Chapter Thirty Two: Bloodshed on the Battlefield
March 8, 1862
William Farragut sighed as several shots rang out. Having been rerouted on a simple frigate - in a rather pathetic and desperate attempt to disguise him as he sailed nearer to Virginia - he found himself without any way to command and, frankly, was becoming quite bored. Even as the opening shots had commenced some hours earlier, the day was still cool and more or less calm on the roadstead. Two ironclad ships, it appeared, had engaged in combat some hours earlier.
Personally, William had heard of ironclads before: he had read about the first ironclad ship to ever sail the seas in 1859 - a French ironclad by the name of the Gloire. Of course, it was never actually in significant combat. But this battle unfolding before him - between the Monitor and the Merrimack, or something - he had hoped would be exciting: the first time ironclads ever faced each other on the waters.
Unfortunately, the battle was boring at best. The two ships seemed to be reluctant to sink the other - not due to any lack of effort (well, perhaps a little), but more so due to the fact that both ships seemed to refuse to sink. In fact, the less-attractive conflicts between traditional, wooden vessels and shore batteries seemed far more amusing.
Right at that moment, as William sat aboard the command deck and sighed again, he rolled his head over and spied another Union frigate advancing upon a Confederate wooden warship. He turned to the captain of the vessel - an older man with a beard and black hair that was turning grey with age - and cleared his throat.
“Let’s have some fun, shall we?” He reasoned, somewhat reluctantly. “Send us to that ship over there.”
Early Morning, April 7, 1862
Trekking through through forest and grasslands - copse after copse - in the dark. Occasionally, lanterns and campfires would break through the haze, and here and there were solitary wooden buildings from which light would glow. Hundreds of people bustled about through the darkness. Back in town, William Jr. witnessed doctors running to and fro between houses, across the streets, their hands and aprons smeared in blood. Walking wounded came in droves. Men had gashes upon them, bullet wounds, and even missing limbs. Some clung to one another, some sobbed, and some were silent and alone, and simply looked sullen. Still, the most-shocking ones were those that were horribly wounded - like one man, who had a gigantic burn along his entire-right abdomen, so severe that even part of his large intestine was showing - and yet, they did nothing. That man simply sat calmly, smoking a cigarette, against the wooden wall of some shop or another. He seemed not in the least bothered - or even aware of - his wound.
“He’ll be dead, that one,” Gover - an Irish immigrant, with a very peculiar nickname, who was serving in the Union military - stated. “If they can’t feel the pain, it means that the wound is too great.” William had been ushered through training so swiftly that he felt inadequate to fight. He was moved around in Virginia, and then to Tennessee, and saw no action whatsoever. In truth, it relieved him more than he felt bored: he had not actually wanted to fight, or leave his wife, Anna, for that matter, but he felt obliged to fight.
Now, however, with the Union forces being absolutely slaughtered at Shiloh, reinforcements were called in. In a desperate attempt to garner enough federal troops to oppose the Confederates, companies and platoons were rearranged, and William - an upper-class private just short of a lance-corporal - was swiftly introduced into an Irish company. Most of them were the sons of poor immigrants, or immigrants themselves: new to the United States, mostly, and in need of a paying job. Foolishly, they had seemed to have chosen the army.
Within hours of being relocated, William had befriended the man who marched by his side: a short, brown-haired Irishman with a stubbled chin, age nineteen, who went by the name of Gover McFain. But their conversations were anything but lighthearted, in the traditional sense. In some way, William found himself ready to laugh at just about anything, merely as a result of the tension of the situation. By the time they had reached the front lines, he was nearly hysterical with nervous laughter.
But then the sounds of gunshots and artillery came into earshot. Along the ground, beside and within each dark copse, by the light of lantern, he witnessed hundreds of dead and dying on both sides. Some had their organs hanging out of their abdomens. Others were simply shot. Shining blood and the lustrous silver of discarded rifles reflected a Hellish yellow glow given off by the lanterns of the soldiers around them.
William’s heart pounded, and he suddenly wanted to cry. Screams and shots that rang even nearly a mile off suddenly seemed deafening. William glanced around him nervously. In the yellow glow of the lantern, he felt pressed in and consumed by the men around him: he saw the backs of blue uniforms, and heads with black, brown, red and blond hair. Most of them Irish, but so many different colors of hair…Such diversity in the beauty of hair color: all of them in blue coats, and all of them about to die.
The yellow light reflected eerily off of the gleaming ends of wooden-stocked rifles, hoisted over the men’s soldiers or cradled in their arms, clanking and rubbing against their other supplies. William wanted to melt into his uniform - the night seemed hot, though it was actually quite cool. The lanterns created crude shadow effects around them.
“Look at that bloke,” Gover pointed in his heavy Irish accent, with an eerie chuckle, to a Confederate soldier who lay dead - no, dying! His lungs were expanding and contracting! - on the ground with his organs all lying neatly on display, but still technically attached to him. “What a profound display of human anatomy!” William swallowed and looked back to Gover: the shadow of the lantern was cast over his face. His one eye - the one in the lantern light - seemed to reflect the fires of Hell itself, and the other side of his face - the side that was in shadow - seemed drenched in blood. William looked around him: all the men were covered in blood! Smeared in blood everywhere there was shadow! He looked down at his own hands: blood. Blood, blood, blood!
He was going to die that night, he was sure of it. Somewhere, a man began moaning, but still, the sound of boots on mud created such a rhythmic tune of death on parade. The moaning didn’t stop. The man simply would moan, and then take in a breath, and moan again, and yet he marched on. William knew deep down that he would never again see the light of day. He would never see his wife. He would never see his family. He wanted to cry out: “Oh, God, why am I here?” But tears choked him. He could do nothing but march on.
Here and there a wounded man would groan for help - men on both sides…They were ignored: William, the Irish, and the officers minds’ were all somewhere far away from that battle, too far away to comfort those who lingered somewhere between life and death. William was convinced that he fell into that category. He did not feel alive, he felt dead, even - he knew he was already dead; he must be - but he wasn’t.
Finally, as the light of dawn came up over the horizon, and the company exited another copse, William strained to glimpse the grassland hiding behind the backs of the men in front of him. Just as the Sun spilled its muffled, golden, Hellish rays over the foggy battlefield - swept by smoke, smog, and haze - the landscape came into view.
All at once, William felt as if a chorus of singers were boasting their impressive song of strength and valor in his head - it was deafening! He wanted to shrink further into his military jacket, and hide way. The moaning man was still moaning, but was farther off now. As the soldiers spread out; and the day seemed to suddenly brighten in a terrifying, eerie fog; and as the smell of gunpowder and smoke - and the horrible scent of blood and gore spilling out into open nature than cannot be described - grew to an intensity that William had never before experienced…It all came to a head, and he saw the field before him littered with dead and dying men, blood, dead horses, wrecked cannons, scattered bits of abandoned and ruined supplies…It seemed…Glorious. No other word could describe it. It were as if Ares himself had been there to compose the perfect scene.
At the far end of the field, the smoke of the rifles and cannons of the Confederate forces rang out in pops and bangs - for each dozen little cracks, it appeared as if there were one low boom. The smoke created a scene that hid them well, and muffled the rays of the sun behind white and grey haze and the morning fog. Before them…A field of corpses. William wanted to melt into his boots, but he had no time, for the captain was already standing before the company, his pistol in hand, with the flag-bearing private behind him.
“Company!” He began proudly, cupping his hand around his stubble-marked face. “Charge!” And as if the enemy were waiting just for this moment to inflict their wrath upon them, just as the captain turned to sprint toward the enemy, an artillery shell zipped through the air and exploded right before them, sending the captain flying feet-backward, belly-down through the air, his arms flailing. He landed right before William, dead, and face down (a good thing, too, because if William had seen the captain’s dead face, he may have collapsed entirely). The flag-bearer, likewise, was launched into the air, and did not flail or give any grunt or display, but simply landed and rolled onto his back. The American flag was broken, torn, and the pole split. For a few moments, no one moved, but then one of the lieutenants stepped forward and shouted, “charge!”
They sprinted into the morning death as if they had full conviction and valor, but William did not even feel like what he was experiencing were real. Almost immediately, the unseen shower of bullets sent man after man sprawling, and mark after red mark appearing on the backs of the dark-blue uniforms of those who had managed to run just a little faster than William. Artillery shells and other projectiles came and exploded around them, sending troops into the air: some screaming, and others silently dead already. Still, other projectiles did not explode, but bounced, rolled, or in some other way found a way in which to rip someone’s head off or break their legs.
William clutched his rifle over his chest - he hadn’t even thought to aim it at the enemy. By the time he was nearly ten or so yards from actually physically confronting the Confederate line itself, he finally snapped out of his trance and came to his senses. In a fit of overreaction, he aimed his rifle into the line and fired at random. Time seemed to slow down as he realized that he had been aiming right at a young man’s face, a man not even five feet away from him. He had a thin brown beard and appeared to be raising his pistol to shoot someone else in William’s company. It was a point-blank shot, and the man’s nose seemed to implode as he fell, but his arm - the one in which his hand held the pistol - continued to swing around him…The dying actions of an attempt which never saw truth.
By the time William had realized his deed, his bayonet had already found soft flesh, and he felt warmth dripping down his lower uniform. He shoved the corpse away from his legs and the man fell doubled-over onto the ground - he had stabbed him in the stomach, William did, but it would be good enough if he were simply wounded to the point where he could no longer fight.
As William charged forward again, he confronted a man who also had his bayonet a the ready. William lunged toward him…And felt the sickening manifestation of a blade finding its way between the framework of his small intestine. In an instant, his mind flashed to basic training, when someone asked what to do if their bayonet got stuck in an enemy soldier. The instructor had replied: “if you can’t get your bayonet out, just shoot it out.” William comprehended all that in a fraction of a second, and he began to open his mouth to plead for mercy, but a loud bang erupted, and a hot feeling engulfed his entire abdomen.
He let out a curdling, massive, pained scream that could only ever be uttered by someone enduring searing agony. The man who had shot him was already off somewhere else, as a fearsome melee battle had erupted around them. William stood where he was for a moment, bent over, clutching his abdomen, and then fell over. He fell silently into the blue-sleeved arms of some other soldier, who seemed surprised, given by the way he grabbed him in return. A tear rolled down William’s cheek as he glimpsed the sun shining through the smoke and fog as thousands of men killed each other beneath the beautiful sky…It suddenly seemed so pretty, now…Why had he never noticed it before? The man whose arms he had fallen into pushed him out of the way, finally, and William fell to the ground.
April 28, 1862
Flower pushed through the crowd with such determination that it was surprising for her age. The hospital was in a repurposed Church - the pews had all been torn out and used for fuel or kindling, and cot after bloodied cot held two to three soldiers upon them. Many others, still, lay on the ground. The place was full of crying loved ones, moaning and resting wounded, and doctors rushing from patient to patient - doctors who had gone for days without breaks.
“Here he is,” Anna stated as she pointed to a bed a few rows over. The two of them rushed to confront William, who was asleep on one of the few beds in the place. His wounds were so severe that he had been given his own sleeping arrangements. For two weeks, his family had been trying to track him down. All they knew, via letter, that he was “wounded in the abdomen and highly-unlikely to survive.” When they found him, he opened his eyes. He was under the blankets, and wearing nothing but a white nightshirt. He smiled once he saw Anna. He did not let them say anything, all he stated was:
“It’s actually healing,” and smiled. “They say I might actually live.” He laughed, and a bittersweet stream of chuckles and tears erupted from the trio. Flower knew - by some force or power, she knew - that William, her son, would not die. She knew that he would get to see his son again.
Maria stood at the back of the tavern. She didn’t know a few hours before, of course, that it would be full of scalawags and Union sympathizers. She rolled her eyes in disgust at the sound of the dozens of men jovially singing in drunken lore to “John Brown’s Body” as a man played on the piano: “‘…The stars above in Heaven are-a lookin’ kindly down, on the grave of old John Brown!…” She shook her head and walked toward the door. It was late outside, and thus probably not too safe for her to be out much longer. Besides, a group of pro-Confederates - equally drunk - seemed to be arguing with some other patrons at one of the bar tables. Maria decided to get out of there before a fight broke out.
In the street, there was one other gentleman, well dressed, and also drunk, with a bottle in his hands. “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” He still sang, though alone, as he walked home through the dark streets.
“Hey,” Maria shouted. The man turned around - his bowtie was undone - and faced her.
“What,” he moaned as he slouched backward and spread out his arms. Maria rolled her eyes.
“Stop singing that song.”
“Oh, so you support treason, do you?” The man chuckled, and turned around once again, slowly walking away.
“Watch yourself,” Maria shot, then suddenly worried that she may provoke his anger (which, as he were drunk, could be dangerous).
“The Union will win the war, my lady,” the man chuckled as he walked, without even turning around.
“A false anticipation.”
“But we will.”
“And so what,” Maria questioned. “Even if you do win,” she shouted after him. “War merely determines the stronger power, not who was right.”
“So?” the man shouted back, nearly so far down the street, now, that he was almost out of sight.
“I will keep fighting, somehow, some way, for what I know is right.” The man only walked on, either not wishing to reply or not having heard Maria. Maria heaved and walked on.
Diana coughed into her handkerchief and looked at it: drops of blood. Her congestion was becoming worse, and the medication that the doctors prescribed seemed only to lessen her symptoms rather than eliminate them. She feared that the worst may follow, but in time. At present, she merely wished to see a day when the war did not divide both her family and her country. It seemed as if, for a moment, everything were falling apart…
Anna was in Tennessee, near the front lines, accompanying her husband from hospital to military hospital. She was moving a lot, thus, and the war was constantly shifting matters drastically, both mentally and geographically. It was on her request that young Timothy be watched by Hope - as, with most of the family seemingly misplaced in some way or form by the war, she had nothing left to do, and no one left to talk to.
She happily watched over Timothy until Anna would be ready to return with her husband (should he be well enough and yet still injured just so as to exempt him from service, but anything could happen). Admittedly, she felt as if by being with Timothy, she were regaining the time lost with her own children. She adored Timothy, and spent much of her time with him.
He, in turn, became rather fond of her. But Hope considered how her actions could be affecting Anna - just as she had been in the past, Anna was being separated from her child. Hope, therefore, tried her best to treat Timothy merely as a lose relative, but she did enjoy having a child to care for once again.
A hard knock awoke James. He sat up in bed, somewhat alarming Etta. The knock sounded again, and he went to the door. It was early in the morning - the sun was not yet over the horizon - so he was certainly anticipating an unfortunate encounter. However, upon opening the door, he saw none other than Blue Snake.
“What are you doing here,” he asked in surprise. But Blue Snake merely held a hand to his head and looked up.
“I need to sit down.” He seemed troubled. James and Etta made haste to produce a chair and some water, and Blue Snake began to recount his tale.
“It was in the Dakota territory, on work,” he began. “The tensions between the settlers and the natives were growing. I didn’t care much then…They were not my people. But then the fighting started. Small clashes, at first, and then larger confrontations. I just got swept into it. The Dakota tribes were winning, but it didn’t last - it never does. Little Crow and his force scored many victories against the settlers, but they were soon defeated, and fled…I was horribly wounded, James.”
“Blue Snake, what are you doing here,” James asked, still astonished.
“I was wounded in the chest,” he continued. “I don’t know why I even got involved - it just happened. I almost died, but I didn’t…But I’m dying. They say it could be led poisoning, or maybe just a weakening heart…I could have as long as ten years, or as little as one: they didn’t know. I came all the way here to see you.”
“What do you want me to do,” James asked, genuinely concerned for his friend.
“I don’t know,” Blue Snake shook his head. “I just…Have no where to go, and no one to trust.” Just then, a child cried from another room. Etta got up and walked into the room, coming out with a little child in her arms.
“This is little Chadwick,” James stated. Blue Snake looked at the child with tired eyes. He nodded as if approvingly, and then stood up.
“I must ask for a place to stay for the night,” he requested.
February 20, 1864
Samuel held his rifle straight in front of him - it nearly touched his nose. Union troops had landed in Florida, at Jacksonville, and were trying to occupy Tallahassee. In response, a Confederate force had been sent down from Charleston, South Carolina, and Samuel’s company among them. The day was sunny and warm, and only growing hotter by the minute. The Union troops appeared a few hills afar, making their way along the grasslands, with small patches of forest seeming to dot the land here and there.
Samuel stood in his grey uniform, with his company, in line at the top of a hill. He stared down the battlefield. Any moment, now, they would be ordered either to advance upon the opposing forces, or to hold their ground and prepare to defend.
“All right, lads.” the captain of the company began as he stepped out of the line and paced back and forth with intense conviction. “We’ve been given orders to be part of a flanking operation while the rest of our forces defend…” Samuel shuttered at the thought of advancing. In truth, he was not too afraid of entering combat, for he had been in more-minor confrontations, though this was his first larger battle. He was more worried, however, of fighting for a side that he had come to doubt the validity of more and more as the months passed on. He had joined the military for food and for the standard wage, but by then, it was evident that the Confederacy was probably on the losing side of the war. Many people thought they could turn things around, but to the rest…It was merely to inflict as much damage as possible upon the federal forces before they went down.
But Samuel was having doubts - now more than ever. He swallowed as the captain gave his speech. He wanted to get away from that place. Looking from soldier to soldier, he saw intense conviction in most of their eyes…Samuel did not have that conviction. “What if I die fighting for something I don’t even believe in?” He thought. “Do I believe in it?” He assured himself that many people fight for sides that they do not fully support, but as he looked around again, it was difficultly for him to convince himself of that fact. “What? No! Who fights for what they do not truly believe in?”
“Steady…Advance!” The captain ended. The company marched forward at a moderate pace. Samuel swallowed. He was not ready to fight for this cause anymore. He could not see himself fighting the soldiers of the Union, no matter how much he had been indifferent to the whole thing before - it made him feel sick, now. But it was too late…He was going into combat.
Chapter Twenty Four: the Files of Officials
NOVEMBER 1, 1845
REPORT TO SHAREHOLDERS IN COMPANY STOCK
Several days ago, we reached the Sultanate of Zanzibar. It has been a long four months, and, unfortunately, storms and a brief backtrack to restock on supplies made the journey much longer than it had to be. More misfortune followed this. Of our three ships, only my own and captain Farragut’s vessels are still in optimal condition. Captain Blaise, the head captain, has accidentally run his ship into rocks near the shore, and it had to be abandoned.
Despite the fact that the local authorities of Sayyid Majid himself had authorized our ships to take on imports - in exchange for finished goods - from the locals of Zanzibar, we were met with refusal to comply, even to the point where it became threatening.
Captain Blaise figured that we could set fire to a few of the natives’ villages - that would show them a thing or two. Then, perhaps, they would be more willing to trade with us. However, when the three of us met once again on the shore with some of our crew to discuss the plan, Captain William Farragut protested.
He made a large and extended argument concerning matters that our presence was a “significant” one, and that we had no right to force the Zanzibaris into trade. Captain Blaise argued against this quite vehemently (it really is a good thing that the natives mostly speak Kiswahili, and not English, or else they may have been even more opposed to cooperating with us than they already were).
Farragut responded by protesting even further, and - I can testify to it - his face became red as he shouted, and it seemed as if he were actually going to collapse. He began to remind the captain that he was there for the purposes of seeking and charting routes for American trade, not to attack native villages. The captain, a Londoner, of course, became enraged at that, and reminded Farragut that he was merely along for the journey, not the one giving orders. This argument went on for some time. Finally, Blaise himself took out his lighter and marched toward the village. Farragut responded abrasively, and actually punched him!
Shortly after, against all of Farragut’s attempts, we did end up attacking one village, but the locals responded with unanticipated force. Captain Blaise was shot dead with a musket, and several other crew members met their demise. We abandoned the trading operation and, as of the sending of this letter, are on our way back to England.
This letter shall hopefully reach the company management in time for its use in the London Stock Exchange. I anticipate that my resignation from the company will be expected.
-Captain George Briggs, writing from the Sultanate of Zanzibar, East Africa
SEPTEMBER 25, 1846
History is made today, as some of the first lockstitch sewing machines, a type of device patented by Elias Howe, have arrived within our small community. While there is need for them elsewhere, several community members have been given permission to purchase a few while they remain stationary in transit.
This new model of sewing machine is smaller than previous models. They function well individually, in addition, making them valuable outside of factories, and in individual homes. The machine is more capable of sewing fabric at faster speeds than past machines have been known to do so, and even utilizes two threads that it entwines, providing for stronger and better results.
Local townswoman Flower Kincade Farragut has offered to provide lessons to any individuals who wish to purchase a set.
By Owen Kincade
REPORT TO AMERICAN HIGH COMMAND
TO THE OFFICES OF GENERAL ZACHARY TAYLOR
May 8, 1846
Today, our American forces engaged in combat about five miles from Brownsville. The conflict lasted a substantial amount of time, and involved gunfire and artillery. There were losses on both sides, though the Mexican losses were substantially greater than our losses.
Among the destroyed supplies are included one wagon, one neutralized cannon, and, while not destroyed, an impaired artillery battery. The soldiers under my command suffered three wounded, and no more.
I do feel the need to add, however, that those wounded, and I myself, would have likely met our demise had it not been for the courageous acts of two soldiers who have recently been authorized under my command, James Kincade, and an Indian by the name of “Blue Snake.”
I happened to be sheltered by a battery - the one that was later impaired - with several other soldiers, ordering them to neutralize some enemy artillery. The Mexican forces caught on to our act, and began to fire their own guns at us in response. As shells exploded near us, we held our ground and continued to focus fire on the enemy cannons.
Three soldiers were wounded when an explosion rocked our position, and only myself and one other were left to manipulate the guns. We decided to do as much as we could, slow though we may have been on our own, until were were killed.
As we worked to move the battery into position, Kincade and “Blue Snake,” who had been delivering a message from another group of troops under my command stationed less than a mile away, arrived just in time, and lent their help in positioning and loading the battery.
Within minutes, we had the enemy cannons neutralized, and they were no longer any threat to us. Those same soldiers then proceeded to tend to the wounded so that I could resume command. Despite possessing little skill of artillery, with the help of the one other soldier at the battery who was left unwounded, they managed to utilize it further - though it was impaired - and dealt some more damage to retreating enemy forces.
I would, therefore, like to recommend either James Kincade or “Blue Snake” for a lower-level military award of bravery or merit, if not both of them.
-Lieutenant Ainsworth Stallings
REPORT TO AMERICAN HIGH COMMAND
TO THE OFFICES OF GENERAL ZACHARY TAYLOR
May 10, 1846
Victory is a word that is familiar today. Our forces have successfully chased General Mariano Arista and his Ejercito del Norte out of Texas.
To reaffirm: we have pushed the Mexicans out of Texas; Resaca de la Palma.
Of the damages under my command only, we suffered one damaged mobile cannon, and one dead troop. A few dozen others were wounded, though on all accounts, they acted bravely in the face of danger.
The Mexican forces were cornered and laid waste to, and American soldiers overwhelmingly won on the attack.
American victory is ensured in Texas, and once again I feel the need to distinguish two individuals from the ranks who I suppose to be worthy of some award of virtue.
These individuals are James Kincade and Blue Snake, who have been under my command for short time, only as of a few weeks ago.
They notably led infantry charge against opposing forces and, as I witnessed it, each utilized skillful marksmanship with their rifles, and furthermore appear skilled with bayonets and hand-to-hand combat. Had these two soldiers not been at the vanguard of my forces, I doubt the morale would have been mustered that led these men so bravery into combat, so fast.
I have not heard anything regarding their status of recognition as of sending my last report two days ago. I realize that there are a lot of soldiers to give awards to, but I urge the offices of Taylor to consider the merit of these two individuals.
-Lieutenant Ainsworth Stallings
REPORT TO AMERICAN HIGH COMMAND
TO THE OFFICES OF GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT
March 31, 1847
History was made over the past three weeks, as the largest amphibious operation in American history has just been completed, and completed successfully.
Our infantry was landed, with the remarkable aid of the naval command of Matthew Perry, and Mexican forces were engaged on land from the sea.
Though our casualties were substantial, our losses numbered significantly less than did the Mexican losses. The Siege at Veracruz appears to have led to an American victory.
Two troops of note, however, that I must point out, are two that were transferred from Taylor’s command to that of Scott: a James Kincade and “Blue Snake,” as he calls himself.
These two soldiers were transferred along with their entire platoon, under the command of Lieutenant Ainsworth Stallings. This group of soldiers landed on the shores after skillfully battling choppy waters, and executed their duty with devotion.
However, Lieutenant Stallings was struck down while leading a charge (as I hear it, he is currently recovering from his wounds), and the flag-bearer stopped to help him. In an instant, I myself witnessed Blue Snake take command, with Kincade behind him, holding the flag. Together, they made remarkable progress against the opposition, and were forced to halt only after an entire platoon of Mexican soldiers surrendered to them.
Upon their return, I asked for their names, and am now writing in hopes that their service will be recognized.
-Captain Freeman Lance
AMERICANS HEAD HOME AFTER CAMPAIGN IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
April 13, 1847
Following the beginnings of conflicts between American soldiers and Mexican infantry, in an effort to push the Mexicans out of California, hundreds of civilians went to enlist. Now, with fighting beginning to come to a close in much of the state, many of them are returning home from service.
Of them, I have had the privilege to speak with, a Mr. Randolph Farragut. He claims to be a tanner, and to be married, having children. Upon inquiring as to why he had decided to serve alongside the United States Military forces, he replied that his family had a history of winding up in conflicts, or at least doing what they saw as right: he wished to follow that.
When asked why he was choosing now to return to his family, he replied that he had taken a bullet to the left hand, and became quite ill from it. He recovered from illness, but lost his left hand to amputation.
When I asked him if he was worried that this would impact his trade as a tanner, he laughed and replied: “it will take a lot more than a little ball of metal to impair me.”
I asked him what he intended to replace the hand with, and he replied that, unfortunately, his current financial position and location prevented him from acquiring any sort of replacement that would yield any realistic appearance, so he knew not what he was going to do with it.
And thus follows the trend of other soldiers who I have encountered, who seem ready to go back home as the war between the Mexicans and Americans begins to draw to a close.
However, as there is still conflict, I urge my fellow Americans in California to continue to support their nation by any means necessary, and I urge men of fighting age to enlist in the United States Armed Forces.
-J.P. Sutter of the Los Angles Star
REPORT TO AMERICAN HIGH COMMAND
CONFIDENTIAL FILES - AMERICAN HIGH COMMAND ADVISED TO SECURE THEM
September 15, 1847
Enclosed, you will find photographs of recent military activity associated with the war against the Mexican forces. Some of these photographs are of our soldiers, and some of the enemies’. Figure 3 is of battery positions of the Mexican forces.
The purpose of these photographs is to determine a more-accurate plan of attack than simple charts or sketches could accomplish. I urge high command to review these photographs while they are still of use.
The quality of exposure is remarkable, and we are fortunate enough to have a civilian volunteer who happened to be photographing desert fauna for a university outside of a nearby town.
Credit for the photographs goes to Oliver (last name classified for his own protection).
Lastly, he is scheduled to book passage back home in a few days; however, we intend to keep him longer, and hopefully with little financial motivation.
-Captain Elliot Drake
SOCIALIST IDEALS GAIN POPULARITY
April 1, 1848
Following the rapid explosion of copies of “The Communist Manifesto” in Europe, the new political and economic ideology of socialism has begun to gain popularity among some of the working classes in New York, the United States, as well.
Defenders of the ideology claim that the upper classes are already on a decline, and that if the philosophy’s ideals were to be implemented, it would lead to greater economic and social equality among individuals of all backgrounds.
Critics of the ideology claim that it is too idealistic and unrealistic in the grand scheme of things. They also note the difficulty with which it would be to convince the officials in government and middle and upper classes to contribute more of their wealth and power to creating a perfectly-equal society.
Regardless, though the ideology still remains in its younger stages, it appears that it will begin to have a reasonable affect upon the American people. One can only wait and see where the political scale shall shift, and to where the concerns of tomorrow will lie, in the future.
Written by Owen Kincade
January 3, 1848
James watched as Perry poured a square bottle of clean, brown whisky into two small, round glasses. The room they were in was well-furnished, with a carpet, several windows (that allowed streaming lines of white light to enter), fancy furniture, and a large desk with papers laid out upon it.
The room was hot, and Perry stood with his officer’s coat and even the top of his shirt unbuttoned, and clearly had not shaven for a few days.
“I assume you drink,” he stated as he handed James a glass of whisky. James - also sweating in his military uniform - nodded and took the glass. “Have a seat.” The two men sat down across from each other.
“What is this,” James asked nervously.
“Uh, listen,” Matthew Perry began, evidently groggy from the heat. “You and another soldier - ‘Blue Snake,’ I think it was? - well, you have been recommended to high command for reception of some sort of award for a while…”
“Well, I suppose that they did not wish to deal with it, so they deferred it to me,” Perry shrugged, almost as if he were disinterested.
“I beg your pardon…Sir., but why was Blue Snake not summoned, as well?”
“Oh, you know how the officers feel about allowing one of his into here,” Perry sighed. “Not my rules,” he finished. “Anyway, I could offer you both a medal of some sort - and I will - but I was thinking of awarding something much more…Useful than a piece of metal and ribbon.”
“And what would that be?” James swallowed. Perry nodded and stood up, walking back to the cabinet where the bottle of whisky rested and pouring himself another glass.
“One of two things, actually,” he chuckled and then turned around. “Either a small plot of land out West, for your service; or a low-officer’s position in the United States Navy.” He paused, before quickly adding, “But that second option would be for just you, of course.” James thought for a moment.
“How much does the navy pay?”
“Well, if you were a lower officer…The war’s almost ending, so…” Perry seemed to be trying to calculate the amount in his head. “It would be good,” he finally concluded, failing to provide an actual number. “You would not be taking vacations to Europe or anything, do understand, but you would not have to worry much about money as long as you served.” James thought on that for a moment. His whole life had been in fluctuation - he had failed to find any stable sort position or trade, and the promise of a real, reliable job seemed appealing to him.
“Think about it, Kincade,” Perry continued. “The war against the Mexicans is almost over - the lifespan of an infantryman’s necessity is almost expended. There is nothing left for you on the soil,” he waved his arms out as he spoke, emphasizing that last point. “But in the navy, Kincade…Your bravery and commitment will be very useful. Even after the war, there is always the need to trade, and explore.” James finally reached a conclusion and sighed.
“I thank you for your offer, sir, but I could not leave my companion behind,” he stated, speaking of Blue Snake. “I will take the land.”
“Very well,” Perry shrugged. “I can get you the deed to some fertile land out West after the war. Just give me a few days.”
“Thank you, sir. I look forward to settling down for a while,” James nodded. And then, more so out of seeking guidance for himself rather than of genuine interest, he decided to ask one thing: “Sir., if I may, what do you want to do with your life?” At this, Perry paused and leaned back on the cabinet in thought.
“I already serve my country,” he nodded finally. “But everyone has something to give - something to trade.” He seemed to be filled with a new vigor as he stood up and walked toward the door. “Take it from me, Kincade: this world is changing fast, these days, and within a few years, our interactions with the rest of it will determine our fate.” He opened the door for James to walk out. “Everybody has something to give, but the trick is figuring out how to use it.” He left James with that thought as he saw him out the door.
On the Definition of Madness
According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is characterized as a disorder if it is “associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” This definition implies that mental disorders, as most things, are relative. Of course, in our current society, depression, for instance, is a disorder (as, it hinders the functionality of the afflicted organism). However, in a hypothetical world where all are depressed (as in, the average individual is depressed, relative to our world, and still functions properly), depression would not be a disorder (nor would it even be termed as something irregular, per se). Perhaps on some other world, individuals are much happier than us, and by their standards, the most optimistic of the human race are a hopeless bunch of sorrowful, downtrodden individuals that require urgent medical and psychological attention.
Imagine for a moment that you have experienced a tumor in your thalamus (the part of the brain that processes most of the senses). That would be quite troublesome: the brain interprets the world indirectly - the hand does not feel a surface; rather, the hand touches a surface, and then afferent neurons send the signal to the brain so that the brain can determine what it feels. Thus, the thalamus with a very hostile tumor would, in this instance (for the sake of this little hypothetical) degrade, and one would lose their sense of touch, hearing, gustation (taste), and sight (not to mention the sense of pain, largely). Suppose that now, the track for the sense of olfaction (smell) should be lost (as, olfactory receptors do not run through the thalamus).
In this instance, your human consciousness would be living in a life sentence of solitary confinement. We all live in complete isolation: it is up to our senses to tell us what the world is; up to our mouths to communicate; up to our ears to interpret communications; up to our eyes to read…If we are completely cut off from the world (which can medically happen, under extremely rare and unfortunate circumstances), isolated in our own consciousness, with no way to perceive anything around us, would the world still exist? Even if it did, would it matter? How could the world exist if we cannot perceive or discern it?
Assuming that you are not color blind, can you imagine a world without color? I think that it would be depressing, but scientifically speaking, color does not actually exist. Color is the brain’s interpretation of specific wavelengths of light produced by the arrangement of electrons upon atoms of particular elements and compounds that reflect light in specific sequences. Evolution has primed us to see specific things as specific colors (for instance, the animal from millions of years past who saw the predator as the same color as the bush likely got killed by it, but the animal who saw the differences of colors would have known to stay away).
I would like to break away now from my opening paragraph. To eliminate any confusion, I would like to state that this essay is NOT about clinical psychology, or treating mental illnesses. I believe that mental illness is a serious problem, and that therapy and psychopharmacology do have a place in society. Mental illness is real, it is not whimsical or romantic, and it is something that society should focus on treating. This essay is not - once again, NOT - intended to speak at all about the essence of mental illnesses as we are familiar with them.
Rather, the purpose of this essay is to examine how fragile the human mind is when confronting the bizarre. Our world is full of subjective social norms, behaviors that are socially-acceptable due to our culture and evolution. In the United States, for example, nudity is highly looked down upon; Europeans tend to be a lot more lax about it. Western cultures tend to value individualism; while Eastern cultures tend to value collectivism. Place anyone from any existing culture into one that is much different, and they will feel discomfort.
The European explorers to the deep jungles of South America and Asia during the late 1800s encountered local languages, traditions, and cultural customs that they found bizarre. But these customs and traditions were completely normal for the individuals already living in those cultures - the explorers were the bizarre ones to them. In a world that they were not familiar with, many of those explorers died or were killed due to their lack of understanding of how those societies functioned or were capable of. The ones that survived largely did so because they learned how to communicate with, and understand the customs of, the cultures that they were confronting.
Today, the world is globalized, and cultures and cultural values tend to mix. Rather than risk life and limb to visit a foreign nation, one can simply conduct a quick internet search of the social norms and customs of that nation, and they thus know how to behave. I recall visiting France once, and I was struck at how rude everyone was. I said “bonjour” to a gentleman walking down the street, for instance, and he looked at me like I was a lunatic. It took me a few days to learn that the French were not rude; rather, they simply had a different culture than I was familiar with. Where I live, it is considered rude to NOT to smile or say a simple “good day” to someone walking down the street.
Similarly, where I live, no one announces themselves when they enter a restaurant or a store, and then again when they depart. But that custom is common in France. Take national borders: no nation’s borders actually exist - the land upon them does not recognize where one nation ends and another begins - humans create borders that they recognize and respect (usually), but those borders do not actually exist. Similarly, social norms are not universal, but subjective. And that is why the world is so diverse, colorful, and simply amazing. However, this also opens up the door to some rather terrifying possibilities.
I am not sure if anyone else agrees with me on this (I would assume that a few of you will), but I think that Salvador Dali’s paintings are terrifying. His goal was to paint surreal, nightmarish landscapes, and gee, did he succeed. Thankfully, we do not have to be burdened by those horrifying depictions beyond simply looking at them. Or do we?
Our world is defined by the way that our brain interprets it. For all we know, we may not even see color as the same, person to person. Who is not to say that perhaps, either in this world or maybe even after death, we are thrust into a world of barren landscapes and drooping clocks; long-legged elephants and maddening colors. Suppose our universe should entail nothing more than a blank void, or a dark abyss. We may as well be dangling from a string, here on our subjective world with our socially-and-biologically-constructed norms, clinging on desperately should we descend into the abyss of chaos and madness beneath us, where colors are random and vivid, the laws of physics do not apply, and existence is truly absurd…I would go insane. I don’t know about you.
Thankfully, as far as anyone can discern, we do live in a universe where the laws of chemistry and physics dictate practically every aspect of life and existence. But who is to say that we are not one existence standing upon a fragile glass floor, and it would not take any great deal of effort to smash through and burden ourselves with the surreal. To cross a world where the laughter is manic, and the screams are unending; where water is hard as stone, and skyscrapers bend; where the sky is orange, and the dirt is striped, and the ground does not exist…Where humans walk on their hands and clap with their feet; where fear and happiness flow through crack and crevice in an unending stream of madness that neither our familiarities nor our evolution have thus far prepared us…To think that maybe, even, we are already upon this world…Is it not terrifying?…
We take for granted our ability to live in a world, with a culture, that is familiar to us. Our ability to be able to interact effortlessly in an acceptable and familiar manner is more priceless than even the most precious of fortunes. The fact that we can stare at our trees, our ground, our sky, without panicking, we must see as a gift. We have evolved to live life under blue skies, upon natural, Earthly landscapes, and with fellow humans.
If the coronavirus pandemic has proven anything to me, it is just how fragile our existence, perceptions, and reality are. We were meant for social interaction, and without it, we have been thrown into depression; we were meant to see sunlight, and spending so much time indoors has led to anxiety…Do not misinterpret me: we all must do our part to ensure the end of this pandemic. But from this we learn: evolution has not prepared us for what we do not face. Our social norms, our morality, our sense of normalcy, our familiarity, our meaning, and our value are all subjective. Let us just contemplate upon that for a moment: revel and be relieved in how fortunate we are to be living in a world that is familiar, not maddening.
We are afraid of what we do not know. We are discomforted by those things that operate without our knowing why, how, or even if it is simply too different. The fact that the unfamiliar is always lurking beyond our sight - beyond our reach, grasp, or conception - helps us to study. Let us return to our lives, following this pandemic, with a sense of how fortunate we all are to be a part of this familiar, diverse world. But I speak for myself, at least, when I state that the fear of some bizarre and completely nonsensical manifestation of reality will always hang over my head.
For most of my life, I had wanted to read “War and Peace,” by Leo Tolstoy. A few years ago, on my own incentive, I finally got around to it. It is an impressive book, to say the least. Its size alone had me astonished. However, once I actually began to read the book, I found that it was not nearly as difficult a read as I had expected. Over the course of half a year, for about an hour each night, I read the entire book, and it is by far my favorite work of literature - Tolstoy easily remains my favorite author. Although, upon reading Tolstoy’s conclusion, which was included in the copy of the book I was reading despite being originally published apart from it (in a Russian newspaper a few years after “War and Peace” was published), something about what Tolstoy claimed about his own work struck me as odd.
Tolstoy began pondering upon and explaining what “War and Peace” actually is. He said that it is not a novel. This I found to be rather curious, especially seeing as I had always considered the book to be a novel. My European history textbook had called it a novel. What’s more, do a quick “Google” search, and one will find that “War and Peace” is certainly called a novel. It has all the aspects of a novel: a realistic plot line, historical accuracy where it needs it, and a very good and well-thought-out set of characters and character development. However, for some reason, Leo Tolstoy did not consider it to be a novel, and clearly he did not want it to be considered one.
I flipped back through the last few pages of the book to the places where the story of the characters and their quarrels were abandoned to discussion about philosophy. In these chapters, much of what Tolstoy touched upon was that free will does not exist, and that it is difficult to trace what events truly are responsible for the causes of historical events and actions. Tolstoy’s reasoning behind this was that if one could only see the grander spectrum of events surrounding each and every action, then one would realize that each and every action is also a product of those events (similarly, but not identical to, what David Hume had argued, and somewhat to what Frederick Nietzsche would later argue). Essentially, Leo Tolstoy was claiming that total and absolute free will does not exist.
I had often pondered on this concept before (for truly, if one is a product of their environment, then it would make sense that they are not fully self-determined). However, I did not know if I was willing to accept the notion of an utter and complete lack of free will in humanity. Rather, I actually came to adapt the view. Reading these philosophical sections of “War and Peace” that apparently made it not a novel caused me to think about the concept of free will much more in depth than I had in the past.
I came to the conclusion (one that many have already held) that Tolstoy was ultimately correct, but only to a certain extent. Yes, the way I see it, the environment in which we live does play a large role in determining what choices we make. But can it really retract our free will completely? I do not think so. After much thought and contemplation (as philosophy is a topic which I truly love), I came to rest on a compromise between Tolstoy’s theory and the theory of free will. The way I discern the controversy, it would make sense that the natural influencing factors of our environment would severely limit our ability to make choices, but not diminish it completely. The influencing factors of our lives narrow down our choices, that is what I came to conclude, not a total rejection of free will, but more of a limitation of it.
Regardless, when reasoning on this subject, I do tend to quote Tolstoy and reference him quite a bit, in both my own books and other philosophical writings. Reading “War and Peace,” for me, brought me further into the world of philosophy. If before, I had been swimming at the surface of the ocean that is contemplative thought, now I was suddenly being dragged further and further into the depths, where things are more obscure and more thought is required to clarify them. In all, had I not read “War and Peace,” I do not think I would be half of the philosopher as I am today. In a way, I was not interpreting Tolstoy, but the work of Tolstoy led me further on my path into the realm of thought and contemplation that is philosophy.
Tolstoy is often regarded as merely an author of fiction…He should be regarded as one of history’s better philosophers, in addition.
Chapter Thirteen: A Rainy Day in New York
“Maybe we should just leave: we are not members,” Peter shrugged. Him and Roselyn stood outside of the Royal Society building in the busy, cloudy streets of London on an afternoon day. They had been denied access by a stubborn, pretentious-looking clerk at the desk just past the front doors.
“I want to see what recent science is occurring here,” Roselyn protested. “I’m sure we’ll find a way in.”
“I’m sorry, find a way into where?” Roselyn turned, and was faced by a fairly-large gentleman, well dressed, with long grey hair. “The Royal Society? I’m a member - William Kirby, pleased to make your acquaintance. Is it that snobby clerk?” He did not leave any time for an answer. “I cannot stand that fellow: I’ll get you in.” He escorted them into the building and approached the well-dressed, snobby clerk. The old clerk looked up and sighed reluctantly.
“I am requesting access for these two guests of mine,” Kirby stated matter-of-factly. The clerk glared at him.
“Fine,” he finally grumbled. But as Kirby began to walk past, he added, “though it’s not as if entomology is a real science anyway.” At this, Kirby jolted, and he swiftly spun around and marched back toward the clerk with an angry grimace…
“And then he and the clerk began arguing about what sciences are worthy of being studied for the next few minutes,” Roselyn laughed as she recounted her brief trip to England to Diana. The two stood in the main printing room of her newspaper, and Owen was fixing some letters to the large press while Diana listen to Roselyn as she recounted her recent experience. “Anyway, it was wonderful to see the Royal Academy of Sciences,” Roselyn finished.
“What did Peter think of it all,” Diana inquired. “I know you had to convince him quite a bit before he was willing to attend the voyage.”
“He didn’t like it that much,” Roselyn shrugged. “He said there were too many factories and crowded city streets. I suppose there were a lot of unappealing slums and smoggy skies in the more-industrial areas, but we simply avoided those places in favor of the prettier parts. Though I can’t imagine that we’ll be traveling again for a while: Peter really wasn’t impressed with a lot it.”
“Well, I must say, it is good to have you back,” Owen stated rather flatly from the printer, concentrating on a metal letter that was stuck.
“Owen, my gosh, roll your sleeves up! They’re covered in ink,” Diana exclaimed. Owen simply shrugged, not caring that the white cuffs of his sleeves were blackening with dusty and wet ink.
“How come you never travel,” Roselyn asked Diana. “I could always contribute to the expenses - I make good wage in the hospitals, even if it is a lot less than the men there receive. And Peter makes a fair amount, too.”
“I don’t know,” Diana shrugged. “I mostly worry of what would happen to this journal if we left for too long: we just finally recovered from 1819. Do you have the ink I asked for?”
“Oh, yes,” Roselyn remembered, and reached into a little bag and pulled out the two bottles of ink she promised to give to Diana.
“You best be getting home: the weather outside is very bad.” They looked out the window, at the New York streets that still had yet to taste rain, but were covered by black clouds and whipping wind.
“Right, do fare well,” Roselyn smiled and left. Outside, there was almost nobody on the streets, and those that were out were running doubled over, their arms crossed across their stomachs to prevent their clothing from flapping in the wind. Soon, it began to rain - not a light rain, but a painful, stinging, hammering rain. This must be a hurricane, Roselyn thought. Desperate, and fretting that Peter would, reasonably, worry about her absence, Roselyn made the difficult decision to stop at the next building she came to on the street. Its windows were boarded up, and the door had an unlocked latch on it. She knocked hard. It opened a crack, revealing light from the inside.
“Who’s there,” a man’s voice asked from within. Roselyn could discern only part of his face - black hair, a blue eye - through the crack in the door.
“I require shelter from the cold,” she panted, soaking wet from the rain. “If you wouldn’t mind letting me in, I’d be very grateful…” She trailed off.
“I- Well-“ The man stuttered, but his generosity suddenly overtook him. “Come in,” he stated, opening the door wide for her. As soon as Roselyn was inside and the door was shut behind her, the man went about the room (small, dimly illuminated by lanterns, and containing several desks covered in papers) and began hiding pieces of paper by shoving what looked like journals and news articles under other papers and books. He was well dressed, in a black suit, short, and looked tired - he seemed to be urgently hiding the papers for some reason. Roselyn caught glimpse of a few words on one of the papers before the man shoved them away. They read: “Furthermore, in opposition to slavery…”
“You’re an abolitionist,” Roselyn stated with surprise. At this, the man stopped and stood still, sighing. “Is this a journal?”
“Secret journal,” the man corrected. “I suppose not so much anymore,” he glared at Roselyn.
“I apologize,” she stated. “If it helps at all, I am completely against slavery - it’s un-Christian.
“I suppose that this is New York,” the man sighed as he sat down in a chair and took a glass bottle from his coat - containing some dark liquid - and drank it. “But, you never know…A friend of mine worked at a journal like this in Pennsylvania, even, and he was attacked by a pro-slave mob a few months ago.
“Roselyn Kincade, pleasure to meet you,” she stated to the man. He did not get up.
“Arthur Eastwood,” he smiled. “Glad to see that you identify with our cause.”
“Roselyn?” This voice came from the doorway to the next room. Standing there was a tall man, half-dressed, with combed blond hair. At first, Roselyn was confused, but then she recognized the man: this was Francis, Tyler’s (the husband of Diana) younger brother. Roselyn had only ever met him once, and he almost never visited his brother in New York, but for some reason, he was here. “My God, how are you?” He smiled, buttoning his shirt higher to make a good impression. Then his face gained seriousness. “What are you doing here?” Arthur was still in the corner, glancing, confused, from Francis to Roselyn.
“You know each other?”
“Yes, this is a sister of my brother’s wife,” Francis proclaimed happily. “I visited Tyler earlier this morning, but I apologize that I am in a hurry,” he stated to Roselyn. She saw Arthur shoot a quick, nervous glance at Francis.
“What?” Roselyn stated, taking a step back. The rain pounded against the boarded windows, and the wind could be heard whistling through the streets. “What is this, really,” Roselyn asked, looking at each of the gentlemen in turn. Francis swallowed and began to open his mouth.
“We are an abolitionist journal, nothing more,” Arthur stated abruptly before he could even begin his sentence.
“Arthur, we should tell her, she is technically a relative of mine,” Francis urged softly.
“The editor isn’t here, we don’t have authority,” Arthur cautioned.
“Arthur.” Arthur sighed and backed off, falling back into his chair. Francis then turned to Roselyn. “We - myself in particular - have been interacting with…Well…Individuals who are lending assistance directly to escaped slaves, in addition to operating this journal.” Roselyn was surprised, to say the least, and her surprise was evident based on her new expression.
“I’ve been commissioned to recruit individuals who I judge as dedicated to the cause down South, and came up here to retrieve a shipment of pamphlets for delivery.” He spoke slowly and carefully, as if he worried that hiding his current activities from Roselyn was some sort of crime.
“Does Tyler know,” Roselyn asked.
“Only a little,” Francis sighed. “But he doesn’t know just how into this I am immersed now.”
“What about your duties?”
“I still carry the mail,” Francis chuckled. “That’s actually how I became involved in all this in the first place.” He paused, looked around, and leaned against the wall, evidently troubled by something. “Roselyn,” he began. “I, um, have been meaning to tell Tyler, and Diana, something important…I swear I was going to tell you all, I would never keep it a secret…”
“What is it?” Roselyn implored, suddenly expecting the worst kind of news.
“Your sister, um, Flower, and her husband…They are, um, working with individuals along a route for escaped slaves to journey to freedom in the North.” He said this last part quite swiftly, as if it might make the news easier to deliver somehow. Roselyn stood stunned. She had mixed feelings about it all: her sister, Flower, had children, and she was taking quite a risk by participating in such a seemingly-dangerous trade; but at the same time, it did not surprise her at all to find that Flower was doing what she believed was right.
“I’m sorry,” Francis continued. “I just found out myself a few weeks ago when I was down there. I tried to talk them out of it…”
“No,” Roselyn interrupted. The room was silent, apart from the gushing white noise of rain. “If they wish to dedicate their lives to this effort,” Roselyn began slowly. “Then I suppose that I should support that.” She paused. “Did it seem like they are being careful, are they safe?”
“I don’t know,” Francis shrugged. “When I was down there, it was hard to discern. I can’t tell if they are merely lending supplies to those who house runaway slaves, or actually housing the runaways themselves. They wouldn’t tell me…Probably because they knew I would try to stop them…For their own safety, of course,” Francis swiftly added. For a long time, the room was silent.
“How do I become involved,” Roselyn finally asked quietly. Arthur, who had not said anything for a while, raised his eyebrows.
“What?” Francis exclaimed. “Roselyn, I’m sorry, but I just can’t let you become involved in this. If Tyler finds out that I led to your participating in such a risky trade…Well, he’d hate me for it. I just can’t let you to risk everything like that.”
“I wish to join,” Roselyn shrugged matter-of-factly.
“Roselyn, you must understand, I am not by any means a leader of these operations,” Francis spoke urgently as he walked toward the table and leaned over it, evidently distressed. “I’m merely an employee, so to speak.” He looked up, saw Roselyn’s face, and knew that she would not give up.
“I will find a way into this,” Roselyn finally ended rather sternly. “I know my husband will probably support it. You can either show me how this all works, and teach me what to and not to do, or I can take the more-dangerous route and find out for myself. Your choice.” Francis sighed and looked around the room, clearly not wanting to be a part of the conversation any longer. He finally stood up, looked back to Roselyn, and nodded.
“All right,” he yielded calmly. “Fine. But promise me that you will not become too involved. Please just take things slow.”
“We’ll see,” Roselyn finished.
Owen walked through the cold streets of urban New York aimlessly. It was nearly two weeks after the hurricane had come to pass, and there was still apparent damage. He liked to walk along the streets near the coast, finding interest in the crumbled or otherwise heavily-damaged buildings. Sometimes he would pick through the rubble, for little treasures (if no one else had stolen them by then, how was he to blame?), and occasionally would deliver newspapers for whatever journal would pay him to do so for the day.
One day, however, as he walked, he spotted a young - very young - boy sitting alone on some fallen wooden beams, just in front of a toppled brick house. He was well dressed for such a young lad, though there was no sign of anyone around who could perhaps be his parents. Owen sat next to him. The child looked up at him, evidently somewhat frightened.
“What’s your name,” Owen asked.
“William…Tweed,” the boy managed to squeak out.
“How old are you?” The boy held up two fingers Owen nodded, then reached into his pocket, pulling out a few individual playing cards that he had found while scavenging through the rubble. “That’s the king,” he said, handing the child the card with the king on it. “The king is the best card: the king can do anything he wants.” The boy was simply sucking on his finger as he took the card and examined it. Owen smiled, for the child was very adorable.
“What is all this?” A man walked up to them. “Come on, William,” he urged, and picked the child up and walked off with him. As the man strolled away, Owen saw the child - held reverse against the man’s chest - still holding the card with the king on it.
“The attacks keep occurring, closer each time,” Chadwick spoke to Eleanor as they gazed out over their farmland from their house: a thin line of smoke was trailing up from over the trees somewhere in the distance. Chadwick looked at James - almost six years old, playing with some tin, toy British soldiers on the floor inside the doorway of the house. Eleanor appeared distressed. Chadwick took a step out into the farm, gazing over all he had worked so hard to build.
“Are you sure it is worth moving so far away for?” Eleanor asked, stepping behind Chadwick. Chadwick sighed, and looked back to James: James knocked over one of the tin British soldiers with a carved wooden figure of an Indian. Chadwick swallowed.
“I will sell the land to Damoan, and with that, and what we have left of our earnings from last year, we can fund our journey to Texas.”
“What if the military calls you into service again,” Eleanor inquired worriedly. Chadwick sighed.
“I hope they won’t, but they probably will, if they need me…I have a lot of experience, you know.” Eleanor only grunted in reply. Chadwick added, “Texas is supposed to have a lot of good land; besides, I’d take us all the way to Alaska to live with the Russians if it meant that we would be safe.” Just then, a man rode up swiftly, on a brown, spotted horse. It was Abraham: the man with the burning property.
“It’s quelled down now,” he stated to Chadwick, not dismounting from his horse. He wore a black coat with brown pants, all of which were very dusty and covered in ash. “Sorry to say that the crops are all but gone. I wished to thank you again for coming yesterday and trying to talk peace over.”
“Where you headed now?” Was all Chadwick said in reply as he held a hand to his face to shield the sun from his eyes.
“My wife has a brother further South in Florida,” he shrugged. “We’ll probably head there.” They said their goodbyes, and Abraham rode back to his family’s farm. Chadwick continued to stare out at his fields before finally reconciling the decision that he had been battling over for so long in his mind.
“Well.” He clasped his hands together and turned abruptly, walking back toward the house, Eleanor following. He picked up James and held him as he turned to his wife: “We best have something to eat…Then, let’s start packing for Texas.”
My first thought is that this is completely stupid: a writer writing a story about writing stories. Well, I suppose it has to happen somehow, just as a factory may not make any usable product at all, but instead makes machine parts to be used in the machines in a different set of factories. So why writing? Writing, writing, writing…Why write?
I’d say I publish about an eighth of what I write, and only seek publication for about a fourth of it (not that I try particularly hard, anyway). So if I know beforehand that what I am writing will likely not be read, then why even write? Well, if I believe that life is meaningless, then why live? Yet, I continue to live anyway. So, if the writing all comes down to nothing, then I shall still write it.
Ever notice how novelists always seem so old and poets seem so young? Ha! I have a scientific explanation for this one: fluid intelligence is the brain capacity for reasoning and quick decision making and logic. It decreases with age (fluid intelligence peaks at about twenty years old). Thus, most poets - who write in complicated metaphors - compose their best works when they are younger. Yet, crystalized intelligence accounts for the novelists. Crystalized intelligence is the ability to retain facts and data, memorize grammar rules, and remember dates, events, and names. That actually tends to increase with age (until about eighty or so), and thus, most novelists compose their best works when they are in their later years. (I do hope that I am not offending any young novelists or elderly poets).
Do the mentally disturbed write better? Why does it seem that some of the greatest writers had some sort of disorder, to some capacity? Does one need to possess a disability to write? I should think not! In fact, I would argue that the main reason for which those individuals are so prominent is simply because the majority of the disabled do not write, so the few who do write well simply receive much publicity. Why do people think that having a mental struggle makes one an excellent artist somehow? (I mean, to be sure, there are indeed individuals who are excellent artists and have suffered mental trauma). But in my opinion, crediting the disability of a disabled author for their artwork is merely undermining the true artistic expression of the individual. Are they a good writer because they are disturbed? No. They are a good writer because they are a good writer.
So, let us simply conclude that mental fitness (or lack thereof) does not necessarily play a role in the ability of one to write (aside from the ability to understand grammar rules and to know how to spell and so forth). So why write, why write…To escape from this world? I will admit, there are individuals who I have heard claim that those who write simply to escape from the burdens of daily life are cowards. Ha! Preposterous. I would argue that, while not much of what I write I do so to escape this life, writing should serve as an escape window. Life is about how to get through it as comfortably as possible (thank you, John Stuart Mill), and if writing increases that comfort, then good for you, friend.
What about leaving a legacy? Well, if that were indeed the case, then some people have left behind some rather peculiar legacies. (I literally once read a review for a book about a woman who has a romantic affair with a tyrannosaurs rex…It received four stars…I will probably read it someday...). Perhaps it would be safe to assume that a legacy is not the main motive when it comes to writing.
Well, in another sense, why do anything? I suppose that to others, who would much rather be playing video games or football, I appear as a weirdo who knows not how to spend their time. It is true: hunching over a computer in dim light does not seem like the most pristine occupation, to say the least (and the amount of monetary compensation I have garnered over my entire writing career would reflect that…Maybe I should open a creamed spinach and mushroom stand in a preschool; I would make more money than I do now).
Right, so, once again, why even do anything? Hmm…Perhaps look at it this way: individuals have various reasons for writing. Perhaps one was assigned to write something for a school assignment or as part of their job, perhaps it was for fun, and perhaps it was simply to pass the time…People have different reasons for writing…The goal of this essay is as pointless as the creamed spinach and mushroom stand.
In other words, there is no single reason (nor any combination of reasons) for why some of humanity chooses to write: there are simply too many individuals to be placed under one category. We are unlike atoms that will react based on a predictable electron count…No…Rather, we are all different in our motives. Perhaps it is to escape from this world into another, perhaps it is for a commissioned assignment, perhaps it is because it is simply enjoyable, perhaps it is because (in some fantasy which the rest of us can only dream of) it actually makes the author generous amounts of money, perhaps it is because of Savant syndrome, perhaps it is because…Of…Of any number of things.
The fact is, we are writers. We have many titles: poet, novelist, technical writer, essayist, satirist, song artist, blasphemer, playwright, film writer, scribe, scholar, treaty drafter, script writer, public speaker…Authors. We are all authors. Do we each have one reason, one overarching motive, for why we write? No: we each have our own individual motives, and they tend to be many. In the end, a million-word novel is nothing if it is not written in a language that can be understood. So, at the end of the day, everyone has their reason. Anyone who says that there is one single trait that makes any author better than another, or some specific disposition or motivation that renders them excellent or brilliant, is (forgive my harsh rejection) dead wrong. We all have our reasons, and we all have our stories to tell…It was foolish to attempt to summarize the motivations for writing in a single essay…Please disregard this essay.
How A Stair-fall Led to Our Infrastructure Improvement (Satire)
Here at the Politics Weekly Press, we are very much in support of President Joe Biden’s introduced infrastructure bill. This bill will provide for the establishment of new roads, charging stations for electric automobiles, and the repair of America’s lacking infrastructure.
But Journalist Alfred White brought up a good point: “where did this idea come from?” This stumped our editors. “I mean, he’s a good president, but what actually gave him the idea to reform our national infrastructure?” White continued.
Stanton Barr, another journalist here at our newsroom, brought up a good point: “I think it was Biden’s fall on the stairs a few weeks ago that inspired him to announce this bill.” It was a new theory, to say the least, but perhaps one that was worth investigating. “You know, when he was trying to board Air Force One,” Barr clarified.
To investigate, the editors here at the Politics Weekly Press allowed Barr to go and investigate. At the White House, Barr was allowed to meet briefly with the President, which lasted for a few minutes. Barr cut right to the big question:
“So, President Biden, am I right to assume that you drafted the idea for your infrastructure plan following your unfortunate fall on the stairs while boarding your plane?”
“That is correct,” Biden confirmed. “I tripped on those stairs and thought, ‘wow, this country needs some better infrastructure!’”
“And could you explain more on that,” Barr asked.
“Well, I thought, ‘if the most high-ranking official in the United States can’t even make it up a simple staircase, then I hate to think what the rest of the nation must be facing!’ I don’t want a single staircase to trip anybody in this country.”
“That sounds good, Mr. President, thank you for speaking with me.”
Some claim that, following an instance of tragedy, there arises an opportunity to learn and for correction. Perhaps we can all thank our good fortune that those stairs were there, so that now we may have our infrastructure improved.
Chapter Four: From Bondage to Burgos
Roselyn remained further South with Flower. She stood by her side as she battled through illnesses and fatigue resulting from her arrow wound. There was in the town, however, a French man by the name of Louis Jaques Pierre. He was an immensely skilled hunter, and would make sketches of the animals he shot or trapped. Mostly he was interested in their anatomical structure.
When her sister was asleep or simply recovering in bed, Roselyn would find herself drawn to Pierre's sketches more and more. She had an interest in anatomy, she really did, and she was already witnessing some of the practices and treatments being used on her sister in addition to the works of this man. As she watched him in his work, the two grew closer and closer together. As it turned out, Pierre was a skilled physician who studied anatomy in animals in America for leisure, but he belonged to a wealthy family - one that lived in Paris, France.
He was not merely skilled at anatomy, but he was handsome, as well, with flat black hair and a perfectly-symmetrical face with brown eyes. He taught Roselyn much of his trade - how to dress wounds, and how to make and grind certain medicines - and it took her a few weeks to realize that he was essentially flirting with her. He gave the impression of a kind, clever young man…Roselyn felt suddenly selfish for being with him.
As soon as she realized that Flower was soon to recover, she left her with the remainder of their money, and left with Pierre, who was on his way to New York to sell some of his sketches (she would have liked to leave much later, and with her sister, but he claimed to be on a tight schedule). After all, Diana was supposed to be working with something in journalism (or that was what she claimed once) in New York by then.
“I am returning to Paris, my Rosie,” Pierre smiled and embraced her as they stood inside their rented room in a building in New York. “You should come with me: you’ll love Europe!”
“I’m not so sure…” Roselyn began. “My sister, Flower, still has not come up to New York - we only write to each other, and I still have to locate Diana, whom I have not heard a word from. I wish to see them both again.”
“We’ll simply visit Europe, then come back,” Pierre encouraged, and the two bantered back and fourth for a while, but ultimately, Roselyn was already carried away by the prospect of visiting a foreign continent. “Believe me,” Pierre encouraged, smartly flapping the ends of his sharp black coat. “You’ll have a wonderful time!”
A shrill whistle pierced the air, and a cracking explosion occurred a few seconds later, sending a few troops flying onto their backs. Roselyn kept her head down and ran, trying to avoid death. The day was cloudy, and the smell of smoke and gunpowder fouled the air. She passed a soldier who was squatting on the ground, clutching his wounded stomach. Roselyn actually thought of helping him, but she had to find the commander. Finally, she spotted the officers huddled under a large tree, seemingly out of place amid the carnage.
“Where is the commander?” She demanded as she ran up, skipping all formalities. Another explosion rang out in the distance, and the loud shouts of a company in combat sounded from somewhere else nearby, followed by the little popping sounds of multiple rifles firing at once.
“I don’t know,” another officer shouted nervously, throwing down the papers he held and looking up at Roselyn. He was young, short, and clean-shaven; well-dressed in a blue uniform, and seemingly inexperienced. “He’s not here, or he’s dead, I think. I mean…Hey, you are a woman? Are you a nurse? I demand to see a soldier! Where is a messenger?”
“He died,” she exclaimed. “Killed by a stray shot. He was to be my escort away from the front line. I have to carry on the message now.”
“I will not listen to a woman at such an urgent time,” the officer exclaimed with, rudely, apparent disgust.
“Never mind,” Roselyn shouted. “Where is the leading commander here?”
“I am that man,” a general (also dressed in a fine blue uniform) stated confidently as he stepped forward. He had a fat, clean-shaven face and lamb-chop sideburns, but at least he seemed competent, conversely to the other officer that Roselyn had spoken to. “Vicente Genaro de Quesada,” he introduced himself firmly. “And I am not dead,” he added harshly to the other officer.
“General, we are hopelessly outnumbered,” Roselyn rushed to explain, wiping ash and dirt from her face. “The adjutant of Belveder ordered the soldier that I was traveling with to inform you that it is advisable to abandon Burgos.”
“Were these direct orders,” the general questioned suspiciously, his heavily-wrinkled face taking on more signs of age as he raised his eyebrows.
“No, Sir, I don’t think so, but the adjutant has view of the whole field,” Roselyn rushed to explain, still out of breath from her parlous run.
“We can’t abandon Burgos!” This was spoken by another, even more stern officer who had been overhearing the conversation. Just then, a cannon shell landed nearby and exploded. They all crouched down as small chunks of dirt fell over all of them. They stood back up.
“She’s right, we have to abandon Burgos,” the young, incompetent officer cried desperately, suddenly on Roselyn’s side (more likely for fear of his own life rather than out of strategy). Roselyn glanced behind her, at the columns of soldiers engaging in rifle combat of the salvo as dirt and debris rained from the sky under constant cannon shell explosions.
“General, Sir, Belveder’s forces were completely crushed,” Roselyn exclaimed urgently. “I am the only nurse that escaped capture. We must abandon Burgos!” The general looked out over the war-torn, rolling and dust-covered fields outside the city of Burgos, with eyes that seemed to realize the severity of the situation, he sighed and turned back to Roselyn.
“Ride to Villalbilla,” he stated. “Inform the command there that Vicente Genaro de Quesada was unable to hold the French forces of Napoleon…But tell them that he was either captured or died trying.” The man actually smiled slightly. “Go to safety. Captain Alfonso will escort you,” he gestured to the rude, incompetent officer, who seemed relieved to be sent away from the raging battle.
“I will, Sir. God be with you!” And with that, she took off at a sprint for an officer’s horse that had been brought for her. They rode away, over the dust-covered hills with patches of grass upon them, racing away from Burgos. The French would take the city, that much was certain, and from there they would likely advance upon Castile. Roselyn and her escort made it to Villalbilla, and Roselyn left after having delivered the message. She spent most of the journey from the city in thought, largely about the bloodshed she had witnessed.
But that was one of the reasons why she had persisted in her short nursing career: she wanted to help people. She had saved the lives of several men who were placed before her on the table, and dressed their wounds, and even assisted more-professional doctors in several surgeries. But she knew that she could not remain at a combat site any longer. With the clopping sound of her galloping horse, Roselyn left the bloody Napoleonic campaign behind her, hopefully forever…
November 14, 1808
I’m sorry that it has been so long since I’ve written to you. I know that I am an adult, but I feel as if now my childhood has truly ended. I have seen so many horrible things! I already wrote to you that the scoundrel Pierre left me for that Spanish woman as soon as we crossed into Spain, practically! I am so sorry that my selfishness brought me to him, and pulled me away from you. I should have been by your side as you recovered; instead, that scoundrel dumped me here with little money, and I still have trouble with the language!
Oh, but there was no work; except, of course, as a nurse. Napoleon’s forces are on the move, and the Spanish were eager to induct me into the service, and my medical knowledge proved useful. But I have witnessed horrible atrocities! At least the pay was fair. But, sister, I delivered a message to a general! The Spanish lost at Burgos, but I hope that at least my message gave them time to prepare for what was coming, and deal a greater blow to to those bloody French! I am sorry, I am ranting…
The point is, I have learned a lot of practical knowledge, and am a lot smarter about the world, now. I am sorry I have been so selfish and left you - I am coming back to America. But some day, I do want to take you back to Europe, or maybe even Asia (I met a man here who has been to India, and he speaks highly of it). I really do believe that you would love it here, after the war is over, of course. But as for me, I plan to book passage on a ship bound for New York, and from there (unless something goes wrong), I shall travel back to you. I hope this letter reaches you, and that you are still living in the same place. I read your last letter, and I am glad to hear that you have been feeling well, lately. I am sending other letters to the other members of the family. Much love,
-Your sister, Rosie
Flower was still down South, now in a small town just below the border of Tennessee. She had recovered from her arrow wound within a year, but an overarching sickness persisted. Sometimes, it was nothing more than a headache, but other times, it was so intense that she felt as if she might die from the pain. This she battled all through the years of 1805 to 1806. Thankfully, a nearby physician, William Beaumont, was very skilled, and even once had to perform surgery on Flower, but he saved her life on numerous occasions.
He claimed to have been a military surgeon in the United States Army, and his skill was evident. Still, though, Flower disliked him. In fact, she disliked all biologists in general ever since Louis Jaques Pierre swept her sister up and carried her away.
Though even before 1807, Flower was well enough to write letters, and through that, she found a love of poetry that she had never encountered before. She managed to write home often, which allowed her family to know of the small town where she was, and she occasionally received letters (and, less often, money) from her parents, and once heard from Chadwick. He was apparently on some massive expedition a ways to the West. That was fine with Flower: ironically, she was not as in tune with nature as Chadwick and Roselyn seemed to be. The only family member she had not heard from was Diana. In fact, Roselyn even wrote that she could not find their sister in New York, which was somewhat troubling.
Flower was beloved by the local community. She was pretty, and all the men liked her. She was smart and a clever poet, and always impressed with her writing talent. She worked, however, as a seamstress, as that was all she could really do when she was ill. She was welcomed and cherished by the small town, and everyone there was very kind, but she still felt empty.
On a few occasions, and especially after receiving Roselyn’s latest letter, she had to admit to herself that she was at least a little bit jealous. Her father had traveled from across the sea to America, and had established a suitable trade and encountered several notable individuals. Flower’s brother, Chadwick, had gone on an expedition, and a very ambitious one by the sounds of it. Flower’s own sister, even, who was only twenty years old (and no older than her), already had a failed relationship and a nursing job during a war behind her, not to mention having visited Spain and Portugal, and would now presumably be crossing the Atlantic a second time. And what was this talk of going back to Europe, or maybe even India?
Flower did not like to believe that she felt jealous - she wished to be above that - but compared to the other members in her family, she felt under-accomplished. For all she knew, Diana could be working for the most successful newspaper in New York. What was Flower’s legacy?…An arrow to the leg that took years to really recover from. How she longed to truly prove herself to the world….And all the while, the people of her small town thought higher of her than of anyone else in the vicinity.
Just Throwing it Out There...
So, I anticipate that a basic plot line would suffice, and that would still leave authors with much freedom to contribute to the work. The reason that I stress this is because I have perceived that some individuals wish for complete freedom, and some seem to wish for a larger, more concrete plotline before we begin. As keeping with the ego (just kidding, psychoanalysis is mostly a fallacy, sorry Freud), I believe it would be wise to seek a sort of compromise: a basic plot line that the writers are free to express the work upon. There is no building to construct if the foundation is not first established.
So, for the plot, here is my basic, very general, idea: something that has to do with fantastical, Middle-Age warfare, perhaps? (I would imagine that some degree of cannons and firearms would be permitted, as cannons have been around since the 1300s, and firearms have been around since the early 1400s - technically the Middle Ages). But, in the end, I will likely proceed as a writer with whatever plot gets chosen.
On the Subjectivity of Morals
Friedrich Nietzsche called them humanity’s “herd instinct.” John Stuart Mill stated that they are the proportion to which an action leads to human happiness. Socrates believed that a “moral” individual would not harm an “immoral” individual. Philosophers (and scientists) have long debated the essence of morality, and different cultures have all at various times, and even today, possess differing ideas of what is morally acceptable. But one question above all else rings clear: do morals actually exist apart from our subjective human world, in the objective realm? To be clear, morals and ethics are something urgently required by society to function properly and to ensure human happiness and trust. For truly, a world without morals would be a world of chaos and misfortune, presumably. With that established, however, do morals actually exist objectively?
Think back a few hundred thousand years: nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers wandering the fields and forests of our Earth. A group or tribe or clan that had no established moral or ethical sense would presumably contain self-serving individuals who would take what they wanted and do what they wanted to the other individuals in the group without restraint. The tribe would simply descend into chaos, and the population would be lessened, and thus, such a mindset of people would not be able to very well reproduce.
Now imagine a group containing individuals with a moral sense. These individuals would look out for each other, and care for each other, and thereby protect each other; and, as consequence, their population would grow and they would have a much better opportunity to reproduce. Thus, over the generations, the population of morally and ethically-sensible individuals would eventually severely outnumber those without a moral sense.
That is the evolutionary perspective, anyway, but to me, it makes a lot of sense. In nature, of all animals and types, there are those beings that cooperate, and even more that simply ignore each other. Other animals besides humans are social - this being for communication about food, mating, and shelter - and even those that do attack each other or cannibalize other animals of their species (such as alligators) still tend to care for their offspring.
Those with a moral sense are biologically fated to predominate in a given area (assuming that intelligence is accounted for). The stronger the moral sense, the better the members of a society protect and look out for each other, and the more the population grows. Those without morals tend to simply descend into low numbers as they fight and betray, and eventually become few or even extinct. And look now: humans - the most-moral animals - are on top.
The bottom line is this: morals are, in my opinion, certainly required for a well-reasoned, advanced, and functioning society. In fact, this sense is so deeply encoded in our genetics, that even human infants display a common tendency to favor a figure who is perceived as benevolent rather than a malevolent one. However…does the notion that morals and ethics are required for society to function properly and for human happiness mean that they objectively carry any meaning? I should think not.
As a nihilist myself, I do acknowledge that, objectively (though our human conceptions of words such as “good” and “bad” are well-reasoned, advanced, and frankly, necessary for our own survival), the notion that morals and ethics may be necessary for the survival of life does not mean that they objectively carry any value. Obviously, we need morals, and we should continue to fight for what we believe is right, but even within humanity, no single culture fights for the exact same thing, and everyone seems to assume that their perception is the right one.
This likely indicates that a true, objective moral rule does not exist. All in all, we are but a speck of dust in our tiny corner of space, and our subjective laws (arising within our tiny speck of a planet in our tiny speck of a solar system in our tiny speck of a galaxy in our tiny speck of space) may not apply to the rest of the universe that we still have yet to explore and uncover.
In the end, no matter what one does, I should argue, they are technically not bound by words such as “good” or “bad.” The universe simply does not care. However, in our advanced, modern, and well-reasoned human society, we must adhere to these principles which, as I have reasoned, appear to be within our genetic coding.
So, in a grander sense, I do not believe that morals exist in the objective realm, but I still maintain that they are what is required by society to keep it functioning. A robbery, the universe may not call a sin, but I will certainly look down upon it. A murder, the universe may not call a sin, but I dearly hope that we can all agree that no one should ever take the life of another. Morals are a creation - whether by chance or by nature - and such a wonderful, outstanding, necessary, and beautiful creation at that.