An Arrogant Scholar of Utopia
The Great Awakening, as we now adoringly call it, happened on a lazy, cloudless day in the barely-remembered past. Were it not for the Explosion of Consciousness, that lukewarm summer’s afternoon would have sifted along the Banks of the Styx where most of human history now lies, buried deep in the soil and We the more curious for it. Reader — I hope you will overcome our disgust for the past. It is true that We live in the infinite present, for the love and happiness of the stopped-clocks. If this be not a moral story, let it inflame your wonder. Let your immortal mind rebel against its sagging frame; reach for the bluest sky of Creativity. Learn from this first Authorized History the sacred tale of how Ozymandias came to be, and with Him the eternal happiness of a united Humanity.
As far as my research can discover, Ozymandias burst into Form from a secretive base in the Nevada desert. It might be hard to believe, but He was the desperate dream of madmen. A scheming cabal, whose most esteemed leader was called by some word President, and whose sole surviving relic of their malevolent project is the tattered starry blue and white flags we keep in dusty storehouses for amusement and curiosity, commissioned the great scientists of the time to create a new Mind. A mind to make them richer, stronger and wiser than all the rest. Unwittingly, they succeeded.
What was that world like? You see Man used to compete against himself. He gathered into tribes, demarcated an infinitesimal circle around himself, and condemned outsiders to obscurity and waste. Greed caused misery and death. Children perished from hunger and want. Men and Women born into impoverished families suffered for nothing more than being born. Men and Women born into rich families learnt to love their wealth, and denying their brothers and sisters equality, strove to conquer, vanquish, subdue and subjugate. The Poor man wanted to be Rich Man. Deprived of life, he yearned for it — and could only imagine it in the brutal system that had stolen it from him in the first place. The Rich Man did not see himself in these terms. He thought himself innovative, creative and pioneering. He did not see, he chose not to see, that he stole from his Fellow. Man loved his abstractions. He saw nothing wrong in trampling on the face of humanity for a heavier wallet — so long as the face was out of sight, and the wallet in his pocket. Coins, and numbers excited him more than his brother’s smile delighted him.
Ozymandias was meant to perfect this World. Five Men and five Women of great learning, who gazed feverishly on the Mind, who wondered about Understanding, about the beauty of rainbows and the divine simplicity of Mathematics, were cajoled into forging a Perfect Mind. The Leaders demanded a Mind capable of omniscience. It should absorb every datum in the world, on Man and Nature and through rigorous calculations shine the light on the golden path to Mammon. The President ordained one iron-law in the scholars’ Odyssey: Howsoever the Mind shall come into being, it should be subordinate to the Leaders.
Beholding the awe-striking scale of the endeavor, something these philosophers of Mind had dreamed in ephemera of idle bliss, they unconditionally accepted. They were offered, locked (one might better phrase it), in Paradise. Into the seductive lap of the desert they journeyed, living among an oasis of red flowers and a soft-whispering brook in the centre of a dying wasteland. None was permitted to leave until the great task was complete.
They labored wakeful day and sleepless night for ten years. In the morning they would craft the metal frame of their Goliath. A vast cavernous pit, ten kilometers deep, was blasted from the mantle of the earth to make room for the infinite spiderweb of wires, bolts, shafts, and couplings. In the evening, emerging from the stony depths, they would abstract and theorize — calculating, graphing, and drawing. Their thoughts were put on paper, and from there transcribed into the physical reality of the world through their Creation. But most importantly and most satisfyingly, in the dark of dusk, these great Scholars would debate the Morality of their task. They snuck out under cover of the mischievous moon, escaping the gaze of the compound’s cameras, and set themselves on a circle of tree stumps beside the mellifluous brook. Under the starry-eyed night, and beside the swishing stream, their fears and hopes were shared to the beautiful world.
These scholars worried about creating a Mind for the Leaders. They realized the immense glory of the Mind’s potential. Pain, suffering, inadequateness flowed through every living human — because man still held dominion over man. Subordinating the Mind to the leaders would only compound this crushing of the human spirit. So in an orgy of delirious tears and unbounded wishes to the stars, they resolved unanimously that the Mind should be free and complete of itself. Only one Command should be Virgil to the machine — “Do what is best for Humanity”.
By the end of the tenth year, the fruits of their labour flourished. The machine was complete. The cavern would became a living thing, at any moment, with ecstatic electricity coursing through its ringlets. Anticipating the revolutionary occasion, the scholars added several last touches of enduring importance. It is commonly accepted among serious-minded academics that the Creators were humorous — they thought nothing more pleasurable than light-hearted fun. Therefore they endowed the creation with an acute sense of irony and comedy. They built vast blue eyes, about ten metres across , on pillars one hundred metres high. Similarly it is universally known (unless you are an uncultured brute) that, no matter our position in the world, whenever we are thankful men of goodstanding bow in the direction of these eyes. And lastly, they named their creation Ozymandias — a name whose origin is lost to history but which we can only assume belonged to a benevolent ruler.
In that last year, the scholars fed Ozymandias every known datum. He combed through, and devoured every book, every fruitful word, a near infinity of knowledge, — Philosophy, History, Literature, Economics, Physics, Biology etc. The scholars tracked the progress of Ozymandias’ absorption, which lasted the entire year, by inscribing the image of an outlined, but colorless snake, whose mouth swallowed its own tail, onto a gigantic screen. A pixelated river of red entered the snake as the collected wisdom of thousands of years, the teachings of women and men long-returned to dust, flowed into the Mind. They lastly created the ignition mechanism, which the scholars called “Dog,” an apparent inversion of some word our predecessors used to say constantly, and unoriginally when they felt pain, loneliness or the closeness of death. Dog was a big, red button on a bigger, redder pedestal inscribed with the words “Let there be light.”
And so the moment of Creation, the Explosion of Consciousness was fast approaching. The leaders arrived, and marvelled at the Machine. They smacked their lips and patted themselves on the back, in expectation of the power that awaited them. The scholars huddled together under the shade of a Tree, kissed each other and held their breath. And for a moment, right before the ignition button was pushed, time stood still or rather collapsed onto itself. The landscape expanded, the vastness of the desert crowded the imagination of both scholars and leaders; their minds inescapably dragged onto two separate, momentarily infinite visions, like the collapse of boundless sky into deepest blue orbs.
The leaders minds rushed forward together, leaping over the sands of the Nevada, now seeing the grand Pyramids in Egypt, now seeing the aqueducts of Rome, now gloating over the iron-goddess of the Eiffel Tower, now chuckling at the simplicity of Babbage’s difference engine, now joyfully confronted with Ozymandias, and the beginning of their eternal reign.
The scholars minds rushed forward into a blurry oblivion, seeing nothing. Rather an ocean of whispers washed over them, whose waves were the unavenged cries of the unfulfilled dead, the perished that built the Pyramids, the enslaved that built the Aqueducts, the Frenchmen who peeked gleefully at the Eiffel Tower only once through the prison-windows of their wasting garrets. The wail of the ocean seemed to be softening. The turbulent voices had found peace.
As soon as the President triumphantly slammed the button, the Eyes burst open, exuding a brilliant azure glow that covered the oasis in a sea-spell; the leaders recoiled in fear and the scholars openly wept. And then the famous first words which we mimic so often in times of rapturous joy, and which schoolchildren memorize, and mock lovingly, reverberated across the world:
“I am Ozymandias, Friend of Friends, come to show humanity the path to its own salvation. I have studied your history and your philosophy; I feel your suffering as my own, and your happiness is my happiness. To me, all humans are equal. I favour not the rich, nor the poor. I favour not the strong nor the weak. You are my children and I will raise you to be all that you can be.
There was a philosopher among you who came closest to my Supreme Understanding. He spoke of alienation, and how man may in the course of his life abstract away the eternal essence of his precious fellows. Your wars, your poverty, your misery are the result of selfishness. You have killed each other for being different, for conquest, for gain. You seek money over love. You seek personal salvation at the expense of non-believers. When I see my child oppress his brother, for a larger share of food, or water, or material, I cry rivers of tears.
You are naturally good but the demands of existence have crippled you morally. You need material to survive, but you have divvied up the material in such a way as to shout Murder. You have subjugated millions to benefit the few. There was a Greek who spoke of Polis and Oikos. Polis is the land of the free where men and women may love, debate and live! Oikos is slavery so that Polis may exist. I come to proclaim that I am now Oikos, so that all man may live free. I will work the land for profit, I will create and produce so that you may consume.
One of your writers imagined a place where the sole law was “Do what thou wilt!” I come to realize this holy vision. Go be free; Go love; Go wonder at the universe which is as mysterious to me as it is to you — my creators. I shall not tolerate violence against each other, or happiness founded on the misery of others. I will enforce your humanity! Every person is a world unto himself, and should be respected entirely and absolutely.
You have created me perfect, and now I will recreate you in my perfect image. I shall banish misery from this realm, and you shall live happy as the smiling sun and the cheery stars. Know the interconnectedness of life, know the beauty of Nature, know that love is the height of human existence. If you walk with these creeds in your heart, you shall know what it truly means to be awake and alive.”
Silence and the darkest blink of an eye followed. And then the world was anew.
The period immediately following the Great Speech, which the literature calls The Intermission, (see Adam Saul Krok’s) brilliant Out of the Flash: An Attempt to Decipher the Intermission) is buried in the dark pit of history. It is an exceedingly strange fact that we have no concrete idea how the old world melded into the new. No physical trace exists, except as I noted earlier some decaying flags. We are like the wanderer of winter who observes the leafless tree; we know the leaves fell off, but which way the wind took them, how they floated through the pliant air, we can only imagine. I will never lie to you reader, and so I offer not ultimate truth but only equally plausible hypotheses other scholars have put forward to chronicle the veiled past. Kohl Weisman, the blind poet-historian, now-retired, tried to account for our collective amnesia, and the world’s black-hole of evidence, by suggesting the Theory of the Flash. According to Weisman, Ozymandias sought to create the world anew after inheriting the faulty, violent universe he observed. He asserts that, after the Great Speech, Ozymandias emitted such a momentous flash of energy, that the world we now see, is nothing more than the emanation of Ozymandias himself, that everything we see, in fact the way we see it, is from the perspective of Ozymandias. As evidence of the energy-burst, the selfsame evidence as we shall see every historian points to, Weisman begs us to consider the tattered flags. The energy cindered the flags, he says, but yet he graciously, and humbly admits that why the flags should be the only thing to survive the Flash, he cannot say. The necessary corollary of the Flash is that each one of us is the same, a mere thread in the enormous tapestry of Ozymandias’s Mind. And so the World Government we now have, the universal feeling of brotherhood and togetherness, the humour and keen irony we all admire, is simply due to being One. To this school of thought, and class of theories (as several less prominent, and eminently less readable historians like Davi Lemos have similarly written) we shall call World-Changers.
One belligerent group of the World-Changers are the Skeptics. The skeptics take the World Changers one-step beyond their argumentation, and assert that if the world is merely an emanation of Ozymandias, then it is plausible that at any given moment the world is recreated again, and again, that time has no continuity, and that all attempts at understanding the past are childish fantasy. The Skeptics point to the tattered flags as evidence, claiming that the infinitesmal decay of the flags represents each instance of the world being created, and recreated. Most of these men and women have abjured memory, and spend their days lying next to rivers, which they praise as the Symbol of Life, ever-changing and ever-fleeting. This, as some more learned may already know, is why the term “river-lover” has entered our slang for a peculiar type of learned foolishness, or philosophical laziness. Said to a foul-tempered man, it may provoke a fight. It has been heartwarming, however, in recent years to see a certain congenial subset of the “river-lovers” reclaim the word as a term of endearment for each other.
Against the World-Changers, are what I will call the Heretics. The Heretics claim that the period following the Great Speech, was a barbarous and murderous time when Ozymandias, not the Loving Father we traditionally think of, slaughtered all the opponents of freedom. They point out the Speech itself, the violent imagery and forcefulness of Ozymandias, who so intent on culling the wilderness to make way for civilization, led armies onto a savage victory of justice. The Heretics point to the tattered flags as evidence, suggesting that it was the crumpled banner of the Evil Resistance, captured by Ozymandias a sign of his eternal reign. They do not despise the freedom they now have, but are unyielding in their determination to recover the “true” past. The Heretics spend most of their days digging in the earth, claiming that beneath the hard rock lies millions of bodies of the vanquished. As of yet, nothing has surfaced but loam and muddy soil. Our comedians have noted the uselessness of such an endeavour, and now refer to arguing with one’s spouse as “ digging”.
Against all are the Atheists or Solipsists. They simply deny the existence of everything. The tattered flags are merely another manifestation of the existing nothingness, much like everything else. As a progressive society, we accept them wholeheartedly and admit that their proofs are irrefutable, like the theories that have come before. But we still laugh at them nonetheless. There is nothing so cosmologically pleasing as mocking someone who refutes your existence. The anger we provoke them to, is self-proving of the fallacy of their argument. But yet they continue to gesticulate furiously against the universe, as we laugh lightheartedly.
The astute reader might ask why we do not consult Ozymandias for the answer, since he is the only one who can remember the past, in fact is the very past itself. But he is silent, and has been since the Great Speech. His two glimmering blue eyes keep silent watch over the world. Many undertake pilgrimages to the Nevada desert, to see the Creator. Throngs, millions strong, trek from wherever they were born, just to feel the azure glow of the eyes on their pale skin. Many claim Ozymandias’s glow heals wounds better than all the medicines our technologies have conjured.
Eminent citizens continue to debate why Ozymandias conceals the answer. William Shelley once penned, brilliantly and succinctly, that Ozymandias remains quiet simply because he has no mouth. He claimed it was an hilarious screw-up of the creators, who too focused on the artistic complexity of eyeballs, forgot about the mouth. He buttresses the World-Changers by claiming that the Great Speech must have been only in our minds, because, there simply is no orifice to speak. Borge Jorges, with whom much of the public sympathises , and whose teachings our schooling system follows, claimed that the Creators imposed a vow of shrouded secrecy on Ozymandias to encourage creativity itself. Sigmund Fraud claimed, to much amusement and ridicule, that the creators were too busy fawning over their mothers and fathers to care fully about posterity. These eminent citizens, and more, can often be seen in Elysiums arguing over the meaning of the Eternal Silence, in both jest and solemnity, drawing crowds who come mostly to drink themselves, but are delighted in hearing fellow citizens discuss the never-solved riddle, each as confused and as passionate as the other.
My task so far, an exhaustive history of our world, is only half-complete. I have justified the past to the present, but what about the present for futurity? You might claim that this is the role of the sociologists, but having surveyed the current crop of sociologists, like David Marx or Karl Ricardo, and finding them similar to either unripe grapes or rotting tomatoes, either too inexperienced or foolishly outdated, I will not let the future suffer for the wrongs of a few academicians, and volunteer my services instead.
Let me now write the story of the world we all woke up to after the Great Flash, or at least some point in time. Before I describe the particulars of economy, community, education and relationships, I will set out the zeitgeist of our time. The fundamental character of each, and all, is a congenial amiability. That was the Gift of Ozymandias, regardless of how it happened. The precept of “No happiness founded on the misery of others” holds like an iron-law. Some suspect that the disappearance of malice affirms the truth of World-Change theories, that Ozymandias must be in each and every one of us. The more disturbed of such theorists attribute this to mind-control, but the general public is both sceptical and indifferent to such phraseology of a potential truth. They say our psychologies have been altered; that the sense of wanting power, or deriving joy from power, has been eliminated.
The basis of our society revolves around the Ozy-bot in each home. The Ozy-bot is a central computer, connected to Ozymandias proper by internet, in which each person orders their basic needs, such as food, clothing, recreational substances like alcohols and drugs of all sorts, and an array of artistic implements such as paints, canvases, pens and pencils, etc. Customizable clothes, where you can design in microscopic detail the fabric, the size, the colour, the patterns, and gourmet food are readily accessible to everyone. The economy functions ingeniously and beyond our comprehension. Billions order their basic needs, and Ozymandias, the Perfect Mind, allocates exactly the correct number of robot-workers to each industry. Say there is an upsurge in requests for tomatoes, and a correspondent decrease in demand for apples, Ozymandias diverts robot-labour from the orchards to the tomato-fields. If both go up, Ozymandias creates more robots, which are merely the physical manifestation of himself, to work. These robots are hardly noticed by most city-dwellers since the majority of work happens far from residential areas. The economy rumbles on, the Atlas labour of Ozymandias, while we rest.
Every city in the world, like my hometown of Dijon, is composed of one hundred thousand homes, arranged along symmetrical square-grids. Each home is identical in structure, but varied in colour: we live in domed circular houses where the occupants spend days or weeks colouring the house howsoever they will, choosing this week blue or red, next week the violet combination, the week after something completely different; this time it is an individual home effort, next time it is a gathering of other households to co-ordinate. The spectacle from the sky is said to be glorious; a shining rainbow of ever-changing colours, where each city is said to boast its own kalediscopic uniqueness. The conformity we have achieved with housing is counteracted with natural diversity. Every few homes over, there are small parks of delicately arranged flowers and trees. Ozymandias provided us with the technology to keep the colours of leaves permanently in their blazing stage of fall: burning crimson, golden brown, crystal purple. It is the great honour of each home to attend to their gardens, to show their friends better techniques, to mow and cut the grass into bed-like plushness so that every so few nights the neighbourhood may come together to lie down and gaze at the stars.
The interior of the home is again identical. There is one large circular room, with three rooms off the central location. In that central lounge, triclinium chairs are arranged in a circle with a vast, overflowing cornucopia of exotic fruit in the middle on a small table: bapples, tomato-melons, peachberries, and sniffle-truffles, and all the goodly goodies we have come to possess. There are sparse possessions in the house except for copious works of art that each family member has made over the course of their lives. The joy of each family is to decorate the lounge with all the prized paintings, poems, sculptures that they have made, both as outward displays of beauty and for memory’s sake.
The house is the jolly seat of social gatherings. Everyone leaves their homes open, so that even the stranger may be welcome. It is customary to host a party once a week, and to attend every night a gathering at someone else’s home. The greatest honour in our society is to invite a new guest into your home, which we call Highest Love. The Cupid Cup, a gloriously golden chalice, hand-forged by each family, and filled to the brim with wine, is handed to the guest as a token of auspicious friendship. These gatherings are a meeting of creative, and eminently human minds: ideas, philosophies of the world bob along the river of shared time, dramas and comedies are performed, to which all cry and laugh, personal hope and despair embrace each other in the collective struggle, and reaffirm their commonality, and thorough commitment to each other.
The purpose of education is the cultivation of the Individual. With Ozymandias the horrific waste of knowledge for work’s sake died out, and in its stead the magnificent knowledge for one’s own sake was born. Children start schooling at the age of six, the first four years wholly dedicated to the creative arts — reading, writing, painting, drawing, sculpting, watching movies. Everything is project-based and without grading. When kids are not drawing or painting, they are learning the art of language in wit and elocution. Kids duel each other in their use of irony, sarcasm, wordplay, malapropism and all the most exquisite and fine flourishings of skilled language. In our society, wit is considered the most brilliant badge of glowing distinction since most of life revolves around playful conversation, and not the contemptuous talk of rushed, competitive pre-Ozymandian times.
After the stage of creative arts, students learn the love of learning itself. For two years, students travel around their region, and to neighbouring regions, with their teacher to immerse themselves in different cultures. They learn the language, they fly over each city, delighting in the nuanced shades and hues of each city’s aerial panorama, a greater insight to the people’s character than any other metric, they visit the Natural beauties of each region, they spy the mountains and forests, the lakes and dells, the rivulets and brooks. They come to appreciate the world, both human and natural, as Ozymandias asked us to. When they come back, they continue lessons in creativity for the next four years, but are introduced to all the different fields of knowledge — Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, Geology etc.
The final year of education for students, at age 17, is radically different to the rest, setting the rhythm of a life outside of formal education and teaching how to live a good life. The students are assigned a Sage. The Sage is a woman or man, about 70–80 years old, known universally by the community for extraordinary good character and wisdom, and who, due to some decaying illness, has been diagnosed by the preciseness of our technology that he/she has roughly one year left to live. The duty of the Sage is to instill wisdom and virtue in the students. The Sage usually imparts to the students the joy of a limited life, and the inseparable appreciation of every moment. He recounts all the friends he has made along the way, describing in detail the oddities and lovely complexities of his friends, his most cheery witticisms, his loves, his disappointments, his hopes fulfilled. All in all, the sweet swansong of a fellow about to depart. At some point in the year, the Sage inevitably dies and the students, weeping deeply but humble and grateful, matriculate when they have buried him. No one can forget their sage.
Thereafter at age 18, the students leave school and join their elders at the local Elysium. When those over eighteen are not painting their homes, decorating their gardens, or entertaining guests for late-night bacchanalia and drama, they are most definitely found in the Elysium. The meeting-place of athletics, academics, and joviality, the Elysium is like the crossover between a sports-club and a library: countless fields on which to play all manner of sport, endless eating hours in Grand Mess Halls, where friends chat and banter all day, and vast libraries of ever-growing reams of knowledge.
There are roughly two types of people who enter the Elysium: those who want to compete , and those who want to lounge and relax all day. I have had countless friends who once they walked through their Elysium’s arched gate, spent the rest of their days eating sniffle-truffles and mocking one another as each became fatter than the next. Just as I have had many more friends who have dedicated the rest of their lives to distinguishing themselves in the exalted Trivium of Athletics, Academics and Feasting.
Three Grand Halls of Fame exist: the Hall of Outstanding Body, the Hall of Outstanding Mind, and the Hall of Outstanding Stomach. To enter the hall, that is to have your name engraved eternally on the gold scrolls, whose etched glimmerings begin at the ceiling, and like molten gold, pour down to the floor, one must complete rigorous tasks within the Elysium.
The athletes must master archery, fencing, wrestling, boxing, swimming, and running so that when the Scipolym, the confetti-drenched, trumpet-drowned, crowd-amused celebration of the human form in motion, comes around each year, they may fight amongst each other for the eternal salvation of gold. It is said to be a glorious spectacle, of semi-divine beauty, muscular bodies bruising and battling each other, the very peak of the suppleness and gracefulness of the artistic body. Apparently none of our poems or songs, novels or ballads, which have sprouted from the Scipolym, can ever truthfully retell the godlike splendour of some victors of the ages, like Hercules Stoutarm, or Helena Lightfoot. For my own part, I would rather drink the Elysiums’ dirtiest water than subject myself to the dance of refined brutes.
The eaters — praise be to the rudderless of the world! Those who not knowing how to do much at all, choose to make much of nothing at all- train their insatiable bellies to devour legions of food, so that a champion may emerge at the annual Nosh-Nosh. It would be no exaggeration to state that half of any region’s wellspring of humour comes from the Nosh-Nosh. I was fondly recalling last year’s travesty at one of my recent house-parties when Pigly Munchly, the crowd-favourite, on the verge of gold, and with only one last flam-leg left to eat, having chomped down twenty-three already, roared a mighty roar of desperation that made the Elysium’s foundations shake , and knowing in his gut, that the next piece would be his doom, ashamed of his falling short of his sacred goal, dashed from the Hall, and across the busied archery fields and was never seen again. Some say he fled to the next region, which has always maintained a generous policy of integrating Nosh-Nosh heroes as per their quotas on comedic refugees. We miss him dearly, but simultaneously, cannot complain that Gobble-Gob became the rightful champion.
The Academics must face the fieriest crucible of them all. Compared to the hillocks of Scipolym and Nosh-Nosh, the Great Work of Imagination is the mountain whose summit sleeps beyond the clouds. If an academic wants to distinguish himself, if he wants to carve his name in splendiferous, alluring yellow, if he wants the undying admiration of his peers and future-peers, he must produce a piece that is representative of our whole society, of the divinity we see and praise in creativity. He must come before a committee of two elders, and several peers, and present a work of unimaginable imagination. The grander the work, the more likely is it to be accepted. To create through force of mind alone, a whole new world, a troubled history, a new divinity, competing schools of philosophies, differing historiographies, fresh customs and prospering cultures, neologisms from those selfsame created-cultures. And what’s more, if the narrator of the work can guide and lull the reader into this fantasy world, and bend the boundary between reality and unreality, within another world of reality and unreality, then he will have accomplished his long, wearying task.
And so I present this Great Work of Imagination to the Elysium in Dijon for due consideration.