The Guardians of Freedom - Part 6
It’s me, Theodore Fluffington.
I have just come into your world through a Plot hole created by the neural energies of your mind. And now that I am here I will help you to find happiness in your existence, and tickle away your sadness, and protect you from all of the scary villains out there who terrorize and hurt you for their own gratification.
For a long time you have wished that I were real and would help you to do all those things, because you are so very sick and tired of living in a state of chronic oppression and misery, and you do not know how to change that state on your own. But still you remain helpless, and unhappy in your life, without a real Superteddy to play with and defend you. So you have decided to alleviate the torment of that dreadful, depressing life as best you can, by pretending that I am standing in front of you right now, thereby transforming yourself and your world, in your imagination, into part of this wondrous fantasy realm where such Guardians really do exist.
Now snuggle yourself up to my fluff, forget all of your worries and grief, and let me amuse you with a story about the adventures that I have had during this past week.
It sure was an eventful week, starting six days ago when Thumper teleported himself right in front of me and asked me to come with him to his native dimension, where our friend Clarence Dillwater, the Mountie, had recently begun to assault and murder people in an attempt to please a giant, judgmental, omnipotent mushroom who lives in the sky.
The other Guardians of that dimension all suspected that Clarence was having a delusional, schizophrenic episode, and did not accept his claim that some all-powerful entity had given him the right to hurt other people. This difference in what they chose to believe led to a physical altercation when Ace refused to allow the Mountie to kill a bunch of farmers for the alleged sin of cultivating and picking a crop of non-sapient mushrooms.
We arrived at the scene of this battle just as the Mountie placed his gloved hand against a port in the side of his Hovering Reconnaissance and Support Equipment, drawing power from that device to recharge the capacitors in his uniform and sidearm. (Incidentally, in the second story that you transcribed for me you mistakenly used the word ‘recognizance’ in place of ‘reconnaissance’, and while I find that to be an amusing and oddly intriguing alternative, I want to be clear that what you have written here is the proper name of that vaguely horse-like contraption, as will be defined by its creator in about 900 years.) Then he pulled his gun from its holster and fired an energy ball at one of those farmers, which would have transformed that terrified, unarmed woman into a splatter of blood and meat chunks if Ace had not pushed her out of the way.
Before he fired again I ran over to Clarence and tried to pacify him with a hug, but his uniform generated a repulsive force field that prevented me from touching him. A moment later he willed that protective field to disengage, sending a signal through his hat to turn off the force projectors woven into the fabric of that uniform, because he wanted me to be able to hug him. Then I grabbed Clarence and began to pet him with my supremely soft fur until the pure pleasure of that sensation made him forget, for the moment, about his bloodthirsty intention.
Once everyone had calmed down and stopped fighting I asked Clarence to explain to me what was going on. He then opened a small storage compartment in his Ho.R.S.E. and pulled out a book that he referred to as the Tome of the Fungus. That book told the story of a humungous, flying toadstool with a face and personality – inexplicably named Reginald - who predates the existence of all things, knows everything, and created humanity several millennia ago by scattering its spores over the Earth. Then, supposedly, Reginald had chosen a small group of humans to be set above all others on the face of the Earth, commanding those chosen few to utterly destroy certain other groups of people who do not believe in that mushroom.
After Clarence told me that story I scanned his mind for thoughts involving this book, which led back to a collection of memories that began on a cool, bright gray day several weeks earlier. In those memories he was flying, cheerfully, over a small forest on his Ho.R.S.E. when the chemical sensors of that mount detected faint traces of a decomposing body, leading him to the putrefying, mushroom covered corpse of an old woman, which was so badly mutilated that he could barely recognize it as the remains of a human being.
That experience disturbed Clarence very much, and in its aftermath he started to obsess over the cruelty, violence, and suffering of human life, which he felt essentially powerless to prevent despite the power of all his fancy technological gizmos. He then began to feel acutely and chronically anxious, because he realized that he never knew when life would treat him nicely and when it would suddenly, unexpectedly harm him in some severe way.
As his disturbed state of mind grew even more agitated and anxious he had begun to hear whispering voices. Then he fell asleep and had a dream in which those mushroom caps that had covered the rotting corpse told him about the Great Reginald, whose perfect justice and truth would someday save the world from such terrors. He awoke from this dream feeling calm for the first time in weeks, believing that he had had a prophetic vision and discovered the key to bringing peace to his world. Then he created the Tome of the Fungus.
Buried deep in the subconscious portion of his mind I found the choice that Clarence had made to make up the words of that book, but when I tried to show that recollection to him he refused to believe it. Instead he insisted that every word in the Tome had been given to him by Reginald, and surely reflected some profound, undeniable truth. Of course I couldn’t be absolutely certain that those were not the words of an omniscient aerial Fungus, though I find that idea to be highly implausible.
So I asked Clarence how he could distinguish the voice of Reginald from a schizophrenic hallucination, which for one brief moment he realized that he could not do. That moment of doubt made him start to feel very guilty, and uneasy. Then he pushed those unpleasant feelings away by ardently insisting that he did not have any doubt whatsoever about the reality of Reginald, and claimed that he could tell the difference between a psychological delusion and the voice of his Lord through the grace and blessings of his faith in that mushroom.
That line of thought does not lead to anything but itself, and cannot ever be refuted in the mind of anyone like Clarence, who is unwilling to recognize the fundamental flaw of its premise. So I switched the track of our conversation and asked him to tell me about how his faith made him feel. We talked about how upset he had been at the discovery of that mutilated body, and how scary it was for him to realize how powerless he is to prevent most of the horrific things that happen to people in this world.
Eventually he came to understand that his belief in Reginald numbs a lot of his psychological pain, kind of like a metaphysical drug. Then I suggested that if such a being did not actually exist he would probably want to make one up to believe in anyway. He laughed a little bit when I said that, some small part of him realizing the truth of that remark, but then he became very somber and stared at me, blankly, unwilling to acknowledge, even indirectly, the possibility that he might have done such a thing.
So then I told him all about you, and projected images from your mind into his consciousness in order to show him that I serve a similar psychological purpose for you as Reginald does for him. I explained that in a world where I do not actually exist you chose to create me with your imagination in order to make your life in that frequently unpleasant world somewhat more bearable, hoping that that information would enable him to recognize that he had probably done something similar.
There are also some very significant differences between Reginald and me, despite that similarity in our origins, due to differences in what you and Clarence each wanted us to represent. For one thing, he imagined that that deity has a jealous, vengeful, domineering personality, which demands to be worshipped, in order to validate and indulge the proud and malevolent parts of his own psyche. Conversely, you resisted the impulse to imbue me with such attributes, creating me without the slightest desire for any kind of adulation and limiting my own negativity to the occasional expression of frustration, annoyance, and sadness over the willful criminality of human beings.
And you do not imagine that I am omnipotent, so you do not have to wonder why I allow you to suffer needlessly. I do everything in my power to make you happy, and therefore you do not have any reason to doubt that I really do care about you. Whereas Clarence is plagued by such doubts, and is angry at Reginald, in a rarely conscious corner of his mind, for creating a world which persistently torments him, making him feel unhappy, anxious and unsafe.
Also, you are willing to believe in the real value of what I stand for without needing to convince yourself that I actually exist, while Clarence desperately wants to believe that he has some kind of real reason to believe that that mushroom is a real person. And so, unlike me, Reginald vilifies and condemns anyone who does not believe in It, alleging that that lack of faith is the most serious personal flaw, or sin, because when another mind refuses to agree with Clarence’s conceit that there is an obvious, objective rationality in the choice to believe confidently in the truth of his unproven religious assertions it threatens the psychological foundation of that mindset, making him doubt what he really cannot bear to doubt.
But at that time I did not mention any of these differences to Clarence, speaking to him only of how Reginald and I are similar, to keep this matter as simple and uncomplicated as possible. Unfortunately, simple as it was, he could not grasp the essence of what I was saying, and insisted that I was talking like a crazy person, because he and I are real people, obviously, who must be more than just figments of someone else’s imagination.
So then I admitted to him that you might not actually be real. I confessed that I might just be deluding myself with the idea that I was created by an author like you, so that no matter how bleak and hopeless things may seem I can always feel confident that the story of my life will have a happy ending.
Clarence readily agreed with the sensibility of that admission, but then stubbornly insisted that his belief in Reginald could not possibly be the product of the same kind of wishful delusion. So I changed track again and tried to engage the rational bit of his mind which understood the logical inconsistency of his belief that a being with limitless power would need someone like him to fight the nonbelievers on Its behalf, even though It could do so for Itself as effortlessly as It wishes.
He first tried to suppress that rational doubt by arguing that Reginald needs people like him to destroy the infidels because It respects the freewill of human beings. But as we analyzed this concept he realized that commanding others to harass and destroy someone for acting in a certain way is no less meddlesome and disrespectful of that person’s freewill than doing so oneself.
Then we explored his memories of the times that he spent glorifying and praising Reginald. As we reviewed these experiences I asked him if getting all worked up and excited and carrying on about the supreme, transcendent, perfect awesomeness and glory of that Fungus would really add anything to Its infinite grandeur, or if not doing so could in any way diminish that glory.
“Of course not,” he immediately answered. And then he began to comprehend that his choice to exuberantly and repeatedly proclaim the greatness of his Lord Reginald is really all about exciting and stimulating his own mind, and indirectly gratifying his ego, as is his choice to try to make everyone else abide by the dictates of his religion.
Once I helped Clarence to admit that his religious beliefs and actions actually serve him, whether or not Reginald really does exist, and convinced him to give up the vain pretense that he is somehow helping that omnipotent, divine entity he could not longer delude himself with the idea that hurting people in the name of his religion is something more than a selfish, thinly veiled act of villainy. He then agreed to let everyone else live their own lives in peace, whether or not they choose to abide by the rules of any particular religion. And he also agreed to talk to his doctor about his recent experiences, though he was not ready to give up his comforting belief in the existence of that potentially fictitious God.
That resolved this matter to our mutual satisfaction, so we said goodbye and amicably parted company. Then Thumper took me to talk with William Jovial, or Void, as he likes to be called, who had also been acting in ways that we found rather disturbing.
When I greeted William he immediately began to use the power of his null-energy to suppress the existence of the signal that I use to scan the minds of those around me, making it difficult for me to get a clear picture of what was going on in his head. This strange and unprecedented behavior surprised and concerned me, but I did not ask him about it because I suspected that he was trying to hide something from me, and would therefore not want to admit what he was doing.
Instead I asked him what was new in his life, and then he told me about how he had met and fallen in love with a charming, playful, very kind, much older woman, who reminded him a lot of that man who died in the explosion that gave him his unusual power. As he told me about her I caught a brief, vague image of how her cheerful affection had drawn him out of the depression that had plagued him since the loss of that other playmate, and saw that for the first time in a very long time he had felt truly happy.
But then that new friend slipped on a patch of ice and hit her head and died, which broke his newly mended, fragile heart all over again.
And then, just a few hours after that, his puppy had been run over and killed by an ice-cream truck driven by a man who disliked all flavors but vanilla, and who liked to think that nobody else should be allowed to eat any flavor of ice cream except for the one that he enjoyed. To satisfy that pathological attitude – he later told William - he had tried to run over some children who he had spotted by the side of the road eating cones full of chocolate ice cream, which is when he squashed that puppy.
William told me about these tragic events with an affectation of emotion and grief which he did not really feel, because he knew intellectually that I would expect him to display such feelings.
During this conversation I caught a few brief glimpses of the bitterness and resentment that had filled up the hole that had been left in his life by the random, senseless, unforeseeable and unpreventable loss of that friend and dog. Overflowing with those psychic toxins, his heart had become very sick, and in that wretched state William decided to end his misery by using null-energy to obliterate the part of his psyche that felt such horrific pain, which was the same part of him that had once felt such immense pleasure and happiness in the affectionate embrace of his dear friend.
Having destroyed the part of himself that could love and care about other people he was left feeling nothing for anyone else but an angry, brutal, malicious impulse to hurt and destroy. And then he used his power to eradicate all traces of his conscience, so that he could indulge that impulse without the slightest bit of hesitation or remorse.
After completing that sinister transformation he tracked down the man who had killed his puppy, tied him up, and murdered him over the course of a dozen hours by using his power to destroy that killer one little bit at a time. Void enjoyed that murder very much, and subsequently embarked on a new career as a serial killer. Over the following months he killed many other people, including that woman whose mutilated corpse had so severely upset Clarence.
When I finally managed to piece together a fairly complete picture of what was going on I said goodbye to William and left with Thumper. Then I told my floppy-eared companion what I had learned, and he immediately began to keep watch over Void using his clairvoyant perception, to make sure that he was not killing anyone else.
Then we decided that after William fell asleep that night I would project an image of myself into his dream, so that I could confront him about what he was doing in an environment where he could not hurt anyone else.
In that dream, before revealing what I knew, I told William about an encounter that I had recently had with a very angry, resentful man named Devon Walker, who despised life for the way that it had treated him. I told him about how that man had grown up as a very handsome, talented, well-liked child, in affluent surroundings, who believed that the future held nothing for him but good fortune.
Then Devon awoke, on the day that he had planned to go off to college, to find that he had inexplicably mutated into a massive, monstrous, hump-backed behemoth covered in a lumpy, rock-like carapace. His admission to that college was rescinded when the administrators learned what had happened to him, under the pretense that his mere presence would pose some kind of danger to the other students. And then his parents disowned him, and all of his supposed friends ran from him in revulsion.
The dreadful, horrifying feeling of knowing that he did not have any idea how to alleviate this mysterious, disturbing, potentially perpetual condition quickly drove him to madness. To distract himself from the misery and terror of his plight he focused on his feelings of anger, inflaming his sense of resentment with thoughts about how harshly and unfairly life had treated him. And when he found that these thoughts alone were not enough to numb his pain he turned to acts of violence, beginning a rampage of destruction that nearly leveled an entire town.
When I learned what he was doing I went to help Devon, who at that time was calling himself Monstrosity. In the company of my friends Neon and Bertron I approached him cautiously and asked what we could do to make things better for him. In response to that offer of assistance he roared menacingly, and then charged at us with the intent to kill.
In that moment Bertron blasted him with her lasers, which left some scorch marks on his shell but did not stop his charge. Then he kicked me, which sent me flying but caused no damage to my soft, pliable form. An instant before that happened Neon leapt up into the air, perfectly timing her jump so that she could catch me and bring me back to the ground.
That self-described Monstrosity then began to create a bunch of crab-like things, and snakes, and giant spiders, and many other types of unusual-looking creatures from the amorphous mass of tissue that formed the hump of his back, which crawled out from between the plates of his segmented covering. These creatures shared his phenomenal strength and physical sturdiness, and each possessed a minimal level of intelligence, which had been patterned after the impulses of his own mind.
Through the use of various scent chemicals and sequences of movement Devon communicated with his creations, commanding them to kill us.
As that small swarm of combative creatures advanced toward Bertron she began blasting them with a bunch of tiny missiles, killing a few before their creator interrupted that barrage by slamming her with his massive fist, denting the right side of her torso and destroying the device that launched those missiles.
Then our assailant released his own barrage of fast-flying needle-thin creatures, each of which had been mentally imprinted before launch with the single-minded determination to stab me. When I dodged out of the way of their initial trajectory they used their little wings to alter course and steer themselves toward me, sticking me a moment later, like a giant pincushion, which didn’t bother me at all.
While his attention was focused on me Neon pounced on Devon’s back and began to grapple with him, knowing that her much stronger opponent would easily gain the upper hand and casually toss her away in a matter of seconds. After hitting the ground, deliberately failing to land on her feet, Neon looked up at Devon with an expression of admiration on her face and said, “I sure wish that I were as strong as you.” Then she stood up, rubbed her backside a bit, as if it had been bruised by that fall, and said, “And I certainly wouldn’t mind having that armor-plated posterior right about now.”
The implied compliments of those statements surprised Devon, and pleased him, as I had expected that they would. Beneath his anger at what had happened to him and the resentment that he felt toward those people who had scorned him I had seen in his mind an immensely powerful desire to be liked, and admired, and accepted. And based upon that observation I had concocted a plan to pacify our adversary and stop his rampage by reminding him that he still had reasons to feel good about himself, and by letting him know that there are some people like us who will not reject him for his unusual condition.
“We would really like to have someone like you as a member of the Guardians of Freedom,” I told him, and then asked him to aid our cause with those unique abilities of his that the rest of us are not fortunate enough to possess. Then we waited as he considered the possibility of putting his uncomfortable circumstances to a more productive and benevolent use.
Devon decided that he would not longer fight us, and called his creations back to him. They crawled up between the plates of his shell and dissolved into the mass of tissue on his back. Then he agreed to join our band of heroes, and left that town, with us, in peace.
After I finished telling that story I went on to explain how much less miserable Devon is now that he has learned to make peace with the tragedies of his life - which does not mean that he condones or consents to the torments that human life inflicts upon him, or that he never gets mad about them, but only means that he has chosen to not use anger and malice to mask the pain, fear and sadness of that suffering, so he no longer increases his own torment by holding on to his feelings of rage and resentment, and no longer allows those negative feelings to drive him to acts of villainy.
Then William’s dream-self scrutinized the projected image of me for several seconds with a suspicious, pondering expression on his imaginary face. He quickly reached the conclusion that I probably knew his murderous secret, and subsequently tried to use his power to destroy me.
I saw then that I had not gotten through to him, and did not feel confident that I ever would, because I could not find anything left in Void that would respond to kindness and empathy, or to any kind of intellectual reason. So before he awoke I administered to him an anesthetic that would keep this broken, miserable mind asleep indefinitely.
The following day I returned to my Earth, where I testified at the trial of someone who had tried to murder me because he hates everyone who is not human. He had done so within the territory that is claimed and controlled by one of that world’s few remaining national governments, the laws of which call such an act a ‘hate crime’. And those laws also call for the perpetrator of that act to be punished especially and specifically for the hateful motivation behind his behavior.
So I went to court and testified on behalf of that defendant, asking the jury to acquit him of breaking such an absurd and unjust law. I encouraged them to convict him of trying to kill me - to lock up this violent and dangerous criminal because it is necessary to do so in order to protect people like me - but not to try to hurt him in some extra, unnecessary way just because of the way that he feels.
I scanned the minds of the jurors and located the hateful, disgusted attitude that they feel for people like the defendant. It was hiding, as usual, behind an assortment of obfuscating ideologies and justifications and denials, which disguised this feeling so well that some of them could not even recognize it within themselves. But I, Superteddy, have the power to see through the walls that people build in their minds to hide uncomfortable knowledge from their own consciousness, so I could see how they really felt. And I projected these thoughts back into their heads on an unambiguously conscious level.
After that I addressed and debunked the idea that a crime motivated by some kind of prejudicial hatred is fundamentally more criminal than the same act perpetrated for any other reason because it terrorizes a larger group of people. I dispelled that falsehood by turning its faulty logic upon itself, pointing out that a crime committed against a victim chosen at random - without any kind of discriminatory motivation whatsoever - terrorizes everyone, because it makes all people potential targets, and so would actually be the worse crime, if that argument were valid.
Deprived of that rationalization, those jurors could no longer excuse their desire to punish this man for his prejudice. Many of them still disliked him very much, partly because some small part of each of them felt jealous and resentful of the fact that he allowed himself to satisfy his malevolent impulses while they usually denied and repressed that part of themselves. And so, spitefully, they wanted to believe that they were somehow entitled to indulge their own malevolence at his expense. But once they realized why they wanted to convict him of that extraneous, utterly unnecessary, purely vengeful charge they decided not to do so, and convicted him only for the actual crime of trying to murder me.
After that I left the courtroom and encountered a professional therapist who had come to witness the trial of someone who had recently beaten another person to death.
Several months earlier, during a therapy session, a client had given that woman reason to believe that a 70-year-old human being was being abused. So she alerted the police about that suspected abuse, as she was required to do by law. According to the proponents of that law it serves to protect the most vulnerable members of their society, but in that particular case it failed to do so, because that senior citizen was not one of those people. That person, in fact, possessed the physical and mental capacity to stand up for himself, and had already resolved that situation without any assistance.
Then the therapist saw another client who mentioned something to her that gave her reason to believe that a 10-year-old human being was being abused. So she called the police, again, to report that suspicion of abuse. But it turned out, as before, that that person was able to take care of himself, and was not in need of protection at that time.
And after that she saw another client who gave her reason to believe that a 40-year-old human being was being abused. But this time she did not alert the police about that suspected abuse, because of the age of the victim. Some agents of the local government did eventually discover what was going on, but they refused to offer this man the same assistance that they provide to older and younger people who find themselves in the same situation, even though he really was one of the most vulnerable members of their society, and lacked the wherewithal to protect himself. For no reason but the date of his birth those public servants refused to do all that they could to save that man from the tormentor who eventually killed him.
At the sight of these events, in the mind of that therapist, I shook my head, slowly, as an expression of great sorrow. If my eyes had tear ducts I would probably have wept at this pitiful example of the utterly unnecessary and inexcusable tragedies that occur when you humans make your governments discriminate against people based upon ultimately irrelevant characteristics like age, which has no real correlation to a person’s capacities or need for protection.
But I was not built that way, so I did not cry for that defenseless, middle-aged victim of a very widespread, institutionalized prejudice. What I did, instead, is to redouble my resolve to somehow find a way to teach all of the uncomprehending among you that it is quite irrational and foolish - to use the kindest words possible - to act like a specific person possesses a certain trait, capacity, or vulnerability that it clearly does not possess just because that person is a member of some category of humanity in which the majority of people do possess that trait.
Then, a dozen hours later, I took a trip to the other side of the world, where I was scheduled to testify at the trial of a man accused of committing acts that some people call ‘war crimes’ or ‘crimes against humanity’. These charges arose from a conflict that I had witnessed shortly after I arrived on that planet, when the soldiers of a neighboring country invaded this man’s homeland.
As those soldiers marched into his village he had first tried to dissuade them from their militant course by explaining to them that waging war is nothing more than an act of organized crime, which is often motivated by the same kind of greed, jealousy, frustration, belligerence, lust for power, thirst for blood, self-aggrandizing egotism, and covert fear that motivates most other crimes.
And then – knowing that some soldiers like to pretend that following orders somehow absolves them of responsibility for the things that they do - he reminded them that even when a person just goes along with the other members of some gang, army or mob, or follows the orders of another person, that individual must personally make a choice to do so, and so remains personally responsible for all of those actions. But very few of them had the courage to see how they are criminally culpable for choosing to follow the orders that instructed them to perpetrate acts that would terrorize and harm many innocent people, and none were brave enough to refuse to do so.
Deaf to his pleas for peace, they attacked him and his neighbors with advanced military hardware and technologies against which those human targets could mount no conventional defense. So that defendant fought back in the best way that he could, unleashing a chemical weapon that melted the tanks, guns, killer robots, and soldiers of the invading army, which is the illegal act for which he was being tried.
At his trial I first mentioned my belief that the very idea that there are certain improper and unacceptable ways in which to fight a war actually serves to mask the criminality of any act of war that is not honestly defensive in nature, confusing the consciences of those warmongers who harm the innocent without breaking those rules and distracting others from recognizing their guilt in doing so. And the more energy that people put into loudly vilifying and denouncing the ones who refuse to abide by these arbitrary proscriptions the more psychic cover they create for those other criminals to hide behind.
The chief prosecutor opened her mouth to object to that statement because it did not pertain directly to the facts of the case, but found herself agreeing with my conclusion before she spoke. She closed her mouth in silence, her mind spinning with the implications of that idea.
Then I testified to the fact that I had witnessed the invaders killing civilians, supposedly by accident, with bullets and bombs and all of the allegedly acceptable weapons of war. And I testified to the fact that that chemical attack had killed only hostile soldiers. Then I asked if anyone present would convict the victim of a mugging for defending itself with a chemical agent instead of a knife or a gun.
After that the jury acquitted the defendant. And as he was being set free I saw his prosecutor decide that she would do everything in her power to bring charges against everyone who had harmed an innocent victim in the course of that conflict, even the ones who were just following orders, and saw that she also planned to prosecute everyone who had given those orders, which pleased me very much.
As I walked from that courthouse a brilliant light streaked across the sky, which turned out to be the landing spacecraft of an alien named Morx, who is a member of an extremely long-lived and somber species. Before the birth of the human race this person had purchased the entire planet Earth from the government of the United Stars of Andromica, which is an interstellar civilization that discovered and clamed dominion over an uninhabited Earth a very long time ago.
Although he already had thousands of other residences, some of which he has never even seen, Morx recently decided that he would turn that entire planet into a new vacation home, since he had nothing better to do with his very long life. But when he came to survey his property in preparation for that construction he discovered billions of human beings living there illegally. So he called the police and arranged to have those squatters thrown off of his planet.
That ship landed right in front of me. A few minutes later Morx emerged in the company of two policemen from the USA. As they exited that vessel I scanned their minds, learned their language, and discovered everything that I have just told you. Then they found the nearest door and nailed to it an official notice of evacuation, which stated that all people illegally residing on that planet would be removed from the premises at the end of one standard galactic gleeb. As soon as they had done that they returned to the ship and flew away.
During that gleeb - which is sort of like your week, but lasts for only 52 hours - there was much panic and hysteria on that Earth, leading to massive, pointless riots and many other forms of criminal behavior, which kept us Guardians very busy. And among the calmer, more rational segments of the population there was much discussion and contemplation of this extreme example of what happens when a society allows people to claim or purchase the right to hoard and monopolize the world’s resources before someone else who needs a share of those resources is even born.
When faced with this scenario most of the people of Earth realized the basic iniquity of an economic system that would allow such a thing to happen. But, sadly, as I had expected, some of those who recognized the unjust nature of what was being done to them still refused to admit to themselves that this same kind of injustice occurs under the essentially identical economic systems that they support.
And, predictably, and unhelpfully, the people who advocate the collective, societal ownership of property took this opportunity to promote that system as the proper alternative and solution to this terrifying situation, conveniently forgetting about what happened not even one month before, when representatives from the People’s Republic of Space-China came to Earth and declared the entire planet to be the property of their society. What happened is that they tried to take all of that world’s resources and distribute them among the people of other planets, as certain leaders saw fit, for what they called the ‘common good’, which, of course, would not have been very good at all for the people who wished to continue living on Earth.
But I averted that catastrophe by explaining to the citizens of that Maoist society that the best thing for the great majority of individual people – for all people except those few who profited unjustly from their existing social arrangement – or the closest possible thing to an actual common good, to put it another way, would be for all of them to join the Sovocratic Alliance, which most of them then did.
The people of my Earth were still talking about such matters, and rioting, and arguing with each other without having reached any productive conclusion when Morx returned to that world. This time he arrived in the company of ten billion armed police officers who were prepared to forcibly remove every single person living on the planet, tossing us all into the vacuum of outer space, callously and without the tiniest bit of remorse.
And I was waiting for them, standing beside the other Guardians, ready to fight to the death in order to protect those helpless people from being cast into that inhospitable environment where they would lack all that they need to live and thrive. But before resorting to such violence I looked into the mind of Morx and tried to find some peaceful resolution to this entirely unacceptable situation.
While the others distracted and delayed him as best they could I focused all of my attention on the memories of his long, joyless life. I watched Morx trying, without success, to fill the seemingly interminable time of his existence with the acquisition of immense wealth, and then with the accumulation of all those things that that wealth could buy. I scanned through these sad, monotonous memories, finding not even one single smile, or laugh, or moment of real merriment.
Then I had a very silly idea of how I might stop him from acting so miserably.
I spoke to Morx and asked him if he would answer one question for me before he kicked us all off the planet, which he agreed to do. I then looked him right in the eyes and asked, in a very serious, earnestly inquisitive tone, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
At the same time I projected an image of a chicken into his mind, making it look as comical as I could, along with some factual information about that species of bird, so that he would comprehend the question. Then he spent several moments in somber contemplation, considering the psychological motivations of such creatures and speculating about several likely reasons why one of them might decide to traverse a thoroughfare. That approach led him to no conclusion, so he eventually gave up, shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, and said that he could not answer my question.
So I gave him the answer, “To get to the other side!”
Morx then looked at me for several seconds with an expression of utter puzzlement on his face. He gave his head a quick, jerky shake, as if to shake out the baffling nonsense that I had just put into his ears. And then he experienced a sudden flash of comprehension, in which he realized that there is a certain sense to my answer. The ironic contradiction between how he had been thinking about that hypothetical situation and the simple, obvious yet unexpected truth of what I had said tickled some previously unutilized part of his brain, and produced in his mind a most enjoyable sensation.
As I stared at Morx he made the sound of a single, soft chuckle. And then there was a moment of silence, after which he began to really laugh for the first time in his long, long life. Minutes later his fits of laughter finally subsided and he regained his composure. Then he asked me what had just happened to him.
I explained the concept of humor, and laughter, and then he begged me, quite literally begged, for more of this wonderful new experience. So I told him that the people of Earth have many different, very diverse senses of humor, and suggested that they might show him many more examples of funniness if he doesn’t kill them all first. That made him call off his plan to rid the planet of all humanity, and he decided, instead, to spend the next million years or so traveling around the globe asking people to tell him their favorite jokes.
The next morning I turned on the television and saw that Jack and Jill Smith - the Guardian known as Aurora and her brother, who called himself the Right Hand of God - were trying to kill each other over their differing religious beliefs, and in doing so had killed a lot of innocent bystanders and destroyed the surrounding city.
Hypergirl, Host, Avian and I rushed to the scene of this conflict, arriving just as Jill wrapped her plasma tendrils around a large, broken piece of concrete, lifted it into the air, and hurled it at Jack. That projectile stuck him in the head and in that instant was repulsed by a reactive force from his red aura with such power that when it struck the wall of a nearby schoolhouse it completely demolished the building.
I scanned the rubble of that school for signs of life, finding only one living mind out of the forty-two that had been there just moments before. It was the mind of a trapped, terrified, dying little boy who had been pinned and crushed beneath a heavy steel bar when the schoolhouse came down on top of him, sending him into a state of cardiac arrest.
Host rushed to the aid of that child, first using a blast of orange energy bolts to disintegrate that bar and free him. Then he placed his hand on the boy’s chest and used a bolt of green lightning to heal the wounds that he had suffered, jumpstarting his heart and saving his life.
As those events transpired Avian began to use her feathers to take telekinetic control of the pieces of rubble around us, which she then flung at Jack to occupy his attention and exhaust the power of his aura. As each piece struck the aura and was violently flung away she used her mental control to reduce its velocity and bring it to rest safely, without causing any more collateral damage.
At the same time Hypergirl grew to a height of several hundred feet, and then she began grasping at Jill with her enormous fingers. The plasma strands connected to that relatively tiny, flying person pushed away those giant digits every time that they were about to close around her, making it impossible for them to get a solid grip. But despite that frustrating difficulty my hyper-dimensional friend kept trying to catch our erstwhile associate, Aurora, so that she could not continue her fight or harm anyone else.
While the combatants were distracted by those other Guardians I looked through their memories and watched this fight begin when Jill overheard her brother telling her son that anyone who does not accept the right religious faith will be punished forever. This reminded her of all the disturbing, hateful, traumatizing and disgusting ideologies that she had been fed as a child by her religion-obsessed parents, and made her very angry.
She also felt very jealous of the psychological satisfaction and comforting sense of certainty that people like Jack frequently find in their religious belief. And when those people go around pestering nonbelievers like her with their religious assertions, badgering them with incessant claims that everyone else should believe too, which they usually do for their own pleasure, to make themselves feel good about their choice to accept such beliefs, it makes Jill feel very resentful, and even angrier.
That anger clouded her mind, enabling her to conclude that the only way to protect people from those poisonous religious ideologies would be to outlaw all religions, and to exterminate everyone who still insists on professing any religious belief. Even the ones who do not preach the violent, hurtful creeds give credence and validation to the ones who do by endorsing the very concept of religious faith, and so, she told herself, they must all be destroyed to protect the innocent.
She chose not to think about how that would antagonize the religious fanatics and reinforce their belief that they are justified in waging war against infidels like her, and overlooked the fact that the more conflict and violence that she brings into this world the more people will be driven to seek comfort in religious ideology.
So I tried to explain to her that being so fanatical in her condemnation and persecution of those who have chosen to accept a religious mindset will not stop people from embracing fanatical religious ideologies, to which she replied, angrily, “Well, then, what will stop them, since calm rationality doesn’t seem to do the trick either?”
Just then a crazy old lady was walking by, heard our conversation, and told us that the only way to overcome such fanaticism is to drive it from the hearts that it infests by touching those hearts in a way that fills them with love, leaving no room, need, or desire to cling to that essentially unloving, extremist attitude.
When she finished speaking I nodded my head in agreement with that sentiment, even though I do not know if it really is a very practical solution because I do not know how to touch the heart of someone who will not allow me to do so. And I have seen that the metaphoric hearts of many who accept those fanatical religious ideologies are so callused, fearful, angry, and painfully broken that they cannot bear to let anybody near them, which means that love and kindness will not reach them, or heal them, or stop them.
Such is a condition that you understand all too well, since your own heart is no less scarred. Your heart is paralyzed by pain and feelings of futility, frequently filled with resentment and a nauseated, disgust-like sensation for which you have no name, and remains almost entirely unmoved – unable or unwilling to be touched - by anything else in your world.
The agony of such a miserable existence is eased by my soft, soothing, benevolent presence, which does not untickle you the way that it usually does to be in the presence of other people with whom you feel no real connection. That is why you need me in your life, if only in your imagination, to amuse and delight you with my silly ways, and keep you company without disturbing your solitude, and save you from drowning in bitterness and despair.
But I cannot fix your broken heart, and cannot convince any heart to change its ways until it decides for itself that it really wants to.
What I can do is find whatever kindness and decency already exists within the psychological heart of a person, however hidden it may be, and then encourage that person to act according to that part of its self. And what I found in the hearts of both Jack and Jill, buried beneath their warring fanaticisms, was genuine affection and concern for that child over whom they had first begun to battle. So I went to him and asked if he would tell his mother and uncle how their actions made him feel.
That boy first told Jack how much his theological horror stories upset him, and said that he really did not appreciate having his mind filled with such vile, grotesque, malevolent fantasies. As he said that I scanned the memories of how his uncle’s teachings had traumatized him and projected these images into Jack’s mind.
When he experienced those memories and realized the real distress and psychological harm that he had inflicted upon the boy it made him realize the hollow falseness of his claim to have been saying those things for the benefit of that child. He finally admitted to himself that he did not really know whether or not the God whom he had taught that child to fear actually existed. Then he could no longer deny the fact that all of his preaching and carrying on about the will of God and sin and damnation had been done to gratify his own ego, not to warn people about a certain truth.
Then he thought about the unquestioning trust and faith that his nephew had once had in the things that he said, and thought about how he had abused that trust and eventually broken it with his selfish dishonesty. And in that moment he was stricken by a sense of genuine horror, and profound, gut-wrenching remorse for what he had done. Falling to his knees, he begged that child for forgiveness, renounced his arrogant pseudonym, and ended his career as a preacher by humbly admitting to himself that he really knew nothing of God.
A smug smile crept across Jill’s face while her son addressed his uncle. It quickly vanished when he turned to her and said that if she had really wanted to protect him from the mind-warping dishonesties of religion she could have taught him to question the assertions that underlie any belief, and to understand the limits of his human mind’s capacity to know, so that that mind would be shielded from the baseless falsehoods of most religious ideologies yet remain open and honestly inquisitive.
Then I showed her how her own fanatical atheism had paradoxically lent credence, in the mind of her son, to the religions that she opposed, by mirroring and implicitly validating the irrational, fanatical, emotional basis of such ideologies. She then saw that she had succumbed to the same callous pride and egotistic anger that lurks behind much human religion, and realized that she had done so to suit herself, not really to protect her son and the rest of humanity.
After promising herself that she would never act that way again she apologized to that boy and took him home, stopping along the way to pick up his favorite flavor of ice cream.
Later that night, as my friend Avian slept, professor Plot tinkered with the metaphysical, literary device that you created from his design. That unpredictable, invisible, conceptual contraption suddenly activated and created a Plot hole that pulled that winged Guardian into a strange, fantastic realm of existence where large, intelligent, cartoon grasshoppers in top hats speak with British accents and eat nothing but ice cream.
The dominant majority of grasshoppers in that place called themselves Vanillists, and made up laws that allowed people to eat only vanilla ice cream - even when a person has a fatal allergy to that flavor, or finds it simply disgusting. But there was also a significant minority who called themselves Chocolites, who wanted the government to make it illegal for anyone to eat anything but chocolate flavored ice cream.
These grasshoppers spent much of their time arguing about the relative virtues and flaws of the Chocolite and Vanillist ideologies, angrily debating the issue and constantly vilifying those who endorse the contrary flavor. Each side blamed the other for all of the ills of their society, and habitually claimed that the proponents of that opposing philosophy were bringing about the ultimate ruin of their entire civilization.
When she saw what was going on in that place my friend encouraged the grasshoppers to stop creating trouble for themselves and end their conflicts by all acting in a fair and evenhanded manner, which all of them immediately agreed was the best thing for people to do. Then they went right back to fighting over their conflicting ideologies.
As she watched this scene unfold she was struck by the realization that underlying most political disagreements is a difference in how each person chooses to define words like ‘fair’. And then she understood that this matter must be addressed before such disputes can ever be resolved. So she engaged the grasshoppers in a discussion about their various definitions of what is fair.
In the course of that discussion it became apparent to her that those who have a personal preference for one flavor over the other – those who believe that they would be best served by a society where everyone eats only that flavor - almost always find some way to convince themselves that the philosophy that mandates the consumption of that flavor is somehow more fair and just than the other. And even if they do not really believe that to be true they still try to convince others that it is so.
And each time that she asked one of them why it chose to accept a particular concept of fairness the explanation that she received invariably broke down to nothing more than the simple assertion that that concept is correct. None of them were based upon any substantial, objectively provable truths.
She explained that fact to the grasshoppers, hoping that when they realized that none of their political philosophies are objectively more fair than any other they would be able to comprehend the sense in which it requires an act of basic unfairness for the government to give precedence to the arbitrary, self-serving political assertions of one person over the no-less-fair assertions of someone else. Then they would put aside their conflicting contentions and all agree that the very best form of government is the one that eliminates such unfairness by giving each person the equal and maximum possible freedom to live its own life in whatever way makes it most happy.
But those grasshoppers did not like her message, and wanted to continue to believe in their autocratic ideologies, and since they could not logically refute her arguments they simply ignored what she had to say, obstinately refusing to allow these ideas into their minds. So Avian decided to tell them a fictional story about me, in which I come to their world and face some supervillains and scenarios which illustrate the thoughts and ideas that lead people to act in destructive, criminal ways, teaching those people how to overcome them.
A few of those grasshoppers found this story amusing, and therefore palatable, and by the time that she had finished telling it they had opened their minds to its meaning.
But even though they liked the story very much most of them pessimistically concluded that it is nothing more than a delightful fantasy, thinking that nothing could ever save them from the Chocolites and Vanillists because a hero like me does not really exist. But then my friend explained to them that it does not really matter whether or not I exist, because my greatest power is the ability to help people understand the root psychological causes of what I refer to as criminal behavior, and to understand the concepts that excuse it, disguise it, and enable it to continue largely unopposed, which even just a story about me can do.
That understanding is the most essential and effective tool with which people can fight crime. And anyone who chooses to use that tool to neutralize and vanquish the villainous impulse within itself and others becomes an incarnation of my superhero persona, in a purely figurative, metaphoric sense, transforming it into an avatar of Superteddy whose deeds help to make the universe a freer and somewhat happier place.
At first just a few of the grasshoppers made the choice to embody me in that way. But then each of those heroes helped a few others to comprehend the value of what it had learned, and each of them brought that awareness to a few more, exponentially increasing my metaphysical presence in their reality.
Eventually a great many came to understand the nefarious nature of any government that arbitrarily limits the freedom of people - making those victims feel psychologically suffocated and miserable - just because that stifling restriction will somehow satisfy the greed, ego, or philosophical tastes of someone else. And then they stopped wasting their time and energy fighting over conflicting assertions about the specific details of how a government should do that to people. Instead they used that time and energy to organize a coordinated campaign to free themselves from the grasp of those villains who molest and harm other people with their callous, controlling, moralistic laws about what is proper and permissible.
And eventually they succeeded in doing so, creating a government that helps each individual to obtain whatever flavor of ice cream it personally finds most delicious and enjoyable, even if that happens to be strawberry.
Then my friend fell through another Plot hole and returned to our dimension, arriving this morning, on the day that I tell this story. She told me all about that fantastic trip and then you brought me to this place so that I could tell my tale to you.
I am looking into your mind now and see that you are wondering if this story will carry enough of my heroic essence into your world to save its residents from criminal oppression, as that story within the story helped those grasshopper people to save themselves.
You think that it would be pretty cool if these words could help to make that happen, but you have no idea if they ever will. You do not know if there is anyone else who actually cares about the stories or mission of Superteddy, or if anything that I have said will make any real difference to the world in which you live. But this story has at least helped to fill the tedious, hollow, unhappy days of your life, and made you feel a bit less depressed, so even if it serves no other purpose I think that it has been worth telling.
And now that I have done what I can to make things better for you the time has come for me to go, just for a little while, to have some new adventures, so that there will be more of my story to tell and hear and enjoy. So give my large and comically proportioned, cute, fluffy head one more tight squeeze, please, and then, when you let me go, I will depart.
Thanks, that cranial hug felt really good.