Thursday, July 13, 2006

Life in the future: Well well well

Apathy Jack writes:

Howdy. Due to his poor eyesight (on account of the masturbation) RSJS has lost his “life in the future” piece. Fortunately he sent me a copy a while back, so it’s presented behind the cut. Oh, and while we’re talking about him, I don’t think he’s gotten around to plugging his new thing – he’s set up a myspace page, only, instead of using it for My Chemical Romance slash fiction and discussing the merits of different brands of fringe wax, he’s using it as a work-diary of sorts, where he documents his latest art project. Worth a look it is.


So Captain Jack buckles on his thinkin' machine and says "Mmmm, life in the future, eh? Let's write about that. Glee" then presumably plots a vast discourse about how his protégées will go on to great things and remember him in some poignant "In and Out" way.

Life in the Future. Right. Once upon a time a poor sod who wrote British sitcoms broke free of these constraints and spat out a book he had obviously been mulling over for a ridiculously-long time, given its sheer vasty mass of neat ideas. Honestly it's like slogging through one of those Ultimate Alphabet pictures. The author is "Only Forward" and the book is called "Michael Marshall Smith". This book comes to mind both in that it is about where we are going, and also as it deals with people moving forward into the future, from which there is no return. Only forward, indeed.

And the book is right, we can move only forward into the unwritten, chewing up the virgin future in our path and shitting out past in a brown streak leading back to the womb, to the primordial ooze, to the Big Bang. We all have a trail of waste products, both physical in the form of every old toy we grew out of, every burger wrapper we abandoned on the table, even a pile of skin bigger than we are, and mental refuse, the things that that should have been said or worse, cannot be unsaid, the half-realised ideas and euthanized dreams. That's the toxic waste, the stuff of nightmares that needs to be cemented away under clay lest it fire particles that damage and mutate us as we try to leave it in our wake. We all have them, past moments that when fresh blew radiation through us, burning every nerve and neuron and leaving us praying for something, anything to end the pain. But time rolls on at its own speed, and history has its own half life – you keep moving and eventually these memories are mere flickers on our internal Geiger counters. But to extend the metaphor further, the down-side to such nuclear-meltdown memories is it weakens the body leaving us more susceptible to radiation sickness in the future. There is only so much the body can absorb before it breaks down and rots into slurry. Maybe cancer is psychosomatic… Life in the future is a sick mimicry of survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that dwells within us, scoured to glass by past mistakes just as whole countries can be laid waste by the arrogant mistakes of warmongers. Some of us carry nothing more than a fire-bombed dairy at our hearts, others shiver and twitch at the ashes of a dozen Nagasakis tickling their synapses. Our future is our only destination and we drag ourselves towards it hoping for some relief from the past but all it holds is the chance for more damage, more error, and more pain. And then you die.

You wanted uplifting? Fuck uplifting. We live in the present, we get cancer from the past, we will die in the future. Uplift that.

Actually, I remember a dream, or perhaps a gritty-eyed hallucination from one of my lower moments. The dream was of a child in a well, that classic story to scare children and worry parents, to unite a community and force a million movies-of-the-week upon us.

Imagine yourself as a child, sitting, playing in a scattering of toys – I loved my wooden blocks for making forts and the like, games that evolved with the introduction of Lego and Playmobil into more complicated interactions with characters locked away in my mind and their stories enacted with plastic figurines. So there I am in a wee circle of warm light - sunlight perhaps, decked out in dark blue shorts and a chequered shirt, toys in a mess around me and a frown of concentration on my face as I plan something epic… At the time, thoughts and ideas were fresh and real and detailed but looking back, I've lost a handle on how my tiny mind worked. Regardless, in my mind's watering eye the circle of light shrinks away, dropping until it looks like the speck at the bottom of a well, a distant part of me barely remembered… The child in the well, one about whom I think and worry about but who is very separate from me, a stranger all that way away in his little circle of light. And I want to help him, to tell him what I know, to rescue him from being trapped in this well, to save him. Who wouldn't? But I can't…

And then I realise my perspective is wrong: For this tiny fellow to be basking in the light he has to be the mouth of the well, one that I have been falling down for decades; tumbling ever deeper until I cannot remember what it was like to play in the sun. And he can't remember me, either. He's not trapped down in the cold, I'M the person in the well, but without the bloom and innocence of youth I'm not someone people are going to fret about, least of all him. I couldn't go back to help him – we can't go back and fix our past: he had the chance to help me going forward but he didn't so here I am, just another shadowy figure in the dark while little Richard has blocks to play with in the sun.

The future sucks. We make it that way. Like the old slogan said, "why give up smoking at twenty to save a stranger at forty?".

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