THE DAY EARTH KNEW PEACE

The day that Earth would know peace had been seen and foretold ahead of time. But true to our era, it wasn’t predicted by a religious zealot, but a scientist. It was all very simple, really, or at least according to him it was. A week from his announcement, oxygen levels in the atmosphere were set to spike for reasons that even he couldn’t understand. But this spike in oxygen content would enrich the brains of humans the world over, humans that had been conditioned to only take in 21% oxygen, and lead to such benefits as decreased stress, improved blood flow, and, the scientist prophesied, the temporary cessation of all violent and aggressive behavior.

According to him, all of our moral failings as humans had nothing to do with original sin, or damaged psyches, or mental disturbances. Everything from murder to family strife could be blamed on oxygen deficiency. His findings, he said, were conclusive, and given his standing in the scientific world (one pundit famously likened him to Tyson, Kaku, Hawking, Sagan, and Einstein all rolled into one), people believed him.

The announcement spread quickly throughout the world, variously translated and transcribed into every language, sent to every corner of the globe, till everyone was collectively awaiting The Day of Peace.

There was no special marker when the day arrived. No procession of angels in gilded chariots, no booming announcement from the heavens. The sun rose along with the people, just like any other day.

But right from the start, things had changed. Neighbors who had never even met before came out, shook hands, started talking to one another. Porches were occupied by friends and stories alike. Spontaneous block parties started springing up, without any prior planning or notice.

Reports started coming in, city by city, that the numbers for violent crime had dropped significantly, maybe even reached zero. Other reports of people the world over taking the day off to spend time with family and loved ones filtered in.

And then the reports themselves stopped coming in–newscasters began announcing on air that they had nothing to report, that they’d rather enjoy the day and go off the air than continue to peddle their heart rate-quickening stories.

Live shows went down first, then even the taped ones (commercials too), as even TV station employees decided they had better things to do. Those who had homes and food brought in those who didn’t, and those who had less took only what they needed from supermarkets, the workers there helping them load in their free groceries before taking the day off, officers refusing to arrest them before themselves going home to be with their families.

At protests and picket lines, one by one people turned away, both protesters and police alike, most of them joining together in their common humanity, sharing jokes and stories about where they grew up, what their families were like.

Soldiers threw down their arms with ease–they’d all seemed to realize the inherent pointlessness in conflict and walked away from it. Commanding officers relieved themselves of their duty just as swiftly.

Child laborers were let go, human traffickers gave up their trade. Rockets stopped falling in Gaza. Troops stopped filing into Ukraine. Drones stopped attacking their targets. Imprisoned journalists were freed.

Political prisoners were let go en masse, the exiled were allowed back into their respective homelands. North Korean labor camps were shut down, and food distributed to its people. Guantanamo Bay was vacated.

Wall Street became a ghost town. All debts were forgiven. All grievances, whether personal or international, forgiven too.

The killers stopped killing, and the haters stopped hating. All religions made their peace with one another. Massive celebrations sprang up in all the major cities, with millions of happy people cheering, and meeting, and singing, and dancing.

This went on for the rest of the day, without a single hitch anywhere. No one did anything they weren’t supposed to, without exception, and instead went out of their way to help others. To be kind to others.

But the next day eventually came. And with it, a return to the old ways. People went back to work. Crime returned. TVs came back on. Millions challenged the scientist’s claims, distraught that the effect didn’t last longer.

And so, he begrudgingly appeared on TV. Took the talk show hosts’ slamming accusations in stride, until finally one began wondering where the scientist’s evidence was, his evidence that no one had asked for before. The scientist took a moment, and a breath along with it. He calmly replied.

“Well that’s because there isn’t any.”

“Any what?”

“Any evidence.”

“What do you mean?”

A calm smile.

“I made it all up.”

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SOUP AND A SMILE

The world as we know it was forever changed by a smile. This is how it happened.

There was a man who felt invisible. Like he didn’t matter, like no one cared. This feeling was only made worse by the fact that he took the el every day and not once had a single person looked his way.

So on a particularly depressing night he sat on the train, and stewed quietly to himself, and thought: this is the night I do It. And he was turning over the possible ways to do It and how others might respond when a man sitting across from him looked his way, smiled, and nodded. He got off at the next stop and that was that.

The man who wanted to do It went home, and instead of doing It, he decided that things couldn’t be all that bad if a man could smile and nod his way. So in the morning he abandoned thoughts of doing It and went to the soup kitchen, to help out more people who might feel invisible.

And before long, he was not just visible, he was recognized. He gave his own smile with every meal he handed over, and soon became known as the Soup-and-a-Smile Guy.

The good deeds built, until he was volunteering every day. Until he was going out on the street and smiling, going out and talking to people. He never did this before.

Soon the local news caught wind of this soup-and-a-smile do-gooder and ran a story, intending for it only to be a mild heart-warmer in between all the heaviness. But it took off. Volunteers crowded the soup kitchens, doing their own rendition and clamoring to meet the man who started it all.

The support was pouring in, and soon enough the man was able to quit his job and help others full time. He made no money apart from donations, but he didn’t need money. He was seen. He was helping.

He started the Soup And A Smile Foundation, which very quickly expanded beyond the homeless. Needy children around the world were sent full meals and a picture along with them of the smiling do-gooder.

Soon he was a legend in those parts of the world, revered beside deities though that was the last thing he wanted. He was on talk shows, radio stations, commercials, and those in need were always the priority.

He gave up his home, turned it into a refuge for at-risk teens. Only wore what he needed, gave up the rest of his possessions to those who could use them and became a happy wanderer.

Wherever he went, happiness followed. All it took was a smile from him, and he’d instantly made a new friend. He joined action groups, peaceful protests, walks to end all sorts of diseases, and all the while his group of followers grew.

Those in charge were afraid. He was too powerful. And what’s more, he advocated peace and minimalistic living and community. He was a threat.

They arrested him at a peaceful protest, tazed him and pepper-sprayed him too. And all the while he didn’t fight at all. All the while he kept smiling for his friends’ sake. It was all caught on camera, as you can imagine, and it spread. Got so there was nothing else on social media but his smile. He became a rallying cry. A hero.

Cities fell first. Not a drop of blood shed, just a horde of people who took over city halls in the name of a soup and a smile.

And it spread like that, one big wave of peaceful discontent, until police departments surrendered and governors put their hands up to provocateurs with no weapons.

They stormed his prison, overwhelmed the place by sheer numbers and refused to flinch when they were fired on. Just kept smiling, to return the favor to him.

He was freed that day, the same day the President resigned and Congress quit the capitol.

The people wanted him in charge, but he refused. It wasn’t for him to rule, or anyone else for that matter. It was for the people to govern themselves. To give to those who were in need, to help as many people as they could.

There was no more business. No war. No industry. No debt. Technological progress came to a halt, but the people were happy. They lived simple lives in harmony with each other and gave what they could.

No one knows where he is today, but that’s okay. Because a part of him will never be gone, will always be there to offer a soup and a smile.

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OUT HERE

Out here the sky’s as big as the world, and all the rain’s a drop of you and me and everything we see.

Out here the wind blows skyward and takes a piece of us with it as it dances in the field.

Out here there’s room for dreams and wishes, love abounds and glitters on the lightning bugs’ wings.

Out here there is no lost, no posted flyers for the world to see.

Out here the sun laughs as it rises, it kisses the pregnant clouds as they drip their dew.

Out here there’s elephants in trees and sounds in your hair, bright sounds that smell of cinnamon.

Out here there is no could have or should have, but only the breath of the bugs on the grassblades.

Out here the world doesn’t stop or go, and what you see is inside you.

Out here the flickers come from your fingertips and linger a while like pixies on the moon.

Out here there’s water on the wind and rivers in the sky, ten miles long and twisting things.

Out here the mud will clean you and the water will muck you up.

Out here there are sights to see and people to be and it’s all just over there.

Out here you can climb on the air and sing on the hills, the only one who will stop you is you.

Out here the clocks drip slowly and flutter away when they’ve had enough.

Out here the books line the streets and call out to you when you pass them by.

Out here the souls are crisp and line-dried and chamomile-scented.

Out here there’s a buzz in all the people near and far, a silly little hum they look at from time to time.

Out here the sprouts shed their seeds and let them float off beside them for another one to catch.

Out here there’s a willow branch on a man’s head and it’s just as tall as can be.

Out here there’s room for it all and more, and the sunshine evaporates on your tongue.

Out here the childhoods rush back like waves, but calm against the break.

Out here you are who you are, whenever and wherever you are.

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