Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Enter the Jabberwocky

From your perspective, I’m not worth knowing.  So forget me. After all, I may not even exist. What evidence do you have? We’ve never met. You haven’t seen me in a photo. You’ve only these pages printed with words. For you, it’s far more important to establish your own identity.

In The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are, Alan Watts refers to identity as an ego in a bag of skin. David Crosby (from Crosby, Stills and Nash) calls the body a meat suit. Dave Pollard, a blogger, thinks of himself as “the space through which stuff passes”. Don Juan, in the books by Carlos Castaneda, sees a luminous egg with tendrils. Me, I’ve conjured up the jabberwocky.

I acknowledge input from Lewis Carrol, of course, but more especially Robert Heinlein. In Life Line, his first-ever published story, the dean of science-fiction writers describes a four-dimensional body: 

‘You are a space-time event having duration four ways. You are not quite six feet tall, you are about twenty inches wide and perhaps ten inches thick. In time, there stretches behind you more of this space-time event reaching to perhaps nineteen-sixteen, of which we see a cross section here at right angles to the time axis, and as thick as the present. At the far end is a baby, smelling of sour milk and drooling its breakfast on its bib. At the other end lies, perhaps, an old man someplace in the nineteen eighties. Imagine this space-time event . . . as a long pink worm, continuous through the years, one end at his mother’s womb, the other at the grave. It stretches past us here, and the cross-section we see appears to be a single discreet body. But that is illusion. There is physical continuity in this concept to the entire race, for these pink worms branch off from other pink worms. In this fashion the race is like a vine whose branches intertwine and send out shoots. Only by taking a cross section of the vine would we fall into the error of believing that the shootlets were discrete individuals.’
Well, Heinlein’s idea lodged in my mind in much the same way (and location?) as Adam’s Rickmansworth meme. I grant that it’s not exactly glamorous to reduce life to a worm, sausage or tube, and you may feel inclined to turn up your nose. Please don’t.

Because consider just what that model accomplishes. By shaking hands with the jabberwocky we’ve taken time out of the equation and elevated our position to that of Czerner’s photon! For us in the now—in the know—time no longer exists. It “stands still, eternally”. We stand, like Dr Who, outside of time.

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