Haeccity and Quiddity – Selected Chapters

Haeccity and Quiddity
A Half Written Novel

Selected Chapters

Kyle Bomeisl-Horecka

April 24, 1988..give or take a few days

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were sleeping.”, she decided upon as a slimly advantageous alternative to sitting down in the dark next to a stranger

“Meditating.” he gruffly replied

“I uh, didn’t know people meditated here. Is anyone else around?”

“Nope, just me.” he said as if it were a stupid question


“I can iron man if you want to debate. I suppose that is the proper purpose of being here if you aren’t into meditation.” the unshaven stranger confirmed that this was in fact the correct building

“I’ve never debated before. I just came to talk to Quartz.”

“He’s performing administrative tasks elsewhere. Will be back in a few hours.”

”Are you even allowed to be here alone when he isn’t in his office?” she asked motivated solely by curiosity at this point

“You’re new, so let’s just say we wouldn’t have this building without me”

“Umm I think Quartz did some of the work too…”

“Right. and that’s why he is allowed in the building when I’m not here”

… she certainly did expect debaters to be odd. But not this sort of odd.

“So you were meditating? What do you mean?”

“How detailed of an explanation do you want?”

[timid smile] “I’m very stupid. Give me the most overly simplified analysis you can muster.”

“I mean…How stupid are you?”

“A bit too stupid to actually assess my own intelligence.”

“OK, what’s my major?”


“Well you didn’t say marketing or business so you aren’t hopelessly thick.”

“It is philosophy?”

“No, but getting the question right wasn’t the point. I didn’t really expect you to get the right answer. I was just seeing how wrong you would be. Philosophy is a decent enough inference.”

[affable smile] “So I’m smart enough to be a debater? No need for tryouts?”

“This was your tryout. I wasn’t really meditating, Quartz and I planned this.”

“You know…I don’t want you to think that I really am stupid. But I can’t tell if anything you say is a joke or not.”

“Yeah, my facial muscles are paralyzed so I can’t smile. I had a stroke.”

…. “I’m sorry… I didn’t know”

She felt a bit frustrated as the peculiar debater punctuated his grin and “Jesus, you really can’t tell” with laughter

He intuited some genuine annoyance from her.

“It’s OK, most people can’t” he said “There are certain things I simply never joke about if it makes you feel better.”

“Could I have a list of them so that conversations with you are not always hopelessly awkward?”

“I don’t know like if someone died, that’s not funny. Or if you love someone, no one jokes about being in love with someone or asking them to marry them. or…just you’ll figure it out as you go along. just sometimes it’s funnier if people don’t know I’m joking.”


“So do you actually give a shit about meditation or were you just making conversation to avoid sitting in the dark next to a stranger?”

“I was raised by sarcastic ungroomed Buddhist monks who debate, so yes, I have a deep curiosity about you and your whole deal here.”

He begrudgingly smiled.

“I go somewhere quiet. Like away from the world. Not so much to forget about the world, but so I can focus on what’s around me without getting lost in it. Like a forest, where you only hear a few birds and ambient insect clicks and chirps. Even like a quiet room…or like a…backyard or something if you don’t want to get too fancy. And just pay attention.”

“Pay attention. To like the souls of the crickets?”

“Well it depends of course. If your mind is calm and well disciplined you one can attune the senses to exclusively the smell of cedar or the rhythm of birdsong. And just listen or just smell. Many a mind has a reflex to complicate such simplicities. To wonder which bird sings so beautifully? What does she look like? Which tree is she in? Where is the lover she so plaintively sings to? This is a much more complex experience of the human mind. One which subtly mixes emotions, analytical cognition, empathy, imagination, and of course many more notions we cannot quite put our finger on. But meditation is how we explore exactly that: the part we can’t quite put a finger on.”

“…So it’s basically just paying attention. And focusing on the tiniest details. Do you only think of one tiny aspect of your subjective experience at once?”

“Yes that is part of it. You only focus on one sound, or one emotion for as long as you can. It’s partly about getting your mind used to thinking in this way. This mode of thinking can later be used as a tool.”

“ A tool for life generally, or a tool for later meditation.”

“Both. Many different people explain meditation in many different ways. Some say it’s goal is an extension of the self. As in our default mode of thinking is to see our bodies as our self and see anything else as not part of us. There are decent enough reasons to believe this. We only feel our own pain physically and emotionally, we do not physically feel the burn on another person’s hand or feel sad when they do. But empathy is a bit of a wrench in that concept. Meditation explores the mode of thinking in which we, for example, start with our loved ones. Obviously we are closely connected to them and sometimes we do literally feel their pain physically and emotionally. Then you extend the sense of self further. The point is to realize that there is no reason to imprison yourself in an frail lonely island of flesh. Especially when its a shitty island, with no drinking water and like one palm tree that barely has any coconuts.”

“But easier said than done right?”

“Yes. Monks like the ones who raised you have been trying for thousands of years to hone techniques powerful enough to correct the flaws of the human mind.”

“Have you fixed any of your own yet?”

“I don’t know really. But I think I have sort of found some of the problems. We are deeply flawed. We fear death more than anything else and are aware of the fact that death is not only inevitable, but can happen at any given second. Our entire lives are built around preventing it, staving it off, and yet we know. We do know that we cannot stop it, and that it is a bit foolish to try. But we can’t find a better purpose I guess… That’s really what defines us as humans, isn’t it. Lemmings and Daisies don’t think about all this. I guess that’s makes us humans, we are aware of the punchline of our existence.”

“Oh come on. On paper it looks shitty but we all know this shit but we are fine with it. We just cope with it somehow. I mean, everyone knows that what you just said is true. We all know that we are going to die and that are lives are technically meaningless and etcetera, but we aren’t all crying in the shower. Those people walking by right now know all that stuff you just said is true but they’re just walking and laughing, probably about some sex joke. It’s the intangible way that we all cope almost effortlessly with what we are that makes us human. Even you seem fine with it. Maybe you decided to stop shaving and be a bit weird but you are mostly OK.”
“I think you are going to make a good debater…I’m Miles by the way.”

“Gaia, nice to meet you.”

“Gaia, as in the Greek nature deity? A bit allusively melodramatic don’t you think?”

“I didn’t name myself.”

“Fine, whatever. Tell your parents that name is ridiculous for me.”


December 24, 1995 exactly

“What am I? What is all this? Why? Why is all this? A mushy bag of chemicals animated by the arrogant urge to make more of itself to litter this landscape. What the hell are all these sensations? sight and smell and noise, these thoughts, these emotions? Where did they come from? Why are they here? Why am I here thinking this saying this!?”

“These are all timeless questions. No one has ever found the answer to them. But there’s nothing wrong with having a healthy curiosity about them. Such questions motivated some of the greatest thinkers in human history.”

“No, I know. I know. But I am not curious about these questions. I am not just lazily pondering them, I am terrified that I don’t know the answer to them and never can. I am terrified of what the answer might be, and more terrified of being unable to know the answer. I mean, really, what am I, what the fuck is all of this. Why do we all just ignore that? We all just stroll around through our lives spending all our mental power considering who we should marry, where we should live, eat, think, but we just ignore the question of what we are, what all this world is. If I asked someone this they would laugh at me. I’m not saying we shouldn’t ignore it, I’m just asking why you all can, and I can’t.”

“Just an existential crisis, nothing to fret over. We do all have those moment, where we realize we are just evolutionary automatons, or maybe we lose faith in traditional moorings of religion, or morality, or life philosophy and then we are in limbo for a bit. Until we sort it out and find a proper direction for our life”

“Right, but when you have an existential crisis, you call it that and you consider it out of the ordinary. In fact, you consider it a serious problem in need of fixing. Then you either fix it or you just blow your brains out. It isn’t a lifestyle. You don’t just say “Oh well, I have lost all meaning in life and I don’t know anything at all for sure including anything about even the nature of myself. I don’t know why its important to be alive, or go to the store, or go on a date with Mary. I’m pretty sure every drop of right and wrong, happy and sad, and good or bad is just an arbitrary result of trillions of years of evolutionary engineering. So I guess I do not and can never have any idea at all of what I should do, think, or not do. Well now that we got all that sorted out, let’s head to the kitchen for a spot of tea and we can all watch Tele in the living room with a big bowl of popcorn.” I’m saying that this is my life. This is not an existential crisis, or a spot of depression to get over or die over. This is just everyday for me, it is normal life. And it is torture. But I don’t understand how everyone else avoids it.”

Miles turns his head to the window as a bird darts by casting a shadow over the scene. And can’t really think of much to say. He knows the right answer, is that he doesn’t know why he doesn’t feel crippling fear at the complete ignorance of such important questions, and he doesn’t know how Albert does avoid it. These are just unanswered questions outside the scope of the human mind. But, of course, Miles is afraid of playing right into Albert’s ignorance based existential crisis, or whatever he’d like to call it. And he knows that the closest answer he can come up with is an evolutionary explanation of why we feel certain fears and desire knowledge. But that was the basis of a bout of existential crisis Miles had in fact undergone, and he did not want to risk the same happening to Albert. Ah, but now he has it, so simple.

“Well…you are a disciple of mathematics, no?” Miles opens. Albert simply looks at him as they both know the answer. Miles continues
“Then firstly, you must believe in absolute truth. The truth in mathematical structures is almost tautological. For any set of axioms you may desire, a set of theorems may be derived that represent absolute truths. Generate some axioms: (1) parallel lines never meet (2) a line is that which has infinite length and no breadth, a plane is that which has infinite length and infinite breadth but no height and a solid has a fixed amount of length, breadth, and height. (3) x+y=y+x (4) (x+y)+z = x+(y+z) (5) the set of natural numbers exists. You know the construction. You know the rest of the axioms, then all you need is the modus ponens rules of induction: “if P then Q” is a true statement, then if P, we can infer Q. Innocent enough assumption and simple enough axioms, but from them we derive a universe of infinite complexity. A child could put these axioms together, and understand modus ponens, and yet the conceptual universe generated by these few simple ideas is so vast and intricate that using the word infinite wouldn’t do it justice or even make sense. It is so complex, that to even begin to understand the universe of mathematics that we had just created, we would have to listen to our creation explain to us through rigorous logic that there were in fact many different sizes of infinity and in fact there were an infinite number of sizes of infinity. This concept goes much further than the human mind is capable of understanding, and yet the proof it is so simple it was as if our creation was playfully chiding us for being so closed minded, as a prodigious child would a proud parent. I see the passion in your face when you talk about it, in fact I can even tell simply when you are thinking about it. So perhaps you do not like this world or yourself, or even understand them. But you and those like you have created a universe far more beautiful and vivid than the one evolution clumsily thrust you into. And if we are both being honest, you mostly live in that world anyhow. I rarely catch a glimpse of you traversing our world, maybe for a little while if you are intrigued by physics.”

Albert looks a bit happier to Miles, so perhaps he has succeeded emotionally even if not logically.

“I suppose. There are still some problems with mathematical truth, firstly it is likely the optimal incarnation of the concept of truth, however, this begs the question of how important truth really is. Because we have in fact found a wealth of concepts to which truth does not apply. Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, Heisenberg Uncertainty, no solutions to x^n+y^n = z^n for n greater than 2, a veritable wealth of theorems that uphold the very banner of truth they preach is not applicable to many of the most important ideas in the universe. So if truth is in fact giving up on itself, perhaps we were wrong to fall so deeply in love with it.”
“Well, yes there is no logical reason to be interested in truth; after all, in order to employ logic in the first place, you must have truth. So really, any attempt to justify truth, would require truth and be circular. But really, that is at the core of the human being isn’t it? To fall in love? Love is not logical, it is not justified. In fact, it really isn’t even volitional! You don’t have a choice in the matter, you never choose who or what you love, you simply fall in love. Love is not some droll decision left to the tedious machinations of the frail human mind. You are a human being, and you exist like it or not. And to the extent that you do exist, you are defined by what you love. Did you choose to love mathematics? No, you simply discovered that you did. When you spoke to Abigail were you simply immersed by the irresistible tapestry of sensation and cognition she effortlessly wove with her eyes and wit? Or did you listen to her for a while, write down what she said, lose a few games of chess to her, then run some calculations and decide that you should now love her, and then suddenly love sprung up in your soul?”

Yes, I did not choose to enjoy math or love Abigail. Love math? Well I suppose you are certainly in love with melodrama and rhetorical flourish then. I’m not sure who told you about Abigail or how you know any of these things about me, but frankly it would have been much better if I had been given a choice. Then I would never have decided to randomly fall in love with a person even the most oblivious dullard could see would simply drag me through the torturous obstacle course of class, geography, and societal norms. Then force me to simultaneously attempt the delicate act of courtship at which am not exactly masterful to begin with. And I swear to god…If you hit me with that “‘tis better to have loved than lost” shit I will have to choose between being more angry at your ignorance or taste for cliche. I think we have gotten a bit off topic, what does my lack of ability to choose what I love have to do with the deductions of meaninglessness that are so intuitive and obvious to me, but apparently simply ignored by you even though you agree that they are correct and are well aware of them.

Miles feigned an amused smirk to hide his growing disconcertment before he spoke. “No, this is at the core of my answer. One of the loves which defines you is curiosity. It is why you spend hours at a time finding a certain pattern in numbers. This is amazing to you, but boring to most. In your quest for truth, you take apart the universe, disassemble assumptions, and deconstruct the reality around you. You must leave the world that others comfortably reside in where certain rules of logic and mathematical structures are joined together in a certain way. In this world, there is not yet a proof to the fundamental theorem of algebra. So you must imagine your own world, invent your own rules of logic and mathematical building blocks. You must think new thoughts. Thoughts that do not exist until you give birth to them in the womb of your mind. You will pluck them from the dark world of non-existence which is inhabited by a tree that is not a tree, an even number that is also odd, and unicorns. This is after all what your parents did for you, and now you are responsible for giving the same life to this idea. If you are not clever enough or not creative enough, this idea will forever be doomed to non-existence along with dragons, flying clams, and the color swrarb. But when you have left the world around us to live amongst your ideas, you know why it is you have left. It is because you are curious and you are defined by such a love or knowlege. You will return to your world to do the dishes and eat dinner, but you will soon leave again. But this is just the point, we can all invent any worlds we want anytime we want to, and soon everything will seem a bit arbitrary and meaningless and at extremes we will succumb to complete insanity. You must never forget why you leave your world for another. Your curiosity provides a meaning that keeps you from getting lost.”

“Curiosity is what led me to this view of the world in the first place. I am deeply curious about the answer to what the fuck am I? What is this world? Why is it here? More important than full ignorance of the most important questions is how comically absurd the human experience really seems to me. I mean, we are all most afraid of death right? In fact we consider it so bad that you are being paid to stop me from committing suicide. But spoiler alert: we are all going to die eventually. So who cares when? It’s not that you don’t want me to die, it’s that you want me to die in 20 years rather than 1 hour. Or I could just get hit by a car on my way home, so really, you may just be wasting your time.”
“You have forgotten your curiosity and have simply made it a habit to ask questions. It is no longer a passion for you, but a compulsion…an obsession. You no longer ponder around until your curiosity is aroused by an interesting puzzle, you just question the first thing you can think of as if it is your duty. If you simply stare uncaringly out at the world and cruelly dissect everything you love, soon nothing will be left. All you will have left are meaningless fragments. In time even the distant memories of loves long lost will fade away. The nights of your childhood when you laid out on the dewy grass transfixed by the beauty and secrets of the cosmos will be forgotten. But you still remember them now. The easy observation that the Newtonian Gravity Formula and the Coulomb’s Law were essentially the same equation first made you see the incredible simplicity of nature’s laws; and yet the cosmos they governed was a frontier so vast and timeless that you could not begin to wrap your mind around it. You laid out all night thinking about it with the gentle music of a nightly orchestra of insects to keep you company. You could not help but empathize with the stars could you? You knew they were cold and lonely. They wandered in a featureless wasteland and no one cared why they kept tracing out ellipses or emitting blue rather than red frequencies of light. But you also knew how they coped. You knew that they were brilliant artists who relished in transforming the blank canvas of deep space into a scene so beautiful you couldn’t help but lie there and marvel at it. Like a good piece of art it not only invigorated the senses, but animated the mind. You felt the beauty but you understood the message behind it as well. A good artist explores not only emotions but ideas. An attentive viewer can see a world that a genius breathed life into. The art was not random, the ellipses were solutions to Newton’s equations, and the beautiful glow of the heavens was an symphony conducted by James Clark Maxwell and his fantastic four equations of electromagnetism. Your curiosity about the similarity of the fundamental equations behind a night sky combined with a beauty that immersed the senses kept you unaware of time. You don’t remember when it happened, but you fell asleep. Your body was cradled by the gentle grass and you dreamt of black holes. Do you still remember?


“I know you remember.”

“Who are you?”

“Dr. Miles Kalsovich, and may I say it is an honor to meet you Dr. Girard.”

“This meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will now come to order… I’d like to thank…uh, Dr. Christopher Theon of The University of Michigan sociology department, Dr. Cynthia Webber the chairwoman of the University of Chicago Economics Department,… Mrs. Daniella Nostra of the National Society for Gifted Children, Dr. John Ashcroft of the John Hopkins Psychology Department, Dr. Kelly Tress of the Harvard University Psychology Department, and …uhh, all the others giving testimony for being here today. I, uh… remind you… that any violation of the rules of order and conduct from the audience… and press will result in immediate expulsion…. I would like to begin by asking that Dr. Webber deliver the opening remarks concerning this hearing on the uh… 2000-2001 Federal allocations for the, uh, National Institute of Mental Health.”

“Thank you Chairman Robbins. It is, of course, my pleasure to be here today. The recent suicides of Aaron Swartz on March 14, Brandenn Bremmer on June 29, and Andrea Cynn on September 31, James Robert Baker on February 23, David Foster Wallace on May 15, are deeply tragic. Of course I cannot opine on what the mental health care system can do differently, I am not an expert in psychology. My job here today is to analyze the impacts of these deaths on the American economy. Suicide happens frequently in American society, but rarely is a Senate committee hearing called as a result. Mr. Swartz and Mr. Bremmer alone were granted approximately 32 patents in software engineering, applied mathematics, and theoretical computer science before their passing. As of today those those patents have generated nearly one billion dollars for the corporations that now own them. Ms. Cynn was responsible for numerous breakthroughs in chemical engineering and their applications to biomedical engineering. At least 600 million dollars and up to 3 billion dollars of profit have been attributed to her work at Pfizer. Mr. Baker and Mr. Wallace had combined book sales of over 100 million dollars as of August 17, 2015. The suicides of all of them in such a small interval of time has earned this incident its popular moniker as “The Day the Science Died.” This is not as large of a hyperbole as most experts assume. Recognize that all of them did not lead particularly long lives. Mr. Bremmer in fact took his own life at the age of 14, and Mr. Swartz at 26. If we extrapolate based upon their contributions to date, America has not only lost some of our brightest minds, but a staggering amount of economic activity.

“Dr. Webber if I may, statistics indicate that higher IQ individuals are in fact less likely to commit suicide than those with lower IQs. Why are we prioritizing the very group least likely to need our help?”

“A valid question Senator Stevens. In fact the data you refer to does suggest that those with IQs in the 115-145 range are less likely to harm themselves or others than those with lower IQs. However, this range is termed a “sweet spot” by most experts. The individuals in the 115-145 IQ range or sigma I – sigma III are typically those with high paying jobs and secure lifestyles such as lawyers and doctors. These IQs are termed sigma I – sigma III as sigma is a symbol for standard deviation, and these IQs are between one and three standard deviations above the average IQ of 100. Higher intelligence does allow individuals more problem solving skills that allow them to navigate life with more ease. However, those between sigma III – sigma IV have varying propensities to depression and psychological abnormalities and the data is largely inconclusive. Those with IQs above a sigma IV IQ of 160 are significantly more susceptible to psychological trauma especially depression and suicidal ideations.”

“But are do all the people you mentioned have IQs higher than 160?”

“All the individuals mentioned do in fact have IQ’s higher than 160. However there have been innovators such as Thomas Edison who has an IQ of around 147 who do not fit this bill. It may be the case that the high profile innovators who I am discussing are not more prone to suicide. I am not here to establish that. I am here to discuss the ramifications of their death.”

“So in your opinion Dr. Webber, high profile innovators are not more prone to suicide?”

“No Senator, in my opinion, the data does show that all else equal they are more likely to succumb to depression. But I am not here to establish that, I am here to explain our economy and national security cannot afford the risk of any of them committing suicide. Our economy is dependent upon and some may even contend a product of the technologies and concepts developed by just these sorts of intellectual elites. If we consider economic booms throughout history, they were generally based around a technological advance of some sort. The Industrial Revolution obviously enabled by the development of steam engines and a coherent theory of thermodynamics, the invention of the cotton gin, the Railroad Revolution after the creation of telegraphy and newer engines, even the boom of the ‘90s and most of our economy today is due to the internet alone, in fact, today nearly all economic activity involves computer technology. Even the boom following the allied victory in WWII would not have been possible if we hadn’t won the war. Without Turing’s cracking of the enigma code, Einstien and Oppenheimer’s atomic bomb, and the brilliant engineers responsible for every piece of hardware and software our soldiers used that would have been an unlikely outcome. On that subject, Alan Turing is famous for committing suicide shortly after the war. If he had earlier, it is unlikely we would have won as early as 1945 or at all given that we would not have known exactly where the Germans were and what they were doing at all times without the Enigma crack. The untimely death of such geniuses presents a dire risk to national security and economic stability. Who knows what how many will die and how much we have lost as a result of the death of Aaron Swartz alone? This is a dismal cost that pales in comparison to the piddling twenty million dollars the 2015 NIMH Budget proposes to invest in recruiting and training counselors specializing in the psyches of geniuses.”

I don’t understand most of the rules. The ones I do understand, I hate. All that aside, I am just not very good at this game. I don’t think I should keep playing.

– Aaron Swartz

February 12, 1989, around 11:30PM
“Don’t just let the word entropy throw you. It isn’t that complicated, just a measure of uncertainty about a given outcome. If I have a coin with both sides heads, a coin flip has 0 entropy, there is no uncertainty we know the outcome will always be heads. This is related to information. If I flip a coin with both sides heads, and it lands heads that gives us no information at all because we knew it would be heads and will always be heads. If we roll 190,000 sided dice the entropy is higher. When those dice land on 174,000, that is valuable information because we had almost no idea about where it would land before we were given that info. Think about rolling the dice like saying something in English to your friend. We don’t know what is about to come out of our friend’s mouth because she can express a nearly infinite number of different concepts with each given sentence. If she’s stupid, the entropy is lower. If she could only say yes or no, she would be analogous to the coin with heads and tails. The number of different outcomes of our friend opening her mouth is tantamount to how many distinct concepts can be expressed in her language. Or in a different sense, how many different concepts can be encoded in a given language and then expressed by said language. If you translate any given language into binary this gets easier. The entropy of the language is related to how many ones and zeroes there are in a given expression. If there is only one digit, then our message can only be one or zero. So only two concepts can be conveyed. If there are two digits, then our message can be 00 or 01 or 11 or 10, only four concepts can be conveyed. For n digits, the number of messages that can be conveyed is 2^n. Easy.”

“Yeah that sounds about right. What does this have to do with the fact that you are reading my emails to the car.”

“Dear Mr. Quartz:, uh oh sounds formal, Dear Mr. Quartz: I regret to inform you…”

“Miles! Jesus.”

“Miles does he mention me in any of them.” Gaia chimed in

“No I don’t. Stop.” Quartz interrupted

“Well you asked me how encryption worked Quartz” Miles said folding the email transcripts

“You’re an ass.” Quartz said calmly with one hand on the wheel
“How much further to William and Mary?” a novice asked

“I could have gone the easy way and figured out your password, but I’m too classy for that. So I just intercepted a few emails from your IP over the Alabaster wireless network. Of course anyone can do that, but the data in transit is encrypted by the WPA2 algorithm so what you would intercept is largely just gibberish. Only the intended recipient, says here that’s Quartz Vachovski, has a terminal with the the proper decryption algorithm. That’s cool though, because I sent a massive number of emails from different terminals and then intercepted them in transit. I knew what the plain text I sent in the email was, because I had written it, so I had the plaintext emails and the corresponding encrypted gibberish for each one. Then I searched for a bunch of different patterns in the plain text like a word with an odd number of letters, or “sh” phoneme, or special symbols like punctuation, numbers, vernacular. The binary representation of those pieces of the text will have certain mathematical properties. For example, there is an above normal amount of “str” in your emails Quartz, 11% above the expected value. Interestingly enough, in the encrypted version of these plaintexts, there is an 12.3% above average occurrence of 8 bit binary strings where the eight ones and zeroes add up to an odd number. So I’m pretty sure at some point the cipher flips the normally even number of ones in the binary for “str” into a string of odd ones. This looks like a traditional true to false flip in the exclusive or operator, so I know a little about this cipher now. But, binary languages and encryption ciphers are both designed to eliminate any sort of mathematical patterns like these.”

“What is he talking about?” Natasha looked up from her cases to ask.

“Whatever, just let him go until he tires himself out.” Lamda said looking out the window at the green Ford Explorer slowly accelerating out of pace with their car.

“Let him talk about anything besides my emails as long as he wants.” Quartz said into the passenger side window as he checked a blind spot.

“So you have to design your plaintexts with this in mind by choosing patterns not easily filtered out by such techniques.” Miles continued over them. “One can generate millions of mathematical properties of strings of binary to choose from such as, they are all ones, they add to five, even amount of zeros and odd number of ones. Then search through the corresponding encrypted versions of those plaintexts for unusual patterns. Like if you flip a coin, expect 50% or within that range. If you are getting 80% heads, flag that. You should eventually find some patterns in the encrypted text that have higher or lower than normal numbers of occurrences. If your plaintext has a probability of 4% more “sh” sounds than the average english sentence, and the corresponding encrypted text has a probability of about 4% higher than expected of finding 1101001 appearing in the middle of a binary string, you have a good idea of how the cipher translates “sh” into encrypted text. The patterns are always more complicated than that since WPA2 ciphers have four rounds each consisting of key mixing, substitution, and then permutation. Key mixing – bit wise exclusive or operation, say the key code of the cipher is 01110110, and the first letter in the plaintext is E, so 01000101, then the new first letter of your email is 00110011, and so on for the rest of the letters. Substitution- turn a plaintext E into a 9, a G into an A, leave a 1 as a 1, yadda yadda you get the point. Permutation, switch the order of the now partially encrypted plaintext. And then rinse and repeat this round three more times.”


“See, so now you can intercept my emails and we’ll be even.” Miles said looking at Quartz in the rear view mirror.

“First off, you are setting a bad example for the novices, secondly that has nothing to do with your original rant about entropy.” Quartz replied

“Oh yeah, well, how do you know how many occurrences of “sh” is considered unusual and how many is about right. The english language has an entropy of about 50%, which means if I spelled out a sentence on a blackboard and left half of spaces where letters are supposed to go blank, you would be able to fill out the rest. When I put down a “q” you know a “u” has to go after it, “when I put a “str” you know a vowel has to come next. If I write x, then blanks, there are very few words that will start like that. 50% entropy means that half of the letters in any given english sentence are redundant, on average. Other languages have different entropies because they express a different number of concepts in different ways. So, I need to calculate the entropy of the binary string of the encrypted text to even find out what language the original text was written in. No matter how you encrypt a language, it still needs to be able to express the same amount of concepts, and therefore have the same entropy. This is so I can calculate my baseline probabilities of certain words and sentences, which is different for Russian, Japanese, and English. I also just have to figure out which language the emails are written in. I will also often be left with several possible strings of binary that match the above normal probabilities of a given pattern. So I will need to be able to eliminate more sophisticated expressions like humor, double entendres, metaphors, etc. Shakespeare has extremely high entropy compared to Run Spot Run, because the subset of language used in Shakespeare can be used to convey far more concepts that the subset that appears in Run Spot Run. In Shakespeare a single line of prose has thousands of different meanings encoded. We pretty much know what Run Spot Run is saying from the surface meaning of the sentence. So if string of emails from a given individual has a massive amount of entropy I’ll know to be on the look out of sophisticated humor and literary devices. If on the other hand, the entropy is shockingly low, I’ll know to expect a conversation about buying shoes….OK, now you can decrypt my emails and we’ll be even.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fine, jesus, I’ll just give you some of my emails to read. OK, you can look through my inbox and find them.”

“Alright, give me your password.”

“It changes every thirty seconds based on an algorithm I know by heart. It’s just easier if show you my inbox and you cherry pick your favorites.”

“I can do it in thirty seconds.” Francis said

“Can we just play 20 Questions.” Natasha asked

“No we still don’t have a third argument for this case.” Daniella said passing the white looseleaf paper with circled numbers in blue pen to her.

“This doesn’t justify anything at all. But I’m still actually going to do that. And I want your personal email not your work one.” Quartz said looking back at Miles in the rear view mirror

“Fine Jesus. You fucking drama queen. I can’t give you access to my work account anyway.”

“No…actually I’ve decided I do want access to your work email. I think your boss will appreciate the irony of secure files being stolen from the server of a cryptanalysis intern.” Quartz said smiling as he squinted into the near noon sun reflecting off of the trunk of the black toyota in front of them.

February 12, 1989 about 2.00pm

“Actually I think faith or propaganda fills a very natural gap in human nature.” Quartz replied

“You mean the one where logic usually goes.” Miles asked dismissively

“Yeah logic can definitely tell you whether two is prime or not, but for things that actually matter like your passions and dreams logic really has nothing to say. What is the logically correct answer to whether I should pursue money or spend my life building soup kitchens in Africa or whether I should be a sculptor or a filmmaker?”

“Umm, it depends on what moral framework you arrive at, but hopefully you will use logic along the way.”

“OK, what is the logically correct moral framework? Also what is the logical hobbies and correct career choice?”

“Yes I am not saying subjectivity doesn’t exist, just that within a subjective set of preferences, we use logic to guide our means of fulfilling them.”

“Sure, but the means are the most trivial boring part of life. If someone asks you who Franz Kafka was, would you talk about your interpretation of Metamorphosis or the fiscal logistics of publishing, or how he literally wrote the book with details about the physics of fountain pens? The shit that really matters in life is that you want to be an artist and why, not how you plan to acquire the supplies and pay for art school.”

“That sounds more like a place where your individuality should fill a void rather than propaganda.”

“Right, propaganda’s place is to sway you to possible worldviews while you are in a formative stage. Think kids in high school, and even college. There are clergy and religious schools to introduce and persuade you towards a life of god. Teachers show you the merits of devoting your life to the pursuit of truth and in college, how to find your place in the universe with the pursuit of truth. Great works of art will convince you to devote your life to the pursuit of truth through beauty. These are all big picture schools of thought, and there is no right or wrong answer to which one you choose. Most people who don’t think they’ve cleanly fallen into any of the traditional lifestyle categories have in fact fallen into the most pervasive and common of them all: hedonism. Our ears, eyes, cognitions, and emotions are bombarded by corporate advertising and capitalist culture. It has a decent overlap with hedonism and it is arguable that materialism is a niche within this worldview. Hedonism in human beings often revolves around sex, good food, comfy houses, nice vacations, etc, all stuff that money is a proxy for, so I see it materialism as an evolution of hedonism. Materialist culture is so cleverly disguised and intricately rooted in America that it is seen as normal by most. Those who do not “know how to think” in the liberal arts cliche, default to this philosophy without knowing it is a philosophy at all. That is the most dangerous type of propaganda.”

“Right, yeah, so all the big picture dreams and passions that really matter in defining us are arbitrary. Just a solipsistic ooze.”

“So, I’m just saying the world isn’t black and white. And yeah, when some people realize that, and shift out of black and white, they see the world in solipsistic grayscale. But there are some extremely special people that will start to see in color after they look beyond black and white. If you aren’t one of those people, my only advice is to be on the lookout for one who can teach you. Einstein saw in color, Poe saw in color, depressing macabre color, but still color.”

“Are you one of those people Quartz?”

“Two types of debaters. When you really get a feel for the analytical techniques involved, basic set of skills for learning how to think, couple that with a powerful analytical mind and any normal person will feel solipsism creeping in. Then you have two choices. (1) You get scared of being swept away in the meaninglessness and grab hold of the most visceral concrete things you can find, usually personal pleasure, sex, money, etc. They assume this sort of meaninglessness justifies rational egoism. That’s 99% of people. (2) This is the interesting type. They see themselves caught in that endless violent sea just teeming and thrashing around, and you know what, they are just as scared as the next person. Trying to swim in that sea isn’t any less terrifying and exhausting for them as it is for the first type of debater. But for whatever reason they don’t grab onto anything and give up, they just swim out further and further. Maybe they trust themselves, maybe they trust the sea. Maybe they have found some sort of meaning, built morality from scratch, found some sort of nostalgic truths out there . Maybe they see beauty in the chaos, maybe they are just too courageous or too curious, but they keep on swimming. I’m a shitty swimmer, and I’ve almost drowned a lot and have never really seen too much of the sea, but yeah I swim. There’s not much I can tell you. Be on the lookout for the people who swim. That’s really all I know to tell you.”


“Yeah, you know Van Gough cut his ear off, Newton had nervous breakdowns, Hemmingway blew his brains out, but they FUCKING swam. At least they fucking swam.”

“God this is a beautiful campus. We should debate in the south more often” Miles said

“You should see it in the spring.” Quartz replied.
February 12, 1989…yup, definitely was February 12, 1989, around 5:00pm

“Yeah, tag team chess. We pass a hat around to assign each player in the pool a number and then roll the dice to choose the player from our team. After that, Cornell will roll their dice to choose their player. Then we set a timer to fifteen minutes. After time is up, we roll the dice again for two more numbers to determine the next two players. Easy enough? OK, so I’m going to pass the hat around and everyone will draw a slip of paper with a number I’ve written on it. If the dice land on that number you’re up.”

“Quartz I don’t have to play right?”

[laughter] “Yes. You do” [more laughter]

“No seriously I’m not good at chess”

“You know what makes you better at chess Pryanca, practice. You might not get picked at all, worst case scenario, you get fifteen minutes of practice.”

“Fine, but don’t blame me if we lose.”

“No one will blame you [chuckles] seriously, it’s a game I don’t think anyone really cares.”

“I’ve never played before” interjects Ryan prompting some snickers from the Cornell team.

“First time for everything right?” Quartz responds without missing a beat. “Unless you never have sex like the Cornell team.”
Alabaster erupts with laughter
“You’ll be fine. OK everyone understand…[cocky nods and a sarcastic no]. OK, grab the hat and pick a number.”

Miles effortlessly scrawls out the Fourier series of the bizarre curve he has drawn and takes it’s derivative to plug into the differential equation above it.
“Is that homework,” Gaia asks

“It’s a violin chord from the middle of Paganini’s Caprice 24.”

“The squiggle or the sines and cosines.”


“I didn’t know Paganini liked trigonometry.”

“Have you ever seen a sound mixer that has a bunch of bars for different frequencies of sound and they each bounce up and down at different parts of the music. Like one says 44Hz, one says 100 Hz, and there are like five of them. And a tower of little blue bars goes up and down in each of them as they play.”

“Sure. I guess.”

“Sound is a wave. Waves in the ocean are differences in water height, sounds waves are difference in air pressure. So when you graph a wave it looks like a cosine and a sine, and the low points (troughs) and high points (crests) represent highest water height for ocean waves, and highest air pressure for sound waves.”

“Did Paganini surf, is that the point of this story.”

“Yes, I’m getting to that. Every wave is equal to a series of sines and cosines times something added together ie. cos(x)+ 3sin(x)+3.5cos(2x).”

“What are those numbers in the corner? Root 2, pi, 2.71?”

“Oh those are for this.” Miles tears the corner off of the page and tears a little messy little rectangle around each number to separate each of them into their own little island of paper. He nonshalantly tucks the slips of paper with his favorite numbers under his fingers and gets up to grab the hat from the next person two seats to his left in the row. As he sits down he reaches in to draw a number and comes back up with only one slip of paper with the number two written on it in Quartz’s oddly-loopy-for-a-guy handwriting. “Huh, an integer, lucky draw I guess” he says smirking as he gets up to walk three seats to the right to hand the hat to the next person.

Gaia just sort of looks at him without any clear emotion like confusion or disappointment

“What” Miles asks innocently

“The fuck was that about.” she replies instantly

“I put about ten slips in the hat with numbers that are not the sum of any of the six numbers on either die, or multiples, or not really whole numbers at all. Actually I drew animals on some of them.”

“Because you’re a dick?”

“Part of it. But more because I don’t want to lose to Cornell. Seriously, do you want to lose to Cornell at chess? What’s next dolphins ruling the world? Easy, bunch of kids get nonsense numbers, and the large contingent who don’t want to play go with it. Self selecting group of people who suck and know it are now eliminated from the pool. Everytime Quartz calls a number, there is a good chance no one has that number as they have likely drawn one of my nonsense numbers or a doodle of a manatee and gone with it or are too dumb to realize that a manatee is not a number. Either way we have eliminated some people who would lose singlehandedly and embarrass themselves. So most of the numbers Quartz will not belong to anyone andl I can choose to stay quiet so he keeps calling numbers until one of us has one, or lie and say that number is mine. If we are doing fine, I say nothing when Quartz calls a number and he calls another number until some random person on our team has that number. When we are in trouble, then I lie and say I am the random number Quartz has called so I can play and bail the team out. If my number is actually called and we are losing, I can choose to take that turn by simply standing up and saying that was my number. Or I just stay quiet if we are doing well so that some other rando will play and hopefully not fuck it up.”

“And you are going to win the game in fifteen minutes?”

“Maybe, I mean these guys aren’t exactly geniuses and seem to lack creativity. I’ve only seen them run cases with no arguments against them and make arguments about the interest rate of treasury bonds when I run cases about art against them. Fifteen minutes may be all I need, I’m OK with speed chess and most people are shit at it. They have seen me play before and may even be aware that I was ranked for a while, so they will try to run out the clock during my turn. But I will play speed chess style and force them to play ball or look significantly stupider than me. Hopefully that will work. But mostly, my job will not be to win, but to prevent a checkmate until Quartz or Danny or someone dec is up to continue what I started.”

Gaia lets a bit of restrained laughter pass while still keeping a handle on the air of disappointment in Miles she is attempting to project. “They certainly are connoisseurs of the most boring financial instruments ever devised by the most wrinkly white men to ever walk the earth. But on the other hand, you are an asshole.”

“Look when we are faced with losing to Cornell, any alternative is preferable.”

“Including cheating and by implicitly telling our teammates they are dumb.”

“Chess is mostly about strategies like this one, I’d hardly consider it cheating. And they are dumb.”

Gaia just lets out a sigh. She turns away from Miles to watch an incredibly dull defensive response to Cornell’s sicilian opening by Chauncy, a novice she didn’t know the name of. This precipitated in return, a bland defensive pawn setup from both sides congesting the board and guaranteeing a closed defensive game that renders all pieces but knights utterly, boringly useless. A knights only game could be brilliant, but it was unlikely in this context. Even Miles was yawning.

“Ocean waves or sound waves?” Gaia said in a monotone voice as she squinted to make out the brand of the Cornell kid’s watch.

“What?” Miles said

“The squiggle on your paper with the sines and the cosines. You were saying it was like a wave and then you started talking about the ocean and sound mixers.”

“Both. Anything that is periodic like the cycles of the moon, of a kid on a trampoline, or a spring, anything. This one theorem proved by Fourier is true of any infinite number of structures that are periodic.That’s why mathematicians put things into categories, because when we prove theorems for a category like a group or an algebra or a wave, it holds for the billions of different concepts that fit the criteria of each of those categories. So all waves are actually composed of a collection of sines and cosines of different frequencies vibrating together simultaneously. This is true of any music, but the violin does not have clean gaps between notes like a flute of a guitar. The bow is moved continuously through chord after chord after chord. The chords are fast, but most listeners can distinguish them. The chords are made up of several notes each, this is more difficult to discern and only trained listeners can do so. Each one of those notes is a sound wave that looks like the wave I drew here and sounds like plucking a single violin string. Who knows what is going on in Paganini’s mind as he weaves these notes into chords and chords into harmony. But I think looking at the infinite series of pitches, represented here as sines and cosines, nature has elegantly harmonized to form just a single violin note may give us some insight into the artistic process. Of course this is not unique to just the D flat note. Every single note played by the violin or any instrument is a delicate harmony of literally an infinite number of different pitches.”

“ Umm, so that squiggle there is the D note.”

“D flat. Yeah the squiggle’s frequency is about 587 Hz. It’s also a relatively dark shade of blue, sort of looks like the color of the night sky in Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Fourier proved this property for all waves including light waves. You may find it difficult to imagine how Van Gogh knew how to create an effortless link between his emotions and ours out of the same colors we see every day of our life. But I think it’s even more interesting to ponder the fact that every color we have ever seen is in fact an intricate mix of an infinite number of other colors represented here, again, by the series of sines and cosines next to the squiggle. An infinite harmony of colors inside every color, if you will. Really I guess that means that Paganini and Van Gogh’s work are very fractal in nature. An artistic genius explains their soul to the world through sounds or colors, and when we look closely at each of those sounds or colors individually, we see a whole other masterpiece of infinite complexity in each of them. To me, it looks like those sines and cosines there. Art mimics life, life mimics art I suppose. I don’t think there is any other way to have a glimpse of it really, our senses are too weak. But to me the sinusoids are beautiful in and of themselves, so I prefer this form.”

“Check” the Cornell kid says calmly. The Cornell side erupted with applause.

“Oh fuck, what happened?” Miles jerks away from looking at Gaia “Shit what did I miss.”

“Umm, looks like a chess game of some sort. And we’re losing.” Gaia responded wryly

“Hmm….yeah we are in a bit of a spot. But I can fix it. Or Quartz. He checkmated me with three pawns once.”

“So you actually suck at chess a bit then.”

“Well, he only had three pawns left because I took everything else. On the other hand I had only lost a bunch of pawns, a bishop, and both knights. So I had all my major pieces left. This is not a story of my weaknesses in chess.”

“So he was bad enough to be that low in material, but good enough to mate you with three pawns.”

“Yeah it was bizarre, he played a cliche opening and a lame mid game. But when he was down to a handful of pawns, he didn’t even have to think about his moves anymore, he just slid those pawns up and jumped into the field of battle with his king. Only the best players use their king as an offensive unit. And his pawns and kings were moving so elegantly it was like lovers who had danced together their whole life. This scared the shit out of me. I thought I had made a mistake somewhere and he had lost all his pieces in some sort of gambit. But that was really not it at all, I went through every possible trap and strategy and even later he admitted that he had just lost those pieces because I was beating the shit out of him. At that time I even sort of knew that he just lost rooks and his queen and everything really out of error. I could tell by the little twitch and movement of the musculature around the eyes and lips. If you play on a real chess circuit with that kind of pressure, you pick up on that kind of thing quickly. So I regained my confidence and put some offensive pressure on him. But he just kept pressing as if he anticipated my every move. I was thinking less moves ahead than usual, because c’mon pawns. They have like a one space mobility. But still thinking through moves.”

“And he just marched right up there with those pawns and you ran away?”

[laughs a bit] “Eventually, yeah. I refused to sacrifice pieces since it was like three pawns. So I just went for sweeping victory. At some point in the asinine little dance that goes on between three pawns and a player with nearly a full set of pieces my king was in an edge and to either side of it were my knight and rook, and one of my pawns was in another spot. That pawn was there to block the one pawn Quartz was moving up to be promoted. He successfully promoted his pawn, but I immediately took it with mine. This was sort of an ad hoc defensive outpost that I only partially planned. But he brought up two pawns, one to put me in check and one to block my escape and covered both pawns with his king. That was checkmate. I was too impressed to be embarrassed. I remember I just looked at him with a little bit of a smirk and asked him if he only played a type of chess where there are five pawns. And he just said “pretty much” with his usual little stoic grin.”

“Number seven” Quartz shouted over a round of applause

“Oh shit that actually is my number.” Miles said

Gaia ran her hand up through her bangs to fix her hair “Aww you didn’t get to play your little game.”

“That’s OK, I still get to play some games with my new friend Cornell guy #4”

“Go get ‘em sport” she said as he manouvered through the aisles and met the blue eyes of his opponent who was already comfortably sitting in a deeply hued walnut chair that seemed like it was custom crafted for his well tailored Armini suit and perfectly winsored maroon tie. He casually crossed his legs and toyed with the menagerie of fallen black pieces he had inherited. Miles negotiated a sea of knees and leather shoes after passing the two empty seats to his right. The friction of a thousand different conversations bombarded Miles’s ears with a discordant slew of vowels, words, and noises he couldn’t place. Higher pitched voices floated above the fracas, closer voices were a little easier to understand. He could hear Gaia humming some sort of tune to herself that was periodically drowned out by the walrus like laughter of a girl standing in a huddle on the opposite side of the room, I think she was on the Penn team. Chunks of boring conversations about the last round, weekend parties, and classes he had no interest in hovered in and out of the foreground as Miles squeezed and stepped over the occupied seats between him and the stairs to the stage. He finally reached the stairs. Miles focused on the clicks his heels made with the stairs and kept a rhythm. This was a bit of a ritual for him before playing chess, partly to impose some sort of structure on the hodgepodge of disharmonic human noises forcing its way into his ears. The other part of it was about focusing his mind. With every click of Miles’s heel, groups of conversations would wind down either out of boredom or courtesy. “Shhhhhhhhh!” abounded throughout the auditorium. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, Miles quickly calculated Ronald’s response to all the moves he was considering. He neglected to use the stairs of the stage and simply grabbed the edge of the stage and hopped up landing his left leg on top and then standing. He first walked over to his the Cornell kid and reached out his hand for the traditional handshake before the match. His opponent remained sitting and stretched his lips into a scripted formal smile while shaking Miles’s hand. He eked out a freindly tone: “I’m Ronald, nice to meet you.” The audience was silent except for some coughing and shifting in chairs.
“Hold on for a second Ronald, you look pretty serious about all this, I don’t want to pull anything.” Miles said before he bent over to touch his toes. The front row of Alabaster laughed prompting all of Alabaster and even large parts of the Cornell section to laugh. Miles stretched his arms and sat down to warm up his hamstrings. Of course Miles knew it was mostly for the laughs, but it was also tangentially psychological warfare. In this sort of competitive setting, both players are tense, but each player doesn’t know the other one is tense. This anxiety about how tense the other player is and whether I’m the only one that is nervous adds to the anxiousness of both players, especially when one of the players seems unnaturally at ease. All joking aside, the situation looked pretty dire. “Fuck, no one used the nonsense numbers,” Miles thought to himself. “six pawns, one bishop, two knights…that’s it. Fuck. I hope Quartz hasn’t gone yet.” Miles quickly imagined every possible move the Cornell kid could make in response to his favorite move as he sat down.
“Are you done?” Ron asked as Miles sat down

“Just getting started actually” Miles said as he straightened his tie .

“I heard you’re pretty good… were even ranked at some point. But unfortunately, your team does still go to Alabaster. So you only have two knights and a bishop left.” Ron said. The Cornell side of the room erupted in laughter and boos. “Your move” he added.

Miles just rotated the bishop around on its little white square. “Looks like a penis doesn’t it Ron?” The audience laughed. Miles calmly looked down at the black phallus that reflected back a tiny rectangle of fluorescent light. “You know why that is don’t you?”

“Please tell me Miles, I’m dying to hear some penis anecdotes from you.” Ronny quipped, rekindling the dying wave of laughter

Miles watched the bishop move as he slowly slid it up the white diagonal it was sadly confined to for the rest of its existence until it was was on a white square directly attacking the queen. He took his hand off of it and looked directly in the Cornell kid’s eyes before saying. “You’ll see.”
May 9, 1978 according to records
“On his test paper here, he applied the quadratic formula to find the zeros of f(x) = 4x^2+17x+7.”

“Is it the wrong answer.”

“No it’s right, and he found some complex roots in the other problems even though we haven’t gone over imaginary numbers yet. This isn’t what we are here to talk about.”

Joanne pushed her glasses up on her nose and pulled the test closer to her side of the desk. “…What is this?”

“It’s a mathematical proof. Three different mathematical proofs, that the quadratic formula holds for all polynomials with coefficients over the real numbers.”

“OK, are they wrong?”

“…no…they aren’t. Two of them were so sophisticated that I had to consult a Professor at Berkely College to verify them. They drew on Galios Theory.”

“So my son likes math, what are you telling me here? I’m the one who told you to put him in a magnet school. What do you have to lose, it’s not like he has any friends here to be separated from.”

“No Mrs. Anderson, I don’t think you understand. We aren’t here to talk about your son’s mathematical abilities.”

“OK, could you just tell me what we are here to talk about?”

Mrs. Albers used a chiping starling as an excuse to look out the window while she spoke “He didn’t answer any of the other questions. Miles answered the first question using the quadratic formula, and then just spent two and a half hours just writing and rewriting those proofs” she produced a paperclipped stack of wrinkled yellow ruled paper littered with smudged equations

“So what, they’re sophisticated right. You said it yourself, if you had to consult a college professor it makes sense that it took him two hours.”

Mrs. Albers brought put her hands flatly on the murky oak desk and leaned closer to Miles’s mother “Proof writing isn’t part of the sixth grade curriculum Mrs. Anderson. A mathematician’s first proof writing course is ordinarily taken at the Master’s degree level. The test involved writing down the numbers that would make the equation zero.”

“Again, Miles is…”

Mrs. Albers interrupted Miles’s mother “He wouldn’t stop writing these proofs even after the test was over. Even the most rigorous mathematician considers one proof sufficient to establish even the most fundamental mathematical truths. He was on his third proof by lunchtime. When the bell rang at the end of the day, he just kept on writing, squinting, erasing, and rewriting.”

“As I was trying to say, Miles is very passionate about mathematics.”

The school psychologist cleared his throat and rubbed his eyebrows.

“Mrs. Anderson” Mrs. Albers said flatly “I’ve talked to Miles almost every waking moment of the last four years about mathematics but this was very different. When he asks me questions and tells me about the four extra pages stapled to his homework, he is smiling and there is inflection and excitement in his voice. This was…I would describe it more as fear. When I told him the day was over and he had to catch the schoolbus, Miles didn’t even look up from what he was doing when he told me “I’m not sure.” I asked him what he meant and he just said “I’m not sure it’s right, how do I know when it’s right?” I told him that the one question he answered was right and that I would give him a perfect score on the test because I knew that he understood quadratics probably better than me. He interjected in the middle of my sentence “No, the quadratic formula can’t just come out of thin air. I’ve got to make sure it’s right.” I told him it was well established, the greatest mathematical minds over millennia had established that it was correct. He maintained eye contact with me as I explained that no one has ever caught any errors in established mathematical proofs. But I saw his eyes dart down to his papers every once and a while. Finally he said he was sorry for making me stay late and said he’d see me tomorrow. I gathered my things and closed all the windows in the classroom. That afternoon was so gorgeous I still remember the second I stepped outside perfectly. The sun was right in my eyes, but it felt so good on my skin it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see. I remember smiling about the childhood memories of summers when I still noticed the hundreds of different shades of green in the grass and the little white bugs that dance around when you walk on it. The best part of the first day of summer for me is waiting to see which parts of my childhood I can remember. Sorry if this seems off topic, but I’m just trying to make you all understand why I was so upset when I saw Miles sitting there under a tree by the bus stop still scribbling on those yellow papers. He was under one of the magnolia trees in the courtyard that create that blizzard of pink petals every time even a tiny breeze blew. Pink petals kept gently landing on his stack of yellow papers he would just angrily shake them off. He made eye contact as I walked by and looked down at the papers, he looked ashamed. I said “Miles it’s a beautiful day. Try to enjoy yourself.” He said “I will Mrs. Anders thank you for staying to talk to me and I’m sorry for making you late.” I assured him it was my pleasure and that I looked forward to continuing our discussion tomorrow.”

Mrs. Anderson pursed her lips and looked out the window.

“Mrs. Anderson” the school psychologist interjected “We think your son has shown symptoms of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.”

“You mean OCD” she replied


“Have you seen his room? I’ve never seen him clean or check anything around the house, much less obsess over order or organization. He barely ever bathes or keeps a schedule.”

“Remember the previous discussion we had about Miles’s unipolar depressive episodes when we talked about treatment options.”

“Yes and I still refuse to put him on pills that some pharma has barely tested on mice.”

“I assure you SSRIs are well established in the scientific community as safe and effective, but that is not the reason I brought it up. We believe Miles’s depression often creates a flat affect and lack of motivation that masks the symptoms of his OCD. When he doesn’t bathe or clean his room that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a compulsion to do so, it simply may mean he is too sad to get himself out of bed.”

“Are you saying that his depression is neutralizing his OCD?”

“No, not neutralizing it. He likely still has compulsions to organize and clean but may have such a lack of motivation that he does nothing about them. The thoughts of OCD are just as distressing without proper treatment with or without the accompanying behaviors they often motivate. Patients who suffer from OCD often develop depression as well. In my experience with these patients, during their depressive episodes they lose the ability to derive pleasure from anything and plummet deeper and deeper into sadness and dread feeding more sadness and dread. In addition to this, their obsessive thoughts continue to intrude into their consciousness and prevent them from thinking about anything but whether the kitchen counter is clean enough. Often obsessive thoughts of tragic events in their past and fears about their future drive their depression. The crippling pain and apathy of depression combined with shame over their rituals often hides the normal symptoms of OCD.”

“And let me guess, you want me to put him on some sort of pill.”

“Medications and even certain natural chemical compounds like inositol have been extremely effective in clinical trials. Especially when combined with psychotherapy.”

“Pills that have an endless list of side effects and have barely been tested. Antidepressants have suicidal ideations as a side effect! No, they aren’t safe. And besides, I don’t want to change who Miles is. Like it or not, Miles will be a completely different human being on these pills.”

“Perhaps the case, but certainly a happier one.”

“Sometimes happiness isn’t worth it. We can’t justify everything by saying it makes people happy, as much as you try. I’m willing to continue psychotherapy, but no pills.”

February 12, 1989. 6:00ish pm
Miles did a bit of genuine stretching with arms in the shape of an upside down U over his head and made his way down the stage stairs in the corner of the room to avoid the center aisle on the way back to his seat. He saw his trusty IBM thinkpad under the chair so he knew he was in the right row, but he didn’t see Gaia. “huh, ok.” he thought and sat down in his seat awkwardly positioned three seats from anyone on the right and two seats from anyone on the left. As he was opening his laptop he heard Gaia’s laughter from somewhere behind him. Upon turning around he was pretty sure he could see her all the way on the other side of the room in a huddle of Cornell guys, but he couldn’t make out her face from that distance. Before he turned his head back to avoid being noticed, she laughed again while brushing back her bangs. “Yup definitely her. Guess that guy’s a regular fucking comedian.” Miles was halfway through his trek to the other fucking side of the auditorium and crossing through the middle bank of rows when the debaters he had gone up against last round made eye contact with him. “Fuck.” he thought. Sure enough as he tried to inconspicuously walk through the row in front of them the male one said “Hey, Miles right. That was an awesome checkmate, I’ve never seen anyone turn a game around like that.”

“Oh thanks, I appreciate that. Yeah Ron wasn’t too bad, it was a good game all around.” Miles said turning to face him

“I can’t believe you did that in fifteen minutes, you only had like a dozen moves to mate him.”

“16 moves from me 15 from Ron including his resignation. Yeah, I’ve had shorter, but not too much shorter.”

“I think we hit you last round. Marcelles from NYU, remember.”

“Oh, I thought your name was Mark for some reason. Yup, we ran our, uh… starving dog case against you guys right? You were pretty good actually.”

“Yeah I usually go by Mark to shorten it. Umm, you ran… whether or not we should shut down an art exhibit that features a stray dog starving to death with a “don’t feed the dog” sign.”

Marcelles Treackle was born on July 27, 1971 in Columbia’s St Mary Hospital. He was raised in a four bedroom two bathroom house in a sleepy Mequon, Wisconsin cul de sac. The front yard was grass bordering the curb and a walkway up to the front porch nestled in rhododendrons that bloomed red and purple in the spring. His mother was tall, wore too much makeup even around the house, and had a nasally voice. Marc’s father was the pastor of the Third Reformed Second Removed Episcopal Church at 371 Jandy Drive. The neighborhood called it the church with the big red door. He often wore his vestments around the house but always took them off to eat. They had no pets but Marc loved to feed the four stray cats that were regulars in his neighborhood. Two were all black, Onix and Negro, and Marc would count how many white hairs he could find in their black fur whenever he scratched their heads. One was a tabby, or he was pretty sure it was. He knew the tabby by its meows, and named it Mozart. It would offer the same “rrraaaaaaaarw” whether it came across Mr. Grendwill watering his front lawn next door, Mrs. Grendwill taking out the garbage, or dad shooing it it away. It was more high pitched and elongated than the traditional meow. Sometimes on sleepless nights, Marc sat out on the porch and thought he could hear Mozart meowing away over the ambient night symphony. He liked to imagine what kind of adventures Mozart was having while the neighborhood slept.

“Yeah that’s what we call it.” Miles said as he shifted his weight to his left leg to look over at Gaia’s Cornell huddle. Which had now been whittled down to just her and some tall Cornell guy who was crossing his arms to make his watch easier to see.

“Is that your case?” Delores asked

“Umm, yeah, I wrote it but Danny added some stuff to it because he knows a lot about literature.”

“I really liked it, I was kind of surprised to hit something interesting. I guess the themes you were going for were…like…the limits beyond which art becomes, you know, disgusting, or obscene.”

“Kinda. that’s. yeah, that’s definitely part of it. But, uh, no, actually yes, now that I think about it those are valid themes to explore. Most people go with the, it’s hurting animals thing and never talk about what art means.”

“Do you know who won? Or anything about speak rankings?”

“Nope. Haven’t heard anything.”

Sunday morning at 9:30 AM Marcelles, his sister Willow, and his mother would wake up, eat breakfast, maybe shower, dress up in slacks that were too loose and eat breakfast. His dad had been down at the church since 6:00AM cleaning and preparing the altar for 6:30AM mass. Only the weirdest or the most devout people ever showed up to the 6:30AM mass. Some were of course a healthy mix of both. Marcelles and his family usually made the 10:00AM mass, the second to latest sermon. Today Pastor Treackle was giving a sermon on the subject of original sin. He opened with a “good morning brothers and sisters” and the customary cheesy joke to segwayed into a stern warning about giving into our desires.
“The devil knows what we want in our heart or hearts. It isn’t up to us, we cannot stop these desires, it is what makes us sinners. We will always be tempted to steal, lie, and cheat not by the devil, but by ourselves. The devil could not make Eve taste that apple unless he could appeal to her desires. Her arrogance, her hunger, her ignorance were why she ate of that fruit. The devil simply reminded her of those desires.” Pastor Treackle lectured pacing on the altar
Marc mad eye contact with his father, but didn’t want to look like he was staring blankly. He pulled out a bible and turned to genesis and looked down every once and a while to break up his staring.
“Being good Christians is not about never having those desires, these desires are what makes us mortal, they are what makes us sinners. These desires and urges are what marks all men women and children with the dark burden of original sin. Being a good Christian means taming those urges, controlling them, channeling them. The devil’s role is to free those desires, set them free and remove all of our inhibitions.”

Marc could hear birds chirping to each other during pauses in the sermon. Sometimes the birds actually get inside the church and makes nests in the rafters.

“This is how he tempts us to sin. Human nature makes it easy for him, and he knows what we want, what all of us want in our heart of hearts. He knew what Eve wanted, he knew it was an uphill battle for her to quell her greed and pride. This is an uphill battle in all of us, and the devil knows this. The devil knows that he has the easier job. God knows how weak we are and how strong satan can be, and in his infinite wisdom he has mercy on us. In fact, He loves us so much he sent his only son to die so that we could be forgiven for our many sins.”

Pollen from the Dogwood trees outside were upsetting Marc’s allergies. His nose was visibly running and his eyes itched relentlessly. He kept tactfully peaking at his watch and thinking about climbing up the huge oak by the playground to get a better look at Bandit Lake. By now the swans should be out. As the clock hit 10:55 he started daydreaming about Jesus and asking him how he felt about all of this. He had learned how horrible of a death crucifixion is in after his after school religious class and so he asked Jesus whether it hurt and if he was OK with dying for mankind.
After communion, his dad made a few announcements and then said “Then go in peace to love and serve the lord.” He neatened up a bit, shook hands with some parishioners and then sat down with the family in the pews. Marc told his dad how much he enjoyed his sermon just like he and his family do every Sunday and said that he had a question. “Daddy, how come when God made us, he made us that way. Like, how come he didn’t make us stronger, or less greedy. How come he didn’t make us so that the devil couldn’t tempt us and we always wanted to do what was right.” His father got up from his seat next to his mom and walked past Willow to sit down next to Marc. He put his arm around Marc and said “That’s a very good question Marcelles, you are very smart to ask me that. Son, I’m just a man. I’m no wiser or stronger than you, mom, Mr. Whindle, or anyone else who sits here and listens to my sermons. I just do the best I can like every other one of God’s creatures with the tools he has given me. Now, I do have an answer for you Marcelles, I’m not going to just try to wiggle my way out of this. I just want you to know, that I am not God, I do not know the truth. My sermons are not the word of God, they are just the best a human being like me can do to understand and love my creator with the clues he has given me. With that all being said, I can try my best to answer your question. My son, the way I have always thought about why God made us the way he did is simply this: Sins are the price of free will. God gave us free will as a gift, perhaps one of his greatest gifts. It is what makes us different than the animals and the plants. But true free will must come with the ability to make the wrong choice if we so desire.”
“Did you like where I was going with the society doesn’t care anyway arguments?” the female one asked, “My name’s Dolores, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Delores” Miles replied

“I’m a novice so I just kind of wanted some feedback about my speech.” she continued

“Fuck” Miles thought. He seriously contemplated just walking straight over to Gaia without saying anything or maybe a quick “sorry gotta go” but there was something was too viscerally cruel about doing that to a novice who definitely did need some feedback. He walked back to lean on a chair closer to Gaia and Cornell guy as he rubbed his lower lip with his pointer finger “Yeah…you weren’t wrong about how society didn’t care about this dog normally if it was on the streets so it would starve on the exhibit or in the gutter, and that it might be put to sleep if the exhibit was shut down…

Miles could hear bits and pieces of Cornell guy’s slightly nasally but deep voice and Gaia laughing behind him. Her laughter seemed choppy though, and overly emphasized.

“…Actually, that last argument was good, really good. Technically. But the biggest weakness of your speech, and your partner’s also was a lack of talking about the artistic merit of this sort of exhibit….”

Yeah that was definitely not how she normally laughs. Some of the stuff she was laughing at was definitely not even meant to be a joke. Cornell guy says he prefers white college ruled paper to yellow college lined paper personally because the writing on the yellow paper gives him a headache sometimes. Gaia sits there listening without so much as a grin on her face, pretty much no change in facial expression at all, then laughs way too hard as soon as he pauses in between that sentence and the next. Cornell guy sort of smiles only when she starts laughing and keeps looking at her breasts. “Wonderful” Miles mumbled under his breath “Another wasted weekend.”

Marcelles was enjoying the first week of summer vacation. The week when you still feel nostalgic for a classroom you couldn’t wait to get out of. He liked his teacher Mrs. Albers alright, she was always nice to him and didn’t give too much homework. But a lot of the kids called him “chicken marsala” and said stuff like “Marcelles Washington looks like a bitch” which he didn’t get, but he knew they were making fun of him. Anyway his mom, dad, and Willow usually went on one or two trips for a couple of days each. Last year they went to The Great Wolf Lodge Water Park and his dad lost his bathing suit on one of the slides. This year Uncle Roger invited them up to his cabin on Lake Geneva. Marc was really excited because this was the first vacation he’d be on that lasted for a whole week. They didn’t even have to get a hotel because Uncle Roger had extra bedrooms. Marcelles’s birthday is on April 10, 1971, so he was eight years old on the first night Uncle Roger caressed his penis. Marc was wearing blue batman pajamas in between his penis and Roger Volsevich’s slow gentle hands. Marc loved swimming and fishing in the lake, but he always let the fish go because his Uncle had explained to him that they feel pain and deserve life as much as they did. His dad and Uncle Roger would grill flank steaks, portabello mushrooms, burgers, hot dogs, and pretty much anything that would fit on a outdoor propane grill and tastes good. Marcelles never told anyone about what his Uncle did to him, not even his parents. He doesn’t know whether Roger violated Willow as well. Marc tried to keep an eye on Willow as often as possible. He often couldn’t sleep at night because he was imagining what Uncle Roger could be doing to her at any given time. This was just as well, as Marcelles made sure to be even more vigilant of Willow at night. Marc had never wanted to talk about it, and he wouldn’t dream of asking his sister

“Just uhh, you know…talk more about art in an art round,” he said to the novice without inflection while still looking at Gaia. “…Sorry, I’ve gotta get some air. Good luck next round.” Miles suddenly said after a decent pause . He fiddled in his pocket for the black queen piece Ron was still searching around for on the stage, and handed it to Marcelles, or at least he was pretty sure the male debater’s name was Marcelles. “Here. You can give this to someone as an awkward token of affection.”

“Uhhhhh…what?” Marcelles replied as Miles turned away and headed up the center aisle stairs to the door.

Miles became entranced by his shadow on the flawless white marble floor of the atrium outside the auditorium as he walked. Could his shadow see the world outside of it’s thin fluorescent lit plane of existence? Did it marvel in wonder at the third dimension all around it like a child looking at the night sky? Miles tripped over a small garbage pail near the exit/entrance to the building while trying to control his gait for a more normal looking shadow. He pulled the unbudging door a few times before his realized he had to push it open. He pushed the second door open against a stubborn winter breeze. He walked towards what he assumed was a grass field, but it was so dark out it could just as easily have been an endless abyss. He felt frost on his neck where he expected dew as the night sky came into view from above his head. The flavor of Mile’s depression was always related to where he was in the my fault, their fault debate. This was a less implicit process for Miles than most people. Miles played out possible strategies in his head at a rapid rate. Possibilities:

Move A: (1) Ignore Gaia’s question about your squiggle. (2) Explain exactly what you are doing (3) Dumb down what you are doing (4) Make a joke about what you are doing (5) resign….

[Gaia’s response] – (1) Be interested (2) Be uninterested

Move B: Given Gaia did (1) – either: (1) continue along the same path (2) use one of the other three possibilities of Move A (3) change the subject (4) try to kiss Gaia (5) resign…

[Gaia’s response] – (1) Respond positively (2) Respond negatively

Move C: (1) try to synthesize a poem in your head related to the conversation at hand and recite (2) be implicitly and delicately insulting or cold, walk a fine line of course (3) attempt to generate further ideas and analysis related to the conversation at hand or a new topic (4) get to know her further (5) try to kiss Gaia (6) resign…

Probably only time for about three or four moves before my number is called for chess. One can never be totally certain when not playing chess whether there was a possible sequence of moves to be made that would result in a desired outcome. So did he fuck it up, or was there no possible way for him to succeed from the start. Miles normal emotional machinations were playing this debate out in his head for a while until he either lapsed into depression of was sufficiently distracted by some other pleasant opportunity. Unfortunately, this time Miles has a thought so simple he was surprised it had not ever come up until now. It is either (1) the case that it was my fault and I fucked up, or (2) that there was no winning option within my control. In the first case he was a failure, this is distinct from making a mistake. Mistakes are an inevitable part of human nature, being a failure means you erred in a way that has lost you something irreplaceable. You haven’t just lost something irreplaceable, but something your life was a function of. Something that is part of the definition of what you are and what you hoped to be. If you had amnesia, it would be this thing that would be used try to remind you of who you are. Anyway, he had lost that thing. This was not just a mistake, it was an unforgivable mistake. That’s pretty bad. But the other option might be worse. It may have well been the case that he had no option within his abilities to ever win any degree of affection from Gaia at all. This is existential crisis fuel. Free will and sense of meaning shattering disenchantment made out of pure ironclad unbeatable logical truth. So, was it the case that (1) Miles was a failure or (2) The universe was built in such a way that many of the short, medium, and long term goals that motivate normal human beings to even get out of bed in the morning were inherently unreachable. Miles didn’t really even know whether he wanted to be in category (1) or category (2) even if he could convince himself to believe one side or the other. His mind was quiet for the first time he could remember. He didn’t know if this was a vacuum of motivation or shear fear. The night was silent, the air was calm.

Literally no stream of consciousness at all for at least 2 minutes. Then a pang of sadness. Sadness almost grief ebbed and flowed coupled with a smell, like perfume, he looked around but there was no one anywhere around him. I guess it is a very vivid memory or I am hallucinating, smell hallucination? He was unsurprised at the sadness but the perfume’s smell got stronger and more textured until he began to associate it with a form. It was definitely a girl, and she was beautiful but he had never seen her before. She kissed him and he could feel the perfume course throughout his body. Her tongue was delicately caressing the roof of his mouth. He got a good look at her face, pale skin, blue eyes, dark hair. At least he thought they were blue, but it was a slightly odd shade of blue. They were very intricate though. He could see at least a hundred shades of blue playfully twisting and shimmering around her pupils gracefully punctuated by streaky black abysses. Abysses that hid beautiful secrets like a cheeky nebula. They were certainly beautiful, but Miles was a little shocked at the detail considering this was literally the first time he had ever seen them. The weirdest part was that he missed this girl, like a lot almost like greif levels of sadness. But he had definitely never seen her before. There was something a bit off about her, and also about the stuff around her he noticed as he began seeing in more detail. It was almost like sepia tone. Yeah that’s it! He could see blues and greens very vividly but there were colors missing. Yes, definitely some colors missing. Miles thought he was dreaming at first, but he could feel pain and the world around him looked just as he remembered. It was just that he was hallucinating or his imagination was going without his control. Red, there wasn’t any red just a mix of blues and greens. Huh, I bet she looks better with reds he thought as he noticed her lipstick was dark grayish. He felt some emotional distress about her, like a deep sense of loss, heartbreak let’s call it. But he felt oddly relaxed, like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. He didn’t want to recheck the Fourier series anymore which was odd because even while he was thinking about Gaia, 3sin4(x) would pop into his mind and he burned to run back into that room and fix the coefficient. But he really didn’t want to see Gaia. Nope, no random intrusive thoughts, except this random sepia tone girl I love now. Miles actually felt so relaxed he laid down completely on the grass. He looked across the field at a window in between three trees. Some classroom, but it was well lit. He could see the normal spectrum of colors bathed in incandescent light. Some blue chairs there, yup. Green blackboard, yellow blouse, red sweatshirts, white sneakers, purple pants, uhh really. Yup, definitely full color spectrum. Nothing wrong with my sense of color. He tried to focus his mind on the girl he kept seeing. More details began to pop up, converse sneakers, white laces, short socks, white band with one gray stripe on her underwear, gray button on her pants, they were american apparel brand, frilled bluesih cuff on her blouse, indigoish bow in her hair with the right loop smaller than the left. He could her the tone of her voice, a little low for a girl. She vigorously annunciated every sound but her inflection and syntax gave her speech a smooth texture. He could even smell her and feel the texture of her skin, but the skin was gray. Only her eyes stood out in shades of blue.
“…What is this? Not a dream, did I see her in a black and white movie?” Miles was thinking as something firm made contact with his arched right leg. He heard a “Fuck” and then someone fell on him with a grunt.

The stranger pushed off of Miles’s abdomen to roll off of him. “Oh, shit I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.”

“God, you scared the shit out of me.” Miles said “You’re fine, you had no way of seeing me there, my fault really. You OK?” he recognized the voice

“I’m good, just lost my cigarette. You good?”

“Fine, I think this is it” Miles said picking it off his chest and handing it up to the strange man.

“Thanks. Are you a debater, or…”

“Yeah, yeah. I am, also a landscaper. Just inspecting the grass.”

“Sorry to interrupt I hope everything is in order.” He replied with a smirk as he relit his cigarette “Sorry again about tripping on you, I can’t see shit out here my vision hasn’t adjusted yet.” As he lit his cigarette they both sort of recognized each other but were hesitant to guess the wrong name.

“May as well just guess, it’s not like this situation could get any more awkward” Miles thought to himself. “Umm, Marcelles right?” Miles said

“Yup” Marcelles replied in between drags of his cig.

“What brings you out here Marcelles?”

He just held the cigarette out “Mostly just this. Just needed some air. Too loud in there, I never got how people can sit in rooms and carry on a conversation with that much ambient noise.”

“Too right. I never got how people could like bars or nightclubs or parties where the music is just painful to the ear. Like literally painful.”

“Right? I mean those places are designed to cater to the lowest common denominator though. They pump the music up on purpose so that idiots who don’t have anything interesting to say can just dance around and flash cash to pick up girls.”

“True. Definitely true….You guys were good last round by the way. Like genuinely good, not the obligatory “you guys were good” people use for small talk. I can tell you have an interest in the philosophy of art.”

“Yeah I actually have a lot of art cases. I’ve got one about Nabakov but I didn’t want to run it with my partner…you know…Delores”

“Holy shit, I was thinking the same thing when she wrote her name on the board. We have a case about Nabakov too and I actually said to Danny ‘we should run the Nabakov case’ after she wrote her name up there. Seriously ask him.”

Miles couldn’t shake the image of the sepia tone girl with the deep blue eyes from his attention.

Marcelles laughed “You know, I love that you are the one who was napping under a tree in subzero temperatures yet you ask me what I am doing out here.”

Miles laughed and coughed “Gaia. Just… yeah. Gaia.”

“Oh, you mean the Gaia from Alabaster. Like the one on your team?” Marcelles asked

“No. The other girl named Gaia.”

“You mean you dated the actual Greek primordial goddess?
“Yeah, no. I’ve dated neither.”

“You are talking about that girl on your team right, the one with the dark hair that was in finals at uh…”

“Yeah at Georgia State last week.”

“Yeah, so not the deity then. She isn’t the Gaia right? Like the greek goddess.”

“No. She did not give birth to the Titans, and we never dated. It’s a long story.”

“It’s cool, I get the deal. That’s actually kind of why I’m out here too. It’s just a bit awkward with Annabelle.”


“Yeah I broke up with her a week ago, that’s why I’m partnered with Delores. Annabelle was my usual partner, but you know. Obviously.”

“Yeah, no, that would be terrible…Sorry about that.”

“It’s OK, it happens. Just seeing what you did to Ron makes me feel a lot better. I hit him last round and he was a huge dick. He kept calling us novice #1 and novice #2 in his speech and the judge was actually laughing. I think they knew each other too because they kept laughing and looking back at us in the auditorium. He actually imitated Delores’s accent in the last speech. God, fuck him. I’ve hit him a few times and he’s just so consistently an asshole. He’s not even that good either.”


Miles had definitely never even seen her before. He could remember pi to 1600 places and what the weather was three weeks ago at 1.00pm, and he knew this was the first time he saw that girl. She wasn’t from a movie, maybe a dream? But he felt way too much emotion towards her for this to be just a movie character. Throbs of love and crystalline blue eyes inturrupted every other thought he had, then a sharp sadness.

“Yeah the kid you wrecked at chess.”

“Oh shit, yeah the Cornell kid. He’s just, yeah, I could tell he was awful the second I saw him. I think he’s like completely empty. Like a vacuous human being with just nothing inside.”

“Oh yeah, here’s your chess piece back by the way.” Marcelles fished the black queen out of his pocket “You know Ron is still looking all over for that right? He was looking underneath seats in the front row when I left. I think that’s like his father’s chess set or something. You should like mount it somewhere. You know, like a trophy.”
“That’s OK Marc, you hold on to it. I think it you can get more out of it than I can.” Miles replied

February 12, 1989 9:30PM

I guess the first argument we got out of the other speaker, uh…Carol it says here on the blackboard, is how the Greek government needs to spend tons of money to stimulate the economy to ease the recession. God I love that argument, would you like to be more specific? What do you want to spend that money on? Jobs? Stimulus checks? Constructing a Greek version of the Pyramids of Giza? I’ll let your second speaker clarify, my response beats any possible clarification you can choose to make anyhow. Oh and you have used the example of WWII as an instance of effective Keynesian stimulus. The short version of my response is: no, that’s stupid. The long version is that was organic rather than artificial market demand that lasted for over over six years, then entered its rebuilding all of Europe stage. I don’t think you can compare that to sending a $300 stimulus check to everyone. It was also mainly due to the spoils of war for the allies and the new world trading order and the discoveries of new technologies like plastics, computers, and other technologies invented during the war. The real answer to keynesian economics is more nuanced than anyone ever gets. You are spending money in the economy yes, but where are you getting it from. If you are taxing the poor, like for example I made minimum wage at Rite Aid my freshman year, and guess what, I had over one fucking fifth of my wages taken in tax. Fucking 20% taxation on those making minimum wage, are you insane? Minimum wage already can’t pay for food or rent alone much less both, and you are taxing it…at a rate of 20%. I think that’s a higher bracket than those who make over one billion $ per year. I know the max tax bracket is 37.5% anyway. If you are taxing the poor, and then using those funds for keynesian stimulus it won’t work. First off, because you won’t make enough tax revenue, we are in a deficit because the income tax system and sales tax system puts the brunt of the system on the poor. And guess what, one fifth of seven dollars an hour is a lot to me, but it really isn’t a lot to the US government, so I don’t know what kind of revenue you are expecting to make. But secondly, because now for every job you create, or every rebate check you send out, you have overtaxed someone who is poor or lower middle class. Those people will either become homeless, contract massive debt, or if lucky may get welfare. And the best part is any government policy you enact will have this effect. Any time you try to build a park, or schools, or use Quantified Easing, you are overtaxing people who will soon be homeless or on welfare. Yes, the same welfare that is payed for by the existing tax system, which taxes the poor. Are you seeing a vicious cycle here? It would actually be a more effective strategy for the government to sit there and do nothing about the economy. On the other hand, the money from those jobs is designed to “stimulate the economy” which means it is designed to be spent. That means that anyone who gets the rebate or the job will then spend it at a store and become corporate profit. So really the taxed revenue reverts to the rich, and when the “stimlulus” ends, the jobs are gone the rebates are spent and everyone is back to where they were before. Except for the people who were taxed and the rich who are now richer. And I know what you’re thinking random Yale debater who made the argument that Keyensian stimulus in Greece is a good idea. But Miles, the rich getting richer is how I afford these $378 Anna Shortie Boots and $1900 Prada Handbag. I know, I know, there are bright sides to this sort of policy. Boots, by the way, that are now covered in calcium chloride road salt that will soon undo most of the tanning and finishing a master leathersmith and tortured animal worked so hard on. But let me tell you the downside. Minimum wage was already not enough to afford food much less only 3/4 of minimum wage after taxes so now less people can purchase commodities. And I know, whatever, the poor can’t afford food what else is new Miles? But wait, because less people are able to afford things, companies need to keep increasing their prices to make up for the losses, and it’s OK because the rich, who now have more money, are willing to pay essentially anything including $20 for a bag of peanuts to pay their employees with. So inflation quickly spirals out of control and prices keep increasing further and further out of the reach of the middle class. This further fuels the cycle of less people being able to buy products and companies raising prices to make up for the loss and relying on the rich to pay those prices. We have one of the highest Gini coefficients (a metric for wealth inequality) in the world, higher than Ghana, and interestingly enough, also one of the highest violent crime rates in the world. Yes it isn’t just because they are black, there is a reason that crime occurs. So we increase taxes to pay for all the prisons, but our tax code barely touches anyone making over $100,000 per year. So the poor are paying for the prisons they will be thrown into when they deal drugs or suck dick to try to pay for the food they now can’t afford on ¾ of minimum wage. But what about welfare and social services. Yeah, that’s what we’re going to cut to make up for the revenue loss from tax cuts for the rich, stimulus checks, and a tax system focused on taxing the poor and middle class. Unfortunately, even if you get a job it won’t pay much. Teachers now make less than hairdressers in NJ because we had to cut union benefits to make up for the deficit. No manufacturing jobs either, China pays their workers less than $1 a day, and robotics and computers do many of the other jobs available at much less than minimum wage. So you thought the socioeconomic gap between $ 1 billion a year and $12,000 dollars a year was big, oh man, wait till you see how China’s gonna run things. Futurists and technologists once thought that robotics and computer technology would complete most of the tedious and difficult tasks necessary for human survival in a brutal uncaring world. They hoped this would lead to a fair life with some leisure time for the underclasses now that robots could complete the dirty jobs that just had to get done to run a proper civilization. These tasks used to fall to slaves and then the children of those slaves who are now free but live in ghettos and are payed $7 an hour to clean shit off floors. The difference between slavery and the present day is that now $7 an hour doesn’t pay for food or housing, whereas when they were slaves, at least they got room, board, and three squares a day. Robots are going to take their place, but they belong to corporations. So the services of the robots will be available only to the people who pay for those services with the money they would have earned from the degrading jobs the robots now do. And the blood, sweat, toil, and tears shed throughout human history by the geniuses who built our technology and the tireless humanitarians who dreamed of feeding the whole world will instead go into the trust funds of children with warped bodies and asymmetrical faces from the inbreeding of generation after generation of blue bloods fattened on the proceeds of slavery, war, genocide, and colonization. An ancestry of inbreeding is a scientific explanation for the higher levels of insanity and facial asymmetry among aristocratic lineages, but I like to think it’s a symbolic black mark they have been forced to carry for what their forefathers have done and what you all in this room will continue to do. Let’s move on to your third argument. Something about about, uh….wow that’s really boring. Do I really have to talk about that for…2 minutes? I still have two minutes left in this speech. Jesus.

December 12, 1987
“You need to do something. You can’t just lie on this couch forever.”

“Yes, that’s tautological. That’s my problem I have to do something. I have to eat, drink, shit, work a job, breathe. I have to do all those things and more that take up 99% of my life and the remaining 1% is about what I want to do if I can even figure that out.”

“You have to make a plan for your future.”

“No I don’t. What I have to do is choose between a handful of almost equally awful options society has forced me into: You are asking me if I will make these choices, and I am trying to tell you I HAVE to make these choices we all do. We don’t go to Europe and keep a journal of all our hopes and dreams while we find ourselves and then set sail on an infinite sea of opportunities in the SS Dreamboat to fulfill our wildest desires. We are born and given a series of choices such as work a menial job I hate or starve on the street; give them one quarter of my wages or go to jail; take out the garbage or live in a house full of garbage. None of that involves a plan, just a forced choice of how to waste my time. Do I want to spend my life being homeless or ringing up the groceries of people with ½ my IQ? That’s like asking whether I should chew my own arm off or stay in the societal trap I fell out of my mother’s womb and into.”

“That’s bullshit. You can choose what kind of job you work, where you go to college, what you do with your free time, who you marry…”

“No, you choose the optimal job you can get with the abilities you are born with and the degree you can pay for. You can marry the optimal person based on how attractive you were born. No, no never mind. Actually you don’t even get to choose who you marry, because you can’t even choose who you love. Most of us is just a squishy pile thrown together by squiggles of DNA and the rest of us is a product of comically limited free will essentially consisting of the choice between a shit sandwich or a turd souffle.”

“Well, whatever. Like it or not, you have to get a job and get your ass moving. You can’t just live here forever.

“I just said I have to make those choices including getting a job. Do you know what have to means? But don’t pretend this is anything other than what it is. I’m not making a choice, I have a gun to my head. This is slavery, work or die. And I love that you are sitting here yelling into my ears and glaring into my eyes as if this fleshy husk in front of you has any power at all over what life will do to him. Like you are advising me to not have a shitty life and I’m just not listening to you and saying “no I want a shitty life, I’m going to end up lying on a couch drifting through a meaningless life whether you like it or not” Like after graduating high school I decided my purpose in life was to fail continuously and lay on a couch to reminisce about how I have no realistic options for a meaningful life. So I sat down and made a comprehensive ten year plan to fulfill my dream of slumping under the weight of my misery in a lower middle class hovel. And everyone tried to tell me that wasn’t a good idea, but I was too stubborn to listen. I just worked my fingers to the bone day in and day out just dreaming of the day that I could lose everything of tautological value to myself. And now you are standing here just trying to talk me out of purposely losing everything meaningful and I’m just too gold-darn stubborn to listen to you.”

“So what do you expect me to do just let you lay around here forever while I try to support you on a minimum wage job?”

“I should really be yelling at you. After all you’re the one who made all those plans to give birth to a son who did not have the ability to experience happiness. We all told you that was a crazy idea and that you should have just gone with the normal emotional spectrum for your son, but you wouldn’t take no for an answer. We tried to stop you from deciding to take that minimum wage job when you could have just been the CTO of Google or planted that money tree in the backyard, but you just said “no Shoprite is my calling.” Your accountant and even your mother tried to talk you out of living in a slum when Santa Claus offered you that house in the suburbs with a pool. But no, I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We’re both stubborn as mules. Mom I think I should really be talking to you about your life decisions, Santa Claus’s offer is still on the table. I’m just asking you to think about it.”

“Yeah I have to have to work with what God gave me. I don’t just sit on a couch and cry about it all day.”

“Jesus what is it with you and the couch. I cry in other places too. How come you never talk about my bed or the shower. And how come you never talk about all the other things I do wrong. God, it’s just unconditional praise from you all day long.”

“Wah wah wah, I have to work. Poor little me.”

“Yes just keep on explaining to me why I should eat the turd sandwich instead of the poo stew like it’s what a mother is supposed to do. I’ll eat the sandwich OK. Please leave me alone now.”

Later that night, Miles could hear his mother crying
March 17, 1996

“An existential specialist? So people call you when they need to know whether things exist?”

“People call me when they need to know that they exist.”

“Haha. So like you work in the matrix.”

“Kind of yeah.”

“OK, seriously though. What do you do? It’s not fair for you to know my job and me not know yours”

“No I’m being serious, my job title is existential specialist. I talk geniuses out of killing themselves.”

“What, really? I can never tell if you are kidding so just be serious here.”

“No I am dead serious Andrea. That is my actual job title and I am actually on call at all times in case loved ones or the agency suspects suicidal ideations in any of my clients.”

So you’re like a psychologist then. How come you only deal with high IQ patients, is that like a specialty or a preference? or…”

“Both really. I have more ability to relate to them and I enjoy their company more. It’s a preference and an issue of effectiveness. Most people who go to mental health care professionals can’t form a meaningful connection with their therapist because they think, sometimes correctly, that the therapist is only sitting there talking to them for a $100/hr fee. Having to pay someone to talk to you often makes you feel more alone than before you walked in. No one will see you as a human being who just needs some help unless you have enough money? That is not a stable foundation for a relationship between client and psychologist. And I’m not a psychologist.”

“So you do this for free?”

“No, but they can tell that I enjoy the conversations more than they do. I used to work with some of them and the rest of them are often familiar with my work in information theory. So they know I choose to be there over a career that I loved and was overwhelmingly skilled at.”

“So it’s really about the fact that you want to be there and you are motivated by an urge to help them? So they see you more like freinds of loved ones than a mercenary.”

“That’s a good way of putting it yeah. Better than the way I put it actually, haha. Empathy plays a big role in all of this too. I don’t want to overanalyze it but we just feel a need to not be alone. I’m sure you see this more framed in terms of neurotransmitters bouncing around than human nature.”

“Oh sure I do, I know that we sleep and relax because of GABA and get happy and excited because of dopamine, but the whole really is the sum of it’s parts. I know that’s cliche, but really you are probably familiar with chaos theory and fractals. Simple rules produce an infinitely scaling complexity. So I do see most of our behaviors as animalistic and motivated by instinct, and yeah that boils down to the balance of different chemicals in the brain. But it would be too glib for me to model human nature in those terms. Like I know how the human brain works broadly, but I can’t engineer Mozart’s brain tissue for you.”

“That’s actually a good way of putting it. We do have many simplistic aspects to us like we want to be loved and happy and hate pain. That can all be explained in terms of chemical concentrations in the brain. In fact, actually this kind of gets to the key difference between me and a psychologist nicely. Psychologists deal take the more simple needs of a human being as goals, almost tautologically. You want to be happy, you want love. How do we get rid of your pain? I’m sure their techniques are very sophisiticated, but the goals are the hallmark of their profession. An existential specialist on the other hand, we study the chaos. Sometimes people get lost in that chaos. Their minds become a labyrinth and they can’t find their way around.”

“Still sort of cryptic. Also, you can’t help people with lower IQs or you just don’t want to? It seems a little weird to use IQ as a metric for who to save from suicide and who not to.”

“Normally people with average IQs don’t have existential crises, just empirically speaking. That’s what I mean by the chaos. This is why I’m not a psychologist. Most people who need mental counseling have broken up with their girlfriend, are dealing with grief after their dad died, or just good old fashioned depression. You call a psychologist when you aren’t happy and you want to be happy. You call me when you can’t see your emotions as anything other than random chemical reactions and life has become a silly ritual that you get more and more tired of every day. Try telling a psychologist “Hey I think valuing human life is simply teleological and egocentric. In fact, I have introspected heavily and come to the conclusion that I am evil, disgusting, ignorant, selfish and have a laundry list of unbridgeable flaws. I have not come to more optimistic conclusions in my interactions with other human beings either. We try to think like men but always end up acting like beasts. The result is something no more noble than a cheetah ripping a gazelle to bits for it’s own carnal pleasure. However, never before has a cheetah committed mass genocide and been able to justify it. Man is an evolutionary triumph, willing to do whatever vile deed asked of it by a cruel universe just for a chance to breath a few more times and spread it’s tautological seed. So anyway, can you help me find some purpose to live?” They don’t teach therapists that one in grad school. In fact, the only people who can help you here are the very sorts of geniuses who have trailblazed this sort of chaos in the first place. Some of them wander out and lose their footing, some of them have no choice in the matter and just wake up in the middle of the labyrinth one day, and some of them become cartographers who publish novels and poems for those who get lost. The philosophers, the artists, the scientists, the mathematicians; all of them give their lives to tame the chaos. Why do they do it? That’s the right question to ask. That is the very question you want to ask yourself when you are waist deep in that chaos, tangled in tendrils and thrashing about wildly. That’s the first step, asking yourself that question. But of course, the hard part is finding the answer. You have to do that yourself. I can only guide you to and through this process.”
“So you are the trailblazer? Are you a mathematician or an artist?” Andrea gave a smirk

“No, no. Come on, I’m not that egocentric. But I am an explorer. I get tangled in the chaos from time to time for sure. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Maybe I’m being too esoteric about this.”

“No, well, I think that was a really cool description philosophically speaking. But I just want to know, like what you do on a day to day basis.”
“OK, yeah. It is sort of an inherently esoteric line of work but I can be more concrete. Really, I think the root difference between me and a psychologist is that happiness is the telos for traditional psychologists. That’s not unjustified, most people just want to be happy and most psychologists can facilitate that. However, my clients usually have no idea at all what they want. They laugh at people just trying to be happy, running through mazes like hedonistic automatons. To them it looks like a dog chasing his tail. I don’t mean that they need to find themselves and experiment around with different walks of life. I mean they have no idea at all where to even begin to think about those questions. Much more dangerously, they can’t even come up with a good reason to search. Maybe you can’t stop seeing yourself as nothing more than an animal hunting, gathering and looking for mates and life becomes an evolutionary game you no longer want to play. Or it sinks in that you are mortal, and suicide will only hasten the inevitable. Most people play around with these sorts of ideas on an intellectual level, but for these people it is as real as physical pain.

“So what, you give them a pep talk or tell them the truth about god and the universe or what?”

“It is complicated. If you put me on the spot to define humanity with one trait, I would give you free will. Like it or not, you have defined your whole life around defending and nurturing a little blossom of free will. You have to keep it hidden from a universe that seems stalwartly deterministic and frighteningly chaotic at the same time. You must carefully guard it from a machinating society that caricatures human beings into what it wants to see. It truncates you with fear, crushes you with force, and reminds you of animal lust. Your are forced to remember the needs of your body as it erodes more and more everyday with you trapped inside. It tells you how much to eat, drink, when to go to the bathroom, when to fuck, fart, breathe, sleep. If that wasn’t bad enough, it gets weaker, wrinklier, and more dessicated day after day, until you are nothing but dust. But as disgusting and inconvenient as your body is, you must never stop loving it. You have to keep fighting day after day because if that flower withers, you will dissolve into the world around you. Without free will you are no different than a computer or a rock. Even if free isn’t there, even if they snuffed it out, you have to keep believing in it. If you manage to keep the flower alive it will define you and you will be human. This is your reward: the texture of the human experience. Do not expect to earn the answer to whether man is good or evil. No one will be waiting at the end to tell you why your life was meaningful. You aren’t guaranteed love, warmth, happiness, or fulfillment. You cannot demand these things. In fact, some would argue that while struggling for these pleasures is an inescapable part of humanity, successfully attaining them is nothing more than hedonism. They would tell you that perhaps you will be lucky enough to find happiness, but this is not why you struggle. But whatever you think of human nature, for better or worse, you are a human and you will live as only a human can. That is what you fight for, do not expect anything else from life. Maybe this doesn’t sound like much of a prize to you. You might not be curious about the human experience or plain old just not enjoy it. In that case, your only other option is to depart for nothingness. My job is to convince you otherwise.”

“How do you convince them of that exactly though?”

“You try to remind them what it feels like to find meaning in life. You try to show them some options for living a substantive subjective experience. For this to have any chance of success, you need to develop a grasp on how they see the world. This is a fractal landscape for most geniuses, so even if you can somehow read their mind, you have to be able to relate at least a little bit. That’s why they usually send me to mathematicians or people whose world is shaped by math. A lot of the time you throw a lot at the wall and hope some of it sticks.”

“So you are kind of like a motivational speaker?”

“I don’t really think there is a good analogy between existing mental health specialists and my job. I’m an existential specialist, maybe it is sort of like a psychologist or a life coach at time, but it is really it’s own concept. Like if I asked you what a Bioengineer is and I just kept saying “oh, like a physicist.” “or like a doctor.” It does share properties with those things, but it cannot simply be defined by the properties it shares with other things.”

“Yeah but I don’t have to because you know what a Bioengineer is, and so does everyone. No one knows what a existential specialist is.”

“Fair enough. But what you are thinking right now and how you view the world is as mysterious to me as the occupation of existential specialist is to you, maybe more cryptic in fact.

“I hope would hope so” Andrea said with a half smile

“Sure, definitely less sophisticated than you, I may never understand you fully but I will die trying.”
Miles said breaking a smile as Andrea completed the growing smile on her face

“But my point is that the process of understanding you more and more intimately doesn’t include crude similes like “oh she’s like Craig” or “you mean the way Jimmy loves his mother.” Miles continued

“I still think understanding a human being is a bit more complicated than explaining your job, but I see what you are trying to say, sort of.” Andrea said through a few chuckles

“Yeah, it is of course. I was exaggerating a bit to make a more general point about the theory of human nature. You have to get a handle on how other people think before you try to help them. We do share characteristics with other human beings like mortality, eating, and even political views, and wanting happiness and love. In fact we need to feel like we have something in common with our fellow man or else we feel alone in the world or like freaks. We need friendship, love, and community based on commonalities. So to a degree we define ourselves by similarities to others, this is known as quiddity. On the other hand we need to think of ourselves as individuals who aren’t just clones of our friends and parents or a slave to popular culture. We need to think thoughts that have never been thought before, feel emotions no one has ever felt. Our subjective experience cannot just be a mosaic of other people’s thoughts and feelings. If we aren’t original in at least some sense, we aren’t really human, or are just really pathetic humans at best. That is the intuitive difference between computers and humans: creativity. It’s the whole reason we want free will in the first place. Duns Scotus referred to this as haecceity. Obviously most concepts are best defined by both haecceity and quiddity with respect to other concepts. But no where is this balance more awkward than in the human mind. This sort of subconscious conflict is much worse for those with high IQs… in my experience. Especially when they become aware of it and are then helpless in resisting what they begrudgingly discover is fundamental to human nature. This is often the catalyst of an existential crisis.”

“So you think this is a lot of the source of human psychological stress. Then you try to correct that, or help them cope with it or what?”

“They don’t want to be in a limbo of meaning, all you have to do is give them a way out. This is easier said than done, but the human mind has evolved for billions of years to develop defense mechanisms for the effects of self awareness. We are the first creatures who fear death more than anything else, yet at the same time are aware of the fact that death is inevitable. We have religion, we have distraction, denial…”

“And the ability to intrinsically find meaning in aspects of life?”

“Sure, potatow potahto. But the point is high IQ individuals seem to have less access to these, which is perhaps why evolution put a cap on how intelligent we can become. So you have to do a little work to pull them out of their mental abyss and then help them build some of their own defense mechanisms. They made it until now, they have to have some mechanisms to deal with the human experience. You need to figure out what they are and why they failed. Sometimes you can try to evolve existing ones, or sometimes you need to start from scratch. Maybe you start with free will, because as I was saying, that it often the root of mental trauma. You tell them that although they enslaved your muscles and calloused fingers, in your mind you are always free. You get the idea, it’s kind of specific to each individual and a lot of it is ad hoc…But honestly, I think your job is a little more interesting. I mean biology is one of those sciences that isn’t constructed out of mathematics. Most sciences have an underlying mathematical order to them that guides understanding and development. I guess biology is a little more, intuition based and artistic in a way.”

“Haha, yeah I guess it sounds interesting when you say it like that. Is that how you talk biologists out of killing themselves?”

February 19, 1999

The world may be monotone and bathed in fluorescent light, but any time you like you can see the violent birth of spacetime from the womb of quantum singularity. Or if you have kinestesia Andrea, taste the first few moments of our universe. The four forces of nature: gravity, EM, strong force, and weak force we know and study today have long since forgotten the first passionate moments of the big bang when they were one and the same. Hearts beating together to an equation so beautiful physicists sacrifice everything in their lives just to catch glimpses of it. Sometimes gravity has dreams about a cheerful sculptor with a white beard in his dusty workshop lovingly shaping differential equations and about waltzing the Lagrangian through spacetime with electromagnetism so artfully that they embrace and she can finally tell him how she feels.”
“Miles this isn’t funny.”

“You stare up at the sky and into electron microscope just to watch the forces of nature dance so beautifully together that they simply must be soulmates, but they are too nervous to tell each other of their love. They are too shy to talk about tell each other about the dreams they had last night and reveal to each other that they remember the big bang and it is no coincidence they can dance so intricately with each other.
“Miles seriously I get it. I talked in my sleep and you heard me or you read my diary and…”

“But you know, you know their secret. Lunchtime is a tuna fish salad sandwich that tastes just like Maxwell’s third equation and you sort out the tuna, mayonnaise, pepper, tomato right there at your workstation to taste each of them individually. Tuna is Coulomb’s equation, the pepper tastes a little like gravity and you become excited, tomato…don’t know, it just tastes bland, probably white noise, but the mayonnaise, something you recognize but can’t quite put a finger on. You leave the sandwich half eaten and try to manipulate the four maxwell equations into something you recognize as that taste.”

“Miles I don’t know how you know all this” Andrea’s lip quivered. “but you’re scaring me and if you don’t stop I’m leaving.” Andrea got up and started putting on her coat

Miles stood up and continued “Lunch ends and you remember you are at work. You had something you were right in the middle of… Looking around, you are surrounded by Tom, Rachel, Jimbal, OK, the tissue engineering group. You fantasize about walking out right then and there. Just sitting outside on the grass and tasting different sizes of infinity. But you are almost finished with the synthetic heart tissue polymer. How many lives? Three thousand people need heart transplants per year in the US, you could finish the synthetic heart tissue and that could be enough. You could be part of the quantum information group at Cal Tech by the end of the month if you quit today. No, it would be so easy to adapt the synthetic heart tissue growth process to other organ tissue. Twenty people die each day because of organ shortages. Too many, I can’t, I have to stay I have to…

“Stop, please, please stop.” Dr. Cynn could not hold back her tears any longer. she stuttered in between sobs “I can’t…I…I…can’t. how….how….did you….how.”

People in the cafe turned around to look before returning to their meals and doing their best to ignore the now loudly sobbing Dr. Andrea Cynn.

“Shhhhh. You’re OK. your fine.” Miles had grabbed her before she collapsed on the ground and was holding her in his arms on the floor of the cafe “shhh.shhh. I’m sorry. shhhhh. I can’t lose you, I had to. You are OK. you’re OK. it’s OK. shhh.

“No. No, Miles…I have to go. I have to go I’m sorry. I can’t…I can’t right now. I need to leave. she stuttered in between sobs as she pushed herself up into a kneeling positon. ”We can talk about this later. I’ve gotta go. I gotta go. This is..too much. This is way, way too much!” she yelled as she pushed herself away from the sticky floor of the cafe with balled up hands on her feet. “I’ve gotta…….I really don’t know. All I know is that I have to go be alone. I just know I have to be alone.” she grabbed her purse and walked tripping and swaying out of the cafe.

Miles lay silent against the wall of the cafe except for the sound he made by pressing his fingers into the clingy adhesive like skin of the white tiled floor and pulling them away slowly. It was a little bit like the sound of paper tearing as he lifted his palm off first, then his knuckles and finally the tips of his fingers. He wondered if the residue was lonely down there. Long forgotten by the patrons who didn’t even notice it had splashed out of their latte. Some of it was fresher and just congealing and he wondered if Andrea had spilled it. He glanced up. All the patrons were gone and he could only see a few employees keeping their backs towards him. Pretending to chop mix and clean. Other sections of the floor had long ago dried up and Miles couldn’t tell what drink if any they had come from. Did they used to be happy in their styrofoam womb. Did it scare them to splash out into the ether and splatter against the ground into a thousand droplets. Did they search at night for all the pieces of them splattered across the cafe. Puddles and sticky spots diluted by bleach and ammonia, smeared by mops in the moonlight and dried in the morning sun a thousand times over. Clues to the past. Miles’s mind was a vacuum, sleep without dreams. No visions, no phantom cognitions, or even any alien emotions reached out to him. Not even the sticky spots would talk to him.

February 20, 1999

“I can’t explain it. It’s complicated. I just…”

“What are you like a mind reader or something?”

“No, no. It’s just like empathy, I just, know how you feel.”

That is not empathy, that is stealing people’s most intimate secrets. How? What? So I just don’t have any privacy at all? You don’t give a shit about anyone’s privacy. Have you been reading my thoughts this whole time? Jesus. Oh my god…jesus. I…literally don’t know what to say. I have no idea how to feel about this. I need to go.”

“No Andrea please. I just, I had to. I love you, I can’t lose you. I had to try everything I could to save you. Please, please try to understand where I was coming from. I had good intentions.”

“Miles no, I don’t care how you justify it. I’m fine, I don’t need your help. I can’t…I can’t have you knowing all of my most intimate thoughts at all times or when you think I need “help” or whenever you think it’s appropriate to mind rape me.”

“I’ll never do it again, I promise. I’m working on controlling it, please I just need more time.”

“You can’t control when you do it! Jesus, I’m sorry Miles..I… I can’t…I just… I have to go, I’ve got to go. This is too much.”

“Andrea please I’ll do anything you ask of me don’t leave. Don’t leave. Please don’t”

“Miles I need some time…alone. Lot’s of time alone. This…I’m freaking out right now. I really don’t know what to think about any of this. This is insane. I just really need to go be alone for a while.”

“I’m sorry…I’m just sorry, I didn’t want to hurt you. I didn’t know what to do. I’ll go, I think it might best. Yeah, you do need alone time. I’m sorry. I’ll go. I hope I see you again someday. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye Miles, I love you too. I’m trying to be OK with this in some way, but I just can’t. Maybe in enough time. I don’t know. I just really don’t know. Goodbye.”

“If I never see you again, I just need you to know how wonderful your mind is. I’ve never been more happy than during the few glimpses I’ve gotten of you. Seriously, I had to force myself to leave your mind anytime my uh…empathy was, you know, doing it’s thing. And tearing myself away was worse than any physical and emotional pain I have ever felt or can even imagine. It was a really diverse and intricate spectrum of pain in fact. Seriously, like I felt new forms of pains I didn’t even know existed. I’ve never really felt them before, all I know is that they are definitely a form of pain. Definitely..definitely very much pain. It’s just…I don’t know how to say it. I mean, I’ve spent lots of time looking through the eyes of geniuses, you know professionally, and I’ve seen some indescribable beauty. So when I try to explain to you how incredible your mind is, understand that this is coming from someone who is almost jaded from how many genius minds he’s known intimately. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you are a genius, that you think in a way that has no analogue in anyone I’ve ever known. It’s not just that you solve problems so elegantly and efficiently when most people, even those with an IQ as high as you, literally cannot even understand them. You have problems that you are fretting over in there that I have never seen before. You have like a completely original universe up there that you have created, really, problems and solutions are completely of your own creativity and brilliance. Most geniuses I have seen are thinking about problems that have been proposed or using external knowledge of some sort like earlier theorems or data about the world. You obviously think about the world around you, from time to time, everyone has to. But I’m talking about when you are really thinking, like completely immersed in an idea. I have never seen thoughts like this and I know no one has ever had thoughts like these. I mean, if we step back from the trees to look at the forest, you have created, from scratch a more vivid and sophisticated universe in your mind than any I have ever seen, physically or mentally. And when I say completely original, I mean completely original. I have felt emotions in your mind that do not exist anywhere else. Do you know that you have given life to completely new emotions? I can still feel them welling up in my heart now one by one then harmonizing in and out of each other. That’s not all either. New colors, sounds, landscapes, sensations of all kinds that only exist in your mind. I…can’t articulate them. There is no way to express them, because the words haven’t been invented yet. No language can describe them yet because they are completely novel concepts. You created them, I don’t know how. My whole life I have been fascinated by what it means to be human, I’m sure almost everyone has. One of my students always asks me the same question every year “But Miles, you know a lot about human nature. You know what humans are, but what should humans be?” I always thought that question was stupid. Well interesting, but still nonsense. Normatives, shoulds, meaning are all human constructs that we try to force on the universe around us. Gravity doesn’t have a purpose, stars don’t burn because they have volition, there is no why, just the laws of physics. If you really get down to it we are just evolutionary automatons and there is no should about us. We are human, like it or not, and to the extent that there is any “why” to our existence, it is simply the process of evolution. Your mind has forced me to take that question much more seriously. You have transcended humanity, human nature is your clay. Please never stop sculpting. I know this probably is sounding insane to you. I’m not very good at articulating it, but I hope I am sort of expressing what I need to get across. ”

Andrea was in tears again “That’s beautiful Miles….I do…I do understand what you are saying. I know your intent was pure and that this is how you love other people. And I really don’t have that much of a problem with it intellectually because I love you and I want to share myself with you. But emotionally I just can’t. I can’t handle living with someone who could be listening to anything I think at any given time. It’s just horrifying, even if it is someone I love. I would be anxious about what I think all the time, struggling to control my feelings and cognitions.”

“I can learn to control it.” Miles cut in

“Maybe, we can’t know for sure. And I can never know that you aren’t telling me the whole truth about it because you are too scared of losing me. I’ll always have the urge to censor my thoughts and be afraid of what I might think at any time. You would go insane if you knew that people could hear and judge every thought you’ve ever had and might have. Every sexual urge you’ve ever had, every weird humiliating thought. Right now, this very second I am terrified that I may think something that will hurt you.”

“Andrea. It isn’t like I’m a mind reader, I can’t hear what you are thinking right now. I almost never have any access to other minds. It is very rare and I only catch little glimpses at a time. I have only had it happen with you four times and it was only about 20 or 30 seconds each.”

“But Miles, I’ll never know whether you are doing it or not. I never know which of my thoughts are safe and which you are seeing.”

“No, I’ll tell you anytime it happens.”

“No you won’t Miles. You would be too afraid of me leaving. You know it isn’t up to me, that my emotions aren’t volitional and that this is just too disturbing for me to handle. I know that you know, that I have to leave if you can’t control it. And even if you can control it, I can never trust you not to use it. You said it yourself how painful it was to tear yourself away from my mind.”

“You’re right. That is all true. I’m not going to lie to you. All I can do is say that I will try to control it as much as possible. And I love you too much to be willing to hurt you so I won’t ever do it again if I can help it. But I probably can’t Andrea. I probably will end up using it again, you aren’t wrong. If this really hurts you as much as you are saying, then I can’t force you to stay.” Miles bit down on his tongue and lip to hold back the tears. “You should go Andrea, you’re right. You have to go.”

“Miles, I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… I love you…. I do… love you.” she choked out in between sobs

“Shhhhh. It’s OK. I understand. Please come back if you ever can. I love you, and I will miss you.” Miles put his back up against the wall and slowly slid down to the floor of the cafe. All the patrons had left by now. “Goodbye Andrea. Please go. Go be happy now.”

Andrea was sobbing as she knelt down to kiss him “I’m sorry it has to be like this…I…just…I don’t know what to say. Goodbye Miles. I’ll miss you more than you can ever know.”

February 12, 1989

Red light paralyzed the tense intersection. Shelly Conusoid slid her hands off the wheels and cracked her knuckles. The balding man in the green sedan next to her was pounding his steering wheel like a bongo to something she could only feel the bass vibrations of. She tried to draw her peripheral vision away to stave off the urge to make eye contact. She hoped making house calls would not become a habit if she made an exception in for this one patient. Although it wasn’t terribly uncommon for people with a phobia of death to refuse to leave their home. She was sure many prospective patients would be in a similar situation. I guess it is unfair, but she had to draw the line somewhere. Can’t help everyone, just have to do my best. Green light, white human outline near crosswalk. The stale leather steeped interior of her Honda Civic lurched forward as she let go of the brake. As soon as the ball of her foot made contact with the gas pedal she jerked back and slammed on the brake at the sight of the white pickup truck executing a right turn into her lane. He stopped in the middle of the intersection as if halted by a barrage of honks. Dr. Conusoid rolled down her window to yell “What the fuck are you doing! Get the fuck out of the way!” The overweight pickup truck driver cleverly responded “Up yours grandma!” as he swung around the corner and roared ahead of her. “God what an asshole” she thought. Shelly shook her head and gingerly accelerated through the green glow that faded into a yellow orb in her rearview mirror. “This woman’s house is supposed to be around here somewhere. The block past the light with the front yard that has two gnarled Japanese Maples….sigh…glad she gave me such excellent directions. It’s bad enough I had to come all the way out here, you can’t give me street names. I hope there is only one Japanese Maple in this whole town.” She turned left two blocks from the light at what she thought looked like a Japanese Maple. ‘OK, 57, 59, 61, it’s on the other side. 64, 66, 68, OK here we go. I know I’m going to walk up to one hundred doors tonight before someone doesn’t smile condescendingly and tilt their head to say “oh sorry honey I think you have the wrong house.” Her tires crunched over the silty crest between driveway and road. She shifted the tired Honda into park and pulled out the key. “Why not just one flight of stairs instead of the three flights zig-zagging up to the front door.” she thought pulling herself up stair by stair while gripping the freezing cold railing. Shelly reached out to the doorbell, but knocked instead at the last second. She didn’t know how long she should wait before a second round of knocking. She leaned towards the window to look for movement or light. Her impatience overrode any fear of rudeness and she knocked again. Oh my god, how will I know if I’m at the wrong house if no one opens the door? Shit. She turned towards her car and looked out at the treeline, then back around again to look through the window. How long should I wait before I leave? Damnit, she bowed her head and noticed her right shoe was untied. Thank god I didn’t trip over this on the way up she thought and knelt down to tie it. She heard a metallic rattling and reflexively popped her head up to see the doorknob turning. The door opened slowly and a young woman stood there arms hanging at her waist staring at her. A little bit shorter than expected, but not short enough to account for just how diminutive she was even from the vantage of kneeling down shoes untied on her stoop.

“Hi. How are you.” she said only moving her lips.

Dr. Conusoid pushed down on her knee and pavement to pull herself back up to her feet “Very well, thank you. Andrea yes?” Andrea gazed at her solemnly like a frightened child and nodded her head. Shelly’s mounting frustration with the asphalt labyrinth and fighting foul mouthed truck driving minotaurs softened. She noticed the pace of Andrea’s blinking and couldn’t stop paying attention to it, like when you are aware of your breathing and can’t stop micromanaging it. She was pretty sure it was slower than normal. Marble brown eyes, but huh, some shades of earthy green caught by the early afternoon sun at certain angles of Andrea’s nodding. Hazel I suppose. “Hello Andrea, I’m Dr. Conusoid, feel free to call me Shelly if you are more comfortable with that. Shelly tried to draw her attention from the rate of Andrea’s blinks before it became chinese water torture. “Shall we get to it Ms. Cynn” she asked warmly.

“Yup.” Andrea said and turned around to walk away from the door.

“How are you Andrea, feeling better?”

“Kind of. Not really.” she replied without turning around

“Would you like to describe your emotional state right now?” Dr. Conusoid asked

“OK. Still flat affect, but patches of enjoyment. Like, when I birdwatch, or when I’m curious about something. It’s really more fear at this point, or anxiety.”

“Alright, well the anti-depressants will take more than two weeks to produce their full effect…”

“Yes I have a pretty good idea how SSRIs work, I am feeling some effects. I think it is working. Sort of.”

“OK, so we seem to be making progress with your unipolar depression and that fear is a bit more invasive for you right now. Can you maybe tell me a little about the anxiety. How you feel. What triggers it?”

“Death…We are so delicate. Our bodies, that is. A tiny imbalance in neurotransmitters can stop your heart. Our DNA makes so many mistakes every time new cells are made, which happens every second. A tiny error can cause an aneurism. Capillaries in my brain have walls only one cell wide, and leak or clot can kill us in minutes. Do you know how many people die everyday? Of lightening, auto accidents, cancer, heart attacks? Why is everyone so nonshalant about that. I mean..they probably shouldn’t stay in their houses all day like me. But no one even seems worried at any time about it! Most people don’t wear a seatbelt! They don’t wear a seatbelt when a crash at even 30 mph can crush their bodies to jelly! Forget about a head on collision, you can double the speed then and the kinetic energy mv^2/2, the velocity is squared! It doesn’t take much KE to jellify you and they don’t care!”

“Well Andrea, everyone is afraid of death. Lot’s of things in life are dangerous and we should have a healthy respect for them and do everything we can to prevent terrible things from happening. But we can’t let fear paralyze our lives.”

“Yeah I know. I know that logically, but it’s a phobia. Those are definitionally irrational.”

“So have you researched all that information about human biology because you want to know about all the things that can kill us so you can prevent it?”

“No, I’m a bio engineering student.”

“Oh, OK, where do you go to school?”

“John Hopkins.”

“What year are you in?”

“I’m a graduate student.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty two.”

“So you are working on your Masters?”

Andrea “the flatness” Cynn estimated the number of conversations she has had with anyone at her school her entire junior year at 21. 15 of these conversations were with teachers, 4 of them were in connection to other students cheating off of her, and two of them were four or five word exchanges based in pity. The final conversation, number 21, involved Andrea overhearing her nickname from Roberta who explained to her that it was coined by Travis Bread who Roberta knew Andrea had a crush on. In truth it was Travis’s best friend Jarvis who was the comical genius behind Andrea’s high school nickname, but Travis certainly did think it was funny. However, her nickname changed senior year when she threw acid in the eyes of a school shooter, who was actually an ex-boyfriend of hers, averting what could have been quite a bloodbath.
“No I’m a PhD candidate, I already have a Master’s degree.”

“Umm, wow. So…you are exceptionally intelligent then?”

“No. Not really. I just really like it, and I work at it a lot.”

“You don’t think you are more intelligent than average Andrea?”

“Maybe more intelligent than average, but it’s really just that I’m passionate about math and so I do it all the time, even sometimes when I’m sleeping. And that kind of led me into physics and eventually engineering.”

“Well your IQ scores are quite impressive, you are on track to be one of the youngest female PhD in US history, and just talking to you right now I can tell you are mentally formidable. In my opinion you are very intelligent.”

Dr. Corusoid became aware of the ticks of the kitchen clock.

“Thank you.” Andrea replied

“So you have talked a lot about how weak and tender the human body is, but you must see some beauty in it if you have almost earned a doctorate in bioengineering.”

“No. I think our bodies are disgusting and frightening.”

“So, why did you decide to pursue biology?”

“I don’t know, it’s interesting kind of. I mean…our bodies need a lot of help too. I did say they are weak and kind of gross, so all the more reason that people need help from biological engineers. 18 people die everyday because we don’t have enough organs for transplants. And I mean, humans are kind of…squishy and smelly, but I don’t want them to die. Like, humans have their flaws, but all the more reason they need help. ”

“You can’t save lives as a physicist or a mathematician?”

“I wouldn’t rule it out. But I mean…18 people die every day that synthetic organs aren’t available. If I can help those people and don’t… I mean, I don’t hate our bodies, they are just gross. I guess it can be kind of funny if you look at it the right way. Naked people are hilarious, especially how goofy and prudent they are about being naked. Oh no, no one can see my silly penis bobbing up and down and looping around I must hide it away forever. I’m sorry I have to put a shirt on you Mr. Tummy, but I am ashamed of you, you can come out later if I’m having sex.”

“I don’t think you can be blamed for the death of those people. Doctors, other bioengineers, relatives all have opportunities to save them. You simply can’t help everyone.”

“I know.” Andrea said eyes on the floor

So you think people wearing clothing is absurd? Even though the human body is as disgusting as you say it is?”

“Yeah it is gross. But, like, a shirt doesn’t change that. Like we still go to the bathroom and ooze pus and all our organs are gross sacks of smelly chemicals. It’s funny that people put on pants and then boom, they forget what they are. Unless there is sex, then we love all that stuff that would make us gag a second ago. Can you imagine sex without any pleasure being involved? That is really nasty. Just goopy oozing and fluids going in and out of holes we go to the bathroom with. I mean, it’s still really fun… but like… logically it should be gross. So I’m not excluding myself when talk about body hypocriticalness, I guess would be the term. For some reason a wall of silk and perfume in between my flesh and yours magically makes us forget how repulsive and frail we are.

“Well it seems that doesn’t work for you. We are both wearing clothes and you still seem quite adamant about the flaws in our bodies. Does that bother you?”

“If I think about it yeah I’m going to see all the flaws, and I guess clothes help a little. Well…kind of. They… no they really don’t help that much. Like, I still need to wear clothes and have sex, but I am aware of how silly it is. So I consider myself a hypocrite too. That used to be much more sad, but I am beginning to see it more as funny now.”

“So your passion is more mathematics oriented? Is mathematics involved in biology? Or is there some

“Yeah, I just have an attraction to math, like the same way humans are attracted to each other. I think that’s really the best way to describe it. I can’t stop thinking about it and it makes me happy everytime I do. I want get to know it as intimately as possible, I want to help it grow and develop. It thinks just like me, we are both really curious about truth. And I mean truth in both the most abstract sense and truth as it applies in individual contexts, math kind of makes the division hard to see. I was immediately interested in philosophy as a young girl and there were tons of fascinating issues to think about and discuss, but at the end of the day there aren’t any real answers to those questions. Math made me realize that most of these questions weren’t just unanswerable, but that the questions actually made no sense. Like asking what the meaning of the universe is? You are taking a fuzzy qualia based notion with no real definition that only exists in the human mind and applying it to a bunch of mass and energy playing in spacetime. That’s like asking what the color of a prime number is. You can’t just ask any old question you like if it is nonsense. It was depressing at first to see the limits of my brain thrown in my face like that and some of my favorite questions mocked. But mathematics quickly showed me that it was for my own good to throw out those questions. When I learned the tools of mathematics and used them to root out some real questions, I felt like I was seeing the world in color for the first time. Some of the big philosophical questions were even spared and given rigorous treatment. Whatever truth is, it has to be a statement that is not internally contradictory. Like A is B and also A is not B. There are theorems that eliminate all but very few possible systems of logic based on this simplistic criteria alone. First order logic is the favorite survivor of most. In this system, anything that has a logical proof is true, and anything that is true has a logical proof. So, any concepts constructable in this logic system we know the truth or falsity of. There are limited building blocks in the first order universe so for more sophisticated ideas you must use second order logic or higher order logic. You can create more complex concepts, but the price is that there will be concepts that are true but unprovable, like necessarily. So truth is a concept that applies to some things, but not others. If you aren’t in first order logic, you need to be careful that you aren’t asking…I was going to say flavor of an odd number, but for me that tastes sour. You need to be careful that you aren’t asking how drunk pi gets at Christmas. Which is kind of sad, but enlightening. Perhaps our concept of truth is too black and white. Perhaps in a quantum and Godel’s Incompleteness world we need to look for the gray area. But until we conceptualize that gray area better, truth only exists in first order logic. And concepts more complex than that continue to frolic in the world of nonexistence and nonsense.”

“I can hear a lot of passion there, and a lot of intelligence. What about physics and biology?”

“Physics and biology are sort of like being fascinated by psychology or sociology because you happen to be a human. We just sort of happen to live in this body and universe, and so we study them. It is kind of egocentric in a way, but this universe does happen to be particularly wonderful. So I guess people who study physics for egocentric reasons are right for the wrong reasons. The thing is…any concept in mathematics, pretty much just came out of a human mind. Whatever the philosophical implications of the human mind are, the simple fact is stuff in math is just made up. We created it, then we studied its properties with logic. Numbers are an abstraction of counting, we invented addition, then multiplication and gave them properties. This goes for all the other objects of mathematics. The funny part, is that many, maybe most, of these purely mental creations perfectly describe our universe. These ideas we created out of curiosity and studied out of beauty happen to have deep relationships with our universe. Interpret that how you will, but this is the reason I love physics.”

“You obviously have a deep motivation and attachment to mathematics and physics. But I can’t help but keep coming back to biology. Especially the themes of frailty of the human body, your phobia of death, and your need to “save” everyone in the world from death.”

“I wouldn’t read too much into that. I have always felt this way about the human body and have always wanted to help other people. I think everyone does to some degree. But I have only had a fear of death for about one month, which roughly coincides when I began taking zoloft.”

“So you have only had a fear of death for about one month. Now when you say a fear of death…you mean a phobia of death right? The difference being fear is a healthy and natural response to many things that may hurt us. We should be afraid of a high cliff and tigers, that is a good thing. A phobia of death is more in the neighborhood of not being able to leave one’s house or live life because we are so afraid of something. So, do you mean that you have had the phobia of death for one month?”

“No. I mean both. I have only had a fear of death for the past month as well. The same goes for the phobia.”

“So, you have never feared death at all your entire life? Until this month, you have never been afraid of a dangerous situation or risking your life doing something crazy like parachuting or running out into traffic?”

“No, yeah. That is pretty much what I’m saying. I am on zoloft in the first place because I was depressed and periodically suicidal, so I really didn’t get that much out of life. I didn’t necessarily want to die at any given moment. I was just somewhat apathetic about being alive or dead. I sort of preferred life at times. I’m just not used to…enjoying it, I guess.”

“So, you have never had a crippling fear of death in the past or any aversion to it at all?”

“Maybe slight aversions to it like valuing life more than death on balance. Often I was just suicidal, and periods in between simply wanting to die was the closest I got to fearing death. Most of the time I was apathetic one way or the other. Often it almost felt fitting that I didn’t strongly prefer life to death because death was going to eventually happen anyway. I saw that as sort of the silver lining.”

“So you rationalized your suicidal ideations by seeing death as something that is inevitable so why not hasten it a little?”

“I don’t know if it was rationalizing. I barely even noticed I was depressed honestly, I just thought everyone felt the same pain as me. The psychic trauma was always linked to some sort of sad thought or realistic fear so I thought it was normal and that other people were too stupid to understand what was going on. Depression didn’t really care what I thought though, like if I didn’t rationalize or see the glass half empty I still would not have enough serotonin in my brain to produce positive emotions. Otherwise I wouldn’t need to take SSRIs.”

“So all your emotionals were dulled including the negative ones like fear?”

“No. Not really, I kind of had enough mental pain that anything the physical world could do to me more of less paled in comparison. That was how I logically felt about it. But, I guess fear is sort of more emotional, so maybe there is something subconscious going on I don’t understand.”

“Ok, Andrea. Well, we are about out of time for today. But I think we are making some progress. Let’s set up a time for…maybe next week some time. Does that work for you?”


February 13, 1989 1:00AM

“You know humans are one of the only animals that can drink alcohol without dying” Miles had to yell over the bass heavy music to Marcelles even though he was right next to him “Any other mammal can’t metabolize the ethyl alcohol properly and it is highly toxic to them.”

“Is that true?” Marcelles asked. “Is it just because other animals are generally smaller than us?”

“No the human liver has a unique ability to process ethanol into nontoxic compounds, even when you scale for size. Even animals larger than us like bears and cows will die if they ingest drinking alcohol. Monkeys actually have a limited ability to sustain doses of ethanol from fermented fruit. It’s actually hilarious, I’ve seen videos of it. They take a few bites and then stagger around and stumble on roots and rocks until they just fall over and go to sleep.”

“Do they do it on purpose or do they just eat the fruit by accident?” Marcelles asked.

“Unclear. But we’re just a few DNA errors away from them” Miles takes a swig from a red dixie cup of vodka “And we seem to be doing it on purpose.”

“So what are you saying then, that the capacity to metabolize drinking alcohol is an evolutionarily advantageous trait?”

“Maybe. I think I’ve made that idea at least plausible. Drinking alcohol is chemically similar and has nearly identical effects on human physiology and psychology as benzodiazepines, the drug of choice for treating anxiety. The ability to mitigate anxiety could be useful in some of the first creatures with self awareness. We all fear death above anything and know at the same time that we are going to die without warning someday. Could help to have easy access to some booze to calm the nerves.” Miles said taking another sip.

Marcelles turned his head towards a pocket of loud cheers to see Delores pulling another red cup of beer out of the pyramid to chug a lug. Her and the chubby guy next to her only had three cups left and had only eliminated one cup from the opposing team’s pyramid. The two guys on the other team were motioning with their hands on the table. She was laughing at something the chubby guy said. Someone jumping up and down on the dancefloor to the chorus of Kanye West’s “Monster” bumped into the blonde haired guy poising his hand like a cobra ready to strike to line up a vector between his ping pong ball and Delores and chubby guy’s row of three red cups. “I think it’s really because drinking like quadruples the odds of random people having sex. It kind of answers the question of why certain genes are still floating around in the population.” Marcelles said motioning with his head towards the dancefloor.

Miles put his hand on his hip and bowed his head laughing. “Too right. I don’t care how much that popping and locking girl drinks I will not be having sex with her.”

Marcelles chuckled in a pitch that cut right through the booming music. Every other word Marcelles said was drowned out by the music but Miles could still tell what Marcelles was saying. It seemed like Marcelles had been intercepting enough of the conversation to understand him as well. “It is an amazing social lubricant” Miles said looking at the clump of dancers who’s alcohol doused motor skills were smoothed over by the strobelight’s choppy slow motion rendering. “People say alcohol largely removes inhibition, whatever that means. That’s the most… common alcohol related, uh, philosophy I hear most people share.”

“You really like that strobe light huh?” Marcelles said.

“It is oddly mesmerizing. I guess that’s why it’s such a common party effect.” Miles said turning back to Marcelles “They definitely look like much better dancers with the dark parts edited out.”

“I think I know what you mean, but that still sounds racist.” Marcelles said with a smile.

“No, I..you know, like when the strobe light is off. It creates like a motion capture photography effect where you get, like, the gist of how they are dancing without the chopped out parts when the strobe is off. And I’m not racist, I have black friends. Or at least I think you’re black. Maybe mixed race, but you definitely have some black in there.” he said to Marcelles.

“I’m hispanic you ass.” Marcelles replied

Miles just looked at him.

“Nah, I’m fucking with you. Yeah I’m part black part caucasian. So I am allowed to use half of the n word. I have to choose either the first three letters or the last three letters and stick with it though.”

“Hahaha, oh man. You’re funny when your drunk Marcelles.” Miles said

“I’m not drunk. I’m still good. But yeah I am funny.”

“You’ve had a good amount man, I think you should be feeling some effects. Soon you’ll be bumping and jumping around on the floor with the rest of the strobe crew.”

“Fuck that. This is the closest I’m getting to that mess over there. I feel like most people do actually only dance when they are drunk. Except professional dancers and people who are like really good. I’m talking about just normal people though, like average people with average levels of dance skill or below. You never see people just spontaneously start dancing around. Even at parties most people have to be fairly wasted to start dancing for real. Inhibition thing like you said I guess. Most people are afraid of looking like morons. Or maybe deep down they know how ridiculous dancing really is unless they are wasted.”

“I dunno” Miles yelled. He coughed a little and started to worry that his voice would be too hoarse to debate tomorrow “I think people like to dance deep down. It’s a form of artistic expression in many ways and it’s just kind of fun. We do look really stupid while we’re doing it, but I think that’s sad in a way. If we didn’t find it so goofy looking, I feel like most people would dance all the time. Admit it, you enjoy dancing. At least some type of dancing.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s OK.”

“OK, if you could dance really well and people wouldn’t think you looked stupid you would dance a lot more right? And I don’t mean to impress people, I mean because it just makes life less monotone. Think about your average day and then line it up all week, all month, all year. Our lives are so monotonous when you think about it. It would be great to just be able to dance all around for like five minutes a few times a day to break up the routine.”

“I guess. I can think of things I’d rather do than dance as a break from the day.”

“Sure, granted. And this alcohol breaking inhibitions and giving us freedom thing runs deeper than just dancing. There are tons of things key to our identity and fulfillment that we are too scared to pursue because we worry about other people’s judgement and even our own assessments of ourselves. But dancing is a good archetype for this. Dancing is symbolic for freedom and self actualization in all sorts of stuff. Think about Footlose, and the song that goes ‘there’s nothing to lose, and there’s nothing to prove, I’m just dancing with myself’, you know, that dancing with myself song.”

“I guess symbolically, but literally I could definitely think of things I’d prefer to dancing.”

“Oh, come on. When you are listening to your favorite song you just want to dance, or do something physical like bob your head. Music is the actual artistic expression there, it is an ideal. Some brilliant composer or musician is reaching out to you and trying to communicate something. Maybe evoking an emotional landscape or conveying beauty in some form. Dancing is sort of how we channel that ideal that exists in the music into some sort of corporeal form. Emotions and beauty exist on some sort of higher plane that music taps into, a plane that we gets bits of pieces of but don’t really understand unless we are Beethoven or Einstein. That’s kind of platonic I guess, but that’s what music feels like to me. Art contains those concepts, lots of human endeavors contain them. Einstein’s relativity was his own type of art. Anyway, my point is dancing is as close as most people get to interacting with those concepts. People look really dumb when they dance because the substance of the music they are trying to touch is so sophisticated and beautiful in contrast to the crude limited body they are trying to channel it through. My point is we always look stupid. We’re just stumbling around like morons ignorant to most of the world around us. We don’t know the answers. How should you live life? Where did our universe come from? We can’t even figure out quantum gravity. Our greatest scientists still look just like that drunk fat guy over there trying to find the right rhythm to stomp to. We are goofy clumsy flawed creatures. We construct complex mental concepts to hide it, and only the strongest, noblest, and cleverest men and women have made peace with it. But you know what…” Miles looks over at the strobe lit dance floor “When we get drunk, it’s all OK. It’s funny, it’s normal, it’s just human. Just a bunch of people having fun.”

“Wow…that’s actually, yeah. Trying to dance, trying to lend some sort of meaning and order to the chaos. The world is a hard place, tough, confusing, painful. You have to work hard to find joy. But we are weak, we do fail, we do trip and stumble around. We must look silly and pathetic trying to overcoming the obstacles of a world we barely understand. Just like a drunk dancer doing his best with wobbly limbs and double vision to pull some sort of joy and purpose from the shining lights and throbbing bass. None of us, save for like Newton, or like David Foster Wallace are ballet masters. We all look kind of dumb out there doing our best to live life.”

“Yeah I was just kind of thinking about it while I felt bad for laughing at the dancers. Then I realized that I would look just as stupid if I tried it. Then generally all the times I’ve humiliated myself, and then just generally that almost everything anyone does is kind of embarrassing. The idea of being human in it’s essence is just kind of awkward. The whole courtship and mating thing for us is..like every aspect of it is just really awkward and comical really, going to the bathroom and just all the gross stuff our body does. That and just the ridiculous importance we attach to ourselves like we need to get this latte with exactly two creamers and a sugar, and we need this job, and all this money and stuff. We literally wake up everyday for our entire lives with the implicit assumption that we are all that matters. Not only do we never challenge that assumption, we are never aware of its existence in the first place. Even though we are just little blobs of jelly and we don’t really matter. This is why drinking is great, this sort of introspection and frankness.”

“God I wish our rounds could be this interesting. I had to argue about farm subsidies last round. We won, but god, Pyrrhic victory.”

“Hahaha, no I know right. Sober they only want to talk about interest rates, senate structure, and like tariffs. They all dress in the same black suits with the same hairstyle and they even blink and walk boringly. Then they get a few drops of alcohol on their tongues and suddenly they remember what they enjoy” Miles said

“Yup. I think it really is about inhibition and social pressure. Almost like a collective action problem. No one wants to be the first penguin to slide down the iceberg and check for Orca Whales. Someone has to be the first person to start dancing around and cursing and farting regardless of social opinion. But everyone is scared to do that because everyone else might not join in and then they will be the only one dancing in their underwear in the front of the room. So, solution, everyone will just start drinking. Then we all know that everyone in that room is drunk and therefore willing to do stuff normally considered taboo. Worst case scenario, we do something stupid and people laugh at us. If that happens we can even just blame it on the alcohol. The end result is everyone is free to be themselves without fear of social reprisal. Synergy kicks in, we all see each other doing crazy stuff and cutting loose and we feel like it is OK for us to let loose too. It’s likely no one will remember anyway.”

“Definitely true. They need to figure out how to get some sort of fun in before Harvard Law School. It’s hilarious to watch future Supreme Court Justices mistaking the janitor for their teammates, but also kind of sad. We really are social creatures and we do need each other’s approval to some degree. This room is full of people all acting in a way that would be considered shameful when sober, but just good old fashioned honesty when drunk. Are we OK with being honest about what we are on some level even when sober? Like deep down we all know that we are just humans. We fart, snort when we laugh, like to dance in our underwear to Lady Gaga, die, rot, get lice, and lots of other offputting humiliating things. We don’t talk about those things, ignore them, put a positive spin on them, lie about them. But we both know that we both poop, so why are we so embarrassed to say so out loud. We have to get drunk so we can be honest. It’s not our fault we can’t be honest with ourselves or others, we are just paradoxical creatures. We need the alcohol to catalyze our escape. Then we are free to think and act as we are. We are funny, we are honest, and at long last, we aren’t ashamed. Then when we sober up we put the facade back up. I know it’s a facade, and you know it’s a facade.Why do we keep it up? Do I keep the facade up because I fear shame. Do I fear what I am? We saw how pathetic and goofy we all really are last night, in stark contrast to the air of dignity and self importance we all cling to. We both leaned on the wall together and laughed at how seriously we take ourselves and how silly we really are. Am I worried that you won’t find it funny when you’re sober. Maybe I don’t think it’s funny anymore either.”

“We just don’t like to talk about that stuff. We all do know that stuff is true, we just don’t want to think about it and talk about it. I know I’m going to die, but I don’t want to think about it. I don’t think that’s so unnatural. In fact, what’s the point of talking about it if we all already know about it?”

“I dunno, that stuff is kind of just the tip of the iceberg. I’m talking about our entire life’s philosophy being founded on an illusion of self importance. Our view of ourselves and others as idealized beings with no flaws. Sometimes we can’t ignore the flaws, we can’t wax over them or rationalize them away. We see them staring back at us, even in the people we love. But instead of coming to terms and admitting that we are imperfect beings and there is no shame in that, we shun. We shun them, mock them, hurt them, punish them, whatever we need to do. We do it to ourselves too. It is so ingrained in us that we can’t help ourselves. We are highly skilled at self centered PR and convincing ourselves and others that we are superior, but sometimes it breaks down. Hopefully it breaks down at some point, otherwise you will live your whole life with your head in the clouds thinking your shit doesn’t stink. Nothing wrong with becoming aware that you are imperfect, healthy in fact. My qualm is with the absurd resistance our psychology inherently has to this obvious truth. We hate ourselves, cry, fall into depression. Some people can never forgive themselves for some mistake they made in the past and ruminate in it to the day they die. We are all absurdly hard on ourselves. The best part about that is it doesn’t really even make sense. Who the fuck are we blaming and trying to punish. Us? We are the hurt party who has to punish the other party who hurt us, which is also us. We are both the offender and the victim? That makes no goddamn sense. But it doesn’t matter. Our instincts to punish flaws run so deep we just have to do it in whatever form we can manage.”

“I guess that’s kind of true, but aren’t flaws like, definitionally bad. Like that’s the definition of flaws. So we probably should resent them to some degree.”

“Interesting. That’s fair. So I suppose my problem is two fold then: Firstly, human beings define standards of sufficiency impossibly high. We classify traits that are inherent to human nature as being flaws. Secondly, we are far more draconian in dealing with supposed flaws than could ever be justified. Bizarre cruel punishments seem to be our default response to anyone we deem unworthy. When you see someone wearing glasses you think are dorky, you don’t try to fix the problem. No one tries to buy them new glasses or explains to them nicely that they would look better with thinner frames. You mock them, exclude them, punish them however you can. That makes no sense. Even if you are right that a given flaw is in fact undesirable.”

“Well, yeah. Fair enough, I’m not going to say people aren’t cruel. Most of that shit is likely based in evolution. But I like what you said about how we are paradoxical creatures. That’s really cool, I definitely agree with you there. Maybe a little harsh though, I mean you didn’t mention a single meritable feature of humanity. Which is ironic because your point is about how humans are too harsh on each other”

“You know, you are definitely smarter than you think you are. That sounds weird, but just trust me on that. Remember though, I didn’t exclude myself from the group of paradoxical creatures that litter the earth. I am just as paradoxical as you, and in fact this shared paradox forms a strong bond amongst us”

“You’re pretty sauced right now aren’t you?”

“A little, and I guess that’s sort of demonstrating my point. But seriously, this is one of the few interesting conversations I’ve had in a while. Maybe more people should debate drunk.”


Internet History – Miles Volsevich – 02/20/1989:

youtube – youtube.com
jock jams – youtube
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – youtube
mit ocw – google search
Mathematics|| MIT OpenCourseWare| MIT Free Course Materials – ocw.mit.edu
Random Walks and Diffusion|| Mathematics | MIT OpenCourseWare – ocw.mit.edu
Lecture Notes| Random Walks and Diffusion| MIT OpenCourseWare – ocw.mit.edu
Mathematics|| MIT OpenCourseWare| MIT Free Course Materials – ocw.mit.edu
Quantum Computation|| Mathematics| MIT OpenCourseWare – ocw.mit.edu
Lecture Notes | Quantum Computation|| MIT Free Course Materials – ocw.mit.edu
sexy girl leather boots – google search
Jill and Tammy mudwrestling – http://www.girlmud.com
Riding Boots Gallery – http://www.bootpics.com
girl boots trampling – google search
girl boots trampling – youtube video search
Cynthia Boots Worship – youtube
girl riding boots – youtube video search
girl nothing but boots – google search
nudie bootie gallery – http://www.nudeboots.com
http://www.nudeboots.com/ gallery/ pic_056%12312=fjgklsfsdf/5dk.o0.jpg
http://www.nudeboots.com/ gallery/ pic_03/$k88394-0-big-ride-3958390=frig.jpg
http://www.nudeboots.com/ gallery/ pic_193= right-on\ over=&lsdfthe%kdkes.jpg
http://www.nudeboots.com/ gallery/ pic_034 = over.out/imgr.94395=red&pin234.jpg
google – google.com
mathematica support – google.com
mathematica support – Google Search
Wolfram Mathematica: Technical Computing Software—Taking You from Idea to Solution
4:12 PM
Wolfram Demonstrations Project
4:13 PM
Wolfram Demonstrations Project
4:16PM PM
Representations of Numbers – Wolfram Demonstrations Project
4:16PM PM
Wolfram Demonstrations Project
4:24 PM
Wolfram Demonstrations Project/ Tree Bender

4:31 PM
Wolfram Demonstrations Project
4:32 PM
Wolfram Demonstrations Project
4:35 PM
Mathematica Learning Center: Resources to Learn to Use Mathematica
4:36 PM
Wolfram Support Articles : How to Install, Purchase, Transfer, Upgrade…
Wolfram Suppot Articles: Using the Output of Functions like Solve
Wolfram Support Articles: Applying Transformation Rules – Mathematica 9 Documentation
The Onion – America’s Finest News Source – theonion.com
Are you a Pedophile? 20 Question Quiz – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
President Wriggles Unable to Name the Three Branches of Government -The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
Ronald Reagan, Kanye West bond over Irreparably Damaging Black Culture-The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
Are you Jewish? 20 Question Quiz – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
Local Overweight Police Officer quoted as saying “I’m getting too old for this shit” -The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Internet History – Quartz Brannovski – 02/20/1989
Internet History – Gaia Tanessia – 02/20/1989:

google -google.com
Literary Narrative in the Information Age – JSTOR
gutenberg printing press – google search
Printing Press – wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Story Telling in the New Stone Age – JSTOR
Oral Lore and the Black Plague – JSTOR
Societal Information Dissemination Techniques of the Early Rennaissance – JSTOR
Homer Odessy – google search
Homer Odyssey – google search
Beowulf – google search
Illyiad Homer – google search
Fourier Series – google
Fourier Series – wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Most controversial links – redit.com
Deep Ocean marine life at risk from climate change – upi.com
exploding whale video goes viral – upi.com
exploding whale – youtube
EXPLODING SPERM WHALE, don’t watch this- youtube
epic fails – youtube
Most Epic Girl Fails of the Week Feb 12, 1987 – youtube
Fail nation Epic Fails compilation – youtube
6 lbs of chocolate syrup in 6 min challenge *vomit alert* – youtube
Most controversial links – redit.com
whirlpools – youtube
massive whirlpools – youtube
Gigantic Ocean Whirlpool! – youtube
Sinkholes swallow trees – youtube
gigantic sinkholes under lake – youtube
Five most horrifying weapons still being used – youtube
my little pony – google search
My Little Pony| Episode 3 Season 2 – Lesson Zero http://www.watchcartoons.com
Friday – youtube
Gaia – Google search http://www.google.com
Gaia – bing search http://www.bing.com
Gaia (Mythology) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org
Eponyms and Feminism – JSTOR
Author notes: (real time: January 3, 2014)
– Andrea Cynn engineers new emotions/ maps emotions/ develops a theory of what neurotransmitters in what combination will produce given emotions/ then blends them
– miles does the ECG and biophysics behind them
* their goal is to recreate Einstein’s brain/ the brains of other geniuses – alwasy marvel at and talk about how amazing it would be to see inside the brains of geniuses — but when they get inside some of them – horrifying things? I don’t know, something repugnant – inherent frailties of humanity? we will always hate ourselves/ parts of ourselves/ parts of others – Andrea freaks out when Miles tells her about his mind reading powers…etc

[yes this part may actually become a real part of the novel, as in this is not just author notes but may actually just be a section of a chapter, although it may break the immersion, this part in brackets may go in there too actually…]

February 1, 1997

There are a whole community of people who want to be animals. Yeah, they actually self identify as like wolves or lizards.

“You mean they think they are wolves?”

“No, they know they are humans, they aren’t delusional, they just want to be wolves. Like they actually act like wolves and get surgery to look more like them.”

“Like furries.”

“Kind of. But not all furries want to actually be the animal they dress up and have sex as. I’m more talking about people who actually self identify as a wolf the way you do as a woman.”

“Do they like, hang out with other wolves in the woods? Do the other wolves have to teach them how to howl at the moon or do they figure that out themselves?”

“No, other wolves would just tear them to pieces and eat them.”

“Oh man, so they aren’t accepted by their own kind. Does that do damage to them psychologically. Does it give them existential crises Miles? Do you have to go convince them that life is worth living as a wolf?”

“Yeah Andrea. Yeah all the time.”

“Oh my god, please tell me there is like a math genius somewhere who wants to be a wolf that you waxed poetic about the moon on a starry night to!”

“So, yeah I think you’ve had enough to drink.”

“No come on, don’t be like that.” Andrea leant forward on the table. “Answer the question. Are you asking if I would still love you if you were a wolf Miles? It really depends on how good you are at hunting voles, cuz you know a girls gotta eat.”

“Yes, it’s me. I’m trying to confide in you about my identity crisis, but you obviously think this is fucking hillarious.”

“….No. Wait really. Are you actually being serious and going to segway into something serious about yourself. Because you do have to have a sense of humor about yourself, I make fun of myself all the time, I’m not trying to be an asshole.”

“Nope. Fucking with you.”

“Goddamnit Miles, I can never tell if you are joking. Christ. So you don’t want to be a wolf. I’m actually kind of disappointed, you’d make a sexy wolf.”

“Yeah I make a sexier human though. But I mean this is kind of my point here. Your reaction to people who want to be wolves. And before you say anything, I’m not criticizing you at all. I think it is just as funny as you do. This isn’t about how shitty we are as people, I’m saying humanity generally has this reaction.”

“Yes. Wolf people are funny. I agree. Is that your point. You gonna publish that finding in any peer reviewed journals.”

“No, spacetime as a wave is the next one. With space as the real component and time as the imaginary component like e^iS/h, where time is the imaginary component, and space is the real one. Then quantizing time, or space or both. You know. Instead of quantizing matter/energy why not just quantize the spacetime.”

“Yeah I like that one actually. You edited it down enough. When are you submitting it?”

“I don’t know soon. Anyway though, I’m more interested in this and I think you will be too. So yeah wolf people, but more generally, people trying to change themselves. Not necessarily in the read a self improvement book or go to the gym way, but also kind of like that.”

“Right, people try to change themselves. You mean like…get more ripped, or get better at cooking, like detail stuff like that, or deeper changes.”

“Yeah both. But I’m more concerned with the more structural ways people strive to change. Like maturing, developing emotional well being, being more intelligent. Even if it is impossible stuff, everyone wants to be a totally different person who is more courageous, funnier, etcetera. Just the intent of people to be something that they currently are not. People are ashamed of what they are, lie to say they are richer, smarter, stronger, sexier, you know.”

“Yeah, OK. No disagreement there. Are you saying that’s a bad thing?”

“No, not necessarily. I’m just saying it’s interesting. People are ashamed of what they are. Lies by omission of a thousand kinds to cover what they hate. They wear clothes, they don’t display their financial information prominently, don’t have sex publically, go to the bathroom publically, you know privacy. People really love privacy, because they are ashamed of lot’s of aspect of their lives.”

“I don’t know if they are ashamed, it’s just creepy for someone to be watching you and knowing exactly what you do at all times.”

“Yeah maybe, fair enough. But there are lot’s of things we know about ourselves that we are just geniunely ashamed of. And even if we don’t go as far as shame, things about ourselves we don’t like. Want to change if at all possible.”

“Yup, agreed. I can think of five right now.”

“Gross, don’t share. But anyway, my point is there is some sort of ideal that people strive for. More importantly, that ideal is often outside the bounds of human nature. Like, to become their ideal, they would have to fundamentally no longer be human. The wolf thing just sort of epitomized it for me. People never choose to be human, or live in this world, and sometimes they want something different.”

“Like to be a wolf.”

“Most of them don’t know what they want. Sometimes it’s not even like they are striving for a new subjective experience, just trying to escape their current one. Drinking, drugs…uh, suicide…sleep. The more sophisticated ones try something like meditation.”

“Like you?”

“Like me. But meditation is more about getting to know yourself intimately and accepting yourself. I don’t mean in the guidance counseler after school special way. I mean like sitting there with the most painful feelings and memories in the world and just feeling them. Just sitting there and feeling suicidal depression like you were looking out at the ocean. We don’t pay attention to it very closely, but our emotions and cognitions are often confused with each other and bundled. They exist as seperate entities, and we don’t control either of them. Transcendental meditation is about seeing and appreciating them both as individual entities. We often miss the intitial averse reaction we have to feeling heartbreak or grief. We get sad about the sadness, or we feel greif and we think that we hate this feeling and we want to get rid of it. Yeah, it’s gonna hurt, but resisting and feeling anxious about the anxiety will just make it worse. If you get really good at it you can even start to enjoy aspects of sadness. But yes, the point is what we are and what we want to be don’t always line up.”

“Nothing wrong with self improvement.”

“Uhh I guess. But a lot of it isn’t really self improvement, it’s just like a total rejection of the human experience. Video games, TV, movies, texting, drinking most of our economy is geared towards providing distractions. It seems hypocritical to ”

“Yeah sure, the quest for the good life is a big part of human nature. We build machines to compensate for our weak bodies, we build computers to augment our minds, SSRI’s to get rid of depression. The human being is ever evolving, I engineer tissues for a living so I know first hand. I can make the human body better, I can optimize it. The other stuff, I will admit is more complicated. But philosophers and artists have been working for years on what a human being ‘ought be’. I mean, don’t you explain to people what a human being can be for a living. I’m sure you play up human potential to a degree”

“No, I explain to them how to make the best of what a human being is.”

“But can’t you let them dream or aspire. Wouldn’t it be helpful to tell them about possibilities or dreaming about evolving into, you know whatever is next. You don’t think there are certain ideal human traits. Or like a concept of what a human should be?”

“What do you mean what a human should be, that’s tautological. Like, what we should be I guess is defined as what we want to be. And what we want to be is part of our preferences, which are a function of who we are right now. If we change who we are, then once we become that new person, we may have a new set of preferences. According to that new set of preferences, we may now want to be a third kind of person.”


“Like let’s say I am person type A, and I desire to be person type B optimally.”

“OK, sure.”

“Right, then we become person B, say magically. When we are person B we now have different preferences than when we were person A. And while as person A we wanted to be person B, now that we are person B, our preference is actually to be person C. You see how this cycle continues.”

“You mean, once we become a new person as in we master some new skill or..”

“Anything, we become a wolf, we become a more emotionally adjusted person, antidepressants work and give us a normal emotional spectrum, our IQ doubles. Once we become that ideal person we always strived to be, we will be fundamentally different. How do you know we will still want the same thing.”

“You don’t I guess, you just keep striving and hopefully someday you get it right.”

“Well that’s seeing the glass half full. That’s kind of what I tell my clients, but less depressingly, and more eloquently. And I’m less drunk. So, four categories: (1) volitional variables (2) non-volitional variables (3) technically volitional constants (4) True constants. Look, there are definitely variables of the human experience, that’s what makes us all distinct individuals. That can be stuff like, morality, intellectual landscape, and qualia like emotional topography. This stuff varies from person to person, and even within one person over time. Think Hume and the river thing. If you were asked to define yourself in an essay you would write about this stuff. The question you should ask is how much control do we have over any of those variables? I happen to think none. But that’s the place you need to look if you want any free will. So we have variables, and within those variables there are those we have some control over and some that are set by genes or random fluctuations, the distinction between (1) and (2) is fuzzy. On the other hand we have some constants, they don’t change. We have to obey the laws of physics, die, fall in love, have to be born. No control over those things. Then there are the constants that we technically have control over but will never choose non-default values: breathing, eating, pain avoidance, fear of death. Arguable free will there, you can choose to stop breathing if you want, go for it. So if you even can control any of those four categories I guess there’s some free will. But really, we wouldn’t even know what to do with them. Even if we had free will, we are too ignorant to know what to do with it. Philosophers have argued for ages about what the good life is, what the morally proper path is, and so on. We don’t know. We don’t even know what makes us happy, or if you should care about happiness. Even if you know the goals you don’t know how to get there, or maybe you don’t have the means to get there. Too much free will, or the perception of too much free will is dangerous. Too many variables and you get lost. Try solving an equation without any constants. What should the constants of the human experience be? Ask that question and you get nothing but variables. x+y+z=w, what is the solution to this equation? You need constants. The free will sweet spot. Not too much free will, but also not so little that you feel like an automaton. There you go, some existential crisis theory.”

“So these geniuses you talk to…have no constants in life? Is that because they are so intelligent they see everything as silly or flawed?”

“Kind of. I mean, that’s definitely part of it. But really it’s just the burden of the creator. When we hit a wall, like there is a paradox somewhere, that’s where we really need a genius. Experimental data in the early 20th century indicated the laws of physics contradicted themselves. Einstein’s job was to throw out every single truth and assumption and build physics back up from scratch. In the interlude nothing was true. Einstein kept Newtonian relativity, declared it true, and took the experimental result that the speed of light is a constant, declared that true as well. He declared those two axioms truths, and threw everything else out to rebuild the theory. Some may say that he had constants to work with, but that isn’t true. He had to choose which constants to build modern physics out of and which to discard. He could have chosen other first principles and built a coherent theory of Special Relativity. In his General Theory he interpreted gravity as curvature in spacetime, it didn’t have to be that way. There are many other mathematical representations of gravity’s effects on mass. Einstein even confessed that a geometrical interpretation of gravity was not the simplest or most parsimonious way to convey the concept of gravity. He simply said gravity would be more intuitive in a geometric form. But, if you have ever studied the General Theory, you will know it was an artistic choice. Laymen rarely understand the full creative power of physicists. Einstein was a talented violinist, but very few understand his full artistic power. My point is that he had to throw out the constants. This is the burden of the creator, the constants have to come from somewhere, or someone. Many times the creator gets lost in the variables and there isn’t much we can do. We don’t know the way around, that’s why we needed a genius in the first place. This isn’t just about math, it’s our place in the universe, truth and falsity. Imagine not knowing what is right and wrong, true and false. That’s the very definition of insanity.
Richard Feymann’s path integral approach and the stationary action principle is a work of music. The quantum frequency harmonies are enough to reduce one to tears. When I walk from my home to the movie theater along redcrest street, I actually traverse an infinite number of different possible paths between home and the movie theater simultaneously. Some of these paths stretch to the edges of the universe, some up through a cumulous cloud and then straight down into the theater lobby. I move along all of them at the same time. All of these paths cancel each other out perfectly except for the path down redcrest street, which has special mathematical properties. An infinite number of different paths perfectly harmonizing with each other so as to leave only one path that fulfills special mathematical conditions. For electrons and tiny things, there are other harmonies, they really do simultaneously take millions of paths between two places. But always they harmonies have the substance of a symphony. This isn’t a metaphor, you can actually hear them. That’s the root of creativity, throwing out the constants. Artists do it, philosophers define themselves by it. They can get lost in the variables, but that’s the price they pay so that we can have constants.”

“I mean, we all throw out certain assumptions and do thought experiments from time to time. It’s fun and I think most people do it. No one throws out every single assumption simultaneously, we just throw out a few at a time and explore the consequences. That’s the root of creativity.”

“It’s different, they don’t cross off a few constants in a logic diagram and play with proofs under the new logic. That’s not why Van Gough cut off his ear or Edgar Allen Poe killed himself. Do you believe in God?”

“No, not really, in any significant sense. Do you mean like a judeo-christian god, or like..”

“Doesn’t matter. Point is you have no choice in the matter, that constant is gone. Are you morally repulsed by abortion? Is there a right or wrong answer to whether second order logic is a legitimate logic? You don’t choose to throw out constants, you just know they are variables.”

“Or maybe Edgar Allen Poe just suffered from depression?”

“Sometimes maybe. I don’t know, they don’t call me in when that’s the case.”



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