As you are all aware, in the course of life we experience many kinds of pain. Pains of the body and pains of the heart. I know I have experienced pain in many different forms and I am sure you have too. In most cases, though, I am sure you've found it very difficult to convey the truth of that pain to another person: to explain it in words. People say that only they themselves can understand the pain they are feeling. But is it true? I for one do not believe that it is. If, before our eyes, we see someone who is truly suffering, we do sometimes feel his suffering and pain as our own. This is the power of empathy. Am I making myself clear?''He broke off and looked around the room once again.''The reason that people sing songs for other people is because they want to have the power to arouse empathy, to break free of the narrow shell of the self and share their pain and joy with others. This is not an easy thing to do, of course. And so tonight, as kind of experiment, I want you to experience a simpler, more physical kind of empathy. Lights please.''Everyone in the place was hushed now, all eyes fixed on stage. Amid the silence, the man stared off into space, as if to insert a pause or to reach a state of mental concentration. Then, without a word, he held his hand over the lighted candle. Little by little, he brought the palm closer and closer to the flame. Someone in the audience made a sound like a sigh or a moan. You could see the tip of the flame burning the man's palm. You could almost hear the sizzle of the flesh. A woman let out a hard little scream. Everyone else just watched in frozen horror. The man endured the pain, his face distorted in agony. What the hell was this? Why did he have to do such a stupid, senseless thing? I felt my mouth going dry. After five or six seconds of this, he slowly removed his hand from the flame and set the dish with the candle in it on the floor. Then he clasped his hands together, the right and left palms pressed against each other.''As you have seen tonight, ladies and gentleman, pain can actually burn a person's flesh,'' said the man. His voice sounded exactly as it had earlier: quiet, steady, cool. No trace of suffering remained on his face. Indeed, it had been replaced by a faint smile. ''And the pain that must have been there, you have been able to feel as if it were your own. That is the power of empathy.
Haruki Murakami
Your Eve was wise, John. She knew that Paradise would make her mad, if she were to live forever with Adam and know no other thing but strawberries and tigers and rivers of milk. She knew they would tire of these things and each other. They would grow to hate every fruit, every stone, every creature they touched. Yet where could they go to find any new thing? It takes strength to live in Paradise and not collapse under the weight of it. It is every day a trial. And so Eve gave her lover the gift of time, time to the timeless, so that they could grasp at happiness....And this is what Queen Abir gave to us, her apple in the garden, her wisdom--without which we might all have leapt into the Rimal in a century. The rite bears her name still. For she knew the alchemy of demarcation far better than any clock and decreed that every third century husbands and wives should separate, customs should shift and parchmenters become architects, architects farmers of geese and monkeys, Kings should become fishermen and fishermen become players of scenes. Mothers and fathers should leave their children and go forth to get other sons and daughters, or to get none if that was their wish. On the roads of Pentexore folk might meet who were once famous lovers, or a mother and child of uncommon devotion--and they would laugh and remember, but call each other by new names and begin again as friends, or sisters, or lovers, or enemies. And some time hence all things would be tossed up into the air once more and land in some other pattern. If not for this, how fastened, how frozen we would be, bound to one self, forever a mother, forever a child. We anticipate this refurbishing of the world like children at a holiday. We never know what we will be, who we will love in our new, brave life, how deeply we will wish and yearn and hope for who knows what impossible thing!Well, we anticipate it. There is fear too and grief. There is shaking and a worry deep in the bone. Only the Oinokha remains herself for all time--that is her sacrifice for us. There is sadness in all this, of course--and poets with long elegant noses have sung ballads full of tears that break at one blow the hearts of a flock of passing crows! But even the most ardent lover or doting father has only two hundred years to wait until he may try again at the wheel of the world and perhaps the wheel will return his wife or his son to him. Perhaps not. Wheels and worlds, are cruel. Time to the timeless, apples to those who live without hunger. There is nothing so sweet and so bitter, nothing so fine and so sharp.
Catherynne M. Valente
The President called it the Epitome of the American dream. Daddy called it the unholy alliance of business and government. But all it really was, was America giving up. Bailing out in order to join the Financial Resource Exchange. A multinational alliance focused on one thing: profit. Fund global medical care to monopolize vaccines. Back unified currency to collect planet-wide interest. And provide the resources needed for a select group of scientists and military personnel to embark on the first trip across the universe in a quest to find more natural resources—more profit. The answer to my parents’ dreams. And my worst nightmare. And I know something about nightmares, seeing as how I’ve been sleeping longer than I’ve been alive. I hope. What if this is just a part of a long dream dreamt in the short time between when Ed locked the cryo door and Hassan pushed the button to freeze me? What if? It’s a strange sort of sleep, this. Never really waking up, but becoming aware of consciousness inside a too-still body. The dreams weave in and out of memories. The only thing keeping the nightmares from engulfing me is the hope that there couldn’t possibly be a hundred more years before I wake up. Not a hundred years. Not three hundred. Not three hundred and one. Please, God, no. Sometimes it feels like a thousand years have passed; sometimes it feels as if I’ve only been sleeping a few moments. I feel most like I’m in that weird state of half-asleep, half-awake I get when I’ve tried to sleep past noon, when I know I should get up, but my mind starts wandering and I’m sure I can never get back to sleep. Even if I do slip back into a dream for a few moments, I’m mostly just awake with my eyes shut. Yeah. Cryo sleep is like that. Sometimes I think there’s something wrong. I shouldn’t be so aware. But then I realize I’m only aware for a moment and then, as I’m realizing it, I slip into another dream. Mostly, I dream of Earth. I think that’s because I didn’t want to leave it. A field of flowers; smells of dirt and rain. A breeze ... But not really a breeze, a memory of a breeze, a memory made into a dream that tries to drown out my frozen mind. Earth. I hold on to my thoughts of Earth. I don’t like the dreamtime. The dreamtime is too much like dying. They are dreams, but I’m too out of control, I lose myself in them and I’ve already lost too much to let them take over. I push the dream-memory down. That happened centuries ago and it’s too late for regrets now. Because all my parents ever wanted was to be a part of the first manned interstellar exploratory mission and all I ever wanted was to be with them. And I guess it doesn’t matter that I had a life on Earth and that I loved Earth and that by now, my friends have all lived and gotten old and died and I’ve just been lying here in frozen sleep.
Beth Revis