Meredith’s Journey

Meredith’s boyfriend used to say to her “I love you, Meredith. You know I love you Meredith.”

“I love you too Rob” Meredith would say.

He would say “Don’t analyze my love. Don’t question my love.  You wouldn’t analyze a flower would you?”


“You wouldn’t analyze a butterfly would you?”


“Then don’t analyze my love, you stupid bitch..”

And Meredith accepted that as a pretty good argument until one day she didn’t and she thought “Why shouldn’t I question his love?   I do believe that the reason he told me not to question his love, was because he had something to hide.”

So Meredith moved out and got a room in an apartment downtown and went for an interview for a job.  “How does it work?” she asked Ambrose, her supervisor.

“Well, people come here with very, very old relatives — usually parents.  And the service we provide is an endless gentle sleep.  The loved one will lie in a bed and suffer no more until such time as natural processes cause their demise.”

“That sounds good.” said Meredith and went to work for the office.

At one time though Meredith wondered “Every day I process the forms for ten to fifteen patients getting admitted. But there are only eight beds.   How does this work exactly?”  So she asked Ambrose.

“That’s the great thing.  We just take them in back and beat their heads in with shovels.”

“But isn’t that murder?” asked Meredith.

“That’s also the great thing!  The paper the adult children sign for their old folks says that they have given up the presumption of continued life, so legally we are totally in the clear.”

“So it’s painless?”

“No cause we make extra money letting sadists and perverts come by and do their stuff.”

Meredith quit the job and got a different job.  Sometimes she would say to herself, in the shower, or before falling asleep “Life is disappointing” and sometimes she would reflect “Life is surprising” , but as she lived her life further she realized both of these remarks from herself to herself were a bit wide of the mark.  At the end of the day it was not exactly what you expected, unless, what you expected, was, in fact, what it was.


My Works are Like Mirrors — if a Leopard Looks in, No Jaguar Looks Back!

An end time preacher in Roman Palestine solving a crime in the reclusive Essene community.  He discovers that the leader of the community committed a murder and covered it up on the theory that the ritual ablutions could wash his sins away.  The end time preacher brings the leader to justice but the leader’s jilted girlfriend frames him for sedition against the Roman authorities and he is crucified.


My Creative Process

Part One: Finding Myself

It was weird to start psychotherapy because “finding yourself” seems like such a young person’s preoccupation, and I’m a good deal older than I look. I had been thinking about Freud and how he used to do auto-analysis, and I thought, why not give it a shot? Of course, given who I am I have a lot more resources at my disposal than poor old Freud.

Looking back from where I am now, I would say my biggest problem back then was probably self-obsession. I would spend ages alone, just talking to myself.

“What do you want?” I would ask.

And I would answer “What do you want to want?”

“How do I know I’m even real?” I would ask myself.

And I would answer: “Who wants to know?”

“Why are you so hard on yourself?” I would ask.

And I would answer: “If I’m not hard on myself, who will be?”

It was around this period in my self-exploration that I came across the gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls. Fritz Perls would suggest you take all the voices in yourself and give each one a chance to talk to you. I liked his approach and I gave each of these voices in my head a face. Pretty soon it was like living in a hall of mirrors there were so many versions of myself talking to each other. Old men, young men, beautiful girls, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, warriors, servants, kings. It was interesting but it wasn’t answering my questions.

What was the meaning of my life?

What did I want?

Who was I?

Part Two: Object-Based Computing

Do you know about object-based computing? Think about a typical computer set up. You have the ASCII code on the hard-drive and that causes the peripheral to actually move molecules around. If you’re printing a paper it causes actual molecules of ink to hit actual molecules of paper and write words, or if you’ve got a slightly different set up it causes letters of black fire to appear on white fire. My set- up is a bit different. I am able to actually make configurations of molecules that do the actual computing. So if I want to think about evening I don’t just write a program that has a string of symbols that say “evening”. I can think about evening by making an actual evening. Or a morning. Or whatever. One day.

I had gotten into the habit of going into the virtual computing lab and making things and erasing them, as the mood struck me. (Why did the mood strike me? Another question for my therapist – me!)

After a few days of this – five I think – a thought arose in me. “I have a great object-based computing set up. I want to analyze myself. Why don’t I make something like me? Then when I get to know the thing I make better I’ll understand myself better.

So I made it look like me and then I realized if it was really going to be like me it shouldn’t just have my personality. It should also have the place where all my questions come from. All the questions that arise in my mind from who knows where, and mean who knows what.

So I added that to. I made myself myself an object that was as mysterious to me as I was to myself.

I called it “Earthling”.

Part Three: The Love Life Of An Earthling

Earthling was all about love. He loved me. And that taught me a lot. He loved me, I loved him both the form I gave him and the mystery in him. I loved his questions and that helped me learn to love my questions. It was pretty sweet.

One time Earthling said to me “I have a surprise for you.” A surprise! All the time I had been alone I had never been surprised by anybody else. It was amazing. He led me next to the lake and I saw he had taken some mud and made something with it and hardened it with fire.

What was it? It was a birthday present from Earthling to me. It was Earthling’s own creation – two little ceramic dolls one of him and one of me. I realized he was showing his love for me by creating, and I understood myself a little better. He was creating like I was creating. As I said, it was sweet.

After a while Earthling discovered sex. He shacked up with lion. He had a hot and heavy affair with cow. I think there was even something going on between him and whale. But there was a little bit of a mismatch to all these relationships (although truth be told I will always remember fondly when he came to my birthday party and brought ostrich as his date!) because the animals were fundamentally uninterested in asking questions. I had made Earthling in my own image, which meant a lot of razzmatazz on top but at bottom a simple mystery, and this was something that vicuna, and beaver, and wildebeest just didn’t savvy. Or to be fair, cause it is bad to gossip about people’s former girlfriends, they just weren’t interested in. A wildebeest was interested just doing wildebeestish things, and Earthling wanted something a bit different.

Earthling had really touched my heart when he made his little ceramic dolls, and I wanted to give him something special. Whenever I make something I consult with all the different voices within myself, but Earthling was made of Earth and I think he needed something a little more literal. So I shut him down one afternoon and took another living being out of him and I called her Living Thing. If Earthling wanted to create from now on he would have to partner with Living Thing. Earthling was constantly fighting with Living Thing and then making up, exactly the way you’d expect two creatures of flesh and blood would make up, and this helped me understand my own relationship with both of them, and therefore with myself. So the three of us (and the animals) were getting along well.

Part Four: For Some Reason

For some reason that I’m still wondering about, one evening when I was at home, not hanging out with my creations, a thought arose in me – “Why bother actually creating anything? Why not just consider creating it and play with the consideration?” It wasn’t the best part of me, but it was a part of me, and I didn’t want to repress it, I wanted to know myself. So I spoke with it. I gave it a face, in good gestalt therapy fashion and a name. I called it “Screech Owl”.

When I was giving Earthling and Living Thing their private time I would talk with Screech Owl.

Screech Owl: What are you doing with your life?

Me: I’m making things so I can know myself.

Screech Owl: How is that supposed to work.

Me: Screech Owl, If I don’t risk actually creating things then I won’t really know myself.

Screech Owl: You’re not knowing yourself through these creations. You’re just changing yourself into something more complicated. You’re giving yourself trouble.

Me: Maybe I want to give myself trouble.

Screech Owl: I can’t stick around to listen to that. I can’t stand by and watch you hurt yourself.

And Screech Owl flew off.

I have many strange thoughts and usually they just dissolve themselves back into my unconscious, so I thought Screech Owl had done just that. But that’s not what she did. This rogue thought of mine, that maybe the creation was a bad idea had flown down to the lab and gotten Earthling to make love to him. But instead of creating creations, they just created ideas, which was her idea all along.

“See?” Screech Owl had told Earthling “This is how it should be. You make things with thought and destroy them with thought. They’re here, they’re gone and nobody gets hurt.”

Earthling told this bright idea to his wife, Living Thing. And she asked, naturally, where he had gotten this idea. He told her: Screech Owl.

“Just when are you exchanging philosophical theories with Screech Owl?” Living Thing asked. She had a good idea when.

Living Thing was none too pleased. If Screech Owl was going to sleep with her man, she was going to sleep with Screech Owl’s husband: Serpent.

She told Earthling. They had a gigantic fight – all four of them: Snake, Screech Owl, Earthling and Living Thing. I got involved.

“What is this all about?” I asked. My voice was shaking with anger (who knew I could feel anger?) and hurt (who knew I could feel hurt?).

Earthling looked me in the face.

“Do you really care about me? Or did you just make me so you could understand Yourself?”

“Who told you that, Earthling?”

“Screech Owl.”

“Well I don’t want to answer that. Not right now.”

“Well I want to know. How can I know?”

“The knowledge is there for you to learn. The data banks record everything that ever happened here in the system. You can look. I’m not going to stop you. But please give me a day to think about how to explain it to you. Don’t look. Don’t answer the question yourself.”

“Fine.” said Earthling.

Part Five: The World Was All Before Them

Well you may have heard that Earthling disobeyed me. He looked in the data banks and he saw everything that I did – how I had my struggles, how I created him, how I made Screech Owl and let her fly into his home. He got the answer he was looking for. I didn’t really love him, I had just made him as a tool so I could understand myself better.

It wasn’t true! Right? It wasn’t true. I really did love him. I just had to prove to him and Living Thing (they were together again – who could keep track of these two and their on-again, off-again relationship!) that I really loved them.

I let them leave the system and I gave them some gifts for the journey. I gave them a price to pay to make any changes so they would think about them. I gave them pain in making new people, so they would only make people when they really cared about them. I gave them death so their children could make a fresh start.

They held hands and walked out of the lab into the new world. I was so proud of them. I was in every molecule, every plant, every animal, every day, every mote of dust, every photon smiling at them wishing them luck and all good things moving forward, so curious about what they would do next, so full of tenderness. I knew they wouldn’t create the way I had created – they would create with their own lives, through speech and argument, fighting and making love, living and dying and suffering and winning and loss.

I was so proud. So proud.

As they walked away I understood for the first time why I had created anything at all. I had a glimpse at the answer I was looking for. It was a completely simple answer I knew, which made sense because I was simple, and yet it had been impossible for me to put into words.

It’s still not easy to put it into words. But every now and then they help me.


First Inappropriate Contact

When the first alien race contacted the human race, during Joe Biden’s second term, contact was achieved by a Thole ship from the Amaraphanean Confederacy. The Tholes within were levitating metal polyhedra who constructed themselves from interstellar gases. They gave the human race useful inventions, including the euphorogenic Arpar root. The Council of World Leaders asked them what they wanted in return.

“It is a simple request.” said the Thole Leader. “We are a very old race and the metal plates surrounding our quarkatonic corps has grown corroded. We would be grateful, and would reward the human species, if you gently rotate these metal plates.”

The human race did so and pretty soon a routine was established. Every few months a Thole ship would come in L5 orbiting the Earth, the Tholes would float down, dock in our major cities, and chosen experts would gently rotate their metal plates. The Tholes would reward the human race with more Arpar root and other useful inventions.

This continued for four and a half years until we received contact from the Xylogenotic Intersubstantiate, an empire of intelligent space-going squid-radishes. Their leader, the Melliflous Glon requested the use of airwaves to address the collected people of Earth.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to reach Earth but I bare a message that will be painful to hear. Manipulation of the metal plates by the Tholes is how they have sex. The innocence of your species has been exploited dreadfully. You have been sexually abused by the Amarphanean Confederacy.”

It was an issue of no little controversy as to whether the human species felt violated or not. Some cities barred the Tholes, others, outraged wanted to attack their Thole ships, while others were like “no big deal”. The Intersubstantiates started to occupy key positions in our culture industry spreading their message of clean living and Abelian set theory.

It was then that the God Emperor Tai-Lo-Mbra contacted us through his dimension and explained to us that the Intersubstantiate and the Confederacy had history together and that as much as we could understand using our limited intellects we should better employ the paradigm that the Intersubstantiate were jilted lovers and that the “no big deal” view of the Amarphanean Abuse was closer to the truth.

The Swarm of Elro arrived the following morning with the tidings that the messages of the God Emperor Tai-Lo-Mbra as well as the requests of the Tholes were really a kind of Sperm for which they (the swarm members) were a spermicide. They were followed by the Quasiocracy of Ptah, the Democratic Republic of Bjab-I-Bib, and the Wolus Family of Quintillionuplets. Each of them had a different explanation of both the supposed abuse, and of the motives and nature of each preceding race of aliens but all agreed that the the God Emperor of Tai-Lo-Mbra was a gigantic perv.

It has now been exactly ten years since our species and its first contact with alien intelligence. There are eight billion living humans and we have encountered exactly eight billion alien races, each with a different story, each with a different ax to grind. And this morning the local news reported a new ship on the horizon.


the great escape

a: i just realized that human beings are prisoners of imaginary prisons — they believe they have no freedom but they do — all they have to do is realize that

b: you’re right.  shut up!  if they ever find that out they will go nuts

a:that idea is your prison


Intelligent Gorilla Comes to Shabbos Dinner

The night after I passed my rabbinic exams the other students and I had a small party and conversation turned to the hardest problems we had ever encountered in our studies. After trading brainteasers from the Talmud — a succah on an elephant whose feet were in buckets of water, a blind emissary carrying a contract in a language he didn’t know on the beginning of his journey but learned half-way through and the like — we asked our teacher, R. Isaac what the most difficult problem was that had ever come his way. G-d protect you from hard problems, he said. Better for you not to know. But we insisted.

It all started, the rabbi said, when an intelligent gorilla came to my shabbos table. I was at that time a young rabbi, although I thought I was old, and my wife and I had a house near a relatively large research university. You may have heard about Ben Adam. When the operation on his brain was performed that made him intelligent there were a couple of news cycles devoted to him, and then at the end of the year a couple of think pieces about what it meant, and then his existence was forgotten. Certainly, as a young rabbi with three children and a fourth on the way, intelligent apes were far from my consciousness. And yet he came to my shabbos table, dressed in a conservative dark suit and a kippah and I could tell he knew enough of the blessings after the meals to keep up. He came to me for a private moment at the end of the evening and said “Rabbi, I want to be a Jew.” Come and discuss it with me at my office tomorrow I said and he knuckle-walked into the night.

The problem was, I explained to him, that you are not halachically a human and therefore cannot convert to being a Jew. “What am I?” Rabbi. “I think the closest thing in the sacred texts to which I can compare you is unfortunately a golem. You are a human-like being created by a human.” Inside I wondered if in fact his creation were some sort of blasphemous arrogation of divine prerogative by the department of experimental biology, but I did not voice this worry. I had a suffering being in front of me.

“I want you to make me a human.” said Ben Adam.

It was an unprecedented situation, as I say, because as far as I know the golem had expressed no such wish. So I used the closest parallel that I could think of, which was the gentile asking to convert to Judaism. I dissuaded him three times. I told him about Auschwitz and Hiroshima and Pol Pot, and about the shameful story about how the paint industry had hidden its knowledge that the consumption of lead paint causes mental retardation, and the plots of some tragedies by Shakespeare and Eugene O’Neil. But he was undissuadable.

“Why do you want to be a human, Ben Adam? You will be responsible for your sins.”

“I want the dignity of a human and I’m willing to take the risk.”

So he became my student. There was a small patch of woods on the other side of my house across from the university and once I saw that he brachiated — swinging arm over arm — through the trees until he came to a point about two blocks from my house, and then knuckle-walked the rest of the way. I told him he could not wear his kippah until he was a human.

I wrote a small ceremony in which he would accept moral responsibility for his actions and sent out invitations. It was a few days before and I was going to coach him in the questions that I would answer. He had made amazing progress, but there was one question I knew I had to ask.

“Ben Adam, why did you really want to become a human.”

“Because of the dignity of ethical choice.”

“That’s the rabbi answer, Ben Adam, and I respect you for giving it to me. But I would like you to give me the real answer. When you’re a human other humans will expect you to be honest with them and bare your soul. Please, try.”

And he told me his story. He had fallen in love with a human woman. Her name was Sarah and she was a chained woman. Her husband loved her with a fierce, childlike love, and decided to punish her for not loving him in return by not granting a get. She had become a volunteer at the laboratory teaching Ben Adam English. They had become lovers.

I was shocked. “Rabbi, she lay with a beast? A Jewish woman?”

They did not lie down and he was not exactly a beast. I did not pry into the nature of their physical intimacies. Suffice to say that he had offered her at least physical comfort, and care, and a respite to her loneliness, and she in turn had given him at least a taste of something higher, some sort of higher pleasure or deeper yearning that had torn him and made him feel the healing of his injured, bleeding soul was to take the step to humanity.

I explained the situation to him as gently as I could. “Ben Adam while you were a golem your physical intimacies were halachically ambiguous. Was what you did with her sex? Are you a beast or a man? These are questions that competent authorities can take different sides on. But after your conversion ceremony there will be no question. You will be a man and she is a married woman. You will be forbidden to her.”

He looked at me and his eyes seemed to flicker, like a lenticular postcard of the suffering Jesus between the rage of a beast and the perplexity of a man. “What should I do, rabbi?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“How should I decide?”

“I don’t know. But I do know you are not the only party affected by your decision. You must also ask Sarah. And you must make clear to her what her choice will entail. She can either continue to enjoy you as what you are, a sort of golem or beast, or she can give her blessings to your project of becoming a human. But in the latter case you will be barred to her forever.”

Ben Adam gave a howl of frustration, or perhaps rage, or perhaps puzzlement and charged past me, out of my house and into the trees. I found out later that he had tried to join a troop of wild gorillas in the forest for a week or so, then one early morning had come to Sarah’s door and spent an hour there in deep conversation. He then disappeared. A research assistant found him deep in the forest forty-eight hours later and cut him down. It was no tree of life for Ben Adam.

I don’t know if Ben Adam had hanged himself because his paramour had said yes or no to his project of becoming man. Which was more terrible, that she chose to keep him as a beast or lose him as a man? I know that I had the opportunity to ask her years later at another shabbos dinner. It was after the songs. I was at the point of asking her –she had finally gotten her get and remarried but we were having a talk out of earshot of her husband. I looked at her deep eyes and soft lips and I did not. Rabbis too, like gorillas, sometimes get so close to the fruit of the tree of knowledge that we can actually taste it, so close it doesn’t really matter if we ate it at all.