Beyond Language's Reach: A Journal

~ stories, thoughts, images ~



latest entry 2020 2013-19 2012




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September 21st, 2020

Like all species, we humans are, by our very nature, selfish creatures. By that, I mean we put our own survival and interests first and foremost. I am not saying humans are incapable of generosity or magnanimous gestures or love; of course we are. But when it comes down to survival, we’ll eliminate anything we perceive to be a threat or obstacle in a heartbeat. And I would argue that in our haste to attain security, our tendency as a species is to neglect or at least overlook other routes that would be less destructive to our surroundings and fellow Earthlings, and some of those routes, when looked at in the long term, would actually benefit us more.

Thus, a large part of our problem seems to be short-term thinking. Why do we have such a hard time planning ahead? Why do we consider a mere fifty or hundred years hence to be “the distant future”?

In just thirty years from now, by the year 2050, wild koalas are predicted to be extinct in New South Wales “unless there is urgent government intervention to prevent habitat loss, a year-long inquiry has found.” Thirty years. That’s soon, right? For anyone reading this who is in your thirties or older, think back thirty years: That’s a long time, right? Your brain started having the capacity to form long-term memories when you were small. Even though most of those memories have now faded, you still at least have some vague images and recollections from when you were a wee ankle-biter, yeah? Okay, now fast forward a few decades from now to when you are in your sixties, and I guarantee you that your thirties won’t seem as long ago then as your toddler years do now. And yet, the same amount of time has passed; thirty years is still thirty years. To a three-million-year-old space mammoth, thirty Earth years are just a blink, or a drawn-out fart at most. It’s all a matter of perspective.

My point is that no matter how short or long thirty years might seem, it is, in the grand scheme of things, a very short-ass period of time. Blink a few more times, eat some beans, and 2050 will be here.

And the koalas will be gone.

Why?

Because certain humans in power would rather make a quick buck by allowing their real estate developer pals to chop down even more stretches of gum tree forest, which is the habitat and food source for wild koalas. Notice I said “the” and not “a”. While we humans might be able to adjust and relocate whenever we deplete a food source, by farming and fishing instead of hunting, for example, koalas cannot; they need eucalyptus leaves to munch and trees to hide in. And if the New South Wales government succumbs to pressures from those very selfish monied interests, then too many of those forests will be gone -- within thirty years from now -- and NSW’s wild koalas will be no more.

We’re bigger than that, aren’t we? Do we humans really need to be so selfish? Is having more room to build more subdivisions really a matter of survival for the human race? Does making hundreds of millions in profit really justify extinguishing the flame of another race? Okay, okay; I did begin by pointing out that species are innately selfish—but do we humans have to be?

We’ve got big brains, perceptive eyes, and very dexterous fingers and thumbs. We can invent shit that takes us beyond our primordial states of being. Haven’t we developed to the point that we should be able to look beyond a five-year plan? Why does the ability to think in terms of centuries or millennia continue to elude us? Why, if a million years really isn’t very long, do we still perceive it to be?

Shouldn’t we be bigger? Shouldn’t we be able to see the benefit to our long-term survival and happiness—because if we’re honest, it is no longer just about survival—of helping koalas and the myriad other dying species to survive with us? Do they not deserve their own protected and generously large places in the wild, where they can live without fear of extinction? Isn’t that what we’d want for ourselves if the tables were turned?

We humans have had our run of selfishly raping and pillaging this planet without giving much thought to the future. Koalas, with their thirty-year deadline, are not the only vulnerable species at stake here, and if you really take a good hard look at the data, you’ll acknowledge that we “the people” have got our own deadline, too—and once we cross it, we’ll all be gone. And after that happens, what will the point have been?

It’s time for us to grow up, and learn to be bigger than we have been so far.


If you also enjoy reading about fantasy, magic, and supernatural themes, feel free to click here to explore my other online journal.



Arrow

September 14th, 2020

Arrow studied the 3-D topo map of the ocean floor that he had called up on his retinal display. He had had a fascination with maps ever since he was little, when it had just been him and his mom, exploring amongst the stars. For his mother, those journeys had been all about making as much cred as possible, and surely had been the exact opposite of “fun”; but for Arrow, they had been grand adventures that had sculpted his imagination and, on some level, continued to drive him to this day.

There. Highlighted on the map was a relatively flat spot surrounded on three sides by cirque of jagged peaks, in the midst of the long ridge rising up from the ocean floor that he had come to think of as “The Leviathan Mountains”. A closer look would be necessary, of course, as well as a whole heap of tests, before Arrow felt confident of the location’s safety, but it at least appeared to be a good candidate for settlement attempt #2.

Other challenges would undoubtedly crop up, some of them unpredictable despite an abundance of caution and data analysis, but at least he and the others would not have to contend with the winds and storms of the surface that had obliterated settlement attempt #1. With not a single piece of land anywhere on the entire planet, unless one counted the constantly shifting polar ice caps, the ocean floor was their best bet. Arrow hoped this would be a viable solution; he would hate to have to wake the crew with the news, “sorry, but we had to retreat to the lunar staging area; we’re just gonna have to study this planet from there.” That would be stupid; they had travelled so far. He was not going to give up.

There were of course those giant floating islands of vegetation, some of which could well be thick enough to support the humans and their structures and equipment. The fact that the computer modelling showed the ocean currents taking these “land” masses on a continuous, intricately weaving pattern all over the globe, potentially exposing them to violent seas and temperature extremes they might otherwise avoid, would have been enough to give him pause, but there was an even bigger obstacle that, in Arrow’s mind at least, seemed insurmountable: Ever since their craft had arrived in orbit and begun studying this planet, its instruments had observed a phenomena that he as yet could not explain. Now and then, at very long and completely irregular intervals as far as he and the computer could tell so far, one of the floating masses would abruptly break apart into smaller parts or even disappear altogether. Talk about unstable ground!

So, no; it looked to him like there was no other choice: It was either establish a foothold on the sea floor somewhere, or retreat to the moon.

Arrow concentrated on the spot he had found in The Leviathan Mountains for another minute, and then took a deep breath. Double-checking the vectors, he keyed in the launch sequence.



Quoll?

September 6th, 2020

First off, I can’t believe it’s September already. Holy crap. This year is flying (which perhaps is a good thing!). Then again, thinking back, January and February seem a lifetime ago.

Yesterday the kookaburras were going off their nut, all day long, starting at about five in the morning. My wife and I got up at around quarter to six, and noticed we had a cuddly visitor down in the clearing back behind the house, munching grass. I took some photos with my ipad, but they didn’t come out very well, so instead I’ll show you one from a couple of months ago (the last time we had such a visitor – I guess they’ve been hiding from the winter weather, and now they’re back to enjoy spring!):

Wobbly!

That might even be the same wallaby, come back to munch more luscious green stuff :-) We looked it up, and of the three different wallaby species that apparently live in the area, this one looks most like a “swamp wallaby”. What an unfortunate name…. :-p

The kookas continued throughout the day. It was warm in the sun, and they seemed to be chasing from one clump of trees to the next, perching close to each other and laughing their little hearts out. We never did figure out what was so funny. Maybe it was just the clouds moving in; their laughter often heralds rain.

Late last night, shortly after we’d gone to bed (after watching Mary, Queen of Scots—which was not bad; I don’t know the history all that well, so couldn’t vouch for its accuracy, but the story was quite enjoyable, at least until until about the last quarter or so, which felt a bit rushed… but the movie had amazing costumes and beautiful views of the Highlands, and we even spotted a few places we had been, back in 2017 when we drove around Scotland for a month)... but I digress. Anyway, we had just turned our lights out when we heard a screeching and carrying on outside. We went out onto the back deck to see if we could get a better view, but it was dark.

Quoll?

Fiona saw something move quickly over a log (the horizontal one in the photo -- though it was dark, so we could barely see), but it was too fleeting to see for sure what it was. Anyway, there were at least two of them, whatever they were, and they were very loud! They seemed to be having a kerfuffle of some sort, shrieking at each other as they scurried up into the woods. This morning we did some internet research, and are wondering if it might have been a couple of spot-tailed quolls (also called tiger quolls):

Such a pretty animal! Sadly, as so many predators are, this species is listed as vulnerable in New South Wales (and endangered in Queensland and some other places), though not as endangered as eastern quolls are.

We both slept better last night; the kookaburras were not quite as raucous. Today (Sunday) is Father’s Day in Australia, and Fiona surprised me with some goodies, as well as a yummy Aussie breakie, which she cooked on the barbie (yeah, that’s a lot of “-ie”s) while I sat on my ass and drank coffee (at her insistence, lol):

Coffee!

Father’s Day!

Father’s Day!

King for a day!!! :-] hehe. Looking forward to trying those shirazes. So far no further backyard wildlife, but I will leave you with this, just ‘cause:

(Go on; watch it twice. You know you want to. And you know you want to go munch some grass. Dooooo eeeeet!!!)

If you also enjoy reading about fantasy, magic, and supernatural themes, feel free to click here to explore my other online journal.



ET

August 31st, 2020

Watching the most recent iteration of War of the Worlds on SBS, and am enjoying it so far. The character development reminds me a bit of The Walking Dead, and it’s neat seeing the story unfold in a few different places [spoiler alert!]--London, some suburb in France, and the French Alps. The acting and dialogue are decent enough, and I find the directing to be quite good enough that the lack of super big-budget, high-tech special effects really doesn’t matter or detract from the story.

I do sometimes wonder whether Earth will ever be visited by creatures that evolved on another world. At the moment, though, given all the insanity happening on our planet, I seriously doubt any would want to touch us with a ten-foot pole!

Part of me likes to hope that any visitors advanced enough, and resource-rich enough, to make the journey across the vastness of interstellar space would be wise (having somehow survived an adolescence of war and pollution-induced climate change) and benevolent, like the Asgard, and would save us from ourselves either out of the kindness of their [cybernetic?] hearts or some cosmic, unknowable compulsion to harmonize the galaxy or whatever.

Another part of me thinks that Darwin probably wins in this area, too, and that if life from The Great Beyond were to expend so many resources to travel all this way, its purpose would certainly be to conquer, devour, and/or inhabit.

Then there’s that other part of me—the annoying, logical part—which is a regular reader of Eurekalert.org and realizes that even though mathematical probability dictates that there very likely is intelligence somewhere out there among the stars, the chances that contact will occur between us and it, within the narrow windows of time and space that are only open until each species self-destructs or otherwise fades away or is annihilated, are close to nil.

Perhaps the Asgard will come through though. Or, better yet: Maybe we humans will survive our infancy, evolve, and become the Asgard ourselves.

One can only hope :-)



Ramble

August 24th, 2020

Trying to think of names for the other online journal. Its theme is going to be a bit fluid, like the one here, but the entries I write there, especially the fiction, will definitely be more supernatural-y and fantasy-ish in nature or orientation. Ha. What's your fictional orientation? :-p

Anyway, so far, the best ideas I've come up with are: 1) "Relative Realities" (which would be cool, because it reminds me of my dad, who was a philosopher; and it also has a ring of truth to it, in that our perceived realities are indeed relative—however, that would also have a rather science-y feel to it, perhaps too science-y for a fantasy-related blog [...and don't you just love these early-morning words I'm coming up with? :-p]. Also, after a quick google search, I notice there are several papers and at least one big company with that name/title)... and 2) "Spinning Yarn" (which certainly appeals to my punny, dad-jokey side, but may be a bit too corny-sounding.... Is it?).

The reason for creating a second online journal / blog is to give me a separate avenue for telling stories, recounting experiences, and exploring ideas that have more to do with the "supernatural", with magic, and with the human imagination and all of the wonderful deities and ghoulies (heh, I just said "ghoulies") it dreams up. Meanwhile, this journal, which I call "Beyond Language's Reach", will remain more or less unchanged. I refuse to define it too strictly, but here intend to pontificate and babble about real-world events, future possibilities, and science-related subjects, as well as jot down the odd piece of sci-fi flash fiction. However, that doesn't mean I won't ever talk about magic and dreaming here, because... well. Because. The brain. Amiright?

Also, in full disclosure, I am attempting to kickstart (and, well, resume) a writing career here, and am hoping that these online journals / blogs will help me in building an audience for any stories I eventually publish: Science fiction written as Gaines Post, and fantasy & supernatural fiction written as D.G. Post (click that name to visit the other blog). I am keeping the two pseudonyms somewhat separate so that you know what sort of book/story you are getting from each.

This will all, of course, backfire if I bore you to death :-p Are you asleep yet? :-]




Boxed

August 17th, 2020

Larissa dreamed of boxes—dozens, hundreds of them, of all shapes and sizes, all jammed inside a minivan and threatening to avalanche every time she opened the rear hatch. She had so far been able to keep them from tumbling out, but the constant vigilance was beginning to take its toll. A terror, of being buried alive, slowly crept through each and every blood vessel, filling every inch of her body with ice.

Frozen blood expands, just like any other sort of ice. As the crystalline structure forms, it pushes outward against the vessel walls, stretching them taut until they rupture. In Larissa’s case, this resulted in little ridges jutting up against the underlayers of her skin, pushing insistently, piling higher, stretching, piercing, and finally protruding like hundreds of little pink mountain ranges, from head to toe.

Some of the mountains had snow-like caps, though these were the first to melt in the warmer air above the surface of her skin. The resulting liquid blood flowed down between the peaks into tiny red ravines before dripping onto the asphalt below her feet. There it dissolved through like acid, opening up little sinkholes which in turn began to expand and coalesce. She eyed this phenomenon nervously, understanding that it was significant and perhaps even dangerous, but she also knew she could not move lest the boxes fall out—and something in her was absolutely certain that once they started, they would not stop; they would bury the world. And so she held firm on the rapidly weakening blacktop, trying to ignore the tickle of particles dissolving against the bare soles of her feet.

She could only imagine how ridiculous she must look to a passerby: Giant sheaves or fins of ice slicing outward at all angles, shredding her clothing and splitting her face; a pink blurry mass refracting sunlight, like some artist’s fantastic sketch done on mushrooms—yet at the same time, a horrible bloody nightmare, gushing now from her head, arms, legs, torso, the hungry traitorous blood pooling and eating away at her very foundation.

With a sharp crack that she felt before she heard, the remaining asphalt gave way, and she plummeted into darkness. No longer held in place by her ice-ridged hands, the boxes followed her downward in a beautiful but terrible cascade of cardboard and right angles, blocking the sky with their uncaring opacity until not a shred of light shone through. It was as if everything in the world had conspired to swallow her up.

Well, at least now I get to rest my arms, Larissa thought to herself, as she fell and fell and fell, spiraling into morning.




Waterfall

August 10th, 2020

Below freezing this morning. Frost on the grass, ice on the car. An almost-full moon, bright in the paling sky, the last stars already fading. Storms are coming, supposedly, though you wouldn’t know it. Unless you were more attuned to the air, that is. Those low-chuckling kookas know it; they’re waiting. They’re ready for it, always.

I wonder if it’ll be snow. Would be nice, though most folks who have to drive somewhere would probably disagree. I’ll do a quick shop this morning, pick my wife up from the train station later this afternoon, long before the system moves in, and then we’ll hole up at the house, for the next few days if necessary. I suppose it’s nice sometimes, having the ability to work from home.

Being out and about is a whole different experience these days. I have a face mask waiting in the car for when I head over to Woolies to get the groceries (and, if the outbreak gets bad enough in New South Wales, I’ll be taking one with me wherever I go); in the right-hand pocket of my jumper is a pack of antibacterial (and antiviral, though that isn’t advertised; it’s alcohol-based, though, so works on most viruses, too) handwipes; and in my jeans pocket is a little bottle of hand sanitizer (which I mixed myself back in March, when panic-buying had stripped the shelves bare; not knowing how bad things were going to get, I’d bought a big gallon-jug of 100%-pure isopropyl alcohol from a hair salon supplier online). I am constantly vigilant against touching my face unless I’ve just washed or sanitized my hands, and I avoid others’ breathing spaces like the plague. Because that’s what this is.

It reminds me a little bit of the heightened sense of awareness we had last July and August when living with a brown recluse infestation. Sealed plastic container by the door for our shoes… constantly shaking out all clothing and towels, and our sheets, blankets, pillows every night before bed… pant legs tucked into socks (because the little buggers were literally running across the floor while we watched TV at night)… glue traps everywhere… terrible, sinking feeling at even the slightest corner-of-the-eye sighting of anything creepy crawly… but that’s another story for another time.

Some say we brought this virus on ourselves, and some even say it was inevitable. Certainly, further epidemics and pandemics are exceedingly likely if we don’t do something about the most problematic aspects of “modern” society. A glaring example is our very dangerous agrobusiness / livestock production & distribution system, in which animals—pigs, for instance; hundreds, sometimes thousands of them, and all near genetic clones of each other—are jammed into confined spaces, stressed and deprived to the point that their immune systems are severely compromised: A virus’s or bacterium’s playground. That system provides free reign for a deadly bug to potentially spread like absolute wildfire, right through all those poor animals, and with no significant genetic variance among them to slow or stop it. Once that happens, it can be primed for a zoonotic (species to species) leap with devastating effect, one that could even make “coronavirus ID #2019” look benign by comparison. The right(wrong) combination of deadliness + contagiousness would do it. Given how high its mortality rate is, just imagine if Ebola were also as contagious as Covid-19.

This is the sort of danger we humans flirt with on a daily basis. And no, it’s not just China that’s at risk of being the source of another novel pathogen; in fact, America is far more at risk of being the source of the next bad viral or bacterial outbreak than any other country, given the state of its livestock industry, among other factors.

Sadly, most humans don’t like to think about such dangers. I read recently that when asked how climate change made her feel, oceanographer and climatologist Katrin Meissner said, “It scares me more than anything else. I see a group of people sitting in a boat, happily waving, taking pictures on the way, not knowing that this boat is floating right into a powerful and deadly waterfall.” Amen.

It’s a whole lotta doom & gloom. I suppose that might be why the kookas are laughing; perhaps they can sense a cleansing with the oncoming storm. Perhaps they’ve even seen it happen before.

Still... I, for one, choose hope, so I’m gonna do my damnedest to pick up a paddle and start digging for shore. Who’s with me?




Beyond Language's Reach

August 3rd, 2020

Years ago, I spent a semester abroad in southwestern China. When classes were over, instead of returning to the US, I chose to stay and travel. My goals were exploration and absolute language immersion; I wanted to become native-fluent in Mandarin.

As my mind sorted through all the new shapes and sounds with which it was being inundated, all those patterns, words, and even entire concepts that were so utterly alien to me, I gradually gained a sense of just how profound and fundamental a role language plays in not just human communication, but in our very ability to perceive and process the universe around us.

It's a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg situation, really; our brains learn to communicate as we develop, but they can only develop insofar as we learn to communicate. I have felt the same thing in music at times; the more fluent one gets in expressing melody, tone, and rhythm, the more one can “see” and understand a way forward—and the same goes with words and other structures in language—although, by “understand”, I mean something that is either beyond or subsurface to conscious intellectual comprehension. (Ugh. Even now, decades later, I lack the vocabulary to even talk about this stuff! And that dearth makes me less able to perceive and, therefore, digest and absorb these ideas. If only you were here to give me the right tools, Dad!)

As I wandered through the mountains and valleys, pushing the limits on my little more than caveman-speak Chinese at the time, I entered areas where Kham and other Tibetan dialects were more prevalent, and many of the people I met were even less fluent in Mandarin than I was. More and more frequently, I encountered that challenge that humans (and other beings, too, I believe) have faced since the dawn of our interactions with each other: How to converse when verbal language fails. It was in those high windy passes that I realized that language is much, much more than a matter of mere phrases and vocabulary, and that there is a space between spoken words—fleeting and ungraspable; a space that would seem to be forever beyond the reach of even the most adept eloquence.

And yet. And yet.

Despite my gut feeling that we’ll never be able to fathom it, I try anyway, because… well, I mean, why not? How better to spend our time in this world than in an endeavor to see and explore and understand as much as humanly possible, about both ourselves and other species? Perhaps, by opening our minds and reaching for that “beyond”, we can eventually learn to embrace our myriad similarities and differences. Perhaps we can even learn to love each other.




Greetings

July 27th, 2020

Welcome to my online journal! Please bear with me while I finish setting things up. I'm having to re-learn how to build a website, as most of my knowledge is a good twenty years out of date! (What is all this css3 nonsense, anyway?? And what ever happened to Flash?! Zoiks!)

I'll be using this space to post stories, thoughts, and images on a weekly or fortnightly basis. If interested, feel free to head over to the discussion forum, where you can make a profile (don't worry; I promise you won't get spammed!) and chat with other members about these journal entries and/or anything else on your mind.




Ready

January 15th, 2020

The chime had come a good twenty seconds too soon. An equipment error? Was she just being sloppy?

Think.

No. Not her; not ever.

What then?

It could really only mean one thing: Saadia had been compromised, and this was not her.

Trip stared at the screen of his phone for another second and a half before reluctantly placing it on the workbench, picking up a hammer, and obliterating it. Scanning around the room, he allowed himself to indulge in a moment of helplessness.

They'd all been aware of the risk. She especially, given the week she'd been having. This was not such an unexpected thing.

And yet he felt empty, lost, desperate. All he wanted to do was to call her, hear her voice, make sure she was okay.

Trip straightened his shoulders, cracked his neck, and stood. It was time to get the hell out of here. All was not lost, after all, and the others were still relying on him to get it done.

The Elevator would come down, and when it did, they would be ready.




latest entry 2020 2013-19 2012

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