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Exercise #12: Fear of Water

Tomorrow the god will show his face in the shadow of the big temple. Then the priests will feed us a meal of corn and beans and give us a drink from a gold cup, wash us, paint our faces with the signs of Kukulkan in red and blue, and dress us in gold and feathers. And then they will lead us to the cenote.

I want to believe I will have the courage walk on my own legs and that they will not have to …more

Exercise #11: Favorite Thing to Do in Your Favorite City

I’ve decided to return to the online workshop on which I was working when Hurricane Ike arrived last September. Had some trouble with the first prompt, though. My first attempt turned into unpublishable erotica. Here’s my second attempt:

Fragment #2

I want all of my life to be like these moments:

  • The day that Continental canceled our flight out of Rome, so we spent the day exploring Ostia. We surprised ourselves with how much fun we could cram into one unexpected extra day of vacation.
  • The day you led me through rush-hour traffic to Griffith Park, then showed me where the trail began. I was energized by your kindness.
  • The day the cold front blew through the city, and then you took me to your soccer practice. It was too cold for me to spend two hours waiting on a bench, so I wandered the unfamiliar neighborhood until I found a coffee shop open. Then I came back and climbed up and down the pedestrian staircase to to the road high on the hill above the soccer field to keep warm. While I walked the stairs, I had a heart-to-heart talk directed at a silent God. I told him that I thought he was irrelevant, and that I’d listened to his people and their bad ideas for long enough.

Great News!

Although God had clearly outlined His plans to kill 500,000 people in southwestern California yesterday, He must have changed His mind at the last minute.

I hope the FBI is keeping an eye on the fellow who writes the web site to which I’ve linked above, because he makes the Unabomber sound quite sensible. I also hope the FBI is keeping an eye on God, just in case the other guy is right about all the terrorist threats in the Bible.

Boot Camp Day 2: A Different Kind of Faith

How open should an open mind be? What are the limits of tolerance and understanding, and what happens to those limits as our knowledge of the natural world grows?

Today I had lunch with an old friend—an intelligent woman in her late thirties, the executive director of a thriving arts organization. We met at a vegan Indian buffet. Since our last meeting had been at a vegetarian restaurant she’d picked, I asked her a few questions about her vegetarianism. She said she hadn’t eaten any meat or fish for 12 years. I admired her commitment. I told her that although I’m attracted to the environmental, social, and health benefits of vegetarianism, I enjoy eating a moderate amount of meat too much to make the complete change in eating habits.

Later, I asked what I thought was an innocent question: Is there anywhere in Houston where one can learn to practice meditation in an environment free of religious influences? …more

50/50 Exercise #38: Threshold

Your Lordship, Madame President, my esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen: You have by now read the report of the field team assigned to observe Species 287B, and I do not wish to take up the valuable time of this conclave in further discussion of the recommendations of that report. I ask indulgence, however, to draw your attention to some of my own observations of the subject species and to ask you to consider the broader question of the relevance of our Charter to this particular case.

As you are aware, our evolutionary anthropologists theorize that every race of beings that approaches sentience …more

50/50 Exercise #37: Wrong and Right

Dear sir:

Next creation? If you’ll pardon my French, you have got to be out of your blessed MIND! Have you completely forgotten how we reached the impasse at which we now find ourselves?

Let Me refresh your memory. The last time you decided to try your hand at creation, I attempted to outline for you a number of suggestions in the form of a PowerPoint presentation that you chose to completely disregard. I believe that My ideas were very reasonable, and as you will probably recall My saying (since you are omniscient and whatnot), …more

50/50 Exercise #27: An Unexpected Teacher

“I would like to tell you about the Redeeming Knowledge,” began the man on the doorstep without so much as a word of introduction. “Maybe I come in and share with you for a moment?”

I had seen my mother turn away Jehovah’s Witnesses, Girl Scouts, and Fuller Brush men with a curt “No thank you,” so I was astonished when she stepped back from the open door to make way for the man. “Won’t you come in?” she asked.

The man wiped the soles of his patent-leather shoes on the doormat, …more

50/50 Exercise #17: Long Title

At All Times, in All Seasons, the Earth Casts a Slim Wedge of Shadow into Space; When the Moon in Her Journey Passes Through that Umbra, Let Us Gather Under the Stars to Reflect, One to Another, That There Is No Charioteer Who Illuminates the Day, Nor Huntress Who Hides from the Sun’s Face, But Only Reason That Lights Our Understanding of What Nature Has Ordained

There will be a total lunar eclipse beginning at 9:01 p.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesday, February 20, 2008. My roommate and I have decided to make this astronomical treat the occasion for a party. If you’re reading my blog and you find yourself in the Houston area on February 20, if you’d like to join us.

Note: The prompt was to “create a working title that is the longest one you’ve ever written.” I’m not in the habit of giving working titles to any of my texts, so coming up with any title at all made for a challenging assignment. I like the idea of looking up at the ruddy, darkened moon and thinking of all the fanciful explanations that primitive people might have conceived for this lovely phenomenon. Giving myself permission to turn this exercise into a party invitation was the cherry on top.