Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chapter Three, Part One

FOR THE harbor area of Los Angeles, the day was normal enough--or so Tom Watkins thought as he pulled his little sport job into a parking lot and waited for the attendant to give him a ticket. “Perhaps these chamois only succeeded in escaping from you because they did not have to think first, or discuss the best method of eluding you. Their whole organism is specialized for finding safety on mountainous terrain.” Strange rumors of some deadly danger in the Basin had been in circulation for months, with the result that tens of thousands of frightened people had already left the area. “But, surely, we do know what we mean when we speak of the ‘meaning’ of life,” I objected. “The meaning of life depends on ourselves”. In the bay, a tug had a bone in its teeth; a great liner was coming in from the depths of the blue Pacific; and just beyond the parking lot, a huge concrete warehouse looked to be quite substantial and real.

"In spite of all that, Aristotle and the ancient Greeks took a great step forward when they discovered that language can be idealized and rendered precise enough for logical deductions. That kind of language is, of course, much narrower than everyday speech, but it is of inestimable value in natural science.” So far the attendant got, then stopped speaking as an intolerably bright light flared in the sky. Up toward Pasadena, the light might be over the Rose City, it might be over downtown Los Angeles. Its distance was hard to estimate but its brightness was not. It was brighter than the sun. When it flared in the sky, the sunlight seemed to fade away into a dim glow. Tom Watkins caught only a glimpse of the light out of the corner of his eyes. The parking lot attendant looked straight at it. Dropping the ticket, he clapped his hands over his eyes and began to scream. “I know just how you feel, and I have told myself the same thing thousands of times. Indeed, the idea of leaving the confines of Europe for the expanses of the New World has been a constant temptation ever since my first visit ten years ago."

No Sound accompanied the light. Not yet.

“You are again extolling experience as opposed to the rashness of youth, as old people are so accustomed to do. And since we can’t argue back, we simply draw deeper into our shells.”

Tom Watkins did not need anyone to tell him what this light was. He knew instantly the source from which it came, knew this better than he knew his own name, knew it with an absolute sureness. Isn’t it odd that, throughout this discussion, no one should have mentioned quantum theory? We behave as if the electrically charged particles were an object like an electrically charged oil droplet, or like a pith ball in an old electroscope. “It is quite obvious that in this game we are using language quite differently than we do in science. To begin with, we try to hide rather than bring out the real facts.”

"Come on, man! There's no time to waste."

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