Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

It is that time of year again, but you must put aside all of the stress and celebrate the birth of Jesus by singing songs.  Go out and buy that ham and make sure that you get some oranges, cloves, cinnamon and rice porridge for Uncle Joe.  Clean your house, decorate the tree with ornaments, hang the mistletoe, wrap the gifts and make sure that you leave out a shot of whiskey for Santa to protect him from the biting cold.  Snuggle up by the fire, and be with your family.  Light up some candles and watch the snowfall glistering against the darkness.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Bonus Wordle “Holidays”.

Star Wars and Christmas

Yoda a fictional character in Star Wars who says things like, “Sorry, but go you must”, instead of saying, “Sorry, but you must go”, because English was not Yoda’s native language.  Yoda is famous for his strange speaking pattern, which can be seen in the following quotes: “No more training do you require.” “Only pain will you find.”  “Your father he is.”  Yodish is different from English, because our sentences follow a subject-verb-object order (OSV) or sometimes an Object-Agent-Verb (OAV).  In a sentence, the action is denoted by a verb, and the agent is denoted by a noun phrase.

Hyperbaton (placing of a Word out of its usual order) is an inversion of normal word order and this is a generic term for a variety of figures involving transposition (because all words should be arranged in a sentence according to certain laws and in English these are fairly strict), it is sometimes synonymous with anastrophe, but hyperbaton only changes the position of a single word.  Anastrophe which is derived from the Greek word for ‘to turn back’ is occasionally referred to as a more specific instance of hyperbaton.  In English, inversion is accomplished by placing an adjective after the noun that it modifies (the form divine), or a verb before its subject (Came the dawn), or a noun preceding its preposition (worlds between).

Inversion is most commonly used in poetry to satisfy the demands of the metre (basic rhythmic structure), and to achieve emphasis.  Inversion always occurs in interrogative statements where verbs or auxiliaries or helping verbs are placed before their subjects.  Similarly, inversion happens in typical exclamatory sentences where objects are placed before their verbs and subjects and preceded by a wh- word, such as the following examples: “What a beautiful picture it is!”, or “Where in the world were you!”, or “How wonderful the weather is today!”

Deck the Halls is written in trochaic tetrameter, which is a meter in poetry.  Tetrameter simply means that the poem has four trochees, where a trochee is a long syllable, or a stressed syllable, followed by a short, or unstressed, one.  Stresses on a syllable are detected by simply noting which syllable one puts stress on when saying the word.  In many cases, this is the syllable which is pronounced loudest in the word.  That means that each line has four feet, and each foot has two syllables, the first stressed, the second unstressed:

The inversion in this song allowed the songwriter to maintain that meter, DECK the HALL with BOUGHS of HOLly, ‘TIS the SEAson TO be JOLly, DON we NOW our GAY aPARrel, TROLL the ANcient YULEtide Carol.  Is there a gayer holiday than Christmas?  The word ‘gay’ is rarely used as a synonym for ‘merry’ anymore, unless it is done for nostalgic purposes.  The word ‘merry’ somehow fits better in today’s politically-correct society than the word ‘gay’ as it is no longer associated with happy, ebullient, cheerful or carefree like it once used to be.  I wonder how much longer Deck the Halls will endure if people are no longer having a gay time in their gay outfits?

Give Me That Old Time Religion

I hate it when history can’t decide how to spell someone’s name and this is the case for Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra who lived in a time that is not firmly established (anywhere from 1400 BC to 500 BC) was a unique Persian thinker.  Zoroaster was a prophet who worked as a priest and he was said to have received a vision from Ahura Mazdā (the supreme god known as the Wise Lord), who appointed him to preach the truth.  Zoroaster lived in a time when the Iranian people were evolving a settled agriculture, and he broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, espousing the idea of a one good God.  Initially these people were opposed to his teachings, but he was confident in the truth that was revealed to him so he spread his monotheistic message. He placed his god at the center of a kingdom of justice that promised immortality and bliss and he attempted to reform the ancient Iranian religion.  His referred to those who opposed his views as the followers of the Lie.

After the Jews were exiled and held as captives in Babylon, Cyrus the Persian king liberated them and one of his successors Darius, organized and funded the return of some of the captives to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  Ezra focused on the rebuilding of the temple, while Nehemiah focused on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Ezra concentrated on religious reform, while Nehemiah concentrated on political issues.  From this a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion, emerged what it is known as Zoroastrianism and the Persian influence on Judaism was powerful and long lasting.

Zoroaster was a family man, with a wife, three sons and three daughters.  He rejected the current religion because of the multitude of gods, the oppressive class structure, the use of animal sacrifices and the hallucinogenic rituals.  When Zoroaster was thirty years old he had a divine vision of God during a ritual purification rite.  This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others.  Zoroaster believed in one creator God, teaching that only one God was worthy of worship.  He also said that some of the deities of the old religion appeared to delight in war and strife and Zoroaster said that these were evil spirits and were God’s adversaries.  After Zoroaster was granted a vision from god, he said, “Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of thy bliss!”

Exacerbated

Angels are beings who have greater power and ability than humans, and they are designated by the name ‘heavens’ or of ‘light’.  They exist in heaven, or the spirit realm, which is a level of existence higher than the physical universe.  God created a whole range of spirits, including good and evil angels, and there are special categories for angels such as cherubim, seraphim and the archangel.  The Scripture does not really say much about the creation of angels and the time of their creation is never definitely specified, but Satan was in the Garden of Eden, so angels have been around for a long time.

The Bible does say that God created the angels through Jesus, who was “the firstborn of all creation.”  God used Jesus in creation and “By means of [Jesus] all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible”.  The Angels are wonderful heavenly beings that God created for His glory, but they do not marry and or reproduce, so all the angels were created at the same time, and no new angels have been added to the original number. Angels were created in the distant past, before the earth existed, because the Bible states that when God created the earth, the angels were singing and they began shouting in applause.  Moses wrote Genesis for his people who were uncultured slaves that were incapable of understanding the concept of an incorporeal being, so their creation story was left out of that part of the Bible.

Our Creator Himself is so powerful and glorious that man cannot approach Him in person, but since the Angels do not have man’s shortcomings, they can communicate between God and man.  They bridge the huge gap between the holiness and perfection of God in heaven and the defects, deficiencies, faults, flaws, imperfections, limitations and weakness that is inherent in people.  Angels were made immortal, not subject to death or any form of extinction, and Jesus was actually made lower than the angles, so He could suffer death.

A timeline would show that originally an all-powerful, all-intelligent and supremely perfect eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient God existed, who endured from eternity to eternity, and was and will be present from infinity to infinity. Sometime later God created Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Religion is such an odd concept, as nothing happens without God’s knowledge and permission, it is kind of like Santa knowing who is on the Naughty and Nice Lists.  God has perfect knowledge of all things, He does not have to learn anything and He has not forgotten anything.  God does not have to reason things out, or learn anything, because He already knows everything that has happened and everything that will ever happen. It can’t be easy having to foresee all the sins that will ever be committed, all the atrocities of war, birth defects and other mutations, debilitating injuries, devastating diseases, natural disasters, death, pain and the eventual extinction of everything.

I did an exhaustive search to find a creation story for the Angles, only to become exacerbated, because I was not able to find out anything more than what I wrote above.  Clearly someone needs to write a story that explains the creation of the Angels and I guess that is my job, so here it goes.  One day, (not really a day as there was nothing but an empty void) God was sitting around in Heaven with His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit and He told them that He was going to create some messengers.  Jesus said, “Father that is an awesome idea, but why do you need messengers?”  God replied, “They will be used to as intermediaries between Heaven and the people that I plan to create.”  The Holy Spirit asked, “Why do you want to create people?”  God said, “Some things cannot be fully understood or comprehended, but I plan to shower man with My love.”

Jesus said, “All mighty Father, what will these Angels look like?  How many will you create?  Will We be able to talk with them?  Will they all be the same?  God said, “Those are all good questions and Your curiosity has earned You the task of creating them.”

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Sunday Writing Prompt #233 “Creation Myth”.

The Pretender

Jackson Browne wrote ‘The Pretender’ in 1976 for the album of the same name.  This song ushered in an era where “Greed was considered good” and eventually this won out over the Beatles theme of “All you need is love.”  The Pretender is the story of a man who betrays his ideals and principles in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  Materialism became associated with the 80’s, but Browne describes a guy who was a yuppie several years before that term came into use.  Browne’s lyrics depict a narrator who is trying to decide what matters most between love or money.  When he tries to reconcile his youthful promise with what he has become, he can’t understand it and that is reflected in these lyrics, “I want to know what became of the changes we waited for love to bring  Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening?”

The Pretender is very sad, because in the end this guy gives up his dreams to settle for a conditioned comfortable life.  Giving up on your dreams is never good, as when your dreams are not fulfilled you may end up with a job that you don’t like, a wife you don’t really love and a life that you really didn’t want.  This song is also filled with life and hope about a man who wants to find a girl and make love to her, but money wins out over love.  This song has an unforgettable piano hook, some lovely strings, and the impeccable harmonies of David Crosby and Graham Nash.

Jackson Browne with Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Pretender – Madison Square Garden – October 2009

I’m going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
I’m going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I’ll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I’ll get up and do it again
Amen
Say it again
Amen
I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You’ll get up and do it again
Amen
Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there
Ah the laughter of the lovers
As they run through the night
Leaving nothing for the others
But to choose off and fight
And tear at the world with all their might
While the ships bearing their dreams
Sail out of sight
I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint-by-number dreams
And then we’ll put our dark glasses on
And we’ll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We’ll get up and do it again
Get it up again
I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

Written for 12/17/17 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday where the theme is pretending.

What is Time

Time is a dimension (like space), but it behaves a little differently than space.  Time is one of the most difficult properties of our universe to understand.  With clocks we measure numerical order of material change.  This numerical order is the only time that exists in a physical world.  With this approach all immediate information transfers of quantum physics are explained in a more appropriate way.  Time is usually defined by its measurement, that being simply what a clock reads.

We can’t see objects in the past nor those in the future, we only see those in the present moment of time.  We only exist in the present and can never experience the future or the past because they act at right angles to the present.  Time is an illusion created by the changing universe, or changes of every consciousness.  The concept of time as a way to measure the duration of events is not only deeply intuitive, it also plays an important role in our mathematical descriptions of physical systems.

Physics often requires extreme levels of precision in time measurement, which has led to the requirement that time be considered an infinitely divisible linear continuum, and not quantized (i.e. composed of discrete and indivisible units).  The concept of time generally used is that of absolute time (also called Newtonian time), is independent of any perceiver, progresses at a consistent pace for everyone everywhere throughout the universe, and is essentially imperceptible and mathematical in nature.  In the early 20th Century, relativistic time has become the norm within physics.  This takes into account phenomena such as time dilation for fast-moving objects, gravitational time dilation for objects caught in extreme gravitational fields, and the important idea that time is really just one element of four-dimensional space-time.  Multiple dimensions may exist and we might never be able to prove it.

The difficulty of visualizing the 4th dimension when you live in a 3D world, is that most people just can’t conceptualize any geometries beyond 3D.  Sure there are a handful of mathematicians and theoretical physicists that work with 4D and 5D spaces, but none of them would claim to be able to visualize what it truly looks like.  They tend to visualize in projections or by breaking down their dimension into slices, where they take their big object, and flatten out one of the dimensions so that it fits in 3D.

A point has no spatial extent it is a 0D space, but a point can be stretched out into a line, to become a 1D space.  If you slide this 1D line sideways, you can build a 2D plane.  This 2D plane can be swept up in order to build a 3D space.  You can think of this like being a stack of an infinite number of really thin 2D slices, which can be bundled together to make this 3D space.  However the 4th dimension doesn’t have any direction in it, it is sort of like how an ant on a sheet of paper can’t move up or down off of it, because it is confined to the 2D plane of the paper.  If we take our 3D space, and just smear it out again, so that we now have an infinite number of 3D ‘slices’, and staple them all together, that is sort of what the time dimension looks like because the time coordinate is instantaneous ‘slices’ of 3D spaces.  I like to think of a flip book, where each page has its spatial dimensions, and motion in the time coordinate amounts to flipping forward or backward in the book.

Philosophers have debated the nature of time long before modern physics.  But in the 100+ years since Einstein, the prevailing view in physics has been that time serves as the fourth dimension of space, represented mathematically as 4D Minkowski spacetime.  Einstein did not interpret time “t” as a fourth dimension of space.  Space is not 3D + T, instead, it is 4D.  Simply stated, the first three dimensions are used to specify an object’s location/movement in space (forward-backwards, left-right and up-down), while the fourth dimension locates its position in time.  All four dimensions are used to specify completely the location or dynamism of an object in space.  Collectively the four dimensions are inseparably interlinked and known as space-time.

We are living in a three dimensional world,  one that contains length, width and height, so we are unable to see the fourth dimension, as our physical world is constructed within these three physical dimensions only.  We might feel or imagine time’s presence, but we can never actually detect it with our three-dimensional senses, because it extends beyond our universe.  We can only perceive time, this fourth dimension as memories lodged at different intervals, with the result we perceive time moving in one direction which is forward.  A demonstration of four dimensional space-time’s inseparability is the fact that we cannot look into space without looking back in time, like when we see the Moon as it was approximately 1.2 seconds ago and the Sun as it was about 8 minutes ago and so on.

Speed = distance ÷ time; therefore, if the speed of light is to remain fixed then it will be necessary for the distance and time in the equation to change.  What actually happens is that time and distance are ‘relative’ to one another, and as we travel close to the speed of light, distances become shortened while time is lengthened.  This is explained in Einstein’s Theory Of Special Relativity.  The reason why time is regarded as the 4th dimension is that in relativity, we have to include the time coordinate in describing events fully in space along with the time, called the space-time coordinate.

People say that time flies when you are having fun, but the frog said that time is fun when you are having flies.

Written for Sammi Cox Author Aspiring Weekend Writing Prompt #33 – Time.

Literary Conflict

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  Conflict can arise at any time between people who are close friends, family members, co-workers, or romantic partners as disagreements about their perceptions, desires, ideas, or values spring up.  Some people try to avoid conflict at all costs, because they feel out of control when conflict arises.  Others feel that any criticism or disagreement is an attack on them and others that are stubborn will bottle up all of the complaints from their distant past.  Conflict may make you feel like you have been hit below the belt and it may cause others to withdraw and become silent.

Conflict is the struggle between opposing forces and it is present everywhere in the world around us.  We experience conflict on a daily basis, and it can be as minor as a disagreement with a friend about where to have lunch, or as major as countries deciding whether or not to go to war against each other.  In literature, a conflict is a literary element that involves a struggle between two opposing forces and conflicts can be a recurring theme throughout the story or a momentary and temporary obstacle.  Conflict in a narrative is created when the main character wants something.  When something else gets in the protagonist’s way, a conflict arises.  All stories contain conflict, and some people disagree about how many different categories of conflict there are.  These discrepancies depend on individual narrative circumstances, but there are cases in which you should recognize a total of seven different categories of narrative conflict.

Conflict is used to create reader involvement.  Conflict is a literary device used for expressing a resistance that the protagonist of the story finds in achieving his aims or dreams.  The conflict is a discord that can have external aggressors or can even arise from within the self.  It can occur when the subject is battling his inner discord, at odds with his surroundings or it may be pitted against others in the story.  Usually a protagonist is pitted against an antagonist and the two different kinds of conflict are internal or external.

Internal conflict resides inside the character as they struggle with morality, fate, desire and belief, to name a few.  An internal or psychological conflict arises as soon as a character experiences two opposite emotions or desires, such as virtue or vice, or good and evil inside of them.  This disagreement causes a character to suffer mental agony.  Internal conflict develops a unique tension in a storyline marked by a lack of action.  This form of conflict is central to the character, or characters and must be resolved by the character alone.  Every good character suffers from the weight of internal conflict, as it lends them an air of complex believability.  Internal conflict is also known as man versus self.  Internal conflict is the least complicated form of conflict.

External conflict deals with the problems of the world.  The story’s characters will struggle against the circumstances of external conflict, they may even suffer internal conflict resulting from the issues of external conflict, but this is not as simple as internal conflict.  External conflict occurs when characters are involved in the world’s woes, such issues as community, nature, government and other characters are all examples of external conflict.  External conflict is marked by a characteristic involvement of an action wherein a character finds himself in struggle with those outside forces that hamper his progress. The most common type of an external conflict is where a protagonist fights back against the antagonist’s tactics that impede their advancement.  External conflict manifests itself as man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society and man versus fate.

Most stories show a character arc from the beginning of the end, displaying development or transformation of the main character(s) nature or opinions.  The majority of this development and transformation occurs due to conflict.  Conflict challenges a character’s convictions and brings out their strengths and/or weaknesses, much as it does in real life.  Literature would be boring without conflict and conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.  Often it is not always obvious which side is right or wrong.  Conflict is the result of competing desires or the presence of obstacles that need to be overcome.  It is necessary to propel a narrative forward; the absence of conflict amounts to the absence of story and often there is one overriding conflict that is lasts the duration of the story.  The seven categories of conflict that exist in literature are: Man versus Man, Man versus Nature, Man versus Society, Man versus Self, Man versus Technology, Man versus Supernatural and Man versus Fate.  Each type of conflict is not mutually exclusive, as stories often have overlapping struggles, containing multiple characters and storylines.

In Man versus Man or Character Versus Character conflict, characters are pitted against one another as one person struggles for victory over the other.  Man versus Man involves a struggle is between two or more characters in a story.  The antagonist (or other character) tries to keep the protagonist from reaching his goal.  The protagonist must overcome the efforts of the antagonist to reach their goal.  In these sort of conflicts your characters will be opposed by or will oppose the actions, reactions, motivations of another character or characters.  When two characters have opposing desires or interests, this situation typically ends in a scenario that creates a conflict between the protagonist and antagonist.  This type of story usually features a hero and a villain or villains where the villain may in essence be the alter ego of the protagonist (thus representing the conflict of person versus self) or they might stand for society.  This is probably the most common form of external conflict, and is also known as interpersonal conflict.  This mode lies at the heart of all dramatic arts and places the struggle directly between the protagonist and the antagonist and is otherwise known as the good guy and the bad guy.  In a man versus man conflict, the protagonist wants something, and the antagonist obstructs the protagonist from getting what he wants.  A writer might choose to use this sort of conflict to provide comic relief to their narrative.

In Man versus Nature or Character versus Nature, the hero must overcome a force of nature to meet their goal.  Man versus Nature pits the main character against the forces of nature, which could be in the form of a natural disaster, or a similarly dangerous situation and this is often associated with literary naturalism, which hinges on the idea that nature is indifferent to humanity.  The force of nature can be Nature itself, like a storm, an earthquake, a flood, a difficult climate, or it might be a predatory animal, or a disease epidemic.  The hero sometimes meets their goal, but sometimes they are defeated.  This is a battle for survival against the inexorable and apathetic force of nature.  The hero may be forced to confront nature, or the protagonist may be seeking the conflict, trying to exert dominance over nature.  This can be an inspirational story where human spirit is able to triumph over adversity and this type of story will never go out of fashion.

In Man versus Society or Character versus Society, a protagonist sees something in a unique way.  Man versus Society is a mode of external conflict which occurs when the protagonist is placed at odds with a government or cultural tradition.  This is an external conflict where a character must take on society itself, and not a single person.  The character stands at odds with societal norms and realizes the necessity to work against these norms.  People in the town or a specific culture may not like the way that the leading character is thinking, because their bold ideas diverge from tradition or the established rules. They ridicule and threaten the protagonist and eventually they are compelled to act.  Our hero may convince the others that he is right, or they might be forced to flee town and they may even be killed.  These conflicts involve your characters’ firm beliefs which are against norms that the entire society as a whole endorses.  It could be social evils or discrimination practiced by society that is opposed by a minority or your character might be confronting institutions, traditions, or laws.  This is often found in a dystopian genre, where the person-against-society conflict follows the storyline of an individual or a group fighting (sometimes successfully, sometimes not-so-successfully) against injustices within a corrupt society.

In Man versus Self or Character versus Self, the protagonist must overcome his or her own nature to reach their goal.  The protagonist struggles within their own mind, their own prejudices or doubts or character flaws.  The protagonist may, or may not, succeed.  These conflicts involve internal battles that characters wage within themselves, where these internal issues affect their actions, motivations and interactions with other characters.  The conflict can be a recurring theme throughout the story or at a particular point in time.  The struggle or opposition is within a character to make a tough decision.  A character might struggle to overcome fear, addiction, emotional damage or another crippling personal issue.  This conflict develops from a protagonist’s inner struggles, and may depend on a character trying to decide between good and evil or overcome self-doubts.  Conflict takes place within the mind of the main character, and it often involves the character making a decision between right and wrong, or other mixed emotions, however, this struggle could also exist in the form of a character battling mental illness.  This conflict has both internal and external aspects, as obstacles outside the protagonist force the protagonist to deal with inner issues.

In Man versus Technology or Character versus Technology, the protagonist must overcome a machine or technology or something not normal in this world.  This is an external conflict and most often the encounter with the machine or this technology is through the character’ own doing, as perhaps they created, purchased, or owned the technology or the machine with the assumption that it would make their life easier.  In many stories the antagonists use technology to gain power or this technology takes over or becomes a malign influence on society.  Over time the protagonist must overcome the technology, in some instances, possibly even destroying it before it destroys them.

In Man versus Supernatural or Character versus the Unknown/Extraterrestrial, the protagonist battles against an entity that isn’t entirely known or comprehensible, whether it is extraterrestrial or metaphysical.  This is a common thread in science fiction and supernatural horror movies and books and it might include monsters, aliens or deities.  Supernatural elements are typically those that defy the laws of nature and are beyond scientific understanding.  Such a setting adds gravitas and drama to the story.  If you are using super natural elements you might want to make sure what genre you are writing in.

In Man versus Fate or Character versus Fate, a protagonist works against what has been foretold for that person.  This category could be considered part of conflict with self or with society, as many people only count four types of conflict, including those two and conflict with another person or with nature.  This type of conflict occurs when a character is trapped by an inevitable destiny and loses their freedom and free will as everything they try seems impossible.  This type of conflict was more prevalent in stories where gods could control fate, such as in ancient Greek dramas, but there are still examples of this type of conflict in more contemporary literature.