All Seeing

Amulet with the Eye of Horus. Earthenware, Achaemenid artwork, late 6th–4th centuries BC. From the Tell of the Apadana in Susa. Louvre Museum. Department of Oriental Antiquities, Sully, ground floor, room 14. From the excavations of Jacques de Morgan. Photographer: Marie-Lan Nguyen. From Wikipedia Commons.

Conceptions of God are constantly in flux, which is what yields so many different religions. In Lake Woebegone Days, Garrison Keillor humorously describes numerous disputes among church congregations over the interpretation of scripture which lead to factions developing which cause the congregations to split. Baptists and Methodists primarily disagree over the method of baptism, and Protestants and Catholics split over whether faith alone or good deeds are necessary to ensure salvation. Even the idea of God differs from congregation to congregation, some believing in a vengeful “Old Testament” style deity while others opt for a loving father figure watching over us all.

One thing most believers agree on, however, is the nature of God. A common description is that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows all that has happened to us and will happen. The idea of an all-knowing God goes back at least to the Egyptians, with their all-seeing eye of Horus watching over everyone. Given this capability, one wonders why so many spend so much time communicating with God, when an all-knowing entity, by definition, should already know anything we’d be likely to tell it. Also, the belief that God knows the future implies that the future is set and if this is the case, this seems to suggest our destinies have been been predetermined by God.

Such a situation makes the quest for salvation almost irrelevant, since God has already decided who’s going to heaven and who isn’t. The problem with a system like this is that if God has predetermined our destinies, we are, necessarily, living according to God’s plan and are not responsible for our behavior. How can we not gain salvation, since we’re only following the plan God has laid out for us? One might argue that Satan can step in and lead us astray, but if so, God should have already taken this into account, since God knows all. If we accept the notion that our lives have been predetermined this leads us to a further dilemma when tragedy occurs. If a plane crashes and everyone on board is killed, is that somehow part of God’s plan, since surely God knew the plane would crash? Perhaps God’s foresight rests not in absolute knowledge of the future but in being able to visualize the possibilities.

There’s a difference between seeing the future and being able to theorize potential outcomes. Each decision we make comes with many potential consequences and it’s nearly impossible for us to anticipate all of them. Perhaps, instead of being able to see what will happen, the entity we call God has the ability to imagine all potential outcomes of a given decision. One wonders, though, why such an entity would waste time and energy imagining what might happen, when all it has to do is wait and see what actually happens. If salvation is a possibility, humans must be free to make their own decisions and therefore predestination can’t factor into the equation. Perhaps the point of the universe is to test unlimited possibilities.

There appears to be no rhyme or reason to it, no cosmic logic to explain it all. Predestination robs us of our free will and calls into question the notion of salvation, since a vital part of that is having the freedom to choose. A future that can’t be anticipated by even God, however, takes away the notion of an all-seeing and all-knowing entity watching over everything we do. In this chaotic universe in which we live, it’s difficult to believe an entity would exist that somehow manages the chaos, while concealing the mechanisms to those who inhabit it unless, of course, observing how the inhabitants manage is part of the plan.

Voices in Our Heads


Somewhere, out on the plains in Africa, just shortly after humans had learned to talk, a tribe got into some sort of trouble and all seemed bleak. Suddenly a man in the tribe heard the voice of his father, who had died years before, instructing him on what to do. He got everyone’s attention and commanded that they do exactly what he told them and by following the instructions he heard, saved his people from certain annihilation. When everyone was safe, he turned his eyes to the sky and said, “Thank you, father!” 

From then on he became the tribe’s counselor and every time the tribe was in trouble, he heard the same voice speaking to him. Sometimes he heard his mother’s voice, soothing him as she’d done when he was a child. As the tribe grew, others began hearing voices which sometimes led them in different directions from the rest. Over time, humans began to realize the voices weren’t coming from outside, but from inside their own heads. Combined with our capacity for memory, they formed the basis of our conscious minds.

I saw an experiment once where researchers were testing to see how much flight was ingrained in the instincts of birds. They placed food at the top of a ramp and a parrot at the bottom. The easiest thing the parrot could have done was fly up to get the food but the parrot walked instead. This led researchers to conclude flight was a recent innovation by birds that was not totally instinctive yet. Of course, this could vary from species to species. In the same way, conscious thought seems to be a recent acquisition by humans, and we’re still learning how best to utilize it.

In his work, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes theorizes that early individuals heard auditory hallucinations originating from the developing cerebral cortex which they mistook for the voices of gods. They seemed to come during times of stress and frequently gave innovative solutions to problems encountered by those who heard them. Schizophrenics are a throwback to these early individuals, being unable to recognize the voices as products of their own minds.

The advantage humans have over other creatures is the ability to rationalize thought, to visualize potential outcomes, and to combine information from many different sources to create innovative solutions. Given this, many people still fall into rote patterns of behavior, acting as though their response to whatever the world throws at them is conditioned and beyond their control. Everyone has had a moment when he or she has reacted to a situation in an instinctive manner and quickly regretted doing so. Equally, people recognize certain patterns in their behavior which come into play in stressful or uncertain situations, even though they can often conceive other ways to respond. Creativity often involves listening to the voices in one’s head, sorting out inspiration from noise and acting upon whatever seems most promising, whether writing a paragraph, composing a song, or devising a plan for a more efficient workplace. 

Our intellects are constantly at odds with our instincts, which have the advantage of several billion years head start. We are aware of our instincts, but do not fully understand how they influence our day to day decision making as deeply rooted as they are into our behavior. Humans have shown they have the ability to override the instincts at times, such as when a person’s curiosity causes him or her to investigate some unusual phenomenon, without taking into account the potential danger involved. Unique situations often involve overcoming one’s fears or anxieties and often the reward is worth the risk. Still, despite the creative potential within each person, the number of truly innovative people seems relatively small, and frequently, the most creative are also the most ostracized in society.

The development of conscious thought is what ultimately separated humans from other species on the planet, and the ability to visualize unique solutions to life situations is our greatest strength. While there are other creatures, such as apes and some birds who have demonstrated self-awareness and are adept at creating and using tools, we’ve yet to encounter another species which displays the ability to conceptualize the future in the way we do. With this ability comes responsibility, however, and we should not ignore those voices in our heads which prompt us to follow our better nature. 


Conceptions of God

What we think of as God is a personification of the whole of the universe crafted in the image of humanity. That’s why the concept of God changes depending upon the observer. This is evident in the pages of the Bible, as the vengeful Yahweh of Genesis morphs into the loving Heavenly Father of the Gospels. Throughout time, we’ve altered the image of God to suit our needs. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt were worshipped as gods who built elaborate tombs in which they could await the afterlife. Emperors in Rome and other prominent people could be elevated to the status of gods after their deaths, and vestiges of this survive in the modern Catholic Church through sainthood which can be bestowed upon deserving individuals, provided they meet certain requirements.  

The characteristics of God are fairly straightforward, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, but do we consider the implications of an entity which meets these criteria? Can there be an all-powerful god who’s not in control of everything; or an all-knowing and all-seeing god who has not predetermined the outcome; or an all-loving god who sits idly by while its followers suffer? If God is responsible for anything, doesn’t that mean God is responsible for everything, good, bad, or indifferent. If such an entity exists, it’s likely we’re already living according to its plan. If not, are we not free to behave as we choose, provided we’re willing to accept the consequences of our actions? 

I do not believe God can be all three. An all-knowing and all-powerful God can’t be all loving; an all-knowing and all-loving God can’t be all powerful; an all-loving and all-powerful God can’t be all-knowing. Otherwise, there is no way to reconcile why people who loyally adhere to the pronouncements of this entity still suffer tragedies and die just like everyone else. The ancient Greeks had gods who behaved like humans, angered, lusted, picked favorites among their followers. Throughout the early books of the Christian Old Testament, the God Yahweh seems to always favor the later born, killing off first born sons as part of the calamities meted out against Egypt to gain the freedom of the Israelites. In the book of Job, God makes a bet with Satan which leads to Job losing everything but his life. Can any of these entities claim to meet all the above requirements? 

As humanity has developed, so has its conception of the almighty. A more recent theory I’ve read is that the universe is a hologram, with the whole of the universe contained in everything that exists within. Where does a divine creator fit in such a scheme? My own belief is that the universe itself is the creator which may or may not be guided by conscious reasoning, but otherwise exists as a passive and non-intervening presence. Whatever the case, we can be certain that our views of God will continue to evolve as we do. It’s up to us to remain open to the possibilities.

Creator or Destroyer

Humans came along, noticed this beautiful world and immediately thought, “How can we best exploit this for our exclusive use?” Many today still hold the attitude that the earth exists for humans only, and all other creatures are either there for our use, or are hinderances to us which must be removed. We clear the land, eliminating all the trees and plant life, with little concern for the ecosystems we could be destroying and we use pesticides and fertilizers which kill off bees and other beneficial species whose impact on the environment we don’t bother learning about until it’s too late.

Even without destroying ecosystems, human populations have a significant impact on the world. Because of light pollution, future generations will not know the night sky or the constellations which once guided and inspired our ancestors. We’ve already lost much of the view of the stars, except for the moon or the occasional twinkle of Venus or Jupiter. Now, the only way we see the constellations is through a telescope.

We have become accustomed to relatively easy lives. We reside in artificial structures, eat processed foods, drink purified water, take cars or public transportation to travel long distances, all of which gives us a false sense of what it’s like to live in the world. Our ancestors had no delusions about what a cruel and unforgiving world they inhabited. That’s why their life expectancy was so much shorter than ours; they worked constantly and had to stay on the go, tracking the herds they depended upon for survival. I’ve read that the bones of Neanderthals, our extinct cousins who hunted alongside our ancestors, exhibit the same type of injuries as modern rodeo riders. Often times, solutions vital to our ancestors survival become problematic in our modern world.

Bread is one such example. The very thing that has made bread a staple of the human diet for thousands of years can pose difficulties for modern humans. It’s high in calories, carbs, sodium, and fat. All these aspects were once perfect for nomadic people constantly on the go, who had to keep their energy high and retain fluids. For people confined to desks, who sit all day without much physical activity, fat, calories, carbs, and especially sodium can prove deadly over time. Some people have allergies or intolerances to wheat or other grains. Still its portability and convenience make bread a staple of our diet today.

The capacity to create or destroy exists within every person and often, one goes hand in hand with the other. One cannot build a building without tearing down what’s in its place currently. The dinosaurs roamed the earth for millions of years before giving way for other species to thrive. Growing up in Atlanta, I’ve experienced much of both, as the city reinvents itself every few years. In the vast history of life on this planet, the only thing it seems we can count on is transformation.

Worthy, Part 13


As their time with Jillian continues, she gets progressively more inebriated. This leads to more sarcasm and vitriol toward her father. Abigail begins to wonder exactly what the point of it is. Neil hasn’t contributed much to the conversation, occasionally affirming some fact Jillian provides or deflecting some insult.

An hour or so after they arrive, a tall, shapely woman with auburn hair and green eyes steps into the room. She gives everyone a pleasant smile then folds her hands in front of her and addresses Jillian.

“I see your guests are here.”

Jillian glances at her, then indicates Neil and Abigail.

“Trudy, you know Neil,” Jillian says. “This is Abigail. She’s the spawn of some woman Dr. Hawkins knocked up when I was in first grade.”

“Excuse me?” Abigail says, giving Jillian a nasty look. “That woman is my mother.”

“Jillian!” Trudy says. “That’s a horrible thing to say about someone.”

“Whatever,” Jillian says.

Neil gives her an angry look. “Jill, I told you to behave yourself. Do not take this out on Abby.”

Jillian sighs and finishes, “Sorry. I get a little worked up when I talk about Daddy Dearest. I’m sure your mother’s a wonderful person.”

“She is, as a matter of fact.”

“Even though she knowingly slept with a married man.” Abigail starts to rise but Jillian throws up her hands and says, “Who lied to her about leaving his wife and kids. I know, I know.”

Abigail sits back but remains on edge.

“If you’re going to start being nasty, I’m leaving and not speaking to you,” Trudy says. She turns to go.

Jillian springs out of her chair and intercepts Trudy. “I said I was sorry.”

“You could act like you mean it,” Trudy tells her. “From what you’ve told me, this can’t be easy for her.”

Jillian gives a frustrated sigh, then puts on as pleasant a smile as she can muster.

“Abigail,” she says, “Abby. I sincerely apologize for making fun of your mother. I hardly know you and should have waited until we’re better acquainted before I start treating you like crap.”

“That’s an apology?” Abigail says.

“I think it’s the best you’re going to get,” Neil says. “This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen her.”

Jillian returns to her seat. Trudy surveys the room.

“I can’t believe you’ve not offered them any food. I’m sure you’re both hungry.”

“I brought them drinks,” Jillian says.

Abigail and Neil look at one another.

Abigail says, “If you’re offering, I wouldn’t say no to some food.”

“Me neither,” Neil says.

“I’ll bring out a tray.”

As Trudy passes Jillian she swats her arm.

“I brought them drinks,” Jillian repeats.

Trudy returns a short while later with finger sandwiches and some fruit and sliced vegetables. Her presence seems to have a calming effect on Jillian, who curtails her drinking somewhat and seems to make more of an effort to be nice. Still, her stories about her family have a definite edge to them.

Finally, sometime in the early afternoon, they wrap up things. Trudy says her goodbyes, inviting them to visit again, then disappears into the back of the townhouse. Jillian walks them to the door and unlocks all the locks.

“It’s been an experience meeting you,” Abigail says, extending her hand.

Without warning, Jillian suddenly gives Abigail a long, tight hug. Releasing her, Jillian says with much sarcasm, “Welcome to the family.”

Abigail and Neil exit and head back to his car. Inside, they sit there for several minutes without speaking. Finally, Neil says, “What did you think?”

Abigail looks at Neil and shakes her head.

“Why did you even bring me here, Neil? She’s the most hateful person I’ve ever had the displeasure to sit in a room with. We have absolutely nothing in common. She makes your father sound like some sort of monster, and honestly, looking at it from her perspective, I find it hard to disagree. Heaven forbid I grew up in his household. I might have turned out just like —” She stops as a light goes on in her head. “Aaaah!”

“Now you get it,” Neil says. “Let’s get something to eat before we head back.”

“Sure. Can we take the scenic route?”

“That could take a few days,” Neil says.

“I’ve got time if you do.”

“When do I not have time?”

He cranks the car and they head out.


Worthy, Part 12


They arrive at Jillian’s townhouse and Neil rings the bell. Several minutes pass before the curtain in a nearby window parts, and Abigail briefly catches sight of a woman, though she’s not there long enough for Abigail to get a good look. From inside, there’s the sound of multiple locks being unlocked. 

Jillian opens the door for them and lingers beside it while they enter. Once they’re in, she closes it and locks all the locks again. She’s about Abigail’s height and build and looks as though she’s made no effort to prepare herself to receive guests, other than throwing on some clothes, an oversized Berkeley sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off and dark tights underneath with a pair of pink Uggs flip flops on her otherwise bare feet. Her face is sans makeup and her messy dark hair is pulled back and held by a scrunchy. 

“Jillian, this is Abigail,” Neil says. 

Jillian approaches Abigail, scrutinizing her very closely. She addresses her comment more to Neil than Abigail. “I don’t think we look that much alike.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” Abigail says.

“Neil says you’re gay,” Jillian continues.

Abigail looks from Jillian to Neil, who shrugs and says, “I told you what to expect.”

Abigail looks back to Jillian. “Yes, that’s right. Something we have in common I understand.”

“Yeah, well consider yourself lucky. I’ve spent the last six years being known in the Portland press as Dr. Hawkins’ lesbo daughter. Say what you will about your circumstances, at least you’ve avoided that. There’s something to be said for anonymity.”

Jillian moves away from them. 

“Do you drink?” she says. 

“Wine or beer, if that’s what you meant,” Abigail says, following Jillian into the next room, trailed by Neil. 

“Of course that’s what I meant,” Jillian says. “Otherwise I’d have just offered water or soft drinks.”

“It’s kind of early, isn’t it?”

Jillian gives her an exasperated look. “If I’m going to have to talk about my mother’s sperm donor, I need to fortify myself. I don’t like to drink alone — at least not with other people around.”

“I’ll have whatever you’re having, then.”

“Wine it is,” Jillian says. “Neil?”

“Ah, no. I’m driving.”

Jillian disappears into the kitchen. Abigail looks at Neil who motions for them to sit on the couch.

“See? You thought I was kidding,” he says. 

“I will never doubt you again.”

Jillian returns with a bottle of Merlot and two glasses in one hand and a bottled water in the other. The water she sets in front of Neil, and one of the glasses in front of Abigail. She transfers her glass to her free hand and fills Abigail’s glass with wine. 

She takes the bottle to a seat across from where they’re sitting and sits then fills her glass and takes a long drink, emptying half the glass, which she refills. She sets the bottle aside.

“Sorry I didn’t get dressed up, but I figured, what the hell, it’s just family.”

“Not a problem,” Abigail says. “Neil didn’t mention what you do for a living.”

“I’m a rep for a pharmaceutical company.”


“Well, it’s kind of the family business, you know.”

“I’ve seen your picture. You don’t look that much like it in person.”

“I probably look older. They’ve been photoshopping my image into family portraits for several years. Whoever does it just flips my picture and changes the color of my shirt.”

“I see.”

“Your mother’s the nurse, right? The one in pediatrics.”

“That’s right. Neil said you’ve probably done your homework.”

“She didn’t take any money, you know. I thought that was kind of weird. Usually when they can’t have the good doctor they want some kind of compensation. Not your Mom. She just left.”

“That’s not what it was about for her.”

“That’s what they all say. Most don’t get pregnant, though. In the pantheon of floozy-dom, not taking any money under those circumstances is somewhat admirable.”

“I’m not sure I like that characterization. My Mom is not a floozy.”

“That point is debatable. She had an affair with a married man with young kids. I was one of those kids. Dr. Hawkins came home every night bouncing his baby daughter on his knee like everything’s perfect when all along, he has a honey on the side.”

“Look, that’s on him, not her. He was the one who knew what the stakes were.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Dashing doctor and all. I bet she felt really stupid when Mom told her it was over. All of them do.”

Abigail starts to respond but reconsiders.

“How many do you know about?” Abigail says, taking a quick glance at Neil.

“Most of them. You know, you’re not the only kid. This nurse from the Philippines had a son. Mom had her shipped off to Hawaii. Despite that, she still took quite a bit of convincing.”

Jillian rubs her fingers together, indicating money.

“Is this why you don’t talk to your father any more?”

“I suppose Neil told you about Trudy?”

“He did.”

“There were always rumors, whispers, conversations abruptly ending whenever I’d walk into a room. It’s just not something a girl wants to believe about her father.”

She slides forward in her chair and leans toward Abigail.

“Understand, I was perfectly content to be a good little closeted lesbian girl around my family, frilly, frumpy, coquettishly demur about my intentions to marry, introducing Trudy as my roommate. Then that bastard had the gall to put the moves on Trudy in our house and then try to make it sound like she came on to him. I knew he was lying. That was it for me. My eyes were open. I decided right then and there to be myself and while I was at it, I’d be his worst nightmare — a woman who doesn’t worship the ground he walks on.”

“You stay in touch with your mother, right?” 

“My mother gets it. Yes, we stay in touch. She doesn’t mind visiting me here. We like having her.” 

“So that’s it for you and your father?”

“Look, I’m not a religious person, but if someone I care about ever suffers any type of head trauma, I’ll fall down on my knees and pray that Daniel Hawkins gets the call. Otherwise, I feel way too close to him just being on the same coast, let alone in the same room. He’s a brilliant doctor but otherwise a complete waste of space. I don’t know if it was your mother or mine who made sure you never knew him growing up but whoever it was deserves your undying gratitude. There’s no end to the amount of grief you were spared as a result.”

Jillian goes to refill her glass and finds the bottle empty. 

“Let’s take a break here, kids,” she says as she rises, holding the bottle. “Neil, you know where the bathroom is if either of you need it.”

Jillian exits into the kitchen.

“That was intense,” Abigail says. 

Neil chuckles.

“I warn you, she’s just getting started.”

Worthy, Part 11


Early Thursday morning, Neil and Abigail pile into his car with luggage, camping equipment, and snacks for an extended road trip. Neil phones Jillian to let her and Trudy know they’re coming. The plan is to take I-5 and cover as many miles as possible each leg, then camp out or find a cheap motel as needed. Neil suggests not staying with his sister.

“After a couple of hours you’re going to want to get out of there, trust me,” he tells Abigail.

Once they have everything packed, he clips a big open bag of Goldfish to the car’s console, puts a cooler full of water and soft drinks behind the driver’s seat, and places a sack with other confections on the floorboard of the passenger side and they’re off.

They split the driving to optimize their time. As they travel, Neil fills in Abigail on the history of his family so she’ll know what to expect.

“When Danny was born, my parents were newly married and still had whatever spark had brought them together. When Jillian came along things weren’t great, but they were still trying to keep up some pretense of being happy together. By the time I got here, all that was over. Except for holidays, I rarely saw my parents together.”

“I’m surprised they had you if things were that bad.”

“I was Mom’s child. Danny and Jillian were for Dad. I’m named after her brother who died before Mom married.”

“And your father agreed to that?”

“Sure, why not? She controlled the purse strings. I once asked her if there was a chance Dad wasn’t really my father.”

“I can’t believe she took that well.”

“Believe me, I’ll never do that again.”

They laugh.

“I can’t imagine what that must have been like,” she says. “It was just me and Mom for most of my life. My family was extended a bit when my aunt and cousin moved in, but we always got along.”

“As bad as things were with my parents, Jillian was Dad’s biggest supporter. She practically worshipped the ground he walked on.”

“So she was Daddy’s girl, eh?”

“You could say that. I guess Dad was proud of her. He doted on her to the extent that he could. Danny was the golden boy Dad invested all his time in. Jillian was always the frilly girly girl. Dad spoiled her with gifts, scrutinized her dates — all the things the father of a daughter should do.”

“How did he respond to her being gay?”

“Dad didn’t know anything about that until she went to college. I accidentally walked in on her and one of her friends making out when I was eleven.”


“Yeah. They didn’t know I was at home. I didn’t realize what was going on until Jillian freaked out and ordered me not to tell anyone. I mean, I was old enough to figure out what it meant, but she and this friend had always been sort of close, so they could have been joking around. Jillian’s reaction told me it was more than that.”

“My Mom just sort of figured it out,” Abigail says. “She brought it up in the car one day when she taking me to school. She told me I was who I was and she loved me for it whoever that happened to be.”

“Your Mom sounds cool. I hope I get the chance to know her better someday.”

“I’m sure you will. Actually she’s looking forward to getting to know you, too.”

“Jillian was never a rebellious teen,” Neil continues. “After the incident with Trudy, all that changed. Danny and I can occasionally give Dad the benefit of the doubt. Not Jillian.”

“So, what should I expect?” Abigail says.

“Ever since she came face to face with Dad’s infidelity, she’s spent her time chronicling as much as she can. I’m willing to bet she knows more details about the circumstances of your birth than you do.”

“She doesn’t have anything better to do with her time?”

“I think it’s kind of a hobby. Some folks do needlepoint; some play chess. Jillian spends time investigating our father.”

“Your father said I was like her.”

“No. No one’s like Jillian. You can both be kind of forthcoming, but she takes it to the extreme. Trudy confided in me once that Jillian keeps a notebook filled with nasty things to say to Dad if she ever runs into him accidentally on the street.”

“Okay, that’s weird.”

“One thing, if she starts giving you crap, don’t back down from her. She’ll be on the attack once we get there. She’s going to try to push your buttons to see where you’re vulnerable. The less you give her, the more you’ll be able to shut her down.”

“Got it.”

“I’ll do what I can to support you, but with Jillian, she attacks from multiple angles. It can be tough predicting where she’ll be coming from.”

“Does she take after either of your parents?”

“She kind of got the worst of both of them. Dad’s intensity with Mom’s determination. Since she cut Dad off, she’s added self-pity to the mix as well. She likes to lash out at those she’s closest to, so don’t be surprised if I catch a load from her. If Trudy’s there, she might be able to rein her in some, but sometimes having Trudy around just makes things worse.”

“Well, now I’m really looking forward to this,” Abigail says. “Anything else?”

“Don’t be polite. She’s not going to be polite to you, so don’t give her that courtesy. She doesn’t respond well to politeness, anyway. If you have something on your mind, it’s best to just say it.”

“Be an asshole, got it.”

They arrive in San Francisco in time to have a late supper, and spend the night in a motel outside town. The following morning they head over to Jillian’s.