Regression- Chapter Seven

In today’s world, I’m the closest there is to a novelist. In contrast to the evolution of science, fiction has become less and less popular with time. Nowadays, people tend to embrace reality, and fiction is a distraction that’s only occasionally indulged in. It goes for every other art expression: cinema and theater, for instance. Realistic themes are prohibitively favorite, so the most similar genre to a novel is a reportage essay, such as the one I’m registering right now. Allow me to admit that I’ve added no iota of fiction to this text. Besides my opinions and conclusions, everything you read here is as real as my perceptions can guarantee. I started this book just when I met Valentine, and I add entries whenever something eventful happens, so I know just as much as you about the dénouement of the story. At first, I didn’t know how long it would take to finish it, but due to the recent evolution of Valentin’s situation, I think very soon I’ll have a finished work to present to you.

Seven weeks have uneventfully elapsed since I met our protagonist and, other than a few chapters about our current technology and the history of Martian colonization, there was nothing to talk about. But today I’ve had very interesting news about Valentin, and I’m directly quoting here: “I found the girl of my dreams.” We don’t talk with those terms nowadays, because they’re simply meaningless. We prefer to relegate dreams to the unconscious and talk about reality. I would rather say he found someone who can put up with his nonsense, but of course, I didn’t share this opinion with him because his elation was too dangerously great to safely put a check on. I see in front of me a malfunctioning vehicle heading toward an inevitable crash, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve tried to reason with him, probing his sanity, but to no avail. He’s simply lost it, and there’s no pulling him out of the upcoming wreckage.

The mere circumstances in which they met is enough matter for disapproval. As I mentioned before, we don’t leave our emotional future to chance, so we mostly meet through a match-making application with meticulously honed algorithms that ensure compatibility. Furthermore, throughout our dating cycle, we wear gadgets that ensure the correct reading of our emotions through the measurement of our hormones, heart rate, and blood vessels. After all, you can cheat your mind but not your body. These measurements are openly shared with the other person for them to make an informed decision. Often a general history of psychosomatic measurements is presented to your potential partner, so they can calibrate the analysis of your current emotional state, the same way lie detectors are calibrated in your era. While dating, and in general in our social lives, a transparency policy is always adopted. Dishonesty is proven to be harmful to both parties in the long run, so it’s not a legitimate option.

Let me start by pointing out that Valentin met his girlfriend by mere chance. The irreverence with which he ventured into coupling with this girl should’ve been enough deterrent to her emotional attachment, but, oddly enough, it produced the opposite effect. I won’t analyze her because I don’t know her circumstances, but as much as I wish to believe she suffers from regression too, everything seems to indicate the opposite. According to the information he gave me about her, she’s a functional person with no apparent psychological flaws. She’s a teacher, which demands a flawless psyche, regularly checked by neurological and psychiatric tests. Her whole circumstance prior to meeting him was very normal. She came to do some horse riding because she’s just moved into the area to work at a nearby school. Her age is adequate for such an event in her life: She’s twenty-three years old and she’s just finished her studies. Horse riding has always been her sport of choice, so it was just natural for her to continue it in her new place. He’s also told me details that she’s openly shared about her personal life: She’s had four dating partners, only one of which led to some emotional engagement, but not enough to warrant further commitment. They broke up after six months of relationship and now she is ready for a new one. Everything is normal until we factor in Valentin. With him in the equation, she seems to have lost her mind, as if regression was contagious.

I’ll stop stalling now and tell you what happened. For no other reason than the tingling of his hormones, Valentin switched the horse which was meant for her with another one meant for more advanced riders. Needless to say, she couldn’t rein in the horse’s spirits, and it carried her on a lively gallop outside the riding arena and into the adjacent forest. Our hero, therefore, climbed on his horse and saved a damsel in distress. While soothing her with a hot tea and his hand on her shoulder, he explained to her that he’d switched the horses by mistake because he surmised from her gracefulness that she was an expert rider, and she believed it and thanked him for his courage and swift reaction. Valentin actually told me that for a moment he’d thought that she would hit her head against a hanging branch or fall headfirst into a rock and gravely hurt herself, but fortune had it that he could get to her on time and tear her from the clutches of death, and I’m quoting again. Basically speaking, he gambled her life just to make a good first impression. I would’ve given her the benefit of the doubt, was this the end of the story. I would’ve assumed that she’d seen the madness of his actions and wanted simply to be rid of him as soon as possible, without getting into an altercation. But no, our hero asked her on a date, to which she agreed for a very bad reason: Out of gratitude for saving her from the danger he’d put her in the first place, and from the adrenaline rush she’d had and which is, to tell the truth, very uncommon in our days. At the very beginning of the date, he told her the truth, or at least his version of it. He said that a primeval urge called upon him at that moment, and he knew that he was risking her life, and he apologized for that on his knees, but he also knew their lives were cosmically intertwined, so he’d actually risked his own life too, because losing her or missing the chance to strike up a meaningful relationship with her, would mean death to him.

The mere tone of this declaration should’ve been her cue to nip this acquaintance in the bud, but the situation evolved diametrically differently from how it should. She obviated his suicidal views of romance, together with his originally dishonest behavior and, to culminate, she told him she couldn’t be upset at him since no harm had fallen upon her. For all she knew, he was her savior. I can’t emphasize enough that we don’t talk like that nowadays. That’s mere nonsense, which may not sound like that to you, but is a shocking instance of amorality to us. If anyone said something similar to me, I would immediately know this person has some sort of regression, but again, this woman has no clinical regression, and other than what she then said to Valentin, she is perfectly normal. I could confirm this by talking to the rest of the staff from the riding hall. She explained the situation to them, accounting for Valentin’s imprudence, but also praising him for how he fixed his own mistake. She was completely composed when she said all that, and she even lightheartedly thanked them for that dose of adrenaline that broke the monotony of her uneventful life. Of course, her knowing smile gave away the irony in her tone, so everyone laughed with her. But, this was not enough to convince me, so I needed to make sure with my own ears that this woman was normal. I asked Valentin when her next riding lesson was, which she, of course, took with him instead of her instructor. I must add that, although Valentin rides as if he’d been born on horseback, he’s not an instructor and she’s the first person he’s ever taught to ride, from all I know. From a prudent distance, I saw her ride and interact with Valentine. But I went even further. When her lesson was over and they were engaged in jovial conversation and a little caressing, I shut the book I was pretending to read under the leafy crown of a linden tree and I went up to them, with the excuse of saying goodbye to him. He gallantly introduced her to me and asked me to stay for a drink; an offer I was beforehand ready not to refuse. Her name is Milena. I talked with her, asking her many innocuous questions to test her psychological state. If she had some sort of non-clinical regression, she hid it very well in front of me. For a moment I even thought that Valentin had just made up her words and reactions to his behavior, but the situation in front of me belied this lucubration. She was there, after all, by his side, and they were clearly together. I asked her three different times regarding the dating app, whether it didn’t concern her not to have used it and she gave me a reasonable answer: “Not everything is written in our stars; sometimes we need to write some chapters in our memoirs by ourselves.” She was impeccable. Most people indeed meet through the app, but this is not a compulsory rule. Some people do meet by chance and, following the conviction of their hearts, try to develop a relationship from this casual meeting. It is just highly statistically improbable to have a harmonious relationship this way and it demands a lot of patience; that’s why people generally just choose the app when they want to date. My next question was whether the fact that Valentin suffered from regression concerned her and again she answered: “I’m responsible for my own life, and up to now it’s the only thing I’ve risked by allowing an attachment between him and me to be formed. If I didn’t believe that this attachment could be beneficial to us both, or if I stopped believing it, I would immediately break up with him.”

That’s as far as I dared to go with my questioning. I had intruded enough in their lives and, odd as her behavior might seem to me, it was flawlessly legitimate. She has no people under her care; she is free to do with her life as she wishes. For some, her attitude may even be seen as brave and selfless, pioneering in breaking the barrier between regression and normality. But for others, like me, her attitude is incomprehensible. It’s too risky and not rewarding at all. Granted, the rush of adrenaline may have played a very important factor in her original emotions towards him and she might have locked her mind into seeing this relationship through, but I can’t believe she is seriously thinking it’s going to work out. Reason should gradually draw her away from the idea, but for now, she seems determined to make it work. It was useless to question Valentin, since he’d inevitably give me some preposterous answer. Even the most practical issue of his refusal to make use of hormone-measurement devices lacked any logical explanation.

Today, we don’t adhere anymore to the Platonic division between body and soul. Science and philosophy have proven that there’s no independent entity we could call the soul. Body and soul are just manifestations of the same phenomenon: life. Where life is absent, the soul lacks too or, best-case scenario, is dormant. In any case, there’s no activity of the soul without a body, and therefore every living body has a soul or, in other words, the soul of every living organism is also its body. This has also been proven by experience. People are substantially happier since they’ve started adhering to this view. Some concepts have fallen into disuse, for instance: sacrifice. This concept was only possible when people believed there was something sacred beyond our existence. Sacrifice is nothing more than the repudiation of the body in pursuit of a higher value. But now we know that there’s nothing more sacred than life itself and that, by repudiating our body, we’re committing a sacrilege. So, only reasonable actions are performed nowadays. If you renounce something for the benefit of someone loved by you, then the gladness you feel for this person’s happiness is your reward and therefore is not a sacrifice. But if you renounce something, wasting it because you don’t believe in earthly pleasures, then you’re disowning life itself, and you’re injuring yourself and, subsequently, the whole society. This sort of irresponsible behavior is condemned nowadays. 

Many other concepts have fallen into disuse, especially religious and patriarchal ones: Piety, guilt, redemption, patriotism and heroism. To put it bluntly, no one does heroic acts anymore. Everyone takes care of themselves and does the most they can to help others, and this suffices society. The mere fact of not being a burden to others is heroic enough. We see heroism in what in your time would be considered pusillanimous acts, such as wearing protection when doing something dangerous and simply avoiding unnecessary risks. The whole farce of evil and heroes comes from the same dichotomy between body and soul. Nowadays, no one can be evil without also damaging themselves. Besides, evil doesn’t catch on in a harmonious society. Since evil thrives only in evil, if there aren’t evil feelings in a society, there’s nothing a single evil person can do; it would be like trying to light up a forest of healthy treas. Evil, we’ve learned, is just a symptom of an ill society, and therefore there are no anti-heroes, but simply people who manifest what’s wrong with the world. Therefore, we treat especially kindly people who manifest evil traits because they’re like a baby’s cry for help.

Granted, Valentin is a crying child, so there’s no way to overlook him. We need to pay attention to him, but is Milena’s way the right one? Can there exist a stable sexual relationship with a regressed person? What’s the point of their encounters if not just an irresponsible waste of their time? To cut losses, Valentin could look for a suitable partner among people with his same condition, and Milena could spare both of them the heartbreak of the inevitable dissolution of their relationship. As much as I like Valentin, I can’t help seeing that he isn’t made for a stable relationship and that he’s having a harmful influence on this girl. He shows all the symptoms of a retrograde mindset that doesn’t recognize things for what they are.

A long time ago, our hyped-up egos gave too great importance to the butterfly effect, that is, the potentially large effect of a small change in the whole system, but this phenomenon is just like ripples on water: the system eventually comes back to its natural course. So there is no way of canceling a certain future by altering the past, the same as there’s no way of denying a river its outlet. This is what our current matching app represents: that destiny is in our hands. Chance is just a feature of the entropic principle. If everyone is organized, we diminish the chance effect and have more positive results, that is, results that we expected. The matching system we currently use includes almost all available people; the few who choose to opt out do it because they are either not looking for a relationship or are indifferent to finding a partner. But those of us who are really looking for someone use the app, which will match us quickly according to our needs and desires. This process diminishes the chance effect, which is detrimental to a harmonious system. Chance will never help you get someone who you wouldn’t get in the first place by sensible means. Chance is just a euphemism for lack of organization, and it may have been fun a couple of thousands of years ago, but now we are aware of its harmfulness. Coupling is all about supply and demand: A man and a woman choose among their suitors at a certain moment in their lives. There is no destiny or twin souls; just two lines converging at the same point in time. There is nothing that makes someone more special than another person, but our will. We are elementally animals and we used to couple randomly, but with awareness and technology comes more responsibility. Today, we can meet our perfect match; we don’t need to rely on chance and romance to meet our ideal partner. Romance is just a way to justify poor decision-making, through nostalgia and self-deception. Our partners are not more handsome, smarter, or nicer than other people’s spouses, but there is the added value given by our having chosen them, and there is the fondness created by proximity. In the past, many people used to wait until something in their hearts clicked, and they called this: falling in love, but we know better now. We could leave it to chance and wait till we fall in love with a coworker or friend, and maintain that relationship through romantic mechanisms such as nostalgic memories and notions of fidelity. But it’s more efficient to start with the best pick and see if there is a personality match from there, since personality cannot be replaced by looks. Also, there is a limit to the responsibilities of a partner. Conviviality is easily achieved in a relationship through tolerance and focus on a common goal of building a family. But the best possible outcomes are provided by the app, even in the case of casual relationships, because the algorithm makes room for every level of commitment. And given the fact that we dispose of a great amount of leisure time, the urge for sex and love does never catch us off guard, because we can easily provide for it with the help of the app. Today, there is no single person who’s lonely because of the lack of a match; there are only solitary people who prefer being single.

This has also to do with the concept of beauty we have today. Sexual appeal is the result of our chemical balance. The eyes reflect the soul and the outer beauty reflects the inner beauty. We’ve learned to look for the right signs. In the past, some people yearned for hypertrophied muscles and organs and protruding features, while now we are attracted to signs of healthiness, fertility and resiliency, such as proportionally wide hips in women and leanness in general in men and women, which is a sign of good metabolism. The fat gene has become obsolete in today’s society, where we get all our daily nutrients without exception. Genetic engineering and a good diet have uprooted obesity from our gene pool. 

Genetic eugenics was de facto implemented as soon as the technology facilitating it was widely available. The majority of people simply opted for designer babies to give their progeny the best possible chance in life. Some people still opted out of this choice, sometimes giving birth to babies with some deficiencies. However, these genetic leftovers weren’t enough to prevail in the global genetic pool, and they eventually started dying out. We still have unwanted genes today, besides the new mutant genes constantly appearing in utero, which we mostly nip in the bud, unless we deem them harmless to the owner. There have been several innocuous mutations, similar to vitiligo or albinism, which gave a few people today patched skin and even a greenish hue, or gave others a purple or reddish eye color. There have also been enhancing mutations, which gave some people higher physical endurance, more resilience to weather phenomena, and more capacity to breathe air with low oxygen density. One of the most positive mutations that occurred was osteoplasticity, which gave people more flexible and less fragile bones. Although it happened on Earth, it was replicated on most Martians to make them more adaptable to their planet’s gravity. There were also some mistakes in the case of genes that brought about undesirable mutations, which were nonetheless genetically corrected after birth. One of the most conspicuous ones was the self-combustion gene, which gave people the capacity to concentrate their body heat in a place of their bodies to the point in which they could set something aflame or, in extreme cases, set themselves on fire. This capacity sometimes couldn’t be controlled and it caused third-degree burns in some patients, who had to be genetically treated. Parents of newly conceived children mostly edit out this gene if it appears, to avoid inconveniences, since it doesn’t really add to the owner’s life. However, a similar mutation: metabolic hyperegulation, is not only allowed but sometimes even added to some fetuses, so they will be able to endure harsh climatic conditions. This is rarely the case on Earth, but it is quite common on Mars. 

Religion has also been uprooted from our genes. We’ve learned to channel our God instinct. All prophets on whom religions were based were mere charlatans. Jesus, for instance, said: “You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free,” which is accurate. But he also said: “I am the way and the truth and the life,” which is incongruous with his first statement and not consistent with the nature of truth because the truth is intrinsically antidogmatic. Everyone has their own truth, and truth pervades everyone differently. Truth must be reasoned into; not accepted vertically. It is intellectual food that can’t be force-fed but needs to be chewed and digested by each individual. But Jesus was right that only through truth can we be free. Searching for it is a constant process, and we give it up by accepting a certain religion, which is true in some ways, but it also perpetuates outdated conceptions of life. Besides, if god gave us all the answers, then there would be nothing else for us to do but die. Therefore, religions are intrinsically pessimistic; that’s why they talk about the end of the world.

At the same time, religions are based on true principles, such as the principle of eternity. If someone were to try to change the past or alter the normal evolution of life, they could do it to a certain point, but ultimately nature decides whether to go on or give up and start anew. The end and new beginning of the universe can only be triggered by a great imbalance that nature cannot control. As we, humans, become more powerful, we’ll be able to destabilize nature more and more, but we’ll also become wise enough not to do it. However, our mere existence will one day be destabilizing enough for nature; the entropy will be so great that nature won’t be able to cope with it and it will reset itself. This is how we understand the end of the world right now, and how we grasp the concept of the origin of the universe. 


Read more: Chapter Eight


I'm a writer born in Argentina, but currently living in Poland. I work as an English and French teacher, translator and copywriter.


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