Xenolinguistics – The Intercultural Barrier (Part 1.5)

Xenolinguistics – The Intercultural Barrier (Part 1.5)

In my last post, we explored the impossibility of successful communication with the first aliens we make contact (unless they are Hollywood aliens, which are all fluent in English). Before diving deep into the aspect of culture in the next post, which is vital in inter-species understanding, I’d like to give a short pause and share a freshly-written, absurd flash fiction piece I wrote to give a brief glimpse of what I think might happen in the event that humanity makes contact with an inter-galactic race. Let’s see what happens:


8 minutes 44 seconds in Earth time. The final stronghold fell much easier than its definition suggested. It was strategically a terrible location to fend off the final assault for the remaining few Orgics that had chosen to hole up here– weak concrete walls that could easily be bashed in, inviting, thin metal sheet reinforced glass doors, with no booby traps inside and all. 

Lost deep in his own, proper stronghold of thoughts, Captain Anders lingered through the main hallway, pushing aside the scattered glass remnants of the display cases on the floor with the side of his boots after each step. The Orgics had chosen to sacrifice their lives for whatever those fragile containers housed. What could be more important than life? Still preoccupied, Captain Anders hadn’t noticed he was standing right in front of a shattered glass door. He gently pushed the massive crack barely holding up in the centre with his gloved hand and watched the remaining glass fall and break into smaller pieces beneath his feet. So fragile! Then, it made sense a bit-  the last of the Orgics weren’t the military type as those were the ones first wiped out. What would they know about fortifications? Anders bent his head slightly and passed through the doorway.

Anders was greeted by Lieutenant Orrin once he entered the main room where a 10-feet marble sculpture of an orgic freshly riddled with bullet holes stood.

“We’ve secured the place,” Lieutenant Orrin said. 

Captain Anders saw the dead bodies of half a dozen Orgics piled up in a far corner. “Any survivors?”

“One, but it’s in a bad shape,” Lieutenant Orrin pointed at the giant statue. “Fought well trying to defend this. Didn’t leave its side.”

“I am guessing this one was too heavy to move.” Anders touched the feet of the giant statue and drove his hand up. It was hard and cold… just like death. “Why sacrifice life to save something so lifeless?”

The lieutenant shook his head, but Anders didn’t notice. His gaze was still fixed on the the colossal hardened form. “Take me to it.” He finally said, first prying his looks, then his touch away from the statue.

The small storage room had nothing but a wobbly metal chair in the centre. On it, was a loosely tied female orgic. Judging by the severity of her wounds, the loose ropes were there for her not to fall off the chair rather than prevent her escape. She had a couple of hours of life in her at most. Maybe less.

Anders lifted her chin up and saw the diminishing light in her empty gaze. Time was of essence and he had to pick the right questions to be able to make sense of the orgics’ purposeless actions. “Why?” He asked. “Why did you sacrifice your life for a heap of stone?”


Laura looked up and came into direct contact with the android leader’s blinking crimson eyes. She knew she was dying fast, and there was nothing else left the android could threaten her with to get answers. Besides, how would she be able to describe an alien concept to an alien race in the very limited time she had left? How could she explain art to those that never experienced it? On one note, the android seemed familiar with the concept of ‘sacrifice’ as it was the word it’d used. But, sacrificing one for other lives was one thing and willing to die for inanimate creations of their own doing was another. Besides even if she were able to make a little bit of sense, would it not get lost in translation on the way from the AI underlings to the alien masters? The androids were highly adaptable. They were the foot soldiers created to learn and adapt… To do the dirty work of their masters. And that adaptability alone caused Earth to fall in under a week: Thousands of live Trojan horses, dealing the unexpected final blow to the unaware human race. But, the whole dagger and cloak thing wasn’t to take humanity by surprise, it was merely to learn and record a race that was to be annihilated for good. The events of the past week started playing in Laura’s mind… 

The androids were sent to Earth by their extraterrestrial overlords. Humanity has always been naïve in thinking we would make contact with the real deal alien entities, but just as automobiles replaced horse carriages and factory workers with machinery on Earth, it was only logical to think dangerous space exploration or planetary invasions would be made remotely with easily controllable androids from the comfort of their spaceships by galactic conquistadors. The droids were a form of liquid machinery disguised in flesh that could take any shape and blend in for planetary missions and sadly, copying the physical appearance of humans were not that challenging for the creations of a far superior intergalactic race. The whole invasion happened in under a week and didn’t even requiring probing. Without humanity even noticing, the droids learned everything about humanity to ease off the invasion.  Well, learned about almost everything… culture and art wouldn’t make any sense to them even if they stayed concealed on Earth for a millennia. They had never had art. Nor culture!


“Why?” Captain Anders roared in frustration of the fact that a lowly race had secrets they weren’t able to figure out.

“Art… Culture…,” Laura mumbled in pain. “It’s what makes us human.” With her last breath, she wanted to make them understand that humanity was something to be preserved rather than destroyed. She’d always thought art was universal… literally… They would understand. They had to. The ropes holding Laura tightened as her head dropped down. 

Upon arrival, the droids learned that art was a way of expression and imagination of the human creative skill, and paintings or sculptures were the byproduct of… art. But, what exactly was ‘Culture’?

Anders looked at Lieutenant Orrin for collaborative brainstorming. The definitions he got by connecting to the planet’s database were conflicting. But, that wasn’t surprising. The Orgics spoke languages based on conflict. A stronghold didn’t always mean a difficult place to take over, yet he clearly heard an Orgic mentioning this place as one. They had names for non-existent concepts like god, religion, soul, magic, ghost, monster… and he would never understand why they used the same word to describe existent but unrelated concepts or things. For instance, among other meanings, ‘Coach’ meant both a ‘large wheeled transport to carry a large amount of people from one place to another’ and a ‘trainer in sporting events’. There seemed to be no logical connection. 

Orrin started speaking; giving definitions of the term ‘culture’:

“The manifestations of human intellectual achievement-“

“That can’t be it,” Anders cut in. “Not worth dying for something you can recreate. Besides, humans are not the intellectual type.”

“The ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular-“

“Not a chance. Creating a stone representation of yourself isn’t really an idea… as for social behaviour, there’s no scientific explanation to why they keep producing things that would never give them benefits.”

“Perhaps, it gives them benefits,” Orrin said. “We weren’t able to fully analyse them, yet.”

Anders shook his head. “They have 3D printers to create such things quicker and more efficiently. If one gets lost or broken, replication shouldn’t be an issue. Yet, they are willing to die for their own creations that can be recreated easily.”

“Thinking in Orgic’s way and speaking in their language affects my line of thinking and reasoning, is it necessary as I fail to understand even what you’re saying.”

“You know that total immersion is the best way to learn,” Anders coughed to clear his throat, which he felt no actual need to do so.

“I think I got it,” Orrin said. “It must be this one… maintain tissue cells, bacteria, etc. in conditions suitable for growth.”

Anders paused for a minute before speaking. “Have we detected any living organisms on… art?”

“Yes,” Orrin nodded. “Not on the newer creations, but older art is sometimes covered by vegetation and there’s also moss growth in time. It’s basically their breeding grounds! They ensure survival through inter-species transformation.”

“That’s it,” Anders agreed. “I am sending the report now.” He remained motionless as his eyes fluttered at intervals while compiling the final report.

And, a moment later he sent it. The final report that reached the outer ring of the 3149-R planet, read:

“The Orgics have found a way of immortality through creating lifeless representations of themselves and other things. Naturally induced tissue cells and bacteria are carefully preserved on these creations, only for them to spring out as a different life form in the future. This makes it possible for them to completely alter their DNA for a more suitable life form. Further study is not needed. Requesting permission to go on to the next planet.”

Transformation of the human DNA? or just plain old moss?

—- The End —-

Xenolinguistics – Deciphering the Impossible? (Part I)

Xenolinguistics – Deciphering the Impossible? (Part I)

It’s always been mind boggling how humans in sci-fi movies could communicate with Hollywood aliens whether they’ve come to our planet in peace, or just for the kicks of a planetary invasion. I’m well aware that it’s just for the sake of viewers’ getting the hang of the plot, but the ease of communication and getting fluent in alien language in less than an hour of screen time, is still an illogicality that doesn’t make any sense, just like extraterrestrial beings speaking with a distinctive English accent. A massive, interstellar galactic federation consisting of hundreds of super advanced alien races with the universal language being standard American English is yet another cosmic mystery.

A still from a great sci-fi movie: “Guardians of the Galaxy – Vol.2”, where the design of different alien races suffer either from lack of imagination and creativity or the fact that some people just watch these for the humanoid cast.

Xenolinguistics is a hypothetical subject which is basically the study and research of the languages of never-encountered-before extraterrestrial beings. Surprisingly, despite the missing extraterrestrials, xenolinguistics has been becoming more and more popular among linguists over the past decade. Surely, without ever encountering an alien race, allocating time and resources seems like a fruitless effort, but it might also be wise to brainstorm beforehand and be prepared to solve several issues likely to come up regarding the first contact with our very first aliens. For instance, the idea of using toddlers, who are just learning to speak, to communicate with aliens upon first contact, rather than expert linguists is the byproduct of such brainstorming. These toddlers would be the perfect candidates for picking up language in a natural way, as they’re just figuring out how to receive and give information in a world less known and somewhat still alien to them.

Perhaps imaginary friends in childhood are in fact aliens in disguise. Image Credit: Thrive

There is a fat chance that we will not even be able to communicate with aliens (unless they are gray and from Hollywood) through conventional methods like the use of sound, gestures, mimics, writing, mathematics or visuals. What if the first ones we meet are an advanced galactic race of invisible blob-like organisms that communicate through smell, giving bursts of different smells at various intervals to chat about a vast amount of subjects from interstellar travel to cosmic small talk. Will we even be aware of their presence, let alone communicate?

Before venturing into the depths of the universe to have a chat, isn’t it a better idea to solve the inter-species language barriers in our own tiny world as we aren’t the only intelligent life forms inhabiting this planet? (And, yes, I believe animals have intelligence, it’s just different from ours.)

Let’s have a quick peek at the communication patterns and our efforts in communication with the different species of our own planet… the ones (meaning all) we yet to decipher fully:

  • The meows! Kittens only meow to let their mothers know if they are cold or hungry. Once a kitten becomes a cat, they stop meowing to each other, and only meow to humans to get attention, let us know they are hungry or just to say welcome home. The irony is that they are the ones attempting to communicate with us…
  • The round dance and the waggle dance of honeybees is used to convey the exact distance, the direction and the quality of the pollen source discovered, to other honeybees. Yes, we’ve figured this one out, but understanding the method and even the meaning of communication between the members of a different species is very different from two species initiating communication with each other. You may think we are far more intelligent than honeybees therefore, there’s no need for us to communicate with them, but it’s another irony as far more intelligent extraterrestrials that might visit us in the future might think the same way, and just refrain from communicating with us.
To bee or not to bee!
  • Speaking of intelligence, dolphins excel at intelligence-based tests, are capable of complex problem solving, can individually learn and pass on their new knowledge to their young. They are also highly social and certainly do have a language consisting of a series of clicking sounds and whistles. So, have we attempted to communicate with them? Nope. At least, not in ways we are determined to communicate with equally intelligent extraterrestrials.

Just admit it, we will never be true horse whisperers in a literal sense with this attitude.

Perhaps, the first aliens we encounter would be pale humanoids? And somehow believe that sharing similar physical features is the key to bring down the intergalactic language barrier. It would really be easier to wave our arms, nod or just point at things! Or we could always try writing, drawing or typing in binary codes on a computer screen. If you think that can work, I suggest we have a look at our own world history and face the fact that we are far from deciphering most ancient forms of communication… ancient human writing, but let’s start with the ones we could decipher to lift up the spirit:

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics is one… but it still was an indecipherable tough cookie until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone which was a slab bearing three scripts carved in two languages (serving as translation): Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greek… So, it was more thanks to the efforts of translators rather than linguists (xenolinguists) that we were able to crack ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Ancient Babylonian was deciphered more or less the same way; using ancient Persian as a reference in bilingual texts…

So, on most occasions a reference source, a key, was needed to decipher an unknown writing system… and even after that it took years to decipher some of these ancient scripts created by and cracked by the members of the same race! As Yuri Knorozov, the linguist who cracked Mayan hieroglyphs once said:

“What is created by one human mind can be unraveled by another!”

Yuri Knorozov

So true! But, how about what is created by an unknown alien race? Can it ever be unraveled by us?

It’s a tough question as there are still ancient writing systems and languages in our own human history that is far from cracking like;

The Harappan script of the Indus Valley Civilization is suspected to use the Boustrophedon style, written from right to left in first line and from left to right in second line meaning the alternate lines were reversed, sometimes with reversed letters.

Reverse Boustrophedon, where the text in alternate lines was rotated 180 degrees rather than mirrored, just like Rongorongo, the writing of ancient Rapa Nui, which we could only decipher the direction of the text but are still mostly clueless about the content.

Image Credit: How Reverse Boustrophedon looks like in Modern English by Kwamikagami

All these culs-de-sac were encountered in the attempts to decipher human originated scripts… now think about extraterrestrial language or writing systems! And, then add the effect of culture on top of that as culture, influences language greatly and it can never be ignored.

In the next post (Part II), we’ll look into how cultural elements influenced Earth languages up to now…

In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part I – The Apple

In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part I – The Apple

Feeling a bit snacky late last night, I found myself in the kitchen. Once lingering inside still unsure about whether to go for some crackers or a chunky cookie, my eyes fell on the singled out apple on the counter that tempted me with its perfectly smooth, polished crimson skin promising to quench my thirst while filling in the tiny void in my stomach about to be reborn as hunger. After the first bite, I felt so good as if I was in heaven… or… wait… now the confusion started settling in… wasn’t it the apple… the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in paradise?… didn’t a bite out of an apple put in motion the events that led to Adam and Eve to be cast off the garden of Eden? 

How could this marvelous fruit be the cause of the first sin, especially when it’s never been stated explicitly to be the culprit in the holy books or the ancient writings? I decided to dig in some more… both to the subject and the half-bitten apple in my hand… It was time to consult the holy texts, starting with the Genesis.

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Genesis 1:29

Seeds? Guess what! Apples have seeds! Fruit with seeds are safe! The answer seemed to be clear… the forbidden fruit couldn’t be the apple… Perhaps the moment when Eve was tempted into taking a bite off the forbidden fruit by the talking snake needs to be explored a bit more.

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”

Quote from King James Bible
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Still no direct mention of the apple here, but a fruit that can kill you by contact should hardly be even considered an apple. Perhaps, it’s some kind of poisonous fruit with no seeds within, but we’ll explore other options in another post. Wondering why the belief that apples were the cause of the original sin was so widespread, I dug in some more, and I could see the confusion and why it was to blame. Here’s a very condensed version of why:

  • Malus is the Latin name for both apple and evil… It is very well known today that the first impression is crucial and image is everything, so you wouldn’t expect your child whom you named “Devil” or “Hellby” to be accepted with open arms amongst others and live in peace even in today’s evolved society. This was misfortunate on behalf of the apple as in fact, “malus” was the generic name for any kind of foreign fruit except berries, and nations across the world named all the strange fruits in their language in relation to that fact… e.g: tomatoes: love apples or golden apples, potatoes: earth apples, oranges: Chinese apples, datura: thorn apples…
  • Although the homeland of the apple is scientifically proven to be Kazakhstan (hence the former name of its former capital city Alma-ata meaning father of apples), it is mostly agreed that the apple traveled through to the west from Syria and ancient Persia via the Silk road in reverse. Zoroastrianism, which was the religion of the pre-Islamic Persians, had a belief system based on dualistic cosmology of good and evil… a belief system that favoured the balance of opposites. Apples, having both sugar and sour taste perfectly represented this harmony through balance. Sounds just like the alleged fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, doesn’t it? Perhaps, this chunk of the belief had travelled with the apple to the new lands.
  • After the widespread of apples in Western lands,  ancient artists often used it as a model in their works of divine art depicting deities and events of significance. The ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite, the Norse deity of fertility Idunn, and many other gods and goddesses were often painted holding, hurling or just looking at apples, which was basically why it was considered as the fruit originating from the heavens. Moreover, mythology frequently suggests apples to be closely linked with deities in stories like the apple of discord which started the war of Troy and the twelve labours of Hercules in which he had to retrieve golden apples from the garden of Hesperides as one of the tasks. So, seeing apples in divine art and reading or listening about them in mythology is more than enough to place them in paradise.
Golden Apple of Discord by Jacob Jordaens (and just look how the angel at the back looks terrified by the sight of the apple!)
  • Apples were often linked with immortality in mythology like the golden apples of Hesperides (or apples of immortality) that Hercules was tasked to retrieve and that Idunn in Norse mythology was the keeper of magic apples of immortality. Immortality is the one thing that separates man from god. Unlike gods, mankind can’t live forever. Well, ok, but Eve didn’t achieve immortality after eating the apple, so how does this work?… Remember it was the fruit of the tree of knowledge that was forbidden to touch or eat, and with apples symbolizing immortality, can it be something in the lines of what Dalai Lama once said: “Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  • Let’s leave mythology behind and fast forward to the time when Christianity was flourishing among the Celts and Romans in eternal conflict. Originating from Dionysus paganism, the Roman Catholics loathed the Druid faith influenced Celts. Just as grapes and wine were favoured by the Roman Catholics; apples and cider were the favourites of the Celts. The conflict started rising even more when Celts started calling the Catholic grape “corrupt”, while the Romans spread the belief that apples were “hellish”. The battle of throwing dirt on each other was clearly won by the Roman Catholics, as stories about how evil the apple was, linking it to the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden and from that moment on, it spread like wildfire. These stories became beliefs in short time. For instance, to prove that the apple was the devil’s fruit, one could slice the apple vertically to witness Eve’s vagina embedded in the core, or when sliced horizontally the apple core revealed a pentagram; the symbol for the devil, engraved in its centre.
From Left to Right: Eve’s Vagina and the devil’s pentagram

Ancient stories about apples being the forbidden fruit and symbolizing evil, immortality, and knowledge have seeped into our souls as it continued inspiring more modern beliefs, art, literature and culture not very different from the ancient versions. From Snow White munching on a poisonous apple… all the way to Apple Inc. adopting a half-bitten apple as its logo symbolizing a bite (or a byte) taken out of knowledge… At least, the apple isn’t as sinful as it used to be… So, go now, get an apple and bite into it. You’ve earned it!

For “In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part II”, I am planning on featuring the tomato!

Further reading and references for this article:

  • “In the Devil’s Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food” by Stewart Lee Allen.
  • “Apple: A Global History” by Erika Janik
  • “Paradise Lost” by John Milton

Resurfacing Obsolete or Old Habits for Post-Covid Life

Resurfacing Obsolete or Old Habits for Post-Covid Life

Whether you believe Covid’s a pandemic or a plandemic, it has been more than a year since our lifestyles were changed drastically in almost all aspects of life. Social calls have been mostly put on hold, education became distanced, travel became more local, and the number of people washing their hands and stockpiling toilet paper has increased tenfold! Some businesses shut down while others used this opportunity to thrive. Corporately speaking, the greedy CEOkind is sure to come up with more new and costly inventions that would ease the transition of overly-concerned people towards a more hygienic, socially distanced and controlled life-style. Some post-covid lifestyle supporting innovations like scented masks that come in a variety of flavours are already on the market. But, the newest inventions, the latest fashion or whatever you may call these new ideas, they will always be too expensive for the general population in the earlier days.

So, what can people with less money to waste do? I believe there’s nothing better than reverting to old ways to fend off the virus in our daily lives and here’s how (listed under relevant topics):

Fashion:

  • Are you a young girl or a woman? Have Victorian origins by any chance? If you can answer both questions ‘yes’, then it’s high time to raid your great-grandmother’s wardrobe to look for a vintage Victorian dress! As most Victorian skirts were supported by crinolines worn underneath which made the skirt actually wider, these special dresses will also form a natural border of personal space around; keeping other people socially distanced while maintaining vintage fashion!
Image Credit: The Vintage News
  • Have access to an ancient armour set? (If not, you can buy cheap, unauthentic sets online.) Not only will you look cooler strolling down the street in armour, but you will also be protected from floating viruses in the vicinity if a matching Corinthian helmet that only has a tiny space for the mouth, is also worn. Much better than plastic face shields, no? If you can also get a crossbow to complete your outfit, you can also shoot whoever violates your personal space. Moreover, you can polish your armour regularly and perhaps you can even become somebody’s ‘knight in shining armour’.
  • Is your digital wrist watch water-proof? Even if you answered ‘yes’ to this question, metal watch straps can corrode quicker when you frequently wash your hands to get rid of the virus clinging onto your hands. If the watch strap is leather, it still needs a viable solution as leather, too, is greatly affected by water. So, why not revert to carrying a pocket watch which would make your time-telling device need less spare part replacements.

Entertainment:

  • When was the last time you went to a proper masquerade party? Probably never. The 16th century renaissance entertainment can easily become popular post-covid, adding class to your fashion by replacing horrid-looking surgical masks with artsy counterparts as well as taking entertainment to a new level. Spread the dancing spirit, not the covid!
  • Imprisoned at our own homes by prolonged covid lockdowns, we got used to spending long hours indoors, improving our binge-watching skills as full time couch potatoes. Since most of us finished whatever they threw at us on Netflix in record times, and the fact that there are fewer productions due to covid restrictions, we are soon bound to run out of things to watch at home. That is unless we rediscover VHS or Betamax video players and loot whatever tape that remains in those old boxes in your storage. Whether it’s your parents’ wedding ceremony recording or a dozen ancient films never digitized, you are in luck!
  • Squash!!! Certainly not the vegetable… but I can’t call this one-person activity a sport either as losing to a wall using a racquet and a tennis ball is not quite the competition. So, I had to list this option under entertainment! Nevertheless, bouncing balls alone will never get you sick and it’s safe to say that squash and your worthy opponent; the wall is not contagious at all.

Healthcare:

  • Perhaps it’s time for the reemergence of medieval plague doctors and their infamous plague masks, which consisted of a long beak strapped to the nose, mainly for preventing miasma (the bad smell which was thought to be spreading diseases at the time) reaching the doctor’s olfactory sense. The beak could even hold dried flowers or fragrant herbs, making the virus work harder to be able to infect the doctor. 
Not a bird…
  • Emergence of witch doctors in less literate societies can be a solution as they can act like organic placebo, treating the sick, or protecting the uninfected with chants and benevolent magic. It’s in human nature to blindly believe people with higher social statuses. We do still believe politicians, don’t we? A respectable witch doctor can shoo away the virus and protect a society. Belief and hope can do miracles!
Which doctor would you prefer?

Transportation:

  • It’s getting more riskier day by day to use family automobiles and public transportation as they put the commuters in confined spaces with others, maximizing the risk of infection. Walking is still great, but doing that in a crowded urban city still poses a threat. So, how can we walk fearlessly amidst a crowd? The answer is stilt-walking, where the walker uses two long wooden poles with foot rests to walk above the crowd just like how some circus people walked. The poles can be cut into any desired height, making it nearly impossible to get infected from bypassing another stilt walker in the street. The sky is the limit here.
Image Credit: Reuters
  • It’s different for longer journeys. Walking or stilt-walking will take ages if we are travelling far. And, since we are limited especially by international travel and the unwanted quarantine times when we reach our destination, the most viable thing left to do is any form of dreaming whether it’s a daydream when you can escape your boss and your mask half-dozing in your office or a lucid dream to escape the reality of these times and take full control of your next travel destination.

Reverting to these old ways will certainly not have the desired affects mentioned above, but they will surely drag us out of this vortex of boredom we’ve been thrown into.

The Energy of Objects: The Inanimate Magic of our Era

The Energy of Objects: The Inanimate Magic of our Era

The idea to write this article first popped up during a chat with a friend on how certain objects not only can change our mood, but also the moods of the people around us. And from there the idea developed into the meaning we give to certain objects. For those who have dropped by for a flash fiction piece or a short story, click on the link at the end of this article to read one of my published stories ‘The Mouldy Loaf’, which happens to be loosely based on what I am going to write in this article…  (You will need to scroll down a little until you see the story.)

Belongings, possessions, objects or whatever we name them, are just like mental luggage constantly carried around…

B Cansevgisi

Even if you have a minimalist lifestyle, living in an empty house with little or no belongings, you might feel a vague connection to some household objects or certain clothes. At least, your grotesque coffee mug or the single wobbly wooden chair, with one shorter leg huddled up in the corner, must have had a certain attraction to be your first selection to make it to your home amongst countless, more supreme other similar items. 

In the early steps of infancy, we start getting attached to certain objects whether it’s a book of fairy tales we can’t read, a favourite toy we carry everywhere or a clothing item like a tiny pair of pants with tiny pockets to store whatever strange bug or pebble we may find while playing outside. As young minds, we make deep connections with such objects and become joyous when we are in the vicinity of those mood boosters or get depressed if we lose them. At those ages this is understandable, especially in regards to our favourite toys or dolls as our untrained minds think they’re as much alive as we are. But, why we still feel the same way until we die, is a mystery.

Is it longing for some magic in our boring mundane lives?

An ode to the death of our inner child?

Or

Do objects store some kind of energy that can be traded back and forth?

Let’s grow up a tad and take a peek into our teenage phase:

Before our slightly developed minds are lured into greed by friends, family, movies, computer games or the media, we never even think of owning rare metal objects made from gold, silver or diamond. So, if rarity was the issue, why not collect some of the ordinary stones we pass on the way home, which are far more unique in shape, colour or size than the mass produced, shiny metal trinkets. As for alluring clothing items; I find it a bit weird to consider a piece of fabric worn around the neck as a fashionable tie or a trendy scarf when the loose end is dangling down and see (and fear) it as a hangman’s noose when it shoots up.  Can we say that we give their meaning to objects? Maybe that’s why a worthless old junk for someone might be a priceless antique for another. Perhaps, the difference between the words to describe similar objects is the key. Ok, a piece of ‘junk’ and an ‘antique’ would probably not be the best example, so let me give you another: Second-hand shops in most UK cities label their merchandise as ‘pre-loved’ rather than ‘second-hand’ or ‘used’. It does make one feel good, doesn’t it?

Ok, let’s leave the shop and delve into our youth once more…

Starting from our teenage years, we give meaning to belongings of loved ones, too, like granny’s favourite slippers, uncle’s discoloured walking cane, girlfriend’s star-shaped earrings or similar objects given to us as presents like an old music box inherited from a parent or a necklace given us by ‘our partner in romance’ at our birthday or any other day. These objects we value so much, makes us feel good… until a fight brews up with the relative or a breakup with the beloved occurs. Then, these objects start generating grief and once precious stuff becomes the trigger of awful memories. But, why don’t we remember the good memories with the regarding person even if we are apart now?… without thinking of getting back together. Why do these objects take all the blame? Can’t we just look at them under a different light and at least try to embrace only the good memories and block out the bad ones? Or when a person dies, why are their belongings considered cursed or believed to emit negative energy?  Oh! And I am definitely NOT suggesting you to snatch a dead leper’s toothbrush for your own personal hygiene and think positively. That’s different.

In the end, objects reflect back the energy you see fit for them…so, next time before you throw away an object that is making you relive bad times, try to extract some good memories out of them and rethink. If you didn’t bin it a long time ago, perhaps it needs a reconsideration, another chance! A chance to be good.

For the promised story, just click here and scroll down until you see the title ‘The Mouldy Loaf’

The Night Couple

The Night Couple

Here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote back in 2018, when the world was a much better place to live, write and not to be concerned by pandemics! The story below was published in the 5th issue of the “Sky Island Journal“, which has then become home for aspiring authors from all over the world. Just drop by their webpage to enjoy inspiring stories (or poetry if that’s your thing!)… Not much to do these times other than to read anyway 🙂


THE NIGHT COUPLE

The night sky extended like a pitch-black blanket embedded with tiny diamonds, giving out bursts of condensed starlight at random intervals. Two figures lay on what seemed to be a small islet, judging by the sound of waves hitting hard on the coasts, leaving the tiny spot in the center almost mute except for some kind of virtually inaudible murmuring.


“I wonder if there are aliens out there,” the young female reflected, still fixated on the night sky, stargazing. She felt the familiar presence on her side, moving closer. The stars twinkled as if they had responded her question before he did.


Thinking she wasn’t being taken seriously, she slid a little away from him; just enough to get his attention. This feeling of strong affection towards him was strange to her; she had never felt like that before.


“I don’t know, but the universe is massive.” His thoughts echoed in her mind. “It would be foolish to think we’re alone.” He snuggled even closer than the first time. She loved being on the same frequency with him, communicating without the need of extensive mouth labor to produce meaningless sounds. He was different.


“What do they look like? How different is their world?” Thoughts were generated all at once in her mind.

“I’m sure they look nothing like you, my queen. You’re unique in the universe.”


Satisfied with his quick response this time, she remained anchored at her spot and stretched her arms as far as they could reach, forming arm-width canals that lead away from her body in the soft sand. It wasn’t long before she noticed the sky looking just a tad brighter.


“We need to be going home soon.” Her eyes were still watching the sky as it started to get even brighter.
He was hoping he would have more time to stay with her, but upon seeing the state of the swiftly illuminating sky, he knew there was very little time indeed. It was almost dawn… Dawns had always scared him.


“We need to go, my queen.” His arm gently grasped hers, the one that had been resting just next to him.


“OK, but we’ll continue our little conversation,” she conveyed. “I like thinking about the universe.”


“My queen.” He was getting alarmed. “We’ll dry out here and die if we wait a little longer. We should head home.”


Disturbing images flowed simultaneously into her mind, along with faint but alarming whispers echoing in her head, coming from deep under. It was a warning call from the others. It was time.
It was getting brighter, and the heat was getting more intense as Kepler-47 C’s double suns started showing their faces.


Finally, the odd couple wrapped their arms around each other—all 16 of them—crawled quickly to the tiny hole where they had emerged, and squeezed through, making their way down towards the ocean floor, their suction cups still glued to each other as they propelled to the hive on the seabed for the day.

THE END


I do not like books or any kind of fiction turning into lame silver screen productions, as the essence of the written work is almost always left out or altered beyond recognition to please the viewers, who seem more and more glamorized by special effects and needless action scenes. Individual imagination has been put to rest, and we are made to watch only the director’s imagination in most cases. So, I gradually began writing fiction that could not be turned into films (as it would be pointless to do so) and this was one of my first trials.

Cheers,

Baris Cansevgisi

The Underwear Trials at the Fourth Place

The Underwear Trials at the Fourth Place

From time to time, I create worlds in short prose… invent lore on the go… bear fiction into life; as without imagination and the labour of the mind, we are just empty vessels stuck in their shells…

What if death was not an end, but just a short pause of eternity?

The flash fiction piece below is not based on real events or has no connection to actual living or deceased persons in our dimension. 🙂

“The Underwear Trials at the Fourth Place” by Baris Cansevgisi

“Edwin Arnolds, 27, died on the morning of August the thirteenth after misdirecting his right foot into the gusset of his boxer shorts, resulting in the entanglement of his toes in the reinforced fabric, causing him to lose balance with the wobbly, single footing and-“

“What’s a gusset?” Leonard asked, straightening up a little forward from the chair, stretching his feet down to touch the floor. He hoped Werner was coming to an end reading the report. These reports were getting more boring each time. “Why did he have to read them aloud?” He sighed.

“…fall by slipping in the bathroom and slam his head into the corner of the bathtub.” Werner concluded. “Blunt force trauma, but believe me the emotional trauma will be much worse. What a way to go!” He punched in some keys into the console right in front of him and a video clip showing Edwin’s last moments started playing on screen. It, indeed, seemed like the man was trying to punch a third opening into his underwear while performing a one-legged ritualistic dance on the slippery floor tiles.

“With a little bit of accuracy, the man could have died in his underwear or most probably not die at all.” Werner let out a hearty laugh.

“Isn’t he way old to be here?” The tip of Leonard’s shoes were barely brushing the floor beneath. He pulled his legs up when he felt a sudden cramp.

“Not necessarily, but it’s rare,” Werner took a deep breath. “I was… I am 25. Hey! You are not making fun of me, are you kid?” He winked despite wearing a grim face.

“No.” Leonard said, sliding out of the chair completely. “I just didn’t see any adults except you; here. Not many girls either. This place seems for young male children, that’s all.”

“Well, you sure sound like an adult when you’re not asking stupid questions.” Werner scratched his head and punched in some more keys to change the screen. A pop up screen titled ‘Course of Action’ appeared above the words: ‘Underwear trials: 7199 successful attempts required to proceed.’.

“Hmmmm… that seems a tad much.” Werner commented as he grabbed a tablet and sprang up from his seat. “Come on kiddo, we should be there.”

Leonard and Werner hurried down a long, uninviting corridor with disturbing bright lights oozing out of the walls and entered a room at the end. The man, whom they watched dying on screen was standing totally naked right in front of them with confusion oozing out of his eyes. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.

“Mr. Arnolds! Welcome to the fourth place!” Werner said, extending his hand out for a handshake.

“Wh- where am I?” Edwin’s voice trembled as he shook Werner’s hand in automation. “Am I-?”

“Dead? Well, yes and no.” Werner replied. “You are momentarily wiped out of existence! You see, people are judged upon death and end up in heaven or hell. And, there are those who have not yet earned a place in heaven or have not sinned enough for hell.”

“I don’t understand. Is this Purgatory, then?”

Werner shook his head. “As I mentioned at the beginning, you’re at the fourth place… it’s for those who get to receive a second chance in life, at least until their final destination is booked before their final demise.”

“Reincarnation!” Edwin shouted in partial disbelief.

Werner turned to Leonard with a sudden burst of laughter. “He’s definitely too old for that!” He winked and turned back to the confused man.

“No… no. You will be continuing your life from where you left off after you are… properly trained not to die in the stupid way you did.”

“Time is different here.” Leonard cut in. “You’ll be back where you were even if it takes you years to-“

“This is ridiculous.” Edwin shouted. “I know how to wear an underwear!”

“Think of it as training for the underwear to be more weary of you!” Werner started laughing senselessly again. He was getting closer and closer to the moment of snapping due to the huge amount of time he spent at the fourth place. He quickly started tapping into his tablet and the embarrassing video clip started playing once more. He turned the device towards Edwin and saw the man’s embarrassment materialize in his posture.

“My foot was wet and the boxer was too elastic…” his voice faded away.

“No need to explain.” Werner patted the man’s shoulder. “We are all in the same boat here.”

“Huh!” Edwin exclaimed. “So, this fourth location is for those who have died because of their lack of underwear wearing skills?”

“Haha!” Werner verbalized his laughter and turned to Leonard once more. “If it were so, your question about not many women being here would have been answered, Leonard!” He patted him on the back.

“I don’t get it,” Edwin knelt down and sat on the floor trying best to cover his overexposed bits.

“You see, women’s undergarments are way too small for their feet to get tangled-” Werner suddenly stopped and his face took a serious look. He shook his head, passed the tablet to Leonard and said:

“You go on. You’ve watched me countless times… you deal with this and I’m going for coffee… the horrible muck we have here until a barista shows up.” He hurried out of the door part sobbing, part laughing.

Leonard punched in a code into the tablet, resulting in a secret compartment in the far wall to open with a click. “It’s called the fourth place,” he corrected Edwin’s previous remark. “Not location.” Then pointed at the cavity in the wall housing a large package inside. “And, that’s for you. Any questions?”

Edwin got up, walked to the compartment, took the package and shook it close to his ear. “What’s in it?” He finally asked.

“7199 pieces of clean underwear for you. That’s the number of attempts it takes to return back to your life… to the time right before you died… with no recollection of the time you spent here.”

“This is still ridiculous,” Edwin mumbled as he checked out a pair of white boxer shorts with purple polka dots. Then, he chucked it away into a corner and turned back to Leonard. “Stupid deaths… no matter how ludicrous they are, the causing action that lead to death are rarely triggered by people themselves… like someone ingesting bug spray to kill the bug, he has priorly swallowed… how can you train not to swallow something so poisonous for a countless times?”

“You can’t,” Leonard smiled. “That’s why the fifth place exists!”

Odors of the Unsmellable

Barış Cansevgisi

nose

For most of us, the sense of smell has always been underrated amongst our five senses. This is plainly because it has been limited by the planet in which we live on as…

We watch the stars through telescopes, but cannot smell them…

We listen to music, hear thunders, songs of birds or the sound of flowing water, but cannot pick up any odor associated with them…

We feel love, anger, fear, jealousy which seem to have no smell…

It’s all clear that we can’t make use of our olfactory sense underwater, or in our dreams, or when it comes to ancient history like the recognizing the scent of a dinosaur, or when describing our emotions or on any celestial body discovered until now that we’ve been seeing pictures of (except the moon)…

But, what would these smell like if we could? Let’s put some science into the mix and speculate on what would…

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On Science, Religion, Lucky Numbers, and our Need to Link Every Unassociated Thing

On Science, Religion, Lucky Numbers, and our Need to Link Every Unassociated Thing

It’s in human nature to subconsciously beat our brains out to make weird connections between unfamiliar people, things and unrelated events before trying to come up with a logical explanation to prove what our minds had falsely linked long before. We all do this as a means of gaining familiarity towards the unknown, as once we make connections that could allegedly explain the scary, the uncertain unknown in any way, our fear becomes beatable, bearable, predictable and later, even prone to manipulation for some to rule others.

When science was nonexistent or still taking its baby steps, we considered lightnings and thunderbolts to be the doings of an angry god punishing us and when we reacted in any meaningless way out of fear and sheer panic, we believed our actions were to take credit in stopping a meteorological event which would have ceased by doing nothing anyway. Soon after, we began performing meaningless rituals, like prayers, dancing and even appointed the first lightning banishers as shamans or wise men to protect our wellbeing in the times of danger. Centuries passed, and science gradually evolved to explain the mysteries of our world, but we still haven’t changed at our core. Most of us still believe a lucky shirt worn on a day expected to turn out bad would help us into changing it for the better. How else could the link between a piece of manmade fabric and a successful job interview be explained other than the shirt being a lucky shirt! The truth simply lies on ‘believing’ being the key that turns the bad day into a good one, but we also need a reference point to do so… to boost our self confidence… to feel smart… to have power upon others… And that’s where the shirt comes in and our logic goes out.

On second thought, don’t wear your lucky shirt to a job interview if it looks like this!

It’s not just lucky objects that dictate our actions in such ways. Sometimes, it’s lucky numbers that decide our fate from picking out a wedding day to jotting them down as the next hopefully winning powerball (lottery) number. How some numbers come to be lucky for us isn’t a mystery either; it has the same working principle as the lucky shirt. When we come across a formerly insignificant figure, and something good happens, the incoherent connection is already up and running in our minds. It’s no wonder that almost nobody’s lucky number is 0 as we don’t see it around much! There are no days in a month starting with a zero, nor there are house numbers we run into in our daily lives, etc. with just a plain old zero. The number ‘0’ is still lucky on its own account, as it’s not labeled as an ‘unlucky’ numeral like the unfortunate ’13’, where our malfunctioning reasoning skills took over once more! The clerical error of an early translator resulted in the omittance of the thirteenth line (law) in the Code of Hammurabi, was one of the incidents tagging the figure as ‘bad’, or ‘unlucky’. And, when two different dinner parties in ancient lore, included a thirteenth guest, the unjust link between the number and it being bad solidified: Judas betrayed Jesus after showing up as the thirteenth guest in the Last Supper and the appearance of Loki (he was evil) in Valhalla as the thirteenth entity at a dinner party, sealed the fate of the number 13. It is surprising how ancient lore still has a tight grip on our reasoning skills centuries later.

Sometimes one more is too much!

Speaking of lore, just think how religion evolved from worshipping multiple, more vicious gods derived from nature to its current form of believing in a single, invisible higher power! It’s just that our brains are wired to create links where there are none when we encounter things we can’t explain. One of the mysteries we would never be able to solve, which is what happens when we die is also explained by the concepts of heaven and hell. Do good deeds in life, and you’ll drink wine from the rivers of a breathtaking garden, do bad deeds and you’ll burn for eternity with no cable TV. Wait! Cable TV? There can’t be that in hell, or at least not according to the holy books. Heaven and hell were depicted centuries ago and their appearance seem to have not changed at all, even today. Not one bit. Why? Because the lore says so! And, this happens in the modern world where a five-year-old non-fiction book is deemed as outdated! For me, there’s no life after death, but death after life has been proven. However, it feels good, even for me, to fantasize about an immortal life in a beautiful garden upon retirement from life.

My heaven would be less wild animals, more books and a working wi-fi

Lastly, we love our built-in crooked reasoning so much that we started teaching our ‘linking the unrelated’ method to animals, such as monkeys pushing buttons to get food. Poor primates must be thinking hard to figure out the link between a magic button and a bunch of bananas! Or are they?

For the majority of us, most things we encounter in life are still mysteries. Let them be, unless we can explain the unknown by science.

The Aftermath of Immortality

The Aftermath of Immortality

We are born, we age and we die. In-between the two significant milestones of what we call life, we seek meaning to this long-lasting event fantasizing about what follows. Is death really the end? Or is it just the beginning of a huge unknown? 

What if there was no end to life?

Let’s assume for a minute that the humanity has found the secret of immortality and death is suddenly off the table for the old, the sick and the unfortunate who are perished every day in freak accidents. The perks of immortality would probably be in the lines of preventing ageing after a certain age and possibly through implementing rapid cell regeneration into our bodies to sustain a never-ending life. Surely, the ultra-wealthy would benefit from it first, but then it would eventually be available for all just like how newly found cures are applied to everyone after a certain time, probably pissing off the ones who had paid high prices for the privilege in the first years. Let’s say that an idealistic scientist made immortality airborne before releasing it to the atmosphere so everyone got the cure for death whether they liked it or not. It’s bad news for the ones with suicidal tendencies as the torment would now be eternal. But, what would happen to the rest of us, what would be in the store for us?

At first, people, especially the old and the sick, would probably celebrate the newfound immortality just like in Jose Saramago’s novel “Death at Intervals”, but soon joy would leave its place to sorrow as clergymen, morticians, life insurance providers, homicide detectives, contract killers and murder mystery writers become needless in society. The first signs of unemployment would spread to every profession eventually as the population starts to grow and retirement becomes a historical notion.

All sources of our eternal fear would eventually cease to exist amongst us, turning fear into a pleasant experience where nothing with grave outcomes takes place. Young daredevil wannabes will find new ways of entertainment as they jump off skyscrapers, run into burning buildings after setting them alight and dashing across streets riddled with drivers racing each other, filming the whole thing for the sake of more social media interactions just before finding out that it was only death that disappeared, not the pain and the long recovery times. Hospitals will be overflooded as a result and healthcare professionals would probably riot in a passive-aggressive manner.

Religions would be wiped out of existence or at least downsized to mini fan clubs with the last of the persistent fanatics working to earn a passage for heaven slowly vanish. With immortality in play, humanity would become their own micro gods. We don’t think God has a god, do we?

Breakthroughs in science and technology would be more frequent as brilliant inventors and scientists continue to benefit from their life-long experience to put on top of what they had already achieved. Soon, the whole universe would be our backyard to explore as manned spacecraft consisting of immortal astronauts chart course for distant stars right after the colonization of the moon by adrenaline junkies on painkiller meds and oxygen tanks, building habitats without any protective gear. Remember! The space is freezing, but what is frozen, can be thawed, just like how it works for frozen chicken in a microwave oven, to minimize the efficiency of the lunar workforce.

Image Credit: NASA

Exploration would not be limited just to space. Hard to reach places on Earth like the bottom of the Mariana trench or the insides of volcanoes would be thoroughly mapped and probably be opened for tourism, eventually ruining the last natural beauties of our planet. On the bright side, new life forms would be discovered.

Education would transform into simplicity of teaching the very basic stuff like the language and the culture as there would be no need for a vast number of specialists on Earth anymore other than for the ones that went off world for exploration.

Language is dynamic, so it would certainly change a great deal. Some expressions and words like “death”, “deathbed”, “murder”, “suicide”, “homicide”, “coffin”, “deadly”, “survival”, “survival of the fittest”, “natural” and all related vocabulary items would disappear, while others shift in meaning over time like the word “alone” would probably be used to describe “with few people in the vicinity” as skyrocketing population growth rate would make sure of that. The word “execute” would lose one of its prime meanings, making it used only for computer commands. New words to express new feelings would emerge as well as a new tense to talk about the very distant but experienced past.

New housing would certainly be a major issue. Some lakes would be dried and some mountains would be flattened to make new space for housing and most of us (mostly the poor) would have to live in vast overcrowded underground dwellings. Satellite estate agents would emerge either selling spots on space junk in Earth’s orbit, rent lunar homes, or advertise Martian blocks of flats for the rich.

Finally, natural resources would become so scarce that we would have to leave our scorched Earth to look for a new home across the galaxy. Luckily, being immortal opens up a large number of options that would have never been possible in history. But, some planet where we wouldn’t have to recycle our pee into drinking water would be swell. Not that we would die of thirst or hunger for that matter, but because how it would make us constantly feel. On the bright side, obesity would be gone forever.

The last thoughts of anyone watching the Earth get smaller from the spaceship monitors would be to try to find a cure to undo the damage of not being able to die. Without and end, life is not so precious after all!

Centuries later, we would have the chance to closely observe how human evolution takes place as we would have lighter bodies having to roam in less gravity for a prolonged time. The ones that couldn’t find a suitable planet to settle would have lighter skin colours and their eyes would probably lose sensitivity to light for better vision. In the end, we would lose our ability to reproduce. Why have tiny versions of ourselves to transfer our experience when we could live forever? Never needing to lactate ever again, female breasts would flatten and disappear, leaving behind only the nipples, very similar to how men are now.  

Doesn’t the word “Immortal” sound much better with more appropriate punctuation and spacing, as in “I’m mortal”?