The Scientist

When the first chimp completely rendered a Shakespeare play for the first time, it was mildly interesting.

People said, “Trial and error is not a sign of intelligence.” I won’t even begin to explain how incorrect that statement is, but that’s not the point.

The scientists, though, saw infinite potential. It wasn’t really the event, but rather the outcome. Of course if you give a chimp enough time, she will eventually choose all the letters and words that make up something recognizable. The question was, what else can randomly combined words and phrases accomplish?

By the time the first experiments were being conducted, the people had already lost their interest.

Scanners and other scientific devices were synched up to human brains to gauge emotions. Flickering eyes explained that attention was waning. Lip twitches meant something was thought provoking. A tilt of the head conveyed sympathy. And so on and so forth.

The experiments began with words. What words do humans like, and what words do they not like? Which are interesting and which are boring? And what happens when they are strung together this way? Or this way? Or this way?

Randomness became increasingly beautiful.

It wasn’t long before computers could write grammatically correct, original stories, with beginnings and endings, in a matter of hours, that were on par with the intelligence level of a 6-year old.  And these scientists weren’t stupid. They’re computer programs learned and retained and improved.

The people began to pay attention again. Some began to protest. The authors, already, were quivering.

Soon enough, as you would imagine, the computers started writing best selling novels. Some people claimed that these were the best books they’ed ever read. Ever. And still the computers improved. Moving into music and art as well.

The reaction in the art world was two fold. Some were infuriated, claiming science had no place in art. Others became depressed, as artists are prone to do. What is talent? A carefully calculated formula? What, in this world, has worth?

Deep down though, everyone felt a growing sense of sadness.

The first author to commit suicide was Judith Stein. She was nearly 60 years old. Not only had her life’s work centered around creating art, but she had a deep and complete faith in the overall goodness and beauty of mankind, in an overall pattern or design to life. All of which was shattered.

Judith, who lived alone in a small cottage by the sea in England awoke from a terrible dream on the morning of Saturday, January 7th. Dawn had just broken and her room was filled with a soft gray light. She calmly arose, fixed tea, and fed the cats. She then dressed in a bright red beaded dress which she hadn’t worn since her daughter’s wedding, walked out toward the cliffs over Dover, and stepped off.

She may be recognized as the first, but she was by no means the last, nor the most dramatic. Judith had started a trend. It seemed now that dying was the only thing that humans could still do better than computers. Cliffs were nothing compared to the mass drownings, public dismemberment, stomach stabbing, electrocution, slow suffocation, and the like.

Pain, also, was something only a creature could feel. Even if a computer could write about it better.

Eventually the non-artists started going, too. Young adults and teens, self-centered and apt to follow the lead began going. Their parents, heart-broken, followed. Older people, who only stuck around for their friends and family found they had none, and left, taking the long journey toward the beloved state of Grace, wondering how closely it resembled the state of Idaho.

The doctor’s, disheartened, and fearing that they were next to be cloned, slit their throats.

The sick, uncared for, overdosed.

The millionaires, loosing money, hung themselves.

It took so long for the trend to pick up speed and for the rest of the world to off themselves (we do have a fairly large population after all) that half the world was already reverting to a pre-human state.

Windows broken by the elements went unmended. Gardens, once carefully cultivated, were left untended.  Suburban houses became overgrown. Cleared farmland filled with grasses and wildflowers.

The computers, though, continued to compute and to create. There was a problem though; the programs were created to constantly advance. They could not settle for perfection. With a lack of humans for them to read, imitate, and impress, their quality began to decline. They had only themselves to mimic. Art became more and more wild and abstract, colors blending confusedly until the canvasses were dominantly black. The music became more chaotic and tuneless until discordant screeches were the next big thing.

And the writing, too, declined. It was as if time was spinning backwards. Spectacular novels became mediocre ones, and continued on a downward slope back to childishness.

In the end, the last book ever written before the all the computers broke or wore out due to lack of maintenance, was the simplest yet.

It read, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”


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January Wedding

Past posts would not have led one to believe that I would end up here.


I’ve been here three months and I’m still amazed myself.

I guess I’m an adult now? Even that is less confusing to me than Texas.

So I listen to folk tunes and sew felt slippers and delay taking down the Christmas tree.

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, I’m afraid I don’t know how anymore.

I blame Texas.

I read past posts and it’s like a lifetime ago.

And I blame the city.

I look out my window and I see pavement and porta-potties.

And I blame myself.

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Colors Crayola Doesn’t Cover

It’s sometimes hard to tell which things you’ll remember forever in vivid detail, and which ones will simply join the blur of everyday life. But sometimes moments stick out and even as you’re living them, you know that you’ll be reliving them again and again.

I know I don’t remember everything, but I do remember this:

I remember feeling sad, unbearably sad, and nervous. I remember being glad I wasn’t driving, because my mom’s homemade smoothie was churning and mixing in my stomach with all the things I wanted. Or didn’t want. Or was afraid of wanting. I wanted to turn around and go back home. I didn’t want to go back to Ann Arbor for four mindless days before launching myself into the unknown and hoping for the best. I wanted to be with my love, my baby, and know that he was what I needed, rather than just what I hoped I needed.

Outside of my stomach, the sun was setting. I wished I was back on the shores of Lake Michigan to watch it, rather than driving the opposite way. Outside of my stomach, On Being was on the radio. I tried to concentrate, clung to the words like a lifeboat, but like water, the words slipped away from me.

As the sky darkened, fireflies came out. Thousands of them. Soon they were smashing against our windshield leaving splattered streaks of glowing death liquid. We watched. Entranced. Morbidly enjoying the show.

I wondered if everyone else on the road that night was watching the suicide march with as much awe as we were. I figured they probably were.

I wanted to feel something. It’s startling it had to be so macabre.

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I Wish I Was a Squirrel

Last night, while talking on the phone with my parents, I scribbled the words, “I wish I was a squirrel,” on a corner of a scrap piece of paper.

Well, it wasn’t really a scrap piece of paper. It was a postcard that very diplomatically said, “We’re very sorry your flight got cancelled twice and that you had to spend the night under the fluorescent lights of the Dallas terminal, listening to drunk people at T.G.I. Friday’s, even though it wasn’t Friday, and then hysterically, deliriously, tell your boyfriend that you wouldn’t be home to feel his warm arms and smell his warm smell until tomorrow at the earliest, but we can’t do anything for you.

I guess I’ll have to scrounge linty quarters for my flight to Denver, after all.

I wrote that I wished I was a squirrel because, really, sometimes, I do. My mom is saying, “there’s no wrong choice, honey, follow your heart!” Yes because my heart is like metal detector, beeping louder and more frequently when I get closer to something promising. “Who’d have thought I was meant to do that! Gee thanks, heart!” And my dad is saying, very matter-of-factly, might I add, “Oh it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you make enough money to live on.” Because that’s simple, right? Right, because jobs grow on trees, no?

But I saw this squirrel. And he looked so content. Just collecting nuts for winter. Minding his own business. My boring backyard was his home, his haven. I imagined a small, cozy squirrel kitchen, nestled up against a small, cozy squirrel living room with a toasty fire and lot’s of good books. I wish the Wind in the Willows was real.

Incidentally, it should be fun tomorrow afternoon when I go to the doctor to get my broken big toe x-rayed, and I slide this same piece of scrap paper across the counter (which happens to be the same piece I scribbled my dad’s insurance information on) and say, “Yes of course, this is the issuer number, that is the enrollee number…Oh that, don’t mind that.”

“No I do not need a CAT scan…”

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tldr: don’t step on the plants, please.

I’ve started a garden to keep me busy because when I don’t have a project, I feel useless. In the garden I’m growing lettuce and scallions and cucumbers and pumpkins. The pumpkins don’t really have a purpose. I just like them.

To be honest, I don’t even really care all that much if the garden grows. I just like to take a shower at the end of the day, just before I set to making dinner, and say to myself, “I pulled some weeds today, I broke a sweat.”

No I’m not searching for the cure to cancer or raising awareness about endangered species.

Hell, I’m not even getting paid. If you think about it, my life is pretty damn close to useless. There are only a few shriveled lettuce plants and some buried seeds separating me from that which I’ve always feared more than anything else: being a good-for-nothing loser.

I’ve read about Zhuangzi’s take on the usefulness of uselessness and in my journal is a quote from one of my best friends, “sometimes you have to live direction-less life purposefully.” I want to believe all these things. But at the end of the day, when I get ready for bed without having done anything and listen to my friends telling me about all they’ve done and all that they have left to do, I feel like shit. And I start questioning things beyond my uselessness. Will I ever by useful? Will I ever have a purpose? Have I ever had one? Where-am-i-what-am-i-doing-here-how-do-i-get-out.

So don’t step on my plants, please. These plants are my own.

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Plants Are Old Souls

I was looking through my stacks of old papers, homework assignments, and various piles of class notes from my time at UM and I came across a small ripped piece of paper that had only one sentence sketched hastily on it in bright pink ink.

It said, “Plants are old souls”

I don’t remember writing it, but I like it. Plants are old souls. I think that as people get older, they become more restful and calm. They allow things to take time. They are not rushed. And when we die, we reach a final and total peace. Time moves both quickly and slowly. It moves both meaningfully and purposelessly. We no longer measure in months and years.

We measure in millenia.

We measure in seasons when the saplings grow. We measure in the soft white vessels that root themselves in our flesh, feeding the greener parts with the water and rich nutrients our bodies provide.

Plants, I think, are old souls.

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Staph Infection

I’ve been gardening for this older woman this summer. She says she needs me to help out in the yard and around the house because her husband just had open heart surgery, but really I think she just wants someone to talk to.

Today she told me about poop. And staph infections. And this poor man who needed three or four stitches for a minor cut but died the very next day because of a silly, old, staph infection. I don’t think his death had anything to do with poop, though, so that’s a relief.

She also told me about this woman who works for Hospice but somehow affords to go to Hawaii three times a year. Three times a year!  Ilene hates this woman.

She also told me about her husband who had had a brain tumor, prostate cancer, and skin cancer all within 4 years before his triple bypass surgery. Then she said, “One morning after the surgery it was raining buckets and I said to my husband, ‘it’s a great day, isn’t it?’ and he agreed. He said, ‘it’s always a great day when we’re above ground.’ ” She then began to waddle back towards the sliding door shaking her head and whispering to herself, “Thank God he hasn’t gotten a staph infection.”

I’m sorry I’ve been lazy with posting these last few days, graduation, it seems, has gotten the best of me.

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