Gray-tinted humans

September 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

At its essence, a human is

human.

A soft, malleable layer of flesh stretched over imperfectly constructed bones that act as a sort of rudimentary cage to guard the spongy organs we depend on to pulse life through us.

Our flesh can be punctured. Our bones can be broken. Our organs can rupture. We are

fragile.

vulnerable.

mortal.

We operate on two types of energy–the potential energy that pulses through us, the trait of being alive, of existing–and kinetic energy, the trait of being alive, of living.

As we move through space and time, we seek different conduits to convert our potential energy into kinetic energy, to turn thoughts into actions that alter our worlds, whether it by disturbing the arrangement of a furniture in a room with physical gestures or disturbing the arrangement of thoughts in a head with vocal vibrations. Circumstance plays a role in our access to different conduits, and conduits play a role in the size of the alterations to our world that we make.

When the characters of Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder arm themselves with guns, they are assuming conduits in order to artificially amplify the alterations their soft, fleshy bodies can make to the world. They are strapping on power as they strap on their guns, transforming a flick of a finger into the death of a dinosaur. They hide underneath their camouflage of resources, attempting to mask the fact–nay, forget the fact– that at their cores, they are

fragile.

vulnerable.

mortal.

That the blast of the gun and the toppling of a dinosaur ultimately depends on the flick of a finger, attached to that soft, malleable layer of flesh, that

human

dependent on its spongy organs, including the fears and whims of the fickle brain, which, confronted with the enormity of the dinosaur, yells

REMEMBER, remember that you are human!

And Eckels remembers. And he runs, shedding the conduits, the artificial assumption of power, because the weight of it has become too much to bear; he is humbled, apologetic.

Yet it is Eckels–he who has attempted to rid himself of great power–who alters his world in the greatest fashion, by the simple action of stepping on a butterfly with his soft, fleshy body. He cannot shed the power inherent to his existence–his potential energy, common to all of humanity.

It is this potential energy–not the conduits we surround it with–that enables the smallest, most vulnerable human to enact change. Eckels changed the world not with time travel, but with the step of a foot: we can change worlds with things as immaterial as words–because changing an individual’s experience is changing what the world is to them. At times, this power can be terrifying–the responsibility of it can be so awesome that, like Eckels, we cower in fear from it. But it is the potential of our potentials to change things for the better that keeps us moving, acting, living. There exists 6 billion worlds and 6 billion bundles of potential energy capable of changing those worlds, for better or for worse–

–or, for the vast majority of us, some gray-tinted mixture of the two.


Celeste Graves

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