Tag Archives: rationality

Chapter 16: The Third Species

Cadmus was silent for a while. He looked up the hill instinctively and saw the cabin dark against the night sky. 4 should be coming up in the north soon and make everything a ghostly pale color. Galen was nearly invisible against the night even though they were standing close to each other.

“Your story has given me an appetite,” Cadmus said. “I had just gotten home when you called and arrived. I don’t know what’s in the pantry that’s edible, but why don’t I check and cook us up something to eat?”

“Sounds good to me,” Galen answered.

As they walked up the hill Draco.763.4 was just starting to come up over the craggy mountains to the north casting a bluish white light on the roof of the solitary cabin. There was a dark pile of something on the porch. Cadmus rebuked himself for not thinking to turn on the porchlight when they left.

The pile turned out to be Lonesome on the porch waiting for them to come home. Cadmus stepped carefully around the dagu, opened the front door, and felt around for a light switch in the darkness. Galen sat down beside Lonesome and looked up at the planet rise as it began to fill the night sky.

Cadmus found some powdered eggs that didn’t smell too bad. He also found some powdered soup. He couldn’t read the label on the can and hoped it wouldn’t make them sick. He poured some kibble into one bowl and water into another bowl for Lonesome.

After some time Cadmus came out to the porch carrying a tray with two plates of scrambled eggs, two cups of soup, napkins, and forks. He set the tray down beside Galen and sat down on the other side of the tray.

They ate silently, looking up from time to time at the lovely but lethal planet that seemed close enough to reach up and touch. This thought passed through both their minds, not because Galen shared Cadmus’ way of thinking about things but because all Cadmus’ thoughts passed through Galen’s mind like a nebula near a black hole.

“I would imagine you have discussed these findings and conjectures with your peers,” Cadmus continued their thread.

“Yes, of course.”

“So what did your peers conclude?”

“Our peers concluded that our enemy may be more than we are capable of dealing with.”

“Why? There are a lot of you. If you put your minds together, you should be able to come up with a strategy to defeat these creatures.”

“We know our limitations.”

“You have limitations?”


“What for instance?”

“We are rational to a fault.”

“What could be the fault of rationality?”

“That it is based on the non-rational.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Rationality is the most economical, straight-forward, simplest, ethical, and aesthetical form of thought. If you want to assert something, however, that is neither totally trivial nor self-evident, you’re going to need a set of axioms underpinning your rational system of thought. Axioms are assertions that can’t be proven or questioned. Axioms are non-rational.”

“Can you speak a little more concretely so that I may follow you?”

“Imagine a rational system of thought is an edifice, a tall and vast structure, and its axioms are the ground on which the edifice stands.”

“Alright. I can see that.”

“If someone attacks an axiom upon which your rational system rests, the entire structure will collapse.”

“And you think our universe is rational and in danger of collapsing from an attack on its axioms?”

“No,” Galen said. “The universe and its physical substrata are under attack, and our ability to defend them from attack may be subverted by an attack on our axioms.”

“I see,” Cadmus said. But did he? It was all so confusing to him. Images were flying around his brain in circles. He began to feel queasy. Why had Galen come all this way to tell him these things? What could Cadmus possibly do about it? After all he was blind in all but three dimensions. Why him?

“Because you are irrational,” Galen said. “You would not be vulnerable to an attack which could incapacitate us. If we train you what to do, you could do it without thinking. We need you to come with us.”

“A two-species defense against a superior species?” Cadmus asked.

“No,” Galen answered, “a three-species defense.”

“Who is the third species?”

Galen reached over to scratch Lonesome between his ears and the dagu leaned into his hand.

from Out of Time

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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The Parking Lot

A couple nights ago I parked my car in a rather large lot. There were cars in rows upon rows as far as the eye could see, but I usually have a good sense of orientation so I didn’t think much about it at the time. I walked and walked until I reached the main building of the fair grounds. Inside I saw there were halls upon halls, some wide and spacious, and others long and narrow. All along every inch of wall of the halls and hallways was every kind of restaurant you could imagine. Everywhere I looked, people were chatting and eating and clinking glasses. I walked interminably. There were crowds of people walking around me. It was so crowded that people couldn’t help but brush against each other, but nobody complained and nobody seemed concerned about it.

At some point I had decided I’d seen enough of the fair and I wanted to go home. I back-tracked, turning left and then right through the warren of hallways as I had come. When I reached the place at which I had entered, I found a restaurant there. People were chatting and eating and clinking their glasses. The tables were densely packed but I was able to walk between them to the other side where there would probably be a door. I came to a wall with tables next to it but I didn’t see a door. I worked my way along the wall looking for a door leading into the kitchen where there’d probably be a back entrance. There was no door anywhere in the restaurant. I wondered where they got their food from.

The crowd of people that had been walking around me continued walking with me wherever I walked. They tried to help me find a door and offered me many suggestions, but none of them bore fruit. Their helpfulness was slowing me down. I didn’t want to be impolite but I started to walk faster down the hallway looking for other exits, until I started running. I had to get away from that cloying crowd.

There was no exit anywhere. I began to sweat. Then I heard what sounded like a news broadcast somewhere. Reality shifted ever so slightly and I found myself in a universe that made a little more sense to me. There had been another stabbing and a Palestinian had been shot. The x-ray technicians were still on strike. The Maariv bridge would be blown up at 6 a.m. this Friday to pave the way for the new Tel Aviv metro railway. A Palestinian prisoner under administrative detention was in the 60th day of his hunger strike and doctors feared that damage to his brain might be irreversible.

It was 7:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Yes, this was a dream. We all have them. They usually start out making sense and then develop their own logic along the way. They always seem logical at the time we are dreaming them, but after we awaken we judge them by a new more rational standard. I read an interesting article four months ago about what’s going on in our brains when we dream. See The Science of Dreaming, by Robert J. Hoss. I think Hoss wrote something like when we are awake signals flow in our brain from our perceptual circuitry to our memory circuitry, but in dreaming the signals flow in the opposite direction. I won’t go into why this might be happening this way, although that was also fascinating. Although Hoss made reference to the work of researchers Hobson and McCartney stating that dreams might result from our higher brain functions trying to make sense of the random electrical activity in our lower brain functions during our dream state, it occurred to me that our rationality and the sense of it might be hard-wired into our brain circuitry and not learned as we go along in life. The truth of P may imply Q, but the truth of Q doesn’t necessarily imply P. Maybe we’ll never be more rational than we are now.

Anyway, time to get up and face another day. Next time I’ll try to remember to tie a balloon to my antenna and drop pebbles along the way.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 54: Facing One’s Fears

The Tin Man was sitting rather awkwardly on a tree trunk between two unlikely looking bushes. “You took your time getting here.”

The boy squeezed Ellen’s hand tightly. “It took me awhile to face my fears.”

“You mean the Tree and me?” the Tin Man asked. “Why should you be afraid of us?”

“Because you both represent to me the parentheses of my rational existence, the ends of my ability to reason,” the boy answered, “the final absurdity that lays to waste everything I’ve labored to create.”

“Why? Just because we have a sense of humor?” a voice boomed from the tree top behind the Tin Man’s stump.

Ellen looked intently at the boy, wondering at the dislocation of his mind and body.

“You know what I mean,” the boy said quietly. “I created you all. There can be no misunderstanding among us.”

Yggdrasil tried to counter, “There are many races of creatures who misunderstand their creator.”

“But I am not a god,” the boy replied. “I’m just a person who populates his mind with the avatars of his needs and desires. There’s no room for misunderstanding.”

“What about the needs and desires of your avatars?” the Tin Man interjected, apparently pleased with himself.

“Well, I suppose so,” the boy allowed.

“And the avatars of your avatars?” Yggdrasil added. “Even your thoughts have thoughts. Hmmm … The point is that there will always be plenty room for misunderstanding, even in a world of your creation.”

“You’re not helping me,” the boy said morosely.

“I’m sorry,” Yggdrasil answered, “was I supposed to be helpful? I’m just a tree.”

The boy looked at Ellen, then at the Tin Man, and finally at the tree. “I …”

“Look here,” the Tin Man said kindly, “you can’t make a universe solely from rational components. Every rational point you see is surrounded by an infinity of irrational points. The entire structure of rationality is grounded in irrationality. You’ve said it yourself many times: all our proofs are based on axioms which you just have to believe. All one can do is to reduce the number of axioms to the barest minimum.”

“I suppose I haven’t done a very good job of that,” the boy looked down at the ground.

“But you have created characters who do exactly that,” the Tin Man answered. “That’s something, isn’t it?”

“That’s just it,” the boy said sadly. “What will happen to you all before I was born? I mean … after I cease to exist.” He looked at Ellen with tears streaming down his face.


Ellen found the parallel notches in the tree bark at the edge of the clearing. They walked up the path. She put her arm around his waist and drew into him so that they walked together as a single being.

They came to a second clearing. They walked around the clearing inspecting the trees closely, looking until they found the second set of double-notches on the tree. They followed the new path for some time until they came to a tree on their right with a third pair of notches beside a wall of branches with thorns. They turned to the left and walked down that path. The trees were dense and over-arching so that they could not see even a sliver of the night sky above them.

They came to another tree with parallel notches. After a few steps they could see the promontory of the cliff and the cave lights through a gap in the trees. The boy saw the first set of parallel notches he had made in one of the trees next to the gap. They walked out of the forest into the open night air.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 39: Doors

It seemed like no time at all before the young man reached the other door. As he emerged from the tunnel, Lem and Yani greeted him with smiles and hugs. They had to bend down to hug him.

He closed the second door behind him. They walked together into the fresh night air of a valley much like he imagined it would be. It was so quiet you could almost hear the stars sing.

Lem guided him to their home, one of the caves he had seen from the cliff. When they reached the third cave, Lem stopped and put his hand on the glass wall. The glass wall dissolved. They passed through the entrance into the cave, after which the glass reformed. Lem pointed to a sofa and asked his father to make himself comfortable. Lem sat down on a chair opposite him.

Yani offered Lem and her father a cup of water and a plate of fresh fruit. The young man raised the cup to his lips and drank down the cool thirst-quenching liquid in a few gulps. He eyed the fruit with desire and curiosity. Lem smiled, reached over to the plate, picked up a prange, and popped it into his mouth. “You really should try the prange,” Lem said amiably with his mouth full of the tart pulp, “it’s fresh from our garden. Yani picked it just before you arrived.” The young man picked up a prange from the plate and bit off the tip of the fruit. The tangy taste seemed to explode in his mouth. He ate the rest of it and reached for another piece of fruit.

Yani sat down on the sofa beside her father. He turned himself to see her better. “You’re more beautiful than I remembered, Yani,” he said. He looked at Lem and said, “You are lucky to have each other.”

“You know luck has nothing to do with it, Father,” Lem said with his usual impish smile. “It couldn’t have been any other way.”

Why, because you were meant to be together?

No, because you meant us to be together. Our relationship is as much your creation as we are.

Oh yes, I forgot.

There was a long silence. The artificial lighting in the cave came on softly, almost unnoticeably, as though it were always there and yet it hadn’t been.

“Can you state the problem, Father?” Lem asked gently, or was it Yani asking him? He couldn’t make out precisely where the voice was coming from. It seemed to be coming from somewhere inside his head.

I – I – I

May I make an attempt?


I see you caught in a whirlpool, a whirlpool so vast and so powerful that you can’t drag yourself out of its deadly orbit, a whirlpool of your own making that even you cannot unmake it, a whirlpool made of the very best of your reasoning. You, who have invented rational world after rational world, first a world of rational robots and then a world of rational humanoids, now have reached the limits of rationality itself. You would rather carry on conversations with the characters of your stories than to speak with real people, people you haven’t created from your own imagination. You are trying to rescue yourself from this whirlpool of insanity by reaching out to your own rationality but, there’s the paradox, the metaphysical recursion, that you can never truly know whether your syllogisms and even your tautologies are the healthy fruit of the universal ideals that any rational being would agree to or the poisoned fruit of your in-turning down-sucking pathology.



Yes, I guess that fairly well states my problem.

Father, we worry about you … and we worry about ourselves. We won’t survive this whirlpool if you don’t.

Then I think you’d better set your affairs in order … no, that’s not right … come to terms with what awaits us all, because I don’t know how much longer I can maintain this reality.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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