Sex and Throttling

It’s incredible that humans have such intimate power over both life and death. It requires a sense of touch to achieve both: having sex to create life, and throttling with the hands to end life. That’s intimacy. And that we can affect both so easily is insane.

We give such importance to life: it’s magic, it’s religious, it’s a phenomenon we know only to exist here, on our home planet, and we’re the top of the food chain. No, we’re outside the food chain. We have made our own food chains! We are the Masters of the planet that can make life. Yet, our lives don’t seem so big and important when you look at individual human lives on a non-human scale. Trees are the longest-living life form on the planet. The Llangernyw yew tree (pictured below) is estimated to be between 4000 and 5000 years old. The lifetime of a star is even longer. Our Sun has been shining for 4.6 billion years.  In the timeline of the cosmos, a human lifetime is basically nothing. To say a “blink” would be a gross overstatement. With this perspective, it seems to make murder via throttling easier to think about, since we have shed our emotional bias.

The Llangernyw yew.jpg

(By EmgaolOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

From the Earth’s 4.5 billion year old perspective, the death of a human is simply the returning of nutrients and matter of one human body back to nature, while also removing one dependent. From our human perspective, murder via throttling with the hands is heavy on the heart and mind. I think any person with at least a grain of compassion and empathy would feel bad doing such a thing. Why? Because they would hate to be in that person’s position. This is the power of empathy. I don’t want to throttled, therefore this other person probably doesn’t want to either. Yet it is within our feeble physical power to bring about this permanent change, this teleportation from the world of the living to the Other Place, where we will all someday go, but no one knows the location, conditions, or whether those words even mean anything. What power we have, over the small things that we are! I think to be a human without empathy would be like permanently having the point of view of a tree, or the Sun.

Luckily, the large majority of us have the imaginative powers to deduce and “try on” the feelings of others. This ability to create for ourselves an approximation of what it is like to be someone else gives us some common moral insight. Those without these common morals are seen as troublemakers, deviants, dangerous, evil, undesirable. To the worst of these people, we do awful things, like caging or killing. It’s curious that to these less empathetic humans we match their level of empathy and do things we wouldn’t normally want to do. My opinion is that these less empathetic people should be prescribed massive doses of caring and empathy. We should give them our best human love, tenderness, and understanding, in hopes of teaching them how it is done.

If, after our very best exhaustive efforts, we are unable to persuade the deviant in question, we should try and get them to explain to us our own shortcomings. If there is something to be learned from this very inhuman human, we should learn it and carry it forward. Then, we explain as best as we can that this person is beyond our help. What would they want us to do? Presumably they would want to be free to act according to their own will in the world they were born into. Obviously this would not be permitted. I think the person in question should be asked to please kill themselves so that we can recycle their nutrients, so that from them, flowers can grow. If they refuse – which is understandable – and if there is nothing more we can do to help them, I think we give them two last intimate sensations. First, sex. Second, throttling via the hands.

Dreaming is Easy, Remembering is Hard

When I was younger, I had a red mountain bike. All my friends had BMX bikes, since they were the coolest. If you pulled up on the handlebars hard enough, you could get the bike to lift off the gravel road. My mountain bike had gears, which my friends found unimpressive and tease-worthy. The gears hardly impressed me. I knew they had value, but it was ignored, overshadowed by my inability to bunnyhop, and the loud clanking noise my derailleur made whenever I changed gears.

I distinctly remember standing near the elementary school, straddling my bike as I talked with my friends. I thought I wonder why I can’t switch gears without pedalling? It felt like I had come up with a genius idea. It would be so convenient to be able to switch between gears at will, while you’re standing still, hanging out. It would be one less thing to worry about while riding. I imagined an automatic bicycle: quiet, intelligent, able to set itself into the perfect gear at all times, so I could concentrate on pedalling like hell. I didn’t know how bikes worked. I never sat down, flipped the bike over into diagnose mode, and thought mechanically about what was happening. I have had about 15 years of bike experience since then. I know more about bikes now. I change gears without thinking.

– – –

At my Grandpa’s funeral, a short biography was read. It mentioned that it was hard to feed nine kids, so the family reared animals and grew potatoes and other vegetables for nourishment. Back then, the concept of food was different than it is for me now. I imagine they ate meat and potatoes and maybe a mushy vegetable for every meal. My grandma, the only cook, probably ignorant of spices other than salt and pepper, was tasked with keeping everyone fed. The point of food was to stay alive. Good tasting treats were hard to come by. I imagine the family going to a fancy Christmas dinner or something similar, once or twice a year, and having a meal that would have been incredibly delicious and special. I am privileged in this regard. Every one of my meals is basically a Christmas feast. I can go out and pay someone else $8 to cook me a heaping plate of rice, chicken, and vegetables, covered with a sweet garlic sauce. I can be as picky as I like, and easily stay alive.

These days, Grandma has a nice little kitchen that is clean and well-stocked. She lives alone, and cooks for one unless there are guests. It’s mostly the same things: chicken or pork, potatoes or another starch, and a vegetable, usually mushy, added to the meal as if to pacify God and give stability to the food pyramid. If she still cooks the same food as before, I wonder if it’s like me and my bike gears. She probably wished there was another way, a way to eat like Christmas everyday. Now it’s Christmas eternal, but I don’t think she feels that way. Maybe dreaming of an ideal state is what keeps us going; the anticipation of a world where things are easier.

Now everything is easy, yet it’s so hard to remember that this used to be our dream.

The Beauty of Space Rules

The number of beautiful women in this city is astounding. My heart loves to throws itself at the feet of anyone with a symmetrical face and playful body. I can’t turn my head or let wander my eyes without seeing someone walking down the sidewalk, grimacing miserably into the wind and rain, and they seem perfect and beautiful. I watch in awe as my mind instantly idealizes this complete stranger. Her last name is something discordant, like Olguffikson. Her first name is Gloria. When we are married she wants to take my surname. She likes it better. She is happier.

We have many discussions but never argue. We’ll go canoeing in the summer and talk about what it means to be alive, throwing small chunks of biscuit to our dog Biscuit, who loves the water, and who barks at the ducks. We’ll try for children as if we want one hundred thousand, but will only have one, because we are financially poor. It will be born sexless, due to some kind of chemical imbalance – too much cheap body lotion during pregnancy, guesses the doctor – but we love Stacy just the same.

Gloria and I will tell Stacy everything we know about existence, and they will grow up to become a space lawyer. It’s the career that I wanted but didn’t have the money or gumption to achieve. My dear child will be born with the gumption. We will steal the money if we have to. They will hire me as a private consultant, and together we’ll forge the first Bill of Rules for all that empty space.

First Rule: No littering, and huge incentives to those who clean up the litter which existed before the Bill of Rules. (Currently, out there in wild wild space, anyone can jettison anything they like.)

Second Rule: Consensual sex is fine. No worries about that. Any which way you like it is good.

Third Rule: No murder or rape. Rapists will be blasted in the direction of Betelgeuse. Not directly at it, but slightly off, so they don’t get the pleasure of feeling they have an end destination that isn’t freezing or starving to death all alone. We will not tolerate this hateful, abhorrent, terra-ble behaviour up here in the heavens.

Fourth Rule: Empathy shall be used, taught, and studied, in order to bring about a new age of emotional and philosophical understanding. Decisions must take into account the feelings of other humans, Mother Earth, and any other potential agents out there in the universe. We must learn to be prudent and responsible. This is a rule that requires slowing down. Time in space is lazy. Life can theoretically go on forever. We can finally afford to take things at an understandable pace.

Fifth Rule: No faction flags, separating oneself from humanity as a whole. We all share the same home. We are family. We are life. There are no countries up here. Be proud of your occupation, or the service that you are trained to provide: your special method of helping humanity. A flag for the miners, sure. A flag for the miners who think themselves better than welders: never.

I think those first five rules are a good start. I’ll have to wait to see what Stacy thinks. Space may be radically different in 25 years, when she is old enough and learned enough. 25 years is a long time down here at the bottom of the gravity well. My first 25 years felt like an eternity. What will 25 years feel like to Stacy, I wonder?

Gloria will have objections to Rule Two. She thinks it will encourage people to have sex all willy-nilly, with whomever they feel like, based purely on emotional and physical attraction rather than long-term compatibility and child-rearing prowess. That’s the point, I keep telling her. Finally, a place without rules governed by embarrassment, shame, or dusty ancient virtues. We can be new animals in space! The curious, horny, friendly, funny kind of animals. Leave the jealousy and covetousness in the cradle where it belongs.

Gloria walks out of view, around a corner. The street is occupied by different people now. My fantasy is blown to ribbons by the wind. I let it twirl away into the back of my mind as I look at all the new faces.


The Farmer’s Market

It is evident by their plain white plastic bags full of in-season produce that some of the people passing by my window are coming up the bridge from the farmers’ market.

The Farmers’ Market: a place where the high tech and fast moving people of the city can buy homely knick knacks and Healthy Food that is grown slow and steady somewhere out in the country. The cherries are juicy, the raspberries hold their shape, and the fruit-stained faces of children running around underfoot attest to the goodness of Earth’s candy.

At the farmer’s market you can buy wicker furniture. I don’t know what wicker is or how it grows or how it’s made to function as furniture, but the Farmer does. He’s the man with blue jeans broken in by working, not sitting. There are no phone marks worn into the thigh-denim. His hat is dirty, from dirt. Soiled. When you’re not buying his furniture he is whittling away at his own fingernails with a pocket knife, and meticulously organizing the snot in the back of his throat with short snorts and coughs.

He walks with a limp. His askew hat is symbolic of his spine, whose vertebrae have been twisted and strained and smashed to such extent that it would resemble a pukka-shell necklace under x-ray.  He has a scar on his leg from the god damned thresher. He chews on wheat, with half your teeth and twice the contentment. The farmer plucks flies out of the air with his big leathery mitts and pops them directly into his mouth. “No sense wasting good protein,” he will say to anyone caught watching this feeding display. Then he winks and returns to thinking about how to position the new grain silo to minimize wind erosion.


Eating grapes makes me feel like a lord, from a time so long ago that my great-grandparents could barely remember it, when they were children and things were dirtier and less sweet. My great-grandparents had parents, who were older than they were. They probably had to bury their own dead. Maybe their uncle dropped a heavy rock on his foot while trying to load it onto a wagon. It broke his foot, crunching all his small foot bones into tiny pieces. Then a week later he was dead. And my great-grandparent would cover him and drag him out into the yard, where there was a deep hole. They would roll him in, unceremoniously, then probably pray and cry, because life was strange and often awful. No one involved in this weekday funeral had ever eaten a grape.

Grapes are candy nuggets that grow on vines. They’re made of water and sunshine and nutrients like nitrogen, which were supplied to the grape plant by animals peeing nearby. Humans have selectively bred them for generations – because we are clever and we know things about plants – so that the grapes are sweet and thirst-quenching, instead of bitter, small, and full of seeds.

Grapes are squishy sugary vitamins. Like chicken nuggets, but made of water and sugar. Edible, convenient, perfectly-sized for our mouths, satiating hunger as well as thirst. Grapes are sold for mere coins. We can choose between two different colours.

Grapes are a fruit so beautiful that we paint bowls filled with them.

We have access to dozens of kinds of fruits, many of which are not grown natively where I live. 200 years ago, I would live and die without ever having seen a kiwi. I would croak, relatively young and confused, never having tasted a pineapple. Mango would not be a word that I would ever learn to spell, because I would never have to use it in a sentence, because I would be ignorant of mangos. I would not have been able to read or write anyway. Mangos grow literally a world away, yet they come flying to us on giant airplanes, ours for pennies.

I think it’s important to realize the importance of grapes, and how such a simple everyday fruit was once a fantasy too fabulous to imagine. We are spoiled. We take everything for granted. Simply being alive in this world should fill us with wonder and awe, like hot air in a big floating balloon, turning us into warm weightless giants that pay back our blessings with kindness, understanding, and humility.

Birds and Bees

Hey son. You’ve been growing up real well, and I think it’s about time I talked to you about something important. My parents told it to me when I was a kid, and even though it was awkward and embarrassing, I was sure glad they did it. You may not appreciate this information now, or even a couple of years from now. But some day it will come in handy, and I hope when that day comes, you’ll thank your old man for telling it to you.

I’m talking about the birds and the bees. I know you know all about sex and fucking, and what parts girls have and what parts boys have. I’ve seen the internet tabs you leave open on the computer downstairs. Yes, I’m serious. And no, I’m not upset. Everyone does it. It’s something that everyone is interested in. No, there’s nothing wrong with it at all. I admit, your preference in material is different than mine. Quite different, if I can be honest with you, but that doesn’t matter. Filth is filth, son, and there’s no reason to feel bad about it. I’ll warn you though, some people don’t like to talk about it. It makes them uncomfortable. For this reason, it’s usually best to partake in this sort of thing in private. But I know that you’re a smart kid, and you’ll do what you think is best.

So, back on topic. The birds and the bees. To put it simply: you can’t fuck either of them. OK, yes, well maybe a bird. But you can’t fuck bees, that’s for sure. Actually, birds are also out. You wouldn’t be able to catch one, and even if you did, it would be pecking and scratching at you so much, it simply wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Not to mention, bird parts are a heck of a lot different than human parts. They just don’t work the same way. Well no, I don’t know how exactly they work, I just know it’s different. Too different. Bird dicks are a lot smaller than human dicks. And they’re shaped differently, too. I don’t know how they’re shaped, they’re just different. No, you wouldn’t be able to catch one, I’m sure of that. Well of course you could use a trap, but that’s not what I mean. You don’t want to be setting up a trap to catch birds so that you can fuck them! Son, that’s just not a good idea. You would make the bird unhappy. It would lose its feathers trying to fight you off, and then it wouldn’t be able to fly anymore. Do you want that? Of course you don’t. Just get the idea out of your head. Just stick to humans and see how that goes, OK? And yes, bees are definitely out. A hive? That is not a good idea either. Are you serious? Well if you really want to, go right ahead. No I have never fucked a hive before, but I guarantee that it will be both uncomfortable and extremely painful. The bees will always win that one, buddy. Just trust me, OK?

You’re a good kid, and you have a good head on your shoulders. I love you more than anything else, and the last thing I want is for you to get hurt, or for you to be confused about something. The world is a big place pal, and all we have is our wits and each other. We’re all in it together. We have to help each other out, especially about stuff like this.

Yes, that’s all I wanted to say. You’re welcome, son.


We’ve done it.

Are you sure?

I think so.

Can you tell for certain?

Well, I just sent instructions to specimen B-286 to perform an aerial maneuver, and it has been performing it for over 15 minutes now.



Can you tell it to stop?


It has stopped now.

What’s it doing?

Just sitting there.

Tell it to rub its eyes with its little arms.




What does this mean?

I’m not sure. Nothing like this has ever been done before. The communicative possibilities are limitless.

We should probably begin with the prime directive.

We’re just going to inform them all, one at a time?

Well, what other option do we have?

I suppose we could try and fit the machine with some form of signal amplifier. That should allow us to target millions of individuals at the same time.

That’s a good idea. It would cost money though.

Do you really think money will be an issue after we release our official statement?

Good point.

Well, do you want to do it?


Hello, housefly. I am a human. As you may have guessed, us humans have just created a machine that allows us to communicate intelligently with you. We cannot understand you, but we are confident that you can understand us. Fly in a figure eight three times if you can understand this message.

Perfect. Now that we have established this interaction, we will inform you of another invention we have created. It is called windows. It is made up of a substance called glass, which we invented a long time ago. These windows are nearly invisible to us, and we imagine, based on your behaviour, they are entirely invisible to you. To you, it probably appears like a surface without detail. You may feel as if you are walking on the air. This is an illusion. We have seen countless of your kind die at these windows. Your attempts to fly through them are all in vain. The only way to defeat the window is to go around, or to find a different route to your destination. Do not repeatedly try to fly through the window. You will never beat the window. Beginning now, if you would like us to let you through this window, stand very still, and oscillate your wings. We will notice these oscillations, then pick you up with our fingers and release you to the other side of the window. Please spread the message to your fellow flies and any other creature that may benefit from this knowledge. Do four barrel rolls if you understand.


Chicken Pox

My parents wanted me, their first-born son, to contract chicken pox. I was probably 12 or 15 years old. They knew a friend who had kids with chicken pox, and they invited themselves over to this friends’ house, bringing myself and my two sisters along to this contaminated zone. I can’t remember who the family was, it was too long ago. I do remember being told to hold their chicken pox’d baby and play with their chicken pox’d toddler. The toddler was like a little freckled Pippi Longstockings running around the yard. I chased half-assedly. Whenever I caught the kid, my parents would make me kiss the kid. I had to kiss the kid right on his chicken pox.

“It will be much worse if you get them when you’re older!” My parents assured me.

“What if I don’t get them at all?” I asked.

“You will. Just hug the baby.” They replied.

After an infectious romp that lasted some amount of time, we were back at home and I was expecting to break out in pimply bumps any day now. Days passed. Years could have passed, I can’t remember. I did get chicken pox eventually though. I was still in elementary school, which means it was sometime before Grade 7. I got to stay home as the bumps broke out all over my skin. They were itchy, though I remember that not itching them wasn’t as hard as people made it out to be.

“Do you have any chicken pox on your penis?” I remember my friends asking me as they stood in the porch of the house. I was swaddled in blankets on the couch.

“Ha ha, no.” I replied, eyes blank and unreadable. My parents shooed the friends away for fear they would contract what I had without their parents permission. They left on their bikes as I went to the bathroom to inspect my tiny penis. It had chicken pox on it. There were at least three. I itched them a little bit, just out of curiosity, then I left them alone. No one needed to know where I had the chicken pox. There were also some on my butt, and my balls.
I went back to school some amount of days later. The pox had left me, but the memory of having tiny dots on my penis lived on. Since my scratching self-control was so great, I was not marred with scars like some people I know. The chicken pox came and went, and it was mild. I suppose my parents were right, though I don’t know anyone who got the chicken pox at an older age. Maybe it’s because they’re all dead.