Civis and Anne

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This is one page of the Metaphoriuminomicon

Quotes of the Day

In everything we undertake, either on earth or in the sky, we have a choice of two styles, which I call the gray and the green. The distinction between gray and green is not sharp. Only at the extremes of the spectrum can we say without qualification, this is green and that is gray. The difference between green and gray is better explained by examples than by definitions. Factories are gray, gardens are green. Physics is gray, biology is green. Plutonium is gray, horse manure is green. Bureaucracy is gray, pioneer communities are green. Self-reproducing machines are gray, trees and children are green. Human technology is gray, God's technology is green. Clones are gray, clades are green. Army field manuals are gray, poems are green.

Why should we not say simply, gray is bad, green is good, and find a quick path to salvation by embracing green technology and banning everything gray? Because to answer the world's material needs, technology has to be not only beautiful but also cheap. we delude ourselves if we think that the ideology of "Green Is Beautiful" will save us from the necessity of making difficult choices in the future, any more than other ideologies have saved us from difficult choices in the past.

― Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe, p227

Even in an organization that's doing something big and bold, there's the mundane, day-to-day execution work of keeping it going. But people need to stay connected to the boldness, to the vision, and stay plugged in to the main vein of the dream.

― Peter Diamandis

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You are sitting at an office desk with two large stacks of green and blue paper on it. Your Elephant is sitting in a chair beside you at the same desk. Each stack of paper is in a tray, the one on your left is marked 'IN' and the one on your right is marked 'OUT'. Your elephant, using her trunk, grabs the top sheet off the IN stack and places it on the desk in front of you. It is a light blue paper printed with dark blue type. Your elephant picks up a stamp from a green ink pad to your right and stamps the paper with the words, "Life Thriving" and then places the paper on the OUT stack. The next sheet that the elephant takes down is a light green sheet printed with dark green type. Your elephant picks up a stamp from a blue ink pad and stamps this sheet "Life Thriving" also and then places it on the OUT stack.

You know that this is your entire job. Determine the colour of the sheet and stamp it with the other colour. Sheet after sheet. It is pointless but you do it for the money. Well your elephant does it, while your mind wanders. You don't have to think about it so your elephant just keeps the sheets moving while you imagine having a better job.

You look at your IN tray and realize that it does not actually sit on your desk. There is no visible back on it and the sides and bottom curve away and down to the floor. You can see the sides heading across the floor in orthogonal directions but you can not see the bottom because it disappears under a grid of stacks of blue and green papers which stretches out across miles of office space. Your OUT tray is the same. The papers you have marked are so numerous and ponderous that they would overload and sink the largest container ship in the world.

Still your elephant stamps.

You think about the forests which were cut to make this paper and you look at the freshly inked "Life Thriving" on the latest page headed for the OUT tray and you laugh derisively.

"Why do you laugh like that, Little One?" You look up into the eyes of Gaia.

"Look at me Gaia, I am sitting here doing this pointless job." your Elephant points its trunk all around to indicate the stacks of papers, "It is greenwashed to make me think I am helping Life thrive but it just busy work."

Gaia looks puzzled, "For certain the job under-utilizes your skills, but look at that," she points to another freshly inked, "Life Thriving" stamp.

"Gaia, that is just Green Wash." you are exasperated that a Goddess wouldn't see that, but then this is Gaia, not Sophia, "How can adding ink to paper make Life thrive?"

"No, Little One, stop for a moment and really look at this next page!" Gaia's tone makes it clear that she is giving an order. Her undertone makes it clear that she is giving an order to someone who isn't brilliant.

You look down at the next stamp as it lands and see that when the stamp lands, the print starts moving. "Oh, there is metaphorium in the ink!" you say.

"And the paper." Gaia agrees.

"So, it is still a pointless job. You could build a robot which did this without even a computer chip, just a few sensors and relays and a simple robotic arm." You say as your Elephant resumes stamping.

"True enough." Gaia says, "You could automate it. But does that make it pointless?" Gaia wanders away among the stacks of papers and your elephant continues to stamp and you return to your daydreams.

In your daydream you are standing on a street at the edge of a city. A wizard, robed in black, is standing outside the city in the desert facing you squarely. She raises her arms and a vast cloud of black poisonous gas flows forth from her hands to engulf the city. Behind you, you hear cries of fear of innocent citizens.

You flash back to a fictional childhood. You are being mocked by other children because of the pale green glow that emanates from your hands.

Your fantasy returns to the wizard and the city and the poisonous gas and you raise your hands. The pale green glow focuses on the black gas and it disappears where the light from your hands falls on it.

The eyes of the wizard in black go wide with fear. She turns and runs even as the light from your hands erases the last of the black gas.

Cheers erupt behind you. You are lifted by the crowd and paraded through the city. You are the One! You are raised to a great stage where the mayor of the city waits to shower you with accolades.

Then there is a thud, and everything goes silent. A statue of a pregnant woman has appeared on the stage and is approaching you. Her mode of locomotion is unusual. Her arms move via a complex set of cables and gears which slide the small blocks of stone which make up her arm muscles over each other. But in order to step forward, she uses her arms to remove a block from her swollen belly. The block is actually made of many smaller blocks which are attached together by grooves and gears and cables just like her arms. This allows the block to reshape itself into a skinless foot. The statue places the foot on the ground before her and proceeds to pull more self-reshaping blocks from her belly stacking them one upon the other; another foot, two calves, two thighs, et cetera. The infrastructure for a new body takes shape in front of her; muscles and bones but no skin. As she builds another copy of herself in front of her, she becomes a hollow shell of herself, until finally, she uses one arm to detach the other from her old body and attach it to her new body. Then the arm on her new body reaches back and brings forward the other arm and then picks up the armless hollow shell of the old body and pulls it forward against the new body. The tiny blocks that make up the shell slide over the new body, propelled by gears and cables, covering her in her skin again.

Then she reaches into her belly and removes another composite block which reshapes itself into a foot. And the whole sequence repeats. Somehow this process allows her to walk forward toward you at a fast pace, the pace of a human walking. At the same time, it seems to you that every step takes centuries or even millennia. As you watch her, time seems to have multiple meanings.

She arrives beside you and the mayor. The mayor sinks to his knees saying, “Civis, Goddess of Civilization, we beg for mercy." You realize this is not your fantasy anymore.

Civis looks at you with eyes that are circular glowing neon tubes, "Cityzen, you dream of contributing to your city?"

"Yes, Civis," you reply, “I want to be a great hero who defends the city from all that threatens it. "

"It won't be like this." Civis says and raises her arms. The scene dissolves and when it reforms you are standing before the city gate. Your job is to check passes.

A car drives up and the driver shows you his pass. It is a paper with green writing and a blue stamp which reads "Life Thriving". The writing is flowing around the page. You are struck by familiarity. You know that the pass is valid. You signal to another guard in a nearby tower and he turns a crank raising the portcullis. You signal the car through.

A truck arrives. Again, the driver presents her pass. This time the writing is blue, and the stamp is green but it is still familiar. The writing is, again, moving over the surface of the page. Again, you signal the guard in the tower and again the portcullis opens.

This scene repeats over and over, all day. You are replaced by the Night Guard and then return in the morning and the scene repeats again and again, day after day after day, for weeks and years.

One day, you are watching a child in a pretty green dress playing in a park just inside the gate, when you suddenly cry out, "Why am I doomed to such a meaningless job? Why can't I be the One? "

As if in response, Civis appears, striding with her unusual self-reassembling gait from a nondescript doorway in the wall to your position at the main gate.

A truck pulls up to the gate. On its side is written, “Anne's plumbing, we put the Septic in Your System!"

Civis says to you, “Do you want to be the One, the glorious hero, Cityzen, or do you want to save the city? "

The Bacterium driving the pickup truck hands you her pass and you look at it. Name Anne Aerobic, Sepsis Contractor, helps people contract sepsis. This doesn't sound helpful. But the pass is in the standard dark green print on a pale green background with a dark green stamp of "Life Thriving." You are about to wave the truck through. First you turn to Civis and say, "I want to be the glorious hero who saves the city!"

Anne interrupts, “Complainer, at least you have a corporate job. Wish I was part of a body like that. I have to do everything myself, security, digestion, sensing, replication, waste processing, breaking through other organisms security, locomotion, you name it, I have to do it myself."

You turn back to Anne, "Sure, I have cells in my body doing all those things for me, but I am not one of my cells," You have a momentary flash back to a time when you were listening to Gaia's Heartbeat, "I am an independent human being, I have to do everything for myself too. "

Civis laughs, "Citizen, you are a holon, a cell in my body, and my body does so much for you that you take for granted, provide your food, clean your water, produce goods that you need, ensure that your air is kept free of toxic levels of poison, --"

Anne interrupts again, “Really! Can you get this oxygen out of the air? Poisonous that stuff is!"

Civis ignores her and unsheathes a magic sword and swings it at you slicing you in two. Surprisingly this doesn't kill you or even hurt but instead creates two of you standing in the same place. One of you waves the truck through the gate. The other notices that the writing on the pass isn't moving and that the stamp is the same colour as the print and tells Anne that her pass is invalid and that she cannot enter.

No sooner has the truck driven through the gate than the guard on the tower gets sick and collapses. Meanwhile the Anne in the truck which was not allowed to enter protests, "Without my services your city will thrive; you have to let me in!"

The truck which was allowed to drive into the city belches clouds of black smoke from its exhaust system and innocent citizens collapse in droves as the black gas spreads while the you who let her in watches helplessly. Meanwhile the you who refused her entry threatens to call the city guard if Anne who wasn't allowed in doesn't leave.

Inside the city a third you appears, the you from your fantasy with the glowing green hands. This third you, raises her hands and the green glow banishes the gas. Many of the citizens who fell to its influence do not stand up again, including, to your horror, the child in the green dress. The Anne who was allowed in, turns her truck around on squealing wheels and races back out of the city, just as the Anne who wasn't allowed in, turns her truck around reluctantly and leaves.

The you who never let Anne in, glances behind her and sees that all is well in the city and that the child in the pretty green dress is still playing in the park. "I think I would rather save the city than be the glorious hero." you think to yourself.

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