Tuesday, October 10, 2017



In high school, Eric was an atheist. He exulted in his Nietzschean emancipation. A member of the honor society, Eric's IQ was definitely above average, but well short of brilliant. Yet he viewed himself as a superior being compared to his benighted classmates. He had particular contempt for a special ed student–as well as Josh, an openly Christian classmate. Eric regarded Christianity as a crutch for the weak. He disdained its "slave morality". He used to quote Mark Twain's adage, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Although Eric derived momentary satisfaction from looking down on others, and contriving clever putdowns, he felt empty and bitter. That attitude ate away at him.


One weekend, some students organized a hike up the mountain. There were two small teams. Josh was in the first team, ahead of the second team, which Eric was in. When they began their ascent at the crack of dawn, it was a clear, chilly day. But further up the trail, it became overcast. At that point Eric removed his sunglasses. About an hour later, Eric's vision became blurry and painful. Despite the cloud cover, unfiltered UV rays from the thin air in combination with reflected light from snow-blanketed hillsides, induced snowblindness. 

The first team reached the summit, then began their descent, crossing paths with the second team, on the way up. By the time his team was approaching the summit, Eric could no longer see well enough to continue. He had to sit down. He told his classmates he was losing his vision. But they left him there while they made it to the summit, to take in the spectacular view. 

On the way back down, they walked past Eric. He was hoping, expecting, counting on one of them to lead him back down the trail, since he couldn't see well enough to navigate the trail on his own. But his classmates were worried that he'd slow them down. They needed to make it back to base camp before sundown, since they couldn't see the trail in the dark and temperatures plummeted after dark. So they left him behind to fend for himself.

Eric cursed them out leaving him behind, to die from exposure, but they quoted back to him one of his fond Nietzschean aphorisms: "The great majority of men have no right to existence, but are a misfortune to higher men."


So Eric sat by himself, desperately pondering what to do next. Although he could barely see, he tried to text-message Josh to come rescue him. 

At first he didn't remember Josh's number. Then, for the first time in his life, he prayed. A moment later, he remembered the number. 

He wasn't sure his message was intelligible, since he couldn't see the keypad properly, and he wasn't sure Josh even got the message, because reception was spotty on the trail. In fact, he wasn't sure if he had the right number. 

So he sat by himself in lonely silence and fading light. Fading, not because it was getting dark outside, but because his eyesight was fading. Minutes later, he was totally blind. 

Eric sat there for what seemed like hours. He realized that he was terrified of death. He didn't really believe Twain's adage. All along, he was playacting, having cast himself in a flattering role. He used to love quoting Nietzsche's death-defying maxims, but he only wanted to live dangerously if it wasn't really dangerous. 

So he sat and sobbed. He swore at God, if there was a God, for letting him die on the mountain side. 


Having lost hope, and having lost track of time, Eric was surprised and startled when he heard Josh call to him. Josh gave him a hug, and Eric cried. Josh waited for Eric to regain his composure, before putting eyedrops in his sunburned eyes, then winding a bandage around his eyes to keep him from blinking. 

Then Josh took him by the hand and began to lead him down the trail. When the trail was rough, Josh put Eric's arm around his shoulder to guide and steady him. 

It was too late to make base camp before dark, so they had to find a place on the trail, below the timberline, to camp out overnight. Josh gathered wood for a fire. Eric was utterly helpless. Josh fed him rations–spooning the spam out of the tin can with his finger. They snuggled for warmth during the frigid night.

Next day they continued their descent. After arriving at base camp, they spent another day and night in one of the cabins until Eric regained his sight. 


After that, Josh and Eric were best friends. Eric began to read the Bible, asking Josh questions about the Bible. He attended church with Eric. Befriended the special ed student. In college, Josh suffered a crisis of faith, and it was Eric to prayed for him. 

Decades later, Josh predeceased him. On his deathbed, Eric reflected on his brush with death as a teenager. Once again, he was facing death, yet the contrast made all the difference. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Déjà vécu


When Jayden awoke, he found himself in a hospital room. He didn't remember how he got there. He wasn't in pain. Wasn't injured. Had no surgical incisions. The hospital was eerily quiet. He walked down the hallway, but the hospital was deserted. He went outside, but the streets were deserted. He didn't remember what happened after that.


Jayden found himself hiking with his son Xavier. He didn't remember what happened before then. They were climbing a hill. When they reached the summit, there was a was a mountain range in the distance. They started down the hill, towards a stream. He didn't remember what happened after that.


Jayden found himself on the football field of his old high school. He was coaching a player named Xavier. It was a crisp autumn day, with colorful trees surrounding the field, as well as leaves littering the track. He didn't recall what happened after that.


Jayden found himself in a barbershop. He didn't recall how he got there. Ava, a middle-aged beautician, was cutting his hair. He felt like he'd known her for a long time. 


Jayden found himself at a Thanksgiving meal at his mother's home. His mother Ava was busy in the kitchen, while he was talking to his brother Jordan in the front yard, facing the river. The sun was low on the horizon. He didn't remember driving there.


Jayden was driving on the expressway. He didn't recall where the trip began. The expressway was lined with familiar motels and exits he'd seen so many times before along that stretch of highway. He felt that he was heading home, although, as he thought about it, he didn't recollect where home was. He was driving back by force of habit–like he'd done this many times before. In the passenger seat was his wife Debbie. 


Jayden woke up in the bedroom of his college dorm. His roommate, Jordan, was seated upright in bed, typing on his laptop. Jordan was his best friend from high school. Jayden was pondering what to do next, but he didn't remember what happened after that. 


Jayden found himself sitting in a pizzeria, talking to a pretty waitress named Debbie. He sensed having had this conversation before. He had a foreboding that this would slip away as abruptly as it began. 


Jayden found himself sitting in an empty church. One of those churches that's open during weekdays so that people can visit the sanctuary to pray and mediate. He was flipping through the hymnal. 

Jayden couldn't shake the feeling of déjà vécu, like he was trapped inside a recurring dream, or circuit of dreams. Only he never really woke up. Every time, he woke up in the dream rather than waking up from the dream. A merry-go-round of dreams, where he kept reliving the same episodes, in no particular order. He could remember just enough to recall having done it all before, but he couldn't remember when it began–or if it began. He kept meeting the same people–or were they the same people? They had the same names. Same faces. Like a parallel universe. 

What was real? What was happening to him? Was he losing his mind? Or tripping out on LSD? Perhaps he suffered traumatic brain trauma from an accident. This was his delirium, as he frantically struggled to become fully lucid. Like a diver swimming towards the sunlight, but every time he's just about to surface, he sinks back. 

It had been going on for much too long to be a dream. He remembered it happening over and over again. Or did he? Maybe his memories were part of the hallucination–if that's what it was. The fact that he kept encountering the same people suggested that he knew them in the real world–whatever that was. He felt like an amnesiac groping to piece his life together, hoping to tap into some association that would suddenly bring it all back. Maybe in the real world, his body was sedated, with simulated imagery feeding into his mind through a neurointerface. 

He looked again at the hymnal in his hands. He knew this scene would vanish. He'd been there before. He'd been there again, sitting in the same spot, holding the hymnal open to the same page. 

He hadn't been very pious when all this began, assuming it had a beginning. Maybe it was like a Möbius strip, forever circling back on itself, without a starting-point or destination. But in his maddening ordeal, the only thing that kept him centered was the dawning realization that even if nothing else was real, God had to be real. If it was a recurring dream, that existed in God's reality. If it was an acid trip, that existed in God's reality. If it was a parallel universe, that existed in God's reality. If it was a computer simulation, that existed in God's reality. 

Only God could penetrate his experience. God was the only thing outside his experience that was able to reach into his experience. So God was the only realty he could reach from inside the illusion. And only God could connect him to his loved ones, whom he kept meeting and losing, meeting had losing.