Monday, October 19, 2009

Undifferentiated Enlightenment

Elia woke up. She yawned. She stretched. She stood up.

Near the base of the bed, there was a lump of flesh growing in the carpet!

"Oh!" Elia said. "A person-seed!"

She left the room, returning several minutes later with an earthenware pot in one hand and a spade in the other.

"It's odd," Elia said, putting the pot down. "I changed the screens on the window a few months ago. But I suppose that's when you must have come in - just wafted in through the window like pollen!"

Carefully, Elia used the spade to dig out the chunk of carpeting surrounding the person-seed, lifting it gently into the pot. (The pot was already mostly filled with carpet.) She looked at the person-seed a little longer, and then pushed more carpet onto it, leaving only a small surface of slowly-pulsing flesh visible. "There!" she said. "Now you'll grow as quickly as a person-seed can!"

"It's funny," Elia said, looking at the person-seed. "It's only in places like this that you'll find people-seeds - places struck by fallout from the Enlightenment Bombs. When I was growing up, I never saw any at all! Now you're everywhere, collecting in the corners on the street every morning before the street-cleaners come by, like a haze of pinkish dust. It's just a funny thought - to think that you, all of you, are people!"

Elia carried the pot and spade downstairs, putting the spade back in the hidden cubby from which she'd taken it. She began to do the same with the pot; and then reconsidered. Instead, she closed the cubby and put the pot down on the kitchen table. She sat down.

"The Enlightenment Bombs," Elia sighed. "Weapons of mass transcendence. When detonated, they instantly enlighten every last person in a city, firing them physically into Nirvana. Then, the unenlightened people that launched the Bomb can move in and take their stuff!"

"The side effect," Elia added, "being a rain of not-quite-enlightened souls that fell just short of Nirvana." Elia smiled at the tiny lump of flesh in a pot. "Like you!"

Elia got up. She drank a cup of coffee. She showered. She had breakfast. Then she left for work!

Later, she sat down at the kitchen table again.

"It was advanced Buddhist theory that led to the development of the enlightenment bombs, but there are hardly any buddhists around any more," Elia said. "Most of the true believers just gathered around one of their nirvana bombs - and boom! Mass enlightenment! The ones that were never really committed to the faith were scared by the thought of actually attaining enlightenment. They thought it was only a hypothetical possibility! So they left the faith. That's why you don't really see any Buddhists around these days!

Elia stood up. She brewed a pot of coffee. She poured a cup. She sat back down.

"The only Buddhists around these days," Elia said, "are some hermit-monks in the mountains - reportedly - and a few rare, terrifying bodhisvattas. Bodhisvattas postpone their own enlightenment in the hope of assembling an enlightenment bomb - and taking a city with them!

Elia sipped at her coffee.

"That's where the old saying comes from," Elia explained. "'If you meet a buddhist in the road, kill him!' After all, either he's a bodhisvatta - or, nearly as terrifying, a scammer trying to sell overpriced yoga-course subscriptions! A threat to life and health either way."

The person-seed showed no particular reaction to Elia's humourous comments.

Elia shrugged. She stood up. She changed clothes. She went to bed.

Days passed.

Then came a sharp rapping at the door!

"Yo, dog, the police be up ins!" a voice from outside declared. "We be detectin' too much enlightenment here, so if you've got nothin' to fear, open up and let us in!"

Elia, in the process of washing dishes, looked up. "One minute!" she shouted, and rushed over to the table, picking up the person-seed pot thereupon. (The person-seed was noticably bigger than when Elia had first seen it.) Running to the stairs, Elia hid the pot in the cubby at the stairs' base; then she went to the front door and let the police inside.

There were three of them; dressed in blue and silver, each with a slowly spinning lotus on their left palm. Two of the police began opening drawers and cup-boards, searching the house; the third spoke to Elia.

"Our enlightenment detectors," the policewoman said, gesturing with her lotus-palm, "tell us that your neighborhood is way too filled with enlightenment, dogg. So we be lookin' for summa dat enlightenment stuff, as so we don't all make the big boom."

"I don't know what could be in my house that would be setting off your enlightenment detectors," Elia said innocently. "Ah - there was a person-seed that landed in my bedroom, a few weeks ago. If you move the floor lamp, you can find the chunk I took out of the carpet when I dug it up."

"Hey, dawgs!" there came a shout from upstairs. "Someone's been diggin' up carpet 'round here! I'm'a thinking it's a contamination!"

"What'd you do widdat?" the policewoman speaking to Elia asked politely.

"Well, naturally I was afraid that it would grow into a bodhisvatta and enlighten everyone," Elia told the policewoman. "Being so enlightened already, and all."

"Dat is bein' a natural concern," the policewoman agreed.

"But I wasn't sure what to do with it," Elia said. "So I told Ms. Umpleby, next-door, and she told me she'd take care of it."

The policewoman furrowed. "Dat bein' all kinds of irregular..."

"I'm sorry!" Elia wailed, tears beginning to form in her eyes. "I didn't know what to do! I don't want to be enlightened yet!"

"Shh, shh," the policewoman soothed. Her colleagues had already reappeared downstairs; the policewoman signaled them with a nod. "We be goin' over to your neighbor-woman to be sortin' it all out. You don't be guiltin' at all. Just remember next time as to give 't to the street-cleaners, yah?"

"Y-yes," Elia said, wiping her eyes with a sleeve. "I'll remember."

The front door closed.

Elia, now completely serene in appearance, walked over to the hidden cubby. She took out the person-seed pot and put it on the table. She looked at it.

"Of course," Elia said, "When the police search Ms. Umpleby's house, they'll find the defective screens she installed, and the little person-seed garden she's keeping in the basement. Ha - she thinks they're cute! I didn't give her one, of course, but when the police find what they will - why would they believe anything she says? Looks like my little voyeurism habit has paid off."

The person-seed pulsed gently.

"Don't judge me," Elia told it. "I have to maintain a few vices. Otherwise, I'll ascend into Nirvana, myself!"

Time passed. Elia brewed coffee.

She sat back down in front of the person-seed.

"I have a confession to make," she said. "I've been hoping you'd grow into a bodhisvatta. The primary component of an enlightenment bomb is a nearly-enlightened soul striving for enlightenment - the tension of their few remaining material attachments is enough to catalyze a cataclysmic enlightenment explosion! (Well, with the help of an attached Teller-Ulam nuclear device, but I've already got one of those.) I intentionally left a gap open when I was replacing my screens, so that you would float in - my neighbors would suspect me if I didn't have any screens at all, or defective ones, like silly Ms. Umpleby, so I had to be subtle. Then I was going to raise you until you unrooted from material desire - and the carpet - and use you as the core of an enlightenment bomb. I'd send you straight to the capital!"

Elia sighed.

"...but I can't do that," she admitted.

"Watching you, thinking about you - innocent, a person wiped clean and yet to re-form - "

"I came to realize I was wrong. My beliefs, my goals, all I've been striving for the last few years - misguided, at best."

"If you want to root yourself to the material realm - even so close, so very close, to enlightenment as you are! - that's your choice."

"And if they, all the people in this city, want the same - that's their choice, too."

"People have the right to make their own wrong choices."

Elia sighed.

"I'll keep the Teller-Ulam device," she said. "Just in case I change my mind, or decide there's some group of people that really needs a swift dose of enlightenment. Like terrorists, maybe, or lawyers. But if I need to set off an Enlightenment Bomb, I'll rededicate myself to the Noble Eightfold Path, and use myself as the catalyst, as I always should have planned to."

"And I'll keep you around, too," Elia told the person-seed. "Because you are the most adorable, lovable little chunk of undifferentiated person!"

"Now, to stop externalizing my internal monologues onto a person-seed that has yet to develop hearing organs, before I go as crazy as Ms. Umpleby," Elia said.


Cavalcadeofcats said...

Bonus note: the police palm-lotuses are spinning slowly because there's a high concentration of enlightenment. The more enlightenment, the slower and more steadily the lotuses spin! I'd have explained it in the story, but there was never a good opportunity.

Calvacadeofcats said...

τ = μ x B