Bill blinked twice. He’d been working on the problem for so long that he hadn’t noticed how small all the domiciles had become. Of course, being a high level contractor for the IA, Bill was well aware of the secret domestic downsizing project but this was the first time he’d witnessed the effects of its implementation first hand. It made him feel lonely. Drones hovered above the rooftops of the stocky community blocks delivering food to those who still opted to take their nutrition orally. If Bill squinted just so, he could imagine that they were pigeons or some other former city-dwelling birds that conveniently scavenged the refuse back when people still produced refuse for winged scavengers.

Inside their increasingly diminutive homes, people were all immersed in multi-faceted virtual realities whose sole commonality was the illusion in the mind of the citizen that he or she was the center of the Universe. Never mind that such a nucleus is impossible for a phenomenon without a definable circumference; nobody thought in terms of physical laws anymore — except for Bill and a few of his cohorts who worked deep in the belly of the Intelligence Apparatus, of course. And though their appointments had been announced with great fanfare, not one of them felt privileged to be among the few remaining people privy to the truth.

It was Bill’s fault that the VR fed into the domiciles had become so absurdly flattering to individual egos. In essence, everyone was having what felt like the experience of being God, impossible as Bill had proven such an experience to be. The IA decided to ratchet up the narcissism of the virtual life after Bill had — innocently enough — managed to finally and permanently disprove the very notion of a Creator. It all happened about a decade ago when he was tasked with solving the growing problem of suicide among seemingly well-adapted citizens. A contributing factor to this outbreak of hopelessness, of course, was the continued growth of the population despite the steady disappearance of habitable land as the world’s coastlines continued to inch ever inward. But back then, people were at liberty to choose their own experiences from a menu of popular scenarios. Not surprisingly, over 90% of all VR downloads purchased worldwide were of the sex fantasy variety. And since people still enjoyed a decent amount of living space, these pornographic excursions were invariably followed by the insertion of a real penis into a real vagina and this, of course, resulted in more and more real babies to ravage the Earth’s dwindling resources. In other words, due to all of that spontaneous and unregulated fucking, the human race now found itself completely and utterly fucked. The IA quickly ascertained the unsustainability of the situation and when the alarming suicide figures came to their attention, they turned to Bill for a solution, never dreaming that he’d actually find a way to make things worse.

Bill first had to identify the problem before embarking upon the search for a solution, and he quite accurately defined it as this: people had viewed themselves as separate from their gods — as other than their gods — for so long that it was now an unfortunate accident of birth to be immediately saddled with the instinctual illusion that every person is a mere plaything thrust into a brutally cold and unkind Universe whose indiscriminate machinations were governed solely by its capricious Creator. This accepted contradiction created an inescapable psychological double-bind in the minds of every man, woman and child. It caused them to feel simultaneously inferior and superior to their alien habitat and the other lifeforms therein, thus imbuing them with motivations that necessarily canceled each other out. Inferior because they were individually helpless to transform the physical laws that caused so much difficulty and discomfort and because they assumed that the god behind this situation was so sublimely inscrutable as to make interaction with his neglected children impossible. Superior because they also managed to imagine that such supernatural interactions are indeed possible because such a complex organism as man can’t have been created in any other image than that of its Creator. This gave them leave to treat nature with unmitigated aggression in a never-ending futile attempt to mold it to their image of heaven. When nature began its inevitable revolt against the actions of its most troublesome and cancerous constituents, people had no choice but to face the results of their collective misapprehension of reality. This is when people began jumping off of buildings and swallowing handfuls of lethal narcotics. This is when the IA called upon Bill for assistance.

Always methodical, Bill was certain that the first step in releasing humanity from its millennia-long dream was to attack it at the root; i.e. destroy the legendary notion of God The Father once and for all. As steps in the imagined process went, this one was child’s play. Here’s what Bill told the human race in a mandatory simulcast from the IA’s Information Service: A limitless, creative being with its own will and desires is a logical impossibility. Motivation, will, aspiration, self-expression — these all arise from an incomplete comprehension of reality. If a conscious being were to possess all of the knowledge that can be acquired, it would be incapable of desire or motivation. “All of the knowledge” doesn’t just refer to the collective discoveries of mankind up to this point — it means knowledge of every single minute physical and conscious activity in the process that is the field of the phenomenal Universe. It means an absolute intimacy with every simultaneous event of the past, present and future. It means having no questions to be answered or problems to be solved. It means, in other words, the death of creativity. A consciousness containing everything there is would cease to have a will. Thus, it follows that an ultimate limitless consciousness cannot possibly be the catalyst for a limited Universe.

Bill had a crystalline reputation in his field of study and that’s why the IA broadcast his message without reservations. “Well, that’s been tidied up,” they told themselves until people began checking out en masse for no apparent reason. The reason, of course, was that their illusions had been shattered but nothing had been presented to take their place. Nature’s sudden dramatic backlash to their lifestyles was the first clue. Bill’s attempt at mitigating their distress was the proof of life’s cruel futility that they needed in order to give up entirely.

So the IA sent Bill back to the drawing board. For now, the wide scale implementation of V.R. Narcissus kept the masses safely indoors, quiet and content in playing God from the comfort of their cramped quarters. If a person should step away from the main screen, applications embedded in their telephones, wristwatches and eyeglasses kept the illusion alive with recorded and texted messages from imaginary friends and relations that reinforced the citizen’s feelings of infinite importance. No one ever suspected that these messages were generated at IAHQ and run through personality filters to fit the specifics of each particular VR experience because it was too tempting for an ego to enthusiastically accept and embrace such confirmations of its imagined supremacy.

IA sent Bill back to the drawing board because it was understood that the current situation was untenable in the long term. Virtual Reality demands actual machinery as well as perpetual maintenance and adjustment thereupon. Humanity needed a permanent solution to the perfect existential storm it was facing and one that relied on manufactured technology was by its very nature temporary.

In college, Bill had read a curious nineteenth century novel called “Flatland” by an author with the equally curious name of Edwin Abbott Abbott. The book’s central character was a two-dimensional square living in a correspondingly two-dimensional world. The square has a strange dream about a one-dimensional world inhabited by points (or singularities) who are unable to see him when he tries to interact with them, because their world doesn’t permit the discernment of more than one dimension. A short time later, the square is visited by a spherical being from our three-dimensional world but is only able to see this entity as a two-dimensional circle due to the limitations of his own world. Bill had found the book’s premise charmingly absurd at the time, but now he wondered if the answer to mankind’s dilemma didn’t perhaps lie in an inversion of its plot.

The dilemma can be summarized thusly: the Earth and its resources are finite and depletable but the human population continues to grow exponentially. Now that the effects of its history of consumption and multiplication have become apparent, mankind is beset by unmanageable guilt and anxiety. The God myth has lost all of its potency leaving its former adherents staring out over an abyss of nihilistic despair. Chin up, Bill, we know you’ve got it in you to sort out this little predicament, Old Chap! Bill stared out over his own abyss of nihilistic despair until that silly old book of geometric fantasy revealed the answer he sought.

Dimensions. We inhabit a world that displays itself through a dimensional quartet (if you include time, whose inclusion in the formula is indispensable to our experience of the phenomena it generates). Therefore, our environment is limited to that which can be experienced by a four-dimensional orientation. Quantum mechanics, however, has revealed a functional field of infinite dimensions beyond our perceptional capabilities. How might we access such potentially expansive realties? Bill pondered this question for several months, often trying the patience of his instant results-addicted superiors at IA.

This morning, Bill perfected the science of accessing higher dimensions. Satisfied at his hard-fought accomplishment, he climbed up to the roof of the IAHQ building for a breath of fresh air. There was none to be found, of course, but today, Bill wasn’t even mildly distressed at the scant breathability of the atmosphere. It simply reinforced his nearly unshakeable resolve. Holding a tiny quantum computer in the palm of his hand, Bill walked to the building’s ledge and looked down, wondering how those poor suicidal souls must have felt when they believed that they were about to deliberately snuff out their own lives. “Morons,” he scoffed under his breath, having lost all sympathy for the planned beneficiaries of his intellectual and ostensibly humanitarian breakthrough. “I’m going home and the last thing I need is a horde of insufferable simpletons riding my coattails.”

With that, Bill stepped off the roof into a higher dimensional plane. Just for fun, he wiggled his middle finger through the invisible midair portal before pulling it back into his newly expansive realm with an audible pop.

Trevor was quickly tapped by the IA to pick up where Bill left off in his work when he incomprehensibly disappeared earlier in the day. A smoker, Trevor’s first order of business after his brief orientation was to steal away to the roof for a quick puff. Lighting a fag while staring out over the motionless city, Trevor could swear he heard a voice in the wind. Subtle but persistent, it seemed to be saying, “Fuuuuuckkk yooooooooooouuuuu!” in a spectral voice that bore an eerie similarity to that of his predecessor. “If I don’t keep my wits about me,” thought Trevor, “this job may well drive me mad.”

29 thoughts on “Dimensions

  1. I’m reminded of “The Information” which included the story of Claude Shannon. And Mandelbrot too. One of the concepts I recall was that chaos is the representation of maximum information. Increasing order decreases information. An expansion of dimensions would increase information exponentially. Any “god” in your story would have to contain all that information and as you curiously explain, destroy creation and will in the process, a clever insight I must say.

    For a moment, I thought Bill was going to follow a Nick Bostrum premise and use his skills to create a brand new simulation of the Universe, a recursive drill into the discovery of the Nothing. Madness is a valid substitute.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. > staring out over an abyss of nihilistic despair

        I had to come back to this. I don’t know why these things happen but this showed up for some reason: https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/20/walt-whitman-specimen-days-meaning-of-life/

        Now, I notice that your characters stare /over/ the abyss, not /into/ the abyss. It might just be a phrasing nuance, but, the thought came to mind, over vs into are distinctly different.

        To stare over, would, to me, mean that the person is aware of the abyss, but not accept that it is a valid destination, as of yet.

        To stare into, on the other hand, means that hope has abandoned one, and only a nudge to the side from serendipity or, a friend, would save that soul.

        It seems that all great thinkers must walk to that edge, pause there. Perhaps spend days or years there, pondering. And, upon reflection, either stare into and plunge, or, stare over and back away (step over?) having discovered that the abyss will remain, but its allure can be substituted with a lifetime of worthy distraction.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “To stare over would, to me, mean that this person is aware of the abyss, but not accept that it is a valid destination, as of yet.” I sometimes wonder if the intentional slightly altered phrasing I use has any effect at all on the overall post. You just confirmed that it does (or at least that it sometimes does, and that’s good enough for me). And your comment served as yet another recent reminder from the Universe that I need to revisit the writings of Walt Whitman very soon. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul, my dear, you don’t stop to surprise me. Just brilliant. Bravo, Maestro.

    Due to the spontaneous fucking, the human race found itself utterly fucked. Haha. How fucked up is that!?

    Another version of Brave New World, why not?! Life-long emotional well-being, universal happiness and a totalitarian welfare-state without war, poverty or crime. Hm. And what do we have in Paul’s world: the growing problem of suicide among seemingly well-adapted citizens (I love this ‘seemingly’). This looks like Scandinavian countries to me.

    Denmark is the country that as a rule leads the world in happiness surveys (child care is mainly free, as well as schools, private ones too, no kidding, and you can stay on unemployment benefits for a long long long time. Besides, you make 3 kids and have secured pension already without having worked a single day in your life). So, why wouldn’t they be happy?

    BUT, tourists say Danes are joyless to be around. The country suffers from high rates of alcoholism, depression, (fellow Nordics and Icelanders are there too), 5 % of Danish men have had sex with an animal ??? Plus, it’s “the cancer capital of the world.” Plus, the suicide rate is among the highest in Europe. So, what’s the meaning of life again? The bottom line is such surveys are a worthless piece of shit since it’s a cultural thing, meaning different things in different countries. Yes in Japan equals bragging. The Danes by contrast believe it is “shameful to be unhappy.” Poor people! They have to be happy or say they are happy because they have everything, right? My oh my…

    What next? Yes, I love your metaphor with different dimensions. Sometimes we feel like a square peg in a round hole. We just don’t fit. What do we do? Adopt a nihilistic approach to life, believing like Nietzsche that its corrosive effects will eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions, precipitating the greatest crisis in human history.
    However, if we survived the process of destroying all interpretations of the world, we might just find out the correct course for humankind. Full sail ahead!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Bojana! I’ve heard about some of what you described behind those Scandinavian smiles. Further proof, as if we needed any, that “happiness” is not universally definable, nor can high levels of it be expected to last indefinitely, no matter how it’s defined. It’s interesting that you mentioned Japan because despite the strange fascination of the Japanese people with huge-eyed kittens and other bizarre pop culture silliness, it is still very culturally important for them to “save face”; to consider honor infinitely more important than happiness. Despite the fact that I have absorbed an inordinate amount of existential and even nihilistic literature, I still fail to see the value in any philosophy whose main goal isn’t a potential increase in happiness. I can do miserable standing on my head. The elusive search for happiness just seems so much more of a worthwhile pursuit.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Because it’s non-existent.
        Remember my shrink/friend from my earlier posts, or not? Doesn’t matter. She told me recently: I am happy, but I am not satisfied. At that moment, it was the other way round with me. I thought I had every reason to be satisfied, yet I could not describe myself as serenely/honestly happy. Something was missing. Maybe still…I’m digging up, searching, questioning and trying to understand and the more I do so, the more I believe that this whole pursuit of happiness is a sham. Things are being falsely presented as the truth before our own eyes. We are constantly being bombarded by smiling young faces and told how to dress, what to buy, how to think, what not to do so as to reinvent ourselves. But, can we really be different from who we are?! The bottom line is this whole happiness thing is a temporary state of mind.
        I went our with my family today to buy a detergent and toilet paper (how very exciting, huh?) and nothing went as planned since our son decided to throw a tantrum in the middle of the store and later in the street and later…So, we didn’t have that coffee as planned but had a walk back home since I forgot my bus ticket. Finally, we laughed at it all and had, despite the shitty parts, a good time.
        So, that’s life. Mostly shitty with glimpses of heaven in between.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. It’s one of those words that’s so abstract as to be definable in seemingly infinite ways. Thus, eliminating it from your lexicon would do nothing to lessen its teasing ubiquity in human discourse. However, it is not you or I who stand to suffer for its overuse. We are both clearly people who can no longer access delusional notions once we’ve seen through the charade. Therefore, if the pinnacle of what people call happiness is actually just contentedness, we will hold onto ours while others still have to suffer through the deaths of their illusions before they can even figure out what would make them content. We win.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I’m not really sure who wins here, not do I want to completely erase the word from my vocabulary. I just find it very burdening and counterproductive if I’m constantly reminded how to live or if I think about how to attain it all the time. Instead, we can try to just feel a little bit more instead of thinking and verbalizing our feelings. Maybe we can be happy after all. Besides, I’m a perfectionist, remember? Being contend doesn’t not please me, at least not in the long run. So, happiness has to be here somewhere, or maybe there behind that hill, somewhere over the rainbow.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. What an astounding interaction by two of the great minds of our time… Bravo! 👏👏👏

        I’m a big believer in personal happiness, and always have been. However, the pursuit of the same largely ruined my 20’s and 30’s, and maybe some of my early 40’s. Well, ruined is a strong term, but a necessary one to make my point. I chased every conceivable means of “happiness” and read and studied extensively on the subject. And, yet, always unfulfilled.

        Somewhere along the way, while searching for the unreachable nirvana, I found me, instead. It took time, and then even further time to accept me as I am, warts and all. Breaking the expectation of what society thinks I “should” be, what Bojana calls “being reminded how to live,” was enormously important.

        I keep a chart of my happiness, one I invented around the turn of the millennium. A spreadsheet, really. Every few months I fill in some simple numbers corresponding to key factors of my life (your key factors might be entirely different, and should be) and get a result on my Quality of Life scale. Up until a few years ago, I scored in the 60% or less satisfaction level. But filling out this spreadsheet did two things for me: it reminded me what areas of my life were fantastic, and that gave me solace that all was not lost, and it showed me what areas I should improve to increase my overall quality of life.

        For the last few years, I have ranked in the 90-95 percentile of life satisfaction, with occasional dips into the 80s. Hey, I’ll take it.

        Happiness is achievable, and desirable. I believe that. The secret, if there really is one, is not to chase the illusion, but to understand ourselves and what makes us, individually, happy, and work on the areas that fulfill that criteria. Bugger to the rest of the stuff, no matter how much others think we need things that make THEM happy. To our own selves be true.

        It is the most simple and complex thing in the universe. 😎

        ((btw, really incredible piece, Paul! Mind-bending stuff!!!))

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks, Tom. Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh often advises readers to think about their existing “reasons for happiness” immediately upon waking up each morning. His writing is lovely and its simplicity is often deceiving, but in this particular case, much of what he is calling “reasons for happiness” are more like “reasons for survival”. He asks that we think about our good health, our homes, our jobs, the food we have, etc. But having the basics for decent survival obviously does not fill us with happiness, other than maybe for brief moments when you compare and contrast your situation with that of a starving refugee child or something like that. At the moment, all of my reasons for survival are in place — sort of. I’ve been very distracted lately by what to me is nothing short of a crisis, though others surely wouldn’t see it that dramatically. I have suddenly lost my connection for the only thing on Earth that can get me safely to sleep each night. I am already contemplating an immediate move to Colorado, where this wouldn’t be an issue, but that’s much easier said than done, of course, and in the interim, I won’t catch even an hour of sleep on any given night. This, in turn, will rapidly make issues that have been dormant in recent years (extreme depression, anxiety, formless anger, lack of focus) come rushing to the surface in all their glory. So I’m not happy, nor am I in the neighborhood of happy. If life doesn’t have the potential to shut itself off, so to speak, on a nightly basis, I find it to be a fate worse than death. But there are many who would consider my situation one to envy because of the food and the shelter and the job and all of that shit. So not only is happiness relative, it is also out of our ability to regulate. One cannot will oneself to be happy — another double-bind that we engage in as a culture all the time. I believe that what the Eastern traditions sometimes refer to as the “happiness” that comes from enlightenment is much closer to “contentedness”, having no room, by definition, for the extreme of “happiness”.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. In theory, Thich Nhat Hanh is on the right track, but there are no universal attributes to personal happiness. There are universal attributes for survival, and I think those need to be in place before one can pursue greater happiness (think Maslow, if you will), but basic needs cannot equate to happiness, as you say.

        Seeking a greater happiness, like a greater enlightenment, is a very personal pursuit. Some may want great things for their children, others to acquire material goods such as boats and cars, and still others may seek happiness in community involvement. All of those things are fine, if they make one happy, but don’t get anywhere near my list. My happiness depends on other things. Once I was able to identify those things, which requires a great deal of self-awareness I might add, then I was able to focus on those requirements to strengthen my own happiness quotient.

        Your happiness depends on something vital to you, a very personal (and understandable) crisis. The loss of one important attribute to our happiness can cause a domino effect upon all the others (for you that might be sleep, a sense of calm, and great focus), and reduce your overall level of well-being. One of your pillars is missing; the structure is now unstable.

        A few years back, I had a separation. My marriage is an important aspect of my happiness and, when that pillar broke, so many other aspects of happiness became unstable, as well. Luckily, that event was short-lived (and ill-advised, on my part), and the structure was reconstituted.

        The good thing, and I know its hard to take solace in it right now, is that you know what’s missing and, hopefully, can take steps to reconstitute your own base. My thoughts are with you; absolutely.

        And, just for the record, California will also be a haven for you after the 1st. Godspeed, dear friend. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy Christ this post goes beyond Brilliantly Paul. This is your best yet! However, this phrase sounds suspiciously similar to the Malthusian Theory: “the Earth and its resources are finite and depletable but the human population continues to grow exponentially…” which I found have evidence of being profoundly false. I SIMPLY had to dig for some sort of fly in your delicious ointment. Well done, Paul. George F out…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, George! I actually invite flies into my ointment — even in the context of fiction, I try to stay within the confines of plausibility (Mexican zombies notwithstanding, of course). Now I shall go research the inaccuracy of the Malthusian Theory.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes please do. It’s a supposedly an anti-humanist stance, not taking into account the use of technology to grow food exponentially in order to keep up with the growth of the human population.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a theory I’m going to let you borrow (talk of bragging). It may be profoundly brilliant but it may be just as profoundly stupid. It’s based loosely on Lucretious’ understanding of all the Earth being composed of these things called “atoms”:

    Other than what enters our atmosphere as meteorites, there are a finite (though Lucretius and the Epicureans believed it to be infinite) number of atoms in, on, and around the planet. As humans increase in population we consume a larger portion of those atoms in the process of creating new humans, buildings, machines, roads, etc. This leaves less atoms to go around for the creation of other living things. This is where lie the shortages and mass extinction of animal and plant life we observe around us. There are only so many atoms to go around. We can’t have a fully stocked human race as well as an abundant fauna and flora-sphere. If this idea makes sense, and you can use it in one of your posts, feel free. If not, feel just as free to get a good laugh over it and trash it.

    I’m going to pen a post that explains this in more detail, but I wonder what kind of story your fabulous mind can come up with using this line of imagination? Since you came up with such a enlightening story based on the Flatland multi-dimensional theme, I don’t think it’s beyond your reach.

    Great story, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. While atoms do not disappear, they do transform, rearrange their molecular positions, etc. That’s enough of a premise for me to weave into fiction. When I write about such things in an essay format, I try to confine myself to accurate present knowledge (regardless, my accuracy is often far from perfect in those presentations, too). But sci-fi is a very broad vehicle. It encompasses the well-reasoned future predictions of writers like Asimov as well as trashy comics about angry alien invaders. So there’s lots of room to play with this.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Like I said, it’s either one or the other. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were both were possible, depending on point of view. I wonder if a mathematical formula could describe it? Nothing comes from nothing. E=mc^2 proves mass is created from energy, but what energy creates extra atoms as building blocks for new material? Lava is rock converted to basalt, sand and soil; the calcium that leeches into the sea turns into the shells of crustaceans, but where do the atoms that form new life come from, other than those that already exist?

        Liked by 2 people

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