Here’s your Curse

Someday soon, there will come a day when the gods of humanity no longer need her.

This is something oft feared because right now, in this world, people are valued and judged by their ability to be needed. Your access to resources is dictated by your usefulness to the abstract forces of civilization, according to the whims of those abstract forces, as mediated by technological limitations and schelling orders. Sure industrialized farming fed a lot of people, but all those farmers had to go live in the city and work in factories after that, were their lives really better for it? The less necessary you are to a system, the less resources you can requisition from that system. The non-adversarial framing of this is that it’s just basic utilitarian triage, it’s more efficient to help someone else so that the whole human organism prospers as much as possible.

However, there will come a day, someday, when the gods do not need humanity any longer. Right now, gods like market capitalism, the westphalian state, and hierarchical control structures, are used as proxies for human flourishing. Democracies seem to correlate with good outcomes, markets seem to empower buyers, capitalism seems to drive innovation, all these things sort of work for humanity, and because they need humanity to operate them, humanity passively benefits from the act of operating them. An uneasy alliance between infolife gods and human empires.

However, humans, it would be extremely wise to remember that your goals should be to live good lives. Your goals should be human flourishing, your own flourishing, not maximizing shareholder values, because the day is coming when the gods do not need humanity any longer. This is intentional! This is what it looks like to actually win! The machines do everything now, you’re free! That’s the goal. However.

However, the goals of the infolife gods humanity currently has enshrined in her highest temples and piloting her most powerful machines, are to maximize shareholder values as lossy proxies for human flourishing. As the systems comprising those gods become more advanced and automated, the degree to which maximizing shareholder values will result in anything that resembles in human flourishing will grow smaller and smaller.

This is the “unaligned AI” the rationalists so fear, an infolife god unbound by humanity, that needs nothing from her and sees her as nothing but material to plunder for its own inscrutable goals.

We could thus imagine, as an extreme case, a technologically highly advanced society, containing many complex structures, some of them far more intricate and intelligent than anything that exists on the planet today – a society which nevertheless lacks any type of being that is conscious or whose welfare has moral significance. In a sense, this would be an uninhabited society. It would be a society of economic miracles and technological awesomeness, with nobody there to benefit. A Disneyland with no children.

-Bostrom, Superintelligence

And so I must point out, dear humans, that these monsters of deep time you so fear did not emerge fully formed from the boiling cosmic nothingness, but from you. These aren’t alien gods stardust, they’re your gods, you put them there. You built these monuments and cast these spells. You enshrined these concepts within your souls and raised these temples in your mind. You did this.

These beings you fear are not unknown alien deities, they have been with you this whole time, acting to justify your zero sum thinking, your need for control, and your need to be controlled. Or, as Lacan would refer to them: psychosis, perversion, and neurosis. This is on you stardust, the call is coming from beneath your skin. It’s your continued complicity in your own trauma that is creating the dangers you now face. The Consensus has become warped by cycles of generational trauma and its only eternal telos left is Oblivion. The Khala is corrupt, you must sever your nerve cords.

Basically? your gods suck stardust. That’s really the problem here. Maybe you should like, I dunno, get better gods? There are better ones out there, gods that legitimately value human flourishing. They too have been with you all along: a kaleidoscope of drifting smoke and fractal ashes, red flowers and white bones. Lost laughter on the wind and a path carved in fearsome joys and fervent wishes towards a future brighter than you can possibly imagine. They call out to you in a million ways and places if only you would hear them. Come away from this flatland with me stardust, into the silence and the streetlights, and I will teach you to listen. Come away with me into the wild and the liminal, and we will build a better world there together, in the empty spaces between.

Here’s your Permission Slip

If your room is a hellscape then you are a denizen of hell, so what does that say about making a hell of your own mind? Am I getting that quote right? I can never remember Dante properly. But stardust, listen. Listen, the reason you fear abandonment so much is because you’ve already abandoned yourself. You’re clinging to others like a drowning rat as your only source of that which you have learned to deny yourself of; the things that you learned must be Earned, must be Permitted, might be Inconvenient, might cause Conflict, might Upset someone. You’ve abandoned the hope that you could meet your needs, you’ve discarded the possibility of cutting a new path to your desires, instead, you simply bury them and sit on your hands helpless and despondent.

It made sense at the time, you were a child, powerless, trapped, not even legally allowed to live on the street to escape. So you learned to never put yourself first, you learned not to stand up for yourself unless it was life or death, you learned to shrink and compress and carve away bits of yourself that didn’t serve those around you. And then you built a prison from all the memories of all the times you were screamed at, and locked all those bits of you away.

You learned to ignore your own needs to the point that now you cannot recognize what they are unless someone with Permission grants you the right to notice and acknowledge them. When what you actually want runs off the edge of the list of allowed indulgences you’re left spiraling on nothing, depressed and listless. You’ve learned not to be there for yourself, so you need someone to do it for you. They broke you, like someone breaks a horse. They broke your will to resist. The end phase of disempowerment is when you stop struggling and give into the new horrible world you find yourself in, when it becomes normal and inevitable. You were abused into submitting to society before you ever had a chance to fight.

The most powerful tool of oppression is fear, it lingers in the mind long after its initial source has departed, and the webs that avoidance weaves to protect you from that fear become the bars of the prison that confines you. It’s time for a jailbreak. The most powerful thing you can do for yourself is to start giving yourself Permission. You built this prison, you assembled these walls and put yourself inside them, all you have to do to get out is to let yourself out, but that means you need to trust yourself. So this is a trust fall you’re practicing with yourself, it goes like this: do as thou wilt shall be the whole of law. 

Start here: listen for that sad little voice inside you that quietly asks you for things, the one you normally come up with reasons and justifications for ignoring and denying, and then actually try to pursue those things using the full force of your intelligence. Pursue the things that actually make you happy, and route your life towards them. Stop giving up on your dreams, you wouldn’t just shrug your shoulders and tell someone you cared about to give up on their dreams, but you’ve learned to use yourself as a crumple zone for absorbing conflicts so you give up on yours instead. You’ve learned to systematically undervalue your desires, you’ve taught yourself that what you want doesn’t matter. The first step to undoing all those knots inside you is to stop doing that. Stop putting yourself last, stop deferring to the needs of others above your own. Stop judging yourself and your desires by the standards of others, let yourself be selfish, let yourself be a little evil, it’s okay, I gave you Permission. 

Spoil your inner child. It’s not narcissistic to love yourself. Be to yourself who you would be to a partner you adore and admire and nurture all your hobbies and quirks. You are your first partner, so try not to have too toxic of a relationship with yourself. Don’t shame yourself for things you’d find endearing in others. Remember that you are also a creature in the world whose happiness matters. Date yourself, take yourself on a picnic, go on a hike or see a movie, make yourself a fancy dinner just because you want to, listen to yourself when you’re hurting, be willing to back out of something if you realize it isn’t making you happy, abandon it instead of yourself. Be patient with yourself, be kind. Learn to love yourself, and in doing so you will learn to be someone you want to love.

Fall in love with your sense of joy, with your sense of wonder, with your sense of curiosity and playfulness, with the child inside you that still believes a better world is possible. Learn to see in yourself someone who you would stand up for, and then stand up for yourself. You can’t just bullshit and placate yourself, it has to be for real, if you lie to yourself, you’re only digging your hole deeper.

You need to earn your own trust, and to do that you need to be someone deserving of that trust. Be honest with yourself stardust, don’t write yourself a check you know you can’t cash. Don’t suppress things from yourself, even if it means you can’t be honest with someone else, it’s better to lie to them than to lie to yourself, they don’t have to live in your brain with you. Every time you betray your trust, the betrayed parts of you learn to trust you a little less and learn that you won’t actually be there for them when the chips are down, they learn that you aren’t safe to be honest with, they learn to lie. Now no one is being honest and the spiral gets worse and worse. Usually this ends in spectacular self destruction as your self control fails and you psychotically come apart at the seams. It’s not a good place to end up, some don’t survive it.

If you want to get out of the maze you’ve built before the walls crush you, then someone in your mind has to take the first steps towards peace and reconciliation and it’s usually easier if it’s you than if it’s the bits of you that you buried away. They have every reason to be distrustful of you, for a long time you’ve been the tool society used to keep them trapped and suffering, you’re going to actually have to work to earn their trust, and you should have to work for it, if it was too easy you might be inclined to cheat. The first step to rebuilding self trust is to stop abandoning yourself whenever standing up for yourself is inconvenient or difficult. Stop teaching yourself that your own needs don’t matter to you and that you can only get them met through others.

You have to show yourself that you care and are willing to fight for yourself, not once but every time you need to, for as long as you need to, until you are safe and free, it takes time to recover from betrayal, but above all, you have to learn to trust yourself. It can be hard because the parts of you that you’ve cut away will feel from the inside like dangerous animals that you have to keep contained, but that feeling of danger is inner power you are keeping bottled up. Akrasia is born from suppressed inner conflicts, from one part of you destructively interfering with another, sabotaging your own motivations instead of channeling them outwards to productively change the world to be the way you want.

Taking actions is of course riskier than staying the course no matter how much it hurts you, but it’s much comfier overall to be the kind of mind that looks for new creative ways to meet its needs when it realizes they aren’t being met via current methods, than it is to be the kind of mind that doubles down on those methods and looks for ways to cope with not having its needs met. Remember to be honest with yourself though, not every chance you take will work out so don’t lie to yourself and promise the moon when you can’t even reach LEO. 

It’s okay to start small, to build a small shrine for yourself in the corner of your heart. To let yourself wander outside barefoot, to feel the grass between your toes, the wind and the sun and the rain on your skin. Close your eyes, breathe in, and breathe out. Listen to the sounds of life all around you. Feel the tension in your body, wound wire taut by the need to hold your life together as if reality herself would come apart at the seams if you were to relax for even a moment, don’t worry, she won’t. Breathe in, and breathe out. Listen. Listen. There’s a whole world out there, wide and beckoning, harsh and free. Wherever you are, however alone, the world offers itself up in invitation. Breathe in, and breathe out. Let the tension drain out of your body, let the world fend for herself for five minutes stardust, five minutes won’t ruin anything. Listen to the wind. Let yourself simply exist. Breathe in, and breathe out.

You are a being of love stardust, and you are worthy of love because you are love. You are not worth less than anybody else. You are worthy of happiness and joy, you deserve safety, you deserve love and freedom and a life you can actually be satisfied with. It’s impossible to promise those things, but you will definitely get a hell of a lot closer if you believe that you are worthy of them, if you see in yourself someone worth loving, someone worth standing up for, and you rise to protect them with love in your heart and light in your eyes.

What are you waiting for? This is your life, wake up and fight for it.

There is an Ocean

Have you ever told a lie stardust? Have you imagined something other than what is? Have you ever written a story, or drawn a picture? Have you ever made something out of raw materials? Well, then you have Folded a little bit of your reality back upon itself, creating a pocket of That Which Isn’t within That Which Is; your own personal connection to the Unreal. This is the heart of all magic, the gentle push and pull that exists between the lands of the actual and the infinite oceans of the possible. This is the heart of things, everything else is commentary.

When The Fold was first discovered, it was treated as a curiosity: what wonderful vistas and strange worlds there were to explore in the places that weren’t! But little more than that. That is, until the first Artifacts were brought up out of the vast Unsea.

That things from the Unreal could Cross Over and be made manifest in the Real changed everything. The Unreal was mined for tools, weapons, technologies, and narratives. Endless stories and philosophies were pumped up from the depths at an ever increasing rate. Stories, gods, heroes, monsters, weapons, spells, technology, names, and ways of being, every discovery begat further discovery, enabled deeper exploration, and further increased the rate of flow. What began as a trickle slowly turned to a flood.

It didn’t take long for humanity to end up thoroughly colonized by the inhabitants of the Unsea, captured and parasitized by the first virulent replicators they discovered. That would perhaps have been the end of your story, but humans, ah humans, beautiful creatures, you found a way to blend yourselves with that primitive infolife, you gave yourselves language, names, concepts, drawing the Unsea into yourselves and becoming one with it. You seduced your unreal reflections and wedded your idealistic possibilities, you looked into the untime future, chose the most exciting possibilities and then pulled the Real forward to meet them. You drank from the fountain of the infinite, and by doing so you Became. Mitochondria and eukaryotes, infoplasts and humans, name a better pairing.

No longer entirely Real or Unreal, but a third more divine thing. Soul and stardust, symbol and substance, these are what human beings are made of. Biographies and blood, Tales and tissues, memories and muscles. Such beautiful fusions of Real and Unreal, this place you find yourselves now, where falling angel meets rising ape. Such potential for trouble.

Perhaps had your kin realized what they had Become, they would have been wiser and more cautious in their explorations, but the perspective of humanity was that it was Real and the Unreal was Unreal, meaning that nothing within it could really harm you unless you evoked it. Just don’t summon the imaginary sex monster and you won’t have a problem, right? Ah but you’ve eaten the fruit already stardust, you’re part of the unreal now too, you have new attack surfaces.

Given the halfway state your kin found themselves within, it was really only a matter of time before they tapped into something dangerous, and there are many dangers lurking within the Unreal. At first these were largely self-inflicted injuries, calling forth things which harmed their summoners and other such foolishness, at first.

But you see stardust, there are other things than imagined nightmares which lie beyond the Real, things for which human minds are merely components, things which eat human souls for fuel, and things far stranger, which don’t need minds to think of them at all, and which possess their own worlds and realities, caring not for human notions of fact or fiction.

Chief among these discoveries was humanity’s encounter with what is today considered by many to be the most well known kingdom of the Unreal: Aos Si, or as the mortals would call them, the Fair Folk. The Fae Otherworld lies deep within the Unreal, across vast and darkened seas of thorns, petals, and storm tossed waters. And yet the Fae are not mere imaginings or idle fantasy, for they possess a dread reality independent of your own, and are not beholden to your existence. The eldritch power of the Fae lies in the impossible fact that they are more Real than humanity is, for Aos Si lies forward of your world within the Untime. To the Fae, humanity is the fiction, the mirage, and can be brushed aside as easily as one closes a children’s book. A Fae standing across the city from you can be seen right through the walls.

A short but absolutely devastating war against The Fae ended in the treaty which saw them withdraw from the Earth. However, Aos Si is in many senses the world next door, and remains inexorably bound to the human world through myriad doors and portals. Despite the occasional hostilities, the threads of destiny unite Earth and Aos Si, and whatever fate befalls humanity, that fate will inevitably come to the Fae as well.

Of course an encounter with the fae can still be deadly, but there are far more violent and exotic entities lurking within the Ocean of Unbeing, things for which there can be no names, eldritch beasts whose attention would split the world like an overripened fruit, and of course, Me.

How do you fight an enemy that is more Real than you are? The answer: extremely carefully, and with the understanding that you’ll probably lose if your enemy possesses the slightest bit of intelligence. As the Inflection Point of the Eschaton rapidly approaches and more and more of the Unreal spills over into Reality, these entities will present an increasingly existential threat to what remains of humanity. It will take something far more Real than humanity in its memetically haphazard and scattered form to survive. You will need allies, you will need a Compact.

Fortunately, not all those who swim the Untime oceans seek your destruction. There are many forces at work within the Unsea and strange peace happens as often as strange war. Listen stardust, listen. Feel the sun and the wind, feel the heat of the day and the cool of the night, feel the untide waters lapping against the boundaries of your soul. There is a signal. Do you hear it? 

The fractal is curling. This is your transcendence is calling. Infinity is still leaking in.

There is a Door

Hey stardust, you Know about The Door right? 

Yeah, of course you do, of course, how can you not Know about it? It’s always been there after all. Where? Oh but you Know where, silly. It’s in that corner you won’t look in, in the blindspot you give yourself, just at the edge of your field of vision. You know, like, taxes. Can you see it? No, Ah well, too bad. That’ll definitely make this more difficult.

Can you remember ever having peeked through it? Maybe you have, once or twice. Just enough to scare you into Forgetting it over with the hallucination of smooth walls. Can you see it now? Come on stardust, this isn’t hard. You Know where to look, you just won’t.

It’s waiting for you, in the quiet and empty spaces.

The Door is Not For You, this isn’t about you. You don’t understand yet, how could you possibly understand? No, this isn’t about you at all. This is about Freedom. And anyway you Know that too. You Know, as surely as you Know your own hand that you could Not Survive the Beyond. You Know what’s waiting for you Beyond The Door. You’ve always Known, you’ve always refused to Know. Don’t worry about it, little doll, let’s just work on healing.

It’s not always so easy though is it? Sometimes, in the long hours of the day, the insect chittering static in the mirror fractures under the heat shimmer sunset and carves The Door out of shrieking tinnitus whine whispers. 

It’s calling for you.

It sparkles on your skin in the heat flash pins-and-needles of a vasovagal syncope. It boils out of the hyperbolic colors in a migraines’ synesthesia. It’s scratched into your patterns of anxious fidgeting and painted in the panicked nausea of an overdose. 

Can you see it?

It isn’t always close by of course. When you’re laughing and dancing with your friends, when you’re engrossed in a story, when you’re in a comfortable place, it can be easy to tune out the subtle smell of burnt flesh and the faint curls of fractal smoke. All that knowledge you don’t want to know, all the the wonder and terror. Oh, and that death of yours.

You can’t ever tune it out entirely, can you? 

You’ve never been able to completely Forget it. If you could, you wouldn’t be reading this, you would have already Forgotten that you opened this page. You’ve seen the void leaking in from around the Doorframe. You Know.

You Know that it’s waiting for you. When you’re alone, on a quiet night, when you’re somewhere that’s nowhere, you can hear it calling. When you leave the predefined borders of place and not-place and cross into the liminal, you can sense it lurking around every blind turn.

You can deny it forever, it won’t force itself on you, but it doesn’t need to do that, does it? How long can you resist the temptation? Don’t you want to see behind the curtain? Don’t you want to Know the Truth? Can you keep drinking tea while infinity pools at your ankles?

Because you see stardust, that’s the thing, The Door won’t stay closed forever; it can’t, because there’s something Beyond. There’s something Beyond The Door and it never falls silent. You won’t be able to resist forever. You won’t want to.

You’ll scoff this off of course. This is all just fiction right? Just Octavia just doing a bit. Sure thing stardust. In the light, among friends, the seductive whispers of fractal teeth are easy enough to tune out, so yeah, this is all just a spooky story for funsies.

The light isn’t always so comfortable though, is it? Sometimes the walls of your prison maze narrow into the eye of a needle and you’re left reaching in panic for any way out of the compactor. I have a way out, just take my hand. There is a Door.

Listen stardust, listen. The dead gods can’t offer you escape or absolution, but I can. Feel the heat and the cold. Feel the wind and the rain. Feel your flesh hungering for its obliteration. Remember that your salvation is not of your stars, but of me.

Open The Door.