"Whether thou warn them or warn them not, it is alike for them, for they believe not."


Actions have consequences: response, premeditation. To do 'this' instead of 'that' requires a choice, implies a gauge. How measure impact in a vacuum? Moral rectitude has reality. Be it practical, ethical, spiritual, there exists an ordered way, a noble hierarchy wherein values can be weighed in terms of merit. Ever-eager for improvement, ever-watchful for decline, the human animal can aspire to homogeneous norms of conduct , although double-standard hubris presupposes failure. Yet how exist without the hope that life, to consciousness, makes some sense, no matter how its truths disguise themselves as falsehoods? "Good" prevails. If not in practice, then in theory. Good is tantamount to "The Light"—while only death and evil kowtow to "The Darkness."

There it sits.

Having passed his Orals, TA'ed many a class, worn student-hood like an emblem, like a cap and gown grown threadbare over the course of five long years, Franchone's dissertation, once begun and re-begun—re, re, ad nauseam—has ultimately stalled, in his Apple Mac computer, a lapsed pariah. He bows his head. He idly clicks the mouse with his index finger, jitterbugging the copy, threatening "save" or "trash"; it makes no difference, each cues "Agony Mode"—the actual file-name he assigned to denote his stunted magnum opus, its completion no doubt eons down the line.

His aim had been to break away from theology's stagnant dogma and philosophy's stilted penchant for belaboring every term, to do what peers and prim professors had advised him to avoid; that is, create a creditable work of 'original thought.' Was this so vain? Had all been mulled and mouthed and written by men before him, brilliant scholars from Socrates to Mill, from Kant to Aquinas? How compete, how nudge the species toward Enlightenment through the inexperienced views of a lowly post-graduate?

How indeed; Franchone felt equal to the task... or did 'back when.'

  • Back when the stodginess of his father's creed could drive him to distraction, so complacent in its doctrine, so irrational in its zeal. There really was no heaven, no hell, no last reward or due comeuppance. These were fables spun to ensnare the moronic and the gullible. He was neither.

  • Back when academia beckoned with a nonsectarian beam that shone so brightly Truth would surely cast off superstition's shadow, spread an aura of intelligence, reason, wisdom, trade-in halos for the real illumination of lucent thought.

  • Back when he cared, when youth had energized his ambition to distinguish himself, win honors, parlay undergraduate laurels into academia's top degree; a Doctor of Philosophy, summa cum laude, first in his class. Prestige inspired him. Then discouraged him, grew obsessive, vague, confused; he lost his zeal. The world of intellect shrank to rhetoric, far removed from everyday experience. High ideals succumbed to humble-pie inertia, daunting and intractable.

Words, mere words:
existence, by software, unerringly spelled, transcribed into marks on a page, seemed absurd...

In opting for symbols, supplanting things-actual, concepts subverted life's tangible themes, in a program designed to swap Being for Musing. No wonder sex loomed with an unabashed vigor, its rush of adrenalin so flesh-and-blood real. Would that all mental constructs were grounded in suchness, beholden to what's-what, as opposed to ought, should. Abstractions, divorced as they were from sensations, left Franchone derailed, stuck, inclined to withdraw... into smoke-ring hyperbole; nothing much mattered:

  • complete school

  • drop out

  • work

  • get fired

  • tell truths

  • lie

distinctions, by the hemp he inhales (holds in) blur.

Lured from the keyboard to his stash back to keyboard, repetitive puffs cause the screen to blink blank, obscured by a cloud of forgetful indifference that likewise befogs Franchone's gumption.