Monday, January 27, 2020


Once, there was a person.

Little more about their identity is known than that.

They were a person, overcome by grief at the cruel nature of the world. So overcome that in their wandering, they collapsed at the foot of a gnarled old buckthorn tree. There, they vowed to lie in misery until they were released from their mortal coil.

And there they laid, slowly withering away- but they did not die. Days passed, but thirst did not kill them. Weeks went by, but their cavernous stomach brought no premature end.

At first, they raged against this too. How could life, so wretched, have sunken its claws so deep into them?

But over time, grief turned to contemplation, and then to meditation. They propped themselves up against the trunk of that old buckthorn and laid amid its itching, stinging barbs, but felt no more discomfort. Bugs and insects bit at their skin, and the elements whipped at them, but there was no more pain. Their thoughts traveled far and probed deep, fueled by their negative energy until it was burned up in full.

It was then that clarity took hold.

They were far from the first or most auspicious of the enlightened, but they too crossed that threshold nonetheless. The ultimate reality of the universe began to take shape within their mind, hardening and coming into focus until it glimmered like a brilliant, cerulean jewel within their mind's eye. And then that jewel took shape, and expanded across their entire being, encasing them in adamant as firm as steel. Enclosed within, the accidental ascetic entered a deep and profound dream-state.

The buckthorn tree overhead died, and the land all around them withered away into a desert, yet that jewel remained, fast-growing and unblemished.

Until it was not.

As the crystal expanded alongside the expansion of the dreamer's consciousness, fractures began to appear across its vertices. These cracks deepened and spiderwebbed across the jewel's surface, until at last the first shards fell from that sky-blue expanse.

When the shards landed, they took shape. Long slivers became limbs. Chunks became torsos and a surmounting head. Fragments clung together as digits and joints. Thinking, comprehending minds born of the dreamer's power of thought filled their bodies. When the shards landed, they landed on their own two feet.

They stood up then, and became the first to behold that self-same jewel. Dimly could they see within its depths, and at once did they recognize the dreamer within to be the creator of this thought-form and all of their kind. They looked upon their parent with wonder, and soon began to meditate upon its nature, as well as their own.

In short order it was found that they too possessed a creative power of their own. Things of wonder and beauty translated themselves from their crystalline minds to the physical world through their jagged fingertips. Spires like petrified forests did grow, and thrones like lotus blossoms did bloom. They spoke to one and all at once, no secrets kept hidden, everything laid bare, and from that reflecting pool rose ever-greater achievements.

They taught their meditative techniques to each generation as they cleaved off of the brilliant mother lode. Contemplation turned to gratitude, to veneration, and to reinforcement of those ideas among their peers. This was not their god--no, gods are not so different from living, dying things--but this was someone worthy of their devotion and protection.

So when the first deeper cracks began to form in the mother jewel, the angular thought-forms grew concerned. When the shards which fell from those gaping wounds laid lifeless and without animating minds, they grew alarmed. And when those among them with foresight saw the cracks reaching so deep that the dreamer itself would be threatened, they grew to fear death for the first, awful time.

They knew that they were products of that unconscious mind. If the dreamer woke, or if the dreamer died, then what hope would there be for them? They would be blown away like leaves on the wind, snuffed out like the flame of a candle. Their nascent world would come to an end, and they did not want that. So they turned their minds toward the crystal, rather than the dreamer within. They focused their every thought and effort toward its preservation, and slowly but surely, the cracks began to narrow and vanish. When shards did fall away, they rose up once more- and were promptly put to work preserving the dreamer.

A society once so wide in scope of thought and imagination now turned inward, and all else began to fall by the wayside.

It wasn't long before doubt first appeared.

Is this the true path? Do all things around us not die? Why then do we persist? Was the dreamer not born of the living and dying world? Does the dreamer, in its wisdom, not foresee the inevitable? Why should it be exempt? Why should we be exempt? What is to be feared in death? What is death to the dead? Does moksha come?

Like a nail scraping against a mirror-polished surface, these questions cut through once-uniform thought and feeling. Fear not felt since the first cracks appeared returned anew, but its edge was sharpened and honed by the knowledge that those among their number harbored its cause. At first they were ignored and marginalized as best they could be. But when those doubts grew louder, the doubters were lashed out at, beaten and driven away to the edges of that stagnating domain. When still they would not quiet, a word was given that cut across all din and dispute: begone.

Chipped and illused, these sowers of disquiet left the land of unending firmity against unstoppable erosion, and began to walk the world at large. Now, strange things in a stranger land, they seek deeper truths and insights into the ultimate meaning and meaninglessness of reality. But they have not forgotten or forsaken the home they left behind. They will return one day when their doubts have borne fruits of knowledge. They will bring them back in order to nourish the enlightenment of those whose fear drives them to cling to the static and unchanging. They will bring comfort and compassion to the woeful many, and see the artificial growth of the crystal halted.

They will greet the dreamer beneath buckthorn tree, and they will know only peace and acceptance.

For Moksha Comes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Goblin Brain: Veterinarians Can Send Your Pets to Valhalla

I... don't know why I insist on starting every one of these audio posts with such a pained, drawn-out "I".

Hello, dear Burrowers, if there are any of you out there still. My apologies for vanishing again.

I'm still alive! Fortunately my Narblesnard went as well as can be hoped, and my acorns were enough to sate the squirrels this year.

I had myself another bit of a spiral over here, which coupled with the cold weather to ensure that I wrote nothing and wanted to write even less than that. But I'm still breathing, and doing things like making phone calls and reorganizing my bedroom to maintain the illusion of having meaningful control.

You can rest easy, or alternatively become annoyed to know, that I will be returning to periodic posting again soon, and that they will be far more relevant to my blog than these Goblin Brain episodes. I'm just tacking this onto one because it is a very overdue draft that was sitting on my dashboard... among thirty or forty others.

So, stay warm out there, depending on your hemisphere and particular climate, and thank you for listening.

I've never technically owned a pet.

Of course I've lived in a house with pets whom I interacted with, past and present.

And on at least a few occasions I've been mistaken for a pet, though that's a story for another time.

Or, probably not, actually...


I've never technically owned a pet. They've always belonged to my parents, and they've always been the ones chiefly responsible for all of the duties that pet-having entails. Not from a lack of willingness to participate on my part, but because my parents always found it easier or at least simpler to just do the things by themselves rather than teach me and set me up to do them properly after that period. Like they had a unique, noncommunicable technique for cleaning out the litter boxes, or for changing the water in the fishbowl, or what have you.

I think they did a lot of similar sunk-cost calculations with regards to my upbringing, come to think of it...

Lacking any real responsibility for the pets we've shared our home with over the years, I probably had a markedly different relationship with them than normal, er... goblin children do. Coupled with the fact that all of our cats, or a full two-thirds of the pets we've owned, were strays we took in and fixed up, it's always been the norm for me to have an awkward, distant coexistence with pets.

Like having a roommate who's always twitchy and nervous and might scratch you, and vomits a little too frequently on the carpet.

Even so, I came to befriend our last batch of cats a good deal.

We currently have a psychotic female tuxedo cat, but a year-and-a-half ago we also had an overweight female longhair, and a gingery, neurotic male tabby. They came to us at different times and ages and had vastly different personalities that lent themselves well to inventing bizarre voices for, as pet people are wont to do. Some of the most amusing conversations to ever go on in our house were done through the cats.

(People do that, right?)

I had an affinity for the tabby in particular. He would claw his way into my bedroom to demand obnoxious amounts of pets from me. We would bunt by headbutting at the dinner table often. I was usually the one to voice his persona. For the record, he was a clueless, blustering, but well-meaning old man from NYC's Lower-East Side who had a tendency to barge into the room to incorrectly correct someone's pronunciation of a word, make a lousy pun, or beg for ham.

My mother jokingly said he was my little brother.

He was the first one to be euthanized, in autumn of the year before last, if my memory still serves me. Conjunctivitis from scratching himself in the eye, and necrosis of the jaw tissue from us being poverty-stricken fools who didn't know enough about cat dental health to take him to the vet we couldn't afford often enough.

I wept like a family member had died. I suppose one did.

Our big, tubby, stupid sweetheart of a longhair went a few months later in the winter, due to a combination of the condition apparently known as megacolon, and--you guessed it--poor dental care.

It hurt just as much, but my eyes were drier that time. It felt like I didn't have the right to mourn, not while my mother and father were despondent and angry with guilt.

We'd made a friend in the vet who looked at both of them, though. A young, tall man, fabulously flamboyant man, who'd done everything in his impressive ability to fix our mistakes for both cats. He was saddened, but also consoled my parents for making the right choice in putting each of them down when those days came.

It was likely at his urging that the vet staff all got together to sign a card specifically designed for the occasion of dead pets. I didn't know those were a thing.

I also didn't know anything about those apparently well-known poems from the '80s and '90s about pets entering into heaven by crossing a rainbow.

The poem we got for our tabby was like any of the others, well-meaning and stomach-achingly saccharine. Our cat had apparently entered an idyllic meadow fully restored to health and happiness, among many other former pets, all waiting at the foot of the rainbow that bridges the gap between earth and the afterlife. When the owner finally dies, they're reunited for good, and make the crossing together.

Of course, being the mythology nerd that I am, I had a very different context for a poem involving a "rainbow bridge".

I immediately pictured him stepping onto the Bifröst, schmoozing his way past a bemused Heimdallr, getting lost in his wanderings through Asgard, and eventually winding up at the feet of Freyja in Fólkvangr. Sure he'd be too small to help pull her chariot, but he could tag along anyway, and the skogkatts could show him the ropes before long.

It was a comforting thing to pretend, even if it was only that.