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A better word than peace?

Writing books makes you aware of the many things for which we don’t have word, or even a particularly good phrase. My online thesaurus gives me twelve pretty useful synonyms for “worry” but it struggles to provide a single adequate one for peace.

One problem is that we stick this poor five letter word with so many meanings. There is lack of armed conflict (armistice). There is quiet (silence), there is inner peace (enlightenment), there is lack of argument (agreement) and there is actually getting along (harmony). Do we all want peace. Of course we do. What kind?

When I first crafted the 46. Ascending collection in my head, I knew that the first book was going to be about peace, and I knew just what sort of peace I had in mind. I was building something, a concept of the pull and tug of life that tied to colors in my head. (I think in color a lot, sometimes to the point where I suspect I have some sort of mental disorder associated with it.) It looked like this picture below, but without the Microsoft Office Chart feel to it.Yes, my first book was red, the color of war, and it was going to be about peace. It made perfect sense to me because red is the color of blood, the color of heart, and the starting color. You know, red for Aries, the first sign of the zodiac and red for the base chakra and all that.

I knew that the sort of peace I had in mind was tied to empathy, that wonderful quality of being able to put oneself in the shoes of another and feel their fears and pains. Microsoft Office also struggles with words for empathy, suggesting compassion, sympathy and identification, none of which quite do the job.

The word I needed meant this.

A lack of armed conflict or even argument due to the kind of deep understanding that we all would have if we could see into the hearts and minds of others.

Needles to say, I could not find a word or a succinct phrase that came close to capturing the concept.

I’d gotten to this odd place because I was determined to write a book about telepathy, which to me is just empathy on steroids, an actual ability to wear the shoes of another. I was, and still am, fascinated by questions such as: could you harm another person if you were a telepath? Hate them? Kill them? Remember, you’re not just hearing their thoughts; you are feeling their feelings.

There are, of course, some quandaries. What about those doing things so heinous that they must be stopped, no matter what the internal rational? Do real humans do such awful things? Yes, we know that they do, though not nearly as often as entertainment, the news and feuding politicians would have you believe. But yes, I do know that there is a time to fight.

That would become the subject of another book, on the other side of the color wheel. For me, green would become the color of courage, another word which is harder to define than one would think.

(For more thought on words we need, see A better word than hope? and A better word than joy?)

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in empathy, peace, telepathy, writing, x0

 

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And that’s the way it was, June 15, 1984

I would be an excellent liar. Not of the small, occasional-lie type, but of the grand, that-story-is-so-amazing-she-couldn’t-possibly-have-made-it-up type. After all, intricate plots and multi-faceted characters are my strength as a writer, and if you wanted to turn a small country’s propaganda machine over to me, I know I could do you proud.

That is why I almost never lie. Falsehoods scare me. And, in the way of those who abhor people who flaunt the very faults they work so hard to control, I hate liars. I am particularity outraged by grandiose, habitual liars who create a make-believe world and foist it on others as truth. How dare they?

You probably already know what I think of our president, so I won’t go there.

Yet, there are two areas where lies and reality do blur for me. One is one right here in my blogs. The other is in my books.

I write my blogs under my own name and in first person, as though I am presenting you with hard facts. And I often am. But I view my posts as a creative endeavor, too, and I allow myself a little poetic license to make a point. Particulars can be omitted, events can be exaggerated, and timing can be altered to provide a narrative that is more succinct and entertaining. I want you start the post, I want you to finish it, and I want you to understand what I am trying to say. So reality gets a little air brushing. I figure that you are fine with it.

I write my books as fiction, and they mostly are. Like many writers, though, I have used my own experiences to craft parts of my stories. The Zeitman family looks a lot like my own, at least on the surface, and some odd details, like the family’s favorite meal of eggplant parmesan, were lifted directly out of my own life. I mean, why bother making up another entree?

I’m now finishing my first rewrite of book six (and last) in the Zeitman family stories, and am having to revisit some of the events I borrowed from my own life and then bent and shaped to meet the needs of my novels. I’m discovering something interesting. My own real memories have become shaded by the altered version that I’ve told so many times in my books. Yikes.

So here is the truth.

June 15, 1984 at 4:17 a.m. I gave birth to my first child.

About a month earlier (not the night before), I had a strange experience while falling asleep. I felt and kind of heard what appeared to be my baby’s thoughts. It lasted a few seconds. It was very odd. I have never experienced anything like it again. I have no way of knowing whether it was real or imagined.

I did make my first presentation to the president of my company the day I went into labor, and he did make an uncomfortable joke about how having sex sets off childbirth. He was right, sexual arousal releases oxytocin, a hormone that does a lot of things, including induce labor. I knew what he was talking about at the time he said it, but was willing to bet that most of the men in the room did not, even though of course they laughed like they did.

There was no gathering in the break room after the presentation, and no horrible joke told about how a busload of children of color going off a bridge “was a start”. That joke was told by a geologist at another function some months later. I was every bit as stunned and horrified as my character, and made the same attempt at an objection that she did. I got the same reaction. Everyone acted like I’d farted loudly and looked away and said nothing. This was 1984.

Thirty-three years ago I experienced one of the most significant days in my life. Yet the events of it now blend into the day Lola Zeitman gave birth to Zane. I feel like I have lost something of my own, and telling you the truth is my way of trying to regain it.

I also have a better understanding of why lies scare me and why I work so hard to avoid them. Our memories are tied to the truth. The liar, and those who hear the lie, find their recollections begin to blur, and after awhile, there is no true memory. What a horrible thing to lose.

Unless, of course, there are tapes. I used to think that the idea of having videotapes of anything and everything was the very definition of an Orwellian nightmare. Now, I wonder if a recording of an event isn’t the only way to preserve it, unshaded by forgetfulness and wishful thinking and pride.

Maybe the universe is keeping a video of my whole life; the good and bad and the embarrassing and the exhilarating. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe I could get to watch those tapes some day, and relive each moment the way it really happened.

I like the idea. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

(For more segments about June days from long ago, see That’s the Way It Was June 10, 1947, June 18, 1972, June 28, 1888, and June 30, 1940.)

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

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Worry about those you love and write about what you know

I’m not telepathic, but sometimes I pretend that I am.

For me, it’s more than an entertaining daydream. The main hero of the novel I am finishing is a telepath, and the more I see the world through her eyes, the better I can tell her story.

Some days, I’m ready to improve the world with my psychic skills. If I could just know what my congressman’s aide was really thinking, could I convince him to recommend supporting this legislation to his boss? And then it might pass in the House by one vote? And then, and then, the course of the entire world might change?

Other days, I sink into banal curiosity. Hmmm. That man looks interesting. I wonder what he’s thinking.

But more often than not, me-the-pretend-telepath pretty much acts like me, which is a person who tends to worry about all sorts of things. The crux of the problem is that I’ve always had a what-if sort of mind. What if the engines on your boat quit? What if the subway isn’t running? What if the wind blows that thing over? I make up scenarios the way some people flirt, or snack, or scratch themselves. It’s just what I do.

The result is that I tend to be better prepared than most, and if you’re traveling with me you might appreciate that. The downside, as you might guess, is that I can be a pain in the ass.

Every so often someone attempts to correct my personality by telling me to relax.This is an important aside to those of you who have friends or family like me. “Relax” and “calm down” are not useful instructions to give to a worrier. In fact, they are probably not useful to anyone.

Last week, someone surprised me by finding the perfect thing to say instead.

It was April and I was visiting Boston. I had ignored weather reports of possible snow because, well, for once I was trying not to be that person who brings the down parka because of a 40 per cent chance. So I had on leaky tennis shoes with soaked cotton socks, a coat with a broken zipper, and no other cold weather or rain gear. It was pelting wet sleet and the temperature was dropping  as the sun set. Yes, I had succeeded at not over-preparing for the situation.

I did tell you this was April, right? Oh, and we were about to embark on a pub crawl. We were carrying stuffed animals we had just bought at the science museum because they were on sale and now mine was getting soaked, but that was a minor problem. I was cold and wet and miserable most of all because this never happens to me. I’m the one you can count on to pull three collapsible umbrellas out of my purse to help everyone else. I have had very little practice at being the doofus who thought everything was going to be fine, and I learned that it isn’t a role I enjoy.

So I went and stood under a one foot overhang and tried not to cry. Then, someone in my party walked up and did something magic. He said –

“What one thing can I do to help you?”

“Nothing. I’m fine.”

“Okay I’ll pick one. Take either my hat or my scarf.”

“No, I can’t do that. You brought them both, you should have them.”

He ignored me and put his hat on my head. Normally that would have been annoying but, you know, the hat was really warm and dry in the inside.

“Okay, just the hat.”

The hat worked pretty well. A little comfort can sometimes make a big difference and I calmed down without anybody telling me to. Go figure. We had a great time visiting bars and drinking beer and hearing stories about Samuel Adams that may or may not have been partially true and the next day the sun came out and all was well. I’ve noticed that tends to happen.

I got two things out of the experience. One was a better sense of what to say the next time I’m with someone who needs to get a grip. “What one thing could I do to make it better?” is a brilliant question.

The other? I’m better off being me. I turns out that preparing for the scenarios I imagine doesn’t bring me down or keep me from enjoying myself. It’s my own way of flowing through life. Like any other personality trait, there is such a thing as too much. But in my case, there is also too little. I’m fine like I am.

Ditto for my ongoing concern about those I love. I don’t get to drive them crazy, but I do get to love them in my own way.

When I got home, I wrote the following scene in my book. My protagonist Lola is boarding a flight to Antarctica, fleeing all sorts of evil and mayhem. But when she gets a few minutes, she worries about the others in her family, and she uses her telepathy to check in on them. It’s what I would do if I was a telepath.

They had been warned that the flight would be long, cold and uncomfortable, and had been given ear plugs for the noise and medication that would calm their stomachs and make them drowsy. Alex and Maurice took their pills without hesitation, but Lola held off. She hadn’t had an awake minute to herself in days, and she just wanted to savor the solitude brought on by the engine noise as she checked in on the rest of the family.

She squirmed in the thick parka and uncomfortable jump seat buckle, but finally managed to settle in well enough to relax. She found her two daughters and friend Vanida sipping rum drinks on a beach in Brazil. What? Where? And wasn’t it kind of early in the day for rum drinks? Well, at least they were safe. But what were they doing there? She got that they were part of a plan to rescue Zane and Nell and Yuden. Not a plan, the plan, the one that Maurice and Alex were not telling her about and which was going to happen tonight. Tonight?

That meant she better leave this alone. She tiptoed back into her own mind and let her consciousness settle back into the rough vibrations of the ride.

What about Xuha? Was he okay? Eggs. She smelled eggs. Xuha had ordered a late room service breakfast and at this moment he was delighted with the sunny side up concoction into which he was dipping his toast. Okay. What about Zane? He was being served food as well, by a friendly older man who was, oh my, the co-pilot of the private aircraft which Zane had boarded a few hours ago which would ultimately take him to New York.

And why was he going to New York? On a private jet? He wasn’t thinking about that right now. She felt her son recline into the plush, roomy seat and sip his very hot, very tasty coffee, which he was enjoying a great deal.

Lola sighed and reach a heavily gloved hand into the knapsack her hosts had given her. She took a sip of her water and found one of the energy bars they’d provided for the trip. She tore the wrapper open and chewed the sawdust-like contents, wishing she had eggs and hot coffee. Maybe even coffee and rum. Reluctantly she took one of the airsickness tablets and swallowed it. With any luck she wouldn’t wake up for another thousand miles.

(For a companion post see Cease worrying when you can and write about what you know. For more excerpts from my new novel visit Am I sure I’m Sherrie?, Point of View, and The Amazing Things I Get to Do.)

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

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The trouble with telepathy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with telepathy. Writing about it, understanding it, using technology to develop it, and how humans would respond to it.

My recent fascination was prompted by an article in Popular Mechanics called Brain-to-Brain Communication Is Closer Than You Think. Lest you decide that Popular Mechanics has taken an unexpected new age turn, let me point out that the subtitle of the article is “Don’t call it telepathy, but call it very cool.”

The article describes a successful experiment in which a video game player wearing an electroencephalography cap (which records brain activity) decides when to shoot, and a second player in another room wearing a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil (which emits a focused electrical current) over the part of his brain that controls finger movement, does the actual shooting.

Researcher Chantel Prat at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and one of the designers of the experiment cautions that “This is not the X-Men version of telepathy where you hear a disembodied voice. … Whatever shape [this] takes is going to be very different than listening to someone’s thoughts in your head.”

magicYes, it may not be the classic telepathy of fiction, but we are talking about direct brain to brain communication here, aided by modern technology. The article goes on to address possible real life uses including already successful work on adapting a brain-to-machine interface to help paralyzed patients walk by using their brain signals to control prosthetic devices. This is cool, and it is really happening.

It reminded me of an article I read a while back about how neuroscientists have recreated movie clips by looking at a person’s brainwaves. It also reminded me of the waves made by Mark Zuckerberg in 2015 when he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

He was referring to an advanced form of this sort of brain-to-brain communication, using something like a VR headset to encode brain signals into bits and send them to another person for decoding and playback. You can read more about this in my post Telepathy and Technology, where I quote The Washington Post as responding with “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges.” True. Cool things like this tend to have a ton of implications that we haven’t considered.

The second thing to set my synapses firing about mind reading was hearing about Connie Willis’s new book Crosstalk. I haven’t read it yet for a few reasons, one of which is that I’m not that big a fan of her writing based on To Say Nothing of the Dog, her one book I have read. But that was written twenty years ago and it’s time to give this science fiction great another chance.

ganzfeldThen I read an interview with her in Wired. The quote that got me was “Willis does enjoy writing about the paranormal, but as far as she’s concerned it’s pure fiction. For her new novel Crosstalk, a romantic comedy about telepathy, she did extensive research into the history of psychic claims, including the notorious Rhine experiments. ‘I found no evidence at all of actual telepathy,’ she says. ‘I don’t buy it.'”

A lot of people would agree with her. However, I was put off by her tone. How odd to write a book about an ability and yet to harbor no feel for how it could be possible, and no sense of “maybe, if ….” to help bring the magic to life. I probably will read Crosstalk eventually, but now I’m in less of a hurry to do so.

However, Ms. Willis does make an interesting observation in the interview. She says “Let’s say telepathy became the norm … the first thing that people would begin to do would be to attempt to stop that, for themselves at least. They would try to build barriers, mental barriers or physical barriers—I don’t know, tinfoil hats maybe or something—that would prevent other people from being able to read their thoughts … I don’t think most relationships could survive if you knew virtually everything that flitted through the head of your partner.” Good point, In fact, a very good point.

And this brings me to the third reason why telepathy is heavy on my mind these days. I’m finishing a book of my own, the sixth book in 46. Ascending, and it is revisiting my hero Lola and her organization of telepaths. Obviously new problems have arisen, including the discovery of non-empathic telepaths, once thought to be impossible. As my heroes and villains go to increasing lengths to keep each other out of their heads, I’m forced to confront just how difficult day-to-day life would be in a world where telepathy is common. It’s forced me to revisit my own world-building, and to better define my own fictional ideas about what telepathy is.

I’ve had to conclude that while technologically aided brain-to-brain communication is cool, is likely, and poses dangers, it is not what I am writing about. I’m also trying not to write about X-men style sentences popping unbidden into the heads of others. Rather, I’m playing with the idea of extreme empathy. I postulate emotional connections between skilled receivers that enable the exchange of ideas without words or machines, and I’m having some fun finding the charms and the limits of my particular theories.

Do I believe in them? I tell people that I’m a scientist first, and a writer of science fiction second. To me, being a scientist means believing that any thing is possible. It also means knowing that while many things are highly improbable, the universe has a way of surprising us, no matter how much we think we already know.

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

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There is no dark side of the moon

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.

Moon and VenusBecause 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.

http://www.pinkfloyd.com/store.phpShe 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!

Buy the song at Amazon.com.  Read the lyrics.  Hear, buy and read about the song at the Pink Floyd webpage.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in music for peace, telepathy

 

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Telepathy and Technology

magic

Telepathy is direct brain-to-brain contact. In x0 it is a poorly developed human sense somewhat like touch or smell but understood far less well. It is most often an emotional feeling received from someone else which is sometimes accompanied by a mental image, or sounds or words heard in one’s head including tunes or songs. It can also involve a physical sensation such as falling, nausea, or cold, or the memory of a smell, touch, or taste.

After I writing x0 I began to occasionally search for news about telepathy, and I noticed an increasing number of stories about using technology to achieve the same effect as psychic powers. In 2013 I described a story in Science about lab rats who had their brains wired together such that what one rat learned could be transmitted by direct wire to the other. Turns out that the other rat listened better if he got a treat for doing so (big surprise) but basically they communicated pretty well with what the researchers call a BTBI (brain to brain interface).

A couple of months ago Mark Zuckerberg made news by saying that the future of communication is telepathy. In a Q&A session with site users, he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

The Washington Post responded with a well done article analyzing how this could work. They talked about the linked rats, as well as a University of California at Berkeley study in which a team of cognitive scientists managed to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. They described how in another experiment involving a noninvasive technique called “transcranial magnetic stimulation” test subjects in India were able to think words to test subjects in France. The Washington Post added that “the process was painfully slow, however, and the words weren’t sent in their entirety — they had to be encoded as binary digits, uploaded to the Internet, sent, downloaded and then decoded as flashes of light.” Yes, painfully slow.

horseThe article quoted Mark Harris at the MIT Technology Review as saying “‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact.” It concluded by noting that “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges” which, lucky for us, “is many breakthroughs and advances away.”

Yes, it is. But it is worth remembering that most big advances began very slowly, at first, and their use and their impact were poorly understood. For decades, many people laughed at the idea of a fancy machine replacing something as reliable as a horse. We all know how that one worked out.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in telepathy

 

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Not writing books about shallow people leading exciting lives

weird3I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. I believe in our ability as a species to get along without killing each other and it is hard to keep that conviction out my fiction. Yes, I do understand that my stories would be more action packed if I just let my characters continually fire weapons, (or incessantly take each other to bed for that matter), and if I didn’t worry so much about what is in their hearts and minds and souls. But honestly, it is my character’s struggles to be better humans that interests me most. How they triumph over the bad guys is secondary.

So, there you have it. I don’t want to write books about shallow people leading exciting lives. I want to write books about amazing people struggling to lead compassionate lives. I suspect that this limits my potential audience. I accept that. The wall of the spare bedroom that I write in features Kurt Cobain’s famous quote I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. You wouldn’t think that Kurt Cobain and I had a lot in common, but we do, at least in that I aspire to authentically create that to which I am driven. He, of course, did so.

So as an unabashed peace-nik in the year 2015, I am so happy to have discovered the International Day of Peace.  I came across it a few years ago while doing research for this blog, and have tried to give it mention here each year. Today I will let the organization describe the day in its own words. Please visit their blog, which I quote from below. Please consider a small act of compassion to acknowledge the day.

Then read on to one of my favorite passages from x0 in which my hero Lola wonders whether a telepath is capable of killing another human. Her imagined scenario of war without death was taken from a school paper written by my daughter. The possibility grips me still. Someday there will be at least a short story, and maybe a whole novel, using this idea.

fractal 5A Day Devoted to Strengthening the Ideals of Peace (from the International Day of Peace Website)

International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by resolution 36/37, the United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Furthering the Day’s mission, the General Assembly voted unanimously in 2001 to adopt resolution 55/282 establishing 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease- fire.

Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or doing a good deed for someone you don’t know. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. You can also share thoughts, messages and pictures to commemorate Peace Day on social media. Use this site to find organized events in your area and for inspiration on celebrating Peace Day in your own way.

From the novel x0

Thanksgiving night, after the dishes were done, the television off, and Teddie and Alex in bed, Lola curled up on the couch with her laptop. With both of the older two kids flying home in just a few weeks for Christmas, the Zeitmans had for years passed on the effort and expense of a family reunion at Thanksgiving as well. So, with other family either far away or passed away, it had slowly become less of a holiday for them, with four days off to relax being its chief asset.

She found a series of new links on the x0 website, apparently posted by members. One area caught her eye. Crime statistics. Hmm. She followed a link, to the website of an organization called the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence, and discovered that there now was a group out there devoted, purely and simply, to reducing the amount of times one human being intentionally uses a weapon to kill another. By any means. War, gang warfare, murder, mass murder. Whatever.

She read that this declaration was endorsed by more than a hundred countries, but the good old U.S.A. did not appear to be one of them. Why not?

According to the website, an estimated seven hundred and forty thousand men, women, and children are shot and killed each year worldwide. She had to wonder how many of those humans would not have died if the person pulling the trigger had been able to read the mind of the life which they were about to snuff out. Would telepathy have prevented every single such death? Most of them?

She doubted it. What about those who were under orders to kill? Those whose fellow warriors faced death or whom faced death themselves if they failed to shoot? Solving that mess required more empathic ability on the parts of those actually giving the orders, she thought, and probably more creative options than shooting for those in the midst of armed conflicts as well.

Lola let herself try to imagine a world in which that problem had been creatively addressed. She saw in her mind’s eye imaginary news footage showing hoards of foot soldiers, armed with Tasers instead of guns. Occasionally a bomb would fall from the sky, spewing pepper spray. The fight for territory, for whatever reason it was happening, was harsh and brutal, but it was being done by soldiers on both sides who were taking unusual pains to spare every life. Why? Because in the war Lola was imagining, the soldiers operated in a world where murder was so abhorrent, so disgusting, that its commission, even in war, would lose the hearts and minds of those they were sworn to protect.

Seven hundred and forty thousand people a year. Could humans change enough to alter the very rules of warfare if society demanded it of them? We’d walked away en masse from cannibalism, incest, slavery, and human sacrifice, she thought. We were capable of declaring some actions not worthy. Why then not the action of taking another human life?

Were there circumstances in which a telepath would choose to shoot? Lola could think of two. The first seemed a contradiction in terms because it required a telepath who could sense the feelings of others and simply not care. He feels the other persons fear, anguish, possible remorse, hope for life, and then he shoots anyway. But to feel and not to feel was an oxymoron, or at least she hoped so.

The second possibility made her shudder as well. In this case the armed, yet caring, telepath sensed the potential victim’s thoughts and feelings, but instead of finding compassion, he or she would find those feelings so reprehensible, and so dangerous, that the telepath would make the painful and yet the fully informed choice to pull the trigger. To shoot anyway. Lola wondered what kind of victim it would take for a caring and moral telepath to make that choice.

(For more thoughts on how my characters’ superpowers might affect their lives see my post If you could see the future would you want to?)

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in peace, telepathy, writing

 

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