In the home of Simon Powers, the final preparations are being made for Simon’s total immersion into The System. This technology will allow him to control the physical environment after his death, meaning that he will be able to forever be in touch with his loved ones, manipulate his businesses, and propagate his legacy. Simon is excited, giddy, like a child.
Miranda is afraid. Evvy is trying to be practical, trying to stay calm, indulgent of her husband’s behavior in spite of her own anxieties. Nicholas is serious, sweating, focused on his work, his eye on the clock. As the time approaches for Simon to enter The System, he assures his family, “Particles, molecules, cells, fingers, eyes, nerves, Are only places for the system Of meaningful vibrations.” They all chant: “The matter is mortal, The System lives on.”
Miranda and Evvy express their fears, wondering what Simon will be like after he has entered The System. “How will we speak to you…when you’re all a vibration?”
Simon quotes poetry by William Butler Yeats (“Once out of nature”) and May Swenson (“Body my house my horse my hound, What will I do when you are fallen”), and then gleefully declares that The System will allow him to be more immortal than mere poets. Simon finally enters The System, saying to the others: “See you later!” Evvy wonders “What now?”, and they are plunged into darkness.
Video production by Paula Aguilera and Jonathan Williams
SCENE 1 – Simon and The System
“Once out of Nature I will never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
From hammered gold and gold enameling…”
Da-da, da-du-dum, mechanical parakeet…
“And set upon a golden bough to sing.”
Ah, the immortal William Yeats!
He can have his bird.
Yeats, I give you the bird!
Simon, please be serious.
Or at least be frightened
Or show that you are frightened.
I feel you already
Vanishing into this machine.
Out of nature — into the machine!
If you were frightened
I would be less worried.
Will you go insane,
Out of nature,
In the machine?
The machine is part of nature!
For every machine that makes nature better—
Like the System that I will enter—
Nature made the maker
Of that machine.
Nature is the begetter
Of every inventor
So machines are made by nature:
The great Organic Machine.
There isn’t much more time, the body
Is dying, now it is time to enter the system?
Thank you Nick for reminding me—
In the stroke of time, in the nick of time.
Nick, will rescue me from my stroke.
Miranda, my child, come talk to me!
And Evvy, my favorite, my beloved
And final wife,
Come join in the celebration.
There isn’t time.
Nicholas says there isn’t time.
I’m afraid it’s time—
And I’m afraid.
And so, I’m not out of time.
But soon I’ll be out of matter!
Yes I’ll be out of matter,
But I will still be rich!
Now it is time!
While SIMON sings the next words, NICHOLAS is adjusting the device, attaching it to SIMON, fussing with parts of SIMON’s body and with the “infernal device” of the room. NICHOLAS starts to take SIMON away. SIMON stops him from doing so. SIMON wants to speak with MIRANDA.
Once, when Miranda was three years old
She put her hand to her throat
Just here above the voice-box
And felt the vibration.
She said: I can feel it when I talk—
That must mean Miranda is inside.
And she was right!
You were right,
My intelligent daughter:
It’s the vibration,
The movement, that matters!
That’s what I love in you—
The voice, the gesture:
The ripple, not the water!
And that’s how I got rich!
Daddy, where will you be?
It doesn’t matter!
Maybe in a bird, like the immortal Yeats.
Maybe in my portrait by some
Immortal painter whose immortal
Name I forget!
We must leave the body
And launch him into the system
In the next few minutes.
Evvy, she is like a daughter to you?
Miranda, she has been a mother to you?
Yes, she is like a mother
My child— I have no other?
Then you see—it’s true!
It isn’t the blood,
It isn’t the bone.
It’s never the matter that matters
Particles, molecules, cells, fingers, eyes, nerves
Are only places for the system
Of meaningful vibrations.
It’s all in the meaning, the movement,
The idea—that’s the idea.
It’s never the clones, the bones, the
Silicon chips, the skinflick rips.
It’s what you adopt,
And how you adapt.
They were all amazed
How a tinkerer like me
Could be such a shrewd investor.
I looked for the movement, the vibration,
Not the matter, the system!
And that’s how I got rich!
It’s not the hog bellies, hope chests,
Chest of gold, heads of state,
Skin, the belly, chest, head:
The matter is just a medium,
The system is the idea.
MIRANDA/EVVY/NICHOLAS [then joined by SIMON]
The matter is mortal
The system lives on
The matter is mulch
The matter is static
The matter is zilch –
And the system is movement, the system
Is real and the system persists.
It made me rich!
Skin flicks, hog bellies, hope chests, heads of state.
Skin, belly, chest, head—
Why freeze your head when you’re dead?
It’s only meat! If I keep a little of my meat
For old time’s sake, what the hell,
A meaty souvenir—
It won’t be the skull!
I’ll save the heart,
Or some other juicy part.
How will we speak to you?
Will you be some one place?
When you’re all a vibration
Without any one face
We could know you with.
Will I know what is you
Without any breath?
Will it be your voice?
Or a simulation?
MIRANDA & EVVY
What will I know,
What will I do,
How will my ears
Know what they hear?
How will my hands
Know what they touch?
How will it be you,
And how will I know?
SIMON [MIRANDA & EVVY continue]
What does it matter?
Face, shmace –
As many as I want,
Faces and voices.
Now I am almost purely,
Into the system
Out of matter.
But maybe I’m not
Out of time.
SIMON [without MIRANDA and EVVY]
Maybe as a bird, maybe
As a dog, a horse, a house:
“Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go without my mount all eager and quick
How will I know in thicket ahead is danger or treasure when
Body my good bright dog is dead.”
So said the immortal May Swenson—
I’ll be more immortal than her and that peculiar bird
The immortal William Yeats.
Nods to NICHOLAS
See you later!
NICHOLAS turns a switch and SIMON enters The System.
To be continued…
Death and the Powers Preview Series