The Existence and The Creator — A Parable.
It was a warm spring day. One of those rare days when sun and cool air run along hand in hand. John and George were strolling to the lake through the green plains, walking barefoot over perfectly trimmed grass. John was an old man with the traces of silvery-white hair on the periphery of his head. His perfectly ironed grey suit and tie deceived the appearance of that place but that’s how he always dressed no matter the surroundings.
“So, how’s your book going?” John asked taking his pipe out of his mouth and then putting it back in the corner of his lips.
“Ahh… It’s going well.” George responded mechanically, “I completed the setup myself and created some characters and gave them a start. I just put them in the simulator last week to further the story.” He was looking up ahead to check if the stream was visible yet.
His salt-and-pepper beard went straight down to his chest. It was more salt than pepper and his flat cap concealed all whiteness over his head. He adjusted his round glasses and said, “I was thinking how characters come alive once you’ve created them and once you’ve given them certain traits. It’s like they get a free-will, they tend to get a life of their own. I never thought working with simulator could be so liberating.”
John took his hand out of his pocket and grabbed his pipe and chuckled but before he could refute George’s observation, George got a glimpse of the stream and a smile cracked from his closed lips. He adjusted the white suspenders over his black shirt and started taking long steps, leaving John behind.
“It’s not going anywhere, you know.” John shouted from behind, still maintaining his usual pace.
John reached the bank and found George sitting on a bench, looking at the flowing water and smiling. “It must have started somewhere.” George said, “Small and feeble. Or large and wild, who knows. But it made its way no matter what.”
John was wearing his shoes which he had been carrying in his hand all this time, then he sat upright and smiled at George as if he was still a novice, “George, this river… Do you really think it made its own way? It just followed the ground, downhill, turning, crashing and with the time, its path was made. It didn’t have to make any effort for this. If a river was MAKING its own way, then we would have seen a river running uphill. But that would require immeasurable courage to bend the rules which define the world, so it has never happened and will never happen. Just like the characters which you have created. You say they act on free will. But they don’t. And they never can. They are bound by the rules of the world that you have created for them and every character is a reflection of you in some sense. And you will have to force them to break the rules.”
“Quite right, John.” George said, “There are some characters who are more like me and who have, like me, written their own books, created their own fictional worlds. Although, it is on very smaller scale. Most of these have story of one person alone with not more than 5–10 characters. Although, some have more but not more than a thousand. It’s queer to think about it that they are me. But lesser me. Somewhat watered-down version of me. But they still think.”
John was watching a bird pecking its wings one at a time like sniffing its underarms, “As I said, they think but only to their limits which is bound by the world you have created for them. Imagination only goes so far. You have demonstrated it yourself by one of your characters — the bowl in the fish. Just like that, all other characters also have free-will, but it is no better than a gold fish in a bowl who also has free will that is limited to the realms of bowl. It can see beyond the bowl, but to very limited degree and perceive everything quite differently.”
George nodded and murmured, “Yeah… the bowl… it just started with a beautiful room with glass walls and someone living in it. I never thought of it that way.”
John laughed. “Well, it’s fascinating, though, watching these millions and billions of characters in simulator and reading their thoughts. Not like old times when people had to write the whole books themselves. That was very limiting, yet it produced the finest works and I would suggest you too to work on paper initially until you are ready to use the simulators. Yet it is quite fascinating to see the characters progressing in the simulator. Sometimes they surprise me but most of the characters have tendency to settle down, to survive. So, I have to step in and create trouble for them. What an evil thing…” he laughed, “… but necessary for the forward motion of the story. Because it’s that trouble in which these characters show themselves and make the novel richer in experience. So, I call it necessary, not for them, but for the novel.” He laughed again.
“May be this unexpected trouble is what makes them believe in some kind of god, or to say more accurately, in you.” George added.
“Of course, in fact, I, in some instances made them aware of me.” John said, “I knew they cannot live or perceive things beyond the simulator, but I can go inside the novel. So, I have created a few characters from time to time which reflect me, and it gave them a hint of who I am and what I can do. It’s good for emotional appeal of the novel, when they are in trouble and start to pray –”
“John…” George said, “You say they cannot perceive things beyond the simulator, or to say, beyond the world we have created for them, the novel. I was writing a scene the other day where two of my side-characters were talking about their troubles and one of them says, ‘what’s the meaning of all this Tim. Sometimes I wonder why we even exist?’
I kept on writing to see where it goes, and they kept talking about meaning of life and purpose of their existence and whatnot. And I thought it all to be really absurd. Both gave their theories, and both had some or other definition of existence, but don’t you think it is all nonsense. Can they ever perceive me? I mean if I could answer their question, I would say — you are only a character in my book you dummy. The only purpose of your character is to take the story forward, make it richer, evolve your character, keep the story interesting. If you’re a protagonist, set an example. If you’re an antagonist push the limits and lift the story up and protagonist’s character. If you just lay low, then readers won’t even care if I kill your character in the next chapter. Nobody cares about cardboard characters who are there just there to fill the gaps.”
John broke into laughter, “That’s right George. But that’s a sign that your story is getting dull and your characters have luxury of discussing this. I think you can use some plotting here. I bet your readers will put the book down yawning when they get to this scene. But anyways, I will humor you to this — what if I ask you to take it a little further, say, what if, just for argument’s sake, you do tell them that they are only characters in your book? Would it even matter? What’s going to change in their plot-line? They are seeking the answer of this worthless question which is not even a goddamn business of their plot-line. What happens if you answer their question?”
George shrugged, “Nothing I guess.”
“I guess I will rewrite the scene tonight and see where it goes.” George said, “What I can guess is, they will still be part of the same world, of their own story-lines, maybe they’ll stay true to their characters after this knowledge. But then I think every character will behave differently on this information. In the end I know they won’t care about this for long, I can probably put some more subplots in their story-line to make them forget this trivial information and worry about what matters more, what matters more to story, what matters more to me.” They both laughed.
John looked up at the blue sky and scattered clusters of snow-white clouds floating around golden sun setting slowly down behind the hills and making the stream glimmer, “what a beautiful day George, isn’t it? Coming directly from a scene of some romantic book.”
“It sure is.” George said dreamily then both paused staring around.
“John…” George said after a long pause, “Have you ever wondered if we are also only some characters in someone’s book?”