If enough people believe in you, it’s a sure sign you’ll end up nailed to a cross.
--J. G. Ballard, from KINGDOM COME, copyright 2006 by the author
May 19, 2013
The Human Game, pt. 115: 'So who created Him?'
“I will say I don’t much care for the phrase ‘creation,’" the good Doctor noted. "It implies a ‘creator.’ You can’t make G-d of or into an equation. As any number of physicists have suggested, if you bring G-d into the room, who created Him? Is He subject to His own universe’s laws? How does He interfere with the natural outcome of biological and material events?”
-What made the/’previous’ universe fall back in on itself when/ it doesn’t look like this one is doing it? –D.
As if he didn’t know.
“Can’t yet say, since we have no information on it yet except that which we can infer from its clear hospitability to your man.”
-Why say it’s the ‘previous’ creation? –P.
“That’s your criterion, Peter, though since we are ‘here’ and the other universe is ‘there,’ I note once more no reason why we can’t say that universe ‘there’ is ‘then,’ and this one ‘here’ is ‘now.’ Quite the idea, you know. Serial universes. Not multiple, but consecutive. Not just on this end of the Big Bang, but on the far side of same. And consider this also.”
“Despite Perlmutter’s substantiation that the universe’s expansion is accelerating, there is still talk in physical cosmology – another name for ‘the ghetto of ideas most physicists can’t stomach,’ actually – of a Big Crunch. In that concept, the universe’s expansion begins to lose acceleration and eventually reverse. In an unknown amount of time, say a hundred billion years, the universe would collapse back into the primordial engorged black hole again. Well, once more, if a black hole detonated and gave us the universe, where was all the matter before it all fell into it? Possibly there was a Big Crunch 13.7 billion years ago, and all evidence to the contrary, should the impetus for acceleration once more fail, there shall be one yet again. I don't yet know of any impetus, but...”
-Then how does our target drop into this universe, and back? –P.
“These ‘stone circles in the sky,’ the gaps among and through which your man seems to crawl and cause mayhem, and then go back again, tell me that that previous universe still exists! The mechanism he uses, I’m not so certain about, but that universe would appear to have some stability. Otherwise he would have been ground up or crushed or dropped from one of the circle’s gaps into the event horizon the first time he made the attempt. Weren’t we putting the boot in as far as the human concept of time a bit ago?”
-So you were... –P.
“You may have read Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, in which there is a planet called Tralfamador where everything occurs at the same time. Very possibly, gentlemen,” the physicist chuckled, “allow me to welcome you to Tralfamador. We may actually have a situation here in which two completely separate universes occupy the exact same space!”
-…We always knew Time was plastic in the extreme, Professor/ I don’t think, however, we ever knew it was entirely meaningless –D.
“In our conceptualization, again if what you have observed and these sightings of these circles of slots is accurate, it is now. Unless, of course, you are catching a tube train! Let’s take a few more steps to clear out the remaining large boulders. Recall what I said of ‘quantum entanglement,’ do you? One particle can have an influence upon another, even given appreciable distances. If the universe on the other side of the Big Crunch/Big Bang still exists, and well it may from what you have said, that could explain ‘quantum entanglement.’ The duality of particles which act upon one another most probably have a corresponding number of particles in the previous universe with which they may share an exact location. In other words, not quantum superposition but ‘quantum superimposition.’ The two particles you are considering in this universe may not be acting on one another at all. They just seem to, because you cannot directly view their counterparts.”
“You understand that I am depending upon your observations completely here, which are unscientific in the extreme, but even given that, it is the most massive idea that has ever been brought to me. I could spend the rest of my life working on this. I most probably will, in fact. Thanks to you gentlemen, I even have a notion where to begin. Should I ever complete it, if you don’t mind I’ll nickname it the ’Soldiers of Fortune’ hypothesis.”
-Yes, why not/ if only to prevent your students putting / your name on it/ --D.
“I’ve had enough of that, thanks.”
“Don’t mind my bro’ here, Professor/ I think I can accept the honor for him/ --D.
-Yes. Yes, I believe so. You understand, we’d prefer to remain nameless. –P.
“As befits the business you’re in! One assumes that those who hire you already know where to find you.”
-Although the fact that there is no University of Geneva here… --P.
“—Does not mean that there is no University of Geneva there! Phew! Finally defined our terms.” Exhilarated, Dr. Bailter stood. “I’ll have a class tromping in here shortly, so best wrap this up, gentlemen. I must say it was good to see you all again. Of course, if you return in another 33 years I may not be here, so do feel free to make it a little sooner next time. Whatever evidence you can cobble up may also be helpful. Anything at all. I’ll get to work on my end and see what I can assemble, naturally.”
-We will try, Doc/ though how do we get to this man? –D.
“Every door goes both ways. Hypothetically. He does step in and he does step out. You say he has been seen multiple times.”
-He has/ –D.
“Then find those that he came through and exited by. See if they will admit you. Look for a ‘source of connection’ which the last universe shares with this one. They would have to be in some source of ‘sync’ and be immensely powerful. Oh, yes, I almost forgot.”
-Dear me, what more can there be? –P.
“If time is as void a concept as the evidence you’ve brought me appears to show, other than its use by us to understand ‘world’ as we experience it, or think we do, while if the idea of ‘distance’ is as suspect as we believe given the idea of quantum superimposition, and if the cosmic horizon’s sheet of 0s and 1s is so very akin to the similar structure of the primordial black hole’s ‘event horizon,’ what other than the evidence of our admittedly undependable senses do we have to show that the Big Bang ever even occurred?”
-‘From ‘dueling holograms’ to ‘utter hallucination’ is/ a little farther than I think even we want to go, Professor/ --D.
“Just having a laugh,” he answered, and we saw Augustus Bailter for a space as he was when first we met him. David called for our brothers, and Willie brought Whitey over since he was finishing up with giving him a brush. Francis followed, scratching and stretching. Midnight, half nodding himself, moved up behind him.
-The good Doctor has given us our marching orders, so best we march. Very glad to hear that last was a jape, sir. As Austin Osman Spare once put it, wisdom and folly are differences of degree. –P.
-…Yeah. No wonder Aleister Crowley kicked him out of the League of the Golden Dawn. –F.
“Fortunate for us all that Crowley wasn’t a physicist…”
At this juncture there came two crisp knocks on the door, and a woman entered with a violin case and a questioning look. Upon recognizing her, we understood further just on how many levels entanglement can be made to work.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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May 16, 2013
The Human Game, pt. 114: The Event Horizon
What was I to say to this man? Do you know what it is for a colony of termites to challenge a Russian T-90 tank? Especially when the termite mound has not even the slightest notion of its impending victory? From what little I told him, how did he guess? I recalled at this point what disdain we had always felt for humankind. Such disdain, in fact, that my brothers’ normal behavior – though had we been ‘here’ long enough to know what ‘normal’ was? I submit not – would have been utter disgust at my decision to consult with the good Doctor. As it was, the last time. Not just the odd overt grumble. The first time, you may recall, if you do recall, we gave him a kernel of an idea which we felt would seriously unsettle the known world. Make hysteria a disease! Didn’t work out very well. It caused a ripple of interest and faded. Sometimes the untermind is simply concentrating on something else. Considering our lack of success there, we returned to methods less subtle. Now, however, we needed the man. He had been in this world 63 years, ten months and two days longer than we; all but shackled in place by the quiescence of every subatomic particle in this universe, all our methods of quick access denied us, we in fact needed him this time far more than he did us. It is one thing to refuse to diplomatically recognize how many pegs by which we’d been taken down; it is another to not even notice. But the professor had a thought.
“All right, then. First of all. Let us revisit how, as I said before, ‘time’ is not in itself considered a very important or reliable concept in physics. This is because ‘time’ is a subjective consideration; that is, it is experienced at a different rate by every living man, woman and child. Equally, we remember how ‘antimatter’ has been defined in a system as being a standard particle or subparticle which is moving backwad in time, much as we might find this lepton heading to the left and that tau boson moving rightwards. We often instead speak of the rate of decay or the rate of energy loss. That can be more accurately substantiated. But it is not necessarily ‘time.’”
-Uh, in other words/ to paraphrase Picasso/ ‘have you ever seen a tachyon with a watch?’ –D.
“Very good, David! Though (a) the tachyon has not yet been discovered, and (b) for its sake one hopes a tachyon’s watch, were it to have one in its vest pocket, would have multiple hour and second and minute hands! To go on, how surprising is it that ‘time’ is not a useful concept in particle physics, given that ‘antimatter’ has been defined matter which is gaining energy as it travels on its ‘world line,’ that is to say its trajectory through 4D spacetime. Just as a standard subparticle is losing energy as it moves forward in time! For jolly, we’ll leave all the other dimensions out of this. So how can ‘time’ be taken as a monolithic concept? Corresponding to this, Dr. Nambu has suggested that matter-antimatter particle pairs do not actually destroy one another. They actually meet one another while on opposing ‘world lines’ and then pass one another by, the particle losing energy on its ‘past to future’ path and the antimatter particle gaining it on the ‘future to past’ trajectory. From our well-obscured promontory, we see something which we assume is destruction.
“Now, let us also recall the idea of ‘quantum entanglement.’ Measurements and experiments within the Hypercollider and elsewhere have shown that particles of wildly varying sizes can impart serious influence on one another even if they are nowhere nearby one another. What does this do for the concept of distance? Is ‘distance’ at its base as fuzzy a concept as ‘time’? Considering how the Hypercollider and its many parents and grandparents show subatomic particles of all kinds appearing, coming, going and vanishing, shall we say, with no understandable path of ingress and/or escape? Have they ceased to exist? Hardly. Some have moved into the future faster than we can perceive them, or into the past, same again. Given our ‘Swiss-cheese’ five senses and our catastrophically imperfect measurement instruments, we are left with mathematics. Far better fishing net, though it too has holes.
“So then! Given the preceding. Once more unto the psychophysical parallel. Recall how John von Neumann said that given how our particles and what becomes of them cannot help but influence us and our own collective fate, it must be possible to describe the process of the perception as if it could be measured in the real world. Therefore, gentlemen, even if we can’t directly experience it, this is no guarantee that it is not as real as the noses on our faces.”
-To oversimplify. –P.
“If I am about to take the leap I am seriously considering, I have no choice but to oversimplify. No language is a suitable replacement for mathematics. Nevertheless, hold the noses on your faces. Here I go.”
Instead of continuing, he paused, studying my face yet again as no man has ever. No. One woman did. But I won’t allow myself to remember her, either. We have said that there will be no distractions. There won’t. Only those we ourselves shall allow. Oh, yes, and Miss Al-Adil…
“The concepts I’ve mentioned today can be combined to locate your target, I believe. We simply have to orient them all in such a way that they will fit together. We lit upon a certain opinion earlier which will allow us to begin our chain of reasoning. The Big Bang is not necessarily thought of as being the detonation of an engorged black hole any longer, you understand. There is not very much mathematical evidence of that. However, what you have observed of your man is explained well enough if the Big Bang had been an engorged black hole which detonated! It has been shown that black holes can ‘sweat’ protons and some can even ‘evaporate’ and disappear if they let go more mass in ‘sweated’ particles than they pull in over a very lengthy period. But inside an engorged black hole, calculations of the currently accepted sort might well go the way of those which work fine in a standard black hole! Not so its surface, however. Engorged or standard, not much difference there. Now, consider how anything that falls into a black hole is preserved on its surface. The matter itself falls into the hole and is consumed in the gravity well. The pattern of the fallen matter remains, as we remember is also the case with the universe’s cosmic horizon, spread across the event horizon of the black hole in a field of 0s and 1s. If you see a pattern, that is deliberate. Dr. Stephen Hawking, our former Lucasian Professor, established this mathematically. Let us recall Newton’s law in which he said that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but can be changed from one form into another.
-We’ll trust him. –P.
“All clear so far?”
-Why does a black hole/ even have a surface? –D.
“The surface of a black hole is not ‘a surface’ so much as it is the ‘fossil record of everything that it has pulled into itself.’ The ‘event horizon’ is the amalgam of the patterns of what came too close and fell in! Mind you, this construct was for all intents appropriated by Dr. Susskind for his idea regarding the cosmic horizon of the universe containing all the information which describes all this universe’s matter. Rather as if the universe were a black hole which had detonated, but which was in the process of reconstituting itself by the mpost roundabout way possible. Which it may be!
“All right, now, let’s say that this accelerating and expanding universe did come of a black hole. Previous to the Bang, the matter of the known universe was all down in the gravity well, and the matter’s patterns lay across the event horizon. But wait, now! How did the matter get in there? What were all that matter’s patterns doing on the event horizon?”
-…Clearly it fell in. –P.
“Leaving its 0s and 1s on the surface of the black hole. Yes. So if the Big Bang was caused by an engorged black hole, not just the matter within it was thrown outwards, but so was the event horizon! Which of course becamew the cosmic horizon at a point to be determined. So there may have been a universe previous to this one and given the rules which emerged thanks to the developing strings, it most probably was not unlike this one. Same general rules, certainly.”
Dr. Bailter nodded, “If your man is stepping through these slots, back into his universe, and is able to come and go, that universe must be capable of sustaining him.”
-So our man is not hiding in a boson or a quark, or in a valley in the current Landscape. He is hiding in the previous creation. –P.
The obviousness of this stuns me. I was of the opinion that the path back there was walled off irretrievably. It was billions of years ago. It no longer existed. Hadn’t Azrael said as much? Did I read something into what he did say? And how did the Professor know--? But he wasn’t done.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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May 11, 2013
The Human Game, pt. 113: Beyond the 'Space'
-Actually, Dr. Bailter, now may be a good time to define our terms… --P.
The physicist lifted his eyebrows, chalk back in hand, before his blackboard. He could have been posing for his own coffee table book. The sun, finally emerged from early winter clouds, arc’d towards noon. Behind us our horses sat beneath a tree; William had finished brushing Red and Midnight, so he was on to Geist. Whitey waited, patient; he never liked it overmuch. Francis sat also with his back to said tree, half dozing.
“Back to ‘here’ and ‘there,’ then, Peter…”
-The physical evidence is as follows. He is in Geneva. At the University of Geneva --P.
“Not to interrupt, Peter, but there is no University of Geneva.”
-Our man claims that there is. Even though we know there isn’t. And he is not really there. At all times. –P.
-/Oh, boy… --D.
“He claims that there is. You have spoken to him.”
-No. These are deductions from… the spoor of his passing. Let’s say. –P.
“Is his sanity in question, at all?”
-No more than mine own, Professor. Well. Not directly. –P.
Although for whatever reason, of a moment I do not know how to.
-We approach the red line, here. Unfortunately. –P.
“Or, the red line approaches us! Peter, 33 years ago we five for all intents journeyed outside the hypothetically known universe. From that vantage you suggested that we look back to note the exterior of the cosmic horizon, and you asked me exactly into what it expanded. At which point I began my calculations. We know already where they’ve led us. If, as Yuri Gagarin almost put it, ‘we can go farther,’ why, I suppose we must.”
“Thanks to the plethora of our strings’ theoretical axes at our disposal, Peter, we could travel light-years without actually moving.”
-I hope you’ll explain that/ –D.
-My evidence is not at all scientific, however. –P.
“In an oeuvre in which physicists have invented card games in order to predict whether the Noospheric Hypercollider would or would not find Higgs bosons, I would say I can grant you some leeway.”
-Well, then. Beats hysterical laughter. Very well! He has caused some accidents in Europe and in the Middle East. Some of them are rather serious. He is being sought by a number of law enforcement agencies. We are of course attempting to get to him first. –P.
“Would you mind telling me who hired you--?”
-I am not at liberty to say. Apologies for that. –P.
“It doesn’t bear on the matter, go ahead.”
-We suspect him of blowing up a tanker in the Black Sea about two weeks ago. There were avalanches in the Northern Caucasus mountains which have no other explanation for having occurred. The apparent geysers of blood which have stained the Giants’ Causeway on the Northern Ireland coast may also be laid at his door. –P.
“Then he caused the evacuation of the coastal towns.”
-Not yet known why. –P.
“Satellite photographs caught him?”
“…Do you know, I have often thought when I am doing my most delicate calculations, it would be wise to turn the blackboard away from the window…”
-Oh, you haven’t that much need to be concerned. A surveillance sat looking through your window from that far up would have to be at the horizon, and thus need to see through a far thicker slice of the Earth’s atmosphere. The resolution on the photograph would not be admissible. –P.
-Let’s not say/ to whom –D.
“Thanks at last to overspill from London’s many fogs, and so forth. Pardon! You used the words ‘here’ and ‘there’ a bit ago. As I asked previously, do we need define that term?”
-Seems so! Once he is done he has been seen climbing into a series of slots in the sky. –P.
“Really. All these ‘standing stones that fly’ of which I’ve heard passing mention? So… they aren’t actually circles of standing stones. Some of the slots are actually empty. ”
-It’s known that they are circles? –P.
-How have they been covered/? --D.
“On the level of ‘Airline pilots clearly need more sleep!’ I had wondered about them. The sightings have supposedly become too frequent over the last month or so to be completely ignored in favor of the standard fluff, and mass hallucinations among one discreet group of people on the level of ‘airplane pilots,’ are not terribly demonstrable unless you’re talking about that Lovecraft story, or ‘Stranger than Science.’ At any rate, no one appears to take the matter seriously since there have been no collisions, except the pilots’ associations around the globe and the British National Trust. Saw in the TIMES the other day, in fact, that somebody from the Trust has actually gone ‘round to Moel Ty Uchaf, Castlerigg, Stonehenge of course, the Ring of Brodgar, et al. to see if any of them are missing.” Bailter moved his chair to the window, partialluy facing the door to his study at far rear right. “None unaccounted for, of course. Let me rest my bones, that I might think a bit faster.” He looked towards me over the top of his glasses. “As to the blown-up tanker…?”
-He was sighted on board previous to the explosion. –P.
“All right, then. The geysers? A group from the University has in fact just returned from studying those. No one knows where the blood came from.”
-It was the same man. –P.
And he fell silent. We decided to wait. I closed my eyes momentarily to see my unwitting correspondents all. Miss Al-Adil labored away in the Block, shifting her desk fan again and digging for a file. The stone on her desk that never left her person sat atop one of several stacks. I wondered again at its significance. The detectives sat at their desks in their precinct, furiously typing up reports in triplicate. What yet remained of Dennis Chasm nattered away in his pit in Beijing. Dr. James lectured a flock of students on various forms of hebephrenia. Again his classroom, his students, he himself, simply had no coordinates in this creation--
-Yes, Professor. –P.
“…Do you know how few physics equations contain the variable t for time?”
-Have heard quite a bit / about Time’s apparent lack of meaning –D.
He’s thinking of the last creation, but this is nowhere to voice that…
“Considering yet again how you four looked exactly the same three and one-third decades ago...”
-Don’t draw any conclusions from that/ we work out a lot –D.
“Point considered… but what of this. The concept that what has not yet occurred may influence what has done, although David Hume did not
allow for it via simple semantics, is gaining acceptance. Not the latest hot topic among the ‘mediae,’ but…”
-I don’t necessarily think that our man is hiding in some… future creation. –P.
“I may not have been about to suggest that. You say he is seen climbing into a series of slots in the sky. Some of them have rocks in them. Others don’t. These are circles?”
-Very wide circles. –P.
“And you know this…”
-Because we mapped them. –P.
“Generally to be found in this hemisphere?”
-Only this one. –P.
“Why would you bring up a ‘future creation,’ Peter? Define your terms, please.”
-Well. Attempt at levity? Grasping at straws here, but what would happen should the universe stop accelerating in its expansion? Would it not, very eventually, begin to collapse again? Into another black hole? And at some point imaginably long from now, cause another Big Bang? When one particle of dust too many falls back into the, ah, re-singularity… –P.
“The acceptable calculations haven’t allowed for that. Not since Edwin Hubble and Saul Perlmutter found the most conclusive evidence for the acceleration has anyone spent much time wondering on it. Frankly, the acceleration has for all evidence gone on so long and accelerated at such a consistent pace that we have no evidence but to say that this shall continue. You may have to resign yourself to this Big Bang in this universe as being the last.” The Professor’s eyes twinkled. “Unless you have information about the B Space, the dark matter and dark energy that may fuel said acceleration, which you chose not to mention on our first encounter.”
-I’m a soldier of fortune, Dr. Bailter, I’d have no such information.—P.
“A soldier of fortune who appears to spend as much time outside reality as in.”
-Not our fault that the adversaries/ we’re hired to take on are getting more sneaky –D.
-Well said, David. We have to look for them where they can be found, Professor. –P.
“Interesting that you don’t deny the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ that I’ve brought up.”
-Well, let’s just say ‘theoretically in and out.’
“So let us begin by defining what I have called ‘reality’ as ‘here.’ As for ‘there…’” The professor’s eyes at last looked directly into mine own. I don’t recall if he had ever done this before. I heard David’s breaths cease. In point of fact, I don’t remember anyone doing this, who remained above the dirt for long. At last he continued, “It may be the destination your man aims for when climbing into one of these ‘slots’ where there are no stones. No, if you are going to bring up the idea of a ‘future creation,’ you would have to accept the possibility of there having been ‘past creations.’”
And he waited.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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May 8, 2013
The Human Game, pt. 112: The Fashion Policewoman
We paid and left our usual tip; on the way back…
“I’ve been thinking that my girlfriends, especially Pat and Cleo, will be a lot tougher on you than Abba was, though.”
“After the discussion your Abba and I had, I don’t know.”
“Oh, he told me.”
“He was pretty exacting, but you have a daughter too and you’re no lamebrain, so you understand. Huh.”
“Why does that woman think pink and black go?”
“Right over there, baba! It’s ridiculous. And those Capri pants, why do women think they’re so cool? What is sexy about ankles? God!”
“…Across the street?”
Preoccupied: “Never mind, you missed her… Like I was saying, Pat and Cleo still mutter under their breaths, ‘How dare Mohammed have done this and that…’ Well, it happened, girls, let’s move on! But they don’t really seem to understand that that was a situation I was handed, and I was expected to acquiesce. And I did because I was a good Muslim girl. Hopefully I still am, kind of…”
“Of course you are.”
“Thank you. But my girls are still convinced I picked Mohammed on some level, I don’t know what, so my taste in men is therefore highly suspect. They’re going to look on you as if you were another Mohammed, and it may take some convincing.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior!”
“I know! It’s their behavior I’m worried about. Just don’t judge them too harshly because of how they act when you meet them? Until they get to know you.”
“No need to worry about that; I don’t know what it is, but mothers and sisters of women I’ve hung out with over the years never seem to like me much.”
“I’ll have to ask you about that sometime. I love them absolutely, I really love them, but sometimes they treat me like a wounded bird. I can handle myself! I know some things about men, I picked you, didn’t I? It’s because I’m observant… well, kind of observant. It’s because I never had a man in my apartment before until you came along; you can only imagine what that brought up when I told them! It’s a little like the nonsense my assistants give me when I come back from having lunch with you. Of course, they just want the nasty details.”
“…What nasty details?”
“Exactly! Hello? What half the world is thinking about at any one moment?”
“Yes. Do not blush again. I forbid you to blush.”
“Seeing me was that traumatic?”
“Would one of your assistants follow you?”
“No worries there, baba, I keep them just a little bit afraid of me. Just enough so they wouldn’t dare.”
“That’s a relief.”
“But my girls… they’ve never said so but I’ll bet you they look on my faith and how I practice it as a variant of naivete. Can you explain that to me, Dennis? You’re a smart guy. What is up with them?!”
“Do any of them go to church or anything?”
“You certainly don’t come off as naïve… Misplaced feminism? Am I going to get smacked if I say that?”
Leila turned, not at all pleased: “That isn’t funny, Dennis! I would never strike you. Ever. I don’t care what you do or might have done. Never under any circumstances!”
“Oh! Well, I apologize.”
Painfully: “Please don’t say that again, even as a joke?”
“I’m very sorry, I didn’t mean to be--”
“You weren’t, my dear. Don’t give it another thought, it’s just me... Anything else you can figure that would make Pat and Cleo act so weird? Nunzi’s willing to give you a hearing, she’s no dummy either.”
“They love you and they don’t want you to get hurt again.”
“Oh, it’s that easy, is it. So I am a… what did you say?”
“The other day! Oh, yeah, a babe in the woods or something.” She shook her head. “Great! Just great!”
“Don’t be too hard on them either. For a more complicated answer… I sure don’t appear like a good ‘choice’ from outside. Divorced, two kids, 20 years older than you, not Muslim…”
“Oh, please, if you look at it that way, you’re practically the Boston Strangler or whatever it is. Don’t ask me, I know!” Leila refused to entertain the possibility. “I know you, baba. You don’t have an evil bone in your body. May Allah forgive my disrespect but sometimes you’re so old-fashioned you scare me.”
“That is not disrespect, in fact I kind of enjoy it.”
“Of course it isn’t, it’s just me being impossible.”
“Be as impossible as you like.”
“Don’t spoil me! That’s not being a good adopted American dad!”
“But what you say’s the truth, to an extent.”
“That’s what I should say…”
“I’m all ears.”
“No, I’ll tell you later, if I do now I’ll be late! You don’t really scare me, you know. I’m kidding! Come this way…”
“I realize that, gee whiz…” Ducking down our usual side street so we could say goodbye without too many witnesses, Leila stood on tiptoe to kiss me on the forehead twice. “I remembered! I pay my debts!” I did the same and she dashed off with a wave and a “Call me!”
“See you, baba…”
To balance two families with different expectations in two different worlds is a dance on the beam I never had to learn. Leila, youngest of any of us and wisest of all of us, saw how similar her family and mine were, and weaved an extended family of sorts out of it. It cocooned her for as long as she was here.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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May 5, 2013
The Human Game, pt. 111: My Death Sentence, Commuted
“Oh, almost forgot. How did you get married, with Amma watching the passes the way she does? If you don’t mind…”
Leila wiped her hands rather surgically on her napkin. “She picked him. That’s what was different! Well… I’d graduated from my high school, Al Noor, and we are a pretty conservative family. You know this! So Amma decided it was time for me to get married, she looked around at who we know from their masjid – mosque! -- and selected what she thought was a suitable husband. A meeting was arranged and I got along with Mohammed, so… the rest is ancient history.”
“If you’d rather not—“
“Oh, no, I’m in too good a mood, this won’t ruin it!”
“Just making sure.”
“As long as you keep me away from the wedding album! We were married for a year. He wanted children badly. Lots of them. I was certainly interested. I had a miscarriage and my OB/GYN specialist, Judy, told us we’d have to hold off three to five years to try again. Mohammed didn’t want to wait that long...” She viewed me evenly, without rancor, and went on: “Let’s just say that Mohammed wasn’t as traditional as he claimed to be. There is nothing in the holy Qu’ran or in my or his tribal customs that said he could put me aside because I couldn’t provide him with the requisite number of babies in the requisite amount of time.”
“This must have been… horrific.”
“At the time, yes, but not as much now. Well. There was no point in staying married to him if he didn’t want me so my Abba and his struck an agreement with the imam’s help. The dowry was paid back and I went home. There was a certain amount of disgrace involved for him in divorcing a woman for that reason, and there was a certain amount of disgrace involved for me because I couldn’t keep a man. But all that was traditional Arab tribal attitude; it has nothing to do with Islam. There were Arabs a long time before there was Islam. But you know this also!”
“I have to have coffee. I will sleep like the dead tonight, but I have to have coffee. Want some?”
“Too late in the day, baba, I’d better not.”
“Nice to hear you call me that! OK, you’re off the hook. This time.” She signaled for our waiter, who while taking her order once again nodded at me with some relief at seeing Leila and me still together after the previous week, when an uninformed observer might well have thought she was of a mind to leap across the table and strangle me. Obviously I had done some fast talking and my death sentence had been commuted! For the time being.
“What was Abba’s opinion of Mohammed?”
“He didn’t like him. Something about Mohammed rubbed him the wrong way. Later he understood what it was. Abba said the whole thing was too much like a business transaction to Mohammed. He regretted having gone through with it. ‘No more arranged marriages in this family,’ he said, and Amma wasn’t too happy with that but it was pretty clear that it was all academic anyway. I was no longer considered a good prospect, I was not trained to do anything despite the good education I’d had, and that was that. So after six months of being more miserable than I have ever been in my life, I decided I was going to have to be somebody different. Abba never said ‘no’ to me. He knew I needed help and he could not think how to give it, but that was okay, I figured it out for him.”
“Your Abba’s a good man.” Coffee arrived, and Leila took a sip immediately.
“You are eventually going to learn to drink this like an Arab, and not a construction worker, by the way! …Abba is the best. The absolute best. But I think… he really doesn’t know what to do with me. We’re close but not close. I call him once a day just to say hello and he calls me at night to make sure I got home in one piece. He never forgets. Sometimes he calls me on my day off and I tell him, ‘Abba, I didn’t go to work today!’ And we laugh. But I don’t think he entirely understands me. He is, however, willing to let me be the person I am. And as a result, when he makes a decision I follow it and I don’t question him. If he had told me he didn’t want me to see you any more I would have cried buckets, but I would have obeyed him.” She looked down a moment, then up again.
“He said one reason why us being friends was OK with him was because you said if he’d decided the other way you would accept it, you smart guy.”
“Let’s talk about something else.”
“No, this is OK! But don’t forget two things if you’re going to feel sorry for me. Which I utterly forbid you to do. One, Abba likes you a lot, and he didn’t like Mohammed. How’s that for a compliment? Two, had I not been divorced there is absolutely no chance in Heaven or on earth that you and I would have met and become friends. That would have been so out of the question it would have been impossible even to imagine.”
“I will not feel sorry for you.”
“Good! Because I give very few orders, but that’s an order. “ Her mood changing to a more sober aspect: “The holy Qu’ran states, in surah 65, verse 7, bismillah: ‘Allah asketh naught of any soul save that which Allah hath given it. Allah will vouchsafe, after hardship, ease.’” Then a bit more informally: “In other words, Allah will not hand you a situation you cannot handle. If you ask Allah, may His name be praised, for strength, as you so often hear me do, Allah will never say no. Maybe not in the way you were hoping, but He will asssit the righteous. And if you know a time of hardship, as I did, Allah will provide a time of ease to assuage it.”
“As Allah has done, it seems.”
“I’m a great believer in that if you follow the rules to the best of your ability and you ask of Allah a favor, the answer will usually be ‘yes.’ So I asked for a friend and look what happened! They say there are no miracles, what do they know?.. I’d better get back to work, my dear.”
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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"A good writer is an expert on nothing but himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue." --John le Carre
Exactly how interesting can the author be, anyway, when nobody has any idea where their creativity comes from or how the mechanics of inspiration works? Maybe it's something we all have access to. Maybe it's a sluice that empties into your head when you're facing in a particular direction and thinking a particular series of things. Then again, maybe not.
However benevolent inspiration really is, to say nothing of what it is, I suspect that any good fictional character is a lot more interesting than the person who dreams it up. So mine speak for me here.