The elder gods

There are gods. In general, they don’t do very much, and most of them only do one particular thing. The process of who gets to do what is rather intricate and heavy on the backstory, but it usually ends up with someone being the god of this, someone else being the god of that, and so on until you end up with the god of all other miscellaneous things that are not the domain of the other gods.

It is strongly discouraged to question why this is. For one, the aforementioned backstory will be related to you, in detail. Second, the celestial bureaucracy has had more time to sort out the finer details than you can imagine. If you have things to do and places to be, just accept the things related as given and move along.

It is assumed that the elder gods are more powerful than their newer counterparts. Knowledge is power, and knowledge is gathered by being around and doing things, which is the general activity of gods, regardless of age. Thus, having been around longer equals roughly to being more powerful, on general principle.

You already know this, of course. Hearing that the gods are angry is enough to make you quake in your boots with fear right and proper. Hearing that the Elder Gods are angry is enough to make you forget that quaking is an option, fearing that they will find out where you are by listening for your boot noises.

Hearing that the Elder Gods are angry at you in particular is bad news bears all around. Especially the Elder Gods of Bears.

However, there is a limit the power of elder gods. It is not that they themselves age and lose potency over the years – as you have seen, it’s quite the reverse. The gods are, however, made in the image of those who created them. And if we go far enough back into our ancestral history, we find gods created by ancestors who had almost, but not quite, developed a sense object permanence.

Knowledge is power, which means that your best bet is avoiding the really really old gods. If they can’t see you, they don’t know you’re there, which means they can’t be angry at you.

Even if they are old bear gods.

Improve your life through falconry

Thank you all for coming. Today, I will introduce you to the promised upcoming course on falconry.

First off, I would like to mention that the promotional material for this course got a few things wrong. Specifically, the claim that you would learn how to solve everyday problems through means of falconry.

This is false. You will not be able to solve everyday problems with falcons.

[A few students leave the room]

As it should be, as it should be. It is important to approach falconry with the right frame of mind. If you came for the problem solving aspect, or discover that this for whatever reason is not for you, please feel free to leave at any point.

[A few more leave]

In fact, falconry might very well introduce you to a whole host of new everyday problems.

[Ambient preparatory leaving noises]

These problems will be of a nature that is hard to convey, seeing that falconry and its associated vocabulary has a limited reach among the general population.

[More people leaving]

It will also be time-consuming, and you will have to devote a non-trivial part of your life to falcons. There are no half-hearted falconers – you’re either in it for the long haul, or you’re not at all.

[Someone asks just how non-trivial the non-trivial aspect is]

For three months, we will spend most of our waking hours at the mew, in close proximity to the birds, so as to monitor their every move. We need to strike a perfect balance of many things at all times, meaning there will be little downtime or time to – as the saying goes – attend the party college aspects of higher education.

[All but two prospective students leave]

Since there are only two of you left, I might as well add that the promotional material was wrong about the educational credits, too. You don’t actually get any for attending this course.

[One student leaves]

You’re still here, even after all these warnings and caveats? And you say you’re eager to start, despite the harsh, uncaring and more often than not unrewarding aspects of falconry?

I say you’re the perfect candidate, then. Welcome aboard!

The right to keep and bear arms

“The parasite looks quite like an onion, once removed from the bodies of those inflicted. Somewhat roundish, with small white tendrils on one side.”

“I know what a benevolent symbiote looks like.”

“These white tendrils are quite vital to their extraction. There is an enzyme that paralyzes the parasite and renders the tendrils hard as spidersilk steel. With just the correct dosage, it is possible to pull it out by the hairs, as it were.”

“Heresy.”

“Naturally, you do not want to do this by hand. The parasite is slightly telepathic and very -cidal.”

“-cidal? Seems you’re missing some letters there.”

“Oh no, just underlining the very generic nature of the lethality. To say it’s directed at anything in particular would miss all manner of points.”

“Heretics deserve to die.”

“Fortunately, we built an extraction device. No touching required. It even cauterizes the severed pieces of biology that fed the parasite.”

“Sounds painful. And heretic.”

“Quite. But not if administered while the subject is unconscious. The shock of it all keeps them from waking up. Very handy, if you pardon the pun.”

“I do not want to hear any more of this.”

“As it turns out, the extraction process leaves quite a hole once completed. Thanks to stem cells, however, the missing pieces can be rebuilt, albeit slowly.”

“Not listening.”

“Unfortunately, the process we use to speed up recovery is quite a feat of biology. As such, most people can’t stomach the sight of it, much less the thought of it happening inside of their own bodies. We’ve had to build metal armbands to keep frightened eyes and hands away until the healing is complete.”

“Such as the one on my arm?”

“I think you are starting to come to terms to your post-parasite life.”

“Would trying to rip it off accomplish anything?”

“The parasite is gone, and the armband is there to protect you from yourself, in more ways than one. In the early days, we had a patient who burned his arm to ash, and died of emotion after peeling off the charred remains that used to contain the parasite and finding it now contained a literal nothing, a void, a lacunae. Please do not do that.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because the parasites can only be removed from one person at a time. Telepathy, you see. And lethality.”

“No, but, more generally?”

“Very much the telepathy and lethality. But now, I will leave you alone. I suspect you will need to readjust yourself to having your own thoughts again.”

Workplace specialization

It’s not that he’s maladjusted, you see. Rather, he is too adjusted to a very specific set of social circumstances that require a very specialized mindset to navigate. Within the parameters of these circumstances, he’s a powerhouse to be reckoned with, an unstoppable and efficient machine who keeps things moving. Outside these parameters, he has no reference points, and thus no idea about what to do.

If we were to reconstruct these social circumstances and place him within them, he’d fit right in and know just what to do. For him, it would be as if the world suddenly made sense again, and that he could finally act with the certainty he once knew. It would, quite literally, mean the world to him.

However, after the recent economic downturn, global communications went down, and it’s hard to reconnect the old communities again. Especially those who prided themselves of being vaguely anonymous and hard to reach. Given our limited retained knowledge about these matters, it is hard to know where to begin looking for the remaining members, who could aid us in this matter. The prospect is not impossible, just improbable.

It is our hope that one day, he will be able to continue his editorialship of esoteric and distinctly countercultural fan fiction zines. Until then, however, we recommend keeping him well stocked on books and writing materials.

The authentic experience

It began as stories, which grew into legends, which faded into myths, which transformed into ides. Very specific ideas. Ideas of the kind expressed by the phrase “let’s go there and find out”.

As so often is the case with these things, this idea was sufficient to set people in motion. Towards the aforementioned “there”.

At first, the inhabitants of “there” were enthused about the notion that the stories, legends and myths had some nugget of truth to them. A while later, when the local scholars had identified them as the travel logs of a notoriously enthusiastic drug smuggler from the 17th century, enthusiasm faded.

But people kept coming. And they did not update their ideas, or take into account the numerous available options of finding out the truth without going there.

As more and more people kept coming, the locals felt it necessary to discuss the situation. At length. At the conclusion of the talks, it was decided that the myths were actually true, and that these are who we are now. For better, worse and immense tourism profits.

All in service of the authentic experience.

A garden state

The park was overcrowded. This fact did not square with the apparent abundance of free space to stroll around leisurely in, until another inescapable fact made itself clear.

Abundantly clear.

The noise.

The park, rich in flowers, greens and ambitions, also featured a certain lack of foresight. As these things happen, any given part of the decorative greenery could easily be accommodated and cared for on its own terms. Taken together, however, it turned out that there would be at least one maintenance crew out and about at all times, performing prophylactic gardening.

Loud gardening. Power tool gardening.

Attempts to rectify the situation quickly bound up against the limits of biology. Some plants needed more attention that others, and some were averse to being overly attended. Any attempt to standardize their care would inevitably lead to some portion of the garden getting either too little or too much attention, and there were no funds to replace anything already rooted. It quickly became clear that this situation would simply have to persist.

Thus it came to pass that the most beautiful garden also came into a state of being perpetually overcrowded. Aurally speaking.

Political logistics

“We need to bury it. As far away as possible. No one must be allowed to possess such evil.”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Seems we’re all in agreement. But where to bury it?”

“The moon, on the far side”

“Antarctica, underneath the shoggoths”

“Rural Sussex”

“All good suggestions, worthy of consideration. However, the logistics -”

“And the expenses”

“And diplomatic backchanneling”

“And the British”

“…we could just burn it, you know”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

Small economies

The opposite of economies of scale are small economies, or the economy of small things. That’s not to say that the small things are unimportant; quite the opposite, they are even more significant, since there are such small quantities of them.

A clear example of a small economy is of children at play, and the resources they can mobilize in their play sessions. More often than not, there’s only the one of most things, and this one thing gain importance thus – even more so access to this one thing. Those with access were the privileged ones, and learning the rules of access was a critical life skill, considering what’s at play. The singularity is not a theoretical construct, it is a lived experience.

Those young and/or old enough to remember early computing remember the experience of someone else using the computer. The computer, singular. Being expensive and out of reach for the budgets of younglings and old ones alike, there was only ever the one, and only one person could use it at a time. Those are the rules, and those are the conditions for the small economy that arose around the thing. One person played, all others didn’t.

Of course, those young and/or old enough to remember that also remember the slow transition from a computer to many. Over time, the convergence of aging (with the associated boost in income) and cheaper computation meant that it became easier to simply multiply than to abide by the old rules. Small economies are intense in that they force fierce interaction relating to a singular object; the singularity explodes this fierceness by bringing more objects to bear.

Returning to such small economies can be emotionally intense experiences, and at the same time made banal by the smallness of the thing. Upon visiting a childhood home, the sight of those things kept for sentimental value is both endearing and disheartening; did I really attach this much sentimental value to this small thing, and how come I still do?

I know you still do. You, singular.

A job befitting the benefits

“Okay, so I’m gonna give you the rundown on what you’re expected to do around here. It’s very straightforward, but you need to grasp the nature of it completely.”

“I’m ready. Hit me.”

“Here it is. You’re gonna be around after hours, keeping the lights on, and watch out for anyone trying to break in.”

“Seems simple enough.”

“It is. Now, when you see someone trying to break in, you’re gonna let them in and give them what they want.”

“A good beating and a solid account of their wrongdoings to the proper authorities?”

“No no. Whatever it is they’re trying to steal. Make sure you give it to them. Promptly and without fuss. Anything at all. Just hand it over.”

“…are you being sarcastic?”

“Not at all. We’ve had so many break-ins, burglaries and associated acts of flyby vandalism, that our insurance company finally gave up the pretense, and forced us to take measures to reduce property damage. And, frankly, we’ve grown tired of having to replace the furnishings every other week or so. It’s more expedient and less expensive this way.”

“Really?”

“Really. We’ll have to pay quadruple premiums if we don’t keep someone like you around. Do you understand what it is you’re supposed to do?”

“Keep an eye out for burglars, let them in, give them what they want, and let them go without a fuss?”

“Your grasp of the situation is complete. Welcome aboard!”

Rationalists and rational persuasion

“Let’s go back to basics. Some basic principles. Just to make absolutely sure we are on the same page. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, sure, whatevs.”

“It is rational to do what works. Are we agreed on this?”

“Yea”

“From this follows that to act rational to do what works, instead of things that do not work. Right?”

“This much is obvious.”

“Therefore, it is not rational to use approaches that do not work, and it is even more not rational to channel vast amounts of time, energy and work into them. It would, by definition, by wasted on something that does not work, which is irrational.”

“This is just a longer way of saying what you just said.”

“Therefore, in trying to convince others of something, the rational thing to do would be to take an approach that works, rather than one that does not work. Are you with me?”

“Yep”

“Thus we can finally return to the reason we’re having this dialogue. Your comment ‘astrology is a bunch of unscientific bullshit and you are a dumb butch whore for even thinking about it’ -”