Take Over the World

“Artificial intelligence will soon take over the world—you do realize that don’t you?”

Sasha popped a red M & M into her mouth and crunched. Her gaze swept across the campus with a practiced eye. “I think it already has.”

Barb shook her head as she appraised the harassed throng heading to various classes. “I’m not talking about people glued to their iPhones. I mean that my grandmother just texted me that a storm’s coming, and she wants me to email the grocer about delivering extra supplies this afternoon.”

Sasha shrugged as she pounded across the grassy courtyard to the library. “What’s so bad about that? Technology makes our lives easier.”

“Exactly my point!” Barb checked her phone, scrolled through three messages, and muttered. “Professor Gilmore is sick—she said to study chapter nine, and we’d meet next week.”

“Lucky you. My professors are health freaks. They know whether it’s coffee or tea that’ll kill us this week—or is it cheese?”

“You’re making my point. We know too much. We have too much power. We can’t handle so much information—”

The electronic door swung open, and Sasha set off the entry alarm. “Dang it!”

The deputy security officer strolled over, a wide grin lighting up his blue eyes. “Carrying concealed weapons again—are we?”

Sasha dug into her pocket. “My grandpa gives my little brother all his old camping knives. Which the little idiot promptly uses to carve his initials into everything—so naturally—”

“You take it away and carry it into the library.” His grin widened. “An option.”

Sasha and Barb exchanged eye rolls.

Sasha pulled the offending pocketknife from her pocket and dropped it into the man’s hand. “Keep it, Jared. Carve your initials into something and feel smug.”

Jared stepped aside, flicked open the knife, and peered at a miniature toolkit with a sharp blade, a screwdriver, bottle opener, and file. “Cool—must be worth a fortune.”

Sasha frowned. “Hardly. My grandpa has dozens of these. All the rage when he was a kid.”

Barb nudged Sasha, glancing at Jared. “He’s a virtual-reality kind of guy—hardly ever sees anything real these days.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “An honest blade must come as a bit of a shock.” Waving her arm in a mock karate move, she went in for a slice to the arm.

Instinct kicked in and Jared lashed out, jabbing with the open knife.

Barb reeled back gripping her stomach, blood seeping between her fingers. “Oh, God. I didn’t mean it.” She stared at Sasha as she crumpled. “He didn’t mean it.”

~~~

Sasha watched Jared’s mother, Ms. Franklin, pacing in front of him in the hospital waiting room, her eyes glued to an iPhone.

Jared sat with his hands clasped, his head bowed, staring at the grey-tiled floor.

Sasha perched on the edge of a chair. “She’ll be fine. The doctor said it wasn’t deep and won’t even need a lot of stitches. It was an accident. Accidents happen.”

Jared lifted his head a fraction. “When’s her dad coming?”

“He’s on the east coast. Said that since she’s going to be okay, he’ll get the doctor’s official report and talk to her in the morning.”

“Doesn’t he even care?”

“He talked with her on the phone. She told him not to come.” Sasha shrugged. “I think she’s embarrassed. If he had to fly out here, across all those time zones and everything, he’d be sure to make it into a bigger deal than it is.”

“And her mom?”

“Who knows? One of those absentee moms.” Jerking to her feet, Sasha bypassed Jared’s mother and headed for the candy machine. “You want something?”

Jared shook his head. With a long, exhaled breath, he strolled over to his mom. “You don’t have to stay. It’ll be okay.”

Ms. Franklin peered into her son’s eyes, brushed a stray lock of hair from his face, and nodded. With a professional twitch, she straightened her skirt and flung her purse strap over her shoulder. She glanced from Sasha to Jared. “You need anything—just text me—all right?”

They nodded in unison.

Standing before the machine, Sasha tapped the key code and a bag of peanuts dropped with a thud. She snatched, ripped it open, and passed the bag to Jared. “Have a few; the protein will do you good.”

With a strangled cry, Jared staggered back to his chair. “God, do you hear yourself?”

Sasha swallowed and followed him. She peered at his bowed head. “What?”

“Protein. Text. Flights. Time zones. Absentee moms.” He covered his head with his hands. “I’ve played so many games where I slice up the bad guys—I can beat every opponent out there—long as he’s two inches high and made of pixels.” Jared sucked in a shuddering breath. “I don’t think I’m made for this world.”

Sasha slumped down on the chair. “Listen, you’ve had a bad day.”

Jared glared at her.

“Okay, a really bad day. But that hardly means that you’re doomed.”

“If I am, there’re a lot of guys just like me. Girls too.”

“Funny, but Barb and I were talking about this earlier. She said that artificial intelligence will take over the world.”

Jared shook his head.

A nurse stepped forward leading a wobbly Barb. “You the family?”

Jared glanced aside at Sasha.

Barb offered a weak wave. “Yeah, kinda like. Sasha’s my roommate.”

Sasha stepped forward. “Jared will drive us back to the dorm. Professor Kim said he’d have a pizza waiting when we got there.”

The nurse looked Barb in the eye. “You’ll follow the directions? The script has been sent in already.”

Barb nodded. “I’ll be good. Promise.”

The nurse smiled and retreated.

Jared stepped forward and took Barb’s arm. “I’m really am sorry about this.”

“You said that a million times on the way over. I get it. Nothing to forgive. It was my fault for starting it in the first place.”

Once they stepped into the cool evening air, Barb looked up at the millions of twinkling stars. “Guess I was kind of hard on Artificial Intelligence today. I’m paid back royally for my prejudice.”

Sasha shook her head. “How’s that?”

“It was modern medicine that fixed me up and modern miracle drugs that’ll keep me from dying from a stupid infection. Numbed my pain too.”

Jared patted her hand. “No, you had a good point—just got it a backward.”

Barb and Sasha stared at him.

“It isn’t artificial intelligence that’ll take over the world—it’s a lack of common sense that’ll lose it.”

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Consecration to a Loving Life

It happened again.  A strange dog showed up, fought for a place in our canine society, and won a position in our hearts. For several years running, we have been the beneficiaries of unwanted or uncared for animals.  Some people simply drop them off and let nature take its course.  Since we are soft-hearted, we generally allow the animals to find their place among our menagerie and life moves on.  When the older generation passes on, I never worry about replacement.  I know new life will find us.

Why are so many animals attracted to this four acres of land?  I suspect for the same reason that dogs have been known to break free of every cage their owners can devise in order to return here.  They love to be in a friendly society. They discover that they can make inroads into our heats and thus they’ll return again and again. The yearning hope for a loving home is irresistible.

In reading an article about the consecrated life in the Springfield, IL Catholic Times this week, I read something which clarified the issue for me.  Bishop Paprocki quoted in his article Consecrated life: means by which the Holy Spirit builds up church an article written by William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal, in which sister Bethany reflects that they have “the security of knowing that they are loved…” by God, by their community as well as by their family. The Bishop reflects on McGurin’s interest in the consecrated life.  He expounds on the theme by thanking the men and women who have dedicated their lives to a consecrated expression of love toward God and their fellow human beings.

Why do people have an attraction to consecrated life?  Why do people strive to connect in this way?  What makes dogs traverse danger and distance to find a place in someone else’s home?  Animals, like people, are looking for security and a sense that they belong. We are looking to be loved.  But I suspect, even more, we are looking for people to love. You’d think that would be easy.  But in this world, not so much.  Loving involves tremendous risk.  It involves intimacy and trust.  Many people look to be loved without realizing that what they really want is a safe person to love.

I can’t accept every animal that comes for a visit.  Certain critters have to be openly discouraged from hanging around. Rats and skunks I can’t trust.  But more often than not, I am flattered that animals show up, year after year, discovering a place they can love and be loved. And I, in turn, discover that I love isn’t a limited commodity.  There is enough to go around.

Perhaps I haven’t joined a consecrated order in name, but by loving God, consecration to a loving life comes naturally.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

A Change of Perspective

Today’s Gospel reading was the parable of the talents and the sin of omission, so when the boys brought in buckets and buckets of apples this morning, I could hardly ignore them.  It would have been a sin to waste so much good fruit, even if they aren’t the prettiest apples in the world.  They are the ones that grow on my trees, the gifts that God has given us this year, and though I had a long to-do list, I shoved everything aside to work on those apples.

I found myself working alone at first, but as I assigned jobs and the kids found their peelers and slicers and sat down to work, they also found their humor.  It was not long before an “I-don’t-have-time-for-this” silence was replaced with, “Remember when we…”

Since I was the senior cook in charge of the canning, I had to make sure the apples were spiced with sugar and cinnamon before going into the hot jars and then into the even hotter boiling bath. In the midst of all this, a water filter had to be changed and a couple band-aids applied, but I found myself listening to the kids reminiscing about other family activities, some of which I had never known about… And I realized that life really is what happens when you are planning other things.  It is in accomplishing the jobs at hand that create the warmest memories.

When we first moved out here nearly twenty years ago, I used to listen to the farmers’ wives talk about the 20 quarts of jam they put up or the 4000 pints they froze. At the time I was rather underwhelmed by their accomplishments simply because I was so blatantly ignorant of how much work it took to put up a measly seven jars of anything.  Now I know better. I also understand why they smiled when they reminisced. They weren’t just proud of their accomplishments; they had enjoyed the time with family, the stories swapped, the jokes played on each other.  I can envision what it was like because we have repeated the process several times now.

Perhaps, at first, it does seem like just another big job, and I have to hand out paring knives like a Drill Sargent, but after a bit, those talents which seemed like a burden, quickly repay the effort.  The kids and I have a change of perspective and perhaps a change of heart too. Life is in the little moments.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Interior Life

autumn11“The soul that begins to have interior life appreciates the treasure it bears within its heart. Each day it will make a greater effort  to deny admission into the mind of an image that prevents or hinders the soul’s close contact with God.” (In Conversation with God p. 313 paragraph 3)

The whole concept of an interior life intrigues me. I’ve read about saints with highly developed interior lives, and I often find myself longing to be so holy, but as my life catapults through each day, I can’t help but realize that my eight children, my garden, my bit of writing, are all doorways to the interior world of God’s life.  I need not be jealous—I just need courage.

Someone once said, “Hell is other people.” Could it not be true that Heaven is other people also? I glimpse the eternity of a soul when I look into another person’s eyes. As it is quite apparent that God put us here on Earth, together, for a purpose—I contemplate the possibilities. Perhaps in the act of opening ourselves to the larger reality of other people’s vision, struggles, hopes, and crushing failures, we come to see not just the ideal that God has for us, but the grief of the cross lived through broken dreams and the ennobled daring to rise again.

In today’s world, I suppose in every generation, we are faced with a multitude of “hells”— human beings failure to love as He loves. But we are also given a daily opportunity to escape hell by overcoming the hate which feels so natural to us. Hate is no cure.  It offers no hope or redemptive recovery.  Its cousin, bitterness, is only a shadow leading to further darkness of spirit.

It is in the cultivation of an interior life that I allow the grace of God to strengthen me to overcome all the negative influences in my life and open myself to the possible joys of life and hope of things yet to come.  Some would say I am using a crutch to help me over the hard parts. All I know is that through an interior life, I find my life. And through the eyes of others, I glimpse the possibility of Hell—or Heaven.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

You Converted Him – Right?

Recently I was explaining to a new friend that my father is an agnostic historian, who specialized in canon law, while my brother is a Catholic, canon lawyer-priest. I got a disconcerting reaction. “Well, you converted him, (meaning my dad, I presume) right?”

Gee, not yet.

I have a wide variety of people in my life—and some would rather not think about God. The words “God bless” at the end of a conversation seems to send shivers down their spines. Does that mean I should disown them? Or, better yet, get busy and convert them?

Conversion isn’t in my power.  Love is though. And love is amazingly effective at putting people in the right mood for a conversion experience. Though I live some distance from my dad, we manage to have weekly conversations that ramble through our lives and into our hearts.  My dad may say he doesn’t give God much of a chance of existing, but I do. And in his connection to me, he can’t help but be connected to God.  I’ve prayed, I’ve offered sacrifices and I’ve come within millimeters of giving up, but I always remember that here, in this unexplored, un-faithful zone, lies the mercy of God.  He gets to decide what will happen with my dad on the long road.  My job is to love him while I have the chance.

There are so many people who have lost touch with God and thus lost the touch of God. Their hearts have hardened, and they believe that they do not need Him. They can be good without Him. They love and live as deeply as anyone. Someday, they may come to understand that it was God, inside them all along, that made their loves and lives possible. But until then, I can only hope, stay close, and keep on loving them. After all, it’s what God has been doing all along.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

J. R. R. Tolkien

In my mind, J. R. R. Tolkien is a heroic figure. He understood that the greatness of humanity lies within each of us through our faithfulness to our daily mission. He was a Catholic, the son of a Catholic convert and an ardent believer in God. It was under his influence that C.S. Lewis embraced the reality of Christianity.  While a young man, he formed a little club with some close friends, and despite the small size of the group, they had some very big aspirations.  They believed that they had a mission to change the world, to make it a better place.  As for many people during World War I, this vision was put to test when several of Tolkien’s friends died. They were not able to live out their noble aspirations. But in a letter, Tolkien was reminded of their ardent dreams, and he was encouraged to go forward—to fulfill his own potential.  He did. An ordinary man in so many ways, yet his faithfulness to his family, to his wife and son, his students, his friends, and his stories reach us today.

After I had read most of his major works and become astonished at his incredible insight and clarity, I decided to read more about him so I could better understand his background and his mindset.  In one book (J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter), I read about one of his typical days where his bicycle broke down and he was late for dinner while a stack of papers waited at home to be corrected. I was nearly pulling my hair out thinking about the fact that he could have been home writing great literature.  But then, after I became more reasonable, I realized it was because he knew how to fix a bicycle, cared about being home for dinner, made it to meetings, and corrected innumerable papers that he was the kind of man who could write so faithfully about the human heart and the reality of suffering as well as the idiosyncratic silliness of common human interactions.

Tolkien, like many of his characters, could not predict the future, but he was engaged in humanity’s struggle to overcome evil, nevertheless.  May I today aspire to the same noble faithfulness of a simple Hobbit—and an honest writer.

The Kingdom of IF

Once upon a time there was the kingdom of IF (Indivisible Fiefdom – a bit of an oxymoron but as people liked it, so it was) and the people of IF had a king, King Oban, who was chosen by them because of his great popularity, and so they believed, as every generation before had believed, that he would be the perfect king.

When he ascended to the throne they hailed him as both hero and savior, and he believed every word of their hearty proclamations (though why he should is a bit of a mystery for even a smattering of IF history should have warned him that no king served unscathed and more often than not was picked to pieces before he was ousted for a more promising candidate).

The kingdom had started out nobly enough, in fact, inspiring quotes like “I will live and die for the salvation of IF” were quite prominent in their early history. Young citizens of IF loved to thrust their little fists against their chests with hearty thuds and quote the luminaries who offered their lives in the service of IF, though in more modern times this had gone quite out of fashion for everyone is well aware that it is a young person’s primary duty was to live and die only for themselves.

But the Kingdom of IF faced a crisis, unlike anything they had ever faced before, though to be sure they had faced and overcome many dire situations in their uncounted generations of existence. But now, the Indivisible Fiefdom was sorely divided between the Earth-dwellers and the Sky-dwellers both of whom claimed the right to influence the king. But as it turned out, King Oban was heavily in debt to the Earth-dwellers (for his great-great-grandmother on his father’s side was an Earth-dweller of immense standing, and she had quite a bit of money in very deep pockets) and this left the Sky-dwellers in a high dungeon for they felt left out of everything.  In fact, every decision the king had to make was considered from these two opposing camps, but he overwhelmingly favored the Earth-dwellers.

The Earth-dwellers saw everything from a personal point of view.  “It is my right!” was their motto and “Save the Earth!” was another favorite axiom. The Sky-dwellers, on the other hand, saw everything as a matter for long consideration in relation to right and wrong. Though there were a variety of different clans in the Sky-dwellers dominion, still they tended to group around a vision of a “higher-calling” and this left the Earth-dwellers perfectly incensed for they believed that no one had the right to tell anyone else what to do (except of course when they were telling the Sky-dwellers where to go and how to follow their laws) but the Sky-dwellers were also in the habit of telling the general population how things ought to be done though they argued, quite honestly that they were not preaching a singular individualistic doctrine, but the beliefs of their ancestors dating back time out of mind. Their favorite motto was “God really rules” (though there was some debate as to what God believed exactly) and they loved the ancient melody and lullaby “Tradition Still Has Meaning In Our Lives.”

But the real danger facing the Kingdom of IF was not simply their divided nature, for they were always arguing, but rather that they did not look very far into their own future.  For it was the will of the people of IF that when the king chose a side, he must stick to that side at all costs and listen not a word to the other side—even if they happened to be making humongous good sense.

So the population of IF was dwindling into sad chaos, in fact, it was only surviving due to the charity of a few who still believed in the ancient prophesy that the Kingdom of IF was the best of all the kingdoms put upon the earth.

But there was another danger facing the kingdom that few seemed to realize. There was an enormous kingdom to the east known as DOOM whose motto was “Conquer without battle”.  And though they professed enduring love for the people of IF, they were secretly rubbing their hands in glee at all the in-fighting between the Earth-dwellers and the Sky-dwellers for they were observing that all the work of destruction was being done quite efficiently for them. Also on the sidelines were the tri-kingdoms of Kab, Bab, and Dan.  These three semi-allied kingdoms (always together except when they were at each other’s throats) also professed an enduring love for the people of IF, though they would chant “Death to the King of IF” at every family gathering.

Besides the efforts of King Oban (who was himself a hard worker except when he was on vacation, which was at least once a week or every day that began with a headache and that was becoming rather more common) there were organizations of “Centralized Order” with highly trained worker-bureaucrats toiling ever so hard in the dark, dank libraries of great wisdom (though their words were drier than the parchment they lay upon) to keep the kingdom financially afloat. They had at that time finished volume P of laws and rules for tax regulation though they were now working on volume Q, but it had become stalled when the president/ CEO (and DMD for he pulled teeth on the side) of Rule-Keepers had to have an extended stay at Sunny-Shade, for his nerves had become rather undone in all the hairsplitting technicalities of tracing contradictory laws and rules and regulations to their origin and rewriting them in modern jargon.

But the people of IF saw not their danger.

There was, however, one child who had written a poem for her mother, who seemed to grasp the implications of the dire times. She had learned in school of their noble history, and her friends had all chosen sides. But one sunny day her little brother sat down beside her near a great old oak tree, and he asked her why she looked so sad.  Though she could not answer her sibling’s innocent question, she did think that a poem might relieve her pent-up feelings, so she wrote this quaint little prose, and she gave it to her mother who was clearly too busy to read it.

But you may find time in your busy life to read it before the parchment crumbles into dust—for even questions from young people will fade if given enough time to wither and fall.

THE KINGDOM OF IF

If only we remembered from whence we came

And delighted in the goodness from above.

If only we grew our strength

From the victory of enduring love.

If only we realized that everything we have is a gift.

And that gifts can be taken away.

If only we toiled for that which lasts

And not so much for the day.

If only we lived lives of hope and not of dreadful dread-

We would know lives of joyful fruit

And not live as if we were already dead.

So, though the Kingdom of IF still stands upon its majestic past, and faces its future quite blindfolded, still it will not last forever, for nothing in this world ever does.  But there is a quaint little plea in the child’s verse that strikes deep into the heart—for history will record not only how well the kingdom rose but how badly it fell.

Yet may our world live long, inspiring hope and enduring faith in humanity.

If only….

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00