Beloved Distance is now available on Amazon – in Kindle format.
Question: Can Neuroscience Inform Everyday Life? The “Translation Problem” – Neuroskeptic
A new paper asks why neuroscience hasn’t had more “impact on our daily lives.”
The article, Neuroscience and everyday life: facing the translation problem, comes from Dutch researchers Jolien C. Francken and Marc Slors. It’s a thought-provoking piece, but it left me feeling that the authors are expecting too much from neuroscience. I don’t think insights from neuroscience are likely to change our lives any time soon.
Francken and Slors describe a disconnect between neuroscience research and everyday life, which they dub the ‘translation problem’. The root of the problem, they say, is that while neuroscience uses words drawn from everyday experience – ‘lying’, ‘love’, ‘memory’, and so on – neuroscientists rarely use these terms in the usual sense. Instead, neuroscientists will study particular aspects of the phenomena in question, using particular (often highly artificial) experimental tasks.
As a result, say Francken and Slors, the neuroscience of (say) ‘love’ does not directly relate to ‘love’ as the average person would use the word:
Read the full piece here: Can Neuroscience Inform Everyday Life? The “Translation Problem” – Neuroskeptic
I’m personally intrigued by this rising question, because I’ve been studying neuroscience since 2007, when I accidentally/on-purpose came across the autonomic nervous system as an extremely elegant explanation for why so much stuff happens and why people do what they do.
I’ve personally been able to use my continuously evolving understanding of neurobiology and neuroanatomy to approach life in a very different way from most — and consequently, my experiences have differed substantially from what I see others experiencing. I’m probably one of the happiest, most self-directed, independent people I know, and I manage to find solutions to things that stump a lot of folks. And yes, neuroscience plays a significant role, informing my approach and giving me insights I can actually use to sustain my 26-year marriage, stay continuously employed even through brutal economic downturns, have a perfectly fine house in a lovely town, and basically have more satisfaction and purpose in my life than a lot of people dream possible.
I wish, quite frankly, that I could bottle what I’ve found/developed and make it widely available, but time… and energy… not to mention the fact that people manage to find enough solace in their devices and distractions, that it takes their minds off the troubles they could be otherwise solving (or avoiding in the first place). Ah, well… People make their choices, and there you have it. As for me, I’ve got… science! (Can you hear Thomas Dolby singing? I can.)
But this isn’t about me. It’s about neuroscience. And frankly, I really believe that anybody who’s willing to put in the work and learn and grow, can have the same — if not more. I haven’t even fully pushed the envelope on my own capacity. I have this constant sense that I’m capable of more, and in all honesty, I get a little impatient with myself for not taking things up as many notches as I’m sure I could.
So, that’s what I’m going to do with this blog — bump things up a notch and dive into territory that A) I’m supposedly not professionally qualified to expound upon, and B) the general public blithely ignores, to their own peril… not to mention to the detriment of us all. I’ve been studying the human system since I was in grade school, and I haven’t stopped, even when my work building technology (that you probably use on a regular basis: you’re welcome) ate into my time and attention.
I’m writing a book — Beloved Distance: The Separation that Connects us to All. It’s about our neurology. It’s about our world. Most of all, it’s about how we can join the two to make more sense of the lives we inhabit — and the connections we create.
It draws on the time-honored tradition of finding correspondences… analogies… metaphors… to build a framework of understanding where we’re at, how we get here, and most importantly of all, how we can get to where we really want to go — a world where we can feel like we belong, where we can know that we count, and where our differences aren’t liabilities, but assets.
Of All the Nerve… writing about the “neuro” things we all experience, but few completely understand
Of all the nerve, I — a non-scientist, a non-neurologist, a non-medical person — am writing a book about the nervous system. To make matters worse (in case you’re not sure, I am being facetious), I’m taking the liberty of philosophizing about it — as a non-academic, an unofficial philosopher.
It’s tricky, to say the least. The field of neurology keeps changing. Our understandings of neurobiology are evolving at a rapid rate, as every month it seems someone discovers something new, or puts 2-and-2 together in ways that add up to more than 4. Or, for that matter, they realize there’s another hidden “2” in the equation that nobody noticed before, and they either add it in, or square the values that they’ve discovered before.
It’s tricky, even for people who are highly trained scientists, on the cusp of cutting-edge research. It’s tough to stay current — even (especially?) if you’re actively involved in research, yourself.
But I’m doing it, anyway. Because, when we look closely at the world around us, and we have even the most basic access to what we Do Know About Our Nervous Systems, it’s possible to use that knowledge as a springboard to better understand the world around us. In fact, it’s almost irresistably compelling.
Very few of us understand what exactly is going on inside the sun that produces all that light and heat and those amazing sunsets. But we do know how to reference that light and heat and color in our lives to add meaning and “texture” to our experience. We don’t understand the exact chemical compositions of water and air, but we constantly use them as metaphors, often without realizing it.
I think we can/should do the same with our nervous systems. Over the past 20 years, we’ve gained the ability to look more closely and understand more completely, just how it all works — as far as we can currently tell. That knowledge is continually shifting and changing, of course, and it could be that some (much?) of what I’m writing about will change in the next 20 years. But that shouldn’t stop me — or you — from considering how it all fits together, and how our understanding of it can enrich our lives.
Once upon a time, very distinguished scientists believed that the nervous system was a continuous network of uninterrupted connections — like the vascular system with its networks of veins and arteries. It seemed like just common sense, that the nervous system would also be uninterrupted, just like our veins, allowing the signals passing along our “wires” to get where they’re going in one piece.
People believed this so strongly, that Camillo Golgi, the scientist who figured out how to stain nerves so you could see them as individual pieces, rather than just another dark clump of organic stuff, devoted his entire 1906 Nobel Prize speech to explaining how it was impossible that the nervous system was made up of separate neurons.
His co-winner, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, was a proponent of the “neuron doctrine”, which held that nerves were separate cells that were connected by something, though people hadn’t figured that out, just yet. Turns out Ramon y Cajal was right — but it took decades before we had equipment that could give us a decent view of that.
Did this stop them, though? Did their obviously imperfect, partial knowledge of How Things Work stop them from moving forward in their work? Oh, no. And even when they stood the chance of being proven wrong, they just moved ahead, anyway. Even staked their reputations on it.
Looking back at the past hundreds of years of scientific discovery, as well as changes in how we view ourselves as individual humans in community with each other, I’m struck by just how dynamic our knowledge of science and self is. We are continuously changing how we think about life, how we relate to it, how we regard ourselves, and how we relate to each other. Nothing stays the same for long, but we seem to get in the habit of thinking that How Things Are Now is How Things Have Always Been. It’s not true, of course, but we tend to believe it. Especially now, when we’ve got our online echo chambers to reinforce our biases and support even our least defensible opinions.
But things change. Times change. Knowledge aggregates and opinions proliferate… and at regular (and irregular) intervals, there’s some knew “wrench” being tossed in the workings of our minds. And so we adapt. Science adapts. Society adapts. We shift and change along with our surroundings, no matter how firmly we may believe that we’re anchored in universal truths. Maybe Truth doesn’t change, but our understanding of it does.
And so it’s important — for all of us — to step out and take some chances in considering the facts of the world around (and inside) us… building an understanding of those facts that works for us and makes our lives more meaningful. Even if the science might shift in a matter of years, even if we don’t have all the answers or all the insight that more accelerated experts do, I think we have every right to avail ourselves of What We Know At This Point In Time, and use that to better appreciate and understand our world.
Even if we aren’t PhD-grade neuroscientists.
Especially if we aren’t PhD-grade neuroscientists.
It’s our world, they’re our bodies. The science has been funded by our tax dollars. And I say we have the right to understand what’s going on in there, so that we can do better at what we do out here.
So, this book is coming along…
I’ve been working on my latest book, Beloved Distance : The Separation that Connects Us to All, for the past year or so. Actually, I started it almost two years ago. Time flies. Especially when you get busy.
And yes, I have been busy.
Anyway, I “finished” the book a few weeks back — is a book ever finished? Hard to say. Some authors talk about “abandoning” their books, rather than finishing them. I know, for me, there’s always the temptation to add more… and more… and more. Because I think of a lot more salient details to add.
But that’s really what this blog is for.
Anyway, since I’m publishing the book myself, I needed to get a look at the print quality before I finalized everything. I needed to get a look at how the fonts came out, how the page dimensions look… Get the page numbering together. Table of contents. Sequences from chapter to chapter. Make sure there aren’t numbers on the divider pages. Check the line heights and margins.
Figure out the endnotes.
And of course give more thought to the cover design.
Not to mention, give it one last read — as an actual book — before calling it “done”.
All those last-minute details that make the project feel like it’s dragging on. But they’re very important details, so it’s important to pay attention at the very end. Especially at the end. Because that’s really the beginning of the book.
Fortunately, there’s a long weekend coming up, so I should have a chance to rest up some more and then give it a read. It’s not a terribly long book — about 150 pages, with extra spacing between the lines (which I’ll tighten up in the final version). And I’ve had a few weeks to clear my head, so I can come back to it fresh.
Fresh is good. Especially when an intense project like this is wrapping up… before launching into the world.
Strange Bedfellows – Chapter 2 – Maria’s Walk
But one day, things changed. Their maid, Maria, arrived in the morning at her regular time to clean their condo. After waxing the black-and-white tile dining room floor, dusting the glass shelves and tabletops, rearranging cushions on the couch, love seat, and side chairs, vacuuming their brilliant white pile carpets, polishing their heavy, ornate silverware, and washing windows, she headed into the bedroom. She collected stray piles of dirty clothes to launder or dry-clean, rearranged scattered items on the dressers, and turned to the bed to straighten it.
But when she pulled down the covers, between the black satin sheets, she found the rotting corpse of an old, shriveled woman. Skin stretched tight across bones, cheeks sharp, teeth bared, pelvis and ribs angular beneath copper-colored, paper-thin hide, the body’s sparse silvery hair fell from the scalp, and the stink of decay filled the room.
Maria stumbled back in shock. With a shriek, she turned and fled the apartment, barely able to close the door behind her.
When Paul and Christina arrived home later that night, they noticed nothing unusual. Engrossed in the last twelve hours of their own experiences―politics at Paul’s work, and the new show Christina was opening in less than a week―they mixed their customary drinks and compared notes on their demanding workdays.
Looking up from her glass, Christina noticed the vacuum cleaner was still out, leaning in a corner of the living room. With a sniff and a resolution to give Maria a good talking-to, she replaced it in the utility closet, and went back to her husband. As she passed through the dining area, she saw the silverware had been polished, but not put away; forks, knives, and spoons lay scattered across the glass dining room table, gleaming dully under the dimmed chandelier. Christina replaced the tableware in its case, her lips pursed, adding this infraction to her mental list of reprimands for Maria. This maid had been with them for years, but lately she’d lost some of her attention to detail. Leaving lights on when she left the apartment, forgetting to unload clean clothes from the dryer, leaving the television volume turned up when she shut it off… This laxness was starting to wear on Christina’s patience.
Returning to the living room, she took the second drink her husband held out to her, and sipped. As the martini burned in her throat, she scented something―rank, bitter, sickly sweet, almost unnoticeable, but not entirely.
“This is the last straw,” Christina said indignantly, swallowing hard and shaking her head as Paul noticed the smell, too. “We simply have to find some more reliable domestic help.”
Cocktails in hand, husband and wife sniffed their way through their home, checking under cupboards and behind furniture for the source of the smell. Both agreed that Maria had probably brought some dead animal with her from her run-down neighborhood… perhaps she’d left it for them out of spite. They hadn’t raised her hourly wage in some time, and lately she’d been more sullen than usual. It was only out of charity, they’d kept her this long. She needed them more than they needed her. But still, her attitude had deteriorated in the past months. With mounting indignation, they made their way slowly around the apartment, until they stood in front of their bedroom.
With measured pace, Paul walked the perimeter of the room, checking under the chest of drawers and behind the dressing screen for the source of the smell. He set his drink on Christina’s vanity table and poked his head underneath; perhaps some food had fallen behind there and had taken weeks, even months, to go bad.
Hands on hips, Christina surveyed the room, nostrils flared. Everything appeared to be in place―except the laundry, which lay in a heap in the middle of the floor. The smell couldn’t be coming from there, she thought. Their dirty clothes usually smelled better than Maria’s clean ones. She could see nothing. But this room was the obvious source of the odor. Scanning the room, sipping her martini, her gaze eventually rested on the bed―a tangled mess of sheets and blankets. Incensed, she strode towards it and pulled hard at the covers.
Christina screamed. In his haste to get up, Paul smashed his head against the underside of the vanity, and stumbled woozily to his wife’s side. She stood ashen and shaking beside the bed, her quivering hand clutching the edge of the sheet. When he reached her side, Paul recoiled, his stomach churning.
It was a horrible sight―the corpse of an old, old woman, hair white and sparse, falling from a bony skull, skin pulled tight back from a skeletal face, grey teeth grimacing between shriveled lips in the light from the city outside. Flat remnants of breasts lay on a sharply bony ribcage, and the abdomen was sunken between pelvic bones stabbing upwards through the parchment-like flesh. An unholy stench rose from the body, leathery and emaciated, rotting and covered with a fine, grey dust.
“Oh, God―” Paul choked back a wave of nausea. Christina stood motionless, frozen with terror. “When we get hold of that maid―” he muttered, prying the covers from his wife’s hand, gingerly pulling the blankets over the body.
Beside him, his wife swooned, her hand clamped over her mouth. She reached for his arm and steadied herself, then staggered to the bathroom. She barely made it to the toilet in time. The martinis and late lunch she’d gobbled in a rush that afternoon spewed into the toilet bowl, as she heaved and heaved till there was nothing left in her stomach.
What horrible thing had they done to Maria? Christina wondered, her gut churning and her head pounding. What could they possibly have done to deserve this?
Paul’s stomach heaved suddenly, and he staggered to the kitchen where he vomited violently into the sink.
If this was Maria’s idea of a joke, he thought angrily, she could find work elsewhere. Was this some kind of snake-handler’s vendetta? A voodoo trick, maybe? He thought back over the past months. What had possessed Maria to do this to them? Was it the pay? Had one of his competitors at work paid her to do this? He knew he had enemies―they both did―but what monster could have put her up to such a thing?
“Honestly,” Christina snorted. She threw open the door, stalked through the dressing area, and burst into the master suite. Paul followed, muttering about the “unwashed masses.”
Strange Bedfellows – Chapter 1.3 – The View from their Window
Chapter 1 – Continued
They lacked for nothing, and they indulged every whim with matter-of-fact entitlement. If Christina saw a piece of jewelry she liked, she bought it. If Paul found a designer suit that struck his fancy, he purchased it. If either of them discovered an expensive trinket that piqued their interest, they acquired it. When they were hungry, they ate as much as they pleased of whatever cuisine they desired. When their car ceased to be fashionable, they traded it in for another. When they spilled wine on a piece of furniture, they had the whole suite replaced. If anyone got in Paul’s way at work, he used his professional influence to have them removed from his path. When Christina decided she needed more money, she adjusted her prices and secretly kept the extra profit for herself. Their lives overflowed with an uninhibited, entitled abundance which they increasingly took for granted, and all their friends affirmed their right to take as much as they chose from the world around them.
Yet for all they had, it was never enough. They were intent on acquiring even more.
Each day, they sallied forth from their high-rise condo into the world of commercial enterprise which compliantly awaited their bidding. Each day, both Paul and Christina spent long hours at their jobs―he, behind a desk or in board rooms, she, walking clients through her gallery, showing what style and magic could be had from indigenous imagination and traditions, or meeting with artists anxiously seeking a venue for their work. Late in the evening, they headed home for drinks and dinner. Some nights, they dined on takeout in front of the television, work papers spread about them on the floor. Other nights, they donned their finest evening wear and attended posh, paparazzi-spangled social affairs with politically connected business associates and the pillars of the community they called friends. The only sign of limitation in their lives was that they had no driver, yet, and their car was a mid-sized (albeit, luxury) sedan. But soon enough, they had every confidence, their Mercedes would be replaced by a town car―like those of the silver-haired lords and ladies of the city―and a hired man, not Paul, would chauffeur them to the fêtes.
In return for the intense ardor of their daily lives and their devotion to keeping up appearances, they were richly rewarded with social and professional advancement. Mastery of their universe was well worth every 18-hour workday, followed by long evenings of paperwork or parties. Like others in their social milieu, they paid little attention to politics, unless it directly affected their social or professional positions, and they paid even less attention to the implications (moral or social) of their work. They were eagerly and intentionally devoid of any ethically responsible impulse, and they considered social consciousness the bastard child of the morally invasive Church. Their only profession of faith was that those who had less than they, had been somehow remiss in their socio-economic or karmic obligations, to live such meager lives. Those who had less, they believed, were either lazy or stupid and had earned their low station in life. Everyone, they believed, got exactly what they deserved.
Paul and Christina had it all, and they assumed they deserved no less.
You say you want a revolution? Think about your long game
I’m working my way through posting excerpts of Strange Bedfellows on this site. The book seems even more apropos now, than ever before, so I’m working my way through it. I hope people will come to understand the underlying message that transcends the story itself. There’s a lot in there. I’ve had 25+ years to think about it, and trust me, I don’t waste time thinking about stuff that has no purpose.
Since the election, there’s been a tremendous amount of dismay, cries for justice, and demands to know “How Can This Happen?”
I’m about as dismayed by anyone, along with not-suprised-at-all. The side of this country that’s come out in the months leading up to the election, and then in the immediate aftermath (hate crimes surged 6%, especially attacks on Muslims, with 300 incidents of harassment or intimidation reported in the seven days following Donald Trump’s election – source Southern Poverty Law Center). Seven days, people. That’s a week.
There’s been a palpable change in the atmosphere. I’m not one to be alarmist, or call out people who stereotypically seem inclined to mis-behave towards others not like themselves (that would be straight, white, middle-class men). But on my conference calls at work, I notice a different tone in the discussions. Men who used to take their turn in the conversations are now dominating. And the way they dominate has changed, as well. Their tone is more imperious, while the things they have to offer are somehow less sophisticated than before.
Then again, maybe they’re just having bad days. Maybe they’re nervous, along with all of us, and that’s how they work it out. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I’m more sensitive these days, than usual. (Aren’t we all?)
But something feels different.
It feels like we’ve regressed.
Now, mind you, I’m not one of these pie-in-the-sky Obama’s-presidency-made-it-all-better kind of libbral. I’ve never believed we live in a post-racial America. Impossible, is what comes to mind, when I hear people suggest that. It’s hard for me to trust the professed open-mindedness of privileged and entitled individuals, no matter how well-meaning they may be, no matter how closely they may hew to the more genuine side of that fine line that separates “PC” behavior from true consideration and respect for others different from themselves. It takes a lot to earn my queer trust, my intermittently disabled confidence, my inherently marginalized regard.
Maybe I’m just too cynical. I’ve been battin’ around on this planet for 50-odd years, and maybe my experiences have hardened me. I’ve seen a lot of positive change in the past decades, but I must admit, I don’t expect much. Not from the mainstream, no matter how its members may cast themselves in ally roles in the grand screenplay of my life. People become strangely aloof, when they risk losing something they prize, just because they’re seen with you. Most of all, I’ve been suspect of the supposed normalization of same-sex marriage, nationwide. It’s one thing for my current home state of Massachusetts to legalize and recognize my 26-year committed, monogamous relationship (i.e., allow me to visit my partner in the hospital and help make critical healthcare decisions for her, as well as let me transfer along to her the finances she’s helped me build). But expecting the law of the land to win over the rest of the bright-red country, and warm the cockles of the hearts of the heartland… Yeah, not so much.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to believe. I want to know to the marrow of my bones that people can and will choose dignity over disgrace, and that they truly are capable of change. And I was starting to believe — just a little bit more — when all the polls showed Hillary Clinton well in the lead, and everyone was pretty much taking for granted that she was going to win over her opponent.
But now this. Now the results of the election — which, if you’re paying attention, are so suspect that they bar even the faintest appearance of legitimacy. We were hacked. Repeatedly. And not just during the November election time. For months, it’s been going on. Our national security authorities have said so. Cybersecurity experts say so. And the results from the digital voting machines in counties that had no paper backups don’t even resemble the results of counties next door which had paper ballots as well.
Why are we surprised that the results came out so different than 96.875% of the official pollsters predicted? Why are we surprised at the suggestion we might have been hacked? Why would we doubt it? It just seems so obvious to me. And yet, the disbelief and denial have flowed like rancid milk from a carton dropped on the kitchen floor after it was left in the fridge during a 2-week power cut. Following that disbelief and denial about the kind of world we live in has come a steady stream of calls for normalization from all sides.
People who still believe that “love trumps hate” — and who don’t seem to get that giving your opponent airtime by using his name in your #1 slogan is not a great way to diminish his impact.
People who just want to accept things as they are and move on.
People who can’t fathom just how bad things can get for this country, thanks to the events of this month, and who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that America’s democracy – of all places – could fall to a fascist coup.
People who want to make the best of things, build bridges, find the good in whatever situation comes.
People who don’t want to rock the boat — and end up on somebody’s list that gets them “disappeared”.
In moments like this, I despair. Because this is really nothing other than realpolitik, plain and simple — the cold, hard facts of political practicalities, and what happens when you ignore them. And so many reactions after that obvious travesty of an election result have treated it like it was a final sentence. A done deal.
People, this is not over. The Electoral College still has to vote. Heck, our popular election was really just an indicator of which way the Electors should vote. There’s no guarantee they’re going to give it to Trump, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they caved and did just that. On top of it all, there are untold numbers of existing and potential legal suits to raise against the prematurely-declared “President-Elect”, despite the insipid sycophanty of people who only a few weeks ago were questioning the mental health of that individual.
My point is, we’re way too quick to just cave. We’ve come a long way from the original settlers (who were no saints, themselves), to the political hothouse flowers we are today. I would imagine the earth above our founding fathers’ (and mothers’) graves is mighty churned up, right about now.
What’s happened to us? Are we really that weak, really that brittle, really that passive, that all it takes is a surprising show of strength (about things which we had every reason to expect)? Why so timid? Why so quick to roll over? It’s like in the quote above, from the online book WAR AT HOME: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It, our progressives simply doesn’t seem to have what it takes to stand up and fight for themselves — or the rest of us — or to even realize that it takes more than eight years of an African-American president to prove America is over its backwards ways.
Thing is, we just can’t seem to figure out how to instill lasting change in our world. Especially from the left. We have some wins, and we shout “Hooray! All better now!” and urge everyone who’s still smarting from the burn of institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and bigotry of all kinds, to just move on. Deal with it. See? We’re so much more evolved now.
Except we’re not. Not even close. We’ve managed to plaster over the cracks in the structurally unsound lath and whitewash the walls, but the cracks are still there, and the house is still shaky. We’ve managed to make some symbolic gestures that show how much cooler we are with people of color, disabled folks, queers, women, and so forth, and we know how to talk in terms that don’t instantly offend. But the underlying foundation of all this… bullshit… well, that hasn’t actually changed.
And so we find ourselves back in the same goddamned situation as before — only each time, it seems worse. And it is worse. Because while you were celebrating our post-racial world and congratulating yourself for reading writers of color, the KKK was still demonstrating in Lancaster, PA. Disabled folks (especially non-whites) were still getting shot and killed by police officers. Shooters were still stalking law-enforcement and executing them. And no, the Recession is not over. Not by a long shot.
You want a revolution? Then quit talking. Look to the long game. See the ways in which you can extend the significant changes throughout your life. And for God’s sake, don’t just do it because all of a sudden, you got scared or intimidated or had a wake-up call… and then forget all about it, when you start to feel better about yourself and your choices.
Change isn’t something you can instigate, and then leave to flourish on its own. It takes work, it takes commitment, it’s a fucking boring slog much of the time, and thankless most of the time… and unless we keep after it, it cannot last.
So, enough of the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Whatever caused this shit-show, it didn’t just happen overnight. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
What are you going to do about it?
Strange Bedfellows – Chapter 1.2 – Christina
Chapter I – continued
Christina was dark, as well, with long, luxurious tresses that fell over her strong shoulders, almost to her full hips. Her sense of style was less conservative than her husband’s, favoring bright colors and prints, but it was no less expensive. Her gaze was as shrewd as his, and she made no attempt to mask her wits. She ran her own chic “primitive art” gallery and made a handsome living from inflating prices to tap her wealthy clientèle. She passed along little, if any, of the profits to “her” artists.
Together, the couple earned a lot, and their status reflected it. They were well-established amongst the “haves,” and untroubled by the existence and experiences of the “have-nots.” Their social circle consisted of some of the wealthiest and most powerful citizenry, whose favor earned them entrance to all the right parties, all the best clubs.
Their home was in a high-rise in the center of a teeming metropolis, towering above urban squalor that stretched out for miles in all directions. By day, the gray city streets seethed with life that became progressively poorer, the farther they led from the city center, till they terminated in the abject human misery of cardboard-box slums crowded up around steaming, smoking garbage dumps. By night, the brilliant glow of peacock-proud neon bathed the streets in a surreal, electrified mix of optimism, oblivion, and desperation.
With one of the most exclusive addresses in the city, nestled in the safety of privilege’s embrace, their condominium was filled with only the finest furnishings, appliances, and artwork. With its deep pile carpet, immaculate white divan, matching side chairs and Ottoman, and glistening glass-and-metal bookcases and tables holding all their finest collectibles, they were surrounded with spotless, serene luxury high above the throbbing city below. At night, the wide windows of their living room showed no filth in the streets, no beggars or cripples or whores… only miles of light stretching out in every direction far below, masking pain and misery with light and action, thrilling them with the promise of easy conquest.
Strange Bedfellows – Chapter 1 – Paul
One night I had a dream…
I dreamed of a young husband and wife in their mid-30’s who were privileged upper-class professionals, approaching the high points of their careers. Paul and Christina were beautiful young hopefuls, maturing into accomplished adults, poised and graceful in ways that come easiest to the well-fed, well-dressed and well-connected.
Paul was a tall, dark, calculating man with handsome, chiseled features and wavy hair that he kept cut short to compliment his conservative designer clothing. His tastes ran to the conventional, but always with a flair of expensive, exclusive opulence. He worked for a land development company which made its vast fortunes from razing thousands upon thousands of acres of forest in remote regions of their country. The corporation made a fortune selling the raw materials that came from the forests and leasing the cleared land at cut-throat prices to ranchers for beef grazing.
Strange Bedfellows – Chapter 1 – Part 1
This post (renamed to something that actually makes sense) has moved here.