This story is by Robert Keyes and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
From the Desk of Dr. W. Alrus
I had been working for the state psychiatric hospital for nearly 12 years when I met Hank Nod. He did go by Hank Nod, but it was not his real name. I decided to not change his preferred alias as its construction was so important to him, and my legal advisor informs me that it is not a HIPAA violation for me to do so. I had diagnosed him with schizophrenia with traits indicating a comorbidity with borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and clinical depression. However, he was so acutely aware of his illness and he did not require any convincing. Rather, he himself declared it and demanded treatment for it.
I had found him a rather enjoyable man to talk with, as he was always quick with a joke or an anecdotal story. Of which he kept detailed records of in his journals. I had Mr. Nod in my care 5 times over the years. His last stint at my hospital ended with him disappearing, and leaving all his journals behind. I have read through his journals now thousands of times. Finding them to be of the up most fascinating view of self-absorbed insanity a scholar such as myself should ever hope to view. Finally, after many years, my life partner has convinced me to share some of Hank’s mind with the world. It is the following where I have attempted to do so.
The following are excerpts from what he called the one true gospel. Of which he believed that his primary delusion, an entity named Iblees who was trapped in his head, had enlightened him of these truths.
“The One True Gospel, As Translated by An Enlightened Madman”
Book of Nod, Chapter 1, The First Genesis Begins
In the beginning, there was nothing, which is quite problematic since nothing has no beginning or end, and it is quite boring. I mean there were things in the nothingness, but not really, they were also nothing. In addition, given that they were, in fact, nothing and “in nothingness”, means tacitly, that there was no time as well. Which, of course, means it lasted forever. Unfortunately, forever is a really long time to have nothing, do nothing, be nothing, and in general just flat out nothing around. Which is, again, really boring. So, nothing began naming stuff, this is called the great naming. Which is damn near impossible to do, considering that nothing was naming nothing. It is equally meaningful for a baby to blurt out sounds while not pointing, aiming, thinking, nor etc-ing and there, in turn, is a name for something. But, that is how it happened. For if not that, then how else would you explain the transition from nothing to something. I rest my case!
Words were born and never stopped being born. To that end, their quality and accuracies fluctuated at best. While always missing their intended marks. One of the first beings, Man, who named himself just that, Man. Proposed everyone should name themselves after him being called Mankind. Which is a bit egocentric, or so Ego argued. Woman suggested that we name everyone of similar shape and girth individually to stave off confusion in political discussions. However, Political said they did not mind. This began the great war of Man and Woman, which never really resolved itself fully. Man, argued that he was a self-creator, thusly avoiding infinite regresses, and therefore deserves the blanket namesake. Woman insisted that was not the case, arguing that she had given birth to Man and Woman. Political and Ego formed an alliance called, the Conscientious Objectors Club. They maintained that Woman and Man were both bastards. But for the sake of clarity, these first beings shall be known as the Jìshēng. They are, by our ocular perception, shadowy beings, and are almost never in complete focus to human eyes.
Shortly after the great naming, about five thousand of our years, there were three main schools of thought, militant factions really. In no particular order, there was, and still is, Altruism, Egoism, and Sophrosyne. All three agreed that they ought to create more than the plasmatic gumbo pot of non-existence that they currently existed in, they would come to call it a universe. Unfortunately, they disagreed vastly over the manner in which a universe should be created. Altruism maintains the position that the universe should avoid zero-sum scenarios. Instead, the universe should exist to maintain current existence, growth, and happiness above all else. Egoism agrees that the universe ought to maintain current existence, and growth. However, concepts such as happiness are vague at best. Furthermore, any and all notions of happiness, sadness, or whatever ought to be brought about by one’s actions, and not just granted. To this end, Egoism argues that the universe should be survival of the fittest style, no hold bars, dog eats dog, and other clichés as well. This is to say they are very big on zero sum scenarios. Sophrosyne, as to their constant disposition, maintains that there ought to be a balance of both. This is to say, that some things are best created and maintained via a distributive or zero-sum model. Whereas other things are better off being as far away as possible from distributive models. “A perfect balance is the only true route to the creation of a universe”, the Sophrosynes argued. “Creation and destruction, love and hate, happy and sad, etc. and so on!” “Just so long as there is an equal amount of all, creating a perfect balance.”
For 500 years, the battle, as they called it, waged on. For the sake of clarity, it was more of an intense debate than a battle. I mean at one point Self-Righteous Judgment did kick Open-Mindedness in the shin. But, Open Mindedness just tried to see it from Self-Righteous Judgment’s point of view. In the end, they all demonstrated a keen sense of dogmatic stubbornness. The Sophrosyne, in a sneaky way, purposed that Egoism and Altruism create two different existences parallel to each other. In turn, the Sophrosynes would create a barrier, that they called a quantum field, between the two existences. To this end, the two existences shall be able to coexist while never having to cross paths. In return, the Sophrosynes would create an existence that overlapped both Egoisms and Altruisms existences creating their perfect balance. All agreed this would be better than continuing ‘the great battle,’ and they all went their separate ways.
A newly created inhabitant, named Infinite Regress, of the Sophrosyne universe, posed a very vexing question. The question being, “how can our universe be of perfect balance without another three more universes that are working in the exact opposite of these universes making nine universes?” “And for that matter, there would need to be nine more universes working in the exact opposite of the other nine universes, and so on and so on!” Now Infinite Regress did not literally say “and so on and so on,” rather she kept listing off the new number of universes required for perfect balance. As she did so, new universes kept popping into existence. Which, in turn, put a strain on the Sophrosyne’s quantum field. Which momentarily moved in and out of existence. This continued until other inhabitants of the Sophrosyne universe beat Infinite Regress until she was mute. After which, now brain damaged, she continued creating new dimensions and possibilities by thinking the question. I should like to note that the beating she received was not so severe that it should be seen as unbalanced. Upon halting Infinite Regress there was a bang-ish sound and an explosion-ish event, both of indeterminate size. I mean it was not as big as infinity, but it was larger than a toaster. At any rate, this was the creation of a brand-new existence built off the backs of an approaching infinite number of universes. Within it housed a somewhat milky looking galaxy, and within that a planet just right for creating intelligent life.
-Hank Nod, 2004.
Afterthoughts by Dr. W. Alrus
While it is not hard to understand how someone could easily dismiss the metaphysical ramblings of a madman. It is the case, historically speaking, that not many do. Since most prophets of most faiths have been individuals proclaiming paradoxes. Of which their only sources cited was a voice no one else could hear. Now, I am not arguing in favor of Hank’s ‘One True Gospel.’ However, I am asking, to what end can we ignore the metaphysical ramblings of one madman, in exchange for the metaphysical ramblings of another madman?
I will grant you, Hank, proposes a paradox of creation. Its solution can be expressed as; (~E = E). Where E means exist, yet, it is not anymore a paradox than any other creation story I have ever come across. So, when you are picking madmen to listen to, perhaps you will keep Hank in the running.
An interesting concept in the storytelling, and an intriguing story at the start. I like how “The Book of Nod” begins, but as it progresses into complexity and rambling, I had to remind myself this was the writing of a madman, to keep reading without overthinking. The afterthought is poignant.