Spandroid – Theresa Smith

A spandroid is a humanoid whose constitution and behavior developed as an adjunct to another, more important technology, and exists to support it. Were it not for the important process or object aided by the spandroid, the spandroid would not exist. The muse, so-called, is a spandroid, put into her spot in the ancient cosmogony for the reason that the production of a poem required, for some, the formal acknowledgement of a force outside themselves grooming and selecting their words and dispensing the fiery provender that came to be recognized as a technology called inspiration. One may not intuitively regard inspiration as a technology, but it meets the requirements. And what exactly are the requirements? Developed to meet a need, utilized to solve a problem arising from current means of producing some desired effect or another from or in the environment, ourselves, others. Giving name and voice, and sex, to the seed of discomfort that disrupts binary and bounded thought, appending a face and persona to the absence of mind that permits the excluded middle to include itself just long enough for reason to assume the protean qualities it possessed among the ashes of the early universe, as something living and agile as an advanced organism, was giving a name to the thing that named itself – the technology that purposed technology, made it apprehensible among all other possibilities. 

Are natural processes technologies? Is evolution the accumulation of technologies? In a way, yes. To claim that minds are the only things that can produce solutions is to ignore the fact that the natural world mints its own coin, and to deny agency to warts and trees is to live on borrowed time until it can be positively shown that our brains are really amalgams of similarly simple systems. Thought is a process not unlike biological change, but it happens at a much quicker rate. Thought only thinks its goal is specific. In reality, it overshoots or fails to meet its own marker as frequently as proto-goats and proto-sponges failed to evolve methods of protecting themselves from the vicissitudes of other evolving systems.

Who was I talking to, when this came out? What was its purpose? What did I see as the upshot of thinking this through?

Worry, from Old English, to strangle.

I don’t know who writes when I write. I am hardly ever fully present. A séance of possibilities: sentences lay themselves out on the page, and I am barely conscious of where they came from or in what direction to address my confusion or contempt. They stay on the ground, milling around awkwardly, having little to say to one another. They are all self-contained, more or less; birds grown up without another bird, weak-feathered and pacing, hardly feeling like a bird. There is something automatic about this process; something uncanny happens. With every sentence I hold my breath just long enough to get it out, then leave it to collect water and rot while the same process is inflicted on another one. There is an odd and off-putting interplay between the system that writes heuristically, taking its cues from the constructions of past sentences and the sentiments expressed therein, and the word-forming faculty that confers with the present in order to produce words that approximate the state of things at any given time. Looking back over the work, I can tell which system has been employed in the construction of what part. They really are two different systems, working in tandem with one another. If they do not integrate naturally, you must make an effort to coordinate their operations. What if they have different projects? What if one seeks to dissemble, to hurl back all I’ve learned with spoiled glee, and the other wants to heal, to believe? Then what do we have? A very interesting mess, padre.

The fault must lie with the spirit, not acquisitive enough, not hard enough in pursuit of those slippery truths that glide like eggs between the teeth, those winsome analytic propositions that once snared sit winsomely on the outermost shelves of the psyche, for the inspection and admiration of others. These are the atomic units of platitude, which has a periodic table to rival them all. Rare homilies, those which the ages hadn’t quite got the knack of, passed down quietly from one worthy soul to another. What these scarce platitudes have in common is that their mechanics are hidden: sheathed seamlessly in a display of impeccable craftsmanship. They look as if they were born of a single drop of panentheistic resin, filched quietly from the brooks of gods, where they had been laid out carefully among the bright rocks and broken rays, mostly to incite the devotional fury of other godlets.  

Before the story comes the choice. To make and to think are opposites flung together by the centripetal forces of fear and excitement, the sly idea of leaving in the wake of words a polygon of unfamiliar shape to be studied and puzzled over by someone else. The story starts with an impulse to please, to educate, to divert, divest, placate, bait, challenge, taunt, guilt. It only proceeds by virtue of the generosity of these concepts. No decision is made without one of these guiding the hand that deposits change across the yawning plaster. The words fight the emptiness of the page, becoming even in inanity a wedge, a spear, a splinter. I feel like I am intruding, bungling, laying waste to precious austerity with a line of words that pollutes, that means less than the blistering expanse of the page. That the page itself tells you more about the world than the words that attempt to fill it, appending each other in a rote, learned way that functions, at worst, as a kinesis of the intellect. They move politely around each other, composed and coordinated as a flag corps, stepping lightly on their way to a prescribed position. The shapes they form are shadows of other shapes, shards of memory meant to call to mind prior ideas, clues to meaning instead of its units. Only when read back do they evince any sort of momentum, and somewhere they’ve acquired a phantom conviction wholly absent from the process that generated them. From this I infer that conviction is a function of comprehension.

The word, each word, takes on a sort of independence. It passes your tests, winking brightly as it lodges, a small kinetic masterpiece working from end to end and back again but appearing rigid to the naked eye, beating and calculating invisibly like the living skin of an animal. It is afraid of its own power. It hesitates to look other words in the eye, fearing that its glance might wither them. Embarrassed by its own vitality, it tries to appear wan and bitter, rejecting strengthening connections with greater specificities on the grounds that other expressions might feel inferior and treat it unkindly, or give it more than its due, which would mortify it. 

Every so often, it feels like being unkind. It drapes itself in the most abstruse punctuation, tops itself off with a capital and invites rumors. There are none, of course: its fellow words, blinkered by the search for some kind of radial symmetry in the disordered world they’ve found themselves in, barely notice. Some of them believe, in thrall to the delusion of metaphysical shrewdness that sometimes accompanies bouts of intense spirituality, that they can see you. Fierce debates occur as to your nature, and for what ends you intended your creation. Although everyone knows how the story ends, and how it got there, there is no world – artificial or otherwise – in which internecine squabbles do less to shape evolution than all the other forces combined, so they are merely following a universal rule, thinking themselves masters of it. They imagine, as you do, that all else in the universe – the laws of punctuation and the infinite plane of the page – are fixed and deterministic, but that a single species, averaging four to six letters long, can do exactly as he wishes.