THE CHURCH OF UNRELENTINGLY IMPOTENT REASON
NOTE TO THE UNINITIATED :
This church, a separatist statement by His Holiness Dr. Albert Einstein, was founded after he went to heaven and found that God did in fact play dice with the universe.
A fan of keeping things simple, and also because a myriad of overly restrictive rules doesn’t prevent bad stuff from happening to us anyway, His Holiness has given us only One Commandment, pending future revision.
- Thou shalt not exceed the speed of light.
And in the interest of staying true to religious convention – the question ‘Why?’ shall be answered with ‘Off with his head!’
PARABLE 1: HIS HOLY BALLS
“I have a PhD.” Al explained, oblivious to a further narrowing of the redheaded secretary’s eyes. He leaned back into the plastic chair, arranging his features to be reminiscent of that ruggedly handsome guy in The Mentalist – mischievous grin, ever so slight crinkle in the eyes, all that. Two and a half minutes previously he had walked into the office and said by way of greeting to the presently squinting secretary “You and I should have babies together, Cynth.”
Cynthia relaxed her eyes but continued chewing her gum, her mind running dispassionately through a selection of phrases that, if used, would tell him to back the hell off and simultaneously inform him that his face was reminiscent of a pirate with piles.
In any case, this isn’t the story of Al and Cynthia. But it is worth mentioning that in matters of attraction to the opposite sex, His Holiness’ general policy is along the lines of “Each man shall wed twice, and the second time he shall wed his own cousin.” and “If thy woman at thy witty remarks doth not cachinnate , tell thou them to thy parrot, and disappointment shall be avoided.”
The preceding paragraphs were written purely to establish the character of Al as a wisecracking and clueless fop with a PhD who works at a job which requires at most a high school diploma, and the character of the narrator as a lazy but omniscient sardonic who doesn’t care about orthography or conventional grammar. This is, in fact, the story of Al and his boss, Sam – a somewhat older clueless fop but one with the important distinction of not having a PhD, which, in his opinion (and mine), makes him smarter than Al.
Presently he walked in, handlebar moustache and all, and with the air of someone announcing their win at the 23rd Annual Sushi Barfing Contest, said “You’re late!”
Al inferred correctly that it was to him his boss was referring, and replied “Technically, you’re late.” He had flopped down carelessly on another plastic chair placed near his boss’ desk, which was conveniently situated opposite Cynthia’s. Having come to the conclusion that his mischievous grin would not win him any favours here, he replaced it with what he thought was an intimidating smirk.
Sam sat down behind his desk, slightly annoyed that the majority of his field of view consisted of a 27 year old man looking curiously at something he had just pulled out of his nose. For the seventh time that day, he noticed that his trousers were in danger of tearing across a seam and made a mental note not to bend or turn too fast. As an afterthought, he made another mental note to start going to the gym. Then he wondered briefly how best to tell Cynthia that he was going to start working out without it seeming like he was trying to tell her that he was going to start working out. It was so easy to be accused of sexual harassment these days. And the laws were so vague, in fact, he was sure that he already was a sex offender. A few weeks back Cynthia had overheard him telling a dirty joke to one of his associates, and just yesterday his hand had accidentally brushed against hers when she handed to him a rather thick stack of papers. Both times she had looked annoyed, but to be fair, she always did. He hadn’t been accused by anybody yet. But what if that were to happen?
He was brought back into reality by Al’s hand traversing rapidly his field of view.
“I’m sorry, w-what?” he managed to splutter.
“I was saying” Al had adopted the tone of an incredibly patient teacher teaching an incredibly daft fourteen year old to multiply “that technically, you’re late.”
“Well, that may as well be as it is” Sam explained, the corners of his mouth curving downwards “But you were late before I was. Company regulations-”
“Then you should’ve said you were late.”
Sam anxiously shut out the vision he had been having of him gouging out Al’s eyeballs. These violent visions were a source of constant worry to him, and he had gone to church one sultry afternoon hoping to be given an explanation by Father Manuel over there, who also happened to be a Freudian psychoanalyst.
Father Manuel had rather triumphantly suggested that the visions were the manifestation of a mental defense mechanism intended to reaffirm his masculinity because of the unconscious homosexual desires he had as a result of the sexual abuse he had suffered during his childhood. Sam had then pointed out that he hadn’t suffered any sexual abuse, to which the Father had replied with a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eyes “Forgetfulness is a boon, son, don’t you forget that.”
He shook off these irrelevant memories and continued in a practiced monotone “Company regulations dictate that employees failing to adhere to temporal restrictions will be subjected to a deduction in income unless they can demonstrate to their immediate superiors a justifiable paucity of free will in the events causing their delay.”
“Free will is an illusion.”
“That may as well be as it is.” Though he did not see any need to inform Al, he had given the matter serious consideration in the past, and had come to the conclusion that if free will was an illusion, then so was consensual sex, which would mean that he and his late wife had raped each other countless times during their marriage, and he didn’t think his feeble conscience could bear the guilt of rape. “But unless you can demonstrate to me a justifiable paucity of free will-”
“I just said that free will is an illusion!” Al protested “Do you want me to prove it to you? Because I can. Consider a man about to engage in sexual intercourse with his wife-”
“No!” Sam brought his fist down upon the desk. The cockroaches and termites that had taken to living in the crevices of said desk experienced the equivalent of an 8.9 Richter earthquake, and the thinkers among them came to the conclusion that because one was screwed over by random acts of nature no matter what one did, free will was an illusion.
“Okay, boss.” Al held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. He had done that a lot of times before – one particularly humiliating example being when he had faced a snarling Alsatian that he had thrown a stone at and missed. It didn’t work; the dog pounced on him, pressed him to the ground, and kept him there until its master came for it and dragged it away.
Now, it might seem as though the Alsatian were being overly unreasonable – but in its defense, it had been castrated not three hours previously and was looking to reaffirm its masculinity – not unlike one Adolf Hitler, who after losing one testicle decided that he needed to kill six million Jews to compensate.
These reminiscences hurt Al’s ego not slightly, and he decided that he needed to impress Cynthia to feel better about himself. “Okay, boss.” he said again, with a greater emphasis on ‘boss’ this time. “I’ll give you the proof you want. I’m going to prove to you that I was late because of a deterministic physical law using ineluctably tight reasoning.” His volume had been steadily rising and had now reached the level preferred by indignant anti-choice activists and attention-deprived three year olds.
Cynthia was, at this moment, drooling on an invoice for three hundred servo motors.
Sam’s face lit up. Coincidentally, he had also had an idea concerning his secretary. “Cynthia!” he called out, a bit sterner than he had intended to.
A mangled blob of chewing gum rolled out of her mouth and came to rest on top of the words ‘TOTAL TAX VALUE’.
She awoke as if a bucket of cold water had been emptied over her. She couldn’t remember the details of her dream, but she was sure that towards the end she was being chased by a pair of toothbrushes with extra-long heads. Somewhere in a cloudy corner of her mind it occurred to her that she should probably talk to Father Manuel about it.
“Good.” Sam nodded “Now I’ve got your attention.”
She was still staring at him as one would at an LSD induced hallucination of a mildly fearsome serial killer with a predilection for the gruesome.
“I want you” he said slowly and carefully “to call Lee’s Gym on the corner of 36th and West and book a meeting with Mr. Lee tomorrow at 2:00 P.M. to talk about a personalized training program. Change my schedule accordingly.”
Sam’s voice had by now made her sink back into her usual torpor. She nodded without bothering to look up and gave him the thumbs up.
“I shall ask you to participate in a thought experiment with me.” Al had puffed his chest up to the extent that he looked uncannily like a robin with rheumatism. His voice had plummeted down to a rough baritone. “Consider a pair of balls…”
“Hmmm…a pair of balls…” his boss repeated absentmindedly. In his mind he was bursting several extravagantly large balloons with the words ‘SEX OFFENDER’ written upon them in black with a sewing needle while an unrealistically exuberant Cynthia gambolled about.
“….one blue, the other red. I give you the blue one and I take the red one.” Al paused for breath, and went on “We stand on platforms marked A and B, respectively. We decide to play a little game, you and I…”
After 12 months in the gym he would reveal himself to Cynthia as the man he really was and she would fall hopelessly in love with him, middle finger raised to society and their jealous and outdated mutterings about the appropriate age difference between members of a couple. She would look deeply into his eyes and tell him all her secrets…
“…We both throw the ball with a particular speed to a wall in front of us while we are both standing still on our platforms. For convenience we will assume that we throw perfectly straight and that the ball does not lose energy on collision with the wall. Two stopwatches are started respectively the moment the ball leaves our platforms.” Al thought for a moment. “For convenience we shall also neglect air resistance and gravity…”
…free from the gravity of societal norms Cynthia would tell him about everything that ailed her. Why she seemed so apathetic to life, so bored, so sleepy. He would sing to her and regale her with funny but clean and politically correct humour. After those 12 months he would be taller and she would come up to his shoulders. She would look up at him, smiling…
“…The distance between both the platforms and the wall is constant, adjusted so that the ball is able to travel back and forth in two seconds. So we know now that it takes one second for the balls to hit the wall while the platforms are stationary. Both of us agree on this. Now, unknown to me the platform B moves to the right, away from A with a constant velocity. We both release the balls at the same time, just as B starts moving away…”
…moving away shyly as he approached her. He would be the Sun of her life and she would be the Moon of his. No, no, that wouldn’t be quite right. The Moon revolves around the Earth, it does not revolve around the Sun directly, does it? Besides, what if there were a lunar eclipse and the Earth came between the Moon and the Sun? Anyway, they both would walk hand in hand towards the setting sun…
“…Also imagine that both of us are in a featureless space, where I, the man on platform B, cannot tell that I am moving. Therefore I see the ball move towards the wall in a straight line and bounce back to me in the same way, as if I were still. I conclude as before that the journey of the ball took two seconds. And you also conclude the same using your ball. However, you know that something is wrong.” Al nodded at his boss to make sure that he was following, his voice had begun to crack by now. The baritone gave way to a higher pitch.
Sam nodded back, he seemed be concentrating at a point exactly three feet behind Al’s nose.
“You can see that I am moving, and you know what I don’t, that the ball’s trajectory is in fact zig-zagged.” Al drew an upside down V in the air using his index finger “You infer correctly that the distance my ball had covered must be greater than the one yours had – how then did I measure the time taken to cover this greater distance to be the same as yours?”
This seemed to snap Sam out of his reverie, and his mind began assimilating slowly the details of his environment. With some degree of disappointment, he noticed that Cynthia was asleep again, phone receiver in hand. “Well, obviously because your ball travelled faster than mine.”
“Aha!” Al said “But that is where you’re wrong. We assume that the velocity of the ball is constant. Always constant. In that case the only explanation that would make sense is that time slowed down for the moving observer, me, which led me to perceive the same interval of time as you did.”
Sam was looking at his employee in the manner that he usually looked at his penis when he urinated, with a mixture of revulsion and pity.
Al continued, blithely ignorant of the fact that he was being slyly called a dick. “And that is why I was late today. Because I experienced time slower while I was travelling on the bus.”
“I have problems with your assumption that the velocity of the ball is always constant. How can you-.”
“Yeah, well…that’s science. Get used to it.”
“I refuse to accept it.” Sam said, irritated that Cynthia could sleep so soundly in the midst of all this absurdity. “You know, I think I’ll have to fire you. You have wasted a lot of my time, and yours, I might add, without doing any-.”
“It doesn’t stop being true just because you don’t believe in it. Look, you asked for proof of a justifiable paucity of free will, I gave it to you.”
“Give me one good reason. ONE. Good. Reason. Why should I believe that the speed of that flithering ball is always constant?”
At that moment the air around them seemed to pulsate and become alive, and it spoke to them in the voice of His Holiness.
<<BECAUSE I SAID SO>>
“And what do you have to say about free will?” Al asked.
<<UMMM…GOT YOUR CONK!!>>
And the air about them settled, and all was silent.
At this point, the narrator broke down and began having a mild existential crisis – he had been having intermittent bouts of self-doubt throughout the narration, but during these last few lines, it had intensified. He wondered if he was really as horrible a narrator as the annoyingly persistent high-pitched voice in his head constantly told him. He looked over the text again – frequent shifts in tone and character, deus ex machina – he certainly seemed to be a lazy narrator. He looked at the deus ex machina in the final lines again.
Was this really the best way to end the narrative? Couldn’t he do better?
At that moment the voice inside his head began to cough and sputter and gasp for breath, sounding suspiciously like a male pixie being asphyxiated. For few seconds everything was silent, and then it spoke to him in the voice of His Highness.
<<LET IT REMAIN SO. IT REAFFIRMS MY FOLLOWERS’ FAITH IN ME, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT REAFFIRMS MY MASCULINITY>>
In that tiny office the humans went about their lives and above them all, the air-conditioner whirred cheerfully.
All was well with the universe.