After a couple of hours Jennifer got tired of crying and decided to go back home. What was the point of crying anyway, if nobody was there to care about it. She’d never thought of crying as a result oriented activity before and had to admit that if it engendered an outcome, it probably wouldn’t be a positive one.
Suddenly the concept of wasting energy on something without a positive outcome bothered her. She had started dusting the many pieces of pottery which had made their way downstairs during the previous week when another uncomfortable thought emerged: what she was doing didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t just the pottery, which she’d already cataloged as a thing to pass the time in the absence of anything better to do, but the rest of her activities as well. Something about her approach to ‘life’ was fundamentally flawed in a way she could feel deeply in her heart but found very difficult to put into words. Her thought process must have sent a bat signal to Möbius, who decided to show up.
“It’s not something you can explain, Jennifer,” Möbius offered counsel. “Not in the context of what you would call normal, anyway. You have to care about things to have them stick around; love them or hate them, they can’t tell the difference. Everything else goes away.”
“Why?” Jennifer asked. “Why do I have to care about the chair I’m sitting in?” she asked.
“You really don’t have to,” Möbius agreed. “How long have you had that chair?”
“A couple of years,” Jennifer replied.
“What did you do for sitting down before that?”
“I had another chair.”
“What happened to it?”
“And before that?”
“What happened to it?”
“I didn’t like it, I put it out to the curb.”
“I’m not going to continue this list, you get the idea. If all you need is a chair to sit in you’ll get a chair. It’s not going to be a specific chair but it will accomplish the task. Learn to differentiate between the concept of chair and the individual item. Human life usually works in concept, on almost every level – the home you live in, the job you have, your relationships, even love, everything people start out with is contractor grade, so to speak. You have to put a piece of your soul into them to make them special, that’s what we call creativity, or spirit, the spirit of things, places, connections. I know the chair is a poor example, but let’s use it anyway. As long as you don’t care enough about a particular design you’re going to get a generic model which will be replaced regularly with other generic models, equally indifferent in emotional value.”
“I’m not going to waste emotional energy on caring about a chair!” Jennifer blurted outraged. “I don’t really care! Besides, what about the things I really cared about that have been taken from me?”
“I notice that you used the word ‘taken’. I’m starting to understand why you prefer to live in this disposable universe, but if you don’t care about anything that is in it, why bother living in it at all?”
“Not my smart idea, that’s for sure!” Jennifer sulked, annoyed that he brought up her unspoken feelings.
“Let’s talk about your jobs. How many did you have?”
“A few,” Jennifer’s mood worsened.
“How about friends,” Möbius didn’t relent. “Sure you’re very young, but do you have any friendships that you held on to for many years?”
“A few,” Jennifer replied.
“What about your other acquaintances?”
“You get to meet new people all the time, it’s normal!” Jennifer became defensive.
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to point out to you, that’s how the world works! How many apartments have you lived in so far?”
“This is ridiculous! Who cares about apartments? They’re all the same!” Jennifer tried to end the conversation, not realizing she was demonstrating Möbius’ argument for him.
“What do you want, Jennifer!” Möbius stared at her intently. “What do you really want?”
“I want to be special, remember? I want to do extraordinary things!” Jennifer started sniffling softly when she encountered Möbius’ grizzly stare and stopped immediately. “I want to dangle upside down from the ceiling just to defy gravity! You don’t let me do that and I don’t care about the stupid chair! It’s a stupid chair!”
“Actually I take it back, the gravity plate was cool,” Möbius smiled. “Feel free to hang upside down from the ceiling all you want. You’ll have to forgive me for being overprotective sometimes, it comes with the job.”
“Overprotective? You forgot me in quantum uncertainty for three weeks!”
“Not of you,” he continued smiling. “Of the universe. I have to make sure you’re not going to mess it up. Now back to our lesson. Think of anything, object, thought, person, feeling.”
“How about this jug?” she pointed to the first object she laid her eyes on.
“Fine, if you can’t waste effort on finding something you actually care about, we’ll improve on the indifferent,” he frowned, displeased. “What did you have in mind when you created this jug?”
“Nothing, I suppose.”
“You are always thinking of something, you just can’t remember it because your mind has an irrelevance overload protocol in place: if the thought does not impact your existence in any meaningful way it goes into the recycling bin. The problem is it still leaves a groove on your brain, one of which you are generally unaware. Try to think,” he encouraged her.
“I can’t remember,” Jennifer threw in the towel.
“I can tell just by looking at it. It is exactly like the one next to it and quite a few others over there on the shelf.”
“They are nothing alike!” she protested surprised, and then relented when upon a closer inspection she determined that the objects in question were similar indeed. “Well, maybe a little, what does that mean?”
“What that means is that not only you are unaware of the mental abstractions that generated all of these objects, but they all revolved around one singular concept, and not an interesting one at that,” he concluded, looking at the uninspiring jug design.
“Maybe I’m not capable of designing something interesting,” Jennifer became defensive again.
“There are several things wrong with this sentence. The first one is that you requested a design change that would make you special, which I provided, and I’m very good at what I do.”
“And very modest to boot,” Jennifer’s mind churned in silence.
“The second thing,” Möbius ignored her unspoken repartee, “is that you already made interesting. Very interesting actually. Some of it a little ill-advised, but interesting nonetheless. Why can’t you do the same with the jug?”
“I don’t care about the jug!’ Jennifer raised her voice in exasperation.
“Why are you making things you don’t care about?” Möbius matched her frustration and raised her another hundred. “The world is full of stuff people don’t care about! Heaven is full of concepts angels don’t care about!”
“I heard that!” Afael’s voice boomed in his ear.
“What I’m trying to say,” Möbius continued, a little more subdued, “is that machines have been invented to make a million little objects all the same. The human mind is free to create unique things now!”
“What’s the third thing?” Jennifer kept the count.
“The third thing is that the first jug you made, the one that went to the Antiquity, was quite good. You must have cared about that one.”
“I care about all the stuff I make until you come and tear it to shreds!”
Möbius shuffled, uncomfortable. It dawned on him that being a guardian angel was not entirely the mindless job he always thought it was, and that maybe he didn’t have the patience and empathy required to do it properly. He decided to take another approach.
“What were you thinking when I found you hanging upside down from the keystone?”
“I was thinking how awesome that was and that I was happy,” Jennifer responded in a tone which made obvious that whatever happiness that past event embodied had long dissipated by now. “I was thinking,” she started tentatively, “isn’t that something you can change in the code? You know, so I’d be happy all the time?”
“I design skills, events, life blueprints, I don’t do feelings!” he protested. “Why can’t you handle your own emotions? I thought you said you wanted free will! Will yourself happy!”
“That’s absurd, I need a reason to be happy,” she protested.
“And you can’t create it unless you already are happy. See the vicious cycle here?” Möbius got progressively annoyed. “What are you willing to invest mental energy in, Jennifer, other than getting upset over not being me?”
Jennifer decided not to gratify this rhetorical question with an answer. She was sitting in a high chair across the table from him, in her own kitchen, whatever that meant, and was swinging her legs like a petulant pupil who got caught cutting class and was sent to the principal’s office.
“Why do I even care what he thinks?” she brooded. Technically she was dead, all her debt to society had been paid, it was supposed to be all about her, all the time now, filled with joy, love and bliss. Unless she was going to the basement, what if she’d earned herself a place there? She tried to think of all the things she might have done prior to this bewildering experience that could have earned her a smoldering spot in Hell while Möbius stared at her with his arms crossed and a deep crease between his eyebrows.
“You are going to give me a headache with this nonsense, would you please stop? If you want I can take you on a tour of both the basement and the attic, I can assure you you haven’t missed much. Why can’t you, for once, take it on faith that you’ve been given an extraordinary gift, even though making use of it requires a pittance of effort on your part?”
Jennifer almost forgot the strictly enforced ban on sniveling and was about to start again.
“But when do I get to be happy, Möbius? When?” she declaimed in a mournful tone worthy of Greek tragedy.
“How about now? Be happy right now!” he yawned, bored, and left.