. No reply. No phone number googling to attempt an identification, no emotional acknowledgement at all. As with classic, real-world bullies, the philosophy of ignoring them and quickly moving beyond such nonsense was generally best for ones psyche as well as for real outcomes.

Twenty-four hours later, this cavalier attitude was put to the test.

“Your mother was a whore.”

Okay, the “your mother is a…” trope might be taken in jest between middle school friends. Such exchanges were akin to the laugh track of a failing ‘80’s sitcom. The remark actually felt closer to something out of an uncensored reality tv show from the '90's. In either case, there were sophomoric laughs to be had...if you were expecting it, but as it was, an anonymous matriarchal taunt sizzled with threat--even if the statement had been true. 

Nevertheless, I restrained myself. Having been bullied from youth for wearing feminine clothes, for acing all my math tests, hell, for being too nice to people who were thickens your skin. I've learned that acknowledging the hate, however juvenile in form, is to give them an energizing win. Hollywood may have taught us Americans that fighting back equates to a path of dignity, but in reality escalation rarely turns out good for anyone.

Thus, by ignoring the hateful text, I sought to be the better person, so I simply blacklisted the phone number and moved on with my day.

“I’m not bullying you.”

The text was sent from a completely different number, but I knew in my gut it was the same person. Now I became concerned. “Three is the charm,” goes the old adage. Well, I was anything but charmed. Now I knew I had someone willing to sleeve himself (could it be anyone except a him!) into a new number for the sole purpose of disrupting my life. 

It’s at this point that I decided to turn my IT experience into an advantage. I employed all the standard protocols. I invoked a dozen dark-web index searches, multi-layer packet header analyses, and dynamic IP location tracking. All this ended up telling me...absolutely nothing. The freak had covered his tracks by tunneling through a series of high-security foreign servers using SMS data packets that were dead generic. Whoever was on the other side of this daily text knew his shit enough to remain completely anonymous. Then again, he could’ve simply followed guidelines from a digital infiltration sub-Reddit to engage high PM secrecy. My only recourse now was to step up the social analysis angle.

The culprit was terse to the nth degree. The masculine bent of the texts were strong but admittedly my position was biased. The fact that my lack of response had no effect in repelling the taunts was the most unusual aspect of this cybercrime. Still, knowing all this was a start, even though I had insufficient data to submit to authorities. The complaint would merely be dismissed and I'd be more anxious for submitting myself to the bureaucratic hassle. Best to wait another day or two, gather more information and insight, and proceed from there. Of course, there was always the hope that three unanswered texts might dissuade any further attack messages.

“Not a talker, are you?”

No such luck. This guy definitely had a sociopathic edge to his messaging. Normally I’m pretty demure. At first, the internal admission that I was a woman had been fraught with constant anxiety in an unsupportive culture. Many in the LGBTQ+ community up their aggression levels to combat such backward thinking, participating in protests or at least finding a refuge in the rainbow community. But for me, in the depths of Pennsyltucky, real-world support networks were simply nonexistent. Virtual groups abounded, sure, but for me they never seemed substantial.  I was my community.

In spite of persistence, I refused to take the bait. This cyberbully was subtle; I’ll give him that. The brief statements didn't even degrade me personally. There were no long tirades expounding the sinfulness of non-binaryism, nor any manifesto mandating evolutionary heterosexuality. Weirdly enough, I didn't even detect a tone of derision. If anything, the social analysis seemed to imply this was a sibling reaching out to give me a love-imbued ribbing. Ok, maybe that’s going too far...or not far enough.

“I am you.”

And with that last and final needling text came the rub. Such an outlandish identity statement puzzled me to no end for decades.  I’ll spare you the rollercoaster of internal melodrama that ensued. Thinking back on it now, I was compelled away from the path of least resistance toward one of self-reliance and confidence. A drawn-out Netflix Prime series would spend twenty episodes on the twists and turns I went through. I’ll cut to the punch line, to the realization that the cyberbully was actually my future self.

You say you want details. Well here's the Tik-Tok version: after that last annoying text I spent my final year of high school buried in the Wikis. I delved into the intricacies of quantum physics and higher math to escape my anxiety.  Finding refuge in theoretical sciences permitted be to ascend the academic ladder and participate on CERN experiments involving tachyons. Basically, tachyons are “hypothetical” particles Richard Feynman conjured up more than half a century ago, and uniquely they travel backward in time. 

It was at that point I realized I needed to be the cyberbully for my fifteen year younger self. Suffice it to say, with a little old-school coding it wasn’t too difficult for me to piggyback an SMS script on a tachyon signal and send it back to the ‘20s. It was decidedly easy to create those taunting texts.

Asides aside, those mercurial taunts are what nudged me to hone the very talents I needed to pursue a challenging career. And yes, I was tempted to mess with the continuum further, but the 2020 U.S. elections had so many complications already that pushing the entire world’s luck to attain President Warren seemed foolish and outright dangerous. 

Of course, no story turns out perfect. As a trans-woman I feel welcome sometimes and unwelcome at others. I have a couple close friends, but haven't had any luck finding a romantic partner just yet. Still, I persevere on my journey, silently singing to myself the words of that 20th century diva at every turn: “loving yourself is the greatest love of all.” Sometimes, just for fun, I'll Snapchat that very line to myself. Upon receipt, it never fails to bring a grin. 

Jakay Allan Bechtdel, out.

(this tale was sparked into existence by my friend Rhonda, who is a time-travel enthusiast...well she loves time travel to her use of time travel in her daily life, I cannot comment)

Friday, October 2, 2020

Goodness First - The Poem

divining Goodness

choose a journey of Goodness, i must
thriving on desire
question that very Goodness, at every turn
mind on fire
contemplate, intention, method and results
no omelets

eschew all "moral absolutes" 
find flexible and effective ethicality
simple does not exist
be, mindful and compassionate
Occam's laser

non-existent gods cannot save us
modest integrity
evolution and nature don't care either
scientific hubris
Goodness flows from human abstraction
prime directive