Monday, May 16, 2011

The Confessional - Part II

Confucius 1, 2463.

Dear Holy Father,

I bring you the choicest greetings of the season, as we celebrate the holy month of Confucius, which allows us to introspect and rediscover our inner selves every year. Just like the great Chinese philosopher encouraged people to do. I started writing to you in the month of Zoroaster, which too has a great spiritual significance for us. You might be intrigued by the strange choice of names for the months we have. In our century.

In the twenty-first century, mankind had almost invented the things it needed, to become an ideal civilization. However, we had very little regard for the environment, and in the process, we did certain things which raised the temperature of the earth by several degrees and the entire global climate was severely impacted. The four seasons ceased to exist, and there was complete chaos on the planet. It took us almost a hundred years to figure out that we had done irreparable damage to the planet; our only solution was artificial weather generation and control. Today, we can create any weather we wish to, anywhere in the world. But, we have reverted back to the old four seasons that you are so used to. And since we had to start over, we renamed all our months. This time, after the greatest thinkers and innovators that human civilization has ever seen. So, we begin our years in  the month of Aristotle and end them in the month of Galileo. Named after the same Galileo of Galilee, who was so ruthlessly persecuted by your church.

Holy father, I consider myself a student of nature. About two years ago, I was selected to work at the Terran academy of sciences, which chooses the sharpest minds in science and technology on the planet, to do research. My interest was in photons. You perhaps know that matter can be broken down into atoms, as Democritus had so famously proposed, five centuries before the birth of our lord. Just like that, light can be broken down into photons. In the last few centuries, we have played great games with photons -- to the extent, that today, we can create images called holograms. Of people and things, that walk and talk around us, like real creatures. However, no one was able to impart the characteristics of matter to light. The hologram of a man could talk to you like a real man, but if you tried to shake hands with it, the hand would go right through yours. As if, you were trying to touch a phantom.

This had bothered me for a long time. And while I was a student at the academy, I came up with a solution to the problem, that could now provide the characteristics of matter to light. Now, you couldn't tell the difference between a hologram and a real object, except that imparting mass to light required large amounts of energy, which some people were willing to spend. To get more realistic holograms -- perhaps, those of relatives long gone, or things that they valued too much to let go of. My invention was hailed as a path-breaking one, and I was honored by every known institution working with science. Around the same time, as I went through the complicated mathematics of photon-mass, I accidentally found that it was possible to transport photons through a window in time, which meant that you could now look at events that occurred in the past. Just like they occurred in reality. This was more revolutionary than my other discovery, and so, I submitted a paper to the Terran academy. And suddenly, all hell broke loose.

It seems that as a civilization, we like our history to be the way it was written into the books we read. Heroes have to be heroes, and villains must be villains.  Looking at things as they really happened, has grave consequences. And my discovery was ridiculed as a figment of imagination. Charges of academic dishonesty were brought against me, for no fault of my own. And, I was banished to the space station above India, to use my knowledge of photons, to decorate its drab interior with holograms. Holy father, I am now entrusted with recreating the garden of Eden inside a monster made of glass and steel. Using particles of light, that I can use for so much more.

Within a few months of my banishment, I had actually adjusted very well to my new position. I had altered the interior of our space station, to give it a character. Our kitchen area, known as the cafeteria, now looks like a beautiful forest in Africa, with the lions and zebras roaming around us. These images, are still like phantoms however, since imparting mass to them would consume excessive amounts of energy, way beyond what we can ever produce in our space station. There was however, one little exception. Since pets were not allowed, and I was getting very lonely, I decided to create a small puppy for myself, with all the characteristics of a lovable pet. Woof-woof, as I named him, soon became very popular amongst our crew, and I decided to spend a little energy, to impart it some mass, with the warm and fluffy characteristics of a real puppy. And our crew loved it.

Last month, however, a rather undesirable change occurred. We now have a new captain, a gentleman called Swamy, who has a rather chequered past. Swamy is a very strange person, and the more I see of him, the more I realize that perhaps, he would have made a good candidate for the Spanish inquisition, to burn at the stake. There is a rumor that Swamy had recently ordered a scientific craft to land on an asteroid because he suspected that there might be gold on that unstable rock. By the decision of the interplanetary council, we had decided to destroy all the gold in our solar system in the last century, since it was considered the source of all evil. But Swamy, apparently, belongs to a secret society, which is hoarding gold for a reason unknown to the rest of us. That asteroid landing, ended in a disaster, and several lives were lost. I hold Swamy personally responsible for that accident, and I think that he is a person, who would not think twice, before committing murder, if there was something in it for him.

Recently, Swamy has taken a liking to performing a strange act, and the rest of our crew hates him for it. Whenever, he walks into our cafeteria, if he chances upon woof-woof, he likes to kick the poor pup with all his strength. As if, woof-woof was a football of some sort. Since I have added the sense of touch to woof-woof, the poor pup, however photonic he might be, flies off in the the air with a yelp, every time Swamy kicks him. And Swamy always derives extra pleasure out of the act by raising his hands innocently and saying, "C'mon, it's only an image that I kicked, isn't it?".

Yesterday, when I couldn't take it any more, I made a small adjustment to woof-woof's subroutines. If an object was about to hit him with a certain speed, woof-woof's material characteristics would suddenly change from that of warm fluffy wool, to that of tempered steel. Just for a few seconds. And as usual, when Swamy walked in, he gave the poor pup a kick. And then, two strange things happened. The lights in the entire space-station suddenly dimmed as a large amount of energy was drawn, to impart woof-woof, the characteristics of steel. And Swamy, having hit a puppy made of steel, was soon rolling on the floor, writhing in pain. He had two broken toes, and a broken ankle. Thanks to our medicine men, he was fixed in a few hours. Although I tried to explain to him, that this had something to do with the power glitch, he rightly believes that I was somehow behind this strange occurrence. And, I have a very bad feeling about what this holds in the near future for me.

Forgive me holy father, for I have sinned. I have caused pain to a fellow human being for causing "hurt" to an image. And, I somehow feel that I was justified in my act, which makes me a bad human being. I am quite afraid when I realize that I actually enjoyed this entire act, of Swamy hurting himself, badly. Perhaps, it is drawing out the devil, resident in me, in a strange way that I don't quite comprehend.

Your servant in God
Deshprem Babu

-----To be continued----

(Part III)

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