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The misinterpreted prophet

“And thus, I proclaim” the prophet ended his sermon, which had gone on at some length. The listenership had been entranced in rapt attention, for such were the gifts of the prophet. His gift of eloquence was not matched by an equal measure of clarity, however, and outside the immediate experience of receiving the word, opinions differed on what had actually been said.

Thus, a cottage industry of interpreters arose, who made the fancy words plain and the plain words fancy, as the situation and audience required. Most of these interpreters were true to their word, with only minor deviations from the core message (which, for some reason, seemed to resist every effort of being translated into French). Some interpreters, however, felt free to embellish a little here and a little there, until the prophet came out saying things surprising to those who were there and heard the word.

These surprising things mysteriously happened to portray this one particular interpreter in an especially good light. As if by accident.

For the most part, this mattered little in the grand scheme of things. Except in two regards: this particular interpreter seemed to be garnering more donations than the others, and the prophet noticed.

Thus, some time and many sermons later, the prophet decided to put his interpreters to the test. He made a series of very subtle and specific pronouncements that systematically contradicted the favored interpretations of the selective interpreter, just to see what would happen. The interpreter, not deterred, kept at it, not even mentioning the possibility of contradiction. Business were as usual.

Some time and many misinterpretations later, the prophet had had enough, and proclaimed in no uncertain terms (a rare occasion indeed) that he was pleased with the interpretive efforts of everyone so far, except our selective interpreter, which he named by name. This caused quite a stir, but given the clarity (and praise) of the proclamation, the work of interpretation went on as usual. For everyone, including our selective interpreter.

Determined, the prophet paid a visit. Our selective interpreter, surprised, greeted the prophet, became even more surprised upon hearing these words:

“You are the prophet now. Wear my robe; they will let you into my tent. I will be gone after this visit. Remember what I said”

The next day, the new prophet delivered a very familiar sermon, although perhaps slightly less ambiguous than usual –

Target audience

The situation looked dire. They needed to get out of the building, but they also needed to do it stealthily. Outside the enemy lay in waiting, sure to grab any opportunity to attack. Being seen meant being dead, and, both being bad, had to be avoided.

A plan was needed.

Looking around, the ragtag team of outlaw anthropologists noted the following about their surroundings. It seemed to be a typical gathering spot for the communal consumption of alcohol and outrageously bad food. But. On this night, the clientele was not at all typical. In fact, it seemed to be mainly consisting of attendees from a nearby conference on digital memetics and online discursive practices. Their discussions seemed to center on the topic of the day, which seemed to be the importance (or lack thereof) of coherent categorization of ongoing phenomena in relation to attaining a proper situational awareness.

A plan was hatched.

The boldest, most quick-witted and sure of foot of the group leapt atop a table and yelled “IS THIS PEANUT BUTTER TACO A SANDWICH?” The others looked on in confusion, but as the commotion and arguing rose to a fever pitch, they knew they had the distraction needed to make a covert escape.

The visible hand

For every hobby, there is an equal and opposite counter-hobby. For some people, this is more true than others, and it is especially true for this one particular person. His main purpose in life was to enter into fandoms of the most various kinds, and then introduce subtle yet perceptible quirks which over time would come to define the communities in question. Small gestures, words and habits of contextual emphasis which make sense to those of the in-group, but increasingly little sense to those in the out-group.

Granted, this is a process that occurs naturally within any grouping with a sufficient density of communicative frequency. His specialty was to find the specific points where this process took place and ever so gently nudge it along. A word of encouragement here, a nod of acknowledgement there, a callback to previous occurrences after just enough time to jog everyone’s memory. It was subtle, discreet and – to a surprising extent – super effective.

What he did not know was that he had been found out, and ever so gradually accrued a fandom of his own. The fandom did not stalk him per se, but it did recognize his handiwork on sight, and were omnipresent enough to have eyes wherever he was likely to be. It watched, observed and – at times when he seemed less enthused than usual – nudged him along, ever so gently.

For every hobby, there is an equal and opposite counter-hobby.

Future tense

The event is imminent, yet long in arriving. Anyone with even the slightest of foresight could have seen it coming and taken appropriate measures to prevent it.

Yet, here we are.

It is way too late too late to change anything now. The wheels have spun too long, the circular processes with accumulative effects have had too much time to pile up. We are stuck in this potentiality, and have to ride it out until the end.

The only thing that can save us is a message back in time, to prevent the chain of events that led us here. Fortunately, the chains is boring, repetitive and based upon making the same bad choice over and over again. As we’ve discovered during the course of our investigations, it only takes one single break of this chain to break it, so we should be able to prevent things with a single intervention. A single, well-crafted message, arriving at the right moment.

With this in mind, I set out to write a message to myself. I ought to know, right?

* * *

Huh. Strange. There is a message here that I do not remember writing. It is definitely from me – I can recognize myself all over it. But it is also to me. And it references things that make no sense, and urges me to make life changes for no real good reason.

I must have been more tired than I thought during that last writing all-nighter. Especially that part about the shoes. I like my shoes.

Probably nothing. Discard draft and move on.

Cold takes

The skeletons had moved.

Not only had they moved. They had also made it very plain why they had left the cemetery. It was the new corpses, they wrote on a lifeless note hanging on the outer gates. The outer gates swing hither and dither, as ancient gates are wont to do, but the chilly winds did not seem to affect note. Some of the cold indifference of death was at work here.

Yet. Something had made the skeletons stir. The locals, who rarely visited the cemetery, busy as they were with their modern lives, were at a loss to explain what had happened, or how. After discussing at length, they decided to bring in outside help.

Outside help arrived, en masse. Journalists, those of supernatural inclination, academics, and utterly natural tourists all offered their opinions as to what had happened. It was aliens, werewolves, bad qi, crop circles on the other side of the ocean (somehow), sunspots, bone-eating bacteria – any number of speculations were tossed around in the hopes of finding an audience.

At length, the enthusiasm died off, to the punny satisfaction of news editors everywhere. When most of the tourists, supernaturally inclined and journalists had left, the academics dared to make educated guesses. A particular academic, a professor of cultural geography and human ecology, suggested that it was due to gentrification. The skeletons were of old stock, and had a very particular set of customs. They were dead set on these customs, too, and would rather resurrect and move to another place than adapt to the strange fancy ways of the newcomers.

As the professor expounded his theory, the locals nodded. That did indeed sound like the old folks they remembered from back in the days. They had been stubborn even in life, so why would they be anything else in the afterlife?

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.

Thus spake the Moon

The blood moon spoke. It said:


Being a prankster moon, it didn’t boom this at the world of its orbit. Rather, it boomed it into the minds of those on that very world who watched it. Discreetly but omnidirectional, as is the wont of moons everywhere.

The cultural effects didn’t materialize. Moons do not boom apocryphic messages into people’s heads, and they are definitely not prankster moons who would do such a thing just to mess with the collective heads of humanity. Thus, the cultural unity built on shared experiences which could have happened, didn’t.

Instead, the incidence of individual weirdos who thought that the moon spoke at them increased. As one might expect after such an event.

But you and I. You and I know the truth. We have heard the Words, and we know what to make of them:

Come join me for a pizza, anytime. We are alone in this world, but that is not our destiny. Bring a friend; there’s enough pizza.

Thus spake the moon.

The family plot

Alejandro boarded the bus.

It was one of those days. His aunt had just told him about the newest development. Apparently, his cousin’s new girlfriend had (unbeknownst to him) been a part of an open triad, where one of the other members were a member another triad which included another relative. This had led to some awkwardness, and said relatives would have to have emergency talks in order to sort things out. Meanwhile, the failing health of the family matriarch had everyone on edge, as the exact nature of who got to inherit what was still in considerable flux. This, too, would necessitate emergency talks. As would the nature of the house of inheritance – it was in dire need of repairs, and there were several strong opinionated family members who argued that these repairs should take place in a joint effort before anyone died. Repairs which, naturally, would be financed on a basis of solidarity, family business being family business, after all. Just as naturally, those parts of the family who had little or no funds to cover such expenses were less inclined to agree to this proposal, but were also slightly too ashamed of this fact to argue against it with much vigor. Add to this the equally recent and disastrous divorces that had taken place, which further added to the shame. There existed thus, his aunt concluded, a need for someone to argue this point without raising the ire of those who didn’t agree with it. Tensions lurked underneath the surface, and it is important to sidestep these whilst at the same time plant the idea that sticking together as a family sometimes meant that sacrifices had to be made. It also had to be done soon, as the health was indeed failing and the likelihood of any further family gatherings in the immediate future were slim. It would be delicate, and it would have to be quick.

If all of this is confusing to you, imagine how it is for Alejandro, who even now disembarks the bus and greets the awaiting family gathering. He smiles, and tries his best to be casually friendly to everyone present.

Divine edition

Suddenly, there they are. Irrefutable. Impossible to deny. All the signs are there – burning bushes, singing choirs of angels, awe-inspiring harbingers of heavenly glory, all telling you in no uncertain that this is It.

The Words of God.

After the shock and a surprisingly large number of angels have left, you notice that there are also some words of God. You notice the difference at once, not only because the Words are written on stone tablets that glow faintly in the dark, but also because the words are hastily written on a post-it note attached to one of the tablets. The words are as follows:

You are the chosen one. Take my Words and share them with the world. Moses style. Everyone must know.

No one ever told you why you were chosen, but you figure that the Almighty knows who’s who. You waste no time thinking, and begin reading the Words.

You read.

You read on.

You are slightly dismayed.

You have almost read them all.

Your face moves in mysterious ways.

You have read them all.

The Words of God are in dire need of copyediting.

You are filled with divinely conflicted feelings. On the one hand, these are the literal Words of God, and as such there is significance in everything. Scholars, politicians and ordinary people will ponder these Words for countless of hundreds of years to come, and the exact wording will have the power to change the lives of billions. These are the Words. They matter. God has spoken.

On the other hand. This simply will not do. God has a reputation, and there are proprieties to think of. Grammar has rules. This is not a matter to take lightly.

Then you remember the words. Moses style.

You set to work, knowing just what to do.