Notice the neat camera jerks during the close-ups, as if her motion is shaking our viewpoint up.
The intolerable drone of the engines, and stagnant, recycled air had drastically subdued signal-to-noise ratio expectations in most of my senses. I looked out the window for some visual stimulation. The Earth did not disappoint. The Sun had set enough to allow stares at the horizon, but not enough to blot the blue canvas, and reveal the stars. It was not the sky that fascinated me that twilight hour.
I scanned the burning edge if the Earth, trying to gauge its curvature. Given the altitude, the air below was surprisingly cloudless, affording me a panoramic view of a mountainous landscape, naked of all flora, accented by self-shadows of geological scars. An enlightened mind could have inferred its tell-tale formation history with but a glimpse. This too was fluid.
“Harv,” she said, “are you working on a mite?”
“No, dummy.” Harv’s voice was hushed, and he had to mumble around the little button-shaped torch he was holding in his teeth. “Mites are lots smaller. See, look!”
She crawled forward a little more, drawn as much by warmth and security as by curiosity, and saw a limp mottled brown thing a few centimeters on a side, fuzzy around the edges, resting on Hanv’s crossed ankles.
“What is it?”
“It’s magic. Watch this,” Harv said. And worrying at it with his toothpick, he teased something loose.
“It’s got string coming out of it!” Nell said.
“Sssh!” Harv gripped the end of the thread beneath his thumbnail and pulled. It looked quite short, but it lengthened as he pulled, and the fuzzy edge of the piece of fabric waffled too fast to see, and then the thread had come loose entirely. He held it up for inspection, then let it drift down onto a heap of others just like it.
“How many does it have?” Nell said.
“Nell,” Harv said, turning to face her so that his light shone into her face, his voice coming out of the light epiphanically, “you got it wrong. It’s not that the thing has threads in it— it is threads. Threads going under and over each other. If you pulled out all of the threads, nothing would be left.”
“Did mites make it?” Nell asked.
“The way it’s made— so digital— each thread going over and under other threads, and those ones going over and under all the other threads-” Harv stopped for a moment, his mind overloaded by the inhuman audacity of the thing, the promiscuous reference frames. “It had to be mites, Nell, nothing else could do it.”
– from Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age”. The book recently came up in conversation, and I couldn’t help but recall how geeked-out I was when I first read this.
“I have been very rude to speak so ill to you of tales! They record what has gone on ever since the Age of the Gods. The Chronicles of Japan and so on give only a part of the story. It is tales that contain the truly rewarding particulars!” he laughed. “Not that tales accurately describe any particular person; rather, the telling begins when all those things the teller longs to have pass on to future generations– whatever there is about the way people live their lives, for better or worse, that is a sight to see or a wonder to hear– overflow the teller’s heart. To put someone in a good light one brings out the good only, and to please other people one favors the oddly wicked, but none of this, good or bad, is removed from life as we know it. Tales are not told the same way in the other realm, and even in our own the old and new ways are of course not the same; but although one may distinguish between the deep and the shallow, it is wrong always to dismiss what one finds in tales as false. There is talk of ‘expedient means‘ also in the teaching that the Buddha in his great goodness left us, and many passages of the scriptures are all too likely to seem inconsistent and so to raise doubts in the minds of those who lack understanding, but in the end they have only a single message, and the gap between enlightenment and the passions is, after all, no wider than the gap that in tales sets off the good from the bad. To put it nicely, there is nothing that does not have its own value.” He mounted a very fine defense of tales.
Excerpt from the Royall Tyler translation of “The Tale of Genji”, a “novel” composed on scrolls in the 10th century, by a woman whose true name is now lost to history. This book seems to take forever to read…..