Wearing Sneakers to Church

“Me and God have an understandin’,” he said. “He don’t put on airs and I don’t either.”

That’s how I feel, also.  Maybe it’s because I spent a dozen years in Hawaii and now live in Florida, but I can’t imagine any reason for owning, much less wearing, a tie.  A suit, forget it.  As far as church is concerned, I shouldn’t have to get all dressed up to talk to a God who created me naked.

Of course, I have worn a suit in the past for weddings and funerals, but it was always under duress.  And there have been some very special occasions where I have worn a tie.  For instance, I recently wore a tie for the engagement party of a young couple I am very fond of, but I did so with the promise of tequila and an open bar.  I was the unofficial official photographer for the affair and from the eight-hundred or so photos that I took, it appears that I had a really good time.

There is no tie without tequila!

But what does this have to do with wearing sneakers to church?  Well, everything.

When I was young, I first attended a Catholic Church, then a Methodist Church.  Both left me with the distinct impression that attendance was more about seeing and being seen, ensuring that the “church uniform” gave the right impression, than worshiping God.  Now don’t get me wrong, while I don’t approve of dressing for show, I don’t endorse “dressing down” simply to give the impression of meekness, either.  My mother tells the story of how, if he was going to the bank to apply for a loan, my Dad used to wear his oldest clothes in the belief the impression of need would somehow influence the banker to approve the loan.  The banker could see through the deception and so can God.

Maybe this is one of the those much touted “first world problems”.  In most of America, we actually have the option to present ourselves as rich or poor, simply to create the impression we believe will help us most.  I use the term present ourselves” because I don’t believe that, even in America, do we have the choice to be rich or poor.  Our station, our class, and our jobs are largely determined for us by forces that are beyond our control.

So much of what we do in this life is about creating an image of conformity, rather than living our lives to their fullest potential.  We are influenced by the expectations of our parents, our siblings and friends, our society, our jobs, and organizations we belong to (including the church).  To my mind, the only thing that should hold sway over us is that of the greater good of mankind as a whole.  Once every belly is full, every child educated, and every disease cured should there be time or effort expended to feed the ego of either man or god.

Until then, I’ll wear jeans and sneakers to church and resist putting on airs for the sake of placing myself above my fellows.  I will write what I want when I want without regard to the fickle trends that so easily influence the shallow and gullible dilettantes of our society.

©Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

Road Trip — Epilogue

The end of the end, isn’t that what he said?  And he was right, of course.  The end of the end begins after the beginning, which is birth.  Every moment following that is the end of everything, on an individual level, on a global level—it’s all a matter of scale.

And this was the end of the end in its most universal sense.  Billions of years of evolution turned to corpses and rotting flesh.  In eleven days, the population of the world—humans and animals—had been all but eliminated.  A few stragglers survived, owing more to luck than preparation.  But who could have prepared for this, the world becoming a global feed lot?  The creatures, those perfect killing machines, weren’t the true invaders.  They were like predatory sheep, fattened for an otherworld market.

In a few days, full of humanity, the beasts would be harvested and slaughtered to feed the hungry masses aboard an interstellar convoy headed for a destination a million years distant.  Along the way countless planets would be colonized and harvested to feed the vision of an alien Moses.  Nothing else mattered to them but the vision, not the populations destroyed, not the evolution interrupted, nothing—but the end of the end.

And here, on this tiny insignificant planet, lost among all the other planets and stars that make up all the galaxies and solar systems and universes that are, life will undoubtedly continue—although greatly altered.  No doubt a few humans will survive.  If they are lucky, they may even procreate.  Chances of this are mathematically unlikely, because the world is a big place with many dangers.

And while some of the traditional terrestrial predators may be enjoying extinction, a new predator—the harvest was sure to leave a few behind—roams the earth with impunity.  It is highly likely that, just as man evolves, so will they.

This is not to say that this story is without hope.  The post-apocalyptic Bronx or Los Angeles or Miami may turn out to be the new Eden.  From it may arise a new race with new myths and legends and heroes.  And no doubt they will eventually ascribe the events of today with some greater purpose, such as the prescribed purification of humanity, attributed to the very will of God himself.  Well, God did say that he would never drown the world again.  He didn’t say a thing about predators from outer space.

***
Happy Halloween.  Sure, you can say that the story is derivative, as the theme has been written about by many more talented than I.  But it was short.  And written quickly.  And it was for a blog, for heaven’s sake.   But I hope you enjoyed it.

Now go out there and score some candy!

©Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

Before God

The first contact was quiet, obscure, and by any conventional standard quite unremarkable.  It required only a breath.  Whatever concept scientists, writers, and other visionaries of the ages may have had about the event, this wasn’t it.

I wouldn’t call it serendipitous, that first contact.  It was not, by definition, random or by chance, and it was not necessarily a happy circumstance.  Whether or not it was beneficial would be for later generations to decide.  But there was the fact that when contact did occur, it was carried on the wind to a child.  And that was the significant thing.

Children, especially very young ones, are non-binary. Binary thought is something children have to be taught.  Binary thought doesn’t come naturally to children, but it seems essential to adults.  The reason it is essential, of course, is that it helps adults establish the spatial and temporal boundaries in their lives.  Yes/no, true/false, in/out, black/white.  All ones and zeros.

The binary structure is carried on through all legal and religious paradigms.  Legal/illegal, saved/unsaved, living/dead, heaven/hell, start/finish, beginning/end.  To have a binary relationship, of course, there must be an incompatible opposite.  So if there is an alpha, there must also be an omega.

Furthermore, for whatever state we are in, we must have a beginning and an end, such as birth/death.  For this reason, the Bible begins with “In the beginning” and concludes with the end of the world.  In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, scientists developed the theory of the “Big Bang” and theorize about the death of the universe.  If the universe began, therefore it must also end.

Now besides having a compulsion to categorize their existence in binary terms, humans also share a compulsion to codify their categorization.  They did this first in the form of storytelling, then in writing.  So when they codified their understanding of the genesis of the universe, they rightfully attributed its design and complexity to something other than themselves.  This something other, they called God.

Because they knew that they weren’t capable of creating the universe, and they also weren’t capable of conceiving of an entity that was completely unlike themselves, the God they created was given human attributes.  God could be possessive, angry, jealous, creative, loving, gentle, forgiving, brutal, and even genocidal.  In other words, God is us.

And we look at the universe through the filter of “us”.  We search for planets like ours.  We hunt for alien life with characteristics from our own experience.  We have a difficult time conceiving of an entity or a space that is boundlessly infinite.  And yet.  There it was.

Lighter than breath and older than our universe, from before even God existed, it drifted down from the infinite cold of boundless space to find a mind that had yet to know its limitations.  From that moment, the girl was something more.

©Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

So here’s the thing…

Some physicists who subscribe to the idea of a multiverse, suggest that there may have also been multiple big bangs.  Mightn’t it be possible that from these multiple existences and geneses a certain amount of crossover might have occurred?  This crossover might go a long way towards answering the myriad questions we have about our origins.

Thoughts?

© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Praying for the right man

Although Eleanor and Robert had pledged their love and set a date to be married, her mother still prayed fervently to God that a good man would come along to marry her.   Unlike her mother,  Eleanor realized that there were no good men or bad men, just complex men.  And Robert, for all his failings, was a complex man.
© Copyright 2016 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Words For A Story Not Yet Published

There was a black speck in the sky, and the sun grew bright, like God had come to Earth. Too late they realized that it wasn’t the sun after all.

© Copyright 2015 by Kevin Fraleigh.

The best that God could do?

The reason I believe in extraterrestrial life (in some form) is that I find it too depressing to think that out of all the trillions of planets in all the universes that are, we were the best that God could do.
© Copyright 2015 by Kevin Fraleigh.

God, Physics, or Both?

God is physics or physics is god, which one is it? The purpose of God is to create everything. The purpose of physics is to explain how everything was created. When God created everything he established immutable laws to govern nature. The purpose of physics is to not only codify those laws, but to provide an understanding of how those laws operate in the universe. If this is true then there is no conflict between physics and God. That which God does, physics explains.

The apparent conflict between God and physics stems from the fact that evangelical Christianity is basically irrational. Now, that doesn’t mean that Christianity is not true, nor does it mean that salvation is empty. Where Christians run into trouble with physics is when Christians attempt to lock God into the Bible rather than seeing God in the context of a larger expansive universe or even multiple universes.

Christians who champion ideas such as a 6,000 year old universe are irrational. Science, using physics to explain the process by which God brought the universe into existence, has demonstrated rationally and logically that the universe is much much older than 6,000 years. In fact, the universe is billions and billions of years old. And the universe is much much larger anything here on earth. This is a rational, logical conclusion based on fact.

The Bible, it must be understood, is a book of stories, myths, and value laden guidance provided to the world at a specific time to a specific people for a specific purpose. When we attempt to apply every fact in the Bible as absolute truth and absolute law, we violate any sense of rationality. The belief in the in salability of an interpretive imperfect text violets any sense of rationality. Clinging to the idea that every word in the Bible is the word of God inerrant is to imprison God within a book. It is to limit the reach of God to our own parochial understanding of the universe. It is to do the world―and all the worlds that may be, that are yet to be discovered―a disservice, because it limits God to a specific place and time in history. God is the God of the universe, in fact, all the universes that are, have been, or will be.

The Bible that we have today is a result of man’s natural desire to explain his existence and the existence of everything. And as such it reflects as much about man as it does about God. It reflects our understanding of God and tries to explain it within the context of the time and place in which it was compiled. That does not mean that the Bible is any less valid in providing an understanding of God or Jesus for the historical context in which the texts in the Bible were written.

The concepts, the values, and the historical narrative remain of value as a way of understanding our relationship to God and his son, Jesus Christ. But we must understand that it isn’t the end all in our understanding of the world and the universe in which we exist. The Bible is the starting point and it must be viewed as such. God has given us the ability to understand the world and the universe and the laws that govern it. Physics provides us with an understanding and definition of the laws of the universe, the universe that God created.

Christians must understand as they try to bring others to Christ, that the very people they are trying to bring to Christ they may be driving off by their irrational, unquestioning devotion to a literal interpretation of the Bible and limited world vision. In order to save the world, in fact, to potentially save all worlds, Christians must understand that the people who they are trying to save are rational beings and will not accept an irrational message. It is not enough to say that this or that happened because it is a mystery, nor is it enough to say that one must just believe because one must believe. I believe they are too smart for that. They are too much of the world. They are rational beings and will not accept an irrational message. Physics provides the rational, logical answer to how the world began and how the universe formed. God provides the answer as to why the earth was created and why the universe exists.
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.

The Last Pope of Antioch

Here’s something I hope you’ll like and will comment on, an excerpt from a novel I’m working on called The Last Pope of Antioch. Be sure to let me know what you think of it.  Thanks!

Part One: The Red Convertible

1
The red convertible flew down the dusty, empty road like flame seeking something to ignite. The driver concentrated on his task. Seeing far beyond his horizon, far past his destination, he stared out through the waves of heat reflected from the road surface, sunglasses wrapped around his face seeming to form themselves to the contour of it. His face was angular, giving the impression of sharpness. Although it had been days since he had shaved, his pockmarked skin, possibly an artifact of the ravages of youth, showed no sign of stubble. The truth of it was that he had never developed a beard, so common in other men, and he counted himself lucky to be spared the razor, that dragging of sharp steel across unprotected flesh.

It may have been a reflection of light off the red convertible, complete with a red interior, but his skin had also taken on an unnatural redness. It was redness from more than just exposure or windburn. The redness stayed with him and was part of him. Contrasting with the redness was a gold ring that complimented his left ear and a dark, flat, wide-brim hat turned low in the front to shade his eyes.

He drove on through the wasted land, never turning, never stopping, never caring for what or who might either be by or in the road. Had there been a what or who, he would have simply gone around or through, never slowing, never losing his fix on that which his sight, not his eyes, showed him. His eyes sometimes failed him, but his sight was perfect. With his sight he saw the city, but before the city was—

2
The small town, it’s stick buildings little more than a flashpoint in the sun, stood as the last habitation before the hundreds of miles of borderland that separated the wastelands from the city. The wastelands were death. No one enters the wastelands and no one ever leaves was the old adage. The borderlands offered at least the possibility of life. And yet there he was, about to leave the wastelands, the cloud of dust generated by his flight still drifting across the scorched earth.

He brought the red convertible to a halt in front of what, in another life, may have been a hotel or saloon, but now it was a little more than a façade, a former shadow of itself. Despite its appearance, it seemed to offer respite from the glare of the hardpan and the suggestion that there might be drink. He sensed that there was life here, the smell of it was undeniable. If there was life, then there had to be water, or even better, hard drink. And if it was here, he would have it.

He was right about the life, of course, within the building were people―old, gray, frighteningly thin―dressed in rags, remnants of a time even before their remembering. Shadows within shadows, their existence was survival. Each breath was their work, every drop of sweat a cost. Trapped by their circumstances, they hid within their prison, terrified of the light. Their prison had been their home, a boarding house in the beforetime, now it was their coffin.

At his coming, the tremor of his engine brought them to the windows, disbelieving their own senses. And suddenly it was there and the very sight of it filled them with trepidation. Bright red body, chrome wheels, immaculate tires, it was something so alien to the people, so foreign, even to the concept of it, that they dared not even consider approaching it. So they stayed inside, hidden back against the shadows until he emerged from it. It was upon his emergence that the people turned from awe to trembling.

Had there been one still, or for that matter had there been one ever, one might say that he was dressed for Florida. But of course, there was no Florida, and not to anyone’s knowledge had there ever been. There was only the here and now, the hot dry hardpan of the wasteland. Yet there he was, with his leather deck shoes without socks, white khaki slacks, and a brightly flowered shirt, loose and airy. All these were clothes foreign to this where and when, a rash display of color foreign to this drab world of dust and dirt.

In a moment he was standing in the boarding house doorway. With the open door, light and heat burst in from the street, temporarily incinerating the shadow. He walked through the door, staring into the shadow, and squinted his dark green eyes together in an attempt to focus. As the door closed, the shadow regained its dominion.

Around him was noise, at first almost imperceptible, then it rose to a shuffling and the unmistakable sound of several someones trying far too hard to be quiet. Those sounds were followed by animated mumbling, but he could make out a few words. There was the word “stranger”, the word “red”, and the word “dangerous”. He didn’t like that at all. He didn’t come here to make trouble, just to get what he needed and leave.

The room he entered had, perhaps, been intended as a foyer with a sort of welcome desk facing the front door, but now there were several dusty tables with chairs between the desk and the door. This suggested to him that at some point in time the tables had been necessary to accommodate an overflow beyond the normal capacity of the dining room. The extra tables and chairs certainly weren’t needed now as the entire population of this town, including him, could probably be seated at two tables.

He picked a table in the center of the room and, after blowing the dust away from the seat, sat down.

“Barkeep!” he shouted to the shadows. “Whiskey for me and my friends. And water for my pony.” He spoke with a gritty brogue.

The shuffling and murmuring in the shadows grew more pronounced. He drummed his fingers on the table, not impatiently, but as if keeping time with a tune only he could hear. No, he was not impatient. He knew they would come to him eventually. They had to. They always did.

From the murmuring, from the shadows, came the first to be drawn. A tremulous, barely audible voice.

“Ain’t no whiskey nor water,” said the voice. “None since the beforetime.”

The beforetime. A quaint reference to the mythical time before this and all the worlds changed, he thought. And the thought brought him a tenuous grin. It was all myth to them and it would remain so. Their miserable lives were full of myths, like whiskey, ice cream, and God. When you have nothing else, myths fill the dark, empty, scary places in the lives of the lost.

“You may not have whiskey, but you must have water,” he said. “If you are alive, you must have water.”
The voices murmured were again punctuated by shuffling feet.

“Ain’t enuf ta share,” said the voice. “Ya bitter go now for the dark come.”

“Good advice,” he replied, “but I must still have water. Haven’t you heard that man cannot live by bread alone, he must also have water?”

More murmuring, more shuffling feet.

“God,” said the voice. This time he spoke more confidently. “Must have God.”

“God?” he asked, and then followed with, “No God, just water.”

“No water,” said the voice

“No whiskey. No water. No God,” he said flatly. “Are you ghosts that you have nothing, want nothing?”

“Not ghosts, alive all,” said the voice defensively.

He smiled now, as genuinely as he was able, disarmingly so.

“Then show me you are alive. I have not seen anyone in weeks,” he said. “Would you not share yourselves with a stranger?”

There was more murmuring and in the murmuring was fear. Their fear was palpable. He could feel it like a buzz in the air surrounding him, and he was glad for it. The fear made him strong and them weak. Fear opened the empty places so he could fill them with—

3
Darkness, more darkness than Kef Haener had ever experienced. And cold, even amid the one hundred and ten degree heat, he was chilled. He stood among them, suddenly struggling for breath with a thousand times his weight pulling him downward, down into a dark chasm within himself, down into the dark and the cold. In his terror he cried out.

“Stop! It hurts!” Kef screamed. “The dark. The cold. The…” He stopped screaming suddenly, because there was something else in there with him. He stopped screaming just short of naming it. His cries turned to pleas. “Make it stop. Oh, God, please make it stop.”

“No God,” the stranger said affectlessly. “No god can stop it, only I can. But you need to be emptied before you can be filled.”

Kef had fallen backwards violently, as if pushed, back into the small cluster of men and women in the shadows. In falling he knocked over a table and several chairs, creating a general tumult that scared the others and filled them with fear that the same thing would happen to them. They pulled back from Kef, not understanding what was happening. They could not comprehend his terror, could not conceive how the stranger was responsible, but were sure that he was. They shrank even farther back into the shadows while Kef began to gather himself. He stood, wobbly at first, but stood unaided, and then slowly, deliberately walked forward towards the stranger.

“Kef,” said the stranger, “if you would look behind the desk, I believe that there is a closet. In the back of the closet there is a panel that, once pressed, will open to reveal a trove of little treasures. And a bottle of whiskey. If you would bring me the bottle of whiskey with some water, I would be extremely grateful.”

Kef didn’t know why, but he was no longer afraid of the stranger, in fact he wanted to please the man. When the stranger requested the whiskey and water, he had no other thought than to comply. He found the bottle of whiskey and from a jug hidden behind the desk he poured a glass of water. He poured the precious liquid without thinking, without considering that it was all they had. One partially filled jug of water for all of them to share. The others, still afraid to show themselves, watched with horror as what little they had was presented to the stranger. Their horror turned to an impotent rage as Kef set the glass and bottle down.

“Leave the whiskey with me,” said the stranger, “but the water goes to my pony.”
“Pardon?” Kef looked confused.

“My little red pony.” The stranger made a waving motion towards the convertible. “The radiator must need water by now. Just check it and fill up the radiator if it’s low.”

Having never seen a convertible, much less a radiator, Kef stood there dumbfounded, unable to express his confusion.

“Hmmm,” mulled the stranger, “I can see where you might have a problem with that.” He stood up. “Grab the jug of water and come with me.” He motioned for Kef to follow him as he walked towards the door, whiskey bottle in hand. Kef followed obediently, although still not completely understanding why.

Outside in the terrible glare of the sun, the stranger unlatched the hood and explained to Kef about an automobile. The reservoir for the radiator was low and the stranger instructed Kef how to fill it. As Kef poured the water into the reservoir, angry, confused faces watched from the shadows through dust crusted windows.

Kef lowered the hood and was about to go back inside the boarding house when the stranger motioned for him to wait.

“You don’t need to go back in there,” he said. “Their destiny is no longer yours.” Kef didn’t understand what the stranger meant by that, but had no desire to question it. He turned and walked obediently back to the car.

The stranger stood for a moment staring at the boarding house. He shrugged his shoulders as if whatever he was contemplating had concluded without real resolution. Still holding the whiskey bottle, he screwed off the lid and held it up to his lips, taking a deep draught. He turned to Kef to offer him a drink, but then pulled it back as if thinking better of it. Next, he removed a rag that was lying on the dashboard of the convertible and tore off a strip which he soaked with whiskey. He shoved the whiskey soaked rag down the neck of the bottle. Taking a match, one perhaps saved for this specific purpose, from his pocket, he struck it and set the rag on fire. He watched the fire burn for a moment, then with an overhand pitch threw the bottle in a perfect arc, smashing it into and through the open door of the boarding house.

Immediately the dry timber building was an inferno. There was barely enough time for those left inside to realize they were dead, no time for anguish or prayers. Within minutes there was only ash and ember.

Kef’s reaction of horror was real, if delayed. He had known that others would die. He had known that from the moment the stranger walked into the boarding house. The others were different, somehow lesser, like bit players that existed only to keep him occupied until the stranger arrived. It was the suddenness of their deaths that shocked Kef, the sheer suddenness. And now he was alone with the stranger.

And now they were in the convertible, flying towards the borderlands at what Kef believed to be an unimaginable speed. The vehicle, the red pony as the stranger called it, moving almost soundlessly on the road, was something totally foreign to Kef. Yes, there were those that talked about such things, about how things like that existed in the beforetime, long ago before the world changed. As foreign as the concept of the red convertible was to him, one might have well described a moon landing, ice cream, or God.
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.