Last time, last chance. Honesty, no lies. No tears, straight-faced. No time. Get to the point. Don’t beg, keep cool. The truth—it hurts. Love forgives, love grows. Love lasts Eternity! —Peggy French Hart (1952-2011) daughter of Bob French
by Katie Norris
Truth – Peggy French Hart Introduction to Truth – Keira Dodd
Katie Norris - i Barbara Howell – 2, 6, 12
Truly Seeing – Wendlyn Alter
9-11 and Other Truths – Barbara Walker
Andy Tubbesing, Chain Man – 11 Becky Hoelter, In Knots - 20
You’re No Father – Katherine Campbell-Gaston
Ahmie Yeung - 21
9 Truth? – Chuck Homer 12 Square Won, Conclusion – Bob French 14 Pretender – Gaylene Sloane 15 To Seek the Truth in Love – Tom Slattery 17 The Truth – David Kleinschmidt 19 I Am Not Ashamed – Patty Heany 21 What Is Truth? – Anne Obradovich Chalice is an Independent Arts Publication of Members and Friends of West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, published by the Editorial Board. Submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, artwork and photography accepted from members and friends of the church. Send all submissions, inquiries, comments, subscription or sponsorship requests to Chalice@wsuuc.org or by mail or in-person delivery to Chalice, West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 20401 Hilliard Blvd, Rocky River, OH 44116. 440–333–2255. Submission guidelines are available via e-mail at the above address or on the West Shore website. Persons who submit work for publication will be required to sign a release form available via e-mail or in the Story Year mailbox at the church office. If submitted photographs depict living persons, a model release should also be provided. Subscriptions for Chalice during Story Year, October 2013 through May 2014, are $50. Theme Submission Pub. Individual copies are available by donation. A Deadline Date free, on-line expanded version of the 2013 publication will be available at the church December: When Your Life Changed Dec. 8 Dec. 22 website, www.wsuuc.org. Sponsorships are $25 per issue with acknowledgement 2014 included in each issue. January: A Mountaintop Moment Jan. 12 Jan. 26 The Editors of Chalice, Barbara G. Howell February: Taking a Risk Feb. 9 Feb. 23 Wendlyn Alter March: Your Hardest Lesson Mar. 9 Mar. 23 Keira Dodd April: A Time You Grew Apr. 13 Apr. 27 Carter Marshall Barbara Walker May: Your Greatest Teacher May 11 May 25 Andrew Watkins
Presented by Keira Dodd at WSUUC service, Nov. 3, 2013 Do you ever wish you could go back in time and talk to your five-year-old or ten-year-old self and share the wisdom you've gained with him or her—wisdom you've gained through many years of experience—wisdom you've learned the hard way—and maybe if you went back in time and intervened in the life of your young self, you could prevent a lot of heartache and save yourself from some bad ideas that kept you from blossoming into the you that you now know you can be. I think a lot about my young self. She was fed a lot of nasty ideas about what life is and what it can be. For her, truth was written with a capital T—or maybe even in all caps, in a heavy, imposing font— hugely covering the whole page of her mind. But this truth wasn't hers. It belonged to some being up in the sky who held the right of ultimate judgment. His book of truth was indelible—it was more than just the Bible, which I now see as a book of stories full of metaphor and symbolism hinting at truth without actually being truth—the Bible was only the earthly version of the larger, scarier, more impressive version he kept in the sky, and that book was constantly being written—with me in it, too. We were all in it. Each of us had a page in the book where our true selves would be recorded in infallible ink—for he was always watching, and he was always right. I remember my mother telling me that God would put a black mark on that page for every sin I committed, and that mark could never be erased, even if I asked for forgiveness. Sure, forgiveness would be granted if I were truly sorry, but still that black mark would be there, keeping a record of the truth of who I was—a sinner who didn't deserve heaven, but who might get there through the mercy of a God who knew you were awful, but loved you anyway. And the truth was, I didn't trust his taste in people, for I knew I was filthy. So he loved me? So what. Only God could love someone as flawed as I was—and expanding on that thought, only God could love a world as messed up as this one was. My mom never sheltered me from the horror stories of children being kidnapped and murdered or women being raped, so I grew up believing that was the world. It's not that I never knew good truths, too, but they were airy and light—“Jesus loves me,” angel wings, kisses on cheeks, smiles on faces, sunsets—all too temporary in a world of sin and death. Eventually, sin always wins, at least until heaven, which itself was an airy place of clouds and light. The truth of hell was much more solid and real, like a club I could use to beat myself, or to beat others, those nonbelievers who just didn't seem to get how serious truth was. I mean, eternal damnation—torture for an infinity of years—all for stubbornly choosing not to believe the truth of Jesus's salvation. by Barbara G. Howell
It was not until I was much older that I began to question this truth that was given to me. In high school and college, I met people who challenged my rigid idea of truth—these were people of diversity, good people who were also flawed and flawed people who were also good—people who defied categorization—people who were different from me in amazing ways and who forced me to expand or perhaps even transcend my understanding of what truth was. Then I met my husband Jeff, who is Jewish, and who my aunt said would burn in hell for not being a Christian. I began to reject and ultimately to discard the so-called truth of my childhood and replace it with something much more ambiguous, something fluid and changing. Something beautiful.
In the beginning truth was a rock. It sat there, obvious— black against a white background, a word with only one meaning, a one-noted song, and if I didn't know it, I was dumb, blind, an object of mockery. I remember trying to hold the truth in my hand. It was sharp. I didn't know how to handle it. (I still have the scars.) Once, I swallowed it. It sank inside, sat in my gut. I tried to hide it, even from myself. It was heavy. I carried it around like a dead fetus. I pretended it wasn't there, that it didn't exist. Soon it was me who began to die. I had to get it out of me. It burst out of my chest, cutting me open. I was exposed, bleeding. My heart was a lump of tissue that only began to beat when open to the air.
Now truth is a river. I step into it tentatively, testing the temperature, wading in until I can no longer touch the bottom. Sometimes I stay on the surface, swimming confidently— upstream or down, it doesn't much matter. Sometimes I'm just treading water, floating nonchalantly, enjoying its buoyancy. At other times I dive down deep: Holding my breath, I feel around with my hands and play with the mud on the bottom, letting the seaweed slip through my fingers. I don't need to see anymore. I don't even need to breathe. I can just sink, let the truth fill my lungs. This isn't dying. It's something more ambiguous. I feel myself dissolve. I can no longer tell where I end and truth begins.
—by Keira Dodd
By Wendlyn Alter The Dalai Lama said, “There is no such thing as an old friend.” An old friend is someone we know well, someone we're comfortable with. Our views are congenial. We have shared experiences and shared memories. But Buddhism tells us that much of this is illusion. When we look at our old friend, we're not truly seeing that person. All we usually see is the construct we've developed in our mind around that person—as a poet has described it, “the price tags and bumper stickers pasted over me to the thickness of a person.” The qualities we attribute to someone or something are largely projected by ourselves. A friendship or an enmity has everything to do with our own attitude and, consequently, our selective seeing. Note the sequence there: attitude precedes seeing. How can we see our friend afresh, for who she is right now? How can we see all of him, not just the aspects we like? How can we break out of the stories about people and things that we tell ourselves over and over again until the story itself seems solid and real? How can we honor the entire person standing in front of us, with all their rich and beautiful complexity? A friend of mine teaching a college poetry course tried to help her students understand the mysterious poetry of Gertrude Stein, poetry that tried to strip away all stories and express direct seeing. “Turn your head to the left,” she instructed. “What does your eye fall on? See if you can detect that tiny interval of directly seeing that object before your mind steps up and names it. The name is the beginning of a story.” Can we see our friends this way, directly, for who they actually are? Or are we trapped in an old story we tell ourselves about them? I didn't know Marianne, a relation by a former marriage, who lived several hours away. I only met her once or twice, briefly. But I certainly heard a lot about her. She seemed to have some kind of personality disorder. She was selfish in the extreme. Lazy, too; her housekeeping was appalling. She was neglectful and emotionally unsupportive to her husband, and she refused to get a job that would have brought in much-needed income to the family. Everyone felt sorry for my
over-burdened brother-in-law and agreed that he was being entirely too stoic by remaining in such a one-way marriage. Then Marianne died unexpectedly and we were obliged to attend her funeral. I dreaded it. How could we find a way to speak kindly of the dead? When we pulled up to the church—a very large church—the parking lot was already full to overflowing. A crowd had gathered outside the door because there wasn't enough standing room inside for all who wanted to attend. We gained admittance because we were family, though we had to sit toward the back. People began lining up to pay homage to Marianne's life. Each one spoke with deep emotion about how profoundly Marianne had affected them, telling heart-rending and inspiring stories one after another for well over an hour. Finally the minister was forced to call an end so that he could get on with the service; the testimonials could have gone on all day. The volunteer work that kept
Marianne away from her family was serving as an advocate through government bureaucracies and the legal system for individuals involved with social services, particularly those in foster care. She was beloved and deeply respected by those she helped as well as those she advocated with, the social workers, lawyers and judges at her funeral who spoke warmly of her excellent work. Her commitment and dedication were legendary and her loss was deeply mourned. I'd had no inkling of any of this. During the years of my marriage, whenever anyone spoke of Marianne, they never mentioned why she had no time for anything else. And now it was too late for me to get to know this remarkable woman. Were all the things my in-laws had told me about Marianne wrong? No, in fact they were Continued on page 6 5
by Barbara G. Howell Truly Seeing, continued from page 5 mostly true. She was indeed a poor housekeeper, she did neglect her husband, and she did not contribute financially to the family. But what a small facet of Marianne's worth as a person this portrays! A partial truth is not The Truth. The trouble is, everything we see, everything we feel, every view we hold and every belief we cherish can only ever be a partial truth. We can think of the word partial in two ways. It refers to a portion of a whole. But we also use the word to indicate preference, as in “I'm partial to your abracadabra, enraptured by the joy of it all.”1 The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word’s negative aspect with synonyms such as prejudiced, biased, unfair. When we're partial to someone, we're selectively seeing the good in them; and when we hate, fear, or merely dislike someone, we're selectively seeing mostly the bad. A photo in the newspaper recently drew my eye. A group of attractive young men were sitting together companionably, relaxing, sharing a laugh, enjoying life. Their faces were open, smiling, happy. The story under the photo reported that a U.S. drone strike was thought to have killed one of the cheerful men in the picture, a Taliban leader. All these men with likeable human faces held AK-47s; 1
Ian Dury lyrics (1977)
they likewise had killed and would kill again. Where is the truth in this story? A new acquaintance left the television on but turned the sound off so we could chat. Images flashed by: a sobbing woman, face wet with tears. A photo of two tiny smiling boys with hope-filled eyes. A rushing river. I concluded that the children had drowned and this woman was their distraught mother. The suffering on her face was so profound, tears came to my own eyes and compassion welled up for her grief. Only later did I learn that she herself had thrown the boys off a bridge. She explained that she was unable to care for them and believed she was saving them from a life of suffering. In the news reporting that followed, she was portrayed as a monster. Where is the truth in this story? A partial truth is not The Truth. And sadly, we who are wandering in samsara—the world as we know it—can never see the whole. Our information and our understanding are inescapably limited. What we can do is keep this fact in mind, maintain some humility, apply a modicum of skepticism to even our most cherished beliefs, and keep trying for those sideways glances, those brief flashes when for a moment we're able to see the world with fresh eyes. Our old friends are always new.
WE remind each other daily, a child's world should start with the truth it's purer that way injustice and betrayal will come later. For now an unconditional half-truth easier than "the maybes" or "the one never knows" uncertainty that will certainly swallow us whole when we let it. SHE remembers that day. I wish sometimes she didn't, but it was inevitable, a day fraught with destruction and deception, all just as ugly as the truth, "Mommy, what's a storey?" I knew what she meant. I had to tell her another lie, a parental lie, "No, your Daddy's building… is too few storeys… to be hit by a plane, sweetie...." a reassurance of sorts, a comfort for a heart, that would know soon enough, a shield for a moment, a parent's unspoken protection, from incessant questions.
A call years later, sends me again to YOU, with that helpless "OH MY GOD" scream, melting into the basement steps, questioning how to tell her yet another..... excruciating Truth. YOU have proclaimed that I am your "Truth-Teller" and you are mine, much more a commitment, than the "Best Friends Forever" or the "pinky swear" of childhood play, an unnerving bond of assurance, that through the half-truths and the days when less than our authentic selves shine, there is a soul... at least one, ...that hears our truth. —Barbara Walker
You should be taken into custody, an outrageously high bond set to ensure my safety. It’d be just like you to escape to the outer reaches, lay low for a while, and then start that “Father Knows Best” parenting again. I’ve made excuses for you for so long, justifying your punishments, your neglect, your emotional and mental abuse, playing mind games with this child of yours. I accepted your method of correction, “It’s for your own good, you’ll thank me some day, I’m teaching you to be strong, I do this because I love you.” It’s what I know. It’s all I’ve known. I can no longer buy into that logic. It’s made me scared of being me. I don’t want to go home to this anymore. If I turn off the light at night, will you come into my room in the dark? “If I should die before I wake, please take my soul for Jesus sake.” What child should think this in the dark?
You offer me soaring beauty and joy and then throw me into darkness. You provide me a peaceful place to lay my head, then wake me in terror with fear for this self-destructive world. What loving father does this? Maybe I don’t need to see you in jail, punished. I no longer need to silently curse you yet desperately need and love you. I am leaving my familiar home, all I’ve known. I’m walking away, paying attention to this new path, exploring my options, my own heartbeat, the quiet of stars, the breath of nature, the mystery of Being, the presence of sacredness, of Mother Earth. I am moving toward a Great Joy. — Katherine Campbell-Gaston
By Chuck Homer The Truth, wow, what a subject! It’s something the philosophical community has argued over for thousands of years: Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle—these are just three of the twenty seven men listed in Wikipedia. What an act to follow! I’m hardly qualified to present a sentient argument on the subject. TRUTH—An accord with fact. Among many other entries, Wikipedia includes fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. This is fine until the standard/ideal changes. Wikipedia goes on to include a multitude of ways ‘truth’ is understood. There are many theories of truth: Substantive theories
Redundancy and related theories
And on and on AND ON; so much for theories of ‘TRUTH.’ I have my own idea of what truth is as it suits me and how to test for it in myself. It’s very simple: after an exchange of words with another, do I feel good in my gut? Is there a sense of confidence associated with conversation? If I don’t then I have either to live with it worrying that it will eventually catch up with me or I have to set it right. Easy, right? Kind of “Let your conscience be your guide.” I can only offer up a couple of my experiences with the lack of truth. On the job, my truth was describing research in the most unemotional way possible, covering all the avenues and checking for lack of compliance. I was head of research, and a trained research scientist looks for truth by establishing a reasonable argument, a model, and then tries to disprove it. A sales engineer looks for all the possible ways a product can solve a customer’s problem(s). In my experience, they bend the truth a bit and I was left to straighten it for the customer. I did not like being put in that position, but it happened a lot. I look at things with a scientist’s eye, call it a scientific discipline, and find that truth only works for a little while, that is, until I or some other scientist (or group) finds a better truth. Immediately the old idea is no longer considered or even remembered. Truth is a hard concept to nail down. Elsewhere in my seventy five years I’ve had several run-ins with the lack of truth. As a child I discovered that adults can usually separate simple truth from a lie. A lie was always accompanied with a bottom warming. I learned that the truth seldom lessened the bottom warming, but I felt better for it afterword. As an adult and research engineer/scientist, truth was borne out by peer review or a demonstration of a solution to a problem accompanied with a thoroughly detailed list of exceptions. As a father, I watched one of my children struggle painfully with truth. I could never figure out why he had so much trouble but fortunately, with a lot of patience, understanding and a good shrink, the problem dissolved. I retired at the end of 1998, a full year before Y2K, a full ten months before I began to crack through the walls of the dungeon that I built for myself that was strong enough and thick enough to ward off any intruder, even the truth of my existence. I inadvertently landed on a web site that spoke to the murder of a very beautiful boy and it spoke to me of my hiding from the real me locked up inside—inside my granite vault. The murder of Matthew Shepard wasn’t just any murder. It was the wanton destruction of another human, the reckless disregard for the life of a beautiful boy—me! I felt his death throughout my entire body, my soul. The monsters who took Matthew’s life may as well have taken mine along with it. But I was still alive sitting in front of a black screen and for a moment I found it unforgivable! Unforgivable that I was living the same curse as Matthew and was still alive! I wrote a poem about this experience, the experience of breaking through the wall, of tearing myself away from my hiding place, dropping my pretense, my masks, my ‘Years of hiding the you who was hiding inside,’ stepping or falling through and becoming authentic. Continued on page 11 9
Weeping, brooding, still eluding. Wipe your eyes fool, These thoughts intruding. Lies precluding. What are you doing? From whence does it grow? It’s spilling, it’s gushing, no stopping the flow. So long a stone like the bricks of your cage. So long a stone take hold of your rage. It’s bubbling and boiling. Have you reached the end? Has the rend in your soul become too scared to mend? Like silver threads they flow as you speak. This secret so precious it flows cross your cheek And the mask on your soul now lies at your feet. The masks, many layers, many years did repeat. Why covet that mask as you did all your life? And the stones in the wall of your cage that were rife? Why covet that life? Was it living at all? And the happiness sought was your end to end all? Years of plodding along finding places to hide. Years of hiding the you who was living inside. Wasn’t happiness there on the path that you strode? Look around, life’s a trip on the ‘Happiness Road.’ Then the light filtered through and the rage rose inside To break free of the bonds you, yourself wove with pride. And the rage rose inside to the rim of the wall And the plans to break free became nothing at all. Oh, your plans to step through were so painful a gain. Where are they now but locked up in your brain? Plans so construed to remain standing tall. You had planned to step through but you fell through the damned wall. Time to celebrate the road up ahead. Time to celebrate the life that I fled. Time to celebrate, though I’ll never be free. For more doors lie ahead, but don’t I hold the key? That says it all. —Chuck Homer
Truth? continued from page 9 You want to hear about Truth? Breaking free of the bonds and becoming the “me” that was hiding inside for most of my life—to begin to live the truth that was me. That was the greatest truth of all. Honesty... the easiest way to live a life. Games were made by children to learn to play along. They'd ring-around-the-rosy and sing their silly song. Red Rover Red Rover bids the favorites come over. They choose up sides so early to find where they belong. They choose up sides so early it's no wonder some go wrong. In later years they harden in thought and will and deed. They search for others like themselves in order to succeed. The games go on though not so clear the rules meant to heed. The rules of survival, now the rules of the breed. The rules of the games they play are rules that feed their greed. Oh to be a child again when life was simply grown. We seldom had to hide ourselves beneath a mask unknown. The truth was written on our face with purity it shown Until we learned to hide ourselves to satisfy the throne Of kings and queens who ruled our lives till we were fully-grown. A few of us like children yet with honesty still our style. We learned so many years ago that life's made up of trials. Each trial a path to wisdom of the ways to treat a brother, to live each day the best we can and cherish one-another.
It took a few years for me to realize that being Gay was my most heavily guarded secret and the biggest and most shameful secret that I had carried from adolescence until I was 61. I shed that secret in 1999 and with the help of groups like the GLBT Center, Brother’s Keepers support group, the men at Ferry Beach, several very dear friends and my partner. I began to realize that the shame was behind me and DAMN IT, I was FREE! I could look another person in the eye and not worry that my secret would slip out and disgrace me. I was free from the worry of rejection. The worry was gone and so was the fear and anxiety, the feeling of being damaged goods. Sure those first few years were hell but the TRUTH is today’s feeling of freedom is priceless.
Chain Man by Andy Tubbesing 11
by Barbara G. Howell
A short story by Bob French In Part I of this story, published in Chalice Vol. 1, No. 1, police detective Mike Shields is baffled by a seemingly motiveless murder in Cleveland’s Public Square. The victim’s wound doesn’t make sense and no bullet can be found. Mike’s intuition tells him that this is not a random crime, and he has a feeling that the victim’s interest in Civil War reenactment may provide a clue. He travels to Knoxville to talk with the victim’s widow, who shows him a collection of letters written by the murdered man’s great, great grandfather while serving as a Confederate soldier. The story continues… But in the third letter from the bottom, dated May 14, 1864,† the tone changed to one of urgency. †
Errata: In our last issue, gremlins inexplicably changed this date to 1986.
As Shields began to read, that familiar shiver chased down his spine. He took out his notebook and began to copy the letter, word for word. “I must write down what just occurred and try to get the letter on its way to you, in case something happens to me. First, I want you to know that I love you very much and my fondest wish is to return to you. “We had dug in on a rise in the woods near Resaca, Georgia. I was on the left flank. We had our cannons in place and thought ourselves fairly invincible. But about daybreak the Union soldiers advanced right across the field and up the rise. We pushed them back once, but they came back and back and back, laying down such strong fire that we were pinned down in the breastworks.
Then a Union soldier, somewhat separated from his fellows, breeched the works near me. I aimed at him just as he aimed at me. I got my round off; he hesitated the briefest moment, as if he didn’t want to shoot, then read my intent too late. He fell almost at my feet. He was still alive. His look was terrible. His eyes glazed over and he expired. “My blood ran cold. He was the first man I knew for sure I had killed. You know that I am not a little superstitious. I felt as though he had cast an evil eye upon me. He was obviously a corporal in the color guard. The battle surged away from us and I was able to hastily search the pockets. I felt I had to know who he was. I wondered for the briefest instant if we were some distant kin. But he hailed from Ohio—I know no one there – and carried his wife’s picture and address near his heart. “I copied down the name and address in my diary. I intend to notify his wife in my own hand. That may help ease the sense of foreboding I feel now. We fought on and soon had to retreat, not in very good order. It was a terrible day. I am lucky to be alive.” Shields leafed through the scrapbook, but found no letter from the widow. No, said Mrs. Herrin, they’d never seen the diary. They didn’t know whether he ever wrote to her. “What happened to the first Bill Herrin?” asked Shields. “Nothing. Well, that’s not quite true,” responded Mrs. Herrin. “Within a month, he was wounded in the shoulder and sent home. He refought that war all his life, and I understand he used to say he never wanted to see another Yankee. He and his wife ran the farm and raised a boy and girl, but life was hard after the war. He lived to be 84.” “Did this letter have some special meaning for your Bill?” asked Shields. “Well, only as his most interesting personal piece of history,” she said. “He showed it around and researched that particular battle. He’d learned there is a Civil War museum in a place called Sheffield Lake, which is apparently close to Cleveland. He planned to visit it, because it’s supported by descendants of the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which fought at Resaca. But…” Her control was cracking, her eyes misting. “I don’t think I can tell you anymore.”
Shields stood up to leave, promising to get in touch when he had something solid and repeating condolences. He knew that Mrs. Herrin, like many before her, would be glad to see his back. On his first day back, Herrin spent over an hour returning phone messages. One more. “Mike Shields here, returning a call to Caroline Crawford.” An insurance company receptionist put him through. A soft voice answered. She’d seen Crimestoppers, said Crawford, and would like to talk to him about the murder in the square, before she lost her nerve. Could she meet him on the balcony of the Old Arcade for lunch at 1 p.m.? She gave him a thumbnail description and hung up. As Shields walked into the Arcade, unaccountably, his heart started pounding. He walked up the curved marble steps and along the brass-railed balcony. He delighted once again in the far-sighted, playful design embodied in this historic, banner-hung, glass-ceilinged shoppingoffice complex. He snagged a table, waved to Crawford as she emerged from the Japanese carryout. Shields thought he might have seen this confident tall black woman, with corn-rowed hair and erect carriage, crossing the vital intersection on that fatal day. Right now, she looked nervous and ill-at-ease. She set down the Styrofoam container, but didn’t open it. She looked at him questioningly. He nodded encouragingly. “I saw something that day,” said Crawford. “I tried to tell my boyfriend and he accused me of being high on uppers, which I do NOT use and he knows it. Don’t tell anybody else, he said. I decided he was right. Who would believe me? But it’s been eating at me. When I saw the request on CrimeStoppers, I had to call.” Shields waited tensely. “I’d crossed the street and was walking south beside the monument,” she said. “I realized later that I had passed Herrin heading the other way. I heard a crack, in spite of the jackhammers, and I recognized it as a gunshot. I know what one sounds like. I jerked my head around to locate the source. “I saw, I swear, a puff of smoke near the end of the rifle held by that one statue aiming toward the intersection. And then I thought the statue smiled.” Continued on page 14
Square Won, continued from page 13 She had glanced behind her and seen the fallen man and people starting to run toward him. Terrified, faint, and fearful that she might be hallucinating, Crawford managed to hail a cab and go home. She’d called in sick, claiming sudden food poisoning, and crawled into bed, where she shivered all afternoon. Finally, she talked to her boyfriend, who was, of course, no help at all. She had been worried, confused and half-sick ever since. Something in Shields’ expression brought her a flood of relief. “I think,” said Shields slowly, “that you didn’t imagine that.” Crawford smiled brilliantly then asked him to explain. “That statue belongs to a color guard group that represents a real battle, fought in Resaca, Georgia,” he said, groping his way. “Herrin’s great, great grandfather fought in a battle there and killed a Union soldier. He was superstitious and apparently believed all his life that the soldier’s spirit lived on, and intended to retaliate. He evidently felt safest close to home and he stayed there. “He apparently convinced his son and grandson to do the same, probably afraid the ‘curse’ might fall on them instead. And they all lived to ripe old ages. The great grandson, however, had to travel. For the sake of argument,” continued Shields, “let’s accept William Herrin’s premise.” “A vengeful Confederate spirit is convinced that old Herrin took an unfair advantage somehow, but is somewhat mollified that Herrin
showed remorse and wrote to his wife,” continued Shields. “Say this spirit vows to take a Herrin life in return, but only under honorable circumstances, similar to those in battle. “Ironically, a statue—with a gun in its hands—is erected to represent this spirit-person. The spirit enters the statue and bides its time, with the intention of killing a Herrin descendent, but only if that person passes directly in front of the rifle. “And, lo and behold, here comes Bill Herrin. He bears the same name and is familiar with his great, great grandfather’s experience, might even have been thinking about it at that moment. He’s ‘refought’ the Civil War as a pastime and even intended to find out more about it while he was here.” Shields stopped. He’d have to check the trajectory from the statue’s gun and the type of wound made by a lead mini ball like those displayed in the monument. But he was quite certain what he’d find out. And that he would never find a bullet. “I think the statue on the square won, from its standpoint,” said Shields. His mother, bless her, believed in kindly spirits that helped remedy human affairs. He didn’t know how he’d break the news to the chief, or Mrs. Herrin. And he didn’t relish enlightening his mother that not all spirits are angelic. On second thought, maybe his mother was partly right. Had the spirit that could break bell ropes met up with the ghost of a certain Union soldier? Was it she who had pointed to the answer that moment on the trolley?
By Gaylene Sloane My mother told me that, when I was little, I would 'fess up' even if it meant a spanking. I learned it from her—she was the most honest person I knew. My father, however, was a study in contrast. His public behavior was very different from his behavior when in the privacy of our home. His deception sometimes extended to what he said and I was often tempted to believe him even when I knew he was lying. Years later a social worker told me they call such people street angels and house devils. Scott Peck called them 'people of the lie.' Imagine a Viceroy morphing into a Monarch. In his later years, my father finally became the person he had only pretended to be. Unfortunately dementia undid all his effort. But I will never forget the damage he did to my mother's life or the profound change he made in himself. 14
By Tom Slattery As Sunday services begin and a flame is lit in the chalice at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church we pledge, among other things, "to seek the truth in love." Unlike virtually all other religions, the "truth" that we seek is not in revealed texts. We believe that collectively as human beings we must find it for ourselves. Unlike truth revealed in religious texts, the truth that we seek must be testable. It is not necessarily scientifically testable truth. Some of it may be historical truth testable by processes ranging from archaeological discoveries to DNA analyses. Some of it may be biographical truth discovered by researchers who find the humanity in personalities raised to mythological superhuman. But most of it is scientific. We hear sermons that are drawn from the latest science. We really want to know and really do not want to deceive ourselves about this reality that we were born into and so fleetingly occupy. We are accused of being too intellectual as opposed to being deeply religious. But this is false. We are religious about seeking the truth in love as distinct from accepting the supernaturally revealed in fear. And we are free to ask ourselves about what might be true and what might be not so true in the other six days of the week. We crave new knowledge and support billion-dollar atomsmashers, multi-billion-dollar space adventures, and million-dollar biological laboratories. But each of us is free to seek the truth for ourselves and in our own low budget ways. And each of us knows that there was only one each of Newton, Einstein, Pasteur, Daguerre, Morse, Fleming, and so many others. They brought the rest of us one piece of new knowledge or one set of closely related bits of knowledge and that defined their lives and changed our lives. None of them had credentials in the fields of their discoveries because by their discoveries all of them invented their fields. The story of Newton and the apple may be more metaphorical than true but there was no practical realization of gravity before Newton. The story of Fleming's discovery of antibiotics is a definition of the word serendipity. There was
only one Fleming and one discovery of penicillin, but Fleming was not trying to invent antibiotics. He merely realized that what he saw could be useful. It became not only his claim to fame, but it turned out to be the one point of purpose and meaning of his whole life. Daguerre was an artist and a good one who made a lot of money from his art. He used this money to fund his invention of photography. He became known as an inventor and forgotten as an artist. Daguerre's friend Morse (a Unitarian) was also an artist. One of his paintings hangs in the National Gallery in Washington. But we know Morse not for his art but for inventing the hardware and the software (Morse code) of the telegraph. This is to say that we need neither education nor credentials to actively ‘seek the truth.’ Edison,
after all, had a fourth-grade education and piled up a horde of world-changing inventions, some of which laid the groundwork for future university departments. Anyone can "seek the truth." That, of course, does not necessarily mean that one will find it. But not seeking surely means not finding. And the seeking of truth is not only a grand purpose but it tends also to be fun. Like air, time is everywhere around us. We note its passing but do not know what it is. The following explores a wild amateur (from the French ‘lover of’) seeking of truth about time, especially what time might be. Nothing testable is found. But this text about the seeking may lead other minds toward questions and answers. Continued on page 16
To Seek the Truth, continued from page 15 Before the 17th century and experiments by scientists like Torricelli there was no notion of air as a substance. Aspects of air had names like wind or breath as if they were independent of it. Air itself was invisible and ubiquitous and no one even realized that it was there, that, for instance, a moving and weighable substance called air made wind and breath. Could we stretch an analogy to time? Could time be a substance or ‘stuff’ like a blueberry muffin is a substance or ‘stuff?’ That is to say, could time be something tangible like mass-energy is tangible? Let's explore. But let's whenever possible avoid scientific jargon and mathematical terms because these have precise meanings and therefore have potentials to seduce our thought processes back into the already known rather than to where we might be inspired to pounce on what is not yet known and make it known. Experience shows that time and energy are interrelated. For example, we step harder on the gas pedal and give our car more energy and as a result we can get where we are going in less time. But is this relationship between time and energy what we are wondering about here? Does the gas pedal analogy represent a flow of time that surrounds us like air surrounds us so that we go through our lives oblivious to it? Or does it hint at a specific interaction of the substance of time with energy-matter? Picking this apart will be tricky partly because, as of now in our highly speculative state of mind, we do not know what a ‘substance’ of time might actually be like, feel like, and act like, and what it might and might not do. We are trying to guess at an invisible, intangible ghost. At best, any new speculation is less than perfect and has to work itself out in comparisons with the already known. This speculation about time as a substance will probably not end up with anything testable. But it may spark a thought that will spark a thought that may lead to something. Gravity appears to interact with time and vice versa. In the interest of not muddling our mentalities in spurious directions, let's stick with gravity and time and skip that which can be made to mimic gravity. For instance, the ‘equivalence principle’ shows that acceleration generated by other than a 16
gravity-generating mass can mimic the attracting acceleration of gravity. But I note that the ‘equivalence principle’ is well named. It is not the "identical principle." To look at it from another angle, the totally different physical force of a magnet on an iron pellet can mimic the ‘attractingness’ of gravity. But magnetism is in no way the same force as gravity. I coined ‘attractingness’ to avoid meanings so familiar that they neutralize thought. Also in this case I coined ‘attractingness’ to avoid introducing the ambiguity of biological ‘attractiveness’ of a young man for a young woman and vice versa. Beyond the distraction of ‘equivalence principle,’ Einstein said that there is no such thing as gravity, only distortions in space-time. So it becomes awkward to talk about a possible substance called time interacting with space-time— that is to say, a substance called time interacting with time. This exploration hinges on a whim that time may be a substance interacting with gravity. We may need to coin another word, ‘Einsteinian,’ to free our minds. There may or may not be something more to this than that which is locked into the dual concepts of relativity. The whim began with ‘Einsteinian’ gravitational time dilation that appears, in the way that whims do, to betray an interaction of time with gravity. What is gravitational time dilation? It is a tested and known relationship between gravity and time. To condense Wikipedia's explanation, clocks that are far from massive gravitational bodies run faster, and clocks close to massive gravitational bodies run slower. In other words, gravity makes a clock on Earth tick slower than a clock out in space halfway to the Moon. Since it has been shown over and over again that time interacts with gravity, then it is not too unreasonable to entertain a whim that time could be a substance or stuff like a blueberry muffin that interacts with gravity. There are other indications that the whim may not be completely absurd. There are the curious twin limitations on the ‘speed of light’ and ‘absolute zero’ temperature. Both are limitations on the motion of energy as if there was an ‘upper limit’ and a ‘lower limit’ on the movement of energy. (The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, and absolute zero temperature is just short of minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit.) At absolute zero movement ceases and thus time would seem to also cease. The reverse of this,
I look at her eyes wide and bright, And see the beauty of the soul inside And yet I remain silent. She waits for me to speak the invitation, wanting the same but worried at what might be lost if the guess is wrong. And so we both remain silent. And then in one moment, I fail to control my tongue, and blurt out, clumsily, stupidly, what is in my heart. With a smile, she takes me into her arms and years of joy. —Dave Kleinschmidt
‘absolute hot,’ would seem to be the temperature of the universe in the first instants of its Big Bang inflation when time was also in its infancy. Both at a temperature of absolute zero and at Big Bang zero just before the Big Bang, matter and time could tempt one to see similarity between the two. Presumably before the Big Bang, light had no ‘speed’ and thus had no time. After the Big Bang, light seems to always have had a precisely defined ‘speed.’ The best minds can be forgiven for asking why there is a speed of light. But there is z speed of light. If unobstructed by material or by gravity, the ‘speed of light’ seems to be the same throughout the universe. Let's look at the speed of light and go back to the earlier gas-pedal analogy. We step on the gas pedal and use more energy, and this use of more energy reduces the time it takes to get where we are going. But what if we have a super-car that can go the speed of light and that car is on a treadmill that is going the speed of light? We step on the gas pedal and give the car more energy, but stepping on the gas pedal doesn't reduce the amount of time it takes to get us where we are going. It only makes the treadmill go faster. If we look at the engine, the pistons are going up and down faster and faster. If the car was
energy, that is to say light, the up and down light frequency, like the up and down of the car pistons, would increase. But since the speed of light cannot change, light with a lot more up and down motion doesn't get where it is going any faster. So can we say that the conveyor belt might represent time? It makes an interesting analogy, but analogies eventually fall apart. Both the supercar and the photon of light can accept and use the increased energy, but something would seem to be absorbing the saved time. Could the ‘speed of light’ and its companion ‘absolute zero’ be yet two more indications of an interaction with the ‘stuff’ of time, of mass-energy with time? Could this interaction of the substance of time with light be what creates light "waves" and then squeezes ‘wavelengths’ as more energy reacts with the substance of time? In addition, what confines the speed of light? Let's divert for a moment and look at something else that might indicate an interaction with time outside the normal flow of time, radioactivity and equally important here, non-radioactivity. There are four known ‘eternal’ particles: protons, electrons, photons, and neutrinos. Left to themselves they stay and don't decay. Continued on page 18
To Seek the Truth, continued from page 17 Neutrons may last forever inside a nucleus, but neutrons can decay. Pluck a neutron out of the nucleus and it lasts just under 15 minutes. It decays into a proton, electron, and (anti) neutrino. This decay appears to be a reversible process in mu mesons (using mu-meson neutrinos) and apparently in making neutrons with electron neutrinos and protons in experiments in deep mines. And apparently in the high-energy condition of the first moments of the Big Bang, protons could become neutrons. So free neutrons outside the nucleus relate to time with a measurable decay time of about 15 minutes. Mu mesons relate to time with a measurable decay time of about 2.2 microseconds. And for that matter, the multitude of the nonstable isotopes in the Chart of the Nuclides each have their own characteristic decay times, which is to say their fixed personal relationships with time. If time is a substance, it seems to interact differently with each other substance and property of our universe. Moreover, if time is a substance, that substance, like the rest of the whole package of everything that surrounds us in the universe, would have been created in the Big Bang. Can we speculate? In some alternative universe could there have been a Big Bang that had no substance of time? Can we imagine what that might look like? A quick guess is that there would be an inflation from a pre-Big Bang singular point to a whole universe in a timeless instant. Without time this universe might be motionless and seemingly dead. But the main point is that unlike our own universe, it would not take almost 14 billion years and counting to inflate. In one timeless instant it would have been a point. In the next timeless blink of an eye it would have been a done universe. Well, that scenario requires a stretch of imagination. But if time is a substance it probably would have been born with all of the other stuff in the Big Bang of our universe. But what about an alternative universe that
was born with only half as much of the substance of time and all the rest of the substance of time went instead into creating other substances like our electrons, protons, mesons, neutrinos, etc.? Or vice versa, and not without a touch of levity. If an alternative Big Bang created a universe with twice the substance of time and only half of the substance of the rest of electrons, protons, mesons, neutrinos, etc., would we live some great length of time but with great scarcity all of our long pitiful lives? How might time, as a substance, exist or work in an inflating universe? Time appears to act evenly and thus be dispersed evenly throughout the universe. Might this indicate that time came into existence with the very earliest instants of the Big Bang, perhaps even in the earliest instants of some yetundiscovered proto-Big Bang and it attached itself to everything? And in what form? Might this substance of time be carried in particles, strings, or even, since time is not light, a Michaelson-Morely-era aether? And if there might be a time-particle, a ‘timeton,’ might it have become deeply embedded in every atom and sub-atomic entity that exists in our universe? Could it be that deeply embedded ‘timetons’ are the sole driving force of the Big Bang inflation, ‘timetons’ pushing light and everything else outward and striving to reach an impossible timeeternity where there is no warping and slowing from gravity? There may be lingering cloud chamber, bubble chamber, and spark chamber photos and data from experiments done over the past half-century. Perhaps if one reviewed them for ‘timetons’ or other aspects of time as a substance that may lurk in the resulting smashed atoms one might find something. I don't know of anything. It's just a wild guess. Time is all around us. It governs everything in the universe. And we don't know what it is. To seek the truth about time seems like something we all could try.
—H.G. Wells 18
By Patty Heany My two great confessions: First, I did not fall in love with my son the instant he was born. Second, I have spent time, as a patient, in a psych ward. Neither of these statements shocks people. They're awful, and each is only the tip of a long and painful journey that I'm still trying to overcome. The shocking thing is: I'm not ashamed of either declaration. Let me be clear—I am very much in love with my little boy. I live and breathe each day hoping that my life will somehow make his better. I faithfully consume medication to keep my mind from slipping back into its deep chasm, despite side effects, all so I know I can give him the best life possible. But I am not ashamed of my illness, nor of the time it took for me to grow to love him. Ours is a culture of rugged individualism—the greatest lie ever told. We are expected to be Strong, Capable, Intelligent. We are beholden to expectations of family, society, and friends (and woe be unto her who cannot live up to such expectations). We must adopt a particular costume that suits our position and income with face and words to match. We must always be aware, and yet somehow live above the expectations of others. Well, during college, I actually believed all of that crap. I dressed appropriately, studied hard, worked hard, maintained a relationship with my then fiancé (now husband), corresponded with family all over the world (faithfully listening to their advice), and tried to plan a wedding that I could not afford. I knew I had some level of depression—an illness that had plagued me since I was a teenager—but my petty concerns about my appearance and other aspects seemed unimportant. Even the nightmares, which frequently ended with my screaming myself awake, didn't seem like something I should trouble other people about. After all, everyone feels down from time to time—everyone has nightmares. Mine weren't that significant, and I already had plenty of health issues that I could neither explain nor afford to treat. And hey: I was just thinking about killing myself to get away from it all. Not the same thing as doing it, right? Wrong. The term is “suicidal ideation,” and, while it may be common—it actually is a big deal. Being depressed and having a well-thought out plan to kill yourself is the last step before actually doing the deed. When left untreated, it becomes a very short step, indeed. Well, my fiancé is a clever thing, and he essentially ordered me to go to a therapist on campus to request treatment. I did, and after a perilously short Q&A I found myself on the second ambulance ride of my life to one of the larger hospitals of the region. There, I was admitted for a weekend, given a prescription for a massive dose of anti-depressants (similar to what I now take), sent home, and later dropped out of school. But I started to get better. Now, let's fast forward a decade, when I found out I was pregnant two weeks before I delivered. Don't do that, by the way. I'm plagued by a host of problems, most particularly acute fibromyalgia and arthritis of the hips. HELLP Syndrome (Hemolysis Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count, a very close relative of preeclampsia) came with the pregnancy. Plus, my gall bladder had effectively died two weeks before, and my liver was filling with a grainy mixture of gallstones that made cirrhosis look downright friendly by comparison. My obstetrician rather wisely decided to try inducing me—which failed spectacularly, prompting her to start a C-section rather sooner than most would expect. Happily, my epidural had gone in interstitially and, combined with the narcotic I was on for the gall bladder, left me far too drugged out of my mind to realize that the doctor was trying to communicate with me, let alone how much danger I was in. Continued on page 20 19
I Am Not Ashamed, continued from page 19 The C-section was particularly difficult, and most of it was a haze of blood, color, and French philosophy for me. Anesthesiologists don't like it when a patient actually feels pain, so mine gave me something that left the world a remarkable place for many days afterward. But when I was coherent and my son was breathing on his own, I was able to glimpse a squalling, calcium-caked creature with ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes being presented to me. I was aware of the fact that he was perfect, and even of the fact that he was human (trust me, this isn't always an easy thing with newborns); but that was it. I couldn't understand where I was or what was happening, even though I could recite those facts to you if asked. I was moved to a recovery room where I experienced the joys of dry-heaving after a C-section (don't do that either, by the way). Then, after a week of observation, two more surgeries, and tests that left me with radioactive breast milk, I got to go home. And I learned to love my cuddly little bunny more and more, as he slowly began to show me who he was. I give these two confessions to you freely, as I give them to anyone who bothers asking. I give them not because I'm proud of them—well, maybe I am a little proud of surviving them—but because these aren't the sort of confessions one normally gives. One normally says, “I was forced to leave college due to serious illness,” not “I had a catastrophic mental breakdown which left me unable to return to college —hey, how's that bean dip?” A mother always says how they loved their little boy the moment he left her womb, or sometimes even before, not “Mommy was so stoned, and so sick, she couldn't figure out who you were for the longest time.” ...but that's where I am. I am a woman rebuilding her mind and body, and I'm not the only one. Everyday people—people who could have received help—kill themselves. Everyday women give birth and experience bonding issues with their children. These are not new or unknown things, these are not horrifying facts that we must do everything to hide: they are just life. I don't think that my free confessions will convince everyone that it's ok to get help. Centuries of stigma against mental illness are hard to topple, even when we all know intellectually that they're wrong. But I want everyone who cares to know that I felt ashamed, too. I was desperate not to cause any waves, or to make anyone worry needlessly. I've never had enough money to get help, and I don't see that changing (Social Security views people like me as little more than malingerers, and job hunting with a toddler isn't the easiest thing to accomplish crippled). But when everything was wrong, when there wasn't a way out: I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I asked for help. Now my friends know that I sometimes need a break from people, and they're ok with that. Now my family accepts my oddness, since I no longer give them an alternative. Now I can write out my story without shame, because I've learned that I've done nothing wrong. In Knots by Becky Hoelter I am not ashamed. 20
by Ahmie Yeung
"What is Truth?" Pilate said. As well he should ask. What do we mean by this thing which can be neither seen nor grasped But which has value beyond diamonds & gold. "Truth be told" we say "Always tell the truth" we command Yet we really don't know what we mean when we say it.
Truth is elusive, hard to find. Easily lost Hard to keep "The truth is out there" But where?! Right there there If you have eyes, see If you have ears, hear Because itâ€™s right there In front of you It IS you! â€”Anne Obradovich