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The Venus Flower. By J.B. Pick.

My normal methods seemed to work well enough until I started to write about time and the planet Venus. Other planets, far galaxies, Mars, Earth, the Moon were all harmless. Space-time was harmless without Venus. Venus was safe so long as there were no simultaneous dealings with space-time.

I wrote this story about the time-effects of a visit to Venus and the story produced peculiar time-effects in my own case. I use the word 'produced', with implications of time past, because although I lost from my life, as far as I can gather, one whole day, at least I emerged from the story when the story ended, and this is not the case now with another story in which I am necessarily unable to distinguish between fact and fiction and which seems unable to end.

Why one whole day? I am unable to answer that, except to say that my story took four hours to write and was about events on Venus which lasted less than the time it took me to write the story. When I began the story it was Tuesday and when I finished it was Thursday. How do I know it had taken me four hours to write? I know that I looked at my watch at one point because I had not had my usual cup of tea, and was anxious to check whether this was because the time for my usual cup of tea had passed, and I know that I was conscious throughout the writing of the story of the sunshine beyond my window.

Yet when I had finished the story, which in this case I was able to do, it was Thursday and my wife recounted to me the events that had occurred on Wednesday, telling me that I did this and that and neither this nor that included application to the writing of a story about Venus. I will not recount the events my wife related to me because so far as I am concerned they did not exist.

The fact that I suffered some lapse of memory or brain-storm does not concern me 'now' although it concerned me 'then'. It doesn't concern me now because now has continued to happen. I say 'continiued to happen' because I am aware of the meaninglessness of the words 'happened later' and no longer know the meaning of the words 'before' and 'after'. I know what 'now' means, and if someone were to say to me, 'Where were you before you were born?'I would reply 'Here.' And if someone were to say to me, 'What time is it?' I would reply 'Now'. And if someone were to say, 'Explain the nature of events and the relation of time to eternity', I would reply 'Here and now'. But if someone were to say to me, 'What happened next?' I should be compelled to query the use of the word 'next' and to wonder how to explain the total irrelevance of any kind of sequence.

There is a close connection between tenses and tension, and I am feeling the tension inevitably associated with the effort to talk in terms of tenses and time, but I am trying to explain what is not explicable, while smelling the flower, if smelling is what I am doing.

I have said that the idea of sequence is totally irrelevant but because I am talking in tenses I have to relate that the 'next' story I wrote is the one that followed the story that lost me a whole day. The 'next' story is therefore the story that is the real subject of this story.

I did not normally write any story in which I myself figured as a character. I do not mean 'in which I made use of the first person singular'. You can write 'I' without meaning 'me'. In the story which is the real subject of this story I was dealing. or am dealing, not only with Venus and with space-time and was not and am not only using the first person singular, but found myself immediately aware that the 'I' in the story was and is me, myself, personally. insofar as I exist. It is difficult to explain how I know this since people do not normally know themselves and are therefore incapable of putting the whole of themselves into a story any more than they are capable of keeping the whole of themselves out of a story. They are a collection of parts and some of the parts are left out of the story and the writer has very little control over this since only parts of the writer write the story and other parts criticise it and other parts play games while all this is going on.

The man in the story was, or seemed to be, suffering from the peculiarities of the planet Venus. At this point I must state that I know that it is impossible to land on Venus, for the place is lethal to mankind, and that what I am writing is only a story. Nevertheless, the total peculiarity of Venus in the story is that it is here, and when you on 'that' planet, or 'this' planet, you are here, even if it is imaginary. Why then call the planet 'Venus'? To call the planet Venus was somehow necessary to the story. I have never been anywhere except Venus, that is, here, since beginning to write this story. But of course since writing this story I know that 'since' is a word that demonstrates only the ignorance of its user concerning the nature of what is real and what is not. No, I will try again. There can be no purpose in using words except to explain the inexplicable. Very well.

The man in my story is described as arriving on the planet Venus. But as the vehicle which carries him enters the atmosphere of Venus he begins to be aware of the nature of Venus in such a way that Venus is here. This awareness grows excruciatingly as he grows into wider awareness, so that a confusion of thoughts and sensations dissolves all former thoughts and sensations into a continual explosion of now.

As the man in the story walks towards the huge round roughess of what might have been a mountain pillar but because of its ridged and vegetable warmth he takes to resemble a tree, he senses something that does not enter by the eyes or nose or mouth or ears but through the whole nature of his being and which can only be described as THIS. The consciousness of being alive, and of being here, causes him to accept that Venus is real and he himself is for the first time entirely real because he is on this planet, which is surely entirely fictional because he imagines that he invented it.

In some way too immediate for analysis, something between an itch and a realisation, the rugged warmth of the tree decides for him his direction towards a richness which because it overwhelms him with clarity he judges must be enormous in size, but when he steals suddenly upon the deep well of a pool beside which it gently moves he discovers the richness to be small and of a deep, vivid and gentle brightness. It is, so far as it can be said to be anything recognisable, a flower, since it grows and has a fragrance and the colour takes the form of a soft explosion of silence. So I am bending my head to smell a flower on the planet Venus which is entirely imaginary and the whole universe is present with the greatest simplicity at all times, if the word 'times' has meaning. As I smell the flower the story becomes actual.
Or, to put it as distantly as possible, the man in the story meets with certain flowers and trees which are also ideas and thoughts and feelings and emotions, so that I experience them as personalities which are here and now as I m here and now writing this story.The consciousness of the man in the story changes in such a way that what his consciousness has always been becomes present to him and I am here.

It is difficult for me to relate, therefore, whether I am writing this story on Earth or whether he is smelling the flower on the planet Venus. But if I say I am doing both or he is doing both you will no doubt question the nature of the consciousness from which this story is being written. And of course, to revert to tenses, I am still writing the story which is this story and which is the story that followed the one that lost me a whole day and I am aware of the watch on my wrist and the sunshine beyond the window and the flower which I am bending towards and what its nature is establishing within me and I have not stopped doing so at any point and this story is what is happening here and now and always.

If you do not wish to understand this then avoid all use of the idea of the planet Venus associated with the idea of space-time and so avoid also the journey which you have never ceased to make since the world began.

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©1971 J.B. Pick. Please do not reproduce it without consent.

 

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