Everything Is

☣ The oozing-everywhere phase of this cold meshed in with the incessant coughing phase. I slept hard Wednesday and Thursday and now my symptoms are noticeably less (and fewer!). If I am truly on the mend (and not getting a reprieve while the virus is dormant and mustering or something) then this will have been a short, merciful cold. Wakier today, I’m still not yet straying far from the bed.

Stop Complaining So Much!

There’s an old fable I heard long ago. I heard it as a Buddhist story. Maybe it’s a Zen koan:

A miner is picking away at a mountain. It is hot and dusty, and he is thirsty and tired and his taskmaster is a total jerk.

Suddenly, by the grace of the heavens (id est, for no reason whatsoever), he is the taskmaster with a good fifteen miners under his watch. For a moment, he’s drunk with power, and enjoys ordering them around, but then in a flash of perspective he doubles water rations, and lets up on barking at the miners.

But then the water runs out early, and the team goes home with only a partial day’s work, and his foreman is livid for his team’s underperformance. Stupid foreman.

But then he becomes the foreman. As foreman he adds extra water to the daily ration for each team…but that requires more mules, and he’s already over budget and behind schedule. And the seneschal is telling him he’s the bottleneck.

And then he’s the seneschal …and then the duke …and then the trade secretary …and eventually the king. As king he’s beleaguered by blights in the farms and resource shortages by the masons and angry guildsmen who hate his set market prices and… well, no one likes paying their taxes. Ever.

But then he becomes the lowlands, underneath the city and all the farms. But then his well being depends on the weather. Too much snow, not enough rain, too much sun, no wonder he can’t grow anything! He becomes the winds and can run around everywhere! And has to run around every damn day gathering moisture enough to wet the lands, and then there’s that stupid mountain range that won’t let him go inland.

And he becomes the mountain and can feel those pesky miners picking away at him.

Make Me One With Everything!

Everything is a game about perspective, at looking at the world from any other position in the world. The controls allow me to swap from any one thing in the game to any other thing in the game. I can become sunflower pollen or a mountain lion or a mosquito or a biplane or a beluga whale or the Aura Borealis or an iceberg or a planet and so on. I have the power to descend (become something smaller) or ascend (become something bigger), and can keep doing so until I AM EVERYTHING!

Then again, once I’m what I want to be, there’s little to do, except become other things. An early effort to mass a legion of ants and assault a snail resulted only in the ants toodling around the snail acknowledging its existence just enough to not walk into or over it. All the things are, but none of them do anything except wander about. They don’t interact with each other at all.

Oddly, mammals roll end over end rather than walking. It’s clear that animations were intentionally kept simple, but as an elephant or a wolf or an aardvark, I found myself yearning for the wobble of insects and penguins. I’d even prefer a South Park bob. The rolling mammals never settled with me, and I avoiding becoming a rolling thing (or staying one for long) when I could choose to be something that didn’t roll.

I was also disappointed that leapers such as frogs and crickets didn’t possess the ability to leap.

To simplify matters of sorting, levels are separated by scale: At the cosmic scale I waft about with galaxies and nebulae and other space phenomenon too huge to comprehend. Stellar scale focuses on a star and its planets. Continental scale meddles with landmasses, air and sea phenomena (clouds, boats, aura borealis, whales), but doesn’t get into what happens on land. Land scale is where things with legs — animals and human civilizations — do their thing. (Conspicuously, humans, themselves are absent. Just their stuff.) Miniature scale is stuff smaller than a housecat, where bugs, mice and grass flourish. Also city trash. (cigarette butts and used chewing gum for days!) Particulate scale covers splinters and specks of dust (including mites, bacteria and pollen) all the way to puffs of elemental gas. Then there’s INNER SPACE! which is a strange amalgam of mathy objects (e.g. nested polytopes) and the occasional quantum particle. I’ve at least found a Higgs boson in there.

If I descend below INNER SPACE!, I end up at the Cosmic scale again, sorting out the galaxies.

The tutorial (pretty much a play-through with instructions) introduces the various controls. Early on, I can invite like objects to join me (hence the troop of ants, above), or dismiss them until I’m solitary again. (I often ended up a different specimen than the one I began as.) Things can sing to get the attention of other things, and dance to produce more of itself, in case I wanted my pair of bees to become a righteous swarm. In time, I got the ability to transform into whatever I wanted, and adjust my size and numbers readily, also to relax the constraints of what will join me including the Everything setting that will make all things eligible, so that I can keep grouping until I AM EVERYTHING!

Things have thoughts (indicated by a thought icon), and if you get close enough to them you can hear (read) those thoughts. Specially marked thoughts are instructional, and give additional controls, and others are audio clips from the philosophy lectures of Alan Watts. In these, Watts speaks to the one-is-all-is-one paradigm informed by (but not exclusive to) Buddhist philosophy. It gives the game a 70s-era everything is good and right and the way it’s supposed to be feel. My early impression was that this was Church of Starry Wisdom propaganda. This is to say, it gets esoteric and New-agey, not malevolent. (Then again, most of the scary cults of the 20th century were pretty benign after all. Most.)

My strategy varied depending on if I was trying to catch all the different specimen (things to be) or was chasing down thoughts. In the former case, my range of perception was governed by my own size, so I’d climb (ascend and repeat) my way to the biggest thing around and then look to descend into things I hadn’t yet been. Thought-hunting prefers swift flyers.

But I think the apotheosis of the Everything experience is sailing through the environment with your squadron of fellow things while listening to Watts wax philosophical set to the game’s Cosmosey score (Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano). This presents a formidable combination that sells well the feeling that I am right where I belong in the universe.


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