Thursday, May 6, 2010

A SciFi Inversion

Let us play a game, a game of the imagination. Let’s take the notion of eternal Platonic forms. These forms, supposedly, subsist in some difficult-to-place hyper-realm. But let’s take that situation beyond its usual abstract description. Let’s assume that those eternal forms are not merely vaguely unreal patterns, patterns that objects on our plane consult, look up, as it were—as in a How-To manual—to figure out how they’re supposed to manifest themselves. Let’s invert our usual scenario. Our usual scenario assume that all the stuff we see around us is genuinely real. Hey, we can touch and feel things, smell the rose, and kick the bucket. Similarly we assume that heavenly things and angels and such are airy-fairy unreal products of our imagination. But suppose that things are really the other way around?

Suppose that genuine reality is actually up there. Suppose—and it’s just a game after all—that everything around us is just a kind of approximation, a kind of imitation, a kind of reconstruction, using inferior local materials, of something much more genuinely substantial up above.

Let me offer a backstory for this, as they say in Hollywood. In that story the Powers that Be decide to establish a new school intended, of course, for developmental purposes, a kind of Outward Bound—call it a wilderness experience. The P-that-B decided that elements of the population would benefit from difficult experiences not available back home. Fortunately the Cosmos has a vast sort of Out Back, a naturally harsh environment. It is a realm where the usual laws are much more rigid, where the innate gifts of those who go will be challenged, honed, drawn out and greatly intensified. The Powers select a likely site for this school, difficult but not too awesome, well-stocked with necessary raw materials in already useful forms. They then open up the program for participation. Now it so happens that up there things work entirely by choice. It’s a superior world, after all. Therefore all those drawn to experience the strange and the challenging are welcome. The motives of the volunteers are not examined. The Powers know what they’re doing. Some volunteers are drawn by a thirst for perfection, some by dissatisfactions, boredom; some by rebellion; some, indeed, by altogether negative motives—but never mind. Come all who wish. Volunteers, of course, must read and sign appropriate disclosure forms. These do not in any way hide the harsh reality that lies ahead. The form clearly states that you’ll be on your own, that you can’t take anything with you, that things are much, much more demanding than anything back home. The rewards are great, but they’re not guaranteed. As volunteers sign they are dispatched into a realm that, as they enter it, produces the shock and awe of utter darkness, disorientation, turbulence, and void.

Now of course (as the Powers are well aware) the talents of those dispatched are almost limitless. These are the best and the worst the home world can produce, but they are all equally gifted. Beyond the choice of place, the P-that-B need to do nothing more. Let those who go make the kind of world they wish to form. Everything needed is already in place—the material resources, ample energies, and strict laws to keep things organized. The world down there appears awesome, frightening—appears as if it might annihilate those who arrive—but the Powers know that people are indestructible, different in kind from lower realm of the Out Back. The darkness and confusion, producing a sense of danger, are all part of the experience. It is precisely that experience, the experience of helplessness, of danger, of the contingent nature of reality which is intended to challenge the students. This feeling of limitation and stress, of danger and mortality, of good and evil—all that is absent in the higher realm and therefore inhibits development back home to a higher state.

Now the students, caught in the maelstrom of materiality, set about to adapt, somehow, to the forbidding demands of the Out Back. Amazingly—or quite predictably—they begin transforming that world, the spot picked for the school—so that it begins to resemble the realm where they originated. They reproduce it now—or, rather, they produce the best possible imitation of it. The matter is of a much coarser grain, much more resistant to formation. They begin to form a kind of chemical civilization first. They are greatly limited by the occultation that their descent occasions. They’re cut off from their memories except the thinnest of threads of recall that continue to link them back to the home world, but their innate powers and the cosmic laws conspire to produce the world below that they knew up above—but with limitations that they cannot overcome because this realm is coarse and that one had been subtle.

In due course—but time, as such, is not a limitation to immortal beings living—if only they were able to remember—in eternity. In due course, therefore, they advance the structures that they initially build. We call that process Evolution. Eventually they gain again something quite close to the state that they had once enjoyed. Once more they experience themselves as free agents with choice and full awareness. Meanwhile they continue to live in an environment that continues to be populated and maintained by yet more vast numbers of new volunteers still struggling to realize themselves in this new and much harsher environment. Those populations we would call the biosphere—the bacteria, the plants, the animal kingdoms.

In due time of course—in what may seem like eternities of time, but only in the lower realm—the time arrives for them to attempt a return. But it’s not easy to escape. The death of an inhabited body doesn’t automatically guarantee it. Only those who’ve learned the intended lesson manage to so. But when at last they do once more return to the shores they left a long, long time ago, and, arriving, realize the nature of their great adventure, they find themselves both humbled and at the same time deeply grateful. They’re richer now—richer by life on earth. They’ve learned something about their own limitations, something about the one and the many, something about good and evil, and the ultimate value of love. Arriving back again, thankful to the Powers that Be for affording them this grand experience, they discover, but with due humility and a sense of new responsibility, that now they, too, belong to the Powers where, joining that community, they know that new tasks await.

There you are…. The SciFi Inversion, to be sure, is just a modern version of something ancient, the old Song of the Pearl—on which you’ll also find some posts on Borderzone. Does it have any relevance to our life today? It might.