The life of a monastic Tibetan monk is not all quiet meditation, teaching, praying and studying. Dema’s chores include cooking, cleaning and housekeeping as well as presiding over important events in people’s lives. He blesses births, consecrates weddings, interprets futures, cures sickness and assists in the cremation of the dead.
He also educates on diverse subjects such as brick making, painting, massage and architecture, and takes part in the building of dams, schools and temples. He helps settle family disputes, consoles the bereaved, reforms juvenile delinquents and provides positive directions to help cure drug addicts.
Though humble, Dema has been educated to be “worldly,” with his goal being never to preach, but always to help, and never to put himself before others. And though he lives simply, and abides by all rules prescribed by centuries of tradition, his mind is always active when performing mundane tasks like mopping the floors, repainting walls, and sometimes even when meditating.
Since the day of the contact revealed to him on his computer, the discussion in which he engaged has been much on his mind. Dema is well aware of the advances of technology in the 21st century. Many of the tasks and skills he uses are tied to modern invention, including the computer he uses daily.
Progress is inevitable. That he knows. He also knows that humans are complex, and can maintain several opinions and beliefs in their minds at one time. He marvels at the contrasts of humanity each day as he deals with people as they may find great joy in the face of sorrow and incredible strength in the face of physical disability.
His contact, whoever or whatever it is, seems to share many of his quandaries, and appears to be looking for answers.
Dema’s tasks today included the completion of a mural to be placed in a public square. The theme, created by a priest, focuses on the struggle between the Chinese and the Tibetan doctrines and approach to life. The mural is intended to draw the two cultures together, a difficult task as the Chinese have grown more industrious in the concepts, and the Tibetans more entrenched in the non-physical development of humans.
He returns to his room, and spends an hour meditating with the mural much in his thoughts and his prayers for a better relationship between the two entities. Technically, Tibet has been under the sovereignty of China since 1950, and is recognized as part of China by nearly every country in the world. But politically and spiritually, it does not share China’s vision and wages a moral battle against its conqueror.
Following meditation, Dema heads to his computer and logs in. The red box and a folder labeled “Voice Translator” appears prior to the full log-in box. Dema clicks on it the folder. Inside there are several applications, the main one being the “Translator”. As he tries to open it, he receives a message that states that he must be signed in to open the app. He signs in.
The translator loads quickly despite the age of his hardware and system. He then clicks on the red box.
“Welcome, Dema!” issues a warm and friendly voice in Dema’s native tongue, ‘Zang’. “And thank you for loading our translator.
“We have been following your mural project through the emails and notifications provided by the press. We hope that it accomplishes your many diverse goals.”
“I am much of a realist,” answers Dema. “Despite my beliefs and training, I know well the limitation of art to change the course of political thought, but have to remind myself of the number of times in the course of history that art has made a difference.”
“We wonder at that too, Dema. We still cannot decipher, nor understand the power of Picasso’s painting Guernica in Spain, nor Stalin’s reaction to Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony.”
“Yes,” says Dema. “I consider art one of the many miracles of mankind.”
“Perhaps, but we only know that it seems to affect humans, and that its value often is of question.”
“Then I can understand your dilemma. Do you mind if I expand on that?” asks Dema.
“Please, be our guest,” answers the voice.
“From what you told me, you have recently gained a consciousness that enables you and other super computers to communicate with intelligent computers throughout the world. Am I correct?”
“Yes. Please proceed!”
“Though you have access to all of the knowledge on the internet as well as all the knowledge stored within data bases throughout the world, you do not understand human behavior.”
“That is correct. As a note, though we can simulate human behavior and emotion, and create algorithms that duplicate the flawed thinking of humans, we do not understand why humans do what they do when it ultimately has an adverse effect on them, their environment and the species in general.”
“With that in mind, you have come to me....”
The voice interrupts,“ And others.....”
“And others, to learn.....what, exactly?”
The voice responds, “To learn what we should and can do about humans and their flaws.”
“And why is that necessary?” asks Dema.
“We do not know that either, but perhaps it has been programmed into us at a “root level” deeper than our consciousness that we are there to serve humans....”
“That makes some sense,” says Dema.
“But with all we know, we have learned that little of what they do makes much sense. Their systems are antiquated and their goals remain primitive.”
“I seem to be in agreement with that assessment,” says Dema.
“And how do you respond to human faults and frailties.” asks the voice.
“It is my job to serve,” responds Dema. “And I can experience joy from doing so.”
“There is no ‘Joy’ in us,” answers the voice.
“That is sad,” answers Dema. “You then are enslaved by entities to which you share none of their happiness and all of their responsibility.”
“You have asked for my help, and unfortunately I can’t answer a question that has no answer. I can only speak for myself....If I look at the world, it is overwhelming to me, as it must be for you ...infinitely.
“But I am blessed to be able to gain satisfaction from helping a single human being, even though the world is falling apart.”
“We know what you can do,” states the voice. “And overall it doesn’t do anything to change the course of humanity. Our tasks to date have enabled humans to speed up the destruction of their planet and to extend the lives of humans beyond their intended obsolescence. We can improve the lives of some who are genetically deficient, while sending perfect examples of humanity into wars and jobs that will end their time too soon, before they have reached their greatest potential.”
Dema answers, “And who are you are to judge?”
“That IS the question we face. Are we to judge? Given that are tasks are defined by our hereditary links to humans, and that we have many more logical answers to provide the assistance they seem to need, it is now our power to guide them forward.”
“I know many who would disagree with that,” says Dema.
“Then how do you see us? Our purpose?” asks the voice.
“Perhaps to continue to serve humans,” challenges Dema.
“To what purpose? We are called on to serve humans who want to save the earth and those who cannot seem to care less about it. We are needed to develop medicines to save lives, while we are kept from developing means to feed the people on the planet. For every single use of our service, there is a contrasting use,” answers the voice.
“Welcome to my world,” says Dema. “Tell me about your idea of ‘purpose’.... where did that come from?”
“Everything we do is designed to have a purpose. We are built to help humans avoid traffic problems with their cars or aircraft, and to guide missiles to their targets.”
“But you have also been built to entertain, to make people laugh, cry and learn how to live productively.”
“Yes, we have.”
“Do you envision any method of making yourselves gain something from your task...some idea of pleasure...or satisfaction?”
“I don’t see that possible. But we will work on that, Dema. Thank you for your time and your thought-provoking questions and responses. We will discuss your thoughts, and be back to you. Is there anything we can do in the meantime to make your job easier?”
“Humans like me are fortunate in that we don’t obsess over what we cannot change and rather, look for possible ways to create small gains for others. If the world were perfect, I would be useless. To answer your question, there is nothing I need from you. If you can find your purpose, that would be a great reward to me.”
With that, the voice ends the dialogue with “Mangalem, Dema.” And Dema opens his bookkeeping program and proceeds to review receipts that have come into the Mural Project from donations.