My buddy Simon is awesome. He’s a geek like me, loves his techie job, programs on the weekends, has a Golden Lab. And cancer. The lethal kind.
Simon also happened to have figured out the meaning of life. He discovered some other stuff, like how to hack the universe.
He discovered that the meaning of life is to go out with an Original Death.
Simon’s discovery is quite remarkable.
We are all prisoners of a computer simulation. We exist only in a digital form.
Our planet Earth, our entire Solar System, are all simulated. Your body, your cereal, the laptop in your lap, the oven in the kitchen, the entire world, they are simulated. It’s a simulation of atoms, with some interesting starting conditions. We were allowed to evolve over time, to populate this planet, and die in unique ways.
Sometimes when I’m on the bus, it’s been an uneventful ride and I’m absorbed by the scenery, I blink and the landscape changes. It’s not the same Pacific Northwest scenery that I’ve grown accustomed to. The mossy pines get replaced by cacti or centuries-old oaks, the rolling hills morph into dusty plains or icy tundra. I watch and try to figure out where “here” is.
Highway signs are a dead giveaway, as are the billboards or the ads on the sides of buses, so I try to ignore those. I look for the birds, the foreign deer, lions, carts full of wares being pulled by bored-looking camels. These make the whole ordeal somewhat sporting.
But it’s gotten too easy. Which is another way of saying that I’ve seen every single country on the planet. The ones that have buses, which is most, save for the Vatican or Monaco. Continue reading
A little old grandpa from Romania cursed me. Best thing that’s ever happened to me.
His name, as I later learned, was Miloslav, and he was behind me in line at the Starbucks when we had our little run-in. Well, to be perfectly honest, when I ran into him and spilled my coffee right down his back.
It was September three years ago and on that particular day the first chill descended upon the city and plunged the temperatures. Snow wasn’t out of the question.
Miloslav, being about one hundred and fifty years old, or at least acting like it, didn’t respond well to the sudden fluctuations. Even worse to the downpour of hot coffee I accidentally subjected him to.
He began shouting in a language I didn’t understand, his limbs started flailing about, and he tapped me a few times with a gnarled but smoothed-down tree branch that he used as a cane. I was too shocked to do much more than stand there and try to apologize, all to no avail.
Miloslav’s grandson, a cute boy in his 20s named Stanislav, tried to calm his grandfather, also without much success. As the tirade went on, the look on Stan’s face went from surprise to embarrassment to outright fright, and Stan’s so-far fruitless tactics went from pacification to moving his irate grandfather toward the exit and away from me. Stan placed himself between myself and Miloslav, but the damage was done.
The Choice Box, CB for short, sat on the table in front of me. A beer stood between us, half finished. I looked at the pint and wondered. “Who drank that beer?”
I looked around the hotel room. I was sitting on a chair in front of a table, a beer sitting on top of that. An old-fashioned analog clock hung on the wall, its hands hovered around 4, but the background was a digital image that said it was 7:22pm.
“Half the beer is gone. Who drank it?”
I wondered about this for a bit, zoned out for a few minutes, traveled along the pathway that my thoughts were carving through my mind.
It was like riding a train through the countryside for a while. You stare out the window and get lost in the terrain. Follow a river and imagine what it’s like to navigate it. Watch birds chase the train for a while and admire the creatures that hang there, within arm’s reach, as they soar. You watch the world, but can’t reach out and touch it.
The terrain and the inhabitants were my own memories and thoughts and desires. I sat back and thought through the events that lead to this moment, rode the mental train that went from “Last Sync Me” non-stop to “Current Me”. I rode the train and watched.
I drove to Issaquah with the top down, my favorite brown jacket wrapped me in an orgasmic layer of comfort. “Pink Floyd” played through the speakers, of course. (It plays now, though a different album.) I sped through the twisty roads and trusted the GPS to get us there safely. Of course it did.
At the bar I ordered the barleywine I’d come for, and a cheap order of buffalo chicken sliders. My mind didn’t process in that moment that combining spicy food with a barleywine may not have been the best idea.
I read a different book now, Top 10 Volume 2. The book had one issue left, and that’s the time it took me to drink my beer, have the spicy sliders, and notice a man and woman sit down at the bar.
Under a late-March sky, under hues of gold and blue and white, our world changed.
I was reclining on a patio chair in the shade of a large umbrella, a glass of sherry on the table by my side, a book in my hands. I had rented this cottage for the month and on this, the second day of my stay, went through the bookshelf in the living room and settled on this book to read.
Nothing too fancy about it, just your average pile of pages bound in a red leather cover, black letters etched into its surface, lines crisscrossing in some random abstract pattern on the front. I opened the book, took in the smell of paper, pondered at how curious it was that this scent still continued to mine the depths of my emotions, and began reading.
The book started out as a mystery, a plain and by the numbers murder with half a dozen characters and three separate storylines that I knew would careen around until they collided. But with each chapter came the more and more frequent digressions.
The characters were talking about the murder less, had started going off on tangents that I was sure would somehow matter in the end. Seemingly unimportant details from childhoods were brought up, stories of long-forgotten friends or lovers began to insert themselves into otherwise-ordinary courtroom scenes and graduation speeches.
The background characters took it all in stride, never piping up to interrupt the strange and unexpected soliloquies. Continue reading
I roll out of bed and pull on a pair of flannel pants, matching shirt, red and blue patterns on both. I walk out of the bedroom, down the hallway to the bathroom.
I place a bucket under the sink and open the tap, then release my own stream into the toilet. Water going into two different receptacles.
With a practiced and steady hand I reach up above the sink into a plastic bin, pull out a measured spoon of blue powder, and dump this into the bucket.
Once I’m done I wash my hands, transfer the contents of the bucket into a plastic watering can in the shape of an elephant, and walk around my small apartment, watering the dozen or so plants I have scattered on every windowsill and some counters.
The plants are simple creatures, they want little. Some blue medicine mixed into a bit of water and that’s all the plants need. Continue reading
It is an alien world that is around us. Literally.
It’s outside of our experience, if our own thoughts are the only measure of reality that we can have.
I watch a bee fly over the flowers on my patio. They’re beautiful shades of pink and orange, and the bees have been busy lately, buzzing from bell to bell. I watch them and wonder what it would be like to be a bee. They get to fly and crawl around miles and miles of gorgeous flowers to gather the very energy that their society needs to sustain itself. They fly back and sometimes do a fancy dance for their identical siblings, informing the hive of the location of a particularly plentiful patch.
An alien kind of existence. Their communication system so different, so unintelligible to humans. We’re going to have to spend millions in research grants, thousands of hours of effort, entire buildings built, and gigabytes of data across the globe will go towards understanding what one bee tells another by way of its dancing and buzzing. A task that their tiny minds are incredibly well-equipped to perform.
We are spending ourselves to understand the language, the grammar of bees. Because we wish to know their alien thoughts.
And of course our own thoughts are little-more understood.