“I suppose you are wondering why you are here.”
Seven billion souls shuffling their feet, which many at once notice are not exactly feet while somehow failing to not be feet. Even those who did not have feet just moments before now have these quasi not-feet feet. They at once seem to be in perfect health and yet be a collection of mid-size blue bubbles, slightly suspended off the floor.
“I’m sure you have many questions, and it is our work here and now to answer them. We will try to, ah, anticipate them. That is something you will find us very good at.”
A good-natured half-chuckling from the seemingly endless company of bubble-people entities behind the speaker. They are at once bubbles and highly reassuring, trustworthy people. The half-nature of everything is less unsettling than one seconds ago seemed to suspect it was.
“For example, many of you are wondering where you are and what this is and what this has to do with anything from, ah, before. I both appear to be speaking and yet not using language and yet you understand perfectly well. Yes?”
Seven billion souls murmuring, each to themselves, to the speaker, a general sense of affirmation.
“I think if you search your inner perception, you will understand exactly where you are and what this is.” The microscopically briefest of pregnant pauses to let this sink in. “Now then, this is a very unusual and special circumstance. Normally, this is a very private and intimate matter. We would normally spend a great deal of what you think of as time with you individually first before ever bringing you into this type of experience.”
Not so much confusion among seven billion souls as utter lack of recognition of what is being discussed. Yet not with the frustration of misunderstanding so much as the best-natured curiosity regarding what this could all possibly be about.
“In terms that you are used to perceiving, I would say we don’t have room for you all individually. You all came in such a rush. We couldn’t possibly accommodate you all with so little notice. Of course, that has nothing to do with the truth of operations here. We could, in fact, seamlessly accommodate the normal circumstances without the slightest of inconvenience or difficulty. But there is, no doubt, something to be said for making this transition gradual. And where you come from, there is no question that we would be beset by such practical challenges.”
Some acknowledgment or general sense that this all must be about to make sense in a minute, so there’s no use fighting over the details now. A collectively unuttered “fair enough”, if you will.
“Now then, a moment ago. An hour ago? Time is another concept that we will be weaning you off of here, but for now let us communicate as though bound by the temporal. An hour ago, something happened. A very significant something. And it brings us to this, this moment, this collective gathering.”
Seven billion wracking heads (minds? bubbles?), peppered with just the slightest handful of knowing staring at the floor. As though one could sink through a floor one isn’t even making contact with that isn’t quite a floor. The concept of universal paradox, of reality simultaneously being impossibly unreal and yet feeling more real than any prior memory or experience, is starting to sink in. They are becoming acclimated to it, like breathing underwater or at very high altitude. Each moment, the impossible is becoming easier and everything is innately what it is not and it is okay.
“Perhaps you have heard of the Large Hadron Collider? An ambitious project of your species, designed to simulate what leading scientists declared to be the origins of your universe. Using principles much akin to those of, ah, your greatest weapons of self-destruction.”
Those who’d been feeling the faintest glimmers of the desire to hide now are thankful that these blue bubbles appear impossibly alike. And yet they seem to radiate varying levels of familiarity and communication, as though other identical blue bubbles are somehow just like they still perceive themselves, encasing fully identifiable bodies that somehow seem aligned with the prime of one’s life. It is all infinitely processed and reprocessed each moment. There is the sense of the progression of time simultaneous with a great universal all-time at once. And all this is distracting from efforts to blend in, to hide, to shield.
Meanwhile, of course, there are others who have only the vaguest idea what is being discussed and have never heard of Colliders nor scientists nor weapons of self-destruction. And they have only the slimmest clench in their stomach-bottoms that they are about to be informed of something terrible, a death in the family or an attack on the community. This feels like all the bad news of before, rolled up at once, and the apprehension is rippling across seven billion bubbles.
“There are some of you, a scant few, who predicted this might happen. You should not feel wronged or cheated, saddened that you were not heeded. You shall come to understand that it is perhaps for the best that your cries were met with derision and, ultimately, silence.”
Only a very few of the souls can follow this chain of logic, but they float rapt. Can any others be truly said to be less attentive? Even when incomprehensible, there is a sense that these are most essential matters that are coming to pass.
“You see, while this Collider proved, in some absolute sense, to be the most destructive force in your history, it was relatively painless. It was instant. It was immediate, here and gone, a snap of the fingers, a blink of the eyes. And the alternatives, well. They were not so simple. Which is not to say, of course, that there needed be alternatives with the same ultimate outcome. Nothing is inevitable, nothing at all. There were, however, likelihoods. Probabilities. Actions create other likelihoods of actions, in a prevailing course that leads to a great deal of suffering.”
A dull ache of remorse and concern is now welling, like a crick in the back of most necks of the souls. Not, of course, that they have necks so much as a ball of uncanny sensations.
“Perhaps a metaphor would be more fitting. It seems your species is fond of examples.” The slightest acknowledging motion toward the row behind the speaker. “After all, you will come to learn that your entire time just before has been a metaphor. It is one of the great realities of life that life itself is modeled as an unending cascade of examples. Most fitting indeed, then.
“So, it is, perhaps, the pulling of an electrical cord. A plug. The plug has been pulled, and the power gone out. One instant, one burst, everything gone. Which is unfortunate, of course, for power. However, as compared to a slow draining of power, where one first must give up one appliance, and then another, and then a third, constantly struggling on the way down to maintain control. How shall they be compared?
“Or another view, perhaps, that of the disappearance of the crops. This is perhaps more accurate. Is it better to be beset by a drought over vast time, with death and suffering in each day, as the losing battle of survival is fought on and on? Or would, perhaps, it be better to experience a single tsunami, an instant flood that wiped out everyone, crops and people and animals alike, in a single apocalyptic day?”
The penultimate word sends shockwaves that are immediately calmed, in the same manner that everything here is profound and then gone, replaced by its opposite. There is a sudden torrent of understanding. The crowded hall, seven billion incomprehensibly strong, now suddenly feels a closeness, an intimacy, as though each were in their regular living space, perhaps where they slept, with only a few friends as though gathered at their deathbed. It has all become terribly clear, stark and frightening and yet somehow relieving.
“And thus, you are here. And it is not so bad, yes? It is perhaps, acceptable. Fair enough. A fitting end. It cannot be said that you were treated unfairly?”
Here this seems utterly ridiculous and then immediately obvious over the course of the few short sentences. They have gone, almost instantly, from being wronged to being set right. And come to it of their own volition.
“Thus, what we’d most like you to focus on, to consider, ponder, discuss amongst yourselves, is this. With the recognition of life as metaphor, with your experience just upended as a series of exemplary lessons… what can you see in this incredible reality? What do you take from being gathered here, just an hour after scientists who had delivered so much knowledge and understanding promised yet more with the touch of a button, with their simulation of the creation of all things? Is there anything to be learned from this?”
The question at first seems rhetorical, then hangs on the air as truly thought-provoking. Slowly, without yet turning directly to other bubbles to engage in the alluded discussion, there is a sense of understanding overriding the relief. Of the childlike joy of putting together a puzzle that initially seemed complicated, far too intricate. The feeling of a concept snapping together like it was obvious from the beginning. There is the sense, if not the reality, of nodding one’s head vigorously eighteen or twenty times with increasing speed, letting out a little whoop, and then almost crying from sheer exhilaration and exhaustion. No one seems immune to this tidal wave of emotion as it ripples up, down, and around, washing the seven billion souls in a deeper sense of depth than they have ever felt before.
[This post was written in its entirety before I left for Colorado, but more than half was lost due to an uncaught internet disconnection and lack of sufficient backup. I think I liked the original version slightly better and I was despondent in my inability to post it before leaving. I have just now, in Steamboat Springs, completed the post a second time. So it goes. This is why the post is categorized as both Pre-Trip and From the Road. But at least, God willing, it is up for the reading.]