Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dweeb Loneliness

Love, Philosophy & Hawking Radiation - A Websnacker Exclusive

I felt that what I was writing was wrong for this weather; I did not want to write of being alone. I wanted to write of meeting a woman, and we are necessarily alone on bicycles, even on tandems, so the trail was the wrong venue for the approaching storm. I wanted to be walking over grass toward a dim silhouette I had arranged to meet, an accidental Usenet reencounter with a childhood friend I never actually had. I wanted her to step out from under the tree she had been leaning on, so we could see each other more clearly, but it wouldn't help, because there was so little light; so we would walk toward each other over the grass, each wondering whether the other was the one we wanted. We would stop at two arms' lengths apart, and, studying each other's stranger faces, recognize not so much their features as a pathway to a memory we had not known still there, a pathway to a past thought lost. I have stumbled on such pathways from time to time down the years, and always am astonished at how much, forgotten, is remembered. 

She would be too. We would see each other's shock of memory simultaneously. There would be no rituals; we were not the type even to shake hands. She would have worn no makeup, not knowing or caring that I think this best. I always dress like a tramp; she too. Even that we then would smile together would not be to communicate; the smiles would each be private things, each smiling to ourselves at this rediscovery. 

We would walk at random over the grass, under the night overcast, through the smell of coming rain. No asking, just telling, what we now remembered, what we had done, what we had become. This would seem to satisfy; there is so much to tell about a life. The disjoint sentences we would trade would bring each happy speaker back to unshared ancient memories. 

Her arm would brush mine accidentally, and I would betray no hint of how this felt to me. At the next accident I would sneak a glance at her open grinning stare, put my arm around her waist, and she would respond in kind. We would try hard to understand each other's words, each other's memories. But memories are always private things. The astonishment of rediscovery is private, because each neural net is locked inside its skull. We would know that we were failing to communicate. The first big isolated drops of rain would fall by chance where tears might fall. 

There are abstractions though. These we can share. We would learn that we shared some already, having thought some problems through in the same way. Mathematics, logic, software: there is often beauty in these things. But if that were all we had to share, we could have shared it on the Internet. We had more to share: we felt it in the touching of our walking hips. 

So to philosophy, and the discovery that we each knew, we each already knew, the hopelessness of the attempt. Life, the memories of life, the rich detail of life, the precious peak experiences - gazing down from a high hill onto a placid river under a double rainbow--these memories go into our minds, and therein they are locked for far too short a time, and then are gone forever from the universe. These memories are what we cannot share. Sex is the closest sharing that we ever do, and it is nothing. Standing face to face under the accelerating rain, we pressed our groins together, and gripped each other's shoulders held apart, and stared into each other's shadowy faces with eyes as alien as asteroids.

We were both atheists, and both knew this would never change; our science knew the world too well for supernatural respite. The rain falls hardest a few minutes after it starts. It soaks our hair, it soaks our clothes down to our skins, we feel it trickling down our bare clothed skins. The sound of rainfall drowns out everything. A brilliant fork of lightning to my left illuminates each droplet on her face and is reflected in her corneas. The image is symmetrical for her. The thunderclap is instantaneous. 

This is Zeus at his literary best, trying with his thunderbolts to be a writer. And his team is on stage with him: that drenching downpour is a perfect setup for some Dionysian epiphany. But the gods have nothing to say! In the instant of illumination we see in each other's faces that we have thought our way from thought to thought to the same conclusion: this bony cage has no escape. We die incommunicado. The physics of Heraclitus and the physics of Hawking are similar enough that the difference makes no difference. We have made the same deductions, thinking our separate ways to utter hopelessness. Thought annihilates all meaning. Only, older than physics is biology, and hope can be defined not by belief but by behavior...

Ahhhhhh, that is no country for old men. There was no woman, just a storm. I was a cyclist on the trail. The linear trail, narrow, private, stroboscopic, soundless but for thunder, treads, and rain, anonymous, where each moving darkness is alone even passing other moving darkness in the dark, that is the country of my mind. We are each a black hole of mind. Life can never get back out. Words, the richest prose, the densest poetry, are only Hawking radiation. Will Mengarini


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