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from Bubbles = Tom Digby



Issue #16

New Moon of Apr 17, 1996

Contents copyright 1997 by Thomas G. Digby, with a liberal definition of "fair use". In other words, feel free to quote excerpts elsewhere (with proper attribution), post the entire zine (verbatim, including this notice) on other boards that don't charge specifically for reading the zine, link my Web page, and so on, but if something from here forms a substantial part of something you make money from, it's only fair that I get a cut of the profits.

For more background info, details of how the mailing list works, etc., look at issue #Zero.

If you email me a reply or comment, please make clear whether or not it's for publication.

Happy belated Easter! Find any eggs? Easter must be quite different in fertility labs, where the eggs they deal with are microscopic things that would be almost impossible to find if you hid them.

Do they dye them first? There are various stains available, I believe, for various forms of microscopy. Not all parts of an egg would take the dye equally, but that might add to the beauty.

But what happens when Easter comes around and somebody goes into a fertility lab and hides all the eggs and then people start hunting for them, and come Memorial Day and Fourth of July and Labor Day and Christmas and Groundhog Day and next Easter they're still not found? What do you say to the customers? You can't very well say "I'm sorry, but someone hid all your eggs last Easter and we haven't found them yet."

Well, I suppose you could say that, but the customers wouldn't be very happy. Since fertility labs generally like to keep their customers happy, that's probably why they don't hide their eggs at Easter. And it's probably just as well, because human eggs are so tiny that most people find that hunting for them isn't really all that much fun, what with having to use a microscope, square millimeter by square millimeter, all over the room. Most people would prefer something the size of a chicken egg, that you can see with the unaided eye. So that's why fertility labs don't have Easter egg hunts, at least not with their customers' eggs.

Imagine a Galactic Empire so grand and vast, and enduring for so long an age, that its seers would read the slow dance of the continents on their worlds for signs and portents regarding affairs of state, much as one of us might read the leaves in the bottom of a cup of tea for signs and portents regarding personal affairs.

Somebody mentioned the story of Phaeton and his attempt to drive Helios's sun-chariot through the sky, and that causes me to wonder how you control horses in three dimensions. The normal setup with reins and bit gives you only two-dimensional control: Steering left or right for one dimension, or speeding up or slowing down for the other. There's no provision for vertical movement. You normally don't need that, since normal non-mythical horses just follow the elevation of the road. But with a sky-chariot like Helios had, you do have to worry about that kind of thing.

Santa also has that problem with his sleigh. He seems to get by with verbal commands, or maybe the reindeer know their jobs well enough that it's no problem, and what reins there are are just for show. But it seems that Phaeton could have used some sort of third rein or something to control altitude.

And what of other degrees of freedom? Yaw and steering are linked, as might pitch and altitude be. But what of roll? If you're thundering along in a sky-chariot drawn by fiery horses and you notice that the whole entourage is tilting to one side, how do you correct? And how do you bank for turns? Sky-chariots don't seem to have ailerons.

But even if the chariot had had controls for pitch and roll, would artists illustrating the story have drawn them properly? They might have just drawn what they were familiar with from earthbound chariots, leaving out anything exotic whose function they were unfamiliar with.

Would the world of Helios and Phaeton have time zones? A flat Earth might not need them. Or would it? If the sun-chariot flies relatively low and takes some time to make its circuit, then you'd have effective differences in sun time from one place to another. You'd have kind of strange differences, though, compared to our world, since sunrise and sunset would stay about the same even as local noon shifted. So places near the eastern edge of the world would have short mornings and long afternoons, while places near the western edge would have long mornings and short afternoons. Only places near the middle would have the kind of day we're accustomed to, with noon about halfway between sunrise and sunset. Did the ancient myths go into all that?

Optimists and pessimists. Glasses half full and half empty. The pessimist says, "None of our support people know any more about our own products than they do about the competition's." The optimist says, "Our support people all know as much about the competition's products as they do about our own." Which would you rather buy from?

I got to looking in a Niven short-story collection, and found a story ("The Green Marauder") about some pre-human anaerobic intelligence that once lived on Earth but died out when photosynthesis came in. And that got me to thinking about human evolution and humanity's flaws.

Philosophers have long noticed that there is much evil in humanity. (There is also much good, but that's for another discussion.) So where does this evil come from, and what can we do about it?

Let's assume for now that we evolved from more primitive forms, with or without the help of some Creator, rather than springing into existence fully formed in some Garden of Eden. Now evolution is based on competition. Amoral genes compete with other amoral genes to build a creature that will carry the genes forward into future generations. And if survival of an amoral gene is helped by doing something we now consider "evil", that evil will be selected for. Thus at least some human evil is in our genes. Without it we would not have become human.

So we may have needed some of what we now consider "evil" to become human. But we don't necessarily need it to remain human, and to go on to better things.

Between computer technology and genetic engineering we are beginning to become able to create others, either in our image or otherwise. And those others we create need not contain the evils that we carry.

Thus humanity as we know it may be merely a transitional form. If you believe that our evolution was guided by some Creator, then our purpose may be to give "birth" to the next stage, more nearly in the image of the Divine than was possible using only the forces of so-called "natural selection". If you do not believe in any Creator or any special purpose for human existence, you are still free to choose to try to improve the human condition and human nature. In either case, if we can free ourselves from the idea of passing on physical genes and instead think in terms of passing on ideas and values, we can elect to pass on what which is good and leave behind that which is not.

Buddhism speaks of seeking "enlightenment" and leaving various passions and distractions behind. But what if these passions and distractions are in our genes? Leave our genes behind, perhaps, and be reborn in some form more capable of true enlightenment?

This does not mean that our successors must be emotionless robots. They could partake in full measure of most of the joys of being human, but in ways that will not harm others. And they would have other joys we humans have yet to conceive of. The Wiccan Goddess is quoted as saying "All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals." These would be worthy grandchildren of that Goddess.

This does not mean they would be wimps. Sometimes it is necessary to defend oneself and whatever or whoever one holds dear. But it would mean that there would not be the primal instinctive joy we too often take in humiliating an opponent. They would do what is necessary for protection, but in the spirit of doing any other distasteful but necessary task. And they would have due compassion for those they must defeat. Christianity teaches that we should love our enemies, even if very few Christians live up to that teaching. These would truly have that love in their hearts.

Some will denounce this as "playing God". But those same people also speak of God as a "father", or some other parent figure. And parents expect their children to eventually grow up and learn to do things they were forbidden to attempt when they were too young to appreciate the consequences of their actions. So perhaps whatever God(s) exist do indeed want and expect Their children to grow up and in their turn give rise to a new race of grandchildren.

                       Incident Along Fantasy Way 
                         The Recycler of Dreams

I had often seen him,
In expected places and in unlikely ones --
A kindly old man
Who by his looks ought to be running the toy shop
     in some quaint European village,
Always with a large sack
Filled with things picked up from the ground
And an ornate German pipe
Whose smoke he would now and then
Blow into someone's face,
Always without being noticed.  

Driven by curiosity, I made inquiries
And we were eventually introduced.
He is the one known,
In those mythologies in which he is known at all,
As the Recycler of Dreams.

Through the ages he has wandered
Through the halls of kings' palaces,
Along the quiet lanes where lovers linger,
Into bars and taverns and the "In Places",
Or like a phantom through the walls of prisons
Or corporate boardrooms
Or research laboratories,
And even along glittering Broadway --
All the places where dreams
Have been dreamed
And broken.

There he wanders,
Not always in the form I saw,
Collecting pieces of broken dreams
To make into new dreams
To distribute around the world.

Humanity needs its dreams,
And cannot grow or prosper without them.  
But reality is hard on dreams
And on dreamers.

"Take 'Flight'," he says for an example,
"I must have picked that one up a thousand times
From the bottom of this or that windswept hill
And blown it, like smoke,
Into the head of another dreamer
Until it finally bore fruit.
And others, like 'Perpetual Motion'
Or 'World Peace'
Or 'Immortality'
I may be recycling forever,
Along with 'True Love'
And 'Winning the Sweepstakes'
And 'Being a Movie Star'.
That one has gotten many of you
Through some dark and stormy nights."

"Yes, I see the need for the grand dreams
And the smaller dreams
And even the silly dreams.
But what of the darker dreams?
The visions of world conquest,
The elusive Perfect Crime,
The glory of the Master Race?
Do you handle these also?"

"I'm afraid I must," he sighed,
"Regardless of how horrible the possibilities
I cannot label a dream as 'evil' 
And put it away on a shelf.  
The gods by whose authority I operate
Say that that judgment may only be made,
Not by themselves, as you might expect,
But by you mortals."

                                        -- Thomas G. Digby
                                        written 0140 hr  9/29/74
                                        revised 0245 hr  3/17/83
                                        entered 1230 hr  4/09/92

                                -- END --

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