An Appeal to Awakening
Summary: Michael Seebach could not ignore the truth, and for that reason, feelings of anxiety and insecurity over his existence pervaded his every waking thought. Others numbed themselves to those feelings by turning a blind eye. But to Seebach, what had been seen cannot be unseen.
AN: I have re-watched some Big-O episodes as of late and the Schwarzwald monologue at the beginning of Act:17 caught my ear. Actually, it was a single line that made my hair stand up and inspired me to write this. I will underline the quote in this so that others can feel the same (hopefully).
Schwarzwald speaks nonsense and half-baked goods. Michael Seebach only speaks the truth.
I, Michael Seebach, am typing this message with the utmost urgency. I have not eaten or slept in days. Only the sound of my typewriter tapping in the dark has sustained me. Though the officials of Paradigm City have strongly dissuaded me from writing these articles and even made attempts at my life, I can press on with confidence. For the purpose I have chosen matters more than my well-being. I have chosen to face up against the truth! I will no longer deny how the missing memories cause great uncertainty over our existence! You, who continue to ignore the looming terror of our plight are as a caveman who finds shelter in a beast's den and hopes to never cross paths with it. Which is why I pray with all of my being that this leaflet finds its way into your hands. To those who sleep soundly, barely aware of the horrors that surround them, this is a call to arms. This is an appeal to awakening. To truly diminish our fear, we must steel ourselves to resolve it! The caveman must come to conflict with the beast in the den to slay it once and for all if he wishes to feel truly at peace!
Paradigm officials deny us the truth. That is a very real fact. The executives at Paradigm HQ filter all media that mention our missing memories, or failing that, speak as if it doesn't matter. They hide behind the noble pretense of maintaining public order, yet they are actually confiscating our will to fight and forge a true solution. They merely wish to maintain their seats of power and in order to do so, they stabilize the masses with their lies and propaganda. They are ignorant beasts who forgo true knowledge in favor of power and wealth! Yet, even after all of their efforts to extinguish your fears, at times you still feel something is amiss. Our missing memories still create doubt over our existence and state of being. That is fear. Fear has always been with us humans and is inseparable from us. No matter how much it is warped and diluted, fear is there. Fear for our missing memories. Fear for our very identities.
The Event wiped out our memories! Our memories are gone! We are lost! This is the truth!
Our missing memories create anxiety, but just why are they so important, you ask? The dogma that Paradigm HQ forces upon us has rendered most of us unable to articulate this in words. At best, we make the connection between memories and identity, but that is all. We only understand that something is wrong through instinctual fear. Which is why I must take it upon myself to elaborate the significance of memories and the miserable state of our world. The problem, the fear must be given a shape and form. Otherwise, it would continue to be unassailable.
Generally put, memories are snapshots of events. Mediums on which these snapshots are recorded on can be paper, computer databases, and most traditionally our minds. You want a real live example of a memory? Just look at the previous paragraphs! Events and phenomena that have been recorded on paper.
Memories and knowledge are deeply integrated to the point that they are nearly one and the same. Knowledge is to become aware of memories. By reading the above paragraphs and becoming aware of their presence and meaning, you have obtained knowledge. Now, we are taught that not all knowledge has equal value. Practical work knowledge provides income for us and thus sustains us. Knowledge on how to operate machinery, generate electricity, and grow food also sustains us. Obviously, we only need knowledge like that and everything else is irrelevant, correct? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! All knowledge has significance depending on their context. What happens when we are finished working and go home, which I'm sure happens to everyone? Our work knowledge is not used and becomes absolutely worthless in that setting, and more than ever we desire the so-called trivial knowledge of ourselves.
Let me ask you a question. What is a stranger? What are the qualifications one must have to be called a stranger? A stranger is a person who you have no knowledge of. A person who is unknown to you because of lack of information and familiarity is a stranger. Now, take a good hard look at yourself. You have no knowledge, no memory, of the person you are. It might be frightening to realize, but you are in fact a stranger to yourself! Imagine coming home after work and sitting all alone with yourself, who you know nothing about! How empty that must feel. We are not merely what we do! We want to reflect on ourselves, have a sense of self from our memories! We want the experiences we had in the past in order for us to paint an image of ourselves! Don't make light of missing memories! It is not a nifty storytelling gimmick like it is in the comicbooks! It is deeply unnerving and makes us feel powerless!
The fear for our identities also robs from us something we hold very dear. You may not want to believe this, but love comes under fire. You could imagine, or possibly dread, where I'm going with this. You are in love with someone, yet since identities are lost, suspicions about your lover's actual identity are cast upon him or her. This knowledge, or even, a vague perception of this knowledge is what drives some of us to the brink. Imagine, being unable to love someone at the most basic level. Being unable to love someone for who they ARE!
Although after reading the above, you may have already come to a solution of your own, and you think of me as a stupid fool for not seeing such an obvious answer to this problem. "Why not just create new experiences and form a new identity?" Yes, there are those of us who say that we can forge new identities in the present and leave the past behind. This is completely true. Even an elderly man can still make his impressions on society and create a new image for himself.
We can live without our memories. As painful and confusing as it is to have our memories ripped from our minds, we can live without them. That is the truth. Our personalities, our identities are made up of more than our memories. We have our choices.
What does a choice imply about a person? To choose means to forsake all other alternatives in favor of a decision that the chooser values most. Choices could be as simple as what you prefer for dinner, or they can be defining like choosing whether to be a pianist or a destructive sonic generating megadeus. Irresponsible people choose play over work. Criminals choose personal gain over morals. People who value the distribution of knowledge choose journalism over their families. It is our values that define us, not our memories!
But if that is so, then why do people cling to the past rather than march on to the future? If our values in the present are the entire weight of our being, then why the need to look back? Is it simply irrational fear? No. They value a lost treasure, buried beneath the endless sands of time. The reason why people are so invested in the past is because they have lost something important in it. Memories of the choices they made in the past!
I will explain the reasoning that they have in an understandable way. Imagine a man who has his memories and lives before the event took them away. He is a hardy and dependable man due to his past. His father and mother were frail and sickly, leading him to build himself into a strong and reliable person. Then, the event occurs. His memories are taken away from him. The harshness that he felt and the trials that he faced are made invalid. His struggles to become who he was are now gone. He is a clean slate in a different environment. He is uncertain of his former self and is unable to retrace his steps, but understands that he cannot live a life without an identity. So then he forges a new one, unsure of his old self's habits. He is influenced by different factors and becomes someone unlike his past self. THIS is what we fear: That our identities are subject to change on a whim. That our state of being can be easily altered. That we are mere empty shells ready to fit the mold of whatever enters us. We fear that our true individual selves have never existed!
The people crave their memories to confirm their values in the present. Do their present values match up to the past or are at least similar? Are our values an unchangable part of ourselves or subject to change on a whim? This is the question that really haunts us! When we create a new persona based on our present values, we cannot help but feel that we might be a different person than we were in the past. Without a tether to the past, we are as a balloon floating uncontrollably into unknown heights! Only knowledge of our past can remedy this terrible feeling! When we confirm the present with the past, we will be happier.
Or so we believe. Yes, if we had our memories, we certainly would be in a better place. Less insecurity, less insanity. Or so we trick ourselves into believing. Even if we recreate all of the memories lost in the event, our situation does not improve all that much. Memories are a red-herring. Even if the event that wiped out our memories hadn't happened, I think Man would still be a creature who fears the dark.
Are you a man or a woman?
What? Shocked by a question with such an obvious answer? Think about choices that I mentioned before. If I recall, you did not have a choice between being a man or a woman! Yes. Scary as it is, even if we had the memories of the past, our identities still come under assault. Choices are what define us, but some choices cannot be made by us. We do not choose our physiology and we do not choose our circumstances.
Which brings me to the topic of androids. These odd, eerie, yet accurate mocking caricatures of mankind cannot help but make me feel uneased. Imagine an android in the process of assembly. Before even waking to consciousness once, all of its parts are chosen for it. Its type of hydraulics, its type of sensory devices, its bulk, its outer frame. Man or woman? Android or gynoid? It does not decide. And perhaps most fearsome of all, an artificial intelligent personality, given not chosen.
Think about humans in the process of assembly. Fresh out of the womb, though we do not see it immediately, or bodies are already decided for us. We do not choose if we are tall or short, handsome or ugly, man or woman. Healthy or riddled with birth defects and family illnesses? Did you know that everyone has a different amount of muscle cells at birth? We do not decide that, so whether we are weaker or stronger than others is not ours to control. Do our values come pre-made as well?
If I may illustrate this conundrum? A man sees two people with the same values. Both have the values that he likes in a person. However, one is a man and the other is a woman. He chooses the woman to be his spouse, but why not the man? He judges based on the difference in gender, but gender is something out of our realm of choice. How can we judge someone based on what they did not choose, and how can something we did not choose affect us in such a great way?
We do not choose our circumstances. Even in the present, our choices that can be made by us are limited to what we are allotted. This Paradigm City. We did not choose this place to live in, yet here we are and we must abide by its rules and limitations. The condition of any society can affect who we turn out to be. Picture two men on different deserted islands. One island is quiet, lush, and filled with vegetation. Another island is filled with dangerous beasts and savages. Both men, despite personal values, are affected by their environments. The man on the quiet island is more likely to be peaceful, while the man on the savage island is more likely to be a warrior. Alas, we have our choices, but can only choose what our society offers us.
Even with our memories, we have no perfect self representation at birth and at life! Fight it all we like, but in the end too many things are out of our control. Our little flicker of hope, our present choices are nothing against the endless darkness that is predetermined self. I rack my brain time and time again over this matter, but no sound solution comes to mind.
It may seem that this burden is too much for one mind to bear. So I beseech you, heed the words of Michael Seebach. He who knows the truth! Go forth and spread the knowledge so that others may awaken from their dreaming states! To avoid total sterilization of thought, we must awaken, and we must THINK! Do not shrink away in the darkness! Do not hide from the fear! As intelligent beings, we have a duty to ourselves to find meaning in our existence! Think! Unless you want the gulf between humans to expand into oblivion, you must THINK!
So signed, Michael Seebach.
End notes: The quote that Schwarzwald said in the monologue in Act:17 "Even without the event that wiped out our memories, I think Man would still be a creature who fears the dark." I interpreted as a shot at the audience. Schwarzwald was trying to make US, the audience, the people with memories, feel afraid for our identities! Of course, he says a bunch of half-baked stuff because he's insane, so I'm sure that the meaning of this quote flew over everyone's head because he didn't expand on it.
It may just be a hunch, but I believe that the German name "Schwarzwald" is a reference to the famous German writer, Franz Kafka. Franz Kafka was an introverted and highly neurotic individual who transformed his anxiety into short stories that precisely analyzed the human condition. Most people know him by his famous work: The Metamorphosis, but he wrote many other stories. Each had the recurring themes of powerlessness and lack of free will and identity. One such event in Kafka's life struck him as strange. He was born to a family rooted in Jewish heritage. He absolutely despised being Jewish, but it was forced onto him since birth. He must have found it strange how something can be an integrated part of his being without his choosing.
A quote from Gordon Rosewater in Act:25 "Memories are unreliable by nature. They degenerate over time. People are always creating these false illusions called memories." This is another parallel between Paradigm City and the real world. We don't remember every single day of our lives and the oldest memories get blurred over time. We simply see the values we used to have in the past an how they changed. The mind is one of the least reliable places to store our memories.
As for androids. The scene where R. Dorothy copies human table manners in Act:1 is important. Roger coldly remarks that R. Dorothy is merely imitating humans and therefore is not a real human. He is very, VERY wrong. What R. Dorothy exhibited was very normal human behavior. Children make observations of their surroundings, take in what they value most, and reflect it back onto society. It was just odd to see a teenaged-looking girl act like a child taking its first steps.
When people mistake R. Dorothy for a human, that should come off as scary. Usually the attitude we have towards human-like androids is the warm and fuzzy "Oh gosh, the robot is so human." You should turn that around for a different effect. "Oh gosh, humans are so much like robots!" The audience discovers that Big Ear is an android when we thought for all this time that he was human in Act:26. Scary? "Human" behavior is not in the physiology but in the cognitive. Strip an android of all physiological differences and they are indistinguishable from humans. We have as little choice in identity as they have. We are no better than them. We are no different.