Excerpt from Ringing True:
Shelby: Okay. Now, I’ve been doing some thinking on this. Whatever we create as “the word” has to address two issues: first, the major problems facing the world today—the problems we need to solve—and second, we have to answer the question as to why the religions we have now can’t solve those problems.
Justin: I’m impressed.
Shelby: Thank you.
Justin: But let me get something straight. When you talk about “the word,” what are we talking about? A new Bible?
Shelby: Well, in a way, but I don’t think modern attention spans are capable of slogging through something that long and dull. We have to keep it short, simple and to the point.
Justin: Sound bytes? Bullet points?
Shelby: More like poetry, maybe—not as obscure, because we need to be understood. Few words, lots of punch. If we can get it all on one page, even better.
Justin: Okay. So what was the first question?
Shelby: What are the major problems facing the world today? What’s causing all the grief?
Justin: You want me to start?
Shelby: Let’s just brainstorm. You write it down. (JUSTIN positions his fingers on the keyboard. The following dialogue is conducted over the sound of rapid keyboard clicks.)
Justin: Self-interest leading to self-destruction. People not taking responsibility for anything. Avoiding truth, burying truth, distorting truth in the name of self-protection.
Shelby: Environmental destruction. Inequality, racism, sexism, the existence of isms in the first place. Cultural conflict; cultural destruction. Political correctness. Indifference.
Justin: Evil. The existence of evil. People killing each other despite all the evidence that it doesn’t solve a damn thing.
Shelby: Harming the innocent. Power trips. People believing they’re above any kind of . . . I don’t know, consequence? Effect? I don’t want to say “punishment,” but it’s that kind of thing. People think they can get away with screwing everyone else.
Justin: Religion itself. The hatred caused by religion. The people who use religion to justify cruelty.
Shelby: Corruption. Maybe that gets back to self-interest, but put it down anyway. Greed, too.
Justin: People thinking their way is the only way. That’s religion, for sure, but it’s also the same in politics, at work, in relationships.
Shelby: On the religion theme, the fear of death. They really exploit that angle. And all the weird modern responses to death.
Shelby: You know—health-mania, plastic surgery, all the denial about aging.
Justin: Okay. Time itself—or the way time happens to us now. It seems like people have no time to think or reflect. My parents were always doing something, going somewhere, taking care of things that really weren’t all that important and never seemed to have time for anything else—you know, the demands of modern life and all that—and dragging their kids into the same mindset.
Shelby: Hmm. Put it down, but I’m wondering if that kind of thing is universal enough to put into a religion . . . too Western World . . . never mind, sorry, let’s just keep going and we’ll sort it out later.
Justin: Your turn.
Shelby: Taking turns, are we? Really, Justin.
Justin: Okay, call me an anal wank.
Shelby: Prisons, crime, punishment, lawyers, pedophiles, rapists—the whole system seems out of whack about what to do with people who are out of whack.
Shelby: What about economics?
Justin: The economic system—it seems to feed on itself, like it’s out of control. We’re controlled by the system that controls our survival and we all become victims. Capitalistic bullshit. Socialistic bullshit. Governmental bullshit.
Shelby: Wait—the victim thing. People pretending to be victims screwing real victims out of any help or compassion. You know, we’re so sick of victims we don’t want to help anybody—that kind of thing. Victim-hatred.
Justin: Catchy. You should go into op-ed.
Shelby: Sca-rew you, buddy. Go on.
Justin: I don’t know how to put this into words—people thinking they know everything and that they have all the answers and they don’t have anything to learn.
Shelby: They don’t want to look stupid or open up new possibilities that could rock their worlds.
Justin: That makes me think of families. The whole family thing is loaded with expectations that seem to get in the way of any kind of togetherness.
Shelby: Well, on a larger scale, how about organizations—big organizations like your dumb ass software company? That’s a huge problem—these large institutions—kind of like what you said about the economy—creating victims, powerlessness.
Justin: I’ll put it down.
Shelby: And what about technology? I mean, it’s the people who use technology to make bombs and viruses and spam that are really at fault, but I don’t think anyone has a handle on the problem. It just mushrooms and then we have a new set of problems we didn’t have before.
Justin: (Click, click, click, click.) Under technology, I want to work in the point that it hasn’t really helped us reduce the workload. It’s created more busy work, more mindless work. Hold on a minute and let me write down “self-destructiveness” as a note under “self-interest.” It’s sort of a circular thing—self-interest leading to self-destruction. Oh, and let’s not forget the evils of science—cloning, nuclear weapons, all that stuff. (He finishes editing and looks up.) Go.
Shelby: You know, SUV’s. People pissing away resources they don’t have just so they can feel like they’re above everyone else, pun intended.
Justin: (Not writing.) I think that’s awfully narrow for a religious text.
Shelby: Yeah, okay—just put in the part about pissing away resources.
Shelby: You got anything else?
Justin: Well, there’s the media.
Shelby: Put them down. May be a subset, but yeah, put them down. Put down the whole system of human communication—we have more of it, but less understanding.
Justin: Which reminds me. Mass mediocrity.
Shelby: Oh yeah. That’s big.
Justin: What else?
Shelby: Sex. People think more about sex than anything else other than money, so we should probably say something about it.
Justin: Complicated topic. On one hand, it’s become a commodity; with the gay marriage thing it’s become political. It’s less about intimacy than showing off—you know, people imitating porn stars. I’ll put it down—we can deal with the details later. What else?
Shelby: (After a period of silence.) I don’t know if we have it all covered, but it’s a hell of a start. My brain seems to have clicked off.
Justin: Wait. One more thing. Children.
Shelby: What about them?
Justin: I don’t know. I ran into a guy the other day on my way to your place—he was lost, looking for I-5. Anyway, he had his baby daughter with him—and she was so—jovial.
Shelby: In contrast to adults, who tend to be so—constipated.
Justin: Something like that. (Types something very quickly.) Okay, that’ll do for now. Now I’ll save this . . . done.
Shelby: (Gets up off the bed and removes a pair of worn blue jeans, exposing a bare backside.) Let’s fuck.
Justin: (Stunned, sits up straight.) What?
Shelby: Let’s fuck. Let’s get close. Let’s make love. Let’s do it! (Removes her sweater, exposing a braless top.)
Justin: But . . . we’ve never done that before.
Shelby: Justin, don’t tell me you’re a virgin!
Justin: (Reddening.) No! Come on! I’m just . . . surprised.
Shelby: (Noticing that Justin has been averting his eyes but sneaking in a peak every now and then.) You want to, don’t you?
Justin: (Reluctantly looking into her eyes.) Yeah. Yeah, I do.
Shelby: Then come fuck me. (Justin stands up, moves to Shelby’s naked body and gently follows the outline of her figure with his hands while looking into her eyes.)
Justin: You’re beautiful.
Shelby: So are you. (She pulls his head down to her lips and kisses him.)
Justin: (Pulling back after a long kiss.) Uh oh.
Justin: No condoms.
Shelby: (Pulling him closer.) Are you safe?
Justin: Of course.
Shelby: Well, let’s hope The Pill works. The odds are with us. (Unbuttons his shirt.)
Justin: Let’s hope so. (His voice trails away as she covers his chest with kisses.)
Shelby: (Between gasps). Let’s lose the lights. It’s like a hospital in here. (She falls on the bed and takes care of the nightstand lamp while Justin switches off the desk lamp and shuts the drapes. Fade scene as Justin unbuttons his pants, his eyes focused on the sprawled figure of Shelby undulating gently on the bedspread to the sound of squeaky bedsprings that neither of them seem to notice.)
©2010 Robert Morrow. Ringing True is available in e-book, hardcover and paperback formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s and many other booksellers. Go to www.ringingtrue.com for a current listing of online retailers.