Sunday, August 5, 2012

What is it Like?

NOTE: A bit of Kindle babbling from earlier today, for one of the writing projects I've got on the stove at the moment:

People ask me what it’s like, being a hermit on a tiny moon ten million miles distant from the next bit of company. I tell them to imagine an ant.

The ant wandering in search of food finds a piece of popcorn on the basement floor. The ant is happy. It goes back to the colony, laying a chemical trail and brings others to the food following the trail he laid.

A human sees the popcorn crawling with ants pulls a face and gingerly picks up the food and throws it away.

The ants following the trail arrive to find a few confused ants and no food. The ants that were there swear the food was there but was taken away mysteriously along with some of their compatriots. Most of the new ants do not believe but a few detect the residue of the popcorn on the carpet and believe but don't have much to show tor their faith.

Some of the ants, old and new, remain moving in a spiral around the spot where the food had been, searching for more while others scoff and wander off, some to the colony others in search of more food.

I then tell them to forget those ants and think about the ants taken away on the popcorn.
That is what it feels like.
The ants on the popcorn have no idea where they’re going, nor what force is carrying them along. They do not know how to get back. There is no trail for them to follow. They have food but no colony with which food they may replenish.
They have no idea where they are going nor who is taking them nor when they will stop. Some fall off and disappear, their screams too faint to be heard. Some are crushed by the force that bears them away.

Soon only one ant is left on the popcorn.

To the ant, the popcorn comes to rest in an alien place where no trails lead home. There are ghosts of trails in the chemicals that the first ant and the other ants left as they circumnavigated the popcorn, but all trails are circular and lead the ant back to the beginning of another that takes just a slightly different track around the tiny planet which has become the ant’s home because there is nowhere else to go and no way to get there if there was another place. Space is no longer bent and the popcorn becomes the center of the ant’s universe.

The ant is pre-Copernican.



That is what it is like.

It is as a human served by science but cut off from it. To be served by humanity but forever alone, visited only by the voices you hear on the radio and the voices you carry in your head.

Faith is all you have left. Faith that Copernicus and Newton and Einstein and God have not forgotten you exist.

That is what it is like to be the Hermit of Iapetus.

And that is, of course, what it is like to be human.

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