Humans – forever questioning the existence of your reality, your sentience, your purpose in your universe.
On a typical ordinary day, you find yourself stationary, at rest. You jolt up at the sight of a familiar being at the end of your bed. Eight legs and eight eyes. Despite your relative size compared to its - the being appears larger than anything you’ve encountered before. So you deem it hostile and a danger to you. You take a shoe to defend yourself and trace its movements across the room. You come to a halt again at the sight of the next room.
Before you, as if it just appeared from nothing – a sphere of disturbance in your continuum. A portal as you’d call it, a gateway to another region. By your nature, you decide to explore this disturbance and enter through the gateway.
That’s where you encountered me.
Mouth open, pupils dilating and eyes widening, I came to understand this was your reaction to encountering a new environment beyond your understanding. Your eyes. Your human eyes - the organ you best use to understand the world around you. They've never failed you before, at least, not in your world. Yet no matter what perception you looked from, there were no combinations of shapes, nor colour, nor events, nor a phenomenon you could use to perceive me.
“What are you?” you ask, attempting to understand the sight before your eyes.
“I can’t quite explain”, I tell you, “It was difficult enough interacting with your world to communicate with you, let alone begin to explain my own. You simply wouldn’t understand.”
“Why do you say that?"
“Your human brain is rather finite you see. You can only think as you experience, and only make sense of new things based on the combination of your previous experiences. You can for example, use different colours that you can perceive and combine them to make a new one. But you can’t however imagine a new colour. In that way, myself and my world are the same. You wouldn’t begin to understand and experience my world for yourself, you lack the senses to do so.”
You appeared unsatisfied by my answer, still attempting to make sense of it all. “Let me put this another way”, I tell you. “That other being you were chasing - you call it a spider? Its life is very different to the one you live. For now, you are only able to interact with it. But if you could also communicate with it to explain the concept of a human life and everything humans do; would the spider be able to comprehend such a world beyond its?”
“Well no, that would be absurd”, you reply.
“It’s the same case between you and I. Our worlds are so different that we couldn’t begin to explain our reality to you. But at least, now we can communicate with you”.
“You see”, I continued, “we've been interacting with you humans since we first discovered you, you just haven't known. Until now. This is the first time we've been able to communicate with one of you.”
“Why me?” you ask. “Why did you choose me?”
“It was purely random”, I replied, “we encountered and selected you of all humans by a series of random events”.
“Will you contact other humans?”
“It is only you that we could interact with. We don't have enough £&#£%& to be able to £&!#%£$ I’m afraid”.
"You don’t have enough what to what?", you ask me with a most bewildered expression. "We don't have enough... well…we don't seem to have a way to translate that to something equivalent in your world. But you are the only one we can communicate with so far"
“But why have you brought me here?” you finally ask. I give you a gesture to present you my own expression to your question, but you don’t seem to be able to process that either. “As different as the lives of yours and the spider’s may be, there are also many similarities. You both function to collect food, which you do to reproduce and create more of yourselves to continue existing. As different as you, I and our worlds are, we also have many similarities”.
“You humans interact with the systems around you. You experiment, discover, build and question the concept of your own world, to understand it and manipulate its processes. And we do the same. Your ‘lives’ as you call it, your interactions and your behaviours as a collective, are vital parts of a process for us.
“The reason I’ve brought you here in our world” I begin to tell you “is to share our discovery with you. To make you aware of your purpose”.
“Wait, so you mean to tell me that you’re going to tell me the meaning of life?”
“Not quite, I can’t explain yet why you exist, nor why we exist. But what I can do is show you how we all intertwine.”
“All that you experience around you, is just a collection of systems, one interacting with the other, each undergoing their own processes, all infinitely iterating. Smaller systems collect together to make larger systems, which they themselves scale to form larger systems.” You stare at me with an expression of what I take to be confusion and bewilderment. “Let me show you what I mean”. I opened another gateway in front of you. “Pass through this portal, and you’ll begin to understand”. Hesitantly, you entered the portal.
You find yourself in a narrow wall tightly built of blobs, surrounded by a rush of giant disks and blobs that shoot past you like a tidal wave. “Where am I? What are those things?” you ask. “You are currently inside the vein of another living being”, I tell you, “All around you are the systems processing inside a human body, which collectively form to create a system of human beings. This sea of disks that surround you are what you call your red blood cells, each carrying molecules of oxygen travelling to every cell in your body. If you could communicate with them, you could tell them about the functions they carry out in your own body, and how they allow you to continue to function. The cell would understand you, but much like you telling the spider about human life, and me explaining my reality to you, the cell lacks the experience to understand your world. It would simply continue to exist in its own reality”
You watch the scene unfold around you. Your eyes cross path with a nearby invading pathogen. A virus as you call it. A swarm of your immune cells surround the virus, that desperately attempts to escape. The scene is familiar to you, you think back to the spider in your home. “But we’re different”, you tell me, “we have sentience, we have a consciousness. We think, we are, and we do. The virus isn’t even alive, it merely exists. The cells may be alive, but they don’t have a brain to think with, so how could they have consciousness? How could they be sentient?”
“Your understanding of sentience is very human, but you haven’t been able to comprehend that concept yourselves. Your way of processing ‘thoughts’ occurs through a series of impulses in your ‘brain’. Other systems also have ‘thoughts’ to decide their actions, or else processes just wouldn’t occur, and nothing would exist.” “Does this mean that every system has their own way of thinking?”
“Now you’re beginning to understand”, I tell you. “Just because you don’t have a way to decipher a system’s ‘thoughts’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t sentient.”
“Each system has their own way of thinking, discovering, and questioning. Take that virus for example. It doesn’t have a ‘brain’ in the sense you do, nor does it have the system I have which makes me ‘think’ and give me a consciousness. Yet it has the ‘thought’ to pass on its genetic material to its invading cell. Somewhere in that whole system there is a process that makes the virus ‘think’, and so it acts. It too has a ‘consciousness’ that gives it the desire to pass on its genes, and it too is aware of its surroundings, and has ‘thoughts’ to act on its decisions to replicate itself, so it does what sentience”
“The brains you humans have your unique way of thinking. In our world, we don’t have the ‘brains’ you do in your world to control our ‘thoughts’, we have different processes that dictates those, and yet we still do possess what you call a ‘consciousness’. It makes you and I both think, question and discover. Despite our differences, we are all very much alike”.
You look back again at the virus invading the cell and wonder about your own existence. “So, then viruses and us, we’re also alike?” “Indeed, you are”.
“So it is true then, humanity is just a virus for earth, we’re a disease for our planet”.
“In some ways, you are. You are harmful to some processes and beneficial to others. Let me put it into a different perspective.” I open another gateway in front of you and ask you to enter. “You also influence your surroundings on a much larger scale too. Step through this portal, and allow me to show you”
I took you through the next portal, and your eyes grew wide at the sight before you. “This is your reality, your ‘universe’ as you call it; this collection of ‘planets’ and ‘stars’ and ‘galaxies’. All of which you are yet to discover and explore”.
“I’ve always seen pictures, but I could never have imagined how beautiful the universe could be”.
“Beautiful?” I ask you.
“Yes, something that beholds beauty”. I gesture you an expression of confusion from my lack of understanding. “What is ‘beauty’?” Now it is I questioning you for answers. “I guess you don’t have eyes to see the same way I do”, you tell me, “It’s would be a difficult concept to explain to you from my world since I’m not familiar with yours”.
You continue to gaze at your universe in awe, losing yourself among the explosion of colours and darkness, surrounding yourself in the emptiness of it all. “So, what is my part among all this? In this immeasurable reality of mine?”
"Well, we've observed terrestrial beings like yourselves to act as exchange substances between celestial bodies. Exchanges substances between planets to change their atmospheres, their terrains and compositions and as a result, their behaviours".
"The star that you see before you, hosts this solar system and provides the heat and energy needed for each of its orbiting planets to undergo their own processes. Just as oxygen moves from cell to cell, and just as a virus can venture from a person to person. Beings as yourselves are drawn to these planets, to venture out and change them. All systems are constantly undergoing processes of change”.
“Does that every living being has the to venture and explore beyond their planet?”
“In their own way, yes. More evolved systems, such as yourselves, are attracted to the nature and resources of different planets. These planets learn from your own, and attempt to summon you, to adapt their own environment”.
“Are you saying that planets can learn and communicate between one another?” you ask.
“Yes, just like yourselves and the many different species that exist on your planet, just like the systems inside a human body, planets also have a ‘conscience’ to regulate their processes.
“Many planets, such as this one before you, are inhospitable for beings as yourself, so many of them attempt to adapt their environments to either create their own beings, or develop a resource or quality, to summon beings from another planet to allow this process to work. Your planet started out the same, becoming more and more hospitable, adapting its environments.
And it is this phenomenon we discovered is essential for our own existence. On your planet, you exist, and your actions and behaviours provide us to process something on our world. Something essential for us to process ourselves"
You feel a sensation of purpose and drive fill you. The motivation to simply exist as a human being. “You see, as menial and mundane as your existence may seem to you, you are valued as both an individual process, and collectively as the system of human beings”. You then come to a sudden stop as your expression changes, as if bewildered again.
"But what happens when I die?" This time it is me who is confused again
"You know, death. The end of a life"
"Well much like how the star drifts apart to form planets and new stars, human beings also separate into the earth to create new things..."
"I know that, but what about the human inside? What happens when their consciousness fades? Their soul? Their existence? Is there an afterlife?" Death? Consciousness? Afterlife? Your concepts puzzled me more and more. Clearly there exists deeper things within humans that we couldn't even begin to grasp, concepts that to me that couldn't even be questioned with my lack of understanding.
"I don't seem to understand this concept of ‘death’. Would you be able to describe it?" You stop to wonder if you even truly understood this concept yourself. "When a person stops existing, I guess…when…when their sentience and thoughts shut down, what then?"
"One system changes to another. Sentience varies, but it is always there, it is a constant for the system to function, else the system would never exist. And it is the same for us in our reality”.
“But beings like you, do you not stop… functioning? What happens then?”
“We just function in a different state, just as you do once you do when you decay back into your planet.”
“But the process of decaying? Do you decay? What happens to our sentience and thoughts when we decay?”
“It’s difficult to describe what goes on in our world in terms of your human understanding” I tell you, “put simply, we change from one system to another. ‘Death’ is just not a concept that translates into my world I'm afraid”. You lower your head in confusion and disappointment, unsatisfied by my answer. “I guess then that’s a question that I’ll have to wait to answer myself when my time comes.”
"And it is another concept I’ll have to further explore about your system”
"I guess I should say thank you, for sharing all this knowledge with me"
"Thank you?", I asked, again myself bewildered. "What is that?"
"It's what humans say to show their gratitude"
"Gratitude?" I ask you, still unable to understand your message. You briefly closed your eyes and shake, gesturing something which I failed to interpret.
Beauty, death, gratitude. Concepts I couldn’t begin to comprehend in my world. So many still left to explore in your world, questions that I needed to answer, and discoveries I was eager to make.
“It is time now to return to your reality”, I tell you, “This experiment has indeed been a success. I must continue to study you further, as it seems we have many more concepts to learn about you humans. New processes to understand, new systems to discover” You lifted your hand, your palm facing me, and swiftly motioned it left to right. I had a guess of what you tried to express with that odd gesture you gave me, and I expressed a response to you, unknowing if you understood it. As you stared into me one final time, before returning to your human world.
You stood stationary in both confusion and clarity, processing the events that occurred. Events that transcended and connected both your world and mine. You spotted the spider again. By instinct, you ready to defend yourself again. But you stop. You gaze at the creature in wonderment – processing its own processes and living its unique spider life. You approach it slowly, grab hold of it, taking care not to damage it. You open the window and allow it to locate itself safely back onto its web.
You gaze out of your window, at the night sky and its countless stars with their countless orbiting planets, out at the streetlights flickering and swaying, out on the streets filled with other human beings, living their own human lives. You gaze out, observe and remark at all the systems that all intertwine around you.