Monday, August 5, 2013

The Tough Life of the Fed Chairman

The poor Federal Reserve.  I mean it.

Here imagine this: you are the best contractor in all of America.  You have a crack team of workers who can build even the most complex things, and you can do it under budget and ahead of schedule.  One day you get the biggest job you've ever had--a once in a lifetime gig.  This could change the world.  But you are a bit wary heading into it.  The job isn't starting from ground zero.  Instead, there was another contractor working on it previously, and he did a really crappy job.

Not intentionally mind you.  Just that the previous contractor wasn't as good at predicting future costs and you got stuck cleaning up a lot of the mess.

So now you are on a job that is already over budget and behind schedule.  You show up to the construction site to survey what's going on and to your dismay there is almost nothing ordered by way of supplies.  Sure you bring in your own equipment usually, but for something to be so radically off budget you were expecting at least a pile of wood and maybe some cement.

Instead you find some poorly built one story homes on the lot that are really falling apart.  You are told that the project is actually a renovation job and a new construction job.  First you have to rebuild the disintegrating homes and then you can renovate up.

No big deal, you've done jobs like this before.  Your team is really good at this.

You get to organizing your team, they are all ready to start in when the property owners tell you that there is another problem. The homes are privately owned. The land is ok to work on, but through a weird arrangement set years ago each private home has to be either bought out or they have to hire their own private contracting team.  Ok, you think, team work is good. Many hands make light work.

When you start surveying these homes, just to get a sense of what this greater renovation will finally look like you get a distinct American Psycho feel from some of the owners. You aren't allowed in many of the rooms and a lot of the damage you can see appears to be self inflicted. On the homes that you were allowed to buy out, it looks worse. You got a rotten deal. What you thought were homes falling apart turns out that the were cardboard cutouts. The previous owners had more or less already scrapped everything of value and run away with all your cash.

You start getting frustrated. You aren't really a real estate broker. Shouldn't it have been the job of the property owner to sort this stuff out in the first place? Your job was to just build.

Oh well, eventually you will be able to do your job. And your job is what you are good at. So now everyone is building and fixing. This is great. The other contractors are a bit slower but everything is looking good on the outside.

One day the owner of the lot comes by to check everything out.  Things start out great. The owner has a lot of power and even gets you some access to the private homes so you can take a peek.  You get into one of the homes and you are appalled. The insides look the same as the day you started work.  Worse. Instead of seeing tangible renovations there are big piles of cash all over the floor. The money you gave the other contracting teams is literally stacked up, they just buffed out the facades.

It's frustrating sure, but you know that you have done good work.  You and the owner go look at what your team has accomplished so far and you are feeling pretty good.

The houses have their foundations shored up and you are almost ready to start the main renovations that you were originally contracted for.  But then the owner's wife comes in. She is pissed off. She disagrees with everything that the owner says.  Some of the stuff she says makes a lot of sense, but most of it is out of your scope of work.  Stuff you can't do a lot about.

She is really mad that the owner is so far over budget. Eventually she starts yelling at you. How could you let the budget get so crazy, she asks.  Fair point. You explain the unprecedented nature of the task, how hard it is to work with such an odd property and the houses. You explain the contractors of the other homes and how you suspect they might not be doing their jobs. You suggest more oversight.

This gets her even madder. Turns out she trusts all the other contractors way more than you. Many are personal friends. To suggest they are capable of wrongdoing or even slight mismanagement is a slap in the face.

You finally calm her down a bit and insist that you will work to the highest standard.  Good, she says, and drops another bombshell, all the funding for the project has been cut to bare minimum levels. The owner will only pay wages and what was left in the scope.

You try to explain that being over budget is a product of the previous contractors and the--well you can't talk about the private contractors so you try to sidestep it a bit.

As the two walk away you hear the wife mutter that you are a shifty shyster. A little offended you resolve to try to make amends and really explain the project better next time.  Maybe it was just a bunch of misunderstandings.

The next day the owner calls you and says that he confiscated all your tools except your hammer and nails.  Good luck.

Then it gets worse. Every month the owner and his wife drag you in front of them to talk about why the place isn't built yet. you try to explain that without more tools and funding it is going to take a while but the wife insists that unless they take away the hammer the place will never get built.  Meanwhile she screams at the owner during these monthly meetings for taking out a loan in the first place to pay for the construction.

One meeting it gets really awkward because you have to explain to the wife the importance of building materials to make a building.  Her reply is that the private contractors seem ok.  You bite your tongue about the empty facades and try to keep plugging along.

Finally, you get a lot of work done. Progress is moving and it seems like the huge project will actually get done. The owner and wife are anxious though that you are still working on the project and start phasing in new contractors.  It is a bit hurtful that the job hasn't panned out and they don't want you but nevertheless you want them to get what they want. Happily these guys seem to do a decent job, albeit slowly.  So you help them along while trying to transition yourself out.

But every time you pull away they have a mental breakdown and can't get any work done.  So you go back to the owner and wife every month trying to detail a plan for you to leave. They scream at you again, insisting you should already be gone and refusing to give you any of your tools or at least give them to the new contractors.

And this happens for five years.

That is what it feels like to be the fed chairman right now.  Yelled at, constricted, the butt of everyone's rage, limited in ability, and utterly alone.

So no matter how you feel about the guy, try to at least understand how stuck he is.

The Death and Rebirth of the Earth

A dream I had. It still needs work

I am an angel.  My job is to run the day to day with the other Angels.  Under the command of the Archangels we manage the majority of Earthly matters.  God has become old and unable to nourish Earth.  He knows this, Satan knows this, and the Seraphim guards know this.  I however, was never supposed to find out--at least I thought.

The archangel Gabriel may have known this, or had a clue, but his love for God had blinded him to the reality.

I found out because of my mother.  The virtue curiosity was my mother, and my father was the first angel to appear before Abraham.  As a hybrid, I can take the form of a man--an angel, or a spark of light--a virtue.

God's kingdom is an infinite sea, but his castle from which he governs is a small and finite space.  It is a jagged structure, on the edge of nothingness.  Human depictions are of a beauteous light, but God was borne out of the darkness.  The nothingness.  His castle was the first thing he built, before there was light.

Huge black marble slabs jut raggedly out of the scorched earth and build a wall a quarter mile thick. The Black Wall surrounds a deep gold meeting house.  The First Chamber, little more than a large chamber where God convenes his highest orders to discuss matters of governance.

The angels do not go into God's castle unless he calls for us.  Instead we attend to our duties along with the other orders of angels inside the Second Chamber.  The Second Chamber sits a short distance from the castle and is surrounded by a steeply sloped metallic wall.  An iridescent wonder that stretches several miles into the sky.  Inside, the structure bears little resemblance to God's gloomy chambers.

The Second Chamber was built after Satan's insurrection as a testament to the power and goodness which God so embodied.  It is light and airy.  It is much closer to depictions of heaven.  Angels dart busily about, attending to the business of Earth. 

The business of Earth concerns the regular cycles mostly.  The majority of angels work on geologic timescales, pushing and pulling on Earth's forces to maintain a stable balance.

As an angel hybrid, I was assigned to give weekly status reports out of a sample village.  My job was not to interfere, but to simply observe the goings on and report my findings.  To do so I posed as a doctor in a small hamlet in the mountains. It was after a strange incident that I was called into God's chambers to speak with him.

I explained the circumstances and elaborated from my report.  The trees near the village appeared to be changing radically in age.  And not in a linear fashion.  Early in the week they had been old growth trees, towering in the mountains.  By the middle of the week they were saplings, barely higher than the ferns that took shelter in a mature tree's shade.  By the Sabbath they were spindly trees reaching for the sky, young but not saplings, old but not mature.  In addition, the trees seemed to be taking on various seasonal forms.  Some were beautiful yellows and reds, while others were spring green, and still others had no leaves to speak of.

It was this disconcerting event that made me worry a demon had escaped Hell and was making mischief on Earth.  But no breach had been found.  I spoke with Angels of the forests and they had not even noticed a change.  It was all the more peculiar too in that none of the trees seemed alive.  They did not move in the breeze they did not change in their form.  They grew as a child would draw a tree, without detail and personality.

God had obscured himself in a veil, listening through a Seraph and attending to his many millions of other matters.  When I mentioned the stiff way the trees grew, something I had never experienced happened.  The Seraphim all paused their duties.  The World stopped, the stars blinked out, all energy and motion ceased for a brief moment and concentrated on me.  I was told to approach.

An Angel is rarely given to the direct presence of God.  He speaks mostly through his Seraphim and Archangels.  I had seen him only a few times before, and always for large celebrations.  I glimpsed him at the formation of the first star.  I saw him banish the Devil in the trial after the war.  I watched him kiss the first light of inspiration into man.  All those times I had been far away, tucked between the virtues and the angels, barely able to see Him.

So I was fearful at first when I approached him.  I could feel the Seraphim bristle their feathers as they parted for me--their eyes burned through me, regarding my past, my present, and my future.  The Seraphim are limited extensions of God.  They are firm and aloof, full of responsibility and authority.  To pass a pair of Seraphim without tipping your head in Grace is to risk a firm reprieve…if they are in a good mood.  They are the wrath of God, and no one forgets it.  Only an Archangel would risk speaking ill toward a Seraph.

As God's form came into view I could feel everything start again.  By the time I had fully approached him, the stars were burning bright and the Earth was rotating normally.

I was shocked by his gaunt appearance.  He had not the benevolent smile I knew from my youth.  His strength seemed gone, and his complexion had faded to a pale white.

I was dismissed from his presence.  On my way out, I turned to a spark of light and hid behind a chandelier.  Two Seraphim walked past.  "What will we do after the Great Loss?"

"He said that all will be as it was. But what does He mean by that?  Will all be darkness again?"

"Surely that must be true.  He is losing his form day after day.  I remember when he had a deep brown skin, and now he is translucent."

"If all is darkness, what of Earth?"

"What of it? The angels take care of it, do they not?"

"Not the main dealings.  The big decisions.  God has a hand in every major event."

"And now?"

"And now nothing. God has his plan, it is already in motion and we will follow his orders." Seraphim had little free will.  Imbued with a fair helping of God's wisdom, they were also heavily restricted in their actions by God after Satan's rebellion.

I waited until the seraphim had long passed before I dared move. I sparked my way from chandelier to chandelier until I found myself once again in the main chamber.  God was being attended to by three Seraphim.

God spoke. Not in the commanding voice I had known, but in a much weaker voice. "It has begun, all shall be as it once was. I must rest. There shall be no more business for me. Tell the archangels that they govern until the next age." He faded out even more. I could barely make out his form when I left.

On the way out I was stopped by a Seraph who guards the corridors. I explained I had gotten lost in the walls, and he pointed me out with a stern look.

I resolved not to report back to the Second Chamber.  Instead, I went straight to the outpost between the two buildings.  There is a hole to earth that the angels take when they do not want to be seen leaving.

I slipped through the hole and found myself at a brook near a steep face in the mountains. There was a large boulder sitting on the edge of a drop off. The brook was nearly a waterfall it was so steep. Nothing grew except the river slime that accompanies every creek.

Surrounding the brook were young trees. Spindly, tall trees that competed for sunlight.  They were nearly all the same age.  There were no old growth trees in this forest.

I heard something. A villager. I scrambled toward the trees to conceal myself but slipped on the rocks.  I slammed my head against the rocks and started to lose consciousness.  As I passed out I could feel the cool water of the brook on my back and a firm hand grasping the neck of my robe.

I awoke in a dark room.  It smelled heavily of smoke and dust.

I tried to gather my surroundings and noticed little. There was a small window covered by a tattered curtain. There was a basin of water by my bed. 

I tried to rise.

"Don't, you will pass out again." I recognized the voice.  It was my partner.

Angels rarely travel alone. My partner was a farmer in the village.

"May I ask why you took the secret entrance?" my partner asked.

"curiosity." I could hear him smiling. If I didn't want to explain myself I invoked my mother as cause.

"Did you know the entrance was so close to our village?"

In truth I was stunned by the revelation I wasn't far from my assigned village.  I was more intrigued that I had never noticed the entrance, or the angels coming and going.

"It didn't look like I remember," I answered slowly. Angels rarely forgot details or remembered details incorrectly.

My partner hesitated, "you must see a doctor.  I think you hit your head quite hard."  I let out a weak laugh.  I would feel better when I returned to the Second Chamber to heal, but on the Earthly plain I was subject to Earthly pain.

I tried again to remember what that hill looked like.  I strained, but could not form a memory.  Why didn't I know the entrance was there?

I was often preoccupied with the duties of a local doctor, and when not doing that, the duties of a heavenly administrator.  My partner benefitted from set work days and ample free time, it was no surprise that he knew the landscape much better than I.  Perhaps I had just missed it.

"I think we are in terrible danger," I spoke slowly. My head was pounding.

"Satan was banished, and has no power to return, there is no danger."

"No. It's not Satan. It's God.  I saw him. He was weak, frail. The Seraphim know.  I heard them talking. They sounded genuinely afraid. They said that all will be as it once was."

My partner spoke, "that explains why the Seraphim are looking for you. There is rumor that the Devil has stolen you and is trying to set his army loose on Heaven."

I shuddered. The Seraphim were tracking me. There was only one other angel ever tracked by the Seraphim.

"No. This has nothing to do with Satan. He rests where God imprisoned him." then I realized something, "but he may have been unleashed when God lost his strength."

God had been so weak, his powers would have surely diminished, and the Beast could have escaped.  It would explain the erratic behavior of the trees.  The survey of Hell's Gates must have missed a crack.  For surely there was no new evil?

My partner became alert suddenly. He had excellent hearing. "We have to move. The Seraphim are coming. They think you are here."

Humans could not see a Seraph in its true form. To them a Seraph appeared like an average human and they quickly forgot what that looked like.  But to an angel a Seraph appeared as the flaming might of God's wrath.  Sure the scriptures said it was his love, but Seraphim were God's hands--and He was a vengeful god.

My partner helped me out of bed and I struggled to my feet.  He handed me a vial.  It was his blood.  I took a drop of it and ran it across my forehead.  I felt better, but it would only be momentary--the pain was dulled but not gone.  We hurried out the door.  "To the portal" I said.

We did not speak as we ran.  Dusk had set in.  With my feet pounding the thin path through the mountains, I could hear the villagers calling out.  And the Seraphim.  They screamed my name in Heavenly tones--too high and too low for a human to hear.  But Angels can hear it and it can be a beautiful lullaby or it can be a soul piercing screech.  The Seraphim were screaming for me, shaking the earth and rattling the trees.

We reached the brook, water tumbled down the steep granite face.  I could see the boulder thirty feet below me.  I must have entered that way.  The Seraphim were getting closer.  My partner motioned for me to follow him.  We climbed carefully down the face until we reached the spot where I had entered.  My partner and I felt around for the entrance; the subtle entrance to the heavenly world.  But we could not find it.

"It's gone!" My partner explained.  I looked around at the grove of trees, they seemed smaller, less foreboding than before.

I could hear the Seraphim coming closer.  My partner hid behind the boulder and I hid in the trees.  They stopped at the brook and I held my breath.  They motioned for the villagers to keep moving and the two Seraphim descended the mountain face.  One Seraph stooped to examine the granite face, looking for signs of us.  The other approached the boulder where my partner hid.  I watched from the grove anxiously.

The Seraph scanned the area, picking up traces of my presence.  I refrained from breathing, letting the natural flow of the breeze to obscure me.  The two Seraphim smelled the air.  For a moment they were at peace, enjoying the gentle weather and beauty of God's creation.

Then one picked up the scent of my Partner and they both instantly descended upon the boulder.  They darkened their forms and stretched themselves over the boulder, cutting off my partner's escape routes.

They played with their prey and changed form slowly.  As they were about to engulf my partner, I sparked into my virtue form and shot toward the Seraphim.  As I approached, I turned into my angelic form and threw my body onto it.  I could feel God's power as I hit the Seraph, and it burned my body.  A divine and cleansing fire.  For a moment I knew everything, but the burning did not stop there.  It boiled my skin and exposed me to every horror in the universe.  For a moment I died several trillion ways.

And then I was back on the cliff. Laid up against a tree.  My partner tossed a large bark slab from an old growth tree at me and motioned to a similar slab in his hand.  "Jump!"

And so I did, we fell down the hill with the bark acting as a sled.  We slid on the brook's bed, narrowly avoiding boulders.  Faster and faster we slid down the hill until there was no more brook.  Instead, we were traveling on dirt and through brush.  Young thin trees sped past me.  I gritted my teeth and tried to maneuver.  I survived only on luck.  Then we were on a huge old growth log; a monstrosity thirty feet wide.  As we shot down the hill, the sun set and darkness rose.  The air became crisp as we fell.  And then we were in snow.  On a snowy path travelling at a whip fast speeds.  It was snowing.  But it had been summer a second previous.  I looked back at my partner.  He was just as stunned as I.  The hill seemed never to end.  Only the simple whooshing sound of snow compressing under us was heard.  We said nothing as we maneuvered through thick stands of trees.  Eventually it stopped snowing.  And we found ourselves in a large empty valley covered in snow.

"Where are we?"

I shrugged my shoulders.  Only God knew where we were.  I peered out into the fog.  There was nothing.  Almost nothing.  I saw the shadow of a beast rise, walk away, and disappear.  My partner saw this too.  A form that large could only mean one thing.  We had descended into Hell somehow.

I turned to my partner.  "We have to find out if the gates still hold.  That's our only way out."  It was nearly impossible.  The gates were built to hold Satan.  There was one entrance from the second circle to limbo, and judging by the weather, we were in the Ninth Circle of Hell.

We moved forward with trepidation.  Unsure if each step was taking us closer to the entrance or deeper into Hell.

Several times we had to hide from beasts.  Then I heard it.  Satan.  Lucifer. Beezlebub. The Opposer.

We peered over the ridge and saw an army of sin to the horizon.  The Opposer, flanked by his generals, spoke.  "We move now.  The gates of Hell hath opened and all the pain and wrath of these nine circles will march upon the Black Wall and we shall tear down God's creation."

I recoiled in horror.  My partner tapped my shoulder and he motioned for me to follow.  We found a quiet space and he said to me, "they are so strong."

"I know. What can we do to fight them?" I asked hopelessly.

"Should we fight them?  If we do we would surely die! There is no one to stop them.  You said so yourself, God is weak and feeble."

"God is mighty.  He seemed weak but he has a plan.  'All will be as it once was.'"

"All was once Darkness, this must be the way. We join the Darkness and we live."

I finally understood.  The Seraphim weren't looking for me.  They were looking for my partner.  He was the traitor.  He was the spy. "You. It was you.  You are a fallen angel."

He smiled demonically. "I haven't fallen.  I have risen from the ashes and been reborn.  I understand power now.  And it isn't with your weakness."  He struck my face and I instinctively changed into my virtue form.  A blast of fire surrounded the Dark Army as Satan's speech ended.  I used the opportunity to hide myself in the light, catching a torch.  I watched as my partner scrambled to find me, gave up, and fell into the ranks.

I rode my way out of Hell disguised in the torches.  When I emerged from the gates of Hell I saw the nightmare.  The Dark army had split the Second Chamber from the Black Wall.  God's army was holed up in the two chambers.  Seraphim were holding back the army at the gates, but they would not last long.  I found myself in complete despair.  There was no way to stop a horde of that might.  The only escape, the only chance I had was to distract them.  I burst into my angelic form.  Full wings and halo.  And I taunted them loudly.  The army turned to me. Most of them anyways, and they descended as a swarm.

I rushed to the secret entrance hoping against hope that it had returned.

I could feel the demons gnashing at my ankles as I rushed through, flying at full speed.  The entrance was still there!

And the first thing I saw was an apple--the exit was no longer in the mountains.  I knocked it from the tree, and veered toward the sky, flying higher and higher in a spiral.  The army followed me. I could feel the army catching up to me, gnashing at me ready to drag me down.  And in the lead was my partner, screaming my name.

My partner caught me, pulling me down. I looked up and saw his sinister smile.  The swarm engulfed me, a ball of evil pulling me toward Earth, tearing at my flesh.  Everything went dark for a moment.  I had failed in my Holy duties.  Then I felt a bit of God's light touch me.  I opened my eyes and saw Gabriel tearing the demons off of me.  Without any fear, he wrestled back the hordes.

I gathered myself and looked around.  The Second Chamber had found a way out and part of God's army had entered the fray.  The lower orders of Heaven could only do so much without the power of God and the might of the Seraphim.

The Archangels were leading the fight as Generals, commanding the lower orders to fight back the dark twisted balls of demons.  They did not dare touch the mighty Hell beasts--the only creation of the Devil.  I saw a Hell beast emerge from the hole and spread its enormous wings to join the fray.  But a curious thing happened.  From directly below, a ray of light touched me.

The ray of light spread and then engulfed me. The demons recoiled and started fleeing.  The Hell beasts receded as a pure white light filled the sky.  I gathered myself and flew back down, and re-entered Heaven. When I passed through I saw the army of God in its might, beating back the demons of Hell, slowly but surely.  They were cutting a V toward the Black Wall, steadily making their way to free the Seraphim and God

The pure white light followed me.  The light stopped every demon I passed and drove them back toward Hell.  As I did so, the heavens started to shake.  I looked toward the Black Wall.  It exploded and God emerged in his glory.  His deep complexion and full form had been restored.  He was the God of all Creation.

And I felt his love, it emanated from him in a wave.  The Seraphim poured out of the Black Wall and God's army was restored.  The light continued to spread and burn the demons.  The Devil let out a terrible howl as he watched his army disappear before his eyes.  He impatiently bore himself into battle covered in his golden armor.  With a terrific roar that shook the Heavens truly, he lunged at God, pushing his minions aside.

The two clashed, God brushed off the Devil's attacks with his shield.  Time after time, the Devil let loose with his most powerful blows, but God could not be moved.  As the two fought, the light had entered all of Heaven and the minions of Hell had been imprisoned behind the Gates.  Only the Devil remained.

The Seraphim descended upon the Devil, the Archangels descended upon the Devil, and all of the lower orders descended upon the devil.  Together, the Kingdom of Heaven held down Satan, and dragged him back to the depths of Hell.

He screamed and cursed.  Gnashing and tearing at anything--a poor virtue with a weak hold was nearly obliterated as we struggled to contain the Devil.  Finally, we pushed him behind the gates and God began to close them.

As He did so, the Devil looked straight at me, "there is no horror greater than that which you have brought into being.  Nothing can contain it.  Fear me, but I am not the Darkness."  I shuddered, but relaxed as I felt God's hand rest upon my shoulder.

When all was quiet and the celebrations had died down I was called into God's presence again.

"What saved us?  There was darkness.  And then there was light.  Where did it come from?"

God spoke with the force and grace I had always known, "Heaven is nothing, and I am nothing.  I am the power and the glory, but I am nothing.  Mankind is everything.  The mind, the magical mind, is the truth and the light."

I was confused. "What does that mean?"

"You gave the spark of inspiration to mankind.  You gave them science and the future.  And one day they will be gods.  They will rule the Heavens and the Earth."

"I didn't do that," I protested.

"Sometimes all it takes is knocking an apple from a tree," he smiled, "all of Creation was once an idea and nothing more. I once was as man is and soon man will be as I am."

"But why were you so weak?"

"Faith is understanding the miraculous. A world without explanation is merely an empty moment.  I was weak because I always have been.  I am strong because I always will be. In that moment when that apple fell, you gave meaning to humanity in a new way. Before they worshipped me as incalculable, now I am worshiped because I am finite."

"But you are infinite."

"only as you know me now.  Soon I will cease to exist, and so will you.  And we will be the better for it. We will melt into the human subconscious, memories."

"But what of Creation? What of the Devil? And the Darkness he spoke of."

"Man holds the keys to his gates. It is no longer our job to be stewards of Creation; of light and dark."

"Why me? Why the long journey?"

"I do have a higher plan. I could change the world tomorrow if I wanted, but adventure tells a better tale. There is no adventure so great as the one we are destined for."  I almost let God leave the conversation at that, but I opened my mouth.  And before I had breath, God spoke. "I have an affinity for old growth trees, I hide clues in the trees to remind us all that I'm still here.  For what would be a righteous adventure without God?"

I laughed.  God had no hubris nor affinity for particular creations, but He did have a peculiar sense of humor.