This blog is about my writing and my reading: My published books and a novel in progress; a course I am teaching on drama and theater, and the adventures and challenges of sharing literature with students.
Some topics that interest me: parallel worlds; life after death; the human condition; concepts of heaven; Hungary; the human toll of the Cold War; Shakespeare's works; literature and life.
More and more disturbed and confused by what he sees in the Condo
grounds, Jasper goes back to his room and tries the computer to find answers.
He saw the familiar
Futura web page and his mood began to soar. Here were the pop-up ads he used to
hate so much, the offers that promised to enhance his sex life, boost his self-confidence,
and ensure his financial security. He surfed to the chat page. He set up his
profile, making himself as different from his real self as he could. When he
was finished, he was Jason the Astronaut, 19 years old and loved to travel. He
typed in his question: “I want to see the world beyond the Condo. I’d like some
advice on how to achieve this.”
He pressed “Send” and waited.
The first response was not encouraging: “You and me both, buddy. Let me know if
you find out, and I’ll go with you. Medea.”
“Hi, Medea,” he typed.
“I’ll keep you posted.”
The next message was from
Pronto: “I’ve been talking to Roy Kerr. He told me that we got here through a
rotating wormhole, which made it possible for us to stay in one piece, but he
says we had a one-way ticket.”
“Great! Another crackpot.
This one thinks he is a scientist,” Jasper muttered.
“Better watch out, Jason.
This computer picks up sounds too. I beg to differ. Roy Kerr is a reputable
mathematician from New Zealand. He has shown that it is possible to travel from
one universe to another through a rotating wormhole.”
“Are you telling me that
we are in a different universe?” Jasper wrote.
“Certainly. Why else is
it impossible to leave through the barrier? Why else can we not make phone
calls with a regular cell phone? Why did our watches stop? Why is time playing
tricks with us?
A pop-up ad suddenly
interrupted the exchange: “Enjoy the vacation of a lifetime! Book your trip
back to Earth. Guaranteed to take you there and back safely. We use an
exclusive wormhole recently discovered by our team of scientists. Hurry! This
five million dollar offer ends soon.”
Jasper barely finished
reading the ad before another popped up. “I will act as your personal guide
through the barrier. You will benefit from my years of experience as a condo
guard. Swift and painless passage. No side effects. Reasonable rates. If
interested, please respond to ‘Autolycus.’”If we are in a different
universe, Jasper thought, it’s very much like the other. He deleted the ad from
Autolycus, the god of thieves.
He saw another message
from Pronto. “I know the theory sounds crazy, but I assure you I am not
crazy. It would be great if we could get together and talk about our situation.
Come and visit me some time. My apartment is # 31415.
Jasper kind of liked the
guy. “Thanks, I will,” he wrote, and shut down the computer. At least with
Pronto he could pursue a rational argument.
He walked out into the
passage, looking at the numbers of the suites on the same floor. He passed
Daren’s apartment, 3141 and was surprised to see that Pronto’s place was on the
other side of Daren’s: 31415, the next pi
number. The place was designed by an obsessed mathematician, he thought. The
mysteries that refused rational explanation crowded in around him. To protect
himself, he instinctively tried to push them away, and suddenly he was afraid
of the rational explanation too. But before he had time to turn away from the
door of 31415, the door opened.
A little shrunken man with
a jarmulka stood there smiling. In a moment Jasper was inside the apartment,
sitting in a wing chair upholstered in red velvet. For a few minutes all he was
aware of was the man’s smile—a smile that made introductions unnecessary.
Jasper’s arm brushed the velvet surface and he felt something tickling his
elbow. He looked down and saw a hand-crocheted doily bunched up on the arm of
Pronto jumped up and removed
the doily. “You must excuse my decorations. I’m an old sentimentalist.” He held
the fine lace piece in his hand. “This was made by my grandmother back in
Europe. There is another behind your head.”
Jasper turned and saw it
clinging to the velvet pile; it looked like a cobweb with a pattern of flowers
caught in the strands. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
“It used to be called an antimacassar.
It had a very practical purpose. Our grandfathers used a greasy oil called
Macassar to keep their hair smooth. So our grandmothers, ever tactful, created
these lacy works of art and put them on the chairs to protect the furniture
without offending their menfolk. Here, let me take it off.”
“No, leave it there,” he
said. “It belongs on this chair.”
Pronto gave him a grateful
Jasper was conscious of
something he had seen a moment ago, something significant, but he could not
remember what it was. He tried to force his mind to recall some of the things
that were floating in his mind. He grabbed one: Pronto’s bare arm emerging from
the loose sleeve of his housecoat as he removed the doily. Jasper had caught a
glimpse of a number tattooed on the skin. He did not know if he should remark
Pronto saved him the
embarrassment. “You saw my number. When people see it, they usually don’t know
whether to say anything or pretend it isn’t there. Yes, I am a Holocaust
survivor. But you know what’s really strange. Here, look at the number.”
Jasper looked and saw the
numbers 31415. It hit him: “It’s the same as your suite number!”
“And you know what’s even
more strange? You know what this number is? It’s the first five digits of pi!”
“So it is!” Jasper
exclaimed. “My number is 314, and my next door neighbor, Daren, has 3141, the first
four digits of pi.” Someone in this condo
association has a warped sense of humor, to put a mass murderer next to a
holocaust survivor, he added to himself.
“I’ve met Daren,” Pronto said. “Nice guy.”
Jasper thought he ought
to enlighten his new friend. “Do you know who Daren is?”
“Of course. He used to be
what they call in America, a mass murderer.
“You don’t mind living next door to him?”
“He is small potatoes
compared to some of the other criminals of my acquaintance. Like Joseph Mengele
or Adolph Hitler, for instance, or even the Palestinian suicide bombers. He is
in treatment now, and doing quite well, I believe.”
“Treatment?” Jasper said.
“I keep hearing that word. It seems to me there are a lot of people with mental
problems around here.”
“Mental problems?” Pronto
pondered. “I don’t know about mental problems. Our problem is not so
much that we are not rational as that we are trying to be too rational. I think
I’d rather call it a spiritual problem.”
“You mean we don’t accept
this hokum about being in a parallel universe?”
“Oh that? That’s easy to
accept. Sooner or later we all have to accept the fact that we are living a
different existence from our previous life. I take it you are new here, and it
seems hard for you to accept the fact that you are dead. Pardon me for not using
a more polite word. But the really hard thing for most people, including
myself, is to accept the fact that we must live forever, and all the decisions
that involves. That is why so many people opt for hanging around here rather
than go for the treatment and see if they can qualify for heaven. You see, most
people when they get here, have this conventional view of heaven as a rather
boring place where you sing hymns all day. Actually the idea of heaven is much
Pronto went on to expound
a mass of abstruse ideas, but Jasper gagged on one word: DEAD.
This is where my excerpts will
end. If you are interested in the "sequel" to Jasper's life, you
might try to find out what great thinkers before us thought about the nature and purpose of human life,
and how Jasper might find his own answer. Or you could buy the novel and meet
Jasper's old and new friends and even people such as C.S. Lewis, Bernard Shaw, Emanuel
Swedenborg and Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele. The question we are all trying to
answer is whether evil necessary to human existence. Is it an integral part of
our spiritual makeup? Andif it is, how do we deal with it?