Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Last 6 Hours

The last 6 hours lasted 6 days.

The first day is like any other dream day. The city shifts from two to three to four dimensions and back, warping, a dynamic landscape to fit a dynamic day. Now Seattle. Now Brazil. Now a squatter metropolis in Nairobi.

There are flies coming off of this old woman as she shakes her laundry.

"Watch out for the viper flies. Everyone has them. They look like an opalescent, milky shells of corn with wings, but small, very small. Some are blue. The blue ones are nasty."

These flies live inside us, in our arms and hands, burrowing just under the skin. You can see them as they travel through your body but you can't feel them enter--they are that subtle, just barely biting, enough to enter and squirm.

I see one and I panic. It's in my right forearm, traveling up to my hand. With a pinch and a squeeze, I force it to the surface and crush it with my fingers. It resists like a flea, flattening itself and wiggling away--but I capture it's wings between my fingernails and cut them loose. The little fucker falls to the ground, inert.

It is this day that I discover I am about to die. I have several days, perhaps a week at best. There is an infection running too deep to cure. I have fly eggs in my arms. They are reproducing and, as they hatch and tunnel through my body, I have to squeeze them out constantly to keep them from eating too much of me.

The next few days are about preparing for death. Loose ends and farewells consume every waking moment. I barely sleep, noticing a new fly every time I close my eyes.

What about Code Name Alice? She has no idea, though she notices my arms withering away into bones. I can no longer hold her. This above all else fills me with pain, dread, fear. For several days, I have private encounters with people I knew, which I won't go into here--too much, too long, too personal.

Driving, I curse at the ether. It's not supposed to be this way. I'm supposed to live long enough to see other planets, to see the next medical renaissance, perhaps to live forever. If it could have just waited, my girl could have a father for eternity.

Although asleep, the pain is real. Code Name Alice is stirring in her room. She is awake now and I must wake up to feed her breakfast and play. It's Sunday. I haven't long left. No time to fix this dream. Before I leave, before dying, I pass on the secret of killing the flies, which I discovered in a dream within a dream. Perhaps as I stand here awake, they are killing the flies now, cleansing that curvy world of such pestilence, preventing another father from falling away from his child.

The last 6 hours was the worst 6 days of my life.

This is a bad way to start a day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TED: Dan Dennett - Dangerous Memes and Inoculations

This isn't a new idea. Neal Stephenson went on and on about it in Snow Crash. Ideas are memetic infections--and they can be dangerous. However, I came to a realization that I hadn't thought of until the end of Dan Dennet's TED talk: Ideas like the Flying Spaghetti Monster are a form of viral inoculation. It's like a flu shot to prepare you for the next idea--a more dangerous one--but, having experienced the vaccine, your mind is capable of fighting off real diseases. We must make satire in order to fully develop our minds around ideas and work out any kinks that may be laughable--but that may not be apparent, which without discovering leaves the unwitting to suffer the agony of believing in half-baked information.

From TED:
"Starting with the simple tale of an ant, philosopher Dan Dennett unleashes a devastating salvo of ideas, making a powerful case for the existence of memes -- concepts that are literally alive."