I believe you that that you experienced it that way.
I don’t necessarily believe that’s the way it happened,
as I experienced it differently.
I’m not saying that I’m right,
I AM saying that you might not be as well.
Alright, poor attempt at artistry over, the message is fairly simple: human perception is subjective.
Note what I didn’t say: I didn’t say that universal reality is subjective, but rather that the human ability to perceive it is.
I realize that most people “know” this, but I wonder how many people actually “understand” this.
I would say that one of the greatest detriments to comprehending this, is the inability to grasp the material nature of the human organism: a biological body, with a biological brain. It seems that somehow we (me) think that we are experiencing things around us as they actually are. If we step into a field and observe, the assumption is that we observed it with complete external validity (because we were there to observe it when the moment took place). The question isn’t whether or not a tree that falls in the forest alone makes a sound, but rather, whether an observer of the same tree understands the extent of what’s just taken place.
Here is how perception works as I understand it.
Stimuli around us stimulates our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and or flesh in general. This stimuli is converted into electrical impulses (via the sensory organs) and transmitted to the mind, where it causes a reaction in varying regions, which in turn respond automatically by (in a nutshell) creating a mental interpretation, which is then sent to the part of the brain which houses the perceptable part of the human (the part which is comprehending this post right now). In fact, often, much of the stimuli picked up never makes it to the perceptible “person” as it is deemed irrelevant by the subconscious.
What this tells me is that, if we are not aware that our subconscious can actively withhold information from us, we might be inclined to believe that we have the full picture.
So what does this mean? It just means that you might not be as right as you think you are.
You know that fight you had with your girlfriend? You know that one where you were both screaming at each other because you were so frustrated at how oblivious the other one was?
…. Well, it turns out you were wrong. In fact, as long as she was being honest, everything she shared was 100% correct. The weird thing though, is that you were 100% correct as well. Relative to each of your own perceptions. You both perceived what you perceived. But it doesn’t mean that either of you were right. How weird is that?
Understanding this marked the beginning of change in my own life and marriage. For example, in my own marriage, we would fight bitterly over the details of any and ever skirmish: stakes are high because “if you’re right, than that would mean that I’m wrong… and I know I’m not wrong”. That’s changed. I don’t care about details any more, other than to help understand “WHY” either of us perceived the situation the way we did. I believe everything my wife says 100%. However, I don’t necessarily believe that her perception (or mine) is “unclouded”. But it does lend to greater compassion and understanding of her motivations.
We get caught up REACTING to our perceptions, rather than examining our perceptions. Which is understandable: the organism has evolved to live in accordance with this self-generated interpretation of reality. And even if you believe it was all made, it still stands that this is the mechanism of perception afforded humans through whatever process of creation was used. Either way, it’s a powerful cocktail of illusion.
But this comes back again to what makes a human special. The ability to not only be animal, but to comprehend it’s animalness. The ability to see beyond the illusion. I touch more on this in my article entitled “Humankind”s Ability To Tend”, and so won’t weary you by going into further detail. Suffice to say, we can either respond to our individual perception in the same way that a canary does (unquestioningly), or we understand the nature of our human experience.
If two people can understand this than it opens the door to communication, exploration of the individual, and better understanding of the situation. Which actually, in turn, is a very humanistic outcome as people are validated. To not understand this, means to offend, by inadvertently disregarding another’s subjective reality: a non-humanistic outcome.
To sum it up, everyone thinks they’re right, and possibly everyone (except for those with mental disorders) has a reason for the things that they do; people’s actions generally make sense to themselves. To put it another way, most people are consistent to what they believe: even if this means that they are not accurate as to what is actually happening.
The trick is understanding this about ourselves and then applying it to others as well.
Image found on images.google.com and gleaned (and altered) from: http://soulofaman-zbj.blogspot.com/2010/07/truth-be-toldmy-wife-is-excellent-cook.html
The ability to perceive both real and imaginary dangers is what has helped to define us as animals; the ability to understand the illusory nature of many of these dangers is what helps define us as humans.
No other animal, that I can think of, has the ability to question it’s own instinctive nature. Similarly, no other animal has the ability to confront its fears and question the validity of its own experience.
Illusion reminds us that we are animals: even if we have come such a long way. Likewise, the ability to recognize our own illusions helps us to realize that we are becoming more than mere animal; the fact that we know can know this, yet still fear the dark, shows we have a ways to go.
meme created by myself fom a photo search on images.google.com*
*E-How Contributor, . N.p.. Web. 2 May 2013. <http://www.ehow.com/how_2190917_cooperate-childs-punishment-from-school.html>.
Imagine you and I are playing a game of logic in which we have pitted wits against one another and the odds of success come down to a one in two chance of victory. You have two choices, one of which leads to success and the other to defeat. You have a 50% chance of victory, and a 50% chance of defeat…. or do you?
Given a completely random sequence of events you have a 50% chance of either, but what if I had fooled you into thinking that the incorrect piece is the correct one. Without obtaining absolute certainty, you may assume that you can go with the one that “seems” right as you have a 50% chance of being right the reality is that your odds may very well be less. You only have 50% chance if there is no influencing factors – a completely random guess. The fact that I have manipulated and influenced your decision makes it more likely that you will choose the wrong one. The reality is (for example) that you have a 80% chance of defeat and a 20% chance of victory – or whatever the odds are that you’ll go against your convictions or not. You are making an estimation of your knowledge and basing it on a 50% model, however unknown variables may exist and you must adjust to the possibility – you must consider the margin of error. In this situation, you would be better off maximizing certainty than working on probability alone.
Similarly, when exploring and writing down your thoughts there is an element of randomness which effects the overall veracity of the thought. As you go back to format your text this is lost.
A thought cant be truly expressed in a re-write. The very effort of re-thinking the structure adds corrupting variable to what was originally thought and thus the thought can never be the same. It can never truly be honest. As I format I began to think of how others mmay interpret my writing and immediately think of how to make it better presentable. Now the thought doesnt exist for the exploration of the thought, but for the purpose of making it pleasant. As I (unwittingly) change my core motivation, the original thought is gone. I’ll never truly say what I intended to say. Even if I go back and add to it, my thought patterns have changed.
Even worse, in the midst of writing, once I began to think of the impact of my writing, or who may read it, I influence the conscious stream of thought and change it’s motivation. Even if I manage to wade through my ego and find my way back, I can never with absolute certainty arrive solely where I was just before.
For many this is not important as the margin of error is so small that they feel it is inconsequential and that they can stay true enough to the meaning: and regarding most of the things in the world they are probably right.
The goal of expressive writing is to get to a place where you can explore your thoughts without considering yourself or others. This has become increasingly harder and harder to do in the public forum, but than again no one is twisting your arm to post everything you consider.
Bluffing. N.d. Photograph. http://blog.triplejack.com/?p=176Web. 24 Jun 2013.
Ghassan Salman Faidi [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I would say that I have a focus on humanity for a few reasons: First of all, I’m human; secondly, there is a present-day possibility of what humans can do/become/experience that excites me more than the present day possibility of any other animal (at least as far as any potential which I’m aware of). Not saying that present day animals could not someday evolve a higher functioning brain, or that another species may arise with greater cognitive ability than humans, but that humans are unique in this manner, right now.
Let me explain #2: The unsuspected death of a dog (for instance) is a tragedy in the greater cosmic miracle of life: the odds that the species even survive, the fact that this particular unique organism lived, and the loss of potentiality to live a satisfying dog’s life (I’m sure that if able to make a cognitive choice, the dog would choose to live the best possible dog life it could). I could ask questions like “What would this dog have potentially done in its life? What level of pleasure could that dog have enjoyed? Or even simpler, what did the dog miss out on?” – If this could all be considered and turned into a value amount, than it could be aggregated along with the suffering (physical and mental) that the dog endures and I could come up with a reasonable understanding of the significance of the death of this dog.
Now, if a human dies in the same way, I would ask the same questions: “What would this person have potentially done in its life?” “What level of pleasure could that person have enjoyed?” Or even simpler, “what did the person miss out on?”. I think about things such as , the enlightenment experience of education, the ability to love, the pride of achievement, the anguish of loss transforming into the peace of acceptance, and so on and so on. To continue, the human also has the ability to contemplate those things which it does, bringing even greater value to them (ie. a dog can enjoy eating a bone, but can it derive more satisfaction from that experience by understanding its dog nature and that it has the ability to eat a bone?) The loss of any life is a tragedy, but how much more that of an organism that had the potential of self-actualization, and never realized it?
But value isn’t given simply by ability to perform (at least it shouldn’t be), I would also ask the question of suffering – “How much did the human endure that the dog may not have?” The human ability to ask and be tortured by questions like “why me?” make it tragically unique. A dog’s inability to contemplate its suffering could be considered a mercy.
To summarize all these things, I see unique potential in humanity that I don’t see in any other species. That to me is wondrous. It doesn’t mean that I love other life less, or think that other life is somehow not wondrous (it is!), but because I see the uniqueness of the human experience.
I would like to set forward* that Humanism is neither pro-supernatural nor anti-supernatural: it has rather to do with the concept of considering humanity and what is best for humankind (collectively and individually). Supernaturalism isn’t concerned with what is best for humankind, but rather belief systems regarding the state of nature: are there ghosts? Is ESP real? Etc…
In other words, even if it is true that, “everything that exists is by definition natural”, it still has no bearing on the greater humanistic goal of doing what’s best for humans. Even if something did exist which is not natural, we would STILL be under the obligation of making responsible humanistic decisions/actions.
Unfortunately, much (most?) supernaturalism falls into the realm of anti-humanist as it has a tendency to enslave people’s minds through false cause/effect, the perpetuation of fear through superstition, and encouragement of poor naturalistic (non-rational) decisions: all of which have a decisively non-humanistic effect. I would say that this is where the mistake of combining the two takes place.
To help further separate the two concepts, we could look at both a humanistic and anti-humanist approach to supernaturalism as seen in the following example.
Let’s say an individual has recently lost a loved one to disease. In the midst of grief, this person has an experience in which they believe their loved one is communicating to them from beyond the grave: perhaps the message is something along the lines of “I’m in a better place. You can release me. I want you to move on with your life”. This brings comfort to the individual, who truly believes that their loved one cared enough to reach out to them from the grave. Perhaps this person truly does get on with their life, and becomes a better person of it. Here we have a person engaging in a supernaturalism that ends with a decisively humanist outcome.
Now… let’s say that a friend (a rational thinker) hears this story and attempts to enlighten the person. While not trying to take away the significance of the experience, they clearly point out that their loved one did not actually speak to them from the grave. They then continue to explain the deleterious effects of superstition, and try to “point out” the fallacy of their experience as described. As a humanist, I would ask the questions:
* “Is this truly what’s best for the individual?”
* “Did the rational thinker take the time to discover the nuances of this belief and make the person feel understood?”
* “Did they deliberate about the ramifications of meddling with this person’s belief system?”
If not, than this was a approach that failed humanistic value, in that it did not take the emotional well-being of the individual (the organism) into consideration. The ramificiations could be even further reaching depending on how poorly the conversation goes. For example, this could affect their openness to listen to rational advice in the future causing potential future harm. As well, if they have an audience (or kids), they could then pass this distrust to others as well and thus cut them off from the benefits of rational thinking. All in all, an unsatisfacotrly non-humanistic ending to the story.
To summarize my thoughts, I am advocating humanism as separate from supernaturalism. A humanistic approach to existence could be defined as mere consideration and deliberate thought regarding what’s best for humanity. It need not entangle itself in the complicated business of accepting or rejecting the supernatural on the whole, but rather accepting or rejecting those practices of supernaturalism which either confirms or rejects its core value.
This article is in response to Jennifer Hancocks article posted at sumogirl.com. Check it out! Her blog on “Applied Humanism blog is fascinating and insightgul.
Think about this for a second.
Tending has in its definition the necessity of observation. For someone to tend to something they must be able to observe it. They have to be able to take care of it as a whole thing. Not as an aphid on a single leaf of a larger hedgerow, but as a gardener understanding the concept of the garden. Humans have the ability to observe the systems that are in place around them that bring cause. Humanity alone has the ability to understand the earth it lives on, the social interactions it’s involved in, and the phenomena that is happening all around, and of which it is constantly partaking in and being influenced by.
As far as I know, other animals dont have this ability. You can’t leave it to the Elephants to save the elephants. The elephant (while maybe aware of stylized phenomena around her) cannot comprehend the existence of the systems she’s part of. The elephant cannot understand the inner workings of the world in which she is just naturally existing. She’s just… naturally existing.
To concede to the elephant though- she is not stupid. She is just keenly in step with the generated numbers that are guiding her. She is simply, unquestioningly, observing the happenings around her through the eyes of an “unenlightened” animal.
Humanity on the other hand.
Humans not only have the ability to perceive the system around them, but to also comprehend their part in it. Aware of it’s own animalness. Keenly aware that it’s life is being guided by odds. But beyond the ability to both play out it’s role, humanity also has the ability to change what the system’s generating.
Think about that for a second.
Its like a scientist who has created for herself a virtual reality machine that she lives in. When the system calls for it, she awakens and crawls out of her machine to re-calibrates the parameters of the machine. She then crawls back into the machine and experiences the program. Likewise, humans have the ability to create social systems that they then exist within. When need be, they can work on these systems and alter them.
What other animal plans it’s own existence the way humans do?
Humankind’s incredible ability to tend.
(Admittedly, the world would need much less tending if humanity was not so conflicting)
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I can’t really see any downside to the procedure”.
“But putting your entire head into deep freeze for two hundred years, doesn’t that seem drastic to you?”. The psychiatrist leaned back in her black office chair awaiting a response. During the course of the interview she would make note of every word, inflexion, eye movement, and bodily shift that was made by her patient. She would then analyze it, cross reference it with previous sessions, and decide what she believed her patients true motivation to be. She was a professional and the government trusted her opinion entirely.
Ever since contact had been made with the future, people had been coming in droves to receive the procedure. A better life is a tempting offer, and for some, the premature removal of their head was a small price to pay. Especially when it came with the promise of future reattachment. In fact, in the beginning so many people had come forward for the procedure, that the government had had to quickly pass regulatory law to avoid abuses. First of all, you had to be sick. Secondly, your disease had to be on the official “Future Curable” list. And lastly, no jump artists.
In the earlier days, some psychiatrists had actually OK’d jump artists figuring their problems to be environmental and that a future one might bring a new outlook on life. Others figured what was there to lose except for their commission fee. The government however had seen differently and begun to crack down on those cases, levying huge fines on psychiatrists passing indiscriminately. The government bottom line was “What good would a jump artist be for those in the future? Why send them our problems.”
It was in these early days that Sheryl Hoover had made her comfortable niche in “Procedural Psychiatry”. Having just graduated from University, it was an easy entry. The demand for procedural psychiatrists so high, the bonuses offered, and the assurance which only a government job can bring, it had been an easy decision for her to make. She’d been in the profession now for 4 years.
“What’s drastic about it?” the patient responded excitedly with his hands spread open in front of him. “I won’t remember a thing. As far as I understand, you put me under and, as far as I’m concerned, I awake almost immediately in a new body. Cured”.
“Two hundred years in the future” the psychiatrist reminded him.
Sighing, a bit frustrated that his excitement hadn’t been passed on, “Listen doc, I’ve got a brain disease…”
“Yes Mr. Brown” The psychiatrist interrupted him. “I see on your sheet here not exactly what I would call a debilitating disease.”
“You listen here doc!” the patient flared up angrily. “You tell me what you think is debilitating? You sit there in your psychiatrists chair judging every person who walks through that big glass door of yours. You sit there and judge me day after day for the past week, Let me ask you a question doc. You ever had a disease?!”
“No Mr. Brown I haven’t”
“You ever had to worry about your disease flaring up at any time completely incapacitating you?”
“Mr. Brown, I would hardly consider your disease incapacitating. With minimal care and the proper medications, you will never even feel the effect of your disease.”
“Listen here you pompous ass! What kind of life do you call that? ‘Minimal care, and proper medication’? Do you think I want to live my life having to worry about ‘minimal care, and proper medication’? Especially when I have the chance to live my life to the fullest? Listen here, my disease is on your almighty ‘Future Curable’ list. It wasn’t me who put it there. So don’t treat me like an overgrown twit or jump artist trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Yes, two hundred years in the future. Or three hundred for all I care. As far as I’m concerned, you’re precious medical system tells me everything’s safe. The government assures me that you’ll be able to put me back together. Why the hell shouldn’t I jump at the chance? If I have the choice to live at one hundred percent, why settle for a mere ninety?” The patient flopped angrily against the back of his seat finished with his tirade.
“I see” the psychiatrist said calmly as she folded her notebook closed and stood up. “I will be reviewing our conversations over the next two days and submitting my evaluation of your case. You will be receiving something in the mail within the next two weeks pending final government decision. This will of course be the end of our professional relationship. If you have any questions regarding the final decision, you can of course inquire through the ‘Procedural Government’ office downtown. It’s been a pleasure meeting with you Mr. Brown. Best wishes and good luck”. The psychiatrist extended her hand to the patient clinically, shook his hand, and walked out the door. “Perfect Head-Case” she thought to herself as she walked out the door. “Lucky bastard will be on his way to the future within the month.”
When the first letter had arrived ten years ago the government was skeptical. Had it not been for its auspicious placement in the Oval Office it would have been entirely overlooked as being a fraud. The letter had been analyzed hundreds of times and the staff interrogated almost as frequently, but, it wasn’t until the arrival of the third and fourth in the same manner that the government began to get serious about the claims made. Each letter said more or less the same thing; our descendants, two hundred years in the future, were trying to contact us. Evidently, they had discovered the ability to send small amounts of matter backward in time but not large ones; thus the letter and not a flesh and blood ambassador. They claimed that the future held endless possibility and assured that global peace was not just a possibility, but a certainty.
What really made the government stand up and take attention was the content of the third letter. In it the author gave information about a supposed upcoming economic upheaval in Malaysia. One week later when the Malaysian economy tanked as had been predicted, the US government was paying attention. Shortly after came the fourth letter. In it were directions on how to “contact” the future. Directions were given to write questions we have and place them in a modern day “time-capsule”, making sure each capsule was accurately dated. Furthermore the letter gave explicit directions about where to place them so that they might be found. It would then sit buried for two hundred years, at which point it would be unearthed, read, responded to in the form of another letter, and sent back in time to the original senders. “If you have not received a response within a day, your capsule has been lost in the tide of history.”.
The first questions asked had been fairly benign. “Who are you?, Why have you contacted us? What are your intentions?” As promised, the very next day another letter had appeared answering all questions satisfactorily. Thus begin a series of more intricate long distance correspondence. The correspondents on the far side of the hundred years answered most questions quite adequately, but were cautious when talking about the particulars of their science and form of government. “You must understand that to have arrived where we are today, society has had to go through an evolution. The scientific and governmental truths you discover in your time by necessity will eventually evolve and change. It’s new form will itself give lend to its own predecessor. Inevitably, government and science will evolve to where we are today in our time, your future. To rush or interfere with this natural selection would have drastic impact upon the world we live in today and must not be chanced.”
It was during this time of interaction that the idea of the Procedure had been introduced. Having heard about the social, economic, and population troubles of our present times, our future counterparts had been quite moved. Beyond this they were absolutely appalled when they found out that we were still living under the global oppression of such “child hood” diseases as viral meningitis, and cancer. This evidently caused quite a stir in the future and the idea for the Procedure was conceived on our behalf.
“We cannot of course send our medicine or medical knowledge back in time, but we have devised a way in which you can send your sick forward to us. The earth is not as populated as it reportedly is in your time. It is a better place where love for mankind flourishes. Let us reach out to you. There is room for you here.” The letter then outlined a procedure in which the head of the afflicted could be removed and placed in a stasis chamber where it would be kept alive. Being stored in a mutually agreed on area, the heads would be received in the future, and attached to a new body which had been grown in their laboratories. The two hundred year process would be near instantaneous for the person undergoing the procedure.
The government was both horrified and grossly curious about the prospect of putting US citizens through this procedure. While the ethics of such actions stymied the intellectuals, the theory fascinated them. Could such a thing truly happen? At first the government experimented with solely the decapitation and storage of ape heads. The only setback had been with the first ape which the procedure had been tried upon. The day after, a letter appeared stating that the “drop-off” location no longer existed in the future and the head had not been received. Most likely too many people knew its location and that mass knowledge of its location over time had created too many variables which ultimately caused its demise. The project was “officially” abandoned, but in actuality moved to a secret location in North Dakota. The ape head was transferred to the new lab, and the very next day a letter had arrived stating its successful find and rejuvenation. From then on the feedback was all positive.
It was at this point that the top secret experiments began involving the use of real humans. The recipients of the Procedure had been carefully chosen from patients with a zero percent chance of recovery and lifespan of less than 2 weeks. Each patient was then briefed on what the procedure entailed, and for security reasons given implicit direction that if they survived and were able to send back a confirmation letter from the future, that they were to use very specific word combinations which would tell the government how things really were without raising suspicion of their future hosts.
Each of the initial seven procedures were all successes. For each of the procedures, once the head was placed in stasis, within the next day a letter would arrive from the recently revived patient in the future. Each paper was studied carefully and each paper’s “hidden” code revealed the future to be all that it claimed to be. The government was ecstatic.
Experiments would have likely continued for several years had not the story somehow been leaked. First the story appeared in fringe conspiracy websites, eventually into conservative magazines such as “Whistle Blower”, and finally into the mainstream media. The leak made it impossible to keep the procedures under wrap any longer. Once the story was broken, the government was under extreme pressure to open up the operation to the general public. Lawsuits were eventually launched against the government claiming that it’s unwillingness to administer the operation to the public stood in the way of an individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness. Underlying all of this was the continual barrage of criticism by the media. With an election year right around the corner, the government finally abdicated its position that the procedure was not well enough documented and the future not certain enough. Still claiming control over its administration, the Bureau of Procedural Government was created and for the first time ever time travel was available to the masses.
It was Tuesday, the day that Robert Brown walked into Kings Procedural Clinic to begin his new life as a Head.
“Do you have any last questions before we enter the operation theatre?”
Since receiving his acceptance letter from the Bureau of Procedural Government, there had been several questions that Brown would have like to talk to have asked, but now actually sitting in Kings Clinic, he couldn’t think of a single thing.
“So as far as I understand, you put me under and I wake up in the future.” He already knew the answer.
“That’s right. We will use a neural anesthetic to slow down your brain synapses and allow us to begin the separation process. As a side effect, the neural anesthetic will put you in a state of mental slumber in which you will be unaware of any trauma. Directly after the procedure your head will be transferred into cryogenic storage where you will remain for the next two hundred years before reattachment.”
“So explain to me again how you can be sure that my head will actually make it without being lost?”
“All heads are kept in the same location. At any time if anything disastrous happens to the clinic in the next two hundred years, none of them will have made it.”
“That’s hardly assuring.”
“On the contrary it makes retrieval a certainty!” the doctor smiled. “You see, because we are in continual communication with the future, any incident interfering with their ability to receive your head can be diagnosed and avoided”.
“But how can you predict a disaster that hasn’t happened yet?”
“By their effects on the future!” The doctor smiled “You see, if your head doesn’t make it, we will receive a letter from the future telling us so. We can then move the clinic to as many places as we need. When we find a location that will remain untouched over the next two hundred years, we will receive a confirmation letter from the future. The very fact that they’ve found it assures us that it will survive”.
Robert Brown ran his hand through his hair and looked at the ceiling in contemplation. After a moment of silence he asked “Why would you ever need to find a new location once you’ve already found one that works? How could it survive two hundred years today, but not tomorrow?”
“Well, Mr. Brown” the doctor began as he took of his glasses and cleaned them on his jacket, “anytime you are operating under knowledge of future events, you are bound by inevitability to change them. Permit me to explain it this way. What would happen if we could tell you with certainty that your best friend would be killed tomorrow in a traffic accident?”
“I suppose I would do everything I could to keep him off the streets”.
“Exactly. With your new gained knowledge you could convince your friend to stay home, avoiding his ill-fated destiny, and thus changing the future.”
”So what you’re saying is that the very fact that you know something will happen, keeps it from happening?”
”Ask yourself this, ‘how many people does it take to change the future?’”.
Brown thought about it for a moment and answered, “I guess only one, if it was the right person”.
“Exactly” answered the doctor. Through foreknowledge, you can individually change a friend’s destiny. But a thousand people on the other side of the world, who have foreknowledge of his future but no way of altering it, are irrelevant. So then, it’s not the knowledge of the future which matters, but your ability to change it.”
Brown rubbed his chin in thought.
The doctor pulled a quarter out of his pocket and continued… “Now consider this coin. If I flip it in the air what are the chances that it will land on heads?”
“There would be a fifty-fifty chance.”
“Exactly” the doctor said, flipping the coin into the air.
“The time line is much like flipping a coin.” It landed heads. “We can know its possible outcomes and make a reasonable guess at where it will land. If we don’t like the results we can try again. When kept to just two possibilities (like the two sides of a coin) the chance of the time line ending up the way we want is more likely. However, if we add another thousand sides to this coin,” he bent over and picked up the coin, depositing it in the front pocket of his smock “the odds of a predictable ending are much less likely, if not impossible.”
“Now magnify that over a longer period of time.” The doctor continued. “Maybe today only one person knows the location of the government’s Procedural Storage Unit. His knowledge introduces more possibilities for the future, but depending on his ability to alter it, is probably not enough to change its future. But now extend that knowledge to a thousand people over the next year. The possibility of future interference with the lab increases, while the chance of the future ending up the way we want it to becomes less likely. Much like flipping a million sided coin.”
Brown scrunched his forehead. After a moment he responded, “So the reason that you change the location frequently, is because…”
“Because” the doctor concluded on Brown’s behalf “as more and more people find out its location, it is destroyed. And when the future is changed, the only thing to do is to change it back.”
They talked for about another twenty minutes at which time, Brown was led to pre-op where he changed into a patients robe. A few moments later, one of the tallest black men he had ever seen, rolled him into surgery on a gurney. As he lay on his back waiting for the neural anesthetic he thought about the irony of his decision to donate his body to medical science.
Thoughts of the past. Sharpness in the base of the neck. Fading memory. Darkness. Times end. Nothing.
Buzzing sound. Low murmuring. Darkness.nn
“Where am I?”n
The buzzing continues.
“I can’t see anything”. “Please talk to me”. Tears “Please tell me what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going on”. Sobs
The buzzing stopped and a dispassionate voice replied, “Do you know who you are?”
Choking back his tears the patient replies “Robert Brown. I was supposed to be a head case. I don’t remember anything else. Where am I? Why can’t I see?”
Starts to cry again.
Robert Brown felt a faint pinch somewhere in the back of his head. His tears immediately stopped and he could not speak. All fear disappeared as he lay without emotion or thought. He would not speak, nor would he try, for that part of his brain had been completely turned off.
The body of Robert Hoover listened dispassionately as two unknown voices discoursed something, which if he had had the ability to focus on would not have understood anyway. The buzzing sound started again.
“They’re amputating my head” he thought to himself; but after a moment he coolly reflected that this was not possible as his head had already been amputated. “This must be part of the reattachment procedure”.
He began to envision a picture of a lady, standing in a garden, wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Since he did not have the mental ability to remove the image, nor the desire, it stayed in the front of his mind: a gigantic billboard of neural imagery. Robert watched self-detached.
“This is my mother” he noted to himself. “This picture was taken twenty one years ago at my twelfth year birthday party. I had this photo in an album at my apartment. This was my favorite picture”.
He watched for several minutes before he blinked, realizing that his eyes had opened. The picture was gone and all that was left was the memory; he had been staring at a picture of a man in an iron mask: behind him were throngs of people worshiping him. He had been only twelve but he had never forgotten the love and awe he had had for this god.
A dim light was illuminating the room. A man stood above him snapping his fingers. How long had he been there?
The man spoke, “All right, he’s awake. Release basic motor function, but keep him numb”.
Noting some movement behind him, Robert “felt” another sharp pinch at which point his head flopped to the side. He lay that way for a second before he realized that he had the ability to lift it back up again.
Steadying his head, he looked up at the man above him. Because of the light behind him he could not clearly see his face: however he seemed to look just like any other of the myriad persons he’d seen in his lifetime.
Clear thought began to work its way back to the surface of his mind. He perceived something was wrong, but was not quite able to grasp what it might be. He wondered if he should be afraid, but found that he didn’t quite have the ability to. Instead he looked curiously at the man and asked where he was.
“You are in Surgical Procedure Room #3 – Mine shaft Mackenzie. I am your orientation guide. Please do not try to stand up yet, as your fine motor skills have not yet been activated. We have released your cognitive abilities to understand and process information as well as the ability to store the information. However, your emotional centers have been temporarily disabled. Over time we will gradually release some of your emotive abilities as reward or compensation for your eager labor on behalf of the State. After all, the ability to love the State produces the highest level of self-sacrifice, which in turn brings about the greatest good for us all”.
“The State… “ he thought to himself.
The man continued, “Since the State came into existence over a hundred years ago (although it has dwelt longingly in the heart of mankind since times began) we understood that the greatest hindrance to our survival is our own lack of regard for each other. Our personal lives, our governments, our economics, they all said the same thing, ‘what is best for me is what’s most important. Greed is good’. However, we came to realize that if we were going to survive as a specie, that sacrifice must be made.”
He continued on, “Not the sacrifice of the one for the many, but each one of us for all of us; sacrifice must become a way of life. The State has brought us the ultimate gift: something bigger than ourselves. It has united all of mankind in the betterment of mankind. What better way is there to serve man than through loyalty to the State? We are all equal. From slave to congressman, we all serve the State equally with our lives. The greatest level of achievement can be summed up by the greatest level of sacrifice.” A light twinkled in his eyes and tears formed behind his eyes as he placed his hand to his chest. Robert Brown watched dispassionately.
Regaining his composure the guide began again.
”The mining operation has become the most vital of our State’s economy. Without the raw materials we pull out of this very mine, the State as we know it would not be able to continue. However, due to the increasing demand for energy we have had to dig deeper and deeper. With every kilometer we descend, the more hazardous and unbearable the work becomes. This is the sacrifice of the servant of the mines. This is the sacrifice of the hero.”
The guide stepped back revealing a mirror. Brown was distantly horrified at what he saw. His head had been attached to a gargantuan body. His head seemed dwarfed in comparison to the size of his neck and shoulders. All across his body were scars as if it had been patched and sown together. At his neck was an iron collar which attached his head.
“We have refitted you with a new body” the man continued. “One that will live for many more years than you would have thought possible. Your part will be the service of the mines.”
The man stepped forward and saluted him.
“The state has cured your disease Robert Brown and extended the years of your life. What better way can you repay this debt than through service to your fellow man?”
The man stepped back again and looked at him longingly. “I envy you” he said as if thinking aloud, “You have made the ultimate sacrifice.”