The Pulse: B.C.
The Stories They Told Themselves
Berry had been a human for 28 years now, yet he still hadn’t quite got the knack. For the first 13 years he was too busy with family and school to think much about the meaning of it all. Yet when he was infracted at the age of 13 he began to see human life for what it was: absurd. Human lives had substance — scent, colour, proportion, taste — but no meaning. No overarching point.
Nothing connected humans to the world around them, or to one another. One tentacle went out to another tentacle, yet that second tentacle may or may not respond to the first. There was no automatic reciprocal current, no interlink. No arcing pulse. No Orange Essence.
Nor did human life seem to lead anywhere. Everything people said about the afterlife was so much fluff. The heroes humans had believed in for thousands of years were about as believable as the super-heroes in movies that flew from planet to planet or projected filaments from their wrists like a giant spider. In reality, no one could walk on water and no one could fly. And yet there was a constant need to believe that magic was possible, and that somehow everything would all come together in the end. It was just as Sartre and Camus said it was: meaningless and absurd.
No wonder humans invented so many ways to escape their own nauseating reflections. Not that everyone felt this way, of course. 50% of the people were in love with themselves, posting their photos and slogans on home pages and blogs, happily projecting themselves onto everything they saw. Yet Berry suspected that at some level, perhaps unconsciously, humans were sick of their own reflections. Facebook and Instagram were hardly panaceas. Why else did they still find refuge in drugs so potent that they could barely see the real world, religions so powerful that they didn't want to see the real world, and entertainments so captivating that they traded them for the real world?
For most humans, the drama series was the most efficient way to avoid reality. Immersed in these entertainments, they found themselves in the identities of the fictional characters on the screen. For many people, the screen became the real world.
It didn't matter if the series was comic or tragic, as long as the human was totally immersed in a compelling world with believable characters, a beginning, an end, and some sort of meaning. The exact nature of the meaning was almost irrelevant. It was the triumph of form over content. If humans felt the coherence of the structure — even if the structure was about vampires or the end of the world — they still felt good because of the coherence and the meaning. As long as it all came together, as long as it all made sense, no one really cared what it was about. It was the triumph of sense in an otherwise senseless world.
The tendency of humans to immerse themselves in artificial structure explained their obsession with blogs and web sites. These took the amorphous chaos of the Web and brought its tangents to a single point. Equipped with a mouse or trackpad, the individual became the centre of the floating cloud of the world, the North Star around which circled their borrowed obsessions.
The human need to unify diversity was understandable, given that they existed in separated bodies of bone, flesh, neuron, and skin. Their bodies didn’t connect with the wide world around them — they couldn’t press their middle fingers into their palms and project a filament fifty yards — so they invented a web-like technology that did. This part of humanity was born of anatomical necessity and contained within it a noble impulse, one that ensured their survival as well as their dominance over all other earthly creatures. Berry remembered from his grade 12 English class that Hamlet called them the paragon of animals, noble in reason and infinite in faculty. They lived on the ground yet they were like angels or gods. Once they accomplished their divine chores on earth, they would return to the upper realms from whence they came. In a final, miraculous transformation they would crest into the air above them, at last to become one with the majestical roof fretted with golden fire.
Yet humans also went the other way — from coherence back to chaos, from dominance back to destruction. One minute they collected the stray filaments of the world around them, and the next minute their deepest ganglia signalled that there was an infinite number of filaments to which their dendrites weren’t connected. They scrambled to find their place again, panicked to regain what they’d lost, and then attacked anything that questioned their dominion.
The crest became a trough, the trough a gulf, the gulf an abyss into which they fell at regular intervals. The paragon of animals became a quintessence of dust, and the majestical roof fretted with golden fire became a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. It was at this point that they resorted to drugs, religion, and entertainment to forget that there was an abyss in the first place.
Perhaps one day humans would see what Baulis saw eighteen thousand years ago: that all existence is a sea of crests and troughs, and that all waves are unified by The Pulse. Perhaps one day they’d see that they didn’t have to dominate the world to be part of it.