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0 In the new millennium, society became a hodgepodge of mechanistic devices – anywhere from mechanical dogs with artificial shit to computerized toilets with seventy different movie channels. The top software vendor for these mechanized wonders was Software Haven, home to their top developer, Melvin Twinkletoes. For years he observed the inadequacies of a mechanized world and would have, had he had his way, shoved the works of Henry David Thoreau down the throats of all software creators in the interest of having each one memorize and recite each and every line. He remembered the words used in Durrenmatt’s play The Physicists: Our knowledge has become a frightening burden. Our researches are perilous, and I have taken it back. Melvin came across a character called Zarathustra Version 1.0 in the Persian scripture collection called The Zend Avesta. Modern scholars thought that the Persian scripture was about a battle between the forces of light and darkness, with each contestant on equal terms with the other, but Melvin felt the original religious movement was monotheistic and that the god of darkness in fact played a lesser role in the cosmic drama; but as religion evolved, the god of darkness was given equal footing with the more truly rooted god. Then when Melvin read Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Neitzsche, the ideas of will, superman, and eternal recurrence stuck in his mind as the highpoints of Zarathustra version 2.0’s message and communicated to him a sense of his mission: I must unravel the mechanistic maze society has trapped itself in, he thought. In retreat from the world for a short period of time, living on meditation, candy bars and soda pop, Melvin changed his name to Zarathustra Version 3.0. Then, with the sound of Wagner filling his head like a soft maelstrom, he left his home, nevermore to return. Melvin Twinkletoes had vanished from the face of the earth. Unlike most modern day philosophers, who came from Asia or Tibet, Zarathustra Version 3.0 set sail for the Andes of South America, because it was less congested, hoping to hail from there. He planned to create a new plan for mankind to solve the world’s problems, such as how to eat pickles pigs feet or
dance the tango. Meanwhile, Software Haven was in a state of panic, because nobody could flush the company, high tech toilets. The vice president sent his top aide, Henry Swicklewortz, to find Melvin and offer him a big raise if he would come back. This seemed to be a universally agreed upon solution to all business world problems. But Henry was unsuccessful. “All he left, all I could find,” said Henry to the VP, “were a ticket receipt for South America and a slip of paper, actually a slip of our company’s stationery, which said Zarathustra shall rise again.” “Failure!” screeched the VP. “I’m disappointed with you! With you and in Melvin Twinkletoes!” “Actually,” replied Henry, a little tentatively, “I’m not so unhappy with Melvin. I may even be pleased. I think he’s crossed the fine line between genius and insanity. I think he’s on the other side now. The lovely other side.” “Jeez, Swicklewortz, you ought to be his press agent. Yes! Go find him and be his public mouthpiece! Think of all the free advertising our company will get! We’ll make him a blinking legend and ride the whirlwind to the gravy train.” Zarathustra’s Prologue Zarathustra Version 3.0 had now reached the ripe old age of thirty and was not through drifting in the solitude of his own thoughts when Henry finally reached the tiptop of the Andes. “Melvin, old buddy, old pal. It’s me, your bosom buddy Henry. The old man promises a bunch of mullah to powder up your public façade.” “I accept this flow of good fortune,” responded the Zar, wanting to use it to change the world. “I am now Zarathustra Version 3.0. The money will be accepted, only if things are done my way. The highway is the other option.” “Agreed,” responded Henry, twitching his nose. The next three hours the Zar taught Henry to meditate and they talked about Matilda’s watermelon she brought each Friday. Afterwards, Henry went to the train station and chicken farm
to send a telegram. The first wire Software Haven Got from Henry said that Zarathustra would reveal his miraculous whatever in some hick town in Buck Squeak County, not far from Scrawny Bluff. As word got out, top reporters from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London Times, National Enquirer, etc., and all over the world began to descend on Buck Squeak County like a plague of polyesters, as did reams of common folk who had been bitten by the piranha of curiosity. They waited for days, then out of a nearly clear ski the Zar arrived aboard the Crop Duster International, the official airline for the county of Buck Squeak, bearing the official motto, the buck squeaks here. After a brief meal at the Snaky Rest, the Zar was off to address the multitudes. With his sprawling beard, sunken eyes, jot of a mouth, long stringy hair, flowing robes, and constantly moving big toes, he cut a figure at least as impressive as the world requires of its philosophers. “Friends, Rodents, countrymen, lend me your beers,” said the Zar. “Today I am speaking to you of the Superman. My world is full of meaningful obscurities plaguing the lives of endless humanity. We bring the patterns of new challenges in the same gravity of stilled anticipation.” For the next three hours, the Zar talked about nothing and bored the audience to tears, who whispered excitedly amongst themselves. Accept for some of the intellectual dullards, who kept frowning and nodding over chewing gum and tobacco, the multitudes found his words distasteful and utterly confusing. Just as the throng was about to move in for a good old-fashioned tar-andfeathering, though, a bicyclist, seeking to gather publicity for his stunts, who fell to the anthracitic ground, took it back. “I’m dying,” said the bicyclist, not realizing he fell into a wagon of watermelons, thereby breaking his fall. “I have this vision of a hell freezing over and the Cubs winning a pennant.” “It’s definitely a demonic trick,” said the Zar. “I predict another five hundred years or so.” The masses were impressed by his compassionate manner, but not overwhelmingly so. After dark, the Zar disappeared and, feeling that he had to come to a new understanding, to an
understanding of a new truth that something greater then watermelon existed, he decided not to mess around with a lot of people but to save his energy for those who had aided and understood him and those who would come to do so. He set out to find them. Will The Real Zarathustra Please Stand Up? There was so much to do, and so little Zar. Not that he was particularly puny; as Melvin Twinkletoes he had been of average height and rotundity, and as Zarathrustra Version 3.0 he seemed rather more statuesque than basic gent, but then so would you if you were standing on the shoulders of the first two Zars. But the Zar’s requirements were considerably more stringent than those of the dear old world, the aggressively imperfect universe embodied in Software Haven and in each member of its ilk. The Zar was quite simply overwhelmed by what he saw as the magnitude of his mission. How could he communicate his teachings to all those throughout the world who—whether residing in caves, garrets, mansions, or the moonlit chambers of bar maidens – would be capable of understanding him and of being able to further communicate that understanding to the fettered masses? How to do it? The Zar was beginning to have an answer for everything. For the purpose of spreading his word, he decided to spread himself, to create multiple copies of himself. Each follower of the Zar, each follower who knew what was what when it came to the tenets of Zaric wisdom, would automatically be transformed into a Zar, with all the status attached to the regular Zar and without having to pay an annual membership fee. Henry Hiveley Swicklewortz became the first second Zar, or the first fourth Zar, or the fourth first Zar, depending on how you want to look at it. Zarathustra Version 3.0 promised he would go down in history without history going down on him. In exchange for his loyalty, he was promised an infinite supply of gumballs and jellybeans. Meanwhile, back in the real world, things were going from bad to worse, due to stock market crashes, commercial reruns, etc. Everyone was blaming it on everyone else but not one could figure out the cause. Primed by Henry Swicklewortz, CNN issued a statement that there would be a
relationship between the Zar’s emergence in the world and the worldwide mess, though whether to be a part of it or to clean it up was not clear. ZARATHUSTRA VERSION 3.0 DISCOURSES The Thousand and One-Boring Talks The Zar set sail for Sam Picklewart’s coffee house, where he was scheduled to address the philosophical hordes over pickles, coffee, and cream cheese, a menu prepared by Leonard Leapfrog, who had entered his Spartan stage and swore off garlic juice except as an after dinner mint. Incense was burning and a considerable number of dreadlocks resided with the crowd, who were mostly professional students. “Allow me to introduce the world’s newest philosopher – the Zar,” said Leonard, “He’s really someone you wouldn’t mind living next door to.” “The time has come,” the Zar said, “to talk of many things. Of a thousand and one things, some so boring they would make Dr. Dryball, the world renowned philosophical motivational speaker, seem like Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde and Dr. Freud and Dr. Livingston before he go lost; things so boring that a bar maiden told them to a king, the king fell asleep during the first apostrophe and didn’t wake up until he had accumulated four Grand Canyons full of lint in his bellybutton.” The Zar then wiggled his ears before continuing. “But we need not fear boredom, for, though the meek shall inherit the earth, the bored have already done so. With hands in pockets, each other’s and those of the kangaroo and gopher, not to mention their occasional own, they rule the world through the force of force rather than the force of the force, they strive on their wheezing, proliferate like flaccid weapons, are constantly ending the world with both bangs and whimpers, not to mention sweeping statements, with which the lost and glorious marbles of earth have been swept over its many, many times.” The Zar grabbed a celery stick from his pocket and started to chew it. “But let us stave off boredom by embracing it, by folding it into our arms as that ancient king
never thought to, by getting so bored we can’t stand it and burst through boredom to a metaboredom so profound that it makes us never want to get off our cans and then causes us to get off our cans, anyway, just so we can be bored all over again. For truly, unless you are bored again, you are not bored at all.” “But, oh, master and wise one,” spoke a potential philosopher disciple in the audience, wearing a green with yellow poke dot tie and a cowboy hat, between thoroughly unboring munches of cream cheese spattered pickle, “How does one become truly bored?” The Zar pitted his eyes against his hairy chest for a moment and just looked into space, giving the impression that he was deep in thought, then he said, “Ask a boring question and you get a boring answer; ask me a boring question and you get a truly boring answer.” “OK,” gleed the coffee cupped potsciple, “if a mobius strip is created in fourth dimensional space, would a three dimensional creature, such as me, be able to detect it?” “Righteo, “ intoned the Zar, simultaneously wedding the possibility of imminent hyper boredom with the zesty mantra of Felix the Cat and right away creating in his audience a dialectical profundity often termed confusion. “The mobius strip is a profound twisting of reality, brought about by having the mathematical senses befuddled by over stimulation of twists and turns, getting us into a philosophical entanglement of hyperboles and metaphors. If three-dimensional space intersects with fourthdimensional space, considering it is shaped by various twists and turns of space curving in light and our senses, molded into a three dimensional model, do not see the various shaping potentials brought about by three dimensional reality being molded by fourth dimensional space-time curvature.” He took out a garlic pickle and started to suck on it. “Only with the persistent inquiry into the dimensions of life and pondering the deep philosophical questions, can we nurture the true potential for persistent inquiry. This is my brief answer and we
can chat for three hours on this subject alone, or are you sufficiently confused for the moment?” “Gee,” said the potsciple, “That’s not all that boring.” “Aha!” cried the Zar. “You have broken through boredom to the transcendental state of super boredom! You have gotten truly bored. You have been bored again!” As the potsciple got down on his knees and started quaking with several distinct types of fervor, some of which have never been classified, the Zar headed for the least conspicuous exit and did what the sign said, partly to avoid having to hear Sam Picklewart’s speech about fruit fly dissection techniques from the Middle Ages until the present time, which was scheduled next. Of the Ass in the marketplace The Zar went to the supermarket to purchase a fruitcake. Cruising around in the same aisle, picking out his favorite brand of generic oatmeal, was Francis the talking mule. The Zar recognized this star as the adorable creature as the star of the early fifties army series of movies about a talking mule. Eagar as an autograph hound but serene as the Buddha, he walked over to Francis. “Are you Francis the talking mule?” asked Zar. “If so, what have you been occupying yourself with since Hollywood?” “Well, I tried to branch out into more serious roles. I wanted to play Hamlet and somebody going crazy with a bunch of personalities and a prostitute in the old west – stuff that I could really sink my teeth into. But the studio wouldn’t hear of it; they said once a talking mule, always a talking mule, which is pretty much what happened to the guys on Bonanza too, and Fess Parker, and you could cite other examples until your cheeks turn blue. So I went back to school and got a PhD in psychology, with emphasis on the depravity of mankind. There weren’t enough courses devoted exclusively to that topic, so after I graduated I got a job managing a pickle factory, and took a lot of notes. Could you shed any light on effective management?” “Well,” the Zar explained as he fingered a particularly effulgent fruitcake, “ the philosophy of
effective management must start by defining the terms. Effective means to draw an effect. If you shook up that soda can, for example, and allowed an old lady to pass before opening the can, what would be the result? You would be producing an effect. If I took five of those soda cans and a board, pasted the five cans with super glue, and then shook the board up, I could allow five older ladies to pass before opening the soda cans. This way, I am practicing the philosophy of effective management.” “I understand that,” said Francis, as he sucked a pickle prior to eating it, “but I don’t understand how we can assess what constitutes an effective manager.” “Suppose I was running the circus,” lathered the Zar as he sucked the crème filling out of a long john, “ and the clowns needed to entertain the crowd. Someone needs to tell when to throw the pie, at whom to it, how many pies to have on hand, what pies not to use, and when the pies get restocked. Imagine the Stooges in a pie fight and somebody substituted water balloons instead of pies. Instead of just the face being covered with cream filling, we have several ruined suits and dresses. Now do you see where an effective manager fits in?” Francis interrupted the Zar to show him a box of Cheerios he wanted to chew on. “You know,” Francis said, looking down the generic row of goods. “I can’t see why people get all hung up on brand names and all this keeping up with the Joneses status type of thing. It’s like garage sales. They’re the places to pick up bargains just as sure as the Joneses are picking up ulcers, croaking of ulcers to keep up with themselves. Man, I’ll take generic. It’s the best thing to happen since Mom’s apple pie.” “Mom’s apple pie!” sighed the Zar, momentarily struck with a tough little seed of remembrance. “How she used to make those pies! How she used to pour in the spicy filling as though it would never end, as though the piecrust were a bottomless pit and my longing eyes were there on the bottom and being spattered and poured by the onrush of chunky slice bauble goop! If only I could feel that goop now! If only I – hmmm, they don’t seem to have any generic fruitcake, only this real
expensive kind. I wonder why that is? Where’s the generic fruitcake in this store? Where’s the generic fruitcake in this town? Where’s the generic fruitcake in this world?” “I guess they haven’t developed it yet,” said Francis philosophically as he popped a generic Twinkie, “but we could split a can of generic soda pop while you explain what constitutes a good manager.” “The good manager,” said the Zar, “is essentially the one devoid of both bad and evil qualities. He is a member of the secret society of exalted zero numb skulls, processing the various initiations of numbskull mania. To be a zero numskull means to purge the mind of numskullism and reach the glorious rank of non-numbskull – a role reserved for the highest of managers. To become good is to achieve the enlightened state of nothing. When the manager achieves the mystical experience of nothing, then he or she has achieved the title of good for nothing. “ “Thank you for your prophetic insights and I bid you adieu,” said Francis. “But I also bid you to finish the soda pop as a token of my esteem.” The Zar poured the last swallow of soda pop into the tight hole of his lips and relished it considerably before continuing on his mission. Of the Red Light District The Zar was strolling through the streets containing the city’s houses of ill repute. Suddenly he noticed a car he knew parked in front of an old brick house, surrounded by a fence. He knew the car, a silver Porsche, because it belonged, as the saying goes, to an old friend of his, John Tweedledum, president of the Big Cheese Manufacturing Company. The Zar recalled having done some contract work for him once and could not resist this opportunity to remake acquaintances. He knocked on the front door, which at a Gothic doorknob from a Scrooge movie, and was greeted by a bar maiden wearing red lingerie. “Are you here for a little fun?” asked the bar maiden, playing with her breasts. “Actually,” replied the Zar, “I’m here to see my old friend, John Tweedledum.”
“We have many johns visit here. OK, well listen,” said the bar maiden with just the right amount of poignancy skittering in her voice, “he’s tied up right now in the Garden of Pleasure and Delight. It might take him a while to get pleasant and delightful, but you can just wait, if you want, in that big black chair over there. If you get bored, there’s magazines, or I could come over and whip you silly, whatever you’re into.” “Actually I’m into both being bored and boring other people, especially the latter. Thought I must stress that boredom as I use it is a means for transcending itself and arriving on a higher plane.” The Zar glanced at a magazine rack covered with naked women, and turned his head. “It’s sort of like foreplay, then.” “You would? Gee, I didn’t know you cared,” said the Zar, expecting the girl to play a kids game, and not realizing he was in a whorehouse. “What?” “Hey, Mel Twinkletoes!” exclaimed John Tweedledum, abruptly emerging like a whale’s head from a seedy looking door marked Do not Disturb. “How the heckywecky are ya, Mel?” “It’s Zarathustra Version 3.0 now,” replied the Zar, looking at the old wooden door John opened. “Don’t you mean the third?” inquired the bar maiden, lighting a short cigar. “Zarathrustra the Turd? Mind if I call you Thrust for short?” sputtered John, lighting up a cigarette. “You’re really sick, John,” said the bar maiden tactfully. “Here this guy is trying to change the world and all, and you gotta go poke fun in his name.” “You stick you nose outa this, Jezebel!” sneered John, his bulbous face of fallen features turning sheet red. “I’ll poke my fun into whatever place it damn well suits me! And if somebody don’t like it, I can just be Moe and poke their damn eyeballs out and then they’ll have something to poke in their damn bellybutton for a rainy day.” “What a bore,” said the bar maiden, crossing her legs and winking at the Zar. “I can give you a
special price.” “Bore? I’ll show you what a bore is! Hey Thrusto, remember the time I hired the stripper for the office party and you came, thinking it was a wedding reception?” asked John, his hairy chest exposed for view. “Yes I do, John,” said the Zar, oozing peace, pulling out a sucker and licking it. “You wanna have one of them lousy beauts up yer Piccadilly Circus,” said John to the bar maiden, which was drinking a coke and offered the Zar a sip. “Then you’ll get some idea of what’s boring, ya damn heathen!” “I’m not so sure,” she said, turning from his volatile blubber to the pacific gauntness of the Zar. “You know, Mr. Philosopher, I’ve tried, when I wasn’t just trying to make a living, to analyze the merits and demerits of foreplay. But so far I haven’t been able to make up my mind about it, can’t decide if I wanna get into something as weird as the philosophy of foreplay. I mean ya must draw the line somewhere. But I’m just thinking that a guy like you probably got some stuff to lay on me about this method, some stuff that’ll give me some clues about how I ought to feel about it. Ya know what I mean?” “I know,” said the Zar, gazing steadily at his nails, and
sipping the coke, before returning it. “It’s sometimes good to look at things historically. If we take, for example, all the primates and their anticipated advances in the arena of sexual exchange, we could philosophically argue that mankind, containing an element of animal nature, is just following the evolution identified by Darwin. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances where folks argue for a creationist viewpoint and some, being adverse to pleasure and attracted to pain, may argue for a pain is pleasure rather than pleasure is pain approach to foreplay.” The Zar took the Coke can and zipped again, before handing it back. “In essence, all these are philosophical categories where we’re examining the word as a cohesive whole. In reality, we need to break down the word fore and play, examining each element in an historical and philosophical perspective before arriving at the truth. Then we need to draft
arguments both for and against each position, before arriving at a comprehensive viewpoint.” “I am very good at exploring multiple positions,” said the bar maiden, crushing the empty Coke can. “I knew the Zar could even make foreplay boring!” said John, grabbing the Coke can and tossing it in the wastebasket. John suddenly emerged from a malignant pouting spell, directing his remarks to the house’s employees, all dressed in lingerie or completely naked, and nude or semi-nude clientele, all whom had come out of the woodwork at the prod of the Zar’s wonderfully boring manner when it first floated into their sleazed-out ears on the Q-tippy wings of his words. “Not no good, John,” intoned the Zar. “There’s no such thing as a bad boy.” And he raised two fingers on high. “But I get paid catering to bad boys,” said the bar maiden, new purpose and direction lighting her face. “Your boring talk convinced me not to do foreplay.” “You’ll do foreplay for me and like it!” raged John. “You’re boring me the wrong way, John. You’re a blisteringly shallow bore. If you wanna bore me and have me like it, you better take lessons from this guy. He’s got his merds together.” “Merds together! That’s you and him! Swirlin’ down the same damn sewer! Sittin’ around in the same dawn cow pasture! Takin’ aim outa the same damn sewer!” “Saw, John,” spoke up the Zar, who kept licking his sucker. ”I wish I could stay longer and chat about old times at Big Cheese and so forth, but now that I’ve delivered my discourse, I’m going to have to be on my way and continue with my mission.” “Gee, Mel,” responded John with his own brand of poignancy, turning his ass around to moon everyone. “It seems like we were just getting started. You oughta stop by the company sometime, see what’s been goin’ on in the old nitty gritty world, have a few drinks, a few laughs, what the hell – ya only live once, right?”
“Well, once is enough, John, when it feels like an eternity of foreplay, even if only a philosophical ideal invented by Plato.” “There ya go getting deep again, Mel, you old sonofabitch,” laughed John as he mannishly punched the Zar in the shoulder and practically broke his fist on a Zar bone. “Jeez, whattaya been eatin’, Mel? String beans an’ wiz?” “I’m holding out for the generic fruitcake,” smiled the Zar as he headed for the door. “Say hi to the wife and kids.” “I’ll do that, Mel. I’ll sure as friggin’ hell do that.” It was the Zar’s manner to leave places without much ado, so it was not surprising that he should suddenly find himself on the street and realize that he had not said goodbye to the bar maiden. “Hmm, I never even knew her name,” he mumbled to himself, as he emerged from the old brick house, pondering why the heat is doesn’t work, and how the clients kept warm. “That’s on account of she ain’t got no name,” piped up a scaly fellow who was about to ring the whorehouse chimes. “She’s the lone bar maiden, an’ she’ll wear that name until she’s cleaned the fryin’ do re mi outa every horny toad ever which side o’ the Pecos. Then she’s gonna move ta the next life and do nothin’ all day but hawk goobers at th’ earth fer bein’ such a pus poor place that it woo nut even give ‘er a damn name. Anyhow, that’s what they say.” “Thanks for the info, brother,” said the Zar thoughtfully, “and have a nice day.” Of the Chess game with the Grim Reaper The Zar headed for the forest to introspect on where he was going. Suddenly, in a twilight spot where plain, forest, and sea converged, a black-robed figure appeared and said he was making a long overdue visit to the Zar. “Call me Brother Grim,” he said. “If you can devise a game we can play, and if you win it, then I’ll go away and you can go into the woods to introspect; otherwise you’re gonna be in the market for a wooden coffin.” “Hey, just like the Middle Ages,” said the Zar, reveling
in the challenge of it all. “Look, Brother Grim, I’ve got an idea for a really fun game. Let’s play two games of chess simultaneously. I play black on one board and white on another. I guarantee I will at least tie you.” Brother Grim agreed and started the first move with white on board one. The Zar, being a clever dude, made the same move with white on board two. Then the Grim Reaper made a move with black on board two, followed by the Zar making a corresponding move with black on board one. This continued for several hours, with each move being duplicated by the Zar on the opposite board. After sometime, Brother Grim checkmated the Zar, who in turn checkmated Brother Grim on the opposite board. “I give up,” said Brother Grim. “You’re as clever as the devil himself.” The Grim Reaper exited just as the Devil entered. “How’d ya like to sell yer soul?” the Devil asked in his best used-car salesman tone. “I’ll sell my soul to you if you can tell me the solution to Fermat’s last theorem,” said the Zar sincerely, knowing the solution to the mathematical puzzle had never been solved. “Sheeeit,” mumbled the devil as he started looking around for a different sucker. The Zar thought he’d try looking in the woods for a generic fruitcake. Of the Guide Meetings The Zar decided to stop by the National Philosopher’s Guide Meetings, which were designed to give philosophers a chance to exchange views on various phases of philosophical development and innovation. He was a wee bit surprised, though, to find, rather than a group of professional philosophers talking shop, a group of little old ladies playing pinochle. “What’s happening, ladies?” inquired the Zar. “Pour yourself a cup of tea,” said Mrs. Batterchox, the president of the group, “and sit a spell.” The Zar knew that philosophy had fallen on hard times, but he had failed to recognize the extent of it. Still, he was glad to find so many little old ladies in one place.
“Mind if I give a speech?” said the Zar as he climbed onto the speaker’s platform. “Go right ahead, dear,” said Mrs. Batterchox, “we don’t have anyone booked yet for this month.” “Oh young man! Young man! Yoo-hoo!” said Mrs. Pickleseed, trying to grab the Zar’s attention. “Yes, ma’am?” “I’m Mrs. Pickleseed. Do you know anything about fate? I was just reading something in our journal about it and – here, have a cookie; they’re homemade.” “Thanks, Mom – I mean ma’am. Mmmmmmmm, chocolate chip! My favorite! And this tea! Mmmm, the combinations’ heavenly! The crunchy hardness of the cookie interacts with the hot steaming moisture of the tea to produce sensations of a practically indescribably nature which – mmmm, oh yes, yes, I will yes.” “Yes you will what?” queried Mrs. Batterchox. “Oh, yes, I will speak about fate, to answer your, mmmm, questions, Mmmmrs. Pickleseed,” said the Zar. “We are always fated to examine fate but never fated to achieve fatal results. It’s our fatal attraction that brings us to bring to these deep questions, almost like the movie Being John Malkovich. Is it fate that takes us inside the head of John or did he somehow create the portal to viewing the world through his eyes? Is the puppeteer in control of John or is the puppeteer himself a puppet manipulating John as a puppet? And don’t we all have thought portals where we let people into our head? Are we just responding to the voices of culture, like B. F. Skinner’s chickens, or are we really authors of our own lives, writing the story fresh every minute?” “Have another cookie,” said Mrs. Pickleseed, “and say a few more words about fate that my old man, may he burn in peace, used to talk about all the time.” “Mmmmm yes,” said the Zar, new cookie positioned for action. “Is the puppet free or is he a pawn of the puppeteer? Perhaps the question to ask is whether freedom is an illusion or an actual reality. I believe I am free to make this speech right now. But suppose someone is pulling my
strings and feeding me cookies to talk about fate. This would indeed be sweet temptation but a bit unnerving. Maybe we are just actors in a three-dimensional cartoon drawn by a higher power and we are poised to give a cartoon moment to everything.” “I know what we can do,” interrupted Mrs. Batterchox. “We just ran out of tea, so let’s us all go over to my house and have some fruit punch with the rest of the cookies.” “Fruit punch!” The Zar’s eyes grew bulbous and bright, as if a wee bit possessed. “Oh, mmmmmy! Mmmmmy goodness. Mmmmmercy mmmmeeee!” Batterchox’s place and stayed for some time. Of The Carnival The Zar felt that it was time to withdraw from his mission, at least for a while in order to do some quiet introspection. The first thing he decided to do in his withdrawn state was to go to a carnival, hoping that it would get his life into perspective and focus on the philosophy of amusement. “Now what shall it be?” mused the Zar inside the main gate. “Cotton candy or a ride on the roller coaster?” He decided to try his hand at the shooting gallery, where he won a rubber ducky. Buoyed by success and the texture of the ducky, he decided he would treat himself to some cotton candy after all. On his way to the candy stand he bumped into ten-year-old Sam Bingdat, the neighborhood boy computer genius. Sam immediately asked him if it were philosophically possible to write a program to calculate the answer to that famous Thomas Aquinas question of the middle Ages: How many angels danced on the head of a pin?” “You know,” said Sam without waiting for the Zar’s answer, for which he would have had to wait until hell got colder than a witch’s bosom anyway, “I’ve been monitoring your exploits since you became the Zar, but I don’t get a clue about whether computers can think. What’s the scoop on that, Zar?” They all went over to Mrs.
“Well, son,” said the sirely Zar, “before we can address the question of whether a computer can think, we need to analyze our terms. What are the key words of think? We can pick out a few, such as idea, image, concept, etc. Now what is a computer? It is usually an electronic device. What are some of the keywords? I suppose we could say retrieve, store, process, and receive, all in the domain of data. So a computer can store an image but not possess an image. It can retrieve an idea but not create an idea. Get my drift?” “Come on, Zar,” said Sam, visibly impressed, “I’ll buy ya a root beer.” “Gee, thanks, Sam,” said the Zar as he followed the youth to the root beer stand. “What size do ya want, Zar? Large, medium, or small?” “I’ll take large.” “That’s what my mom says to my dad at night.” “What?” asked the Zar. “OK, Mr. Root Beer Man, that’ll be two large root beers, ta go. Ya know, Zar, I always like the largies too; the thing I noticed about them is that you can get more into your mouth from one of them, and I sure do like to get as much root beer into my mouth as I possibly can. Except of course, when I’m talking my ass off. If you got a tub of soft drink in yer mouth there, it’ll just whip itself right out. Sometimes I get so mad at gravity I could take a pole and stomp it to death.” Sam took the two root beers, and gave one to the Zar. “Thanks, Mr. Root Beer Man; keep the change; maybe it’ll get ya lucky. Now what were ya going to to say, Zar?” “Oh, well, [slurp…slurp…slurp], thanks for the drink, Sam, I was just going to say, [slurp], that it’s wise to ponder a deep question. What if we work on the premise that God exists and God is a cosmic computer. Has this computer created a universe or is it just processing data? Such deep thoughts to dwell upon.” “Who created the data then?” inserted Sam, a thread of root beer uncoiling form each corner of his
mouth, giving the impression that it was hinged like Charlie McCarthy’s.” “Is data alive?” inquired the Zar, cleverly using a rhetorical device to get Sam more involved in his own education. “Well, it all depends on how we define alive,” responded Sam. “Ah, but you must be careful. If we think of it as information we can process, then our concept of God being a computer poses an interesting question. You agree that you can create data, oh Mr. Nerd, jr.? Now, if God is a computer, can he create something he can’t lift? It draws us immediately into the attribute of all-powerful. So I guess you’ve got your work cut out for you, Sam, if you want to look at it that way. As for me, now that I’ve finished my root beer, I’m going for a ride on the merry-go-round.” The Zar strode toward the horsy device as though it were calling him, while Sam dropped his large root beer glass onto the fairgrounds ground. He was befuddled. “Zar!” he cried. “Come back! Don’t leave me hanging!” “Goodbye, little Sam!” shouted the Zar as he swept his robes onto a particularly cute palomino. “But my dad’s got stuff for you to do! And my mother wants you! I know she does!” “Sorry, Sam!” The Zar’s voice projected over the faraway whirr of merry-go-round melody, which happened to be I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. “I’m not into families at this point in my life. All I want is a big hunk of generic fruitcake!” “Zar! Come back, Zar! Come back! Zaaaar! Come Baaaack!” “Aw, shove it, pipsqueak! Can’t you see I’m riding a horse?” “Lousy bum,” muttered Sam. “Ya buy a guy root beer and right away he turns his back on you, turns sissy and starts riding ponies. The dumb jerk! Oh well, I guess I’ll go home and work on my computer.” Of Puff the Magic Dragon The Zar went up into the mountains to gain perspective and contemplate his generic fruitcake.
Seated in meditation for the purpose of getting his act together in a way it had not yet been, he was suddenly confronted by an apparition. It was not Mohammed’s angel Gabriel or Casper the Friendly Ghost. It was not a fake in the empirical sense, for when the Zar opened his eyes, it was still there. It was a big green dragon. “Hi,” said the dragon. “I’m Puff, object of song and story dating back to the days when antiquity was just a little snotty-nosed kid. I have a magic clock which makes time stand still, so if you come with me to my home in Hon-A-Lee won’t have to worry about missing a beat of your boring life up here in the mountains. All you do is sit around in your cave anyway; you ought to get out and meet people, especially people who are on a different plane of existence; they’re the wildest types, totally off the wall. Come on, hitch up your skirts and get on my back and we’ll whiz our way through timeless space to Never Understood Land. “I’m game,” said the Zar, wondering where Never Understood Land was. He put himself on Puff, and Puff put himself on automatic pilot. Two seconds later, after a scenic tour aboard the Puff Express, they arrived. Instead of some dreamy Alice in Wonderland movie set, the Zar found himself sitting with Zarathustra Version 1.0 and Version 2.0. Zar version 1.0 wore a white robe, white turban and wore a black beard and long black hair. Zar version 2.0 had a long mustache, short hair and spoke with a German accent. The Zar version 3.0 was immediately delighted to see them eating something labeled generic fruitcake and having cups of beverage from a container labeled chai tea. “Oh boy,” said the Zar. “Now I can speak to my ancestors and indulge in my favorite delights at the same time. What is this place?” “It’s the dreamtime,” said Zar 1.0. “Have some fruitcake and chai.” “Don’t mind if I do,” said Zar 3.0, filling a cup and cutting of generic fruitcake. “Your mission in the world is unique,” said Zar 2.0. “I tried talking about Superman and eternal reoccurrence, but nobody could understand me. Instead, the Germans distorted my ideas for their
own evil purposes.” “And I never got the recognition I deserve,” said Zar 1.0. “The world knows of Christ, Buddha and Mohammed, but very few know of me. Instead, only a few historians and people keeping alive my teachings remember me.” Zar 3.0 went for second helpings of fruitcake and chai. He saw Puff holding up a stopwatch and knew he had to return soon. “Most people want what the Joneses have,” said Zar 2.0. “They want to have four wives and 2.5 kids in the suburbs and the kind of car you can shake a stick at and hot and cold running linoleum and meat on the ta---.” “We have to go,” said Puff. “My magic clock is about to expire, in which case we’d be stuck here for the rest of eternity.” “Let’s vamoose, Puff,” said the Zar as he climbed onto the dragon. Of the Chimp Trainer After completing the Puff tour, the next day the Zar bumped into Dietrich Von Bushputton, the famed chimp language behaviorist, one of several scientists who had recently been trying to validate the precept of social biologists that language is not unique to the human species. Dietrich’s experiments went one step further, though: he was teaching his chimp pals to write COBOL programs. Two of the chimps had already had offers from COBOL shops, and Bubbles, while only a monkey, secured an invitation to the Zar’s lecture from poet Adrian Albright. “Allow me to introduce the guest monkey, Bubbles,” said Dietrich, watching the two shake hands. “Did you know that Aristotle went to his psychiatrist Hippocrates, who encouraged Aristotle to act out his neuroses, which the big A did by publishing the laws of logic?” “I haven’t heard that one,” said the Zar, eating a Tootsie Roll and patting Bubbles on the head. Bubbles responded by massaging the Zar’s arm. “So if it vassn’t for Hairistotles’s neuroses,” concluded Dietrich, “ve wouldn’t haf scientific
progress.” “Evidently,” spoke the Zar, “but it may be with chimps, not neuroses, that the next evolution will be made in the philosophy of language. Such a darling monkey and she appears to be so well behaved. To that end I’d like to tell all you chimps to continue to participate in these language experiments. In many ways, you are all more lively than my typical audiences.” By this time a number of chimps had gathered, some with beers, some with bananas, all bored to some degree. Bubbles, who also munched on a banana, was wiping her face on the Zar’s robe. “Now I must not be coy and treat language as an isolated tool. Much of the sounds made when you chimps communicate bring a hint of civilized language usage. In fact, when I spoke to people in bars, I failed to see the difference between the behavior and language they exhibited and the language and behavior you normally use. In fact, shortly we may all be Planet of the Apes survivors. If people in bars continue to behave like you do and gave speeches, there would be a marginal performance late at night.” “You’re sort of a marginal performance late at night yourself, Zar,” said someone in the audience. The Zar begin looking for exits. Of Day Dream Believers The Zar strolled through the park sucking on a Tootsie Roll when he bumped into two green talking rocks, one being short and chubby and the other tall and skinny. Their names were Laurel and Hardy, and they called themselves the Daydream believers. “What’s a Daydream Believer?” asked the Zar. “We believe in daydreams,” said Hardy. “You ask a good question and you get a good answer,” said the Zar, pleased. “Now which would you rather have? Do you prefer a bite of my Tootsie Roll or my discourse on metaphysics?” “We’ll have both,” said Hardy and Laurel. So the Zar handed over his Tootsie Roll as he began to speak.
“You probably wondered what lies beyond the five senses. Is there a reality behind what we can see, touch, smell, taste, and hear? How do you know I am real or just a figment of your imagination? I asked a philosopher, ‘Is that wall real?’ He responded, ‘it’s an illusion, as is the material world.’ Then I retorted, “Great, then walk through it.’ It seemed like he hit a wall in his philosophical explorations. Imagine a world where you Daydream Believers establish contact with a population of Zars. Would you think you have contacted aliens who know all the answers to mankind’s metaphysical speculations? How do you know I am really an alien and not the devil in disguise?” “We get it,” said Hardy and Laurel. “If the other Daydream Believers thought we were talking to a Zar, they may think we’re crazy.” “Or worse,” said the Zar. “They may think you became a philosopher and give you an academic post. Fortunately, I am here to confirm your worst nightmares. Let’s break down the word metaphysics. Meta means what lies beyond and physics is the world, as we see it. So we are looking for the missing link to reality. Perhaps we create an imaginary world, where we can converse with mythical creatures, such as mermaids, dwarfs, vampires, zombies, elves, and other assorted imaginary items. How do we know whether these entities are creations of our minds, or whether they have an existence beyond what we experience?” “Good questions,” said Hardy as Laurel made some hot chocolate for the three of them. “Good chocolate,” said the Zar. “You’ll have one then,” said Laurel. “You’ll have it and you’ll like it.” “Gee, you two rocks are the best friends a guy ever had. I’d like to kiss you both.” “Nobody’s stopping you,” said Hardy. And nobody did, though some, disgusted, felt like trying. Of the White Lightning Express The Zar was hitch hicking through the Ozarks, trying to avoid getting hitched to a hick, when what he really wanted was one of the following: (1) a generic fruitcake, (2) to fondle his rock
friends, (3) to bore others in ways that would redeem everyone. A long-haired hick named Squeaky Hatwinder immediately picked him up. “Wanna puff o’ my inspiration weed?” asked Squeaky. “No thank you,” said the Zar politely, reaffirming his stance that the best drugs are the ones you dredge up from within. “We all are going to the Nastokie Hoedown and hog-swapping celebration and you are all welcome to come,” said Squeaky. “Much obliged,” replied the Zar and they drove off in Squeaky’s Ford F10 pickup. The Zar arrived, mixed with the locals, and soon found himself drinking corn elixir with a mess of good ole boys. Soon afterward, performing feats of organic marksmanship against the side of a bar, the Zar bumped into Danny Boy, the pink elephant. “Hey, Zar,” said the pink one, “where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you, partner. Here, come and sit on this log with me, and gimme the lowdown on what constitutes a work of art.” “Oh, heckywecky Dan, that’s the easiest of all the discourses. I will just sit on this log and give it to you straight. If I go to an art institute and have a soda pop and Tootsie Roll, washed down with a nice helping of chocolate ice cream, my taste buds would say that’s a work of art. At the same time, if my eyes spotted a beautiful girl and my nose smelled sweet perfume, that’s also a work of art. If someone is playing the violin outside the institute and the music is blissful, that would constitute a work of art. Now you may ask why those items constitute artwork and whether I would take time to admire the works on display. If they indulge my senses, then they would lie in the same category as the pretty girl, nice violin, or chocolate ice cream.” “Well, that’s fine, Zar,” said Danny Boy. “It’s fine enough,” said the Zar, as he stuck his head into a pocket of earth and unleashed some refreshments. “Jeez, Zar,” said the earth, “what are you doing? Get back to the hog swapping contest or
something, just don’t chuck it in my bellybutton.” “So that’s your bellybutton,” said the Zar, feeling suddenly a great sense of peace and love. “Did you know that, Dan? That the bellybutton of the earth could exist in a little hick county of Arkansas, smack dab in the middle of the Ozarks? To have found the earth’s navel in the midst of squalor gives me the hope that I will one day find that which I truly seek, that I will one day know the generic fruitcake that has lived for so long in the halls of my desire.” Fiddles played merrily in the background. Of Eternal Recurrence Society had become a hodgepodge of mechanistic devices – anywhere from mechanical dogs with artificial shit to computerized toilets with seventy different movie channels. The top software vendor for these mechanized wonders was Software Haven, home to their top developer, Melvin Twinkletoes. For years he observed the inadequacies of a mechanized world and would have, had he had his way, shoved the works of David Thoreau down the throats of all software creators in the interest of having each throat memorize and recite each and every line. He remembered the words used in Durrenmatt’s play The Physicists…”
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