Philosophy has high-jacked my life; why shouldn’t I write a story about it?
Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXIX
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
I met her on a spaceship, on the way to the stars. We were children, and our parents had sent us away from a dying earth, supposedly to save us, but it really seemed sometimes that it was more because they didn’t want us. The sun would be exploding in a while (read a couple millennia yet), and it would be goodbye earth, goodbye remnants of older human civilizations, hello brave new world built by children sent away from that earth.
If it sounds depressing, it’s because it always was, to me, until I met her. I was fifteen or so when we met and I think she was fourteen; it’s hard to remember the details of age. But I still remember what her face looked like when she was talking and the way her eyes used to light up and the way her mouth used to quirk upward, like life was not only infinitely amusing but infinitely joyful.
You might say that I saw the light when I met her, but I didn’t. I saw the dark when I met her, for the first time in my life, and because I really saw the dark, I finally realized what light was.
Because of various scientific advances and all that crap, we were only going to be on the spaceship for a year or so before we landed on Xeria, the new planet we were traveling to. We had to do school and so on, and wash our hair still and still exercise and act like normal humans, even though we were in a low-gravity environment, with no grass and no trees and no dirt and no opportunity to really have any fun whatsoever. There were no clubs; there was no alcohol, none of the ‘normal’ stuff teenagers do that really shouldn’t be normal in the first place. There weren’t even parks, no swing sets because duh, no gravity, no basketball either unless you wanted to get hit in the face and break your teeth, and nothing else.
There were girls of course, but I was only fifteen and had never really moved out of the shy stage where boys like girls and just don’t talk to them. That changed when I met her, but she was an abnormal girl, an abnormal human being, and you’ll be thinking that’s a bad thing.
Humans always do. They’re obsessed with conforming to whatever seems to be the current thing to do.
She wasn’t like that.
I met her about two months in to the trip, because it had taken her longer to figure out low gravity than it had the rest of us, but I don’t believe that was part of her abnormality. I believe that it was so mathematical, so thorough, that she had to be slow about it, the end result being to comprehend it better than the rest of us did. It’s like proving the Pythagorean theorem all by yourself rather than just accepting what other people have done before you; it sure takes longer, but in the long run, you probably understand it better and are smarter than the people who just say; ‘oh, so x+y is substituted for c and that makes it c2 and it equals a2+b2? Cool, man. What’s for lunch?’
She was like that. She didn’t just accept the universe; she analyzed it, and made it her universe rather than just the universe. She didn’t just accept the rules; she isolated the rules, one by one, and made sense out of them with her own little head.
I met her among the very small group of people staring out at space. We had gotten tired of the dead darkness of being past light speed a long time ago. But I had already finished my school and junk, and didn’t really want to talk or read, and wasn’t really in the mood to do anything, so I went down to the windows. The others who were there pretty much deserted their post when the captain called that the rec room was going to be used for an impromptu game of space soccer (don’t ask), but there was one girl who stayed.
She was like—delicate, with sort of see through skin even though, like the rest of us, she was pretty fairly ethnically mixed. Her lips were pale and nearly bluish. Her cheeks were almost devoid of color. Her hands were long and very thin, and the standard issue clothing looked like she was wearing oversized karate clothes. But her eyes were enormous and intelligent and bluish-gray, and framed with long dark lashes, and very beautiful. They were the sort of beautiful that you admire like a painting; for hours on end, always noticing something new.
Her nose was a little point, with no substance to it, and she looked like a fragile glass vase; if you dropped her, she would shatter into a thousand tiny fragments. But there was a subtle strength to her, a sturdiness, which I didn’t pin down until at least our third conversation.
Rather than just remaining in silence, she turned to study me. I ignored her. She stuck out her hand, like you see in ancient twentieth century movies. “My name is Seraf—S-e-r-a-f. Seraf O’Malley. It’s nice to meet you.”
I took her hand, awkwardly, unused to touching strangers. I didn’t exactly shake her hand, but she shook mine and saved me the trouble. “Uh, ditto, I guess. My name’s Theodore.”
Her smile was very bright and very—whole hearted. Generous. Like she was giving the entire world a present she wanted it to open. “Excellent. Why are you here, Theodore?”
I blinked at her. People didn’t just ask questions like that. “I guess I didn’t really want to do anything at all.”
She frowned a bit. “Wasn’t what I was asking. I felt pulled here, this morning. I felt a moment of inspiration. ‘The quieter you become, the more you can hear.’ Ram Dass. Not a very good quote for the occasion, but it seemed propitious while I was saying it. Ah, Einstein. ‘The intellect has little to do with discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.’ Somewhat better.”
I’ll admit to you that by this time I was fascinated, how you get when you are looking at a lizard or a bird you have never seen before. I’d never met a girl who talked like this. I didn’t say anything, I just stared at her.
She smiled. “You want to ask me a question, don’t you?”
I found I did, but wasn’t sure if it were a rude question. “You think we’re meant to meet?”
“Subtext; do you really buy into that all that religion and divine beings nonsense? Yes, yes and yes. But that’s simply because I, as an intellectual, cannot abide with all the various assumptions that go into the various theories of evolution. Theories, yes. The theory various intellectuals hold today is hardly the theory that Darwin started with, that of evolution through the engine of natural selection. The theory based thereof, that of microevolution through natural selection, is today fairly well accepted, but the idea of macroevolution through such engine has been disavowed by nearly all. You are free to believe whatever it is you wish to believe; therein lies your free will.”
I blinked at her. She studied me closely, and with it, her smile grew. “Excellent,” she said. “Theodore, it would seem that you can cope with me. You haven’t run off screaming yet.”
I said something intelligent. “Um… Thank you?”
Seraf gave a grave little laugh. “You are very welcome, but your gratitude is unnecessary. I didn’t make you the way you are. You did.”
I shook my head. “If you believe in God, wouldn’t you think God made me the way I am? Unless you’re a Deist, of course and—I’ve probably offended you, I’m sorry.”
“There was no ill intent in your words; how could I be so foolish as to be offended by them? I am not a Deist. I am a Roman Catholic, and shall be still when Rome is oblivion. The Pope shall adapt. We shall find a new Rome. I am confident of that. We have a belief in free will. That God set out the basic us, and then let us define ourselves within it. Let me see; ah, Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time. She compares our human lives to a sonnet. A particular rhyme scheme and rhythm, but complete freedom within the basic parameters.
“So yes, you are yourself, though you are like other people in certain respects. We do not say that all Shakespeare’s sonnets were the same; we do not have school children read only one. Your life is specific, individual. Even two sonnets with the same topic and purpose are not the same sonnet. They express different emotions, compare different possibilities. You are Theodore. You are. You exist, and the whole universe will remember, when you are gone, how infinite you were despite your finite parameters.” Seraf explained.
Uh, it’s sort of science fiction, friendship and philosophy, and it’s supposed to end up as a short story. Whether it will or not? I have no idea.
Like it, hate it?
Feel free to tell me in the comments, and God bless.