Monday, August 12, 2013

Imagination's End

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
 ― Albert Einstein
This comes from the man who set the speed limit of the Universe to that of light in a hypothesis that quantified energy by time and matter conversion. Yet, what Einstein implies in the quote is that knowledge is limited by our imagination, and imagination need not be limited by knowledge. It is currently fact that we cannot go faster than light as we someday wish to shoot ourselves across the galaxy, for we will never get anywhere beyond our nearest star clusters in any reasonable amount of time if we want to share with Mom the pics of our friends from Planet Xiobus-M9. In effect, we are stuck here on the edge of the Milky Way, and forever. However, Einstein’s take on imagination suggests that, though we are bound by universal physics, there still may be ways to manipulate nature into doing our bidding; to get us wherever we want to go, virtually at first, and then physically. Imagination allows us to ‘see’ how a time machine or a warp drive or human hibernation might work, therefore encouraging the studies and the funding which could support the creation of those devices and clinical discoveries. We will never go faster than light; but we may bend space-time with our warp drives or create wormholes that actually get us from planet Earth to the drunken beach parties on planet Xiobus-M9 in no time at all! Simply, we cannot get anywhere without imagining us there.

Could Einstein be wrong?

I bring up imagination because in my WWII novel, the protagonist Gauthier Brendel more or less lives by Einstein’s assessment of imagination’s proportions: infinitely present and infinitely free. Gauthier is a student of the arts, having left his field of Engineering as a gifted student to join a small art school in Paris soon after the Second Armistice is signed – a time when most of his countrymen are struggling to find work or a trade school. Gauthier fully immerses himself in his experimental oil or watercolor paintings and soon can find symbols everywhere in the natural world; symbols that prove that whatever Man creates is indeed just a temporary manipulation of nature. He is a devout Realist this week; perhaps he’ll dabble in Impressionism next week. He is almost embarrassingly idealized in how he sees the world of Man, war or no war; even he questions his own summation at times. All political parties are the same, for example. But, how could Communism truly work without capital ingenuity? And of course France will never become part of the German Empire -- isn’t it obvious? Berliners never look at each other as they pass on the sidewalk. The French could never refrain from looking at each other as they pass on the sidewalk! Gauthier…romanticized by a scene in the park, or a kind remark, or the plumb lower lip of his favorite singer, AndrĂ© Dassary...

The war will not last, and neither will Fascist rule. But how does Gauthier know this?

Gauthier believes the mere existence of physical, natural laws proves that whatever the Nazis do, no matter their call to a thousand year Reich, it cannot succeed, because the moon exists. Yes; the moon. And why not? It was put there by God, as sort of a celestial eye; a telescope. The moon also serves as a constant reminder to Earthlings that He is the Perpetual Witness to everything we do. Certainly, the moon has recorded everything that has ever happened on Earth: the beginning of life and the catastrophes that have ended it; the emergence of Man and all the empires and religions that have exacted the Rule of Law – only to find every exploration of a particular set of interpreted reality has been proven false over and over. The moon and even the roundness of the moon; our satellite is but one of a million references to the truest reality: Physics, Nature, God.

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
― Oscar Wilde

 Often and purposefully, Gauthier uses the moon as a symbol to reality. No matter what is happening on Earth’s surface – no matter by whose hands Germany or France or England are controlled and no matter what humanity asserts is “true” – the moon can serve as a natural common denominator to any of Man's endeavors. Though just the same, the moon can serve as the perfect symbol of a higher truth than any religion conjured by Man, for the face of the moon is infinite as pi. Infinity.

Nevertheless, there is the world war; evidence, though circumstantial in the artist’s mind, is slowly permeating the philosophical boundaries Gauthier has naively laid before his joining the Hitler Youth and before his mother was arrested as a spy. Here is where my writing has slowed.

As I struggle to get this story right, I feel Gauthier’s struggle, too. I feel his fear as he is discerning what his world is coming to as more time goes by and the war carries on, not knowing if his mother is alive, not sure why he is wrapped up in the enemy’s uniform, and why he has fallen in love with a man who is the enemy. No matter if I actually believe in the philosophy that I am writing – and I do not, for I must not -- I do feel the fall of Gauthier’s stomach with his every failing to suppress the terrible and growing assessment that his interpretation of life is less than ideal, his art possibly false, and the moon is less a symbol to some reality and is more just a piece of rock; a mass of orbiting rock that could possibly be conquered by Man one day and made to impose a human reality in spite of the natural laws; a swastika, like a giant spotlight ever-present and synchronized with Earth serving as the eye of the State and not of God. Could the Nazis actually reign for a thousand years, or possibly two hundred thousand years? It's beginning to look this way -- it certainly feels like they --. Are we truly stuck here on the edge of the Milky Way, and forever? Does imagination end with the machination of Man?

 “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

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