We shed skin, memories, relationships, pieces of ourselves: none of us are immune from the passage of time. Imprisoned by age, are we doomed to years of an insomniac lament of our youth?
Are we more than the bodies we exist within? How do our bodies impact the experiences we have and what kinds of tolls do our experiences have on our bodies? As humans, we are bound by physicality—but, are we? Makeup, plastic surgery, donor transplants, gender reassignment surgeries, etc. have already altered our relationship with our physical bodies—but what about AI and its future impact on the body? Will we be able to transcend beyond our corporeal limitations one day? There is ethereal light shining for those with eyes to see our corporeal reality.
One inescapable attribute of the human condition is that events do not always proceed as people expect, intend, or wish. Another characteristic of the human condition is that humans rarely, if ever, find an optimal solution to any problem or situation. Nevertheless, people manage, muddle through, and find a path that works for them. “Phone Tag” addresses those and other aspects of what it means to be human. The characters in “Phone Tag” see, as people in the real world see every day, that small, even minute, perturbations in external conditions and circumstances can lead to enormous differences in results.
“The Moolian Stream” is about missing the company of true friends and loneliness. These have always been true for humans, but for groups such as immigrants and those who find themselves in exile, they are experienced more acutely. The exiled experience cultural isolation as well as existential and physical loneliness. After the COVID-19 pandemic, many others feel increasingly isolated.
“Flight of Fancy” explores themes of adolescent attraction, personal freedom, disappointment, and misunderstanding. There is a strong focus on the ego as part of the human experience and the way it disrupts relationships. The protagonist is guided via his perception of supposed “signals” of attraction and acts according to what he believes is expected of him. There is rarely a display of his honest feelings; rather, he often interprets the behavior of his female companion in terms of what the other boys at the school yard have told him. There is a mode of behavior, a template, which he believes dictates female displays of attraction. That mode is of course incorrect, but the protagonist is too young and inexperienced to escape that mentality. This exploration of the protagonist’s expectations is relevant today because it speaks to the very human difficulty of establishing stable relationships early into one’s life. Due to simple inexperience, a potential relationship can be abandoned or ruined based on perception and a lack of open communication.
‘Caul’ is a short story about the passage of time and how memory is what ties us to our existence. In this short story, the narrator observes and understands what was taking place in his family and the lives of his neighbours; through this understanding, he empathises with their experiences. No matter how much time passes, memory is still relevant and is part of identity — even if the physical environment has changed, the history that underpins a place is still relevant.
How have the conditions of our daily lives changed over the last year? There’s no question quarantine, social isolation, a global pandemic, and political and social unrest significantly alter our daily routines — but these events and situations have highlighted our adaptability and fragility simultaneously. The realization that we control very little of our own lives has come to the forefront for most in the past year; in turn, this realization has spurred the need for action. How do we maintain a sense of control in the midst of overwhelming evidence that we are at the whims of greater forces?
Everything we do on this planet has expectations in one way, shape, or form. Deviate from that, and everything starts to fall off the rails. What happens when we keep pushing against that barrier? On the brink of an alcohol/drug-induced bender, the main character feels herself slipping further and further away from the habitual norm of society’s day-to-day life. The question is, is this so wrong? In “Living Room,” we explore what it means to have these sexual, political, and social transgressions in today’s climate.
Loss can present itself in a variety of ways: death of a friend or loved one, a relationship breakup, leaving home or moving to a new place, loss of physical ability, loss of financial security, etc. Sudden loss (like crimes, accidents, or suicide) leaves no room to prepare, while predictable loss creates grief related to the anticipation of the loss, as well as the loss itself. The experience of loss is profoundly human, yet it is often something we suffer alone, in solitude. How do we build resilience against future losses? Can we ever replace that which we grieve?
What makes us human? Is it our opposable thumbs, omnivorous diet, and ability to wield tools? Our individual and collective ideological belief systems and Earth-bound nature? What about our ability to empathize and (simultaneously) our inability to and the resulting creation of “us vs. them” group dynamics? Does our violence, domination over nature, technological innovations, and need for advancement make us human or will these traits one day lead to our demise? Are we more human today than we were at the advent of homo sapiens sapiens 125,000 years ago, or less?