She squinted at the flat screen. “How can you watch things this way? It makes me dizzy! Everything is so, so…” her hands moved in the air as if trying to snatch words which obviously evaded her with the ease of a fly.
“Flat?” I suggested.
“Well it is how it used to be shown. We are trying to re-create it here, remember?”
She wrinkled her nose as if two-dimensionality had a bad odor. Then she stared more intently at the screen. After a few moments she exclaimed, “There are only men on the field!”
I sighed, “Yes, that is how they used to play it back then.”
“Didn’t the women play?”
I shrugged, “Apparently not. They were not deemed to be as strong or something.”
“What has musculature have to do with it?” her eyes focused on the game. “It is not like it requires much skill.”
I looked at the game. “True, compared to jingsai this is a rather simple thing. The field never changes, no non-human obstacles, and a simple, one-directional time tracker. But that is why I like it. Simpler, purer somehow.”
She leaned back in her seat, “Hmph. A more prejudiced time where everything was black and white and if you crossed the wrong lines you would die. Honestly Roger3 I do not see what is so appealing about this.”
I leaned back a little and sipped my drinks watching the ball moving down the field. It was always hard to explain my fascination with the 21st century. The other week I showed some friends a copy of what used to be called the Olympic Games. The reactions were mostly the same – it is flat, chauvinistic, linear, and mostly boring with a tinge of sadistic pleasure, rather like someone in the 21st century might frown at anyone actually enjoying depictions of the Roman arena, for example.
We watched the rest of the game in silence. Well, I watched, Mmahina was watching something else, though generally looking in the direction of the projected game, her eyes flashing different colors every once in a while. When it was over I flipped to a broadcast I had saved of last night’s game, but it turned out to be a defensive battle which did not interest me, since I was always an offense man myself. Score early and score often was pretty much the only motto I cared about. Mmahina, predictably, enjoyed the strategies of the defensive games, the need for chronological sacrifices, the clever use of the switching terrain, the surprise developments.
I went to the kitchen and got another cold drink. I looked out of the window into our enclosed domeyard, and tried to imagine how someone from the 21st century would see this. Their lack of temporal vision must have made everything seem flat, or better, made everything seem like a water running down a glass pane – fluid and flat.
They would not see either the exquisite ever-blooming roses or the delightful mixed hues of the daisies. For them the rose bushes would seem flowerless, and the daisies only seeds. In a sense they saw the world as nature saw the world, and in that was what made them so appealing for me. From the roses’ perspective they were not in bloom, they would consider themselves most certainly to be hibernating. And the daisies would know themselves, if they could know themselves, as seeds.
From the other room I could hear Mmahina talking to the game, encouraging the players, her voice joining that of the other spectators from different times who watched the game and relayed their shouts to the event as it unfolded, joining in the chorus of the spectators, in what they called “live” in the 21st century. “Live?” asked Mmahina once, “as opposed to dead?”
“Well,” I tried to explain, “for them events occurred only once. And once it occurred it was past and unreachable, rather like the nextfuture is to us, I s’ppose.”
Her beautifully engineered face struggled to hold a frown, “But how can you not be here?” she trailed off.
“Well we know that events are spread out before us, rather like rooms in a house. But for them it was not. For them things just disappeared…”
She shook her head. I shook mine. Seems that apart from a few people I have never been good at explaining the incomparable fragility of this flowing time of the ancients. Most people saw it as, at best, some sort of handicap to be pitied, at worse as some sort of horrific disease to be eradicated. But I saw something else. from the needing to turn pages to read a story, in fact from the need to type words letter by letter, symbol by symbol, to the intuition that the “past” was actually within reach, the ancients had produced some tremendous works of art and literature and music. There simply was nothing to compare to it, in my opinion. Yes, Wawa Pona’s Symphonia Astralis was fantastic. Who didn’t feel stretched into n-dimensional space as the composition evolved, first as sounds eventually taking you into pure energy? Compare it to a Bach had to first intuit and then somehow evoke what Pona could demonstrate. The simplicity of a Bach, who worked only with sounds, made for an immeasurably more powerful experience, in my opinion. But most of my friends found it, again, flat.
Much later, after Mmahina had gone into her stasis cycle, I replayed the game. The enthusiasm of the crowd brought tears to my eyes, the chants, the groans at a missed opportunity. And suddenly I got it. That was what the ancients were talking about, over and over, in everything they did – they were talking about opportunities, most especially the fear of missing one or the sorrow of doing so. Hardly ever celebrating, hardly ever joyous. A non-stop frenetic fear of missing the opportunity.
I decided that this insight was powerful enough that it warranted going into stasis, even though I had already had my quota for the cycle, I wanted to make sure it was imprinted. “I don’t want to miss this opportunity!” I said to myself smiling. I decided to self-climb the stairs, enjoying the feeling of self-propulsion.