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An Observation on Being Peter


April 2013


In a world of science fiction, a neurosurgeon named Peter develops a revolutionary supercomputer that translates brain waves into desires and memories, which then generates dreams. With the machine, he offers to take human subjects, wires them to it, and thrusts their senses into a fake reality. Patients feel whatever they wish to feel, do whatever they wish to do…


In the same world, there is me: when I look out the window of my bedroom, I see the sky, trees, a peaceful intersection, and other ordinary things. When I get back home, I do my homework, procrastinate a bit, snack, think, and do other things ordinary for an adolescent. I also check the time often; I did so today, yesterday, two days ago, I will do it again tomorrow and perhaps until the day I die.


When a man looks out the windshield of his car, perhaps he sees the highway and a nice sunset. When he arrives back home, perhaps he has supper with his family, watches the news, wishes his child sweet dreams, makes love to his wife, and does other things ordinary for a forty year old. He, too, checks the time often.


There is an older man: when he looks out the window of his hospital room, perhaps he sees the sky, some trees, a peaceful intersection, and other ordinary things. He likes listening to punk rock. He no longer checks the time since he knows he does not have much longer to live anyway.


In the same world, there is a fourth man who is very different from the other three. He is called by many different names including Allah, Huwa, the Architect, Zeus, but for the sake of this world of science fiction specifically, he will simply be known as Peter and he is a neurosurgeon. Like another Peter from a different story, Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie, he acts with little deliberation. For instance, he once caused a famine, but time and generations went by, and the incident was simply forgotten. Because Peter is immortal, he has not much to care about; any mistake, no matter how great, can be fixed eventually for him. However, such is not the case for everyone.


Take for example me. Like everybody else, I possess many flaws; like everybody else, I cannot let time go by and expect my flaws to disappear, so living with them is very different semantically from Peter living with his. In his story, J. M. Barrie offers his illustration of escape. Time does not exist in Neverland, strings do not attach to anything, and inhabitants play God. As for the real world, some access that temporary freedom via weed, alcohol, acid, etc. The idea of it, of plugging into nirvana, is quite tempting. Sometimes, when I look out the bedroom window, I imagine myself climbing through it and not stepping on the roof outside, but instead taking flight in my own parallel universe.


A few times I have snuck out of the house very early in the morning to get some air. The first time I ever did so was most captivating; knowing everybody I walked past was asleep, seeing traffic lights alternate for no one, and walking down double yellows were all delights, but knowing I could go back home any time I like was key. Such will also be key for my Neverland. As a rational being, I take pleasure from the fact I can self-reflect in my decision-making as to not be dominated by impulse. This must be why dreams are so interesting; I feel myself think in world I engineer uncontrollably. Then, I depart and return to wakefulness just as uncontrollably, at which point I think back to what just never happened. With that said, I want my Neverland to be like a dream in that I design it entirely, but also not like a dream in the sense I can leave whenever I wish. On a less abstract level, that will serve a few purposes. For example, I procrastinate a lot, so if I want there to be a typewriter for some essay, there will be a typewriter, and I will take as much ‘time’ on it as I like. If I want to parasail over Manhattan, I will have a Manhattan and a parasail. If I want to spend ‘ten years’ painting, I will do just that, and go back to the real world whenever I like. I also want to bring my friends from the real world experience all this with them. As abusive as all this sounds, it would be a perfect balance between reality and a dream. I would be fully conscious of everything that goes on like in the latter, and leave whenever I want to the former.


There is a forty year old man driving back home from work; there is an older man who is about to die. I am certain both of them and I are the same person. I am also certain many people have done exactly what I am doing, thinking exactly what I am thinking. How powerful, this wave of sonder. Peter must be amused as he watches all this happening.

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