Journal: Beginnings

I had died in my first world and been born anew in the world of the Arisa. The Arisa had worked to make this transition as smooth as possible, but there was trauma nonetheless. The two worlds were as different as they could be. Well, that’s not actually true. There were people. They ate. They slept. They peed and pooped in the normal way. They spoke a language that while massively different from the English that I had grown up with, was still a language. Within limits, they looked very much like what people in my first world looked like. There were, of course, people who took the body forming technology to extremes but they were a tiny minority. From an external point of view they looked very much like the people of my time. There were internal differences to be sure. After a couple of millennia of tinkering, a lot of the clunky aspects of the human body that arose out of our evolutionary path had been smoothed out.

Then there were the machines. There were machines all over the place. I really suppose you could call these machines robots. But in my mind the word robot was some anthropomorphic machine that looked and walked like and talked like a human being. The Arisa didn’t go in for that kind of machine. There were thousands of different kinds of machines, each dedicated to a particular purpose. There were machines that cleaned the environment. There were machines that tended gardens. There were machines that moved things back and forth. There were machines that fabricated things, including other machines. There were machines that shaped materials. There were machines that allowed you to communicate instantaneously with anybody else on the planet. There were machines to look up information for you. There were machines that flew in the air and swam in the sea.

I would have thought in my first months that the machines would be the most disturbing thing that I would have to adapt to. I was surprised by how easily I accepted the fact that there the machines involved in almost every activity. One reason for that was that they introduced the machines to me in a slow and controlled fashion at the hospital where I had arrived and recovered from my near-death experience. Whenever I was around, most of the machines were not. Over time they would add a few more machines that made sense for whatever activity I was engaged in. After a few months, the machines just became a fact. For every activity I engaged in, there was at least one machine that was around that could enhance that activity. It was not that I didn’t stop every once in a while and say, “that’s incredible!” It’s just that it never threw me off of my balance. I was in the future. I expected there to be advances. I expected there would be magic. There was.

What brought me up short time and time again were the implications of these machines. At some point in time the machines became so advanced that your world view changed. Let me give you some examples. When I was in the Merchant Marine, particularly as a radioman, the maintenance of written log files was very important. Paper records in general were very important. When you showed up at a seaport, the harbor master, customs inspectors, and cargo handlers wanted to see these records. This was the only way they could know what you had been doing. In Arisa, nobody kept such records. I don’t mean to say that there were no records kept. What I mean is that people did not keep these records. Everything that you did was recorded by the machines. I mean everything. There was no point in writing down what you did. The record of what you did spoke for itself.

While I was in the Merchant Marine, in addition to the log files that I maintained, I also kept a personal journal. There was nothing fancy or profound about the contents of that journal: a record of the ports I had visited and the various places I had gone as a tourist. Occasionally there would be sections in which I would make some observations about what I had seen. There was a whole section about the differences between the formal gardens that I had seen in England, in France and in the Netherlands. As I said, nothing profound but it was useful to me.

One of the smaller regrets that I had about being sunk by a German U-boat was that I had lost my journal. In one of my conversations with Cora, who had been managing my introduction into Arisan society, I mentioned that I was going to start a journal similar to the one that I had maintained while I was in the Merchant Marine. I mentioned that it would have been nice to have recovered my journal. Cora objected and said that my journal was available to me if I wanted. Not the physical journal but the contents of it. In fact, if I wanted the journal to be reproduced in physical form, I could have it within a day or two. All of the information in it had been recovered and recorded. These were early days in Arisa for me and a part of me doubted that what Cora was saying could be true. Two days later, she delivered a physical journal that looked like my journal, felt like my journal, and even smelled like the journal that I had kept on the George S. Merton.

This was one of those “how could they possibly have done this” moments. I asked, “How the hell did you do this?”

Cora smiled at me. Again I was reminded that I was not the first Shepherd that she had brought into the fold. She explained, “Eric, you know that we record everything. While you are in Arisa, every activity goes into the record. When we evaluate an individual who might be a possible Shepherd, we try to record every aspect of his or her life in the past. In your case, there were several machines that we introduced into the radio room on the George S. Merton that recorded everything, including all of the aspects of your journal.”

I objected, “I never saw any machines.”

Cora smiled at me again, “and that is exactly the point. If it is important to you, we can go look up the exact configuration of the machines in your radio room. Most likely, the machines were simply overlaid on every surface in the room. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, and the writing surface of your table almost certainly had overlays that allowed the machines to record what happened in that room.”

I objected again, “but the table was made out of wood. It had dents and cuts. Somebody had cut their initials into the upper right-hand corner of the table. There were a couple cigarette burns. It could not have been a machine.”

Cora let the matter drop but the next day when we met, standing in the middle of the room was the table and the work chair from the George S. Merton. Rather it was a replica of the table and chair. On the table was an open logbook and a pencil. Cora asked me to sit down and make an entry in the logbook. It did not matter what the entry was. I just had to make an entry in the logbook. I did so and as I wrote the entry, it was reproduced on the wall that I was facing. Cora rapped on the table, which looked all the world to me like wood, and said “machine”. She went over to the wall, tapped on it and said “machine”. She came back around the table and touched the chair that I was sitting on and said “machine” and as she did the wall in front of me started displaying all sorts of vital statistics about me: pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and so on. Cora waved her hand around the room and said, “Everything you see in this room is a machine that has some capability to record what’s going on in this room.”

I did hear what she said to me; I did understood all the words that she said. The struggle was to understand what the implications of the words were. In spite of all this, I did ask for a paper journal. That is, I wanted a bound notebook with a cover that contained blank pages of paper. Cora said that I could have such a journal if that was what I wanted, but she asked why I wanted it. I said it was to take notes. Her response was, why not have the machines take those notes for me? Just say out loud, “Machine, make a note of this fact.” Or I could review the recordings every day or every week and annotate them. I could get a visual record. I could get a transcript. I could get what happened in my life in so many different formats that I was exhausted just thinking about them. I sat there for a moment, somewhat overwhelmed by the flood of options available to me, but I finally said to Cora, “Cora, right now if I can get a paper journal that I can write in, I am going to do that. This is something that I know how to do. The Arisa keep dislocating me in time, in culture and in everything else. I need something that I understand.” I got a paper journal.

I kept a strictly paper journal for about four months. About that point in time I asked Cora how I could get some information printed out so that I could paste it into my logbook. Her response was to give me a new logbook with what she described as “magic paper”. The magic was that if I could identify the stuff I wanted pasted into my logbook, all I had to do was say “paste into logbook” and magically it would appear. I found that I could do the same thing with images and diagrams. I went through a lot of logbooks. It was when I wanted to paste in an audio clip, that I stepped up to a “magic tablet” machine that I could write on, paste almost anything I could think of into, and ask for searches to retrieve past entries in my logbooks. This was the same size as each of the logbooks that I had filled up but contained the contents of all the logbooks that I had ever written including those written on the George S. Merton.

If everything is recorded, why would I go to the trouble of creating a journal? The problem with a detailed recording such as the Arisa had is that it contains everything. And “everything” is jumbled, chaotic, and overwhelming. The future had too much information. There were so many new things in my environment that I had a great deal of trouble processing them. I had to have some way of collecting information and organizing it in a form that made sense to me. I wanted to understand how things worked in this new world. Reality, in the form of the recordings, was not serving up tidy tidbits of knowledge in a readily digestible form. I had to struggle to dig out the “good parts” and organize them in some form that explained the world.

It was also disconcerting to compare what the machines had recorded to what I had remembered of events and conversations. My memories were edited to have only the most relevant detail while the recordings revealed that the conversations rambled and that I was not nearly as cogent speaker as I thought. I had to distill my conversations into something more concise. It turns out that there were several machines that could help me filter through the conversations to give me relatively useful summaries that I could edit. Living in a world of total surveillance where everything you do and say is recorded can be very disconcerting but it can also be damned useful. To be clear, my purpose has not been to create an accurate historical record. For example, I have often taken little snippets of conversation from various places and glued them together to make a single conversation. This journal is all about explanation.

The hardest thing to explain to myself was the whole notion of time travel. The Arisa had a whole set of rules and procedures surrounding the concept of time travel. Some Shepherds merely memorized these rules and procedures without bothering to understand the underlying principles. I found this difficult to do. Time travel and its associated protocols were to be a central part of my life. It was very clear that I had to do more than just walk through the motions of the ritual. I had to get down underneath the rules and procedures to understand more of the logic behind them. To that end, I had quite a number of conversations with different people about time travel, trying to get a better handle on what it was that I was doing. Parts of those conversations are in my journal entries.

For me the value of these journal entries is not so much in the entry itself as it finally came out but in the process and effort that I went through to assemble it. It was that process that helped me to better understand what was going on. I offer these notes and conversations to you because they may help you to understand the difficulties that I faced and how I responded to them. You may not feel as strong a need to understand the rationale for the rules and procedures as I do. You may be willing to treat the rules and procedures of time travel and everything else as givens: “It is what it is.” These notes and conversations are like the “bouquet garni” added to a soup to impart flavor but not to be eaten. Feel free to consume or ignore these journal entries, as you wish.

One last point. These notes and conversations reflect what I have been told. For the most part, I have no way of verifying that the stories that they’re telling me are true or not true. I do know from my travels both geographically and temporally that every culture has stories that describe the world as they see it. As a traveler, I have learned to understand those stories even while I find it somewhat difficult to accept them as some objective truth about the world. The people in the cultures mostly behave as if the stories are true. And that is the truly important fact for me.

The Journals of Eric Stapleton Next Journal Entry: A Refined and Cultured Man

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