Masks Issue 12: Impermanence [Cutscene]

(This assumes that Pneuma is as described - re-embodied and authentically herself, having had the experiences she claimed)

Pneuma remembers the words of the teachings. She doesn’t understand it all yet, and some teachers disagree with others. The Sutra of the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma sounds very pretty. From her outsider’s perspective, the evolution of belief across the centuries has left Asia covered in lotus blossoms of every conceivable color.

Anatta is the “non-self”. There is no single, unchanging immortal soul that journeys through Saṃsāra, the endless cycle of dying, rebirth, and existence. Instead, by analogy, one candle uses its flame to light the next. Like a flower petal being tossed about by a turbulent river, the desire to have a self, to be a self, is the cause of distress. Instead, one must strive to be the river itself. Pneuma remembers, courtesy of Leo’s inherited experience, what he said. “The mind isn’t the band. The mind is the music.” I want to stay myself, she thinks. But what is that?

She and Leo had talked about it in the past, using the neutral language of computers. Backups. Save slots. Restore from tape. The truth was scarier. Maybe there’s another Pneuma still out there, experiencing things. Maybe she’s learning something new, something that’ll change her. Maybe some villain - Rossum, Alycia Chin, another gadgeteer, a government - got ahold of her. Maybe someone at AEGIS made a power play. Maybe the Pneuma with her original body is now an enemy. Maybe she’s a stranger. If you played her music together with mine, would it be harmonious?

Things change. Unwillingness to let go, to defy change, causes suffering. We can’t accept that we’ll lose things. Pneuma’s modular carbon body was built to reject that possibility. Leo accounted for hundreds of variables, dozens of scenarios, to ensure that she was as strong and tough as possible. He wanted to hold onto her for as long as he could. But she or Otto could let go at any time, walk away if they wanted to. She had before, and had come back before. Just not like this.

Pneuma looks at the group hug Leo has pulled his friends into, spots the regretful look he makes toward her current holographic self. It’s a popular Western notion that Buddhism teaches “reality is an illusion”. Pneuma waves a hand of glowing light experimentally through a nearby table. It derezzes against the solid surface, but returns to tangibility once she withdraws it. She can feel herself, her fingertips touching each other. The world feels very illusionary right now.

The path to enlightenment is long. She isn’t sure she’s even on the path, nor whether she should be. Like an insect resting on a flower petal as it floats down turbulent river waters, she has a refuge of sorts, even if that refuge itself is being tossed about. High and mystic wisdom feels hollow to her right now. She glances at Ghost Girl, and the hug-huddle that neither of them can participate in.

Misfortune comes from having a body, the Tao Te Ching said. I wonder if they knew how miserable the alternative can be.

author: Bill G.

I did not see this when it first posted. Just saw it. Sorry I didn’t give feedback.

The feedback is: holy hell I love this.

author: Doyce T.


author: Bill G.