Perpetual

Perpetual

Time, there is nothing but time

 

My name is death

She brings forth life

All things are born

Until everything dies

Out of the darkness

There will be light

But something’s forever

Somethings you can’t fight

 

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

 

My kiss is surrender

But her breath’s alive

I’m piercing nocturnal

Into a future that’s bright

We cannot help it

We’re intertwined

In a clock that’s omniscient

And imminently decided

 

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

 

I am the end

But she will survive

All things must balance

There is nothing outside

Despite my persistence

Her hope aside

The machine is our master

In which we appear to collide

 

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

 

All Rights Reserved (c) October 2018 John J Vinacci

First Bite

First Bite

“The physiology of zombies is impossible, that’s all I’m saying,” Isolde insisted. Her eyes roamed the decaying city, the sun at one o’clock.

“This whole goddamn situation is impossible,” Anouk groaned back with a snarl.

Anouk peeked around the back end of a burned out Telsa sedan clenching an old-school, analog toothbrush – the kind that made you move your hand back-and-forth in order to scrub the plague off your teeth. What a goddam hassle she always thought about the process, especially whenever her long, black, sweat-tangled hair got in her mouth when she brushed. What the holy hell were people’s teeth like before laser toothbrushes? Anouk didn’t know.

“Got two of ‘em,” Anouk grunted towards Isolde who was crouched behind the car’s front tire. “The one coming around your side is limping; shouldn’t be too fast for you but that’s not an excuse to take your sweet ass time.” Isolde dribble a bit of spit onto the pavement and tucked her own toothbrush away.

“Phhtpt,” Isolde sounded. “Physiologically, zombies are dead. Their blood isn’t circulating and they don’t breathe. They’re not getting any oxygen to their cells so how could they be making the body’s energy molecule that’s required for muscle contraction and cellular respiration? It just doesn’t make any sense.” Anouk was patting her on the shoulder indicating that they should get ready but Isolde was still lost in thought.

“And nothing in classical pop culture has prepared us for this,” Isolde continued. “Zombies like this don’t exist anywhere in fiction or mythology. Don’t get bit or you turn instantly? We didn’t see that coming. Worse, for a while we had no idea what we had to do in order to deal with them, which doesn’t make sense either. But I guess there’s some things you just can’t make up.”

A grizzled veteran of World War One – they lost all their historical records and had to start counting over again – Anouk grabbed a fistful of Isolde’s tattered shirt and pulled the young medic towards her scarred face.

“Listen to me, kid, shit’s about to get really real now. When you spring into action, you can’t give ‘em a chance. They sense you coming and they’ll be gone right quick and we won’t be able to catch up. They’re gonna struggle too; they’re strong…”

“They shouldn’t be,” Isolde’s brows worried.

“Yeah, well, they are. They’re gonna try to bite you if you don’t hang on long enough and you know what that means,” Anouk shoved the youngster away. “Now get ready. Remember, you gotta hold that shit for a good fifteen seconds. A nice deep bite and hold it! It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be the absolute worst goddamn thing you’ve ever tasted. But you gotta hold on. You ready or not?”

Isolde patted the cooler by her side. It was filled with IV’s their friends and enemies were going to need.

“Soon as they come ‘round. Here they come,” Anouk breathed. “Go!”

Anouk tackled the zombie coming around the car’s rear end from the side, knocking it to the ground as she sank her teeth into the zombie’s spare tire. The monster’s flesh was bitter and sour, gooey yet chunky, and penetrated into the tongue. It was a taste that lingered for days so fiercely that you needed someone back at camp trained in PTSD to deal with grunts like Anouk and Isolde when they returned from the field, if they returned from the field. Anouk reached up and pulled the creature’s hair back so she wouldn’t get bit. She wanted to gag but she held on.

Isolde spun around the front of the car and smacked her forehead against the zombie’s. Everyone’s got to go into the field at least once, the twenty-something remembered as she fell back. This was their camp’s rule and it was especially true for the medics since a successful attack meant the dead would need medical assistance right away when they returned to life after a human bite, dehydration being the biggest concern.

Young, light, and lithe, Isolde tucked her chin to her chest before hitting the pavement flat. She avoided a concussion and lost her breath for merely a split second. It really was really real now Isolde knew as she spun around on her back like a breakdancer. (She’d seen videos but their audio was always missing. Was breakdancing a form of field training? She never liked that assumption and preferred to think people used to do it for fun.) The medic grabbed the zombie by the ankle as it was already up and turning to run away. With the fiercest grip she could muster, she dragged herself toward the monstrosity and sank her teeth into the thing’s calf.

Oh! Oh my god! That…is…never tasted anything…so bad. Hold. Hold on fired across her brain. The zombie squealed something unholy before it reached down, lifted Isolde upside down like she weighed nothing and gnashed her buttocks. Isolde spit out a chunk of the zombie’s calf muscle to let loose her own unholy exclamation. She knew she hadn’t bitten it long enough to turn it but time wasn’t a factor for the zombie’s bite.

“Anouk! I’m bit! I’m going to turn, I’m going to…”

Well fuck all to shit Anouk thought as she timed out her own bite. The zombie she was latched onto collapsed as was always the case when they re-turned, allowing Anouk to let go. She jumped towards Isolde while the zombie that bit her turned and broke into a 40mph sprint. Gotta let it go now she figured as she fell on her knees by Isolde’s side, rotten blood flowing from her mouth. As the veteran heard that familiar growl common to the dead, she wondered if the taste wouldn’t be so bad since Isolde had turned only seconds ago. Anouk snapped down at the waist and bit Isolde on the ass for the sake of consistency, limiting the noob’s injuries.

“Nopeph, shtil taysh like shiff,” Anouk muttered as she held down the flailing medic. A few seconds later Isolde went limp. Anouk rolled the kid over and slapped her hard across the face. “Now I ain’t wanna eat shit for a week now, ya dumb…” Anouk was going to say something highly inappropriate for those trying to rebuild a civil civilization. She leaned her head back and yelled ‘fuck’ as loud as she could.

“What happened?” Isolde asked groggily. The youngster stirred, reached back and felt her buttocks, and felt the warmth of her own blood. “Did I get bit? It really hurts.”

“Oh, kid, you have no fucking idea,” Anouk jawed. The veteran hoped Isolde hadn’t been keeping track of her swearing; she had no credits left to give up to the community’s swear jar. Anouk engaged her quads and pulled Isolde up along with her. “See to our new friend over here,” she pointed to the former zombie lying unconscious nearby. “At least we got one of ‘em.”

“Oh god, did mine get away? Did I bite that thing for nothing?” Isolde ran her tongue around her mouth. “Oh, oh fuck. Oh fuck. Is that going to go away?”

“In a few days,” Anouk answered. “But the memory is forever,” she smiled before going straight-lipped.

Isolde limped over to her medical supplies and retrieved two IV bags. She popped some syringes and fed a needle into each arm of the newly human. Judging by the relatively mild state of exposure to the elements of the former zombie, Anouk figured this man would be conscious and walking within 30 minutes. Good; she was tired, bitter in more than one sense, and didn’t feel like doing jack shit else today.

“I wish we’d gotten the other one,” Isolde fretted as she watched over the man.

“Don’t you worry, kid, you owe me two bites. Gonna be fun seeing you pay your dues.” Anouk looked around garbage-strewn city. You couldn’t see it but there, hiding in the shadows were plenty of opportunities.

 

All Rights Reserved © October 2018 John J Vinacci

Ruminations On Time

Ruminations On Time

A glance over my fictional work and poetry reveals that much of what I write includes elements of time travel or time manipulation. I love sci-fi in general but it’s time travel that really gets my attention. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think I’ve watched every movie and show about time travel with the exception of Timeless, but that’s up next. It was just the other night after wrapping up the simultaneously brilliant and terrible 12 Monkeys, though, that I earnestly began to question myself as to why I find time travel stories so alluring.

Is it ‘nurture’ perhaps? I wasn’t even a teenager yet before I discovered Dr, Who. The Doctor has always been brilliant, a character who will avoid using a weapon if his brains will suffice in a dire situation. What’s not to love about that? Maybe I wanted to be like him (now her). But that’s just a character and has little to do with time travelling itself.

Maybe I like to travel. I’ve long had slightly more than a passing interest in different historical eras. Who wouldn’t rather actually visit ancient Rome than ham it up a Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas? Who wouldn’t want to take a peek a thousand years into the future and see what today’s world evolves into? Of course such adventuring would be dangerous and perhaps that’s part of the point.

Is it the allure of power, how going back in time with your present knowledge could potentially change things? Sure, we could alter our own history but what about altering the fate of humanity? The potential to change history in any number of ways is an attractive idea, though, wouldn’t we all try to change something just to see if the universe would allow it?

I’m not sure what I would do or when I would travel to if I actually had the ability. It may be the case that this disturbs me as I think of myself as someone I know relatively well; I know the reason behind everything I do yet don’t know what I would do with this ability. Maybe it’s all of these things. It vexes me.

While I don’t believe time travel to the past is possible, it would be pretty cool if we could do that. Or, more likely, terrible assuming some nefarious person would get their hands on any such time machine. Maybe it’s the impossibility of it all – which is probably for the best – which makes the idea attractive. We always want what we can’t have.

Do you love time travel stories and if so, why? Kindly leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Travels – Japan

Travels – Japan

[Author’s Note: We vacationed in Japan from late May into the first week of June 2018. This was my second trip and my wife’s third.]

It had been 13 years since we last visited Japan and we were eager to return. Our trip in 2005 was nothing short of enchanting, experiencing a culture so new, so alluring, we don’t know why we hadn’t planned our return until now. Everything in its time, I suppose.

We arrived at Osaka Airport midmorning and quickly found ourselves unprepared not for the lack of English or readable signage, but for the volume of people we encountered. Having lived in Hawaii for six years now, you get used to a general lack of people being around. (Granted, we were a bit unnerved having almost forgotten a carry-on when we left the plane. Luckily, we were able to get back on the aircraft after everyone had deplaned without too much trouble. Thank you, Japan Airlines!) The lack of English was the ancillary problem; though I’d been studying Japanese for two months, everything went out the window the second I was actually in country. If we hadn’t been concentrating on getting where we were going so much, I would’ve been mad at myself. It is true that most Japanese can speak English and will ‘strike first’ if they suspect you are American, but I didn’t want to be that tourist. I was anyway, at least for now.

We took a bus from Osaka airport to Kyoto where we’d be staying a week before going to Tokyo for a few days. As we rode through Osaka, I couldn’t help but observe the many, MANY golf driving ranges dotting the metropolis. These people really like golf, I thought a least a dozen times. But my mind was more on Kyoto, which I loved far more than Tokyo our first go ‘round. Once we arrived in Kyoto proper, I was a little bit shocked to see the number of tourists; we certainly don’t remember so many of them last time though I understand Kyoto has risen as the ‘traditional’ Japan tourists desire, as opposed to cosmopolitan Tokyo. Off the bus, it was a perfectly pleasant day and found our AirBnB ten minutes away from the city’s famous train station with little trouble. Not a bad place and at least larger than the hostels we stayed in our first trip. Our little getaway also came with usage of the owner’s pocket wifi so we always had use of our smartphones, something we found to be absolutely indispensable. If you go to Japan and don’t speak/read Japanese, you’ll need pocket wi-fi.

After settling in, we were determined to have a good dinner since we had problems with food back in 2005. So, naturally, we wound up at an Indian food restaurant a half hour’s walk north of our abode. And this is one of my favorite things about Japan: You can walk around a strange city and feel safe while taking in things like small, simple shrines people place in front of their homes. Good thing, too, as we’d marked off more restaurants on Google Maps then we’d ever actually get to. (We might’ve gotten to more eateries if not for the fact that Kyoto Beer Lab was literally right around the corner from where we stayed, and that’s where we ended almost every day of our week.) While tiresome on the feet, just walking around Kyoto was a delight as it wasn’t unusual to see citizens vacuuming the sidewalk or using a broom to sweep canals. Interesting, while many Japanese building will be dirty or in disrepair, Kyoto’s people keep their streets and streams clean. Really clean. (Well, for the most part. Generally the more touristy an area the grubbier it gets, by Japanese standards anyway. More on this later.)

2
Kyoto Beer Lab – Small, as with all things Japanese.

With six more days to go in Kyoto, we had to get out and about, doing our exactly-as-planned ‘temple and garden’ tour with a few new twists.

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We’d be seeing a lot of this.

Day two – Ginkakuji/Silver Pavilion, Ryoanji shrine, Ninna-ji Temple, Arishiyama. The Silver Pavilion was small and crowded though we arrived before the gates opened. While we waited, we had our first of many doses of green tea ice cream cones whose first taste in years was like a shot of heaven straight to the brain. Then we congregated to enter the Pavilion, holding back, waiting for the hordes of school children to do their thing. (More on this later.) Ryoanji featured a small rock garden so bland it might as well have been pointless. Comparatively, Ninna-ji was a huge complex whose walkways were pretty neat and suspiciously light on people. Then we travelled clear across town to Arishiyama in a bid to find the mysterious Monkey Park we’d seen on Youtube. Arishiyama is a very touristy town but the climb uphill to the monkey park kept a good measure of people away. Once arrived, we found monkey’s roaming freely but not very camera friendly. Actually, they seemed to harass each other a lot, perfectly in line with their descendants. Fortunately the air was clear so you could catch a good glimpse of Kyoto below. Unfortunately, the town’s acclaimed bamboo forest walk later on was nothing to talk about; I’d seen better bamboo in Portand, in my backyard where I used to live. Day one’s dinner was a stop at a yakatori restaurant whose portions were so small I think they only used a quarter of the chicken. For a little more food, snacks really, we hit Kyoto Beer Lab again where one of the unpretentious co-owners turned out to be Aussie. Cool guy.

4
The monkeys of Arishiyama. And there are people, too.

Day three – Kinkakuji/Golden Pavilion. My. God. The masses waiting to get into this place. How many people are there in this country? I thought they were all just passing through Kyoto Station. Do any of these people work? Do the school children ever go to school? The Golden Pavilion would be an amazing place without the people, but since there’s never not people there, it really is a shame. Then we walked across the city, to Indian food again, then Kyoto Beer Lab. We don’t actually drink as much as my recap suggests, except we do when we’re on vacation.

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Almost as impressive as the crowds.

Day four – Kiyomizu-dera  Temple in Kyoto’s foothills. The viewing deck of main hall that overlooks the city of Kyoto was closed for construction so I wasn’t willing to waste money going in. My wife did and while I waited, I figured I’d get some shots of the city from up here best I could. However, I was thwarted to this end as the best place to view the city from the temple steps was locked down by a European guy proposing to his girlfriend. She said yes and I said dammit as they embraced for what seems like the rest of their lives. I waited and they finally cleared out but before I could get to the viewing spot, it was annexed by two young Chinese ladies way too into themselves. Eventually I gave up as by the time my wife returned too many people had shown up. I don’t remember what we did after that but I’m sure green tea ice cream was involved. Oh yeah, we went up a super scary cable car to some trails in the foothills in another part of town where we somehow found ourselves in a French garden. What the heck, indeed, but then again this wouldn’t be Japan without random stuff like this around. And I don’t remember where, but my wife got a hold of a bell and rang it much to the dismay of some monks. Once we ran away and got back down into Kyoto proper, we had a terrible time trying to figure out the ticket machine which – with some help – found out you have to put your money in first before it’ll work. Then we ate dinner at Gojo Paradise restaurant, a place in Kyoto that seems to double as a hostel for Europeans. The food was surprisingly good, unsurprisingly small as is the case most places you’ll eat in Japan. This is how the Japanese stay thin, what with these portions also being expensive. EOD? KBL.

Day five – Phoenix Temple in Uji and Todaiji Temple in Nara. Uji is an under-rated town and I don’t say that because I successfully spoke Japanese here. The shops in this green tea haven are top-notch and I had the BEST green tea ice cream here as it was topped with matcha powder. That was followed by the best green tea gyoza ever, followed by the best green tea soba noodles ever. I mean, this little town fried my nervous system! Oh yeah, the Phoenix Temple was cool, too, an underrated attraction judging by the reduced crowds here. (Keep in mind we get everywhere early in an attempt to beat the rush.) From there we travelled to Nara to the Todaiji Temple that houses the largest indoor bronze Buddha statue. Todaiji is quite impressive despite the undulating masses that pass through its massive South Gate. But for me, Nara is always remembered as the place where the deer attacked me. Deer, regarded as messengers of the gods, roam the streets freely in Nara. If you want to feed them, you can purchase crackers from any number of vendors. But, my god, once the deer see you with the crackers, you’d better run. They will _ you up. Strangely enough, after fleeing the deer we ran into a German Octoberfest in the middle of town, so of course we had to have a few beers. (It was hot and we knew Kyoto Beer lab was closed today.) Somehow we made it back out of Nara with my nethers intact, but not before considering going into an owl café before deciding that was just too sad to elicit that business.

22
Attack him!

Day six – We got up early to hit my favorite place in all of Japan, Fushimi-Inari Shrine, trail of the thousand tori gates. In the quite of morning, this place is magical and words cannot convey what I feel when I am here. Near the top, which is nothing special really – you just come back down – there was a man playing Japanese flute and it sounded so beautiful. On our way out of the area, my wife began her hunt for authentic Japanese ceramic blue bowls. Meanwhile, I had more green tea ice cream. This would pretty much be it today as we were quite tired from running around the previous few days.

10
It actually looks like this.

Day seven – Breakfast at a quaint little coffee shop in Kyoto called Murmur. French Toast with a dollop of vanilla ice cream with dripped-to-perfection coffee = heaven. Then onto the bullet train to Tokyo! where loud, obnoxious Indian tourists have no respect for local culture. At least the view of Mt. Fuji from the train was nice. We arrived in Shinjuku Station to even more mobs of people than we’d seen in Kyoto! We are they putting all these people? How is this many people even possible? Walking through Shinjuku Station is like being a human pinball. Somehow we made it to the Hyatt Regency which was decent enough, I suppose, though the staff is the standout there. After settling in, we navigated back through the train station to the touristy side of Shinjuku which reminded me why I hate Tokyo – it’s downright filthy while trying too hard to be chic. On a more positive note, Shinjuku does have Godzilla popping over a building and a Godzilla store. I did score some Godzilla underwear of all things but stopped short of buying the mask. Talk about regrets.

Day eight – Big day; first down to Kamakura south of Tokyo. We arrived in town and hit a bakery so we’d have something to nosh on as we trekked across town to a bamboo forest. At the temple near the train station, we sat down to eat some of our food when we see a hawk circling overhead. We’re sitting under a tree and don’t think anything of it. Then – I kid you not – my wife is handing a pretzel in a bag back to me when something slaps my ear, I hear a crunch, and next thing I see is the hawk flying away with our food! Up, up, and away. “Did that hawk just steal our food?” I blinked. I’ve been around four decades and nothing like this has ever happened to me; I was floored! Good thing it didn’t take anyone’s fingers off with its talons, if we’re being positive. (Even though we had been here before, we just now learned about Kamakura’s thieving hawks.) Flabbergasted, we walked almost two miles across this German-influenced town to a bamboo forest that hosts a tea house serving the best matcha green tea I’ve ever had (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I?) thus turning the morning around. We made our way to the Great Buddha after that which – surprise! – was mobbed with tourists and school children. Don’t these kids go to school, ever?! We must have been here before Japan blew up as a tourist destination because you couldn’t just sit and enjoy the statue’s stature. I have to admit, this was my second favorite place I wanted to go and was sorely disappointed. Dejected, we left the temple but found a kebob place nearby, a hole in the wall really, that served the best kabobs…ever. And by an authentic Turkish man who was super polite. On our way back to Shinjuku, we aimed for an area of Tokyo known as Odaiba, a fledgling Disneyland of sorts. We found it to be a surprisingly large area, making the time we had left before the attractions closed scarce. We were able to see the Museum of Emerging Technology and caught a glimpse of the famous robot Asimov in action. While the giant Gundam was cool, too, the Statue of Liberty here felt out of place and we just didn’t have time for the ferris wheel. Just as well because it started to mother-of-god pour. Figures, too, as it was the one day we left our hotel without an umbrella, not that you’re ever very far from an umbrella in Japan; they’re weird that way…

Day nine – We didn’t get up much in the morning; just a jaunt over to Harajuku in the morning where the local kids weren’t in their usually Cosplay getups, presumably because it was too early. We did go to one of Tokyo’s popular cat cafes which proved to be nerve-wracking – the cats seemed pretty stressed out, probably because the employees give you a strict laundry list of rules to follow. Somehow I felt stressed for the buggers. The coffee? Predictably terrible so we went to another café, some vegan place that is quite the novelty in Japan. You see, the Japanese really love to eat meat (and rice). You’d think given their general size they’d eat more veggies but veggies are actually scarce in restaurants in Japan. Why, I do not know. Without Harajuku popping we headed back to our hotel for some pool time before getting ready for the big concert – Ludovico Einaudi – the whole reason my wife planned this trip. While the symphony hall itself was beautiful and the acoustics marvelous, Einaudi’s piano music just doesn’t translate into the arena rock type of show he tried to pull off. I hate to say it, but the guy’s music is better heard than seen. We finished the night spending entirely too much for small portions at the hotel’s restaurant while seated next to a table of very jubilant teenagers having a birthday party. Sigh.

19
Follow the rules!

Day ten – The trip home. We stocked up on food in Shinjuku station seeing how our twenty hour trip home would take a train, a bullet train, another train, a shuttle tram, a plane, another plane, and a shuttle ride home. Our cats may have been happy to see us when we arrived, until they sensed we’d been somewhere and cheated on them. Within two minutes they no longer cared. We longed to back in Japan already.

Some General Things I Noticed in Japan

1-They love steep stairs. Or very short, wide stairs. Or a strange combination of the two. They like stairs. Keeps ‘em fit.

2-Not as polite as I recall. Shop owners are, but the public in general, not so much. Given the influx and behavior of some tourists, I can’t say I blame them.

3-They like %$#&@ hot water. I’d forgotten but the blisters reminded me.

4-They love Cosplay, just not in the morning.

5-Their infrastructure can be interesting; they’ll build sidewalks upon sidewalks that have crumbled instead of repairing the whole thing. This reminded me of being in the army where we would just paint over anything sufficiently dirty.

6-They don’t mind capitalism inside their shrines.

7-Kyoto’s citizens dress very conservatively compared to Tokyo’s residents. Kyoto is the more modest of the two by far.

8-Indian tourists are the rudest tourists in Japan, that or we were just lucky.

9-Maybe my most fun experience in Kyoto was in Gion when I was interviewed by a schoolgirl wanting to practice English. None of the school kids claimed to know where Hawaii was, which lines up with Japan’s dark, secret underbelly. But I humored her when she asked what I like about Japan; let’s see, shrines, anime, and Godzilla. This gave her a good laugh. My wife was interviewed, too, and their teacher gave us gifts. Super cool Japanese!

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All Rights Reserved (c) August 2018 John J Vinacci

Philosophy: A Comedic Play

Philosophy: A Comedic Play

[Author’s note: I wrote this play for a class back in 2009 when I was a fledgling Philosophy major. I had something to say about how ridiculous Rene Descartes’ philosophy was which I can’t believe few people at the time saw. As with most old, famous dead people, Descartes had a good PR agent and I reluctantly admit he got due credit for writing his thoughts about thoughts down. I suppose modern epistemology had to start somewhere.]

(Twilight Zone music plays)

Rod Serling Submitted for your approval, two of the world’s most renowned philosophers, French mathematician Rene Descartes and the prominent Ancient Greek, Socrates. Scientists armed with advanced technology have brought the two men into the future to instruct at The Hall of Great Philosophers. What will happen when Descartes’ ‘Cogito ergo sum’ crosses paths with Socrates humble remark, “All I know is that I know nothing”?

Descartes (Flipping through an anatomy book) Hmm, I appears I was wrong about the pineal gland. (Appearing thoughtful) Perhaps the cerebellum is the mind-brain interface.

Socrates (Approaching) Descartes? Rene Descartes, it is you! How wonderful. I have met many wonderful philosophers here as of late but it is you whom I have wanted to meet most of all.

Descartes And you are the famous Athenian, Socrates. How interesting that we should meet, being that we are the most famous men of our respective eras. Do please excuse me if I appear skeptical regarding the reality of this encounter, though. (Snarkily) Perceptions are unreliable, after all.

Socrates Ah, yes, I’ve read your work and that is why I am anxious to talk to you. I have reservations with some of your ideas. All of them, in fact.

Descartes (looking around cautiously) Between you and me, sir, in my defense I was trying to spare my head the indignity of being separated from my shoulders. A contemporary of mine, Galileo, spent time in jail for challenging official Church doctrine.

Socartes I’m afraid I know how he feels. At least I think I do.

Descartes Well in thinking you do, at least you can rest assured that you exist. That is a conclusion I stand by and am justly famous for – Cogito ergo sum.

Socrates Yes. (Pause) Out of curiosity, do you find your conclusion about the pineal gland as satisfying?

Descartes I don’t see how it is relevant but it seems I was wrong on that account.

Socrates Exactly, Rene. Now, if we are to believe you could be wrong regarding the simple matter of the pineal gland, might we suspect you could be wrong regarding more important matters?

Descartes Do you mean to question the reliability of ‘Cogito ergo sum’ Socrates? I’m afraid you’ll find my conclusion unassailable. It is exactly because I can make a conclusion that my conclusion about the mind is correct. If I am thinking, I must exist.

Socrates Unless you do not exist. If only I existed and you were my imagination but did not know you were my imagination, you would be incorrect. Don’t you agree?

Descartes (Getting irritated) You are playing with words, Socrates. Do you wish me to call you a Sophist? If only you existed, my argument would still be true for yourself. Without existence – my mind, your mind – would not be capable of experiencing thought. Therefore, the mind exists.

Socrates Let’s speak of your malicious demon then, the one you wrote of in Meditations. Are you saying it is plausible that this demon may deceive you in all matters except for the matter of being able to deceive you? Surely you mean this.

Descartes I do.

Socrates If I may, in postulating this demon, it appears to me you terribly underestimate this entity, for surely they may be the cleverest of time keepers.

Descartes I’m not sure I follow.

Socrates It is a fact, I’m sure you’ll agree, that all of your experiences – especially the fundamental experience of thoughts – can only take place because of time. Without the passing of time, you would not be able to formulate the thoughts that lead you to ‘Cogito ergo sum.’ Your conclusion is based on the culmination of perceptions, prior knowledge, memories, which you admit in Meditations can be manipulated with malicious intent.

Descartes It is the fact that you experience anything at all, whether one is fooled in the process or not, that indicates that I, as a thinking thing, exists. (Frustrated) Is that so difficult to understand?

Socrates Have you stopped to consider what would happen if this demon of yours ran time in a backwards fashion? Would that devilish trick cause you to unthink yourself, leading you away from your conclusion? What if this demon could stop time and begin it anew at their convenience? Your mind wouldn’t be aware that it had been stopped. In what sense then would your mind exist if it cannot think? How do you say, “I do not think, therefore I am not,” in French?

Descartes (Slowly) Yes, yes, I am beginning to understand why your countrymen sentenced you to death.

Socrates You have come to a certain conclusion by arbitrarily limiting the powers of your demon. But if you grant your demon the powers I suggest, then your conclusion about your mind – your self – is cast in doubt. I think it reasonable at this point to conclude that none of us really knows anything, least of all that we are thinking things.

Descartes (Rubbing his temples) Would you agree with my conclusion if only for the sake of practicality, Socrates? My conclusions are how the world appears, after all.

Socrates A perception that you know may be wrong, Rene. What practicality is there in that?

Descartes (Annoyed) If I didn’t know better, and I may not, I would say you are my Cartesian Demon. I’m going back to 1641 to give it some more thought. You can stay here in the future, Socrates, where I’m the father of modern philosophy, by the way. Oh, and here’s a pen. Write something down once in a while.

Socrates Oh, don’t be upset, Rene. Let’s share a drink before you go. Some hemlock, perchance? No? Well, give my regards to Galileo. (Turning around) Friedrich Nietzsche, is that you? I’ve heard so much about you…

 

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