Dreaming is Easy, Remembering is Hard

When I was younger, I had a red mountain bike. All my friends had BMX bikes, since they were the coolest. If you pulled up on the handlebars hard enough, you could get the bike to lift off the gravel road. My mountain bike had gears, which my friends found unimpressive and tease-worthy. The gears hardly impressed me. I knew they had value, but it was ignored, overshadowed by my inability to bunnyhop, and the loud clanking noise my derailleur made whenever I changed gears.

I distinctly remember standing near the elementary school, straddling my bike as I talked with my friends. I thought I wonder why I can’t switch gears without pedalling? It felt like I had come up with a genius idea. It would be so convenient to be able to switch between gears at will, while you’re standing still, hanging out. It would be one less thing to worry about while riding. I imagined an automatic bicycle: quiet, intelligent, able to set itself into the perfect gear at all times, so I could concentrate on pedalling like hell. I didn’t know how bikes worked. I never sat down, flipped the bike over into diagnose mode, and thought mechanically about what was happening. I have had about 15 years of bike experience since then. I know more about bikes now. I change gears without thinking.

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At my Grandpa’s funeral, a short biography was read. It mentioned that it was hard to feed nine kids, so the family reared animals and grew potatoes and other vegetables for nourishment. Back then, the concept of food was different than it is for me now. I imagine they ate meat and potatoes and maybe a mushy vegetable for every meal. My grandma, the only cook, probably ignorant of spices other than salt and pepper, was tasked with keeping everyone fed. The point of food was to stay alive. Good tasting treats were hard to come by. I imagine the family going to a fancy Christmas dinner or something similar, once or twice a year, and having a meal that would have been incredibly delicious and special. I am privileged in this regard. Every one of my meals is basically a Christmas feast. I can go out and pay someone else $8 to cook me a heaping plate of rice, chicken, and vegetables, covered with a sweet garlic sauce. I can be as picky as I like, and easily stay alive.

These days, Grandma has a nice little kitchen that is clean and well-stocked. She lives alone, and cooks for one unless there are guests. It’s mostly the same things: chicken or pork, potatoes or another starch, and a vegetable, usually mushy, added to the meal as if to pacify God and give stability to the food pyramid. If she still cooks the same food as before, I wonder if it’s like me and my bike gears. She probably wished there was another way, a way to eat like Christmas everyday. Now it’s Christmas eternal, but I don’t think she feels that way. Maybe dreaming of an ideal state is what keeps us going; the anticipation of a world where things are easier.

Now everything is easy, yet it’s so hard to remember that this used to be our dream.

The Beauty of Space Rules

The number of beautiful women in this city is astounding. My heart loves to throws itself at the feet of anyone with a symmetrical face and playful body. I can’t turn my head or let wander my eyes without seeing someone walking down the sidewalk, grimacing miserably into the wind and rain, and they seem perfect and beautiful. I watch in awe as my mind instantly idealizes this complete stranger. Her last name is something discordant, like Olguffikson. Her first name is Gloria. When we are married she wants to take my surname. She likes it better. She is happier.

We have many discussions but never argue. We’ll go canoeing in the summer and talk about what it means to be alive, throwing small chunks of biscuit to our dog Biscuit, who loves the water, and who barks at the ducks. We’ll try for children as if we want one hundred thousand, but will only have one, because we are financially poor. It will be born sexless, due to some kind of chemical imbalance – too much cheap body lotion during pregnancy, guesses the doctor – but we love Stacy just the same.

Gloria and I will tell Stacy everything we know about existence, and they will grow up to become a space lawyer. It’s the career that I wanted but didn’t have the money or gumption to achieve. My dear child will be born with the gumption. We will steal the money if we have to. They will hire me as a private consultant, and together we’ll forge the first Bill of Rules for all that empty space.

First Rule: No littering, and huge incentives to those who clean up the litter which existed before the Bill of Rules. (Currently, out there in wild wild space, anyone can jettison anything they like.)

Second Rule: Consensual sex is fine. No worries about that. Any which way you like it is good.

Third Rule: No murder or rape. Rapists will be blasted in the direction of Betelgeuse. Not directly at it, but slightly off, so they don’t get the pleasure of feeling they have an end destination that isn’t freezing or starving to death all alone. We will not tolerate this hateful, abhorrent, terra-ble behaviour up here in the heavens.

Fourth Rule: Empathy shall be used, taught, and studied, in order to bring about a new age of emotional and philosophical understanding. Decisions must take into account the feelings of other humans, Mother Earth, and any other potential agents out there in the universe. We must learn to be prudent and responsible. This is a rule that requires slowing down. Time in space is lazy. Life can theoretically go on forever. We can finally afford to take things at an understandable pace.

Fifth Rule: No faction flags, separating oneself from humanity as a whole. We all share the same home. We are family. We are life. There are no countries up here. Be proud of your occupation, or the service that you are trained to provide: your special method of helping humanity. A flag for the miners, sure. A flag for the miners who think themselves better than welders: never.

I think those first five rules are a good start. I’ll have to wait to see what Stacy thinks. Space may be radically different in 25 years, when she is old enough and learned enough. 25 years is a long time down here at the bottom of the gravity well. My first 25 years felt like an eternity. What will 25 years feel like to Stacy, I wonder?

Gloria will have objections to Rule Two. She thinks it will encourage people to have sex all willy-nilly, with whomever they feel like, based purely on emotional and physical attraction rather than long-term compatibility and child-rearing prowess. That’s the point, I keep telling her. Finally, a place without rules governed by embarrassment, shame, or dusty ancient virtues. We can be new animals in space! The curious, horny, friendly, funny kind of animals. Leave the jealousy and covetousness in the cradle where it belongs.

Gloria walks out of view, around a corner. The street is occupied by different people now. My fantasy is blown to ribbons by the wind. I let it twirl away into the back of my mind as I look at all the new faces.