A Super-Short that I don't know what to do with...

So, for a few (read many) years (read decades)  I've toyed with the idea of writing a book which illustrates the concept of faith, and of persistent faith, by using a character who believes that Australia is a myth.

 

What appears below is an ultra-short story that arose from those ruminations. I'm interested in hearing any feedback you might have on the story itself, as well as suggestions for what to do with it (send to a magazine, burn it, expand it to a novel, bury it in peat moss, etc).

Comments

  • That’s What Grandpa Philo Said

    (c) By skooB_yM, a pseudonym

     


    That’s What Grandpa Philo Said

        “Australia’s a joke,” said little Sophie. “Made up by explorers and map-people and stuff.” She said it proudly, in the matter-of-fact tone that only a six-year-old can use effectively. “That’s what Grandpa Philo said.”

     

        Mrs. Wilson paused from pointing to Australia on a map with her plastic-tipped stick. “What’s that, Dear?” she asked, certain that she had not just heard a first-grader deny the existence of the smallest continent. “And do raise your hand when you wish to speak, there’s a good girl.”

     

        Sophie raised her hand and waved it in the air.

     

        “Yes, Sophie?”

     

        “Grandpa Philo says that there’s no such place as Australia, and that people made it up, and it’s all make believe and stuff.”

     

        Mrs. Wilson didn’t know whether to be annoyed or amused. “Well, that’s nice, Dear. Your Grandpa Philo is welcome to think that. But of course, we know better, don’t we?” She gestured to the map, pointing her stick somewhere near Canberra.

     

        “That’s just a drawing,” said Sophie. “It’s not real.”

     

        “Raise your hand, Dear,” said Mrs. Wilson, with the balance drifting towards “annoyed.”

     

        Sophie raised her hand.

     

        “Let’s let it be for now, Sweetheart,” said Mrs. Wilson. On the one hand, she loved teaching bright youngsters, but on the other hand, children like Sophie could be a challenge. Forty-three years of teaching first grade was wearing on her.

     

        Mrs. Wilson turned her pointer to the photo of the wallaby, and prepared to continue.

     

        “That’s not really a kangaroo,” blurted Sophie. “It’s a telephoto picture of a jerboa rat.”

     

        Mrs. Wilson laid the wooden pointer in the chalk tray below the chalkboard, and then walked slowly and precisely out of the classroom and down the hall to the Principal’s Office, where she promptly filed for retirement.


        Sixteen-year-old Sophie turned to her friend Louise. “Grandpa Philo doesn’t believe in Australia,” she whispered, somewhat embarrassed. She glanced across the table at Grandpa Philo, hoping he hadn’t overheard, but his determined glare showed that he had heard every word. Apparently his bad hearing was selective.

     

        “Of course I don’t believe in Australia, and there was a time you didn’t either.” He put down his fork and fixed Louise with his gaze. “You don’t believe in Duck-billed Platypi, do you? Venomous mammals? Seriously?”

     

        “Grandpa,” said Sophie plaintively, “Please …”

     

        He turned the spotlight eye from Louise to Sophie. “Et tu, Brute?”

     

        “Grandpa, can’t we just have lunch?”

     

        Louise had the good grace to look at her plate and eat a couple of potato chips, uncertain how to deal with the family squabble.

     

        “Lunch.” He looked at the sandwich, then back at Louise. “I’m being rude, Louise. You want to believe in Australia, you have a right.” He glanced sideways at Sophie, then took a bite of his sandwich. “So how was the ball game last night?”

        
        Twenty-six-year-old Sophie sat on the edge of little Pippa’s bed. “I wish you’d known Grandpa Philo,” she said. “but he died when you were two.”

     

        “He raised you, right?” said six-year-old Pippa.

     

        “Yes,” said Sophie. “And he was the best parent anyone could ever want.”

     

        “Did he tell you bedtime stories?”

     

        “No,” said Sophie, with a laugh. “Instead he’d explain why there couldn’t possibly be such a place as Australia.”

     

        “There is such a place, isn’t there?”

     

        “Well, of course. But Grandpa would make up all these arguments about it – Like he’d say that Abel Tasman sailed alllllll the way around it without finding it.”

     

        “Was he teasing you?”

     

        “I don’t think so. He seemed so serious about it.”

     

        “Then why did he say something that’s not true?”

     

        “I don’t know, Baby.” She looked thoughtful. “Maybe he was trying to teach me something.”

     

        “Like what?”

     

        “I don’t know… Maybe that I should pay attention to what I believe, and why I believe it.”

     

        “Have you ever been to Australia?”

     

        “No, Sweetie.”

     

        “How do you know it’s really there? Maybe Grandpa Philo was right.”

     

        “I’ve seen it in books, Dear. And I’ve met people who’ve been there.”

     

        Pippa didn’t answer, unless a yawn and a sleepy-eyed sigh counts as an answer. Sophie sat for a moment, watching fondly as the little eyes blinked open and closed, slower and slower. Soon they stayed closed, and Sophie quietly got up and slipped out, turning out the light as she closed the door, glancing back one last time at her snoring angel.

     

        She was halfway down the hall when she realized what Grandpa Philo had tried to teach her.    

  • I liked it.  Since I love science fiction I'd suggest expanding it to at least a 12,000 word or so novella or longer short novel that could be post apocalyptic or perhaps part of the Australian 'Dreamtime'.

  • Will it not need to be set in the past? When sailing was dangerous and few dared let the coast out of sight? Set now, or perhaps even since, possibly, the 1970s when flying became cheaper for the masses, the evidence to prove it is there is vast, even to a child.

     

    If it's to do with believing in a god simply by faith, the evidence that Australia exists is far far greater Smiley Happy


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    Will it not need to be set in the past? When sailing was dangerous and few dared let the coast out of sight? Set now, or perhaps even since, possibly, the 1970s when flying became cheaper for the masses, the evidence to prove it is there is vast, even to a child.

     

    If it's to do with believing in a god simply by faith, the evidence that Australia exists is far far greater Smiley Happy


    From where I'm sitting, even today, I can't see Australia. Can you?

     

    And is the evidence really all that much greater? Don't you believe in Australia based entirely on what people have told you, and on what you're read in books?

     

    Isn't believing what you read in books, or what others tell you, a simple act of faith?

     

    Might that have been what Grandpa Philo had intended to teach young Sophie? Smiley Happy

  • From where I'm sitting, even today, I can't see Australia. Can you?

     

    So? As I sort of hinted, that's like people accusing Cook of telling lies, but later, lo and behold, there it is now with millions living on it, including some of my relations. It's not an argument that can work nowadays because to perpetuate such a myth would be impossible.

     

    And is the evidence really all that much greater? Don't you believe in Australia based entirely on what people have told you, and on what you're read in books?

     

    Ermm, no. Are you living in the 17th century?

     

    Isn't believing what you read in books, or what others tell you, a simple act of faith?

     

    But there's far more evidence than that, as I said, your story could only work before it became relatively cheap for masses of people to fly there and land on it, and with nothing in it for them to lie about having done so.

     

    Might that have been what Grandpa Philo had intended to teach young Sophie

     

    Would not work nowadays. Could he come up with a film of god that could pass scrutiny? Find 1,000,000s of people who have shaken hands with him? (Or her.)

     

    I am not saying that your story cannot work, but it would have to be set back in time a 100 years or so.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    From where I'm sitting, even today, I can't see Australia. Can you?

     

    So? As I sort of hinted, that's like people accusing Cook of telling lies, but later, lo and behold, there it is now with millions living on it, including some of my relations. It's not an argument that can work nowadays because to perpetuate such a myth would be impossible.

     

    Skoob Ym:  Impossible, or merely unlikely? People believe in much bigger conspiracy theories than mine: Burger-Builders and Illuminati, and N*I*A*C*IN and the Majestyk 12...

     

    And is the evidence really all that much greater? Don't you believe in Australia based entirely on what people have told you, and on what you're read in books?

     

    Ermm, no. Are you living in the 17th century?

     

    Skoob Ym: No, are you? Do you think that the world will ever know everything that there is to know about Roswell, or JFK, or the original Roanoke colony, or the Mary Celeste?

     

    Isn't believing what you read in books, or what others tell you, a simple act of faith?

     

    But there's far more evidence than that, as I said, your story could only work before it became relatively cheap for masses of people to fly there and land on it, and with nothing in it for them to lie about having done so.

     

    Skoob Ym: Nothing in it? Surely you jest, Sir! How much will a person pay for a vacation of the "Sunshine Coast?" Or to ski in the Australian Alps? Or to watch those Paul Hogan movies? Say, didja know that "Australian" Mel Gibson is from New Jersey, and "Australian" Olivia Newton-John is from Cambridge, England?

     

    As for flying there, when you're in an airplane, how do you really know where the pilot is taking you?

     

    Might that have been what Grandpa Philo had intended to teach young Sophie

     

    Would not work nowadays. Could he come up with a film of god that could pass scrutiny? Find 1,000,000s of people who have shaken hands with him? (Or her.)

     

    I am not saying that your story cannot work, but it would have to be set back in time a 100 years or so.

     

    Skoob Ym: I'll take that under advisement.

     


     

  • So? As I sort of hinted, that's like people accusing Cook of telling lies, but later, lo and behold, there it is now with millions living on it, including some of my relations. It's not an argument that can work nowadays because to perpetuate such a myth would be impossible.

     

    Skoob Ym:  Impossible, or merely unlikely?

     

    No, impossible because the proof that it is there is overwhelming.

     

    People believe in much bigger conspiracy theories than mine: Burger-Builders and Illuminati, and N*I*A*C*IN and the Majestyk 12...

     

    Yes, a very little knowledge is dangerous, and they are mainly theories and paranoia bred in the USA. It seems to be an American hobby. But there's no comparison with Australia being a myth. It would be very bizarre that anyone would think that it is. And don't forget that it's part of our Commonwealth who's people fought in WW2 in Asia along with the UK and the USA. Was that a myth?

     

    And is the evidence really all that much greater? Don't you believe in Australia based entirely on what people have told you, and on what you're read in books?

     

    Ermm, no. Are you living in the 17th century?

     

    Skoob Ym: No, are you? Do you think that the world will ever know everything that there is to know about Roswell, or JFK, or the original Roanoke colony, or the Mary Celeste?

     

    There's no comparison. How can you compare such conspiracies with a huge continent? Look at it this way. People who do not live on the continent you live on could claim that's a myth, but that would be cazy would it not?

     

    Isn't believing what you read in books, or what others tell you, a simple act of faith?

     

    But there's far more evidence than that, as I said, your story could only work before it became relatively cheap for masses of people to fly there and land on it, and with nothing in it for them to lie about having done so.

     

    Skoob Ym: Nothing in it? Surely you jest, Sir! How much will a person pay for a vacation of the "Sunshine Coast?" Or to ski in the Australian Alps? Or to watch those Paul Hogan movies? Say, didja know that "Australian" Mel Gibson is from New Jersey, and "Australian" Olivia Newton-John is from Cambridge, England?

     

    And the millions of ordinary people who go there and back each year? What would be in the lie for them? And ask many people where the stars you mention are from and they often will say they are American. And are you suggesting it would make any difference that O. Newtron Bomb was born in the UK? It has no baring on their success. Who cares?

     

    As for flying there, when you're in an airplane, how do you really know where the pilot is taking you?

     

    Because that's where they land? If not, then where are they landing? What about the places they land on the way there? Do they also not exist? Are you suggesting a Total Recall set-up?

     

    Might that have been what Grandpa Philo had intended to teach young Sophie

     

    Would not work nowadays. Could he come up with a film of god that could pass scrutiny? Find 1,000,000s of people who have shaken hands with him? (Or her.)

     

    I am not saying that your story cannot work, but it would have to be set back in time a 100 years or so.

     

    The 'problem' now is that the world is virtually shrinking and it's all constantly on some kind of media, be it documentaries or Snapfish. Think of all the people who would have to be involved in keeping the myth running, think of friends and relations who emigrated there, think of all the $zillions it would cost to fake the place, it would cost $trillions in bribes just to stop people gabbing, and to what ends?

     

    Skoob Ym: I'll take that under advisement.

     

    The story could work in an era that does not have mass communication. One where only a few people had ever been to the place and returned, and the round trip had taken months if not years. Here Be Dragons. Or some family who live in total isolation of the world (How would they have heard of Australia then?) If I had said that to my own kids when they were that age they would have said, don't be stupid dad.

  • Well, I've had my bit of fun, Kevin, but I do have a point.

     

    People think "Faith" is for big huge extraordinary things. But it's not. Everyday people have everyday faith in everyday things. When you sit in a chair you have faith that it will hold you. If you fly to Australia, you have faith that you're not being had in a large elaborate joke... that the pilot didn't land you in Argentina, maybe, or Singapore, or India. Or the RSA.

     

    When someone says "I've been to Australia," you're exercising faith that they are not lying, are not delusional, and were not tricked by someone clever. When you see a map, well, as little Sophie put it, "That's just a drawing. Someone made that."

     

    Faith is an everyday thing, and that's what I want people to get. And there's another idea tied up in there as well... In case they're feeling analytical...

  • I don't think the idea of whether or not it's possible that Australia is a hoax is relevant any more than it was relevant whether readers believed that Gregor Samsa really turned into an insect in Metamorphosis or whether the animals could really talk in Animal Farm. It's an allegory.

     

    That said - and purely in the interests of friendly debate and no offence meant etc - I'm not sure the story works from an allegorical perspective. It seems to be arguing for the opposite of what I think you intend, given that the fact that Grandpa Philo is asking her to believe in something which is patently ridiculous...

  • If Sophie discovers that people believe in Australia no matter how ridiculous it seems... Then she might realize that there are also good reasons to believe in other things... Even if people make up ridiculous arguments against Him.
  • Christian magazine perhaps?

     

  • Maybe, so long as they understood what Grandpa Philo was trying to teach Sophie.

  • Well, I've had my bit of fun,

     

    You have? I missed it. Smiley Very Happy

     

    Kevin, but I do have a point.

     

    No sorry, you don't.

     

    People think "Faith" is for big huge extraordinary things.

     

    No they don't, you are generalising again. But it can be transferred with the word hope, such as I have faith my shed roof is screwed on securely, but I also hope that the storms here don't get more powerful than normal for the UK.

     

    But it's not.

     

    Indeed.

     

    Everyday people have everyday faith in everyday things. When you sit in a chair you have faith that it will hold you.

     

    That's not faith, that's knowing that they are almost all built for the purpose intended. Faith is perhaps an overused word.

     

    If you fly to Australia, you have faith that you're not being had in a large elaborate joke...

     

    That's also not faith, as I have already said. Then again, one hopes that one's luggage also lands there and not in Mongolia. That's perhaps faith in an airline, often proven wrong.

     

    that the pilot didn't land you in Argentina, maybe, or Singapore, or India. Or the RSA.

     

    Oh, you mean those other mythical countries? Why can they also not be a lie? Believed in by faith.

     

    When someone says "I've been to Australia," you're exercising faith that they are not lying, are not delusional, and were not tricked by someone clever.

     

    And so are the other millions who have been there? And the millions who live there? Delusions on a pandemic scale? Gosh, that would be a worry. Possibly in the same manner that over half of Americans believe they have been abducted by aliens? Oh, sorry. ETs, not Mexicans.

     

    When you see a map, well, as little Sophie put it, "That's just a drawing. Someone made that."

     

    Depends on the map, not all are graphical. Googlemaps and Earth are fake then? NASA's Earth photos? China's? Japan's? India's? Korea's? Russia's? Live transmissions from the ISS? How about universities who now put sats up in space made from Smartphones? Wow, someone is going to vast expense to perpetrate this lie. And for what purpose? If it was possible to get so many countries to cooperate on such a scale most of the world's problems would be over.

     

    Faith is an everyday thing, and that's what I want people to get. And there's another idea tied up in there as well... In case they're feeling analytical...

     

    They will not get it from your example unless they have lived on their own in a cave  from birth with no contact whatsoever with another human or anything else other than their cave walls. I have actually seen your example used before in a story a few 100 years old. It's a common one from the deep past once used in religious schools. And of course, as we all know, the stars orbit the Earth. The trouble with having faith in some things is that there's too many facts to dispel that faith.

  • I don't think the idea of whether or not it's possible that Australia is a hoax is relevant any more than it was relevant whether readers believed that Gregor Samsa really turned into an insect in Metamorphosis or whether the animals could really talk in Animal Farm. It's an allegory.

     

    Indeed it is. Then again who did believe that animals could talk? That's just fiction. Australia is not. Apart from in http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Book:The_Last_Continent  where it was at first also thought to be mythical, until some Wizards went.

     

    That said - and purely in the interests of friendly debate and no offence meant etc - I'm not sure the story works from an allegorical perspective. It seems to be arguing for the opposite of what I think you intend, given that the fact that Grandpa Philo is asking her to believe in something which is patently ridiculous...

     

    Which? God or Australia? Smiley Happy

     

    I recall when my wife was doing training to become a teacher, some was Work-Experience. One placement was in a Catholic  (and my wife not a Catholic) run school (in the UK) and she was appalled that almost every question a child asked to do with religion was answered with "faith". She questioned that principle and was told simply that that's "how it is here," so after two days she walked out saying that it was a sinful method.

  • Even if people make up ridiculous arguments against Him.

     

    Such as? Sorry, but people who believe in things that have no proof are, in my view, a bit weird, especially in this day and age. It's just not scientific.  This is possibly a good example of what happens when the masses get better educations >>  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/2461839/Church-of-England-church-closures-accelerate.html

    The teaching of any specific religion was banned in UK State schools decades ago.

     

    The only religions that seem to flourish here are those that try to totally control a person's life and mind, even tell them how to dress.

     

    Some private schools that do that from an early age are far from approved, and even illegal, and are about to be shut down. Especially Muslim ones ...

     

    People need to think for themselves.

  • Kevin, define "Faith" such that it applies to belief in God or one's spouse (i.e., that she is "faithful") but not to a chair in which one sits, a bridge one crosses, or the "faithful" performance of a pilot's duties.

     

    I think the fact that you don't understand that you place faith in a chair when you sit on it makes my point about people failing to understand faith.

     

    And once you understand that you believe the chair will support you by faith, then you will understand that you also believe in Australia by faith.


  • kevinlomas wrote:
    ...

     

    People need to think for themselves.


    YES!!! Precisely! They need to think for themselves; truly think, and not merely accept what the papers or the internet or John down the local told them.

     

    Think, truly think; that's what we need!

  • Kevin, define "Faith" such that it applies to belief in God or one's spouse (i.e., that she is "faithful") but not to a chair in which one sits, a bridge one crosses, or the "faithful" performance of a pilot's duties.

     

    Is it not you who needs to define it? In your short story it's about faith in god, have you forgotten? There's little need to have faith that you suggest in things that patently exist. Your examples about objects are just knowledge that something is designed or done by experts. As to a spouse being faithful, if in doubt hire a PI. Could a PI stalk god and take photos of him?

     

    I think the fact that you don't understand that you place faith in a chair when you sit on it makes my point about people failing to understand faith.

     

    That's a silly thing to say and you are grasping at straws now. Using your own example, how many chairs have you sat in that have collapsed? Faith has nothing to do with them.

     

    And once you understand that you believe the chair will support you by faith, then you will understand that you also believe in Australia by faith.

     

    Are you joking? We have had discussions such as this before that ended in you saying it was a wind-up

  • YES!!! Precisely! They need to think for themselves; truly think, and not merely accept what the papers or the internet or John down the local told them.

     

    Think, truly think; that's what we need!

     

    I am convinced that you live in the 1700s. There's now far more things than the above to base conclusions on, and have been for awhile.

     

    Anyway, there's little else to be said.

  • Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.

     

    e.g.: A chair:

     

    My faith in the chair, that it is a solid chair and will not collapse, break, or come apart -- and I've encountered chairs that have done those things, though I am a man of normal size and girth -- is the substance -- what lies beneath -- my willingness to sit in the chair. I have faith that it is solid because it looks solid; I have faith that it is well built because it looks well built; I have faith that it will support me because past experience, and my faith in that experience tells me so.

     

    Now, had I no faith in the chair, I would not sit in it. I might doubt its integrity because it looks flimsy, or because it looks insubstantial and weak, or because in my past experience, that chair has dumped me onto the floor very often. Faith is the underlying SUBSTANCE of the thing I hope for, namely, to not fall in the floor.

     

    It is the evidence of things not seen: It would be rather silly of me to get an engineer's report every time I sit down. I believe in the thing I cannot see -- the integrity and strength of the chair -- based upon my well-founded faith in it. The faith, then, is the evidence of thigns unseen.

     

    Is that clear enough?

     

    you are correct, the Australia argument is useful for many things about faith, including have one over on a too-literal internet chum. So it does make a good wind-up. But there's a point in it as well...


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    YES!!! Precisely! They need to think for themselves; truly think, and not merely accept what the papers or the internet or John down the local told them.

     

    Think, truly think; that's what we need!

     

    I am convinced that you live in the 1700s. There's now far more things than the above to base conclusions on, and have been for awhile.

     

    Anyway, there's little else to be said.


    If I live in the 1700s, then I am the King of France. L'etat, c'est moi.

  • I think there's a difference between religious faith and other types of faith (eg faith in the strength of a chair) and the difference between the two is so great that comparisons are meaningless.

     

    I would say that in general non-religious faith is based on evidential based belief, even if the person doesn't consciously evaluate the evidence. For example, I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Obviously, I can't prove that it won't be destroyed in some astronomical cataclism overnight, but the chances of this are so small, and the fact that it's been rising faithfully every day for the last 4 billion years or so makes my faith in tomorrow justified.

     

    I have faith in the chair because it looks like a safe chair, because the physics of the strength of the vertical legs is sound and because of the previous experience of me and/or lots of other people sitting safely in the chair in the past. However, my faith would be modified by other factors. Are all the legs intact? Are there screws missing? Did I build the chair myself (in which case I definitely wouldn't sit in it)?

     

    Religious faith, however, needs no evidence. Indeed, in many cases, religious faith denies evidence.

     

    In the words of Tim Minchin:

     

    Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed
    Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.

  • I think there's a difference between religious faith and other types of faith (eg faith in the strength of a chair) and the difference between the two is so great that comparisons are meaningless.

     

    Indeed. One is Blind Faith.

     

    I would say that in general non-religious faith is based on evidential based belief, even if the person doesn't consciously evaluate the evidence. For example, I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Obviously, I can't prove that it won't be destroyed in some astronomical cataclism overnight, but the chances of this are so small, and the fact that it's been rising faithfully every day for the last 4 billion years or so makes my faith in tomorrow justified.

     

    Exactly. There are many things that one has no need to have faith in, or that one can do nothing about.

     

    I have faith in the chair because it looks like a safe chair, because the physics of the strength of the vertical legs is sound and because of the previous experience of me and/or lots of other people sitting safely in the chair in the past. However, my faith would be modified by other factors. Are all the legs intact? Are there screws missing? Did I build the chair myself (in which case I definitely wouldn't sit in it)?

     

    Quite so. But it's also not just a matter of faith, it's often a matter of maintenance.

     

    Religious faith, however, needs no evidence. Indeed, in many cases, religious faith denies evidence.

     

    So it seems. A real shame.

     

    In the words of Tim Minchin:

     

    Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.

     

    What I wonder is if a god believes in me.

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