David Pearce

My one aim was research.I was not blind to the appeal of such a place.In early childhood I had developed the fantasy of living on a cliff overlooking the ocean somewhere on the lost coast of Washington State.This dream had been ignited when I first stood at the edge of the continent at Cape Flattery and looked out over the Pacific Ocean.It had been nothing more than pure fantasy, as far as I was concerned.It had never once occurred to me that such a situation was something I might actually aspire to.At some level of mind there was a wish that such a cabin at the edge of the ocean would appear in my life, but I knew if it were to happen it would be some kind of miracle, a child’s wish for paradise.I did not bring any of this up but just stood there, mesmerized by the vastness.As I came back from absorption with sea and forest, I made small talk.I asked him what he was like when he was five years old.I wanted him to remember his deepest passion to know the universe even when he was very small.He shrugged his shoulders and ignored me.I pressed him to tell me.He drew the corners of his lips down to express his boredom with the question and said he liked hunting for frogs when his family went to a forest outside of Berlin.In addition to wanting to speak to him about my Dyson plan, I also felt a gnawing urgency to ask him how he could afford to buy this place, but I couldn’t bear to prod him so openly.I knew the moment I tried to, the shame of it would make me stutter and I would come across as pathetic.You’re moving up in the world, Shel. He stood staring out, imperious.Why the sudden move?He shrugged his shoulders.Boeing offered me a contract.Boeing?For what?The Defense Department is dumping a load of moola to ramp up research.Okay.What’s the work?He looked at me before responding.Not seriously, Brian. He lifted his eyebrows in disappointment at my obtuseness.I’m no great believer in secrecy, but one does sign a nondisclosure agreement.The distance his words created embarrassed me.Is it related to our research?He gave me a strange look.Instead of answering my question directly, he swerved the conversation.I nodded dumbly to this suggestion, still taking in his news.Under normal circumstances I would have interrupted with the technical reasons for why this wasn’t any great opportunity.We had already proven the trajectories were everywhere dense near the singularity, so no matter how powerful the computer, we would eventually end up with what were basically zeroes in the denominators, which would terminate calculations on any computer, no matter how fast.My dismay prevented any quick response, but as I stood there listening I began to put two and two together.He knew as well as I did where the approximations would end up.This was nothing but a sop.Are you leaving Puget Sound? I asked.I would think that’s obvious.But will you continue with our seminar?Shel’s face scrunched up as if he had gotten a whiff of rotten eggs.You’re on your own there, he said.I’m done working with scrubs.You’re okay doing Boeing’s research?That’s what’s going to happen, I said.He shrugged his shoulders.Where’s the problem?I give them what they want.They give me what I want.Which is what?Gold doubloons.I floated along with the crowd as if I were sleepwalking.I had no knowledge of the objects on display.I had learned early on in our discussions to avoid any mention of religion.It would only ignite another long attack on the intellectual vacuity of all theology after Kant’s Critique. None of these matters occupied my mind.As I glanced at the masks and the necklaces, my consciousness fixed itself on the equations that dealt with mathematical singularities.For the last several days, I had felt myself move into a state that is sometimes referred to as a kind of pregnancy.I was feeling the first glimmers of an insight that would bring peace to my mind.There was nothing to do except continue thinking.It could not be forced.It was outside conscious control.It involved both thinking and waiting.An active concentration on the equations using paper and pencil, and simultaneously a passive tending to the vagueness out of which these symbols arose.Even while using my hands to do my thinking, I waited for the random bit of grit that would land in the supersaturated solution of my mind and ignite the chemical reactions leading to a beautiful crystal.I would wait here as Denise strolled through the earlier halls.The object inside the display case was a small box used for carrying valuable items.For anyone watching me, it would have seemed I stared at the object in order to penetrate into the life of ancient Egypt.After a period of time, something strange happened.As I was bent over, staring through the glass, the zigzag pattern on the box vibrated.I did not think it actually moved.But it got my attention.I continued staring at it, not moving except to blink my eyes occasionally.But now, as I consciously pushed aside the mathematics to focus entirely on the sawtooth pattern, it continued to feel as if it were vibrating.I knew the pattern out there was not jiggling about.I knew it was just there on the box, a little zigzag pattern.I knew something different was taking place, but I didn’t know what it was, and I was completely frozen, not wanting to break the spell.I said to myself, It’s as if it were alive.The word alive was more accurate than vibrate.I was experiencing the pattern that had entered my eyeball.I was not experiencing the pattern as it was out there on that little box.That pattern was on the other side of the glass, inside the display case.

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