Friday, September 16, 2005
"-- Last and crowning torture of all the tortures of that awful place is the eternity of hell. Eternity! O, dread and dire word. Eternity! What mind of man can understand it? And remember, it is an eternity of pain. Even though the pains of hell were not so terrible as they are, yet they would become infinite, as they are destined to last for ever. But while they are everlasting they are at the same time, as you know, intolerably intense, unbearably extensive. To bear even the sting of an insect for all eternity would be a dreadful torment. What must it be, then, to bear the manifold tortures of hell for ever? For ever! For all eternity! Not for a year or for an age but for ever. Try to imagine the awful meaning of this. You have often seen the sand on the seashore. How fine are its tiny grains! And how many of those tiny little grains go to make up the small handful which a child grasps in its play. Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high, reaching from the earth to the farthest heavens, and a million miles broad, extending to remotest space, and a million miles in thickness; and imagine such an enormous mass of countless particles of sand multiplied as often as there are leaves in the forest, drops of water in the mighty ocean, feathers on birds, scales on fish, hairs on animals, atoms in the vast expanse of the air: and imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain, how many eons upon eons of ages before it had carried away all? Yet at the end of that immense stretch of time not even one instant of eternity could be said to have ended. At the end of all those billions and trillions of years eternity would have scarcely begun. And if that mountain rose again after it had been all carried away, and if the bird came again and carried it all away again grain by grain, and if it so rose and sank as many times as there are stars in the sky, atoms in the air, drops of water in the sea, leaves on the trees, feathers upon birds, scales upon fish, hairs upon animals, at the end of all those innumerable risings and sinkings of that immeasurably vast mountain not one single instant of eternity could be said to have ended; even then, at the end of such a period, after that eon of time the mere thought of which makes our very brain reel dizzily, eternity would scarcely have begun."
There's an online version of the entire book here.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
I stepped out the elevator into a dimly lit bar. It had been raining outside, raining hard and relentless. The night sky was littered with dark clouds - signs of impending doom. A dim silence swept the town, riding on the crest of fear; the fear of an unknown. The entropy of the future was weighing heavily on everyone’s minds. I waited for my pupils to get attuned to the darkness inside. My mind was a haze. Incidents of the past haunted me, more so in my dreams than when I’m awake. I stepped toward a vacant spot and ordered a martini, stirred not shaken. The waitress served me the drink, wearing a false smile. I returned the favor.
Miles Davis was playing on the radio – "Autumn Leaves" – my favorite song. The music was soothing, yet disturbing. I closed my eyes and took a swig of the martini. A sudden calmness descended upon me, a feeling of detachment, as though I’m not a part of this world; as though I was never meant to be. I felt like a woman in a gay bar. The rain still splattered on the roof. I shook my head violently before the nostalgia crept in, shaking it off. It was then that I realized my uneasiness in this place. An odd sensation – as though a pair of eyes was watching my every move, calculating the results and imposing a judgment on me – “The Last Judgment”. Michelangelo’s stunning accomplishment strained my weak imagination till it collapsed into a frenzy of eclectic seizures. I turned my head sideways, searching the faces around me, not knowing what I was looking for. A blind man in a dark alley told me once, “We see what we want to see, not the facts – but our perception of it. A dimly lit corridor is the same as a brightly lit hall”. I know not why this thought came to me now, just that it did. The faces in the bar were all faintly similar, yet each one different from the next; some distraught, others dull and bored, caught in a time they have no awareness of. The hands of the clock slowly crept toward . The minute and hour hands reminded me of two star-crossed lovers chasing each other through the sands of time, reconciling intermittently and breaking up again. It goes on forever, no limits, and no boundaries.Time. The vastness of it reminds me of the inconsequentiality of what is happening. I wearily ordered another martini, the image of Ford Prefect sitting in another bar across the pages of a book, slipping into my mind.
It was then that I noticed her. A dame – with captivating eyes – pale blue. Her hair ran down the length of her back. As she flipped her weary eyelids and gave a forlorn glance down the hall, I realized she was waiting for someone. I found myself cursing the fool who had stood her up. It was sad, such beauty in such a time. She had a misgiven fortune, but at least she had one. Most of us go through our lives like an automaton, attaching no strings of empathy to anything that happens around us, going through life as if it were just another obstacle in our path, another bridge to cross or another bus to take to the office. Feelings of detachment and loneliness take center-stage in this play – the play of life enacted in the theatre of this benevolent Earth. I pulled myself up before I thought I’d drift away and searched her face for clues, clues to a distant past or a near-impossible future- clues that could give away her presence here in this place. I found none. She had an ash-stricken face, almost as if she just got out of cryopreservation. For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for a dame. I felt like I had known her all my life. Out the window, beads of icicles were forming across the edges. Suddenly, she uncrossed her legs and stood up. Her legs were achingly long. A faint smile began to form itself across her lips as she took her first step towards me. She never took a second one.
At that instant, a shrill sound pierced the air. The windows shattered, the glass hitting the floor and me. I staggered, but somehow found my footing and stood up. She was staring at me, those blue eyes like a bottomless pit. Machines with wings flew overhead. The entire town was encompassed with a cacophony of titillating frequencies. The end of time as known to mankind was fast approaching. The wailing siren of a cop car could still be heard in the distance over all the commotion that erupted in the streets below. The ground bellowed from under us, like a monster that showed no mercy, buildings shook and cracked at their edges. No one could have had a premonition of what was happening now. It had seemed an impossibility just a couple of months back; but the reality of it now, a harsh stink – like the stink of dark blood emanating from a badly beaten bum. Craning my neck towards the sky, I could make out faint lights – the lights of warships, encapsulating tonnes of fissile material, enough to blow the Earth ten times over. They all moved in perfect harmony with one another, creating silent music from their movement. I closed my eyes for the last time, and prayed - prayed for a different future, a different time. I prayed for her. I prayed so that I need not look at the inhumanities happening right in front of my eyes, heedless of any words, following a path that only some understand. I finally let the truth sink in.
The War. It had begun.