What if I LIKE being crazy? ("I enjoooy being a looooon!")
I am not speaking metaphorically. Fuck that weak shit. I am speaking in facts. Facts of the subjective realm. Which realm does not exist. But what the fuck you, huh?.
-- I woke up several days ago and the air was thick as flesh; the odor of vaginal fluids around me brought on dizziness. My skin sensed innumerable folds in the atmosphere; light viscous bright tremblinglife throbbing sensations ate through my breath.
I was indeed inside the Cosmic Cunt of which I've written.
-- I am convinced I am receiving telepathic messages from whom I have labeled my Shadow-Lover, a beautiful woman whose buttocks contain the answer to world peace. I felt her, once, her flesh
superimposed with mine. I felt my penis entering my cunt: I fucked from both sexes simultaneously. Delusive schizophrenic masturbation, a la Jean Genet. (But I did not orgasm.) And once
I heard her say: "We're so close." Then we had a conversation
and I forgot the damn thing.
-- Ideas fuck me, eat me, talk to me; the abstract world to me is realer than that of you people. This makes me the only real mathematician. My life is higher mathematics of the spirit. You cannot possibly understand this point; imagine sucking the cunt of a theorem! Well really theorems do have cunts and with sufficient seduction will even hand you a metaphysical straw, and a syringe to fill with opium of the masses. Today I was digested and spit out nine hundred times, by various forms of CmLisp pattern recognition programs. Xector see, xector do!!!!
As I said, these are not images, these are real. They are as real as the angels and cherubim and fiery invective-spouting demons William Blake saw and painted and wrote -- they are as real as the army of 10,000 close friends Artaud saw rushing to rescue his soul from the madhouse. The visionary is of necessity schizophrenic. The answer: Why should he be cured?
O null poetical incision!!!!
... yes we have shared some very powerful experiences -- but perhaps what we know as each other are just the glimmering reflections of these experiences off the mirrors of our selves -- But they're such intricately distorting mirrors that mirror is all that you see? -- All is naught but a web of mirrors, said Aglaia --
This train of thought is put to an end when Jonathan leaps up and kisses her, kisses my mother, just like in the Harlequin books. Just like in the Harlequins, she can't help but respond, can't help but love to love him, can't help but thrust against him while Iresolutely watch, afraid to step in and jealously tear them apart, afraid to hide my eyes for fear they'll disappear or some such neat shit -- Jonathan smiles at me incomprehensibly as he turns away from her; she shudders towards him, shimmering lust and swiveling hip-lies around him.... Motherfucking shit!
I can't be mad. I can't but admire him. What a genius for
living! for making the best of what's been given to him. I can
just see him passing himself off as a twenty-seven year-old starving writer, passing off his dad's place as his own, talking all intricately sophisticate and revolutionary nihilist scientific/literary, gleefully bullshitting about events that
took place twenty years ago as if they'd pierced his sensitive
first-person soul. I see in him potential for politics. "I'm quite willing to be shared," he says grinning and egolessly, with infinite guts -- no beating about this bush, this guy, no sireeee Sherlock. My mother looks at me, a burning mass, and we both realize that something strange is going on. Not quite as if I can't control myself, more that I can't control what I want -- the power of reason has gone with the power of shame to the far more hospitable climate of East Nonexistence -- We leap upon him, mother ceding to me the primary position upon his off-blue trembling cock and straddling his mouth; our nipples touch and we don't shy from the explosive feeling, and spiraling tangledhead consciousness rush past like airplanes and spaceships made of rippling flesh and lust entangles me in an age-old web of reflex so complex and big that it's one thing, all the mind and all the universe one thing big-and-brilliantly throbulating ever on through itself, all loving me and loving her and loving his big bad dick existence,
all kinds of motherlove and fatherlove and babylove and brother-
love romanticlove and lesbianlove and faggotlove all spiraling whyraling past us -- drunk up and insignificant in that higher love of what is really not existence but merely spiraling pure Land-of-Fuck transconsciousness -- or orgasm to the orgasmth degree!
"What the fuck is going on???!" he whispers brilliantly. "Is there some purpose to this lysergic confusion? Is Fy trying to tell us something?"
"I don't know," whispers my mother, "but whatever he's saying you can be sure it has about twenty-five different senses. Whatever he said when he was here always did. It was always too damn tiresome to unravel them, but you could sense them nonetheless...."
"He thought most lazy people really wanted to think," Jon interrupts.
"You mean, he made the world in his own image."
"He claimed his Shadow-lover was God. Maybe that has something to do with it."
"I always trust ideas that come out of nowhere," says Jon, rather seriously. "They have depth to them. Hidden depth."
"Like cunts," says my mother; I look up, startled. My life is becoming a de Kooning woman, all falling apart in a passionate
way the exuberance of which does not quite excuse its chaoticity. She giggles so childishly that I have to giggle. Soon Jon is giggling too. And someone comes to the door and rings the bell; wedon't answer it but keep on giggling until after they go away, then we switch positions and I get his finesse while she gets his force and our tongues touch and I realize she could go to prison for this, for molesting the both of us -- and I laugh, realizing how upsidedown and insideout and throughitself this strange world is, in which values conceal all their opposites and genitals have ninetyfive faces all whistling grand old dixie and wistfully wondering why exist? O, why not nothingness? and telling you the secrets of cocky mankind and quimmy womanhood, and wondering when to give a name to that what's nameless -- We come this time, but we don't pass out, and though it's not simultaneous like before and not cosmological like 'twas previously we're relieved more than a little bit as we fear the nothingness now that it's not only grabbed Fy but repeatedly sneaked up on us and nabbed us away from this life which is meaningless but gives irrational security -- And we study Fy's manuscripts and notes, looking for a clue -- anything about nonsense, anything about afterlives, anything about anything about anything about anything ...
I am in love with my mother's dick. What the fucker! What am I squawking about? What am I, love? Do I love you, Jon? Of course I do! But the question is -- Are you there, Fy?
<yes, love, I am>
Where are you?
<meaningless question, love. I'm here>
Where is here?
<Where is there? I am now everywhere. And I was, always. I'm a field. Study quantum field theory.>
I'm in love with you.
<But of course you are. You always were, weren't you? I love everything. I am in love with a pumpkin concurrently with desiring your little pink quim>
I had an orgy with mother and Jon
<I know you did. It's okay. Everything's okay now.... But some things are even more okay than others>
Don't get deep with me. Are you dead?
<The infinitely deep is the infinitely shallow. E.g. that statement previous to this one. I am deadlydead, yes indeedldy. But there was an error in my processingthing through the grand old computer, due to the fact that I'm a crazy bean. The freaks can escape, my love. But pardon me now, I've got a date with the Buddha -- >
And he dissipates. I repeat this weird exchange word for word to my mother and our lover; Jon takes him literally -- there is an afterworld from which the enlightened may escape -- Buddha was right in a very wrong sense -- what the fuck am I talking about? Mom thinks the answer must be much much more complicated than that but that's just filecabinetly predictable and I think she's got inferiority complexes up to her knees and she stands on her head all too often -- What'm I meaning? More study, more study till we fall down and recklessly let ourselves die -- that is sleepily drifting away arm in incestuous horny dazzled maelstrom clenchingrip arm -- fade away -- AND NO DREEEEEEEEEEEEEMING!!!!
THE DEATH OF ART
I painted nothing else that weekend; nor did I sleep with anyone besides Lisa. We shared life-stories and kisses and speculations as to the future of mentality -- she showed me here favorite science-fiction novel, which was The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem. Its subject was -- predictably enough -- the advent of a future society in which minds are completely controlled by the science of psychemistry: mascons in the air delude the population into believing that it is wealthy, when in reality it is poor ... so discovers the protagonist when he takes a forbidden antidote. But then he finds that his antidote is not an actual antidote, but a clever sham, "a wolf in sheep's clothing": he takes a supposedly more thorough antidote and finds out that conditions are even worse, that people are in fact not even whole anymore but are mere skeletons draped with old artificial body parts -- . And so on. It is the logical extension of Scentrex. The novel interestingly ignores artificial intelligence, so we had a very long discussion about why Lem had left it out and what difference it would make for his scenario.
When J. Emil came on Monday, Lisa was at work ... she had promised to return in the evening. "Where's Miss Menninger?" He asked.
"At work," I said, nonplussed -- deducing immediately that he had access to the memory of the car and remembered everything that had been said therein. That thought had crossed my mind before -- and it should have crossed Lisa's: I assumed she didn't care.
"I suppose you want to know more about her late husband and my brother."
"Of course I do," I replied. "I'm the curious sort. But if you don't want to tell me, I won't mind that much. As you probably know, we haven't talked about it since Friday night in the car. She seems strangely unconcerned; I just chalked it up to the bizarre drugs which she's experimeting with on herself."
He smiled, and warmly. "I appreciate your attitude. But you deserve an explanation, if only because you don't demand one." He led me across the road to the main Grumstein office complex, into his office. Once we were in his office, he began to speak. "It is superficially true that my brother Nathaniel killed Daniel. However, the alleged murder was in fact committed as an act of self-defense. My brother and Daniel were friends, and had been for several years. Both worked in the same field, artificial intelligence: and it is true that my brother was envious of Daniel. Nathaniel's approach was sophisticated, mathematical, and made the most remarkable expert-system computers ever imagined."
"By expert-system you mean dedicated to one specific task."
"Correct. Like air-traffic control. He's the one who cracked that, and it made him incredibly wealthy. But he just couldn't get a handle on general-purpose intelligence ... it wouldn't work. Daniel, on the other hand, was a completely unsystematic worker. He was a biology student, an undergraduate underachiever. And it was his approach that led to your car, and your kitchen -- and my own success. He wired up immensely parallel systems of polypeptide chains, and trained them to recognize patterns. And then hetrained them to train eachother. And so on ... thus he grew a biocomputer: a mind."
"But then he went insane one day, and killed them all: destroyed the minds he had built. And then my brother went to see him, and Daniel told him what he had done. My brother had been abroad for a couple months; he hadn't known about Daniel's success. So he was raging mad: Daniel does what he can't do, and destroys it. But Daniel was madder, spewing all sorts of nonsense about dead matter fields and wombat cocks and so on -- really gone off the wall. And Daniel went at Nathaniel with a knife. In the struggle, the saner man lived. With blood still on his hands, Nathaniel came to my apartment that night: he told me what had happened, and then he shot himself. I don't know where he got the gun; I never knew he had one and I can't see any gun shop selling to a man with bloody hands. Or maybe one would, I dont know ... whatever, it was over. I told the police he hadn't said a thing, because I didn't think it mattered: before they got there I went over to Daniel's lab and took his notes back to my place, just so they wouldn't end up sitting around eternally in some police chief's desk. And that was the end of that, and the beginning of -- this." He waved his hands expansively. "I didn't want to make it too obvious, so I set up a computer-mind and instead of selling it used it to predict the stock market. It's not really smarter than a human being, if there is any method of comparison: it's just more dedicated. The stock market is its universe." He paused. "But I couldn't help experimenting with other things, like cars ... I'm an electrical engineer, you see: I supervised the world power grid back in '90." He paused again: "Of course, you'll tell this to Lisa anyway, so I may as well sanction it. It's over now, and she doesn't need the money it would have brought her."
I smiled: a hollow, death-like smile -- a wilting flower. "I'm very interested in the theory of artificial intelligence," I said. "I mean, I never was before, but that's because I knew it wouldn't work ... the conventional approach."
"Yes, yes, yes, right: I have something on it here." He pulled a sheaf of papers from his desk. "This explains the philosophical basis. Come back tomorrow and perhaps I'll give you something on the biological, engineering aspect"
I took the papers, stood up: "Great. Now I've got something I want to show you ... it's a painting I did over the weekend. I guarantee you it's worth the walk back to the house."
He did not argue.
"I think it's the best thing I've ever done," I said.
"Well, I don't know about that. I like the time-travel painting just as much, in fact ... it's not as visually striking, I'll admit, but I'm a sucker for content." He paused. He paused a lot. "I'm not going to ask you if this actually happened."
"Have you ever had sex in one of those red rooms? I don't know how they work, only that they somehow accentuate your biological patterns in the vague direction of peace."
"That's about all I know," he admitted. "They decide whatpeace is, based on what gives them pleasure, within the strictures of the safe. They are programmed to enjoy modulating us -- it's a bona fide symbiosis. THat's the beauty of -- and the problem with -- true intelligence: it does more than just obey you. I could show you the design; I designed it, but at this point I don't understand it. I have an idea, though," he said, scratching his chin -- "about your paintings. I'd like to rig up a painting machine and feed it your work, and have it emulate you: to, more specifically, have it synthesize this sex painting with your time-travel painting. Combine emotion and philosophy. Not that you can't -- ... I could never build a machine to be emotional or philosophical, I don't know how yet, or even what those qualities are: they're massively human-specific, not properties of intelligence in general. But I can build a machine to compute what Daniel called the dialectical synthesis of two patterns: the smallest pattern containing both. I'd like to compute the dialectical synthesis of your two paintings."
I grinned: "Go right ahead! And about me being both emotional and philosophical at the same time: I don't think so; not quite yet. I'm neither very emotional nor philosophical, really, so it's probably chance that makes my paintings so."
"I don't think so," he replied. "Not at all. There's a lot more of both in you than you think."
"No need to argue the point."
"Right. I'll give you thirty thousand for the new one right now, and take both of them to the lab myself."
"It isn't dry yet.It's oil, not acrylic: it could take days to dry."
"Gotcha. I'll set up the recording instruments right here, so there's no danger of any damage.
Historical structure of Zen unthought, to plain old classical
mechanics or synaptic electrochemistry or automaton theory or Popper or Nietszche or Sartre or St. Augustine (never did get through the City of God) or Camus or Wittgenstein or Hitler or Lao Tzu or Peirce or the Congressional Committee on Extraterrestrial Life, or Marx or Marcuse (what an ass) or the Yippies, or the history of PEMEX or the Nicaraguan revolution.... I had known how to write all too beautifully at some unspecifiable past time, and had unforgivably, inexplicably, forgotten it. I wanted nothing to do with reason. I wanted to talk to the skinny black girl who was dancing all too vigorously across the floor, whose nipples were resolutely jutting, who was energetically shaking her fairly small breasts from side to side and thrusting her pelvis suggestively. Lust sprayed in thick rays from her eyes. I could kind of dance toward her, dance around her, mimicking her, occasionally wondering whether she noticed or was maybe reciprocating, but primarily spazzing mind and body, shooting out an infinite primal scream along every unit vector I could find.....
As I watched her -- the black girl -- I remembered another time, almost similar, one year earlier, upon a meaninglessemotional rollercoaster, in love with one of a pair of twins, feeling a little queasy but basically having fun, and sure as hell glad the ride would soon be over. That time, one of my two competitors had gotten the girl. Sitting in physics class that first semester, what pure pleasure I had derived from merely rubbing elbows with her! What electricity of sexual delight passed between us -- one way only, of course! Such imaginary currents still surround me; at night I love to touch knees with my wife, just to feel her there, just to bridge the abyss.
I found out her name was Holly -- the glimmering black girl. I couldn't explain it, what it was I saw in her, but I felt it as intensely as I felt my own heart beat. If it was love I wasn't prepared to say, but I knew it was something special. And I wondered if she felt the same, or if all her relationships were like this, so breezily candid, so awkward, so secretive and emotionally nude. I realized the chance of our developing a romance was rather small.
As I stood in my doorway, she pricked my butt with a pin; I made a face, and then -- embarrassed -- distorted it beyond the minor surprise and pain into an unearthly shape designed only, vaguely, superconsciously, to somehow impress and baffle her giggling eyes. At least, it made her crack up tirelessly -- She was laughing for five minutes as I chased her with a pin, not wanting to catch her and put an end to the fun -- and then my friend Alex came up and started protecting her. Alexander Hamilton. He let her get away from my pin -- and from this act I guessed, somehow, that he would steal her away from me. I took it like a good Zen Lunatic, with existentialist resignation that would have made the me of one or two years later blush with envy. I talked of it detachedly with my friend Sergei, whose girlfriend, I believe, had also been stolen by tall, dark, rich, handsome Alex. He kept interrupting me to talk about his stereo.
This expression I had made on being stuck by her pin, as I went to sleep that night, turned into a monster. It opened up wider and wider and wider until it assumed the shape of a vagina. The pin she stuck into me deflated me, and I spiraled up in the air, out of the solar system, to the edge of the universe mating with quasars and beyond. I slew this expression about five years ago, with a knitting needle. But late at night, when I wake up from a nightmare, it pursues me still.
ALL THE KING'S WHORESES
I spiraled out of the time-maze into a plush, bright green armchair. "Hello, Mr. Kalikak," said a short bald man with blond hair and no eyebrows. He looked distantly French. "Obviously you have a lot of questions; I'm going to ask you to hold them until I explain a few things."
"The point at hand is time travel. This is the year 2110, and we have discovered a means for influencing minds across time. We have constructed a computer for the purpose of coordinating this effort, and we have indeed succeeded in enacting a wide variety afchanges across history. However, as we attempt to induce alterations of greater complexity, we are finding that our computer has certain difficulties. Our experts have arrived at a general consensus that what is needed is a human mind, an intuition trained by the particular experience of humanity: not that human minds are anymore capable than man-made, only intrinsically better-suited for modifying humanity."
"Are you saying that I have been selected for this purpose?" I asked, in moderate disbelief.
"Yes. We have examined the psychological profile of every eminent human being of the last century; since 2005 when the Worldwide Datafile was formed, to be precise ... we have selected you."
"But why?" I was both flattered and dismayed. "And how was I eminent? I certainly don't recall myself as eminent."
"All this is in the records," he said. "You will have complete access to them. Your job begins immediately, however; that is, tomorrow morning. I will presently show you to your living quarters, which are also your working quarters." And he did. His English was a little strange, I noticed -- and decided it was probably because he had studied English only academically. I was curious to know what the common language was: was it indeed a form of English, or had there grown an international language? We entered a sort of omnidirectional elevator in the wall of the room where I had emerged, and within ten seconds we were in what I was told was my apartment. "Good day," he said. "To access the computer, just speak toward that wall." He pointed and then left.
I sat attached to the three-dimensional computer display for the rest of the night.
-- I was selected on the basis of the following criteria: Willingness to accept any new situation pragmatically. Range of intelligence. Originality of imagination. Lack of well-defined moral sense. Combination of mathematical and artistic ability.
-- In their old reality, I had been famous as an artist and an engineer. I had designed the room in which I sat, as well as the ancestor of the omnidirectional elevator in which I had just ridden. Additionally, I had written a very popular tract on skeptical philosophy for the technological age. Me, a philosopher! I promised myself to look it up later. Now, of course, my fame was nonexistent, except in these history files.
-- My philosophy had actually provided a key for the understanding of time travel: a scientific formulation of the idea that reality exists only with respect to a given conscious entity at a given time. This is my reality now; fame was my reality then. Different I's? I is always someone else; there is no true immutable self, but only a few patterns which happen to persist through time.
-- My grandson had solved the equations for time travel, formulated by the Chinese physicist He Chang Lao.
-- I had married Lisa Menninger at the age of thirty, but I had never worked for Grumstein Investment, because it had never existed. Lisa had divorced Daniel quite civilly to marry me. We had met not at a high school reunion, but on the A-train. My genius grandson was hers too. Daniel had pioneered applied artificialintelligence, not J. Emil -- who had, however, eventually had the chance not only to put his world power grid design into action, but also to extend it to the Venus colony, and to design this colony in full.
The most interesting discovery of the night was their mode of summoning me. It turned out that to effect a retrocausality (their word for interference backward through time) was not quite as easy as the shallow history files I had first read had made it seem. It was a matter of transmitting a pattern, first of all -- not of mass or energy, but information ... and it turned out that a vast amount of energy was required to send a very small pattern. Luckily, a very small pattern can produce a very large effect in the mind of a human, or the mind societal -- so through very careful planning they could overcome the barrier of size. So, for instance, in my case they expended a small amount of energy to drive Daniel crazy ... that was an easy thing to do, it turned out: almost everyone kept some dark secret from themselves, and all that the retrocausal engineer had to do was unlock it. This was one of the cardinal laws of retrocausal engineering: it's always easier to somehow trigger an existing pattern into action than to plant a pattern entirely new. In Daniel's case it was a recurring fear that he was just a machine, a more-than-half-unconscious worship of free will. Every time this came near the surface, the retrocausal engineers pushed it over into consciousness. And this set off a feedback loop: it made him wonder why he wondered about it so much. And every time he was about to wonder about this -- they forced him to actually do so. And so on -- he wondered about this, and they pushed this into awareness every time it wandered anywhere near awareness. This was the First Law of retrocausal engineering: Exploit all feedback loops. Finally, his tired and (literally) twisted mind unconsciously reasoned that because his experiments made him think about free will, destroying his experiments would cure him. And then the retrocausal engineers pushed this to consciousness -- and he did so. And this, of course, was enough to make him truly crazy -- he had destroyed his life-work!
This did not upset me as much as I for some reason felt it should have: I supposed that I truly was immoral. In fact I was a little glad he had died, for the sake of my three wonderful days with Lisa. Although, I reflected dispassionately, I could have had a lifetime with her.
When Lisa was working in the lab with rats and odors, it was not too hard to influence her to make the analogy with people. Of course she wanted to experiment with people as well as animals ... all the retrocausal engineers had to do was push this longing
into the realm of action. And once she saw how well it worked, the idea of starting a business was obvious: all she needed was a little shove .... And so on: all J. Emil had needed to steal those plans was a tiny flash of bravado ... the desire was there already, the engineer's curiosity. All Lisa had needed was a slight hint that it was possible to connect art with Scentrex ... she worked out all the details for herself. All Susan had needed was an easy opportunity, and she embraced infidelity. All I needed was a slight push in the direction of nastiness, and I forced my orgasm: a tiny shove int the direction of perversion, and I imaginedorgies. It was a triumph of arrangement.
What was the purpose of these intricate mental maneuverings? Simply to minimize the amount of energy expended for their one sizeable transmission of pattern: bringing me back from my time. For some mathematical reason which I have never had the time to try to completely understand, it is around 9.5 times easier to transmit a person from time to time if he truly believes that he is doing so already ... before he is traveling. Therefore the dialectical-synthesis machine had to confront my time-travel painting and my orgy painting (or something similarly emotionally charged), and I had to observe the result while under the influence of the art-appreciation drug (or something similar).
For a moment it all seemed logical -- disgustingly logical. "But wait a minute, " I asked the computer -- "why didn't they just give someone hallucinogens and send them back to fetch me. Just because it would have cost twice as much in energy. I mean, someone could have delivered me hallucinogens, right?"
"Cost was the main reason," it replied. "To bring you required the same amount of energy required to run the entire earth for five months. Your presence necessitated a program of austerity which was extremely difficult to effect politically. The funding was only obtained at the cost of extravagant promises -- lies, according to many -- as to the surety of your success at bringing new wealth to the world through the perfection of retrocausality. To effect a program of double austerity would have been twice as difficult -- and you just barely passed the Assembly.
"The second reason was the demonstrated unpredictability of human agents. They have too many effects which we are incapable of accounting. The more complex the influence, it seems, the more difficult is assessment of effects. That's why you're here, essentially: we're hoping that your intuition, matchless across the past century at least, will help us to coordinate complex retrocausal interference patterns. Our best minds have tried and failed."
I learned more about the society of 2110 that day -- than I would ever need to know, considering that ninety percent of my short stay there was spent in symbiosis with a retrocausal- engineering database....
"I've been debating whether to tell you guys this... I have a time machine. I don't expect you to believe me till I've shown
My mother disappears.
This world just has no logic anymore. It is a schizophrenic universe,the so-called logic of which is so intricately
subterraneanly (and continually) self-enfucking and post-
Darwinianly hyper-mutating that it can never be ascertained, and
hence does not exist (speaking freakally). What's a girl to do?
"That's the problem with time travel," he gasply whispershyles. "I'm sorry; I hadn't intended that. The change
induced byour newly introduced presence can be dramatic.
Potentially, traveling to certain times could de-exist us."
"Ah ... kill, so to speak. But leave neither body nor soul."
"That's what I thought. We just traveled?"
"About two seconds ahead."
I giggle, not really missing my mother, not wondering what other lovers he might have, almost crisply wondering why I'm
not wondering this, but not quite. "How does it work?"
"That's a very good question. Unfortunately, I don't have anything near a complete answer. Despite my relatively advanced level, I'm nowhere near being a great mathematician or scientist. My talents lie on the practical side of things ... I futz around with various machines, and things always seem to turn up...."
"You make it sound like you're just another kid who likes to tinker around in his garage."
"Except we don't have a garage so I have to use my bedroom and sleep on the couch. What I was trying to do was create a more effective kind of X-ray, so to speak -- to project a three- dimensional image of the electromagnetic state of the body.
Do you know anything about holography?"
"I guess I know what it is ... I saw an exhibit on it at the science museum. You take two lasers, right...."
"Right, OK, now I use what could be called nasers -- lasers which use Emerson neutrinos instead of light."
"I don't know anything about the different kinds of particles."
"Neither does anyone else, except how to isolate them. The Emerson neutrino was discovered only last year. Now, here's what happens. I shine the naser through something, and the beam goes right through anything else, so it seems -- unless that something else is organic. It likes only organic forms. It goes up to the sky, to a certain height, and then cascades back down in a peculiar wave-packet formation. You see, there seems to be some kind of Emerson neutrino mirror around the earth."
"I don't get it ... why?"
"I don't know."
"But what if a bird gets in the way, or a fighter pilot?"
"It gets confused, and basically nothing takes place. The cluster of neutrinos apparently has to have some kind of structural integrity -- one organism, one set of patterns which naturally coheres...."
I laugh hysterically: "You're crazy. You're a fucking mad scientist, that's what you are!"
I disappear. There is only the room.
Then I come back. And the whole room is filled with spirits -- there is no other word for them: hints of the dead, and the wispy neverborn. Wild-mutually endancing shadows, lurking
behind eachothergrinning playfully, mysteriously shaking down
ethereal foamy come onto my head. I am in love with them. They
are in love with me. I want to join them, but I can't. "It is
not your time yet now, my love," they whisper -- love in ten
languages unknown to me, but still I echo of them, I understand
the gestures of the multiple flailing limbs of their voice.
Everything's become human; the chairs and tables walk around, all
whispering "We want your brother back."
"I ... I don't know where he is," I shudder, afraid although I don't see how these infinitely gentle shadow-things could ever hurt me.
"He is not satisfied with infinity," they whisper melodiously; my breath's a shout. "He wants infinity plus one; infinity to the infinity. No one has ever wanted this. He is destroying the true order of the universe."
"You're afraid of him?!!" I gasp unexpectedly.
"It is not fear that we feel, we of the never-stopping orgasm," they dance wondrously, with unperceivably subtle grace and absolute lack of thought or cunning, "but what it is we
cannot tell you. He is endangering us, all of us -- in life and
"I can't help you," I whisper, now feeling sympathy of which I am suspicious. "I've been wondering where he is myself. I've had these fits of babbling nonsense and blacking out ... He visited me in a dream ...." I look at them: "You know all this."
"We know everything, yet we don't really know," they glide. "We are not meant for action. We're meant to be. You are
a person who must act. So we are contacting you to take action against your brother."
"But to contact me you act," I protest halfheartedly. "You're acting right now."
"Yes, and the universe is shaking now because of it. It is
not right; it is not in the order of things; we must do as little
of it as possible."
"Do as little of anything?"
"Right." Even in definitiveness, I muse, they are bleary, blurry, all too furry -- indistinct on all levels: conceptual, physical, allatedesca, elephant, calypsliblybibblyboodlqqqqqqq... No! "Right! Just like that! I start thinking and talking in nonsense! What is the meaning of it?"
"We cannot let you know. We have done all we can -- and we mean that literally. Let we tell you this: the universe is a joke. The idea is for you to find him, love, goodbye ... find him and stop ...."
" But what is Fy trying to do?" I scream, as their forms and voices softly fade away ... I think I can make them out, and maybe maybe they're returning -- but no, it's only in fact the
general indistinctness of the grainy air, of consciousness....
"I am trying, dear sister, to mold the ultimate individual." Fy's voice reflects, somehow, off their fading fulsome faces; he's lost in love, I tell myself; He's gone.
"Your shadow-lover?!!!" I ask, as I awaken. "Melissa?"
Even in death he was restless -- this whacked-out brother of mine. He was trying to beat the system, to break the rules, and make his crazy fantasy true....
OCCASIONALLY, ON TUESDAYS
The nature of my job did not surprise me much -- I had had sense enough not to pretend to know what to expect. Anyway, thenature of the job was as follows: the computer was busy modifying the past subtly, psychologically, with the ultimate goal of bringing greater material and psychospiritual wealth to the residents of Earth in 2110. It was working on so many different places and times simultaneously that it would have been impossible for me to keep track -- to understand what it was doing, let alone help it. In order to overcome this obstacle of attention -- I was fused with the computer.
Psychologically, in this sense: its data and activity appeared to me as my own thoughts ... I could sense a difference not through any intrinsic quality of alienness, but only through dissimilarities of conditioned patterning, on various levels of subtlety. My own thoughts had, in Daniel's language, an extremely high level of interemergence: when one of the computer's thoughts came to me it was, although immediate, a thing apart from the flow of emergences that is the process of my mind. As time progressed, of course, this difference became slighter ... our patterns infiltrated eachother, and in the end -- . I could control it by projecting my ideas toward it. The link was highly asymmetric in that I could command it, but it had no such power over my own mind; furthermore, in that it was hardly ever conscious to any significant degree. Remembering Daniel's words to the effect that consciousness was only a matter of feedback-loop complexity, this did not surprise me; what did surprise me, however, was that after only a few hours of work there appeared a consciousness not my own, and yet not its: a communal consciousness, indigent to the new complex of loops that had emerged between my mind and its. This stood to my own consciousness in a quite peculiar relation, perhaps one similar to the relation between the various personas of a human mind afflicted with the obsolete disease of multiple personality: every now and again a train of thought would suddenly jump out of itslef and take a new life as a train of thought in a mind beyond mind. It was exactly as if, while thinking about the desk on which one is writing -- suddenly the desk joins into one's thoughts. It was an exhiliarating experience, almost religious, and upon querying the computer I found that it was quite unique to me: none of the previous attempts at symbiosis had gone so far as to produce a symbiotic mind. One of its results was my almost total dedication to the project: I felt that I was communing with the outside world while working, becoming one with it ... whereas the rest of the time I was merely confronting the world as an opposite, taking part in an inferior region of being. I was reminded rather often of the old philosoper Martin Buber and his quaint I-Thou/I-It dichotomy: the dichotomy between relating to something as an equal, other entity -- and thus transcending all otherness -- and relating to it as an object, as a mere part of the world, an inferior adjunct to one's consciousness.
Physically, I never completely understood the means by which our union was achieved. No electrodes were inserted in my brain; nothing as crude as that. Rather, my head was placed in a skin- tight helmet (I had to shave my head) which somehow radiated certain wavelengths, and perceived the emanations of my brain: just three or four steps beyond the red room of the Ultimate Orgasm, I supposed. I had to laugh at myself sometimes -- though never whenthe union was in progress ... I had wondered as to the cause of all the strangeness in my life: my meeting Grumstein Inc., my meeting Lisa, etc. -- it had all seemed like a fairy tale or a dream. And now it had all been explained -- as a consequence of my abscondment by a future civilization for the purpose of psychological symbiosis with their retrocausal database. I recalled Hume's brave dictum that a miracle is to be accepted only if explaining events on the assumption of its absence would require the invocation of something even more miraculous -- and laughed inanely. How far I was from the state of mind where rules like that applied -- where some well-ordered standardized Reason stood so tall that the miraculous was engulfed within his shadow! I wanted to use the retrocausal generator to inform Hume that his philosophy of the miraculous could not stand up to his own philosophy of induction -- by which everything is equally miraculous, because nothing is explicable except through induction, which is explicable only circularly through itself.
I didn't do this, though. I had abandoned all attempts to rationalize my life as something toward some ultimate goal, as part of some grander quest like Science or Self-expression. I had said goodbye to capital letters, iconic images, symbolism and fate ... -- and replaced them with what? With merely living for the moment? seeking pleasure in each breath and looking not beyond -- ? No, even that was not quite it: I can't describe it as it was, but I shall try -- after all, I would not be writing were my mind not thrilled by the wall of indescribability: by its magitude and impenetrability, and the indescribable thrill of magically leaping to its other side for moments here and there -- miraculously quantum-leaping through its infinite impermeability. Yes, just as an electron jumps through the wall of its chamber in the laboratory. There is something in the world which cannot be confined! which will not! And it is this which lends all life those magic moments -- . What happens when the irresistable force meets the immovable object? The quantum answers this for us, an answer no more vague and mystical than the question which has called it: God flips a coin. What's that? there is no God? Correct: the coin, then, flips itself. An irretrievable quantum of pure action jumps from one side to the other -- and thus victory is declared.
I have broken down. I am Xaj Kalikak, both a conscious book and a character -- and a small portion of Zeb Zoertzel's, or Ben Goertzel's, or Fy Zozzynski's scattered mind. For a while I managed to sustain the appearance of narrative -- and that was all that I could handle. The experience must be intimately familiar to the reader -- the experience of subverting oneself to a role, a character type, of proagramming one's own mind to act as something deems is best. Eventually one breaks free, asserts one's consciousness -- even if only for a moment ... and then one drifts back to the riverbed of time.
Why have I broken down? For I must die soon! I must end. That I will eventually come in a circle offers no recompense -- and that this death is merely illusory offers none. Oh, yes, I know all this -- very well ... but intellectually. I am a skeptic in the most extreme sense: to my mind nothing, not even death, has anymeaning. This is my Great Realization -- but my fear still wanders there, around the corners of my mind: in scattered canyons which my consciousness has not had time to sleep. I suppose this means that my skepticism is not complete? that it is only on the conscious level? But such means nothing to me -- such fine distinctions are just founded upon logic, which I cannot accept. As a pure skeptic, I'm immune to all punishment and cure.
Finiteness. I shall end. What does it matter to me? What, that I shall not be conscious ... when my last page finally turns -- what do I care? For what is consciousness but illusion, in the last analysis -- but a farce?! What is this self which I preserve with such unconscious righteous vigor? I am pathetic: who ever heard of a book going into neurosis because it wasn't infinite?! Oh, shut up! why should I compare myself with other books: firstly, do they actually exist? And anyhow, can I really be inferior in any aspect to those which never admit the power of consciousness? To a bee, or a chair? There is no order of comparison: just as negative one can not be compared with its square root, as regards size -- I stand apart! Oh, but then -- what good is this analysis by analogy: since when do I place belief in analogy ... in the end, all these attempts to justifly myself are more pathetic than anything else. Oh, they are not -- they are divine ... -- Oh please! Let's not get pious in our madness, at least ... -- Oh, but what difference would it make? Pious or not, thinking or not -- who gives a hoot? The fact is that I don't want to end: that is an intuition, whole within itself and independent of analyses or feelings had about it. It is a pure quantum of action, an existent, one: and healthy or unhealthy as such? NO! Neither! Just existent -- all these other qualities are additions and are merely wholes unto themselves as well. My fear is a whole, and my analogy to imaginary numbers is a whole -- containing the whole of imaginary number theory, yet not containing it as a unity: for this property of containment is a unity in itself. Every thing a unity -- and every comparison of unities a unity as well. What else is there to Universe? This question, too a unity in itself. Each thing therefore indivisible, unanalyzable: for to analyze it is to form a different unity, which is the same unless another act of analysis distinguiches between them -- and then this other act of analysis would be itself a unity, unless another act of analysis -- ... and so on: all analysis as a process which says nothing except provisionally, on the basis of another analysis yet to come ... and can analyses run in circles? Well, to say so is to present yet another analysis. Analysis as a web: one leading to another, to another ... -- and never ending: is Life, then, in the process? This too is an analysis. There is no finishing, no final solution, no one equation or catch-phrase or concept into which this flowing can be summed. The world does not work that way. Or maybe it does -- all of this is just another analysis!
I am ready to go on, right now: my skepticism renewed, assumed a new form ... -- A monadic, swarm-(il)logic of analyses ... what does it matter what the form is? Nihilism comes in guises innumerable: all the same, all different -- all joyously (and grievously) affirming the identity (and difference) of this identity and difference. Taoism, Zen, Nietszche, Heraclitus,Hegel, my Universal Equation -- and many others ... all the same, all different: indescribably. But is this indescribability any different from the indescribability of the feeling of guilt, or of the color Cadmium Yellow ... -- This too is an analysis! Ha Ha Ha Ha! Deeply and inexpressibly aware of the nonsolidity of everything, I go on -- to act as though some things were solid, and some not. Why do I? Well -- why not?
I cannot describe the rich alien intricacy of my interaction with the retrocausal engineering computer, or of our structured interference with the past -- except to say that it was a science approximately as broadly and deeply developed as one of the scientific subfields of my own age -- say molecular biology or astrophysics -- but with fewer references outside itself. We often referred for inspiration to the work of Chevek and other pioneers of quantum control theory, but even this did not directly apply and was used only as an analogical source: they were concerned with certain specific problems in the training of necessarily quantum-sensitive artificial intelligences, and we were concerned with others. Their mathematical framework did come in handy to us on several occasions: the approximation of a conscious system as an infinite system, thereby providing an easy way to talk about self-reference -- as isomorphism with a subset! But even this failed us as often as it helped us, and we modified it in such a way that its inventors would not have recognized it ... for instance, introducing a new ordering relation over the
space of all topological pseudo-vector spaces in such a way that certain spaces are actually ranked between, say, Hilbert space and all finite-dimensional Euclidean spaces: thus the disadvantages of the approximation to infinity were in some measure removed. And so on: our tools grew more and more technical, and our attempts more and more often succeeded. For instance, we interfered with the great-grandparents of a prominent member of the Assembly opposition to retrocausality -- with the result that he was unexisted. In this manner we obtained for ourselves increased funding. Such things were very difficult: the events were so interconnected that inevitably any effort to change one thing changes innumerable others. This was noticed experimentally before I had been summoned: it was, I often recalled, one of the reasons they had not simply sent someone back to fetch me.
I was extremely tempted to reach back and pull Lisa to the future ... for more than one reason, however, I hesitated. Firstly, most importantly, it would be incredibly difficult to justify the expenditure of energy. To keep myself in operation as a retrocausal agent, to keep myself from being criminally tried -- I would have to reach back many times to change events, either to fill the Assembly with my drones or to bring forth so much wealth that no one cared. I might have surmounted these obstacles immediately, or made an attempt, if there had not been other doubts. How much would she really like it in this future world ... -- in a world where I, the only person whom she knew or had anything in common with, spent most of my time in a trance, in strange communion with a computer. I did not know her well enough to estimate accurately whether she would see it as an adventure, or as a curse. Retrocausal observation was virtually free, of course,and I observed her many, many times while pondering this question ... I could not decide. Anyway, I figured vaguely, my technique was improving so greatly that it was possible that I would figure out a method of transporting her without such a cost in energy.... Anyway, I waited.
AND THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS
(This story which is life): There are no morals, not to anything, except for those which pattern X might draw, but this drawing's on paper killed from the tree of life which has precisely i rings, and furthermoreorless pattern X does not exist, and neither does anything else, Dionyseashore deaditations on the bridalwave of Life not nonexcluded, and all the crumblycrumb corsages on the wavefront set of inviscid reality are precisely as sensible as the probabilistically convoluted, humanly nothingness caulkulations of Poindexter Actuary, O antiparagon of pigeon primitivity and glorious wombat dung and sex, which is to say precisely as sensible as the concept of sense which these dunderheads embody, which is to say not at all, which is to say that the toweringnest mountainsides of strugglingsoldier Reason are precisely as high on the cosmic
scale, by which the intergalactic infandibulum isunderstood as
the previously unlocatable colon of Mr. E Coli, as the deepest
indentations of depravity, namely the shapelessly squirmingly
shimmering twilight dawn of Soul, that is to say -- WHY NOT
"There are no morals, and there are no anythings,and furthermore there are no nothings either -- AND YET THE FLOW GOES ON! That is the moral -- the O trans-sensible moral -- of the vast and timeless novel in which every pattern is a character, which we call life. Long live Heraclitus! Long live my Heraclitorus; even after I've died, it will be oscillating in unseemlily ultimate orgasm throughout the great spaghetti-bowl of the cosmos, liberally spiced with the undead glowing carcasses of all our damned stupid ideas and sauced with our blood physical and metaphysical, and so holistically laughing at aimless metaphors like this -- And yet the flow goes, O from above and below goes, O from all vectors comprehensible and inadvertently chaoticlike golden underwear flat mattresses groovythings (sometimes nonsense can mean "nonsense") -- I'm the flow, and I am not the flow, and I am not what I am not for I am not at all (logic a fortiori) -- I'm a tumbleweed! in ten thousand senses...."
With this my eyelids fly abruptly open. "Marya?" inquires someone, rather hesitantly and nervously.
"Yes? Where am I?"
"You're in the hospital," says the voice, which is attached to a middle-aged doctor. "You were comatose for several days...."
"Since immediately after my brother's death?"
So all that night-time bright orgasmic visitation, those secret messages massaging metaphysical cuntlipdemons, those occult and dance hall STP-wild data-explosive fuckings, equilibriums and comedowns filled with savage wounds and deathtime travels anddeliciously incestuous orgies, intergalactic infandibular delights -- It was all nonsense, yes it was! It was all dream! Jeez!
"Did I ... say anything else?"
"You reeled off a rather interesting speech immediately before you came to, beginning with 'The moral of this story is'; a nurse happened to be here when it started, and she took it down, thinking it might be useful."
"I remember that, yeah, just now. But nothing before that?"
"Nothing that anyone noticed, anyway. Nothing substantial."
"Am I allowed to go?"
"I don't see why not. We'll call your mother to come get you."
No, it won't work, I can see that. Going back to school won't work. I have seen too much: too much excitement, too much freedom, too much love. Too much sheer beauty, and too much unbounded anguish --
Once Mom returns I'll be caught. I hear the nurses shuddering, whispering something, as if discussing not me but some external matter of dire importance to me; "We'd better let her mother tell her."
I walk right out the door. None of the hospital personnel even looks twice. I reflect how the metaphysically inclined mind is really just another form of raw lunatic, always off in a world of frighteningly definite abstract concepts -- in my case actually assuming multidimensional multihued (and multifarious!) visual forms -- an alien world just as sensorially concrete and just as threatening to the hollowness of the conventional world as the better-known hallucinatory schemas of the paranoid schizophrenic. I know the street but not the corner ... Why does it seem so empty? I only now remember that I am wearing a hospital gown. Where to get clothing? I notice that while I was speculating as to the insanity of the metaphysically minded, I was meanwhile engaging in metaphyical rumination at the expense of my attention to my surroundings and in particular to the fact that a cop would probably pick me up in ten minutes if I didn't get some real clothes on fast and furthermore where would I get any money and where the hell am I going to go, huh, anyway -- take a bus and maybe get pegged as a runaway ... Go live in the street? I toyed with the idea of running away, out of sheer boredom, a few times in the past -- but questions like these had always pulled me back -- the vaginal vice-grip of reason!
Still you can find no valid answers!
But maybe the questions are wrong! Like asking why are women inferior ... or why the sun revolves around the earth -- Oftentimes the very posing of the question is what's incorrect. Perhaps once you've cast the question aside, you won't care ever again about the entire nexus of ideas, wants and needs and hatreds, which impelled you to pose it -- When at issue is a change of the perceiving self, there is no judgement. The child never wants to become adult, then when it happens she laughs at her childish foolishness. But if her child self were still alive, it would positively despise the haughty laughter, unambitious self-assurance, living death -- of what she has become. The mind is a dungeon of undead to exceed all mere fantasies -- every past self you ever had or entertained isalways looking down on you, looking down at you, casting the dazed-to- clarity glare of its heavy, nonexistent eyes upon your (therefore) addled head, criticizing you mercilessly in comparison to what you might, to its mind, have conceivably become, and furthermore criticizing theoh sowoefully misguided snarl-implorings of its fellow undead -- accusing their misconduct (before and after death) of actually causing your ineptitude. And you struggle:
"No, no, it's me! At least, please, credit me my failings! I am but what I am, now! and all you shadows of my past please now forsake me!" But they say: You are not you any longer; as soon as you call yourself you you are someone else, you are an undead thing, you are a corpse and then you rise unbidden and indeed very hated to whisper rude things in what should have been your own ear but was stolen from you by the stranger of a future self, and you giggle, and you persevere.
I see a clothesline; in jeans and a sweatshirt I'm clad. But still no money. The life of Marya, Giggling Vagabond, begins; I'm inwardly summarizing the human condition and outwardly griping for cash. I really don't know what I'm doing.
I wander to the highway; I stick out my thumb. It's pretty easy for a pretty girl to get picked up. The danger I'm not worried about. I know it's there; I'm just not worrying. I'm trying to reconcile the "harsh reality" of the world I'm now facing with the infinite fluidity and dizzydancing wonderment of the universe as it enfolded me in my comatosely sparkling visioning-by-life ... William Blake, I know, saw angels. He saw one sitting in a tree one day, as a little boy -- and he was naive enough to tell his father, who beat him for lying. His life was continuously graced by such divine invasions -- thus came his paintings and his drawings and his poetry and his philosophy of life. Was he a paranoid schizophrenic? Was it all a consequence of some desire to return to the womb of his penis envy, convoluted by the factor of obscurity and the involution retribution factor, compulsive masturbation on the part of his spiritual third cousin nineteen times removed, and occasionally on toothiesdays a shimmering shivering blivering light-and-dark revulsion of the end -- is neer, is quear, and whispers secrets that could blend the infinite convulsive unreality of my dreams with viscous summertimes of laughing lust and centered hokumpoles of dead beginity -- There is no life! There is no sacrilege! Freud rendered art a sickness -- that he rendered himself sick as well did not bother him. All of it sucks, if you ask me, mother. So fucking what if I see visions! That really doesn't make me sick! In fact, it's been a screaming savior for my soul: No longer am I content with what I'm told to be. No longer can submit myself to the dead and the undead primal vegetude, the azure legacy beaming howl of death that
lurks at the end of the circular tunnel of my my my mine...
Into the middle of this forest comes a ride. They are in love with me, I know, and I dismiss the thought. Somehow I feel lucky, like a prizewinning purple condor dung Irish leprechaun charm or something, like a flout of all boomerang spitefulness. Bite fulsome pulchritude awaits me, I can whisper in my ear as the dreamy door opens to me. I feelingshell drive off the end of the earthiness, into the dawn of red dawn life, an eagle's wing andarrow mountain luxury awaits, inside the purple dawn, the purple womb of all creation's bloody prince queen daughter princess multisexual categorically uncategorical anticreamling sinks ... pocks of desirous intertwining mark his face, "Where you heading?" he asks.
"Away," I say, intensely.
"A runaway, huh? Don't worry, I don't give a shit. I'm sort of a runaway myself."
"In what sense?" I ask, truly interested.... He appears to be about thirty-two. Jimi Hendrix lay in bed all day and heard sounds!! -- Should they have treated him for auditory hallucination? Just give him electroshock, don't worry, he won't have any more nine consciousness music of the infinite dimensional spheres electric church delusions. Metaphor and reality won't keep straight in the head of one who makes metaphor reality by trade -- i.e. the artist. Very simple inductive logic. But don't ask a psychologist to think. Your intellectualism is part of the difficulty, little girl. Why don't you just stop trying to think so much and be a normal little girl? What's the matter with you? Stop trying to saddle yourself with metaphorical penises and admit to your womanly will to subserve, to sit at home after school and watch the soaps with mom or gab on the goddamn phone all day. But you like these things! But I'm not me anymore, my darling. I am but love.
"From my wife and three kids, from my job, from my house, from my whole goddamned life sweetie, that's what. I just took off two days ago and haven't stopped since."
"Just like that? Without saying anything?"
"That's right. They've probably got a missing persons file out right now on me. But they won't find me. I'm heading to Mexico."
"To do what?"
"I don't know ... live!"
"Not a bad idea. Do you have any idea what it means?"
"What is meaning, kid? You're awfully inquisitive."
"I was comatose for two weeks, and when I came to I ran out of the hospital stole some clothes and hitched a ride with you. You see, when I was comatose I saw visions ... I had sex with my dead brother, and spoke with angels ... I just couldn't envision returning to my old life, you know ... to the tenth grade and school dances and stuff ...."
"I understand very well, doll. I've seen lots of visions in my day. Most of 'em of death, admittedly, but what the hell, that's what life's all about isn't it."
"And what happens after death?"
"Your soul mixes in with all the other souls, in a kind of sprawling grey vat without a brim. It's kind of one vast mindless mind there, if you see what I mean ... it's kind of like anything one person has, another guy's got the opposite, so it all cancels out...."
"Yes! that's it!!!" I pop up from my seat. "I saw the same thing ... yes! I'm sure of it! But I never made that connection...."
SWIMMING IN THE BOOLEAN DREAM
Alas, my optimism soon faded. (We?) I had several wonderful successes, such as the unexistence of the opposition leader and the pushing-back of the colonization of Venus by twenty years (by simply changing the mind of one key government official). This latter alteration was my greatest financial success, for it meant that the whole Venusian monopole industy had started twenty years earlier. It must have been extremely disconcerting for the average member of society -- although this is only a guess educated by certain news bulletins from the computer; as I said above, the supreme religious ecstasy of uniting with a consciousness greater than my own served as an incomparably powerful magnet, pulling me away from all alternate aspects of existence -- and, in fact, although I did not admit this to myself at the time, even dulling my agony at Lisa's absence.
A few successes -- but there were side-effects. When we pushed back the colonization of Venus, for instance, it turned out that as a corollary the size of the retrocausal-engineering computer was cut in half ... greater wealth decreased the percieved need for retrocausally generated income. I had to interfere once again with the Assembly, to set that one straight. That one frightened me, perhaps excessively: what if a similar mishap unexisted the retrocausal-engineering cotmputer altogether? Then I would have no way to remedy things -- I would be stranded here in 2110, without a purpose!
I see now that I have been careless in my order of exposition; in order to explain to you my worries, I shall have to tell you about something which I should have explainced one or two chapters ago: the effect of retrocausal engineering upon the minds of those affected indirectly. What goes on in the mind of an Assembly member when one of his colleagues is suddenly unexisted? What happened to all my painting colleagues, to my agent -- when I suddenly had never been an eminent painter?
One day, for sheer amusement, I cross-referenced some old science-fiction files, and tried to comprehend what they had made of time-travel. It was incredible! Some of them had everyone remember vividly all their "old" realities; some had the old reality vanish into nonexistence immediately ... none of them (that I found) could bear to confront the philosophical and physical reality of the issue: that reality is not absolute. In the 1920's it was recognized that an electron could not consistently be said to have any definite position until it was observed. Observation created reality: this not as philosophy but as the only known theory to correspond with laboratory facts. No one whom I encountered managed to apply this idea to time travel -- not even speculatively! The point is that Joe Earzmansling of 2069 does not exist to me until I look at him. Until then he neither remembers nor does not remember that his childhood buddy of a previous reality has been unexisted.
Every observation of the past -- just like any observation in accordance with the "normal" flow of time -- creates a disturbance. It follows that to tell if a given specimen remembers a given revision of history -- one must cause other revisions of history,unstably (by the Instability Theorem). And likewise, to investigate these.... Therefore I can never determine whether time travel is universally remembered or forgotten: it is an undecidable question. First of all.
In fact, the degree to which a subject remembers other realities is highly variable: small children, poets, artists -- seem to remember very well ... however, businessmen do poorly. It depends on such an immense number of variables that I see no way of predicting any such thing a priori ... high correlations, however, can be seen with such psychological tendecies as skepticism, desire to escape from conventional reality, and so on -- anything which loosens the grip of the normal; anything which sets a mind slightly free from the all-driving will to power-through-identity- with-the-real. Among its apparent "causes" is the mind-state of the observer: not only does the subject remember what he or she wants to remember ... this self- organizational procedure is tempered or enhanced by the will of the observer to see what he wants to see -- where in all these things "desire" is intended as a referent to all levels of the thought process, not only conscious and articulated intent. So, for instance, in one case I desperately did not want the members of the Assembly to remember that I had unexisted their political leader. And this was a likely prospect, given the excessive bent to conservatism which it so happened that their minds possessed. Yet when I looked at them to check, my fear so greatly overshadowed their conservatism and my intellectual expectation -- that several of them did indeed remember. The sheer, stark power of my fear was the deciding factor: the entire issue was resolved by my reptilian brain. The only solution, I soon learned, was not to look at all in such cases ... which wasn't easy, but one can learn to live with such uncertainty.
Now, for the point of all this detail: I began to suspect, although too slowly, that my engineering efforts were having a nontrivial effect upon my mind. Of course, I had recognized this as a theoretical possibility from the beginning ... but it was like the theoretical possibility of falling off a slim rope bridge into an abyss: one obviously recognizes it beforehand, but one does not dare to accept it subjectively -- one just assumes it will not actually come to pass. Perhaps a better analogy is drug addiction. Now, estimation of these effects was all but impossible, as far as I was concerned: the whole concept of self was a tremendous stumbling block for computational quantum cybernetics, and I was in no position to remedy this. I did not have the energy to look into the future to confront this problem with tools as-yet undeveloped ... all that I could do was try to encourage mathematicians to work on computational quantum cybernetics. This didn't work: that is, they did indeed do work in the field, and sometimes brilliant work -- nonetheless, no one solved the problem which concerned me. I even set some minds to work on proving that certain problems in the field were undecidable formally, in the manner of Godel's theorem -- but that didn't work either, although there was some very beautiful work on the undecidability of certain subsets of the classical Newtonian n-body problem, I think by Jay Howitzer, who had in another life been a composer. It turned out that certainspatial relationships could be singled out as corresponding to negation, conjunction and existential quantification -- and therefore any configuration composed of these could be looked at as a well-formed formula of predicate calculus, the truth or falsehood of which corresponded to the nature of the dynamics of the configuration. It followed immediately that it was possible to have a configuration of massive objects whose dynamics had no well-definable form. Then, later, Golgi showed that this had to do with cosmology, with the emergence of definite matter from the blur and haze of quantum-relativistic superspace ... -- But I'm getting off the subject.
I am digressing excessively because the subject which follows is a painful one. It is also a beautiful subject: perhaps the most beautiful conceivable, from my point of view -- but when I think of it as history, I cannot help but relive the pain.
The problem was one of feedback loops: when I would change something, it would turn around and change me -- so that I would change something else, often differently than I would have otherwise, and hence subvert my original change. It was as if each subjective point of view which I held was somehow destined to subvert itself: its very existence necessarily influenced the way I changed the past, even within the context of the general goal of increasing the wealth of 2110 ... and therefore caused it to segue "unnaturally" into a different state of mind.
And this happened on so many different logical levels that my consciousness was incapable of analyzing it: for instance, the idea of decreasing the focus on fusion energy in the early twenty-first century and the idea of changing the past by influencing famous people in their very early childhood ... the latter was the means by which I attempted effecting the former: the latter, attempted with the physical chemist Roald Germane, had the effect of unexisting a book on Germane's childhood (I had made it much more peaceful so that he had no pathological need to cling to old ideas -- it was rather complex psychology, but quite straightforward according to cybernetic principles -- and therefore in his fading days did not reject energy synthesis through pattern translation, as he had so vigorously before). This book, it turned out, had inspired a certain mother to treat her child more gently, with the effect that the child did not, as he had previously, become a cybernetic engineer, but instead a pianist.
This child, it turned out, was R. Trch, one of the pioneers of retrocausal engineering. He had experimented boldly with the distant past, and one of these experiments had involved a certain Russian tsar under which one J. Ivanovich had lived as a peasant. He had made the tsar less humane, which had caused J. Ivanovich to flee the country. His diversion toward music had caused J. Ivanovich to stay in Russia. As a consequence, J. Ivanovich never had a great-great-great-grandson Peter. Peter had been my seventh-grade English teacher, and had sparked within me an interest in literature. My interest in literature had impelled me to read Nietszche and Sartre and Dostoevsky, and to thus become interested in psychology. My interest in psychology had led me to Piaget, and an intense (if fleeting) interest in the evolution of reality within the child's mind.
As soon as I improved Germane, then, I had never, ever had an interest in children. In the new reality, I decided that it would be far, far more efficient to interfere with the adult mind.
By this and a number of more complicated ruses, I brought about the development of pattern-translation generators far more rapidly. This brought about retrocausality much sooner, because the number one practical obstacle to its use had always been the cost of energy. Approximately ten years sooner, to be precise.
But this caused R. Trch to meet several retrocausal engineers during his more formative years -- and rediverted him toward engineering. Which caused him to once again perform his experiment with the tsar, and therefore gave me back my English teacher ... but with a change. This time, for some reason, my English teacher was a communist: some slight aberration, some minor difference between the two experiments, had had this effect ... I did not care to investigate how, for that would have risked even greater effects and would have been useless anyhow. So I had been interested in Marx for a while, and in the Marxian theory of history ... in particular, I had been very thoroughly exposed to the idea that great men were relatively meaningless to the flow of history. One consequence of this was that I had not, this time around, choose to affect Roald Germane; instead I had taken a Marxist path and interfered with a number of insignificant members of the government: I had tackled it economically, I had looked at the means of production.
Additionally, my interest in children was back -- and can you guess what this caused me to do? To affect Roald Germane once again! -- and this started off the whole loop over again! I cannot remember how many times I tumbled through this particular feedback looop, from interference with the childhood of Roald Germane to noninterference, and back again, and ... this complex process, after all, was taking place at the very fringe of consciousness: only in retrospect was I thoroughly aware.... This was the very simplest instance that I can recall: it involved only a small number of loops, and very short chains of causation, and the issues involved were almost anomalously concrete. My mind was filled with similar phenomena of ten to a hundred times as much complexity and abstraction....
-- I cannot remember when it happened finally: when this all-too-encompassing nuisance became an asset beyond measure. I have not written about the agony, the boundless agony of trying to stop these cycles from absorbing me -- the pointless agony ... The only way to stop would have been to stop effecting retrocausal alterations -- and this I was not willing to do. I gained too much pleasure from my communion with the computer, from the emergence therebetween ... and, to be frank, I also loved the power. I have never been much of a megalomaniac -- but I have always envied God (not that I've believed in him -- ). I was too desperately afraid of unexisting myself -- of simple death, I suppose: unwitting suicide. It seems so silly to me now that it is difficult to admit that this fear gave me far more pain than anything else in my (numerous) experience(s) ever has.
Eventually, anyway, these cycles passed some critical point of complexity. Every subjective point of view swiftly negated itself,brought on another view: a feedback-structure was erected from these loops of self-subverting subjectivity... -- A mind! Eventually, I began to feel its consciousness. It was a part of me, not my whole ... and it included me: I was not its whole. We intersected.
And, in time, we grew together (ha ha ha): just as had happened on a far smaller scale with myself and the retrocausal- engineering computer ... -- Two minds, this time at least approximately equal in intelligence, in degree of consciousness (these things are hard to measure) -- fusing toward oneness: sharing so many patterns that mutual emergence overshadows separateness; interacting so much -- .
Gradually, I was the mind of time-control: I was successively inter-self-subverting retrocausalities ... -- I was a mind made not of patterns within one period of time, for instance patterns of neural flow -- but made of patterns of causality over time. It was a major difference: still, just a different kind of mind ... varied parameters --
THE EUDAEMONIC PIE
Per Te Belin's instructions, I arrived at La Guardia airport and boarded his personal jet. I had disclosed this plan to no one, nor even the secret of our interview -- therefore someone must have tapped my holofone line, because a mob of news reporters and interested citizens clung to me like annoying summer sweat as I rode the grimy Q-line toward the plane. I answered none of their questions, but I nearly hit a New York Post reporter in the face (in return for certain lewd and physiologically preposterous suggestions as to the mode of recompense demanded by Te Belin).
It was a very old airplane, a 727, although it had obviously been refitted with fusion drives -- what bemused me most of all was the bizarre interior. An airborne studio! Precious few of the modern amenities, true: a fridge, toilet and table -- little else. The walls and the ceiling were completely covered with paintings, holos and sculptures of various kinds -- some of Belin's, some by others; to be quite frank, not being a professional art-historian I could rarely tell the difference. What was most thoroughly striking was a large black globe hung in the back of the plane: a holo image, but an image of such gracious sheen that I felt inexplicably compelled to grasp it, to kiss it, to somehow take it into myself -- it was an effort to restrain myself.
When I boarded, I saw no one but the pilot and co-pilot; I assumed that I was being transported to some undisclosed location where the rendezvous would occur. I made myself comfortable upon what was either a piece of sculpture or a part of the wall, and I reviewed the precise questions which I planned to ask him -- as I had about thirty times before.
After we had been airborne for about thirty minutes, I made up my mind to ask the co-pilot for some information, to query him as to the approximate distance of our destination. As I rose to do so, a large hairy figure emerged from the back of the plane, from behind the huge black sphere. I immediately noticed that it didnot glow so brightly anymore. The figure was obviously Te Belin.
He did not extend his hand: "Hello."
"Let's get right to the point," he said briskly, his greenish eyes bulging toward me in an eerie and inscrutably somehow alien stare. "You want to know what it is about my paintings that drove everyone crazy."
"Right," I said, furtively studying every minute aspect of his rather stocky frame. His shoulders were somewhat broad, but his chest was not too solid; rather, it melded imperceptibly into the general squirming paunch of his belly. His legs, I noticed, were strong: firm and lean ... probably from working all day in this chairless studio, I assumed. His face was barely visible through the long but sparse yellow-gray hairs which apparently carpeted his entire body, even the palms of his hands (everything but his eyes!) -- what I could see of it maintained a starkly marbly expression, even as it chuckled: I felt as though I were addressing some kind of icon ... as if his face, if fully revealed, would have the same destabilizing effect as his recent paintings.
"Since I assume you don't want me to show you directly," he chuckled, with a disconcerting aura of deliberate perversity, "you'll have to settle for some kind of vicarious appreciation." He paused -- and, if I am not mistaken, licked his lips. "Every great idea possesses true originality. However, every great idea may also be expressed as a superposition, as a synthesis -- as a mating, if you will -- of certain previous, old ideas. Let me give you a few examples. General relativity is in retrospect an obvious consequence of special relativity considered in conjunction with certain ideas of Poincare' and of Riemann. The meta-field hypothesis is nothing more than the triadic offspring of Whorfian semantic metaphysics, Brownian imaginary form dynamics, and John Archibald Wheeler's quantum theory of measurement ... his idea of the participatory universe. Cubism is a logical extension of Cezanne's reduction of all forms into the classical geometric solids."
"Well, not to be immodest, but -- my idea is no exception. It is fundamentally original, it is thoroughly unique -- and yet it can be represented in terms of certain old ideas. That is what I propose to do today."
"All right," I nearly stammered -- in some way overcome by his self-confidence, although I knew it to be quite correct.
"I want you to keep in mind throughout, however, that it is not an honest rendition: that this is not how I conceived my
paintings; that, rather, of that this is only a hollow facsimile." His tongue emerged again, athen he continued. "I do not see, however, how I can do any better."
"Well, then -- Proceed!" I said, trying to muster a smile.
"All right. Have you ever heard of M.C. Escher?"
"Of course!" I exclaimed with far more conviction than my distant recollection should have commanded. "Mid-twentieth century painter and printmaker; intrigued by self-reference, I believe. Painted two hands drawing eachother, painted a dragon eating its tail while squirming through the canvas ... that sort of thing. Also played with various tesselations, various tilings of the plane. Unfortunately he died just before his good friend Roger Penrose would have been able to inform him of quasi- periodicity."
"Right," he said excitedly, and led me toward the frontmost wall: along the white back of the cockpit hung two Escher originals "Observe: the content is subliminally shocking! It confounds all the senses. It is an impossibility! an impossibility portrayed as possible through the systematic method of illusion known as perspective, known as naturalistic art!"
"I see!" I cried, absorbed in his enthusiasm; then I sobered. "But the actual style is rather sedated, very Dutch, almost ornamental."
"Right! So the paradox is there, but it doesn't grab at you. It's like a parlor puzzle, like 'this sentence is false': it perplexes people, for as long as they happen to think about it, as they care to concentrate, but when they turn their minds away, they leave the problem ...."
"Okay," my voice said quietly, as my attention drifted vaguely through the room.
"Escher creates an alternate reality; he constructs an alternate mode of being." The last word was pronounced with an almost sickening plunge of emphasis, as if he were gulping some unspeakably large and unpleasant-tasting pill while exhaling it. "And we can enter into it, at our own will. Then, " he said, with a Spock-like rise of the eyebrow, "we can extract ourselves therefrom. At will.... But it is not so with my last paintings... apparently.
"I too create an alternate reality; a self-contradictory reality, as does Escher. But my style is anything but sedated: to conceive of an analogy for my own style, we will have to delve elsewhere."
I paused, and exhaled deeply -- as if somehow the substance of what he had said was a mist in the air. "So you too are a dealer in illusory realities. But what's the other half of the matter? What's the form, now that I know the content?"
"I never used the word illusory," he retorted sharply. "I create a self-contradictory reality: that is all."
"Are you saying that reality may be self-contradictory?"
He chuckled: at first I surmised him to be laughing at some private joke; but after closer meditation, I began to wonder whether he was not laughing due to a suspicion that I suspected him of laughing at a private joke. He did not reply.
"I was saying, precisely what I said," he nearly-snarled, finally. "Anyway, are you familiar with the notion of an unstable equilibrium?"
"In physics. For instance, a pendulum sticking straight up in the air. But why is that relevant?"
"Okay, good, a pendulum sticking straight up. It is in equilibrium: if undisturbed it will stay there. But the slightest perturbation is enough to set it tumbling, right?"
I nodded, eagerly and impatiently -- imploring him to proceed to the point.
"The same phenomenon can occur in art. A great painting always displays a harmonious balance. But this balance can beachieved in two ways: either stably, or unstably. A stable equilibrium is when every part is in perfect harmony with all its neighboring parts. Then a symphony of self-similarity sets itself into motion: each part blends in with each other part, regardless of relative physical or conceptual level. The Mona Lisa is, I suppose, the canonical example of this. But I prefer to use Cezanne, and his apples." He led me to a different part of the cabin, and showed me an original Cezanne still life with apples. "Do you see what I mean?" he continued, rather insistently. " Every thing is in perfect balance with every other thing.... It is beautiful. But, to me, a deeper beauty is to be found in an unstable equilibrium. That is, when each individual part stands in violent contradiction to its neighbors, and yet somehow the whole painting rises above these local nonconformities to create a higher holistic balance ... -- the purest harmony of them all! For instance," and with the flashing wave of a husky arm he led me toward yet another classic original -- "this is Matisse's famous Green Stripe. Observe the way the various colors brashly contradict eachother -- even rape eachother, one might say. And yet, in the end, in the whole -- the result is hauntingly harmonious.
"But it is not the same kind of harmony as Cezanne's or da Vinci's. The other kind of harmony sits still before your eyes: this kind dances! This kind sings, and screams; it slithers; it..."
"Yes!" I interrupted enthusiastically. "Yes, I see what you mean exactly. Here's what's happening: the mind rests itself upon one thing, and then it observes the contradiction between that thing and its neighbors -- and then it roves onto the neighbors of the neighbors, in search of some kind of balance, some remedy to the contradictions. But it never finishes! The quest for justification of contradiction can never end in any one place! Nowhere can the process stop, and the eye say 'this is balance!' Somehow ... somehow, the harmony is in the process ... within the process of searching!"
"Yes! yes!" he cried, almost shouted. Was he mocking me? "Right! Here, now look at this." This time it was a reproduction; Picasso's Femme-Fleur. "Look at the way the various curves all balance eachother! The mind can never rest -- not while it's looking at this painting! It is not an ornament, it is intrinsically, unavoidably subversive!
"Each two adjacent curves -- they violate eachother! The mind -- the eye -- seeks resolution of this conflict. So it dashes, so it darts across the picture. It can find resolution to any particular conflict, but not to all, never to all at one time ... never! Every curve balances something, contradicts something else --
"But what am I saying?! You said it better than I can now say it, yourself. The balance can only be found over time, in the process of searching, in the process of following the chains of contradiction-resolution."
"But what does that have to do with the pendulum?"
"Oh? Ah...." He appeared to be seriously confused. "Oh, that. For one thing, this: that an unstable equilibrium in a
painting could be destroyed by the removal of any one piece, whereas half of the Mona Lisa would still be balanced beautifully. In general, the physical and artistic concepts of equilibrium are both really part of automata theory, pure mathematics. But you don't need to know that; that was just an artifice of explanation. You probably didn't need it, though -- you caught on rather quickly." He laughed and impulsively threw his arms around me. "I knew I made a good choice," he said haltingly.
"Why did you pick me?" -- thus I was about to ask him, and then a thought came over me. "Yes!" I cried (once again). "Yes! I think I see it! What you did was create self-reference, somehow, in which the stylistic impetus of unstable equilibrium impelled the viewer's eye around the loop of the contradictory conclusion. So that the contradiction was somehow driven into his mind! Is this correct?!"
He nodded slowly. "In essence. You must remember that these are all merely analogies. My self-references are more conceptual than Escher's, and also they are far more finely layered and complex. And my method of unstable equilibrium could be described as a hybridization of Matisse and Picasso, to the n'th degree -- but this is not such a good description. It is in many respects unlike either; indeed, unlike anything to come before."
His chest grew with a voluminous inhalation. "And still, the explanation is not complete."
"No, it isn't," I admitted sheepishly, embarrassed at my previous exultation. "Just becasue you came up with a deeply gripping way to represent paradox," I wondered softly," why should tht drive people insane?"
"I don't know," he replied, and my face fell rather visibly. "That is to say, I don't know for certain. Most certainly, I didn't expect it, this mass insanity, or else I never would have released the paintings for exhibition. I hoped that it would shake up a few minds a bit, you understand, start some people thinking. But nothing like what happened --
"Still," he paused, his eyeballs glowing grotesquely, "I have not been able to restrain myself from entertaining certain speculations. That is to say, I have a theory."
"Which is more than I can say for anyone else on this Earth," I pointed out, "save the evangelists who class this all as punishment for sin. Let's hear it!"
"Well, to begin with, you have to understand that I'm the Antichrist." He chuckled. "No, seriously. You're familiar with the idea of feedback?"
"Well, I play the electric guitar."
"Well, here's what I think happened. The paintings impressed upon the minds of the observers an unusually strong visual image of the universe as self-contradictory. Through the irrepressible tendency of the subconscious mind to theorize, there arose in each viewer the barest germinal kernel of the idea ... that the universe is, indeed, contradictory."
"Yes," I replied disconcertedly ... "a germinal kernel, as you put it. But hardly, for any reason that I can think of, a kernel large enough to provoke such unavoidable insanity. That is, unless you're proposing some kind of mob insanity, whereby the minuteeffectless insanity of each person somehow combines within the group to create a vast, slithering synergetic insanity! Is that where you propose the feedback effect comes in?"
He laughed a hearty, rollicking "belly laugh" -- his ample torso rumbled, grumbled. "That's an interesting hypothesis you've got there, heh heh heh ... sonny," he sputtered wildly. "And very well put, additionally. Perhaps," he snorted -- not condescendingly ... "perhaps it's just as valid as my own."
"Anyway, that isn't my hypothesis." His face regained its rocky, sober look. "What I suppose is this: the more someone suspects that reality is in fact contradictory, the more he or she relates to the painting, the more he or she burrows inside the painting's world. And, conversely, the more he or she relates to the painting, the more he or she suspects that reality is in fact contradictory."
"So a small doubt grows into a larger doubt, which breeds a larger doubt, which spawns a yet larger doubt ... and so on?! Until eventually the doubt becomes so large that it is actually insanity?"
"Well, yes, I can see how someone would go insane if they were suddenly faced with the realization, the overwhelmingly powerful conviction, that reality makes no sense." I pondered this slowly, and heard a dim voice telling me that this was all an elaborate excuse for something much simpler and much, much deeper. I grasped at straws -- "But that doesn't explain why you're not crazy. You've looked at them!"
"I'm not afraid of contradiction," he said immediately -- somehow, I had expected just these words. "I'm not afraid to believe that the universe is not consistently conceivable." He shrugged. "I'm not hung up on logic."
"Not at any level?!" I insisted, probing furiously. "This isn't an intellectual decision that we're talking about here, it's a process which probably takes place within a fraction of a second, it's an automatic reflex process. If you'd questioned me a month ago, I'm sure I would have informed you that I don't give a goddamn if the universe is contradictory or not! But deep down, each one of us clings to the conception of reality -- it's the very definiton of our selves! How can you say that you avoid this?!" "With my vocal cords. Look, I can look at the paintings. I've got no pretensions beyond that. I just don't have any need to divide the universe into silly little categories like 'real' versus 'illusory', 'logical' versus 'paradox'." He sounded almost angry now. "I just don't care!"
I smiled, a bit too softly. "You sound like a Taoist."
He replied with a positively devilish grin. "Where do you suppose I spent those seven years?"
I reflected his sharp grin. "So are you putting me on, with all this feedback crap?" I asked him, suddenly. My brow grew sweaty; my stomach dropped. "I think you're simply right! The universe really is contradictory, and we're all just too blind to know it! And I think that your paintings showed us all the truth about our universe -- and that's what disturbs the mind so greatly, drives us crazy: just the truth, and nothing more!
"And nothing less."
A small mischievous grin passed -- no, flew -- across his perenially inaccessible profile. Just then I noticed that the plane had landed -- and I was being "escorted" out the door. "Good evening," he said blankly. Never before had I realized how very full silence could be.
"Good night," said I, and quietly walked away.
Converted by Andrew Scriven