A half step backwards in the Annales of Tyme to further elucidate the extent of the Climate Disaster. Behold the formative experience of the chief archivist of the Hacke Packe, Leonardo Pacioli, AKA Nard the Seer. As told by the redeemed soul of Nard’s loving pater.
The Reader is reminded that this is a continuation of Undivided: The Redemption Inquiry. The 20th chapter of the novel and the fourth of…
Part the Fourth—Beasts of the Apocalypse: Herein lie the Histories of the chief Architects among the sundry soules who shall comprise the Hacke Packe. The Human Soule and its Other have risen in this telling to the World of The Emanation of Cosmic Consciousness, the threshold where Fate is sealed and released as Quanta to fulfill Divine Will, or Desire, in The Worlde below.
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It’s curious how people are spooked by the uncanny. So thought my brilliant son. In one of Leonardo’s spelunking expeditions into old texts, he found an early paper of Sigmund Freud’s in which the fusty professor addresses the occult with crisp officiousness. Freud, a psychic revolutionary in his day, gradually took upon himself dictatorial say-so within his own cadre of intellectuals and on certain topics completely bricked himself in with prejudices and presumptions. You could see it, as he opined upon uncanny phenomena, that he assumed unexamined primacy for his own weird experiences, and gave short shrift to the weird as it was visited upon others. A bit odd for a scientist and explorer of the human psyche, the primo subjective scientific endeavor. He made no bones about the fact that he believed in the predictive power of dreams. Why? Because he himself had experienced that form of nevuah, prophecy, in dreams. He dismissed out of hand the possibility of knowledge-at-a-distance because he, the great Herr Professor Doctor Freud, had never had that vision. Priggishness or fear of marginalization, or both, it didn’t matter.
It had been pretty damned discouraging to Leonardo to discover that one of his heroes fell so far short of the mark in the imagination department. He could not fathom how such a formidable intellect could be so closed to the world that lay just beyond our five material senses. Leonardo, on the other hand, felt how keen was his life’s dependence upon the fact that he, Leonardo Pacioli, was an adept, a savant of remote viewing. He was an autodidact and hadn’t yet let us, his family, in on the secret. The Redemption outs all secrets. As the family Pacioli sat on his mother’s blanket of simSilk brocade, one of the few family heirlooms Vera had managed to stow away for our journey, Leonardo basked in the artfulness of the repast his sainted mother had foraged, and in the ingenuity of his beloved father, yours truly, in preparing for life in the wilderness. How sweet. We, his parents, were his heroes. Leonardo also knew we were about to be ‘rescued’ by bBots, closing in on us from a location 250 kilometers to the east. There was nowhere to go from here. The Italian boot had been cut off at its ruffled calf. The Po Valley, an uninhabitable swamp, drenched by recurrent flood waters cascading in from the Adriatic. And to the west, desert. The once luxurious Piedmont region, now subject to massive flash fires, no longer remotely resembled the former breadbasket of Italy. The entire boot hung on by a thread, the vast majority of its inhabitants either dead or evacuated to Leviathan.
A parade of natural disasters and pandemics had transformed the whole of Italy into an uninhabitable waste. Except for the Alpine retreat to which our family clung. Leonardo hesitated. I know now that he needed to tell us that the end of our journey was at hand. I can see, looking back from the Redemption, what a quandary he was in. His sister, Flora, ten years his junior, through the mercy of childish obliviousness, squealed with unbridled delight every time she found another cluster of purple lupine growing under the stunted trees. Bittersweet. Leonardo cherished these final moments of natural bliss with an unnatural and concentrated deliberateness. A poet by nature, he was training himself in the science of observation. And I, Leonardo’s father, Luca Pacioli, stood at the edge of a rocky carapace, pointing my astrolabe skyward. In my starched white shirt and decidedly retro handlebar mustache, I’m afraid I was quite self-conscious as I cut the figure of an 1890’s boxer, vain and young. We all did what we had to do to preserve some sense of who we were as people, so small in the face of the harsh natural reality. I confess that I once stole a glance at my sweet Leonardo’s journal, desperate to know how his delicate psyche was faring amidst the ravages of life on the run. What I saw staggered me, an intelligence so beautiful it crowned every word he chose:
July 10—In the dark there is no accommodation, not even a whisper of light. This is when attention training pays off, the world of dreamless sleep. Forget everything you know. Let go of personal desire. This is impersonal desire. You have entered the black screen, crackling pluripotential, the world of genres. The level of trust required to navigate, more than anything that’s ever been asked of you, the realm of archangelic strength…
July 11—I don’t know that I will find a home here, just a temporary place to stay, a jumping off point, a gentle tugging in every direction. I have already blessed all of these directions. There is a finer and finer sense of the purposeful shifting of direction. Now here. Now there. The order of the invisible crystal, every vertex a point of inflection, every surface the leaping of my heart…
July 12—I don’t know about edges. I’m not sure they make sense here. Edges belong in the realm of the lesser angels. This is the dwelling place of Little Wind and Big Fly. They and all the other guides whisper every point of spiritual topography. Stay on point only long enough to pivot toward the next. There is no narrative here. The density of this place is greater than that of the rational numbers. There will be no mapping. Is it okay to grieve the loss of maps?
July 13—Okay then. Move on. Move on or sink. There is a funny kind of mathematics at work here. The density, the property that allows one to stay afloat, depends directly upon acceleration. The simplest movement to assure continuous acceleration is to turn, to spin about a central axis. I’m not sure about wobbling. That might be fun. That might be inevitable. Thank God there are no heavenly bodies here. They can be so annoying, so disturbing, so self-centered, so limiting. I suspect I may be one…
July 14—Bastille Day.
July 15—The allure of the created world, the manufactured world. It will be the death of me. I am low hanging fruit. I hear my life calling me in another direction, a cool breeze on my face and the warm sun on my back. This journey may be undertaken only in extraordinary vessels. The me that is the breath billows out the sails. I know I will be overwhelmed. I know the rudder will be stripped from my hand and in spite of the terror that I feel lighting up every cell of my body, I know I will wash up on a good place, the place where the seeds of all things are planted…
July 16—I am far from there right now and grow weary, bumping around in the dark. It’s the same dark, from the perspective of descent. I need to get to the seeds of the senses, beyond architecture, beyond assembly instructions, beyond finished products. I want to wrap my life in the scintillating blanket of every living seed that ever was, is or shall be. I want to be criss-crossed by layered emanations, so many infinitesimal spotlights piercing the night sky. This is my life and it does not belong to me. A spotlight has pierced my heart. I am full of holes bleeding light in every direction. All that holds me together is that which skewers me…
My major logistical regret was not having figured out the final tweak for the cloaking we so badly needed to render ourselves invisible to the AIs. I knew that my amateur tech skills were no match for the AIs, but I did everything in my power to buy my family a little more time before capture. I had no illusion that anyone in the family was not at some level aware of our predicament, even little Flora in her oblivious state of bliss. I still tried to instill in them a sense of adventure, a sense of the poetic. Every night before bed I would gather the four of us around a lightless holoFire and recite from memory the entire first canto of Dante’s 14th Century masterpiece, Divina Comedia: Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura/ché la diritta via era smarrita. In the middle of our life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood, because the straight path was lost. On and on I incanted. Dark as it was, it spoke to them of the possibility of human wisdom, in the person of the poet Virgil, as a guide through the terror of this life. I wanted to impart a rugged optimistic message to my family. Vera loved me for it. Even now, looking back from the Redemption, it is a treasured memory of a desperate time. The children memorized the entire verse, sweetly imitating my every idiosyncrasy of tone and vocal mannerism. That last night on the mountain, Leonardo dreamed himself, as he told me many years later, an older soul, a doctor in the early 21st century, an alienist ruminating upon the particular heartbreak of a lost one:
From the other side, the undifferentiated, the side we slide into as evening falls and the stars blink out one by one. It’s the end of the chessboard where pawns become queens. It is the roundabout, the hub. I smile but I am too much at peace to tell a joke. Won’t you slip away with me, so that we are as one within the one. The compleat poet, all healing, all embracing, no gaps, plenum. Why choose, how choose, what chooses, and what is chosen? A siren whines from a distance. I have told that story several times this week. There must be a reason. A man who claims that he’s an archangel, that he has seen the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Aron. I asked him what it was like and he said it was the most exquisite pain he had ever experienced. Pain? I asked. He said it was beautiful, in his rambling way. Have you never experienced such beauty that it hurts? The greatest pain there is? Is that why he turns to drink? The price of being lashed to the mast, ears unplugged. How much more for a Calibanariel vision than for a siren’s song? The persistence of images upon the retina is nothing compared to those in the mind, the soul. Everyday my young friend sits lashed to the chair in the middle of the wilderness of his life’s journey, silently screaming his ecstatic pain. The beauty and the horror are one. I most ardently wish him the final blessing of the High Priest: May He turn His Countenance toward you, yet, yet, yet may you know peace.
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Zzzzzzzt. Leonardo awoke swatting the air. He was sleep drunk and confused, and flashed on the time that he and I camped together in the mosquito-infested Po Swamp. The ghost of a moribund ecosystem. Even among the other Forestieros, the Italian partners of A Gathering, who had remained on the land long after most Italians had been ‘gathered’ to Leviathan, Leonardo and I were on the fringe, extreme trekkers. Inoculated against malaria, the two of us enjoyed unencumbered the beauty of the Po Swamp, the mists that swirled through the cypress trees and the mangroves that kept the residual swamp from being washed away by the storm surges. Our aeroBarca scudded the surface of the marsh to nose around one of our favorite spots, The Submerged Villas. An exotic tourist destination among the Forestieros. These were the former residences of the notables of Vicenza, designed by the immortal architect of the Italian Renaissance, Palladio, born Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, a 16th Century Padovan. The genius of Padua, dubbed Palladio by his first patron, a humanist poet and scholar. A nod to Pallas Athena, protector of wily Odysseus.
The Venetians, in their endless trade war with the Ottomans, flaunted their independence from the Muslim empire as they traipsed the rich farmlands of the Po valley. Of course the gentlemen farmers required country residences to reflect their elevated station in Venetian society. Hence a series of villas and palazzos, sprung from the fevered brow of Palladio, dotted the countryside like so many monuments to the vanity of Veneto. The very models for all such pride projects, Palladio’s clones populated the haunts of Western culture from the British Isles to the capital of the New World’s first democracy. Immortal beauties beckoned from beneath the flooded Po, their ornate rooftops convenient hitching posts for the aeroBarco. As we tied up to the decayed figurines that encircled the roof of the Palazzo Chiericati, we mugged and clowned, uninvited guests of the once noble occupants. The miniature soldiers teetered just above the waterline, so many water-walking yogis. Always always Leonardo laughed and aped my gestures toward the formerly stately figures. We tipped our helmets and bowed from the waist, “O grazzi, signori, molto gentile!” The arm of the misshapen remains of a statue kindly held our bowline. Ersatz classical military figurines, a must-have chachke for the well-housed bourgeois, now unrecognizable in the dissolution wrought by the surge of swamp water, wind and rain. Oh the dreadful wind and rain.
The whole family startled awake to a chorus of creepy little voices, “You are being rescued by your friends at ZizCorp. We found you! You have nothing to fear. A bBot is on its way to take you hooooome.” A swarm of micro drones swirled around the Famiglia Pacioli and snagged onto their clothing like ticks on a dog. Right off I recognized the technology from that time I won best in show at the 200th anniversary of Robotica, Milan 2207. Not to brag, but I was a badass amateur roboticist, pretty good for an academic geometrician. These sophisticated ROS10 devices were built to detect and attach to the artificial intelliFibers worn by all humans as mandated by the sumptuary laws of the AI overlords. For our protection! Fascinated, I plucked one of the little insectoids from Flora’s intelli-T shirt as she blinked herself awake. Its 4D printed exoskeleton was indistinguishable from the glorious dragonfly’s. As I snapped out of my robotics reverie I declaimed to my terrified family, ”It’s Culo-Nudo Time!” They knew exactly what to do. A hallowed Pacioli family tradition, without hesitation we stripped off our clothing and ran, wild beasts to the six directions, shrieking “culo nudo, culo nudo!” Nothing like a little levity to release the grip of gravity. We laughed ourselves to tears. The famiglia Pacioli left behind the malevolent buzz of drone-infested clothing and grabbed our Fabkits to make for higher ground. No, we would not be wrangled like so many errant cattle, our only failing being the lack of robotic perfection. The AI’s had at last rendered their final judgment—free-range humans were not to be trusted. Round ‘em up.
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Naked and breathless under the breezy cover of stunted thorn trees, Vera and I contemplated the fate of our family. Nightfall was only a few hours away. The temperature would take a precipitous drop. Our nakedness was no longer amusing. In fact it was pretty unpleasant for a bare bodkin seated upon cold rocks. True, the ambient temperature was not cold enough to sustain the long since departed glaciers. With the disappearance of the ice mass the search for water at high altitude was all but bootless. And by nightfall the chill air made unprotected sleep dubious at best. We wouldn’t print anymore fabGarb since the AI’s had modified the software for every design to include tracking intelliFibers. Vera and I looked at each other and in unison pronounced, “Merda.” That’s when we heard an improbable bleat from within a nearby brace of thorn trees. Our excitement pocketed, my boy and I slithered with the utmost of stealth in the direction of the sound. At the copse of misshapen dwarf trees I motioned Leonardo to sidle up next to me and see what I saw. There it stood. An immense male Alpine Ibex, its scimitar horns trapped by the thorny fingers of a collusion of trees. The more it struggled, the deeper snagged the thorns. Hushed, I opened my fabKit, pulled up the tranqGun schematics, and waited. The portable synthBot hummed at the mystified creature. Seconds seemed like minutes. As the machine wound down, I shut it off pronto. Didn’t want the signal to attract any more of ZizCorp’s minyans. Et voila, a stun gun! Hand to hand, I pressed the freshly printed device into my son’s eager paw and nodded toward the beast. Leonardo murmured his thanks to the Creator, apologies to the frightened creature, then let rip an electric sting that rendered the goat unconscious. The struggle ended.
When we disentangled the slumbering beast and hauled it back to Vera, she clucked with delight. Visions of sartorial improvisation danced in her sharp blue eyes. Faster than you could say “Zyz knows where you iz” the sleeping ibex was shorn and covered in a pile of pine needles. Once it stirred, I sent Flora with the sleepy goat to dress it in our intelliTextiles. She was an animal whisperer from early toddlerhood and would have no trouble leading the docile beast a short way down the mountain. I had instructed her to clothe the creature, then shoo it further down the mountain to draw off the AI’s, and tear like hell back to us. The lumbering ibex , our emissary to Azazel. That was Leonardo’s name for the AI monsters. The demon that bears away sin. The airLoom worked its silent magic under Vera’s supple touch to materialize four goat’s-wool kaftans. To ensure that her family be shod, Vera the forager poked around until she uncovered the best source of shoeing material from right beneath our feet. The roots of the thorn trees were pliant as natural rubber. With a bit of steam Vera coaxed them around each of our four sets of feet. The cross pieces deformed in agreement with our soles, a fistful of moss for padding. A handsome crew of wanderers indeed—L’Italiane Famiglia Pacioli. Clothed and shod, time to trek to higher ground. A habitable cave might have been nice, but my heart sighed. I knew that it was only a matter of time before we’d be ‘rescued’ and dragged back to ‘civilization’. After all, as adept as we were at orienteering and wilderness survival, we weren’t actually wild. All of us born and bred in the heart of the techno-beast, the decaying center of Western European culture, we weren’t indigenous. We didn’t have the autochthonic chops. Leonardo’s psychic skills were still undeveloped, a marvelous toy that he had insufficient time to unpack. And Flora had yet to realize her own uncanny powers.
Vera and I knew damn well that no matter where we went and no matter how well we disguised our physical presence, the ZizCorp drones and Behemoth’s bBots would inevitably track us. Our existential spore. We’d heard rumors that the indigenous tribes had ways to blend into the land, to become undetectable, no matter how their land was ravaged by meteorologic catastrophe. The catch was, and it was a helluva catch, that their people’s health declined in sync with the deterioration of the land. A determinedly mortal bond. But the famiglia Pacioli, alas, had been ‘civilized’ for centuries. Even before our famous ancestor wrangled math problems with the great Leonardo, the inventor after whom Vera and I had named our dear son. Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, the 15th Century father of accounting and bookkeeping. One cool dude, he lived with Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, playing with a smorgasbord of intellectual arcana. He actually taught maths to his fabled genius pal. Pacioli, an earlier incarnation of Howard Gardner, compiled a book of magic tricks and puzzles in which he revealed, among other things, that Leonardo was left-handed. Who knew? He did not, however, reveal that Leonardo’s mother out of wedlock was a Russian Jewish servant in the da Vinci household. Che scandalo!
Rumor also had it that Leonardo and Luca were lovers. They were also part of an occult fraternity that venerated John the Baptist as the incarnation of the prophet Elijah, annunciator of the future Messiah. Hard to know which bit of demography would have gotten them into more hot water with the church. The two friends drew inspiration from the work of the crypto Jew, Amadeo Mendez da Silva. All the while a hidden Jew, da Silva became a Franciscan friar and even a confessor to the pope, a radical in high places. His incendiary work, Apocalypso Nova, deliberately undermined some of the basic tenets of Orthodox Catholicism, little things like the divinity of Jesus and the virginity of Mary. His Hebrew language chops—let’s hear it for philology my brother-in-law—made it apparent to him that the church had erred in the translation of the Hebrew word for ‘girl’ as ‘virgin’. Zounds! The man wrote a series of Sermones he attributed to John the Baptist that aped the style of the heinous ‘debates’ staged by the church between Christian and Jewish scholars, in Paris in the 13th century all the way over to Inquisitorial Spain. However Amadeo’s conclusions, a sort of philosophical wish fulfilment, are the polar opposite of the rigged affairs that resulted in the burning of Jewish books and the multiple expulsions of the entire people. Watch out for those crypto Jews.
The Milanese court, where Luca and Leonardo hung out, was a hotbed of religious in-fighting and intrigue. Their fun was spoiled by the invasion of Milan by King Louis XII of France. Off to Venice and then back to Florence, the two pals parted ways. Our family lore has it that when he married, Luca instituted the tradition of keeping the name of his great friend alive in every generation of the Pacioli family. Leonardo, my son’s namesake, went on to paint some mind-blowing pieces while living in the Belvedere in the Vatican in Rome, whilst palling around with the likes of Raphael and Michelangelo. Leonardo’s heterodox philosophy bled straight through the surface of his paintings of that heady time. His luminous last, a sensuous depiction of John the Baptist as the Greek god Bacchus, was a dead giveaway on so many levels. Leonardo was sent from elsewhere to set us free. His oddness earned him the accusation of necromancy. Forced to flee to France, he entered the service of King Francis I. Leonardo died there in peace, surrounded by friends and admirers.
The man was a cool eccentric genius, a 16th century beatnik, generous even unto his death. Legends abound. Vasari tells us that just before his death on May 2, 1519, at the age of 67, Leonardo sent for a priest to make his confession and to receive the Holy Sacrament. Not likely. In accordance with his will, sixty beggars followed his casket. Definite maybe. King Francis I had become a close friend. Vasari also records that the king held Leonardo’s head in his arms as he died. History casts a dubious eye on that one. Vasari specifies that Leonardo made sure in his will that his principle disciple, his few students and his serving woman were properly compensated. Probably so. The Pacioli family inheritance now resides in me, the namesake of my mathematician forbear, a lineage of outsider geniuses skirting the law just beneath the radar. My hopes were pinned on our dear Leonardo, the true out-of-the-box genius in our little family. But there was no hero in sight to save our skins, no guide through this last stretch of drear wood, no one to stand up to the implacable will of the AI’s. Humanity at last had cooked its own goose. I feared this was the sordid end for the current incarnation of la famiglia Pacioli, a vanishing window of time in which to give the children one last deep draught of Nature, raw and beautiful. One last quaff of freedom before the dreaded reentry protocol. Each night, after my recitativo of Dante, Leonardo slept and dreamt—he later revealed—of Virgil.