Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Evolution: A rant

So you're religious? I'm sincerely happy for you; I also believe in God. Oh, you think that evolution is impossible because God created the world in six days? That the only way a human eye can be made is by manufacturing it and zapping it with life? Please understand that when I say this I mean it with my whole heart:

Stop limiting God by your belief of what he is capable of.

God is capable of infinite and wondrous things and every time you say evolution is wrong because God built the world from lumps of the cosmic equivalent of PlayDoh and magically brought it to life I feel that you are belittling something amazing. Look at the world around us. Look at what the Bible tells you*

Once upon a time there was nothing. Then there were thousands of solids whirling through time and space; colliding and combining, destructive and creative all at once. Over time, out of the chaos formed a series of bodies large enough to develop gravity. These pulled in smaller globes and the balancing forces of gravity and momentum formed a beautiful dance of attraction and repulsion until the universe was perfectly balanced. On one of the dancing globes, there formed bodies of water and deep in the depths of the oceans there were remnants of the chaos so recently overcome.

A large part of the earth had healed on the surface; scabbing over the molten rock with slowly crystallised igneous mass but there were still a number of places where the gaping wounds let out fresh molten lava. Some of these were deep under water and it wasn't long before some places had the energy required to promote chemical reactions. Soon the water, molten rock and various chemicals had formed a tower. The center of the tower was too hot and the chemical reactions failed, too far away and the chill meant there was insufficient energy. Somewhere in the middle was just right.

Chemicals required heat the react so they stayed near the source of heat. At some point the sky cleared of clouds and space debris enough that the earth became basked in warmth and gradually the chill of the ocean lessened. Now, chemicals could react further from the towers. One that required heat was suddenly able to move far enough from the tower to meet a reaction which created heat and the two became co-dependant. One chemical denatured, and suddenly,when exposed to light it began to react violently. Another reaction used the energy produced to power its own.

Tiny, tiny pockets of wonder were forming; driving chaos and yet becoming attracted to each other. Using each other to survive, to continue. Over time their relationships became more complex - one chemical needed light so bonded with another that reacted under exposure to light and used that reaction to guide itself. Over time, other reactions began filling the available space and taking the available energy and the need for intelligence became more real. Being able to predict the correct route to the resources required was suddenly very important. Data storage was needed to remember what had come before and what to do next.

Now the world is full of barely cellular forms fighting for survival. Clusters of cells band together to steal the energy fuelling the reactions of others. They bond on occasion by being eaten and remaining undigested. Cells become more complex and slowly, microscopically, life evolves.

At the beginning the middle and the end, every step of the way something could have been different. If the water had never been, or remained cold, if the light had not shone, if the chemicals had not been able to form dependencies, there would be no grass, trees, birds or people. Somewhere the world could have faltered and life never developed. Instead, everything that was necessary happened exactly when and where it was required.

Evolution should be your evidence that God is within every living thing. It should be your proof that there is an overarching power guiding and controlling the creation of everything on this earth.

But it seems like you're scared of admitting that God isn't a bearded face in the sky. That actually it is a lot closer to home than that and a lot closer to you. Perhaps it's because when your God is in the sky raining hellfire down on everything that makes you uncomfortable, you believe yourself to be safe from His displeasure. Perhaps, in making yourself aware of the true power and sheer awesomeness of the universe, you realise that there is no hiding and suddenly you become accountable.

End rant.

Alicia

*While I believe in God, I'm not so hot on religion

PS, also not a scientist and am writing this from my memory so it's not going to be 100% factually correct.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Connection

There's a woman who awakens slowly just after dawn; lying on her right side on the far right edge of the bed, snuggled deeply into the duvet.

There's a man who is slipping into sleep; he has taken an early night after a hard day and the sunset has been hidden behind blackout blinds. Restless, he tosses and turns, churning the sheets as he seeks comfort in the warmth of the desert.

She feels someone holding her. His arms wrap around her belly and ribs, and his warmth presses up against her back. She smiles slightly and reaches up her hand to touch his forearm.

He dreams of a woman in his arms. It has been so long since he had someone to hold as he sleeps; long enough that he is becoming scared of trying to find someone new. Whenever he tries there seems to be a new expectation, a new minimum standard and what if he can't meet it?

She snuggles into his warm embrace. Burying her head deeper into the pillows she revels in the joy of trusting someone enough to sleep in their arms.

He feels her shifting closer and feels relief, delight, comfort and underneath it all a connection. A link of mutual trust and individual needs to be fulfilled.

She is relaxed and dozing once more, relinquishing herself to a little more sleep for a long as she has this glorious feeling of being surrounded, shielded and protected from all the trials of the world.

He is calmed and soothed. His restless thrashing has ceased and he begins to drift deeper into sleep. In his tired state he sleepily leans forward and kisses her shoulder once, then again nearer her neck.

She feels on her right shoulder the pressure of a pair of lips and is happy. As they touch her neck, she is confused. She is lying on her right side; it isn't possible for this to be happening. She is disturbed and begins to question.

He loses his grip on her. The feeling of her in his arms fades into nothing and in his sleep he begins to seek her in his bed, but to no avail.

She awakens. It is still half an hour before her alarm goes off and she lies alone, wishing she had never left his embrace.

He will dream all night of seeking something precious.

She will spend her day working, caring for her sister and completing the myriad chores of every day.

Tonight she will hope she has that dream again but he will be awake for several hours after she rises and the opportunity to reconnect will be lost.

In a laboratory in Antarctica, three scientists who have been researching telepathy or, as they call it, the Connection for years are falling down drunk to celebrate this single event. It required prompting and a specific set of circumstances which were not fully understood, but the Connection had been made; and should be replicable within a few days. They would find a new pair of guinea pigs to hook up shortly; a new pair with complimentary brain patterns and then with data to substantiate their theories they would finally be awarded the funding required for a mass experiment.

Friday, 9 May 2014

All about me

This is a profile of the writer as a woman not quite thirty just yet, but turning that way in 5 days.

I'm 5'4". I have been since I was about 11. Once I felt hugely tall, but then the world spiked all around me and now I feel most secure in the knowledge that everyone around me is taller than me. It feels disorienting to be around short people.

I'm 11 stone. I have been for.... I just weighed myself. I am 12 stone. Oops. I'll reweigh tomorrow; that seems scarily high (especially as I always think of myself at 9 stone 3). 

I'm brunette. My mother has dark brown hair, my dad is ginger. I fall sort of in between. When I spend a long time in the sun, I get this reddish tint to my hair, but it's so short these days that it's hardly noticeable.

I have blueish eyes. They are often described as grey, and in the right light can get a turquoise tint. I like that about them. When I was a teen I started looking at my eyes more carefully and realised when I really looked that the iris is made up of yellowish strings radiating outward from the pupil with a dark blue background. The yellow strands are irregular and appear broken in places.

I have a square jaw and high, prominent cheekbones. This combines with my hairline to give me a peculiar face. Facing me directly you will see a square faced individual (and this is how I see myself) but from above (the average male in England is several inches taller than I am, so this describes their perspective) I look like a poorly thought out manga character. The width of my jaw means that I always have that clearly defined jawline which is so recommended as the basis of a good portrait.

I am pale skinned (thanks Dad) and very freckly (thanks Mum). 

Generally I like myself. My face is, as previously discussed, kind of odd but it is also pleasant to look at. Physically I'm not perfect - cosmetically I'd like to reduce the belly, but everything else is a good size. More distressing are the areas of weakness; the floppy ligaments that affect my posture are the real kicker. I'm not fond of the hair that crops up *everywhere*. I mean, I'll keep the stuff on my scalp, eyebrows and lashes, but honestly the moment I heard Tim Minchin singing about a woman with alopecia from the neck down I thought "No, it needs to be from the cheekbones down, otherwise there's still too much maintenance!"

There are other issues of course. I'm unreasonably romantic. I dream and daydream unless I'm deeply depressed which is fortunately rare. I love food and drink, but I think that's a cover for the thing I really love which is sensory input. Sights, sounds, smells, textures. I absolutely revel in sensations. Bad memories or negative emotions give me an unpleasant physical sensation, so it seems like it works both ways. I throw myself into work. Achievements are more important to me than they probably should be, but I like those markers that enable me to say: Look. This. I did this. It is defined by me and I'm willing to let it define a small part of me in return.

I'm creative, ambitious, adventurous, enthusiastic, self-indulgent and on the whole, happy.

In five days I turn thirty.

I wonder who I will be five days before I turn forty.

Alicia

Thursday, 8 May 2014

First Date

An elderly man smiled as he watched her pacing back and forth. She periodically stood still and tried to seem calm for a minute or so, but was continuously betrayed by her sudden attention when new people arrived on the scene - a bus unloading, new cars pulling into the car park or even pedestrians turning onto the street she stood in.

Behind her was a train station, but she never once looked towards it. The man had been intrigued by this early on as she seemed to stand against the tide of tourists and pleasure seekers that flowed past her and onto the platform. Moments later she perked up and he realised she'd seen the person she was waiting for.

Helen felt a surge of excitement as she spotted Jake. He didn't quite look like his photos, but she knew straight away it was him. He saw her and waved. When they came together they smiled awkwardly and chatted briefly about the traffic - her early arrival and his not quite late arrival - before she explained that she still needed to get the tickets.

"You didn't actually say what we'd be doing on this date." He smiled down at her.

"I know. To be honest, I was a little scared I would go off the idea and wanted to keep my options open!"

He chuckled. "And now you know I was right that organising a date is harder than women give us credit for."

"Come on, we have to get our tickets."

She took him into the train station. The whole place was an antique - from the polished brass door knobs, umbrella stand and bicycle to the station master's ticket booth, timetables and uniform. The two of them went together to the ticket master and she bought two returns to the end of the line. Once they were finished, they took a little time to enjoy the ambiance and admire the fixtures and fittings before joining their fellow passengers on the platform to watch the steam train pull in.

They both enjoyed the spectacle of the machinery, the chaos of the previous passengers offloading - an oddly pleasant spectacle when compared to a modern train ejecting commuters - and their own ascent into the carriage. Inside the carriages were also antiquated; not exactly plush like one might imagine first class being, but obviously someone had made an effort. The upholstery was velvet and had gold cord trimming, there was a feeling of wood and solidity; the floor was uncarpeted and the paintwork slightly soot flecked. Parts of the wall had also been papered and panelled and certain seats had wood surrounds to make them more private. The couple chose a bench and admired their surroundings. They chattered inconsequentially for almost ten minutes before the train began to move. The whistles, smoke, chug-chug and clatter was met by cheers from excited children on the train and applause from some of the people remaining on the platform to wave them off.

As they went through the countryside the two carried on conversations they had started on the dating site. The full length of the track only took half an hour to travel and they climbed off into another small town. Jake went first and took her hand to help her out of the carriage. "That was really cool!"

"I thought so too! I figured it would be nicer than getting the bus or a regular train out here. But now we actually need to transport ourselves a little."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah. I hope you like hiking."

He laughed, assented and followed the direction of her hand gesture. They headed up into the hills on a walk she'd done before and really liked. About half an hour in there was a steep downhill slope with nothing to hold onto which always caused her to freak out. He'd pulled a few steps ahead but glanced back to see her hovering uncertainly at the top. He bounded back up and took her hand. "You ok?"

"Kind of terrified, actually. I really don't like heights."

"OK, well, do you want to go back?"

"No, I can do this, I just... It's going to take a while."

"No problem. Do you want to hang onto me while you do it?"

She nodded and seized his arm. "Oh, that would help! Do you mind? As long as I'm not just relying on my feet to keep me safe I feel better, but it would be embarrassing  to try crawling down here." He smiled and held out his arm. 

"I got you, you're fine."

Minutes later they reached the bottom and walked along a little hand in hand. The tone of the conversation had also changed from casual to more intimate flirtation and the stress of the moment had broken down several of her barriers. Without prompting, he kept an eye out for the moments where she might need a hand and soon grew to recognise the angle she turned her feet when she felt unsteady and the way she bent her right leg to brace herself for a nervous rush of steps.

After an hour they reached a road and within a kilometer they reached a pub. She pointed to it as their lunch stop and explained that she loved to stop mid ramble for a pint of real ale and some good pub food. It would be a stretch of reality to suggest he objected to her plan, so in they went. An hour later he dragged her laughingly out into the open, adamant that she didn't need a pudding since she hadn't finished her vegetables. Pouting good-humouredly she let him and they carried on their route.

Leaving that village and its pub behind they headed back into open countryside to return to the train station. Along the way they often fell into periods of comfortable silence and as they neared the village he slowed. Adjusting her pace to match his, she glanced up at him curiously. He gestured out into the valley "You can just about see the tracks from here. Do you think if we watch the train go along it, we'll still be able to get to the station in time to catch it?"

"If not, I'm willing to splash out on a bus ticket home!"

The two of them leaned against the wall and gazed out into the countryside. As they waited he mentioned how much he'd enjoyed today and she smiled up at him. "Not bad for my first effort at arranging a date, huh?"

He reached out and rang his hand down her back in a half-hug, half-caress. "You did great." Leaning in, he touched his lips to hers. When she tilted her head to allow him better access, their kiss deepened and if it hadn't been for the shrill whistle from the train in the valley below, they might have missed it entirely. As it was, they watched it pull around a bend and under a bridge they they rushed to catch it. Fifteen minutes later they reached the village and, seeing no steam rising from the station, assumed the worst until another whistle sounded.They looked at each other and sprinted the rest of the way. Charging onto the platform, he ushered her onto the train then leaped up like a character from an old movie.

Laughing she pointed out how much more awesome that would have been if the train was actually moving. "You can't have everything," he said, smiling cockily down at her before giving her another brief kiss.

The conductor cleared his throat pointedly and she showed him their tickets. He shook his head reprovingly and lead them to their seats as the train began to warm up to leave the station. On the journey back the two held hands and snuggled closely on the hard bench; mostly looking out the window, occasionally pointing out little bits of the countryside that might have been where they walked. 

When they reached their stop they climbed down more slowly and stood just outside the station as the rest of the passengers dissipated. "That was a great day," he said. "I kind of wish you'd got dessert after all. It would have made it a little longer."

"Well," she hesitated, but plunged on, "There's a cocktail bar round the corner that does great desserts and it's still early, so we won't be under dressed."

"Let's go. My treat. I owe you one for cake blocking you earlier!"

She laughed. "You're definitely my kind of man! Let's go."

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Beneath the Rain

The air was still, thick and potent. Trapped beneath the spreading branches of the trees surrounding her, it lurked, turgid and somnolent in contrast to the sprightliness and activity of earlier days. Once, a brisk breeze had whipped its way through this forest. Flower heads had bobbed and leaves had whirled. Her skirts that now hung limply around her calves had once fluttered in the chill, fresh air flowing between the trees.

Now the sounds of the woods were dulled, the weight of the air pressed in around her and the world was oppressed by humid stillness. The light that filtered through to her was discoloured and full of promise. Her usual walk felt more onerous than she was used to and the air she hauled into her lungs seemed deeply unsatisfying and she felt unpleasantly hot and damp as the sweat failed to evaporate from her skin.

Finally she broke out from the densely packed trees and into a glade overrun with wilting bluebells. Walking through them she felt as listless as they appeared. Unlike them, she gazed up into the sky. It had been blue with large fluffy clouds earlier, but now was grey with ochre tints. As she watched it seemed to darken before her very eyes and an ominous rumble sounded. Her lips lifted into an anticipatory smile.

Looking around she spied a relatively clear patch of grass. With a cautious check for deposits of natural or human origin she lay down and watched the turmoil above. Within minutes the lightest whisper of a wind dusted across her face. A moment later is was followed by another, stronger gust. She spied something in the air above her and her head turned to watch it pass. She lost focus quickly, but saw the tiny breeze hit the bluebells. A ripple of excitement seemed to pass through them and one or two appear to tilt slightly; trying to look up at the sky. The grass nearest her head bobbed in and out of her vision and she returned her eyes upwards.

Another rumble. This one was louder, longer and deeper.

Spack!

The sound of water hitting a dry organic surface assailed her ears. She kept looking straight up, but her smile widened. Another spack sounded somewhere further away. After a few slow rattles, the pace picked up and simultaneously the heavens opens utterly drenching her, a loud crack of thunder sounded and the clouds above her shimmered white.

Around her the world exploded. A million insects leaped into the air and every bluebell cast out its scent. As she lay there, glorying in the fresh air, sweet scent and the sheer power of the storm raging above her she felt cleansed. All the petty problems she had carried here with her seemed somehow irrelevant and she laughed out loud when a raindrop hit her right on the tip of her nose.

Ten minutes later the initial gush had passed and the rain had settled into steady thrumming. The oppressive heat had disappeared and a chill began to set in. She sat up and wrapped her arms around her legs. Until the thunder and lightening faded she was going nowhere near the trees but despite the cold, despite the ground beneath her becoming unpleasantly muddy she felt joyous.

Rain trickled around the nape of her neck, down her spine and cleavage before disappearing into the folds of her skirt. Still smiling she tilted her head back and stuck out her tongue to catch drops of rainwater. She stopped when the sensation became too ticklish to bear, but remained relaxed and content. In her short time there, her troubles had faded, her mind had stilled and her entire being felt renewed. In this place, at this time, she felt a part of the world around her.

Alicia