Larry 'Al Einstein1' Zeller
(Einstein wakes. A pleasant dream has interrupted his sleep. Unfortunately, the dream belongs to another. He wishes for the mind connection to end though he can not help but analyze the dark flip side of this fancy.)
'eb ot ton ro eb oT'
Death does not exist but for the moment of our birth. The record of Einstein's June 2, 1905 romp with REM, which at first appears to represent the premonition of death as life flashes before his eye (lids), is instead a fantasy focused solely on life. In Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams each death is a birth which allows life to be fully realized (p102-106).
When considered from this view the dream is nostalgic. A world of discovery seems to await the sleeper. 'His thoughts quickly shift to a time of his youth where trial runs to conclusion. A man dismisses a comrade's death for the life that is about to begin. The woman passes through her life and captures its fondest moments. And yes, even our fruit is gifted with the super-vegetal powers of reverse-peristalsis - never to be eaten, it serves as testament to the strength of perseverance.
Unfortunately, even the rosiest picture of time has its dark side. Lightman has missed his chance to turn this sequence into the nightmare it represents. I am left not with a feeling of warmth when only grace is discussed. Instead, my hackles rise at the exclusion of immorality or vice - human history has lows and highs - and I feel misled by his interpretation. There are no consequences to the actions in this dream. The scientist stands for his laureate without the consideration of the death and strain his ideas have placed upon the world. The Cold-War, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and John Wayne's lung cancer are forgotten out of hand. I worry that the fine fellow at the cemetery is standing before a grave of his own construction and a body bereft of light by his own wicked hands. Our woman's husband poisoned by her gourmet of arsenic because her life is to be filled with false laughter and yards upon yards of miss-stitched yarn. The peach never fulfills its goal of tree and bough.
Today its death and taxes, but for Lightman and his characters every action is inevitable. This depressing melange is filled with potential heartache, as each action never quite meets the expectations that memory and time have heightened and obscured. The scientist recalls fondly a youth 'unknown and unafraid to make mistakes' but forgets that same confused and stunted young man who will be insecure and socially inept. The man 'waits longingly' for a moment in time that when reached may be nothing more than a storm that kept him from playing ball. Were the woman's husband's final words, 'Rosebud'? Perhaps her students pelted her with paper airplanes and improper epithets. Lastly, the peach for its part has forgotten the sting of the hummingbird's sharp beak.
I have made a run on life as much as anyone has. It has been a path shoveled with sorrows and sewed with happiness. I try not to forget the miscues and bull's eyes thrown. While I try to learn from these experiences, I also enjoy the open unpaved road ahead of me. You see, I prefer to allow time to heal my wounds instead of rushing them toward me at light-speed.
1 This nickname denotes my Cyberperformance character, only. It should not be construed nor is it intended as a label proclaiming or promoting any personal knowledge of relativity theory or characterizing me as an old wiry-haired European.
(On another night, surrounded by time's changing essence, Einstein is trapped by his own hand.)
The light at the end of the tunnel is a neon sign. A flickering fitful arrow directing traffic to the end of the line. A procession of souls waiting for their number to be called. Still distracted by the car wreck, tumor or that last buttered-bun double bacon cheeseburger that got them here. God love 'em. They offer the only distraction as one by one they realize that the line is not straight but curves ever so slightly some thousand miles ahead and behind. The shock on their faces rivals a contortionist's dream. They are standing in the arc of a great circle - the Carousel of Time.
Standing amidst these shades of former life there is no redemption. No, 'I am the Light' crap. I can not even find those silly pearly gates that were promised over and over again. Saint Peter must have just been reprocessed like the rest of us. Jesus struggles to regain the feeling in hands and feet.
My number is 6.32E+16. The math wizard in front of me reckons that as 63,231,230,000,000,000. Oh joy! The gossamer telephone line ahead says they are calling 42 right at this very minute. From the rear, 'There's cookies, all you can eat, at the front desk!' Poor kid. Doesn't even realize that there is no front desk. There is no guidance. Nothing but the overwhelming presence of time forcing us to move through the circuit.
De-ja vu is no longer an illusion; it is literal. Each step is the same as the one taken countless times before. A side-ways 8 burns the back of my head in the same place the bullet ripped and ended the living me. I can not believe that I blew my own brains out in a fit of despair only to find myself in drudgery beyond imagination. I hope I laughed the first time through the loop, as I'm sure there is no better irony going. I hope there was a first time. Yikes, if only I had my gun. If only this were Hell. At least it would make sense.
Time is the shepherd but there are no wolves at the gate. I thought perhaps It would not notice one lost soul. Break out. Run. Another circle. The same accounting guy ahead. Same number on my ticket. Warped by It's knowledge of destiny/past - my sprint to the middle. Foreordained, preordained, postordained, who gives a shit. There are no ends in time.
The guy in front looks different, smaller. I smile at the change. A real grin spreads from ear to ear. Something is coming. I can feel it. Oops, de-ja vu cracks me in the skull. No chance is forthcoming only the inevitable next step. We are all shrinking, completing this arc of the band. My trepidation rises. My mind tries to forget but there is no forgetting in this space. As one, the crowd slows down but the feet keep pace, outstripping the body. Neon arrows offer distraction from the coming goal. They blink incessantly. A myriad of blinding colors lights up the stage ahead. I step onto it bathed in light, confused, angry, and hungry. Now I know why babies cry.
Relative Is As Relative Does
(Many sleepless and dream-adventure nights have left Albert open to ambush during a trip to Columbia. Interred by Pablo Escobar he attempts to right himself and assure the validity of his observations by comforting fellow inmate Diana Turbay.)
Diana Turbay - Journalist
Al Einstein - Scientist
Television - great behemoth and standard of the world
Diana and Al in a room. She is huddled on the bed head sunken to her chest. Listening to Al and moving further and further into a fetal position as the conversation ensues. They are being held captive by the Extraditables. (Marquez)
The room is cloaked in half-light. A bare bulb rests a-tilt upon a bygone era's electric candelabra. A constantly running television provides the last of the shifting light and is situated upon a rotating base. The television is currently facing the audience and large enough to discern. The black and white image displays the day's events in fitful bursts. The only furniture is an old king-size bed covered in a child's star mapped sheets. The walls are poorly fitted gray-washed pine and allow only limited space for movement.
This is a split scene. Al and Diana are on the left and Diana's family on the right. The family opens the scene in complete darkness and can not be discerned by the audience.
It is Christmastime and Diana is praying that her letter was delivered and her family is safely together (Marquez p. 116).
Al (Al paces in what little room is left by the bed): Now I tell you this time continuum÷
TV (Explosions highlight the news. People are running from a collapsing building): Boom Boom! Screech Boom!
Al: ÷makes confinement here much safer than anything out there. (He points to the TV)
TV (Switches to an overture of the Colombian National Anthem applied to a guerrilla conflict during house to house fighting. Symbols crash at the end of each statement): Clash!
Diana (Ending her prayer with the sign of the cross. Shakes her head): You are just trying to confuse me÷
Al: No, Not at all. You see time is relative to your speed÷
Al: ÷As a body moves faster, closer to the speed of light, time begins to slow down÷
Al: ÷relative to slower moving objects.
Diana (With a groan): What does this have to do with not seeing my children grow up.
Diana (Shouting): Would you please turn that down!
Al: I donŪt have the remote.
Al: And, anyway at the speed the news is travelling relative to us it should be over soon.
TV: Clash! (The current program changes. A commercial runs for Timex.)
Al (Indicating the TV): You see! (Waving grandiosely in the air): I believe we are agreed that we move slowly in captivity?
Al: And that the television proves the outside world moves at an accelerated pace?
Diana: (Dejectedly) Yes.
Al: Good. Then it's settled! Their speed relative to our own is far greater. Therefore their time is slowed and your children little changed. (Now quite full of himself) Isn't captivity wonderful!
TV: (Ending the commercial): It takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.
Diana (Nearly fetal now): Your science means so little to a mother. I am trapped here while my little ones learn to speak, walk! Without my guidance, love. The past occurs as I wait with you.
Al (Indignant): But, my theory!
Diana (Diana begins to uncurl): Your theory is a false hope. You see I know what time is. It is the movement of a clock, yes. But it is also the movement of the soul. It is true that I grow old here. Even without a mirror I can feel the cracks etched into my face, smell the odor of age in my skin. My eyes cloud over. Yet, I see with the sight of the Prophet.
Al (Uncertainly, looks at Diana for the first time) No, my theory÷
Diana (Sitting on the bed): Is for space travel and fantasy. (She throws off the starry sheets) True time is at the mercy of the unconscious mind. (She stands at the same time as Al sits.)
TV (An announcer): Here we are at the home of Nydia Turbay.
The TV swivels away from the audience and the same TV blue-white light shines down upon the Turbay family. The children are grown to adolescence. The adults aged and crooked. They are wearing black and white clothing and pale make-up. Each is wearing a brightly colored neon watch that stands out - in the blue light - in contrast to the whole.
Diana (Grim, yet triumphant with truth. Points at the family and addresses Al.) Look now upon your theory! Time is of the essence. My babies have out-stripped your time and mine. They stand! Stand before me aged beyond sorrow. Ripped from my breast. Their past parted from mine.
Al (Wrapping the sheet about his shoulders and crawling into the bed. Wailing.) No theory!
Diana (Looking with love at her children): Time flows quicker than the hours sundered from love, though it counts the seconds till our death.
Written In the Sands
(Al's narrow escape from prison came at the expense of Diana's life (Marquez 142). He held her for the last breaths and imagines a pale shadow rimmed in blue -neon?- light soaring from what was once woman. His experiences leave him no choice. Al is off to the desert, the birthplace of humanity and spirituality. He hopes to find an answer; he hopes to find Eden. His strange turns continue as his impressions are colored by Nawal El Saadawi's Egypt.)
The desert stands heavy upon my being. A ripe old man feared by death; he waits for the wayward soles. I am lost amidst this land of soured milk whose rancid honey drips like the puss of a day old wound. The skeletons that pervade my existence chant the same dogged words fearing only their neighbors wandering eyes and self-same traditional mania. A constant throng of solidarity-without-worth passes in this dead land beside the Nile.
I hate this tortured unison. I turn the water wheel as an animal. Each day's rising the same as the last. A buffalo's yoke, my future-past weighs upon my shoulders. Tears stream from my lids and fill the baked grooves of my cheeks. What a haggard and cynical zealot I have become. Oh, what cruelty, to spawn us upon the unfertile sands. Sand good for little but filling the hourglass that marks the time until our end.
Each repetitive phrase held out to God cheapens the one before it. Can God be so deaf that the truth in our hearts remains hidden by the strangled cries for redemption? We remain transfixed by the notion that the louder our faith the holier art thou. Five times a day, every day. The droning of the mass voice is hypnotic but unsavory to my ears. It is a constant reminder of my station and forced captivity within the bounds of this desert. The drone goes on unabated.
I have found divinity in the meaningless dogma of these other inmates, though it is not meant for those who tread without question. The sun no longer basks me in self-pity. Threaded through the staccato of cant one theme is so nearly possible it must be true. Death. Untouched by sand and the lives that it destroys, only He upon the black stallion offers any respite. My soul has been gone for so long that I already walk clutching His bridle.
I am gripped with a fear, not of leaving these bones, but for the uncertainty of donning an angel's wings. Is there Paradise at the headwaters of the Nile? A man ripped apart by the world stands at the brink of a fulsome canyon, shaded in half-light. How sweet are the mulberries in Eden? There are too many questions and only one way to find an answer.
The chair rocks, the beam creaks, the rope tightens. Is that a tunnel ahead? Do I see the warm light of a kindly sun, the odor of pure untouched thought, or the sound of laughter unchecked? My legs kick out; the chair tumbles forward and the knot holds. I embrace the light.
Alas, the truth is upon me, but late. A last tear for the corporeal me. No light! Only blackened void. I cry for the multitude left behind, for those lives wasted by the continuum - by the lies of faith. I gasp not for a final moment's air but for the breath needed to speak, 'Free at last!'
Pennies From Heaven
(Foiled again! And what's worse jaded, Al's spirit is reborn in the southern United States. Feeling outside the Human Experience and quite frankly pissed-off at the world in general and Belief in particular, Al adopts an alias and a foolproof business plan. Godless, yet cash flow-full, his Southland preacher's accent can be heard on cable: Sunday mornings, four-thiry 'til six and every night, eleven-thirty 'til one AM.)
Yeah! And Yeah! Again!
Ask not whether you have sinned. Ask instead how many times and for what purpose.
Carry you a large burden? Are you weighed down by the forces of Evil?
Of course you are!
Then let the Reverend Larry save you from yourself.
That's right! You can be the first sinner on your block to be saved with÷
÷the 'Reverend Larry's Straight to HeavenTM' self-improvement kit!
Let me hear you say, 'Yeah! And Yeah!' again.
I can tell that you are amazed that your salvation is now possible. But, you still question the Lord's indulgence. This is a SIN.
Do not fret. Just order the 'Straight to HeavenTM' kit today. Here's what you'll get:
Now, how much would you be willing to pay for your wings?
$300÷ $200÷ $100÷
÷No! It's just $19.95!
That's right! Just $19.95 for Divine Providence to 'shine a light on you'.
But that's not all!
If you act now you'll receive the Reverend Larry's exclusive preaddressed 'Direct to HeavenTM' airmail envelopes, absolutely free. That's right, this $5.99 value is yours just for ordering and guarantees direct commune with the All Mighty.
So, don't delay. Order your salvation today.
Send cash to:
Reverend Larry Church of Forgone Conclusions
P/O Box 666
Trade Mark copy right of Albert Einstein Inc. All rights reserved.
El Saadawi, Nawal. God Dies by the Nile. Trans. Sherif Hetata. London: Zed Books, 1995.
Lightman, Alan. Einstein's Dreams. New York: Warner Books, 1994.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. News of a Kidnapping. Trans. Edith Grossman. New York: Penguin Group, 1997.
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