June 21st, 2006

ozarque figure

Science fiction poem; "Open, Twenty-Four Hours"...

Open, Twenty-Four Hours

Once upon a time there was a world called Earth,
called Terra;
a world of light, and oceans, and dolphins,
and autumn leaves,
and wonders.

And then the day came when a new rose-and-white world
appeared in the sky.

We were taken by surprise; there was no warning.
Some of the scientists suggested that it was not a world, but an illusion.
Mass hysteria, they said. Or a “solar mirage.”
“A planet can’t just appear out of nowhere,” they said.
And we thought to ourselves... Why not?
Earth did.

An Ozarque,
holding a stone in her lap to comfort it,
looked back over the vast sea at the bands of light,
gone red and orange and gold
at ten o’clock in the morning.

“We attracted this to us, you know,” she told the stone.
“I wonder what we were thinking.”
And she shaped a thought and flung it as far as she could reach:
“Hold on. Everybody just hold on.”
Because the changes had begun.

You would think that it would happen slowly,
over time,
little by little --
but it wasn’t like that.
It was all at once,
and everywhere all at once.

Because it was the definitions that were changing,
you perceive.
What a daybreak is.
What a twilight is. What a tide is.
What a tree is.
What all things are.

“Write it down, quick!” somebody said.
“Write down what Earth was like, before,
so that we’ll remember!”
But it was too late.
Write what down?

People wondered,
in anguish:
“Will the angels remember us?
Will they still look after us?”

Next came a rainbow moon to keep the new world company.
Earth shuddered all over,
feeling the tweakings
that made everything just slightly
different.
Again.

Suddenly, all of Earth’s literatures and records
were fantasy and science fiction.

Before, you could define a bird with two features:
[+FEATHERED], [+ANIMATE].
You could rely on it.
That pair of features would always distinguish
a bird from a bat,
and from a feather duster.

To make all things new on Terra
there was no need to introduce new birds and bats and feather dusters into the system.
Just new features.

The scientists had always promised us:
“Physics is the same everywhere, and every time.”
They had always promised us that the laws of physics were immune to tweaking.
The scientists were wrong.

Many of us,
all those who were paying attention,
were afraid in those days.

We didn’t know
whether
the desert was becoming
a wide blue sea
or the sea was becoming
a wide blue desert.

We couldn’t remember.
It kept getting away from us.
We couldn’t tell.
We couldn’t
keep track.

All morning
the sky
blazed at us;
and all afternoon
the sky
blazed at us.

And there was a new covenant
set in the sky --
a rainbow in a narrow band of blue on the horizon,
just before the red began.

Probably that band of blue is an illusion, you perceive.
We expect to see blue there,
after millions of years of seeing blue there.
And so, we construct
a narrow let-there-be-blue illusion,
and it comforts us.
God help us if the rainbow is also
an illusion that we have constructed.

On the day when a second new world rose over Earth,
bringing with it a band of rings,
we thought: “How much can one world bear?”
But then ... were things really different? We couldn’t remember.

It was time to get moving, even if the hare had arrived
before we got there. It was time
for us to map this many-neighbored world.
So far, the angels had looked after us,
but who knew how long that would last?
We had no idea what features now were sufficient
to define an angel. It was time to go find out.

“Keep careful notes,” the scientists told us.
“Make meticulous observations. Be rigorous.”

Well. Those were the rules before.

All day, the sky blazed at us.
All night, the stars flung whirlwinds of light at us.
All day and all night, we trembled,
and tried to remember
why we were supposed to take notes.

After all,
the world was just the world.

Any change changes everything, you perceive.
Not just one thing.
If birds are suddenly
[+ACCORDION-PLEATED],
that matters.

If the feature
plus-or-minus-ACCORDION-PLEATED
becomes part of the set of characteristics of things
that are [+ANIMATE],
that matters.

But to the creature,
the world is still just the world.

I think we will survive,
whatever we now are.
I say we should rejoice, and be
exceeding glad.

Once upon a time there was a world called Earth,
called Terra.

It had been a world wrapped in blue and white;
it became a world wrapped in many colors.
Open, 24 hours a day.

THE END [of the book]
ozarque figure

Personal note; apology...

I apologize for the length of that posted poem; it wasn't deliberate. I posted it with an LJ "Read more...." cut -- but the cut didn't work. Maybe I've gone Incompatible again? Maybe the LJers in charge have updated the code for the cut and I missed it? In any case -- I'm sorry. I wouldn't have done that deliberately.
ozarque figure

Recommended link; emotional weather; happiness and hopelessness...

In the context of the ongoing discussion of the Hopelessness Front, I've also been watching the research claiming that human beings have a "set point" for happiness like the "set point" for body weight. There's an interesting New Yorker review article on current happiness research by John Lanchester, titled "Pursuing Happiness," at http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/articles/060227crbo_books .