The old science fiction fan in me wonders sometimes if it would be possible to create a device that could project our thoughts just as a computer monitor projects the hard drive’s digital information for us to read, see, and hear. After all, so far our thoughts have remained absolutely unknowable by anyone else’s five senses, and yet these thoughts, science tells us, travel along ever-evolving neural pathways in the brain. Perhaps something could read these pathways and know that I am thinking about a purple zebra speaking Russian.
I am not a scientist, but I have a theory about why this device will not be created anytime soon, possibly ever: we don’t want it. And not for privacy reasons, though we have all had thoughts that are best left stranded on the island of dreams. Rather, to invent such a device would be akin to a singer inventing a machine to sing for her, or a writer inventing a computer to write novels for him.
Human beings are translators. This is our job. We translate thoughts, which exist beyond the five senses, into actions that can be perceived by the five senses. Or in other words, we translate the non-physical into the physical. That is all we do, day and night. Every time you lift a fork, scratch your head, speak a word, blow a kiss, you have translated some thought, however small, however banal, into something perceivable in the physical world. And once this thought has been made physical, it exists for all the other translators to read, listen to, or observe, because we are curious and imitative translators, and we never stop teaching each other how to do our job.
It is amazing how often we complain about our job. We complain about other people’s translations, we complain about what other people think about our translations, and we complain about how hard it is to translate accurately what we perceive in the sovereign vortex of our imagination. Sometimes one of us gets so tired of this job he quits, and we throw a very solemn going away party. But then it’s back to work, writing and rewriting this endless novel that is as old as time.
Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!