Man has historically, I believe, looked upon the universe as something that came about through a purely mechanistic evolution that can be explained, at least in part, by the laws of physics and of chemistry. But a universe so evolved, being no more than a mechanistic construct, never would make anything reasonably resembling complete sense since it would not be designed to have any. A mechanistic concept is supposed to make something work, not to make any kind of sense, and it goes against all the logic I can muster to think this is the kind of universe we live in. Certainly the universe is something more than this, although I suppose it is the only way it can be explained by a technological society. I have asked myself in what ways it might be constructed; I have asked myself for what purpose it has been constructed. Surely, I tell myself, not as a simple receptacle to contain matter, space, and time. Certainly it has more significance than this. Was it designed, I ask myself, as the home of intelligent biological creatures and if this is so, what factors have gone into its development to make it such a place, in fact what kind of construct should it be to serve such a purpose? Or was it built simply as an exercise in philosophy?

Or possibly as a symbolism that may not be perceived nor appreciated until that far-distant day when the final distillation of biological evolution has produced some unimaginable intelligence that may finally know the reason and the purpose of the universe? The question is raised, as well, what sort of an intelligence would be required to reach such an understanding. There must, it seems, always be a certain limitation to each evolutionary phase, and there is no way one can be sure that such a limitation would not rule out the capacity to achieve an intelligence necessary to understand the universe.

Perhaps, said the grande dame, the universe is not meant to be understood. This fetish for understanding may be no more than one mistaken aspect of a technological society.

Or, said the monk, of a philosophical society. Perhaps more true of a philosophical society than one that is technological, for technology doesn't give a damn just so the engines run and the equations click together.

I think you both are wrong, objected the scientist. Any intelligence must care. An intelligence must necessarily drive itself to the limit of its ability. That is the curse of intelligence. It never lets the creature that possesses it alone; it never lets him rest, it drives him on and on. In the last moment of eternity he will be clinging to the ultimate precipice by his fingernails, kicking and screaming to gather in the final shred of whatever it is that he may be chasing. And he'll be chasing something; I'll lay you odds on that.

You make it sound so grim, the grande dame said.

At the risk, said the scientist, of sounding somewhat like a stuffed shirt or a mindless patriot, I might say grim, but glorious.


Excerpt from Shakespeares Planet by Clifford D. Simak
Copyrightę 1976 by Clifford D. Simak and
the Berkley Publishing Corporation
posted 12-29-99 -rlm

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