I have a neighbor upstairs who has grown weary of three-dimensional space. The ruckus she makes running up the stairs is unendurable. I am building her a catapult to shoot her through the second-floor window of her apartment. She is building a soft landing pad, maybe made of feathers, hard-boiled eggs, the antennas of katydids, mohair, sheepshanked twine, Wellington boots, bath oil beads, tumbleweeds, and tiny packets of granulated sugar. These are things that remain to be seen.
In the meantime, I am concentrating on the catapult. It must be strong. My neighbor is not a small person. There is nothing brittle about her. She is big-boned, jumbo, naturally cushioned. This is good for her, but less good for me. To send a piano flying through the air might be a good thing to aim for. There are benefits of overly high expectations. Of course, for now, I do not own a piano, but I could probably get my hands on one. I’m just saying.
I tell my neighbor, “Three-dimensional space is merely an objective fantasy of viewing ourselves to be embedded in 4-dimensional space-time. We don’t live in boxes, at least not all the time.”
This doesn’t assuage her fears. “There’s no way out,” she complains. “I feel trapped, stifled, like I’m overdosing on reality.”
I tell her there is no such thing as reality. That it’s merely something we construct to try to comfortably float ourselves around in. She doesn’t care. I tell her about the curved spaces of non-Euclidean geometry. I rave about the non-vanishing Riemann curvature tensor, the holonomy of the manifold, tuples, and the warping of space and time in outer space due to the sun’s mass. It’s no use. She’s inconsolable. So, for now, I am concentrating on the catapult.
I have a theory about catapults. They will only send up an object, no matter what mass, with as much force as they feel it is necessary to produce at the given time when they are told (by the cutting of a rope or some other springed mechanism to release pent-up tension) to send that object skyward. The object will only go so far up as the catapult feels it has been compelled to send it. If there is kindness involved, if one speaks sweetly and generously to the catapult in question, well, then the catapult may decide that it is necessary to use enough force to gently glide the object (in this case) through the second-story window. And if (as is also the case in this case) the object in question is an unwieldy load of blubber and invectives, then the catapult will have to be coerced into making the seemingly impossible effort by some quite possibly ulterior-motive-induced means. That at least is the theory. But one must also keep in mind that when object A emits (creates) or absorbs (annihilates) object B, a force accelerates object A in response to the momentum of object B, thereby conserving momentum as a whole. The catapult wants to expend the least amount of energy possible to do the job, anything more is beyond its “trying capacity,” or more accurately its self-willed lassitude-induced path-of-least-resistance nature. To get my upstairs neighbor’s fat ass all the way up to her window will surely take some heavy-duty coaxing and cajoling, not to mention some sturdy planks of wood and thick rope. I am contemplating the benefits of different designs: the mangonel, the wild kicking onager, the torsion springed ballista, or maybe the gravity-powered trebuchet, which is said to be able to sling up to 350 pounds at high speeds over castle walls. But there are many things to be considered. Will my portly neighbor perhaps be sent too high and go splatting to her demise against the apartment’s upper wall? My landlord would not be pleased with this result, for not only would she be left to clean up this unsightly mess, she would also have to find herself a new tenant for that 2nd floor studio apartment. I must make sure I speak most magniloquently to the catapult, letting it bathe in my flow of rich language and dulcet tones. I must make sure it is disposed kindly to do the job at hand with just the right amount of effort.
I speak to my neighbor about torque, acceleration, kinematic integrals, potential energy, newtons, and the interactions between quarks and gluons in terms of quantum chromodynamics. She tells me, “If there is any hope, it resides in my dreams.” It is no use trying to be explanatory. She will live in the dark because she chooses not to see. I go back to my catapult calculations, my deciphering of Hooke’s law, and the wording of my treacly inveiglements to the catapult, which must be put to use at precisely the right time. I try to perfect my practice. It is not an easy day’s work.
It is not unkind, the way I speak to people and things. Even an obnoxiously loud cullion like my gravity-bound neighbor is not beyond my sympathy. I bend my ear to her. She sobs. I cannot relate. I tell her, “Be not sudden in your momentum. Things will occur as they will. Thrust, drag, acceleration, even gauge bosons. These are things to consider. Rushing will only lead to missing our window… so to speak.” The walls rattle as she stomps her way up the stairs to her apartment.
The day of reckoning has come. My neighbor grimaces as I seat her in my contraption. It is made of rubber hoses, smelted silverware, the gorilla-glued wood of a million toothpicks, and a giant stainless steel ladle procured from the looted remains of a Jolly Green Giant display at the local junkyard. The sun is in her eyes. I give her a visor and sunglasses. She is petulant. She whines like a child who has lost her lollipop in the mud. My contraption is not a catapult. It does not have skein twisted up by winches. There are no pinion heads or cross pieces mortised and tennoned into the side plates. Really, there is no real reason, according to the laws of physics, that my neighbor’s body should move an inch from where it is: lying in the bowl of giant spoon. But I tell my neighbor all will be well. She will exist in another plane of existence momentarily. A soft landing pad awaits her through the window, her 2nd story window, which seems too high above us. My neighbor is making sounds like a horse sneezing. She does not understand the powers of faith. I have prepared a speech for this occasion, words that will cause my contraption to hurl my neighbor’s more-than-plus-sized body into the air and through her window. Even though I am not speaking to a true catapult, I believe in what I am doing. I am sure of the results I will achieve. There is no need for hope when there is certainty. At least, when all is said and done, I will not have to regret that I never tried to do some good in this world.
“Here. This is my hand. Take it. I assure you, everything will be okay.”