Prowling the Sagacities, Perplexed

In the Fourteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 24th, in collaboration with out scouts Astranasus and Mnemochirianne (see last week’s post), I persist in the effort to encompass, tame, and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.

In the good old days, when a knight errant received word of a pestilent dragon, he simply suited up, saddled his horse, rode out, and slew it: a simple linear set of tasks. If our scouts can be relied upon,—and I think they can,—our set is decidedly non-linear. They bring us word of a creature, called the Yottapede, whom we have created and who is engaged upon the jocund task of shaping and thus creating us, on whom we are parasitic, and who is parasitic upon us. The dragon, in other words, is both an independent being operating on us from outside, and a part of ourselves operating from within. Whatever we do to the Yottapede, we do to ourselves. I have suspected right from the start that that might be the case, which is why I speak always of taming the Yottapede and putting it to work, not slaying it.

Or rather, I speak of taming the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and putting it to work. Are the two tamings and puttings to work the same operation? Or are they simply closely related?

I believe that I may have chosen my scouts well. Mnemochirianne, being a centaur, is both horse and human. Horses are a most conspicuous example of a wild creature whom we have tamed and put to work, whom we have adapted, and who has adapted with us. The art of whispering horses, that is, taming them without breaking their spirit, is known. I served notice last week that we need to learn to whisper the Yottapede.

Astranasus, the star-nosed mole, serves as a supreme example of a creature who, on its own, has learned most unusually how to adapt its senses and skills of daily living in order to take advantage of fruitful environments and circumstances beyond the reach of others. Detecting, through the long, slow process of evolution, an environment containing food but where sight, sound, and even smell were of little use, this enterprising creature grew a set of foveated tendrils and learned to do the job by touch. We, wallowing in what I am calling the Charged Ooze, are still trying to find our way using the senses on which we  habitually rely, primarily sight, and intellectual processes related to sight. I make no judgement yet about the senses and their respective intellectual extensions that we will need to navigate the Charged Ooze. I merely suggest they may not be the old accustomed ones.

We may not have as much time as it took the star-nosed mole, because Nature now seems disinclined to wait around while we figure it out. The Yottapede, as it began to form, as we began to form it, all those centuries ago, believed it could conquer Nature. Nature always had ways of fighting back when our notions of conquering went beyond sophisticated forms of symbiosis into brutal violence. “Okay,” says Nature, “if you want to be violent, so can I.” The problem for us is this: Nature may or may not turn out to be more powerful than the Yottapede. Recent evidence, and much history, suggests it is. In any case we know this for sure: Nature does not care about the survival of individuals, nor even of species. If Nature, to ensure her own survival, needs to get rid of us, she will do so. We pride ourselves on our adaptability, but ours is nothing compared to Nature’s. And she doesn’t care how long it takes.

Recently, for reasons entirely exogenous to the Leacock Anniversaries, I have been spending a great deal of time with William Wilfred Campbell, a dead, almost entirely forgotten Canadian poet and writer who as a young man spent two years as a school teacher. His biographer tells us that he “opened the book of knowledge to his youngest pupils and to others almost as old as himself with the frequent interjection, ‘It’s only common sense, only common sense and reason, that’s all.'” (Carl F. Klinck, Wilfred Campbell, p. 25). Ah Wilfred, it’s not only that. It’s not even primarily that. Stephen Leacock teaches us it’s a creative blend of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour. There’s one big problem with common sense: it’s common. We are an uncommon species in an unprecedented pickle. We are going to need uncommon sense.

We are going to need uncommon sense just to survive, let along tame the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. And it we can’t tame it, at least to some workaday extent, what’s the point of survival?

Next week I will ask Mnemochirianne to give us some pointers on whispering the Yottapede. Or I will ask Astranasus to teach us to use our senses uncommonly. Or I will keep wandering around in a receptive frame of mind as I have since the week of March 28th until something useful happens.

Maybe I can find out something about whispering the Yottapede by re-exploring the ideas of Stephen Leacock on Education. Has Education been taken over by the Yottapede? Perhaps it has. Maybe we should find out, or at least what kind of Education might help to tame it.

Posted by Paul Conway

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Sagacities, Real or Unreal, Flowing with Charged Ooze

In the Thirteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 17th, I append the most recent scouting report from the effort to encircle, tame, and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.

I recently walked around downtown Toronto, one of the Sagacities. I noticed quite a lot, but in particular, I noticed a tremendous flow of traffic on the arterial streets,—and when I say tremendous I mean tremendous, as others will no doubt attest,—almost all of it vehicular. When I looked or walked along the side streets, however, I saw almost none, and much of what there was was pedestrian. If we postulate, therefore, the existence of the Charged Ooze, then we may at least hypothesize,—perhaps conclude,—that the arterial streets and roads are rife with the stuff, and that the state of the side streets remains uncertain.

Since I have characterized some streets as arterial, thereby introducing a blood-flow metaphor into the mix, I have to ask: are they in fact arterial, or are they venous? In other words, when traffic flows from homes to places of work or commerce, is it flowing back to or out from the heart? The same question arises when it flows back the other way. And is the Charged Ooze (remember, that is the short name I am giving to the Charged Global Membrane of B.W. Powe, which I call the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain; B.W. and I are entirely agreed about the Charge, although we vary in our concepts of what is charged),—is the Charged Ooze a vital fluid internal to the organism, or the external environment in which it lives and breathes, as air is to us, and water to a fish. And is it natural, or does the organism create it?

I have named the organism the Yottapede, intending to suggest a long narrow creature with a great many feet. I think you will agree that a city street is just such a creature, especially if we are allowed (and I do allow it) to count wheels as feet. I have two scouts out there studying the Yottapede: Astranasus, a star-nosed mole able to burrow through the Charged Ooze and sense its properties through his foveated tendrils, and a feminequine centaur named Mnemochiranne equipped with all the sensory tools of both a human and a horse along with the two-handed reasoning power of the former and the motive power of the latter. While I took a break last week they have been busy. They dropped in this morning before going back to their field work, to report some preliminary findings.

They have discovered, first of all, that the Yottapede is a complex creature, being both an organism in its own right, and the product or effect of the other organisms that compose it.  In somewhat over-simplified terms these can be thought of as human beings, their servants, and their tools. As Marshall McLuhan is said to have said, first we shape our tools, then our tools shape us. We are both creators and the creatures of our creations, including the Yottapede itself; we all flow together through the Charged Ooze.

Whether the Yottapede is the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, or contains it, remains to be discovered.

The Yottapede is a parasite, depending on us and our tools for its existence. We are the host of this parasite. In the same way we are parasites of the Yottapede, depending on it for our existence, or at least for the only existence we can collectively imagine in our present circumstances. The Yottapede is therefore both parasite and host, and so are we. We are mutually parasitic, and mutually hospitable. Not only that, but we (with our tools) and the Yottapede are also mutually parasitic with the Charged Ooze which may also have the same symbiotic creator-creation relationship with both of us. When you take all this into account, you will begin to see that what we have before us is a considerable Unsolved Riddle.

Now one of the basic principles of parasitology says that a parasite that kills its host is inefficient at best, possibly suicidal. Or, at the very least, if it is going to kill its host, it had better know how to find or create a replacement. The emerald ash borer as a species is entirely dependent on finding another ash tree within striking distance. Before we jump to the assumption, therefore, that we can solve the Unsolved Riddle by killing the Yottapede in all its parasite-host complexity, we had better know how we are going to replace it.

In other words, the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice may look something like this, in its present form: This pervasive creature whom we have shaped and who shapes us, may be both necessary to the achievement of Social Justice, and the greatest, indeed decisive impediment to it. If that is inescapably the case, then taming the creature and putting it to work for that purpose is going to require something much more creative than a straight-forward tinkering with machinery. If we can’t break the Yottapede, and it appears we cannot without breaking ourselves, then we will have to whisper it. And we may have to take into account that it may have a mind of its own, and is whispering us all along the way in its own interest, which is also ours. Not to mention the possibility that it may use more brutal methods.

This much flows from the first reports of our scouts. I’ll check in with them again next week.

Posted by Paul Conway.

Delving Into the Sagacities

In the Eleventh Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 3rd, I turn the Saga of the Dark Tower into something else.

In our array of three blogs, this one now calls itself the Stalking Blog. It used to be called the Dark Tower Blog, but since we have now arrived at the Dark Tower and have discovered it to be something quite different from your conventional notion of a Dark Tower, even perhaps from Robert Browning’s (“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” as blown upon a Slug-Horn), the time seems propitious to re-name it. Further, because we are now entering the second quarter of the Leacock Anniversaries (each quarter being ten weeks long) the time seems equally propitious to re-constitute the entire Saga. So here goes.

Stephen Leacock’s ghost, called Olde Stephen, and I have been walking through the wilderness of this world, trying to find the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, thought to reside in, or be, a Dark Tower. The exigencies of this quest made it expedient for us to assume the aspect of star-nosed moles. The explanation is now irrelevant, and I don’t recommend that you hunt for it.

We have now ascertained that the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice lives in, or is, not a Dark Tower, but a Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain, for brevity called a Charged Ooze, or Chooze, the idea owing much to the recent writings of B.W. Powe (The Charge in the Global Membrane), whose ideas owe much to the teachings and writings of Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, along with a whole raft of other people. In other words, the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice is not, or does not live in, a place out there, but a place in here. We have seen the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and it is us, or at least a hefty part of us. Since we are now for the most part inhabitants of cities, or otherwise dependent on them, and since I am taking a narrative approach to exploration, by means of metaphorical, even poetical, reasoning, I am going to call that place “the Sagacities”.

Incidentally, if Stephen Leacock had called his book Sunshine Sketches of Little Towns, people might have paid attention when he told them it was seventy or eighty real towns. As it was, some people got the idea that it was only one,—Orillia, Ontario,—thus unleashing such waves of misinterpretation as to constitute a major literary scandal. I don’t want to provoke another. Therefore, “the Sagacities” it is, or rather, they are.

So, setting the scene, we have the Sagacities, their dire streets running with Chooze. Just how dire they are remains to be seen. If we were to use Evidence and Reason to make the assessment, we might conclude they are pretty dire. If we use a Leacockian tissage of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour, perhaps not so much. We shall see. In the meantime, it will assist our endeavours if we transpose from another saga, the Wednesday one, a creature sighted there, who might also be, or house, the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, who is called the Yottapede, on account of the number of its feet. I will also transpose Mnemochiron, the feminequine centaur from that saga, because she has proved she can move around in and explore the interior of the Yottapede without being sucked in. I will allow her to so circulate without the burden of her Uneasy Rider, who will remain uneasy but not ride her any more. I am also going to release Olde Stephen from his molecular confinement in order to preserve him from possible molestation by the Yottapede. I will keep one star-nosed mole, however, for its capacities (a) to burrow through the Chooze and sense what is going on there, and (b) to blow slug-horn-wise through the foveated tendrils of its star.

Furthermore, I am going to place above the Sagacities a floating island, similar to Jonathan Swift’s Laputa. That will be Mariposa, labyrinth and all, with walkers, as in the Tuesday saga. Around the outer edge of this island, I am going to cut a walking trail (a hobby of mine), placed for simultaneous observation of what is happening both on the floating island itself, and below in the Sagacities.

To summarize, therefore, during the second quarter of the Leacock Anniversaries this year we will have:

In the Monday Blog the Stalking Saga, in which mole and centaur stalk the Yottapede both inside and out through the dire streets of the Sagacities, burrowing and prancing through the Chooze, taking careful observations leading to a full understanding, enabling the capture and putting to work of the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice;

In the Tuesday Blog the Walking Saga, unfolding on the floating island of Mariposa, wherein the Labyrinth Walkers will continue their pilgrimage in proper Cretan order, taking their own time in their own way for the same purpose.

In the Wednesday Blog the Talking Saga, in which Olde Stephen, you, and I will stroll around the perimeter of Mariposa, closely watching both stalkers and walkers, learning what we can from their adventures, building our own interpretation, and conversing about it.

In order to clear our minds for the rigours of this multifarious enterprise, I declare a week of silence for meditation. The Stalking Saga will resume on Monday, June 17th.

On behalf of myself and all members of the cast I thank you for reading and bearing with us so far. I sincerely hope that the enterprise will become more intelligible from now on.

Posted by Paul W Conway

The Riddle of the Chooze Revealed

In the Tenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, May 27th, one-quarter of the way along, I continue the Saga of the Dark Tower. I first remind you, since the terminology is a little obscure, that the “Chooze” is the name I have chosen for the Charged Ooze in which we are burrowing,—we being Olde Stephen who is Stephen Leacock’s ghost and I in our assumed aspect of star-nosed moles,—the long, proper name being the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain. I will also remind you that as we burrow we blow upon the Slug-Horn, in order to clarify and lower the viscosity of the Chooze. Fortunately it turns out that the mole’s star with its foveated tendrils makes a very good slug-horn indeed.

In last week’s episode I may have given the impression that we could see all the activity surrounding us as we burrowed our way through the Chooze. This of course is false, because star-nosed moles do not see very well at all. They sense things through their stars. We could hear it, however, because until I learn otherwise I am going to assume that star-nosed moles can hear at least well enough to detect a nearby predator at least some of the time, because I can’t imagine the star being a safe device to rely on for that purpose. If it turns out that they can’t hear very well either, then I will either have to adjust the narrative, or take refuge in the notion that the ghost of a dead humourist and a living scribe who have assumed the aspect of star-nosed moles for metaphorical purposes can hear as well as the metaphor needs them to hear, that is, sufficient to detect what is going on around them. If it needs them to see, then they will be able to do that too, although I have an idea that will obviate the necessity,  should it occur.

Be that as it may, we were able to detect it all just as I described it last week. What I did not then describe was the sound. I am going to borrow another idea from B.W. Powe, who in his book Outage called it a “roar”, a “cacophony” that is a “polyphony, the song of all things joining”, that is also the sound of all things fragmenting, as Powe describes in one chilling paragraph on page 256 that is too long to quote here. Amazing, powerful stuff. And as we listened to the roar Olde Stephen and I both at the same time turned to each other, linked our foveated tendrils, and blew upon our combined slug-horns a mighty blast of recognition, a roar announcing to the roar that it is not alone in the wilderness of this world:

The roar that is the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice — I hear TWUROSJ singing, the varied carols I hear;

The roar that is the sound and the smell of everything good in the human enterprise, and everything evil, and everything morally indifferent, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Where-We-Are, for better and worse and muddling along, for richer and poorer and getting by, in sickness and in health and in okay for the time being, in all possible variations of life;

The roar that is the song of all things joining and of all things fragmenting, of all things complete and incomplete, of all things conclusive and inconclusive;

The roar that is Pandemonium and Pantheon and Pandemic and Pan and Pantaloon and Frying Pan and Fire.

The Dark Tower is not a structure, but a sound and a smell and a feeling as of warmth and cold, of damp and dry, an acoustic-olfactory-sensory aura, an emanation, a diffusion, a dispersion, a radiation, emitting its energy not in straight lines, but enveloping, swirling, penetrating.

We are in the midst of the Dark Tower, and have been ever since we entered the Chooze. The Chooze and the Dark Tower are one. We are the Choozen People.

We have arrived.

Now what?

 

 

The Chooze is the Booze of the News

In the Ninth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, May 20th, I continue the Saga of the Dark Tower.

You should now be aware, unless you are encountering this blog for the first time, that Olde Stephen, who is Stephen Leacock’s ghost, and I, having both assumed the aspect of star-nosed moles, are burrowing our way through the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain towards the Dark Tower, whatever it may turn out to be. As we burrow we play regularly upon the Slug-Horn, in order to keep it from becoming plugged.

I cannot go on calling our environment the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain, although that is the best description I have been able to find so far. I could call it the Charged Ooze, because that is what it was like, but I would like to find something punchier than that. From now on I am going to call it the Chooze. I will recharge your mem-brain from time to time with a reminder of its long name, each component of which captures an important property as we try to understand what it is and its effect upon us.

Since I believe it is important for you to understand just how Olde Stephen and I are finding our way through this substance, I offer the following quote from the Wikipedia article on Star-Nosed Moles:

The star nose is a highly specialized sensory-motor organ shaped by 22 fleshy finger-like appendages, or tendrils, that ring their nostrils and are in constant motion as the mole explores its environment. The star itself is a centimeter across and thus has a diameter slightly smaller than a typical human fingertip. Nevertheless, it is much larger than the nose of other mole species, covering 0.92 cm2 (0.14 in2) per touch compared to 0.11 cm2 (0.02 in2) covered by the noses of other mole species. This structure is divided into a high resolution central fovea region (the central 11th pair of rays) and less sensitive peripheral areas. In this way the star works as a “tactile eye” where the peripheral rays (1–10 on each side) study the surroundings with erratic saccade-like movements and direct the 11th ray to objects of interest, just like the primate’s foveating eye. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star-nosed_mole]

As we learned to use the wonderful sensory organ that came with our assumed aspect, directing our eleventh rays to objects of interest with gradually increasing acuity, we became aware that we had plenty of company. All around us myriad creatures were burrowing or groping their way through the Chooze towards their myriad destinations, including some who wanted to find the Dark Tower of the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice just as we did. We felt instinctively drawn to them, largely indifferent to the destinations of many, repelled by those of a few. It was difficult to pay attention to them all, such was their number and diversity.

We soon became aware of some, however, whose methods of chooze-navigation were aggressive, erratic, even hysterical. They would race towards any glimmer that looked like an opening, dash into it at high speed, and race towards the next one. Or, they would clutch blobs and fling them around in a frantic effort to clear their way. It was impossible not to notice them. They made themselves conspicuous by their rush and anxiety. Only by sensing carefully with our foveated tendrils could we detect the Great Preponderance of our fellow choozers who simply made their way as best they could through the stuff as it presented itself to them, sanely, sensibly, to all appearances content to take it as it came.

The most hysterical of all were those who had taken upon themselves the task of interpreting the chooze to the rest of us. Olde Stephen and I, also charged to interpret, played upon the Slug-Horn as we burrowed. Under its vibrations the chooze thinned about us, enabling us to sense more clearly and move about more easily. These other poor souls,  however, in their hysterical grasping at particular blobs that caught their immediate attention, only thickened the chooze around them, clogging their sensory organs and making their way more difficult. The worst were getting nowhere at all, but simply oscillated in their own little pool of congealment, oblivious to their predicament.

In the physical world there is a thing called Brownian Motion. As a method of forward progress it is not recommended. Olde Stephen and I had committed ourselves to Browningian Motion, a literary, poetical, artistic alternative, not intrinsically more difficult, but requiring a different kind of resolution. Would it take us to the Dark Tower of the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice? We thought it might. We believed we would soon find out.

Onward Moles in Aspect!

In the Eighth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries, on Tuesday (May 14th) instead of Monday for reasons too complicated to recount, I continue the Saga of the Dark Tower.

Before I write a new posting I always read what I wrote the previous time, in order that this blog, as it creeps in its petty pace from week to week, maintains at least some semblance of continuity. I note therefore that last week I told you that Olde Stephen and I have become, for present purposes, moles in aspect, star-nosed moles to be specific. We assume this form in order to make our way through the layered viscosities that surround the Dark Tower wherein lurks (or that is itself) the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. These layered viscosities I have called the Charged Perceptual Medium, while B.W. Powe has called them the Charged Global Membrane.  These alternatives are both aimed in the same direction: to name something that is by its nature pervasive and obvious but extremely difficult to describe. B.W. and I are entirely agreed on the idea that it is “charged” including, as he insists in his recent book, all puns on the verbs “to charge” and “to be charged”. We are charged to charge the Charged Global Membrane (or Perceptual Medium) and not to count the charge.

I have suggested also that the Membrane may also be thought of as a Mem-Brain, that is, a phenomenon not only “out there”, but “in here”, and having something to do with memory, but whether that involves something remembered, or something that should not be forgotten, or perhaps both, remains to be discovered.

B.W.’s book, by the way, is called The Charge in the Global Membrane and is newly published by NeoPoeisis Press. I attended its launch in Markham, Ontario, last Saturday, and a fine evocative event that was to be sure. I drove 287.5 kilometres to be there, and 287.5 kilometres back again, and the experience was worth every one of them. I am now reading the book. I trust that its effects will be discernible in the wonderful adventure that is about to unfold of Olde Stephen and I, aspected as star-nosed moles, as we make our way through the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain towards the Dark Tower, dauntlessly blowing the Slug-Horn as we progress, in order to keep its pipes open. This sounds very like what a star-nosed mole would sound like if it were singing through its nose while burrowing.

The immediate effect of this slug-horning, we were delighted to discover, was that we were able to make our way forward quite easily through the layered viscosities, the challenge being to avoid transforming ourselves from moles in aspect to something more resembling snails in aspic. We paused for a moment in our burrowing to draw the lesson from this finding, which I pass on to you for what it is worth.

“We know that the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain is vast,” we told ourselves, “and impossible to encompass. We are not charged, however, to encompass it all, but only the part in which we are burrowing. The rest we can leave to its own devices. Daunting it may be, but dauntless we can be. By blowing the slug-horn as we go we can lower the viscosity of its layers and proceed in our search for the Dark Tower without undue hindrance. We don’t know where it is, but trust that our finely-tuned senses will lead us there. We constantly tune them to the slug-horn just to be sure.”

Vastly comforted, and fully charged, we burrowed on.

 

Membrane and Medium: Are They the Message?

The Dark Tower escapade dives deep in the Seventh Week on Monday, May 6th.

We were left last week with the question whether the Charged Global Membrane now being explored by B.W. Powe is a true membrane or a mem-brain, one being “any pliable sheet-like structure acting as a boundary, lining, or partition in an organism”, the other a construct of intellect, memory, and imagination. Perhaps the Charged Global Membrane is both.

Experience is not what you thought, it is what you can remember. All other Experience defeats itself. I am paraphrasing Sellar and Yeatman. Of course, the word “remember” may have to be carefully understood with all possibilities in mind. I am about to recount an Experience, the marvellous adventure of Olde Stephen and myself, what happened after we charged the plant, which turned out not to be the Global Membrane itself, but simply a gateway into it. “CHARGE ME” it said, and charge it we did, with memorable results.

We immediately found ourselves burrowing in a membranous medium, if I may thus describe both our method of propulsion and the environment through which we were propelling ourselves. The latter wasn’t exactly granular, like earth, and it wasn’t exactly liquid, and it wasn’t exactly gaseous, but rather some mixture of all three. Imagine a surrounding of layered viscosities, and you will be close. We weren’t exactly walking, and we weren’t exactly swimming. We certainly weren’t flying. We quickly found that the secret of propulsion was to assume the aspect of star-nosed moles, those intriguing blind burrower-swimmers with the powerful clawed front flippers and nose-surrounding sensors that function like sight. We needed them, because the medium was as foggy as the air had been, if not more so. When I say we assumed the aspect of star-nosed moles, I mean exactly what I say, no more, and no less.

We could detect right away that this medium was fraught with charged membranes, and we were charged both to make our way through it (to the Dark Tower, we hoped, otherwise to wherever it took us), to understand both it and the nature of its charge, and to communicate our findings to the outside world. We instinctively knew that however mole-like in aspect we may have become, we had a considerably higher purpose than your average mole, whose charge is limited only to the finding of food, the avoidance of enemies, the location of mates, and the care of young if any. Olde Stephen, of course, had put all those behind him by the simple act of dying, whilst I, not there yet, was reasonably confident that I would be able to cope with whatever came along. We thus both met the minimum requirements for our membranous, mem-brainy mission. Whether we were up to the rest of it remains to be seen.

I want to emphasize how difficult and unusual was the charge laid upon us. Imagine a fish whose life is dedicated not only to swimming through water, but to explaining to the outside world, which knows water only as something that makes you wet, what water is to a creature for whom it is the vital medium. Water does not make a fish wet, except in our terms. Water, to a fish, literally makes life liveable. I am not by any means sure yet how this analogy translates to twenty-first century humanity making its way perceptually through the surrounding medium, or how that is affected by the Charged Global Membrane. If a fish in its vital medium runs into a membrane, which they often do, the result, with one type, is to be hauled out of the medium as the first of a series of stages ending up on people’s plates. Is that how the Charged Global Membrane works on us?

The medium,—may I call it the Charged Perceptual Medium?,—in which Olde Stephen and I found ourselves burrowing was in fact riddled with charged membranes, like a lake set with myriad different nets, and the question would be whether we would be able to burrow through it without getting caught. And yet we were charged to understand and communicate not only the medium itself, which is easy enough and often done from a variety of perspectives, but the nature of the networks and the various kinds of entrapment they threaten. Or perhaps they do not threaten entrapment at all, but rather hold the promise of freedom, or even the actuality. Or what happens if they do both? Would not that then make the Charged Global Membrane, or network of charged membranes spanning the perceptual globe, simply the Mother of All Unsolved Riddles? If what frees us perceptually also entraps us then our medium indeed puts us in a pretty pickle!

“Olde Stephen,” I asked as we began the experience of burrowing in the experience of the Membranous Medium, “was that what you meant when you said that Socialism, as understood in 1919, was a good idea but wouldn’t work? Did you mean that its way of thinking was liberation but its way of acting entrapment? Liberation from selfish individualism into collective altruism, at the same time entrapment under authoritarian brutality?”

“I think I was pretty explicit about that.”

“And could something similar also be said of its polar antagonist, Capitalism, being liberation from pervasive conformity into individual choice, at the same time entrapment under capitalistic greed?”

“I hope I was clear enough about that too.”

“Does every Utopia make inevitable its own Dystopia?

“I seem to recall that I did think so.”

“Then perhaps we have uncovered the real Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. Perhaps the riddle of which you wrote is merely one facet. If so, would that mean we have already found the Dark Tower?”

“No. What you suggest is not the real Unsolved Riddle, only the root one. The real one lies in the cast of mind of people who think they know the answer, whoever they are, on whichever side. I think we will find them in multitudes housed in the Dark Tower.”

“Or maybe they are the voices on the hillsides, chortling their cacophony.”

“Or maybe both.”

“Onward, then, Slug-Horn at the ready, through the Charged Perceptual Medium riven with infusions of Charged Global Membrane. By the way, how do we keep the medium from plugging the Slug-Horn?”

“By constantly dauntlessly blowing it, I suppose.”

“Thus adding to the cacophony.”

“A risk that must be taken.”