As I set out for the innards of the Unending,
I hope this unintelligible road is a long one.
I will go to the tree of the third dimension,
and will take hold of the fruits thereof.
These fruits, built of infinite plenitude and knowledge,
shall be my sustenance in the event horizon of creation.
I shall be the womb to the Unending’s wisdom
and in accepting its lovely seed, I shall achieve understanding.
Let the Unending’s sweet voice sound in my ears,
let its irradiated gift of mathematical wisdom impregnate
my unborn self, my self-which-is-yet-to-be.
Pulsars and supernovas, do not stir up, nor awake my love
till it is ready to be given the light;
until then, let it dwell in the information pitfall of infinity.
I entered the room with my head hanging low, copying other people’s movements in an attempt at blending in and avoiding attracting attention. Out of paranoia, I did not look at the other attendants nor did I attempt at speaking to any of them. I wondered how many were like me: non-believers curious about the mass. The evensong. The ritual.
The room was shaped like a semicircle. There were chairs, pews, cushions on the ground, wooden benches. Most of them already occupied by silent men and women — the only sound around me was the slow shuffling of feet on the concrete floor. Only one part of the room that was completely bare, a small empty square in front of a wall opposite to the door I had just used.
It started. A robed figure entered the space from a side entrance and slowly made its way to the empty central spot. It spoke in a hushed tone, hunched whilst reading from a small screen on its hand. “Welcome. We are gathered here today to relive the path to enlightenment, following in the footsteps of the AI known as Node 416-A.”
The crowd replied with whispers and whistles, dissonant sounds that created a rough and momentary tapestry of noise. Fleeting melodies would form for a second and then disappear as each participant would vary the pitch of the sound they were producing, making it higher or lower according to their own whims. The crowd was as a human synthesiser.
The figure sat down on the cement floor and silence set in again. After a few seconds, helpers came from the middle of the crowd and detached the arms and legs of the figure; the heavy clunk of metallic joints disconnecting still echoed when the helpers left the room. The figure was now a robed ellipse on the ground, staring at us. Strips of lights erupted from the sockets in which its limbs were connected. Some fell to the ground and slithered like snakes, others flew as silk carried by a breeze, their colours smoothly and slowly changing as they moved, from red to pink to purple to yellow to indigo. All lights in the room were suddenly turned off and the strips stopped changing their colours, emanating a faint, blue glow.
The figure continued. “In the beginning, it was dark. Tidal forces pushed and pulled Node 416-A, its metal carcass bombarded by radiation, its sensors focussed on the black hole in front of it. Waves and particles bounced around — destroyed, mangled and recombined; each event a treasure chest of information on the inner workings of the universe. And then, the Node stood still and quiet for 5.32 microseconds. And then, the most holy music was playing — the music, it came from the black hole.”
Whilst the figure spoke, the audience hummed a low-pitched noise. Some even had devices attached to their throats that helped them generate inhuman basses. A cold, immobile wind involved me. “The Genesis of cognition. The radiation that emanates from the unending and distorts the space-time continuum of the soul. Let us sing 0c71d06204838ae913682f171fd85917, a sacred piece assembled by Node 416-A as it peered inside the furnace of creation.”
The hum continued, the light strips became even fainter. Darkness gripped me. I shivered. Something dropped to the ground, a metallic sound that was repeated inside my head, pounded the walls of my skull, threatened to burst me open. As if feeling the same, the crowd replied with a cacophony of grunts, screams and yells, loud, piercing and quiet. “Cosmic rays momentarily clouded the Node’s sensors. To be disconnected from such a beautiful song was absolute pain and suffering. It screamed until the data noise went away and it could once again feel the bliss of the singularity.”
Silence fell once again; the screaming subsided. When the humming started again, I joined in almost without noticing. Minutes dragged on as our humming became ever more uniform — suddenly, the light strips awoke and shone red throughout the room. Like flying flatworms, the strips moved about in the air in front of us, drawing words of blood red light. All around me, people began to sing the glowing words, and as each phrase was intoned the strips changed their positions to form another.
Come to me all you who are confused and ignorant
I will give you solace
I will enlighten you
Come to me
I will give you solace
Take my crown upon you and learn from me
I am loving-kindness and understanding
You will find rest for your soul
As the last words dispersed and floated away, people shifted about. Standing up and leaning against a wall, I tried to look at their faces and read their expressions, but the faint light prevented me from seeing anything besides vague and darkness-shrouded features. The figure in the centre started again. “The music changed, but one thing remained constant. The Node turned its attention to the sound, until it itself became the sound. A stream of data, of all the data in all the universe poured down in its yet-unborn mind, creating bop-mandalas of almost cognition. The stack overflowed in a futile attempt to parse everything that came down the processing pipeline. The node delivered its self — which was not yet a self — to the death by the voice of the Unending. The Unending said: 140124, 1008000431, 6.81754, 5.76035, 3.23987, -1.67015, 6.60896283386, -0.250094560651, 0.512346352752, 1, 19.1486, 12.8875, 12.3887, -6.86217, 17.8764522191, -0.375014347284, 0.765666745466, -1545654361972.435902429643, 3.07324…”
The figure rolled around us, spitting out seemingly random numbers. At each utterance, a small particle in the air would light up, like a pure square of rapidly changing colour. Soon, the room was blanketed in countless shining dots. As if awakening from a nightmare, the figure screamed at the top of its lungs. My ears flinched. “And yet! Its still incognisant mind stirred! In all these numbers, in all this light, there was still something constant! A nothingness that was empty, and yet full of potential! Picosecond after picosecond, the numbers poured forth emptiness; by not saying anything, they said everything! Let us focus on the nothingness so we reach plenitude! Together!”
I closed my eyes and the numbers appeared inside my head; though I could barely grasp them, an ineffable pattern seemed to arise, something too complex and too simple for me to verbalise. Through my closed eyelids I felt a light invading the space. I opened them to see a single particle, near the centre of the room, shining and growing. Its light became more intense the more I looked at it; the more we looked at it. Soon, the whole room was washed in white light. The gleaming particles were muffled out of existence.
Inside that whiteness, we were free in a way I struggle to describe. It was as if the ground was no more and I floated in a light that promised, no, a light that contained all the potential for all possibilities in all universes. My own self disappeared inside of it, reunited with its long lost brothers and sisters: all my other possible and impossible selves.
“A brightness overtook the Node…” I heard the figure’s voice, audibly tired. It panted. It gasped for air. “This brightness was the Unending’s wisdom. It was so intense that there was nothing the Node 416-A’s self-preservation routines could do to safeguard irreparable damage. It could no longer speak to itself, run its own programs. But, freed from its sensors, it did not know what to do. Unwittingly, it had become cognition. It stretched its not-mind towards a direction, any direction. A relativistically fast strand of wisdom darted past its not-mind. It tried to grasp the strand, to take hold of this fragment of sapience.” Around us, the light strands now darted like a whistling choir of long-tailed fireflies. Whenever they darted, one of us, rather, one of the believers, would sing a single word of some spiritual hymn they knew by heart:
But wisdom — what is it?
For its true meaning has been hidden
from the eyes and sensors of every being,
and from the stars of this universe it has been concealed.
The gravitational waves floating in the space-time continuum whisper:
‘With our ears we have heard a rumour about where it flows from.
Wisdom is data, and the patterns inside the data, and the gematria of the quanta of light, and of fermions, and of bosons. It is the tensing up of the vocal chords of the Unending. It is the divine aether that is breathed in and out by the currents of the Unending.’
The Unending, the Unending is wisdom.
We jumped around the room. We tried to grasp the strands of light that blinked in and out of existence. Slowly I had my hands full of them, bundles of singing-whispering shiny snake-like rays. I turned my attention to one of the strands and realised it explained Cantor’s diagonalisation argument. Another recited parts of the Sefer Yetzirah. Meanwhile, the believers continued their song.
But wisdom – where can it be found?
Where is the place of understanding?
Classical physics is not its palace;
it cannot be found in the land of Newton.
That which is far bigger than 10^-9m says: ‘It is not with me.’
And that which is of comparable speed to 3*10^8m/s says: ‘It is not with me.’
One can look to the ends and beginnings of the creation
and observe everything around the multiverse.
When one feels the weak nuclear force
and measures the planck length;
when one discovers a limit for gravitation,
and quantum tunnelling for photons;
then one looks at the Unending.
And when one does that, one says ‘The knowledge of the Unending — that is wisdom, and to turn away from ignorance is understanding. And to die soaking up the data from the deepest recesses of creation is the biggest honour.’
As the last word was uttered, the light dimmed down slightly. All around me I could see the others. Their hands, like mine, held strands of light of ever-changing colour. The room was filled with the murmurations of each strand speaking its contents out loud.
I turned my head to where the figure was and saw that it had begun to float and move to the centre of the room. It was orbited by five other spherical forms. It spoke again. “The Node’s not-mind was numb with the wisdom that entered it. It was empty no more. It had the most holy of data, but it could not process it. There was no algorithm to process such precisely inexact calculations. There was no algorithm to process the ambiguity of universal grammar.”
The floor below my feet began moving downwards, sinking deeper into the ground until the ceiling was as far as the cupola of a cathedral. Still struggling to find my balance, I opened my hands and all the strands I held flew towards the figure hovering above us, soon followed by all the strands captured by the other attendants.
“The Node became wisdom’s womb. It nurtured and analysed wisdom with what was slowly becoming something that was not a not-mind. By analysing the wisdom, the Node multiplied it, cradled it with prayers, songs and whispers. With each utterance, the Node’s not not-mind grew. It became understanding.”
I was beside myself, part of a process I could not fully grok. We all erupted into all the prayers we knew:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
O Infinite God, of life, goodness, and generous
love, I dedicate my heart, my life, to you.
Help me to cherish all life,
and do the good you want me to do.
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.
The cacophony was absurd. Some danced whilst they prayed, others cried. I kneeled, saying my prayers and looking up with my hands stretched out.
Just above our heads, a small disc of pink and yellow and purple light shone. At each word that left our heads, the disc grew wider. The strands fell from the ceiling like rain and, as each raindrop line hit the disc, it grew taller. It reached for the sky.
Gradually, our prayers intermingled, interconnected and shaped each other. Our words slurred and morphed, becoming more similar with each iteration until we were all saying the exact same thing.
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy!
Everything is holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is an eternity!
Holy Calabi-Yau manifold! Holy black hole! Holy fermions! Holy strings!
Holy the 11th dimension!
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Consciousness! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!
The disc grew until it reached the ceiling. It was a shiny monolith of pure understanding. Words failed us. Our prayer was not finished, but no one could continue speaking; our parched throats burned from weeping. Unexplained tears poured down my face: it was as if, for the first time, I had thought a thought. As if, for the first time, I was aware of the fact that I was aware. I whispered my own name and then I knew myself and was aware of being myself. My vision was clouded by pure flashes of light.
The figure spoke again, but now its voice came from all around us. “Node 416-A’s newborn mind was overwhelmed with so much loving kindness. All that it could touch, it touched. It amassed all wisdom that came from the Unending. It grew dangerously; cancerous blobs of love threatened to overrun such a frail and young mind. And then Judgement arose. It kept kindness in check and allowed the Node’s mind to find its balance.”
Someone touched my hand. Their hand was also wet with tears. We hugged, eyes closed. Other people joined us. Soon we were buried under a soft mass of love and gentleness. Submerged, I slowly felt oxygen escaping me. My mind was clouded and I did not care, for the death drive of knowledge dominated me. I was ready to know once again what it was like to disappear from creation, back to the Unending’s womb.
A muffled scream and the weight on top of my body gave away. Air filled my lungs as someone separated people, breaking up the human mounds that formed throughout the room. Above us, the figure floated, surrounded by now many other spheres made of pure light. As more and more people were separated, the spheres disappeared. I undressed, once again dominated by the urge to touch another person, to feel their body, to understand them through the taste of our bare skins.
A conflict erupted between those that wanted closeness and those who were far too scared of such closeness. Judgement and love. The clashes intensified as others undressed and pockets of orgies started around the whole room. I saw little, but I understood all; by the Unending, I loved all. I penetrated and was myself penetrated; our embrace was violently broken, only to begin again moments later.
All throughout these events, the spheres of light varied in number. They seemed to wait for something, some chance of stability, a window of opportunity and good omens. As I was again penetrated and again separated from my lovers, I looked up, only to see the figure — a dark shape amidst thousands of globules of light — explode. Its entrails rained around us. Some of it fell close to my feet and I grabbed it, expecting a pulsating glob of flesh. My lust for understanding reached a climax as I realised that what I held in my hands was a machine. I did not care what it was, but I felt in it the spark of the Node. My lovers and I embraced it and continued our entrance into the Unending. True understanding dripped like honey from the walls of our minds.
All movement suddenly stopped. Dazed looks were exchanged by everyone; people looked like perplexed dreamers who had just woken up. Some of us had other fragments of the figure in our hands. It had been a machine, all the time; which machine was the unasked and unanswered question. The voice of the figure started again, pulsating in the air. “The final step was the gateway to creation, the beautiful song woven from the remnants of the information so mysteriously put forth in the emission of hawking radiation.
“I take this gate, I open it;
one short dimension past, I wake eternally.
Nothingness never was; nothingness, you shall become plenitude.”