Dan

Mr. and Mrs. Lyapunov

 

Mr. and Mrs. Lyapunov wake with the bright white sun peeking over the hilltops, jumping through their window, warming the walls and the bed and their golden skin.

Lola wraps her arms around him, and buries her head in his neck. “Mrrnu beneewe medit dissarh?” she says, all muffled.

“What’s that?” Eddie asks.

She laughs, and bends her neck back to look up at him. “Can you believe we made it this far?”

His eyes felt like morning dew. “I can.”

“It feels new again.”

“Well, it certainly helps to be reborn.”

Eddie stretches a bit under her, feeling the muscles breathe, and basks in the luxury of no aches or pains as he wraps her in new arms.

“So what is it this year?”

“What is what? Where am I? Who are you?” He feigns confusion, and she has to bomp him on the head with a pillow.

“Your yearly promises. Got your surprise?”

“Maybe you don’t get your secret right away in the morning.” He yawns. “Sheesh.”

“Maybe you ran out, finally.” She pokes him, playfully. “Maybe I’ve finally stolen the last of your mysteries.”

“I doubt it,” he says, drifting back over the years, lost in thought.

Continue reading

Standard
Dan

The Giant and The Princess

I.

There once lived a scary giant, far away up in the sky-lands. On a bedrock of clouds he built his castle, and he lived there with his wife in solitude.

By day, when she went off to work, he would walk the halls of echoing stone, and mutter to himself about all the people, little and big, who’d done him wrong. He’d mutter about the black clouds around him, and found it quite impossible to enjoy much about his easy-going life in the sky.

At night, his wife would come home and cry, and he wouldn’t know what to say. Sometimes, he wouldn’t be able to stop talking. He was sure that if he said the right thing, the world would click together. Other times, the giant would slip into a silence that felt like a magic spell had settled over his castle, and nobody would speak a word aloud there ever again.

II.

No, wait.

There once lived an angry princess, exiled from her country by a conniving duke who stole her true essence from her. For seven upon seven years, she wandered the lands. To survive, the princess sold her jewelry and her books, until the only precious thing she had left was a tiny black vial which she tied with a loop of wire to her neck.

It was whispered that during her travels, she had asked the giant and his wife for lodging, having partly forgotten herself. For she had actually known them before the treasonous act that stole her self away, but could not remember.

No-one across the land knew who the princess was any more, and gradually, as they forgot, so did she. She traveled unknown and unnamed, slipping between the silences and seeking only that which she couldn’t name. All the princess had left was herself and her anger, in a tiny glass vessel that glowed fiercely black around her neck.

III.

Hang on, though. The giant wasn’t really that scary to people who knew him. He didn’t really spend his days in solitude, stalking the echoing halls of his sky-castle. He would go around helping the people in his sky-neighborhood, or at least the giants like him.

But the princess thought that was just a disguise of his true nature, which she saw as filled with an awful angry blackness.

Was that the same spell of black fury that she kept in her vial from childhood, lashed tightly around her neck with a magic wire? We all thought it might be, but we were afraid to say so, for fear she might uncork the darkness and be unable to put it back.

IV.

Hmm, hold up a second.

Didn’t the scary giant actually turn out to be the angry princess’s father? I think that’s what we eventually found out, when we told and re-told this story. And perhaps they knew it all along: that what made the giant so scary turned out to be the same thing that made the princess so angry.

In amongst the murk and mire of life, the princess was mad at the world and wanted to hate the giant. The giant wanted to talk to his daughter, but didn’t know how, and surely couldn’t see why the princess thought he was so scary.

But if you ever spoke to them of it, they would refuse to believe such a crazy thing about the other. And the rancor between them only grew, even though they might have known, deep down, in their heart of hearts, that they weren’t that different.

The giant still held grudges close, which was the main thing that made him so frightening. He could not imagine why the princess held a grudge against him in kind, and this soured his mind and filled him with a dull rage. He could do nothing, and so he paced his halls, letting his anger seep out of him slowly.

The princess had, unfortunately, inherited all of the giant’s smoldering anger, even though it ground her down to admit such a thing. She would clamp her hand around the vial at her neck, gritting her teeth without noticing. She couldn’t talk to him, because their angers were as magnets, like repelling like.

And so it was that the curse kept them both in chains for many years.

V.

So, slow down. I realize that fairy-book stories are supposed to end with something like “They all lived happily ever after,” but this one isn’t completed yet.

And this is more of a thinly-veiled metaphor than a fairy-book story, besides.

We all know what I mean when I talk about the curse of chains.

And I have to apologize to the angry princess and the scary giant, because I don’t know how to help you break out of your chains. I’ve tried. But they’re not my chains to break.

VI.

We get so wrapped up in ourselves, sometimes, that we assume our versions of people are the real thing. We forget that there’s an interpretive distance, a gap in understanding, between what we think about people and how they really are. It’s obvious when you say it, but it’s less obvious when you’re riding a river of emotions, imagining another person and how they will respond to something you say. Something you don’t say. Something you do. Something you failed to do.

So we see others as caricatures. I see a scary giant, a golden fool, a cursed spinster, a sparkling prince, a manipulative step-mother, a deservedly homeless beggar, a cardboard cutout wearing our surface-level sketches.

I get so wrapped up sometimes, it’s hard to move the person and my version of that person apart. There needs to be some space there, so I can squeeze in the admission that I might be wrong about them.

I guess it’s part of being a human. Or part of being a scary giant, or an angry princess, or anything else we manage to make out of each other.

Standard
Dan

A Painterly Muse

Black and blue seams stretch through the red sunlight on your eyelids, as you wake up with your head pulsing. You groan in pain and go to push on your temples, but her hands are already there.

Baby, she says. You woke me up with your moans, and, uhh. Not in a good way. Aren’t you taking your meds? I thought you and the doc had it finally figured.

I know I should, but. You stop. The flares look like inverted stars overlapping the morning sun, a brighter black than your mind can handle right now. I can’t. I can’t… explain. I’ll explain. Later.

Even through the haze of the oncoming pain, you know that’s just going to make her angry. It makes you feel even worse when she starts crying instead, and gets out of bed, sobbing.

Don’t cry, you squeeze out through splintering teeth. But your echolocation on her sobs (between the pulses of pounding at your temples) assures you she’s gone.

I guess it’s time I finally come clean, you say. You’re not sure if that came out your mouth or only your mind, but it doesn’t matter.

Continue reading

Standard
Dan

Frequently Asked Questions about The Human Experience™

What even am I?

Although you may not remember agreeing to be a part of The Human Experience™, don’t worry. This is completely normal, part of our “secret sauce” that increases verisimilitude during your time spent as a client in the human state.

I seem to have little to no control over myself. Why?

Yes, this is normal, especially as a developing human. Feelings or emotions can override your experience throughout the client lifecycle. This is by design.

Humans have a multi-modal state of consciousness, where much of the processing happens without their awareness. This functionality is also by design, so don’t worry too much when you don’t understand your own mind! This partially hidden, not-fully-explicable processing is a key factor in our recipe that helps make The Human Experience™ so exciting for our clients.

Why is my body breaking down?

Part of the current iteration of The Human Experience™ includes realistic biological breakdown. The exciting part is, it can happen in so many fascinating ways! You’ll never guess how your human body will fail, and that’s part of why people choose The Human Experience™ time and time again.

Because of the way your consciousness arises from your body’s systems, you will find that your stay in The Human Experience™ is affected directly by changes in your body over time. Pretty neat!

Other humans keep messing with me in strange ways. What’s the deal?

Yes, other clients in The Human Experience™ are just like you. Set in a world of limited resources, with limited understanding of your selves, you are all engaged in a real-time struggle for resources and information! Will you cooperate? Will you war against each other? Only time will tell! Each iteration of The Human Experience™ allows for the full spectrum of interactions.

Why can’t I remember things?

Imperfect memory is a planned feature of The Human Experience™ as well, so don’t worry if you seem unable to remember simple things, even for short periods of time.

Most people choosing the The Human Experience™ enter it at a time partially along the Information Gap, so we recommend using whatever technology is currently available for memory augmentation. These options include writing, computerized search and retrieval, and telepathic off-site storage where available.

Why can’t I forget things I want to forget?

Unfortunately, sometimes the human mind’s subconscious processing will focus on things that you seem to have no control over. In this state, you may be stuck in a loop of sorts, iterating over the same painful memories or the same anxiety-inducing projections.

We recommend using various psychological techniques supported in your timescale of The Human Experience™, such as mindfulness meditation, discussing the issue with other clients of The Human Experience™, or attempting to avoid the loop by focusing your mind elsewhere.

As you have found, it’s not exactly easy to steer the mind you are provided in The Human Experience™. This is an intentional feature to keep things exciting and fresh, but we understand that it causes quite a lot of confusion to the clients. Good luck!

Why do I suffer?

All suffering is relative; you can easily compare your current level of suffering in The Human Experience™ with others in your timescape to see where your level of suffering lies in relation to the average. Unfortunately, our lawyers have not allowed us to include the full meta-ethical reasoning behind why The Human Experience™ includes so much suffering in this FAQ. You will be able to discuss this in more detail after your time in The Human Experience™ is complete.

Okay, fine, but why is it that other humans cause so much suffering?

“Other humans”, referred to in this document as clients of The Human Experience™, are dealing with the same confusing multi-modal mental structure as you. We can agree to mark most inter-species struggles down to the bizarre outcomes of evolution, and most infra-species competition may also arise from evolutionary drives, but at the most abstract level you may find humans still cruel for no visible reason.

This emergent cruelty is part of the challenge you will find in The Human Experience™! The learning process of overcoming this is the core reason why The Human Experience™ is so compelling after all this time.

But we truly are sorry about all the suffering; see the above question for legal limitations of our FAQ.

Doesn’t this FAQ’s very existence threaten the verisimilitude of your client simulation, or whatever?

Not really! To use a human phrase, we have “plausible deniability” here at The Human Experience™ which allows us to hide in the shadows of existential doubt. It’s very easy for your mind to say, “This FAQ can’t possibly be hinting at a real thing! The universe we live in wasn’t planned! I’m not in a simulation!”

And so, The Human Experience™ is able to exist at the belief level of a conspiracy theory, un-provable and un-dis-provable. Have fun out there, humans!

Standard
Dan

Automation

Working in the fields in the Middle Ages, each one person just a struggling cog. Under the thumb of your ducal lord, you fight the very dirt to overcome your land-lease. Scrabbling for survival, you think “at least I’m not a slave, I have this land of my very own.” A bounty, indeed, that the duke lets you mine.

But it’s not really yours, after all, is it? You are angry, but the seasons grind your fingers to the bone. You don’t have time to think about a higher purpose. You don’t have the energy to rise up, so you dig and you plant and you hope.

Working in a factory in the industrial age, each one person just a struggling cog. Under the thumb of the factory owner, who doesn’t crack a whip but might as well, let’s say you have a union and work only 40 hours a week. You sit on the assembly line, mindlessly welding piece A to part B, and you do the math… minus the 80 hours of vacation time a year… by the time you attempt to retire (if they haven’t sapped your pension to pay their bonuses) you will have worked over 90,000 hours.

You have leisure time, and a home that you partially own, but that’s not really yours after all, is it? You are angry, but those 90,000 hours pile up on you. What do they even mean? You don’t have the energy to change things, so you weld piece A to part B, forever.

Working at a desk job in the internet age, each one person just a struggling cog. Under the thumb of a manager, who’s under the thumb of their manager, and so on up the chain. You sit at your desk and surf the internet, wondering what it all means, and how many people at this multinational corporation are also simply filtering through the vast confines of the internet right now.

You have leisure time at work, time to think about what it all means. You have almost everything you could want, but it doesn’t seem to matter. What does it mean, after all? You still haven’t figured it out. Why do they pay you? You don’t have the energy to try to understand, you just keep sitting there, in your idle moments, clicking away.

How many times does your job have to be written out of existence, before we realize our meaning machines are broken? Maybe work was never the driver. It was the distraction, in the way, a quagmire, and when it is cleared away, you might just have the energy to change things.

But will the people who stake a claim on owning everything around you allow you to change things? Certainly not by yourself, just a struggling cog. But maybe if you start asking others: “What does it all mean? Why did they pay us? And why did they stop? What does money mean, what does it all mean? Why does life revolve around all this struggling for survival, when the resources are out there to make it better, and we’d rather all team up?”

You might actually have the energy to try to understand, buried within, so don’t just keep sitting there. Dig for it. Weld things. Click away.

Standard
Dan

Balance

History is full of smart people who believed that the universe, or at least its creator, started out as something fundamentally good. And plenty of smart people still think that, deep down.

Philosophers who discussed the so-called death of god were concerned with what to replace that goodness with, once our assumptions started to shift. That nice, warm certainty of fundamental goodness (even though based purely on instinct, it sure is pleasant to sit in) got replaced by an unknown void. Some thought that atheism meant nihilism; others argued that it meant we could define our own meaning. Like we had been doing all along, anyway.

But when that assumption of goodness falls away, when our gods die and leave us to watch over this world, there is a guilt that fills our hearts. Or at least it sneaks up in mine. A guilt that tells me I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough, that I can’t possibly solve all the problems.

We have been led astray by concepts of karma. Ideas of built-in balance. Thinking that we must rise to a certain standard to balance out the evils in the world, yet the only guaranteed balance in the universe is embedded in its laws. Conservation of mass and energy. The arrow of entropy. All else is flux.

We don’t have to let the guilt tell us how we fail to meet some impossible standard.

We don’t have to let assumptions about karma, fate, or faith dictate how we struggle.

I don’t care what you think about what lies outside our universe, an imagined next life. What we do within these ropes of reality, is on us. On me, and on you. But it’s not a pressure that should feed guilt. It should feed our cooperation.

Continue reading

Standard
Dan

Alone, Again

Haman: “In the time it took for me to write this first sentence, everyone we know on Earth forgot about us.”

Remardu: “already God is calling to us”

Elund: “Yeah, yeah. Maybe your god is out here, maybe not. But what a ride!”

Only three of us chose to mark the millions of days, taking brief watches awake in slow motion, trading off tiny messages to each other through the limited bandwidth. The tiny ship could not carry more than one mind awake, loaded down with all it could handle, on the long traversal.

Continue reading

Standard