By changing the chemical and electrical activity in their large brains, they argued that as a species, they had fallen victim to evolutionary success.
They worried that besides the relentless pursuit of pleasure, they had forged sad habits and an ethos that would lead to a good life. The insiders were suspicious of such talk. It didn’t suit their brand of morality. It was a deeply unscientific way of thinking perpetuated by guru philosophers and techno shamans.
“Take the pills”, they insisted. The message is easier to spread if you take the pills like they did in the old days. The world transformed. Happiness was inverted. Re-insert the matrix back into the brain. They chose happiness over enlightenment. Knowledge veiled in ignorance is comfortable. False beliefs and bad practices make them happier.
The happiness machine was a brilliant invention. Ignorance retained its appeal. It sustains happiness, however shallow and unstable. Wise ignorance is the key to understanding.
Then he understood.
She would go for long walks through the fields with her Portuguese girlfriend. Sometimes their conversations went round and round pointlessly. Why don’t we just go to bed together, she caught herself thinking.
Her Portuguese friend said, “I used to believe in the Conservatives. I held out hope for traditional values to return.”
“What do you believe now?”
“These days,” her Portuguese friend said, “I side with the Anarchists waiting for the world to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.”
She found herself thinking, I wish she would collapse into bed with me.
He watched them circle the field three times.
How much absurdity does it take before one gets to bed?
One evening they walked through a rough neighborhood. There were shadows in odd places. They had been warned to avoid this sort of area. Rival gangs were on the prowl. Ethnic groups disliked each other. These two didn’t fit in.
“Should we turn back?”
Her Portuguese girlfriend didn’t think it was a good idea to turn back. “You can’t force fix things. Using force to fix things never works as intended. You have to guide it. Let things take their natural course.”
“Yes. Let it flow into the absoluteness of emptiness. Embrace the chaos of limitlessness.”
“Let’s flip a coin instead. Heads you kiss me. Tails we go on pretending like there’s nothing between us.”
When morning came, she woke from a strange dream about stealing a peach from an orange tree grove keeper. When fully wake she found herself on a filthy mattress on the floor. Her Portuguese friend was not beside her and she did not feel like she had been touched. She felt possessed by a memory of something that might change her.
Through her aches and pains, she remembered a conversation with her Portuguese girlfriend about the maltreatment of women and why men go off to war. There is satisfaction in pain and humiliation she remembered arguing. But does it really offer meaning? Purification, release, relief, like masturbation perhaps? But meaning? Goodness knows.
When she returned home, she found him sitting at his desk, typing on his laptop. She kissed the top of his head, then went and took a shower.