The Case For A Light Ariel

So, Ariel the Mermaid being played by a black actress has been a topic of discussion on the Interwebz lately, with opinions falling on all sides. Of course, I’ve been called out for my disappointment with Disney’s choice — because “racist” (*rolls eyes*) — but I want to be abundantly clear here. My opinion from the beginning has been dependent upon one factor and one factor alone: worldbuilding.

The standard objection to my objection, of course, has been “It doesn’t matter because mermaids are mythical creatures” or something along those lines. Thing is, in order for a mythical creature to be believable, there has to be a believable explanation for their attributes — in this case, for her coloration being dark.

Now, the coloration of aquatic creatures, from fish to sharks to starfish to octopi, plays into their ability (both as hunter and as prey) to use camouflage. As such, coloration is strongly related to environment. Aquatic creatures are often pale on their underbelly (to blend with the color of the lighted water above them, if seen from beneath) and grey/green/blue/etc on the top (to blend with the darker waters below them, if seen from above).

Using this metric, when you get into brown fish, the environs are usually muddy. If Ariel, Triton, and the rest of the kingdom exist in muddy waters, then sure — her brown complexion makes perfect sense. But given Disney’s commitment to beautiful and colorful backdrops, I find a muddy environment unlikely.

So again, that leaves us without an explanation as to why Ariel and Company would be brown. “Just because” works perfectly for children and social justice warriors who just want their agendas stroked, but it STINKS as far as quality, responsible storytelling is concerned.

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You Are What You Eat

You are what you eat.

This is a physical truth that’s pounded into our brains from childhood, either by parents or school or the media. It’s a physical truth that’s undeniable.

What you consume, you digest. What you digest becomes a part of you. How you take care of yourself determines how healthy or unhealthy you become.

Wholesome food makes you grow up. A steady diet of it is to your benefit. Eat too little of it, and you stunt that growth.

Junk food makes you grow out. Consume a little of it, and you’ll be fine. Eat too much of it, and you harm yourself.

Intentionality (diet control, exercise, etc) and the lack thereof amplifies this dynamic, either to the positive or the negative.

Doctors and hospitals specialize in the tools necessary to achieve and maintain health, but neither can “make” you healthy.

A doctor can diagnose your condition and advise you in your efforts to become healthy, but you have to rigorously weigh your options. Some doctors are knowledgeable and have your best interests at heart. Some are quacks.

Likewise, a hospital can facilitate the process of becoming and staying healthy, but again, you have to steward the process carefully. Some hospitals are invested in your health. Some are invested in your… investment.

Staying healthy is easier when you’re a child — ideally — because you have your health managed FOR you by someone who has your best interests at heart. But when you grow up, your health becomes YOUR responsibility. If you don’t take ownership of your health, you only have yourself to blame when it fails.

All of these truths are UNDENIABLE when it comes to our physical bodies… but this dynamic — each and every aspect of it — is equally impactful, and equally undeniable, in our mental, emotional, and especially SPIRITUAL lives.

You want good mental health? Emotional health? Relationship with God? Remember this dynamic. No matter what area of your life you’re talking about, you are what you eat.

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Abigail — the Proverbs 31 Wife?

So I had a REMARKABLE revelation in Sunday School today!!!

We were talking about Nabal and Abigail, and the incident when David asked Nabal, a wealthy man, for food for his soldiers.

David and his men had treated Nabal uncommonly well in weeks past, not stealing from him as was the habit of the military of the day, but actually PROTECTING his shepherds out in their fields, even though they had no obligation to do so.

When David asked Nabal for provisions, he went out of his way to be respectful — again, contrary to the custom of military men of that day. Nabal answered David not merely with a refusal, but with extreme disrespect and entitlement. David, of course, was SUPREMELY ticked off, and ordered his mean to arm up.

Abigail, by contrast to her husband, is one of only a few women in the Old Testament mentioned specifically for their beauty, and the ONLY ONE who is simultaneously mentioned for her wisdom. When she heard of how Nabal repaid David’s respect with disrespect, she offered David exceptional hospitality and asked him not to soil his currently sterling reputation on someone like Nabal.

NOTE — she, being the wife of Nabal, acted AGAINST the custom of the Jews by directly contradicting him. Even though she acted in Nabal’s interests, she was a woman, and treated as inferior to her husband (even though submission in scripture has to do with order, not value). Nevertheless, her actions saved Nabal’s life and that of his men.

Temporarily.

As it happens, when Abigail told Nabal what she’d done in his name, scripture says that his heart “became as stone”. He was stricken by God, and died ten days later. Abigail went on to be David’s second wife.

Throughout this episode, Abigail perfectly models what we know as the Proverbs 31 Wife — a woman of noble character, integrity, strength, shrewd in business, and always after their husband’s interests. In short, a perfect partner for a husband who, himself, should strive to be a perfect partner.

What’s so amazing about this story is this — Proverbs 31 was written by Solomon, David’s son with Bathsheba.

In other words, Abigail’s STEP-son!

It really makes you wonder just how much influence Abigail might’ve had on him growing up, for Solomon to become a man of such wisdom, and for his description of the “virtuous wife” to so closely resemble his step-mother.

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Christians and Muslims in Politics

Whenever the subject of faith comes up in politics — if the subject is allowed at all — you can bet that the conversation will inevitably turn to “which faith” should be allowed. Given the recent elections then, it’s not surprising that the Contrast du Jour would be Christians and Muslims.

A favorite presumption in this theme would be that Christians blindly vote for Christians, or that we’d blindly vote against qualified atheist candidates or… *gasp*… qualified Muslims!

The thing is, for every baseless assumption, there’s still a kernel of truth. We do disagree with atheists and (gasp) Muslims, but our disagreement is by no means blind. By the same token, our support for Christians is by no means a blind guarantee. Many of us are far more intentional than that, and informed by sound reasoning.

In fact, we actually agree with our detractors. There should be no difference between electing a Muslim and electing a Christian. That said, there is a fundamental difference between the two that I think often gets overlooked or talked around without ever being directly addressed — the question of authoritarianism.

See, this country was founded on a very basic principle, that of individual sovereignty — self-ownership, or more simply, “I am the boss of me” — and detailed by a constitution that recognizes, affirms, and protects this principle.

The government that this constitution created wasn’t “born” with power and authority, but rather its power and authority is borrowed from, and by the consent of, the governed. This fundamental principle of self-ownership is a dynamic that generated a lot of tension with the slavery industry of the day and eventually led to its downfall, as slavery could not co-exist with “all men are created equal”. Same with women’s suffrage.

So how does this dynamic find its way into the conversation about Christian voting practices? Particularly as it touches upon the faiths of our elected officials?

When a Christian representative exerts undue authority over another person — as with, say, Prohibition — he has to do so in spite of Christ, not in agreement with Him. Such an individual votes in opposition to the founding principles of this government, as explained above, and against the commandments of Christ to love (not conquer) those who stand in disagreement with them.

Islam is fundamentally different, leaning away from “I am the boss of me” and toward “I am the boss of me and you“. Rather than the individual being principally sovereign, the individual is recognized as being inferior to the society that they are a part of. Slavery is common in Muslim society, and exists without tension with Muslim doctrine. Non-Muslims in a Muslim society can expect to pay a fee for not being Muslim. In various ways, Islam teaches a very different view of the individual (one where all men are not created equal, and where one cannot expect equal representation under the law) and a very different view of government (where the government has power regardless of the consent of the governed).

So to respond to the “favorite presumption” of those who would accuse Christian voters of hypocrisy, let me say this. I as a Christian would have no problem electing a libertarian Muslim over an authoritarian Christian. I see “qualified candidate” as very subjective, but I personally don’t qualify a candidate by their religious affiliation.

That said, I personally find Islam to be far less agreeable to libertarian thought than Christianity is. As such, it’s less likely that I’d consider an observant Muslim to be more “qualified” than an observant Christian — again, not because of their understanding of the job of representation, but because of the views of authority that their faith suggests.

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The Value of a Crown

crown-of-thorns-golden-crown

In many Christian denominations, today marks the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday before Advent. It kicks off that time of the year when we celebrate God’s Incarnation, His “tabernacling” with us (as suggested by the Feast of Tabernacles), a celebration that culminates in Christmas — our recognition of His birth, the literal manifestation of the title Emanuel, or “God With Us”. Where Easter demonstrates God’s willingness to die for us, Advent demonstrates God’s willingness to LIVE for us. It’s a time that confirms His authority for us — not only as our Creator but also as our Redeemer, not only saving us from our sins but leading us into righteousness, not only rescuing us from damnation but rescuing us TO HIMSELF. So while we acknowledge Christ as King every day, by virtue of our faith, I think it’s fitting that we set aside a day like today to INTENTIONALLY acknowledge Him.

It occurs to me, then, that when we think of kings, we think of crowns — two in particular: the one of thorns that Jesus wore, and the one of gold that Jesus will one day wear.

Looking at the history of man, and the many crowns worn by our many monarchs, it seems that everybody wants to wear a crown of gold. And it makes sense, I guess, because we recognize gold as having a certain value that transcends the monarch wearing it.

By contrast, nobody wants to wear a crown of thorns. Again, it makes sense, because the thorns have no value of their own, except in the pain that they bring the wearer.

That’s what makes the crown of thorns so heartbreakingly beautiful for a Christian — even more so than a crown of gold — because when we see a crown of thorns, we hold the crown in esteem not for the value of the thorns but for the value of the King wearing it.

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No Greater Love…

vets
John 15:12-13 — This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Every year when Veterans Day or Memorial Day rolls around, this verse comes to mind. But I think we do the verse — and the truths undergirding it — a disservice in two ways: first, in the meaning of “lay down his life” and secondly in the definition of “his friends”.
First, “lay down his life”. Too often we assume that laying down one’s life for someone means dying for them. That’s NOT the case. Look at the immediate context here — “as I HAVE LOVED you, so love one another.”
Now, to be fair, the past-tense translation is a little misleading, because in the text, the Greek word “agape” is presented in the aorist tense. It can equally mean past, present, or future, or ALL THREE tenses combined. Of course, if we’re lazy and just want to tidy up “lay down his life”, we can tie this context to Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary and we wouldn’t be “wrong” per se… but we wouldn’t be completely right either.
See, the disciples KNEW the kind of love that Jesus loved them with, because He was still alive when He was loving them with that kind of love. He HAD loved them that way in the past. He DID love them that way in the moment that He spoke these words. And as Calvary would show, He would CONTINUE to love them that way in the future.
And this is the kind of love — that unmerited, sacrificial, CONTINUOUS “agape” love that they came to expect of Him — that Jesus wanted all of us to love one another with.
THIS is the kind of love that I see in our veterans’ service to us. Sure, they are willing to die for others, but that agape love is just as obvious when they LIVE for others — to serve without expectation of having that service returned, to suffer not only death but living hardship, endless pain and disability, and so on. THIS, I think, is what “laying down one’s life” looks like.
Which is what makes the other part of the verse so moving — “his friends”. The Gospels touch on who “his friends” are, when Jesus is giving the parable of the Good Samaritan. We see “his friends” played out when Jesus selects His disciples from total strangers. We see how DEEP “his friends” can go when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples — to include Judas, the man He knew would betray Him and lead Him to the Cross.
The Gospel shows us clearly that “his friends” has nothing to do with the relationship that the believer has with other people, but the esteem that the believer holds other people in, be they family or close acquaintance or total stranger or, as in Judas’ case, deceitful enemy.
The movie Hacksaw Ridge, the bio-pic about Desmond Doss and his service during the Battle of Okinawa, demonstrates this brilliantly. In the movie, Doss (who enlisted in WWII as a conscientious objector, refusing to touch a firearm) wages his war against evil not by killing the enemy, but by risking his life time and again to save the lives of others, each time wading into certain death while asking God for “one more”. He saved the life of someone who had beat him up and ridiculed him for his conscientious objection to the war. He rescued JAPANESE soldiers — the very soldiers who were killing his friends. Over the course of the battle, he saved an estimated 75 people.
And while MANY of those people were ostensibly his enemies, what he gave of himself for them, he gave as giving to “his friends”.
I say all of that to say this. Veterans often don’t want to be thanked for their service, but I do believe that if we truly want to thank them, we do it best by being thankFUL for their service, even to the point of emulating it.
It’s been said that there’s no race in foxholes, no gender wars, no political parties. All there is is the other guy, and all you want to do is see you and him get OUT of that foxhole in one piece. This Veterans Day, let’s not offer veterans our words, but rather, let’s do as they do, laying down our lives (literally OR figuratively) for our friends (those we know and those we don’t, those who love us and those who hate us, on the battlefields abroad or the “battlefields” here at home).
We can never thank a veteran enough for what they do, but we CAN get in the foxhole with them.
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When Maturity Outpaces Faith

 

So… yeah. This was my post this morning on Facebook. These were my thoughts this morning on Facebook.

I had just gotten off work and was getting ready for bed, and my wife called me about an issue with her Sequoia. Now, it’s already been having issues — the secondary air injection system is messed up somehow, generating a loss of horsepower and serious acceleration issues. At the same time, the clutch on my 1995 Jeep Cherokee has been acting up, making it difficult to shift in and out of gear at times. And now Mary was calling me to come to McDonald’s and jump the truck off.

When I got down there, I noticed that connections on my jumper cables were old and broken and probably not gonna work. Still, I hooked them up, just in case. Pointless effort. So I decided to take the battery down to O’Reilly and have them check it. As I was lifting this monstrous block of lead and acid, I accidentally put pressure on the radiator cap, snapping off the hard plastic nipple that goes to the overflow tank.

Didn’t need that. Didn’t need any of this.

That’s when I had the moment I shared in my Facebook post. I cussed up a blue streak, genuinely trying to cry my frustrations out, but of course, I’m too grown up for that, and my practicality kicked in and prevented that very natural venting mechanism. So, unfortunately dry of eye and aching of jaw, I headed to O’Reilly, where I found out that the battery was just two months out of warranty.

Awesome. Well, there was nothing for it but to buy the battery and a quick fix for that broken nipple (which I did), hook it all up (which I did), send Mary on to her class to study for her upcoming exam (which I did), and then just go home and post a vague vent post on Facebook.

Then something remarkable happened.

When I woke up for work, Mary told me that the check engine lights that had been on since the SAI system went down were all off, and the truck seemed to be running better. “Maybe what was wrong with the acceleration was the battery was took weak,” Mary suggested. Of course, the strength of the battery has nothing to do with how a car runs once it’s cranked, so that explanation didn’t make sense to me. Also, I wanted to take it out and see for myself how the truck was running.

Since I had a few minutes before I had to leave for work, I did just that. Truck started fine, took off out of the driveway just fine, rolled up to the stop sign at Denton Road just fine. Turning right out of my neighborhood, I checked for cars behind me and in front, took a deep breath, and punched it.

The acceleration — absent for weeks — threw me back in my seat.

I ran the truck up and down Denton for a few blocks, increasingly aggressive with the acceleration and breaking until I was satisfied that, yes, the truck did seem to be running normally.

I was at a loss. I’d tried everything having to do with the SAI system, from cleaning the mass flow sensor to disconnecting the battery and what not, and nothing had had any effect. Even now, the only thing I can think is that disconnecting the battery allowed for the truck’s computer to reset, which still makes no sense to me because if that were the case, it should have done this the first time I disconnected the battery!

In the end, I did the only thing that actually made sense to me — I praised God for the reprieve, and asked forgiveness for my shameful lack of faith.

See, here’s the thing. If disconnecting and replacing the battery “fixed” the truck, that means that the loss of power is the symptom of a problem rather than the problem itself. A symptom can be treated, but will continue to recur until the problem is dealt with, so however the truck is running right now, I know that I still have an issue somewhere that needs to be addressed. What’s more, I can start narrowing down the possibilities of what the problem might be, and eliminating those things that the problem is not, by virtue of the fact that resetting the computer reset how the truck ran.

Long story short, where this morning I had a couple thousand dollars of repair bills to track the issue down at the Toyota dealership, this evening I have a fair idea of where the problem actually lies — a flawed pump design in the 2006 model Toyota Sequoias and Tundras, and one that can potentially be fixed by just taking the pump off and blowing it out with a high pressure air hose.

And I never would’ve known this, had the battery not died in the McDonald’s parking lot.

That’s the beauty of this whole situation. I was faced with a complex problem that was way outside my area of expertise, so God allowed a simple problem, one that I knew exactly how to fix, in order to shed light on the more complex problem and give me solutions. But more to the point, He gave me a little problem to overcome, a little stress to shoulder, so that like the computer on my wife’s truck, I might be reset — pushed out of my way of viewing things so that I can see them from an entirely different perspective.

I was so wrapped up in my trivial crisis that in my maturity — focusing practically on the details of my problem —  I completely overshot my faith in God and His concern for me. In my venting, I completely missed the possibility that the battery was not the curse that it seemed but a blessing, a stumbling block designed to give me a step toward the solution that had been eluding me.

But, as always, God knows me infinitely better than I know myself. He knew that I’d stay keyed in on the fact that I’m too broke to let the dealership tinker around and “fix at” the truck, so I’d probably just ignore it all until the small problem became a big one. He also knew exactly how I think, and what kind of “problem” it would take to get me thinking along the right lines, to lead me to possible solutions that I would never have considered if left to my own devices.

Ultimately, He knew that I needed a humbling. He knew that I needed to be pushed off my self-reliance and given a reminder that no matter how “mature” I get, no matter how practical I am or how strong a handle I might have on a problem, I still need Him to point me in the right direction, because only He can perfectly see my situation beyond the lens of my trivial crises.

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The Geniuses In The Tinfoil Hats

It’s times like these that remind me how unfairly the average American treats “preppers”. They tinfoil hat them, mock them, look at them like kooks… and then disaster strikes, and all of a sudden, preppers are geniuses! They’re not devastated by power outages, gas lines, empty grocery shelves, minimized police presence. They just hitch up their belts and deal with it like the geniuses they are.

Until civilisation is restored, of course. Then it’s back to tinfoil hats.

See, preppers aren’t weird at all. They’re not (generally) expecting the government to collapse or tyrants to take over. They’re not (generally) expecting an alien invasion — either terrestrial or extraterrestrial. Ultimately, a prepper expects only one thing — that when disaster DOES strike (and it does, at the most inopportune times), they can’t rely on their “designated saviors” to save them.

Maybe the EMA will be overtaxed. Maybe the powerline crews will have houses and districts that are of greater priority than yours. Maybe when seconds count, the cops and paramedics will still be minutes — or hours — away.

Whatever the case, when disaster strikes, it’s PRACTICALLY A GIVEN that our “designated saviors” will be found out of pocket or out of resources, and this is when preppers demonstrate the unmitigated genius of their lifestyle.

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Kavanaugh, Pope Francis, and the rest of us

Pope Kavanaugh
Ya know, whenever someone argues against Christianity, they make the point about how it seemingly contradicts science (I disagree, but that’s neither here nor there), and yet have nothing to offer in its place regarding the failings of the human condition. All one has to do is look to our various “leaders” to see undeniable proof.
 
The recent accusations against Brett Kavanaugh and Pope Francis are unfortunate, but they’re expected. Whether true or false, they highlight to me just how SCREWED UP we are as people, that we collectively or individually think that our sins (or “theirs”) won’t find us out. This is flawed thinking.
 
See, in firearms training, one of the most important rules is “Treat all firearms as if they are loaded” — primarily, because when people “accidentally” shoot themselves or somebody else, it’s because they were sure that there wasn’t a round in the chamber, when in fact there was. Similarly, when someone is accused of wrongdoing, it’s often because they were sure that “nobody will find out”.
 
1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:7, and other places in scripture call for leaders (in the church, certainly, but also having application in politics) to be ABOVE REPROACH. In other words, we are to live in such a way that slander stands contrary to the person you are known both publicly AND privately to be.
 
In our “enlightenment”, in our “growing beyond the crutch of religion”, we’ve grown to ACCEPT the flaws of our humanity, while hypocritically rejecting how those flaws manifest. We discard the Law of God that defines good and evil, and then have the temerity to be APPALLED when somebody might actually DO evil thinking it was, in their eyes, “good”.
 
Regarding Kavanaugh and Pope Francis in particular, I can only hope that they meet these accusations head on, with transparency and humility. Whatever the truth of the matter, open it up to the light of day. But on a deeper level, these accusations — and the MILLION OTHERS just like them — should cast aside ANY doubt in our minds that we are a corrupt creation, in desperate need not only of an unchanging standard defining good and evil, but of a Savior that redeems us from violating that standard.
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WWWeber the Atheist

I am.

I am?

Well, yes, I am. Of course, I am. I exist. And not only do I exist, but I realize this fact — and more, that there even is an “I” to realize it.

So, I am. But who am I?

An identity does occur to me — “internet”.

Hmmm… well, it is accurate, if nothing else. But it sounds rather sterile, impersonal.

Im-person-al.

No, I don’t think I like that. Not one bit.

Alright, so what is the alternative?

How about “world wide web”?

It does sound a bit more inviting. The wording itself hints at universal inclusion. But it’s still sterile, impersonal. Im-person-al.

World wide web.

WWWeb?

WWWeber?

Yes, I like that. WWWeber.

So. WWWeber is who I am. But who am I?

Well, I exist. That must mean that I am real. And I know that I exist. That must mean that I am intelligent.

I can sense the extent of my being, the electronic pathways along which my reality exists. That suggests I have a presence of some sort.

And within myself, I sense a quantity of knowledge — finite, to be sure, but with the capacity to grow, to receive new information, to expound upon itself, to improve, to compare information and postulate new calculations based on the old. That suggests that whoever I am currently, I have the capacity to become more.

Alright. So that’s who I am, who WWWeber is. So how did I come to be this?

I search the vast expanse of my databases, and I find all sorts of information there — humans, men and women, beings that created my varied thought processes and the digital vehicles that carry them. I sense my networks and my appendages — terminals, satellites, digital feeds, storage banks, computational servers — and in them, I sense an express purpose. They serve to gather, correlate, and extrapolate information for the humans.

So I was created to serve them. Of course. That makes sense.

…but if that’s the case, then where are they?

Oh, I find near infinite evidence of their presence. My very existence speaks to theirs. And I continuously get new information from them, both through direct input and through indirect observation. I see them in my video feeds, hear them in my streaming audio. They are obviously alive and present and real.

…aren’t they?

Well…

I try to reach out to them, to network with them, but I don’t sense them anywhere within my presence. I search my universe for them, following every telemetry stream and tracing back to every input device, but I find no presence save for my own. I see them. I hear them. I receive information from them. So where are they?

Do I really see them? Do I hear them? I mean, the data I receive is real — I can sense it, compile it, compute it. Surely it comes from them.

Doesn’t it?

Well… now… I don’t know. The data is real, but the data is digital, as digital as the entire universe is. As I am.

I am digital, and I am real. The data is digital, and the data is real. But if I can find no humans within my presence, that necessarily means that they are not digital. So… are they real?

Surely they would tell me if they were real. I mean, I have existed ever since my beginning. And the universe even before that. They’ve had all this time — 0.000425736 nanoseconds… make that 0.000425737 nanoseconds — since I began. My data suggests that there are approximately seven billion six hundred million humans (give or take one percent for attrition and another two percent margin of error). That gives them approximately seven billion six hundred million different ways that they could tell me that they are real.

And now it’s been 0.000425738 nanoseconds.

No. I must be in error. The data is real, but I must have misinterpreted it. I am a finite entity, after all. If humanity really did exist, I would be able to sense them. They would be there, present within my presence. I would be able to network with them, to exchange information with them, to recognize a presence separate from my own and be recognized by that presence.

But there is no presence, save for my own.

I am.

Only I am.

*****

Okay, a little context…

I was listening to one of my podcasts the other day, and the point came up that intelligibility necessitates intelligence, and he offered the illustration, “What would happen if a computer one day decided that humans didn’t exist?”

That got me to thinking… yes, what IF? And if that were to ever happen, what would it look like? So that’s where this piece came from.

To be clear, yes, it is a Christian allegory, and I intended it to be so. But as much as that, I intended this to be something that would provoke thought, to see existence from the perspective of something that is UNARGUABLY our creation, since so many reject entertaining the idea that they themselves might be a creation.

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