What You Were Before You Were This

by John Randall and Ray Wisdom

Two twenty-something men sit at a long wooden table in the main room of a one-bedroom apartment. There is a big bong on the table and each of them has a highball in front of him. The window is open. It is breezy and warm, the breeze comes into the apartment. It’s Sunday.

Ray: If there were, if there a finite and stable number of souls, when the universe was created—right?—because the reason I brought up the whole thing with “nothing can exist independently except the sun”—the reason I thought of that is ‘cause Zac was sayin that we’re made up of, like, trillions of cells.

John: Mm-hm.

Ray: You know, are they, since they’re living, are they considered—do they have souls?

John: Cells?

Ray: Yeah. And I say “no” because they can’t exist independently of us.

John: Mm-hm.

Ray: You know, we, our souls created themselves. That’s what I said.

John: Mm-hm. But, we have a soul, and we’re not independent.

Ray: Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m trying to figure out how to define “soul.”

John: I mean, if “soul” is, well…

Ray: It’s tough.

John: Because in the very least, it would be dependent on having a body to exist, or at least to be known.

Ray. Yeah. I, I definitely think though that, like, a human might have a soul, but, like, its parts don’t have souls.

John: Yeah.

Ray: Because a heart doesn’t have a soul, because it’s useless without the other parts of the body, you know?

John: Mmm…

Ray: Like, granted, you can, “Then, well humans are useless without the earth….”

John: Yeah.

Ray: But, I mean, where you draw the line with that, you know?

John: Well, humans could be but their souls might not be.

Ray: Yeah, that’s true.

John: Of course, this is, so you’re, ahhh, definitely separating them?

Ray: Separating what?

John: Mind and, or, sould and body?

Ray: Yeah.

John: OK.

Ray: Yeah, but, see I don’t think that, ahh….

John: Have you, have you ever read much about that?

Ray: No. That’s why I need to read that Aristotle book ‘cause he talks a lot about, ah, about the sould and, um, whether or not, you know, like, whether or not you remember from past lives. You know? Like if you have, ah, a rec — if you have recollections of what you were before you were this.

John: If you were something before you were that….

Ray: Yeah, exactly. See, an amoeba could have a soul.

John: (Clears throat)

Ray: Because it’s, it’s a, you know, a…it’s it’s own thing. But, like, a skin cell doesn’t.

John: You’re talking a wh— a wh— you’re talking the only way, oh! An amoeba, can have a soul—

Ray: ‘Cause it’s a…

John: One-celled organism.
Ray: …One-celled organism.

John: (In the background:) Yeah, hmm. I had a book on the whole, ah, fuckin’, Descartes Method, on, ah, what are the two theories? There’s dualism and….

Ray: (Coughs)

John: I used to be really into that stuff. What is the other theory?

Ray: Do you trade books in at Subterranean?

John: Yeah.

Ray: That’s not bad.

John: I think I might, I think I might, yeah, I think I might have, ah, given that book to them…. (Exhales. Gets up and gets water for him and Ray)

Ray: Gracias. That’s a tough subject to tackle.

John: Yeah. Tough subject for anybody to tackle.

Ray: Yeah, I know. But I mean like, ah…

John: Oh yeah, I know what you mean.

Ray: I definitely want to get more—

John: It’s great to talk about.

Ray: More versed on it, you know. And, yeah, the best way to, to work it out is to talk to people about it. I think.

John: Mm-hm.

Ray: You know, ‘cause they may point out things that you didn’t think about.

John: Mm-hm.

Ray: Zac asked me if he though, if I thought that there were the same number of souls on the earth, well, no, the original question was— “Do you think there’s more organisms on the eart now than there were, like, a trillion years ago?”

John: Mm-hm.

Ray: Not a trillion, but, you know. And I said that it’s probably, it’s probably about the same. If, if it’s anything it’s less.

John: Than at the inception, you mean?

Ray: Yeah. Like, say like—

John: Well, at the inception, there wasn’t anything.

Ray: Well, no, not at the inception of the world but like, at the point where, like, everything was primordial ooze, right? Like, I mean, if you can consider living organisms to be basically equivalent to one-celled organisms.

John: I don’t know, wouldn’t there have to be more organisms?

Ray: Than…?

John: More organisms now, I mean.

Ray: Yeah, but I mean, there are more diverse kinds of organisms now, but I mean, if everything was a lot smaller then…you know?

John: I mean it just seems to me that at some point, there’d have to be, like, you know, if you’re gonna follow the, you know, the biogenesis theory, that, ah, there was one organism and then—

Ray: Yeah, but at some point it maxed out.

John: Uh-huh.

Ray: Cause, you know, the Earth can only contain so many organisms ‘cause it’s a system. You can’t have an infinite amount.

John: Mm-hm. Yeah.

Ray: So at the point where you level off, you know, that’s like how many organisms the Earth can contain.

John: Mm-hm.

Ray: And, and I, and if there, if there’s anything I think there’d be less now because, one, we kill a lot of shit, you know?

John: Well, this is including all the microscopic stuff, yeah, that’s…a shady area. Umm…fuck, what was I just gonna say?

Ray: (Ray is tapping a drink-stirrer on the table)

John: Well, that question has a counterpoint then if you’re going to do the energy/soul thing.

Ray: Yeah, such as…

John: I can definitely buy the fact that there is one single, consistent amount of energy…

Ray: Yeah, but that’s not true.

John: In the universe.

Ray: Oh, OK, in the universe. I thought you meant the Earth.

John: In the Earth, no.

Ray: ‘Cause, it’s entropic.

John: I mean, if you were going to ask the question about organisms, I would have to include the universe.

Ray: Oh. Within the universe? I would say that number’s in stasis.

John: Just because of stuff cancelling each other out?

Ray: Well, I mean, you have a finite amount of matter at the beginning, right?

John: Yeahh…

Ray: Like, if you can’t create any more energy within the universe then you can’t produce more organisms.

John: Where did the sun get its energy from? From the atom, though, right?

Ray: Yeah, well the sun is just, yeah, I mean, a bunch of helium gets together, or, a bunch of hydrogen gets together, right?

John: So really this question about energy—

Ray: Mass is condensed.

John: Mass is the same question, then, right?

Ray: Yeah, energy and matter.

John: Yeah.

Ray: Yeah.

John: Yeah. That’s the cool part.

Ray: Yeah.

John: Thanks, Albert. (laughs)

Ray: Yeah.

John: Because the sun, the sun gets its energy from atoms that it, you know—

Ray: Combusts.

John: Yeah.

Ray: Yeah, but ye— but now that, as soon as the sun—

John: So that, that—

Ray: As soon as the sun ignited, it became a closed system. And it’s burning energy at all times. There’s no _____ for energy.

John: Stars are basically burning mass then. So, then, wouldn’t everything just go to energy?

Ray: See this, this is the fine line. If everything goes to energy, but then that energy is used to create other things…

John: Aren’t…that’s nice.

Ray: You know? So you’re basically going from matter at point A—

John: How does the energy create other things?

Ray: Well, I mean, because energy, we use energy. Everything that photsynthesizes uses that energy, right? So…

John: But if there’s nothing around to synthesize, then…

Ray: So you’re saying if you just have a sun in deep space with nothing around you…

John: Then it’s just, like, gonna burn out. It’s just gonna be all—

Ray: That’s exactly what the new theory say though, too.

John: Oh really?

Ray: Because it’s saying that there’s so much space between things now and they’re stille expanding that because you’re using three dimension ____, you know, because it’s expanding in three directions, right?

John: I don’t know. Let’s wait for it to get dark and then get the telescope.

Ray: What do we do until then?

(John reaches out and grabs the bong, about to fire it up)

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