Bank Gothic


Before any new history of imagined time can be written, there must be revelations or epiphanies which are unique yet so enveloping that the dreamer must in some sense become the dream. Like the apostle John, whose visions in a cave on the Greek isle of Patmos foresaw a possible end to the world, at once cryptic and symbolic, I too found my own cave at such a fulcrum between worlds. This nook or dungeon of unexpected terrors is familiar yet universally feared. Associated with loss and pain, with prayers and imprecations hurled at whatever gods might be attending, it is a place from which most life now emerges, and to which all mortals inevitably return, in the end, to an understanding of their illusions.
—I do not profess any merit for my election, or even that such favor was granted. Certainly I feel no such worthiness or distinction. And it is quite natural that those reading these words may wish to dismiss what follows as the ramblings of a traumatized accident victim, given their own predilection to maintain the canon of beliefs in which they are vested. There is comfort in faith, however misplaced. What I will admit is that I do believe, if there is any basis for ultimate hope, that the human mind may never grasp it on this side of the veil.

The first of my series of visions occurred in semiconscious awareness of my physical limitations. While nurses monitored my status and doctors consulted charts regarding my head injuries, their faces seemed to ebb in peripheral focus around me, their words mere snippets of sound, estranged and disconnected from meaning, like glass-trapped vapors uncorked in the tide. Unable to decipher phrases or facial expressions, I closed my eyes, and quite abruptly drifted down into the vision of another reality which seemed oddly more realized or intricately perceived than the one I could no longer clearly remember. Could this be a possible future, somehow constructed as though by Japanese design? What appeared to be coffin-like chambers were seen in the windows of banks: chambers promising pure oxygen and a drug which causes the subject to become autistic, so that his subconscious inner life may exclude the pressures and tensions outside it. Somehow I knew that, should I desire it, my emotional needs would subside within into some relaxing void of non-awareness. So, too, I felt this need, and also suspected no other such refuge existed outside of these banks of coffins in which one might deposit themselves. My vision was that in our desperation to escape what was coming we would, like those who now seek succor in cyberspace, move deeper into our solitude than we already have. . . and trust these new bankers with our most valuable possession of all.

Einstein, right in many ways, wrong in others, seemed to believe in God, albeit not the God which creationists cherish, whose Earth is young, and whose God plays an inexplicable game of apparent age. Einstein the man, and Time magazine’s Man of the Century, was a fallible soul, a grain on the beach of spacetime, quickly and easily erased from this world, (itself a speck in a whirlwind which is a dot in the vast, expanding bubble of a fabric no one has yet explained). Still, if anyone had the right to indulge ego, it was Einstein. But he did not, for the most part. And he does now no more at all. What, then, to make of any ego, except that it is a phantom conscious state within a quickly recycled body?
—To say I saw Einstein in a grocery store, on the cereal aisle, and that such a revelation transpired in a sharply summoned epiphany is only partially true. There was nothing sharp about the vision, moving in and out of consciousness as I was, medical staff like ghosts stalking the hall to my left. Einstein indeed seemed real, it is true. Perhaps, in this alternate reality, he was and is as alive as anyone can be. What I mean is that I did not feel it bizarre to see him. Even when he spoke to me, saying, “hello” in perfect English, his slicked back white hair held tight in a pony tail as he turned his grizzled face toward me, I was not startled. His eyes twinkled a bit at my lack of surprise, and then he winked and turned away. In his cart were several boxes of oatmeal, some eggs, some milk. A solitary apple, large and green, lay beside these. And so I thought of Sir Isaac Newton. Was he in the fruit section? I went to see.
—He was. Both men were declared wrong, however, by a younger man sucking on a lime. This younger man told me that a fact linked to limes will be invaluable in curing cancer, and that a unified field theory will arise from a thought experiment involving sunspots. The young man was a high school dropout. Schools themselves, he claimed, were obsolete.

The proof that evolution operates in “leaps,” explaining why we haven’t found many transitional species, will be augmented by the discovery that such a leap is already in progress, involving the lowering of the human attention span and the loss of our former level of comprehension related to written language. Eclipsing even this, scientists will then discover a way to input the memories of one man into the brain of another, thereby making it possible to induce instant friendship with a stranger. Nefarious corporations will exploit this technology in targeting people against their will to be socially attuned to buy products and ideas, unaware of their influence. Business partners and sexual conquests may both be achieved by the invasive manipulation of memory. Love, for sale through a realignment of neurons, will precede an evolutionary adaptation against it, resulting in an interim dark age of image-driven, non-verbal thought processes, and the reduced ability for the working class to think critically. Gradually, they will lose the ability to read altogether, and their slavery will be complete.

When a popular travel blogger is discovered to be a paralyzed spinster who never went anywhere, her story will inspire development of a social network of linked computers in which participants all over the world share experiences in interfaced iPod chambers, only to live out real time relationships on a non-verbal, experiential level. Sports fans in Cleveland will be able to experience soccer matches in Rio, their consciousness and individuality subsumed into a crowd identity in which they feel some sense of belonging, however transitory and illusionary. The reason for the popularity of such chambers will eventually be felt outside, in the real world, as monster hurricanes and rising waters inundate much of Florida and other coastal states. Yet in the midst of worldwide famine and economic collapse, a pill will be patented which can extend human life by thirty years. (The breakthrough will come when scientists extract a bristlecone pine tree gene and deliver it to the human brain utilizing a modified AIDS virus. Alas, only the very wealthy will be able to afford the resulting pill formulations, although an adulterated powder version will sell at street level at roughly twenty-five times the cost of cocaine, and include the rush of that archaic drug.)

Suicide clubs will come into vogue, but these will be eclipsed by sporting events in which teams play to the death on gridirons that become more electrified the closer one gets to the goal. This, in certain third world countries vying for media attention, will imbue a new meaning to the phrase “end zone.”

It will be discovered that the Mayans were exterminated by a comet similar to one which fell in Siberia in the early 20th Century, and that the ancient Egyptians began building their pyramids when lifespans dropped from over a hundred years to a mere 45 years due to the evolutionary effects of increased solar and cosmic radiation. A newly discovered and translated Egyptian text will then reveal a prediction that the world will end in 2086. But this prediction will prove to be off by almost fifty years.

In 2017 the world may indeed end for many celebrities and politicians in America, but not for reasons previously postulated. Toward the end of that year a drug cartel’s don will be captured by a rancher whose property straddles the Mexican border, and this don will be offered to the United States in exchange–not for money–but for carte blanche in freedom of movement within America for one year. The rancher, a recipient of access immunity by a direct act of Congress and executive order, will be legally unrestricted in his movements. The cartel will indeed be crushed, but this will go largely unnoticed, especially by the wealthy cocaine users whose residences may now be entered at any time for any reason at the whim of one man. Entrance cannot be denied to this man, who may, at his leisure, request police or military backup to achieve it. No residence in Hollywood or on Miami’s Star Island, no condo in Manhattan or Washington will be off limits. Should he desire it, he may enter the White House at midnight and search the Lincoln bedroom. By Presidential fiat, backed by a majority vote from beleaguered and otherwise ineffectual lawmakers, this one man, among hundreds of millions, will (at long last) be exempt from having to obey the words “Keep Out.” And for him, the most famous and feared man in history, this, (and for every despairing American citizen), will make all the difference.
J Lowe)

Cruise Ship Fantasy

cruise ships

Sailing down from Bermuda, the S.O.S. Improbable is typical of a fleet which consists of three ships, and completes a trilogy. Of the three ships afloat — also including the M.S. Incredible and the B.S. Implausible — it is the S.O.S. Improbable which provoked the most speculation, and which boasted the most interesting performers (to say nothing yet about its passengers). After all, while sailing into the glorious turquoise Caribbean sea, can you imagine dining on lobster and filet mignon with the likes of Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, Nelson DeMille, and Nora Roberts?
Picture retiring from dinner with an espresso, and wandering into the ‘Audiotorium’ for the Audie Awards, which now include a voice contest for talented wannabes after the style of THE VOICE. Will they turn any chairs from the judges, Simon Prebble, Martin Jarvis, George Guidall, and Barbara Rosenblat? Winner gets to ballroom dance with star performer Jim Dale, or tango with J. K. Rowling.
Suffice it to say, the ship itself was well-fitted, luxurious throughout, and that although the registry was unknown, the liquor ran freely, and the midnight buffets feature ice sculptures, caviar, prime rib, and “Death by Chocolate” cake. (After a dramatic reading of Elizabethan poetry by the tipsy duo of Scott Brick and Orson Scott Card, a sword-wielding game of Truth or Dare ensued between narrator Grover Gardner and author Thomas Harris.) Sound like fun? Book now!

A Lock On It

What Dreams May Come

“Has he confessed or not?” I once asked Lieutenant Drake of the NYPD as he handed me the police report.
“Yes and no, Mr. Moss,” Drake replied. “As his court appointed lawyer, you’ll have to sort that out on your own. He was caught red handed, but claims he’s not guilty. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several more important—meaning violent—crimes to attend to.”
I remember I went to the room where Albert Noonan was presented to me. A short bald man in his forties, he seemed placid and almost disinterested, yet his blue eyes were alive and alert. I sat across from him, and opened the folder on the table between us. Then we shook hands. His fingers felt cool, and relaxed. “I’m Freddy Moss, Mr. Noonan,” I said. “I’ll be representing you in court.”
“Yes,” Noonan said.
“Yes,” I repeated his flat, uninflected acknowledgment. “Well, it says here that you are suspected on nine occasions to have placed your own locks on other people’s various doors and gates. On the ninth and last occasion you were caught chaining shut the ticket office to a football stadium just before tickets to a rap concert and Dodgers game went on sale. The note in your pocket read ‘Resist nothing except the illusion of ego and its emotions and obsessions.’  Tell me, were you about to copy the man who the press is calling Sargon, or are you really him?”
“Do you really know who you are?” Noonan asked me, without a trace of sarcasm.
“Excuse me?” I said, with some abstraction.
“Names are merely signposts pointing to the reality beneath,” he declared, although his voice remained calm and even. “They are constructs of the ever compulsive mind, which can only label things and produce in you a fear of your own destruction.”
I smiled despite myself. “That’s nice, Albert, but we haven’t got time to discuss philosophy.”
“It is not a philosophy, it is a simple fact. As for time, it is an illusion. Most people live in the past or the future, and yet the past and future do not exist, nor have they ever existed. Everything that happens, happens in the Now.”
I coughed and looked down at my notes again for a refresher. “So. . . may I call you Al, or do you prefer ‘Sargon the Enlightened One’?”
He continued to study me, his sharp blue eyes trying to delve beneath mine. “As I said, names are meaningless. It is the ego, the mind which needs to label things. But the ego or mind is not you. You are behind it. Only the real you can know another person, not your mind. Your mind can only know labels. It labels everything from a flower to a person, but cannot truly know anything.”
“Listen . . . Mr. Noonan? I’m about to lose my cookies here. If I’m to defend you, you’ll have to cooperate.”
“If only that were true,” he said.
What do you mean, if only that were true? You don’t think I’m here to help you?”
“No, I mean if only you were losing your mind. You think too much. Everyone does. This is what is wrong with the world. The mind plays an endless game with you, and you identify with it.  It hates the Now, and so you are never happy or at peace.”
“Please, Albert,” I pleaded. “Please just answer my question.”
“I have answered your question, have I not?”
“No, you have not. At least not legally, not technically. Are you this Sargon they talk about in the papers, or aren’t you?”
He sat back and folded his hands. After a moment he said, “It was around seven hundred BC, in the Assyrian capital of Khorsabad, that King Sargon the Second used a lock to secure the gate to his fortress. His lock was wooden, and utilized a wooden key which had notches on it matching the blocks or ‘wards’ inside the lock. Over twenty four hundred seventy years later, in 1778, Robert Barron invented the first lever tumbler lock, which consisted of a housing containing springs, metal tumblers, and a rotating inner core called a plug. Unlike all prior warded locks, these pin, disk, or lever tumbler locks were difficult to pick because a cam was involved. Now, of course, certain tumbler locks are secured inside housings of tempered magnesium alloy steel. And since we should live in the Now, this is what matters now, does it not?”
“Do I take that as a yes?”
He just sat there and stared at me.
I sighed. “Let me try again. Are you the perpetrator, alias Sargon the Enlightened, a locksmith from Van Nuys by trade? Please enlighten me.”
He looked away. “The past is given as a reference, for your mind, which clings to such things. In the more recent past I used a special tool steel pin tumbler padlock combined with a nickel alloy hardened steel chain reinforced with molybdenum alloy studs. My chain resisted hacksaw blades, and required nothing less than an argon plasma torch to defeat.”
“Now that your most recent history is straight, at least,” I said, flourishing my pen, “would you mind telling me exactly why you did this thing, Al?”
“Is it not obvious?”
“You mean by the notes left at the scene? What’d you do, anyway, read some Buddhist text, and decide to make your classroom as big as all outdoors?” I paused, and watched his face for reaction. There was none. He was at peace with himself, devoid of hostility or even worry over the consequences of his acts. “And by the way,” I added, hidden curiosity now stabbing me like a knife, “where did the sayings they found come from, again?”
He blinked at the ceiling. “They are from the Ten Grave Precepts attributed to Bodhidharma from the book Isshin Kaimon, The Precepts of One Mind.”
“Oh, of course.” I turned pages in my file, and read aloud. “Okay, the first here is ‘I take up the way of not killing.’ Supposedly you left that ‘precept,’ as you call it, not at an abortion clinic or death house, Al, but at a military drone contractor. . . right after you picked and replaced their front door’s mortise lock with a double dead bolt. Sound familiar?”
He gave me no reaction, so I continued.
“Next was ‘I take up the way of not stealing,’ a note they say you left at Sterling Health Services, an HMO under investigation by a 60 Minutes crew, after you chained shut their administration building. Then it was ‘I take up the way of not abusing animals,’ which was found on a meat packing kingpin’s metal office door, next to his Hummer car dealership, after you clamped a titanium padlock onto the door’s built-in flange. Nice work there, Al. Easy enough for anybody to do, too, huh?”
“Then the next day the note, ‘I take up the way of not speaking falsely,’ appeared on the door to union local 393 of the Teamsters. And ‘I take up the way of not giving or taking drugs’ was found on the locked door to Liquor World off 42nd Street. Then ‘Sargon the Enlightened One’ apparently took a week off, because it was a week later the note ‘I take up the way of not supporting the lies of others’ was discovered on the chained door to BuzzFeed. And yet all this still didn’t get much press, did it, until ‘I take up the way of not praising myself while ignoring those who suffer’ appeared on the exit doors to the Dorothy Chandler pavilion during an awards ceremony two weeks after that. Did you go on vacation out to L.A. then, Al? And how did you accomplish that one without getting caught? I thought those Hollywood awards shows had high security.”
“Even security guards do not always live in the Now, unfortunately for them,” Noonan replied with cryptic ease.
“They’re unenlightened, is that what you’re saying? Like me?”
He nodded, but without any detectable trace of emotion. “Perhaps it explains to you how a person is able to slide five bicycle U-locks into the adjacent entrance door bars while passing outside.”
“Uh huh. . .  Well, you certainly got everyone’s attention with that one. They had the fire department out front on live television. And while that was happening a. . . person . . . left ‘I take up the way of not being stingy’ in a note on the windshield of a Mercedes, right after he defeated the alarm and locked The Club onto the steering wheel. What was that about?”
“The car belonged to a star who gave her time to charity, but not her money. The time she gave was for her own aggrandizement, and the charity parties she attended spent more on flowers and food than was given to the poor.”
“Why take the time and the risk right then, though?”
Noonan closed his eyes, then, and took in a slow, deep breath. Finally he opened his eyes, which I imagined were even bluer. “Time is an illusion,” he said.
I laughed. “You won’t think so when you’re doing it,” I promised him. “You could get twenty years for this, even if you plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court!”
“Have mercy,” he said, “on yourself. You are the court. Your own judge, jury, and executioner. May I tell you why you are so obsessed with guilt that you must return to it constantly?”
“We haven’t got time for that, Al. We have to prepare your defense.”
“Resist nothing,” he instructed me.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me, but you are not listening. Your mind is creating a constant dialog, a background noise from which you cannot escape. You need to turn it off, and step out of time’s grip on you into the present. Then you can know your true self, and become alive instead of just labeling things around you. Then you will know there is no salvation in the future, and no resolution from the past. There is only the Now, and it is more than enough.”
“Now, now,” I said, although the smile on my face felt forced.
He leaned forward, looking directly into my eyes. “Yes, now is the time to awaken,” he said, “from your false identity.”
“My false identity,” I repeated, contemplating it for the first time, turning it in my mind in frustration. But my mind, with its old patterns, still animated my lips. “Now, of course,” I heard myself say, “the only thing they’ve really got on you is the stadium box office incident. That precept about taking up the way of not indulging in anger. And resistance. If you’re a copy cat, though, and you’re not this Sargon guy, I may be able to get you off with probation. After all, you’ve got no record up to now. Which means it’s your choice now, isn’t it? So tell me, what’s it gonna be? Not much time. Are you guilty or not guilty, Albert? Enlighten me!”
Some say that Time is an illusion of the mind. Of the ego. Ironically, over time, I’ve since learned that’s true. When my wife left me, taking with her our son Jimmy, she complained of my staying too long at the office, and of neglecting her. Going out the door, she was crying when she said maybe now I had all the time in the world. Which got me to thinking. Until, in my misery, I gave up thinking altogether, and lost my job too.
I don’t know how much time has passed, since, but the one who is known as Albert Noonan goes on trial soon. I will not be defending him, nor does he require a defense. I can only complete his unfinished work, the tenth precept. And so I will take up the way of not defaming that which reflects true self-nature, in that subtle and mysterious realm of the One which does not hold dualistic concepts of ordinary beings and sages. The teisho of the actual body is the harbor and the weir. This is the most important thing in the world–the letting go of ego and of waiting and even of seeking. In the eternal present, its virtue finds its home in the ocean of essential nature, and it is beyond explanation. So let the court decide what it will, I know that Albert Noonan is not guilty. And when his jury has been sequestered–when they are locked away–they will see the Truth, too.  -0-
© Jonathan Lowe