Talking of Time

I submit to you that few things are more categorically a figment of our imaginations than is time

You never fail until you stop trying… keep digging.
— Einstein (1879–1955) & Heaney (1939–2013)

Tick Tock, “tick-tock” goes the atomic clock. We wore analogue watches, we had windup grandfather clocks we now wear digital smart watches and have LED wall clocks that listen passively to all that we say. Timing is everything, we time-stamp our every move (Google maps, WhatsApp chats, Snapchat geotagged videos). The hour, day and date of our birth is documented as is the day and date of our death (unless we are born into a wretched war zone or killed by a ten ton nuclear bomb). The pious are governed by the calls of bells (Sunday worship, evening song, midnight mass) the muezzin’s calls (like clockwork at the following prescribed times: al-fajr at dawn, before the sun rises; al-zuhr midday, when the sun’s the hottest; al-‘asr the late part of the afternoon; al-maghrib, just after the sun sets and then al-‘isha, midway between sunset and midnight). Today, now, at this moment in time, “Time management” self-help courses are easily found on YouTube, packaged, for instance, into six-parts of circa nine minutes an episode.

Our days are controlled by university bus timetables, course and class schedules. Punctuality is praised; lateness is loathed. It is binary, a 0 or a 1, we are either “present” or “absent,” of Enlightenment or Romantic persuasion, we can’t be both. There’s an “L” for late but, is it 5 minutes or 10? As somebody said: you can’t both have your New York cheesecake and eat New York cheesecake. 12*2 is 24, how many times have I told you, 5 past the hour equals an A not an L. In my university’s foundation program the key lesson we learned was punctuality. It was the lesson the Instructors liked the most. I mean other points were kind of given to us on a plate. We were told what to read and how to construct an essay, sentence by sentence. But let me tell you, my time spent there was divine. I lived, I totally ‘lived’ in those classes. I had an American man, a South African lady, a sweet Turkish lady then and finally a large British man. It was their accents, habits and personal stories that excited and fascinated me. It was during that period of time that my mind (but not my body) got freed from the village mentality and the backward closedminded thinking that for 18 years had been my be all and end all. They liked me. Why? Because I respected time. I obeyed and submitted willingly to the university’s synchronised wall clocks (they clicked audibly each and every minute).

Time’s invisible, time’s invaluable (much like radio waves, and WiFi – Q: is it so that all that’s dearest to us can’t be seen, heard or touched physically?). Time is at the heart of so many songs and so many sonnets. Timeframes, there are so many! I challenge you: what’s a jiffy, an eon, a score of lustrum (halve it for a jubilee) and for top prize: how many seconds go into a Day of Brahman? Let us consider the International Date Line. It is an imaginary line drawn in the middle of the Pacific ocean from bottom to top. It controls time zones, the opening and closing of the world’s stock markets and a billion other human activities too. These days most of what was imperial has gone metric but time wont change sides.

The 12-hour clock is a time convention in which the 24 hours of the day are divided into two 12 periods: a.m. and p.m. (in Latin, ante meridiem = before midday; post meridiem = past midday). We know from ancient Egyptian stone sundials that their clocks and time management was 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of night-time. The hour was split into sixty minutes worth of sixty seconds because of the Babylonians. They used a sexagesimal system for their astronomy and for their bookkeeping. This they took from the Sumerians who were using it back in 3500 BCE. In terms of this sexagesimal system (counting in 60s, 24s and 12s) there is sound logic! It has the advantage of 12 being divisible by two, three, four, six and itself (5 options). Metric ten has only three divisors (two, five and itself). However, telling the time is confusing and I don’t mean the past and to the hour. I am pleased to say that Wikipedia agrees that it is cause of confusion and writes, “it is not always clear what times ‘12:00 a.m.’ and ‘12:00 p.m.’ denote.” Normally it starts at 12 midnight (usually 12 a.m.) and continues to 12 noon (usually: 12 p.m.) and then continues – as the hot sun chases after the cool moon – to the next midnight.

Now to the philosophical bit. I submit to you that few things are more categorically a figment of our imaginations than is time. I mean, it’s not actual, it’s not factual; it is intangible. It has no mass it has no meaning (other than an abstract unit of measuring things). We cannot see, hear, taste or touch it. We call it priceless but time ‘is’ money (how much per hour? What’s the nightly room rate? Banana boat rides, only 100 dirhams for 15 minutes). Nonetheless, time is more real than anything physical. [Please stick with me here.] We all want more time to think, more time to love, more time to live. (I swear to the Lord) I trust no human who says that isn’t so. Time then, while wholly imagined (akin perhaps to blind faith), does in fact shape and chain us in an acutely tangible physical sense. Unfortunately, time moves on regardless of what we do to fight it. Hair dye; Botox; Skinny jeans on middle aged legs. We want it to stop. We want it to last forever.

And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence … Entropy always increases.
— William Shakespeare, Poet (1564–1616) & Brian Cox, Scientist (1968– )

Then again! Sometimes we do in fact want time to fly by; such as during a soul destroying STATISTICS class. Speaking of time, look at the time! It is totally fine. It isn’t the time but the word count. I’ve hit 999 (give or take) and, these texts aren’t allowed to take more than five minutes of you precious and priceless time;* a good constraint I think.


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Heaney, S. (1966). Death of a Naturalist. London: Faber & Faber.

Lightman, A. (1993). Einstein’s Dreams. New York: Vintage Books.

Popova, M. (2012). Brian Cox Explains Entropy and the Arrow of Time with Sandcastles and Glaciers. Retrieved from, brainpickings.org/2012/03/29/brian-cox-arrow-of-time/

* It is said that average readers only manage to ‘read’ around 200 words per minute of time. Fascinatingly for me the average person will ‘speak’ about 120 words per minute, which is two words per second and that’s 3.333 syllables a second!

Codex

A codex (from the Latin caudex for “trunk of a tree” or block of wood, book) is a book constructed of a number of sheets of paper, vellum, papyrus, or similar materials.

double-page-codex

Compare & Contrast

I’ll be honest. I haven’t read any of the books by Jack L. Chalker, he wrote many and now he’s dead. But his genre was sci-fi and a common theme was: body swapping, being somebody else. Well, most of us fantasise about this. A little thinner, a little taller, a bit richer a bit more confident. It is common in psychology to find people who aren’t happy with who they are. So what if for a day you could be anybody? Who would you be? Let us say that this is a particularly popular wish, desire and dream nowadays. We have films like: Freaky Friday (1976) where a mum and daughter are swapped into each other’s bodies for a day to understand the issues faced by the other; Trading Places (1983) in which an upper class man and a lower class man are swapped as a sort of social experiment and, The Change-Up (2011) which is, I guess a kind of a male fantasy (I’ve seen none of them but I get the idea as I guess you do too!).

Well, in this current age most of us have Facebook, LinkedIn or a similar data gathering tool. In this era of social media obsession, what we want to be is what we post, who we are is the person in bed in a dark room thinking thoughts that we never can say out loud and can never do. There are filters on all camera apps, there’s Photoshop. It’s now possible to airbrush out what we don’t want to be and with Instagram makeup fashionistas as it is to make our noses thinner and our lips bigger. To be clear – and based on my reading of articles on psychologytoday.com – in life people who want to be somebody else lack the ability (confidence/cash) to express themselves in the way they want. Most of us I guess see aspects in others that we ourselves cannot achieve. See the food court, high heels, extended eyelashes, $1,200 dollar phones. They/we eat a salad in public, and then binge on a biryani in the bathroom. If you desire something which is impossible, you will be disappointed and frustrated each and every day. Phycologists say body swapping fantasies normally include: (1) simply wanting to be another person (2) be a different gender (3) be born to different parents (4) be born in different country (I score three from four). It’s so easy to say, “be positive” it is so easy for these Western born (male & white) Doctors and self-help gurus to say “look to the bright side.” Basically however this is true: desire what is possible and then try to achieve it because, desiring something which is impossible can only lead to sadness and disappointment. I want to say this diagnosis is designed to keep us quiet, to stop us asking “why” but honestly, wishing to be 16 again (I’m five years older) is totally pointless.

Anyway… For me, in this exercise of body swapping fantasy I’d like to experience reality not fantasy. Who exactly then would I like to be? Well, Doctor Porter of course! He is so sensitive, he has a car, he goes to the gym and he does not have any kids. The question one or two may ask is why be him? You could’ve chosen Yacoub Shaheen, or Mehmet Akif Alakurt. You could have been U.S. President Donald Trump or at least one of the astronauts on the International Space Station. The reason is this: I’m good at fantasy when confined to the compound and imprisoned in the home. Reality means being an anonymous other. I want to be a man for a day. To be, for 2,640 minutes, an ordinary normal man (there is no way I would sleep not even from one of the 158,400 seconds). Why, well to walk around the malls, visit the hotel pool and experience that. He is different. People think he is normal, but he seems not to be. My mentor Dr. Porter is so punctual and caring. No other Doctor in the Department of Philosophy’s open-plan offices, here at the University of Hussain, is always there. He is punctual and has time for old students as well as current ones. He only drinks black coffee. No girl has ever seen him eat junk food. He has a Instagram page, he’s a good horse rider, and many students follow him. His wife is Moroccan and beautiful. We all have dearly wished to be her! But no, I will be him.

Let me be clear with you my dear reader, in this life there are masculine, feminine, and in between people. This has nothing to do with sexuality. Sexuality is defined as the sexual parts that human beings are born with, and these tell us if the person is a boy or a girl (but science says 1 in 100 may be born into the wrong body, this is accepted in some cultures, in others it is not). I said I want to be a man, and I totally mean to be a real man for the whole day. In the environment that I am living in, men are everything whereas women are to be controlled and hidden. Men are allowed to do everything, and even if it is wrong, well he’s a man so he’s going to be forgiven. I am a woman and I have always been controlled. So, for one day I want to be a man. I’ll be the controller, I’ll drive my sisters (would they be my daughters now?) to the Al Ain zoo where we will take lunch and discuss how to free the imprisoned monkeys. Then we’ll go to the “Promenade” at Jumeirah beach, they’ll wear their Adidas superstars and Juicy Couture t-shirts.

That was my plan. But when I woke as Dr. Porter, the plan changed. My wife was back in Morocco (her mother was sick). In the bathroom I examined myself in the mirror, my black hair was now blonde and missing in the middle. The body was one aspect but the feeling, that was the real difference. I was about to dress for working but I decided to cancel classes, why not? I would quickly give that student who was so keen to do her homework and ask questions an A on BlackBoard (that’s me!) then go to the gym at the Intercontinental Hotel. It was a mixed gym and I was interested to know how much I could lift. I planned to run as fast as I could too. As I was about to leave the apartment I went to reach for my ‘abayah and shayla (“cloak” and “veil” in Arabic), but smiled. No need today. As I walked to the car I noticed that some women looked to the ground as I got near them, others looked at me with a kind of lust in their eyes. I wanted to visit myself, was Dr Porter in Amna’s body? I hope he didn’t have a heart attack at the shock from waking up as me. or I’d be him for ever. Part of me wished he did have a heart attack, I’d grab his/my New Zealand passport and fly first-class to Auckland.

The gym was a bit of a disappointment, it was almost empty. The only people using it were Arab and Westerner housewives (or maybe they worked only in the afternoons?). They seemed a bit bored. I noticed they looked at me. I also had to say hello because, they knew me here. One even asked me about Alia. When I spoke it was hard not to laugh. My words my thoughts but said in a man’s deep voice. I loved my accent. I kept on speaking loudly when I was in the car. The freedom was amazing. The most noticeable difference is that nobody looked at me with the eyes that said: “why aren’t you at home?” “where’s your brother?” “Who’s your father to let you come to the Mall alone?” To the mall, that is what I’ll do. I knew how to drive. The family driver had let me and my older sister drive from school to home and even I would drive a bit on the desert highway after university. But only to add to my Snapchat and Instagram accounts. I was going to drive fast. Dr. Porter had a Ford Mustang. But, no, I didn’t want him to get any radar tickets.

I drove to the capital city’s biggest Mall. Inside I walked and walked, I kept looking at ladies, they kind of looked back to me. My thoughts were mine, my body language was not. I decided to sit in a coffee shop and watch people. This is what I did as myself. But now, I did not review handbags and shoes, I was focused on how tall then men were, did they have more hair than me? Was their belly wider than their chest? I was focusing on my new gender. I was comparing myself with my gender. I felt a bit bad because Alia tried calling me many times. There was no way I could speak as him to her. She’d know I wasn’t him. But I did SMS her and I particularly focused on paying her compliments. She was shocked at first but I sent to her a selfie and then typed: I’m a changed man, I like to pretend looks aren’t important but I want to let you know you are truly beautiful, I always think it but now I’ll say it. Basically I said to her what I wanted my future husband to say to the real me. I also typed this, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” it was from the Cambridge university dictionary but we say a similar saying in Arabic.

As the sun began to set, I realised that being in a man’s body was basically not that different. Yes I had freedoms of movement (and this was truly divine). But, I was still comparing myself to others, looking at people as objects of desire, disgust or indifference. I still wanted to be better than others. Every look was a judgment of a type. What did I learn? We are, after all, humans. I considered the thesis of Joseph Conrad, in our soul we are all wildly animalistic. Never judge a book by its cover, those sweet charming students, those sincere and sensitive teachers are basically the same. Behind the cover of their smiling faces is a dark inner self. The question this gender metamorphosis did not answer was this: must it always be like this? Will humankind ever rise above our base instincts, competitive tendencies and envies?


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Chalker, J. L. (1989). The Identity Matrix. Riverdale, Canada: Baen Books.

Conrad, J. (2012 [1902]). Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin.

IMDb (2011). Body Swap Movies. Retrieved from, https://www.imdb.com/list/ls000924797/

Double Vision

Shared Secretly (well, honestly so)

Prologue

It is often stated that it’s a miracle a Department of Philosophy exists here at all. Within its underpopulated lecture rooms, it is once in a while asked, ‘where’ exactly, is life led?

PART ONE

“Breakfast’s ready, your mother, umm, wants the both of you to come.”

The peachy pink calm of the dawn sky was becoming, as it invariably did, a blinding, bleached bone white daze. Every day when Amna woke (or more usually when Ezra the Ethiopian maid awoke her) she would then turn to wake her twin sister Eman and then pick up the book she’d been reading the night before. In her hand she took this book and went to where her mother was sitting. She proceeded to give what was essentially another monologue:

“Whilst ignorance is bliss, knowledge, it’s nemesis, is the pivot upon which all of humankind’s progress rests … this, the book argues, in addition to being ironic interferes with life’s fundamental purpose, the pursuit of happiness.” Eman, it should be noted, was rather less loquacious; in tandem, the duo nodded.

After fresh warm milk and buttered bread with apricot jam, Amna went hand in hand (so to speak) with Eman to university. The family driver, an Indian with hairy ears and the temperament of a tortoise called Iqbal, is the chauffeur–cum–chaperone charged with preserving their dignity and upholding the family’s honour. That day he drove as sedately as he always did from the walled compound to the walled campus in a blacked out polar white station wagon. As per usual in the rear seats, Amna helps Eman review the previous day’s lectures.

In the university’s cafeteria, the pair sat. The coffee chain’s cup wasn’t a new one, in marker pen it was written E, with a cross, then Amna and a X. It had been handled a lot but had seemingly been painstakingly and purposefully preserved. Eman was beautiful and she did look strikingly similar to a well-known and much coveted after pop star. (Beguiling would perhaps be the better adjective.) Amna wasn’t in the least bit shy and she was at the superficial level very approachable. Yet, they were typically a solo duet; the type who would bring packed lunches as opposed to purchasing a pizza for two deal.

The world can be cruel and it is gossip not oil that makes it go round and round. She’s aloof, she’s vain, she’s arrogant, she’s two-faced. Yep, such descriptions are commonly thrown their way. A group of girls talked about her latest twist: talking to the skies. Yes it could be to other—sisters perhaps. They conceded, with Bluetooth and Wifi its now impossible to be sure who are the sane and who are the insane. What a pity, she’s no friends, and now she speaks to herself non-stop. Here is the strange thing, all students on first contact want to befriend her but as lunch follows breakfast divides soon follow. They’re jealous of her looks or her grades or her ways with foreign labourers. Unbeknown to them, this day was to be their last (for a while at least anyway).

 

PART TWO

It wasn’t only at university this habit of talking to unobserved others was increasingly noted. The people in the village were not especially educated and this compounded the problem. Upon their return the final decision was dictated for all to hear: university life was over. Life looked bleak but a ‘chance’ glance over the compound wall would change it all. Yet between the chance glance and the trip above the clouds to a different world (so to speak) the consensus view was that she’d been possessed by another: two souls, one body. The father decreed, “this is what we’ve been told to do so, this is what’s right to do.”

In the weeks that followed the beatings became almost ritualistic—ten firm strikes and some words said before and after each crack of the cane—all books were banned and finally pen and paper was placed under prohibition. In tandem, the neigbour’s son was growing evermore infatuated. It had been the first time that their eyes had met for a dozen years (as kids, they’d all played in the open ground between the villas and that neighbourhood’s mosque). His Master’s dissertation was near completion and he was to travel to Britain to do his Ph.D. in September.

Villages talk, he knew of the happenings next door but was circumscribe and diplomatic toward agreeing with the sentiments of the men of the neighbourhood. That beautiful creature was troubled (she was troubled and/or in trouble), yet, in his opinion, there was nothing that love couldn’t cure. Following another beating, she said, “for how long most all of this go on?” and was answered with the following words, Salem, son of Sultan Al Aswadi has asked for your hand and you are to be married to him. Salem! the one with glasses? Rejection was a possibility, we are in 2015, daughters can now say no, should they dare to do so. But to escape the stick an “oh, okay” was the response.

The morning after the wedding the newly wed husband called upon the father of the house next door, the scarring had made him livid. “This is what we are told to do. This is what we do… don’t say you didn’t know” came the nonchalant reply. Salem had intended to be a man but when faced by this stocky ogre of a foe he draw the duel to a close by saying that they’d be off to the UK sooner than planed. The father was releveled, he’d thought that he may have instead been lumbered with a dependent divorcee to darken his family’s name.

A series of tests at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital, in the cold crisp months of the northern English winter, confirmed that it was a ‘manageable’ psychological disorder which indeed love could aid. In the week after the winter equinox at a procedural health check-up she was told, in a thick Mancunian accent, that she was carrying a little someone inside of her. That evening in their studio flat, she looked into his tired eyes—he’d been reading all the day long in the library on Quay Street—and said, “congratulations, you’ll soon be a father.”

“Should we call her Amna after your mother or Eman after mine?” he excitedly replied.

 

Epilogue

Periodically the Department would convene open door debates. In a recent one, where the ‘where’ was the focus, it concluded with the arguably troubling thought that one’s very own head was where it all took place. Amna looked at Eman and said with out uttering a single word, “can this really be so?”

A Stranger on Earth

…life has no point (or purpose more profound) other than to reproduce.

us_and_them

They were all around me now. This was a real unhappy ending. They’d gone crazy. I observed a little fear and a lot of pleasure in their eyes. Fearful because I was different; excited because. as a mob, they were together attacking me. ‘Sort.3’ and ‘Sort.4’ were screaming words like, “Ayyb ilich” and, “Surrender, we’ve called Special Forces.” Some were throwing their shoes at me, I observed that mostly they are of animal skin or a shiny sort of plastic, others were throwing donuts and half eaten hot dogs. I already had my samples of their staple energy sources so I didn’t collect more, I just unwillingly played dodge-ball (‘Sort.1’ and ‘Sort.2’ did not participate in this gang violence, they continued to preen and peck, to prowl and purr.) “Bugger it all” I said to myself and then pressed my ‘Evaporate to Repatriate’ button: “Mission Control,” I said to my soul – I report by thought – “I’m coming back to base, they don’t have the answer to the question we want answered… on a scale of -42 to +42” I continued dejectedly, “I’d place their intelligence-cum-tolerance levels at around 0 [zero]”

The pervious afternoon somewhere far away, a group of beings in a kiosk called ‘Mission Control’ had detected yet another blue-green globe. Up there, expert philosophers, psychologists and political perfectionists only wanted an answer for this: how it all began, how it was destined to end and what exactly was the purpose of life (3 into 1). They elected to investigate this one (circling a tiny star called A-B2956) because it was sending out odd sounds and peculiar metal objects. What made them curious was three recent offerings – a non-breathing furry object (a Russian dog called Laika) another similar object with a cheeky expression (an American monkey called Ham the Chimp) and then a dummy in a cherry red car that wouldn’t talk and like just one song. Were these signs and symbols of friendship or threat? Were these signs of deep intelligence or the polar opposite? The Mission Control captain asked an eager one to zip on over, and beam back a report about this globe’s life forms and cognitive reasoning abilities. Stella, who had a hunger for escape, volunteered to make the trip. She was be no means unique, whilst carrying out her duties on A-B2956-3, a million and one others from her classification were investigating other globes of interest across the mega multiverse. She dared to dream though: might the mysterious senders of dogs and monkeys finally answer the question that no sentient being had yet answered?

At the crack of dawn this morning, I opened my eyes and asked myself, ‘where am I?’ It was a rhetorical question because I knew I’d been scanned to A-B2956-3. I began my observations. My thoughts were being transferred to my plasma capsule inserted under my skin. This capsule then beamed my observations, GPS locations and all other diagnostics (the seven senses) to the boffin-dorks up at the kiosk. I was happy to observe that I’d appeared on dry land in a sea of sand (liquids and I had a complicated relationship). I found myself in a walled enclosure with a variety of buildings. The wall was quite high and I saw low quality fixed observation cameras were everywhere. Each building had words upon them in two languages, some were rock, some were metal some were glass.
Soon after A-B2956 rose I became surrounded by moving objects – well, four sorts of carbon-based living beings. The littlest floated in the air, the next smallest were on four legs then, the larger two were quite different. Sort.3 and Sort.4 were similar in their size. Sort.3 mostly had black gowns and a few were what we’d call fashionistas. Almost all walked slowly with active plasma capsules in their hands, almost all coloured their faces. Sort.4 were more whitey-pink or whitey-red in complexion, they carried bags of paper, walked more quickly and few held or even had plasma capsules.

I followed as quietly as I could a number of Sort.3s and a single Sort.4 into a funny little room. To get here we passed through invisible walls, when I got close it seemed to be as hard as crystal, but somehow it just opened up and the heat became chill. Somewhere silent slaves were opening and cooling vents. In the room the Sort.4 was making lots of noise, waving paper in frustration at the relaxed looking Sort.3s and saying something like “missing deadlines results in zeros.” He then got angry with the antiquated interactive display. When the class began (a being who seemed a combination of Sort.3 and Sort.4 had come in and pressed an on button), the Sort.3s watched him quietly, just moving their heads (i.e., nodding) some seemed to copy what he said onto their own paper but I saw many doing activites on their plasma creations under the desks. Some were swiping pictures right and left, some watching video recordings while others still were moving candy-eating animations with their fingers along never ending pathways. I was confused because if the Sort.4 came close, they quickly hid their plasma creations.

I followed in a secretive way large numbers of Sort.3s into some sort of energy station. It was noisy here. It was on two stages. All around energy was being exchanged. Exchange was with little bits of tin or colourful paper; it was too funny! The place was smelling not too good, I saw a black hole in the ground and went in. The water was dull grey but was wonderful. I covered my body in this peculiar perfume. When I got out, the Sort.3s seem shocked and moved away. I then started taking samples of energy and then the screaming began. I thought to myself can they see me? Many Sort.3s were wearing solar glasses even though the rays of A-B2956 were not getting into this building. I experimented and began removing their solar glasses but this caused the screaming to increase and some sudden laying down to happen. Maybe the beautiful smelling liquid had made my invisibility suit stop working.

Stoically I continued on my quest trying my best to understand and observe these peculiar beings. There was a white Sort.4 with a smile on his face, sitting in the corner of the energy station building. With excitement he held his mug to drink black liquid, I got close and before his tongue touched the substance I drank some, he looked in my direction with fear and fright. I don’t know why but seconds later he dropped the liquid over his clothes, screamed and ran away (he didn’t get far at all because he then fell over a laying Sort.3 which cause even more screaming and two or three more sudden lay downs). Well that was liquid. Now I needed some solid evidence. I saw one big Sort.3 lady about to bite a huge burger, but I got to it first and took three-quarters of it in a single bite. She screamed, “Jinny, Jinny.”

The third venue I investigated had this written on it, “Hamman/Bathroom.” I saw transparent liquid with an awful smell. The strange Sort.3s were covering their hands with it. By now I was being followed. The boffin-dorks said that the grey body perfume was letting them know my GPS. I’d broken Rule Number 1 of alien observation: Don’t get seen. But what could I do? The perfumed water was nice, I was not going to remove it and the chaps up there agreed, if they could coat themselves in it they’d not remove it for love or for money (the sample I’d beamed back and named ‘eau de égout’ was the talk of the kiosk). Inside this room were small little rooms with chairs. These chairs were filled with this transparent liquid. And a button caused a water fall of it to come out. They were unbelievable, they carried their colour with them. They face their reflection and start to dab more colour onto their faces, when I got close to them I felt dizzy, with each movement strong perfume radiated from their bodies. When some removed the black gown from their head, something billowing puffed out. Then I observed them applying false hair onto their eye lids, I mean ‘why?’ Why would they do that? They were like wings, maybe they helped their eyes to fly to the sky. Several had nails like claws, long and pointy – for what possible purpose I could not imagine. Many, I noted, keep extra eyes in small boxes with colourless liquid that tasted sour (I tried a few samples), then they placed these on to their brown eyes. It was when I tried to collect samples of the puffy fluffy cloud-like stuff above their heads that they went berserk. ‘Stranger!’ ‘Foreigner!’ they began to chant.

Stella didn’t like the thought she was having. Maybe her A.I. soulmate, Ricardo Lime (version 12.6 of the intergalactic best selling Real Logarithm™ iMate series), was right and the boffin-dorks were wrong. RL’s answer wasn’t neither poetic nor romantic, it was basically, this: we are here by chance of a random chemical reaction. Since then and until now, life has no point (or purpose more profound) other than to reproduce.


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Malkin, B. (2018, 7 Feb). “SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars.” The Guardian. Retreived from, theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/07/space-oddity

Huntington, S. (1997). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. London: Penguin.