Mind Magic

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As a writer, words carry a special significance for me. I collect unusual ones, appreciate it when someone writes something that strikes a chord, and take pleasure in crafting a piece of work that entertains, enlightens, or challenges others.

But is it really the words, letters, or grammatical markings that make the magic? Or does magic really happen in the brain?

I just finished a book called The First Signs by Genevieve von Petzinger. The premise of the book is essentially that the symbols, i.e. letters etc., are meaningless. It is our understanding of those symbols that give them meaning. Without the context of understanding what the symbols represent, there is no meaning.

old cave drawing made with paint
Photo by ArtHouse Studio on Pexels.com

For example, if an English-speaking person were to read the following, they might think it beautifully written, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” But if we changed the symbols out for, say, Chinese, it might appear as just gibberish 我如何愛你? 讓我來計算一下 to us.

There is no meaning without a fundamental understanding of the symbolic nature of the lines and squiggles; a b c to our English speaker and 在一開 to our Chinese speaker.

The symbols merely trigger brain processes, they have no innate meaning. The meaning lies not in the symbols themselves but in the magic of the mind’s ability to transform them into thoughts. And our thoughts are conversations with ourselves. (I often listen to the voices, don’t you?)

Written language is a consensus where we reach a collective understanding to use symbols to trigger the shared meaning of concepts found only in our minds.

The magic of everything we see, hear, or feel happens only in our minds. Everything outside is without meaning or form without the magic in our brain. It is merely light reflected off the surface of an object and translated into concepts within our minds. Thus Plato’s allegory of the cave, questioning the need for the real world.

Reality happens when we think it into existence. Beyond a matrix. Beyond any imaginary concepts. The quantum reality of existence. Symbols, be they letters or glyphs, are just that without the magic.

A clever way to think of this is the Babblefish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. (Please tell me you read this—the movie didn’t do it justice.) For those of you who may have missed the story, a babblefish is a creature capable of translating any language into one understood by the person equipped with such a companion. It is inserted in the ear where the babblefish leads a happy and useful life translating many languages. But what it really does is understand the universal concepts and questions,

Where is the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?

Where can I get something to eat?

How much for a vodka martini?

Where is the bathroom?

Thus it would seem while humanity has made great strides in populating the earth, it is still in the dark ages when it comes to a common language and system of writing. This, like all things, will change eventually. Even the doomed concept of Esperanto had its moments. It turned out to be the Beta tapes of language (look it up if you must) but it did spark some discussion.

To illustrate how things are constantly changing, think about the balance between spoken and written communication. In our earliest history primitive humans—Sapiens, Neanderthal, Heidelbergensis—developed language, simple yet effective as it was, to communicate information.

Where the Aurochs were. How far to water. Etc.

As human communication progressed, people developed written symbols (painted, etched, or carved into stone) to provide a more permanent “data storage” solution. A way to “record” their voice. But for the first millennia of human communication, it was almost exclusively spoken.

We lost these communications in the mists of history.

All through my generation on the earth, almost all of my communication with others was verbal. Of course, there are letters, notes, and other paper remnants of things we wrote , but we lost the majority to time.

Today, that balance between words spoken and written is changing. Social media has diminished the use of speaking to each other in favor of text, snapchats, and social media postings. I dare say that as the efficiency, reach, and speed of such systems increases, we may lose our ability for conversation.

Almost every conversation I had with friends and family growing up is forever lost to the past, inevitably altered by the fluidity of memory. In the case of today’s generation, there are petabytes (one thousand terabytes) of data storage with almost everything they’ve ever “said” online preserved for posterity.

Imagine everything you’ve ever said being available to recall and view all over again. I don’t know about you but the concept is chilling. While I’ve said some things I’m very proud of, there are an equal if greater amount better lost forever.

I couldn’t write things for people to read if there was no way to put it in front of them, be it on a screen or in a printed book. But conversation is an art. It is something intimate to be shared with our fellow humans, either a casual conversation with fellow traveler on a plane or in a coffee shop or with a child, lover, or friend.

Universities give out honorary degrees to people of note. They often entitled the degrees Doctor of Humane Letters. This is a formal way of saying a person whose words, actions, and/or writings have affected people and history.

What the title really implies is someone who has spoken to his fellow humans in the most profound way. It is the epitome of being human. It is the ultimate form of caring about your fellow beings. To spend time in conversation is to share one’s fundamental humanity.

Language lets us enter into another person’s thoughts and share the experience; We can never replace it with a symbol no matter how beautifully written. When you learned to speak, then read, then write, there was a reason speech had to come first. It is the foundation of all communication. Everything else is just a method of transmission.

It can never be the message itself.  That requires magic.    

JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services. Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

Woke Shakespeare

In keeping with the need to woke the world. I give you, Woke Shakespeare. Stripped of all those now unacceptable terms which so terrorize, diminish, and traumatize us. I should add a trigger warning, but wouldn’t the word “trigger” also cause a “trigger” response to the idea of violence?

It is a conundrum. How to woke the world without sending it into convulsions.  

Sonnet 118 by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee  she/he/they to a summer’s day?
Thou They art more lovely and more
temperate: (in a non-threatening non-sexual connotation unless there is a free, articulable, and willful acceptance of such an overture)
Rough winds do shake the darling buds  Strong winds do move the emerging flowers of
And summer’s   the warm seasonal lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven   warm the sun shines,
And often is his  their gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines  chronological, but meaningless, age finds us all
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy  he/she/they eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair  pleasant and non-judgmental appearance thou ow’st;
Nor shall deaththe end brag thou wander’st in his shade, come unpleasant
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st
So long as men people can breathe or eyes can seeand perceive the world regardless of any disabilities,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee she/he/they.

This rush to ameliorate reality by masking it does us no good and serves to diminish us all. That words can hurt is not in doubt, but only if we give them the power to do so.  Where will such nonsense lead us?

And by proclaiming I am now a We, does it truly alter the reality. Like our friend Shakespeare also (kind of) wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a  rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Historical note, while the quote is accurate, it is only part of the full speech by Juliet to Romeo. She was referring to him as a Montague and, Romeo responds, if he were not a Montague she could marry him with any hinderances. So I may be guilty of cherry picking a quote. Nothing is ever simple.)

Antigonish by William Hughes Mearns

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!

Whenever someone declares he or she is a we or they, I think they are meeting the man on the stairs…and running away in terror.

JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

When You Say It: Unexpected Reactions to a Shared Human Element

Age has always been a minor, albeit varying, factor in my life. As children, we all go through those stages where we want to be older. Rushing what we perceive as our unlimited time. As we get older, some try to resist. But most of us eventually reach a truce with reality and just accept time’s passage.

FatherTimeA recent conversation, for whatever reason, stunned me. While speaking with someone interested in telling his life story (a complicated one involving bank robberies and prison time), He asked how old I was, wanting to see if I had any point of reference to the Watergate incident and a man named G. Gordon Liddy.

I told him I was in high school and had watched the Watergate hearings. I prefaced this by saying, I’ll be sixty-two this year.

As the words came out, it caught me by surprise. I could not put my finger on why my age stunned me. Hanging up the phone after arranging a meeting, the memories of those sixty-two years rocketed through my brain.

So, I do what I always do when something strikes me as odd, or funny, or troubling. I write about it. It is a habit I’ve developed over, incredibly, sixty-two years.

I have a misty memory of the first grade where I was sent down the long, intimidating hall to bring a book to the eighth-grade classroom. In my mind, the eighth graders were ancient ogres. I had to navigate around them like giant redwoods. They were the scary “big” kids. Old and dangerous.

Now, I’m shocked when I see graduate students from Brown University driving cars. They look so young. My grandfather used to say, when cops and priests start looking young, you’re old. He had that one right.

When I was seventeen, a group of friends and I would stake a claim to one of the many dunes of Horseneck Beach. We had our stash of fake-id acquired cold beer and plans of conquering bikini-clad young women.  At least the part of the beer being cold was true. Our tales of sexual conquest pure fantasy that improves with age as it drifts further from the truth.

On one expedition I recall a conversation, between our fruitless attempts at charming any girls, about how we would be forty-four years old in the year 2000. Both elements seemed unreal and unreachable. Here I am in the year 2018. Both 44 and 2000 are distant memories.

My daughter, her birth another life-altering event when she arrived in 1988, will soon reach one those milestones in life. I won’t say she’ll turn thirty this year, but you do the math. To some, such things are traumatic. I never found them so. How she’ll react is as personal to her as it is to everyone. Age and the progression of time is the one equal opportunity aspect of this shared life.

Age discriminates against no one. Time gives itself with little regard for anything.

I suppose it may be the reality of understanding the unknowable allocation of the time we each have left, and that we are all ticketed for the same departure event, which caused this simple conversation to shock my consciousness.

Time continues its unalterable passage. The summers of our youth will take on almost mythological alterations of reality. By holding onto these memories, we may embrace the summers of our future with greater appreciation.

We can strive to enjoy every day for within each moment is the potential to create a memory.

Age is a state of mind. But it is not what defines, hobbles, or imprisons us unless we let it.


Gun Control: A Time to Rethink the Realities

I struggle with the idea of gun control.  Over time, my ideas have gone from embracing the idea that anyone should be able to own a firearm, as long as they comply with the law, to questioning the need for anyone to possess a weapon with the exception of the Police and Military.

I argued that there are practical problems with imposing serious gun control in this country.  Best estimates show there are 114 million handguns in private hands.  To create a program to remove them lawfully from private ownership has nightmarish legal and practical implications.

There are issues with overcoming the constitutional arguments.  I have revisited the arguments of the second amendment. I see a clear distinction in the common interpretation between its original intent and today’s modern era.

As with all aspects of the Constitution, adapting to a changing world is both necessary and reasonable

In light of the clear and undeniable problem of gun violence in this country, a new approach to gun control is long overdue.  The numbers for 2010 were 18,000 deaths and 33000 injuries from firearms.  Homicide rates in urban areas are 12.1 per 100000.

Some other interesting information; (various on-line sources)

The U.S.A. is ranked third out of 45 developed nations in regards to the incidence of homicides committed with a firearm. Mexico and Estonia are ranked first and second.

In 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for Mexico, where handguns are prohibited was 10 per 100,000, the figure for the United Kingdom, where handguns are prohibited was 0.07 per 100,000, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.

Gun homicides in Switzerland however are similarly low, at 0.52 in 2010 even though they rank third in the world for highest number of guns per citizen.

Perhaps we can learn something from the Swiss.

So, what are the arguments for allowing private ownership of guns?  Here are the two most commonly cited, the second amendment and protection against a tyrannical government.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Written at a time when the United States did not keep a standing army, citizens were called to duty when needed.  The benefit of having citizens maintaining and possessing firearms was clear.  The use of a firearm in daily survival, hunting for example, was common.  It was a different time.

Hunting is a hobby now, not a necessity. However, keep in mind, I am talking about handguns and, perhaps, high-capacity military type weapons.

Protection from tyranny.

Proponents of gun ownership often cite Hitler’s Germany outlawing private ownership of weapons as an example.  There is no evidence that the lack of private ownership of firearms by the German people contributed to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany.  The reasons behind that rise to power were infinitely more complex; handguns in every German home would not have altered anything.

This tyranny argument fails on two counts, one philosophical and one practical.  On the philosophical side, the idea that any American government could direct the military to attack the general population is ludicrous.

The men and women who serve do so because of the American people, not despite them.  I know no one who ever served in the military that would follow an order to attack American civilians.

Isolated incidents notwithstanding, the idea of a wholesale attack by the US military on Americans is insane. It makes for an entertaining movie theme, not reality.

Now the practical side of this argument.  Assuming for the sake of discussion that the President somehow convinced the military to attack civilians in a coordinated way, using the full power of the military, the “second amendment” advocates would not stand a chance.

A fully orchestrated attack by the 1st Marine Division, supported by aircraft, armored vehicles and artillery would utterly overwhelm a bunch of yahoos clinging to their precious weapons whose idea of training is drinking beer and shooting targets bearing the image of a politician they despise.

The idea that a citizen army could withstand such an attack is nonsense.

There is a long history of well-established civilian control over the military because the military is comprised of citizens. While one always needs to pay attention, I think a bigger threat to our freedom comes from Congress and not the Pentagon.

It really boils down to this, does the tradition of private ownership of firearms outweigh the real risk to our society.  We have a failing war on drugs because we thought we could arrest our way out of a health issue.  One that, while tragic, takes far fewer lives than handguns. Yet we seem to ignore the bigger threat of these weapons.

It is time for serious reconsideration of eliminating handguns, and perhaps non-hunting weapons, from private ownership and imposing strict control over their use by Law Enforcement.

Maybe it requires a discussion on the reasons behind our violent tendencies that are exacerbated by the easy availability of weapons.

I don’t know the answer, but ignoring the problem is not it.

A country that once said they would put a man on the moon, and did it, is most assuredly capable of finding a way to eliminate the very real threat these weapons pose to people.

The Latest Reality Show

The newest entry into the “Reality” show market, on the Discovery Channel of all places, is “Naked and Alone”.

The premise of the show is two “strangers” are deposited, naked (the bait) and alone (the teaser) in some “remote” location.

Now from a marketing perspective ‘Naked’ always wins.

Guys will flock to the channel on the mere potential for naked, hot women.

What else could it be for a ‘Reality’ show, (at the risk of being politically incorrect), Naked Fat Chicks or Naked Guys with 38DD Man Boobs?

And not to leave women off the hook, they want their fair share of Naked Hot Guys to fantasize about.

Hmm, perhaps that’s why they close their eyes when engaged in the expected sexual duty with Naked Fat Husband/Boyfriend Guy.

How’s that work for your ego, Lover Boy? Moans are easy to fake.

“Alone” is the tease, and a lie.

They are not alone.

The Hot Naked Guy/Girl is with a matching Hot Naked Girl/Guy (or perhaps a more synchronized set).

There is no reality here.

Something obvious ruins the “alone” aspect.

Know what that is?


At a minimum there’s three people there.

Two naked and one clothed.

Unless, of course, there’s a provision in the ‘Reality Show of Strange and Exotic Places to Video Naked People Cameramen’s Union’ contract that calls for overtime/double time for a naked cameramen.

(I have a friend that could craft such a contract!)

I suspect there must be a reason the Discovery Channel chose to do this series.

Oh yeah, MONEY.

Good for all included.

There’s the Senior Union Professional Cameramen’s member who get’s to yell “Cue the Venomous Giant snake!”

Then there’s the Junior Union Professional Cameramen’s Assistant who lets go of the GIANT FRIGGING SNAKE, and leaves, quickly running, and returns to college.

In all these reality shows, Naked Alone Starving with a three times convicted Homicidal Rapist with Cannibalistic Tendencies (at least he, or she. can cook), the greatest lie is that this is even close to real.

The part the troubles me is, why do people watch any “Reality” show that portrays itself as some dramatic, life or death struggle of man (in the most generic sense) against nature, hoarding, food, or whatever that is ON TV!

What the hell is real about that?

I think we should have a new syndrome, covered by disability insurance of course, for addiction to these shows.

We can call it Kardashianitis Moronicitis.

Imagination, Reality, and Responsibility

Part II: Reality (an essay in three parts)

The concept of Reality has troubled philosophers, scientists, and the insane since the beginning of time.

What is real, actual?

Can we ever be sure?

Of course we can.

If it is real to you, perhaps it is as real as it is going to get. “Esse est Percipi”, “To be is to be perceived” as Bishop Berkley wrote.

But I am more concerned about, lets call it, General Reality (apologies to Albert Einstein).

The realities of daily life and those of us that participate in it.

I think many have confused reality with their own personal belief that whatever they do, or want, or ignore for that matter, is the reality we are all expected to accept.

More troubling is that many people in the Internet-connected world have no solid conception of reality.

Those is the so-called Third World have no such luxury. There is only one reality for them.

But for those in the world of interconnected gaming, reality exists only until they restart the game.

Reality is a video game where there is lots of virtual blood and gore and mayhem and wanton taking of human life, with no consequences.

It’s real until they decide its not. Attain the new highest score and then start over.

All the dead, wounded, and dismembered are made whole.

Once of these games is called Tour of Duty. The most important word in the preceding sentence is GAME.

It is not real, it is not even a very good representation of reality.

I know I shouldn’t generalize, but I am willing to bet many of the most ardent players never even considered actually joining the service.

Here’s a quote from one of the users of the game on their “high” score.

“53-7 on Villa. Ak47 dual mag with lightweight pro, hardened pro, and ninja pro. (names of the players omitted)
Can’t even brag though, the opposing team was beyond horrible”

Why is the word “pro” used in the description of a score of a GAME.

People get paid to play games?

So they are pros?

Oops, forgot about sports, they get paid to play a game.

Actually, they get paid to participate in an activity designed to extract as much money from it’s adherents and provide a respite from reality. One could argue it’s a fair exchange.

But this tendency to blend that which comes out of an X-box, Gameboy, or Computer monitor with actual, physical reality is troubling.

It’s unreal.

And then it get’s carried over into the “general” reality.

And real people die or are injured.

There is no reset, start over, reboot.

Embrace reality.

The Journey

She looked out over the dunes for his return, a sign, anything.

Would he come? Why haven’t heard? Why is he so distant?

This is the part she hates, the intensity of the feelings, love, hope,

doubt, distance, despair, delight, resolve, and resignation.

It had always been this way. Was it her obsession? Was he really that

different? Was he really so sweet, and caring, and tender, and distant, and


Does it have to be thus?

She kept looking, kept hoping, every day, whenever she could, she’d

look out and hope, watch the sun fade and steal her heart, pulling it down

beyond the horizon, inevitably, undeniably. Broken, she would return inside

and pretend her life to continue.

In the morning sunrise would return her hope, renew her spirit, buoy her

heart…..and the pattern would repeat, day in and day out.

The day came when she no longer went to the deck. She

knew now that his absence wasn’t a delay, a deferral, it was a decision.

She would never look out again.

She became better at pretending to be happy,

took solace in things that had become familiar but never fulfilling, there

but not their’s, comfortable but not comforting.

Alive, but not living.

He steered the ship through the storm, made little progress. He had

turned back over and over only to return to this ship and try again. He was

unprepared, unequipped, and unsure of the way.

Sure of his purpose.

There was something that compelled him. Something that drove him on

this time in spite of the storm, In spite of all the objections to his

leaving the safe harbor.

The waves chilled him, blinded him, concealed his progress. But he was

moving forward, he was approaching the coast. He was approaching that which

had held him together for years.

The storm receded, the sun appeared and then set. She would be watching,

or would she? It had been so long, so much time lost, so many times he’d

disappointed her by returning to the safe harbor.

He could see now, the sea was calming, the wind relenting, the mists of the

rains fading. He could see.

He looked at the shore, felt the guilt rise, felt the shame of his cowardly

delay consume him.

How could he have expected her to wait? After all he’d done and failed to

do, how dare he think himself worth it.

He returned to the tiller, began a gentle turn away from the coast. The

tears blinded him, he couldn’t imagine life alone.

And then he heard the voice, he tried to see but only saw motion. She was

there, she had always been there, it was his doubt that blinded him.

But it was her gentle, loving, honest heart that led her back to the

shore. Not another chance, but compelled to continue the journey with him

as they were meant, first separately, and then together, to complete.

It wasn’t where, how, or when they came together, it was always that they

would come together.

The journey continues.