People collect all sorts of things. Butterflies. Ancient coins. Relics of saints. I collect ideas. I remember the precise moment when each idea first came to me, where I was and what I was doing. But most importantly, I remember how I felt. Feelings, not ideas, are the real currency of thought.
When I say thought I mean real thinking, not the kind of logical gymnastics that passes for thinking which has become so fashionable in my line of work.
That feeling when. It cannot be put into words. It's more like an image or picture, except that the image isn't the feeling, more a symbol of the feeling. If I described the image it wouldn't mean anything to you because the real meaning isn't in the description.
My line of work?
I am one of the thin blue line protecting the Earth and its inhabitants from the horrors that now surround our planet on every side. As you well know. But perhaps you are a little hazy about what it is I actually do.
I'm going to level with you. But you will have to be patient because it takes a while to explain.
It's rather like a chess game played against an unknown opponent, except that no-one ever tells you the rules, you have to guess. And the rules keep changing. You only really know how you are doing when you lose.
Then all hell breaks loose.
You all saw the TV images from New Zealand when the entire population went on a murdering rampage. Parents devoured their own children. The few survivors were gathered up and placed in secure mental hospitals where they will remain for the rest of their lives.
We fucked up. I can't accept personal blame because I wasn't involved in that particular operation but in a real sense everyone in the Agency carries his or her share of the burden of guilt. Maybe it all came down to one individual, like me, making a bad judgement call. No-one will ever know.
It was around about the second decade of the 21st century, when the first verified samples of extra-terrestrial life were discovered in meteor fragments, that the nature of the threat posed to the biosphere from life that had not evolved on Earth was fully appreciated. Millions died as a result of the accidental release of the alien micro-organisms into the biosphere.
Every gene that evolution has produced is part of a great jig-saw. It all fits because evolution has designed it that way. That's why such stringent precautions are taken with genetic research.
Yet at the time no-one gave a moment's consideration to the possible threat posed by alien memes — those ideas thrown up in the historical development of a culture which have the power of self-replication. Like belief in God, the most commonly cited human example which still causes such great controversy today.
That was until the first alien unmanned craft were spotted in the outer reaches of the solar system, crammed with artefacts created with the best of intentions depicting alien life and culture, their glorious scientific achievements, and of course their grammars and their dictionaries — just waiting for our linguists to plunder.
Those capsules gave us the clue to decoding alien radio broadcasts that previously had seemed like so much static noise, even when filtered through our most advanced decryption programs. We were being inundated with information from all sides, and we weren't even aware of it!
Some of the information was useful. Like how to build a more efficient fusion reactor. And some was deadly.
By the time we realized the full significance of our discovery, it was too late to put the genie back in the bottle.
Alien memes. Ideas and more importantly the feelings they generate. Jig saw pieces that don't fit, but we don't see that so we try to force them in anyway. Any old how.
Ideas that for human beings are sheer poison. The horrors of the 20th and 21st centuries are evidence enough of the damage ideas can do. But those were ideas born within human culture, ideas with a rationale that we could engage with, argue with, and ultimately defeat.
Many of my colleagues in the Agency are under the delusion that we can still win the war, by wielding the power of rationality and logic. Don't they realize it is far too late? The madness is upon us. It is engulfing us.
Early detection is the only defence we have. Before you think an idea you can feel it, sense its power. By the time rationcinative thought comes into play, the game is already over.
I fear that this knowledge and understanding has come to me too late to have any effect on the outcome. Even if I could get my colleagues to listen, which they resolutely refuse to do. We are winning battles here and there, but we are losing the war. Defeat is inevitable. The thin blue line is becoming increasingly ragged. Very soon there will be a catastrophic rupture. Then God help us all.
© Geoffrey Klempner 2012