Sunday, 24 April 2016

Trevor

While Infinity & Beyond + 1 magazine usually doesn't publish stories not having humanity playing ping pong with the stars, we are pleased to present Trevor, a submission to the infinitely successful  space bat challenge! Infinity & Beyond + 1 magazine, where Infinity is a risible constraint on the limitless potentialities of human development. 

"Trevor."

"..."

"Hey...Trevor."

"..."

"Trevor!"

Trevor was lying on the bank of the river, seemingly staring into space. Seemingly still and calm. Silent.

"You know Trevor, I have the sinking feeling that we are not ... the center of the universe. I don't mean we as in, 'me and you' Trevor. We, in that sense, as individuals I mean, are merely lambs for the slaughter. But I mean we as a species. We don't even think of ourselves as a mere species! We live our lives as if the universe reacts, or should react, to our very thinking. I know that we really know we are not the center of the universe but do we? Know? If we do know, this certainly doesn't manifest itself in the way we live our lives; is my hypothesis Trevor. If we really knew we were just another species would we live as we do, if we knew it? I ask you this Trevor."

But Trevor was not staring into space and neither was he calm. He was staring at the water and pondering: 'Should I get into the water?' Trevor dearly wanted to get into the water. The sun was intense and heat unrelenting. The water would be refreshing. The problem is that first minute. It is ice cold. Really freezing. Then there are the rocks on the river bed over which you must step before you find yourself at a reasonable swimming depth. And some of those rocks are really sharp.

"Trevor, truly knowing you are not the center of the universe would mean living and thinking as an equal, indistinguishable member of a gigantic family, at least from the perspective of the universe. Perhaps that is the problem. The universe is so vast, the members of the family so innumerable, you could never function at all as an individual, like us Trevor, and so we make the gross assumption that we are the center of the universe, a superior model under which an individual can function in a universe so incomprehensible, by avoiding the quagmire of floating in an ever-lasting stasis, trapped in the complexity of the contradictions between our thoughts, needs and wishes and that which takes place out there Trevor: Stupid Disgusting Reality."

Trevor glanced out there. That is where you have to step carefully over the rocks and as soon as you think you are one step from being at that depth suitable for swimming, the bottom of your foot grinds over some sharp stone. Must it always be like that? You are freezing, your foot aches and now you have to swim. But you are not a strong swimmer. It is rather quite pathetic.

"You see Trevor, it is only from our perspective that the planets and the sun orbit the earth but I say that is the beautiful model, from my perspective. A heliocentric model only appears elegant from the perspective of a space bat. Now, do I look like a space bat to you Trevor? Do I? No, I am not a space bat. I am just here, stuck, on this … swamp.”

In fact your technique is embarrassing. How, after all these years, have you not improved your stroke? You couldn't swim your way out of a wet paper bag! This really has to change.

"I am so tired of abstraction Trevor, yet at the same time reality is just an incomprehensible mess of noise, colors and insults. Why is everyone always laughing at me? Once and for all, I want to simplify everything, right here and now, to its simplest elements. We, me and you Trevor, are lying here in the sun, on the rocks, by the river. And there Trev, is water. What more could we possibly want?"

Trevor had decided: "I am getting in the water," he declared.

"Good for you Trevor, good for you."

*************

Report No. 478 to the Central Bank at Frankfurt am Meer: On the possible higher causes of the fatal crocodile attack on the River Main in the year 7550 A.D. (After Dentistry)

by Josepth E. Quantummy

Abstract
A young man was recently attacked and fatally mauled on the banks of the River Main delta, near Frankfurt am Meer, by a common central European salt water crocodile (Crocodylus eurorosus). By order of the Central Bank at Frankfurt am Meer, the following report has been commissioned to determine the higher causes of such an apparently cruel event. Here, we review similar crocodile attacks of the previous 50 years that occurred in the greater Main delta. Important physical parameters such as water temperature, salt concentration and transparency were measured in situ. Highly reluctantly. It is demonstrated here that previous attacks follow a modified Gumbel distribution when classified according to a Brutality Index. Hence, the statistical model shows that crocodile attacks of similar severity to the recent one have a typical return period of 5 years.

*************

Josepth E. Quantummy was world renowned for having broken the law of diminishing returns.

Until Josepth’s ground-breaking discovery, all human endeavors had been constrained by the fact that any particular advance required an increasing effort the next time round to even match gains made previously! Such an appalling state of affairs led, as one can well imagine, to a general malaise in the arts of development and progress. ‘What is the point’, people asked themselves, ‘if any advancements earned the first time around will mean I simply have to work twice as hard to gain a similar benefit the next time round?’ And so for eons people were content with their nihilistic stagnation.

Josepth E. Quantummy had however changed all that. Despite skepticism from various quarters claiming Josepth was either a ‘hack’, an ‘alcoholic’ or, worst of all, a ‘crocodile-oil salesman’, his fame had nonetheless spread and now his expertise was in high demand. Josepth's discovery had injected the muggy Frankfurter air with pure optimism.

Unfortunately, Josepth's recent report to the Central Bank at Frankfurt was not being accepted in its current form. Major changes were required and so here he sat opposite the head of the Central Bank, the good Bishop Schleimhaut.

Bishop Schleimhaut, one of Europe’s foremost dental theologians, was sitting behind his desk insouciantly sipping some Scandinavian coconut juice.
   
"Ahhhh, delicious," began the Bishop Schleimhaut, "I’m afraid that was my last coconut juice Joe, but can I offer you some Icelandic pineapple juice?"

"Not interested," replied Josepth E. Quantummy, waving Bishop Schleimhaut’s offer away. "I would be interested in being paid for my report of course."

"Yes of course Joe," replied Schleimhaut, "after you make the requested changes, you'll be fully compensated for all your hard work. That is what we are here to speak about after all, unless you have anything else to discuss before we start?"

"May I have some Scandinavian coconut juice?"

"Sorry Joe. Anyway, I and my colleagues were concerned with some of your conclusions. Or rather the lack of the required type of conclusion."

"There is a conclusion in the report, as well as a discussion and summary, and future work."

"Yes, yes, we saw all that, good work etcetera, etcetera. However, the problem is you have completely skipped around the question the central bank commissioned you to answer: Was the horrific crocodile attack and death of the poor young man a product of higher causes, that is, a sign from God of course? You did not answer this specific question in your conclusion."

"Understood, but I found an explanation for the attack that did not require the involvement of a god. As such. I found a statistical model that doesn’t require the intervention from any divine being whatsoever. That is not to say that God or the gods does or do not exist. You'll see I included an ontological argument in Appendix A to erase any doubt about the existence of God, or gods. Nonetheless, God, for this particular incident, can be regarded as a free parameter."

"Your ontological argument was quite unnecessary Joe. I think we can safely assume God exists," chuckled the Bishop.

"I was not convinced of God's existence beforehand, before you hired me. One must keep an open mind about these things. I am now, Bishop, a believer."

"Joe, the Church of Dentistry requires neither your, nor anyone else's ontological argument for the proof of God. We will gladly assume, for all purposes, that God exists and that He is perfect."

"Of course my ontological argument does not rule out the existence of more than one god. I show, quite elegantly let me add, that n ≥ 1 where n is the number of gods in existence. It is staggering to think how often people misinterpret inequalities."

"You are starting to put my teeth on edge Joe. I’ll concede the attack on the young man was particularly brutal as your index suggests and, well, what was he actually doing in crocodile infested waters anyway?”

“It is uncertain whether he actually was in the water,” answered Josepth, “only 50% of his corpse was found in the water. The other pieces, well … he could only be later identified through his teeth.”

“Ah yes, the one universal you can truly rely on. What I want to say is that this attack was unusually brutal and happened to what appears to have been a lovely young man, by all reports, including yours. It just doesn’t make any sense why God would have caused this unless He were particularly pis…”

“I am not quite sure that is how it works Bishop,” interrupted Joe. “Let’s assume n = 1. I think then one says God let the crocodile attack ‘happen’. 

“Josepth, may I remind you what the Bible says about people who even consider the slight chance that n ≠ 1. Matthew 13:42, ‘And the Son of man shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth’.”

“That sounds horrible,” said Josepth, “the poor whales.”

“Exactly. Now let us assume we weren’t sitting here in the basement. My office. Let’s assume we were in, ohhhh I don’t know, my former office with a magnificent view of the jungle. Sunlight would be streaming through the windows and the birds would be singing. To think they said ‘Schleimy, what a great career opportunity. Head of the Central Bank!’ And do you see that Joe? There!"

The Bishop was now gesturing behind the desk at the wall, where Josepth E. Quantummy was to imagine the existence of a window that delivered a magnificent view.

“Look Joe,” flayed the Bishop wildly, “a bird has flown from one branch and landed on another. Truly amazing! An act of God perhaps Josepth?” 

“Um, where?”

“God is everywhere Joe!” said the Bishop while slapping the desk with both hands. “Whether he acts through a bird or a crocodile or whatever, the point is you must know where to look in order to interpret His meaning.”

“…”

“Oh for frog’s sake. What a mouth breather. Let me explain it so even you can understand Joe.”

“Did you call me a mouth breather?” 

“If you want to interpret higher causes, all you have to do is maximize the signal to noise ratio. This is the idea behind your classic sacrifice. Failing natural causes, you commit a sufficiently brutal act on something sufficiently sweet and innocent whether that be a lamb or your first born son or whatever … these amateurs who try to read tea leaves have it all back to front! They’re looking at the noise!”

“Um, what do you mean by 'natural causes'?”

The Bishop stormed over to his hamster-powered ice box. The hamster occasionally needed a flick across the ears: "Get back to work you. Scheiß Technik."

The Bishop suddenly flung open the ice box and screamed, "YOU SEE THIS JOSEPTH? COCONUT JUICE!!! DO YA KNOW HOW MANY SAILORS SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES GETTING THIS IN FROM SCANDINAVIA? AND YOU'RE NOT GETTING ONE BIT OF IT!!!"

After the Bishop had calmed down, he sat back behind his desk.

“Please Josepth, just listen to me. Here is my problem. The markets need liquidity. The central bank, of which I am the head, needs to adjust interest rates in order to ensure that liquidity. Not enough liquidity and the market freezes up, too little and a hedonistic, loose credit existence earns me the wrath of the Church of Dentistry. People stop coming in for checkups. Do you see my problem Joe?”

"Yes. Yes. You need to track the money supply." said Josepth

"Ah my dear old friend Josepth, has the heat gone to your head? Let me get you some coconut juice old boy. While you’re imbibing that juice there, let me show you the Central Bank's Antipæedia."

The Bishop Blitzumschlag walked over to the bookcase covering the entire far wall and pulled a volume from the shelf.

"Ah yes, here it is. Let me explain. The Antipæedia contains volumes of theories which do not work in practice and should never be implemented under any circumstances, in practice. As 90% of the Antipædia consists of economics, it is housed here at the Central Bank. The other 10% includes things like 'evidence-based' psychology and climate engineering. Although in fairness you have the latter to thank for your coconut juice there Joey boy. Let it be said once again, the convergence of multiple jet streams is the most interesting thing to happen to Scandinavia since the Vikings. Anyway Joe, the Antipædia saves a hell of a lot of time that would otherwise be spent pursuing horrible ideas. For example, the other day we had some knucklehead come in here trying to sell us his labor theory of value…”

“I am not following,” said Joe, after slurping some of his coconut juice and then swilling the rest around his glass like a cocktail. “Do you have any olives?”

“The problem is Joe, is that every economic theory that has ever been written is contained in the Antipædia. That doesn’t then leave too many options concerning monetary policy now does it? So all I have left to determine interest rates are a load of bunk theories and a comprehensive theology of dental practice. What we have found however is that there is a small, but significant, correlation between the correct rate of interest to ensure market functionality and the wrath of God."

“Sooo,” said Josepth almost finished with his Juice, “you need me to include a God-coefficient in the Brutality Index?”

“That would be a helpful start Joe. Thank you. On the one hand, most of the market consists of the importation of exotic juices from the North and sand from the South and so it is not so bad. But! You know what happens if the markets lack liquidity?!? Then trade dries up, that coconut juice there stops arriving from Norway (delicious no?) as well as the sand, as you well know, to help build the various levees and barriers to maintain the integrity of the coast. That stops arriving as well. The sand! It doesn’t take too long, given the winds we get here, for coastal erosion to run its course and with the next mid-latitude tropical cyclone, Frankfurt am Meer is inundated with sea water. And you know what Joe!?! This basement here, the very office in which I am tasked with ensuring liquidity, slowly fills with water! I mean. Josepth. What type of sick world is this where one is left to literally drown in the consequences of one’s own ignorance?”

“Is the Antipædia water proof?” inquired Josepth.

“You know Joe, sometimes I think this whole business is enough to make one an ateethist.”

That happened to be the hamster’s trigger word, who immediately sprung from its hamster wheel to sing:

“I’m, too sexy for my wheel,
Too sexy for my cage,
Too sexy for my shirt. 
I’m. A Hamster. You know what a mean.
Costing 9.99
From the pet shop.
From the pet shop.”

“This ice box sometimes acts a bit weird,” said the Bishop, “I only bought it to be honest because the salesman said it came with a free wheel.”

*************

"Trevor."

"..."

"Hey Trevor."

"..."

"Trevor!”

After much interruption and complication, Trevor had finally achieved the highest aim of conscious existence. That is, to be comfy.

Trevor had almost been completely submerged in the water, but now raised his head above the water, looked at his friend and replied curtly.

“What? What do you want?”

 “Trevor, are you familiar with the saying: 'Knowing but not doing is not knowing'? Well I have been thinking about this saying and really trying to understand it. But then I realized I can’t know it. The saying I mean Trev. I can never really understand it without actually doing it! If the saying is indeed the truth. But how can I actually do the saying Trev … wait … Trevor! … did you see that?!?"

"No. What?"

“Did he … did he smile at me?”

“What? No. Are you sure? Who?”

“That guy walking along there. I think he … I think he smiled at me.”

“Are you sure? He just looks genuinely happy to me. There are those like that are always smiling. It’s sickening I know but don’t worry about it.”

“No. No way. He … he smiled at me.”

“Look, you see him now, he’s still smiling and not looking at you. He is just happy. Hang on. Well look at that. Do you think he’s in love?”

"Trevor, I am sick of this. He smiled at me. Not anymore. No more patronizing smirks. He thinks he's better than me! That, Trevor, was the very last time.”

"I was once in love. We used to stay awake and talk all night while staring at the stars. We would watch the sun rise and then death roll a wild pig."

"Trevor. Follow me."

"What? Wait," said Trevor, "you're not ... oh don't be so thin crocodile skinned. Leave him alone. No meat on him and probably tastes like coconut anyway."

“We shall tear that toothy smile asunder.”

"Oh for frog's sake, does this mean I have to get out of the water?"


Never smile at a crocodile.