A review of “The City of God: Transgressions”

cityofgod_bookcover“The City of God: Transgressions” by R.S. Ingermanson

Summary: Can history be changed? Three people are about to find out.

It’s A.D. 57 when Rivka Meyers walks out of the wormhole into a world she’s only studied in books. Ancient Jerusalem is awesome! Rivka can’t believe her friend Ari Kazan’s theory actually worked. But when she runs into Ari’s whacko colleague, Damien West, in the Temple, Rivka starts to smell a rat.

When Ari discovers that Damien and Rivka have gone through a wormhole that’s on the edge of collapse, he has to make a horrible choice: Follow them and risk never coming back — or lose the woman of his dreams forever

Recommendation: Yes

Review:

I love stories about history and time travel and this book covered both points quite well. While the science portion of the book wasn’t integrated as smoothly as I would have liked, it was expressed well enough to convince me that the premise of the story was possible.

I also wasn’t enamored with Ari, who was rather narrow in his outlook and beliefs. However, I realized that if I was wondering why Ari couldn’t be a bit more liberal, then the author had done a good job of creating this character. After all, we don’t get aggravated with characters that don’t seem real to us, do we?

Overall, I was quite pleased with this story. It had a strong female lead, which I found rather refreshing. She was, in many ways, very self-sufficient, yet her surroundings were so different from what she was used to that it led her to have to rely on others. However, her reliance wasn’t as a damsel in distress, but more of someone seeking directions in a strange, new land. And it was strange and new, even though it was also part of her past.

The small moment in history that the author chose to explore was one I had never given much thought to, and I was intrigued by his examination of it. I found his projection of the possibilities that could be spawned based on how this moment played out, compelling and interesting. It was a juxtaposition of Judaism and Christianity; the point at which Christianity could become unrealized or it could become what it has…one of the leading religions in the world. Given the backgrounds and biases of his main characters, it was the perfect backdrop. Would they help or hurt the outcome of history? Would their interference (unintentional or deliberate) skew our world into one totally different from what we know, or would they only be fulfilling what history had already said had happened?

Find out for yourself. Read the book…it’s really a great way to spend a weekend.

 

 

Yes, but with a caution

ms-hsMindspeak/Heartspeak by Sandy Nathan

Summary: Dr. Clarisse Hull is a brilliant theoretical physicist living in a world of schemes and hidden peril. Her revolutionary research manages to prove the existence of alternative universes, and she uses Quantum Physics to create portals in time space, which lead to other worlds. Unfortunately, she can’t present the core of her work, which is classified as Top Secret and owned by the government, just like herself. This is because Clarisse is a secret black ops agent, and has been one all of her adult life.

Clarisse’s university doesn’t believe her claims and ends up denying her tenure and firing her. However, the denizens of the alternate reality she reached do recognize her achievement, and they grab her up faster than you can say, “lead our army and take over planet Earth.”

Now Clarisse finds herself captive in an alternative universe, desperately searching for her way home from a sadistic empire across sub-molecular frontiers. She must save herself, in order to save everyone on Earth. Along the way she will encounter breathtaking adventure and hideous betrayal, but also find the love of her life.

Recommend: Yes, but with a caveat (see review below)

Review: The writing is crisp, brilliant, and…blunt. There is nothing soft, warm, or fuzzy about Ms. Nathan’s writing or her characters, and hence, my problem. The author’s writing was well-paced, clear and easy-to-read; the topic was something I always enjoy (alternate realities and time travel are my favorites, especially when the author uses current scientific theories to create a bridge from the world of here-and-now to their world of what-if). However, the problem (for me) was that I was unable to relate to any of her characters. And they are excellently developed, well-thought out, and absolutely believable characters. But therein lies the problem.

Her characters were more prone to use violence to resolve issues, while I’m more comfortable using persuasion and dialogue. Her characters were rather cold and shut off (think Spock from Star Trek), which made it hard for me to empathize with their predicament.

I do not find this a flaw in the book, the writing, or of the author. I find this to be my issue…The characters in this book were great representations of a particular type of person; unfortunately, these are also the type of people I would probably avoid in the real world, simply because we have little to nothing in common.

So, while I do recommend this book for its excellent writing, exceptional concept, and very real characters, do be aware that these characters are not the warm and fuzzy-type of characters that most authors create. Also, understand that these characters primarily tend to use violence in dealing with their situations.

A Spider Web of ‘Ifs’

web of dew drops 4889All my life I’ve wondered about the paths not taken. What would our world be like if we’d lost the Revolutionary War? What if the Wright brothers had never invented the airplane…would someone else have done it, or would our world be stuck to the ground?

What would my personal reality be like if I had been born male instead of female? What if I hadn’t married, or had married someone else?  

The other day I was reading a book by Andre Norton (Star Gate) written in 1958, and she had a section that stated the same ideas, only much more elegantly than I could ever do:

“History is not only a collection of facts; it is a spider’s web of ‘ifs’. If Napoleon had not lost the Battle of Waterloo, if the American colonies had lost the Revolution, if the South had won the Civil War…the procession of ifs is endless, exciting the imagination and spurring endless speculation. Sometimes the all-important turning point can be compressed into a single small action—the death of one man, or a seemingly casual decision.

And if the larger history of a nation, or a world, depends upon so many change ifs, so also does the personal history of each of us. Because we are five minutes late or ten minutes early for an appointment, because we catch one bus but miss another, our life is completely changed.

There exists a fascinating theory that at least two worlds branch from every bit of destiny action. Hence, there are far-reaching bands of parallel worlds, born of many historical choices…”

But are parallel worlds only created when national or world-wide events occur, which could result in multiple responses, or are there multiple worlds based on an individual’s choices, too? And if each of us and our choices spawn parallel worlds, are those personal worlds only available to the individual who created it, or are they open to everyone?

Today scientists are not only embracing the theory of multiple worlds, but they are striving to prove that these worlds exist. Some picture the parallel worlds as layers stacked on top of each other, while others say they resemble soap bubbles with the larger bubbles (or world and national parallel worlds) linked together by smaller bubbles (the individual’s parallel worlds that we all create for ourselves).

I’m not sure what form the parallel worlds take—layers or bubbles—but I do find it interesting that what writers have posited for and written about for decades is now suddenly becoming a “reality”…at least in this world.

I see you…

Can people really view objects, locations, and people from a distance (remote viewing), or allow part of themselves to travel away from their body to some other place (out of body experiences)? The American and Russian governments believe so (Stargate was a real project within the US military and it was geared toward finding, training, and using people with these talents). And now, finally, the scientists are coming around to believing this, too.

Studies of the mind have identified a particular region of the brain associated with spatial recognition. In other words, there is a part of your brain that helps you fix yourself within a specific time and space; it keeps you within a specific reality. However, some people have the ability to control that aspect of their brain, to turn it off and on at will.

With it turned off, a person is no longer situated just where their body is. Instead, a part of them (let’s call it their awareness) is able to expand outward to any given coordinates whether on Earth or in space. These people have given accurate reports as to what they saw, heard, and experienced, yet their bodies never left the researcher’s sight. A rare few of these “travelers” or “viewers” have even been able to sense emotions of those in the target area, and some have reported being able to actually touch people and things in the target area (confirmed by contacting the target people who said they felt a push or hug during the experiment).

These studies have used MRI’s and brain scans during the travel and viewing experiments, which have shown the parts of the brains that were triggered. Each time the participant claimed to have launched themselves free of their bodies, the spatial recognition area of their brains has been shut down, and it didn’t come back on until the participants were “back”. During their travels, various other portions of the mind triggered, such as the visual cortex, even though the physical body had its eyes closed. All of which, the scientists claim shows that something real is happening and that while the body remains fixed in place, the mind (and perhaps more than the mind) has traveled somewhere else.

However, other scientists have shown that the brain can be fooled. By having the participants wear virtual reality goggles, these scientists have shown that substitute bodies (such as mannequins) can be used to fool the participants into believing what they’re not really experiencing. Scientists have positioned mannequins or other false body parts (arms or legs) in such a way that when the participants with the goggles see them being poked or swatted, they reach for their own stomach, arm, leg or body area and state that they felt the swat, poke, or prod. Yet, the scientists never touched the actual participant.

But fooling the brain into thinking that another [fake] body is your own body isn’t the same as actually describing a location across the globe that you’ve never been to. We all know that the brain is not infallible. It’s only as good as the input it receives. If presented with a perspective that the brain cannot quite understand, the brain will supply answers based on past experience and current input. That may not be accurate, but it’s the only data the brain has, so that’s what it goes with.

Unfortunately, this does affect the results of any remote viewing or out of body experience. What you see when you “travel” may not be something you can easily comprehend, it may not be visually clear (almost everyone who remote views or who steps out of body, claims that their vision becomes foggy or cloudy—maybe because we’re no longer using our physical eyes and senses to see a physical world), and it has to travel through our own personal filters (prejudices and beliefs). Therefore, while I believe it’s possible, it’s also not always easy to explain or quantify. It’s like everything else in this world…uniquely personal and individually distinctive.

Because I was told to…

Would you do it? Would you push the button to give someone a shock just because a [supposed] doctor told you it would do no harm even though you felt it was wrong?

The TV show, Curiosity asked that same question, and then went on to illustrate their results. The originator of the question, though, was Stanley Milgram of the Stanley Milgram experiment back in the 1960’s. The Milgram experiment asks the question, “How willing are you to obey an authority figure who has instructed you to perform acts that conflict with your personal conscience?”

The answer may surprise you. I know it did me when I saw the outcome on Curiosity.

Here’s the set up: You and the “student” (usually someone in on the experiment) are instructed by the “doctor” (who is also in on things) as to how the process works. The “student” is placed in a sealed room with electrodes attached to them, while you (the teacher) are to give them word pairs to memorize via voice communications only. If, when you ask them to recite the pairings back to you, they get any of the pairings wrong, you give the “student” shocks of increasing voltage. Also, you’ve been informed (usually by the “student” when you met them) that the student has a slight heart condition, but the “doctor” assures everyone that this shouldn’t matter.

Here’s the reality: everyone except those acting as “teachers” is in on the “experiment”. No one is actually connected to any electrodes, so no one is being zapped; no one has a heart condition; and no one is actually learning any word pairings.

So, would you be willing to zap someone, increasing the voltage each time, if they didn’t get what you were “teaching” them? Most people when asked say they wouldn’t do it, and they give all kinds of reasons—it’s inhumane, it’s wrong, pain doesn’t help you learn. Even I shook my head once the host of the TV show explained what was going on, and said, “No way would I participate in something like that!” Yet, of the 10 people pegged as teachers (the only people who really had no clue that it was a set up and that no one was actually being zapped or having to learn word pairings), only 1 person refused to participate and walked out after hearing what it was they were expected to do. Of the remaining 9, they all balked once the voltage got to about the mid-point. However, once the “doctor” assured them that the “student” was fine (despite the yelps and screams of pain they heard coming from the “student”, pleas to quit, and reminders of the heart issues), all 9 continued through to the end of the experiment.

The producers of Curiosity even changed up the experiment a bit and added 2 “teachers”, one who was in on the experiment and one who wasn’t. With the added consensus of the second “teacher” backing them, almost all of the “teachers” (7 out of 10) refused to continue the experiment beyond the mid-point despite the “doctor’s” insistence that the “student” would be fine, that no harm would occur, and that the experiment needed to be completed for the results to be of value.

So, what does that mean? It means that when confronted with authority, most of us are willing to concede responsibility to that authority. As long as the authority figure seems knowledgeable and non-threatening (to us), most of us are willing to follow whatever orders we’re given despite what our conscience is telling us. In fact, we’re so willing to offload our responsibility that most of us don’t even feel guilty or very upset by continuing the experiment.

However, when someone else shows that they also question the edicts of the authority figure, we’re more likely to listen to ourselves and our conscience, and take on the responsibility of our actions—we may continue the actions, but we feel guilty and upset, or we may start questioning openly that authoritarian’s edicts.

It’s interesting that for most of us, balking against authority takes acceptance by at least one other person. I’m not necessarily an anarchist, but I would certainly hope that I’m not such a sheep that I would willingly zap someone just because someone (whom I don’t know from Adam) says it’s okay. That’s what I hope; what choice I’d actually make…I don’t know.

How ‘bout you? Would you zap someone? Would you continue to zap someone just because you were told it was okay?

Make your own reality…

We just watched a move called “The Quantum Activist” starring Amit Gotswami, a theoretical nuclear physicist and member of The University of Oregon Institute for Theoretical Physics since 1968. It was supposed to build off of the movie “What the Bleep”, but instead it left us confused and frustrated.

Supposedly, Amit was trying to use quantum physics to prove that a god exists. But he took so long to get where he was going, what with side trips, walks along the beach, and an occasional crash over the side of the cliffs, that if he made his point it was lost in the wreckage.

What I did note, was that amidst his ramblings he was basically reiterating the same material as in the Message from Michael books – only those books said it much more clearly and succinctly.

During the ramblings of the movie, Amit tried to point out that the phrase “…create your own reality…” didn’t mean that we, as humans, had the ability to change or control our lives, but that the possibilities were subject to a god, followed by our soul’s desires, then by ego. His “proof” of this was the fact that just because you wanted a new car, sitting and meditating on that want wouldn’t make it so. Yet, if the universe (god) and your soul wanted it to happen, then it just would.

I say that that is only part of it. There’s also choice. After all, sitting and meditating on getting a new car is one choice, and he’s right, most times that’s not enough to make it happen. But, you could buy a new car, trade for a new car, borrow money to get one, get a job so you could afford one, try to win one in a contest, steal one, or marry someone who has a new car.

So, you have choices, which means you have many ways to achieve what you want from life, you merely have to grab different opportunities until you find the one or ones that work for you. It’s not just up to the “universe” (or god) to provide us with what we want or what is “best” for us, but it’s up to each of us, too, to mold and create our own realities to be the way we want them to.

We have the power to choose what we will be, where we will go, and how we will get there. So, grab an opportunity and start making some choices, it’s up to you to make your reality what you want it to be.

Who are you…really

With all the CSI programs on TV, I’ve started wondering what people would say about me if some investigator came around and began asking questions. How would they describe me or my relationship with them. Would I be perceived as helpful, bitchy, sweet, reclusive, friendly, gabby, close-mouthed, bossy, wimpy, inept, fastidious, unorganized, klutzy, shy, outgoing? What?

Sometimes I wonder what other people see when they see me or speak to me. After all, they’re only seeing the part of me I’m letting them see. And most of them have no idea what has gone on in my life just prior to their seeing or speaking with me. Maybe our conversation is a one-time occurrence, so they think I’m always bitchy or grumpy because they don’t know that perhaps my car just broke down, I lost my job, and my dog recently died. Or maybe they think I’m rather empty-headed because my answers are slow and not always coherent, but again, they have no way of knowing that I may have been up all night, or might have taken a strong pain reliever for an aching back or severe sinus attack. All they know is what they can observe and hear, and that may leave them shaking their heads in bewilderment.

Perhaps they heard from someone else that I’m the foremost expert on herbal medicine in the area, but the day they contact me I can’t seem to concentrate on what they’re asking me, let alone give them a coherent answer. All they’re going to think is that I must indulge in some pretty funky herbs.

What about the people we only see at work? What do they know about us? If you like your job, then they might see you as fun, happy, ready to share a laugh, a steady worker who’s good at their job. What if you don’t like your job, though? Then what type of person do they see?

So the perception someone has of you depends on what aspects they see of you, and what discernment they glean from that interaction. Because not only do you control what others see and experience in regards to yourself, but so do they. After all, you might be having a great day, feeling very expansive and helpful, but the person you’re with is having a horrible day and so they prefer to take everything you say and do as an insult, so they presume that you are smart-alecky or rude.

Therefore, if asked by an investigator what you were like, they might say that you got what deserved, because you were always rude and smart-mouthed. And who’s to dispute them? They’re not really lying, because it is, after all, only their perception of you, isn’t it? As one-sided as it may be, it’s still accurate, that is if everyone takes into account the person giving the opinion and the circumstances under which they formed that opinion.

Now, while the first part of that is usually noted (the who), the second part (the circumstances) isn’t. So, you’re stuck with the one-sided view of you that they have given to the investigator. (Of course, being dead, you probably don’t care.;-)

When you think about it though, most people really only know one or two facets of anyone else (excluding spouses and children—although in some cases, people have been shown to know little or nothing about their own spouses and children). “Ahhh,” you’re thinking, “but I’ve known Tommy Jones for years, even decades. In fact we grew up in the same neighborhood.”

Of course that helps, but unless you were best friends, or even better—living together—then I’d guess your true knowledge of Tommy Jones is still pretty incomplete. After all, you probably interacted on a limited basis—shared some classes in school, maybe were on the same sports teams (little league, track, whatever), or maybe you hung out together for awhile. And while that means that you probably saw Tommy from several angles, there are still a lot of sides to Tommy Jones that you have never guessed existed.

Don’t we all keep parts of ourselves hidden? Not necessarily because these parts are bad or “evil”, but because we fear being ridiculed, being thought that we’re not “normal” (whatever that may be). Think about it. If you’ve spent most of your life making sure that everyone perceives you as being extremely cautious and caring about your health—always exercising and eating balanced meals—would you want them to know that secretly you love to veg out on the couch in front of the TV and drink beer? Of course not, because it might ruin your “image”, the perception you have worked so hard at cultivating with them.

Perhaps you enjoy the fact that most of the people you know see you as an intellectual—always reading thick tomes, attending lectures, and when you deign to watch TV it’s only those more esoteric programs on the Discovery or History channels. So what would people think if they found out that you secretly owned and often watched the complete DVD set of the 3 Stooges?

Most of us hide facets of ourselves from others because we want to fit in with some particular part of society or group, but the trouble is when we start hiding facets of ourselves from others, we soon begin hiding things from ourselves, too. Then we begin telling ourselves lies to help us cover up these facets of ourselves that we no longer want to remember exist. We’ll tell ourselves that we love the opera, because all our friends love the opera, but secretly we know we’d rather be at a rock concert. Or we tell ourselves that we really are enjoying the lecture on Ignatius rocks, but we can feel a tug deep inside. If we were to investigate that tug, we’d find that it’s the hidden part of us wanting to come back out, the part of us that says “What I’d really rather be doing is knitting.”

We get so good at ignoring those tugs and pangs, though, that after awhile we don’t even notice them anymore. Soon we believe the perception of ourselves that we have created and are presenting to everyone else and we think of it as the real us. In fact, we believe in it so much that when it implodes and we find ourselves suddenly chucking our jobs on Wall Street (or wherever) to become pottery makers or piano tuners we and everyone else we know is absolutely flabbergasted. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, we’d see that that aspect of ourselves was always there, we simply kept it hidden—from others and ourself.

Of course, some never do release those hidden aspects of themselves. Instead, they manage to keep that skewed perspective of themselves, the false face, in place their whole life. But most of us will eventually have to face up to the truth—whatever that may be. Because eventually we’re going to find out what other people really think of us, what their perceptions of us are. And eventually we’re going to see all the hidden aspects of ourselves and realize that our own perspective of us was just as skewed as everyone else’s.

So, what would the people around me tell investigators if I died unexpectedly? I’m not sure, but I know I’d be surprised if, by some chance, I could hear them. Because I’m sure that whatever facets I think I’m showing to the world are not necessarily the ones that the world is really seeing.