Discover more from a note to a friend
THE TOLERANCE WARS - 4
correspondence, coherence and the rest of the night
until it’s done
begin at the beginning—chapter 1
thanks for reading
the tolerance wars
correspondence and coherence
the lady’s data must not have unblocked, so we kept the conversation running over several days. she didn’t know anything about work songs, fields hollers and such, i pointed her towards seeger and his collections. but it wasn’t all one way, she dug up that the shanties they sang on the big wooden ships were never improvised. seemed they all knew how it was supposed to go, and if it didn’t go that way it was plenty bad. i was in a couple of bands like that early on.
we were back up the hill on campus, had been a threeway but tony had to cut out. i had a while to chill, so we kept rapping. i was making a point how intellectual property didn’t get assigned a value until business decided how to make money at it, separate from the piece of paper the music was written on. before that they’d told us to stop whining. or something. it’s probably a good thing i get interrupted as often as i do.
a quick knock, twice. not asking for permission, announcing entry. nice tailor, good jeweller. two large gold rings, two chains i counted, all gold. dark hair, dark eyes. the stupid thought occurred to ask if he was portuguese. “ah, miss archer.” he held out the rings, presumably to shake. “i’ve been told to ask how your work is progressing in your new surroundings.” i watched him scan the room, discard the box as a place to sit, he ended up leaning against the filing cabinet, somehow making it look as if it was put there just for that purpose. man, that’s some kinda style. “you are adjusting well?”
“how could she not but flourish in this our fair city?” okay, none of my business, and i didn’t mean it as pointed as it sounded, i guess mister two-knocks must’ve made an impression on me. not a good one.
“ah, i see you have employed some of the locals to make the transition more bearable. very wise.” bugger off comes in a lot of colours, this was one of them. “i was also told to ask if you require anything else for your studies.”
“i’m sorry, you haven’t introduced yourself, nor told me who is it you work for that is so thoughtful on my behalf.”
“of course, i apologise.” he reached over and slid a business card onto the clearspace on the desk. “apparently there is some thought that your work may have real merit. i do not share that enthusiasm, however i am willing to assist in the happy event that there is worth here. and if there is something of worth being made, would it not be most wise to have that value in the hands of those with the most wisdom and compassion? in the end, this is my desire. and i will do what i can to achieve my goal.” he waved his hand at the card he’d dropped. “those are my contacts. you and i have both signed documents which forbid further discussion in the presence of a third party.” the eyebrow was for me. i have seldom been so outside a conversation.
archer didn’t pick up the card. she didn’t stop him from leaving either. “i’ll consider your offer. in the meantime, rest assured that i have made a successful transition to my new location. and that if i come across anything i’ll let you know. in fact, i’ll let everybody know. it is just data, you know. and free-flowing data doesn’t belong to anyone.”
“in that case i shall be most delighted to hear from you.” he tipped at hat he didn’t have, “à bientôt.” and he was gone.
“what the hell was that?”
“that wasn’t nothin’ to do with rocks, dude smelled of life making a margin.” i came from three generations of it myself. sometimes it got pushy. i didn’t ask who he was working for. she didn’t offer. she didn’t seem real attached to his help, though. and the card just sat there. i got a stupid idea. “hey, can i borrow that?”
“the card? whatever for?”
“i just wanted to run it by a friend. you never know.”
i snatched it. “be right back.” and i hauled out of the office, marching down the hallway the opposite direction the gold miner had gone. there was a small cafeteria down here, the coffee was dreadful, but the scenery was nice on a sunny day. i’d breezed by it earlier. ah, most excellent. still here.
“this a friend of yours?” i spun the card onto the table in front of him. lucky strike, it landed like in a movie. you can’t hit ‘em if you don’t try. the goon looked over his paper at the name and address facing him. man, this is an eyebrow game. he didn’t give much, but he did give. then he went back to the paper. “baldero, based out of ottawa.” well, glory be, the beast talks. and it might be friendly.
“i could tell that much looking at the card. i was hoping you’d have something more for me.”
the blond puts down the paper, sizes me up like for a box. man, how do i get into these things? he locks eyes with me. my first impression is that this might be a human being, my next impression has more to do with the fact that he’s armed and isn’t likely real happy with me screwing up his day. “not a person you’d want to associate with, although he does run with some odd types. he’s a working man for one of the embassies. word is he’s related, but he doesn’t carry any diplomatic papers. aside from that, i got nothin’ for you. this is hard times, go get your own.” he turned back to his coffee.
“thanks man.” and i turned and made back for archer’s office, trying to remember to breathe.
i told her what went down. “you’re insane. you don’t know who that fellow is. and he might be dangerous. and you certainly don’t know if he’s told you anything resembling the truth.”
i was more of a mind to believe the goon than i was mister two knocks, but i let it ride. “you planning on any more company before lunch?” we hit one of the student spots for a cheap bite, and arguably the best coffee on campus. we didn’t flash on our blond friend or mister two knocks, ended up talking about belief, and faith. i tended to get the two mixed up. “so in order for me to believe something, it has to fit together with whatever else i see, and fit whatever else i know? that’d be one on the outside and one on the inside, yeah?”
“they call it correspondence and coherence, but it sounds like you’ve got it.” she finished off her salad and started on the soup. “and it’s suggested that those two functions have to be present and satisfied in order for us to be able to feel that something is true.”
i was working through a jambalaya that some misdirected soul had used brown rice in. i mean, really. “and how those functions work is gonna depend on who you are, what you know, family history, stuff like that, right?”
“of course, everything from your environment to your physiology, not to mention your previous experience. they tend to sum up the study areas as developmental, ecological, evolutionary, and physiological. mind you, one of the first points you trip over is that what we believe in doesn’t have to be true in order for it to work well as a positive evolutionary step, we just have to believe it.”
“even if it ain’t true, it’s good for ya to believe?”
“not good to believe anything that puts stress on you trying to make it pass the correspondence and coherence tests. but the confidence of ‘knowing’ brings us rewards as a species. and look at how we build on previous knowledge.”
“but if someone’s in the middle of knowing something that just ain’t so, what do we do with that? maybe good for the species, but either buddy’s a dork, or he’s gonna hurt someone, no? some guy was certain that brown rice was gonna make this dish into a good thing. just because he thinks it’s heaven doesn’t mean it might not kill me. you want some of this? it’s magnificently awful.” perceived truth or not, the species was not gonna survive on food like this. and if that’s what it took, i didn’t wanna play. thank god for the coffee.
“no thanks, i’ll take your word for it. if you tell me it’s bad, i’ll blend that idea into my notion of truth and make it fit. you see, notions of truth are also portable, we can determine what passes our personal correspondence and coherence tests based on the credibility of the information source.”
“so a credible source feeding me a line that i believe, that’s good for the species, even if the line is total nonsense?”
“not if it leads you into a situation where you disappear from the gene pool. then it’s bad.”
“unless i’m not wanted on the voyage. if i’m a dead-end, believing something stupid would be way good for the evolution team. maybe it’s a good thing to starve yourself out doin’ the art, keeps you out of the gene pool. maybe society keeping artists out around the edges is the smart thing. yay team.”
“that depends on what you believe about art. some research points to art as being a way that we surprise ourselves, stretching the boundaries of safe knowledge without enduring anything but minimal psychic discomfort.”
“i’ve had gigs like that.”
“some other relatively well-respected clinical research points out that all artists might be bi-polar, and that all art is an expression of a manic-depressive state.”
“all of us?” i started going through my playing buddies with either black dog depression or way-high perspective troubles. or both. the number got too high, and a little too personal. “art’s nothin’ but a bunch of crazy people workin’ it out? that’s way too freaky.”
“it gets better. that state is genetic. i don’t think we should, but if we wanted to we could make it so that there was no such thing as a bi-polar individual. but if we did that, there would be no more art. so if the theory is correct we can either have a healthy population with no one in that kind of pain, or we can have art. not both.”
“is this why scientists drink heavily?”
“no, that’s because we can’t afford vacations.”
“i’m gonna have the rest of this bronzed and left by the side door as a warning to others.” i slid the leftovers to one side of the table. “you heading back to the shop? c’mon, i’ll walk you.”
when we got there i was going to split, but for some reason i waited until she’d opened the door of her office. she got two steps in and stopped. i stepped inside and did the same. there was a guy sitting in her chair. he didn’t get up. “ah miss archer. i am so pleased you have returned in time.”
“what is this, the three freaking wise men?” i turned to archer, “you know this guy?” she shook her head, eyes wide like this was getting to be too much.
“it is not important who i am. i am here to deliver a message.”
i was way out of line, but this stuff was starting to piss me off. “make it quick, buddy. the lady’s got work to do.”
“if i was able to make my own choices, i would let her continue with this foolish work. nothing will come of it, i’m sure.” he sighed, “but such is not my life. i have been instructed to convince you to cease your research. however, i am a man of very poor words. if i am to sway such intelligent people, i must use the simple acts that are available to a simple man such as myself.”
“spit it out, we’re on a schedule.” was a fabrication, but what had we been saying earlier about truth?
“very well.” he checked his watch, then rose from the chair. “i’m afraid my area of expertise is not very subtle. you have three minutes to clear the building, it is unsafe. good day.”
and like that, he was out the door and gone. i stood staring at archer, she did the same at me. i stuck my head out the door. he was walking down the hallway at a comfortable pace, the picture of a man who knows exactly how much time he has. then he hit the emergency fire exit and bailed. the alarm whined and pinged in the space he’d left.
“should we tell anyone what he said?”
“i have no idea how truthful he was.” this was apparently not covered in the scientist handbooks.
“you got a watch?” i don’t know. it seemed like a sensible thing to say.
“with the alarm going off they’ll evacuate the building anyway.”
“well then, after you. i’m betting it’s good for the species.” and we set off down the hallway towards the exit at a pace just a little faster than the last guy.
once we made it outside the tough decision was whether or not to tell any of the arriving emergency team that we had apparently been threatened with a bomb. thankfully things were taken out of our hands since the three minutes came and went without either an explosion to explain or any sort of professional person to share things with. people were still coming out of the building when the team showed up. we decided to let them know. the firefighter was handy, turned out to be captain. “i don’t know how serious to take this,” i started. he heard me out.
“alright, let’s assume it’s not a hoax. and hope we’re disappointed.” he went over and spoke to his team, they started on the radios. the tone didn’t change a lot, but you could tell they weren’t thinking this was a prank hit and run on a firebox any more.
we waited for about a half hour. lots of yellow tape. nothing much else. the bomb squad showed up, they talked with the fire guys, then drove back around the side of the building out of view. we were all moved back another few yards.
it had been better than an hour from the alarm. still nothing. apparently the bomb guys were taking it seriously. or maybe they had some new gear they wanted to check out, i dunno. didn’t look like this was going to be over real soon. “you gonna wait and see how it ends, or you want a lift?”
archer looked up from the front door to the tape to the fire engines to the knot of university types hanging out to watch. “i’ll just take a moment to find out how they plan to secure things once they’ve finished.” she went over to the closest firefighter and spoke for a minute. “they’re going to be busy for a few hours, then security will lock it all up when they’re done. i guess it’s time to go home.” i was thinking we were lucky enough not to have been arrested for making everybody go to all the trouble. i dropped her home and spent the rest of the day making it a night. i figured she’d do the same.
at two o’clock in the morning, with the building locked tight by security, no cleaners no nothin’, the whole place swathed in caution tape and dark as the rest of the night, an explosion ripped off two walls in the adjacent hall and shattered every piece of glass in the place. no one was hurt.
thanks for reading, subscribe for free