Ball games, later evolving to a concept called ball sports, have become million dollar industries since humanity first discovered the joy of moving round objects with their extremities or with equipment designed for this.
Throughout history ball games have always been popular. Ancient Mayans played a violent game similar to basketball called Pok-a-Tok, where the players were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands or feet while trying to get the ball through a vertically fixed loop above. The Chinese played a similar game to soccer called Cuju which dated back to 1600 BC. The Ethiopian Genna could be considered as the predecessor of field hockey while Ancient Greeks played a ball game called Episkyros in the 5th century BC.
The idea of using balls as a form of entertainment is not that surprising considering the ball-shape to be perfect as it rolls on the ground upon impact, adding a hint of unpredictability to the game depending on the momentum and the players’ skills. Secondly, thanks to aerodynamics, a ball can also be guided much more easily than any other shape and this skill can be improved by training. Lastly, the ball-shape is safe; it does not have sharp edges, pointy ends or damaging looks. It’s as smooth as it can be, even in high velocity. A ball can hit a player countless times and it still won’t do any kind of damage to players (See Dodgeball) (I am also excluding bowling balls here for obvious reasons :)).
Perhaps it’s not the ball-shape but the circle that drives us into obsession. We are born and one of the first things we see is the eyes… the perfectly round irises of our mother’s, the midwife’s or any other person who slaps our butts to initiate the first breath. We are mesmerised by the sight of the shining sun and the full moon, both of which are perfect circles, as we grow up. Moreover, recent studies show that the circle shape triggers the sensations of calmness, safety and security in our minds. And that’s probably why the circular shape made it into designs in our daily lives: coins, medals, fabric buttons, elevator buttons, dinner plates, wedding bands, wreckballs, etc…
Maybe we should consider our secret obsession of round objects and circles from a different perspective. We all have stardust in our existence as every atom in our bodies were created inside some star before Earth even existed. The stars are where we come from and this obsession of circles and spheres may just be our longing to end up where we belong. How else could you justify our desire to explore space when we haven’t even solved the mysteries of our own planet? Or that all the celestial bodies in space are spheres? Or that crystal balls were used to predict the future?
It’s my sister’s birthday today, and this story is for her, but feel free to read it as everyone can find a piece of themselves in this story 🙂
Happy birthday sis!!!
THE TIME TROTTER
“This is it?” Nadine rolled her eyes in sheer disappointment as she pushed and rolled over the device to one side with her index finger. The three interlocking gears at the base were furnished with cobwebs. She pulled her hand back quickly and rubbed her fingers onto her t-shirt to ditch the possible presence of sticky web particles she’d nearly poked through.
“It is,” Jerzy said almost shouting. “All the indications are there, right in front of us…staring at our faces…”
Nadine fixed her gaze at the device once more and chuckled. “The only thing staring at our faces is most likely a hairy, little spider.”
Jerzy toppled the device back over and took out a small notebook from his back pocket. He started shuffling through the weathered pages.
“Your grandpa was nuts guys,” Leo said. He had helped himself onto a dusty chest in the far corner. “Old Felix’s attic is full of weird junk like this… and none of them is of any good.” He noticed Jerzy wasn’t listening, but carried on anyway: “Teleportation chamber? Clean energy generator? And now a time machine? Come on…”
“Here!” Jerzy shouted as he opened a page in the notebook and showed it to them. The diagram drawn on the page was no doubt the blueprint of the device that was lying on the table now; an antique pocket watch screwed to a sizeable wooden box with knobs and pegs on each side. The lidless cavity at the bottom of the box housed some kind of battery or a power source, impossible to identify in its current horrible condition. And wires… lots of wires coming out of the device in chaotic tangles. Each part of the device was labelled in almost illegible handwriting with the heading in all caps over the drawing: ‘The Time Trotter Prototype and its Parts’.
“So?” Leo still seemed uninterested.
“This,” Jerzy said as he picked up the device. “…is the only ‘junk’ we found in grandpa’s attic that came with a manual… including the blueprint and operating instructions!” He quickly skipped over a few pages with his free hand and showed Leo and Nadia the page titled: “Step by step instructions”.
“Step by step instructions? That doesn’t sound like something a scientist like grandpa would write,” Nadia said as she carefully took the device from Jerzy’s hand and placed it on the table before she bent over to examine the device more thoroughly. “Even the bedtime stories he used to tell us years ago were riddled with technical and scientific terms.”
“Not if the manual was intended to be found by the likes of us,” Jerzy protested waving the manual.
“Jerzy,” Nadia finally said. “You’re my brother and I love you for that… but a mechanical, antique pocket watch… it’s so outdated. I am not sure if it can even point out the right time, let alone travel.”
“All the early prototypes of great machines were… outdated at first. Think about the first mobile phones as thick as bricks, all the way to the smart phones of the modern era not much thicker than an ID card.”
“Ok genius, so how does it work?” Leo cut in with a hint of boredom in his tone. He was holding a ceramic jug with no labels on, possibly one of the scattered, ordinary junk in the attic with no superpowers allocated by Nadia and Jerzy’s granddad.
Jerzy was already on it, finger lining the relevant step on the manual. “Place the device on a steady surface,” he read aloud and checked whether his sister followed the first step. The device was indeed on the table, Jerzy just pressed hard on one corner of the table to see if the legs were even. It didn’t budge.
“Next, we press the stem until it clicks,” Jerzy read before pointing out the sticking metal piece on top of the watch. Nadia pressed it hard and they all heard the clicking sound. The hands started spinning at an incredible speed in opposite directions until they stopped, displaying five past four.
Jerzy quickly checked his phone and to his expectations the time was exactly the same as what the pocket watch was claiming it was.
“That was weird,” Nadia said as she looked at her own wristwatch. “Now what?”
“Look! It started ticking…” Jerzy was astonished to his limits. He kept on reading. “Pull the stem out and start turning it in the desired destination: Counter clockwise for the past, and clockwise for the future.” He put the manual back into his pocket and rushed to the device. He got hold of the stem in no time. He pulled it slightly out and began turning it counter clockwise… allegedly into the past.
After a couple of turns, he stopped. “This shouldn’t be the way,” he thought. The pocket watch read twenty past two, but as soon as he released the stem, it went back to the original time. A tiny spider started scurrying away to safety… towards the absence of mechanical tampering.
“You just scared off the operator,” Leo said laughing as the spider found new shelter under the junk posing as the clean energy generator.
“No,” Nadia said. “The time on my watch also went back a couple of hours, but it’s back to normal now. Did we really go back in time?”
Jerzy shook his head. “I don’t know,” was all he could say.
At that moment, Leo smashed the ceramic jug in his hand by throwing it to the floor. “I have an idea,” he said. “Just try again, but go slow…super slow.”
Jerzy was at the wheel again. He started turning the stem in the same direction as before. Weirdly enough, he could take back the seconds which shouldn’t have been possible… Seconds at a time…
The smashed tiny bits of the jug started moving towards each other until they slowly started forming the original, unscathed jug. The pieces were sticking together on the floor with no indication of having been smashed before. When the jug was complete, it slowly started rising in mid-air and moved towards Leo’s open hand… the one that smashed it seconds ago… or the one that will smash it seconds later.
Jerzy let go off the stem in sheer joy, but now the time went back to its original position and they all had to witness the jug being smashed again in fast forward.
Nadia pulled out the manual out of Jerzy’s back pocket and quickly skimmed through it to the very last page. “Time is never steady, it can flow in both directions… but it’s intended to go only forward to avoid confusion and chaos. I invented the ‘time trotter’ for the sole purpose of providing myself tiny comforts like taking back time a couple of minutes before I made a huge mistake or travelling forward to avoid waiting hours for my favourite evening show. But even then, the need to hold the stem in an upright position was never worth the trouble. Time catches up in the end.” Nadia put the manual back into Jerzy’s pocket before mumbling “I’m outta here,” to herself as she left. Leo soon followed.
Jerzy spent the next couple of months experimenting with the device. He found out that he was stuck in the attic as he couldn’t take the device with him, he could never find a steady surface to allow the device to work elsewhere. All the unlabeled junk around him started to make sense now. The old TV unit in one corner, the bathtub and the toilet in the other with complete plumbing. The browned out mattress, too. Their grandpa lived nearly all his life here.
Just as Jerzy was about to give up, he found an old photo album buried deep in the shelves. The photos were of his childhood, Nadia and him as toddlers, grandpa and his youth… Something was strange… really strange… as the young grandpa Felix looked exactly the same as Leo in the present. He couldn’t stop now… there was a way… he needed to find it.. just like grandpa!
Morals of the story:
Stick to the present… don’t burden your life with the past and thus stop living the present, the moment. Same with the future in a way… Long live carpe diem.
Most things that seem complex at first like the time trotter device with lots of pegs, knobs and wires, can work with much less. Don’t scare yourself with possible obstructions that may arise in achieving your dreams.
Leo, in fact, isn’t the younger version of Felix, but we like making connections between unrelated things to support what we really want. Felix Leo!!! Even the photo Jerzy found had little resemblance to his grandpa’s youth but that’s how our minds work if we are inclined to believe in something. We only see what we want to see.
Family is important… but how you perceive family members and how they affect you is vital…
Constantly humming engines each tasked for humanity’s various comforts, concerts where the pointless cheering of the audience surpasses the actual music being played, people shouting at each other for no good reason… the list goes on.
The world is getting more and more noisy each passing day. Naturally occurring sounds are much less heard and man-made clamor starts taking up most of our daily lives, especially in urban areas… It rains outside but frequent car honks replace the sound of raindrops. You cook but the soothing sound of crackling fire is almost always suppressed by a piece of metal or wood clashing into other cooking utensils in arrhythmic bursts of underestimated auditory disturbance. People downstairs argue in the loudest way possible about which side of the egg to pierce… the flat end wins by the power of extremely overused vocal chords.
We are living in a world where even complete silence is becoming white noise. When did we last enjoy watching the dumb night sky accompanied by silent but bright stars? The quiet of the sun rising over distant mountains? The soothing calmness of deep underwater? The mute work of art; a painting perhaps, telling us all kinds of stories silently if we have the imagination? The voiceless communication of two lovers carefully examining each other’s facial features while smiling occasionally (and sheepishly)?
The natural sounds on the other hand, add depth to whatever we are experiencing like condiments on fries… whether it’s sea gulls gawking over a deserted beach or logs crackling in a fireplace feeding it’s conqueror… but all these natural sounds have been exiting our lives silently, leaving their places to metallic, mechanic, digitized sounds.
Do you know how many words we have invented just to name all the different sounds that are being manufactured mechanically or electronically?
And add to this the fact that we use some words like “hissing” to describe escaping gas rather than the sound a slithering serpent makes.
Music has become the only cluster of man-made sounds that seem to work and change our moods for the better, but even so, it’s starting to decline in quality over the last couple of decades. More and more singers and bands pop out each year and soon forgotten… who could beat the satisfaction we got from the Beatles, the Doors, Queen, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Muddy Waters and all the Classical music composers that have fed our souls for years (or even centuries)…
Music is food for the soul, but it has become junk food lately… And just as junk food being bad for our physical health, bad music or the disturbing noises we hear everyday in our lives is equally bad for our mental health.
So, what can be done to enjoy the world without all the disturbing noises the modern life throws at us?
No, we may not get rid of our alarm clocks and replace them with roosters if we are urban dwellers, but we may still…
Refrain using shouting and yelling of any caliber as the main form of communication with others.
Allocate more funds to invent motors or machinery that make less sound.
Build more soundproof houses with thicker walls so that we won’t get to hear the neighbor flush every time.
Imagine that a highly advanced alien race in a galaxy far far away, somehow decide to study English after catching rogue radio signals all over the planet with their super-ranged intergalactic receptors. Before making first contact, they devise an English to intergalactic language dictionary after many years of eavesdropping. The radio signals are their only source of information as they don’t have eyes on Earth, yet. Hell, they might not even have eyes at all.
[We are assuming the aliens can distinguish between languages in the story above and focus solely on English. In reality, they would be utterly puzzled by hearing the words ‘astronaut’, ‘cosmonaut’, and ‘taikonaut’ being used for the same Earthly space men!]
After these extraterrestrials think they have enough knowledge of the language to tackle the next message they pick up for the sake of translation, they come across some messages communicated by two unsuccessful fiction writers exchanging parts of their latest work for mutual advice. The first statement the aliens hear is:
“a chunk of mayo slithered down the hamburger paris bit in a hurry and landed on her brandnew denim leaving a nasty stain” [The correct punctuation isn’t applied as they wouldn’t know.]
A simple, single statement describing a daily mishap to someone’s jeans might be tough to crack for those who speak little or no English. Luckily, we have dictionaries! So, do these aliens! Remember, they made one! But, dictionaries may still provide more problems than solutions without context as:
The verb ‘Slither’ is usually credited for the movement of desert animals like snakes… so, the word ‘mayo’ sounds more like an animal than a condiment. Duly noted.
‘Land’ is both a verb and a noun, but it would be confusing for a member of a tribe in a landlocked region or beings from another planet with no bodies of water; in short, for those who do not have the word ‘sea’ or ‘land’ in their native tongues. Assuming they eliminated the noun form and accepted the verb form to be right definition. Why use ‘to land’ though? They would think the more appropriate word should have been something similar to ‘drop’ as ‘land’ is attributed to controlled actions like ‘the landing of a bird’ or ‘the touchdown of an airplane’ (by a pilot)… how much control can a chunk of mayo have? Does it have a conscience?
As suspected, the word ‘mayo’ is not in their dictionary, yet, as it’s the first time they picked up this word! It’s logical as it’s a really slim chance the word circulates in space between NASA and the space stations. They add the new word into their dictionary as:
Mayo: A conscious life form on Earth that attack by short leaps and known to discolour its prey by a form of spitting or dampening.
All the world languages (not only English) are riddled with similes, idioms, and ironies. Mingle these with our diverse, unique cultures and set up grammatical systems with a lot of rule exceptions and voila; languages of planet Earth, which are bound to change as our way of lives change via new inventions and the advancement of technology!
Our vocabularies are full of made-up lexical items with little or no pattern, as we seem to name things randomly, by not following a general set of rules. Keep in mind, words make up sentences and sentences make the language itself. The above mayo message could also be deciphered as a list of place names as we can name words derived from toponyms (words derived from place names). Look:
Mayo: short for mayonnaise meaning from Mahon, Menorca – Spain Hamburger: from Hamburg – Germany Paris: from Paris – France Denim: from Nimes – a town in France (de Nimes)
That’s not all, we also make up words derived from people’s names (eponyms):
Boycott (Captain Charles C. Boycott), Saxophone (Adolphe Sax), Guillotine (Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin), Sandwich (Earl of Sandwich), Nicotine (Jean Nicot) and even Bluetooth (Harold Bluetooth)
Toponyms and Eponyms are just two of the ways we name new words or concepts… there are many more but again no pattern in naming lexical items. Let’s mention one more to seal this part, which is ‘naming new locations, things or concepts by mistake or miscommunication’:
Nome (A town in Alaska): According to a theory, Nome received its name through an error: allegedly when a British cartographer copied an ambiguous annotation made by a British officer on a nautical chart, while on a voyage up the Bering Strait. The officer had written “? Name” next to the unnamed cape. The mapmaker misread the annotation as “C. Nome”, or Cape Nome, and used that name on his own chart; the city in turn took its name from the cape. (Source: Wikipedia)
Canary Islands (A group of Islands): The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of the Dogs”. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the island Canaria contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size”. There were no canaries (birds) on the islands. It was a simple translation error as Canariae (Canis), the Latin word for ‘dogs’ sounded a lot like ‘Canaries’.
Yucatan Peninsula: There are countless theories about how Yucatan was named. Below are just two of those theories (In both versions, the Spaniards asked in Spanish and the Mayans they encountered there replied in Mayan, their native tongue.):
The first one, points out to Francisco López de Gómara in 1552 in Cabo Catoche when the Spaniards asked some men what the name of the town was and they said “tectetan”,which would roughly translate to “I don’t understand you”. They thought it was called that way, and, corrupting the word, they called that land Yucatan.
Another version indicates that the Spaniards gave the name of Yucatan to the region because the Mayans answered their questions with the expression “Uh yu ka t’ann”, which in Mayan means “listen how they speak”, and the Spaniards understood Yucatan.
The West Indies (A group of Islands in the Caribbean): Christophe Columbus, who thought he had reached islands in the West of India, named them. Well, technically, he is right. The West Indies in the Caribbean is indeed located to the west of India…
Now, let’s add the effect of our cultural diversity into the mix and look at some interesting facts about other languages:
At one point, Arabic had over 1000 words for ‘camel’, which were abundant in the region. Although most of these words are not used today, there are still over 100 words in contemporary Arabic for ‘camels’.
There’s a theory that the Eskimos have over 50 words to describe snow and ice. These include; ‘qanik – snow falling’, ‘aputi – snow on the ground’, ‘pukak – crystalline snow on the ground’ and ‘ainu – snow to make water’. No wonder so many words, where everywhere is literally snow and ice.
Even aristocracy and wealth can alter words– the words beef and pork come from French, while the English equivalents are cow (ox) and pig. Now, the original English words are used, to describe the live animals while French originated words are used when these animals are served as food. The distinction dates back to the Norman invasion of Britain, where English peasants looked after the animals and the French nobility ate them.
Each language has unique words that don’t exist in other languages: Gigil (Filipino) is the sudden urge to want to squeeze someone out of extreme cuteness or irritation. Fernweh (German) is feeling homesick for somewhere you’ve never been before. Slampadato (Italian) is a word to describe people who are addicted to tanning saloons. Yoko Meshi (Japanese) is the stress you feel when speaking a foreign language and Yakamoz (Turkish), which is the sight of the reflection of moonlight on a body of water.
We speak language(s), where both milk and white wine sound like they’re the same colour or that black berries, a bruised eye and coffee are considered black, just as black as a piece of obsidian rock. Seriously, how are we ever going to manage to communicate with extraterrestrials when our languages follow no real pattern and we are nearly always confused?
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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):
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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…
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?
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’
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.