Tag: Religion

Make Individualism Great Again

Josh Hughes | United States

Individuality is one of the greatest gifts a person can possess. The ability to be yourself and become whomever and whatever you want to be is a privilege so great, yet so often wasted and taken for granted. The time that we live in now undoubtedly favors collectivism over individualism. In fact, many will persecute you for trying to be yourself and “march to the beat of your own drum” rather than follow a crowd. The loss of individuality from society will stand to gain nothing but negative effects.

Mainstream Collectivism

Collectivism is being heavily pushed in many facets, most notably in schools, corporations, and the media. In places of learning all over the country, individuality is becoming frowned upon and slowly moved away from. In a theme which is common to every area listed, collectivism is being rebranded with nicer sounding synonyms such as “collaboration.” This is not to say that somethings cannot be done better in a group setting, but when it reaches the point that schoolchildren are conditioned to always work in a team rather than reach a solution on their own, there is an issue. As a current student, I can personally attest to the fact that “group work” has become more and more prevalent. Again, working as a team is not inherently the problem; rather, it’s the idea that solutions are always reached better or more efficiently in a group setting rather than individually.

Another area that collectivism is commonly seen is in the workforce. This idea is often seen in many major corporations, specifically. Think of the last Google or Apple ad that you saw. There’s a good chance the ad was, in some form or another, stressing the idea of “teamwork” or “collaboration.” Much of the new technology being developed now is made with a focus for collaboration and working together with other users. Regardless of their intentions, advertisements that consistently promote collectivism and intentionally ignore individualism give the millions of viewers a very clear idea of what’s accepted.

In a way that coincides with the point about advertising, the media almost always tends to shun individualism. Rather, they resort to grouping and profiling individuals into specific groups. Instead of focusing on a person’s events, they will focus on their sex, race, religion, or other affiliations. It does not matter if someone is a straight white male or a gay black woman or anything in between, it cannot be denied that the smallest minority is the individual. Every person is totally unique from everyone else and should be viewed as such.

What Have These Actions Led To?

With every major influencer in America focusing on these ideas, identities for the common man have been stripped. Rather than being an individual, every person is a part of some group and is esteemed based off of the group’s actions. This has led to people becoming shadows and parrots of their idols and influencers. We live in an age of NPC’s, where no one really exists.

Think of the possibilities of a society full of people that thought and acted for themselves rather than following a mainstream. The creative and innovative explosion would be something to marvel at. Not to mention, a society that thinks is a society that is free. A nation full of independent thinkers would surely lead to increased liberty.

The age of listening to and following celebrities and those that are in charge should be behind us. Rather, we should heed the words of philosophers such as Ayn Rand, who promoted total individuality in an era of Communism where collectivity reigned supreme. The current era is moving closer and closer towards this, with collectivism having a direct correlation to socialism. The scarce free minds that are left need to resist this trend and continue to think for themselves. However, if you’re one of that group, you don’t need me to tell you that.


71 Republic is the Third Voice in media. We pride ourselves on distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

Advertisements

The Boogeyman: Fear of the Unknown

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Throughout the vast majority of the world and all of recorded history, there have been tales of boogeymen: monsters in the dark to punish the disobedient and the susceptible. The Boogeyman goes by various names with the male, female, or neutral gender. These include the Bogieman, El Coco, Sack Man, Ou-Wu, Babayka, El Ogro, The Devil, and more. Most of the story origins are unknown. It is as if they are a part of human nature and a mechanism for control or protection.

Most of the time, the boogeyman is a threat that adults use towards vulnerable children who may be misbehaving. The character has a number of different commonly said actions. Some say it eats children, holds them hostage in a hellish place, or even scares them into correcting their behavior. Overall, the boogeyman is, unfortunately, a socially approved terrorizing mechanism that plagues the mind with fear of the unknown. By presenting the monster as too strong to fight, society instills a fearful reaction of flight over fight.

The Beast in the Dark

When we were children, we usually heard of such a beast in the dark, under our bed, in the closet, or in a forbidden area. In each of these cases, an adult probably told the child the story or scared the child enough to make him or her invent the demon on his or her own. On the contrary, some cultures have a protective guardian angel of sorts to save children it deems good. This invisible protector is all that can immediately protect a child from the bad one out to get them.

Even as adults, the boogeyman may still come to mind in places we deem as dangerous: in dark places, after deaths of bad people, and in some unknown futures. When many adults think of robots and artificial intelligence, they also think of the boogeyman, but in a different form. With super intelligent computers constantly improving around the world, many people will propose that these unknown machines will become sentient and seek to enslave or destroy humans and the world.

In the case of robots conquering the world, it is nothing more than a Nietzschean Übermensch: a Superman that all aspire to become but none can. This super demon then begins to wipe the world clean of humans or enslaves them for its own gains. Similarly to that of the Übermensch, we find the boogeyman again in space exploration, with the idea that evil aliens are waiting to harm us.

Protection from Unwarranted Fear

In both of these cases, the fear of an unrealized boogeyman limits success and progress. Many people will turn towards religion and government to protect us from the unknown monster. They present these organizations as the fairy godmothers that will protect our soul, body, and future with regulations, limitations, and letting someone else decide what is right. Religion can become a government, and the blind allegiance to the government can become a religion of its own: Statism.

Statism is the belief that a government should control an individual’s economic and social decisions in order to prevent deterioration of society, corruption, losses, heinous crimes, terrorism, and more. Proponents of Statism view it as avoiding a Hobbesian regression to the turmoil and chaos of human nature. The ideology of Statism declares that government can, at least theoretically, control every aspect of one’s life. In fact, Statists have manufactured boogeymen of their own throughout history. Without a doubt, Statism becomes an endless, warrantless hunt for the outsider: non-Christians, non-Muslims, witches, spies, Communists, terrorists, drug dealers, immigrants, and more.

Statism: Fearful of Freedom

Statism has also provided the fear of Liberty, of not having a central government, and of no government at all. The State portrays this in the images of utter chaos and the threat of a power vacuum or void. A power vacuum, or power void, is the idea that without one government, other, more evil governments will take over. This proposed boogeyman is said to appear when the coercive control of the few (government) goes away, leaving the helpless and hapless people vulnerable to this invisible monster.

The devout followers of the State will use this boogeyman as a form of mental terrorism that instills fear into the minds of the impressionable. They propose that the only guardian against such a boogeyman is that of the omnibenevolent, omniscient, and possibly near-omnipotent government that staves off the evil, lurking, monsters in the unknown darkness. The closer people move towards Liberty or freedom, the more that Statists will pontificate this fear of the boogeyman into the hearts and minds of all that listen. As the fears build within society, Statists require more and more control. Thus, policing, laws, regulations, spying, recordkeeping, and taxing increase.

The Boogeyman Is Getting Stronger

As time moves forward, the boogeyman, or Übermensch, is always growing stronger and more cunning than its potential victims. It is like the nightmare in which you are forever running away from the unstoppable monster. In Statism, this all-pervasive boogeyman begins as a child’s common fear of the unknown. But relatively quickly, it becomes a psychological defect, leading to the embodiment of a boogeyman in the monster of an oppressive government. It matters little that the State was supposed to protect against this monster: it nonetheless becomes it. This idea that such a boogeyman exists slows human progress by creating a real one from the idea.

If anything, not teaching our children of such monsters as a boogeyman, not scaring them in the dark or around corners, while encouraging them to learn about what makes us scared or fearful, can help them understand the world in a more realistic manner. It will teach them to be less afraid of the unknowns in our lives. At the same time, they will learn to pursue difficulties, rather than back away from the unknown. These constant fears of boogeymen do not need to exist when it comes to peaceful, free, and voluntary action; the fears of boogeymen instill fear of the unknown, inhibit actions, and bog down growth.

A Hindrance to Human Progress

Furthermore, the fear of such boogeymen inebriates the infected individual’s will to better their own life, progress, and success, leaving them timid and unsure how to guide their own life. This removal of the individual’s capability to properly lead their own life also restricts their moral gauge, furthering their dependence on the guardian in control while making them more susceptible to relativism, subjectivism, and nihilism. In response to their fears of boogeymen, many will not only embrace religion and government. Moreover, they may cling to collectivism to help combat the invisible boogeyman. This is because they believe their particular group should survive, and perhaps their group knows how to best fight off the boogeyman better than others’.

If the fear of the unknown and creation of evil to fight it is a natural process, then Reason, peace, voluntary exchange, and Liberty will rid us of these deplorable thoughts. This is a way to become stronger than the fictional beast of Statist myth. This is a way we become our own heroes. In a world where are the biggest hindrance and threat to our own betterment, it is the way forward.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”Friedrich Nietzsche.


Get awesome merch. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

Featured Image Source

The Catholic Church Needs a New Reformation

By Adam Burdzy | United States

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church experienced a Reformation. Martin Luther, the chief architect behind the religious movement, didn’t agree with the Catholic Church about some key beliefs and practices. Luther published his 95 Theses, a list of controversial topics and discussion points in the Catholic Church at the time. King Henry VIII of England just wanted to divorce his wife because she wouldn’t provide him with a baby boy to be the next king (current science shows that it is entirely his fault that he couldn’t have a son). The Pope told him he could not divorce, so Henry ignored the pope’s decision made the Church of England. These individuals saw a problem with the Church, so they took action into their own hands and attempted to fix it.

It is now 2018, and the Church still needs fixing. Corruption at the core has turned officials evil. The primary example is the Pope. As the head of the Catholic Church, the infallible Pope is supposed to be a role model to all Catholics. He is the spiritual leader who has one goal: to get as many people to convert and stay Catholic. He also must do so with the intention of getting as many people to be saved by God’s grace (in layman terms, not burn in Hell). Today, however, many people do not like or approve of what Pope Francis is doing. Most religious conservatives and libertarians disprove of how the Pope puts his nose into matters involving politics. Pope Francis has been seen discussing policies with popular and powerful liberals, such as former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry. He made it known through these encounters that he supports such policies such as the Iran Nuclear deal and the large intake of refugees from the Middle East by Europe. The Pope also is a strong believer in global warming and climate change.

These main three issues that the Pope discussed had many right-leaning Catholics infuriated for justifiable reasons. Even though the Pope has the right to believe whatever he want to, he is abusing his papal power. The Pope is believed to be completely true when he speaks of religious matters. This does not make him infallible when he talks politics. The way he presents his politics, however, is done in a way where the political issue is connected to a Catholic teaching or value in a vague way. An example is the refugee issue. For many years, people from the Middle East, mostly fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, have been entering into Europe as refugees. These men, women, and children use up a ton of taxpayer euros, and while this has caused a fiery debate inside and outside of Europe, the Pope has decided to take a side, saying it is a Catholic’s duty to take care of others.

We cannot, however, blame the Pope for everything. The Catholic Church as a whole has done some questionable acts. For example, the Chinese government has had a feud with the Catholic Church for decades now, in which they appointed bishops without the consent of the Pope. Instead of the Church simply saying no, the Vatican allowed for seven bishops to be appointed, not by the Church, but instead by the government of China. The Church, who has no political power, has been sleeping with foreign governments, which has led to the deterioration of trust. It is believed that every priest and bishop in the Catholic Church has something called Apostolic succession. Christ gave St. Peter the power to appoint religious men to the priesthood, and this line of succession can be traced down to every priest, except for these 7 bishops. This gives the Church a bad reputation for not sticking to their Canon Law, which is equivalent to the United State’s Constitution. For the Church to do this would be the same as disregarding the confirming power of the Senate.

What happened to the Pope? Isn’t he supposed to be a spiritual figure instead of a political pawn for the left? Of course, Pope Francis wasn’t the only bad Pope the Catholic Church has had. Pope Boniface the VIII was a pedophile, Alexander VI bribed his way into becoming Pope, and Leo X allowed for the Church to sell indulgences, which promised heaven to those who bought them. Pope Francis is just a byproduct of the already corrupt system that the Church has become. This is to blame for the failure of the Church to keep people going to Church. A new study from the PEW research center shows that 21% of Americans are Catholic and that 13% of adults who were born and raised as Catholics have become either Protestant or not religious.

So what can the Church do? They can toughen up and mind their own business. They can focus on being a spiritual force and going back to their Canon Law. They should stop trying to be “hip” as many modern Catholic Churches have tried and failed. People want a true, non-political place of worship where they can grow in faith and become part of a community where they feel welcomed. If you are reading this, Pope Francis, do us all a favor and fix the corruption, not for Catholics, but for God.


Get awesome merchandise. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

The Lost Art of Suspending Disbelief

By Craig Axford | Canada

Imagine you’ve just watched Star Wars or a Harry Potter movie with a friend. As you throw your empty popcorn bucket into the trash and head for the exit, your friend asks you if you believe the movie is true.

Perhaps book clubs are more your cup of tea. After reading the Da Vinci Code, which everyone in your group agrees was a real page-turner, your club discovers in its midst someone who thought they were reading a scholarly historical work and insists the code really exists.

To be fair, someone having the opposite reaction would be just as far off base, even if perhaps not as obviously so at first glance. If, instead of insisting the movie was a documentary of some sort your companion had concluded the movie was false, citing as proof the fact that faster than light travel is impossible or that the artificial gravity enabling everyone to walk about the decks of the starship at 1G seems implausible, we might find ourselves conceding that they are technically correct yet still reasonably conclude that they had missed the story’s point.

We find such literal true or false dichotomies ridiculous when it comes to the arts. Even the sciences, properly understood, deal in probabilities rather than absolute certainty. Yet we have no difficulty making such absolute claims about our religious myths. These stories, we insist, must either be true or false.

. . .

This situation is largely the fault of those insisting their religion is factually true. In taking this position they often push even those with nuanced views on the subject into the opposite corner. When we insist it’s all or nothing, we can’t blame the opposition when we find the door to communication and compromise closed.

Having consistently had that door shut in their face, doubters and disbelievers are increasingly resorting to mockery and derision. It’s an understandable stance to take when you’re talking about people who insist dinosaurs walked the earth with humans and two of every living thing can actually fit on a boat. In addition, after the centuries worth of both physical and emotional abuse that has been heaped upon doubters (as well as believers) constitutionally protected freedom of expression is a hard opportunity to pass up when it becomes available.

All that said, fundamentally what we’re dealing with here are stories, and the purpose of a good story isn’t to convince us of its historical or scientific accuracy. Its function is to draw us in and cause us to lose ourselves for a while as we experience its telling. A good story ideally leads us to suspend disbelief, which is a very different thing from either belief or disbelief.

Suspending disbelief is the act of setting the choice between truth and falsehood aside. In this state of mind, we are not evaluating what we are reading, hearing, or seeing to determine its compatibility with reality as such. We are not engaged in analytical thinking or looking to poke holes in the tale any more than we are unconditionally accepting it as factual. In a state of suspended disbelief, all such considerations disappear from consciousness while we “become lost” in the pages of a good book or “take a journey ” with Frodo and Sam across Middle Earth from our seats in the theater.

It’s usually understood going into these experiences that we are leaving reality behind for a while. Sometimes storytellers will even explicitly invite us to suspend disbelief before the story has even begun. Such signals to drop our guard, if done right, are readily followed. However, had George Lucus opened his first Star Wars movie with the words “Recently, in a solar system near us” instead of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” the implicit invitation to believe in even just the possibility of what was to follow would likely have ruined the whole story.

. . .

A society’s most powerful myths — the ones that ultimately shape and come to define its culture — are only superficially about the characters and events depicted in them. These are merely the vehicles for conveying deeper lessons. But anyone who has attended a religious service recently knows very well that the question ‘what did you get out of the story?’ rarely if ever comes up. Even in our very secular age doubt, or even a willing suspension of disbelief, is still largely unwelcome at Friday, Saturday, or Sunday services.

Consider for a moment the historian Jennifer Michael Hecht’s description of the story of Job, a story with which even those raised in non-religious Western households are at least vaguely familiar. Was there really a man named Job? Does God really exist and did He really make a bet with Satan that facilitated Job’s suffering? From Hecht’s perspective, those kinds of questions are at best secondary:

There is something grand about a story that tries to reconcile human beings to loss, to letting go of the things that the universe has allowed us to amass and keep for a while — including the idea that after we lose everything, there is a good chance we’ll get it all back someday. Could the Job author have been satisfied with this as a parable of divine justice? It is not a parable of divine justice. It is a parable of resignation to a world-making force that has no justice as we understand justice. God comes off sounding like a metaphor for the universe: violent and chaotic yet bountiful and marvelous. The Job story is a story of doubt. God’s list brings Job back into the fold, but the fight has transformed the fold. With Job, that paradigm of a just God was carried to an extreme that immediately identified the problem with the idea: the world is not just. If justice exists, the Book of Job concludes, it does so in a way inconceivable to humanity. Job asked deep questions and they have lingered for millennia. ~ Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History

Job is a proxy for everyone who has experienced a deep and powerful loss. Whether you’re an atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated but “spiritual”, or a regular churchgoer, the problem of suffering remains central to the human experience. Whether an individual that went by the name of Job and lived in a particular time and place ever actually existed is so far beyond the point that one must conclude that anybody who insists upon it is, like a person fixated on the reality of Lucas’ far away galaxy, seriously out of touch with reality.

Wrestling with the issues raised by the story of Job, and others like it from a variety of traditions, requires a willingness to avoid making the literal truth or falsehood of the story the place where we take our stand. That leaves suspending disbelief as the only way we can get to the heart of the matter. Suspending disbelief allows us to maintain a healthy skepticism without allowing it to interfere with our experience of the story. We aren’t accepting the story on blind faith, but we aren’t dwelling on its lack of historic or scientific veracity either. We can acknowledge factual problems if circumstances demand it, then quickly find our way back to the message without lingering for too long with the irrelevancies.

There is a morality play going on here, not a history lesson. Whether intentionally or not, when a believer insists that we have a debate about whether dinosaurs actually walked the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve or Jesus really did walk on water, they are making the story the end instead of the means. That is something our myths were never intended to be.

. . .

In all fairness, the development of writing shares much of the blame for our literalism. For most of human history, we lacked any means of confirming whether or not the stories being told around the campfire were the same from one telling to the next, let alone from one generation to another. There were no audio or video recordings available to make sure a storyteller was adhering to the original version, let alone anyone around to take notes.

Since memory was all people had to go on — an unreliable record-keeper under the best of circumstances — the best anyone concerned with fidelity could hope for was that any major changes made to the sacred tribal myths would be noticed by those who had heard them before. However, even assuming people wanted to catch them, minor additions and subtractions were impossible to consistently detect. This combination of small but intentional creative changes and unintentional memory lapses built up like mutations over time. Some went over like lead balloons with their audience and were quickly dropped while others were powerful and popular enough to become long-term features.

Storytelling, like evolution, is a process. In oral cultures, this was intuitively understood. The meaning and knowledge embedded within the story rather than the words themselves tended to take precedence. Comparing a modern society that has the ability to not only write, but also create a real-time audio and visual record of its existence down to the minutest detail, to an oral culture for whom stories are not merely a source of identity but a matter of survival is more like comparing apples to coconuts than it is apples to oranges.

Writing provided a mechanism for ensuring consistency unlike anything humanity had encountered before and it transformed how we approach both our myths and our physical environment in ways we never could have anticipated in advance. Of course, stories were still alterable, but as long as the original text or something very close to it survived new versions could be compared to the old and even subtle differences could be readily detected.

At that point, our sacred stories began to both literally and figuratively be seen as chiseled in stone and many of our traditions ceased to be living. Increasingly, the goal was to preserve them through a kind of textual mummification. It was in this context that the written word was sanctified and the story it recorded came to be seen as historical.

. . .

“Symbols are only the vehicle of communication; they must not be mistaken for the final term, the tenor, of their reference,” Joseph Campbell wrote in his classic work The Hero With A Thousand Faces. “No matter how attractive or impressive they may seem, they remain but convenient means, accommodated to the understanding.” Campbell concludes by reminding us that “Mistaking a vehicle for its tenor may lead to the spilling not only of valueless ink, but of valuable blood.”

We should take mythology seriously, but not too seriously. A decent level of respect rather than a reverential posture is what’s called for. Modern technology enables us to compare notes and police each other for consistency, but in the context of storytelling, there’s no opportunity for either fun or learning in that. The same technology also gives us an opportunity to play with our myths: to find humor and fresh interpretations that reveal themselves best through the use of contemporary language and references.

Consider Jonathan Goldstein’s reinterpretation of the story of Adam, Eve, and our loss of innocence in the Garden of Eden. Such a retelling is only possible when the storyteller sees the text as living rather than dead. It’s both humorous and evocative without demanding either belief or disbelief. It would be difficult for a listener to come away from Goldstein’s reimagining of the opening chapters of Genesis with a desire to storm the next local school board meeting demanding Intelligent Design be given equal time with evolution. Likewise, anyone insisting the story isn’t true after hearing Goldstein’s version would also be missing the mark by quite a wide margin.

The Abrahamic traditions, in particular, have consistently doubled down on belief, generally insisting that any who would darken the doorway of their institutions be willing to profess their faith in the word as it is written. Failure to do so often means ostracism, excommunication, or far worse.

But these religions don’t have many chips left to play. Nor has the modern world dealt the literalists in their midst a particularly strong hand. The best play at this point is to fold and acknowledge humanity’s myths are now, as they have always been, a means of fostering meaning and spreading wisdom rather than a mechanism for describing the physical universe or communicating historical events to future generations.

In the closing pages of Myths To Live By, Joseph Campbell said it best. As is so often the case when it comes to mythology, he deserves the final word:

The difficulty faced today by Christian thinkers in this regard follows from their doctrine of the Nazarene as the unique historical incarnation of God; and in Judaism, likewise, there is the no less troublesome doctrine of a universal God whose eye is on but one Chosen People of all in his created world. The fruit of such ethnocentric historicism is poor spiritual fare today; and the increasing difficulties of our clergies in attracting gourmets to their banquets should be evidence enough to make them realize that there must be something no longer palatable about the dishes they are serving. These were good enough for our fathers, in the tight little worlds of knowledge of their days, when each little civilization was a thing more or less to itself. But consider that picture of the planet Earth that was taken from the surface of the moon!


Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

Other articles that you may enjoy:

 


Get awesome merchandise. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

Inevitable Death at the Hands of the Former

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

As Jake sprinted down the dimly lit hall, he did not dare a look over his shoulder. Doing so would spell out his certain and inevitable death at the hands of the Former.

All-seeing and all-powerful, the Former, having created the whole of existence, could inhabit the mind of any man who did not recognize its power. However, Jake, having learned the world’s true nature in a dream long ago, was not under Its control. Rather, he was a threat to the Former’s hold, and thus, needed to be erased.

Jake had spent ten years on the run, never trusting, never even speaking to another man. From ghost towns to desolate woods to arid deserts across the world, the traveler always was ahead of anyone else. But now, in the abandoned theater, the Former had caught him.

Rounding a corner, fearing for his life, he bumped into a young boy of about ten years. “Wh.. what are you doing here?” the child asked, puzzled. “Are you going to erase me, like the scary man says?”

The question struck Jake like a heavy metal mallet, freezing him in place and dumbfounding him. “You hear it too? In your dreams?” He began to sweat, hands growing clammy, terrified and excited that he may not be alone in this world. The boy frowned slightly, mumbling, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”. Quivering, he reached into his coat. Jake realized what was happening a moment too late as the boy pulled out a small silver revolver and shot him in the chest.

Gasping deeply, Jake woke suddenly, sitting upright with a look of alarm on his slightly wrinkled face. Though only twenty-nine, his knowledge wore away at his years, and he looked nearly double that. With grizzled gray hair, a coarse beard, and tattered clothes, Jake looked as if he had spent a number of months alone in the woods.

The woods, though, would have been preferable to his current surroundings. For nearly ten years, Jake had been in an insane asylum. For most of that time, today included, he was in solitary confinement, due to his tendency to attack anyone in sight. After all, he had yet to meet anyone who the Former had not taken control of.

If at any time, he thought, he helped another man see the world for what it really was, nothing more than an energy source for a powerful being, the Former would lose a little bit more energy. Without access to the mind, the Former could not control it, feed off of it, harness it for greater power. Jake knew little of the nature of the Former, why It desired such energy, why It could only inhabit males, or what It used it for. Merely, he knew that the Former was real, could inhabit anyone, and wanted him dead.

Anyone, then, could end his life at any time, for he was a threat to the natural order of the world.

Jake sat and thought, as he often did in the mornings. Of course, he thought at the other times of day too, for there was little else to do without the company of another person. But something about the mornings made those thoughts of particular importance to him.

In the previous night’s dream, he remarked, the boy had suggested that he, too, was enlightened. This was the first time, in his many lonely years, that a dream had revealed the possibility of someone like him. Every night had been the same: endless running, never stopping, always running into another person who killed him without hesitation.

At around noon, a scratchy-sounding buzzer rang through the confines of the small, uninviting room. A female voice rang through, no more smooth than the buzzer. “Visitor here for you, Mr. Anderson.”

Hearing this, Jake erupts into a panic, knowing only the Former would have any interest in visiting him. Though his life was without freedom or ability, he nonetheless feared deeply for its end. In life, at least, Jake knew how the Former reigned; but in death, anything was possible.

As his door creaked open, he feared for the worst. Surely, someone would emerge holding a weapon. Every night’s dream showcased one, always catching him off guard. Sometimes it came in the form of a knife, club, even a flamethrower, but none were so frequent as the silver handgun.

Suddenly, a flash of silver moved in through the now ajar door, and Jake flew out of his seat. “Jake! I told you I would come for you!”

But the voice was female, not male, as the Former had always been. As Lucinda, his fiancé, entered the room, Jake felt his heart turn to liquid, and he relaxed back into the seat.

“Luce, where have you been? Ten years in this place and not even so much as a letter or a message?” Jake spoke with no malice, only longing relief, as he embraced her for the first time in what felt like lifetimes.

Lucinda frowned slightly, looking ashamed. “It wasn’t easy getting in here. I spent the whole first year trying to get myself in. But after that, I couldn’t do it. I saw you through the monitors here, but every time you looked to be having those horrible dreams of yours.”

Jake began to make a remark, but Lucinda continued abruptly. “After that, I marched myself into the office and told them to let you go, and that you needed me, not some dark cold room. But they didn’t like that, and things escalated, and I did things I regretted. Spent some time locked up myself.” Jake inhaled sharply at the thought of his beloved behind bars but kept listening. “As soon as I got out, I decided it was time to do the same for you. I called everyone I knew, I fought the state and the country and the world and raised more money than I ever thought I’d have. You’re coming home with me now!”

The patient tensed suddenly at the thought of being a part of the outside world again. “Home?” he spoke quietly. “What home? Lucinda, this has been my home for almost a decade. This is my home now.”

“Well I mean, our home! I bought the place last week, a beautiful ranch on the river where we used to sit and watch the sunset. Not too far from where you proposed!” Lucinda flashed her engagement ring, beaming when she saw his as well.

Jake screwed up his eyes as if some horrible demon was grappling his brain. “No, no, no. This is my home, Luce. It’s the only place I’m safe from the Former!” He trembled as the words slipped out.

Lucinda, hearing this, looked sullen. “Jake, you know that’s why they put you here. It was wrong of them and I fought so hard against it and I won. But this is all in your head, love. I’m real, and I love you, and I made a new life for us! You don’t have to live like this anymore.” She spoke with a soothing tone, delicately balancing her assertion with a strong regard for his predisposition.

“Well, of course, it’s in my head,” Jake replied thoughtfully. “But that doesn’t make it any less real. Ten years I’ve had to do nothing but dream horrible dreams and think horrible thoughts, and as much as I hate the latter almost as much, it helped me realize so many things. Nobody can disprove the existence of the Former, whether I’m right or not.”

“What are you going on about, sweetie?” Lucinda appeared not to understand this new direction. Though he had begun fearing the Former slightly before his confinement in the ward, he rarely spoke of the matter to her.

“I mean, those men out there can never, with full certainty, insist that their minds are their own. If a Former took them over, could it not, just as easily, convince them that they were thinking clearly and of their own accord? And even if I am wrong, and their minds really are their own, how could I ever prove it to myself? With all of the visions, all of the dreams, it is too dangerous to dismiss the possibility! I die every night in bed, only to come back to reality where I suffer through to die again the next. Nobody else has to live like this, and nobody else’s head is full of the Former’s haunting voice!” Jake’s own voice rose suddenly, with growing anger, then shrank again. “I’m sorry, Luce. I love you too but cannot jump into a world in which everyone wants me dead.”

But Lucinda, now fully understanding, took matters into her own hands. “You think your life is so rough? Then why sit there and dream and think? You don’t have to do this anymore. You can come with me and start a new life. We can even sell that stupid ranch and get a place wherever you would like, with nobody else around.”

“No, Luce, we can’t! They’ll always find me, they always do! The Former is in every man and can get everywhere, everywhere but for some reason, inside of this room. It always has and always will. I am the biggest threat of all men, for I alone know of the oppression that It brings to the world. I threaten Its way of being.”

“And how are you going to make anything any better from the inside of that cell?”

“I don’t know. I’m not. I’m going to sit here and think until I die.”

“And what good will that do you? What good will it do anyone else?”

“What does it matter what good it does me or anyone else?”  He grew angry once more.

“Well it would sure do me a lot of good, and you too, if we went and were happy together.”

“Until I die and leave you miserable and single.”

Identifying his true fear, Lucinda knew exactly what to say to soothe it. “So, Jake, if I am right, we get to live a wonderful life together. Perhaps we may finally marry, and raise a family, and move to the country. I have plenty of money so that we can invest it and never work a day in our lives. We can devote all of our time to each other. But suppose you are right, and every man in the world wants to kill you. I’m no man, as you should know by now. We can run away together, and if one finds you one day, we will have spent the remainder of your life together. That is all I could ever desire.”

Jake quivered, but this time, with a joy he had not felt in a decade. “You mean that Luce, don’t you?”

Lucinda grinned and replied, “You know the answer to that already, sweetie.” She reaches into her bag and pulls out a pair of beautifully-baked muffins, handing one to her fiancé. “Before I go and let the guards know you’ve decided, I thought I’d give you a taste of real food again! I spent all night baking them, knowing you’d want something special for the first edible thing you’ve had in some time.”

As he took the first bite, tears streamed down Jake’s face. After all of this time, he was finally going to make it out. Of course, the Former still lurked around every corner, but it was no matter. Even one day spent in peace with Lucinda was worth the suffering that may follow it. A small part of him even clung to the desperate hope that, by some miracle, she may be right, and the Former was all in his head.

After scarfing down the muffin, he looked at Lucinda with pure love as she moved for the door.

“I’m going to get the guards now, sweetie.” She smiled once more at Jake. “But I suppose I don’t have to even leave the room for that! I can just slide into their minds next.”

The grin suddenly turned shrewd. “I really thought this would be more difficult. You really couldn’t fathom the notion that I could get into a woman’s mind, too? Well, I’ll be on my way now; these guards have a body to dispose of! Don’t bother trying to resist, sweetie. The poison in that muffin will take effect long before anything you do has any prayer of working.”

As if on cue, Jake started gagging violently, as his insides erupted with pain. Choking, he was unable to form a clear response.

“You really thought that I would let my men and women let you out of this place? What, so you go could go about, trying to take the world back, stealing from me? I fight a battle stronger and more powerful than anything your puny brain can imagine. Your attempts to derail me are pitiful. But, you can at least die with the knowledge that you were right about Me.” Lucinda slowly walked out of the room, the door closing behind her with a resounding thud.

Convulsing on the floor, Jake looked up, fury in his gaze. But in less than a minute, the fury, along with his life, had completely subsided.


To support 71 Republic, please donate to our Patreon, which you can find here.

Featured Image Source