— From EF —

“Improve reality.” Swami Beyondananda has been recommending this as a course of action for years now. Wanna do something about the drug problem? “Improve reality.” A lot of ailments come to mind as candidates.

Kids are sunk in a quicksand of texting. Fast-food customers feel the need to carry assault rifles. People listen to Ted Nugent. All together now: “Improve reality!”

That can be a pretty tall order, but we’re supposed to be a can-do people, and the genius of the human mind is limitless. There’s an old video making the Facebook rounds again, and it’s a doozie: a small plane’s right wing falls completely off, and the pilot manages to make a safe landing. I really wanted to believe that somebody could do this. Seems like the right wing is falling off many crucial things, and it would be nice to think survival is possible. To my dismay, Snopes not only labeled it a hoax but gave a link to a video documenting how that clip was made.

It was a faked way of improving reality, and we see that every day. But then there are equally improbable actions that aren’t faked at all, like what happened with fracking in NY state.

A resident of Dryden, NY, summarized her conversation with the incoming fracking industry: “We have the power; you have none. We are coming. Get out of the way or leave.” The people of Dryden thought this was not an acceptable reality, and improved it. After years of organizing and costly court battles, on June 30 the NY Court of Appeals ruled that municipalities have the right to keep fracking out of their borders.

And Utah, of all places, came up with a solution to homelessness that is on track to complete success by 2015: giving away housing. I kid you not, this wasn’t written by The Onion. They are really doing this. Improving reality went viral.

However, during the high tide of this week’s Patriotism, Emma Lazarus ran aground on a sandbar. We might have heard “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,” when children fleeing murderous conditions in Central America came into the town of Murrietta, CA. Instead, what they faced was a furious mob screaming that these kids would pollute their community with crime and disease.

“Improve reality.” That’s a tall order when huge well-funded machinery is devoted to pumping out the toxic yellow fog of fear, identifying some not-quite-humans as viral agents. We probably can’t replace Facebook’s cute kittens and puppies with brown-eyed kids, but it might be a start.

— From CB —

Libraries are windows to many worlds. While writing one morning at our local branch, I overheard this interchange between the librarian and a dark-haired, intense man, probably in his thirties, with a jerky speech pattern. This is an approximation, but it catches the spirit:

—I want to get a book.


—I like to read.

—Yes, so what are you looking for?

—Like maybe physics? Maybe Albert Einstein? I like his hair.

—Well, let me show you the science section, and you can browse if you like.

—Is there something that can tell me about Einstein, because I already know quite a bit, so not right at the beginning, but getting into it more?

—Well, here’s one, but this is maybe more about his life, not so much about physics…

—Well, what’s in there?

—I haven’t read it, but then this is about Stephen Hawking, that’s physics, black holes and all that.

—Maybe I should take that one. Only I like Einstein.

—Well, you could take them both.

—Can I take out two?

—Sure, no problem.

—Yeh, that’s good. If people had three books, it would stop a lot of crime.

At times our urge toward deeper understanding fails, and we simply stand unblinking in the presence of the unexplained.

— From the Fool —

Two ladies were talking, and I was listening in. One said how her neighbor’s dog barked all the time. The other said, “I wonder where the soul goes?” That was kind of changing the subject, but I guess it’s a good question so you know what kind of weather to pack for.

The first lady said, “Nowhere, you just fizzle out.”

But the other said, “Well, you can’t prove it, and there’s thousands of years of people getting buried with slaves and swords and cigarette lighters, and how do you know you’re any smarter than a Pope or a Pharaoh?” So they went round and round, then finally back to the neighbor’s dog.

But I got to thinking if I ought to worry. I don’t mean the Heaven and Hell thing. But what if there’s an Afterlife, and it’s just as screwy as this one? If it’s like the phone company and they get the billing wrong, or if the batteries never last as long as they say they will? Maybe God’s more like a Beatnik artist than an accountant, and maybe he drinks a lot.

But I don’t want to get into religious stuff. Religion is not so much about where you’re going as how to get there, and people get pretty hot about that. It’s like you’re taking the bus to Omaha but somebody thinks you ought to fly there instead, so they shoot you.

I’d wonder why I was going to Omaha.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014




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