A lifestyle lived according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasture, depicted in an idealized manner for urban audiences.

Even before the Alexandrian age, ancient Greeks had sentiments of an ideal pastoral life that they had already lost. In the late 19th century, city dwellers were worried that the unnatural pace of life brought on by railroads and telegraphs had given rise to a new disease, neurasthenia.

Archaeologists have discovered Sumerian cuneiform tablets which complain that family life isn't what it used to be.

There is no progress whatever. Everything is just the same as it was thousands, and tens of thousands, of years ago. The outward form changes. The essence does not change. Man remains just the same. Civilized and cultured people live with exactly the same interests as the most ignorant savages. Modern civilization is based on violence and slavery and fine words. But all these fine words about progress and civilization are merely words.

And war, and pestilence, and tearful woes.
O men, why vainly puffed up do ye bring
Yourselves to ruin?

The breakdown of the television set, the unavailability of a channel, or some sort of experimental situation breaks the habit of viewing. In such a situation almost all families experience a restoration of vigor and depth. They recall with fondness and a wistful pride life without television. But when the externally induced break comes to an end, a decision must be made from within the normal framework of orientation. Some people give up television for good or succeed in curtailing it in a principled way. Most people, however, return to regular and extensive television watching.


The lotus fruit is about the size of the lentisk berry and in sweetness resembles the date.

Thence for nine days' space I was borne by direful winds over the teeming deep; but on the tenth we set foot on the land of the Lotus-eaters, who eat a flowery food.

There we went on shore and drew water, and straightway my comrades took their meal by the swift ships. But when we had tasted food and drink, I sent forth some of my comrades to go and learn who the men were, who here ate bread upon the earth; two men I chose, sending with them a third as a herald.

So they went straightway and mingled with the Lotus-eaters, and the Lotus-eaters did not plan death for my comrades, but gave them of the lotus to taste. And whosoever of them ate of the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, had no longer any wish to bring back word or to return, but there they were fain to abide among the Lotus-eaters, feeding on the lotus, and forgetful of their homeward way. These men, therefore, I brought back perforce to the ships, weeping, and dragged them beneath the benches and bound them fast in the hollow ships; and I bade the rest of my trusty comrades to embark with speed on the swift ships, lest perchance anyone should eat of the lotus and forget his homeward way. So they went on board straightway and sat down upon the benches, and sitting well in order smote the grey sea with their oars.

Thence we sailed on, grieved at heart, and we came to the land of the Cyclopes, an overweening and lawless folk, who, trusting in the immortal gods, plant nothing with their hands nor plough; but all these things spring up for them without sowing or ploughing, wheat, and barley, and vines, which bear the rich clusters of wine, and the rain of Zeus gives them increase. Neither assemblies for council have they, nor appointed laws, but they dwell on the peaks of lofty mountains in hollow caves, and each one is lawgiver to his children and his wives, and they reck nothing one of another.

Homer, Translation by A.T. Murray, 1919

Cover the window, please. These mountains give me no ideas.

Advanced thinkers, like Vashti, had always held it foolish to visit the surface of the earth. Air-ships might be necessary, but what was the good of going out for mere curiosity and crawling along for a mile or two in a terrestrial motor? The habit was vulgar and perhaps faintly improper: it was unproductive of ideas, and had no connection with the habits that really mattered. So respirators were abolished, and with them, of course, the terrestrial motors, and except for a few lecturers, who complained that they were debarred access to their subject- matter, the development was accepted quietly. Those who still wanted to know what the earth was like had after all only to listen to some gramophone, or to look into some cinematophote. And even the lecturers acquiesced when they found that a lecture on the sea was none the less stimulating when compiled out of other lectures that had already been delivered on the same subject. 'Beware of first- hand ideas!' exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. 'First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by love and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element – direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine – the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution.

Through the medium of these eight great minds, the blood that was shed at Paris and the windows that were broken at Versailles will be clarified to an idea which you may employ most profitably in your daily lives. But be sure that the intermediates are many and varied, for in history one authority exists to counteract another. Urizen must counteract the scepticism of Ho-Yung and Enicharmon, I must myself counteract the impetuosity of Gutch. You who listen to me are in a better position to judge about the French Revolution than I am. Your descendants will be even in a better position than you, for they will learn what you think I think, and yet another intermediate will be added to the chain. And in time' – his voice rose – 'there will come a generation that had got beyond facts, beyond impressions, a generation absolutely colourless, a generation

seraphically free
from taint of personality,

which will see the French Revolution not as it happened, nor as they would like it to have happened, but as it would have happened, had it taken place in the days of the Machine.'

Tremendous applause greeted this lecture, which did but voice a feeling already latent in the minds of men – a feeling that terrestrial facts must be ignored, and that the abolition of respirators was a positive gain. It was even suggested that air-ships should be abolished too. This was not done, because air-ships had somehow worked themselves into the Machine's system. But year by year they were used less, and mentioned less by thoughtful men.

E. M. Forster, 1909

That in some fields of his country there are certain shining stones of several colours, whereof the Yahoos are violently fond

"And when part of these stones is fixed in the earth, as it sometimes happens, they will dig with their claws for whole days to get them out; then carry them away, and hide them by heaps in their kennels; but still looking round with great caution, for fear their comrades should find out their treasure." My master said, "he could never discover the reason of this unnatural appetite, or how these stones could be of any use to a Yahoo; but now he believed it might proceed from the same principle of avarice which I had ascribed to mankind. That he had once, by way of experiment, privately removed a heap of these stones from the place where one of his Yahoos had buried it; whereupon the sordid animal, missing his treasure, by his loud lamenting brought the whole herd to the place, there miserably howled, then fell to biting and tearing the rest, began to pine away, would neither eat, nor sleep, nor work, till he ordered a servant privately to convey the stones into the same hole, and hide them as before; which, when his Yahoo had found, he presently recovered his spirits and good humour, but took good care to remove them to a better hiding place, and has ever since been a very serviceable brute."

My master further assured me, which I also observed myself, "that in the fields where the shining stones abound, the fiercest and most frequent battles are fought, occasioned by perpetual inroads of the neighbouring Yahoos."

He said, "it was common, when two Yahoos discovered such a stone in a field, and were contending which of them should be the proprietor, a third would take the advantage, and carry it away from them both;" which my master would needs contend to have some kind of resemblance with our suits at law; wherein I thought it for our credit not to undeceive him; since the decision he mentioned was much more equitable than many decrees among us; because the plaintiff and defendant there lost nothing beside the stone they contended for: whereas our courts of equity would never have dismissed the cause, while either of them had any thing left.

My master, continuing his discourse, said, "there was nothing that rendered the Yahoos more odious, than their undistinguishing appetite to devour every thing that came in their way, whether herbs, roots, berries, the corrupted flesh of animals, or all mingled together: and it was peculiar in their temper, that they were fonder of what they could get by rapine or stealth, at a greater distance, than much better food provided for them at home. If their prey held out, they would eat till they were ready to burst; after which, nature had pointed out to them a certain root that gave them a general evacuation.

"There was also another kind of root, very juicy, but somewhat rare and difficult to be found, which the Yahoos sought for with much eagerness, and would suck it with great delight; it produced in them the same effects that wine has upon us. It would make them sometimes hug, and sometimes tear one another; they would howl, and grin, and chatter, and reel, and tumble, and then fall asleep in the mud."

I did indeed observe that the Yahoos were the only animals in this country subject to any diseases; which, however, were much fewer than horses have among us, and contracted, not by any ill-treatment they meet with, but by the nastiness and greediness of that sordid brute. Neither has their language any more than a general appellation for those maladies, which is borrowed from the name of the beast, and called hnea-yahoo, or Yahoo’s evil; and the cure prescribed is a mixture of their own dung and urine, forcibly put down the Yahoo’s throat. This I have since often known to have been taken with success, and do here freely recommend it to my countrymen for the public good, as an admirable specific against all diseases produced by repletion.

Jonathan Swift, 1726

I’ll tell you one for El-ahrairah to cry at.

Once there was a fine warren on the edge of a wood, overlooking the meadows of a farm. It was big, full of rabbits. Then one day the white blindness came and the rabbits fell sick and died. But a few survived, as they always do. The warren became almost empty. One day, the farmer thought, “I could increase those rabbits, make them part of my farm – their meat, their skins. Why should I bother to keep rabbits in hutches? They’ll do very well where they are.” He began to shoot all elil – lendri, homba, stoat, owl. He put out food for the rabbits, but not too near the warren.

For his purpose they had to become accustomed to going about in the fields and the wood. And then he snared them – not too many: as many as he wanted and not as many as would frighten them all away or destroy the warren. They grew big and strong and healthy, for he saw to it that they had all of the best, particularly in winter, and nothing to fear – except the running knot in the hedge-gap and the wood-path. So they lived as he wanted them to live and all the time there were a few who disappeared.

The rabbits became strange in many ways, different from other rabbits. They knew well enough what was happening. But even to themselves they pretended that all was well, for the food was good, they were protected, they had nothing to fear but the one fear; and that struck here and there, never enough at a time to drive them away. They forgot the ways of wild rabbits. They forgot El-ahrairah, for what use had they for tricks and cunning, living in the enemy’s warren and paying his price? They found out other marvelous arts to take the place of tricks and old stories. They danced in ceremonious greeting. They sand songs like birds and made shapes on the walls; and though these could help them not at all, yet they passed the time and enabled them to tell themselves that they were splendid fellows, the very flower of Rabbitry, cleverer than magpies.

They had no Chief Rabbit – no, how could they? – for a Chief Rabbit must be El-ahrairah to his warren and keep them from death: and here there was no death but one, and what Chief Rabbit could have an answer to that?

Instead, Frith sent them strange singers, beautiful and sick like oak-apples, like robins’ pin-cushions on the wild rose. And since they could not bear the truth, these singers, who might in some other place have been wise, were squeezed under the terrible weight of the warren’s secret until they gulped out fine folly – about dignity and acquiescence, and anything else that could make believe that the rabbit loved the shining wire.

But one strict rule they had; oh yes, the strictest. No one must ever ask where another rabbit was and anyone who asked, “Where?” – except in a song or poem – must be silenced. To say “Where?” was bad enough, but to speak openly of the wires – that was intolerable. For that they would scratch and kill.

Richard Adams, 1972


To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law — a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security. Walter M. Miller Jr.

This is the story of how the Great Constructor Trurl, with the aid of an ordinary jug, created a local fluctuation, and what came of it.

In the constellations of the Wringer there was a Spiral Galaxy, and in this Galaxy there was a Black Nebula, and in this Nebula were five sixth-order clusters, and in the fifth cluster, a lilac sun, very old and very dim, and around this sun revolved seven planets, and the third planet had two moons, and in all these suns and stars and planets and moons a variety of events, various and varying, took place, falling into a statistical distribution that was perfectly normal, and on the second moon of the third planet of the lilac sun of the fifth cluster of the Black Nebula in the Spiral Galaxy in the Constellation of the Wringer was a garbage dump, the kind of garbage dump one might find on any planet or moon, absolutely average, in other words full of garbage; it had come into existence because the Glauberical Aberracleaans once wage a war, a war of the fission-and-fusion type, against the Albumenid Ifts, with the natural result that their bridges, roads, homes, and palaces, and of course they them selves, were reduced to ashes and shards, which the solar winds blew to the place whereof we speak.

Now for many, many centuries positively nothing took place in this garbage dump but garbage, though an earthquake did occur and shifted the garbage on the bottom to the top, and the garbage on the top to the bottom, which in itself had no particular signifaicancce, and yet this paved the way for a most unusual phenomenon.

It so happened that Trurl, the Fabulous Constructor, while flying in the vicinity, was blinded by a certain comet with a garish tail.

He fled its path, frantically jettisoning out the spaceship window whatever lay in reach - chess pieces, the hollow kind, which he'd filled with liquor for the trip, some barrels the Ubbiduds of Chlorelei employed for the purpose of compelling their opponents to yield, as well as assorted utensils, and among these, an old earthenware jug with a crack down the middle.

This jug, accelerating in accordance with the laws of gravity and boosted by the comet's tail, crashed into a mountainside above the dump, fell, clattered down a slope of junk toward a puddle, skittered across some mud, and finally smacked into an old tin can; this impact bent the metal around a copper wire, also knocked some pieces of mica between the edges, and that made a condenser, while the wire, twisted by the can, formed the beginnings of a solenoid; and a stone, set in motion by the jug, moved in turn a hunk of rusty iron, which happened to be a magnet, and this gave rise to a current, and that current passed through sixteen other cans and snips of wire, releasing a number of sulfides and chlorides, whose atoms linked with other atoms, and the ensuing molecules latched onto other molecules, until, in the very center of the dump, there came into being a Logic Circuit, and five more, and another eighteen in the spot where the jug finally shattered into bits.

That evening, something emerged at the edge of the dump, not far from the puddle which had by now dried up, and this something, a creature of pure accident, was Mymosh the Selfbegotten, who had neither mother nor father, but was son unto himself, for his father was Coincidence, and his Mother --Entropy.

And Mymosh rose up from the garbage dump, totally oblivious of the fact that he had about one chance in a hundred billion jillion raised to the zillionth power of ever existing, and he took a step, and walked until he came to the next puddle, which had not as yet dried up, so that, kneeling over it, he could easily see himself.

And he saw, in the surface of the water, his purely accidental head, with ears like muffins, the left one crushed and the right a trifle underdone, and he saw his purely accidental body, a potpourri of pots and pegs and flotsam, and somewhat barrel- chested, in that his chest was a barrel, though narrower in the middle, like a waist, for in crawling out from under the garbage, he had scraped against a stone right there; and he gazed upon his littery limbs, and counted them, and as luck would have it, there were two arms, two legs and, fortuitously enough, two eyes too, and Mymosh the Selfbegotten took great delight in his person, and sighed with admiration at the narrowness of the waist, the symmetrical arrangement of the limbs, the roundness of the head, and was moved to exclaim: --Truly, I am beautiful, nay, perfect, which clearly implies the Perfection of All Created Things!! Ah, and how good must be the One Who fashioned me! And he hobbled on, dropping loose screws along the way (since no one had tightened them properly), humming hymns in praise of the Everlasting Harmony of Providence, but on the seventh step he tripped and went headlong back down into the garbage, after which he did nothing but rust, corrode and slowly disintegrate for the next three hundred and fourteen thousand years, for he had fallen on his head and shorted out, and was no more.

And at the end of this time it came to pass that a certain merchant, carrying a shipment of sea anemones from the planet Medulsa to the Thrycian Stomatopods, quarreled with his assistant as they neared the lilac sun, and hurled his shoes at him, and one of these broke the porthole window and flew out into space, where its subsequent orbit subsequently experienced perturbation, due to the circumstance that that very same comet, which had ages past blinded Trurl, now found itself in the very same locality, and so the shoe, turning slowly, hurtled towards the moon, was singed a little by the atmospheric friction, bounced off the mountainside above the dump, fell, and booted Mymosh the Selfbegotten, lying there, with just the right resultant impulse and at just the right angle of incidence to create just the right torsions, torques, centrifugal forces and angular momenta needed to reactivate the accidental brain of that accidental being--and in this way: Mymosh, thus booted, went flying into the nearby puddle, where his chlorides and iodides mingled with the water, and electrolyte seeped into his head and, bubbling, set up a current there, which traveled around and about, till Mymosh sat up in the mud and thought the following thought: --Apparently, I am! That, however, was all he was able to think for the next sixteen centuries, and the rain beat down upon him, and the hail pommeled him, and all the while his entropy increased and grew, but after another thousand five hundred and twenty years, a certain bird, flapping its way over the terrain, was attacked by some swooping predator, and relieved itself out of fright and also to increase its speed, and the droppings dropped and hit Mymosh square on the forehead, whereupon he sneezed and said: --Yes, I am! And there's no apparently about it! Yes the question remains, who is it who says that I am? Or, in other words, who am I? Now, how may this be answered? H'm! If only there was something else besides me, any sort of something at all, with which I might juxtapose and compare myself--that would be half the battle.

But alas, there's not a thing, for I can plainly see that I see nothing whatsoever! Therefore there's only I that am, and I am everything that is and may be, for I can think in any way I like, but am I then--an empty space for thought, and nothing more? In point of fact he no longer possessed any senses; they had decayed and crumbled to dust over the centuries, since Entropy, the bride of Chaos, is a cruel and implacable mistress.

Consequently Mymosh could not see his mother-puddle, nor his brother-mud, nor the whole, wide world, and had no recollection of what had happened to him before, and generally was now capable of nothing but thought.

This alone could he do, and so devoted himself wholeheartedly to it.

--First I ought-he told himself- to fill this void that is I, and thereby dispel its insufferable monotony.

So let us think of something, for when we think, behold, there is thought, and nought but thought has existence.

--From this one could see he was becoming somewhat presumptuous, for already he referred to himself in the first person plural.

--But wait - he then said - might not something still exist outside myself? We must, if only for a moment, consider this possibility, though it sound preposterous and even a little insane.

Let us call this outsideness the Gozmos.

Now, if there is a Gozmos, then I must be a part and portion of it! Here he stopped, pondered the matter awhile, and finally rejected that hypothesis as wholly without basis or foundation.

Really, there was not a shred of evidence in its favor, not a single, solid argument to support it, and so, ashamed he had indulged in such wild, untutored speculation, he said to himself: --Of that which lies beyond me, if anything indeed there lie, I have no knowledge.

But of that which is within, I do, or rather shall, as soon as I think something into thought, for who can know what I think, by thunder, better than myself!--And he thought and thought, and thought of the Gozmos again, but this time thought of it inside himself, which seemed to him a far more sensible and respectable solution, well within the bounds of reason and propriety.

And he began to fill his Gozmos with various and sundry thoughts.

First, because he was still new at it and lacked skill, he thought out the Beadlies, who grambled whenever they got the chance; and the Pratlings, who rejoiced in filicorts.

Immediately the Pratlings battled the Beadlies for the supremacy of filicortions over gramblement, and all Mymosh got for his world-creating pains was an awful headache.

In his next attempts at thought creation, he proceeded with greater caution, first thinking up elements, like Brutonium, a noble gas, and elementary particles, like the cogiton, the quantum of intellect, and he created beings, and these were fruitful and multiplied.

From time to time he did make mistakes, but after a century or two he grew quite proficient, and his very own Gozmos, sound and stable, took shape in his mind's eye, and it teemed with a multitude of entities, things, beings, civilizations and phenomena, and existence was most pleasurable there, for he had made the laws of the Gozmos highly liberal, having no fondness for strict, inflexible rules, the sort of prison discipline that Mother Nature imposes (though of course he'd never heard of Mother Nature).

Thus the world of Selfbegotten was a place of caprice and miracle; in it something might occur one way once, and at another time be altogether different--and without any special rhyme or reason.

If, for example, an individual was supposed to die, there were always ways of getting around it, for Mymosh had firmly decided against irreversible events.

And in his thoughts the Zigrots, Calsonians, Flimmeroons, Jups, Arligynes and Wallamachinoids all prospered and flourished, generation after generation. During this time the haphazard arms and legs of Mymosh fell off, returning to the garbage from which they'd come, and the puddle rusted through the narrow waist, and his body slowly sank into the stagnant mire.

But he had just put up some brand-new constellations, arranging them with loving care in the eternal darkness of his consciousness, which was his Gozmos, and did his level best to keep an accurate memory of everything that he had thought into existence, even though his head hurt from the effort, for he felt responsible for his Gozmos, deeply obligated, and needed.

Meanwhile rust ate deeper and deeper into his cranial plates, which of course he had no way of knowing, and a fragment from Trurl's jug, the selfsame jug that thousands of years ago had called him into being, came floating on the puddle's surface, closer and closer to his unfortunate head, for only that now remained above the water.

And at the very moment when Mymosh was imagining the gentle, crystal Baucis and her faithful Ondragor, and as they journeyed hand in hand among the dark suns of his mind, and all the people of the Gozmos looked on in rapt silence, including the Beadlies, and as the pair softly called to one another--the rust-eaten skull cracked open at the touch of the earthenware shard, pushed by a puff of air, and the murky water rushed in over the copper coils and extinguished the current in the logic circuits, and the Gozmos of Mymosh the Selfbegotten attained the perfection, the ultimate perfection that comes with nothingness. And those who unwittingly had brought him into the world never learned of his passing.

Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad

I fought my way through a blizzard, on the request of a friend who invited me over to witness the completion of a recent project.

I hung my snow-covered coat on something that might very well have been a time machine. A silhouetted shape across the dark room, invites me through the unlit workshop to join them.

Arched over a heap of what I first perceived to be the exposed innards of some camera-like mechanism, my friend held a minuscule weight above an equally small machined brass hand. After allowing for a brief moment to settle myself before the inscrutable contraption, a pea-sized weight was carefully lowered onto the machine's beckoning palm. Whirring and clicking, a second arm emerged. Plucking a gear out from its own ticking body, the clasp gently swung across and over itself to lay the cog down into a velveted box at its side.

For each ascending counter-weight descended a ballet of tiny articulated ratchets spun at the end of rotating arms. Little hammers knocked screws off, pulleys pried pins out of their holes, each equally occupied at the business of their own dismantlement. Screws, nuts, bolts, shims, and soon the fingers and the ratchet themselves, joined the rest of the hardware in the cushioned cut holes where each and every bit of the machine was expected to land.

A single weight swayed, balanced at the end of the last tin rod, the other parts already resting in their proper place. All but these two components remained, the equilibrium broke, the rod tilted toward the container; and finally, both fell in their designated shapes.

Devine Lu Linvega, Voidshaper, 2011.

incoming salvage computing collapse