The Great Filter

Wizzo teleported back to his work world. It wasn’t his home world, but with instant teleportation to any point in the universe possible, “work from anywhere” meant precisely that. Wizzo enjoyed leaving behind his assignment planet, because he could use his real name again. “Wizzo” just sounded odd in English, the language of most of the planet where he was posted. On that planet, he went by the much less exotic name of “Pete Wilson.”

If you’re thinking I’m referring to a particular “Pete Wilson” that you know about or think you remember from a news or history, no, it’s not that Pete Wilson. Wizzo is someone you most likely have never met, unless you live on my street. Wizzo lives a few doors down from me and we’ve had some interesting conversations about his work, to say the least. He’s a great guy. Anyway, he went to his work world.

At his work world, he got a quick bite to eat before heading in to see his manager, Zazzo. Zazzo, like all his other managers, was an awesome person that he wanted to be more like as he continued on with his life. Wizzo knew that the best way to be more like someone was to consciously copy their behaviors, so Wizzo did all he could to be more compassionate, understanding, encouraging, peaceful, and loving. It didn’t hurt that embracing those behaviors made instant teleportation much easier.

And that was the big question he was going to answer to Zazzo, was the planet of his posting anywhere near being spiritually mature enough to instantly teleport, among other awesome things. Wizzo walked into her forest glade to make his report.

You may wonder why Zazzo didn’t work in an office? Well, working from anywhere means precisely that. Zazzo liked forest glades much more than offices, like nearly every other sentient being in the universe. Honestly, offices are only a thing on planets that are struggling spiritually. Everyone else picks and chooses between wonderful spots of nature on the nearly infinite planets of the universe and has a much better experience with work.

Perhaps I should also mention that Wizzo’s quick bite to eat was visiting a berry bush and a fruit tree. That’s how he was able to walk from there to Zazzo’s forest glade. Like most days on the work world, it was a wonderful, happy day that made one thrilled to be alive.

“Hello Wizzo, how are things at your assignment?”

“Hello Zazzo, I’m still hopeful that they turn around eventually.”

“What gives you that hope?”

“They still seem incredibly reluctant to engage in global thermonuclear war. I’m hoping that their realization about limits leads to other changes for the better.”

“Do they still have money?”

Wizzo felt that twinge of certainty that one gets when someone asks a question that everyone knows the answer to, and that the answer is bad.

Zazzo continued. “We still don’t have any population that loves money they way people do where you’re assigned that is able to join with us. It’s known as a Great Filter for a reason.”

Yes, Wizzo nodded, a Great Filter. The kind of thing that acts as a roadblock on the development of a people, preventing them from realizing true harmony with the universe and, hence, the ability to live happily and blissfully as Wizzo, Zazzo, and near-uncountable numbers of their brothers and sisters did all over the happy, ordered, and peaceful universe. If you think I’m describing a universe other than our own, the answer is a qualified “yes and no.” Anything more than that would be difficult to explain in proper detail, so I’ll pass over it and get back to this discussion between Wizzo and Zazzo that I’m focused on.

I focus on it because it involves me. I live on this world that Wizzo observes under the assumed name of “Pete Wilson.” I’d rather be living in a way where I could truly work from anywhere, and that means I need to either find a way off of this world or to make this world a better place to live – both of which involve the same sort of spiritual maturity that Zazzo doubts we’ll be able to attain because of the way the people on this world have a love of money.

Because, whether we like to admit it or not, the love of money is the root of all evil.

But Wizzo believes in us, he believes in miracles. Zazzo does, as well, but it’s her job as a manager to take up a position of questioning, that the truth may be established. You see, it’s the truth that sets us free, but we have to have enough truth to hit a critical mass of freedom that affords us the kind of mobility and bliss ant Wizzo and Zazzo enjoy. One could say that those two practically eat the stuff up, that truth. Sadly, we here on the planet Wizzo observes tend to favor fictions that let us live a life of tolerable pain because we fear the pain of the truth that would set us free.

Now, Wizzo was totally aware that, yes, all the worlds under observation that loved money were complete non-starters as far as merging in harmony with the universe. One could even describe the places as real hells. Places where people who spoke words of truth got murdered by the money-lovers and the people they were able to enslave with either fear or a lust for power. Places where the money-lovers took the words of those who preached truth and peace and twisted them to justify the love of money and the violence that unnatural love brings.

And though many people on Wizzo’s assigned world were worried about how Artificial Intelligence had a chance of destroying humanity, Wizzo was much more concerned about the programmed, artificial constructs of corporations and government bureaucracies were already actively destroying that humanity. Scientists on Wizzo’s assigned world worried over nuclear weapons, global warming, and programmed machines run amok when the root causes of those threats – the love of money among them – were being ignored.

So what could Wizzo say in defense of this planet that would counter the argument that, with a love of money, it would never be a candidate for the blissful existence that was its potential? He thought, and said, “Population decline. If the global population declines, their economic system that depends upon constant consumption is no longer valid.”

Zazzo asked, “Isn’t that model already obsolete in the face of global ecological catastrophe? They’ve had that impacting them since the start of their industrialization period, and haven’t changed.”

Wizzo responded, “The population drop would add one more element of unsustainability to that way of living.”

Zazzo shook her head. “But does the people that changes because they must change truly change? Better the people that changes out of an innate desire to change and to become more spiritual.”

“True, true.” Wizzo nodded his agreement. “But a people humbled, regardless of reason, is a people that is humbled, and then is ready to be taught the lessons of peace and truth. It’s happened in a few places and times in the planet’s record of sentient life, it can happen again.”

“But on a global scale? If there’s just a single hold-out, we’ll be back to a crisis situation in a matter of generations.”

Wizzo then had a question of his own. “Do you think they are ready for a reset, though? I still see a hope for better things among them. Not everyone lusts for money and power. I think they could still change.”

Zazzo agreed. “Yes, they’re not yet to where they could harm anyone but themselves, so there’s no need for a reset. We watch with patience and hope.”

And so Wizzo returned to his assigned planet and told me about his report. We are being watched with patience and hope – let us work to reward that patience in what we do, rather than frustrate it. And, yes, I admit a bit of my own agenda there, as I’d love to be able to teleport to the places Wizzo’s told me about, they sound just fantastic.

But there’s only one way to get there. Painful though the start of the path may be, it’s well worth the complete journey, I assure you.

A Question of Suffering

Which would you prefer? Suffering an amount that you get used to for all eternity or suffering a deeply painful, but transformative amount that leads to a change in who you are and then, eventually, eternal peace?

It seems like many people prefer the eternal suffering with all the lies surrounding it so that they don’t have to go through the deeper pain that makes a change. Truth is painful, truth does hurt. But truth also transforms. Truth does not warp, truth does not crush, truth does not imprison. Truth does set us free.

But we have to make a choice to embrace truth in order to find the peace on the other side of that choice.

Minor, Granular Adjustments

I started writing this essay in my mind last night as I dealt with a potential biological roller coaster from something I ate. Somehow, a train of consequences was running express through me and I was of the opinion I’d rather not have things go down – or up – the way they seemed quite destined to do.

In the dark bathroom suddenly made light, I contemplated my fate and, having no human nearby to provide status updates to, I started a conversation with God. Call it what you will, be it prayer, delusional ranting, bargain-making with fate. I talked to God, because that’s what I do. I see God as my Heavenly Father, a loving, merciful relative who exists outside the whole of time and space, so that He can help us along our way towards getting into the family business, working on the immortality and eternal life of humanity. He is involved in every life, as existing outside of time meaning there is no shortage of the stuff for handling any and all requests that come His way.

Granted, I started this conversation fully aware that other people were supplicating Him at the same time. Some begging for relief in much worse circumstances, some asking for evil things they would never be granted, some prattling on about minutiae, and still others pleading in prayer not for themselves, but for loved ones. But since there is no limit on the time God has, each one of His beloved children are heard and answered.

Those answers are often minor, granular adjustments that either take the edge off of something harsh or that help us endure what is about to get much worse. I’ve been through much worse in my life. This most recent prayer was decidedly a small ask, relative to the proper ordeals that I’ve agonizingly had to face. But I’ve faced them and gained experience, wisdom, and a greater desire to be compassionate from them. God knew they were for my good, that they were formative experiences that gave me valuable puzzle pieces to assemble in my lifetime to create a more complete picture of my existence.

My body is in pretty good shape on its own and I knew it could do much to heal itself. So what do I need divine intervention for in this case? Maybe God didn’t do anything tonight to keep my body in a comforting stasis. But maybe something else was done in my past that made getting though this night cleanly and quietly a possibility.

Mind, now, I was ready for bad times. I had made my peace with the fact that being sick can be most unpleasant, but that it’s also a conversation with my body about my own choices and the choices of others intertwined with mine. I was ready to be thankful for the running water to wash with, the clean clothes to change into, and the help from my wife in cleaning up the aftermath. Being sick helps me to see the web of support around me and I am compelled to be thankful for the people who answered my prayers sometimes years before I ask a question that their response is part of.

As I prayed, I felt the wave of nausea, the “This is it!” moment we all wish didn’t have to happen… and then, it didn’t happen. Something about the experience was in knowing that it was most certainly about to be rough and messy and then knowing that, no, that mess was being canceled by a Heavenly Father who wanted me to learn a different lesson. That moment was not about enduring, but about sacred covenants and greater promises yet to be fulfilled.

My mind has recently been dwelling on the child I lost over 20 years ago, my son Jarom. I believe that all of my family can be resurrected and restored in happiness. These are huge blessings that I am deeply grateful for. Yet, there are times when I miss, I feel loss, and I wonder. This moment in which I asked for a small thing and having that small thing happened reminded me once again that the greater things can happen, and will happen. There is no need to fear. Heavenly Father is with us all, every step of the way, and we are capable of discovering that companionship for ourselves.

I still woke up too early, I still don’t feel up for going to work, and I expect some Powerade in my future. But I still know the blessing that came to me in that stormy moment made quiet, that it was more than a momentary comfort. It was a matter of eternal importance, made manifest by a minor, granular tweak. It was a tender mercy that spoke to me, to give me comfort not only in the moment of need that I knew of, but also comfort in the moments I wasn’t considering my needs.

Even now, those things I mentioned as negatives are things I can find value in. Waking up too early gave me time and presence of mind to write this. I work from home, so I can still get some things done for work and get rest later today. Powerade exists and I can get it and it will help me recover. If someone gets it for me, I will be grateful for that, as well. I write this mostly for myself, but if it should help someone else, then I have spent these early hours of the day doing something that a loving and merciful Heavenly Father knows will answer the prayer of another of His beloved children.

Racist Trees

It is frustrating how some people need a mountain of evidence to say “well, the jury’s still out on that issue.” Racism persists because it serves a purpose to provide a framework that justifies the material benefits of those who perpetuate the system. Even trivial aspects of that racist framework, like statues of Confederate politicians and generals, provoke violent reactions when they are targeted for removal, because those who benefit from racist frameworks know that such removals will eventually force them to repent, humble themselves, and ask for forgiveness.

Getting to about an hour into the film (link below), although it depicted the arson that targeted Black homes in Palm Springs, I couldn’t help but think of the bombings in Dallas happening at the same time that targeted Black families that had moved into White neighborhoods.

I always taught my history students to select the multiple choice answer that painted the worst possible situation for Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, Women, LGBTQIA+, and any of the other numerous divisions used by people in power to perpetuate their power. My students always did well on the state-mandated History exit exams.

Moving Closer to Heaven

Vision? Realization? Speculation? Whatever it was, it came to me one morning and answered a question that had been on my mind. Namely, if Heavenly Father knew that Saul would convert, why not have his conversion earlier and prevent him from being complicit to Stephen’s death at the hands of a mob?

I saw in my mind – imagined, if that’s a more comfortable word – all of Saul/Paul’s life and where it intersected not only with Stephen, but other people. Basically, things and people had to be in the right places for that conversion experience to work out for the best. It happened when it did because it couldn’t happen at another time and be as effective. And as for Stephen, well, his death is not his end. I saw much more of his continuing existence, so much of it that it made his time in mortality seem a short, intense flash that could be summed up in two words, “It hurt.”

And then I saw how so many people only focus on a single spiritual dimension in getting closer to God. There is benefit to doing good things, expressing faith, and living within moral and ethical bounds, but focusing on one to the neglect of others only moves one closer in that dimension. The distance remains in the others. This vast experience of existence of which mortality is a part is critical for us to show which directions we choose to go. We can move as we choose and there is no punishment for doing wrong so much as there is an inability to reach for an awaiting reward of being able to manifest eternal love.

Heaven is proximity to Heavenly Father; Hell is distance. Even as we experience pains, diseases, hungers, grievings, sadnesses, depressions, agonies, injuries, injustices, mockings, assaults, damages, and, ultimately, death, we can nevertheless choose to continue to move our souls heaven-ward.

And so, it matters not when one dies. What we do in life can be left raw and sinful, or it can be amended, repented of, and made sanctified. When do we die? is a question whose answer is nowhere near as important as that of How did we choose to live?

Responsibility of Voters

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was passed in order to prevent legal and administrative maneuvers that deprived people of their votes is all but dead. There is a case going before the Supreme Court that will determine if private organizations or individuals can challenge voting restrictions. The Republican-appointed judges in lower federal courts ruled that, no, citizens and groups cannot challenge voting laws. If the Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court concur with the lower court, it will mean that the Republican Party will be responsible for both laws and jurisprudence that have returned the United States to the era of legal segregation. And although I have many friends who support the Republican Party who insist that they do not have an intent to support white supremacist agenda items, that is exactly what the Republican Party is doing.

When I was a young man in Boy Scouts, I earned the Rifle & Shotgun merit badge. I learned a lesson that I took deeply to heart – I am responsible for every round I fire. If I fire a round that causes harm or loss, I am responsible for that harm or loss, even if I did not want it to happen. Discharging a firearm involved care and safety to avoid causing unintended harm or loss.

It is the same with votes. True, we are never voting for angelic beings, but at the same time, we can limit the deviltry our votes unleash upon the nation with care and thoughtfulness. As it stands, I see the terrible impact of disenfranchisement upon the people it is so unjustly visited upon. Votes that supported the Republican Party are responsible for deeper racial divisions in the United States being codified in both law and judicial precedent. Votes that supported the Republican Party are responsible for advancing a white supremacist political agenda.

A Sunday Morning Thought, 22 October 2023

It is not an easy choice to go for thoughtful, contemplative, peaceful means when so much around us promotes a lie that either the end justifies the means or that there is no end, so it makes no difference about what means we use.

Put another way, the entire human race lives with the accumulated historical traumas of thousands of years of cruelty, inequality, fear, prejudice, hatred, irrationality, injury, and despair. That we are yet capable of even beginning to come to grips with that massive burden, let alone to begin to shift it to where it is less of a burden to future generations, let alone to make real accomplishments towards establishing more compassionate systems of living – that is testament to the power of the human soul, when it turns to good. Pacifying the beasts of the past is a gradual process, but once we understand Gandhi’s statement, “There is no path to peace. Peace *is* the path.”, we are ready to begin that process, starting with our own heart, mind, spirit, and soul.

Time and Choices

I was recently at Stonehenge. Big circle of big rocks doing big things, lining up for moments in time. People put that together. Something was so important about the times being marked, that the people it was important to had to make Stonehenge to do what it does because, quite likely, other methods had failed to do the job. Stonehenge does not smack of a first effort.

The time kept by Stonehenge is not the accrual of hours, days, or years. It serves to track the rhythm of a solar year. Why is that important? When we look at the dots and lines on the backs of animals painted in paleolithic caves, we can figure that they correlate to important times in the annual cycles of the animals: when they migrate into the area, when they mate, when they give birth. All of this in correlation to the advent of Spring in the Vernal Equinox. Knowing the days of solstices provides similar information that can be used to track everything else that happens in a year.

Look at how the Egyptians tracked the flood of the Nile as another one of these annual rhythm approaches to keeping time. And while we put a year on a calendar because we want to keep track of that sort of time, we still have an ordering of days that repeats with each year. We are very much like our nameless ancestors in that regard. We are aware of the passage of time, just as much as we are aware of right and wrong, good and evil.

If there was no time as we experience it, but we instead existed in a frame of reference that was outside of the bounds of time. Our first thought would be perhaps, “Ah! Now I live forever!” Except that would be wrong, as “forever” implies a passage of time. More accurate would be to realize, “Ah! Now I exist timelessly, in a state that has no beginning or end, no now or then.”

In such a frame of reference, all of our time-space existence would be visible. We would be aware of everything that happened, every choice made. Seeing those choices, we would see people as we used to be, very much unaware of what other choices are being made and of what it means to be a human creature. None of us know who we are or what we are doing, to paraphrase what the character Nigel Tufnel said about the people of Stonehenge in the film “This Is Spinal Tap.”

But when we see people who choose to be altruistic, we see people who have made such choices because they have first chosen to see the essence of divinity in their fellow human creatures. They assign dignity to existence and are ready to forgive one and all. And why not forgive, since almost everyone who does something selfish is doing it because they do not know what they are doing? They certainly don’t know who they really are.

We exist with imperfect knowledge and assign the characteristic of perfect knowledge to God, however we view such a construct. For the sake of this essay, I consider God to be real, to be both capable of and interested in the choices I personally make as much as anyone else’s, and that there is a connection of love that exists between us all, should we take time and effort to become aware of it. Others are free to believe what they will, this is not meant to be an argument for or against God’s existence, just a thought experiment about a God that has perfect knowledge.

Perfect knowledge means that God exists without a boundary of time, that God is able to behold the fulness of the universe and comprehend it all. And if we postulate that God is loving and that we are children of God – literally or figuratively, either works for this experiment of thought – then it means we exist in this universe for a purpose.

If there is no time, no before or after, where God exists, then it means choices are eternal things. It means mistakes cannot be repented of – they exist without bounds of time. To be in the presence of God means a commitment to make no mistake. That implies that none of us are ready to be with God, as we still make mistakes. But, by existing in a context with time as a boundary, we are able to learn. In learning, we are able to change our nature to become more Godlike, if we so choose.

Now, how a final reconciliation for what errors existed in past thoughts and deeds in order to be complete enough for entering into the presence of God can be performed is outside the scope of what I want for this essay. It is a matter of belief, and many others have spoken their piece on that subject such that I would only be quoting them to explain my own position. But I do believe such a reconciliation is possible if and only if we have become someone who is motivated by love towards others, realizing the divinity within.

Once we know who we are and what we are doing, then we are ready to work within the bounds of time to help others attain that same knowledge, hopefully allowing them to choose to transform out of the person they used to be into one who is enlightened by a fuller knowledge of light and truth. We still endure the cruelties of choices made by others without that knowledge, but we forgive them. We do not count down to when we stop forgiving and start a path of violence – we forgive and hope and pray that they can see better how to live without violence. We engage in that eternal round of soulful agriculture, tending a garden or flock, as it were.

And that comes back to the time tracked in Stonehenge, Lascaux, and along the Nile. The rounds of agriculture, as it were. The year exists because of the events that mark it, not the other way around. Similarly, it is our choices that stand as reasons the universe exists.

Rollable Cities

I see lots of people talking about “walkable cities”, praising them for their goodness and charm and how everything is a short stroll away from one’s residence or from a mass transit network that’s easily accessible from one’s residence. I like a good, walkable city, as well, but I’d hate to be snobbish about it.

First of all, the words – “walkable city”. That implies that, for those who walk without issues, this is a great place to be. For those with mobility issues, however, we may be casting our eyes about for ramps and sloped crossings and non-cobbled pedestrian zones. Now, I can navigate the curbs well enough with my disability, but those cobblestones are deliberately trying to give me a twisted ankle as I painfully navigate my way across them. And when it comes to stairs, I prefer lifts. Ramps will also do, but it’s a lot more walking on them, if they’re sloped correctly. If they’re too steep, then it’s something that forces me to use the stairs and the folks in wheelchairs have to have assistance to get up those too-steep things.

When we look at mass transit, we can often talk about switching modes as if we were just hopping on and hopping off of them. Most people are. Now, let’s ask the people who don’t hop with ease and ask them about intermodal switches. Where others hop, people in wheelchairs have to endure a slow ascent/descent procedure that makes them agonizingly aware that they’re the center of nearly everyone’s delay. For those who can walk with assistance, there are often steps to clear without handrails that give us great pause as we assess the best way to improvise an injury-free crossing. For all of us, once we get from one to the other, we have to re-engage a potentially hostile commuter who thinks we’re “not disabled enough” to surrender a seat clearly marked as one to surrender to anyone who asks. We still have a long road ahead of us with disability rights.

Then there’s the matter of the local climate. Weather is one thing – I can’t go bawling to the city council if I’m caught out in a surprise rainstorm without an umbrella, those things just happen. Climate, however, is what every day is like when we’re not having weather. Once the local climate crosses out of a temperature band that’s comfortable for most people to walk in, we begin to face miserable conditions. My hometown of Dallas, Texas is a prime example of misery for the 4-5 months of the year we call “summer”. Our late spring and early fall are hot enough for others to find uncomfortable, but our midyear heat coupled with humidity are so bad that other people with similar conditions somehow feel better if theirs are worse than ours – and we somehow feel vindicated if ours are the worse of the two being compared. It’s an odd thing we humans that endure extreme climates go through when what we should be doing is expressing concern and sympathy. But I digress.

In cities with temperate climates that don’t get all that hot or cold, most of the year is a walker’s dream and the praise of walkable cities flocks to their stately names. In cities where things get miserably hot, we build roads to handle the capsules of controlled climates that make daily activities possible. On the hottest days, people could actually become ill or die from exposure to the heat, and that’s the case even in a shady bus stop. The concrete will radiate heat ferociously, making conditions on the street even more miserable than the ones at the local weather station. A short walk to a bus stop with a short wait for the next bus becomes a calculation on whether or not one’s life is worth the trip.

In colder places, where they’ve got 4-5 months of harsh winter, it’s the inverse with temperatures, but the same concerns about one’s health after exposure. Once we get out of a temperate band, the walkable city vanishes and all those personal automobiles look like life-savers for getting around town. Accommodating them means the city itself grows and develops in ways that are less walkable and much more rollable.

Working from home and handling services online can go a long way towards getting rid of the daily commute and the need to be in person to handle certain things, but those don’t make a city any more or less walkable if the climate isn’t temperate or the mass transit isn’t truly accessible – or the destinations aren’t accessible, either. For a city to be truly walkable, it needs to stop being a heat island. But the very building materials that allow us to have more people closer to cool stuff like attractions and mass transit are also the building materials that trap that heat and make things much more miserable when the thermometers rise. And there’s the problem I don’t have an answer for. So, until then, I’m a champion of rollable cities.

Learning and Real Life

I just spoke at Texas Cyber Summit. It was about headless devices, IOT, OT, and other things I knew zero about 10 years ago. But I dressed out the technical stuff with metaphors from The Marx Brothers, Guys and Dolls, and the philosophy of Zhuangzi. Point being, if you learn something, you have the power to use it in real life. If you don’t learn something, there’s no way you can use it in real life. If you stop learning, your real life is limited. If you choose to constantly learn things, then your real life’s boundaries fall away.