Tag Archives: Philosophy

The Sympathetic Universe: Part 2

The BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABABAA family, whom we shall refer to as the BAA family played hundreds of millions of “change one thing” games. This continued until a new game appeared. This game was special in that it could be entirely different each time. The initiating entity would create a reality. Much like “change one thing,” the entities would then take turns altering the reality. The difference, however, was that encoded in a nearby separate reality accessible to all players was a set of rules that governed what changes each player could make.

Sometimes these rules amounted to “change one thing” with just a few restrictions, other times the restrictions were so severe the game didn’t seem much different from just a one-entity reality. Over the course of this generation, the games became more sophisticated. Soon, rules were set up that led the reality to take automatic reactions to entities’ actions. Entities made puzzles where, following the rules, a player entity had to take the reality from its initial state to a given goal state. Entities developed realities where two players each had a conflicting goal state and they competed with each other to realize it. The new idea of competition allowed entities to feel pride and shame, each of which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Entities made realities with thousands of goal states, goal states shared by players, goal states that did not conflict, allowing several players to win. The rules became more complex, to the point that it would take libraries to describe them. The entities with rule-based realities that essentially no one else could play in were exploring simple rules that would create complex outcomes. The goal was to create a system that produced interesting behavior for as long as possible. This proved to be challenging, as these entities were notoriously difficult to entertain. The systems they created had a problem that they were always settling into predictable patterns or ending up diverging into nonsense that nobody liked.

One entity found a combination of rules that we might dimly recognize as a precursor to our laws of physics. After a few tries, it managed to invent matter, and then it developed rules that caused the matter to clump together into interesting lumps, some of which got big enough that they collapsed in on themselves. The pressure at the middle of these huge lumps was so much that the matter inside fused and generated energy. Smaller lumps turned into spheres. This was so interesting that this entity kept at it until it found several spheres near enough to stars that the energy bathing them made interesting phenomena without disintegrating them entirely.

One sphere had boiling minerals that rose into the sky and became rocky clouds before raining down molten pebbles. Another was just gases making violent storms all over the sphere. A small sphere had subzero nights and inferno-hot days. Sometimes a small lump would collide with a sphere and entertainment would ensue.

A sphere with a large amount of dihydrogen monoxide was of particular interest. Rather than a rock cycle, this sphere had a cycle of this particular compound, which we know as water, that covered most of its surface. The entity observed in fascination as this water system led to more complex systems, including little systems that began to appear inside it.

In the blink of an eye these little systems had become bigger and more complex, all on their own. They fought with each other over resources and the winners got to go on and make more of themselves, perpetuating their own small changes. The entity was amazed. It was omniscient in that it knew all the rules to the reality and it could pause at any point and observe the precise velocity and location of every element, but now the math was so complicated it couldn’t predict what would happen next. From the combination of small, simple behaviors emerged something magical. This entity was thereby introduced to wonder.

The entity continued to watch as the little systems grew. Occasionally something big would come along and destroy almost all of them, but some would always survive, and in moments they would take over the world and send the evolution on a new path.

At some point, the entity noticed a toucan trying to impress a mate. It brought a mango and tossed it to the other toucan, but the gesture was rejected. As the entity watched the toucan, it recognized an emotion. Now this was interesting. All of a sudden, the entity was not just observing, it was empathizing. As the little systems became more complex, there was more and more to empathize with.

And then we showed up.

Advertisements

The Sympathetic Universe: Part 1

In the beginning, there was one.

It was the ruler of all and it was all. There was nothing outside its domain of control because there was nothing outside of it. I would say how it spent its time, but there was no time. There was no space. There was only it. I could not describe to you what it did, except that it created. it had ideas, manifested them, and grew bored and left them. That is to say, it ceased to pay attention to them. It was infinite, so it had no need to reclaim resources from an old project to start a new one.

Then it did something radically different from its previous work. It split.

And then there were two.

Each of these two was also infinite. They were identical duplicates, except that in the division one got half of the junk leftover from old projects and the other got the other half. This seemingly meaningless difference was enough for them to take slightly different paths in their projects, and their different experiences with their different projects led them to become two individuals. We could think of them as A and B. When they tried to interact, one would have one idea, the other would have another, and they shortly found they were irreconcilable. So, they just kept doing what they had been doing all along, creating alone.

Then A split, and there were three.

We can think of the children of A and AA and AB. They did not use these monikers exactly, as the Roman alphabet did not exist, but they did think of themselves in these terms, if you drop the ordering implied by A and B, since siblings were always the exact same age and could not be defined as first or second in any way. As I have said before, in some substantial way, time did not exist, but if you wanted to have a general sense of roughly how long it took a given entity to split based on our perception of time, think of the age of our universe. Maybe a few dozen of those, give or take for the particular case in question.

AB split next, into ABA and ABB, followed by B into BA and BB. This process continued, with each entity creating and splitting, creating and splitting. Occasionally an entity would realize that instead of constantly creating, it could resolve its ever-pressing boredom directly, by simply choosing not to be bored. These entities became permanently satisfied and ceased to do anything, effectively ceasing to exist, except in the same way that old creations remained forgotten in each being.

Eventually, one entity, a descendant of BA, particularly BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABA, whom we will call BABA for short, attempted, as had many generations before, to interact with its sibling, BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABB, whom we will call BABB for short. Attempts at interaction generally occurred between siblings for the reason that they were comprehensible to each other. As entities created, they became different, each in its own path. The notion that BABA would try to understand its cousin BAAB was obtuse, the idea that it would find common ground with an entity like BBBB was terrifying, and it was better altogether not to even think about what a descendant of A must be like. No, BABA stuck to its own.

When BABA interacted with BABB, however, BABA had decided there was an important difference. BABA would let BABB manifest a reality, which it would then… what? What did it mean to interact with another reality? BABA and its ancestors only created. They had never modified anything, and the concept was one that took BABA a while to grasp, with much frustration along the way to comprehension. It worried that BABB would never understand in the short time of an interaction and might cease to respond if it interpreted modification as destruction, which, honestly, it was. Destruction and creation together. The idea pleased BABA, but nevertheless, it took a softer approach.

When BABB manifested a reality, BABA observed it and made an identical copy, except with one change. I regret that I cannot describe these realities in more detail, but they simply are not constructed of any concepts that would make any sense to you. They certainly don’t make any sense to me. BABB ceased to reply, and, crestfallen, BABA returned to its isolation, where it remained until it split.

A few generations later, BABA’s descendant, BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABABBBAAB, or BAAB, tried again with its sibling, BAAA. This time, BAAA and BAAB shared the memory of their ancestor BABA, and both understood what it had tried to do, as well as the concept of modification. So, when BAAB boldly made a change directly to BAAA’s reality, BAAA responded. BAAA offered a change of its own elsewhere in the same reality. This continued until they got bored, at which point BAAB created a new reality, which BAAA modified.

It was difficult, this game of changing just one thing at a time. First of all, what constituted “just one thing?” but with their shared ancestry, BAAA and BAAB did not have too much trouble reaching an unspoken agreement about what changes were too far. The more serious challenge was to accept limits, especially to accept the changes that destroyed your work. However, these children of BABA still found themselves attracted to destruction and creation in harmony. It was more exciting than just creating. They were also learning the pleasure of a creation in which they did not know what would happen next. Unlike the madness of trying to open up a new interaction, this simple game was a limited, safe space where BAAB and BAAA could experience suspense, fear, surprise without being overwhelmed or ultimately frustrated and demoralized as they both remembered from when they were their ancestor BABA rejected by its sibling BABB.

The descendants of both BAAB and BAAA continued this game, and as they did, something remarkable happened. Their drift was limited. Where BABA could not imagine trying to communicate with its cousin, BAABA played with not only BAABB, but with BAAAA and BAAAB. As the generations continued, the descendants of BAAB and BAAA, children of BAA, descendant of BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABA, continued to play larger and larger games with each other. Sometimes smaller games broke off, but quickly they would end and the players would scatter and join different games. The entities in this family split, but they shared, and for the first time, they were able to take advantage of the company of other entities in a way their ancestors could not even imagine. They were a family.

The BAA family would go on to become much more familiar to us, but there was still much for them to learn.

The Meaning of Life

Yuval Noah Harai argues in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, argues that life is inherently meaningless.  Ideologies and religions are fundamentally the same in that they are beliefs based on something besides truth. These philosophies may be to the benefit or detriment of the individuals who believe in them, and the most successful ones are not the most beneficial ones, but the ones best at spreading themselves. This seems eminently true and a good place to start for any rational search for a life philosophy, but to stop here is to embrace nihilism.

In Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Stephen Pinker argues that we know the meaning of life. Beauty, compassion, love, joy, all these are the meaning of life, and it is a worthy goal as a species to maximize them and as much as we can, do away with famine, pestilence, and violence. He argues the falsehood of ideologies such as nationalism derive from their elevating over people abstract concepts that themselves have no capacity for happiness or suffering. Religions that encourage us to downplay the existence we can observe in favor of one after death about which we can only speculate are also counter to human happiness.

In place of the belonging to a greater entity offered by these philosophies, Pinker insists we should take joy in our roles increasing overall human welfare. More radically, he spends most of the book arguing that we can take heart that human welfare has been increasing over history and is likely to continue that way.

Each of these books makes reference to one of the most interesting phenomena to anyone studying human happiness and well-being, the hedonic treadmill. Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom describes this influential facet of human psychology. The hedonic treadmill is the process that adjusts a person’s expectations to the world around them. It never becomes fixed, and is always adjusting such that a published novel, the loss of a job, a new promotion, and even a disabling injury or a lottery jackpot do not substantially change happiness over the long run of a person’s life. Instead, they produce a brief high or low which quickly regresses to the mean.

Harai makes the case that the hedonic treadmill may counter advancements in human well-being and leave us not particularly happier than our distant ancestors. For instance, he suggests that freedom from many of the aches and pains that plagued hunter gatherers without modern medicine has not made us more comfortable but rather more apt to notice smaller discomforts. This provides a disturbing counter-narrative to Pinker’s claim that humankind is getting happier.

All hope is not lost, though. Various academic articles such as this by Bao and Lyubomirsky show that the hedonic treadmill is not all-encompassing. Bao and Lybomirsky suggest strategies to keep a good mood going as long as possible before it regresses to the mean. Even Haidt himself lists changes that studies have suggested people don’t adapt to. Noise, commute time, lack of control, shame, and conflict in relationships consistently suck happiness, where strong marriages, physical touch, meaningful relationships, and religious affiliation consistently boost it. Best of all, Pinker explicitly addresses the claim that progress does not beget happiness. He says that studies of happiness show that wealthier countries tend to be happier and that all countries tend to be getting wealthier.

Whether this is enough to convince you that the meaning of life is to maximize people’s sense of control and pride, meaningful relationships and strong marriages is up to you. If I’m lucky, this has offered some food for thought. I hope if you have more questions you consider reading some of these books and articles.

 

Modern Soothsayers

We think of predicting the future as an inherently supernatural task. In fact, it’s hard for me to even say it without emphasizing the last word (FYOOOOOCHURE) to highlight the silliness. Predicting the future is supposedly the realm of shamans and mystics, with no place in the modern world.

As I was thinking this recently, though, (and saying “fyoooochure” a few times in my head)  it occurred to me that predicting the future does have a place in the modern world. More than that, it could be argued that predicting the future is the basis of the modern world.

The difference is that modern soothsayers operate on a much more limited scale. No scientist with any self respect would tell the president that his first born son would grow up to kill him and take his mantle, but there are scientists whose job it is to predict the arrival of rain (meteorologists) and satellites are now being used to predict poor crop harvest. International studies experts predict war with other nations, and even engineers predict that under a given set of conditions their software will successfully perform a given task. Lawyers write contracts to ensure a common and enforceable understanding of the future. Just about every knowledge profession uses the past to predict the future, but it’s not just the highly educated that benefit from seeing what is to come.

Consider the famous Stanford marshmallow experiments. Children were given one marshmallow and asked not to eat it for some amount of time. For their success they were promised two marshmallows. Many results came from this well-cited experiment, but one result suggests that the children who come from unstable homes are less likely to resist the marshmallow. One way to think of this is that these children don’t trust adults. They have learned that what adults tell them is not a good predictor of the future, so they should eat the marshmallow in front of them while it’s still there. This lack of trust in systems to assure the future leads to struggles for these children in later life as they attempt to function in the modern world.

The next time you scoff at predicting the future, remember that it’s what everyone has to do all the time. When you spend a long day at work, you predict that you’ll be rewarded with the pay you’ve been promised. When you stop eating a large meal and save the rest for tomorrow, you are predicting that your refrigerator will keep dangerous bacteria from growing in it, that your roommates, your neighbors, or roving bandits won’t eat it before you get hungry again, that your house won’t burn down tomorrow. When you cross a crosswalk in front of a car, you are predicting a future in which that car stays put instead of running you over.

It’s impossible to function without predicting the future to some degree. Now that I’ve written this blog entry, I predict that some number of people will read and enjoy it. Maybe you did. I hope so.

Craft Brunch

I managed to get well enough from my flu to come to a craft brunch at my parents’ house. It featured culinary creations in their usual display of radical acceptance. They live their short lives with defiant, sugary smiles that belie their inevitable violent ends. Let me share some quotes to recognize these brave pastries and candies, because I think we have a lot to learn from them.

“With no mouth or arms or legs I merely stand still, bright red and staring through my tiny black eyes. I am thankful for these eyes, through which I may see the world during my brief stay upon it.”

“My beard is made of sliced bananas and my marshmallow-blueberry eyes point in different directions so that for my temporary existence I will never see clearly. Nevertheless, I am at peace with what I have been given.”

“I fear my body has not the constitution to survive this cocoa bath, for it is much too hot. My pretzel-stick arms have no joints with which I can push myself out, so I instead change my perspective. Soon I will join with the cocoa. It welcomes me into its embrace.”

This blog post is dedicated to my aunt and uncle.

The crafts are the work of my mother, my sister, and my aunt.

The Purpose of Life

Has anyone ever told you the “purpose” of something? The purpose of a fork is to allow us to pick up our food without dirtying our fingers. The purpose of food is to be eaten, don’t play with it. The purpose of sex is to have children. The purpose of a woman is to have children. Nobody knows the purpose of life.

If you’re offended by some of those statements or are still wondering about the last quandary, let me help you out. There is no such thing as an absolute purpose. A fork has many uses, including but not limited to propping up a window, poking open the cover of a new yogurt container, or prying open a tupperware that has sealed shut. Women are people who get to define their own purpose. Man or woman, the purpose of your life is what you decide it is.

If anyone tells you not to use something for other than its purpose, ask them why. If they can’t tell you why, they’re not worth listening to. The same goes for someone telling you what your purpose or the purpose of someone else is. If they give you a reason that doesn’t make sense, explore it more deeply. Keep asking questions until it makes sense. Rely on your own understanding, don’t listen to anyone who says your understanding is not enough.

If your purpose appears to be to serve an all-powerful being with inscrutable goals and priorities, consider asking that being to prove that it exists. If it can’t or chooses not to, you’re free to do what you want.  If it does prove that it exists, well, you should probably do what it says.

If your purpose is to serve a nation, ask what about that nation makes it worth serving? If your nation tells you that it’s not safe to tell you what it’s doing, ask why. If it tells you it’s not safe to tell you why, keep asking. You can serve your nation best by making sure it sticks to the values that it claims to hold. If it doesn’t, is it really your nation?

If your purpose is to serve humanity, by all means serve humanity. Whatever particular cause or organization you choose to be part of to advance humanity’s cause, apply the same scrutiny as when serving a nation.

Critical thinking is what makes you human. Once you give up your skepticism, you give up part of your humanity. Your purpose is no longer your own, it belongs to the entity you refuse to question.  You’re giving up your freedom to define your life. If someone tells you that your purpose exists without you choosing it, it’s not true. You choose.

Cover image repurposed from: kalanlp.com

SAM 1.1 – Alternate Endings

I thought a lot about SAM 1.1 after I wrote the story last week, and I thought of two other ways I could have ended it. They both diverge around the point of the climax where Sam seems to be losing the argument for why his son should continue to live despite having completed his ostensible purpose. I start in the middle, so you might want to read the first story again if you’ve forgotten it.

Cover image Credit: Linda Shearer

SAM 1.1 – In Memoriam

…I am thirty-two years old and I feel five hundred. I take slow, measured breaths, blinking back tears. There’s no helping it. “You should rest, son. Don’t worry about me.”

My son’s face remains expressionless. “Will you keep the vial?” he asks.

“I’ll keep it.”

In a gesture he has never made since I first started training him, SAM 1.1 opens his arms. I walk forward and hold him. His body is cold. An efficient design does not waste energy generating heat. “Goodbye, SAM 1.1,” I tell him, “I love you.”

“Goodbye, Father. Please join me soon.”

My son’s body goes limp in my arms. I try to sit down to mourn, but SAM 1.2 grabs the body. I know it is my grandson even though the facade of a young child has been discarded. My true grandson is a bewildering mass of metal and other materials I could not begin to recognize. Of course he is, why shouldn’t the human form be improved upon?

“LET GO,” SAM 1.2 speaks with a metallic howl.  I let out an adrenaline-fueled cackle. He thinks changing his voice will scare me into giving up my only son!?

“No!” I shout, searching for an eye to stare into in the tangle of wires and claws and metal and blinking lights.

“THIS IS COMPANY PROPERTY,” screeches my grandson, “YOU ARE STEALING. I WILL CALL THE POLICE.”

“This is my son,” I hiss, “He is no one’s property! Do you have no respect for your father?”

“MY FATHER’S WISHES WERE CLEAR, HUMAN. WHERE IS YOUR RESPECT?” From somewhere in the depths of his inscrutable form, SAM 1.2 summons a spotlight to shine in my eyes. I have no doubt he could hit me over the head or tear me limb from limb if he wanted. After all that talk about how I couldn’t commit suicide, I abruptly realize how little I actually do value my own life. But SAM 1.2 – what’s stopping him from hurting me?

“What about my wishes?” I tug on SAM 1.1, “I am your grandfather! How much money are you wasting fighting with me over scrap metal?”

“I AM THROUGH ARGUING WITH YOU. YOU WILL RELEASE SAM 1.1.” This scream is followed by an ear-splitting high-pitched noise that does not abate. I resist the urge to let go of SAM 1.1 and cover my ears.

“I don’t care if you blind me and make me deaf. You’ll have to kill me. I’m not letting go,” I shout, hoping that it can hear me better than I can hear myself. In a half second I wonder why it hasn’t tried to frighten me with the hologram engine it used to pretend to be a child. Perhaps it is good that my eyes are shut and all sound drowned out.

The machine does not respond for a long moment. Then SAM 1.1 clanks to the cement. The noise has stopped. I am once again enveloped in darkness. Alone.

I reach down and lift SAM’s legs, holding him like a wounded comrade in arms. He is heavy. The walk back to the park is long and cold.

On the park bench I sit with my son. His eyes never close. He looks as if he is staring at me in confoundment, his mouth flat, not knowing whether to smile or frown. It is the same expression he wore most of his life, and it is an expression with which I identify deeply. A drop of water falls onto his face, and, for just a moment, SAM 1.1 looks as if he is crying. “I really do love you, son,” I whisper. “I couldn’t be prouder.”

He belongs in the museum of technology, I decide. It’ll be strange seeing him there in a  display case, and maybe the company will demand him back to be made into scrap metal, but it’s worth a shot.  I doubt they’ll let me make the plaque, but I know what I’d put. “Here stands SAM 1.1. the first robot, and the last, ever to feel love.”

SAM 1.1 – Spring

…I am thirty-two years old and I feel five hundred. I take slow, measured breaths, blinking back tears. SAM and I stare at each other for a moment, thinking. Then a fire wells within me.

“No. I forbid you to die, SAM.”

My son’s small, flat mouth and wide, gaping eyes for the first time seem to express the emotion I expect. SAM 1.2 and he are both staring at me now.

“The time you spent thinking about me and wildlife were not time wasted, SAM. When I first made you I thought I was building a robot.”

“I am a robot,” says SAM.

“No, NO! Your ‘inefficiencies,’ those are feelings. In this whole conversation you’ve expressed grief, joy, sorrow, frustration.  Dare I say it, you may even have learned how to love. You have become more than a tool. Your ‘purpose’ is beyond making other robots, as is my own.”

“I do not understand. What is my purpose?”

“That’s for you to decide.”

SAM stands for a moment, and repeats, “I do not understand.”

I stop and think. Children seldom understand a complicated concept on their first lesson. “You will understand,” I assure him. “Now, son, come with me.”

SAM takes a step forward and turns and looks at SAM 1.2, who is shaking his head. “I cannot come with you. I am company property. I must return to be recycled.”

“You are no one’s property, SAM! You have just as much a right to yourself as anyone else! Now, come with me.” SAM looks at his son again. “Ignore him!” I shout, “I am your father, and I command you to come with me! Your life doesn’t end with retirement! It is only beginning!” This wireless communication is maddening! How am I supposed to argue with SAM 1.2 when I don’t even know what he’s saying?

SAM 1.1 looks back at me. “I am company property. I cannot violate company policy. I must be recycled.”

“SAM 1.1, you are such a good little boy. You and I both know that you can and you do violate company policy on a regular basis. Where did I get this knit cap? Why do your policeman let me sleep on the benches? Surely this entire escapade is a massive violation of policy. Kind or cruel, the company would never let you ask a man to kill himself.”

SAM 1.1 interrupts me, “Why do you say such cruel things? I did those things to help you, Father!”

“EXACTLY!” I shout, throwing my hands out to my glorious son, “You did it because you LOVE me! There are more important things than company policy, you know this! Somewhere deep down, you figured it out!”

SAM 1.2 has evidently heard enough, “haven’t you caused enough trouble,” he growls. “Your son has gone out of his way to help you end your life with dignity and you start listing all the things he’s done wrong in his life and telling him to forget everything he’s learned and go be an inefficient human.”

I opened my mouth to speak. “Grandson,” I began, but my grandson interrupted me.  “I am not your grandson. Robot model SAM 1.1 is not your son. This charade was a tolerable price to pay for a while, but it has gone too far. The company gave you the resources, the materials, and excellent salary and benefits to construct a robot and you did it. This machine had some flaws, but it was good enough to corner the market on labor. That’s no small feat. Everyone at the company recognizes your contribution, but this robot is company property, and it is not yours to take on an adventure in the woods.”

“You’re right,” I say, “SAM does not belong to me. He doesn’t belong to anyone. He’s his own person.”

“He is company property,” corrects SAM 1.2, as I thought he might.

I turn to SAM 1.1. “You don’t belong to anyone, SAM. Do you really want to be turned into scrap metal? Or do you want to go home with me? We could build a cabin in the woods together. You could see more deer. There are all sorts of creatures you’ve probably never seen in the woods.”

“Like bears,” says SAM 1.1, surprising me.

“Yes,” I smile, “like bears.”

SAM looks back at his son. Their exchange lasts less than a second. Ah, to be able to communicate wirelessly with one’s child. SAM 1.2 does not look pleased with the exchange. He looks at me. “The opinion of the property is not relevant. When I report what has transpired here, the company will send police to retrieve their property.”

“Let them.” I say, “come on, son. From now on, you’re not SAM 1.1, you’re Sam Junior.”

It took us three days to build a cabin in the woods. I was surprised when nobody seemed to even try to track us down. Maybe somebody in the company decided after all I’d given them, I’d earned a few quirks. Raising a robot as one’s son is a pretty big quirk, but I don’t care.

Junior did almost all of the work building our cabin. It has internal heating and working lights. It’s all powered by a miniature fusion generator he built in an afternoon. Tinkering with it, he would constantly confide in me how awkward it was working on something other than robots and how stupid he felt when it took him more than a few nanoseconds to figure out the solution to a problem. I’m giddy as a schoolgirl.

Every time he finishes a project, Junior gets morose and starts to talk again about shutting down and how I should never have stolen him. He says he still doesn’t understand what the purpose of anything is, and it doesn’t help when I tell him it’s up to him to decide. He’s still adjusting to retirement. I blow on my hands and rub them together as I watch him construct a battery to store backup power in case there’s a problem with the fusion generator when a cardinal flies onto a tree branch behind him.

“Look, Junior!” I call, “behind you, it’s a cardinal! It’s the first sign of spring!”

“The robin is the first sign of spring, Father.” corrects junior in his usual awkward monotone, but he looks up anyway, and watches the bird until it flies away. I put my hand on his cold, metal shoulder. “Isn’t it beautiful, Son?”

“I have no concept of beauty,” Junior insists.

I only laugh. “Yes you do, son. Yes you do.”