Entangled Hearts 2
Sunlight shone through Walter’s eyelids. His skin, blood and tissue cells filtered the light to a familiar reddish color. In fact, photons coming from the sun were bouncing into the electron orbitals of Walter’s atoms, which in turn emitted photons of a certain wavelength.
Every morning, it took him quite a while to really wake up. His mind and body were like an old car that you’d have to start with a crank. And, as something inside him was cranking along, he simply lay there comfortably, in his bed. He had learned to appreciate this feeling. The feeling of not being in control, of being only part of the greater whole called Walter.
As he opened his eyes and felt his control of his body coming back, he emerged from his bed. The first thing that came to his mind that morning, was the conversation of the night before, with Sara. A jolt of lightning shot through his veins. Being fully awake, he had the fastest breakfast of his life and rushed to work.
The day at work, however, felt like a lifetime. Walter was so excited to talk to Sara again, he felt like a child waiting for Christmas, its birthday, and the last day of school, all at once.
Inside the autocraft on his way home, he said through clenched teeth: “Come on, go faster!”. The autocraft sensed the true urgency in his voice and adapted the algorithm to grant him landing priority. It moved heaven and hell to allow his wish, but unfortunately, Walter didn’t notice the 45 seconds he saved on his trip.
Back at his apartment, he sat down on his adjustable couch. He couldn’t call Sara immediately, that wouldn’t be ‘cool’, so he took an agonizing moment to observe his surroundings. In front of him, was the huge glass wall that allowed him to gaze; to his side, he saw his TV screen and the home workout mat he rarely used. Being too lazy to put it away, he realized that he’d probably not use it at all, if he’d stow it away. So, he felt like his laziness to leave it out was perfectly justified.
After 15 seconds of staying ‘cool’, he picked up the quantum phone and dialed up Sara. The phone rang, but nobody answered. Anxiety started to creep up in Walter - what if she’d met someone else in real life?
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. He put the phone down and went over to see who it was. What if it was Sara? His heart dropped into his feet at the possibility of that woman being outside his door. He glanced at the mirror – “Nice choice of color Mr. sweatpants” he congratulated himself – and moved on to the door. On the video interface, he saw a man holding something in his hands. Relieved disappointment calmed his nerves back down, when he realized that the person outside his door wasn’t Sara.
When he opened the door, he was greeted with: “Good afternoon, sir! God believes in you. Do you believe in him?”
“What? Ahm. I don’t… think... I mean… Wait, which religion are you selling?”
“I am not selling anything, sir. I am just here to inform you about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and about the absolute truth that is written in the Holy Bible.” announced the man.
“The absolute truth of the Holy Bible? You really believe that. That book was written thousands of years ago. It cannot be the absolute truth. I mean, think about the Principia Mathematica, written by Newton. The guy found out how gravity works and was able to predict the movement of planets quite accurately, only to be bested a couple hundred years later by Einstein who described the universe as a 4-dimensional space-time manifold. And you are trying to sell me the Bible as the absolute truth? You are being ridiculous. If God wanted to give us his absolute truth in book form, why would he make humans that try to figure out how the universe works? It should all be in his “absolute book”. So there is really only one thing we can be sure of at this point: Either God made humans to investigate the universe and did not “give” us the Bible, or God wrote the Bible but has almost nothing to do with the universe, humans, and at least 42 other things I don’t care to list right now. Thank you for your time!” Walter concluded and shut the door.
He took a moment to take a deep breath as he felt his emotions and hormones spiralling him into places he’d usually not go to. When his mood settled back down, he looked over to the kitchen where he saw a basket full of avocados, a toaster, and some bread. The expectation of future possibilities involving him and those three items, made him expand his nostrils. Then, he heard a noise. Some sort of indistinct chatter. Back at his couch, his phone quietly yelled: “Hello? Hellloooo?”
Realizing who it was, his heart jumped all the way through his throat straight into his brain telling him to dolphin dive over to the couch, and immediately answer the phone. Considering his absence of experience with dolphin diving, he simply rushed over and responded: “Oh hey! Sorry! there was somebody at the door. How are you?”
“I’m good. Thanks! How are you?” Sara said with an audible smile and then continued with a slightly lower pitched voice that tried to sound cool, but really didn’t: “If there is something important you need to take care of, we can talk later you know…”
Walter raised an eyebrow at the sudden change of pitch and said: “No, no, no. There was just a guy trying to tell me about God and the Bible. I already took care of it.” He said and smiled over the monologue he had just given the stranger, about how everything he believed in wasn’t real. “But hey, what about going outside and taking a walk? You know, on Earth...” He was winking so hard at the last sentence his face almost cramped.
“Ahm. I don’t know. Even though I had a great time with you last night, don’t get me wrong, I’d rather chat a bit more on the phone. If that’s ok with you?” Sara said shyly.
“Oh, nonono. That’s not what I meant. I was thinking of taking a walk by myself, while you do the same, and we just keep chatting over the phone while we’re outside.” A short pause “Saying it out loud makes it sound kind of weird. But hey, I was sitting all day, so I’m going to take a walk and you can do whatever.” He said with a smile and then hastily added: “As long as whatever is chatting with me over the phone, of course.”
“Sounds good Walt! Ahm, I mean Walter.” A moment of insecurity faded “Can I call you Walt?”
“You can call me WALT-ever you walnt!” said Walter while proudly stumbling over his words.
Sara suppressed her laughter without knowing why and said: “Ok Mr. Walt-Disnep. Show me the way.”
Walter was laughing from joy, from having earned a new nickname, and about the p in Disnep. When he gained control back over his stomach muscles he just asked: “Disnep? With a p?”
“Have you seen the logo? It looks like there is a p at the end!” Sara responded, while still chuckling and audibly wiping away her tears.
“Ok Sara, sure. Let’s go for a walk then.” He said with a confident smile.
He took his coat, put the phone into his bag and went off to the elevators that lead to the ground floor. On his way out, he saw a card on his doormat, saying: “Jesus loves you”. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. He didn’t want trash lying in front of his place.
Inside the megastructure, elevators climbed the 1.5-kilometer-high tower on rails, which were periodically attached to the building. Rail driven elevators were necessary, since a full-length steel cable from top to bottom would rip 3 times over because of its own self-weight. The rails were scaling the giant atrium, which used semi-reflective walls, in order to get the sunlight all the way down to the lowest floors. Finally, the bottom 3 floors were just a wide open space full of greenery, that would allow a smooth transition from lush green outside to sleek inside.
Outside the megastructure, he took a deep breath and smelled the vegetation around him. The imaginary smell of morning thaw eased him into the green tranquility. There was hardly anyone around since most people decided to live in the megastructures and used autocrafts to travel between them. If it wasn’t nature herself you were looking for, there wasn’t much reason to go outside anymore.
“Do you walk around the streets sometimes, Sara?”
“Yes of course! I love it! Everything is so green. And sometimes, there are even animals.”
“Yes exactly! Last time I took a walk, I saw a dazzle of zebras.” said Walter proudly and continued: “How was your day, by the way? Did you communicate some physics? Told someone how the universe works?”
“Well, you could say that. Although, the more I know about the universe, the less I know about the universe. Or maybe let me put it another way. The more questions I answer, the more difficult are the questions that arise from those.”
“Yeah. I guess I understand your sentiment. So… A pretty good day then, huh?!”
With a short “hah” Sara expressed her amusement and continued in a concerned tone: “Considering the circumstances. Sure!”
“The circumstances? What circumstances?”
“You know… The elephant in the room…”
“You have an elephant in your room? Wow! Do you need to take it for a walk, or something?” Pause. “Make sure to bring a bag ok?”
“Ach. No, I’m talking about the end of the world.” She said humorously annoyed.
“Oh yeah, that elephant. That one’s also in my room. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really. Besides, as I understand it, Albert is figuring out a way to build a massive rocket that will simply deflect the Meteorite and it’s all good. He even built a space elevator to construct the thing and bring all the necessary explosives up there.”
“Yes, seems like that’s the plan. Sounds good to me, honestly.” Walter said doubting his own words.
“Yes, I guess you’re right. But you know what really doesn’t let me go? The entropy thing, Albert mentioned just before the end of the world.”
“That the meaning of life is to decrease entropy? Hmm, I kind of forgot about that. But you are right. That’s a pretty profound statement to just drop like that, in a conversation.”
Walter reached the city limit and started to climb a small hill. Inside the forest, he smelled the damp moss and heard tiny branches cracking under his feet. ‘Albert needs to save this planet. It’s too damn beautiful.’ Was a thought that simply appeared in his head and left moments later. Then, he heard a faint buzzing sound coming from above. As he looked up he spotted a bee-hive high up in the trees.
“Sorry to break the topic, but aren’t bees the most incredible creatures? A single bee, all by itself, can’t really do much. But a lot of them form a hive. Something that seems to have a life and intelligence of its own. Just marvelous. Honestly, somewhat like the megastructures we live in. Or at least I live in.”
Sara responded excitedly: “Actually, you are not breaking topic at all. Do you know what emergence is?”
“Of course, I do it every morning when I get out of bed.” Walter exclaimed in a decisive tone
“It sounds like you’re sleeping in a sarcophagus.” Sara joked.
“If it was lined with Egyptian silk and had a night stand with a papyrus scroll made from dried elephant excrement, I’d consider it. Are you selling any?”
Walter’s left ear was caressed by the tweeting of wild birds, while the earbud in his right, submerged him in a quick succession of 3 laughs and 2 inhaling grunts. Sara losing all control over her breathing apparatus made Walter feel like serving a higher purpose. The purpose of making somebody else feel good.
When Sara regained control, she said: “Ok. Good to know. I’ll let you know when I find some good offers… Anyways, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, emergence. Emergence is when something, that is made from many small things, has properties that the small things don’t have. Like the beehive you were just talking about. A single bee doesn’t do much. But a whole hive has a life of its own. Or something that is quite fascinating to me is temperature. When you look at individual particles, like atoms or molecules, they don’t have a temperature. Temperature only arises when you have bigger objects made up of a lot of these tiny building blocks. What we experience as temperature is just the vibration of these tiny objects. So, what I’m getting at is that, in a way, temperature doesn’t exist. All that exists is the motion of particles.”
After a short pause, Walter said: “Excuse me, but this morning, I was in such a hurry, I burned my tongue with coffee. I have some first-hand experience that temperature is very real.”
“Oh no, why did you have to rush?” Sara was concerned.
Walter had to think for a second ‘Stay cool, Waltage. You got this. Just don’t tell her that hearing her voice is like spreading butter and avocado over your toasty heart’. “Ahm well, you know, there is so much business on my agenda to be quarterly approved, checked and organized. It’s just about climbing the power structure within the greater conglomerate and to make sure that the growth marketing equity is… ahm.” Short pause. “Trending.”
“I see. But, when I came home at two in the afternoon, my phone was already ringing. I have to admit, your call got me way excited!” Sara confessed embarrassedly.
Her honesty struck Walter like an arrow to the heart. She liked him. With confidence, he then said: “Talking to you is like spreading butter and avocado over my toasty heart.” He raised an eyebrow at himself, and then listened to the chuckling coming through the phone.
“That is the sweetest thing I have ever heard. Or should I say smoothest?”
They both giggled joyfully.
Walter reached the top of a hill where he found himself on a large meadow with short grass and some lonely bushes and trees spread out here and there. One of the bushes had a head on a neck emerging from behind it. It was a giraffe.
“There is a giraffe right in front of me.” Walter said in awe.
“Does it have a long neck?”
“Yes, it does. Very long actually!” Walter said, while observing the intricate color pattern on the Giraffe’s body. ‘A bit of a silly camouflage you’re wearing there, big fella. Who are you trying to fool?’ he thought to himself. The giraffe was chewing on some leaves and gave him a friendly look. Then, it looked down on his sweatpants, where it observed a military-esque camouflage pattern of neon green, yellow and red. The judgmental stare that followed made Walter reconsider his thoughts. “Hey, uhm, are we still talking about decreasing entropy?” he asked when he got over the imaginary giraffe insult.
“Oh yeah right. You see, entropy is the measure of disorder. So, if you put things in order, you decrease their entropy. In other words, if a bunch of bees build a beehive, they are decreasing the entropy…”
Walter interrupted “So decreasing entropy is not impossible actually? I was told it’s impossible.”
“Well, here is the catch. For the bees to build a hive, they need to expend energy that they gathered somewhere else. By doing that, they are, in fact, increasing the entropy of the universe, while decreasing the local entropy of the beehive. To sum it up, it’s impossible to decrease the entropy of the universe, but not of some local thing.”
“So the meaning of life is to decrease entropy then?” Walter wanted to know.
“To me it seems more like, that life IS the local decrease of entropy. We emerge from the complex interaction of a lot of tiny parts that when put together, make up life.”
“So, Albert misunderstood his own answer? We don’t need to find a way to decrease entropy, we are already doing it.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. I mean. The entropy of the universe cannot be decreased. So, he can’t mean that.” Sara said unconvincingly.
“Ok,” Said Walter.
“What do you mean, Ok?” Sara wanted to know
“You know. It’s one of those things you simply cannot know. Why is there something instead of nothing?; and: what the hell is going on in Albert’s mind?” Walter said jokingly. “Let’s rather talk about something we know stuff about. Tell me more about emergence. That sounds interesting.”
“Sure! I’d love to. For example, consciousness seems to be an emerging property. One single neuron is not conscious, but if you put a lot of them together in a brain and allow them to interact, your mind emerges.”
“Wow! And if you put a lot of humans together, what emerges is a society, right?”
“Yep. That is exactly right.”
“What about God?” he wanted to know.
“What do you mean?”
“If there are a lot of humans, all of them believing that God is real, consecutively acting as if God were real, does that make God real? When they were burning witches in the name of God, was that actually God? Is God a horrible person to hang with?”
There was a pause. Then Sara said astounded: “Well. I never thought about it that way. But. In a way. You are right?! I mean. If people believe that there is a bearded man in the sky looking over them, that doesn’t make a bearded guy in the sky appear. But if a lot of people act accordingly to what they believe is the will of God, the will of God emerged from human-to-human interaction.”
“So, just like temperature, God is real then?” Walter needed to know.
“Hmm. There are real consequences being triggered by our beliefs. That’s for sure. But what religions say about God… That’s clearly made up. I think… It’s like, religion is the marketing department of God. There is something that has real consequences on the world, let’s call it collective belief or God or Shubidubi-bing-bing, and then there is what people tell each other about that thing, which is religion.”
“I have to say, I would prefer a yes or no answer here.” Walter said and continued “Let me conclude: I emerge from neurons; God emerges from humans. Either God exists, or I don’t.”
A long pause followed. Then Sara said: “Ok.”
“Ok?” Walter said startled “You don’t care?”
“No. I do care. But you know, it’s one of those things we can’t answer, like: why is there something instead of nothing?”
Walter was breathing heavily at this point. “Phew. I have to say. I am getting exhausted over questioning reality. Let me just take a break on that rock over there.”
“Of course, you must have been walking quite far, if you haven’t stopped until now,” Sara stated.
Walter strolled over to the nearby rock and sat down on the rough yet plane surface of the ancient limestone. He could feel the warmth of the sun-baked rock through his pants and through the palms of his hands. He laid down. The sky was filled with shaded orange red clouds, drifting by, taking up shapes of memories.
“Ahm, I know we are just getting to know each other” he said. “But, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course.” She said without hesitation.
“What do you think makes a good relationship? And I don’t mean us, or even, you know, a boy-girl kind of relationship. I mean any kind.”
“Like a friendship?”
“Yeah, but you know. A profound one.” He added.
“I think it’s when you like the person that you are, when you are around that someone,” she said calmly.
He exhaled and then listened to the silence on the phone. In peace, he felt his arms getting lighter. A tingling warm feeling on his face made him think the sun was blessing him with love. But the sun had nothing to do with it. Thump, short pause, thump, slightly longer pause, thump, was the rhythm of his heart when it pushed the warm red goo through his veins. Comfortable oxygen delivery washing through his body, as always it should seem, but this time, it felt better than usual.
“Hey,” said Sara with a calm voice “Are you at the other end of the universe again?”
“No” responded Walter softly “I am here, and I’ll stay. Just enjoying the comfortable silence with you.”
The moment lingered on for a couple more seconds, when Walter said: “We should meet. How do you feel about a ride on Albert’s space elevator?”
“I would love to go up there with you!”
Pure joy shot through Walter giving him a burst of adrenaline that almost yanked him on his feet. “Oh my God, that’s amazing! How about tomorrow?”
“Ahm, Sara? Are you still there? Sorry if I scared you, I just got so excited, I couldn’t hold back.”
Walter got nervous. He checked the phone inside his bag and noticed that the batteries were empty. ‘The future is now’ he thought. Only slightly disappointed by his phone’s energy-level, he decided to get up and head home. But then he saw a tiny creature approaching him. The sun had already set, so it got dark, and it wasn’t easy to identify what it was. Then the dog-sized creature came closer, Walter realized it was a baby rhinoceros. To his surprise, the little fella stepped up on the rock with him and then curled up in his lap. Walter looked down at the wrinkly animal. It looked like a rough grey sandbag made from old man skin. But when he started stroking its back, he felt like touching Egyptian cotton pajamas. ‘Can this day get any better?’ he wondered.
After a delightful moment of scratching the rhino behind its ear, he looked around. It was getting quite dark, so he reached for his bag and took out his head lamp. Knowing that he sometimes walked until nightfall, he had come prepared. The light cone allowed him to see the ground before him, the treetops, and far off in the distance two small lights. Squinting his eyes at the two lights he identified a sharp looking horn in between them. Suddenly, it dawned on him. That was the mother. He looked down at the grey wrinkly old man baby in his lap and realized that he was in a life-or-death situation. The two lights started to run towards him. In the blink of an eye, Walter decided to run downhill towards the forest. Seeing it as his only chance of survival, he took the rhino baby and tossed it in the opposite direction, hoping that the mother would go after the baby instead of him. She didn’t.
Sprinting towards the trees, he felt his bag flailing against his hip. A quick glance over his shoulder reassured him, that his bag wasn’t the only thing that would like to flail at him. Zigzagging through the trees he hoped to outmaneuver the trainlike creature behind him. But the rhino just smashed through the undergrowth that Walter mistook for trees. Then, a massive, fallen tree was blocking his way. There was no way of going around it without the rhino catching up with him. So, he decided to take a leap of faith and dove headfirst over the tree. He landed comfortably in a pile of leaves, got up and continued running. He gained some distance, but when he looked back, the rhino was making its way around the tree and continued its pursuit. Meanwhile, the clouds had become thick and dark, and a storm was starting to form above him. All of a sudden, something yanked him off his feet. His bag had gotten wrapped up in some branches. “Does this phone have to entangle with everything?!?!” Walter screamed. He looked up at the galloping rhino and tried to free himself from the bag. But when he got out of the shoulder strap, he still couldn’t let go. There he stood, tears trying to make their way towards his eyes. Unwilling to let go he screamed: “SARAAAA!”
A bright flash of light and a deafening sound erupted. His ears were squealing. An instant of daylight had him completely lose his bearings. When he found himself still clenching at his bag, he realized that the rhino was now galloping in the other direction. He was saved.
The tree that had caught his bag was nothing but a smoldering stump. A lightning bolt had deep-fried it into oblivion. A lightning bolt that hadn’t harmed Walter one bit.
When his heart rate settled back down, he decided to check on the phone. ‘Please don’t be toast!’ he begged. To his surprise, the phone wasn’t just intact, it had regained a small amount of charge. Skipping through the menus he wanted to dial up Sara. Before he could press the button, he reconsidered.
‘Divine intervention or just luck?’ he thought when he heard the sizzling of the red hot tree stump. ‘A lot of luck for one day Walter, better make sure you deserve it.’ Was his conclusion when he reached into his pocket and pulled a card out. “Jesus loves you” it read. He turned it over and dialed the number on its back.
“Hey, hello. This is Walter speaking.”
“Ok. Do I know you?”
“Ahm, well, you came to my door earlier today.”
“Sir, I’ve come to many doors earlier today, maybe you can specify a little?”
“I was the guy who told you that nothing you believe in is real, because science.”
“Oh, yes, I remember you, Sir. How are you?” The voice said cheerfully.
“You are not angry at me for having told you all those things?” Walter was surprised by how polite the person was, considering what Walter had told him about his beliefs.
“Of course not sir. Why would I be angry over your opinion? It’s your opinion, not mine.”
“It is, I guess. Anyways, what I actually wanted to say is that, in a way, you saved my life.” Walter was surprised by his own words and continued: “If you wouldn’t have come to my door today, I would have left my place a few minutes earlier and the thing that just saved my life, would have been too late. In fact, if I’d have come home only 30 seconds later than I did, I would have missed you and be rhino kebab by now.”
“It was the Lord who sent me to your door today. It was the Lord who saved your life. Do you believe in him now?” asked the man intensely.
Walter took another glance at the smoldering stump, then at the sky that had almost cleared from the clouds that had formed moments earlier, then at the one percent battery charge of his phone and said shyly: “Not quite convinced yet.”
The man continued calmly: “You know, I was praying to do something meaningful, something that makes a difference, and here you are telling me that I did. So, thank you, sir!”
“The pleasure was all mine!” said Walter and hung up the phone. Still besides himself he made a decision: ‘I’ll have to see for myself whether or not there is a bearded man, woman or thing in the sky. I am going to take that space elevator, I am going to accept whatever reality has to offer, and I am going to bring Sara.”