In The Night
It had been an unusual night, with its own peculiarly cheeky and persistent chilliness, emphasised and accentuated even more with strong and gusty winds. Billowing clouds hung lazily overheard, their overcast shadows reducing the night’s visibility to a diminutive whisper, blurring and morphing almost everything in the line of vision to hazy forms, undefined shapes and wobbly structures that seemed to shift or alter with each movement of the eyes; whilst it also kept obfuscating the lights from the distant stars beyond.
The world was still awake, glowing yellowish blobs from its millions of incandescent lights, were busy bathing the horizons like a thin band of sprouting rays rising to pierce and intersect with the layered bands of the dark clouds. There were few pedestrians on the empty streets, all seemed to be tightly wrapped in multiple layers of clothing, some with that Tourou’kan like caps-on their heads, hastening to reach the safety and warmth of their homes. The crips air, coloured and flavoured with the smell of wintering trees and wet soil was somehow mitigating that razor sharp coldness which knows only to well, how to talk intimately and directly to the bones with its rather unfriendly language.
Glinting and glistening in the haziness of the night, a startling and sudden emergence of an unexpected chillingly still and motionless object, transfixed against the night’s malleable formations, brought the night’s witness to an abrupt standstill. Rooted on the spot, that primal intelligence which is taken so much for granted, without any hesitation went into action, readying the muscles and keeping them taut, engaging the mind to an immediacy of silence. That spontaneous action quietened the totality of being, initiating a state of perpetual anticipation of the unexpected. The pause, and sudden suspension of the ideation of time within the mind, peeled off that comfortable sense of security with that which is often familiar. Eeriness crept in and began its own amplification of the night’s unknown and unidentifiable objects, opening up the fields of uncertainty and unpredictability; but also invoking intelligence to come into being and into full operation.
The familiar had given way to the unfamiliar as the mind’s matrix of thought and its neural networks, searched deep and wide for an understanding of what was amiss. At this moment, on a cue, the eyes widened, allowing its pupil to dilate and expand further, soaking in every single extra bit of light pixel that was still available within the dark, for precision perceptivity. The olfactory, tactile and other unnameable senses sprung up in their own spheres of activities, tunnelling and aggregating themselves to a poise balance and a heightened cognitive state, detecting clearly what was out there, regardless of poor visibility and the distracting background noises populating the aural expressivity of the night.
The Metal Ant
In front of the witness, stood an inanimate insect-like metallic giant, obtuse and humongous with a multiplicity of contorted co-joined forms and amalgamated with a profusion of entangled and connected spiralling shapes all motionless against the normalcy of the night’s organic flow and blend of things.
Man and metal beast were face to face in a perfect and objective moment of insight. Man no run, was the unconscious muttering upwelling from the depths of the unconscious mind in that moment, when the cultivated presumptions, attitudes and outlook are stripped bare of their normalcy anchors and societal tethering.
The encounter, poignantly normative, instantaneously evoked and activated an instinctual primordial sensing of the sinister. The body’s biological intelligence which knows intimately and talks to its counterparts within and without the universes of all things, knew immediately that this one in front of itself, was not known, even if it’s cobbled parts equally came from the earth.
It did not talk and could not speak with nor in the ancient languages of deep time, neither could it signal with that mysterious protocol and handshake of all organic things, to indicate that it also belong to the family and the order of life even if it was inanimate. So there was not a possibility of a negotiated two way dialogue, no mutual understanding for the agreement towards an acknowledgment of identity or the protocols to the rights of mutual freedoms. Go your way, I go my way, moof! komot for my front, would have been the unanimous agreement.
The absence of daylight, with all of its rationals and justifications, with the never ending sense and arrogance of triumph, or the deceptive concept of having conquered what we call nature and the universes, was no longer applicable in this tense moment of reckoning. The insulating shield of the collective was not there, neither the obnoxious group psychological cover, nor the mythological open sesame formulas or any other convoluted shibboleths to deviate from the obvious.
We were here, man and metal, in the dark, removed from the lopsided dialogic of civilisation, in a raw moment of emptiness, stripped of the comfortable coverings and facades of what thought had carefully crafted and constructed over centuries. Now was the bareness and naked realities of the imitator meeting its own metal mimicry. This lifeless insect-like contraption was indicating in the accusatory language of its lifelessness, that it was here to stay permanently, as if to silently reiterate the first law of thermodynamics as given to it by its creator. Matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Ah…! One of civilisations most touted and own sacred canon binding the two in a mutual hobbling and macabre dance of the controller and the controlled whose destinies contorts and cancels out each other.
Face to Face
The metallic giant gave off a subtle and an eerie serpentine effusiveness reflecting off its body from the incandescent light bath which was spilling randomly from across the buildings lining both sides of the dark street. The yellowish glow from the lights, piercing and amputating small patches here and there of the darkness which was increasing more and more with the gradual progression of the night.
As it stood there, tall and imposing with that hypnotic metallic silence, it’s lifeless essence seemed like a potent gneissose banding embedded within the fluidity and ethereal folds of the dark. It gave off an impression of a localised omnipresence within that enclosed space shuttered on both sides of the street by the tall buildings.
Its presence was an imposed contradiction, an ungainly shape completely out of place within the organic order and a dissonance to the vibrant fluidity and the plasticity of the night’s forms and silhouettes, which the eyes could still clearly pick out. It seemed to have established an accepted metal order and a superseding law of its own which all coming to it, must obey.
The witness, watched and wondered, noting the boldness of its pyrrhic posture amidst the faint forms and outline of those sparse trees whose leaves hung so silently in a reposing posture across the streets. That thing as it were, wasn’t a solitary rock outcrop arising from the earth, neither was it any of the stone or concrete buildings populating the area; rather it was a strange protruding contraption, an alien impostor with the semblance of a stomach with a tentacle-like fusion of a neck and an arm, standing eerily in the silent night. A hominid idea reality constructed and designed pretty much in the likeness of an ant, with borrowed design elements from a spider, the sideways movement of a crab, the burrowing prowess of a pangolin and the dexterous neck movements of a giraffe, but an amplified metallic imitation, a caricature which if seen for the very first time evokes the abysmal.
Within that universe of suspended time, between witness and metal ant, the body of instincts had extruded out of the deep folds of time, cultivated intelligence gathered via experiences on the infinite fields of creation when such things were none existent. These were erupting in a spectacular manner and piercing the surface layers of the contemporary mind, signally via the bodies of feelings and other sensing dimensions, that this thing was not a trustworthy entity. It’s unfamiliar profusion of metal and rubber parts all cobbled together to mimic a hybridised adaptive insect-like form was the rejection signature, continually triggering all the alarm bells.
It was there in its lifeless form, silent and also still as the darkness around itself. It’s long neck arching upwards like the neck of a giraffe, stretching all the way back down into the earth and ending with a pincer like mouth. A metallic proboscis with which it uses to tear apart the Earth. Devoid of a consciousness of its own, a human being must operate and animate it to do its thing. This ant like contraption then comes alive, eating and guzzling the distilled energies from frozen or dried sun, stored as energy within that black oily liquid which wells up from the belly of the Earth.
He who at that moment was the witness watch silently with different lines of inquiry formulating within. What was the historical genealogy of this thing? How was the evolution of its form? The thinker pondered.
Of course, thought, receiving its signals from the ancient alarm bells and knowledge circuitries, dug deep to consult its archives. In a flash of recollection, associative thought and inductive inferences, the development and evolution of this thing became crystal clear. This strange metal monster did not start out in this way, it dated back to the ancient plains of Mesopotamia when the wheel was first discovered.
It was a slow and tedious process with the invention of the wheel, something which you do not find in nature. That eponymous and revolutionary moment when the turning wheel was discovered had ushered in a spectacular manner the genesis and inevitable unfolding of more discoveries. We learnt that, mechanical energy could be harnessed and converted to different types of energies. That initial breakthrough would subsequently lead to the discovery of electrical and other forms of energies. That was the gateway, the harbinger of almost all the other multiple materialised idea objects we see today. Objects and ideas that have become ubiquitous and almost overpowering the established organic order of things on the planet.
As the witness watch silently, another impression came flooding in simultaneously, of another insect like mechanical ant with multiple spidery arms which had recently flown to a distant planet. This metal insect, riding on a flaming cylinder had flown all the way to Mars and was shown roaming on the surface of the red planet, whilst streaming back to Earth, live images from the red planet. Finally man was using thought from a remote distance of millions of miles without any material connectivity to control a materialised entity of his/her idea and roaming the universes of the visible and non visible things.
Dark metal bristled and gleamed in the pitch darkness, it’s silhouette giving off that strange impression of desolation and man’s declaration of independence from everything. Those silent trees which lined the streets were somehow giving off a calming and welcoming atmosphere with that mysterious ancient language of the universes.
We were here, in the middle of an epoch of the anthropocene, an epoch which seems to pitched man, the created sentient being versus the entire universes of all things. Man the conqueror with his/her brittle machines.
No one seems to know how it all begun and to where it will lead us to. Nga’yah oooh..! Nga’yah oooh..! That unconscious mind kept muttering once more.
Just like in many creation mythologies of the cultures of man, where our ancestors are said to have sneaked in and steal fire from the hearth of the Gods or like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a poem by Geothe, the magician’s apprentice learns from his master the spell for invoking spirits but does not learn the commanding spell of sending them away, we may have learn a little of the powers of the world around us and are busy celebrating victories without noticing or being conscious and sensitive of the enormous responsibilities required in handling or using them, nor understanding how to deal with the unintended consequences and fallout from the misuse of these potentials and richness of the universes of things and non things.
What do our machines eat? And what about the psychologies of their maintenance and its toll on those tasked with maintaining them in the context of the mental spaces that have to be made to accommodate their presence and the entire labyrinths of convoluted physical and psychological imprints they have had on our cultures and man since the dawn of the industrial revolution?
Ah…! We would want to argue that they are lifeless and therefore can not eat…! Nay, these things may not have a complex digestive system like other life forms but they to guzzle that famous N’goya or black gold and do the same process of translating that into the required energies they need to do what they do best! As for being lifeless, well we may not have brought it out to the open arena of our daily consciousness where the ethics and moral implications of our devious and scheming search to replicate that enigmatic life force behind all lives can be seen for what it is. Ultimately that has been the unconscious end goal. To stitch together our thought-forms into a standalone self executing bundle and stick that to the machines, which we conveniently call or label as artificial intelligence, and hope desperately that by trial and error it can have a life of its own to continue tand evolve into something reasonable close to life. The thought behind being that, maybe someday we would have cracked the mystery and the puzzle of life via tumbou’tumbou or Jam’bo or speculative tinkering with matter and thought…! Lie lie…! Ih go hard we well well.
Tourou’kan – Pidgin word for an improvised home made paraffin lamp, cone shape. Used here in the context of a cap that looks like a cone
Moof! komot for my front – Pidgin expression, meaning, Disappear from my presence.
Nga’yaah – A Ngemba expression, an emphatic No with a serious head movements to vehemently express this no.
N’goya – Pidgin coingage to mean oil, probably derived from one of the many Bantu languages spoken in Cameroon.
Toumbou’toumbou / Jam’boh – Pidgin word for Gambling, also probably derived and coined from one of the many Bantu languages spoken in Cameroon.