He dreamily listened to the beating of his heart and became entranced in the cadence and magnitude of his breath. He hovered just above the blossoms and swaying grass, facing the cliff and its grand view of the sun. Overlooking the cliff, one could see the sprawling ocean and its living waves that ceremoniously wandered on and off a distant, sleepy shore. The sun bore out its cheery warmth along the brine of sea-breeze. The birds kept quiet for him as he drifted further into the passing moment. His time in the garden was all that he could ever want.
The lengths of moments were inconsequential; he opened his eyes knowing that he’d not been meditating long, and yet he saw a sunset where before there were only the signs of a mid-afternoon. He took in the scene and savored its ancient, natural scent. Despite his peace, he found himself separated and wanting. He was full of thought and was just a bit restless.
Memories came to him and he sifted through them at his leisure, reviewing the details to discover what kept him from balance. He was among the first to test the System. It was easier for most people to call the thing “the System” because it seemed more consequential and ineffable that way—like it was a fixture of nature itself. In some ways that was true, and certainly it made sense for marketing reasons to evoke that sort of image.
He was something of a leader in the field of virtual reality at the time of “the System’s” creation. _____ Corp. had perfected its prototype over decades and he had a hand in programming one of its countless constituent sub-systems (at least one of those not wholly left to the programming discretion of _____ Corp.’s top A. I.). Even then, he conceived of the project as a means to supplement the mind rather than externalize it or, heaven forbid, forego its use. Exposure to the System meant exposure to all sorts of possibilities and ideas… Who could constrict themselves to petty wish fulfillment when one could “speak” to his or her own soul and decode the ways of the transcendent universe? Many times he had to wave away his dissatisfaction with how “the System” would most certainly be used.
He remembered being present at _____ Corp.’s grand unveiling of “the System.” The name settled upon by the higher-ups admittedly lacked subtlety or depth and was constrained by just how many competing products were given names from the same motifs that _____ Corp. wanted to use. The name they chose was: “The Machina X.” “The ‘X’ is pronounced ‘ex,’ by the way,” the CEO of _____ Corp. clarified at the public unveiling, “so there’s no need to worry that you’ve missed nine other predecessors of this product.” Light laughter drowned in the noise of protests less than a mile away on the city streets. Faces peeked from under assorted umbrellas as the sky shook out its heavy rain. Considering the circumstances, the CEO and his staff supposed that the joke and presentation went pretty well.
Most among the larger public saw the Machina X as something of a monolithic waste of time: a lazy vacation destination for only the least ambitious among the upper class. Others with more radical versions of the same opinion wanted it dismantled and destroyed. “Who’s to say it isn’t defective, resulting in a damaged psyche for the user?” “What happens if it breaks? What are the risks?” “What stops the Machina X from taking away from the community without giving back?” “Who’s to say it wouldn’t breed even more apathy and narcissism in a world practically run by it?” But more heinous and consequential than all this was the popular notion that the Machina X was an affront to nature itself.
For this reason, the Machina X was built in a place far from the reach of mobs, raiders, or fanatics. It rested in a sprawling, wind-swept desert guarded by drones, walls, and heat. The remoteness and impressive security only disturbed the public even more. When access became more affordable, they still looked on with suspicion. The man thought that it was a shame that so much potential should be mistaken for mere sin.
Never before did we have access to such a power—it is human power, to be sure. It is the product of ambition, hope, and wonder. It is not escapism. Used to its full potential, it is escape from escapism… it is the means to isolate, control, and transcend one’s own inhibitions, ignorance, and desires.
The idea of nature is contingent and emergent. But nature itself is absolute and unavoidable. We cannot escape or abandon it; it will manifest in all circumstances. You are nature. I am nature. What we do and become is nature. Machina X, like anything else, came from the elements. It’s “system” is nothing without human experience. If one wants to think its very existence trespasses against the assumed sanctity of external sensation, they must be allowed to discover for themselves that this is not true. If one wants to use the Machina X to better themselves—it is just another tool to do so.
A shifting took place in his mood and focus. He lifted himself through layers of wrinkled, tired thoughts and into an ether. He opened his eyes to find himself sitting on a large marble platform overlooking a foggy, gray void. There was no sound or added sensation. He concentrated and breathed out an excess attachment to his circumstances. No past. No pain. No artifice. No distraction. Concentrate.
He returned to the beating of his heart—immersed in its deep, resonant rhythm. He felt the exchange of particles and the swimming of cells. He heard the hum of electrons and the execution of codes. He discerned the data of his being enfolded and arising in circuits and synapses. He was complete and released. He became Machina X.