from the foreword to the second edition of Arc of the Dream
We are born of the forgotten. What do we know of the origins of our human identity, let alone the origins of life itself? Nothing.
As human beings, we are befogged by a cloud of unknowing. Our lonely gift among all of Earth’s creatures is to accept the truth that we will never know the truth.
Encountering this central terror of our isolation from all that is real is the task faced by Arc of the Dream. The protagonist, an adolescent bully, who – like all bullies – mediates his pain by inflicting pain, confronts the fiery-cold spirit of the inner world in the form of Insideout, an alien from a deeper dimension of reality. Insideout becomes the ruffian’s innermost secret teacher, who attends our anti-hero’s struggle to create an identity, and thus a destiny, out of the mysterious flux of existence.
Providing a vantage outside our human unknowing, Insideout clarifies what it means to be human:
As the Earth turns, our fortunes roll over from an ever-diminishing future into an increasingly constraining past. Passion is always suddenly pressing hard against our hearts. Fate and destiny, by turns, hunt us. Whichever claims us, the other loses everything, all its fateful or destinal force, and that one surviving power, fate or destiny, necessity or ambition, establishes authority in the wound created by claiming us – a wound we must then feed with our blood and heal with the secret strength of our uniqueness.
This novel is sheer fantasy, of course, because there is no vantage outside our human unknowing. But the secret strength we each possess is true. The strength of our uniqueness, of our individuality, is secret for the very reason that our brains trick us. The reality we see around us does not exist. Though our nervous systems are made of the same material we find in our environment, we feel separate, distinct from each other and the things around us. We cherish a vivid sense of past events and a canny awareness of the future. Yet, for over a century now, Einstein’s relativity theories have demonstrated (time and again!) that time is an illusion.
Kurt Gödel, Werner Heisenberg, and Ludwig Wittgenstein each in their respective fields of mathematics, physics and philosophy proved last century that reality is unknowable. We will never know the truth about ultimate things – including our ultimate nature as solitary minds, each of us partaking of the otherness, loneliness and alienation of individuality. Whatever we can find in our own intrinsic separateness to meet honestly and creatively the demands of our fate or destiny holds our spiritual energy before we disappear. That is our secret, utterly untranslatable knowing in a world of unknowing. Silence of which to tell. Such silence we feed our angel.
For a writer, that angel – that messenger – is the story. Arc of the Dream is science fiction, a fantasy about transcending science and reflecting on the reality we don’t know. This reflection has no substance really, no actual meaning other than the beauty of the incredible moment when writer and reader meet on the page, in the same nothing as the mirror of a lake, where sky and water gaze into each other and recognize one beautiful world moving through another.
A. A. Attanasio