I’ve watched the news in sorrow. News of deaths, of outpourings of sympathy, of despair that other deaths go relatively unmourned as people of all faiths and backgrounds flee in terror. Mostly they are running from those would kill them if they cannot control them. Sometimes, though, they are fleeing the bombs of those trying to stop the terror. Everyone runs from bombs, no matter what their source. And the hate and the fear and mistrust grows all around.
I write a blog about world peace. It’s an odd topic for a blog, but it grew out of the premise that if we all understood each other better, if we listened, if we could feel another’s pain and joy as our own, world peace would be achievable. I know how idealistic this is. But I believe it.
We have to harden our hearts, steel our minds against empathy in order to commit the sorts of atrocities that have filled the news. We have to lie to ourselves deep within to justify behavior that we know is wrong. It is easy to argue and point fingers and incite others to be afraid and angry with us. It takes so much more strength to soften and allow understanding. It is far more difficult to admit that, at our core, we are sisters and brothers.
Yet here we are, throwing rocks at each other on this little playground that we call earth. The teachers and other adults appear to have left, and we seem like a bunch of rambunctious children, often dedicating ourselves to finding ways to make each other miserable. It’s time for us to grow up. The playground gets smaller every day. The calls to hate and hurt grow stronger, made more powerful by the technologies we have invented. Our “rocks” and other ways of harming each other have grown exponentially with our cleverness.
Most of us want better. Yes, the few who prefer chaos, or think they have a right to control others lives or end them if they cannot, must be won over to compassion, and they must be isolated and rendered harmless until they are. But as we do that, we must avoid becoming insensitized to the humanity of others, lest we become the very thing that we are trying to stop.
We need to fix this, not make it worse. It’s important. We are talking about our home here.
We get by. When those around us have more, we feel cheated. When those around us have less, there is this sense of satisfaction, or gratitude, or relief at our good fortune, that makes us happy. I don’t think most of us consciously want to have more than others, but I do think that we define normal based on what we see.
Everyone in the neighborhood has a hover car but you and maybe one other person. Feeling bad? No one in the neighborhood has a car of any kind but you and this real rich guy up the hill. Feeling good? You get the idea.I recently read a short story that intimated that fairly tale princesses were far less well off than today’s teenagers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that princesses were happier though, because they were special. Then again maybe not. We are talking about about teenagers here.
At any rate, a while back I hit a difficult time in my career and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’d made my way into some management positions early on and the perks were pretty nice. I had a corner office and I do like my windows. Nice wood furniture and big plants can make you feel pretty important, especially when yours is little nicer than everyone else’s on the floor.
Things changed. My company was bought out and as my career morphed with new circumstances, I returned to technical work and a single window, cheaper office furniture and a small plant. Still not bad.Things kept changing. I had choices to make and went with consulting as I liked the freedom. But consultants usually get put in cubes. My little cubicle wasn’t bad. I could see out of a window down the hall. But when a new contract put me in the tiniest cube yet in the darkest corner of a windowless room, something in me screamed. This isn’t fair. I work hard. The situation wasn’t helped by the many beautifully furnished window offices sitting empty, being held for “real” employees soon to be hired.
Okay, I thought, time to get a grip. So I started to do what I do best. I began to make things up.
I was being held in a minimum security prison. I’m not sure what crime I committed, but it was something non-violent and even kind of noble. Maybe I refused to give up the name of a source and was being held for contempt. Yeah, that was good. My sentence included being kept in this little dark cube all day, where I was required to contribute by working on some inane thing I could care less about. (Not every piece of this fantasy was total fiction.) But lucky, lucky me. Due to prison overcrowding and my general good behavior, I was released every night to go directly home, where I could see my husband, eat a good home-cooked meal, watch TV shows of my choice and sleep in my own bed. The requirement (enforced by some sort of ankle-bracelet arrangement I was a little vague about) was that I had to return at the same time the next morning and continue to serve my sentence.
Not a bad deal when you think about it. I had creature comforts at the end of every day and all the sky I wanted to see from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. and most of the other women here weren’t half as lucky. I started to feel bad for them, and feel pretty good about my own situation at the same time.
The fantasy was helped along by the fact that my real-life contract was for 10 months, after which I knew I would be moving on. I exed off the days on my calendar like any prisoner would, and did my best to savor and appreciate the wonderful privileges I had been granted while I served. When the real-life contracted ended, I said something to my husband about being so excited to finally get out of jail.
“It was that bad?” He looked shocked.
“No, not really.” I squeezed his hand. “They treated me okay and let me come home every night to you and it could have been so much worse.”
“You’re a weird one,” is all he said.
Yeah, well, we all find a way to get by. Some methods leave us feeling happier than others.
I’ve always had an interest in astronomy, and I tend to correct people when tides, eclipses and locations of planets are described in a way that is just plain wrong. Mess with your facts in a science fiction story or show, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen. But somehow, Pink Floyd made my list of exceptions. It’s probably because I’ve loved their music for decades, and no album better than “The Dark Side of the Moon.” I’ve always been happy to allow them poetic license with this phrase.
Because the moon turns slowly, it’s days are about 28 days long. It also takes the moon about 28 days to go around the earth, so it always faces the same side toward us.There is a far side to the moon, one we can only see from spacecraft we’ve sent. It is mysterious and hidden. But it’s not the dark side.
It is true that at any given time roughly half the moon is illuminated by the sun, and half is not. You could call the part that is not “the dark side” I suppose but it is not really a side, it’s the part of the moon that is experiencing night. If you simply look at a crescent moon from earth, you could call the part that doesn’t glow “the dark side” but its not really a side either.
Anyway, if doesn’t matter. “The Dark Side of the Moon” conveys something deep and hidden and mysterious and I am willing to leave it at that.
I share a few things in common with my hero Lola, including that fact that we both once lost a bet that there was a song named “The Dark Side of the Moon.” The song of course is titled Brain Damage and it is the first song that Lola hears after she becomes a full fledged telepath. The lyrics cause her to reconsider telling friends and family about her new abilities.
Enjoy reading about “Brain Damage” in this short excerpt from x0.
By the time she had made it to frozen foods, every person in the store had a song to sing. A story to tell. The vague and sometimes annoying feelings she had picked up from folks in the past were gone, and Lola felt like a person with horrible vision who had just been given a pair of good glasses or a person with very poor hearing who suddenly was wearing the best of hearing aids.
It was true that most of what was coming at her was boring. His feet hurt. She was annoyed with her child. He was annoyed he had to work today. Right. He was missing the football game. Lola laughed. People were preoccupied, tired, worried, looking forward to some later event, thinking about sex, and one guy in aisle seven was thinking seriously about beating the shit out of someone at work tomorrow. Lola, knowing that most thoughts don’t result in actions, decided that without more evidence of intent she should just leave people be. And she did. She could. She practiced. Tone up the intensity. Tone down the intensity. That worked. She could do it.
Not all the thoughts were admirable, but amid the petty and the complaining Lola had to admit that there was an underlying hum of just wanting to love and be loved. To be left in peace. To have a little fun. To have worries solved and some joy at the end of the day. She figured she shared the grocery store that day with forty or so other souls, and she could honestly wish each one well and move on. It was all going to be okay.
She smiled instinctively at the checkout clerk as she finished, and felt the girl’s blip of joy at the smile. That was surprising. Lola’s smile, an unconscious reflex she often found annoying because it was so habitual, apparently sometimes brought other folks a bit of happiness. Interesting.
Then, just as she was leaving, some lady in produce started singing to herself. Wouldn’t you know it, Lola laughed. She had lost twenty dollars once betting that there was a Pink Floyd song called the “Dark Side of the Moon.” There isn’t, of course, just a 1973 album with that name, and a perfectly wonderful song called “Brain Damage” which talks about a lunatic inside the singer’s head and mentions the dark side of moon.
As Lola listened to the eerie lyrics, she decided they were a little too close to the mark. Probably time to get home and take a break. As she headed out of the store, she couldn’t help singing along.
Driving home, she gave some thought to her next obvious problem. It looked like Jumoke had been right. Thanks to some combination of the Igbo woman and the canoe incident, she had become a telepath. Why had it taken so long? Maybe for the last couple of months the PTSD, or maybe the medication, or maybe both, had suppressed her symptoms. No, abilities, she told herself. This is not a disease. You have abilities, not symptoms.
At any rate, if this was now the way she was, should she tell Alex? Her children? Her sister? In one sense it seemed only fair, but in another she doubted she’d be believed, no matter how much they loved and trusted her. That was until she demonstrated the truth of what she was saying, which now that she thought about it could be harder than she thought. She could not do card tricks. Tell me what I’m thinking. What she could do was pick up the real driving emotion they were feeling at the time and if she was lucky it looked like she could pick up a few facts related to that emotion as well. Which meant that she would probably just pick up disbelief. And worry. And maybe a little fear because whether she was telepathic or not, the fact that she thought she was meant there was something to be concerned about one way or another. Pointing out the presence of these emotions was hardly going to constitute compelling evidence to any of the fine folks in her immediate circle.
So what was the hurry? First, she should probably learn more about this and how it affected her and her life. The lyrics to Brain Damage kept playing in her head. It was true. Having people think that one is crazy seldom ends well.
I don’t usually go for “fan-made” videos with the lyrics, but I was fascinated by this fan’s recording of a live performance of Pink Floyd with assorted images and the lyrics to “Brain Damage” superimposed on the concert footage. It’s creative, and eerie. Enjoy!