Every 500 years, there is a rummage sale. You might expect that the proceeds of the sale should go to the poor. In Petrarch, that is not how the system works.
This is the world of Saint Peter. He convinced generations of Homo Sapiens in the deity of a carpenter from Nazareth. If you can believe that story, you can believe anything.
In this petri dish of human imagination, stories are the real currency. We trade on belief systems. Money is just a story we tell ourselves. We have believed this story for thousands of years. But money is not real.
Still, we believe in money, so it shapes our reality, our aspirations, our dreams, our habits. We think. Therefore, we are. We create our reality by thinking it into existence.
How can we understand reality? We look through a pinhole and think that we perceive the world. We know so little, yet we stake our lives on the certainty of our beliefs, founded upon the illusion of perception. The images projected by the lenses of our eyes onto two retinas are upside down. Our brain needs to decode these fragments of electrical energy into patterns that we can recognize as reality. We have no idea how that happens, but it does. And here we are, floating on this rock in space, somehow able to perceive our lonely station, and our place in a vast universe, contemplating our existence only long enough to understand that, by the time our fragile biological containers decay back to dust, we barely knew ourselves, let alone the unrecorded experiences of a myriad of living creatures on this incomprehensible planet.
Yet, here we are trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.
Yesterday, I decided to write the novel of my life. It is a tale told by an idiot, strutting across this stage of life, an absurd farce, an unspeakable horror, an indescribable paradise.
They call us user experience designers. It is the height of hubris. We have no idea what we are doing. It’s just marketing.
I decided to write a novel. I have no idea how to write a novel. I have a faint memory of learning about setting, characters, plot, conflict, rising action, climax, and denouement. I learned vocabulary, syntax, and grammar. Then, I met my best friend, married, and raised a daughter, telling her bedtime stories that magically turned into film. We read The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In between our walks to school and my commutes to and from work, we were able to imagine different worlds and characters and stories that became more real to us than our own mundane lives.
We would walk out of those theatres and discover that our daily existence could never compare with our imaginations, so we lived vicariously through the imaginations of others, brought to life through the invisible labour of the huge host of characters that lived behind the curtain, ceaselessly creating new worlds for our constant entertainment.
Why a novel? It’s new. It’s innovative. It is manufactured. It can only ever be a story that I tell myself. My own experience is a moment in time on a planet of creatures who each have a story of their own to tell. I can only tell my own story. And I can barely remember any of it, after more than 50 years of my life have already past. I am just making this up as I go along.
It is said, “Write what you know.” But I don’t know much. I must write of what I don’t know. To write, I must be endlessly curious. So, I explore what it means to be human in the 21st century, living in Abbotsford, a small farming community on the flood plain of the Fraser River, an hour’s drive from Vancouver, Canada.
I am writing in a stream of consciousness, next to a stream of consciousness, in a stream of consciousness.
Maybe I will publish my novel with GitHub. It would be like writing a novel with blockchain. I could even use Blockstack to store my work on something that might have a longer life as digital data than I may have as organic life. The corporation has discovered the secret of immortality by deceiving humans to grant it legal personhood. Thus, to dissolve the corporation would be tantamount to murder.
I heard a click. I stopped typing my novel for a moment to get out of bed, walk down the stairs and open the front door. Lucky is nocturnal. Who knows what he does, but we know that he has chosen our house as his home. We know his name because his owners told us that he had survived on his own for six months, alone on a mountain known for populations of deer, coyotes, bears, and cougars. He is a survivor. He is also entitled. He has come to expect certain comforts. He has worked out ways of communicating with his human slaves to be certain that his basic needs — water, food, and shelter — are met.
I climb back into bed. Lucky jumps up and enjoys a pet just long enough for him to find a spot between Jayne and I on the bed.
Yesterday, I decided the name for my novel: Petrarchy. I also, decided a theme, drawing from something I read about our code of ethics: design is political.
The name is rich with meaning that extends back over two millennia to the son of a fisherman on the Galilean lakeside. Peter had no idea how his mistakes would be immortalized for the world to read. And they call his successors infallible. Peter would fall all over himself to say the stupidest things. His folly is reincarnated through the generations of men who have taken up the mantle of the one true disciple of the Almighty God.
The stories we tell ourselves.