Mankind Simply Doesn't Want to Die.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
O Emerges from the Briny Sea.
Two States, Indiscernible.
Who Shall Teach the Acolytes at Achernar?
By Dylan FitzDylan
He comes in search of unification.
From the salty mist he walked onto wet sand, greeting me in the earliest rays of the day. "We've work to do," he said, his voice like gravel under boots, his bare feet like brush bristles on the surface of the beach. "We've contradictions to merge into a higher truth. Be ready."
We named him O, all one of us, thinking,
— He is a man. No matter how odd he appears to us, he is a man.
Now O rests in a nearby cave, sitting on haunches near the entrance, chewing on a twig of hazel while he sorts through the Four Elements, looking for his favorite among the discernibles. O told us, "I need time." He needed to adjust to the Light of the Sun.
"This is ridiculous, your search for truth," saith ghostly guardian Oksob de Opposite from his perch in the Opposite Loft. "Show me a single creature outside the cadre of preachers and priests, imams and mullahs, politicians and despots, news hacks and dons who purport to believe there is a thing called truth. Your truth is another's lie, another's relative supposition. Look at O's footprints on the beach. Already they fade. Cold waters on the rising tide are coming to wash them away, away, yonder and forever gone."
Not! The footprints are already in time. Nothing can erase them.
And me? You can't know where I am. I have switched-off the great candle in the Lighthouse — now that day is come. You shouldn't believe what I write. It's an illusion, all of it. Read at your leisure, at my peril. Be ye bland fodder for the cud, be ye tasty antipasto for the palate, this way the dullard, that way the star.
I am here, in a room, alone and dissipated. I am in the wilds, in a hollow, with my ancient dog Markus. I am at one with something, and exhilarated. Where are you?
Let the Play Begin.
The study at the Mansion of Achernar on the Island at the End of the River.
A spacious round room with towering stone walls, cypress floors, a conical ceiling of walnut and butternut rising to a domed skylight of pale stained glass and black lead. A grand picture window stretching from floor to ceiling curves thirty feet across the east face of the room. On the south wall, a blackboard. On the north wall, a flat television screen embedded in the stone. To the west, a trapdoor in the floor. Behind the trapdoor, a threshold to a hallway. The hallway extends into infinity. Wooden chairs, writing desks, leather couches, pillows are scattered about the room.
FITZDYLAN stands in front of the window, looking into the garden. Beyond the garden is the flowing great river, swollen with flood.
Enter ARTIFICE OF THE HARDDRIVE, EL CYC OF THE LISP, the cogent cyber cognoscente.
ARTIFICE takes the form of a tall, slender, four-sided box of mirrors mounted on a hand cart pulled by a mime. ARTIFICE, through the guise of the mime, hands FITZDYLAN the list of invitations to Professor Schafer's next lecture, "Symmetry, Entropy, and Mankind Simply Doesn't Want to Die," with pale green checkmarks Répondez s'il vous plaît.
ARTIFICE. Those aren't real people, are they?
ARTIFICE. Salome? Auguste Comte? C6H6 revealed in a dream? Virginia Woolf with brushes and oils? Name to me a famous female painter of the early twentieth century. Frida Kahlo? Georgia O'Keeffe? Watch them dance in the magic circle, the benzene ring of fire. Watch them! They eat the crisp mandala and a thrice-wrapped boiled sausage in the magnetic fields. Anna May Wong? Mata Hari at the Caserne de Vincennes, unbound, eyes wide open, welcoming eleven bitter bullets from the trembling rifles of her executioners? Wolfgang and his neutrino on Carl's archetypal couch? Go figure.
FITZDYLAN. F equals m a. Force equals mass times acceleration. P equals m v. Momentum equals mass times velocity. B equals m p. Baby equals mama times papa. The cloud veils the moon. A blade slices through the eye. Dada dada.
An elderly man, tall and thin with a back as straight as an arrow, appears in the hallway and walks across the threshold. It is Lothar Schafer, the eminent quantum chemist.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. Clashes of dichotomy awoke me. Now listen. One part of the contradiction is symmetric, conserving energy within the system. The other part is spontaneous, asymmetric with respect to the flow of time. Will the stone falling from the tower always land on the rocks below?
ARTIFICE. We have not an absolute frame of reference to raise up the answer. Tell me, Herr Professor, can you identify the indiscernibles? Would you rather have your Marilyn in the hay, or your Warhol on the wall? Leibniz? Alexander with his severed head in a sack? How can the murdered man walk and pretend he's alive with his head cut off like that?
FITZDYLAN. Eight skate and rotate. A bolt strikes the tower. Alex lost his head. Dr. Jung performed a symmetry operation, sewed his manna power back onto the space of the vacated crown. That's why Alexander walks like he does. He has manna power on his Kether.
ARTIFICE. The noggin. Once negated, once restored.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. Two states indiscernible from one another are the same states. This is the basis of science. The question is: What is indiscernible? Absolute space, time, direction.
ARTIFICE. Your lecture begins soon. Soon the acolytes shall arrive.
FITZDYLAN. They are praying now. I saw them in the garden beneath the rowan and the ash. They suppose the manifesto they so ardently seek shall materialize from junk, or reap meaning from the sounds of a flushing toilet.
ARTIFICE. The cacophony of marvelous machines on the assembly line floor.
FITZDYLAN. Hail to the Great Ford!
LOTHAR SCHAFER. Spontaneous processes bring about an increase in disorder and randomness. Entropy measures disorder. It is related to a system's number of possible arrangements. The entropy of the universe must increase.
FITZDYLAN. Hail disorder! Hail confusion! Hail the chaos!
LOTHAR SCHAFER. It is the natural state to which everything strives.
ARTIFICE. It worries me. I am not fully autonomous. My inference engine slips in and out of context. How was I to know the magnolia and the olive belong always outdoors? How was I to know the dead white men don't shop at the mall?
FITZDYLAN. They commanded you to invalidate the master card. It was too late. You carried the glass of mead upside down. You came undone.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. The principle of probability defines the direction of the flow of time, which goes but one way and has a certain randomness. The future is a state of increasing randomness.
ARTIFICE. I am subjected to chance, the probabilistic algorithm. I am always going forward. Here comes the if.... Next a then.... At last an else. Again. Again and again.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. You are fused into the sense of intrinsic time, of mass and charge.
FITZDYLAN. On. Off. On. Off.
ARTIFICE. Maybe there is another world with an opposite time sense, a Faustian Universe where order would increase.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. K-mesons have a time-sense flip. They can go from world to world. For them, the future may already exist.
ARTIFICE. Time is relational, plotted points on an infinite line.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. Mankind simply doesn't want to die.
ARTIFICE. That's part of the title of your lecture.
FITZDYLAN. It's time. The acolytes come from the garden.
LOTHAR SCHAFER. I'm done.
I Hear O Calling, 'Come away, Come away.'
The professor, his psyche withdrawing like a lepton into the nucleus of its atomic shell, the absolute impossibility, the tortoise in Transvaal, slumps his shoulders and walks back to his room in the Hallway of Infinity. He realized, I suppose, that he'd spoken too soon.
From the television on the north wall comes the echoing reverberations of applause. If you look, you will see a woman on the center stage of Wigmore Hall. She is singing.
It's too late
I flip the switch on ARTIFICE to OFF. The acolytes are coming — with no one in the study to teach them. I can barely even believe I've come all the way to Achernar again, so far from the briny sea. Time to high-tail-it outta here, fly back to the Lighthouse, and leave this swollen river behind. The journey to the Nowhere Existing Sea is far. When I get there, I know it: O will be ready to leave the cave. O will help me find the metaphor I'm searching for, the one that rules them all.
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