Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Formative Dice of Being

“ . . . . Outside my little window in the burn ward tonight the rain licks the glass. Larry King in my old world, now long lost, asked me if the future could be changed. I said to his audience that the future is changeable relative to the present, but fixed relative to the absolute. I had hoped he would ask me what that meant. He really should have. I wonder where all those people are now? Do they still exist in some parallel universe?

Outside the rain travels down the steamed glass in tiny streams. A moving drop reaches a spot, hesitates, then jinks to the left. Why does it go to the left and not to the right? Why doesn't it go straight ahead? Why doesn’t it stop? I would have told Larry King the river of time has what Teilhard De Chardin called "omega points". These are critical moments of change, for an individual or the destiny of a world where the arrow of time meets a bend in the river or bumps up against a bit of karmic debris and history goes to the left instead of the right. Why didn’t Larry King ask me about this instead of the lurid rumors about me and Angelina Jolie? . . . .”

The Time Traveler
From the story “Time and the Maiden”
From “Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia”

Sunday morning, watching the TV show CBS Sunday, which isn’t normally one of my little rituals on the weekend while getting ready for church. I’d be watching the “Meet the Press” show but they canceled it for tennis. But this is still a mentally nutritious show. Not a waste of time. They tell stories, which really is what TV was born to do, what TV does best. They tell the story of Jack Kevorkian who died last week, and also of Herb Alpert. What I know of Herb Alpert is the LP my dad had of “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” that had that busty Latino woman discreetly clothed in shaving cream. They really did try whipped cream but it kept melting under the studio lamps, to the delight of the photo crew. Herb Alpert is living “the good life”. He still plays trumpet. Has been happily and faithfully married to the same woman for 38 years, an unusual thing in itself for a musician. He started a famous record company, became a sculpture artist, owns 6 acres of beach property in Malibu which he’s turned into a personal Xanadu, and is living the celebrity life free of phoniness, self abuse and paparazzi. You look at this and you wonder how a man pulls all this off so perfectly.

The Herb Alpert bio is followed by a bio of Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian isn’t what gets my attention there, but rather a man he filmed. This man was about my age when he was self-euthanized, or murdered depending on how you see these things. He had also had a robust life, lived a little dangerously but fully, married to a lusty woman who loved him, he restored vintage American cars and raced them. Then one sunny day he woke up with the shakes. He had Parkinson’s disease. I think he wanted to die for the same reasons maybe Ernest Hemingway wanted to die, in that he had been this powerful figure striding the earth and was now cut down to the humblest cripple. Not by a car crash, or being mauled by a lion he was hunting, but by genetics. A little time bomb lurking in most of us that goes off in some inconvenient way. This restorer and racer of old cars no longer could bear his life and wanted to die and move on. And Kevorkian helped him.

Watching this over coffee as I ironed my clothes, I wondered why things are as they are; why two equally worthy men can have their lives play out so differently. There is no moral or physical justice in this world, so human beings have always felt bound to create it. It is the mystery of this inequality that eventually broke my faith in a theistic God. Not that I have such troubles or such wealth, but to see how random everything is.

Einstein hated quantum theory, because as he famously said “God does not play dice with the Universe.” I would say not only does God play dice with the Universe, God loves to play dice. God plays dice – with everything. If there is an original sin in the reality we know, its chaos.

A story idea I’ve often played around with in my notebooks, but so far never found a story to go with is the theory of an alien biosphere based on the exchange of sex for food. The biosphere that we evolved in is based largely on predatory relationships. Every organism exists somewhere on a food chain. You eat the ones below you, and watch out for the ones above you. Everybody eats somebody or something that doesn’t want to die and be eaten. What is also true of our biosphere is that there is an element of randomness and chaos that has been woven into the fabric or all things, and incorporated into the creative process. Like the Time Traveler’s rain drops running down the window, there are elements built into space time by quantum mechanics that cause a rain drop to go left instead of right and empires to fall. Everything dies. Everything copulates like mad to produce as much offspring as possible, knowing most will be quickly eaten, but that if there are solid numbers a few will survive. Penises enter vaginas, sperm bursts forth, eggs are fertilized from man and woman to the humblest garden slugs (the sight of garden slugs mating is one of the most amazing displays of sensual rapture to be found here on God’s foot stool) trying to get the offspring into the world before death. As I write this outside lady mosquitoes are circling me. It’s not about food. It’s about sex. But what if all of it could really be about sex?

There are plants that have made a symbiotic relationship with the animals that feed on them, exchanging food for sex in a deal in which everybody wins. Bees pollinate flowers in exchange for food. Bushes offer sweet berries which birds snap up and then poop out the seeds far away, making new berry bushes. Trees offer nuts which animals bury and forget, effectively planting them. This is the world I would create. But I think that world would have problems. In a world without strife or violence, or even death, where would the evolution come from? Where would the creativity come from? Its possible some animals would find better ways to intensify pleasure in those which receive their solicitous love making, making them more desirable recipients of food and therefore more successful. The most successful lovers would get the most food. But they also might stagnate, lacking a challenge to their survival. A world like this might not produce intelligence, because there would be no need for it. Just better penises and better orifices to put them in. What if . . . (the words we writers conjure our demons with . . . what if . . .)

What if . . . this is why there doesn’t seem to be any intelligent life in the Universe besides us? What if . . . highly sexualized biospheres exchanging orgasms for food were actually the rule on life bearing worlds? What if biospheres of violence and death and chaos based breeding driving evolutionary change like our own were the exception? There is a speculation among astro-biologists (there is such a job) that technological intelligence may only rise from descendents of pack hunting predators, such as homo sapiens, because that is the behavior that gives rise to the most creative intelligence and coordinated team work.

In light of this – what is Heaven?

When you ask religious people what Heaven will be like most of the time they don’t seem to know, or feel embarrassed at the question. There’s talk of “being with God” or “praising Jesus”, which Jesus would probably find annoying after a while. But that’s it. It sounds like a kind of purposeless retirement resort for the elderly. And human beings, being what we are, I’m sure the quarrels and hanky panky and cuckoldry and power grabs and slavery and debts would simply start all over again. We are what we are. Jesus can’t fix us, and maybe he doesn’t really want to because maybe we’re doing what we’re meant to be doing, however hurtful. We are descendents of pack hunting predators who come from a biosphere of rampant sex and territorial violence and genetic chaos and great beauty and poignant happiness, knowing someday all things must come to an end. It’s this kind of biosphere that breeds creativity, and love and compassion, a great longing for justice. Maybe what looks like Heaven at first would really be Hell for us. Maybe what seems like Hell so much of the time, holds the seeds of a future Heaven with soulful depth acquired by suffering. I’ve always suspected that the secret truth of our species, with all of our hideous faults, is that we are Gods in the egg.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Garce,

    The flip side of randomness is choice. For anyone who hasn't read "Time and the Maiden" - the transformation of the universe that the time traveler precipitates is due to a decision he makes, an action he takes. It's not a chance event. And one might wonder to what extent this is true of evolution as well.

    Evolution supposedly involves a random process in which environmental factors "select" the "fittest" individuals to survive. But the concept of fittest depends on the context. Humans and other mobile creatures have some ability to choose a new context - to move to a different location where perhaps they "fit in" better and are more likely to survive.

    Thinking about this week's topic - I chose to go to a particular university as an undergraduate as opposed to another which arguably was more famous. I'm now intensely grateful that I did this, because I think I would have been miserable in the more famous school. I would not have been fit to survive. I nearly didn't, anyway, due to being anorexic, but I'm now sure that the decision I made, to put my level of emotional comfort above reputation, was one that set me on a happy road.


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