Free at last!

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Hope everyone is enjoying some of our fine summer weather. If you happen to be out there sunning yourself (or have plans to) and are looking for a great book to set back and soak in the rays with, Lovers, God, and Eggs Benny is free July 6-7th on Amazon.

That’s right, FREE! So hurry on over before the weekend ends to scoop up your copy!

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Darwin

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When I wrote my last blog, I never realized the storm of scientific emails it would create. Stupidly, I posed the theory that gases and chemicals were stirred together after the Big Bang and two lovers were finally formed that begat the rest of us.

I’m now told that we didn’t start with just two of us. There were probably hundreds of us and we had the ability to self-procreate.

I know, it doesn‘t sound like much fun, but when was the last time you heard scientists doing stand-up comedy?

So, as I understand it, in the early days we were just amoebas, or as Wikipedia describes us … “shapeless unicellular organisms.“

So there we were bumping around, like kids in a mosh pit, and I’m guessing that we liked bumping into each other. It met a need. At this stage of evolution, we couldn’t see each other, which makes bumping that much better.

Forgive me for a second, while I go off on a tangent. Lately, I’ve been reading about the “decoy” effect. Essentially, this theory suggests that single people who are heading off to a dance, should always bring along a friend who has the same basic physical characteristics as them, but is slightly less attractive. All of us have a hard time evaluating someone else, when we can’t compare them to other people around. You’re going to get extra attention (we know what that means), when you’re an eight and your friend is a seven.

Amoebas never had to worry about the decoy effect. I suspect they liked everyone they bumped into. But as we all know, bumping is fine for a while, but we all want more.

Love. Affection. Intimacy.

They didn’t want sex with themselves. They wanted to see who they were bumping with and ultimately, they wanted to settle down and move to the suburbs (I made this part up).

Darwin proposed the theory of Natural Selection or survival of the fittest. In many ways, this makes sense. If someone else develops eyes, you’re going to need them too or you’re going to go home with the ugliest amoeba.

But in those early days, when we all just blindly cavorted around, we might have just been looking for companionship. Someone to cuddle.

Maybe Darwin had it wrong. Maybe it wasn’t survival of the fittest. Maybe it was survival of the loneliest. 

The Big Bang

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Mike is a friend of mine. He’s also one of the smartest guys I’ll ever meet. He gets bored at Mensa meetings, because the pace is too slow. For the last couple of decades, he’s been trying to create human life out of a cluster of chemicals in a test-tube.

He tells me he’s close.

I think of Mike every time I think about evolution. How did gases swirl together after the Big Bang and create you and me? If it could happen by chance, why can’t Mike simply recreate it?

Before I go into my thinking, I should pass along a warning. Harry Williams was my high school biology and chemistry teacher. In grade 12, he gave me terrible marks. I wasn’t good in science, but I wasn’t that bad so I approached him and asked him why my marks were so low.

“Peter,” he said to me. “You have many gifts, but science is not one of them. The marks I gave you are probably too low, but I just didn’t want to encourage you to go down this path.”

So I went into fiction instead.

Instead of using the scientific method, I let my mind wander and I came up with how we all began. In the beginning, there was a miracle. The gases swirled, chemicals bounced around and magically a human male was formed. At the same time, more gases mixed together with more chemicals and a wind storm blew them together and a female was formed.

Unfortunately, she was in Thailand and they never met.

Billions more years passed and miracle on miracle the gases swirled again and this time the man and the woman were plopped together on the same beach.

He saw her.

She saw him.

He was shy. They never met.

Billions more years passed. I won’t mention swirling again, but this time, it was like they were made for each other. They had no idea what to do with their body parts, but they experimented.

Just like Mike does with his test tubes.

That’s how you and I were formed. At least, that’s my theory.

I told you I was bad in science.

Plenty of Fish

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If you Google “10 famous people who married their cousins” you’ll learn that Einstein, Darwin, Bach, Rudy Giuliani, and six others totally missed out on eHarmony and Plenty of Fish.

They all fell in love the old-fashioned way – at family functions. At Thanksgiving, while the rest of us were eating turkey and cranberry sauce, they were playing footsie. At Christmas, they found themselves under the mistletoe with Uncle Nate’s daughter. I never realized that sharing a grandmother was a turn on.

When I was young, you went to a dance and looked across the floor to find the cutest girl you could find and imagined asking her to dance. Then you went home … alone.

In my Senior high school years, bolstered by liquid courage, I took those tentative first steps. Sometimes, I was lucky (slow dance). Sometimes she was “too tired.”

“God, you must be out of shape,” I felt like saying, but never did.

I missed out on Match.com, OK Cupid, LavaLife and Chemistry. I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction so I think I would have been good on these sites. Women might have crossed the floor and asked me to dance after reading my profile. With a little Photoshop and an inflated income, I might have been quite the download.

That’s my theory.

I got lucky. When I met my wife-to-be, I mumbled my name and she mistook me for a well-known rich playboy. That wasn’t the last thing she got wrong. By the time she figured out her mistake, I was in. She liked me. I made her laugh. She gave up millions for a good chuckle.

I got the last laugh.

I love hearing stories about how people met and fell in love. If you ask the guy, his version will be way too short.

“We met at a dance.”

“And …?”

“We started going out.

“Nice.”

Then you ask the wife. You suddenly hear details you never would have known … wonderful lovely stuff that he has totally forgotten.

Fifty years from now, when you ask a guy how he met his girl he’ll say – Plenty of Fish.

Just ignore him and ask her the real story.

 

Forever and ever and ever …

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If you search the internet, you’ll find various versions of a fable about infinity that goes something like this …

Imagine a rock that’s one hundred miles long, one hundred miles wide and one hundred miles deep. Then imagine a bird that flies to the rock once every thousand years to sharpen its beak. Each time, a tiny speck falls from the rock. The bird then flies away again, waiting another millennium to return. The time it takes for the rock to turn to sand is Day One of infinity.

When I was a boy, I heard this story and had two immediate thoughts.

1)      That’s one old bird;

2)      If heaven lasts for eternity, that’s a painfully long time listening to a harp.

My Mom and Dad used to listen to Tchaikovsky and he featured the harp in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. To be honest, I preferred the Beatles. If I had to listen to the harp for eternity, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go to heaven.

Many years later, I read Alice Siebold’s – The Lovely Bones – the story about a teenage girl going to heaven after being raped and murdered on earth. When she arrives in heaven, she’s greeted by the most beautiful music she’s ever heard and makes the assumption that everyone is listening to the same gorgeous sound. She’s quickly told that everyone in heaven listens to different music, but it’s the most glorious to them.

I felt better knowing the harp wasn’t destined for my playlist. But, I began thinking about hell and the music played by the devil.

This was the music your Mom warned you about – the tunes D.J.s would play backwards to prove how evil these little ditties really were.

When I thought about hell, I imagined acid rock playing night and day with the speakers turned up to 11 (thanks Spinal Tap).

That, to me, was Hell.

Funnily enough, it was heaven to someone else.

I pondered these things in my heart and realized that maybe this was the way it was supposed to be.

It always seemed a bit unfair that the good guys got to go to heaven forever and ever while the bad guys suffered in hell.

When I was in my early twenties, I visited India for a month and was dismayed by the caste system where people at the bottom rung were “untouchables.” These people handled garbage, shit and corpses. They weren’t allowed inside the temples and were prohibited from drinking from the wells used by the high castes even if they washed their hands.

This was wrong. Just wrong.

Then I thought about heaven and hell, which seemed like a caste system, but worse. The untouchables were sent to hell for as long as the bird sharpened its beak.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this can’t be. Nobody would design Hell to be this way. We must have it wrong.

The obvious solution for a lot of people is quite simple. They ponder this madness and stopped believing in Heaven, Hell or even God. The concepts we grew up with didn’t make sense to them so they dismissed everything.

I took a different path.

In my book – Lovers, God, and Eggs Benny – I imagine a different kind of Hell.

It’s not something to fear. It’s not harps playing 24 /7.

It’s something much more just.

At least to me. 

A Kinder Hell

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Many years ago, I worried that a friend of mine was going to hell. I wasn’t sure on the exact criteria that sent us one way or the other, but I knew he was going down.

I didn’t want it to happen.

I’m going to call him Tony, but he could be Paul, Jim, Ralph, or even Sam.

Tony did some awful things, but I liked him. So I checked the rules, looking for an out, an exception, a technicality. I consulted a bunch of lawyers. I read the fine print.

Nothing.

Tony was definitely going to hell.

That upset me. I wanted him with me.

In heaven.

I thought about his eternity.  

The Bible talks about a lake of fire.

Imagine that. Every day you wake up and it’s the same damn lake of fire. 

I thought about his beard. He had one of those full, rich, Zach Galifianakis type beards that seemed to grow in an afternoon. And I couldn’t help thinking that his beard was going to be hell in hell. Beards are fine in heaven, where’s there’s always a light breeze, but that wasn’t Tony’s destiny.

No, day after day, so close to the flames, it wasn’t going to be easy where he was heading.

Suddenly, I thought to myself that I had it wrong. Tony wasn’t a saint, but maybe God was more forgiving than me.  Perhaps Tony was going to heaven and I just misread the rules.

I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. But that raised more questions.

So if Tony isn’t going there … who is?

Does anyone deserve to go?

I thought about “the worst guy in the world.”  He kills millions. He hates his Mom. He kicks dogs.

This is an asshole. Way worse than Tony in my book.

So I started thinking about this guy. And I wondered.

Did he deserve hell?

So I did a poll. I got a bunch of my friends together, described this prick, and asked them if he deserved hell.

“Yes,” they all agree, clearly miffed by the dog part.

Surely, the worst guy in the world deserves hell.

But then I started wondering again.

Really?

My life has been short. My birthdays seem to flit by, faster than my candles flicker out. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty years just zipped by.  T.S. Eliot measured his life out in coffee spoons. My decades are doled out in teaspoons.  

If I ever hit the century mark, I’ll look back and wonder where the time went.

In short, we don’t live that long. Some of us much shorter than others. How can we be judged based on this Timbit of a life?

How can we send someone to hell forever and ever and ever … based on this pittance of a life?

This can’t be what God intended. We have it all wrong. Maybe God is sitting up in heaven shaking his head, wondering how we could have got hell so wrong.

And I realized. We need a kinder hell.

My book – Lovers, God , and Eggs Benny – is the journey that Simon, Tony, Kate and others travel  along … asking questions … making mistakes … breaking the rules … and finding forgiveness.

I hope it makes you think.

Peter