Monday, September 20, 2010

Alice's World.

Alone in a corner, Alice ponders a question: is the future written in stone? Drowning out the noisy cafeteria around her, the lone figure turns over popular answers in her mind. Alice tests the validity of each individual idea before discarding it and moving onto the next. Before long, she exhausts all answers and recommences her thinking, starting with the latest idea and retracing her train of thought backwards. Once again, getting nowhere, she grows frustrated. Her logic simply travels in circles, an infinite loop. As Alice teeters on the edge of giving up on the question, she becomes aware of her friend Louis. Louis approaches Alice and sits across the table from her with a smirk on his face.

"What's so funny?" asks Alice, confused.

"I just witnessed your face transition from thoughtful contemplation to downright annoyance in a matter of about two minutes. How could I not find that humorous?" replies Louis.

"Was it that obvious? I'm just frustrated over this question: is the future written in stone?" Alice observes the interest in Louis' eyes. She continues after a slight pause, "I figure there are two possible answers: either the future is set in stone, or it is not."

"Sounds reasonable enough. Naturally it could be a bit of both, but for now let us start with this distinction." Louis gestures toward Alice, "By all means, please continue."

"Well, there are the ideas implying the future is set in stone such as destiny, Fate, Predestination, and fatalism. According to these ideas, history has happened in the only way possible and I cannot change my future. Inevitability governs us all." Alice's voice ceases and silence ensues. The background chatter of the cafeteria is naught but white noise, easily ignored.

Alice breaks the silence, "Sounds rather bleak, doesn't it?"

Louis sardonically replies, "Truth cares not whether it is bleak or hopeful."

"Indeed," sighs Alice, "Yet I remain unsatisfied with fatalism. It is hard for me to believe my actions are inevitable. They are my actions. I must have some control over them, right?"

Louis shrugs his shoulders. "Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. What do you think?"

"I think humans have free will. I believe we have choices in life, and the choices are not predetermined." Louis does not answer immediately. Alice repeats the words over in her mind. The words sound hollow in her mind, as if they are but shadows of a greater truth yet to be discovered.

Louis speaks, "Choices we have. Control we lack. The laws of nature are beyond our control. We cannot control gravity. We can attempt to understand gravity, its causes and effects, and manipulate gravity, but we cannot control gravity. We cannot control the weather. We can predict it and even influence it to a degree, but we cannot control it. Free Will is an iffy concept. So much is beyond our control, it seems most choices are made for us."

Alice sighs. "Louis, you are so pessimistic." Louis laughs lightly in response. Alice continues, "You bring up a good point though. Humans cannot choose the laws of nature. We can discover them and use them to our advantage, but we cannot choose them. We are forever bound to them."

"Sounds a whole lot like Fate to me," interjects Louis. Alice nods in agreement. "However," continues Louis, "The laws of nature may in fact rule out fatalism as well. Quantum Mechanics is based on the principle of uncertainty. The universe at the microscopic level is ruled by chance. Is not chance a fundamental opposite of Fate?"

Alice's eyes brighten. "That's true! I never thought of it that way. A future at least partially ruled by chance cannot be set in stone." Louis agrees by nodding his head with a half-smile on his face. "Wait. So, the future is not set in stone, but we have little control over the future?" Alice remains puzzled. Rolling his eyes, Louis agrees.

"Of course, since we cannot change the past and we cannot truly predict the future, we are all stuck in a single time-line." Louis reignites Alice's doubt. Her mind begins racing in circles once again. The frustration returns. She begins to sweat. Louis simply sits back and smirks at her, enjoying the scene. Alice doesn't respond well to this.

"I thought you agreed with me when I said the future is not set in stone!" Alice's passionate outburst adds to Louis' amusement.

He clarifies, "We most certainly have Free Will in the sense that we are intelligent social beings capable of making logical and emotional decisions. These decisions give us the power to shape the future. I was just pointing out the fact only one future ever takes shape. Therefore, our decisions seem Fated. The illusion of Fate does not necessarily mean Fate exists."

Alice lets Louis' words sink in. She finds sense in his ideas, as well as comfort. Although she has not told Louis yet, she greatly fears the idea of an All-Powerful Being controlling her every move, her every sentence, her every thought. Herein lies her faith in Free Will and her aversion to Fate. "Thanks Louis, for talking this out with me. I feel much better now. For whatever reason, I've been terrified over the idea of an All-Powerful Being controlling my every move, my every sentence, my every thought."

Louis' smile widens. "It's funny you should say that." The blood drains from Alice's face. The cafeteria is gone. Looking around, Alice finds herself sitting in the same chair at the same table with Louis across from her as he was before, only the cafeteria is gone. The chairs and table rest on nothing. Darkness surrounds them. The only light comes from the pale blue glow of their skin and the bright white glow of their eyes.

"What just happened!" exclaims Alice, fear pulsing through her views, gripping her heart tightly, suffocating her sanity. She clings to her chair, the black abyss beneath her appears to be an endless void. Louis is clearly unfazed. His smile remains just as it was in the cafeteria moments before. Alice's mind continues to race, getting nowhere nearer the truth.

Louis waits a few moments before giving his answer. Alice continues to panic. At last, Louis speaks, "I am unfazed, not because I saw this coming, but because the All-Powerful Being does not wish me to be startled." The words fall on poor Alice's ears. Her panic increases sevenfold. She gets off the chair and stands on the table. The chair falls into the nothingness of the abyss below. Alice watches in horror as the table begins to fall into the abyss, leaving her suspended in nothingness. No, wait. Louis and his chair are still at the table. They must be falling too! "Not quite my dear Alice." Louis calls from below. "I am not sinking, you are ascending."

Alice begins to lose sight of Louis. Horror, fear, panic: they crash down upon her with every heartbeat. She is alone. The abyss surrounds her. She hears Louis' voice coming from all around her, "We are but puppets in a greater scheme Alice. You think you have control over your future, but you don't. A writer at his computer dictates everything about you: your actions, your words, your thoughts. The same writer controls me. We are naught by fictional characters living in a fictional world, born in the confines of the Writer's mind, alive solely in writing."

Alice understands. She has found the Truth of her world. It is fiction, though she never realized: it seemed so real to her.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Music Euphoria

I listen. A symphony of sound floods my ears, my brain, my veins: my entire being becomes one with the music—flowing back and forth with the tempo, movement, and intensity of the song. I breathe in deeply through my nostrils, close my eyes, and let the music permeate my soul.

The music starts. The pianist lightly tickles the keys: the treble notes ascend into the airwaves. Two Spanish guitars follow: one trills, the other plucks a short melody. They crescendo, then cease. Mid-range piano octaves follow, setting a mysterious mood—the minor key of the song is plainly obvious by now. The piano, accompanied by the nylon string guitar, decrescendos into near silence, like glowing embers fading into darkness—I hold my breath.

The bass guitar begins. Like a heartbeat, its rhythm pulses deep within layers upon layers of sound. Then boom! A wave of sound crashes violently, yet elegantly into my ears. The violins, violas, and cellos sway, like reeds in a current. The nylon stringed guitar follows their lead, but diverges in its own path. A lone violin wails over them all, crying out as if in tears. A harsh baritone male voice sings. Counter point melodies rise and fall among a chorus of violins. The lone violin continues its heartfelt weeping. The undercurrent of violas and cellos dances to and fro without a worry. The guitar riffs, teasingly lighthearted. The solemn bass beats beneath them all.

A beautiful male tenor voice sings, low and lamenting, building tension until a passionate outburst, pained and powerful. The orchestra builds with him until his vocal eruption, when the violins begin quick runs up and down the minor scale. The tenor sings along with an eerie melody. The piano adds to the tidal wave of sound with hailing treble and thundering bass.

The guitar plays a mournful riff. A solitary violin gently weeps. Another joins, then another. Dissonance grows. The lonely violin climbs the chromatic scale and brays upon the last note as the rest of the strings crescendo into the grand finale.

A storming symphony sounds forth! The harsh baritone, the mourning tenor, the elevated beating of the bass, the furious piano, the haunting chorus of voices in harmony with the two leads, the braying trumpets, the pulsating string section all come together in a torrential outburst of harmonious passion. The torrent culminates in the song's end. I am left with goose bumps, pins and needles through my entire body, and a smile on my face.