Tuesday, 26 August 2008


You sought me, as you sought some inner part of yourselves. As though you could find it in me. You followed me as one follows an obsession. You named me God, and your praises drowned my denial. You stole my faith, for who then was I to believe in?

“Aka-re-ah!” - “God-made-Flesh!” You gave me the loneliness of a man without a destiny to call his own.

On the road to Ibella, in the dusk, was I first betrayed. For there it was said I cured a blind man. On the mount at Seth I raised Orlena from the dead. In the town of Cartaz the waters were turned to spirit at the Congress of Semion.

Even to my miraculous birth, attended by Emperors and Kings, all shall be recorded in the scriptures to come.

“Abara! Abara! E’kalam Abara!” So they cried as I entered the City for the last time, riding on the back of a young Tharil. That shall also be in the Book, when it is written.

I blessed Josell, he who identified me to the Voron guards. I blessed the young warrior who whipped me on my way to the Woorn - the Abode of the Condemned. I blessed the world, in the name of myself, in the name of a God I could no longer believe in.

And now the twin moons have set, and it is dark here on the hillside. The lights of the City are dimming as my sight blurs. The nails, in my shoulders, my arms, my tail, are as tongues of fire. It is hard to breathe.

In future ages they will bow down before the holy sign of the Scaffold, and relive my pain.
And even here, now, will they allow me to die?

“My God! Why did you forsake me?”
There is no answer...

Sunday, 17 August 2008


You know when you're stoned, your brain sort of goes into hyperdrive. Everything seems to work more efficiently, quicker. Of course this brain boost doesn't necessarily make the results any more correct. In reality your brain is firing on a lot more cylinders than usual, in particular your pattern-recognition system. That now notices everything, and tries to match it up with something familiar. Since it's got access to the whole of your memories, which are now also running on all cylinders, it can quickly match things up and make you think you're seeing/hearing something you're not. Odd repetetive noises, like the hum of a computer, the faint whirring of the fridge freezer, can be immediately (and inaccurately) attributed to something familiar. Like distant music on the edge of hearing, or the sounds of people talking, but you just can't make out the words.

Why does it do this? Does it make matches at random, because it's not...working properly? Or does it know what it's doing, and simply chooses to do it? Like your pattern-recognition system is actually liking what it's doing, deliberately feeding you inappropriate information...but it's a gas, right? Such a massive dose on the old CBD receptors..it's like Party Time!

Of course not all patterns are aural. The old pattern-recognition system can make you interpret what you see differently, what you feel, shit, even what you think! It can affect your social system too. For example, making you interpret a friend's conversation as something altogether more sinister. Has Steve got an ulterior motive? What did he really mean when he said that?

Something about Steve's look or voice reminds you of an actor in a certain movie, and immediately that character overlays on top of your view of your friend. Thus paranoia starts. Add to that the fact that you sometimes hear people talking who aren't there, and you start to look like textbook paranoid-schizophrenic!

Makes you wonder if there's a sort of moderator system in the brain, something that keeps the other systems in line. You know, stops this process overriding that process. Like you want to have a normal conversation with your friend Steve, but you keep treating him as if he's a sort of bad alter-ego of himself. That's a pattern-recognition system intruding forcefully on the rest of the brain.

Perhaps the Moderator system is himself stoned, and joining in the party? Yeah guys, go ahead, you do what you want. Make him think Steve's actually Gary Oldman, and he wants to kill him. What the hell...it's Party Time!

Hmmm...my skin feels like velvet, no, more like felt, fuzzy felt. And my mouth feels like...like my teeth are huge! They're like Stonehenge, man.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Land of the Giants

Land of the Giants, right? I reckon it struck a chord with a lot of kids, because it’s a classic childhood fear – that of being threatened by something much bigger than you, making you feel helpless…like adults.

And I got to thinking. If this was an evolved response, what did it signify, how did it come about, and what good does it do? If it’s a naturally selected trait, then it must confer an advantage to the individual.

What is a fear actually for? Well as a controlling mechanism it makes us avoid certain things or situations, by giving us a “painful” stimulus, i.e. a feeling we don’t like. In that way it plays a similar part as “pain”, only not so severe, and generally before an injury rather than after it (when pain kicks in).

If the brain wants to reward the body and create a learned response as well, it gives us a burst of endorphins when we do something right. But that “quick buzz” is only rewarded after the successful event, because it gives the person something to work towards.

However how do you use a reward system to prevent a person doing something, rather than reward them for doing something? It doesn’t work logically. You have to use an aversion system. That’s what fear is.

So fear of giants is a learned aversion response. What good does it convey to the individual?

Ok, let’s look at what kind of individual it might help. Well one still capable of offspring, and depending on how far back you want to go, that could be a very early age range. With a life-expectancy of 30, you could be looking at early teens or more likely mid childhood.

When I say “learned response”, by the way I don’t mean that it’s learned from other people, or learned while growing up. Rather the mechanism in the brain that provides the feeling of fear. This is what ultimately “programmes” the individual with a fear of this, a dislike of that. That's what learns, the rest of the brain. The brain makes a decision about a couple of directions to go (for example, down the stairs into the dark, or back up into the light), and although it knows why it doesn’t want to go a particular way (it’s dark, it could be dangerous, you could get hurt), it can’t tell other parts of the body these concepts. If it wants the heart to start pounding, it can’t explain the reasons to the heart, it has to do something simple. It produces the feeling of fear which is really a huge cocktail of physiological changes – stimulating glands (adrenal), increasing heart rate, saliva reduction.

So what good does an effect like this do? Well people will point to adrenaline increase, heart rate increase, as the best way of getting the body ready for sustained flight or fight. But there’s more. Why the feeling of dread? That doesn't serve any purpose in getting parts of the body ready for action. The only thing it does is make us feel acutely uncomfortable. That’s what fear is about isn’t it? Dread of what might happen. The “what might happen” is from our conscious mind, because the mind can understand complex concepts, and can be constantly thinking ahead to the “monsters” being just ahead in the dark, or the fact that we’re about to do something we don’t want to.

But there’s a sort of “overlay” of very uncomfortable trepidation. Why that? Is that just a side-effect of the change in hormone levels? Or is it caused by some as yet unknown chemical effect, e.g. from serotonin levels?

OK, can’t answer the above, and for the purpose of the original question it’s irrelevant anyway. It doesn’t answer the question of what the organism gains from it. “Survival” is too broad a term, although survival of the genes is definitely the major factor. But survival how? Since it’s a fear probably generated around adults, it must be caused by something in the relationship between adult and child.

Oh how silly of me. Of course it’s ultimately an “avoidance of strange adults or they might kill you” aversion effect isn’t it? More correctly it probably means “avoid strange things larger than you that you do not recognise as friendly”

Things larger than you are obviously predators that could eat you, so the response has been around for a very very long time. However I think the human race has a more specialised version of the fear response, grafted on like a plugin, a species-specific version telling us to avoid members of our own species if they are larger than us. For most cases this is accompanied by the same physical effects associated with "fear", and the same overall "feeling" from the old "avoid the big monsters" original response.

If that’s the case, it can’t have evolved to assist adults (although of course it has assisted to them reaching adulthood), where most people will rarely meet someone much bigger than then. However there is a state of human development where almost everyone we meet is a lot bigger than us. When we are children, it causes us to avoid “adult” individuals who we do not recognise.

Why avoid them? Because they might cause us pain. Simple as that. A child can’t already have a learned response to concepts like murder, abduction, and rape, since it needs to have this aversion long before it truly understands those concepts. So the simple avoidance of pain is the only thing to use at that age.

The only scenario where a simple response like this could evolve in such a generalised one-size-fits-all form, is in an early primate, where any non-recognised adult you met probably would kill you.

Actually I’ve just realised from those last two paragraphs, that while pain is a very direct response, causing us a feeling that we just can’t bear…fear is the anticipation of pain. So that means this response only works on a species that can think, or at least understand the concept of “the future”. Because that’s what it’s about really isn’t it? Fear is the anticipation of something in the future that may cause us pain. It’s quite a complex thing isn’t it? So it’s still way back in our primate past, but not that far back. If chimpanzees have it as well, then it goes back at least to our common ancestor.