Reality Skimming

Ethics in SF #21: Today There is No Pain

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Justine GraykinJustine Graykin is a writer and free-lance philosopher sustained by her deep, abiding faith in Science and Humanity -- well, Science, anyway –- and the belief that humor is the best anti-gravity device. She lives with 1 husband, 2 kids, 2 dogs, too many cats and a flock of chickens on 50 acres in New Hampshire, occasionally disappearing into the White Mountains with a backpack. Further details, diatribes, and antidystopian fiction can be found on her website, and on her LiveJournal.

Today There is no Pain

“On Monday, June 23rd, Doctor Professor Uberman shut down his computer and turned off his cell phone. He left his iPad, lanyard and badge, wallet and keys on the table in the hall and went through the sliding glass doors, across the deck, and down into the back yard.

“The weather was fair. It had not rained for several days. The ground was dry. He sat down on it. Today there would be no pain.”

Thus begins my contribution to the Broad Universe Sampler anthology, a piece of flash fiction called, “Today there is no pain.” Uberman, a scientist in the service of the great, grinding Moloch of a corporate government, in a moment of personal crisis and despair, simply disconnects and walks away. He spends a few precious hours contemplating only the immediate reality of the present moment as perceived directly by his mind and senses. In it, he sees infinity and infinite interbeing.

The story is a call to all of us to stop our headlong daily rush of doing, filled with assumptions and obsessions. We live unstuck in time, agonizing over past and future, mindless of the passing of each present moment. Yet these ticking moments are the only access we have to what is truly real. Uberman experiences a day of bliss, of freedom, not because he has escaped from reality, but because he has stopped to look deeply into each moment and sees what is truly real.

“A small movement refocused his eyes onto a spider. Within the intricate chemical clockwork of that alien body were strands of genetic material that duplicated his own. Somewhere down the strobe-flash of incalculable days, a creature spawned siblings that would diverge, procreate, a million upon a million times over, to become someday, a spider and a man. They were distant kin.

“Every righteous crusade, every rendezvous with destiny, all the thunder and drum of human achievement, was compressed by geological time into a wafer. Uberman looked into the eyes of the spider, an event equally important as any other human act.”

Uberman does not pass judgement on the state of human affairs; he merely sees it for what it is: Insignificant. But he does not find that depressing. Quite the opposite. He finds it liberating. In that moment there is no pain. There is joy.

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