‘Evolution is going on right now, perhaps in everything which is systematically replaceable.’ The zebra crossing has shuffled twenty feet forward. The bus shelter, like Zeno’s arrow, has crossed half the gap between its older incarnation and the stop sign, but it seems to have plateaud in its nomadic enthusiasm and stuck. Personal spaces around bodies connect together in a chain between the shelter and the sign, the people in the queue marking space like buoys, casually dressed by today’s still-evolving economic systems.
‘Yeah, everything changes, right,’ I think. ‘For example, the arrival of a bus spices up the experience of relative motion my brain is immersing my mind in as I walk along. What’s deceleration defined from an experiential perspective? How would someone describe that, phenomenologically?’
I’m moving down the street, busy like Nebuchadnezzar trying to evolve my universe in my head, or at least to organize it somehow—being distracted from my bursting ego-thoughts by the gritty nuances of the fragrance of tar on the cold air. ‘Not only is this world four dimensional, and in colour (usually)—you get this spatial idea from vision integrated with your other experiences, in the category of smell and all the other sense modalities too. We stick an imagined sound on the experience, and use this word organically, in the way that language is kept alive in organic brains...’
Cool thinking. Sorry, I forgot to mention: it’s January, about seven o’clock at night, by the tube station. It’s dark but everything has been yellowwashed with sodium for the convenience and safety of the citizenry, and for the aid of whatever closed-circuit TVs are hanging about. I think, ‘Now isn’t the time for a big Orwellian trip about the paranoia of the powerful. If I watch TV a bit later, I might consider it then...’ Instead I notice the mist from my mouth, the evidence of the seasons around me and the slowly-escaping moon, ‘See where all our awareness gets us,’ I reflect, ‘Imagine the paranoia in realizing that according to our best modern theories, on merely one of several equally dubious scenarios, the Universe we live in never ends—all its energy just sorts of spreads itself out ever more thinly, forever. But hey. What if we encoded our minds onto the patterns of this endless process of energy flow? We could live forever. Perhaps. But to never know eternity... And the perpetuation of imperfect experience and unfulfilled desire doesn’t seem to have an evident intrinsic point to it. How far are us free wills merely slaves to our evolved core instincts to survive? Or does consciousness require some sort of purpose also—something to aim for?
I say to myself, “Meanwhile, in a pub about five minutes walk around the corner, a woman is reading a postcard, and smoking a cigarette...” I’ve got all this infinite complexity of mind and the universe stuff to resolve—about truth in all possible categories of human understanding, and how far the human race can go with that—and I’m meanwhile also trying to compose a story for the writer’s group I’m going to in my head. Busy life. Meanwhile, this multidirectional yellow experience globe—I mean my consciousness of what I’, seeing and whatever other modes of information and its random reality representation contents my awareness attends to bobs along, still thinking I know not one thing from another, really.
That’s my present experience summarised. Now I notice that the pubs have TVs in them—so that the isolated people drinking can watch people in pubs on them, talking to each other. Funny conclusion number sixteen: ‘If you want to go to the limit of realism on the soaps, you could have the people in the pubs watching people in pubs on the telly...’ And you’re telling me you didn’t know beer and TV are the opiates of your potentially dissatisfied society? I’ve got bread and circuses to say to you, if you deny that to me.
I don’t go inside any of the pubs I’m passing, to deny anything at all to anybody. Bars seem to be very unattractive places whenever I go in alone. The modern pine and glass of the set up of the one I pass now would only slightly temper my anticipation of the imperfection in realized disappointment I would experience, if I were to venture inside to buy expensive beer and stand around feeling sexually alienated. One might go to a coal face to seek a diamond, but I can never even find any coal... D’you know what I mean?
I pass an independent fried chicken oasis. The next random thought to sizzle my mind is, ‘There must be an equation for the rate of change of the level of viable fast-food units per ten minute walk, by population density? Imagine all the categories of information you’d have to integrate and analyse together to formulate a useful scientific law like that...’ Then I remember that people do make rough attempts at weighing in all the factors involved in questions just like that, all the time: a man might ask himself ‘Is is worth opening up a shop here?’ But it’s amazing. It’s like doing complicated multidimensional maths in your head. Hey dude. Without the maths.
‘Cool species you moulded here, God,’ I think, ‘No wonder it took such a complication of spacetime quantum events to write all these sensations on idea space for us to experience everything. Like, something like ten or twenty billion years fiddling the possibilities for all this to happen, right now. Man. See, it all comes back to the question of evolution again...’
There’s so many silver BMs sucking the tarmac around here. It seems like a desperate last grasp at self-indulgence by a guilty population in global denial, this whole twenty-first century consumer thing. But I may be wrong.
Now I stop, solicited by a pair of beggars. I think, ‘Hey, you want to try doin’ nothing off the state, and claiming it as social evolution,’ as no doubt it could be spun... I hate giving money to beggars though: I’m always convinced they have more money than me. Admittedly, not a difficult goal right now: my finances appear to be exploring an entirely imaginary realm.
Negative money. The mashed bank account of the unemployed anti-capitalist sings its siren song: “Hi there, this is increasing debt...” it calls. I’d need to extend my overdraft to give this two change. I just shake my head and move on, feeling resentful about them triggering a moral shame in me.
Maybe I do need to go to a pub on the way back, just to make life personally more bearable, for an instant—if even more psychoeconomically unstable, personally. Life is difficult, isn’t it?—and I’m only walking to the library on a Monday evening. I wonder to myself how much I could charge to organize gang warfare according to games theory, or perhaps write political propaganda pamphlets. It’s all crap. So instead I think, ‘Let’s play, “Let’s
evolve global society, dude.”’ This is my purpose for living, I’ve decided.
So I push open the glossy red library door, and enter into a brighter baptism of yellow light, and a warmer evidence of mundane chaos and people. I have my idea for a story for the group. It’s about my journey here.
Copyright Grant Bartley