Part (4/5) of Asymptote is below. Remember earlier when I said that this was a story about the limits of science? Well, this is where we actually start talking about that kind of stuff.
As usual, any and all feedback is welcomed in the comments section.
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Asymptote (part 4)
We stopped just across from the main waterfront area. The light was red so we waited for a car to pass before we crossed the street. There was a Tim Horton’s just to our left as we crossed over the street and onto the boardwalk area. Whenever you walk down to the boardwalk, even when there’s a steady westward breeze, the smell of the harbor doesn’t really hit you until you’re right up on it. It’s like there’s an invisible olfactory barrier that starts right at the intersection of asphalt and softened wood. It was the smell of salt and broken shells and I would take it in by the chest-full.
‘Don-dons?,’ I said, as I looked up at the Tim Horton’s sign.
‘Ugh,’ Amanda said, as she put one hand on her stomach and waved off the suggestion with the other, ‘No way. I’m still stuffed from the platitude this morning.’
I’m not sure what it was, but I’d had an insatiable craving for doughnuts ever since I moved up to Canada. I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t a fan of donuts before; I would always pick a couple up whenever I’d walk up to the Dunkin Donuts up the street to pick up breakfast sandwiches for me and Edith on the weekends. But this was different. I was walking over to the Timmy Ho-Ho's by my apartment and picking up a dozen donuts about every other day. Fortunately, this massive intake of fried dough was no match for the screamingly high metabolism levels that I had at the time. Thank you Adderall.
Since Amanda and I hung out so often, she was pulled into my donut obsession as well. We had pretty much visited all of the Timmy Ho-Ho's in the Greater Halifax Municipality and had tried every fried pastry on the menu at least once. There was this lady who worked at this particular Tim Horton’s that we were currently passing on our left who absolutely hated us. Both of us had worked in restaurants and we knew how shitty it was, so we were super courteous and respectful to anyone serving us food. But, despite how many times we said please or thank you or how many times we left a more-than-generous tip in the tip jar, this lady just had this look on her face like she was fucking disgusted to be taking our order. And she made no attempts to hide it, either. The loathing on her face was offensively transparent. We couldn’t figure out why she seemed to hate us so much. I mean, had we done or said something at some point, or made some joke during one of our visits that had offended her? The only thing that we could come up with was that this was some sort of bitter jealousy toward us. I mean, think about it; this cashier at Timmy Ho-Ho's, who was fairly obese by the way, was surrounded by donuts everyday, probably trying desperately to fight her urge to eat one or two during her break, and then feeling overwhelmingly guilty when she did. And here we were, coming in regularly enough that she recognized us, and ordering one, or two-dozen donuts at a time, yet still somehow managing to remain thin and beautiful and carefree. Maybe that was it, or maybe it wasn’t. After awhile we just accepted her scowling as part of the whole experience.
We walked down to the boardwalk and took at left at the Ferry Terminal.
‘I mean,’ I said, ‘most of my family is still into that shit.’
‘Yeah. My mom is pretty religious. I made the mistake of telling her that I didn’t believe in God one time and, in hindsight, I really should’ve just kept that shit to myself.’
‘Really? What was her reaction?’
‘I mean, it wasn’t like anything too dramatic. But I could tell how concerned she was. And probably still is. I mean, just imagine. Just imagine thinking that the soul of your only son is condemned to burn in hell.’
‘Yeah, I guess that’s some pretty serious shit to have on your mind.’
‘Yeah. You’re not kidding.’
The Halifax Boardwalk was pretty much packed all summer long. The weather was perfect and there were people out on boats in the water and the boardwalk was lined with vendors and street performers and merchants. There was a guy doing caricatures and another guy selling little wooden, hand-carved statues; mostly whales and especially killer whales. They were both set up in front of the small, elevated grass island that we were passing on our right. I had made this little island one of my regular stops when I would go on walks along the boardwalk by myself. I would stop there and lay down under the shade of the trees and write in my green memoranda book and watch the bulbous, cartoony-looking Halifax-Dartmouth Ferry zip back and forth across the Harbor.
‘It’s not like I think that religion is all bad. I mean, historically, I think there was a window of time when mankind benefited a great deal from religion. Religion was, more or less, responsible for the beginning of civilization. I mean, it was the threat of retribution from an omniscient deity that is the foundation of our current justice system. Don’t get me wrong,’ I said, ‘religion has really fucked up some shit along the way but, I’m just saying that it’s also done some good too.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘In fact,’ I said, ‘you have to imagine life before science, or the scientific method. Back then, spirituality, and shamanism, and religion; these were really the best efforts that we had to explain the world around us, and to control the world around us. I mean, it’s so easy to look back now, in this age of modern conveniences and accessible information and be all like, "oh, of course some guy didn’t load up two of each animal onto a boat so that they could stay afloat for forty days and forty nights" or, "of course God didn’t part the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape the Egyptians," but that’s seeing things through the subjective lens of being alive today. So,’ I said, ‘the thing is, is that there was a time when religion was, well, true.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘it’s not like ignorance is just a blank spot in your knowledge. It’s not like it’s simply the absence of knowing. No, ignorance has shape and substance and contours. Ignorance is a presence or, I guess, rather, a lack of a presence. I mean, you can only be as free as you are aware of the shackles that bind you. So, we have to understand that this idea of truth, like all things, has a temporal component. There are temporary truths. That is, truths that are only true for a finite period of time.’
We were blasted with AC as we walked into the small shopping area that you had to cross through to get to the casino-half of the boardwalk. There was a corridor to the left that was lined with touristy souvenir shops and art galleries. The hallway was flanked by a Subway on one side and a coffee stand on the other. To my right was the restaurant that my pot-dealer worked at. He usually delivered right to my door, but I had to meet him here one night and we made the transaction in the walk-in cooler. I remember thinking that I was an accomplice in what was, from all appearances, an egregious act of unprofessionalism on my dealer’s part, but, alas, I was in no place to say anything.
‘And I don’t mean, like, "oh, it’s true that I’m 29 now, but that will no longer be true once I’m 30." No, I mean truths that, rightfully, enjoy all the status and credibility of indefinite truths, right up until the greater truth, the truer truth is known.’
‘I think that religion is one such truth. This was a valid, indefinite truth right up until it was eclipsed by science and philosophy. Science is our current truth, but even that’s not the whole story. I mean, look at Newtonian physics. This guy Newton, back in the seventeenth century, comes up with all these equations and shit to explain objects in motion. And people were all like, "ooooh, shiiiiit. That makes so much sense. Wow, we can, like, use this to explain everything now." So that was it, then. We had calculus and we had classical mechanics and that was all we needed to explain the world around us. We could use it to predict everything from the motion of the planets to the trajectory of a bullet. It was no longer necessary to consult your local priest or try to read signs in like chicken bones or anything.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, as I shrugged my shoulders and raised my hands up to my side. ‘You know uh, how, like witch-doctors or whatever will, uh, try to predict the future or, like, tell your fortune by tossing down chicken bones,’ I said, as I made a tossing motion out in front of me. ‘Or some other kind of bones, and, like, studying how they land?’
‘Wow,’ Amanda said, ‘do people do that?’
‘I don’t know. I think so. I mean, it’s not, like, a Judeo-Christian thing, but I’m pretty sure I’m not making this up.’
--to be continued