Walker Percy Wednesday 151

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It was necessary to hit upon a mathematical and semantic vocabulary. The former was easy, again using the physical properties of the hydrogen atom, assigning the binary number 1 to the transition between the parallel and antiparallel proton and electron spins of the neutral hydrogen atom. Such a transition emits a radio-frequency photon of wavelength 21 centimeters and a frequency of 1420 megahertz—the reason for selecting this channel of transmission. An indexical lexicon was agreed upon. Thus, certain binary numbers were assigned to the suns of Centauri by transmitting the number along with the angle or declination of the suns from the path of transmission. Similarly, other names were assigned to other features, the other referents being “pointed at” and “named,” e.g., light, dark, other planets, pulsars, big, little, red, blue, near, far, down, up, here, there, I (the earthship), you (PC3), and so on. Plurals and abstractions and tenses were agreed upon. Goodness was a property attributed to cosmic particles which were beneficial to the metabolism of the PC3 organisms, evil to the ultraviolet rays, which were harmful. Even metaphor was arrived at: I am M4 today, meaning I am your fourth moon, PC3’s fourth moon being bright, small, racy, refractile as a diamond. Or I am M6—sluggish, blue, misshapen, bored. Consciousness was defined as that property of a creature by which he draws attention to something, talks about it, or thinks about it. It was designated by a binary number which we shall call C.
A lexicon and syntax agreed upon, it was now possible for the earthship to transmit basic information about its origin, its sun, the geology, atmosphere, age of the planet earth, the biology of its organisms (e.g., C, H, O, S, H2O, PO4; deoxyribonucleic acid; mobile heterotrophs; surface dwellers; O2 breathers; sexual mammals, etc.), its technology (nuclear energic), its culture (two hundred nation-states, five global powers, sporadic brushfire warfare, environmental pollution), its science, its art (literary, iconic, musical)—a message ending with a sign-off and an invitation: Over and out—come back.

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EARTHSHIP: What do you mean by type of consciousness?
PC3: We are C1s. We wanted to know whether you are C1s or C2s or C3s.
EARTHSHIP: What is a C1?
PC3 (patiently): We told you. C = 1 (Int, Soc, Sy).
EARTHSHIP: What does that mean?
PC3 (patiently): It means that in order for the individual consciousness to be activated, it is required that there be a Soc, that is, a society, that is, two or more persons; an exchange of Sy, that is, symbols; and an Int, that is, an intersubjective relationship in which there is agreement about the symbol used and the thing that is talked about.”

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PC3: Just a moment. It is still necessary to establish your C-type. We are C1s, that is, first-order consciousness. Through the centuries we have learned by painful experience that there are at least two other C-types, C2s and C3s. C1s and C3s are benign. C2s are dangerous. Which are you?
EARTHSHIP: Say again. What’s the difference?
PC3: A C1 consciousness is a first-order consciousness, or what you would call a preternatural consciousness—according to the dictionary your computer transmitted.
EARTHSHIP: It is? Say again. Preternatural?
PC3: Well, something like the consciousness of a child grown mature and sophisticated but maintaining its innocence permanently and avoiding the malformations of self-consciousness, enjoying the beauty of our planet and each other and our science and art without weariness, boredom, fear, guilt, or shame. Like what you call the Helen Keller phenomenon.

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PC3: The joy of consciousness and the discovery of the Cosmos through the mediation of symbols and the cooperation of others and the preservation of this joy against the incursions of boredom, fear, anger, despair, shame, and the love of war and death and the secret desire for the misfortune of others.

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PC3: A C2 consciousness is a consciousness which passes through a C1 stage and then for some reason falls into the pit of itself.
EARTHSHIP: The pit of itself?
PC3: In some evolving civilizations, for reasons which we don’t entirely understand, the evolution of consciousness is attended by a disaster of some sort which occurs shortly after the Sy breakthrough. It has something to do with the discovery of the self and the incapacity to deal with it, the consciousness becoming self-conscious but not knowing what to do with the self, not even knowing what its self is, and so ending by being that which it is not, saying that which is not, doing that which is not, and making others what they are not.

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