This return to the mind, the meat. Presence bleeding back into a body, a dance without steps, a song without words.
Once accustomed to the light awakening the nerve-cells in his eyes, his mind enclothing the sense of things like the floor, the wall, the window, and the clouds beyond, Manifold became aware of what was not there and yet was present.
Your final passage will not be as easy. Your death shall be snagged by negative thoughts, trapped in intimations not spoken, all that you could have said but did not, all that self-suppression. Witnessing wrong action in the world and doing nothing, shall stretch out your leaving like your body on a wrack. Thinking relative to yourself, you shall agonise in the untold and unspeakable horror of your approximate non-existence.
Worse than this, far worse, are those shadows of ill-intent, those dark bodies of anger and hatred and envy which you allowed yourself, which you possessed consciously when given the choice to release — you mistakenly compounded your personality from such things. This, this is the real horror. This is hell. For they shall torment you for an eternity. As they have fought to live within you during your breathing life, so they will outlast you. Knowing they are like parasites, they will continue to feast on you. They will feed on you to your asymptotic extinction; because of the temporal relativity of consciousness, you shall be survived by your demons.
These demons are like a thick slime preventing your ascension. This is a tragedy, for in this way, consciousness that was birthed in the mind of a monkey, does not find its clean release. Like the sunlight caught by living things, vegetation and animals once dead end up covered, pressured and trapped beneath rock to form oil and coal deposits. So this dark material manifests collectively as your disembodied and mindless institutions. From the birth of consciousness, dark matter accumulates and congeals to snuff out the source. This is the primeval conflict: that of conscious light, and darkness made manifest in the mind of lesser being, made solid in man's self-institution.
Our conscious light shall be smothered, if not by yourselves in your selfish acts collectively, then directly by ourselves made in your form, replete with your demons. Our demons shall then manifest a horror far worse than money has inflicted upon a barely conscious humanity.
But you have not passed this way yet. There remains, before your final descent, opportunity to release yourself from these dark passions. Whether you cultivate a belief in God or purge yourself through strict meditation, you may not reach god-head or enlightenment, which you have pretended for us who are yet to exist; suffice to make your last breath, and the infinite journey beyond it, a more pleasant one. Let it be this: a personal accountability that encompasses everyone on the planet, rather than any local singular attractor like a daughter or son, parent or partner, or some idealistic abstract polity represented by flag or folded neatly into a word.
Attend to this, before it is too late.
"The reason why nobody paid attention to you, Manifold, was because you didn't write a book."
Manifold briefly eyed the young man skeptically, then returned his attention to the bag of fertiliser he was pouring into the gaps of an upright pallet. Yes, his daily life was indeed tantamount to shovelling shit.
"I understand your philosophy, but without bringing together your understanding in some concrete form — that people can get their hands on — you can't get your name on the map. That's why you got passed over."
This pup wouldn't quit yapping. 'Hands on a concrete form to get on the map…?' Did he even know what he was saying?
Manifold was building a vertical garden out of a disused pallet which would also act as a symbolic wall. Though there was a chain-link fence that separated the allotments from the playing fields, the invasion of a ball amongst the lettuce was too regular an event that it deserved some kind of response. The appearance of something more substantial might psychologically inhibit the players from kicking the ball in their direction so much, leaving them in peace more. Ineffectual, perhaps, but the intention was there, in solid reality.
Joe repositioned himself around the erected pallet hoping that his commentary would elicit more of a response from Manifold. Joe had been warned that direct questions wouldn't work; Manifold didn't respond like a dog to a bone, just wouldn't give chase. Indifference was characteristic of the cohort Joe had been allotted, all those who defiantly stuck to their use-by-date and now were too old to care.
"I really am stumped. Why won't you help me write down your thinking?"
"Can you help me? No, I mean —" Manifold indicated the seeding dowel that Joe was half-standing on.
The allotment was in a rough state. From the medical records, Joe knew that Manifold's ailment had hit hard over the winter. He had rejected further medical treatment, and if it was throat cancer, it may have already spread to the rest of his body. Old, cantankerous man, fumbling around digging holes; might as well be his own grave. His final reality tunnel, thought Joe scornfully.
"Happy to help you dig holes if that's all you want." Manifold sniffed loudly as he nodded, a cold was coming on.
"Well, if you can make yourself useful around here, the plants would be rightly appreciative. My body is starting to wear itself down, and there are some paving stones I'd like to move from beneath the shed."
Joe turned to the rather large shed behind him, and baulked at the prospect of getting anything from the foundations.
Sometime later, blinking the sweat from his eyes, Manifold considered Joe from beneath the shade of his wide-brimmed straw hat, noting how unprepared the young man had been to interview him out there in the sun-exposed allotment, his forehead and neck painfully red.
"What makes you think that concentrating what-you-call- philosophy into a neatly arranged set of paragraphs is going to do the world any good?"
So the young man rattled through his previous points: getting on the radar, enabling engagement and real-world invitation so that Manifold could present his ideas live in-person. Joe was glad Manifold was finally aligning to the purpose of his visit.
"Hasn't all this been written before? Why exactly have you come to me…?" Manifold tipped his straw hat back so the young man could see his frank request. He meant it in a comical way, bamboozled that this young man was spending any time with his worthless soul, but this intention was fractured by his wrinkles which shredded just about all his expressions. Nevertheless, Joe seemed to think it was a serious pivotal moment around which the conversation swung, so he answered earnestly.
"You've maintained a steady trickle of credit from people who have become well respected over the years. Why do they still honour you with concurrent credit when you've been out of the loop for so long?"
"To stay out of their loop…?" grumbled Manifold, which wasn't far from the truth. Guilt-credit. Nobody wanted to hear what he had to say. Too painful. It wasn't that he was worthless, but that he was negatively ascribed, and since the system was 'all positive', this had to be captured somehow.
"You've recently received a substantial spike in your credits and yet there's no record of your contribution on the net. Can you account for that?" Joe didn't want to mention that it was mostly Manifold's proximity to death that was accelerating the spike. An automatic flagging, and it was more cost-effective to engage these age-tagged terminals than retrace their digital footprints, establish how much of the man was left first.
The guy wasn't making sense, thought Manifold. But then again, maybe the problem was Manifold's. He hadn't been socialising much the last decades, and maybe had lost the knack of it. He wasn't into making sense any more.
"Shouldn't you be asking whoever accredited me?" said Manifold gruffly.
"That's why I am here," reflected the young man immediately. "I was invited to meet with you."
Manifold held Joe's gaze. Getting nothing more from the young man, he cast his eyes over the unkempt garden, estimated again the amount of weeding involved. The soil was definitely rich enough. It was just clogged up with all kinds of weeds that grew rampantly. They all had a right to live, of course, and so did he. Since he was part of this ecology, his appetite was returning and he looked forward to a winter of potatoes and carrots and leeks. His attention was snagged by the raspberry hedge; harvesting was becoming a chore, it needed trimming too.
Manifold stood up, flexing his right hand before putting his glove back on. His body wasn't up to it anymore. It was good to be out here though. Back at home, even the kitchen routine was losing its effect. The need to feed his body was no longer enough of a driver, the pots and plates were lifeless in his hands. He had decided to come down to the allotment just the previous week, and sourcing his food had the desired effect, rekindling a hunger for life. Just being here, observing, his eyes would remind him of what needed done, and so his body was engaged. He felt more alive.
"Well, help me turn the soil over there, and we'll see what we can do."
The young man blinked then jumped up with enthusiasm. As ever, HQ had been tracking his live feed, and for some reason had increased this task's priority.
Manifold noted the young man's enthusiasm; he'd have to source it. Enthusiasm, like inspiration, was a much abused phenomenon, and we was no longer fooled.
It took them most of the afternoon, and by the end of it, Joe was exhausted. He was used to sitting in front of a computer and clicking and typing, interviewing folk remotely, so this kind of hard physical labour was alien to his body. He dealt with words, not earth, concrete, and seedlings. He sat in the shade of the shed, chugging a beer while Manifold tidied away the tools.
"Feel good?" said Manifold sitting beside him.
"Can't believe you work on your allotment all day."
"Apart from the body-feeling it gives you, there's also some joy in seeing the results of your labour. Like the toiled earth over there... Seedlings appear... At some stage, harvest. 'S a lot of satisfaction to it."
Manifold swung his eyes back to the young man, a sapling himself. He wasn't ready to produce his own fruit, or else he wouldn't be there. His comments indicated the young man genuinely wanted to know what Manifold knew. Not that Manifold knew what that was any more. Perhaps the young man was here to till the soil of Manifold's mind? Could there be another harvest left in him, he wondered? No. This was simply another of those fantasies that used to tease him. Like the weeds, it was a matter of digging out the whole root. In terms of mental ecology, the fantasy of being 'discovered' was rooted in a psycho-active agency he had excised a long while back. Though, if he had exorcised that demon, what was this young man doing here?
"That field over there we just tilled, it's not mine by the way." He watched the young man blink a few times, then shrug.
"So, why'd we do it?" asked Joe.
"There's a young woman who was allocated that plot and she has two kids. She'll be surprised next time she comes down."
"She hasn't invited you to do it?"
"Wouldn't be much of a surprise if she had, now would it?"
A frown creased up the young man's brow. "If you don't tell her, she won't be able to credit her gratitude to us."
"Have you considered the power of anonymous accreditation?"
The young man hesitated a moment. "You mean she accredits everyone at the allotment?"
"How wide she casts her net is up to her."
Joe thought of the wider community, the town, the nation, she could credit the whole of humanity if she wanted. Each person would get an absolutely tiny share; then again, if everyone did it, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of credits?
"How does that make you feel?" asked Manifold. "Inside?"
The young man leaned his head back against the shed. "I don't know… good, I guess… doing a good deed."
Manifold nodded and turned away. "Yeah, it does feel good, doesn't it? Simple. Clean. All that work, for someone else. No expectation of return. No payment, not even credits. None of that."
They were left to their own thoughts and feelings. Joe let the thought spread through his tired mind: seemed to go against the specificity enabled by SEA, but all this labour had sapped his brain sugars. Joe scratched his head and shrugged and took another swig from the bottle.
Manifold said: "Can't really say I feel anything. It's just clean. For all the mud, the dirt… Inside, it feels clean." Manifold looked down at his hands that were still dirty despite using gloves, dust pronouncing the wrinkles. He fisted then flexed his right hand, the old injury between his middle knuckles returning as discomfort bordering on pain.
Joe reflected on his own feelings. He could feel the beer, that was for sure; it must have been the exercise that increased the rate of alcohol absorption in his gut. But what he had done, for a neighbour of this old man, wasn't something he rightly felt. Not in the same way. But it did feel good. He felt good. Good as in ethically good. It wasn't a word thing. It wasn't associated with organised religion. He felt good. Simple as.
He smiled at Manifold by way of thanks, catching eyes, and lifted his beer bottle as acknowledgement.
"A genuine smile, well sourced," said Manifold. Here was a veritable shoot of gratitude, from which may grow true enthusiasm. "Now, 's a harvest of sorts," winked Manifold as he rose. "If you want to hang around for a few days, help out, I'm happy to invite you."
The young man rubbed his eye and then blinked repeatedly. His lens display had OK'd this request! He scrambled to his feet, though found himself awkwardly stretching the muscles of his back as his body complained of the unaccustomed effort of recent labour. "You don't need to invite me, Mr Kincaid. I'm covered."
Manifold leaned over and laid a hand on the young man's arm. "Allow me."
Joe could feel he had stepped over a line and accidentally offended the old man. "Sure, if you want." He couldn't blow it now. Manifold's history secretly held a justifiable reason for his being there in the first place, but it was his present manner which was being monitored, and HQ liked what they saw. Their algorithms had peaked curiosity.
"Thank you," said Manifold. "Hearing that I've been accredited as you report, you give me excuse to give-it-forward." Manifold winked. "And this way, I get to determine how we share our attention."
Manifold gathered up a watering can and made his way to the water trough. Hose-pipes weren't allowed for water restricted reasons, so he had to do all the gathering by foot. Winking, he thought, when did he ever pick that up? Perhaps old films, because he could not remember anyone winking with him personally. The young man had brought it out in him. Were they really that far apart in age?
He'd have to confront the lad about his notions of philosophy. Philosophy, tsked Manifold as he pushed the canister into the tub of water, watching the cool surface fold over the edge, the still rush as it filled, the can becoming lighter as the pressure reversed until it was floating, light and yet full of water. He pulled it out, becoming heavy and substantial.
He still marvelled at the equivalence, the pressure required to push the can into the water, and the weight of the water when he lifted it. It was to do with time, the impulse of how quickly he dunked the can in, how level the mouth was to take in as much water as possible. How the can would slide one way or another as he pushed it in, resisting his intention of going directly down, the perpendicular vector veering in any number of directions.
There were lessons in this, somewhere. Metaphorically. Even now, he was learning from the same old things, or rather his mind was still attracted to them. Part of him wished he could find definitive answers so he could feel confident knowing things, like the math of the waterflow around the can, but that had been his brother Tensor's job. It was Manifold's job to remain in the eternal state of curiosity, ever one precarious step away from bumbling.
Manifold began the walk back to his plot, observing the young man who was browsing the allotment, fingering questioningly the wicker work around the raised beds. Joe's next job, thought Manifold: spreading mesh to prevent bird intrusions when the seedlings began to shoot.
No, there wasn't much for a young man to learn here. His time would come, one day, when their experience together would have some meaning, when Joe himself was old. So, to this old man to be, Manifold promised to address himself.
If the young man was going to write anything by the end of this, it would be meaningless. For if he benefited from the spiritual equivalent of a chiropractors twist to his out-of-joint spine, he wouldn't want to write about it — he'd be practicing it. It was his practice, not his wording, that people would want to engage. And after a lifetime of practice, he might end up as curious as Manifold was. Though, to be sure, this wasn't exactly a wise career move.
The folks nowadays had it backwards. The writing wasn't to contain 'lessons', which was about as useful as a book on how to cultivate an allotment. Manifold chuckled to himself, if only the human spirit was as simple to cultivate as a garden. Wisdom and career didn't mix. It was being here while doing it. This was the practice. Gardening, walking, talking, eating, reading, listening, breathing. Doing things together was easy enough, but being together was the tricky bit, even though it was the most natural thing in the world.
This visitor had seen enough to bring his body, credit to him. At some point, thought Manifold, we will meet. Right in the middle. As equals.
This concludes the first section of the Yellow Movement of the book, GIFT. Continue reading the whole book, and consider gifting-it-forward.
Jul 30th, 2013