Always On

Tagged as Butler

Written on 2007-06-23 11:59:00

Clumsily Jim reached for his cell phone to turn off the alarm. The interest to get out of bed was nonexistent but of course everyone is interested in eating. After work he drove home. Maybe he'd go to the gym later. Later, after eating dinner with his parents, he slept. Of course, there was more to Jim and Jim's life than this but I feel I have described enough. No doubt you are picturing a man you'd think of as boring and to tell the truth Jim thought of himself in much the same way. While most of Jim's friends were interested in partying or young, boisterous things Jim preferred a sort of contemplative reverie that proved anathema to most of his would-be companions. Such seclusion tends to produce odd, misshapen little creatures and he was no exception. His mane was always a bit disheveled and no matter what he wore he always felt that the idea of it being an outfit rather than a smattering of fabrics was some elaborate ruse bound to be seen through any minute.

Gor was Jim's ancestor. It's hard to say how distant an ancestor but it is fair to say that it was distant enough that Gor had no concept of ancestry. Nor a concept of concepts for that matter. I mention Gor here only to note that beyond this there is virtually nothing I can tell you about him. If anyone should know about Gor one would think it should be Jim. But Gor's very name was unknown to him. Prehistory is odd that way. If our protagonist had known of his ancestor it is almost certain that he would want to know all about him but his notion of his ancestor was as vague as Gor's notion of notions. If there is such a thing as Posthistory perhaps it will weave these threads together better.

Jim's antisocial behavior stemmed from something that had grown in the back of his head as a child. He wasn't sure what it was but it would occasionally throb due to some change in...who knows what. Perhaps the air pressure. When it throbbed in this way it induced a discomfort in Jim so profound that he withdrew from whatever environ he was currently inhabiting and when there was nowhere to withdraw to physically, he drew inward. Over the years Jim began to associate the discomfort with things. Naturally, any creature that has a certain level of mental function where language is concerned at some point tries to find a sign for the things that matter in his experience of reality. In the case of his discomfort, Jim was gradually associating the sensation with untruth which is neither truth nor lie nor half-truth. In fact, this idea of untruth itself might be more fairly called discontinuity. Jim like most of his kind was a very simple creature though and there were many discontinuities that were suppressed in his weaker moments or, in his ineptitude, missed altogether.

There are considerable difficulties to being an "intelligent" being with a short lifespan. For one, the preoccupation with death is incredibly wasteful. It wastes time, thought, energy. I'm pretty sure it just wastes except potentially at the moment of it's acceptance but then this is speculation on my part. If I wasn't immortal my speculation might be wasteful too. Once you're immortal and time isn't a limited resource though the capacity to waste time goes out the window with it's scarcity. At any rate, Gor didn't have to worry about a lot of this. Some cosmic mercy bestowed him with an utter lack of time with which to ponder anything so great, abstracted, and ominous as death. He had more immediate concerns. Jim though had all too much time on his hands, not that he wasted great swaths of it pondering some sort of end. Jim did ponder a great deal on the order of things though which after some schooling led him to the door of history. Jim, being a clever sort, regarded history in the right way. Some presumably great creatures had introduced to the notion of history several hundred years prior the notion of progress and the two blended quite naturally in the minds of most. Jim however saw that the notion of progress was a hypothesis designed to fit the data. Things were getting more complex and that complexity was the face of progress. But of course entropy would take care of eroding the past to give it a nice exponential decline all the way back to the x-axis of prehistory. History never learned to be itself in high school but it got straight As on all of it's memetics tests.

One of the difficulties with intelligent mortality is the tendency to miss long term trends, particularly cycles. The preoccupation with the immediate is so great that local distortions and occurrences seem much more than they are. Most parents forget by the time they choose to raise children that diversity and difference is important. At a certain age in the cycle, notions of progress and community give way to the pursuit of easy living in walled gardens. Children oftentimes miss this aim of the parents and see them as callous and evil only to themselves lose interest in the great struggle years later. And so trends ebb and flow in our Always On society but the changes are too slow and enormous to be seen like tidal waves under the ocean rather than obelisks in the desert. The complexity has grown such that we can no longer distinguish right from wrong or progress from decline, obsessed though we be with such undertakings. And now that we are at last acknowledging the idea of healthiness in method we are trying to discover the healthy way to do everything. Healthy living, healthy relationships, healthy innovation and markets, healthy production and consumption (we call that sustainability). But our concept of health is trapped inside the confines of our mortality. A southern belle's ideas about the necessity of a certain etiquette differ hugely from those of a New Yorker and neither is healthier for their biases, nor does either know a healthier living. So, here we are at the beginning of the 21st century and we've begun to understand everything about how little we know.

We're beginning to understand how life works and biology functions. We're beginning to understand what makes materials act the way they do and what fundamental forces hold sway in the universe. And somewhere some scientist realized that the entire universe and all of time, history and prehistory and posthistory alike, were technically equivalent to a computation in which atoms and energy were data sets and changes over time were the results of functions fed into functions. So it was that Jim rose one morning and climbed the ladder of abstraction, stepping above the past, present, and future into a darkness in which he said, "It must be so. It has already been computed who knows how many times. Our iteration is uncounted and uncountable. We will solve for the mystery of existence once again. And if by grace our knowledge grows fast enough we might escape the tangles of our chaos before it crashes down over us. If only we could sharpen the edges of old glyphs or dull the background noise of the present. Alas, we are mired in the modern and mystified by the moth-eaten. The earth is a muddy, muddy place."
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