Four Remarkable People on a Quest

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Part 1 – The Meeting

Once upon a time, there were four remarkable men.  Well, actually there were two remarkable men and two remarkable women.  A confluence of circumstances brought them together in perhaps one of the strangest coincidences in history.

Jamal was from the north.  He was one of the highest scorers to ever take the Mensa Genius Examination.  When he was only four years old, he developed a program to block credit card companies from calling his parents on their cell phones.  When he was seven years old, he developed a new form of cryptocurrency which was impossible to hack, easily transferred, had high usability and presented a respectable means of acquisition.  The currency was so popular that Jamal became a billionaire when he was 15 years old.

Isabella was from the south.  She graduated when she was 12 years old from the University of São Paulo with a Ph.D. degree in Physics and Philosophy.  She burned through required credits like a hot knife going through butter.  She had no problem paying for her tuition since she was hired by the University of São Paulo physics department to help with a particle research project they were undertaking, while she was earning her degree.  When she graduated, half of the physics departments in the world tried to hire her.

Li Na was from the east.  She was born in Chengdu, a sub-provincial city which serves as the capital of China’s Sichuan province.  She was the only child of an older couple who really wanted a boy.  Li Na learned to play soccer, baseball, table tennis and hockey at a young age.  She wanted to please her parents.  She was an excellent athlete who competed in all four sports in the Olympics.  However, her athletic abilities were far overshadowed by her intellect.  Li Na had mathematical abilities that rivaled any mathematician in history.  She could take any number and give you the square root of the number down to 1000 roots without a calculator or even an abacus.

When Li Na was fourteen years old, she decided to tackle all six of the remaining Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000.  Li Na was able to solve all six of them within a month, but she decided it would be unfair to accept the prize money as the solutions were so easy.  She therefore rejected the prize and kept the solutions to herself.  Corporations all over the world engaged her with solving problems that defied normal mathematical solutions.  She gave her money back to her parents to help support them and to put into savings.  No one knew what she was worth, but it was assumed that she was a mega millionaire.

Elijah was from the west. He was born in California in a commune that practiced a form of communal marriage.  Elijah was never sure of who his father was, and he seemed to grow up with several mothers.  At an early age, Elijah showed a talent for music.  When he was three years old, he taught himself to play a violin.  At four, he learned to play an oboe and at five, he learned to play a harp.  When he was six, he took first place in the Menuhin Competition beating out every other contestant regardless of age.

As remarkable as his talent for playing music was, Elijah’s skills and abilities in the area of composing music were even more incredible.  He had written six operas, twenty movie scores and five symphonies before he was 16 years old.  Orchestras all over the world were playing his compositions when most people did not even know his name.  Elijah hated publicity and avoided any of the usual celebrity events.  He donated most of his money to help other aspiring musicians.  He was well known among musicians and performers for his humility and kindness towards others.

cafe-wrenEach of our four remarkable people were into their middle years when by chance they met at a small cafe and restaurant in a town called Luck in Northwestern Wisconsin.  Luck is a small town of about 1200 residents, which in its heydays was the home of the Duncan Yo-yo.  In fact, it was once known as the Yo-yo Capital of the world.  Sadly, Yo-yo’s had declined in popularity and so had the fortunes of Luck in terms of prosperity and jobs.  Now perhaps, the high spot of Luck was the Wren Cafe.  A place that had excellent food, good beer and a unique ambiance imbued by its extremely creative owner Stephanie Lundeen.

The café is well known to locals and to many of the cabin people who come up on the weekends to enjoy their sojourns from the “big city” of Minneapolis.  Li Na, Elijah, Isabella and Jamal were each brought there by friends who were locals and who knew that the Wren was a very good place to eat.  The Wren being a small place and small towns being where everyone knows everyone, introductions were soon flying like falling Wisconsin snow.  Our four remarkable people sensed that a new chapter in their lives was about to begin.

Thus, at 12 PM on a cool summer day in Luck Wisconsin, Li Na, Elijah, Isabella and Jamal experienced a nuclear fusion of intimacy.  The result was like a billion tons of dynamite going off at once or the largest fireworks display in the world.  The talent that each had was like a magnet that created an instant bond between the four.  Finding other people of comparable abilities and demeanor was something that they had only dreamed about.  They all found the rapport and affinity they had for each other to be amazing.

After an hour or so of rapid conversation intermixed with more general discussion with others in their parties, our four remarkable people decided to meet again when they could have more time to discuss their lives without anyone else present.  Unbeknownst to their friends and families, Li Na, Jamal, Elijah and Isabella all had serious inner doubts that they had never been able to share with another living soul.  Each believed that they had found some kindred souls with whom they could share their secrets and perhaps find some piece of mind.  They agreed to meet again at the Wren the following week.  It was a week they knew they must spare from their busy lives.

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Part 2 – Four Doubts

For several years now, Jamal had begun to feel that there was no meaning to his life.  He had even contemplated suicide because he felt that he had nothing left to live for. The world did not seem to have people that cared about anything but their new smart phones or how fast their Internet speeds were.  Life was one vast merry go round with people constantly jumping on and off and reacting to whatever the current fads and trends were.  Nobody cared about anything but how much money they had and how many things they could buy.  Jamal desired to know if there was a true Purpose in Life or if life was simply meaningless.

Elijah had many of the same feelings as Jamal.  Elijah no longer found value in anything in life.  Everything he had ever owned or purchased soon became worthless in his mind.  The best yachts, cars and homes that anyone could buy could not make him happy.  Fame and talent and beauty all seemed to fade over time.  People were fickle.  One minute they loved you and the next minute they loved somebody else.  Elijah knew what it was like to be famous and admired but it had lost any value to him.  He thought that being known as the greatest musician in the world would satisfy his inner longings.  Even though he had obtained this goal, it did not seem to provide the value that he had hoped for.  Elijah longed to know if there was any true Value in Life or if everything was really worthless.

Isabella had once believed that there was a hidden truth to life that remained to be found.  She had studied physics and philosophy thinking that they would lead her to this truth.  She had spent many years searching for this truth.  However, every time she found a truth, she soon realized that it was also a lie.  The prophets and great religious leaders had always taught that “The truth will set you free.”  Isabella could never find the talisman that would set her free.

She desperately wanted to believe that there was some truth to existence and that life was more than just a series of lies and deceptions.  She had a desire to find this truth, but she had become increasingly discouraged.  Each day she read the news and only found “Fake Facts” and deceptions masquerading as truth.  The world seemed to have misinformation and disinformation but no truth.  Isabella wanted to find the Truth of Life.

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Li Na was another tormented soul.  A brilliant mathematician, she could not discover a single constant in life.  Every time she thought she had found a concept in mathematics that would provide such a constant, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem would rear its ugly head proving still again that it is impossible to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for mathematics.  If mathematics had no constants, how could life have any constants.  Was is simply true that death and taxes were the only constants in life?  Li Na wanted to believe that there was more to life than simply death and taxes.  Li Na desired to find the one Constant in Life that would really make life worth living.  If she could find this constant, she believed that it would put her soul at rest and she might find true peace on earth.

Part 3 – The Doubts Unfold

To Be Continued:  I will publish the next part of this story when it is finished.  I appreciate your patience. 

Time for Questions:

What do you think so far?  How do you like the four people in the story?  Have you ever shared similar doubts?  What did you do about them?  What do you believe about life?

Life is just beginning. 

“Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality

My Name is Carmen: I Murdered Two Children

The following story is a work of fiction based on a true-life trial and murder.  This story follows a somewhat different history from the real-life story but will certainly be recognized by many as related to the story of Yoselyn Ortega and the Krim’s family.  The story occupied a major place in most newspapers for many months.  For any parent, it is a horror story.  No one can imagine the despair and misery that the Krim’s have gone through.

As I followed the trial, I was struck by the fact that so many of the newspaper articles about the murders were looking for a motive or reason for Ortega’s actions.  Ms. Ortega never testified at the trial and I suspect that many people thought it was simply a matter of allowing or encouraging her to “tell the truth.”  If only we could ask Ortega “why” she did it, we could find her motive and reason.   I have followed many related stories of murders and I have been struck by the lack of “truth” that is ever found.  Not just because suicide seems to be a way out for many murderers but even when the murderer is alive to tell their story.

two children

My name is Maria Carmen Fernanda Lopez.  I am a Columbian citizen.  I want to tell my story so that everyone will understand.  I am now in jail for the murder of two children that I was responsible for taking care of.  I was their nanny.  They say that both children loved me and in truth, I often loved them back.  The entire world wants to know why I murdered these children.

The prosecutors told a lie.  What they said about me was not true.  They wanted me to look very evil so that I could be convicted.  My defense attorneys also did not tell the truth.  They did not know me.  They only wanted to save me from receiving a death sentence.  It did not matter if the truth was told or not.  The psychiatrists who found many reasons for what I did do not know the reason why I murdered the young girl and young boy.  Each of the psychiatrists had a different theory.  I do not like to argue with anyone, so I simply agreed with each of them.  Nine different psychiatrists and nine different theories.

I never had the opportunity to testify.  My attorneys said it would be better if I did not.  I was convicted anyway of first degree murder.  I would like for you to hear my story.  Maybe, you can understand.  I do not deny killing my two young charges.  It was like killing my own children.  The children were very kind to me although sometimes they could be spoiled brats.  But what would you expect with a rich mother and a rich father both of whom could lavish much time and money on their children.  Most of the time they were fun to be around.

I was born in Cali Columbia in 1961.  I was one of twelve children.  My family was very poor.  My father sewed and fixed shoes for a living.  My mother tried to find enough food each day to feed us all.  I was the fifth oldest child and my job was to take care of all my siblings who were younger than I was.   I guess you could say I received nanny training when I was growing up.  I only went to school through the eighth grade.  No one in our family went any further.

I had a cousin Luisa who in 2001 emigrated to the United States.  She had a father who had received a degree in engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.   He wanted to move up in the world and he was able to get a visa and a position with an electronics firm in New York City.  Luisa, her mom and her dad all moved to the USA.

My cousin Luisa and I were very close when we were growing up.  Luisa always had nicer clothes and was much prettier than I was.  Even though her family had much more money than mine, we were like sisters.  She had lots of boyfriends and we would sometimes sneak out at night to share time together.  She would introduce me to many young men, but I was very shy and not very good looking.  My first child was with one of these young men.  We did not marry, and I named my young boy Mateo.  Mateo’s father disappeared a few years after Mateo was born and I never saw him again.  My father was not very happy with me, but unwed pregnancies are the norm in Columbia.  My mother was actually very happy to have a new addition to the family.

A few years after Luisa moved to the USA, she wrote me a letter and asked if I would like to live with her in NYC.  I wrote back and replied that I would love to if I could bring Mateo along as well.  She wrote back that “Of course, you can bring Mateo.  Furthermore, I think I might be able to arrange a job that you would be very good at.”  She did not say anymore, and I was very curious.

I discussed going to the USA with my Mom.  She thought it would be a good opportunity for me but where would we get the money.  We did not have enough money for a bus trip to Bogota, never mind NYC.  My dad was also agreeable since it would be two less mouths to feed.  However, he did not have an extra peso to spare.  Sadly, I wrote back to my cousin to explain that it might be years before I could save enough money to come to the USA.

In a very short time, I received a letter from Luisa.  In the letter was a voucher for a one-way ticket to NYC.  Luisa said I should let her know when we would arrive, and she would meet us at the airport.  I immediately told my mom and dad.  My mother seemed sad to see me go but my father did not seem to care.  I packed my bags and purchased a ticket on Avianca S.A. for two weeks later.  I wrote Luisa and gave her our flight number and arrival time.

We arrived in NYC without any problems.  Luisa met us at the airport and we took a taxi to her apartment in Queens.  She was now living in her own apartment and had a very good job with Verizon company as a translator.  Her Spanish skills and good people skills had allowed her to work up from a customer service representative to a position as manager in one of their bi-lingual call centers.   Luisa had an extra bedroom which I was placed in.  My young son Mateo had a couch to sleep on.  We all hoped that I might find good employment and be able to rent my own apartment someday.

After catching up on family, friends and Luisa’s life in NYC, I was anxious to ask Luisa about this job she thought I might be good at.  Luisa explained that in NYC there were many wealthy families who wanted dependable mature women to work as caretakers or nannies for their children.  Such families were not hard to find, and she knew several families who were currently looking for a good reliable nanny.  With her recommendation, she was sure I would have no trouble finding a job.  My one concern was how I would take care of Mateo who was now eight and take care of someone else’s children.  Luisa said that I should not worry as she could help me with Mateo and most nanny jobs had some degree of flexibility.

Two weeks later after several interviews I was placed with Eric and Sarah Clarke as a nanny for their children.  They were a young couple with two children.  One child, Noah was six and in kindergarten.  The other child Emma was eight and going into the third grade.

Eric was an executive with an aerospace firm and travelled a great deal.  Sarah worked as a Public Relations specialist with the Magrino Company in Manhattan.  The Clarke’s lived in an area known as Tribeca in Manhattan.  It was a very wealthy neighborhood but very convenient in terms of Sarah’s job and Eric’s need to travel frequently.  From Tribeca to the Magrino company was less than twenty minutes by the metro or by car.  Both Sarah and Eric had a great deal of job flexibility and could often work at home.   This last point was what made me accept the position since I felt that I would not be needed twenty-four seven and I would be able to find more time to spend with my own son.  I was going to be a “live-out nanny.”

My starting pay rate would be $18. 00 per hour and I would work ten-hour days except for Wednesday and Thursdays when I would only work five-hour days.  I would work five days a week unless special occasions arose.  In the event of weekend work, my hourly wage would be $26.00 dollars per hour.  My gross salary would be $720 dollars per week.  I would take home about $600 dollars per week.

My expected job duties were as follows:

  • Meeting the children’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual needs.
  • Undertaking all tasks related to childcare, including doing the children’s laundry and preparing the children’s meals and cleaning up afterwards.
  • Caring for the family pet.
  • Meals for the children when parents were not home.

griefI worked for the Clarke’s for about two years.  During that time, I got along quite well with the children.  They were mostly well-behaved and pleasant to be around.  We would go on outings after school and take many walks.  I would buy them ice cream cones and take them to see the animals in the zoo and on library trips and museum trips.

I also got along very well with Eric Clarke.  He was not around as much but he was always polite and treated me as one of the family.  Sarah was a little more difficult and controlled the purse strings.  I had thought that after two years, I should get a raise, but she refused to increase my hourly rate.  She would sometimes ask me to do other jobs which I did not think were in my job description.  I generally acquiesced to her requests.

Now it has been said at my trail by the prosecution that I was angry at Sarah for pushing more work on me and for not paying me enough.  It is true that I thought she could be unfair at times, but I also appreciated the many times she helped me out when I needed help.  She was often very generous and was by no means a skinflint or cheapskate.  I harbored no ill will to either Eric or Sarah.  Then you might ask: “Why?”  Why murder two innocent children?

I have heard all the explanations.  I suffered from mental illness.  I was crazy.  I was overworked.  I was stressed.  I was angry.  I was feeling humiliated.  I was insulted by Sarah.  I was told to by voices in my head.  I did not have enough time with my own son.  I was jealous of the money and status the Clarkes had.  I was going to lose my job.  I was just plain evil.  EVIL, EVIL, EVIL.

Evil or Good

I am glad that I was not asked to testify.  I would not have known what to say.  I would have been asked “Why?” and no one would believe my answer.  You will not believe it.

We seem to think that whenever there is a killing, murder, suicide or mass atrocity that if only the victim lived we could find out “why?”  Humans have an insatiable desire to know the answer to the question: “Why, did they do it?”  The truth is that there is often no reason.

Theodore Bundy, Charles Whitman, James Huberty, George Hennard, Devin, Patrick Kelley, Adam Lanza, Seung-Hu Cho, Omar, Saddiqui Mateen, Stephen Paddock and the list goes on and on.  Why?  Why?  Why?  The public wants a logical reasonable answer.  The police want a motive.  The prosecution wants a reason to convict.  The defense wants a reason to acquit.  Our mental institutions want another reason to try out different therapies.

insanity

Why? Why? Why?

Don’t you think I owe the public an answer?  Don’t you think I owe the Clarkes an answer?  Don’t you think I owe my family an answer?

parental grief

What explanation or reason could possibly make any sense for such a vicious, depraved and wanton act of destruction?  Would any explanation make sense to Noah and Emma?  Would any explanation expiate my guilt and remorse?  What explanation would you believe?

I am certain that I have no explanation you would be satisfied with.  Maybe that is the real definition of craziness.  To do something with no reason, logic or explanation that can possibly make any sense.  I wish I could live my life over again, but I am not sure it would make any difference.  I have explored alternative realities and they all lead right back to this cell that I sit in today.  The ultimate tragedy of my life is inexplicably bound up with murder and chaos.

mother and dead child

They say I expressed no remorse or regrets during the trial.  I appeared to be a selfish and narcissistic person who was only concerned with herself.  I shed no tears.  But what good would regret do?  It would not bring back Noah or Emma.  What good would regret do for the Clarkes?  It would not bring their children back.  It would never help Sarah to forget the horror she saw.

In truth, I have no regrets.  I am a victim just as much as anyone else in this tragedy.  There is no escaping our destiny.

Time for Questions:

Is it possible that people do not know “WHY?”  Why do you think that people do evil things?  Are all of us evil at some point in our lives?  How do we overcome evil?  Is there really a devil who “makes us do it.”

Life is just beginning.

“One might expect that the families of murder victims would be showered with sympathy and support, embraced by their communities. But in reality they are far more likely to feel isolated, fearful, and ashamed, overwhelmed by grief and guilt, angry at the criminal-justice system, and shunned by their old friends.” — Eric Schlosser

 

 

 

 

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