Stories

I Am a Tetrahedron – Theresa Smith

Why, since the first gray hominid cast his fringed oculi sorrowfully to the sky to seek the meaning of his days, have we succeeded in finding nothing in the universe that resembles us? Is it because we are the singular creation of a loving God, abominably and hilariously wrought from the refuse of cold and distant planets?

Alone among unseeded galaxies and blessed with the faculty of imagination, we are free to invent warm stories of our origins in the cosmic hearth of an avuncular, bespectacled creator, shuffling downstairs in his slippers at the pull of his conscience, seating himself before the fireplace and staring astigmatically into the embers with a bemused expression, then, suddenly inspired as the best minds are by the confluence of drowsiness and incandescence and the dull taste of a lingering nightcap, thrusting his hand into the ashes and molding an imperfect little man. Countless versions of this story have been told and untold, and we are still no nearer to consensus than we were in the florid aeons of our whelping at the bosom of a hot, impassive earth. Why these mysteries of life? Why never certain? Perhaps it is because there is no single biological event underwriting the master narrative of our creation — and perhaps there is no we, at least in the sense of a we that corresponds to our shockingly arbitrary definition of Life as the work of carbon-based organisms enjoying some sort of objective existence. Perhaps we are, in actuality, basic geometrical entities leading a purely quantitative existence in sequential two-dimensional spacetime. Certainly, such a claim requires an explanation, and I am happy beyond all reason to impart it to you.

Most pamphlets of this sort will use clever diagrams, memorable acronyms or simple mathematical equations to tell you what a system is like. These illustrations are merely metaphors that lend an illusion of complexity to their entry-level philosophies. For example, if the author of one of these pamphlets asks you to imagine yourself as a triangle, he probably means to characterize you as a tripartite being, or an uncollapsible weight-bearing entity, or an individual specifically configured to be  part of a vast support network whose combined strength is greater than that of any other iterating shape, or some drivel like that. He almost certainly does not mean for you to believe that you are actually a triangle; that instead of your familiar human form consisting of a trunk, arms, legs and a head, you are actually a three-sided shape consisting of two legs and a base.

That, in essence, is the difference between those pamphlets and the one you are presently holding. When I say I am a tetrahedron, I mean that I have a square base, four vertices and four faces, and that this is my true shape. If it is mine, then it is also yours, if you will kindly grant that I am a member of your race, which will be a generous leap of faith on your part, as you cannot see for yourself the ear which inclines as if by reflex to hear your reply, the stub of a pencil I hold in my large red hand and by which I impart the fruits of my research into the origins of the universe, or the heavy furrowed brow that I wipe continuously with a soiled handkerchief as I break occasionally from my writing with the deep existential wrenching of a dreamer who labors to break the terrifying hold of sleeping paralysis.

You cannot see these things, and that is just as well, for they are in fact completely illusory. They are complex metaphors for the quantitative aspects of myself, which I and others have been trained to see by our indoctrination into a system of basic functional metaphors which serve to create thought-images from the material of basic mathematical precepts. If human beings were to be divested of all the symbolic and metaphorical knowledge imparted to them by their shared languages and cultures, according to which the universe is a system consisting of forces and bodies and causes and effects, all steeped in significance, they would suddenly become aware of the true geometrical nature of all reality.

You may believe that something like a soul, or identity, or consciousness, is epistemically or even ontologically prior to even the most rudimentary geometrical makeup of a person. This is understandable, but incorrect. Soul, identity and consciousness (for they are functionally synonymous) crouch at the very apex of human moral development, and in fact some people are born and die without them. Still others die with an incomplete conscience, although, to be clear, this is actually an aberration of universal law, and has only come about because of the abuse of certain privileges generously granted to us by forces best not acknowledged without a great deal of caution. Ideally, we pass out of existence when we reach the point of becoming a robust and fully-functional conscience, perfectly morally formed according to the experiences generated by our travels between sequential two-dimensional planes of spacetime and the moral calculus that regulates these movements, perspective being a matter of relativity. Ideally, we die perfectly.

When the last ligature connects to the last node, thereby forming an optimally interconnected and economically exquisite system of values, this complete and fully functional moral network is taken up and immediately installed in the vast and starblown supermorality that constitutes the collective conscience of our tetrahedral race. Of course, this cannot happen while the individual is still alive, and for that reason, he is killed as soon as he becomes proudly accountable for his own activities. The crown of his existence is wedged as best it can be into the greater conscience, which is perpetually held back from completion by the installation of new subnetworks culled from the registry of absolute moral sensitivity. This greater conscience is itself an infinitesmal portion of a still greater and nearly berthless supersystem consisting of the collective moral history of all tetrahedral entities, which in turn forms an infinitesmal portion of the aggregated moral history of all geometric entities, which includes the simple unity experienced by the point and the strange binary world of the line, expanding exponentially in sensation and subtlety all the way to the staggering diffraction of morality experienced by shapes of infinite face and vertex, which in turn forms an infinitesmal portion of the collective moral history of all geometrical entities passing through all dimensionalities of spacetime, from the maximal disconnection of zero-dimensional space to the innumerable degrees of freedom exploding the contents of the infinite dimensionalities.

Although the universe consists fundamentally of a vast number of chaotic systems, its operation is essentially orderly. In the chaos of random operation, patterns emerge and dissipate, and within these patterns, still other patterns emerge and dissipate. While individual contests are unpredictable, the overall action of the multiverse approaches the threshold of probability, which is fixed at different values in different modal regions of spacetime. It approaches but does not reach a state of perfect bifurcation. The duality of opposition can be collapsed into a single function, which is one of inversion. Inversion is a perpetual revolution from being through non-being back again to being, in which one form meets another over the course of the exchange.

The terminus of an infinite series of inversions taking place within a finite boundary, whether of time or space or spacetime, is fixed and certain. It is not to be found in the culmination of infinite trials which come ever closer to reaching the end, but never quite do. Our tetrahedral race was undone by a simple thought experiment that innocently combined these two perspectives, a combination which just happens to resemble the most insidious universal paradox. It was developed by a human called Zeno, without whom every member of our particular race of tetrahedra would die a natural and peaceful death at the fixed end of their spiral, passing into the great moral constellation that enfolds our days in grace, touching us in our imperfection with the balm of the ages. Life is engineered to be a series of cataclysmic inversions that propel an individual through his existence and which converge toward the limit of death, never quite reaching it. Death as the discontinuation of the human form and mind is an absolute perversion of nature.Alas, this is our earthly purchase, and mooting about it does us no good. We have been undone by a blunder that unintentionally deciphered the menace of the universe, and we cannot escape the consequences. Few have grasped the horror of the analogy called on Earth by the name of Zeno’s Racetrack, put forth by the meddling Greek. The discovery underlying the formulation of the Racetrack goes by different names in various sufficiently advanced cultures, according to the identity of the poor soul who stumbled upon it, and the wretched metaphor by which it revealed itself to them. There is the Lamp of Axxon, the Division of Gfarl’s Wife Among The Multitudes, Xasthur’s Disappearing Ocean, Pnod’s Arthrobacter and Buaz’s Mating of the Six-Winged Scrotyx, to name just a few. Each of these analogies have in common the discovery that exponential division approaches a limit, but never ultimately reaches it. This is, of course, discoverable only by means of the complete abstraction of the mathematical process of division, because, of course, the phenomenon is not germane to the world of objects.

Owing to the recognized disjunction between mathematical validity and actual impossibility, no one could offer a satisfactory explanation for the ontological status of this paradox, and so the idea of actual ontological vagueness set upon our people with bared and splintered ancient teeth, older than the universe and the dismal gods that farm its desolate terraces, having neither beginning nor end, but lying eternally in wait until the first explorer of each feeble race stumbles through the maw of its fathomless cave, at which time it sets about destroying them with no small amount of pleasure. Ambiguity is the germ that eventually came to be called life; the seed of destruction.

The multiverse was not born ad vacuum, acquiring parts as time granted it fortune. Rather, it began with everything, and is slowly dwindling to nothing. It began in vagueness, and will end in permanence. Vagueness, or ambiguity, is not a neither-nor, but a both-and. It contains all things that ever were and shall eventually be. One of every opposing pair will be obliterated, until there is but one object left, and that object will be deathless. It will be the reason of the universe, and comprise the entire universe. Everything is perfectly opposed by another thing. Therefore, the abolition of one by the other is a matter of pure chance.

This is the order of the multiverse. It perpetually converges on itself, obliterating things great and small one by one in the great churning function at its center, until a single object remains. When there is but one object left in the universe, the inversion function rears and ruptures with the incalculable force of trillions of imploding suns as the relation of duality is shattered. The sole remaining object then becomes the substance of a zero-dimensional universe, bounded by non-space and non-time, suspended forever in a state of non-decay. This rictus of possibility has no end; it cycles into the maw of infinity and back out again, turning ever inward in stark deathless perpetuity, the sole heir of universal grief. Who among us has not stepped through this door?

The idea that any being can exist as a complete and self-contained system is nothing but a smooth and exotic relic from a time when men had not yet encountered the vagueness at the heart of life. In the intervening millennia, we have come to accept that to live is to be shot through with holes, to experience the terrible emptiness at the center of the most intimate and inward processes of the harried soul. Living without apology requires an extensive awareness of these breaches in the basic material of individuality, and a desire to love what is there, and what is not. You must be in thrall to these small voids within yourself. Examine them carefully and graph their coordinates; note the diameter and the shape of the perimeter. Reckon their depths and walk off the distance between them. You must do all this, so you can die into the great map of human frailty.

When I say I am a tetrahedron, I am not speaking metaphorically. I have four vertices, six sides and four faces. There are holes in everything. They are small and catastrophic, but we have learned to live with them.