“Who am I then? Tell me that first, and then,
if I like being that person, I’ll come up; if not,
I’ll stay down here till I’m someone else.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland &
Through the Looking-Glass
I’d already concluded that 23rd century computers worked according to some incomprehensibly different set of rules. Walking into the science labs the next morning (late again, but at least I’d found the place without having to beg for help from passersby), I was more or less expecting Mr. Logical to tell me I was congenitally inadequate to adapt to these newfangled machines.
How could I help assuming Mr. Spock found me inferior? He was so obviously superior to humans, in so many ways. Even at dinner the night before, his depth and breadth of knowledge had been intimidating – and that was how he made chit chat. His idea of conversation often seemed to consist of making connections between bizarrely diverse areas of knowledge, with no realm apparently outside his study.
I, on the other hand, had been undergoing a non-stop lesson in humility ever since I got here. Everything was new and strange, and I was stumbling around, just hoping no one would figure out how clueless I really was. For all I knew, I might be a lost cause. I might never be able to catch up.
So I was a little defensive, as he greeted me with the same old cool cat attitude and showed me to a seat at a work console. He pulled up a seat beside me, but before he could commence the lecture I figured was coming, I decided to dive in with my own half-baked observations, and attempt some pre-emptive display of intellectual understanding. I figured the worst that could happen was that I’d just confirm the low opinion he probably already had of me. Damn, I wished Bob was here – he’d be able to hold his own.
The thought of Bob came so suddenly and strongly I had to bite my lip to turn the pain aside. I did my best to summon a façade of confidence.
“So,” I lunged into it, “from what I can tell, your computers use some completely different way of organizing information than I’m used to. All these flashing lights and colors and symbols. It’s like there’s some almost intuitive way people seem to use these screens, but it doesn’t make sense to me.”
He nodded, and I got the raised eyebrow. “Perceptive.” He said, and I felt a brief, irrational burst of pride in what I inferred was his version of approval. “I was able to make a brief study of your 21st century computer algorithms during our time at your apartment. Most inefficient. Much of the linkage appears to have been structured for commercial purposes rather than any underlying logic of connectivity or meaning.”
He twisted around on his chair, doing another one of those incomprehensible things to the console, continuing his commentary. “And you are quite right. Present day education in most sentient cultures trains students from an early age to navigate much differently though data. It is true that, as an adult, your cognitive and perceptual patterns are already fully formed, but based on Dr. McCoy’s brain wave scans, I believe there is still sufficient elasticity of your cerebral cortex to essentially re-train your brain along more productive and efficient pathways. This will enable you to acquire the skills to utilize our information technologies more or less fully. Relative to other humans, that is.”
“Of course,” I agreed modestly.
He looked up from his maneuverings, motioning to a young man working nearby, who brought over a formidable looking piece of headgear. The two of them made a considerable process of fitting the thing on me. It completely blocked out sight and sound, and the sensation was a little like being in a sensory deprivation tank, but there were these odd tactile impulses, too, and even smells. Apparently, the device stimulated all aspects of my brain. Yes, reader, all aspects.
Mr. Spock fired it up for a few moments just to demonstrate. I felt electricity tingling throughout my body.
Whoa. Very interesting.
He shut the power down and removed the headgear, fiddling with some controls.
“When we were on Earth, you referred to your spiritual practice,” he said, surprising me. “Do you practice meditation, a stilling of the mind?”
Caught off guard, I stammered some half-assed explanation about how, yes, I tried to still the mind, then contemplate the issues in my life according to the spiritual principles I was learning. I had no idea if I was making any sense, but he nodded as if this was an everyday topic.
Lt. Yazzie – I’d pegged him as Navajo from the name, and his striking features – also nodded with studied detachment, as if he was determined to do a perfect impression of his boss.
Spock went on. “It would be helpful to calibrate the equipment if you could access that state.”
Oh, brave new world, indeed. Up to this point, my spiritual practice had been something I’d kept to myself, always feeling a little like I’d snuck in the back door of the spiritual world, lacking the proper papers. Certainly no one had ever asked me to produce a contemplative state on the spot. I felt that inner battle going on inside, Mind sniping at Soul, as it always did, trying to make me feel inept and self-conscious. Most of the time Mind still won out, but now, I don’t know why, I felt the importance of trusting my abilities. Here. In a laboratory, with an alien who was very politely preparing to probe my brain.
I took a deep breath and said I’d try.
I don’t know what he was expecting. I don’t know precisely what I “demonstrated”. I closed my eyes, hardly necessary with that technologically imposed darkness all around, and turned my attention inward. I chanted my mantra and – slightly to my own surprise – felt that rising of energy toward the 3rd eye, that focal point centered in the forehead, between and behind the physical eyes. I felt the upward “swoosh”, that flow that takes everything up with it; felt a little smile creep spontaneously onto my lips, always a sure sign that the lower concerns have dropped away, at least temporarily.
I became aware of my consciousness floating. I saw myself, the ship, all of us, flowing through space, not just physical space, but a far more vast reality that was hiding just beyond the limits of normal perception. A vastness that shifts and flows according to our own individual focus of attention. I was carried away, just viewing the endless potential of existence, all right there, right before my inner eyes. You can’t see shit like \that and not be overwhelmed with love and unbounded awe.
And I did it on demand. Freaking amazing. I sat there, enveloped in a cloud of omnidirectional Love, until a lower self-consciousness intruded from somewhere, and suddenly I was aware of …me, sitting wearing this weird headgear; me, with that goofy, blissed-out smile on my face, and, like a shot, I plummeted back into the phenomenal world with a thud.
Mr. Spock chose that moment to remove the device again. He began to fiddle with it, adjusting god knows what. I sat there, cautious, curious as hell to know whether he’d picked up anything of what I’d been experiencing, but afraid to say anything. I didn’t want to be told that what I experienced inside wasn’t real.
He appeared totally focused on his task. He directed the hovering Lt. Yazzie to fetch him some tool. It was only when his assistant had left the room that he spoke, quietly.
“The ability to focus the attention at the optic chiasma is a skill few humans develop. The raising of the electromagnetic vibrations has a powerful effect on perception, resulting in altered states of consciousness without the use of artificial means. One attempts to find the center point, the still point within the standing wave, through attention alone, but the ability comes only through dedicated practice, great concentration and purification.”
He glanced up and met my eyes. “Obviously you have been under the tutelage of an Adept. Meditation techniques are common to many, but few come near to the level you just demonstrated. At least few who demonstrate the ability to balance such inner focus with a relatively normal outer existence.” He looked at the door, and I realized he’d deliberately sent his young assistant away.
“Starfleet regulations require that new long-term passengers such as yourself be evaluated thoroughly, both mentally and physically. Once those evaluations are completed and submitted to Starfleet, your presence will be official. Your records will be accessible by any interested parties with sufficient clearance, within Starfleet and the Federation.
“Dr. McCoy has suggested that there is no reason to be overly prompt in completing those reports. Based on these preliminary readings alone, I must agree with the doctor. Our intent is to give you a period of adjustment here on the Enterprise, without attracting unnecessary attention from other quarters – as readings like yours inevitably would.”
I thought he trailed off a little on that last thought. You could tell when Mr. Spock was being deliberately imprecise. He couldn’t quite pull it off.
“You’re talking about this Culpepper guy, right?”
He nodded slightly. “Keeping your status in process keeps responsibility for you in Captain Kirk’s hands. There are advantages to that at present.”
Lt. Yazzie walked in at that moment, and Mr. Spock lifted the headpiece he’d been holding, as if he’d been working on it all along. The two of them re-fitted me, and prepared to zap me again, this time for real.
“We will begin by adjusting one neural pathway at a time,” Mr. Spock explained studiously, directing his comments more to his Navajo assistant than to me. “There are more direct ways of performing these procedures as you know, but in this case, we are prepared to be thorough, regardless of how long it takes.”
He didn’t exactly wink at me, but his dark eyes met mine, and the stern lips twitched, ever so slightly.
I leaned back as my senses were taken over, wondering if he was using this Frankenstein contraption to turn me into some Vulcan ideal of smart. I guess you could do worse. Then, like almost everything that I was encountering in this new world, I gave in to some primal gut-instinct and boarded the brain train.