Reality Inspector, chapter 20

Copyright 1982 John Caris

Wearing a red dress with a flowery pattern, Mary sat at the chess board in the Cow Palace. The crowd was becoming quiet, and tension was mounting. She looked over at her cheering section but did not see John. It was one minute to seven. Perhaps, he had found the clue that he was so desperately searching for and was now hot on the trail of his opponent. In thirty seconds she would confront her opponent. If she could win this game tonight, she would have the edge. The big, electronic chess boards hanging from the ceiling were turned on, and the judge approached the table where the two players sat facing each other.

Mary opened with Ruy Lopez. She wanted an open center and hoped that Sam would go along with it. She felt in good spirits tonight and desired a direct struggle with few complications. What would Sam do, though? Was he interested in a direct struggle or in complications. She would soon find out.

By their eleventh move Mary was wondering what Sam was up to. He was wasting time by making unnecessary moves. Was he hiding some wham-o combination and only waiting for the proper moment?


chess board

Mary (next move)

Come on, Sam; let's have some action, she thought as she played P-KN4 (g4).

After Sam's seventeenth move, Mary looked at the board carefully.


chess board

Mary (next move)

She decided that Sam was only interested in keeping the center closed, so she shifted her line of attack by playing R-R1 (Rh1). Sam had opened his king rook file earlier when he pushed the KRP (h5) to the fourth rank. Now she would take advantage of that weakness.

Move over, Mary, Sam is standing in your way, she sang to herself. A chess board was a finite universe; there was only a limited amount of space. As long as Sam was clogging up the center, she would open his kingside. Let him have the center, she shouted to herself. I'll increase the gravity of his position; that'll contract his space. I'll squeeze you into a ball, Sam, and roll you around the universe. I'll just use a little E = MC2 and zap your defense to smithereens, Sam.

The chess pieces stood static against the crisscross of the black and white pattern: a moment frozen which soon would melt. She watched a combination move in her mind; when she pushed a mental button, imaginary pieces acted out a short drama. On the fourth fourth of that combination she noticed a trap, so she looked at another possible combination.

Suddenly, a terrible force grabs her. She gulps a deep breath and looks up. Sitting across from her is a strange man dressed in a Greek toga. He smiles and says, "I'm Achilles. Do you wish to hear how I beat the tortoise?"

Mary glances about. She is no longer in the Cow Palace; she is in a sunlit room. The walls are plain; on one wall hang ancient weapons of war. When in Greece do as the Greeks, she thinks. "Of course, I want to hear."

"Well, when I realized that the tortoise could never win, I knew I had time to discover a solution. You see, the tortoise can't win because it can never cross over the finish line. For the finish line is one dimensional; it has only length but no width. So the tortoise is stopped by the abyss of non-dimensional space. Let me show you." Achilles draws on a piece of paper.

finish line

"Anything stepping into the abyss will get lost forever because spatial coordinates don't exist there. How can you tell where you are unless you have some reference system? It's like being in a boat on the ocean without having any means for navigating. You just drift about. And in the abyss you drift for eternity.

"Now notice that the abyss separates three dimensional space. Since the abyss lacks a spatial dimension, the three dimensional space is actually contiguous. But the abyss does have the dimension of time. Here eternity exists. The present is." Achilles looks at Mary and smiles.

"But I didn't want to stay in the present. I wanted to win the race. That meant I must find the correct future--where I win. Again the question of coordinates arose--this time temporal ones. From my position in the present how could I determine the correct future?" Achilles laughs. He takes a small painted canvas and places it on the table. The painting is abstract--all red in color.

"What if this blotch of red represents the present. How does one even understand the idea of future, let alone select a particular future?"

(The reader may wish to try this experiment. Look at the empty square below. Leave it white or impose a color on it. Now put yourself into that space. When you're there, try finding the future. In fact, can you distinguish the present from either the future or the past?)


Mary loses herself in the red field. Distinctions do not exist there. All is one; all is red. She looks at her body, but it is not visible. Red is all she sees. Nor does she hear any sounds. But she can feel her body. Her feelings do exist and are distinct from the overpowering redness. And her feeling at the moment is to get out.

"You see what I mean," Achilles says. "The problem seems insoluble. It isn't, of course, because I won the race. Actually, the solution is simple and quite obvious."

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