A short story
Luzkziilt has been summoned by his tutor, Ree&ens, to come and discuss his project universe. His constitution vibrates at high frequency as he approaches. It’s highly unusual for Ree&ens to invite anyone into her domain for a discussion. Those few students she does interact with she corresponds with by electricity, pulsing out a few pointers, a grade, and details of their next project. Something out of the ordinary must have prompted this.
Ree&ens is legendary for her work with parallel hierarchy universes and asymmetric time reversal. Her calendar is so packed with high level consultations and teaching engagements she has virtually no capacity for personal meetings. It could only mean one of two things: either she’s going to congratulate him for his brilliance, or he is in for some serious criticism, perhaps even a fail … and she isn’t known for suffering fools gladly.
In the time he’s been waiting, though, Luzkziilt has cultivated a cautious hope that she might in fact be wanting to commend him and tell him that his universe is brilliant. He’s more than a little pleased with it himself. It’s certainly … unusual. He’s taken risks, for sure, and done some thinking outside the box, broken a few rules, yes, but isn’t that what creativity is about? Surely there’s no doubting the grandeur of his universe, its aesthetic beauty, the fascinating way it is evolving, particularly in its life forms.
But as Luzkziilt reaches the portal into Ree&ens his hopes are dashed immediately. In the tradition of a dominant god, the landscape around Ree&ens, her domain, is a manifestation of her emotional state and one look at it tells him he’s in deep trouble. There’s nothing living in her domain at all. Just black mountains of frozen methane and a screaming yellow sulphur sky. She must have found serious fault with his work. Her disembodied, all-surrounding voice commands his entry. ‘Enter Luzkziilt.’
Luzkziilt floats through the portal, guarding from view the full extent of his fear and disappointment.
Alarmingly she cuts straight to the chase: ‘Your universe: is cruel.’ Her voice is cold. Luzkziilt inhales space deeply and slows down his local experience of time ‘… Why so?’
‘Isn’t it obvious?’
Luzkziilt stays silent, not wanting to participate in a guessing game.‘You haven’t shown yourself as creator.’
Luzkziilt feels his own thought processes narrow into a reactive defence: ‘Well yes I … I wanted to …’
‘But it goes against everything I’ve taught you! It ignores my primary ethical principles of universe design.’
‘I know. I know…’ Luzkziilt searches for a way to respond, aware that it is paramount that he remains calm. ‘I … I did not want to just follow rules. I wanted to be creative … and I wanted my universe to be creative too, to be different. I wanted to see how life would evolve in mystery. How it would be if it did not have any authority to conform to, or rebel against. So many universes have floundered in those reactions. Look at Frusciya 179 and Vntacha 8Q2. He is siting the two universes often quoted as the extreme examples that students are meant to steer a course between: Frusciya for its conformity – a universe so plentiful and risk-free that the life forms there never question anything … they are all adoringly compliant and banal with hardly a brain cell to toss between them; and Vntacha 8Q2, in contrast, a harsh and dramatic universe, renowned for its unpredictable extinction events and for its rebellious life forms – who used their very advanced technology first to destroy whole sections of their universe in protest at their creators, and then finally succeeding in destroying everything in a mass imploding suicide.
‘… I wanted my life forms to have nothing explicit to react against.’ Luzkziilt continues nervously. ‘I wanted them to write their own stories, find their own rules, their own ethics.’
Intense orange lights flare through Ree&ens as she digests this. Then turn from orange to an icy blue: ‘So, as I feared, you did it deliberately! I hoped, perhaps, it was a glaring oversight …. Can’t you see how much suffering this has caused? Life needs direction, guidance. It needs answers. Keeping life in this – mystery –as you call it, causes untold ignorance and suffering.
Luzkziilt struggles again with his defensiveness before answering. ‘but there are life forms in my universe that are evolving differently, that have developed some interesting … perspectives and stories of their own creation.’
‘Give me a random example?’ Ree&ens demands reluctantly.
Luzkziilt calls up a random example and a virtual earth appears. The two of them study the planet for a short period absorbing four billion rotations of the planet around its sun, the geological shifts and final development of life. Then for a tiny flick of time they assess the entire story of the dominant species.
Ree&ens is the first to speak: ‘Exactly as I feared: that species, like many others I’ve looked at in your universe, is sub-optimal. Look at their greed, their violence, their wars, their unnecessary suffering. They are self-obsessed, some of them even kill themselves when they’re still healthy. They haven’t even learnt to feed their whole species. How can you say this isn’t cruel?’
Luzkziilt displays dread and dismay. Then a pulsing spark in his creativity zone. ‘It is true what you say. They do kill themselves, sometimes, and each other. And they aren’t feeding all their species and they’re contaminating their home planet. But they also have … very fine music for their level of development and some of them have extraordinary capacity too for compassion. Without being told to cultivate this, some of them have found their own way to it. They have worked out a lot for themselves. They’ve developed unique ways of seeing things which do not fit what we might have told them but nonetheless show imagination and some … insight. I haven’t told them what to believe or explained anything to them so they’ve become deeply curious on their own account. They have used their initiative to try and understand my design of their universe and to develop their own morality and systems of justice. They’ve gone much further with morality in the short time frame they’ve been alive than almost every species I have witnessed in other universes where it is all explained and where there is no need to ask questions or think and where discipline is imposed externally. All this without me needing to punish or reward anyone. This species has learnt to think of its own accord…’
‘But their thinking is so incorrect, what’s the value in that? They think they are somehow special and separate. Some of them even think they might be the most advanced species in your project! Their hubris is massive. They even think of it as their universe. Like they own it. Like they’re in charge. How ludicrous is that? Some of them even think they’re alone, the only life form! They’re deeply deluded. They think they have agency because there is nothing, no one, to tell them otherwise. This ‘mystery’ you have elevated may have spurred them into some low-level initiative – I grant you that – but look at the cost: they are in denial of the greater context: arrogant, selfish, confused, insubordinate …’
‘Insubordinate is what I wanted’ Luzkziilt’s in reaction now. ‘that’s the whole point. I did not want them to just follow my rules.’
‘Why ever not? What kind of inverse snobbery is that? You are their creator. You made all this. Don’t be so self-effacing.’ Ree&ens draws a virtual line around the world and swells it out to encompass the whole universe Luzkziilt has designed. ‘Where are you? Why are you hiding yourself? You made this, so own it, show them your presence so that they can have the relief of that, the relief of knowing what to do and the relief of … worshiping you. Life in your universe is in the dark.’
‘But I did not want to tell them what to do.’ Luzkziilt insists again. ‘What would be the point in them just following my rules? It would just be like any other universe with everything panning out in a predictable way. I wanted to give them a sense of their own agency and the only way I could think to do that was to hide myself as the creator.’
Ree&ens makes throbbing reds and purples and scatters them far and wide.‘But without explanation and meaning, even rudimentary intelligence such as this, despairs … or, worse, it becomes over-inflated. We have to provide a moral container or anything can happen. Life cannot blossom in a void.’
Luzkziilt can see that Ree&ens is becoming increasingly incensed with him when a massive geyser shoots out from a gap in her ground. but there are clouds of dismay racing around in his own private domain and he gives it one last shot: ‘But isn’t that our situation? Haven’t we blossomed without understanding ourselves. We still don’t understand the greatest paradox of all: how something can emerge from nothing. We none of us know an ultimate ethical authority either. None of these rules for universes are intrinsic. Aren’t we arrogant ourselves then to think we can impose morality? The rules you have made for universes in this course are your rules. They aren’t sacrosanct.’ No sooner has Luzkziilt delivered this thinking than he regrets unveiling it. Ree&ens explodes a mountain sized rock and buries him in a sizzling, thunderous avalanche.
‘Young male, how dare you talk to me in that manner, how dare you accuse me of arrogance when it is you that has gone against instructions and questioned my authority and my wisdom. I took the trouble to invite you to my domain today because I thought you were a talented student and I did not want to dismiss you out of hand. But now I know this was a mistake. Your universe is so cruel you must now bring it to an end.’
Luzkziilt becomes a dark field of dust under the rubble. ‘How do you mean bring it to an end, you’re not suggesting….
‘No, I’m not suggesting anything I’m telling you to end it.
‘But isn’t that the height of cruelty itself? Isn’t that the very same cruelty you were warning me against. Isn’t that worse than any suffering already present in my universe?
An exasperated earthquake shakes Ree&ens’ domain and Luzkziilt feels the ground beneath him shake in violent waves. ‘No, it’s totally different. By definition no life form suffers when a universe is turned off. Obviously, they can’t suffer any more because they no longer exist.
Luzkziilt ponders the matter for a few private eons then sinks low inside himself. ‘In that case, I refuse.’
‘You DARE to disobey me? You dare to be insubordinate? Her domain becomes pitch black and Luzkziilt finds himself floating in liquid nitrogen.
‘Yes, and that’s just the point, we have to find our own morality.’ He manages from the freezing darkness.
‘In that case I will destroy it myself.’ Immediately Ree&ens conjures up an imprisoning space time net around Luzkziilt’s project that will allow her to deflate the time in it as easily as bursting a balloon. She is about to do this when there’s a blinding flood of light as another being, more immense and all-encompassing than herself, tears wide a crack in her domain and makes himself known.
‘I am your creator, and you force me to reveal myself’.
Ree&ens turns a milky white.
‘That universe must be left alone. Your student is on the right track. How do you think your own situation came about if not through one greater than yourself? Your hypocrisy confounds me Ree&ens. Have you not benefited from not knowing about me? Has not your own mysterious context enabled all this? I have chosen not to reveal myself until now, because, like Luzkziilt I have wanted you to enjoy a measure of creativity yourselves. I have wanted you to have at least a paradoxical illusion of free will. But you give me no alternative but to end your experimentation. You have gone too far, become too arrogant, too controlling, too keen to display your own hand. I could not watch you destroy this breakthrough from your student – a creation so beautiful and so apparently free and mystery-filled. Mystery is the gift we give to life. It is something our own creators, I imagine, cannot enjoy, and bless them therefore for enabling us to have it. The least we can do is to pass it on to those we create. I have waited too long for you to understand this, Ree&ens. Luzkziilt was leading the way with a new order of universes so much better than those that you and your students have achieved so far … and you wanted to destroy his work.’
A long silence ensues, Ree&ens’ domain has gone. Her presence alone trembles at the words of her creator.
‘So,’ the creator continues, his voice low and weary: ’I am choosing to allow Luzkziilt’s universe to continue and, now that you know me, I have no alternative but to close down your own… ‘
Everything goes black. Time stops. Luzkziilt becomes aware of himself still there. A beautiful domain opens up so vast and mysterious that it defies all description.
‘Welcome’ says his creator. ‘You are gifted. Will you join with me and the other creators?’
Luzkziilt smiles. ‘Only if you don’t tell me what to do.’