Homer wrote, "A man without words is like a man without legs." Numberless literacy programs have plumbed every last vestige of meaning from the quote, but I still feel it has its place.
Who is Homer? Who was Homer? If he is referenced in sources that referenced historical events referenced contemporaneously; if he is referenced in texts which reference one another; if he is referenced in sources which reference tangible anthropological digs: if he is or was or will be any or all of these things, does that make him real, or does that make him more worthy of our attention? Why should mentioning his name in association with an idea matter? These questions we beg every time we quote someone we have not met. And why shouldn't we beg them? Our existence is tautological. Why not, then, cite Shakespeare every chance we get?
The Murder is Just the Excuse
"Mystery" is dross. The absurd specialization within a specialization, so ossified it no longer needs to justify itself. It has its own stickers and its own assumptions. Like watching consumer unboxing videos where someone completes a sudoku for your enjoyment. "Ohh, darn, I had it all wrong! Line four had me completely fooled!"
The murder is just the excuse to keep everyone trapped in the proverbial country mansion, forced to interact with each other. Without the search for clues, normal social laziness and isolationist rebuffs keep people from doing anything interesting. Forcing it to happen by investigating a murder is like forcing sex to happen in a porno based around some dude's inconceivably young and busty mother-in-law catching him jacking off the day after Christmas. Santa Claus is coming back to town. This is a plot? What about the pizza delivery fellow and the lonely sorority lasses? Murder porn's empty rationales for happening at all translates flawlessly into any cultural era. Prissy Gatsbies in silk jackets chasing down rogue Scottish valets for the burly sergeant to send to the dungeons--as easily done as African biochemists figuring out it really was the mentally ill white teenager's perversions being covered up by the corrupt father who threw the soiree to end childhood obesity. "Oh, those yaks don't leave much behind, Inspector--better call this one a day." "I always thought they had a man on the inside--nobody dies in Mongolia on my watch!"
Why was the murder even necessary? Are we all so empty inside we can't imagine having random sex with the pizza dude without first dropping our change in the foyer? It's like we want something to happen, but we're afraid to have it happen without some external artifice forcing it upon us. How compelling will all of this be, anyway, once bending your busty secretary over the desk while your wife screws the pizza boy across town loses its taboo? The plastic background plants are the same, and the coffee never gets any better. We only care about interpersonal quirks if it helps us solve the killing or justify the sex. Or if someone's running for office. God, if Hillary had only been a MILF, we could've all had more than a passing interest in those missing lawyers. Maybe the television is smarter than we think--maybe it's how the ugly people convince the others that villains all have tight bodies and interesting backstories.
The Journey is the Destination
The journey isn't the destination because you're supposed to find meaning in it. The journey is the destination because the concept of a "journey" is of residual mental importance. We can appreciate "going somewhere." And since there's a journey--a trip to some important event--we're forced to put up with each other. Like the murder that keeps us all trapped in the mansion until we get this damned thing sorted out. Without the journey, we have nothing. We need that excuse. Who gives a fuck about why the two brothers have always hated each other unless it might be a vital clue to exonerate the dowager countess from deliberately building up a small immunity to absinthe and humors so she wouldn't pass out with all the others when her maid spiked the dessert tray before Baron Portbelly was found slumped dead in the punch? We secretly care about the two brothers and their drama and their shouted stories about the village girl who got away, but we can't bring ourselves to admit it unless it's forced out of them in the context of the murder investigation.
Do we really need an uncaring chief inspector to lay bare all those secrets? Maybe we truly long for a world where cunning criminals are not also politicians who control who, how, and whether or not there will be an investigation. We want evil free agents, unbound by the need to pretend to be governments, engaged in extended battles of encoded wit with police inspectors who occasionally order pizza to-go for lunch on Saturday in their shredded denim short shorts and a low cut blouse. Oops, my change. Here, let me...mmph! Ooh!
Jesus, is the problem with the house's foundation really necessary? Just cut to the shaking part. Get rid of that toolkit before somebody trips over it.
Moving along: Terra will likely not be part of it, but a common sign of reality failure is the early appearance of aether holes. We address the problem of technology outstripping intelligence, which is really technology outstripping will. The culture which develops the gun gives gun access to the culture which did not develop the gun: problems mount. Once Pandora's Box has been opened~
But I came here to talk, first, about Nyss. In part. There's no comparable root here, but "Nyss" is a close-enough fake, especially if I capitalize it every time. This one once dwelt on a planet where we never had any "technology," i.e. "more-inert ways of accomplishing things," because we had Nyss. Nyss were big, useful animals, strong and tall and pertinaciously smart, somewhat resembling tree sloths the size of buildings--say, a small one comparing to a single wide mobile home and a large one to an outdated community center in an old town. Imagine that these things were so useful...they shed nutritious skin and hair, so you could essentially scrape food off their hides, a wide variety of nutritious food, and they wanted nothing more than to help. They did anything anyone told them to, except speak, since they couldn't talk. So once language had been developed, "man" had no use for agriculture, architecture, navigation, aviation, et cetera. Want to eat? Nyss shed everywhere. This one gets that it sounds gross here, but imagine that Nyss sheddings were not something that made you sick. Maybe because it had happened so long we all had iron stomachs, or maybe because this was a low- or no- bacteria environment. Not sure, since we never found out. It just worked that way. Stuff they shed, you could eat, and there were all the calories, vitamins, minerals--and drinking any water was okay without being sick, so the bacteria and/or accustomization issue comes in there, too.
Ergo no need for agriculture. Go further: imagine you want shelter. Nyss know wood joinery. Nyss rarely sleep. Nyss can pull up plants and construct dwellings that keep the weather at bay. If one wants to travel, Nyss can hit like a couple hundred mph without trying, or two hundred seventyish if they're in a big hurry. They can swim with people on their backs, the bigger ones can wade big rivers, and so forth. No need for so many things to be developed. They can carry messages. They can sit scratching themselves and do nothing for ten years if no one bothers them. Not even sure what they ate...dirt or something like that. An image of limbs, hair...gills? Remembering that kind of detail...why bother? Just Nyss.
Accordingly, in such an environment, there's a lot people don't care about, which affects other things which affects other things. Whether or not this one really believes this one was in such a place, it's an example of needs-based science, or "necessity is the mother of invention." Or "want is the mother of..." With Nyss, very few--none?--are interested in fixing/inventing the things Nyss can already do. 2017 Terran airplanes are faster than Nyss (though generally not as comfortable and never as convenient), but when you don't need to first domesticate the horse, then build horseless carriages, then gradually improve them for decades, but just go straight to around 300MPH (again, just guessing, sorry), or conversely, ask a few Nyss to move a house to a better place and have it all done in an hour, why bother with years and years of trouble for this gross belching smelly thing that can go 10MPH and breaks down and requires a local or an international network of "roads" to be barely workable? If a train can carry a bunch of shipping crates full of amazon.com orders, subject to even more stringent requirements and even bigger costs, but a Nyss can carry a crate or two cross-country way faster, why even bother? The incrementalization of "progress" stymies so much.
No one will care here, but the by-products of the desire to pursue more consistent everyday junk--say, smartphones or heart surgery coming about as the result of agriculture--sometimes prove more useful than Nyss. And yet, these things don't get developed in the presence of easier answers. There are few wars when Nyss don't like fighting, and since it would be insane to kill them, the economy of plenty never ended. Here we like to say, "necessity is the mother of invention," which isn't true. There are many nicer places than a planet full of Nyss where invention nonetheless occurs. Occurs better than Terra. It is a question not of necessity, but of quality of mind. "Necessity is the mother of invention" is a saying for the incurious, or perhaps the overly charitable, speculating on what they believe are their forebears. In reality, people of a certain quality can invent things, and I did a plot-pivotal stretch in said Nyss-populated planet where it was considered a loony hobby to make primitive computer-things that were really quite useless unless you were insane enough to imagine them maintaining future atmospheric stability or whatever. Never got to see the end of that story, thankfully.
The point is, on that planet there were a vast majority of people who consistently didn't give a damn about "invention," and for them, the Terran saying ("Necessity is...") was true. But there were a minority for whom it was not true. And it was the equivalent of a large-scale social problem, and many people opined about it, and ultimately what I took away was that for some people, necessity is the mother of invention--but not because they were going to invent things themselves. Rather, the weirdness came, in a way somewhat similar to here, in that those people got really pissed off, metaphysically bothered, when others tried to invent things that weren't necessary. And it was weird, and creepy, and years in the figuring-out. There was something in people who were bothered by the idea that Nyss weren't "meant" to last forever (of course they could've lasted the planet's lifetime, and been moved to a new one depending on spaceflight prowess of the descendants of the non-necessity-inventors), but millions of years before that point, it just pissed them off that anybody would be so ridiculous as to invent a calculating machine. Why? What made the aversion to change so pronounced? (Mixed sort of Balrin/Bajirin, tending more toward the latter, if that matters.)
Different stage: long past spaceflight, imagine if you would the development of technology that we can liken to "wormholes" but without all the dissonance and bullshit there, where the attempt to travel from one side of a galaxy to the other becomes eventually as lengthy and involved as using the microwave (Bazin, generated by blue planets, anecdote. The best imho, but this one knows that's influenced by revulsion to here to some degree). So you press a button and go through the hole and you're in the new place. When people are sufficiently mature, there's no problem with this. Just a tool. When they're not, though, we're back to the murder mystery conundrum: people who can't enjoy or understand Murder on the Orient Express without the train ride; who don't give a damn about politics unless someone's screwing an intern. Once the excuse for all "stuck traveling" stories is gone, nothing happens. People die slow and don't even care about bringing everything along with them. In some sense, we understand this, which is why we know there'd need to be some sort of vetting process for our paradise, since unequipped minds would wreak dreadful havoc. And aether holes, as simple unemotional tech, are good in that they provide easier movement. But...do you put one in front of the toilet, so you can pee from the couch without getting up? Or from under the table while you're out with your friends? No cool space wars happen with aether holes, or they're entirely different, since capital ships become redundant (assume no bullshit about gravity variance justifying broadsides near pivotal planets) and you can just create a tiny handful of them inside the enemy parliament's gray matter and that's that.
And that's all fine, but what happens when people lose their lust for everything? Not just peeing from the couch, so to speak, but adjusting the digestion so that waste is automatically transferred out, and good stuff in, and there's no need for eating or sleeping, let alone traveling? There are souls that can handle that. There are "people" for whom, at a certain stage, the aether hole (or whatever name you prefer, I'm just pulling local mythical terms as best possible guess-lations) becomes a practicality on par with the microwave. Yes, it can destroy every family dinner if it's the only thing you (over)use, but aside from idiots who never learn to actually cook (no offense), it's useful. (And imagine hypothetical future Terran "microwaves" don't have similar deleterious effects on food, but which still accomplish the more profound, longer-latency task of leaving the unevolved ill-equipped to handle their relationship with "food.")
The scarring pyrexia comes, and realities are destroyed, when the aether hole is presented to people who aren't developed enough for it. Think again of the man who receives a derringer without years of intensive training and meditation, or the tribal savage who does the same with the same lacks and/or without generations of comparable tech development built into his genome, thereby residually instilling something of the same. Okay for some people, disaster for most, maybe all. And the aether hole can do that to entire galactic societies, turning everything into, if you will, pissing from the couch, and effectively dissembling reality.
The story, or metaphor if you will, is meaningful here because of the large quantity of idiots inhabiting Terra, who have found various things in advance of being prepared to use them. Again I say, imagine the disaster of supererogatory praises of body positivity succeeding in encouraging people to be grossly fat and unhealthy, then to cause everyone to subsidize everyone else's health: obvious disincentive to be healthy, since all you end up doing is slaving to the fat. Assume a higher level of tech on Terra, and the consequences grow more internally dire, though often aren't mass-recognized for centuries, if at all: development of perfect liposuction, or gene-therapy, such that people can have ideal bodies without developing the kinds of minds which cultivate them, and/or the kinds of minds which accept/understand temporary frames without permanent investment. Far worse; far more effective at destroying people. Imagine a toddler being promoted to emperor of the world without learning any of the toddler-lessons first. "Playing nice" isn't a lesson about playing nice so much as an indirect way of learning that others exist in a similar way to the self, both for positive and negative, and that there are lengths to which we will and won't go to apparently please or displease an other. Press a button and everyone plays nice automatically, we lose the ability to become smart enough to hypothetically "play nice" without the play-nice generator. Moving walkways everywhere cause primitive peoples to develop what we'd call deteriorating legs; everyone's a winner can mean no one's actually special; aether holes can cut self-investment in other areas where we'll eventually need things to move on. And that's part of what we do when we spiral toward graveyards--cut interests, cut necessities, and have a strong aversion to anything supplanting our current tech and/or ideas. So in the end, we see that it's not really any given "thing" which causes that deterioration, but that any thing at all can become a symptom of our own sense that the time is coming.
Traveling. Orient expresses. How many great conversations have you never had with someone because you were never trapped in the old high school gym together for three days to avoid the flooding? Or because it always ended up being five people on the trip and poor lugubrious you never got to take the second car with that one special passenger, together as just you two? Without the excuse, can you have the moment? We see some realization of the melting possibility in the way people want to have a perfect proposal, a perfect birthday, a perfect anniversary, a perfect relaxing evening alone, et cetera: we try to set stages because we've begun to realize that we can't do things without staging, but we're too bright to understand why that is or bring up the special subject completely on our own. "I need to talk to you" sounds a little foreboding, so we just can't do it. Do we have the capability (the "insight") to recognize--non-sexually, non-materialistically, et cetera--the people with whom we could have that great epiphany after being stuck on the road together during that hailstorm? We like routines, we like to not seem forward, we like to not force things--we're afraid that we'll stand out by being one of the few who may be developing traces of said capability. Why can't we see that, and have those conversations, or those ideas by our selves, if we're not trapped in the hail? Some of our deficiency here, that we swear we're working on, is the ability to feel and recognize those things, those avenues, without being forced into them. A few lucky "chance" moments in life, like someone holding baby-you over a toilet and seeing if you'll do the right thing there; will you ever learn to do it on your own, or are you too nervous? We may be retrospectively delighted when we are forced into them, and make movies about it, but we're not smart enough to fool ourselves into "relationships," even with ourselves, which we wouldn't have had without providential circumstance, and it's weird and otherworldly when we try to force it.